the poetry that matters

Daniela Elza

Daniela Elza lives in Vancouver, BC, and is currently working on her first full length poetry manuscript and contemplating her doctoral thesis in Philosophy of Education at SFU. This year her work appeared in Verse Map of Vancouver, Press 1, VallumMatrix, qarrtsiluni, Poetic Inquiry (Sense Publishers, 2009), 4poets (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2009) and is forthcoming in educational insights, The Trumpeter, and The New Orphic Review. Her website is: http://strangeplaces.livingcode.org/

“We have to understand the artistic process not only as
an attempted solution of a paradox, but as the paradox itself.
What one knows, one cannot say, and once said
it is no more the same.”

from How Pictures Mean by Hans Hess

putting words          in the mouth             of a picture

the whole                        picture is                         just
part                                   of a bird:                          how the
words                                                                           hunger for

the image.                      where
                                           black wings                     touch
at the shoulders                                                      the light                    
seeps                                through                           the seams                  
                                                                                       of feathers
                                           and it looks
like                                    a multitude                    of paths                     
we are                              each                                

but it is                            right now.                      right here
in this dark                    nugget                             of a crow’s
this                                   moment                          is a light                    
beam                               marking the                   exiled                        

green                               distance                          with blue                  

I take                                                                          breath
from feather                to feather                  
from shaft                     to shaft.                           hang onto
each.                               while someone             is
running                          their fingers                  over
the barbs                       interlocking                  prosaic                      
closing                                                                      the arched                 
doors                                                                        of our eyes.



“...when meaning holds still long enough
to get its picture taken, it is dead.”
—Jan Zwicky


symmetry is              where                         I will go
when                            I die.                           it pleases

the eye                       (but barely)               in a way
regimented              controlling                 what is                      

the way                      graves                           line up
precisely                   neatly.                          white

not to waste             any time.                   
(to see                        is no challenge          to the mind.

green                          not to waste               any space.

so busy                      re-arranging              the bones.
re-aligning               them                             with the eye.

red                              to beautify                 what has been

                                     regimented.              ashes                         
so precise

it hurts                                                            (to know                   

is                                 where we go.


“... even the philosophy of metaphor is inescapably metaphorical.”
—K. Simms 

true                            or false                       (a triptych

in language)              we become                true
or false.                       in metaphor             (we en.counter

the chaos)                  ensuing                      from
the flapping               of a wing                    in the east.

stir.ring                      a tornado                   Nietzsche
thought                      science—                    
the cemetery   
of perception
.         Neil.s Bohr                saw                             
                                                                             the atom

as a drop                    of water.                    
the philosophy       of metaphor             is inescapably

to define it                 is . to . see                 how close
we can                        get to                           a bird

it takes off.                                                      the measurement

ir.relevant.              the pursuit                left
                                      in (the mouth          open.)

negotiating with the dead
                        (at the Mountain View City Cemetery, Vancouver)

here    the grass grows over                       words—
a dandelion past bloom                  a daisy.

I read:                                                 gone but not
(and have to move   a clump of clover
to find)                                              

in _______ memory
(and a tuft of grass leans gently over)


in the sun                   or shade of    cedar 
each plaque sits                    like a closed book.

each numbered.      here even the manhole
cannot be ignored—                       
                                       craves its own cosmology.


a crow flies up          claws the sound
                                       of my startled breath.

such stillness spans                         10 city blocks
 and the traffic could be
                                      the  r u  s   h    i     n      g       
of a          r  i   v    e     r.

another crow             is spirited                  a w a y—
how does one            speak              with the dead?

apples on an altar?   oranges?        plantain?
incense?         a ritual?          ashes of offerings?
fresh flowers?
                          a special holiday?                                       

what would I say     to my grandfather                if
I could visit his grave? would I come with a pail
of fresh water            to this inverted city where

we the living are upside down.     would I sit—
a shadow        a silhouette   and grow roots of light
right into        the ground?


and what grief lies buried                over there

under the rusty cedar. dry.             a monument
or flame?        we don’t say                goodbye

in  this library              of lives
lest we forget               are uncountable—

1949    1951    1953    this is not       a private affair.
seven rows of 1950.              four fields of honor

among the cedar                   under cherry blossoms

under the fingers of             maple leaves
that grip the ground with each                  fall

from the bee to the mountain view           hold it

            as        time rolls off a blade
of grass                                  disappears

in the many years             chiseled         into stone.


tabula e rasa

over a bowl of tomatoes as big as two fists
roasted red peppers in vinegar and garlic

your philosophy—              un-sliced
bread and white cheese.

under a walnut tree           we sit
in the deep shade of summer

pull cold water         out of a well
book knowledge growing weak in our hands.

in a courtyard           lined with fig trees
the grammar of their leaves           blooming on

white-washed walls.                          is it here
Locke saw                 his tabula rasa?


so what if we discuss           Plato?
so what if we conclude       he was unkind

to poets?                    we spread butter on bread
dip in roasted eggplant      that melts in the mouth

and the breeze?        the breeze here         knows
how to play with loose hair           how to tangle
the sleeves of shirts              on lines of laundry.

what you touch knows        what you think
even if            you do not care        about verse.

how you cut it          serve it           speaks
morsels of truth.

we turn to the news.            all of a sudden
there is not much left          to debate.       
                                       This War.

as if     all is clear.    as if
                                       what more could be said?

                                       there will be dead.

the sun           a bright walnut         caught
in the top of the tree                        
                                       its light filters through
the leaves above our heads

                                       and dances

on the edge of           a plate of olives.
what more                 could be said?

                                                (downtown Vancouver)

alleys(have no fixed addresses):
       no front door stoops;

# shortcuts coding the city
# with their pragmatic and dirty

/* kind of beauty. an apothem's
  relentless straightedge */

functions() of a hyperbolic map
where roads only turn right;

<the> alley fails a pi[d]geon-faced dealer
his bicycle navigating </crowds>

whoDwellBehind theNormals in
life. thisMetaspace of precariousCables;

dumpsters_and_bugs         crashing

among-the-crows     the-circuits
of old-benches                 where travellers
chalk their-secret-language

(on (the (underbelly (of) the) city)—here)

a thousand: kilometers of: short cuts
threading the: longest path: through


to {the | pharmacy} with {no | pain} killers
(a poem written in collaboration between Dethe Elza  (http://livingcode.org) and Daniela Elza weaving programming syntax and vocabulary through the back alleys of Vancouver.)


Some of these poems were originally published in dANDelion, Matrix, qarrtsiluni, and Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry (Mother Tongue Publishing Ltd., 2008) and 4poets (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2009). tabula e rasa won an Honorable Mention at the 17th SWiC Poetry Contest (2009).
Author photo by Frank Lee (flee.com)

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