Karl Marx Imperial Dispensary and Himalayan Tea Garden: Poems, cover art and book design by Sylvia Fischbach Braden: http://karlmarximperial.blogspot.com/
Please join SYLVIA FISCHBACH BRADEN at the University of Baltimore (UB) Student Center, 21 W. Mt. Royal Ave., for a reading from Karl Marx Imperial Dispensary and Himalayan Tea Garden on Saturday, May 7, 3:30- 4:15 p.m.
The Himalayan Tea Garden is a collection of discursive poems that consider exile, loss, love, art, colonialism, relics, dead birds, imaginary birds, a lost mural, missionary grandparents, a mysterious Hebrew word, and a bright orange ball of Singapore-made Super Dough.
Sylvia’s reading will be part of the UB Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA Graduate Reading, Book Sale and Festival to take place 12-5 p.m. in the Wright Theatre, fifth floor of the Student Center.
UB will award Sylvia her MFA this month. Sylvia is a graduate of Bennington College and the Maryland Institute College of Art; she has also studied with Baltimore writers Margaret Osburn and Mary Azrael. Her poems have been published in Passager; Welter, Skelter; and The Light Ekphrastic.
When Sylvia first learned that UB had a graduate writing program that included hands-on book design and bookmaking for print as well as for electronic publishing, she says, “It sounded perfect for me. I love that the culminating project, and thesis, is a printed book.”
Benefits of the MFA program, she says, have been “community—interaction with a group of diverse, passionate, risk-taking young writers , and some not-so-young; a sounding-board for my own voice; and intimate, hard-earned knowledge of the complete process of creating a book, from blank page or computer screen to designing an author’s website and sales platform, still working on that one…
“I’ve always been a words and pictures person. Before I got my BFA at MICA, I had worked as a graphic designer. Inspired by the recent resurgence of interest in traditional book arts, letterpress printing, and papermaking, I was already making artists’ books in my studio when–at age 64–I entered graduate school.”
With Sylvia’s permission we’ve reprinted the following poems from the Himalayan Tea Garden: “Seedpods Explode in Eden” and “New and Improved.”
Seedpods Explode in Eden
In the Himalayan mountains, its home,
Impatiens glandulifera grows
in tall spreading stands
swaying like a robed choir by a riverbend,
fierce as a Gurkha regiment.
A common man’s orchid: lavender-pink petals
shot with purple veins
rise from a ruffled bisexual bowl.
Its glassy green seedpods explode
spontaneously or, if pinched,
shoot arsenals of seed-arrows.
It rises on thick, wine-red, water-filled stems,
hexagonal in section,
like hardware store hex-nuts.
Himalayan balsam, jewelweed:
women of the hills use the crushed
petals to paint their nails,
brought specimens to England
where its rambunctious habit
and super-sweet nectar
(favored by bees)
rendered it a threat.
Here, too, it’s disdained,
considered an undesirable,
alien, invasive weed.
At every supermarket
or hardware store in spring,
you’ll see its shorter, showier,
commercially successful cousin,
tamed and sold in flats
for summer blooms
I like to imagine
in the foothills
behind Eden Hospital,
the now-crumbling edifice
where my mother was born.
A sepia photograph from 1911
shows her sitting
on Grandma Nelle’s
white-gowned missionary knee.
She turns her baby head away
from the fat, slow, hooded camera
with its accordion bellows,
New and Improved
Amazing invention cleans your boots,
shaves chocolate, makes it curl,
brightens the tusks of carved elephants
in your grandmother’s trunk from India,
evicts expired cans and boxes
from the shanty-towns of the backs
of your kitchen cupboards,
invisibly mends the holes the hated carpet beetles
made in your handknit woolens.
Unbearable bare spots dotting your lawn?
Step out in this red straw hat
by Mademoiselle Marie—
heads turn, hearts wheel, barns dance,
crayons toss their paper wrappers to the sky,
the moon spits out a ladder
and corn waves. Guaranteed.
But if that’s not enough,
try on this peacock-feather pillbox hat.
Ah, then India
and Indiana shake hands,
mountains lean to talk to you, rivers reverse,
ice cream blooms, rabbits curtsy,
circles embrace squares, light bulbs fraternize
with radiators, radiators
speak in tongues,
your mother sits beside you on the sofa,
spilt milk’s self-cleaning,
no one shivers, no one’s broken, no one’s lost.
Readers can order Karl Marx Imperial Dispensary and Himalayan Tea Garden, by Sylvia Fischbach Braden, Silver Oaks Press, 2016, with Paypal or credit card at http://karlmarximperial.blogspot.com/.