Lean Over, Greedy

lean over greedy

A Drinking Song
by W. B. Yeats

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

After Sex

by Chana Bloch

A man after sex
has that squishy thing in the nest of his lap.
A bashful appendage
like a Claes Oldenburg vinyl drainpipe,
a soft saxophone that won’t toot a note.

A man’s got to wear his susceptibility
out in plain sight.
No wonder he’s keeping his soul
zippered up.

A woman’s got that rock of a belly,
that baby cave,
breasts swaggering erect
when they swell with milk.
Oh she knows what it’s like to sing
the stand-up song of a man.

Now you and I soften in the wash,
the body-elastic goes slack.
We see ourselves in each other,
we grow alike.
We want to curl up in a sunny corner
and doze like the cat.

Come, flick a whisker,
make me remember.


It’s nearly Thanksgiving here in the United States,  time for some serious training to help us through a day of feasting.  Fourteenlines has been doing its part in helping you prepare, with poems about eating.  First we had Eating Poetry by Mary Strand, then Eating Glass by T. A. Fry and now Eating Babies by Chana Bloch.

Every once in a while as I prepare a blog entry my searching around on the web results in me stumbling across a poet I have never heard of before and that poet proceeds to completely blow me away. Chana Bloch is one such poet. I need to order on Alibris several of her books, including her translation of The Song of Songs.

I had a hard time picking out which two poems to share of hers, there are so many good ones. Eating Babies brilliance floated it to the top. This poem brought back such wonderful memories and even smells of my children as babies from long ago. So eat up, give yourself a second helping of poetry and take home some leftovers. I promise it will be most satisfying and low calorie at the same time.

Click on the link below to hear Chana Bloch read her poem Eating Babies:

 


Eating Babies

by Chana Bloch

1

FAT
is the soul of this flesh.
Eat with your hands, slow, you will understand
breasts, why everyone
adores them—Rubens’ great custard nudes—why
we can’t help sleeping with
pillows.

The old woman in the park pointed,
Is it yours?
Her gold eye-teeth gleamed.

I bend down, taste the fluted
nipples, the elbows, the pads
of the feet. Nibble earlobes, dip
my tongue in the salt fold
of shoulder and throat.

Even now he is changing,
as if I were
licking him thin.

2

HE SQUEEZES his eyes tight
to hide
and blink! he’s still here.
It’s always a surprise.

Safety-fat,
angel-fat,

steal it in mouthfuls,
store it away
where you save

the face that you touched
for the last time
over and over,
your eyes closed

so it wouldn’t go away.

3

WATCH HIM sleeping. Touch
the pulse where
the bones haven’t locked
in his damp hair:
the navel of dreams.
His eyes open for a moment, underwater.

His arms drift in the dark
as your breath
washes over him.

Bite one cheek. Again.
It’s your own
life you lean over, greedy,
going back for more.

So Dizzyling Close Sometimes

wareham_louise
Louise Wareham Leonard

 

Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

William Shakespeare – Prospero’s Epilogue in The Tempest

Some Wrong

by Louise Wareham Leonard

You’re looking for the one hard core,
the knot that must be; your own
unmistakable will, centered in you as the
heart was, but not so complacent
something must give it rise, must
waken it, some word or wrong, some
misplaced hand or affection, so your will
can come blazing through; your savior,
full of certainty.  Instead there is only
the dull ache, a settling as you move further
and deeper into a life,  that arranges itself
that arranges you in itself.  Loss or hope
you can’t distinguish.  It’s like dust:
how it color’s sunsets, shapes rain, buries cities.


I don’t have to count anymore, to see that a poem has fourteen lines. I still do sometimes, out of habit, but I can look at it on the page and know it’s fourteen. You could argue that neither of these incredible poems are sonnets. You would be both right and wrong. I have become a huge fan of the un-rhymed sonnet; more prevalent than you might think, lurking about in literature like a black cat, getting ready to pounce on your soul.

I often wonder did the writer consciously or unconsciously structure the poem within the sonnet form?  Take these two poems as examples. There is not a strict adherence to 10 syllables per line, but most of the definitive lines are 10 syllables. Some are shorter, but if a line is longer than 10 syllables the preceding is shorter by that amount such that it works out to be 20 within two lines. Look at the last two lines of Some Wrong.  It flows to the conclusion of a sonnet. Look at the 9th line. There’s the volta waiting, to take a swipe and with one claw, turn your mind to where the poem is unsuspectingly taking you.

