Can Anyone Think Why

Once individuals have the motivation to do something different, the whole world can begin to change.

Esther Cameron

a’ anit Ester, id est
The Fast of Esther

By Esther Cameron

Can anyone still hear my people’s cry,
Even they themselves? Can anybody stand
In the blown-apart heart of the Holy Land,
Can anybody see with shattered eye
All that is done? Can anyone think why,
Marshal a shredded brain to understand?
Can anybody grasp a severed hand,
Can a cut-out tongue still stammer of Sinai?
O GOD, restore the image of Your Law,
Restore the sacredness of human form,
If not for Israel’s, for your sweet earth’s sake.
Send us a sign, send forth a ray to draw
Love’s faithful in against the hateful storm,
To uphold the norm, and face down Amalek!”

 


 

Chopsticks

by Esther Cameron

On the old upright piano in the gym
short fingers jangle out the clanking Hymn
to Anarchy the children always know. 
Where do they learn it? Players come and go,
but it survives, jumping form span to span
of their quick generations. Peter Pan
must have composed the thing. Though surely he
would have put into it more revelry,
more reverie or more rhodomontade – 
something, anyway, other than this odd – 
angled insouciance.  Here you hear no dream
of islands, crocs, clocks, pirates. Aimless meme,
It asks only to cause a small annoyance
before relapsing into dumb compliance.
Nothing will change, tink tink.  Anyone care?
Clank clank. Indifference, older than despair. 

Meteors To Streak The August Sky

Julia Kasdorf

Nothing but blackness above And nothing that moves but the cars…. God, if you wish for our love, Fling us a handful of stars!

Louis Untermeyer

 

Landscape with Desire

by Julia Kasdorf​

Next month maples along this lake will rage
orange and scarlet. Firs we barely discern
on that far shore will state their dark shapes,
so we are torn between taking it all in
from the porch and taking a swim. At night
we pull on sweatshirts, lie down on the dock,
heads nestled in life preservers, and wait
for meteors to streak the August sky
like runs in the blackest stocking against
the whitest thigh. With each plummeting light,
our voices rise like love cries, more urgent
and louder than any solitary loon or coyote
calling to its mate. Only we conflate
longing and loss like this; only we wait


 

Infidelity

By Louis Untermeyer 
 
You have not conquered me—it is the surge
Of love itself that beats against my will;
It is the sting of conflict, the old urge
That calls me still.
 
It is not you I love—it is the form
And shadow of all lovers who have died
That gives you all the freshness of a warm
And unfamiliar bride.
 
It is your name I breathe, your hands I seek;
It will be you when you are gone.
And yet the dream, the name I never speak,
Is that that lures me on.
 
It is the golden summons, the bright wave
Of banners calling me anew;
It is all beauty, perilous and grave—
It is not you.

Wild To Hold

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503 – 1542)

Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.

Anatole Broyard

 

The Heart and Service

By Sir Thomas Wyatt
 
The heart and service to you proffer’d
With right good will full honestly,
Refuse it not, since it is offer’d,
But take it to you gentlely.
 
And though it be a small present,
Yet good, consider graciously
The thought, the mind, and the intent
Of him that loves you faithfully.
 
It were a thing of small effect
To work my woe thus cruelly,
For my good will to be abject:
Therefore accept it lovingly.
 
Pain or travel, to run or ride,
I undertake it pleasantly;
Bid ye me go, and straight I glide
At your commandement humbly.
 
Pain or pleasure, now may you plant
Even which it please you steadfastly;
Do which you list, I shall not want
To be your servant secretly.
 
And since so much I do desire
To be your own assuredly,
For all my service and my hire
Reward your servant liberally.
 

Whoso List to Hunt

by Sir Thomas Wyatt

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, helas! I may no more.
The vain travail hath worried me so sore,
I am of them that furthest come behind.
Yet may I by no means, my worried mind
Draw from the deer; but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I, may spend his time in vain;
And graven in diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about,
“Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild to hold, though I seem tame.”

 

My Unhappiness Comes From Too Much Thinking

Love wants everything without condition, love has no laws.

Pierre de Ronsard

O Flush, My Dog

An Excerpt

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
 
 
LOVING friend, the gift of one,
Who, her own true faith, hath run,
Through thy lower nature ;
Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature !
 
 
…….
 
 
And because he loves me so,
Better than his kind will do
Often, man or woman,
Give I back more love again
Than dogs often take of men, —
Leaning from my Human.
 
Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
Pretty collars make thee fine,
Sugared milk make fat thee !
Pleasures wag on in thy tail —
Hands of gentle motion fail
Nevermore, to pat thee !
 
