She Had Some Horses

horse
Marc Chagall

Don’t Let That Horse

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Don’t let that horse
                              eat that violin
    cried Chagall’s mother
                                     But he
                      kept right on
                                     painting
And became famous
And kept on painting
                              The Horse With Violin In Mouth
And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
                                        and rode away
          waving the violin
And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across
And there were no strings
                                     attached

She Had Some Horses

(Excerpt part 1 of 5)

by Joy Harjo

I. She Had Some Horses

She had some horses.

She had horses who were bodies of sand.
She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.
She had horses who were skins of ocean water.
She had horses who were the blue air of sky.
She had horses who were fur and teeth.
She had horses who were clay and would break.
She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

She had some horses.

She had horses with eyes of trains.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses.

She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their
bodies shone and burned like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet
in stalls of their own making.

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.
She had horses who cried in their beer.
She had horses who spit at male queens who made
them afraid of themselves.

She had horses who said they weren’t afraid.
She had horses who lied.
She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped
bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, “horse.”
She had horses who called themselves, “spirit,” and kept
their voices secret and to themselves.

She had horses who had no names.
She had horses who had books of names.

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.
She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who
carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.
She had horses who waited for destruction.
She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.
She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.
She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her
bed at night and prayed as they raped her.

She had some horses.

She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses.

 

Stunned, Tantalized And Famished

IMG_5847
The starveling world around you burns.

 

I was dreaming in my dreaming
God knows a purer view
As I surrender to my sleeping
I commit my dream to you
The power to dream to rule
To wrestle the world from fools…

Fred Smith/Patti Smith

First Dream of You

by T. A. Fry

First dream of you, since your sudden passing,
I spied you walking briskly in a throng,
Signature bobbed hair brown, youthful, classy,
Talking to a friend, moving merrily along.
I tried weaving through the teeming crowd
To greet you. Such joy welling in my throat.
I can see you laughing, but it’s too loud
The city noise drowning out those pleasing notes
The surrounding clamor another shroud.

I shouted, waved increasingly concerned
This chance meeting, so vivid, might soon be gone.
While the starveling world around you burned
In your brightness, as it had always done.
You turned, looked into my eyes, then vanished
I awoke stunned, tantalized and famished.


 

I enjoy how a single word can set my writing in motion.  Its been over three years since my Mother died.  But it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I had my first dream of her after her death. I woke up completely aware of that fact and it made the experience even more vivid.  I thought about the dream that week and over the course of a couple of days this sonnet emerged.  The first couple of lines came quickly and it stalled.  Then I came across the word “starveling” in a book and the rest came together.  It is not an error that this is 15 lines.   I wrote multiple drafts in which I kept it to the standard 14 lines, but in the end I preferred the pacing of this one.   It is not the only 15 line sonnet I have written.  Sometimes you have to let the words decide.

There are many pictures of my Mother where light seems to be radiating from her.  She had that way of bringing energy into a room with her presence.  Her birthday is today. She would have been 87.  Fourteenlines.blog is 2 years old this week as well.  Thank you to all who visit and share my love of poetry.

 

We Buy A Fish. We Are Fed.

 

Keillor
Garrison Keillor

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” .

Julia Childs

Supper

by Garrison Keillor

You made crusty bread rolls filled with chunks of brie
And minced garlic drizzled with olive oil
And baked them until the brie was bubbly
And we ate them lovingly, our legs coiled
Together under the table. And salmon with dill
And lemon and whole-wheat cous cous
Baked with garlic and fresh ginger, and a hill
Of green beans and carrots roasted with honey and tofu.
It was beautiful, the candles, the linen and silver,
The sun shining down on our northern street,
Me with my hand on your leg. You, my lover,
In your jeans and green T-shirt and beautiful bare feet.
How simple life is. We buy a fish. We are fed.
We sit close to each other, we talk and then we go to bed.


