THE WHOLE WORLD WILL NEVER LOVE YOU

Image result for vast distances in hudson river school painting

The whole world will never love you

Or pretend to love you,

Even though simple pretending

Would make you happy,

Give you a happy ending.

Vast distances and indifference

Will trouble you the most,

Or hate from one person you hate,

Or, a little worse, one you perhaps, love,

Because once, or twice, they were not indifferent.

The hate is easy. But love? You might struggle to know what it meant.

You will probably try to know it until the end,

When, at last, you glimpse the truth.

Love cannot, but will, if it wants, pretend.

 

 

 

THE FIRST HOUR

Image result for flower in a dark forest

I found pleasure without addiction,

Shrugging off debilitating love and desire,

In a green, shadowy forest, which last year

Was already gone, with the same green fire.

No need to heap up leaves

With poems of polite, sighing, words.

I have already sent my love ahead,

To be picked apart by the birds.

Perfumes touch me in idleness.

I find pleasure in small perfumed flowers,

Spreading their small perfumes,

As I hold—and am held by—sleeping green hours,

Happy in their drowsiness, in no hour remaining,

The first hour, one forgotten flower, the fled hour staining.

 

DOES ART

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Does art capture what’s already there?

Or do you change the person with your stare?

Embarrassment began with the camera

To a very high degree.

She gazed with love at the camera.

But doesn’t she love me?

The camera courted her, and soon she couldn’t tell

Love from the object very well.

What we have to love and what we have to sell

Became mixed in everybody’s mind.

My mother left the room. Even she was unkind.

My father had been thinking of the camera all day,

But his argument faltered, the minute others had their say.

Like my father, I had arguments to make,

But I would not hear them, for my mother’s sake.

I went off alone, to read books

Which laughed at the camera—and everybody’s looks.

STUCK IN THE HELL OF LIKING YOU

Image result for baudelaire poetry

There’s a reason why those who suffer, survive.
You exist because, in the past, someone, despite great pain, remained alive.
Do you see that star?
Because of all the pain, life is experienced from afar.
The universe is stretched out, because a star’s fire would hurt—
Like too much talk in a room. yeah you stupid flirt.
Admiration from a distance is the best we can do.
I’m sensitive, but staring, stuck in the hell of liking you.
You are one of many, and the many are more beautiful than you could be—
They all love me in the orgy of my fantasy!
You, irritated and ordinary and full of care,
Can you love me, can you love this poem, a lurid feast, inspired by Baudelaire?

YOU REALLY ARE ALONE

Image result for lone artist beethoven in painting

There is an uncomfortable truth which sometimes arises when we contemplate how lonely we are. The uncomfortable truth is this: we are not alone some of the time—we are, in fact, truly alone all of the time.

There is a kind of cheap, personality type, wisdom, which sells the comfortable lie that we are not really alone, by presenting the false scale of introvert versus extrovert: the implicit idea is that there is a ladder which can be climbed to get closer to people—the extreme introvert hides, and, as we move along the scale, we reach the extreme extrovert, who is energized by making contact with others.

But the path from alone to less alone is illusionary—an introvert is just an extrovert who hates small talk.

And why does the introvert hate small talk? Because they’d rather be alone with their own thoughts than have a superficial conversation with someone.

And this goes right to the heart of the matter.

The scale is not from “introvert” to “extrovert,” or from “alone” to “with someone.” These are actually false dichotomies, or scales. The true scale is the lonely one: superficial to profound.

The brain functions in such a way that all outside stimulation competes with what is happening in our brains, and when the outside stimulation takes precedence, we are having a superficial experience, and when the activity in our own brains is of uppermost importance, we are having a profound experience.

When we are having a great conversation, we are really conversing with ourselves, for within our brains, the back and forth, the inner revisions, the actual creativity and discovery–the thinking itself, is occurring at the speed of light.

But speaking to another can travel no faster than the speed of sound.

Speaking to ourselves—“two people speaking” is literally what thought is—does not find us in a place where we are “really” with “another,” but this is no matter, since we are truly beyond whether we are “alone,” or not. The true dichotomy is shallow versus profound.

So the bad news is, we are alone. And the good new is, yes, and so what?

The most profound utterances we experience are when we hear a composer’s masterpiece, and experience it as such, (some are too shallow for this experience—we weep, they are stone).

