WHEN A WOMAN TURNS INTO A MAN

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When a woman turns into a man,

Can she do everything a man can?

When a man turns into a woman

Does he know more about the human?

Or is the sex the only thing we see?

A new type of sexuality?

Do we hunger for a new type of touch?

Do we sometimes touch ourselves too much?

Do we think about ourselves in the mirror,

Always wishing our loveliness were nearer?

Is this why we withdraw our hand,

Saying goodbye to love forever?

One day we will understand

The sea, the tropics, and the frozen land.

MAKIN’ COPIES: ART VERSUS LITERATURE

Hybrid, collage portrait. Which has less charm? Modern poetry or modern art?

SCARRIET HAS ELEVATED THE FOLLOWING SCARRIET COMMENT (ON “WHY POETRY SUCKS NOW”) FROM ONE OF OUR READERS (‘MIKE’) TO THIS ARTICLE (WITH OUR REPLY BELOW):

Hey y’all.

As an art school trained painter and a self inflicted poet, I find it interesting to observe the differences between visual art and literature; or more specifically, the difference between drawing and writing.

In visual art (drawing), one is challenged to “represent” what they “see” by way of marks on paper. Initial attempts are typically awful. Continued failure leads to frustration and abandonment, or else the determination to “learn” how do draw. Such learning requires one to engage in the reciprocal activity of practicing drawing “methods” while simultaneously understanding the nature of the visual forms those methods are meant to capture. It is only through this interplay of method and understanding that one can begin to draw what they see.

At which point one realizes the meta-lesson of drawing, which is that nobody draws what they see. You can only draw what you KNOW about what you see. That knowledge… visual knowledge… is not the same as vision. After all, most everyone has two eyes by which to see… but most people cannot draw beyond the primitive. And the reason is that their knowledge of visual forms and methods is (well)… primitive.

A further implication is that the drawing (as art object) is not equivalent to the visual perception of the subject matter of the drawing. In other words, a drawing of an apple is not an apple. The drawing is a representation only… a mental construct… a methodological translation of visual perception via the artistic form of a drawing.

All of this might seem terribly boring and inapplicable to the subject at hand. But if you indulge me for another minute… and lay your egos aside… then maybe I can make my point. Which is this. I have never gotten the impression that writers consider writing to be a “methodological translation” of (let’s say) interior thoughts and feelings, into the artistic form of the written word.

I think the reason for this is that we are all able to speak and write with some proficiency from an early age. I could also include the activity of contemplating ideas in our minds, and of subconscious processes… which we (kind-a) assume to be language based. These very powerful tools (thinking, reading, writing, speaking) allow us to think and imagine VERY GREAT things. Yet when we attempt to write it down… it’s not so easy. And this is no different from the artist… who might peer out into some beautiful landscape and be filled with desire to represent what he perceives and feels, yet be unable to do so. But whereas the artist is forced to reconcile his failures with the need to learn a method and to grasp the nature of visual form (as a translation between vision and representation)… I wonder if writers see their failure in these same terms.

Or does the writer simply “work harder”… or “write what they know”… or “keep plugging away”… or “writer’s write”… or “never give up”…. or a thousand other ways to say the same thing… admonishments to pound away at reality… that somehow representations will condense NOT out of understanding, but of somehow aligning the monkeys in our brains to coincidentally type out the works of Shakespeare. But just as a drawing is not the hand’s record of the light striking your retina… the written word is not a passive record of the mind’s ability to cogitate and speak out loud. But I wonder if writers know this? Or does the immediate accessibility of language mask the distinction?

Another aspect of this distinction is that in the visual arts, the impact of artistic theories are well understood, and are considered to be highly relevant. In fact, any good art school program is going to require a thorough grounding in the history of art from ancient times to the present day. This is an enormous investigation into cultural history. Artists are meant to take such things very very seriously, and are meant to understand that the nature of artistic method and form and meaning derive from such cultural moments as have occurred over time.

But I have to wonder if writers think of writing in the same way. For instance… do writers ever wonder about the writing skills of ancient Egyptians? Because artists are very aware of the art of ancient Egypt.

Visual artists are taught to understand that ancient architectural forms are rooted in archetypical associations that the human species has evolved from out of their prehistory. Are there any analogous ideas that writers possess about their own artistic heritage? Are writers schooled in the social and artistic shifts underlying the sea-change of the Late Gothic transition to the early Renaissance? Visual artists sure are. In fact, they make Pilgrimages to Rome and Florence and Venice just to lay their eyes on the art… to sit under the sun and absorb the aura of history, and thereby to connect with the meanings of these things. Do writers do such things? Or are words just words and everyone has them and all you need to do is pound away at a typewriter until it just pops out of you? Is writing like a piano… a music making machine that you only need whack at until a tune emerges? And when it does, you claim it as your own, and marvel at the mystery of your own origin… and try not to consider that it might all be happy accidents and the accommodating of the random.

I don’t mean to sound cruel, but I think that writers have no sense of these things, or of writing as an activity distinct from the basic language skills of talking and thinking and jotting stuff down. In truth, most visual artists don’t give a damn about the things I’ve waxed on about. The difference is this… that they are supposed to… whereas writers have no such presumption built into their activity.

And so it should come as no surprise that when poetry falls victim to the ravages of modernist or post- modernist theories of everything… that writers should twist in the wind and wonder what the hell is gone wrong. But such things are no surprise to visual artists, who only need look around and see all the crap contemporary art floating about the world. We see it everyday too. But at least we know what it is, and why it is. Because we are trained to know these things. Because art comes out of theories and methods… not out of the naive ability to speak words and have thoughts. Bad theories and absent methods lead to the destruction of art. The alternative isn’t to abandon ideas, but to understand that good ideas must be asserted. In the visual arts, such advocacy is mistakenly assumed to be a return to the art of the past… to neo-classical style paintings of nudes and heroic figures in togas. Which is ridiculous. But this is no different a mistake than when some poets try to defeat bad post-modern poetry by adopting the writing styles of Chaucer and Shakespeare.

The history of any art does not exist to be mindlessly rejected or mindlessly copied. What good can come out of mindlessness? It exists as a repository of ideas from which some meaningful “next thing” might emerge. Who knows what it is. I try to make this point to visual artists… but nobody seems to give a damn. So now I’m making it here in this poetry blog. And this is an uphill battle I suppose, because writers are not trained like visual artists, and they may not be aware of what they are really trying to do. So maybe writers should stop screaming about bad poems, and begin instead the difficult task of understanding the nature of the writer word at all.

SCARRIET RESPONDS

One of the Scarriet editors work at a large, urban, liberal arts university (once a teacher’s college), which recently acquired an art school; Scarriet covers not only the decline of poetry, but how art, poetry and philosophy mingle, so you can imagine our excitement at finding this learned and lengthy comment on our “Why Poetry Sucks Now” post, a delightful comment which Scarriet has elevated to a post of its own.

“Art comes out of theories and methods…not out of the naive ability to speak words and have thoughts.”

So says the “art school trained painter,” who reminds us that “nobody draws what they see…they only draw what they KNOW about what they see…visual knowledge is not the same as vision…” and “do the writers know this?” Further: artists know art is a “methodological translation” of reality, where writers, by comparison, seem to be mere “passive” (and random!) recording devices of what is universally accessible to all: language.

We agree entirely with the gist of this, and though we are a writer, not a painter, we feel no insult at all, and we are illuminated by the truth of what this painter has—written.

The truth of painting’s superiority to writing was put most forcefully by da Vinci, who said the experience of the eye is the beginning and proof of all science: discontinuous quantity (arithmetic), continuous quantity (geometry) and perspective the holy trinity of astronomy and all human knowledge—painting as the body, poetry merely its shadow. Body (substance and its measurement) trumps Blah Blah Blah. Absolutely.

However, there is a “writing method” tradition—embodied in full by Edgar Poe (unfortunately not taught in writing programs) who we never tire of quoting; the following, from the Master, reflects the thinking of our art school trained painter:

There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing a story. Either history affords a thesis—or one is suggested by an incident of the day—or, at best, the author sets himself to work in the combination of striking events to form merely the basis of his narrative—designing, generally, to fill in with description, dialogue, or authorial comment, whatever crevices of fact, or action, may, from page to page, render themselves apparent.

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keeping originality always in view—for he is false to himself who ventures to dispense with so obvious and so easily attainable source of interest—I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select? Having chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can best be wrought by incident or tone—whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone—afterward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect.

Poe rigorously asserts the secret of all composition—and all morals: in the beginning (the intention) we discover our end (the effect)—and the myriad details, of drawing or writing, fall into place, or should fall into place, in the execution. By this method, these are eliminated: The random, the details which overwhelm, and self-indulgence.

The point our painter makes in his comment—that we draw what we know about what we see, not what we see—is, we feel, a reiteration of Poe’s method, and here an important point about ‘knowing’ should be made.

The separation between knowing and seeing does not exist because seeing needs correcting or is insufficient—the natural seeing humans do reflects nature’s efficiency: perspective which makes distant objects small, for instance, is the perfect solution to the over-crowding of the visual field: and understanding perspective is an understanding which is not distinct from seeing, but is the same as seeing: the “knowing” the artist is engaged in is nothing more than a selecting, a framing, a focusing—and not something superior to seeing; it is the very same thing Poe refers to when he says, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions…which one shall I, on the present occasion, select?”

Here is the vital point: the distinction which our art school trained painter makes between vision and visual knowledge is different than we suppose: “visual knowledge” is not something which stands above and apart from “vision;” quite the opposite: vision is the whole, visual knowledge is the part, of the whole thing. Vision is natural and perfect, visual knowledge is imperfect and contingent. Visual knowledge is the narrow “effect,” of which vision is the cause, and the connection between visual knowledge and vision is seamless. All training, all knowledge, is nothing more than focus: both the artist and the writer do not see more; they see less than the layperson; all knowledge is knowledge of what to ignore: what not to see, what not to write, what not to draw.

Modern poetry errs in making poetry subordinate to prose-ideas; modern art errs in making painting subordinate to collage-ideas.

The answer is not simply, “less is more,” but how (to what end) does the artist make less more?

Plato (and who cares if he wore a toga?) is another thinker who tells us that vision (reality) trumps visual knowledge (art), since vision is the true knowledge of which visual knowledge (art) attempts to unfairly usurp—not because knowledge should not be trusted, but because knowledge is not what we think it is: the vision IS the knowledge, the vision (reality) contains far more perfectly and ultimately the knowledge, of which art-knowledge (and writing-knowledge) slyly hides—especially if the untrustworthy student falls in love with representation, illusion, and dream passionately spun by the sophist for all sorts of partially realized reasons dripping with bad taste.

The “methodological” in our art school painter’s “methodological translation” of reality contains two simple things: first, the focus, or selection, we just discussed above (the selective nature of reality informing the selective nature of human vision) and second, the good.  We finally want to do good, to produce good, to have a good effect, and here, of course, we refer to Plato’s ‘the good,’ which has other names: justice, happiness, beauty.

Things go haywire when the hubris of human knowledge thinking itself superior to natural seeing, sensing, and feeling takes precedence. “I’m not drawing what I see!” cries the sophisticated painter, “I’m working within  specialized knowledge!” Ah, so this is why your painting is bland, trivial, confusing, with lines and colors leading nowhere, a hybrid collage of no real purpose. And the poet who writes poetry which rambles incoherently, having no coherence or lasting interest, is mistakenly certain in that human knowledge which is entirely separate from the effect the poem is actually having. This error arises from the belief that “visual knowledge” is superior to “vision.”

But the objection might come: No! The ‘good’ resides in human knowledge, in human attempts at it, not in simple vision, not in haphazard, unadorned reality, not in nature, red in tooth and claw.  You wrongly assume that “this is the best of all possible worlds” and that to merely copy the beautiful and perfect world is enough, and no ideas are necessary; you say the real method is to simply frame part of (what is called by you) “reality.” No, sorry.

But this objection misses several important points: Vision, as it operates everywhere, is efficient and remarkable, and is not the same as “nature, red in tooth and claw.” This is to confuse reality with our special feelings about it. Reality is not “unadorned” or “simple,” and copying it is never simple. “Copying” reality is a highly complex endeavor—our art school trained artist puts it succinctly: “most everyone has two eyes to see, but most people cannot draw beyond the primitive.” Exactly. Human pride believes the complexity resides in the imposition of method, when true method copies nature with da Vinci’s open eyes.

The artist and the poet are finally united by the philosophy which begins with an effect—a design guided by the morality of justice/beauty in terms of what scientifically the senses, as senses, understand, measure, and know.

 

ROMANCE

Is Romance a dance

Born not to last?

So we find ourselves

Mourning romantic things in the past?

Is it doubt and forgetful death

Which lends charm

To love—a charm in every sighing breath

So charming we forget the alarm

That is sighing in company with love’s sigh

So love becomes indistinguishable with death?

And we don’t see the sorrow—beautiful sorrow!—in her eye

Which makes her eye beautiful

But is the very sorrow

Which will fall in love with sorrow

And say goodbye?

I’m afraid it is so.

One left me, even as love was at its height;

We had spent many a delirious night

In each other’s arms,

And when, in disbelief, I asked her,

In icy tones, she said: “I don’t know.”

Love melted into sorrow.

I fled to madly analyze the past.

She smiled calmly on tomorrow.

