The Economies of Joy   Thursday, June 27, 2013






I have my usual collection of anthology poems this week, this time taken from the latest collection of poetry put together by Garrison  Keillor. This collection, Good Poems for Hard Times,was published by Penguin Books in 2006.

I don't  particularly like the way Keillor reads poetry on his radio poetry minute, but he has good taste in picking the poems in his books and the poems he reads on the radio. And, mostly, it's just great to hear poetry read on the radio.







And for my old poems this week, I have chosen from my second eBook, Goes Around, Comes Around,
available, need I say, just about everywhere eBooks are sold. The rest of them are there too.







And, of course, new stuff from me and great poems from my library. 





Here's the list:


Me
thinking about patriotism  on this July 3rd

Linda Pastan
To a Daughter Leaving Home

Me
I'm thinking soft this morning

Xue Tao
Gazing at Spring II & III

Meng Jiao
A Chaste Wife

Me
an old picture

Jennifer Michael Hecht
Naked

Me
winter night

Margaret Atwood
Foretelling the Future

Me
the universe of our backyard

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The Changing Light

Me
what I'm supposed to be doing

Czeslaw Milosz
Reconciliation
Abode

Me
time to put the body down

Edward Field
Death Mask

Me
a conversation with Bob Marley

Jeannette Lozano
 The House
Linden 197
Place of a dream with Gesauldo

Me
strong currents

Carl Sandburg
A Million Young Workmen, 1915

Me
I  sleep  too much

Carl Phillips
Cotillion       

Me
aliens discuss their plumbing

Herman Melville
The College  Colonel

Me
circles

William Matthews
The Blues

Me
twit  about town

Me
the economies of joy           
 







This post being put up on July 3rd, one day before Independence Day, I decided to begin with this poem. It is not a new poem nor is it a poem from one of my books. It was written July 3rd, 2008, and is dated in some ways, but the basic point remains, and the essential question no better answered than my attempt at an answer in the poem.






thinking about patriotism on this July 3rd

the question was asked
on the radio this morning
about the meaning of
patriotism
and i've been thinking about it
all day

patriotism is a cheap claim
easily made by the worst of us
but it has to be about more than that,
more than the dime store boosterism
we expect from politicians
on Independence Day,
with their cheap plastic flag pins
and empty ritual,
sucking down a hot dog
with one hand
while pinching the local
Miss Cornpone Sweetheart
on the ass with the other

and it has to be about more
than geography - i'm sure of that,
i mean,  who among the great mass
of us would care if North Dakota,
Tennessee, and Vermont
ran away and joined up with Canada
sometime after midnight?

and it can't be about history
because for all that's good
in our history
there is something bad,
for every Washington,
Father of our Country,
there is Washington,
slave owner,
for every cowboy
brave and true,
there is an Indian
condemned to genocide
for being in the way...

it wouldn't be about family
because family is family,
the same in Russia
and Mongolia
and all the little countries
that have sprung up
in Africa and among the former
Soviet holdings...

and honor is, like family,
an attribute independent of race
or religion or national boundaries,
and, like family, a deeper thing
than a patriot's fervor...

so it must be something else

i would say patriotism
for Americans
might be about the ideals
and institutions
of the nation, but how can that be
after the eight Bush years
when those same ideals and institutions
were raped and ravaged
and there was no
great patriotic
outcry...

maybe that's the truth of it

true patriotism is so hard
to describe
because there is so little off it...

maybe we should count among
the patriots of our time
not just those who fought
in foreign lands at our orders,
but also those who did cry out
at risk to their freedom and good name
against the subversion
on high, against those in high places
who used their power
to subvert
what they had sworn to protect...

i fuss and i fulminate
from my comfortable seat
but when the call came out
to join the patriots in the street
my hearing was inadequate
to the challenge...

maybe those plastic flag pins
are the best
most of us can claim







Here's my first poem from this week's anthology, Good Poems for Hard Times.

The poem is by Linda Pastan.

Born in 1932 , Pastan  grew up in the Bronx, the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe. She went to Radcliffe and Brandeis. Author of several books, at the time off publication she lived in Potomac,  Maryland.




To a Daughter Leaving Home

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle,loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more  breakable
with distance,
pumping,  pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving
goodbye.







This is the first of my old poems this week, all taken from my second eBook, Goes Around, Comes Around.

The book is a collection of 85 of the poems I wrote daily in 2010.








