Songs from a suitcase, p.1
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       Songs from a Suitcase, p.1

           Leslie Smith Dow
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Songs from a Suitcase

  Songs From A Suitcase

  by Leslie Smith Dow

  © 2015 Leslie Smith Dow

  All Rights Reserved


  Silver Queen

  Monet Hesitates on the Japanese Footbridge

  Prayer for Two Voices

  Girl Lost on the Ice, 1914

  Brown Trout

  Looming Under Nyiragongo

  The Eternal Forest

  No Mayan Epic


  The Amazon River

  Sweet Edie



  Fairhead Soul


  Margaret's Road


  To Whaleback Shoal




  The Lake

  Bless the Virgins

  Real Estate




  Thirty days I walked her shadow

  following her rocks her streams

  hills of silver are what I seek

  flecks of it in her jet-black hair

  Spokane is mountains behind me

  only Raven knows the way

  dropping sticks in my path like totems

  to great deeds remembered, left undone

  Too far I’ve been lured by fortune

  my hammer divines for home

  the ashes of my fire scatter

  at the apex of this last day

  Down I lay under

  her full belly of shimmering dreams

  a witch’s moon, rising magic

  twilight mountain-wrought

  I am a hundred dreams of silver

  dusty hooves and clanking metal

  men digging the earth into a deep blue sky

  I heard the mule train rumble by

  Into stillness I woke

  bathed my fire in icy starlight

  streaming water of silver and gold on my skin

  she’d hung my clothes to dry

  Her gifts were berries and salmon and sun

  wrapped in Raven’s fur and shining dawn

  I lay in her arms like beauty

  Deep and deeper into dreams she wove me

  through forest-deep days and nights

  she carved her riddles on my skin

  The cottonwood groves sung her words

  sung them up high as a hymn

  how hard I believed on this lost path

  I’d found my way

  Only on later clouds did whispers start

  rippling across the ice-cool lakes

  her voice called endless through the pines

  deep and black as thunder

  On the edge of wonder

  she has bruised me

  under her shadow and twined

  me in her web of forest sleep

  My mouth is a trout on her twisted hook

  her face is the rising moon

  I am the howl of the midnight wolf

  her voice is the Raven’s wing

  She rumbles like an illness

  sifting sandstorms running through

  Silver Queen she calls to me

  I only want what’s mine

  Two times I saw the rainbow

  two times it ended at you


  Uncertain footsteps over the Japanese footbridge

  looking into water black as eyes asking the question

  which holds the true light and form?

  followed by the deadly pause I cannot see


  On canvas the colours grow:

  the brush on weeping willow leaves

  that's my sign of anger

  the one name that dares describe this bending pain

  And here is the Grand Allee at midday

  nothing but blazing passion under a sun

  a sun I held inside

  as darkness became

  Light remembered on hemerocallis

  crushed where I lay

  waiting for the earth to receive me

  this is what you must look like now




  Eliza Dares I am

  and all I know of hope


  16 full of Eamon's dream

  and Eamon's dreaming child


  rough hewn lifetimes

  passed down

  these brittle shores

  what dreams

  I carved out along this life

  of Myra Road

  sly eyes now

  coyote voices vibrate

  the bush is unseen noises

  May the Lord watch

  between me and thee


  this place of bitter trees

  and tumbled rocks

  Now I lay me down


  upon your iron


  Eliza let us pray

  the Lord

  rest our souls

  and weary heads

  and if I die

  before I wake

  forsake me Eliza

  and forsake

  this place of bitter trees

  and tumbled rocks


  what stillness sits

  between these cracks of frozen water

  sub-zeros broken apart

  splitting like kindling

  on these vast plains of ice

  I walk on and on

  the crust thin and sharp

  as a familiar voice

  for fear it will break and heave apart

  in this glowering evening of the lake

  there is no welcome

  only the rumblings of empty

  and your shapeless call to follow

  on the which-way wind

  I stumble

  my gasps hanging long and frozen on my face

  white on white

  into the darkness

  looming luminous

  like your skin and warm

  as cows' milky breath

  into the foaming drifts

  of dairy cream I sink

  at last I sleep enfolded

  in your strong arms of birch



  with a hard-hooked mouth

  I lurk among the wild rise for you

  unseeing bug-on-the-water

  as you flex your wings I rise

  between your legs

  slide smooth scales

  along your belly

  drink your champagne waters

  until breathless

  you pant through half-open lips

  and I float in your web of lily flowers

  your stain of iron is on my tongue


  “La vie est belle,” you said near Rumangabo

  “malgre les paines qui nous enchainent”:

  wrote those singing words on a plastered wall

  formed them out of the dangerous mud we stumbled from.

  “Stanley was here,” you might have also written for a lark

  to benefit those searching

  like me, for them who need no finding.

  Then there was a choice to make: believe

  or not to believe.

  They were part of your polemic:

  mercenaries singing old guitar songs,

  waiting politely on the sides of war in town

  looming all the same

  unshaven shadows under Nyiragongo.

  Meantime Devotee stirred broth and turned w
et socks

  when the sickness wasn’t on her

  when children’s scars were only made

  to let headaches of the evil spirits

  escape their thoughts.

  Imagine you, with the body and mouth of a poet,

  chasing names through dreams of feeling-fire.

  This I thought was your real betrayal of ourselves-that-were.

  Your soul weighted down with ammunition clips

  exploding grenades in children’s rag beds

  rocket launchers glowing like the tips of volcanoes:

  wildfire cigarettes we watched across the far valleys,

  live now with nightly burnings.

