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Conversation with a Stonemason

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By  D H Melhem

Conversation With a Stonemason
by D. H. Melhem (Paperback - May 2003)
List Price: $9.95
More Information  on the book
Excerpts from the book


Bleeds its leaves
in a circle.

Four iron fan chairs
backs turned
a round slate table.

Grass rake claws
the stain.

(or years)
fall measureless
from an oval sky.

©2003 by D. H. Melhem, from Conversation with a Stonemason (IKON, 2003)


Thundering past green islands
a hundred fifty feet
into the gorge,
river runs
over hard dolomite limestone
and layers of dolomite and shale,
runs as it has run for 12,000 years,
erodes one foot every decade
electrifies the riverbanks
and plunges toward

People tested
their mettle by your danger.
Sam Patch jumped twice from Goat Island
and survived to die at Genesee Falls.
Annie Telson Taylor, a woman,
was first to go over in a barrel.
Blondin walked a tightrope across.

In 1874, an old schooner,
equipped with three bears and a buffalo,
two foxes and a raccoon,
a dog, a cat, and four geese,
was sent into the current as a stunt.
After the first rapids, two bears
were shot fleeing into Canada.
Terrified animals raced around the deck
spinning over the Falls.
Two geese survived.

White mist rises from you:
hallowed by rainbow,
an ark to Heaven.

On Goat Island,
below the spray
I close my eyes,
try to absorb the falling and rising
into my skin,
into my spirit
where the smoke of Ground Zero
hovers and whispers,
hovers and whispers
in the rhythms of blood
the healing mist
of Nature,
and the permanent witness
of stars.

--in “Requiescant” cycle of 9/11 poems, CONVERSATION WITH A STONEMASON (September, 2003, IKON)

  Conversation with a Stonemason
Love, war, family, politics, art, nature, the city, marriage, divorce, death, travel, Arab American heritage, 9/11—all this from a noted poet who is also a distinguished scholar. “Self Notes” introduces us to her social sensibility, love of her West Side neighborhood, and devotion to literature. While “Cultural Exchanges” reveals her multiethnic interests, “Heritage” connects with her own Lebanese background, particularly through love of family and concern for war’s devastation. “Elegiac” mourns figures such as Eleanor Bumpurs, an Ethiopian child, and a mummy in a museum case. “Poems to My Former Husband” retrieves “a kind of gold / marked and thin / but fine for all that” from a relationship. In “Art,” the poet, who was once a painter and sculptor, addresses works of art in ways infused with her own concerns of family and politics. “Convergences,” the final section, gathers her diverse interests. Travels in Africa, California, Switzerland, a conversation with a stonemason in a museum photograph, Amadou Diallo, and the concluding “Requiescant,” a major cycle of four poems about the World Trade Center tragedy, reaffirm Melhem’s concerns for peace and a humane society (see "Niagara Falls," above). CONVERSATION WITH A STONEMASON, D.H. Melhem’s sixth book of poems, affirms her extraordinary range and depth.

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