IF BEAUTY

If beauty were equally divided,
Where would pleasure dwell?
To my beautiful love I once confided
Her beauty made me unwell—
Her strange sexual beauty wrapped me up in hell.
But if beauty between all creatures were equally divided
All that madness would vanish.
English would be just as beautiful as Indian or Spanish.
Every person would be beautiful alone
Without comparison; none more beautiful than the rest.
The jealousy of the ugly would cease to exist—
Love would cease to be divisive, and every ecstatic moan
Would be decided by surrender—only that would be the test.
Some would surrender often, and they would be known
As loving too often, and yet, by giving themselves away, they would be blessed.
The one I would love would save her love; a sweet torture to be melancholy and glad.
Diluted beauty! She would hardly kiss me at all. And our love would be sweetly sad.

 

BEAUTY IS NOT ONLY TRUE BUT KIND

Beauty is not only true—but kind.

I witnessed a modernist lose his mind

Deploring what the imaginative Keats had said,

Who left for Rome—when England’s hedges were all dead,

When frost lay on the garden bed—

At Hampstead—and other places.

I’ve seen the look on women’s faces—

Women who are past child-bearing age,

Proud, and still beautiful, and kind,

Because they kept beauty in their mind—

I have seen women look placidly and calm

On gardens bursting, as the highest balm—

And when they stood with lovely jewels on

Beside friends, their smiles as cold as the moon,

Coldly beautiful, since they knew in frozen beds

They would be lying down soon,

The flowers gray, no more the passionate purples and reds!

I wished I had loved them. Never

Could I—no, never—this much beauty had known

As with you! Remember our sweet moan?

When we loved in nature’s yellow-lighted chapel?

How much can I tell—

If I auspiciously regret what we all regret: beauty lost forever?

Is this a frozen bed?

Its flowers with flowers that once sighed, dead?

So we read modernist verses instead.

Because we would rather forget

The flower—and our enormous debt?

 

 

 

WE SHARE THE SEA

Image result for dead horse beach salem ma

We share the sea.

I stood on my shore and looked across the bay to Beverly.

The sea is a lot to share

But since you no longer care

We can do it easily.

I’ll take the waves, and the seaweed bobbing,

The various land items which the sea is robbing,

And the seagulls that fly from shore to shore;

These are mine, and since you no longer care,

I might take more:

Things richer, and more rare.

The kayaks in the shallows

Will belong to me, and things

Valuable, which do not float: bracelets and rings.

And since you no longer care,

Candy wrappers from the jazz fair,

And the jazz notes

Over the water. The sail boats.

And smaller items we might not see.

You no longer care. So these belong to me:

The glitter in the water from the sun,

The sighs from lovers. Shouts by the sea from anyone,

Who are my friends now, since you no longer care.

Girls in bathing suits with long hair.

Am I taking too much? You don’t argue. You don’t dare.

I’ll take the children splashing near the shore.

And the ocean near your house—since you don’t love me anymore.

 

 

 

 

I WANTED THE BOUNDLESS SEA

Image result for ocean painting hudson river school

I wanted  the boundless sea

Because it was boundless and I always thought the boundless was me.

My breaths go on forever, I always need another one.

I’m unlimited, more unlimited than the sun,

Because every moment I need a new breath, and every day I feed,

And in my brain are infinite memories—and every day I need

To use my infinite mind

To be infinite. Reasonable. Patient. Kind.

A minute in a day has more infinity tucked inside

And inside that infinity I infinitely reside.

I wanted the boundless sea

Because I always thought the boundlessness was me.

I knew that limit was the thing we couldn’t see

And what we couldn’t know was one. Two. Three.

And good things were impossible: Love. Honesty.

Sometimes we reside somewhat comfortably in this or that belief

But joking, or annoyed, we submit to existence, that random thief.

And you can’t tell anyone what you really believe.

Your love and your art were wrong because you didn’t deceive.

 

 

 

HOW ARE WE TO KNOW?

How are we to know

If our lover has been true?

The sun comes up and says

See what you can do.

A shrieking bird in the darkness says sing—

Then listen to how he sings to you.

Why is the bird in darkness?

Because the sun is late.

How are we to know

When love turns to hate?

When the earth, this ball of fur

Rotates in space, and resembles her?

The actions of the orbs—can they be understood?

How is the moon good?

What does the moon do when I sleep?

Does she think of me? And weep?

 

 

 

THE POET FAILED TO COMPOSE THE SONG

The poet failed to compose the song,
Having loved her—almost to the point of wrong,
Because jealousy began to get in the way
Of anything the lover might say.
A song came through the poet’s open window one night
With a soft, creeping melody
Almost discernible, a snake made of light,
Softly undulating, insinuating itself beneath the bed
Where roses lived, to the ground’s delight.
Then a poem came into the poet’s head
As he dreamed. Nothing else happened that night.

The scent of flowers
Grew in the room during the night’s hours,
And in the morning filled the poet’s mind
With a beautiful scent, but no melody was there,
No melody in the poet’s head which reclined
Upon thick pillows—pillows oblivious to dreams.
There is no shape on the earth but it isn’t what it seems.
One window had light, but the rest
Were dark. Nothing else happened that day.

The wooded paths were long and the poet strode
Down them. He recalled the mare the two of them rode
When he and she were in love and the mare
Paused in a mist; a lake had been there
Where the poet now walked
Past where they had stopped and talked,
Past where they had put down a blanket and loved.
Put down a blanket and loved.
A scent of roses, there could be no doubt.
And the small birds wandered about.
The ruined boulevard.  Nothing else happened that day.

There is no poem but that a song can make it stay.
The poet would fail! Fail again! And fall out of love!
The day after the dream there was no song.
Nor a memory of a scent. Could a rose be wrong?

THE CHINESE

The Chinese know how to live: corrupt officials,

Seafood caught fresh from the sea,

Drunkenness celebrated in poetry.

It’s a plan that works well.

Heavenly poetry living where beggars dwell.

Poetry for drunks, the poor, the blind

So eventually all of these become refined.

Write your poetry to one who broke your heart

And hates you. Don’t throw her back in the sea.

Love her anyway. Drunk. Corrupt. And shit, don’t forget I’m here.

Don’t forget about me.

 

 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE FROM SCARRIET: THE EDITORS MUSIC—2 SONGS

SHOT OUT OF THE CANNON OF YOUR LOVE

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Shot out of the cannon of your love,

At first I was shocked, but then I noticed many things above.

The same inducements to pleasure give us pain.

(I’m never trying those things again)

The big picture really does makes sense

Up here, where the air is not so dense

And anger dies in circumstance.

I see you doing town-like things in town,

Wondering if you should buy that gown,

(Have I told you I’m never coming down?)

The string that solves the maze is shaped like the maze.

There is a willingness to fight

When one isn’t right.

And when there isn’t love in the middle of the night,

You get poems for days.

 

 

I WILL SAY IT FOR YOU

I will say it for you, since you cannot say

Why you love me—yet want to go away.

Love is dangerous. Love has no friends,

No kindness. In love, all kindness ends.

Except in the arms of the beloved. Then you are kind

And for a minute the body is happier than the mind.

Do you want that happiness again? You really can’t say.

Your body cannot speak. Your mind trips along a different way.

You wonder who these people are, who populate your day.

You wonder if they love you, how many of them are kind.

Now love is about to speak. It’s me.

And just before I speak, you find a way to get free.

