Fiat lux

In each beginning we create heaven and earth.
Now the earth appears unformed and void
as darkness upon the face of the deep. And first
light says,
Let there be life. And there is life.
And we live, for it is good; and those who do not
believe in life live and act in darkness as if they
can not be seen. And the light is called Day, and
the darkness Night; but there is always light upon
the earth and in heaven. And in the night we
dream; and a dream is a parable of light.
And we are, as each morning is,
the first day.

Fiat lux [#27]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Bob Winsett

* * * * *


The Lost Rimbauds


Bible-black bound feet, one louder, one
bitten, announce his arrival from a duchy
of virgins, thorned and green

Not a sound from the crucifix, and cups and platters crackled
as ancestors prophesy
the past; the air is blue
and doesn't move. There is something fallow in this room's
yellow; and there is milk,
of milk. A bird shivers in. So much effort
for a crust, but All will sleep soon
the sky palpitates.

Each day burns more vigorously
than the last, and each day his boots become
more ragged. They are his calendar,
and his summer is almost worn

There has never been a July like this, peasants
boast, unbuttoned as pirates;
and there will never be a July like this again
for Rimbaud, though a flaxen girl, bee
buzzing and mulberried, promises to

He follows her delft blue, blue-eyed
invitation, his adventure big shouldered
beside him. In a clouded glass
among the dead, he does not recognize
himself, for there is only fire and
the flakes of ash which attend

The milky girl is twittering
at the sash, teasing up skirts
of leaves, squeezing juice from a peel, ready to
spill from her apron where his ham is
warm. She wears her heart
as a ruby; but her smile is not slim
and her fingers do not
attenuate. Dommage. Distance, resistance
excite the urbane hunter.

Still, Renoir would immortalize her.
And DeGas. He would satiate her, rose
et blanc parfumé
, her minky pink
undulations. Pissaro, mais on s’en fout
de Pissaro.

Monet. Monet would render her
as a confectioner--
but only a poet with holes in his pockets
eats in her pantry.

Rimbaud has been chosen.
He is a seer, un voyant. He is seventeen years
old and deranging all his senses
(Le Poète se fait voyant par une long, immense et
raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens. Toutes les
formes d'amour, de souffrance, de folie
. . . .*)
to pierce generations of Norman parsimony
to the fire of her
ringlets; but he does not see

the cloud in the room
above made up into a bed where no one dies
alone; and he does not see her combing
seeds of Abyssinia from his hair, kissing
the lips of Verlaine from his mouth
and dipping a strawberry into cream
she has saved for him and will save for him
every night as one by one sons

In this hour of hammer ringing, he sees
only one sun bleeding into blades and spoons
of trees and wipes hunger to his mouth
and fragments to his page. All will sleep soon
, he palpitates and empties
a second glass. Son petit doigt tremblant
sur sa joue
, and the pretty theatre of her

curtains. She moves silver things
with the quietus of a conjurer and through
the door darkly he vanishes, and the child
of the cloud made up into a bed and
the hundreds of children born from that
Rimbaud hesitate and turn

* Charleville, 15 mai 1871.

The Lost Rimbauds [#26]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


The Markets of Remorse

I have spent another morning in the markets
of remorse trying to buy back a single afternoon

I search by the scent of her in September, her distance, her harbor

All I find among reflecting pools is
the eleventh day of our seventh year, and, then, that
is disturbed. Why would
blind feet take from me all that was left
to me

How did she become my Genesis. There were Jerusalems
before her, skin
diaphanous, pink transgressions and brooding
cupolas, inverted bowls
of gold, bowls
of bone; sunlight rearranging
expectations of stone, personifying, passing
over, leaving shadows the size and chill
of footsteps

white, its purpose, its challenge, the wisdom
and strategy of silk
embroidered with silk

a blouse, its curtain, its serene, sudden suggestion

I surrender each coin. I surrender face up:

I want that moment back. I would hurt
myself against the twin idols of her
knees to crack this

this same lean

poet and denouement

this confluence of blood

the glow of the hive to the bee

blue and open moutherd to the sea

veiled as I am between stands and sleep

this transhumance of her

the one she promised would be there

The Markets of Remorse [#25]
© 2007 Fammerée

* * * * *

To experience a performance of Markets of Remorse
featuring guest artist Li-Young Lee
please visit:
and listen to selection #10.

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


Imago Undisturbed

Most familiar face, cushioned in folds, blinking
enough to carry upon my breast, gold
clothed, into the dark
regions (she breathes; I imagine that breath
in my mouth), ankle patterned
with fleurs-de-lis, bent as a neck of a swan, one
green leather shoe dangling

The white of her
throat alarmed me: Daphne

Globes of fruit, too round
to touch, more perfect

than sweet (impeding
our first
barefoot pressed
violets, narcissus and frockenberries
to feed us--lantern-long

lips, all in
a honeycomb of dense shadow and intense

Horses hailed us, May-browned
guardians of the green

fallow drawing rings

of fecund

light. We called
to them,
neighing, feigning

Minoan indolence.
She offered a pink

and pearl-contoured
Now, I began to examine
the irregularities

of her face, alarmed
with any
for example:
creases of her forehead
(deeply incised); a venule at the tip
of the nose; a


All my disappointments
settled there--upon her face. As her left

fell, abandoned
to the hollow of a wall, as her

hair flushed my face, I
retreated further, wrapped
twice in the tunic of all my

She proffered sorrel
to my lips until her hand was

empty and pink again, pink again.
Sorrel, help me
to forget.
I knelt

to our fingertips.
Lips bled milk at the slightest


Breathless and blouseless, the barque
of her

carried us.

Familial faces converged,
forming the suggestion
of features,

a green name, a wing, an open

Breast to breast we wed with no other witness
than the story written

forever upon us.

This faint stain is blood from her
lip. I wear it when I walk before
the sky.

I have seen her since--crowned in a pink
and burnished tempera; turn
distractedly, smooth
the paper of a package upon her
lap; sleep,
one hand abandoned, one white hand
touching hair from her cheek

Imago Undisturbed [#24]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *

Le défaut de la cuirasse (The Failing of the Armor)

Rebecca is sadder than her spoon. It stirs
and stirs,
but nothing changes and nothing turns
to silver.
Her ring is no longer
the rim of a chalice--its stone is not her

I recognize the low cluck, click, cluck of her
heels and a child.
I know each finger holding the horn
of the receiver and the toes that slip
a slim shoe
free. She sips, married to another handsome,
uncoordinated man, intoxicated with
She wants to be pregnant again.

In Normandy, where children of our
children's children chase and seek,
our obsidian remains are obscure
but threaded to roots

as trinkets to a chain. We rise and rive through
any lapse of stone, bone, mouth
of bone to the oak and bramble apse
of our innocence. Her cloak was conifer,
her crown a choir of antlers and branches.
Her chest dictated the rising and fall of all
things, and water became blood
in the font of her.

Can the priest pretend her body was not
the plan of his cathedral?

Can I pretend her body is not my cathedral?

I have waited through successive deaths.
I have waited until my shoulder hurts;
and autumn makes me anxious.
Trees pretend to root into the humid soil of
heaven. They are confused without their
We are all confused.

Do not fear this failing of the armor.

We no longer need tombs to shelter us.

However exquisite a chrysalis, no effigy can
contain a soul's
desire. Yesterday, as you introduced
yourself, you lingered
at my sleeve. Teach me to awaken

Le défaut de la cuirasse [#23]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


Khóra Sfakia (English & Français)

I walk among the whores of Sfakia, the once beautiful
sons and daughters hoarding fragments, lording and ladying
and burning from the altars of their lips all instinct
still migratory.

For them the paths of scree to the promontory
decay at the turning of the sky. They hobble to the one tree
where an attendant is also a boatman and negotiate
a passage back.

I am pressed to vertical
earth, hatless, mapless and without sunglasses.
Golden bellied birds flash in a swift geometry upon lapis
lazuli, and I tremble with the thrill
of superstition: What spirits are these? Whose soul cries
from the mouth of the ass?

Now, the water is a Leviathan
and ready to swallow.
It thrashes about, not content with its containment,
neither convinced nor concerned that lungs
need land.

The whores of Sfakia wheeze and sleep with mouths open
and lamps glaring and garments pressed to their eyes.
If their messiah were to come in the night,
I could not follow, for this is not a Diaspora, and the Son
and the Father are only one half
of one God.

I wonder why the earth supports us. We expect so much
and renew so little.

It's Hero and husband, back and forth and up
and down, scattering bones of aborted destinies.
He first slurred the ancient name
of this place, Khóra Sfakia--The whores of Sfakia, he announced
and everyone laughed, then laughed again and laughed
all the next day.
Now, she and he and I are pinks upon the sand.

We offer our knees to the waves, and Hero calls, and her call
takes the body of a gull.
Each of us awakes from the truth of dreams to the lives
of our own making.

The sea moves her skin and enters me.
I do not fear translucence. I do not fear this pregnancy,
for I am with me.

Khóra Sfakia [#22]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“Khóra Sfakia ” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

To experience a performance of Khóra Sfakia
please visit:
and listen to selections #6.

* * * * *

Khóra Sfakia

Je marche parmi les whores of Sfakia, la beauté d'autrefois
de ces fils et de ces filles ammassant des fragments, à la pose princière et brûlant de l'autel de leurs lèvres tout reste d'instinct migratoire.

Pour eux les chemins de débris vers le promontoire
disparaissent au tournant du ciel. ils clopinent vers un arbre où un gardien est aussi passeur et négocient leur retour.

Je suis retenu à la terre verticale, sans chapeau, sans carte et sans lunettes de soleil.
Des oiseaux au ventre doré étincellent en une brève géométrie sur le lapis lazuli, et je tremble d'un frisson de superstition: Que sont ces esprits? Quelle âme hurle de la gueule de l'âne?

A présent, l'eau est un Leviathan
prêt a tout avaler.
Il se bat, non content de ce qu'il renferme,
ni convaincu ni soucieux de savoir que les poumons
ont besoin d'une terre.

Les whores of Sfakia sifflent et dorment la bouche ouverte
sous la lumière éblouissante, un tissu posé sur les yeux.
Si leur messie devait venir dans la nuit,
je ne pourrais pas le suivre, car ceci n'est pas une Diaspora, et le Fils et le Père ne sont que la moitié d'un Dieu.
Je me demande pourquoi la terre nous supporte.
Nous attendons tant d'elle et lui offrons si peu.

C'est Héro et le mari qui sautillent d'avant en arrière, de haut en bas dispersant les ossements des destins avortés.
Il fut le premier à souiller l'ancien nom de cet endroit: Khóra Sfakia--Les Whores of Sfakia, proclama t-il. Tout le monde rit puis rit encore et rit le lendemain.
A présent elle lui et moi sommes de petites choses roses
sur le sable.

