Antonia Alexandra Klimenko

Under the Umbrella, Silent Scream, Traveling Light: Antonia Alexandra Klimenko

Under the Umbrella

“What Can I Tell My Bones?”
a broken umbrella crying softly
–Theodore Roethke

I stand in my birthday suit doing the nature dance
under the light and the dark of the moon
I turn in my skin   the skin I came in–
revolving with the planets   with the seasons
with the broken umbrella outside my door
I turn in my skin   the skin I came in
and in the skin of my skin   slowly turning

that melting metamorphosis
that shelters interconnecting veins
like railings in New York subways
that protects blood-rivers and other living landscapes–
mirrors I will reflect     but never see
who through thick and thin
records and traces with her zillion fingertips
the history of my life in Braille
who sloughs herself off as the caterpillar
or  unveiling onion
then moves on without me
like the moon
like all things luminous
that leave always a sliver of themselves behind

Oh   skin!
Sometimes   I think there are so many of you!
Like a cat
I want to lick you clean
Like a lover
to stroke your parchment
to inhale you slowly as I might a fuzzy peach
Like a shaman
to heal myself the way you heal
To take my fear that crawls under you–
to take all the shadows we have together shed
and turn them into one translucent understanding

Fourteen times
they have cut you open
and sewn you back up again

Fourteen times
you have worn that crimson corsage at your delicate throat—
swallowed it all with quiet dignity
while I was off in that other country
leaking breath like ink in a God-damn sieve–
dragging my words like your flesh behind me

And  still the soul’s marrow
like my own bones’ thinning
moves through and beyond
the fading bruise of my existence

Often   I wonder
what is the mystery of your moving landscape
where you and your gypsy violins wander off to…
If you know who and where you are when you get there
And   after
you have been multiplied  divided  subdivided
split like an atom and reduced to the smallest nth
will you still re-member me?

I like to think
I am a singing miracle inside my Mother’s skin
That you   my skin
(oh, city of spandex! oh, city of balloons!)
belong to a family of skin
whose invisible memory-quilt stretches all imagination
That your feet dance with mine
in Moscow and Vienna
That your poems dance with mine
in and through the streets of Paris
That your eyes turn like seeds that open into flowers
That they will continue to turn and to open
beyond this blistering disintegration

I like to think
that at this very moment
you are kneeling silently
with your brothers and sisters–
shimmering in your horrific beauty
in the heavy mist  in the rising ash
beyond the cruel and callused glare cast
by the lacquered shades of human lamps

That you are too vast   too many
for any one museum
with no one to fill your stacks of empty shoes
That you are as raindrops and teardrops
whose only desire is to find an opening in closure
That your particles dance and hum in the dark
with the unblemished day of the newborn
with the newly delivered moon
wrapped in the coils of all ages
That you are as dust and stardust…
Everyone and Everywhere

Oh  skin!
What else can I tell myself
when your so strong   so tender ribbon
is all but coming undone?
Right now you are the perfect gift
wrapped inside yourself
while I
(forever in eclipse)  (always the skeleton)
stand stripped and exposed as any holocaust
an old abandoned house in weeds
whose intimate scenery hangs tattered and peeling–
my broken umbrella weeping
outside my door

Oh, skin!  Oh, skin!
how do you hold it all in?

Silent Scream

I beat my head against the wall
before I scream into my pillow
I hold my ear to your heart
to hear the earth moving within

There are so many walls–
the dead space between my ears   for one
the umpteen lightyears between us
(which is already unheard of)

I try to read your mind
to read your lips
to taste the shape of each word
on my tongue

Your mouth I press to mine
to trace the ghost of each syllable
like my haunting dreams
that sleep under my pillow
where they too are now muffled
and fading

At night   you tell your story
your lips moving like a silent film–
first in slow motion    then at high speed
the repetition of each frame
in black and white   over and over
sinking into the inaudible dark

Tell me a story you say–
your head tilting like the moon in eclipse
straining to hear your deaf lover

What would you like to hear?
I say
What more CAN I say
when each time you ask me
to please whisper louder
I am screaming   I tell you
I am screaming

Traveling Light

Every night   I make the crossing
Every night   I ask myself
Where did I come from?
Where am I going?
My body stretched out before me   like a map—
my heart   a broken compass

I   an ancient voyager
born of an ocean of love
in a sea of blood—

am traveling to the other side
of what and where    I do not know

the road I travel
the vehicle that transports me
the passenger    at ALL the stations
I am
a vessel slipping
into each fluid emotion
a silver bullet
tunneling through
the barren wastelands of my mind
the wilderness of my soul
the ravaged forests of love
the deep vast wreckage of me

How dense
these continents of flesh
where needles and stitches
scars reaching beyond borders
have left their tracks
How fragile the psyche
all-seeing in its perceptions
remains invisible
to its own self

At every station
I wait for that one train
Never this one   always the next
I wait at the border
I border on the ridiculous
I border on madness

Another train of thought
another wide junction
Flashing windows of reflection
flashes of recognition
crossbones for crossroads
Always   just up ahead
the graves of the beloved for markers

I   a lost soul
covered in dust
a trail of red ink behind me

revisit old haunts
my weeping wounds
opening and closing
landscape of regret
memories like smoke in the distance

Every day
I look for that Mirror
the one with a memory
to find my true reflection
Every night
I cross myself    and pray
I make it to the other side

Who am I really?  I ask
Where am I going
and how will I get there?!
I   ALL map with no direction—
(my broken heart for a compass)
am suspended in that space
between two worlds

I  a Glass Nobody
country without a name
with the fingertips of the blind
trace my own face    in the dark

Antonia Alexandra Klimenko was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary James Meary Tambimuttu of Poetry London–-publisher of T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Henry Miller and Bob Dylan, to name a few. 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 as well as a current Pushcart Prize nominee, Klimenko is widely published. Her work has appeared in (among others) Maintenant : Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She is the recipient of two grants: one from Poets in Need, of which Michael (100 Thousand Poets for Change) Rothenberg is a co-founder; the second—the 2018 Generosity Award bestowed on her by Kathleen Spivack and Josheph Murray for her outstanding service to international writers through SpokenWord Paris where she is Writer/ Poet in Residence. Her forthcoming poetry collection On the Way to Invisible is forthcoming in 2022.