I have recently been forced to take my diabetes seriously.  It’s a bit like an alcoholic telling everyone he’s an alcoholic.  By doing so he hopes that everyone else will hold them accountable.  The problem with diabetes, at least for me, is because I wasn’t diabetic for 54 years, everyone seems to think if I would just exercise a bit more, lose a few pounds and eat right it would be fine.  I wish it was that simple. There is nothing simple about my diabetes.  I wake up and before I have eaten anything my blood sugars are so far above my target that I start the day feeling like I can’t eat anything.  If I use my blood glucose monitor as the green flag for actually eating there are days I completely fast and never get in the target range.   It’s no way to live.

I like to cook, I like to eat.  I am a decent cook.   My relationship with food has completely changed in the past 3 months, and I feel betrayed.  I feel like I can’t enjoy the simplicity of bread and cheese and a glass of wine unless I am going to ignore my blood sugars and the nagging of loved ones that something which was perfectly normal until recently is now some kind of violation of being a good person.   Eating normal food in moderation is not a moral failing for diabetics. But the only way to be seen as virtuous is to deny myself even the most simple of things.  Diabetes is like becoming a Catholic priest and having to swear an oath of celibacy, but in this case its swearing off the occasional treat of peanut M and M’s.

I refuse to be defined by my diabetes. I am going to make an attempt at trying to get it mostly under control, but my experience is doctors are only too happy to play the blame and shame game and watch your A1c climb year after year without really giving you all the tools to manage the disease because type II diabetes is considered a life style disease. But I’m not overweight.  And I don’t eat a lot of sugars. My body just doesn’t make insulin anymore. So, I can decide to live like a monk and stop enjoying food or I can accept that this disease is likely going to kill me eventually. The good thing is its going to kill me really slowly, plenty of time to enjoy life and eat lots of great food.


Fairy Bread

by Robert Louis Stevenson

.           . Come up here, O dusty feet!
Here is fairy bread to eat.
Here in my retiring room,
Children, you may dine
On the golden smell of broom
.            . And the shade of pine;
And when you have eaten well,
Fairy stories hear and tell.

Life Within Its Snare

Faulkner
William Faulkner (1897 – 1962)

“I could just remember how my father used to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.”

― William Faulkner in As I Lay Dying

Fifty Years

By William Faulkner

 

Her house is empty and her heart is old,
And filled with shades and echoes that deceive
No one save her, for still she tries to weave
With blind bent fingers, nets that cannot hold.
Once all men’s arms rose up to her, ‘tis told,
And hovered like white birds for her caress:
A crown she could have had to bind each tress
Of hair, and her sweet arms the Witches’ Gold.

Her mirrors know her witnesses, for there
She rose in dreams from other dreams that lent
Her softness as she stood, crowned with soft hair.
And with his bound heart and his young eyes bent
And blind, he feels her presence like shed scent,
Holding him body and life within its snare.


“I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t, and then tries the short story, which is the most demanding form after poetry. And, failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.”


Over the World’s Rim

by William Faulkner

Over the world’s rim, drawing bland November
Reluctant behind them, drawing the moons of cold:
What do their lonely voices wake to remember
In this dust ere ’twas flesh? what restless old

Dream a thousand years was safely sleeping 
Wakes my blood to sharp unease? what horn
Rings out to them? Was I free once, sweeping
Their Ewild and lonely skies ere I was born?

The hand that shaped my body, that gave me vision,
Made me a slave to clay for a fee of breath.
Sweep on, O wild and lonely: mine the derision,
Then the splendor and speed, the cleanness of death.

Over the world’s rim, out of some splendid noon,
Seeking some high desire, and not in vain,
They fill and empty the red and dying moon
And, crying, cross the rim of the world again.

Look Upon This Verse

ea poe.jpg
Edgar Allen Poe

Sonnet 71

By William Shakespeare

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;
Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
And mock you with me after I am gone.


