Poetry of Ben Volman - Page One

Introduction

Shalom! This collection includes selections of my older poetry some of which has appeared in publications including The University of Toronto Review.  Quite simply, I see poetry as a moment caught by the poet's will, an act of crafting our experience with an intimacy that alters the reader's perceptions, opens up their mind and heart, and becomes significant for their personal journey. If the work succeeds, it is always an act of grace. An encounter with a reality that pushes the boundaries of our humanity until they are within sight of God. And if the moment permits, an open door for spiritual communion. My friend, you are welcome.

 

In Messiah,

Ben Volman

Click page two for next poetry page

Page Two


Metal Seed

Ben Volman

I

This is what I know:

My people were exiles in Spain,

goldsmiths who ground the fruit

of the Conquest, took gold worked faces

of gods to hammer into ornaments, thread.


The Inquisition scattered them, Jews

like oranges spilled across a table

over the roads of Europe, wanting

only a bit of land, forced

back on our trade we always drank

from the planet's cold vein.


In the forties my father tried his hand

at farming--home, in the Holy Land:

bullet strewn, thirsting for roots

a country between sunset and stars.


He failed, and safely in exile taught his sons

to straighten a tongue of sheet metal

'til the wet grains of rust

moved the blood in an opposite direction


II

In the half-light others turn to prophesy,

coming through the walls of cities

like a growth

bent towards Jerusalem

where the vein has come to the surface.


This is what I reason:

All of us are running

from the same God.


III


My mother tells me to understand failure,

this is how she found him

laughing in their last crop of sugar melon:

a baby between his legs

squatting in the peels and

sharing fingers of sweet gold with the goat

and the horse


The Old City

Ben Volman


"wise as a pomegranate"

Jewish saying


Brothers, we go down

to the market,

to the heaping baskets

of peppers and tomatoes,


hungry winter in the blood,

and we walk through falling snow,

sweet as scattering powder sugar

and eat raw, white

almonds from the open bushel

and go down the shattered streets

for gold slices of cheese,

square blocks of halvah.


On a corner a boy with a ruby ring

pulls a rooster

out of its wood cage.

Where is the old bakery?

I'm sorry to hear about your mother.

No, he's a teacher now.


We carry packages,

eggs wrapped in old news,

tied with a string.


We see reflections,

two brothers

walk past a storefront window,

inside the grocer weighs for a child

dark, red pomegranates

on a scale.


Carpenter

Ben Volman


Carpenter, what will you build today?


Carpenter, what will you hone,

chisel, shape, repair

or break?


Carpenter, what will you make

of this raw knotted timber?


are you still there?

Hammering so gently, planing,

piecing together

splinters,


quietly, just as they raised

the Temple.

You build

so peaceably

Carpenter.


So, I will drop these tools

to defend this ruined house

from change.


Carpenter, why is it

that your beautiful hands

know such rough, scarred wood

so well?


The Name

Ben Volman


You say you have problems with this name,

you don't understand, it was given,

every creation stands to one side,

words are only the symbol of separation.

A man does not own his own message.

You thought you picked me as a friend,

I should be another word: Caution.

Everyone is a famine, a rumor,

who deserts, appears.

Relax your nerves of grammar.

When a man knows he is a creation

he is never alone, even with the words

in his head

(the earth is the root,

or do you think the green stem takes life

from a pale, white tendril?)

after all, can a creation

create?


Turning point

Ben Volman


It's not the sky

that is dark at night:

the clouds, hurled in tides

against the moon

never cease to breathe gold.

it is the trees and cooling hills

that parch the candle in the eye.

Cold seeps out of the ground

and we stumble into the dark.


May you find blessings

despite my simple minded worries.

I pray you need never walk alone

from your house, among the fixed

and falling stars.


Line drawings, death image insert

Ben Volman


Giora, you are too strong to fit in a few lines of poetry,

longer in the bones than all your cousins,

straight fingers black

from a stick of charcoal.


I have a notebook--you force the eye

through a line

while a hair-trigger nerve reacts

for an eyebrow, exact

with an eraser.


