Saturday, September 24, 2016

"The Seeds of Aleppo": A Prayer for the Syrian People

Thinking of the people of Aleppo. Sad and angry to see renewed Russian and Syrian government bombing of Aleppo. Devastating images of children being rescued from rubble. What of those who are not rescued from beneath caved-in, bombed buildings? The assault on the Syrian people not only continues but intensifies.

In such times, a poem can seem to me of little worth.

And yet, a poem is a prayer. A prayer may be all that I can give to the Syrian people just now.

Here's my poem written for the people of Syria, "The Seeds of Aleppo." An offering as a prayer for the well being of the Syrian people.
Art by Sarah Van Sanden

The poem refers to the news last year that due to the Syrian war, it was requested to open the Svalbard (Norway) global seed vault so that Syria could in essence make the first withdrawal from the seed vault, thus underlining the gravity of the crisis in Syria.

A collaboration with artist Sarah Van Sanden, the poem appears as a broadside which you can see in better resolution and download free here. It's part of a series of art-poem responses to the Syrian crisis, and you can view the other artists' beautiful broadsides here. Thank you to Broadsided Press' Elizabeth Bradfield for publishing the broadside series.

Here's the poem without art:
The Seeds of Aleppo

The bazaar has burned,
The gathering of seeds dispersed

Sent to Morocco and Mexico;
with escort, to Turkey.

Seeds who escape,
Seeds who flee.

And far in the Svalbard archipelago,
Blue light over glacier,

Swirls of snow. Abrupt
triangle, armed guard

into vault.
Vault of seeds.

For asteroid impact,
nuclear glow.

Now, though, first
withdrawal of deposit:

Syria’s seeds petition
to return to desert

peas and beans,
packets of light.

Each sample temporary,
a memory to grow.

Each seed repeats,
Of course, if we could return,

Then of course,
We would go.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"And Aeneas Stares into Her Helmet" on Philip Metres' Blog

I'm grateful to amazing poet Philip Metres for writing about my book of poems, And Aeneas Stares into Her Helmet (Carolina Wren Press 2009). Philip is author of Sand Opera, (Alice James Books, 2015). Thank you, Philip! He writes:
I've been reading Tiffany Higgins' And Aeneas stares into her helmet (Carolina Wren Press Press (2009), a book-length meditation on the wars of our recent age. Higgins does a remarkable discipline by staying with the war, measuring the extent of its merging in us, its emergence from us. Neither expose nor diatribe, Higgins stays with it, dances in time with it, in its time.

Since the recent imperial wars seem not to require anything more than our silence, such a poetic perseverance is itself an achievement; whatever the gain of having a professional army (and not a volunteer one), we collectively have lost by our greater distance from the brutalities of the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War. We need to stop burying that brutality. The truths will out, Wikileaks or no Wikileaks, Assange or no Assange.

Here's a video I featured before, from Higgins, which explores the way the war is both with us and invisible to us. Watch the "Where is the War" video here
Read Philip Metres' blog post on And Aeneas Stares into Her Helmet here

Monday, September 5, 2016

"Legacy Tattoo" Poem in Catamaran Literary Reader

In this poem written in Monterey, I watch the rough rocks, look at surfers, and consider research suggesting we once were aquatic mammals.

Thanks to editor Zack Rogow for publishing the poem in the beautifully produced Catamaran Literary Reader. (If you've never seen it, it's filled with colorful paintings by original artists on every page!)

Read "Legacy Tattoo" in the magazine here
Legacy Tattoo

The waters have washed you ashore.
The flood, the rising.
(The continents asked for more.)

Cast adrift, floating.
Now you’ve found land again.

Legacy tattoo: it hit, scratched
you when it made you.

You bear the scar at the base
of your spine, where lies
the shadow of the moon.

We choose our tattoos,
our tattoos choose
to alter us before we can begin.

Sea green-blue ink waves in skin.

≈ ≈ ≈

Let’s begin again.
Something carries over,
once we lived in oceans,
aquatic ancestor.

You remember, right?
It’s what’s brought you here
by my side to the edge of the sea

Where we gather kelp in our hands.
Okay, right, help me?
Somehow we are drawn
to the brink where water clinks land.

Look, out there: a man
stands on the wave

in black seal suit
aloft sea foam curl

≈ ≈ ≈

Yes, I was a dolphin too,
you were a manatee
Keep gathering, please

kelp in our mouths
keep gathering

Cast your gaze out
stare across sharp rocks
to the man who is paused
if only briefly on water

and then descends
and then he is swallowed
and then the sea
takes him in unceasingly

as all of us, as we—

(as for me, I float
on time)

the salt chest rises,
the salt chest falls,
the salt chest hollows,
the salt chest swells—

and the wave caroms
as the crest, sudden
lurch, throws
the salt searcher in

Read the poem in Catamaran Literary Reader