HOW I FUCKED UP EVERYTHING

Image result for books in renaissance painting

By lingering on her eyes for a moment too long,

There followed a relationship that was completely wrong.

I read that eye contact is better than personality or looks.

Thank you. Stupid books

Reading led me to believe I understood a lot.

Wrong. A theme is merely by its own themes caught.

After book learning, I was set free

In a life without books. Tragedy.

I ventured into her eyes with advice that was good.

A lettered atheist walking into God.

 

 

 

Advertisements

THE LEFT

The Left has an agenda you’re not allowed to touch.

Feel. Please don’t think too much.

Sacrifice for others, and the others are here.

They are not far away. And enemies, too, are near.

The enemies are not others. They are very much like you.

Almost exactly. That’s why there’s so much work to do.

The enemy could be your father, the enemy could be your son,

Not helping others. Ruining all the work the Left has done.

Lesson One: Do not trust the United States.

A country excludes others. Exclusivity hates.

Enemies talk American history and love American laws.

They are not others. They are enemies—against the cause.

For them, America belongs to British history and that whole thing,

The enemies love patriotism, the bullshit of “sweet liberty I sing.”

Taught to resist ‘divide and conquer’ they love the United States;

Enemies love the ‘one fits all’ symbol. One symbol, many hates.

The enemies hate all others—the Left must remember this.

Enemies are known by symbols, by the flags they kiss.

Enemies hate all others—they love themselves, and God.

Note the love of symbols—the hate for anything odd.

The worst symbol of the enemies is Life, which makes

Them oppose all excuses for any action that takes

Innocent human life. Like all ideals, this goes too far.

There is no ideal. Only the other makes us who we are.

But the Other of the Left is an empty symbol, too.

Enemy or other, I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEAUTY I CAN’T HAVE

Image result for flowers in shadows in renaissance painting

The beauty I can’t have is this moon

Which will sink below the horizon soon.

The air of this June evening by the ocean.

Big roses. Trees. And my emotion.

The beauty I can’t have is tall.

Excuse me. I have to take this call.

Okay. It was just her telling me again

How inferior I am to other men.

The lovely women too retiring leave me cold.

The women who haunt me are beautiful and bold.

The beauty which is private and hides

In me but disappears with the tides,

With the days, which dwindle into dark

Dreams. The green, shadowy park

Of little paths of flowers bending to bees,

The pollen clinging to their furry knees.

The perfect bodies of whores in porn.

The light when I was born.

The beauty I can’t have is her,

And all the loves in the world that were.

The only beauty I have is love, which she

Gave me once. That’s the beauty which belongs to me.

 

 

WHY DID SHE LEAVE ME

Aiming at the truth, I forgot to do something,

And for someone I loved, this failure to do

What I forgot, had more meaning than even the true.

It showed a character flaw

More meaningful than my solid jaw,

More meaningful than the poems I wrote

To her, or the red envelope with the love note.

It hurt her, and she never did say

What it was, and I didn’t realize what it was until today.

It can take a long time for the truth to manifest.

Even as you aim to be good, it can ruin all the rest.

Once I bought one plum and I should have bought two,

And one time I reached into my pocket for pennies and I had too few.

But when someone scrutinizes you

And is struck by what your character doesn’t know,

Every mathematical formula will not help. You better go.

And I could still be ignorant. I wept. I worked out. I re-read

Every word of this poem. What was it that wasn’t said?

 

 

 

THE ATTRACTION FORMULA

Image result for lovers in renaissance painting

The attraction formula is simple: 1 + 1 = 2. When two people are mutually in love with each other, the happy result is 2. This happens in the beginning of love.

What eventually happens, as most people know, however, is one feels more attraction than the other.  There is nothing that says attraction must be equal, and we all know it often isn’t, especially with the passage of time. Attraction is fickle and involuntary. This can be expressed in the following way: -1 + 1 = 0.

1 = a healthy amount of attraction, or love.  A -1 indicates the person who does not have any attraction for the other person in the relationship—they may like them for all sorts of reasons, but they would prefer not to have sex with them.

Many long-lasting couples have a relationship whose attraction formula equals 0.

These relationships last, and they can be quite happy, because both are willing to accept 0 as the result. These couples are good, honorable people, and they make a kind of secret concession, realizing that everyone can’t be forever attracted to a person as they were when they first fell in love.

It helps if family and friends think the number is a 2.

But 0 is far more common, even though it is kept secret.

The total can never be more than 2, since two are physically and psychically incapable of love totaling more than 2.

But there is an interconnected dynamic which rules attraction, and this is why -1 + 1 = 0 couples are so common.

There is a strong tendency for attraction to be unequal, and the inequality itself creates a self-feeding dynamic in couples—the one who feels more attraction than the other begins to experience doubt, and the gap widens as mutual awareness of the gap, and subtle reaction to it, widens it.

Once 1 + 1 turns into 1.5 + .5 (remember the total cannot be more than 2) the inequality tends to widen even further, as the one who feels less (.5) attraction begins to feel uncomfortable by the 1.5 of their desperately attracted and jealous partner.

Even though 1.5 + .5 equals 2, a much larger total attraction factor than the 0 of many stable couples, the 1.5 attraction felt by one half spells trouble, since it is more than the “allowable” 1, half of the maximum of 2 when both are attracted to each other equally.

And further, the momentum of 1.5 + .5 will probably head into 2 + 0 and even 2 + -2 territory. The 2 is compensating for the -2 to an extreme degree, and such a relationship cannot survive this kind of unequal momentum. Momentum is more important than raw numbers.

The number 0 is stable, as long as 1 and -1 remain steady opposites.

The unlucky lover always complains—when I’m indifferent, they want me, but when I want them, they are indifferent. This is a natural law. It sometimes corresponds to gender differences, but not necessarily. The law is common and powerful and can be seen in -1 + 1: if one is attracted, the other is not, and visa versa. Why this law?  Who knows? It certainly keeps things interesting.

But why aren’t there a lot of couples who are .1 + .1 or some such combination? Because of the unequal momentum factor—it is rare for 1 + 1 to diminish step by step in equal amounts.

This is why the greatly unequal 1 + -1 is so common. It is due to the natural unequal law. The -1 is proud that their partner is sexually attracted to them, even though they cannot reciprocate.

A 0 + 0 is rare, since there’s no attractive dynamic to keep either interested, or flattered.  Why should 0 + 0 be a couple at all?

1 + -1 is more common also, because a 0 is a saint, a rare individual so enlightened that they escape the attraction/repulsion dynamic entirely. The 1 + -1 couple manage to combine as a 0, finding enlightenment through and with each other.

 

 

 

 

 

HAPPINESS

Image result for impressionist painting

Drones separate them, the happy combine work and play.

On the secret to happiness there’s really nothing more to say.

In matters of genius and love, the formula is the same.

Lovers combine and share. The miserable divide and blame.

Broken souls and hearts, with their broken hearts and minds,

Give short answers; the happy sail upon whatever the conversation finds.

No forbidden topics for the happy; no secret shame in their past;

They converse on anything, and make the conversation last,

For they were good when the world began, and they will tell you how

Their childhood flowed into maturity, the love then finding the love now.

The happy have only one sorrow; the unhappy are all around;

I remember her bursts of anger. I was afraid to make a sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FATHER’S DAY IS MOTHER’S DAY

Father’s Day is Mother’s Day.

She allowed me to be a father

With her permission and her love—

Which I hardly deserved, a callous nobody.

All daughters deserve praise on Father’s Day.

I became a father because of them,

Intentionally or not. Father’s Day is Daughter’s Day.

Fatherhood belongs to women who are not mothers.

Had they flirted with me,

This callous nobody, moody and alone,

Or given me bad advice,

I had not become a father when I did

(It only took a moment)

And maybe I had never become a father

(Foolish to disparage moments).

We praise intentions every day, but in truth

Wild, unknowing fate and chance is all,

And fathers are moments inside moments inside moments.

Father’s Day is Everyone’s Day,

The best of many days, a great and holy day,

And many wild and joyous celebrations

Should occur, except farty old men are disgusting at parties,

And men do not party well, and fatherhood not at all.

But no solemn marches, either, please.

Attention to fathers fallen or dead

Puts too much emphasis on the man,

When Father’s Day belongs to fate and women.

Father’s Day is Permission  Day.

Without her permission

My children would not now be waking up

With hope and expectation, which is all life is.

