The God Of Opportunity

 

Vachel-Lindsay
Vachel Lindsay

Never be a cynic, even a gentle one.  Never help out a sneer, not even at the Devil.

Vachel Lindsay

To the God of Opportunity

by Susie Frances Harrison (1859 – 1935)

Strange, that no idol hath been roughly wrought,
Or fairly carven, bearing on its base
A name so potent! Strange, no ancient race,
Workers in whitest Parian, ever sought
To reproduce thy beauty, slyly fraught
With vast suggestion! Strange, thou couldst not brace
The dull Assyrian, didst not tempt from chase,
Trophy and battle, the sons of literal thought.

We who are tired of gods must yet to thee
Render allegiance. Chance and Love are blind,
And Cause is soulless, Art is deaf and vain,
All unavailing looms the God of Pain
Disclaiming these, we choose with prescient mind
The unknown God of Opportunity.


Abraham Lincoln Walks At Midnight

by Vachel Lindsay (1879 – 1931)

(In Springfield, Illinois)

It is portentous, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house pacing up and down,

Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yards
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.

A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.

He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.
He is among us:—as in times before!
And we who toss and lie awake for long,
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.

His head is bowed. He thinks of men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why;
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.

The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.

He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
Shall come;—the shining hope of Europe free:
A league of sober folk, the Workers’ Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.

It breaks his heart that things must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?

 

 

Quiet As The Sun Always Goes

kenneth-rexroth
Kenneth Rexroth (1905 – 1982)

Quietly

by Kenneth Rexroth

Lying here quietly beside you,
My cheek against your firm, quiet thighs,
The calm music of Boccherini
Washing over us in the quiet,
As the sun leaves the housetops and goes
Out over the Pacific, quiet–
So quiet the sun moves beyond us,
So quiet as the sun always goes,
So quiet, our bodies, worn with the
Times and the penances of love, our
Brains curled, quiet in their shells, dormant,
Our hearts slow, quiet, reliable
In their interlocking rhythms, the pulse
In your thigh caressing my cheek. Quiet.


Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
The poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of day
performing entrechats
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
anything
for what it may not be

For he’s the super realist
who must perforce perceive
taut truth
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
with gravity
to start her death-defying leap

And he
a little charley chaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
of existence.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti from A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems copyright 1958

And The Heart That Fed

ozymandias
The Relic of Ramses II that inspired Ozymandias

Ozymandias

by Horace Smith

IN Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desart knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.


Ozymandias

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 


Where does inspiration arise?   In the case of Shelley’s famous poem, it came from a little gamesmenship between two friends, a modest wager of who could write the better poem after seeing a drawing of Ozymandias pictured above.   Smith was a friend of Shelley’s and the two each wrote a sonnet after reading a portion of Diodorus Siculus’ Bibliotheca historica, a history of the known world in the last century BC, much of which survives.

It does not seem such an odd place for poetic inspiration.  My parents invested in a complete Encyclopedia Britanica as a child, a very expensive addition to our library, and placed it on the lowest book shelf to give all of us easy access.  It served two purposes as a child.  It was the perfect building material for adding height and variation to hot wheel tracks, when hot wheels were only powered by gravity, and on rainy days, I would sit by the heater with the cats, and pull out a letter and browse through it, stumbling upon all kinds of interesting things I knew nothing about.   In grade school the Encyclopedia was the first place you went to begin a book report or paper on any subject.  Today, you see them out for free at yard sales, the owners hoping someone will cart them off.

I will never completely succumb to the lure of the simplicity of the digital era.  I don’t want an algorithm dictating what I do and don’t see based on past searches.  I want the freedom to stumble across something completely foreign and inviting.   I still look at maps, instead of relying on GPS for the same reason.   A map gives you context.  A map can tell you things about your surroundings that you had no idea existed.  A map can help you take the detour that turns out to be your real destination after all.  And I still enjoy finding an encyclopedia and pulling out a letter and opening it up randomly to find out what cool thing in Volume W might contain.

Music, When Soft Voices Die

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Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Music, When Soft Voices Die

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

 


life is more true than reason will deceive

by e. e. cummings

life is more true than reason will deceive
(more secret or than madness did reveal)
deeper is life than lose:higher than have
—but beauty is more each than living’s

all multiplied by infinity sans if
the mightiest meditations of mankind
cancelled are by one merely opening leaf
(beyond whose nearness there is no beyond)

or does some littler bird than eyes can learn
look up to silence and completely sing?
futures are obsolete;pasts are unborn
(here less than nothing’s more than everything)

death, as men call him, ends what they call men
—but beauty is more now than dying’s when

I Miss Your Voice, Your Elegance

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Quietus

By T. A. Fry

The sun rises with no less dazzling sway,
And yet, gardens sulk in muted eloquence.
Nature’s splendor is colder ever since
Quietus bore your gentle hand away.
It’s your silence which weighs upon my days.
Unexpected things will make me wince.
For I miss your voice, your elegance
All which hold me still amidst the fray.

