A Poet Makes Himself

Orphee by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot

Orphee by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot

 

A poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons, and preserves their quintessences. Unspeakable torment, where he will need the greatest faith, a superhuman strength, where he becomes all men: the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed—and the Supreme Scientist! For he attains the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than anyone! He attains the unknown, and, if demented, he finally loses the understanding of his visions, he will at least have seen them! So what if he is destroyed in his ecstatic flight through things unheard of, unnameable: other horrible workers will come; they will begin at the horizons where the first one has fallen!  ~Arthur Rimbaud

 

 

 

We Once Knew Purity

Like that elegant lily
white and tender — soul
bared in vulnerability.

We once were tender
white-skinned fragile,
our tiny souls groping for
and gravitating toward
all that was fresh and beautiful,
unaware of dark clouds
drifting toward us, storms
and deep-black-rain-caused
mud. Streaking, splotching —
baby-tender opaque skin —
our souls trapped in a
place of harsh-red silence
covered in deep-dark pain.

We once knew purity
and a place before sex,
lust, violence, rape. That old
white candle flickering
inside opaque souls, we
held the light tighter
with each day passing,
terrified always of a time
when lights were snuffed out.

Like that elegant lily
white and tender —
denied water under
a harsh orange heat.
The slow-burning death —
crinkled-black-brown
burning, until an almost
desiccated-withered brown flower falls,
from yellowed-drought-stem to ground.
We once were tender
white-skinned fragile
child-bodies. Bloodied
bruised to brown-purple,
rag-mouthed crusty blood
spilling across dollar store
dirty-worn sheets.

We once were like
that elegant lily,
white and tender souls,
and we sang, laughed,
cried, survived
that slow-burning death,
bled-out innocence marking
sweated-on, dirt-covered
dollar store sheets
in a virgin-red smear.

 

~July 2012

 

Artwork: Gladis110 at Photobucket can be seen here.

Feeding Molek (for 100-million-girls blog)

The rock still stands —
growth of bushes,
briers, and half-dead flowers
covering its north side —
the south side shows
its grooved-smooth-gray-top,
this ragged side, chipped,
well-worn from use.

~ * ~
For thousands of years
it was a place of
fresh-born scrub-bushes
and twisted-tiny
crawling roses. The rock
at noon, the hottest hour
of the day, so it
would pull the seeping blood
deep into its skin.
Faster than room and space made —
bodies slain and pushed aside —
they lined up with,
the crying children
held tight to breast, shoulder, face —
whispering, “remember the honor,
necessity. You must die.”

In this way they fed Molek
the blood of their children
for days-on-end, one-by-one.
Crying babies, death knell ringing
across a summer sky while
the hot-wet-smell of blood
filled the breeze, floated away.

~ * ~

One hundred, two hundred, three
thousand, four thousand, more —
slaughtered into dark-gray silence,
quiet like the years
passing after them.
Two thousand years,
countless days, and
100-millions-girls later.

~ * ~

They come to the rock,
clear the way for sacrifice —
the blood, child blood, warm blood
splashes on the crawling roses.
The lines grow long, filled
with crying children
held tight to shoulder,
breast, face — whispering,
“remember the honor, necessity.
You must die.”

In this way we feed Molek
the blood of our children
for days-on-end, one-by-one.
Crying babies, death-knell ringing
across a summer sky while
we pretend it’s an illusion —
turn away, hide our eyes.

The rock still stands —
the growth of bushes,
briers,
and half-dead flowers
covering its north side;
its south side chipped,
well-worn from use —
waiting.

