The Operating System

6th ANNUAL NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: DAY 20 :: Meverette Smith on Pablo Neruda

For this, the 6th Annual iteration of our beloved Poetry Month 30/30/30 series/tradition, I asked four poets (and previous participants) to guest-curate a week of entries, highlighting folks from their communities and the poets who’ve influenced their work.
I’m happy to introduce Janice Sapigao, Johnny Damm, Phillip Ammonds, and Stephen Ross, who have done an amazing job gathering people for this years series! We’re so excited to share this new crop of tributes with you. Hear more from our four guest editors in the introduction to this year’s series.
Hungry for more? there’s 150 previous entries from past years here! You should also check out Janice’s piece on Nayyirah Waheed, Johnny’s piece on Raymond Roussel, Phillip’s piece on Essex Hemphill, and Stephen’s piece on Ronald Johnson’s Ark, while you’re at it.
This is a peer-to-peer system of collective inspiration! No matriculation required.
Enjoy, and share widely.

– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Managing Editor/Series Curator [/blockquote][/box]


Poets are fingerprints
A menagerie of textures
that leave a unique cultural-
impression on the world

The seven poets that I have the honor of curating for the week of April 16-22, are varied in tone, approach, inspiration–but all have a thundering presence that thrums the strings in your soul. They demand that you be present and feel whatever you will.
Throughout this week, readers will take a journey through waves of love, self-reflection, mourning, discovery, tribute, longing and acceptance.
To hear these poets speak life into their muses and perform their work, please come to our reading, Tribute, at Dixon Place on Monday, April 24th at 7:30 PM.
Phillip J. Ammonds, a Brooklyn native, is a founding member of the writing collective Writeous, with whom he has co-produced three chapbooks.  Phillip curates Rainbows Across the Diaspora, the queer text reading series at Dixon Place in New York City. Phillip also performs his work as Trinity Rayn, Drag Poet.  His work has appeared in the anthology Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call (Vintage Entity Press, 2013),HIV: Here and Now Project, Yellow Mama and The Operating System.

Meverette Smith on Pablo Neruda

[script_teaser]“because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword” [/script_teaser]
I first encountered Pablo Neruda when I was seventeen years old. See, I had a huge crush on a boy who would carry a dog-eared copy of Twenty Love Poems in his back pocket. With his wave of dark hair and a sway in his step, I would long for him from afar. I thought that if I began reading Neruda’s work that I would finally be able to gather up the nerve to speak to this quiet, yet thoughtful and intriguing young mystery. Although no love was found with this boy, it was the beginning of my love affair with Neruda.
As I grew older, I immersed myself in his pages. Late nights, I would read his poems and imagine they were written for me, about me. I let him live in my veins until I could sense his rhythms drunkenly sailing on waves, my pockets full of his stones sinking to the ocean depths. I buried his head in my gut and let his simplicities make love on my lips, licking syllables of blooms and bones. His world of natural imagery layered the patchwork of his love, and I became seduced by it.
Many years later, while traveling in Chile, I had the opportunity to visit his homes in Santiago and Valparaiso, gaining further insight into the man behind the words I had become so passionate about. I peered though windowpanes he’d draped, listening for creaks in floorboards his weight would have made at dawn. My hands splayed on wood where pages formed, heart to ink. Rooms full of oddities; flamingos and buoys, collections of colored glass, African masks and wind chimes. I imagined this space as a physical representation of his personal complexities, a physical love poem to the love of his life.
Even after all this time, rereading poems that I’ve read a hundred times, he speaks what my heart can not.
Your Laughter

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.
Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.
My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.
My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.
Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.
Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.
Pablo Neruda
For I Would Die
I can deny myself many things
But you are not one of them
I can go without sun or rain or wind
But not without you
Do not take from me the trees that you breathe
The sway that exists in your timber limbs
And bounce echoes from branch to branch
The sudden leaf that floats bringing earth
To my feet
The streets are hard at night
Their darkness seeps into my soles
and makes den in my skin
until I find my way home to you
where your breath gives light
and I rise to the glint that beckons
My dear, when I’m lost in that space
Between night and you
Find me with lips parted in biblical sea
That ebb with moon tides
And ride on a crested wave edge
For the shore is nearer with you there
Do not take from me the mountain ridge you climb
The vista that exists in your capped peaks
And the trek that strengthens man
The height of stone that brings heaven
Just within reach
I can deny myself many things
But not the trees
Not the mountains
Not you
For I would die.
Meverette Smith
[textwrap_image align=”left”][/textwrap_image] Meverette Smith grew up in Takoma Park, MD and attended Fordham University in New York where she studied theater and creative writing.  Mev is a proud founding member of the writing group, Writeous, which formed in 2008.  Writeous published several chapbooks and with the group she participated in several reading engagements in and around New York City.  Mev was a featured poet in the Glitter Pomegranate Reading Series and performed her work with the Composers Concordance in their Poetry & Music – Unhinged festival.
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