The Oldest God in the World

Upon this
the oldest God and the youngest God concur:
The world is a bridge
Cross it but build no house upon it
The world endures for but an hour
Spend it in devotion
The rest is unseen

The Oldest God in the World [#51]
2009 Fammerée

Thank you, Michael Wood & Yehoshua ben Yosef

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


An English November

I stood here beside
this red post
this dog post
I stood here because
I did not want to see the way
the pastor the mirror the four
bevelled corners had used words
however accurate however bronze and fragrant
and I said faint
as in fabled
and you said sullen
as in silken
the way silk falls somewhere in this tented street
this lane again obscured
by moonlight more
vaporous langorous less
suspicious less deliberate than each humming
cold milk turning
cold each of us humming
fraying mumming I could have told you
but the progression to prayer was not
what you wanted to hear not that night
before the fire
in the grating in the pub the grazing
the green
viridian and oaken walls and glasses glowing
golden within
and without as if time were caught
in the sap of Hennessy slowing
to the tempo of the chair
in the door frame hovering unpainted guarding us from the future
glass within glass within glass
each of us stepping back
to that moment each of us silvery
curtains of filagree
and trees each tree
bowing never failing
whipped by wet wind still
dripping never ending enduring never
lime brushes turning black turning back turning
godly lit into a gilt Constable sky
a telephone a telephone a telephone
burrowing into absence
absence into absence into milky abstinence
quiet into rain into rain
lingering on the other side
of The Four Quartets 17 c.
quadrants of glass sky tree facade reflection
through a glass and a glass darkly she of he of she who had
occupied the sculpted chair the dead chair guarding us from the future
hovering in the door frame
you want me to return why now
sleep lay between us
your blouse
your brown shoes
your Run Lola Run shoes and the mystics
we imagined
into each successive light
only to enter the shadows of one

An English November [#50]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Fammerée

* * * * *


Orpheus Recusant

In this widowed room I repeat
the lessons of my senescent heart,

bead by bead. I ready myself
for the opening of the bitter book

which counsels your faith
and the colored book attending

with cap and bells the approach
of our impatient story:

Attic blessed, fluted
with Lydian melancholies, the umbria
implicit in your breast

We adorn ourselves with tears and amethyst
as children of the Queen

No eclipse will ever elicit a denial
between us

This hand-pressed netting,
this veil of brides, this storied fabric winding
its whisperings about us, sleeplessly

compelling our mouths together for breath, for

I now assume Botticelli’s love
for you

And if time were to abandon us in some unmeasured
embrace, I would rest beside you
until we were chosen to be brought forth again
from the cold.

Orpheus Recusant [#49]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


The Absolute of Indigo

This mosaic of mesmerized silver
fish and chartreuse
scum harboring
seed pods
sailed all green things once
to the young peninsulas

of my lungs.

I was held to this stone
hundreds of fish years ago.
My mother warmed me and warned me; but
an emerald billowed up and
I skipped ahead, popping and twinkling
as a skiff's pennant, a tin of spinach
pressed to my biceps, and I begged my mom

not to be afraid.

All things are arranged now in my vessel.
I hear her. She whispers, Do not worry, as she passes,
with twilight, into the absolute
of indigo.

The Absolute of Indigo [#48]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *



I could not sleep while you slept.
Any little animal might have sheltered
in your body; and I kept
leaves from your eyes and things from your hair
until your lips revived, bending
back my fingers to the lessons
of water and thirst. Fires that night
digested the wet, and when their long viridian
became your arms and a delirium
became our legs, threads
relinquished us, and we were not puppeted
by earth, and we were not puppeted
by heaven. We became
larger than form and texture and scent--
something like clouds--and fear was driven
from the manger of our bellies, and anger's thin
lips could not diminish us. We ate everything
that was red,
and everything red
was delicious. My sap was greening
your milky body, then your legs slapped.
They slapped into fins and you arced
and my chin and
ear separated, and silver and more silver and silver
again, I quivered behind you.

Ephemerae [#47]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Ephémères (Français)

Je ne pouvais pas dormir pendant que tu dormais.
N'importe quel petit animal avait pu se réfugier
dans ton corps; et j'enlevais
des feuilles de tes yeux et des petites choses
de tes cheveux
quand tes lèvres se ranimèrent et revinrent
à mes doigts aux leçons
de l'eau et de la soif. Les feux cette nuit-là
digérèrent l'humidité et quand leurs longs viridiens
devinrent tes bras et le délire
nos jambes, les fils
nous lâchèrent et nous n'étions plus pantinisés
par la terre et nous n'étions plus pantinisés
par le ciel. Nous devînmes
plus grands que la forme, la texture et l'odeur--
quelquechose comme des nuages--et la peur était chassée
de la crêche de notre ventre, et les lèvres pincées
de la colère ne pouvait nous entamer.
Nous avons mangé tout
ce qui était rouge,
et tout ce qui était rouge
était délicieux. Ma sève verdissait
ton corps laiteux, puis tes jambes claquèrent.
Elles claquèrent en nageoires. Tu te cambras,
mon menton et
mon oreille se détachaient, et le vermeil et plus
de vermeil et le vermeil encore, je tremblais
derrière toi.

Ephémères [#47]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


Sang-froid (Living With An Actress)

You touch as if to remove lipstick.

There is every shade of blond in the lock
stopped by the authority of your right
eyebrow. Editing annoys you.

Green bees upon a field of chartreuse annoy
you. Conflict between fabric and design
is unpardonable. (Napoleon and Madame R.
may have favored the symbol, but all this
belongs to a previous denouement.) After
your mother died, you did not come

Last night you did not come home. When you
were Ophelia, I untangled each blossom
from your hair.

I fought past Hamlet into the grave.
I expired before you upon our tomb, assuming you
would follow.

You unloose your hair and the chimera
of a smile; I choose the long face
of a Sadducee, for in this next scene we deny
the resurrection of the dead

Sang-froid (Living With An Actress) [#46]
© 2004 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


My Last Hour (Upon Paros)

Shakespeare would have introduced me
earlier, roaring forward into a high halo
of reflected light, bursting into
constellations upon the tomb of that Capulet

My heart is not ready
to be unhorsed; my horse is not ready
to be lead from unwashed dancing. What god
can offer a dispensation?

From a cold throne of seven marble steps,
I regard blades of hair and slopes
of shoulders, schooling forward in stripes
and prurient florals.
They are closer to the stem;
it is not this late for them.
The proud pennon of my smile flies before
the teeth of my defenses, but there is nothing more
and no one left to vanquish.
Archers and cupids relax their
wrists; and the statue of my head begins
to assume the face of a cloud.
I admit exhalations of every lung, leaf and

I breathe, I am, and I am
the sum. How I have occupied myself

with disappointments and intrigues,
amassing a coat
of many things and thorns.

I remove my shoes.
The vast ultramarine (for air is a sea
where we, the anxious, feed at the bottom)
claims the blue veins

of my feet. Ants crawl darkly in farewell.

They were first to play with me, too.
I remember.
I destroyed many with my heel and toe, grinding
them into pepper.

Why would a child do that? What did I know?
What did I remember?

