This isn’t an original thought. And I hope it’s a long way off.
But at the end of everything, I would be satisfied if it could be carved into my tombstone that “He wrote one or two good sentences.”
This isn’t an original thought. And I hope it’s a long way off.
But at the end of everything, I would be satisfied if it could be carved into my tombstone that “He wrote one or two good sentences.”
by Billy Collins
in “The Trouble With Poetry” 2005
At the hotel coffee shop that morning,
the waitress was wearing a pink uniform
with “Florence” written in script over her heart.
And the man who checked my bag
had a badge that said “Ben.”
Behind him was a long row of royal palms.
On the plane, two women poured drinks
from a cart they rolled down the narrow aisle –
“Debbie” and “Lynn” according to their winged tags.
And such was my company
as I arced from coast to coast,
and so I seldom spoke, and then only
of the coffee, the bag, the tiny bottles of vodka.
I said little more than “Thank you”
and “Can you take this from me, please?”
Yet I began to sense that all of them
were ready to open up,
to get to know me better, perhaps begin a friendship.
Florence looked irritated
as she shuffled from table to table,
but was she just hiding her need
to know about my early years –
the ball I would toss and catch in my hands
the times I hid behind my mother’s dress?
And was I so wrong in catching in Ben’s eyes
a glimmer of interest in my theories
and habits – my view of the Enlightenment,
my love of cards, the hours I tended to keep?
And what about Debbie and Lynn?
Did they not look eager to ask about my writing process,
my way of composing in the morning
by a window, which I would have admitted
if they had just had the courage to ask.
And strangely enough – I would have continued,
as they stopped pouring drinks
and the other passengers turned to listen –
the only emotion I ever feel, Debbie and Lynn,
is what the beaver must feel,
as he bears each stick to his hidden construction,
which creates the tranquil pond
and gives the mallards somewhere to paddle,
the pair of swans a place to conceal their young.
This was a big risk BBC took, and I think they deserve a enormous amount of credit. When was the last time you saw poetry recited on TV, let alone raw social criticism and brilliant commentary like this?
This is a job poetry can do better than anything.
Hysterical. Good one, Iowa. 🙂
While the rest of the blogging world tackles the A to Z challenge, Almost Iowa has thrown down one of his own. Here, then, is my entry in his My Stuff Challenge…
Spring has arrived on the Front Range, and with temps in the 70s it’s time to pull the cover off the motorcycle and see if I can still shift gears and chew gum at the same time.
Yeah, that’s right, I’m another old guy with a crotch-rocket. Don’t look now, but it appears the Hell’s Angels were the victims of a hostile takeover by the AARP. These days Bike Week in Sturgis more closely resembles an episode of the Golden Girls than it does Sons of Anarchy. You know it’s bad when the biggest drug problem at the event is trafficking in unprescribed Flomax.
Chalk it up to brilliant marketing. They tell us the cure for a spreading…
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“My idea of paradise is a perfect automobile going 30 miles per hour on a smooth road to a twelfth century cathedral.”
Well, that’s fine, I suppose. But …. Mine would have to add a pretty girl, some wine, and talk in that twelfth century cathedral of long-held secrets, both ours and its. Nothing like a pretty girl to make me want to tell my secrets. I doubt the cathedral would be so easily overcome.
But I would talk. And be terrified after. The danger. The cathedral would probably be more stoic.
by Carl Sandburg
The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands
and how they pawed the prairie sod into dust with their hoofs,
their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.
The following are selections from columns originally published in the Polish newspaper Literary Life. In these columns, famed poet Wislawa Szymborska answered letters from ordinary people who wanted to write poetry. Translated by Clare Cavanagh, they appeared in slightly different form in our Journals section earlier this year.
To Heliodor from Przemysl: “You write, ‘I know my poems have many faults, but so what, I’m not going to stop and fix them.’ And why is that, oh Heliodor? Perhaps because you hold poetry so sacred? Or maybe you consider it insignificant? Both ways of treating poetry are mistaken, and what’s worse, they free the novice poet from the necessity of working on his verses. It’s pleasant and rewarding to tell our acquaintances that the bardic spirit seized us on Friday at 2:45 p.m. and began whispering mysterious secrets in our ear with such ardor that we scarcely had time to take them down. But at home, behind closed doors, they assiduously corrected, crossed out, and revised those otherworldly utterances. Spirits are fine and dandy, but even poetry has its prosaic side.”
To H.O. from Poznan, a would-be translator: “The translator is obliged to be faithful not only to the text. He must also reveal the full beauty of the poetry while retaining its form and preserving as completely as possible the epoch’s spirit and style.”
To Grazyna from Starachowice: “Let’s take the wings off and try writing on foot, shall we?”
To Mr. G. Kr. of Warsaw: “You need a new pen. The one you’re using makes a lot of mistakes. It must be foreign.”
To Pegasus [sic] from Niepolomice: “You ask in rhyme if life makes cents [sic]. My dictionary answers in the negative.”
