WOMEN CRAZED

Women, crazed, because of the polyamorous nature of men,

Reject the good man over and over again;

Monogamy and monotheism are a prison and a bore,

O heart, you feel cheated. O heart, tender heart, you want more.

You want what others have, the love which is over there;

You want the lover behind that dazzling curtain—who doesn’t care.

Crazed, you suffer; you need to be indifferent, too;

You want what doesn’t want—not my happy love which presumed to understand you.

The lake refuses to be a lake, the heart is fed by many streams.

The lake is not one lake. We can’t live. The heart is divided by dreams.

I wish I could be one person. I wish I could give you one kiss

Over and over again. But it failed, even as you were reading this.

I know poets who are dying; they wrote beautiful lines

To the divorced and the crying.

But life is the serene blue sky seen through a tear.

Nature has all the beauty we need—so why are the poets here?

Why don’t the poets see that no one gives a fuck?

Beauty isn’t made. The truth is a big hotel. The truth is a pickup truck.

A blue sky is enough. The best poet I know slaves in a restaurant.

Nature is beautiful enough. Poetry is not what we want.

The love of his life divorced him. This might happen to you

If you write poems. Someone planted a tree. And it grew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S HARD TO TELL

It’s hard to tell if temperamental, nasty shits

Are bossed around because they are shits

Or they are shits because they are bossed around.

The successful appear benign

When there is plenty of wine.

And because they have what they need,

Are the rulers without greed?

When is it okay to say the oppressed,

Because they are so, are not as good as the rest?

I have noticed, when I normally walk about

If anyone walks into a woman, she completely flips out,

Even if it’s another woman, but a guy,

If his wife should accidentally veer

Into his space, treats it with good cheer,

Even as an excuse for a hug or a quick kiss.

But she acts like something is totally amiss.

A woman’s space is everything,

And when she lets you in,

This is how she expresses love;

A guy wants sex; the woman lets him in,

Not for sex—because if the secret be told,

Women pretend to like sex much more than they do—

It’s like when you host a party,

And opening the door when guests arrive,

Makes you happy and thrilled—

For women it’s about the occasion,

It’s about opening the door.

The love I describe is this—and nothing more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WORLD UNCLOTHED

The secret society met secretly,

Their stupidity to hide.

The vow to be secret, the only

Accomplishment inside.

A secret isn’t worthy

Unless the ivy covered wall

Of its secrecy remains silent, and never falls.

If any holy secret

Be found along the path,

And you stoop to examine it,

You can’t help but laugh.

Can this be what high symbolism means?

Unpleasant music of moral disorder?

Calculating hearts with empty dreams?

A wet cave, which goes no further?

 

THE POETRY MACHINE

The machine can do many things

And the poets are frankly scared that the machine,

Stocked with “tears, stars, berries, woods,”

Can now write poems

And can say, with just the right anger, “I hate Trump.”

The machine does work and that’s fine

But when the machine’s work extends to love,

We are horrified.

We are machines when we work—

But are we machines when we love?

What are humans? Machines emerging from nature,

The writing ruining the writing,

The memory of a sun blocking the memory of a moon,

The moon, human, the human comparing itself to the moon,

The trifle that is the universe sorry for its complexity and its size.

The poem unable to manifest itself in the beloved’s searching eyes.

And when, at last, the whimpering animal dies,

The touch of what feels like a metallic hand on your shoulder.

 

 

 

MAYBE THIS TIME

Image result for mona lisa

Maybe this time my love will be

About this poem, instead of this

Poem being about my love. Poetry

Can do two things; first, find bliss

In how the poet manages to convey

What anyone in love would like to say,

But cannot. Since poetry isn’t painting,

The poem needs to be a kind of fainting

Rather than the eyes of the love seen.

The poem says where love has been;

This telling reveals the beloved, unseen,

The eyes in all their glory hinted at;

The reader feeling what the poet feels.

A poem cannot do much more than that.

But maybe this time my poem will be

Love itself—the origin of all poetry.

The beloved will not only make the reader weak—

She will open her mouth—oh God!—and speak.

 

 

TOO MUCH LOVING, TOO MUCH POETRY

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Too much loving, too much poetry

Has consumed my days. We don’t want to be free.

We want to be trapped by love. We want to hear poetry by the sea.

But today I do want to be free,

I want one ordinary morning in a café,

The boredom of those who work here. “A large coffee,” is all I say.

The customers are older couples, softly talking. Of course poems are insane,

I always knew that, and songs,

Like films, exist because of adultery; the poetry of sexual wrongs

I’m deeply sick of; the sensitive singer strumming the guitar

On in the café, please stay in the background. I know who you are.

Silent nature: cliffs and hills, the military, stoic pursuits

Will not save me, because I will think of love in the silences.

A second cup of coffee is about all I can do.

I need to take a walk.  And think about you.

I really don’t know what to do. Maybe I’ll buy a suit,

A good fitting suit; I’ll get a good haircut, very subtle cologne,

And then maybe I’ll run into you, and you will be alone.

 

 

I HAD THE BEST TIME

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I had the best time of my life an hour ago—
But this elevator is dark and slow.
She sleeps a pleasant sleep. I’m not sure who to call—
Now it seems the elevator isn’t moving at all.
I entered the elevator at the top floor,
After kissing her one last time—I couldn’t kiss her anymore.
She loved me. The protests died in our room,
And we loved. Has this elevator become a tomb?
Just a short time ago, I left the highest bliss—
In the cold and dark, I remember the kiss.
The building is tall, and down below, the sun rises.
Next time I’ll take the stairs. And do all that love advises.

 

EVERYTHING CHANGES YOU

Image result for two lovers listen to music in painting

Everything changes you as you listen to it,

Whether the music is good or bad.

A music or a speech has something going for it

Even if it makes no sense, and drives you mad.

Madness improves the economy—mad, you will dare

To do all kinds of things.

Cures are sought, love is made, things are bought—if you care.

The best entertainer half-talks, half-sings.

You think I have bad musical taste,

Or don’t like something I said?

What can you do about it? What do I care?

I put myself in your head.

I will stay there—and now you are thinking of me.

It’s what we want to remove that we think about the most.

How can one person change the universe? You have to let it be.

No one knows what you are thinking. You don’t boast.

I’ve noticed what is popular is exactly what you hate.

You and the universe are at odds,

It’s the sensitive person’s fate.

Darling, do you remember when we took time

And leisurely lay in each other’s arms, and let a whole Beethoven piece play?

When we loved? When I wrote about you in rhyme?

That was bliss. That was us. And it simply faded away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE DON’T KNOW THE COLOR OF THE MOON

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We don’t know the color of the moon.

I’ve seen her dreaming yellow in the beginning of the evening

As if she were the sun.

I’ve seen her sad, mute and blue in the morning

In love: O what have I done?

I’ve seen the moon change color with the changing clouds,

Clouds the swift night wind is forming,

Clouds which escape, but barely, from the sea.

You didn’t think there was desperation, did you,

In the still evening sky? Maybe you do know,

For your sadness always moves,

Almost escaping, almost happy.

The color of the moon. Is it a voice or a mood?

The painters are in despair, for the moon is always nude.

I despaired, until one day I saw a white moon,

Faint, like my heart, in the bright noon.

 

 

THE CHESS LESSON

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These are your men.

Since I love you, I can’t give this lesson again.

Couples retain pride

No matter how much they confide.

I will show you the moves

As decorously as sensitivity loves.

I am white. I move first.

This means I should win.

Where losing is cursed,

Lack of focus is the only sin.

Control the center of the board.

Push pawns forward, defending them

With the larger pieces, hidden.

Hiding happens gradually

In the growing number of possible moves;

Castles and knights are easy to see,

But where they move in the future is all.

Protect the king. The king cannot fall.

Hold the smooth piece in your hand

And note the temperature of the squares—

The hottest, where the most pieces are able to land.

Gather the assembled army where

The exchange, the battle, favors you.

