One Stubborn Remnant of Your Cares

Mark Jarman

“Love make us poets, and the approach of death should make us philosophers.”

George Santayana

Unholy Sonnet

by  Mark Jarman

After the praying, after the hymn-singing,
After the sermon’s trenchant commentary
On the world’s ills, which make ours secondary,
After communion, after the hand wringing,
And after peace descends upon us, bringing
Our eyes up to regard the sanctuary
And how the light swords through it, and how, scary
In their sheer numbers, motes of dust ride, clinging—
There is, as doctors say about some pain,
Discomfort knowing that despite your prayers,
Your listening and rejoicing, your small part
In this communal stab at coming clean,
There is one stubborn remnant of your cares
Intact. There is still murder in your heart.


Sweet Are The Days

by George Santayana

Sweet are the days we wander with no hope
Along life’s labyrinthine trodden way,
With no impatience at the steep’s delay,
Nor sorrow at the swift-descended slope.
Why this inane curiosity to grope
In the dim dust for gems’ unmeaning ray?
Why this proud piety, that dares to pray
For a world wider than the heaven’s cope?

Farewell, my burden! No more will I bear
The foolish load of my fond faith’s despair,
But trip the idle race with careless feet.
The crown of olive let another wear;
It is my crown to mock the runner’s heat
With gentle wonder and with laughter sweet.

I Think It Mercy

The first flowers of Spring 2021 in our yard.

Spring

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as spring–
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.–Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.


Spring has sprung in Minnesota and with it the smells and sounds and sights of green and growing things.  We had a gentle rain this week and grass overnight turned emerald green.  On most lakes the ice is out and our world is turning phases, from solid to liquid.  I am eager to get some dirt under my finger nails, rake up the detritus of winter and allow the recent rains to soak in and get the spring flowers growing. 

There have been many poets who have used the sonnet form as a spiritual medium, to let their minds wander into the sublime, beyond the boundaries of human love and into the infinite.   Both Donne and Hopkins used their poetry as testaments to God, but in doing so reaffirmed their very human relationship with nature and in their eyes its manifestation God’s love in nurturing all life on earth.   In this way, Christianity and Buddhism share some common themes, in that we are all manifestations of God’s (Buddha’s) consciousness and yet, as Donne reminds us, it is in the forgetting, at least in the forgetting of the worst of ourselves,  that we are best remembered.


If Poisonous Minerals, And If That Tree

by John Donne

If poisonous minerals, and if that tree
Whose fruit threw death on else immortal us,
If lecherous goats, if serpents envious
Cannot be damn’d, alas, why should I be?
Why should intent or reason, born in me,
Make sins, else equal, in me more heinous?
And mercy being easy, and glorious
To God, in his stern wrath why threatens he?
But who am I, that dare dispute with thee,
O God? Oh, of thine only worthy blood
And my tears, make a heavenly Lethean flood,
And drown in it my sins’ black memory.
That thou remember them, some claim as debt;
I think it mercy, if thou wilt forget.

It Sings In Me

Sara Teasdale (1884 – 1933)

I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.

Sara Teasdale

April

by Sara Teasdale

The roofs are shining from the rain.
The sparrows tritter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
The little clouds go by.

Yet the back-yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree–
I could not be so sure of Spring
Save that it sings in me.


Sara Teasdale was born in St. Louis into a wealthy family.   As a young woman she spent time in Chicago’s literary circles, including a friendship with Harriet Monroe through whom she met and dated the poet Vachel Lindsay.   Teasdale rejected Lindsay’s marriage proposals, an itinerant poet whom may have lacked the income to be a suitable partner in her eyes, but may have been a better match intellectually.  Instead she married Ernst Filsinger in 1914 and moved to New York City.   Teasdale published several collections of  classical poetry and edited several other anthologies.  Though her work is often overlooked today, she was popular with both critics and readers in her day.  Following her divorce in 1929, her health declined rapidly.  Teasdale became an invalid and died following a bout with pneumonia by an overdose of barbiturates.  