To Mr. K.K. from Bytom: “You treat free verse as a free-for-all. But poetry (whatever we may say) is, was, and will always be a game. And as every child knows, all games have rules. So why do the grown-ups forget?”
To Puszka from Radom: “Even boredom should be described with gusto. How many things are happening on a day when nothing happens?”
To Boleslaw L-k. of Warsaw: “Your existential pains come a trifle too easily. We’ve had enough despair and gloomy depths. ‘Deep thoughts,’ dear Thomas says (Mann, of course, who else), ‘should make us smile.’ Reading your own poem ‘Ocean,’ we found ourselves floundering in a shallow pond. You should think of your life as a remarkable adventure that’s happened to you. That is our only advice at present.”
To Marek, also of Warsaw: “We have a principle that all poems about spring are automatically disqualified. This topic no longer exists in poetry. It continues to thrive in life itself, of course. But these are two separate matters.”
To B.L. from the vicinity of Wroclaw: “The fear of straight speaking, the constant, painstaking efforts to metaphorize everything, the ceaseless need to prove you’re a poet in every line: these are the anxieties that beset every budding bard. But they are curable, if caught in time.”
To Zb. K. of Poznan: “You’ve managed to squeeze more lofty words into three short poems than most poets manage in a lifetime: ‘Fatherland,’ ‘truth,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘justice’: such words don’t come cheap. Real blood flows in them, which can’t be counterfeited with ink.”
To Michal in Nowy Targ: “Rilke warned young poets against large sweeping topics, since those are the most difficult and demand great artistic maturity. He counseled them to write about what they see around them, how they live each day, what’s been lost, what’s been found. He encouraged them to bring the things that surround us into their art, images from dreams, remembered objects. ‘If daily life seems impoverished to you,’ he wrote, ‘don’t blame life. You yourself are to blame. You’re just not enough of a poet to perceive its wealth.’ This advice may seem mundane and dim-witted to you. This is why we called to our defense one of the most esoteric poets in world literature—and just see how he praised so-called ordinary things!”
To Ula from Sopot: “A definition of poetry in one sentence—well. We know at least five hundred definitions, but none of them strikes us as both precise and capacious enough. Each expresses the taste of its own age. Inborn skepticism keeps us from trying our hand at our own. But we remember Carl Sandburg’s lovely aphorism: ‘Poetry is a diary kept by a sea creature who lives on land and wishes he could fly.’ Maybe he’ll actually make it one of these days?”
To L-k B-k of Slupsk: “We require more from a poet who compares himself to Icarus than the lengthy poem enclosed reveals. Mr. B-k, you fail to reckon with the fact that today’s Icarus rises above a different landscape than that of ancient times. He sees highways covered in cars and trucks, airports, runways, large cities, expansive modern ports, and other such realia. Might not a jet rush past his ear at times?”
To T.W., Krakow: “In school no time is spent, alas, on the aesthetic analysis of literary works. Central themes are stressed along with their historical context. Such knowledge is of course crucial, but it will not suffice for anyone wishing to become a good, independent reader, let alone for someone with creative ambitions. Our young correspondents are often shocked that their poem about rebuilding postwar Warsaw or the tragedy of Vietnam might not be good. They’re convinced that honorable intentions preempt form. But if you want to become a decent cobbler, it’s not enough to enthuse over human feet. You have to know your leather, your tools, pick the right pattern, and so forth. . . . It holds true for artistic creation too.”
To Mr. Br. K. of Laski: “Your poems in prose are permeated by the figure of the Great Poet who creates his remarkable works in a state of alcoholic euphoria. We might take a wild guess at whom you have in mind, but it’s not last names that concern us in the final analysis. Rather, it’s the misguided conviction that alcohol facilitates the act of writing, emboldens the imagination, sharpens wits, and performs many other useful functions in abetting the bardic spirit. My dear Mr. K., neither this poet, nor any of the others personally known to us, nor indeed any other poet has ever written anything great under the unadulterated influence of hard liquor. All good work arose in painstaking, painful sobriety, without any pleasant buzzing in the head. ‘I’ve always got ideas, but after vodka my head aches,’ Wyspianski said. If a poet drinks, it’s between one poem and the next. This is the stark reality. If alcohol promoted great poetry, then every third citizen of our nation would be a Horace at least. Thus we are forced to explode yet another legend. We hope that you will emerge unscathed from beneath the ruins.”
To E.L. in Warsaw: “Perhaps you could learn to love in prose.”
To Esko from Sieradz: “Youth really is an intriguing period in one’s life. If one adds writerly ambitions to the difficulties of youth, one must possess an exceptionally strong constitution in order to cope. Its components should include: persistence, diligence, wide reading, curiosity, observation, distance toward oneself, sensitivity to others, a critical mind, a sense of humor, and an abiding conviction that the world deserves a) to keep existing, and b) better luck than it’s had thus far. The efforts you’ve sent signal only the desire to write and none of the other virtues described above. You have your work cut out for you.”
