Saturday, May 30, 2015

Poetry about Growing Old: Playlist for May 29, 2015



Sonnet  60: Like as the waves make towards the pebbl'd shore


By  William Shakespeare  



Like as the waves make towards the pebbl'd shore,


So do our minutes hasten to their end;


Each changing place with that which goes before,


In sequent toil all forwards do contend.


Nativity, once in the main of light,


Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,


Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,


And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.


Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth


And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,


Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,


And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:


And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,


Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Lachmirae by John Dowland



Of the Last Verses in the Book 

By  Edmund Waller  



When we for age could neither read nor write,


The subject made us able to indite.


The soul, with nobler resolutions deckt,


The body stooping, does herself erect:


No mortal parts are requisite to raise


Her, that unbodied can her Maker praise.



The seas are quiet, when the winds give o’er,


So calm are we, when passions are no more:


For then we know how vain it was to boast


Of fleeting things, so certain to be lost.


Clouds of affection from our younger eyes


Conceal that emptiness, which age descries.



The soul’s dark cottage, batter’d and decay’d,


Lets in new light through chinks that time has made;


Stronger by weakness, wiser men become


As they draw near to their eternal home:


Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,


That stand upon the threshold of the new.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Piano Sonata No. 32 (2md movement) by L. van Beethoven


Women Who Love Angels 

By  Judith Ortiz Cofer 



They are thin


and rarely marry, living out


their long lives


in spacious rooms, French doors


giving view to formal gardens


where aromatic flowers


grow in profusion.


They play their pianos


in the late afternoon


tilting their heads


at a gracious angle


as if listening


to notes pitched above


the human range.


Age makes them translucent;


each palpitation of their hearts


visible at temple or neck.


When they die, it’s in their sleep,


their spirits shaking gently loose


from a hostess too well bred


to protest.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Song of The Angel by John Taverner



Lord Is Not a Word 

By  Christian Wiman  



Lord is not a word.


Song is not a salve.


Suffer the child, who lived


on sunlight and solitude.


Savor the man, craving


earth like an aftertaste.


To discover in one's hand


two local stones the size


of a dead man's eyes


saves no one, but to fling them


with a grace you did not know


you knew, to bring them


skimming homing


over blue, is to discover


the river from which they came.


Mild merciful amnesia


through which I've moved


as through a blue atmosphere


of almost and was,


how is it now,


like ruins unearthed by ruin,


my childhood should rise?


Lord, suffer me to sing


these wounds by which I am made


and marred, savor this creature


whose aloneness you ease and are.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Alto Rhapsody, by Johannes Brahms




By  Alice Notley  



The late Gracie Allen was a very lucid comedienne,


Especially in the way that lucid means shining and bright.


What her husband George Burns called her illogical logic


Made a halo around our syntax and ourselves as we laughed.



George Burns most often was her artful inconspicuous straight man.


He could move people about stage, construct skits and scenes, write


And gather jokes. They were married as long as ordinary magic


Would allow, thirty-eight years, until Gracie Allen's death.



In her fifties Gracie Allen developed a heart condition.


She would call George Burns when her heart felt funny and fluttered


He'd give her a pill and they'd hold each other till the palpitation


Stopped—just a few minutes, many times and pills. As magic fills


Then fulfilled must leave a space, one day Gracie Allen's


               heart fluttered


And hurt and stopped. George Burns said unbelievingly to the doctor,


               "But I still have some of the pills."
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: She's Funny That Way, sung by Gene Austin

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Poetry about Nostalgia: Playlist for May 22, 2015






By  Billy Collins   




Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.


You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,


and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,


the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.


Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,


and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”


Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.



Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet


marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags


of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.


Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle


while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.


We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.


These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.



The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.


People would take walks to the very tops of hills


and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.


Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.


We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.


It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.



I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.


Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.


And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,


time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,


or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me


recapture the serenity of last month when we picked


berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.



Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.


I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees


and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light


flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse


and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.



As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,


letting my memory rush over them like water


rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.


I was even thinking a little about the future, that place


where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,

a dance whose name we can only guess.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sentimental Journey




Beginning With an Acute Stab of Nostalgia, It Gets Worse and Worse


By  Arthur Vogelsang  



I called Hart on my longer distance line


And in case you didn’t know he is in heavine.


Hart, I implored, I searched your book


(Yes, you have a Collected) and could fine


Nothing about the 36 cast iron bridges in


Central Park, why didn’t you write about one


At least. He said he wrote about the narrow Bow Bridge


For peds built in 1878 which is sad and fine


And always photographed through branches in the foregrine


Which was sufficiently sad to make him weep all the tine


He was trying to write the poem so he threw it away.


He tried again and he uncontrollably wept agine.


