And Yours, Must Ransom Me

Judith Lopping off Head
“I haven’t seen your old boyfriend around lately, whatever happened to him?”                                                                                                                                                                            Orazio Gentileschi, c. 1624l,  Judith lopping off Holofornes head.
There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.
–Shel Silverstein –  Every Thing on It

Take Me Home

By T. A. Fry

It came to nothing, nothing less than grief.
A grief of narrows, a prescience lessened,
No – depleted of volition, beneath
Lame-blames of why bright love prescinds.
In the end, you would not let me buy
Even cream.  Nothing too small to be denied,
Each offered comfort for a grievous sigh,
Cups of bitter-black cooling as we cried.
I asked, “what part of it was not belief?”
You said, “All of it”. . . . Apparent you thought
Something could be bent by love into relief
When all alone, that right has to be wrought.
If these truths are not enough to batten,
Then down, down, deep-down, the hatches fasten.


 

I think praying mantis have romance figured out.  There are certain species of mantis and arachnids that the females bewitch their male suitors with enticing pheromones (Chanel #5) and after having wild sex with them, they bite off their heads while the males are still in orgasmic bliss, consuming them for a little post-coital protein snack so that they don’t have to get out of bed to go to the fridge. The only downside is Pfizer’s business model for Viagra would be shot to hell, no repeat customers but at least us miserable sex-smitten suckers would be put out of our misery in one final act of glory, or is that gory…..

EUROPEAN PRAYING MANTIS

I am not suggesting that we legalize patricide or boyfriendicide but in the #metoo moment that we currently live in I do think we might be able to pass a bill that would reinstate the use of public stocks as punishment for a week as part of a rehabilitation program prior to going to prison 5 to 10 years for men like Bill Cosby or  Harvey Weinstein.

But what happens when love ends the good old-fashioned way, it disappears behind a pail of dirty diapers or under a mountain of bills, and the vagaries of life and health overcome romance?  That’s when we are left to wondering, why wasn’t love enough and regretting that we somehow couldn’t make it work.


 

Sonnet 120

by William Shakespeare

That you were once unkind befriends me now,
And for that sorrow, which I then did feel,
Needs must I under my transgression bow,
Unless my nerves were brass or hammered steel.
For if you were by my unkindness shaken,
As I by yours, you’ve passed a hell of time;
And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken
To weigh how once I suffered in your crime.
O! that our night of woe might have remembered
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,
And soon to you, as you to me, then tendered
The humble salve, which wounded bosoms fits!
But that your trespass now becomes a fee;
Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me.


© 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.

What Good Is Logic When Hearts Yearn For Glory?

The Bather
Downtown Toledo, Ohio on the Maumee River

Peace Lasting

by T. A. Fry

Where do I sail to find a peace lasting?
Before the sunrise, beneath rosy skies.
A calm to break my keen heart’s fasting.
An unexpected surprise, in your arms to lie.

Let’s leave these fierce seas for a safer bastion.
This bed our keep, your kiss a vise.
Enjoy this moment lest it be our last one,
Either awake or asleep, love has its price.

What be the truth with but faith to carry?
Don’t question why, hold fast to grace.
Unfold your heart be it ever so wary.
Our tenderness shy,  only hope to embrace.

What good is logic when hearts yearn for glory?
I’ll dream these dreams, scheme my schemes.
Your hand on my face, the simplest of stories,
As your smile gleams, love’s brightest beams.

Lying side by side we could shelter forever,
A harbor, this union; two bodies entwined.
Let us pray even death is unable to sever
this communion of souls,  together enshrined.

As my warmth enfolds you above the waves beating,
time inches forward, alone I awake.
Your memory sustains me.  Our passion though fleeting,
turned sailor from coward, unmoored fear from its stake.

Serene,  I lay silent, daydreaming your presence,
recalling past loving when we slipped our skin.
I ask of no one, to grant me my essence, or
becalm my peace roving, there you are, once again.


 

I wrote the first stanza of this poem, in my head, while out for a walk on a September day in 2014 before the sun had risen above the horizon along the Maumee River in downtown Toledo, Ohio. I was making my way down the river front and came across the abandoned coal-fired Edison Electric plant that is of some historical importance but not enough to save it from dereliction. A ground hog was having some breakfast in the grass and I stopped to keep him company. It made me look around and take stock of my surroundings. Near the relic is a beautiful life-like bronze statue of a woman, sitting atop a ships mooring. Slightly upstream from her, on that particular morning, was a dock at water level that was covered in sleeping sea gulls. The bronze statue of the naked young woman looked to me to be searching the horizon. Her hand to her face, her knee raised, she was looking out over the river, as a bather, a lover, or an adventurer, day-dreaming and my inspiration.

Either she or the ground hog was my muse that morning, at least for the first 4 lines. I wrote this poem before my obsession with sonnets had begun. It would be many weeks later until a workable draft of this poem would emerge and several months before the finished version would take hold.

I am always fascinated by how some poetry flows when read aloud and some, like much of John Berryman’s or Donald Hall’s is clunky or stilted, the words preferring the silence of an inner reading voice to match the dialogue of the poets mind as it was written.  Peace Lasting is a poem that I recommend reading aloud. I took great care in word-smithing every line to insure it flowed, in meter, in word selection and in rhyme. The idea of word-smithing, like a blacksmith, is something I take very seriously as a writer. I wonder sometimes if readers understand this and see in poetry a glimpse of the writer, writing like they have a piece of red hot iron in tongs, too hot to touch directly with their hands, a writing instrument separating the words from their flesh, heating it, beating on it, re-heating, shaping, forming through fire, as if the words on the paper are being flattened on an anvil at the forge, until its finally ready to be quenched and solidified.  Peace Lasting is about the quiet resonance of past and current relationships in our dream state of waking.


Time Does Not Bring Relief

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,–so with his memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!


© 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

IMG_0647
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.

The Past Was Nearer Then

Kids with popsicles
The Final Lazy Days of Summer

The Past Was Nearer Then

By T. A. Fry

Awakening to warbling of a wren,
Remembering when, the future bade
As unending line. The past was nearer then,
A shadowland, where tears were unafraid.
Afternoon shade slipped by on green grass blades
Beneath canvas hammock  as my tent.
No other purpose than to play was weighed.
And orange popsicles were heaven sent.
No divine mystery to be unwrapped.
It lay before me with simplicity.
Choose cool shadows or sunshine for my nap,
And snooze without hint of duplicity.
Then, a long summer evening to be spent,
Devoid of care or thought of where it went.  

Soaked In Our Broken Wave

_seamus_heaney
Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

Requiem For The Croppies

by Seamus Heaney

The pockets of our great coats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.


Poetry manifest as a reminder of bravery in the face of injustice has a long history in literature. It is the stuff from which epics and legends arise. Seamus Haney’s poem is about the battle at Vinegar Hill where 15,000 Irish rebels, many armed with only pikes, were outgunned by the English bent on slaughter and extermination. The English deploying a professional army of nearly 20,000 men, replete with cavalary, cannons equiped with newly invented shrapnel artillery shells to more effectively rain death down upon your enemy from afar. To say the battle at Vinegar Hill was a mismatch is an understatement.  Courage and luck were on the rebels side and though 1,200 died that day, many of the dead women and children camping with the rebel army for protection, the majority escaped through a gap in the lines and lived to fight another day.

My daughter spent a semester abroad in England a few years ago and during her spring break I picked her up in London and we rented a car and drove to Edinburgh, Scotland. We rented a flat for five days and tramped our way around the sites on the Royal mile, visiting museums, art galleries, churches and castles packed into the center of that marvelous city.  It was my first time in Scotland and the history of war between the Scots and the English is a bit overwhelming for a Minnesotan.  But the biggest surprise to me was the history of Scottish on Scottish violence.  It would be easy to characterize the long history of conflict between the English and Scots or the English and the Irish as the fault of English domination and cruelty, but the darker truth is much of the history of violence throughout all three countries arose from local conflicts over land, power and control. Religion was not the true root of the conflict during the clearing of the Scottish highlands, it was a shallow excuse for the brutal dislocation of the rural poor.  The conflict was really about power and the wealth that came from it between the landed gentry and the rural peasants who lived on that land.

I had never heard of the clearing the Scottish highlands prior to my visit to Scotland and what was interesting was how little it was discussed in all the museums we attended.  It came to light while visiting with an employee at a Scottish museum on the shores of Loch Ness and once I came aware of it, it helped knit together a more complex history of the United Kingdom.  The clearing of the highlands began about the same time as the great famine in Ireland and in many ways is relatively modern history.  The Scottish peasants were forcibly driven into the cities from the end of the 18th century and continued into the mid 19th Century.  These were poor farmers dislocated from their agrarian cattle based existence not by famine but by force, to be displaced by sheep that did not need a large rural labor force for landowners to make money.  The clearing forced the poor, largely illiterate peasants into slums in rapidly expanding cities to become cheap labor for the industrial revolution.  Industrial factories owned by the same wealthy land owners, industries like fabric mills in Paisley and the ship building industry across Scotland that utilized iron and coal mined locally.  The clearing of the Scottish highlands marked a transition across the region from rural to urban, from agrarian to industrial, from a mix of pagan/Catholicism to Presbyterianism, a change in perspective in the way the average person looked at the world in which they lived and the way they made their living.

It’s hard to walk away from a visit to Scotland and figure out where does justice reside? Each side, (the Scots and the English, the Protestants and the Catholics, the Anglicans versus everyone else) committed so many atrocities over such a long period of time that it is amazing that a United Kingdom ever came to be. Each side lionized their heroes and victories with monuments and poems.  But after visiting at least one castle a day for a week, I got the impression that the past 1000 years were one continuous battle, everybody fighting everyone else that was the  “other” for their one square inch upon which to scratch an existence.

The history of Presbyterianism came alive during that visit, its birthplace the revolutionary Calvinist principles that would supplant the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church with small free kirks (churches), whose seat of power was local and largely democratic.  The protestant reformation changed how many viewed their relationship with their God and alliance to King and Country. Is it any surprise then, that the evolution of the Church of Scotland, which is the Presbyterian Church, would result in bloodshed?  The institutions of religion, royalty and governance so intertwined in Scotland, Ireland and England that change could only come about through violence. It’s a history that is very relevant today around independence and Brexit and the advantages and disadvantages of local populism versus larger economic collectivism.

The following poem wrote itself one afternoon, while sitting in the park on top Calton Hill overlooking the city, the rhymes and rhythms of the past echoing into the present.


Reformation

by T. A. Fry

Speyside.  Wayside.   Go round the roundabout.
Hang’em high!  Crucify!  While women scream and shout.
If it’s my fate to make a date, with a Scottish maiden.
Then bless the martyrs just for starters and send me off to Satan.

In the High Kirk or Free Kirk, we’ll say our common prayers.
Jenny Geddes said “Come and get us, King Charles if you dare.”
But the Jacobites were not affright; took up the Bishop’s cause.
To kill free men and say Amen, to the King’s unholy laws.

Playfair.  Wayfair.  A call from Calton Hill.
“If we’re to die then let ’m try to enforce the conventicle.”
For John Brown was gunned down with polity on his side.
The King’s men shot again and justice was denied.

Claverhouse, a clever louse, the English devil’s son.
He took to killing for his living, ‘till Scotland was undone.
“I don’t need a reason to call it treason,” laughed the Bluidy Clavers.
“So fall in line for the killing time, the dying’s just begun.”

Merciful Doubt

touch me

“Poetry gets to the unseen reality, that which is beyond the concept of reality, that which  transcends all thoughts, yet putting you in there and then in some way giving you a line to connect you to the mystery that you are…”

Joseph Campbell

Merciful Doubt

by T. A. Fry

Merciful Doubt. Cradle me in darkness.
Let mystery reign over my mortal coil.
An easier route might be to harness.
The comfort of faith in a God’s holy soil.
But no God of mine writes in words I can seize.
Her voice like bubbles that burst in the sun.
Such obvious beauty, a clear diocese.
The spirit of peace from which I have come.
Into Earth’s brilliance, I bask in her splendor.
Neither fearful of doubt,  nor troubled of mind.
Imperfect always, striving to blend her
Into my soul, becoming immortal in kind.
Behold the soft moonlight, bathe in its tides.
All things before me, in doubt I abide.

 


I have been re-watching the Bill Moyer interviews with Joseph Campbell and enjoying his eloquent discussions of keeping myth and religion alive and relevant in our increasingly secular modern world.  For many of us, change is happening beyond the speed or ability of myth and religion to clarify.  As the secular becomes an ever-increasing presence in our society, there opens a void  or vacuum of common understanding, a communication gap, where we lack a common experience or common language to satisfy our needs for atonement, inspiration, renunciation, commitment, sense of community with personal and societal honesty.

The history and artifacts of all of the world’s major religions are filled with humanity’s greatest artistic achievements, in architecture, art, music and literature.  These achievements are sacred at their core, and in that way contain a timeless human “truth” to enter the realm of reverence through belief into something greater than ourselves. The problems arise when religion becomes weighed down by the weight of a convoluted bureaucracy of the inconsistencies of the business of religion and the fallibility of the very leadership which is ordained to uphold it’s most sacred ideals.

“You have to break past the image of God to get through to the connoted illumination. The psychologist Jung has a relevant saying: “Religion is a defense against the experience of God.” The mystery has been reduced to a set of concepts and ideas, and emphasizing these concepts and ideas can short-circuit the transcendent, connoted experience…..An intense experience of mystery is what one has to regard as the ultimate religious experience.”

 Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth 1988.

So where do I go to find the sacred?  Nature, art, poetry, literature, the divine within each of us manifested as love are all solid answers.  The sacred can be found in the appreciation of life all around us, the appreciation of each other. Campbell expresses it beautifully, “I  see life as a poem written from a vocabulary, not of words, but of acts and adventures which connotes something transcendent, which informs the whole, so that I feel more in accord with the universal being.”

So why begin with doubt and return to it, again and again in my writing?  Every religion began with components of doubt as well as faith, doubt of the beliefs codified in the society from which the new religion arose. And every branch that formed from that religion came from both faith and doubt’s pruning shears as well.  Doubt is a fundamental quality of reverence.   It balances that which accept with that which is beyond our understanding.


© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines.blog, 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.blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content..

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.