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


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.

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:
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)

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: )

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)

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.

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

Drilling   spilling   pumping
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

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
                   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)
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.



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


There was a crimson clash of war.
Lands turned black and bare;
Women wept;
Babes ran, wondering.
There came one who understood not these 
He said, "Why is this?"
Whereupon a million strove to answer
There was such intricate clamour of 
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

Friday, October 4, 2013

Wendell Berry: The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer

The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer

I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.
I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven's favor,
in spite of the best advice. If I have been caught
so often laughing at funerals, that was because
I knew the dead were already slipping away,
preparing a comeback, and can I help it?
And if at weddings I have gritted and gnashed
my teeth, it was because I knew where the bridegroom
had sunk his manhood, and knew it would not
be resurrected by a piece of cake. ‘Dance,’ they told me,
and I stood still, and while they stood
quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.
‘Pray,’ they said, and I laughed, covering myself
in the earth's brightnesses, and then stole off gray
into the midst of a revel, and prayed like an orphan.
When they said, ‘I know my Redeemer liveth,’
I told them, ‘He's dead.’ And when they told me
‘God is dead,’ I answered, ‘He goes fishing ever day
in the Kentucky River. I see Him often.’
When they asked me would I like to contribute
I said no, and when they had collected
more than they needed, I gave them as much as I had.
When they asked me to join them I wouldn't,
and then went off by myself and did more
than they would have asked. ‘Well, then,’ they said
‘go and organize the International Brotherhood
of Contraries,’ and I said, ‘Did you finish killing
everybody who was against peace?’ So be it.
Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
I say I don't know. It is not the only or the easiest
way to come to the truth. It is one way.

                                          --Wendell Berry


Sometime today a discussion between Bill Moyers and Wendell Berry is supposed to be posted on Mr. Moyers' site. I am impatiently waiting. Here is a clip of the show, wherein Mr. Berry reads the above poem.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Home: A Sorted-book Poem


Paths to the heart,
the immense journey.
The way of a pilgrim,
the unforeseen wilderness;
the dispossessed garden;
the trail of tears
back to Cain.

The heart of man,
the hidden wound.
A world lost,
far from the madding crowd.

The way of the heart,
mountains and rivers without end.
Reaching out . . . .
you can’t go home again.


For dVerse FormForAll. Sam Peralta has given us a project to complete—sorted-book or spine poetry. The idea is pretty simple: take a number of books and arrange their titles in some kind of coherent order. It’s a whole lot of fun. I’m all for any project that ends up with books scattered all over the living room. I started out with about 50 interesting titles, finally whittled it down to this. I was delighted to be able to use the last title, since today is the birthday of Thomas Wolfe (earlier today I posted a little excerpt from Wolfe). Interesting how many books I have with the word heart in the title—you’d think I was a cardiologist or something. I also have a hell of a lot of Wendell Berry titles represented. I figured that would happen.

Spider-eating Whippersnapper

A few weeks ago my 14-month-old daughter walked up to me with something in her mouth. It didn't appear to be food or a booger, so I yelled "Get that out of your mouth." She opened up her mouth and spit out a brown widow spider. No harm done, except to the spider. I think it drowned.

Thomas Wolfe: Flower of Love

Thomas Wolfe--the one from North Carolina, author of great novels such as Look Homeward, Angel and You Can't Go Home Again, not to be confused with the Tom Wolfe who wrote The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test--was born on this day, October 3, 1900. I've posted excerpts from Wolfe's work before. I consider him not only one of the great American writers of all time, but also one of the greatest poets who never published poetry. Luckily, many others have noticed how lyrical and, well, poetic, Wolfe's prose is, and I am the happy owner of a slim volume of Wolfe's words lined out as poems. Here is a taste.

O flower of love
Whose strong lips drink us downward into death,
In all things far and fleeting,
Enchantress of our twenty thousand days,
The brain will madden
And the heart be twisted, broken by her kiss,
But glory, glory, glory, she remains:
Immortal love,
Alone and aching in the wilderness,
We cried to you:
You were not absent from our loneliness.

--Thomas Wolfe, selected and arranged in verse
    by John S. Barnes in A Stone, A Leaf, A Door

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Shakespeare: Food Chain

Third Fisherman: . . . Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.

First Fisherman: Why, as men do a-land: the great ones eat up the little ones.

                                             --William Shakespeare, Pericles 2.1.26-28

Tuesday, October 1, 2013



The mountains that in ages
past were level plateaus;
the shoreline that has
not kept its place;

the bones of extinction layered
like words in a holy book,
telling the story
of what once was;

the changing sky,
a glimpse of the universe
passing, rolled together
as a scroll.


            the same,
yesterday’s relics,
like the boarded-up shops
in any small town.


For dVerse OpenLinkNight. Claudia's post had me thinking about culture, history, place, and this is what came out.