 

 

 

 

THE TROUBLE WITH THE GOOD

The trouble with the good is, in people, it’s utterly mixed with the bad.

Your neighbor, with his lawnmower and his published ethics, is absolutely mad.

The mother, of unassailable virtue, who sends a book to her grownup son,

“How To Be Good,” insults him and herself, attempting to love everyone.

My mother is bookish, the son thinks; the bookish spreads its blight

Of pedantry—ending in the minds of the silent, who think, this shit isn’t right.

Those who spend their lives writing really have nothing to say,

And those not prepared to listen already are on their way.

This poem, with ten sails, flying, chases you down, in vain.

The poem fails with its craft, when the poem should have been plain.

And yet, had the poem said clearly what really needed to be said—

Too late. The one who wanted to hear it is dead.

“Oh, fuck it” says the genius, the genius not understood—

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Mozart never said, “Be good.”

 

 

 

A GOOD MAN

Image result for dracula

A good man is hard to find.

One day he finds you.

And you don’t know what to do.

Your father was not a good man,

And all those creeps certainly were not.

But the good man, too, makes you feel caught.

You want to go. You look to prove

What you already know:

He’s a bad man. He’s just slow.

You’re unable to connect

To his love and respect.

He must be a fool.

So you leave him. That’s the rule.

 

 

 

TO LOVE ONE AND ONE ONLY

Image result for ropes mansion garden salem ma

I saw something today,

Or was it yesterday? Far away.

Silly nature, with her bees and flowers,

The sexes mingling during appointed hours,

Breeding nature in wild disarray;

But I want only her to stay.

To love one, and one only.

To be queer to all women, but not quite.

To long for Rosalinda every day and every night.

To be gay, but not quite.

To love one, and only one.

Rosalinda! I am almost gay. Is this alright?

 

FAME

Image result for hills in renaissance painting

You cannot serve both poetry and fame.

A poet is a whore to now—or always the same.

If you want your books to be read

More than you love to write, you are dead.

If you seek fame, you are not you—

Poetry must be the only thing you do.

The great poets had no wills;

They didn’t ask others; they went to the hills.

Keats and Shelley did not need prizes.

They walked out and watched sunrises.

You must be able to review

Yourself—if you need help, poetry is not you.

If you listen to the siren call,

“We’ll make you a poet!” you won’t be a poet at all.

Some poets have no doubt,

And from the first line of the poem you can’t get out,

And those poets can be very good,

But they don’t need to be understood.

Better the poet who is divine

In doubts, and overcomes those doubts in every line.

Judge me: do I succumb to gossip, bitterness and fame?

No, read carefully—I love her. Only love is to blame.

 

 

 

 

 

NEAR AND FAR

Image result for woman portrait in painting

Near and far have personalities.

Far is melancholy and peaceful.

Far is thoughtful. I like far.

Once I met someone who was like a distant star.

Last night she was in my dream,

Sitting at a desk, at work or prison, doing nothing.

Each morning I arrived hoping she would be there.

She was more beautiful than in life—

Even though she is beautiful in life—

Because it was a dream.

I am now haunted by this dream.

Near has a distinct personality.

The smallest item on the face

Can fill you with joy or disgrace.

The slightest change can fill you with fear.

I don’t like near.

“Excuse me, Mr. Graves, can I see you in here?”

INDIAN POETRY —JUNE

Image result for india in june

In his poem, “Ugly Histories,” Shrenik Mutha recounts, without trying to be overtly poetic, husbands slapping wives within his family.

their histories are
shameful. I will write them
even if they don’t tell me, even if I don’t know them,
I will write them
by listening closely to the silences in people’s voices.

Is how “Ugly Histories” ends.

And then follows:

“Shrenik Mutha is a Pune based poet. He studies Law.”

Why am I not surprised “he studies Law?”

Families have “ugly histories,” which must be unpacked, and the bravery and the beauty forgotten, and if the poet won’t do it, well, there’s always a lawyer who will.

Truth is attractive, and poets will tell their readers how attractive Dame Truth is—and readers, in turn, emboldened, can shout the news.

To make the good known, efficiency is crucial—the more readers informed of the truth, the better, which is perhaps why poetry was invented—to make the truth as attractive to as many people as possible—without bothering with the machinations of the courts, where true and just proceedings are respectful, confidential, fair, material, argumentative, and agonizingly slow.

Mutha’s “even if they don’t tell me” might not fly in court

Hearsay, like poetry, can go in any direction.

All citizens have a right to be treated justly; and usually the more just, the more dull.

The poets have a slightly different agenda.  Dame Truth might wink. Or smile.

Or weep.

*

Urvashi Bahuguna gives you so much trouble and adventure in her poems, you exhale deeply after you finish reading.

Walking a rope bridge over the Atlantic, she freaks out.  “The stomach is a swing” is how she deftly conveys the sickening fear. “Stepping off the bridge, the grass/ is grasped at for support.”  From her poem, “Alone.”

Like most moderns, she doesn’t let form get in the way.  No verse manuals for her. “there is no manual on how to resist/ a man who steps off a moving train”  From her poem, “In praise of drool.”

The poem, “Boy,” is worth quoting in full:

Boy meets girl, girl orders the right
dish in a restaurant. Boy thinks
he never has to order for himself
again.

Girl doesn’t get on the aeroplane,
Boy doesn’t understand, won’t hug
her back. Girl slips into his pocket
her mornings where she will wake in time
for him to hear her voice before his
day ends.

Boy comes home in the holidays, Girl grows
her hair out, Boy doesn’t recognize the
inches, struggles with the idea
that she might be prettier than before.

Boy doesn’t know the new places in
town, Girl takes him for tea here
cake there, wine somewhere else.
Boy is tired, their city is shifting
in his head. Boy
doesn’t say any of this

only asks time and again
that she quit smoking. Girl kisses
some other boy. Girl wishes
it was Boy. She doesn’t tell him
any of this, only gets angry that
he doesn’t call more often. Boy is Boy.

Boy pretends it away, Boy holds the trump
card: he flies away. In tropical countries,
autumn is not a season. Boy watches the leaves
turn yellow. Boy is glad there are places Girl
is not.

“Boy doesn’t recognize the inches” is nice, as is the passage beginning, “Girl slips into his pocket…”

Nice as well: how singularly expressed are the miscommunications, the ‘who gets the upper hand’ in love, and the idea of place.

Contemporary poetry’s significance is this—rhyme and meter abating, under the quantity radar, we get “the inches” of a more subtle measure, or the artful, though plain, beauty of “her mornings where she will wake in time/for him to hear her voice before his/day ends.”  We don’t “recognize the inches,” perhaps, but Wordsworth, Shelley, and Millay are alive and well in them. Urvashi Bahuguna is a contemporary poet. “Boy is Boy” is perhaps the downside. The plain, the quotidian, the banal, and the familiar threaten to overwhelm at all times. When we judge in a poem and judge poems as we would tweets, poetry’s stock cannot help but go down. Poetry’s Modernist agenda demands the poet be good without a guide. Many get lost in the woods, and if they escape using their wits, they still haven’t found poetry—because poetry is the opposite of being lost.

**

Sridala Swami is interested in labyrinths and mazes—how to get out of them, or into them, or how they are useless. She reminds us of Jorge Luis Borges.

Poetry like hers is self-effacing—you won’t get any news of her; just news of where her mind would like to go next.  Call it avant-garde, if you wish.

Here’s a rather remarkable poem of hers:

“Redacted poetry is a message in a bottle”

You have one book with you. It is your lifeline, because you are now in a place with no means of communication. There is only this book, and your one chance of speaking to the world is through the words in it.

So you compose your message in your head, you mark words in the book, and you carefully cut them out one by one, knowing all the while that for every word you use up, others will be lost on the reverse. This is the opportunity cost of making your message.

But you do it anyway because you must. At first your dispatches are voluble and profligate. Soon, you ration your words. As the pages become cut-outs the book speaks to you differently. It must now be a classic because every time you read it, it shows you something new.

The end of the book does not come, as it usually does, when the last page is turned. It comes when what remains are the unusable words. Everyone has a different list of these, but because this is the book you have and this is your list, the words that remain include ‘anneal’ and ‘recombinant’ and ‘brise’. This is not to say that you do not love these words, or that you are not happy that somebody– the author of the book, for instance—found a use for them; just that you can’t imagine what you could have to say that would include these and other such words.