To Kali of Lodz: “‘Why’ is the most important word in this planet’s language, and probably in that of other galaxies as well.”
To Mr. Pal-Zet of Skarysko-Kam: “The poems you’ve sent suggest that you’ve failed to perceive a key difference between poetry and prose. For example, the poem entitled ‘Here’ is merely a modest prose description of a room and the furniture it holds. In prose such descriptions perform a specific function: they set the stage for the action to come. In a moment the doors will open, someone will enter, and something will take place. In poetry the description itself must ‘take place.’ Everything becomes significant, meaningful: the choice of images, their placement, the shape they take in words. The description of an ordinary room must become before our eyes the discovery of that room, and the emotion contained by that description must be shared by the readers. Otherwise, prose will stay prose, no matter how hard you work to break your sentences into lines of verse. And what’s worse, nothing happens afterwards.”
Frank died. God whistled a tune. Frank looked around at the room. Nothing special, walls, mostly. Frank looked back at God. “Who the hell are you?” God stopped whistling. “God, I think, right? You guys are stilling calling me God?” Frank stared, placid. “Uh-huh.” “Any-who,” God muttered, feeling awkward. “Right,” Frank stood. “I’m going to […]
I love this one-eyed poet who talks about the
“Implacable indifference of time.” He was
old when he wrote that, and facing a decaying
body and painful surgery.
It made me think.
I was raised to believe in hope,
in the redeeming graces that would make
all suffering worthwhile in the sweet bye and bye;
to seek a moral purpose even in darkness and pain,
to value the hard-won badges and scars of a
life lived with eternity in mind.
Late in my sixth decade now, the path ahead
more and more clear, I think it’s time I
did myself a favor and distinguished between
wishful thinking and hard truths.
It’s a choice; I still have
the power to choose.
I have my health, for the most part,
but my wife has had cancer 5 times and still
keeps her face to the sun. It won’t get easier for either of us,
and I have promises to keep, somehow.
I’ve learned this much; your mileage may vary:
No matter how bad the news is, someone has it worse.
It’s easy to be discouraged, hard to be hopeful.
Be hopeful, anyway. It’s a way of not giving in.
There’s nothing better than the feeling of a cold beer
hitting the back of your throat on a hot day.
Realize that behind anything you want,
there are multiple reasons.
The majority are selfish, or weird or downright bad.
Wait. Bullshit always has a big mouth.
Wait. Your hair’s not really on fire.
It’s just the hormones whipping you, mostly.
Most desires turn out to be hollow things with time.
Wait and look for whether
there’s something in there that helps someone,
does not hurt someone and
would make your children proud.
Do that one. Out of all the rest.
And do it with everything you’ve got.
Then give someone else the credit for it.
This is especially true of love. We are all capable of
much more of that, but get selfish and fearful of pain.
We must be careful and keep the above rules in mind.
Does it help someone ? Everyone needs it.
Does it hurt anyone? Can you stretch yourself to include more?
Can you give 110% to more than one?
Would it make your children proud?
(When/if you have them, if you don’t now.)
Do that. And another just like it, but with care.
Grow into it.
Tell yourself that, in the end,
You told yourself the truth, most of the time;
You did not harm anyone on purpose;
and that you tasted as much sweetness
along the way
as you could.
by Rabindranath Tagore
I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it’s age old pain,
It’s ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star, piercing the darkness of time.
You become an image of what is remembered forever.
You and I have floated here on the stream that springs from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another,
We have played along side millions of lovers,
Shared in the same shy sweetness of meeting,
the distressful tears of farewell,
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.
Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours—
And the songs of every poet past and forever.
A girl combs her grandmother’s hair, while the old woman
tries, suddenly, desperately, to remember her first kiss. The her mind slips a couple more decades back in time.
“It will be wonderful,” she sighs, in anticipation.
Her spirit surges into the past, pausing just an eye blink with the young girl.
Her granddaughter closes her eyes and shudders. She is headed into her future, but there’s something new in her now. The hand with the comb pauses, confused; continues.
Something is different. She sighs.
Another delightful piece from the mysterious flash-365.com. We ought to start a petition to get him/her to reveal himself/herself. 🙂
Frank died. A man with a naked mole rat of a head was shaking Frank’s hand. “Welcome,” he said. He had a clipboard tucked under one arm. Frank looked around. A great expanse of nothing looked back from all directions. Frank pulled his hand away. He frowned. “Welcome to what?” The hairless man looked at […]
W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939
Where dips the rocky highland Of Sleuth Wood in the lake, There lies a leafy island Where flapping herons wake The drowsy water rats; There we’ve hid our faery vats, Full of berrys And of reddest stolen cherries. Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. Where the wave of moonlight glosses The dim gray sands with light, Far off by furthest Rosses We foot it all the night, Weaving olden dances Mingling hands and mingling glances Till the moon has taken flight; To and fro we leap And chase the frothy bubbles, While the world is full of troubles And anxious in its sleep. Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. Where the wandering water gushes From the hills above Glen-Car, In pools among the rushes That scarce could bathe a star, We seek for slumbering trout And whispering in their ears Give them unquiet dreams; Leaning softly out From ferns that drop their tears Over the young streams. Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. Away with us he’s going, The solemn-eyed: He’ll hear no more the lowing Of the calves on the warm hillside Or the kettle on the hob Sing peace into his breast, Or see the brown mice bob Round and round the oatmeal chest. For he comes, the human child, To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.
