November 5, 2011

Poets You Should Know -- GEORGE KALAMARAS

George Kalamaras poems appear in Best American Poetry 1997, Boulevard, Epoch, The Iowa Review, New Letters, Sulfur, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Heart Without End (Leaping Mountain Press, 1986) and Beneath the Breath (Tilton House, 1988). His first full-length collection, The Theory and Function of Mangoes, won the 1998 Four Way Books Intro Series in Poetry Award (selected by Michael Burkard) and was published by Four Way Books in 2000.

Among his awards are a 1993 NEA Poetry Fellowship, the 2000 Abiko Quarterly (Japan) Poetry Award, and two writing residencies at the Hambidge Center for the Arts. In 1994 he spent several months in India on a Fulbright Indo-U.S. Advanced Research Fellowship. His scholarly book on Hindu mysticism and Western discourse theory, Reclaiming the Tacit Dimension: Symbolic Form in the Rhetoric of Silence, was published by SUNY Press in 1994, and his articles appear in The International Journal of Hindu Studies, and elsewhere. He is associate professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.


I am walking the night streets of Paris, completely naked except for a
pair of gray ragg wool socks and two giant moth wings growing out of
my back. They are the black velvet green of a 1920's opium couch and
open and close when moonlight surfaces and submerges back into a
bank of clouds. Black antennae bend like dark wands in wind. There is
not a star in the sky, only Venus, and I have the desire to look over my
left shoulder and say the name of my mother three times softly, like
throwing salt on a path of fallen red maple leaves. Georgina, I say.
Geor-gina, I repeat more slowly, tonguing the night air with the exaggerated thrashing of a gold carp at the edge of a temple pool. Georgina, I clench once more with the strain in my turned neck and rush of blood
from the bend. From behind me, a man with a leg cramp walks past,
sclaffing the ground with his left foot as if tapping for water. He doesn't
notice me but several yards ahead suddenly turns and calls me by name.
George Kalamaras. You're that vegetarian from Indiana. I' m startled.
How do you know? I ask. It's the moth wings, he says. You've taken
such good care of my moth wings.

He looks like somebody's bald uncle, ready to play roulette on a Friday
night in 1920's Paris. He has the crush of a rain-moistened cigar. He
resembles a peregrine falcon, his nose hooking into river fog wafting up
from the street. But I don't know you, I think to myself, afraid to hurt
his feelings. Who is this man with the limp of a bird dragging a broken
wing? Yes you do, he suddenly hears my thoughts. He peels off his
falcon head and is a lion, mane matted with Kalahari sand. He peels off
his lion head and is a Victorian woman, face controlled and withdrawn
and gorgeous like marble above her tucks. He cracks the marble and is
an owl, then a falcon again. I'm Max Ernst, he says. You just don't
remember because you haven't yet been born.

I run to embrace him. It is so good to see Max Ernst again. My eyes
well with river mist but suddenly begin to burn as tiny street pebbles
and flecks of sand ease out of my tear ducts. He hugs me, gently tapping my moth wings, stroking them like two lost and returning dogs. There, there, he says. Green, he says. Solidified light from fading gas

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