On Seeing a Piece of our Heavy Artillery Brought Into Action
by Wilfred Owen
“Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse;
Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse
Huge imprecations like a blasting charm!
Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse;
Spend our resentment, cannon,—yea, disburse
Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.
Yet, for men’s sakes whom they vast malison
Must wither innocent of enmity,
Be not withdrawn, dark arm, thy spoilure done,
Safe to the bosom of our prosperity.
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!”
by John Gillespie Magee Jr.
“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
They say two photons fired through a slit
stay paired together to the end of time;
if one is polarized to change its spin,
the other does a U-turn on a dime,
although they fly apart at speeds of light
and never cross each other’s paths again,
like us, a couple in the seventies,
divorced for almost thirty years since then.
Tonight a Red Sox batter homered twice
to beat the Yankees in their playoff match,
and, sure as I was born in Boston, when
that second ball deflected off the bat,
I knew your thoughts were flying back to me,
though your location was a mystery.
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.
“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” .
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
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!
“We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; Yet the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading….is the search for a difficult pleasure.”
by John Clare
I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky
Harold Bloom, a fellow lover of sonnets, passed away this week. Bloom was a literary critic of legendary status, who loved words. Bloom was first and foremost a devotee of reading, though he did suffer from a bit of snobbery on the subject. Someone who enjoyed reading as much as he did, should have promoted reading for reading’s sake regardless of whether he agreed with another’s readers tastes, but Bloom felt all of us needed to be exposed to the genius lying in wait for us between the covers of the great books of literature. Bloom espoused the idea many times that reading was a way to explore what makes us human in ways that go beyond our solitary thoughts, by learning about some of the greatest minds of all time through their art, their ideas.
“It is hard to go on living without some hope of encountering the extraordinary.”
Bloom compiled many lists over the years of the essential canon of English literature. You can find several variations on that theme on the internet with a casual search. However, the best list of his on poetry that I have found is shared on the Floating Library. I have included a link below. Check it out. Of course the two poems today come from his list. Rest in peace Harold. I promise to do my part and keep up the good work of reading and making our way slowly through your list of gems, and even add to your list along the way a ripping good limerick or two you might have missed.