He often thinks about the
six dogs who ran alongside
for a time, and then were gone.
All those afternoons of
poking noses together into
interesting places, and
not having to explain why.
These honored companions
deserve to be cast in bronze and
mounted facing the wind on
granite pedestals, on a river bank
beneath old trees,
Nodding, ‘ah, yes, these were noble friends.’
Let’s honor them like Civil War heroes
on the field at Gettysburg.
Each cemented tight to the heart of things that were important,
Things that only dogs and children understand.
A cold March breeze made something tinkle
as it came around the side of the house,
reminding me how things could be again
if I didn’t feed the birds.
Old pilots say:
“There are more airplanes in the ocean
than submarines in the sky.”
The sea hides everything forever,
The wind strokes her face.
Everything finds the bottom in time.
Every other expectation is
Self deception, no matter how pleasant.
Peaceful inside this tube, quiet, rolling gently side to side, as smooth as the hips of a woman strolling to dinner on the boardwalk on a hot July evening,
Thin fabric stretched just right over just-so curves.
Making him wait,
Liking the feeling she gets from the way she walks, knowing she just made a guy crash into a rack of postcards.
Her rhythms are as old as the ocean, in time with the waves out in the musky duskiness of another hot day, Both bringing more good things to shore.
The seagulls cry overhead and the crowds of tourists part as she passes.
Just after sundown,
past the North Carolina border,
our passenger train stops to let
a freight whiz by in the dark.
We’re not as profitable per pound,
and complain when the ride’s too rough.
And, really, just look at us; so flabby and soft.
So we must wait.
It’s good to know your value in
But the delay has already been factored in, and
for the first time in my life I’m
comfortable waiting, in the dark.
Everyone but God, if you believe, is
Innocent of tomorrow.
Caesar, full of swagger, innocent of the daggers of friends,
Mary innocent she’d see a son murdered, slowly, while she watched.
Me, innocent about everything, including
whether a satellite will fall on me, or
I’ll get a certified letter that
immortality, six virgins and a chocolate cake
will be delivered on Saturday by 10 a.m..
I struggle to reconcile ignorance and innocence.
Do I care about what I can’t, don’t know?
Do I need more than this one, infinite moment?
Meanwhile, they say the snow will stop soon.
In a world of white, quiet and cold,
finches empty the bird feeder
and wait for more.
I am still innocent of Spring.
There are some remarkable talents out there… Such as Cabinetwriter.
The valleys stretch
and bow away
unzip the land
and glean the backdrop.
the sky with I-15’s
cats-eye and miles of blacktop.
through cobalt clouds,
the bands of light
are breaking prisms
caught reposed in angles.
slab of rainbow
No arc or ends,
the swatch above
parabola of sage
is flanked by storm,
dissolves and passes
on the driver’s side;
dropped from lashes,
Something new every day. Check this site out…
Hadrian (76-138) was the fourteenth Emperor of Rome (10 August 117 to 10 July 138). Born Publius Aelius Hadrianus, probably in Hispania, Hadrian is best known for his substantial building projects throughout the Roman Empire. He established cities throughout the Balkan Peninsula, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Greece. Among his most celebrated legacies was Hadrian’s Wall. Construction of the wall, known in antiquity as Vallum Hadriani, was begun around 122 and corresponded to Hadrian’s visit to the province. It marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire in Britain but the length and breadth of the project (stretching, as it did, from coast to coast) suggests that the more important purpose of the wall was a show of Rome’s power.
Professor D. Brendan Nagle writes that Hadrian spent most of his reign (twelve out of twenty-one years) traveling all over the Empire visiting the provinces, overseeing the administration, and checking the…
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The weather kicks sideways this time of year. It’s not always as bad as the year we got 39 inches of snow in one night in March and were snowed in for three days, but there’s always something.
It was warm as a sweet late May in the mountains three days ago, the time the redbuds and mountain laurel are in bloom, and sometimes dogwoods. But now we’re just grumping about it, siting under four inches of fluffy snow. It looks pretty resting soft on trees turning the world a shining, heavenly white in the morning sun, but it isn’t really welcome. Continue reading “That Time of Year”
I want to describe my life in hushed tones
like a TV nature program. Dawn in the north.
His nose stalks the air for newborn coffee.
–In “Braided Creek: A conversation in poetry”, Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison. Copper Canyon Press. 2003
This is a hoot. I just got an email from the Austin International Poetry Foundation that another poem (the one below from last year) was accepted for the “Di-vêrsé-city Anthology” and they invited me to go to the festival in April to read it. (I probably won’t be able to go, unfortunately. Maybe someday.)
