Friday, December 31, 2021
Thursday, December 30, 2021
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
Monday, December 27, 2021
Sunday, December 26, 2021
The Lumberman, And His Teenage Son
Once upon a time my father stayed home sick from work. This happened maybe twice in my lifetime as a youngster living in the same house with my parents. My mother, maybe, sick one day in my life as a youngster.
My father called me into the bedroom, and there he was propped up on pillows.
“Bobby, I need something to read. What do you have in your room?”
Like I was some gunsmith. ‘I need a gun, not just any gun Bobby, you’ll know what to do.’
I’d nod and bring him a well-oiled Smith & Wesson. He’d nod, then he’d ask me to leave the room. Was this sick man going to take his life? Shoot the TV that was playing “I Love Lucy?” Or just spend the day fondling the gun?
But he didn’t ask me for a gun. He asked me for a book, any old book. I nodded. Rushed out of the room and went for the book I had just finished, without ever, and I mean ever and never, breaking the spine.
My father once remarked, as if he was beside himself, that when he looked at my paperback books, a full library and every one in alphabetic order, he was thunderstruck how not one book had a crease in the spine.
“How do you read these books Bobby and not crack a spine?” I showed him my careful technique of reading books as if peering into a small and fascinating room. He predicted I would be blind by age twenty. He was wrong, but he was still my father, who I believed knew more than any other man when I was fifteen. At sixteen I had a different opinion.
When I came back from my room, with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 in my hand, I spent the rest of the day enjoying hearing my father, once an infantryman in WW2, laughing out loud all through the day as he read the book. He never got out of the bed. He never stopped reading the book. And it seemed he never stopped laughing. Yes, one of the joys of my childhood was that day.
Tiny Summer Book
Saturday, December 25, 2021
Friday, December 24, 2021
Thursday, December 23, 2021
A N T H O L O G Y 2 ___________________________________
Dream in the Summer of My Seventy-third Year
I am behind a funeral cortege on a mountain road
And decide to pass it, but it seems to go on forever
And I'm completely exposed in the oncoming lane
And the only way out is to merge into the caravan
Of mourners. It is getting dark and a thick snow
Begins to fall in a sudden flurry and then stops
Abruptly, which gives the world an expectant air,
Though, really, nothing in particular happens
After a snowfall, except for the intense stillness
In the pine forest the road is winding through.
don't the petals also flutter down
just like that?
My mother was a doe in another time.
Her honey-brown eyes
and her loveliness
survive from that moment.
Here she was —
half an angel and half humankind —
the center was mother.
When I asked her once what she would have wanted to be
she made this answer to me: a nightingale.
Now she is a nightingale.
Every night, night after night, I hear her
in the garden of my sleepless dream.
She is singing the Zion of her ancestors.
She is singing the hills and beech-woods
sings lullabies to me
night after night
in the garden of my sleepless dream.
(translated by Eavan Boland)
Make no sound, do not speak:
eyes, heart, mind, dreams
are about to explore a forest.
A secret but tangible forest.
A forest humming with silence
into which the bird to be ensnared
the bird to be ensnared
who will be made to sing
To whom will it make him sing,
For whom will it make him weep,
the place in which he comes to life?
in your hands.
The War Works Hard
How magnificent the war is!
Early in the morning,
it wakes up the sirens
and dispatches ambulances
to various places,
swings corpses through the air,
rolls stretchers to the wounded,
from the eyes of mothers,
digs into the earth
dislodging many things
from under the ruins . . .
Some are lifeless and glistening,
others are pale and still throbbing . . .
It produces the most questions
in the minds of children,
entertains the gods
by shooting fireworks and missiles
into the sky,
sows mines in the fields
and reaps punctures and blisters,
urges families to emigrate,
stands beside the clergymen
as they curse the devil
(poor devil, he remains
with one hand in the searing fire) . . .
The war continues working, day and night.
