Tuesday evening. Partly cloudy, hot and humid, 90s.
Had some energy when I got out of bed for the first time in two weeks, so of course I overdid it cleaning………..
Once I could imagine my soul I could imagine my death. When I imagined my death my soul died. This I remember clearly.
My body persisted.
Not thrived, but persisted.
Why I do not know.
When I was still very young
my parents moved to a small valley
surrounded by mountains
in what was called the lake country.
From our kitchen garden
you could see the mountains,
snow covered, even in summer.
I remember peace of a kind
I never knew again.
Somewhat later, I took it upon myself
to become an artist,
to give voice to these impressions.
The rest I have told you already.
A few years of fluency, and then
the long silence, like the silence in the valley
before the mountains send back
your own voice changed to the voice of nature.
This silence is my companion now.
I ask: of what did my soul die?
and the silence answers
if your soul died, whose life
are you living and
when did you become that person?
~ Louise Gluck
It Is Not the Fact That I Will Die That I Mind
but that no one will love as I did
the oak tree out my boyhood window,
the mother who set herself
so stubbornly against life,
the sister with her serious frown
and her wish for someone at her side,
the father with his dreamy gaze
and his left hand idly buried
in the fur of his dog.
And the dog herself,
that mournful look and huge appetite,
her need for absolute stillness
in the presence of a bird.
I know how each of them looks
when asleep. And I know how it feels
to fall asleep among them.
No one knows that but me,
No one knows how to love the way I do.
~ Jim Moore
Music by Poets of the Fall, “Where Do We Draw the Line?
Where is your father whose eye you were the apple of?
Where are your mother’s parlor portieres, her slip-covered days, her petticoats?
In the orchard at the other end of time, you were just a child in ballet slippers,
Your first poodle skirt, your tortoiseshell barrettes. As the peach tree grew more
Scarce each day, you kept running out to try to tape the leaves back on their boughs.
Once, I caught you catch a pond of sunlight in your lap and when you stood,
The sunlight spilt; it could never follow you. Once, above the river,
You told me you were born to be a turtle, swimming down. Under the bridge
Now you take your meals where the thinnest creatures live at the end
Of the world. Carpe Demon, you told me just before you put down the phone
And drank the antifreeze. This year, the winter sky in Missouri is a kind of cold
The color of a turtle’s hood, a soup of dandelion, burdock root, and clay.
~ Lucie Brock-Broido
O my pa-pa
Our fathers have formed a poetry workshop.
They sit in a circle of disappointment over our fastballs
and wives. We thought they didn’t read our stuff,
whole anthologies of poems that begin, My father never,
or those that end, and he was silent as a carp,
or those with middles which, if you think
of the right side as a sketch, look like a paunch
of beer and worry, but secretly, with flashlights
in the woods, they’ve read every word and noticed
that our nine happy poems have balloons and sex
and giraffes inside, but not one dad waving hello
from the top of a hill at dusk. Theirs
is the revenge school of poetry, with titles like
“My Yellow Sheet Lad” and “Given Your Mother’s Taste
for Vodka, I’m Pretty Sure You’re Not Mine.”
They’re not trying to make the poems better
so much as sharper or louder, more like a fishhook
or electrocution, as a group
they overcome their individual senilities,
their complete distaste for language, how cloying
it is, how like tears it can be, and remember
every mention of their long hours at the office
or how tired they were when they came home,
when they were dragged through the door
by their shadows. I don’t know why it’s so hard
to write a simple and kind poem to my father, who worked,
not like a dog, dogs sleep most of the day in a ball
of wanting to chase something, but like a man, a man
with seven kids and a house to feed, whose absence
was his presence, his present, the Cheerios,
the PF Flyers, who taught me things about trees,
that they’re the most intricate version of standing up,
who built a grandfather clock with me so I would know
that time is a constructed thing, a passing, ticking fancy.
A bomb. A bomb that’ll go off soon for him, for me,
and I notice in our fathers’ poems a reciprocal dwelling
on absence, that they wonder why we disappeared
as soon as we got our licenses, why we wanted
the rocket cars, as if running away from them
to kiss girls who looked like mirrors of our mothers
wasn’t fast enough, and it turns out they did
start to say something, to form the words hey
or stay, but we’d turned into a door full of sun,
into the burning leave, and were gone
before it came to them that it was all right
to shout, that they should have knocked us down
with a hand on our shoulders, that they too are mystified
by the distance men need in their love.