But you learn these words because—after you have said all you have to say, after you have used up all the other words—these are all that are left you. Until other words come from the outside, until they can be recycled, the words you don’t want or need are your companions through what you hope is only a temporary silence.

I am reminded of Dante’s Vita Nuova, the earlier work on falling in love with Beatrice, where in the beginning of that book Dante says this small book is copied from a larger one—his memory.

To contemplate sets of finite quantity—where it is common to vaguely assume the infinite—is the mark of the mathematical genius, and any writer, despite the immensity of language and its reality, profits quite a bit (who can say how much?) from this activity. Sridala Swami is doing that here, and traveling from the “one book” to “words you don’t want or need are your companions through what you hope is only a temporary silence,” is quite a ride.

***

Aditi Nagrath has a poem, “On Flowers, In Your Absence” which is also profound, in a more lyric manner:

Truth be told, I am never more mine
than when I am yours. What a thing to say!
I meant it. At least in the moment
of that moment—in its core, the throne
of pain—what I said was true even if
the words I used were not. Afterwards,
I turned outwards: petal, leaf, stamen,
stem, one flower, two, a bunch perhaps.
Subtle pink, startling white, a hint
of yellow. I preferred them greatly
to the colors beyond my window.

The metaphysical acrobatics of Nagrath’s poem are delightful: truth, meaning, time; the personal heroically stirring itself against the beyond.

****

Adil Jussawalla was born in Mumbai in 1940, lived in England between 1957 and 1970, and published his first book at 22.

Jussawalla’s work reflects the dying, glorious flame of formalist Anglo-American poetry.  He’s good, but good poetry needs a good audience far more than bad poetry does—should a good audience rebuke bad poetry, or ignore it? Or, is there no such thing as an “audience” for poetry (and no such thing as bad poetry) and, instead, a million types of poetry ought to find their million audiences?

I believe in one audience, and the advantage should be apparent at once—and if it’s not, the attempt to convince you of its validity will certainly fail.

The critical consensus seems to be that Jussawalla is “complex” and to understand his poetry it is necessary to pontificate endlessly about “neocolonialism” and “Marxism” and the “quest for meaning” and the “irony of art” and the “future of marginalization” and other nonsense.  Any poet is flattered by scholarly attention—until he realizes the scholarly blabber has effectively buried the poetry.

After Jussawalla’s gained notoriety with his honesty, formalism, and wit, in the 1960s, he must have eventually felt a great deal of pressure to sound less like Robert Lowell (d. 1977) or W.H. Auden (d. 1973). Well, Lowell and Auden didn’t have to ask permission to sound like whomever they were imitating—Milton, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Homer—so why should an Indian poet have to do the same?  Good poetry doesn’t need political, ethical or nationalistic tricks. It’s poetry. It can do any trick it wants. It just has to be good—and lucky enough (or sly enough, perhaps) not to be ruined by scholarship.

*****

Is haiku a hustle?

It was for Williams and Pound, who, in broad daylight, in the early 20th century, ripped off haiku (all the rage after the Japanese won the Russo-Japanese War in 1905) in the name of one quickly drawn up, Western, High Modernism, Imagiste, poetry movement—which lived in little magazines for a few years and then landed triumphantly in American school textbooks.

Poe said a “long poem doesn’t exist,” but he also warned that poetry is neither truly itself as a mere epigram.

Poe’s warning hasn’t slowed down “The Red Wheel Barrow” and its harrowing influence. It’s difficult to argue against the brief when time is all we have.

A larger term for Modernism in the West (with all the loaded, hate-the-classical-past, rhetoric implied) might be Impressionism, in many ways its earlier manifestation—art seeking only an immediate “impression,” whether it’s a war photograph, an Instagram poem, a Rumi insight poem, or a piece of ‘collage’ art resembling whirlwinds of trash, in a symbolic critique, perhaps, of “late capitalism.” Impressionism covers all, and is hard to resist.

Paresh Tiwari has been “widely published” and “has conducted haiku and haibun workshops,” says a website. (Haibun is the introductory prose piece to a haiku).

This is the kind of poet who fills the serious poets with despair, since what serious poet can compete with a poem like the following?

in the space
between falling rain
and loneliness…
the song
that once was ours

There. Consider yourself hustled.

******

Anjali Purohit, situates herself against haiku/impressionism in the pure temporal/metaphoric force of her poem, “The Wave.”  It is simple, yet effective:

The Wave

She knows she will break
And yet
She rushes to meet him,
The rock.

Rising and falling,
a song
gathering momentum
smiling surf
rushing to throw herself
at the rock.

He just waits
patiently watching
her insanity
as she smashes into him

Inevitably
breaking herself into
infinite particles
spray and foam

covers him
for a moment too brief,
holds him
in her temporality

he just waits
patiently watching
her madness
unmoved, knowing

that even after
she scatters
herself with abandon and
abates, subsides, silent

going back into
her mother’s womb
again
one with the deep

that she goes only
to gather strength
build up and
come rushing back

to be splintered
around him.
Patiently waiting
The rock.

Over and over forever
She knows she will break
and yet
she rushes.

*******

And so we come to the end of June’s poets. Thanks, again, to Linda Ashok. We’ll see you in July!

 

 

WHO IS EVERYBODY?

 

Related image

Who is everybody? And why does physical appearance mean so much?

Except when it means nothing at all?

And the former judgement we had of looks makes us feel petty and small?

And we settle into an appreciation of the mind

And affectionately we touch

The small and deformed hand

Of a lovely soul, and know ourselves to be kind.

Who is everybody? And is it their story which matters most,

Or is there a certain spirit which makes them who they are,

Ineffable! Details of life cannot change their unique ghost,

Their soul unalterable. Conversing with them, glimpsing them from afar,

Hello! There you go! Harvey Goodfellow Wintergarden! Yes! Here you are!

And whether you find them in bed, naked, or see them age,

Or grow angry—never sadder than when Harvey fell into a rage!

You know them stamped forever as no one but themselves.

The posts on the pier—look, they are stiff and unmoving—

But in the water—my perception of them!—they are like the water, gently moving.

Who is everybody? When we hear someone for the first time, speak,

The physical—as voice—takes revenge, and it changes how we perceive their physique.

Who is everybody? What is the mystery of everybody? Who

Does cruel things? Oh God, cruel things! Just because they are you?

This picturesque landscape contains ancient houses and a bee.

Who is neglectful? Gentle but neglectful? Forgetting life? Me.

The girl looks at her phone, gets in her car, and drives away.

You thought you knew her but you don’t know her at all, today.

The physical is revenge. Movements in your mind. Like the planets. Revenge!

Who is everybody? They are standing in a circle, like the stones at Stonehenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHE TOLD YOU!

Image result for modern photography: the cafe

She told you, and now you are telling us

In poetry which is helpless.

Every thought earns a thoughtless reply.

There’s no philosophy which does not its opposite imply.

Is there no conviction? No certainty?

You are pretty. Yes, old. No, thirty.

She can say whatever she wants to say.

To yourself, you will contradict her. But not today.

For once you would like a piece of philosophy to stay;

You want the truth to be stable, to be what it is.

There was a hint in an earlier poem she wasn’t real, and you were alone.

After this poem there will be a quiz.

ROOTING FOR LOVE

Image result for mob with torches chasing frankenstein

Frankenstein and King Kong

Were like all lovers: wrong.

Horror is a love and love is a horror.

We are not good enough to love her.

We are beastly. We take her by the hand

And the rivers rushing are the color of the land.

We are hungry, and we walk with her at night,

And we do things and say things and we are never right.

She wants a nice meal. She wants money.

We are the bear in the woods sniffing honey.

Like a sketch by Dürer, we are the skeleton,

Thinking of death beside the smiling maiden.

Rooting for love. Because love always fails.

Along the bay from the restaurant we watch the sails.

The monster, who would be a lover,

Is hated by the mob, the conservative mother.

The rocky path leading from the castle to the sea

Is secretly familiar. Love, too, eluded me.

I can’t change the channel. I have to watch this show.

Horror. Horror. Love is too slow.

I don’t want to do this. Please understand.

I got down on my knees. She told me to stand.

I knew I was handsome, a better poet than Jim.

And yet when I loved her, she was thinking of him.

I loved, I loved. They were rooting for me.

But I was a monster. They felt pity.

In the clearing, where the birds touch the ground,

Snakes feed without making a sound.

Oh gods! Who look down at us from above,

The immortal can root for only one thing: love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN INSULT IS AN INSULT IS AN INSULT

Let us make a careful study of insults! says the learned man.