My Last Hour (Upon Paros) [#45]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *



Now, Lucille is dead.
Her executor had all photographs raked
to the center of the living room;
but the tarnished
teacups from Brussels are gone.
Robert's water colors have left
only white rectangles, and the cardinals
Lucille embroidered after their marriage
(two lobes of one heart seeking
with identical beaks) will never again
support her back or mine.

Who sits in that chair beneath a clock now?

I have nibbled and sucked at
chocolate-dipped cherries
as my fingers pressed and left their breath
upon the Christmas-cold of this window.
I have sat here with my mother, with both
of my parents, with would-be wives.

I arrange us by holiday, decade, generation.

Here is my great-grandfather
in a churchyard in Belgium. He is not yet
my age.

If this single image were lost,
our nineteenth century would be lost,
and his death would be complete.
I lay him and his daughter Eugenie and her
daughter Lucille to the silk of a suitcase
which once belonged to his mother.

Here, everyone who is gone is together again.

Gone [#44]
© 2010 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


Green Man (A Song)

If we were one God, we would feed each other
everything; and everything would eat us,
and we would never die.

My tongues would serpent in your temple
where water becomes blood;
and the pink imprint of our lips would be
a talisman above the bed.
We would not need
to protect our skin from light; we would not need
to protect our skin from skin;
and nothing red would be unclean
at the mouth of the Tigris.

I know what the dark book teaches, but the garden is within us all.

I am a green man, and I am my messiah now.
I am not embarrassed, I am not alone, I am
not afraid.
I cannot lose anything, for nothing is mine.
And I will never be hungry, for everything is mine.
Where, then, is the throne of heaven.

If we were one God, we would not appease
fathers of don't.
We would kiss the tips of each other,
for lips are the spout of the fountain
and eyes, the light of the fountain.
Nipples are ready to blossom,
and a rose is a mouth of the mother.
I am a finger, and you are a finger.
Our hand is a leaf, our leaf, a wing,
and leaves and wings will cathedral us again.

Green Man [#43]
© 2005 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

“Green Man” appears on Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a recording of poems and poem songs by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *

A Boat

Your toes to my bow, a knee
to your aft, my fingers inside a strap of
your camisole, your arms vining
and rubbing
and the movement of my right shoulder

I untie from my God and every god story-- Come the wind
and the wake and the rain

Sap fattens and ovals our lips, blind
petals of a previous crossing
They are tart; they are wet
They are plum; they are asps

Look, the water is tarnished. It is the first generation
of leaves dying

Down in our belly
we are happy. We twine in the delicious
deciduous mess of our

A Boat [#42]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

Photograph by the artist

* * * * *


Notre-Dame (de Longueville)

A dead man bolted to a daed tree is
lodged like a bone in the throat of Notre Dame.

A tongue flickering in a lamp cannot be suppressed.

Before the burinings and conversions this choir
was a barrow where my fathes and mothers were brought
and planted like seeds in a belly.

The clerestory and blindstory were trees and each cold
intricacy, a leaf.

I forgive the bowed and kneeling patriarchs
and matriarchs separatee d by stone ribs, for they knew not
what they did or they were afraid or they did
know and are buried now in stone.

Before I left Chicago, I saw Auntie Jeanne standing
on the the corner of Irving Park and Clarendon.
A squealing bus did not disrturb her because she is dead.
Her coat was so old and her hat so ridiculous, I almost
hurried out to huddle her into my car,
but she wasn’t
watching for me, and she wasn’t
waiting for the bus like the others. She had come for her
daughter who was dying.

I have crouched in a savory cathedral like this before waiting
to be born, sipping and sleeping to the thumping
of a big bell beneath the bold
cupolas of a mother’s breasts, absorbing pink stories
from windows of flesh stretched
between ribs, woring
toward a slit at the nape of the twin towers
of her knees.

Notre-Dame (de Longueville) [#41]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *

“Notre-Dame (de Longueville)” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *


A Rose and Its Seiche

When Daphne decided to allow her breasts
to receive mouthings, the severed Gods became alert, for her
essence could weep to the turnings
of a tongue.

Undefiled and clever, she wrapped herself
in incantations: a ruse and its worm, a rose and its seiche.

Now a deer, now a thrush nosed the vulva of a knot, and she
rose before him, and the moss of her unbound the blossom
of his lips.

Her chest became a harp and he became the other half.

Silver threads fastened their sternums, and she held his wrist
to her hip, and he rose into the god green ring.

A boar urinated down her untwining legs, tearing at new hair

Daphne tore at her hair.

There was coarseness and weeping aloud.
She concluded that speed and departure are preferable
to bark.

Once she stopped. Her breasts stopped. The wings of her hair
fell. Her mother (who had offered her plumper body
at the time of the boar) perched,

the size and color of a heart.

Beyond the tips of Daphne’s pinkness, a freckled back
strathspeyed, sprang, cartwheeled, reeled
and dashed, flipped,

flipped, flipped and leapt.

The thought--This could be my daughter. She should have been
my daughter--
frayed her lips.

A Rose and Its Seiche [#40]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *

“A Rose and Its Seiche” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

* * * * *


Asleep in Ireland

My forehead touches folds and stone. It is mud
and gold. It is sky
silvered. Its curls fondle a puddle where fingers abandon
the wind to huddle as babies
at my breast.

I am asleep in a waving field in Sligo, and the earth
mothers me.

Oh, how I love my sleep in Ireland.

All that has transpired during the previous nine years
is now a dream. When I awake
to myself unblemished,
dressed again in juniper:
I did not invite Deborah to Dublin.
We were not married in the Shelbourne Hotel.
We did not abandon the family on Wicklow,
and the family in Wicklow did not abandon me.
I did not retreat with her to Germany.
There was no divorce one year later.
I did not soil my story, and my story did not soil me.
I did not lose my adventure.

I first knelt in this dimple of nettles and puddles upon
the forty-second day of my great pilgrimage.
The sun was my shield, the fields unlettered and not dying.
I lay my bag next to this rock and lay my head
upon my bag.

I slept to the rhythm of cows
and clouds, the moon, invisible in cerulean, wandering
and blessing the shore of me
asleep upon this belly, burning with the yolks of furze
flowering into the big, dreamy, beating silence
of the embryo.

Hobo licks my palm. We walk hills wet, wax
green and valleys wetter and greener.
The sheep farmers do not concern him.
They have not yet poisoned him. He is turning away and
turning back, orange and lime
in the sun.

He is an Alsatian like me and a stray. When he died, I
buttoned him into my flannel shirt and buried him beneath
a plum tree.

We sleep now in Ireland, separated only by a vast mirror
of earth. I bite
into fruit nourished by his body. Hobo knows me
as I enter the mulberry trees.
My mother greets us from an iron chair. She rises. She, too,
is smiling victoriously. She is lantern lit, beautiful again.
I knew that she could beat the cancer.
I knew that she was still alive. I say to her,
Now, don’t upset. But there was a time I didn't know
you. Years and years when you wore your hair like this--
[I gesture.]
All lost. All that time is lost.
She begins to cry, but we are together again.
Before I can introduce Hobo, I awake.

I begin to move my limbs.
There is gray in my beard but I do not see it, for I have no mirror. I believe that I am healed.

I believe that I am healed.

All that I have dreamed is real. All that has shortened
my breath and scarred me is a dream.

With what god do I negotiate the is arrangement?
And what more must I offer?