Nous offrons nos genoux aux vagues et Hero appelle et son appel prend la forme d'une mouette.
Mais leurs vacances s'achèvent et ils n'ont plus le temps de nager.

Chacun de nous s'éveille de la vérité des rêves à la vie que nous bâtissons.

Le mer fait onduler son corps et me pénètre.
Je ne redoute pas la transparence.
Je ne redoute pas cette grossesse car
je suis avec moi.


Anyone Who Journeys

Anyone who journeys this far south, stays in Essaouira long enough to wash underclothes under a cold-water tap in a room Gaughin yellow and indigo tiled, follows the sun slanting trail of Portuguese portals from Bab Lachour to Café Essalem to Cafe Petite France, decides enfin to become a writer.

Perhaps, it is the lure of a private, Bible-black bound journal and ink pen; one elbow on the table; a glass of coffee and hot milk crusted with cinnamon; a glass of water, pure as a prism--untouched; sugar cubes--untouched; an aluminum spoon rivaling silver from a saucer coffee stained, ovaled by equatorial light; intent eyes, the second sip; returning to appropriate a next phrase of wild, little, many-lettered, many-legged words on the vast, white terrain of another page.

Perhaps, it is simply having something to do, coffee after coffee, a short-term purpose--a stick in the earth, a stone, a shadow stick measuring the virginal procession of minutes.

Only Dennis does not want to write. He is from the isle of Jersey; his family has money; and he has no ambition this winter. Happily he sits sipping with 800 pages of Dickens beneath the striped cone of a straw hat bargained for in the suq, the serpentine alleys stinking of piss and smoke, leather, lavender, essences of peppermint, wood shavings, lemon wood, cinnamon, cinders, orange, blood and blood red spices behind us.

We face the salt and froth of the sea, each man wearing a silly hat covering eyes and nose. The women wear dark glasses.

Abdou Khadar does not wear a hat; he is Moroccan. He smokes Marlboro filters. He has his shoes polished for two dirhams by the child with scarred cheeks and jaundiced eyes. He breathes blue smoke: “Two years I have these shoes--,” raising them, shining shoes to the sun.

Robyn, Londoner, junior film editor, adjusts, readjusts the soiled brim of a safari cap: “Abdul, Dennis et moi avons une idée. Nous voudrons--”


“Nous voudrions. . . unie librairie. . . . “

“You’re English. Speak English.”

“We want to make--to organize a sort of library for travelers to exchange books.” Robyn’s neck blushes to the mouth of the striped sailor shirt Dennis wore yesterday to the hamam. His left wrist, cluttered luxuriantly with ornamental bangles, is darker than his hair, shagged summer blond, unwashed.

Unwashed, Kitty, psychiatric nurse from Bristol, sunburning her nose, says, “With my books, I suppose.”

“Where?” [Iris] “Where?”

“Here, where we’re sitting. For an hour everyday. Right, Dennis?”

“No money.”

“No, it’s not for that purpose, Abdul.”

“Be careful. I tell you, be careful. Life is not so open here. The owner of the café--he’s Mafia. If he agrees, then someone else--someone who walks around to look at things--sees what you’re doing, and then in two, three days there’s trouble, perhaps.”

“But it’s not illegal--”

“But who needs this. You want a book I have, ask me.” Abdou grins to a chorus of placid faces seeking or avoiding the sun.

“Why make things different? We are sitting here; here is the sun; no one bothers anyone--,” Ute deranging her prawn pink day pack for a slim, teal blue tin of Nivea.

My face is distended in two, large, blue lenses. I yearn for her substantial Death in Venice.

Kitty lifts and lowers her chin as if securing a violin: “Nicholas Nickleby does not go into this library.”

Dennis, fisherman red, raises a British grimace.

Martin’s bad eye wanders enthusiastically. He motions to the water: half coffee, half milk. “It will rain today or tomorrow.”

“How do you know?” Kitty thrusts her punished nose to a last slat of virile light. “How do you know?”

A muezzin erupts from a football field loudspeaker. Abdou snaps open a brushed-chrome lighter, laughs, tap, tap, taps the tip of a fresh cigarette to the table, mulatto-milk puddled: “Merde.”

“Like a Virgin” is cut midchorus. Allah confuses all conversation. Veiled women walking in threes are vindicated.

We survey the square, we veterans of the seaport town.

David unbuttons his shirt to graying, ginger-freckled breasts. He was here in ‘68. He remembers Hendrix at Diabat.

Did you notice how quiet it is today? The police arrested all the hustlers--first thing this morning. There was fight between seven dealers last night. Someone was killed in the Kasbah Sqala. Hari told me. Now, there’s no hash anywhere. It’s dry as Iowa. Everyone’s going to Marrakech.”

“When?” Martin mouths.

“I don’t care.” Clea slurs fig liquor into her coffee.

“Ah, the airport authors!” spits Kamel of the leather shop through belt brown teeth.

Christopher and Chloe, Catholics from New Jersey, wrapped as Berber twins, guide a rust red bicycle strapped with striped, cornucopian baskets.

Iris: “Do you realize that child cooks every meal--”

Kitty: “He’s a swine. He was a swine last year, and he’s a swine this year. Does he still varnish his fingernails? I’m sure Père Claude must find that most interesting.”

Ute chortles.

Clea’s cough ruminates into a rattle. ”There are only two questions, David: Did you have a happy childhood? and What is your birthsign?” Tap, tap [spoon to glass].

“Well? Ute’s lips remain parted.

“Scorpio. And my childhood was very abusive.”

“No, not you, David.” Her cigarette is delicious. “You’re a Leo, aren’t you?’

David purrs.

Hari prowls toward our table, untangling hennaed hair oiled into long ringlets.

Clea holds large, laboratory white teeth together approximating a smile. A fine middle finger steadies predatory glasses.

The young Moroccans watch us. They do not understand this wandering from café to café. In the heat they cross to Mogador, the purple island, or camp in Diabat at the end of the crescent of hot sand. Why just sit like that all day, they wonder, with the little books and cheap pens?

But they know nothing of Hemingway or moveable feasts or the pleasures of lost generations.

Anyone Who Journeys [#21]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

To experience a performance of "Anyone Who Journeys,"
please visit:
and listen to selections #5 & 6 (upper right corner).

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“Anyone Who Journeys ” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *


Again St

And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled
with him until the breaking of the day. When
the man saw that he did not prevail against
Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and
Jacob's thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled
with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day
is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you
go, unless you bless me." And he said to him,
"What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob."
Then he said, "Your name shall no longer be
called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven
with God and with men, and have
prevailed. . . ."
- Genesis 32.24

Ten enemies cannot harm a person as he can
harm himself.
- Mother

On Again St the chosen who've embraced fear
and wrestled themselves down are wrestling
someone else now and it's getting nasty,
but it doesn't matter, because once someone's
lost to himself,

he's lost.

And he gets mean, really
mean. He may appear kind, generous,
gregarious, but when someone's lost
to himself, he gets mean and stays mean
until his mouth clamps

Then he's dead, just like he was when he was
alive, ignoring the sky and experiencing
the earth one worm

at a time.

And there's no heaven for these dead.
If the soul is rigid when the body sloughs
away, how can it expect to flutter and play
among angels.

On AgainSt the lost learn to accommodate
despair, but their teeth are worn
down, I want someone else to pay or someone else's
wife and no one else to live
a bigger life.

That dirty little prophecy hit me once when
I wasn't looking.

I lost this tooth.

It doesn't matter; I can still recite.

There's only one contest, one worm and one
apple: If the heart begins to rot everything
and if the heart begins to replenish, everything

Again St [#20]
© 2004 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


La dernière fois

glass diaphanous
blood burned circa
7th century phial she
yearns for the red
for the music the cobbled street’s
final sunlit
hour every hesitation
a flaming sword at the gates and now there is
the Seine to cross

green glass church looming

one last white column Baudelaire Maupassant Zola
the Temple which is France the caryatides every woman carrying all
the other side of the reflecting the contortionist painted

the monumented minueted Champs
Elysée the ceremony of swords and fire at the end men bending trees
ready the forest forever turning
but she was not she for whom my soul awaits

glinting her hair the glare the glamor of the Louvre
I continue
beneath gargoyles, beneath Gorgons searching for Eurydice’s
raven hair traced with violets

In Violet the first draft cartooned onto a paper table cloth
wine spills night cast
as a bicycle’s shadow bending up the curb stone

4 AM wishing to not disturb the wraiths and deities
the church a tomb

I should have crept from the room down the five flights
and crossed the river that is what
I would have done twenty years before five hundred and twenty
years before that is what I did and now I am here again
and she is not and night lay
facing me

La dernière fois [#19]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *



Upon the throne of my knees
in the first glorious year of your hair,
each tooth shone as a myth polished by
the Gaelic of your people
gathered in a cold, uncertain

Now, the clan is less
enchanted. You smell of small
defeats, Gaulois and abstractions. Two
Naples yellow streaks elevate your sleeve, and
your wrist, far too delicate for yet another engagement, is
wan as the milk in your
coffee, curdling aspirations in the heart
of a nineteen year old.

You made each leaf promise. You made
my sleeve promise.

We crossed the Quigley’s rye and passed through
the valley of the shadow of white and ribbed
windows, God-dappled, still

Distinct as an earlier chapter, I remembered crossing
myself, prepared to bleed as the sun upon the velvet inclination
of your knee, so greenly gathering.

It is the way of long traditions, this building upon
previous episodes, so that an informed reader, a God, for example,
would recognize the little girl and the reason she blessed the oriflamme
disguised as poet disguised as revenant.

Aislinn [#18]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *



I am pregnant and I am not embarrassed, and I refuse
to defend myself before the disappointed.
My babies have not been fathered by the patriarchy,
but they are not bastards.
I am not busy in commerce--I am not a landlord
or collector, but they will never be abandoned.

I am going to live in a forest where moss bathes my toes
and makes slippers for trees and pillows of stones;
I am going to deny concrete and its fumes;
I am going to swim every swell of my heart; for it is good
for my babies.
I am going to learn not to worry.
I am going to learn to listen to my fingers
and dismember every gate which does not allow the seeds
of wind and rain and light.

I am so pregnant I cannot see my feet, but my path
leads me.
When a poem comes through me, I embrace its vortex
and adore its apparitions and whisper
every word of its appendages
into song.

And when voices no longer echo
from the bones of my back, sleep makes me a baby
in a belly again.

Pregnant [#17]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“Pregnant” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *


Je suis enceinte et je n'ai pas honte, et je
refuse de me défendre devant les désapointés.
Mes bébés n'ont pas été engendrés
par le patriarchat, mais ils ne sont pas des bâtards.
Je ne pratique pas le commerce--
Je ne suis pas propriétaire ou collectionneur,
mais mes enfants ne seront jamais abondonnés.

