Monday, December 30, 2013

Stephen Crane: Black Riders XXVIII

XXVIII


"Truth," said a traveller,
"Is a rock, a mighty fortress;
"Often have I been to it,
"Even to its highest tower,
"From whence the world looks black."

"Truth," said a traveller,
"Is a breath, a wind,
"A shadow, a phantom;
"Long have I pursued it,
"But never have I touched
"The hem of its garment."

And I believed the second traveller;
For truth was to me
A breath, a wind,
A shadow, a phantom,
And never had I touched
The hem of its garment.

               --Stephen Crane,
                   from Black Riders and Other Lines


Friday, December 27, 2013

Karl Marx: Nothing to Expect but a Hiding





He, who before was the money owner, now strides in front as capitalist; the possessor of labour power follows as his labourer. The one with an air of importance, smirking, intent on business; the other, timid and holding back, like one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but--a hiding.

                      --Karl Marx, from Capital

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Rae Armantrout: Advent

(Image Credit: Charles Bernstein/PennSound)
Advent

In front of the craft shop,
a small nativity,
mother, baby, sheep
made of white
and blue balloons.

        *

Sky
        god
                girl.

Pick out the one
that doesn't belong.

          *

Some thing

close to nothing
                         flat
from which,

fatherless,
everything has come.

    --Rae Armantrout


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wendell Berry: Landscape

(Fishing Alone. Wu Zhen, from here)
Landscape

Winding out of the hills,
the small stream enters the river.
It began coming down
long before these trees arrived.
In his boat the fisherman waits
like the hills along the stream
for what will be brought to him
and what will be taken away.

After the painting by Wu Chen

--Wendell Berry, from An Eastward Look



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Thomas Hardy: The Oxen


The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

--Thomas Hardy


Monday, December 23, 2013

Robert Bly: Watering the Horse

(Image Credit: Nic McPhee)

Watering the Horse

How strange to think of giving up all ambition!
Suddenly I see with such clear eyes
The white flake of snow
That has just fallen in the horse's mane!
                              --Robert Bly

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Galway Kinnell: Blackberry Eating

(Image credit: Richard Brown)
Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks  very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
into the silent, startled, icy black language
of blackberry eating in late September.

--Galway Kinnell

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chomsky: Power Used Wisely

(Image Credit: Duncan Rawlinson)





It is only in folk tales, children's stories, and the journals of intellectual opinion that power is used wisely and well to destroy evil. The real world teaches very different lessons, and it takes willful and dedicated ignorance to fail to perceive them.

--Noam Chomsky, from a talk given at Tufts University in 2001








Friday, December 20, 2013

Chris Green: Christmas Tree Lots

(Glade jul, Viggo Johansen, 1891)
I was in the middle of writing a poem about Christmas tree lots, and I happened to come across this one by Chris Green. I'll lay mine to the side for a while, since this is much better than my attempt.

Christmas Tree Lots

Christmas trees lined like war refugees,
a fallen army made to stand in their greens.
Cut down at the foot, on their last leg,

they pull themselves up, arms raised.
We drop them like wood;
tied, they are driven through the streets,

dragged through the door, cornered
in a room, given a single blanket,
only water to drink, surrounded by joy.

Forced to wear a gaudy gold star,
to surrender their pride,
they do their best to look alive.

            --Chris Green.
               Source: Poetry (December 2001).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wordsworth: Faculties Never Used

     




           . . . he, who feels contempt
           For any living thing, hath faculties
           Which he has never used.

                  --William Wordsworth,
       from "Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree"

Friday, November 29, 2013

Chaucer: We goon wrong ful often, trewely

(Chaucer, from the Ellesmere Manuscript)


Surely we do not know exactly what we pray for; we behave like a man as drunk as a mouse. A drunk man knows very well that he has a home, but he does not know the right way to it; in addition, the road is slippery for a drunk man. Certainly, in the world we behave similarly. We try hard for happiness, but we very often go wrong.