I'm thinking soft this morning

I'm thinking
soft
this morning

soft autumn breeze
on sun-warmed skin,

the soft middle
of fresh-baked bread,
crusted all around,

the soft fur
behind a kitten's ear
and under its chin,

the fresh smell
of soft sheets on a wedding
bed,

the soft squeeze
of a woman,
the velvet slide
down her back
to the rounded slope
of her  rear,
the rise of her
breasts
breathing
in
out
rising
falling
on the soft edge of  sleep,
the moist  cent
of her
calling
and the camp cheeks
of my son
at four, eyes wet
from a bully's taunt
as I held him close,
"you are a good person,"
I tell him,
my voice a soft whisper
to his ear,
"and a strong brave boy
whose mom and dad love him."

--

I'm thinking soft this morning
remembering...
missing the  touch
of days
brighter
and softer than  today







 My first poems this week are from a different anthology, Chinese Love Poetry. The book  was  published in 2004 by Barnes & Noble Books by arrangement with The British Museum Press. As you might expect from a book with this pedigree, it is a beautifully bound and illustrated book.

The poems were translated by Jane Portal.







The first of the poems from this anthology of love poems is Xue Tao, a well-know Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty.

She lived  from 768 to 831, and was one of the three most famous women poets of her period.





Gazing at Spring II & III

I gather herbs
and tie
lover's knot

to send to one
who understands my songs.

So now I've cut

that springtime sorrow
off.

And now the spring-struck birds
renew their cries.

---

Windblown flowers
grow older day by day

And out best season
dwindles in the past

Without someone
to  tie the knot
of love,

no use to tie up
all those love-knot herbs.



The next poem is by Meng Jiao who lived from 751to 814, a contemporary of Hue Tao.

Meng was the oldest of the mid-Tang poets, noted for the forcefulness. of his poems.


The Chaste Wife

On the wu-tung tree , phoenix and mate
     grow old together;
Duck an drake cleave to each other
     till  death,
A chaste wife will gladly die with her husband.
Taking leave of life
     like drake and phoenix.
She will not break faith
     like the changeable sea waves:A
A wife's heart is like the water
     in an old well.







 I wrote this last week - memories of time and people past.






an old picture

an old picture
of my mother and my older brother,
long gone now, both,
posted on Facebook
by a cousin
who took the picture
at her mother's 
house...

and it is a shock
to see how young
and alive they look, a new memory
for me, from their life, to  replace
the images I  hold
of their end approaching


 my father dead some years  past
when the picture was taken,
my mother, building a new life
as a artist and hospital volunteer
and far-ranging traveler, my
brother facing challenges in his personal
life, but as always, a fighter
who, until the very end, never went down
that he didn't come up again...

strange that I can't  date this picture
except by their eye-glasses, the styles
suggesting mid-80s, a good time
for  all of us,  difficult times  ahead
but we didn't know,
and not knowing made the moments
ever sweeter

sweeter,
like my memories today









 The next poem from Good Poems for Hard Times, my anthology this week, is by Jennifer Michael Hecht.

A published historian as well as author of a number of poetry collections, Hecht was born in 1965 on Long Island and, at the time of publication,  lived with her husband and child in New York City's East Village.




Naked

The reason you so often in literature have a naked woman
walk out of her home that way, usually older, in her front garden
or on the sidewalk, oblivious, is because of exactly how I feel right
     now.

You tend to hear about how it felt to come upon such a mythical
     beast,
the naked woman on the street, the naked man in a tree, and that
     makes
sense because it is wonderful to take the naked woman by the
     hand

And know that you will remember that moment for the rest of
     your life
because of what it means, the desperation, the cataclysm of what
     it takes
to leave your house naked or to take off your clothes in the tree.

It feels good to get that naked man to come down from there by a
     series
of gentle commands and take him by the elbow or her by the hand
     and
lead him to his home like you would care for a bird or a human
     heart.

Still if you want instead, for once , to hear about how the person
     came to be
standing there,  naked outside, you should talk to me right now,
     quickly,
before I forget the details of this way that if feel. I feel like walking
     out.







Here's another piece from Goes Around, Comes Around.

