Two for Tuesday: Joanna Klink

Brompton Cemetery, London by Heather Desportes (FCC)

……………But mine is darker,
slanted, nitrous blue at the root,

an acrostic of what is
most free and
far.” ~ Joanna Klink, from “Aubade”

Tuesday late morning, cloudy and humid, 80 degrees.

It’s interesting living in a house during the summer without an air conditioner. It would be impossible in Norfolk, where the summer humidity hovers between 90 and 100 percent. But it’s not bad here, except when doing something physical, like cleaning. Then it becomes impossible. Nevertheless, I like the fact that we’re not adding to global warming even though that’s not why we don’t have AC.

Old Calton Burial Ground, Edinburgh, Scotland (FCC)

Unfortunately, I’m still not venturing outside much except to help Corey milk Penny the goat. We don’t have a milking stand, so I hold her and soothe her as he milks, and when I come back inside, I am covered in bites. Once we have a stand, the whole milking process should improve. It will be good when the pasture is finally divided and fenced so that I can reclaim the front yard from the animals. Truly, it looks as if a barnyard out there, and there is no escape from the no-seeums that plague my body with bites.

Today’s poems are by American poet Joanna Klink. Both are entitled “The Graves.” I have included links to the sites on which I found the poems. I love the following passage in which Klink talks about why she writes poes:

“In poems I am trying to find my bearings through a world that at times feels remote and inchoate and struck blank with noise. I would like to place myself in a field of deep attention, and out of that attention come to feel and regard with more acute understanding what is there. I write to be less hopelessly myself, to sense something more expansive than where I speak from.”

The Graves

Wind for your sickness.
The moon for your sickness.

…….A river of night-
…….trees.  Mossy patches

where something recently slept.
A hand-drawn sketch of
fish for your sickness,

…….red and ghost-
…….loamed.  From your mother,

for your sickness, a late
flock of snow-geese
swept up in a gust.

…….From your father, a cave
…….of violas in luminous
…….pitch.  For the panic

desolation.  For scratchy bed-
sheets, the gathering of tumors,
a dispensation traveling in

…….far-nesses across the
…….galaxy-quiet of what is

to come.  Dark-sunned,
you are swimming in schools.

…….For the despairing quality of
…….hospital fluorescence,

the secondhand alarm—
theft of time theft of

…….hope.  The messages
…….arrive like flowers.

For the common un-
contested light of dusk.
For tobacco moths

…….in clouds of wings at
…….the door.  For the dawn-

emotion, a calm-in-vastness
that descends upon
what is.  Upon the storm-

…….tangle of branches, wing-
…….veins and hand-veins
…….shadow-shown on that pale

skin of sky.  Too stone for
fear.  Too brittle for

…….findings.  From the powers that,
…….born on the site of sorrow,

fall in strands of smoke
across your sickness,
for your sickness,

…….and carry and keep you.
…….That would keep you here.

~ Joanna Klink (Found on Chonicle of Higher Education)

The Graves

So here are the strange feelings that flicker
in you or anchor like weights in your eyes.
Turn back and you might undo them,
the way trees seem to float
free of themselves as they root.
A swan can hold itself on the gray ice water
and not waver, an open note upon which minor chords
blur and rest. But it was born dark.
The shore of that lake is littered with glass.
How you came to be who you are
was all unwinding, aimless on a bike,
off to retrieve a parcel that could only be a gift,
and felt, as a child, the sea
weave around your feet, white light rushing in with the surf.
What lived there?
                              —Joy, dispatched from nowhere,
and no need to think about your purpose,
and no fear that the sun gliding down
might burn the earth it feeds. Black habitat of now
in which decimation looks tender.
Sometimes the call of a bird is so clear
it bruises my hands. At night, behind glass,
light empties out then fills a room and the people in it,
hovering around a fire, gorgeous shapes of wind
leaning close to each other in laughter.
From this distance, they are a grace,
an ache. The kingdom inside.

