Emily Ferrara is a poet and writer who lives in Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S. She is author of The Alchemy of Grief/Alchimia del dolore, winner of the Bordighera Poetry Prize and published by Bordighera Press in bilingual edition (English and Italian), with Italian translation by Sabine Pascarelli of Tuscany. Ms. Ferrara is assistant professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School where she has taught medical creative writing, doctor-patient communication, and health care considerations for refugees, asylum seekers, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. She is passionate about improving access to services for Lowell’s large refugee and immigrant populations. Ms. Ferrara is founder and curator of the virtual Global Quarantine Museum, and editor of the Pendemics Arts and Literary Journal, an e-journal launched during the COVID-19 crisis, as a vehicle for writers and artists to explore themes that are emerging as a result of the global pandemic. The inaugural issue of the journal can be viewed at: https://tinyurl.com/gqmmasked.
I navigate by sumac and seep.
Time succumbs to feldspar.
To mica, cormorants, the folly of sky.
It is braver to stand on the promontory, listening
for unseen salvages at high tide,
the wreckage and the sheer. To hear
the quarry speak: Repeat after me. After me.
But how to trust the imperfect
armament of hindsight,
the archipelago, arc of unknowing.
Is it braver to navigate by surrender?
A deep spring slakes the quarry
in me. Gulls haunt the brindled
and lacquered ledges.
I have spent far too long preening in calm resolve.
It is braver to navigate by surrender.
I navigate by sumac and seep.
Keeper of the Lock
The keeper watches as the haulers, starboard
lash with ropes the drunken boat, upright, afloat
in the sea-to-sea churning, dangerous beauty,
foaming and rushing green between plane trees
whose roots keep the banks from collapse.
These waters are truer than God, truer
than the mad-brilliant verse of Rimbaud,
that burning asteroid who left me in his wake
to make of my life a break-your-heart poem
the likes of which no fool’s eyes have ever seen.
The book I dream is thick
with words I’ve never spoken:
boreal fin-de-siecle tramontane.
I’ve sworn off words my life
has overused yearning
breathless God undone
an easy tug: I‘ve murdered
my darling starlings in flight
to tread on fields of lock-down
tight-lipped tourniquet shrike
to ransom commas for insurrection.
I’ll ditch decorum run amok
transgress the book of forms
my i’s rolled back and sweat
sweetening the interval
On the Morning of the Third Supermoon
I’m driving due North for the coast
powering past ramps and merges the clouds
a skyless blue the driving question this placebo
road is not why but how to persist
at the impasse of innocence toeing the fault line
innocents captured on alien soil fear threats
reckless returnings the clouds have fallen
asleep at the wheel sundogged swoon
I’m course correcting on cruise
past burning wrecks promised auroras
the clouds an eyeless blue driving North to the sea
to the sea I love the complicit and culpable sea.
By the River Dure
I measure my arrival
in linden trees, shutter
my window open
for the river’s rapport
with sunlight. Tableau
of poached pear, camembert,
pain perdu. Laundered sheets
in the courtyard, swallows
for my thirst, swallows
of minted water, beds of lavender
where the sun casts bee shadows.
The allure of too much
defies the imposition of a poem.
After dinner, and evening’s walk
to the gorge, I shutter my window
against the river, its conversation
with twilight and later still,
its soliloquy, night.
I follow gossamer
from the alms box to the rafters
thread it out the doorway
through Mistral winds
and cypress scrub to the Pyrenees.
I gather a bouquet of wildflowers
make for myself a bracelet
the fields and the fields
a mêlée of impermanence.
How to face myself
after such ecstatic abandon?
Without history, without
the immense edifice of memory
the river wrapped around the idyllic—
It is what I don’t see that moves me.
I deliver myself to grief in code—
an empty frame in the terraced garden
rose-fermented rosaries, the milky stars
of my mother’s prayers in the changing light.
a basket of linens, all white
a set of silver spoons
four chairs set around a space
where once there was a table.