This poem and the previous one from the eBook were written near the end of the year.









winter night

winter  night,
in the last  moment
before dusk falls
the sky is clear,
light blue,
like the "it's a boy"blankets
you get at the hospital
to warm
a new-born son

thin,
almost  transparent  blue,

moon bright
in the soft sky,
not full,
flattened a little
 on one side like a globe
flattened
at the South Pole,
so it won't roll off your desk

Antarctica folded in on itself

a chill wind
blowing  from the top of the hill,
raising  a shower
of golden leaves from trees
along the creek

light winter-home taste
of chimney smoke in the air

ten degrees cooler
than  the numbers on the thermometer
read

very quiet





The next poem is by Margaret Atwood. It is from her  book,Two-Headed Poems, published in 1978 by Simon and Schuster.

Born in Canada in 1939, Atwood is a poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. Primarily known as an award winning novelist, she is author of fifteen collections of poetry.




Foretelling the Future

It doesn't matter how it is done,
these hints, these whispers:

whether it is some god
blowing through your head
as through a round bone
flute, or bright
stones fallen on the sand

or a charlatan, stringing you
a line with bird gut,

or smoke, or the taut hair
of a dead girl singing.




It doesn't matter what is said

but you can feel
those crystal hands, stroking
the air around your body
till the air glows white

and you are like the moon
seen from the earth, oval and gentle
and filled with light.

The moon seen from the moon
is a different thing.






One hundred degrees yesterday, one hundred eight degrees today, I decided a couple of summers ago that the only way to survive the summer heat is to embrace it. So I spend a while every afternoon working in the heat, then soaking in the sun in a private part of the yard  where I can get a full-body soaking, believing, as I do, that the sun is our friend and bringer of life to everything in our world. One just needs to remain conscious of its power and  careful not to abuse that power by over-exposure. 

Then, the rest of the day I complain about the heat just like everyone  else.




the universe of our backyard

I lie
in my private  garden

under a blue
sky

open
to God's smiling grace

bathing
in the mid-afternoon sun

---

a hummingbird

- has there ever been
a fairy tale
that didn't spring
from the summer
sight of a hummingbird
hovering -

what is the life span
of a humming bird, I wonder,
is it possible

that this is the same
bird

that  was so interested in me
last summer

or are  all  these long-nosed fairy creatures
attracted to me

the same as this one
and the one last year

---

this one,
new or familiar,

stops her wings'
constant whirring and perches

on a tree branch
directly over me, a higher branch

than the one that provided
last year's rest,

that one downed in a
spring storm,

but
higher or lower

this bird studies me
just as the one before,

assess
the white flag of my body

not yet tanned on this
edge of summer,

laid out
like bedsheets hanging on a line

strangely not blowing
like the bedsheets

the fast-moving bird
must maneuver around
on wash day

but lying still on the
ground,

worthy of study
by this curious bird

I, a nature exhibit
in the hummingbird gallery

of oddities unnatural and strange,
but not a threat

to this bird's mind
as she does not move,

not a danger
to her kind, so she sits

on her branch
unmoving,
tiny statue
of folkloric grace,
tiny watcher,
seeker of life's  idiosyncrasies
in the universe of our
backyard





   


Next from this week's anthology, this poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Born in 1919, poet, painter, liberal activist and founder of City Lights Booksellers, Ferlinghetti is one, if not by now, the only, survivor of the San Francisco beats.





The Changing Light

The changing light
                 at San Francisco
       is none of your East Coast light
            none of your
                    pearly light of Paris
The light of San Francisco
                 is a sea light
                          and island
light
And the light of fog
                  blanketing the hills
              drifting in at night
                   through the Golden Gate
                             to lie on
the city at dawn
And then the halcyon late mornings
                after the fog burns off
                   and the sea paints white houses
                           with the sea
light of Greece
                 with sharp clean shadows
                          making the town look like
                          it had just been
painted

But the wind comes up at four o'clock
                           sweeping the
hills

And then the veil of light of early evening

And then another scrim
                    when the new night fog
                              floats in
And in that vale of light
                  the city drifts
                           anchorless
upon the ocean






And now another old poem from my book, Goes Around, Comes Around, which I must certainly add is on sale just about everywhere that sells eBooks.

Plus, I just  learned this week while visiting my local bookstore, The Twig, that through an arrangement with Kobo they now sell eBooks, including all of my own. For those who prefer to spend their money locally, I'm supposing that Kobo has that agreement  with local bookstores all across the country. The local  bookstores get a cut (small) from the 30% Kobo gets (this is the agreement that my publisher, bookbaby.com, has with their  direct retail partners, with the entire remaining 70% going to the author.). Oh dear, I have just revealed to you the secret of all the wealth I've accumulated as a poet - getting rich off my 70% of the $3.99 price of this book, a fortune compared to the 70% of my most recent book,  Sonyador, the Dreamer, which sells for the grand price of $1.99.

