A Hero For All Times

falun-gong

A Hero

by Evan Mantyk

These are the weathered shoes worn by the Jew,
So cracked from all the miles walked since he fled.
These are the slave’s strong legs like trunks that grew
And worked so hard until he’s beaten dead.
This is the heart of Christians who’re hemmed in
by beasts, while Romans laugh at them and yell.
These poisoned lips of Socrates destined
To die, and yet in virtue ever dwell.
This banner is the shield of Spartan men
Outnumbered by a thousand foes to one;
Its moral words in Chinese, Zhen-Shan-Ren,
Are spears of truth that no one can outrun.
The Falun Gong man now before you stands,
A hero for all times and for all lands.

__________________________________

Once again, I am going to explore the poetry of war during November.   This year I will be highlighting poetry from conflicts from around the world and across time.  If you are in the camp that you only partake of positive poetry as defense to the insanity of the current state of things, then you may want to just take November off from Fourteenlines and come back in December.  Part of me is tempted to do the same….

I have often contemplated whether the gravity of a war poets words are weighted by whether they died in the conflict?   If you revisit prior November posts, there are many examples where the tragedy of the poetry is heightened because it is underpinned by the tragedy of the poet’s senseless death.  However, there is hope hidden in many of those words as well.  Poetry can be as effective in creating political change as guns, even when it is at its most raw.  Poetry is an instrument of change that endures if enough people take the time to be challenged by words meant to inflame peace with as much conviction as the cacophony of the clever profiteers of war.

Unlike in years past, I will not be adding commentary this year to the poems I post.  I am having a hard time finding much meaningful to say at the present.  I choose instead to do what I can do, keep showing up, keep sharing poems I find interesting, hoping that some of the poems resonate with readers in ways that spark an interest in some shape or fashion.   I wish you well this month of November.  In the modest intent of zen tradition, may each of us find a future that is workable.   May we all find a path that we can walk this November, even among the bomb craters, to come out the other side, into a more peaceful December.

Painful Condition

by Yacheslav Konoval

Once on Thursday, I woke up weak,
having been covered with a warm quilt,
with a merciless temperature,
I am dying, and I am bleak.
Like a pendulum,
hearing the run of strikes in the clock’s click.
Laying in bed, I had exhausted from the undead,
I am similar to a sickly chick.
Contemplate on the white pills,
that had become the color of capitulation.
Please, God, stop all human ills,
overcome the pains, and be a healthy nation.

This Is The Barrenness

Louise Gluck

From the beginning of time, in childhood, I thought that pain meant I was not loved. It meant I loved.

Louis Gluck

All Hallows

By Louise Gluck 
 
Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:
 
This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one
 
And the soul creeps out of the tree.

Sonnet 100

by Lord Brooke Fulke Greville (1554 – 1628)

In night when colors all to black are cast,
Distinction lost, or gone down with the light;
The eye a watch to inward senses placed,
Not seeing, yet still having powers of sight,

Gives vain alarums to the inward sense,
Where fear stirred up with witty tyranny,
Confounds all powers, and thorough self-offense,
Doth forge and raise impossibility:

Such as in thick depriving darknesses,
Proper reflections of the error be,
And images of self-confusednesses,
Which hurt imaginations only see;

And from this nothing seen, tells news of devils,
Which but expressions be of inward evils

How Huge The World Must Be

David Baker

Poems happen for me–when they happen–not in the writing but in the rewriting. They emerge.

David Baker

Dust To Dust (An Excerpt)

by David Baker
 
2.
 
All night, so far, I have waited for the train to come
calling through a cotton curtain on its breeze.
 
It always does—low as a mourning dove long minutes
over the far, darkening fields and many trees.
 
How huge the world must be to hear so far
beyond the shade, beyond the grasp of night.
 
There are apple boughs brushing my fine screen lightly.
And a dozen stars, I know, like pinpricks on an arm.
 
Before it stops, a train will hiss, grind, clatter
all the way back while its car-locks bang.
 
Then the engine at idle—hubbub, wood smoke,
and trouble in the hobo camp below the trestle.
 
How sad the world is to hear nothing for so long.
It always comes. Sweet night wind like cider.
 

5.
 
Hanging primrose breeze. Haze of barbeque.
The many children quieted by baths, put to bed—
 
they wait for the locusts’ buzz and homing trains.
One lone bat recurrent in the streetlamp glow.
 