But you can still register and make it. Austin in April is nice.
More info: https://www.aipf.org/aipf/default.asp
I tried skipping in and out of a
And learned I could not
Touch the same water twice.
Asleep for 50 years,
More or less, and, now awake,
I fear there is not enough time for the work.
We don’t have time to be clever,
Show me what I have missed.
We use the idea of time
To pretend everything
Doesn’t happen at once,
And judge it by our own puny lifespans.
Barely able to cry “I am here”
And we are gone,
Like fireworks shot to the stars
On a cloudy night.
Sometimes you just don’t know what’s going to come out of that old man’s mouth…In a hospital room he probably wasn’t walking out of…late on a February Sunday afternoon. We waited, though. And then he just started, with no preamble.
“I just like them. I just like women. Well, some. I have preferences. Who doesn’t?
“And I just let them see the admiration and respect. And some, a few of them, like me back, like they’re surprised, you know. Grateful in a way… for the honesty, I guess, although that’s not in my mind, like a tactic. It wouldn’t be honest that way, would it? So, no games. They’re tired of the games and bullshit, too. I had to practice that, though.
But, if there’s not that mutual ‘liking’, no spontaneous shudder, you just back up a step, be polite and move on. Have a little dignity.
“And sometimes they show me some appreciation in tangible ways, too. They look after me for a while, making sure I’m appreciated, and that doesn’t mean sex at all. Just liking and wanting to do for. Boys, there’s no one who can take care of you like a grateful, honest woman. And it’s nice to be treated well.
“There’s some of the other kind of appreciation, of course, and if it happens it happens.
“It’s my favorite thing, but you have to let nature take its course or it’s not as good. That’s what you young guys don’t understand. Too big a hurry so that you miss the main show.
“The best thing is when you have the sudden shudders but also respect. And that means nobody’s a superior person, like a boss to the other. When you are equal in some ways and content to let the other’s talents shine when they need to. No false pride.
“That doesn’t mean everything’s smooth, either. You can be terribly lonely or angry sometimes, when things aren’t working and you know it. That’s when someone else can look good. But with luck, you don’t break the bond between you two who click.It’s so easy to.
“But two people like that? That’s sweet.”
He laughed and coughed a little.
“And however you express that between you–and even if it doesn’t go on forever–nobody gets hurt. Not at all. Just the opposite. It’s a permanent special thing. And some people only have the memory of it to live on, but at least they have that.”
Our father had a coughing fit and lay back in the hospital bed exhausted, but with a slight smile and a distant look at the hazy hill a couple of miles away. We looked at each other.
An electronic chime sounded in the hall. A recorded voice announced the end of visiting hours. We hated to leave, as tomorrow wasn’t a guarantee.
“You know what, though?” he said, turning back to us. “I just realized something. About that second kind of appreciation…
Here it came. We caught each other’s eyes. Raised an eyebrow like Spock.
“It just dawned on me that despite a number of opportunities, I only really found that exact thing with one person. I’m pretty sure I could have found more, but I didn’t see the point. I’m a lazy man, and that sounded like too much work. But in any case… I stopped at the first one. The one that clicked like that…
He suddenly realized the night was closing in. He wanted to see one more dawn with Mom. It showed.
“She’ll be back in a minute. No need to tell your mother what I said about her. OK? She’s stressed enough. And if I say something too nice now, the shock might kill her.
“We like to watch sunrises together.”
There was that thin smile again. A little sad around the corners. Tired from the chemo and the pain. He looked at us, waiting.
We nodded our old conspirator smiles.
We’d heard this routine before, making us promise not to tell mom something.
We would ignore this one, too.
He knows we will.
He’s counting on it.
(Posting again. I think this is the third time….)
“Fair goes the dancing when the Sitar is tuned.
Tune us the Sitar neither high nor low,
And we will dance away the hearts of men.
But the string too tight breaks, and the music dies.
The string too slack has no sound, and the music dies.
There is a middle way.
Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high.
And we will dance away the hearts of men.”
—Sir Edwin Arnold, “The Light of Asia” (often misattributed to a saying of Buddha)
Near a flower shop off boulevard Raspail
a woman in a sundress bending over
I’d guess about 49 years of age
in a particular bloom, just entering
the early Autumn of her life
a thousand-year-old smile on her face
so wide open that I actually shuddered
the same shudder I did in 1989
coming over the lip of a sandbar
and seeing a big bear below me.
It’s a little game of chance with no risk and no obligation. And you might win a Kindle copy of “I Came From A Place of Fireflies”. Really, isn’t that enough?
I’m tied down, again.
Why do I keep doing this to myself, I can’t help thinking. The two men standing over me don’t look pleased. I decide to name them Butch and Larry. They are frowning down at my bare gut, muttering in Russian.
“Can you please tell me what is going on?” I ask Butch.