All of us insult another every time we can,

By not listening for a second or two,

By speaking of love, but out of turn.

And by insulting myself, I once insulted you.

When the sun received the smallest slight,

It shocked half the world: night.

Insulting is like breathing—it’s what humans do.

Insult is why there’s torture and why great cities burn.

Just like people, insults are fat, or white, or small.

An insult may resemble a flea, a fire,

A god—beautiful and regal and tall.

An insult can be very beautiful—when to be

The most beautiful was your desire;

An insult can be something not insulting at all.

We must study insult, then, and see

Why insult is the public and secret heart of humanity.

They say, to avoid insult, stick to facts.

But the truth is deeply insulting. Reality is an axe.

They say the worst insult is based on race,

But the motive may have nothing to do with the shade of the face.

If you are in love, be ready to be insulted.

Insults are accidents. Love was not consulted.

Insult in love can make us frightened,

And love’s no help—the insult is heightened.

And strange, the worst insult is, “Let’s be friends.”

Friendship is beautiful. But not when love ends.

THE THIRD

Immortality” —Diotima

Everyone knows the beautiful will be loved, no matter what the beautiful do,

But if you look a little closer, Rodrigo, you’ll find this isn’t true.

If you don’t love, you will not be loved.

The one who admires you—

Because you are beautiful, and a good person, too—

Wants your love more than he wants you.

And to get your love, resorts to designs, strategies, confusions,

And hate will creep into love, since impatient love demands illusions,

And desire naturally thinks of horrible schemes,

To make love love in a faithless life of unequal dreams.

Do you believe love is possible, the great beauty making up her mind

To love you, but there is always something missing, something not right,

Isn’t that true, Rodrigo? Why was she, why were you, so angry? So unkind?

Remember, three is the magic number in life:

Soft shoulders, bony shoulders, muscular shoulders.

Or the maiden, the wife, the ex-wife,

Disco, punk, and the ballad. To organize, you need only three folders.

Souls of gold, silver, and clay.

The ugly, the beautiful, and the most beautiful far away.

All good people live and fit into three:

Innocence, drunkeness, and then a new and wiser sobriety.

You love them, they don’t love you—these comprise the first two

Which afflict us all, Rodrigo! You love them. They don’t love you.

But if you want to be cured of all misery,

Let me tell you of the third. Listen to me.

The beautiful is not loved the way people think.

The poet’s eye possesses beauty more than any man with strong arms can.

No beauty is possessed. Beauty is poetry and madness. Drink

All beauty and throw the cup away.

The third is God—who doesn’t want to be a man.

 

 

TO BE A HAPPY, ATTRACTIVE WOMAN

Related image

To be a happy, attractive woman is impossible.

You must be a painter—so that your face

Brings out, and combines, your kind features with subtle grace.

You must be a poet—so that your voice seems

Not only intelligent, but a cloud of speechless dreams.

You must be a dancer—but your dance

Must move sweetly in every circumstance.

You must be neither too young, nor too old.

You must be modest, but also devilish and bold.

You cannot be clumsy, or rude, or crazy, or any

Of the million, subtle, things which make us ugly!

You cannot be too large, too thin, too spotty, or too small.

You must be able to love, and love one, and if not one, all.

Nothing is more attractive than the attractive which can pine

Madly for one. Attractive love is greater than wealth or wine.

Some cannot love; love is not a casual thing; maybe one loved before,

And cannot love again. If there’s no love, what is attractive for?

The pain, when attractive is attractive—but not for them,

Ruins happiness. Attractive must always worry about them.

Yet the attractive woman has no obligation to love a particular guy,

But if the attractive is attractive to the world’s eye,

The unattractive need to be respectful and aloof,

And let the attractive seek a more complex love,

Not monogamous, private perhaps, or public, practical, difficult,

Who is to say? The happy, attractive woman will harm

Everyone who tends to jealousy, seeing the lucky on her arm.

Finally, attractiveness is always dying.

And what if you, the poet whom she loves, is lying?

 

 

 

 

 

 

SKINNY

Image result for orpheus

Can someone with a big, thick, neck write poetry?

Or is poetry for the weak and skinny?

Race or gender is not the issue;

It’s a matter of fat and muscle tissue.

Can someone with a big fat ass

Appreciate “The Leaves of Grass?”

Can this American with a huge belly

Love the poetry of Shelley?

Amy Lowell, it’s true, was fat,

But was she a poet because of that?

Amy Lowell’s soul, I hear,

Was lighter than the atmosphere.

Edna Millay was lighter than a feather.

Poetry floats and falls, like parts of the weather.

Amy Lowell had the Lowell name,

Good for a little poetic fame.

Talk of the weather. Words of woe.

Anyone can be a poet, you know.

 

THE OTHER

https://i0.wp.com/www.returnofkings.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/woman-in-burqa-on-phone.jpg

You should note this poem is easy to translate.

First—and maybe, not last—I’m an American.

All my lovers have been assimilated immigrants.

I, too, am an assimilated immigrant—

I was born here, but my soul is from another place.

I get along with neither builders who carry guns

Nor credentialed academics—to them, I’m kryptonite,

Because I’m the better poet, and the amateur, too.

As a blue eyed, straight, white, dude, I assimilate

Daily because of all the dislikes I have,

And to those who push the “other” in my face: screw you.

Poetry will save the world—poetry is what we must do.

Those who don’t know poetry, squirm like worms underground;

If you have millions, you are but a worm covered in gold.

And communists, get over yourselves,

Because everything will be bought and sold.

I know poetry will save the world. I like Christianity—

A beautiful religion which says “do not cast stones”—

But I would happily be a Muslim, if I could remain a poet,

And seduce through the robes just looking at the eyes,

But secretly, for I want to respect the fathers and the grandmothers.

I prefer not to insult in my poetry. I would rather tell a bunch of lies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOME THINK

Image result for bird flying away in the sky

Some think lack of punctuation means poetry,

When it really means the reverse.

If you have to guess about the smallest thing,

This makes the poem worse.

Poetry is not a trick of not quite understanding;

Poetry is understanding at its best.

Poetry is not a blur of wings,

But those beautiful wings at rest.

And when poetry gets up to fly,

Since wings were never meant to stay,

You will see exactly how it flies,

And know exactly how sad you are, as you watch it fly away.

 

 

 

SONG OF THE PASSIONATE MALE

Image result for soldier in renaissance painting

To steer between hate and love is society’s expectation.

Yet love and hate form the part of every nation.

If to love women too well is suspicious,

If to love God is considered superstitious,

If to love your nation makes you wrong when it is,

If to hate everything which opposes your loves—

If all these feelings and thoughts are wrong,

I will reject love and hate, if only to get along.

But should I find a woman who loves God and country,

Who lets me love her heart and all that I might see,

I will love her, and neither hate nor love society,

Nor God, nor any, reserving for her my loyalty.

LIFE IS UNEQUAL

Image result for sylvia plath

Life is unequal. There are more stars than the moon.

Love comes sweetly too late, or excitedly too soon.

Earth has a greater day when summer warms the night.

He finds joy in the winter. She finds joy in the light.

She—my love—was sexy and aloof,

But I—I wanted proof

Of love, while she could love, and not love.

After love, she sought the mundane,

While loving her, always, made me always, insane.

The madness of love belongs to only one—

He seeks the stairs—she needs the sun.

Up in the darkness, flying around up there,

He looks for her—different, because a little more removed from care.

We can understand the yellow, and say exactly what we mean,

But she frowns and turns away and wants more green.

We can be stable, or we can lose our minds,

We can run to meet the day, or slowly pull down the blinds.

Unequal! I loved without end, but she, only for a time.

She was one of those

Who worried and fretted in prose

While I sang—and died—in rhyme.

Moods are unequal—some rise to genius with wrath

Mixed with love unequally, like poor Sylvia Plath.

Or one travels out, into the cold day

And drowns in the warm rain, like Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Poets will love poets, but they always seem to miss,

Meeting in a strange dream, too strange for the simple kiss.

Shelley sailed outward, in a dangerous boat,

Leaving her within, coughing with a footnote.

One played a trumpet sadly in the shadows, here,

Promoting tears in them—but never for her, a tear.

Some want to love in the spring, and some want to love in the fall.

Some want to love too much, and some, not at all.

The world is unequal. Protesting for equality,

She lost her head to one who lived aesthetically,

Who pointed to the whole face, who quoted Edgar Poe:

Progress is useless. The light is better than what’s below.

