“On a branch | floating downriver | a cricket, singing.” ~ Kobayashi Issa (Trans. Jane Hirshfield)

Cover of A Haiku Garden: The Four Seasons in Poems and Prints

Today’s Two for Tuesday features poems from the book A Haiku Garden: The Four Seasons In Poems And Prints, by Stephen Addiss with Fumiko and Akira Yamamoto (a PDF of which can be found here). I’ve been intent on the coming of autumn, but I decided yesterday that I need to appreciate the last days of summer, regardless of the flies.  I find that whenever am keenly focused on nature and in search of poems, I turn to Haiku, and admittedly, I am very fond of the frequent appearance of dragonflies in this type of verse.

Haiku is a traditional 13th century form of Japanese verse that depicts a moment in time, or as Cor van den Heuvel wrote in 1987, Haiku is the concise “essence of a moment keenly perceived in which Nature is linked to human nature.” When translated to English, the formal Haiku is supposed to be composed of three lines of verse, usually unrhymed, with five, seven and five syllables. These 17 syllables are akin to the original form of 17 mora, which is a unit of Japanese syllable weight; however, it has been pointed out that roughly 12, not 17 syllables in English are equivalent to the 17 On (phonetic units) of the Japanese Haiku, which only goes to show that strict adherence to form does not necessarily a Haiku make.

Mori Shunkei,” Red dragonfly and caterpillar on plant” (1820, wood block print)

Over time, poets have moved away from the strict 17 syllable and line count while focusing more on the economy of form. Importantly, to understand Haiku it should be viewed as more than a short poem, more than a pithy description. For a poem to be Haiku, it must encompass a sense of awareness, an eloquence of brevity. One other aspect of Haiku that should be noted is the use of kigo, which are words or phrases traditionally associated with seasons. I actually found a world database on kigo which contains fairly comprehensive discussions of the Japanese term and its use in Haiku.

The Poetry Foundation has a good description of Haiku that can be found here. A more detailed history of the form can be found on the site With Words, and the British Haiku Society site offers a breakdown of the western views and approaches to the form. Historically, there were four Japanese poets considered masters of the form, sometimes referred to as the Great Four: Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), Yosa Buson (1716-1784), Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), and Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). Seventeenth-century Samurai poet Bashō is often classified as the greatest writer of  Haiku; to read more about him you can go here or here for a collection of his verse.

Because of the compact nature of Haiku, I am breaking my self-imposed Tuesday rule and featuring more than two; most of these come from the “Summer” section of the book, and I am including the page numbers on which each can be found. Enjoy.

More later. Peace.


After the thunderstorm
one tree catches the setting sun—
cicada voices

~ Shiki (p48)

Seen in the daylight
it has a red neck—
the firefly

~ Bashō (p48)

The warbler
amid the bamboo shoots
sings of old age

~ Bashō (p51)

The garden darkening
the night quieting—
peonies

~ Shirao (p52)

The coming of autumn
determined
by a red dragonfly

~ Shirao (p60)

The dragonfly
has died his body
autumn

~ Bakusui (p63)

The puppy
completely unaware that
autumn has come

~ Issa (p63)


Music by Rodrigo Rodriguez, “Hitomi (Eyes), composed by Horii Kojiro

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“Winter garden, the moon thinned to a thread, insects singing.” ~ Matsuo Basho (trans. by Robert Haas)

  

Toei-Zan Temple from “Twelve Scenes of the Eastern Capital” by Utagawa Hiroshige (no date) 

“Winter solitude
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.” ~ Matsuo Basho

Drum Bridge at Meguro by Hiroshige

Thanks to those of you who have visited my Collecting Dust page and perused my verse. I had always thought that my first book would be a book of poetry, but as the years have passed, I have realized that while I can occasionally write an inspired verse, my creative non-fiction seems much stronger than my poetry, at least in my opinion. But then what do I know? I have written for years and years for myself and have never bothered to try to get anything published, with the exception of one essay. All of my other publications were on the professional side, which is great except that it wasn’t for me.  

The poems that I have included on the Collecting Dust page are mostly ones that I have featured in earlier posts. I actually have lots more verse that is sitting in computer folders doing a whole lot of nothing.  

