Starpoet by Lisa Jain Thompson
The StarPoet Newsletter
Vol. XI, No. XLII (October 17,  2010 C.E.)
StarPoet Newsletter by Lisa Jain Thompson

A hint a summer, a breath of late fall, who knows what tomorrow brings?  I build to the finish

Water pools at the corner drains,
Inches deep for the unwary,
High heel shoes sink beneath
The dark Autumn puddles of morning.

Lisa Jain Thompson c. 2010 C.E. 

half of my genes come from Palermo, which means half my genes began in the ports of the Mediteranean

mid-century in California

The Radiance of Sunflowers

The radiance of sunflowers filled the fields
Until the heavens met the distant horizon,
Row after row challenging the stars
To match their immeasurable grandeur;
A breeze began to work its way up the Bay,
Bringing a brief solace to the long summer haze;
We found an open spot among the sunflowers,
Spread our blanket wide, making love
Until the half moon rose over the foothills
And we returned reluctantly back up river
To our parents' homes in Sacramento.

— Lisa Jain Thompson (October 2010)

Palermo was founded by the Phoenicians, but named by the Ancient Greeks as Panormus meaning (Largest)Port of All(Sea). Palermo became part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. From 827 to 1071 it was under Arab rule during the Emirate of Sicily when it first became a capital. Following the Norman reconquest, Palermo became capital of a new kingdom (from 1130 to 1816), the Kingdom of Sicily. Eventually it would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.  It was later overrun by Germans and Americans during the Second World War.

---  Wikipedia

one view of Mount Shasta

One More for the Road

A cup of coffee,
An HBO Saturday Movie,
A pen, some paper,
SNL and sleep,
Or a horror flick on TMC,
Just another
   middleaged weekend
Working its way to Monday.

— Lisa Jain Thompson (October 2010)
the point of no return
Light, Not Light

Holidays, family,
The winter solstice looms;
Darkness, short days,
Six months until the equinox.
Inside the circle and the routine,
I feel myself slipping,
Day into night into day again,
Week into week months on end.
As always, this too shall pass,
But stuck here in the middle
With winter near ahead,
I need to soar above it all
To kiss the sun bright light
And make me whole once more.

— Lisa Jain Thompson (October 2010)

Evidence for human settlement in the area now known as Palermo goes back to the Pleistocene Epoch, around 8000 BC. This evidence is present in the form of cave drawings at nearby Addaura crafted by the Sicani who, according to Thucydides, arrived from the Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Catalonia). During 734 BC the Phoenicians, a sea trading peoples from the north of ancient Canaan, built a small settlement on the natural habour of Palermo. Some sources suggest they named the settlement "Ziz." The Greeks, who were the most dominant culture on the island of Sicily due to the powerful city state of Syracuse to the east, instead called the settlement Panormus. Its Greek name means "all-port" and it was named so because of its fine natural harbour. Palermo was then passed on to the Phoenician's descendants and successors, in the form of the Carthaginians.

During this period it was a centre of commerce; however a power struggle between the Greeks and the Carthaginians broke out in the form of the Sicilian Wars, causing unrest. It was from Palermo that Hamilcar's fleet (which was defeated at the Battle of Himera) was launched. Palermo eventually became a Greek colony when Pyrrhus of Epirus gained it during the Pyrrhic War period in 276 BC. However, as the Romans flooded into Sicily during the First Punic War, the city came under Roman rule only three decades later. The Romans made sure that, in the words of Roman consul M. Valerian to the Roman Senate; "no Carthaginian remains in Sicily". This period was quite a calm time for Palermo, which was growing into an important Roman trade centre. Also during this period Christianity first began to be practised in Palermo.

-- Wikipedia

here, there, most anywhere

A Classroom

Twenty well scrubbed, eager faces,
This years promising new kindergarten class:
Somewhere a future president sits
Next to the first woman to win a Congressional,
Over in the corner a priest is talking to a kid
Who will die in an accident before eighth grade,
A mother, a drug dealer, a stone cold killer,
A store clerk, a writer, the trans kid
Who will come out to his parents at twelve,
A plumber, a pedophile, a chef and a grifter,
The gay street hustler who will die of AIDS,
A geek and a poet, and the rest of us
Who will drift in and out of our lives
And be lost in the static of the numbers.