Love? No. Plan. So every move seems new.

Take your man. Don’t listen to what you

Think the player who plays black is saying.

Do you love me? Will you read this poem?

The metaphor is all. You cannot win without playing.

 

 

BEAUTY IS A WORD

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Beauty is just a word we use to describe women.

Imams use beauty to mean temptation which should be hidden away,

But those who love beauty say why should we hide it away?

As soon as we mention beauty comes the request that beauty should stay.

The star is beautiful, but more beautiful, the beautiful ray.

When we see a group of brothers and sisters, in a free society,

Freely entering a room, smiling, we see beauty over time.

Beauty, hold still. I am grateful. My arrogance is cured by rhyme.

We want the dreamy candlelight not to blur too much. Loving

Should remain, like candles in a row, burning. I drank too much and the room is moving.

Beauty, remain. Don’t be the candle flame which moves.

Beauty means fidelity—which always loves.

 

 

TO STUDY POETRY IS TO STUDY NOTHING

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We are wise, we know advanced physics, by what the poet Wordsworth said:

The living flower is you; the examined flower is dead.

The words of the poem could be said to disappoint, but this isn’t quite true;

If I don’t like the poem you wrote—I won’t like you.

How’s that for hyper-criticism? Don’t cry

Because your poem fails—in your poem’s death, you die.

The secret is out: the poetry degree isn’t worth a penny.

A poem succeeds—or not—for reasons far too many

And unique—good beside a good in a poem may be bad;

There’s no method but madness—the best poets are mad.

You are hurt, love can’t help—still there’s something you can do.

But remember: if your poem fails, I won’t be pleased by you.

 

 

 

 

WHEN I SWIM

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When I swim in the sea,

Holding me up, thinking the water is me,

I do not fear drowning. I have no fears at all,

Living, being so big, I, being so small.

I am exactly the sea.

The sea is exactly me.

The sea wants me to be a part

Of the sea. The lungs and heart

Were already built to thrive,

So I never not was. I have always been alive.

When you see me vanish in a sea of error,

Mere fears cannot conquer your terror,

Thinking you will lose me,

As if I never existed, or was the sea.

 

I WOULD LOVE YOU

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I would love you in your house by the sea.

I would love you and you would love me.

We would dine on a meal I cooked.

And then we would kiss, after we looked.

We would have wine, but not too much,

Saving each other to taste and touch.

There would be sigh and there would be rub.

There would be caress. But most of all, love.

There would be work and love between play.

And if my manners were bad, you would send me away.

 

 

 

I COULDN’T UNDERSTAND

Image result for girl vanishing in the mist in renaissance painting

I couldn’t understand why our love had to die.

Mystery unsolvable! You loved me

Madly even as you said goodbye.

I had to know the answer to the mystery.

Love is not a part of life, but everything, and so

Love makes us feel, and makes us want to know.

Solving a problem which is simple and small

Can be impossible, but love is the greatest problem of all:

So most give up; it is the brain—

What the timid fear, what the bold lose by going insane—

The brain, not the heart, kills love—the loveless are ignorant, at last.

The unloved finally view love as a hurtful, confused, failure in the past.

I love as I think, and think as I love,

Because love is a mystery—and there’s the rub;

Love is a mystery, a mystery to be solved—

So everyone has cried since the world revolved.

You had feelings, the mystery hurt, you cried,

You wept away your thoughts—first, thoughts, then feelings are denied.

I solved the mystery: our love was strong,

So the small goodbyes were always too long;

Love was always saying goodbye

To us. To you. Your sorrow was love’s.

You left because of love. And love has told me why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOW THAT I’M GONE

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Now that I’m gone,

She can go to a beauty salon.

She can try a dress on

When she goes to a store.

She can pick out wines

And buy wine, and buy more

Than when I was there,

And she can be at ease when she dines;

In her kitchen let her count tines;

Let her oven be off or on,

Now that I’m gone.

She can take long walks by lakes

And she can go on the internet,

And if she senses the offers are fakes

She can smile, and think of me, or, forget.

Let her write memos and fret,

Let her  vacation message be off or on,

Now that I’m gone.

She can make a batch of cookies

While she talks on the phone,

She can watch a movie with a friend, or alone,

She can watch a nature show on bees,

She can visit historical houses,

Or stay in and sleep, and have wonderful dreams,

She can throw out old blouses

And bras and when someone blames

Her for something she didn’t do,

She can explain patiently

And not lose her temper. The madness grew

When I lay with her by the lawn

And that was because she was a beauty.

Today she does what she needs to do

Now that I’m gone.

She can laugh. She can laugh.

She can laugh and laugh and laugh

And fall asleep with the television on

Now that I’m gone.

She will leave early, but not too early.

She will surely

Never be hopeful at dawn

Now that I’m gone.

But dread or hope—

Who knows their scope?

In a mad moment or two, hope may really turn her on.

She can go to a beauty salon,

Now that I’m gone.

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN I’M NOT THERE IT’S YOU WHO STARE

Image result for house by the sea in renaissance painting

You go to me, as if I’m there,
Though I’m not—but aren’t I always there?
Seeing the flowers, even when flowery love’s not there?
The flowers are there because you are aware.
When I do not, it’s you who stare.
It’s you who look around, and look,
At the world, as if the world were your only book,
And I am in there; yes, you look,
You look at the emptiness of my stare,
And don’t see the flowers, but the flowers are there.
Once I looked at you, and now you’re blind.
And you complained. But never mind.
When I’m not there, it’s you who stare.

 

POETRY IS THE SOUNDTRACK

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Poetry is the soundtrack to this sea of prose,

The noise made in the boat. You better get one of those.

Stupidity is silent and hasn’t made a sound

Since it grew so heavy it can’t get around.

Thought and feeling don’t come alive until articulate

And heard patterns come alive in the lantern of wit.

Intention walks into the light to be heard

When poetry is poetry. Anything else is absurd.

You make it clear to me,

With groans, you like creativity.

You make your love certain with your cries

That cry into music. Don’t open your eyes

Until the feeling inside becomes too much.

Smile. Write poetry. Keep in touch.

SO MUCH POETRY

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Poetry overpowers the weak—

So they will never read poetry again.

Poetry even kills poetry when poetry attempts to speak

In a valley with eleven hundred starving men,

And the wind starts up, to make even worse the snow,

Now flying sideways, the world with no place to go.

Poetry isn’t needed here, so you better be quiet,

Or bring out this menacing guy, if you don’t want a riot.

The poetry in this gun will not fire,

The poetry you loaded onto the bus

Will get old before it gets to where it’s going,

And at some bus stop, by a drug store, will sigh, and retire.

The poems like a trumpet you heard in books which roar

Like the sound of Tennyson don’t roar anymore.

Remove your wind-breaker, get wet, scream, implore.

That’s not poetry. Maybe blood will do it.  Or a pricier store.

So much poetry is lying around,

In casual speech, in the accidental sound

Of overheard music and trains.

Your poetry in the sun will never compete

With what this imbecile smells when it rains.

 

 

 

LONG LIVE THE KING (HE SMOTE THE SLEDDED ON THE ICE)

Image result for ghost scene in hamlet in painting

When pictures, noble, inspiring wonder and fear,

Swim into your sight, but do not respond when you speak to them,

These, like movies and books, are dead, like ghosts, their nobility

A rumor, a shadow, a reflection of anything which happens to move

In front of the mirror, even your own image, which you naturally love

Because it is you, though you may hate the way it looks

Because it is not beautiful enough to inspire movies and books,

And further, there you are, it is you looking at you, it is you

But it cannot tell you anything you want to know

Even as you stare meaningfully alone in the cinema at the glow,

The light and meaning of all light and meaning, but when you think

Of a question, it will not answer; it doesn’t know, it can only blink

With its noble eyes

And from its lips, anything—even lies.

When the noble Horatio heard the wild rumor, it was clear

How Hamlet’s friend felt: “Tush, tush, ’twill not appear.”

