SEX VERSUS NOSTALGIA

Nostalgia needs time,

People and a place—the proximity

Of her to the inlets and bays

And the trains that shoot past,

The cavernous central station

Where we bought coffee among crowds,

The inlets and bays where I live,

She, close by, a literary wife,

An inlet away, far enough to miss,

Sweetly taking over my life.

This went on for years,

Until she insulted me—I was weeping—

And I’m not a man for tears.

Sex belongs to something different,

Things hidden; the sex parts do not see

Visible things which breed nostalgia,

The scenery we know. In the dark

We clutch intimacy. Sex

Is not the same thing as sitting in the park.

Nostalgia is the bitter secret. Nostalgia. That’s why

Love happens. The memory of the mind’s eye

Knew it among the hills immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

POETRY ADVICE

Every one of my poems—if you want to know the secret

Of my poems—is a form of poetry advice—

Even if the poem seems to be about something else; seriously, this is it.

This might seem incredibly pedantic and narrow—

Poems are understood broadly in terms of worldly happiness or sorrow.

Poetry advice?  Am I crazy?

I’m not. Neither am I lazy.

Think for a minute. What else should poetry be?

What is all of cooking? A recipe.

What is a republic?  If society should be nice,

It might use Plato’s Republic as advice.

Are you beginning to see? Advice

Is not just rhetoric’s highest purpose.

It is the highest consciousness of what we can do.

That’s why my poetry speaks so forcefully to you,

Even as my poetry doesn’t know

Anything in a pedantic sense the world must normally know.

And so poetry as advice (all things need advice) should be directed

To the poetry, and from itself, the poetry.

Why do you think, despite the fact I’m a poet,

I’m happy, and respected, and free?

 

THE FEELING I GET WHEN I SIT NEXT TO YOU

Image result for cafe in modern painting

Whenever I’m in my favorite café

The lonely writer will often sit

Beside me, some older guy

With a laptop working on shit.

The lonely woman doesn’t exist.

No matter what, she has an air

Of ghosts, of questions, surrounding her right there.

The miserable guy doesn’t interest me.

The lonely woman is a beautiful mystery.

Friends? They laugh. Loud in their talk.

Tourists are awed, quiet. Ready to walk.

Families?  Adults controlling children.

Couples are the strangest thing to come in;

Always a slightly embarrassed intensity,

The quiet chaos of trying to write poetry.

I realized today exactly what it is

That makes couples intense. To have a kid

Takes seconds; years to sort out what you cannot do, or will not do, or did.

 

 

 

I AM LAZY AND I DON’T CARE

Image result for impressionist jungle painting

I am lazy and I don’t care.

You work, but I’m beyond that place

And see the uselessness of getting there.

The best words are the long words,

The words that are better than sentences, and express

How I say “no,” and inspire your “yes,”

So you want to try it and you go

Into the wilderness, but I already know

The intelligence of the wilderness that betrays

The circular evenings with the shadowy days.

I have seen

Myself loving you in the green,

By the shadow of our national bird,

About to fly,

Which resembles my favorite word.

I am so smart, I know

That precision has such a scale

It dwarfs us all, who are trying.

My smart is my lazy. I’m not buying.

I already see

I love you way too much.

And this will not end well for me.

There are such differences,

And these differences themselves

Are the pieces with which the universe is made.

You long for shadow, because you have long been in the sun.

I have the sun. And the milk, and the shade.

 

 

 

THE OBLIGATION OF YOUR VACATION

Image result for weeping willow in the sun in painting

Don’t count the days until it ends.

Don’t, in your leisure, sink into news stories,

Especially the murderous, insane ones.

Don’t form new routines. Be new.

Let your vacation be about you.

Don’t take a vacation from your vacation,

Even for a minute or two.

Caption your photos cleverly

Even as you take them randomly.

Allow your family to rediscover you.

Everyone is on some form of vacation

All the time, remember that.

If you argue, be in favor of the nation.

Get sun. Never buy a new hat.

A vacation requires stamina,

Whether in Connecticut, New Rochelle, or Panama.

Walk for miles, so you sleep well at night.

Don’t reminisce by a willow

Unless it’s day, and very bright.

A vacation is about one thing: what’s around the bend—

A different face, a different pillow.

Write this poem at the beginning of your vacation,

Not at the end.

 

 

 

 

“DAMN TRUTH AND LOOK ON BEAUTY TILL IT BEGINS TO HURT”

Anand Thakore, poet and musician

Whenever poetry is discussed, the smartest person in the room (or on social media) inevitably defines poetry as a linguistic construction—meant merely to please.

The greatest enemy of poetry?  Prose meaning which can be paraphrased.

Auden said it: In poetry, the desire to “fiddle around with words” is more important than “having something to say.”

This was the message of I.A. Richards and the New Critics—who were more influential than anyone realizes, especially among the learned and the influential.

Drain your poems of “truth.” Any traces of learning? Put them in footnotes at the end. T.S. Eliot, a New Critic, finally, did this with his most famous poem.

Indian poet Anand Thakore on Facebook recently: “the only way to learn how to read poetry is to damn truth and look on beauty till it begins to hurt”

Some would say this puts too much burden on poetry to be beautiful; it narrows poetry, inhibits it, cutting off poetry from verbal expression, which is the core of what poetry is. Poe was accused of being too “narrow” by American critics, especially by those who preferred Whitman.

But as Thakore goes on to say: “…pure truth-talk has other forms of discourse better suited…much neo-classical 18th century verse  fails… because poetry gets reduced to desperately ‘neat’ encapsulation of truth and deprived of it’s essential function.”

Thakore’s point is that it takes an even greater confidence in poetry’s verbal expression to believe it can succeed without the “neat encapsulation” of “pure truth-talk”—better suited to prose—as poetry defines itself as a unique (and valuable) genre in itself.

Thakore nicely encapsulates the New Critical philosophy: Poetry isn’t truth, but (and here Thakore quotes I.A. Richards) “pseudo-statements of musical, linguistic and emotive power.”

But here’s the rub. To really make his point, Thakore was forced to walk back the Keatsian equation of Beauty and Truth—according to Thakore, what Keats said wasn’t really “true.”

Sujatha Mathai wasn’t buying Thakore’s distinction, jumping in to defend poetic or ecstatic truth: “I feel truth is in the sense of a state of BEING. If I am moved to ecstasy by a wonderful sunset, I can feel Beauty is Truth. And that is all I need to know.”

One can read this to mean that a sunset is like a philosophical truth—or a poem; neither imply practicality or self-interest.

Philosophical wisdom, ecstatic moments, sunsets, and poetry have no practical merit in and of themselves.

The “ecstatic” position Mathal expressed is a humbler one than the New Critics. Those who argue for ‘ecstasy as a state of being’ may not be conscious of it, but what they are really expressing is the following:

It isn’t that Keats is saying “beauty is as important as truth!” but rather, “Truth? Meh. It merely pleases us as beauty does.”

When we state Keats’ formula in this more modest way, it is not sublime-sounding; it’s almost flat out disrespectful. Comparing sunsets to philosophical truths can have no other conclusion but this modest one: truth is (only!) beauty.

Thakore (the smartest one in the room) started the ball rolling with the New Critic I. A. Richards. Here is Thakore in his own words on Keats’ famous formula:

“Keats’ famous concluding lines ‘truth’s beauty/beauty truth’…comprise an ecstatic pseudo-statement that is of value not because it is ‘true’ but because it is beautifully constructed and acheives a balance between two paradigms—the aesthetic and the epistemological—in a way hitherto unthought of in verse.”

This doesn’t sound disrespectful, even as it says the same thing: the truth expressed by Keats isn’t worth a feather, or, a pretty feather is all it is. Using the word “epistemological” feels the same as when Mathai uses “BEING.” It refers to a broad view, that’s all; the equivalent of “we have room to talk about this later.” But the diminishment of the Poetry as Truth formula in every sense remains.

Mandakini Pachauri (this is all from the same FB discussion) quoted Dickinson’s “I Died For Beauty,” one who died for truth and one who died for beauty in the tomb finally covered in moss, but Thakore wasn’t impressed:

“It’s just a mundane reworking of the Keatsian paradigm.”

Dickinson, in Thakore’s view, violated the poetic rule: making truth (an established “paradigm”) the center of a poem. Truth and Beauty walked into a bar…

Here is Scarriet’s response to the conundrum of truth and beauty in poetry:

Truth directs our actions in the most ironic fashion possible. Truth questions our senses by directing our senses. Facts are mundane. Truth, which uses facts, is profound. Poetry follows truth’s path from the mundane to the profound. Remember this was Wordsworth’s formula expressed in the Preface to Literary Ballads: poetry takes the plain and makes it remarkable. Recall also this was Wordsworth’s poetical mission—his colleague, the more supernatural Coleridge, was ascribed the reverse: going from the remarkable to the plain. The path is what is important, not the direction; and the poetic path is the same as the truth’s. But this doesn’t mean what poetry says, or the things on the path, are true. 

Neither the Romantics nor Scarriet disagree with Thakore so far.

But back to truth. To put it more simply: Truth is when you realize your prison is a palace or your palace is a prison. A poem is a prison striving to be a palace.

Ode On a Grecian Urn: “Bold lover, never never canst thou kiss (Prison)…”ever will thou love and she be fair!” (Palace)

Truth is always a flash of insight, more connected to ecstasy than we realize. Beauty is slower and slowly fades.

Truth is so quick, it belongs to eternity.

How a poem is constructed—to which Thakore gives priority—is this truthful, or beautiful? The construction may be beautiful, but the “how” definitely belongs to truth.

Let us make the following supposition:

If you believe Truth and Beauty are different, you will be all the more moved by the speaking out of the phrase at the end of Keats’ poem. The anguish is what moves us, not the truth.

And if, instead, we believed Truth and Beauty were the same before we read Keats’ poem, we would also be moved by the ending of Keats’ poem.

Why?

How can a truthful disagreement have zero effect on how much we are moved by Keats’ utterance at the end of his poem?

In the second instance our ego would be moved—‘the stupid world thinks they are different, but Keats the poet agrees with me!’

This proves what Anand Thakore is saying. The construction of the poem is the “truth;” there is no truth, per se. Had the ‘truth/beauty’ phrase been at the beginning of the poem, phrase and poem would have failed.

And yet, if the critical approach we take to Keats’ poem is true, does it not indicate that truth matters in poetry?

Poetry is an antidote to crude, ephemeral, or mistaken feeling, not an indulgence in it.

How do we escape feeling, but through truth?

Thakore also implicitly favored truth over beauty with his “hitherto” remark. Originality is a factor in poetry’s value, and the fact of originality belongs to truth, not beauty. Poe famously argued that originality was crucial in judging poetry.

Truth, not beauty, is what the highest poetry attains. Beauty is a secret joke in the formula, for beauty is secondary to truth; beauty is what fools us. Truth, however, is not such a fool as to not see the value of the foolish. Truth reveals the palace as a prison, or the prison as a palace—and what this means is that the beautiful is not definite; beauty is the variable in the equation. The poem’s construction is definite. The law of how a poem is ideally ordered or constructed is a tangible truth in itself. Beauty is a disease to truth’s health. We love a disease, however, to cure ourselves of it. Poetry fools us into understanding beauty as its truth. And this is beautiful.

 

THE EYES MAKE DECISIONS

The eyes make decisions.

The sleepy brain feels

The eyes are too quick to judge—

Doubting the eyes can know about love.

The eyes wait on arms and lips to bless

What they love. How cruelly the eyes said yes,

Thinks the brain. The eyes said yes,

But the brain is not ready for that certainty—

Half-asleep, the brain writes poetry.

Enter the ears.

They agree with the eyes! This is what the brain fears.

The ears today received soft sounds

Penetrating the soft air.

The ears live where thought pounds

Violently on a typewriter,

The sound of predators in water,

The poetry seeing what is not there.

The eyes reinforce the thought that seeing

In poetry, is brain and ears agreeing,

Until the brain: “O God! Is that you?”

But I cry: “I don’t feel I love her.”

The eyes: “But of course you do.”

The sleepy brain remains suspicious,

Even as I cover my love in kisses.

Eyes and ears struck a deal.

She and I thought the poem was real.

My brain drifts in sleep, doubting

Life is cruel, that behind a door, our voices, shouting.

 

 

DELMORE SCHWARTZ AND THE MODERN COMPLAINT

Image result for delmore schwartz

The peculiar error of the modern poets—an error so obvious as to escape attention—was the continual investigation of what it meant to be modern, a term by which these 20th century poets (our grandparents and great grandparents) felt they were somehow novel and special. If thinking about poetry has anything to do with writing it, the modern poets were the first poets forced to be something else (modern) first, and poets second.

The previous movement—Romanticism—was so named by later critics; the Romantic poets, as critically-minded as any aesthetic clique, never thought of themselves as “Romantic” poets. They wrote poetry. Modern poetry, it must have been, when they were alive.  Wordsworth, one of the so-called Romantic poets, and as different in sensibility from another Romantic poet, Byron, as one poet next to another can possibly be, was no revolutionary. Wordsworth strove to write like Milton—just less religiously; there was no “break” at all, in terms of the poetry. A poem was a poem, just as a sword was a sword, or a feeling was a feeling. Wordsworth may have felt he was writing closer to how regular folk talk—but looking back we now know that was just something his criticism said.