Asleep in Ireland [#39]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

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

* * * * *


Orpheus Recusant

In this widowed room I repeat
the lessons of my senescent heart,

bead by bead. I ready myself
for the opening of the bitter book

which counsels your faith
and the colored book attending

with cap and bells the approach
of our impatient story:

Attic blessed, fluted
with Lydian melancholies, the umbria
implicit in our breast

We adorn ourselves with tears and amethyst
as children of the Queen

No eclipse will ever elicit a denial
between us

This hand-pressed netting,
this veil of brides, this storied fabric winding
its whisperings about us, sleeplessly

compelling our mouths together for breath, for

I now assume Botticelli’s love
for you

And if time were to abandon us in some unmeasured
embrace, I would rest bedside you
until we were chosen to be brought forth again
from the cold.

Orpheus Recusant [#38]
© 2000 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

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

* * * * *


L’Embarquement pour l’Ile de Cythère

We loved in the cup of a blossom
It was violet, it was Tuesday
petal deaf, petal deep
blue matinal sheer silent shivering

time, hand-sewn as summer, little seams, little scars

the past which always follows the bitter
chocolate, the particular wine

Wednesday, its gilded frame opposing the deep wooden bed, the shroud our bodies

blind scrolls

hundreds of mothers and fathers
before literacy, the touch of a blond beak to the palm, each palm

pressing back, it was this
juice rising and quivering in the wand of beginning and end

Beginning and end always with us

in that cup unitil it dropped its great violet, violent

L’Embarquement pour l’Ile de Cythère [#37]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


The Child Messiah

In a diaspora a bride is kneeling. Red needled
Rhine roses, white flowering, and rowan
embower her, worming

methodically, Gothically. Butter-colored
berries penciled in viridian wreathe her
hair, coiled to the hollow
of an immaculate breast. Within
that maw of two, unfinished
hands, a messiah begins.

His back is spotted with gold,
his fingers are filigree born from her body,
his lips love the timbre of her
nipples, and his belly is full of her.

One wind-reduced tree appeals the windless face
of the bald blue Father and his bearding
Son, swathed in crinoline

and icing winged. She molds the boy
beneath this tree.

Now the woman rises slender backed and silver
chested. She faces her discontent,
and Canaan becomes
The child faces the water.
The other shore, she assures him, will be
the same: the same white
grass, the same wild rowan and glass blue
sky, leaves sanctuary clean and gray, green
as dull, blunted blades.
Look-- There are no shadows
on the river, no serrated fingers
where blue fish feed.
But I am free, he coils.
I am twenty-four and I am free.
I could go anywhere from her

his wrist flies and
flails. Dust-colored
magi smile, sucking
marrow and bits of roasted skin
from wings. Reliquary
, the lampblack decree.

One woman of successive faces
appeals this bearded son.

Each holds the boy beneath her
He must birth pomegranates and violets and
all things green and unraveling.
He must abandon his granite
patrimony and attend her
shadows with the unfailing
furrows and arrows of a father.
And there will be nights he must
attend alone;

but his lips love the timbre of her nipples as her hair
plays upon the sky a promise
of wings.

The Child Messiah [#36]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *


Each Body Beautiful

Always ready to be unloosed from satin and the white bodice of clouds,
each body beautiful, its river, its sinuous logic,
its deliberate destination

towards the sun, away from exhausted deities, away from death

There I am before death and here after
the hesitation
between leaves, between

The sky is worn thin, I planned to sing

[chorus, when sung]
Twelve thousand skies
Twelve thousand nights
I should have known
I would outgrow a fascination with empty

Each Body Beautiful [#35]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


Scar (Just Another Scar on the Body)

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

forests of rose and bone, perpetually reborn, protected
by thorns, where fear is sin

where no sword turns

where angels are the body within

each body a portal

Each window as hesitation
What are salt and glass to me

You understand even if you pretend not to
The way the dying light favored you five hours later--
staining your blouse, staining our fingers

that last light lives in your body
and the soul of your body as auric deities hidden in dripping

[chorus, when sung]
Just another scar on the body
Every arrow points to somewhere
You are always pointing to come home

Just Another Scar on the Body [#34]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *


La fille de l'eau

La fille de l'eau, your petals
are palest.
Here you are a chalice
and here a narrow
sarcophagus diligently
cut and dressed
in frost, vested in
silk, pampered and pinned.

For the few months I was Vermeer, your profile confused
even the contentious God.

You wore orchids and chamomile. You chose afternoons. Your tears
found the font of my pillow.

After I wept at your knees, your taste was furtive and alluvial
as rain. Rain nourishes everything but history.

This is our secret, and the secret of trees.

Your poetess is Ophelia and your eyelids, her relic.

Le vent est de nouveau dans les arbres, et tu est inviolable.

La fille de l'eau [#33]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Susan Aurinko

* * * * *



Indiana? It all sounds decidedly Veni, vidi, vici. Separate the n from the D. More mythic, more appropriate. Clandestine and celestial. Just a suggestion. You’re the poet. I’m prepared to offer a short term solution. I’m being sent to the Holy Land (see glossy side of card) to resurrect the life of Christ. It’s ages since our adventures last year in Byzantium. I’ll arrange particulars, Skoog


Hysterical sopranos largely mother
frenetic, sloe-eyed, foal-eyed Samaritans;
a Via Dolorosa of cold
noses and dirty toes. A sheep has been severed
in a shed, running
red. Rose and periwinkle
wedding dresses sway their virginity above
me, wide eyed as corbels.

Where the hell is Skoog?

Here is blood pushing at dust and dust resisting as in
the first days of the first chapter. Our Father who art in this if anything, I am thousands of generations later, blood insisting within its vessel of dust.

Trumpet forth coarse beards if you must, but listen to these ancestors of our ancestors who never spin or sew. They are listed explicitly in a previous Genesis, descendants of dust and water and one of you but not a Jew, one of them but not Moslem, translucent in sunlight but not Christian. Here, they have witnessed an epiphany, the blind unbound and the blind offering sanctified blood [dam] to dust and the earth [adamah] made red [adumah] as a pin cushion.

Within an arch of fire and teal, a shaved mendicant stabs at my food. He is sick. I eat because I have paid for the meal, and I imagine myself with his illness. I wish that he had already died.

A green-eyed boy reveals red teeth, chipped as cheap trinkets. He wants more red soda. “I ask only five American dollars for any of these. You choose--” His teeth and gums are one color.

History is written in his febrile eyes and roan hair. Fourteen generations before and fourteen generations before that, a woman was impregnated by a shining man, stinking of leather and rust, grunting as a cold angel.

The boy is impatient. I become more patient. Why not-- My shoes have already been soiled with the blood of his father’s sheep and my meal has been spoiled.

I give him a dollar. He pushes it to my chest. “You could not ride on a bus in America with this.”

I push the dollar back.

He throws it at me. I drop the torqued bracelet onto his tea tray. It clatters without conviction. It has been handled before.

I place the dollar among his trinkets. He spits.

I follow him. This is, after all, the Holy City.

Smirking, smoking beneath the second station of the cross, his brother knows me.

“One dollar. Very clever. Perhaps, you are a Jew. No? You are Arabic, I think.”


“OK, OK, Moroccan.” They laugh.

