EGOTISTICAL SUBLIME

I thought: What is this world?

What is all this? And then I saw four letters

Staring at me from the label on a stranger’s coat,

Their back to me on the train.

T-O-M-S. And it grabbed me by the throat.

“Tom’s” suddenly flashed upon my brain.

The answer was simple, delicate and fine.

The world—everything thought, seen and felt—is mine.

Here is the secret to the whole world.

You couldn’t figure it out, my sweetest girl.

You couldn’t figure it out, psychiatrists and sages,

Priests and gurus, poets through the ages.

The transit authority stamps its “T”

On the sides of trains—and that’s me.

If the truth were announced, everyone would look.

I don’t want that. The secret is not found in a book,

Or in anyone’s mind; it’s not a crude matter of fame,

Because the truth of the world and the world are not the same.

It is the truth of all time, and it begins with a “t.”

I didn’t see it because I was too close to it—the truth is none other than me.

She—who I loved—was never able to see.

She told me that on two separate occasions the answer almost came,

While she was in a meditative revery,

But it was lost! She recounted this bitterly

While I, her lover, listened helplessly,

But now I laugh, for the truth is known—

She almost found the truth because she was profoundly alone

And nearest to the secret—the secret that she was the secret.

But poor blind thing! A searching—but not a great—soul—she lost it.

Though—profoundly timid—she never wrote poetry,

I knew she was a poet—it seemed obvious to me.

“Tom,” she would cry, in our ecstatic embraces,

“Tom! Tom! Tom!” Cried among kisses drenching our faces,

Love speaking my name, beautiful and sublime,

Reminding me! Reminding me! That life is—mine!

 

 

 

POEMS WRITE ME

Poems write me

Even as I die in this boring life

With business matters dangling over the days and the wife.

A sentence keeps me in line.

The soil is usually a line or a phrase,

Which may end up being the pretty flower,

The title, or the poem’s (yawn) most important line.

Helpless, I let creation have its say.

If a line is what struck me first, it will probably stay.

Of course, I may end up throwing what fell from the sky away.

Oh, and the root of every inspiration is you.

In this poem, for instance, you wait in the stem.

There you are. Strike that line. No, that will do.

Poems write what they please. I don’t write them.

PAINTING WITH MY LEFT HAND

The universe spins in a certain direction;
That’s how we know we’re—here.
This line moves at a certain speed:
Music finds its beat.  Conversations are clear.

But it’s not the business of poetry to tell you this:
Science is factual; what’s scientific about a kiss?

I did not wish to intrude on science’s domain.
But delightful kissing will make the kissing poet vain,
So love disguises itself as wisdom, making itself even more plain.

I write right-handed,
But throw with my left hand.
I am going to throw my signature at you.
I want to do something dumb;
Paint with my left hand, to make the drunken Muse come.

THIRTEEN (FOR MY DAUGHTER)

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Life is made for a thirteen-year old girl.

All that is strange and entertains us in this world

Is made for her, from the carefully painted toes

To the old, comedy television shows

Produced by fashionable drunks and their wives

Who make adult situations out of the situations in their lives

Which recall an earlier day and an earlier age

When the playful was more important than the sage,

And history, the wreck we carry on our backs

Needs to be forgotten, so every adult can just relax.

No longer attached to mom and dad,

Too much time ahead, too proud to be boring or sad:

Everyone wants, in their hearts, to be thirteen,

No compromise, nothing in-between,

Too young to be nostalgic, too young to be wise,

And old enough that one burning smirk sits like all the world in her eyes.

 

 

 

WHEN YOUR QUIET MUSIC

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When your quiet music fell upon the world

The warmth of the stars added to their light

A new and remarkable night,

A universe of hearts who burned mysteriously like stars.

Each male heart was warm, holding in the curled right hand the curled hand of a girl

And each girl’s heart could have been like a cloud that envelopes the sun

When sunset makes violet and golden bars.

Of all those girls and boys, you and I were one.

If there is a twinkling music, here it was,

Nimbler than I ever remember music being,

Yet with sweet understanding—as when smiling faces reflected are the faces seeing.

There is always a substance missing when delicate delights are contemplated;

So it is with music, and all refinements attempted;

The sorrow of the parts are real, for they are not the sun.

They are the impulses and clouds which undulate and run.

It is the beauty that is fading; the loveliness, itself, the death

That makes us slow down our breathing and love each next to last breath,

As we listen to the composer’s particulars glisten

In the slow overriding sound,

Like a planet coming near and slowly touching another planet’s ground.

Music cannot replace love.

Our composer’s revery has let fall what had delighted us in the fast-breathing regions above.

Love has returned to me all the remarkable love it found.

I drink the notes but now gaze at you from afar,

A warm planet now a cold star.

FOR _________

Let practical life and its lackeys,
Immersed in details and laughter,
Stand, impenetrable, to my mad poetry and my mad desires.
I can laugh as well as they,
And am warmed by the same fires.
I would not have that practical edifice fall
Or the practical things fail.
I, too, have needs, and must put things in my little pail.
Contemporary art is kindergarten
And yet its billions
Are the envy of bad poets, who number in the millions.
Philosophy wrecks itself on science
Which is a slave
To everything the brutally unscientific crave.
Love is the only glory.
The one I love says: “Where shall we meet?”
This is poetry—this is all—and I fall at her feet.

TAKE MY WORDS, PAINTER

Take my words, painter;
Give them the dark and the light
Which attends creation.
My reader is blind!  Give her sight.

My words are blind. Let her see
Her meaning to me
Travel in her own eyes.
Make her see, for the first time, my poetry

In all its subtle hues and dyes.
Let her see my pleas to her
In our hearts, where worlds occur.

All she hears are futile cries:
“My love, my love, my love!”

Let her watch the lowlands where my sorrow flies,
And walk through the fields of meditation beside the dove.

Speak, painter.
Poetry can say nothing.

TAKE MY WORDS, COMPOSER

Take my words, composer,

And make them your own.

Add music. For I have lost my love

And all I can do is groan.

 

Take this heart, composer,

No longer glad or light,

And fix up my utterances

For a somber and solemn night.

 

Take my loss, composer.

Your music might something keep.

Play my words with music

Until I fall asleep.

IT WOULDN’T BE BAD IF YOU LOVED ME

It doesn’t take much to make me glad:

A dip in a mountain lake, a long walk under stars by the sea.

And it wouldn’t be bad if you loved me.

 

It doesn’t take much to make me glad:

A bowl of strawberries for dessert; on the piano, a melody.

And it wouldn’t be bad if you loved me.

 

It doesn’t take much to make me glad:

Thinking about you. Thinking about you every day.

And it wouldn’t be bad if you loved me.

 

Did I tell you I like Brussels sprouts? And guacamole?

I know. You have your own special recipe.

And it wouldn’t be bad if we had some tea.

 

I like going places alone. I’m a bit of a loner, but not too bad.

Do you like being alone? Does that make you glad?

How are you under stress? How do you handle the mundane?

I like desire, and I don’t mind the clingy—that’s how much I like desire.

 

But you have your doubts that you can always be on fire.

And I notice you are not good-natured. That’s going to get worse.

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be bad if I thought this out more.

 

This started out as a clever, sentimental song.

How did it go wrong?

Who am I kidding? I made it wrong.

Or maybe this is how it is supposed to go.

I wrote the wise parts fast, the foolish part slow.

 

 

 

A WOMAN IS A MAGAZINE: FASHION POEM NUMBER FOUR

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A woman is a magazine.

A magazine is why most women are horrors.

We all know the beautiful girl is mean

And the one who dresses best is the young teen

In thrown-together combinations wild,

But selling your soul to Conde Nast

Kills your soul pretty fast.

I didn’t know anything in the world

Until I realized she was a Town and Country girl.

A simple blouse and skirt, the center of her casual pride,

Prada bag, leather sandals, pretty watch, wealthy and dignified

The essence of her, the real her inside.

She sized me up as a careless, earnest, poet without style

Who—protected by her Town & Country brand—she could dally with for awhile.

Town & Country is a dual symbol—not two-faced, exactly,

But she liked its implication of social flexibility.

Something in my temples and neck she found vaguely aristocratic.

When I wore blue shirts bringing out my blue eyes,

She knew Town & Country had made her, a poor wall flower, pretty damn okay

By making her pleasant, without having too much to say.

With her love of nature, and her Yves Saint Laurent perfume,

I forgot my learning when she came into the room.

It quickly became a contest, which she knew she could win:

Tortured wordiness versus sweet, casual, Town & Country grin.

I read everything. Even Rolling Stone. My sense of taste was vile.

Town & Country was all she needed to enjoy me for awhile.

 

 

 

 

 

MY POEMS AND MY LIPS

My poems and my lips taste the same
As my flesh, as my name.

A shape—before touching—which you see
Is how my lips first spoke for me.

My lips still have nothing to say
To your beauty on this beautiful day.

Your beautiful name in the night
Swings back and forth in my brain like a light

In the breeze of an approaching storm:
Cold at first, and then very warm.

My poems speak for my lips:
On the ocean of my sighs, the ships.
Do you see my poems, lighted things,
In the mist, longing for shore where the longing shore bird sings?

I told my lips the other day,
My poems, in scintillating array,
Will be a navy for my lips, which cannot say
What it feels like in our hearts when ships take our hearts away.

My poems and my lips are almost the same—
Each made of dust, one crying your name
In a glorious attempt at fame:
Yours—if lips are not shaped the same.

 

 

YOU, ALREADY IN LOVE

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You, already in love, I did not see you there,

When I first fell in love with your shadow,

Who, although a shadow, presented a show

Daring to love me, and loving that I might dare

To love you; two minds embracing all love might know,

As two finally move into shadows with a sigh,

Knowing all they are is about to die.

There were warning signs, that I

Was only loving a shadow—“love is a madness,”

You said, and “everything must finally end,”

And you not wanting children;

I should have known; though I did guess

Something wasn’t right from the start.

I loved a shadow, a shadow! with all my heart!

And you, already in love, simply could not be

The shadow your shadow was when you first kissed me.

 

 

 

 

HUMBLE SITA SPEAKS

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“The Ramayana…is a divine romance…of undying love between Sita and Rama, two aspects of one divinity whose separation from each other…is illusion…acted out for the benefit of their devotees.”  —Self help psychology book

Why should I care about what you made up in your mind?

I’m not your epic poem. Fuck off. I’m not your Sita

And you’re certainly not Rama, you pathetic oaf.

You think if you steep your shit in ancient religion

It will impress me? Words, words, words. Psychology

And poetry and desire and big fat fucking deal. Listen:

Dinner and movie and you pay. Then we’ll see.

You must be confident. And funny.

Hey, put your poetry aside and look at me.