One will, of course, find critics who insist Wordsworth was a “break,” (Byron would have said Wordsworth—whom the author of “Don Juan” took delight in ridiculing—was “broken”) but these critics will be found to be the same ones who believe the “modern” describes poetry, if only to conveniently map out eras as a means of filling up teaching hours in the classroom, and helping their charges remember what they are studying in rough historical terms. Victorian poets wrote when Queen Victoria was on the throne. Modern poets wrote during the reign of some other queen. And so on. But we “moderns” know (because we are “modern?”) that “modern” means much more than that. It is so ripe with meaning that modern poets are only secondarily poets—in the sense that all poets who came before them were.

I don’t think one can ever go wrong as a poet to think deeply about what it means to be a poet; the modern, however—what is it?

Here’s Randall Jarrell in The Nation in 1942:

What has impressed everybody about modernist poetry is its differentness. The familiar and rather touching “I like poetry—but not modern poetry” is only another way of noticing what almost all criticism has emphasized: that modernist poetry is a revolutionary departure from the romantic poetry of the preceding century.

In his essay, “Poets Without Laurels,” (1938) John Crowe Ransom writes, “Modern poetry is pure poetry.” Just as the isolated skill of “statecraft” has replaced state and religion blended into one, poetry is no longer epic, religious, sweeping, but small, aesthetic, specialized. Just as Puritanism isolates morality from the old pomp of the Catholic Church and seals it up in the devotee’s heart, modern poetry isolates, as a special value, pure aesthetics from morality and everything else.

Robert Penn Warren in his lecture at Princeton in 1942, “Pure and Impure Poetry” wrestled with Ransom’s idea of modern poetry as “pure.” Context, for Warren, keeps interfering with purity, in the same way excess of feeling naturally brings on mockery—Ransom’s “purity” has porous borders; Eliot’s “objective correlative” demands Shelley’s love admit a desire for sex (loosely speaking); in order for the sex to remain hidden, however, poetry must be obscure; and so Modernist obscurity ascends the throne; Shelley and Poe’s poetry excludes the unpleasant, the ugly, the immoral; modern poetry, in its attempt to break with Romanticism (including Dryden, Milton, and Shakespeare) includes these things, includes the vulgar, includes whatever was once aesthetically left out. In order for the modern contradiction of inclusive, lyric “purity” to work, however, obscurity is required, unless one is prepared to advance past Shelley by introducing sex into one’s poems, which the Moderns were not willing to do.

Eliot, in “Hamlet and his Problems” calls Hamlet a failure because Hamlet’s “disgust” with his mother (she is having sex with his uncle) isn’t handled properly.

I began this essay by referring to the modern poets’ “error,” unnoticed due to its obvious nature; and here it is.

The attachment of “modern” to poetry obscures and distracts from the poetry—in the very same manner that obscurity itself is the chief problem of modernist poetry (Jarrell’s “I like poetry—but not modern poetry” self-consciously expresses this public distaste).

And why is modern poetry obscure?

Ransom’s modernist, art for art’s sake, division of labor, puritanical evolution in the direction of “purity” ran headlong into Poe’s narrow and practical definition—the inevitable, self-conscious, progressive, boiling down of the essential nature of the poem as Critical object in Lord Bacon’s laboratory.

Trapped by the exclusionary nature of the pure lyric poem, which had been freed from its old epic duties as historian and moral story teller, the Romantic lyric is the inescapable reality facing the “revolutionary” Modern.

In the early 20th century, a desperate gambit followed—make the uneasy purity of the modern lyric a product which includes, rather than excludes, all things which are not poetic, or beautiful, or traditionally aesthetic.

But to arrive at purity by including all sorts of things is impossible. Therefore exclusion had to be practiced (the soul of all art is exclusion) in such a way as to somehow pretend inclusion (sex accompanying love, disgust accompanying restraint, confusion accompanying focus, laughter accompanying sorrow) and you have the modern poets practicing something impossible to pull off, with obscurity the natural result.  This was, and is, modern poetry.

To be lyric, clear, Romantic, beautiful is to go back. Modern meant forward, out of the trenches of Poe, into the arms of everything—which, by its inclusive nature, ruins pure poetry, the old pure poetry which excludes.

Like the beautiful English poets, who almost to a man, ran headlong into the Great War of 1914, poetry, in the same historical instant, ran into the arms of insanity, busyness, mockery, excess, obscurity, unease, the mundane, pain, ugliness, and death.

We arrive now at Delmore Schwartz and his essay “The Isolation of Modern Poetry.”

In his essay, published in John Crowe Ransom’s Kenyon Review in 1941, Schwartz is certain that the poet is isolated from modern society. Not because, as T.S. Eliot says, modern society is complex and therefore modern poetry needs to be complex, and therefore difficult, and therefore the modern poet is likely to be misunderstood—Schwartz finds this relationship “superficial.”

Mr. Eliot is seldom superficial in any regard; here, however, I think he is identifying the surface of our civilization with the surface of our poetry. But the complexity of modern life, the disorder of the traffic on a business street or the variety of reference in the daily newspaper is far from being the same thing as the difficulties of syntax, tone, diction, metaphor, and allusion which face the reader in the modern poem.

If only Delmore had spent the entire essay confuting Mr. Eliot!  His essay might have unlocked many anti-Modernist insights.  Those who hate Eliot for vague reasons—too English, too Anglican, too stuffy—are wrong, but those who find Eliot invincible in his judgments are dangerously wrong. Good to see Delmore wasn’t afraid of taking on the master.

But Schwartz goes on to say a similar thing: modern society doesn’t care for poetry; the poet’s isolation, therefore, is extreme.  Schwartz doesn’t blame people, but society.  Bankers and insurance salesmen cannot like poetry—the way they make their living prohibits it.

The fundamental isolation of the modern poet began not with the poet and his way of life; but rather with the whole way of life of modern society. It was not so much the poet as it was poetry, culture, sensibility, imagination, that were isolated.

After rebuking Eliot, Schwartz goes on for the rest of the essay to entirely agree with him.  Poetry, as Schwartz points out, is not the same as a busy street. Eliot is too blase, is what Schwartz is saying. Complex life, complex poetry. But Schwartz sees a much deeper problem. The complexity of modern life does not provide new material for the poet (Eliot’s rather optimistic view) but rather obliterates all connections between ordinary people caught up in that complexity and the poet who wishes to communicate with those modern readers. According to Schwartz:

There have been unsuccessful efforts on the part of able poets to write about bankers and about railroad trains, and in such examples the poet has been confronted by what seems on the surface a technical problem, the extraordinary difficulty of employing poetic diction, meter, language, and metaphor in the contexts of modern life.

Delmore then gives us the example of Wallace Stevens:

At the conclusion of his reading of his own poetry, this poet and business man remarked to one of the instructors who had welcomed him: “I wonder what the boys at the office would think of this.”

But this seems as superficial as T.S Eliot’s point about modern life forcing the modern poet to be “difficult.”  Why do we assume “the boys in the office” cannot like poetry?

Modern life impacts all persons—and a poet is a person. No matter how different life or society has become, the poet experiences society in the same ocean of experience as everyone else, no matter what kind of “poet” he is; for the materials the poet uses is under discussion when we talk about banks and trains.  The poet of ancient Greece, or the poet of any society at any point in history, has a duty to speak to other members of society—otherwise what kind of poet is he?  If he chooses to write about banks and trains, or not, he still will be understood as a poet—for when he rebuked TS Eliot, this was exactly his point—poetry is not the same as banks and trains.

Schwartz is saying modern life is far more than a busy street.  It is far worse.  Modern life is not merely more complex.  It kills the soul, is really what Schwartz is saying.  But unfortunately, this is nothing but hyperbole.  The soul is forever doing battle with life—modern or not.

If the whole of society has succumbed to the not-poetic, then society is isolated from itself, and everyone is afflicted, not just the poet.

Either the poet’s modern audience is similarly affected, or not.

If not, the poet needs to bridge the gap—with poetry—that’s what poets do and why we call it poetry. (And write anguished essays about how poetry has flown and the poet is isolated.) In ancient times, or now.

And if the poet’s audience is similarly afflicted, then wherefore the “isolation?”

Is it because most of society finds insurance firms attractive and the poet does not? Of course not; we must assume a thread of humanity connecting poet and audience re: the non-poetic aspect of insurance firms. No one finds insurance firms attractive.

Schwartz also brings up money. Insurance firms make money and poetry does not, and therefore the poet is ashamed, of no worth, pitied, and therefore isolated, by society. But imagine if Keats were born to a fortune. He would not be Keats. Poetry is so valuable—as to be like money in the fortune it bestows upon its worshipers, but it is not money—does not belong to exchange—otherwise it would not be wealthy in what it is: poetry, which is not, but which rivals, the good fortune of money. What Schwartz is doing is feeling sorry for himself, and using society (which isolates him, the poet) as the excuse—and the transferring of the self-pity (in a Marxist sort of way) into a philosophy, which, in the long run, only makes the individual feel worse, because the self-pity grows in an abstract (disguised) manner.

Therefore, the “difficulty,” or the “famous obscurity” of modern poetry, as Schwartz calls it, is because the modern poet writes not from a common place shared by modern society (banks, insurance firms) but from the poet’s own peculiar, eccentric, isolated self, pushed into a corner by the massively complex (agreeing with Eliot more than he realizes) and non-poetic aspects of modern life.

Again, however: if the society lacks poetry (hasn’t it always?) it follows that poetry must be dearly desired in every quarter.

Poetry, we must assume, is good, is happiness, (since isolating it is bad) and happiness is what modern society lacks (surely the poet doesn’t wish misery on anyone in the name of poetry). The insurance salesman, lacking poetry, needs it, and no amount of enforced, self-pitying, isolationism will possibly be able to provide poetry to the insurance salesman.

Either poetry is being stamped out, and therefore is more necessary than ever, or modern society is inventing different means of delivering poetry without poets themselves being necessary (at least not the self-defeating, bad poets).

In order to prove that the poet was once fully integrated into society, Schwartz provides a few dubious examples: the ancient drama “festivals” which were the talk of the ancient town. But surely this was the ancient equivalent of Hollywood, not poetry in the modern sense. And who thinks of “festivals” as steady poetry employment which earns a living, anyway?

He claims “the Bible” was once the common picture for society at large, until it was eclipsed in the 18th and the 19th centuries by science and Darwin. But shouldn’t this be good news for the poets, who get a chance to replace the priests?

He mentions Blake as one of the first modern rebels, ushering in the new “obscurity” of poetry no longer able to rely on the Bible. But what could be less obscure than the “Tyger” or “Songs of Innocence?”

Schwartz then comes to Baudelaire, the poet who espouses the poetry of clouds, art for art’s sake, the modern poet refusing to write of heroic or “respectable” things, an orphan, cut off from family and all things universal, since with the fall of the Bible, follows the fall of Man. But here Delmore is applying rope to the “helpless” poet—when we know it is precisely poetry which unties all ropes.

Delmore thinks poetry isn’t free, since he applies “modern” to both society and poetry.

But this is a knot easily broken by anyone not ready to embrace the self-pity which insists “modernity” is finally the fate of every poet who ever lived.

EVERYONE LOOKS NORMAL

Image result for a rose with a face

Everyone looks normal, except me.

Why don’t I look normal to the same degree?

To look normal, I have to stare at myself for hours.

Do I look the same as the other flowers?

There are many flowers. But I fear I don’t.

Or—is it that I don’t want to—so I won’t?

The roses will be picked and gathered; but the one I chose

Was the dream of the best rose—

I looked into my heart and saw

This rose was the strangest—it had no flaw.

I studied her rose for hours.

This study gave me more pleasure than the other flowers.

When I looked, I could not

Understand what I could love, and what I could not.

All I wanted was to look

At her, in nature, in a dream, or in a book.

It wasn’t that I found her prettier than the rest.

Her beauty imparted itself to my soul the best.

Pleasure, and pleasure alone, teaches us what is beautiful.

Ask me to look at her, again, and I will.

I don’t want my face to be normal.

But the normal is all I usually see.

Normal can be seen objectively,

But that’s not what I’m saying here.

If I am normal, that’s what I fear.

Everyone looks different, but normal, and that’s why

I love her. I was thinking about her today and started to cry.

I love her, but I don’t see her in any of the other flowers.

In order for her to seem normal, I have to stare at her for hours.

MATHEMATICIANS ARE BEAUTIFUL

Mathematicians are beautiful.

They don’t care about you guys.

They surprise the surprise.

Mathematics is a thing,

A thing seen, a thing made into things,

As well as the structure of your eyes.

Mathematics is an architecture that sings

And is wiser than your wise.

The ceiling of the poet was a misty dome—

Formulas roamed the evening.

The answer is going home.

You make a list to support your

Opinions. You stupid bore.

Each of your items proves

The infinite doesn’t love

The false infinite anymore.

USEFUL ARE THESE FIELDS

Image result for moon over hay fields black and white photo

Useful are these fields,

Useless that moon.

Put the hay in the barn!

The winter comes soon.

The fields will lie under snow,

But the moon will look the same.

Useful things suffer the shocks

Of time. Time even brutalizes clocks.

But the useless! Poetry! Your beautiful name!

I loved your name, only because

It was useless—until I realized how useful it was.

