Enjoy an expressive approach to the sestina form by Creative Writing student Ava Haberkorn Halm, created for Carla Harryman’s CRTW 426: Contemporary Forms.
Ava Haberkorn Halm – Speak Truth To Power
He said Ava; you must speak truth to power.
And I felt my grandma’s screams attach to my blood.
Old Hebrew Scriptures, frantic Yiddish songs, trudged my veins.
Her deep shrapnel wound cut the left side of my face.
My throat opened to guttural trope sounds
And my knees bent as my body davnened to past prayers.
He said power is the geography of silenced prayers.
Truth is the body remembering power.
Knuckles clicking, my body sings in arthritic sounds.
Souvenirs from the war, where the earth’s soil, was soiled with blood.
A blood that once stained the back of her skirt, reddening her face
And is now dried, brown, a flaking emptiness in my veins.
I used to shnaydn myself just to see blood in my veins.
Imyirzehaschem, I was blood – letting cursed prayers
where I saw my Foter’s oygn in my moyek’s ponem.
Mayn guf is robotic, mayn muscles have no makht.
Mayn guf is spilled on Eyrope, where is mayn blut?
I blaybn khey by davnening to my eltem fading, gayst batonen.–
Who am I within this body of awakened sounds?
Am I but an oxidized story traveling through veins?
Are ancestral desires the cells of my blood?
Does my tongue strain, under the weight of old prayer?
Could this be why my written words must have more power?
Where am I in this mirage (collage) of face?
He asked where do you feel the worth in the forgotten face.
And my ears filled with learned, Shabbat sounds
Like the “Ch” in ‘Baruch’ that once gave my saliva power.
My arms burned as chicken broth drained in my veins.
Waxy stickiness grew on my fingers; did they hold candles for prayer?
And on my lips I could taste cabbage soup stirring my tomato blood.
If I am nothing but bones, organs, flesh and blood
then, I am their story wrapped around a found face.
My skin is a faded sentence -restored by silenced prayers.
My hair follicles are chronicles of their yiddishe sound.
My tongue calls to Moshe, Chaim, Ruchel, they are my – veins.
Their ghosts are my cartilage, within which I have power.
But can power exist in the genetics of blood?
Can the poetry in my veins, generate features on a face?
Can my body become an ancestral sound? Oh, let me be a prayer.