I laugh, revenant that I am.


Skoog and our new companions are more interested in Bethany than bracelets. Still, I bring them to the shop the following morning. In the chill of confusion beneath glass, I am offered the assurance that there will be no haggling.

Dieter toes the earthen floor with an impatience bred of impatience and racial superiority to dust and all things born of dust.

I choose a serpentine bracelet which fastens into a kiss, ringing Mylese’s wrist with its verdigris. A decade before in a Mediterranean village, I offered its twin to a woman I could have followed back to Aix-en-Provence (and may yet in a fictionalized account of my travels I am writing).

“Where is this from?” she murmurs.

“The desert.”

Heat and light break upon the window with the vengeance of Allah.

Mylese says, “It is very old.” Her fingers understand its value and function, but she and Dieter have decided that she is not allowing herself trinkets this holiday. They lift matching leather bags.

I return to the display case, crowded with old things and living things weaving webs. Mahmed and I separate remains of the dead.


“That? Twenty dollars. Twenty dollars is too much?”

“No. Not if you say that is what it’s worth.”

“I didn’t say that. I said, ‘Twenty dollars.’ I said nothing about what it’s worth. What is it worth to you?”

I do not want my friends to surprise me in negotiations. “I’ll stop back later.”

“Later. Later it could be gone.”

“Later we could all be gone.”

He smiles the smile of his little brother and father’s father. “OK. Just take it. No, take it. It’s yours.” I fasten it about my left wrist. The serpents strain to kiss. “It is for a woman’s arm.”

She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, for ever wilt thou love, and she be fair--

“Eighteen dollars.”

“I’ll be back.”

“Where are you going? We made tea for you. For your friends, too. Tell them.”

“They’re not interested in tea. They’re waiting for me. And I don’t want to do this right now. I told you, just give me a price and I’ll pay it. No bargaining.”

“OK, I did this. Twenty dollars. ”

“Now, I can say, No, thank you. I don’t want this.

“But you do. I can see it in your eyes when you look at it. So, because I am your brother, for you I make it eighteen dollars. No, sixteen. Sixteen.”

Skoog and the Austrians, impatient as apostles, obstruct Lions’ Gate. A man, who has never shaved, wheels a cart of sesame encrusted bagels too close to Dieter. Dieter recoils. I purchase one for each of us. The vendor twists spices into Arabic newsprint.

“I like doughnuts,” Dieter confesses, examining it too closely.

Mahmed has followed from his shop. “Did you show them? Come back. Tomorrow. Bring your friends. You are all welcome.” He embraces me again. No one is particularly impressed.

We descend through a silence of scrub and stumble up the belly of an earlier temple.

“When the Messiah returns, he will emerge from the same gate.”

I turn as Lot’s wife. “I thought it was to be Golden Gate.”

“So did the Saracen when they sealed it. What did you pay?” Skoog navigates, calculates by the sun.

“Four dollars.”

“Pure profit. And you missed The Church of Our Lady
of the Spasm.”


“An Armenian treasure. Dieter had to see it.”


“Between Via Dolorosa and El Wad. Close to St. Stephen’s Gate.” Dust billows up.

I am stung by a bee in the village of Bethany. Beneath a skirt of leaves Mylese places my finger in her mouth. The swelling bores Dieter. He reads aloud, Now, when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste?’

Anxious for tombs and ruins, Skoog negotiates with a man bent over a boy emerging nose first to unlock a dead bolt and illumine a naked bulb.

I enter the humid earth stupidly. I know this taste. It is the last and first, and the familial chill lures me to the place Martha and Mary’s brother was interred as a seed.

Of course, womb rhymes with tomb, and though the two words may be the shortest, most profound rhyming poem, I decide not to mention this to Skoog. He’d undoubtedly considerate it sophomoric, even if the Austrians might be impressed.

Dieter’s Bible exhales. Its breath is old as onions, cold as shoes.

“Is there enough light?” Mylese asks.

He is turning leaves, gold leafed, thin as days.

Translucent and plum-lipped, backlit, Mylese is projected to the shadows of my sanctum. Why here in the tomb of Lazarus?

Did you count the steps?

She offers her breasts in the cradle of her arms. She wants my eyes upon her eyes, their pale November, the vulnerability of twin gray creatures, the depths of a sea folding in upon itself, the sanctuary of her hair, its silk magnetized to my lip. Her fingertip traces a red cross stitched onto my tunic.

Rosary beads nestle upon her palm, not burning or burgundy as those dripping from my grandfather's translucent fingers the last time I saw him, but pearly as a virgin's first discovery. Each precious droplet of white and a cross tarnished as a conjurer's key, her voice thrills to my cheek, Shall I show you how to use these?--

They fall from her quivering.

My teeth wait whitely in utter darkness. An angel or marble angel, a Hermes, a pillar of salt, something white and substantial pressing against dust, Skoog. “I’m here.”

My hand is asleep, dead puppet. Look, I lift it with the other until the blood begins again and it feels. Mary, Mary, my feet feel the damp. He whom you love awaits the lost half of himself.


“No, it was you. You drove the Austrians away.” We recline beneath new leaves upon the same earth. “He was repeating a particular passage, and you fell asleep.”

July enters April everywhere. Their first born will dominate the sky and every chronology. Emerald is their urgency, the urgency of every union, a crown for a drifting poet who would bear a king, a circumference of jewels too numerous and ephemeral for collection or valuation. Why bother? Drift through, bless and be blessed.

“The light went out and there was suddenly silence, a Biblical silence, silence dripping silence, as in the first days--”

“Or the last.”

“Or the last. The only sound was your hibernation. I offered Dieter a torch, but he was dissatisfied. He entirely missed what he had come to find. Typical. Too prosaic. Too bad. He struck his head when he stood. It didn’t appear to have helped.”

“I dreamt of a woman in the tomb--”

“Ask if that surprises me. Nukhet?”

I close my eyes and focus my kingdom, a vernal luminosity violated by vermillion. There is no further retreat. Her legs tremble.

“Her mother had just returned from a pilgrimage to Lourdes with rosary beads. How could it have been Nukhet?”

“Do you remember the day her husband came looking for her--to our room? Where the hell were you hiding her?”

Skoog, there is an archeology greater than the sum of your fragments. Every story of a woman, her terrain, the trains of memory which bind her, the quiver and the hollow, the myths attending and the green chapel.

Tell her she had once reclined upon this marble bench; illuminate each page of her as Romans, as Phoenicians had, the breviary of her heart, her ringlets, vowels and anklets, portal and cupolas, the bell towers of her knees and altar of her hips, her eyes, her lips parting, the four directions of her crossing cushions of silk, the silk of her left and the silk of her right triumvirated by banners of random light and water light until only a stain of ochre remains.

“She hid herself.”

I reach for an errant root as I had once for her foot. Each knot intercepts streams of blood and sap as love does, as
we had. This is the way we are born and born repeatedly.

A stranger sketches Skoog sketching postures and orifices of a twining tree.

Each limb could be impregnated.

Unbuttoning, the stranger writes Apollo and Daphne at the top of his page. He shows it to me. I smile; he does not. I am distended in his sunglasses, a random temple of green faces.

Our new companion is interested in the antics of Jehovah and Odin. “My father was a Nazi, my mother, a Jewess, delivered from a sea of blood to an apartment in Haifa.”