Four blocks down the road gives way to asphalt blacktop.
But here the block stamp macon brick hasn’t rubbed off
 
the red clay bars the many fathers wrecked
their knees to pack tightly back into earth.
 
How small a world it is to want such work.
I will come here only once more to lie down too,
 
having lived to praise one thing made so well
it sings with each slow passage, rimmed
 
with sleepers safe in all their loved and many beds.
Flowers line every sidewalk down the breathing road.

I Know The World

Philip Whalen (1923 – 2002)

My writing is a picture of the mind moving.

Philip Whalen

Vermont

by Phillip Widden

A white wood house defines the slope. The trees
Have gone to red and flame. A field beyond
Is spread with grass and granite rocks at ease.
This stonewall pattern thinks it holds a pond.
But it is free beneath October’s sun,
At least as free as anything can be
In fever such as we all know when, done
With heavy summer, eyes begin to see
The chill of air and glaze themselves with dreams.
Restrained. The farmhouse windows have their fire
Inside as well. Twilight is more it seems,
And maple facts can mesmerize desire.
A white wood house defines the slope of hill
Where people keep another autumn, still.

A Vision of the Bodhisattvas

By Philip Whalen
 
They pass before me one by one riding on animals
“What are you waiting for,” they want to know
 
Z—, young as he is (& mad into the bargain) tells me
“Some day you’ll drop everything & become a rishi, you know.”
 
I know
The forest is there, I’ve lived in it
    More certainly than this town? Irrelevant—
 
    What am I waiting for?
A change in customs that will take 1000 years to come about?
Who’s to make the change but me?
 
    “Returning again and again,” Amida says
 
Why’s that dream so necessary? walking out of whatever house alone
Nothing but the clothes on my back, money or no
Down the road to the next place the highway leading to the   
mountains
From which I absolutely must come back
 
What business have I to do that?
I know the world and I love it too much and it
Is not the one I’d find outside this door.

I’m Your Guide Here

Maggie Smith

How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.

Annie Dillard

First Fall

By Maggie Smith
 
I’m your guide here. In the evening-dark
morning streets, I point and name.
Look, the sycamores, their mottled,
paint-by-number bark. Look, the leaves
rusting and crisping at the edges.
I walk through Schiller Park with you
on my chest. Stars smolder well
into daylight. Look, the pond, the ducks,
the dogs paddling after their prized sticks.
Fall is when the only things you know
because I’ve named them
begin to end. Soon I’ll have another
season to offer you: frost soft
on the window and a porthole
sighed there, ice sleeving the bare
gray branches. The first time you see
something die, you won’t know it might
come back. I’m desperate for you
to love the world because I brought you here.
 
 

Reading the Train Book, I Think of Lisa

by Maggie Smith
 
In the board book there is a train, not a train
but a picture of a train on thick cardboard pages
my son fumbles to turn. In the book with a spine
gummed soft, there is no car parked beside the tracks
and no black-haired woman standing by the car
not parked beside the tracks. In the book
there is a train, each car its own color, one car
heaped high with coal, not coal but a drawing of coal.
See the engine, the neat cloud of steam above it,
not steam at all, and the engineer in his striped cap
smiling in the little window, not a window.
In the book there is no black-haired woman
on the tracks, not tracks. I am holding my son
who is holding the train book and waiting
for me to sing the long, happy sound, not happy
but a warning, doubled and doubled again.
 

The Sweet Promise of a Ripening Peril

The purpose in life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Sonnets to Orpheus
Part Two, Sonnet XXIX

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

 
Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent Earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am

Sonnets to Orpheus
Part Two, Sonnet XXIII

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Robert Temple

Call me to you when the hour turns away,
The one which always opposes you:
It is as close to you as a dog’s face
But then it wavers, forever eluding you,

Just when you thought it was yours.
All things which are taken from your grasp are most your own.
How free we are. We are shut out from
Just where we expected most to be warmly greeted.

We struggle anxiously for a hand-hold,
We who are perhaps too new for what is truly old,
But too old for that which has never yet been.

We are only correct insofar as we praise,
For we are both blade and branch,
We contain the sweet promise of a ripening peril.

I’ll Trace You

Annie Finch

The next time you hear someone in a workshop remarking on how good a particular free-verse line or passage sounds, scan it. The odds are that it will fall into a regular metrical pattern.

