“The long silences need to be loved, perhaps more than the words which arrive to describe them in time.” ~ Franz Wright, from God’s Silence

Reblogged from apoetreflects:

apoetreflects: “What I would say is this: Writing poems doesn’t make you a poet … It is only with poetry, for some reason, that everyone wants to believe they can try their hand at it once in a while and be considered, can call themselves a poet … It’s a craft. It’s an art. It’s a skill. It is not therapy, and it is not compensation for terrible things in one’s life. It is a thing in itself. You devote yourself to being an instrument of it, or you wander forever in the belief that it is a form of “self-expression.” … And I explained very clearly my opinion of what I think a poet, an artist is. Someone who puts this thing first.” —Franz Wright

                   

“What I would say is this: Writing poems doesn’t make you a poet . . . It is only with poetry, for some reason, that everyone wants to believe they can try their hand at it once in a while and be considered, can call themselves a poet . . . It’s a craft. It’s an art. It’s a skill. It is not therapy, and it is not compensation for terrible things in one’s life. It is a thing in itself. You devote yourself to being an instrument of it, or you wander forever in the belief that it is a form of ‘self-expression.’ . . . And I explained very clearly my opinion of what I think a poet, an artist is. Someone who puts this thing first.”

~ Franz Wright

Music by Sleeping at Last, “From the Ground Up”

“February, when the days of winter seem endless and no amount of wistful recollecting can bring back any air of summer.” ~ Shirley Jackson

 

                 

“beyond myself, somewhere, i wait for my arrival.” ~ Octavio Paz

It’s 78 degrees today. Spring is weeks away. This month is insane.*

In honor of the last day of the longest month of the year for me, I’m posting one of my favorite Linda Pastan poems, “Agoraphobia.” Seems appropriate somehow.

                   

Agoraphobia

“Yesterday the bird of night did sit,
Even at noon-day, upon the marketplace,
Hooting and shrieking.” ~ William Shakespeare


1.

Imagine waking
to a scene of snow so new   
not even memories
of other snow
can mar its silken
surface. What other innocence   
is quite like this,
and who can blame me
for refusing
to violate such whiteness
with the booted cruelty
of tracks?
 
2.
 
Though I cannot leave this house,   
I have memorized the view
from every window—
23 framed landscapes, containing   
each nuance of weather and light.   
And I know the measure
of every room, not as a prisoner   
pacing a cell
but as the embryo knows
the walls of the womb, free
to swim as its body tells it, to nudge   
the softly fleshed walls,
dreading only the moment
of contraction when it will be forced   
into the gaudy world.
 
3.
 
Sometimes I travel as far
as the last stone
of the path, but
every step,
as in the children’s story,
pricks that tender place
on the bottom of the foot,
and like an ebbing tide with all
the obsession of the moon behind it,   
I am dragged back.
 
4.
 
I have noticed in windy fall
how leaves are torn from the trees,   
each leaf waving goodbye to the oak   
or the poplar that housed it;
how the moon, pinned
to the very center of the window,
is like a moth wanting only to break in.   
What I mean is this house
follows all the laws of lintel and ridgepole,   
obeys the commandments of broom   
and of needle, custom and grace.
It is not fear that holds me here but passion   
and the uncrossable moat of moonlight   
outside the bolted doors.
 
Music by Lizz Wright, “Hit the Ground”
 
 
*For a good description of the panic disorder agoraphobia, click on this Mayo Clinic link.

“Sometimes, I think you can glimpse it in another.” ~ Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

Mist at Sunset (Pixdaus)

                    

“I search for the words. ‘Restless. As if you haven’t really met yourself yet. As is you’d passed yourself once in the fog, and your heart leapt—’Ah! There I Am! I’ve been missing that piece!’ But it happens too fast, and then that part of you disappears into the fog again. And you spend the rest of your days looking for it.” ~ Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

                    

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea
Koktebele
formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I’m flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

19 April 1962
Moscow

~ Nazim Hikmet
translated by Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing

Music by Ennio Morricone, “Deborah’s Theme” from Once Upon a Time in America

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.” ~ Cicero

Male Cardinal in the Snow by synthman19872003

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Blue Jay in the Snow

I’m cold, tired, and my back hurts. What better time and frame of mind to hammer out some new year’s resolutions. Let’s get started then. I resolve to do the following in 2010 (in no particular order, just as they come to me):