With that in mind, I’ve decided that 2010 will be the year that I will try to find an agent. I say this with great casualness, as if finding an agent were akin to checking out the local grocery store and finding a good canteloupe. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth  (yes further, as farther is reserved for physical distance). I realize that literary agents are a commodity, and that finding one to give you a bit of time is well nigh impossible, but I’ve made this my one writing goal for the year.  

If at the end of this quest I am still empty-handed, then I shall have to regroup and rethink . . . well at least it sounds good for now. and if I am to be truthful, which I try to be on this blog, I really don’t know if I can muster the courage needed to try to find an agent.   

Is all of this just more of my personal setting myself up for failure state of mind? Who knows. Certainly, not I.  

Moving along . . .  

“The first soft snow!
Enough to bend the leaves
Of the jonquil low.” ~ Matsuo Basho

Had a very strange dream last night about one of my cousins from Great Bridge. I was writing a paper for him on this computer that was shaped like a toy cash register. I was having a hard time figuring out how to work this computer as there was no apparent save button  anywhere, and the keyboard fell off at inconvenient times. Very strange.  

I remember something about race cars going on in the background, and the movie Hidalgo, with my LOTR idol, Viggo Mortensen, making an appearance. Bizarre in the extreme. Have absolutely no idea what any of that was about, especially Hidalgo.  

"The Bridge of the Brocade Sash at Iwakuni, Hiroshige (1859)

So it’s February already, and not a peep from the guy from Vane Brothers Shipping. I am trying mightily hard not to devolve into full-blown panic mode as it would only rub off on Corey, who doesn’t need yet another thing over which to worry. But I mean, geez, February, the second month of 2010 (as if you were unaware of that fact), and still no call to duty, as it were.  

Corey spent over an hour on the phone with his dad the other night, talking about this and that, mostly his dad’s lawn care business in Ohio. Corey started that business when he was just out of high school, and it’s still going strong. I do envy him his long conversations with his parents. That just wasn’t something that ever happened in my house. Even though my mother lives less than two miles from our house, the last time we had any kind of conversation over anything of substance was years and years ago when my marriage to my ex broke down irreparably.  

I’m glad for Corey that he can get on the phone and talk forever to either one of his parents about just about anything. That’s enviable, especially coming from a home in which deep subjects were never pondered, politics was not a topic of discussion, and emotions were always kept in check unless someone was yelling. Don’t misunderstand: I did not come from an abusive home. Hardly. But I came from a home in which my parents were always pitched on some kind of battle ground, and I was forced into a forward position, like it or not.  

I vividly remember one time when I was a teenager, and I was horribly depressed, weeping depressed, and my mother and I were out running errands. I picked up the book Holocaust to buy, and my mother made me put it back. Her reasoning was that I should read happy things to feel better. That was her treatment for my depression. Over the years I have come to realize that my mother was wholly incapable of dealing with things such as clinical depression as she was so much a child of her generation in which any kind of mental illness was a taboo, something people hid from the neighbors. So think happy thoughts was pretty much it as far as treatment.  

Of course I did not know it then, but my father was suffering from his own personal demons while I was growing up, depression being one of them. I just used to think of him as being quiet, but it was a comfortable silence most of the time, until it wasn’t. It’s hardly surprising that my country-born mother and my Filipino father never seemed able to be there for one another. That they lasted for so many years probably has more to do with generational ideology than anything else.  

Not really sure what made me go there. Just sort of popped into my head.  

“The winter leeks
Have been washed white—
How cold it is!” ~ Matsuo Basho
 

Night Snow: Kambara, Hiroshige

It’s raining today, and I heard some forecaster calling for a rain/snow mix later in the week. Now that snow has come to the area, it will continue to pop into the forecast until March, undoubtedly.  

I do seem to have acquired another cold as my head is full of fluff and pressure, and my throat has gunk. Delightful. What can I say? I just have a flair with description.  