 

 

THE BEST SINGING

Image result for water in renaissance painting

The best singing belongs

To songs no one sings.

I didn’t hear voices for days.

What she said, I put to the side.

I need to select what stays.

Great wholes in the fabric

Of life, those forgotten days.

Long, forced politeness. Static.

Something was wrong.

The train was going the wrong way.

I heard a sad, mocking song,

I saw the detour and the delay,

Hulking ruins, boredom, secrecy;

I wanted no more of the human race,

Jewelry, legs, makeup on the face;

Frankly, I didn’t care.

Music as water. Mozart.

Piano Concerto 18 is more beautiful and more rare.

Please come here. Look here.

God is here. God is here. Not out there.

 

I BETTER LOVE YOU

Image result for driving at night in the rain

When we think too much

We lose the love we just want to touch—

And presently, material things and gold

Will turn love into what we cannot hold.

What is love? When I thought a lot about this

I planned on how to get nearer for a kiss,

But when I thought about what I was actually kissing,

I don’t know, something was missing.

If she’s beautiful—but short—

I pause, and I think: maybe I won’t.

But if she’s beautiful and also tall, I don’t.

I don’t think. But everything makes us pause—

This is good for love, but unfortunately the laws

Of desire, even those which make us gasp—

Change when love is in our grasp.

Thoughts in love, which succeed,

Diminish the love as they diminish the need.

Of course failure from beginning to end

Is love that can’t even pretend

To be love; it is the partially successful

Which tortures the polite lover’s will

And turns us into a poet at last;

Doubting love today, I write about a past

Love, which, I feel, was too conditional.

Love should have been better—but I was ill,

With a variety of intellectual complaints.

Here are my words: She loves one who paints.

He makes her look good.

As for her? I understood

Exactly every particle which flew

Directly out of her into me. I better love you.

 

 

 

 

THE ONE I LOVED BEFORE YOU

Image result for ghost ship in Romantic painting

The one I loved before you

I could not understand.

She was the dry sea.

But I love you. The soaked land.

When I first saw her, the skeleton which moves

And how it moves, was the first thing I loved,

Not the flesh which all flesh loves.

I saw what mimes the flesh is the deft skeleton that moves.

I loved in her what mimes what loves.

I do not love her, but what she moves.

Admittedly, I still see

In my mind’s eye how she moves.

She captured my eye—

And everything else—which must die.

My poems will blow over the empty sea

Of her sometimes, so please pardon me.

I describe her as the premonition of you,

As your precursor,

Though I did not dream that would be her

When her heart sailed into my heart.

A gaudy ship. I succumbed to her grand art,

Her modest thickness,

But most of all, her sickness.

I was cured by both the actual and the fake.

The mist which fell when it hit the lake.

I had no idea that you

Would exist. And take

Her existence, too.

You understand the skeleton that moves—

Moves, and mimes all flesh that loves.

I swore she would keep going on.

But you’ll be, when everything else that loves is gone.

 

A POEM INSPIRED BY BEETHOVEN’S LAST TESTAMENT

Image result for the art of perspective in renaissance painting

When the artistic invades the non-artistic, which it always does,

(Cathedral scenes inevitably have circling pigeons and doves)

Creating metaphors in the mind of a love which failed—

(We know philosophy flies free when desire is jailed)

We know that virtue and suffering accompany success,

And the more secretly and patiently the victim suffers, the better,

And therefore I want to say that Beethoven’s malady,

Which caused him, in despair and humiliation, to avoid human company

(Your companion hears a distant bell and you do not)

Is exactly like the painter who adds detail to things far away,

When we know that, in reality, in distance less details are seen—

In reality my experience of you is the same. My poetry and dreams,

Which you occupy, are distant even from distance, since they are dreams,

But you are known more in them, than when I see you these days on the street,

And you, from the secret malady of our lost love, avoid me.

I see less, when I see you. I cannot even see when I see, when we nearly meet.

 

 

 

 

 

THE GIANT SHY EGO

Give me a sign.
Rosalinda, are you definitely mine?
I will wait all day,
So take your time.
But definitely say:
Definitely mine.

The world is a point,
In the middle of a line,
I made a point with a black pen fine.
The point must be (what if you decline?)
Definitely Rosalinda is mine.

There will be a day,
Darker than the rest,
In which a sight, spied,
Glimpsed for a moment,
A vision spotted between bare oak and pine,
Regains our complicity; the vision: hulking you in a wide
Wood telling me you are definitely mine.

Rosalinda! the moon’s slow, unfolding line—
Orbit invisible! Untouchable, the ending, white.
Look, among the tops of the trees,
Like a Renaissance painting, the moon leaves.
Oh, Renaissance sight.

In a bright space, which shadows define,
Where her shadows define my shadows,
Defining more shadows,
Where leaf and leaflet curiously intertwine,
Time agrees with the mole on the hill,
The window sill. And I told her this is definitely mine.

 

TELL US WHAT HE TOLD YOU

Poetry! Tell us what the famous poet told you!

He told me he loved her as a poet,

That he knew no other way.

He sacrificed his language,

And all common affections, to poetry,

But he was stricken with the knowledge

Poetry was false; it resembled a play,

But a play without a stage, or beauty.

How can dumb illusion make reality stay?

Illusion becomes its own end;

Gaining poetry, we lose the human friend.

We are many things, he said; even poetry,

To a devotee like myself, only a part

Of life; I knew her above and beneath the art.

The art, the act, the expertise, the gestures,

Fuses in opposition to what belittles us,

And accuses us, and ages us, with its stain—

But we oppose it all in vain.

In love, we confuse solemnity

Of thought with sweetly sensual Aphrodite.

Sacred love mocks our appetites.

When we drink with Israelites,

Suspicion raises the glasses high.

After gaudy, intellectual nights,

We stumble on our positions and die.

Love turns to lust in the public square.

All is bad—everything we thought was fair.

Our passion crawls into passion’s bowl—

A bowl spilled, easily, by a spiteful or a careless hand.

Poetry cannot cure the fatal day—

No matter what we say—

Hovering over us. Death owns the wedding band.

Poetry could not assist

What we misunderstood, or, kissed.

There was nothing poetry could do.

(I’m not sure he wanted me to share this point with you.)

He hated the poetry which attempts to understand.

All he wanted was to be a coin gripped in her lovely hand.

I cannot recall his words; it’s been many years;

I translate only rot. Iffy syntax. Puffy grammar. Fears.

Listening to him, I could not distinguish the clear reason from the clearer tears.

But listen. You are too young to remember

The beauty, the cruelty, and how desperately he loved her.

 

THE SYMPTOM

Image result for americana painting

Beauty corrects the symptom known to us as sight.

Never, never, will the eyes see things right.

So beauty must fix the mistakes we see.

Or life and art would both be ugly.

We survive, but beauty is the reason we see.

The blind worm survives. And fleetingly.

The measure of all is based on how long

It takes beauty to correct the modern wrong.

The painting is yours, but the reason for the painting is me,

And you painted my love for your beauty falsely;

You were too modest and ashamed.

The too beautiful beautiful will always be blamed

For making us ignorant, immoral, and ashamed.

The beautiful painting knew to show

Beauty, so knowing would know what to know.

The perfect is an idea—but what do we see

When painting’s perspective is illusory?

We see perspective in its various moods:

Air, mist, or sun, which now the shadow includes,

Bright vistas, and whatever strains to escape

The vista: the column, the orchard, and the rope,

The rope at the end of the red road,

Where the world lays down its holy, Walt Whitman, load,

For the slow, lifetime plowing of a field,

Which the grim god knows will yield

A crowd crying, unruly, massed

For citizenship, for salvation—

Food, sports and sex: the harbor inside a nation—

Looking at us in the past.

YOUTH IS ALWAYS RIGHT

Image result for peter pan in painting

Youth is always right. Age is always wrong.

There is nothing at the end of the song

But what was wrong in the beginning.

Youth sighs. Age calls it sinning.

Age thinks to make a song to preserve

Feelings—which age doesn’t deserve.

Youth doesn’t need a song

Or rules. The old are wrong.

When you wrote your first poem, you were old.

Your first wallet.  You told what you were told.

The first moment you remembered childhood

You knew you couldn’t be any good.

The first time I put you in a song,

It made me think I loved you—it was wrong.

The muscle memory of our affair.

We kissed. Our parents didn’t care.

There is only one story: Peter Pan.

Peter outside of Wendy’s window, deciding not to be a man.

 

THE WORLD IS TOO BIG AND WAR IS TOO SMALL

Image result for pretty war maps

Your friend who is quietly smarter than you

Doesn’t want to argue. Look

At this map. If a war takes place here,

You will be left out. It’s not even close.

No one wants to fight for you;

They will try to understand; you’ll be bored.

On this vacation you plan to compare racisms.

You’ll be staying at a strange locale.

You want another man to disappoint you

So you might have a new one. As a child

You always wanted a new pet.

You wouldn’t take care of them.

Indifference will now suit up

And make a speech, and you will be

In the front, cheering. The crowd

Is swept up. You should be, too.

But you hesitate. War isn’t really for you.

 

 

KINDNESS SOME OF THE TIME

Image result for painting by sushmita gupta

Kindness some of the time

Is not kind.

It is true that this rhyme

Says she is blind—

Even as I praise her eyes.

Can kindness be a disguise?

It certainly can.

A woman naturally does not trust a man.

Are you so blind

Not to see a woman’s surrender is kind?

“I release you. Go, go.

You will cheat on me. I know.

You have cheated on me in your mind.

In every public forum, you are kind.

But that will be a thing of the past

When you cheat on me, at last.

I give you, then, permission to cheat.”

A woman’s mind is nice and neat.

Nicely, she will turn you out.

She is always kind. See? It is only you who doubt.

 

OF COURSE YOU MATTER TO THE POET

When the modern poet complains of his isolation

From normal, bourgeois society, he complains in vain.

Money, computers, banks, convenient stores, traffic, trains,

Parking lots, sidewalks, novels at beaches, or when it rains,

The isolated poet, far from these, complains. The complaint

Kills poetry, like modern painters who theorize—

But don’t know how to paint.

I took “modern” out of “modern poet.” Modernity,

In that moment, lost its hold on me.

It happened that fast.

I left Eliot where he was, insane, longing for a classical past.

Unlike Delmore Schwartz, I quit drinking.

All I had to do was change my thinking.

Of course you matter to the poet.

My love! All my poems are for you.

Here we are in Rat’s alley. May I suggest a trip to the zoo?

 

 

 

POETRY MAGAZINE’S INDIA ISSUE, JULY/AUGUST 2019

Image result for poetry in india

Poetry’s India issue is not an India issue.

In the globalist introduction by editors Kazim Ali and Rajiv Mohabir, we are told countries do not exist; only colonies and far-flung sub-cultures do.

In their introduction to Poetry’s “Global Anglophone Indian Poems,” the editors wish to erase the nation of India:

“Indian” is the wrong word to encompass  and label diasporic subjectivities of South Asians that descend from a system of indenture.

This sounds like something one would hear in the British Foreign Office around 1933.

Narratives flip. History repeats. The optimism of Indian independence from the British in the middle of the 20th century has been replaced by the pessimism of learned, anti-colonialist academics, who hold that there was no “Indian” independence from the “British” after all—because, according to Ali and Mohabir, “There is no such thing as cultural purity—Indian or not.”

A nation—which gathers together differences in a happy embrace—is this possible? It was not, according to the British Empire, whose very rule depended on division, nor is it anything the editors wish to get behind, spending most of the introduction asserting India isn’t real. Because nothing “culturally pure” exists. Which we all know, but…

“Culture” is a term always used broadly, and in terms of connection—and this is the very essence of the word; and this aspect of it shouldn’t inspire fear, unless one wants to get rid of culture altogether. We all admire gardens, and gardens grow, even as they remain gardens. Nations are nations in as much as they have a culture which binds the nation as a nation together, and this is a good thing. The editors, however, see danger:

The notion of a culturally pure India is a dangerous weapon leveraged to maintain social distance, as in some cases it fans anti-Muslim and anti-Black politics.

Is “social distance” civility? What do they mean by this?

And what exactly is “Muslim politics?” And is “Muslim” or “black politics” ever “pure,” and, because of this “purity,” is it, too, “dangerous?”

Or is it only the “culturally pure India” which is “dangerous?”

Division is always good, according to the editors—since the greatest unity India ever achieved was “an India that does not exist today, except for in histories kept by elders: a pre-partition British India, a single landmass owned by white masters.”

God forbid Indians get to rule a “landmass.” Better, according to the editors, that Indians are divided—to the point where they don’t really exist.

For Ali and Mohabir, Indian unity of any kind is either non-existent, white, or bad. India as a Hindu country is something the editors cannot bring themselves to even mention, as this, perhaps to them, is the ultimate horror. They refer to Hindus once—in the first paragraph, as if the religion practiced by a billion Indians, 4 Indians in 5, were a minor anomaly:

On the one hand, “Indian” languages were always transnational, or—in more modern times—global. Regional languages encountered one another, as well as Farsi and Urdu, during Mughal conquests; the concepts of Hindi as a national language and Hindustan as a national space were both developed in response to the perceived foreign influence of the northern empire builders. Crosspollination existed between the Urdu-speaking Mughals and Farsi- and Arabic-speaking cultures, both in spoken and written literatures. Queen Elizabeth I and Emperor Akbar the Great were exchanging letters in Urdu and English through their translators before there was a British East India company.