  1. Write more—more frequently, more regularly, more faithfully, and with more purpose.
  2. Read more, well, just because it’s something that I love, and it relaxes me.
  3. Try to get along better with eldest son even though his personality is so much like my ex-husband that sometimes the lines blur.
  4. Get back into a regular exercise program. This is one that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but let’s face it: I don’t exercise at home. It’s just not a conducive environment. I need to get back to the gym, a place where I will be shamed into working harder.
  5. Do more with my photography, as in, not just take pictures and leave them on the memory card for months. I love Photoshop, so I should use it more.
  6. In conjunction with Number 5, I would love to get a photo printer, but that’s at te bottom of the priority list.
  7. Get that new Logitech mouse that I’ve been eye-balling for two years. The price has to have come down by now.
  8. Work on our credit score; of course, this one is dependent upon Corey starting a new job and no major problems occurring, but both of us want to accomplish something with this.
  9. Paint my bedroom. No. Still hasn’t been done.
  10. Be a better friend and stay in touch on a more regular basis with everyone who has moved away.
  11. Work on finding a literary agent by the end of 2010. That gives me a year.
  12. Pay back Corey’s parents the money they have loaned us. Must do this.
  13. Try to be more patient with my mother. This is a hard one.
  14. Find the perfect squooshy leather purse so that maybe one day I can purchase it.
  15. Plant flowers in the spring. This used to be so important to me. I need to get back to it.
  16. Go to the Virginia foothills and Skyline Drive. It’s been too many years since we’ve done this, and it doesn’t involve spending a lot of money.
  17. Get a pedicure or two or three. Sweet indulgences are a necessary part of life.
  18. Give up chocolate. Okay, so maybe decrease my chocolate intake. I was able to do this once before, so I have no excuses.
  19. Help to support Corey in his goal to register for college classes. The irony is that if we’d known he be out of work this long, he could have registered a long time ago and already be finished with at least a year of school. Bitter irony.
  20. Female Cardinal in the Snow by Dovey
  21. Get a bird feeder to hang in the back yard where the dogs cannot get to it. I miss my backyard birding.
  22. Be more patient overall. I have gotten more patient and less bitchy in recent years, but I still would like to make fewer assumptions and be less prone to getting upset.
  23. Take my vitamins. No-brainer.
  24. Play the piano more. I am so out of the habit, and this, too, relaxes me. 
  25. Try to get on a regular sleep schedule, you know, like normal people.
  26. Declutter. This is a big one as it means that I have to let go of some things, which I don’t like to do, but the decluttering must be done.
  27. Smile more. I’m not a person who smiles a lot, and it’s not because I’m unhappy or angry, I just don’t smile, so maybe I should make a concerted effort to try more, as long as I don’t end up looking like some kind of idiot.
  28. Give back more. Our trials and tribulations have been heavy, but so many others are facing the same and worse. Giving back is the right thing to do.
  29. Go on a retreat. I promised Brett that we would do that this past summer, but then we didn’t have a vehicle or any cash. This year, for certain.
  30. Read more poetry by new writers. I’ve let myself get behind, and there are so many great poets out there just churning out work that needs to be read and shared.
  31. Finally, continue to work on letting go of things from the past. I’m getting much better at this, but I still need to work on it.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair but manifestations of strength and resolution” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Cedar Waxwing on Icy Branch by johngomes

Admittedly, none of my resolutions are earth-shattering. That’s the whole point. I wanted to create a list of things that are absolutely possible to do within the next year. Nothing on my list involves spending a lot of money; more things involve dedicating time. I have nothing but time, and I need to get back to doing productive things with my time.

Notice that I didn’t put the big one on there about losing weight. I’ve decided that if I start taking better care of myself, stop eating so much chocolate, and get back into exercising, then the weight thing should balance itself. More of that attempt to be realistic.

I wish you luck with whatever resolutions you have made, whether or not you share them. May the coming year be filled with good opportunities, moments of insight and grace, and abundant love and happiness.

More later. Peace

I really wanted to feature Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” but had a hell of a time finding just the right video. I settled on this one with scenes from the movie Wicker Park (which I haven’t seen yet) as it seems to fit the song better than any of the other ones:

 

 

                                                                                                                                       

XVII from Pablo Neruda’s Still Another Day

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.

In the cold October rain . . .

October Rain


Here I stand—earth beneath my feet,
sky above my head—rain pours down from the heavens,
rolls off my lashes in rivulets, puddles around my feet
I would stay here all night if I could
to be bathed in this cool rain
even as I sink gradually into the wet grass.
I have nowhere to go, no place to be—
Whether or not I even belong in this world,
a looming question, as I feel
out of place and part of no time.
So I stand here in my natural communion
waiting for the moment when I can finally hide myself
within this liquid wall of sanctuary.
Given a choice, I would be consumed by water
rather than face one more day of tears.

October 13, 2009

“Bring on the Rain” seems most appropriate . . .

 

More later. Peace.

