Snatch The Wolf Forth

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43. Dorcas Gustine

by Edgar Lee Masters
Spoon River Anthology

I was not beloved of the villagers,
But all because I spoke my mind,
And met those who transgressed against me
With plain remonstrance, hiding nor nurturing
Nor secret griefs nor grudges.
That act of the Spartan boy is greatly praised,
Who hid the wolf under his cloak,
Letting it devour him, uncomplainingly.
It is braver, I think, to snatch the wolf forth
And fight him openly in the street,
Amidst dust and howls of pain.
The tongue may be an unruly member –
But silence poisons the soul.
Berate me who will.  I am content.


 

Spoon river anthology

I was at the dentist yesterday, waiting for some unfortunate dental work to be performed and picked up the Star Tribune in the waiting room.  In the variety section was a small side bar about a man who returned a library book to the Shreve Memorial Library in Shreveport, Louisiana that his mother had checked out in 1934, 84 years ago when she was 11 years old.  Although he was not required to do so, he paid the fine of 0.05 a day for a total of $1,542.65 as a fitting memorial to his Mother who loved literature and support of the library that she had used as a child.

Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters masterpiece about the residents of the graveyard in Spoon River, was controversial when it was published for his unvarnished fictional accounts of the dead speaking their own eulogies in a small Midwestern town.  It is a curious thing to consider, writing one’s own eulogy and leaving out the flattery.  Maybe that’s what poet’s do, one line at a time.

 

My Life Is The Gardner of My Body

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Yehuda Amichai

I Wasn’t One of the Six Million: And What
Is My Life Span?  Open Closed Open

by Yehuda Amichai (1924 – 2000)
Translated by Chana Bloch

5.

What then is my life span? Like shooting a self-portrait.
I set up the camera a few feet away on something stable
(the one thing that’s stable in this world),
I decide on a good place to stand, near a tree,
run back to the camera, press the timer,
run back again to that place near the tree,
and I hear the ticking of time, the whirring
like a distant prayer, the click of the shutter like an execution.
That is my life span. God develops the picture
in His big darkroom. And here is the picture:
white hair on my head, eyes tired and heavy,
eyebrows black, like the charred lintels
above the windows in a house that burned down.

My life span is over.

Click on the link to read the entire poem:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52937/i-wasnt-one-of-the-six-million-and-what-is-my-life-span-open-closed-open?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social_media&utm_campaign=features

 


Sometimes I Want To Sink Into Your Body

by Chana Bloch (1940 – 2017)

Sometimes I want to sink into your body
with the fever that spikes inside me
to be a woman
who can open a man.

Why must I be only softness and haunches,
a satin cul-de-sac?

You ought to know what sharpens me
like a barbed arrow.
Do you think we’re so different?

How you tease me, twiddle me,
hustle me along,
just when I’d like to splay you
tooth and nail.

Romp With Joy In The Bookish Dark

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Mark Strand

A life is not sufficiently elevated for poetry, unless, of course, the life has been made into an art.

Mark Strand

Eating Poetry

by Mark Strand (1934 – 2014)

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.


Old Man Leaves The Party

by Mark Strand

It was clear when I left the party
That though I was over eighty I still had
A beautiful body. The moon shone down as it will
On moments of deep introspection. The wind held its breath.
And look, somebody left a mirror leaning against a tree.
Making sure that I was alone, I took off my shirt.
The flowers of bear grass nodded their moonwashed heads.
I took off my pants and the magpies circled the redwoods.
Down in the valley the creaking river was flowing once more.
How strange that I should stand in the wilds alone with my body.
I know what you are thinking. I was like you once. But now
With so much before me, so many emerald trees, and
Weed-whitened fields, mountains and lakes, how could I not
Be only myself, this dream of flesh, from moment to moment?

Into The Silent Land

Mom Twins Game May 2014
My Mother at Target Field 2015

Remember

by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.


Tomorrow is my Mother’s birthday and also the second anniversary of the internment of her ashes at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. She would be loving the MLB playoffs this year; high quality, tight dramatic games being played night after night. I miss those phone calls to rehash her favorite moments during the playoffs and talk about her favorite players. She was not a casual fan, my Mother brought genuine insight and knowledge to her passion for the game. She would often call me up in the middle of a game and ask; “Do you see that?” And often, I hadn’t until I saw it through her eyes.

It’s hard to find poems that truly represent your own personal thoughts on death. i don’t agree with most of Rossetti’s sentiments in her sonnet Remember, in fact I think she has it all ass backwards. I think it far better to remember and be sad as part of the grieving process.  Grief is a journey, it is not a destination.  Sadness is not an illness to be avoided it is part of loving and being loved. For me there are equal parts gladness mixed with sadness that balance the fond memories I have of my Mother. I shared a much longer blog entry a year ago, along with several poems that were part of my process in channeling my grief shortly after her death. My Mother is still a vital energy in my life and a constant presence.  My sonnet,  My True Verse remains true for me today.

I found The Spritely Dead by Oscar Williams fascinating, this sonnet having gotten under my skin this week, I have read it several times, enjoying more with each reading.  His imagery and ideas are vibrant, the concept that we see all around us reminders of the dead, sometimes even more frequently it feels than when they were alive.  Do you have a favorite poem of mourning or grief?   Please share, I welcome your comments.


 

The Spritely Dead

by Oscar Williams (1900 – 1964)

There was a man within our tenement
Who died upon on a worn down step of day :
The wreath they hung on the doorway meant
That there was nothing else for him to do.
But he was obstinate, he would not rest :
He dragged the flesh of silence everywhere
On crippled wings, and we would hear him whir
While on our memories sill his eyes would roost,
We saw him wring his thoughts in deep despair
And stamp the color from our backyard scene :
Careless, without his body, he would peer
To find out if we noticed this new sin.
He was afraid, afraid : He climbed our vines
And hid, on hands and knees, along our veins.

When We Know It Not

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Minneapolis Sunset

 

It Is A Beauteous Evening Calm And Free

by William Wordsworth

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year;
And worship’st at the Temple’s inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

 

You-Still Only Halfway Home

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Glenn Gould

“The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.”

Glenn Gould

 

J. S. Bach: F# Minor Toccata

by Bill Holm (1943 – 2009)

The music weeps, not for sin
but rather for the black fact
that we must all die, but not one
of us knows what comes after.
This music leaps from key to key
as if it had no clear place to arrive,
making up its life, one bar at a time.
But when you come at last to the real theme,
strict, inexorable, and bleak,
you must play it slow and sad,
with melancholy dignity, or you miss
all its grim wisdom.
In three pages, it says, the universe collapses,
and you-still only halfway home.

 

 

Glenn Gould 1932 – 1982

by Bill Holm

A man who played the piano with as much genius as it is possible to contain in a human being said he trusted machines and electricity more than he trusted humans in a room. Henceforth, he would play only for steel wire and thin tape, genius saved from coughing, wheezing and all possibility of disagreeable whispers and remarks.

He took his first machine, the piano, and chiseled, filed, and muffled it until it suited his music and was like no other such machine on earth – a name brand of one.  He sat on his second machine, an old chair that squeaked and rocked and comforted him.

He waited until the middle of the night to have perfect silence for his music, then moved his two peculiar machines into a sealed sound-locked room where not even the vibration of a human foot could ever be felt.  There he played, safe at last from the rest of us, and even, he thought, from himself.

But when Bach or Haydn came on him, he started singing in a low and ugly hum, out of tune, with everything his hands were doing. No machine could take this noise away or clear it without losing the music, too, so he was left with an awful choice.  Give up principle or give up beauty.

He chose music, hums and all, a glad hypocrite like us. Only failed ideals  and wrong turnings will ever get you anywhere on earth or make anything with beauty or energy inside it.  In the Bach F# Minor Fugue, or the slow C major tune in the Haydn sonata, the awful humming overwhelms the perfect technology and everyone with ears tuned right is glad of it.

That hum is his ghost, still alive, but also it is the invisible audience sneezing and hacking; it is the ignorant applause after the wrong movement; its pigeons in the rafters of the hall, cooing for bread; it is me blowing my nose and wiping my tears of joy in this music – in this odd, grand failure of a man.


 

Both poems appear in Playing The Black Piano. 2004.  Milkweed Editions.

This Place Could Be Beautiful

 

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Storm Damage From Hurricane Michael, October 2018.

Good Bones

by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.


After every hurricane, tornado, flood, fire or earthquake, the same quote is printed over and over in the media; “residents vow to rebuild.” It’s true, someone will rebuild. Someone always does where the view warrants the risks. We should bring the same zeal to rebuilding the shambles of our lives. Except for the exceptionally fortunate, most of us are our own natural disaster at some point, wasting our time shaking our fists at unseen forces, rather than finding affordable marriage insurance with a reasonable deductible. So go ahead and buy that bouquet of flowers at the super market or farmer’s market on Saturday morning. Pick out a bottle of wine. Take it home, set a nice table for yourself. Cook a fine meal for your partner tonight. Say a blessing for all that you have that is grounded and not blown away. You’ll never say on your deathbed, “if I had only spent less money on flowers, think of where I would be today.”


 

The House

by Richard Wilbur (1921 – 2017)

Sometimes, on waking, she would close her eyes
For a last look at that white house she knew
In sleep alone, and held no title to,
And had not entered yet, for all her sighs.

What did she tell me of that house of hers?
White gatepost; terrace; fanlight of the door;
A widow’s walk above the bouldered shore;
Salt winds that ruffle the surrounding firs.

Is she now there, wherever there may be?
Only a foolish man would hope to find
That haven fashioned by her dreaming mind.
Night after night, my love, I put to sea.