Harmony—in music, or anything—is the essence of “togetherness” of anyone or anything. No instrument playing, no harmonizing note, knows it is sitting beside another. So if any two objects (speaking humans or not) are “together,” it is of importance only if they “harmonize,” and so the harmony is crucial. When does harmony occur? By script. Harmony occurs without the objects or people having any say in it. Objects harmonize better than people. People reciting/singing a script in a play, or a musical composition, are turning themselves into objects, serving the instructions of the “dead” playwright or composer. The harmonizing influence originates in the brain of the lone creator, unless objects in nature, non-human objects unaware of themselves, are luckily situated in a natural landscape. A belief that dead things can intentionally harmonize is a belief in God.

The scale from “alone” to “with someone” is a false concept, like extrovert and introvert, though it just so happens that alone, or introversion, is where the genius lives—as they attempt to harmonize within themselves.

Another false trail which deludes us into thinking that being alone is an unwanted, undesirable or depressing state: people assume the genius often has few, or no, close friends, because the genius doesn’t get along with people. We falsely assume that it is a matter of personality. It is not. The genius itself is the reason for any estrangement, not social attributes—which belong to the illusionary world in which people are assumed to interact. They actually do not. We are talking to ourselves, literally. The better we talk, the more we are creating speech in the loneliness of our brains—which is not a bad thing. The genius, the great poet, thinks up those great things alone. Idle chatter can bump up against anyone. It doesn’t matter who it is. If someone makes us laugh, the jokes they offer could make anyone laugh. The conversation does not belong uniquely to you and another.

Likewise in love and sex: We are most in love, most comfortable, when we are alone in such a manner that we are not self-conscious, not worrying about being judged.  So it is really more appropriate to say that divine love is when the loneliness, even the complete solipsism of two people, appear to touch. “Mutual” love is an illusion. Two people masterbating (with) each other is, in fact, what is happening in the most intense form of excited, romantic love. Yes, of course, X is kissing Y, but X is kissing—and this is the true act, and X could be kissing anyone, and it would still be kissing, it would still be love. As soon as we concede this, it follows that we are alone, even in love.

Agape, or the highest form of spiritual love, all charitable acts, all divine love in which we “go out of ourselves” to help others, springs from the good person—and where is this goodness?  Not in some abstract place, or group reality; this goodness resides deep in the individual person.  Why isn’t the unkind person charitable? Because they cannot find it within themselves to be so.

Being happily alone is what fully realizes you and your deepest thoughts, and nowhere does this cease to operate. It is always true. This truth ensures that you are never really with another when you are realized as yourself. You are with them, but accidentally.

This is not to reduce the importance of the other—they are just like you, and are realized, just like you, in themselves, profoundly, just the same.

None of this is bad news. Though it is a little sad, we will admit. (If you think it is very bad news, you have not understood this essay, and you are probably either a shallow chatterer, or chronically depressed.)

But yes, it is true. We are alone.

 

 

 

 

FOUR POEMS OF DAN SOCIU

The world needs the poems of Dan Sociu. It probably doesn’t make any sense to talk like this, but we might speak of Sociu as a combination of Bukowski and Rilke. Confessions of real life, with classical rigor—the best of both, and, in combination, better, at times, than either. This seems too easy to say, which is why we qualified it above in strong terms: it “doesn’t make sense.” But surely this slyly advertises, to a certain degree, what we are saying: there is something about the poems below (translated from the Romanian by Ana-Maria Tone) plainly uncanny—odd and strange from the ease of their honesty; matter-of-factly profound from a depth of patient understanding—as in the portrait of the cat, which reminds us of Rilke’s “The Panther'” beyond the mere feline similarity; the time traveling visit to anxious school; the masterpiece of love poet not loved; and finally, a love poem that documents, it seems, almost everything. Nicer than Bukowski, more approachable than Rilke, Dan Sociu is, with or without this comparison, an important poet. Enjoy.

 

SI FRUMOS E CÎND

How sad and beautiful man is when he’s wrong

about the world (and maybe he’ll never

know), like the cat driven mad

by the shining of a knife on the wall.

It forgets about everything else and it flies

into a rage directly to the playful spot

of light—and every time

it falls flat on its face and every time,

without hesitation, it throws itself

on that glow which is actually

nothing, doesn’t mean anything, is

useless. Indeed, if it disappears, it lies

still at the wall and waits,

with trembling whiskers, for it to return.

 

PARE UN VIS UNIVERSAL

It seems to be a universal dream. I’ve heard it

being told by others as well, the first part

is the same at least, the rest depends:

I’m at school, we are given

a test paper and as usual I haven’t studied

anything. I’m afraid and I’m ashamed then

I suddenly realize I finished school

a long time ago, I am an adult and they cannot

do anything to me anymore. I lie back and stretch

my legs on the bench, I look at my classmates

pitifully, how little and clumsy they are, caught

in the anxiety like a fly in a curtain—

don’t you already know that we were born in death

and that all cares are already over?

