Saturday, September 16, 2017
BY MURIEL RUCKEYSER
Make and be eaten, the poet says,
Lie in the arms of nightlong fire,
To celebrate the waking, wake.
Burn in the daylong light; and praise
Even the mother unappeased,
Even the fathers of desire.
Blind go the days, but joy will see
Agreements of music; they will wind
The shaking of your dance; no more
Will the ambiguous arm-waves spell
Confusion of the blessing given.
Only and finally declare
Among the purest shapes of grace
The waking of the face of fire,
The body of waking and the skill
To make your body such a shape
That all the eyes of hope shall stare.
That all the cries of fear shall know,
Staring in their bird-pierced song;
Lines of such penetration make
That shall bind our loves at last.
Then from the mountains of the lost,
All the fantasies shall wake,
Strong and real and speaking turn
Wherever flickers your unreal.
And my strong ghosts shall fade and pass
My love start fiery as grass
Wherever burn my fantasies,
Wherever burn my fantasies.
To cure myself of wanting Cuban songs,
I wrote a Cuban song about the need
For people to suppress their fantasies,
Especially unhealthy ones. The song
Began by making reference to the sea,
Because the sea is like a need so great
And deep it never can be swallowed. Then
The song explores some common myths
About the Cuban people and their folklore:
The story of a little Carib boy
Mistakenly abandoned to the sea;
The legend of a bird who wanted song
So desperately he gave up flight; a queen
Whose strength was greater than a rival king’s.
The song goes on about morality,
And then there is a line about the sea,
How deep it is, how many creatures need
Its nourishment, how beautiful it is
To need. The song is ending now, because
I cannot bear to hear it any longer.
I call this song of needful love my voice.
In That Other Fantasy Where We Live Forever
Wanda Coleman, 1946 - 2013
we were never caught
we partied the southwest, smoked it from L.A. to El Dorado
worked odd jobs between delusions of escape
drunk on the admonitions of parents, parsons & professors
driving faster than the road or law allowed.
our high-pitched laughter was young, heartless & disrespected
authority. we could be heard for miles in the night
the Grand Canyon of a new manhood.
like the first sighting of Mount Wilson
we rebelled against the southwestern wind
we got so naturally ripped, we sprouted wings,
crashed parties on the moon, and howled at the earth
we lived off love. It was all we had to eat
when you split you took all the wisdom
and left me the worry
The man with the black feather tattoo pares this space
Between fantasy and the memory of a man’s carved
Torso, designed for stroking and celebration.
Today the sun’s brightness is like that lover’s kiss,
Wonderful in the present and greater in memory.
A memory that brings me back to that black feather’s
Flutter. Stars dazzle in some other part of this world
Where the sun has set and the moon illuminates
Swans diving into voluminous waters.
The Secret of Light
James Wright, 1927 - 1980
I am sitting contented and alone in a little park near the Palazzo Scaligere in Verona, glimpsing the mists of early autumn as they shift and fade among the pines and city battlements on the hills above the river Adige.
The river has recovered from this morning’s rainfall. It is now restoring to its shapely body its own secret light, a color of faintly cloudy green and pearl.
Directly in front of my bench, perhaps thirty yards away from me, there is a startling woman. Her hair is black as the inmost secret of light in a perfectly cut diamond, a perilous black, a secret light that must have been studied for many years before the anxious and disciplined craftsman could achieve the necessary balance between courage and skill to stroke the strange stone and take the one chance he would ever have to bring that secret to light.
While I was trying to compose the preceding sentence, the woman rose from her park bench and walked away. I am afraid her secret might never come to light in my lifetime. But my lifetime is not the only one. I will never see her again. I hope she brings some other man’s secret face to light, as somebody brought mine. I am startled to discover that I am not afraid. I am free to give a blessing out of my silence into that woman’s black hair. I trust her to go on living. I believe in her black hair, her diamond that is still asleep. I would close my eyes to daydream about her. But those silent companions who watch over me from the insides of my eyelids are too brilliant for me to meet face to face.