This is their first paragraph. What does this mean?

I understand protecting minority rights—constitutions and laws cover this; but to forever and preemptively assume the majority is the devil, and to always undermine it on principle isn’t exactly the recipe for a strong and happy nation.

The editors point of view seems to be that anything which has anything to do with “indenture” and “diaspora” is the best thing of all. A kind of strange, unholy, celebration of the results of the British Empire keeps breaking out in the rhetoric of the editors. Are the “white masters” hiding in the wings? In high rises in London? In the editorial offices of Poetry? We hope not.

That British Empire was quite a thing. “Colonies” and the “indentured” and “diaspora” everywhere. Did the British make India? Yes, absolutely, according to Ali and Mohabir—exemplifying the truth that the British “Divide and Rule” Empire still lives, spilling into everything, even the rhetoric which attempts to summarize the topic in a short introduction:

The earliest Indian poetry in English, including those poems by nationalist anti-colonial poets like Rabindranath Tagore and Sarojini Naidu, were poems from the British literary tradition. It would take a new generation of Indian poets, who included the Kala Goda poets Arun Kolatkar, Adil Jussawalla, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, and others, to begin developing a new Indian English aesthetic that drew not only on British influences, but local traditions as well as global ones.

Just as the British Empire both made and destroyed India, it continues to erase all sense of what anyone might say—including these editors, Ali and Mahobir—about Indian poetry in English.

The Indian “nationalist anti-colonial” poems were “poems from the British literary tradition.”

Got that?

Indian literary independence was British.

Therefore, Ali and Mohabir say,

It would take a new generation to begin developing a new Indian English aesthetic that drew not only on British influences, but local traditions as well as global ones.

But what is British influence if not “global,” thanks to its global empire? And how could poets like Tagore not have been influenced by “local traditions” back then, writing poems from “the British literary tradition?”

One can see how any attempt to extract “India” from “English” is hopeless. That is, if one ignores the content of poems and puts them into implicitly denigrated categories such as the “British literary tradition,” the only discernible aesthetic gesture made by the editors—whose introduction is otherwise lost in politics. Their aesthetic point begins with a platitude made regarding “tradition” and reasons from that nothing into more nothing. All the editors say is true—if truth is a circle starting at nowhere and ending at no place.

And now we come to the poetry selection.

As one might expect, there is no “British literary tradition” anywhere in sight.

The poems in the “Global Anglophone Indian Poems” issue of July/August Poetry, establish themselves right away as that which could not possibly belong to any tradition at all, except perhaps this one: Poems in English That May As Well Have Been Written in Urdu Since No English Speaker Can Understand Them. This will show those British white devils! And anyone who speaks their language!

The interesting thing about the 42 “Indian” poems in the Poetry Indian issue is that almost all of them sound like they could have been written by Ezra Pound—redolent of that flat, unthinking, anti-Romantic, anti-lyricism which roams the desert looking for an oasis of sweet rhyme intentionally never found, for the journey is to punish such desires.  And in this desert we rarely come across a person who speaks as a real person about some accessible thing that matters in a life really lived. It’s poetry that vaults at once past actual life, and any Romantic ideal of actual life, into some abstract library of learned reference. What we get is not Kishore Kumar as a poem (if only!) but a condescending or ironic reference to Kushore Kumar—in the abstract, attenuated, machine-like speech of the anti-lyrical, footnote, poem.

One of the better poems in the portfolio, by Arundhathi Subramaniam (it actually has a somewhat personable and lyric beauty) happens to contain the Kushore Kumar reference, a footnote gesture less annoying than usual. I also enjoyed the poems by Nabina Das, Rochelle Potkar, Sridala Swami, Jennifer Robertson, Ranjit Hoskote, Mani Rao, and Hoshang Merchant, though in most cases I’ve seen better examples of their work elsewhere. I’ve written about these poets in Scarriet. I compared Swami to Borges, praised Subramaniam as a “lullaby” poet, called Potkar a wonderful discovery, and even placed these poets into this year’s Scarriet Poetry March Madness. But here they are in Poetry. And of course I am happy for them.

Have I soured on the Indian poetry in this special edition of Poetry because I read the introduction first, and that soured me? Or were my expectations too high, thinking the venerable Poetry magazine would offer the best Indian Poetry selection I had ever seen?

Here’s the first poem we meet in the volume. It’s a kind of flickering, black and white, news reel of broken images, half-memories, abstracted references. Modernist to the core. What is it saying? We are not sure, exactly. India was never free, never happy? The ends of lines and the end of the poem, swoon towards their termination in an Eliotic whimper. What we do know is the poem is vaguely complaining, inglorious, and trying its best not to sound poetic (because the Romantics are not allowed).

Freedom (Nabanita Kanungo)

It would try to lisp a dumbness sometimes—
the language of welts rising slowly on the panes,
a cracked blur of riot-torn air,
confused which year it was.
.
The last time it made a sound was when
it crinkled on its way into a bin,
a great plot of justice. I wasn’t born, then;
my father was.
.
It must have been whole once,
for you could still conceive it like a dream,
a gloriously illegitimate thing, though;
until a country was torn out of its heart one day
and you saw its impaled ghost in the moon.
.
My grandfather told me we had slept so long
with a flag over us, we couldn’t run when
machetes poked us awake amidst still-dreaming heads
rolling in the streets like marbles struck in game.
.
There was nowhere to go and we went nowhere,
with its face slumped on our backs
and history books that said what had happened is the past,
.
until sixty years later, a community’s threats betraying
her voice, a poor nun requested me
to leave my month-old job in a convent
where I’d studied since childhood.
.
I keep trying to find its shape in photographs, old letters,
the wind of stories trapped in some cancerous throat, dying …
.
a tattered roof in the stars, a tent flying off
with meanings barely gathered into a heap.

One imagines a Modernist school teacher shaping this poem—and what is ironic about this, of course, is that Modernism was the period when the English were still (cruelly) ruling India. The Greeks, the Romantics, where is their influence? Why is Indian poetry ruled by a style belonging to early 20th century American Anglophiles, like Pound and Eliot? Pessimistic, anti-Romantic Pound and Eliot? Why? Poe fought for American literary independence—and was rejected, even reviled, by the Anglo-American modernist establishment (Eliot hated Poe as much as he hated Shelley).

Look how the first poem in the volume ends: “with meanings barely gathered into a heap.” Why should Indian poets linger in the tidal pools of late British Empire despondency? “Because we have troubles!” Of course you do—but why is the aspiration and promise and identity of the poetry you choose the sour, anti-Romanticsm of your British masters? The ones even British poets like Shelley found objectionable? Indians, what are you thinking?

What is the editorial mission of this Indian Poetry portfolio?

Poems not enjoyed as poetry, but deemed useful as vague, Modernist, teaching-sorts-of-things?

And as much as this may be somewhat useful, and wide-ranging, the editors have somehow managed, even in this case, to present a narrow vision of Indian poetry. Not so much Wall of Sound, as Wall of Pound. Indian poets stuck in a desultory, lost-in-time, Modernism. The editors have put Indian Poetry in a certain container, coloring what it contains. It doesn’t have to be this way. The Indian poets writing in English have access to a long tradition of poetry in English, including every sort of world historical poet translated into English. There’s no reason they must, in such large numbers, wear the stiffness of Anglo/American Modernism.

Trapped in the dullness of this anti-poetry (referencing all sorts of cultural things in a stilted manner) one dutifully marches through the gray maze of this highly learned affectation thinking: is Indian poetry today the attempt to smash the “British Literary Tradition,” in solidarity with a few dead, white, male, American poets, who killed their “British Literary Tradition” with the cudgel of Ezra Pound? (Never mind that the “British Literary Tradition”—whatever shallow idea one has of it—didn’t have to be “killed,” and why with Ezra Pound?)

I have discovered many poems by Indian poets lately, many of them poets in this Poetry issue, as well as many excellent amateurs who by dint of their academic outsider status, would never be selected for a collection like this.

I’m convinced the quality of Indian poems in English today is equal, or greater, to, the quality of poems written in the UK and America.

Yet Indian poets get scant attention.

Unfortunately (and this is nothing against the poets themselves represented here) you would not know this quality exists from Poetry’s India issue—which is a terrible shame.

It’s almost a betrayal.

When I was younger, I naturally thought poetry was everything, and editing was nothing. Now I’m beginning to think the opposite is true. I could name exciting Indian or Indian-background poets I admire, poets who don’t write like Ezra Pound, but write with honesty and vigor, and inhabit a variety of styles in a thrilling, even memorable, manner, and yet one might be moved to go find a poem by these poets and be underwhelmed—since no poet publishes poems of equal quality.

The selection matters.

Every poet—because it is finally the poems, not the poet, which matter—has bad and good poems.

It is important we find and assemble the good ones. Critics and reviewers must judge. This is all they are supposed to do.

Let me name some wonderful poets left out of this selection: Linda Ashok, Anand Thakore, Ravi Shankar, Medha Singh, Daipayan Nair, Kushal Poddar, Sharanya Manivannan, Sarukkhai Chabria, Joie Bose, Menka Shivdasani, Ranjani Murali, Akhil Katyal, Jeet Thayil, Sushmita Gupta, Urvashi Bahuguna, N Ravi Shankar, Abhijit Khandkar, Arun Sagar, Aseem Sundan, Sukrita Kumar, CP Surendran, Nalini Priyadarshni, Divya Guha, Arjun Rajendran, Aishwarya Iyer, Sophia Naz, Meera Nair, Arun Sagar, Tishani Doshi, Huzaifa Pandit, Bsm Murty, Sumana Roy, Aakriti Kuntal.

Sensual, hopeful, colorful, wise, spiritual, romantic, scientific, wry, affectionate. And yes, anti-Modernist. That’s why I love these poets.

It may seem an act of sour grapes to list a few of my favorite poets the editors missed, and there’s a danger an incomplete search of their work will disappoint. The last thing I wish to bring to Poetry’s Indian Poetry party is bitter words and no answers. Even passable Ezra Pound imitators deserve better than that.

 

WE BUILD

Image result for religious mob

Religion is not hard to ape.

Let’s say I’m God. Let’s say you can’t escape

Your memories. You can’t.

Even what you don’t remember will hurt you.

The rituals I perform, you perform,

The moment we understand each other’s speech.

Now the outside is warm, and you are warm;

Religion isn’t what is—but what we teach.

The slaughter of innocents

Has more religion in it than you will ever have.

The crowd, mute, aghast,

Gets religion very fast.

If you patiently explain

What needs explaining,

We may understand the rain

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s raining.

All religion needs: is that you are scared.

Terror is the best way to copy religion;

The professors cannot teach

Over the communist party member’s screech.

With a weak smile, I finish my own religious speech.

I reach out my hand to you—

Only because you look like you care for me, too.

You really shouldn’t be jealous of Susan, or Molly, or Sally.

They’re not going to next Thursday’s rally.

You will only get in trouble if you are alone.

God. God. God. Pick up the first stone.

 

 

 

 

WHEN THE WORLD IS LESS FAR-FLUNG

Image result for on the phone crying modern art

When the world is less far-flung,

We will not miss each other

At the next street corner,

A minute or a mile, this way or that.

There won’t be long pauses

Before I say great things with my tongue

To you—each word’s end close to its beginning;

Every syllable spied on by its sinning,

Not for disobedience, but for pleasure;

No length between doubt and wisdom,

Its measurement the measure of measure,

In proximity to the good,

And we’ll always be near enough to be understood.

The moon will always be

Next to us; yours will not be a country

At war with mine; the hills will be

Together, so you and I can be together.

Distances will never be very long;

The universe will not be cold,

Or stretch out, in heart-breaking song;

No stars, far away, millions of light-years old,

Will, in the cold light-years, outlast us.

Planetary orbits will be happy to stand still,

The arms of the milky way will not move, in giant sadness, past us.

When I cry out to you, alone in the world,

Or plead with you over the phone,

Immediately we will call a truce,

And tremble in a happier tone.

When the world is less far-flung,

We will always be close, and young.

And when you go away,

Even then, someone will call out, and you will change your mind, and stay.

 

IF IT’S NOT TO MY ADVANTAGE

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If it’s not to my advantage, it doesn’t exist.

This is my first natural right—

Which I cling to with all my might.

When I was two, a two year old girl

Punched me in the face;

Nor was this a lesson in sexism or disgrace,

For what advantage to the good to be sexist?

None. Therefore in my heart sexism doesn’t exist.

I can’t tell you about what isn’t there—

This has no interest for feminism. None.

Now for me this subject is done.

Etiquette?  Don’t waste my time.

You’ll get no cover letter—I’ll just send my rhyme.

As for the secret to happiness, here it is:

The more folly we see, the happier we are—

That’s the whole secret right there.

Discerning the fake is the sole care of genius.

This makes us wise. Exquisite folly guides the genius.

Folly makes us laugh. And most of all, happy.

Tenuous balance—we find folly where we find the wise.

Common disease is wisdom’s greatest lure.

What is most intimate with disease, but its cure?

Capitalism and communism? Both are thievery.

All of us, stupidly, in lust, buy and sell;

The punishment is the priest’s fake, or the dictator’s real, hell.