~July 2012

This poem was written for the 100-million-girls website. This site was created, and is managed, by my friend Sheree Rabe. Sheree is a poet, an attorney, and now a human-rights activist that I met via Twitter. She has a wonderful poetry site HERE, but it’s her 100-million-girls site HERE that prompted this poem. The site is dedicated to creating awareness and change in the world, and to stop the mass slaughter of young children in our world. PLEASE take time to visit her site and consider helping in this endeavor. If you’d like to know more about Sheree’s poetry, 100-million-girls effort, or if you’d just like to say “Hi” — you may do so in the following ways:

Sheree Rabe
3267 Bee Caves Road
Suite 107, PMB 281
Austin, Texas 78746
Sheree@shereerabe.com
My blog is at http://www.poetonpoetry.blogspot.com
Facebook Page:  http://www.facebook.com/poetonpoetry
Find me on Twitter @poetonpoetry

OR

BLOG: www.100milliongirls.blogspot.com 
FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/100milliongirls 
TWITTER: @100milliongirls
PERSONAL WEBSITE: www.shereerabe.com 
#shereerabe

Artwork Credit:   Artwork by (c)  Tirin, aka Tilde Carlsten. Please visit her blog (offering a variety of interesting topics and great artwork HERE.) Thanks and gratitude to Tirin for the use of this picture.

Citations:

Wikipedia contributors. “Moloch.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Jul. 2012. Web. 21 Jul. 2012.

Molek – explanation from Wikipedia:

As a god worshipped by the Phoenicians and Canaanites, Moloch had associations with a particular kind of propitiatory child sacrifice by parents. Moloch figures in the Book of Deuteronomy and in the Book of Leviticus as a form of idolatry (Leviticus 18:21: “And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Moloch”). In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenna was initially where apostate Israelites and followers of various Baalim and Canaanite gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire (2 Chr. 28:3, 33:6; Jer. 7:31, 19:2–6).

Moloch has been used figuratively in English literature from John Milton‘s Paradise Lost (1667) to Allen Ginsberg‘s Howl (1955), to refer to a person or thing demanding or requiring a very costly sacrifice.

Memory of Fire, 1976

journey-svetlana-novikova

Two fireplaces remain
in this house, built in the Twenties.
Their elegance long-lost,
forever-gone,
each leftover mantel
a home for knick-knacks, small
framed pictures, newly received letters.

The living room boasts a fancy
oil heater – modern,
square box of fire —
heat roaring behind tiny doors,
the ring burning bright.
Brown-box filled with fresh oil,
proudly standing
on the hearth, winner
over the old fireplace it hides —
Better than wood and coal,
used sparingly – this precious oil –
on the coldest of days.

Loyal, old dinning room stove
stays true to plain and useful.
It’s black-iron belly – gorging
itself on wood and coal,
a ritual breakfast-dinner-supper.

Each day – You
hot-top, flat-for-use practical friend.
You, I loved and understood,
as you joined me in play —
melting-and-mixing crayons
in old tin cans. Trying to find
that certain-perfect and unique color – Like
a favorite pet: I fed you, cleaned you, played
beside you on cold winter nights . . .
anticipated your warmth
on cold winter mornings.

No fireplaces remain
in this ghost of a house
wavering and faded in my old child’s mind.
Each mantel long gone,
along with the heart pills,
chipped collectable plates,
half-cut school pictures, and
several frayed pieces of unfinished-hand-tatted-lace.

 

~July 2012

 

Artwork Credits: Special thanks for the use of Journey by ©Svetlana Novikova. Please visit the artist at her website or at Fine Arts America to find out more about her work, or to purchase a print, poster, or greeting cards. Also, you can see her information on our Featured Artists Page.

 

Photography Prints

Taz (commonality)

This dog plays
at the same game:
drop the ball
roll the ball
fetch the ball
again.
Day after day:
drop the ball
roll the ball
fetch the ball
again.
It is his career,
not so dissimilar
from mine,
day after day
in the end:
drop the ball
roll the ball
fetch the ball
again.

picture with Kathy, 1970’s

We are both dressed
in matching-tan-wool coats
topped-off with elegant tams.

Standing together on stone steps —
green grass thriving at our feet,
buds and blossoms from the rose bush
showing in the corner of the frame.