~ Joanna Klink (Found on Poetry Foundation)


Music by Leelou, “Don’t You Forget about Me”

Advertisements

“She wades in shallows warmer than the air” ~ Brewster Ghiselin, from “Bath of Aphrodite”

This will be my bathroom one day Oh yes, it will.
“cleansed as baptism
leaves the soul, pure enough to sleep—
as you instruct him—with the angels,
cleaner than he’ll ever be again.” ~ Stuart Dybek, from “Bath”

Tuesday afternoon, storms, 73 degrees.

Lana Turner in a bubble bath

Today’s Two for Tuesday theme is the bath. I was perusing the Poetry Foundation site yesterday, and I came across the Amy Lowell poem below, which I had never read. Then last night, after being caught in the rain, I decided to take a hot bath, but I made the water too hot, so when I emerged, I was completely spent, and my legs felt like rubber—you know, like how you feel after getting out of a hot tub.

Anyway, my mind focused on baths, I decided to post Lowell and one by D. H. Lawrence, who I don’t use nearly enough.

(Side note: I always had a really hard time with the works by Lawrence in grad school, so one of these days I need to go back to Sons and Lovers, which I only pretended to read once upon a time, one of the few times that I actually did that.)


Bath

The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.
The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.
Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots. The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.

~ Amy Lowell


Gloire de Dijon

When she rises in the morning
I linger to watch her;
She spreads the bath-cloth underneath the window
And the sunbeams catch her
Glistening white on the shoulders,
While down her sides the mellow
Golden shadow glows as
She stoops to the sponge, and her swung breasts
Sway like full-blown yellow
Gloire de Dijon roses.

She drips herself with water, and her shoulders
Glisten as silver, they crumple up
Like wet and falling roses, and I listen
For the sluicing of their rain-dishevelled petals.
In the window full of sunlight
Concentrates her golden shadow
Fold on fold, until it glows as
Mellow as the glory roses.

~ D. H. Lawrence


Music by Veda Gail, “Patterns”

“A nothingness that compounded nothing into being” ~ Wangechi Mutu and Juliane Okot Bitek, from The Rwanda Genocide, twenty years later: 100 Days of photographs + poems

Rwanda Genocide Aftermath by Larry Towell (Magnum Photos)

Two for Tuesday: The Rwanda Genocide, Twenty Years Later

Tuesday morning, sunny, cooler, 64 degrees.

I had this post planned for last week, but then life intervened. I came upon a link on tumblr that led me to this incredible site, and I knew that I had to write a post about it.

100 Days by Wangechi Mutu

A little back story: In 1994, a world away, I found myself horrified by ongoing reporting of the Rwanda genocide because no one anywhere in the world truly intervened in the madness. The images that I saw made me seriously contemplate what genocide means and how some genocides seem to matter more than others based on exactly where in the world they occurred and what peoples were involved, and I have just never understood that.

Over 800,000 people were slaughtered during the 100 days of this ethnic cleansing. If you are unfamiliar with the history of the Rwanda genocide, this article provides a good explanation of what happened and how the rest of the world reacted. When it was all over, we heard that pat phrase “never again” once again. Never. Again. Empty words. Small comfort, hollow placation. We even have a month for it:

You hear this solemn pledge a lot every April, since the month commemorates not only Holocaust Remembrance Day but the official anniversaries of both the Armenian and Rwandan genocides. Leaders at every level seem to love hearing themselves declare “Never Again.” But those who mean it have no power and those with power never mean it. The record speaks for itself.

I won’t apologize for the politics of this post. I’m tired. I’m tired physically and emotionally. I’m tired of myself. I’m tired of things, and I’m so tired of the state of this country and of the world at large and all of hollow promises and untruths that continue to fall from the lips of politicians and world leaders.

As to the following poems I chose for this post, I think that the best way to describe the 100 days project is to use Juliane Okot Bitek’s words

On April 6th, 2014, Wangechi Mutu posted a picture on social media via Facebook and Instagram. It was the photograph of a woman whose somber pose was that of an exhausted spirit. She titled the picture #100Days #Kwibuka20 – and immediately, I knew what I had to do. The photograph provided me an “in” to the conversation that I’ve wanted to be a part of for more than twenty years. I wanted to think about what it means to be a witness, however obliquely, and how to create solidarity with people who have some idea about the experiences of people I know and love. I decided to write and post “100 Days,” a poem for every day from April 6th forward, inspired by Wangechi Mutu’s work . . .

