Lana Orphanides - photo
Author photo: Bruce Hostetler
The angels in Searching for Angels, the newest book by Lana Orphanides, are both worldly and otherworldly: lovers, newborns and nereids as well as visitors from another sphere. The delights of “heavy, soft bellied earth,” with its sensual intoxications and local habitations (Greece, the Grand Canyon, Cornwall, Paris) are set against the omnipresence of an extraterrestrial dimension. Both are “what give the heart ease” in a book that is a universal celebration. Edwina Trentham has commented that Searching for Angels is an “exquisitely wrought collection of poetry [in which] poems sing with courage, honesty, and insight rooted in a deep integrity of voice and vision. Using language, sound, and image with rich originality and passion, coupled with an artist’s unerring eye for color, the poet gently but insistently convinces us to pause and consider what we may never have truly seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched in our inner and outer worlds. Suffused with the awareness and acceptance of life’s brevity and love’s essential nature – ‘so shaken by love / it is hard / to breathe’ – the poems remind us that ‘beauty and sorrow’ are woven into our lives. We are taken to Mykonos, where we see that ‘All is air and indigo and the whiteness of wind / blowing, blowing,’ and also to heaven, which is imagined as ‘a Star Trek replay’ with Captain Kirk, who ‘dreams of floating on his back, / eyes closed, the sound of rippling water /pulling against the heavy, soft bellied earth.’ And with that image of longing, and others, we encounter that overarching desire to believe there is something beyond this life, beyond ourselves, as the poet asks, with undeniable but humorous desperation, ‘God, where the hell are you?’ and the answer comes, ‘I will be waiting / behind that blade of grass.’ Over and over, startling and revelatory juxtapositions in form, image, and language insist that we remember this is what we have – this glorious, heartbreaking life, this astonishing, confusing, and beautiful world.
Searching for Angels - cover
Front cover watercolor by the author
Pay attention, says the poet, to ‘what gives the heart ease’ as we make this brief journey together, where ‘wounds / stay and glitter like the winter moon’ but ‘the heart is calmed by the simple cleansing of the waves, the songs / of the hidden world, your voice.’

Lana Orphanides taught English and Creative Writing at New London High School for eighteen years. She received advanced degrees from Northeastern University and Wesleyan University and is the author of Sea and the Sound of Wind, Poems of Greece, as well as a collaborative book of poetry and paintings, Spring: Rebirth and Renewal. She has been the opening voice at the Arts Café Mystic, the featured poet in the Hygienic Poetry Series and also in the Hidden Treasures Poetry Series at the Courtyard Gallery. In addition, her poetry was part of a multimedia exhibition at the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery. She is a member of the Connecticut River Poets and Cerebellum, a group which gives workshops combining art, poetry, and dance. Lana was recently nominated for The Pushcart Prize. With her husband, Dimi, she lives in Groton, Connecticut, on Pine Island Bay, a continual source of inspiration.

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BOOK STATISTICS

ISBN 978-1-936482-80-1

Copyright © 2015 by Lana Orphanides

6" x 9" paperback, 98 pages
$18.00 US per book plus 6.35% sales tax (CT only)

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SAMPLE POEMS
copyright © 2015 by Lana Orphanides

 

The Seeds Within

You walked across the grass at twilight and the curve
of the earth changed.
The strength of your stride, the force
of your gaze, beguiled me,
the world from which you came unknown,
the world that I had known, gone.

The seeds
of our lives
were in that moment
that we met,
the seeds of our children
and their children,
hidden deep within like sleeping seraphim.

You walked across the grass at twilight
and I, on the opposite side,
saw the curve of the earth shift.

In the angle of that light, we traced a triangle to meet
as if we knew the way,
as if it all was known,
and all
that was to to be
began.


First Born

The body does not forget.
It remembers the child in the belly,
the first feeling of roundness,
the bold corner of a foot,
the milk spilling in the breast.

It stretches and folds and grows
limp. Rises and tightens and grasps
and lets go but does not forget.

Once I watched the birth of a calf as it
struggled out of its mother, she licking
and cleaning and the calf raggedly standing
just out of the womb, falling, resting, rising
once again. The mother too rising quickly
after this hoof-kicking, long-legged birth,
prodding and watching, no lying down, no dreaming.

You too had long legs when you were born
though I hardly remember your coming out,
and I was not standing soon after
but you were clean and fresh as porcelain
and, in the peace of the dark room,
I felt that I was the one
who had come through
to the other side.

 


Summer Afternoon

Sometimes the heart
is pressed down
to overflowing,
trampled in joy
and afraid,
so shaken by love
it is hard
to breathe.



How You Visit

Sometimes, I hear your laughter in my own,
bubbling up from an underground
spring of sweet water, a trilling sound of a bird
I cannot name unless perhaps

it’s a crowd of scarlet tanagers,
or that towhee-like bird
I heard in New Zealand
whose notes were impossibly high and clear,

singing, “Drink your tea, drink dear,”
the last sounds clinking as I climbed
to the Cathedral in the Rock.
But, I don’t know.

