Saturday, June 29, 2013

Poems about Summer: Playlist for June 28, 2013

Midsummer
BY Robert Fitzgerald


The adolescent night, breath of the town,   
Porchswings and whispers, maple leaves unseen   
Deploying moonlight quieter than a man dead   
After the locust’s song. These homes were mine   
And are not now forever, these on the steps   
Children I think removed to many places,
Lost among hushed years, and so strangely known.

This business is well ended. If in the dark
The firefly made his gleam and sank therefrom,   
Yet someone’s hand would have him, the wet grass   
Bed him no more. From corners of the lawn
The dusk-white dresses flutter and are past.
Before our bed time there were things to say,   
Remembering tree-bark, crickets, and the first star…

After, and as the sullenness of time
Went on from summer, here in a land alien   
Made I my perfect fears and flower of thought:   
Sleep being no longer swift in the arms of pain,   
Revisitations are convenient with a cough,   
And there is something I would say again   
If I had not forever, if there were time.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Symphony No.5 (movement IV) by Ralph Vaughan Williams



The Mower to the Glow-Worms
BY ANDREW MARVELL

Ye living lamps, by whose dear light
The nightingale does sit so late,
And studying all the summer night,
Her matchless songs does meditate;

Ye country comets, that portend
No war nor prince’s funeral,
Shining unto no higher end
Than to presage the grass’s fall;

Ye glow-worms, whose officious flame
To wand’ring mowers shows the way,
That in the night have lost their aim,
And after foolish fires do stray;

Your courteous lights in vain you waste,
Since Juliana here is come,
For she my mind hath so displac’d
That I shall never find my home.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Pavan and Galliard by William Byrd



Summer Wind

It is a sultry day; the sun has drunk
The dew that lay upon the morning grass;
There is no rustling in the lofty elm
That canopies my dwelling, and its shade
Scarce cools me. All is silent, save the faint
And interrupted murmur of the bee,
Settling on the sick flowers, and then again
Instantly on the wing. The plants around
Feel the too potent fervors: the tall maize
Rolls up its long green leaves; the clover droops
Its tender foliage, and declines its blooms.
But far in the fierce sunshine tower the hills,
With all their growth of woods, silent and stern,
As if the scorching heat and dazzling light
Were but an element they loved. Bright clouds,
Motionless pillars of the brazen heaven–
Their bases on the mountains–their white tops
Shining in the far ether–fire the air
With a reflected radiance, and make turn
The gazer’s eye away. For me, I lie
Languidly in the shade, where the thick turf,
Yet virgin from the kisses of the sun,
Retains some freshness, and I woo the wind
That still delays his coming. Why so slow,
Gentle and voluble spirit of the air?
Oh, come and breathe upon the fainting earth
Coolness and life! Is it that in his caves
He hears me? See, on yonder woody ridge,
The pine is bending his proud top, and now
Among the nearer groves, chestnut and oak
Are tossing their green boughs about. He comes;
Lo, where the grassy meadow runs in waves!
The deep distressful silence of the scene
Breaks up with mingling of unnumbered sounds
And universal motion. He is come,
Shaking a shower of blossoms from the shrubs,
And bearing on their fragrance; and he brings
Music of birds, and rustling of young boughs,
And sound of swaying branches, and the voice
Of distant waterfalls. All the green herbs
Are stirring in his breath; a thousand flowers,
By the road-side and the borders of the brook,
Nod gayly to each other; glossy leaves
Are twinkling in the sun, as if the dew
Were on them yet, and silver waters break
Into small waves and sparkle as he comes

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Danse sacree et danse profane by Claude Debussy



Summer in a Small Town

Yes, the young mothers are beautiful,
with all the self-acceptance of exhaustion,
still dazed from their great outpouring,
pushing their strollers along the public river walk.

And the day is also beautiful—the replica 19th-century paddle-wheeler
perpetually moored at the city wharf
                with its glassed-in bar and grill
for the lunch-and-cocktail-seekers
who come for the Mark Twain Happy Hour
which lasts as long as the Mississippi.