 

NIMIC NU MAI E POSIBIL

Nothing is possible anymore between me

And a nineteen year old girl, just as nothing

was possible when I was nineteen

years old. I listened to them carefully, they ruffled my hair,

they’d gently reject my touches, no, Dan,

you are not like this, you are a poet. They came

to me for therapy, they’d come with their eyes in tears

to the poet. I was a poet and everyone was in love

around the poet and none with him.

The poet would go out every evening

quaking like a tectonic wave and

in the morning he’d come back humiliated

in his heart—the quakes moving

for nothing, under uninhabited regions.

 

 

BECAUSE WE LISTENED TOFETHER TO THE HEART OF THE LITTLE GYMNAST BEATING IN THE CORNER OF THE HUGE MAT (PENTRU CA AM ASCULTAT)

First there was that beautiful gesture of yours in the bus

when you caressed with your fingers in the paper the photo

of a writer who died at 27.

 

I had seen girls doing that to celebrities’ faces before

and your gesture, very short and sensuous, on the features

of a dead young man, of a stranger,

moved me like a hundred obituaries.

 

Poor dear, you said.

 

I sensed you then, through your whole disguise

beyond your nice PR persona

I perceived the little girl who struggled to grab

a flower on the lower branch of a cherry tree.

 

Then there was a Sunday afternoon in the subway to the railway station.

We were talking about kids and I said that I didn’t want any more kids,

that I didn’t feel up to it. And that it would be unfair to my daughter.

 

In the station you kept trying to get out by the other door,

the one that leads to the disgusting abyss between the tracks

and you hid your eyes so I wouldn’t see you crying.

 

You once told me—I’m not beautiful, not in the classical sense.

And I told you—I know, I mean at first I knew,

now I don’t care anymore.

 

Some other time you told me you weren’t conceived out of love

and I wondered where you got all your love from.

 

So what if your parents didn’t want you.

I wanted you.

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE FORBIDS LOVE

Coffee makes me sleepy,

Love forbids love,

And can I add discretely

War has been using the symbol of the dove?

The education path I travel makes me increasingly wise

But I see myself returning, burdened by names and faces,

Saying, “oh God, after all my research, there’s been a few lies.”

I have to revisit some of those places.

“Go, now, into that house you would never dare to go.

Get good and humiliated. Forget what you know.”

 

 

 

IF WE BELIEVE

If we believe, as the whole truth, what is true

Ninety-nine percent of the time—that one

Percent will make a wise person a piece of shit.

They know the tangled knots of a life

Can only be untied by you. That’s right.

So we are lonely every night.

You will never see the one percent.

How it contradicts. Or what it meant.

There is no science of who you are.

—Uncomfortable extrovert?

Or were you really an introvert?—

The genuine crumbles off from the star.

It’s not polite to be happy, or saved.

Happiness involves one hundred percent

Faith, unwavering, which makes you crazy,

Instantly!

Ha ha ha,

Loving me.

 

WHAT I WANT IN A ROBOT

Image result for robot in a store display

A certain emotional distance. A response

To my feelings, at once,

But tempered by a kind of reserve,

Charming in the centripetal curve,

Which hates and loves the straight line,

With common sense especially fine.

A horror of sitting close to others

With their noises and their smells;

A love of embarrassed laughter;

No matter how sad, the ability to laugh about it after.

Appreciates poetry which references cisterns and wells.

Has little wasted movement, but what

There is walks, but does not strut.

Smiles at every little offense, judgment

Living in the smile, but not with the intent

To smile cruelly—that kind of smile

Is reserved, in jest, for me, every once in a while.

I want that one. That one on the wall

With a curvy body. Is she awake?  She’ll make me feel small.

 

 

 

 

 

FIVE POEMS BY BRENNAN FITZGERALD

Image result for abstract painting pink

ALPINIST THRILL

White wigs made by Persian thieves
Hung on the rig where the end of time sits
A rock made of ornery stilettos
Don’t talk breathe write take note
of hides that live here in the thrushes of quiet.
Breath ceases in slick silence
And then fog dispels to air and to elk dust
and wings of blossom perfume.
RAPT ATTENTION: 80,000 90,000 400,000 FEET!
Out of the corner a white unicorn made of ice appears
And time is now rippling, a fabric lost
And cut into ice and rocks of tiny shapes
Mirrors; made of never ending mystery and mood.

 

RED

The color signifies smoke, sutures and glory,
A Mozart script, your eyes safe in the midst of types,
Posing pink long dip dyed,
Tangled in flutter strains of ocean blue
Strangled by yellow ideas and suicide, painful oak,
Chloroform hope is for otters
You are playful which can be poisonous
The idea of porcelain,
You were contagious.
You were not a part of me,
But I wanted it,
Like fire feeding water to the hungry at the very same time.