Capitalism is willing thievery, and individual will

Is the one thing any government must fulfill,

So Capitalism, despite Marxist theory,

Is my choice, and so ends this query.

Finally, the secret to poetry: a woman fell

In love with a guy she thought looked like Brad Pitt,

Even though he didn’t look like Brad Pitt.

Because “Brad Pitt” was on the lips of her friends, surprise!

Words ruled her heart, and she thought it was her eyes.

Poetry is merely this folly in reverse: a surprise

In which what seems to be about words is really about the eyes

By way of the ears.

Dressed in blue, and smiling, a word brought me to tears.

 

I LOOK AT YOUR POEMS

Image result for reading a book in modern painting

I look at your poems. I don’t read them.

I know you too well to have a conversation

With you. It’s probably deeply insulting

That I don’t need to unravel you. I always found

You extremely attractive. The surfaces were always enough.

Not that I wouldn’t talk to you for a long time;

It was always you who cut short conversations,

Either embarrassed by what you are, or who you had been,

Or knowing, by my looks, that even as I listened,

I only wanted to kiss you, and wanted you to like me,

Pre-speech. That must have freaked you out after a while,

And I bet you found it belittling: I, more bookish and nerdier

Than you, but only wanting to undress you—

Not a very good nerd.

“You want a shallow homosexual,” I said.

You said, “that’s absurd!”

You try to block me out

With longer, and more complicated, poems.

You always had too much iron in your blood—

You compared your writing to healthy bleeding.

But you’re too complex, now. You are dying.

I run my eyes down your page, looking, not reading.

 

AMERICA, VICTIM OF TERROR

The Shah of Iran survived an assassination attempt in 1949. JFK did not, in 1963. 

A HISTORY OF AMERICAN FRIENDSHIPS

In 1776, France was friendly with the United States.

But France invaded Mexico, supported the Confederate States of America, and became imperial Opium War allies with British Empire. The land of Balzac and Lafayette became kooky U.S. hating intellectual realm of Derrida, Sartre, and Foucault. Divine American patriot and Socratic, scientific, Poe was dimly reflected in lurid and vulgar Baudelaire.

In 1819, Spain was friendly with the United States.

But the Spanish Empire secretly paid a high ranking U.S. general as a spy to sow discord in U.S. territories and sought to conquer South and North America. U.S. expansion in North America was a response to Spanish, French, and British imperial designs. How did the U.S. become the bully? Well, that’s easy. Anti-American propaganda.

In 1823, Argentina was friendly with the United States.

Argentina had lots of German and British citizens; often supported belligerent Europe over U.S. peace.

In 1860, Russia was friendly with the United States.

Russia succumbed to the internationalist Terror which became the Soviet Union. Since 1989, a potential friend.

In 1871, Germany was friendly with the United States.

Germany succumbed to the internationalist Terror which became Nazi Germany.

In 1898, Japan was friendly with the United States.

Japan viciously invaded Korea and China in the 1930s, creating chaotic conditions for Communist China and North Korea; Nazi ally, attacked U.S. in WW II.

In 1905, Korea was friendly with the United States.

Invaded by Japan, North Korea succumbed to Chinese Communism.

In 1909, Mexico was friendly with the United States.

A pawn of the Spanish Empire; a great trading partner with the U.S. but fair trade crippled by NAFTA.

In 1935, India was friendly with the United States.

The U.S. urged the British to leave India in the 1930s and 40s. The Empire would have none of it. Unfortunately, Richard Nixon (who humiliated the U.S. by his policies and by allowing himself to be “Watergated,” helping to legitimize the anti-U.S, Shadow Government, which murdered JFK in 1963) supported Pakistan in the 1971 war with India, as Pakistan carried out genocidal rape against almost a half a million Bangladeshi girls and women.

In 1941, China was friendly with the United States.

China succumbed to the internationalist Terror of Maoist Communism.

In 1944, Britain was friendly with the United States.

The Evil Empire of Divide and Rule. As its power waned in the 20th century, it found new life as the Shadow government within the U.S. and the CIA.

In 1957, Egypt was friendly with the United States.

Sought Arabist hegonomy in Middle East. Their queen was Shah of Iran’s first wife and she was disgusted by Iran’s backwardness.

In 1958, Iraq was friendly with the United States.

Iraq became pawn of CIA’s shadow government. Ruled with iron fist by dictator Saddam Hussein; Iraq had been intentionally created by Britain with internal divisions threatening to break apart at any moment.

In 1966, Iran was friendly with the United States.

Iran succumbed to the internationalist Terror of Ayatollah Khomeini, who murdered secular high officials in British dominated Iran for 30 years before 1979 Revolution. U.S. hating, Shadow goverment, CIA created false flag “coup” in 1953 to discredit U.S. on behalf of MI6 and Churchill—who made America the bad guy even though every drop of Iran’s massive oil supply was stolen by the British Empire.

THE SAME

Image result for on the train in 20th century art

I want to live

But I am not creative.

So I find myself on a crowded train

Going to my paper pushing job.

Poetry for a Communist, Romantic Slob

Is my life’s work, you could say.

I’m not creative. The only way

To be creative, if you’re not creative,

Is to be creative within this context;

To admit, at once, that everything’s the same.

Wordsworth’s verses, Mozart’s music, it’s all the same.

A dog, no matter how small, is a dog, and has that dog identity,

Just as Pericles is Pericles, forever the same.

The novels I picked up at random just now,

The new ones at the front of the store,

Characters putting out cigarettes, and feeling

Hot, or tired, and saying “What shall we do?”

Every novel sounds the same.

In the train, staring at people—

Forget smart, researched, writing—

Just look; you can see truth in faces;

You can see every prejudice is true;

You can see the truth of surfaces. Not from any unkind

Impulse—prejudice is only the tragic recognition

That everything’s the same! Take me and you.

All we said, and did, was cliché.

We shared our secret prejudices. We “broke up.”

I’m not creative. But I loved all the way!

A clichéd thing making a clichéd sound,

When I did my research, was all I found.

 

 

WHAT I PICK OUT

Related image

What I pick out

Is nothing. There is doubt

In every scene and look.

This is not a photograph. Or a book.

This is reality. And it frightens me so.

There are too many choices. I don’t know

Anything. Or where to go.

Reality! Can there be more? More doubt?

What I pick out is you.

Because you picked me out.

POETRY VERSUS SHIT

Image result for tanker in the strait of hormuz

“Upon the velvet sinking, linking fancy unto fancy”  —The Raven

Poetry has no impact, we think, at least Romantic poems

Which slow down breathing. Reading the internet on Iran,

They are mocking Trump for spelling “Strait of Hormuz”

“Straight,” contesting his Chinese oil figures. What have I done?

A great theme for a great poem presented itself to my mind

And I wasted my entire time following a throng

Of imbeciles debating—a mood opposite to my contemplated song.

But sometimes the appreciation

Of ours requires we visit a different nation.

Now I understand poetry, and its space

A little better: first I need peace,

And with peace inside that peace, grace,

In eastern clothes, whispering tales of the east.

It helps to know Iran—what I see:

Not ignorance, but weaponized ignorance,

All the sides holding forth ignorantly,

While the (left wing? right wing?) oligarch gets away.

Khomeini was murdering Iranian prime ministers

Long before 1979. No one talks about these murders.

I turn to my poem at last; its theme

As fresh as ever; a poem does not decay,

And neither does its dream. It

Thrives in the poem, and today

I take my theme out, and give it a look

(To look at it means I write it)

Standing by the bay. Poetry versus shit.

I thought I wasn’t in the mood

For a poem. A theme keeps. Even the rude

Semblance of it is the strongest token

Of what will be said. It will never be broken.

The oil will be flying through the strait.

I don’t care if I miss the debate.

Accept it. No one cares what you say—

Or that I turn away.

 

 

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN

What does it mean, that you and I are happy

And the world despises us?

We know how these stories always end,

The loveless world wins again.

In love, I cared about one—

Until she left me for a million

Political asylum refugees

Lying under the shade of PhDs.

I wanted a small nest

With the one I loved the best.

She wanted to go to work

For charity, and twerk.

She envied the success of the Jews.

I wanted love. She wanted the news.

But since our two houses united,

The world is not politically excited.

We linger in the shadows, staying

In the shadows, writing poetry, playing.

 

 

 

 

THIS WANTS TO SAY GOODBYE

Image result for debussy in nature

This wants to say goodbye.

The momentum of goodbye

Helps the poem falling towards dying.

First, the trumpets (muted) and oboes start crying,

Like birds, calling, and flying,

As if they were almost far away.

They are—in the deep, dark valley, I’m afraid.

Slower winds now dart into the shade.

The flutes by the edge of the lake wait for the somber day

To whiten and end before they play.

This wants to say goodbye

But not like a poem, after a few words.

For dozens of minutes, there must be a slow crescendo.

But first, in the distant valley, you must hear birds

As if the evening couldn’t appear dimly without them,

As if a multitude of murmuring had to happen,

Without caring, without being aware of the plan:

To flutter down into the warmer air to say goodbye—

One cherub, who smiles, waving to another, with a tendency to cry,

In a manner you can’t put into a poem,

For fear of being too sentimental. The guitar

Must be translated just so,

A strange tuning, before the slow

Trace of the emerging race dresses for its dance

Before it has to go.

Down on stage—see the ladders, there,

Among the leaves? That’s where they arrive from.

Some bright tomorrow will be there for them.

How did you manage that?  The soft material

In dark flower patterns wrapped around their heads?

This poem has no idea what is happening next, except

That the dance must start, and the crimson heart

Must remain the unspoken theme

When the music begins, like a dream.

This wants to say goodbye.

The momentum of the goodbye is in its favor.

This momentum is all we love, and all we savor,

In drinks, and vacations, and drugs, and all goodbyes.

If you want to know the truth, this poem wants to be a song.

But the instruments are all wrong.

I told you about the lake, and made some remarks, under my breath,

On oboes and flutes. Quietly as death.

But nothing plays that quietly,

Though I can tell you, simply. I can rely on your piety

And understanding. To see what I must do

In this poem; of course it isn’t always true,

But won’t you be sympathetic, when the leaves awake,

Slowly—to music I made—from the shining lake?

The mixture of plants, and the water where they like to reside

Is a metaphor for music, where notes harmoniously hide

Inside each other: all it needs is simple math

To augment the plants which enjoy themselves in the weary bath;

So many layers of leaves surround the water in the dusk,

Eyes can barely distinguish the true theme of the music,

Though it doesn’t matter, because we know the dream

Is putting off goodbye as we say goodbye. That’s the theme.

WORDLESS

Image result for adam and eve took their solitary way

How complex the world is!

How many words would it take

For a worldly man

To say how complex? Start with: This

Is more complex than that. I can

Be ironic now, by being wordless.

I will call my poem “Wordless.” If a man

Wishes to be a poet, this

Will always dog him: Love is wordless.

Learning is wordless. She smiled—

And then—only then—were we reconciled.

Words did not make me love poetry.

When I had nothing more to say,

The poem took my hand. And found a way.

 

SLEEPY

Image result for adam and eve took their solitary way

Coming out of, or going into, sleep

Is paradise. Dreams from sleep are the dreams I keep.

Sleep’s dreams are not the only benefits of sleep.

When I approach my rest, the descent is steep,

Reminding me I am looking down at the sun—

When I see the sun at the top of the sky.

My position is reversed. I don’t know why.

In my sleep, I will see the one, the only one,

I love. Sleep’s dreams strip me of the sun.

Sleep’s dreams strip me completely

Of life: all that crowd clowned randomly

In the vast downward gulf of my eye,

But deep in the sinews of flying poetry

Bold sleep gathers. Wasting no time

Before the broad door,

I slept as if I were not going to sleep anymore.

Reasons, whether she knew them, or not,

Why she stopped loving me, who cares?

Reasons are for fools. Love belongs to the one who dares.

She runs away in life because she loves me.

So rare: the steady and the beautiful:

The twinkling star:

Always there, and gently moving.

It’s like a dream. Sleeping in sleep’s soft car,

Traveling through the universe very fast,

Without finally getting there, at last.

Coming out of sleep, don’t wake me yet.

I fell asleep during the sunset.

The roof of the house is warm and wet.

Fading softly out of slumber: this way, too, is steep.

I cannot remember why I had to rise.

I want to sleep during the sunrise.

More dreams. More sleep.

Awake, I weep.

 

 

MOZART, THE EARLY PIANO CONCERTI

Image result for mozart the hunt

He was not always on top of his summer reports.

He regularly ran in the fields.

There were forests, but the only spots

He felt safe had man and beer

Or the concert hall where princesses

Gathered themselves for music.

The musical flow was hidden by reflections.

He had to put memory on them.

New information is impossible—

It is always partial and inaccurate

So our recourse is the alternative:

Synthetic pleasant memories.

Here’s where you intervene

And love, or the memory of it,

Hijacks sense, and my poem once again

Is a love poem—in the category made by that catalog.

If I may step out of my creation for a moment—

That always has to happen; every small change

Has to happen to the whole, until the whole,

Not just a part, is changing.

This is the terrible part of changing,

And why we want memories to stay.

I was walking along a sunny boulevard,

An intersection of many—far too many—things,

When I saw, at the outdoor café seating,

A pleasant female face, vaguely Mediterranean,

A face, too large, I noticed, for her body.

