Every Pig Was A Pig In A Poke

Paul Muldoon

The Old Country

A sonnet sequence
IX

By Paul Muldoon

Every escape was a narrow escape
where every stroke was a broad stroke
of an ax on a pig nape.
Every pig was a pig in a poke
 
though it scooted once through the Diamond
so unfalt—so unfalteringly.
The threshold of pain was outlimened
by the bar raised at high tea
 
now every scone was a drop scone.
Every ass had an ass’s jawbone
that might itself drop from grin to grin.
 
Every malt was a single malt.
Every pillar was a pillar of salt.
Every point was a point of no return.

Hedgehog

By Paul Muldoon

The snail moves like a
Hovercraft, held up by a
Rubber cushion of itself,
Sharing its secret

With the hedgehog. The hedgehog
Shares its secret with no one.
We say, Hedgehog, come out
Of yourself and we will love you.

We mean no harm. We want
Only to listen to what
You have to say. We want
Your answers to our questions.

The hedgehog gives nothing
Away, keeping itself to itself.
We wonder what a hedgehog
Has to hide, why it so distrusts.

We forget the god
Under this crown of thorns.
We forget that never again
Will a god trust in the world.

These Are Warriors

Emplumada

by Lorna Dee Cervantes

When summer ended
the leaves of snapdragons withered
taking their shrill-colored mouths with them.
They were still, so quiet. They were
violet where umber now is. She hated
and she hated to see
them go. Flowers

born when the weather was good – this
she thinks of, watching the branch of peaches
daring their ways above the fence, and further,
two hummingbirds, hovering, stuck to each other,
arcing their bodies in grim determination
to find what is good, what is
given them to find. These are warriors

distancing themselves from history.
They find peace
in the way they contain the wind
and are gone.


Tall Nettles

by Edward Thomas

Tall nettles cover up, as they have done
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough
Long worn out, and the roller made of stone:
Only the elm butt tops the nettles now.

This corner of the farmyard I like most:
As well as any bloom upon a flower
I like the dust on the nettles, never lost
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.

I Promise You Nothing

Fiat 500 1963(ish)

A Journey

by Nikki Giovanni

It’s a journey . . . that I propose . . . I am not the guide . . . nor technical assistant . . . I will be your fellow passenger . . .

Though the rail has been ridden . . . winter clouds cover . . . autumn’s exuberant quilt . . . we must provide our own guide-posts . . .

I have heard . . . from previous visitors . . . the road washes out sometimes . . . and passengers are compelled . . . to continue groping . . . or turn back . . . I am not afraid . . .

I am not afraid . . . of rough spots . . . or lonely times . . . I don’t fear . . . the success of this endeavor . . . I am Ra . . . in a space . . . not to be discovered . . . but invented . . .

I promise you nothing . . . I accept your promise . . . of the same we are simply riding . . . a wave . . . that may carry . . . or crash . . .

It’s a journey . . . and I want . . . to go . .


Hiking recently I realized what a bad judge of distance I am. While carrying an uncomfortable amount of weight on my shoulders and hips backpacking a relatively short distance of 1.6 miles, halfway seemed like it should have been almost there and yet while driving home from the North Shore in the rain halfway slipped by without notice. Maybe distance is directly proportional to my comfort and ease and not a measurement of space and time.

Writing this blog has not been effortless, but it slips by without measurement of time, without a connection to the passage of days; time is not connected to the way I think about poetry and my immersion in it. I know of course that it is nearly the three year anniversary since I began Fourteen Lines. This post marks the 500th entry on a self proscribed journey to 1,000 blog entries, but I have no sense of time or true goal on this journey. I honestly don’t know where its headed or when it will end. It will end at some point, as most journey’s do, but how and when I am still unsure.