— Lisa Jain Thompson (October 2010)

As the Roman Empire was falling apart, Palermo fell under the control of several Germanic tribes. The first were the Vandals in 440 AD under the rule of their king Geiseric. The Vandals had already invaded other parts of Western Europe establishing themselves as a significant force. However, they soon lost these newly acquired possessions to another East Germanic tribe in the form of the Goths. The Ostrogothic conquest under Theodoric the Great began in 488; although the Goths were Germanic, Theodoric sought to revive Roman culture and government instead. The Gothic War took place between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire. Sicily was the first part of Italy to be taken under control of General Belisarius who was commissioned by Eastern Emperor Justinian I who solidified his rule in the following years.

-- Wikipedia

any night, any city

The Logic of the Soundbite

I saw something on the t. v.
About them building something,
I don't know how long they've been at it
Or what might it suppose to be;
But the pretty blond lady on the television
Seemed guite excited about the whole thing,
So I suspect it was a mosque or a hospital
Or maybe a new ballpark for the team.
It's hard to know what's going on now days,
What with all the bombings and the hurricanes,
She might have been talking about some building
In Dubai or Honolulu, rather than anywhere
Near here in the center of things.

— Lisa Jain Thompson (October 2010)
The Daughter of Palermu

My nose starts to turn down like Grandpa,
Then turns up at the end like Grandma
-- The best of genes Palermo can provide --
An olive tone that tans quickly and doesn't burn,
Then stays tanned to sometime in late winter;
A blood line that lives into their 80s and 90s
And maxes out somewhere around the century mark,
Give or take a handful of birthday candles;
My lips are full, hinting at North African ancestors,
Perhaps the Carthaginians, certainly the Moors;
My skin, oily to the point of despair in adolescence,
Ages slowly and belies my age by a decade or more;
And it is Palermo that provides an abyssal fondness
For garlic, anchovies, and my weekly pasta fix.

— Lisa Jain Thompson (October 2010)

After the Byzantines were betrayed by Admiral Euphemius, who fled to Tunisia and begged the Aghlabid leader Ziyadat Allah to help him, there was a Muslim conquest of Sicily, putting in place the Emirate of Sicily. The Arab rulers allowed the natives freedom of religion on the condition that they paid a tax. Although their rule was short in time, it was then that Palermo (Balharm during Arab rule) displaced Syracuse as the prime city of Sicily. It was said to have then begun to compete with Córdoba and Cairo in terms of importance and splendor. The Arabs also introduced many agricultural items which remain a mainstay of Sicilian cuisine. After dynasty related quarrels however, there was a Christian reconquest in the form of the Normans from the Duchy of Normandy, descendants of the Vikings; the family who returned the city to Christianity were called the Hautevilles. Palermo was conquered in 831 by Arabs from North Africa and became the capital of the Arabian Emirate of Sicily until 1072 where it was back under Christian rule due largely to the efforts of Robert Guiscard and his army, who is regarded as a hero by the natives. For more than two hundred years Palermo, was the capital of a flourishing Islamic civilisation in Sicily. By 1050, Palermo had a population of 350,000, making it one of the largest cities in Europe, second only to Islamic Spain's capital Cordoba, which had a population of 450,000.

-- Wikipedia

modern history  -- a good one
Low, Self-Sustaining, Booming Noises

I am among a handful of west coast expatriates
Who have colonized the East Atlantic Coast of the United States;
A metroglob that extends from maritime Nova Scotia south
To the security fences at Guantanamo: the flashing paparazzi stop
Just north of Richmond and do not pick up again until South Beach;
South of Richmond, similar to the practices of the neo-frontier,
Citizens have guns and permission to shoot them when necessary,
Preferably firing at deer (in season) and ducks (in season)
With the occasional mugger or bank robber an acceptable alternative
(When in season) and other targets of opportunity are inaccessible.
In Washington there is always a certain fatalistic acquiescence,
Official spokesmen from among the administrations - this one,
The last one, probably the next two or three- try to reassure us
They can keep the bad guys under control (vote for me, vote for me)
Without making any promises they can stop the next attack:
If something were to happen they quickly elucidate their rationales,
It's not their fault, they are still our close friends,
And the thousand and one reasons they should be re-elected.
Pull back, hunker down, put up defenses, screen everyone,
Tap our phones, track our money, build a better missile system,
The war will go on for the rest of our lives and our children's,
You can't even duck into a Starbucks on U Street with becoming involved
In some lame ass tribal gang war taking place on our capitol streets
Like we are all living in Baghdad and the Mullahs are calling the shots.
If this goes on, and no one on either coast seems to think it won't,
Where will we find our half double decaffeinated half-cafs?