Downy pillow take thy head,
Silken coverlid bestead,
Sunshine help thy sleeping !
No fly ‘s buzzing wake thee up —
No man break thy purple cup,
Set for drinking deep in.
 
Whiskered cats arointed flee —
Sturdy stoppers keep from thee
Cologne distillations ;
Nuts lie in thy path for stones,
And thy feast-day macaroons
Turn to daily rations !
 
Mock I thee, in wishing weal ? —
Tears are in my eyes to feel
Thou art made so straightly,
Blessing needs must straighten too, —
Little canst thou joy or do,
Thou who lovest greatly.
 
Yet be blessed to the height
Of all good and all delight
Pervious to thy nature, —
Only loved beyond that line,
With a love that answers thine,
Loving fellow-creature !
 
 

Les Amours de Cassandre
LXXVIII

By Pierre de Ronsard

Little water dog, how happy you are,
If you could only understand your luck,
To be able to stretch your body out between her arms,
And to sleep on her lovestruck breast!

Whereas I live on weak and languishing,
Because I understand my fortune too well.
Alas! For having wanted in my youth to learn
Too many reasons, I’ve made myself unhappy.

I wish I were a village roughneck,
An idiot, without intelligence, without understanding,
Or a woodcutter working out in the fields:
Then I would have no feeling for love.
Too much mind causes my sorrows,
And my unhappiness comes from too much thinking.

Les Amours de Cassandre, LXXVIII, 1552

Petit barbet, que tu es bienheureux,
Si ton bon-heur tu sçavois bien entendre,
D’ainsi ton corps entre ses bras estendre,
Et de dormir en son sein amoureux !

Où moy je vy chetif et langoureux,
Pour sçavoir trop ma fortune comprendre
Las! pour vouloir en ma jeunesse apprendre
Trop de raisons, je me fis malheureux.

Je voudrois estre un pitaut de village,
Sot, sans raison et sans entendement,
Ou fagoteur qui travaille au bocage:
Je n’aurois point en amour sentiment.
Le trop d’esprit me cause mon dommage,
Et mon mal vient de trop de jugement.

Being Not Unloveable

G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936)

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”

G. K. Chesterton

For A War Memorial

by G. K. Chesterton

The hucksters haggle in the mart
The cars and carts go by;
Senates and schools go droning on;
For dead things cannot die.

A storm stooped on the place of tombs
With bolts to blast and rive;
But these be names of many men
The lightning found alive.

If usurers rule and rights decay
And visions view once more
Great Carthage like a golden shell
Gape hollow on the shore,

Still to the last of crumbling time
Upon this stone be read
How many men of England died
To prove they were not dead.


The Convert

By G. K. Chesterton

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live

I Shall Walk Straightly

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000)

One reasons cats are happier than people is they have no newspapers.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Hunchback Girl: She Thinks of Heaven

by Gwendolyn Brooks

My Father, it is surely a blue place,
And Straight. Right. Regular. Where I shall find
No need for scholarly nonchalance or looks
A little to the left or guards upon the
Heart to halt love that runs without crookedness
Along its crooked corridors. My Father,
It is a planned place surely. Out of coils,
Unscrewed, released, no more to be marvelous,
I shall walk straightly through most proper halls
Proper myself, princess of properness.




Court Musicians

by Joyce Kilmer

As when in summer-scented days gone by
The court-musicians, dressed in velvets gay
And golden silks, would on their gitterns play
And blend their voices with the strings’ love-cry,
So that the princess from her tower on high
Might through the rose-framed window hear their lay,
And make more splendid the resplendent day
By leaning out, her choristers to spy;

So now, with weary voice and violin,
Two court-musicians rend the dusty air.
Their shrill notes pierce the elevated’s din,
And thrill a girl’s heart with a pleasure rare.
For her has sweeter music never been;
They never saw a princess half so fair.

Naming These Things Is The Love-Act

Patrick Kavanaugh (1904 – 1967)

“I saw the danger, yet I passed along the enchanted way,

And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.”

Patrick Kavanaugh

 

The Hospital

by Patrick Kavanaugh

A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward
Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row
Plain concrete, wash basins – an art lover’s woe,
Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored.
But nothing whatever is by love debarred,
The common and banal her heat can know.
The corridor led to a stairway and below
Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard.

This is what love does to things: the Rialto Bridge,
The main gate that was bent by a heavy lorry,
The seat at the back of a shed that was a suntrap.
Naming these things is the love-act and its pledge;
For we must record love’s mystery without claptrap,
Snatch out of time the passionate transitory.

