Monthly Archives: October 2018

Monday’s Verse 10/15/2018

Dear readers,

quickly this morning, no time for small chat, is a poem by Richard Blanco — you can look him up because he has been at least an inaugural poet, but was maybe also poet laureate for a bit? I forget. But in this 20-year-old poem I hear not only the bilingual symbols of ethnic american poetry, but also Wallace Stevens. Enjoy. -ed.

CONTEMPLATIONS AT THE VIRGIN DE LA CARIDAD CAFETERIA, INC.

Que será, el café of this holy, incorporated place,

the wild steam of scorched espresso cakes rising

like mirages from the aromatic waste, waving

over the coffee-glossed lips of these faces

assembled for a standing breakfast of nostalgia,

of tastes that swirl with the delicacy of memories

in these forty-cent cups of brown sugar histories,

in the swirling froth of café-con-leche, que será,

what have they seen that they cannot forget—

the broad-leaf waves of tabaco and plantains

the clay dust of red and nameless mountains,

que será, that this morning I too am a speck;

I am the brilliant guitar of a tropical morning

speaking Spanish and ribboning through potions

of waist-high steam and green cane oceans,

que será, drums vanishing and returning,

the African gods that rule a rhythmic land

playing their music: bongó, bembé, conga;

que será, that cast the spells of this rumba,

this wild birthright, this tropical dance

with the palms of this exotic confusion;

que será, that I too should be a question,

que será, what have I seen, what do I know—

culture of café and loss, this place I call home.

-1998

Monday’s Verse 10/1/2018

Dear readers,

100 years ago, people sometimes thought that things were totally falling apart. We’ve talked about this, even specifically about "things fall[ing] apart," within the past few months. Among the most stunning things about William Butler Yeats’s (1865-1939) "Leda and the Swan" was that he wrote it in response to a magazine editor’s request for a poem on the subject of the Russian revolution. And Yeats, weirdo that he is, came up with this. It was published in The Dial in 1923.

I was way into Greek mythology when I was little. Like, waaaaay into it. Never mind that I didn’t understand exactly what rape was, I also couldn’t get my head around how this bird was supposed to attack and subdue a grown woman. All these physical descriptions and action words that Yeats uses brought it to my mind in a way I could never have imagined before. It’s actually frightening, not fantastic. And it’s still recognizably a war poem, but in Hegelian-mythic terms, fitting with WBY’s cosmic visions of cones and cycles. At the same time, it feels like being human — caught up in the white rush of existing moment to moment. Have a good week. -ed.

LEDA AND THE SWAN

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill, He holds her helpless breast upon his breast. How can those terrified vague fingers push The feathered glory from her loosening thighs? And how can body, laid in that white rush, But feel the strange heart beating where it lies? A shudder in the loins engenders there The broken wall, the burning roof and tower And Agamemnon dead. Being so caught up, So mastered by the brute blood of the air, Did she put on his knowledge with his power Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?