“In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.
But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.”
An August Midnight
by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands…
Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
—My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.
I don’t remember a summer where the drum beat of doom has sounded so regularly from the encroaching jungle. I can’t hardly listen to NPR anymore, every news item goes from bad to worse, from drought to flood, from fire to furnace, from peace to war, it takes its toll on optimism. I keep reminding myself, yes, its dry and its been dry before. Likely it will rain again and refill the wetland that lays to the north of my driveway; more likely it will do that than dry up completely. In the interim, the sky is blue, the purple loosestrife is purple and the trumpeter swans swimming on what remains of the lake are white, just like last year and all is just as beautiful. I have to remind myself that of all the things I should be feeling with all the bad news around the world, the one that stands is out in my mind is gratitude. I am incredibly fortunate to be in a position to pick and choose what I allow to enter my mindset because I have choices, something most people around the world do not.
Today’s poems are a bit of fluff to enjoy on a late summer day. I was struck by the word dumbledore in Hardy’s poem, given that anyone who is a fan of the Harry Potter books thinks of that word in the context of a character in the book. It sent me looking it up in the Oxford dictionary and discovered the word dumbledore is synonymous with bumblebee or a type of beetle, which also makes a sound when it flies, in my mind’s eye I hear the likes of a June bug. The Parker poem is easier to connect with if you know the definition of the word slattern – which means harlot. Parker has a tendency towards a self-deprecating style. I think of her use of the word like a current female rapper using the word “bitch”; it’s possible to call yourself all manner of things without taking offense.
I found Parker’s poem took on more interesting ideas if I read it several times through, putting myself in as the person experiencing the words, writing the words, with eyes as weeds, and new lilac sprouts pushing up through my heart….
by Dorothy Parker
When my eyes are weeds,
And my lips are petals, spinning
Down the wind that has beginning
Where the crumpled beeches start
In a fringe of salty reeds;
When my arms are elder-bushes,
And the rangy lilac pushes
Upward, upward through my heart;
Summer, do your worst!
Light your tinsel moon, and call on
Your performing stars to fall on
Headlong through your paper sky;
Nevermore shall I be cursed
By a flushed and amorous slattern,
With her dusty laces’ pattern
Trailing, as she straggles by