You do not appear
in my mirror, your hands in their usual movements
of larks flying. It is as though we visit
for a short while but there is no conversation.

That you come in laughter amazes me
and after, I turn my head, sure
of the disappearing scent of your perfume,
and speech, then, seems too tied to earth.



Going In

Lavender and the soft haze
of sage, pale green capers,
and wild thyme
lined the path
to the sea. Below us

the beach
was a small, empty crescent,
far from the town,
the moonscape of mountains behind.

The weather was windy, and this our first swim
in the still cold Aegean.
I invited my mother,
dead then eight years, for the dip.

I asked if she’d like to dive with me,
warm me, sustain me, make me look brave.
She smiled, almost laughed
and gladly came diving.

Weightless,
all spirit, her long
swimmer’s body
joined mine. Motion and essence,
we arched like a dolphin,
a sound wave
of coming and going.

In that moment as light
rolled into darkness,
ocean spilled into ocean, I was liquid and flowing,
I was past and present, future and never.
I was water and space and the taste
of salt. I was gone
and come back unafraid.



Her Other Name


When she was Gabriella Orvieto
she soared and flew. Her eyes were bright and clear.
She knew each glance, the way to trick the fear,

what looks would kill, what words say no.
The girl had no regrets, each road was new.
She never looked back. She never told all.

She dressed in silver, her hair was shining,
her walk was languid, and when she strolled the streets
bicyclists fell from their seats.

Nothing could offend her, no comment
slow her down, no friend would deny her,
no boundary could confine her.

And when she read her poems of longing
they jumped into the soul and each word sang.
Each languid phrase became a siren song.

The audience was thrilled and all afire.
For she was Gabriella Orvieto
and all she had was all that she desired.



Nereid Sister

I heard her opening her door
from her room below
in the windowless blue
studio just before sunrise,
the smell of chamomile lingering
from the nighttime dew.

How she slid into the water that dawn
she hardly remembered,
so much ouzo, so much sun
the day before.
I watched her climb down the rocky cliff
in the almost darkness
slipping out of her nightgown as out of a dream
and stepping into the crimson waves
while I guarded unseen
from the shadow of the cliff.

As her silver body, so like a girl’s,
so like a nereid,
rose and dove, rose and dove
into the ripening Aegean,
her hair the color of starlight,
she was as free as I have ever seen her,
and full of a singing light.

She did not need
my protection after all
but still
I was glad
to have witnessed that beauty,
glad that she arose
like Venus and quietly ran back
to her gilded room.




Listen

In Mykonos there are no birds, but sea, and the sound
of wind
as it swims
through the open windows and the open blue shutters.
Nothing is green.
All is in the eye and the skin, the touch
and the taste
of salt, the clear line of rock against blue, the white square
houses, the white dotted hillsides of domes.
All is air and indigo and the whiteness of wind
blowing, blowing.

Outside the Monastery of Michael,
on the island of Lesvos,
the birds are carillons, an angelus,
the sound of a thousand bells, as if
every monk’s page
turning in the dark cells
above us
had small cymbals,
each page ringing
against its silence.

As if all the leaves blowing outside the church
in the corridor
of green
sunlit shadows
on the stone wall where we sit
listening –
as if those leaves are brass
feathers in the wind
and all around, stillness

except for the birds

unseen, hidden,
hundreds and hundreds of green chimes,
singing,

singing.



Once Again

I am going to take a vow of silence
and listen to spring coming,
listen to the snow whispering away
into the morning sky,
to the waves receding and pulling forth,
hear the creaking dock and the wind
that sounds like evergreens.
I am going to listen to the hiss
of the welcome heat
rising from the dark cellar,
and the hush of the tablecloth
descending to the table.
I will listen for the quiet
sound of your whistling,
the wrinkle of your laughter, the glide
of your shirt and slide of your shoes,
the clink of ice in the glass, the fork
on the porcelain plate,
the sound of the world together
unbroken by words.



Found

In the deep
breathless sigh
of the forest
our son moves
below us
like a gazelle,
like a sail as we descend

into the valley
of the giant redwoods.
It is late afternoon in a cold April.
There is the threat of rain and we
are traveling an unmarked trail,
the usual bridge
covered
in rushing waters.

He disappears below us in the circles of greenness.

We follow the path
like a labyrinth, whose end we cannot know.
I turn to see the way back
and stumble, as the sky disappears.
There is no sound.

Our breath quickens as we go lower.
My feet sink in the softness of moss,
a feeling of floating as in deep,
leafy waters,
the silence of being
underground.
I whistle. No answer.

Finally in the distance we see the grove,
the elders, the giant ones,
the tallest of all sentinels, immense beyond logic,
detached, quiet, holy.
Our son sits below the tallest, like a Buddha.

I move forward, touch
the tree’s velvet skin, feel a vibration
as in a hum of waves thousands of miles away,
one
harmonious note,
dispelling all fear,
circling through eons and eons
of years,
like stars.


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