Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Only This Useless Happiness as Gift


Carolyn Kizer

At a party I spy a handsome psychiatrist,
And wish, as we all do, to get her advice for free.
Doctor, I’ll say, I’m supposed to be a poet.
All life’s awfulness has been grist to me.
We learn that happiness is a Chinese meal,
While sorrow is a nourishment forever.
My new environment is California Dreamer.
I’m fearful I’m forgetting how to brood.
And, Doctor, another thing has got me worried:
I’m not drinking as much as I should . . .
At home, I want to write a happy poem
On love, or a love poem of happiness.
But they won’t do, the tensions of every day,
The rub, the minor abrasions of any two
Who share one space. Ah, there’s no substitute for tragedy!
But in this chapter, tragedy belongs
To that other life, the old life before us.
Here is my aphorism of the day:
Happy people are monogamous.
Even in California. So how does the poem play
Without the paraphernalia of betrayal and loss?
I don’t have a jealous eye or fear
And neither do you. In truth, I’m fond
Of your ex-mate, whom I name “my wife-in-law.”
My former husband, that old disaster, is now just funny,
So laugh we do, in what Cyril Connolly
Has called the endless, nocturnal conversation
Of marriage. Which may be the best part.
Darling, must I love you in light verse
Without the tribute of profoundest art?
Of course it won’t last. You will break my heart
Or I yours, by dying. I could weep over that.
But now it seems forced, here in these heaven hills,
The mourning doves mourning, the squirrels mating,
My old cat warm in my lap, here on our terrace
As from below comes a musical cursing
As you mend my favorite plate. Later of course
I could pick a fight; there is always material in that.
But we don’t come from fighting people, those
Who scream out red-hot iambs in their hate.
No, love, the heavy poem will have to come
From temps perdu, fertile with pain, or perhaps
Detonated by terrors far beyond this place
Where the world rends itself, and its tainted waters
Rise in the east to erode our safety here.
Much as I want to gather a lifetime thrift
And craft, my cunning skills tied in a knot for you,
There is only this useless happiness as gift.


  1. speaking of julian cope, frontman for 'the teardrop explodes' - i watched 'when i dream' just now, and so far as i know this is my first exposure to his work

    at wikipedia one can read the following:

    1998 saw the release of Cope's bestseller The Modern Antiquarian, a large and comprehensive full-colour 448-page work detailing stone circles and other ancient monuments of prehistoric Britain, which sold out of its first edition of 20,000 in its first month of publication and was accompanied by a BBC Two documentary. The Times called the book: "A ripping good read ... it is deeply impressive ... ancient history: the new rock 'n' roll." The Independent said: "A unique blend of information, observation, personal experience and opinion which is as unlike the normal run of archaeology books as you can imagine." The historian Ronald Hutton went further, calling the book: "the best popular guide to Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments for half a century."

  2. speaking of e.e. cummings, i have on hand and intend to read at some point, circumstances permitting, his memoir of imprisonment in france - amazon states

    One of the most important and popular American poets of the 20th century, e. e. cummings is best known for his brilliant and innovative verse and its distinctive lack of uppercase letters and conventional grammar. He was also a Cubist painter and a World War I veteran. At the age of 23, he abandoned his artistic pursuits for voluntary service as an ambulance driver in France. His military career culminated in a comedy of errors leading to his arrest and imprisonment for treason, as he memorably recounts in The Enormous Room. Cummings transforms a tale of unjust incarceration into a high-energy romp and a celebration of the indomitable human spirit that ranks with the best of its contemporaries, including the works of Hemingway and Dos Passos. This edition restores a significant amount of material deleted from the book's initial publication in 1922.