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

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