Love is a mystery, but love can be willed

Like a poem. Like silence. Aren’t you thrilled?

 

 

 

 

 

BEING WANTED

Being wanted is the greatest satisfaction!

Smile! The hungry can take no action

Against your jewels and rings.

The hungry listen patiently while your beauty sings.

You are fed and satisfied

When hungrily your face and limbs are eyed.

Your beauty is all; you have no need

As long as they want and cannot feed.

Their love and jealousy will die

Only when your beauty dies in their eye.

Hunger for beauty is a desperate need.

Beauty brings wolves and wolves must feed.

When beauty is threatened and has to hide

It isn’t beauty, for beauty is beauty seen in all its pride.

Since abundance gave us light, leisure, and food to eat,

Starvation lives with beauty walking the public street,

And since her photo came to the internet,

There’s more sorrow and starvation yet.

Satisfaction is misunderstood:

It can be evil and it can be good,

But it’s always evil, with the removal of clothes,

In seduction, and passion, poor passion which thinks it knows.

MENTION THE PLACE I’M FROM

Mention the place I’m from,
The cave in the forest; mention that sometimes I danced
The folk dances, the strange hopping to the primitive drum.
And that I composed sixteen modernist sonnets,
Which will have to do, until my resume come.

Mention the places I’ve seen,
The skyscraper elevator where to an Ezra Pound poem I danced
The folk dances, and mention I edited a little magazine
Containing the worst poems imaginable,
Moss-covered jet planes crashing into a futurist green.

Mention all the places,
The winding starlit stairways where shadows danced
The folk dances, and give them names, if you can, not just faces,
Of those who danced those dances, even T.S. Eliot
Who kidded everyone, and put damn Virginia Woolf through her paces.

 

 

BE KIND TO HER WHO DOESN’T KNOW

Be kind to her who doesn’t know
What snow is; my world is under snow.

Be kind to her who doesn’t understand
The body; I found my brain in my hand.

Be kind to her who thought men
Might possibly make her happy again.

Be kind to her who thought the sky
Was clouds; it rains and I ask why.

Be kind to her who doesn’t see
Advice, advice that’s freezing me.

Be kind to her who doesn’t feel
Brutal cold; freezing to me is real.

Be kind to her who made her face
Every face; And I? I have to think of my race.

Be kind to her who understood
Nothing; I am trapped by the good.

Be kind to her who said she had
A new work; an old one made me sad.

Be kind to her who thinks the new
Is always new; I hate I saw and grew.

Be kind to her who thinks
Water hides; I am the water she drinks.

Be kind to her who let others
Sort it out; I am speaking to my brothers.

Be kind to her who was better than us all.
Her name is jealousy; jealousy made me fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN IT’S HOT AND THE SUMMER SOUNDS

When it’s hot and the summer sounds

Vibrate like heat itself, you think

Maybe you are done with poetry,

Which sits silently on the page

In code, not really communicating your wisdom and rage.

When it’s hot

You reject poetry in your cool mind;

Your cool mind says it would rather not.

When it’s hot, and clothes slip

To the ground,

And reason melts,

And even fiery love turns to liquid with a sighing sound,

You intend to give up poetry, and sing

Into the ear of your beloved,

But even hearing is a mess,

Thanks to love’s distress.

No poem or song

Can heal love’s wrong.

You think, with the cool sea taking over the land,

You might reach out and take her hand,

But that, too, is in a liquid state—

Joined to the liquid world by love—

So warmly in love, love is the same as hate.

 

 

 

 

LEAVES ARE WAVING ABOVE THE SUN

Leaves are waving above the sun
In paintings, in gardens, in the harsh outdoors
Which afflict the eyes of everyone.

You brought me flowers, not for my hands
But for my eyes,
Eyes blind from love, not wanting its cures,

Wanting more love—more, more love. Hear the bands
Play, the heart-pounding trumpet and drum,
Every melody a penny buys

Permitted, as long as love songs are played
For us in the deep shade.

You brought me flowers and I’ll never forget
How you held flowers when we met.

Or did you? Perhaps you did not. You did not.
You chose one of love’s cures
And fell out of love with yourself, and me,
And now, yes, these days, my eyes can see.

When I glimpse you by accident outdoors
I see your legs are too short,
Your chin is too long,
And there are no flowers.
There is no song.

You want an unencumbered life,
A sweet, darling sis.
I’m satisfied to remember—what?
That we had bodies. That we liked to kiss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DON’T FIX THE WORLD YET

Don’t fix the world yet.

Its cries are my lover’s cries.

When the ship is repaired, and sails

My secret happiness dies.

Errors you see on street and pier

Keep officials busy, and these sighs

Are sad, but music, and she is here—

Who will disappear when that perfection

Due the world loosens all ties

To imperfect love, and winds blow in a new direction.

They are finding ways to make life better

So the young will mock the letter

I wrote to her a long time ago

Which made her fall in love with me, and so

I beg you, don’t change the arpeggio

To some new dance.

She will dance away, if she has a chance.

Don’t fix the world yet;

Her imperfect life is my life,

She is my mad and maddening wife—

Who loves me, and doesn’t know

How to escape me, how easily

With a brand new melody,

She could look at me, and wave goodbye, and go.

 

 

 

I GOT CONFUSED ONE DAY

It was an ordinary conversation.
There was something I wanted to say
As I looked at her as she talked.
I got confused one day.

She was beautiful, a good friend
And I asked myself, what did I say?
Why is she angry, like she’s not my friend?
I got confused one day.

Why did a song come into my heart,
One I forgot and hardly knew how to play?
Why did I find myself talking in song?
I got confused one day.

Why did I hesitate calling,
Why did I contemplate May
And think about June and where she was?
I got confused one day.

Now it’s been years since we loved.
I understood the roads of a good way
Might be bad, but I’m glad
I got confused one day.

YOU READ TWO POEMS AT ONCE

 

You read two poems at once.

The upper meaning wears a white suit,

A beautiful suit, works in New York,

Born in Louisiana, here are the black and white

Photos of the parents. Instructions clear.

Now comes the other meaning, the lower meaning,

The secondary meaning, kissing you,

Hugging you and calling you dear.

And what it feels about porn and presidential politics

And there’s a hair on your upper lip

And outside it is getting dark and I’m tired

And depressed and confusion grows.

I need to write another poem.

I need to go home. And wash some clothes.

 

POETRY IS WOMAN’S LANGUAGE

for forough farrokhzad

She was dying of me, but I was her life.
While I heard the blood rushing in her breasts, she was my wife.
When she walked, with no place to go,
I was in her thoughts. She longed for my desire in her mirror,
As I gave her light. At her window, love made the sparrows come nearer.
Her deep sobs were anything but comical.  They were slow.
Poetry is woman’s language.
She told me I could not see her. And now I know.

 

NEEDING TO SAY EVERYTHING I MUST RIP AWAY

Tom in Romania

Needing to say everything, I must rip away
The veil of poetry.
I’m sorry, for that day, I’m sorry.

I expected us to meet at the garage
Because you texted me suggestively.
But you also texted me you had to pee—
That’s why you wanted to meet at the station.

You changed your mind, and that was okay.
Yet I acted betrayed, like an entitled prick,
I completely forgot you had to pee,
And then I had the nerve to accuse you of testing me,
Which naturally made you furious.

Then! I didn’t call you for five days, clueless
As to what a jerk and ignoramus
I was—reading the romance novel she gave me
Which I had pulled out of my bag at the station.