--Chaucer, “The Knight’s Tale.” His Middle English verse, followed by R. M. Lumiansky’s prose modern English translation

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Allen Tate: Calidus Juventa?


I finished Allen Tate's Collected Poems: 1919-1976 the other day. I cannot say it was always a pleasurable experience (he really makes a reader work hard, in a way like unto Eliot), but there were plenty of perfect lines to keep a reader occupied. Here's one of his earlier poems, from 1922, that is a good example of what I mean.

Calidus Juventa?

         Non ego hoc ferrem, calidus juventa, Consule Planco.

We are afraid that we have not lived.
We are not afraid of dying.
Toss images to the indifferent morning
Amid laughter and crying--
Amid fitful buffetings of strangled hearts
While they are dying.

Draw tight the words of death shivering
On the strictured page--
The cup of Morgan Fay is shattered.
Life is a bitter sage,
And we are weary infants
In a palsied age.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wendell Berry: Tu Fu

(Tu Fu, Tang Dynasty Chinese poet)

Tu Fu 
As I sit here
in my little boat
tied to the shore
of the passing river
in a time of ruin,
I think of you,
old ancestor,
and wish you well. 
      --Wendell Berry, from Leavings

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ted Kooser: A Glimpse of the Eternal


(Image credit: loc.gov)

Just now,
a sparrow lighted
on a pine bough
right outside
my bedroom window
and a puff
of yellow pollen
flew away.

--Ted Kooser, from Delights & Shadows


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stephen Crane: Black Riders XLVII


 XLVII
"Think as I think," said a man,
"Or you are abominably wicked;
"You are a toad." 
And after I had thought of it,
I said, "I will, then, be a toad."

   --Stephen Crane, from Black Riders and Other Lines

Friday, November 15, 2013

Christian Wiman: I Sing Insomnia


I sing insomnia
                          to the minor devils

prowling alleys
                         of my mind

loneliness’s lipsticked leer
                                            fear

no fix can ease
                         envy sipping bile

I make a lullaby
                           to make myself

into a sleeper
                      of the faith

awake
             my little while

alive
         without a why


                    --Christian Wiman, from Every Riven Thing

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thoreau: A Different Drummer





Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

--Henry David Thoreau, from Walden

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Vachel Lindsay: The Golden Orchids

(Vachel Lindsay: Nov. 10, 1879-Dec. 5, 1931)
Anniversary of Vachel Lindsay's birth. The "Singing Poet." American Troubadour. Realized the potential of poetry as performance. His Nature poetry, like the golden orchids in the following poem, sits in the mind "delicate, serene and golden."

The Golden Orchids

In the snow-bound waterfalls we found the golden orchids
Nodding in the moss beneath the thunder.
Though many a snowstorm there had come and gone,
Though many a wind had deeply snowed them under,
They nodded there, and slept in spite of thunder,
In delicate, serene and golden wonder.

                 --Vachel Lindsay

Friday, November 8, 2013

John Milton: The Temptation and Fall of Eve

Today is the anniversary of John Milton's death. What's there to say about Milton? An incredible mind--after he became blind he composed his verse in his head and dictated it later to his amanuensis. I also recall hearing or reading somewhere that there is good evidence that he had learned all of the accumulated human knowledge up to his time (at least knowledge in the Western tradition). The following is an excerpt from his most famous work, Paradise Lost. The illustration is from William Blake, whose thoughts on Milton are most interesting.


. . . her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat.
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. 
           --John Milton, Paradise Lost, IX.780-784

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Apologia Pro Vita Sua

On the bill tonight at dVerse Form for All—Googlism poetry! Sam Peralta invites us to create a list poem by using the search results from this site. To create mine, I searched for “nico” and chose several results that were incomplete sentences or thoughts that I felt I could do something with. These make up the first line of each stanza, unmodified from the original. The second lines are just whatever first surfaced in my disturbed head. The title is Latin for "a defense of one's life."