This is the kind of town where the rush hour traffic halts
                to let three wild turkeys cross the road,
and when the high school music teacher retires
after thirty years

the movie marquee says, “Thanks Mr. Biddleman!”
and the whole town comes to hear
                the tuba solos of old students.

Summer, when the living is easy
and we store up pleasure in our bodies
like fat, like Eskimos,
for the coming season of privation.

All August the Ferris wheel will turn
                           in the little amusement park,
and screaming teenage girls will jump into the river
with their clothes on,
right next to the No Swimming sign.

Trying to cool the heat inside the small towns
                                               of their bodies,
for which they have no words;
obedient to the voice inside which tells them,
“Now. Steal Pleasure.”

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Poem for Carlita by Mark O'Connor



Northampton Style

Evening falls. Someone’s playing a dulcimer
Northampton-style, on the porch out back.
Its voice touches and parts the air of summer,

as if it swam to time us down a river
where we dive and leave a single track
as evening falls. Someone’s playing a dulcimer

that lets us wash our mix of dreams together.
Delicate, tacit, we engage in our act;
its voice touches and parts the air of summer.

When we disentangle you are not with her
I am not with him. Redress calls for tact.
Evening falls. Someone’s playing a dulcimer

still. A small breeze rises and the leaves stir
as uneasy as we, while the woods go black;
its voice touches and parts the air of summer

and lets darkness enter us; our strings go slack
though the player keeps up his plangent attack.
Evening falls. Someone’s playing a dulcimer;
its voice touches and parts the air of summer.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Slane







Poems about Water: Playlist for June 21, 2013

Bath
By Amy Lowell 1874–1925
The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.
       The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.
       Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots. The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Maurice Ravel: Introduction and Allegro




The Lifeguard
By James L. Dickey 1923–1997
In a stable of boats I lie still,
From all sleeping children hidden.  
The leap of a fish from its shadow  
Makes the whole lake instantly tremble.  
With my foot on the water, I feel  
The moon outside


Take on the utmost of its power.
I rise and go out through the boats.  
I set my broad sole upon silver,
On the skin of the sky, on the moonlight,  
Stepping outward from earth onto water  
In quest of the miracle


This village of children believed  
That I could perform as I dived
For one who had sunk from my sight.  
I saw his cropped haircut go under.  
I leapt, and my steep body flashed  
Once, in the sun.


Dark drew all the light from my eyes.  
Like a man who explores his death
By the pull of his slow-moving shoulders,  
I hung head down in the cold,
Wide-eyed, contained, and alone
Among the weeds,


And my fingertips turned into stone  
From clutching immovable blackness.  
Time after time I leapt upward
Exploding in breath, and fell back  
From the change in the children’s faces  
At my defeat.


Beneath them I swam to the boathouse  
With only my life in my arms
To wait for the lake to shine back
At the risen moon with such power  
That my steps on the light of the ripples  
Might be sustained.


Beneath me is nothing but brightness  
Like the ghost of a snowfield in summer.  
As I move toward the center of the lake,  
Which is also the center of the moon,  
I am thinking of how I may be
The savior of one


Who has already died in my care.  
The dark trees fade from around me.  
The moon’s dust hovers together.  
I call softly out, and the child’s
Voice answers through blinding water.  
Patiently, slowly,


He rises, dilating to break
The surface of stone with his forehead.  
He is one I do not remember
Having ever seen in his life.
The ground I stand on is trembling  
Upon his smile.


I wash the black mud from my hands.  
On a light given off by the grave  
I kneel in the quick of the moon  
At the heart of a distant forest  
And hold in my arms a child  
Of water, water, water.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6 (Movement III) by Samuel Barber




The Man Who Drowned in the Irrigation Ditch
By Ofelia Zepeda b. 1952
She always got mad at him
every time he came home in the middle of the morning
with his pant legs wet.
She knew he had fallen in the ditch again.
His legs were not strong enough to be straddling ditches.
He was too old to be walking over temporary dikes.
She wished he didn’t do that, but sometimes he had to.
She sometimes imagined him falling over backward in one of the irrigation ditches,
his head hitting hard cement,
his body slowly sinking into the water.
Water that was only three feet deep.
A harmless three feet of water,
where children played,
and ladies sometimes sat and dipped their feet,
especially on hot summer evening.
She knew he would drown,
she knew it was bound to happen sometime.