That day a perfect storm of minor events: to annoy you and make you see
That I, who seemed a beacon of kindness and sensitivity,
Was just another creepy part of the creepy life
You must endure; I’m sorry.

I really wanted you, I wanted you to be my wife;
That awful day the chance to be alone with you blinded me,
And now, in horror, looking back,
I realize that day, which seemed like a minor fight, ended my life.

You exist as a great silent hole in my heart, a lack
Which is my greatest sadness. Needing to say
Everything, I rip away
The veil of poetry
Behind which I hide.
How good is poetry, even the greatest poetry, if behind poetry I died?

 

 

CRY ME A RIVER

image

Ah, you will always be that egotist

Who I met, befriended, and kissed,

And all the rest, though I felt you would fall

Back into that state where you had no personality at all.

And I will always be that poet who knew

You would tire of egotism—you are, but you are not, you.

Now you’re a feel good poster of capital-letter cliché.

BE GOOD TO YOURSELF. LEARN FROM MISTAKES YOU MADE YESTERDAY.

Surrender to the “wisdom” crap, in which all you are

Surrenders. Close the door. Adorn it with a gold star.

I will always be an egotist. I practice to be

More musical, with more harmony,

Such as you find in Cry Me A River, when the G

Chord arrives out of the B flat diminished chord surprisingly

And cheerfully: in the key, I yet move, slightly, out of the key, playfully

So in all that great sorrow, in all that wonderful revenge, I resolve

A love that I love, but also, solve

Forever. The artist—it’s me, my love—conceals

Myself, behind what the art—ah, the art—reveals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIXON’S COMING. IT’S HILLARY

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a community forum on healthcare, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, at Moulton Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa. Clinton broke her longstanding silence over the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, telling voters at a campaign stop in Iowa on Tuesday that she opposes the project assailed by environmentalists. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Something is happening to the American electorate.

It’s getting very old.

The American progressive is now an old person, no longer excitable, but quietly pleased by issues that excite: All races and all sexual preferences having sex freely and openly! And fuck those bitter, uptight racist, religious people who oppose it! Yeaaaaaa!

Well, they’re old now. They’ve survived. They collect. They move slowly. So they don’t say, “yeaaaaaa!” They say, “yea.”

These progressives don’t mind that Bill Clinton was “unfaithful.” Only uptight prudes—not super cool progressives—care about that.

So much are old boomers willing to make a stand against prudes, the fact that Bill may have preyed upon women as a rapacious, privileged, white male is quickly dismissed—even by feminist progressives.

Just as Obama bailing out the banks, and doubling the gigantic debt, merits hardly a whisper.

Find fault with Obama?

Not cool!

The American two party system requires you make a choice. You can’t be in the middle. You can’t be reasonable. You are either cool. Or you are not.

Kennedy was 43 when he assumed the presidency, the first Catholic president of the United States. His youthful charisma was too much for “old” homely Nixon (4 years older than Kennedy) the VP of war hero Dwight Eisenhower.

Here in 1960 the template was established: Democrats young, progressive, and cool.

Republicans old and prudish. “Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!”

But communists were not cool. Kennedy attacked communist Cuba. Kennedy/Johnson attacked communist Vietnam.

Communists were the enemy because America’s greatness existed for one simple reason:

They made and built things on a grand scale.

For America, the condition of the workers (communist issue) was not as important as the fact that Americans built things quickly for a world market. Workers need to sacrifice! After all, there’s a war on!

A war against communism. A war against Islam. A war against dictators. A war against greedy taxpayers.

The key word is sacrifice.

Conservatives want to be comfortable.

Progressives, like the old Christians, sacrifice.

As cool as Kennedy was, there’s always a war the cool people have to fight. Wealth is measured, for cool people, not in good wages and property (middle class Republican issue) but by a war that needs to be fought: freeing up all people to be cool in ways that the cool people continually define, depending on who is trying to define them at any given moment. This mission attracts adaptable, intelligent, people—willing to make great sacrifices: and this is always a recipe for uncanny success.

Abstract painting was subsidized by the CIA as a weapon against the art of  Soviet Realism. Cool is literally a geo-political weapon for the intelligent, adaptable, boundary-pushing, progressive. Playboy magazine ridiculed homely Russian women “pinups” posing on Soviet tractors, while interviewing president Jimmy Carter about his sex fantasies.

Old progressive boomers probably have trouble recalling that the coolness of Kennedy once meant opposing communism.

The Democrats (the cool people) constantly adapt, but stick to their mission of making sacrifices and fighting for ideals. So the Carter democrats who emerged when Carter won the presidency in 1976, post-Vietnam and post-Watergate, the template-era of Kennedy/Nixon drawing to a close, were not Kennedy democrats—but yes, they were still the same: they were just on a different mission.

Unfortunately for the Carter democrats, the middle class Republican issue of wages and living standards rose up as the Carter economy tanked, and Reagan, representing the greedy taxpayers who wanted lower taxes, swept into office. But homely Jimmy Carter was still cool. Because the enemy, in this case, greedy taxpayers (family-oriented conservatives who were brutally and simplistically materialistic), still existed for progressives to hate. And with the Iran hostage crisis, radical Islam merged with communism as a mission to be solved by cool US idealism.

The Soviet Empire fell in an orgy of good feeling (the Soviets were horribly uncool so that U.S. Republicans and Democrats actually saw eye to eye for a shining instant) but now the globalist era of Bushes and Clintons began, and sex, race, and climate emerged in a progressive explosion that said goodbye to the America of manufacturing might and hello to the America of college loan debt, off shore banks, and environmental lawyers.

So here we have Hillary: as the old new Nixon.

How can this be?

Because old age has trumped progressivism.

Progressives who were 18 when Kennedy was shot (and listening to 1963 Lesley Gore’s hit “You Don’t Own Me,” produced by Quincy Jones) and, at 21, protested LBJ’s war, are now old, and still progressive, but in ways that obey party, not conscience.

LBJ was a Democrat, but that didn’t stop progressives from going after him because of Vietnam.

Today, Democrats do anything they want, and progressives hardly make a peep. Just look at cowed Bernie Sanders.

Establishment Democrats make greater and more exaggerated shows of hyperbolic progressivism to cover up the fact that their globalist, corporate mission of New World Order thievery and robbery is the sacrificing idealism which they live by: invade Cuba, bomb Vietnam, ruin the economy, destabilize the Middle East—but keep being cool re: blacks and women.

Hillary lost to the charismatic Obama just as Nixon lost to the charismatic JFK.

Nixon defeated Humphrey, the VP of Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam war villain.

Hillary now seeks to win over Trump, a Republican, who because of this party label, is associated with Bush, Iraq war villain.

And just as Nixon represented Cold War globalism, Hillary is a sworn enemy of Putin and Russia and is also a globalist. Hillary favors an aggressive NATO. She’s more hawkish than Trump.

Nixon was once on a mission (kitchen debate with Kruschev) to prove U.S. cooler than villainous Soviet Russia.

The Silent Majorty who supported Nixon are the now elderly Hillary supporters—who don’t like “rude tweets” and demand “silence” before the documented corruption of Bill and Hillary.

Hillary has tons of “experience,” just as Nixon had tons of “experience” when he triumphed in 1969, starting with his election to the House of Representatives in 1946.

