Monthly Archives: January 2019

Monday’s Verse 1-28-2019

Dear readers,

when the reading public demands more, you give it to them. Back when we first read Mary Oliver’s bear poem in 2012, a reader wrote back saying,

"I am thinking about this and am unable to get past what I want to see in it-
Spring is a time of mania and death. The highest suicide rate is in April and most genocides have an anniversary date in April. The extended sunlight causes spring fever- ie mania. The bear rushing down the mountain and the dark imagery of its teeth might represent the wickedness that is released in the spring. I could go on and on- I have a theory that I keep notes on about seasonal affective disorder and mass murder…"

She then quickly followed up that email with, "or she is in the mood for rough sex with her partner:)?"

Last week, a NJ reader said, re: the spring imagery, "Anything Spring sounds so much better when read during a cold winter snap."

A Pittsburgh reader also wrote to me last week to say, as an addendum, "And, secondarily, as an opportunity to say that I like Wild Geese and have always liked Wild Geese!!! (aggressively/defensively, apparently) I like this one, too…" She meant the poem and book of poems by that title, not the dish or the Irish speaking nobles who fled Ulster in the late 17th century. And here it is!

As a note, I assume no one would mind getting those comments in their inbox, so seize the day my collaborators, and hit "reply all" when you can. I don’t want to be the sole conduit for keeping these conversations on a low simmer when you all react to one of the pieces. It’s the perfectly simple, "Hey, this hit me, too!" that encourages people to engage. -ed.

WILD GEESE

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

-2004

Monday’s Verse 1-22-2019

Dear readers,

Back in 2009 (good gravy, that’s 10 years ago), a new member joined up and immediately demanded I print some Mary Oliver (1935-2019). This is what I came up with, along with commentary that I didn’t really like the poem too much! I solicited reader input and only one person replied — to me only, so the rest of the group didn’t hear her thoughts on springtime mania. But now, with her recent death, I’ve seen encomiums to her wide-raging empathy on Twitter. Maybe some of you readers are fans, too, and will offer up your own eulogies today.

For myself, I like this poem much better than I did 10 years ago — aside from the last line. Have a good week, -ed.

SPRING

Somewhere
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
rising
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her—
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

-1992

15 January, 2019 01:37

Dear readers,

It’s Marilyn Chin’s birthday, and she is 64 today! Just getting started, I’m sure. In the spirit of not-making-the-perfect-the-enemy-of-the-good, here is her poem “Altar (#3),” which is from a poem sequence. Ms. Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in the Pacific NW, and is professor emerita at San Diego State U. Enjoy these 2 quatrains. -ed.

ALTAR (#3)

Why cry over dried flowers?
They’re meant to be straw.
Why cry over miniature roses?
They’re meant to be small.

Why cry over Buddha’s hand citron?
Why cry over the hidden flower?
Why cry over Mother’s burnt forehead?
Her votive deathglow, her finest hour.

-2002

Monday’s Verse 1/7/2019

Dear readers,

Monday’s Verse obviously took an accidental hiatus over the fall. That’s not because I hate poetry now, it’s just one of those things. To be frank, I haven’t made any NY resolutions, so it may keep happening to some extent in 2019, although the timing of this note suggests I’ve turned over a new leaf. I will do my best. At the very least I will try to parcel out some reading over the next 5 weeks so that "Blue Monday" does not arrive to your inboxes out of the … blue, on a … Monday, such that you burst into tears right there at your desk/office/meeting/subway ride/iPhone while waiting in line at the store.

As for today, tip o’ the keyboard to reader Ali Najmi, who cited to this poem on his always-enlightening twitter feed. This is by poet Akhil Katyal, @akhilkatyal, and I hope I’m typing it OK, because having seen this one only via a tweet, and not having the right knowledge, experience, keyboard, or dictionaries for translation, I’m just doing my best to replicate how he rendered the dual-language wordplay in this tiny little cool poem. You can follow Ali, or Mr. Katyal, on Twitter via their full names, and me @MondaysVerse. Remember that each weekly poem gets tweeted, and each tweet links to the "blog" repository of past MV editions(https://mv37.wordpress.com/ ).

This poem appears to have run in the Times of India lifestyle blog on September 30, 2018. I hope you enjoy it. -ed.

IN THE URDU CLASS

I confuse my be with pe.

He asks me to write ‘water’,

I write ‘you’.

Who knew they’d make them so close,

Aab (پانی) and Aap (تم).

Both difficult to hold on to.