“A Red Sea.” Mylese reappears wearing an intellectual’s narrow eyeglasses. “Clever. How is your finger?”

I offer it to her as a metaphysical curiosity.

Pieter continues with a story of a little boy hidden in a dog house, growing up with a puppy and learning that language before his own.

Every other word must satisfy me.

How can the sky appear so clean, so ultramarine and leafing green after all it has witnessed?

Pieter frowns delightedly. “You see-- I told you [me, Skoog]. It is always a contest between deities.” His fingers begin an immediate, bony retreat.

Dieter calibrates a silver device.

On Ben Yehuda Street survivors stare at the delighted German speakers. Exhaling flamboyantly, Pieter raises a tear
of flame to the pink knuckles of his other hand, “I embody--” sizzles the cigarette-- “that theological struggle--”

Mylese smiles to each of us, her hair one dark wing.

Dieter disturbs it back into black strands.

“Sh,” she motions with the wand of her finger.

Pieter is telling the story again of learning the puppy’s language before his own.

“Give us a sample.” Classic Skoog.

Mylese suspects that she, too, may be part Jewish--“on Opa’s side. I adore their kind of music.”

“And she plays it rather convincingly. On piano.”

“Probably,” Pieter concedes. “Why not!”

“I’ve had enough of these wankers,” Skoog extends a leg.

Dieter’s leg responds. “May I talk with you.”

“You,” Skoog nods to me.

“We’re leaving for Capernaum.”

“This only takes a little moment.”

“Please.” Skoog crosses his ankles. “We have a little moment. Several.”

A mother, two tables away, massages a lemon into each glass until its virginity has offered everything to water.

Dieter produces a postcard. It is a representation of a primitive canvas.

Skoog examines the image with trained compassion. “Your grandfather?”

“Joseph Smith.”

Mylese, born Mormon, lifts the card from my hands. Dieter, saved from a dissolute life by Mylese and her society
of Latter Day Saints, details the extraordinary exodus of a lost tribe of Israel deposited by a second great flood in upstate New York where they buried golden tablets of a new covenant to be discovered more than three thousand years later by Joseph Smith. He places the card back into my hands: “He is being informed by an angel as he sleeps.”

Informed by an angel as he sleeps.

“And where are these golden tablets now?”

“I suppose you’re asking as an archeologist?”

“I suppose.”


He pushes back at Mylese’s knee.

I divert him faithfully: “Allow me one question. If the answer is No, I convert to your faith.”

“Like an American Game show.” [British, astringent]

Ha ha ha. Ha ha.” [Australian]

“If the answer is Yes, you desist from proselytizing.”

Mylese makes a little sound. She kisses the hair above my ear. “Goodbye.”

Dieter says, “Yes. All right.”

“At any time during a day, a week, a month, a season, a year, a lifetime--according to your faith--are women considered unclean?”

Mylese kisses two fingers for a cigarette. Pieter reaches forward.

Dieter dips toward his black book. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Let what you say be simply Yes or No; anything more than this comes from evil, I remember and regret not having answered.

Striking the street with sandaled feet dry as match heads, I flutter forward to myself, I am thirty-three and I am free. I could go anywhere from here. The trees ascend, their ascent implicit, fluttering.

“We must visit Frenchie,” Skoog decides.

Wise. The humid dark and our continuing adventures are so much more delicious from within her tinted widows. Periodicals, glossy as lipstick, air conditioned to the touch, comfort and discomfort me.

I find Anabasis with a foreword by TS Eliot among the bilingual books.

Skoog persuades her to close early.

“Prenez le livre.”

“You’ve earned it,” he confirms. “Be ready to leave after breakfast.”

This blind moment, of no particular significance at the time, attends my return as an idol set into a high place; but, of course, there is only an increasing distance, for I have returned and stood before my full reflection in the dark glass shadowing the place where the book in my hands had been found.

Everyone and everything familiar is gone.


Beside a pool in Cana, a girl interprets petals of a lily. Once considered, each floats to the center of a flame of reflected light, its genesis.

I sit so as not to disturb an epiphany.

The seiche of leaves suggests that a lifetime is a turning and a turning. An unnatural summer clings to her unwashed hair. The dream in the tomb propels me.

“We may be the last guests at the wedding.”

“I doubt that.”

“What do you doubt?”

“All of it.”

“What are two thousand years in the mind of a god?”

“You’re seeking a miracle.”

“Am I?”

“I’m not it.“

“No. I suppose I am. Is that the correct answer--”

“It wasn’t a wedding.”

“What do you mean?”

5000 guests? Have you ever been to a wedding with 500 guests? What does that sound like to you? Water into wine, wine into blood-- If there was a sacrament, it was between a savior and a desperate people. Remember, all of this took place during an oppression by one of the most powerful, brutal empires in history--at least until now. Read it radically--”


“As the Bible was meant to be read.”

“As poetry. Skoog.”


“Delighted. Speaking of poetics, polemics and Romans, we’re off tomorrow for a mountain fortress at the Dead Sea. Interested?”


“Precisely. “

“I’ve been.”

“Not with us.”

“I’ve just arrived here.”

“So have we.”

“What’s the hurry, then?”

“We’re on the lamb. A posse comitatus of Mormons is only a day behind. And they’re ardent.”

I wanted to address an apparent confusion between Cana and Capernaum, but the sky was changing.

We descended to the Galilee, kicking dust.

The student who booked us into the hospice without interest, without conversation, served our dinner on a stone patio overlooking the strand where Jesus had ministered to day laborers, mercenaries, thieves and prostitutes according to scriptures--and to his wife according to scriptures suppressed according to Sally.

Our camaraderie multiplied, and we hurried behind our shadows to the sea. The water deepened into an irrepressible womb, prophecies rushing our feet and disappearing as quickly. Skoog instinctively began to collect driftwood. Sally offered her blond body to the lapping.

The hostess brought Sabbath wine to our symposium, a chorus of flames dancing the great apricot death of the sun between us.

“My name is Shoshana.”

She wore a pinafore and no shoes, and struggled to run with our conversation. Sally and Skoog, English and increasingly inebriated, spoke rapidly. I compensated.

Soon, there were two couples in separate conversations, and the water rising.

“My name in English, someone here told me it is Lily.”

I imagined all the Sea of Galilee has witnessed and all that could have been, all the beauty that was and is
lost irrevocably, mirrored back in this dark Deuteronomy, unremitting, shimmering with the faint spark of marble, whispering to any artist who might release and embody it. Shoshana exhaled, each syllable colored as beads in the markets of Jaffa Gate.

“I don’t speak Hebrew.”

“Perhaps you’ll begin to learn.” Her smile was impish, suggestive. “We should swim. It is a fine evening.”

Her dress puddled about her, each toe nail red as the surprise inside. A fine evening. Remnants of the British Empire, I smiled following her in, my teeth uncertain but ready.

“Have you seen much of my country?” Her voice, amplified upon undulations, was too close. How could anyone have walked upon this water. It was difficult to tread.

“Jerusalem. Bethany.”

“That’s the same.”

“The Sinai.”

“That is Egypt now. Did you climb Mt. Sinai from the monastery?”

“I did.”

