Sunday, December 17, 2017

What Does the Rodent Say to the Glass Shard?



That is a New England lead cat door-stop circa 1850 given to us last night by my future son-in-law's mother when we had her to dinner. The door-stop's a foot tall and and at least twenty pounds. Now guarding our fireplace. Our reputation as crazy cat people finally has earned us gifts, not disdain. Well at least one gift - the disdain might just be politely hid.

I didn't forget yesterday was this guy's 247th, I just waited until today to:
















MUSICA RESERVATA

John Ashbery

Then I reached the field and I thought 
this is not a joke not a book 
but a poem about something—but what? 
Poems are such odd little jiggers. 
This one scratches himself, gets up, then goes off to pee 
in a corner of the room. Later looking quite 
stylish in white jodhpurs against the winter 
snow, and in his reluctance to talk to the utterly 
discursive: “I will belove less than feared ...”
   
He trotted up, he trotted down, he trotted all around the town. 
Were his relatives jealous of him? 
Still the tock-tock machinery lies half-embedded in sand. 
Someone comes to the window, the wave is a gesture proving nothing, 
and nothing has receded. One gets caught 
in servants like these and must lose the green leaves, 
one by one, as an orchard is pilfered, and then, with luck, 
nuggets do shine, the baited trap slides open. 
We are here with our welfare intact.
    
Oh but another time, on the resistant edge of night 
one thinks of the pranks things are. 
What led the road that sped underfoot 
to oases of disaster, or at least the unknown? 
We are born, buried for a while, then spring up just as 
everything is closing. Our desires are extremely simple: 
a glass of purple milk, for example, or a dream 
of being in a restaurant. Waiters encourage us, and squirrels. 
There’s no telling how much of us will get used.
     
My friend devises the cabbage horoscope 
that points daily to sufficiency. He and all those others go home. 
The walls of this room are like Mykonos, and sure enough, 
green plumes toss in the breeze outside 
that underscores the stillness of this place 
we never quite have, or want. Yet it’s wonderful, this 
being; to point to a tree and say don’t I know you from somewhere? 
Sure, now I remember, it was in some landscape somewhere, 
and we can all take off our hats.
    
At night when it’s too cold 
what does the rodent say to the glass shard? 
What are any of us doing up? Oh but there’s 
a party, but it too was a dream. A group of boys 
was singing my poetry, the music was an anonymous 
fifteenth-century Burgundian anthem, it went something like this:
     
“This is not what you should hear, 
but we are awake, and days 
with donkey ears and packs negotiate 
the narrow canyon trail that is 
as white and silent as a dream, 
that is, something you dreamed. 
And resources slip away, or are pinned 
under a ladder too heavy to lift. 
Which is why you are here, but the mnemonics 
of the ride are stirring.”
       
That, at least, is my hope.



Friday, December 15, 2017

The Song of the Way In, or: Born 104 Years Ago Today






[MURMURS FROM THE EARTH OF THIS LAND]

Muriel Rukeyser

Murmurs from the earth of this land, from the caves and craters,
      from the bowl of darkness. Down watercourses of our
      dragon childhood, where we ran barefoot.
We stand as growing women and men. Murmurs come down
      where water has not run for sixty years.
Murmurs from the tulip tree and the catalpa, from the ax of
      the stars, from the house on fire, ringing of glass; from
      the abandoned iron-black mill.
Stars with voices crying like mountain lions over forgotten
      colors.
Blue directions and a horizon, milky around the cities where the
      murmurs are deep enough to penetrate deep rock.
Trapping the lightning-bird, trapping the red central roots.
You know the murmurs. They come from your own throat.
You are the bridges to the city and the blazing food-plant green;
The sun of plants speaks in your voice, and the infinite shells of
      accretions
A beach of dream before the smoking mirror.
You are close to that surf, and the leaves heated by noon, and
      the star-ax, the miner’s glitter walls. The crests of the sea
Are the same strength you wake with, the darkness is the eyes
      of children forming for a blaze of sight and soon, soon,
Everywhere, you own silence, who drink from the crater, the
      nebula, one another, the changes of the soul.







The traditional Rukeyser birthday paragraph:

I took an Intro to Poetry course at Montgomery College when I was 20 or so when I was first learning I dig poetry (and trying to impress two women). The professor, who insisted we call her Tessa (so I don't remember her last name), prescribed beats and radicals, among them Rukeyser for her feminist and social protest themes. I liked her poetry then and for a few years after, but somewhere, by some erroneous aesthetic reasoning, I came to think overt political declarations in poems boring and, frankly, embarrassing no matter how well crafted the poem, so I stopped reading Rukeyser except when I'd come upon a poem in a magazine or somewhere. What a fucking dope. To be honest, my poetry, when I look up from the page to see what I've written, is often too full of overt political declarations, it's what I'm best at rhythmically, propulsively, embarrassingly, I'm so much better at that than I am the object><subject><subject><object-ology of poetry I somehow came to believe was superior, poetry's aim and goal. In any case, two years or so ago someone returned to the library Rukeyser's collected and I've been reading it since. It's a second chance at education.





