“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”

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Two for Tuesday: Music as the message

Image result for suicide hotline


Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy and another beautiful spring day, 80 degrees.

Trying to make phone calls and take care of items on my to-do list, only to come up against dropped signals and uncooperative reps and . . . bleh . . . so now I’m outside in the sunshine, surrounded by the animals, getting nibbled on by insects, and my blood pressure thanks me.

This was the post that I had planned to put up last Tuesday but never got around to doing. Admittedly, I’m not a big Disturbed fan as they tend to be harder and louder than I can handle most of the time, but I came across the live version of this song, and it was just too good to pass up. Then I found the studio version, and I decided that both deserved a place.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the role that media stars have in society, but I must acknowledge just how effective many can be when they decide to shine a light on a problem, whether that problem be hunger, or a particular disease, or natural disaster relief, what have you. I’m old enough to remember the Jerry Lewis telethons for muscular dystrophy, and I made my first charity pledge when I was around 10 as the result of watching a telethon for hurricane relief.

The causes addressed by “A Reason to Fight” are addiction and depression, which might seem like an odd pairing, but not especially. Many people become addicted to mood-altering substances as a result of depression or other mental disorders, choosing non-prescription drugs as a means of coping. And far too many individuals are lost to either or both of these afflictions each day.

I hope you enjoy either or both videos.

More later. Peace.

Music by Disturbed, “A Reason to Fight” (Official live version)

“A Reason to Fight” (Official music video)


Casa

I am not your mother, I will not be moved
by the grief or gratitude of men
who weep like orphans at my door.
I am not a church. I do not answer
prayers but I never turn them down.

Come in and kneel or sit or stand,
the burden of your weight won’t lessen
no matter the length of your admission.
Tell me anything you want, I have to listen
but don’t expect me to respond

when you tell me you have lost your job
or that your wife has found another love
or that your children took their laughter
to another town. You feel alone and empty?
Color me surprised! I didn’t notice they were gone.

Despite the row of faces pinned like medals
to my walls, I didn’t earn them.
The scratches on the wood are not my scars.
If there’s a smell of spices in the air
blame the trickery of kitchens

or your sad addiction to the yesterdays
that never keep no matter how much you believe
they will. I am not a time capsule.
I do not value pithy things like locks
of hair and milk teeth and ticket stubs

and promise rings—mere particles
of dust I’d blow out to the street if I could
sneeze. Take your high school jersey
and your woman’s wedding dress away
from me. Sentimental hoarding bothers me.

So off with you, old couch that cries
in coins as it gets dragged out to the porch.
Farewell, cold bed that breaks its bones
in protest to eviction or foreclosure or
whatever launched this grim parade

of exits. I am not a pet. I do not feel
abandonment. Sometimes I don’t even see you
come or go or stay behind. My windows
are your eyes not mine. If you should die
inside me I’ll leave it up to you to tell

the neighbors. Shut the heaters off
I do not fear the cold. I’m not the one
who shrinks into the corner of the floor
because whatever made you think
this was a home with warmth isn’t here

to sweet-talk anymore. Don’t look at me
that way, I’m not to blame. I granted
nothing to the immigrant or exile
that I didn’t give a bordercrosser or a native
born. I am not a prize or a wish come true.

I am not a fairytale castle. Though I
used to be, in some distant land inhabited
by dreamers now extinct. Who knows
what happened there? In any case, good
riddance, grotesque fantasy and mirth.

So long, wall-to-wall disguise in vulgar
suede and chintz. Take care, you fool,
and don’t forget that I am just a house,
a structure without soul for those whose
patron saints are longing and despair.

~ Rigoberto González (found on Poetry Foundation)

“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”

“For to stay is to be nowhere at all.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from Duino Elegies: The First Elegy

Rainer Maria Rilke (Wikimedia Commons)

Two for Tuesday: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 48 degrees.

Not two poems today, but prose by the prolific German-language poets. Rilke was born in Prague in what was at that time called the Austro-Hungarian empire. His earlier work  evokes a sense of romanticism, but after two life-changing trips to Russia, Rilke’s work evolved into what would become his predominant approach to writing: [these trips provided hims with] “poetic material and inspiration essential to his developing philosophy of existential materialism and art as religion” (Poetry Foundation).