But when his thick reason saw the cheat, he turned pale with fear.

Who’s there? The rumored video, ghost, history, life, is near.

 

 

HE’S NAIVE, AND THAT’S GOOD

Image result for monk playing flute in renaissance painting

He’s naive about drinking

And that’s good,

He’s naive about drugs

And that’s good.

Monks are wise from ignorance.

You can’t say how much good divinity brings

When you are ignorant of all bad things.

He never ages. He eats food raw.

He is the most beautiful thing I ever saw.

He is not addicted to sex or drink.

He has peace and ease and knows how to think.

He’s addicted to nothing. He will play

His flute quietly a few minutes a day.

He has no desires and this is good.

But one thing is never understood:

Even as he glories in being naive:

He wants the rest to believe.

He’s addicted to talk. He has to share.

As soon as he speaks, we don’t care.

As soon as he whispers, “Do you know what I think?”

I roll my eyes. I reach for a drink.

If he were silent when he looked at me

My thoughts would drown and I would be free.

 

 

 

 

I HEAR THESE SOUNDS WHEN THESE SOUNDS STOP

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I hear these sounds when these sounds stop.

When the shouting ends I hear these soft voices drop.

When you begin to love and no longer pretend,

All doubts in the woods and mountains will end.

The hawk will keep deadly silence above.

Let her. As long as you love.

That is crazy that you went that far!

I’m lazy. I listen for the car.

When the cats stop coming around

My cat will drop from the tree to the ground.

When Cynthia says she can come by,

All sounds will cease. Even my sigh.

ODE TO A THING

Image result for lamplight in a beautiful house

Houses are comfortable and comforting.

Things have their uses,

But I love her because she looks like a witch.

I look forward to her abuses.

People are cruelly physical

And not theoretical at all.

She loved me for my blue eyes and because I was tall.

She loved me because I cleaned my teeth and cut my hair.

If you are beautiful, or walk with a limp, people will stare.

The human is physical more than any other thing.

Theory cannot punish. Theory cannot sing.

Houses are comforting; objects are more human than human.

We want silent pictures in our room.

We want artistic lamplight in the gloom.

We don’t want the human.

We want a good bed to sleep in.

In that good bed, we dream,

And maybe there’s a kind face in a stream.

But people outside of dreams are physical, and that’s all they are.

Do you remember when the eye looked at a distant star?

 

YOU BETTER GIVE THAT TO ME

Image result for rabbit in renaissance painting

You have been working hard and making money
And the rabbits are running in your flowers
As dandelions droop here and there and the hours
Fall as they always fall when shadows cover the hill
And the sun bathes the hill, by turns, cloudy and blue,
And night settles down, with dwindling sunlight and moonlight, too.
Always making it, with your thoughts of me,
To where I am, and me kissing you, finally,
And you indifferent, as the women always are,
Unless the big act of the porn star.
Hey it’s about time we agree.
You better give that to me.

You have been aging, and trying hard not to age,
Putting in new plants, the basil and the sage,
The things you are able to do, always ready to do;
Sometimes with tree trunks it’s difficult to tell false from true.
The soil is ready, and you are purposeful, not quite soiled,
Trying to keep your health and another cookie, or two,
Leaving the fermenting alone, so it doesn’t get spoiled.
It’s impossible to know what women really are.
Children are the best. But they only take you so far.
Of course. It was expected. We couldn’t agree.
You better give that to me.

The far-flung hasn’t made it here yet, but it will,
They are working on something new,
Hear the sounds of the workers on the other side of the hill?
The rabbits are coming out more in the evenings.
Look at them sitting there, with those eyes.
It makes you want to renounce the human race, sometimes,
The innocence and plainness of these animals.
And all the poems heaped up and not rhyming.
It’s not my business, really, to ask who you are.
A little can be found out. A telescope. A star.
I’ll be peering into the night. Maybe we’ll agree.
You better give that to me.

 

 

THE SHADE

Image result for dark green abstract painting

This towering tree creates a thick, deep shade

So one thinks gloom is a thing God made.

Underneath this gargantuan tree

Cool spring days fade quietly

Where lilacs and ferns sit around

A small stream making a small sound.

We talk upon outdoor furniture here

In the middle of the year,

Until the day’s shade turns into night.

We go indoors and have a little food,

And rest under music to remain in a good mood.

Before we sleep, I kiss her face

And the poem vanishes, without a trace.

TO OUR TRYST

Image result for garden of eden briton riviere

To our tryst be quick,

For you seem to be in love,

And I am love-sick.

To our tryst don’t be slow,

You sense already

What I don’t know.

To our tryst be fast,

You seem to understand

Trysts won’t last.

To our tryst hurry please,

I’m already waiting

Upon my knees.

To our tryst run,

For being there

Will be more fun.

To our tryst the night

Plans to come,

If that’s alright.

To our tryst the sun

Will keep his tryst,

When we are done.

To our tryst give

All we can give,

So we can live.

To our tryst don’t delay

And then hurrying love

At last can stay.

 

 

MAKE JOHN CROWE RANSOM GREAT AGAIN

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Helen Vendler’s review of Ben Mazer’s The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (Un-Gyve Press, 2015) in the New York Review of Books last year did not start a Ransom revival. Our nation’s humiliated pundit class has been preoccupied with other issues recently.

When clothes come off and barriers come down, it makes us feel uncomfortable. There are walls and then there are walls. Persons and nations. The law attempts to bar and unite at once. You cannot come in here but of course you can. You will show us what you have but yes you can be clandestine.

We all know a point has no density. It was da Vinci who asserted that a point in geometry is like a zero in mathematics—it is a marker which is crucial for taking up no physical space.

We can argue in abstract realms to much understanding and profit, but when it comes to physical spaces, disputation inevitably turns into a war. Physical means a fight. Abstraction is the only chance for peace. As soon as we talk of physical walls, physical barbarians will be there. Look at the unborn child and the fight over that. Things must be born. But things also must not be born.  Private property enrages the anarchist; the middle classes watched in uncomprehending horror—and still do—as anarchist rage exploded in 20th century modern art—a business run mostly by independently wealthy anarchists; vapid, sharp pieces flying in static-crackling, faux-humble, morally ambiguous terror, causing madness and poetry which goes on for too long, either in the air or in the mind, the paper-thin derangement of the 20th century avant-garde, called at one point “Futurism,” by its Italian fascist wing, but going by all kinds of names in its cult-like fervor, in its simultaneously scattered and focused Margaret Sanger rage, reflecting a world (small place!) which lost its wits (was it 1900? 1850? Who knows?)—in what might be called Britain’s Revenge Against America, the slick British Empire, with its singular, secular, modern reach. The Empire’s genocide against the Irish, India, Arabs, Persians, and Africans, the Opium Wars against the Chinese, the tacit support of the Confederacy in the American Civil War, barging gloriously into World War One to kill the Huns, appeasing the Nazis, and finally turning the United States of America into a CIA Deep State image of its self. That lawyer-clever, Ivy League, leafy-quiet Empire. That one. The one run by London. Divide to conquer. Plant bombs secretly and don’t say a word. White Boss Man Workshop subverting and subduing nations for their raw materials. “We shall write National Geographic. You shall be in it.” Write the history. Make the history. The British Empire on which the fake sun never sets.

The 20th century avant-garde began its rise during World War One, and grew along with German and Japanese militarism, haiku prose poetry, primitive painting, hideous Brutalist architecture, and atonal music in the 1920s and 30s.

As this horror successfully rose, these gradually fell: Platonist/Judeo-Christian philosophy, the glories of Greece and Rome, Renaissance art and poetry, Pope and Byron, and everything splendid which had gone before. Poe said poetry belonged to beauty, but the 20th century disagreed.

