“I’m digressing, sure. But | did you know that to digress means to stray from the flock?” ~ John Murillo, from  “Upon Reading That Eric Dolphy Transcribed Even the Calls of Certain Species of Birds”

“. . . but did you know the collective noun
for swans is a lamentation? And is a lamentation not
its own species of song?” ~ John Murillo, from  “Upon Reading That Eric Dolphy Transcribed Even the Calls of Certain Species of Birds”

Tuesday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 77 degrees.

Today Corey and I are supposed to go to Bristol to pick up a baby Nubian goat to add to our herd, a young buck. I hope that he’s as cute as his pictures. He’s only three weeks old, so we’ll need to bottle feed him for another five or six weeks.

Today’s Two for Tuesday has a swan theme. I first featured the James Wright poem ten years ago, so I don’t feel bad about the repeat, especially as it is one of my all-time favorite poems. I love it even more now that I’ve more consistent time around horses.

Enjoy. More later. Peace.


After Whistler

There are girls who should have been swans.
At birth their feathers are burned;
their human skins never fit.
When the other children
line up on the side of the sun,
they will choose the moon,
their precious aberration.
They are the daughters mothers
worry about. All summer,
dressed i gauze, they flicker
inside the shaded house,
drawn to the mirror, where their eyes,
two languid moths, hang dreaming.
It’s winter they wait for, the first snowfall
with the stead interior hum
only they can hear;
they stretch their arms, as if they were wounded,
toward the bandages of snow.
Briefly, the world is theirs
in its perfect frailty.

~ Lisel Mueller

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

~ James Wright


Music by Gert Taberner, “Fallen”

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“The cathedral was roofless. | It began to snow inside. | A half broken pillar in the nave | grew taller.” ~ Mary Reufle, from “Seven Postcards from Dover, VII”



With angel’s wings and brutish-human form,
Weathered with centuries of sun and storm,
He crouches yonder on the gallery wall,
Monstrous, superb, indifferent, cynical:
And all the pulse of Paris cannot stir
Her one immutable philosopher.
………………..~ Edmund Kemper Broadus, “A Gargoyle on Notre Dame”

Tuesday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 64 degrees.

Did I tell you that it snowed for a few minutes yesterday? Snowflakes in April on tax day. How fitting. It was cold yesterday.

I still have Notre-Dame on the brain, so I thought that I’d share some historic images of the cathedral from the 1800s. Thinking of Notre-Dame reminds me of Raymond Carver’s short story “Cathedral,” a favorite of mine that I used to teach in American Literature classes. If you haven’t read it, you can find it here.

Today is a Two for Tuesday, but the theme is kind of murkier: the mind as a personal cathedral.

More later. Peace.


Consecration

The man in the yellow hard hat,
the one with the mask
across his nose and mouth,

pulls the lever that turns
the great arm of the crane up
and over and sideways

toward the earth;
then the wrecking ball
dangles crazily,

so delicately, like a silver fob
loosened from a waistcoat pocket:
shocking to see

the dust fly up and the timber
sail up, then so slowly
down, how the summer air

bristles with a hundred splinters
and the smallest is a splintered flame,
for it takes so many lengthening

erratic movements to tear away
what stands between the sidewalk
and the bell tower,

where the pigeons now rise
in grand indignant waves
at such poor timing, such

a deaf ear toward the music;
in this way the silence

between hand and lever is turned
into a ragged and sorely lifted
wing: the wrecking ball lurches
in a narrowing arc until only

the dust resists—the rest
comes down, story by story,
and is hauled off in flatbed trucks.

Meanwhile the pedestrians come
and go, now and then glancing
at their accurate watches.

Gradually, the dust
becomes the rose light
of autumn.

But one evening a woman
loses her way as she’s
swept into a passing wave

of commuters and she
looks up toward the perfectly
empty rectangle

now hanging between
the rutted mud and the sky.
There along the sides

of the adjacent building,
like a set for a simple
elementary school play,

like the gestures of the dead
in her children’s faces,
she sees the flowered paper

of her parents’ bedroom,
the pink stripes leading
up the stairs to the attic,

and the outline of the claw-
footed bathtub, font
of the lost cathedral of childhood.