If I had first seen her face, close up, in a selfie,

I would admire the face I, in that moment, found unsatisfactory.

The impossibility of new information, always coming at us piecemeal,

To be accurately what it is—I don’t know who that jogger is—

Requires that memory, hidden in our minds, is our only comfortable

Accurate, whole, information, meant for adoration.

And so, knowing this, Mozart doesn’t make for us

Anything as vulgar as new “music,” but clumsy memories

Which greet us like dogs, or perfumes, or you,

And I was thinking of you—did you know it—anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU DON’T KNOW HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS

Image result for reading in renaissance painting

You don’t know how important this is.

And I guess I don’t know either.

I began this in the morning.

How did the morning become covered in night?

How does a speech transcend its occasion?

A love must be long and carry itself, in depth, to each.

What can I say in a one-sided speech?

How important can I make a poem be?

How important is it that you get out of the way

And let her read this? Well. She hates me.

She doesn’t care what I say.

But that doesn’t mean this isn’t important.

I think you can sense it in my tone.

You might as well read it.

I’m sorry I asked you to move.

You could even read it, over her shoulder,

If she were here!

I want you to have sympathy for my love!

It’s important you read this—but that’s all.

Let her be the critic. To her belongs my terrible fall.

SHOULD THE UNITED STATES BOMB IRAN?

Image result for winston churchill and iran

The Shah, his second wife, and Churchill. Is it World War III yet?

“One injustice may hide another—one colonial may hide another” Kenneth Koch, One Train May Hide Another

On Trump’s recent visit to England, he was greeted by a large projection on the Tower of London: UK approval ratings—72% for Obama and 21% for Trump.

The reason for these numbers—if they are true—is simple.

Like most intellectuals, Obama doesn’t tend to brag about the United States of America.

Trump is not an intellectual. He does tend to brag about the U.S.

Trump has spoken out against the Iraq invasion; he doesn’t agree with everything America has done—nor does Obama condemn everything American.  But these things tend to be either/or.  You are an “intellectual”—you read books.  Or you do not.  1 in 5 people don’t read books—and at the same time don’t care if people know it.  This is what the 72/21 “Trump Visits London” poll means.  Obama is vaguely identified with intellectuals who read books, and Trump, who disparages the New York Times, is not.

Iran, the 40 year old fortress of reactionary pain, is supported by Obama and Kerry, and London, which is becoming a Muslim city, seems to as well. But Trump is not happy with it.

Since Jimmy Carter, false friend to the Shah, let Iran go to the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic has been a burning heart of reactionary Leftism—which has finally found its true enemy in Trumpism.

When it comes down to Christopher Steele versus Donald Trump, who needs to read books?

The political Left self-identifies as intellectual—if they fill out a survey, they will always check “Reads A Lot.”

But in the rarefied world of intellectualism, it’s impossible to tell what sorts of books people really understand, or who is wise in other ways. Who is really getting things done?  Who is just kissing ass, and trying to look smart?  True worth will not be seen in self-perceptions captured by polls.

In Cairo, in 2009, Obama, gave a “New American President speaks to the Muslims of the World” speech. It was neither sublime, nor informative, nor beautiful. It sounded like what a bright fifteen or sixteen year old student might write.

If this is what intellectualism is, then congratulations, you are probably an intellectual.

Politics is a pragmatic matter—if politicians are boring, and Obama is boring, it is because they are saying what lots of different people want to hear, and can understand easily. They are boring on purpose. And to speak to Muslims without offending them, you have to be either a poet, or deeply religious, and if you’re not, you’re just going to have to be really, really boring.  Which is what Obama was in Cairo in 2009.

Pundits on the Left argued that Obama wasn’t apologizing for America; he was just “being diplomatic,” making nice speeches as a new president. And the Left wing pundits, as far as that goes, were probably correct.

Ironically, if Obama was apologizing at all,  he was apologizing for Bush. Which is a nice thing about democracy; you can be a nasty country, you elect the new, and then you can “apologize” to the world, and go right on being a bully—destabilizing the Middle East, for instance.

A non-democratic country can “elect” presidents.

Iran does this.

Whenever there is a new Iranian president, he repairs the latest quarrel between the UK and Iran. Diplomatic ties between the United States and Iran have not been in place since 1979, but London and Tehran are still schmoozing—thanks to Iranian presidents. A Iranian Supreme Leader fatwa against an author and his publishers (1989)? The new Iranian president will smooth things over. Your embassy is stormed (2011)? Here comes a newly elected Iranian president to make things right!

One thing intellectuals like argue to about in think tanks and learned foreign policy journals is whether ideology (religion) or strategy (chess) is more important in world affairs.

Trita Parsi, author, founder of the National Iranian American Council, and a professor at Georgetown University, who received a Ph.D. under the guidance of Francis Fukuyama (End of History) and Zbig Brzezinski (National Security Advisor when Khomeini took Iran) can talk for hours about Iran without once mentioning Islam. With Parsi, everything is dry, logical, and strategic.

Kasra Aarabi, former parliamentary researcher for UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and currently an analyst focusing on Iran at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, makes a far different case.

Arabi cannot speak a single sentence without mentioning Shia, sharia, velayat-e faqih, and the Supreme Leader’s plan (in the Iran Constitution itself) to spread Islam throughout the world. End of history? Not in the minds of the mullahs.

But there’s a third factor, besides ideology and strategy: face saving diplomacy. Obsessed with democracy and power, political pundits often overlook niceties born from spy work.

Spies are associated with assassinations and coups. But the most important work of intelligence agencies cements alliances.  Spies are just as much about love as they are about war.

Why, for instance, does the UK forgive Iran, and even more surprisingly, why does Iran forgive the UK?

There is no logical answer. Or, at least, none the public knows.

The Shah, the one toppled by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, was British-made.

Looking back hundreds of years, Iran has always lived under a British boot, not a US one.

The British boot pressed even harder on the throat of Iran when oil became the world’s most important commodity in the early 20th century. Unlike the US, oil rich with Texas and Pennsylvania, the UK had no oil of its own. It could be said that the dumb, friendly, easy-going, US eclipsed the savvy British Empire in the 20th century for this one reason: the US had more oil.

The British were quite touchy, in fact, about their Middle East oil, even towards their “ally,” the US.

In the first half of the 20th century, when Britain was still an empire, Iranian oil was Britain’s top overseas asset.

In 1924, Robert Imbrie, American Vice-consul in Tehran, was murdered.  Defying their British masters, Iranians had invited Standard Oil into their country; the American oil company was all set to loan 10 million to the Iranians, when Imbrie was murdered—and the Americans got cold feet. According to the Encyclopaedia Iranica, “the circumstances leading to Imbrie’s death are still controversial; several groups, including the British chiefs of APOC, have been accused of plotting the murder in order to prevent American oil company activities in Iran.” (added italics)

British Petroleum (BP) began as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. A Mr. William Knox D’arcy, from a village in SW England, found oil in Iran in 1908 after making an agreement in 1901—before oil was considered gold: 84% profits, 60 years, and a drilling area containing nearly the whole of Iran.

The steady pressure—from the early days of oil extraction from Iran’s Abadan refinery during the First World War for British warships, right up until the Islamic revolution of 1979—was always on Britain to give oil ownership back to Iran.  The US was not the villain in this drama. We’ve already seen that the Iranians invited the U.S. in as a buffer against the Brits as far back as the 1920s—when there was still geological doubt about how much oil was in the earth, and doubt about how valuable oil would become.

Iranians viewed the US as a savior. There were solid reasons: the US didn’t like the Soviets, who had long dominated Iran in the north, just as the Brits ran things in the south. Right after WW II, the US kicked Stalin out of northern Iran. The Americans proved themselves as important allies in that action, alone. The US had tons of oil—US oil fueled both of Europe’s world wars—and so it was obvious to Iran that the US could be far friendlier and more objective towards their country than the UK—who was heavily invested in Iran’s oil.

Iran and the UK maintain official diplomatic relations today.  The US hasn’t had an embassy in Tehran since 1979.  The US, not Britain, is “The Great Satan.”  What happened?

Did MI6 outfox the CIA?

Pretty much, yes.

Anyone who assumes Britain is America’s true ally needs to look at what happened in Iran.

The trouble began with Mosaddegh, a complicated character who was part possible Soviet agent, part nationalist hero, part media star, and completely anti-American.

The prime minister Mosaddegh was finally a patsy, more MI6 than Soviet. His premiership was beaten up (warship blockade, sanctions, boycott, world court appeals, Churchill begging for US help) by the British. Mosaddegh was also allied with, and then rejected by, an important Islamic priest, Kashani—one generation older than Khomeini—and these two things led to his demise, but with Mosaddegh’s media star status (Time magazine’s Man of the Year) and fake credentials as the “democratically elected leader of Iran” defying the “monarchy” of the Shah, those who controlled this secular, socialist prime minister were able, as he fell, to point to the CIA—who, as a part of the anti-American operation, were all too happy to revel in their “role” in the “coup.”  Iranian law gave the Shah the authority to dismiss Mosaddegh—if there was a CIA operation it was one to make it look like the CIA had a major role in the dismissal of Mosaddegh. Frame the United States. Make the United States, who had just defeated the Nazis, appear as the world’s bully against poor, defenseless nations. Give credibility to Leftist, anti-American propaganda all around the world. It looks like it was a sucker operation.

Trita Parsi is just one of many pundits who calls the 1953 coup a US backed “regime change”—and one can hear Parsi use the words “regime change” in a podcast interview with the pleasantly agreeable Mark Hannah of the Eurasia Group Foundation.

In this one controlled event, America—with such potential to help Iran and stabilize not only Iran but the entire region—replaced Britain overnight as Iran’s villain, and the Shah, too, earned the reputation as an anti-democratic tyrant, with the US and the Shah wrapped up together as the “enemy of the people,” the “people” in this case, the combustible mixture of communism and Islam. Khomeini was active in Iran at this time, and he was learning the magic formula which would lead to his success: terror, socialism, Islam, and fighting the U.S.  With the Shah now identified as a pro-U.S. reactionary, the events of the early 1950s set up 1979.

The importance of 1979 cannot be underestimated.  Khomeini was the first true “Marxist Pope,” and the stunning success of his Islamic Revolution was a terrible thing, simply because this new tyranny of Marxist Papacy won in a very large, very strategically located, and consolidated manner.

A recent piece in the Spectator is typical of how the mainstream media discusses Iran. “Should we bomb Iran?” is the question, and John Bolton, who has “had it in for Iran for decades” is the villain, compared to the Iranian leaders who are benignly described as seasoned survivors. And the answer to “Should we bomb Iran” is no—mostly because the price of crude would increase. This is how the press talks about Iran today.

Or, we might see a piece in places like the NY Times or the Washington Post, cheery and anecdotal: how the Iranian people are finding ways to drink and party, in spite of the regime. Don’t worry about Iran, these articles say; the rulers are a bit harsh (they kill women and gays) but the people are delightful, endearing and resourceful!

The recent Hollywood treatment of Iran, Argo, focused on a minor, feel-good sideshow of the hostage crisis—the rescue of a few hostages. It didn’t explore the tragedy of Iran at all.

How many now remember that shortly after the hostages were taken, the Ayatollah Khomeini released blacks and women, saying he did this because America oppressed blacks and women?  This is a glimpse into how insultingly clever this murderous, anti-US Islamic priest, Khomeini, really was.

In the wake of the 1979 betrayal, the press continues to avert its eyes when it comes to Iran.

The world-historical tragedy of Iran 1979 needs a new, hard look.

In an eerie prelude to 1979, the Shah briefly fled Iran in 1953—not because he feared Mosaddegh or the Iranian people’s success; Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi feared the communists, who supported Mosaddegh, as well as the assassinating priesthood, the clerical entity known as Fada’iyan-e Islam. Both gained strength in the power vacuum triggered by the morale-crushing destabilization of Iran—thanks to Britain’s world boycott in response to Mosaddegh’s fruitless oil crusade in the early 50s. The Shah did not oppose Iran having control of its own oil. But the Shah also got it: the British would, and could, destroy Iran first.

Here’s a news story from 1949—before Mosaddegh’s brief rise to power—which might shed some light on the Shah’s position:

“Shah Mohammed Riza Pahlevi was shot and wounded today in an unsuccessful assassination attempt”

“The reporter-photographer, pretending to take the Shah’s picture, fired at point blank range, when the Shah got out of his car on the steps of Tehran University.”

“One bullet entered his body and another his mouth. The other three went through his hat.”

“The assassination attempt came one day after 2,000 students marched around the Majlis (Parliament) building and demanded cancellation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s concession to take oil out of Iran”

—The New York Times, Feb 5, 1949

Becoming oil independent—for a puppet nation like Iran—was not as easy as it looked. Britain had a signed deal with Iran—during a previous dynasty of shahs. Britain owned the equipment to take oil out of the ground and deliver it to market. Britain had experienced oil workers on the ground in Iran, who worked the equipment and ran the show. Britain had warships to back up this claim. The Anglo/Iranian Oil company was a “British restaurant” in Iran. The owners were British. A few Iranians washed the dishes. Mosaddegh as prime minister thought: we’ll hire other foreign workers to get the oil out of the ground for us. Every European nation—save Italy—said no. And when Britain saw an Italian tanker in the Gulf, they chased it away.