Apologia Pro Vita Sua

nico is finding that his fumbling around with this pal is leading
       to unavoidable personal discomfort for both parties.

nico is based on the fick method,
       but is a bigger ficking method ficker than a real fick.

nico is also ex
       -plained very well by nothing known to humankind.

nico is a quadruped robot which is based upon principles of 4
        legs.

nico is designing
       a fool-proof means of escape.

nico is ready to stop while dani is clearly interested in
       continuing. It’s an age-old plot.

nico is without a doubt extremely smart
       -assed.

nico is really impacted by the beauty
       of a stiff bourbon.

nico is gay
       friendly.

nico is currently for sale for more information please contact us at
       the discount booth.

nico is one of the most flabbergasting electric bass virtuosi i've heard
       people say, but they were undoubtedly lying to me. Or I might have said that

nico is one of the most flabbergasting electric bass virtuosi i've heard
       and the word “flabbergasting” always makes me think of enormous butt cheeks vibrating 
       from the forcible expulsion of air from the rectum.

nico is a happy boy who is great with children of all ages and dogs too
       --it’s the big humans he has a problem with.

nico is as nico does
       so get over it.

-----------------------------

Leo Tolstoy: Ivan Ilych

(Leo Tolstoy: Aug. 28/Sept. 9, 1828-Nov. 7/20, 1910)
I saw that today is the anniversary of Leo Tolstoy's death--but only if one ignores the fact that in Tolstoy's Russia time was calculated on a different calender than we use today. There is a thirteen day difference between the Gregorian and Julian calenders, so while Nov. 7th is the number assigned to his death, the actual day would be the 20th. Confused yet? The Russian Orthodox Church (and some other Orthodox churches) still use the old calendar for ecclesiastic purposes--if you really want to see the fur fly, get one Old Calenderist and one New Calenderist together in a room and let 'em go at it. Jesus, people, it's just an arbitrary number assigned to the passing of days! Anyway . . . I love this passage from Tolstoy's short story, "The Death of Ivan Ilych." It has nothing to do with calender issues, but everything to do with the passing of time.

Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual despair. 
In the depth of his heart he knew he was dying, but not only was he not accustomed to the thought, he simply did not and could not grasp it. 
The syllogism he had learnt from Kiezewetter's Logic: "Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal," had always seemed to him correct as applied to Caius, but certainly not as applied to himself. That Caius--man in the abstract--was mortal, was perfectly correct, but he was not Caius, not an abstract man, but a creature quite, quite separate from all others. He had been little Vanya, with a mamma and a papa, with Mitya and Volodya, with the toys, a coachman and a nurse, afterwards with Katenka and with all the joys, griefs, and delights of childhood, boyhood, and youth. What did Caius know of the smell of that striped leather ball Vanya had been so fond of? Had Caius kissed his mother's hand like that, and did the silk of her dress rustle so for Caius? Had he rioted like that at school when the pastry was bad? Had Caius been in love like that? Could Caius preside at a session as he did? "Caius really was mortal, and it was right for him to die; but for me, little Vanya, Ivan Ilych, with all my thoughts and emotions, it's altogether a different matter. It cannot be that I ought to die. That would be too terrible."
Such was his feeling.
                   --Leo Tolstoy, from "The Death of Ivan Ilych," trans. Aylmer Maude and J. D. Duff

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Eugene Debs: I am my brother's keeper

(Eugene Victor Debs. Nov. 5, 1855-Oct. 20, 1926)
A little break from my usual poetry posting. Eugene V. Debs. Labor leader. Five time Socialist Party candidate for U.S. Presidency. Much of what he said still burns with his original intensity, and is as true today as when he said it:

Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself, but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man's business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked: "Am I my brother's keeper?" That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.
Yes, I am my brother's keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality, but by the higher duty I owe to myself. What would you think of me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death.

                                 --Eugene Debs, from his 1908 speech “The Issue”


Monday, November 4, 2013

Amy Lowell: Wind and Silver

(Image credit: Harvard Gazette)
Amy Lowell, an extraordinary writer of Imagist poetry, once wrote that poetry should be "hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite." The following poem shows how well she could attain her ideal.