 

ALIVE

If there is smoke running down the mountain,
I would be the one sitting sideways on a train.
When there is rain stumbling down,
The life is bringing tubes and whiffs of green grass on people’s dinner plates,
Throwing carrots at winners and hoping that you find love in an olive.
When there is sadness and flatness, the towels are wet,
Some of us will drag,
Over plan the day in notebooks and meetings,
Bored,
Tumbled,
Scared
of even the faintest emotion that feels like a vibe for decades.
The vivant, nah, he is day,
He is cool,
Speeding, swinging an airplane through joy, winged life.
When one is walking and placing mind on the complexity of the sidewalk,
The jolted one is placing arrows into loaded guns,
Reminding people to take a breath of steel,
To pity orphans,
To wear blue and pink underwear
To dance topless
To hate anything ordinary,
To thrust Sundays and to lift a tongue to the pink twilight.

 

REDUCTION GEOMETRY AND JAZZ, HOPELESS SUNDAYS

Lines are everywhere and you are the rhythm
It’s like breathing and swimming and walking all at once
Hell, hold on to me,
Diamonds are dancing in this prime time perfume
And holding on to a slippery step at the end of the ocean
The rock is telling me which way to go,
Wet it sings and tells me I need to slip, and let go!
If ash is weight,
you don’t have any of it,
me neither.
Damn fool, this is hard.
Please tell me.
It tells you that you are thirsty as your dreams, which tells me a whole lot of nothing
Shit, again really?
Prime in web contortions,
The coffee is earth, coffee is god, ok?
GOD brother.
And the mind—it–
If there is something we hate, we analyze it
Love is worse, it’s like a cornea made of iron kernels.
It is a bag of glitter stuck in a rock,
The days are spent jumping and bobbing between computers and lines,
Masses of freedom and mixed signs sorted in ancient piety,
I am a ghost of click rooms,
Watching inside the dash of a fate
Made of love fume and green juices deep inside the hollow of pretty day,
Blue skin, tarred feathers and rock.
Scar me, rip me up, I am ready and need it.

 

TO THE MAN IN A KUFI

Why did you leave that cucumber lime water sitting there?
After you so carefully ate your omelet,
Lovingly touching those avocados in thought
You were so real in your frizz curls,
So true,
You left nothing on your plate,
You put down the fork like a mother laid to rest in white roses,
Are you a scientist? Or a stealth piece of history?
But you left that eight dollar water just sitting there,
Really?
Is that for me?

 

We met Brennan Fitzgerald in a novel writing class in the Boston area many years ago, and we lost touch—but recently we said hello on Facebook. She now lives in California. Autobiographical novels in progress are usually beautiful and sad, and we remember hers being especially so: vivid, limpid, heart-breaking.  These 5 poems she was kind enough to send are by the novelist I remember: sensitivity overwhelmed by experience, defending itself bravely with understated humor, anxious yet sweet. “the faintest emotion that feels like a vibe for decades” and “hoping that you find love in an olive”

Henry James had a theory that literature should not be judged by theory, but only by what is interesting, and while we recognize the danger of this—we ourselves are crazed formalists believing actual things get actual results—the work of Ms. Fitzgerald would certainly satisfy the acumen of Mr. James—the sensitive, interesting person is poet enough and that is all you need to know on earth, etc.  Have we been beguiled, because we are acquainted with Ms. Fitzgerald?  We hope not. There are formalist beauties here. We imagine you will enjoy each of these poems as poems, and as poetry. There is so little time to read novels these days. Or so we were led to believe. 

—the Editors, Cambridge July 11, 2017

WHAT I WROTE

Image result for cleopatra's fans

What I wrote ten seconds ago

I no longer believe.

What I said ten years ago

Is no longer true.

I no longer love you.

I furnished maps and plans

For my mind and planned to build

Here. This poem had pretty fans,

Fancy perfumes—which gray rhetoric killed.

I had to make the poem end

With a sad note, since life

Ends sadly, unless, unless… it bend

Down in love

To child, dignity, wife.

I could not bring myself to make

Life sad. The fans were pretty. We swam in the sexy lake.

YOUR POEM IS A PERSON

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Your poem is a person,

Or so this poem thinks.

What is a person?

A creature who stares and blinks.

A creature who’s there, but isn’t.

I was hurt so I want to hurt.

I was loved so I want to love.

A person may really seem pleasant,

But they would rather love a dog.

They are not really going to love you.

They will treat you like a thing.

