Le Cadavre Exquis Boira Le Vin Nouveau

Exquisite Corpse
André Breton, Man Ray, Max Morise
and Yves Tanguy
“Cadavre Exquis”
(Exquisite Corpse)
1927

The Uses of Sorrow

by Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.


 

A couple of weeks ago, an acquaintance asked why I didn’t have cable television as an explanation for why I was sitting in a bar watching a baseball game that was on TBS. When I said it’s because I prefer to spend my free time writing instead of watching TV, she said, “I’m an English major, what do you write?” I said I write a blog about poetry. She proceeded to feign interest and asked if she could read it. I should have said no, as baseball, beer, bars and poetry don’t really go together, but I pulled out my phone, pulled up that day’s entry and handed it to her. She borrowed my glasses, proceeded to read the days poem with complete lack of interest dripping off of every syllable and continued on with my commentary in the same vein and then handed both my phone and glasses back to me, saying as she did, “you do realize you are not the first person to utter these sentiments?” I said yes, I am aware that nothing I write is unique and proceeded to go back to watching the game, smiling as I did. At least she found something I said related to something she considers poetry.

Her comment underlines one of the great questions about my artistic endeavors that I wrestle with; is anything I create original or is everything a derivation or a poor imitation? This is one of the reasons I write sonnets, their strict structure conveys clearly I am not trying to claim I am inventing something new. Rather, I am infusing the poem with a historical backbone that can’t be ignored. Does this mean that because my writing is unoriginal in its form that it is less creative as well?  Possibly. I choose to write mostly in rhyme because I find it more entertaining. If it is a poor imitation of more talented writers throughout history, then forgive my amateurish attempts as simply that; being an amateur. But it doesn’t mean my creative process doesn’t have value to me. My attempts to put to paper my own thoughts refine and sharpens my human experience. The process of writing brings a mindfulness to my daily routine that is worth the effort, even if the end product is mediocre.

I can always point to similarities to other poets in anything I write, the subconscious coloring inside and outside the lines based on what it currently finds interesting in whatever I am reading at the time. I find this to be true even when I have been involved in the creative brain storming process of writing called an Exquisite Corpse,  invented by the Surrealists in France in the early 20th century.  An Exquisite Corpse involves multiple people contributing to a drawing or a poem with only a small prompt to guide them on their portion, but no full understanding of the other’s contribution to the finished work. You would think that this collaborative spontaneous process would create the most unusual end products because of the inter-play between different people, but in hindsight there are always the footfalls of influence of others mixed in along the way.

The poem Eating Glass came about from a modified version of an Exquisite Corpse done online over email with a friend. I can point exactly to the words that are not mine, as I consider her contribution stronger. The start of the poem is based on an actual recurring dream I have frequently since I was a child of eating glass.  The dream always starts out the same. These are pleasant dreams, not nightmares. I am usually outside, somewhere relatively rural and picturesque and I come across a broken window pane, a broken wine glass or a bottle, usually old and I am intrigued by the color and delicateness of it. It feels like the most natural thing at first, to feed my curiosity and take a little bite. I carefully select a shard and remove it from the cracked maze that is broken glass and hold it in my fingers. The first tentative bites are crisp and crunchy, like satisfying clear delicious glass Doritos.  I take another bite, then another and suddenly I am conscious that I have a mouthful of glass and fear creeps in. The remainder of the dream until I awake is not panic, but the careful removal of every shard from my bleeding mouth.

I have not named my co-writer, unsure if she really would want transparent credit. The final stanza contains contributions from both of us but it is her words that another friend told me stops her dead every time she reads this poem; Can we manage this?   We need not be alone they say….

This poem elicits stronger reactions than any other poem I have been involved in writing. People either like it or dislike it, there is no middle ground. What is at the heart of this poem is loneliness. Eating Glass is about the conflict between wanting to be in a relationship and the safety in the intention of being alone during middle age.


Eating Glass

By T. A. Fry and J. M.

Tell me, does my Succubus owe you a favor?
How else, would you come by your knowledge of my dreams
of eating glass?  Each of us wraiths,  if not true to our dreams.  