I decided that today would be a good day to feature some images by Utagawa Hiroshige (also known as Ando Hiroshige), a famous Japanese artist who produced over 1,000 prints in his lifetime (1797-1858). Hiroshige produced several well-known series (12 total), including “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,” and “Famous Views of the Fifty-Three Stations,” which featured images on the theme of the Tōkaidō, the road running from Edo to Kyoto. Personally, I love the snow scenes, mostly because of the contradiction that I always feel when seeing snow on Japanese landscapes, which in my mind, should be covered with cherry blossoms.  

Hiroshige, a near contemporary of Hokusai (another of my favorites), was a renowned ukiyo-e landscape artist of the late Edo period who produced woodblock prints in the oban format, which was the most common print size of approximately 15×10 inches; tate-e refers to the print being vertically-aligned (portrait), and yoko-e means horizontal alignment (landscape). Ukiyo-e translates as “pictures of the floating world,” and the term refers to the woodblock prints produced in this school. Hiroshige’s landscapes, which featured, snow, mountains, rain, and the moon, were popular with European Impressionists such as Monet, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.  

The term japonisme arises from the 1870s, after the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867, which featured a Japanese stand that included art. The public became enamored with all things Japanese, and the Impressionists were particularly taken with the Japanese artists’ use of broad spaces of color. In particular, Horishige employed the use of perspective, primarily a Western technique, something heretofore not employed in the ukoyo-e prints, which were largely two-dimensional.  

Van Gogh was so taken with Hiroshige’s work that he painted copies of two Hiroshige prints: “Plum Tree in Bloom” and “The Bridge in the Rain.” Van Gogh described his interest in Japanese painting in saying that “I envy the Japanese artists for the incredible neat clarity which all their works have. It is never boring and you never get the impression that they work in a hurry. It is as simple as breathing; they draw a figure with a couple of strokes with such an unfailing easiness as if it were as easy as buttoning one’s waist-coat.”  

"Plum Tree in Bloom" (left by Hiroshige; right by Van Gogh)

Hiroshige was a member of the Utagawa School, a famous group of 19th Century Japanese woodblock print artists. The school was one of the more successful schools, and many of the ukiyo-e prints that have survived are from the Utagawa School. Today, many of these prints can be found on greeting cards, fans, posters, even book illustrations.  

Just thought I’d share more of the minutiae that rolls through my brain and makes an appearance on occasion.  

Haiku by Basho.  

More later. Peace.  

“Silk Road” by Kitaro. Simply lovely.  

   

“She had the scattered feeling she always got when events conspired to mess things up, and nothing exhausted and frustrated her more than a mess she was incapable of fixing.” ~ J. Robert Lennon, The Light of Falling Stars

Overhanging, Indian Lake, Ohio by L. Liwag©  

“Nothing must be postponed. Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or like the like of this.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Well, another day, another 57 cents . . . whatever.  

More forms for prescription assistance. This time, I was completely befuddled by the contradictory directions, and of course, trying to get a live human at the contact number was fruitless as I was directed back to the site. I often find myself screaming into the phone at the automated attendant, “Live Human Being!” to no avail.  

I spent hours yesterday editing the photographs that I took while we were in Ohio, and so I am treating (?) you to a few in this post. The top one is my favorite. These pictures were all taken on December 21, 2009 at Indian Lake and along the drive home. It was colder than cold that day, especially with the wind whipping off the lake, but it was worth it to get these shots.     

Blue Ice by L. Liwag©

One of the really interesting things about Indian Lake is the number of islands in the middle of the lake, some with houses. I told Corey that I would love to live in one of those houses, especially in the winter. You know, stock up on supplies, and once the lake freezes, ride in on an ice boat or snowmobile only when necessary. The only problem with that idea is whether there would be access to high speed internet. These are the things that I think about.  

“Only awareness of your shadow qualities can help you to find an appropriate place for your unredeemed darkness and thereby create a more satisfying experience.” ~ Robert Johnson

Indian Lake, OH Wide Vista by L. Liwag ©

More very strange dreams. Do you ever dream something, wake up, then go back to sleep and continue the dream? That happens to me often. Last night/this morning, whenever I finally went to sleep, I had this very strange dream that Dillard’s at MacArthur Center was closing down. My former store manager called several of us together to give us going away presents (believe me, something he would not do). Mine was a set of Ralph Lauren flannel sheets. I was exuberant. Then I woke up because Tillie was punching me in the back of the neck with her paws.  

