Love Drove Me To Rebel

The dead are more real than the living because they are complete.

Siegfried Sassoon

Banishment 

By Siegfried Sassoon (1886 – 1967)

I am banished from the patient men who fight.
They smote my heart to pity, built my pride.
Shoulder to aching shoulder, side by side,
They trudged away from life’s broad wealds of light.
Their wrongs were mine; and ever in my sight
They went arrayed in honour. But they died,–
Not one by one: and mutinous I cried
To those who sent them out into the night.

The darkness tells how vainly I have striven
To free them from the pit where they must dwell
In outcast gloom convulsed and jagged and riven
By grappling guns. Love drove me to rebel.
Love drives me back to grope with them through hell;
And in their tortured eyes I stand forgiven.


 

Thanatopsis (Excerpt)

By William Cullen Bryant  (1794-1878)

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumberable caravan that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Though go not, like the quarry-slave at night
Scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach they grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams…

America Explodes

I saw courage both in the Vietnam War and in the struggle to stop it. I learned that patriotism includes protest, not just military service.

John F. Kerry

March In Washington Against The Vietnam War

by Robert Bly

Looking down, I see feet moving calmly, gaily, 
. . almost as if separated from their bodies

But there is something moving in the dark just beyond
. . the edge of our eyes

A boat covered with machine guns moving downstream at night

No one can reach it – – – it is like the shadows
when the Puritans went out at dusk to kill turkeys

America explodes
On the ground, ragged metal riddles the underbrush

We do not respect ourselves!

It is a ceremony of self-abusement,
Like a man in the Assyrian desert
Pouring ashes over his head. . . 

We make war
Like a man anointing himself. . . 

 
 
 
 
 

 

[Sonnet] You jerk you didn’t call me up

By Bernadette Mayer
 
You jerk you didn’t call me up
I haven’t seen you in so long
You probably have a fucking tan
& besides that instead of making love tonight
You’re drinking your parents to the airport
I’m through with you bourgeois boys
All you ever do is go back to ancestral comforts
Only money can get—even Catullus was rich but
 
Nowadays you guys settle for a couch
By a soporific color cable t.v. set
Instead of any arc of love, no wonder
The G.I. Joe team blows it every other time
 
Wake up! It’s the middle of the night
You can either make love or die at the hands of the Cobra Commander
 
_________________
 
To make love, turn to page 121.
To die, turn to page 172.
 

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.

The Fret Of Tangled Purposes

Life

by Henrietta Cordelia Ray

Life! Ay, what is it? E’en a moment spun
From cycles of eternity. And yet,
What wrestling ’mid the fever and the fret
Of tangled purposes and hopes undone!
What affluence of love! What vict’ries won
In agonies of silence, ere trust met
A manifold fulfillment, and the wet,
Beseeching eyes saw splendors past the sun!
What struggle in the web of circumstance,
And yearning in the wingèd music! All,
One restless strife from fetters to be free;
Till, gathered to eternity’s expanse,
Is that brief moment at the Father’s call.
Life! Ay, at best, ’tis but a mystery.

 
 

Sonnet 35

 
by William Shakespeare
 
No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authórizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are:
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense—
Thy adverse party is thy advocate—
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence.
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
   That I an áccessory needs must be
   To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.
 

My True Verse

IMG_1389
Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis MN

The following is a re-posting from October of 2017 of a portion of one of the first blog entries on Fourteenlines in honor of my Mother’s birthday.  If you would like to read the entire post use the calendar side bar to revisit it.

__________________________

Nothing Gold Can Stay

by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

October in Minneapolis is a sacred month.   It has the last warm days of the season mixed with a visual feast of greens, yellows, orange and reds beneath a blue harvest sky.  Minnesotans know what’s coming next; cold weather, snow, icy sidewalks, short foggy grey overcast days and leafless trees.  Please, don’t ruin our enjoyment of being sozzled by beauty for a couple of weeks by reminding us of our winter hangover that is yet to come.  Nature throws a hell of party at summer’s closing time in Minneapolis, with a last round of a Kaleidoscope of colors for our bacchanalian fall over indulgence.

October is sacred for another reason for me personally.  It is the month of my mother’s birth and the one year anniversary of her ashes being interred at Lakewood Cemetery, next to her parents and grandmother.

The only reason I am a poet and writing this blog is because of my mother.   Poetry was and is a visceral connection to her. She and I shared a love of poetry going back to my childhood but it intensified as time went on.   My mother returned to Minnesota for the last four years of her life, after 28 years of living in other parts of the world, always pronouncing steadfastly during short visits, that she would never return to live here again.   That she relented on that declaration was a gift beyond measure.  Her return to Minneapolis, coming full circle back to the neighborhood where she grew up and first taught grade school after graduating from the University of Minnesota,  allowed me and my oldest sister to spend time with her on a weekly basis, as she lived less than two miles away from each of us in those remaining years.

IMG_1425
Mary Fry

Soon after she returned, my mother and I created a tradition called poetry night.  It started out informally but grew to have regular rules.   We each would pick out 5 or 6 poems to read aloud to each other and eat a meal together once every 3 or 4 months.  The rule was you had to read each poem twice (her rule, in part because of her struggles with hearing aids, but also so that you can listen carefully and internalize more of the poem the second time through).   We would take turns, alternating, reading each poem we had selected one at a time,  then asking each other questions, laughing, telling stories, talking about the author and why we chose each poem, before moving on to the next.  We were planning another poetry night shortly before she died. It was a lovely way to spend 3 hours in her presence.  Here is a poem I had set aside to read to her on our next poetry night.

Love is a Place

by e. e. cummings

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)  all worlds

My mother lived and lives in a yes world, and wished for all of her family and friends to live a loving life with brightness of peace.

It is a daunting thing to try and write something in honor of your mother.   Words never measure up.   I wrote the following poem as part of my grief process.  It began as a sonnet, but it morphed a little to become something sonnet-light.  The day of her internment was overcast, grey and slightly rainy.  I read it before the small group of family and friends that had gathered to remember and celebrate her life.

Happy Birthday Mom.

My True Verse

by T. A. Fry

Laid bare before life’s mighty eyes,
Farewell beloved I leave behind.
Look past the rain, the grey torn sky.
And if you weep this day, then go resigned.
Keep no somber vigil by silent ash.
As my spirit lives with those I loved.
For I lay beyond mere earthen cache,
My love of you forever proved.
So when in need of kindly word,
Amid drag and drone of a rambling curse.
Listen for my voice in brook or bird.
And hear the truest of my true verse.

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.