Pass over, let me slumber this night, content in chewing shards.
Tomorrow shall bring another Exquisite Corpse,
defiant in defiling my larder.

Why do we fear agony or tragedy as companions on this journey?
We fight them, coddle them, while crooning in the darkness;
“It’s unfair!”…Cry or don’t cry…. We fuck with furious fingers.

We have been here before. Liars, drunkards and whores,
swapping omens, conjured from bloody entrails. Not one
ending with: “……happily ever after.”

Can we manage this? We need not be alone they say….
But I am weary, contemplating another’s demons in my crib,
next to my own, mewling to suckle at my tit.

 

 

 

 


© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Cause and Cure of Fatal Wounds

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Pursuit of Raucous Love and Romance

 

… reverberation

Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience.

–T. S. Eliot, “What the Thunder Said”

Love Hunters

by T. A. Fry

Pray tell, who lured whom with their siren song?
Love hunters circling each other, as fair prey,
With broad-heads sharpened, our longbows drawn,
Stalking cherished game to dress, then slay.
The truth? I walked willingly to your sight.
Cross-hairs plain upon my breast.  One last chance
to taste my blood and die, as is my right,
in pursuit of raucous love and romance.

Where from here; pinnacle or whipping post?
Our Love a cause and cure of fatal wounds.
A life restoring poison for a final toast.
“Fare well my love.  Farewell. I’ll come home soon.
To release the hounds to bound and bay your scent.
For love is nothing if not evanescent.”


I wrote this sonnet a number of years ago, when my Mother was still alive.   I wrote it on a lazy Saturday and read it to her after we had gone to church the next day.   She listened and smiled and said, “read me the last three lines again.” My Mother had sung a siren song a few times over her years and the memory of it was welcome on that day in her 80’s.

The challenge of love is what to do with it when the rest of life crowds in and overwhelms. Love can be the last bastion, the final straw and brilliantly unsuitable –  all rolled into one juju bean, kind of like the Moody Blues for those of us who listened to AM radio in the 1970’s.

Not Anyone Who Says

by Mary Oliver

Not anyone who says, “I’m going to be
careful and smart in matters of love,”
who says, “I’m going to choose slowly,”
but only those lovers who didn’t choose at all
but were, as it were, chosen
by something invisible and powerful and uncontrollable
and beautiful and possibly even
unsuitable —
only those know what I’m talking about
in this talking about love.

 

© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This Will Be A Sign To You

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Mysteries, Yes

by Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.

Evidence by Mary Oliver.  Copyright Beacon Press 2009.


 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”


And Lo

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

And lo a star arose in the east
only it was the sun
and three wise guys or goys
spied it and exclaimed
Behold, Great God Sun
creator of light
creator of all life on earth
without which we would live in darkness
forever and ever
Great God Sun
bringer of the only light we know
and the only god we have visual proof really exits
the only god
who’s not an invention of our desperate imaginations
seeking some way out or up
beyond certain death
Great God Sun
creator of night and day on earth
there are no gods before you
And lo
a babe was born in a manger
by immaculate conception or spontaneous combustion
and there was great rejoicing
out there in the desert
and the babe arose and spake
in a loud voice
Yeah man it’s a fact
I am born of the God the Father great god Sun
and I am his Holy Ghost on earth
which he in his heavenly wisdom
sent to you in the form of light
and I am that light
which is love on earth forever and ever
Amen!

How To Paint Sunlight by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Copyright 2001.

 

Merry Christmas……

Cool Beans

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Second Helping Green Beans

Fading Autumn

By Mrs. Elizabeth Clementine Kinney (1810 – 1889)

Th’ AUTUMNAL glories all have passed away:
The forest-leaves no more in hectic red
Give glowing tokens of their brief decay,
But scattered lie or rustle at the tread,
Like whispered warnings from the mouldering dead;
The naked trees stretch out their arms all day,
And each bald hill-top lifts its reverend head
As if for some new covering to pray.
Come, WINTER, then, and spread thy robe of white
Above the desolation of this scene;
And when the sun with gems shall make it bright,
Or, when its snowy folds by midnight’s queen
Are silvered o’er with a serener light,
We’ll cease to sigh for summer’s living green.