Je vais vivre dans une forêt où la mousse baigne mes orteils
et fait des chaussons aux arbres et des oreillers aux pierres;
Je refuserai le concret et ses fumées;
Je nagerai sur chaque vague de mon cœur; car c'est bon
pour mes bébés.
Je vais apprendre à ne plus me tourmenter.
Je vais apprendre à écouter mes doigts
et à démembrer chaque porte fermée sur les graines
de vent, de pluie et de lumière.

Je suis si grosse que je ne vois plus mes pieds, mais mon chemin
me guide.
Quand un poème me traverse, j'étreins son tourbillon
et j'adore ses apparitions et murmure
chaque mot de ses appanages
en chanson.

Et quand les voix ne résonneront plus
dans ma moelle, le sommeil me fera
encore un enfant dans le ventre.

Pregnant [#17]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“Pregnant” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *


L’obscurité verte

Rue de la Harpe, 5e

Flaubert and blood
oranges, the feet of a forest
at the stream, weak-kneed as
a century of Sundays;
a loping changes the angle of a field burnt
crimson, appled and appling since le moyen age. Leaves, insouciant as seeds
spat, as they were in the beginning,
as a story chosen
to be written, as I am
now. To begin
at the end of

I am the loping. You are
the blood-fed field, holding
my hand tooth by
tooth from your obscuritites

your soft socks huddled, formless
in Paris, an Aget

of you upon linen, deranged
angel in a wilderness

its sheath
iris and iris twice

reveal you
A history of the world lays wide open beside you

a cathedral

in the colors of fables within
the blue
bowl of the sky only the illiterate
can read

L’obscurité verte [#16]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


The Green Christs

I follow my great-grandfather.
He can barely walk and he can barely talk.
He is two years old.

His brother Eugène is already six. Eugène will stay here
in Belgium, and my great-grandfather will marry
a woman in Chicago whose mother wears a mantilla
before the fire in the parlor as horses clop
past toward Halsted Street.

My great-grandfather carries a soiled green bear
whose name is Lala.
The little bear’s red jacket is very red and brocaded.

Eugene and his wife are buried next to the tomb
of his parents. Their names and dates are faint,
and the Christs have turned green.
Where the sun was an egg yolk and now peach, nine
sheep, one donkey and a rooster rehearse for Christmas
eve beneath an apple tree.
My great-grandfather, who last stood in this churchyard
in 1883, is buried alone
with his wife Flora near O’Hare Airport.
Only I know the graves now.

My great-grandfather and Lala stumble toward his mother.
She offers me half a plum from their garden and eats
the other half, then opens another.

She offers half to me and half to her son.
--Shake the tree, Richard, and the fruit which fall is ripe.
And always open a plum before tasting it.

Her fingers are stained and strong and fine. She could
play piano. A neighbor,
the soprano, begins to sing. My great-great-grandmother’s
eyes, sotto voce, focus separately upon the bluing
and swaying.
She has Ruth’s eyes, and she wears no jewelry.

Her last roses are old and big as breakfast bowls.
She plucks a petal between a tall burgundy door
and a tall burgundy window.
--You should have come earlier, then you would have seen them.
They were beautiful--and everywhere.

The Green Christs [#15]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“The Green Christs” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *


Les Christs verts

Je marche derrière le père de mon grand-père.
Il peut à peine marcher et il peut à peine parler.
Il a deux ans.

Son frère Eugène a déjà six ans. Eugène restera ici
en Belgique, et mon arrière grand-père épousera
à Chicago une femme dont la mère porte une mantille
devant la cheminée du salon alors que trottent des chevaux
un peu plus loin vers Halsted Street.

Mon arrière grand-père tient un petit ours vert, u
n peu souillé, qui s'appelle Lala.
La veste rouge du petit ours est très rouge et brodée.

Eugène et sa femme sont enterrés à côté de la tombe
de ses parents. Les noms et les dates sont à peine lisibles,
et les Christs sont devenus verts.
Là où le soleil était jaune d'oeuf et maintenant pêche, neuf
moutons, une âne et un coq répètent la nuit de noël
sous un pommier.
Mon arrière grand-père qui se tenait dans ce cimetière
pour la dernière fois en 1883, est enterré seul
avec sa femme du côté de O'Hare Airport.
Je suis le seul maintenant à connaître ces tombes.

Mon arrière grand-père et Lala s'avancent en trébuchant
vers sa mère.
Elle m'offre une demi-prune de leur jardin et mange
l'autre moitié, puis en ouvre une autre.
Elle m'en donne une moitié et l'autre à son fils.
- Secoue le prunier, Richard, et le fruit qui tombe est mûr,
mais ouvre toujours une prune avant de la goûter.

Ses doigts sont tâchés et puissants et élégants. Elle pourrait
jouer du piano. Une voisine,
la soprano, commence à chanter.
Les yeux de la mère de mon arrière grand-père,
sotto voce, s'arrêtent à la fois sur le bleuiment
et le tremblement. Elle a les yeux de Ruth,
et ne porte pas de bijoux.

Ses dernières roses sont hardies et grosses comme les bols
du petit déjeuner.
Elle cueille un pétale , entre une grande porte
et une grande fenêtre bordeau.
- Tu aurais dû venir plus tôt et tu les aurais vues.
Elles étaient belles--et il y en avait partout.

Les Christs verts [#15]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“The Green Christs” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *


A History of Her

I acquire the history of her in each button:
agate and sardius, jacinth and jasper,
emerald, perennial, sapphire, deciduous,
christ and chrysalis clinging to her torso,
entering her in pairs, male and female,
to be reborn from her and generations
of her. Agate (chalcedony) as a worshipper
of silver and the light not yet named
thousands of years prior to a descendant
who would create Jehovah. Jacinth (hyacinth)
I see circling. I choose not to avoid souls
circling; I recite her poetry to them before

bed; I want them to recognize
their mother’s voice.

She is a progression of symbols (enveloped
in velvet and embroidery, read from east to west):
woman and well, a procession of rain, rain
rippling and rattling, words.

There were trees taller than any now, blue as saints
and clouds allowed to arch and cathedral, inspiring
magi, then later artists who would be paid well
to change god.

She is as she was, and their priests and sacrifices
will sometimes be envious.

Before I disperse my bones again to the four corners,
it is time to dispel the ambitious
who would inhabit the vessel of her to participate
in the vessel of us.

If there will be another birth, corinthians (isolated
by multiple stories--and I have been one) must abandon
the azure detailed with child.

Are they attempting again to enter through her? Is that
the trembling of her fingers.

That shadow, for example, is not her, though it appears
confident as it was when it navigated the glassy passages
and narrowing passages as my carcass fell, watching
her turn.

Another is returning to marble upon a hill of debris.

What are salt and glass to me.

The cunning of a perfect left foot (which may or may not
have taught me to forgive the transience of dusk).

Each window as hesitation.

Rhyme schemes, an ex-wife, her asthmatic son.

But sleep, a beaded talisman. Our hearts working
as rain, fluttering;

this is probably a marriage, possibly
ours (Why else would I have dreamt it in a forest?). The mouths
are ours as the torque attains its circle,

the bloom of wood marking the turning as our poems do now.

A History of Her [#14]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


His Father’s Farm

Before Joseph left his father's farm
in Oregon, he descended into a freshly cut
womb where once he had been
cast by the sons of Leah and Bilhah
and Zilpah in Canaan.

His fingers reminisced among root hairs
and serpents and ripped
tubers oozing and smooth
and jagged, ochred
rock and snails in their salty

but his nails did not immediately
tiny beads, rhubarb red and pumpkining

He brushed them and touched an elbow and

His Father’s Farm [#13]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


Blue Avarice

It is not her finger nail polish or every lie we must
tell the concierge or sapphire tiles in the wall of
windows yearning for the other side (which in music
is violet, if blue), the lost coast of the French church
where white has washed away or the single cerulean
breast of the mosque crowning the spice market
or blessings (in the tangible, tenuous form of blossoms)
clinging to iron gates trying to convince a stone building
of something it simply cannot conceive. It is not
the water or sky or their assumed marriage. Assume
, they remind us, our parents now; no others
accompany us crossing borders, carrying everything
we own into a vivid Diaspora. We were left
upon a doorstep of this pilgrims’ world, swaddled
with imaginings while the money was dispersed
to the seven corners of venality: booze, sex, substances,
Vegas, shopping, gorging (and disgorging), faithlessness
(the equivalent of self-deception). Our earthly fathers
are jealous. Mine was. Their predictions were jealous.
In a less familial context I would simply call their ethos
avarice--but painted blue to appear fresh and something
new. We cannot be ingested or exploited, bought or
sold. Not here, not now. We have become aware;
we had to, to survive and grow through stone. And we
believe in forgiveness this month--and why not? It is all
so far away from this stony beach and cold outdoor
shower. We are within as we are without, within
this room this Mediterranean afternoon. I pray for
those pacing the desperate corridor of myopia.

Blue avarice is like good art. It makes us look
and consider; it forces us into renewed palaces,
into eternity, knowing we need not pay a tithe for
this birthright.

Blue Avarice [#12]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

[station IV]

She was overwrought, overweight, the color
she was wearing. Drawn inside the lines
inside the lines, pink, blank and pink.
Her question became an explanation.
She had come to the reading because she had
written a poem for her daughter, now four years
old and beginning to understand.

We nodded, estimating her age.
Twenty, perhaps.
“Do you have the poem with you?” “I always have
the poem with me.”
She held no paper, all peach and
pippin, cheeks and blouse billowing:

“This is called Zoo of Fear.”

[station IV] [#11]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


Scene. In the middle of the myth, in the middle of a life

Enter a Poet, buried in the earth every two to three
generations, progressively cleansed of pagan-Judaic-
Christian-Moslem, etc., traditions and increasingly

Here is my staff and here my shell. I am naked beneath
this skin from stone to sky and back; and you are watching
me lost without you.

You pretend to be a tree. Of course, you do. I have pretended
many names before meeting you; and a tree is an obelisk
covered with hieroglyphs (now indecipherable), but it is
also a root becoming leaves.
Each of us is root becoming leaves.

You, for example, are my rosette. Inside the vaulting of
you, your leaves never lost,

never dying,

having agreed with myself this once not to leave bread
crumbs even though I reach for my pocket when I can’t hear

or feed or feel you. Ophelia.

Fortunately, there is music between sleep.
Fortunately, between kisses between shoulders, your faint
cynicism and shallows cannot protect you.
They only muffle shadows; and shadows may feed on you
but do not feed you. I cannot be a shadow, however

the obscurity. There you are, and there you are. Your voices

fall at the middle, spreading open upon a flattened spine:
Kiss me between here and here when the light is dark as
my hair.

Words flown or drawn from the womb of every tree, every
turning, every dream of every turning which, of course, is
every woman.

We are grove and spring, patches of words transcribed,
backlit and flickering, heightened by shadows including
the shadows of our last and first meetings and the shadow
of time.

The smudge of your left shoe remains. Its familiarity
encourages me to ask, When do past lives begin? Is this
walk from chapel to leaf to leaf
a beginning, for example?

