“She was the Head Cheerleader at the Game of Violence.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from Women


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

Junk

sitting in a dark bedroom with 3 junkies,
female.
brown paper bags filled with trash are
everywhere.
it is one-thirty in the afternoon.
they talk about madhouses,
hospitals.
they are waiting for a fix.
none of them work.
it’s relief and food-stamps and
Medi-Cal.
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
tequila
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,
egrets.
I sit with 3 junkies
at one-thirty in the afternoon.
the smoke pisses upward.
I wait.
death is a nothing jumbo.
one of the females says that she likes
my yellow shirt.
I believe in a simple violence.
this is
some of it.

~ Charles Bukowski

 

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“Mi sopragiunse uno soave sonno” (Sweet sleep overcame me) ~ From Dante’s La Vita Nuova

Korean War Memorial in Snow, Washington, DC (image by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Vide cor tuum (See your heart)
E d’esto core ardendo (And of this burning heart)
Cor tuum (Your heart) ~ From Vide Cor Meum from Dante’s La Vita Nuova

U.S. Capitol in Snow (image by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Well, the snow has left the area, melted, gone, no more. We were lucky. Not much accumulation, but we did get icy roads on Saturday night. Apparently, those to the north of us in the state were hammered. Pretty much everything in the DC metropolitan area is closed today—federal agencies, local governments, schools, and forecasters are predicting more snow tomorrow. Flights have resumed at National Airport, where people have been stranded for days, and tens of thousands of people are without power, with no predictions as to when power might be restored. Amtrak has resumed train travel, which means long lines at Union Station filled with people who cannot get out of the area any other way. 

Cross country skiers made their way through the snow, while others were left digging out vehicles that were completely covered by the storm. I’m including pictures of DC/Northern Virginia to give you an idea of what it’s like there. Thankfully, none of that for our area. In fact, today it’s a whopping 39° F. That’s almost 20 degrees warmer than yesterday. I spent most of yesterday wrapped up in the blankets trying to keep my nose warm. Ah life. Always an adventure. 

So yesterday was the Super Bowl. I did not watch as I am completely uninterested in the NFL. That doesn’t make me un-American, just not interested in football. I did, however, peruse the Super Bowl commercials earlier today as these commercials tend to be a little more creative than most mainstream commercials. I’m including my two favorites, KGB’s I Surrender, and E-Trade’s Milkawhat. 

 

 

Io sono in pace (I am in peace)
Cor meum (My heart)
Io sono in pace (I am in peace)
Vide cor meum (See my heart) ~ From Vide Cor Meum from Dante’s La Vita Nuova

Downed Tree Branch in Alexandria, VA (Cliff Owen/AP)

I told Corey earlier that I didn’t really have any idea on what to post today. I mean, there are things going on: In Washington state, a 17-year-old boy crashed his parents’ car into his school and drove down the hall . . . In New York, a 61-year-old woman was cited for driving in the Plus-One lane with a mannequin, decked out in wig and sunglasses . . . And in tech news, Dante’s Inferno has been turned into a video game. 

You might think that with my background in literature I would be offended by gamers taking this classic and turning it into video fare, but I’m not. I’m all for anything that introduces the classics to people who might otherwise be uninterested, even if it is but a glimpse of the original. I don’t kid myself that the game will delve too deeply into the original, but if playing the game causes even one person to turn to the book, then something has been accomplished. 

The movie version of Beowulf that came out a few years ago took liberties with the Medieval tale, yet many of the original aspects were there. Of course, Grendel’s mother in the original did not look like a shimmering Angelina Jolie, but the original storyline of the warrior Beowulf slaying Grendel was kept, albeit embellished. 

The movie 1980s movie Excalibur still remains one of the best retellings of the Arthurian legend, including the betrayal of Lancelot and Guinevere and the search for the grail. Clive Owen’s King Arthur added new dimensions to the tale by incorporating the battle of Baden Hill, which is believed to be the actual battle fought by the Arthur on whom the legend is based.  

