Author Archives: Nim

Monday’s Verse 7/17/2017

Dear readers, brothers, sisters, friends, co-editors,

Thanks for the nice birthday wishes and especially the memories — yours are better than mine!* Great way to begin celebrating our 20th year. Hats off to alert reader Sean O’Brien of South Bend, who pointed me to today’s piece. I know not a darned thing about the poet, whose name is an anagram of "boilin’ BS rant." Which is not to say Brian Bilston spews falsity; on the contrary, he’s the "Poet Laureate of Twitter," according to something I read posted somewhere on the internet. Here’s hoping he has a name alert for Twitter and re-tweets, replies, or comments, so that we can at least add a DOB and country of origin to the above biography. All I can say for sure is that he has a 2016 collection of poems for sale, and it’s a first book according to the bookseller’s blurb. This one’s a lot of fun (as is his Venn diagram poem), and I hope you enjoy it. -ed.

*What I mean is, because I am old and forgetful, you have a better memory than I do. I’m sure our actual memories — that is, our remembrances of things past — are equally awesome!

TRAITS OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG ANAGRAMMATIST

When life gives me lemons, I see melons;
it sometimes makes me solemn, too.
Because when a word bores me sober,
and starts to wane, I shake it up anew.

I’m alerted to how words are related,
how, when altered, they might enmesh;
shuffling letters like a pack of cards,
then dealing them out, aligned afresh.

Faced with a poser and on the ropes,
I’ll make a poem from its prose.
An education to be cautioned against
but it’s character building, I suppose.

A gory orgy of words put to the sword:
these are the traits the artist understands,
largely, and in whose gallery
the Ars Magna of anagrams stands.

-2017

Monday’s Verse 7/10/2017 Founder’s Birthday Addition

From: Sara Cohan
Date: 2017-07-10 3:01 GMT-04:00
Subject: Monday’s Verse 7/10/2017 Founder’s Birthday Addition
To: Matthew Lamberti

Dear MV Readers,

Our esteemed founder and weekly leader of MV was born today in 1971. Some of you have been his friend since the earliest of days and others have gratefully found him along the way.

Matt and I met during the summer of 1991. We were both working in a soup kitchen in my hometown. We were rising sophomores with an eye towards service and recently discovered passions for the Beatniks. We had read On the Road and he introduced me to Dharma Bums–a book that changed the way I looked at the world. It changed the way I viewed rhyme, rhythm and how to live.

For my birthday that summer (a few days before his), he gave me a carnation, pink goggles (my new rose-colored glasses) and a matching pink balloon which I could inflate if drowning so that I would rise to the surface. The last two items were passed on to me from Matt via Che, a homeless man that frequented the kitchen. Matt had taken to spending the occasional night sleeping in one of our downtown parks with many of the men we served every morning. I keep the goggles, balloon and a stack of old letters from Matt in my fire proof box. They remind me that if I ever start to drown, I have been given the tools needed to save myself.

For Matt’s birthday, we went to a new Japanese restaurant not far from his park. After dinner, we checked out a show at our local hipster dive bar. We saw the Jody Grind and they were just the band we needed to see to show us that the energy of the Beat Generation was not only still present in our generation but maybe even more powerful. The lead singer, Kelly Hogan, sang with such force. It might have been a hundred degrees that night and even hotter inside the little cement bar. Kelly yelled to the owner to bring a knife to the stage. He obliged and then she asked his to cut off her pig tails. He obliged again and nailed them to the wall of the bar. We were overwhelmed– ecstatic that life was going in such wild directions for us and we were ready to be a part of it all.

We have all been and continue to be transformed by our friend. He is our Bodhi and we are so appreciative for all that he gives to us and this world.

We love you Matt-

Sunflower Sutra

BY ALLEN GINSBERG

I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and sat down under the huge shade of a Southern Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the box house hills and cry.

Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, surrounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of machinery.

The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that stream, no hermit in those mounts, just ourselves rheumy-eyed and hung-over like old bums on the riverbank, tired and wily.

Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust—

—I rushed up enchanted—it was my first sunflower, memories of Blake—my visions—Harlem and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes Greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the poem of the riverbank, condoms & pots, steel knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the past—and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset, crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye—corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face, soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sunrays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried wire spiderweb, leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear, Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O my soul, I loved you then!

The grime was no man’s grime but death and human locomotives, all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black mis’ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuberance of artificial worse-than-dirt—industrial—modern—all that civilization spotting your crazy golden crown—
and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what more could I name, the smoked ashes of some cock cigar, the cunts of wheelbarrows and the milky breasts of cars, wornout asses out of chairs & sphincters of dynamos—all these

entangled in your mummied roots—and you there standing before me in the sunset, all your glory in your form!

A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden monthly breeze!

How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your grime, while you cursed the heavens of the railroad and your flower soul?

Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? when did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive?

You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!

And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!

So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck it at my side like a scepter,

and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul too, and anyone who’ll listen,

—We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not dread bleak dusty imageless locomotives, we’re golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our own eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision.