Giora, the watchmaker's son with straight black hair

perhaps recalls a missing sketch-pad,

the imperfect circle of closing fingers,

drawn free hand when he reaches

for the handle

of a hair-brush

to dust a fine screw

wound into the tube

of an Uzi gun.


If God lived on earth

Ben Volman


"If God lived on earth

people would break his windows." old Jewish saying


Believers

don't make very good poets:

oh, we're pleasant enough

as company--

nothing too jarring on the soul

--the dishes are washed

and the lines get written--

iambic pentameter settles the heart,

nothing skips a beat,


but our masters,

the hawks, faith or no faith,

winging out of our mud-hen sight

with blood on their wings

cursing

fouling up the lingo,

dusting up eternity

with a free hand incision

on the cosmos


God made them

throw bricks

to force the rest of us

awake:


plough up suburbia

at 4 AM

STOP!

stop taking your damned comfort so seriously--scream

the world is uneasy--SCREAM--for every silence

ballooning into the night-speak-

--in God's name--speak--

for every wound

forbidden to bleed

into words


If the dead returned

Ben Volman

The dream comes

soaking you in sweat,

a dirigible of fear,

black with anger,

floating out of the past,


disgorging bodies

of grandparents and uncles,

children groping

for stolen eye-glasses,

women graceful and doe-like

in their nudity,

overweight naked men

who resemble tinted photographs

and you gasp for air

as they quietly dress.


The children gather

to play in a corner

and you would join them,

but you are not a child.


There is café-au-lait,

tea with lots of sugar,

and the sun goes down

so we close the windows

and collect the dishes.


Their skin is firm,

there is no smell of death.

I look into familiar eyes.

They forgive us for living.


My father, Israel

Ben Volman


My father, Israel, wrestles with ghosts

who disappear at dawn.


Each night my father shatters heaven

to grapple with the Holy One

(Blessed be He)


but the bony limbs and white eyes overcome

his wrestler arms

and herdsman legs.


Let them come, so we may hold them.

Let them come, so we can drink their tears.


I take my father's place

watching through the night

as they descend and ascend.


And may beloved Abba, Israel,

sleep

for the daily work of wrestling

with me.


Letter

Ben Volman


dear friend,

along the broken way,

we have held one another

through the dry stretches,

loved the calm voice

of prayer that speaks

unfailing peace--

and now, after years

you say: "It's come.

The healing."


While you have gone

and I walk a different path

I receive your comfort.

Your healing, my friend,

is healing me.

 

Click page two for next poetry page

Page Two


Metal Seed

Ben Volman

I

This is what I know:

My people were exiles in Spain,

goldsmiths who ground the fruit

of the Conquest, took gold worked faces

of gods to hammer into ornaments, thread.


The Inquisition scattered them, Jews

like oranges spilled across a table

over the roads of Europe, wanting

only a bit of land, forced

back on our trade we always drank

from the planet's cold vein.


In the forties my father tried his hand

at farming--home, in the Holy Land:

bullet strewn, thirsting for roots

a country between sunset and stars.


He failed, and safely in exile taught his sons

to straighten a tongue of sheet metal

'til the wet grains of rust

moved the blood in an opposite direction


II

In the half-light others turn to prophesy,

coming through the walls of cities

like a growth

bent towards Jerusalem

where the vein has come to the surface.


This is what I reason:

All of us are running

from the same God.


III


My mother tells me to understand failure,

this is how she found him

laughing in their last crop of sugar melon:

a baby between his legs

squatting in the peels and

sharing fingers of sweet gold with the goat

and the horse


The Old City

Ben Volman


"wise as a pomegranate"

Jewish saying


Brothers, we go down

to the market,

to the heaping baskets

of peppers and tomatoes,


hungry winter in the blood,

and we walk through falling snow,

sweet as scattering powder sugar

and eat raw, white

almonds from the open bushel

and go down the shattered streets

for gold slices of cheese,

square blocks of halvah.


On a corner a boy with a ruby ring

pulls a rooster

out of its wood cage.

Where is the old bakery?

I'm sorry to hear about your mother.

No, he's a teacher now.


We carry packages,

eggs wrapped in old news,

tied with a string.


We see reflections,

two brothers

walk past a storefront window,

inside the grocer weighs for a child

dark, red pomegranates

on a scale.