Sita gives all the guys hard-ons so don’t fucking think I’m going to be

Impressed by yours. You don’t know anything. I’ll show you femininity.

I’m better than you. I use you. Finding me might not be a good find.

Poet-Asshole! Why should I care what you make up in your mind?

 

 

 

 

 

EVERYTHING

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I don’t praise Everything, but stand in awe of it.

I had an insight today and realize how much we are enslaved by the everything of Everything.

Capitalism, Everything’s cousin, is disliked, and looking for a pair of socks this morning, I finally understood why.

My drawer is filled with unmatched socks, and as I studied my various dark socks in the light to find an exact match, I asked myself,

“Wouldn’t it be easier if there were One Dark Sock Factory that served all feet, making one dark sock that fits all?”

You see, I couldn’t care less about these subtle varieties of dark sock—and here Everything confronted me—countless varieties of socks exist because someone wishes to make money with their brand of specialized sock.

So I cursed capitalism.  If sock manufacturing were a socialist enterprise, all my dark socks, made from one simple model at a fair price, would match.  The variety of socks in the world—the Everything factor—was wasting my morning, as I attempted to find a match.

Things, the minions of Everything, take revenge against us if we do not pay attention to them.

My shoes, conveniently placed under my bed so I could put them on upon waking, somehow managed to get themselves far under the bed, so I had to bend over and reach for them, feeling about under the bed, in a flurry of curses.

I have been trained, however, to make what annoys me bear fruit.

I notice that nothing falls into place for us—Everything makes things difficult, annoying, and displaced—Everything is unruly and runs away from us: shoes, socks, the sheets and blankets on the bed—which always arrange themselves in such a way that ‘making the bed’ is an odious task.

There is no time for anything.

There is no time to make more time.

Everything is a cage.

We are trapped, and trying to escape traps us further.

But putting our finger on something, articulating the problem, makes us happy for a moment, at least.

More generally, I thought of the universal effort to simplify our lives by simply ignoring a whole host of things—we tell ourselves we will not care about this thing or that thing, in order to make our existence simpler and happier—we will defeat this conspiracy of Everything by excluding a certain number of things from our lives.

But does this bring happiness?

No.

It is in the nature of things, no matter how divided, focused on, or excluded, to never satisfy.

If we exclude this or that in our life and focus on one thing, we think, if we focus on this, then we will be happy—but no, even the one thing we want, as we humbly give up our need for other things, eludes us, or proves disappointing—for no thing wishes to be ignored, and to focus on one thing means ignoring other things.

Things ignored take revenge on us—socks will not match, shoes will run away under the bed—not even one thing we attempt to make ours will be ours—everything conspires to make us unhappy, if we fail to give Everything its due.

We cannot exclude. And the following will illustrate this:

If we put our stock in poetry, and ignore the non-poetic, our most precious poem will be mocked and ridiculed in the public square, and we will be humiliated forever.

However, those who focus on the non-poetic and ignore poetry in their lives—the mockers in the public square—will discover, meanwhile, that a poet has stolen their wife.

You better know Everything. Or you—no matter who you are, or how “expert” you are—will get burned.

No one wins in the attempt to exclude; Everything will have its revenge.

If we attempt to make life simpler, if we decide, in an egalitarian serve-humanity spirit, to make life better by having one dark sock factory, this will backfire, like everything else.  The noble revolution will crumble and fall in despair, and finally, in humiliation.  Up rises Everything, and there shall be countless varieties of dark socks and your morning will be wasted looking for one dark sock to match another—because someone wants to get rich on socks.

I decided not to be bitter towards Everything and to surrender to its power.  After all, I thought, what about those poor souls forced to work in that dark sock factory?  How much fun would it be to be make one dark sock all day?

And, further, what of my own responsibility to organize my socks?  Is it not my sole responsibility to make sure my socks match?  How I launder my socks, how I purchase my socks, how I organize my socks—is this not the important thing?

Respect Everything.

Everything forces us to be organized, and is actually a moral agent, since being busy keeps us out of trouble.

So this, then, is why Everything exists, and why it exists the way it does—for moral, religious purposes.

Is not the Bible lengthy, and full of so many things that it requires long study? Of course it is. The Bible, like all religious texts, and like all documents involved in the legal tangle of capitalism, pay due homage to Everything, which is our true God.

Who has the time to pay attention to Everything? We don’t. Which is why the world is full of dull, unhappy people—even as Everything spreads its riches before us.

Here are the choices:

Bare feet: happy but ignorant.

Mismatched socks: socially condemned.

Matched socks: organized and dull.

And we see this roughly pertains to the three ages of Humanity:

bare feet, the Child;

mismatched, the Adolescent;

matched, the Adult.

The challenge is finally to take account of Everything’s moral nature, respect this aspect of it, and not let it make you dull and miserable, for it will make you dull and miserable if you fail to respect it.

The everything of Everything makes us busy, and this is how it makes us moral. Capitalism, which is the source of so much consternation on the Left, offends as a seemingly cruel and amoral system—but as we have shown, it is really the opposite—think of all the work that goes into producing a certain kind of dark men’s sock—merely because it serves the refining nature of Everything’s expansive complexity: in a word, the Civilized.

Why do we have children?

For one reason, really.

We don’t have enough Time here—so we hand off the task of living to our child: here, you do it. I don’t have time.

And then we find a child takes up all of our time.

Or, we don’t have children because we do believe we have time. We look young all the way to the end of our child-bearing years. Then age creeps in all of a sudden, and we have no children. Too late, we realize there is no time, and Everything discovers even more ways to torture us as we look into the empty mirror.

All the exhausted, unhappy faces that you meet—exist because of how many different kinds of socks there are. We are unhappy, moral, busy—our vacations brief and unsatisfying, our jobs tedious and unsatisfying.

Our attempts to “rise above” the mundane into the realm of love and beauty prove short-lived and untenable, as the spirit of Everything asserts itself, taking revenge on us for our vanity and our self-indulgence, for as soon as we embrace love and beauty, pride makes us irritable and thin-skinned—we continue to knock against Everything; fragile Beauty proves too difficult to maintain. 

We find ourselves in our bedrooms. Tears rolling down our cheeks. An annoying song on the radio. A stupid piece of instant “wisdom” on social media.  Crying over lost love.

And our holy consolation?

Oh God!

Sorting our socks.

Everything crushes us under its Wheel.

Everything, the One True God.

The only thing the fortunate are thankful for, thanks to our God, Everything:

I didn’t have too much time to be unhappy.

 

 

 

OVER

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Is it over then? Has the last note been played?

Must I go home? Without getting laid?

How bitter this ending! Just a minute ago

You excited me with talk of doing something slow

And now you frown. Every inch of your demeanor says, stop.

You are the greatest musician in the world. Did you know?

You can pick up a concert hall and let it drop.

I will now be hungering for the rest of a tune

That ended back there with strings and bassoon.

The solo piano played like the moon.

I will expect its entrance tomorrow at noon.

The concerto resolved, and yet did not.

Forever now! I will dream of that tune.

When provoking desire is an art, a spell,

That a magician, a musician, a woman—does well,

Music and love mutually swell, they mutually dwell

With passion! I cannot speak!

Broken, I composed this poem last week.

If only I’d spoken—instantaneously—the whole

Joke the moment you were cruel! I would have defeated your soul.

 

 

IT TAKES A WHOLE LOT OF SORROW TO BE SAD

It takes a whole lot of sorrow to be sad;
The world needs to pile wrong on wrong
To spoil even one song,
But with a smile you’ve made me glad.

 

It takes a whole lot of sorrow to be sad;
The breezy finds it easy to ignore so much.
The sad lacks the light touch.
But with a touch you’ve made me glad.

 

It takes a whole lot of sorrow to be sad;
Sorrow’s armies are marching up and down.
Sorrow is going to take over the town!
But with a glance you’ve made me glad.

 

It takes a whole lot of sorrow to be sad.
It took some time, but you knew, you knew, you knew
You were the only one I wanted. Come here, you.
In one instant we’ll be glad.

 

 

 

 

RUMI’S LOVE IS HOW I LOVE YOU NOW

Lovers don’t meet anywhere. They live inside each other. —Rumi

Once there was a longing for you so strong
I could not be away from you for long.

I cursed the time away from you;
I was nourished in your intoxicating presence;

Having hungered my whole life for a love like this,
I fed on you like the hungriest animal

And grew mad for more and more of you
And to reach you, wrote you many a poem and song.

 

You were Isolde to my Tristan: passion
Fighting pride, that, even as sweet hunger all our passion won,

Sought honor even in the feeding, our rage
A kind of lust, wings of love stretching in a cage

As secrecy and homelessness cursed our kisses
Even as our love rejoiced in love which the simple eye of the public misses.

Wanton yet proud, your beauty burned like fate in my eye,
My destiny to consume myself as you desired me, in poetry,

Until things like time and place and “when and where will I see you”
Began to weary us, for the love given was never the kind that will do;

Our love had to fight for every inch of ground
Which by reproving public vigilance is drowned.

Exiled every moment, always thinking how and when and where to go,
We’d look at each other helplessly: yes, my love, I know.

Where can we love? Where can love that wants to love go?
There was not a crack in the world we could fit through,

Obligations to worlds and shadows and worlds is all we knew
And our love lay helplessly stretched upon

One shadowy bed; life—which conspires against love—won.
We should have been together constantly,

Harmony chasing routine inside ecstasy,
So love, building with love, not absence,

In constant delight, might have a chance.
The wrong endured became the thing sought,

More absence to aid desire, or so we thought:
I will make her miss me, I shall stay away.

Love! What is it? What shall it do or say?
Until the horror of staying away too long

Became its own prophecy.
Love dying, we did something wrong.

 

Now a sword lies between Tristan and Isolde.
Eternal love has surrendered to the dying world.

You look away, you cannot look at me,
It is not because you do not want to look at me.

It is only the passion and the pride
Of Tristan and Isolde. Tristan and Isolde have died.

Love is reborn in the love which Rumi
Knew as the highest of all.

There is no end. There is no wall.

THE BATH OF LOVE

If the angels are angels
Who swim in the elements above,
We are almost as lucky here,
Who swim in the bath of love.

The bath of love is where we love;
Where the moving waters move,
Our love loves when it gently moves,
As the moving waters of the bath can prove.
When loving loves,
The waters move
To the moving we make as we love.
Your mind and mine are the waters of the bath;
The movement is much, much more than math
But real, like the tiger, like the dove—
In the warm and swaying bath of love.

This is where we go to die,
In the bath of the seeing eye,
A liquid that looks
More tenderly than the brooks
And hidden streams
That lie quietly in our dreams.

When we are away
Every thought that falls will stay.

