Sunday, April 1, 2007


I tramped along the bed of a dried up stream.
A downcast stork trudged toward me.

Without exchanging greetings
We passed each other by ...

Janis Baltvilks

Everywhere i traveled in Lithuania and Latvia I saw storks. Because i am here for the "Poetry Spring" festival, I am arriving as the storks arrive. The storks bring good luck, so nesting platforms are built to attract them. They are seen on steeples, telephone poles, and following the farmers as they turn over the soil in the fields.
Before I left Maine, I had been working with a group of Somali refugees in Portland, for an 8 week poetry project. One of the things that they told me was that storks bring good luck, and that they try to attract them to their houses. In Latvia I bought a book called "Latvia - Land of the Storks", which showed the migration routes for the storks. The storks fly two basic routes from Africa to the Baltics, one along tha Atlantic Coast, and the other eastward to the eastern end of the Mediterranean and down into Africa to, yes, Somalia, so my friends in both places could be seeing the same birds, their luck interconnected.
Unluckily for the storks, and other migrating species, their migrations take them through Iraq, and the beginning of the recent Iraq war, the "shock and awe" phase, took place just when the storks were beginning their journey north.

I had been working with Somali mothers and their first thru third grade children. The kids were writing poems in English, the mothers were writing poems in their native language and then I was having the kids translate the poems for me. The kids told me that the women had written a poem about me. The women would only laugh gleefully when I asked them about the poem. The kids said that it referred to a Somali story, and tried to tell me about it. I wrote a poem based on lines that the kids gave me. The white bird in the poem is, yes, a stork.

What the Somali Women Told Me

She tells me that my long beard
is as useless as the tall grass
surrounding my house like weeds.
I tell her that I
am a man of wissdom, and luck.
A white bird sits on my roof.
Once a woman carried me
on her back.
I could see everything.
I felt I could fly,
like eagle, like owl.
Her breasts are large with milk.
Her fingers are covered with jewels -
rubies, emeralds and gold.
She says:
Your beard is empty.
The wind fills your house.
The birds have flown away.

1 comment:

Tyler said...

LOL. Yep. She's right about the beard. I enjoyed this poem, and your site. Thanks for sending the link. Oh, you should fix the word, 'wissdom.'-Tyler