Jesse Mavro Diamond ‘s poetry has been published in many journals in The U.S. Her awards include first place in Eidos magazine’s international poetry competition for “A Very Sober Story,” The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival’s “One of Ten Best Poems in the U.S.” for “Swimming The Hellespont. She was a finalist for 2014 Lascaux Poetry Prize and included in The Lascaux Prize Anthology 2014 for “Chetwynd Morning.” “An Elegy for Devron,” was musically scored by composer Mu Xuan Lin and premiered at Jordan Hall in 2008. For many years, Mavro Diamond has taught writing courses in Boston area colleges and high schools. She currently teaches English at Boston Latin School.
Ode to A Lute
In April, at the bottom of the stairs, we found a stringless lute.
I saw it first, you claimed. Besides, you joked, you’re Sephardic,
a horse thief, whereas I, Russian, Ashkenazic, am no criminal.
Take the lute, I said, and take this story, too:
If a person steals a horse, she may be on the run
from worse thieves, they may be chasing her
out of her own country. Imagine, she has no alternative
but to grab the first horse she sees, jump on it
and gallop hundreds of miles into a strange land,
changing her name as she rides, covering her face with a rag
even at night, so the moonlight will not reveal
her true identity. Understand? I asked.
But you had fallen asleep in my lap, cradling the lute.
These are the missing strings, I whisper.
I dream I am on a commuter train, stopped between stations.
I am strumming the lute when I look into the next car
and see you reading poetry. Your hair is red, curly
as when you were eighteen. Rising, I move through the door
which separates us. I sit down next to you and
we begin laughing. Leaning over, I kiss your cheek,
handing you the lute. I speak to you in Yiddish, saying,
This dream is the song my heart sings. But weeping, you say,
I live far away, there are children now. The doors open,
You rise, leaving me sitting in this car filled with strangers.
The doors close, the wheels begin turning, the train moves
forward, back to this empty bed where the July dawn
raises its humid curtain on this open-air theater
and the southern wind hisses at me through green lips.
Mercury found a hollow tortoise shell tossed upon the beach.
Its origin, like ours, was Egypt. Although the turtle’s flesh was
eroded, its nerves remained; despite an echoing moan
in the animal’s soul, when the god strummed those nerves,
the cords sprang to life, and his fingers became falcon’s wings.
Apollo’s story insists he invented the blessed bowl,
fashioning it from his sister’s bow, whose strings
sang as her arrow flew. He must have stolen the bow,
I won’t be persuaded she gave it up. Perhaps they wrestled
for the prize, as I once did for you. Why must it always be gods
who make the sweetest music, lancing a woman’s heart
with a lyric? Mercury, god of casual love, Apollo, merely handsome.
But I, a plain woman, a rabbit, spend loveless nights running
from the moon’s skinning knife through dry September grasses.
Mother of pearl was inlaid around its open mouth
as you lay sleeping, curved against my breast.
It was December yet the birds flew in and out of the blithe wood
and the Hudson sang unfrozen between its banks.
We travelled as far as the lute, from the Nile to the Aegean,
to the Adriatic, to Venice, Rome, Paris and Vienna,
this diaspora of song, with verses belonging to one poem.
I await you here, by the riverside where we parted.
The shma’teh which covers my face is this poem.
On my back I carry a hollow tortoise shell.
I pray you will find me, cradle me, claim me as your own.
Time has eroded my flesh, but my nerves remain.
I long to sit next to you, to hear you say my name.
Come, Leebling, end this golus, sing me, bring me home.