The bath of love is where we live.
The gentle pushing of the waters
Is how we gently love and give
Where all is loving already
In the one bath, that sways and is steady.
For the one bath is love already,
And contains our infinite minds
Which in the uniting body finds
The back and forth of loves
In crystal waters that gently move.

When the goddess gently knelt
To go into her bath,
All who saw, and all who felt,
Said they knew the ice would melt.

In love the dove flies within
Where the still bath has always been;
In gentle bathing there is no wrath
Or straying. All thoughts live in the one bath,
Where flies the tiger and the dove
In the swaying bath—the bath of love.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IT ISNT THE POETRY I LOVE?

Language is unreal. What’s in the letter

That I carefully seal?

What is it I’m giving to you?

Poetry is something you know that I do.

Love is a pleasure that can always get better

But there must be sentiments that are willing, and true.

How do you know it isn’t the poetry I love?

 

Your face is yours, the one that does the talking all day,

And what will you say to me as you open the letter

And read the inside of what I say?

Nothing belongs to us. Your face is the pretty kind.

I practice to make my poetry better

By sending, each day, a word of myself, which I do,

Like your face that does the talking for you.

How do you know it isn’t the poetry I love?

 

The more I love, the more unreal

You seem; your body hasn’t a thing to say

To what I say; it isn’t the poetry kissing you;

What is opening your letter is strange,

And doesn’t feel like me.

We can hold in our hands the scientist’s chalk.

We want to blast off, yet we are merely gravity.

Our bodies sitting around. The small talk.

How do you know it isn’t the poetry I love?

 

 

 

IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW

If you could see me now, relaxed and fit,

You would know I no longer lament on the benches

Where the sad watch the world pass, where we used to sit.

 

If you could see me now, saying clever things,

Laughing with beautiful people laughing,

You’d know I no longer care what a day with you in it brings.

 

If you could see me now, writing these lines,

My long hands, biting my lip, never looking up,

You would know I no longer care who dances with you, or dines.

 

If you could see me now, safe at last from throngs

Who loved to torture us with curiosity and gossip,

You would know I no longer care to ask why you love certain songs.

 

If you could see me now, without a care in the world,

Flying above dream houses in dreams,

You would know I no longer care for your opinions on this boy or girl.

 

If you could see me now, happy as a lark,

You would know I no longer miss the kisses

I gave you when we took our walks and kissed in the park.

 

If you might see me now, stretched out in the crimson dark, flowers at my feet and head,

Do not move closer or watch me—what other dreams have I forgot?

To see if I am dead.

 

 

 

 

 

THESE KISSES ARE MINE

I want to give you kisses,
More than a few.
I want to kiss your face awhile
As I throw my arms around you.
Perhaps I’m excited by your beauty and the wine.
But just remember: these kisses are mine.

I want to give you kisses,
A hundred or more.
I want to kiss your neck awhile,
The area around your neck explore.
I give and I give because you are fine.
But just remember: these kisses are mine.

I want to give you kisses,
The more the merrier.
I’ll kiss your breasts, your belly,
Even your interior.
My love is yours; my life is yours; yours, this wine.
But just remember: these kisses are mine.

When you go away from me—
Or if you should leave me for good
And take my whole life—
I hope it’s understood
Whatever you are doing: loving, sleeping, drinking wine,
Those millions of kisses I gave you are mine.

IMPORTANT AND TRUE

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This is hard to refute: Nothing is important and true if it is merely important and true to you.

At the college where I work, I heard a humanities professor remark recently: the abstract is the basis of education.

By abstract, the professor means: All that is wise, good, and important is true for everyone, not just you.

The children who “get this,” grow up to be productive members of society; those who don’t, become those half-formed dreamers who merely survive, or worse, criminals.

Most of us are comfortable thinking that there is a ‘selfish curve;’ the more selfish you are, the more you ultimately suffer; the religious find contentment knowing God’s justice ultimately takes care of everything, but that doesn’t mean everyone isn’t irked when they witness selfishness in others; the religious are still motivated to “spread the word of God,” even though their all-powerful God will “take care of everything at last, anyway.”

This contradiction is not a minor thing. If God is all-powerful, why do you behave as if He were not?

You (the religious) are busy “spreading God’s word,” even as God, beyond all words and beyond all understanding, inhabits, in a vast, just, material, eternal manner, everything. Why so busy, then?

I could believe every single thing you (the religious) say as you “spread God’s word” and still find you excessively ignorant and redundant and tiresome—and tell you in all sincerity to please go away and never show your face around here again.

There. As you may have guessed, Scarriet is not a religious place.

And this sentiment is precisely where we are in the world today, with the secular world becoming increasingly exasperated and emboldened in their objection to religion, especially as it manifests itself around social media-driven flashpoint issues and events.

Anti-religious extremism threatens more and more each day to become mainstream, at least in the West, thanks to academia and social media, where the religious find their antiquated mists lifting before the winds of progressive and intellectual arguments; secular common sense is nearly impossible to resist as the “love of Jesus” is turned against every religious prohibition under the sun.

The immutable Abstract God needs human representatives—with human stories and human logic. When servants of the Abstract God debate with the professor/artist/social worker class, who represent The Abstract Benefits of All People, the servants of The Lord lose, and they lose because they are humorless and antiquated, and because Equality is the abstraction which trumps everything.

This does not mean the religious ultimately lose—they will surely never go away—and they do not ultimately lose for the following reason: Equality, or even the need for it, is, alas, an abstract theory, not an abstract reality.

Abstraction, itself, at its most powerful, exists as a reality, not a theory.

Those quiet ones, who skip the debate, knowing the One True Real Abstraction, God’s Justice, takes care of everything, and not in some theoretical equality-type manner, but with every unequal thing and person fitting into the great scheme at last, miraculously and imaginatively, the quiet ones who skip the debates, are the ones you should listen to, when you have a moment—not the self-assured ones on the left or the right.

To return to “you” and how your feelings are never the most important thing:

According to our wise secular professor, what you happen to feel is never as important as the abstracted feelings of the many.

But not only is Religion on the run in the West, but a counter-force, Romanticism seems to be making a quiet comeback.

The Romantic does value “your” singular feelings.

This is because “the you” is finally an abstract idea, as well, and those who defend “the abstract” find themselves trapped by the whole theoretical notion of “the abstract”: once we begin to sociologically impose abstract models onto everything, in the name of a benevolent but coarse system of benefits for all, the theoretical destroys everything in its path. Theoretically, the “you” joins the “many,” and science becomes farcically anecdotal, all in the name of abstraction, and of words abstractly used, with “them” and “you” swapped and traded in the blink of an eye.

The Romantic persists in being “wrong” in the face of all the wise theorists; the Romantic denies the abstract with passionate feeling: Ovid’s “I hate and love.”

The Romantic is worth listening to, because there are two kinds of Abstraction.

Our professor friend, who we quoted in the beginning of the essay, refers to the Abstract Abstract.

The Abstract Abstract is the abstraction we find in psychology, sociology and literature textbooks, the essential content of the non-religious liberal arts education: generalized information applied anecdotally and then traced back to the generalized information in a rough ‘what’s best for all’ sort of way.

In these liberal arts scenarios, passion is always reserved for “blind evil,” which does the things we professionals are appalled by, and cannot understand, as we, rationally, in the course of our liberal arts education, pursue our sane pedagogical goals: marriage for everybody, love for everybody, riches for everybody, etc etc.

But the Romantic and the religious refer to something else: the Real Abstract.

The Real Abstract is The Whole Universe, literally, that dynamic, grand design of the whole which God (whether or not He really exists) is short-hand for.

It is why Edgar Poe ventured to call his essay on the Universe a poem—the unity of the subject called for it.

The abstract is truly one thing and one thing only: the material, finite universe as it really in fact exists.

The rigor of this abstraction puts to shame the mere ‘good for all’ theory practiced by the liberal arts colleges.

Example: there is no such thing as a kind review. We never argue for something in a generalized manner: the one (poem, book, world, etc) contains many things, which, by necessity, if the whole of which the parts are a part is worth anything at all, succeed and fail as things to varying degrees. So instead of saying, ‘this is a great ___,’ we instead say which parts of ____ in any given ____ are good and which are bad.

How many reviews of friends’ poetry books and chapbooks are thorough, and truly objective?  They are almost never objective. They always feel, due to friendship and kindness, like advertisements: you must read this great book!

Passion is required for truth, and passion, by definition, is Ovidian, containing love and hate. The truly unique whole of the universe is both loving and hateful. The Real Abstract contains both beauty and necessity.

The merely Abstract Abstract, however, the one we get from the liberal arts professor, is necessary, but not beautiful: proper goodness must prevail, so that the poet, who is both student and customer in the new professional university environment, receives the proper flattery and is pleased—each part in the Abstract Abstract must exist abstractly, pleased to be an unreal part of what is essentially a pleasing, artificial (abstract) agenda.

The uneasy way the universe actually fits together produces the passion that is at once the cause and the effect of  its meaning—for those who attempt to comprehend it. (Poe perhaps having come the closest?)

Abstractly speaking, the universe, today, in our progressive age, is a “rainbow” of benevolent mixing.

What does this “rainbow” symbol mean, anyway? What does it actually mean?

Be nice to everyone. Accept differences. But isn’t this too general to mean anything?

A friend once asked us if Joan Rivers was mean or funny. The answer, of course, is both. The funny and the mean are inextricably mixed.

“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?” will always sound in fair Verona’s streets.

Let us look at an actual example.

A black conservative judge, who opposes gay marriage, and his white wife comprise two races and two genders. The vast majority of gay couplings comprise one race and one gender.

Which couple most resembles a “rainbow?”

If there is no rational reason to oppose gay marriage—we cannot think of one; Scarriet certainly does not oppose gay marriage—perhaps it is only a “rainbow” impulse that does oppose it: is that an irony, or what?

Our benevolent “rainbow” idea belongs to the Abstract Abstract, one of those ideals, which, upon inspection, is found to be one of those liberal arts ideals whose “truth” is a highly convincing symbolism for the sake of an abstract good: robbing from the rich is “good” in similar abstract ways.

The Real Abstract consists of social minutia, flawed expression, breeding, borders, hierarchy and competing interests over time—messy and vastly complex mixtures, not given to easy Abstract Abstract ideals.

Hate and love, as a mixture, is never easily understood; love by itself and hate by itself, are far more easily understood, and they are understood more easily—because they belong to the Abstract Abstract, not the Real Abstract; the Abstract Abstract is what tends to be taught—in the schools.

We can gently refute our wise professor after all: very often what is true and important is true and important—to you.

SHE DOESNT TRUST MEN ANYMORE

She doesn’t trust men anymore.

One she loved, a long time ago now,

Left her, pregnant, crying on the floor.

You may read about that, in her murky workshop poetry with elaborate metaphor,

But she doesn’t like to talk about that anymore.