The very emptiness of the park bench in front of mine is what makes me happy. Somewhere else in Verona at just this moment, a woman is sitting or walking or standing still upright. Surely two careful and accurate hands, total strangers to me, measure the invisible idea of the secret vein in her hair. They are waiting patiently until they know what they alone can ever know: that time when her life will pause in mid-flight for a split second. The hands will touch her black hair very gently. A wind off the river Adige will flutter past her. She will turn around, smile a welcome, and place a flawless and fully formed Italian daybreak into the hands.
I don’t have any idea what his face will look like. The light still hidden inside his body is no business of mine. I am happy enough to sit in this park alone now. I turn my own face toward the river Adige. A little wind flutters off the water and brushes past me and returns.
It is all right with me to know that my life is only one life. I feel like the light of the river Adige.
By this time, we are both an open secret.
Friday, June 23, 2017
Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.
You have been smiling across the table at your date
with a sesame seed stuck in your teeth.
You will gain sophistication, become accepted by
and retire in Puyallup.
In your next life you will be a teacher
and no one will ever call you by your first name.
After your next vacation you will come home
and discover that your neighbors have redecorated
in the style of Iowa trailer court.
If you feel like you’re getting old,
secretly plant zucchini in your neighbor’s flowerbeds.
Avoid people who iron their sheets
or roll their socks & underwear.
Painting and poetry and music will show us where we should
be going, not the senate or tv news.
The next thermos bottle you see will actually
be a listening device made in Korea.
All the people in this restaurant
are glad that they are not you.
“Philadelphia isn’t as bad as Philadelphians say it is.”
Paris in the Spring, Autumn in New York,
Singers pair a city with a season
As though it belonged to it all year long.
They should try to put a few more to work:
Trenton in winter needs a good reason;
Scranton in summer seems so very wrong.
How about Cincinnati in the spring?
Autumn in Passaic, or in Oakland?
Some cities just lack glamour and appeal,
And there is no point arguing the thing.
No one reads through stacks of brochures to spend
A honeymoon in Allentown. Let’s get real.
Most places on the map, you must believe,
No one wants to visit, only to leave.
By Jessica Hagedorn
i read your poem
over and over
in this landscape
the indigo sea
blue taffeta dress
is black as the sea
out my door
to the beach
where sleek white boats
under a full,
i am still
outside my window
my mother's ghost
in the long
i listen to the radio
every chance i get
of your city's
the color of honey and sand
verges on catastrophe
a constant preoccupation
with real estate
a calm horizon
oiled & gleaming
hair & skin
i read your poem
over and over
turning my head
from prying eyes
the low hum
of women singing
in another room
i switch stations
on the radio
turn up the volume
i almost touch
james brown "live at the apollo"
the smooth female d.j.
interrupts bo diddley
groaning "i'm a man"
it is a joke here
in this baby-blue resort
is a full-time hobby
is what everyone
claims to do
on each other's laps
licking the salt
off each other's skin
and i walk
of the portuguese fishermen
in the scorched trees
the bleak, blond dunes
that line the highway
in another city
i take your poem
line by line
it is a love letter
we wrote each other
some time ago
trying in vain to pinpoint
that first, easy
By Paul Engle
A beach of flesh above a beach of sand.
Tide-steady jaws tearing at food gone gritty
With shattered, golden granite of the land:
The sea-desiring people of the city.
She dives around them like a dolphin leaping
Over and under the fish-furious waves,
Past buried bellies and the sunburned sleeping,
Past papers where the world’s old madness raves.
Like something dragged by the delirious tide
She flings up to us out of breath and streaming
Glittering water down from neck and side.
She says, I’m tired, falls off to sleep, her head
Curled on my arm, smiles from her beach of dreaming
Narrow along the world’s wide sea of dread.