Julia Friedlander

Winner of the Louise Louis / Emily F. Bourne Student Award in 2002

Tonality Sinking


When my name was Brigitte Bardot

The blackbirds are gone before I notice
that the threshers have been there,
they must have looked on as
the grass went to seed.
For years I have sought to see them role the bales,
to ball a field like yarn.
Biology speaks on ecological succession,
it does not count us into its calculations
when it sees a field a forest.
To picture the field as Monet La Gare Saint Lazare:
a novelty worthy of notation,
a lift in a chorus line,
the high note for the mezzo soprano,
and however painful it is.

Latin speaks of the Via Appia that
connected Rome Brundisium,
a tool for transport, a quickening communication.
I am told of the canal that ended
the Cape of Good Hope,
that killed the aspect of travel revelation.
The light bulb idea for Panama's dissection,
or the desiccation of boat creativity.
Somewhere there must be a sound argument
for pride of place, a prejudice or
persistent penchant for a Self Containment Policy.
We dig out now,
detesting the shoveled dirt
in our trowels,
yet doing it for the sake of more somewhere else,
we throw off solid possession.

In terms of painting hay bales,
in terms of praising fallen trees and plowshares
and in terms of playing with ideals trapped in old Johannesburg,
drizzle balsamic on mesclun
and drink expresso until Deep Impact.
If the pelican is a masochist or a savior
wear Egyptian cotton and buy a plot near Cairo's Tut.
Biology has never spoken on fatal segregation.

A fairy tale existed for one woman,
with unfiltered cigarettes and a symbol called sex
before her waist was 24 inches.
She baled up filter paper too quickly for anyone to notice
what she was rolling and died to show for it all,
just as a reed is suicidal in the August sun.
All this for a girl who was everyday a Botticelli.

This is the day of no harmony,
this is the moment of scratching records for effect
and leaving Stradivarius for the white haired.
Let it play soundly for modern view,
for complication and amalgamation,
make them all confused!

Cohabitation leads to the sudden death of something,
say water tides of something scientific,
hazardous now to dump radioactivity,
now we have to live with it.
What is there now,
an argument against exploration,
saying exploitation, those Transcendentalists.

In Alsace, French-German, fought over twice over,
eat now liverwurst and drink gewurtztraminer
speaking for multiculturalism,
this made peace now from war before.

The fields here are untouched by trenches,
only stained by the wild killed for sport,
the grain grown and the gristle to feed us,
to dismantle us on and on.
Attached to ideals and torn apart by
otherworldly experiences,
hallucinating like Furies,
and as the celebrated in terms of fame invincible,
the food chain made a microcosm of society,
our pecking order,
and as finicky and fickle as hens cooped up too long,
rampaging and ravished,
ravenously fed by fuel and the alcoholic roar.

There are reasons why some of us are buried
at the bottom of Egypt,
whether we are farther from God
or closer to the earth and saved from both wind and storm,
we must eat the grain of whose reaping the blackbirds sing,
and less of the unnatural cream of the crop.
Yes the waving wheat looks like a beer's head,
but less butter,
less richness,
say cereal box pyramids.

What we act, as the actors with tresses in woven wheat-gold,
launching ships with faces of today's gods,
today's magazines, burn them and they kindle materialism,
burn them in the black and white films noirs of the 1950's
and you can't even see the red they exude.
But who ever thought the idols bled anyway:
In Constantinople-Byzantium they were as ethereal as now.
Is this newer orthodoxy more western more near?
Smash me or convert me, take me back there.
Permitted to laugh and rant like a new devil,
something relevant to brazenness and irrelevance in the long 
sibilant vigils led to infernal raging and unwarranted
there is libido led by ladies in lingerie,
uncultivated in the run of field worn cattle.
Paying recent tribute to ancient forests worn into fields,
dues returned to scattered birds,
I find new solace in this view for my ecology,
and sleep endlessly under a more scorching sun.

Timothy Liu on Julia Friedlander

Ekphrasitic, historic, scientific, cinematic—such are the lenses through which our poet views and critiques culture through the voice of Bardot, allowing for a capacious meditation on the transience of life. That this poem was written by someone still in high school leaves us all the more astonished.

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