 


The Visiting Hour

 
By Toi Derricotte
 
he came in his seedy brown jacket smelling of paint.   all
thumbs, a man stumbling over his own muscles, unable to
hold some part of himself and rock it, gently.   she gave
up, seeing him come in the door, wanting to show him her
flat belly just an hour before, looking at her own corpse
in the mirror.   she lay there reduced, neither virgin nor mother.
 
it had been decided.   the winter was too cold in the garage.
they would live with her mother.   the old bedroom was
already prepared, cleaned, the door opened.   the solitary
twin bed remained; he would sleep on the porch.
 
she looked at him and tried to feel her way into the body
of a woman, a thing which has to be taken care of, held
safely in his arms.
 
she lay there, trying to hold on to what she had, knowing
she had to let it go.

My Tongue Is Divided Into Two

Hannah Lowe

“A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in.. And how many want out.”

Tony Blair

 Sonnet for the British-Born

by Hannah Lowe

And suddenly, new language: ‘British-Born’,
for kids who grew up on terraces in Leeds
or tower blocks in Bow, and at weekends tied
their bootlaces for footie on the lawn
and went to college to study Sports or Business
or Car Mechanics and spoke with accents thick
as Yorkshire mud or London bullet-quick –
bare good and innit – and were as British as

a pack of salt-and-vinegar, and no,
his teacher hadn’t noticed him withdrawing
and no, his mother hadn’t wondered who
he called at 2am in the blue lit bedroom
of their bungalow, though despite her scrubbing,
the words still clear on their garden wall: ‘Go Home’


My Tongue is Divided Into Two

By Quique Aviles
 
My tongue is divided into two
by virtue, coincidence or heaven
words jumping out of my mouth
stepping on each other
enjoying being a voice for the message
expecting conclusions
 
My tongue is divided into two
into heavy accent bits of confusion
into miracles and accidents
saying things that hurt the heart
drowning in a language that lives, jumps, translates
 
My tongue is divided by nature
by our crazy desire to triumph and conquer
 
This tongue is cut up into equal pieces
one wants to curse and sing out loud
the other one simply wants to ask for water
 
My tongue is divided into two
one side likes to party
the other one takes refuge in praying
 
tongue
english of the funny sounds
tongue
funny sounds in english
tongue
sounds funny in english
tongue
in funny english sounds
 
My tongue sometimes acts like two
and it goes crazy
not knowing which side should be speaking
which side translating
 
My tongue is divided into two
a border patrol runs through the middle
frisking words
asking for proper identification
checking for pronunciation
 
My tongue is divided into two
My tongue is divided into two
 
I like my tongue
it says what feels right
I like my tongue
it says what feels right

In My Heart

Edmund Spenser

“Sleep after Toil, Port after stormy Seas,

Ease after War, Death after Life, does greatly please.”

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book One

Amoretti III: The Sovereign Beauty

By Edmund Spenser
 
The sovereign beauty which I do admire,
Witness the world how worthy to be praised:
The light whereof hath kindled heavenly fire
In my frail spirit, by her from baseness raised;
That being now with her huge brightness dazed,
Base thing I can no more endure to view;
But looking still on her, I stand amazed
At wondrous sight of so celestial hue.
So when my tongue would speak her praises due,
It stopped is with thought’s astonishment:
And when my pen would write her titles true,
It ravish’d is with fancy’s wonderment:
Yet in my heart I then both speak and write
The wonder that my wit cannot indite.
 
 

Sonnet

On being Cautioned against Walking on a Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It was Frequented by a Lunatic (1797)

by Charlotte Smith (1749 – 1806)

Is there a solitary wretch who hies
To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,
And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes
Its distance from the waves that chide below;
Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs
Chills his cold bed upon the mountain turf,
With hoarse, half-utter’d lamentation, lies
Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?
In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,
I see him more with envy than with fear;
He has no nice felicities that shrink
From giant horrors; wildly wandering here,
He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know
The depth or the duration of his woe.

 

Belief Exists

John Lee Clark

It’s an old trick, blaming injustice on its targets so that the privileged can pretend there’s nothing wrong. We are at the bottom of society because, what? Because we are DeafBlind. Which cannot be helped. Therefore, we belong at the bottom of society. It’s an amazingly easy trick to pull. They take things out of our reach and then they say we have limited awareness. Whatever they do is our fault.

John Lee Clark

The Diagnosis

by John Lee Clark

An erasure of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Palingenesis”

I, sobbing in the rolling mist,
Started for peopled days. In dreams
A faded, lonely promontory shed petals.
Belief exists. Cunning with its perfume
Working from youth, defiance. A phantom
Vanished. The swift surrenders, leap into
The old dead heart of lies.
I will give, remembering my turns
Into foliage. Of what light unseen!
What, what, what, what, what, what
Will hold still without its end.


