Wonderland, poems by Laura J Braverman
Laura J. Braverman is a writer and artist. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and studied poetry and essay with Stanford University, Bennington College and the New School. Her poetry has appeared in Levure Litteraire, Live Encounters, The BeZINE, California Quarterly and Mediterranean Poetry. She lives in Lebanon and Austria with her family.
Deliverance, in Footfalls
I. From the bench where I sit, I hear glad shrieks
of children playing and intermittent canine yaps,
hear gravel crunching underfoot as two Omas
walk the path. I see teenagers slouch and smoke
near netless Ping-Pong tables—darkly clad figures
backlit by the late September glow. I’m a witness,
not a player, of the everyday, keep company, instead,
with the phantom rhythms of my illness in a twilight
hinterland. From my perch, I watch, listen. And when
body’s vagaries permit, I walk slow circles round
the park, a sanctuary to my growing up.
II. Today I rise from the bench, cut through the park’s
back tree-border; walk the narrow street with its house
of Hapsburg colors: gold and hunter green. I cross
the field—once a wild shelter for arnica, monkshood
and white lace, and the trail my sister and I tramped
to school—now filled with pale cookie-cutter houses.
At meadow’s end, a narrow gravel pathway takes me
to farmland where cows idle, sturdy flecked bodies
before a backdrop of Watzmann’s toothy peak edges.
Tractor blades turn, cut grass in emerald ribbons.
III. The path mounts now and I’m in humid shade,
cloaked in scents of moist earth and fermented leaves.
But I’ve not yet reached my forest—not yet. Not yet.
I descend to meet a quiet street, pass a school—walk
up, towards the baroque church where Mozart’s parents
traded vows—and there: the stone memorial for fallen
soldiers of both wars; and there: Schloss Aigen
with its long-shuttered eyes.
IV. A few more steps, I reach my forest at Gaisberg’s
edge. The silence reaches out, two open arms. Stray
thoughts dissolve to leaves—chestnut, linden, locust,
beech. I approach the linden with its papery, dark
dress and wrap my arms round rough bark, meet
ridge with cheek. The linden, it is said, takes illness
in. I while in my sylvan embrace, beseech the tree:
Pull—please pull; take what I don’t need.
V. I continue then, pass the mill house pond and river,
to the forest chapel. Today the bronze door stands
ajar. I’ve never seen it so before. Grateful for the call,
I cross the threshold—venture in. Four rustic wooden
benches rest on a stone slab floor. Branches scrape
against the windows. And above the altar, a vision
forms in dusky light: the sacred hart of St. Hubertus.
Between its antlers, a painted aureole surrounds
a golden cross. Now, I am not religious, but I reach
forward to touch that hallowed mark of resurrection
and redemption with my fingers, as if it contained all
secrets of forest, rock and river—as if towards healing.
you can draw water from the well.
What’s beneath will serve you—
if you’re not bent on answers.
If you’re ready to drink,
She will slake your thirst
And remember: Time
is not an It to be wasted.
Time is your father; He doesn’t like
to be beaten. If you keep on good terms,
He’ll do almost anything you wish
with your clock.
Look back once or twice
when you hear Time say: go—
You may be called back,
or maybe not.
337, 26th Street
Billie Burke lived in our house
before we did. I was a girl with certain
rights to the Good Witch of the North. In tulle
and crown she helped Dorothy return
home. All silver shimmers, that was Billie.
And the house, too, shimmers—
in memories of red clay roof shingles, umber
glazed tiles under bare feet, and the steady ticks
of the Grandfather clock my father wound
with white garden gloves, I think;
of cool morning air rolling in
off the broad back of the Pacific, mingling
with the scent of my mother’s
coffee, and the pepper-lime of magnolia,
honey-mint of eucalyptus;
and of that afternoon apparition.
I thought it was my friend up there, awake
from her nap. She stood at the open window
of my father’s study. I called her name
from where our small group
of high school girls sat in the garden.
No answer. Didn’t the others
see her? Was it the sun in my eyes?
Or Billie, come back from some silvery
borderland. Maybe it was the part
of me that floated, disembodied—
attached only by a fragile,
Andronikos, Beloved; Sôsannè, Excellent
On my last visit to Beirut’s National Museum,
I come across a new word—cippi,
plural of the Latin cippus: a post, a stake
Julianus, excellent, and did not cause
sorrow, farewell! Has lived 77 years
Alexandra, the beautiful. Farewell!
Has lived 19 years
Irènaios, excellent, and who did not cause
sorrow, farewell dear! Has lived 52 years!
Cippi is pronounced, I learn, not with the soft “s”
sound I first imagine, but with a hard “k”
Aurélius Philon, excellent, farewell!
Has lived 60 years
Andronikos, beloved, farewell!
Hérennius, excellent, and who did not cause
A glass case displays three tiers of short
limestone pillars of varying heights, crowned
with engraved blossoms and leaves
Patrôn, excellent, and who did not
cause sorrow, farewell! Has lived 100 years
Aurélius Hestiaios, veteran; has lived 58 years
Claudia, excellent, and who did not cause
sorrow, has lived 32 years
To the right of the display, a flat screen scrolls
through translations of the sepulchral
inscriptions for Roman citizens of Sidon
Héliodôrus, excellent, dear, and who did not cause
sorrow, farewell! Has lived 51 years
Sôsannè, excellent, and who did not cause
sorrow, farewell! Has lived 51 years
Apollodôros, excellent, prematurely deceased,
The square bases are inscribed
with lines of Greek
© Laura J Braverman