Esther Kamkar Poetry Selection:

Poems of Love and Longing

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


On the Banks of a Quiet River

I take care of the children
tonight, you are warmer
soft and trusting
like a ripe peach
falling from a tree
knowing the hands
that would hold it
would be good
hands and the mouth
would know the language
of its sweetness.

To Quiet This Hunger

To quiet this hunger,
I'll put my mouth to your eyes.
First to the left eye,
the one connected to your brain,
cool and cautious.
Then I'll put my mouth
to your right eye,
warm and liquid,
the one that knows the way
to your soul and lets
me in to meander through.

Take me.
Take me in.
Take me to the place of the velvet
brown-eyed wolves, to the full mouth
of the ocean.

In the Throat of a Bear

Not a black sheep,
Not even a lion,
I want him like a bear
A brown bear
Warm, wide and heavy
As brown as Zuni rock
Who feeds his laughter
With the music
Of his tongue
Running his fingers
Through my hair
To sooth
To breathe me in
With that hum of
In his throat.
Hummingbird Conditions

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If you tell me, with the almost unbearable
hum of your wings
that you are leaving me
I'll beg you not to go
and send baskets of red
flower-kisses to your door.
I am filled with longings and dreams;
half flower, half woman.

You are my hummingbird;
half bird, half gem.
your purple throat could have been enough.

You hover, fan your gold-green
feathers, take nectar.
Your breath is my breath.
My voice. My voice.
And for you my hummingbird
I sing of baskets and baskets of kohlaria blossoms.
My heart, your fast beating wings.

Three Poems On Being

On Being Real

My mind-eye's image of my body
Is not real, but my body is real.

Like the mirrors in the house
The love between us is real.

On Being Surrealistic

I listen to my mother
Tell her dreams:

Angels carrying rolls of
Persian rugs under their wings

Fly through her windows
Laughing, she waves them in.

My mother sends back
The carriage waiting at the door,

Waiting to take her somewhere she
Doesn't want to go. To the rider

My father now dead for ten
Years, she shouts:

I'm still looking for my stockings
You go ahead without me.

What to tell a teacher
Who gives me ten words

Five nouns, five strong verbs, and
Ten minutes to write

Who glances at her watch and pleads:
Go! Try to be surrealistic?

On Not Being a Mummy

His presence and four plain
Words out of his mouth

And the unwrapping begins
Hundreds of yards of linen unwind

Layer by layer
Long strips of prayer, unfurl

As I spin, I shed salt
Resin, amulets, false eyes

Heart and stomach
Fill with moisture

Pupil and iris
Light with life.
Skin supples and aches

Never Knew this Place Was Here

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The woman says to the man:
Your eyes remind me of a deer we once had.
It belonged to my brother; it ran away.

The man says to the woman:
When you cry and I taste your mouth;
I think of the estuary in Pescadero
Where sweet river waters mingle with the ocean.
Where stubborn barnacles are like bunches of flowers.
Where sea anemones open, open their mouths,
Close and open again.
Where the deer cross the field of yarrow and verbena,
Pass hemlock and bush lupine,
To come down
Down to the sweet water to have a drink
Before it's gone.
This Silent Language Between Us

You speak to me in paisley on velvet
I speak to you in embroidered cashmere.

I show you the cascade of my hair, turquoise
and silver, abalone bear with a coral heart-line.

You show me the fire in your eyes, grapes
on silk, curves of Japanese clouds on black.

You give me a box of English caramels
and I give you a poem.

You offer me an orange in the palm
of your hand and I take it.

We are natives of this fluent language
We mean every word we do not say.
The Message

I am calling to see
If you want to go
To the mountains
To see the leaves

Neither to touch nor to have
Only to see
This fall and the next
And the next
To see you, sweet like a bite of dark
Chocolate I imagine, you
Who listen with your heart-ear

Your share of the feast:
Is it the leopard?
Is it the angel with the golden wings?
Is it my voice?