They will try to manage the marriage,

And see what “it” can bring.

And poets, too, are not able to understand.

The truth is, a person is the measure,

And poems cannot hide

Their poet. Poems are flights where people land.

A poem is a person, and you can see

How loving he is by his poetry.

 

BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW I LOVE YOU

Because you don’t know I love you, I love you more.

I wait, and the waiting makes me love,

Because waiting is wanting, and love is what wanting is for.

When the secret is out, my love will have a chance

To be returned—and that’s a difficult dance.

That will involve analysis turned back on me

And the material trappings of everything love and judgement see.

My love for you is hungry—love is best when hungry, and blind.

Love is hungry to know, too, but knowing is usually unkind.

I don’t want love’s unkindness. I don’t want love to go.

I love you more than you can imagine—that’s why you’ll never know.

 

IF YOU WERE LIKE ME

Image result for a distant star

If you were like me,

The world would be okay—

I’ve never done anything wrong—

Though what the world would be like,

It is difficult to say.

If the world were too wise and calm,

It would not be like itself at all,

And then I might not be around, to be good,

Or different from the rest; I wouldn’t exist at all.

So we cannot judge the world based on who we are.

But the good, which I am, still pleases me.

It pleases me. It exists. Like that far star.

 

 

 

 

I HATE THE ORDINARY

Image result for albino woman with sunglasses

I hate the ordinary,

And you know that’s true.

Because I’m not ordinary.

What do you want to do?

“I am on the 6:05 train,”

Types the albino woman with sunglasses.

I see it. Let’s think about that for awhile.

We hurtle into Lynn, listening to Ravel.

Not really. I said that to sound interesting.

I’m saying all of this to sound like I have style.

That’s all the poets have left these days.

I think she’s British.

The albino. Don’t ask her if it’s true.

I’m really alone. Though I think I’m on this train with you.

 

NOW YOU SEE (SONG)

Image result for chet baker

Now you see

My poetry

Brought you nothing.

Now you see

My poetry

Was only for me.

I thought you were the one,

I thought you were the sun,

But you were just a cloud that floated away.

Those sad songs we used to listen to?

Their sadness came true.

Those sad songs we used to listen to?

Their sadness took me away from you.

Now you see

My poetry

Brought you nothing.

Now you see

My poetry

Was only for me.

 

 

 

KATE READS KEATS

Kate reads Keats in the blooming garden—

This morning, fainting, with its own delirious perfume,

And the furry bees, circling, come—

There’s already a bee lost and buzzing near the bed in Kate’s room—

It is this massive love of Keats which she most loves,

Keats’ words kissed is what Kate does well.

How much Kate loves me, the bees

Know—populations buzzing with speculation on disease

Is a hearty recommendation of poetry, actually,

And nothing of his demise, the crumbling well,

The breaking of other things gets to be told.

Sometimes smoke coming out of a smokestack

Is just smoke coming out of a smokestack.

Sometimes a dead white male is just a male who’s dead.

The days are getting shorter now, and Kate is getting old.

I would like to point out, thanks to Kate, I am healthy,

And everything’s going my way, as if I had been blessed by God,

Though I’m a helpless atheist, and addicted to Kate, so isn’t that odd?

Ah, doubts and fears—I’ve learned to let them be.

In the garden Kate is reading Keats aloud to me.

 

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, USA

“Rap isn’t music. Music is infinite. Language is not.” —Jerry Garcia

“I had a terrible time. Nobody gets loose. They’re too cerebral” —Janis Joplin, on her European tour

“Horrible” —Mick Jagger watching video of a Hells Angel, hired to protect the Rolling Stones, killing Meredith Hunter in the free Altamont concert in California.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Happy Birthday, America. You are still the center of everything.

People from all over the world still want to come here.

Hatred for America, and within America, is deep—even as America remains strong and democratic, and boasts a glorious past, the chief event of that past defeating the British Empire.

Nations are necessary, and worth defending against the sophistical perturbations of Empire; hatred of the United States flows from the borderless calculations of empire.

Americans can still celebrate July 4 with pride.

As a Facebook poet, I have made friends all over the world; as a student of the internet, I have learned bright and dark secrets, without having to travel by car or plane.

I am not defending America as a jingoistic fortress; the “nation” is a necessary step backwards as a means of moving forward to help “the world.” Strong, independent nations are good for the world; empire seeks the destruction of nations, and always will. Seen in this context, the informed American conservative is progressive, not reactionary.

The necessary “step backwards” is the way the conservative, the true progressive, moves forward—while remaining true to “backwards” nature (underpinning, material, common sense).