 

 

 

YOU CAN’T STAY HERE

Get out of the womb,
You can’t stay here.
The cozy nursery room?
You can’t stay here.
Did you think that death
Was the only thing to fear?
Goodbye, childhood,
Innocent childhood,
You can’t stay here.
A troubled child, sassy and wild,
Too brassy now to kiss away your tear,
Changing to a woman,
You can’t stay here.
Get out, get out!
You can’t stay here!
Did you think that death
Was the only thing to fear?

OFF THE VINE

 

Fruit off the vine
Is like a line
Of poetry.

You slowly grew
And so you knew
Of poetry.

Poetry is time.
Time, here’s a rhyme
Of poetry.

The fruit must drop.
The line must stop
For poetry.

What is the line
If not imagined
Pleasure to see?

And to hear—
If poetry’s fear
Made the poet lucky?

I feared poetry
In my younger days;
The music plays

To insult poetry sometimes
With its rhymes.
But speech will get its revenge
When amid the hullabaloo

You say, “Did you know I love you?”

Then music will seem kind,
Sweet food for the blind,
And you and poetry
Will be of one mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MENTOR/TEACHER CULT

We can think of nothing worse for poetry than the notion that obedience to a flawed personality can make, or inspire, a poet. The insidious nature of the Mentor/Teacher cult escapes detection for two obvious reasons:

Poets, artists and scholars need to teach, obviously, since this is pretty much the only way these types of creatures can make a living.

Second, poets and artists are invested in mentoring others in ways they themselves understand/write poetry/produce art/think about things, if only to create new audiences for their own work.

So when you are a student, remember: you are the hunted. You are prey.

You will, of course, have teachers who are incompetent, bored, have no philosophy, and couldn’t care less about you.

These may actually teach you something.

But the mentor? Beware.

The mentor, armed with their particular art-philosophy, and intent on the education of your soul? They will un-learn you. They will damage you and set you back, unless of course you wish to be a mere clone of them, teaching others similarly, in turn.

Most students know to avoid the teacher who is hostile to them (the student) because they have more talent than the teacher; and many students simply refuse to be mentored by an instructor’s personal bias. After all, the student usually has more than one teacher to choose from, and may already have some idea about what they want.

But this does not change the fact that mentor-relationships are common, and corrupt.

There is nothing wrong with the mentor or enthusiastic teacher, per se.

Mentors are a danger in poetry and the arts today because there is no verifiable excellence in the arts anymore. Crackpot-ism reigns and laziness has become the rule. Poets and artists are distracted by teaching and administrative duties, as well as the million trends of the whole trendy industry itself. The mentor is invariably a lazy crackpot with narrow, trendy views.

To understand the issue a little better, think of the student in a sport. As one gains competence through training in this area, anyone can witness the excellence gained in terms of verifiable quickness, speed, coordination, and so forth. Every coach can be a jerk. This does not change the fact that an aspiring player can either hit a 90 mile per hour fastball—or not.

In sport, excellence is publicly verifiable.

In the arts, today, it is not.

Does this fact make art more sophisticated and nuanced?

We should not assume so. Yet this assumption is nearly universal in the arts.

A moment’s thought will make it clear to anyone the dangerous ramifications of such an assumption.

Especially when we consider the wisdom of the Ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, who named art as that which is concerned with measurement. We err when we think of measurement as a straitjacket, for no piece of music in the world is possible without it, no great painting, or poem, either.

But we can leave Greek philosophy and the idea that measurement is necessary for true art aside for the time being, and simply contemplate what it means to have lazy, crackpot mentor-ism (brainwashing) driving arts and arts education.

To stand out as a ‘mentor,’ one has to be narrow in one’s views, since without any verifiable excellence, excellence can only be perceived in terms of narrow trendiness—which opposes universally verifiable excellence as a matter of course.

Insane mixtures and inane combinations are the rule: the sensibility of the collage, in which whatever strikes one’s fancy, is thrown into the mixing pot, is the number one method, and the more clumsy and jarring the superimposition the better, in the art world today, since the more self-conscious the mixing is, the better, since a unity which seeks excellence as a unity is the ‘old way’ and the enemy.

A picture, which excels by uniting elements, demands excellence in three ways: 1. the parts, 2. the way the parts fit together, and 3. the final result. If the parts ‘stick out’ in a way that ruins the unified effect, this ruins the excellence; as does any one part not being excellent; as does any lack of excellence in the final result, even when every part is excellent. The collage, by its very nature, is an intentional violation of this formula. It is a formula itself, and is a formula itself as much as it subverts the higher order formula which we have just outlined.

Excellence and universality are intentionally subverted in the arts today, since virtually every critically praised painting or sculpture produced today falls under the category of collage.

Simple photography escapes, within the unified choice-frame of its eye, the collage, and therefore we have the largely unspoken irony that photography/video is now the chief art form in the art world, in the same way song lyrics today are carrying the old load which poetry once carried, and comic books, old pictorial art.

Clumsy parts clumsily fitted together—the collage—is the default method which is destroying art and poetry.

A public immediately recognizes excellence—and does so when it is a public, and when it is a public, in rare times in history, excellence flourishes in what are called “renaissance” periods.

But unfortunately a public can be split and fractured into various museum-going and academic and book-buying and politically indoctrinated pieces, trained to respect the fiat of decision-makers at the top of various mercantile, and faux-art credentialing, food chains.

The true mentor—the Socrates—comes along once every thousand years. The student is urged to reject both the mentor and the trend,  and to study history, ancient and modern—and to learn the difference between a trend and a truth.

There is much important work to be done, and the beautiful soul, guided by a kind of fanatical honesty which resists trends, should find a good library, and do that work alone.

 

 

 

 

I WENT TO VIEW THE GALLERIES

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I went to view the galleries

And I left with a woman on my arm

Who some painters used to see—

Will this do some harm

That she is now with me?

I don’t paint. I write poetry.

 

Now the painters talk.

I get to kiss her silently.

 

I view her eyes in various light

Of days’ moods dying into moody lights at night,

But her eyes have their own light

If day drowns us, or beautiful night.

Her eyes don’t need to look at me. But they might.

 

The length and shape of her produces delight.

The painters never get her beauty right,

Not understanding perspective or the light

Which drops in shadows on the long days

Of love’s torture, to sweeten our gaze,

Loving love in the umber haze.

 

 

 

 

 

THE INSCRUTABLE

Inscrutable the lake, inscrutable the trees,
Inscrutable the voice which sounded like a breeze
Intimate with love, and its mysteries,
Like a melody springing from melodies,
Or one memory living in a heart broken
By many memories,
Not one of them spoken.

The dinosaur crept in the lake and waited,
And when global warming’s ice age had abated
And we were allowed to be human again,
The fire built to please all men,
The lake, frozen, protecting all women,
With fish below, how far below,
Swimming stratas increasingly slow,
Descending in a beautiful ratio—
The dinosaur rose, looking pitifully human,
Naked outside, scientific within,
Surrounded by the lakes and trees
Inside the poem of melodies
Crashing against the side of a successful shadow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIDDLESTICKS

Sanity stands apart from poetry,
Viewing my pronouncements with disdain,
But if I should sing a little song,
Sanity may yet smile, and not think me wrong,
Not think poetry is entirely insane.

Yes, we wish we were inhabited by gods,
But the gods have left us alone
To ourselves, to ourselves,
To strive for a barren throne.

Sanity has something to do
In the parlor, at the store;
So this poem is over.
I won’t be singing to you anymore.

But later, in the evening,
When she is tired and needs to rest,
I will sing to sanity softly,
And she’ll love poetry the best.

 

LOVE MEANS KILLING YOUR RIVALS: THE DILEMMA OF EITHER/OR

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Either/Or. The Shah or this guy. 

Scarriet is the best poetry site in the world for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that we are not enslaved by any political ideology, as most American poets and intellectuals are.

Be either/or, they say. Choose, choose! Be a Democrat, not a Republican! Be ‘one of us!’ Be loyal to our side!

But to pick a side is to fall into the either/or trap, which breeds fanaticism on either end.

To not choose is the true choice, the wise Socratic, choice which supports true science and democracy.

To say we avoid political ideology, and we do not choose sides, does not mean we ignore the ugly cultural, ideological, impact that the political has on poetry and love; we know love means killing all our rivals, we are more fanatical than any political fanatic in our understanding of love—this informs our deep understanding of poetry; we embrace aesthetics, but we don’t hide inside an aesthetic bubble. We approach politics—and everything—from a position of common sense. Sometimes we fight. Sometimes we escape into our bubble. But don’t ask us to choose between Khomeini and the Shah, or between Democrats and Republicans, please. It ain’t going to happen.

We come from a liberal background; we were not raised with guns in a redneck environment; we know the New York Times and the Washington Post; we are quite familiar with “All Things Considered,” we sound like Woody Allen at times, and we have taken lately to launching into a British accent, for a whole host of reasons, the least of which is to show a kind of hopeless allegiance to the great tradition of deft, daffy, self-effacing, humorous, and confident Anglo-Americanism. We don’t ‘go’ to church. We like Sarah Palin because she wants cheaper and more accessible oil—-not because she’s a Republican. We think it idiotic to worry about whether someone is “smart” in politics; engineers who build spaceships and buildings and oil rigs should be smart; politicians should be big-hearted and childlike and funny, and not afraid to say dumb things. Bring it on. Bring on dumb. Politicians should always be dumb in a curious, evolving sort of way, and the press, full of really dumb people, and the voters—talk about dumb—need to embrace dumb and not pretend to be too smart for it. There? See? If one must discuss politics, there is no reason to get all political about it. If Hillary Clinton (criminal and ogreish—does she come from Iran?) is smarter than Sarah Palin, can anyone name one smart thing Hillary Clinton has done or said? I’m waiting. Some of Clinton’s opinions correspond with yours?  Good. But that is no indication of smart, and you are really dumb if you think that. No, really, you are. “I can see Russia outside my window,” is delightful, and if it doesn’t pass muster in a game of Jeopardy, that doesn’t matter. Believing Jeopardy-smart is truly smart is really, really dumb. And Jeopardy is one of our favorite shows.

Science is never done asking questions, and the idea that the Global Warming Debate “is over” has to be one of the dumbest things ever—and yet all of those who insist the debate “is over” (we laugh every time we see this) don’t even know what CO2 is, and think that “carbon emissions” is the same thing as pollution. And then we have the indignant “debate is over” (ha ha ha) crowd changing their terminology from “global warming” to “climate change,” and we are expected to believe this crowd is “smart” and those who oppose them are greedy oil barons, not ordinary people challenging Big Environmentalism, asking for more affordable oil prices for the poor. A “smart” person does not count the number of “scientists” who “agree” with them, when that “agreement” is only boilerplate. A “smart” person never believes polls—which, by their very nature, even if the respondents are scientists, will never be scientific, because who is asking and to what exactly does the response pertain—cannot articulate the problem, never mind be the “answer” to the problem. What was the question, again? Oh, that’s right: Why don’t some people believe the “debate is over?” And what was “the debate,” again?  Oh never mind. The “smart” ones will figure it out. Those politicians and those journalists who are “smart.” Right.

The point here, of course, is not who is finally “really” right and who is finally “really” smart.

Democracy is not a “smart” contest or a “who’s right?” contest. The whole point of democracy is that it is not either of these things.  If you are not the kind of person who is good at crossword puzzles or Jeopardy, you still should vote. We encourage you to vote. And we also encourage you not to think Jeopardy-smart is smart.

The Big Dumb is Those Who Think They Are Smart—so “smart” that the “debate is over,” as they insist you need to choose their side. These are the truly dumb.

There are millions of people who think they are “smart” because they believe in “evolution,” or, at least they think they are smarter than “creationists.”

This is colossally stupid.

First of all, believing in “evolution,” in terms of practical science, in practical matters of every kind, is nearly meaningless. Second of all, believing in “evolution” means what, exactly? That you have read the “Origin of Species?” That you’ve read a little Darwin, a lot, or just know generally who he is? And, again, this “knowledge of evolution” is truly useful in what way? And do you seriously believe this makes you on any scale whatsoever, “smarter” than anybody else?

What also makes “evolutionists” remarkably stupid is they loudly congratulate themselves as they compare themselves favorably to “creationists.” First of all, the issues involved have nothing to do with each other, since Darwin says nothing about creation, that is, the origin of the universe. Nor does religious thought need to be scientifically verified on matters that science in general is at a loss to explain. Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka is the best scientific essay on the creation of the universe; few have read it, and therefore it is safe to say virtually everyone is ignorant of creation; so no one—not university professors, not scientists in laboratories, can say they are “smart” in this area at all, evolutionists or not. So the situation is, we have blockheads, politically motivated, referring to others as blockheads. Is that stupid? Yea, it is. So don’t brag about Darwin, okay, stupid?

How then, should we proceed? Democratically, of course. That is, always begin sympathetically with the person, not the opinions. Because if we start with the opinions, making all sorts of assumptions about what is right and what is wrong about those opinions, or who is smart or not, based on those opinions, we prejudice the person, who has a whole complex network of opinions based on how they decipher complex reality as a person—and a person, in a democratic society, no matter how much their views differ from yours, is inviolable.

By respecting the person and what they bring to the table—not any one opinion—will not only help create a freer and more democratic society, it will provide a better environment to examine opinions in a scientific and respectful atmosphere, and utilize those opinions that are best for society in the long run, in a flexible, adaptive and truly evolving manner.

By cutting off debate prematurely, democracy suffers.

Never give in to Either/or.  That’s the mark of a Third World Country.