Ojos Calientes

Ojos Calientes And these days I am
thinking of that December day
in Ojo Caliente
where the lake was frozen
and we listened to Fernando
play Kokopeli Dreams
on his flute
in the wind
in that beautiful
and austere place.

Where we peered
so cautiously
into each holy
eye of the earth
in whispers
so careful not to intrude
in that austere
and beautiful place
when Fernando played
Amazing Grace on his flute.

And I remember all
the light
the softness
the wonder
and the utmost care
not to intrude
as when I look
into your eyes
the tenderness, the tenderness
that is what I remember.

Map of a Garden: You Are Here

I float above my personal atlas to
Find a garden.

I draw contour lines and color fields
Let them fill in like growth rings
The way I imagine the
Landscape of a poem and make
A poem-map, compass rose
Pointing inward and out.

From toothbrush to bedtime story is
The map of a lucky child's day
The map of "Smoke Maker" with
Six directions, a veil and a blindfold

Saffron page after
Saffron page of projections
Territories common and rugged
As stones foliate and fade

I lay pins on the new
Map of the new garden:
A pin for sun
A pin for grapes
A pin for lilacs
A pin for ladybugs

You Are Here.

The map of my garden
On this private meridian has
A pavilion with cushions
A fountain with peacock-green tiles
A path from one to the other

Three pins for honeysuckle and pleasure

I am here at the intersection of
Here and Now

Where golden rose and jasmine
Replace the noxious
Weeds of disturbed places
Where clarity of sky
Prevents its falling


Every summer-end my mother sent me to the rose garden.
I filled my skirt with rose petals and brought them into the kitchen.

She wanted to make her rose-petal jam. The blooming roses
Gave me their gifts. I caught them in mid-air. I was as patient

As the rose buds, never unfurled them. Sometimes they opened,
Grew beautiful before my eyes. Sometimes they didn't.

When I left home they threw water behind me
For Light and for Safe-Journey. My father wrote me

For many years and started his letters :
Dear Light of My Eyes.

Sending You Off

I am a bird of paradise
Luminous and fiery
In my flowered dress
A red ribbon
Braided in my hair
Waving and waving
In the wind.

No embraces
No farewells
Only longings and the dream
Of all those avocados on the tree
I can not quite reach.

All this love I give you
Is yours, not to give back
But to squander.

Joys of a Simple Meal

Bring me
A loaf of rough bread
A ladle of olives
A handful of figs

A token of feta cheese that
Comes from the sheep of Kefalonia
A bunch of muscadine grape that
Grows wild and

Half a pomegranate
I will eat
Be filled and satisfied
No hunger for even

One morsel
Of fancy foods
Or for love
If you bring me

In This Dry, Amber Air

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In the mountains, among columbine, Jacob's ladder
Shootingstar, snow and granite,
On the Continental Divide,
I think of the choices
Between saving and burning
Between silk and barbed wire.

When I find you again
I will tell you:
I would if I could
Live in the cave
Of your two arms, your chest and your jaw-bone;
On the other hand
I am afraid to touch you
In this dry, amber air
I am afraid I would start a fire.

Gestures in Red

He puts his arms around her.
Her forehead on his shoulder burns
The cloth, to the bone.

He kneels before her
To trim a loose thread
Hanging from her shawl.
His large hands are delicate, and his eyes
Gentle, when he looks up.

He brings his palms together
And bows without speaking a word.
His face blossoms like a dark- red rose.

Let Us Pretend

Let us pretend
We are in Ivory Coast
In the village of Bonduku.

Let us pretend
I am a Baoulé woman who brings
Home fresh meat wrapped in leaves
And you are a mahogany statue
My spirit spouse.

I put my mouth to your ear and whisper
My sorrows,
You listen.
Your lashes over your half-lidded eyes
Your mouth broad and finely cut
You listen and you stay.
You are my spirit spouse.

You receive me when I need you.
I breathe in your warm laughter,
And you remember everything
Like elephants do.


In my dream sheets of honey comb cover the closet floor
Who needs eyes in a house like that.