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Piano: 3 Poems by Eva Bourke

Piano: 3 Poems by Eva Bourke

The following three poems are taken from piano, Eva Bourke’s 2011 collection of poems. “In these new poems Eva Bourke leans into what she calls the “heart of things,” discovering for herself, and us, time and again that there truly is a heart of things, and to things, and that it might well survive all that conspires against it, even in the most war-broken, besieged, and harm-full places on earth. These poems suggest that the soul is an enduring gentleness in us, in others, in perhaps everything, and that it needs us to release it, to let it breathe, to nourish it with what we create rather than destroy. That gentleness is what we hear throughout the ample and beautiful margins of this book, the notes of its music being played with such care, and played softly, piano.” —Fred Marchant

August Near Südstern

  The sturdy gentleman outside the Café Lux devours his meal, his dog takes careful note of every bite. The red and white umbrellas flog high garden spirits, and the sunlight passes through empty pools of mirrors in the bar, each green-blue vein in cocktail glasses a drunken streak. August, a shaggy beast, sleeps stretched full-length beneath dead leaves—they’re this year’s first— and an unseasonal tristesse creeps grey and cold among the trees inching past couples in the shade, until at last it settles down next to a woman on her own talking in whispers to herself who tries recalling what she had known best in all the years: the names and faces of friends and lovers, the familiar places so dear to her, all gone, all lost.  

The Garden at the Road’s End

  Turn left at the elm with the heron’s nest, go past the Forbidden Village sign, then right where the two thieves on the cross hide under mounds of mildewed brambles, take the long and narrow path for a mile or two till you come to the garden at the road’s end. Three magpies, those bêtes noirs in their chalk and ink plumage will spy you first, cackle and mock you, trotting around on the grass over flinders of eggshells—relics of a recent murderous foray—then flap onto the thatch for a better view. A wren seizing his chance will speed into the white thorn hedge. The sun will stare through the spokes of an old motorbike parked in the yard, nettles and dandelions open green telegrams beneath the trees that stand in a circle around the house, stiff and tight as police cordons. Silence and absence. Go up close. Your heart in your mouth. Pressing your ear against the door, listen to spiders glide across the black and white piano keys, the hammers softly touch the strings, the pedals—or somebody’s breathing—rise and fall, the wind play funeral marches on a minor scale.  

Four People on a Lake

  Three hundred and sixty-five volcanic islands scattered along the shore of Lake Nicaragua, each with barely enough room for one house. No human is an island perhaps, but each of these isletas possessed a soul behind fringes of bougainvillea and tropical green. There was a small church on one, it glinted in the sun, just discernible between tree tops, on another a school, a corrugated roof on a few posts where wisdom could come and go as it pleased, on a steep rock in splendid isolation a villa—the flag of the most powerful nation rose stiffly in the breeze above it— and on an island with a landing pier of rough planks tables were set offering food and drink in the shade of a mango tree. Our boat glided along narrow channels through the reeds. We sat in silence, four people from four different countries. White herons stood sentry-still, in the shallows. Forgotten were sleepless nights, regrets, worries, heart-ache. A jewelled bird swayed on a branch, water lilies dallied in yellow birthday hats, sea lettuce was everywhere, rootless, adrift on the glittering surface. The Danish woman stared through the lens of her camera, unable to believe her own eyes. The young boatman who ferried us asked her politely to post her photograph of him to the second last house before the old jacaranda on the León road. All this time islands, boatman, ourselves and all else on the lake the lake itself and all its creatures the trees, plantations, fields and deserts around it, the far-away coasts of  two oceans, dusky cordilleras, cloud forests, volcanoes beneath smoke rings farms, villages, cities, people and animals were held in the dispassionate gaze of a pair of maritime eagles that circled and cruised overhead, air-lifted by the thermals into a blue way beyond our mortal vision.

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