Went back to sleep, and the dream continued: Turns out, the store wasn’t supposed to close, but the assistant store manager read the e-mail incorrectly, so the store was closed; things were sold at unbelievable prices, and it was all a mistake. Then the dream warped into this crime scenario in which the criminals were turning on other criminals. In one storyline, I was in a truck that rammed the loading dock. A man (who knows who) and I jumped out and  confronted the security guard at the store, then I shot the man. But it was all a ruse as we were filming a movie, but then we weren’t. Then it jumped back to the point at which the store was closing, and I went into the cosmetics department to steal an eyeliner, but I didn’t really steal it, I put poison on it. Someone (again, don’t know who) used the eyeliner and became sick. Then I took the eyeliner, dunked it into some kind of solution, and kept it.  

The main thing that I remember, and this is priceless, is what color lipstick I was wearing, and I said to myself in the dream, “You really need to remember this shade because it is very flattering.”  

Is it any wonder that I feel as if my mind is too full most of the time?  

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Snowy Limbs by L. Liwag©

Speaking of my mind, and I was, I am not doing too well in that department. Out of my anti-depressant, you see, so my mood swings are quite intense, which is probably another reason my dreams are dark and wild.  

I keep Corey awake in the middle of the night with my need to talk, especially about things over which I have no control because those are the things that worry me the most. It’s not that I’m a control freak, although I used to be. Rather, I just fret about what might happen, what could happen. I do this when my mood is slipping, and I do it to torture myself. Don’t look for logic here as there is none.  

I told Corey that I really want to go back to work as I feel as if I am stagnating, just sitting here in this room wasting away. It’s a double-edged sword since if I do decide to try to go back to work full time, I will lose my disability, and then I’m not sure if I could get it back if things don’t work out. I cannot work part-time as that would decrease my disability and give them a reason to take away my coverage. Yet I truly believe that if I sit here for another two years without doing something productive, then my mind will turn into mush, porridge, if you will.  

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.” ~ Margaret Atwood

Frozen Plants by L. Liwag©

Anyway, this is something that I must give serious thought, the benefits and the downsides. Of course, I could spend this time writing my book. Consider: Author J. K. Rowling wrote the seven Harry Potter books in 17 years. That’s pretty amazing. When she began writing, Rowling was out of work and on public assistance; now she is one of the richest people on the face of the earth.  

I don’t begrudge her; I admire her. The Harry Potter series is one of those series of books that will long outlive its author. Its themes of good and evil, compassion and choices will never be outdated. I’m certain that when Rowling first began writing her story she never imagined exactly where it would take her personally. I think of her dedication, her single-mindedness in bringing her story to life, and it makes me feel, well, inferior.  

I never thought that I would get to this point in my life without being published. I mean, I am published—articles, a retrospective for a university, things like that—but not my book, the book that is inside of me, that is probably inside of every English major. I have mulled over plots, titles, characters. I have given so much thought to how I would approach this thing called writing, serious writing, but each time, I step back just before leaping off the cliff into the unknown.  

It’s fear, pure unharnessed fear. I know that. I have the words within me. I think that I have the talent within me as well, but fear keeps me from moving beyond observation and contemplation.  

Sorry, got a bit off track there. You see, if I go back to work, then I have an excuse not to write. Does that make sense? It does to me. If I go back to work, I can become immersed in yet another job that is not my dream job, spend my time doing things for other people, using my creative energies for other purposes.   

It’s not Rowling’s wealth that I want (although I wouldn’t say no), nor is it her fame. It’s her dedication, her willingness to put pen to paper without ever knowing if anyone would read her words, but doing it nevertheless.  

I need to stop fooling around with my life and do something, stop watching movies, reading other people’s words. I need to be true to myself or give up the dream much like giving up the ghost.  

I’ll leave you with a wonderful Basho haiku that I found on Crashingly Beautiful:  

“The Snow we two once
looked at together—has it
fallen again this year?” 
  

More later. Peace.  