We are playing “dress-up”
(blistering hot and sweating
under the heavy-wool-weight),
in the famous June heat —
smiling on cue, as grandma snaps our picture,

with an ancient box camera
and old, arthritic hands.

~June 2012

nilsy art

Image by geirt.com via Flickr

Other Reading:

like books

I.

I have been reading
books about people
since I was ten. Then —
comprehension expanding — 
growing, to become
understanding of
people like books
since I was twenty.

At thirty, I could find
the villain in the story —
the hero
always a too-pristine-
perfect-caricature
of reality — the bad guy
realistically-real.

At forty, I picked you
off the shelf
of the world, opened
the last page
and started
reading the story
backwards.

II.

Playing at detective,
sifting through
the last pieces of familiar
before they start to fade.

Not so much
sentimental-nostalgic . . .
those people
those days
that life

forever gone – old ghosts
attached to my shoulders.
Muscles strain, dip
under the weight
as old smiles fade.

When the answers come
I will be
too old to live them.

I carry this
fatalistic understanding
tossed over my shoulder,
held tight like books,
in a coarse-woven rucksack. 

~Winter 2011

 

 

Derivation

I grew up in a small town.
Southern – reserved countryside
where even the roses said grace.

Each fragile part of life
exposed in natural hardship
of daily living. For years

I would believe the old adage:
Everything will be okay.

But, it wasn’t, couldn’t be,
and you knew time marched
hard forward. The end
coming on a mild February day.
Your promise to never leave me —
broken.

Three days later in a silk-lined
casket, your final sleep.
Lowered, leveled, the dirt
softly rolling down
to cover you. This deep-dark
iron-fed earth your final home.

The beat of my heart, flesh-torn,
forever changed, a murmur
of loss traceable — back
to the day of your leaving.

~June 2012

In the Dark of My Soul

Dusky non-dark lightness 
the kind that comes only
in those no-name motels, 
secret places of meeting
where the darkness
of strange rooms is muted by
lined-orange curtains, 
where parking-lot-lights caste 
ethereal shadows: 

you come quietly to bed 
like nothing uncommon exists 
in my being there drowsy 
head on your pillow,
clothed in your shirt. 

Your body, stiff in the act 
of lying down, carefully 
trying not to wake me 
from my almost-dream-state 
sleeping. Your 
warm-volatile 
spark-laden energy 
forced 
into submission -- still atomic: your skin, chest warm, 
hips touching -- 

rolling, turning, wrapping 
myself around you -- 
normal-necessary touch, 
like a moth to flame -- 
the burning-shock 
epiphany moment, 
in an old motel room --you, 
a bright-white imprint 
in the dark of my soul.

~May 2012

 

ky

from this invisible room

Last one standing
out of all those masses
that failed the tests
weren’t tough enough
for the mind-games,
were too strong to stay
through the mind-games
that I survived, endured.

Sitting alone in a hotel room,
over a thousand miles from home.
A hard-won victory dissipating
into a stark aloneness, cold

mirrored futility —
an old much-used bed,
fake art-deco reproduction,
mauve carpet, 70’s flower
printed curtains —

a train rattles by on the track
across the road
from this invisible room
in someone else’s world.


All the gypsies
packed and gone by noon
after knocks on the door and
“goodbyes” and “see ya’s” yelled
on the way to their cars.

I am leaving tomorrow
but for good (I think) on
to another band of gypsies —
Simple rules, no confusion.
No mind games to win
or lose — no awards
were given anyway. Was
it even a win? How to know?

~2008 in Pryor, Oklahoma

the type of man sex came to possess

~for MG

I thought of sex
when I first met you —
deep strides, dapper dress,
piercing eyes —
it all resonated, a chill shiver
down the depth of me &
warmth spreading deeper
with my crimson thoughts
because you are the type of man
sex came to possess,
own — carry
into closed rooms, silk beds.

The glass of wine
sparkling amber, glass bubbles
move in the glass,
the world rattles on around us
while your words fall
on the table between us
and then,
I am stunned
by the words, their rich
deep colors, meanings
moving into an acid-like Trip
in my brain. Stunned!

