In The Hand of Heaven

In The Hand Of Heaven

 

The Mourning Bride

by William Congreve

(Excerpt from the final lines of the play)

“Whose virtue has renounc’d thy Father’s Crimes,
Seest thou, how just the Hand of Heav’n has been?
Let us that thro’ our Innocence survive,
Still in the Paths of Honour persevere,
And not from past or present Ills Despair:
For Blessings ever wait on vertuous Deeds;
And tho’ a late, a sure Reward succeeds.”


The idea of a muse is very real to me.  I often have had the sensation in the act of writing that feels like an out of body experience, like I am an observer watching letters and words unfold on my computer screen, as if they are being typed by fingers controlled by something or someone else. It is at those times when words flow or entire poems appear nearly fully formed in an initial draft, having been worked out in my subconscious unknowingly and it is just waiting patiently for stillness for them to come tumbling out that I am most conscious of my muse, to the point that it can make the hair stand up on the back of my neck, almost as if someone is watching me from behind.

The sonnet In The Hand of Heaven was not such a poem.  It is an example of good old fashioned hard work, with several failed attempts at starting and stopping. It was an idea that came from multiple sources of inspiration and took a long time to write.  The first source of inspiration was a gift from a friend, a translation of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the second The Mourning Bride by William Congreve.   The first is an easy read, short, intriguing, wise and I found shockingly aligned with my own values.  The second is a slog, the old English grammar and sentence construction both familiar and unfamiliar to the ear, it was not something that I found instantly compelling, but there are short sections that are hauntingly beautiful and pure poetry.  Each of these swirled together and after many revisions, the sonnet worked itself out.

I have not written many things where I have taken a quote from someone else and incorporated it into my writing, transforming it into something new and original.  It is an interesting paradox, because it feels a bit like it makes your own writing derivative, but at the same time it gives your writing a deeper context from which the reader can free associate  to make their own connections or discoveries.

One of the long term projects that has sustained my writing is attempts to capture the equivalent of short prayers as sonnets, in essence, write my own meditations.   Simple Praise is one of the sonnets that falls in that category, (shared in an earlier blog post) and so is In The Hand of Heaven. I often return to reread these poems when in need of contemplation, (i.e. forgiveness), and to be mindful that kindness is at the center of what it is to love and be loved.

 

In The Hand of Heaven

By T. A. Fry

“No longer talk about the kind of man
a good man ought to be, but be such.”*
Who through innocence perseveres to touch
The confluence of my imperfect clan.
To walk their chosen pace, with no less than
The grace of kindness.  To thrive without much.
For no better hour will I find, to clutch
The bone and rattle of my neighbor’s hand.

If in the hand of Heaven I have a choice?
I’ll proclaim Love’s name with unclouded voice.
Send care to conquer as Calvary.
Give self to self – free from self pity.
Take salary and stock in earned goodwill,
Until, I’m square with my begotten city.

*The first two lines come from the George Long
translation Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.  
Peter Pauper Press 1957..


© 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.

Play Ball!

 

“There are three things you can do in a baseball game.  You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain.”

Casey Stengel.

 

Sonnet To Baseball

by Jeffrey Sward

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything;
The aging umpire laughed and leaped with him.
Yet nor the cracks of bats, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the baseball’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion of the glove;
There were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, your pattern sketched in love.
Yet seemed it winter still, and, you did call,
As with your shadow, I with these, “Play Ball.”

 

Shakespearean Baseball Sonnet #25

By Michael Ceraolo

Let those whose teams are favored by the stars
Of public honor and proud titles boast,
Whilst the team I follow such triumph bars,
Their not having won what I honor most.
Great cities’ teams are too often favored,
And have been for a century and more
For reasons already much belabored;
But even those of us who know the score
Are hoping against hope for our team’s day,
Keeping a wary eye on our team’s fight,
Hoping to be surprised at our team’s play;
A championship would be a welcome sight.
One day happy will be the team beloved,
With a title never to be removed.

 


For those of you reading this blog who are not baseball fans, you might not realize that today is opening day;  the start of a new season, the promise of a new year.