I accepted the tragedy of asymmetry—I knew

She would always love me, and I would never have you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWENTY FIVE MINUTES

Image result for lovers embrace in renaissance painting

Twenty five minutes can reverse years—

When you have been dull and good—

And turn them into tears.

Twenty five minutes can wake up joy

That for months slumbered and hid.

In twenty five minutes you can find

Love in the body, a whole affectionate mind.

How and why were those previous minutes untrue?

Look at what twenty five minutes can do.

In twenty five minutes, see what can happen:

The hands, the glance, the eyes,

A word or two at twenty two minutes to one.

Darkness for a thousand years.

For twenty five minutes the sun.

 

 

 

 

BEING RIGHT

Image result for dappled greenery in painting

Contradicted by the unseen,

Being right is mean.

Correct, stumbling in the night,

The stupid want most of all to be right.

You are right. This poem is bad.

And I write it because I’m sad.

The hills have green and dappled sun.

I remember when you were the one.

Inspired, I held you near,

And told you I loved you. I was clear.

I love you, as the sun shines on me here.

You are right. And always were.

You are right. And what does that mean?

You are right about me.  And her?

She was wrong. Very wrong. But unseen.

 

 

SAFE WITHIN

Image result for view train window in painting

The shape and size of my window keeps changing

By what’s going on outside.

You think safety lies within,

But it’s impossible to hide.

Your window is helpless. It can only see

What they’re thinking about you and me.

Your window can only say,

“How are you? It’s a lovely day.”

But life depends on whether scenery

Crowds your window, or is far away.

A panorama has been fortunate

To do business with this train

With its hills and canals in sun and rain.

The train rumbles in its easy ride.

You watch the views come and go outside.

You know I can’t stop thinking of you.

It’s not us.  It’s them, who cannot believe what we did is true.

 

DESIRE WHICH ACHIEVES ITS DESIRE WILL DIE

Image result for abstract painting sun

Desire which achieves its desire will die.

Is desire blessed, which fails, and continues to try?

But look how my desire grieves to never capture you.

I fail, wisely; I let desire fail, which all desire must do;

If my desire wins, and you are no longer desired by me,

Love will die. So I let my desire win you in my poetry.

My desire must love this poem, not your desire.

Not you, not you. I cannot put out the fire.

Let me desire the poem which perfectly captures you.

When this poem does at last what desire, dying, must do,

You and I will be immortal, and I will burn as brightly for you

As the sun, which aspires

To burn more nights,

To burn and feed with love, the shady, lesser lights,

Who God, with bright desire desires,

Desire of my love as bright as you and all your bright, and loving, fires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LOVING EYE

Image result for leonardo da vinci eye

There is nothing more loving than the loving eye,

No matter how heavily the blind, or the physically unattractive, sigh.

Beautiful delight

Impregnates my sight

With hues of sculpture moving,

If sight is sex, I am always loving.

It’s true—no lover can be true who has an eye.

Love loves what it sees, and loves the beautiful, truly.

The loving eye loves morally, too,

Seeing the sneer, or the vacant look,

Seeing at a glance when beauty is fake.

The eye has a mind beneath its lake.

I know you will love the cloud or the bee

As much as you love me.

But the loving eye is always knowing

When danger or love is coming or going

By that vast light which ponders the light

Of risk and love and safety in the shadow

Where seeing sees deftly in the night

Where understanding and the shadows go.

Even when we hear—in love, or fear,

We ask, “What am I seeing here?”

The heart has no mind but to beat and die.

We love each other best—as we live—with the eye.

 

FRIENDSHIP IS LOVE

Image result for landscape painting

Social interactions are seldom valued for what they are.

When out of the crowd, a friend is randomly met

We are pleased not for the interaction, but for the friend

And why one is a friend, instead of not, is all there is to friendship;

And this is how the pieces of evolution fit into one.

We look forward to the next interaction whatever it is,

And so friendship is truly love.

But love has intricate demands

Which love hiding in friendship never understands.

When we take the hand of a friend and kiss that hand,

And kissing takes a journey which never stops,

A different interaction occurs,

One belonging to the sea, to the rain, to the green lands

Heaped up around windy mountains, valleys, and lands

And we love the interaction for itself—lost in the kiss,

Just as you forgot what poetry was when reading this.

 

 

 

 

 

THE RULE

Image result for insects in renaissance painting

The Web is full of spiders, but I don’t write to spiders.

I write for the honey bees and butterflies.

The bees are busy, and the butterflies won’t sit still.

No one listens to me. But I was told once, you will.

 

The irony for one who hates the majority—

The majority of the minority doesn’t like me,

And the rule applies even when I’m faced with two.

I need a smaller minority. I need you.

 

She once ran to me, and now she runs away.

I think and dream on that happier day,

And fear there will never be a happier tomorrow.

Yet I was happy once. And called it sorrow.

 

 

 

ONCE A STORY IS TOLD

Image result for gloria grahame

Once a story is told,

A crazy story not quite believed—everything else takes hold:

The poetry, the love, the belief the story isn’t true,

And all the poets pause before the story because of what it says about you.

Poison, mixed in a jar, will lose its force.

The poison of a story never gets old.

A good story will never stop; every poet wants to ride the horse,

And every poet—no matter how good—falls off;

Poets are not reporters; poets fly too close to the sun,

Poets sing weakly in shadows, die by a criticism, or a cough.

The story tramples poetry; no poet benefited from news, not one.

Actress Gloria Grahame had lots of men—but she couldn’t stay away

From one man—Tony Ray,

The son of her director husband, and later her husband for 14 years,

The son she was caught with when he was thirteen.

One story kills illustrious careers.

Cruelty is everlasting. The knife of cruelty is keen,

But nothing is crueler than a story, though it’s low on our list of fears,

A bunch of words—and who cares what a poem might mean,

Unless a poet can somehow tell a story, too—

Not at all what a poet is supposed to do:

Leave that to the liars and the gossipy scum,

Who paint the shipwreck, but never the beautiful foam

Scattered by the wind, the spray which the setting sun shines through—

The ship which had a note on board, a poem you might call it, a warning, written for you, for you.

 

 

NO ART NOW

Image result for persepolis

Who wants to be a poet? I can tell you how.

Outside the Cologne Cathedral I sold a bunch of hash

And was able to party hard at Giza.

Most importantly, decide you are a poet,

Say you are a poet, write obscure poems no one understands. That’s how.

I asked Pablo, “why does contemporary art look like trash?”

He smiled. Then she asked, “I could be a poet?

There’s no art now.”

At Angkor Wat I found her hesitating, yet there was nothing

She was supposed to do. By noon I knew there would be a delay.

The whole choir wasn’t feeling well. I could not allow

The truth to get out. The Dome of the Rock was crossed off the list,

Machu Picchu, the Statue of Liberty, and then, my house.

She said, “Could anyone know that I could be a poet?

There’s no art now.”

Stonehenge, Persepolis, those shadows

Loom over every ambition we had.

There wasn’t anything contemporary

About what was backwards, or really considered bad.

There was a fledgling belief we had to cross

The river Yung Pung Kao.

“Cosmetics? Maybe. But

There’s no art now.”

Who would say something bad

About the Taj Mahal?

I got in trouble as a dad

For being too critical. I had

To be a parent. Poetry, no.

Far from the Lotus Temple,

In a bad rain storm, she voiced

Silently the word, “wow.”

 

 

 

THE WEREWOLF HAS NO WHERE TO GO

Image result for haunted moon outside the haunted window

When things become too deliciously beautiful, they stop,

As when even the verbose Mozart pauses for what seems an eternity

During passages found in the slow movement of piano concerto number 17.

It is the natural outcome when extremely beautiful music is slow,

The music wants to stop itself so it can listen.

The werewolf disappears when she has no place to go.

Time resumes after love, and we realize life will go on and love will not.

Where was the music during the love?

Music belongs to time, but love does not.

Music exists in time, in itself, and so it never has time for itself.

Music laughs at its predicament and invents new tempos in which to die

But love only becomes offended. Love hates waiting, marching, watching. Love hates time.

Music stops and resumes. When love stops, it does not resume.

Love exists outside of time.

The werewolf disappears when she has no place to go.

I waited for her. She was either absent or slow.

I might as well confess what you already know.

She turned into a werewolf

And allowed me to love her,

But only when she was a werewolf.

Love made her for me a werewolf completely.

I loved her falsely but completely.