The men don’t even pause. Larry takes out an I-Phone-looking-thing and presses it to my stomach. He sighs and nods at the other Butch. They both look me in the face, disappointed, yet, resigned. They untie me and hoist me up between them. I’m not a big man, but, neither are they.
As they drag me towards the entry way, the apartment door opens. My roommates walk in. They are talking about Radiohead. They stop and stare. I’m stark naked, crucified between two strangers.
“Hi guys. This is Butch and Larry. Mind giving me…
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Some poems make me an archaeologist.
I roll back the stone from the tomb of some
long-buried memory and analyze artifacts.
It seems more and more important to
look for what I can, to catalogue
it and make sure contexts are in order.
I can clearly see a soft brush
moving in my hand, delicately
clearing the dust from that time I was six or seven,
and we were at recess, in the monkey bars at
an old, old school building now
torn down 20 years ago.
The day was warm and bright,
glowing in that special benign October sun,
the girls squealing and running
—just fast enough to get
caught before everyone got tired—
as the boys chased them around and around.
Learning the rules of the mating game.
The bright yellow maple and bright-red oak
leaves in the sloping park just off the playground
were down in wind-shaped drifts. Farm kids all,
we simply asked a teacher for the rake
which she got for us, and we
made piles, big crunchy soft piles,
and jumped in them while Mrs. Fish looked on,
her arms crossed, sharing the moment,
stretching recess a few minutes because she knew
moments like this would end soon enough
and we would grow up and be gone…
and of course she was right.
When the sun comes up tomorrow,
it still won’t care about our little passions,
but we’ll look up, hopeful as a puppy, and think it does.
Whatever the size of our apartment or tent or mansion,
we fill the available closets like we’re packing
for a long trip and will need that life debris.
I’m just a big ol’ hypocrite, knowing I’ll exit as
naked as the day I arrived, but cling to
my comforts and sense of ownership anyway.
My boys will someday go through what’s left,
hold up broken reading glasses or
socks with no mates, raise an eyebrow:
“Why did that crazy old man keep this?”
“I don’t know,” I’ll say from the ceiling,
already starting to dissolve from the solid world,
“But I thought I might need them someday.
I just never understood what it meant
To have a sun that doesn’t care–and no pockets.”
Some days it’s nice to be reminded that we’re made of sea water… and star dust. Because it gets hard to remember where our sources are. Thanks for this reminder.
But getting back to how
people swallow oysters raw.
I have not had the pleasure
in partaking when they tell me
how they taste like sea water.
“You mean the ocean?”
But I have tasted the ocean.
How it holds up in my eyes
and most days calm, like
the waters off of St. Martin,
until a strong wind comes in
and blows the coconut trees over
so that they drown themselves in
wave after wave. Sea water?
It tastes like emotion, until
it stops, and in the eye of the storm
the clouds clear to brilliant sunlight,
and the coconut trees,
now momentarily free from
the weight that once bound them,
once again, pull themselves upright.
I was a relentless swimmer as a child, more at home
under water, popping up only for air, wishing for gills.
In the pond’s murky realm a few feet down, the big bass, motionless,
eyes swiveling, waited for someone’s last mistake.
In the muddy shallows, the sun warmed the water most,
small things hatched, safe from mouths in the deep water.
Forests of fronds and grasses stretched toward the light,
and died, becoming the black ooze where biting things lived.
I lost it along the way, that simple way a child observes in wonder,
accepting in wisdom, the heavenly song of the world everywhere.
My job these days is to be the archeologist of my life, diving
over and over and staying down, wishing for gills and more time.
On soft summers’ nights, lovesick bullfrogs boomed at the edges.
A muskrat swam in the moonlight, wake effortlessly symmetrical.
*An attempt…. About the Ghazal form:
The ghazal is composed of a minimum of five couplets—and typically no more than fifteen—that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous. Each line of the poem must be of the same length, though meter is not imposed in English. The first couplet introduces a scheme, made up of a rhyme followed by a refrain. Subsequent couplets pick up the same scheme in the second line only, repeating the refrain and rhyming the second line with both lines of the first stanza. The final couplet usually includes the poet’s signature, referring to the author in the first or third person, and frequently including the poet’s own name or a derivation of its meaning.
Traditionally invoking melancholy, love, longing, and metaphysical questions, ghazals are often sung by Iranian, Indian, and Pakistani musicians. The form has roots in seventh-century Arabia, and gained prominence in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century thanks to such Persian poets as Rumi and Hafiz. In the eighteenth-century, the ghazal was used by poets writing in Urdu, a mix of the medieval languages of Northern India, including Persian. Among these poets, Ghalib is the recognized master.
Here come our machine masters.
All around town, on lampposts, hang
Boys in uniforms who went to war
in 1941, or ’42 or ’43 or later,
who never came back from that
sunken transport ship, or that
awful night on Iwo,
or who stepped in front of a truck
outside a bar at 1 a.m. in liberated
France, having dodged all the bullets
but not a truck full of supplies.
