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Christening the Dancer is available from Uccelli Press

Michael Ladanyi's interview with John Amen in the latest issue of Adagio Verse Quarterly Previous work in Spring/Summer 2003

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His website www.johnamen.com

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Amen founded and continues to edit the online literary bimonthly, The Pedestal Magazine www.thepedestalmagazine.com.

John Amen John Amen


The Reawakening

       (to a father)

Surely there is no strength in wall or ship,
Where men are lacking and no life breathes within them

                            —Sophocles

The hand in the pocket is a fist.
Even the white moon
conceals a jealous heart.

You taught this,
gave me the boa of skepticism,
advised me to study suffering,
scorn the sufferer.

Like an initiate in a cult,
I wandered rivers and swamps
feeding on stalks and algae
until I reached a frozen sea
where I sat as prescribed,
nakedly lotus style.

My reptilian legacy
wound about my torso
like a steel girdle.
Beneath our weight,
ice cracked its vow.
We plunged together
into a rimy uterus.

In that dark womb,
the coils grew flaccid.
Sap surged through my veins
like electricity restored
after a power outage.
I threw the dead thing from me
as if it were a kudzu vine
yanked from a sapling.

I saw far above,
like a star beyond
a black hole's suck,
a pinhead of light,
my arm extended toward it
like the bow of a ship.

Gliding up the canal
toward that shimmering orifice—
a root bursting its husk—
I crowned the surface.

Unfamiliar tongues conducted me,
my gasps harmonizing with the dawn.
As if your spell had been broken,
my pores blossomed arias.

Like an amnesiac suddenly remembering,
I recognized the palm trees,
that I was not perishing in some boreal sea,
your constrictor crushing my rib cage,
but lying on the breast of a warm beach
as if in the arms of a wet nurse.

Surrounded by relieved faces, I saw
open hands—they resembled
my own.



Angelica Tells Her Story

I used to ride a bus to the suburbs, visit my insane
sister in her white prison, floors lined with withered petals,
pages from her bloody diary. On days of armistice and amnesty,
I would have my palm read by a bald gypsy. Sometimes soldiers
showered me with gewgaws. My mother was a mannequin with red eyes.
I watched the earth swallow my father limb by limb.
I remember my old town as you remember an eccentric aunt;
snapshots emerge from thorny darkness;
words and incidents wash over me like hunger.
Those of us born in silence, Marta, know a sacred sound
when we hear it. Oh, I suffered until laughter
crawled up the birth canal of my heart and cried its lungs awake.
I grieve for my sister, still chained to the storm in her gray pulp;
my mother, who died looking out a window; my father,
who left behind account books, a car we sold on the internet.
Paradox is my native tongue. Oh Marta, when late April dawns,
when snows melt and spring is suckled by winter's legacy,
I want to remember where I come from. If I forget,
please, will you remind me?