Date of Publication: 24 January 2023
Your struggle will become the best thing about you.
Only your mind will be able to decipher your thoughts, like
needing scissors to open a pack of scissors.
(from ‘Fortune Poem’)
“KAYAKÖY offers us a fascinating guide to life’s sweet and sour, to tragedy and what grounds we have for hope. Moments in a child’s life – collecting minnows, blowing dandelions – are preternaturally lit, yet suffused in retrospect with a longing for grace. Innocence is exchanged for adulthood – but for Onitskansky, the breaking down of ice in a thaw is also the gift of freedom for what has long languished beneath. These poems explore nothing less than the life-process, powerfully played out here in the sudden death of a father and the wounding of marital break-up. From it all, the poet emerges strongly as both ‘ponderer’ and ‘wonderer’ (‘Delver’s Dirt’).”
“These poems have enviable life force. Energized to their core – in language, syntax and image – they celebrate the ‘merry bedlam’ of our creaturely planet, and the beauty and oddity of being alive.”
Bird’s Nest in Beech
The bird’s nest sits high where the mind should be
but its heavy disorder suggests feeling.
So it seems a heart in the place of thought,
which is not unfamiliar among things suffered,
such as your absence on this 99th day.
Perhaps a shared desertion returns me to the place
where my lovely mop is stuck in a tree –
one ramshackle nest that has served and been done with?
I see an ordinary womb, or woman, resting there,
who is held as my endurance is held,
gently yet securely by a kind of reaching.
This is not a purely heroic reaching. No, it’s not just that.
It is a helpless tangle in branches growing
to the same cold light that braces these fields –
sheer weight, glittering as if wept upon,
where the skies stretching to you have nearly torn,
clouds dispersing like a thousand feathers.
KAYAKÖY by Jeri Onitskansky
After burning there are ashes and tales
of rising. As with the death of water
there is vapour. When I imagined you gone
I could see something torn in your absence,
the colour of raw sienna. I saw you bearing
my grief in your hands the way you brought
the coffee to your lips morning after morning.
Like this I thought you would kiss me
and go on forever kissing me.
A Moon Poem
Ideally a potential partner would be someone who is at ease in her own skin, who has a life of her own and is looking, initially for the ‘icing on the cake’ rather than a knight on white steed who is going to save her from herself. – MrSensible (Guardian Soulmates)
Just to let you know
I’ll keep my distance, I won’t
‘like’ or invite you
to view my ‘gallery’
of photos because
my cake is a maggoty
old cake and icing will make it
all the more sickly
plus there’s no use being
in my skin as that’s
crawling too so
your knight on a white
steed would be very
in my lounge:
MrSensible sitting terribly
hunkily, his white steed
scratching its rump
on the arm of my chesterfield
as I pack a light bag
for deliverance out of Jeridom,
out of basically
till we gallop off the face
of the earth, lit
by the moon
in space as if sated after a late supper,
fat-cheeked, licking its chops –
a mutton and spuds
sort of moon.
Strange you had a shorter life than your parents
despite their early privation –
your father’s setting off as a boy of thirteen,
your mother’s time in prison;
your father’s attempts to dodge the Russian
draft, puncturing his own eardrum;
your mother’s first born lost at sea on
the crossing from Hamburg to Manhattan.
Each morning you tossed a fistful of vitamins
down in one swallow, chased by medicinal mushroom.
You’d say I’m too busy to die! – and
I’ve got one more bullet in my gun!
and still, in an instant, you were taken.
Jeri Onitskansky is an American psychotherapist and Jungian analyst. She has lived in London since 1996. Her poems have been widely published, and her pamphlet, Call Them Juneberries (Templar Poetry) was an iOTA shot winner in 2015. Her awards include winning the Ledbury and Ver Poets competitions. Kayaköy is Jeri’s first full collection.