Maybe it’s that people who live in
mountain towns like this
Just have longer memories than most,
surrounded by the rounded remnants
of a once-great mountain range.
Rocks have long memories.
Or maybe we have a need to hang
onto the deep grief longer than is fashionable
in these throwaway times.
–– Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”
I self-published a book of poetry recently.
(Technically, it’s the second book I have published, but the first was a children’s picture book designed for the iPad. I’m old-fashioned and have this prejudice that it isn’t really a book unless it is printed in ink on a page made of paper.)
Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, I published my first book.
It’s not important to anyone else, but it marks a milestone for me. There can never again be a first one, and I’m letting the feeling settle in slowly and warmly. You never forget your first one, they say.
An itch that I haven’t been able to scratch for more than 60 years has to leave me alone, now. I still feel I can get better, and there is still beauty and meaning to be explored. That is what keeps us young, after all. Always feeling there is more to learn, to do, to feel. Truly young, until we die of old age.
It has only been a couple of days, and a few copies have sold. I don’t have any expectations– oh, maybe to break even on the costs of marketing and buying author copies, perhaps. But that’s about it.
Practice. That was one reason. But for what?
Confidence. That was another. I needed to build my confidence. But again: for what?
I saw the Hemingway quote above, and all of a sudden realized what this book, and all the work over the last two and one-half years was about.
I hope I have not left it for too long. I could have another stroke and be unable to move or write, of course. That’s a thought I carry with me each day. It worries me, but I have had to learn how to move on, and into deeper places in me, in spite of that fear. I found out how to use it for motivation.
I don’t want to be caught short like Harry in “The Snows of Kilamanjaro.” But I also know that anything might happen. And I have to be ready for whatever comes. We all do, whether we like it or not.
(The story: Harry, a writer, and his wife, Helen, are stranded while on safari in Africa. A bearing burned out on their truck, and Harry is talking about the gangrene that has infected his leg when he did not apply iodine after he scratched it. As they wait for a rescue plane from Nairobi that he knows won’t arrive on time, Harry spends his time drinking and insulting Helen. Harry reviews his life, realizing that he wasted his talent through procrastination and luxury from a marriage to a wealthy woman that he doesn’t love.)
So I will press on, take care of myself as best I can. I want to sit under an apple tree in late summer for as many years as I can, and listen to them fall, wasting their sweetness. But I want to make sure I taste as many as I can.
I will keep writing, and write the things I’ve been putting off. “You pays your money and you takes your chances,” as some old friends used to say. There’s no point in waiting any longer. None of it is 2far–until it is.
Besides, I published a book! A little, self-published book of poetry. Just look at me.
Please call if the Nobel Committee tries to reach me. 🙂
I Came From a Place of Fireflies is available for your Kindle reader.
I’m happy to announce that Hemmingplay’s alter-ego has published a collection of poems under the title “I Came From A Place of Fireflies.” It is available on Amazon and a Kindle version is at Kindle Link. Buying the paperback version entitles that person to download the Kindle version for free.
It would not have been possible to get this far without the support of everyone here. Even when the pieces weren’t very good, you still gave encouragement. I am grateful for you all.
The ticking of a clock is the
sound our invisible blood makes
as it ducks out the back door of today
and takes the bus out of
town to yesterday.
The clock’s mechanism creates
the illusion that everything
is controlled by
even, orderly forces.
But there is always the
last ‘tick’. Then what?
I counted to ten, and
with each count I dropped a
stone in the stream.
The stones all sank
but the memory of each moved on,
stone became water, cause-
effect, separated by time.
At least in my mind, all the things that we do not understand can be divided into three categories: science, faith and magic.
“…Science is what we do not understand but understand that someone else does.
Faith is what we do not understand yet understand that we can rely upon it to get us through the things we will never comprehend.
Magic is a short-cut. It is what we use when we refuse to be bothered with the hard-work of science or the hard-trust of faith.
But the scary thing about magic is that we sprinkle it into our science and faith to make them sparkle without realizing that all we have done is add glitter to what should shine by itself.”
You know you have gotten old when your medicine cabinet is full of medicine.
My cabinet, which used to hold no more than a toothbrush and toothpaste, is now home to a bewildering array of orange bottles with white caps and mostly unpronounceable labels.
Some of these bottles I visit regularly. Others are the remnants of some long forgotten illnesses and yet others, I have no idea what they do or how they got there.
Everything in my cabinet is supposed to be good for me yet an uncomfortable number of items lurking in there are rather explicit about the horrors they will visit upon me, dare I use them. These I avoid as much as possible.
The truth is, I am a terrible pill taker.
I always forget.
I have one of those days-of-the-week pill boxes and am currently running at least three days behind. Sometime around Wednesday, I realize that…
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A quick note … I’ve been working for the past week or two on putting the final touches on a slim book of poetry. The first of what I expect will be 3-4.