Wind and Silver 
Greatly shining,
The Autumn moon floats in the thin sky;
And the fish-ponds shake their backs and flash their dragon scales
As she passes over them.
              --Amy Lowell

Sunday, November 3, 2013

William Cullen Bryant: from Thanatopsis

(Nov. 3, 1794-June 12, 1878)
Not a huge fan of Bryant, but he does have his moments. This is the opening few lines of perhaps his most famous poem, "Thanatopsis." A good example of American Romanticism. Besides, you've got to love a guy with a beard like his.

        To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware.
                           --William Cullen Bryant, from "Thanatopsis"

Saturday, November 2, 2013

James Thurber: It takes away from the beauty of the flowers anyway

Humorist and cartoonist James Thurber, Dec. 8, 1894-Nov. 2, 1961. Very funny man. Famously bad eyesight. I appreciate the several levels of meaning in this bit of humor:

(Credit: Wiki Commons)
I passed all the other courses that I took at my University, but I could never pass botany. This was because all botany students had to spend several hours a week in a laboratory looking through a microscope at plant cells, and I could never see through a microscope. I never once saw a cell through a microscope. This used to enrage my instructor. He would wander around the laboratory pleased with the progress all the students were making in drawing the involved and, so I am told, interesting structure of flower cells, until he came to me. I would just be standing there. “I can’t see anything,” I would say. He would begin patiently enough, explaining how anybody can see through a microscope, but he would always end up in a fury, claiming that I could too see through a microscope but just pretended that I couldn’t. “It takes away from the beauty of flowers anyway,” I used to tell him. “We are not concerned with beauty in this course,” he would say. “We are concerned solely with what I may call the mechanics of flars.” “Well,” I’d say, “I can’t see anything.” “Try it just once again,” he’d say, and I would put my eye to the microscope and see nothing at all, except now and again a nebulous milky substance—a phenomenon of maladjustment. You were supposed to see a vivid, restless clockwork of sharply defined plant cells. “I see what looks like a lot of milk,” I would tell him. This, he claimed, was the result of my not having adjusted the microscope properly, so he would readjust it for me, or rather, for himself. And I would look again and see milk.

                                         --James Thurber, from My Life and Hard Times

Friday, November 1, 2013

Stephen Crane: Black Riders XIII

(Stephen Crane: Nov. 1, 1871-June 5, 1900)



XIII

If there is a witness to my little life,
To my tiny throes and struggles,
He sees a fool;
And it is not fine for gods to menace
       Fools.

   --Stephen Crane, from Black Riders 
                               and Other Lines

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lonely Night

Lonely Night

“My solitary watch I keep,”

Bill Monroe sings high lonesome.

“So fare-thee-well I’d rather make
My home upon some icy lake
Where the southern sun refused to shine
Than to trust a love so false as thine.”

**

a pile of yellow
toenail clippings

thought I threw
those things

out

with the nonchalance
of god

**

Yet, why be so theatrical
in your desolation.

In this way
the floor
speaks to me.

I think it means

.

and I think it is
the floor

**

            Castaneda asks, What is going to happen now, don Juan?
            Nothing. You won your soul back. It was a good battle.
            You learned many things last night.

**
(So perhaps that’s where it stands.)

------------------------------------------------ 

Anna Chamberlain has us going to the edge of meaning and sanity for tonight’s dVerse prompt. Well, anyway, that’s how it seemed to me, as we discovered a variety of experimental poetry techniques. Take the time to read the article—Anna did a great service in providing all the information, and there’s really no good way to summarize it here.

I tried to write spontaneously, piecing together many disparate, jarring sources and images in service of a single theme; however, I think there may be more flow, or at least more noticeable meaning, than one would expect to find in experimental poetry. I couldn’t help it. Hopefully there is enough here to make it fit the prompt. (The quotations are from Bill Monroe’s song “Midnight on the Stormy Deep” and Carlos Castaneda’s book The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.)