And, so, as an ewe, I dreamed the eve of the fourth day,
licking at the lip of all waters in the west of an island
(presently England?). I saw a light reflecting softly as if
from a belly receiving a child, and I awoke to the length of
your continent and half globe prominent.

The longing of the eyes for its tail. There may be other
lifetimes (as a blossoming appears each March along the same
measure of branch), but these hours are diffident, too young
to remember the longing of the eyes for the peregrine.

Words rattle and fall, though we chase
and debate and kick to keep them aloft. They do not die
with us;

our child will inherit them as her child will inherit us.

Here is a little, easily illustrated story that can be told
to her: In the church of the Jews the wafer is square;
in the church of the Romans the wafer is round.
In every church the wine is red and the bird white.
Intinction is steeping the body in wine to receive the two
at once. Beneath the dome of sky, the cage of the heart is
square; the skull of the spirit round; the blood red,
the sclera (as albumen) white. Every god and creator
of gods knows this as the first day (before
mythology, before empire, before the dissolution
of empire and its mythologies).

This is what she has taught me, now that she has chosen
and been born to us, and I guard her translucence.

Intinction [#10]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


La dernière fois


glass diaphanous
blood burned circa
7th century phial she
yearns for the red
for the music the cobbled street’s
final sunlit
hour every hesitation
a flaming sword at the gates and now there is
the Seine to cross

green glass green church looming

one last white column Baudelaire Maupassant Zola
the Temple which is France the caryatides every woman carrying all
the other side of the reflecting the contortionist painted

the monumented minueted Champs
Elysée the ceremony of swords and fire at the end men bending trees
ready the forest forever turning
but she was not she for whom my soul awaits

sun bushes of gold glinting her hair the glare the glamor of the Louvre
I continue
beneath and beneath gargoyles and Gorgons searching for Eurydice’s
raven hair traced with violets

In Violet the first draft cartooned onto a paper table cloth
wine spills night cast
as a bicycle’s shadow bending up the curb stone

4 AM wishing to not disturb the wraiths and deities
the church a tomb

I should have crept from the room down the five flights
and crossed the river that is what
I would have done twenty years before five hundred and twenty
years before that is what I did and now I am here again
and she is not and night lay
facing me

La dernière fois [#9]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


The Smell of French Books

The smell of French books is particular. It is the bloom
of favorite shoes and pillows plump
with nursing, bells
of etched glass and cream yellowing in the belly of a spoon.

The smell of French books is one candle and three cold
canvases in a crumbling room in Picardy and meadows
beyond the rusting
crucifix, pinking with puberty and wooing the mooing cows.

There is a Livre de Poche beside the bed. I refresh myself
with Pierre Bonnard’s busy virgin in her emerald bath,
then struggle through four more pages.
Little accents fly off like perfumed arrows. From dialogue
I guess the plot and meaning of the story--
as I do in life.

I remember so little grammar, my ceremony of French books
will never change.
It is the lick, lick, lick of a chocolate clock, and I am asleep
before the chiming.

The Smell of French Books [#8]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“The Smell of French Books ” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

To experience a performance of The Smell of French Books
please visit:
and listen to selections #8.

* * * * *


Livres Français (Français)

L'odeur des livres Français est particulière. Est-ce la senteur
des chaussures favorites et l'oreiller potelé
par l'allaitement, la cloche
d'un verre travaillé et la crême jaunissante
dans le ventre de la cuillère.

L'odeur des livres Français est une bougie et trois toiles
refroidies dans une chambre désolée en Picardie
et des prés pubères au-delà du crucifix rouillant, rosissant
en courtisant les vaches meuglantes.

Il y a un livre de poche près du lit. Je me rafraîchis
avec la Vièrge de Bonnard occupée dans son bain émeraude,
puis me débats tout au long de quatre pages encore.
Les petits accents s'envolent comme des flèches parfumées.
Du dialogue je devine la trame et la signification de l'histoire--
comme je le fais dans la vie.

Je me rappelle si peu de grammaire, ma cérémonie
avec les livres Français ne changera jamais.

Je lèche, lèche, lèche l'horloge en chocolat, et m'endors
avant la sonnerie.

The Smell of French Books [#8]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“The Smell of French Books ” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

To experience a performance of The Smell of French Books
please visit:
and listen to selections #8.

* * * * *



In a latter myth of Hyperboreans I became
sculptor and traded everything one
candle could ascertain for a hoof
of marble to form your foot
hesitating upon its twin

You selected anklets and I became poet
to entice the oil and wick of each toe, suddenly
the candelabra, first and last

No longer distracted by gods, their chronicles, the
exegeses (each morning is the same
first miracle), I know

you are all three:

the river of a tree
the delirium of a rose
the maternity of a cloud

and these:

the flame of a fawn
the modesty of truth
the shy blue of a moth, me

wandering Crete and Lydia in search of any

Shy [#7]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


February - October

She is the woman and ghost of the girl
who pretended in this solitary barn, who gazed
through these slats in the back where I now
sleep. Each restless, standing stalk is the shiver
of her, and the wind is an aunt on her
mother’s side, the one who lost her
husband to light between clouds.

Her body is hillocks, pond and spring, long
planted and greener before. Her spine is
the trysting tree from the time of the
grandparents. It is where they meet
and court. Birds turn and return. Her girls
come back. The wind sails their hair
in three directions: light, silk, conifer.

Before sleep one night she read my spine:
Roots above are as roots below.
We are the same.
I root in your body where our dead wait to be planted.
We pray upside down and right side up like a tree.

We made paths as deer. We crossed hills of lone
apple trees where she remembered orchards.
Thorns were still angry, she was still angry,
and the inland sea swollen.

"All vessels are fragile," she surprised me. "Still, a soul
sails on. There is no night or day or death."

And when two signal, I did not say aloud, from
whatever distance, no end of the world or world
between can prevent them.

The moon became a milky wafer melting in cocoa.
How gentle, how unexpected.

A man and woman eclipsed like that alone
upon a strand, all humanity, all history awaited
our decision.

I told her, "We’ll always be together, but like ghosts,
like this." My hands demonstrated an empty
vessel, a frail cup which would hold nothing
for long.

And, then, of course, the moon was gone.

When she left, as I knew she would [though
I had predicted to Peter that she never would--
after dressing each sad window with lace (a gift
from her French mother) and the raw ceiling
with a lamp (hung by her Welsh father); after
the feverish night she had lain beside me and
sat beside me as I writhed] I was surprised
at my grief and the tears--foreign things, foreign
as time--falling upon my hands.

February - October [#6]
© 2008 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *



Above the vindicating sea, rising whitely
from the kitchen’s cold-handled blessing, her pale

cardigan flaps its green gathering
to every field

her husband remembers, forking windrows of wheat
into dry, neat breasts.
He is ancestor and self in that dust-driven moment
his red face meets
the rude wind.

Alice blue school blouses slapping
at clouds and the church
is white and the water surrounding
the forbidden

tarnishes; her skin is forgiving where the water is
silver and the ruin black as a mask
and unapproachable.

Above the weaving of their hair a branch is trembled
for a berry

as the wind would in the blond, open

Where is the end room shuttered with indigo

From this throne of vernal conceit, milk cold
and bloated, bearing the fallen
spears of pine,
spines upon spines sprite green up above
the rust and mossy stream and insect

Dear Mary, soon-to-be-forsaken, Protestant-fingered
wife, provider for the children, proceeds
from the yellow door
of the new kitchen to the tiled hall. Her blind Jack Russell,
sausage pampered, rodent wristed, bounces widely
at a sensation of sullen sunlight among the fuscia, spins
with the grin and abandon of the closely protected.

The green-glassed porch remains narrowly open--
but only to Jack.

A fire is lit in the television room.
Down the long hall, bending to the convalescent
slope of the piebald
hill, she sweeps out each stale
fire, sending anemic wisps into a wind
frantic for the sea.

Leam of light draw near

the writhing in their salmon bodies
at the cloven

rock, lichened and forever keening, steaming,
kneeling, beaded wet and aubergine; screens of golden
leaf set glowing

the wooly sheep pounding nowhere
up the clover.
That last light steels

the partitioned windows of Johnny Byrne’s
Coach & Four and the contiguous stone chapel
up to its cloistered window and the priest’s
residence where Father Mahon once slept
for two weeks without a mattress, for he
was a just man, a generous man--not like this new
cleric, trained in England.
-God help us. Imagine a theatrical society in Cullenglen.
-As if we hadn’t enough nonsense--and especially with
the youth now--
-Well, one can see why the church is having her difficulties.
It all started with that Vatican II.
-I suppose he’ll next be wanting to do away with the Blessed
Sacrament itself--
-God help us.

Dissembler, cast a furtive stance this side of the glass
in the hollow
bellied banqueting room: the powder of ash breaking
upon the grating, the brown bindings
and green bindings of the mildewing authors, the long,

low-handled swords
impaled upon the papered wall, the palest and finest
portrait of Catherine O’Reilly--Do you
take this fair Aisling--I do, I do--
as the light moves,
abandoning her again to the contemplative
twilight of 1914.

Cygnets amplify the sable and viridian,
insignia of faith, for the fading
shall not be forgotten, not here. This night
they awaken to the ripple of Niamh’s

mirror. Here is the bright field
of their gathering, and the shrill
of the silence is the sound of their chorus,
the memory of an intonation, the little whistles

and green stories, the prayers we repeat
in the gethsemane of our hearts.

Twin cygnets, darlings of the water darkling,
what do you know beyond the reflection

of the low stone bridge--

Eulogia [#5]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

“Eulogia” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *



In Evora there is a church
and the church was once a mosque
and the mosque was once a church
and the church was once a temple
in the time of the Romans

Behind the altar there is a false tomb
and beneath a Christian name there are thousands of years
of roots writhing through stone
and water echoes up vertebrae which must have been steps
and its light is the juice of emeralds

Now, consider the well that is my throat
and the pool that is my chest

What does one do when a well has been capped
for so many generations?
Is water safe in the stomach?

How did I become addicted to a self-imposed periphery,
its tithes, its prick and its poison?
Can all of this be unlearned in one generation,
one season, one summer?

My grandfathers and grandmothers
and their grandparents meet for the first time in me
I carry them to familiar places
I am their hands, their thighs, their nose,
their eyes, their lips, their teeth, their tongue

How did I become addicted to a self-imposed periphery,
its tithes, its prick and its poison?
Can all of this be unlearned in one generation,
one season, one summer?

I am the voice and the body now
and all that is closed will be opened
and all that hurts will be repaired
and all that sleeps without dreaming will be green again

In Evora there is a church
Inside the church there is a tomb
and inside the tomb there is a cistern
Inside the cistern there is water
and it’s light is the juice of emeralds

Evora [#4]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

“Evora” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

To experience the live performance of Evora
with music composed by the artist, please visit:
and listen to selection #1.