It could be that its only coincidence that each of these poems have precisely fourteen lines.  It could be just a coincidence that they are about love, love gone wrong, or as right as it could, but still about love. It could be another coincidence that most of the literature that Louise Wareham Leonard has written has been about sexuality, both healthy and unhealthy, as a form of violence. But then again, the sonnet is so woven into the fabric of western literature, and western writers that whether we recognize these poems as sonnets or not, they sit within that framework. The poet wrote the words, broke the lines and ended the poem in such a way, that it just worked out to be fourteen; because the glove that fit the hand with the pen, knew when it was time to end.


Compulsion

by Louise Wareham Leonard

You’ve done it again, for the eighteenth time.
and so many more that you’ve lost count but not
obviously hope, forcing love
from those that have none, but touch you anyway,
open you anyway, like the first one,
who knew he shouldn’t,
so it made him wild with shame, and hateful,
sickened by the sight of you,
as you were, but still craving you,
as you crave those now who could make it right,
who come so close, so dizzyingly close sometimes,
gripping your hand like they have been there too,
and they probably have – that’s why
you chose them – to fail you.


 

Some Wrong and Compulsion were both published in the February 1995 issue of Poetry Magazine.

Promiscious Noblesse of a Pharaoh

file-6 (8)
A little hitch hiker that survived an hour long ride somehow.
file-7 (3)
Tree frog tracks on the window pane.

Promiscuous Noblesse

by T. A. Fry

Longevity has its place. Though frog choirs
sing this night with same voice as tomorrow.
Their sultry hymns sire, future lost empires;
With promiscuous noblesse of a Pharaoh.
Life cleaves brevity from our hands.
Yet communes with creation’s permanence.
Oh, what wonder beyond all reason stands
Before ordinary joy’s eminence!
Wait.  May I speak to my fair Eurydice?
For I feel her presence, too soon bygone.
Her kind speak only through memories
having passed along the dawn’s baton.
I shall follow soon enough through that door.
If breath’s my master, let me be it’s whore.


I enjoy coincidences, or rather the uncoordinated repetition of something that slowly brings that thing from subconsciousness into sharp focus.  A couple of weeks ago I had a frog week. I woke up at a remote hotel an hour east of Tampa, Florida and paused for a moment before getting on the elevator before the sun had risen. On the glass on the third floor several large tree frogs had left interesting tracks making their way through the morning dew to where ever it was they planned to spend the day out of the sun.

A couple of hours later I was checking in my rental car at the airport. While grabbing my stuff out of the back seat, a tree frog emerged from a hiding place somewhere on the back of the car and hopped up to greet me with an expression that said; “oh my god, that was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me!  Did you see how fast we were going?” The National Rental Car attendant and I looked the little guy up and down and surmised that left to his own devices his chances of making it safely out of the concrete jungle filled with cars was not very good. So I caught the frog, took him over to the grass and trees just outside of the rental car return and wished him good luck.

I shared the pictures and the story about the tree frog having survived an hour long car ride with a friend several days later and on her way to work that afternoon she looks down and discovers in the parking lot of her local drug store a tree frog, a plastic tree frog, that looks exactly like the one I had set free that week. The world is a strange and mysterious place.  Maybe it followed me home from Florida.

file-8 (1).jpeg

I wrote this sonnet several years ago, shortly after my Mother died, an attempt to play with ideas around immortality and mortality, in the sense that frogs singing to us today are no different than the chorus sung 10,000 years ago or 100,000 years ago. Time and experience in many ways are not linear, rather more circular, our common experiences rolling on and on, in the circles we make with other people and the universe around us.

The Blind Fight The Blind

 

To Germany

by Charles Hamilton Sorley

You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But gropers both through fields of thought confined
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other’s dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.
 
When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other’s truer form
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm
We’ll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But until peace, the storm
The darkness and the thunder and the rain.

