Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "The Stain," a previously unpublished poem by Ellen W. Kaplan. Ms. Kaplan is an actress, director, playwright, and professor of theatre at Smith College. Her plays and poetry speak to growth, hope, and the stages of a woman’s life. She has performed and had work produced in several countries, including: Israel, China, Ireland, Romania, and Costa Rica; she also brings theatre into prisons and other non-traditional spaces. She has published a book about mental illness on stage and published essays on Jewish, Chinese, and Argentinian theatre. Her poetry has appeared in: The Deronda Review, WordsMyth, The Voices Project, and MomEgg.
Ellen W. Kaplan
I keep returning to the stain
From water licking at the roof
Reminder of the rain, grey discoloration
On the ceiling, spreading to the floor,
Coming through the windows, shadow on the walls.
What I’ve seen, what has been seen,
Will be soon be seen no more.
Genius, to chisel out a window from a wall.
Much more revealing than a simple door!
Memory penetrates through windows and permeates it all;
I tremble to recall. Still, the wilding blind unconscious
Swallows light. Bliss and blisters, all.
Gaudy night, jaguar night that fast devours day –
the last sweet sigh of fleeting light, before we go away.
Scenes of bedroom love and searing rages
Birth and death contained; in this room, the shifting contours of the stain
Resolve, dissolve and disappear in hungry darkness.
The door is open now, yawning like the gullet of a newborn bird.
I see the flames behind me now, at the mouth of illusion’s cave.
Screen of shadows, walls and windows
Ceiling, stain. Signs of sweet sleep now,
What I’ve seen, what has been seen
Will be soon be seen – no more.
Poet's Notes: I’ve always believed that much of the initial work on a poem happens unconsciously. This poem bubbled to the surface after a prolonged illness, when the scope of my daily existence was limited to my bedroom. The structure emerged after several revisions; the alternations in line length, the repetitions and variations, the internal rhymes and occasional end-rhymes intend to evoke the rhythms of life lived in stages, moving through life’s milestones towards joyful acceptance, deep understanding, and ultimately the end of all.
Editor's Note: The stanzaic structure of this poem serves its purpose well, as the rich memories of the past--the cinquains--are followed by the terse couplets of the present. The language chosen enhances the story and, setting the story aside, creates an aural experience that is of interest in its own right, full of end-line and inter-line rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and consonance. These devices are used with care, as a chef uses spices to accent rather than overwhelm a dish. The conceit--opaque stain as (trans)lucent memory--is thought-provoking, even breathtaking. The mood evoked--full of longing, regret, and resignation--clings without cloying.