Did you try a third tine,


I asked. No, he said, and here’s why:


Life is uncontrollably sad all the time


Unless we divert ourselves with art objects,


Sex, or tequila or beer, and if we tell the truth


About this, for instance when we feel it


While looking at a photograph of the cast ine


Bow Bridge or see in life not photos but the real bridge at a short destine


Away with the actual park and branches around us,


We feel like killing ourselves to stop the pain


Or as you, Arthur, call it, the pine,


So I didn’t try a third time


To write the poem. Get off this line,


He said. Wait! Don’t hang up, he said, I take it back, stay on the phine!



Well, I considered calling on my second longer distance line


Kenneth who in heavine has changed his name to Kenneth Kine


And Barbara who I did call on my second longer distance line


With Hart on hold and affirmed her name change to Barbara Gine


But I didn’t ask those younger two about uncontrollable totally dominant sadness


Or whether they had discarded their own poems about the 36 cast ine


Bridges for people to walk on in Central Park


Because they were weeping on the paper and pine


Ing for Hart’s Big Deep Salty Lake to ease the pine.


I didn’t call Frank because I never knew hine I mean him.


I figured the next step was mine.


So if you can believe it I hung up on Hart Crine.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Central Park West by John Coltrane




Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)



By  Lloyd Schwartz  




The black water.





Lights dotting the entire perimeter.




Their shaky reflections.





The dark tree line.





The plap-plapping of water around the pier.





Creaking boats.





The creaking pier.





Voices in conversation, in discussion—two men, adults—serious inflections



(the words themselves just out of reach).





A rusty screen-door spring, then the door swinging shut.





Footsteps on a porch, the scrape of a wooden chair.





Footsteps shuffling through sand, animated youthful voices (how many?)— distinct, disappearing.





A sudden guffaw; some giggles; a woman’s—no, a young girl’s—sarcastic reply; someone’s assertion; a high-pitched male cackle.





Somewhere else a child laughing.










Tires whirring along a pavement... not stopping ... receding.





Shadows from passing headlights.





A cat’s eyes caught in a headlight.





No moon.





Connect-the-dot constellations filling the black sky—the ladle of the Big Dipper not quite directly overhead.





The radio tower across the lake, signaling.





Muffled quacking near the shore; a frog belching; crickets, cicadas, katydids, etc.—their relentless sexual messages.





A sudden gust of wind.





Branches brushing against each other—pine, beech.





A fiberglass hull tapping against the dock.





A sudden chill.





The smell of smoke, woodstove fires.





A light going out.





A dog barking; then more barking from another part of the lake.





A burst of quiet laughter.





Someone in the distance calling someone too loud.





Steps on a creaking porch.





A screen-door spring, the door banging shut.





Another light going out (you must have just undressed for bed).





My bare feet on the splintery pier turning away from the water.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Mist Over the Lake by Jan Freidlin





Better Days


By  A. F. Moritz 



Never anymore in a wash of sweetness and awe  


does the summer when I was seventeen come back  


to mind against my will, like a bird crossing  



my vision. Summer of moist nights full of girls  


and boys ripened, holy drunkenness and violation  


of the comic boundaries, defiances that never  



failed or brought disaster. Days on the backs  


and in the breath of horses, between rivers  


and pools that reflected the cicadas' whine,  



enervation and strength creeping in smooth waves  


over muscular water. All those things accepted,  


once, with unnoticing hunger, as an infant  



accepts the nipple, never come back to mind  


against the will. What comes unsummoned now,  


blotting out every other thought and image,  



is a part of the past not so deep or far away:  


the time of poverty, of struggle to find means  


not hateful—the muddy seedtime of early manhood.  



What returns are those moments in the diner  


night after night with each night's one cup of coffee,  


watching an old man, who always at the same hour  



came in and smiled, ordered his tea and opened  


his drawing pad. What did he fill it with?  


And where's he gone? Those days, that studious worker,  



hand moving and eyes eager in the sour light,  


that artist always in the same worn-out suit,  


are my nostalgia now. That old man comes back,  



the friend I saw each day and never spoke to,  


because I hoped soon to disappear from there,  


as I have disappeared, into the heaven of better days.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Reflections on Air by Augusta Gross




The Garden Buddha


By  Peter Pereira  



Gift of a friend, the stone Buddha sits zazen,  


prayer beads clutched in his chubby fingers.  


Through snow, icy rain, the riot of spring flowers,  


he gazes forward to the city in the distance—always  



the same bountiful smile upon his portly face.  


Why don’t I share his one-minded happiness?  


The pear blossom, the crimson-petaled magnolia,  


filling me instead with a mixture of nostalgia  



and yearning.  He’s laughing at me, isn’t he?  


The seasons wheeling despite my photographs  


and notes, my desire to make them pause.  


Is that the lesson?  That stasis, this holding on,  



is not life?  Now I’m smiling, too—the late cherry,  


its soft pink blossoms already beginning to scatter;  


the trillium, its three-petaled white flowers  


exquisitely tinged with purple as they fall.  
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sonata for Flute & Harp (movement 2) by Jean-Michel Damase