Baseball is in my blood.  Not because I ever played the game at a level beyond 7th grade, nor was ever any good, but because its part of the flow of the year, it’s part of my relationship with my Mother, it’s part of my daily existence for 8 months of the year from March to October.  I wake up every day during the baseball season and the first thing I do is read the box score of the game for the Minnesota Twins from the night before.  Baseball is part of my daily ritual.

Baseball is one of those sports that divides the world, into those that love it and those that don’t.  For those that don’t, it’s impossible to explain, I’ve tried.  Baseball is a language, a landscape and a history.   Baseball is tragedy, comedy, hope, misery, a never-ending story, a common bond between strangers and a family drama mashed together. Baseball is a connection to a world better than the one we live in, played on a perfect patch of green grass, with the inevitability of triumph, futility, redemption, action, boredom, ineptitude, dedication, grace, athleticism, clumsiness and sloppiness all rolled into one.  Baseball has first beginnings and the ends of eras, all over the course of another season.

Baseball is different from other sports.  It’s not an event, its a timeline, its a discussion, its a year in the life of a team, a city, a player and a fan.  It’s the most blue-collar of all sports and I’m not talking about their salaries or the cost of a ticket, I’m talking about the work ethic to be good at it.  A baseball season consists of 28 to 30 preseason games, followed by 162 regular season games, followed by 3 rounds of the playoffs, best of seven.   The eventual World Series Champions will play a minimum of 202 games in one year.  It’s a lunch pail sport in which you have to show up and work hard, every day.  It’s a game in which the best and worst team in the league will each win 60 games and lose 60 games.  It’s what happens in the other 42 that separate the best from the worst.  Its a game in which the best hitters will fail .666 percent of the time and be proud of their success one in three times to the plate. It’s a sport where we become attached to the rhythm of the season and individual careers, where you connect to the 20 year veteran or the one year wonder, the career minor league player who is called up in September to have their cup of coffee in the big leagues before starting the rest of their lives doing something else.  Its a game where every year we watch a new rookie phenom launch their yet to be determined hall of fame career and the aging veteran that plays their last game and tips their hat to the crowd.  Its a game, where as I aged, I rooted for the rookie that was my age, then rooted for the oldest player in the league that was my age, and now root for the players that are my children’s ages and someday, if I am lucky, will root for players that will be my grand children’s ages.  Its a game where the retiring veterans mentor the next generation and the rookies inspire hope in the most grizzled cynic.   It’s the circle of life, playing out, year after year. If this sounds grandiose, then you don’t understand my version of baseball.

Mostly, baseball is a game that connects me to the memories of my Mother.  Through thick and thin, the inevitable issues that arise in Mother-son relationships, we could always talk about baseball.  “How about that box score” was a phrase that brought us back round to what was important more than once, not baseball, but our relationship.  It was our secret code to drop the bullshit and get on with it!

Baseball connected my Mother and I when she lived in Saudi Arabia and I called her in the middle of the night to tell her Kirby Pucket and Kent Hrbek had carried the day and won the World Series in 1987.   Baseball tied us together for the 28 years when she lived in New York and then Oakland and we would plan a trip in June to watch the last game of the year in September, either in Minnesota or Oakland, whether the teams were good or not, and were fortunate to watch our team win the division in the final series of the year in more years than we ever believed possible. We went to a game of baseball as part of her visit to Minnesota or my visit to see her every year.  Baseball is a game that regardless of the outcome of the games we went to watch together, we enjoyed each other’s company and the 9 inning conversation that ensued about our lives.   It’s a game that brought out the best in our relationship and reminded us of what fun it is to be a fan of life.

Baseball is just a game in which one person throws a ball and the other tries to hit it where no one can catch it and how ridiculously hard that simple concept is. It’s a game where skill and luck and human fallibility play an equal role in success and failure.  Sound familiar?

Play ball…..Go Twins!

P.S. My mother and I used to have Limerick contests.  She usually won, but here’s one of my few winning entries…


A Pitcher Named Sylvester

by T. A. Fry

There once was a pitcher named Sylvester
Who had trouble with his pants polyester.
When during his windup
His pants would bind up
The parts that make him a mister.

He tried wearing a larger size jock.
And not tucking his pants into his socks.
But the only solution
To stop the contusion
Was to switch from pants to a frock.