Obama, during the DNC, claimed Hillary had more experience than even he did, which was Barack’s way of saying he was still young, like JFK, and she was old, like Nixon. Nixon won in 1969, promising to end the War, a legacy of the Democrats—and JFK’s ghost was probably rooting for Nixon, since Kennedy’s war in Vietnam had been turned into a napalm debacle by LBJ, his VP. Obama, the charismatic JFK of the Dems, is officially rooting for Hillary.

Some defenders of Hillary admit that Bill and Hillary, as persons, are repulsive, but they are voting for things like women’s rights and the EPA.

Nixon founded the EPA.

Hillary strongly supports Israel.

So did Nixon, in the Yom Kippur war in 1973, which led to the Middle East oil embargo, the Oil Crisis of 1973 which shocked the US economy—and some say the US economy has never been the same, and the Middle East has been punished in various ways ever since—an important role Hillary, learning from Henry Kissinger, played as Secretary of State.

But the destruction of the Middle East is selective: Hillary’s Clinton Foundation gets money from anti-gay, anti-women’s rights Saudis. She follows the money.

No rude tweets about Bill and Hillary, please.

This is Silent Majority politics as usual.

The last gasp of old boomers in a nostalgic, progressive-yet-not, haze.

No longer progressive.

But very smart.

Self-sacrificing.

On a mission.

And still cool? Sort of?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THERE IS A GREATER DESPAIR

image

There is a greater despair

Than being sad here right now.

The nurses and soldiers can tell you how

The massacre made so many unhappy.

Others somewhere are sick and not feeling well.

You cannot imagine what it’s like

To be away from everyone, in a prison cell.

There is always a greater despair

Somewhere over there.

These painful facts are so unkind,

I cannot possibly keep them in my mind.

My mind is entirely made of you.

This is what my mind is, and what it likes to do:

To think on happiness as it pertains to you.

I am happy now, but I was happier then

When I loved you purely and wasn’t jealous—

Alas—of your sickening obeisance towards other men.

You rejected me—who loved you—because I was jealous.

On a scale of five my jealousy was a three—

But once you asked, ” I want all your poems to be for me.”

That’s how true love is expressed: in jealousy.

On a scale of five my love for you was a ten.

I saw you today, quietly miserable, and thought of despair,

The kind that says: I will never be happy again.

AFTER THAT LONG PAUSE

After that long pause,

It felt like we had nothing more to say;

Acutely, I felt the separation,

As if now you and I each belonged to a different day:

I said something, and suddenly you didn’t want to say

What was on your mind,

And I felt you were making me seem unkind

Because you were unkind;

I wanted to like you, but now I saw there was something in your mind

That didn’t want to talk to me, that was unkind.

These pauses kill relationships every day.

That pause. That one long pause.

And now I don’t care what you have to say.

 

 

NOW IS THE SAD DECLINE

Now is the sad decline
Of everything that’s mine:
The frozen ground that was my hope,
You, who I held onto, and the rope
Swing that sang over the valley,
Its green more green than green,
A vista that is ours, but never enough seen,
Or that evening when, smiling, you called me into the alley
And suddenly kissed me,
The bright, sumptuous apartments
One could glimpse into,
The boulevards fading; you almost saw them, too;
The bricks haphazardly leading into the park
Where we laughed before dark,
And then, when dark, as we did often,
Hidden, the kisses came more often;
And weren’t you surprised by the fame
Of the day? The day was always the same,
I knew, the same this time:
Not quite the same, a forest of pine,
Rain, desolation, sunlight, and then, decline.

 

 

THE ELECTION IS ALWAYS

image

The election is always between the living and the dead.

Bill Clinton or Vince Foster? I vote for one in my head.

I love conspiracy videos. Human nature is really dark.

The nice ones end it all in a Civil War memorial park.

The bad ones succeed, but finally, who can blame

Those who see death and save themselves? You would do the same.

Whistle blowers always have that frightened, nerdy look.

Success is sex. The sexy steps the cruel and sexy took.

Vote for the voting record when you cast your vote

In democracy’s dark booth. Forget the song in the long coat.

Don’t listen to conspiracy videos, no matter what they say.

Let the dead and the lonely go. Look the other way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMY IS NOT ENOUGH

Amy is not enough; I also want Sue,

Stella, Laura, Beatrice—because I can’t have you.

Stoop down, read the whole list, and if you’re not there,

Stooping has not been in vain—not listed belongs to the list of care.

What stays only is what stays with me.

O Look about you, if there is no sign of me,

Read! I am secretly signaling you in my poetry.

Read carefully the whole list

Of muses—whom poets pretended to have kissed.

The fact that you don’t see your name

Pleases me: your absent love is how I will build my fame,

And your knowledge that you don’t exist

Is how everything that lives loves—by being missed.

No! Not Amy am I missing.

The world doesn’t know you’re the one I’m kissing,

If only in my mind—

Where poetry lives—for you—who was unkind.

 

 

 

 

NOW IT’S DONE

You’ve read Cosmopolitan, the tips on sex,
The clothes and lubricants are yours;
You’ve purchased the right perfumes,
You’ve wandered through the hotels and the hotel rooms,
Rejected the handsome (they were bores),
Quickly dispatched the guy who’s now your ex,
And settled on me.
You’ve read the books, seen the movies. Now you’re free.
You present yourself in silks, casually.
Now what am I thinking? What do I see?
This is the component of love which troubles you.
You cannot read the mind of the one you love.
You may ask me, or tell me, or guide me on what to do,
But what about careless thoughts in the mind?
A conversation which proceeds carelessly?
I’m face down. I murmur something French and sing-songy.
I want to tell you something, but it comes out uncomfortably.
I’ll be a poet. Now what am I thinking? What do I see?
What is your inclination now? Right now what do you think of me?
What is the heart of this? Is it liquid? And what is poetry?

YOU’RE FREE AT LAST, YOU’RE FREE AT LAST, GOD ALMIGHTY, YOU’RE FREE AT LAST

image

You’re free at last. Get away from my face.

You’re free, and all attachments of every kind are gone,

No more, no more, the slavish pleadings of my gender and my race.

Get out. Take yourself from my sloping lawn.

No more will I kiss you, or take you in my arms

In the international context of warnings and alarms.

The sheets are washed.  Our souls free of wet disgrace.

Free is free. Gatherings not measured. Platitudes are gone.

You wanted to be free. You are free. Leave me.

Stop thinking I will come after you.

The world is large. She told me what to do.

 

 

 

I WILL TELL YOU OF THE BLUE BELL

We all copy, for words
Are less than actual birds.
We make a mark
And there is Shelley’s lark.

O joyous marks! What joy they are bringing.
The alphabet is singing.

I am flesh, and compared to words my flesh is real.
Yet my body is a copy which dies.
I do not own. I am nothing. So I steal.
Stealing is copying. Copying is the only thing that’s real.

We all love
Symbols, like olive branch and dove.
We learn to be accurate; we learn to spell.
We learn to love. And now I love too well.

We are lonely.
We know our loneliness well.
I love myself; I love my own light,
But hell is dark because my own light will not light hell.
My eyes are beautiful and they tell
Stories, but my eyes do not light even a small hell.

I will tell you of the blue bell,
An intricate flower
That tolls the hour
In a dark, imaginary, garden of sighs,
Which waits, like all of us,
For the sun to rise.

 

 

WE BEGAN IN SPACE

We began in space, but it was time

That made us joy—and grieve.

You wanted theirs to be your rhyme

And I wrote to you so you would believe

In poetry, as well as me. Now that you have read

This, which one do you think is dead?

