Poems, vehicles for private arguments: Jill Bialosky

Door de tien plagen, stroomde de Nijl-rivier rood van bloed
een gedicht van Jill Bialosky

Door de tien plagen,stroomde de Nijl-rivier rood van bloed, vee
werd ziek, sprinkhanen, steenpuisten, hagelbuien, drie dagen duisternis,

iedere eerstgeborene belaagd door een wrekende engel - je moest de deur
met bloed van een offerlam markeren zodat God die voorbij zou gaan.

Om degenen te identificeren voor deportatie naar de kampen in Nazi-bezet-Oost-Europa, waren zij verplicht een gele Joodse Ster te naaien

op hun jas. Later in de kampen, een witte armband
met een blauwe Joodse Ster rond hun linkerarm gebonden. Ook baby's in koetsen

moesten ze dragen, zuigelingen in de lucht gegooid en als doelen gebruikt
voor machinegeweren. O, heilige oorlog. Omdat iemand een Swastika schilderde

op de deur van een slaapkamer waar drie Joodse studenten huisden,
Joden zullen onze plaats niet innemen, omdat in het complex, alleen de appartementen

van minderheden tekens hadden die hun deur markeerden. Omdat op een college-campus, een Swastika was gesneden in de zuiverheid van wit gevallen sneeuw.

(Excerpt from Asylum c. 2020 by Jill Bialosky, by permission of Alfred A Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC New York.)
Because of the ten plagues, the Nile River ran red with blood.
A Poem by Jill Bialosky

Because of the ten plagues, the Nile River ran red with blood, livestock
diseased, locusts, boils, hailstorms, three days of darkness,

every firstborn threatened by an avenging angel—you had to mark
the door with blood of a sacrificed lamb so that God would pass over it.

Because to identify those when deported to the camps in Nazi-occupied
Eastern Europe they were required to sew a yellow Jewish Star

on their jacket. Later, in the camps, a white armband
with a blue Jewish Star bound on their left arm. Babies in prams, too

had to wear them, infants tossed in the air and used as targets
for machine guns. Oh, holy war. Because someone painted a Swastika

on the door of a dorm room where three Jewish students reside,
Jews will not replace us, because in the complex, only the apartments

of minorities had signs marking their doors. Because on a college
campus, a Swastika was carved into the purity of white fallen snow.

(Excerpt from Asylum c. 2020 by Jill Bialosky, by permission of Alfred A Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC New York.)

Jill Bialosky is the author of four acclaimed collections of poetry, most recently The Players; three critically acclaimed novels, most recently, The Prize; a New York Times best-selling memoir, History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life; and Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir.

Her poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, and The Paris Review, among others. She coedited, with Helen Schulman, the anthology Wanting a Child. She is executive editor and vice president at W. W. Norton & Company. Her work has been a finalist for the James Laughlin Prize, the Patterson Prize, and Books for a Better Life. In 2014, she was honored by the Poetry Society of America for her distinguished contribution to poetry. She lives in New York City.

The Mothers

We loved them.
We got up early
to toast their bagels.
Wrapped them in foil.
We filled their water bottles
and canteens. We washed
and bleached their uniforms,
the mud and dirt
and blood washed clean
of brutality. We marveled
at their bodies,
thighs thick as the trunk
of a spindle pine,
shoulders broad and able,
the way their arms filled out.
The milk they drank.
At the plate we could make out
their particular stance, though each
wore the same uniform as if they were
cadets training for war.
If by chance one looked up at us
and gave us a rise with his chin,
or lifted a hand, we beamed.
We had grown used to their grunts,
mumbles, and refusal to form a full sentence.
We made their beds and rifled through their pockets
and smelled their shirts to see if they were clean.
How else would we know them?
We tried to not ask too many questions
and not to overpraise.
Sometimes they were ashamed of us;
if we laughed too loud,
if one of us talked too long to their friend,
of our faces that had grown coarser.
Can’t you put on lipstick?
We let them roll their eyes,
curse, and grumble at us
after a game if they’d missed a play
or lost. We knew to keep quiet;
the car silent the entire ride home.
What they were to us was inexplicable.
Late at night, after they were home in their beds,
we sat by the window and wondered
when they would leave us
and who they would become
when they left the cocoon of our instruction.
What kind of girl they liked.
We sat in a group and drank our coffee
and prayed that they’d get a hit.
If they fumbled a ball or struck out
we felt sour in the pit of our stomach.
We paced. We couldn’t sit still or talk.
Throughout summer we watched
the trees behind the field grow fuller
and more vibrant and each fall
slowly lose their foliage—
it was as if we wanted to hold on
to every and each leaf.

(Jill Bialosky, "The Mothers" from The Players. Compilation copyright © 2015 by Jill Bialosky. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint off Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.)
Source: The Players (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015)
Fathers in the Snow
2.

After father died
the love was all through the house
untamed and sometimes violent.
When the dates came we went up to our rooms
and mother entertained.
Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night,"
the smell of Chanel No.5 in her hair and the laughter.
We sat crouched at the top of the stairs.
In the morning we found mother asleep on the couch
her hair messed, and the smell
of stale liquor in the room.
We knelt on the floor before her,
one by one touched our fingers
over the red flush in her face.
The chipped sunlight through the shutters.
It was a dark continent
we and mother shared;
it was sweet and lonesome,
the wake men left in our house.

(From The End of Desire: Poems, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Jill Bialosky.)

‘Poems for me are often vehicles for private arguments. Mostly these arguments have to do with the dichotomies within us as individuals: the pulls between desire and stability; safety and danger; emotion and reason. I’m very interested in these ideas and in my poems I find ways of addressing the questions in a way that interests me and I hope will interest my readers. I’m not aware that my poems seek resolutions per say, but perhaps suggest how we might live in confusion and how this state might be what keeps us most alive.’

Eric Fischl Inexplicable Joy in the Time of Corona, 2020, acrylic and oil on linen, 78″ x 105″

https://www.jillbialosky.com/