 


This is the last of the battlefield poetry entries until next year.   I am getting battle fatigue rolling around in all this blood and gore for the past two weeks.  The poetry of World War I is remarkable in its intensity but I could never make it my daily fare.  In my opinion there are much more interesting themes to read about than men killing other men.   
 
 

 

Absolution

by Siegfried Sassoon
 
The anguish of the earth absolves our eyes
Till beauty shines in all that we can see.
War is our scourge; yet war has made us wise,
And, fighting for our freedom, we are free.
 
Horror of wounds and anger at the foe,
And loss of things desired; all these must pass.
We are the happy legion, for we know
Time’s but a golden wind that shakes the grass.
 
There was an hour when we were loth to part
From life we longed to share no less than others.
Now, having claimed this heritage of heart,
What need we more, my comrades and my brothers?

 

That In Me Sings No More

WWI
American Soldiers in WWI

Futility

by Wilfred Owen

Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?


 

Arms and The Boy

by Wilfred Owen

Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.

Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-leads,
Which long to nuzzle in the hearts of lads,
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.

For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at his heels,
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.

 


It wasn’t until I was doing some research to prepare for honoring the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I, reading a wide array of poets, that I realized the context behind Millay’s sonnet below. I have read it many times and incorrectly assumed it referred to spurned lovers. It was not until now I understood it as a homage to the men of her generation that went off to war to never return.

This deeper understanding totally changes the way I look at this sonnet. It had never been one of my favorite sonnets of hers, seeming more callous than sentimental, but now I look at it with whole new eyes, appreciating the sadness and fitting callousness that war brings to the generation caught within its fury.

Do you have a poem that you suddenly have experienced a change in contextual awareness that increased your appreciation for how it spoke to you? I welcome your feedback and insights in the comments section below.


What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Unfamous History

American cemetary Battle of Somme
Somme American Cemetery in France

The Son

by Clifford Dyment

I found the letter in a cardboard box,
Unfamous history. I read the words.
The ink was frail and brown, the paper dry
After so many years of being kept.
The letter was a soldier’s, from the front—
Conveyed his love and disappointed hope
Of getting leave. It’s cancelled now, he wrote.
My luck is at the bottom of the sea.

Outside the sun was hot; the world looked bright;
I heard a radio, and someone laughed.
I did not sing, or laugh, or love the sun,
Within the quiet room I thought of him,
My father killed, and all the other men,
Whose luck was at the bottom of the sea.


My Grandfather’s luck was better. He served in both World War I and World War II.  But because he was a civil engineer, he was never assigned to combat duty, his skills in building bridges and roads more highly prized behind the front lines. He was also fortuitous in the timing of his enlistment in WWI, finishing boot camp and embarking for France only months before the end of the war. I am glad my Grandfather’s was not only unfamous history but also unremarkable, coming home physically and mentally  intact with only a finer appreciation of european beer.

But luck and War have always been connected. Maybe it’s why I have an aversion to the omnipotent presence of technology in our lives. Technology that seems so benign in peace time will be the scourge of luck in war-time. The next world war will be fought with such inhuman precision that luck won’t stand a chance.

Let’s honor the brave and the fallen in World War I on this 100 year anniversary of the end of the war, but let’s not glorify it.  The battle field poets certainly didn’t on both sides of the conflict.  Let’s save some of our patriotic fervor to hold accountable our current leadership. Hold them accountable to value diplomacy and reasoned avoidance of conflict as just as critical to a strong national defense, as the bloated budget for the Department of Defense.  Let us hope that the lessons of the past informs our leadership of tomorrow and that pride and ego do not plunge us into war that could have been avoided with a touch more humility and a lot less bombastic lunacy.


The Man He Killed

by Thomas Hardy

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”

Our Hometown Joe

Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins Sept. 30, 2018

Our Hometown Joe

By T. A. Fry

The crowd rose to its feet for his final walk,
In blue catcher’s gear, not worn in years.
He strode to the plate, slowly crouched, then caught,
One final pitch to end a great career.
Joe then tipped his cap, left to acclaim.
The win in the balance, three outs to get.
No letting nostalgia disrespect the game,
There’ll be time for laurels, we won’t forget.