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ezra Pound: Alba

(Photo: Franz Larese from here)
So, Ezra Pound's birthday today. He would have been . . . never mind, I don't feel like doing the math. He was a little crazy, no doubt about it. Probably even a lot crazy. But still.

Alba
As cool as the pale wet leaves
                                       of lily-of-the-valley
She lay beside me in the dawn.

                                --Ezra Pound


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jane Kenyon: In the Grove

(Image from: http://www.aprweb.org/author/jane-kenyon)
In the Grove: The Poet at Ten

She lay on her back in the timothy
and gazed past the doddering
auburn heads of sumac.

A cloud--huge, calm,
and dignified--covered the sun
but did not, could not, put it out.

The light surged back again.

Nothing could rouse her then
from that joy so violent
it was hard to distinguish from pain.

              --Jane Kenyon

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wendell Berry: Lysimachia Nummularia

Lysimachia Nummularia

It is called moneywort
for its "coinlike" leaves
and perhaps its golden flowers.
I love it because it is
a naturalized exotic
that does no harm,
and for its lowly thriving,
and for its actual
unlikeness to money.

          --Wendell Berry, from Given

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Allen Tate: Emblems II

(Image credit: Paul Bishop 1955)
      II

When it is all over and the blood
Runs out, do not bury this man
By the far river (where never stood
His fathers) flowing to the West,
But take him East where life began.
O my brothers, there is rest
In the depths of an eastward river
That I can understand; only
Do not think the truth we hold
I hold the slighter for this lonely
Reservation of the heart:

Men cannot live forever
But they must die forever
So take this body at sunset
To the great stream whose pulses start
In the blue hills, and let
These ashes drift from the Long Bridge
Where only a late gull breaks
That deep and populous grave.

          --Allen Tate, from "Emblems"


Friday, October 25, 2013

John Berryman: Dream Song 46

(John Berryman: Oct. 25, 1914-Jan. 7, 1972.
Image credit: www.english.illinois.edu )

I am, outside. Incredible panic rules.
People are blowing and beating each other without mercy.
Drinks are boiling. Iced
drinks are boiling. The worse anyone feels, the worse
treated he is. Fools elect fools.
A harmless man at an intersection said, under his breath: "Christ!"

                          --John Berryman, from The Dream Songs, 46

Thursday, October 24, 2013

On Our Last Day

On Our Last Day

On our last day, a backyard swing
Ka-reeked and squawked. You took the ring
   I’d given you, a promise made
   Before our love began to fade
Like some forgotten sun-struck thing,

And threw it. The last day of spring—
A fine time for abandoning
   This ever-sickening masquerade.
                        On our last day,

The kids outside began to sing
Some rhyming song. (“Bye Baby Bunting”
   I think it’s called.) And while they played
   I gripped your neck and pulled the shade,
Heard Daddy’s gone a-hunting,
                        on our last day.

-------------------------------------------

Tony Maude hosts tonight's dVerse Form For All with an invitation to write a rondeau. I hadn't written this form in years, but Tony's excellent article gives the pertinent information. With so many matching rhymes the form is a challenge: R(efrain)aabba-aabR-aabbaR. I stayed pretty traditional throughout; however, I did take some slight liberties with meter in the last stanza since it seemed to fit the unsettled, degenerating mindset of the narrator. 

Denise Levertov: Passage

(Oct. 24, 1923-Dec. 20, 1997)
Passage

The spirit that walked upon the face of the waters
walks the meadow of long grass;
green shines to silver where the spirit passes.

Wind from the compass points, sun at meridian,
these are forms the spirit enters,
breath, ruach, light that is witness and by which we witness.

The grasses numberless, bowing and rising, silently
cry hosanna as the spirit
moves them and moves burnishing

over and again upon mountain pastures
a day of spring, a needle's eye
space and time are passing through like a swathe of silk.

                                            --Denise Levertov


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Andrew: Hatred

Here is a poem by my 10 year old son, Andrew. I think it's pretty good.