Without material common sense, which keeps the individual safe, sane, cautious, and grounded, the overreach of mad intellectuality leans its ears to propaganda sirens, and wrecks itself upon the rocks.

“Progressive,” America-hating rhetoric is widespread—it seeks to chip away at American independence and drag it back into colonial status; the strategy of America-hating is simple; pretending beneficence, divide American citizens from each other through embarrassment, humiliation, vanity, innuendo and half-truth.

For instance: one of the material truths of America is its inheritance of conditions produced by the British slave trade—this “Empire” reality is suppressed, and made to look like it is entirely America’s fault, and somehow the fault of American conservatives. Further, this shift of blame is increasingly made to look recent, with every disadvantage suffered by blacks, no matter what the cause, laid at the feet of conservatives. This strategy of divisive blame belongs to those passing themselves off as “progressive.”

And this, in a nutshell, is the strategy: Extract, in a fussy, indignant, distracting manner, the rhetoric on any topic from its underlying material reality and then focus on “the wrong” and the “blame” which needs fixing in an anecdote-driven, ahistorical present.

The Empire, by its advantageous material situation (it being an empire) can weather almost any storm, and this is why it seeks to “create storms” wherever its authority is threatened, and war (and blame) is a great way to create storms. Wars between nations are inevitably the result of empire spies (traitors)—but “progressives” blame the existence of war on the greed of nations.

Empires, which rule other nations, inevitably do so with the help of spies—and so empires learn to mimic other cultures if they are not creating, or conquering other cultures, outright.

Natural differences based on geography and climate are overcome by the advance of technology; war produces, almost by necessity, a great deal of engineering innovation, consolidation of wealth, and muscle-building, so that an empire may emerge from destruction and trauma—an empire is destruction and trauma—this emergence a geopolitical Darwinism with sometimes amazing  and beneficent results. Greece fostered Rome which, when it fell, ushered in the Dark Ages and the Black Death, with Christianity and Platonism surviving beneath the upheaval; the British emerged as a powerful empire in the wake of its sword-and-spy-sharpening Catholic versus Protestant bloodbath; America grew stronger following the slaughter of its Civil War, and grew much stronger following its participation in World War Two. Richard Burton, a 19th century British spy, was the only westerner to penetrate the holiest inner circle of Islam; by contrast, the British nation simply walked into the Hindu world and made itself at home, stamping India with an English identity forever. And is it any accident that, America, emerging from the British Empire, has now turned into it? Just as Russia, with its Francophone identity, became victim of a revolution at least as disorienting as France’s, 200 years apart?

As America celebrates its Fourth of July in 2017 as the new British Empire—embodied by the CIA Deep State and its European and Mainstream Media allies, with Donald Trump as its chief executive—the latest vulgar leader after grotesque, weak, stupid, and despicable presidents like LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Bush, and Clinton—it is perhaps time to glance back at recent U.S. history—we named former recent presidents to instantaneously put things in perspective—the Democrat LBJ dropping napalm on women and children, just one example—to give the Trump-haters pause for a moment, these Trump-haters now in the throes of desperate and vengeful insanity, despite the fact that Trump hates Middle-East-destroying Bush and Middle-East-destroying-Hillary. (Divisions which make no sense are a good indication that the empire is fucking with our heads.)  But maybe Trump is just like them. We can never be sure. The press and the people must be eternally vigilant.

My friend in Tehran, prisoner of the CIA installed 1979 regime there, finds her intellectual path out of that “hard-line Islam” nightmare to be the “American progressive” one, as it translates into Trump-hating in the United States. She currently fears a U.S./Saudi Arabia attack against Iran—her home, which she loves, but with reservations, as a Persian free-thinker and secularist. I ask her: who would be Iran’s ally in such a conflict—surely Russia. But she cannot bring herself to say anything good about Russia, given the intellectual path which she feels is her only escape—the current “progressive” one in the United States—every crazy Trump-hater feeling compelled to hate Russia. My friend knows the Democrat Jimmy Carter’s role in the 1979 takeover of her country, but “progressive” rhetoric still dogs her, as she cannot fully accept the bad news—the CIA Deep State, as personified by John McCain and Hillary Clinton, is just another nation-destroying brick in the wall of her “progressive” beliefs. But she learns about my country from American TV—the center of the “progressive” entertainment industry. This is probably the chief reason why so many foreigners who learn English from American TV and are interested in America, and who eventually come to America, are leftist. My friend in Iran says there is no racism in her country, and she’s proud of that, but because she watches American TV, she is sure racism bursts from every pore of America. I live here, and I know better. I’m quite certain the vast majority of Americans, no matter what color they are, are not infected with the disease of racism. But I know how the cynical nature of politics works. Trump replaces Obama. And so naturally everyone who is a Democrat feels in their partisan, indignant heart that half the country is “racist.” Fluidity of crazy belief is unfortunately real, and vigilance and common sense are necessary at all times. No one said democracy was easy. But the alternative is much worse.