I am undergoing a different kind of journey at the moment, one I am very much aware; moving from the condo I have lived in the past six years to a house owned by someone else. It will be the first time since I was 21 years old that I do not own the dwelling in which I live. Being a bit precocious in purchasing property, it feels odd to suddenly be a renter again. This fall’s move is temporary, as there is another more permanent destination a year from now, so this dislocation compounds my inner awkwardness in that I have put 95% of what I own in a box and into storage, wondering when and if I will ever open those boxes ever again. It’s not the worst thing to become disengaged from one’s possessions. It feels somewhat refreshing to not really purge but to disentangle from it all, like diving into a cold lake, not exactly comfortable but bracing once I get used to it, knowing I can still swim back to shore and comfort awaits. This defined temporary storage will be a test to see what I really miss in the next 12 months and what I will bring back into our future living space and what I am ready to permanently let go, after having already gotten rid of what feels like a mountain of possessions the past 10 years. I have been continually downsizing size 2010 and feel I am on the right trajectory, one that if I execute it well, will leave only my writing, my music and my art for my children and friends to sort through once I am gone and the rest can be dropped off at a Goodwill with no emotional attachment to finding any of it a new home.

What journey are you are on currently? Do you mark the milestones or simply let the next foot fall in front of the other? Are you aware of the passage of time or space or is your destination undecided and not pre-determined? What companion(s) are most important on this journey of yours? If you could add one additional companion on this quest, who or what would it be, if it could be anyone or anything in this world? Have you asked them (it) to join you?


Halfway Down

by A. A. Milne

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn’t any
other stair
quite like
it.
i’m not at the bottom,
i’m not at the top;
so this is the stair
where
I always
stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead.

When I Am With You

bly

Robert Bly (1926 – )

being to timelessness

by e. e. cummings

being to timelessness as it’s to time,
love did no more begin than love will end;
where nothing is to breathe to stroll to swim
love is the air the ocean and the land

(do lovers suffer? all divinities
proudly descending put on deathful flesh:
are lovers glad? only their smallest joy’s
a universe emerging from a wish)

love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star

—do lovers love? why then to heaven with hell.
Whatever sages say and fools, all’s well.


When I Am With You

by Robert Bly

When I am with you, two notes of the sarod
Carry me into a place I am not.
All the farms have disappeared into air.

Those wooden fence posts I loved as a boy —
I can see my father’s face through their wood,
And through his face the sky as threshing ends.

It is such a blessing to hear that we will die,
Ten thousand barks become a hundred thousand;
I knew this friendship with myself couldn’t last forever.

Touch the sarong’s string again, so that the finger
That touched my skin a moment ago
Can become a lightning bolt that closes the door.

Now I know why I keep hinting at the word you —
The sound of you carries me over the border.
We disappear the same way a baby is born.

Some fool with my name has been trying.
To peer all afternoon through the thick boards
Of the fence. Tell that boy it isn’t time.

You Could….Not Know Why, At Any Given Moment

Cleveland-030620-AP

Off A Side Road Near Stauton

by Stanley Plumly (1939 – 2019)

Some nothing afternoon, no one anywhere,
an early autumn stillness in the air,
the kind of empty day you fill by taking in
the full size of the valley and its layers leading
slowly to the Blue Ridge, the quality of country,
if you stand here long enough, you could stay
for, step into, the way a landscape, even on a wall,
pulls you in, one field at a time, pasture and fall
meadow, high above the harvest, perfect
to the tree line, then spirit clouds and intermittent
sunlit smoky rain riding the tops of the mountains,
though you could walk until it’s dark and not reach those rains—
you could walk the rest of the day into the picture
and not know why, at any given moment, you’re there.

Labor Day is here, marking the end of  summer.   Today and tomorrow will be the last of the swimming season in Minnesota (at least for me) as the lows are going to be in the 40’s all week after Monday and the lakes will suddenly be too cold.  This has to be the strangest summer of my entire existence.  It was utterly devoid of most rituals and events that have marked summer’s passing since I was a child.  The only thing that I have done that felt the same was to swim and camp, but summer music festivals, fireworks, friends BBQ and fish fries, the State Fair, and an endless list of summer work events were all cancelled this year.   This loss of ritual strangely made the summer slip by too quickly, as the weeks and months ran together.

