Two for Tuesday: Violence in poetry?
Tuesday night, clear and unseasonably cool, 60 degrees.
It feels like fall here. God I love fall weather. I wish that I had some cash on hand because it’s the perfect weather for working outside on the cabinets. It’s supposed to be like this for a few more days.
Today’s poems deal with a subject that people do not usually associate with poetry: violence. Ask most lay people about poetry, and they immediately think of love, flowers, beautiful things, but poetry is as old as story telling, the precursor to written history. Early poetry rhymed in order for the story-teller to better remember the words. Consider: Beowulf, one of the oldest, best-known epic poems, which dealt with battles, monsters, swords, blood.
So the concept of violence in poetry is as old a poetry itself. What I want to show today is how subjects of violence have been treated in more recent poems. To continue with yesterday’s thoughts, I’ve chosen a Bukowski poem to go with another poem by Frank Stanford, which I chanced upon and have been saving for a post. The two poems are both visceral, but very different in how they handle the concept. Truthfully, I prefer the Stanford poem even though it’s heartbreaking.
More later. Peace.
Music by Yazoo, “Winter Kills”
Freedom, Revolt, and Love
They caught them.
They were sitting at a table in the kitchen.
It was early.
They had on bathrobes.
They were drinking coffee and smiling.
She had one of his cigarillos in her fingers.
She had her legs tucked up under her in the chair.
They saw them through the window.
She thought of them stepping out of a bath
And him wrapping cloth around her.
He thought of her waking up in a small white building,
He thought of stones settling into the ground.
Then they were gone.
Then they came in through the back.
Her cat ran out.
The house was near the road.
She didn’t like the cat going out.
They stayed at the table.
The others were out of breath.
The man and the woman reached across the table.
They were afraid, they smiled.
The others poured themselves the last of the coffee
Burning their tongues.
The man and the woman looked at them.
They didn’t say anything.
The man and the woman moved closer to each other,
The round table between them.
The stove was still on and burned the empty pot.
She started to get up.
One of them shot her.
She leaned over the table like a schoolgirl doing her lessons.
She thought about being beside him, being asleep.
They took her long grey socks
Put them over the barrel of a rifle
And shot him.
He went back in his chair, holding himself.
She told him hers didn’t hurt much,
Like in the fall when everything you touch
Makes a spark.
He thought about her getting up in the dark
Wrapping a quilt around herself
And standing in the doorway.
She asked the men if they shot them again
Not to hurt their faces.
One of them lit him one of his cigarettes.
He thought what it would be like
Being children together.
He was dead before he finished it.
She asked them could she take it out of his mouth.
So it wouldn’t burn his lips.
She reached over and touched his hair.
She thought about him walking through the dark singing.
She died on the table like that,
Smoke coming out of his mouth.
~ Frank Stanford
sitting in a dark bedroom with 3 junkies,
brown paper bags filled with trash are
it is one-thirty in the afternoon.
they talk about madhouses,
they are waiting for a fix.
none of them work.
it’s relief and food-stamps and
men are usable objects
toward the fix.
it is one-thirty in the afternoon
and outside small plants grow.
their children are still in school.
the females smoke cigarettes
and suck listlessly on beer and
which I have purchased.
I sit with them.
I wait on my fix:
I am a poetry junkie.
they pulled Ezra through the streets
in a wooden cage.
Blake was sure of God.
Villon was a mugger.
Lorca sucked cock.
TS Eliot worked a teller’s cage.
most poets are swans,
I sit with 3 junkies
at one-thirty in the afternoon.
the smoke pisses upward.
death is a nothing jumbo.
one of the females says that she likes
my yellow shirt.
I believe in a simple violence.
some of it.
~ Charles Bukowski