Thinking at this rate, a million selling book, will  buy  my coffee for maybe a week and  a half.

Thus, the economics of poetry.





what I'm supposed to be doing

this is the time  of day
when I usually demonstrate my 
bonafides as a poet

by poeticating
on cue
and the problem today is

I can't remember
if a cue is a nudge
and a wink

or the long striker stick
used to reposition
colored and numbered balls  on a
green, felt table
in a brisk game
of pocket
billiards

- pocket pool
I  would have said, but that
is often construed

to denote
another game
entirely -

or vicey-versey,
which complicates things

since I'm not sure
if I should stare writing now
or  amble
over to Fat Annie's
for a pick-up game of 
eight-ball,

which reminds me
of several
good  pool-playing stories

I could write about
if I knew
that's what I was supposed

to  be doing
at this exact minute,
but since I don't know

I won't write anything
but that's ok
since I didn't want to write

a poem this morning
anyway,
but if Fat Annie's is open

this early
I might just resolve the question
by connoting that's  what I'm supposed

to be doing...

---

meanwhile
there the moon
hanging pale

like a sliver of shaved soap
in the dark night-tide
sky

that cares nothing
about my poem  
or any lack  thereof





Here are two poems from my library by Czeslaw Milosz, from his book, Provinces, Poems 1987-1991. The book was published by The Ecco Press in 1991. A Polish poet, prose writer and translator, Milosz was born in 1911 and died in 2004. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980.



Reconciliation

Late, the time of humbling reconciliation
With himself, arrived for him.
"Yes" - he said - "I was created
To be a poet and nothing more.
I did not know anything else to do,
Greatly ashamed but unable to change my fate."

The poet: one who constantly thinks off something else.
His absentmindedness drives his people to despair.
Maybe he does not even have any human feelings.

But, after all, why should it not be so?
In human diversity a mutation, variation
Is also needed. Let us visit the poet
In his little house in a somewhat faded suburb
Where he raises rabbits, prepares vodka with herbs,
And records on tape his hermetic verses.


Abode

The grass between the tombs is intensely green.
From steep slopes a view onto the bay,
Onto islands and cities below.The  sunset
Grows garish,  slowly fades. At dusk
Light prancing creatures, a doe and a fawn
Are here, as every evening, to eat flowers
Which people brought for their beloved dead.





                                                                                                                                                I decided this would be my week for making new friends. So, here's my next new poem from this week in which I suggest Charlie Brown and company ought to be put down like a crippled old dog.



time to put the body down

Charles Schultz
died more than 13 years ago,
but still these years later,
Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts crew
linger on,
condemned to an eternity
of years'-stale punchlines and cloying cute,
trapped in a nightmare of life lived
on on a mid-summer afternoon
forever recycled,
the day never ending, the children
never growing up,
never  falling in love, 
never marrying, having children and grandchildren
to ease the old age they are never allowed to have, never
going to college, never
passing their bar exams and arguing before the Supreme Court
for the civil rights of cartoon characters
encased in amber and never allowed to die...

---

I'm reminded of reading sixty years ago in my torn and tattered
"Believe It or Not" book about
the owner of a company who required in his will
that, upon his death, his body was to be prepared by a taxidermist.
propped commandingly in a sitting position in a comfortable chair
and brought out
too sit at the end of the table
to preside at every board meeting...

even at that young age I understood
that there always comes a time
to put the body down,
a fate to be welcomed, I'm sure, by Charlie and his gang
as they find an end to the continuing loop of those few
days early in their life...

---

time, I think, to set these  poor children 
free






Next from the anthology is this by Edward Field. Born in Brooklyn in 1924, Field grew up on  Long Island playing cello on the radio  in the Field Family Trio. He fought in WWII and studied at NYU. At the time of publication, he still lived on Long Island, writing poetry and popular novels, editing anthologies, translating Eskimo stories and writing for film.




Death Mask

"Old age is the most unexpected
of all the things that happen to a man."
                                         -Leon Trotsky
"Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear..."
                             "East Coker," by T.S. Eliot

     1

In the mirror now,
       what I see
reminds me
       I won't  be here  forever.

I don't feel like
       that face at all.
Inside it, I protest,
       I am quite different.

It's somebody's grandfather
        not me.

Whose grandfather is that?
         I don't want him

     2

Ah, memory, memory...

terrible,

to be losing

the words.