In trying to find a poem to sum up my feelings on what has transpired since George Floyd’s death in May, I kept coming back to a poem I shared in my Auden retrospective in January of 2019.  Auden’s line “we must love one another or die,” sticks in my brain as the one call to action that might heal this nation.  In my opinion, it is the only thing that might work.  We aren’t going to solve inequality through partisan gamesmanship and politics, from either side of the political spectrum.  Somewhere we have to find the ability for mutual respect and acceptance of differences to co-exist again in America in a productive manner, both sides have to flourish.  There is no winning in love.

With roughly 60 days before the election I am bracing for what will be a glaring, blaring intolerable two months of  political attack ads and over reaching rhetoric.  All the more reason to retreat from the media into the silence of nature and cast my vote by mail.  I will attempt to avoid the shrillness of American politics as best I can and hope that change is coming after the first of the year. Not just in the White House, but in our hearts and lives as well.


September 1, 1939

(Excerpt)

by W. H. Auden

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

The Sweet Clear Bell Of The Joys

Kadunce River

Kadunce River, Northern Minnesota

“I am proud only of those days that pass in
undivided tenderness.”

Robert Bly

Gone, Gone, Gone

by Robert Bly

“Search for the longing. O you who love me.”  Old Saint

When the wind-sleeve moves in the
. . morning street,
I walk there, and brood on brown things,
On green things,
On the green waves
Lifting at seas, the green wives, and the
. . brood of heaven.

I hear a faint sound, a bell inside the waves
Coming from far off . . . and the sweet clear
Bell of the joys
Of silence pierces
Through the roaring of cars, the hum of tires,
. . the closing of doors.

When I hear that sound, a subtle force, a sheath,
Motherly, wraps me.  Inside that sheath
I need no
House or land,
Caught in sweetness as the trout in the
. . running stream.


Full Consciousness

By Juan Ramon Jimenez
Translated by Robert Bly

You are carrying me, full consciousness, god that has desires,
all through the world.
                               Here, in this third sea,
I almost hear your voice: your voice, the wind,
filling entirely all movements;
eternal colors and eternal lights,
sea colors and sea lights.
   Your voice full of white fire
in the universe of water, the ship, the sky,
marking out the roads with delight,
engraving for me with a blazing light my firm orbit:
a black body
with the glowing diamond in its center.

Now You’re Talking

Eileen Myles

The Baby

by Eileen Myles

The baby
says to the old
man let’s
have a cup
of coffee
the old 
man says now
you’re talking


I hate to sound old and grumpy, but I am having software angst with WordPress. Like every other software platform that feels the need to incessantly change everything, they have eliminated my old editor and gone with a new fancy block design thing that I do not find as intuitive as they claim it should be. I feel a fish out of water trying to figure it out. Things that were effortless before now take me a while to figure out or are down right frustrating. For everyone else who wants to link their blog to all kinds of social media they are probably thrilled. But as I have given up on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram I don’t really see any advantages yet to having all this new stuff and all my old stuff harder to find. I’ll get there after a while. I floundered around figuring out the old editor when I started my blog and I’ll flounder around figuring this one out too, but eventually I’ll swim in a straight line again.

The truth is things become obsolete. I am stubbornly loyal to some of my possessions; an antique dresser my Mother gave to me for a high school graduation gift that was completely impractical and was her way of saying; “make sure you have someplace to live, even if its not with me”, old floor lamps I have rewired, old tools that maybe aren’t as good as the newest technology but are familiar and have echoes of former projects that still resonate when I pick them up. However, I can eventually part with sentimental treasures. Not only did I take on responsibility for care and feeding for the dresser, but I also adopted my Mother’s antique upright piano, which had a cast iron plate nearly the size of a grand piano. It was a majestic behemoth that weighed what felt like an actual ton, with real ivory keys and pearl inlays and was built in the 1920s. My father and several of his friends had risked life and limb moving it from an apartment to our childhood home and I foolishly decided to do the same. For the first 4 houses I owned it made the move each time. Finally, in Mankato 15 years ago, I decided it was time to let it go. I tried selling it intact on Craigslist but no one wanted it. It was in need of a fair amount of restoration and it wasn’t worth it, as the new Yamaha electronic keyboards with keys that had action identical to a piano were all the rage. One Saturday morning after several months of trying to sell it, I woke up and decided the easiest way to dispose of it was to take it apart piece by piece and haul it to the dump. It was surprisingly easy. It’s components came apart with nothing more than a flat head screw driver and a sledge hammer to break up the cast iron once outside so that I could get it down to manageable pieces I could haul by myself. I honestly didn’t miss it once it was gone though the new lightweight perfect sounding Yamaha never managed to worm it’s way into my heart. Instead, I found my enjoyment of playing the piano had come to an end. In that moment of change, I had failed to understand that it wasn’t a new piano that I wanted, it was a new instrument – a pen.