American intellectuals, it is sad to see, are leading advocates of Either/or. Which only shows how corrupt American intellectual life has become since the American Revolution.

The common, contemporary, American, liberal or conservative intellectual belief is this: No opinion or value system should be treated with equal deference and respect in an intellectual setting. We cannot expect this, and we should not expect this.

But we should expect this. This common intellectual belief is wrong. This idea that not all value systems should be treated equally is wrong, even for an intellectual setting, as opposed to, let’s say, the voting booth.

On the contrary: Every opinion and value system should be treated with equal deference and respect, since these things only exist as they connect in a complex manner to a human being—who should always be treated with deference and respect. A creationist could be brilliant in all sorts of practical and scientific ways—for reasons not readily apparent. Not only because the creation of the universe is still a mystery, but because there are countless examples in history of great scientists (both practical and theoretical) who were deeply religious.

Science is too complex to bar anyone’s entrance into it, even if a particular opinion held by that person goes against our taste, or sense of right and wrong. If we do feel deeply that an opinion is wrong, we should examine it in the context of the person who holds that belief.

In a truly scientific atmosphere, those opinions that really are harmful and wrong will more quickly, under objective examination, fade away, than if we try to repress them.

Let us say we find abhorrent any objection to homosexuality, so that in the intellectual setting of psychology, we take every step to ban anyone who argues for homosexual rehabilitation.

But in the human sciences, human opinion of all kinds should be sacred; all humans should be treated equally, and let the opinions clash without prejudice, and see what comes of it. It is important to understand here that in this essay we are not defending any value system or opinion, but only asking for a true spirit of inquiry that in the long run will advance learning and practical good. If human beings, as human beings, object to homosexuality, this is valid—in the human sciences. If any opinion is not true or right or good, it is still a scientific opinion. This is the crucial point of this whole essay. Science means inquiry, not truth. If we allow the objections to homosexuality to get a full hearing, a full study, only then will change truly occur. Just to take a very narrow look at one aspect of behavioral context: Heterosexual males are often pathologically jealous of their female partners. Heterosexual males can feel threatened by the homosexual male who is able to befriend potential heterosexual female partners—precisely because that profound jealousy is absent. If real phenomena like this is part of the mix, and includes a truth heterosexual males may not normally admit when asserting a prejudice, this is surely part of the science of the whole topic, and should not be suppressed.

Why a person holds a belief is always more important than the belief itself.

If the issue is really heterosexual jealousy—or whatever perceptual threat homosexuality poses to the heterosexual—this does not mitigate in any way the importance of the issue in the form of scientific inquiry, whether it is prejudicial, or not.

The problem of rehabilitation is acute, since human science examines, but does not coerce. Prejudice is so entrenched in humans in so many ways, that human science finally fails as a science, as religion takes over.

Either/or is just as important to avoid in the realm of human science as it is in politics.

Defer, defer. Be wise, like Socrates.

A great deal of inquiry, especially in the humanities, does not depend on facts; indisputable facts, such as: ‘the American Civil War ended in 1865,’ are not the issue here. Humanist inquiry hinges on many divergent opinions held by many different kinds of people— and all opinions must be welcome.

Religion is the most seductive Either/or there is. This is why we don’t go to church.

But then we come at last to Holy Love, and here, finally we succumb, we must succumb, and only here, in love, do we surrender to Either/or. Only in love. Oh, God! We choose!

And when the bitter circumstances of love, infected by politics and science and religion, destroy us and break our heart in two, we have one more thing to turn to: divine poetry.

As poets, especially, we must be alive to people first, opinions second, and we really must favor what is, in fact, true inquiry over prickly political biases based on what is glibly considered intellectually “smart.”

And all of this is crucial not because politics is not important, but because, even to the poet, it is.

 

 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY POEM: WHEN WE SIGHED

The lovers are silent and in a hurry.
Words are from hurt, and worry.
Words are from sorrow and fear of death,
When limbs are weak and weak, the breath.

But when we sighed in those distant rooms
There was almost joy in those glooms.
When we courted with our words
And sang to each other like birds
Or were silent for hours, hoping with fear,
Love was actually here,
Hoping desperately deception
Was not hidden in love’s’ reception,
There was a joy in this,
That, in hope, was almost bliss.
When I was courting,
My poems did their best reporting;
Oh God! those hopeful sighs
Were almost paradise.
Now that selfish love is gone,
Beautiful thoughts still linger on,
Now words are our greatest friends,
Poems, of sweet beginnings, and even sweeter ends.
We say to ourselves, with a sigh,
“Eventually a word will happen by,
One, by this sweet occasion fit,
And it will be love when I am saying it.”
The thought is what carries us through the life,
Since thoughts are words and a word marries us to a wife.
Words comfort us out of the air
When nothing but heaviness is there.

THE DAY IS RED, THE DAY IS FADING

The day is red.
The day is fading.

I would have fought for you,
Though you had been my enemy,
Though you had been untrue—
For when I love, I love
And nothing else will do.

You kissed me slowly.
I wrote poems to you.

“Take me for your own,”
Was all you had to say:
I would have taken you

In the light of day
And carried you away.

But you were like those girls
Who don’t know what to say
When the loving one they love
Is standing in their way.

You thought about the others—
The others? Love which filled the years
Will pass. They will be puzzled by your tears.

 

 

 

 

 

WILL I BE WISER NOW?

 

You broke my heart. I was afraid
To lose you. I panicked. And I paid.
I see that you are dwelling in my shade.
What if I should hold you, again, somehow?
How much love can a broken heart allow?
Will I be wiser now?

Shall we be cowardly or brave?
Is there something in all of this to save?
Shall we be cowardly or brave?

If you still love me, let me know.
I still love you, if you think it doesn’t show.
I love you and I don’t think this love will ever go.
But how much love can a broken heart allow?
What if I ruin our love, again, somehow?
Will I be wiser now?

 

 

TO ______

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The one I love wants to talk—
I hope she wants to talk of love;
I hope she wants to talk of kissing
And the silent stars above.

The memory of her kisses
Cannot be wiped away
By love, by a conversation,
Or by a song I heard today

That tells of a broken heart
And the pain that comes from love—
Despite all the kissing
And the silent stars above.

AN ESSAY FOR VALENTINE’S DAY: THE CONSPIRACY OF THE LOVELESS

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Is it bad to objectify women?

No, it is not.

Physical love is not only a rich source of pleasure, it is the way we produce children. These are not minor things.

Friendly relations between human beings has nothing to do with humanity’s survival; friendship is perhaps the most overrated thing there is.

Intent on physical love, we are not friendly; we merely act in a friendly manner to get what we want. Friendly is an act in all cases, and always will be.  For friendly is not what we are—it is a means to an end. When we are being creative, when we joy at the appearance or the sensual rush of something, or whenever we are actually doing something worthwhile, we are never in that mood which would be termed friendly.

Yet some of us, either shamed by moral guidelines, or having no creative will at all, but often a manipulative one, aspire to the friendly as if it were the only thing that matters. If only everyone were as nice as I am, as conscientious and thoughtful as I am, they think, we wouldn’t need beauty, or thought, or the heroic, or inventions, or desire! No bloodshed! No objectifying women! No comparison and competition! Everyone working together nicely! We all know them; typically, they are upper middle management types who wear nice clothes and spend their public lives alternately sneering and fawning and their private lives cursing and weeping. The nice restaurant or the nice pair of shoes is everything to them; they regard an idea with horror.

So no, we are not being friendly when we objectify women. Granted, it is not a friendly thing to do.

To objectify is not a friendly pursuit, nor is it a superficial one—it belongs to creativity, to scientific observation, to the comedic/hurtful, and to love. It does not belong to the world of nice bureaucrats who wear nice shoes and pursue nice as the most important thing in the world.

The objection to objectifying another human being carries the implication that in general it is always good to let another person pursue happiness as a free, unfettered and independent being and always bad to bond or enslave another for your pleasure.  But of course this is totally ridiculous. The ‘friendly’ use high sounding rhetoric to muddy the waters of thinking—unable to think, nice becomes the default setting, and thus the nice nicely triumphs in a kind of paralysis of smiling and obedient dumb.

To clear away the sludge of the friendly, then, and look at the whole thing in a clear light:

To objectify is to look and to judge—which is what we all do all the time, anyway.

The more we love someone, the more we objectify them, the more we are concerned with their physical appearance. Judging by appearance is a highly efficient way to judge, for the simple reason that your physical appearance contains a tremendous amount of information about you and whoever is interested in you as more than a simple means to an end will not be interested in you as a miasma or a mist, a code or a symbol, but as an object with physical properties—even friends—even a dog recognizing their master—identify and cultivate an attachment based on objectification—on purely physical recognition.

It is the partiality which the friendly object to—a photograph of a comely woman on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, for instance, presents the most superficial information, such that we know nothing of the person, only how a moment’s camera angle feeds the great public beast of shallow objectification and lust.

But it isn’t like every man who looks at a photograph of a media-attractive woman gets a boner—we are really not talking about the healthy lust of physical love and child-making; what the friendly are truly objecting to in magazine-cover gazing is the comparative faculty which is invoked—to their detriment. This is the problem. Comparison, and complex comparison, in fact, which is at the heart of all rational and creative thought, is what the friendly hate.

It shouldn’t be necessary to point out—but we will: partial information is always at work—the comely woman on the magazine cover could be smart, as much as we can define the term—like appearance, intelligence is a complex quality which always lives in context and partiality and mystery; to object to any partial bit of information for reason of its partiality (shame on you, only judging by appearance!) is fruitless and silly.

Because the partial lives in the physical, or the beauty of the physical, this is no recommendation against it; in fact, partial belief elicited by rhetoric (which always traffics in the partial) is far more insidious, since the brain always recognizes a photograph as information which is essentially lacking in completeness. But a lecture, a speech, a piece of rhetoric, can win the gullible over completely— even though, it, too, is partial information, often driven by hidden motive—by its very nature as a piece of rhetoric. By comparison to a piece of rhetoric, a photograph of a beautiful woman is innocuous, harmless, and meaningless.

Except for the fact that a photograph of a beautiful woman could be important, beneficial, and profound.

This is because the drawback of partiality is solved in one instance: in the appearance of beauty—which manifests itself as beauty precisely because we experience it not partially, but as complete, as whole, as one. 

True beauty is that which escapes partiality, and pleases (often mysteriously) for that very reason. This is how love works—the appearance/existence of the beloved is complete in itself; it is not information leading to something else; it is utterly loved for what it is. To be in love is to wish to be in the presence of the beloved for no other reason than to be in their presence.  Here is the crucial distinction: appearance/existence versus mere appearance.

How can a picture of someone else, no matter how beautiful they appear in the picture, compete with the beloved’s physical manifestation?

It cannot. Being in love, we are acutely aware of a greater manifestation of love as physical presence; the very air around our beloved becomes a physical force when they come into our sight—mere pictures seem bereft to us: we look at a beautiful woman in a photo and merely think: this is a stranger, this is not our love.

In love, one object overshadows all the others. Pictures hurt us only if we are not in love. Pictures are made by, and for, the loveless.

The evil of objectifying women, then, is no evil at all. Objectifying is a complex process involving science and love.

We have yet to mention objectifying men—and the evil that women tend to be objectified, and men, not. But again, this is a mere distraction; equality of the sexes is not hindered by so-called objectifying at all; objectifying will only lead to more equality, since science and love, which both always objectify, point the way to equality.

Love and science are standards of truth. If equality of the sexes is a truth, then objectifying—which is what love and science do—will work towards equality.

Are men objectified? Of course they are! Constantly!

The chief ill in all of this is the fear of objectifying, and that fear is the fear that partial untruth will win the day, that the superficially beautiful will get all the lovers. As we have pointed out, however, this fear is unfounded, misguided, and blocks both love and scientific inquiry; this fear is the revenge of the loveless, the revenge of the merely friendly.

If you believe you are ugly and loveless, the answer is not to suppress or resent the spirit of objectifying beauty; the spirit of objectifying will one day, if it looks cunningly enough, rescue you.  And the knife cuts both ways; if you believe you are “beautiful” and “loved” for that reason, perhaps you are wrong. The god of love is more mischievous than we assume, and makes mischief by the most superficial and physical means.

The only cure for the objectifying gaze is an objectifying gaze that is even more intense and personal and matchless in the spirit of love. Only picturing beauty can transcend beauty merely pictured.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

MY LOVE NO LONGER BELONGS

My love no longer belongs to your life;
But your love to my life still belongs
For my happiness. For my happy songs.

You have given my love back.
But I still love you: I do not have that lack.

My love no longer belongs to you,
Your soul, or all your soul knows it must do.

Love made your life too precarious,
Too fateful and too serious.
Calmly, you move back to old, slow habits;
And you will grow old, and the years shall run like rabbits.

No need to run for that illicit train
Or present for love’s inspection your body and brain;
Now you can relax while you dream.

Now you can put on makeup for everyone, not me,
Who made paramount you, and your beauty.
Now you can just say anything, again,
And impress billions of men.

Who wants to be confined?
And to make matters worse, we pined.

Love really was a pain in the ass.
It had its moments, but let them pass.

What was it for, if not for children?
It only takes a moment to make a child
So then it happens you can never be wild.
You were getting old for them to have been,
So love fed amusement, flattery, and sin.
The pleasant illusion you had of me
(Of course) couldn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Women love jealousy, because they are turned on
By sparks of social comparison;
This jealousy the man has to rise above;
Indifference to the woman is the secret to success in love.
And its downfall, as well.
No wonder passionate love is a kind of hell.