Robin in Snow (Jewel Samad/AFP Getty Images)

I’m not saying that I think that our youth should be getting their history lessons from games and movies; however, when a game or movie does present a relatively accurate depiction of history or a literary classic, I view it as a good thing, yet another way in which to teach those who under different circumstances, might never hear of Dante’s Inferno or be interested in reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. 

I mean, think of all of the movies that have given viewers glimpses into actual events: Saving Private Ryan (veterans praised the accuracy of the beach-storming scene); Schindler’s List (Shoa survivors were gratified by Spielberg’s honest retelling of the Holocaust); Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 (depicted the fateful flight that almost didn’t make it home); Enemy at the Gates (the battle of Stalingrad); Mississippi Burning (the 1964 slaying of civil rights activists); The Killing Fields (Viet Nam under Pol Pot after the Americans pulled out). 

Of course, the list could be much longer. I just chose the ones that came to mind readily, those films that have stayed with me through the years, some of which my own children have seen and from which they have taken away pieces of history. 

Digging Out in Maryland (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

For every boatload of garbage that Hollywood produces, there is one gem. The same could be said of any medium—music, literature, television. So much is rehashed, redone, retooled, and not towards making something better but usually for lack of original thought. But those few that stand out are the ones from which we take away a sense of time or place or person. The ones that, at the end of the day, we gleaned something from and were made better because of it. 

Consider the movie version of Hannibal, based on the book by Thomas Harris. No. I’m not holding the movie up as a substitute history lesson. Rather, I am pointing out that even in the midst of one of the goriest movies around, great beauty exists—this time in the form of the aria “Vide Cor Meum,” which was written specifically for the movie by Patrick Cassidy. The aria is based on a sonnet from Dante’s La Vita Nuova, in which Dante professes his love for Beatrice. Of course, I could do an entire post on the use of classical music in movies, television, even Loony Tunes, but that’s for another time. 

More later. Peace. 

  

Katherine Jenkins performing “Vide Cor Meum.” Sublime. 

One Hundred Things

A dock at sunset on White Sands Island in the Maldives.

These are the things . . .

I realized that even though I’ve done a few memes on here, I haven’t ever really talked about myself completely, honestly. So I thought that I would compose a random list, just to see where it takes me. So here we go:

  1. I like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. About the only vegetable I really hate is okra, and that’s because it’s slimey and hairy.
  2. I’ve never eaten escargot. No matter how much garlic you put on it, it’s still a snail.
  3. I love shrimp, but I will not eat lobster. If someone around me orders lobster, I make clawing motions with my hands and say “help me” in a high-pitched voice so as to shame them for eating something that could live for years and years in the ocean.
  4. I also will not eat lamb or veal. Do you know how they make veal? If you did, then you couldn’t possibly eat it.
  5. I love chocolate. I have tried to give up chocolate many times as it is not good for my headaches, and it is full of calories, but it keeps coming back and jumping into my mouth when I’m not looking.