     3

How do you get from here to there - 
I mean, from where I am
to the nursing home?
In a snap of the fingers,
the blink of a eye.

Like my mother said,
as she was being loaded
into the ambulance,
It went  so fast.

     4

Life
           a lazy buzz,
then
           the quick sting.

A long inward  breath,
            then
the sudden
            exhaling.




 

  
This next series was written in 2010, an old poem, but not from Goes Around, Comes Around.

I considered it for the book, but became concerned that what I had intended as a homage to Bob Marley might be considered by many as stealing from Bob Marley.

So, here it is, first time. Though it's possible I may have used here back when it was first written and before I had second thoughts.




a conversation with Bob Marley

"If you know your history
Then you would know where your coming from"
     - from Buffalo Soldiers

men so old
each year
is like another
crack
in the leather
of a well-worn shoe -

nothing more...

the do not acknowledge
time
and time does not
reckon
them

as they live on
and on

survivors...

blood relics...

like
all
they will die

but it will not be in
my time


"Get up, stand up; stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up; don't give up the fight!"
     -from Get Up: Stand Up


a owl
of tomato soup,
saltine crackers,
and a glass of water

the rights of man
they say
do no extend
to a bowl
of tomato soup,
saltine crackers,
and a glass of water...

not
here
anyway,
not at this corner

not now
not today...

no!
until today


"They say what we know
Is just what they teach us"
     -from Ambush in the Night


I
know
I
know
what my daddy
knew,
what his daddy
knew,
and what his daddy's
daddy knew

unto
the 12th generation

and
that's all I need
to know


"Sun is shining, the weather is sweet
Make you want to move your dancing feet"
     -from The Sun is Shining


a baby
walking

walking now
on grass

a baby
running

grass
tickling his feet

a baby
dancing


"Can't tell the woman from the man, no I say you can't
Cause they're dressed in the same pollution
Their mind is confused with confusion
With their problems since there's no solution"
     -from Midnight Ravers


juvenile hall
1
a.m.

reality
of hot nights
and cold lights

strikes

then fades
away

forgotten

until
next time


"We gonna chase those crazy
Baldheads out of town"
     -from Baldheads


 old men

old women

death grip
on life

true
too long ago
long
gone


"Misty morning, don't see no sun
I know you're out there somewhere, having fun"
      -from Misty Morning


day's light
lost

sucked
into indefinite
swirling

we see
what we want
to see

we see
what we fear
to see

we see
ghosts of our
worst nights

indefinitely
swirling



"Long time we no have no nice time,
Doo-yoo-dee-dun-doo-yea
Think about that"
     -from Nice Time


life
is joy
leaping on
those
prepared to carry
the load

prepare
yourself for joy
leaping

have a
nice time
while you can...

it's
no deposit -
no  return..

if you don't use it
someone else will








Next from my library, I have  three short poems from a  beautiful coffee table sized  book published in Spain in 2006 by Ediciones Poligafa S.A.

The book, gorgeously illustrated by Victor Ramirez, is The Movements of Water - Los momentos  del agua, and the poet is Jeannette Lozano. It is a bilingual  book, Spanish, with translation to English by Ron Hudson.





The House

The house, that uncertain place. The girl-child
without a lamp, white
the beginning, the revelation
burns in silence
All beginning is white,
the composition
of the form, silent
the fog, the tree. The girl-child
silent, the height, the
air. All  beginning
is white, the unforeseen disaster. The silent
music is silence, dispersed
syllables.


Linden 197

The sea is alone, like us, the newly born, in water.
In it, the night sinks beneath the waxing moon
(its powder on our faces).

Spring is the season of death.

We inscribe the epitaph, on high our names,
to make believe to the denuded skies that at least a wise word
slipped from our narrow mouths, near a few flowers.

We come to pluck the petals, not to take a count of heartbeats.

Our heads entangled,
our bodies mistreated
return to voracious melancholy.


Place of a dream with Gesualdo

The depth of night was shining.
The initial horizon
in an attempt to scatter the chants.

I was searching for the hill,
the house, the traces of fog
in the sharp leaves of the cypress.

I saw a bridge sink, the whiteness,
the voice
of the tree I heard.





This is my next new poem from last week.

