Antonia Alexandra Klimenko – Glass Onion

Profile Antonia Alexandra Klimenko LE Poetry & Writing July 2018

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Glass Onion and other poems by Antonia Alexandra Klimenko

Antonia Alexandra Klimenko was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary Tambimuttu of Poetry London–-publisher of T.S. Eliot, Henry Miller and Bob Dylan, to name a few. After his death, it was his friend the late great Kathleen Raine who took an interest in her writing and encouraged her to publish. Although her manuscript was orphaned upon “Tambi” s passing, her poems and correspondence have been included in his Special Collections at Northwestern University. A former San Francisco Poetry Slam Champion, Klimenko is widely published. Her work has appeared in (among others) XXI Century World Literature (in which she represents France) The Poet”s Quest for God Anthology, CounterPunch, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology,  The Rumpus, Atlanta Review; Levure Litteraire, Paris Lit Up, Big Bridge, The Opiate, Writing for Peace, Strangers in Paris—New Writing Inspired by the City of Light, Occupy Poets’ Anthology (in which she is distinguished as an American Poet), and Maintenant : Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She is the Writer/Poet in Residence for SpokenWord Paris.

Glass Onion

Looking through the bent backed tulip
To see how the other half live
Looking through a glass onion
– John Lennon, The Beatles

Please don’t ask me
what I do for a living
besides breathe !
It is all that I can do
to get up every morning
(well…ok…not every)
to make it through the night
to care
for this human flesh
that pays the barking bills
launders that second skin
drags the comb through thinning-hair-days
(which will surely be gone tomorrow)
though life goes on and on

Suffering IS
my profession
my preoccupation
my greatest ambition
I specialize in depression
I’m fluent in Pain
and I cry like nobody’s business

This is what I live for

Oh what I’d give for
just to peel back
one more layer of skin
to see how the other half lives!
to offer up
another tear   another year
of unadulterated sin
to feel  and be healed
by the scent and touch of it
the too little and too much of it

But even
when there is nothing   and no one
to return to in the evening
there is always I must be dreaming !
as I catch my own reflection
Oh God   is that really me?– 
(I have to laugh)
grey roots  missing button
yesterday’s dribble down my undress
Who else ? I sigh
but my own work-in-progress
ready to give Life new meaning

With every sigh    with each small death
I pass my hand through
the All Nothing of me–
the blessed dismembered All Humanity

Other mirrors   other lives   other layers of myself
transparent   transformed  translucent
are reborn
with just one glimpse in the looking glass

I say   waving back
I remember you


That does not keep me from having a terrible need of—shall I
say the word—religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars
– Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother
You’ve come and gone
as Heaven and Hell
fire and ice
Memory’s breath
the throw of the dice

a weeping candle
a burnt orange flame
a suicide
What was your name?

I think of you now
spinning through space
starry starry night
your ashen face

how meteors    like angels
fell from  your mouth
how you ended in passion
how I—going south–sink with the sun

how you break still    as light
when you come
into my head
sliding in and out
of my brain
the pain
the ink of emotion–
the melting moon
on my tongue

how we cross invisible boundary lines
waxing and waning
through magical portals
the familiar  the strange
the brief   the immortal
the curse   the blessing  the lesson
the lost   the found

how I lie in my bed
that black hole
above ground

I do not like you as much as love you
is what you said

Tears leave their trail   as stardust
their luster in thin air
my body bears yours fingerprints
the trace   of you    no longer there –

your brilliant streak swirling
so far     out of sight
What’s love without madness–
that little sacrifice

Worshiping the Lordship

Every day I crawl to God
Every day on my knees   I look for Him
Mostly I find Him   Sometimes not
Others seem to know exactly where He is
and where He is not

Many pretend  that He lives
somewhere between
heaven and earth    That He takes
the elevator to the sky (linens on 3 absolution on 7)
That they have misplaced His address
and left His cell at the office

Most likely   they say
He was born in the deep interior
of some mysterious country– beyond the Beyond
swaddled in blankets of fog and ether
He weaned Himself on riddles
How many light bulbs does it take
to change one person’s mind?
If a man cries alone in the Universe
is he said to have made a sound

But no one can solve the Mystery
of how He spent His time there
and how He spent His time here
all at the same time