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *

Notes From Above Ground

Ute's bed and flower beds are white.
Strawberries nipple in rows.
I drop one into my drink and it bobs
between ice. The heel of the glass marks
a full circle.

Blossom rings and prettier things painted
onto wood chalk the tongues
of my fingers.
A smudge has dried into a skin
of varnish; and a boar awaits orders.
His tusks are up and his eyes do not blink.
His hair is needles. I can't imagine anyone
having eaten his body.
- Where did you find him?
- He found me. She, too. Most of a Mother
of God is lost. Her left side is gone and
her mouth may as well have been carved
from butter or snow. She survived. The time
of the burnings.
She is almost a branch again.

A barrel is pissing upon nasturtiums.

When the sun is most carcinogenic, black

and brown bees fatten on fleshy flowers
as they do every year, as they did
in August, 1942, while my mother, who was
eleven years old in Milwaukee
and twenty years old in Auschwitz,
began to die in both places.

- Do you enjoy my garden?
- It reminds me of a Tarot reading.
- I like random. As one would find in more
primitive places--a little bit like we had in
Ute's toe nails sparkle, but she is not
as tête-à-tête as she had been in Morocco.
Half the sky is smoke
from Nadia's cigarette. Ash sticks to her
cropped copper hair. She is the scent
of our siesta, not the Mosel
nor the vineyards. We sip
Liebfraumilch, and I must witness her

- Why is this? My daughter will not listen
to the voice of her illness. She kicks at it and kicks
at it and kicks at it--

I am a house guest. How should I know?
Perhaps, she was a guard once.

Perhaps, she was the guard
who shaved my mother's head and crippled
her right leg.

Notes From Above Ground [#60]
© 1998 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


Thump, thump, thump went Dorothea's
head. She burned with the authority of
a constellation of candles, and then she
didn't. Most people who claim spiritual
powers have thick skin and big bones. She
hadn't. I brushed her fingers surreptitiously
with an insufficient blessing of my beard.

A petty officer offered something and
cigarettes to her wardens. They licked and bit
and exhaled smoke. Our eyes followed their
swallowing. Dorothea waited at the end of
a rope.

"Mmm. . . mmm, . . ." said the Dürer
Madonna, a type who would bear one child
from a disappointing marriage. "Mmm. . .
mmm, . . ." said the other, engineered for
many children from any man.

Both were the color the sun makes on pale

If the willowy one was a deer, the sneering
officer was the wolf for whom she yearned.
It must be in the blood, this taste for tearing
apart and being torn apart.

They recognize no distinction between sow
and jew, and this allows them to milk, beat, bleed
and feed upon every sinew
, I spat and spat
quickly, and gunners from the tower fell.
But two übermen rose up and dragged
Dorothea the length of the wooden buildings
as if it were Christmas afternoon. They ran
and ran and their new sled became
very red.

Six years later, while walking HaYarakon
Street in Tel Aviv, alternately calculating
and praying (as is my way), I was born in
Oak Park, Illinois. This was a clever selection,
modeled, of course, after Hemingway.

Dorothy's primary concern, as she nursed
me in a bedroom of a bungalow, was our
anonymity. Shades were drawn religiously;
one lamp lit the bed red; and lint, busy
as ancestors in a corner of heaven, instructed
me, You are as we were. Her parents, her sisters,
herself as a child hid among silks. Prayers
clung as kisses, but no one has survived.

Her face alternates between a smile and tears
as it did when we were chosen;
but I write, This story must end here, with this
telling, upon the winter of this page.

Why should you always be among strangers?
she overrides my expostulations as she did
when I was her child.

When I died last year in Haifa,
Dorothea greeted me upon the low stone
bridge beyond the forest of our village where
her fingers were always cold.

Unterwelt [#59]
© 1998 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


Keeper of the Blindly Glowing

From this rib of leaf I release the girl
from Rainy Lake, ringing again my skinny
Bedouin body with the nest of her
sleeves. She was more lilac than the sky, and I
was braver than any boy
in corduroy. My fist pressed each
victory to the ring of her
pink finger. We squashed every terrible
tributary, avoided depressions
with great steps, subdued the rank and silver
finned corridor; and I, tall
as her bluest button, was keeper of the blindly
glowing hair.

She told me that birds are souls
visiting. We were crossing this street.
Vehicles stopped. Their urgency made me
My left hand held her left elbow; my right
hand held her right.
Can you imagine, she asked as if we were
dancing in France. You came from my body.
Her new hair nestled beneath the rampart
of my beard.

A dripping beneath leaves assures me
that wings are less of a burden for her
than arms.

Fingers cannot delay the exodus
of heaven. Faithful and unfaithful
disperse but I remain, keeper of the blindly

* For Dorothy Fammerée, my mother, departed December 29, 1990,
and frequently present. The first draft of this poem cradles within
her left arm within the earth.

Keeper of the Blindly Glowing [#3]
© 2008 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *



Conspicuous as a sonnet, I pass through
shadows. I do not know their names and
I decide not to count. There are so many
going up the hill and back, alongside the
vein of meadowsweet and loam. They are
a forest. They are a frost. I am their field.
Each ancestor rising one summer higher
in a line, planted along the rutted road
which is now a footpath for fewer and

It was a Roman lane, their tomb a mound
sprouting yew and laurel, pregnant two
thousand years. They return to recall as do
their descendants, my ancestors. One day,
my daughter will come here and tell this
story to her grandchildren, and they will
sit within my shade and shiver with
mysteries as she, three months old today,
looks up my tall, deciduous body into

* Longueville is a medieval French, now Belgian, village
founded by the Romans, inhabited by my family since
at least the early eighteenth century.

Longueville [#2]
© 2008 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

The Conversion of the Monotheist

namaste from dear old Blighty. I hope all is particularly relevant for you. I'm enjoying an entire dwelling as my landlord and landlord are blundering about in the Himalayas.

Such luxury should not be wasted.

Valerie wrote of more humanitarian awards. There was another audience with “His Holiness.” She included a photograph of herself tanned and smiling, hanging off the Dalai Lama--the kind of gag photograph tourists create with a digital camera and computer.

It appears she and Byrol are “in correspondence.” Lovely. Akhun left Turkey with Natalie. Another wanker. They’ve traveled on the Continent and are now en route to New Zealand. I imagine them in Thailand, bronzing and blonding, two beautiful--well, at least one beautiful specimen of our tribe.

Received photos from Nilüfer, of all people. There’s a group shot from our first days in Selcuk. We all look as we should, hardy in uncompromising sunlight, though your rugged good looks appear distracted by her hair. She’s asked me to forward it to my friend “the poet.” That’s either you or St. Loup. I assume she meant you. He’s a limp formalist.

She’s penciled
Monday on the back of one and Lily on another. No dates or explanation on anything else. Peculiar. Like something from antiquity. We find things like that, a single item, one word scratched into its surface. All that survives a civilization.

They’re back in Istanbul. She misses Kas, the harbor at night. I can’t imagine she’d miss that bloody club. Too bad I had only a fortnight. Cyn and I were happy there. You appeared happy, too. You must have been. How long did you hang on there--two months? Now that Meriç is dead, I imagine they’ll leave the capital. Cyn informed me that Nilüfer’s mother died, as well, this year. She must be having a rough time of it.

There’s a photo of the baby. He looks just like Byrol--with hair. I’ll soon be off again--Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion. If you want postcards--and the photo--I’ll need more than an e-mail address or does your celebrity status preclude this?

Take care and let me know when you intend travelling to Hindustan. We could meet again in the madness. Don't dirty in church, Skoog.

5 February ‘94

The Conversion of the Monotheist

Fourteen years before, I dreamt,
I am springing.
Leaves bathe me and flail me. I rip
at their fingers for food. I am cunning. I am
running twice
as fast, and my eyes are twice as large, and
the arrow is my nose.

Approaching Ancient Smyrna

house, blue house, sky-blue horse
neighing the earth emerald, nibbling
Red painted over
red fingernails clawing a peach perfectly
bitten to its veined seed. Undulating
bellies are velvety for more
seeds, ready to birth more olive
tongues and more seeds excited into sight
by a fist of citrus sun.
The under bellies of my fists
press their branches to cold glass
mirroring bird-embroidered
trees whose leaves are tongues
for the wind and fins invoking

Resting, resisting and not resisting

I am weary of stones
and their hard stories and the earth
sponging up so much writhing and trees
sponging up so much writhing and so much

I want the morning to taste of beginning. I
have come to Lydia to taste
beginning. Blood orange, blinding

yolk, the one eye plumbs even my lemon
stomach for something to ripen.
Open me. I need to be bled of fear and anger which
were fed to me before I could chew.

I have not slept since Istanbul, and
weariness amplifies the sensation of being
myself and another descending
four sinking steps.

Behind a facade of souring
bricks, a field is sinking,
blinking. Leviathan slumber, purpling,
anticipating the next flood.
Trees root into their backs and into
the sky (as we do, bleeding,
Fruit ripens to rot if it touches the earth
before it is eaten.
I taste blood among the sacrifices.

Here is
a goddess who has eluded Christians,
Vandals and connoisseurs.
Here are her lips, but they are
petrified. What horrors has this Daphne
fled? Could my seed warm her and worm
her open, or would I dry upon her,
I kneel to her
ankles, to unbraid her.
Animals drink here.
Another man may drink here.
Many lips may be necessary for the busy
chemistry of life which clouds
and quivers this fugitive
womb, sapphiring, firing.

There is no evidence of a single male god in all
the mud.

An engine and its horn blare.
In the vast temple of birds
not bothered, this shofar is my signal
to return.
The bus is churning and stinking.
The driver beats stagnant air
with the paddle of his free hand; but I do not
My bag is still tied to the roof next to a crate
rattling and screeching.

Passengers curl embryonically. A soldier
kneels into sleep, his forehead pressed
to the seat next to mine. Uniform thin, wrist
flat, the wrist of his rifle turning; I dare not
disturb his severe devotions.

The woman who ate the peach turns to my
agility, offering a succulent seam.
The seed drops to the floor.

As I begin to sleep, fish confide in me.
Their gilding is a hoard of lemon spurs and
finch and a fiercer, unnamed yellow, purer,
more potent than gold.

A white horse circles a tree. Her infested tail
swishes and swishes. It prevents bees and
me from approaching.

White horse, lie down and rest
No loss shadows your soul
You are not defeated by a wall of flat leaves
You are not defeated by that which is not seen

I ride you into sleep
Your dreams are not troubled
You do not fear sleep (as we do, entangled
or alone along a ticking perimeter)
You awaken to beginning in your white coat
of copper light
I want to awaken to beginning in a coat
of light

My head rattles against glass. The three of
A whistling wolf eats one of three standing.

My head rattles a thousand times,
and a thousand hands beckon
from a palace wall. Each assumes a glove
of leaf septembering. Children shuffle
below, avoiding more
instruction, ignoring premonitions
and ravens.