His new uniform caused quite a twitter.
The fans jeered and threw at him litter.
But he stuck out his tongue
And won the Cy-Young.
While striking out the leagues best hitters!

My Love Is Like To Ice

file1-1
Greenland Ice Cap – Photograph by Olaf Otto Becker 2008.
Fire And Ice

by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Amoretti XXX: My Love is like to ice, and I to fire

BY EDMUND SPENSER
My Love is like to ice, and I to fire:
How comes it then that this her cold so great
Is not dissolved through my so hot desire,
But harder grows the more I her entreat?
Or how comes it that my exceeding heat
Is not allayed by her heart-frozen cold,
But that I burn much more in boiling sweat,
And feel my flames augmented manifold?
What more miraculous thing may be told,
That fire, which all things melts, should harden ice,
And ice, which is congeal’d with senseless cold,
Should kindle fire by wonderful device?
Such is the power of love in gentle mind,
That it can alter all the course of kind.

I have an obscure interest in first person accounts of arctic exploration from about 1880 to 1930.  This was a period when men and women still traveled and explored for the sheer adventure of being the first to go some where.  My favorite writers are Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen, two college friends, who established the Thule trading station in Greenland as a way to support their real goals, which was to accomplish many firsts exploring the uncharted territory of Greenland and northern Canada and along the way record the ethnography and history of the people of the frozen North. Rasmussen and Freuchen had no interest in going to the North Pole, for it lacked the one thing that fascinated them the most – the Intuit people.

Rasmussen was a anthropologist who was collecting the stories and oral history of the Intuit.  Rasmussen and Freuchen both embraced the Intuit way of life, the people and their culture and were uniquely suited for this task.  Rasmussen was the son of Missionary and an Intuit woman, who was raised in a traditional village in Greenland, but returned to Denmark for his college education where he met Fruechen.  His tales of Greenland and its rugged spirit, inspired the two friends to set out on a life long series of adventures that stand to this day as some of the most remarkable journeys in arctic history.

Freuchen and Rasmussen
Peter Freuchen and Knud Rasmussen

The two of them accomplished what I consider to be the most incredible arctic feat of exploration ever – the unsupported Fifth Thule expedition.  The expedition set out to scientifically prove the origin of the Inuit people, and collect the evidence to help the rest of the world have a broader understanding of this remarkable culture.  In a completely self sufficient, unsupported and unresupplied expedition, 7 people on dogsled set out from Greenland to cross over the ice to Canada. After a year of careful documentation  of the people and ancient sites of Eastern northernmost Canada, several of the members of the expedition were physically unable to continue, including Freuchen, who suffered extreme frost bite on one leg, eventually resulting in its amputation below the knee. Rasmussen was undeterred and would continue with one man and one woman for 2 and half more years.  The three of them would cover 18,000 miles over the course of three years of traversing and criss-crossing all of Northern Canada, across the bearing straight into Russia, only to be denied further passage by Russian authorities, and then back to Alaska, to catch passage and sail back to Greenland. Rasmussen published his journey and scientific findings in a seven volume set and proves what Rasmussen himself accomplished, which is the Intuit people settled the entire top of the world by their ingenuity, athleticism and complete adaptation to the arctic environment.  He proved that even in the most isolated areas of the arctic there was a common language, common stories, common religion, common technologies that tied these people together into one society of origin.

Knud Rasmussen
Knud Rasmussen

Global warming has made the type of expeditions that Rasmussen and Fruechen accomplished impossible, because there is too much unstable ice and open water during the winter in areas that they crossed safely with dog sleds 100 years ago.

The arctic cold has been a natural barrier of protection for the amazing ecosystems of the far north.  An environment that was until recently, only experienced by the native people and few adventurers that had the ability to overcome the austerity of the conditions to thrive in extreme elements.  I fear that with that barrier of ice and cold diminishing, there will be a renewed fervor by governments and business interests to send expeditions to the North in coming years, not to chart its lands and waters  for the sake of pure knowledge and adventure, but to extract samples and create outposts that can facilitate the extraction and exploitation of oil, minerals and natural resources waiting beneath the ice that will be more accessible in the future to a world greedy to strip the arctic of whatever  can be exploited to make a buck.