I learned this too late
(I don’t know how I survived the first date)
Because I was focused entirely on you—
Or maybe not. Maybe I had some genius for indifference, too.

Who really knows?
Maybe you got sick of the shape of my nose.
Or maybe you had anxiety disorder
And you couldn’t handle me crossing your border.
I doubt it. It was the jealousy
That finally did in you and me.
I dug in. So you had to flee.

But your love in my life still remains:
For my songs, for which I take such pains.

 

 

 

I CARE WHAT BEAUTY LIKES

I care what beauty likes,
And what beauty likes is hate,
For when beauty finally loves
Liking is too late.

Beauty noticed long ago:
The standards of beauty are severe.
I kiss her, I kneel before her;
But beauty loves distantly; she doesn’t love what’s here.

Beauty made me jealous;
I was blinded by my fire,
A flame she loved too much:
Shame overtook desire.

Now what can she say
To family and friends:
Here is my life
And here is where it ends?

Our love was not heroic.
It’s easy to be distracted:
This is why she erred,
And why I reacted.

THIS POEM IS NOT FOR YOU

 

 

I’m sorry you have to read this.
It is not for you. What you are reading
Is me writing to somebody else
Who has a mouth I want to kiss.

There is nothing for you here
And not in the sense of false, or true.
You have no context for what she and I do.
In every sense this poem is not for you.

If you saw my love in a picture
You still wouldn’t know.
There is just something about her…

Am I wise to let this go?
Should I have more faith in language?
But that’s precisely it—I do.
I am using language to make an important point:
The impossibility of this poem being able to say anything to you.
It is her mouth I want to kiss.
You will have to be satisfied with this.

 

 

 

 

REMEMBERING ROD MCKUEN: POPULAR POET, SONGWRITER

Rod McKuen, with Frank Sinatra. McKuen sold 100 million records and 60 million books.

Scarriet owes a great debt to the cross-over genre of Poetry As Song/Song As Poetry.

Our most popular and oft-visited post is The Top One Hundred Popular Song Lyrics That Work As Poetry, published a year and a half ago, which gets thousands of hits a week.

Scarriet embraces the accessible in poetry and believes Pound and Williams killed the art.  We love Romantic poetry and believe Shakespeare, Keats and Poe represent the pinnacle of modern achievement, and that since then there has been a great falling off.

So we ought to acknowledge the passing of Rod McKuen (April 29 1933—January 29 2015) who was a popular American poet and songwriter in the French chanson tradition.

Not that we love McKuen’s poetry; it is wretched, for the most part. But the songwriting aspect of his popularity, and the way poetry and songwriting in popular culture mysteriously intertwine ought to be addressed, and we will address it here very briefly.

A popular song works its magic in a moment-to-moment fashion and will not stand still for profound contemplation; as much as poetry is like popular song, that poetry repels, by its very nature, the profound, or the deep.

But we can go even further: whatever is monumental (think of Michelangelo’s David) makes its impact on us immediately; any art product achieves true, popular, success quickly and superficially.

This partially answers the question pertaining to Rod McKuen.

How can something be bad and also good?

This question best sums up the aesthetic phenomenon in philosophical terms.

To put it as simply as possible:

To be popular, one must be bad, for to triumph in the eyes of the many is to court that which is low and unlearned.

And yet to stand apart from rivals by achieving popular success is good.

To court the low, however, even in a successful manner, is, in the final analysis, bad.

And thus the critic Julia Keller called McKuen “gooey schmaltz that wouldn’t pass muster in a freshman creative-writing class” which “the masses ate up with a spoon, while highbrow literary critics roasted him on a spit.”

The complexity enters when we reflect that “the masses” are—to call them bad or good, or unlearned or learned, is to impose an artificial idealism upon nature—which, by its very existence, transcends all man-made judgements, no matter how “highbrow.” If “the masses” want “schmaltz,” it would be stupid not to give it to them, and whether it “passes muster in a creative-writing class” is beside the point.

Just as human painting fails miserably when compared to reality, all that is literarily highbrow also fails in the same way.  To court nature, by appealing to “the masses” directly, with “schmaltzy” poetry, is a strategy which not only courts success, but bests the “highbrow” at its own game, since the “schmaltzy,” by definition, is precisely an expression of weakness and failure characterized by the tremendous gap between attempts by the most supreme highbrow formulations of art to capture reality and magnificent, infinite reality itself—which dwarfs all human aspirations to artistically render that reality.

The spark that sets aflame any given artist’s popularity is always a complex crossroads of effort, luck, timing, and so forth, as complex as any highbrow artwork itself. Rod McKuen’s life and fame, then, deserves as much study as any other artist’s life and fame: Ezra Pound, or James Joyce, for instance.

Schmaltz is timeless, and if Pound avoided it in poetry more unique than McKuen’s, this only means Pound succeeds (in relative terms) in the lower order of humanity’s vain efforts to compete with nature and reality, whereas McKuen succeeds (in relative terms) in the higher order of reality itself, in which human schmaltz is a million times more prevalent than any quality we might extract from the work of Pound.

We find ourselves unable—and we challenge anyone else to—say one thing which makes Pound more important than McKuen, that would not immediately draw suspicion of merely saying that which sounds highbrow but has no real meaning at all.

For what is human expression which we term ‘art,’ but expression by people and for people, and for that purpose alone?

Science is another thing, and all agree schmaltz has no place there.

But to judge poetry and song by standards which have nothing to do with them is to founder on the mercantilism of creative-writing and the wind-blown delusions of highbrow criticism, and to ultimately descend to even lower depths of pretense and folly.

 

 

 

JUST A WORD

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I examine the picture with horror,

A photograph of one I loved,

A photograph marking a place and memories

With others, all having little to do with me.

Yet, because of the intimacy we achieved

It has everything to do with me.

The more we try and make sense of sex

The more it seems absurd.

My eye caught fire from her body and face.

Only poetry saves. Please, just a word

Of kindness for her before I die in disgrace.

She is not smiling in the photograph,

Nor does the picture capture the beauty

She had all those times when she was kissing me.

She and I hate being photographed, not because we are ugly—

No, she’s an exquisite beauty, but smiling naturally isn’t easy;

She’s sad, even miserable, and when she laughs, she laughs bitterly.

Almost religiously, I hate images, but the cruel smile

Of Cover Girl femme fatale is what my poetry uses.

When I ask her to smile for my poem, of course she refuses.

 

 

 

FRIENDSHIP, BOOZE AND POETRY

We sometimes settle into a train ride and enjoy it for its own sake, forgetting where we are going; the train becomes its own world, even as it moves with purpose; if the train became stuck, we would get annoyed, so the purpose is never forgotten; the train is our servant, taking us from one place to another—and yet the train also allows us to forget the reason and enjoy the experience.

Where is the train going? To another train. The purpose is to have no purpose.

Expression is like this, too. We talk for a reason, and yet we also just enjoy the talking.

What are we to say?  We can’t enjoy talking if we have no reason to talk; why is it that some people can talk endlessly and others, those others, are so quiet?

Poetry is reticent expressiveness; it combines the enjoyable and the purposeful aspects of the train ride.

Reticence is a virtue; think how much rudeness and chaos would exist without it.

Yet reticence is also a tomb.

Reticence is the torture of not being able to say what you want to say—or worse, not having anything to say at all.

Reticence, then, has its use, as a stay against rudeness and confusion, but its flip side is burial and death.

That which overcomes reticence, expression, is the train moving, information conveyed; we understand what expression is for, also.

People drink to put themselves at ease, to loosen up their tongues; it can produce the same happy result as friendship, where after a certain time, we trust another to tell them things; we can be at ease with a friend and express ourselves.

Booze and friendship move us from austere reticence, where the train chugs along without comment, to a train of feeling and comfort and light.

Poetry rides the same train as booze and friendship; it is doing exactly the same thing.

If intoxication and affection don’t turn you into a poet, there is something wrong.

Poetry allows one to retain that reticence even as one expresses oneself.

Alcohol turns one into a clown, or a bitter gasbag. It causes many train delays, and even train accidents.

Friendship can turn one into a fool, as well, as gossip replaces poetry.

Friendly gossip feeds on the fools and the clowns, the bad poets, the drunks, and soon friendly chat becomes as sour as what it feeds on. Soon you find yourself talking about people (those who are not your friends) and expressiveness becomes pointed and unfriendly, and the spirit of friendship is killed in an atmosphere of judgment and rebuke. There is always a danger when reticence is escaped and expression reigns supreme: the train goes too fast and plunges off a cliff.

Friendship is based on something very divisive: this person is my friend and this person is not.

A poet, if they are good, appeals to all readers, not just friends.

Dante, in his Vita Nuova, was aware of the fact that, as he was writing poems for his secret crush, Beatrice, he was running headlong into the reality that other ladies were curious and interested in his poetry.  If love is a kind of ultimate friendship (what else is it really?).  The Vita Nuova (a short work of poems and prose which pre-dated the Commedia) is such a wonderful book because it shows the poet thinking about how he will write poems to express his life, and how the expression itself then impacts his thinking and his life. Dante muses at one point that he will write his poem only for those “ladies who are sweet and gentle,” so here is a caveat to what we said above: poets have a wide appeal, although they may not write for all readers.  Yet Dante still writes to ladies in the plural, and nothing upsets a “friend” quite as much as when they see that you have an appeal that travels far beyond their friendship.

Poetry has the potential to soberly soar above friendship.

And this is why, like everything else under the sun, poetry is both loved and hated.

 

 

WHEN A WOMAN HATES

 

 

 

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When a woman hates,

There is nothing worse for a man,

For there is no creature on earth who can hate

Like a woman can.

When a woman gives love

From her soft breast,

Unsentimental imagination soars.

Inspired, the poet finds no rest

In love’s poetic task

Making obscurity so bright

The critic doesn’t need to ask.

Darkness and obscurity

Loom when the woman doesn’t love.

Light shines in every crevice

When she does.

 

 

 

BRADY’S BALLS

Brady and Belichick: The Actress and Richard Nixon

According to Sports Illustrated, no one (with the exception of some Pat fans) believes Tom Brady’s denial of Deflategate:

Before games, like most quarterbacks, [Brady] makes sure the footballs meet his precise specifications. He likes them to have 12.5 pounds of pressure per square inch. Presumably, he also likes them worked in so they are not too shiny, too slippery, too waxy, or covered in maple syrup. Then—he made this point multiple times Thursday—he doesn’t want anybody touching them. They’re perfect the way they are.

And yet, during the first half of the Patriots’ AFC Championship win over the Colts, Brady was playing with balls that were well under his preferred 12.5 pounds of PSI. At least 11 of the 12 were under-inflated.

But guess what? He didn’t notice. He had nothing to do with it. He has no idea how it happened. Maybe a manager did it on his own, maybe there was a porcupine in the ball bag. But Brady—Tom Brady, the same extremely competitive, detail-oriented man who helped lobby the league to allow quarterbacks to supply their own footballs—didn’t notice they were under-inflated.

–Michael Rosenberg

Saturday Night Live joined the fun on Saturday, one week before Super Bowl Eve, with an astute take, revealing that football fans are everywhere and they’re not as stupid as one might think. The SNL skit, which opened the show, deftly presented the four key characters of the unfolding drama:

1. The coach, Bill Belichick, fined the maximum penalty of $500,000 by the NFL in 2007 for stealing opponent’s play signals from 2002 through 2007: grumpy, with nothing to say.

2. The player, Tom Brady, infamous for a game-ending playoff fumble reversed by an inscrutable on-field referee ruling, known as the Tuck Rule: joyously stupid, with nothing to say.

3. The equipment manager: an affable nobody, suddenly important and on the defensive. Since the NFL is a private organization, they cannot force their employees to testify—the Pats are tight-lipped because it’s their right. The U.S. Congress was looking into 2007’s Spygate; the NFL has no incentive to call attention to cheating in games: if one ref, or one coach, or one player violates NFL rules to alter the outcome of a game and no one knows, that’s good for the NFL—if fans, however, learn of violations, that’s bad for the NFL. Players are protected by a powerful Player Union. Not so, equipment managers.

4. The reporters: Not buying Brady and Belichick’s denials. They just want to know who deflated the footballs the Pats were using in the rainy conditions to give their quarterback a clear advantage, in violation of the game’s rules.

Richard Sherman, the Seahawks talkative defensive back, had to remind everyone yesterday that there are two other players in the drama:

5. The owner: Bob Kraft, probably the most influential owner in the NFL, whose aim is to make his Pats look as clean as possible.

6. The NFL commissioner: Roger Goodell, whose aim is to make the NFL look as clean as possible.

As Sherman pointed out: Kraft and Goodell are pals.

Belichick’s press conference on Thursday was the grumpy man’s attempt to “scientifically” deflect and distract from the fact that the balls used by the Patriots in the AFC championship game were under-inflated, a clear violation of NFL rules, as measured at half-time, while the balls used by the Colts, also measured, were not.

But the overall truth is this: the NFL will always err on the side of “There was no cheating.” Even if cheating happens all the time.

That Belichick (whose dad scouted other teams for Navy) was caught and penalized for cheating in 2007 is an extraordinary fact in itself.  That he was still allowed to coach is perhaps even more revealing.

Obviously it’s very important for Belichick that he not be seen as personally guilty in this latest cheating scandal—which is why Belichick (days prior to his hastily called press conference) threw Brady under the bus last week. He knows about the balls. Ask him. 