The sadism inside her masochism grew,

Fed by my masochism. Her sadism knew

I was not a werewolf; the werewolf grew

Enraged when I pleaded, I want to love all of you!

I was the innocent one who turned

Her into a werewolf and I burned

For her—as a werewolf

And loved her—as a werewolf.

My masochist loved her sadist

And since there is some sadism

In every masochist, I delighted

In the dilemma of our love

In which our sadism and masochism,

Fiendishly intertwined,

Made me delight in her body

And the strange inconsistencies of her mind.

But when the werewolf was away,

I was afraid; I needed her to eat my flesh

And the music to resume.

I spend long nights staring out the window at the beautiful moon.

It is almost as beautiful as music.

 

 

 

 

PRIVATELY

Image result for wedding in renaissance painting

Privately, I think this, but publicly, I say that.

I hate them equally: the public dog, and the private cat.

I don’t love her publicly, I love her for myself.

I don’t love her for them, I won’t put her on the shelf.

Call off the wedding then, and let me have her alone.

Words will blab to the mob; she is my sweet moan.

I don’t love her privately, for that’s a public of one—

No matter how secret my vow, it will be seen by the sun.

I love her without comparison, without reason or challenge or trial,

I kiss her in a perfumed bed that goes underground for a mile.

Love was in the beginning, so love cannot be taught.

Leave us! Return! to the surface of the earth and thought.

 

 

 

THE GAY MAN HYPNOTIZING THE WOMEN

Just out of college, nothing to say,

But what job, and how far away

And I have something to share

To all of you, but I told Lisa first,

Who first heard about my heartbreak,

And now I’m going to share it with you guys, too.

I spent all day Sunday in bed watching Sex and the City

And really crying. He wasn’t afraid to touch me in public

And he was gentle and also pretty

But I’ve worked hard and deserve to be happy

In my great new job, and if he won’t move, what can I do?

“You’ve learned from this, it only gets better with each new one

You date,” a hopeful one pipes up, the whole conversation

As shallow as a beer commercial, but the women are relaxed

And can be themselves, the shy one quiet if she wants to be,

Because it is shallow and unexamined, life and love are nice this way,

And this is what he does, creating a safe and harmless atmosphere.

Life is too difficult and sad—simple needs are what we listen to and say.

A woman with masculine features who was sad, and now is not confused, but gay.

Only once, the relaxed conversation had to stop.

A tiny puppy oh my God came into the shop.

Oh power over all! oh the long lines to see!

The loving emptiness of purest feelings, eventually.

 

MOTHER, FORGIVE ME

Mother, forgive me, can I see again the last

Miracle in your patient and beautiful past?

Can I have your first decision

Before I grew to face the world’s derision?

Can I have, again, the birth

Before I began to leave this earth?

Mother, can I have the sighs

In wrapped safety before I was rained on by the same skies

Which also rain on you?

Mother, the old proves what everyone knew you could do,

But the gift is always this,

The new, the new, the new.

 

 

BE PREPARED TO NEVER BE LOVED

i courted fairest Nancy, her love I didn’t obtain. Do you think I had a reason or right to complain? —old song

Be prepared to never be loved

By the head too big, by the neck too short,

By the lisp reading the book report.

Be prepared to never be loved

By the numerous crushes you have—

Distracted, overworked, or sad—

Or indifferent, just as you suppose.

Be prepared to never be loved

By the lined forehead, by the pimply nose,

By the combat victim. To never be loved is not so bad.

Be prepared to never be loved

By the dog who only wants a treat,

By the quiet one, whose perfumed desk is very neat.

Be prepared to never be loved

By the one like you—

That’s self-loathing for two.

Be prepared to never be loved

By the different and the strange.

They will always seem just out of range.

Be prepared to never be loved

By your parents who cannot believe

They age, and you leave.

Be prepared to never be loved

By children who cannot conceive

You age, and they leave.

Be prepared to never be loved

By the gentle, law abiding, woman or man.

You’ll find there’s another plan.

Be prepared to never be loved

By the one who writes poetry—

No understanding. Rivalry.

Be prepared to never be loved.

Unless you are in hell

And once they knew you well.

Be prepared to never be loved.

 

 

 

 

SALEM, MA, MAY 9, 2018

Image result for fog in salem ma

Out of a whole pack, I finally find a cigarette that pleases.

It’s the cold fog moving in. The thick, smoke-colored air.

The headlights of a few cars moving down narrow streets are on.

I’m only a few steps from home. How do I have a house? I don’t remember.

The sea is around the corner. A bar, only friendly as it takes your money

Will not be needed this evening.  How long has it seemed

That friendly is not so? I want to think on love and be alone.

The cigarette warms my lungs. My blood, which once succumbed to love,

Feels the warmth, too, a coursing, bodily thinking beneath the skin.

After four drags, a cold wind starts up. Soon I’ll go back in.

The evening darkness is erasing the fog. The cars move delicately and slow.

The blossoms on the trees in front of me look nice, but their time here is brief,

And already they are returning to the flesh of what they were before, or were not,

Or never were, or don’t care to be.  Can blossoms have these thoughts?

Give them to them. This is my poem and it has them, too. I’m sentimental,

Despite the fact—or is it because of the fact—of this cigarette?

Cause and effect, reasons for love, and the love itself, are confused.

Poetry lives exactly here—in the impossibility of knowing cause from effect.

Shelley—and there is no doubt he did—asked, “Can spring be far behind?”

What do the blossoms of spring think when they die in the cold wind?

 

THE PRANK

Image result for the smiling lover in renaissance painting

The best jokers do not joke.
You and the secret world were one.
You were not in love with me at all.
Whatever you might have thought, you never spoke.
You hurt my feelings when the prank was revealed—
But I loved that I was fooled—I wanted to fall.
I wrote about the beautiful world
As beauty laughed behind my back—yes, you were that girl.
But I loved that I loved—what else is there
Behind the eyes, the veil of the hair?
Love enjoys the occasional private joke,
But this was one, long prank,
And maybe—how could I know?—you loved me, after all?
If there’s no one to love, there’s still someone to thank.
Love? Will? Not even movement exists. We fall.

 

YOUR TEARS

Image result for the duel in renaissance painting

Your tears are a sign of weakness.

The cruelest today are full of tears.

Sentimentality drips from the towers.

There hasn’t been this much cruelty in years.

This swaggerer who talks a lot, shuts up around me.

We both want you—both know the other can see.

The whole world is unspoken.

When anything is articulated,

It is immediately contradicted,

And dies. All speech is a token—

Actions, too.  Everything hides inside the unspoken.

I know what you are—but couldn’t say,

And you knew I knew. So you went away.

I could plead and protest in this verse,

I could buy you Cleopatra’s barge

With buzzing slaves. The sun burned

Her canopy; Antony, war, and the curse

Of the unspoken was, again, too large.

Since that day, the day has turned.

 

WHEN SUDDENLY I DESPERATELY WANTED

Image result for praying to heaven in renaissance painting

When suddenly I desperately wanted,

It must have been after wanting

The good I had calmly wanted, to end.

I did not want to want the good, again.

After wanting the good for so long

I began to believe the good was wrong.

I stopped wanting the good. I no longer knew what to do.

Wanting needs to be good—so instead I began to want you,

Because you wanted me—not the good—because I’m not good—but me.

You must have been surprised when I kissed you suddenly.

Why didn’t I want the good this desperately?

When suddenly and desperately I wanted you

You became the good—because you wanted me, too.

The good became living, and could do

Bad things—suddenly and desperately I knew

Love’s the good—the good which hates everything but you.

UNDERSTANDING POETRY

This magazine wants to be on the internet.

This magazine isn’t famous yet.

It’s really proud of itself, this magazine,

But it’s just a whore. It just wants to be seen.

And this poet is a total whore.

They want their horrible poem to be seen some more.

The poem was published. The poet is proud.

At a reading people clapped when it was read out loud.

This poem is ironic blathering

Of a novelist who is lathering

Up readers with feelings we all feel.

But I love this poet, and my poetry is just as bad.

I’m going to get up and read this poem now and make everybody sad.

 

 

 

 

WHERE ALL IS UNCERTAIN

Related image

Where all is uncertain, and nobody knows,

O shimmering lake, where the lake dweller goes.

Around the lake are flowers and weeds

Giving the lake dweller the privacy she needs.

The certainty of what we are, and know,

Cannot be stopped. A glimpse detects the high and low.