Music by Michael Hoppé, “Renouncement” based on the poem by Alice Alice Meynell, with images by E. A. Hoppé:

 

                                                                                                                         

Renouncement

I must not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the love that lurks in all delight—
The love of thee—and in the blue heaven’s height,
And in the dearest passage of a song.
Oh, just beyond the sweetest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits hidden yet bright;
But it must never, never come in sight;
I must stop short of thee the whole day long.
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,
Must doff my will as raiment laid away—
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gather’d to thy heart.
 
 
 
 
 

Alice Alice Meynell

 

The poems, the poets, the words.

Qian Xuan Early Autumn detail 13th c ink&colors paper

 Early Autumn (detail) by Qian Xuan (13th C., ink and colors on paper)

 

 

“Thus moved, he will spread his paper and poise his brush
To express what he can in writing.” ~ Lu chi (261-303),
from The Motive for Poetry

I have spent too many days dwelling on life—my life, my role in this life, my thoughts about living life with someone you love but with whom you disagree at times (it’s called marriage). It’s all so complicated, and then, not really. As a result of my meditations, I wrote two poems, one of which I did not post. More on my poem(s) in a moment.

Today, I did not really want to write about mysef. I need a break from myself. Do you ever feel like that, like you would like to send that part of yourself that is in pain or is being a pain to another room, lock the door, and say don’t come out until it’s over? Of course, not possible in the physical realm of things, but I do know of individuals who can compartmentalize themselves to such an extent that they can move between the different parts of themselves, their different faces, if you will. They move seamlessly between their personae so that no one ever really gets to know them, the real them because there is no real them.

I’m not talking about multiple personality disorder here. I mean something much more ethereal, less tangible. Having dealt extensively with an individual who falls into this category, I can tell you that it is incredibly taxing. Me? I’m pretty much an open book about most things: I’ll tell you how I feel whether you want it or not. And as we all know, this is not necessarily a good thing. And self-censorship is something at which I have never been very capable. If part of me is in pain emotionally, then all of me is experiencing that pain; hence, my wish that it were not so.

Anyway, today’s post really isn’t about me. It’s about writing. Poems. Poets. Words.

“Perpetual thought itself gropes in time and space;

Then, the spirit at full gallop reaches the eight limits of the cosmos,

And the mind, self-buoyant, will ever soar to new insurmountable heights.” 

~ Lu Chi, from Meditation Before Writing

 

huang-shen-white-egrets-on-a-bank-of-snow-covered-willows-1767
"White Egrets on a Bank of Snow-Covered Willows," Huang Shen (Chinese, 1767)

In reading my comments and blogrolls today, I came upon the following poem by Chinese poet Po Chü-i (Tang Dynasty) posted by healnow of The Madder Hatter. I love Chinese poetry: Often it creates images with an enviable sparsity of words. Ancient Chinese poets were often involved in politics in some manner, and because of this, the poets would use metaphors to criticize the rulers of the time.

As with Japanese poetry, ancient Chinese poetry predominantly employs images in nature. I have tried Japanese Haiku as an exercise to use an economy of words. It is incredibly hard to write a poem that contains only 17 syllables (three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively). Of all of the Haiku that I have written, there is perhaps only one that I like, that I feels comes closest to the spirit of the form.

But as usual, I digress. “Night on the West River” employs only 64 words to create the same atmosphere that I was trying to evoke with “October Rain.” Granted, I really wasn’t thinking as much about form as I was more concerned with the emotion. But Po Chü-i’s lines, “Cold comfort,” “Water flowing grayly,” say what I was feeling but with much more perspective.

I usually don’t post any of my poems until I have worked and reworked them. I strayed from my own advice and posted purely out of emotion. I’m not sorry that I did. Don’t misunderstand. It was a pressing need, and I embraced that need with the post. Rather, what I am saying, is that it was an unfinished poem, and in comparison to “Night on the West River,” the deficiencies of my own “October Rain” are made all the more apparent.

It’s a good writing lesson, and it’s good to still be able to learn lessons. And of course, the masters are those from whom we can learn the best lessons.