She tried a final time with one who couldn’t make decisions

And hated herself for finding him a bore,

Her caustic moments towards him imitating the very guy’s demeanor who left her crying on the floor.

So now, thoroughly self-loathing, you can probably guess what she’s like.

Happy. Pretty. Published. Lots of friends. Don’t feel bad, really, that she told you to take a hike.

INSTANT LOVE

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Is there an instant love?

All love happens instantly.

Love is faster than we can see.

Avoiding love is how love becomes a possibility.

If love hasn’t happened, we only need to wait

For the one thing love needs: out-of-focus hate.

Passion is a mixture in the right degree

Of sad discord and happy harmony.

She studies the book and learns

Of what does not love. In love, she burns.

When she, on fire, sought relief,

I stole her fire. Love is the thief

That deals in fire and never cools

Itself and burns itself and burns the schools.

You never understood her love and why her love was rash

Until you found the world and all its wisdom is ash.

 

WE NEVER SAID THAT

We never said you could be
Something else. If you agree
To be different we will pretend
It somehow makes a difference in the end.

We never said it would be
Other than official. So let’s agree
To pretend the official signifies
Something more than perfumed lies.

We never said it would be
Just. Only justice as you think it should be.
There will be symbolism and you can think
You are right. With your friends. With the ink.

We never said it would finally be
Anything more than beauty.
In the end, to find beauty we need money.
Did you hear me? We need money.

 

JUST SOME CLOUDS

Some people think they can see what they read.
You cannot see what you read. There is only sound.
Your memory contains images which a fiction writer found.
Fiction is what you want, but poetry is what you need.

Fiction grows, and it grows like a weed.
We do not need more fiction. There is only sound.
Your memory contains stories which a fiction writer found.
Fiction is what you want, but poetry is what you need.

Fiction is a confession the curious feel they have to read.
But really, is it necessary? There is only sound.
Your memory has embarrassments a fiction writer found.
Fiction is what you want, but poetry is what you need.

Invention is all; not family, not morality, not creed.
Invent. Don’t imitate life! There is only sound.
Your memory is nothing the fiction writer found.
Fiction is what you want, but poetry is what you need.

THIS IS HOW I FELL FOR HER

It began at the top of my head,
Where the dignified thoughts are.

Pity them! They fell far.

Philosophy turned into crying;
Infant fears my new philosophy,
Getting what it wants by lying.

After this occurred, what is left to say?
Reason descended and passion rose.

I read that eyes were paths to love:
When she was near, I looked in those.

Deprived of breath, I became drunk,
For what is the point of intoxication?
To die while you are living,
For love makes everything want to die.

The trick was: it seemed to be her.
But it all happened in my eye,
It all happened in my breath,

It was me inside me falling

And mine was a beautiful death.

The falling was happening in myself;
A frightening fall inside my head,
And after breath, blood succumbed;

My happy death knew at last it was dead.
My death found joy in a living
No longer known as life.
My life I tossed to her. Finally my feet fell;

I fell beside her.
I have not been myself since she became my wife.

WHY AM I UNTRUE?

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When I think constantly of you

How is it possible I am untrue?

This is how love shames me in the end:

Love belongs to the stranger, not the friend.

If I always think of you,

You are a friend, but a stranger, too,

And soon, strange, strange is what you are,

Not the sun I always see, but a mysterious star

That watches me, high, high above

Even when in the dull day I move.

But that star! That distant, looking you

Always looking to see if I’m untrue.

And I am! That’s what humans are!

So I say no to love! I say no to you, the sun, the star

Too beautiful, too strange, too far.

THE ONE I LOVED

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for Claire Montrose

The one I loved? The last time we kissed, he stroked my chin

And fed on my mouth like a starving man. I remember the night and his lips.

Some believe in bad luck; they feel they can never win.

I think we both felt that way: belief in bad luck, a gene, we both inherited.

Our love was too good to be true, we felt, so in our minds our love had to end.

And it did end, with great pain, and our genes proved they were right.

True, it was not meant to last, since it was forbidden and dangerous.

I worry too much; I once saw a parent unconcerned as her young son walked on a wall

Above the sea; if I were as blithe as that, I would have clear skin and fifty boyfriends.

Now I have bad skin and no boyfriends, though I am especially beautiful, some say.

The one I loved wanted sex more than I did; this gets tiring after a while;

I have a bag of chips theory: the man wants sex often, so the bag is gone in a week;

For me, the bag will last two months; he eats chips out of love for me,

Perhaps, but I resent having to buy a new bag all the time;

The difference in appetite begins to wear you down;

I finally got annoyed, and thought, if you want sex so much, go have it with somebody else;

I want to be loved for who I am, not for beauty and sex all the time.

Love for women is social; we want to be loved for more than sex.

It’s like this: when a tight sock leaves a mark on my leg, a hot stream of water

In the tub aimed at my leg gives me the most exquisite pleasure,

But I don’t spend my days thinking about this pleasure;

The sensation is very, very nice, but trivial; when I start to feel

The most important thing to him is getting in the tub for that hot stream of water,

I don’t care how loving and charming he is, or that he wants me

There in the tub with him—I get sick of his addiction to pleasure; I pretty much told him,

Oh for Christ’s sake! I’m sick of this routine! Get in the tub with someone else!

He was horrified, of course; heartbroken, couldn’t understand, wondered

What he had done wrong, he thought I loved someone else, and this

Just got me even more annoyed, and I should have tried to explain,

But you can’t—I only came up with the bag of chips theory later.

But I was so annoyed and so sick of it all; without a word I dumped him.

At the time I was furious, and it felt good; he was helpless, I was helpless,

But still I felt like I was doing something that had to be done.

I told myself: I’ll have new chips every six months, maybe when I’m drunk,

But you can’t plan spontaneity. And I don’t want to take the time to find out

How many chips someone is going to want to eat: it would become the same thing.

He doesn’t know how I’m doing, because we never speak.

Now, the danger gone, the celibate years have gone by, and he hasn’t a clue, I’m sure,

Why our beautiful love died; we really loved each other—but he was crazy for me, I think;

He wrote me poem after poem, and when he kissed me in the moonlight

I knew I was making him very happy; I said he was the only thing that mattered,

And I guess, in a way, that was true; love is just a silly pleasure for me, though;

The fact that I was not as intense as he was just urged him on, and made him jealous

And passionate; I would be lying if his passion did not fire me up sometimes

And there were moments when I wanted him deeply, but I couldn’t shake the idea

That love was just a crazy thing, and, finally, kind of silly.

I loved him as best as I could; he wrote me thousands of poems

And isn’t that just as silly, really? They are just words, after all;

And his poetry was a way of escaping me, too; he didn’t have to say it:

I knew he wanted fame and admiration from other places; sure, he did.

So I don’t want to pretend that his love was all that pure; my lips

Were there for him to kiss; I’m sure he thought of other lips;

What was all that imagination for, anyway? And are these poems mine?

When I die and they put the few possessions I own in a box, poems in that box

Will not be mine; they will be his.  I did the right thing. I’m glad the one I loved

Is not here to see me age, my mouth fading above my chin.

My face is one thing he especially loved. He was always writing about “beauty.” Crazy.

I was right. Our love took us to heights neither of us were meant to win.

When I do die, and they put my things in a box, I know the world will quickly forget me.

If he still thinks of me—we live close to each other, by the sea—

The idea of me simply disappearing is probably what makes him saddest of all.

I can see him, alone, on this sunny day, maybe walking a long peninsula,

Hiding his tears from the t-shirted tourists,

While here I am—now plain and gray—just across the inlet, in the yard, pulling weeds.

Sure, we have many memories, but what else can I say?

It’s too emotional, and I want my peace, and I’m sure

He’ll write a poem or two about it, so in the end, we’ll be okay.

LECTURE INSIDE OF SORROW

Lecture inside of sorrow,
Invention inside of pain,
Love inside of love
Has thwarted love again.

A message inside a message
That says all is well
Describes messes
Of which we dare not tell.

Improvement and progress
Are hollered down the lane.
The sun will shine again
As the sun will explain.

From here to there
Is how our love progressed.
But that went nowhere,
As you may have guessed.

She wanted mystery,
He wanted love out loud.
He desired nudity.
She preferred a shroud.

The revolution of sighs
Began in the city
And spread to the suburbs,

Infecting the pretty.

The pretty went to sell
Pretty in the square
But found the town in flames
And an ugly mob there.

The librarian wept
Upon her soft, soft seat
While the cylinders unfolded
And the sky rained meat.

Lecture inside of sorrow,
Invention inside of pain,
Love inside of love

Has thwarted love again.

 

SHE CURES ME OF YOU

She cures me of you
Because she is beautiful, too.

One look at her face
And I forget our disgrace.

A glance from her eyes
And your beautiful image dies.

But all I see and think—
No matter how wise and beautiful the drink

That drowns all that went before—
You and your beauty rise up and conquer me once more.

As long as I was faithless, and thought
That numerous loves spied
Could equal you, or that in their life my love for you could have died,

Ten times more grew my love for you,
More than beautiful, more than life, so beautiful you grew

That you even now carry her, the beautiful, around,
Added to you, triumphant, who adds, like a poem, sound to beautiful sound.

 

 

 

THERE IS ONE BEAUTY

There is one beauty on this earth
In which all the others, partial, find their worth.
So please pardon me who was able to find
All beauty in you. I was blind.

Beauty blinds us all until we find,
With our partial selves, the one beauty in our minds,
The one beauty one in poetry finds,
The one beauty that makes one faithful, happy, and true,
Not as I was, who wrote all that bad poetry to you.

 

 

 

 

 

I LIKE YOU

I like you, even more than before.

How is this possible? The secret is this:

Poetry teaches apology and forgiveness.

I have crossed out many a line

And put aside many an effort

Wholly written from kissing and wine.

Now as I contemplate forgiveness, there are sweet cold flowers

And a sweet cold sun. These mornings have been cold.

And the warmth only lasts a few hours.

Evenings have been cold, too.

Coldly—not with love—I sometimes think of you,

Coldly, when the hot sun burns,

And hotly, and mildly; harshly and sweetly by turns,

With every emotion: you, the only one, who has made me feel every one.

This is why I must like you or die; you are the only one

Who can make me cry for every reason under the sun.

You make me feel weak and strong, right about everything, and wrong,

No one has ever made me feel like you about everything, and everything possible, like you.

I feel like Sylvia Plath, who thought she was a Jew.

You make me feel like Marilyn Monroe, and look, I’m a guy;

And I can hear you say, “duh,” and give a little smile

And I can’t return that smile, because I fear you really think

I’m a fool, and inside I die, when I should just smile and wink.

I’ve confessed: you have an advantage over me.

This is why it is so difficult for me to move towards you romantically.