You draped and shaped us with loving shears.
Thin striplings pruned and fed to reach the sun
You protected us from winter’s coldest years
To bloom again despite what’s done is done.
In mourning,  I’ll manage through these low tears
Ever blessed to be your beloved son.


 

Happy Memorial Day!

Believe Nothing Of It All

Preakness 2019
Preakness 2019

“The profession of book writing makes horse racing look like a stable, solid business.”

John Steinbeck

Sonnet Xli – Having This Day My Horse

By Sir Philip Sidney

Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance
Guided so well that I obtain’d the prize,
Both by the judgment of the English eyes
And of some sent from that sweet enemy France;
Horsemen my skill in horsemanship advance,
Town folks my strength; a daintier judge applies
His praise to sleight which from good use doth rise;
Some lucky wits impute it but to chance;
Others, because of both sides I do take
My blood from them who did excel in this,
Think Nature me a man of arms did make.
How far they shot awry! The true cause is,
Stella look’d on, and from her heav’nly face
Sent forth the beams which made so fair my race.


I have recently been schooled in the ways of horse betting by a friend for whom the horses are a passionate hobby. His approach is to use a combination of 25 years of watching horse racing at tracks all over the world, watching trainers, jockey’s and owners success and failure and combining it with a complete sense of folly in betting.  It seems to work.  His advice, always bet the black horse if wearing a one to win or bet the horse wearing the number of the race on that days card before the 5th, for instance the 4 horse in the 4th, particularly if he likes the jockey.

The only time horse racing even comes into my consciousness is the month during the triple crown, when I follow peripherally the story lines that emerge around long shots, favorites, beautiful thoroughbreds coming up lame, jockeys career’s made or lost in a seconds on a muddy track and the beauty of what a race horse can do in the hands of amazing athletes. It is a beauty to behold.

If you had a team helping you everyday, exercising with you, carefully watching your nutrition, bathing you, encouraging you, asking you to do your best, what race could you run with elegance?   What triple crown are you racing in your life and who is your team supporting you, helping you to win, share the journey or consoling you in defeat? Remember, regardless of where you place, stay in the race and feel the pleasure of blood beating in your veins.


Horse Fiddle

by Carl Sandburg

FIRST I would like to write for you a poem to be shouted in the teeth of a strong wind.
Next I would like to write one for you to sit on a hill and read down the river valley on a late summer afternoon, reading it in less than a whisper to Jack on his soft wire legs learning to stand up and preach, Jack-in-the-pulpit.
As many poems as I have written to the moon and the streaming of the moon spinners of light, so many of the summer moon and the winter moon I would like to shoot along to your ears for nothing, for a laugh, a song,
for nothing at all,
for one look from you,
for your face turned away
and your voice in one clutch
half way between a tree wind moan
and a night-bird sob.
Believe nothing of it all, pay me nothing, open your window for the other singers and keep it shut for me.
The road I am on is a long road and I can go hungry again like I have gone hungry before.
What else have I done nearly all my life than go hungry and go on singing?
Leave me with the hoot owl.
I have slept in a blanket listening.
He learned it, he must have learned it
From two moons, the summer moon,
And the winter moon
And the streaming of the moon spinners of light.

The Wide Blossom On Which The Wind Assails

file-6 (12)

When You Are Old

by W. B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


These two poems may appear at first to sit at two ends of love’s spectrum, but look more closely, as it takes more than a minor tempest of the heart to create “wreckage gathered in the gales.”  I have been reading a book about a man’s journey in China to the site of ancient poet’s reputed refuge from the world.  Part poetry, part myth, part travel log, the book is a reminder that even mystic hermits had dear friends that visited them in their caves.  People are not people without other people. The same may be true of elephants, but it doesn’t make it any less true about homo sapiens. And, poetry isn’t poetry unless someone else is there to read the scratching’s on the trees and write it down so that their friends can enjoy their wonderful discovery.

Do you ever find a poem, you can’t wait to share with someone else?   Who is that someone?  What is the poem?  Here’s a gentle reminder to send it off right away….


Pity Me Not Because The Light of Day

by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 -1950)

Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by;
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Nor the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
Nor that a man desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.
This have I known always; Love is no more
Than the wide blossom on which the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales:
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.

My Soul’s Forgotten Gleam

violets

Sonnet 99

by William Shakespeare

The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love’s breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells
In my love’s veins thou hast too grossly dyed.
The lily I condemned for thy hand,
And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair:
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red nor white, had stol’n of both
And to his robbery had annex’d thy breath;
But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth
A vengeful canker eat him up to death.
More flowers I noted, yet I none could see
But sweet or colour it had stol’n from thee.