In a valuable new edition which collects all of John Crowe Ransom’s poems in one place for the first time, the editor Ben Mazer, in his restrained and sage introduction, focuses on self-conscious self-censorship and revision, of a poet’s own work, over time. The poet, in this case, Ransom, the boy from Tennessee who went off to fight in the Great War and study Greek and Latin at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, treats his poems very much as if they were written by somebody else. Ransom never included poems from his first volume, Poems About God, (Holt, 1919) in Selected editions of his poetry, even though Robert Graves asked to reproduce them, and they were full of fascinating lines and themes.

John Crowe Ransom—and we find this out from Mazer’s now definitive edition—also wrote exceptional poems never collected at all. There’s something strangely half-hidden about this placid Southerner, hyper-explaining essayist, enterprising editor, and slightly mad, gifted poet.

Ransom’s poems are not formalist in a boring way—erratic at times, but even when they are not great, they are beautiful and creepy:

The swimmer’s body is white and clean,
It is washed by a water of deepest green
The color of leaves in a starlight scene,
And it is as white as the stars between.

(from the first poem in Ransom’s first book, “The Swimmer”)

John Crowe Ransom, in his highbrow formalism, overall learning and philosophical acumen, the central place as essayist, theorist, editor and mentor of Modernism in the American mode, the leader of Middle America Modernism—not only as a New Critic, not only as one of the academic leaders of the Creative Writing Program movement, but as poet, editor, philosopher, essayist—is as vital as Pound, (and more accessible and philosophically rigorous); and it is high time, not just for the sake of American Letters, but all Letters, that we, as literary and practical Americans, end the neglect of John Crowe Ransom.

But before we resurrect Ransom, there’s something we need to get out of the way. It has to do with tribal politics—which the British Empire has always exploited and gloried in, on the way to its phenomenal divide-and-conquer success.

In “Under the Locusts,” the 14th poem of Ransom’s first book—published when the highly respected Ransom, a World War One veteran, a school teacher, professor, a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters degree from Oxford University, was 31 years old—we have this stanza

Grinny Bob is out again
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

Perhaps this passage is why John Crowe Ransom, despite being the most important and influential poet/critic in 20th century American Letters, a Bollingen poetry prize winner in 1951 (the same controversial prize Pound won when he escaped hanging for treason), founding editor of the Kenyon Review, mentor to Jarrell and Lowell, the intellectual leader of New Criticism, author of iconic poems and essays which define Modernism better than any other—has been neglected and nearly forgotten.

Controversy has certainly not covered up Pound—who has many admirers.

“Blue Girls” by Ransom may be the only truly perfect poem in existence. (Mazer’s edition gives the two distinct versions, the 1924 original, and the great revised one from Ransom’s 1945 Selected.) Pound never wrote anything as good.

But to return to Ransom’s embarrassing stanza:

Robert Graves—editing and reprinting Ransom’s Poems About God as Grace After Meat in 1923—did not reprint all the poems in Poems About God, in Grace After Meat. Ransom sent a revised and partial copy of his first book to Graves, including “Under the Locusts.” Graves chose to reprint “Under the Locusts.” Ransom, having made a number of subtle changes to the poem, kept the “nigger” stanza intact, except for one slight alteration of the punctuation.

Grinny Bob is out again,
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

According to Ransom’s New Criticism idea, one shouldn’t or (cannot?) read poetry when one is bothering with the intent or the milieu of the author.  This prohibition certainly becomes stretched when looking at this stanza. Perhaps the poem does not reflect the poet’s feelings, but that of the “old men” in the poem. Then, perhaps, the New Criticism (and true poetry) triumphs and Ransom is off the hook? Here’s the poem in full:

What do the old men say,
Sitting out of the sun?
Many strange and common things,
And so would any one.

Locusts are sweet in spring
For trees so old and tough;
Locust trees give sorry shade,
Hardly good enough.

Dick’s a sturdy little lad
Yonder throwing stones;
Agues and rheumatic pains
Will fiddle on his bones.

Grinny Bob is out again,
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

Jenny and Will go arm in arm,
He’s a lucky fellow;
Jenny’s cheeks are pink as rose,
Her mother’s cheeks are yellow.

War is on, the paper says,
Wounds and enemies:
Now young gallivanting bucks
Will know what trouble is.

Parson’s coming up the hill,
Meaning mighty well;
Thinks he’s preached the doubters down,
And why should old men tell?

(Grace After Meat, 1923)

Auden said of Yeats, “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.” The same could be said of Ransom, whose poetry often matches Yeats for poignancy and beauty: the mad American South hurt Ransom into poetry. But this is a cynical view—though most love that Auden quote. Ireland isn’t mad. America isn’t mad. The British Empire is mad. Or, we’re all mad.

Ransom and the Tennessean New Critics, before they assumed the New Critic name and mantle, defended, in 1930, the pre-Civil War, agrarian, American South in their prose anthology I’ll Take My Stand.

Later, in 1937, the evolving Fugitives—the Fugitive was Ransom’s poetry club and small magazine when he was a student at Vanderbilt—as they were turning into the New Critics—championed Pound’s haiku prose modernism in their text book Understanding Poetry. 

Brooks and Warren were the New Critic editors of the influential text; the two writers were close associates of Ransom, and we’ll never know precisely how Ransom felt about their book—which, trying to look forward, perhaps, not only praised the crackpot Pound in its pages, but outright condemned the Southern formalist Poe (obviously an influence on the poet, Ransom), copying an attack by the English critic Aldous Huxley—who ridicules at some length the rhythmic magic of “Ulalume.”

This was the same decade—the 1930s—which saw Pound’s friend T.S. Eliot give his speech against Jews at the University of Virginia. After Eliot intervened to help his friend Pound in 1945, he would attack Poe in “From Poe to Valery” in 1949. Ransom’s reputation as a poet—no doubt given a boost by his Bollingen win in 1951, (and it was every poet’s desire to be published in Ransom’s Kenyon Review during the 1950s—it was practically Plath’s highest dream)—nevertheless continued to fall: either his poetry was too similar to Poe’s, or the newer, more progressive, post-1945, Modernists couldn’t face down “Under the Locusts.”

The New Critics generally revised their reactionary views, like many Modernists, after the Nazis were soundly defeated in 1945.

The Agrarians quixotically played into the hands of the old British Empire.

Ransom and the Agrarians, in their love of the bucolic, explicitly decried American industrial capitalism—the one thing which allowed the U.S  to be strong, independent, and free of the British Empire.

The reactionary politics, and the “Empire” context we are putting it in, is not meant to be definitive, and can be seen as insidious, but just as easily it can be seen as quaint; Ransom was complex, and smarter than his fellow New Critics; over the symbolic mural of both politics and modernism, social and theoretical, Ransom was subtle, sage, and adept, equally facile at discussing religion or the impressionistic poetry of Wallace Stevens.

It would be unfair to see Ransom as only a “Southern” writer, as Poe is often cheaply and unfairly characterized. Critics too quick to make geography in literature paramount betray themselves as the most shallow kind.

Ben Mazer wisely avoids all controversial speculation; like the good scholar he is, Mazer sticks to the facts before him, and provides a bountiful treasure of a book in his Collected Ransom, replete with wonderful appendixes.

Speaking of Wallace Stevens (d. 1955), whose fame rose as Ransom’s fizzled, (Helen Vendler held aloft the Stevens torch; nothing equivalent was done for Ransom), there is a poem in Ransom’s second collection (Chills and Fever, 1924) which bears comparison to Stevens’ well-known “Peter Quince,” published in Stevens’ first collection, Harmonium, in 1923.

“Peter Quince” debuted in Alfred Kreymborg’s Others magazine in 1915; not a free-verse poem, as it should have been, in those early revolutionary days, but it passed muster with Pound and Williams’ Kreymborg’s clique, evidently, because of its risqué sexual nature. Stevens was never a popular poet—too abstract and professorial, the “lecture” often spoiling the music; Stevens never quite succeeded the way Frost did, in being “wise” in a relaxed, “contemporary” manner, and, exactly like Ransom, there was in Stevens’ poetry often that hint of the old-fashioned, which condemns the poet to artificially-clever-and-imitative purgatory—even if the beauty of the poems slaughters the meager prose rantings of everyone else. After the passage of much time, we realize: this isn’t old-fashioned, it’s good. The poetry becomes safe to like. This should happen to Ransom—at least, if not more, interesting than his contemporaries.

