June 22, 2021

“Tatiana’s Tango,” The Poetry of J.P. Christiansen

“Tatiana’s Tango,” The Poetry of J.P. Christiansen
Tatiana’s Tango 
 
Her sex is a tango, sung in any language, please, 
in a black and white picture, mono chrome,  
with shadows of that desire, please. 
 
She stands under the lamp-post dividing day and lust, 
the music of a moon having come out to guide you, Tatiana. 
The small orchestra plays the seductive tones, 
the singer caresses words and refrain, 
here in the bar in Warsaw, 1938, 
where two bodies meet in a dance to celebrate life. 
 
A tango may last three minutes. 
I listen to the scratched vinyl surface of the 78. 
A memory arises with each turning of the needle in its grooves. 
Haunting notes and voice of a song which used to be. 
 
Now, 1939, and the gramophone is silent. 
The vinyl is broken. 
 
Did the walls fall on you, too, Tatiana – 
did the heels on your lovely shoes break 
as you tried to escape the Stuka blitz of death, 
coming to visit, not at all welcome at the party of the living, 
dancing the tango of lovers in a warm and scented summer’s night? 
 
... 
 
They selected the prettiest girls for the work. 
One day they stopped me in the street, 
and took me off to a converted house. 
 
I served their soldiers for five months, 
and German efficiency records my 4 guests 
daily as average during that particular July, 1943. 
 
I contracted venereal disease,  
and the symptoms were confirmed at the next, 
routine hospital check. 
 
The girls who contracted disease 
never returned to the bordello, 
but were taken off to be shot. 
 
After the examination by the doctor, 
I was told about my status as infected, 
and they held me in the hospital for later transport. 
 
That evening I tied sheets together as a rope 
to lower myself from the second floor window. 
I was going to join the partisans in the woods. 
 
When I reached the ground below the window, 
someone took hold of my arm in a tight grip. 
I remember nothing after the Luger flash to my temple. 
 
I’m not really writing this, you understand. 
One of the girls remembers what happened, 
and I guess she feels my story should be told. 
 
By the way, I made it to the woods, alright. 
I’m lying here in an unmarked grave with many others. 
It’s another July, and lovely trees are growing above me. 
 

**


The Rock In The Cradle
 
A voice, within a rock,  
once hot glowing flowing desire to match the Universe; 
now frozen cold and forgotten  
hard imprisoned awaiting touch to make it sound. 
 
She makes for her tomorrow in retreat  
upon a distance where silence takes her in. 
‘Tis here, where hawk will soar,  
and wave will crash on shore, 
that meaning comes around, and time, 
without a hand, will cradle her, and hold. 
 
She moves in a zone ‘tween life and death, 
knowing not how to proceed from that 
with her one-chance project of being. 
 
Mind is tied to a past of fought suffering 
on rock ice stumbling her feet at every attempt 
at this ‘thing’ called “finding her humanity”. 
 
“So what is this season, called Spring, 
when ice melts for warmer waters ~ 
what are the seeds growing from it, 
and fruits realized from planting? 
I know not...I see not...but I will the desire of asking.” 
 
Weary not, my friend, on your journey; 
unto she who asks such questions like yours  
shall be given answers for her, only. 
 
Chronos plays in airy nothing – 
plays in resting rock, indifferent, 
but most of all will play with mind 
aware, in a human heart 
allotted so many beats, and only. 
 
She questioned this, but Chronos said: 
 
“I’ll lie with you, just once, 
and from this seed of mine 
you must choose to grow your off-spring 
in this wording, in this living, in this 
my one visit of your seduction.” 


**


Blackberries and Plums
A Collaboration: 
I. Marsha Singh. 
II. J.P.Christiansen 

I. 
I have written you one  
hundred and eighty  
one poems about stars  
and blackberries fat  
as thumbs, and your  
hands and sweet  
plums, because that's  
what I do:  
word play, cabaret –  
but if these are just myths  
I perpetuate because I'm  
a perpetual liar, believe me  
                     anyway. 
II. 
 
Yes, I’m just a star-traveler. 
I love your fecund earth, 
with sweet blackberries and plums, 
and a poetess who knows the best lies. 
What do I care if word misleads, 
when poetry sounds its love? 
 
 
**
 
 
Algebraic Duet 
A Collaboration: 
I. Marsha Singh. 
II. J.P.Christiansen 
 
 
I. The Opposite Of Algebra. 
From al-jabr, loosely translated. The reunion of broken parts. 
More literally, restoration. 
 
For once, I was not a broken equation, a formulaic disaster. 
I was mathematics as they apply to the Universe: perfect.
What is true today is true forever. There were only answers. 
 
But I manipulated the math; I changed the value of unknowns. 
I just wanted so badly for our answer to be right. 
I was a crooked mathematician, and now we're the opposite of algebra. 
 
II. Losing The Count. 
 
I insisted on the perfect equation, one to square imperfect love. 
But what did I know? 
 
I realized too late the way you looked at us plugged in the factors of heart... 
human details of some importance. 
I was uncomfortable with those unknowns... 
didn’t know how to rest with you in love’s sphere  
spinning its glorious beauty of life’s uncertainty. 
 
My mind was set on mathematical truth...confusing numbers of the Universe 
with your heart’s number of beats running wild against your breast... 
I wanted our answer to be right, but now may count by neither. 


**


Colorado Cabin
 
Summer is East, of me...Autumn is West, of me. 
It’s been a few months of heat on my shoulders beneath the backpack. 
Colorado is ahead, of me, and my plan is to reach the mountains. 
Before snow falls, there, I’ll spend some time above my past, there. 
 
Last Autumn I came upon a cabin. 
In it lived a woman, and she, too, had a past, 
yet didn’t tell me much, in person, about it, 
but before I left, she shared with me some poetry. 
 
In it I came to know this woman, and what I read, you may find out. 
I asked her if I might borrow her pages to carry with me on my journey, 
and she reluctantly agreed, on the condition I return them later. 
They are in my backpack, carefully rolled, like papyrus, 
guarded in sacred rooms of Alexandria. 
 
Part reason for me coming this way is to return these precious pages. 
It’s been a year, since, and I wonder if she is there, still. 
I had the impression, then, she might not be long of this world; 
the past had been too much, on her. 
 
The path winds gently upwards, through thickets and trees and ravines... 
past occasional small water-holes and lakes, rocks and boulders, protruding, 
and a slow-flowing creek with last winter’s remnant waters fed by Summer’s rain into Fall. 
 
There the cabin is. 
As I approach I notice a cross by a small grave a short distance from the cabin. 
Only the letter “G.....” is visible in the carved, weathered wood. 
I knock on the cabin door, but no-one answers. 
No smoke from the chimney... no sound of life, from within. 
I get out of my backpack, sit down by the front door, 
load my pipe, and inhale a delicious poison. 
 
The little cross draws my eyes, and I remember the poem,  
one of many which have led me here. 
I gather a small bouquet of wild-flowers and place it on the grave. 
I sit back down by the door, and read her poems once again. 
I then take out paper and pencil, and write. 
 
“What kind of woman could it be who writes this kind of poetry, 
with word, of ease, from pen? Who sees like this, in ken, 
to mute and strike me dumb...my eye to tear...my self to clear? 
 
Be not mistaken, here; such ease is valor, great, 
the beauty, pain, of far and late, a joy in seeking heart’s release 
to find a sky, a sea with moon, in granting it a moment’s peace.” 
 
I fold my poem, stick it in a crack of the door, 
and carefully place her poetry below. 
I get into my backpack, and leave. 

***

The writer is Danish, 

the poet isn’t. 

The writer resides in America, 

the poet doesn’t. 

The writer is of this place, 

then is of that place, 

everywhere looking for the poet. 

Tatiana's Tango
#j.p. christiansen#poetry#tango#wwii
1 comment
  • Stephen says:

    Oh, Tatiana. Perfect timing having just finished Jacqueline Winspear’s “Journey to Munich” Excellent.

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