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 Demon In My View

Poe Cloud

Alone

by Edgar Allan Poe

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—

When Bob Irsay, under cover of darkness, surreptitiously moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in 1984, holding a press conference the next day to announce his successful blackmailing the city of Indianapolis into building him the ugliest foot ball stadium behind the Metrodome in Minneapolis, on which the design was based, no one would have predicted that Art Modell would follow the same playbook in 1996 and move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore and rename them the Baltimore Ravens, after Baltimore’s literary hometown hero – Edgar Allan Poe. If you don’t follow the intricacies of professional sports, the NFL team the Baltimore Ravens is the only professional sports team in North America named for a short story written by a 19th century poet.

How does that have anything to do with these poems? Absolutely nothing, other than I wonder how Edgar Allan Poe would feel about it? Would he have a box seat at the 50 yard line? Would he be on ESPN giving color commentary? Would he have a regular column in the Baltimore Sun?

It is a fun thing to consider, what if in each league, a sports team had to be renamed for a poet?   Would the Golden State Warriors be renamed the Rainbow Warriors in honor of Allen Ginsburg? Would the Minnesota Twins be renamed the Minnesota Twains in honor of Mark Twain and Minnesota being the birth place of the Mississippi? Would the Boston Bruins in the NHL be renamed the Boston Frost after Robert Frost?

I applaud Modell for embracing literature in renaming his franchise. I think every league should require one team to be named for a writer. It might inspire more girls and boys, not just with brawn and athletic ability, but the power to influence through words.


Silence

by Edgar Allan Poe

There is a silence where hath been no sound,
There is a silence where no sound may be,
In the cold grave — under the deep, deep sea,
Or in wide desert where no life is found,
Which hath been mute, and still must sleep profound;
No voice is hush’d — no life treads silently,
But clouds and cloudy shadows wander free,
That never spoke — over the idle ground
But in green ruins, in the desolate walls
Of antique palaces, where Man hath been,
Though the dun fox, or wild hyena, calls,
And owls, that flit continually between,
Shriek to the echo, and the low winds moan,
There the true Silence is, self-conscious and alone.

 

Even A Man

wolfman
The Wolf Man (1941)

The Witch

by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

I have walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart’s desire.
She came—she came—and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.

 


 

Poetry and play are synonymous in my life.  I realize that is not true for many people, the process of reading or writing arduous to those that find little pleasure in it.  I wrote Even A Man several years ago in October as a lark. I was remembering childhood horror movies in anticipation of Halloween and looking back on those movies that had made a particular impression on me.

In the 1960s television consisted of 5 broadcast channels on our black and white tube tv in St. Paul; ABC, NBC, CBS, Public Television and one independent channel WCTN that was local programming. A highlight of the local channel was Mel’s Matinee. Mel Jass a local TV personality hosted a movie in the early afternoon and regularly showed horror movies. Fortunately he mixed them up enough with other movies that once in a while I could sneak one over on my Mom and watch a movie that wouldn’t be otherwise allowed on the rare sick day when I stayed home from school or a rainy Saturday afternoon. These were horror movies unlike today’s genre of horror, which consists mostly of torture porn with prolific gore. These were classic B-movie titles from the 1940’s and 1950’s that were more campy than scary. Movies like The Blob, The Wolfman,  Dracula and one of my all time favorites – Gargoyles.  I was shocked to learn as an adult some of these films were made in color, it was just my TV that was in black and white.

I must have watched The Wolfman 10 times as a kid. It is burned into my brain that there is a witch like character who chants a short poem several times in the movie; “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and Autumn moon is bright.”  I remembered those lines and wondered if it was tied to a longer poem, that predated the movie. Not surprisingly it wasn’t, it was only part of Hollywood horror script writing. So I playfully set out to finish the poem, using only the first line as a prompt.

Happy Halloween!


Even A Man

By T. A. Fry

“Even a Man who is pure at heart and says his prayers at night,”*
May become a wolf among the lambs, when the moon is full and bright.
Beware the growl, a yearning yowl, that sets some men apart.
`Best you fear the danger near that comes from grizzled hearts.

It’s not purity that will restrain a man or subjugate his obsessions.
Nor the piety of his refrains,  a fairer measure of his mind’s possessions.
Many holy men declared a war; righteous virtue as their banner.
And sent to their deaths countless scores while pious in their manner.

For men will slaughter their sisters and brothers to usurp what they desire.
And enslave their children for wealth and power to build their own empire.
If only the moon could show our doom and reveal terror lurking near,
We’d damn their slurs and kill the curs and never evil fear.

But here’s a truth that in this world there is good upon these lands.
For your mirror shows a deeper woe in whose visage wicked stands.
Before you decree that you can see those worthy of your wrath.
Best hold tight and shine a light upon your heart’s true path.

*The opening line is from the 1941 film The Wolf Man.  


 

© 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.

Snatch The Wolf Forth

IMG_3382

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

Israeli Poet.jpg
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

mark_strand1
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.