Was Edgar Allen Poe life as unconventional as his poetry and writing or has time allowed for Poe to be re-imagined in his own words?  Poe’s life certainly would not fit into the conventions of today.  He married his first cousin when she was 13 and he was 27.  I think we would call that a pedophile today, not an eligible bachelor.  She died eleven years later from tuberculosis.  Poe died only two years after following her death under somewhat murky circumstances.  In 1849, Poe went missing for five days and was found incoherent and delirious.  He was taken to a Baltimore hospital where he died soon after at the age of 40.   Typical of the time, No autopsy was performed and the cause of death was listed as a vague “congestion of the brain” and he was buried two days later.  This rather unusual description opened the door for crack pots and scholars, (or are those the same thing?) to propose everything from murder, to carbon monoxide poisoning as the reason for his death.  It doesn’t really matter, dead is dead.   Poe doesn’t get enough credit for the quality of his writing and the varied contributions he made to literature.  Poe grew up in desperate poverty and he wrote in true fashion as his vocation and made a living at it.   I think he deserves more credit than he sometimes receives as a poet and writer.


Death

by Edgar Allan Poe

It is not death, that some time in a sigh
This eloquent breath shall take its speechless flight;
That some time the live stars, which now reply
In sunlight to the sun, shall set in night;
That this warm conscious flesh shall perish quite,
And all life’s ruddy springs forget to flow; —
That verse shall cease, and the immortal spright
Be lapp’d in alien clay, and laid below: —
It is not death to know this, but to know
That pious thoughts, which visit at new graves,
In tender pilgrimage will cease to go
So duly and so oft, and when grass waves
Over the past-away, there may be then
No resurrections in the minds of men!

 

 

Silence Has Never Stopped Me From Praying

Saeed-Jones

The Fabulist

by Saeed Jones

He puts my hand against his chest
to his nipple and read the lines on my palm
He insists in his certain voice
that the beat in his chest isn’t a beat at all
but an echo: the sound of two fearful feet
heading down into some poorly lit cave
made of bats and blood-red gems.
He tells me again.  He’s told me before.
The feet walk slower the farther down they go.
No, I say taking my hand back.
It’s a heart.  It’s always been a heart. 
I say it once for him, once for myself.
He steps back and looks at me:
he needs to tell me the story again.


I stopped by my local used book store the other day, and bought a copy of Saeed Jones collection of poetry titled Prelude to Bruise, in which the poem, The Fabulist is found.  I had never heard of Saeed Jones, but as luck would have it listening to NPR on Saturday there was an interview with Saeed Jones promoting his new memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives. Jones is a powerful writer with an interesting perspective.  I am enjoying his poetry and look forward to picking up a copy of his memoir.

I find it interesting that Jones is using some elements of the sonnet structure in some of his poems.   He obviously does not feel constrained to follow the “rules” of sonnets precisely but it no coincidence both of these poems are fourteen lines.

I very much enjoy Jones’ story telling in his poetry.  He paints with a vivid pallet of words and goes in unexpected directions within his poems.  The line from A Memory; “Alive, how many nights did I spend knelt between the knees of gods and men begging for rain, rent and reasons to remain?”  has a whole novel’s worth of ideas in that one sentence.   If you are looking for a answer from a reader, on reasons to remain, I’ll offer one:  remain so that you can keep writing and by doing so, making our world a more thoughtful and beautiful place.


A Memory

by Saeed Jones

When they finished burying me, what was left of me
sent up a demand like a hand blooming in the fresh dirt:

When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning.
If they heard me, I couldn’t hear their answers.

But silence has never stopped me from praying.
Alive, how many nights did I spend knelt between

the knees of gods and men begging for rain, rent,
and reasons to remain? A body like the sky seeking

justice. A body like light reaching right down into the field
where you thought you could hide from me.

They’ve taken their bald rose stems and black umbrellas
home now. They’ve cooked for one another, sung hymns

as if they didn’t prefer jazz. I’m just a memory now.
But history has never stopped me from praying.