Poetry is ever hopeful someone will read

A poet’s highest need—

Will do more than read

The now of its ending

After its middle—which was then,

But think of its beginning.

And fall in love again.

 

 

 

 

 

THE CHE GUEVARA OF IRAN, KHOSROW GOLSORKHI: “EQUALITY” —TRANS. SHERRY LAICI—FIRST TIME IN ENGLISH!!!

1 = 1

Khosrow Golsorkhi, an Iranian journalist, poet and activist, was accused of plotting to kidnap the Shah of Iran’s son and arrested at the age of 29. In televised court proceedings he defended his Marxist beliefs and compared himself to Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad. He was executed on February 18, 1974, at the age of 30.

EQUALITY

The teacher was shouting at the board.

He flushed angrily

and his hands were covered with chalk dust.

The students in the last row of seats were eating fruits and making noises;

on the other side of the class a student was flipping through a magazine.

None of the students were paying attention

because the teacher was shouting and pointing to the algebraic equations.

The teacher wrote on the blackboard, which reminded us of darkness and cruelty,

1=1

one is equal to one.

One of the students rose

(always one must rise)

and said softly,

“The equation is a blunder.”

The teacher was shocked

and the student asked,

“If one human being was one unit

Does one equal one, still?”

It was a difficult question and the students were silent.

The teacher shouted,

“Yes, it is equal!”

The student laughed,

“If one human being was one unit,

the one who had power and money would be greater than the poor one

who had nothing but a kind heart.

If one human being was one unit,

the one who was white would be greater than the one who was black.

If one human being was one unit,

equality would be ruined.

If one were equal to one

how would it be possible for the rich to get richer?

Or who would build China’s wall?

If one were equal to one,

who would die of poverty?

or who would die of lashing?

If one were equal to one,

who would imprison the liberals?

The teacher cried:

“Please write in your notebooks

one is not equal to one.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEN MAZER: POEM FROM HIS FORTHCOMING BOOK

BEN IN ROMANIA

Greatest poet of his generation? Ben Mazer in Romania last month. Photo, Scarriet

THE GREATEST JOY KNOWN TO MORTAL MAN

The greatest joy known to mortal man,
shall live beyond us, in eternity.
Catching you ice skating in mid-motion,
cheeks flush, winter pristine in our hearts,
ineffable, permanent, nothing can abolish,
when the deep forest, buried in snow’s white
holds the soul’s eternal solitude,
when, melting coming in, each particular
that stirs the senses, is the flight of man
to unspoken urgencies, garrulous desire
continually fulfilled, the captured stances
that drift like music in the light-laced night,
shared words in murmurs soft as downy sky,
the stars observe with their immortal eye.
Furious, presto-forte homecoming
races into the eyes and fingertips,
confirming and commemorating bells
resounding with our vulnerable desire
in momentary triumph that’s eternal.
Life passes on to life the raging stars,
resonances of undying light.
All years are pressed together in their light.

Ben Mazer was educated at Harvard University, where he studied with Seamus Heaney, and at the Editorial Institute, Boston University, where he studied under Christopher Ricks and Archie Burnett. His poem which appears here is from his sixth poetry collection, February Poems, which will be published by the Grolier Poetry Press in the fall of this year. Mazer’s most recent collections are The Glass Piano (MadHat Press, 2015) and December Poems (Pen & Anvil Press, 2016). He is also the editor of The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (Boston: Un-Gyve Press, 2015). He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the Editor of The Battersea Review.

THE FACE

The face grows old so fast.

We can’t look down and see our face

The way we can our hand.

We need an event to see our face,

We approach the mirror and there’s our face

Like a performance in a play.

There’s our face, thinking. Now what will it say today?

 

When I look down and see my hand,

I don’t care if it looks the way it does.

It’s my hand. It has unique curves and lines

But it’s a hand. Not my face.

 

What if we carried our heads at the end of our arms

And there they would be, plainly observable,

And we could study at leisure our heads, just as we do our hands?

Wouldn’t that be horrible? After all, faces are not hands.

Faces, when we suddenly glimpse them, make us sick.

A face fears, and that fear barely understands.

 

 

 

SEA OF LOVE

I didn’t know what music was, not yet,

Not until I heard how the two of them met

In a large lagoon under the moon

And the poems in their books got wet.

There’s been many sleepless nights because of things I didn’t get,

Sleepless nights, because of things I didn’t understand, or couldn’t understand yet.

But I remember when highbrow made lowbrow her pet.

It was the strings in You Don’t Own Me which drowned her voice

And then I no longer knew. I no longer had a choice.

It might have been one chord

When I found the Lord.

 

 

 

 

WHAT SITS BEHIND THE EYES

What sits behind the eyes?

More eyes. They watch the insects of the rain flitting.

O wash of colors and recriminations

Which sat once, with you and I—and are still sitting.

What sits behind the eyes?

An object looked at in a garden

Which now gives you a withering look.

As the line in the poem approaches.

As the metaphor waits.

We decide it goes in your book.

What sits behind the eyes?

The unkindness of the mind,

Which filters and laughs and hates,

To preserve itself—and a small chance to be kind.

 

 

 

TO BE UNMOVED

The world is a sea anemone reacting to stimulation.

We react to stimulation. Our reaction creates stimulation.

This is both reality and virtual reality, plain and simple.

This is why the addict of the video game

Is no different than the conversationalist, the lover, the mountain climber;

They are all the same.

A poet has never offered one opinion of interest, but his poems hold

An apparent secret and everyone believes he—the unmoved—is profound and bold.

In the poet’s stupefying love,

As passive as a wall: the heavens roll in your heart like planets and stars above.

Oh, new friend, should I have been sad, today? Thinking how simple life is?

All it is, is this. The sun kisses us. We kiss.

 

YOU CAN INSULT ME

You can insult my country.
I am not my country.
But not my poetry.

You can insult my gender.
I am not my gender.
But not my metaphor.

You can insult my race.
I am not my race.
But not my book case.

You can insult my vocation.
I am not my vocation.
But not my radio station.

You can insult me, sweet and mild.
But not my Oscar Wilde.

 

 

 

IRAN: POETRY IN TRANSLATION

Forrough!

THREE POEMS BY FOROUGH FARROKHZAD (1935-1967)

Forough is the Sylvia Plath of Iran.  She is one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. Her work is passionate, controversial, and was banned for ten years after Iran’s 1979 Revolution. She died in a car accident at the age of 32.

Sherry

TRANSLATED BY SHERRY LAICI  (SHOHREH)

Sherry, born in Tehran in 1986, represents the Iran few Americans know: interested in social taboos and women’s issues, she is a performance artist, a translator, a video artist, and a scholar of literature and languages.

 

*************************************************************************************************

I WAS DYING OF YOU…

I was dying of you, but you were my life.

You were going with me.
You were reading inside me.
You were going with me,
While I was walking the streets with no destination.
You were going with me.
You were reading inside me.

You were inviting the sparrows in love to the
bright windows, among the elms

When the night had been repeated,
when the night had not yet ended.

You were inviting…
You were coming to our alley with your lights,
You were coming with your lights
When the children were going,
And the clusters of acacia slept,
And I was alone in the mirror.
You were coming with your lights…

You were giving me your hands,
You were giving me your eyes,
You were giving me your love
While I was hungry,
You were giving me your life,
You were generous as light.

You were picking the tulips
And covering my hair.
You were picking the tulips
While my hair throbbed from nudity.

You were rubbing your cheeks
against the anxiety of my breasts,
while I had nothing to tell.

