HAPPY CHRISTMAS to all Men and Women Blessed by Wings in a Similar Fix!


……………………………………………………….Wifredo Lam, Gravure, Uno, 1967

.

………………HE MISTAKES HER KINGDOM FOR A HORSE

………………………………He heard horses
………………………………when she meant writing,

………………………………he heard sweat,
………………………………the creamy lather where

………………………………the taut skin
………………………………works against the leather.

………………………………He heard writing
………………………………when she meant

………………………………riding her journal,
………………………………the words a broad back

………………………………beneath her, pressed
………………………………up and caught between

………………………………her long phrases and the
………………………………need to be heard by him,

………………………………the naked verb,
………………………………the taut joy ridden

………………………………but prepositional,
………………………………the taut thorn,

………………………………a word, a horse
………………………………working between them.

……………………………………..      Christopher Woodman
…………………………………………. The Beloit Poetry Journal, Fall Issue, 2009
………………………………………….  2010 Pushcart Prize Nomination

.


…………..Sunrise at Bhatam,” Ubonrajathani, Thailand. Photograph (2009). …………..Sam Kalayanee, Co-Producer, ‘Burma VJ’ (Oscar Nomination).
…………..Christmas greetings from New Delhi. www.imagesasiamedia.com

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5 Comments

  1. thomasbrady said,

    December 26, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Christopher,

    If my poetry is song, yours is art.

    Writing never seemed so poignantly sexy as in this poem of yours.

    I’ve been thinking recently of a new trope by which to divide mankind: oration v. cogitation. There are those who earn their bread by speaking, and others who earn their bread by thinking. Emerson sold tickets to his lectures; he wasn’t selling books, per se, until he was in his 40s, and even then, not many. Emerson’s income was from his talking (also he inherited money when his first wife, who was ill when he married her, died). A rock star sells tickets so an audience can hear his oration. Paul McCartney is considered ‘a poet’ by some, but it’s Paul’s concerts, his oration, which butters his bread.

    The poet as orator is a tenuous idea, however, since most poets dream of being read, not holding forth in front of an audience. Poetry is typically thought of as something which doesn’t need to succeed “live.”

    The whole Emerson/Poe split which stands a giant gulf in American Letters that Harold Bloom made so much of when he reviewed Poe’s collected works 25 years ago, seems to embody this: Emerson, the political agitator, preacher, lecturer, and Poe, the cogitating wizard, earning his living almost entirely from his writing and his inventions.

    Writing can seep in anywhere, but the orator needs a friendly audience. Emerson never spoke in the South. When Poe came up to Boston to speak, he bombed with the press. After rock stars stop touring, it’s usually downhill, or, they change their oratorical styles and try to be more sincere, and are rejected by fickle ears.

    Shelley mourned that when the strings are broken, the song is dead forever.

    We can descant on anything, but what if all that we descant upon is lies?

    Plato said the greatest poets were philosophers who discover unchanging laws and, of course, he didn’t think too highly of seductive singing.

    Your poem is very much about writing, not speaking or singing, and yet it is such a sensual expression of two people communicating. The “heard” in your poem is not so much hearing a song as it is understanding a word and the whole remarkable trope follows from that.

    Thomas

  2. November 20, 2010 at 2:37 am

    The beautiful “Sunrise at Bhatam” photograph at the end of the article just above was taken by my great friend, Sam Kalayanee, who died with great dignity and courage at the age of 50 on September 4th, 2010. None of us were ready to lose him, yet he was getting ready to leave us, and all his dreams as well — and many of mine too, as I felt so involved in his work.

    Indeed, Sam’s photographs of heavily armed resistance fighters in the foothills of the Himalayas are among the most heroic images of man’s struggle for dignity and self-realization in our times. That’s how I feel — and all those ironies too, I feel, that much ambivalence.

    ~

    I have complex feelings about Scarriet, needless to say — I invested such a lot of hope and energy in it only to see it become a place which I couldn’t respect. Yet my work remains here, like this page — and even my friend Sam Kalayanee is here — who left so many of us so alone as well.

    My gut feeling is that the violent Red Shirt protests in Bangkok in April and May hastened Sam’s demise, and that there’s something very important for us to learn from that. “I’m a Communist,” Sam said many times to me, looking me straight in the eye as he always did, waiting, waiting, waiting to see whether I could deal with what he meant. And I’m 20 years his senior, and an American!

    This is what I say now, and to Scarriet too. As we grow older, and I mean even just to Sam’s age, a paltry 50, we’ve got to realize that our ideals are not what it’s about at all, but rather our shit detectors. We’ve got to grasp the shit in the ideas we die for — we have to accept that ideas can also be great burdens, and great deceptions too, and particularly when they fall into the hands of great manipulators — the bloodiest history is created precisely like that.

    Life isn’t about political solutions but about tolerance and patience, about making the best out of what we’ve got already — por phiang is the expression in Thai, to be happy with enough. Most of us feel that what we’ve got in our heads is even better than what we’ve got on the ground, and are willing to die fighting for what we think up there even to the bitter end, even when it’s nonsense!

    And we end up with the meaningless, sad, unfathomable travesty of yet another ‘Terror.’

    My feeling is that Sam’s life was undermined in April and May as he watched the Red Shirt protests on TV non-stop, not working at all, he told me, not even corresponding with the people he loved most, or picking up the phone. The contradictions he saw on TV cheapened his dreams, he felt, and he emerged worn out and empty.

    And that’s what makes most revolutionary and/or counter-revolutionary movements so vulnerable to abuse, and why they are so often shunted down sidings where they founder even as countless lives are lost in the shadows.

    ~

    I recited a poem in memory of Sam on September 11th, 2010, the 7th and last day of his funeral. Sam was very well-known particularly for his work on the struggle of the peoples of Burma for freedom, including the Oscar nominee, “Burma VJ,” which he co-produced, and his funeral attracted a huge number of grieving friends and admirers from the region — Burmese, Shan, Karen, Thai, Naga, a bewildering galaxy of proud tribes. Indeed, the only language the assembled people had in common to grieve with was the simple language of my little poem without figures of speech, paradox, metaphor or manners — and in English!

    Called SADHU, SAM, the poem is under consideration elsewhere so I could’t put it up even if I wanted to.

    (The word Sadhu (pronounced sãã-to) is said three times after Thai monks finish chanting or giving a blessing. It is the equivalent of ‘amen,’ and means whatever has been said is ‘right,’ ‘correct’ and ‘proper.’ It also means ‘Well done!’)

    Christopher

  3. wfkammann said,

    November 20, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Yes, Sam had integrity and compassion. A Christian: which at best means a defender of human rights, someone thirsty for justice and, yes, even a Communist. Such a gentle spirit; source of hope for the oppressed. He believed in the lessons of history as he worked tirelessly for others. He was kind. Sadhu……

  4. November 21, 2010 at 5:14 am

    Thank you for adding that, Bill — a Christian, yes, surprisingly, a Christian and therefore a Communist.

    Sam lived in an entirely non-religious world in which people expressed their yearnings for transcendence not through prayer but activism, as if making the world a better place could make people suffer less. But I know Sam shared the Buddhist view that suffering is the only constant in life, even in the midst of bliss (if anyone should ever be so lucky, like a Deva stuck within the walls of Heaven!). In his work he demonstrated that for him liberation lay not in freedom from suffering but in the voluntary participation in it, which is an essentially Christian position.

    But a position best kept secretly concealed behind one’s back, like one’s charity!

    None of these ironies were lost on Sam, and indeed he would have felt fine that his family chose to have a 7 day Buddhist funeral culminating in a public Buddhist cremation — that’s when I read Sadhu, Sam. Sam was a Buddhist in everything but his private life, and very few of his colleagues knew that. I knew it but he never talked about it, and he never went to church that I saw, or seemed to believe in anything you could call religious.

    He was just, as you say, Bill, a kind man.

    Christopher

    P.S. I don’t know how this of all Scarriet threads, “HAPPY CHRISTMAS to all Men and Women Blessed by Wings in a Similar Fix,” became a TOP SITE — presumably there were some visitors who were interested enough in it to have revisited it. I thank you for that — and because I don’t know whether it was to read me or to celebrate Sam Kalayanee you came in, I have added these comments to it.

  5. November 22, 2010 at 7:34 am

    This is not off Sam’s track, nor Scarriet’s – so bear with me.

    “He Mistakes her Kingdom for a Horse,” the poem that is the focus of my HAPPY CHRISTMAS post-card above, is a companion piece of, and indeed complementary to, another poem of mine which I had put up on Scarriet just 20 days earlier.

    The other poem, unpublished, was called at the time “The Meaning and Value of Repression,” and I realized afterwards that the title was misleading. Indeed, the repressed elements were actually being outed in the poem as “Galileo’s secret,” so nobody bothered to ask what the secret actually was. In fact nobody, not even Thomas Brady, knew where to look, and I mean “look” in the English sense of decidedly not looking at what nice people don’t look at (the thread was called ”Galileo’s Secret: Where Do We Look When We Look for the Truth” — you can click on it if you’re interested.) I felt the poem needed a bit more help from the start, a leg up, so to speak – and a bit more seriousness too. I wanted to provide a carrot to get the reader moving faster, philosophically, historically, even politically — because as it stood there was too much secret and not enough Galileo!

    Now the poem is called “Celestial Observations,” which takes care of that!

    ~

    So does that help, and I mean with what’s going on at Scarriet?

    Christopher


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