 

In The Midden Of My Mind

Climbing-Trees

“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories.  And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.”

Stevie Wonder

Motown Cross

(Excerpt – Sonnet #3 in the crown of sonnets)

by Patricia Smith

Silk where his throat should be, and growling grace,
Little Stevie made us wonder why
we even needed sight. His rhythm eye
could see us click our hips and swerve in place
whenever he cut loose. Ooh, we’d unlace
our Converse All-Stars. Yeah, we wondered why
we couldn’t get down without our shoes, we’d try
and dance and keep up with his funky pace
of hiss and howl and hum, and then he’d slow
to twist our hearts until he heard them crack,
ignoring what was leaking from the seams.
The rockin’ blind boy couldn’t help but show
us light. We bellowed every soulful track
from open window, ’neath the door—pipe dreams.

If you want to check out Smith’s entire crown of sonnets Motown Cross published in Rattle in 2010, check out the link or video below.

 


The best known crown of sonnets is John Donne’s La Corona that begins, “Deign at my hands the crown of prayer and praise.”   It sets the standard by which all others are measured.  If you are not familiar with a crown of sonnets or sonnet sequence, it is a poem containing anywhere from seven, eleven or thirteen sonnets, written around a theme.  Modern sonnet sequences are not always in rhyme and do not necessarily follow the supposed “rules” of a crown of sonnet, but I am impressed that Patricia Smith went old school in her poem Motown Cross and followed the structure of Donne, in which the first line of the first sonnet is the last line of the last sonnet, the last line of the first sonnet is the first line of the second sonnet, and so forth with successive sonnets until the end.  The challenge in this structure is figuring out a rhyming sequence that you can continue from the end of one sonnet to the next and not have repetition and still carry the narrative forward. It provides a bigger canvas in which to work in the sonnet structure but that larger size carries with it it’s own unique set of challenges.

Like Smith, when I sat down and wrote a crown of sonnets, I looked sentimentally to the past.  She focused on music that shaped her, I focused on memories of growing up.   The entire sonnet sequence, In the Midden of My Mind, started with the word midden.  I came across it and it’s association with storage cupboards and sailing ships immediately conjured thoughts about climbing trees as a child, a place of mystery and serenity that still exists in my memory. I grew up in the 1960’s in a suburban landscape on a dead end street with a forest of mature trees at my door step  to explore and climb.  I had my favorites that I knew the route that I could climb to the very top and peer out over the entire world and hide from my sisters and my mom if I chose. I spent many happy summer and fall afternoons climbing trees. The act of climbing a combination of strategy, knowledge of trees,  athleticism, experience, upper arm strength and some courage.   I never fell. I have visceral memories of being at the top of swaying trees and seeing a perspective of the world that looked completely different than being on the ground.

Stevie Wonder’s album, Songs in the Key of Life was one of the very first albums I ever purchased.  It came out when I was thirteen and I listened to it over and over as a teenager.  Patricia Smith, a black woman from inner city Detroit and me a white man who grew up in suburbs of St. Paul, couldn’t in some ways be more different in our experiences, but we both danced to Stevie Wonder in our converse All Stars and we both somehow gravitated to writing a crown of sonnets to capture the mood and rhythms of our past. It took me more than six months to write In the Midden of My Mind. There were many starts and stops along the way, trying to maintain a consistent voice throughout and articulate something genuine.  In the end, I let the rhyme and sentiment both have the upper hand and though it is not one of the best things I have ever written, it has held up over the test of time in that I don’t cringe when I read it.   It still says what I want it to say. Nostalgia does not always translate well to others, our own sentimental journeys best kept as personal, but it is a way to share our common experience that connects us in ways that remind us that the human condition has more similarities that bind us together than differences that divide.