It turned out that it did rain, not a clash of the titans, but a pleasant little Sunday morning rain.





strange currents

the sky
is clear overhead,
the crescent
moon
bright and unveiled
like a beautiful woman
uncovered at home

clouds, storms
lightning surrounds
our quiet center,
gusts of wind, like waves
on a dark beach,
come and go,
stirring
the trees - in one,
a single bird calls, a lonely sound
from a lonely bird
crying for company,
an orphan before the storm

but no other bird
responds...

in the west,
a glow, like sunrise
from some other country
and streetlights
here in the morning of this country
seem unusually bright,
the air unusually clear, the night unusually
quiet

the neighborhood cock
dose not crow...

storms,
one from the coastal south
and the mountain north
push toward us

and when they collide...

it will be a wet day
or it will be a dry day
all depending
on whether the clashing fronts
combine in a fury
to build a bigger storm
than either or if the strength of ether
dissipate the strength of the
other

they are giants
about to battle

---

it is the way when giants battle
to leave collateral
damage
as they pass

and we,
on the ground at their feet,
are the collateral
who can only wait for the war to end







Next  from the anthology, I have an  anti-war poem by Carl Sandburg, as you might expect.

In my opinion, one of most  unjustly near forgotten  poet of American literature. Too uncool, in the Mcluhan sense, for the new  generation.





A Million Young Workmen, 1915

A million young workmen straight and strong lay stiff on the
     grass and roads,
And the million are now under soil and their rotting flesh will
     in the years feed roots of blood-red roses.
Yes, the million of young workmen slaughtered one another and
     never saw their red hands.
And oh, it  would have been a great job of killing and a new and
     beautiful ting under the sun if the million knew why they
     hacked and tore each other to death.
The kings are grinning, the kaiser and the czar - they are alive
     riding in leather-seated motor cars, and they have their
     women and roses for ease, and they eat fresh poached eggs
     for  breakfast,new  butter on toast, sitting in tall water-tight
     houses reading the news of the war.
I dreamed a million ghosts of the young workmen rose in their
     shirts all soaked in crimson....and yelled.
God damn the grinning kings, God damn the Kaiser ad the Czar.






 Back to Goes Around, Comes Around, my second eBook, for this next poem.

So far, all the poems that I've used from my book this week are from December. They all seem to reflect the winter, end of year mood that usually overtakes me at that time of the year. For me, not a big fan of Christmas which sends so many other people into a frenzy late in the year, it is a time when I have a strong feeling of time passing and pages in my life being turned. It's an introspective time for me, not a particularly sad time, but not especially happy either.





I sleep too much

another cold, wet morning...

cars on the interstate
poke their headlights
through the mist
like a baby kitten, just
born and blind,
groping with her nose
for the fur-nested
security
of her mother's teat

I will go home
after breakfast, take
my own comfort
in the cold and wet
asleep in my recliner, old cat
on my lap, if she wishes

- stepped on her tail
yesterday as she ate
and she is still not certain
I can be trusted -

if I felt better
I would go downtown, walk
the river, soak in the rain and the murk and
mystery of arched stone bridges and the
wet rustle of running water and lights
dimmed
and half-seen and the occasional
passing
bundled stranger
appearing/disappearing
in the gray mist...

but still I suffer the grip
of nose drip and hack
and will sleep
through the morning instead,
rocked to the rhythm
of the slow drip, drip
on the window ledge
by my chair, a deep sleep,
dark and still, un-dreaming sleep,
again, sleep without dreams
a sign of age, I think -

I sleep too much
and dream too little
and cannot rouse myself
to the mysteries of the morning.







The next poem from my library is by Carl  Philips. It is from his book, Cortege, published by Graywolf Press in 1995.

Phillips, recipient of many poetry awards, was born in 1959. A graduate of Harvard University,  the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Boston University, is Professor  of English and African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University in St.Louis.




Cotillion

Every one of these bodies, those in drag, those
not, loves a party, that much is clear. The blond
with the amazing lashes - lashes, more  amazingly,

his  own - tells me it is like when a small bird
rises, sometimes, like the difficult thing is not to.
I think he is talking about joy or pain or desire

or any of several things desire, sweet drug,
too sweet, can lead to. I think he means moments,
like this one, sudden, when in no time I know that

those lashes, the mouth that could use now more
painting, those hairless, shaven-for-the-event arms
whose skin, against the shine of the gown a spill of

blood and sequins, the arms themselves spill from,
glitters still, but dully,  like what is not the
main  prize does always - I know this man is mine,

if I want him. Meanwhile, around us, the room fairly
staggers with men, and an aching to be lovely, loved,
even.  As in any crowd, lately, of people,heavy

corsage of them stepping in groups, the torn bloom
 that is each taking his own particular distance,
I think the trick is one neither of joining, or not
joining, but of holding, as  long as I can, to some
space between, call it rest for the wary, the slow
dragging to nowhere I call heaven. I'm dancing


maybe, but not on air: this time through water.