The eternally stone-faced Belichick slipping up to protect himself by shining a light on his star quarterback was an epic mistake—not even close to a calculated move by a criminal genius. Brady, in private, must have been fuming.

Belichick’s press conference gambit: “texture” matters more than “pressure” was his attempt to save his quarterback’s ass.

But this only puts Brady’s balls in more hot water, because Belichick’s denial of any involvement in Deflategate is based on the fact that he, as head coach, had nothing to do with handling the footballs—that’s Brady’s realm of expertise. So how did Belichick suddenly, out of the blue, become an authority on “texture” versus “pressure?”  Not knowing or caring about that shit was the basis of Belichick’s “innocence.” Now, in front of the world, he’s a lecturing, indignant expert on the subject.

This is the spin Pats defenders have settled on.

This morning,the Boston Globe featured a headline story with local science professors who agree with Belichick’s “scientific” defense.

The “science” is: 50 degree weather deflates Pats’ balls—but not Colts’ balls.

And Boston’s major newspaper is going with this “science.”

Pats fans don’t get it (as Pats fans, they don’t want to get it) when they insist the Pats beat the Colts by 5 touchdowns.

The final score of the game, as the press has been saying, is irrelevant.

Breaking a rule is breaking a rule. Fair play is not sort of important—it’s the most important thing.  A “level playing field” is the first premise of sport. Even war has rules, even though we don’t need “rules” to define “war.” A game, however, by definition, consists of “rules” and these “rules” must be the same for each side, or it’s not a game, or a sport, at all. What it probably is, then, is entertainment (like WWE wrestling) or a gambling operation.

The NFL, as a private company, may very well be a gambling or entertainment industry—it would be in their monetary interest, to be so, and legally, there is more than enough gray area—combined with the monetary incentive—for the NFL to easily be so, in fact.

Hey, the first NFL teams were funded by gambling winnings. (A little history for you)

It has been written that the NFL rewards franchises who re-locate; Super Bowls have been won—within a season or two!—by teams who moved (the 1999 Rams from LA to St. Louis, the 2000 Ravens from Cleveland to Baltimore, the 1983 Raiders from Oakland to LA).

How could this happen? How can the NFL allow a team to win? Every football fan knows how. An NFL referee can make “penalty” calls, or not make “penalty” calls, or reverse “penalty” calls at his discretion, with no possibility of these calls being overturned. They are final, and one call, or even one non-call, can easily determine the outcome of a game, even make the outcome of a game lop-sided. It’s just the way football works.  Or how any sport works.  Think of a World Series contest.  One team is down 2-0 and if they win, it’s 2-1, but one bad hop grounder and they lose and suddenly they are down 3-0 and it looks like they are being slaughtered—but not really. So the score of the Colts-Pats game is completely irrelevant and not the point at all.

Football is a contact sport—in the most extreme sense, and every single contact is a potential penalty. Unlike chess, in which the two players control their separate destinies by moving one chess piece at a time towards a clearly determined checkmate, any play on a football field is open to the subjective judgment of a referee, no matter how perfectly a ball is thrown or how skillfully and remarkably a defensive play is executed. In football, a pawn—on the other side of the board, which has nothing to do with the knight’s move to check the king—can be “flagged” for some tenuous “illegal contact,” canceling out the knight’s move forever. A long gain for a score or a first down—the sort of play which is so important it holds the key to victory—becomes loss of down and loss of yardage—due to a purely subjective and irreversible decision made on the basis of a lightning-fast and ambiguous “touch” between two players, deemed a “penalty” that “officially” changes the game result.

Any pro quarterback will play like the greatest quarterback to ever play the game if they have an extra second to throw the ball; a defensive player, if allowed, or not allowed, to use his hands in a certain way, will either be ineffective, or the greatest defensive player ever, and this is determined by how the referee in any given contest chooses to interpret rules which, by their very nature, are entirely ambiguous. No expert can tell whether a large “grey area” of contact between an offensive and a defensive player on any given play, in the middle of the action, or far away on the other side of the field, constitutes, in retrospect, a “penalty” by either the offensive player, or the defensive player, and yet such determinations “set the tone” for “proper” play during the entire contest, and specific calls bring tremendous momentum-building and material advantage to whichever team happens to be favored.

Was that a great “block,” or was that an “offensive holding penalty?” It doesn’t matter how many witnesses there are. No one really knows.

Referees can fix games in broad daylight, in front of millions, without anyone “knowing.”  Simply because the ambiguity of the rules bars knowing itself.

The referee’s non-call of “holding” results in the quarterback having precious extra time to pass the ball with an inevitable completion, or, if the referee does call “holding,” a cancellation of that completion with an additional loss of yardage.  Poor versus great quarterback performances are almost entirely determined by quarterback “protection”—this every football expert does know.

“Pawns” on the other side of the board who “fight” long after a play is over, can also arbitrarily result in a 15 yard penalty against one team—winning scores in football are often determined by swings of 10 or 20 yards one way or the other, and so irreversible referee penalty calls of the most trivial and subjective nature (having absolutely nothing to do with the game played on the field) can determine game outcomes.

Sports has famously been overrun in the last 30 years by number-crunching geeks who analyze every statistical aspect imaginable to quantify the game and seek advantage. But NFL referee decisions remain the ghost in the machine: this crucial part of the game is invisible and unrecorded; sure, they total “penalty yards,” but what escapes detection is the game-changing fact of when a penalty is called, and also the yardage earned which penalties erase, and also the intimidation factor: if a referee punishes a defensive back with an unwarranted “pass interference” call, this has a ripple effect on the entire defense and the entire game.

The Pats no doubt gained tremendous advantage by stealing plays, but the Pats could easily look like the greatest team on earth simply by how selected referees of the NFL manipulate the “chess pieces.”  The Pats had their miraculous 18-0 “perfect season” run in the wake of the embarrassing Spygate accusations, accusations which called into question the legitimacy of not only the Patriots, but the NFL itself.  Once caught, the only possible way for the NFL to escape the embarrassment of previous Super Bowl wins (three of them!) awarded to cheaters was to make it look like the Pats were such an awesome team they did not need to cheat. Only after the U.S. Congress threatened to look into Spygate more deeply—just prior to the Super Bowl that season—did the Pats all at once look like a perfectly ordinary team, losing to a wild card 10-6 Giants team in the 2007 Super Bowl, despite the Pats being heavy favorites.

In the contest prior to their blow-out victory over the Colts last week, the Pats were lucky to escape with a win over the Ravens, and the Pats did so with referee help–and an interception thrown by the Ravens quarterback at the end of the game—a lob into the arms of the Pats’ safety which looked suspiciously intentional; perhaps it was thought best by the currently scandal-hit League not to let the Ray Rice-scandalized Ravens in the Super Bowl this year.

In the second half of that close game, the Ravens were penalized 15 yards when the Ravens’ coach ventured onto the field before a play to get the officials’ attention. The Pats were using a formation in which legitimate receivers were not designated—the rules say defenses must be given time before the ball is snapped to ascertain which offensive players on any give play are eligible to catch a pass, but the Pats were running players on the field and then snapping the ball right away. The Pats were stretching the rules with trickery—and the refs penalized the Ravens.

The Pats were supposed to have a great defense this season and were heavy favorites over a Ravens team depleted by injuries in the secondary; the Ravens—named after the Poe poem—snuck into the playoffs as a wild card team. Yet the Ravens moved the ball at will, and their quarterback threw four touchdowns against what was thought to be one of the best Pat defenses of all time—five touchdowns if you count the fact that on throwing the ball on fourth down to the Pats’ goal line, the receiver who made the great catch spun the ball on the ground after the play—and was flagged for a fifteen yard “taunting” penalty. “Taunting” penalties produced more yardage for the Pats than their running game.

We hear that in celebrating a pass reception, for a ball to spin nicely on the ground, it should be properly inflated.

THE WORLD WAKES UP

The world wakes up,
Still dark and cold,
The sound of cars in the distance;
Normally, I would be awake,
Pinned to the bed
By gossipy insistence.
Today I don’t wake up.
The world wakes up.
“Shall I marry him
Or kick him out?”
She thinks wearily.
The world holds together
Because of this doubt.

It’s winter. I don’t like
The winter weather,
But I like the seasons.
There are millions of reasons
To do this, or not do this,
So we make ourselves
Stupid and decide.
“You should have seen
How much fun I had
On the ride.”
Groan. The world wakes up.

I would be awake
Feeling the light.
Today something’s not right.
My bed is lumpy.
The body is lumpy.
I cannot face demands,
And offices, and you.
I feel the light
Today as not quite true.

The world wakes up.
I do not wake up.
Today my fear
Will be tested.
How will it be
Alone in the ground
Without a sound
As the world wakes up?

A LITTLE WINE AND YOU THINK OF ME

A little wine and you think of me,
A little more and you want to be
In the back seat kissing me.

Virginity is sobriety.
My older years have come to be
Passionate, but bad for me.
You needed wine to be
Desperately in love with me.
Drunk, you loved me desperately,
Your beauty loved me desperately.

Sober, your beauty
Was cruel to me.
Was the wine true?
Or the sober you?
We never knew.

It’s the worst
When love is a thirst:
When sweetness flies
And there is only wine—and lies.

GOD IS THE MOST CONVENIENT OF LOVES

God is the most convenient of loves
Because God is always there,
To love you in sorrow,
To love you—when everything is unfair.

I loved a woman who had another mind
Even when she loved me, and was unkind
In that way one is when one belongs to the world.
I looked for her but never knew what I was going to find.

I tried to see her! I tried to see the windings of her mind!
I kissed dust. There was a song like a flower with petals curled.
It was a pleasure to be with her but there were too many ways
For her to be gone, so now I must forget those days.

Where is the temple? The book?  The sacrifice?
She loved me, but what trouble! even on a good day she wasn’t nice.
There are no gods now! There are none!
There is only this convenience. This one.

 

 

THE MORAL SMUT PARADOX

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Poetry, once beautiful, has become merely eccentric; more troubling, currently, is the vast indifference, and even revulsion by the public for the art, despite valiant efforts at subsidy, chiefly the commerce and spread of university MFAs.

Some say we have a glut of poets—the MFA, a pyramid scheme when all pay for a small number who teach—poets read poets in a purely careerist context, even as real poetry hides in cracks and crevices—but “too many poets” and MFA criticism seems a small concern beside the tremendous indifference of the general public.

Why can’t poetry live outside of school (and Slam bars) and thrive in the public square, with cooking and napping and sports?

Because poetry is either

1) too easy or

2) too difficult:

1) Rhymes for imbeciles

2) Footnotes for specialists in which the content and syntax of a Newsweek essay stirs up in the reader a puzzle: why is this called poetry?

Surely there is a middle ground—between the banal pop lyric and the mangled prosy essay, between “We will, we will, rock you” and William Carlos Williams’ stupid plums, between Victorian pillow talk and academic vertigo—a middle ground of highly skilled, original poetry which pleases poet and non-poet alike—

A middle ground accessible to non-poets while alerting the poets that obscurity is over: Shelley, Keats, Byron and Dickinson are back.

This will do 3 things:

1. Make poetry better.

2. Make the pictorial and musical arts better as poetry inspires them once again

3. Revive public interest in poetry—even as the narrow creds-mongers howl in protest

The chief objection to a modern Romanticism revival (desperately needed since the pretensions of Pound and Williams mowed over the beauty of Millay) will come from the Institutional Art Theorists, who say the history of art (no matter how driven by actual folly) is more important than art, that poetry requires a “learned” context of historical change and development—as phase trumps the thing itself.

Old models—think of Greek Tragedy, cave paintings, Emerson’s doggerel, will be improved upon, yes, certainly, but the improvement comes from the original poet, not the impotent university scholar/historian who learnedly and belatedly cheers on change. The cheering in universities needs to stop and beautiful originality needs to begin.

The university historian says Keats is dead—because history is more important to them than art.

But there is an even deeper issue we need to address:

The poet, if he is worthy the name, avoids what chiefly cripples all moral expression: smutty morals, or moral smut, the heart and soul of most middle class literature.

We speak of best-selling literature in which morals are highly overt, and in order to be overt, makes smut overt as well, thus inflating even more the overt moral content, feeding and encouraging low-brow taste in the process, and dragging down in a mania of good intentions all literature into that “realism” of bad taste in which readers slum free of guilt.

The alternative: the “fantasy” genre, fares no better and is similarly in thrall, as it exploits moral smut even more overtly, using racy bad taste increasingly as its “ideal” weapon.

This earnest and vastly popular state of affairs not only makes for bad literature, it reduces the middle class population which consumes it into a species of reader entirely ill-equipped to appreciate beautiful good taste, which is the Eldorado of the Poet.

This is not to say that a certain amount of raciness and bad taste and excitement cannot drive certain types of popular literature—we are not saying there cannot be cakes and ale. Let there be cakes and ale. But when ale becomes excessive, infecting even so-called highbrow literature, and when good taste for its own sake is no longer cultivated, we reach that threshold in which the elevated feelings no longer stir, real moral beauty no longer excites, and the poor body drags along without a soul.

We also understand that lovely flowers grow in dirt, etc.  That contrast is required between low and high. Shakespeare was great at this, but his greatness—what other word is there for it?—kept the low in its place. Low is low—unless we are suckered after long exposure into admiring it.  Addicted, we continue to feed on what makes us ill; judgment atrophies, taste becomes bloated with sentimentalism, discernment wastes away, obscurity becomes robust in a pretentious miasma, and the best that’s left are sneering sophisticates with steely hearts.