You have amazed me!
My words turn
around, crawl back down
into the velvet parts of me

as I realize
what you don’t –
I am too naive for this
conversation. Too distracted
with the thought of undressing
you to understand beyond lust.

Why do your words
keep spilling down, around, rolling
across the table, tumbling
to the floor
to lay like marbles
on the gleaming wood?

~April 2012 

Reading Billy Collins

Poetry is an...

Poetry is an... (Photo credit: liber(the poet);)

makes those trite phrases
in your poems glare and shine
like fools gold under a Texas moon.

Suddenly, all your poems stand up,
like age-old, long-gone Cowboys,
Yell out to the bartender:

Gimme’ a strong shot a whiskey! NOW man &
a beer for chasing down self-destruction,
to make it easier

to swallow all that black bile
you-they once considered poetry.
Reading Billy Collins makes

those dead-drought moments –
writers panic at a blank page –
rise up to a slop-house surface

in your mind. Mocking voices decry
an untalented impostor, not poet.
And then

the sun shines.
A feather-beam of light
falls across his final stanza

and hope returns — a dove-promise of the future,
whispering of a time to come
when, you too, poet-becoming, will be read.

 

~April 2012

 

Billy Collins is a wonderful poet and served as the United States Poet Laureate from 2001-2003. You can find out more about him at his website. FREE audio downloads from his collection, The Best Cigarette, may be found here

Nellie

white dove snip

white dove snip (Photo credit: oddsock)

Grandmother —
Title, position, duties.
I never knew you
wanted to travel,
went overseas once.
A missionary trip
you longed to make, and
you did. I never knew
this small truth of courage
until your funeral.

How did you carry that
cold-heavy weight
of us on your shoulders
all those years?

Those dark-strong hours,
spent taking care of everyone
as we grew into non-children.
Solicitude, sympathy, tolerance.
Love always the deepest river,
lessons of giving-over everything
almost; and then

there was your God,
some stories you’d written,
a few trips taken —
the talented individual you were,
but all we ever knew
to hold onto
was a name, a presence,
the designation —
Grandma, Momma, Nellie – Love.

~February 2012 

 

Authenticity

Appalachian Mountains

Appalachian Mountains (Photo credit: BlueRidgeKitties)

I can see the bright-white hair

Of the child, bending, fingers reaching,

Trembling down into grass blades

To touch the little bug crawling along.

Mesmerized by moving life, slowly

Touching the tops of its shinny fly-like

Wings. Then, stand to running

across dark verdant grass yard,

Freshly mowed, to chase the butterflies

Across bush-tops around the corner.

I can hear the Appalachian accent laden

Voice of the young woman, screaming

The argument to higher intensity

As if loud will win it. The twirling turn

Of angry body, movement in flash-quick

Motion toward an open door. Then,

Footfall to running across the red dust dirt

And down through the wood path

To cry in solitude, quietly.

I can feel the angry quick vehemence

That becomes a cause becomes a mission

Becomes what will change her into wholeness

While she struggles to leave the dark rooms

of hard memories and tries to help others

never visit those places. The drive to live

after making such an effort to die, rather

than stay in the pain that was nothing

but is becoming, becoming a voice with

purpose. The first letters forming

words forming a poem, forming tomorrow.

I can remember time before it became

Abyss of career and responsibility, before

Manager became a carried title implying

In charge, a time before being diligently dutiful

in taking care of the things Others left

un-taken-care-of.  The twirling turn From art

to actuality, from theory to responsibility.

That has come to feel like a very long version of

A four-letter word said under-breath in madness.

I can still see

The bright-white hair of the child, bending,

Fingers reaching, trembling to grasp life.

