Saturday, November 24, 2018

Nocturnes (November 23, 2018)


Nocturne

A man can give up so much,
can limit himself to handwritten correspondence,
to foods made of whole grains,
to heat from a woodstove, logs
hewn by his own hand and stacked neatly
like corpses by the backdoor.

He can play nocturnes by heart.
They will not make the beloved appear.
He can learn the names of all the birds
in the valley. Not one
will be enticed to learn his.

Silent Music
My wife wears headphones as she plays
Chopin etudes in the winter light.
Singing random notes, she sways
in and out of shadow while night
settles. The keys she presses make a soft
clack, the bench creaks when her weight shifts,
golden cotton fabric ripples across
her shoulders, and the sustain pedal clicks.
This is the hidden melody I know
so well, her body finding harmony in
the give and take of motion, her lyric
grace of gesture measured against a slow
fall of darkness. Now stillness descends
to signal the end of her silent music.

My Darling Turns to Poetry at Night
My darling turns to poetry at night.
What began as flirtation, an aside
Between abstract expression and first light

Now finds form as a silent, startled flight
Of commas on her face — a breath, a word ...    
My darling turns to poetry at night.

When rain inspires the night birds to create
Rhyme and formal verse, stanzas can be made
Between abstract expression and first light.

Her heartbeat is a metaphor, a late
Bloom of red flowers that refuse to fade.
My darling turns to poetry at night.

I watch her turn. I do not sleep. I wait
For symbols, for a sign that fear has died
Between abstract expression and first light.

Her dreams have night vision, and in her sight
Our bodies leave ghostprints on the bed.
My darling turns to poetry at night
Between abstract expression and first light.



Saturday, November 3, 2018

Election Day (November 2, 2018)

The Tragic Condition of the Statue of Liberty
BY BERNADETTE MAYER
A collaboration with Emma Lazarus

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Give me your gentrificatees of the Lower East Side including all the well-heeled young Europeans who’ll take apartments without leases
Give me your landlords, give me your cooperators
Give me the guys who sell the food and the computers to the public schools in District One
Give me the IRS-FBI-CIA men who don’t take election day off
Give me the certain members of the school board & give me the district superintendent
Give me all the greedy members of both american & foreign capitalist religious sects
Give me the parents of the punk people
Give me the guy who puts those stickers in the Rice Krispies
Give me the doctor who thinks his time is more valuable than mine and my daughter’s & the time of all the other non-doctors in this world
Give me the mayor, his mansion, and the president & his white house
Give me the cops who laugh and sneer at meetings where they demonstrate the new uses of mace and robots instead of the old murder against people who are being evicted
Give me the landlord’s sleazy lawyers and the deal-making judges in housing court & give me the landlord’s arsonist
Give me the known & unknown big important rich guys who now bank on our quaint neighborhood
Give me, forgive me, the writers who have already or want to write bestsellers in this country
Together we will go to restore Ellis Island, ravaged for years by wind, weather and vandals
I was surprised and saddened when I heard that the Statue of Liberty was in such a serious state of disrepair & I want to help
This is the most generous contribution I can afford.


My Mother Goes to Vote
BY JUDITH HARRIS

We walked five blocks
to the elementary school,
my mother’s high heels
crunching through playground gravel.
We entered through a side door.

Down the long corridor,
decorated with Halloween masks,
health department safety posters—
we followed the arrows
to the third grade classroom.

My mother stepped alone
into the booth, pulling the curtain behind her.
I could see only the backs of her
calves in crinkled nylons.

A partial vanishing, then reappearing
pocketbook crooked on her elbow,
our mayor’s button pinned to her lapel.
Even then I could see—to choose
is to follow what has already
been decided.

We marched back out
finding a new way back down streets
named for flowers
and accomplished men.
I said their names out loud, as we found

our way home, to the cramped house,
the devoted porch light left on,
the customary meatloaf.
I remember, in the classroom converted
into a voting place—
there were two mothers, conversing,
squeezed into the children’s desk chairs.


Why I Voted the Socialist Ticket
BY VACHEL LINDSAY

I am unjust, but I can strive for justice.
My life’s unkind, but I can vote for kindness.
I, the unloving, say life should be lovely.
I, that am blind, cry out against my blindness.

Man is a curious brute—he pets his fancies—
Fighting mankind, to win sweet luxury.
So he will be, though law be clear as crystal,
Tho’ all men plan to live in harmony.

Come, let us vote against our human nature,
Crying to God in all the polling places
To heal our everlasting sinfulness
And make us sages with transfigured faces.




Election Day
By J.D. McClatchey
The older couples had voted just after dawn,
And by noon the exit polls are underway.
Some talking head opines in San Jose.
My poster is mute and silent on the lawn.
“As the wind blows, so the flag will wave,”
Says a cynic who is nevertheless waiting in line.
The woman in front of him has been assigned
The nearest booth where she plans, again, to save
The Republic from itself — the drama played out
In this miniature theater, with its curtain and cast.
Today will be a performance of the past,
Its fortunes and flaws, its certainty and doubt.
The pencil has no eraser. She makes her choice,
Determined but still uncertain how it will end,
As the Founders were as well who thought to lend
So much importance to each small impassioned voice.
But will the cynic’s vote now cancel hers?
She stays behind to watch him enter the booth.
(In our democracy, we think “the truth”
Is what everyone, regardless,
 secretly prefers.)
She won’t know anything but threats and trends
Until, again in the dark, but midnight’s now,
She can sense what hope the numbers will allow,
And what you get when you smear or overspend.
She will sit and stare at charts on CNN.
(But aren’t we redeemed by what they
 cannot show?
The struggle in each restless heart to know
The terms on which the nation’s fate depends.)
She will think how, at last, millions have spoken as one,
That freedom requires an open mind and hand,
And the strength to be forgiven and understand,
 
And that tomorrow morning it has all just begun.


For You O Democracy

BY WALT WHITMAN

Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.

I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America, and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks,
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.

For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!
For you, for you I am trilling these songs.