DESDICHADA

Muriel Rukeyser

I.

For that you never acknowledged me, I acknowledge
the spring’s yellow detail, the every drop of rain,
the anonymous unacknowledged men and women.
The shine as it glitters in our child’s wild eyes,
one o’clock at night.       This river, this city,
the years of the shadow on the delicate skin
of my hand, moving in time.
Disinherited, annulled, finally disacknowledged
and all of my own asking.        I keep that wild dimension
of life and making and the spasm
upon my mouth as I say this word of acknowledge
to you forever.        Ewig.        Two o’clock at night.

II.

While this my day and my people are a country not yet born
it has become an earth I can
acknowledge.       I must.        I know what the
disacknowledgment does.        Then I do take you,
but far under consciousness, knowing
that under under flows a river wanting
the other :  to go open-handed in Asia,
to cleanse the tributaries and the air, to make for making,
to stop selling death and its trash, pour plastic down men’s throats,
to let this child find, to let men and women find,
knowing the seeds in us all.        They do say Find.
I cannot acknowledge it entire.        But I will.
A beginning, this moment, perhaps, and you.

III.

Death flowing down past me, past me, death
marvelous, filthy, gold,
in my spine in my sex upon my broken mouth
and the whole beautiful mouth of the child;
shedding power over me
death
if I acknowledge him.
Leading me
in my own body
at last in the dance.



EFFORT AT SPEECH BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE

Muriel Rukeyser

:  Speak to me.          Take my hand.            What are you now?
   I will tell you all.          I will conceal nothing.
   When I was three, a little child read a story about a rabbit
   who died, in the story, and I crawled under a chair    :
   a pink rabbit    :    it was my birthday, and a candle
   burnt a sore spot on my finger, and I was told to be happy.

:  Oh, grow to know me.        I am not happy.        I will be open:
   Now I am thinking of white sails against a sky like music,
   like glad horns blowing, and birds tilting, and an arm about me.
   There was one I loved, who wanted to live, sailing.

:  Speak to me.        Take my hand.        What are you now?
   When I was nine, I was fruitily sentimental,
   fluid    :    and my widowed aunt played Chopin,
   and I bent my head on the painted woodwork, and wept.
   I want now to be close to you.        I would
   link the minutes of my days close, somehow, to your days.

:  I am not happy.          I will be open.
   I have liked lamps in evening corners, and quiet poems.
   There has been fear in my life.          Sometimes I speculate
   On what a tragedy his life was, really.

:  Take my hand.          Fist my mind in your hand.          What are you now?
   When I was fourteen, I had dreams of suicide,
   and I stood at a steep window, at sunset, hoping toward death   :
   if the light had not melted coulds and plains to beauty,
   if light had not transformed that day, I would have leapt.
   I am unhappy.          I am lonely.          Speak to me.

:  I will be open.          I think he never loved me:
   He loved the bright beaches, the little lips of foam
   that ride small waves, he loved the veer of gulls:
   he said with a gay mouth: I love you.          Grow to know me.

:  What are you now?          If we could touch one another,
   if these our separate entities could come to grips,
   clenched like a Chinese puzzle . . . yesterday
   I stood in a crowded street that was live with people,
   and no one spoke a word, and the morning shone.
   Everyone silent, moving. . . . Take my hand.          Speak to me.



POEM

Muriel Rukeyser

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.



METAPHOR TO ACTION

Muriel Rukeyser

Whether it is a speaker, taut on a platform,
who battles a crowd with the hammers of his words,
whether it is the crash of lips on lips
after absence and wanting : we must close
the circuits of ideas, now generate,
that leap in the body's action or the mind's repose.

Over us is a striking on the walls of the sky,
here are the dynamos, steel-black, harboring flame,
here is the man night-walking who derives
tomorrow's manifestos from this midnight's meeting ;
here we require the proof in solidarity,
iron on iron, body on body, and the large single beating.

And behind us in time are the men who second us
as we continue. And near us is our love :
no forced contempt, no refusal in dogma, the close
of the circuit in a fierce dazzle of purity.
And over us is night a field of pansies unfolding,
charging with heat its softness in a symbol
to weld and prepare for action our minds' intensity.