The Northwest Passage, an elusive dream for hundreds of years, is about to become a normalized shipped lane, open to a wide variety of vessels for long periods during the summer months.   And with the sudden increase in shipping traffic to this fragile ecosystem, bring a whole new level of pressure with unknowable consequences to our planet.  I am sure that neither Peter Freuchen or Knud Rasmussen ever conceived of a reality where their beloved Greenland would be threatened by the melting of the very ice cap that makes Greenland unique.


 

Greenland

By T. A. Fry

I should like to go to Greenland
Where ice calves into blue bays.
I would like to go to Greenland
Before it’s glaciers melt away.

I am in wonder of a Greenland
Where all the green is white.
I ponder what I’ve done Dear
To protect the arctic night.

Can we conceive the sky is warming?
Imagine all that sinks beneath?
Sixty meters of rising water
Our modernity will bequeath.

Do we honestly think we’ll build
Dykes strong enough to hold?
Do we honestly think we’ve willed
A future worthy to behold?

It’ll take a thousand years
To melt every single drop.
Will future Pioneers
Have the will to make it stop?

I should like to go to Greenland.
Just not the Greenland of today.
I’d like to go to a Greenland
Where ice is borne to stay.

 

What Have You In Your Heart

IMG_4892

 

A Shropshire Lad: XXXII

By A. E. Housman

From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither: here am I.

Now—for a breath I tarry
Nor yet disperse apart—
Take my hand quick and tell me
What have you in your heart.

Speak now, and I will answer;
How shall I help you, say;
Ere to the wind’s twelve quarters
I take my endless way.


 

Whew! It’s March and a burst of spring sunshine today betrayed the nearly foot of fresh snow of the past week, melting it rapidly.  March is the month of muddy foot prints on kitchen floors in Minnesota. The earth comes out of its frozen slumber wet and slimy, attaching itself to everything with which it comes into contact,  reminding us that the ubiquitous stubbornness of clay and organic matter is the very stuff from which new life springs. The beauty of spring flowers doesn’t come from April showers, it comes from the black muck that holds the nutrients that feed beauty.

It’s time to move on into more playful fare in this blog. I used the month of February to stray into history and politics, probably wearing everyone out,  temporarily avoiding the true reason for starting this blog; the exploration of poetry as a mirror by which love is reflected.  Love is a complicated thing.  I’m lucky.  I have had good role models for love my entire life, by those around me and those that have been gracious enough to love me.  I hope love continues to teach this old dog a few more new tricks.

 

Once in A Blue Moon

blue-moon-supermoon-2018
Super Blue Moon Jan. 31 2018

To Science

by Edgar Allen Poe

Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car,
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?

 

Crooked Handle

By T. A. Fry

Crooked handle, points of light,
Ladle full of black delight,
Obscured from sight or burning bright,
The dipper points due north.

It’s infinite, a soup of dreams.
Laughter broth with tiger cream,
For pig-tailed girls, little boys lean
Who dare to venture forth.

What of those who turn away?
Or hunker down and choose to stay.
Who hate the night, embrace the day,
And face the sunshine south.

Restraint is in the milky way,
River of light, come what may.
For roosters crow and donkeys bray
With a smiling mouth.

Then there’s those that love the moon.
It’s gentle light, a babies croon,
A swooping owl, a laughing loon,
Peace rises in the east.

The moon it waxes and it wanes,
Outside our doors and window panes.
Old or young, it’s all the same.
The grateful at a feast.

Adventurers and nestled stones,
Withered muscle, sturdy bone,
A crowded dance or home alone,
Our lonely sun sails west.

The sun it rises and it sets,
The miser saves, the gambler bets
A desert’s dry, an ocean’s  wet,
Your love my welcome guest.


© 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.