I love you too much and I fear you’ll take advantage of me.

I would go mad. So I have to stop at like.

Not only insanity and blood pressure—my bad poetry would spike!

Poetry makes life and love where there is none

And you are my poetry. You are the real sun

That burns. Poetry is the unity. But you are the one.

 

 

 

 

 

WORKING, NOT WORKING

At work, I may not be working,
Joking with my co-workers when there’s not much to do.

At work, I may be working hard,
But it’s not like I’m cleaning my yard;

I’m on coffee and glancing at names and numbers
With pleasant dreams of leisure in my head.

This may sound crazy, but work is not really work,
Just as the economy, the measure of how humanity does
Is best when activity wastes a lot, so a lot of useless work is done.

Things that break keep the economy humming;
Awful art filling up classrooms, hospitals full, beads and bangles made.

Birth because of death; death, our boss, flies in from the shade,
Oversees us and makes us scurry back to work
As we get back to doing what other departments do not know we do.

All errors we fix are good errors, providing us jobs,
A good life, planted with loving care by death—who is always busy.

So work is not work; there, I hope that’s clear;
Now on my day off, work is everywhere:

In the morning, I switch on my devices
And feel the zero-one-zero world in operation.

I have my coffee at the inspection garage.
The sweat and oil drip amid the noise;

Then, more coffee at the quiet, spacious dealership,
Suits and ties flying.

Stuck behind the garbage truck, I observe
Arms hurling garbage, impatient rush-hour cars grumbling.

To find some peace I duck into a cafe,
But the waiters, looming over table and counter, work, too.

Exhausted from watching the tired,
I go home, find the cat sleeping, and realize what I must do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BATHROOM SELFIE

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OK, if you think this is a load of crap,
Wait until you see what I do next.
If you don’t like the poems and the weather,
You can always walk from room to room
Using your legs. Dinosaurs owned legs—
The most primitive device of life on land!
What you thought was a poem, won’t be a poem.
I took a picture, with my phone, once,
Of a likeness of you I drew in the sand.

I WILL SIGH FROM THE SAME SORROW TOMORROW

I will sigh from the same sorrow tomorrow.
And who can I blame?
The conductor in my train’s narrow corridor
Who calls my city’s name?

Scenery of swamp and river,
Blur of buildings outside a window,
Static suburban history
Of parking lots and industry
That always looks the same?

Are there passengers I can blame?
Those who sit in their seats half asleep,
Who will never know my name?
Who will push in selfishly for seats tomorrow?

Or should I look elsewhere for my sorrow,
A sorrow that truly makes me sigh?
Perhaps it is the beautiful sky
In various hues. Nature is always true
And Nature always reminds me of you.
Perhaps Nature is to blame. She is always the same.

Love? Which, because of its sorrow, makes me feel love is true,
Is this not happy? I do not have you, and yet to me, our love is true
Because of sorrow yesterday, today and tomorrow,
A sorrow always the same—
Since you don’t hold my hand and lean over to me and whisper my name.

Pitiful joy! Pitiful truth! Pitiful sorrow! Pitiful life! All the same.
The same sorrow sighing tomorrow.
Sorrow of millions.
And who can I blame?

 

 

WHEN EVENING IS TRULY FAIR

When evening is truly fair

And no words can possibly describe

This evening sweetly and softly rare,

Dusky tops of silky trees swaying

In breezes dearer than music playing,

There is truly something only we two share.

I, the poet, have nothing resembling poetry

To say why sky and dying sun and air

Are beauty breathing as if beauty itself were breath,

And your beauty, your loved beauty,

Like my poetry, is ravished by this

Life lying down beside a breeze-kissed death.

A poet reduced to words like “breeze” and “kissed!”

A beauty merely human inside a mystical mist.

Humbled by comparison to fairest weather,

My poetry and your beauty lie down together,

And here beside a fragrant, moon-lit vine,

We kiss. And on our humbled kisses dine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POETRY IS LOVE

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Poetry is love. This is literally true. As poets, we do not speak partial truths. We do not say things just to say them. We do not experiment. We do not hide behind show-off language, learning, or obscurity.

The truth of a beautiful song is a beautiful truth.

But here is an even more important truth: poetry is love.

Poetry is the evidence of love, which, in terms of what we need, is a pretty big deal, since fake love is all around. We love candy. Or, our taste buds do. Our health does not love candy. The love for candy, just like the love for a lot of things, is fake; candy does not love us; no thing loves us, and therefore it is not really love to love things, to love what does not love us, for love involves sweet reciprocation; and imagine the falsity in the soul when we love that which does not love us— this is not love!

Love is that which loves and is loved in return.

The desire for candy is as close to love as some people get, and, people whose ‘greatest love’ is simply a desire for what does not love them are people who are naturally offended and embarrassed by reciprocal love, by actual love, this paradise beyond their reach, since they are too foul or stupid or selfish or hungry to have actual love.

Love has millions and millions of enemies, and the hatred of love manifests itself in all sorts of ways: the cackling laughter of the foul-mouthed humorist; the noisy rudeness of the practical-minded poetry-hater; the gruesome, cynical philosophy of the “wise,” who are barred from every delight; the Pollyanna painters of crude colors, whose frozen smiles keep love away.

Here we must say something about reciprocity. We said it is ridiculous to speak of “loving” candy since  candy appeals only to a part of ourselves and is not good for us—our health. But can we then truly love a vegetable serving, or a piece of beef, since these foods are good for our health? There is a scale. Flesh loves us more than candy, but it would still be ridiculous to say a piece of dead flesh loves us. But there is a scale that we should note and consider if we strive for wisdom, and we should ponder what it means that flesh loves us more than candy.

On the other hand, we do talk of “sweet” love, and if the sweet is good, in as much as it gives us pleasure, in this way we say that candy is at least good because it provides “evidence” of the sweet—good because it is truly a delight.

We see there are two kinds of delight then, in this present example of sweetness: the sweet which is false, because it hurts our health if too often indulged, and the sweet which is true, in that it is evidence of that which is delightful. The candy maker is both good and bad, then, producing what is potentially bad (if desired) and good (as evidence).

The poem, as we said, works like candy and sweetness—the poem is “evidence” of love, not love itself.  This is nevertheless not a minor consideration, since love is of infinite importance, and is denied to so many.

The poem imitates, just like the painter, and it is the vanity of both the painter and the poet to think they create, when the best they can do is present evidence of love.

The painter pontificates for hours on his art and then the mere surface of a lake in one reflected instant puts the painter to shame.

The world—which the poet and painter strives to imitate—is already an artist; the poet is not the first to arrive in the wilderness; there has been a poet there already: the self-reflecting world is a poem, a painting already. The poet and painter are hardly needed, except that [painters and poets] serving a different purpose are busily wrecking the wilderness for the comfort and pleasure of flesh and candy eaters. And so painter and poet are called upon to restore the wilderness that has been broken, even as the audience they serve has already been corrupted and sophisticated by the pieces of wilderness imbibed.

So there is already a poem in the wilderness that is not the wilderness—and further, the wilderness has been changed by the non-poets. There is a sweetness in the candy, there is a green in the leaf that is not the candy and not the leaf. And the sweetness and the green is, for the poet, mere evidence of something inscrutable, untouchable, ideal, and gone, but which nonetheless is being consumed by their audience on a grand scale. Poetry is utterly useless and impossible, then. Nuanced speech already belongs to the non-poets as they take apart the wilderness, non-poets cramming themselves full of the material the poet (or painter) would otherwise delicately use.

Now let us return to love; the actual poet secretly gives up “poetry” to all the non-poets speaking their wilderness-breaking, sophisticated sentence and song, and uses instead: love. The poem is an act of love: a speech that loves what it is speaking, and in order to love what it is speaking, ‘that which it is speaking’ can never be in the least obscure or difficult to understand; for to love is to reflect like the natural lake, to present intact and precisely what is loved, in order to be known better, and all the better loved.

We know writers who can take something very simple and make it very complex; writers who do this are neither lovers nor poets; they tend to be scholars, or plainly those haters who are barred from love. They tell long stories, demanding you pay attention to the chain, and when you fall asleep they give a literary cry of triumph, for you, the lover, failed the test, and all the literary scholars applaud, and in the din you hear the buzz-saws that cut the wilderness, or the building in every country which occurs only to build, so that everyone can have “a job,” and so the “economy” can thrive, killing every poet and every lover in the process. We hear the men sitting around bragging, with the women bored to tears; or the women gabbing, and the men bored to tears; where are the sweet tears of love, like a lovely waterfall in the wilderness?  The radiant kisses of a man focused on a woman and a woman focused on a man?

But wilderness and kisses are metaphors; as poets, we prefer you don’t take our language too seriously; it is only hinting at what poetry truly is: at best the faintest evidence of divine love.

The ancient dilemma was understood by Socrates, the pre-Christ, who allowed poets one task in the Republic: to praise. Praise is the simplest form of love, the evidence of love we find in speech, the only kind—for otherwise it is rhetoric, not fashioned for love, rhetoric which is valuable, but not the same as song. The qualifications we find in rhetoric are those qualifications which check pure praise and love; the heart of rhetoric is this qualifying quality that demands a reason as it unfolds like prose; it does not reflect like poetry.

Poetry praises what it says—this is how it loves. This is why poetry is the very opposite of the obscure, and if it is not understood immediately, based on precisely what it says, it is not poetry.

We spoke of a precise saying that is then said by poetry in such a manner to hyper-clarify what is said, in a manner that makes the most difficult thought clear to the mind of a child.

Of course, if that which is made abundantly clear is not worth pondering in the first place, the poem has no point. Poets who have nothing to say will hide what they say in obscure speech, thinking smoky appearances will be applauded for the very thing which is not poetic: obscurity.

The poem’s evidence of love is two-fold: first, a beautiful picture, idea, or insight, perfectly worth loving and admiring in itself, and second, the presentation of it so the reader sees it with as much ease and joy as humanly possible. There is a twofold praise: praise presented in a praiseworthy manner is, if we might say it as briefly as possible, a poem.

 

I WANNA TELL TINA, TOO

Christine walked by with a pear and apple,
Saying, “I need one more, so I can juggle.”

“You can juggle two,” I told her, “with one hand.”
And I thought of fruit falling, and then a name for a band,
In my game of ‘randomly name a band:’ Bruised Fruit.

With the name, Bruised Fruit, I go to Annemarie:
“Hey, Annemarie, I have a great name for a band.”
And I notice Tina missing. “I wanna tell Tina, too.”

Hey, even better: I Wanna Tell Tina, Too.
Is this crazy?  Is this what poets do?
And what would you think of this by the time it gets to you?

HOW SWEET THESE TEARS

How sweet these tears from missing you,
How sweet these tears that fall!
When I lost you, darling,
I lost it all.