I wrote to Wangechi and suggested that I compose a poetic response to her photos, and she agreed. I have been posting a poem a day, thinking about what it means to engage with such knowledge today, twenty years after. What do commemorations and declarations do for people who are still deeply haunted and scarred by those events that we think of as History? What is it to be in a world that witnessed yet did nothing about your suffering? How do we hold just enough bitterness to keep us focused on what needs our attention? Above all, what does it mean for us to witness the suffering of others? It is so easy to stay hypnotized by the swirl of information that comes at us from the internet, in print and, of course, on television. How much out there does not reflect the reality of our day to day hauntedness?

It was hard to choose just two images and two poems, and if you are at all interested, I suggest you follow the links.

There will be more later. Peace. Please.


Day 78 by Wangechi Mutu

Day 92

We wish for absolution, for a clearing,
for a forgetting, a filling of the heart
& a joyousness once more

We wish for children of innocence
we wish for an instantiation of things
a rationality that resonates with our emotions

We wish for the silence of the moon
the quieting of ghosts
& a peace to rest in

Day 96

What is the essence of beauty?
Why do mists swirl and rise but never completely disappear?
Why should iron gleam through soil?
Why should our dances be graceful, our cloths bright
Our memories long, our language rich and layered?
Why should beauty render us speechless?
What is it to come from a land that swallows its own people?”

~ Wangechi Mutu and Juliane Okot Bitek, from “The Rwanda Genocide, twenty years later: 100 Days of photographs + poems”


Music by Svrcina, “Who are you?”

 

Two for Tuesday: Spring poems

Tuesday afternoon, mostly sunny 77 degrees.

Now that the weather has gotten warmer again, I’m trying to sit outside in the afternoons. Unfortunately, with the warmer weather, the biting and stinging insects have emerged in full force. I actually had a bumblebee that got an inch from my face and hovered there for a second or two. Weird. I’ve never really minded bumblebees, that is until Corey informed me that they bore into wood. Funny story: I was showing Corey all of the pollen that had collected on my deck chair; he said, “that’s not pollen; that’s wood from the bumblebees. Look up.”

Damn if he wasn’t right. Isn’t it enough to have termites that bore into wood? We have to have bumblebees as well? Crap.

Anyway, thought I’d post these two poems that relate to spring for today’s post. Enjoy.

More later Peace


Spring Poem For the Sake of Breathing, Written After a Walk to Foster Island

The sky wants the water to turn grey,
but if I notice how waves

play with the clumps of yellow flags,
or the way turtles share logs,

or even try to understand a friend’s decision
to walk onto a glacier

and end her life—I will be ready
for any poems that have been waiting.

The horizon opens as I walk,
escorted by swans and Canada geese.

I need to stop backpedaling into the present.
In my old life people would straighten

the truth, but the river
flows in curves.

The names of my father and my mother
rest next to each other in Greenwood Cemetery.

The distance between me and the mountains
measures an uneven thought: I feel like an orphan.

An early moon is just a piece of change
in the softening sky.

Light is such an actress. Time to seek
Hopper’s wish to simply paint sunlight

on the wooden wall of a house. I am growing
older. Maru in Japanese means

the ship
will make it back home.

~ James Masao Mitsui (found on Poetry Foundation)


From An April

Again the woods smell sweet.
The soaring larks lift up with them
the sky, which weighed so heavily on our shoulders;
through bare branches one still saw the day standing empty—
but after long rain-filled afternoons
come the golden sun-drenched
newer hours,
before which, on distant housefronts,
all the wounded
windows flee fearful with beating wings.

Then it goes still. Even the rain runs softer
over the stones’ quietly darkening glow.
All noises slip entirely away
into the brushwood’s glimmering buds.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke (Trans. Edward Snow)


Music by Tom Grennan, “Run in the Rain”

“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”

“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”

“. . . 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”