1934 ~ 2021
Thursday, December 23, 2021
JOAN DIDION ~
ANTHOLOGY 2 (BIG SPACE) ~
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
Listen: there was a goat's head hanging by ropes in a tree.
All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it
Felt a hurt in their hearts and thought they were hearing
The song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and then
They lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat's head
Swayed back and forth, and from far off it shone faintly
The way the moonlight shone on the train track miles away
Beside which the goat's headless body lay. Some boys
Had hacked its head off. It was harder work than they had imagined.
The goat cried like a man and struggled hard. But they
Finished the job. They hung the bleeding head by the school
And then ran off into the darkness that seems to hide everything.
The head hung in the tree. The body lay by the tracks.
The head called to the body. The body to the head.
They missed each other. The missing grew large between them,
Until it pulled the heart right out of the body, until
The drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird flies
Back to its cage and the familiar perch from which it trills.
Then the heart sang in the head, softly at first and then louder,
Sang long and low until the morning light came up over
The school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped....
The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named
The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after
The night's bush of stars, because the goat's silky hair
Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit.
The girl lived near a high railroad track. At night
She heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train's horn
Pouring softly over her bed, and each morning she woke
To give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk. She sang
Him songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats.
She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed daily
That he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreaming
Made it so. But one night the girl didn't hear the train's horn,
And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat
Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm
Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain
Stripping the branches of fruit. She knew that someone
Had stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She called
To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called
And called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feeling
Like the feeling of the stones gouging the soft undersides
Of her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat's body
By the high tracks, the flies already filling their soft bottles
At the goat's torn neck. Then somebody found the head
Hanging in a tree by the school. They hurried to takeThese things away so that the girl would not see them.
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