Omaha Beach

A Poem for Memorial Day by Mariette Bermowitz

On a Spring vacation, I took a group of students for a ten day trip to France. For many of them it was the first time abroad and for most it was a vivid confrontation with the unimaginable loss of American lives, when we visited the cemetery in Normandy overlooking the beach where the allies landed in June of 1945.

They had studied some of the salient facts in their history classes. But actually standing on the ground where the battle took place was an overwhelming experience for them. Without any prompting, I saw them separating from each other and begin walking quietly among the thousands of crosses and stars marking the graves of those who had sacrificed their lives to bring an end to fascism. I stopped in front of an unmarked grave, then compelled by a surge of deep sadness I wrote the poem Omaha Beach. The illustration was done by one of my brilliant and talented sixteen year old students.

There are nine thousand three hundred and eighty graves
in that cemetery                                                                           9,380
Above the sea
In Normandy
One thousand five hundred and fifty seven names

1,557

Of bodies not found
They dissolved into the stones
Dispersed like seeds
Feeding the weeds
Etching the sand over there in Normandy
Over there
in Normandy
There are
Five hundred and seven bodies without names

507

Transformed into five hundred and seven stars and crosses
All in place
Stretching into sparkling rows
Flowing toward the sea
Spitting mangled memories against the shore
Where sounds of battle cries rage into echoes
Over there
In Normandy
And sometimes
A star shaped shell transforms itself
Into a hand
Clutching the sand
Where today I stand
Watching the sea sweep in vain the images
From the stones
Where history
Carved its story
And signed the names
On the stars and crosses
Lined up like sentinels
Gazing into eternity
Somewhere above the sea
In Normandy

© Mariette Bermowitz 2012

Omaha Beach – Pencil on paper by Edith Newman (1986)

My Amber Jewelry

On special occasions

I take out my gypsy jewelry

And behold the memory

Of a turbaned man

In the bazaar of  Mazar-I-Sharif

Where I bought an

Amber necklace

On the eve of Eide-No-Ruz

In that far away land

Called Afghanistan

A place I probably imagined

In a thousand and one dreams

Of the Arabian nights

Then one magical day

I entered into the horizon 

Of minarets bedecked

In turquoise and gold

Melting

Over glistening domes

Glimmering

In the noonday sun

Splitting the light   against a mosque

Splintering cobalt blue against crystals chandeliers….

Saffron daffodils splash their springtime against the walls of that masjed remaining

In my head like a painting of a land where everything I touched burst into feeling

The splendor of a minaret

The ecstasy of a perfect moment

When the wind kept

Whispering ancient secrets

Back into the seed of the land    When I lived in Iran

Out there in Persepolis        The Persians call  Tachte Jamshid

Where a throne is buried       

In the sand and the stones    once long ago  the jewels and gold  of emperors

Whose empires  are now scattered   into the weeds

Out there in the land the color of

My amber jewelry © Mariette Bermowitz 2012

 

Je t’aime Encore

J’ai entendu l’autre nuit

Dans un rêve

Comme des éclats de verre

C’était ton rire

Etalé

Dans les corridors de notre passé

Où gisent les images

De toutes ces années

Où nous nous étions tant aimés

Et je me suis demandé

En m’étant réveillée

Par où aller

Les retrouver

© Mariette Bermowitz 2012

 

———–Composé à Shiraz en 1976 en surveillant les élèves qui passaient leurs examens dans la grande salle de l’Université Pahlavi où j’enseignais. Je rêvais en regardant ces jeunes gens en plein travail. Je revisais mon passé après avoir lu les poèmes de Jacques Prévert qui m’inspiraient …..Je pensais à Alan ….celui que j’aimais quand j’avais vingt ans et avec qui j’ai passé dix ans de ma vie…celui qui est devenu Alan Vega Suicide. Toute une histoire….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One response »

  1. Dear Mariette, I am writing from Quadrille Publishing as we would like to use your picture of turquoise minarets in a forthcoming book. Please could you email me and I will tell you more about the project? Look forward to hearing from you soon. Best wishes,
    Katie

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