It inspires tyrants
to deliver long speeches,
awards medals to generals
and themes to poets.
It contributes to the industry
of artificial limbs,
provides food for flies,
adds pages to the history books,
between killer and killed,
teaches lovers to write letters,
accustoms young women to waiting,
fills the newspapers
with articles and pictures,
builds new houses
for the orphans,
invigorates the coffin makers,
gives grave diggers
a pat on the back
and paints a smile on the leader's face.
The war works with unparalleled diligence!
Yet no one gives it
a word of praise.
(translated by Elizabeth Winslow)
BRIGIT PEGEEN KELLY
All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it
The Soul's Soundtrack
When they call him Old School
he clears his throat, squares
his shoulders, & looks straight
into their unlit eyes, saying,
"I was born by the damn river
& I've been running ever since."
An echo of Sam Cooke hangs
in bruised air, & for a minute
the silence of Fate reigns over
day & night, a tilt of the Earth
body & soul caught in a sway
going back to reed & goatskin,
back to trade winds locked
inside an "Amazing Grace"
which will never again sound
the same after Charleston,
South Carolina, & yes, words
follow the river through pine
& oak, muscadine & redbud,
& the extinct Lord God bird
found in an inventory of green
shadows longing for the scent
of woe & beatitude, taking root
in the money air of some bayou.
Now Old School can't stop
going from a sad yes to gold,
into a season's bloomy creed,
& soon he only hears Martha
& the Vandellas, their dancing
in the streets, through a before
& after. Mississippi John Hurt.
Ma Rainey, Sleepy John Estes,
Son House, Skip James, Joe
Turner, & Sweet Emma,
& he goes till what he feels
wears out his work boots
along the sidewalks, his life
a fist of coins in a coat pocket
to give to the recent homeless
up & down these city blocks.
He knows "We Shall Overcome"
& anthems of the flower children
which came after Sister Rosetta,
Big Mama Thorton, & Bo Diddley.
Now, the years add up to a sharp
pain in his left side of Broadway,
but the Five Blind Boys of Alabama
call down an evening mist to soothe.
He believes to harmonize is
to reach, to ascend, to query
ego & hold a note till there's
only a quiver of blue feathers
at dawn, & a voice goes out
to return as a litany of mock
orange & sweat, as we are sewn
into what we came crying out of,
& when Old School declares,
"You can't doo-wop a cappella
& let your tongue touch an evil
while fingering a slothful doubt
beside the Church of Coltrane,"
he has trasversed the lion's den
as Eric Dolphy plays a fluted
solo of birds in the peppertrees.
Lonesome Boy Blues
Oh nobody's a long time
Nowhere's a big pocket
To put little
Pieces of nice things that
Have never really happened
To anyone except
Those people who were lucky enough
Not to get born
Oh lonesome's a bad place
To get crowded into
Yourself riding back and forth
A blind white horse
Along an empty road meeting
Pals face to face
Nobody's a long time
i am you loving
my own shadow watching
this noontime butterfly
W S MERWIN
rivers go on
the day break
What is coming
If he flatters you
edited by bob arnold
Hass: Summer Snow, Harper Collins 2020
Rose Auslander: After Every War: 20th Century Women Poets, Princeton University Press 2004
Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo: from The Negritude Poets, edited by Ellen Conroy Kennedy, Viking 1975
Dunya Mikhail: The War Works Hard, New Directions, 2005
Brigit Pegeen Kelly: Song, BOA Editions 1995
Joe Brainard: The Collected Writings, The Library of America, 2012
Ray Johnson: Ray Johnson C/O, Art Institute of Chicago / Yale 2021
Yusef Komunyakaa, Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth, Farrar, Straus Giroux 2021
Kenneth Patchen: The Collected Poems of Kenneth Patchen, New Directions 1952
Sonia Sanchez: Blues Poems, ed. Kevin Young, Everyman 2003
WS Merwin, Japanese Figures, Unicorn Press, 1971