He had a Father and a Mother
Maybe they were going through a divorce
Maybe He was a mistake
Maybe He was unwanted
Your government   your church   your lover—
they don’t like riddles
they like to keep things Ship-shape
They have all the answers they want

no one wants to hear
how God came from a broken home
how She was an orphan
how She was abandoned on our doorstep
how no one heard Her knocking
how She had to crawl to the altar
pour Herself a glass of wine
and toast Her own bread

No one wants to hear
that when She finally found Her place at the table
the table was too long with Jesus way down at the other end
No one wants to hear
that when She finally found Her place
they kept raising the rent– so many mouths to feed
and the burden of carrying all those mattresses on Her back

Right about now
I think She’s thinking
of trading in the table for a two by four
I find She spends long hours
tweezing splinters from her elbows
and polishing her nails.
Right about now I’m thinking She’s thinking
that soon very soon She may go for a pack of smokes
and then…who knows?

Your government  your church  your lover
they’ll all weep openly of course
they’ll all tell you they never wanted Her to leave
They never want anyone to leave.
They want to be able to find you
They want to be able to keep you

in your place
on your knees

To Tell You the Truth

To tell you the truth
I am afraid of dying
perhaps not today
or tomorrow
but surely in the next
ten…twenty years
or twenty poems or
who knows when or how
Just imagine
being done in
by a Sonnet !

To tell you the truth
I am afraid of everything–
sickness poverty
abandonment humiliation
the pain of love
the pain of no love
the countless comings and goings
of sun moon and stars
of friends and other strangers
the burden of darkness
I drag around in this lie
that separates me from you

Forgive me Father for I have sinned
I have taken your name in vain
or let us just say I have borrowed it
and haven’t yet returned it

Every day
I peel away the labels
the layers of dead skin
encrusted with accusation
with ancient history
with names and words
that do not really know me–
filthy with shame and remorse
for what I have and have not done

The struggle is immense
and I am so small–
a mere halo of light
kneeling on the earth and this page
bowing her head
to the All-Knowing Unknown

Forgive me Father for I know not

But seriously
must you force a signed confession
from all my poems?–
stick bamboo shoots
under the nails of every sentence?!

Every morning
I close my eyes
and lather up
a brand new prayer
that sings
its little heart out
but only in the shower

To tell you the truth….
I am afraid of living

Because Lovemaking Isn’t Mapmaking

You go away and come back
you go away and come back
you go away and cummmmm
but always you face the same direction
A weatherman with a pointer
might show more interest
might forecast drizzle
with a brighter mile

A lover
who is somewhere other than the bed
who makes and unmakes passion
who starts out
too certain of where he’s headed
always comes back
never knowing where he’s been

I am like the old road with scabs for markers
scars stretching beyond Wyoming
my arteries defying borders and boundary lines
my thinning cartilage rattling under
your speeding expressway with no exit

I am trying to remind you
trying to warn you
as eager as a wet billboard to  get your attention
N for North  E for East  W for West  S for South
spells news
spells change
not just on the hour
but every conscious fluid moment
pumping iron
into the rust   the smoke   the fumes
the burning rubber of forget

Our vehicle of welding flesh glows phosphorescent
under the deep-set neon glaze of your headlights
as you head for my magnetic North
And it’s 7:45
and I am not the evening news
And it’s still 7:45
and I have news for you

Never mind
that I spin before you—a singing globe
while you are laying me as flat as a map
(and you are holding me upside down)
Never mind
that I leave a trail of red ink before you—
my heart howling in my crushed hands—
broken fingers for flower-stems
in roadside memory

Enter me whole   enter me now
but do not come back
Back may be there
but it isn’t here

What you leave behind
is up the road at 7:46  at 7:47  7:48
is already ahead of you
is already at that place
where   never now arriving
we have already  departed


In the end I always leave them
whether it is at the corner   the bus stop
the threshold of my doormat
or the threshold of our pleasure

This one was unfaithful   this one unkind
that one pushed the boundaries
(the boundaries are a little fuzzy these days
but he pushed them)!

Or…we just didn’t fit
He was the square peg in my round hole
Said I invented things
I told him he invented that
Said I changed
Told him he inspired me
Said I talked too much
Told him nothing
before slipping out the door

Even an incoherent heart
cannot ignore the signals that warn
of oncoming disaster
No matter
that the light is turning green
my own sentences
run screaming off the page

© Antonia Alexandra Klimenko