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“The Listening Place” by Ed Frankel

We are TAPping into the poetry of Ed Frankel, the award-wining American-Jewish writer who could never lose his Russian, Lithuanian and German cultural heritage. His poem was inspired by Paul Celan who often returns to his turbulent childhood in World War II  in his poetry. “The Listening Place” reminded our Visual Arts Editor Kati Szekér of the painting titled “Turbulent Time” of Angelika Tóth to enhance our experience.

Ed Frankel divides his time between Sonoma County in Northern California and Los Angeles, where he teaches at UCLA BA and MFA programs. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and he has published two chapbooks: When the Catfish are in Bloom: Requiem For John Fahey and People of the Air, which won the New American Chapbook prize in 2008. He won first place prizes and awards in the 2015 Dogwood Journal of Poetry and Prose Competition, The 2010 Little Red Tree International Poetry Competition, the 2009 New Millennium Poetry Competition, the 2006 Winning Writers War Poetry competition, the Hackney National Poetry competition 2006, and the 2003 Confluence Poetry competition. He was nominated three times for the Pushcart Best of the Small Presses Poetry Prize and the California Book Award and was invited to read at the Strokestown International Poetry festival in Ireland. 


                The Listening Place


To fill the decanted space, The Unfinished Listening,

your words cleaved and sealed a cleft out of which

you imagined they bloomed as “petals of the soul,”

habits and pretense, ethics to live by. 


My words are meridians and polytropes that transport me

 where you and I find each other walking double,

you, from the desert, the dark, older brother,

me from beyond the pale of settlement.

Two shades of blood, the same ancient language

but separate mothers.

My dark presumptions became a habit I can’t relinquish,

a second volatile skin.

We brought different things across the border.


We suffered the identical cutting,

 the knife at the throat and root of the word,

when the “honor Door” carried us away

in descant lineage.


You were the first to unseal the riddle–

that “No-one,” “The Nothing,” “The No-One’s Rose”

 could have also been canticles, more than eulogies or dirge

that in spite of themselves do more than mourn the dust.

The pretense that something can be born from Nothing,

 and only Nothing will bring me in.

But homecomings can be dangerous and often require 

 extreme renditions and measures “pressed down” for keeps.


At least sometimes we know how to count what is important—

What we saw from the hotel window cleaving the lake,

light or pretense of Light.


By the author:

“…Even if Paul Celan wasn’t mentioned explicitly, He and Nellie Sachs ghost through the poem as do other relevant themes. We are all anchored somewhere in the past, some of us in more than one place. For many of us this gravitational pull (is it longing, love, the mystery of a captured imagination) happens between the ages of 14 to the early twenties, I believe. The depression and World War II defined my parents and all of my relatives’ lives. Since I was 15, my compass has pulled me back to Europe between the first and the second wars. I knew people who fought against Franco both in the American Lincoln Brigade and the International Brigade. My grandparents were Russian and Lithuanian socialists and my real initial intellectual and artistic education came at the hands of my uncle, a Berlin Jew who was in the camps and with whom I stayed and had a lot of contact. When I lived with him he would pull books off of his shelf and say, Na ja nephew, you need to read this: Stephan Zweig, Rilke, Mandelstam, Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Kafka (Celan’s go to guy along with Mandelstam) George Bernard Shaw, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley. I’ve always had one American foot in that world. My parents first language was Yiddish.” (Ed Frankel)



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