Monthly Archives: December 2016

Monday’s Verse 12/12/2016

Dear readers,

I got in my books and art for mid-October, thanks to readers Adam Davis and Hana Layton, who hosted me in Portland. On Wednesday night, in his role as director of Oregon Humanities, Adam moderated a "think-and-drink" conversation with Katherine Boo, author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Let that be my book recommendation for 2016; add it to your gift wish list. It’s the kind of thing that lovers of all kind of writing (journalism, nonfiction, novels, poetry) will find engrossing.

On Thursday, Hana hosted me at the Portland Art Museum, where she works as director of education. They had on a big (Pittsburgh native) Andy Warhol show that I loved, especially his quotation in huge letters, high on the wall, "Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?" I thought that was such an awesome "apologia pro sua ars," as well as a good description of what happens to us as we read longer poems. The one that immediately springs to my mind is James Merrill’s "Lost in Translation;" I think we’ve read it here before, but it’s way longer than most MV selections.

In its stead, take a look at "Mirror," where the speaker, through repetition and rhythm (sounds, colors, plants…) calls up the subtle changes affecting not only the viewer, but the reflector, over time. Have a good week! -ed.

MIRROR

I grow old under an intensity

Of questioning looks. Nonsense,

I try to say, I cannot teach you children

How to live.—If not you, who will?

Cries one of them aloud, grasping my gilded

Frame till the world sways. If not you, who will?

Between their visits the table, its arrangement

Of Bible, fern and Paisley, all past change,

Does very nicely. If ever I feel curious

As to what others endure,

Across the parlor you provide examples,

Wide open, sunny, of everything I am

Not. You embrace a whole world without once caring

To set it in order. That takes thought. Out there

Something is being picked. The red-and-white bandannas

Go to my heart. A fine young man

Rides by on horseback. Now the door shuts. Hester

Confides in me her first unhappiness.

This much, you see, would never have been fitted

Together, but for me. Why then is it

They more and more neglect me? Late one sleepless

Midsummer night I strained to keep

Five tapers from your breathing. No, the widowed

Cousin said, let them go out. I did.

The room brimmed with gray sound, all the instreaming

Muslin of your dream . . .

Years later now, two of the grown grandchildren

Sit with novels face-down on the sill,

Content to muse upon your tall transparence,

Your clouds, brown fields, persimmon far

And cypress near. One speaks. How superficial

Appearances are! Since then, as if a fish

Had broken the perfect silver of my reflectiveness,

I have lapses. I suspect

Looks from behind, where nothing is, cool gazes

Through the blind flaws of my mind. As days,

As decades lengthen, this vision

Spreads and blackens. I do not know whose it is,

But I think it watches for my last silver

To blister, flake, float leaf by life, each milling-

Downward dumb conceit, to a standstill

From which not even you strike any brilliant

Chord in me, and to a faceless will,

Echo of mine, I am amenable.

c. 2001

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Monday’s Verse 12/5/2016

Dear readers,

Continuing on my October tour of MV friends… one of my first stops on the west coast was Santa Cruz, CA, where I met up with long, long, long-time reader, very nearly founding member, Arwen Lietz, for the first reunion in more than a decade, as well as her beau James West, who is also a long-time reader, but whom I was meeting for the first time. We had an afternoon and night suffused with poetry, kicking around our circa 2000 tour of Ireland, and some reading of James’s newer published and unpublished poems, and some Gary Snyder before bed.

Our first stop was an Irish pub that had some framed poetry on the wall; I’m going to assume the one below is by a patron. Have a great week, -ed.

KARMA

Even though I am the creator

Of my Karma

I am still its slave.

Until I reach the awareness

Of all reality,

I must follow the cycle

Of the ego earth

I must suffer the sorrows

Of death, old age, sickness

And rebirth.

But this suffering holds sweetness

And by walking the path

I have found the spring of life,

And from this I drank.

I shall follow the spring

Until it becomes the sea,

The sea

Until it becomes the soul,

And the soul

Until it becomes me.

-1976