Berkeley, 1955

Monday’s Verse 6/26/2017

Readers,

I caught 1/2 of an interview with Sherman Alexie on Fresh Air last week. It was pretty awesome. As he says, Mr. Alexie has been the "Indian du jour," for a pretty long time now, and you’ve probably heard of him. He’s written novels, poems, essays, memoirs, and was briefly famous in the mid-1990s for "Smoke Signals," a short story from which he co-wrote a screenplay, which became an art-house favorite movie. He was born on the Spokane Indian reservation in 1966, and for more on his life I’d take a listen to that Terry Gross interview, or read the transcript.

The one thing that had me glued to my seat during the interview was this short poem he read; it’s one of the chapters of his new memoir. I know some of you out there really cleave to rhymed and measured poetry, and I think this one will satisfy you. I had to take a guess at the line breaks, since all I have is the radio transcript to go by. I thought this one was really powerful, in a Dylan Thomas or Elizabeth Bishop sestina sort of way. -ed.

AFTER BRAIN SURGERY

I forget what I was trying to say.
One word or another gets in the way
of the word I was trying to use. Nothing stays.
I forget what I was trying to say,
so I say something else. I compensate.
Like a broken horse, I’ve learned a new gait.

But wait.

Are these the words I meant to say?
I think these rhymes help me to map the way.
I think these rhymes help me to map the way.
But wait –Are these the words I meant to say?
Am I a broken horse? Is this my new gait?

Damn. I’ve lost the path, so I’ll compensate
by repeating the words I meant to say.
But these words migrate. They refuse to stay
in place. This is my new life, my new way.
I forget what I was trying to say.

-2017

Monday’s Verse 6/19/2017

Oh man oh man oh man. The new U.S. poet laureate is younger than me. Trying hard not to freak out here. Deep breath – SMILE – Readers, the Library of Congress just named Tracy K. Smith ("Try this, mack") the new poet laureate. She shares with MV favorite Paul Muldoon a faculty position at Princeton, and she reportedly takes personal themes, love, family, a search for big pictures (her dad was an astronaut), a search for god, as guides for her poetry. I hope we’ll all be able to see/hear her in public forums in the coming year. -ed.

I DON’T MISS IT

But sometimes I forget where I am,

Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,

Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,

The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.

Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.

And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is

I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.

Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe

In May, in seasons that come when called,

It’s impossible not to want

To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,

Knowing perfectly well what they know.

-2007

Monday’s Verse 6/12/2017

Dear readers,

now it’d be fair to say I was reminded of this poem, which we’ve read before, because I was in Ireland, or because I memorized it, or because I saw actual lake isles, or because I posed with a statue of Willie himself, or because I saw a cabin of clay and wattles made, last week. But more immediately, I was reminded of it during an NPR story this morning about the first responders to last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting, many of whom suffer from PTSD. One man who has not worked since because of the severity of his disability talked about the effect it’s had on his kids, and how he needs to go to the beach and sit out on the water, on a surfboard, in order to get any peace. "Nothing to listen to but the waves lapping, the sound of the wind on the water, thinking about where all the fish are going to…" That took me right back to the final stanza of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." One thing I didn’t put together about this poem for a long time was where it’s written from and where it takes place–in its own way, it’s a completely urban poem. Yeats even wrote in a letter that its inspiration was a window display for a travel agency in London, that had a little running water fountain… its sound took him back to stories from childhood, including his dad’s readings from thorough to the children.

If ever there was a poem for reading out loud, it’s this one. It’s Monday, do yourself a favor and hear it in your deep heart’s core. -ed.

THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

-1893

Monday’s Verse 6/5/2017

Special MV greetings from Portlaoise, Ireland! Short intro today, but, fortunately, for another man who needs no introduction, William Butler Yeats (“Will be utterly as I am”). Here’s a 1915 poem inspired at least partly by his great, unrequited love, the nationalist Maud Gonne. -ed.

HER PRAISE

She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I have gone about the house, gone up and down
As a man does who has published a new book,
Or a young girl dressed out in her new gown,
And though I have turned the talk by hook or crook
Until her praise should be the uppermost theme,
A woman spoke of some new tale she had read,
A man confusedly in a half dream
As though some other name ran in his head.
She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I will talk no more of books or the long war
But walk by the dry thorn until I have found
Some beggar sheltering from the wind, and there
Manage the talk until her name come round.
If there be rags enough he will know her name
And be well pleased remembering it, for in the old days,
Though she had young men’s praise and old men’s blame,
Among the poor both old and young gave her praise.

Monday’s Verse 5/30/2017

The man needs no introduction. -ed.

CALIFORNIA POEM

There’s trouble on the mountain
And the valley’s full of smoke
There’s crying on the mountain
And again the same heart broke.

The lights are on past midnite
The curtains closed all day
There’s trouble on the mountain
The valley people say.

-Johnny Cash (1932-2003)