Not As One, But As A Tribe

Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)
Definition 11.  “Poetry is a series of explanations of life, fading off into horizons too swift for explanations.”
Carl Sandburg

Let Me Tell You What A Poem Brings

by Juan Felipe Herrera

Before you go further,
let me tell you what a poem brings,
first, you must know the secret, there is no poem
to speak of, it is a way to attain a life without boundaries,
yes, it is that easy, a poem, imagine me telling you this,
instead of going day by day against the razors, well,
the judgments, all the tick-tock bronze, a leather jacket
sizing you up, the fashion mall, for example, from
the outside you think you are being entertained,
when you enter, things change, you get caught by surprise,
your mouth goes sour, you get thirsty, your legs grow cold
standing still in the middle of a storm, a poem, of course,
is always open for business too, except, as you can see,
it isn’t exactly business that pulls your spirit into
the alarming waters, there you can bathe, you can play,
you can even join in on the gossip—the mist, that is,
the mist becomes central to your existence.


Sonnet 9

by Carl Sandburg

Fair is the rising morn when o’er the sky
The orient sun expands his roseate ray,
And lovely to the Bard’s enthusiast eye
Fades the meek radiance of departing day;
But fairer is the smile of one we love,
Than all the scenes in Nature’s ample sway.
And sweeter than the music of the grove,
The voice that bids us welcome. Such delight
EDITH! is mine, escaping to thy sight
From the hard durance of the empty throng.
Too swiftly then towards the silent night
Ye Hours of happiness! ye speed along,
Whilst I, from all the World’s cold cares apart,
Pour out the feelings of my burthen’d heart.


There are blog posts I know I should end without commentary, let the poems speak for themselves.   This is one of those posts, where my inner voice screams “Stop, you’ll ruin it,” and like an idiot, I ignore that voice and push on anyways.

I think there are many others, like myself, who find respite in poetry. I believe it is a global,  powerful, informed group of  individuals, who by their very nature, are diverse, complicated and have developed, maybe without evening knowing it, their own definitions of poetry, like Carl Sandburg….


Not As One, But As A Tribe

by T. A. Fry

Not as one, but as a tribe
Held to a mark befit our bent,
With poets as our willing scribes.
A writ of civic sacraments.

A language we can all abide;
Like wind before a wild horse.
Ideas that sweep along our lives
Allegory to avail our course.

Who lauds our lyric heroes now?
Inspirer’s of a greater good.
Words to guide what we avow,
Signposts in a darkening wood.

What laureate shall stake their claim
As mirror to a better world?
And silence critics that proclaim
They alone turn sand to pearls.


© 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.

Not Too Many

Burl
Burl On A Tree

“Love her but leave her wild….”
– Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

I was in Calgary, Alberta this week, reading the morning paper, and came across an article regarding the small Canadian press Coach House Books.  This prestigious literary firm is taking a hiatus on accepting new poetry manuscripts, as they are rethinking their business model on the financial viability of publishing poetry moving forward.  Such is the state of things in the poetry world. I appreciate those of you who take the time to read my blog and choose to make poetry part of your day.

I enjoy simple Saturday mornings, waking up with nothing better to do than write. Yesterday was one such morning.  My subconscious had been messing with several ideas over the course of the week that turned into the following sonnet. Celebrating my children’s birthday has that effect on me, contemplating passage of time.

A Neil Gaiman quote I totally relate to is:

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”

This sonnet, Not Too Many,  has all the things I enjoy about writing sonnets; double meanings, contradictions, internal rhyming, good mouth feel when read aloud and the ability to be reinterpreted by the reader.

A note about burls.  A burl on a tree is a reaction to some kind of foreign stress, most often by an insect, virus or fungus, that causes the tree to wall it up in beauty, protecting itself and the newcomer, changing the very nature of their interaction. Burls can be above ground and visible or below ground and hidden but are always covered in bark and nurtured by the tree.


 

Not Too Many

By T. A. Fry

Why does old love wend its own designs?
In the game of love, I have taken licks
Been knocked down, learned new tricks, only to find
Sometimes, it was mere lust or politics.
Then came children and something wild grew.
Love became an ache that took my breath away
It’s fierce, complex, bigger than I ever knew.
Love’s not negotiable, it’s here to stay,
And stay and stay, like a burl on a tree,
Each ring a wrinkle,  love’s softer side,
Another bulge to indulge entirely.
For love is the lotion that tanned this hide.
If I had a choice, not one, but any
I would mend love with words, not too many.


© 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.