Monthly Archives: January 2015

Monday’s Verse 1/26/2015 (D. Van den Bogaerde)

Dear readers,

Last week I was watching a very OK old movie starring a young Dirk Bogarde (1921-1999). Reading up on him, I learned that he was a huge matinee idol, and eventually regarded as a great British film actor. He fully retired from films at one point and wrote several memoirs and several novels as well. His life is pretty fascinating actually, but the point I’ll take you to in his biography is September, 1943, when his poem “Steel Cathedrals” was published in The Poetry Review, under the name D. Van den Bogaerde (his father was Dutch). Bogarde actually served in the army in WWII, as an officer with the Air Photographic Intelligence Unit, and participated in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.So you can look at this piece as a war poem of sorts. This poem really took to me, with its absence of strict rhyme or meter, but heavy dose of assonance and rhythm. He uses all the poetic feet, but not in such a way that we could scan them consistently. I love the vocabulary, in which I can’t really find a false note. Of course I’m a sucker for cigarette smoke. -ed.


It seems to me, I spend my life in stations.
Going, coming, standing, waiting.
Paddington, Darlington, Shrewsbury, York.
I know them all most bitterly.
Dawn stations, with a steel light, and waxen figures.
Dust, stone, and clanking sounds, hiss of weary steam.
Night stations, shaded light, fading pools of colour.
Shadows and the shuffling of a million feet.
Khaki, blue, and bulky kitbags, rifles gleaming dull.
Metal sound of army boots, and smoker’s coughs.
Titter of harlots in their silver foxes.
Cases, casks, and coffins, clanging of the trolleys.
Tea urns tarnished, and the greasy white of cups.
Dry buns, Woodbines, Picture Post and Penguins;
and the blaze of magazines.
Grinding sound of trains, and rattle of the platform gates.
Running feet and sudden shouts,
clink of glasses from the buffet.
Smell of drains, tar, fish and chips and sweaty scent, honk of taxis,
and the gleam of cigarettes.
Iron pillars, cupolas of glass, girders messed by pigeons;
the lazy singing of a drunk.
Sailors going to Chatham, soldiers going to Crewe.
Aching bulk of kit and packs, tin hats swinging.
The station clock with staggering hands and callous face,
says twenty-five-to-nine.
A cigarette, a cup of tea, a bun,
and my train goes at ten.

Monday’s Verse 1/19/2015 (David Unger)

Last in our mini-series on David “undid grave” Unger. I think I would like this poem even were I not good friends with its title. -ed.


You say, “We’re no longer just a couple,”
and I glance at Mia
cycling her chicken legs happily in the air.
She’s a link, an isthmus between us,
a millstone around our necks
a diving board to what?
A plant extending roots,
an octopus throwing out tentacles
to a world beyond reach,
a screwed up alarm clock
buzzing at the moment we claim sleep,
a stake in the heart
of our patience,
a magnet so strong
my arms and legs turn to her
whenever I’m away,
a tiny footbridge joining
shore to distant shore.

Monday’s Verse 1/12/2015 (David Unger)

Sorry again for the delay this week–and not much time to delve into today’s piece. I’m looking again at “Neither Caterpillar nor Butterfly,” by David Unger. I wonder if he has pale skin, cuz his name’s an anagram for “dreading UV.”

I read a haunting op-ed today, with the following paragraph placed second:

The strain of burying the past, losing one identity and embracing another, can be overwhelming. Home is an indelible place. It is the landscape of unfiltered experience, of things felt rather than thought through, of the world in its beauty absorbed before it is understood, of patterns and sounds that lodge themselves in the psyche and call out across the years. When home is left behind, or shattered, an immense struggle often ensues to fill the void.

That paragraph is sort of a prose poem itself, and it definitely shaded the way I read “The Exile” a little later in the afternoon. Enjoy. -ed.


A once lightfooted bear
in exile, in Paris: for thirteen years
behind bars in a two room flat.
So much happiness he has
in buying a can of black beans,
the charred smell of corn
cooked over an open fire,
but only a teasing memory in Pigalle
where whores sell themselves
like those glum Africans
peddling drums by the Louvre.
We drink a bottle of Scotch,
part bread to celebrate the Sandinist victory,
our minds grow soggy, his heart
a raw nerve being plucked.
The scene’s cut at sundown:
I trundle heavily to the Metro,
half-glad to be alone again
while he rereads the letter from a son
he has never seen.


Monday’s Verse 1/5/2015 (David Unger)

Thank you Sara for that lovely and fitting tribute to Lucia last week. It was great to have her as a correspondent for the last ten years or so. She was an ardent supporter of group reading and responded often–I think her last written reaction was to Juan Felipe Herrera’s Bay Bridge Inauguration Poem back in July.

Last November, in the comfort and hospitality of my friend Mia’s couch in Brooklyn, I stumbled across a little book of poems from 1986 by man named David Unger–Mia’s dad. His name, by the way, is an anagram for “gravid nude,” which I suppose makes sense when we think about the emotional weight and emotional baring that is required of writing good poetry. Anyway, I’d known for a long time that Mia’s dad is a writer, although I wasn’t sure what kind. She reports that last year he won the major national literary prize in Guatemala, the country of his birth. New York City has been his home since his teens (if I remember correctly), he has written in both English and Spanish, and he has done a lot of translation work.

The poems in this collection are lyrical, conversational, filled with highly personal imagery and perhaps a little symbolism, but the more hermetic communications seem frequently couched in the most casual observations of the world around us. I found a lot to like. Although it was late on a Friday night, I got through all the pieces and recorded some of them for review on this forum. Since I had trouble sleeping last night, I figured we’d start with this one, and then look at a couple others in the coming weeks. I’m interested to hear if they connect with other readers. -ed.


Yes, I finally understand why

Mayan priests plucked out

still blossoming hearts:

“Now that I’ve known you

I can never live alone again.”

A threat? Perhaps,

but most likely a confession

with thousands of aftershocks

that leave me jumpy,

a cut so deep

sleep becomes a chore.

I’ve given up

on permanence, rather believe

we’ll pass the passing years

with slight betrayals

that, complemented by inflation,

leave holes in our pockets,

a residue of Kleenex and lint.

But we’re past the penny-ante stage

and, despite doubts,

we’ve staked our hearts,

this spare change.