Poet Nina Carey Tassi


The cliffs stood all around me,
silent, breathing heavily as they always had.

In my blindness, I could not see them,
though I heard them.

I said to God, If You let me see
what breathes on me, I’ll be faithful to my death.

So the Lord gave light to me,
and I saw sea and sky and, finally,
the cliffs all around me.

And I said to God,
Give me back my blindness—
I do not know how to be faithful
to this immensity.

But he bid me fix my eyes
on the cliffs, and I became his servant,
taking careful steps toward cliff’s edge
as if I were still blind.     
                                 --from Light & Glory (2018)                

At the far edge of China
we meet on a patch of barren earth,
I weak-kneed, woozy in the hot sun,
he a boy of fourteen or so,
in jeans and denim jacket too big
for his slight build, his face Tibetan.

He talks matter-of-factly, the way
a son talks, as we stand together
on rocky shale, muddy river flowing lazily
behind us, its stone bridge gracefully arched
toward his forbidden home.

Exiled half a century before his birth,
he flees time and again to Tibet
and returns to this ramshackle village
to be beaten and jailed by police thugs
for violating rigid Chinese law.

His thin bones seem made of shards
delicately pieced together; he’s birdlike, not
like devouring predators with fierce beaks
that pluck out eyes, threaten the boy with death--
but a small, dark, secret bird with soft wings
who travels by night under the gaze
of silent Himalayas.

He alights in the dark on a rocky ledge,
thrilled by the smoky air of his homeland;
Tibet’s ancient days flow in his blood,
fill his bursting lungs and veins,
dazzle his eyes with swirling reds and golds
as incense-bearing Dalai Lamas sway
in procession through the ages, offering
brief comfort till he must go.
Caught anew by his oppressors,
he refuses to kowtow, takes their blows,
his bones shaken, jaws bloodied and sore.

Yet he will fly again,
tireless migratory bird,
to spend a moment in his homeland--
for defiance, for freedom,
for courage, for nourishment.

He recognizes his true home
in ravaged, suffering, captive Tibet--
in the folded hands of monks,
in the faces of old women,
in his footprints on his own soil,
in the rocky path he risks
in the dead of night.

Now, in bright sunlight, I put my arm
around his shoulder, feel a quiver
as our wings brush against each other,
saying: survival is not enough;
the spirit must be free to feel its weight,
to know its strength, to hope,
 to fly, to trust, to live.

He smiles shyly, as a grown son might,
takes my hand, and together we soar
high over the wild white Himalayas.
                        --from Light & Glory (2018)

JACOB’S DREAM  (Gen. 28:12)

I hear the music of Jacob’s dream:
white light shining in a dark universe,

dream crackling with energy,
so vividly bright,

angels so devastating in their beauty,
how can it not be true?

As the angels ascend and descend,
lustrous gowns rippling on ladder’s rungs,

I wonder what they are thinking,
thus given over to the Father’s business;

how do they know their mission
and follow it with such perfect grace?

The sky is laid open to view, then closes;
In the air, rustling of angels’ wings.
                                --from Light & Glory (2018)



contact ©2009-2018 copyright all rights reserved Nina Tassi 2500 Johonson Riverdale NY 10463