There is a sadness that runs through much of Teasdale’s poetry, as if life just didn’t quite measure up to her hopes and dreams.   Its hard to know if it was maniac depression or something darker that had blotted out her joy, but Teasdale seemed to run out of steam as the economic depression of the 1930’s took hold and the life of privilege and wealth that she had enjoyed started to feel out of reach.  In her bob hair cut, and beautiful smile, it would be interesting to know the back story to the last two lines of the sonnet below, but from my perspective the beauty in her words will never be dull.  


 

Sonnet

by Sara Teasdale

I saw a ship sail forth at evening time;
Her prow was gilded by the western fire,
And all her rigging one vast golden lyre,
For winds to play on to the ocean’s rhyme
Of wave on wave forever singing low.
She floated on a web of burnished gold,
And in such light as praying men behold
Cling round a vision, were her sails aglow.
I saw her come again when dawn was grey,
Her wonder faded and her splendor dead — ‘
She whom I loved once had upon her way
A light most like the sunset. Now ’tis sped.
And this is saddest — what seemed wondrous fair
Are now but straight pale lips, and dull gold hair.

Is All Of This A Dream

On Interstate 70 Somewhere in Utah

Six Sonnets: Crossing the West

by Janice Gould

Desert heat, high clouds, and sky
the color of lapis. On this journey,
anything seems possible,
so we stop by an ancient cottonwood
to kiss. The beauty trembles,
doesn’t say a word, just watches
me, so open. Small birds fly by, flock
in the shady tree above us. What
settles in her heart? What congeals?
Hope? Despair? Far off, the river churns
in its sandy banks, swallows veer, turn
in fiery air. Will these kisses seal
her to me? I her lover, she my wife?
Is all of this a dream, my whole life?


For the wanderers among us, the self restraint of not traveling during the past year has been difficult. Two years ago I embarked on a mad journey with my partner, packing enough activities for 3 vacations into 11 days, driving more miles than is therapeutic, hiking, skiing, rock hounding while car camping across Colorado and Utah the first week of April.  As slightly crazy as it was, I would do it again in a heartbeat with only one change; add another week onto the trip to slow the pace down of the miles covered.  The incredible beauty of Utah and the diverse nature of its National Parks and public lands make it truly one of the great wonders and wanders of the United States.

I am fearful that post pandemic vacations will become even more difficult, not less.  I had not taken a full week off prior to 2018 in over 10 years.   The reason:  I return to a mountain of work that it makes it a worry while away.  The pre-pandemic work pace was bad enough that long weekends – leave on a Friday return on Tuesday – felt doable, because I was never gone for an entire week.  But that was before Teams or Zoom calls filled up every minute of every day.  This idea that we have created a mobile work force that can work from anywhere is a fallacy.   We have given permission to now think everyone is available on-demand at anytime and it is ruining workplace quality of life and undermining human interactions.   It is exhausting to be on remote calls hour after hour, day after day. It sucks the life right out of me.  I find that things we used to solve over lunch or an impromptu 5 minute discussion in someone’s office now turn into 30 or 60 minute calls.  We have become less efficient to the god of technology, not more efficient. The problem is I seem to be in the minority of hating the state of this virtual insanity.   So the slow decent into digital existence continues unabated.   I fear, it is Dante’s new rings of hell.   It’s why we need to clear our lungs once in a while and get out and see the world.  Gould’s sonnets are a splash of Utah sunshine on the high desert vista.   Sacred. Sacred. Sacred.  Beautiful words to fit the beauty of the West.

IMG_4948

Zion National Park April 2018. 

Six Sonnets: Crossing the West

by Janice Gould

4
Sacred. Sacred. Sacred. Sacred. (Speak
in a whisper.) We slip into this
space half cognizant. The land is very
large indeed: bones of the earth
worn down, though she is a living thing.
See how she exposes her grace? Antelopes
graze on the far plain—their high,
white tails—the red soil throbs
its slow heartbeat, and the blue sky
clears so smartly, perfectly, like
radiance. Are the ancestors near?
What can we know? We decide
to wander around this prairie, mistaken
for Utes, buy commodities in little towns.