John Crowe Ransom’s “Judith of Bethulia” owns passages which remind one of “Peter Quince,” and in its precise stanzaic structure, lacks the trembling, insouciant, and exquisite music Stevens brings—and yet, Ransom’s poem has a more focused, coherent, and haunting narrative. Ransom, unlike Stevens, provides no lesson on “beauty;” instead Ransom’s “Bethulia” is immersed in a number of factual things, of which beautiful pathos is the unspoken and shimmering crown.

Judith of Bethulia

Beautiful as the flying legend of some leopard
She had not yet chosen her great captain or prince
Depositary to her flesh, and our defense;
And a wandering beauty is a blade out of its scabbard.
You know how dangerous, gentlemen of threescore?
May you know it yet ten more.

Nor by process of veiling she grew the less fabulous.
Grey or blue veils, we were desperate to study
The invisible emanations of her white body,
And the winds at her ordered raiment were ominous.
Might she walk in the market, sit in the council of soldiers?
Only of the extreme elders.

But a rare chance was the girl’s then, when the Invader
Trumpeted from the south, rumbled from the north,
Beleagured the city from four quarters of the earth,
Our soldiery too craven and sick to aid her—
Where were the arms could countervail this horde?
Her beauty was the sword.

She sat with the elders, and proved on their bleak visage
How bright was the weapon unrusted in her keeping,
While he lay surfeiting on their harvest heaping,
Wasting the husbandry of their rarest vintage—
And dreaming of the broad-breasted dames for concubine?
These floated on his wine.

He was lapped with bay-leaves, and grass and fumiter weed,
And from under the wine-film encountered his moral vision,
For even within his tent she accomplished his derision;
She loosed one veil and another, standing unafraid;
And he perished. Nor brushed her with even so much as a daisy?
She found his destruction easy.

The heathen are all perished. The victory was furnished,
We smote them hiding in our vineyards, barns, annexes,
And now their white bones clutter the holes of foxes,
And the chieftain’s head, with grinning sockets, and varnished—
Is it hung on the sky with a hideous epitaphy?
No, the woman keeps the trophy.

May God send unto our virtuous lady her prince.
It is stated she went reluctant to that orgy,
Yet a madness fevers our young men, and not the clergy
Nor the elders have turned them unto modesty since.
Inflamed by the thought of her naked beauty with desire?
Yes, and chilled with fear and despair.

For our money, this is better than Pound, and rivals Stevens.  What’s not to love here?

Buy Mazer’s book. Read Ransom’s poetry. And Ransom’s prose, too. Ransom doesn’t just write about New Criticism, or the South.  To begin, we suggest two of Ransom’s great Modernist essays in Garrick Davis’ Praising It New.

If Ransom is to be revived, Ben Mazer, with his wonderful, scholarly, edition of the collected poems, has done something very important.

WE ARE ONE

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We are one; love’s impossible;
We never let anyone into our circle;
The circle of the self is immaculate, inviolate—
You cannot enter it.

Why did I think there could be love?
My whole life I searched for it,
And the idea of blending with another was heaven!
But now I find
Circles defended by the blind.
“Who’s there? Who’s entering my circle?”
It is I, the yearning and the beautiful.

I put my hand in someone’s hand.
While it happened, it was grand.
I thought love was making us one.
Two cannot be one.
Why did I think that was possible?
I cannot be in your circle.
Was never in there.
We say things. But we cannot care.

Is the circle good?  Is love at the center?
I feel it is. Until the blind blindly enter.

Weather destroyed fashion.
Love destroyed porn.
Who you are today
Gazed at you when you were born.
You’re more loving than you know.
But you’re in my circle. And you will have to go.

 

NOW, FROM THIS ISLAND

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Now, from this island,

I see where I was wrong.

I thought there was an ocean.

I believed storms on this ocean were strong.

Rocks and paths were hidden—double

Uncertainties of blue mist appeared like ocean trouble.

It seemed to me the jungle slope

Was steep, and further into the rain, I lost hope.

My mind was a gusty unknown

As I traveled the island alone.

I didn’t know she was on the land

Attached to the island; we could stand

Anywhere. I could apologize.

Sand was in my eye.

There’s no island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONE HUNDRED GREATEST SONGS TO SINK INTO

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Most of these songs are popular; ideally, they would be obscure and new to you, but you probably know most of them; but here they are, a type of song, defined by…”sink into.”  The criterion is somewhat unique: the songs are too good to be “background music,” and yet, because the songs have a certain nonchalance, a certain laziness—which can be a virtue in music—they will drift and wash over you, and not demand too much of you; and yet, because these songs are so wonderful, you should find yourself wishing the rest of the world would be quiet so you can listen to them.  Maybe you would like to fall asleep to them at night—and if you do fall asleep before the song is ended, is it still then not a good song? Where has a song gone when it still plays, and you are sleeping?  Many of these songs seem like they were written for that purpose—for the sleeping, not the waking, brain or ear.  The excitement here may be that so many genres are represented—why shouldn’t one be a fan of many different types of music?  Music would want it so. Looking at the list after picking these songs, we noticed that very few of them (“How Fortunate The Man With None” the notable exception) pontificate—and this makes them so much more interesting, various and powerful. There really is nothing to say. Music knows this. Science knows this. Math knows this. Humor knows this. Love knows this. What you actually say, is not that important in these areas. The way you don’t say it, though, is extremely important. You just need to look and hear. Genius looks and hears.  Meanwhile, the rest of us fret or talk. The songs are in no particular order. They are all good. If you do see a song you don’t know, go on you tube and listen to it immediately, because we guarantee all 100 of these songs are the greatest of their kind.  —the Scarriet editors

Fade Into You —Mazzy Star (deliciously insouciant)

Year Of The Cat —Al Stewart (almost like a movie)

A Whiter Shade Of PaleProcol Harum (Rock and Bach)

Horse With No Name —America (just a couple of flattened sevenths)

America —Simon & Garfunkle (life flowing into melody)

A Day In The Life —The Beatles (the first really transcendent rock song)

Tomorrow Never Knows —The Beatles (one chord will do)

Venus In Furs —Velvet Underground (fashionable amateurism)

Video Games —Lana Del Ray (best pop song of the 21st century)

Cosmic Dancer —T. Rex (glam sweetness)

Nights In White Satin —Moody Blues (most popular song of its type, perhaps)

The Rain Song —Led Zeppelin (this band did not just rock)

Two Thousand Light Years From Home —Rolling Stones (Ruby Tuesday & Lady Jane lost in space)

Alone Again Or —Love (strangely haunting 60s California band)

Riders On The Storm —The Doors (only the Doors)

Claire de Lune —Debussy (needs no comment)

Prelude To The Afternoon of A Faun —Debussy (and modern music begins)

Piano Concero No. 17 (slow movement) —Mozart (Mozart was maybe better slow than fast)

Moonlight Sonata (first movement) —Beethoven (the template of ‘sink into’)

Piano Concerto No. 4 (movements 1 & 2) —Beethoven (maybe his greatest pure orchestral work)

Symphony No. 3 (3rd movement) —Brahms (the majestic, autumnal Brahms!)

