Monthly Archives: February 2012

Feb 27, 2012 Afghanistan

The elusive, allusive trickster, smart-ass extraordinaire, Paul Muldoon (born near Portadown, County Armagh, 1951). He’s not usually known for his concision.This poem, while no ways funny or glib, shows that sometimes brevity is the soul of his wit. -ed.

Afghanistan

It’s getting dark, but not dark enough to see
An exit wound as an exit strategy.

-2009

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Feb 21, 2012 two poems with long titles

aka, a return to smartassery.
I’m not the biggest Ogden Nash (1902-1971) fan in the world. Which really means, I don’t like Ogden Nash much at all. His best work was in conjunction with composer Camille Saint-Saens, a children’s verse accompaniment to the French master’s “Carnival of the Animals.” And this is pretty much the appropriate audience for all his poems: children.
Nonetheless, he is kind of a smart-ass, you can hear it in his cutesy rhymes and quips. Now here are two on slightly more mature topics, and I have to say I love the title of the second one. I also love the subject matter of the first one, but that’s a conversation for a different forum. -ed.
A DRINK WITH SOMETHING IN IT
There is something about a Martini
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow Martini;
I wish I had one at present.
There is something about a Martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not Vermouth–
I think that perhaps it’s the gin.
EVERYBODY TELLS ME EVERYTHING
I find it very difficult to enthuse
Over the current news.
Just when you think that at last the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens,
And that is why I do not like the news,
because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.

Feb 13, 2012 Blue Monday

Dear readers,
once again we find ourselves together on Valentine’s Day–were you expecting it? Did you forget? Were you lulled into complacency by the general misery that is the month of February? Has the quotidian grind of work-a-while adult existence ground you into a fine, dullish grey powder? Well prepare to be rehydrated by the blue, watery depths of Michigan poet Diane Wakoski’s greatest work, our annual hymn to the coterminus of love and loss. -ed.
BLUE MONDAY
Blue and the heaps of beads poured into her breasts
and clacking together in her elbows;
blue of the silk
that covers lily-town at night;
blue of her teeth
that bite cold toast
and shatter on the streets;
blue of the dyed flower petals with gold stamens
hanging like tongues
over the fence of her dress
at the opera/opals clasped under her lips
and the moon breaking over her head a
gush of blood-red lizards.
Blue Monday. Monday at 3:00 and
Monday at 5. Monday at 7:30 and
Monday at 10:00. Monday passed under the rippling
California fountain. Monday alone
a shark in the cold blue waters.
                You are dead: wound round like a paisley shawl.
I cannot shake you out of the sheets. Your name
is still wedged in every corner of the sofa.
                Monday is the first of the week,
and I think of you all week.
I beg Monday not to come
so that I will not think of you
all week.
You paint my body blue. On the balcony
in the soft muddy night, you paint me
with bat wings and the crystal
the crystal
the crystal
the crystal in your arm cuts away
the night, folds back ebony whale skin
and my face, the blue of new rifles,
and my neck, the blue of Egypt,
and my breasts, the blue of sand,
and my arms, bass-blue,
and my stomach, arsenic;
there is electricity dripping from me like cream;
there is love dripping from me I cannot use–like acacia or
jacaranda–fallen blue and gold flowers, crushed into the street.
                Love passed me in a business suit
and fedora.
His glass cane, hollow and filled with
sharks and whales. . .
He wore black
patent leather shoes
and had a mustache. His hair was so black
it was almost blue.
                “Love,” I said.
“I beg your pardon,” he said.
“Mr. Love,” I said.
“I beg your pardon,” he said.
                So I saw there was no use bothering him on the street.
                Love passed me on the street in a blue
business suit. He was a banker
I could tell.
So blue trains rush by in my sleep.
Blue herons fly overhead.
Blue paints cracks in my
arteries and sends titanium
floating into my bones.
Blue liquid pours down
my poisoned throat and blue veins
rip open my breast. Blue daggers tip
and are juggled on my palms.
Blue death lives in my fingernails.
If I could sing one last song
with water bubbling through my lips
I would sing with my throat torn open,
the blue jugular spouting that black shadow pulse,
and on my lips
I would balance volcanic rock
emptied out of my veins. At last
my children strained out
of my body. At last my blood
solidified and tumbling into the ocean.
It is blue.
It is blue.
It is blue.
-1968

Feb 6, 2012 [roman numerals: it’s what’s for titular]

With translation, it’s hard to know if the smart-aleck is the “original” writer, or the translator. We’ve seen this dilemma, for example, when the impish Paul Muldoon translates the somewhat heavier verse of Nuala Ni Dhomnaill from Irish to English. Today we have the Roman poet Martial coming to us via the typewriter of William Matthews. I’m guessing the modern pole in this dyad has something to do with the smart-ass nature of today’s selections, given that he himself created a book of poems called “one-liners.” But then I know nothing of the source material, so perhaps today’s special guest reader, or another MV familiar, can straighten us out. Anyway, these don’t need much preamble for enjoyment: they’re like getting a text message from Leon Jacobson. -ed.
VII, lxxvi:
“Tell me the truth, Mark,” you insist,
“What do you really think?”
When you recite your poems or plead
a client’s case, you cry,
“You can be candid with me, pal,
what do you really think?”
I won’t refuse you now. I think
you’re asking me to lie.
XI, xciii
Ted’s studio burnt down, with all his poems.
Have the muses hung their heads?
You bet, for it was criminal neglect
not also to have sauteed Ted.
VI, xii
That plush hair Fabulla wears?
It’s hers, Fabulla swears.
I’ve no reason to deny it:
I saw Fabulla buy it.
X, xxxi
You sold a slave just yesterday
for twelve hundred sesterces, Cal;
at last the lavish dinner you’ve
long dreamed about is in the pan.
Tonight! Fresh mullet, four full pounds!
You know I’ll not complain, old pal,
about the food. But that’s no fish
we’ll eat tonight; that was a man.
V, xlv
You announce that you are beautiful
and insist that you are young;
Bassa, if either claim were true
you’d hold your blowsy tongue.
V, xx
Old friend, suppose luck grants to us
days free of fret, that shadow life,
how would we live then? No foyers
to stall in, no butlers to schmooze,
no lawsuits, not one working lunch,
no ancestral busts. Instead:
strolls, bars, bookshops, the fields,
shaded gardens, cold baths from the Aqua
Virgo and warm baths from the others–
these will be our office and our work.
We toil too much for others. Days
flicker by and then are billed,
one by one, to our accounts. Since we know
how, let’s start really living now.