My friend in Iran is highly educated—just as my FB friends from British-divided-India-and-Pakistan are highly educated secularists, and enlightened secularism seeks peace and understanding between Muslims and Hindus. Secularism can be religious—but is primarily educated and peaceful, in spite of religion. Down with zealots—who inevitably work for empire.

Enlightened secularism is what America represents, too. We are not a religious state, like Iran, but to pretend that Christianity does not inform what America is, to some extent, is just silly. And yet, this might be America’s greatest asset—its separation of Church and State. Despite the fact that millions of conservatives believe abortion is murder, American law says otherwise, and precisely because we are not a religious state, that law is obeyed. Religious differences are exploited by empire to foster war and division, and all of us must be aware of this, as we set off fireworks and grill cows.

Why do the 1960s musician quotes introduce our article?

Recent history. To understand America, one has to understand the cultural phenomenon known as the Sixties, which ended, rather neatly, in December, 1969, with the “British Invasion” band the Rolling Stones performing in California.

Historically, America belongs to two phases.

First was America’s sober phase: the Great War of Independence, writing the Constitution, the building of a nation, a nation ruled by laws, not men. Exceptional figures made early America great, such as Ben Franklin and Edgar Poe—supreme architects of nation building, with science at the center. Not swanky, sexy, or conquering. Scientific, purposeful, focused.

We are now in our drunk phase—the 1960s was a particularly wild time of drunkeness. America’s drunk phase probably began during the Empire building which began during the Spanish American War. And America is still drunk.

But we may be coming out of it, and not necessarily because our 45th president, and Russia’s Putin, don’t drink.

“Make America great again” is actually a humble request.

It is a concession that America can no longer make the world great.

Since World War Two ended, the America that was thrust into the world as the great superpower was quickly turned into another version of the (apparently undying) British Empire—British spies joined American spies to undo Iran, in 1953 and 1979, the British supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the British Empire examples of “divide to conquer” and “opium war free trade” globalism have been the Deep State, guiding animus of the new American Empire.

The 1960s saw a radical attempt to completely undermine the U.S. The attempt was so radical, that it made conservatism—frightened by radicalism—stronger.

What we see in the world now—and hasn’t this always been the case?—is a division between the sober and the drunk. What is Islam but the expression of sobriety—traditions which keep fluid behavior in check, stemming the tide against the hedonism of powerful, drunk America?

Here is the Muslim religious appeal: sober citizens, who are free of the intoxicating nature of sex and drugs. Here is the division: “But this sobriety is backwards and oppressive!” And Empire, to keep people divided against each other, does the rest.

America, the great experiment, survives, even thrives, by miraculously keeping Empire-instigated divisions in check, by a mad devotion to, and a practical understanding of, democracy and law. America threatens to unravel every now and then—it is a divided nation in all sorts of ways—but holds together in a mix of understanding and compromise, as hatred fumes and boils away.

War and trauma can make a country stronger. The Deep State, the Empire, will never finally prosper. Empire overreaches, finally, and makes the narrow, non-global, good smarter and stronger. For it is finally the local life, the individual life, which is the measure of common sense, intelligence and happiness.

When one views an interview of Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead musician at the center of 1960s social experimentation, veteran of a thousand acid trips, one hears a highly articulate and highly intellectual, professor speaking. And listen to the music of the Grateful Dead: traditional, 4/4, bluesy country rock music, as simple, entertaining, and plain as can be. Garcia survived. Jim Morrison, the true embodiment of Dionysius, died. And Morrison’s biggest fan was Janis Joplin, who also was a Dionysius figure, and she died young.  Her remark on the Dick Cavet show is telling: She wasn’t loved in Europe. But they probably did like her—they just didn’t show it in a way she expected; it’s a glimpse of how sad and defensive the dionysian figure actually is. American, 1960s dionysiansim was real and it was crazy—Janis Joplin traveled in Europe—she was fortunate to visit that beautiful and historical place. But the dionysian rock star didn’t appreciate it.

Radicalism, when viewed up close, is never really as radical or as interesting as we think it is. The impact always has much more to do with what the young and naive think, and believe, it is. This is not to play down the dangers of what can happen when the naive and the Dionysian come together. But the pied piper himself is inevitably a fraud—a boring sociology professor, or a highly defensive and insecure person.

Underneath the pomp and the noise, life is plain and mundane.

