Treasures Stored for Winter

Treasures Stored for WinterTreasures Stored for Winter
By Joan Burstyn
Published by iUniverse, 2014

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Joan Burstyn’s fourth book of poems, Treasures Stored for Winter, draws the reader into the author’s life from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. At times, personal and political events combine—as happens on the evening of June 30, 1982, when the last state legislature rejected the Equal Rights Amendment. At that moment, Burstyn stood with other women around a pond in South Orange, New Jersey, as they raised their voices in protest as remembered in “Waiting to Rise Again.” In this collection, Burstyn makes clear that life demands both awe and optimism from us.

“My first dip into Treasures Stored for Winter brings up a small package, “After Snow”; it bursts open with imagery so vibrant and glowing that I can’t help myself. I dip again, bring out “While the House Sleeps”; with its commanding imagery metaphorically I become “… a matador/swirling my red cloak/before the bull, prodding it with my words.”
—Joanna Chrzanowski, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor; chair, English Department, Jefferson College

Excerpts

Lament of Two Mothers

(After a suicide bomber blew up a bus in Jerusalem, 2004)

AN ISRAELI JEW AND A PALESTINIAN MUSLIM
In chorus where noted
In chorus
I weep for my son
His many talents lost forever
Palestinian Mother
I know that my Muhammud
found fulfillment
in the way he chose to die.
Israeli Mother
The way he chose to die!
The carnage that he caused!
Blood spattered through the bus,
my son, my Lior on his way to school,
legs, arms, brains blown out,
and you dare tell me that your son
found fulfillment
in the way he chose to die?
Palestinian Mother
Yes, I dare to tell you that.
My son did find fulfillment
in the way he chose to die.
I know within my heart
he died in Allah’s service.
While I grieve, I hold his life
was not in vain. He died victorious.
Israeli Mother
And yet, you weep?
Palestinian Mother
And yet I weep.
Israeli Mother
And yet I weep.
Both
His many talents lost forever.
Israeli Mother
My dream for Lior was shaped
by faith that God would grant
to us a peaceful life here, now, in Israel.
Your son, Muhammud, had one child
another on the way. Had he no faith in life?
Palestinian Mother
His faith in life he gifted
to his children. His forfeited his life
that they might live in peace.
Israeli Mother
But who decreed that one or other
of the two should die?
Palestinian Mother
He saw no way but Allah’s call to serve.
Israeli Mother
To serve? To kill himself!
To kill my son!
And yet, you weep?
Palestinian Mother
And yet, I weep.
He had so many talents,
he might have been a builder,
or studied science, taught his children
and others in the schools.
He saw no way but death.
And so, I weep.
Israeli Mother
And so, I weep.
Both
Their many talents lost forever.
Israeli Mother
We have to find a way, a path
out of our weeping, out of our pain.
Palestinian Mother
We have to find the power
to save our sons, our daughters.
Israeli Mother
We have to search for ways
that lead to peace and understanding.
Palestinian Mother
We have to find new ways
to nourish hope and nurture life.
Both
We have to rise up, cry out,
“Hear us, oh governing ones!
Give heed to our cry.
We both have lost our sons.
How many more, how many more
Must die?”

Between Friends

Our conversation meanders, like a lazy stream
edged by tall grasses, hiding
burrows of water rats and moles,
and bull frogs, camouflaged as stones,
croaking to each other across the water,
intermittent as two fog horns.We have hidden burrows in our lives,
mistakes we buried, quick as a squirrel,
and treasures, stored for winter,
concealed where tall grasses grow.
Our conversations meander past each one,
our words, like water, smooth the edges,
penetrate the crevices, and leave us
free to float on down the stream.

After Snow

Once more, the fir trees stand in sun
limbs sprinkled with white icing,
the ground stark as a white sheet on a bed.
A bed inviting, cool and firm.I sit watching through my window,
a voyeur of daydreams,
that turn the frigid air warm
with actions, vibrant and afire,
and promises, small embers glowing
red and orange in my mind.

Barely a Murmur

A year now, and barely a murmur,
barely a squeak of verse.
Just words marching in line
to another’s drummer, churned out
in time for deadlines. Words manicured
like nails, characters trimmed
to match each on-line specification.
No time for lavender, for black-eyed susans,
for clouds proclaiming the setting sun
in grey, slate blue, and orange,
smiling and warm, as though back-lit on stage.