Tad Tuleja

Tad Tuleja

Tad Tuleja, a folklorist and songwriter who has written widely on folk and popular culture, received a grant from the Puffin Foundation for his song cycle Skein of Arms. His poems have appeared in Sparks of Calliope, The Road Not Taken, and Adirondack Review. In the ones he is currently preparing for a collection entitled Things of the Brilliant Earth, he aspires, in Joseph Conrad’s phrase, “to make you see.” Under the musical alias Skip Yarrow, Tuleja performs his songs on www.skipyarrow.com and on You Tube.

Parque Güell

(Barcelona, 1970)

In the sand the little girl has crushed
a spider. Now, a long elastic stretched
between two chairs, she plays a game
with legs, some elaborate Spanish
cat’s cradle until, winding and turning,
she catches herself in her web and falls,
laughing. In the plaza: young boys
playing soccer.

Song for Rosa

(In memory of Sicilian folksinger Rosa Balistreri, 1929-1990)

Where are you singing tonight, Rosa Balistreri?
Where is it echoing now, that voice of the voiceless?
Can we hear it in Licata, in the cries of the market,
where the sea, jealous lover, caresses the coast,
where the bellies are empty and promises are full,
where honor is a shower of stones,
where those who saw into your gypsy heart
gave your voice its incandescence?

Where are you singing tonight, Rosa Balistreri?
Can we hear you at the Café Dante,
where comrades first gave you hope
in that spring where everyone had a dream?
Can we hear you in Palermo, where you returned,
prodigal daughter, vagrant redeemed by fame?
Can we hear you in Licata? Are there posters
on the corner where you worked?

You asked us to remember you “quannu moru,”
to remember the withered flowers and low voices,
to listen to the old struggle, darkened by breezes,
and we responded: Yes, we will remember.
We will hear you in the Little Sparrow’s cafes,
in the alleys of Lisboa where Amalia sang,
in the Florentine piazzas, where the people sang,
and in the streets of Licata, where girls sing still.

Where are you singing tonight, Rosa Balistreri?
Send me some tickets on the wind.
I will bring you the world.

Under an Azure Sky (Sotto un Cielo Azzuro)

(On the beach at Baratti, 2000)

Old black dog watching the surf roll in,
children on the ramparts, castles made of dreams.
The wind is in from Corsica scenting the air with pine
as the old dog trembles, nearly blind.

          It all comes down to this
          under an azure sky
          Salt on your tongue, the stumbling and the young
          This is what it all comes down to

On every hill a fortress, on every beach a child,
poppies in the meadows, laughter in the foam.
In the shadow of our hungers we raise the ramparts high
as the old dog dozes in the sun

          Tutto arriva qua
          Sotto un cielo azzuro
          Sale sulla lingua, giovani vaganti
          Tutto arriva qua

Did these waters sparkle when Columbus was a child
when the sound of arms and canticles rode the wind?
Did he pray for glory, fingers full of sand,
like an old dog barking at the moon?

          It all comes down to this
          under an azure sky
          Salt on your tongue, the wandering and the young
          Tutto arriva qua

Poetry in this post: © Tad Tuleja
Published with the permission of Tad Tuleja