~ Susan Stewart


Explication of an Imaginary Text

Salt is pity, brooms are fury,
The waterclock stands for primordial harmony.

The spruce forest, which is said to be
Like a cathedral
Indicates proliferation of desire.

The real meaning of the beginning
Will not become clear until later, if ever.

Things no longer being what they were,
Artifice poses as process,
The voice is tinged with melancholy.

The teacup, the brass knuckles, and the pearl-handled razor
Resist interpretation

As if to say
That half the wind is in the mind
And half in the mind of the wind.

Speaking through the character
Who comes to faith on his deathbed,

The author makes apology
For saying things he didn’t mean.
Little girl-cousins with ribbons in their hair

Confuse him with their names and are carried away
By laughter. Thus,

The force of love comes from belief,
Hate is from lack of doubt.
Paradox by paradox the narrative proceeds

Until half the stars are absolute tears.
The other half are mirrors.

~ James Galvin


Continue to be in a blues mood. Music by Gary B.B. Coleman, “The Sky is Crying”

oh, the irony . . .


Sunday evening, pouring rain and dropping temperatures, 56 degrees.

Taxestaxestaxestaxestaxestaxestaxestaxestaxes………….ad nauseam………….


Foy Vance, “Make it Rain”

I Am Waiting

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“. . . her verse suggests a mind in perpetual meditation, deliberating in a state of waking dream” ~ Rita Signorelli-Pappas

W. Balls, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1860, oil on canvas)

Two for Tuesday: Two sections from Louise Glück’s poem “Marathon”

Tuesday afternoon, cloudy and temperate, 63 degrees.

So for a few hours today I thought that it was Monday, and I was going to write a regular post, and then I looked at the weather and realized that nope . . . it was Tuesday. Honestly, I’m no longer even surprised when this happens.

My back was better yesterday, but then a migraine hit, hard, and then it came roaring back during the night. However, I was able to get back to sleep this morning, and I managed to get a few good hours. That being said, the back situation is bad again—t’s just more of that vicious cycle that is my body’s daily existence.

Whatever.

As you know, I’m a huge lover of Louise Glück’s poems. Today I’m featuring two sections of her longer poem “Marathon,” which appears in The Triumph of Achilles (1985); the 26 poems in this book are are arranged in three parts, of which “Marathon” is the center; this poem contains nine sections.

Although this poem traces a relationship, I have chosen these two particular sections because of the imagery that I find so relatable. In particular, I feel as if I’ve had a version of the dream that she recounts in section 6, “The Beginning.” I cannot begin to count the number of times in which I’ve dreamed that I was in a different city in which I am lost and looking for something. This, precisely, is why I have such an affinity for Glück’s work.

Enjoy.

More later. Peace.


Marathon

5. Night Song

Look up into the light of the lantern.
Don’t you see? The calm of darkness
is the horror of Heaven.

We’ve been apart too long, too painfully separated.
How can you bear to dream,
to give up watching? I think you must be dreaming.
your face is full of mild expectancy.

I need to wake you, to remind you that there isn’t a future.
That’s why we’re free. And now some weakness in me
has been cured forever, so I’m not compelled
to close my eyes, to go back to rectify—

The beach is still; the sea, cleansed of its superfluous life,
opaque, rocklike. In mounds in vegetal clusters,
seabirds sleep on the jetty. Terns, assassins—

You’re tired; I can see that.
We’re both tired, we have acted in a great drama.
Even our hands our cold, that were like kindling.
Our clothes are scattered on the sand; strangely enough,
they never turned to ashes.

I have to tell you what I’ve learned, that I know now
what happens to the dreamers.
They don’t feel it when they change. One day
they wake, they dress, they are old.

Tonight I’m not afraid
to feel the revolutions. How can you want sleep
when passion gives you that peace?
You’re like me tonight, one of the lucky ones.
You’ll get what you want. You’ll get your oblivion.

6. The Beginning

I had come to a strange city, without belongings:
in the dream, it was your city, I was looking for you.
Then I was lost, on a dark street lined with fruit stands.

There was only fruit: blood oranges.
The markets made displays of them beautiful displays—
how else could they compete? And each arrangement had, at its center,
one fruit, cut open.

