Five Poems by Emily Bilman
Rembrandt projected his self-love
on an elderly woman self-searching
in shadow while reading an illuminated book—
an old woman protected against ignorance.
Her wrinkled right hand resting on it could point
to her life experience in concord with the lit book,
the warrant of her progress or prophesy
compensating for her guilt as a heroine.
Yet, her lowered gaze seems as ephemeral
as her bonnet’s fleeting shadow upon her pale
blasé face. And the intensity of the light
brightening her page insinuates the painter’s
obsessive quest of immortality after death,
braced by his model’s liberal feminine faith.
Like Orpheus who defied death searching
for his wife in Hades, the poet traverses
his book, unable to abandon the shadow-lands
in search of transformation in the plains
between the earth and death. Like Orpheus guilty
of abandoning his wife, the poet’s books, too, remain
unabandoned, their meaning broadened into the next book
in search of immortality. Yet, the poet celebrates
the garden, the midnight sun, lovers’ passions
even if, like a somnambulist, he must delve
into his unconscious to discover his clues.
The poet traverses the mirrors of his buried self.
Yet, the shadow-lands are tainted with the poet’s life-force.
Like Orpheus, even in death, he is alive with music.
When I swim in the seas of my childhood
I feel my protective shadow like a mask sturdily
Shielding me. When I venture yet further
In the plankton-sea, I suddenly grow fearsome
Of my own shadow as it struggles to drive
Away the sly multitudes that wanted to steal
My childhood. As I dive to the plankton-depths
The swarms disappear. The iodine-waters wadded
With minerals blur my fear. Submarine sands shiver
With rainbow-wrasse. When I swim up for air with
A weightless body, these fish-swarms reconcile me
With those who assailed my childhood cocoon
That kept my pupae-organs warm and immune.
Gyres of Disjuncture
The patterns in the widening gyres of the sea-shells
Resemble the ever-widening gyres of the galaxies
Whose Medusa-poise keeps the earth in place.
The shield that shelters the lucent animal in the shell
Is as tough as its flesh polished by the sea-waters
That witnessed our birth. But in the greed of our affairs,
The shell-flesh is gnawed by the virulent virus of our misuse.
Pandemics and water-wars are loosened upon the world.
When will the rough beast of our anguish recede finally?
Now the sower can no longer hear the water’s elegy.
In quarantine, labs can no longer contain our masked
Discomposure. We’ve grown vulnerable like children.
When we shall leave our shields of self-confinement
We will have attained the future’s new assignment.
An absence, ethereal as the wind,
yet corporeal as a wound regains
my pliant body before I begin to write.
The text is my inner garden’s palimpsest.
Like a tended garden, the text grows
blending song, sinew, and symbol on paper.
Images arise from my malleable life-force
and verses link metaphors with music.
Meaning hides behind the ink-shade.
Intuition is the glimpse from the unknown
which we access through our wounds and
the primeval knowledge of the primal forest.
In this harmonious hunt which avoids decoys,
the falcon can hear the falconer who tames
the hunter and fowl out of the primal forest.
The wound-pores open to let us see glimpses
of the light, to form an ideal consciousness
binding us together to mend our quarantined world.