You were rubbing your cheek
Against the anxiety of my breasts and
you listened
to my blood going while it moaned,
and you were listening
to my love dying while it cried…

You were listening but
you were not able to see me.

 

THE CLOCKWORK DOLL

Oh, yeah, even more…
You can stay silent, even more…

For a long time
With a fixed, lifeless eyes
You can gaze at the smoke of a cigarette…
At a cup’s form,
At the colorless flower of the rug,
At the fictitious line on the wall.
With numb fingers
You can draw back the curtains and see
It’s heavily raining in the alley,
A child with his colored kite
Taking shelter beneath a canopy,
The old cart is fleeing the deserted square in haste…
You can stay next to the curtains,
But blind, deaf.

You can cry out
With utterly false voice, utterly alien,
“I Love!”
You can be a gorgeous and healthy female
In the powerful arms of a man

With shiny skin,
With two firm and full breasts.
You can ruin the value of love by debauchery.

You can belittle craftily
Every perplexing riddle,
You can only do crosswords.
You can only be happy to find out the absurd answer,
The absurd answer, yeah, five or six letters.

You can kneel down for a lifetime,
Head bowed, before the cold shrine.
You can see God in an anonymous grave.
You can find your faith by a few pennies.
You can decay like the old prayer
Inside a mosque’s chambers.
You can be like a zero,
Yielding nothing,
Whether added or subtracted or multiplied.
You can think your eyes are like the buttons from an old shoe,
Caught in a web of anger.
You can dry up like water from one’s own pit.

You can hide inside the closet,
One moment with shame,
Like a ridiculous black and white instant photo.
You can play the role of sentenced, or beaten, or crucified,
Inside the empty frame of a day.
You can cover the hole of the wall by smiling.
You can get involved with absurd roles.

You can be like the clockwork dolls.
Look out at the world through two glassy eyes.
You can sleep years inside a felt box.
Your body
Full of straw,
Wrapped in layers of confetti and lace,
With every licentious squeeze of someone’s hand.
You can cry out, for no reason:
“Ah…How happy I am…”

 

ANOTHER BIRTH

The whole of my existence is a dark verse
that will take you away in its repetition
to the dawn of eternal budding and blooming.
In this verse, I sighed at the thought of you …Ah,
In this verse, I tied you
to the tree and water and fire.

Perhaps life is a long street that a woman crosses with her basket every day.
Perhaps life is a rope a man hangs himself with from a branch.
Perhaps life is a child who returns from school.
Perhaps life is the lighting a cigarette, in the languorous memory of love making.

Or perhaps life is coming across…a passer-by who
tips his hat to another with a meaningless smile
and says, “Good morning.”
Perhaps life is that blocked moment
when my gaze ruins itself in the pupils of your eyes
and there is a feeling
that I will blend with the moon’s perception and the reception of darkness.

In a room that is the size of loneliness, my heart
that is the size of a love
gazes at the simple pretext of its happiness,
the beautiful decay of the flowers in the vase,
the sapling you have planted in our garden,
and the singing of canaries that is the size of a window

Ah…
This is my share, this is my share,
this is my share,
the sky which is stolen from me by covering a curtain.

This is my share,
descending an abandoned stair
to a place destructive, alienated.

This is my share,
the sorrowful walk in the garden of memories,
dying in a sorrowful voice which says to me:
“I love your hands”

I plant my hands in the garden,
I will become green, I know, I know, I know
and the swallows will lay their eggs in the hollow of my inky fingers

I will wear earrings which are made from a twined red cherry
and dress my fingernails with dahlia petals.
There is an alley where
the boys, who were in love with me,
with shaggy hair and narrow necks and skinny legs
still thinking about that innocent girl’s smile,
the girl the wind blew away one night.

There is an alley that my heart
stole from my childhood’s neighborhood.

The journey of a form through,
inseminating the dry line of time,
the conscious image
that returns from a mirror’s party,
and this is how
someone dies
and someone lives.
No hunter will ever catch a pearl in a stream that flows into a pit.

I know a sad sprite who inhabits an ocean,
and she plays her heart through a wooden harmonica
softly, softly

The sad sprite
who dies of a kiss at night
and will be born of a kiss at dawn.

 

 

 

I CAUSE LOVE

t brady

I cause love,
Though I, myself, am not loving.
I give no roses.
I am not love,
I am what love exposes:
The mind, uncomfortable; a vain thought; a sigh;
Or the look on your face when you see my face and smile before you cry.

I am the fog which dreams, the fog the silent harbor encloses
On a summer evening when the water is strangely bright
And the scene and the boats illuminated as the night
Gets ready to fall, prepares for tranquility and beauty
To die, and you love what the beauty discloses.
You don’t remember me.
You remember all the poses.

 

 

THE ONE MUSE I KNOW

The one muse I know
Makes my inspiration come and go
In forms of various shadows and light.
Ah, the one muse is my highest delight.
When you see me talking to you
It is only because I see her too.

The other women walking nearby
Were surprised when I turned to them with a cry
And a greeting, with excitement in my voice.
But no, you weren’t the one, you weren’t my choice;
She was in the shadows and saw
All the shadows I spoke to:
She saw the two of us speaking: myself and you.
She, my highest delight, my muse, was quietly nearby
When I greeted you with a smile and a cry.

THE PROLIFIC POET

The prolific poet is never trusted,
Like a beautiful woman—isn’t she too beautiful to give her beauty to one?
(Yes I know that beautiful women are truer than most
But we can’t help but see a beautiful woman as a ghost
With ghostly desires bursting from the brains of everyone.)
The prolific poet is never trusted.
Many beautiful poems coming out of you so quickly
Indicates a treasure that is not yours,
And you are, in fact, less than a man,
Not because you can’t do something—or skillfully and carefully, you can.
You are giving birth as passively as pain that roars.
All these poems! You are dreaming a desirable birth
To everyone’s everything. And so to everyone who is not everything you have no worth.
Just wait. One day your great poems will be taken out and dusted.
Until then, you are nothing. For everything is nothing—if it can’t be trusted.

REFINE THE BRUTE

When I’m asked for an opinion on modern American poetry, I want to do more than list poems and poets I like, though this is probably the only adequate response. Anything else will be sure to confuse as much as it enlightens.

But I cannot resist the injunctions, so fraught with discipline is my soul, even though it inhabits a bestial body.

Before poems are offered up, however, I have a desire to show my thoughts on what poetry is, and what it does, and what it is supposed to do, if it is worthy to be called, poetry, of which “modern” and “American” are even more hopelessly vague.

Surely poetry has a certain pedagogical use.

Verses and rhyme help us significantly in two ways: verse helps us to learn a language and helps us to learn to love a language.

Poetry can most simply be defined as language at play.

How can one love a language which is complex and unmusical?

Unless one is hopelessly misanthropic and affected?

Language can confuse more easily than anything else—because a chaos of meaning is more chaotic than chaos itself.

Language should never confuse—if it is worthy to be called language.

How can the most complex thing on earth do us good as a cheerful and loving guide?

This is the whole question, and poetry, in its beautiful robes, is always near, emerging elegantly from the shadows, with the answer.

Poetry, to cast away all pretense and confusion, then, is for the learning-book, the school lesson; poetry is the teacher of language.

Poetry is language for the child.

The child, who lisps wants and thoughts in the world of his mother, all at once enters the next phase—and grows slowly into a speaking and feeling citizen—with the help of poetry. 