Night on the West River

No moon
To light my way upon the stair,
Cold comfort
In the wine I drink alone.
Black clouds,
Rain,
The hurried flight of birds,
Water flowing grayly
In the dusk.
A rising storm,
Boats tugging at their mooring ropes.
Or sails full-spread
To take advantage of the wind.
A moving point of fire
In the dark,
The distant lantern
Of a passing boat.

(Translated by Henry Hart)

This poem and many others can be found on a website called Humanist Texts, which includes writings by Aeschylus, Cervantes, Khayyam, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, and many others. According to the home page, the purpose of the website is to show “how people around the world gradually develop an understanding of what it is to be human. Multicultural extracts portray the wit, wisdom, and poetry of individuals as they reflect on ethics, philosophy, knowledge, and human relationships.” It’s a great site, and many thanks to The Madder Hatter for turning me on to it.

The following poem by Lu chi has more of a modern sensibility, but very often, translating from Chinese or Japanese—which is an arduous task—can be made harder as no precise English word exists for words in those vocabularies.

Unfortunately for Lu chi, his creative sensibilities were compelled into military service as he was born into a wealthy military family. Much of Lu chi’s work was dedicated to writing about the craft of writing.

The Joy of Writing 

Writing is in itself a joy,

Yet saints and sages have long since held it in awe.

For it is being, created by tasking the great void;

And it is sound rung out of profound silence.

In a sheet of paper is contained the infinite,

And, evolved from an inch-sized heart, an endless panorama.

The words, as they expand, become all-evocative,

The thought, still further pursued, will run the deeper,

Till flowers in full blossom exhale all-pervading fragrance,

And tender boughs, their saps running, grow to a whole jungle of splendor.

Bright winds spread luminous wings, quick breezes soar from the earth,

And, nimbus-like amidst all these, rises the glory of the literary world.

 

“All objects visible under the sun or moon will the poet in experiment strike aglow,

All that can give out a sound he will ring to test their resonance.”

~ Lu Chi from The Working Process

 

Ogata Korin Red and White FLowers in Bloom by a Flowing Stream 18th C 2panel screen ink color gold silver onpap
"Red and White Flowers in Bloom by a Flowing Stream," Ogata Korin (18th C. Japanese, screen)

 

I love the line, “The words, as they expand, become all-evocative.” Exactement! That is what I seek when I write: to allow my words to come from a void and to expand until they fill the space for which they were intended. Lofty goal? Not really. Reduced to its simplest form, it merely means sifting through all of the possible words and finding the exact right word to convey the thought.

 

I’ll leave you now with just one more, a selection from a poem by Medieval Japanese poet Hitomaro. I love the allusions to fall.

 

On the Death of his Wife (I)

 

……….

I would gladly follow

the wandering spirit of my love

through precipitous ways

hidden by autumn’s red leaves,

but cannot tread those unknown mountain trails

That lie beyond my ken.

 

In autumn’s fall of scarlet forest leaves

I see the message coming for me

and think of one day of love

that never more shall be.

 

To continue my theme of rain (may be a bit quiet) . . .

 

 

 

More later. Peace.

A Few Things From The Vault

Two Poems and a Prose Poem From the Past

angel-statue-cllose-up

Poem #1

Remembrance of Monday Afternoon Past

for Josh

 

How can I explain to you

what it is to hold someone you love until she dies?

I cannot prepare you for that moment of separation—

it is something so unspeakably personal

that to watch it, to intrude upon it

almost cannot be forgiven.

If I try to tell you about the silences

that

enclose and isolate,

you will not understand

until you,

too, have felt them.

I cannot describe for you

the desperation

with which you will try to pass

life

from your arms to hers,

but you will come to know this,

too, as I once did.

When the moment comes,

you will not be ready,

but you will recognize it for what it is—

that last instant

in which possibilities still exist. 

 

angel-wings

Poem #2

These Are The Only Truths I Know

 

I.

The wait’s begun again,

The long wait for the angel

For that rare, random descent.

— “Black Room in Rainy Weather,” Sylvia Plath

 

After holding my breath for this long,

if I exhale now, I will die.

Have no doubts, my friend.