Work in Progress

Sometimes Time is the Best Editor

After posting Galway Kinnell’s poem “The Olive-Wood Fire,” I went back into my files. I remember that I had written a poem in third person about a mother and her baby. At the time, I didn’t often try third person perspectives, but this particular poem really seemed to fit third as opposed to first person. I don’t think that I would have been able to write it in first because the subject matter would have been to hard.

By moving into third person, it allowed me to distance myself somewhat from the situation and try to think of it in this mother’s terms, not in my terms. I have revised this poem at least ten times. One of the elements that I was trying to achieve was the correct rhythm, which I still don’t think that I have achieved. The other key thing that I worked on were the line breaks. For example, at one time the first two lines were one line:

Her grandfather had crafted the bed from the hardwood trees 

I changed it back and forth because I just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t until looking at the poem today that I finally realized that if I broke the line at grandfather, then the short a sound in grandfather would play off crafted and hardwood more emphatically. I also realized in rereading the poem that I needed to break the first long stanza into two shorter stanzas: one for the beginning of the ritual and one for the end of the ritual. I pared some superfluous words, which helped to tighten the rhythm.

I’m including the final version (first), and the version which was my last edit preceding this version. I believe more than anything, time and distance have helped me to shape this poem into something tighter and closer to my original intent, and sometimes that is the best way to deal with something that you’ve written that never seems to be a final version.

 I’ll let you decide.

The Poem: Most Recent Version and Version from Two Years Ago

Cradle Song

 

Her grandfather 

had crafted the bed from the hardwood trees

in the dense woods behind the house.

Her mother had lain securely in its curves,

and she, too, had been comforted by its gentle sway.

Years later, spring brought her own girl child.

Each night, she would lay the baby in the cradle,

cover her with a soft blanket,

and soothe her with hushed lullabies

whispered in the summer twilight.

 

With her hand on the knotted wood

worn smooth by time and love,

the woman would rock the bed gently,

and guide her babe into untroubled slumber.

The tranquility of this evening ritual

became the woman’s talisman for her babe

against the dark and unknown.

Until the day arrived

when the girl-child became ill,

and was taken away

to be succored by strangers.

never to return to the enfolding arms

of the woman or the idle cradle.

 

After that,

the woman would stand by the cradle in the evening,

and sing quiet songs to the air made silent by her loss.

Alone in the terrible stillness,

she would gather the blanket in her arms,

and inhale deeply–searching for the essence

that might still cling to the barren cloth.

Sometimes, she would stroke the sheets,

her hands seeking warmth

from the hollow where the baby’s head had lain.

Once, she found a single, dark hair,

She wrapped it in white tissue and placed it in a box,

along with a small, cloth doll

and a faded red bow she had tied in her daughter’s hair

one fall morning.

 

Her husband never understood

her need to find solace from things no longer used.

He wanted to remove the cradle,

the source of her pain.

But she asked him to leave it

until the trees were heavy again with spring blooms,

until she could imprint all that the child had been,

before time began to fade the image,

and she would be left alone,

with nothing but remembrance, an empty cradle

and echoes of soft night songs of love.

 

Lolita Liwag

January 11, 2009

 

                                                                                                                              

 

Earlier Version:

 

Cradle Song

 

Her grandfather had crafted the bed

from the hardwood trees

that grew in the woods behind the house.

Her mother had lain securely in its curves,

and she, too, had been comforted by its gentle sway.

Then one spring brought her own girl child.

Each night, carefully,

she would lay the baby in the cradle,

cover her with a blanket knit from soft white yarn,

and soothe her with lullabies

whispered in the summer twilight.

With her hand on the knotted wood worn smooth

by other hands from times past,

she would rock the bed gently,

and guide her babe into untroubled slumber.

She did this every night

until the time that the baby became ill

and then did not come home again to sleep.

 

After that, she would stand by the cradle in the evening,

and sing quiet songs to the air made silent by her loss.

Alone in the terrible stillness,

she would gather the blanket in her arms,

and inhale deeply–searching for the essence

that might still cling to the barren cloth.

Sometimes, she would stroke the sheets,

her hands seeking warmth

from the hollow where the baby’s head had lain.

Once, she found a single, dark hair,

which she wrapped in white tissue and placed in a box,

along with a small, cloth doll

and a red bow that she had tied in her daughter’s hair

one fall morning.

 

Her husband never understood

her need to find solace from things no longer used.

He wanted to remove the cradle,

the source of her pain.

But she asked him to leave it

until the trees were heavy again with spring blooms,

until she could imprint all that the child had been,

before time began to fade the image,

and she would be left alone,

with nothing but remembrance, an empty cradle

and echoes of soft night songs of love.

 

February 25, 2007

 

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.