“It is very dramatic, Santa Katerina. I did this with my school. Did they wake you in the dark?”


“And they showed you the burning bush of Moshe?”

I nodded, I shivered.

“And you saw the sunrise from the teap?”

“The teap?”

She arranged her hands.

“The peak.”

“Is that what it’s called. Peak. Like peek-a-boo?”

“I suppose.”

“So you were there for the sunrise? It was a beautiful moment for me. My mother is not religious. She is Palestinian and her family has been here since the beginning. She says they were Jews before the Jews now--do you understand?--before Mohammed.

“There is something that has been passed from mother to mother since then. It is small with very, very small writing in it. I don’t know what it is called in English. It will be mine.

“My father was from Russia. He is angry anyway. Together they worship no God. No one. So, I didn’t know any words but I made them.”

“I did, as well. I recited a poem and asked that the desert swallow me if it displeased Jehovah.”

“A poem? You make poems? Perhaps, you will make a poem about this.” Her smile, most ancient vessel, floated toward me, and her breath was as pink.

“Say the poem you made for God.”

“You know the Lord’s Prayer--”

“I don’t know.”

Our Father Who art is heaven hallowed be Thy name--?”

“No. What is this from?”

“It’s a Christian prayer. Christ says it in the Gospel of Matthew. I wrote--or recalled--the lost half.”

There was only our breathing and dripping upon the face of the water. Half in, half out, we became progenitors of a slender new species.

Our Mother who art in everyone, everything is thy name. Thy garden serene, thy waters green the earth as they blue the heavens. Thank you for our daily bread and the blessing that no one can be satisfied until everyone is fed--

“I’ll show you someplace,” her hair darker than the obscurity, expanding somehow as an unidentifiable object
of childhood. We emerged at the gate of a fallen tree. “This was their camp, where they waited for him and he waited
for them.”


“Yehoshua. The one you and your friends are searching for. Your prophet. ”

“How do you know?”

“We know. Maybe your friends would like to see this.”

Her hair hesitated. I hesitated. Her hands were upon the trunk. I was behind her. She had not removed her bra. It was wet. It was flowering. We dipped beneath the branch to a chapel of fitted rocks and willows. Her hair was a curtain to be parted. It was rope. I clutched at her, then I was the horse. She was atop me hurrying us into eternity.

She became a vessel and carried us even closer.

“With no witness other than the story written forever upon us.”

“Say it again.”

“Forever upon us,” passed as a wafer to her tongue. I confessed into the dark chapel of her. The water was swallowing. She reached for something, my shirt, to cover her face; but I heard her call. It was Hebrew, the language of the old faith seeded in this hollow where Shoshana was quivering, rooting as the last and first.

I pulled everything away, the shirt, the bra. She pulled me back and pulled me back until there was no further. The chalice emptied. The chalice filled.

We awoke at the same moment, my bones, her bones, the bones of the earth pressing. Shoshana kissed my face in four places and hurried away. I watched with the hunger of Solomon. I needed no scribe to help me compose a song of songs.

The water and I receded. Stones glistened, revealing a lineage of rubies. The water and sky prepared to birth light, and I decided to stay awake, for, after all, this was the sea of Galilee; and Shoshana would return. I kicked at a charred remainder of our fire, as if I could have dislodged it from my breast.

The sun began its auric ascent. The religion of night, its moon and attenuated light was again vanquished.

My swimming trunks secured to a branch remained the only testament of my visit.


“Swim in your underwear. The Russians do. The Dead Sea destroys everything anyway.” Skoog speaks through his reflection in a window of a bus roaring forward.

I see Shoshana rising from the water; her bra is folded in my pack. I anticipate each blossom. The song playing in
the bus is intimate and heroic, and she moves beneath me somewhere left of my heart, between two ribs.

Skoog turns to Sally to whisper but kisses her hair. Terraces of new forest circle the ancient heights of Jerusalem
as my beard had circled Shoshana’s aureoles in fitful revelations of moonlight. With each pilgrimage they inclined
to me as a silver dome and golden dome do now.


Sally and Skoog frolicked in the Dead Sea, avoiding the fierce strokes of light and back strokes of barrel chested men and women. I floated until I became nauseous and rinsed off in the springs of Ein Geddi as David had done before he was king. Sally wore Skoog’s T-shirt. My shoes, as prophesied, permanently discolored.

Skoog rose as a golem in last light. “Shakespeare, Sally and I have had a little tête-à-tête about you. Frankly, I’m concerned. You haven’t been much fun since your nap in the tomb of Lazarus.

“We’ve decided something criminal is called for. We’re climbing Masada at dusk.”

“Is that illegal?”


The Dead Sea disregarded us scissoring the face of a Judaean mountain. The path Sally somehow reconnoitered in the night could never have supported a plague of soldiers, caparisoned and harnessed to a massacre. This must have been a ceremonial ascent to the original pleasure palace built for Herod. It was already a ruin when the last Jews to resist the Roman Empire, forty years after the death of Christ, chose this as their final station.

Just beyond the site of their communal suicide, there remains a fortified wall, and below, upon the floor of the desert, identifiable between the moon and camera obscura of cast shadows, the enemy camp.

“No. No sleep here.”

I turned from the spectre of a story larger than my own to a small man in an oversized uniform, not Roman, perhaps Romanian. He should have alarmed me, but he had not. I had anticipated something broken behind me.

I led him to Skoog. “Thou art a scholar; speak to it Horatio.”

The guard appeared delighted with our ruse, especially our Sally who stepped to a proscenium marked ceremonial bath and surveyed us and everything beyond us as the salt goddess who had waited and watched in that place, backlit by the same moonlight, long before Romans and Hebrews.

For more than an hour, there was no sound or movement aside from the slither of Sally’s sleeping bag.

My eyes were occupied with everything that had brought me to this promontory, when a sphinx leapt past as a gazelle. Skoog bruised my arm: “Metempsychosis.” He was redeemed. He could sleep now.

“We’re all ghosts anyway.”

His small laugh defied and defiled the emptiness.

“I slept with Shoshana. The woman from the hotel.”


Sally lay immobile within her blue cocoon. I was sad and disoriented, for, suddenly, my cocoon was far away in the north, in the north of another woman’s body.

I had been enchanted with Sally, the delicacy of her hair, the pale light of her eyes and name amplified by the lily pool
in Cana. I had been a little in love with her, or, at least, the moment. That--and we--belonged to a previous age now.

“She covered her face.”

“With her hair.”

“With my shirt. I heard her through the shirt.”

“I suspected you were together. She took to you the moment we entered the hotel.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

“She has a way to contact you?”


“Yes. Of course. And do you have her telephone number?”

“I have the hotel’s.”

“What is her family name?--

"That’s what I feared. You realize you’ll probably never hear from her if she becomes pregnant.

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb-- A stranger, perhaps an ascetic or a soldier, a prince, a poet. A poet.

“Cheer up. Sally and I have decided upon a flight into Egypt. Why not come with us at least as far as Mt. Sinai.
You seemed happy--at least, purposeful--even--heroic there.”

“I already have Jehovah’s opinion.”

“I suppose you do.”

There is a photograph of the three of us, disheveled, the sun rising as a fourth face behind us. It is a portrait of my youth captured in a place that was already old in the first pages of Genesis.