~South Carolina, 2009

the dogs don’t understand

I work to weave
this bit of space
into something
more transcendent,
more ethereal.
The folded clothes
stacked on the chair,
the last pair of
shoes I wore
discarded
near the bed.
A coat hanging
on the doorknob —
the entry door open
(never blocked)
because the dogs
don’t understand —
my desk, my time,
these stories crafted
from nothingness – so
they still stop by to visit
every once in awhile,
sitting quietly,
in hope of a bone.

~January 2012

 

 

Death As House Guest

If I met you on the road
Say, at Halloween or Christmas, I
like to think I would know you —
a bright “Ah-hA” moment inside my mind.

But, this is doubtful
and troublesome because
I’m not sure I’d recognize
your presence on that day any more
than I do your absence on this day.

I like to think there is
a quieter quiet; a more solemn
hush to the air when you arrive —


like some new guest who walks
into the house
with his suitcase
to spend the holidays and
he is distinctly there
roaring in his own noises, singular in smell,
his dress-shoes clopping – clikee-clop, clikee-
clop-clop down the hall,
up the steps to stand
on the landing, studiously
trying to decide
which bedroom to enter.

~January 2012

Peach

Giovanni Ambrogio Figino - Metal Plate with Peaches and Vine Leaves

Giovanni Ambrogio Figino - Metal Plate with Peaches and Vine Leaves Courtesy of Wikipedia


A peach shirt,
not really your color,
hung and waiting
on cold metal wire.

I called, to be sure
you wouldn’t mind
the borrowing
before I slipped
and slithered my body
into the color. Peach
warm, Peach soft weave
covering my skin.

I remembered the color,
its connotation
with Georgia – the South,
remembered
my so far-away home
where peach meant
sweet-juice-filled fruit,
ripe for picking.

A few hours later,
you peel the peach shirt
away from my limbs,
biting into the warm-deep flesh
of Southern hot-brown skin.

~ January 2012


Father Time in Dementia

Who will save us from
this shifting dance within his mind?
This rapid movement, changing beat,
confusing tempo . . .

Tell the garden fairies
to cease their screaming
halt all gyrations until we find
the answer: What is this now happening,
this rollicking-flow-movement within his mind?

Run fast, young lad, and tell the praying ladies
at the universal parsonage . . . increase your praying
and someone call the doctor –
we may need medication this time.

The gypsy ladies must come
dancing to tambourines and golden chimes.
Sing a song of ever ending, hurry,
let’s slay the ghost of Father Time!

Quick! Young lady, bring a silver dagger
and a gold pocket watch five minutes fast
along with a bottle of Ambers whine.
Quick! Sing the song of fast correction
Hurry, we all know he’s lost his mind!

That was close – Yes!
That was close Sir, the clock
has stopped at quarter to nine.
At last we’ve ended the wild devastation
of raging, aging Father Time.

~November 2011

(Just for the fun of it!)

 

magnitude to microcosm

~for J

We are talking
miles apart
on the phone, as if
change never
happened, as
old friends do
from time to time.

A conversation
about truth —
(elusive fiend)
and I can hear
you wrapped
in sadness
for all you never
found, felt
you should
become, believe
you should have been

You say
you have
let the world down.
I say
it’s too big to notice.

Break down
the feeling – from
magnitude to
microcosm.

At that
cellular level
we are born, re-Born
every day.
Truth hides
in the quiet
shadows – It knows
that everyday
you are busy
re-Becoming
who you are.

~November 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Borrowing Without Asking

Looking out
the kitchen window
at the yard
next door
abandoned.

Grass
grows taller
old laughter smiles
a lost echo.
The birds
are unaware.

Singing
they fly down
to steal lunch
hidden in the grass.

Unaware of
property, ownership,
human rules —


They take liberties —
perch on the front
porch swing, borrowing
without asking —

Singing the day
away, perched
on the last
sad item
previous owners
left behind.

 

~November 2011

for Luck

We have walked these
paths a hundred
times – since my little legs
first stood, learned movement,
learned to walk beside you.