How easy for my tears to fall, sweet tears,
And a pleasant feeling when they fall!
When I lost you, darling,
I lost it all.

My tears have no trouble falling when I miss you,
I’m glad when they trickle and fall!
When I lost you, darling,
I lost it all.

I love when tears fall sweetly and I pant
With pleasure, with sweetest pleasure as they fall.
When I lost you, darling,
I lost it all.

Tears fall; they fall because I am weak!
And weakness makes everything fall.
When I lost you, darling,
I lost it all.

COMPLAINING TO GOD

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Why did you provide us with music

And then give us one song?

And then we find each note

Of the one we are given is wrong?

Why did you give us vision

Inside our beautiful eyes

Which, when matched up with voices,

Melts in confusing lies?

Why did you give us a meadow

With sweet flowers perfumed?

And people. Ill-dressed people.

Eating noisily. And doomed.

Why did you offer the sun

Heralding a multitudinous day

Ending in nightfall

Where one shadow cannot stay?

I HAVE THE POEM IN MYSELF

I have the poem in myself
And you are the poem everyone wants to see.
You are the sun.
I am shadowy.

No one learns to read.
We only learn to see.
Nature has us reading
Her signs, to satisfy
What Nature has to be:
Breeding, breeding, breeding.

All you think you do—
No matter how mute and obscure—
Done for none, or one, or few—
Is done for one reason: to make more.

So the poem in myself
Is a love letter to you;
You are the better poem,
Because of how you look and what you do,

Even if it is walking,
Or washing clothes.
You don’t need anything.
Everyone knows.

Slaves to nature,
Slaves to her commands.
Read about the slaves
In foreign lands.

Read of history, and switch every soul,
Man for woman, black for white.
Would anything change? No?
No? Then what’s the point?

Read about the lovers,
The burning lovers, the sad wives,
The workers in the workshops
Making models of those who always lose their lives.

Read of the singer singing his song,
The crowds, listening, crowding to belong;
Read of the builder, building the house,
For baby and father and mother and mouse.

I have the poem in myself—
There! You may see!
You are the sun.
I am shadowy.

WHY DO YOU FIND IT STRANGE

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Why do you find it strange that you can hide your face from God?
A tiny cloud can block the sun—do you find that odd?

It’s easy to hide from God—him to whom you ran
Is now him you run from—you, the same sweet woman, he the same sweet man.

You find love, which costs nothing, and is your greatest joy, one day,
And before the night, with ecstasy come, you throw it all away.

Why do you find it strange that God can disappear
In one act of unkindness, and now nothing that is God seems here,
From birds flying above, to your own nose wet with a tear?

How can all this love go away in an instant? Isn’t that odd?
And then you view a poem, a mere poem. And feel the return of God.

 

 

 

 

 

A FEW KISSES

Is there a cure for this?
We exchanged the sweetest kiss.
It is difficult to describe my illness
Except to say it has weakened my defenses
Not exactly in my body, but somewhere deep within.
There is not one word for this illness in all of medicine.
It is more real than anything in psychology books
And from every official person I get the strangest looks.

And friends? To complain of this to friends is the worst.
I would tell a complete stranger first,
For my illness is strange; I am now, myself, a stranger,
And talk to myself at length, at all hours, about this danger
To my health. Nothing is the same
Since my blood was stamped with the being and the being’s name.

I have succumbed to joy! Illness? Illness of bliss!
It is the illness which surpasses all illnesses—
And I know in my heart there’s no cure for this.
If only officials had stopped us when we kissed,
Or a friend had been present, or a feminist.
The feminist could have shouted, “He’s stalking you!”
But we were alone. For a kiss. Or a few.

 

 

 

 

 

BEST ONE HUNDRED SONGS TO BREAK YOUR HEART, MAKE YOU SAD, CRY.

We need a list like this, because songs do assault the heart, and the two most readily accessible lists we find on the web of “songs that make you cry” are so-so, mostly devoted to recent and mediocre indie rock songs.

The “songs that make you cry” lists are further limited by a lame criterion of a close-reading of lyrics—many people don’t know this, but this song is really about a friend of a friend of the songwriter who was dying of cancer, etc.

A great sad song should strike one as sad immediately, by itself, on its own, with its own poetry and music and mood—it should not require an actual sad reason why it was composed revealed to the listener—one shouldn’t need to have the lyrics explained in order to be saddened by the song.

And yet, and yet…secret sad meanings hidden in the lyrics…okay, who can resist those?

But here’s the deal: First, if the actual tragedy the lyrics allude to is the source of the heart-breaking song, then how is this any different than if someone simply told you of a heart-breaking tragedy?

Second, it is the discovery of the hidden aspect in the lyrics which does most of the heart-breaking work, for it is this ‘finding out’ which imitates the mechanics of regret: oh if I had only known how much they really loved me! It is this dynamic which is at work in the oh this is what the song means! trick.

Whether the song is about something that actually happened is beside the point. If we are really moved by a song, on some level it is real for us—and nothing more needs to be said on the issue.  Obviously, the point is, when compiling this list, we have considered the total impact on the heart by the song itself. The tragedy (imagined or real) matters, obviously, but more importantly is how it all comes together in the way it is conveyed by the song, so it stays pleasantly in our memory. The melting of the heart by a song (whether “tragic” or not) should be a pleasant experience. Bewitching perhaps, but ultimately a pleasure, since happiness is (or should be) the end of existence. The songs on our list may, or may not, make you cry. But it should be a happy cry.

But the more we ponder this whole question of context, the more it threatens to explode the whole project: what about a song like “Un Bel Di,” from Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly, also known as “One Fine Day?” Does one have to know Italian, or the opera’s heart-breaking story from which the song emerges, to appreciate this song?

Well—to truly appreciate the song, yes.

“Context,” which, for the sake of “artistic purity,” we have been trying to mitigate, if not eliminate, keeps looming up, like a moon which needs to shine.

The best conclusion, we think, is this: if the moon is a really beautiful one, and is really shining beautifully—if the song itself really is magnificent—we can expect the listener to also understand the clouds heaped up around that moon—especially if the song is already deservedly popular; or, if the song itself, because of what it is, really deserves, in our opinion, this extra knowledge and attention.

We will not worry ourselves that lists like this can never satisfy everyone, for this does not mean lists such as this are not worth doing. Scarriet’s One Hundred Hippie Songs of All Time, published a year ago, is consistently visited two thousand times a week.

But of course “hippie” is more readily understood than “heart.”

And here we might as well add that the heart needs protection—and this is what T.S. Eliot meant when he famously said poetry is “an escape from emotion”—the heart-breaking song is restrained and cool and artificial to a certain degree precisely so the heartbreak doesn’t overwhelm us. But… isn’t that the point? To be overwhelmed, so the heart “melts?” Yes, but some cry at almost anything—commercials, other people crying—so that the songs on this list aren’t even necessary. Keep in mind we speak of ideal, aesthetic, and universal “melting.” This entire list, obviously, cannot be heart-breaking for you.

Further, in this list we attempt to appeal to all tastes.

The genres of hard rock and blues, the music that “sold its soul to the devil” receives its due punishment by not being included on this list. We could have picked a song like “The Thrill Is Gone” to honor the late, great B.B. King, but we could not find it in our hearts to do so. Work like this is admirable, but, for us, just not heart-melting. The stretched-out, pounding attitude of ‘ain’t life a bitch? doesn’t quite fit what we are after.

The “melting” is not finally from pity, but from the extraordinarily beautiful and wise.

Occasionally the beautifully wise is like ice—but as this list shows, icy perfection rarely melts the heart.  Often it is just a warm, slow melody.

Puccini might be said to have invented the modern pop song, or maybe it was Mozart?  Or Bach?  The hook—and then creeping behind it, another equally as sweet!  And so sweet—it has to be brief.

And then, added to the music, the story and the poetry.  What mortal can resist it?

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our latest, One Hundred Songs To Melt The Heart.

1. One Fine Day (Puccini’s Madame Butterfly Aria, “Un Bel Di,” is the heart-breaking standard: beautiful, involves a young girl’s heart—that sings the song—a sailor, and two cultures on either side of the world—and the “one fine day” never comes. 

2. Nothing Compares 2 U (Sinead O’Connor’s performance of Prince’s song proves sadness is best when it is majestic, observant—“7 hours and 15 days”—and has no bitterness. A tear-jerker for the ages. An electronic standard.)

3. Someone Like You (Adelle’s voice inhabits this Edna St. Vincent Millay-type song’s every pitch, timbre, and mood—resigned, but not resigned—almost as if her very heart were the instrument. Too recent to appreciate? No, this performance is timeless.)

4. Just Say I Love Him (Nina Simone’s six and a half minute, poignant, subtly electric guitar-soaked revery from her neglected masterpiece Forbidden Fruit—1961. If women are dominating this list so far? That’s why they call them divas, fellas…)

5. Video Games (The video of this casually, stupidly languid but passionate song by Lana Del Rey has 83 million views and yes we are in a different era now of perfecting heart-tugging—technically and artistically. A female’s hungry, proud, sultry, deeply expressive voice is still key, however.)

6. Sue Me (Duet between Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.  When her voice tearfully cracks on “I could honestly die.” From Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls. The scene itself is semi-comic—it doesn’t matter.)

7. Hurt (Johnny Cash. Noble, yet agonizing. Tears the only defense against this.)

8. Honey (Bobby Goldsboro makes a goddamn movie with a song. Sentimental, perhaps, but the vocal and the lyrics expand possibilities in a way that practically forms a template of its own.)

9. O Mio Babbino Caro (Puccini and Callas. The song doesn’t need translation. Puccini invented pop, perhaps.)

10. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths. Urban, angsty poetry at its very best. The Smiths’ signature sound is divine, in a fake-casual sort of way.)

11. Stranger in Paradise (The Four Aces’ hokey-histrionic performance of this exquisite song is the formula of homely passion which is necessary; it is not icy, classical perfection we’re after. Sigh deeply if you agree.)

12. It’s All In the Game (Tommy Edwards. It’s all in this glimpsed not quite sad perfect gem of a song.)

13. Alameda (Elliot Smith almost wallows too much in self-misery to project: “Nobody broke your heart. You broke your own cause you can’t finish what you start.”)

14. Hello In There (John Prine made a masterpiece for neglected seniors.)

15. Heart of Gold (Neil Young. It’s very hard to write a truly beautiful sad song. The slightest trace of self-pity ruins it.)

16. Saint James Hospital (Pete Seeger’s Youtube ‘video’ of this beautiful, beautiful, somber, ‘dying cowboy’ folk song has only about 3,000 views. A pity.)

