Friday, December 24, 2010

Janine Pommy Vega (1942-2010): "The Last Watch"

The Last Watch
(from Poems to Fernando, 1968)

The monk's prayer sung bowed down in the dome
comes around ascending sound
calling far as the land reaches
Wakefulness now in the last watch —
Lord near us!
& churchbells toll no hour thrice….

dogs barking endlessly nightlong, a sign
of the ending of days, are lain down in stillness;
From my threshold of silence candlelighted I listen
alone, the flourish of wind through the trees —

dawn of grey rose, expansion of morning.

Awake! lone bird at my window exulting
each morning just now pure voice of clear water
over scales sings his varying plainchant,
Occasional cock’s crow of distance immersed
in his heraldry clear as the altitude of bells

: Delight of the First Day sings Origin’s creature
Joy blessed with creation, and the reigning of light!
A shower of thistlefall tongue could not tell
of this river I listen to, silver and lilting
and Swiftly Gone; merged beneath morning
he returns to his home unseen among fountains.

From flickering room, grey shades of the window
I come into clarity, deep blue beginning
the sky again round in the East, and extending
the breadth of horizon/ scarlet Ariel hearth until sunrise.

Dawn waiting under the branches,
Morning leaps out of my eye!
Celestial candles coinciding at sunrise!
Red-Golden the tolling of bells rolls over me!
Sounds falling in one enormous voice, foretelling
the day by its chorus, expanding horizons onto
heaven: for empty of thee the psalm perishes.

Word has come that Ms. Vega passed away yesterday, December 23. Here is a brief biography from her website:
Janine Pommy Vega is the author of eighteen books and chapbooks since 1968. The latest is The Green Piano, (Godine, 2005). Her first CD, Across the Table, recorded in Woodstock, and from live performances in Italy and Bosnia, came out in November, 2007. An Italian translation of her travel book Tracking the Serpent (Sulle tracce del serpente, Nutrimenti, Rome) was published in July 2007. Her translations from Spanish of migrant workers' poems, Estamos AquĆ­, came out from Bowery Books in 2007. Vega performs with music and solo, in English and Spanish, in international poetry festivals, museums, prisons, universities, cafes, nightclubs, and migrant workers' camps in South America, North America and Europe. She is the Director of Incisions/Arts, an organization of writers working with people behind bars, and has taught inside prisons for more than twenty-five years. She currently teaches a course in poetics for Bard Prison Initiative. She has worked as well in creative writing programs in public schools, elementary through high school-all grades for over twenty years.

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