From  last  week - people watching over  eggs over easy.






aliens discuss their plumbing

I was going
to write about the beautiful morning,
so bright,
so cool, third day in a row, after three days
of triple digit heat

but I can't...

the women in the booth across from me
are so remarkable,
one,
the older of the two,
short  and dumpy, wrinkle on wrinkle
thick ankles drooping  over sensible shoes,
an  indescribably deep
East Texas accent,  so broad
it's like  pine trees stir in the morning breeze
right outside our, wafting
the essence of wet pine every time
the door opens...

the other woman related
to the first
from their conversation, though so  starkly different
from her it's hard to imagine a common
bloodline,  tall,  slim broad shouldered,  large breasted,
most  likely older than  she looks,
straight hair white and long to the center
of her back, face all angles and planes, cheek
bones like an ice shelf hanging
over the ocean, a stunning woman
at whatever age, a revelation of the possibilities
of human beauty in a natural state,
a Nordic face, with a pass though Indian country

strange -

I can't recall her eyes,
but  her voice as she spoke to the other woman,
deep, husky, flat, fly-over country
accent that isn't  an accent,
like they talk on the
TV news...



---



what a gorgeous day it is, but even
in all its beauty, it's an every-day day like I've seen before,
like I'm certain to see again if I wait long  enough...

but these women, so strange and close, making  thee day
more than every-day, a mystery to the poet...

but their conversation, so bland, so  banal, so every day
so out of character
with the characters I  imagine from their appearance -

like hearing aliens
from a far galaxy talking about
their  plumbing problems
back home





Now, maybe a bit more unexpected than the anti-war poem by Carl Sandburg, an anti-war poem  by Herman  Melville. Or, maybe unexpected only by me, knowing little about Melville but Moby Dick (which I'm re-reading,  very slowly) and  the Bartleby story.

Though Melville's poetry is not nearly so highly thought of as his prose, some scholars refer to him as America's first modernist poet.




The College Colonel

He rides at their head;
    A crutch by his saddle just slants in view,
One slung arm is in splints you  see,
   Yet he glides his strong steed - how coldly too.

He brings his regiment home -
   Not as they filed two years before,
But a remnant half-tattered, and battered, and worn,
Like castaway sailors, who - stunned
        By the surf's loud roar,
   Their mates dragged back  and seen no more -
Again and again breast the surge
   And the last crawl, to shore.

A still rigidity and pale -
   An Indian aloofness lones his brow,
He has lived a thousand years
Compressed in battle's pains and prayers
   Marches and watches slow.

There are welcoming shouts, and  flags;
   Old men off hat to the Boy
Wreaths from  gay balconies fall  at his feet,
   But to him - there comes alloy.

It is not that a leg is lost,
   It is not that an  arm is maimed.
It is not  that the fever has racked -
   Self he has long disclaimed

But all through the Seven Day's fight,
   And deep in the Wilderness grim,
And in the field-hospital tent,
   And Petersburg crater, and din
Lean brooding in Libby,  there came -
   Ah heaven - what truth to him.








And now, another from my eBook, Goes Around, Comes Around. Later in December, this one, closer to the page turning I mentioned earlier.








circles

a new year
approaches
just a few dawns

away -
one rotation ending
as another begins

circles
within circles
within larger circles still

as our moon
circles
bring dark to light

night skies,
as our earth turns,
bring day to night,

circling out sun, bringing
singing birds of spring, summer
meadow flowers, tangy taste

of autumn leave,
chill winds that blow
in winter

even as our sun
and all its brothers-sister stars
turn

on the universal axis
of everything
we can know, for now,

but maybe not for always,
as we may someday
know of other circles, turns,

rotations
there are that now
we cannot see

and the All we know
will grow again
and we, in our knowing

will grow again
even as we shrink ever
smaller in the everything there is -

circles within  circles
within
even larger circles still...

it seems we are running circles,
we say
and how true and how grand that is






 Last from my library this week, here's a poem by William Matthews from his book, Blues If You Want, published by Houghton  Mifflin in 1989.