The great poet resists overt morals—and the smutty bad taste which invariably feeds on it.

The prose novel, with its earthiness and scope, will sometimes benefit from this phenomenon.

But poetry is far more susceptible to the disease of which we speak.

The paradox of Moral Smut insidiously sweetens, destroying the healthy vigor of poetry, and its art, and Taste, in general.

 

 

 

THE LAMB THAT’S LOST

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Is all we see or seem but a dream within a dream? --Edgar Poe

We love the lamb that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here---
That's why nothing---nothing---is clear---
We love the lamb's that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here.

That's why when you speak
I always disagree---
Because the thing you love
I cannot hear or see.

Lost! Lost! Lost!
What we love is lost,
The valley in our mind
That we have never crossed.

I can't explain the lost to you---
The explanation is lost, too...

That's why you're a mystery,
Smiling and near---
We love the lamb that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here.



POEMS ABOUT POETRY

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Poems about poetry are the best poems there are.

The best light is the light which illustrates a star.

The best love is love which focuses on love,

Not those who wear love’s hat and love’s glove,

If the haberdashery is not too far.

We notice in faces, traces

Of a life busy and sad,

But we don’t like these faces.

Poems that are bad

Tell of other things,

When all we want from poetry

Is a poem inside of poetry—

A specter in a cloud that sings.

 

 

 

 

ONLY ONE PICTURE

 

 

Only one picture captures who I am
And does not let me run away,
A picture you saw of me
When the morning sun’s first ray
Penetrated, like the world’s first camera,
The black darkness of a heart
Comforted by its darkness, tra la.
When you have time, throw that picture away.
The forest majestically throws shadows,
A hushed, dappled memory which consumes my heart.
By the brook, where the twigs are broken,
Where we spoke? There I’ll die by a new dart.

DO WE WANT EQUALITY?

“Married with my uncle…but no more like my father than I to Hercules”  —Shakespeare, Hamlet

Equality. Do we want it?

Equality is, for both the peon and the pundit alike, the political aspiration of modernity.

But what if this honored term—equality—veils something terrible which undermines all that equality is?

What if there is an iron law of psychology that says equals will always be rivals?

In every practical aspect of life, subordination exists, often without us even thinking about it. We who count ourselves fortunate (and enlightened) that we no longer obey royalty, find supervisors, bosses, sub-bosses, managers, assistants to the assistant manager, everywhere we look, never thinking how we are more enslaved than ever by iron laws of inequality.

We have less equality than ever, even as modernity itself is defined by this very idea.

In contemporary parlance: WTF?

Shakespeare’s most important point in his History Plays: Being a king sucks.

Even if you are a peon, don’t envy the king.

This is the core belief of conservatism: social progress is an illusion—because equality is an illusion.

Here is the two-part conservative wisdom:

1. Bad news for the peons: there will always be kings.

2. Good news for the peons: being a king sucks.

This is far better than radical wisdom:

1. Bad news for the peons: there will always be kings.

2. Bad news for the peons: you must kill the kings.

Being a king, being responsible, being public, being wealthy, running things? It’s no fun.  You don’t want to do it.

Be glad you don’t have to do it. Better to tinker (write, paint, invent, frolic, laugh, love) under the radar.

Today we can dress better and have more girlfriends than our boss—and no one cares; not even the boss.

And why?

Because he’s our boss.

If he were our equal, then the two of us would be rivals. And then it could get nasty fast, as the ‘girlfriend count’ would become a matter of high importance. And the company would suffer, because equality would foster a rivalry that petty office hierarchy prevents.

We often notice, to our chagrin, how quickly marriages fall apart—witness the divorce rate among modern Westerners who freely and voluntarily partner with rationally and carefully chosen equals.

Not that unequal relationships survive, either—but why do equal matches fall apart just as often?

Because of the equality.

Of course it’s not equality itself that’s to blame, but equality is inevitably something else: a rivalry.

And here’s the dilemma.

Equality, that modern ideal, runs smack up against something natural and ancient and pernicious.

Nobody wants to be equal to somebody else.

And we often talk about “equal opportunity:” summed up by: ‘we know everyone is not going to be equal, but at least give everyone an equal chance to succeed.’

But this distinction is empty, since equal opportunity is a bigger illusion than mere equality; the millions of ways to be unequal are rolled into so-called “opportunities” in such a way that the whole noble “equal opportunity” ideal is never, and will never be true.  There is no blank tablet, no starting from scratch; the race never begins at the beginning.

Equality and equal opportunity are merely the formulations of polite words.

The truth is, in the reality of our hearts, equality, when it does happen to exist, or is perceived to exist, is a license to fight.

“Let’s settle this now, and determine who is better at this and that, and who will make the decisions on this and that!”

Calculation (which can detect equality) is tied up with war.

The very idea of equality is like blood in the water to the sharks of real life.

As soon as calculation is able to discover equality, equality is doomed.

It is doomed to be torn apart in a fight, and equality cannot survive love, either, especially when love bends to contracts and agreements and calculations.

And the truth of love is the truth of rivalry: behind every lover stands a multitude of rivals.

Equality is not even a dream.

It’s a lie.

 

 

 

FIRST YOU HAVE TO FALL IN LOVE

First you have to fall in love
And be a victim of the god
Who died yesterday in the flowers
But lives today in your beating heart
Which makes you lie awake by the moon for hours.

Then you make that grand correction
Where the one becomes part of the many again.
The numerous stars overwhelm the sun.
It was happiness to be weak
And feel yourself a sigh among the sighs,
Your life belonging to one set of eyes,
The one you have the one you seek.

But the true One, which is the many,
Reasserts itself against the Two—
And you fall into disunion
Which is perfect; which is perfectly you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF YOU

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I need to get to the bottom of you.

I’ve had some superficial loves; now only the deep will do.

Love makes cowards of us all:

We choose the rich, the beautiful, the tall,

And then because we’re cowards, love makes us sad.

The only way to love is to be completely mad.

So come, let us go

And find what love can know.

We stare at a Rembrandt for hours,

We listen to Mozart for a day.

We peek behind the curtain

Of a Shakespeare play.

Someone speaks to us openly

Of things we consider in bad taste.

We write the letter quickly

And sign it, “Yours, in haste.”

Now we plunge towards stone even as cold winds blow

Around the never yielding, the never beautiful, below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JE SUIS SACRED

There are matters of which no jest can be made –Edgar Poe

My reputation, my reputation! I’ve lost my reputation, the longest living and truest part of myself! Everything else in me is just animal-like –Shakespeare

_______________________________________________________

Sophisticated, freedom-loving, Westerners, waving their flag of David Letterman Grin to the sound of sitcom sexual humor laugh-track laughter, are as sensitive as any to the pain of inappropriate lampooning—even if it is only teasing; even if it is only humor.

What happened in Paris on January 7th has elicited the usual rhetoric of hand-wringing, caution, outrage, sympathy and platitude from the pundits.

Here’s a typical sample from The New Yorker:

A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.

These thoughts don’t offer a guide to mitigating the astonishing surge in Islamist killing around the world. Rage and condemnation don’t do the job, nor is it helpful to alienate the millions of Muslims who dislike what’s being done in the name of their religion. Many of them immediately condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo, in tones of anguish particular to those whose deepest beliefs have been tainted. The answer always has to be careful, thoughtful, and tailored to particular circumstances. In France, it will need to include a renewed debate about how the republic can prevent more of its young Muslim citizens from giving up their minds to a murderous ideology—how more of them might come to consider Mustapha Ourrad, a Charlie Hebdo copy editor of Algerian descent who was among the victims, a hero. In other places, the responses have to be different, with higher levels of counter-violence.

But the murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.

Here—from New Yorker staff writer George Packer—is a string of careful, factual, sentences earnestly saying “the right thing” about the tragedy.  This is not the argument of a mind trying to understand the tragedy.

When one puts together a string of sentences like this, one sentence, one passage, invariably contradicts the next: Mr. Packer says we must not “alienate the millions of Muslims,” but at the same time points out that “only Muslims (not “Jews and Christians”) responded with threats and acts of terrorism.” The implication is that Christians and Jews have never killed to send a message.

Mr. Packer also says “the killers” are “against everything decent” and “against the right to offend.”

We must be decent and offend?

No, say Packer’s defenders—it’s more complicated! 

Of course it is. 

It is too complicated to understand.

You “get it” or you don’t.

The words of Mr. Packer finally don’t matter.

Mr. Packer has made the right gestures.  He feels his platitudes-full-of-contradictions.  And we, who are sincere, feel them, too.

Mr. Packer has given the signs that he is 1) sufficiently aware of the complexity and that  2) he is sincere.

Now we can go on with our lives.

Understanding, however, is very different.

Will no mind in the West try to understand?

Simply because to truly understand will be seen as “support for terrorism?”

Supporting the terrorists would be a horrific, unconscionable, thing to do.

In public, we wear platitudes for all to see.

To be safe.

Let us attempt, however, just as an experiment, to understand the matter.

All of us know humor as two things:

1) a gift, a joy, a release, a comfort, a witty surprise, a sparkling insight.

2) a weapon which can demoralize, hurt, and dismantle reputations.

How can the same thing have these two opposing attributes?

What are we doing exactly, when we lampoon?

And what exactly, do we mean, by the sacred?

Is the sacred truly something we (an individual, a tribe, a nation) can point to and identify?

Or by the sacred can we say generally: whatever it is that cannot, or should not, be lampooned?

Does lampooning have a limit?

Is there ever a reason not to lampoon?

What is that reason?

How far are we willing to pursue the idea that “nothing is sacred?”

Why should we reasonably lampoon something?  Just because we can?

Or, for another more—relevant—reason: to hurt or injure what we are lampooning—for a purpose? Are we allowed to reasonably ask this: why are we attempting to injure, pain, or hurt?  “Freedom” is great, but “freedom” always implies “freedom to do…what? And why?  Should we ever do something—just to be “free?”

Now arises the great principle: in a free society, I don’t have to respect what you respect, and if what you respect disrespects me, I have a right to disrespect what you respect, in turn.  Not only in individual cases, but on principle.  And so we have the shootings in Paris.  Disrespect in the abstract (cartoons) gave way to disrespect concretely. (violence)

Disrespect in the abstract = Good.

Disrespect in the concrete = Bad.

Hurt my Respect = Okay.

Hurt my Body = Not okay.

Is this all we’re talking about, finally?  Is this the distinction that we either ‘get’ or do not?

Love a movie star in the abstract = okay

Meet the movie star and somehow get them to fall in love with you = okay

Stalk the movie star = not okay

If we remove all the religious and social and political aspects, is this all it really is?

Or, even more simply: Use your words

So, if we are “merely” dealing with the simple and the dangerous (like fire), prevention should be the first priority.

There will always be those who are not good with words, but are good with weapons.  They will always exist.

With this in mind, does it make sense for the educated to lampoon the uneducated?

If the whole matter is really something which is 1) beyond words and is all about 2) preventing wordless danger, shouldn’t caution rather than freedom, be the watchword?

We can yell Liberte’! from the rooftops of Paris all we want, but shouldn’t a calmer judgment prevail in assessing what happened in Paris several days ago?

The hot-headed Mark Steyn fears that “a lot of people will retreat even further into self-censorship,” but what does this even mean?  Should we now offend Muslims even more?  Will that make things better?  Should we start killing more Muslims?  Is that the answer?  Give offense.  The offense is taken. Now give more offense.  Somehow we think this is not going to help. Somehow we think this is not civilized.

Is self-censorship working out the truth for ourselves in secret?  Or does it mean not thinking about the issue at all?

Common sense says we ought to punish a wrong.  But who exactly should be punished?  All Muslims?

There are plans to publish more of the offending material.  Is this what Mark Steyn means when he talks of a “retreat even further into self-censorship?”

The trouble with spreading offensive material in the name of “freedom,” is that the true target will only be offended, not enlightened; and those already enlightened will not need the offensive material to be enlightened. So what, exactly, is the point?  To breed more zealots?

The emotion attending the whole issue is such that we really are in a situation beyond words.

Here’s the danger.

As a driver, have you ever accidentally cut someone off  and tried to apologize with sign language alone to the offended driver in the other car? You can’t do it.  It’s impossible.  How easy it is to give someone the finger, shake your fist, to express anger without words.  There are universal signs to express anger, hatred, rage, disgust.  We need no words to express the worst of human emotions.  But you cannot quickly tell someone in a clear manner, without using words, “I’m sorry I cut you off; I didn’t mean to cut you off! I’m so sorry!” There is no universal sign for this.  You can smile or shake your head or shrug, but they will not understand: What?? Are you making light of what you just did to me???  

Whenever we enter a realm in which the debate becomes a series of gestures, pro and con, where arguments of words are no longer effective, even though we are still using them, mere brutality prevails, and the repair of a wrong becomes impossible, no matter how sincerely it is desired.

To offend with a broad brush is not freedom.

It is lack of reason.