The path,
actually two – defined
in a way that speaks
of distance and history. We
will walk the path well-worn
or
if you indulge me
the one slightly overgrown,
briars lining the edges,
large towering stalks
blackberries in season,
if the day is right.

This path – the second one,
less used, steeper,
with jagged rocks
buried in the dirt
of what is now more gully
than walking path. But
this is where
Grandpa and I checked
rabbit gums for a catch,
he letting me
slide the little door,
up and open,
to peer inside.

This ground grew
my love of rabbits —
I never understood,
never equated the
bait-caught prey
with an animal dying.

The rabbits foot,
for luck,
a joke, because
death
had no meaning to me then.

~~November 2011

Epitome Filial

When you are
gone, there will be
no one to fight,
struggle, rebel against.
Instead
only the blank space
where the wall of you
once stood – the line
drawn, marked,
painted red – the fight
a devouring effort
between us. But
when you are gone —
Death will let go
that loud cackle,
slap his thigh,
and crow our names —
There will be only
the blank space
hollow-cold
empty from your leaving
against which
I push
and when you
are gone
there will be
no one to stop me
from falling.

~November, 2011

 

winter morning memory

~for my grandfather

He is waiting, sitting

quietly beside the small wood stove —

today, burning coal,

turned roaring-orange red.

Two old and wrinkled hands

hold a little girls dress,;

being warmed by the fire

that he built – kindling, coal-

stoked for good measure.

He’s been up for hours

by the time I slide from bed,

go to stand by the stove —

slip on the warm clothes.

Every winter morning —

this act of quiet love,

repeated as ritual

Until spring comes again and

the stove grows cold.

~November 2011

of Broken Rooms

~for P

{Art: Isolation by Ina Mar (c) Adagp, Paris}

 

There is deep silence here ~

Forlorn-magic once spoke
whispered kisses, your name
crossing my lips, a breath only
against the skin – soft, taut, strong skin
of your neck, arms, chest. In
the dark shadows of broken rooms,
building a home of – destruction first. Then,

building a home of hope of – the sheets were clean,
the warm-blood-wood walls
holding secrets, ours and earlier, generations before us
these walls were closing in on the hearts beating rapid,
percussion, the sounds of fluttering clicking time
in a dark house beside a church. Sacrilegious – passion
burning, life burning  death — in the graveyard
at the edge of a hill – a ghost-memory whispers, soft
edible cries, choking, sobbing – whisper, whisper
of wings. Forlorn-angels once walked

in the soft dew-grass, wet droplets clinging
to porcelain animals, mysteries, dead flowers.
This sweet-heated moisture, muscle, brushing
of skin against skin – the sheets were clean,
destruction, chaos building – building
into ecstasy, into orgasm, into ending.
Our secret,
our bodies – so deliciously warm, wrapped, entwined
in a space of time
where forlorn magical angels sing, wing-beats
lifting our names above the graves.

There is a deep memory here ~

~October, 2011

Artwork: Isolation by Ina Mar (c) Adagp, Paris. Please visit her website at:  http://www.redbubble.com/people/ina-mar/works/6081284-isolation

Water I


This one whisper
of a soft morning sunrise
belongs to you. Dew on
the grass, a trembling essence,
suddenly gone.
Water rules the world
one drop at a time.

This one memory
of a cold winter sunset
belongs to you. Ice slides
across broken earth,
filling the cracks
with crystals clear.
Water rules the world
one drop at a time

Hush……..Hush! Listen,
this water belongs to you,
rules the world.
We are only salt, spirit, spark, water —
and we are
pouring our lives out
into everything and nothingness
one drop at a time.

 

~October 2011

Artwork: Rain Princess by Leonid Afremov. For more information about the artist and to see more artwork, please visit here.

Yesterday

~for my Sister

The door
to yesterday opens —
creaks at the hinges.

In another time
we are sitting, playing
in burnished sand —
barely-born, fresh presence,
two toddlers, laughing

into growing, into years later
we will run
past the familiar
in search of more.

