Eyes of the Heart
by Antonia Alexandra Klimenko

You pass through me
like windows on a train--
freeze-framed in Winter
my shattered Spring
I look for you
in all the compartments
of my  heart
groping blindly
at flashes of reflection  

(Why did you pull out? I ask
At which stop did you finally exit?)  

knowing full well
I have swallowed you
the night before
swallowed you
as I have the sun the moon
and all the dead stars--
light years of your grief
passing through me now

I   the cavity of Paris
compass  without a needle--
my arteries stretching like roadmaps
across the universe of my  heart
How I let you slip through me
I will never know
I sent you
to your own dark eclipse
your delirium of narcotic bliss
engraved on the head of a needle  

What is it we hold in our hands
that slips through our fingers--
this human landscape of blood and tears
How do we hold onto  heart's needle
this  compass  of  compassion
this shining star
this point of reference--
hold onto light lost in a City of Light
hold onto that one magnet that pulls us
to a place where we belong  


One day
we may lose true North
lose our way
lose this moment
lose whole continents
of ourselves
like refugees
with no where to turn
like I lost you
you who once took refuge
deep inside of me  

I still hold South
between my thighs
still wait for you to move me
like the earth
like this engine pumping blood
this train pumping iron
like Night and hydrangeas
exploding into the ecstasy
of novas and constellations
tunneling the black hole of me
the deep blossoming throat of me--
you, my  heart's needle-
a singing meteor
that passes through me as light
that hums in me like Spring--
the one place I cannot get to  

I am the cavity of Paris
that lovers once poured into--
my  heart  a weeping sieve
Milky Ways oozing from
the swirling globes of my eyes and breasts--
the trickling cum of humanity
peeling Time from my lips like a mask  

At night alone in my bed
I marry the sacred dark of you
I marry the souls of all your dead planets
all the sweet amnesias of heaven
that live inside my head
I curse myself and heavy-lidded Night
that slumbers through the day
I, dragging the moon
like my flesh behind me
while Dark goes on and on
like the bottomless sky
with no ending or beginning

Dark knows we are afraid of it
wants only to be loved
I swallow it
as I do my tears
I kiss it
like I drink in air
I stuff the shame of guilt
back into my horizon
praying that light will find me

I am the cavity of Paris
that lovers once poured into--
my  heart  a weeping sieve
Deep inside myself
inside the shadows I cannot contain-
statues and monuments to the dead--
a whole city of shimmering possibility
rises as smoke above a skyline of ancient syllables
quivering on the tip of my tongue

The pallbearer of my own dead poems
bereft of words, divine direction or
a satin box to lay my aching  compass
I drift
alone in the dark
alone with you and the breath of Winter
erased by a night that forgives

Antonia Alexandra Klimenko trained as an actress at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. She 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 and devotee of Spoken Word, she has read and performed at various venues including S.F.’s renowned Purple Onion and The  Intersection for the Arts. Her sold-out one-woman show Where the Blue Begins was presented in conjunction with Sonoma’s performing art series Women on the Edge. More recently she was a featured poet with Helene Cardona and John High at Poets Live, presented her work at Shakespeare & Company, participated in four présentations hosted by Three Rooms Press as well as performed at 100 Thousand Poets for Change here in Paris.  Klimenko’s works are widely published in journals and anthologies–among them: XXI Century World Literature (in which she represents France) The Poet”s Quest for God, CounterPunch, The Rumpus, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, Writing for Peace, Big Bridge, Levure Litteraire, Knot Magazine, Iodine Poetry Journal, Literary Orphans, The Opiate, The Danse Macabre Anthologies, Strangers in Paris—New Writing Inspired by the City of Light, 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.


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.