Empire, however, does need brave soldiers to do their dirty work, and the British officer willing to travel to places like India and settle there and rule, was highly valued. Empire needs a certain amount of bravery to go with its practices of fraud, rule, deception and division.

The Rolling Stones are survivors, and the hell that was unleashed at Altamont could have killed them. But they bravely (foolishly?) played there, anyway. (Brian Jones, their founder, had been dumped, and died months earlier).

But despite the power of Dionysius and the bravery of Empire spies, the wisdom of (sane) nature (which punishes radical human behavior) keeps re-asserting itself. Common sense prevails over fanatical intellectualism.

The horrors resulting from empire’s dividing tactics and wars are too numerous to mention.

But good things are out there. And good things happen. In ways we might not predict, or expect.

The United States of America—just a nation, enduring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AS SUNG BY MORRISSEY

Image result for the duke of cavendish vogue magazine

We left that stuffy place,

Where we climbed footstools to reach high canopied beds;

The Cavendish history was all around, in an over-decorated, lovely room.

Today the famous duchess is a movie duchess,

Played by an actress—razor thin, who also sells perfume.

A duchess, however, is still real, and can be read about

(She collapsed in a heavily nostalgic photo shoot)

In fabulous fashion magazines, where immense wealth sits

Lavishly beside left-wing commentary.

The fury of the snob is unending, and feels as real as you do.

You can bet it is an actual gold knife which tortures you.

Don’t give her advice (morals no longer apply).

Surrenders are kept secret.

I live in Salem, Mass,

Where a bunch of Salem merchants out-foxed the British, but let that pass.

 

 

GREAT INTIMACY WITHOUT WORDS

My piano! Like Satie I pressed you

Into sounds a moaning lover makes,

Where harmony needs only a sigh.

We had to talk to reach that place

Where: Talk, can you go?

Kissing makes no mistakes.

To kiss, talk must die.

Death of talk lived kindly in the face,

And everywhere below.

But pianos have to be bought

And conversations have to be made

With painful logic fraught,

Before the bright talk can stoop to the shade.

We’ll use less words tomorrow,

Breathing in a Renaissance painting,

In a scene that resembles porn,

In a plot without memory or sorrow,

Where composition is born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CALL ME LAST (A SCARRIET SONG)

Call the ones who want to play,

The ones who pine for you all day,
The ones who ruin you fast.

The annoying ones.

Call me last.

I’ve studied lessons of love pretty well.
If I love you, I won’t tell.

The best loves burn like hell.

I’m waiting patiently, like the beautiful past.

Call me last.

My heart noticed you. You’re filed.

I was always chosen last as a child.

I grew as an introvert, secretly wild.

I have known patience. This won’t be fast.

Call me last.

I won’t tell you what I’m thinking.

The loving heart is the heart, thinking.

The love is the love that can’t stop thinking.

I rarely fall in love, and not fast.
Call me last.

Find all your interest in the past,
It saves you trouble.
You can take things slow—

Well. That’s all you need to know.
Don’t bother with the confusing and the fast.

And look. Now is already past.
Call me last.

I RUN TO REVISION, MY GOD

I was mad when I wrote that poem,

And I wrote it too fast.

But since I still love you,

I wander happily back to its past.

I read myself because I love myself,

And I still love you, my precious division!

I forgive my poem and all its flaws.

Self-love is my genius—but it’s genius,

Not selfishness, which breaks a few laws.

Revision is my God. Revision, like Criticism, forgives

The awkward poem, lifts my poem up.

And that’s how my love for you still lives.

 

HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE

Have you seen what you need to see?

No.  Because you haven’t seen me.

Astronomers will tell you what revolves around what,

And if the center is expanding outward,

Or if “outward” is the proper word,

Or if contraction, not expansion is occurring,

But science, valient foe of the absurd,

Finally fails, eluding our understanding,

As the moon’s shadow stares into the confused sun.

So it’s better that you overcome your fears of me

And see what you need to see.

I, of course, will not be posing and just standing around.

I’ll be integrating the formulae of Renaissance art with sound.

But I’ve made poetry before, and each time it was the same.

A word or two. And then your name.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Image result for large coffee to go

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

Image result for skyscraper at sundown

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

Image result for yellow moon in painting

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

Image result for chess in renaissance painting

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

Image result for blurry candle light

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

Image result for the writer is sad in renaissance painting

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

Image result for swimming in painting

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

Image result for house by the sea in renaissance painting

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

Image result for lonely woman getting old in painting

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

Image result for lady of the lake in painting

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

Image result for valley forge in painting

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

Image result for cat in a tree in renaissance painting

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.

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