 

 

 

 

 

THE POET MARY ANGELA DOUGLAS: THREE FRAGMENTS AND THREE POEMS

Who could imagine the pause
between song and song
could alter us so

*

Is it always raining
at the back of every poem
and just for you
with your antique pen brand new

*

may I scoop from the frozen honey of your tears
white velvet on my slightest wings

__________________________________________

Cracking The Mold They Made For You

for Judy Garland

cracking the mold they made for you
and the little box of stars-
a voice made of everything living

spends all its diamonds
in one song
and still has more:

carved from a nightingale quarry-
outdistancing by many rubies
anyone else’s rainbow;

we’re opening now, a box of sky-

cloudy and bright
reconstituting everything submerged and
packed in lies you’re

pealing out your perfect time in time
above all those
who couldn’t repair

the sheen beyond blue
of the bluebird soul
savaged by idiots…

but she’s in scarlet or in gold
and it’s all holiday astonishment again-
and building the ship around her as she sings

breath by breath till breathless in the end—
notwithstanding—
shout Hallelujah! for the

rose-bright flare of song illuminating
more than was contracted for-
I am sure:

unique as a sunset thumbprint rainbow-ridged
perpetual as dreaming could ever be made to
be in sepia or techni-colored.

you’re all apart—
rebuilding a burnt-out nest
on every stage

till it shone
like a gold never seen
in the land of let’s pretend:

a metasong sailing into space
becoming only you -–- yourself—

where is the place for us
and all our encores
broken from the stem

like the home you made for music
all along?

the seam in the earthquake shifts
and is never the same

____________________________________

 

THE POETS WAR AGAINST POETRY WHILE THE AMATEURS ARE COMFORTED

to Valerie Macon, poet laureate of North Carolina for just six days who resigned on July 17, 2014 because other, former poet laureates and many others in the literary community ganged up on her because she was only a “self-published” poet (at least, it seemed that way to me and to many others)

and who said in her resignation letter to everyone. don’t forget to love poetry even if you haven’t collected accolades…

and, we won’t. As for those whose scorn for the self-published seems unbounded, if you want to drive the Muse from your own door, attacking a fellow poet, (no matter how lacking in credentials you think they are) like a pack of wild dogs – in broad daylight – should suffice.

who will He send, the angels of saffron?
this time, the ones of sheer starlight small children
see straight through?

the ones of green linen
soothing the wounds. the wounded.
once again on earth, cried the violet

shadows, poets fight poetry with their inverted shields
their plumes upside down backwards on their horses
running down the unqualified.

plaintive on a lute in a far away time someone strummed
a few notes under the moonlight. thank God no one heard.
or just a few friends. and song flowed under the doors, through

the chinks of the windows and was welcomed.
sit down at the table, here is dark bread, our last slice
and spring-cooled butter. jam of the summer strawberries we kept

just for you and you recited for no money at all
the beauty of the day gone by and how the angels tread
on clouds of rose and gold above our worst hour and children folded up their

tiny griefs and grasped with both hands the moonlight appearing at the door that never wanted to leave again.
and neither, neither did we.

___________________________________

The Childhood of Marcel Proust

your teacup brims with starry light, rich
traceries of time – translucent as
fresh raspberries bought

on a day by M. Swann
heaped on fairytale plates that chime
when the scenes shine through

somewhat berry-stained.
bright doves float through your
stained glass hands through

opaline rosaries of the rain and
turned to a strange cessation
in a dream we almost see

the glint of (home):
taking the madeline
dipped in snow

and a nectared universe…
your linden angels pause, mid-air
cognizant of a pale green rustling

but no one’s there
just once to say:
Good night, dream’s child,

you’ll sleep the steeple
out of the sky’s
late roses at Combray

and wonder how
it all turned into
stalactite colors overnight

dripping down winter walls
sweet candle-wax and pure
resurgences of rain.

but the 13th guest arrives
mid-scene to no
gold place setting

set with rubies
and who can still the lime-leafed – unrestrained—
lamentation of the rain…

your hawthorn branches
in the dusk

its storied snowy paths more dear
to lead you out of houses here—
this suddenly – no longer home.

but you’re still writing when the angels come
the rose-torn chanson of the rain
scratched out, then blooming once again;

they wait for you to finish up
fanning themselves with their crystal haloes
distracted by your clouds of sheer Limoges…

mixing the pink or is it blue
tinctures of remaining skies
you turn to ask them

just to stall:
the peacock or mimosa?

but God turns down the flaring wick
color by color almost
regretfully.

the angels turn:
fiery medallions on their sleeves
like Christmas refractions

most intensely felt,
a silken step…
and mama comes

with a bunch of heliotrope
a fugitive smile then
“Marcel!”

blue violet banks off creamy distances.
prevail in Heaven now
when childhood fears are hushed

and the holy candles lit forever
from hawthorn petals in your hands
you clutched at the last moment

afraid to let go.

how would you ever leave them here—
all your white orchards,
where Beauty’s often not revered

along the via dolorosa
and breaks the thin importunate glaze
on a lake of half-way frozen
lies.

and lost and lost
where mirrors on the
other side

can’t give the key-light back
of cherished nacre
anymore.

but the phrase in rainbow clarity appears
through veils and veils of summer rain
and this gardenia darkness knows that

every time the music’s played.
it rushes on…

 

 

SCARRIET ROCKED 2014!

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Thomas Brady: the simpleton who writes it all

In the 365 days of 2014, Scarriet brought you half that many original items: poems of lyric poignancy, articles on the popular culture, essays of Literary Criticism, the occasional humor piece, and the Literary Philosophy March Madness Tournament—in which Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Freud, Baudelaire, Woolf, De Beauvoir, Marx, Maimonides, Wilde, Poe, Emerson, Wordsworth, Pope, Wollstonecraft, Butler, Rich, Frye, Mallarme, Adorno, and 44 others sought immortality against one another in an orgy of wit and game.

Without further ado, here (with publication dates) are the most notable of the past year:

1. The One Hundred Greatest Hippie Songs 2/13.  This wins based on numbers. Over 15,000 views for this post alone in 2014, and it is averaging 120 views per day for the last 3 months, with views increasing, nearly a year after its publication. It’s always nice when an article has legs like this. We’re not sure what ‘search engine magic’ has made 100 Greatest Hippie Songs so popular. Prophetically, in the piece, we wrote, “All American music is hippie music.”

2. This Novel Has More Information Than You Need 9/18.  An essay provocative and charming at once.

3. No Boobs! 11/27. Hilarious (part two) satiric commentary on the December issue of Vanity Fair

4. The Problem With Rhetoric 5/1. Pushing the intellectual envelope is perhaps what we do best. In this essay we argue that reason does not exist.

5. Integration of Poetry and Life 11/3.  Another nice essay of essential Scarrietesque provocation smoothly rendered.

6. Marjorie Perloff, Adam Kirsch & Philip Nikolayev at the Grolier 9/15. Wearing a journalist’s hat, we meet Perloff, debate her, win her over, and demolish Concrete Poetry for our readers, as well.

7. Poe and the Big Bang: “The Body and the Soul Walk Hand in Hand” 3/10. Poe does most of the lifting here; a crucial addition to Scarriet’s campaign to lift the slander-fog hiding the world’s greatest mind.

8. Badass, Funny, But Alas Not Critic-Proof 6/27.  Tough love for the poet/professor David Kirby. And for those who fret Scarriet is too rancorous, relax; ‘The Kirb’ is still a FB friend. We don’t flatter—that’s the secret.

9. Is Gay Smarter Than Straight? 2/3. Only Scarriet would dare to ask—and really answer this question.

10. Rape Joke II 6/14.  We delivered a true poem; it offended one of our loyal readers for not being feminist enough; even though our poem was true, it was somehow supposed as an insult against Lockwood. We stand by our poem which is true, if imitative. We value originality, but since when was art that imitates a bad thing? We also admit we wrote the poem to become well-known. We played it up on twitter. So what? Scarriet believes everyone deserves to be famous.

11. Poe v. Wordsworth 8/18. March Madness contests are always excuses for brilliant essays. We made use of a wonderful book: Michael Kubovy’s The Psychology of Perspective in Renaissance Art.

12. “I Still Do” 10/13 Nice poem.

13. Chin & Weaver at the Grolier 7/21. Meeting up with California-based Marilyn Chin at a reading becomes an excuse to write an essay on the laws of poetic fame.

14. Painters & Artists Need to Shut Up 6/23.  Usually we pick on the poets.

15. Rage In America 7/7.  A political corrective to Jim Sleeper’s Fourth of July essay.

16. Poetry Hot 100 10/8.  Scarriet releases these now-famous lists several times a year. Valerie Macon topped this one.

17. What Does The History of Poetry Look Like 12/2. We often bash T.S. Eliot and the Modernists; here we lay down a genuinely insightful appreciation of Eliot’s Tradition.

18. Valerie Macon! 10/6. The credentialing complex destroyed Macon. We did a radical thing. We looked at her poetry, after she graciously sent samples.  Memo to the arrogant: her poetry is good.

19. 100 Greatest Folk Songs 11/17.  Not just a list: an assessment aimed at revival. Don’t just reflect the world. Change it.

20. The Avant-Garde Is Looking For A New (Black) Boyfriend 11/8.  A popular zeitgeist post inspired by Cathy Hong, which got po-biz stirred up for a few days.

21. Religion Is More Scientific Than Science 12/15.  An interesting discussion of free-will. Yes, we take comments.

22. Poetry, Meta-Modernism, & Leonardo Da Vinci 1/6.  Da Vinci compares poetry and painting in fascinating ways.

23. De Beauvoir v. Rich 4/22.  Scarriet’s March Madness contest yields essay on Behaviorism and Feminism.

24. Sex, Sex, Sex! 10/19. An interesting essay (obviously) in typical Scarriet (Are you serious?? We are.) mode.

25. Philip Nikolayev 11/15.  An excuse to try out ideas while praising a poet and friend.

26. “Poetry Without Beauty Is Vanity” 10/17.  A lyric poem which ‘gets’ rap.

27. Harold Bloom v. Edmund Wilson 8/13. Wilson was a real force in March Madness and so is this essay.

28. Fame: Is It Really Hollow? 7/2.  An exciting essay using Scarriet standbys The Beatles and Poe.

29. 100 Greatest Rock Songs Of All Time 5/9. The definitive list. Another constantly visited post.

30. 100 Essential Books of Poetry 5/21. People love lists. We get it now.

31. “Not Everyone Is Beautiful” 6/5.  A lovely little poem.

32. All Fiction Is Non-Fiction 5/19.  Scarriet makes the counter-intuitive simple.

33. The Good Economy 12/30.  We nail a simple but brain-teasing truth which rules us all.

34. Fag Hags, Cock Teases, and Richard Wagner 11/11. A bitter essay on a complex topic.

35. 100 Greatest Jazz Vocal Standards 10/14. And the Scarriet hits just keep on coming.

36. Hey Lao Tzu 10/27.  Scarriet takes down the wisest of the wise.

37. Ben Mazer At The Grolier 10/20.  The Neo-Romantic genius gets the Scarriet treatment.

38. “A Holiday Poem” 12/14.  An offensive poem written from a persona; it’s not our opinion.

39. Misanthrope’s Delight 6/11. An amusing list which makes light of misanthropy.

40. “What Could Be More Wrong Than A Poem Stolen From A Song?” A lyric gem.

And that’s our Scarriet top 40 for 2014!!

Be sure to read these if you missed them!

Scarriet thanks all our readers!

And especially the great comments! You know who you are! Always welcome and encouraged!

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

HELP MY POOR HEART

image

Help my poor heart

Which loves what it should not love.

Hearts are made of earth—

What is the earth worth

To light and movement divine

In divine realms above?

A biological trick

Cures the animal, who is sick,

But there is no cure for the human mind

That you and I designed

When conversation brought us here

To share things gone —

Sorrow?  the heart has won,

Joy, love, doubts

Doubt all that’s going on.

 

 

 

THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS? NO. THE BRITISH WITCH TRIALS

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Governor Phips: historically obscure, but the British knight ran the Witch Trials in his colonial territory.

Once again, Blog Scarriet, this time with almost the ease of a yawn, sets the whole world straight on something of much notoriety and importance.

The Salem witch trials do not properly belong to Salem, Massachusetts at all.

We do not refer to the quibble that hearings took place in other Massachusetts towns, that hangings took place in nearby Danvers, that judges were from Boston, or some other minor factual matter.

No, the issue is far more prominent: the Salem Witch Trials, as they are known, do not properly belong to American history; they belong to British history.

The famous trials which put 20 people, mostly women, to death, in 1692, were conducted by British officials in a British Colony run by the British.

The Trials, in the popular imagination, are inevitably used as an example of American religious extremism, which eclipsed due process in an orgy of superstitious mayhem, and yes, it is true, ‘seeing ghosts’ was the primary evidence against the accused.

The facts are these:

The trials could not commence until the British Crown created a new charter for their Massachusetts colony: this finally happened, after a lapse of many years due to religious strife in England, in 1692—the year in which all the trials and deaths occurred.

The man who put the trials together, whose authority made them happen, was William Phips, famous in London for recovering, as a British treasure hunter, a large treasure from a Spanish galleon. His successful treasure hunt earned him three things: wealth, a knighthood from the British Crown, and appointment to the 1st Governor of Massachusetts Bay.

Phips, a British knight, was the chief magistrate of the witch trials. Without his authority as British colonialist, the “Salem Witch Trials” simply don’t happen. Phips, neither refined nor educated, will die in London, on trial himself, for assault. If you don’t recognize his name, it’s because focus on Governor Phips gives an entirely different historical slant to the trials.

Was the witchcraft charge against Phips’ wife the reason the whole ugly charade was shut down months after it began?

It’s really not that difficult to be an historian.