In The Midden of My Mind

By T. A. Fry

In the midden of my mind, it lies
Unbidden: the flagship of my boyhood home.
A relic hidden under bluest skies.
Where childhood’s ghosts are free to roam.
Danger beckoned me to its lofty realm
Bound by vistas from the tallest tree.
High in oaks and elm, I was at the helm
Of  tall ships sailing effortlessly.

Oh, to climb into youth’s panoply,

The dappled greens of windy murmur.
The swaying solitude of the canopy,
Above the scrambling of terra firma.
Though nostalgia’s pastel does not grow dreary,
The past’s colors blend until I’m leery.

 

The past’s colors blend until I’m leery.
It bends, then fades to form a rosy veil.
What once was real becomes more a theory,
In retelling tales that time assails.
Those days when marbles were like Midas gold,
Jewels handed down to daughters and sons.
When aggies, clears, cat-eyes and shooters rolled
To clack, smack and crack, nothing less was fun.

In long grass we played, our days unbroken.

While wildflowers buzzed with a winged milieu.
A place where kindness, if it went unspoken,
Was felt in the warmth to see us through.
A timeless landscape that shall never lapse.
When all the marbles were within my grasp.

 


When all the marbles were within my grasp.
Some gained, some lost, but all in fair play.
Until one day I turned to find the hasp
of my chest broken and all in disarray.
Death’s screech hailed me beneath a tire
Revealing the flash by which souls burn.
Chance disrobed the vagary of death’s attire
That clothes the nakedness from which we learn.

There lay crumbled before me what had been

An electric grey kitten who filled my days
With boundless play and purry naps, but in
A dash, his companionship was torn away.
Death’s design is a bloody valentine.
Is it childish to wish to turn back time?

 

Is it childish to wish to turn back time?
Life’s an endless game between gain and loss.
Death picks breath’s pocket. Yet there’s no crime.
For pure gold is smelt alongside the dross.
Are words fit crucibles for our stores?
No matter what preciousness is poured.
The past sounds hollow, when its essence roared.
Or cold metallic, when by warmth adorned.

My first real kiss from a neighbor girl.
Her lips wet and sweet, like an apple core.
Shining sun bronzed hair, not a hint of curl,
With gentle fondness, it was a thrill.
Is it any wonder I ponder still?
Soft fingers alighting on emerging will.

 

Soft fingers alighting on emerging will.
Awakened chords to songs I’d yet to sing.
Her hazel eyes afire with new found skills.
Planted bouquets of flowers I’d yet to bring.
My garden grew more bold and lush.  By what
Bewitching alchemy does love distill?
Young men from boys and with it cut
The last apron string that holds them still.

In the midden of my mind is always lit,

A candle kindled by my Mother’s grace.
It’s held in a stanchion, a sturdy kit,
Iron my father forged along its base.
By loving hands honor is embraced.
In trusting arms confidence is encased.

 

In trusting arms confidence is encased
Despite the clumsy sack-race of boys to men.
Bumbling, stumbling – ignorance is erased.
Only at the tape to hear it’s jeers again.
I drank the cold brew from which poise streams. 
And ate the fruit that falls from laughter’s tree.
I ventured far beyond green childish dreams,
With ungainly strength to go forth and be.

I unearthed proud mystery in this world.

In dominion o’er my body and my mind. 
I watched sun and moon around me swirl
And mulled how tempest winds unwind.
I made few inroads into golden plains.
But not all my wandering was in vain.

 

 

Not all my wandering was in vain.
I said “I do” before those hazel eyes,
Declared “I do” twice more as children came.
In praise of Gods that be with grateful cries.
As victory and failure filled my sail.
And first kisses gave way to wayward sighs.
Through it all I heard love’s warbling wail.
Though time forgets all the whats and whys.

As epitaphs replaced old love songs sung.

Despite all that’s happened love prevailed.
White hair the vanguard of immortal young
Who listen politely to our wistful tale.
For as I look back with old thankful eyes,
There, in the midden of my mind it lies.