Born in Cincinnati in 1942, Matthews received a Bachelor's Degree from Yale University and an Masters from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to serving as Writer-in Residence at Emerson  College, he held various academic positions at institutions, including Cornell University and the University of Washington at Seattle, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa. At the time of his death 1997, he was a profession of English and director of the creative writing program at City College of New York.




The Blues

What did I think, a storm clutching a clarinet
and boarding a downtown bus, headed for lessons?
I had pieces to learn by heart, but at twelve

you think the heart and memory are different,
"It's a poor sort of memory that only works
backwards," the Queen remarked." Alice in Wonderland.


Although I knew the way music can fill a room,
even with loneliness, which is of course a kind
of company, I could swelter through an August


afternoon - torpor rising from the river - and listen
to J.J. Johnson and Stan Getz braid variations
on "My Funny Valentine," and feel there in the room

with me the force and of weight of what I couldn't
say. What's an emotion anyhow?
 Lassitude and sweat lay all around me

like a stubble field, it was so hot and listless,
but I was quick and furtive like a fox
who has thirty miles a day metabolism

to burn off as ordinary business.
I had about me, after all, the bare eloquence
of the becalmed, the plain speech of the leafless

tree. I had the cunning of my body and a few
bars - they were enough - of music. Looking back,
it almost seems as though I could remember -

but this can't be; how could I bear it?-
the future toward which I'd clatter
with that boy tied like a bell around my throat,

a brave man and a coward both,
to break and break my metronomic heart
and just enough to learn to love the blues.









Finally, here's my last piece (so aptly named) from my book, Goes  Around, Comes Around, available, I must say again, at all the wonderful bookseller listed below.








twit about town

30 degrees
bright
sun
squirrels
shivering in the trees

and that's the weather report
for this morning...

but I have more important
things on my mind -

the whole naming thing,
my insistence on assigning
naming rights
to creators

so,
for example,
I drive a RAV4, so-named
by the Toyota automobile
company, so-, I'm guessing
by the creator of the company,
Charlie Toyota...

this principle
is the source of my right
to name these little things
I write "poems" and
I don't car what anyone else
thinks or wants to call them
just like Charlie Toyota
doesn't care that many others
think he should have called
is company
Oldsmobile or Tinkerpot or
Bristlebull or Upyourass
or anything else

I drive a Toyota cause
Charlie says so...

and it raises the question
of how a lion came to be called
a lion and a snail a snail
and a jackrabbit a jackrabbit
and me a man and you
a woman,
if you are, and if you're not,
I'm not saying anything
about the depth of your
masculinity,
just saying that, for example,
if you're a woman
how did you come to be called
that -

assuming I'm correct
in my insistence that the
creator gets to name his creation,
then God the creator must of
named me Man and you Woman,
if you, etcetera etcetera, but, no!
wait, Genesis says God delegated
naming rights to Adam,  who, he
presumably, named himself, and,
face it, Adam doesn't seem to have been
the smartest dude in the garden
even though, presumably he was,
disregarding Eve's sometimes bossy
tendencies,
the only dude in the garden...
he's basically dumb as the thing he sits on
and later called "rock"
which is probably a good thing
since if Adam had any brains he might
also have had a sense of humor, a frequent
affliction of those with brains, and the whole
naming thing could have turned into a big
joke like the Abbott and Costello
who's on first bit and who knows, I might
be knows as the Twit of the Hour, the Twit
about Town, or, in some cases, da Twit
and who knows, my gosh, what you
would be
today
if Adam had
had a sense of humor








 Here's the last  poem of the week, another new one, about people who bring their "downer" cloud with them,  wherever they go.






the economies of joy

I know
people who
harbor
disasters yet undone but
darkly imagined

bankrupt
in life spirit,
they spend and spend
and spend from their limited store
of good feeling

fearing
every new day
for the worst options
assumed but not yet apparent...

how they impoverish themselves
and those around them
as they wallow in their misery,
eyes to  heaven,
beseeching the greater powers
for respite
from that  catastrophe
that will blow  away like a strong sour wind
all they good they are too frightened
to enjoy...

it is a poor investment of the only life,
we will ever get, the only chance
to pass through this veil

(of  tears, they would say, denial ever their refuge
from joy)

---

and there are others

(I am one)

who seek to harvest their joy,
eat, sup, sleep and wake with,
make love to the joy
they see always within reach,
passing through the hard times
that come to all to endure
while never  losing sight of the promise
of another day coming, a day when the sun will  rise,
when a breeze of new delight will sweep through
the hours...

wise investors...

the economies of joy,
only through spending it
can one make it
grow




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