17. Turandot  (Puccini. Pavarotti. Music so sweet it hurts.)

18. Lacrimosa (Mozart. The Requiem. The happy genius feeling indescribable pain.)

19. Green Fields (Brothers Four. Layers of slow, trembling, lush, melancholy. Gorgeous.)

20. Wild World (Cat Stevens. An achingly sad ‘lover leaving’ song tinged with impotent fatherly advice. )

21. Blue Velvet (Bobby Vinton sings this as schmaltzy pop–the velvety tune itself transcends its setting.)

22. My Sweet Lord (George Harrison took the most powerful secular format ever: rock music, blended it with religious feelings, in a way which still sounds like a love song: “I’d really like to know you.”)

23. Auld Lang Syne (The Bobby Burns’ tear-jerker.)

24. April Come She Will (Simon and Garfunkle. We can never get enough, it seems, of lost love and seasons. A couple of guys from Queens, New York. Maybe the best singing/songwriting team ever.)

25. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles. John Lennon had this love/hate thing with the music of Bob Dylan. Lennon was a genius who hated/loved.)

26. Space Oddity (David Bowie. Alienated by technology, a theme of this great techno-song from our modern era of passionate contradictions.)

27. The Man That Got Away (Judy Garland. Ju-dy Gar-land. Man-that-got-away. Okay?)

28. The Way We Were (Barbara Streisand. Nostalgia from one of the greatest pop divas.)

29. And The Sun Will Shine (Bee Gees. Robin Gibb. Sweet. Vaguely sorrowful. That is all.)

30. I’m Not In Love (10cc. “Big boys don’t cry.” Yes, they do.)

31. If You Go Away (Shirley Bassey best performs this Jaque Brel number of what we all fear.)

32. Dream Brother (Jeff Buckley. A superbly expressed song of beautiful primal longing.)

33. High Your Love (Donovan, from his 1996 Sutras: “Looking for you in the longing of life, and all the time, you were here by my side.” Wow. It’s rare when embarrassingly wise wisdom breaks your heart.)

34. Do You Realize?? (Flaming Lips. A sentimental song that grabs sentimentality by the throat.)

35. Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen. The nearly atonal baritone delivery manages to be a mesmerizing diversion. Anyone can sing. Anyone can make music. Anyone can cry.)

36. What Is A Youth (from Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet—also known as “A Time For Us.” This lovely song, sung as Romeo and Juliet first cavort at the home of the Capulets is a happy/sad cinematic, musical stunner)

37. Knocking On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan. Zimmerman was so sentimental he had to be tough.)

38. The Only Living Boy In New York (Simon and Garfunkel. It is about tall Art going off to an acting gig and leaving small Paul alone, who takes the sweetest revenge in it.)

39. It’s All Too Much (The Beatles from Yellow Submarine. A lesser known song, but it could be the best Beatles’ recording. A pounding, psychedelia of heart-melting sweetness from George.)

40. The Incest Song (Buffy St. Marie. There are tragic ballads galore; this one is quite good—from her 1964 It’s My Way! one of the greatest original folk albums—no, albums—ever recorded.)

41. Go Way From My Window (John Jacob Niles.  An old man’s heartbreaking voice. Bob Dylan would later use the title of this song as a lyric in his sad-but-slightly-snarling “It Ain’t Me Babe.”)

42. Lonesome Valley (Erik Darling. “You’ve got to cross that lonesome valley by yourself.” Lyrics, music, delivery. Easily one of the greatest recordings of all time.)

43. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (George Harrison’s third on this list! “They bought and sold you.” They did.)

44. Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol. “Would you lie with me and just forget the world?” Asked sadly and sweetly.)

45. Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying (Jerry and the Pacemakers. String section strains to slow down the finger-snapping beat of the sad, optimistic shimmer. “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey” is equally as good.)

46. Your Song (Elton John was a throw-back to the Tin Pan Alley days when composers and lyricists were separate people; John wrote all the music; Bernie Taupin, the lyrics: “how wonderful life is that you’re in the world.”)

47. I’ll Be Seeing You (Billie Holiday. This is perhaps the poetic trope: seeing the beloved in other things. And Holiday’s voice is one of those sad ones we love because it talks/sings.)

48. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel. Their album of the same name beat out Let It Be for the Grammy as the 60s came to an end, Art & Paul and the Beatles splitting up.)

49. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today (Judy Collins sings it from her magnificent 1966 covers album “In My Life.”)

50. It Was Sad When That Great Ship Went Down  (Honestly, we couldn’t find the definitive recording of this great, great folk song of the Titanic disaster. Probably Pete Seeger.)

51. Perfect Day (Lou Reed. Languid masterpiece from another artist with “a voice that came from you and me.”)

52. Lady Jane (The Brian Jones era Rolling Stones. Old people back in the 60s who hated noisy rock must have been taken aback when songs like this were produced.)

53. A Day in the Life (Beatles. The reflective, sad quietness of this song reflects the touring band, going in the studio, growing up.)

54. Walk On By (It can’t help but feel a little like Bacharach, David and Warwick is music as business. A perfect business. Imagine these three as unknowns, turning out hundreds of songs a year, and then the whole cache is discovered.)

55. Sarah (Scarrietmeister. We include our own singing, songwriting, and producing only to prove that Poe was right: only a good poet can be a good critic. We humbly write and record music, and that’s why we can sensitively and lovingly make these lists.)

56. Smile (The lyrics are iconic; the musical credit goes to Charlie Chaplin, who first sang it in his 1936 film, Modern Times. Which is how life works: you’re working on a movie and then a song comes to you…)

57. End of the World (Skeeter Davis asks “Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?” in one of the sweetest, simplest, and most poignant songs of all time.)

58. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me (The reggae beat, the bend-y notes, the hopeless, self-effacing melancholy required, perhaps, a Boy George, to make it happen; or was this song inevitable?)

59. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (The songwriting team of Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach wrote this for their 1933 musical. Great songs are inevitably written for something…a musical, a movie, a friend, etc)

60. Moon River (Once lyricist and Georgia native Johnny Mercer put “moon” with “river, the song probably wrote itself; he originally tried “blue river,” but found it was already taken. “Huckleberry friend” worked, too.)

61. Over the Rainbow (The best songs are simple ones: “somewhere,” became for the songwriting industry what “nevermore” was for poetry; the octave jump from some to where launched us “over the rainbow.”)

62. Good Night Irene (Leadbelly learned the song in the South from family in the beginning of the 20th century. Pete Seeger with the Weavers—before Elvis—made black music for the American masses: Billboard’s no. 1 song for 1950, the year after Leadbelly died.)

63. I Will Always Love You (Written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973 and made into a monster hit by Whitney Houston in 1992. Both times for a movie.)

64. Come All You Fair And Tender Maids (Pete Seeger sings it best. You hear a beautiful, old, neglected folk song like this and you can’t help but wonder how easily today’s pop machine could make it a “hit.”)

65. September Song (Lotte Lenya sings this sad song written by her husband, Kurt Weil)

66. You’ve Got A Friend (Carol King wrote it and James Taylor recorded it in a comforting blast of singer/songwriter bliss.)

67. Ave Maria (Schubert. Uplifting. Can the heart follow?)

68. Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Elvis Presley was a rocker, but also country western—a genre, we are aware, that is not represented well by our list. Hank Williams moans and cries, and we won’t deny the greatness of this music, but heart-wise, it often sounds too quirky or cornball to our N’eastern ears.)

69. Sheep May Safely Graze (Kirsten Flagstad does a pretty good job with this Bach cantata.)

70. The Three Ravens (Alfred Deller sings in the “sweet and high” style this ancient English ballad about a dead knight and his faithful animals.)

71. An Affair To Remember (Nat King Cole. One of the great heart-melting singers. Beautiful, sad song from the beautiful, sad film.)

72. Is That All There It Is? (Peggy Lee gets deep.)

73. The Winner Takes It All (ABBA. Is this really true?  Is there a “winner” in love? It doesn’t matter, because the song makes it true.)

74. Where Have All The Flowers Gone? (Pete Seeger’s song, fashioned from other sources in 1955. It led to Dylan’s question “How many roads must a man walk down?” and the rest is folk/rock/pop history.)

75. Those Were The Days (Mary Hopkin. Does history kill nostalgia? The Beatles produced this.)

76. My Cherie Amour (Stevie Wonder recorded it; he and two others wrote it. Sweet, sad, pop perfection.)

77. Cry Me A River (A jazz standard embracing heartbreak for two.)

78. Another Day (Paul McCartney wrote a lot of sad, clever, touching songs; he sang this one with Linda.)

79. A Day In The Life Of A Fool (Jack Jones does a solid job with this sob-fest from Brazil. Black Orpheus is the 1959 Academy Award winning film which made the song famous.)

80. It Was a Very Good Year (Songs that look back over life are usually a pretty good bet to be at least mildly heart-breaking. Frank Sinatra is the wistful deliverer in this case.)

81. Oh What Wondrous Love Is This? (A spiritual which is similar to “Amazing Grace,” and just as good.)

82. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd. Syd Barrett was their songwriter, and then, after he tragically left, the subject of their best work.)

83. I Don’t Like Mondays (Boomtown Rats. A big hit in England, Bob Geldoff wrote this song in 1979 from a news story out of San Diego, California: a 16 year old girl went on a shooting spree for no apparent reason.)

84. Hey There Delilah (Plain White Ts. Songs with girls’ names are usually a good start.)

85. Indian Summer (The Doors had a bunch of haunting little numbers like this. It is argued often that Morrison was not a “real” poet, but this group used Brecht/Weil and William Blake in their recordings. They were one of the truly poetic rock groups, far more sensitive than most.)

86. Time Of Your Life (Green Day. A breakup song that doesn’t quite sound like a breakup song—the most noble kind.)

87. La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf is the world’s favorite female French singer. This one song will have to represent the lovely French cafe tradition. Our favorite album of this type is April In Paris by Jacqueline Francois.)

88. You Are My Sunshine (First recorded in 1939; covered numerous times. Sing it to your kid.)

89. Bittersweet Symphony (The Verve. We love the video of Richard Ashcroft knocking people over in London as he lip-syncs.)

90. Viva La Vida (Cold Play. An uplifting number. The lyrics are somewhere between profound and hazy, but the song is catchy enough so one doesn’t care.)

91. It Will Rain (Bruno Mars. Perhaps the best from this visceral writer/performer. This one was co-written for a movie—“Twilight.”)

92. Careless Whisper (George Michael. Co-written with his Wham! partner when they were unknown. Sexy. Depressing. Very 80s.)

93. Come As You Are (Nirvana. Kurt Cobain generally expressed pain very well—some might feel this song is heart-breaking.)

94. Maggie May (Rod Stewart. A sad, in-love-with-an-older-woman, not-knowing-what-to-do-with-my-life song.  Doesn’t try to be a heart-breaking song, but it is.)

