Monday, October 26, 2009

How You Like These Apples?

I discovered an interesting poet on
whose primarily subject matter is religion. It strikes me because of the way she captures it; though Lauren Kizi-Ann Alleyne writes free verse, she does best with structures of her own making. In truth, anyone that can write within the confines of a set format, whether traditional or self-made, and still relay something as powerful and full as Allenye does is inspiring. I struggle with format more than benefit from it. Sometimes, I start a poem anticipating it a sonnet, pantoum, or villanelle and get completely lost in the rules of the format and as a result the subject matter suffers. That's one of the reasons I am so in awe of this lady. To talk of a such a loaded topic as religion and frame it so well is a good bit of skill and talent.

Allenye is an islander; she was raised in the twin republic of Trinidad and Tobago, another one of the reasons why I like her. In 2002, she received her Master's in Creative Writing from Iowa State University; and in 2008, she received her MFA in Creative Writing and Graduate Certification in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality from Cornell University. She has been published in The Caribbean Writer, The Banyan Review, the Black Arts Quarterly to name a few. In 2003, she was declared winner of Altantic Monthly's Student Writing Contest among other honors. She is now a visiting assistant professor at Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, New York. I am going to include three of my favorites: "Fear and Trembling, "Ash Wednesday," and "Taste of Apples." Enjoy!

Fear and Trembling
-- After Kierkegaard
Lauren K. Allenye

And there are many ways to come undone
—some more exquisite than others. Ask Eve,
she will tell you apple-lust unwrapped her
left her cold and with a word for shiver.
Lot's wife is witness that a backward glance
is enough—nostalgia pillared her. But,
I imagine the somewhat greater deeds:
picture the Red Sea unstitched like a braid;
the lion's den, its many hungry mouths;
Isaac's bewildered screams: why, daddy, why?
And what terrible choice to peel back doubt
like a bandage, without question or lack
to say Here am I, to renounce relief:
step in, seize the knife, and to know belief.

Ash Wednesday
Lauren K. Allenye

This is where the journey begins: at the end
of a thumb blackened: imprinted: set apart:
sacrificial: hairshirted: mea culpa & I'm sorry,
Lord, so sorry: surrender: reconciliation: a pact:
the body reviled: the body denied: the body
transformed to holy hunger: the temple
sealed for a necessary restoration: gutted:
these the stripes: this the desert: the constant
question/confession: despair: this is where
the journey begins: on the knees: supplicant:
eyes desperately shut: give me a sign:
& is this even prayer: I mourn a simpler faith:
the mustard seed: the certainty of ashes: mass
the sun piercing the window: its stained glass

The Taste Of Apples
Lauren K. Allenye

These days there is speculation; they say it was not an apple Eve held to Adam’s mouth
and ground against his teeth; it was a fig, they say,

maybe a mango, perhaps a pomegranate, a plum – fruit more exotic and tempting,
more worthy of the Fall. I know apples, polished

skin like blood like wine like war binding tight the white flesh, the black pits
pressed into the narrow center sleeping like sin like sex

like hunger. They say Paradise was tropical, filled with sultry days and balmy nights
too unlike the chill autumn winds needed for apples

to thrive, to come to full fruit. They say it comes down to the geographic impossibility.
I know apples, the way the taste of them knots

the tongue in thick accents, the sandy bite, the sharp sound of separation and the jagged hole
it leaves, the tempered flow of juice of tears of sweetness.

They still say that Eve should have known better, been wiser; should never have strayed,
or disobeyed her creator’s command. But I know apples –

the way the first bite sticks in the throat, the dark rush of knowing, the heady flavor,
the echo of the serpent’s hiss, saying taste, taste and see.

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