The Shah’s father, Reza Shah, secular and modernizing, like his son, was deposed by the British in 1941. A better oil deal with Britain was tried by the father in the 1933. It failed. Britain stood in the way—in 1933 and in 1953, and every year in between. And in every year afterwards. Britain stood in the way—until 1979, the year of the Islamic revolution, when the new deal (which involved other countries but still favored Britain) made in 1954, was set to expire.

The Shah presided over what was a wealthy, western-friendly, secular, modernizing nation in the 1970s, riding the giant oil wave created by OPEC—formed in 1960—making the 1953 days of British warships, and a few CIA operatives in Tehran taking orders from MI6, seem rather quaint.

In the 1970s, the Shah’s public battles with the Ayatollah Khomeini—the number one sharia priest (and terrorist,) fighting with all his cleric might for the soul of the Iranian people against the Shah, and the Shah’s push for woman’s rights in the early 1960s, during the Shah’s White Revolution (white for bloodless) also seemed a distant dream—Khomeini was licking his wounds as an exile in Iraq, hoping one day to get back into Iran with western help.

The Shah doubted any westerner—even the most wild-eyed MI6 agent, or even the most radical, leftist, French philosopher—would agree to allow Khomeini, a murderer of moderate prime ministers, back into his country.

Especially not the friendly United States.

The Shah was wrong.

Also in the 1970s, the Shah—recalling how much western intellectuals admired Mosaddegh for his oil nationalizing crusade—stated publicly—starting in 1973—that he intended (for real this time) to make Iranian oil fully Iranian in 1979, when the 1954 agreement was due to expire. The Shah must have thought it strange, then, when, instead of being treated like a hero in the western press, as Mosaddegh had been, as the 70s went on, the Shah was portrayed as a murderous tyrant. SAVAK, run by MI6, was brutal, but only because the Khomeini’s assassinating priesthood was brutal. SAVAK has since morphed into something much larger and far more terrible under the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Since the 1953 “coup” has been given so much importance by those who blame America for Khomeini, a new examination is needed.

Let’s look at Obama’s exact words during his “apology tour” in Cairo, in 2009 (the year Obama deliberately failed to help democratic protests against the Iranian regime):

“In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. soldiers and civilians.”

The “apology” charge (coined by Karl Rove in a Wall Street Journal in April of 2009, and weakly pursued by Romney and other Republicans) was countered by outlets like the Washington Post, who said Obama consistently balanced his “apology” with rebuke, and one can see that Obama blames America for “a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government,” but then says Iran played “a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. soldiers and civilians.”

The problem with this “balance,” however, is that the United States never stole Iran’s oil, the US helped Iran to grow rich and stable, and this assertion: “the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government” is patently and cravenly false.

The “overthrown” issue:

Mosaddegh was not “overthrown.” He was dismissed under the Iranian constitution by the Shah. Period.  Mosaddegh refused to step down, because he thought communist and Islamist thugs would protect him.  And these were thugs: this is why the Shah decided to flee the country, legitimately fearing for his life. This incident is known as the “first coup attempt.”

The second “coup attempt” was simply when Iranian forces, the military, mostly, who supported the Shah, took steps to arrest Mosaddegh for refusing to give up power. The CIA, despite what agent Roosevelt has written in his book Countercoup, had nothing to do with Mosaddegh’s actual fall. Yes, America was known to be in favor, along with Britain, of Mosaddegh’s departure.  And so were the majority of Iranians. Maybe a couple of CIA agents (doing the bidding of MI6) believed they had something to do with it—the CIA was a new, untested agency; they wanted glory. At best, the CIA on the ground may have given the Shah moral support—the Shah was terrified of being killed. The U.S. did not “play a role” in the sense that they had any actual role in Mosaddegh’s dismissal—a simple, legal action by the Shah. The US was a drop in the waterfall. The troubles in Iran were due to British boycotting, an assassinating priesthood inspired by Khomeini, communist stirrings, and the fight between Iran and Britain over Iranian oil. The US, who had the mantle of the great villain handed to them, in one of the great role reversals of all time, were mere witnesses at this point.

The “democratically-elected” issue:

The “democratically-elected Iranian government” is even more of a myth.

Under Iran’s constitutional monarchy, the Iranian people voted for members of parliament, and the parliament, not the people, voted to nominate a prime minister, with the final appointment approved by the Shah.  Mosaddegh, the 35th prime minister of Iran, was no different.

But here’s where it gets even more interesting. Before Mosaddegh became prime minister on April 28th 1951, prime minister Haji Ali Razmara was murdered on March 7th, 1951, by Fadayan-e Islam, the group founded in 1946, a sharia, nationalist, terror organization, one of the world’s first Islamic terrorist groups, and associated with a younger Ayatollah Khomeini—yes, that one.

The Fadayan-e Islam were good at killing major officials in Iran.

And now it gets even better. The parliament, during the premiership of Mosaddegh, used its “democratic” parliamentary powers to pardon and free the assassin of prime minister Razamara, calling the assassin a “soldier of Islam.”

This is the same “democratic” parliament which lends the sobriquet “democratic” to Mosaddegh—somehow, according to the political pundits, and in the words of Barack Obama, Mosaddegh, by virtue of this Iranian parliament, was somehow between 1951 and 1953 the leader of a “democratically-elected Iranian government.”

If this doesn’t make you laugh it ought to make you cry.

Interestingly, the Fadayan-e Islam assassin of prime minister Razmara was executed in 1955—after Mosaddegh was deposed.

As time went on, the Shah, relying on younger and more forward-looking officials, began to put the thugs in their place, and things got better for Iran.

In the early 60s, Khomeini reacted badly to the Shah’s White Revolution, and went public and confronted the Shah over women’s rights. The Shah won. Khomeini was exiled. In 1963 Lesley Gore released “You Don’t Own Me.” But Khomeini won in 1979. By then, it was a different world. Pol Pot had happened. The Wings had replaced the Beatles. And in 1979, with Carter in the White House, Khomeini came to power—complete power.

The Shah of Iran—for almost 40 years as a brave and savvy puppet ruler, playing communists, Islam fanatics, Britain, the U.S. and the Soviets against each other whenever he could—made his country western, modern, rich, and free. But the Shah finally lost out to terror, religion, and mobs.  A persistent, dignified killer in a cloak stalked cold Tehran. In the end, a bikini on the Caspian Sea never had a chance.

A priesthood which kills is the greatest political weapon. The sanctimonious, who are simultaneously savage, win converts. Lots of them. We now know this.

Sanctimony, to be respected, evolves in the following manner to preserve itself: it becomes more sanctimonious, perpetuating moral shame and prohibitions across the board, so that the soul, the world, and the future blend into one act of obedience. This obedience joins devotee and priest in a fanatical bond, where pleasures are diverted into worship of the the very bond which prohibits the pleasures, and members rejoice in a membership that replaces the formerly lone and vulnerable individuality—which once defined the devotee against the world. The final validating fact of this sanctimony is uncompromising violence which defends the bond. Insult me, the Muslim, and you insult us, the Muslims, and you die. Sanctimony which kills is especially equipped to rule. Khomeini knew this.

To promise heaven to the pliant, and threaten death to your enemy, especially in corrupt times, is a political win-win. The toothless priest, who is sanctimonious only, becomes an object of ridicule, and chases converts away. God is only God with a sword.

The most popular, secular work of literature in Iran over the last 50 years is a comic novel, My Uncle Napoleon.

From the preface of the book’s English translation: “The book was obsessed with “the widespread Iranian belief that foreigners (particularly the British) are responsible for events that occur in Iran. First published in Iran in the early 1970s, the novel became an all-time best seller. In 1976 it was turned into a television series and immediately captured the imagination of the whole nation.”

A strange fact. In 1978, the Shah publicly accused Khomeini, through a pro-Shah newspaper, of being a British agent—and this incident triggered pro-Islamic, anti-Shah mobs, as the Islamic revolution truly began in earnest.

It seems the real life “British show” had to be shut down and hidden—so Islam could be in charge, with the United States as the “Great Satan.”

This is now the an even more popular and horrible “TV show” we all watch.

The UK, as its prominent empire dwindled, and its military was saying goodbye to the Middle East, played the Muslim card.

Great Britain, in the crucial window of time after WW II, was Iago to the US Othello. Iran and Iraq now sell most of their oil to China, America’s enemy. The UK pretends to be a US ally, but only to make use of the US. Britain was neutral towards the US Confederacy, which encouraged Lee to start a bloodbath in 1862 to be “recognized.” The Civil War almost destroyed the US.  But since then, as the US got stronger, the UK finally decided, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” But this was done cynically.  India was a colony, perhaps America would be one again, too. The UK never wanted the US to get too strong and promote modernizing stable nations all over the world—such as Iran under the Shah in the 70s.  MI6/CIA ran SAVAK to protect the Shah—but also to make the Shah look ruthless. The Shah, after nearly losing to the priesthood in the 1950s became too successful. When it was time for a switch, Khomeini made SAVAK look like boy scouts. Keeping Iran western and friendly? That’s not how the globalist, deep state “British Empire” does things. It plays the Muslim card, the Socialism card, it divides and conquers, and uses other countries and groups as proxies. Just as Iran is doing now. The US turned away from what made it “great” and got Iago-ed by the UK sometime between 1945 and 1952.

Shirin Ebadi, former Iran lawyer and judge, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, in a recent interview with Aljazeera, reminded everyone how Iran today functions.

All policy is decided by “one Supreme Leader,” appointed for life.

The president, the defense minister, and every official in Iran, is a “puppet” to the Supreme Leader.

A single, Islamic, Sharia Judge says how the entire nation eats, dresses, treats women, educates itself, the amusements and information they can have, the work they can do, where they can go, who will be their enemies, and who will be their friends.

As we know, the Supreme Leader tells his people, in no uncertain terms, that the United States of America is “Satan.”

This is not a Star Wars movie. This is not a piece of science fiction. This is real. This is Iran.

The rise of Iran’s priesthood followed when the Persian Empire lost battles and great amounts of territory to the Russian Empire throughout the 19th century—the humiliation of Iran culminating in the December 1891 fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi against tobacco. Even the shah couldn’t smoke. His wives said no.

Iran’s diplomatic existence with the West is about 500 years old, and for centuries the Persian Empire was reasonably successful as a balancing act between itself, the Ottoman Empire (enemy), Russia (meddling friend/enemy) and Britain (meddling friend/enemy).

By the beginning of the 20th century, however, in the wake of the tobacco fatwa, Iran was weak, beaten, and depressed. To state it irreligiously, by 1900, Iran had no balls.

The Muslim priests, who would eventually rule Iran, never stopped bragging about their tobacco fatwa triumph.

Religious clerics always gain strength when they successfully prohibit things.

Somehow it is no surprise, when we read, in the Guardian a few years ago: “US had extensive contact with Ayatollah Khomeini before Iran revolution. Documents seen by BBC suggest Carter administration paved way for Khomeini to return to Iran by holding the army back from launching a military coup.” —June 10, 2016

Jimmy Carter, unwilling to defend U.S. interests, the world’s interests, or the people of Iran, allowed an airplane to fly in from radicalized France, with Peter Jennings and other western journalists on board, containing the head of the assassinating priesthood: the Ayatollah Khomeini. Recently declassified documents do reveal (denied, of course, by the Iran regime) that the Carter Administration was secretly contacting Khomeini in discussions about his return to Iran—Khomeini had been exiled from Iran since 1965.

In a crucial contest of ideas in 1963-1965, the modernizing Shah, with his White Revolution, advocating democratic, economic growth and worldly freedoms, soundly defeated “Islam & Iran First” Khomeini.

This was not a fatwa against tobacco; this was embarrassing, backwards rhetoric by Iran’s top priest.

But Khomeini was not just reactionary.  He was murderous.  Why didn’t the west seem to know this in 1979? As Peter Jennings and other journalists rode with Khomeini back to Iran on Air France, did they know this?

When Jennings asked Khomeini on the plane how he was feeling about his triumph, the Ayatollah replied, “Nothing.”

Some have interpreted this as a mystical, priestly response.

It was probably simply the response of a stone cold killer.

The Shah’s 41 year old prime minister, Hasan Ali Mansur, a progressive, White Revolution intellectual, met with Khomeini in the spring of 1965, asking the ayatollah to apologize for his hysterical, anti-government antics. He made the mistake, apparently, in a fit of anger, of slapping Khomeini across the face. Two months later Hasan Ali Mansur was murdered—by the same group, the Fayadan-e Islam, who murdered Prime Minister Razmara in 1951.  After the 1979 revolution, Mansur’s grave was desecrated.  The Shah’s last prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar, who weakly surrendered to Khomeini’s demands in 1979, was murdered in exile in Paris, by the regime, in 1991, with kitchen knives.

Iran continued to do well in the wake of the White Revolution, but as the Shah grew older and weaker (by 1978 he was quite ill, and died shortly after the 1979 Revolution), the future of the dynasty was in jeopardy. The head of the snake, having moved to France in 1978, and poised to return, was publicly supported, not as the assassinating priest which he was, but as a “nationalist” who would help the Iranian people.