95. Fortunate The Man With None (Dead Can Dance. The lyrics come from a Bertolt Brecht poem.)

96. I Say A Little Prayer (Aretha Franklin sings one of the sweetest songs of all time.)

97. Nights in White Satin (Moody Blues. “Just what you want to be, you’ll be in the end” is a killer.)

98. Dear Mama (Tupac. The late rapper appreciates his mother.)

99. Everybody Hurts (R.E.M. Many songs tell stories, give advice, but not that many are written specifically to reach out and comfort.)

100. Blue (Marina and the Diamonds. Released this year; energetic and vapid, as all ‘young people’s music of today’ seems to those who are older. But it’s still about the heart.)

WE TURN OURSELVES INTO ART

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We turn ourselves into art,

Tragically, unlike what the animals do,

Who have no art, and live in nature,

As I once lived with you.

Remember, mother? In your water

I was small, and lived.

As soon as we are born, we belong to art.

All sorts of coverings begin,

And judgments and hidings

And the eye has to watch how it looks

Or it will seem, or be seen, as impolite.

The feast and the spectacle

Become a predicament,

Especially in longing and love.

Art snakes around the statue of judgement

Is a metaphor that confuses us in school

And the teacher who first tells us, “In art, there is no right answer,”

Is silly. Not really cool.

Because life, we know inside, is all about right or wrong.

You can sing, or you can’t; you love, or you hate that song

And your opinion is good—because it’s yours.

There is nothing else to say after “there is no right answer,”

Except to live the life of uptight clerks in stores.

You love me or you don’t. That’s the way it is.

You might learn a little about art. You pass—or fail—a stupid quiz.

We turn ourselves into art. That’s all we do.

And don’t you believe it, for they don’t believe it, smirking,

Delicate in their eyeliner in the airliner, when they say, I like you.

 

 

 

FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, I AM FREE AT LAST

What I once hated, I now love,

Since love conquered me

By other means than love, mysteriously,

As when the eye is forced to see

Itself in another’s eye

And succumbs to what belongs to that eye’s body.

Previously, I thought a face ugly,

And now, joyously: “why, why, why?”

I know too many things should not be thought beautiful,

Lest my judgement be destroyed—

But now I am over you, and I am overjoyed.

Yours was a superficial beauty, the kind everyone sees;

But now I love the many’s incongruities.

I love what was impossible to love before.

Love was once you. Now, it is more.

Love is focused on one person because one person is what we are,

But infinite beauty reached me from afar

Through an atmosphere that once held one star

And now holds many.

I am wealthy, for I once held one penny,

One—you—who I held as gold in my heart.

To love, I had to hate, having died by a single dart.

 

 

THE FEMININE HAS FEELINGS

The feminine has feelings
The masculine must treat more than well.
Do not let thinking
Doom you to a genderless hell.
The feminine has feelings—
The masculine should learn how deep,
Or the masculine will learn
That the masculine, too, can weep.

Since both genders are jealous,
Both genders are blind,
Believing every type of itself unkind.
“The world is unkind!” the lover cries,
Peering into the kindest eyes.

 

 

 

WHAT IS POETRY? LISTEN TO ALEXANDER POPE

Pope: No awards or degrees. Self-taught. Banned from higher education in his native England for being a Catholic. World famous.

Alexander Pope was 20 when he wrote his rhymed “An Essay on Criticism.” This single essay contains more memorable poetry quotations than the entire 20th century produced.

We want to focus on one from that essay, which might save poetry from the wretched state it is currently in:

“What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.”

In their mania for “the new,” the modern poets (who have no public) constantly strive for what has never been thought before—and no wonder the results are sometimes pleasantly odd (at best) but mostly baffling, obscure, and unreadable.

Since thought and language are profoundly linked, any random combination of words, sentences or phrases will, in theory, produce “new thought.” If only this were true! We would all be poets, and all poetry magnet kits, Shakespeare.

It is easy to illustrate, with the help of Pope’s quote, this “new thought” folly, but this does not mean this folly has not been highly seductive.

Unfortunately, bad things seduce.

The Moderns, if anyone has any doubt, are to blame. We mean those men born in the latter part of the 19th century—Pound, Eliot, and William Carlos Williams.

Who has “thought” in white spaces on the page: how “oft” has that been thought before?  If you take this question too seriously, be careful; you might have the Modernist virus—which holds the utterly baffling “new” to be more important than common sense.

Pound’s Imagism, which led to his friend, Williams’ “no ideas but in things” further points to the insanity at issue; what sort of “thought” runs about in and between “things?” Isn’t it people (like Pope) who think?

If by “things,” the Modernists meant a sort of no-nonsense materialism (da Vinci on perspective or Poe on verse) than surely they would have said so (if they could actually bring themselves to do such a thing) but they didn’t; they really did mean things: a poem that reverently mentions a wheel barrow. This is really what it was all about. Yes, it really was crazy. A Duchamp conceptualist art joke. Ha ha.

T.S. Eliot represented the “serious/educated” fake side of Modernism, the counter-weight of gravitas in the Modernist scam.

Sexless, morbid Eliot—who hated Shelley—was like the sexless Ruskin and his “pre-Raphaelite” movement—eclectically raising certain art moments far above others: champion the Middle Ages at the expense of Raphael and the Renaissance: Ruskin—who famously and publicly attacked the great American poet, Whistler.

Eliot, when he was not whimpering about the end of his beloved British Empire in “The Waste Land,” theorized that Milton and the Romantics were saddled with a “dissociation of sensibility,” unlike the “Metaphysical poets.” It was actually taken seriously in some circles that Byron, Shelley, and Keats lacked fusion of thought and feeling, while Donne did not. Taking nonsense like this seriously was just what the Modernists did. Eliot attacked “Hamlet” and the work of Poe, for good measure. Modernism had to kill certain things before it, so it, itself, could be taken seriously. This is what it means to be “new” and “modern,” and Anglo-American, and teach in college.

The New Critics, the American ‘T.S. Eliot’ wing of Modernism, with their stern, tweedy advice that a poem was not something which could be “paraphrased,” was another weapon against “what oft was thought.”

Imagine the horror. Thousands and thousands of poets writing poems that cannot be paraphrased.

What could be paraphrased was too close to Pope’s “thought,” and the whole era of Pope and his Romantic Poet admirers had to be done away with: John Crowe Ransom (b. 1888) advised that we can’t write like Byron anymore, and the influential New Critic textbook, “Understanding Poetry,” held up as models little poems by Williams and Pound (on “things” and nothing else) and featured an attack by the Anglo-American Aldous Huxley against America’s Shakespeare, Edgar Poe.

Not only does casting aside “what has oft been thought,” cripple accessibility and thought, it also damages expression—since it leaves the poet nothing to express, a problem solved by Ashbery (given the Yale Younger by Auden, an Anglo-American friend of Eliot’s).  Ashbery—praised by the Poe-hating Harold Bloom and other academics—and his brand of refrigerator magnet poetry, is the natural result of the whole process, the decline which started when Modernism kidnapped the arts in the early 20th century—a decline from common sense to mystical snobbery.

Pope’s point: Expression should be new, not thought. This is poetry: new expression, not new thought.

The modern poet has been seduced by the idea that “If I don’t come up with new thoughts, I must be stupid!!”

But this idea is stupid.

Because here’s the secret: it really has all been thought before, and the most interesting thought is what has been running through the thoughts of everyone for centuries: you, as one poet, can’t compete with that. So don’t even try.

Don’t wreck yourself on expression trying to come up with original thoughts.

Original thoughts, which are truly that, are actual ideas which no one has ever entertained before. If one should be so fortunate to come up with one of these—if one is supremely lucky and fated to win the ‘idea lottery,’ why would one ever think that a ‘winning ticket’ like this should be inserted into a poem?  (Those things nobody reads anymore.)

Of course the reply might be: but according to you, Pope did, and you are spending this essay of yours defending Pope.

But Pope belongs to history, and here is where the picture of our essay gains its third dimension. We have spoken of 1) thought, 2) its expression—and the third, which is: ‘what has gone before,’ Pope’s “what oft was thought.”

We must assume that Pope’s advice—his thought—was “thought before”—Pope’s very idea, expressed in 1712, that what poetry really is, is whatever has been previously thought but now expressed in such a way that—what?

Had been thought before, but Pope crystallized it with his expression.

The message is this. Be humble, as the speaker for your tribe: take their thoughts and express them so that the thought is transmitted in the most efficient manner possible. Here is the essence of invention and beauty, for beauty, by definition, is that which expresses what it is immediately, and invention, in all cases, is nothing but that which takes our wants and brings them to us in less time. Beauty and invention do not create the wants, they serve them. Likewise, the poet does not create thoughts, but merely serves them.

A poem, as directly opposed to what the New Critics said, is not only that which can be paraphrased, but that which travels in that direction to an extreme degree.

Pope was—is—a crucial historical marker, and his “Essay” could not help but influence poetry that came after—not in the fake way that Modernism tried to usher in change and influence, with its influence of the thoughtless new for its own sake, sans want and sans beauty—for Pope had expressed a thought in such a way that gave that thought new currency, new force, new appreciation, for the sake of generations coming after, who need to understand anew the delicate ideas that fade away in utilitarian light.

There is a war, as Plato said, between philosophy and poetry, what is matter-of-factly good for the state and what is ecstatically good for the individual—“clean your room” (public projects) on one hand, and “what are you doing in your room?” (private desires) on the other—and this conflict is timeless, and its resolution is the secret of all human activity that can be called policy or art.

Pope’s admonition for poetry: “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed,” is precisely a blockbuster quotation because of its efficiency in resolving the philosophy/poetry conflict for the good of humankind; poetry can err in one of two basic ways: it can be too didactic in a public-minded manner, or too creepily and anti-socially private (obscure). Poetry, because of what it is, must err in one direction or the other, always attempting and failing at a happy medium; Pope erred, as a poet, towards the didactic, and Poe and the Romantics were a correction in the other direction. Yet the greatness of Pope’s formula remains—a Platonic ideal, feeding with its ideality poets of all kinds, as they move with their poetry towards public/private gratification.

Modernism’s “progress” is merely a Shadow Movement, moving in a faulty direction, downwards, backwards, a mere reaction to the True Progress of Great Poetry—which expresses beautifully what we all in our hearts know.

POETRY AND LIFE

Educated poetry and ignorant life
Can never touch:
Poetry is learned in the schools;
Life is an embarrassing love reserved for fools.

Husband and wife cannot love each other too much:
The child must come first:
Before life does its worst,
Put the child in school.

Brats all in a row;
Give their passionate minds a tool,
A computer: to fight the foe,
Ignorance—another name for wandering life.

I write poems in a school on a computer for my co-worker wife.

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