I would like to record this on eventually, but right now my voice is shot. So that will have to happen later.
But first, some back story!
This poem was originally conceived sitting in Le Enchante Cafe in Huntington Beach sitting with my good friend and fellow writer, Kevin Mai (who’s older brother by the way just scored his ticket to the National Poetry Slam competing for an LA team. So kudos for that!).We were discussing ideas for a slam we wanted to write together (which I’m seriously lagging on right now….) and talking ideas when I got to jabbering on about the new Medieval illuminated manuscripts exhibit at the Getty on display.
Samson and the Lion. The blues in this particular illumination are phenomenal in person. Courtesy of getty.edu.
If you haven’t seen the paintings yet, you’ve got to. They are fantastic. Seeing those paintings was the first time I actually considered being an art thief. It was the imagery from those as well as inspiration to write from Anis Mojgani (see my earlier post on his “Shake the Dust”) that eventually birthed this poem.
— I’m Listening–
God, I’m listening.
Both my ears. Open. I’m waiting for sounds not
heard yet. I’m listening for birds singing
in a courtyard not built yet. In a home not dreamed yet.
By a man not born yet. But he will be someday. So God, I’m listening.
Because the sun is rising, and these days I
believe in colors. In the blue Lapis Azuli the
dye maker slaves over the night through. Which has got me singing
hope like the blue-jay. And writing verses to be hung
from the midday sun. I’m hoping. Because If what you’ve got
is worth saving, then God, I’m listening.
For the baby being born now. For the sound the wind makes in
the rye. For the thousand tongues of babel. Each beautiful
without a doubt. Each singing.
Each spinning. Each telling a story worth telling.
Of boys becoming men, and men, boys again. And all the
Beautiful women who held them up. God, I’m listening
For the first notes of the blue-jay, on my window this morning, singing.
Reading it now and thinking of the exhibit, a lot of the imagery is actually
Tower of Babel sketch. Also from the Getty Exhibit.
improvised from the manuscripts on display; The tower of Babel, the courtyard was influenced by a courtyard scene from one of the “Book[s] of Hours” on display there, the “women holding them up” is a reference to just some of the angels depicted on the pages. And arguably so are the references to God (since I rarely write anything that even remotely sounds religious. I’m Jewish. That’s kind of asking for it :P).
There is an almost bitter reality in the inspirations for this poem: I’m not a “visual” artist. Much of my poetry however is inspired by art pieces I see and observe. And it argues that there is indeed a special relationship between writing, painting, and all the rest of it. After all, Modernism was born out of an art Convention held after the first World War, where many of the notable writers of the day were introduced to painters such as Dali, along with others.
The influence of Modernist art on the literary perception of reality is palpable: remember Hemingway, anyone? Old Man and the Sea? It seems that visual artists have a particular relationship with “wordsmiths” that historically transcends the often thin boundaries between the different art forms.
In any case, I’ll record this one soon. I hope to read it at a poetry night somewhere, so wish me luck on that! And until then, I hope you enjoy it!