I think Shakespeare is using violets as a metaphor and not in a literal sense, but violets are the scent thieves of the flowering kingdom.  The smell of violets comes from terpenes and a ketone chemical compound called ionone. Violets have a sweet scent but it’s not overpowering.  This is because of a curious chemical property that creates their ethereal quality. Violets smell binds to our scent receptors after stimulating them, temporarily rendering them numb. It’s why the smell of violets can only be smelled for a few moments. However, if you take a few breaths, the smell will return because the receptors register the stimulus again.

I planted violets in my garden over the weekend because they bring early spring cheery colors and are nearly impossible to freeze out in May. Given that there was a few snowflakes overnight it was a good call to not plant to many annuals yet and to wait another couple of weeks to get the geraniums in the ground.


 

Sonnet

by Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875 – 1935)

I had no thought of violets of late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
And garish lights, and mincing little fops
And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams;
The perfect loveliness that God has made,—
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.
And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream
Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.

 

The Tendered Civility

books

Lending Out Books

by Hal Sirowitz

You’re always giving, my therapist said.
You have to learn how to take.  Whenever
you meet a woman, the first thing you do
is lend her your books.  You think she’ll
have to see you again in order to return them.
But what happens is, she doesn’t have the time
to read them, & she’s afraid if she sees you again
you’ll expect her to talk about them, & will
want to lend her even more.  So she
cancels the date.  You end up losing
a lot of books.  You should borrow hers.


Sonnet

by Robert Hass

A man talking to his ex-wife on the phone.
He has loved her voice and listens with attention
to every modulation of its tone. Knowing
it intimately. Not knowing what he wants
from the sound of it, from the tendered civility.
He studies, out the window, the seed shapes
of the broken pods of ornamental trees.
The kind that grow in everyone’s garden, that no one
but horticulturists can name. Four arched chambers
of pale green, tiny vegetal proscenium arches,
a pair of black tapering seeds bedded in each chamber.
A wish geometry, miniature, Indian or Persian,
lovers or gods in their apartments. Outside, white,
patient animals, and tangled vines, and rain.

 

Remembering Again That I Shall Die

rain

Rain, rain go away, come again another day, little Tommy wants to play, rain, rain go away!

Nursery Rhyme

Rain

by Edward Thomas

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying tonight or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be towards what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.


Sunshine has been in short supply the past few weeks and there is only one day forecast in the next ten in which it will grace us with its presence in Minneapolis. It looks more like April 1 outside my window than May 2, with nary a tulip in sight. The Governor is going to need to declare a state wide “sunshine” mental health day the first day it hits 80 degrees F to counter balance the umpteen “snow” days this past winter. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were so blinded by the sun on a glorious spring day that we all had to not go into work and instead dig in our gardens and get our finger nails dirty in the sunshine?

Edward Thomas fans have also been in short supply the past week. I haven’t been inundated with recommendations from readers of his top poems. So I took it upon myself to take a deeper look and find several Thomas’ poems that at least struck my fancy.  I sincerely enjoy his 18 line poem Rain. Like nearly everything else Thomas wrote, it’s melancholy feel makes the wading through it a little thick, but it creates in me, an interesting thought of rain, washing away everything but the love of death.

It is a bit of an odd thought, to love death and to not do so in a macabre or unhealthy way, rather an idea that if we love life that someday we may have to equally embrace our death with that same passion to find release.  I am not one of these people who want to know my genetic tendencies for various ailments, so I’ll pass on the fad of genetic testing.  I can look at my parents and grandparents and get a pretty good idea of what my risk factors are; diabetes and heart disease. I find the whole mindset of believing you can somehow “cure” death insulting.  I don’t believe if I were to simply exercise more, eat a diet free of sugar and fat, save the earth by bringing cloth shopping bags to Trader Joes and eat more fiber that I change much the trajectory of my own life.  I am quite content in my knowledge that my yearly physical shows that I am aging well in some regards and in others I am progressing on a fairly predictable timeline towards what is inevitable. I refuse to cooperate with my health insurance provider who dangles a monthly discount if I prove to them I am doing what I am already doing. Its none of their damn business in my opinion and since the clinical evidence based on my blood pressure, lipids and A1C would all suggest otherwise anyways, I figure I better prepay my fair share of the costs of my eventual modern heart interventions. I feel I lead a pretty darn healthy life, but the insurance industry actuary tables have me pegged for going toes up sometime around 2043.   Lots of time left to sip coffee, eat my oatmeal and enjoy rainy May Thursday mornings like today.

 


Now That You Too…

By Eleanor Farjeon

Now that you too must shortly go the way
Which in these bloodshot years uncounted men
Have gone in vanishing armies day by day,
And in their numbers will not come again:
I must not strain the moments of our meeting
Striving each look, each accent, not to miss,
Or question of our parting and our greeting –
Is this the last of all? is this- or this?
Last sight of all it may be with these eyes,
Last touch, last hearing, since eyes, hands, and ears,
Even serving love, are our mortalities,
And cling to what they own in mortal fears:-
But oh, let end what will, I hold you fast
By immortal love, which has no first or last.