Stanley H. Barkan

Stanley H. Barkan - Photo by Mark Polyakov

Stanley H. Barkan, editor/publisher of Cross-Cultural Communications, which in 2020 celebrated its 50th Anniversary with 500 books in print, and as many broadsides and postcards and audio-visual productions in 60 languages (ranging from Arabic to Yiddish). CCC, in addition to having a long and productive cooperative relationship with Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry Press in Swansea, Wales, has also hosted numerous literary events throughout the United States and in many parts of the world (Argentina, Bulgaria, Poland, Puerto Rico, Sicily, Wales), at such locations in New York as the International Center, Poets House, the Yale Club, and the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium of the United Nations. His own work has been published in 29 poetry editions, many bilingual, including Armenian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Dutch, Farsi/Persian, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Sicilian, Spanish. His most recent books are As Still as a Broom, translated into Spanish by Isaac Goldemberg (2018) and Pumpernickel, translated into Farsi/Persian by Sepideh Zamani (2019) (both published by Oyster Bay, NY: New Feral Press), and More Mishpocheh, with illustrative photos and art by the author’s wife, Bebe Barkan (Swansea, Wales: The Seventh Quarry Press, 2018). Also, in 2017, he was awarded the Homer European Medal of Poetry & Art. Barkan lives with his wife in Merrick, Long Island, where his son and daughter and five grandchildren also reside.


Only the left hand—
a few fingers
and a part of a palm—
clings to the waist.

The space
where the arm
should be,
you can clearly see
was akimbo.

Tall, hair in
frontal curls,
a long tunic
covering his
large frame,
reaching down
to where
ankles once were.

The right arm,
too, is gone,
but clearly raised.

As if he were Odysseus
leaving the Phaeacian sportsmen
conquered on the field.

The nose is also gone,
and part of the lips,
the chin, too dimpled by erosion
or being broken in handling
from where he was excavated.

Still, if one listens,
from the alabaster mouth,
a voice calls out:
“I am of that stock
that sailed these shores,
ruled these islands.
I am of those
who strove with gods
and came, at last,
as all men do,
to my eternal rest.

“But this, too . . .
I am still here
before you—
large, imposing,
forever . . . ”

(27 May 2000, Mothia)


Even when
the summer sun
hides behind
a black cloud
or falls into the sea
between the Egadi isles
of Levanzo & Favignana,
large & red,
as if it were the end
of the first day,
the birth of the earth.

Even after,
the light seems to linger,
as if the Sicilian earth
were a source of light itself,
competing with moon & stars.

Even when
the mouth is parched
the stomach empty,
the sheer exquisite beauty
of Sicilian light
suffuses the spirit.

For a time
no candle, lamp,
or hearthfire
is needed
in or outside
the casuzze
of the people
of the sun.

They themselves
are lucence
emitting rays
that light the way
between them,
the olive groves,
the neat rows
of vineyards,
the fields of melons,
the almond trees,
branches heavy
with green pods
bursting with
the seeds
of Sicilian light.

casuzze —huts where the farmers would rest during the harvesting.

(28 May 2000, Gibellina)


The restaurant of the gods
(for Nat Scammacca)

When the ancient gods,
Zeus & Hermes,
tired of their daily fare
of ambrosia & nectar,
decided to descend from Olympus
to seek a restaurant that might
prepare some enticements,
comparable but different,
they came to L’Antica Filanda
in Galati Mamertino.
And after homemade bread,
quattro antipasti,
piatto primo e secondo,
coniglio e agnello

—each dish with its own wine—
semifreddo di pistacchio dell’Etna,
tortino di cioccolato,

they refused to leave.
They kept eating & eating
and drinking & drinking
and eating & eating,
demanding, “More!” and “More!”
until an uproar arose on Olympus
demanding their return—
Chaos was reigning,
Eris was wreaking her discord,
people, who were seeking
the intervention of the gods,
found their supplications
going completely unanswered.
Finally, with genuine concern
for Humanity and not a little pity
for the gods themselves,
the cook at L’Antica Filanda
agreed to go up to Olympus
to cook there for a time and
to teach the cook of the gods
the specialties and secrets of L’Antica Filanda.
And that is how the ancient gods
continued to reign on Olympus for a time . . .
that is, until their cook died.

June 1, 2000, Galati Mamertino,
prov. di Messina, Sicilia, Italia


(for Nicanor Parra, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Nat Scammacca)

Poets, I have come down
not just from Brooklyn Heights or Olympus
but from Erice
in Trapani, Sicily.

From the pinnacle
of Aphrodite’s
sacred mountain,
I beheld a vista:

White clouds covering
everything like a mythic sea—
only a single rock rising
out of the soft white mist.

The boulder that Polyphemus threw
at Odysseus and his crew
escaping from this the isle
of grapes and sheep and Cyclops?

Yes, I descended down the trail
through vineyards where shepherds
in secret groves listened to the tales
of Trinacrian messengers from the new world.

Stories of ancient Greek and Elymian days
when every man who came out of the mist,
appeared between the rocks,
shadowed out of the sacred woods,

Spoke prophecies and warnings:
foretold destruction of crops and cattle,
the withering of the grape, lemon, and nespole,
the coming of scirocco winds drier than flames.

Wide-eyed the shepherds filled great goblets
of nectar, foaming like the spume of ships against the tides,
currents twisting and deflecting courses
redetermined by angered gods of the sea.

Open-mouthed they skewered great shanks of lamb,
turned their skins over the licking flames,
dripping fat and exuding aromatic swirls
delighting the woodland dryads and Homeric visitors.

Yes, I descended not into the maelstrom,
not into the nether world of pale shades, Limbo,
beyond the rivers Styx and Lethe,
not down into a sunless sea,

But, accompanied by a contadino—
a man without a sky, with lentils in
his mother’s pot, earth for a floor,
leading his white Arabian stallion—

We spiraled the legendary labyrinths
of this Western Trapanese acropolis
(parallel to the Eastern Etna,
burial site of Titans),

Together with the sacred horse—
a gift from the peak above the clouds,
a quadruped without a spiraled horn or wings to fly—
we came down beneath the sky of white mist and visions,

Down to the base of Olympian struggles,
down to the broken streets and red-tiled villas,
the horse staggering under its load of ambrosian fruits,
we came down, came down from Erice,

And the street vender uttered his diurnal cry:
“Lemons, tomatoes, grapes! Beautiful, tasty, full of juice!
If you want them, they are here for you;
if you don’t, I don’t give a shit anyway!”

Poetry in this post: © Stanley H. Barkan
Published with the permission of Stanley H. Barkan