 

My parents were both talented gardeners their entire lives.  My father who is in his mid 80’s, still has an enormous garden that is source of nourishment, entertainment and exercise.  He is legendary for his tomatoes, apples and sour cherries.   Growing up, we helped our parents in the garden, even as little children. Gardening was a necessity, stretching our family food budget and allowing for a few extravagances.   Staples of a June garden in Minnesota are spinach, rhubarb, strawberries, sweet peas and green beans.   There is nothing better than sweet peas shucked fresh and eaten after a light blanching and nothing worse as far as I am concerned than canned peas.

As a young child, I was a picky eater beyond compare.  In the family mythology it has been exaggerated over time, but there is some truth to the suggestion that I subsisted on nothing but Captain Crunch, oatmeal and peanut butter sandwiches for a time as a 3 and 4 year old, winning the battle of wills played out at the dining room table between myself and parents on a daily basis. Today I eat almost anything and everything, but I can remember the Thanksgiving day dinner 20 years ago, when my Mother was visiting and she was shocked to see me preparing green beans for the holiday table given my history as a child.

In that childhood garden there were two very long rows of beans each year. As children we he helped our mom pick them each day.  No matter how you try and stay ahead of picking beans in season, inevitably some get bigger, thicker and tougher than is ideal from a taste and texture perspective.  But my parents were born during the depression.  Waste not, want not was ingrained and every other day, during bean season my Mom would process all of them into the freezer by cutting them, blanching them, putting them into a one family meal serving portion in a baggy and then storing them in little white boxes that had folding tops into the freezer.  The boxes were cardboard and looked much like a take-out box from a chinese restaurant.  By the middle of July the large freezer in the basement would be full to the brim on one side with rows and rows of stacked green and yellow beans.  I hated them.  It meant a monotonous fare of woody tasting green and yellow beans for dinner throughout the fall and winter.   So it came as quite a surprise to my Mother to see me not only preparing green beans but having a second helping during dinner.

This is a recipe that is a bit of my own culinary creation. The beauty of this dish is that its fast to prepare, the last thing you make to put on the holiday table and its festive and delicious.

Second Helping Green Beans

Time – Start to finish, less than 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • About a 1/2 pound of green beans, washed and kept long with only bad spots or stems trimmed
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons of a blue cheese of your choice
  • slivered almonds to taste (either raw or the flavored kind in the produce section for salads.

Bring salted water in pot to boil. Add green beans to boiling salted water and blanch until hot and bright green color.  Don’t over cook, leave the beans crunchy.  Drain.

Put a medium-sized sauce pan on medium heat, with a tiny bit of olive oil or butter in it, add the blue cheese. It will start to melt quickly, almost immediately, be careful not to burn it, lifting the pan off the heat if it gets too hot. Add the green beans before it’s all melted and stir. The heat of the beans will also help melt the blue cheese.  Coat the green beans in the blue cheese. It will be a thin coating, hardly visible. Quickly add your cranberries and almonds. Stir quickly, mixing them throughout.  Turn off heat and put in covered dish and serve. Don’t scrimp on the cranberries and almonds.  Be prepared that if you make this once, you will be requested to make it again at the next holiday gathering.

 

Beans

by Mary Oliver

They’re not like peaches or squash. Plumpness isn’t for them. They like being lean, as if for the narrow path. The beans themselves sit quietly inside their green pods. Instinctively one picks with care, never tearing down the fine vine, never not noticing their ripped bodies, or feeling their willingness for the pot, for the fire.

I have thought sometimes that something-I can’t name it- – watches as I walk the rows, accepting the gift of their lives to assist mine.

I know what you think: this is foolishness. They’re only vegetables. Even the blossoms with which they begin are small and pale, hardly significant. Our hands, or minds, our feet hold more intelligence. With this I have no quarrel.

But, what about virtue?