You will judge them, you will—out on the street;

You know them, homeless, and writhing at your feet.

It doesn’t matter what the personalities say,

And if these are more intelligent than anyone can say.

You know the high and you know the low

At first glance. You know, you know.

If you feel emotional about things like this

You will never be calm enough to enjoy the kiss.

You will never be able to sink into the pond

Where giant fish in the shadows are found.

If you think you know the rounded lake,

This might be your worst mistake.

The lake doesn’t wait for you, like love.

Go under. Forget those reflections you saw from above.

Come to the cold. To where nothing is known. Go.

Only when you do not know, will there be a chance to know.

Only when you take steps, tenuously, without aid,

Is there a chance for sunshine to come into the shade.

Where does the composer get the storm?

The aching for cool, and the weeping for warm?

The composer half-slumbers, half-works, in calm.

Only distraction can do him harm.

Only the living which is inarticulate is true,

And will let him see what he has to do.

Slowly, in unknown hours, he learned the art,

Which now, calmly, he plays by heart.

Only excitement will end his reign.

Feelings harm. Whether sane or insane.

The lake is not a lake. And nobody knows

The lake, serene, where the lake dweller goes.

 

INDIAN POETS IN ENGLISH —MAY

Image result for bhagavad gita

Amit Majmudar has translated the Bhagavad Gita, which was just published, as Godsong—the book was reviewed last month in the NY Times by Parul Sehgal, who admires the poetry of the translation, but in her review, she faults the author for shying away from history and politics:

The verses of the Gita are traditionally accompanied by commentaries. Majmudar uses this space to discuss his faith and his translation decisions, as well as to make a curious assertion: “I prefer to let my Gita float free of history or geography,” he writes. “Historical quibbling isn’t just irrelevant when it comes to scripture; it’s a buzz kill.”

This is strange — not least because the religious concepts in the Gita, like karma and dharma, are not static, as historians like Wendy Doniger have pointed out; they emerged at “particular moments in Indian history, for particular reasons, and then continue to be alive — which is to say, to change.” It’s especially odd given that Majmudar engages passionately with historical quibbling when it comes to issues of translation. What he doesn’t want to discuss, it seems, is historical quibbling when it comes to social issues. What he doesn’t want to discuss is caste.

The review in the Times is brief, raising more questions than it answers. “The verses of the Gita are traditionally accompanied by commentaries,” writes Sehgal, obviously with no time or space to expand, in today’s clamoring publishing business. What does this sentence mean? Why are the verses of the Gita traditionally accompanied by commentaries? And traditionally, what kind of commentaries?

Amit Majmudar is a successful doctor in the United States, and the “caste” he discusses in “The Beard,” a poem he published in the glamorous, leftist, New Yorker in 2017, is terrorists, and their beards, and how he felt compelled to cut his off because he resembled one who made headlines: “I am alone here now,/among Americans a foreigner/when just last year I used to be/among Americans American.”

In Majmudar’s poem, “Kill List,” published in the leftist Nation in 2016, he writes, “At a certain distance, I admit, I do look like an Arab.”

*

Speaking of caste, Mosarrap Khan prefaces his tragic poem, “For Rohith Vemula,” with a quote—from the eponymous, Dalit, Ph.D. student’s, suicide note: “My birth is my fatal accident.”

The poem is not about terrorists, or being confused with terrorists, but runs in the opposite direction.  Rohith Vemula was a gracious, studious man (who in his suicide note says he does not blame anyone) who imploded, rather than exploded. He got in trouble at his university for protesting Dalit rights.

For Rohith Vemula

“My birth is my fatal accident.”

Rohith, why didn’t you mention caste
In your parting letter? You gracious bastard.
Did you want to be a Gandhi in your death,
another non-violent messiah?

Did your parents sell their little piece of land
and eat one meal a day to put you through school?

You loved the stars. A child who loves the
stars is bound to be lonely. A child who loves
the stars would never be appreciated.

You are gone.

It’s Monday morning. People are
mourning the deaths of those American scholars
who founded Indian political discourse. They don’t
remember you who make politics.

India is investing in Start-ups, didn’t you
know? And you End-up, you fool.
Your ilk will never learn. Loser.

Mate, hope you reached the stars. Fill
your belly with the star dust to
keep the fire burning.

What to make of this poem? Mosarrap Khan is rude and loving, personal and political, presuming and respectful, abstract and brotherly, cynical and poignant, mourning and irreverent—multiple moods in one dish of grief; this is perhaps the remarkable fact of the poem: how can one poem feel so many things? This is worthy of elegy; the mourner trying every type of voice to reach the grave; making tribute—with all one can possibly think or feel.

**

Rochelle D’Silva is an ambitious slam poet.  A YouTube search will bring up many of her performances, including the (first place) Slam performance of her poem,”I Have Perfect Bottle Opening Hands,” and not long ago she released a spoken word album, “Best Apology Face.” She writes of love—not so much of lust, or of romance, but more on the side of relationship advice, if someone were waxing poetic—cautious but passionate.  She unburdens herself in three and a half minute poems, in a wide-eyed, pleasant manner, simultaneously giving the impression, that here’s a person who is so nice she probably gets hurt a lot—and isn’t it great she writes poetry (and reads it smiling, without fear) which is pleasant enough to let us vicariously take revenge on whoever may have been silly enough to hurt her.

It raises an interesting aesthetic question—poetry performed, or spoken, is poetry in what percentage? And in what percentage something else?

Music demands performance, but does poetry?  When I read a poem silently, I am “performing it,” so I don’t need a slam performance, necessarily, but who am I to begrudge a spirited (or an utterly charming, because the person is charming) performance of a poem?

***

Arjun Rajendran is a typical modern poet, whose poems sound more like little short stories, or small novels, than poems.  Ironically, the poems suffer precisely because the poet is able to pack his poems with plot, character development and all the accoutrements of fiction; the walls of the modern poem crumble—“months later” or “years later” is a typical phrase.  But this must be a good disadvantage.  The perfect lyric which sits on an island surrounded by flowers is gone. The content of Rajendran’s poems vary: psychological, historical, personal, elegiac, political, saucy, sassy, but each mood and detail is epic—a 15 line poem can almost feel like soundtrack, actors and scenery need to be brought in.

Here’s an example of how good he is:

Ankur’s Coming Out

There wasn’t a proclamation, any act of bravado.
In that uninhibited moment, I simply asked and he didn’t
deny it. We were at another friends’ that night, on
the same mattress, surrounded by Kingfishers and socks;
exhausted by our pretensions at spoken French.

Later, it felt perfectly natural to have him press my neck,
call me baby. It was disappointing to learn he wasn’t
attracted to me. I equated it to not being attractive
to the opposite sex. Months later, I saw him in a cafe,
with four pansies, and he beckoned us over. My girlfriend

thought it was such a waste, that the hottest guys are often
gay. It felt okay to see her hug him so tight; it’d be okay
even if they had a night to themselves. At another party,
the prettiest girls claimed him, and elsewhere, his desire,
the Parisian baldy, bantered with his dusky seductress.

****

Aishwarya Iyer is the Wordsworth impulse in the Wordsworth/Coleridge split—Wordsworth makes the plain, amazing; Coleridge, the amazing, plain. Iyer wants us to be dazzled by a rainy city, to see the phantasmagorical in a puddle. The poets are better than the photographers; literacy is better than spinning in a circle and clicking.

This fallen rain
Swizzles visions
The car keeps turning at the signal
The old women have stopped talking
For once, loosened into children,
Watching the cars drinking the steel rain

This falling rain
Swells memories
Swollen drops spreading
The heat in your clavicle
You can see beyond this sky
Wrenched by the rain
Going blue, white, blue
Dying, and plain

Fallen dust and leaves and musk
Smells of longing fed till the end of dusk
When rain goes where will you find
The breath lost to the coming of love?

And in another painted city
Some years hence
Or years before
This rain must have sung
Exactly the same note
Curling your smile
Creasing your arms
Felling all pain
This fallen rain

We absolutely adore the line, “The breath lost to the coming of love?”  It is these lines, avoided mostly, because of some fear they sound too much like pop songs, which poetry should embrace; just because popular songs exist doesn’t mean poets can’t do it better, or try, at least. Another odd thing is that despite all the poets’ terror of pop music, so many contemporary poets do not punctuate their poems—even though they are being read, not sung.