Throughout his life, Rilke interacted with key artists of the period, including Tolstoy, Pasternak, and Rodin, for whom Rilke worked as secretary (1905-06).  Although best known for his German language work, Rilke’s ouevre included 400 poems written in  French. Additionally, he was a prodigious letter writer, especially to the significant women in his life, and many of his letters reflect the poet’s continual search for meaning through art and his desire to determine poet’s overarching role in society.

In 1912, Rilke began writing Duino Elegies, so called because Rilke began the collection while visiting Duino Castle on the Italian Adriatic coast. The collection, considered to be his magnum opus, took him ten years to write. Rilke, who suffered from health problems his entire life, including stifling depression, died of leukemia in 1926.

Go here or here for more information on the poet and his work. The selections below are from Rilke’s only novel, which was considered to be semi-autobiographical, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910).


From “Fears”

All the lost fears are here again.

The fear that a small woolen thread sticking out of the hem of my blanket may be hard, hard and sharp as a steel needle; the fear that this little button on my night-shirt may be bigger than my head, bigger and heavier; the fear that the breadcrumpbwhich just dropped off my bed may turn into glass, and shatter when it hits the floor, and the sickening worry that when it does, everything will be broken, for ever; the fear that the ragged edge of a letter which was torn open may be something forbidden, which no one out to see, something indescribably precious, for which no place in the room is safe enough; the fear that if I fell asleep I might swallow the piece of coal lying in front of the stove; the fear that some number may begin to grow in my brain until there is no more room for it inside me; the fear that I may be lying on granite, on gray granite; the fear that I may start screaming, and people will come running to y door ad finally force it open, the fear that I might betray myself and tell everything I drea, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything because everything is unsayable,—and the other fears . . . the fears.

From “For the Sake of a Single Poem”

. . . Ah poems amount to so little when you write then too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else—); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars,—and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no  longer to be distinguished from ourselves—only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.


Music by The National, “Heavenfaced”

“What we conceal | Is always more than what we dare confide. | Think of the letters that we write our dead.” ~ Dana Gioia, from “Unsaid”

Morning Rainbow over Orange Trees in Malaga, Spain, by Leshaines123 (FCC)

Two for Tuesday: Dana Gioia

Tuesday afternoon, sunny and colder, 42 degrees.

It was so cold last night, and early this morning, everything was covered with a layer of frost. Spring is tomorrow, yes? Now that we’re thinking about crops, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of worry for people with fruit trees. Would the cold dip and frost hurt their crops? I absolutely love oranges, and I remember a year in which the Florida citrus crops were devastated by crops. Not sure of what year. No idea where that memory emerged from in the recesses of my mind. Hmm . . .

Orange Blossoms, Hamilton, Ontario, by RichardBH (FCC)

Things that make you go hmm . . . Which reminds me, I really need to plant a mock orange somewhere around the porch.

Yesterday I had a post planned (old story, I know), but then I realized that I had nothing to say. Hence, no post yesterday.

Actually, I did have something to say, but I just couldn’t do it. My eldest son’s birthday was this past weekend, and as a result, my kids have been ever-present on  my mind. I check my email every few days, and if I really want to torture myself, I search on Alexis’s and Eamonn’s names, just on the off-chance that one of them emailed me. It’s an exercise in futility and pain.

So that’s why I didn’t write.

Anyway, today’s post features two poems by Dana Gioia (pronounced JOY-uh), the first obviously because of my latest bout with insomnia. Gioia, former chairperson of the NEA, has written five collections of poetry. You can read a complete biography on his site.


Insomnia

Now you hear what the house has to say.
Pipes clanking, water running in the dark,
the mortgaged walls shifting in discomfort,
and voices mounting in an endless drone
of small complaints like the sounds of a family
that year by year you’ve learned how to ignore.

But now you must listen to the things you own,
all that you’ve worked for these past years,
the murmur of property, of things in disrepair,
the moving parts about to come undone,
and twisting in the sheets remember all
the faces you could not bring yourself to love.

How many voices have escaped you until now,
the venting furnace, the floorboards underfoot,
the steady accusations of the clock
numbering the minutes no one will mark.
The terrible clarity this moment brings,
the useless insight, the unbroken dark.