***

The dilapidated bridge —
the one we walked
across into freedom —
still stands.

Straw-thatch, mud-glue
built across
dangerous-deep
ravines of memory —

We agree
never look down
never look back
march forward

Forget
those long dusty days
when we
were still children.

Forget
every smile we lost
every tear we cried.
It’s only water across skin,
nothing more.

October 2011

Artwork, Final Destination, by Photodream Art. By Den Bosch, Noord Brabant – Netherlands. Please visit here to see more about this artist and to see other artwork.

The Note

What can you  know at thirteen
of letters of love, soft words
of declaration – pouring forth
gushing admiration for
a high-school Adonis?

I was vulnerable, feminine,
soft – everything you’d expect
from a girl-child in love.

Too sappy, sincere, honest,
she told me —
He’ll show it to everyone – No,
not this note. But…

sad-broken humor
the only way to avoid ridicule –
You MUST
play the jokester,
not the lover,
she said.  

(I acquiesced.)

Later, in dark rooms,
I re-read
the first note
that would have told you
I was enamored, in heart-felt awe,
of the boy-man you were becoming.

I thought of old stories –
how we laughed together
as children. Side-by-side,
uncommon neighbors,
toddler playmates – until
the time-memory slipped away
and We were gone.

~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~

Apology was the first step
those few years later – us
technically grown, adulthood –
failed marriages, our own children,
lessons learned and learning —

Living in dark places beneath
burning turmoil, we were Us
for a millisecond, a moment.
— Then, the dark night shifted
fell from place —

The Muses laughed,
threw complication
into the mix, Fate
danced through the shadows
bumping into Us
jostling Me and You — then
the time-memory slipped away
and We were gone.

~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~

We speak without voices —
typed-letters on a screen,
new notes
written twenty years later
in real time.

Now we are friends
as we were playmates – some
strange connective-bond built
in a sandbox —

before we could know
the game we live in,
the jokes Life plays
and the roads we would choose
to follow.

And, I am still thinking
about the note
I should have given you —

 

September 2011

 

Artwork: Chiaro di luna by Escha Van den bogerd. You may find more about the artist and other works here.

 

 

Wisdom

 

The Red Sun
blazes some new
truth – you fill
yourself up on
its hot-wet flow.
Turn, to walk away – wise
as your skin peels, flakes
away – like ash – nothing
but extra weight,
you say.

The hair
on your head singes,
turns dark blue, slips
from your scalp,
strand by strand. Nothing
but aggravation,
you say.

Your lips
start to tremble, puff
like popcorn, drop
away – nothing,
useless anyway,
you
think. You have gained
wisdom – Everything
anyway,
you think – Until

a cold voice blows by you,
moves you with a truer truth.
Nothing — it’s nothing – says
the shivering whisper
as you watch the red sun
fall dark from the sky
and the keeper of wisdom
laughs
aloud in the air,
the
world
becomes dark,
and you melt
into ice frozen
with knowledge.

~August 2011


The Art of Seeing

 

 

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. ~Jonathan Swift

If I were going to select one thing that makes the difference in a poet and their poetry, or in the daily life of an average man, it would be the vision with which that person looks at himself and the world around him.

Jonathan Swift, a prolific writer, (best known for the prose masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels, and considered the foremost prose satirist in the English language*) gives a near perfect definition of (artistic-spiritual) vision when he says it is “the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

The poet’s true gift is his ability to see these invisible elements and then translate them. An excellent poet will see deeper than the average person. He will use this deeper vision, take in the essence of truth before him, and then use the medium of language to translate what he sees with intense emotion and minute detail. All great and poignant poetry is about vision, translation, and audience.

Poetic Eyes

Imagine yourself as a child opening a birthday gift – you tear the paper off the box and find a large magnifying glass inside.  The very first thing you do is go look at all the things you’re interested in with your new glass. You will see everything as before – but then, in a new way as the tiny elements of these things grow larger and clearer under magnification.