*****

Sophia Naz makes words important in her poetry and this, again, is a contemporary practice. There are two ways of writing poetry—in the first, poets speak in the poem; there is a conversational, discursive, Socratic flow. The poet thinks out loud. In the second way, the poet makes words discrete pieces of the poem, so that every word becomes almost a small poem in itself. It’s a different way of thinking.

The second method, we find, usually accompanies a content which is sensual—rich descriptions of material objects—with sights, sounds and smells—abound.

The last thing we want is our poems to be a hopeless blur—so poets either 1) talk sensibly towards understanding—or 2) highlight each word as a stay against confusion.

The “talkers” have it easier, since poetry, in reality, is speech, and not a walk in the woods, or a photograph.  But the “talkers” worry their poetry might become mere talk; the “word-is-a-world” poets have a different worry—their poetry may end up being a series of pretty, moss-covered stones, without rhetorical force.

It is true that the talkers use words and the word-highlighters use speech; obviously we are only speaking of an emphasis, something as subtle as a minor or a major key in music.

In the following poem, it is easy to see Sophia Naz strikes out in the direction of poetry as a patient elevation of words, rather than poetry as an oratorical, or chatty, onslaught, of speech:

Neelum

Deviants and dervishes of the river
lie down the length of her
those who remember
Neelum before she became
crushed lapis, her pristine byzantine

pine penciled brows broken
traffic-lined, knifed by road, gashed
by guillotine of clear-cut log & choke
hold of plastic bags carry ominous
promises of corpses downstream

we are driven by our bellies, hunger
peaking when we see Neelum from
on high as missionaries must have
pinned, supine below us, the gem
of legend turns a hairpin in

our mouths the sharpest gasp, keeling
wheels & eyes, we are puny flames
on high altitudes where even green
tea leaves boiling to death take
their own sweet time

mined from the tiny
stabbing Sapphire’s liquid throat, lumps
of quartz come clean, clear as water, crystallize

into skulls of quiet
sugar – penitent cheeni
cupped intently then forgotten
in a crowded bazaar like those other
prisoners of myriad wars marching on
beyond the horizon

Neelum is neglected, derelict
bride, whose groom, princely
spring lies in tatters, her jewels
spilled like blood from veins
what is left is a muddy turquoise
footprint running cold between my fingers.

Sophia Naz wants us to see. She is a camera, and her poem is a moving picture; the temporal for this poet is the material world moving inside our eyes—and the voice, by default, is absent. Poetry is voice, not picture, so the poet is working (and she works beautifully) against what poetry is; we admire the poem second-hand, almost, in the exquisite unfolding of the piece. The paradox is that any poem is, by necessity, a voice, and not artificial, as it speaks (for it must) either in the air, or in our heads. Things will speak, even if the poet does not. But the reader has to really listen—because poems do not see. They talk. The danger Naz faces with this style is sounding too artificial—even as what she depicts is not artificial at all.

******

Meera Nair is a poet, who, when searched, is found speaking her poems on YouTube, with a sad, majestic romanticism. She writes of love, mostly, and does so with a broad metaphor or two, in brief lyrics of simplicity, as she attempts to knock down the heart without too much fuss.  We found the following poem of hers recently published on her Face Book page:

The old man turns up without fail
Every month

There is a locked up room here
That he cannot let go of

Last night
My knee brushed against a secret drawer
Hidden beneath the dining table

Inside was a treasure trove
Buttons of different colours
A needle pierced into a spool of thread
A book of poems
And a half empty box of vermillion

Though I light no lamp
I keep the beaded curtain covering the prayer room
Polished and bright

I live in a house
Someone else has loved in

The final two lines sum up the essence of this poet—and, to a great extent, poetry itself.

*******

And those are the seven poets for May!  Thanks again, to Linda Ashok.

 

IT IS NOT THE BAD

Image result for lit windows of the palace at night in painting

It is not the bad, but the bad which seems to be good,

Which gets you in the end, and chiefly by its seeming;

For soon good which is really bad ruins your judgement completely,

And the bad which turns out to be good doesn’t help, either.

You resent the good since it was good all this time and you didn’t know,

And when you start to resent the good, you lose a sense of taste

For the mundane steps common sense must take, and confusion

Slowly and unconsciously poisons all enthusiasm and joy.

The style ruined the poet, who had much to say, but remained silent,

As the style of the poetry inhibited speech; the artificial naturally the aim,

Which is the great mistake of all artists—to be artistic.

I could see what you were depicting, and that was the problem—

Speech is not seeing, but the poets don’t get this. I have eyes.

But poets, lovers, it is my ears, not my eyes, which need food.

Talk is the secret of poetry and love. Depiction is for the painters.

Our talk will put to shame even the sensuality of three dimensions.

Be conversant with me, for many hours—those hours lit still.

THE LOCAL IS POETICAL

The local is poetical,

Not the distant, or the far flung.

I don’t remember—and who cares—what I did when I was young.

That’s for the mawkish and the fictional to pretend—

The built up beginning for the manufactured end.

As if details from one’s youth

Were truly remembered. Childhood isn’t truth.

Ask the child. Oh you can’t. Tragedy, then? Or spoof?

Humpty Dumpty is daddy’s?  And who fell from the roof?

The local is poetical. No use traveling distant seas

To where “dagger” is called something else, and there’s a different word for “please.”

Someone has already done that, and brought the sultan to his knees.

Tennyson was in love with “far away.”

Cliffs were foggy and many domains were gray.

But the Empire isn’t relevant today.

The local is poetical. I’m writing this to her

Who loves me, and lives a few inlets over,

And if she doesn’t love me—I plan to show her how.

The local is poetical. The poetical is the one I’m in love with now.

 

 

SINCE SPRING IS BACK

Image result for spring in black and white

Since spring is back,

Maybe you will think of me,

In your burning lack,

Maybe you will think how ambitious love

Once made you and I

The slippery duck and the misty dove,

When love happened and we didn’t know why.

Each green morning was warm

And for three springs you leaned on my arm.

The weird warm February when it all began

Was as warm as spring, in love’s plan.

You loved gardening because the new,

And also the parting, appealed to you.

This was a metaphor which frightened me—

Attached to you, sad and greedy.

Did I love? Yes. But did I learn?

I wonder if you will burn

As you once burned

For me, even when it was wintry.

But anyone will do.

Life is trillions. It doesn’t have to be you.

Spring has returned.

 

 

IS IT THE BUYING AND SELLING THEN?

Is it the buying and selling, then,

Which creates the gulf between left wing women and right wing men?

The government radio station and the king

Are mighty, and bring a misty calm to everything.

Remember the coddled dreams of the perfect prince?

The left wing woman knows what she wants at once.

No argument in the market place of ideas will sway

The left wing woman. She carefully plans her moral day

Based on the latest acts of compassion, and every expert approves

How she cares for the unlucky and the sick and everyone she loves.

She will make a place for you among her donations

Flowing from good to good; if you understand poor tyrannical nations

Improve each day, and do not disturb her, she will find an afternoon

To give you. Check your calendar. She might have a nervous breakdown soon.

Meanwhile the impious, wearing lots of makeup, quick as a fly,

Hunts for bargains. A strange object, almost sacred, nearly attracts her eye.

 

 

 

 

IS IT THIS WAY NOW?

Is the understandable more true?

Is the desire to boil things down and understand, a need

Which only serves itself? What is the highest creed?

What, exactly, do I want from you?

Is my love real? Or a bundle of envy and hate and doubt

And petulance and desire

Which needs affirmation, when this thing I feel as love, comes out?

Even as it lurks and trembles within, an earthy, watery, airy, fire

Unable to know what it looks like to you—

And you fail to know the storms lurking inside of you, too.

And when we call this bundle of intense feelings, love,

Are we deluded, and would we laugh at ourselves

Observing ourselves as ourselves from above?

Or is this to put too much of an objective burden on the feelings we feel as love?

If we examine the parts of love and separate out the selfish and the confused,

Would we finally say love does not exist—or will love we call love not be so abused?

Do we know love is only a part

Of jealousy or hate, which burns to the ground even the most poetic heart?

And is the effort to understand this

Ugly, and should the philosopher, instead, take off his glasses, and kiss?

Couples, for practical, mundane reasons, exist.

Why did I think it could happen to us—just because we kissed?

Is it really impossible to understand?

Is inquiry criminal? Is science not planning, but planned?

Is all we think we know

Continually fading, but since the torture of living is imperceptible and slow,

We are blessed, as things larger than ourselves musically come and darkly go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: