Hadas Moalem – Poems and Photographs
After Reading Basho
I walk out of the library
its careful quiet still
resting in my ears
Asphalt shines from rain–
it could’ve been a lake at dark.
On it, red and green streaks painted
Bits of rain the size of sugar granules
greet my face. Why do I squint?
In the wet evening air
a jasmine flower’s chorus.
Clusters of heart-shaped weeds
dot the sides of the freshly wet trail
Each heart or almost heart
laid out on dark soil like gold jewelry
against black velvet
the necklace chain names also borrowed
from nature: wheat, snake, fish spine
If they could remain green once picked I’d
hang the weeds around my neck
exchange them in wedding vows
wrap them around my sister’s wrist
sell them at farmer’s markets.
What if instead of gold mining
it was weeds we sought?
Looking around the trail
we’d never want for more.
Time has a way of stretching the seconds between yellow to red
every time I catch one, the yellow stays and stays
my foot jumping from gas to break, a hummingbird
unable to decide what flower to meet first
still the yellow stays and stays –
the way we wish a sunset would
waiting out my indecision.
The rule after all is to slow down at yellow
but very few of us do
the faster we can get somewhere, the better.
Some of us feel we are owed this interval
I left on time
I was late last week, it can’t happen again
My daughter is waiting.
Only after I speed past does the red orb appear
though I am long gone
I know it without seeing it.
If only time was this merciful
when the child begs for more of it as the slide once again
brings him down to earth
more of it in your lover’s embrace
more of it before the last day of the year comes, again, to an end.
Darkening windows have you thinking: How did I do?
Did I catch enough yellows?
The Air When Walking
The lamplight hitting oval
leaves like moonlight, or silver
scales of a swimming fish.
Up above, Orion’s belt,
the constellation I’d see
walking back from orchestra
rehearsal. There every time,
the same spot of sky lit up.
Unmistakable smell of
burning wood, logs blackening
in the fireplace, smoke and
smell weaving through the cold air–
Such movement only Van Gogh
has captured. I thank the skilled
hands that lit it … were they smooth,
meaty, coarse-haired, weathered?
They arrange newspaper scraps
among the logs, giving the
flame something to hold on to,
giving us this smell,
one the whole neighborhood
inhales. So this is the scene–
Van Gogh’s suburban night
the leaves shining with something
to say, cold curling around
my neck. I cease to shiver,
warmed from the inside by this
ancient sweetness in the air,
thinking of its source. All that yellow.
The anonymous neighbor
sits, cold hands held up to it.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty is something humans created. Undoubtedly it existed long before we came along, but we are the ones who named such a concept. Perhaps unnamed beauty is the origin of life, single cell organisms slowly discovering themselves, evolving into fish, and onward, each step fulfilling its destiny. For me, the ultimate example of beauty exists in the wilderness: stoic trees and mountains, rushing rivers, endless flowers. Just as we named beauty, we also named these phenomena – how inadequate these names are! There is a reason we feel lighter after going on a hike. When we see, for example, Yosemite’s Bridal Veil falls, we know it is something not manufactured, altered, nothing put through the sieve of media or makeup. That is why so many of my ideas for poems appear when I am in nature. Even a walk in the neighborhood will do – pink blossomed trees beside a porch where two chairs sit, leaning towards each other, waiting for someone to fill them. I encourage everyone to notice and praise the beauty of nature, and maybe not give so much attention to society’s idea of what is beautiful. We can learn all we need from what we’ve named: the trees, mountains, rivers and flowers.
Hadas grew up in California but now lives in Oregon. Poetry is something that she can’t imagine her life without – reading it is when the world makes the most sense. Her favorite poets are Charles Bukowski, Jack Gilbert, and Robert Hass, among others. Other than poetry, Hadas enjoys playing the piano, baking, and swimming.