Taking Apart My Childhood Piano

by Rebecca Macijeski

My mother and I sit on the back porch,
bare feet in summer grass
as we take the upright down to pieces,
breeze humming through its strings.

I extract each melodic tooth and sort them
in octaves for rinsing, tidy enclosure in boxes,
remembering in each how my young fingers
rioted over them searching for sound

and the way it grows like its own
unruly animal. The old piano
lies open to Sunday morning sun,
swallowing blossoms that drift over like stars

from the apple tree I climbed as a girl.
My mother and I sit here in a quiet
usually reserved for churches,
hands moving slowly over what we gather

—piles of soft hammers, odd coils of wire.
We take up wet rags and wash each wooden key
down its surface, wet music
pooling onto our skin.

Before Some Great Unutterable Thought

Dickinson
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

As if the Sea Should Part

by Emily Dickinson

As if the Sea should part
And show a further Sea —
And that — a further — and the Three
But a presumption be —

Of Periods of Seas —
Unvisited of Shores —
Themselves the Verge of Seas to be —
Eternity — is Those —


I aspire to be dubbed an idler.   It sounds like a knighthood for sonnet writers. The Beneficent Society of Idlers strikes a nice cord, maybe with a large pennant on a red velvet cord for worthy recipients. Great unutterable thoughts that somehow are still uttered is what makes poetry a glue that connects people across time and place. Dickinson is the master of the unutterable and letting unutterances exist between the words and yet be completely understood despite each of our understandings different.

Poetry is not a user manual.   It is not meant to be literal or complete.  The best of it it is a glimpse into another’s inner life, hopes, dreams and miseries.  And if the Sea should part and understanding is lying gleaming in the sand, don’t rush in too quick to pick it up.  Let the Sea return to equilibrium and let it soak for a bit.  And then dive down again to revel in your discoveries, holding your breath with excitement.


They Dub Thee Idler

by Henry Timrod (1828 – 1867)

They dub thee idler, smiling sneeringly,
And why? because, forsooth, so many moons,
Here dwelling voiceless by the voiceful sea,
Thou hast not set thy thoughts to paltry tunes
In song or sonnet. Them these golden noons
Oppress not with their beauty; they could prate,
Even while a prophet read the solemn runes
On which is hanging some imperial fate.
How know they, these good gossips, what to thee
The ocean and its wanderers may have brought?
How know they, in their busy vacancy,
With what far aim thy spirit may be fraught?
Or that thou dost not bow thee silently
Before some great unutterable thought?

 

Yes. You Will Be Saved

carl phillips
Carl Phillips

Wild is The Wind

(Excerpt)

by Carl Phillips

About what’s past, Hold on when you can, I used to say,
And when you can’t, let go, as if memory were one of those
mechanical bulls, easily dismountable, should the ride
turn rough. I lived, in those days, at the forest’s edge —
metaphorically, so it can sometimes seem now, though
the forest was real, as my life beside it was. I spent
much of my time listening to the sounds of random, un-
knowable things dropping or being dropped from, variously,
a middling height or a great one until, by winter, it was
just the snow falling, each time like a new, unnecessary
taxonomy or syntax for how to parse what’s plain, snow
from which the occasional lost hunter would emerge
every few or so seasons, and — just once — a runaway child
whom I gave some money to and told no one about….