As far as the eye could see,
flat, green fields appearing to end at the foot of distant mountains.
Mountains, a reminder of what the fields once looked like.
Fields saturated with water pulled from its secret storage place
beneath the earth’s surface.


We are called “the people of the cotton fields”
because of the labor our families did.
For us there was no reservation, no Housing & Urban Development, no tribal support.
We were a people segregated in row houses
all lined up along the roads of our labor.


It is a muggy summer evening.
My father, my sister, and I sit on the east side of the house finding shade against the still-hot setting sun.
The change from brilliant white sun to blue and gold sunset and finally,
to warm darkness, a change we anticipate for brief relief.


On this evening the anticipation is shattered.
A boy comes to the house. He gestures for my father to come to him, out of our hearing.
With what the boy says to him my father moves quickly.
As quickly as his stiff back and legs can move him.
Back and legs broken and fused from when he was a cowboy.
He rushes by, throwing the kitchen door open, grabbing his hat.
He gets into his truck and drives away.


We pay him no mind other than for the fact that he is rushing.
A second later my mother comes out of the house and with a single motion pulls her apron off.
In a tone I recognize as signifying something is wrong, she instructs us to come with her.
She starts in the direction of a cotton field a few hundred yards from our house.
My sister and I walk beside her.
Saying nothing.
Her hands wring the towel she carries with her.
This towel, a multipurpose kind of thing.
Women carry it to fan themselves,
to wipe sweat, to cover their heads and eyes from the sunlight, to shoo away kids, dogs, flies.
I remember once a student of mine, out of habit, brought her towel with her to summer school at the university.
Whenever we see each other on campus during a summer session we always laugh about it.


We continue to walk, stepping over the ends of rows of cotton.
Rows of cotton my family and I know well.
In early summer we walk the rows to thin out the growth,
and later we walk to chop the weeds somehow immune to chemicals.
And in the winter, at least before the machinery, we pick the cotton from their stalks.
Now I can’t begin to imagine how many miles we have all walked,
up and back, up and back along these rows.


We walk alongside her.
The setting sun maintains a continuous pounding on our backs,
the humidity from the damp fields is warm, it rests on our shoulders like tired, sweaty arms.
She heads toward the irrigation ditch.
The ditch is dirt, not cement, it is wide, muddy, and slippery.
The water is shallow.
I see my father’s truck pulling up on the opposite side.
In the front seat there are women, and in the back, men.
The men wedge their feet in between plastic and aluminum irrigation pipes, mud-caked shovels, boots, and hoes.
Equipment in the back of his truck all for the purposes of working fields.
I remember the hoe he carried.
It was big, with a blade that held an edge well and got the work done.
I recall purchasing a hoe for my home and being particularly unsatisfied with the craftsmanship.
“They call this a hoe?” I said to my husband. It had a skinny neck, and no blade to speak of.
The handle was too thin, causing blisters.
Once in awhile I look around for the type of hoe my father carried. I found one once, but didn’t have money to buy it.


In slow motion,
weighed down by the heat,
the women begin to slide across the bench of the pickup truck.
They slowly step out of the cab, appearing as a single long strand of woman, emerging.
In cautious unison they walk toward the edge of the ditch.
My mother, as if connected to them by an invisible string,
is pulled toward them from the opposite side.
Their movement is dreamlike. They peer into the muddy water.
And as if with a shared nervous system, their hands motion the towel each is carrying,
motion it to just above their eyes, covering their faces.
With a single vocal act they release from their depths a hard, deep, mournful wail.
This sound breaks the wave of bright summer light above the green cotton fields.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: At the River (arr. by Aaron Copland)




The Wild Swans at Coole
By William Butler Yeats 1865–1939

The trees are in their autumn beauty,  
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water  
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones  
Are nine-and-fifty swans.


