Esther Cameron

      Esther Cameron is a poet and Utopian thinker whose poems and essays have appeared in Bellowing Ark, The Antigonish Review, Poetry, and many other periodicals in the U.S. and abroad.

 

esther cameron

 

THE POET TO HER COLLEAGUE

Come sit with me and be my friend
And we'll tell stories without end
From far and near, from books and life,
Interweaving without strife.

The dreams I've dreamed, the lands I've known,
Why should you not call your own?
The friends you've had, both false and true,
Shall I not know them all through you?

Let the unenlightened talk of spite
And envy among those who write!
The faster shall our friendship grow,
The livelier shall our verses go.

Two's company, three's company,
Six constitute a poets' bee,
Ten, a council of the wise –
No end to what we might devise!

And whether all eggs or few may hatch,
This present good at least we'll catch,
If (as our favoring signs portend)
You'll sit with me and be my friend.

(First published in Möbius)

© Esther Cameron

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PRIMAVERA

Can you recall, or have you divined, my sister,
The times when we brought in the spring together
On an earth that did not change from year to year,
Or when we paced, you walking a little ahead,
Into the magnetized space of a poet's dream
To herald the return of the human spring?

It was in the dead of last winter, when the spring
Seemed far away, that you wept because of your sister
In that childhood in a bad postwar dream
Of a family that was never really together,
And you couldn't see much intimacy ahead
After her answer to your letter last year.

Estrangements widening from year to year;
In the middle, resentments always set to spring;
The need to cut your losses and move ahead;
The pain of having and not having a sister:
All made you want to cut the nerve altogether,
Seal off the room of an unproductive dream.

And then I come to you from a different dream
(Though no less the product of a bad year)
Of trying to put the people back together:
Does it feel as though someone is trying to spring
A joke, a trap on you? I'm not your sister
From that past. Our kinship lies ahead

Or farther behind. I come to you with a head
Unbowed, still holding the unshattered dream
Of when friends honored friends with the name of sister,
With ceremonies measuring out the year,
Drawing up from the unpolluted spring
Waters of joy for all to drink together.

Just now, when you have so much to hold together,
There are all kinds of pressures to get ahead,
And there is always that touchy hidden spring
Of jealousy – no one should ever dream
It won't spring up like the thistle, year after year
In the fields between brother and brother, sister and sister.

Still I think you're my long-sought sister. We'll get it together,
I hope, this coming year. I see good times ahead
This winter, as we refashion the dream of spring.

(first published in Möbius)

Esther Cameron

 

SUPERFLUOUS PEOPLE

We are the superfluous people.
We are the unionized workers replaced by robots or slaves,
the secretaries ousted by computers.
We are the people of color, the over-50, the people with disabilities,
the ones who don't belong on the team.
We are the displaced homemakers,
the parentless children,
the partnerless parents,
the poets without readers,
the teachers without students,
the students who can't afford college,
the graduates who didn't get hired,
the scientists without grants,
the executives who got downsized.

Why is this?
Isn't there enough work to do in the world?
Aren't there enough stomachs to be filled,
enough limbs to be clothed,
enough babes to be rocked,
enough children and youth to be taught,
enough neighborhoods to be beautified,
enough trees to be planted,
enough fields to be tilled,
enough songs to be sung,
enough stories to be told,
enough riddles to be solved,
enough wounds to be healed,
enough houses and cities to be built right?

But the market does not ask these questions.
The market cannot ask what people need.
It can only ask what those who have the money
want.
Only community can ask
what people need.

And time may be short.
As slave labor replaces free,
as machines replace people,
as large corporations swallow up small ones
and cut their staffs
and buy up the press and the government,
I tell you Spaceship Earth is flying
with a shrinking crew,
a skeleton crew
with skeleton motives,
and the rest of us are not passengers.
We are ballast.
And we feel the moment edging closer
when we could be pushed off.

But let's keep our heads, my friends.
Let us put them together.
Together let us learn to ask the question
what we, the people, need.

We are the superfluous people.
Nobody needs us
except ourselves.
But if you'll say you need me
I'll say I need you.
And we can start.

Esther Cameron