Hatred 
It feels fine
until it trips
you, like a root
in the ground,
with bruises on your skin.



Scented Razors?




So. I'm trying to figure out what kind of lady would buy razors with scented handles. Really, are there women out there who sniff their razor handles? To what purpose?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Coleridge: Apologia Pro Vita Sua

Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
Oct. 21, 1772-July 25, 1834

                        Apologia Pro Vita Sua

               The poet in his lone yet genial hour
               Gives to his eyes a magnifying power:
               Or rather he emancipates his eyes
               From the black shapeless accidents of size--
               In unctuous cones of kindling coal,
               Or smoke upwreathing from the pipe's trim bole,
                     His gifted ken can see
                     Phantoms of sublimity.

                                                         --Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gary Snyder: A Breath is a Breath


A spoken language works
for about five centuries,
lifespan of a douglas fir;
big floods, big fires, every couple hundred years,
a human life lasts eighty,
a generation twenty.
Hot summers every eight or ten,
four seasons every year
twenty-eight days for the moon
day / night   the twenty-four hours

& a song might last four minutes,

a breath is a breath.

                   --Gary Snyder, from "Old Woodrat's Stinky House"


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Apostrophe to Man

(Library of CongressPrints and Photographs DivisionVan Vechten Collection)
Apostrophe to Man
(On reflecting that the world is ready to go to war again)

Detestable race, continue to expunge yourself, die out.
Breed faster, crowd, encroach, sing hymns, build bombing airplanes;
Make speeches, unveil statues, issue bonds, parade;
Convert again into explosives the bewildered ammonia and the distracted cellulose;
Convert again into putrescent matter drawing flies
The hopeful bodies of the young; exhort,
Pray, pull long faces, be earnest, be all but overcome, be photographed;
Confer, perfect your formulae, commercialize
Bacteria harmful to human tissue,
Put death on the market;
Breed, crowd, encroach, expand, expunge yourself, die out,
Homo called sapiens.

                       --Edna St. Vincent Millay (Feb. 22, 1892-Oct. 19, 1950)


Friday, October 18, 2013

Seamus Heaney: The Door Was Open and the House Was Dark



"The Door Was Open and the House Was Dark"

              In memory of David Hammond

The door was open and the house was dark
Wherefore I called his name, although I knew
The answer this time would be silence

That kept me standing listening while it grew
Backwards and down and out into the street
Where as I'd entered (I remember now)

The streetlamps too were out.
I felt, for the first time there and then, a stranger,
Intruder almost, wanting to take flight

Yet well aware that here there was no danger,
Only withdrawal, a not unwelcoming
Emptiness, as in a midnight hangar

On an overgrown airfield in late summer.

                             --Seamus Heaney, from Human Chain


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Moloch

Moloch

    Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone!
                                             --Allen Ginsburg

Drilling   spilling   pumping
                                                blasting
                                                      
removing every mountaintop
to find the pearl
of great price

casting the star
named Wormwood
into every river
made bitter

unwilling to say—Enough!
until every son and every daughter
has passed through the fire . . .

I stand off
and see the smoke of burning,

and the circle-jerk
of those who wax rich
through the abundance
of her delicacies.

O God!                         We all
(yes, stupid fuckers one and all)
invoked this beast insatiable

conjured
him from the smoky pit in order
to have our way with him,
this pet that does not merely

bite the tit
that feeds it—

it devours all
sometimes slowly
                              over time
sometimes
                   in one huge gulp.

--------------------------------

Tonight is beat poetry at dVerse MeetingtheBar. Even if you aren't up to writing tonight, you owe it to yourself to head on over to read Gay's informative article. I took inspiration tonight from Ginsburg, John of the Apocalypse, Jeremiah the Old Testament prophet, and human greed and stupidity. Seemed like a good blend for a beat poem to me.


Wendell Berry: Clutter




Don't own so much clutter
that you will be relieved
to see your house catch fire.

