Facing the Dragon

Original price was: $15.00.Current price is: $10.00.

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poems by

Gilda Morina Syverson

Poetry book, 100 pages, $15 cover price

($10 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-344-3

Released: 2012


GSyverson_Px2Gilda Morina Syverson–poet, writer, artist & teacher–is the author of the chapbook, In This Dream Everything Remains Inside, Main Street Rag’s 2004 Editor’s Choice Chapbook Series. Her memoir, Finding Bottom, An Italian-American woman’s journey to the old country, was a 2010 Novello Literary Award Finalist. An excerpt was published in Topograph, New Writing from the Carolinas and the Landscape Beyond. Syverson’s award winning poems and prose have appeared in literary journals, magazines and anthologies in the United States and Canada, including Italian AmericanaDescant, Cold Mountain ReviewSweet Lemons 2International Writings with a Sicilian AccentAccenti, Charlotte ViewpointFeile-FestaVIA (Voices in Italian Americana)Iodine Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. Syverson has taught in the Creative arts for over 35 years and presently teaches Memoir Writing at Queens University in Charlotte and at The Warehouse in Cornelius. Her commentaries have been aired on WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR radio station. In 1979, Syverson received an MFA from Southern Illinois University, and in 2004 she became a Certified Healing Touch Practitioner.

“Beauty,” said Gerard Manley Hopkins, “is always almost gone.” Gilda Morina Syverson recognizes that fact profoundly in her new book of poems, Facing the Dragon. The dragon, of course, is death, and here in this passionate circle of poems, Syverson thinks of the self, struggling to find an identity, a calling, before it is too late; she thinks of family, especially her Sicilian family, and how they have disappeared into that other world and how they come back to haunt her, how they come back as messengers from that elusive God we search to name. In dreams and conversations with the dead Syverson plumbs for clues to the mystery. Like the juggler in her brilliant final poem, she keeps five balls in the air, which we as readers can then hold in balance in our own imaginations.

–Anthony S. Abbott
author of New & Selected poems, 1980-2009
and The Man Who

Read Gilda Syverson’s Facing the Dragon and you will know the rigorous pull of this circus we call family, how it frames our identity, how it hurls us back in time to the land of our forefathers — in this case Sicily — where loved ones “moved together up and down / hills, over the bridge from old town / to new, walked arm in arm…” the way this poet walks so engagingly arm in arm with dream, with memory, with loss, with fear, with those she’s loved, living and dead.

–Dannye Romine Powell
author of A Necklace of Bees

Readers will discover many fine things in Gilda Morina Syverson’s Facing the Dragon, including the loving evocations of Italian American family life in the book’s second section. But the third and final section is worth the price of admission all by itself: here, in poignant detail and with unfailing compassion, she presents an accumulating montage of death and mourning which becomes, in its refusal of all false and easy consolations, an affirmation of life and the will to endure.

–Michael Palma
Poetry Editor, Italian Americana

The Skin of a Horse

The skin of a horse stretches over the back of a sofa in the study of the house where you and your husband now live. You practice Healing Touch, lay hands over the hips, belly, pelvis. The horse, you thought dead, unfurls into its full abdomen, snout, legs, thighs. Shape shifts into a wild pig. Frightened, you run from the room, pull the white-levered doors partially closed, grab the phone on the wall in the kitchen of your childhood home, call your husband for help. The buttons you press dial every number but his. You’re on your own, run upstairs to a house that transforms into your sister’s place in Syracuse. You slip into the boys’ room, first door on the right, try another phone. Broken. The only one that works sits on a table back in the study, next to the animal whose power you fear. You hear footsteps in the hall, crack the door to a figure running-a nude girl, flat chested, painted in Impressionistic strokes.

On the Day of a Lunar Eclipse


After rising high in a saddle, I fall off
a chestnut-haired Tennessee Walker,
not backwards with arms stretched
but rolled like a fetus struggling to stay
inside a mother’s womb. All breath
and connection to spine lost. Panting
for air, I gasp, try to take in
oxygen, cry out to my sister
on the horse behind me,
“I can’t breathe.” She calls
down, “Don’t move.” And I listen,
inhale, feel a hand grab my armpit,
pull me up. The white light of sun
glares. Brush from rocky landscape
flickers. Horses’ legs and hooves
scatter about. At my side,
the Australian wrangler who began
this fiasco when turning his horse
without notice, yelling “Let’s canter,”
and my steed followed up
the rocky terrain, his head and mane
flashing from one side to another,
the saddle moving, my body leaning,
feet slipping from stirrups. I yelled,
pulled, pulled, pulled the reins,
felt that frantic sense of control gone,
flew off the horse to the right
or was it left, gasping for breath
lost, when I was unable to take in
the air that makes us human.

Vocation Talk, Fourth Grade


From the back door
of the room, the nun calls
for a line, directs the class
with a nod. We march
into the hall. Boys turn right
toward the priest. Girls follow
left, after her. We climb
the stairs, enter a dark room,
shades pulled, exit light shimmers,
candles surround two statues–
one of Jesus, the other Mary.

Mother Superior kneels
at their feet: God calls
some of us to serve
the religious life, she says.
Today, you may receive a sign.

Pressed against
the wooden kneeler,
my back and legs ache,
knees throb. I close
my eyes tight. The room,
hot. Moisture beads
at my lip. I lift my chin,
squint into dim light,
glance sideways
toward the sculptures.

Eyes of the figures
face down, their mouths
closed, arms still, stiff
against stone bodies.

On An Ordinary Day

While wiping the last lunch dish,
I hear symphonic chanting
like that from the grotto beneath
St. Peter’s in Rome.

Rome, that summer
at dawn walking through streets,
Colossal columns, the piazza,
up the stairway to the Basilica,
down to the tombs below.
Arias from priests’ voices,
Latin requiems that float
out of one chapel after another.

Another summer, I travel
with my husband from Rome
to Assisi, stay in a pensione
situated above the cloistered
monastery of the Poor Clares.
When least expected,
we hear a choir of voices
through the window
of our room. Sometimes
a sonata echoes as we climb
the steep slopes
of the hilly town toward
our temporary home.

Home in this house, I wonder
about this canon of music,
attempt to shake off these chords,
assume it’s only pipes ringing
from plumbing in the wall.
But when the chanting rises,
I hold still, listen in fear
that it might go on,
worse yet, stop,
as I complete the ordinary task
of wiping one last lunch dish.


SKU: 978-1-59948-344-3 Category: Tag:


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