BOCIANY (STORKS): AFTER CHEŁMOŃSKI
It’s the current he supposes.
To be warmed by faltering electricity.
Women watch men watch
football on dying televisions,
men between beers.
Storks grasp bramble and twig,
not as souvenir, but as living theatre.
Chełmonski’s Poland, oil on canvas, circa 1900.
A son and father in a field on a break from work.
They admire the birds’ long sweep.
A wooden spoon frozen in the air, white faces
pink with astonishment. The beauty of nature
and all that nonsense.
While oxen wait to be
whipped into work.
And mud huts emerge, faint
after-thoughts of haulage.
All this and more. A stork’s nest,
highest point in the village,
inscribes space with I-don’t-know-what.
As though nest were
painter, a moment,
He stands beneath the spiral nest of his grandfather.
For days or months his body
studies the local superstitions.
Where a stork’s home is good luck,
where a harbinger of drowning.
He believes in proximity, worms
piling off the highway.
He coalesces dreams of black turtles
swimming in fetid waters.
He wants them to call him.
JONATHAN GARFINKEL is the author of the book of poems, Glass Psalms, and numerous plays, including the GG-shortlisted House of Many Tongues and Cockroach, adapted from the Rawi Hage novel. His memoir, Ambivalence, has been published internationally to critical acclaim. Jonathan lives in Montreal and teaches playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada.