A Thousand Kisses Deep

roman-mosaic-kiss (1)
Roman Mosaic

 

Carmen 5

by Gaius Valerius Catullus

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
And let us judge the rumors of old men
To be the worth of just one penny!
The suns are able to fall and rise:
When that brief light has fallen for us,
We must sleep a never ending night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,
Then another thousand, then a second hundred,
Then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
We will mix them up so that we don’t know,
And so that no one can be jealous of us when they find out
How many kisses we have shared.

 

 

A Thousand Kisses Deep

by Leonard Cohen

The ponies run,
the girls are young,
The odds are there to beat.

You win a while,
and then it’s done
Your little winning streak.
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat.
You live your life as if it’s real,
A Thousand Kisses Deep.

I’m turning tricks,
I’m getting fixed,
I’m back on Boogie Street.

You lose your grip,
and then you slip
Into the Masterpiece.

And maybe I had miles to drive,
And promises to keep:
You ditch it all to stay alive,
A Thousand Kisses Deep.

And sometimes when the night is slow,
The wretched and the meek,
We gather up our hearts and go,
A Thousand Kisses Deep.

Confined to sex, we pressed against
The limits of the sea:
I saw there were no oceans left
For scavengers like me.

I made it to the forward deck.
I blessed our remnant fleet –
And then consented to be wrecked,
A Thousand Kisses Deep.

I’m turning tricks,
I’m getting fixed,
I’m back on Boogie Street.

I guess they won’t exchange the gifts
That you were meant to keep.
And quiet is the thought of you,
The file on you complete,
Except what we forgot to do,
A Thousand Kisses Deep.

And sometimes when the night is slow,
The wretched and the meek,
We gather up our hearts and go,
A Thousand Kisses Deep.

The ponies run, the girls are young,
The odds are there to beat.
You win a while, and then it’s done
– Your little winning streak.

And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat.
You live your life as if it’s real,
A Thousand Kisses Deep.

 

Hell Hath No Fury

William Congreve
William Congreve (1670 – 1729)
Zara  Act III
“Can’st thou forgive me then? wilt thou believe
So kindly of my Fault, to call it Madness?
O, give that Madness yet a milder Name,
And call it Passion; then, be still more kind,
And call that Passion Love.”
William Congreve

 

 

End of Act V.
By William Congreve

EPILOGUE

THE Tragedy thus done, I am, you know,
No more a Princess, but in statu quo:
And now as unconcern’d this Mourning wear,
As if indeed a Widow, or an Heir.
I’ve leisure, now, to mark your sev’ral Faces,
And know each Critic by his sowre Grimaces.
To poison Plays, I see some where they fit,
Scatter’d, like Rats-bane, up and down the Pit;
While others watch like Parish-Searchers,
hir’d To tell of what Disease the Play expir’d.
O with what Joy they run, to spread the News
Of a damn’d Poet, and departed Muse!
But if he ‘scape, with what Regret they’re seiz’d!
And how they’re disappointed if they’re pleas’d!
Critics to Plays for the same end resort,
That Surgeons wait on Trials in a Court;
For Innocence condemn’d they’ve no Respect,
Provided they’ve a Body to dissect.
As Sussex Men, that dwell upon the Shoar,
Look out when Storms arise, and Billows roar,
Devoutly praying, with uplifted Hands,
That some well-laden Ship may strike the Sands;
To whose Rich Cargo they may make Pretence,
And fatten on the Spoils of Providence:
So Critics throng to see a New Play split,
And thrive and prosper on the Wrecks of Wit.
Small Hope our Poet from these Prospects draws;
And therefore to the Fair commends his Cause.
Your tender Hearts to Mercy are inclin’d,
With whom, he hopes, this Play will Favour find,
Which was an Off’ring to the Sex design’d.

FINIS


 

 

Home To Your Heart

 

Wallace-Stevens-portrait
Wallace Stevens (1879 – 1955)

 

“One thing I am convinced more and more is true and that is this: the only way to be truly happy is to make others happy. When you realize that and take advantage of the fact, everything is made perfect.”

William Carlos Williams in letter to his Mother, published in Selected Letters 1957.

 

Slow Movement

by William Carlos Williams

All those treasures that lie in the little bolted box whose tiny space is
Mightier than the room of the stars, being secret and filled with dreams:
All those treasures—I hold them in my hand—are straining continually
Against the sides and the lid and the two ends of the little box in which I guard them;
Crying that there is no sun come among them this great while and that they weary of shining;
Calling me to fold back the lid of the little box and to give them sleep finally.

But the night I am hiding from them, dear friend, is far more desperate than their night!
And so I take pity on them and pretend to have lost the key to the little house of my treasures;
For they would die of weariness were I to open it, and not be merely faint and sleepy
As they are now.


I am a little envious of artists whose skill and daring make it possible for them to earn a living as an artist.  I have never had such pluck.  I am in good company when it comes to poets in that regard.  Many of the poets I admire and who helped shape the poetic language of the 20th Century did not make their living as a poet.  William Carlos Williams was a doctor, a general practitioner in Patterson, NY and Wallace Stevens was an executive for a insurance company in New York City.  Either could be the patron saint of the responsible adult toiling daily in a job they may or may not love, but which gives structure and financial stability to their life so that in their free time they can pursue their art.

Both Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams pushed the boundaries of free verse and helped redefine American poetry. William’s wrote in Modern American Poetry (1950); “The job of the poet is to use language effectively, his own language, the only language which is to him authentic.”  Neither WCW or Stevens is known for classical poetry, quite the opposite, they are known for their free verse, and yet, like most poets, the sonnet form is like a siren calling them to the shore, and they are inspired to take their turn in wrestling with tradition.


Explain My Spirit

by Wallace Stevens

Explain my spirit—adding word to word,
As if the exposition gave delight.
Reveal me, lover, to myself more bright.
“You are a twilight, and a twilight bird.”
Again! For all the untroubled senses stirred,
Conceived anew, like callow wings in flight,
Bearing desire toward an upper light.
“You are a twilight, and a twilight bird.”

Burn in my shadows, Hesperus, my own,
And look upon me with a triumphant fire.
Behold, how glorious the dark has grown!
My wings shall beat all night against your breast,
Heavy with music—feel them there aspire
Home to your heart, as to a hidden nest.

 

Breaking Into Blossom

Robert Bly
Robert Bly  (1926 to present)

Seeing The Eclipse in Maine

by Robert Bly

It started about noon.  On top of Mount Batte,
We were all exclaiming.  Someone had a cardboard
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.

It was hard to believe.  The high school teacher
We’d met called it a pinhole camera,
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.
And when the moon had passed partly through

We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,
Dozens of crescents—made the same way—
Thousands!  Even our straw hats produced
A few as we moved them over the bare granite.

We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine
Told a joke.  Suns were everywhere—at our feet.

 


Is poetry a monologue or a dialogue?   An old question, easily answered from my perspective;  it is a dialogue, poetry is a conversation, its up to you to figure out the response.

Robert Bly was born in Madison, Minnesota and continues to live and work in Western Minnesota to the present day.   Robert Bly and James Arlington Wright were friends, and helped put Midwestern poetry on the map in the 1950’s.  Bly’s life work as a poet is vast, expanding the wealth of English literature by translating a diverse range of poets across many languages with a focus on the spiritual in addition to his many collections of his own poetry.

I worked in Lac Qui Parle County, the landscape of much of Bly’s poetry, for 7 years in the 1990’s.   Bly may travel the world within his writing, but it is all grounded in the rich clay silt loam of the prairie.  I find it reassuring to see a glimpse of the land I have traveled as an Agronomist for 30 plus years within the poetry of both Bly and Wright.

Bly and Wright traveled very different personal paths in using poetry to wrestle with their demons. Bly being older by one year and yet outliving Wright by 38 years and counting.   Wright’s depression is palpable within his poetry, but rather than lessen the experience it heightens it.  Both Bly and Wright poetry invite a discussion on the wonderment of this planet and the human condition.


A Blessing Poem

by James Arlington Wright (1927 – 1980)

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

 

 

While We Glide By

William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963)

Uses of Poetry

by William Carlos Williams

I’ve fond anticipation of a day
O’erfilled with pure diversion presently,
For I must read a lady poesy
The while we glide by many a leafy bay,

Hid deep in rushes, where at random play
The glossy black winged May-flies, or whence flee
Hush-throated nestlings in alarm,
Whom we have idly frighted with our boat’s long sway.

For, lest o’ersaddened by such woes as spring
To rural peace from our meek onward trend,
What else more fit? We’ll draw the latch-string

And close the door of sense; then satiate wend,
On poesy’s transforming giant wing,
To worlds afar whose fruits all anguish mend.


A Letter To William Carlos Willaims

by Kenneth Rexroth

Dear Bill,

When I search the past for you,
Sometimes I think you are like
St. Francis, whose flesh went out
Like a happy cloud from him,
And merged with every lover—
Donkeys, flowers, lepers, suns—
But I think you are more like
Brother Juniper, who suffered
All indignities and glories
Laughing like a gentle fool.
You’re in the Fioretti
Somewhere, for you’re a fool, Bill,
Like the Fool in Yeats, the term
Of all wisdom and beauty.
It’s you, stands over against
Helen in all her wisdom,
Solomon in all his glory.

Remember years ago, when
I told you you were the first
Great Franciscan poet since
The Middle Ages? I disturbed
The even tenor of dinner.
Your wife thought I was crazy.
It’s true, though. And you’re “pure,” too,
A real classic, though not loud
About it—a whole lot like
The girls of the Anthology.
Not like strident Sappho, who
For all her grandeur, must have
Had endometriosis,
But like Anyte, who says
Just enough, softly, for all
The thousands of years to remember.

It’s a wonderful quiet
You have, a way of keeping
Still about the world, and its
Dirty rivers, and garbage cans,
Red wheelbarrows glazed with rain,
Cold plums stolen from the icebox,
And Queen Anne’s lace, and day’s eyes,
And leaf buds bursting over
Muddy roads, and splotched bellies
With babies in them, and Cortes
And Malinche on the bloody
Causeway, the death of the flower world.

Nowadays, when the press reels
With chatterboxes, you keep still,
Each year a sheaf of stillness,
Poems that have nothing to say,
Like the stillness of George Fox,
Sitting still under the cloud
Of all the world’s temptation,
By the fire, in the kitchen,
In the Vale of Beavor. And
The archetype, the silence
Of Christ, when he paused a long
Time and then said, “Thou sayest it.”

Now in a recent poem you say,
“I who am about to die.”
Maybe this is just a tag
From the classics, but it sends
A shudder over me. Where
Do you get that stuff, Williams?
Look at here. The day will come
When a young woman will walk
By the lucid Williams River,
Where it flows through an idyllic
News from Nowhere sort of landscape,
And she will say to her children,
“Isn’t it beautiful? It
Is named after a man who
Walked here once when it was called
The Passaic, and was filthy
With the poisonous excrements
Of sick men and factories.
He was a great man. He knew
It was beautiful then, although
Nobody else did, back there
In the Dark Ages. And the
Beautiful river he saw
Still flows in his veins, as it
Does in ours, and flows in our eyes,
And flows in time, and makes us
Part of it, and part of him.
That, children, is what is called
A sacramental relationship.
And that is what a poet
Is, children, one who creates
Sacramental relationships
That last always.”

.        .With love and admiration,

 .         .Kenneth Rexroth.


	

The Beat of Life is Wearing Me

HazelHall
Hazel Hall (1886 – 1924)

Flash

by Hazel Hall

I am less of myself and more of the sun;
The beat of life is wearing me
To an incomplete oblivion,
Yet not to the certain dignity
Of death.They cannot even die
Who have not lived.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,…………….,,,The hungry jaws
Of space snap at my unlearned eye,
And time tears in my flesh like claws.

If I am not life’s, if I am not death’s,
Out of chaos I must re-reap
The burden of untasted breaths.
Who has not waked may not yet sleep.


 

Hazel Hall was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1886, but moved at a young age to Portland, Oregon where she would live the rest of her life.  She published three volumes of poetry during her relatively short career.   Hall survived scarlet fever at age 12 and used a wheel chair for the rest of her life.

I have just recently discovered Hall’s poetry, and I am surprised at how fresh her voice sounds and relevant.   Her words have aged well. Though the poem Flash is not a traditional sonnet, it has the backbone of a sonnet that Hall has made original by reduction, not addition and in a flash, made it her own.

In Hall’s poem Two Sewing, I enjoy her power of description, rhythm, and metaphor, the rain stitching the earth together, through the eyes of one who has seen the cracks from a drought.  Living in Portland, rain is a frequent companion, a metronome, by which days and seasons can be measured.  Spring will soon arrive and it will arrive at the end of a needle of rain.


Two Sewing

by Hazel Hall

The Wind is sewing with needles of rain.
With shining needles of rain
It stitches into the thin Cloth of earth.
In, In, in, in. Oh, the wind has often sewed with me.
One, two, three. Spring must have fine things
To wear like other springs. Of silken green the grass must be
Embroidered. One and two and three.
Then every crocus must be made
So subtly as to seem afraid
Of lifting colour from the ground;
And after crocuses the round
Heads of tulips, and all the fair
Intricate garb that Spring will wear.
The wind must sew with needles of rain,
With shining needles of rain,
Stitching into the thin

Cloth of earth, in,
In, in, in,
For all the springs of futurity.
One, two, three

 

Hurled In Defiance At Our Blackest World

Crosby2
Harry Crosby

Invocation To The Mad Queen

by Harry Crosby

I would you were the hollow ship
fashioned to bear the cargo of my love
the unrelenting glove
hurled in defiance at our blackest world
or that great banner mad unfurled
the poet plants upon the hill of time
or else amphora for the gold of life
liquid and naked as a virgin wife.
Yourself the prize
I gird with Fire
The Great White Ruin
Of my Desire.
I burn to gold
fierce and unerring as a conquering sword
I burn to gold
fierce and undaunted as a lion lord
seeking your Bed
and leave to them the
burning of the dead.

 

Temple De La Douleur

Harry Crosby

My soul has suffered breaking on the wheel,
Flogging with lead, and felt the twinging ache
Of barbéd hooks and jagged points of steel,
Peine forte et dure, slow burning at the stake,
Blinding and branding, stripping on the rack,
The canque and kourbash and the torquéd screw,
The boot and branks, red scourging on the back,
The gallows and the gibbet. All for you.

These tortures are as nothing to the pain
That I have suffered when you gaze at me
With cold disdainful eyes. You do not deign
To smile or talk or even set me free-
Yet once you let me hold your perfumed hand
And danced with me a stately saraband.