We are taught at a young age to look for patterns.  We are rewarded for developing this skill. But in truth, we see connections where none may exist. We fall into the trap of believing that coincidence has divine providence.  However, even falsity can connect with good intent, by creating curiosity or empathy.   
 
I am connected to the last name of both of these writers through my Mother, Clark her birth name, and Longfellow the married name of her Father’s sister, her Aunt.  There are claims by the Longfellow clan to which we are connected by marriage is related to the famous poet below.  I have my doubts, but if it makes the cousins feel a bit more literary to claim him as a distant namesake, there’s no harm in it.  
 
Today is the 6th anniversary of my Mother’s death.   In one sense that time has passed quickly.  In another it feels like a distant epoch, completely detached from our current reality.  What would my Mother think about the state of our world?  She would be devastated by world events, loss of freedoms, the fundamental destruction of democratic norms.  She would be frustrated by the Minnesota Twins lack of pitching.  I have no reason to believe that if she were alive she would be anything but her normal wonderful self.
 
I stumbled across John Lee Clark’s essay on distantism.  A word he coined himself.  It is a remarkable essay.  In it he unpacks the ways in which the deafblind are put in boxes by the sighted and hearing community, those of us who think of ourselves as normal.  But in his clear writing, he outlines an idea I found fascinating.  The concept of having senses that bring autonomy, also bring us loss in ways that accepting a life based on the willingness to be dependent on each doesn’t create.   In it he writes;
 
I propose to call it distantism. The English word “distance” comes from “distantia,” Latin for “a standing apart.” A point could be made that distantism refers to the privileging of the distance senses of hearing and vision. The ways in which many cultures have evolved on the almost exclusive basis of these two senses have indeed been harmful to us. That insistence on sight or hearing to function in society means only one thing for us: death. But that would be putting it too simplistically. Each form of social bigotry has its distinctive personality and its unique set of intertwining evils. So I would like to dwell on the concept of distantia, or a standing apart, which lies at the heart of distantism.
 
We all come into this world completely dependent on our mothers.  I was fortunate to be nurtured by a woman of considerable grace and love. Though I will always miss her, I am still feel very much connected and blessed. Her memory is alive and vibrant in my heart, a heart that must now hear and see her with a different sense, the kind of completeness that John Lee Clark suggests is possible.   
 
 

 

Palingenesis

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I lay upon the headland-height, and listened
To the incessant sobbing of the sea
In caverns under me,
And watched the waves, that tossed and fled and glistened,
Until the rolling meadows of amethyst
Melted away in mist.

Then suddenly, as one from sleep, I started;
For round about me all the sunny capes
Seemed peopled with the shapes
Of those whom I had known in days departed,
Apparelled in the loveliness which gleams
On faces seen in dreams.

A moment only, and the light and glory
Faded away, and the disconsolate shore
Stood lonely as before;
And the wild roses of the promontory
Around me shuddered in the wind, and shed
Their petals of pale red.

There was an old belief that in the embers
Of all things their primordial form exists,
And cunning alchemists
Could recreate the rose with all its members
From its own ashes, but without the bloom,
Without the lost perfume.

Ah, me! what wonder-working, occult science
Can from the ashes in our hearts once more
The rose of youth restore?
What craft of alchemy can bid defiance
To time and change, and for a single hour
Renew this phantom-flower?

“Oh, give me back,” I cried, “the vanished splendors,
The breath of morn, and the exultant strife,
When the swift stream of life
Bounds o’er its rocky channel, and surrenders
The pond, with all its lilies for the leap
Into the unknown deep!”

And the sea answered, with a lamentation,
Like some old prophet wailing, and it said,
“Alas! thy youth is dead!
It breathes no more, its heart has no pulsation,
In the dark places with the dead of old
It lies forever cold!”

Then said I, “From its consecrated cerements
I will not drag this sacred dust again,
Only to give me pain;
But, still remembering all the lost endearments,
Go on my way, like one who looks before,
And turns to weep no more.”

Into what land of harvests, what plantations
Bright with autumnal foliage and the glow
Of sunsets burning low;
Beneath what midnight skies, whose constellations
Light up the spacious avenues between
This world and the unseen!

Amid what friendly greetings and caresses,
What households, though not alien, yet not mine,
What bowers of rest divine;
To what temptations in lone wildernesses,
What famine of the heart, what pain and loss,
The bearing of what cross!