At the end of this phase, perhaps harsh and complex and unmusical language awaits; but this middle path should be guided by simple and playful and happy versification, which fills the senses and the muscles of learning—with confidence and joy.

The student of poetry is the student of poetry for students.

For teaching is what poetry does.

Student, to some, is an unfriendly word; it implies anything but joy. We would prefer the poet as someone who learns from nature, outside the school’s walls.  Student implies shallow breathing and pitiless annoyance.

Student may have unfortunate institutional associations, but the athlete trains, the baby animal learns, the lover knows the beloved, and poetry casts knowing lovingly over all creatures who speak.

Poetry is a stream for all the speaking tribes.

Poetry is wisdom that is more than wisdom.

A student of poetry is the best thing to be—for once the adolescent has imbibed poetry’s waters, something divine will stay in him forever.

Poetry does not exist for itself, or to convey “truths” among sophisticated grownups—who need “news that stays news;” poetry is only very indirectly connected to the fussy things necessary to move among the trials and griefs of mature life. Poetry’s influence is wide and strong enough to trick sophisticates into thinking that poetry is a sophisticated enterprise. But the true poets know better.

Poetry can belong to “truths;” it can belong to, and be, anything; it is, for many, the speech of strangeness, the speech of estrangement, the speech of enormity, the speech of iconoclasm, the speech of vain maturity shot through with terrifying irony, and yes, speech which can dare to say anything.

Yes. The stream is the sea.

However, before it is any of these things, poetry is food for the student eternal.

Poetry should turn language into a beautiful instrument, both for exterior expression, and for inner thoughts of the highest enterprise and pleasure.

To be great, poetry must know where it belongs.

Poetry serves language.

Language does not serve poetry.

Poetry exists as a lover of language—not to “know things” or to express “knowledge,” though what it expresses can, obviously, relate to knowledge and knowing.  Knowing isn’t what it is—just as a stove is not heat.

A child will have plenty of opportunity to grasp things about the sordid, factual world.

Language—which poetry serves—is how we navigate the world. Language—which poetry serves—is not merely a repository of facts.

For the doubting adolescent, language, beautiful language, is the way to swim through the intellectual sea. The intellectual sea shouldn’t be poured into the novice’s mouth.

Since poetry is language, poetry makes both the mind and its objects beautiful—language which belongs to poetry appeals to both the sense and the senses. Language which belongs to poetry revels in fluency, revels in delight and a practiced ease, with which to contemplate and think.

As an example, we offer a recent poem of our own composition, which demonstrates how poetry belongs in language—not just in the macro-sense (to which we typically think poetry belongs, making sublime, insightful, emotional, grandiose observations and pronouncements, etc)—but in the micro-sense: poetry is, more than anything else, speech which punctures pretense, speech which spreads harmony, grace and civilization.

YOU SAW MY COMMA, YOU SAW WHAT I SAID WAS NICE

You saw my comma, you saw what I said was nice;

The shouting world that you see has nothing to do with me,

But I, at least, can prove to you, with the way I write,

That I am kind, nice to kiss, and safe—even sweet to be with at night.

It really is true that we have nothing to do with the world,

Although we are in it. The unseeing world

Has been manipulated against its will,

Or not: maybe the whole world meant to do it this way,

And the world is exactly as it should be, every day;

Though we don’t believe this, and I don’t believe this,

And please just kiss me—and do me a favor: don’t believe a single thing I say.

****

But to really be convincing, we offer an example of one of the greatest poetic speeches:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:/Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer…or to take arms…

Great old poetry from our mother tongue obviously throws its influence over contemporary American poets, though some, to be “more contemporary” push away the old—though every poet knows this is impossible. But if we look at this famous verse, immediately we see it appeals to the child: One or Zero. Either/Or. Binary language lies beneath computer language and a great deal more—difficulty, however, is not Shakespeare’s aim: child-like clarity and truth, rather. “The pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office” is not the speech of long, tortured disquisition; it is the truth spoken quickly; now the mathematical simplicity of one or nothing is further complicated, but simply: the added issue is this: nothing is not really nothing—“but that dread of something after death…” But in the end, it still comes down to one or zero, because uncertainty is still zero.

And this is a truth which gives the lie to the “Difficult School,” and every kind of inadequacy and pretence which kills poetry in our day and makes it so unappealing to the public: “uncertainty is still zero.”

This is why William Blake’s lovely, child-like ballads to “Innocence and Experience,” mark the return of Shakespearian genius in the poets which came to be called “the Romantics” by critics who had no other word, just as “Modern” is no word at all to describe anything literary. Perhaps if we mean to say “stupid,” like that plum poem (Christ!) by Carlos Williams.

There is only good poetry.

There are no eras.

There is no liking poetry which is “about” something you like.

You’re not liking poetry, then.

There is no scholarship—especially the kind that exists to prove that Ezra Pound is more important than Edna Millay. Most people don’t care. A small percentage care, but most of that small percentage doesn’t get it. Poor poetry.

Intellectuals in the West chiefly care about “equality,” which translates into going backwards from their superior intellects into something worse—for the sake of that very “equality” they love.

The poor hate “equality,” which is why popular music, for instance, the entertainment of the poor, is so unequal: The “hit” songs get played over and over again. And for a simple reason, which no doubt goes over the intellectuals’ heads—on account of the intellectuals being so intellectual: Good songs are good because they sound good, and even better, with more listens.

So everything popular is not equal. Prose make all poems equal. That’s why prose-as-poetry appeals to intellctuals. This alone is the point. It isn’t that the intellectuals hate verse, or that the Pope hates naked women. Equality is solemnly the aim.

So to quickly review American poetry: ballads sung by the poor, evince a great deal of poetic genius, and this informs the great shadow poetry of America: popular music, which our Mother Country joyfully “invaded” in the 1960s, with phenomenal numbers like “House of the Rising Sun.”

Edna Millay is a great genius of American poetry (see her sonnets, etc).

Then there is the great counter-tradition, began in the 1930s at Iowa, in which American poetry lives entirely in the university—and two crucial things happen in the Creative Writing frenzy of the Writing Program Era: 1. Intellectuals take the “popular” element out of poetry in the name of what is largely pretentious “scholarship” and 2. Poetry is taken hostage by a business model which replaces disinterested learning of poetry with shameless ‘Be a Writer!’ institutional profit-share scheming.

The New Critics, the counter-tradition, institutional champions of mid-20th Century American poetry, awarded Iowa’s Paul Engle his early 30s Yale Younger Prize. A New Critic (Fugitive) was Robert Lowell’s psychiatrist when Lowell left Harvard to study with New Critics Ransom and Alan Tate and room with Randall Jarrell.

What about the Beats? The street-wise response to Lowell? The problem with the Beats is that they produced one famous poem, “Howl,” which no one reads to the end, and Robert Lowell, who was a Writing Program teacher at Iowa, and a Frankenstein monster of the tweedy New Critics, actually has more loony, real-person, “confessionalist” interest than the Beats do. Ginsberg’s “Supermarket In California” is easily his best poem, and it is probably no accident that this poem is an homage to Whitman—the canonized creation of Emerson (the prose of the Sage of Concord was stolen by Whitman and turned into poetry) and Emerson was 1. the godfather of William James (inventor of stream of consciousness and Gertrude Stein’s professor) and 2. friends with T.S. Eliot’s grandfather—and here are the roots of every leaf of American modern experimental poetry.