AKIBA

Muriel Rukeyser

The night is covered with signs. The body and face of man,
with signs, and his journeys.     Where the rock is split
and speaks to the water;     the flame speaks to the cloud;
the red splatter, abstraction, on the door
speaks to the angel and the constellations.
The grains of sand on the sea-floor speak at last to the noon.
And the loud hammering of the land behind
speaks ringing up the bones of our thighs, the hoofs,
we hear the hoofs over the seethe of the sea.
All night down the centuries, have heard, music of passage.
Music of one child carried into the desert;
firstborn forbidden by law of the pyramid.
Drawn through the water with the water-drawn people
led by the water-drawn man to the smoke mountain.
The voice of the world speaking, the world covered by signs,
the burning, the loving, the speaking, the opening.
Strong throat of sound from the smoking mountain.
Still flame, the spoken singing of a young child.
The meaning beginning to move, which is the song.
Music of those who have walked out of slavery.
Into that journey where all things speak to all things
refusing to accept the curse, and taking
for signs the signs of all things, the world, the body
which is part of the soul, and speaks to the world,
all creation being created in one image, creation.
This is not the past walking into the future,
the walk is painful, into the present, the dance
not visible as dance until much later.
These dancers are discoverers of God.
We knew we had all crossed over when we heard the song.
Out of a life of building lack on lack:
the slaves refusing slavery, escaping into faith:
an army who came to the ocean: the walkers
who walked through the opposites, from I to opened Thou,
city and cleave of the sea. Those at flaming Nauvoo,
the ice on the great river: the escaping Negroes,
swamp and wild city: the shivering children of Paris
and the glass black hearses; those on the Long March:
all those who together are the frontier, forehead of man.
Where the wilderness enters, the world, the song of the world.
Akiba rescued, secretly, in the clothes of death
by his disciples carried from Jerusalem
in blackness journeying to find his journey
to whatever he was loving with his life.
The wilderness journey through which we move
under the whirlwind truth into the new,
the only accurate. A cluster of lights at night:
faces before the pillar of fire. A child watching
while the sea breaks open. This night. The way in.
Barbarian music, a new song.
Acknowledging opened water, possibility:
open like a woman to this meaning.
In a time of building statues of the stars,
valuing certain partial ferocious skills
while past us the chill and immense wilderness
spreads its one-color wings until we know
rock, water, flame, cloud, or the floor of the sea,
the world is a sign, a way of speaking. To find.
What shall we find? Energies, rhythms, journey.
Ways to discover. The song of the way in.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I Have the Scruples of a Worn Out Thief





Sunday, December 10, 2017

Just a Couple of Drifters on This Planet of Some Odd Billions Customers



  • James Tate's birthday was Friday past. He would have been 74.
  • Normally I would have posted his standard Egoslavian birthday post, but Gass' death.
  • Today is Olivier Messaien's birthday. He was born 109 years ago today.
  • Earthgirl had museum and lunch plans with a friend yesterday, and it was snowing so no disc golf w Dr Z or solo hike for me, so I got to the book and clothes purge I've promised Earthgirl.
  • We be donating shit away - we're downsizing.
  • Found that old Tate up above, the first I owned, bought in the 2nd Story on Old Georgetown back when there was a hardware store at the corner of Wisconsin and Old Georgetown in Bethesda.
  • I don't play My Sillyass Deserted Island Five Game with poets (or novelists) though Tate (and Gass) have permanent seats. 
  • Tate poem below from Viper Jazz, the first Tate poem I read, why I bought the book.
  • The she who made me feel like fungus and died in her room when I died in mine was standing next to me when I first read the poem in the bookstore.
  • Also found $75 in old Barnes & Noble gift cards, so I've preordered the new Richard Powers (and I'll forget, so one day this coming April I'll be pleasantly surprised).
  • Also ordered two used paperback copies of The Tunnel, if you want one, and ask nice, and I like you, I'll send it to you.
  • As always, I don't ask that you finish any book that I send you, only that you give it a fair shot.
  • Also, a replacement of Gass' On Being Blue in the beautiful NYRB edition.
  • Gass's death: not sadness - if offered a lucid run into my 90s right now, I'm buying - but love.
  • Tate's birthday is also the anniversary of Lennon's assassination, so where I was, w this, my favorite Lennon song, at above post.





DISEASE

James Tate

We were just a couple of drifters
on this planet of
some odd billions customers
open all night. She was always
loving and attentive
but made
what I considered
an abnormal number of morbid references,
so that at times I felt like a fungus.
Meanwhile we drank and smoked
and listened to country music.
She died in her room
and I died in mine.