Whatever We Are, Or Were

Paul Muldoon (1951 – )

Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms

by Thomas Moore

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Live fairy-gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.

It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
That the fervor and faith of a soul may be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear!
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look which she turned when he rose!


Holy Thursday

by Paul Muldoon (1951 – )

They’re kindly here, to let us linger so late,
Long after the shutters are up.
A waiter glides from the kitchen with a plate
Of stew, or some thick soup,

And settles himself at the next table but one.
We know, you and I, that it’s over,
That something or other has come between
Us, whatever we are, or were.

The waiter swabs his plate with bread
And drains what’s left of his wine,
Then rearranges, one by one,
The knife, the fork, the spoon, the napkin,
The table itself, the chair he’s simply borrowed,
And smiles, and bows to his own absence.

We Were All Unconcerned

Thomas Kinsella (b. 1928 –

Free Fall

by Thomas Kinsella

I was falling helpless in a shower of waste,
reaching my arms out toward the others
falling in disorder everywhere around me.

At the last instant,
approaching the surface,
the fall slowed suddenly,

and we were all
unconcerned,
regarding one another in approval.


The Force of Eloquence

by Thomas Kinsella

The brink of living is inhabited.

Unbrooding as an ox, he thrusts a bald
Muscular head out smiling.  Though his tongue
Chains are fastened, radii of gold.
Gently hauled by these, his swayed captives
Yield their wrists in  lithe angles of peace
– A charmed plight, halted in faint relief
Against a line of hills full of quaint promise.

A token of bronze, long out currency, 
Vivifies an impossible worn world,
Of speech constricted into other terms:
An equilibrium of gift and threat
Moulded in external breathless appearance.

Enter, and inhale the living bronze. 


From Strength to Strength Advancing

Matthew Arnold 1822- 1888

“The freethinking of one age is the common sense of the next.”

Matthew Arnold

Immortality

by Matthew Arnold

Foil’d by our fellow-men, depress’d, outworn,
We leave the brutal world to take its way,
And, Patience! in another life, we say
The world shall be thrust down, and we up-borne.
 
And will not, then, the immortal armies scorn
The world’s poor, routed leavings? or will they,
Who fail’d under the heat of this life’s day,
Support the fervours of the heavenly morn?
 
No, no! the energy of life may be
Kept on after the grave, but not begun;
And he who flagg’d not in the earthly strife,
 
From strength to strength advancing—only he,
His soul well-knit, and all his battles won,
Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life.
 
 

It can be a bit of a head spinner to jump from the language of the mid 19th Century to the 21st Century from one day to the next and then back again, but that’s one of things I find fascinating about the sonnet form.   It is a framework that has remained relatively unchanged and relevant for hundreds of years.  Although the language has changed, many of the themes Arnold is exploring are universal.   Matthew Arnold is not a poet I would ever come across  if not for this project and my radar always being up and listening for sonnets.   Arnold is not a poet who has remained popular.  His language sounds a bit stilted to my ears.  Yet if I push through the language and listen to his themes that he is wrestling, it sounds familiar.   In the middle of a pandemic, where all of our patience has been tested, his opening to Immortality is  dead on to thoughts I have been having.  Where should I place my energies?   Work doesn’t have the same feeling as it used to, working remotely has lessened the humanness and the fulfillment of working alongside other people so that I question a bit, what am I really doing and does it really matter as much as it once did?  I like his language if I let it transport me and embrace its foreign qualities.  It raises questions in my mind; what energies of my life will live past me? What will give strength to my children to others?  What battles are worth winning other than the one we all can win, enjoying our lives.


Shakespeare

 
by Matthew Arnold
 

Shakespeare

Others abide our question. Thou art free.
We ask and ask – Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill,
Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty,

Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea,
Making the heaven of heavens his dwelling-place,
Spares but the cloudy border of his base
To the foil’d searching of mortality;

And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know,
Self-school’d, self-scann’d, self-honour’d, self-secure,
Didst tread on earth unguess’d at. – Better so!

All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
All weakness which impairs, all griefs which bow,
Find their sole speech in that victorious brow.

 

You Can’t Get Rid Of It

A. E. Stallings

Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks.

A. E. Stallings

Glitter

by A. E. Stallings

All that will remain after an apocalypse is glitter.   – British Vogue

You have a daughter now.  it’s everywhere,
And often in the company of glue.
You can’t get rid of it.  It’s in her hair:
A wink of pink, a glint of silver-blue.
It’s catching, like the chicken pox, or lice.
Its travels, like a planetary scar.
Sometimes its on your face, or you look twice
And glimpse, there on your arm, a single star.
You know it by a hand’s brushing your neck –
You blush – It’s not desire, not anymore –
Just someone’s urge to flick away the fleck
Of borrowed glamour from your collarbone –
The broken mirror Time will not restore,
The way your daughter marks you as her own.


The Pull Toy

by A. E. Stallings

You squeezed its leash in your fist,
It followed where you led:
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
Nodding its wooden head.

Wagging a tail on a spring,
Its wheels gearing lackety-clack,
Dogging your heels the length of the house,
Though you seldom glanced back.

It didn’t mind being dragged
When it toppled on its side
Scraping its coat of primary colors:
Love has no pride.

But now that you run and climb
And leap, it has no hope
Of keeping up, so it sits, hunched
At the end of its short rope

And dreams of a rummage sale
Where it’s snapped up for a song,
And of somebody—somebody just like you—
Stringing it along

We Look For Communion

Denise Levertov (1923 – 1997)

The Argument

by A. E. Stallings

After the argument, all things were strange.
They stood divided by their eloquence
Which had surprised them after so much silence.
Now there were real things to rearrange.
Words betokened deeds, but they were both
Lightened briefly, and they were inclined
To be kind as sometime strangers can be kind.
It was as if, out of the undergrowth,
They stepped into a clearing and a sun,
Machetes still in hand. Something was done,
But how they did not fully realize.
Something was beginning.  Something would stem
And branch from this one moment.  Something made
Them both look up into each other’s eyes
Because they both were suddenly afraid
And there was no one now to comfort them.


Both Levertov and Stallings draw inspiration from their families, each with a personal voice and poetic vision, but in very different forms.  Stallings has the ability to craft highly structured poems that read smoothly, the rhyme and structure doesn’t feel forced or artificial.   This is extremely hard to do and I find the craft of Stallings work remarable.   No less skilled though is Levertov’s ability to create emotion through simplicity.  Levertov picks her words with care and places them with a deft touch.   Each of these poems come at the reality of partnership/marriage that is at once both uncomfortable as it is beautiful.   A reminder that love moves along all the spectrums of emotion and not just in one direction. 


The Ache Of Marriage

by Denise Levertov

The ache of marriage:

thigh and tongue, beloved,
are heavy with it,
it throbs in the teeth

We look for communion
and are turned away, beloved,
each and each

It is leviathan and we
in its belly
looking for joy, some joy
not to be known outside it

two by two in the ark of
the ache of it

As I Desire To Be

This is the 600th post on Fourteenlines

If I Were Loved

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

If I were loved, as I desire to be,
What is there in the great sphere of the earth,
And range of evil between death and birth,
That I should fear,–if I were loved by thee?
All the inner, all the outer world of pain
Clear Love would pierce and cleave, if thou wert mine
As I have heard that, somewhere in the main,
Fresh-water springs come up through bitter brine.

‘T were joy, not fear, claspt hand-in-hand with thee,
To wait for death–mute–careless of all ills,
Apart upon a mountain, tho’ the surge
Of some new deluge from a thousand hills
Flung leagues of roaring foam into the gorge
Below us, as far on as eye could see.


The Charge of The Light Brigade

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

I
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

II
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

III
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.

IV
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.

V
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.

VI
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!