Mazurka A minor —Chopin (such a darling sweet piece; Horowitz is on you tube)

Gymnopédies No. 1 —Satie (I could listen to this forever)

Nocturne No. 1 —Chopin (maybe the greatest pure composer of the kind of music on this list)

I Want You (She’s So Heavy) —The Beatles (the lads get heavy and roll)

Daphnis et Chloé, Suite no. 2 —Ravel (classical swoon)

Radar Love —Golden Earring (riding is sinking)

In A Gadda Da Vida —Iron Butterfly (1968. Doors influenced)

When The Music’s Over —The Doors (Persian nights, babe)

The End —The Doors (crawling along)

Season of The Witch —Donovan (must be the season of the hurdy gurdy too)

How Fortunate the Man With None –Dead Can Dance (a meditative masterpiece)

He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot —Grandaddy (this song is like flying)

Autobahn —Kraftwerk (doesn’t try to be menacing, heavy, or cool. A pleasant ride)

I Fall In Love Too Easily —Chet Baker (we all do, don’t we?)

Midnight At the Oasis —Maria Muldaur (the 70s schmaltz industry)

Blue in Green —Miles Davis (a trumpet singing from the mist)

Love To Love You Baby —Donna Summer (Song as sex. In poor taste, unless done right.)

Light My Fire —The Doors (when FM radio was supreme)

Your Woman —White Town (the trumpet sample of this 90s tune knocks me out)

Sunshine Superman —Donovan (intricate groove)

I’m Not In Love —10cc (masterpiece of layering)

Guinnivere —Crosby, Stills, and Nash (a girl’s name can be everything in a song)

Across the Universe —The Beatles (John Lennon’s ode to stretching out)

The Spy —The Doors (come go with Morrison into the house)

The Look of Love —Dusty Springield (Bacharach is very romantic)

Us and Them —Pink Floyd (adolescent self-pity given a melody)

Liebestod from Tristan und IsoldeWagner (swimming in swimming music)

Air That I Breathe —Hollies (this is what love is like)

Adagio for Strings —Samuel Barber (sad never sounded so good)

Air —Bach (The illustrious Bach—inventor of music?)

The Lark Ascending —Vaughan Williams (music that hides on the ceiling)

Surabaya Johnny —Lotte Lenya (German musical theater. Wilde. Brecht. Ja.)

A Day In The Life A Fool —Jack Jones (walking around, lost in a song)

Claire —Gilbert O’ Sullivan (lavish and sensitive)

Poetry Man —Phoebe Snow  (there’s a 1967 song called Painter Man. Almost as good)

The Way We Were —Barbara Streisand (Almost anyone can sink into Streisand)

Stranger In Paradise —Tony Bennett  (I’m there, Tony)

It Was A Very Good Year —Frank Sinatra (nostalgia lets you sink)

Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly —Puccini (hushed charm itself)

Sea of Love —Phil Phillips (low budget production can sound luxurious, too)

The Crystal Ship —The Doors (half-slumbering poetry)

Indian Summer —The Doors (the poetry of cheap lounge music; must be Morrison and his band)

Lonely Days —Bee Gees (Melodies, voices, and a subtle heaviness)

First Time Ever I Saw Your Face —Roberta Flack (the first time ever the 70s)

Canon in D —Pachelbel (top 40 baroque classical)

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3 —Ian Dury (languish in lunacy)

All Or Nothing At All —Frank Sinatra with Harry James (Great lyrics in a minor key)

Layla –Derek & The Dominos (the formula is simple: great song and then add a great part 2)

Low Spark of High Heeled  Boys —Traffic (this song has length, reach)

Lush Life —Nat King Cole (great songs like this usually comment on a whole genre)

Third Stone From The Sun —Jimi Hendrix (a session guitarist to an icon overnight)

Is That All There Is? —Peggy Lee (a little talking can do wonders for a song)

How Soon Is Now? —The Smiths (Laughing gas melancholy)

This Guy’s In Love With You —Herb Alpert (relaxed yet passionate)

What’s Goin On —Marvin Gaye (Studio genius was everywhere during this era)

Me and Mrs. Jones —Billy Paul  (wall of sound melancholy soul music)

Space Oddity —David Bowie (One of those songs with everything: production, lyrics, hooks)

Rocket Man —Elton John (lonely outer space song his best ever, except maybe Benny & Jets)

Chasing Cars —Snow Patrol (will you lie with me?)

Transdermal Stimulation —Ween (A slightly “depressed and bored in the suburbs” vibe)

Pavane For A Dead PrincessRavel (grief shared)

It’s A Sin —Pet Shop Boys (Yup)

Kiss Kiss Kiss —Yoko Ono (Yoko matches the Beatles excitement at times)

Another Star —Stevie Wonder (This artist projects love, pure and simple, like no other)

Hey Jude —Beatles  (Paul talking to John, who was losing his mind. Hey John. It’s going to be okay.)

House of the Rising Sun —Animals (Several genre toppers happen at once in this song)

I’ll Be Around —The Spinners  (Simple hook genius)

Waterloo Sunset —Kinks  (the guitar in this)

California Dreaming —Mamas and Papas (multiplicity of voices is first rate)

Bittersweet Symphony —The Verve  (feel like walking down crowded streets while listening)

The Girl From Ipanema —Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz (do you sway or melt listening to this?)

Time of the Season —Zombies  (panting rhythmically to pretty melody)

Crimson and Clover —Tommy James (fin de siecle aesthetics meets trashy pop)

American Cowboy —Jada (Hint of hooker, but more important: hooks!)

The Winner Takes It All —ABBA (Romantic self-pity has never been better expressed)

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again —Bob Dylan (Dylan kept the long ballad alive, if not entirely seriously)

Melancholia —The Who (Don’t know this one? Best Who song ever.)

White Rabbit —Jefferson Airplane (guitar and vocal sound are so good)

My Sweet Lord —George Harrison  (Sink into Beatle/Hallelujah-mania)

 

 

 

 

 

WIT FOR FLUTE AND ORCHESTRA

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Wit’s relationship with me

Is my relationship with you

In poetry; this is what poetry

Is; this defines what I do.

Poetry I do all alone,

But with it, I can play any tone.

I can be more myself with it than with you.

I heard of someone, today, who,

Worked all his life, and, at the age of seventy two,

Had no one—no one!—to leave his money to.

So I am going to write this poem to you.

We can’t live naked; Wallace Stevens doesn’t  fit

In nature; we need a roof—and wit.

Labor is necessary all the time.

The sun is hot, and into the sun we have to climb.

This tragedy of commuting we cannot share

With anyone, and if we should so much as stare

At someone else with desire, it’s called a crime.

But most desires are passing; only wit

Saves us. This poem is my gift which wraps it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OWNED

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The artist wants to own what he sees,

The poet wants to own what he hears,

Like I wanted to own you,

You, and all your fears.

But the painter and the poet find

There is too much to own—none of it will be owned.

Ownership, in creation, is the first thing that is barred.

Poetry is not war. In poetry, peace and forgetting are.

Put the painting away. Whatever is wanted is marred.

Of course I want to own all this.

But who owns the last moment’s kiss?

Do you remember when I held you and every living flight of your face was mine?

Do you remember when I loved you in the flowers, and we drank the shadowy wine?

The mind wants to own the body.

The body wants to own the mind.

Why are the more than loving always the less than kind?

I can have this, but only if it doesn’t do anything and it’s blind.

We find there is too much to lose,

So much to lose—that nothing is finally lost.

The body is immense and the mind doesn’t know what to choose.

Take my hand! It’s mine, but now it belongs to you.

I am gone. The distant mountains are blue.

Did you miss me? I’ll find something else to do.

Of course I want.

Do you remember when I held you and every living flight of your face was mine?

Do you remember when I loved you in the flowers, and we drank the shadowy wine?

 

 

 

 

GOD

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God, you must be hiding a lover somewhere.

God, tell me the truth, I’m in despair,

Tell me, tell me, what did you create?

The human? I am one. But look at this template.

I thought the human was the creation, but no;

People? Am I a person? With eyes and words? I don’t know.

You are hiding a lover. Can I say this? I think I can.

The template isn’t human. It’s woman and man.

People don’t exist. We are one of two.

And I want the other one. Tell me what to do.

They are all the same: they surrender with a sigh.

And before that and after that they coldly go by.

WHAT IS MADNESS

Image result for beautiful woman sneering in painting

Madness is caused by too much goodness.