Annie Finch

Final Autumn

By Annie Finch
 
Maple leaves turn black in the courtyard.
Light drives lower and one bluejay crams
our cold memories out past the sun,
 
each time your traces come past the shadows
and visit under my looking-glass fingers
that lift and block out the sun.
 
Come—I’ll trace you one final autumn,
and you can trace your last homecoming
into the snow or the sun.
 
 

 


Sonnet XII

by William Shakespeare

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night,
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silvered o’er with white:
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard:
Then of thy beauty do I question make
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake,
And die as fast as they see others grow,
And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed to brave him, when he takes thee hence.

Lost To All Music Now

Alfred Lord Tennyson

I am part of all that I have met.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIT MDCCCXXXIII: 5

by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892)

I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.
 
But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
 
In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold;
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.


The Bad Season Makes the Poet Sad

By Robert Herrick (1591 – 1674)
 
 
Dull to myself, and almost dead to these
My many fresh and fragrant mistresses;
Lost to all music now, since everything
Puts on the semblance here of sorrowing.
Sick is the land to th’ heart, and doth endure
More dangerous faintings by her desp’rate cure.
But if that golden age would come again
And Charles here rule, as he before did reign;
If smooth and unperplex’d the seasons were
As when the sweet Maria lived here;
I should delight to have my curls half drown’d
In Tyrian dews, and head with roses crown’d.
And once more yet (ere I am laid out dead)
Knock at a star with my exalted head.

Tribute in Turbulence

Robert Fitzgerald

Poetry is at least an elegance and at most a revelation.

Robert Fitzgerald

Metaphysician

by Robert Fitzgerald (1910 – 1985)

His logic unperturbed, exacting new
Tribute in turbulence, a tithe of motion:

Runners by whose feet daylight is shaken,
Moths, mantles wind-wrought, releases sharply
Against throned columns, shafts closing in air – 

Attend.  Time’s clear device in each man’s eye
Makes shadows what he sees, and streets shadows
Wherein we move, impelled or quieted.

We have been out to see the latest signs
Unbent from heaven, and these who staring walk
Beside us are not blind, and all who see
Through this low draft of shade will be undone.

Thus to lie one night with his back broken
And dream at dawn the idol in the stone. 

 


Lightness in Autumn

By Robert Fitzgerald 
 
The rake is like a wand or fan,
With bamboo springing in a span
To catch the leaves that I amass
In bushels on the evening grass.
 
I reckon how the wind behaves
And rake them lightly into waves
And rake the waves upon a pile,
Then stop my raking for a while.
 
The sun is down, the air is blue,
And soon the fingers will be, too,
But there are children to appease
With ducking in those leafy seas.
 
So loudly rummaging their bed
On the dry billows of the dead,
They are not warned at four and three
Of natural mortality.
 
Before their supper they require
A dragon field of yellow fire
To light and toast them in the gloom.
So much for old earth’s ashen doom.
 

I’m Your Man

Garrison Keillor

Bad News

by Garrison Keillor

A hard year and trouble brewing everywhere,
Insurance companies and banks sliding headfirst
Toward oblivion at 50 cents a share
And heading south.  The bubble has burst
and our mortgaged castle in the air
Will likely crash and burn, but don’t despair,
Though probably our pension fund is cursed.
For still we have this lovely love affair
In which we are so steadily immersed
And if we must go on welfare and wear
Used clothes and live on angel hair and liverwurst,
Still I’ll smile whenever I see you there,
Bathing in the creek behind our shack,
I’ll love you still and hope you love me back.

 


 

Ulysses

by Garrison Keillor

Here by the enormous swimming pool at the Biltmore
Twenty-six young dark-skinned women lie
In tiny bikinis like mermaids on the shore,
And I, bound for Ithaca, just sail on by,
Heading for you, Penelope, to tell the tale,
How that whole Trojan War gave me the willies,
The pointlessness of it, and I set sail,
Having paid off Homer and left Achilles
In his tent, and was lucky to get a favorable wind
And stopped here at the Biltmore to recompute
My course, and found twenty-six dark skinned
Women, their breasts displayed like fresh fruit
         . Thanks but no thanks.  They only want a tan.
        .  You, dear, love a good story.  I’m your man.