The Letter

And in the end, all that is really left
Is a feeling—strong and unavoidable—
That somehow we deserved something better.
That somewhere along the line things
Got fouled up. And that letter from whoever’s
In charge, which certainly would have set
Everything straight between us and the world,
Never reached us. Got lost somewhere.
Possibly mislaid in some provincial station.
Or sent by mistake to an old address
Whose new tenant put it on her dresser
With the curlers and the hairspray forgetting
To give it to the landlord to forward.
And we still wait like children who have sent
Two weeks’ allowance far away
To answer an enticing advertisement
From a crumbling, yellow magazine,
Watching through years as long as a childhood summer,
Checking the postbox with impatient faith
Even on days when mail is never brought.


Music by Ruelle, “Carry You”

“And at the altar of the night, like a flower inflamed, | Inebriated by strange perfumes, my soul resigns.” ~ Delmira Agustini, from “In the Light of the Moon (Al Claro De Luna)”

Cover of Diego Fischer’s book about Delmira Agustini (if anyone knows who created this cover, please let me know; I could not find the source)
Two for Tuesday: Delmira Agustini

Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 46 degrees.

I don’t know nearly enough about Latin American poets or poetry. Fortunately, I saw a few passages of Delmira Agustini’s poetry on tumblr, which led me to look for more of her work online.

Agustini was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1886 to a well-to-do family of French and German descent. She was first home schooled by her mother and then later tutored in a fairly traditional education for a female at that time, which included music, painting, and French. Agustini was also very well read in poetry and philosophy, preferring the works of Nietzsche and Manuel Ugarte, an Argentine author. Agustini began to compose poems at a young age, and she published her first book of poetry in 1907, El Libro Blanco (The White Book).

Unfortunately, although Agustini attracted the attention of the Latin American intellectuals of her time, they tended to praise her beauty as opposed to her poetry, which was typical treatment for many female artists at that time. However, once her poetry began to encompass intense erotic imagery, that praise turned to criticism, including condescending comments about her sexual obsessions, with some critics even using the phrase “fevered Leda” (the woman who was raped by Zeus in swan form) to describe Agustini (I found a portrait of Agustini online with a swan around her neck, but I could not find any additional citations, nor could I discern the artist).

Here is a stanza from her poem “Intima (Intimate)”:

We go further into night, we go
Where in me not an echo reverberates,
Like a nocturnal flower in the shade,
I will open sweetly for you.

In 1913, Agustini married Enrique Job Reyes, with whom she had corresponded for more than five years; only a few weeks later, Agustini left Reyes and filed for divorce. However, the two continued to meet clandestinely even after the divorce was finalized in 1914. On July 6, 1914, Agustini was killed by Reyes in a murder suicide. For a more detailed biography, go here, or here.

Today’s post features two of her poems, the second a translation of a French poem.


The Knot (El Nudo)

Their idyll was a smile of four lips…
In the warm lap of blond spring
They loved such that between their wise fingers
the divine form of Chimera trembled.

In the glimmering palaces of quiet afternoons
They spoke in a language heartfelt as weeping,
And they kissed each other deeply, biting the soul!
The hours fluttered away like petals of gold,

Then Fate interposed its two icy hands…
Ah! the bodies yielded, but tangled souls
Are the most intricate knot that never unfolds…
In strife with its mad superhuman entanglements,
Life’s Furies rent their coupled hands
And wearied your powerful fingers, Ananké*…

(Trans. Valerie Martínez)


[I live, I die, I burn, I drown]*

I live, I die, I burn, I drown
I endure at once chill and cold
Life is at once too soft and too hard
I have sore troubles mingled with joys

Suddenly I laugh and at the same time cry
And in pleasure many a grief endure
My happiness wanes and yet it lasts unchanged
All at once I dry up and grow green

Thus I suffer love’s inconstancies
And when I think the pain is most intense
Without thinking, it is gone again.

Then when I feel my joys certain
And my hour of greatest delight arrived
I find my pain beginning all over once again.

*This is Agustini’s translation of 16th century poet Louise Labé: Je vis, je meurs : je me brule et me noye

Music by Agnes Obel, “Fuel to Fire”