A second photograph arrived with the first snow. Shoshana is supporting herself against the gate of a fallen tree upon the shore of the Sea of Galilee. She is slightly out of focus which, against the sparkling water, gives the impression of a revenant.

A note says something about having fulfilled a promise, but it is difficult to decipher. I carried it to the single, surviving rose in the walled garden and almost believed that the vindictive acceleration of days was relaxed by evidence of communion. The tip of the letter touched a flayed lip. Sad, ugly rose, too red, too large for its stalk.

I drank from its cup but could not forget.


I study the photograph and believe, or want to believe, that she is wearing the bracelet.

Occasionally, I imagine a telephone call from a teenager. I listen to him introduce himself. His name is short but unfamiliar and a little difficult initially. We speak of his mother and the last fifteen years, his first fifteen years. I have prepared words, but it is best to listen. After all, his father now would not be a stranger, a ghost, but a man of recognizable convictions, a worker on a Galilean kibbutz, a carpenter, for example.

Immaculate [#32]
© 2009 Fammerée

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *



Our Mother who art in everyone,
everything is thy name.

Thy garden serene, thy waters green
the earth as they blue the heavens.

Thank you for our daily bread and the blessing
that no one can be satisfied until everyone is fed.

Forgive our ignorance as we forgive
those who ignore you in each of us.

Lead us from fear and deliver us from anger
and anxieties,

for life is a ripening to return to you, to feed you,
to seed you,

to be reborn forever and ever


Notre-Dame [#31]
© 2004 Fammerée

* * * * *

To experience the live performance of "Notre-Dame
(Blue & Green)" with music composed by the artist,
please visit:
and listen to selection #2.

A video interpretation of "Notre Dame," created by
the director of TWiN Poetry International, can be viewed
at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxckOMETDH0

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Fammerée

* * * * *

Notre-Dame (Français)

Notre Mère qui est en nous
tout est ton nom.

Que ton jardin soit serein, que tes eaux
verdissent la terre comme elles bleuissent le ciel.

Merci pour notre pain quotidien et le bonheur
d'être certain qu'aucun ne sera rassasié
avant que chacun mange a sa faim.

Pardonne-nous notre ignorance
comme nous pardonnons
à ceux qui t'ignore en chacun d'entre nous.

Ne nous soumets pas à la peur mais délivre-nous
de notre colère et de nos tourments,

Car c'est a toi que revient la maturation
de la vie, pour te nourrir, t'ensemencer

et renaître pour les siècles des siècles


Notre-Dame [#31]
© 2004 Fammerée

* * * * *

To experience the live performance of "Notre-Dame
(Blue & Green)" with music composed by the artist,
please visit:
and listen to selection #2.

A video interpretation of "Notre Dame," created by
the director of TWiN Poetry International, can be viewed
at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxckOMETDH0

* * * * *

Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

Photograph by Fammerée

* * * * *

Notre-Dame (the story)

I have visited so many sacred sites, by design or fortune, that
a singular lesson has been amplified beyond revelation to certainty:
each of us is the innermost sanctum. One needs travel no further
than the soul to experience the most perfectly proportioned temple
and the most daringly elegant cathedral.

Still, I shall relate the story of "Notre Dame," a poem which has already
surpassed me and my relatively few years walking the earth.

Kato Zakros is the final town at the eastern tip of Crete, an island
of famous mythologies (Minos, the Minotaur, its labyrinth; Theseus,
Ariadne; Zeus, Demeter, Persephone, Dionysus (prototype for God
the Father, God the Holy Ghost, Mary and God the Son)) and mythic
civilizations (Minoan). I had once dreamed of living among its fabled
palm trees--the first I would have ever had seen--during my two year
journey (which I sometimes call my third crusade) which began in
County Kerry, Ireland, and ended in Jerusalem. Nine months into the
adventure, that first spring, I found a garden house in Mirtos (along
the southern coast of the island) and ventured no further east than

I finally visited Kato Zakros fifteen years later during my return
pilgrimage to Mirtos. I found a small room above the pebbled beach
which looked directly across the eastern Mediterranian to Acre.

It was in that white bed floating over the site of a vanished, vanquished
Minoan Temple, the Queen’s Magaron, the wife of the Lord’s Prayer
appeared to me. It began as a trickle of words in the fissures of the
ancient, shadowy ceiling, and they puddled into a cloud settling
upon my chest and blossoming behind my eyes.

I rose and wrote out the Lord’s Prayer and began to construct a new
poem--its “lost half”--alongside.

Nine months later, I discovered the poem folded into Anabasis
(St. John Pearse) at the bottom of my knapsack among fragments
of writing and songs and addresses hurried across
half sheets and receipts. I left it in my bag as I prepared for a
flight to Tel Aviv.

I arrived to Jerusalem three weeks before Passover and Easter
and decided to begin my Peace Tour of Israel, Jordan and Egypt
immediately to arrive back to the Holy City during holy week.

Having crossed the Red Sea into the Egyptian Sinai after a fortnight
of wandering Arabia enroute from Jerash and Petra to Aqaba, I
settled thankfully into a straw hut in a Bedouin camp. A little shade
upon the path to Mt. Sinai was a relief. There was another westerner
living in the camp, a German woman whose intensely blond hair was
always covered with a black scarf. A devotee of mysticism and desert
deities, particularly fertility goddesses, this woman without child
kept to herself. One afternoon we met in the absolute silence of the
desert near a primitive sink. If I were composing a Bible story, I would
say that we met at a well.

I recited the fragments of the poem I would name "Notre Dame" two
weeks later in Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris enroute back to the

Her eyes were intense as the sky we were hiding from, her skin
cured as a person’s twice her age.

Hermitic--and hermetic--as she was, she encouraged me to birth
the words to the world; and I finished the poem that night walking
beside the gentle ripple of the Red Sea, revising aloud with each
step. It was a full moon, and I recited into its eyes and purity.
Distant fires in the desert, I later learned, were Israeli families
singing and feasting, for it was also the eve of Passover.

I recited Notre Dame into Mount Sinai. I said to Jehovah, “If this
poem displeases you, I stand here naked in the place where two
apostates (with rather complicated, forgettable names) were
devoured by the earth--”

The night remained still, benevolent.

I recited the poem again a few days later on Easter Sunday in Jerusalem
at Christ Church.

And again months later at the invitation of His Holiness the Dalai
Lama during the World Festival of Sacred Music. I had just returned
from the island of Kauai where the music had been born as Aphrodite
from the sea.

Melissa Dittmann, now living in the back country of Tibet, graciously
accompanied me. Fortunately, I recorded the moment.

Notre-Dame [#31]
© 2009 Fammerée

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To experience the live performance of "Notre-Dame
(Blue & Green)" with music composed by the artist,
please visit:
and listen to selection #2.

