Doreen Stock

Doreen Stock

Poet, essayist, memoir practitioner, I have been exploring creative nonfiction for thirty plus years from the feminine point of view as a wife, mother of three, single human, and grandmother of ten. My first book of poems, The Politics of Splendor, Alcatraz Editions, Santa Cruz, 1984, was part of a New American Writers exhibit at the Frankfurt Book Fair that year. It combined my own poetry and prose poems with my translation from the work of Marina Tsvetaeva and Anna Akhmatova. During my early years living here in Mill Valley, I worked in literary translation of women poets, Gabriela Mistral was also among them, and these translations were my strongest literary influences. I was always working at the border of prose and poetry which lead me quite naturally into memoir writing.

While I was raising my three children I wrote two book-length memoirs: FIVE: The Transcript of a Journey, detailing our family travels through Europe in a VW van, and My Name is Y, an anti-nuclear demonstrator’s family memoir. I was also a small press (D’Aurora Press) editor and publisher at that time. The Bookcase, a memoir exploring totalitarianism and the self, was begun in Amsterdam in the eighties, and after that, Rani, describing my first five-month stay in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. During seven years of travel in the nineties, I composed a several collection of poems, Memorial Service, Poems of Arad among them, and the essays which eventually became, On Leaving Jerusalem: Prose of a Traveling Nature. I have currently settled in Sausalito, California, where I continue to write poetry. A work of historical fiction, Three Tales from the Archives of Love, and a collection of poetry, IN PLACE OF ME, edited and introduced by Jack Hirschman are both currently looking for a publisher.

A Camel is Kneeling on the Far End of the World

The smallest house
I’ve yet to live in

And my bed slopes

Just to the left
of my head
in the dark
a camel
is kneeling

The white one
I saw grazing.
The one whose head
disappeared onto the
other side of the world.

And when I looked
toward the kitchenette
one half of the moon turned
the corner from the bathroom
window between the needles
of a pine branch
and managed to pour
one teaspoonful of
light onto the camel.

Washington Square, summer/fall, 09

Just Like in The Song of Songs

The little black goats
swarm over a ledge together

and, just like in The Song
of Songs
, they remind me

of your beautiful hair.

They run into a woman’s
garden as their goatherd
cries out in words like
spit stones

His tall form stalks
across the small valley,
bent iron in a red shirt,
faded blue jeans

He carries a big stick
to slash out at your
beautiful running hair.

Nashim, winter, 1998

In Odos Theotaki

A smudged gypsy girl
holds an equally smudged
baby boy in the classic
begging pose I have seen
now all over Europe.
Here in Odos Theotaki
the accompanying picture
of Christ is out, and the
little girl is trying to
collect coins in an empty
shoe box cover. Will her
brother grow up to sell
fruit, vegetables, lawn chairs,
and chickens in a blue truck
with a loudspeaker
making the rounds of the
local villages? Will she some
day, in another cold February,
stoop in her long skirt and bare
feet to snatch the still
warm 100 drachma piece from
her daughter’s shoe box lid
and dart away, yelling some
thing curt and desperate
to her?

I gave too much, I know,
and lose sight of the mother
as a tranquil, smiling Greek
in a white shirt takes a
moment out of my busy day
to bless me, in English, and
my family. The hunchback, whose
broken shoes I can hear now from
very far away as they slurp the
concrete, curses these children
as he passes with his face
permanently stuck looking down
at them.

I Visit Armand

I visit Armand on Saturday mornings at
8:00 AM (sometimes 9:00) behind the green
door to the yellow synagogue next to
the toilet shop in the Jewish Quarter
of Corfu City.

He always says, “Who’s there?” when I
enter. And I walk up the stairs and
into the sanctuary of the last surviving
Italian synagogue (once there were four)
with its covered windows (a feature of
ghetto life, you see, there was an edict
we shouldn’t be seen), wooden pews facing
each other, a holy ark at one end of the room
and a tall dais at the other, where
my cantor, the last surviving Jew at Saturday
morning services, stands mumbling this week’s
Torah portion in two sweaters and a look
about him as if he’s just rolled out of bed.

“Doreen,” I answer, my name sounding foreign
and ridiculous in this place with its gold
chandeliers lit for the day, its ornate
cream and red painted woodwork…

In the middle of a prayer or a silence,
Armand comes tumbling down to greet me,
the only member of his congregation.
He takes my bible and opens it to the
place where he is reading. Then hops
back up to continue. We stand in the presence
of so great a loss with our sniffles and the
turning of our pages, it cannot be measured
except by one of the four scrolls which
stand in the ark behind the red velvet curtain.

It is perfectly black, permanently
open to lamentations. It is always
only read on Tisha B’Av, but now as
I pray I see it with the four thousand
names of the deported secretly written
between the lines…

When I turn to leave the synagogue,
Armand holds my hand for one minute
in the sunlit doorway and says, smiling,
“I am happy.”

Poetry in this post: © Doreen Stock
Photo credit: Marcelo Holot
Published with the permission of Doreen Stock