Then I was on a boulevard, in brilliant sunlight.
I was running; it was easy to run, since I had nothing.
In the distance, I could see your house; a woman knelt in the yard.
There were roses everywhere; in waves, they climbed the high trellis.

Then what began as love for you
became a hunger for structure: I could hear
the woman call to me in common kindness, knowing
I wouldn’t ask for you anymore—

So it was settled: I could have a childhood there.
Which came to mean being always alone.


Music by Manchester Orchestra, “The Silence”

A Different Kind of Friday . . .

William Stanley Merwin (1927-2019)


“This is how I live
Up here and simply” ~ from “I Live Up Here”
 

I am quite late in acknowledging the passing of a wonderful American poet, so I decided to post this today instead of my usual Friday leftovers.

Poet W. S. Merwin died on the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, March 15, 2019. He was 91. U. S. Poet Laureate from 2010 to 2011, Merwin won numerous awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes and a National Book Award in 2005. Merwin was an incredibly prolific writer who published almost three dozen volumes of poetry, essays, short fiction, and memoirs. He was also known for his translations of Dante and Pablo Neruda, as well as other poets. Merwin’s poems, which often dealt thematically with moments in time and passing time, were devoid of punctuation and predominantly spare, though still poignant and powerful. I remember that one of my favorite poems was about the grey whale, “For a Coming Extinction.”

A passionate student and admirer of the natural world, Merwin devoted many years to personal conservation efforts on his former pineapple plantation in Hawaii, on which he planted thousands of palms, as well as numerous other natural species of flora.

But perhaps my favorite bit of trivia about the poet is that he refused to answer the telephone. God, I love that and can completely relate. In case you haven’t heard it from me enough, I hate the telephone, and only use it (when it works) to make and cancel appointments. Otherwise, I ignore it.

For a lovely remembrance of Merwin, see poetry editor Kevin Young’s essay in The New Yorker. Also, you may want to visit The Merwin Conservancy here. Below I am including his 2005 poem about fellow poet John Berryman, under whom he studied at Princeton.


Berryman

I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don’t lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you’re older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write

(Found on Poetry Foundation)


Music by Fleurie, “Gloria Regali”

“What we conceal | Is always more than what we dare confide. | Think of the letters that we write our dead.” ~ Dana Gioia, from “Unsaid”

Morning Rainbow over Orange Trees in Malaga, Spain, by Leshaines123 (FCC)

Two for Tuesday: Dana Gioia

Tuesday afternoon, sunny and colder, 42 degrees.

It was so cold last night, and early this morning, everything was covered with a layer of frost. Spring is tomorrow, yes? Now that we’re thinking about crops, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of worry for people with fruit trees. Would the cold dip and frost hurt their crops? I absolutely love oranges, and I remember a year in which the Florida citrus crops were devastated by crops. Not sure of what year. No idea where that memory emerged from in the recesses of my mind. Hmm . . .

Orange Blossoms, Hamilton, Ontario, by RichardBH (FCC)

Things that make you go hmm . . . Which reminds me, I really need to plant a mock orange somewhere around the porch.

Yesterday I had a post planned (old story, I know), but then I realized that I had nothing to say. Hence, no post yesterday.

Actually, I did have something to say, but I just couldn’t do it. My eldest son’s birthday was this past weekend, and as a result, my kids have been ever-present on  my mind. I check my email every few days, and if I really want to torture myself, I search on Alexis’s and Eamonn’s names, just on the off-chance that one of them emailed me. It’s an exercise in futility and pain.

So that’s why I didn’t write.

Anyway, today’s post features two poems by Dana Gioia (pronounced JOY-uh), the first obviously because of my latest bout with insomnia. Gioia, former chairperson of the NEA, has written five collections of poetry. You can read a complete biography on his site.


Insomnia

Now you hear what the house has to say.
Pipes clanking, water running in the dark,
the mortgaged walls shifting in discomfort,
and voices mounting in an endless drone
of small complaints like the sounds of a family
that year by year you’ve learned how to ignore.

But now you must listen to the things you own,
all that you’ve worked for these past years,
the murmur of property, of things in disrepair,
the moving parts about to come undone,
and twisting in the sheets remember all
the faces you could not bring yourself to love.

How many voices have escaped you until now,
the venting furnace, the floorboards underfoot,
the steady accusations of the clock
numbering the minutes no one will mark.
The terrible clarity this moment brings,
the useless insight, the unbroken dark.