— Lisa Jain Thompson (October 2010)
the words, like days in the sandbox

Alone Now

I'm alone,
Thinking about what's gone,
The faces I remember,
The voices I have known,
The lips I have touched,
The tongues that have twisted
Lovingly inside my mouth;
The men, the women
Whose perfume I've inhaled,
The anger I have sidestepped,
The few brains that I trust;
Those fingers, that caress
Whose embrace lingers yet,
The sweetness of the first time,
The sadness of the last,
An angel could do no better,
A donkey could do no worse,
The earth could shake,
Hurricanes could rage,
We're all only doing
The most we ever can.

— Lisa Jain Thompson (October 2010)

It was under Roger II of Sicily that his holdings of Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula were promoted; from the County of Sicily into the Kingdom of Sicily. The kingdom was ruled from Palermo as its capital, with the king's court held at Palazzo dei Normanni. Much construction was undertaken during this period, such as the building of the Palermo Cathedral. The Kingdom of Sicily became one of the wealthiest states in Europe, as wealthy as the fellow Norman state, the Kingdom of England. Although the city's population had dropped to 150,000, it became the largest city in Europe, due to the larger decline in Cordoba's population.

Sicily, in 1194, fell under the control of the Holy Roman Empire. Palermo was the preferred city of the Emperor Frederick II. Muslims of Palermo were migrated and expelled during Holy Roman rule. After an interval of Angevin rule (1266-1282), Sicily came under the house of Aragon. By 1330, Palermo's population had declined to 51,000. From 1479, it was ruled by the Kingdom of Spain until 1713 and between 1717-1718. Palermo was also managed by Savoy between 1713-1717 and 1718-1720 and Austria between 1720-1734.

-- Wikipedia

on re-reading the author's notes

On the Surface of the Globe

The world is not a stage,
Our lives are not remnants
From a playwright's pen;
If I strut, it is my own,
Not a bit of business added
In the third revision of the script.

I am no more an actor
Than I am a victim;
This face is my own,
These eyes watch what I will,
My legs take me where I go,
My hands grasp what my brain
Tells them them I must reach.

I have earned my scars and tribulations,
Survived them and grown
In knowledge and experience;
I seek no special governmental protections,
Expect no comfort from church or god;
I am but one woman of three billion plus,
A poet-girl recording time's passage
Across her island.

— Lisa Jain Thompson (October 2010)

where I came in

From Where I Come

I come from stock that worked for a living,
Gone hungry at times then learned new trades
And used our brains to overcome
Life's resistance to our continued presence.
At any point we could have surrendered,
Accepted whatever place we were allowed
And complained bitterly over how badly
We were being treated instead of continuing
On a journey a thousand years or more in the making.

— Lisa Jain Thompson  (October 2010)

Two Sicilies

After the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), Sicily was handed over to the Savoia, but by 1734 it was again a Bourbon possession. Charles III chose Palermo for his coronation as King of Sicily. Charles had new houses built for the increased population, while trade and industry grew as well. However, Palermo was now just another provincial city as the royal court resided in Naples. Charles' son Ferdinand, though disliked by the population, took refuge in Palermo after the French Revolution in 1798. His son Alberto died on the way to Palermo and is buried in the city.

From 1820 to 1848 all Sicily was shaken by upheavals, which culminated on January 12, 1848, with a popular insurrection led by Giuseppe La Masa, the first one in Europe that year. A parliament and constitution were proclaimed. The first president was Ruggero Settimo. The Bourbons soon reconquered Palermo (May 1849), which remained under their rule until the appearance of Giuseppe Garibaldi. This famous general entered Palermo with his troops (the "Thousands") on May 27, 1860. After the plebiscite later that year Palermo and the whole of Sicily became part of the new Kingdom of Italy (1861).

-- Wikipedia

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