Diving into the wreck,

searching for the salvageable,

it never occurred to me

to take heed

of all that had happened above

and around me. My

single‑minded sense

of what is just,

what is true,

did not allow for

the company of strangers or

their own pitiable laments

about love

and life,

or, more tellingly,

about loss.

 

II.

We do not rid ourselves of these things

even when we are cured of personal silence

when for no reason one morning

we begin to hear the noise of the world again.

“City Walk-up, Winter 1969,” Carolyn Forché

 

I never noticed that woman over there,

the one who was drowning, not waving.

She, too, drifted into this miasma, then

vanished. The words of her sad entreaty

misplaced, floating in vain

too far from shore to be heard. The other one—

the one whose soul betrayed her so completely,

left her two small children playing unaware,

sought comfort in

the only philosophical certainty in life:

death (not truth).

She is now but a footnote in her husband’s poetry.

And the other, the poet against forgetting,

when she saw the broken glass

embedded in the walls of the colonel’s fortress,

did she notice the poet’s heart

hidden among the hundreds of scattered human ears?

 

III.

 . . . We did this.  Conceived

of each other, conceived each other in a darkness

which I remember as drenched in light.

I want to call this, life.

But I can’t call it life until we start to move

beyond this secret circle of fire

— “Origins and History of Consciousness,” Adrienne Rich

 

There were signs everywhere,

some true, others

misleading, taking me

across a landscape for which there was no map.

Sometimes, I could no longer see—

an impenetrable fog,

Looming, the Fata Morgana stung my eyes,

crept into my dreams,

offered only a cruel discordance,

falsehoods in the night,

where only truth should reside.

 

IV.

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

— “Late Fragment,” Raymond Carver

 

In the moments before my soul

surrendered to the sea,

I thought I heard you

speak my name as never before.

You called out:

“You are beloved.”

(It was what I had waited so long to hear)

I could have been mistaken. Perhaps,

it was only the wind and the waves,

conspiring to confuse me once again.

 

V.

but if you look long enough,

eventually

you will be able to see me

— “This is a Photograph of Me,” Margaret Atwood

 

And yet, my dearest friend,

there is no escaping the final truth—

It is here, in this unfocused picture. Look

at the ravaged smile,

a disturbing, melancholic dementia

unmasked. This snapshot

was not meant to capture

the disintegration of blood and bone—

(but it did).

In the millisecond it took

for the shutter to close,

everything faded.

This is a photograph of me you

were never supposed to see.

 

VI.

The abandoned live with an absence

that shapes them like the canyon

of a river gone dry

— “Brother-less Seven: Endless End,” Marge Piercy

 

I have put into your hands

validation: I was at peace

once. Once, I was whole.

Those who cocooned

the golden threads of my muse,

kept them beyond my grasp

for my own protection—

give them this glimpse

of my legacy. Convince them:

Behind these unfocused, sepia halftones,

lies the proof: I had finally acceded

to fate, accepted life

for all that it was

and was not.

(I was still alive,

then) They do not need to know

how uncomfortable I really felt

in my clothes. My friend,

it is a small deceit

for which you need not feel guilty,

for I have left you

with little choice.

 

VII.

The lover enters the habits of the other.  Things are smashed, revealed in new light.  This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire . . . echo is the soul of the voice exciting itself in hollow places

—The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje


Once, the blaze of promise stoked

the fevered, impassioned heat

deep within the hollow chambers

of my heart. Now,

even love’s most gentle kisses

cannot nourish the scorched core

of my soul. It will not be embraced

only to be abandoned.

Forewarned by the memory of ashes

from countless other burnt loves,

I can no longer embody

the destructive force

of this small, red wound

alive, inside. Nor can I sustain

the healing power

of its flickering pulse.

If I am to smother the flames

of this most tender of vessels,

and most cruel

I must dive deep below

the water’s surface, beyond redemption.

It is the path of sorrow,

it is the road of regret.

It is the loneliest of hunters.

 

VIII.

And the musky odor of pinks filled the air.

— The Awakening, Kate Chopin

 

Put out the light, and then

put out

the

light.

 

Prose Poem4theroad2

I thought that I would put out three very different styles from different periods in my oeuvre (to date, that is).  Thanks for reading. More later. Peace.