The Letter

And in the end, all that is really left
Is a feeling—strong and unavoidable—
That somehow we deserved something better.
That somewhere along the line things
Got fouled up. And that letter from whoever’s
In charge, which certainly would have set
Everything straight between us and the world,
Never reached us. Got lost somewhere.
Possibly mislaid in some provincial station.
Or sent by mistake to an old address
Whose new tenant put it on her dresser
With the curlers and the hairspray forgetting
To give it to the landlord to forward.
And we still wait like children who have sent
Two weeks’ allowance far away
To answer an enticing advertisement
From a crumbling, yellow magazine,
Watching through years as long as a childhood summer,
Checking the postbox with impatient faith
Even on days when mail is never brought.


Music by Ruelle, “Carry You”

“And at the altar of the night, like a flower inflamed, | Inebriated by strange perfumes, my soul resigns.” ~ Delmira Agustini, from “In the Light of the Moon (Al Claro De Luna)”

Cover of Diego Fischer’s book about Delmira Agustini (if anyone knows who created this cover, please let me know; I could not find the source)
Two for Tuesday: Delmira Agustini

Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 46 degrees.

I don’t know nearly enough about Latin American poets or poetry. Fortunately, I saw a few passages of Delmira Agustini’s poetry on tumblr, which led me to look for more of her work online.

Agustini was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1886 to a well-to-do family of French and German descent. She was first home schooled by her mother and then later tutored in a fairly traditional education for a female at that time, which included music, painting, and French. Agustini was also very well read in poetry and philosophy, preferring the works of Nietzsche and Manuel Ugarte, an Argentine author. Agustini began to compose poems at a young age, and she published her first book of poetry in 1907, El Libro Blanco (The White Book).

Unfortunately, although Agustini attracted the attention of the Latin American intellectuals of her time, they tended to praise her beauty as opposed to her poetry, which was typical treatment for many female artists at that time. However, once her poetry began to encompass intense erotic imagery, that praise turned to criticism, including condescending comments about her sexual obsessions, with some critics even using the phrase “fevered Leda” (the woman who was raped by Zeus in swan form) to describe Agustini (I found a portrait of Agustini online with a swan around her neck, but I could not find any additional citations, nor could I discern the artist).

Here is a stanza from her poem “Intima (Intimate)”:

We go further into night, we go
Where in me not an echo reverberates,
Like a nocturnal flower in the shade,
I will open sweetly for you.

In 1913, Agustini married Enrique Job Reyes, with whom she had corresponded for more than five years; only a few weeks later, Agustini left Reyes and filed for divorce. However, the two continued to meet clandestinely even after the divorce was finalized in 1914. On July 6, 1914, Agustini was killed by Reyes in a murder suicide. For a more detailed biography, go here, or here.

Today’s post features two of her poems, the second a translation of a French poem.


The Knot (El Nudo)

Their idyll was a smile of four lips…
In the warm lap of blond spring
They loved such that between their wise fingers
the divine form of Chimera trembled.

In the glimmering palaces of quiet afternoons
They spoke in a language heartfelt as weeping,
And they kissed each other deeply, biting the soul!
The hours fluttered away like petals of gold,

Then Fate interposed its two icy hands…
Ah! the bodies yielded, but tangled souls
Are the most intricate knot that never unfolds…
In strife with its mad superhuman entanglements,
Life’s Furies rent their coupled hands
And wearied your powerful fingers, Ananké*…

(Trans. Valerie Martínez)


[I live, I die, I burn, I drown]*

I live, I die, I burn, I drown
I endure at once chill and cold
Life is at once too soft and too hard
I have sore troubles mingled with joys

Suddenly I laugh and at the same time cry
And in pleasure many a grief endure
My happiness wanes and yet it lasts unchanged
All at once I dry up and grow green

Thus I suffer love’s inconstancies
And when I think the pain is most intense
Without thinking, it is gone again.

Then when I feel my joys certain
And my hour of greatest delight arrived
I find my pain beginning all over once again.

*This is Agustini’s translation of 16th century poet Louise Labé: Je vis, je meurs : je me brule et me noye

Music by Agnes Obel, “Fuel to Fire”