What happens to hands of the dead?
a school of flies debate.
What will happen to these hands
and their harmonies?

My grandmother reaches for me as she did
when her kitchen was warm-- But I have not
yet almost died and learned to walk
without a bearded god.
I have not yet loved and parted from all
the characters in my story.
Some have not been born.
My only child has not been born, and I have not yet
recognized her mother.

Ephesis and above Ephesis

Selçuk, midday, mid August, is very
flat. It is a mirage without filtered water
or weeping fruit.

A man waves a tarnished key at my thirst, "Visit here, visit Ephesis, then, go to a place near the sea like Bodrum."

His museum is a nunnery of thighs, insteps, eyes, digits, breasts, dozens of toy Cybeles, a nipple of Aphrodite. They whisper me through a vestry of combs, pins, tear glasses and blind mirrors to the complete goddess.

When the guard finally turns back to his gate, I approach the perfection. I am ready, my fingers promise the mysterious decorations veiling and alluring me to the adytum of birth.

"It's a copy. The equivalent of a photograph. Those would have been actual testicles. Skoog, Oxford." His hand, which is stained, does not stain mine. "The original statue would have been much larger and adorned with jewels and sacrificial body parts," he gods with a fountain pen.


"Of sorts."

"May I?"

"If you like, but anything in this mausoleum will prove more inspiring and informative. Still, if you like. . . . I could bring you to her source."

When the sun is less absolute, Skoog leads me from the cloistral chill of marble and its white exhalations into the red dust of a town suffocating beneath centuries of shuffling.

Beyond a perimeter of carpet shops and reflecting walls dripping bougainvillea, [This blossom fell to its name upon this page, August 18, 1989, Selcuk, Turkey] our shadows point to a rough hole, a dry well adorned with shovels and pick axes.

"In your country this desolation would, no doubt, be a car park." I approach, tethered. A single column protrudes from the earth as a vertebrae. "Christianity has a thorough way of supplanting previous mythologies.”

"When the first apostles came and struck the painted head from the white breasted body, the impotent rejoiced at this pool."


"Me. And if one were to follow those trees--"


"Imagine walking that emerald nave into dusk and darkness and dawn."

"Processions began here.”

“The first cathedral.”

“The Temple of Artemis. ”


“The seventh wonder of the world.”

“Even Mary's beatification was celebrated here, once Christianity began to gather momentum and pagans. Smoking censers, holy water, just as in the fat days of the virgin huntress."

"Christianity opposes the worship of goddesses--"

"Vehemently. But it’s a shrewd faith. The original multinational. Short term compromise, long term profits."

Far enough above the trees, the distress appears less.

“Let’s not be too severe. Our gods of commerce are destroying far more of the sacred world than those poor buggers could have ever conceived,” Skoog randomly loosens earth with the trowel of his shoe.

"Une palais,” he prods as a weary husband.


“Well, a wooden post stood in this hole and here--" his heal reveals a perfect quadrant worn into stone, probably cut by Skoog himself three thousand years before, nonchalant alchemist-- "a great door swung."

"And here, an azure glass of grapes. And here, a cruet of their blood. I could recline in this chartreuse hollow for centuries--"

"That was a fire pit."

I recline regardless.

"Too late to ascend. Tomorrow, then." He is dripping.

"Tomorrow, Ephesis."

"Later in the week, perhaps. Where are you staying?" We are amplified by a nesting emptiness.

"I haven't a clue. My bags are at a restaurant."

"I'm sure there's room at the inn. We've a velvety verandah, peaches and yogurt for breakfast and all the characters any writer could devour--”

We pass before a violet wall, white only an hour before, still shedding flakes of blossom, pink and numerous and abandoned as valentines.

"Cynthia is looking for you."

"Hello, Wencke. This is our psychiatric nurse from Lapland."


"Where is she?"

Wencke shrugs her hair to one shoulder, glowing. "She was in the shop."

"Your nose is burnt."

"Yours is longer. Enjoy the sunset, boys."

"Your English is superb."

"My English is American. I studied in Berkeley. "

"I learned to perform there, on the street. Do you know Shakespeare & Co.?--"

"Yes, well, I was married to a professor. Shall I tell her anything if I see her, Skoog?"

"Tell her yes."

"You're so clandestine. If only you were romantic and handsome, too." She turns, her last words leaping Germanically into a sudden confirmation, conflagration of birds.

"Oh, to be a sip upon that tongue," Skoog drinks from my plastic bottle, umber powdered.

"To Lap nurses."

“Nurses' laps."

This and the rising breeze quivers the sapling in me. Cicada rub more rapidly. Dust rises to my cheeks, leaving its touch along my sleeves. A traveler’s benefice, this serein of shades breathing past me, against me, for dusk is the morning of their half of the day when they walk again for a first time among the flowering grasses of the scrubbed hillside. And now, I suppose, I shall rewalk this day among them, forever searching for a remembrance among abbreviated, impending pillars.

The conversion of the monotheist

"Sorry about the kitchen, darling," Skoog coos to Cynthia, leading her by the hand into a depression.

“You should be.”

Akhun darkens, then, scion to generations of money changers, evaluates Cynthia's friend, Natalie, who is also from Perth. Unfortunately, her fetching name is not echoed in her looks or demeanor.

I scratch at a wall with a desultory stick hoping to loosen some fragment of a Saturnian age, at least Roman.

Skoog leads us from ruin to ruin, room by room up the hills. His banter is rehearsal, our camaraderie Chaucerian. My companion is Alexander. He teaches me to sever every Gordian knot. I wish I were breathing all this from the freckles of Wencke’s shoulders and arms.

Higher, still, where flowers are thorned and grass perspires more sweetly, the heat is even more dizzying.

Cyn and I kneel and drink from a well adorned with pilgrims whispering blackly in Portuguese. According to tradition, the mother of Christ expired here.

“Her body is buried somewhere beneath these stones,” whispers Cyn, a little disoriented with revelations, Alice again
in a Wonderland of Catholicism.”

I remain beside her, our shoulders touching by a breath as they had once before a candlelit crèche in a colder century, and we are both pippin cheeked and sleepy with epiphanies. “How many mothers, priestesses, sibyls are buried here?” An adult voice, my voice, startles me as if it were a priest’s higher up, closer to the source of light and dark.

I look directly into the source of shadow. "Skoog, do you realize where you're standing?”

It is the poet again quivering through his chrysalis who would awaken Gaia, Artemis, Mary--each of her--from the domes and thighs of this lost Jerusalem.

“Every goddess of Asia Minor has been excavated or stumbled upon here. The terrain itself is the body of a woman."

He kneels into our reverence, but only for effect, for Cyn, I suspect. A passing radio recalls us to a happier faith, She would never say where she came from. Yesterday don’t matter when it’s gone. . . and we, the newly chosen, choir in benediction, Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday, who can hang a name on you--

At dinner Wencke does not smile with me. I’ve waited all day to impress her.

"I'm only sorry that everyone is so surprised.”

"She's a recovering academic and Norwegian," Skoog reopens an incision.

"Whatever will become of your dead god nailed to a dead tree now?"

“What will become of your immortal soul?”

"What will become of you now that he has seen this? I suppose, you'll write the paper, Skoog.”

"What are you eating, Skoog?" Natalie hurries past.

"Tunj, what is this anyway?"

"Has anyone seen Akhun?"

"He was just here."

"Snails," de Saint-Loup raises a metallic face from his plate.

"I'm eating snails."

"Those are bottom feeders."

"Who isn't."

"Tell Akhun I'm staying and taking the gig, will you?"

"The gig. American vernacular is gathering at our gates. I shall never capitulate," de Saint-Loup picks at a silver tooth with a tooth of a fork.

"What are you alliterating about now, Wolfy?" chews Skoog. "Besides, Natalie is not an American--"

"Well, if she were--”

“Well, she is not.” Skoog raises a chipped cup to a chipped tooth,“To our intrepid poet and his lost Jerusalem.” He hesitates. "It would be interesting to know the Dalai Lama's opinion, Valerie--"

"Please, not that again, Skoog," de Saint-Loup expires.

"It's not for me. It's for Shakespeare here."

"You scoff always."

"Wencke, poets delight in edification. Look at him. I'm sure you'd like to edify him, wouldn't you?"

"Are you a Buddhist, Valerie?" Hero and husband produce a very Bordeaux bottle. “Michael, the corkscrew.”

"Of course she is. All California girls are Buddhists. The Dalai Lama is a chick magnet."

"Don't be an ass, Skoog."

"I met His Holiness in Darmsala."

"How did you arrange that?"

"I was producing a special for PBS in Boston. He allowed me a question off camera."

"What did you ask?" Hero pours neatly, prepared to forgive life.

"Imagine a world directed by women--presidents, the next Pope, the next Lama--"

Each of us receives half a glass as if it were Valerie’s Bat Mitzvah. Hero’s blouse is creased with disappointments; her profile, pure Picasso.

"And?" It is good to see a little color in Wencke’s cheeks.

Skoog, sip, sip, sips, saturnine.

"His Holiness said nothing. And, then, 'I've never considered this before.' "

"The most enlightened man in the world, and he's never considered this before-- Even I've thought of that," Skoog glances over the balcony, changes colors and waves a wine glass, brimming with expectations.

"He became emotional--"

“Of course he did.”

"Wencke, come with me tonight to Ephesis. Tunj told me where to find the entrance beneath the fence. The sun rises along the avenue of chariots. We can watch it from the theatre."

Happily preoccupied with the whispering European wine, Tunj nods to no one in particular.

Wencke flushes to the frontier of her Dutch boy blond hair. Her little teeth scamper back. "Are you coming, professor?"

"I've been," Skoog offers Cynthia a persuasion of irregular teeth. “Besides, I’m a bit fatiguée.”

"We could walk the processional way between trees."

Wencke ignores me.

At midnight, without notice, without knocking, she enters my room. Her hair shivers to one side, a perfect wing in timid light, the blush of a manger the night of a birth. A girl emerges from her trunk. They wend to my bed, the moon and Venus reorienting my legs.

"This is Nilfur," Wencke sniffs at my soap and shampoo. "You like beauty."

I concede sleepily.

"I'm not so surprised. Are you Libra?"

I shake my head. Wencke clicks, clicks and a yellow eye of flame resurrects from her fingers and multiplies, converting my cell into a chapel.

Nilfur touches my writing journal. Her fingers are so slender, they tremble in retreat to the nest of her lap.

"Do you write as you travel?" I whisper, heightening the chiaroscuro. “Do you?”each sleepy syllable a pilgrim to the foliage of her hair, thick as fleece blonded by a northern Italian summer. Two blushing pilgrims, ready stand.

Wencke rises. "Let's go onto the roof. Bring the guitar." The door swings, extinguishes the candles. Ite, missa est.

We venerate the moon. Laundry is flapping like flags. The pension moves imperceptibly toward the Aegean. We are the night watch.

