John Casquarelli – Poems and Photographs


Tempted By the Fruit of Another


From Havana Dialogue

“Your breath wakes me like a bolt from the blue:
the gingko tree is suddenly cautious
its rising leaves become unanimous
and I, dear, am setting my sail for you.”
~ Frank O’Hara (from “The Air and Sex of Early Day”)

If only my clatter and cunning
Could catch the lines you leave
On dust and digital technology
Where moonlit evenings are

Remembered not because of
Selfies and Instagram photos
Those imitation sentiments
That can never replace our

Fresh breath panting past old
Wounds when the summer cries
For that bead of sweat rolling
Down your cleavage to our

Shared forest wild and free
With every feather that we’ve
Nestled under when the dark
Calls us to that open invitation


 

Winter Stream 


From Havana Dialogue

The sea will often speak to me,
But I refuse to listen due to
My stubbornness. I get that from
My mother. Though, to be fair,

She can still distinguish the creek
From the dry air. This is how to
Maintain thirst, I tell myself.
Beyond the white pine groves,

There are shadows trembling like
The ones in Snyder’s poem.
They burn the dead branches from
My perch under the midnight equinox.

Rust and teary-eyed ducts tumbling
On the aching shoulders of a Bayamo
Dream that is nothing more than a
Seagull’s cry. A feeble attempt to

Cease entanglements when the howling
Winds of a storm comes calling. One day,
I’ll bathe in the seawater, allow myself
To be groped by the inland womb.


 

Nevermore


From Havana Dialogue (co-written by Luis Figueredo*)

I.

Claro de luna que mi camino alumbra
Con el suelo por alfombra y por luz la estrella,
Tu guías mis pasos en la penumbra
Llevando mis pensamientos hasta ella.

En el silencio de la tranquila noche
El canto de la chicharra parece sinfonía,
Que en mis oídos suena con derroche
De música grata y de alegría.

Canta la lechuza en la distancia,
Sóla vaya, mal acompañada, digo,
Y sin temor por mi camino con arrogancia
Bajo el claro de luna sigo.

De mis pasos la cuenta he perdido,
En el cielo aún la luna brilla,
Aquella estrella doquier me ha seguido
Y en el horizonte surge otra lucecilla.

Nuevo amanecer y nueva esperanza
Despuntan del horizonte en el confín,
Por el camino sigo mi andanza
Bajo el claro de luna y la estrella hasta el fin.

II.

I pull the curtains down and imagine
That you’re next to me sprawled in
Sunflowers. Not like one of those
CGI lifeless Sunday matinees that do

Nothing to cultivate our fetishes.
There are worlds that we share,
Which have yet to be defined.
Battered cars, the old apartment

My father said was my first home,
My indecision between water and
Whiskey, and watching the daylight
Pass without answers to my questions

In the humidity of palm tree July
Summers, vibrating in red hemispheres.
We admit we would do it all again.
To be that poem both here and nowhere

In time. To be symmetrical with the dim
Light in the cavern, looking up and
Thinking it’s enough to let the words
Greet us under sheets and laughter.
*In addition to being John Casquarelli’s grandfather, Luis Figueredo was a poet, musician, and businessman in Cuba. He is the grandson of Perucho Figueredo, composer of “La Bayamesa” (Cuban National Anthem).


 

Ski Basin


Artist’s Statement on Beauty

Kahlil Gibran claimed that beauty is the weaver of speech. He argued that beauty is not the image itself, but the ecstasy we feel when we close our eyes and imagine our connection to the image. That connection produces the language we use to describe beauty. Though, it can never fully and accurately articulate that feeling of ecstasy that is produced in the limbic system when we are in the presence of our various interpretations of beauty.

When I take pen to paper and arrange thoughts in a series of symbols and sounds, with black ink dancing on yellow pad on a cool autumn morning, I feel I’m in the presence of beauty. When my eyes are shut but I hear the breeze whistling through the sugarcane fields, while two young siblings run and laugh at the swaying wind, I feel I’m in the presence of beauty. The moon sonnets, jazz, bamboo, sundress, red sky, caramel apple, boyhood memory in my father’s apartment in San Juan are all examples of beauty that are not limited by the words that I choose to use to describe what I feel at that moment in that experience. Beauty is the indefinable but ever-present feeling that embraces the distance between communication and imagination


John Casquarelli is the author of two full-length collections: On Equilibrium of Song (Overpass Books, 2011) and Lavender (Authorspress, 2014). He was awarded the 2010 Esther Hyneman Award for Poetry, 2016 Kafka Residency Prize in Hostka, Czech Republic, and a 2017 residency at the Writer’s Room of The Betsy Hotel on South Beach. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Teaching as a Human Experience (Cambridge Scholars Publishing). Pilgrimage Magazine, Suisun Valley Review, Visceral Brooklyn, The Lonely Crowd and Flatbush Review.