The Path of Empathy

The Path of Empathy

“When did the left foot stop walking with the right?
–FU SCHROEDER
Green Gulf Ranch, California


Head swollen, eyes still blackened and green
from injuries sustained in a skirmish—
I turn to meditation         

My body   this old dog
finds a spot to rest
it is my mind   that rattles
like a snake in a bamboo tube  

Is it not the same with war and peace?
Within   without
my country  your country
I’m right   you’re wrong
Hsssssssss

Many go to war two by two—
left foot   right foot
left foot   right foot
forgetting they are One.
Others—yogis
may cross the entire universe
without ever having left

Every day
I put one breath after the other
just as Someone Else  
puts the other breath before
Breathing out  breathing in–
the world becomes larger
the world becomes smaller--
continuously living  continually dying  

On stage   online   on website blogs:
message in a bottle—
see me  hear me  feel me touch me,
screams a disappearing world in high definition
while I  in my easy chair feed these pages
with bite-size impressions.

3,000 Burmese monks walk barefoot
in protest of their government
3,000 Burmese monks walk barefoot
with Jesus in the desert
walk barefoot
with Buddha in the forest
walk barefoot
with Moses on the mountain

The earth is moving
and still I sit
The mountains are moving- 
they are running beside the rivers
But I do not budge--
I hear but I do not listen
I am liquid says the snake your river flows within
I am skin
says the snake  you can peel me like a glove
I am  mindful
  says the snake  you must change 
tobe changed.

‘’When did the left foot stop walking with the right?’’
When did you stop becoming me?

There are many languages
but there is only one tongue
When I opened up my mouth and heard myself scream
I could feel the dry explosion in the squeeze of my throat.
I could taste the brain’s bitterness on the tip of my tongue
When I opened up my mouth and heard myself scream
a thousand consonants like stars flew in different directions.
Consonants gagged on spittle and yesterday’s dust
consonants gagged on consonants
and in no particular order

When I opened up my mouth and heard myself scream
I knew   then   that they would want to blindfold  all my mirrors
and question them until they cracked!
Soon    they are sticking bamboo shoots
under the nails of this sentence to extract its full meaning.
But I do not budge
I won’t give up the vowels

I WON”T GIVE UP THE VOWELS!!!

I   a large toad   growing larger on my cushion
transforming in mid-air… nightmare into dream
Eyes that stutter with all the old stories--
the history of my life
written across my bruised body in Braille  

Where is Kindness?
with her thousand fingertips
to trace the shadow of our suffering
and soothe its man?
What have they done with Quon Yin?
with her thousand arms and cameras flashing–
eyes rolling in the palms of her Hand
eyes to record and to remember. ..
what we leave out!

3,000 Burmese monks walk barefoot
in protest of their government
while I    a large toad    a leap of faith
go hopping on one foot across the Universe
across the only One path I know—
the path of empathy

My mother (breathing out  breathing in)
rolled bandages in basements
with women who wore numbers on their arms

My father (left foot   right foot)
could never step into anyone else’s shoes
When he died…they had to cut off both his feet  

‘’When did the left foot stop walking with the right?’’
When did I stop…becoming you?

Antonia Alexandra Klimenko was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary Tambimuttu of Poetry London–-publisher of T.S. Eliot, Henry Miller and Bob Dylan, to name a few. After his death, it was his friend the late great Kathleen Raine who took an interest in her writing and encouraged her to publish. Although her manuscript was orphaned upon “Tambi”s passing, her poems and correspondence have been included in his Special Collections at Northwestern University. A former San Francisco Poetry Slam Champion, her works are widely published in journals and anthologies, among them:  XXI Century World Literature (in which she represents France),CounterPunch, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, The Rumpus, Atlanta Review; Big Bridge, Levure Litteraire, The Opiate, Iodine Poetry Journal,  Strangers in Paris, Paris Lit Up,  Vox Populi,  Occupy Poetry (in which she is distinguished as an American Poet) and Maintenant: Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C and in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She is the Writer/Poet in Residence for SpokenWord Paris.

alexandra-Klimenko.jpg

MY CREATIVE PROCESS
Interview adapted from a conversation with Linda Ibbotson.

What brought you to Paris, city of writers, artists and musicians?

My brother. I hadn’t seen him since I was 11 years old and, finally, I was 19 and old enough to travel. I was grateful that he had chosen Paris, as Paris had always been at the top of my short list of places that I had longed to visit, and for the usual reasons— the light, the architecture, the culture, the community of artists.  The notion that even if you made but a modest living, you might enjoy the abundance of beauty and spirit.  I like to think, also, that it was fate. 
 

Which is your favorite café/ Parisian haunt?

For outdoor haunts:  There’s a place at the river’s edge on the Isle Saint Louis that I am very fond of. Also, the Jardin du Luxembourg.  Indoor: The light tiled Moroccan patio of Salon de The de La Grande Mosquee on sunny days, the shaded room of La Palette on rainy.
 

What motivates you to write and your influences?

The desire to transcend. To share and/or reflect beauty. To heal, to process an experience that might have been less than wonderful and to create positive energy from it. To connect with self and with others, to share thoughts and ideals which make us most human.  Writing encourages empathy as we imagine what it must be like to be in someone else’s shoes. I also enjoy the art of expression, trying to find the better messenger to convey meaning.  Poetry, like music, opens a portal to the mystery of understanding without our fully comprehending.  It brings me closer to Spirit.

And, of course, you never know who you might meet along the way. For instance, I was invited to a rather surreal soiree here in Paris where I couldn’t help but notice a charismatic artist with jet-black hair {and an unreasonably wide but charming moustache) wearing a satin pirate shirt topped off by a small leashed monkey sitting on his shoulder. He spoke to me towards the end of the evening. Told me he had noticed me…that I shouldn’t smile too much…that a woman must be mysterious.  Our brief meeting inspired me—years later– to write ‘’One evening, stand on the sky and learn to paint your world without a wooden frame. Then, climb into the painting.’’
 

Writers you admire and who influence your own poetic style?

I admire Michael Rothenberg, of 100 Thousand Poets for Change as a Living Poem.  He reached out to me when he heard I was ill and suggested I apply for a grant to Poets in Need, which I gratefully received. He reminds us that communion, communication and community can effect change and transformation in the world. As for writing style—Dostoyevsky, Rilke, e.e. cummings, Anne Sexton, James Wright.
 

What is your favorite line from one of your poems?

This is like Sophie’s Choice haha, as all of our creations are like our children.  Ok, if I must…
And, still the soul’s marrow
like my own bone’s thinning
moves through and beyond  

the fading bruise of my existence

Your goals and aspirations?

To get my collections of poems published. To finish my play, which I’m afraid is all play and no work right now. I had an opportunity to be published by the legendary Tambimuttu of Poetry London.  I even made a recording for him under the Apple Record label as he had gone into business with The Beatles at the tail-end of the 70’s.  The magazine was then called Poetry London / Apple Magazine. However, I decided I wanted to delay the publication in order to offer, perhaps, more inspired work and when Tambi died the manuscript was orphaned.  I only began to submit my work to journals in the last 7 years.  Now, as I approach 70, I do sincerely wish to find good homes for my poetic offspring.  I suppose it might help, haha,  if I sent them out into the world.