Esther Kamkar Poetry Selection:

Poems of Healing

Click poem headings below to open and again to close each poem


"How may I touch you across
this chasm of thrown things?"
Li Young Lee - The Winged Seed

I say,
Don't be afraid.
Take a leap across
And you may find
Only yourself

Then I say,
Don't be afraid.
Take a leap in
And you may find
An angle of light
Where the discarded
The scraps, the crushed
Look alive and mysterious.

Then begin to salvage
The thrown things:
Twisted pieces of wire,
Ragged pieces of rope,
Shattered mirrors.

Collect, trim
Sand the edges
Buff to a luster
Arrange and glue
Assemble and mount.

Step back,
Look again with tenderness.

If you like
The kind of shadow it makes
You will be consoled.

If Colors Could Heal

For Sally

I wrote:
A purple taffeta
Headdress is in the mail,
no one will notice
the loss of your hair
you'll look exotic.

She wrote:
In Penland, I marbled
paper with a peacock feather
motif, to make beautiful books.
It was painful to walk from my room
to the studios.
I was in pain.

I wrote:
A long green and red
marbled silk scarf
is in the mail.
Wrap it around your neck
to make the pain
slip away from your bones.

She wrote:
I am mending
my grandmother's quilt
adding new patches
of pink satin and blue velvet
to enter in a contest.

I wrote back:
Lengths of yarn
from the shawl
I am weaving, are now in the mail,
turquoise, black and purple
in cotton, chenille and mohair.
You could borrow my shawl
for the winter
if you like the colors.

She wrote back:
These are not my colors,
my mouth is sore.
I eat baby food
jars of carrot-orange
and beet-blood red.

My crazy quilt didn't win.
I am pain-crazy,
tear out of bed every night
and rip the tubes.

Turquoise, black and purple
are not my colors,
ash- dark is my color
dirt-brown is my color
grass-green is my color.
Colors of
my breasts, my womb, my bones
ash-dark, dirt-brown, grass-green.

You Called To Ask Why It Is Essential For Me To Keep The House

Please forgive me my head
full of windows, doorknobs,
I'm in love with the lemons on the tree

When I said, this place you are watching
on TV, in Paris, I have been there
My children were amazed

I told them:
I was a human being
even before I was your mother

Forgive me my head full of
saffron, garlic, and parsley
and every good thing passing through this house.

Redoing The Pantry At Fifty

In the kitchen pantry behind the jars of plum jam,
pickled eggplant and garlic, I keep seven steel boxes
labeled with the year I put away a few things
along with my eyes, my ears, my heart and my hands.

In this box from '65, I keep my brother's violin, a golden
framed mirror, my eyes and my ears.

In this one from '67, I save the war, a map of the Old City,
an encyclopedia and my eyes.

In the one marked '69, I keep the copper plates
of the etchings, two candlelabra and my hands
smelling of kerosine.

And in this one labled 1970, I keep Channaleh;
her body crushed under a Greek train,
the fifty liras I owed her and my shivah-sitting eyes.

Into this unmarked box I shoved my heart,
my ears, my eyes and my hands
tangled in red ribbons of the men's laughter.

This one from '79 holds a few photographs
from Paris, an unused train ticket to Nice
and my heart. My French heart.

In this one marked Old Stuff , I keep Chagall, Picasso,
O'Keefe and Woolf in black and white, pictures
of their faces and their hands along with my own hands
and my heart pounding.

These are my steel boxes.

It is time to redo the pantry shelf in the kitchen
this year, time to bring in baskets
made of hair, silk, rafia and a little clay.

New Year's Day, 2005

In the dancing steam rising
Between them, you can see it

How the falling and the rising
Are one and the same

You can see how the wet earth
And the sun want one another

Instead of Words

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Instead of words
Black on white
Strung on wire and
Shaped into hooks
For hanging our longings
We need

Warm skins
Eyes, hands and
Lips to say:
Here we are
This is good and
It is enough

We need
Listening hearts
Yes, I
Hear you
Hear you
Hear you

Floating Poem: Wings over Water

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Recuperation is when you forget
The weight of your body
And your arms, legs and torso
Spread wider than lily pads,
Though your brain
Scans the edges, watchful;
Nothing pulls you down.

And when your mother tells you:
You have healing hands;
You say:
No, I want my own hands to be healed
Every knuckle, pad and palm.

Because your aim
Is not to cure your wound,
But to keep it clean,
You float
Exposed, unafraid of the darkness beneath.

At the End of the Tunnel

They told us:
With patience
you shall make sweet
sweet halvah
from sour grapes.
I put salt
on my sour grapes
and I eat them.

They told us:
There is a light
at the end
of the tunnel.

We make believe
that the dark
is less
than the light;
we walk tenuously.
We stumble,
but we are patient;
we wait
for that light
at the end
of the tunnel,
as we watch our seeds
in the dark
cupboard of our kitchens
and our babies
in the darkness
of our wombs
and we still
wait for the light.

I want to tell you
the light
cannot get through
because at the far end
of the tunnel
a pomegranate tree

is growing.

It feeds on light.
It stores light.

In the harshness
of drought
followed by flood,
a pomegranate
bursts open.
A glowing globe;
neither bruised
nor wounded.
Open: to show
beauty and power.
Each seed
translucent and fiery,
each seed transparent
with a visible heart.

We journey
through our tunnels
and in the spaces
between them.
We receive
comfort and joy.
We receive
pain and loss.

We eat them.

And with luck
we burst open.
We glow.