 


Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm

by Carl Phillips – 1959-

So that each
is its own, now—each has fallen, blond stillness.
Closer, above them,
the damselflies pass as they would over water,
if the fruit were water,
or as bees would, if they weren’t
somewhere else, had the fruit found
already a point more steep
in rot, as soon it must, if
none shall lift it from the grass whose damp only
softens further those parts where flesh
goes soft.
There are those
whom no amount of patience looks likely
to improve ever, I always said, meaning
gift is random,
assigned here,
here withheld—almost always
correctly
as it’s turned out: how your hands clear
easily the wreckage;
how you stand—like a building for a time condemned,
then deemed historic. Yes. You
will be saved

Containment Is The Key To Breaking Through

Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

by Austin MacRae

How best to hold a Master’s mastered light
that flickers deep in pearl, a milklit face?
His paintings stun: complex perspectives right,
well-framed, with every fold and thread in place.
Over and over, within this structured space,
he nails the tough proportions, deftly blocks
the naked eye’s distortions with such grace
of form that every stricture clicks and locks.
Like him, I shoot life through a dovetailed box,
a darkened room. Containment is the key
to breaking through. I watch what it unlocks
inside the mirror’s polished glass, and see
if like the great, meticulous Vermeer,
a blooming world pours through my pinhole, clear.


Camera obscura is the optical phenomenon that occurs when an image at the other side of a screen is projected through a small hole and appears as reversed and inverted on a surface opposite the opening. This discovery led to the development of photography.  It is also an apt metaphor for how the world feels six months into the pandemic. I still see the world around me, but it appears smaller and flipped upside down. There is a wall between me and that world and much less light is shining in.

Yesterday, the young woman at the Trader Joe’s checkout jumped away from me as I approached her register and with fright in her voice commanded I stand exactly on the watermelon on the floor in front of the growing fortress-like plexi-glass barrier that separated us.  I warily complied exactly as commanded, all pleasantries of human interaction obliterated by caution and safety, no smiles exchanged through our face masks, her eyes continuously downcast, a bit too intensely ringing up my modest purchase, never once looking at me, tangible her fear of being in the same space that I am in.  I get it.   I am not sure how I would handle a cashier job these days.  I too would probably suffer from moments of the ebbie-jeebies that I was observing. It’s not that I had violated her six foot barrier, it was that it felt like she wanted a 30 foot barrier in that moment.  I made a half-hearted attempt at fake pleasantries but it seemed to make the mood even more somber.  It wasn’t her fault.  In the end it made me feel like shopping at Trader Joe’s was my mistake.  My local Cub Food let’s me check out all on own, maintaining this false notion we have that our social isolation is intact. It’s depressing that when I venture out for my one interaction with the world in a day and the world jumps back from me in alarm, runs away from me in fear, even if that destination has the best gluten-free bagels in town.

I long to get out of this box of COVID-19, end the cues in lines in front of everywhere I go, this social distancing which is another way of feeling social ostracism.  I long to remove the masks and cut a giant hole in the universe and walk back into the world as I formerly knew it. Go to a baseball game, sit surrounded by strangers and drink a beer. I know it can’t be done, that world may never exist again. I fear that the future will be so completely foreign to the world that I had grown accustomed that everything will feel upside down forever and I will be the one much smaller than before, inverted. I feel myself moving along this new foreign, unpaved path, looking for hope, looking for ways to make my world big again, even if these days its only in the pages of a book or in the line of a poem, where an adventure may still await.

images (1)
Vladimir Kush


The Camera Obscura

by John Addington Symonds
Inside the skull the wakeful brain,
Attuned at birth to joy and pain,
Dwells for a lifetime; even as one
Who in a closed tower sees the sun
Cast faint-hued shadows, dim or clear,
Upon the darkened disc: now near,
Now far, they flit; while he, within,
Surveys the world he may not win:
Whate’er he sees, he notes; for nought
Escapes the net of living thought;
And what he notes, he tells again
To last and build the brains of men.
Shades are we; and of shades we weave
A trifling pleasant make-believe;
Then pass into the shadowy night,
Where formless shades blindfold the light