Now, imagine the poet, looking at everything in his world through a magnifying glass. He is already looking at the world around him, but he learns to tune his vision in such a way as to see deeper – as if he were holding a magnifying glass up in front of everything that catches his attention. This is how the poet “sees the invisible.”

Here is an example of detail from the poem, Death in Leamington, by John Betjeman:

She died in the upstairs bedroom
By the light of the evening star
That shone through the plate glass window
From over Leamington Spa.

Beside her the lonely crochet
Lay patiently and unstirred,
But the fingers that would have worked it
Were dead as the spoken word.

And Nurse came in with the tea-things
Breast high’ mid the stands and chairs —
But Nurse was alone with her own little soul,
And the things were alone with theirs./ …..

Betjeman uses a variety of poetic techniques in this excerpt, but pay special attention to his translation into imagery with meaning.

The death in Betjeman’s poem is recorded in slow-motion, each detail carefully carved in the readers mind, each small thing translated to perfection. We see the scene as the poet sees it – with the shared depth of sadness the poet experiences. He brings the moment to life in a vibrant, deep way which changes us, the reader, as we move through this episode with him. We see through his eyes.

Poetic Translation

The following poem is an example of a poet’s ability to use the smallest details, along with connotation, to create a vivid picture and joined experience with the reader. Robert Hayden is a master of experience translation in Those Winter Sundays:

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Hayden sees the past with his father in the new light of his own maturity. The poem explores the coldness (ingratitude) felt as a child and creates a mirroring effect with the coldness of the house.

The reader sees and feels the sadness, the understanding and regret, as the poet drills-down to the simple weekly experience. The poet is, at once, both child and adult speaking to us, telling us his story in a way that brings us inside of it with him. The words are translated into an experience for the reader.

Poetic Audience

A poet writes for himself to large degree. However, he writes in a fixed time and place – each decade belongs to the lingering poetic voices which have named it. This means that a poet must always be conscious of Audience.

The poem cannot exist away and aside from audience. It speaks from a place and time where others live, where history occurs, and the future becomes the past. In thinking of audience, we must bring time and place to the table, and also class, status, country, and world-view.

Audience, in the larger sense, is demonstrated perfectly by Allen Ginsberg in this excerpt from the poem, America:

America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.

Ginsberg is speaking in and from a particular time in American history. His poems resonate strongly with people of that generation sharing similar experiences. They resonate now in a more general sense or as an example of defiance and rebellion to the status quo for people of a different culture or time.

Culture is a part of poem and audience alike. The following excerpts, by Gwendolyn Brooks and Sterling A. Brown speak with a strong voice that is both living in and speaking from a particular culture:

We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

We Real Cool
The Pool Players
Seven at the Golden Shovel

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk Late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Excerpt from Riverbank Blues by Sterling A. Brown

A man git his feet set in a sticky mudbank,
A man git dis yellow water in his blood,
No need for hopin’, no need for doin’,
Muddy streams keep him fixed for good.

Little Muddy, Big Muddy, Moreau and Osage,
Little Mary’s, Big Mary’s, Cedar Creek,
Flood deir muddy water roundabout a man’s roots,
Keep him soaked and stranded and git him weak./…../

Brown’s poem about the Mississippi River speaks of a local, rural culture that lives with the good and the bad of the river. His poem tolls a warning while speaking generally of danger and oppression, yet deals specifically with the danger and oppression locally in relation to the River.

A “good” poem is hard to define. There are variances, personal preferences, and socio-political elements that make definition impossible. However, we can see that the hallmark of good poetry – poetry that lasts and brings a voice to it’s people, culture, and generation – is a combination of poetic vision, translation, and audience. The poet writing with strong abilities in these areas will be heard. ~

 “A culture is made – or destroyed – by its articulate voices.”   ~Ayn Rand

 

Art Prints

ARTWORK: Red Rose by Karen M. Scovill, courtesy of www.fineartamerica.com. You can find out more about the artist and view other works here.

*from Wikipedia.