    kayaking-at-first-landing-state-park-by-karen-roberts
    Kayaking at First Landing State Park by Karen Roberts
  6. The last time I was timed, I typed 126 words a minute. That was a long time ago, and I type much faster now.
  7. I have gone kayaking, and actually really enjoyed it. If I had the opportunity, I would own my own kayak and use it on the Chesapeake Bay.
  8. I like to go hiking in the foothills of Virginia, but I haven’t done it since I hurt my back. My ex and I once went hiking/camping with some friends of ours. The girl wore penny loafers to go hiking. That was her idea of old shoes. I ended up carrying the guy’s pack on the hike back. Not outdoor people.
  9. I love my dogs and treat them like children. Dogs are meant to be loved and talked to. People who abuse dogs should be put in jail as far as I’m concerned. A man who will beat a dog will beat a child or a woman. Don’t ever believe any differently.
  10. I enjoy the smell of fresh cut lilacs, rosemary, gardenias, and lavender.
  11. Butterflies are small miracles.
  12. tiger-swallowtail-on-lantana
    Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana by L. Liwag
  13. My three children, who are no longer small, are still my pride and joy, even when they screw up. After all, who doesn’t screw up once in a while?
  14. I would love to have more children, even though I am considered past my childbearing years. But what does that mean, anyway? I really don’t care.
  15. If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live somewhere where I could see water and mountains at the same time.
  16. I believe in nationalized medicine and a flat tax rate.
  17. I am a liberal liberal. I don’t mind paying more taxes if it means that there will be better schools and better healthcare. My only protest against paying more taxes is that I want the rich to pay their fair share, too, and to stop having so many loopholes so that they end up paying less than those of us in the middle of the road.
  18. I miss my father every day of every week of every year. I see him in my dreams often. I believe that he is looking out for me as best he can.
  19. When I was at the beach once, I asked god for a sign that things were going to be all right, and then the waves pulled back, and a perfect shell was there at my feet.
  20. I believe in angels.
  21. I wish that I remembered more from my publishing class on computer systems, but it was such a painful experience the first time that I think that I have blocked everything that I managed to learn.
  22. I love Beowulf (not the movie, the written version)
  23. I wish that I looked like Angelina Jolie, but I wish more that I had her ability to go to poor countries and do something for the people who live there.
  24. angelina-jolie-goodwill-ambassador
    Angelina Jolie as Goodwill Ambassador
  25. I collect stuffed bears, and I buy the ones who look like they need a home.
  26. I have a calendar fetish. I always have at least three calendars of my own: one next to my desk, one in my purse, and one in the kitchen. If I had more places to put them, I would have more.
  27. I am a speed reader, but I don’t scan in order to read more quickly. For example, I read each of the Harry Potter Books, even the longest one, in just one day.
  28. I have read The Lord of the Rings more times than I can remember.
  29. The English Patient is one of the most beautiful books ever written, and the movie is still one of my favorites.
  30. I get silly drunk about two times a year, but otherwise, I drink very seldom.
  31. I don’t do illegal drugs, and the worst thing I ever did when I was a teenager was speed, and I hated the way that it made me feel.
  32. I love to learn. I have one bachelor’s degree, and two master’s degrees. I would go for another degree in a heartbeat.
  33. I miss being in the front of the classroom but not enough to teach in the Norfolk Public School system.
  34. I’ve never been in a girl fight. How utterly stupid.
  35. I am very sentimental. I can cry at a Hallmark commercial, a Lifetime movie, or a YouTube clip. Sarah McLachlan’s commercials about animals in shelters just kills me.
  36. I am fiercely loyal and protective.
  37. I am an Aquarius.
  38. Eamonn and Caitlin’s birthdays are within ten days of each other in March (Pisces); Alexis and Brett’s birthdays are within three days of each other in July (Cancer).
  39. It’s far easier to give birth in March than in July.
  40. I’m not afraid of needles, as in having blood drawn, but I hate it when I get someone who is not good at putting in an IV. That hurts.
  41. I talk back to the computer and other inanimate objects. I also carry on conversations with other drivers, but they don’t know it.
  42. I love coffee and hot tea. I drink cream in most types of hot tea except for Earl Gray and Oolong.
  43. claire-lerner-blue-tea-cup1
    "Blue Tea Cup," by Claire Lerner
  44. My favorite dessert is Tiramisu, followed closely by real New York cheesecake.
  45. I used to be a shopaholic but have since reformed, for a variety of reasons.
  46. I believe that psychopharmaceuticals were developed for a reason and that no one should be ashamed of having to take them.
  47. I hate it when people jump to conclusions.
  48. I have a terrible habit of correcting other people’s English.