When I was bad, I relaxed and loved.

Too much goodness is madness.

The thesis may be difficult to prove,

But it’s true: sanity is when you don’t give a fuck:

I’m still in love with her; she’s moved on.

Years later I still obsess about her, because

She doesn’t give a fuck. I was her pawn.

I was afraid to make her angry. She was always angry.

I was loving and good and never let myself be angry with her,

Until one day, I got really angry at her

Because I never let myself be angry with her,

And I did something stupid and lost her forever.

I’m the crazy one because I still love her

And she’s sane, because she doesn’t give a fuck.

She didn’t give a fuck about anything.

She wanted to be anonymous. Kissing her

Was like kissing water. I knew her

Not to want anything: kids, career,

Art, she didn’t want to make anything,

Didn’t want to leave a mark.

Smile or frown, she liked to disappear into the dark.

Not giving a fuck is why she’s sane—

She continues with her pretty life.

She’s gone, and yet I love her—my caring is my pain.

I never knew someone so sane, so beautiful.

And this was because she didn’t give a fuck,

And I was expendable, another source of her rage;

She cared, like the rest, about looks, about age,

But to care that we care is what makes us insane;

And everyone knows love is the worst madness of all.

The good care, and this defines madness.

Not caring protects one’s happiness and gladness.

The bad can fall into ruin, it’s true,

But they ruin their body, and don’t lose their mind when they do.

The self-centered are sane—the things they care about are few.

The proof is seen in religion—don’t religions seem completely mad?

Fanciful, superstitious, yet strict, sadly seeking to make people less bad?

The good find it difficult to reconcile

The bad with the religious desire for good—since the world is bad all the while;

The world, which doesn’t give a fuck,

Makes those who care too much—simply out of luck.

By all that’s sane and beautiful! If only she would kiss me again!

Exactly as before! When she seemed to give a fuck, back then.

THE TROUBLE WITH JEALOUSY IS THAT IT LOVES

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“I’m just a jealous guy”–John Lennon

~

The trouble with jealousy is that it loves,

Holds on sweetly, sweetly as it loves,

Finds grace in the small spaces where it loves,

But it holds onto pictures, and spies

On things it should not spy on; who loves

Without jealousy, or looks into just one pair of eyes?

The trouble with jealousy is that it knows

Love is not love; love constantly pretends

Love loves, love is loyal, and loyalty never ends.

Jealousy loves, even as it looks

Into homes, gardening tools, trash compactors, books.

Jealousy holds aloft the pulled weed,

Calculating necessity and speed

Of putting gardens in order; nature’s high need

Is thick in the margins of every property,

Where jealousy looks, as far as the eye can see.

 

 

 

FEELINGS AND FACTS, OR: OTHELLO FIGURES IT OUT

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Feelings, such as jealousy and fear, are extremely common, and those who say all sorts of negative feelings don’t exist in their heart from time to time are lying.

There has been a tendency in our day to give subjective feelings a great deal more importance than they deserve. 1. We sometimes get so worked up about our feelings about feelings, we make them more important than actual crime—slander, for instance. 2. We work up such a hatred for negative feelings, which are nonetheless very common, we often mistake negative feelings for negative actions; we mistakenly believe feelings permanently mark someone’s character—they do not.

Feelings are ephemeral—they only have the potential to influence our actions; and negative feelings are common; they belong to everyone. So why do we assume feelings are more important than they are? Ironically, if you believe the falsehood that negative feelings are highly influential and corrupt, you give feelings more influence, just with your belief.

But here’s the truth.

Laws—rules which govern and punish negative actions—form the essence of a fair and just society.

And laws are based on facts, not feelings.

Hard evidence is necessary to convict.

If you hate X, this is not proof that you have harmed X.

Negative feelings—let’s take the most obvious one—hate:

Hate is not only common feeling, but it may reflect a good: as when we hate what is bad or disgusting.

Let’s look at a typical example using a negative emotion: jealousy. We are all jealous, and, depending on information, vague or otherwise, which may come our way, we all can be very jealous from time to time. Feelings of jealousy, however, like hate, or other negative feelings, are just feelings. It is not a crime to feel jealousy, and, if you have jealous feelings, this does not mean that you are a “jealous person.” Someone may be making you jealous. The only thing which feeling jealous means, is that you are having jealous feelings. It does not mean you will harm or attack or stalk or harass anyone.

And further, if anyone accuses you of harassment, simply because you express feelings of jealousy, the feelings of jealousy which you express are not proof of anything.

The accusation of harassment, however, is actually something far worse—it is a crime. Slander.

Laws—based on actions, hard evidence, investigated and proven—have nothing to do with feelings. The phrase, “cold-blooded killer” comes to mind. In a just society ruled by “laws, not men,” facts are observed, and arguments are based on facts; feelings have little importance. A jealous lover can make an accusation, and the jealousy of the accuser is not the issue; only the facts surrounding the accusation matter. And if the accused is jealous? This doesn’t matter, either. In the law, subjective feelings do not count.

Ideologies which pre-judge—feminism, for example—increase the tendency to radically over-estimate feelings as signs of truth. Men who happen to have negative feelings for a certain amount of time are tagged negatively forever, as the ideology “proves” its case, as generalized, unexamined slander expands and grows. Another example (gaslighting) would be if a man were cheating on his wife and he made her feel like a jealous person, simply because she had jealous feelings.

Feelings can be very powerful things. When people begin to believe that having a few jealous thoughts is proof that one is a permanently “jealous person,” one can easily see the potential for mass psychological harm.

 

 

 

CAN A POEM BE HAPPY, AND TELL THE TRUTH, TOO?

Image result for sun in renaissance painting blake renoir

Can a poem be happy, and tell the truth, too?

Love, there is no truth except as it relates to you.

So this poem must find a way to make you happy

And praise is what love loves; the world, flattery.

So I’ll ask love how to praise you best

Before my eastern poem travels sadly to the west.

A poet only praises if the poet has seen, or heard,

A sensory delight, and can turn it into a word.

A poet praises—so happiness can also be true;

The sun, light, word, earth—turning in you.

A poet can only praise what love in love has done.

Love, tell me, as the horizon in the west ascends to the sun,

How does love look to you? Look! Cloudy, hungry, skies

Cover the sun. Mother! Accept what’s seen by your child’s eyes.

Praising mother cannot be done.

The origin of love and words are hers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOLLY

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I saw the folly of others—

And said what I saw.

I hated law breakers.

I loved the law.

I rebuked the folly

Of others drinking wine.

I was perfect.

But now the folly is mine.

I fly to folly, and sing with folly.

And all the times I couldn’t,

I could, with Molly.

Molly showed me folly.

Molly showed me wine.

I break laws with Molly,

And folly and Molly are mine.

 

POETRY MAKES ME UNHAPPY

Image result for hypnotized dancers in renaissance painting

Poetry makes me unhappy.

It makes me not me.

It’s easy to imagine and say

Night lives in the beautiful day.

Like a hypnotist, poetry can tell

Me I’m sleeping, and things are not well,

And I should remain sleeping

And in my imagination end all horror and end all weeping.

I’m happy after the poem is done;

I slept beneath a sleeping sun.

I danced—and the people saw

The poem and its poet are a law

Unto themselves. I still dance.

I still love. I still laugh. In a trance.

 

 

 

THE BEST

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Honor the best.

The best saves us all.

It appalls you to experience it?

Let it hypnotize you and appall.

Let it murder your pride, individual.

The best saves us all.

I was forced to admit she was beautiful,

Breasts, hips, large; oh! waist small;

A face unparalleled; I cannot turn away,

Ashamed to know a sight wins my heart,

A truth unable to admit, and only in a poem, say.

We only live because of the best.

It kills the pride in all the rest,

Making them run to the banal,

Which has its place, like the beautiful.

The king of kings made me see

I’m not that great. And now I’m free.

I NEVER GIVE OUT MY TRUE LOVE’S NAME

Image result for abstract painting black

I never give out my true love’s name.