The nineteenth autumn has come upon me  
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings  
Upon their clamorous wings.


I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,  
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,  
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,  
Trod with a lighter tread.


Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;  
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,  
Attend upon them still.


But now they drift on the still water,   
Mysterious, beautiful;  
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day  
To find they have flown away?

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Swan of Tuonela, Op.22/3 by Jean Sibelius



Portrait of a Figure near Water
By Jane Kenyon 1947–1995
Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner  
arsonist, held a match to her brain.  
She observed her life: against her will  
it survived the unwavering flame.


The barn was empty of animals.  
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.


Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled  
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it  
and received its calm.


So it is when we retreat in anger:  
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes  
no sound.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: En bateau, by Claude Debussy





Saturday, June 1, 2013

Poems about Roads: Playlist for May 31, 2013


Song of the Open Road

By Walt Whitman 1819–1892
 
 
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road. rdain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
oing where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me. I inhale great draughts of space, The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.  I am larger, better than I thought, I did not know I held so much goodness.  
s beautiful to me, I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me I would do the same to you, I will recruit for myself and you as I go, I will scatter myself among men and women as I go, I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me, Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.     The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
 
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!  
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.
 
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sextet in G Major by Johannes Brahms (first movement)
 
 

 

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost 1874–1963

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;  

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,  

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.  

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Road Not Taken, by Randall Thompson
 
 

 

The Simplon Pass

By William Wordsworth 1770–1850

                   —Brook and road

Were fellow-travellers in this gloomy Pass,

And with them did we journey several hours

At a slow step. The immeasurable height

Of woods decaying, never to be decayed,

The stationary blasts of waterfalls,

And in the narrow rent, at every turn,

Winds thwarting winds bewildered and forlorn,

The torrents shooting from the clear blue sky,

The rocks that muttered close upon our ears,

Black drizzling crags that spake by the wayside

As if a voice were in them, the sick sight

And giddy prospect of the raving stream,

The unfettered clouds and region of the heavens,

Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light—

Were all like workings of one mind, the features

Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree,

Characters of the great Apocalypse,

The types and symbols of Eternity,

Of first and last, and midst, and without end.
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Pastoral Rhapsody by Herbert Howells (not available)
 

 

Private Beach

By Jane Kenyon 1947–1995
 

It is always the dispossessed—

someone driving a huge rusted Dodge  

that’s burning oil, and must cost  

twenty-five dollars to fill.  

 

Today before seven I saw, through

the morning fog, his car leave the road,  

turning into the field. It must be

his day off, I thought, or he’s out

of work and drinking, or getting stoned.  

Or maybe as much as anything

he wanted to see

where the lane through the hay goes.  

 

It goes to the bluff overlooking  

the lake, where we’ve cleared  

brush, swept the slippery oak

leaves from the path, and tried to destroy  

the poison ivy that runs

over the scrubby, sandy knolls.  

 

Sometimes in the evening I’ll hear  

gunshots or firecrackers. Later a car  

needing a new muffler backs out

to the road, headlights withdrawing  

from the lowest branches of the pines.  

 

Next day I find beer cans, crushed;  

sometimes a few fish too small  

to bother cleaning and left

on the moss to die; or the leaking  

latex trace of outdoor love....

Once I found the canvas sling chairs  

broken up and burned.
 

Whoever laid the fire gathered stones  

to contain it, like a boy pursuing

a merit badge, who has a dream of work,  

and proper reward for work.
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Reflections in D by Edward "Duke" Ellington
 
 

 

Allons! the road is before us!

It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

 

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!

Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!

Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!

Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

 

Camerado, I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precious than money,

I give you myself before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Allons! the road is before us!

It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

 

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!

Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!

Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!

Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

 

Camerado, I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precious than money,

I give you myself before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Allons! the road is before us!

It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

 

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!

Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!

Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!

Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

 

Camerado, I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precious than money,

I give you myself before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Allons! the road is before us!

It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

 

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!

Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!

Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!

Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

 

Camerado, I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precious than money,

I give you myself before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?