--Wendell Berry, from "Prayers and Sayings of the Mad Farmer"




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kierkegaard: Faith and Wisdom Do Not Come Easily





[I]t is very foolish [. . .] to think that faith and wisdom come that easily, that they come as a matter of course over the years like teeth, a beard, etc. No, whatever a man may arrive at as a matter of course, whatever things may come as a matter of course--faith and wisdom are definitely not among them.

--Soren Kierkegaard, from The Sickness Unto Death

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Foucault: Who First Thought?

Who looked into the din and confusion of war, in the mud of battles,
for the principle of intelligibility of order, institutions, and history?
Who first thought that politics was war pursued by other means?

                                              --Michel Foucault, from Society Must Be Defended

Monday, October 14, 2013

W. S. Merwin: Witness

(Image credit: Princeton Alumni Weekly)
Witness 
I want to tell what the forests
were like 
I will have to speak
in a forgotten language

                           --W. S. Merwin


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chris Hedges: War's Crusade

Once we sign on for war's crusade, once we see ourselves on the side of the angels, once we embrace a theological or ideological belief system that defines itself as the embodiment of goodness and light, it is only a matter of how we will carry out murder.   
                       --Chris Hedges, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Shakespeare: A Living Wage


Palamon:                                            Yes, I pity
Decays where’er I find them, but such most
That sweating in an honorable toil
Are paid with ice to cool ‘em.


                        --Shakespeare, The Two Noble Kinsmen, 1.2.31-33


Friday, October 11, 2013

No More For Me, Thanks Anyway



Read an article from sciencedaily, Running a Marathon Hard On Heart.

Well, that does it for me then. I'll just continue sitting on the couch, reading Uncle Walt, and drinking beer.

Running

Running

I return today to Shingle Creek,
walking in the fine fall afternoon
alone. Wading through the shallows
to the east bank, right where the creek
cuts close to the old Bronson place,
I feel like the last ancient Israelite
crossing the Red Sea, barely ahead
of Pharaoh’s chariots.
                                     Crouching low
under the barb-wire fence I swish
through the shin-high grass, the humming
dragonflies hunting insects, shining
their blues and greens
in the lowering sun.
                                 I hear
a tractor in the distance, the rumble
carrying far in the clear air,
and I think about that day
we ran, you and I, making paths
through the field, pretending we were
dirt bike champions, shifting gears
by the rising tone of our growls.
For hours we ran, stopping just to catch
a lazy red corn snake sunning
on a sweetgum stump.
                                     I know
that with these old knees
I couldn’t run like that now, not by
any luck or necessity; and you,
old friend, only in memory
will ever run here again.

--------------------------------------------

For dVerse MeetingTheBar. We are writing about friends, friendship, loss, in honor of Dave King. Dave was a regular contributor to the online poetry world (at least until his health limited his participation), and his kindness and craft will be missed.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stephen Crane: There Was a Crimson Clash of War


           
                                                  
                                        XIV

There was a crimson clash of war.
Lands turned black and bare;
Women wept;
Babes ran, wondering.
There came one who understood not these 
          things.
He said, "Why is this?"
Whereupon a million strove to answer
          him.
There was such intricate clamour of 
          tongues,
That still the reason was not.
                                     
                                             --Stephen Crane, from Black Riders and Other Lines

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Popcorn Sutton: The Only Way To Learn






The only way you'll learn any damn thing is to do it yourself.

         --Popcorn Sutton, legendary moonshiner

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shakespeare: I'll Swear If I Want To






Cloten: When a gentleman is disposed to swear, it is not for any standers-by to curtail his oaths.

                           --Shakespeare, Cymbeline 2.1.10-11

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Shakespeare: A Tedious Life






Imogen: I see a man's life is a                             tedious one. 
                   --Shakespeare, Cymbeline 3.6.1

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mary Oliver: After I Fall Down the Stairs

(Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)


After I Fall Down the Stairs 
                At the Golden Temple

For a while I could not remember some word
    I was in need of,
and I was bereaved and said: where are you,
    beloved friend?
                      
                          --Mary Oliver, from A Thousand Mornings