  49. My husband is younger than I am, and when we first got together, no one thought that it would last. We’ve been together for nine years, and it is the best relationship of my life.
  50. My mother is without a doubt the one person in this world who can get to me more than anyone else. She knows exactly what buttons to push.
  51. I wish that Alexis believed in herself more, but at this point, I have to let her be who she is and try not to interfere.
  52. My last beta, Mulder, decided that he didn’t like me and wouldn’t look at me any more. I took it very personally. He doesn’t live here any more.
  53. blue-beta
    Blue Beta: Mulder Did Not Look Like This
  54. I am hooked on crime shows: CSI, Without a Trace, Law & Order. I do not like sitcoms.
  55. Heidi Klum is über gorgeous, especially when she is pregnant.
  56. American society is fixated on how people look and doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to educating its children.
  57. Someday, I want to go to Australia, Ireland, and Greece.
  58. I love to take pictures but don’t like to have my picture taken.
  59. Cruises cease to be fun when you run out of money.
  60. My big goal in life is to be debt-free and to have good credit again.
  61. All of my children inherited my propensity for depression as I inherited it from my father. Sometimes genetics really sucks.
  62. I wish that Mari lived nearby so that we could spend time together again.
  63. I need to get off my ass and put together my book, but I am too scared of the whole rejection process.  
  64. point-woronzof-sunset-2-by-janson-jones
    Point Woronzof Sunset by Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana
  65. I managed a newsroom when I was 19-years-old.
  66. One day, I will figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
  67. Ending sentences in a preposition really bothers me.
  68. I love to use quotations by other people in my own work. It helps me to focus.
  69. I love sunsets and sunrises. I cannot think of anything more beautiful than a painted sky.
  70. I miss getting dressed, putting on make-up and going to work everyday. I love make-up.
  71. I hate dreaming that I am at work.
  72. I believe that men and women can be friends, but sooner or later, sex tries to get in the way.
  73. I love music: classical, pop, classic rock, country, new age (whatever the hell that means), opera, blues, even some hard rock.
  74. My birthstone is garnet, which I love, but I also love pearls, aquamarines, and diamonds.
  75. One day, I am going to have a big diamond ring, just because.
  76. I used to love to wear hats, but now I just look silly.
  77. I have long wavy hair, and I would like a new hairstyle, but I look like a monkey when I have short hair.
  78. I usually eat one big meal a day (dinner), and maybe a snack, but I cannot lose weight. I hate that.
  79. I can be very impatient, which can lead to my being snarky, especially when I’m driving.
  80. I find that I always end up telling Corey where to park, even though he doesn’t need my help. I wonder why I do that?speed-limit-sign
  81. I speed on the interstate, but I obey the speed limit in the city.
  82. I desperately need a new old car that is just mine because Eamonn ruined Izzie the Trooper, and it smells like cigarettes.
  83. I love ankle bracelets and earrings, and I love watches, but am down to about four now that still work.
  84. I smoked during college exams, but I hate cigarettes, and cigarette smoke.
  85. I don’t look my age, but that is because of good genes and Oil of Olay Regenerist, and I don’t ever tell people how old I really am.
  86. Writing my blog posts is my daily therapy.
  87. Both Shakes and Tillie snore, but Tillie snores louder. I snore louder than anyone in the house.
  88. I hate my body. I feel like a sausage most of the time.
  89. I really love shoes and boots, especially boots.
  90. I wear Christmas socks all year long.
  91. We are not friendly with most of our neighbors. I wonder why.
  92. I have never really wanted to own a horse, but I have considered living on an old farm.
  93. I am a hoarder when it comes to books and sentimental things like old cards and letters.
  94. I used to own a yard tractor and would mow the yard in my bathing suit. Of course, that was when I was in good shape. My nasty neighbor to my left thought that it was scandolous.
  95. I hold a grudge, expecially if I feel that I have been wronged unfairly.
  96. I think about revenge, but have never actually taken it.
  97. Bad manners offend me, and my sons know this and use it to drive me crazy.
  98. I wash my hands a lot, but I don’t think that I am OCD about it.
  99. One day, my bedroom will finally be painted, and I will be able to put in my new furniture.
  100. I like antiques even though my mother calls them “tired, old things” and believes that people should move on.  
  101. yoda-1
    Original Yoda
  102. I have a hard time moving on, and don’t adjust to change very well.
  103. I like the first three Star Wars movies (chronologically) a lot better than the last three (numerically).
  104. Corey brings me a cup of hot mint tea every night before bed. Isn’t that thoughtful?
  105. I am a pantheist: I believe that god, some kind of god, exists in all things: people, animals, trees, water, and that if we listen carefully enough, we can become one with all things in nature.
  106. One day, I will finally go on a poetry retreat.
  107.  

That’s quite enough for today. Peace.