In Cairo, in 2019, Trump’s Secretary of State Pompeo attacked Obama’s “willful blindness” on Iran, and said, “When America retreats, chaos often follows. The age of self-inflicted American shame is over.” During the 2016 campaign, Trump made it clear to the American people he was furious with the “Iran deal.”

Let’s not bomb Iran—but if we must, let’s bomb Iran with leaflets—telling the truth of 1953, correcting the story peddled by Obama and Parsi and the Iran regime. To fix 1979, we first must tell the truth of 1953. And while we’re at it, let’s bomb London with leaflets, too.

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BOTH OF US LIE

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Both of us lie,

You, somewhere outside of this poem,

Me, inside here, writing it.

I love you. Why are you fighting it?

We know we are both fake.

But are we lying for each other’s sake?

Both of us lie.

Over our separate graves,

Two trees are being sly,

Uniting their branches.

You and I were always in cahoots.

God knows what’s going on in the roots.

Both of us lie—

Our differences are such

That even in hate, we’re forced to touch.

No one changes; obstinately

We planned different styles of poetry

And refused to be reconciled.

We hated. But we smiled.

Both of us lie.

We have made two worlds—

One where God, loved, tells all;

Another, confused, but not ready to fall.

We live happily, separately, in each one,

As if the sun obeyed the moon

And the moon obeyed the sun.

But they don’t.

It is my burden to know we shouldn’t be two.

Look at all I love. Look at all you do.

 

 

 

SUPERIORITY

Man Ray, 1920-21, Portrait of Marcel Duchamp, gelatin silver print, Yale University Art Gallery.jpg

Superiority does not acknowledge you.

Everything else does. It gets inside you.

It makes you itch. It satisfies your thirst.

Not superiority. Superiority is the worst.

It doesn’t look at you, and if it does,

You are not sure if it is.

You know it is better. It is better because

It is beautiful without any moving parts,

Without any uncanny belonging to the darker arts.

The superior is sunny and plain in a way that disorients

All learning. You stare and hope it looks

At you. Not even in the ancient books

Of lengthy poems depicting the deeds

Of gods and mortals in their clamorous needs

Have you seen, or imagined, or felt

Anything like this. Once, a slender goddess knelt

Before an unskilled god. You were reading

Myths, as a child, on the floor.

The anger that was leading to war!

But now, a tortured person,

You look at this person on the train…

What are they doing? Writing a poem?

How old are they? In that casual, sexual domain,

You see the placid lake of all poetry!

This is superior, you think, because

The great doesn’t look at you. But it does.

 

 

WHEN I PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

Image result for two maidens and a man in 19th century painting

Because I have seen so much

I find myself doubting it all, all, very much.

I do not hear two chiming sounds together

But I blame it on the obvious weather.

There is only one love, one.

This universe on my heavy heart weighs a ton.

When I put it all together, I found

Myself falling in love without a sound.

My poems don’t know it, so we

Are still thinking of you. But she

Is seducing my cloudy future

With a sweet face and languid looks.

You belong to my past—its books

Have words and pictures of you,

As if you were a writer, but you were

Not a writer. I didn’t know what you were.

My heartbreak—which writes poems fast

To you and only to you—is not aware of her,

This siren on the edge of my past.

Will someone write me a pretty good poem at last?

A big ocean she sings across.

I watch the small gray waves toss.

Is it possible she will overtake you?

What else is she going to do?

 

THIS POEM IS NOT AFRAID OF CRITICISM

Image result for green abstract painting

This poem is not afraid of criticism.

This poem is criticism. There is bad

In the world and this has made me sad.

There is sadness we don’t see

But it leans into sweetness critically.

Happy must be built. Criticism is

Criticized. This is what criticism is.

Slowly, sweetness drips down.

The sad, if sweet, will never frown.

I don’t hate criticism. I embrace

Criticism; every time I kiss your face,

It was because not kissing your face

Was bad; then a kiss not enough, I embrace

You, and kiss parts which are not your face.

Kiss me. Don’t ignore me; criticize

Everything. And I will, too. I have eyes.

 

 

WINNING HURTS THE SORTING

Winning hurts the sorting.

My reclusive bored nirvana wins.

We know in our loneliness sorting must be done.

During the high school graduation party lots of couples were on the verge of breaking up.

Only what strikes you from without sins.

All inspiration, all that’s worthwhile comes from within,

That’s how we are lonely and how we win.

We don’t know anything but what’s in here.

Nothing can scare us or induce a tear,

Or make us slip up and fall in love

Except what’s out there. The outside is wrong.

What got in, came in slowly, and didn’t change us.

Siri, play, “Like a Rolling Stone, How does it feel, No direction home, the times

They are a Changing,” then let me sleep.

Give me a poem and I won’t make a peep.

How I realized I’m exactly the same

As that which hates me and wants to change my name.

And the destroyer is going to change

Me for the good. That’s why love isn’t strange

But comforting. It reverses the world and me,

Killing my bored nirvana with friendly company.

Even the most popular must decide, must narrow it down.

Empty cars, and surprisingly warm downtown.

Now I’m going to start over, twenty five years on.

Fall in love, again. By this tree. On this lawn.

 

 

ALL ART

Image result for john clare the poet

“O for a draught of vintage…”

All art is either parody or homage,

And the best, a mixture.

You cannot expect me to put the paint on that way,

Although that style has become a fixture.

You can’t expect me to go down this hall,

Saying hello to every hat upon the wall.

There’s Wordsworth’s; his frequent use of enjambment

Was mocked by John Clare—no, that wasn’t the younger poet’s intent;

Rivals of the same era will sometimes seem

Completely alike; in time, the same dream

Descends on both; he praised her,

But by doing so, his verse steered towards the small

And trivial. If only you had read it to the end!

You would have seen your own sleeve repaired. You lend

Me a part of myself—but I always take

It as mine forever. Well, that’s how it works, for God’s sake.

The economy can tax and buy and re-sell

To the poor, and this is why they never do well.

Everything is made for the sake

Of the advantaged. The rest is hidden in the lake.

There’s nothing original. We re-combine

The letters, the hues, the ideas. Look at this line:

This line (not that one, this one) is going to tell

A heavenly tale, using blotches found in hell.

Or Hull. When Lake Poets took a long hike

Along German hills, exquisite poetry was found.

Clare mocking Wordsworth is almost like

Larkin, who replenished with a certain sound

An irritated Englishness, too quick

To cry for most, but bitching certainly did the trick.

You can see him, right there, and think

Anything you want about him. Go have a drink.

 

LOVERS MAKE THEMSELVES LARGER CAGES

 

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Lovers make themselves larger cages.

We, for instance,

Followed quiet roads, to kiss,

To find a place to hide our homeless love

From eyes across the way, or tall windows above.

We took paths we hadn’t taken before,

But found every inch accounted for,

Private or public. The nowhere we sought,

In perfect anonymity, did not exist.

Then we would have really kissed.

But we shouldn’t have been doing this.

Afraid we would get caught:

Anonymity could not be bought.

Visibility and knowledge get inside your head.

We sometimes felt that we were dead.

Today I passed a little side route view

I once took secretly with you.

It didn’t lead to anything new.

Just more civilization. Us, looking around,

Thinking our paradise would never be found.

We were working slaves, stuck in the city.

Profound, the love, but our busy environs were too witty,

Too full of others: a tourist pondering behind a gravestone—

We thought the beautiful old cemetery would find us alone.

A small road would look promising and quiet,

But soon would end up in a riot.

The one thing urban planning misses—

Fortresses for forbidden kisses.

From a parking lot, or the latest rural fair,

We’d look at the moon, and wish we were there—

Though on the moon you can’t breathe.

One quick kiss, and then we’d leave.

Once, under a tree, by a fallen log,

At night, someone came walking their dog.

Once, in a building where no one should have been,

A janitor came to clean.

We wanted to kiss each other so bad.

The non-kissing world drove us mad.

Every fence, path, and stumbling walk

Contained private or public folk,

Who belonged to the world more than we.

They didn’t know you wanted to kiss me,

And after a while, you didn’t. Now I see

Only public places that exist in those places.

And I never see yours—just other faces.

Today I saw the flowers in bloom.

Last night, walking, I saw a television on in a room.

Lovers make themselves larger cages.

Then return home, to death, to boredom, just like lovers from other ages.

 

 

 

 

THE FAT ASS SOCIETY

Image result for red communist posters

The Fat Ass Society held rallies

All across the continent. Meanwhile

Johnny and Betty worked on posters

For the Persistent Pimple Front long

Into the night. Bright red. Foreign support

Made it possible. Rival governments

In the far east sided with the pro-democracy

Protests until religious counter-protests

Brought several prime ministers to the table.

The president studied Islam as a boy

And realized completely crazy had political potential.

Disguised as smooth and buoyant, he knew

The truth was interlocking, never standing alone.

The ayatollah who was a commie was gold.

This could really work. The negotiations

Were best done out of sight. The public,

Left out, nevertheless had their opinions.

The Fat Ass Society assembled at dawn

And ran their riots as if they really meant it.

Pieces of automobiles were thrown.

Automobile sales increased, and last I checked,

Betty had left Johnny, even though Johnny

Had become leader of the Persistent Pimple Front,

Realizing she was a woman at last.

I had enjoyed being her son, growing up

Fishing in my own country but those

Verities were soon to be a thing of the past.

I DON’T LOVE WHAT I LOVE

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I don’t love what I love,

I become what I love.

I cannot become my beloved;

I don’t think copying the flesh

Is the highest form of love,

Unless an Elvis impersonator

Who loves Elvis is real love.

But I don’t think it is.

But I can write

In the style, pre-Raphaelite.

I can be sad

In her style, Ligiea’s style, and be just as mad.

I think about faces,

How almost everyone

Has pretty eyes. Pretty eyes

Are common—a pair of beautiful eyes

Can live in an ugly face.

The architecture of the face:

The shape and size of the forehead,

The architecture of jaw, chin,

The position of the ears, the brows:

These determine the beauty of a face.

Jaw and forehead make up the hardware—

Eyes, nose, and mouth, the software

Of the face. A perfect nose can adorn

An ugly face, and beautiful lips, too.

I fell in love with a strong jaw, once.

It was large and unique. It was like a god’s,

Noble and strong; and the rest

Of her features, in the plan of the face,

Were gently-proportioned and modest;

A nose not large, nor too small—

A perfect shape, the same with eyes and lips;

And the forehead was smooth and regular,

Leaving her classically noble chin,

With the heft of ancient statuary,

Proud, not receding—the exaggerated

Opposite—to be her face’s character.

Had any other features been large

Too, this would have tipped the whole face

Into freakishness. The chin alone

Stood out; not one in a million

Has a chin this strong, a solid feature

Expected more in a man—but, on her,

Startlingly unique and handsome,

A wonderful compliment to the lips.

This rarity in a face is more valuable

Than all the art in the world; her singular

Physical uniqueness made it hard

Not to love her, once I fell. Everything else

Was secondary: she was bad-tempered,

Sneeringly sarcastic, plain in thought,

Pessimistic, depressed, married. Yet all these

Were eclipsed by the classical chin—

Once pondered, it was difficult to forget.

See this rare sketch in this old, crumbling volume of sin?

A god teaches the mortal how the mortal should be.

A god, she was, in part, gliding, askance of me—

Hers, the countenance, demure, pre-Raphaelite—

Lending a structure to the clothes and the poetry.

HOW TO WANT WHAT NEVER WAS

Image result for ligeia

How to want what never was.

You must write down affections here.

You must see in her mind the face

Slightly smiling, and dear,

Not cloudy and wrong from memory,

But the face when it is near.

The face of thought on the train.

A sweet memory, without strain.

You must converse, and have that kind of happiness.

You must cling to her in the best fragments,

Forgetting the plot.

She misses you a lot.

Yes, she misses you,

And the suffering is bad—

But trying not to miss you because she is angry at you

Makes her even more sad.

How to want what never was.

You escaped all of this. Be glad.

 

 

 

 

 

REVENGE YOURSELF

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You are good without thinking,

And this is the best way to be good.

The moment I begin to explain?

The simplest things will be misunderstood.

Revenge yourself against these married blondes.

They may be happy, but they are dumb.

We can discuss the Ayatollah Khomeini,

Sports and jazz, as we drink rum.

You can be the best at improvising,

With your dark hair on your kettle drum.

We’ll indulge in imbecilic quantification—

Woman and man, why not two men?

Until the moon and the evening come.

I’ll slaughter all your preconceptions.

And, later, I’ll write poetry—

When you wake up one night, frightened,

And revenge yourself on me.

 

 

THE CRITIC

Image result for beautiful old dusty books

He could have been a wonderful novelist,

But his sentences were too long.

The first thing Dr. Anthony X. Jones noticed

On this particularly grey Sunday

Was the rope and the sofa were the same color.

The gap between professional

And amateur is greater in some activities than others.

In poetry, for instance, since everyone uses words—

There is hardly any difference at all.

Often, in fact, the amateur is better;

The end of the poem seems better

Than the beginning, the chief criterion.

On the other hand, professional porn

Is far better than porn by amateurs.

When we make love, the place is not important—

But we find love is never enough.

We need to avert the eyes. A body

Truly beautiful is rare, as is love.

And the presentation of the work

Is important. Especially when the poet is a jerk.

Is the critic’s job an honorary one?

No. Ineptitude is seen; then I note it, just for fun.

 

 

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