It’s done! I have published “I Came From A Place of Fireflies” on Amazon as both a paperback and Kindle edition. http://amzn.to/2n6lzj2
All Is Temporary
I’m nearly old, she said… to no one,
Before the mirror,
Tracing a line down her cheek
With a fingertip,
Lost in memory.
A chill; her soul shivers .
This is the face that boys
Longed to kiss, she remembers,
Remembering the power of it.
Yet now the boys are men, although not as many.
The face that felt the chubby caress of
Her children’s hands,
The face she could depend upon.
A breeze ruffles the curtains,
Touches the flower beside the mirror.
Her eye caresses the exquisite
Design of it, built for
Of perfect purpose.
“You are nearly old, too,” she says, tracing the edge of the
Petal with her finger.
She smiles, newly aware…
All things must pass.
All things are temporary.
By the latest estimates, the known universe has about one trillion galaxies, give or take. Each galaxy could have a billion stars, minimum.
I tried multiplying a billion by a trillion and my calculator broke.
But astronomers, using new techniques and telescopes– and much better calculators– have now found approximately 3,000-plus Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. And that’s just so far, with relatively primitive detection abilities.
There are recent estimates that there may be millions more out there, and even that might be a low number.
I’ve been thinking about this, about all the intelligent aliens that are probably out there. That’s more comforting than what’s going on in Washington. Or with climate change. Or with religious fanatics here and in the Middle East who think Armageddon and death on a global scale would be just dandy. Or one of several nuclear-powered dictators with big, swinging dic… well, you know.
I’ve been toying with these ideas for a science fiction novel, set about 50-75 years from now. When several coastal cities around the world are either submerged or living behind dikes. When refugees have flooded inland to live in ghettos around Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Cincinnati, and social upheavals and the breakdowns of services and order have led to martial law across the southern United States. Much worse conditions have hit India, Bangladesh, China, Japan, most Caribbean island nations, most of southern Europe and Africa and Australia and New Zealand and even Hawaii. Disease and famine spread.
When former breadbasket states like Nebraska and Oklahoma and Kansas now register summer temperatures averaging over 100 degrees, and where crop failures have hit the majority of the years for a decade. Hunger is spreading and prices are spiking. People are moving underground or under domes. Animal species who can’t adapt to changing conditions start to die off in noticeable numbers. India and Pakistan have a brief nuclear exchange that kills 5 million people and render the Punjab uninhabitable, and levels most of New Delhi and Karachi and spreads radioactive dust downwind as far as Japan and China.
And then, in the middle of all of this, we get a visitor. Then things get really crazy.
I think it has potential.
But remember what happened to the Indians when Christopher Columbus landed on the east coast of the Americas.
Put your ear to the air.
Tune your senses to the long rhythms…
The sun is daily higher,
It knocks harder on grave’s door:
Beneath in the icy ground,
Life warms from near death
Shudders and swells and pushes against
The things that would keep it cold:
Tune your senses to the long rhythms,
Close your eyes and see.
Billions of trillions of millions of tiny,
urgent things stir, move,
Grow from nothing to everything.
The shoving and shifting and yearning
Makes a soundless roar we feel through our feet.
The Earth…. She stretches and yawns.
Frank died. A bitter cold washed over him. His eyes opened for the first time. “It’s a girl!” someone cried from on-high. Frank heard a high pitched wail. He focused. It stopped. He felt like he was being dragged under a wave as he was passed around the room. He looked up at the faces […]
The time was, we thought we had a handle on time,
but our time here is so short that there’s no
time to really understand what time is–
or even if we ever will.
There just isn’t enough of it for anything.
The pharaohs sat their fat asses
firmly on a people who could not
remember a time before this curious arrangement…
Before there were these arrogant
bastards who thought they knew best,
who thought the world worked best
as a pyramid with them at the top.
In the times of the pharaohs,
time had a different meaning…there
in the dull, slow heat of the desert
in between floods and plagues and
the brief, beautiful springtime.
After a while, the parasites tricked the people,
who were bored and out of work
and likely to cause trouble,
into piling millions of
blocks of rocks in magnificent piles as if
to say to the gods, “See, we can
build mountains, too!”
It also proved the Pharaoh
had the right to be in charge
since no one wanted to go to the trouble
of tearing all those rocks down.
But where are the pharaohs now?
Like real mountains, their piles of rocks will
end up as grains of sand,
blowing across the expanse of eternity
until they drift up against the
base of some other fool’s monument.
I once had an uneasy relationship
with time, in the person of clocks.
I couldn’t wake with the sun, or sleep when
it got dark, and my soul was always
out of sorts, and anxious.
But at least everything didn’t happen
all at the same time…
They say time-keeping changed when
railroad people needed to make things work
across vast distances. For commerce.
Speed made organization and precision necessary.
Then factories needed everyone to begin
making things all at the same…. time.
There’s that word again.
I don’t worry as much about clocks any more.
I let the computers keep track for me
and watch time rush past as if
in a hurry to join its siblings in the distant past
where it can get away from clocks.
There it can sink back into the black
cloud of being, where everything has already happened.