When I went to Romania this last month, I met David Berman, student of the late James Tate. Berman, an underground indie rock star (Silver Jews) and estranged from his millionaire right wing lawyer father—is a truly delightful person, as funny and smart a man as you will ever meet. James Tate won his Yale Younger in the 40s and has a Creative Writing degree from Iowa.

America poetry is Iowa. Quirky, intelligent, funny. Very, very conveniently in prose. This is the kind of poem you read once, are vastly impressed, but with each successive reading, all interest dissolves—because the intelligence has striven with billions of stars and trillions of grains of sand—and lost.

This is poetry that is really stand-up comedy.

John Ashbery, and his friend Frank O’hara, are also funny.

Ashbery, who was awarded the Yale Younger by W.H. Auden (talented Brit anointed by T.S. Eliot) in the 1950s, makes no sense, and so he is considered slightly better of the two (Ashbery, O’Hara) by intellectuals, since before Ashbery’s poetry everyone is equal (equally befuddled).  To think there was a time, not that long ago, when Byron complained he couldn’t understand Wordsworth.

Billy Collins, the best-selling American poet today, belongs to the James Tate/humorous/Iowa School. But since he is clear, although he is clever, and writes in prose, like every critically acclaimed poet in America, Collins is not appreciated by the intellectuals. His clarity bugs the intellectuals—who invariably confuse obscurity of expression with obscurity of subject, favoring the former, against all good sense.

I traveled to Romania with Ben Mazer, who is struggling to break the mold, who is perhaps the only American poet today seriously attempting to write verse in which verse writes the poetry.

Slinging words around in a half-comical or half-fortune cookie wisdom fashion, and avoiding all the excellences which the Romantics evinced, is the norm today—and one never bucks the norm, if one knows what is good for one. Unfortunately, avoidance of the past is bad. It prevents one from traveling to the future.

Then there is political poetry, which invariably falls into the category of poetry which is “about” something which the reader is already prepared to identify with, the political poet carefully avoiding any thing which might be called poetry to get in the way of what the “poem” is preciously and importantly “about.” This kind of poetry will always be written since poetry left poetry roughy 100 years ago, a time when, unfortunately, in America, the literary word “modern” began to be taken seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU SAW MY COMMA, YOU SAW WHAT I SAID WAS NICE

Commuter Portrait

You saw my comma, you saw what I said was nice;

The shouting world that you see has nothing to do with me,

But I, at least, can prove to you, with the way I write,

That I am kind, nice to kiss, and safe—even sweet to be with at night.

It really is true that we have nothing to do with the world,

Although we are in it. The unseeing world

Has been manipulated against its will,

Or not: maybe the whole world meant to do it this way,

And the world is exactly as it should be, every day;

Though we don’t believe this, and I don’t believe this,

And please just kiss me—and do me a favor: don’t believe a single thing I say.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

For Ben

What do you do in the twilight, when there won’t be any sun?
When every bird is darkness, and the birds, to their dark mother, run?
When every song is darkness, and all that was dear, and holy, and still,
Remains so forever, covering all you perceived, when you gazed, at valleys, with hope, high on the hill?
When every silence is eternal, adding silence to the silent flaw
Which demands more silence, because they fall down there, with each silence, each silence, the law?
You hear the crumbs and pebbles fall to ever lower levels in the dark
Until you cannot hear them. The pages are gone.  The book is gone.  And the lark.
When the earth is your parade—but she is the one
To make the shadows come up from further shadows,
Interspersed with light—remember a day’s summer in the park?
And she loved you? And brought her hand
Into your hand…?

You are dying. I understand.
I’ve been to that darkness, too.
The same shadow that covered me covers you.

 

THE LOVER WHO REJECTS YOU IS THE CRUELEST GOD

The lover who rejects you is the cruelest god.
This cruelty you expected all along:
When you walked with her, when the two of you listened to a song,
It hid under everything you two felt and said,
In a love that made you warm—just as now you wish you were dead.

The lover who rejected you practiced long hours
To reject your eyes and reject your flowers
And to be cruel so much to the point
Where you knew it wasn’t you loving,
Because confusion presented a scene:
Knowing love made mad a love that was green.

You look at him loving her who is loving you.
Love is too loving. Love doesn’t know what to do.
Love is here, and there, and you are no longer true.

You cannot control desire, leaping into many,
And more, and cannot stop seeing, thinking and feeling.
You push the blankets away and you writhe and you look at the ceiling.

But the orgy ends.
And cloudiness is a love. And a sunset cloud a sunset sends.

And then, a calmness pervades.
The madness ends. The grass swallows up the shades.

And now you ride a leafy stream onto a silent lake
And see only her. Only her. You live—only for her sake.

Or at least, that’s what you think.
The ground is soft.  She knows you will sink.

And then, a calmness pervades.
This kind of madness always ends. The grass now has the writhing shades.

MY POETRY

My poetry, there’s no help for you
Now that she—my love!—tells me what to do.
I had a good idea for a poem yesterday;
A good poem!—she looked at me and it flew away.

My poetry, we need to talk.
In the sunlight, by the sea, we’ll walk.
Lately I’ve given up your lying
To think of her; you’ve heard me sighing.

My poetry, you haven’t got a prayer
Against her; she is Iranian. And rare.
She has a full head of dark brown hair.

My poetry, I am happy. Please don’t despair
If you are not good.  I will always care.

My poetry, there’s no hope for you,
Except when I repeat what she has to say—
And when she stops looking at me I may.

 

 

LOVE NOTHING

Do you feel nothing for me? Can this be true?

Is this why you run from me when I come into view?

I’m a philosopher. I philosophize about you.

I don’t think we love a person—we only love what they do.

This is why love is a paradox—we think love unites

Two persons—but love kills the person, even as love delights

In doing so—the dog who loves is the dog who bites.

The fact of what the other person allows you to do—

Sex—is all one can ever love. Yes. I’m sorry, but I never loved you.

I only loved that you gave me sex. And this is always true

For everyone. Love is nothing but this.

We never love the lover. We only love the kiss.

This is why you adored me, and suddenly saw me as a lout.

You don’t hate me—you hate love.  You found out

The terrible secret: great love contains great doubt—

And when all doubt finally disappears

The truth makes us cry the bitterest tears—

Love gives nothing. Love is nothing. All we can do is fake it.

I have nothing for you. Here. Take it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SLOWLY, LOVE LOVED

Slowly, love loved.
Quick had been my desperate desire—
But slowly love loved.
I stood by a dying fire.

Slowly, she decided,
With limitations, to be mine.
She loved me a morning,
Or an evening, after wine.

She came to me slowly,
Covered, in public streets.
This is how love hides desire,
How secretly love meets.

She made me wait for days,
Then came in a covered car,
Watched by no one,
Under a yearning star.

WHEN SHE AND I SAT

image

When she and I sat in the park,

More silent than talking,

Famished past dinner time,

Sacrifices to forbidden love

Companion to the kisses

In the breezy dark,

We loved and had love.

When others finished walking

Past, we kissed again

And made a game of it,

Or love did—we were never sure

Where love ended and we began.

Tonight I came back, feeling the years

Melt. The small park we knew the same.

Then I saw him, a familiar stranger,

A silent part of the scene

I had forgotten. He never made a sound.

He never looked around, the stooped old man,

Who came with a plastic jug of water

And watered the plants. Who was he?

Until then memory had not harmed me.

Now, seeing him, I fled, and burst into tears,

Running from her. Our love. The years.

 

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