Wencke says, "So many lights and yet so lost."

I murmur. She clutches the railing.

Nilfur disappears into billowing bodies of bed sheets.

"She'll be fine. She's like that."

"Another caryatid lost.”

Wencke inhales to clear the interruption.

“You know what your problem will be--”

“Tell me.”

“You have so much capacity for love--”


“Yes. And you believe all of it even out.”

“All of what.”

“All of you. You lose the most precious each time, don’t you? Happiness requires wholeness.”

Not a sound rose from the vast, waiting altar of earth below us, the oldest earth in the world.

“Wholeness, holiness. It’s the same.”

“Forgive me, but you don’t appear particularly happy.”

“Happiness is not the imperative for me that it is for you. I have learned not to expect.”

“That’s rather sad, Wencke.”

“Perhaps. At least, I am not living any longer a mediocre cinema.”

“Had you?”

“It’s a common deviance. The belief that the sum of trappings can somehow approximate essence. I was in a marriage like that for years. We had French frying pans and a wolf. There are photographs of us on every continent for evidence. But we never touched each other--inside.”

“Do you think Hero is actually her name?”

“It shouldn’t be.”

“Tunj would know.”

“Why is that important to you?”

“She fascinates me.”

“Don’t be a fool. You can see tooth marks on her husband.”

“That’s cruel.”

“Try not to make too much of an ass of yourself.”

“I don’t know what you mean--”

“Oh, yes, you do. Do think the husband is happy.”

“I think she’s not in love with him.”

“Why would she be with him?”

“Why are most people together?--”

“Precisely. But you’re not most people. She desires an elegant life, and she’s waiting until something better comes along. He seems like a nice man, innocuous, funny, even handsome in a predictable sort of way. But he’s not glamorous. That’s his transgression. He’s not glamorous. And so, she’s watching and waiting and spinning. And you want it to be you.”

Her laugh was gilt with brutality.

“Of course, there is a minor complication. She’s pregnant.”

“How do you know?”

”She had no wine, and that was a very expensive bottle. Intended for private consummation, not the likes of you and Skoog.”


“A child will create a welcome diversion for a while, but not for long. She will become more dissatisfied than she is now. Remember what I said. Happiness requires wholeness. It is not to be found outside. It is to be cultivated.”

“And what do want, Wencke?”

“I have what I want.”

“And what is that?”

“All anyone can hope to have. Myself. And I’ve found what I came for--"

“Have you?"

"Our pilgrimage is the same, yours and mine.”

“Is it?”My fingers map the nape of her neck.

“A desolate field. All that remains of a temple of a Goddess."

"A hole and a bone."

“. . . By any other name. I, too, have spent my countless afternoons in Shakespeare & Co.”

The following evening Skoog refuses to stop elucidating. He persuades Wencke again not to follow the unlit, moonlit avenue of trees to Ephesis. They cross a foot bridge in the opposite direction.

Women sit upon stone steps. Children charge from one doorway to another with large eyes and large teeth. Wencke, Nilfur, Cyn and Skoog recline among them beneath a tomb. A perfect frieze, Skoog and his school of women awaiting an explanation.

"These would have been trees and this, a sacred grove,” I join them. “Still,” I circle back, “there is a certain truth in a pillar.”

“And providence in the fall of a sparrow.” This is, after all, Skoog’s proscenium.

Turkish women and girls nod at our engagement. Teeth are gold rimmed or missing, but this does not diminish their appetite. Nilfur translates. There is more nodding. I am surprised that she is Turkish. She tells me, "This village is my home. I am visiting my mother who is ill."

"Where do you live now?" I raise my eyes from her profile carved into stone.

"In another small village. South. Along the sea. Kas."


"Yes. You should visit. And my name is Nilüfer."


“Yes. It means lily in English.”

I ask Nilüfer to guide me through the quarter, but she prefers to remain among the ruins.

Her back, storied with shadows, a gate, illuminated with shadows, reminds me that I had arrived alone only days before. None of these friends knew me then, not even Skoog. I rise as a prophet in his own country and shake the dust of me from my sandals. Hive after hive is lit from within, three, four generations muffling the clinking of silver to glass with gossip and giggling, unaware that this is the eve of an Exodus and history will change.

The air is crystalline in agreement, tinkling; no wind, only the murmur of primitive electricity and untempered voices. Revelations await me where the cobbled path turns up.

When any woman, prematurely matured by kerchiefs and cardigans, steps out into darkness, it is to hurry--with the cunning of a virgin or a spy--to another house. Children are called repeatedly and herded home. I laugh. The furious mothers may as well be herding cats.

I laugh again, echoing deeper into the labyrinth. A truck appears. It is red and round like red trucks in children's stories. Children scurry indoors. Doors close. Windows close. A mother is shrieking. Shrieking. Suddenly, a mist clouds up, dispersing into a veil, softening stone, making iron less sinister, suggesting a gentler version of the story as mystical occurrences do.

I respire.

The veil resurrects. It billows and swallows from every direction, every corner, ubiquitous as a Semitic god. A cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night. This is both. Its kiss is chemical. It is a breath that kills. I spring back, but the vapor has done this before. It backs me to a wall, devours my hair and mouth. Something rips. My lips oh--(How many times will I form my lips into a choking surprise as if reenactment, a small physical incantation, could return me to before that moment/miasma and undo the damage.) But I won't swallow. I won’t. I make my eyes and nostrils smaller and spit out and spit out. I spit out all the way back to the pension.

Tunj and his father assure me, "It's for the mosquitoes." "It's for the mosquitoes." "They have no liver and so they die."

I shower and curse and cry.

Nilüfer regards my fury with pale curiosity. Wencke offers thin lips. There is barely pink between her chin and nose. She rubs her hands together vigorously and palms my eyes. "Keep them closed. Keep your eyes closed and try to relax."

But I won't. I won’t turn into a pillar or tree.

Winter and below

I have received your words after waiting for many weeks. The last time I talked to you by the telephone, I thought you have a voice that is in a new place now and OK there--a voice I don't remember. It was so far away, as if we don't really know you and me. I don't know how to say this. So I decide that I will not telephone again but this has been very bad time waiting for you to write to me. I check my mail box every day. 2 times every day. And there is nothing, so I come upstairs and try to be happy for the baby, but Byrol too knows there is something very wrong with me now.

He thinks it is my mother's death. And it is, but it is your illness and our separation too. I can not take this. Sometimes I am hoping I never see you again. Never. And then I pour myself a cup of coffee and suddenly cry while I am drinking. I think our love went very deep. Do you think so?

I am so sorry that you have been ill. You seemed so happy in Kas. You were never ill when we were together. We were of one branch, never bruised and like now. What do you mean that you almost died? Is this possible from jaundice? Is this possible in America? Why can't I be with you? How is the world like this?

I am sincerely happy that your friend was so helpful. Is she your girlfriend now?

I sat with my mother as often as I could. Just sit. Sometimes I sang to her. She had a beautiful voice. She became so small with her illness. I wouldn't recognize her. No, I would but it was very, very sad. I imagine you in the bed. It must be terrible for you, my darling. Without the baby coming this would be impossible for me. My mother isin my baby, and you too.

It is better when I imagine you on the hillside and crying together, and the terrible cold chicken picnic we ate. Do you remember? The day we visited the little island.

It was good that we did not make love with our bodies, even though Meriç told me every day to do this with you. She is helping me with this letter. But I was so worried. She thought it was about the baby and told me that it would make the baby easy. I can't explain. I think maybe you understand. But it was a time for our souls to love. The bodies--that is nothing in compare.

We will place flowers on the bed as we promised if ever we see you and me again.

27 Nov. ‘93

From the barque of my bed, I explore every rivulet which begins at the cold light and roots to the window above the dressing table. I am yellow as a yolk. It is not pretty, but it is my inheritance, my crest, a shield which does not protect me from without or within.

There is terrible pain beneath my crown. It severs my skull and lower back as if I would open and escape as air from a balloon into air; but I have decided to resume this sack of branches bound into bones and sap fermented into blood.

Someone left a Bible on my bed. I rolled over in my sleep and it dug into my ribs like a stone. Its miracles are dry in my mouth, a catalogue of creation as something without mud, without torment, without tremor. I remember a different Genesis.

I eat from your fingers again and again beneath the thin tree. Its shade is uncertain and uneven and stripes your beautiful wrist, trembling shadows where I kiss and kiss the single blue vein from which anxious, newborn leaves flutter.

The only serpent is time. We believed the laziness of its belly.

And then it strikes, and I am alone suddenly in a cold place without you, and I may never see you again.

I died, Nilüfer. I did. Perhaps, for only a moment, perhaps, longer. My death was half water, half sky, and I floated into its belly, a blue temple, affable, laughable as a bridegroom in a foreign ceremony.

Death held me as if it were saving me from drowning. I smiled to myself reflecting up and floating to me as your legs the afternoon of the silver fish. My hair was thick as your hair. Perhaps, we were brother and sister, possibly twins. Can you feel that?

The blade of my body dropped into a cold mouth gurgling where lungs are made strong and clean. Leaves bathed me and spanked me. I ripped at their fingers for food. I was cunning, suddenly running twice as fast, and my eyes were twice as large and the arrow was my nose.

The sky swallowed. My splashing through echoed wildly. You were not cold upon a gleaming, slippery tongue of stone. You sparkled. Water pulled tangled hair and seaweed along your left leg, and cream was coming from your body.

At your lips I did not hesitate this time.

24 Nov. ‘93

Before I left that night, the last time we saw you and me together, Meriç pushed this into my hand. It was twisted as my heart. She had done that. She becomes very nervous now after the operation. Byrol wanted to see but I held it against me to Istanbul.

I will let you see it. Only you. Meriç wrote this and made this translation for you.

I have a good feeling about you together. You will both learn and discover things about yourselves and about each other which will help you in the future. This is a time for making your life. I feel the water goddess around you, protecting you as you journey in. He is a good companion for you. Don't let him dominate your life though. See him for what he is--he has a good spirit and open heart--but put your trust in you, not him. You must be secure + rooted in yourself.

You are already carrying your happiness in your heart.

Keep a mystery. Don't make it too easy for him that he could take advantage of you. You are in search of a lost part of yourself, and your relationship with him is helping you to find and retrieve this.

He has a golden heart for you--I feel he loved you in the past. He still wears his heart for you. Everyone sees this. But put your trust in you. You are similar in this way--he cannot become dependent on you.

And do not attempt to try to control him, because then he will retaliate--even subconsciously toward you. You should know some dark energy tried to interfere with his breathing in the past. He needs to clear this out with good. He needs to heal his relationships around him. Someone put a curse on him. But it did not succeed. However, he carries some upset from that bad relationship. It was a very unhappy, dependent person who would have drown him in her sorrow and grief.