But who’ll mark the next fifteen?  My Mother –
Gone, who loved this Joe. Baseball her last one
Great love affair.  Always rooting for our
Hometown heroes; Hrbek, Morris, Mauer
Molitor, Winfield and Puckett. All sons
Who rose, beyond the hopes of their brothers.

 


 

Traditions don’t start out as traditions.  It becomes a tradition when its been going on for so long you can’t remember when it started.  I have been to the last home game of either the Minnesota Twins or Oakland A’s for over 20 years.  I can’t tell you the first time but I can tell you the year it became a tradition; 2003.  That’s because the previous year in 2002, the Twins had faced the Oakland A’s in the first round of the playoffs and won the series 3-2, going on to lose to the eventual world series champions the Anaheim Angels in the second round. The next year my Mother and I looked at the schedule in May and I bought tickets for whichever team was home for the last game of the year.  It just so happened that they alternated for a series of years while she was living in the Bay area and a big A’s fan and Twin’s fan. From 2003 to 2015, the year before she died, we would go to the last game of the season together. And what made those games remarkable was the consistency with which either the Twins or the A’s made the playoffs during that 13 year period.

The decade of the 90’s saw the Twins make the playoffs in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010.   A remarkable run fueled by great young players, but at the center of every one of those teams was Joe Mauer.  Justin Mourneau won the AL MVP in 2006 and Joe Mauer won it in 2009, each having a remarkable year that wound never be equaled again in their careers.

Joe parlayed a run of greatness from 2006 to 2009, that saw him win three batting titles, the only catcher in major league history to do so, into the largest contract ever signed by a Minnesota Twin, an eight year 180 million dollar contract that made him one of the highest paid baseball players at the time. It has pained me during the past 8 years to see sports writer after sports writer criticize Joe for not equaling the greatness of 2006 to 2010 during the course of the past eight years.  Yes, Joe never hit as many home runs again as 2009 or won another batting title; injuries, concussions and age finally catching up.  But let’s make no mistake as we look back on Joe’s career – Joe Mauer earned every penny he made in this game.

Joe has been the greatest baseball player that each of us as Twins fans had the privilege to root for over the past 15 years. Joe accomplished things as a hitter during his career that put him in the mix with some of the greatest players of the past 80 years.  Joe’s batting title in 2009 with a season long .365 average has only been bettered since 1941 by Ted Williams, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Nomar Garciaparra and Ichiro Suzuki.  The fact that Joe was a catcher, taking a beating daily behind the plate from foul tips all season long makes that 2009 season stand out as one of the best by any player in the past 100 years.

Joe never changed as a ball player.  He certainly doesn’t fit the mold of today’s MVPs, with all the focus on home runs, launch angle and the hit for power cybermetrics that dominates baseball now.  Joe’s sweet swing never changed from his first game to his last at bat.  He could hit for power once in a while, but it was not his bread and butter. Joe was one of the best 2 strike hitters in baseball history.  Joe seemed to more often than not work the count deep, waiting for his pitch to shoot the ball the other way into the gap or up the middle.  He was not a pull hitter, he was a smart contact hitter and he wasn’t going to change.

My mother adored Joe Mauer.  On a visit to the Metrodome back in the 2000’s she took home a give away Joe Mauer doll.  To this day, that doll rides her trike that she grew up pedaling as a three-year old.  That Joe Mauer doll was her good luck charm during the Twins playoff years, her silly companion watching every single game during the regular seasons and a fond reminder of her unabashed love of Joe as a baseball player.

What makes Joe Mauer a special ball player, is more than what he accomplished on the field. In all the years of Joe’s career he not only had to carry the expectations of on field success, he had to carry an entire regions hopes and dreams of being the hometown hero off the field as well. Although the elusive elixir of winning a World Series alluded the Twins during his tenure, Joe never once disrespected the game. He never once embarrassed the team or the state of Minnesota with an off field or on field issue. Joe played this game of baseball with as much finesse, class and skill as is humanly possible. I will always feel fortunate to have been present to watch him on his last moment in uniform, watch him collect his last hit, a classic hussle Joe Mauer double to the opposite field and take that final pitch and walk off the field.  Thank you Joe for a great career!

Mom Twins Game May 2014
My Mom wearing her Joe Mauer jersey, ready for a ball game at Target Field, Minneapolis!

 


 

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