Is love my god? My god is shame.

In the dreaming garden I walked along,

Too ashamed to sing a song.

Love may be the moon, smooth and bright.

But shame rules the details of the night.

All I whisper when no one’s there

From my true heart? Shame doesn’t care.

The sad images which lie in my heart

Belong to love. But shame rules my art.

Shame rules all I see and hear.

Love hides. Never spoken. Though here.

Shame lives with millions. Do I blame

Love? Shame is not afraid of love. Shame

Is an army of poetry. Shame is not afraid.

Do not love your love, he said. And I obeyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS POEM NEEDS MUSIC

Image result for shelley's statue at oxford

This poem needs music,

Beautiful and new,

If this poem would say

All it wants to say to you.

A melody is what it wants—

A melody that haunts,

A melody making sure

Thought is profound and pure

In presentation and intent,

Like a meadow harmonized with a tent.

There is food within,

And water and wine

And in birdsong and shadow you and I may dine.

The harmony of melody

And words, saying

“I love you,” needs a quartet playing.

The scene I paint might be

A shore with trees, to aid the melody,

As you and I speak of the beach

(Love, sweetly, just out of reach)

Where figures of betrayal stand. Do we stay?

And leave Shelley where he lay?

 

 

 

NOBODY WANTS WHAT THEY WANT

Image result for winter bedroom

I’ve changed my mind—I don’t need all the freedom I had.
I wanted fun, but why is fun always seen as bad?
I’ve changed my mind—I don’t need all the freedom I had.

I guess I don’t want to go out and see everybody there.
I made one little joke—and now everyone has to stare?
I guess I don’t want to go out and see everybody there.

I really don’t like him now; I thought he was funny at first,
But now I see humor which turns ugly is absolutely the worst.
I really don’t like him now; I thought he was funny at first.

Love will upset you if it lives in your mind, even if it goes in peace.
If I dump my boyfriend and he still loves me I will call the police.
Love will upset you if it lives in your mind, even if it goes in peace.

I want to get out of this but I love him so much.
I have trouble with words. I have trouble with touch.
I want to get out of this but I love him so much.

I think I love winter. I don’t want it to be spring.
I want this color, and I want to say this thing.
I think I love winter. I don’t want it to be spring.

I’ve been a little unsure since he removed his hat.
I wanted to take from this hour and I wanted to give to that.
I’ve been a little unsure since he removed his hat.

I need to leave. This scene is too urban and loud.
Thinking of safety in numbers, I selected this crowd.
I need to leave. This scene is too urban and loud.

I had a chance to take off my clothes. But now I want them on.
I followed him into the clouds. Now the mountain and the sun are gone.
I had a chance to take off my clothes. But now I want them on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WAS GENTLE AND TRUE

Image result for two lovers kissing beneath trees in painting

I was gentle and true.

But she was not.

So pardon me that I’m not as gentle with you.

She was untruthful and unkind

So I’m not saying what’s exactly on my mind.

She was someone I cannot forget

So I’m not able to love you yet.

I was upright and true.

I don’t know if I can be so with you.

Through her love I learned

To hate. I would perish if I burned;

Feeling love again with that fire,

I would only mock my highest desire

With that which never loves as it should,

Because she was bad—and I was good.

If I love you, I will not call her,

I will only call out your name,

But it can never, never be the same,

And our love will be a little smaller.

Our love will have an understanding

And, when under the trees we kiss,

It will be a yearning for love both of us miss,

And the kiss for that will be the kiss for this.

Under those scented trees, will a great love stir,

When you kiss madly what is gone, and I think of her?

What will you feel as I lean in to kiss you?

That love is sad? And can never be new?

 

YOU CAN’T DEFEAT THE PATRIARCHY

Image result for zeus seduction in painting

You can’t defeat the patriarchy.

It takes too many forms, it lives

In too many ways, the forms

Zeus used invade you innocently enough,

Crowning your sight with objects and vistas,

Animals, scenes, sunsets, infinite,

A funeral pyre’s burning death

Closing your eyes, shortening your breath,

The empty ache of all desire never

Satisfied, except when hate and fear

Run you far away from here

Where never-ending change

Decides how far desire may range,

Which otherwise remains in bed

Curled up with flesh, sleepy and fed.

 

 

 

 

WHY DID YOU LOVE ME ONCE

Image result for a library in renaissance painting

Why did you love me once, and never again?

Love should be like the sun and send

Light interminable. First you loved me as a friend,

And friendship is so close to love, love

Thinks friendship is what love is, but if it was,

I did not know. A thief is called a thief because he steals,

But I wanted you to take from me. The lover feels

Everything is stolen, as light steals away from the sun,

The orb of all light giving out its light to only one,

Giving, giving, giving. And still it is the sun.

But add to this blind burning, one belief,

The sun becomes responsible. And you became a thief.

They told me you missed my light when you were in your bed.

In the knowledge of your window you saw the moon instead.

They said as you were walking down the avenue

You smiled. To be speaking. And the speaking wasn’t you.

The sun can be everywhere, but I was asleep.

Love can be everywhere. Lights into the libraries creep.

As friends, our next step was love—love is when friends touch

Out of their friendship—light isn’t light so much

As something slower and more solid, the mortal hit,

A palpable hit. We did this once, and then you quit.

You wanted the dark earth to be once more, the sun,

A light, only, a light, too light, shining its light on everyone.

 

 

 

 

REALITY

Image result for cleopatra and map in painting

Reality becomes a play

As soon as you say

Anything about it. In that room

Is the consciousness of war, death, the doom

Of innocents, all in that room.

As soon as you take a picture of the ape,

You can say the human is just something on tape.

The rumor of the image

Is true, once you film the mirage.

The moment Cleopatra hated a man

Who loved her, map-making began.

Isn’t this poem true?

Now that it’s been read by you?

By the time you see the video, sorrow

Will exist, or not exist, tomorrow.

Here is the building. Now you can prove

Anything can be built. Even love.

 

 

 

 

WHY DO I THINK

Image result for swamp in renaissance painting

Why do I think of you
When I am dead to you,
Having done something terribly wrong?
Why does this fetid pond keep singing a song?
Why do I keep thinking of you,
My thoughts as numerous as drops of dew?
Your kisses were fresh water to me, but now I get nothing from you.
How is this swamp living?
My love is a spring which keeps giving,
And you, who hate,
Will love me again, just wait.
What I did wasn’t really that wrong.
You think of me, I know you do, and my song.
Away from each other, our love festers,
Or maybe it ages, like wine.
And one day, we’ll get massively drunk—
And you and I will be fine.

 

THE LOOKED AT

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The looked at never look;

For looking is a lonely thing.

If you are looked at, you have friends,

Awards come after you, and a ring.

But the eyes look on horror when you are trapped and only see.

Looking is a trapped state. It isn’t free.

The looked at are blessed, and it’s why

You take so long at the mirror and even your eye

Is looked at—even your eye doesn’t look.

Your eye is beautiful. And blind words grace this book,

Triumphant, for every reader looks this way:

Into night’s book, which posits lovers in the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE INFORMER

Image result for demonic british spy

Now that I’ve told you everything,
I presume you will use more care.
No need to thank me. I informed you because I trust you.
You seem to understand by now the transfer of information
Is as important as the information,
And I’m happy to see you coming to that understanding.
I think we can be happy, because as important as our jobs are,
Happiness is still important, and I mean that sincerely.
We have many important things to accomplish,
But the burden need not kill us; we can occasionally have a drink,
And I promise I’ll always be as honest with you as I can.
You don’t have to share everything you’re thinking,
But I hope you’ll share what’s important,
And I pray you’ll try to understand my eccentricities;
I promise to keep it as simple as I can when I tell you what makes me happy.
I don’t have anything more to say. Do you?  Cool.

~

[note: this is not a “found poem,” but entirely original—the reader may find it vaguely corporate or evil—or funny]

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