Carpenter

Ben Volman


Carpenter, what will you build today?


Carpenter, what will you hone,

chisel, shape, repair

or break?


Carpenter, what will you make

of this raw knotted timber?


are you still there?

Hammering so gently, planing,

piecing together

splinters,


quietly, just as they raised

the Temple.

You build

so peaceably

Carpenter.


So, I will drop these tools

to defend this ruined house

from change.


Carpenter, why is it

that your beautiful hands

know such rough, scarred wood

so well?


The Name

Ben Volman


You say you have problems with this name,

you don't understand, it was given,

every creation stands to one side,

words are only the symbol of separation.

A man does not own his own message.

You thought you picked me as a friend,

I should be another word: Caution.

Everyone is a famine, a rumor,

who deserts, appears.

Relax your nerves of grammar.

When a man knows he is a creation

he is never alone, even with the words

in his head

(the earth is the root,

or do you think the green stem takes life

from a pale, white tendril?)

after all, can a creation

create?


Turning point

Ben Volman


It's not the sky

that is dark at night:

the clouds, hurled in tides

against the moon

never cease to breathe gold.

it is the trees and cooling hills

that parch the candle in the eye.

Cold seeps out of the ground

and we stumble into the dark.


May you find blessings

despite my simple minded worries.

I pray you need never walk alone

from your house, among the fixed

and falling stars.


Line drawings, death image insert

Ben Volman


Giora, you are too strong to fit in a few lines of poetry,

longer in the bones than all your cousins,

straight fingers black

from a stick of charcoal.


I have a notebook--you force the eye

through a line

while a hair-trigger nerve reacts

for an eyebrow, exact

with an eraser.


Giora, the watchmaker's son with straight black hair

perhaps recalls a missing sketch-pad,

the imperfect circle of closing fingers,

drawn free hand when he reaches

for the handle

of a hair-brush

to dust a fine screw

wound into the tube

of an Uzi gun.


If God lived on earth

Ben Volman


"If God lived on earth

people would break his windows." old Jewish saying


Believers

don't make very good poets:

oh, we're pleasant enough

as company--

nothing too jarring on the soul

--the dishes are washed

and the lines get written--

iambic pentameter settles the heart,

nothing skips a beat,


but our masters,

the hawks, faith or no faith,

winging out of our mud-hen sight

with blood on their wings

cursing

fouling up the lingo,

dusting up eternity

with a free hand incision

on the cosmos


God made them

throw bricks

to force the rest of us

awake:


plough up suburbia

at 4 AM

STOP!

stop taking your damned comfort so seriously--scream

the world is uneasy--SCREAM--for every silence

ballooning into the night-speak-

--in God's name--speak--

for every wound

forbidden to bleed

into words


If the dead returned

Ben Volman

The dream comes

soaking you in sweat,

a dirigible of fear,

black with anger,

floating out of the past,


disgorging bodies

of grandparents and uncles,

children groping

for stolen eye-glasses,

women graceful and doe-like

in their nudity,

overweight naked men

who resemble tinted photographs

and you gasp for air

as they quietly dress.


The children gather

to play in a corner

and you would join them,

but you are not a child.


There is café-au-lait,

tea with lots of sugar,

and the sun goes down

so we close the windows

and collect the dishes.


Their skin is firm,

there is no smell of death.

I look into familiar eyes.

They forgive us for living.


My father, Israel

Ben Volman


My father, Israel, wrestles with ghosts

who disappear at dawn.


Each night my father shatters heaven

to grapple with the Holy One

(Blessed be He)


but the bony limbs and white eyes overcome

his wrestler arms

and herdsman legs.


Let them come, so we may hold them.

Let them come, so we can drink their tears.


I take my father's place

watching through the night

as they descend and ascend.


And may beloved Abba, Israel,

sleep

for the daily work of wrestling

with me.


Letter

Ben Volman


dear friend,

along the broken way,

we have held one another

through the dry stretches,

loved the calm voice

of prayer that speaks

unfailing peace--

and now, after years

you say: "It's come.

The healing."


While you have gone

and I walk a different path

I receive your comfort.

Your healing, my friend,

is healing me.


Click page two for next poetry page

Page Two


 

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