A video interpretation of "Notre Dame," created by
the director of TWiN Poetry International, can be viewed
at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxckOMETDH0

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Richard Fammerée

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Photograph by Fammerée

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Musée de nous

As cumuli, as snow impending, I begin
to arrange the Musée de nous: first names
and last; a pink gesture,
an epiphany and its shadow;
ten digits, two hyphens,
a hieroglyph
no longer; dried lilies
from the knoll, a twig bent back
at its tip; the first je t’aime hurried
onto the back of song lyrics and accurate
directions three hours before, an accumulation
of directions. Each kiss pooling in satin, salon
des baisers
, salon des baisers perdu, periwinkle,
for it was high summer, the deep hemisphere
of the Virgin’s cloak, the softest cerulean of
your blouse the evening we lay in the lawn
behind the field where students run, every
promise and rose deepening to must. We
integrate and disintegrate in a vintner’s box
two clasps thick, large enough for interring a
pet and purposely frail (as a body is frail and
porous), so that if we gift nothing more
in this lifetime or any other, the sensation of
lips opening and breath entering will

Musée de nous [#30]
© 2009 Fammerée

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Richard Fammerée

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Photograph by Susan Aurinko

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La portail (de La Vierge de Paris) I

I stand in Notre Dame de Paris facing Jerusalem as I had when my soul was older and burgundy and clanked upon these stones. Within this portal, a girl lingered as the statue of a girl. Her hair is as it was then, a great living wing steadying for flight. And, though she would attend church with the children and sing piously and prettily, brittlely, our home and gardens of neat rows prophesying petite-fille champagne roses would always be her Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Gethsemane; while I, in the revenant dark, revisited the saintly, the devious and the dead, leaning again upon my sword before Damascus Gate in the sweet stench of first light.

La portail (de la Vierge) [#29]
© 2009 Fammerée

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Richard Fammerée

* * * * *

La portail (de La Vierge de Paris) II

Here is the great altar where six centuries later Pius XII anointed Napoleon on a cold, clear day, three weeks before Christmas, 1804. He became our emperor in the moment he crowned himself and his poplar wife Josephine. I watched from within this portal, pressed to a leather and studded oaken door before the great stench and exhalation of a populace grateful, after fifteen years of unpredictable brutality, to once again have a consecrated ruler. The cathedral had been scrubbed and dressed. Gone was the severity of a temple dedicated to the Cult of Reason and the Cult of Supreme Being, though statues of biblical kings remained headless.

I was cautiously optimistic. The empire was secure and expanding. I married Anne-Marie-Josephine, sister of my good friend [and great-great-great grandfather in this lifetime Jean-Joseph]. I admired the family. They were efficient and musical. Artistic and adventuresome. Their name was a marriage of two words: famille and mere. This could be translated as “family of the mother” or “family of the sea.” Or both. I certainly considered them a tribe, a Mediterranean and, lately, Norman tribe embraced by the sea. A brother had already left for Quebec to follow an uncle; others had been planning to settle in the wilderness of new France. This, of course, would be delayed since Napoleon, to finance his wars, had sold one third of the North American continent to President Jefferson the previous year. The Louisiana Purchase may be the most foolish real estate transaction in French history; it certainly changed our plans. Military initiatives failed, and we were subjected to two decades of misery and national embarrassment.

Half a century later, Jean-Baptiste, our nephew (Jean’s fourth son), allowed his mustache full sail, arrived finally to Ellis Island on the Gertrude, May 13, 1856, and continued west to homestead 40 acres deeded by President James Buchanan in the new state of Wisconsin. [His great-great-granddaughter Jeanne holds the deed and inhabits the wooden house built around the original cabin of hand hewn logs.]

Before my daeth, I returned to Notre Dame with my grandson who was chivalric and impertinent. [He actually reminded me of myself one century later; his sensitive soul bound to a societal disillusionment which wore the alternating masks of anger and cynicism.]
The cathedral had been restored--therefore, saved from destruction--by France’s celebrated architects Eugene Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus only to be violated again by a bonfire of chairs in its belly started by rabble of the communard. Philippe explained this to me jeeringly. It was an angry time. He despised the Prussians and distrusted our government. We all did.

Later, that summer, voracious fires crossed Green Bay, Wisconsin, destroying much of the Walloon community, and, further south, decimated a settlement barely thirty-five years old, named after the native word for swamp onion, Chicago. Progressively, Philippe left his circle of friends, including a Belgian poet and French poet (Verlaine, a second cousin) who were dangerously provocative, and followed sturdier cousins (stone masons and carvers of marble) to help rebuild the new world from ashes. His eldest cousin Jean-Joseph (second son of Jean-Joseph’s youngest son Constant and named for his father’s father) settled in Chicago. [His grandson would be named Richard as would be his son. I am that son.]

La portail (de la Vierge) [#29]
© 2009 Fammerée

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Richard Fammerée

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La portail (de la Vierge) III

One deciduous April morning inclining bleakly back to February, Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris, evoked a vision of a celestial, Olympian cathedral from the damp, bald earth at our feet. For the next thirty-six years, until his death in 1196, he would devote his energy and fortune to this chef-d'œuvre. De Sully was correct, of course. The “parish church of the kings of Europe” must be “transcendante.”

And, so, we began to cut and finish stones. I watched the rough men heave and cart off the original Romanesque church, the Cathedral of St. Etienne founded by Childebert in 528 upon the foundations of a Roman temple to Jupiter. Suddenly, all that had been consecrated was no longer sacred. An eternal lamp became an oddly decorated lantern whose flickering tongue was cold behind a curtain of somber, once sanguine glass.

We had prayed in that church for generations. I had been baptized in the shell of its font as had my wife and our sons and daughters. The old, leaning houses sharing the church wall were removed to create la rue Neuve-Notre-Dame, a road for immediate supplies and later processions. An auberge of great planks had belonged to the parents of my grandfather; distant cousins were peremptorily removed.

I helped clear the ground, passively, stoically.

I may be the last person to have seen the holy well--the spring, la source where earliest inhabitants of this eyelet, this steady barque of land (Fluctuat nec mergitur), this Île de la Cité, worshipped the font of life and its Gardienne--before it was sealed with a great stone, marked with a fish (an alpha), omega and a second alpha (an eye).

And upon that seal was laid the foundation stone blessed with appropriate pomp and promise by Pope Alexander III. I vowed never to forget the sight and taste of the water, and this preoccupation has passed through many intervening centuries.

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

La portail (de la Vierge) [#29]
© 2009 Fammerée

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Richard Fammerée

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La portail (de la Vierge) IV

No one among us believed in a Father alone for protection or salvation, certainly not a son. We knew our sons too well. We had watched them hurry off to war for adventure. We watched another generation follow Heraclius of Caeserea from the skeleton of the new cathedral in the first promise of 1185 into the maw of a third Crusade.

We knew and understood the secret that would elude archbishhops, bishops and priests for centuries:

Notre Dame de Paris is a woman.

She does not hesitate upon her back, her knees towers, arms open to each side, each palm a chapel. She awaits the seed of heaven; we kneel and rise within, stained and cleansed by light shining through each roseate window stretched across a mother’s ribs. Each cathedral is woman and forest, often constructed over a sacred grove and spring. And from the flickering heart above the altar to the floral intricacies of the door of her womb, the faithful emerge, each born back into the great, deep world.

I have crouched in a savory cathedral like this before waiting
to be born, sipping and sleeping to the thumping
of a big bell beneath the bold
cupolas of a mother’s breasts, absorbing pink stories
from windows of flesh stretched
between ribs, worming
toward a slit at the nape of the twin towers
of her knees.

La portail (de la Vierge) [#29]
© 2009 Fammerée

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Richard Fammerée

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Photograph by Susan Aurinko

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