  Only for you could I believe in oxymorons

  like fighting for peace

  in a place where even the land rears up to belch out

  any of the particular colours that I have on

  where the banana-boatmen travel fast with their pirate cargoes

  on deadly lakes bubbling with burning sulphur

  even on a good day.

  Blessed you may be, awakened into so much reality

  standing in a jungle dripping rhythmic quiet

  a machine with a heart in the darkness

  draping night’s velvet folds, subsiding it

  into haphazard green and jumbled rock

  a shapeless shrug of bones.

  I am your Devotee and the pain that chains us:

  waiting for a job in Beni.


  in each trunk each oak

  is locked a myth of you

  giant under the moss

  hanging still and long

  as our old night-time tales

  when we murmured the spells out of our hearts

  turned over

  the old mysteries in our minds

  what places have you gone

  wearing my name

  what myths can I weave

  without the breath of you?

  when even dragons have crept

  away across the lake


  where we walked on pebbled water


  why speak to me

  in words I can't understand

  in riddles of the dead

  from giant's tombs

  and out of the dusty corners

  of the houses of dwarves?

  you were no sorcerer

  when I knew you

  your voice

  drones the days

  from the tallest steps

  wanders through

  the cities of dead

  I wonder

  will you ever show

  your real self again

  will you ever speak to me

  with flesh not signs

  resembling no Mayan epic?


  in the sweetness of this orange

  this dawn

  there's you I hold

  warm and wet

  your saffron stains

  your kohl-rimmed eyes

  your river

  where a water buffalo

  wails for night


  it was during those

  underground years

  you learned about invincible

  left alone

  with only legends

  of the dead

  mothers and sisters


  aunts and daughters

  all flowing Amazons

  unspoken beneath your fingernails

  and like blood

  in their hands

  lives were written

  huge as hearts

  but love was spattered

  like an upturned spider

  a warning across their palms

  only later did you feel

  the whispering of their quiet

  on your neck

  and in the comfort of their silence

  you became

  an Amazon


  Sweet Edie lived in an apple orchard

  slept among the bales of soft alfalfa

  wrapped in corn silk and feasting on blueberries

  she was queen of the country lanes

  in her sweaters of spice and gingersnap skirts

  a voice of fuzzy juniper and the blues of robins' eggs

  Edie walked under ladders and spilled her salt

  laughed when dust devils danced down the road

  paid no heed to rings around the coppery moon

  together we climbed the farm-gray silo

  danced from its top that late fall day

  then she fell and the roof gave way

  I had no spells to stop the golden kernels

  pouring down around her

  Sweet Edie swallowed by the harvest corn

  that filled her honey mouth with silence


  Lily is scrawling out of the river

  like another saved soul

  but when she sees that Jesus has a face

  she loves the man

  and knows she

  has come too late

  even dead men from themselves

  cannot be saved

  from behind closed eyes

  her skies flame sunset red

  as breath from some man's hands

  touch sighs

  then she knows miracles can happen

  and all deaths are only small

  grey-drizzle dawn light

  and Lily's comforts soothe

  another man's interrupted sleep

  her arms scarred from too much love

  only watching as the seasons change

  in someone else's eyes

  only thinking of backwaters

  and willow branches

  that traced soft designs

  on someone else's wet water skin

  into these waters

  unknown to him

  she lowers herself quietly

  each night when he touches her


  Everything about her was autumn

  fire in her hair

  and eyes dancing leaves of sorrow

  about to fall

  asleep in the coming winter of the world

  Bonfires curl prayers of leaves to heaven

  Can she hear?

  Skeletons of trees

  dribbling through the low northern sunset

  rattling stick music to the winds

  that used to whip her hair

  and laugh as she twisted to get free

  Only listening silence under the big sky

  the vole burrowing through dead grass

  flattened like her hair spread out that day

  we looked up at the endless atmosphere

  I felt her heat

  a shooting star crashed to earth

  a vapour trail left behind

  My eyes are still scarred

  from looking too long on that flaming sky

  everything was autumn


  Olden days tramped past your road

  scratched their symbols on your gate post


  fairheaded daughter of a fairheaded daughter

  their packs carried thoughts of never returning

  but crept back all the same


  to marry you late at night to love and danger

  foretold in lines of little fortune

  in the marshy bottoms blue lights flicker

  little lamps of fairhead soul

  what is luck but knowing where your spirits dwell?


  Silent faces

  the colour of storm clouds

  sacks of grain unground

  In the little clearing

  walking to the sun

  dying in the lake

  "Two Bears, calm my heart"

  calling to their silences

  I am afrai
d of them now

  I never could come closer

  Soon they were the colour of night

  I had to stop running


  Giant walks my road

  high and early is his passing

  sack clinking on his back

  Shadow never touches me

  I am on the morning side

  when back he strides

  His empty pockets jingle

  nickels and darkness fall westward

  onto the children of evening

  Who will fly

  under the giant’s shadow?



  Together we made the beast

  who lives within us

  buried deep and deeper

  every twist and turn you made within me

  both of us lost

  Our is a land of ancient dreams

  where every waking thought is a graveyard

  and every life a reconstructed ruin

  even the lies are broken

  Under the towering fir trees

  only scars remain

  shards of love and latex

  and this plaque bolted to the bars of our prison:

  ‘In this valley a river once ran…’


  what is it we call home?

  lost in the piney memory of forests cradling the cabin

  grey silk sliding into corners of mist

  what does it mean to be wind?

  blown here, instead

  on the way to Whaleback Shoal

  smell of sacred desecration

  festering in wounds of change?

  he never could pinpoint it exactly


  you float ahead of me

  through the green-accented voice of trees

  snow-warmth whiteness enfolds us

  this is love I don’t know how to feel

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