Patricia Dreyfus Writing
 


    From the rice paddies,

    following the buffalo,

    you wave a greeting.


    Your families

    mourn, searching

    the land.


    And the bones

    should be cleaned,

    stored in boxes.


    We celebrate

    Tet with your sons.

    You serve fruits,

    sweets, tea.


    The B52’s shelled

    craters in your heart,

    napalm seared your memories.


    And the bones

    should be cleaned,

    stored in boxes.


    Incense rises

    from the family altar,

    probing for phantoms.


    Hungry ghosts

    of war wander,

    seeking rest.


    Their  bones

    should be cleaned,

    stored in boxes.

MIA Vietnam


The story “Tiger” won the “Gold Solas Award” and was published in “The Best Travel Writing of 2009.”

TIGER

We were hanging on to the roll bar of the open Land Rover, as the driver careened down the dirt track, through the thick overhanging trees. Early that morning we crossed the Rapti River which is the boundary of Chitwan National Park in Nepal. We were holding a pass that allowed us to explore only until sundown.  The atmosphere was cooling from the heat of the day. The forest shadows were long and the sun dipping behind the jagged snow covered Himalaya peaks.  The river lay four miles ahead and it was vital that we be across it by 6:00 pm sharp.

Chitwan is one of the last tiger sanctuaries in the world, and by order of the Nepalese Army, no one is allowed in the park after dark.   We were told that if you are seen in the park after the curfew time, you are assumed to be a poacher and you will be shot. It was twilight, and from the expression on our guide’s face and the hard grip of our driver’s hands on the steering wheel, we believed this to be no idle threat.

Over the strain of the motor I heard my daughters voice, a whisper but clear to us all, a call that stopped the wheels of the machine in mid- rotation: “Tiger.”

The driver cut the motor, now the buzz and click of the jungle insects was the only sound. Even the birds were still. Carol stood on the back of the Rover, her finger pointing just beyond the side of the road.

We followed the direction of her hand and there, fifty feet from the path, in the long wheat colored grass, his back to us, stood the tiger. He was a giant, about half again as big as a male lion. Solitary, he turned, now facing us, and lay his great body down. Like an illusion he disappeared, his stripes a perfect camouflage in the shadows of the forest and the long yellow grass.

We moved from the Rover, and edged to the verge of the road, not daring to go closer. I stayed toward the rear wheels, a little separate from the others who were near the front. We all strained to see, and seemed to blink in unison to try to capture what now seemed like a mirage.

The tiger raised his massive head separating his power from the passive grasses, and turned his gaze toward me, his golden eyes skimming over me, an insignificant intrusion in his world.

Then, he turned again, and studied me, then stared directly at me, into me.  I could see the black slits narrow in the amber of those eyes. His body tensed and moved slightly forward, the muscles of his haunches tightened, the skin of his pelt trembled with tension. He held me there by his beauty, and an authority I cannot yet name.

I felt the others move back closer to the Rover. I could not look away from the tiger. I was defenseless, frozen in awe. My legs felt heavy, the backs of them ached, and I knew I could not run.

Unable to breathe, I waited for his decision.  It was his alone. Then, the yellow eyes left me, his body relaxed and he lowered his head. Shaking with relief and afraid to cry, I breathed deeply. We slipped back into the Rover, all silent, as we raced for the river.

           I have a tiger’s tooth, one that our guide presented to me, now cracked and dull, resting on my table. The tooth is curved, long and ivoried, a scimitar, once sharp and fearsome, bloodied and bared, a symbol of terror to its’ prey. The majesty is gone, only suggested, now just a small part of a once powerful beast.

How like the tigers’ tooth I have become. Once I was strong, in control of my territory, but time has dulled and cracked me.  I am a woman camouflaged by age.  Younger people, strangers, unbidden, call me “Mom” or “Grandma”.  They look but they do not see, they cannot distinguish the tiger of my soul, the power that is mine. They glimpse only the cracked tooth on the table.

                   I smile and forgive them, for I have seen the tiger and he has seen me.


  The article on San Miguel Allende was published in the “Daily Pilot Travel Section” of the

   “ Los Angeles Times.”



      


  Attendance at the workshop is by invitation. I provided four poems to the jury and to my surprise and pleasure received an invitation. Had I known what caliber of company I would be entering, I would have added terror to my list of emotions.

  As the week progresses I find that one of my classmates is the Poet Laureate of Colorado, another, head of the poetry department at a major University and another publishes regularly in the Paris Review. In fact, I am the only non-published poet in attendance. It is like getting to play tennis with Serena Williams, satisfying but humbling.

   Every night at seven o’clock a crowd of about one hundred people, many from the town, gather to listen to X.J. Kennedy, Ruth Fainlight, Forest Gander, C.D. Wright and several Mexican poets. On Friday night the workshop participants, meaning me, read their poems. The polite applause after my reading feels like a standing ovation.

   One night a group of us head to La Gruta, the mineral hot springs outside of town. It is exquisite to sit in the bubbling water under the stars and listen to the mandolin of a local musician.

    It seems every café in San Miguel has live music in the evening. We hear everything from old time jazz to Willie and Lobo. There is so much going on in this small town that I can hardly decide what to do. On Thursday night, I join a salsa dance class at Café Mama Mia. On Friday afternoon I attend a cooking class where I learn to create chocolate mole sauce.

    It is a one hour drive to nearby Guanajuato, where on Saturday afternoon, keeping the theme of the week, I check into El Meson de los Poetas. Down the block is a marvelous museum, once the home of the famous Mexican painter, Diego Rivera.

   The University in Guanajuato specializes in music. Every Saturday night the students dress in medieval costumes and lead a serenade of locals and visitors. I follow the music and join in the song, then head to the hotel to dream in Spanish. Sunday morning after mass in the great church, I drive to Leon and my flight home. It is a week of perfect poetry.


                                                    Guanajuato Singers


The poem “The Noon of Night” was a finalist for the 2011 Anderbo Poetry Prize

                     THE NOON OF NIGHT


                                                          As the autumn sun

                                                          sank low on the left

                                                          side of the gravel road

                                                          Dad drove her twenty miles

                                                          to St. Aloysius Hospital.


                                                          The sisters said

                                                          they were sorry

                                                          the doctor was out

                                                          on a distant farm.

                                                          You have to wait for him.


                                                          The harvest moon rose high in

                                                          a somber sky bringing

                                                          compelling pains,

                                                          fierce, insistent.

                                                          It’s time, she said.


                                                          Two nurses held her legs,

                                                          pushed them flat to the bed.

                                                          No. Wait, they muttered

                                                          to her, to me.


                                                          Shh, they hissed.

                                                          Quiet,

                                                          they commanded,

                                                          as she writhed

                                                          in agony.


                                                          At the noon of night

                                                          I struggled to be free,

                                                          fought to breathe, to live,

                                                          to let my voice be heard.


                                                          Dad told me, it was a

                                                          beautiful October morning.

                                                          He shot a pheasant

                                                          on the way home.                                           


Scenes from

North Dakota

 
Poems of Travel

poetry.

Downtown Bowdon, North Dakota

L.J. Adelman’s Hand built barn

L.J. greets an old friend.

Gladys and Monica outside Hurdsfield, N.D.