You both have a strong sensuality. I saw it when you were dancing. Integrate this into your spiritual life to release yourselves from the pain and wounds you still carry. Do this together. You can heal each other. Practice a sacred sexual. Start a new life. The old one has not worked. He carries an anger, you carry an anger. Buried. Help each other work it through and let all of that go--

Each day dawns but once.

16 Dec. ‘93

Upon the 40th day of my illness, I crawled from my metamorphosis to roast a chicken. I carried the heart outside and displayed it upon the snow. Something would eat it.

Without a body to nourish, it was no longer a heart, just a hard little thing upon a numb crust of cold.

Hobbling and sucking a lemon drop (poor little jaundiced eye like mine), I slid recklessly along an icy tunnel of sidewalk delighted with my ripening nose. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, the prophets, popes and kings thumped up the barren stairs over my shoulder. We rested at every landing in the stench of another generation boiling onions; but I am free. I am twenty-eight and I am free. The fever has burned away prejudice, and my prejudices--born of mimicry of fear--were a self imposed periphery. They weren't even mine. I am free to rebuild on this scorched place. I am free to entertain any thought, any deity. No mythology or tradition will ever again dictate my developing mythology.

A scab developed on my back. I picked at it and panicked: skin cancer. But I had not developed skin cancer. My mother had.

She asked that I not visit her after the operation.

She wants me to remember her as my beautiful mother.

Her sisters cautioned, Don't listen to that nonsense-- She needs to see you--

Mother was adamant--and she also later refused to allow me to carry her up stairs, though father could not do it alone.

When her wig was finally removed, she was not embarrassed before me. The nurse, whose eyes had not quickened during a final, bedside fit of euphoria after the patient had abruptly swallowed a belly of air, taped my mother’s eyes closed. The pastry pink nightgown stained again and crumpled as a napkin.

Here was all that remained of a girl who had studied modern dance and classical piano, taught me to water-color paint and sing harmonies to the English.

Her hair, insignificant as the priest’s, had once been my nest in our sacred hour of the orange cowboy book.

Those were the years before I had been inducted into assigning a name--an ineffable name--and a racial and paternal orientation to the fountain, process and mystery of life. Happily napping, still warm from the egg, counting the random dance of lint in light, her hand pressed to my chest, her belly warming my back, and heaven, which was bluing all around me, did not miniaturize me.

Now, she lay as Ophelia in a pool of deranged blossoms. The flower of a heart is unrelenting. It pushes and pushes until it breaks the vessel of the body, if necessary.

I brushed her fingers surreptitiously with an insufficient blessing of my beard. Here was all that remained of the vessel of my birth, a frail figurine exhumed from a desolation which had once been a sanctuary.

Upon the third day, she was lowered into the earth and became a gilded drum. Dirt thumped and thumped. A man imitating a raven muttered unintelligibly near the shovel, his little, worn book open but not fluttering.

I looked over the workings of the one male god, and left him there to those fascinated or scurrying from a hole in the ground, the womb which had just swallowed the seed of my mother.

Three days after the green, limpid pool

Three days after the green pool had reflected broken teeth of pillars and Nilüfer's slim legs dangling without shoes, we entered a great salt wave. Stumbling and sea bludgeoned back to pebbles and sand, we laughed and it felt good to laugh and she found my hand, which said, I'm coming with you-- She said, "Do you feel? Do you?"

My blessing hesitated. Her skin was as the belly of a fawn. The quieter I became, the more she pressed my hand until it dropped, unhappy stethoscope. She drew my mouth to her neck. "When?" I whispered into the mythology of her tendrils.

"Before you came. No, even before. Before I went to Selcuk."

The seiche of red vines (which are veins) and splintered, thorned branches (bones) shepherded our half sentences.

"Why did you come from there?"


"Why didn't she come with you?"

"She twisted her ankle at the circumcision party."

"Yes.” Her head dipped and turned as the swan she must have been. “Look.”

A treasury of silver fish clouded the fantasia of our four feet, and we, each half of a godly, lonely ark, prepared to survive our Genesis.

“You stayed with her."

"She had stayed with me when I was ill.”

“After I left.”

“After you left. I brought her meals and we sat together in her room. Sometimes, she read, I wrote. Most often, we were silent. It was very serene. I have happy memories of those mornings.

“There was always a basin at her feet of orange peels floating like feluccas upon the Mediterranean. Their fragrance was delicious. One day, abruptly as a sibyl, she said, 'Go to Kas. You will be happy there.'

“I wasn’t certain I had heard her correctly--she had a towel draped over her head and she was respiring with purpose. I offered the skin from an orange to her foot bath. She pushed my hand, 'Go. You will be happy. I don’t know, I don’t know for how long-- Why should that matter. Even a little happiness-- ’ "

Nilüfer lifted my hand and brought it beneath her chemise. "You didn't recognize me. Do you remember?"

“That’s not true. I couldn’t believe it was you. I didn’t know where to find you. I never thought I would see you again. I only knew the name of this town. And, suddenly, there you were--a myriad of you polishing brandy snifters in a room of mirrors.

“The sky was reflecting and your hair so full and blond, and the wood smoke and tobacco from the night before still so lazy in the air, the miracle burned in my throat. I almost pretended to sleep so that you would come over to my table and awaken me. But you didn’t recognize me.”

"Yes. But you had been so angry that last time I saw you. The mask of your face was very different--"

"The night that we were poisoned."

"And your hair has grown and you have all this now," she poked at my chin through a beard.

“And your eyes were so sad. We are siblings in that way."

"What do you mean?"

"We offer so much to others, and, yet, we do not--trust enough?--to receive--or ask. And so, we each carry a sadness adulterous as that cloud."

"I had just come back from my mother."

"To Byrol."

"Yes, to my life here. We weren't happy for a long time. He's nicer to me now."

"Because of the baby--"

"And you. He knows. Valerie, I think, told him.”

“Why would she do that--”

“He says he knows anyway. Don't make such a funny face. You don't understand. He is very different for a Turkish man. Probably because he lived in Germany for so long. Other men kill their wives for less, much less in these countries."

"He'll use the baby to separate us now." Words became stones in my mouth, and I feared for the safety of my teeth.

"Don't be this sad. Don't be this selfish. It's very difficult for me."

Our knees and fingers mimicked the lingering of a blossom to a leaf, retelling the story, open mouthed and quivering.

And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods make heaven drowsy with the harmony.”

“Did you write that for us?”

A smile she had not seen before. ”Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

"Please let's not be unhappy. Not today. Not now," Nükhet began to climb away from me, away from us with a kiss that tasted of a stomach in turmoil.

Tears clung to her hair, silvering as the sea between templed knees from where deities could view us at their leisure. The light diminished more slowly than is possible. The whimsical old gods must be sentimental.

Whatever or whomever whispered about us, Nilüfer and I held on to each other in an awkward, adorable embrace typical of siblings who are lost or were lost.

She removed her arms from mine and removed this pink scarf from her neck. These tiny shells tinkled uncertainly at the hollow of my throat. I counted them and inhaled her through the teeth of green things.

The scarf does not smell like that now. It does not smell like Nilüfer; and it has begun to fray.

We found Meriç reading close to the water.

The right side of her skull was noticeably convex. She had had a brain tumor removed the previous year, and she had to be careful now. She could not swim or climb. So, she encouraged us and read while she waited.

That day, it was a small green book of fragments. Meriç adored romantic fragments. Meriç adored us.

“May I?”

She smiled, and then, she didn’t.

“Can you translate?”

She shook her head as a child might who has been called upon. “He seems as fortunate as the gods to me, the man who sits opposite you and listens so closely to your sweet voice and lovely laughter--

”Who is that, Meriç?”


Shadowed by roses. And from the shimmering leaves the sleep of enchantment comes down--

“It's late now," her half face crumpled. Even this curious, pitiful mask was unable to further detain the curtain of night.

She folded something into Sappho and led us to the boatman.

As we bobbed and bobbed back, I promised Nükhet that we would see each other again. “Someday,” I whispered into her hair, and her hair hurried into the wind.

“What? Monday?”

“Yes, Monday--” I called back to her.

“Monday!” And we laughed and laughed. Monday would be our code for forever.

Byrol was waiting at the dock in Sabit's van. "Nili, your mother is dying," he said. Nilüfer became thin and cold as a candle and automatically crawled in behind him. Meriç frothed and stumbled after her.

I watched Nilüfer through the exhaust of the van, a soul peering out through a glass darkly, a Persephone peering back at the place where she had been the marriage of sky and earth.

All that remained was a shadow upon the earth, the needle of a compass quivering for direction. Meriç tempted me back to the harbor. She was not allowed to pull. She was crying. Boats were bobbing and ringing as if Nilüfer had not left; but there was no pregnancy in their passion and pushing now, only tedious hammers bereft of chimes. Serpents of light quivered as they had the night Nilüfer interlaced our fingers and pressed them to her lips, blessing them in Turkish; but their glittering was not long upon the book of black water. They became servants of desiccated prophecies, flaming swords turning every way to guard the approach to the tree of life.

And there was no shimmering of leaves without and within as there had been when Nilüfer had walked among us.

One diminishing lamp flashed as a heart, and then did not upon the altar of that night.

She is not departed. She is not departed, my shadow assured me each time it rejoined my body.

"Worry about her. Byrol is hurt and angry.”

“The human heart is illiterate. It cannot decipher a lapsed contract.”

“Yes, well, that’s all very fine for you in your America.”

We stood too close to the water, disturbed as gargoyles, salt deities ignored since the pale, noisy days of purple banners and earliest lifetimes.

“You have been given a promise. Both of you. It is always a question for people, which they should trust. There are only two--promises of faith and promises of fear,” Meriç limped.

"Prepare the boat of you. Make it clean and warm and ready, Richard.”

Stretched across this bed like a scroll upon an altar, there is only this from the tips of my left to my right: In the beginning we were fashioned from a rib of the tree in the stark place on the little island where we sat together holding each other and crying. The place where I ate from your fingers.

The promise of the serpent upon land was ugly and unconvincing. We followed into water where eternity is evident. Our body was our boat, and we rose with the flood. We wore no faces. We had no need. Our souls iridesced as eyes.

Death became a refinement. We slept the fables of its waving forests and migrated its cemeteries.

The particulars of each version of our story do not matter, age nor gender. We are generations of a single promise, more exquisite with each turning. Only your fingers do not change. I know each of your fingers, Nilüfer.

When we separated in Kas, I wanted to return past the flaming sword of myself, turning and turning, guarding the approach to our beginning. Perhaps, I wanted to die--to find you again.

As we promised.

5 January, ‘94

This faint stain is blood from her
lip. I wear it when I walk before
the sky.

I have seen her since--crowned in a pink
and burnished tempera; turn
distractedly, smooth
the paper of a package upon her
lap; sleep,
one hand abandoned, one white hand
touching hair from her cheek

The Conversion of the Monotheist [#1]
© 2009 Fammerée

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Richard Fammerée

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Photograph by Susan Aurinko

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