I like to keep in touch with the poems of friends who have died. Because death is the unknown galaxy separating (linking) us, I want to infuse myself with the still-living light of their words.
And so I returned again to Walter Pavlich’s Spirit of Blue Ink (published by Swan Scythe Press in 2001.) I was looking for a poem to read at another friend’s surprise 50th birthday party (which included a read-around by many of the poets gathered there for cake, talk and merriment.) I chose the title poem of Walter’s book, and felt so good about reading those words for my living poet-friend, part of a happy celebration of his lively presence on the planet.
Later that night I slept with the book on a table beside me, so that I could read it through once more the next morning. Before picking it up again I scanned the news: Syria, Iraq. Then I started rereading Walter’s book. I marveled at the poems’ ingenious depth of perception, passion for the unsung, and courageous emotion. When I came to “Black Flower” I was back in an old war but not much had changed.
A place of suffering, a Golgotha.
Each hill is such.
The soldiers don’t know what they want.
Each home has at least one dead room.
There is shrapnel in the white sausage
Grease of a skillet.
Windows burst like glass lungs.
Paprika, blood and gun powder.
At the church Christ dangles from nails
As usual. But mortar fire has interrupted
His sorrow and his dying.
A hole burst above his hip,
His belly, into his chest.
His entire left arm
A vacant marble wound.
So he hangs on one less nail.
With the black flower
Of an explosion
Between his lips.
Yes, the Bosnian War that inspired Walter’s poem is, at least on the surface, in the past now, but what he captured so powerfully is still a world that exists this very moment for so many.
I read his poem as he must have written it: with tremendous sadness, with anger and despair, and—against all reason—with hope.