We suggest Hollywood do a film on Phips: a colorful character; the so-called Salem Witch Trials would be just a backdrop, one episode, in his amazing life.

And also, it wouldn’t be a fail when they cast a British actor for an American role.

Salem was a great, early American maritime, city; with its ad hoc, privateer navy, Salem merchants, by themselves, captured 450 British vessels during the Revolution—a crucial way to fund a rebellion.

If this doesn’t happen, we probably don’t win the Revolution, and America doesn’t exist.

And yet Salem is known—for witches.

It makes you wonder who is writing our history.

The treasonous Thomas Jefferson’s embargo, as U.S. President, destroyed Salem as a maritime power; it is probably why the writings of the young Hawthorne, growing up in depressed Salem in the beginning of the 19th century, were so dark.

Here is the true darkness of Salem.

Not the Witch Trials.

They belong to an English knight.

 

 

 

THE SENSITIVE POET LOOKS BACK

m-love

Looking back makes me sick and gives me vertigo;

Remembering is not what I like to do.

I see the dying and it doesn’t help at all that the dying is slow

Or that the blur of everything contributes to the fading of you.

So I’ve given up being sentimental and collecting photographs;

I’m clearing my mind of clutter and sorrow;

Now all I need is today: a few errands, a few laughs,

Yesterday is gone; I’m getting ready for tomorrow.

What finishes a line is its finish, its end;

As a poet I’ve trained myself to tie things up;

Only when the poem is really done will I hit ‘send.’

A poem is perfect when I perfectly fill the cup.

This means I don’t care about you anymore.

Pouring out the cup is very simple to do.

Be careful when you fall in love with a “sensitive” poet.

You will never forget him as fast as he forgets you.

 

 

THE GOOD ECONOMY

image

The bomb: it creates jobs

The economy is what keeps us stupid and enslaved.

A “good” economy sells lots of stuff to lots of people.

A “good” economy employs lots of people.

So a “good” economy means

1. Work

and 2. Stuff

Work and stuff.

These two things are precisely what makes most of us miserable.

You see the problem, here?

Fear not; this is not a Marxist critique—this is not another whiny complaint about “capitalism,” whatever that it is—we refer simply to “the economy,” buying and selling, working and producing: it impacts all of us and determines our fate to a very large extent, and we all know what it is; no college degree claptrap needed here.

The more stuff that is made and sold, the more work that is done, the better the economy is, and what does this mean? That more people are actively miserable—waking up early to go to horrible jobs, which in turn employs more people, causing even more misery, as misery contributes to misery.

The “good” economy, which naturally traffics in the plentiful, makes all kinds of stuff available to us: packaged, copyrighted, detailed, complex, addicting, minute, crass, advertised, wasteful, useless, to some degree or other, which breeds more jobs, making more stuff, to expand and deal with all the stuff and choices which are endlessly expanding for the sake of the “good” economy.

The “good” economy has its own reason for existing.  The very thing which makes us miserable, the “good” economy, is the measure of human happiness. Everything else is private and intangible, but the economy impacts everything nonetheless.

It is all that matters to us as human beings (who do not live on a desert island), for the alternative, the “bad” economy, equals unemployment, starvation, ignorance, third-world dictatorship, torture, disease, and death.

There is no escape from this.

The choice is either Stuff or Death.

The choice is either Dumbest Job In The World or Freezing Torture Prison.

Even the “dignified” professions are corrupt in order to make the economy “good.”

Medicine pursues patients for unnecessary “cures.”

Universities recruit illiterates to “educate.”

The Law extorts.

Banking manipulates.

Government wastes.

Restaurants diminish.

Construction bullies.

Politics divides.

Engineers sue.

Scientists politicize.

The military razes.

Art socializes.

Morals decay.

Journalism obeys.

The “good” economy, in order to expand, must get rid of the old, because whatever is old interferes with the “good” economy.

“Progressives” who attack capitalism (the good economy) are well-meaning dupes who add to the folly even more than others, since their “out-with-the-old” solutions only make things worse; many look to progressives to solve the problem—which they only exacerbate. The “simple life” which progressives push is merely a sub-industry which would not exist without the larger one.

Because the old gets in the way, the “good” economy needs not only to corrupt, but destroy.

What was the greatest boost to “the economy” in history?

World War Two.

Is the dilemma now clear?

You are not crazy.

Human society is crazy.

It’s the economy, stupid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEN MAZER: TWO NEW POEMS

 

To Look At Them

To look at them, who moved so easily
between the garden or the railway station,
who sat for hours where the boats came in,
with little movements fused in unity,
as if each were a breeze jostling the other,
drinking their coffee, talking of next to nothing,
could one perceive what brought these two together,
firm in their bond through any kind of weather?
Now that their endless conversation’s done,
the morning cigarettes, and seaside sun,
the fairs, the city days, the nights alone,
who is there to pardon or condone
the reasons such a two should be as one,
or make a world out of the observations
they shared through all their many incarnations,
or break the existence of their summer dinners,
or other such bright realities disperse?
A cat might notice: lace curtained unities
of street and tree, long pregnant nights in winter,
of rainy days through all their perorations;
but what is there left to give the faintest hint
or evidence that these two did exist?
Now they are done, by whom shall they be missed?

 

_____________________________________________

In Spring A Strange Pervasive Smell Persists

In spring a strange pervasive smell persists,
life sprouts and quickly overtakes the earth,
recalling the roots of language to our midst,
fear organizes fevered jabberings
to meet the strange utility of sex.
Men walk outside of houses, mottled hues
of bright light flashing through windshaken leaves.
An infant’s nose is pressed against the glass
to see dissolving motion as they pass,
like marks of crayon in a coloring book.
An oriole sits like a monument
upon a fountain, pecking at new life.
The kings an English grandmother recounts
possess no names or faces, flashing sounds
that till the earth, where glass keeps the wind out.
Who are the dead who lately walked the earth,
leaving their images on what remains,
peopling the leisure of more recent talk?
And still a strange pervasive smell persists,
countering the wind, and alienating rock.
Night comes. A castle sheds long celtic hair,
intoxicating the evaporate air,
and ideal spirits which are never there.
A hat rack stands unused inside a hall,
but peeped at on a constitutional,
visible through the grand, obstructive glass
of imperious houses, silent as we pass.
The author’s house on the long country drive,
residual before we were alive,
fixes the morning with a pleasant stare.
But how do we know that we are really there,
and not some wheelbarrow rotting in the sun,
where gardeners like Socrates will come?
The jungle lashes woman to his man,
where poison orchids spread their inhuman plan.
Yet evening brings its after dinner sleep
in private clubs where members mustn’t speak,
sprawling in armchairs with a newspaper,
dreaming of Cleopatra and Ben Hur,
strange portraits apparitions will concur,
waking to contorted puzzlements,
a low cacophony the learned stir.
Town meetings end, parting each councilor,
and still a strange pervasive smell persists,
hounding your footsteps, on the long walk home.
What force is rising up in all these things,
these pallid rejuvenations of the spring’s?
Fear is all, uprising through the roots
of consciousness and language, to diffuse
broken perspectives irreconcilably,
substances nourishing the truly free.
In Boston the tall houses brightly lit
sleep impenetrable and separate.
Who hears the imprecations of these things?
A celtic maiden at her window sings,
calling to lovers who do not exist.

GETTING WHAT YOU WANT

Getting what you want
Always depends on someone else;
Even if you are the sun,
You need the glass to be seen;
A wall will keep you out—though you make the whole world green.

The road is built by the government,
But the government is built by a man;
You have to do what you need to do; you have to do what you can.
The label they give you does not matter,
Though you may think it does—
It was for their convenience, and they have moved on;
Conveniently, the reason for everything is gone.
They didn’t just give you a stomach,
They gave you a stomach to fill—
So nothing is what it is, unless it has a will
Imprisoned, or free,
And nothing is what it needs to be
Unless it needs what doesn’t need it
As when love falls into a life but is forced to quit
By triviality getting in the way of it,
And it may need you

For a year, or maybe if you’re lucky, two—
Or unlucky, if what needs you is ill—
Then it is you against its will,
The sunlight hoping to get inside
Where you sleep fitfully; where you hide.

 

HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED—MERRY CHRISTMAS

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The art of pop music may be simple, but its sociology is endlessly complex.

The Beatles first movie, A Hard Day’s Night, released 50 years ago last summer, featured the no. 1 song, “A Hard Day’s Night,” from the album of the same name; it was an immensely successful Beatles signature song which charted for the entire second half of 1964, and into 1965.

The lyrics of “A Hard Day’s Night” express what is now a rather outdated sentiment: the hard-working man comforted by the domesticated wife.

It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been working like a dog. It’s been a hard day’s night and I should be sleeping like a log. But when I get home to you I find the things that you do will make me feel alright. You know I work all day to get you money to buy you things. And it’s worth it just to hear you say you’re going to give me everything. So why on earth shall I moan cos when I get you alone you know I feel okay. When I’m home, everything seems to be right. When I’m home feeling you holding me tight.

These words sum up the key trope of society.

Fifty years ago, in the post-war boom, a husband working “all day,” could support his stay-at-home wife, who in turn, was happy to please her husband by “holding” him “tight.”

Here—in a pop song—is the single most pertinent social and economic fact of our era: the man can no longer support his wife; she must work, too, and further, she often chooses to work—an added feature in the collapse of the life “A Hard Day’s Night” depicts.

Not only do the lyrics of “A Hard Day’s Night” reflect

1. the crucial economic fact of our time,

but the changes implied in the song are at the center of every significant social issue, as well:

2. feminism, as just mentioned; also

3. the plight of Blacks, with the absence (and incarceration) of black fathers, and,

4. the rise of radical Islam, driven by hatred of the “freedoms” in the West, precisely those mostly feminist ones which have undone the world of “A Hard Day’s Night.”

We do not wish to seem guilty of our own “fundamentalism” by making the lyrics of “A Hard Day’s Night” the template of everything that matters, but isn’t it remarkable how words such as “when I’m home, everything seems to be right” and “I work all day to get you money to buy you things,” an innocent, euphoric, pop song from 1964, sits, in its simple expression—that very innocence now questioned—at the center of everything?

 

 

 

SCARRIET’S HOT 100— AS WE RING OUT A WILD 2014!

1. Claudia Rankine –Seems everyone wanted her to win the National Book Award

2. Louise Gluck –Won the National Book Award. Coming into focus as morbid lyricist

3. Dan Chiasson –Coveted reviewing perch in the glossy pages of the New Yorker

4. Olena K. Davis –Praised by #3 for “Do you know how many men would paykilldie/for me to suck their cock? fuck

5. Terrance Hayes –2014 Best American Poetry Editor for David Lehman’s annual series (since 1988)

6. Patricia Lockwood –Her book, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals made NY Times most notable 2014 book list

7. Rita Dove What was all that fuss about her anthology, again?

8. Henri Cole –Poetry editor part of mass resignation at New Republic

9. Valerie Macon –appointed laureate of North Carolina, resigned due to firestorm because she lacked credentials

10. Helen Vendler –Contributing editor in TNR’s mass exodus

11. Glyn Maxwell –British poet and editor of The Poetry Of Derek Walcott 1948-2013

12. James Booth –author of Philip Larkin: Life, Art, and Love

13. Afaa Michael Weaver  –this spring won the Kingsley Tufts Award: $100,000 dollars

14. Frederick Seidel –Stirred outrage with a strange poem about Ferguson.

15. Clive James –Got into some controversy about racism and sex reviewing Booth’s book on Philip Larkin in the Times

16. William Logan –The honest reviewer is the best critic.

17. Ron Silliman –Elegy & Video-Cut-and-Paste Blog

18. John Ashbery –Perennial BAP poet

19. Cathy Park Hong –Wrote “Fuck the Avant-garde” before Brown/Garner protests: Hong says poetry avant-garde is racist.

20. Philip Nikolayev –Poet, translator, Fulcrum editor, currently touring India as beloved U.S. poetry guest

21. Marilyn Chin –Poet, translator, new book from Norton, currently touring Asia as beloved U.S. poetry guest

22. Daniel Borzutzky –Guest blogger on Poetry Foundation’s Blog Harriet: “We live in an occupied racist police state”

23. Ben Mazer –Brings out Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom—as po-biz churns with racial indignation

24. Nathaniel Mackey –Headlined poetry reading at Miami Book Fair International.

25. Marjorie Perloff  –Now we get it: the avant-garde is conservative

26. Amy Berkowitz –Wrote on VIDA Web page how everyone has been raped and how we can be safe.

27. Yelena Gluzman –Ugly Duckling editor publishes vol. 3 of annual document of performance practice, Emergency Index

28. Carol Ann Duffy –British poet laureate gave riveting reading in Mass Poetry festival (Salem, MA) this spring

29. P.J. Harvey –Rocker to publish book of poems in 2015—Good luck.  Rock is easier.

30. Christian Nagler –poet in Adjunct Action: “SF Art Institute: faculty are 80% adjunct and have no say in the functioning of the institution”

31. Major Jackson –Wins $25,000 NEA grant.

32. Divya Victor –Her book, Things To Do With Your Mouth, wins CA Conrad’s Sexiest Poetry Award.

33. Kenny Goldsmith  –wears a two-million-ton crown

34. Donald Hall –new book, Essays After Eighty

35. Mary Oliver –new book, Blue Horses: Poems

36. Charles Wright –2015’s U.S. Poet Laureate

37. Stephen Burt –Harvard critic looking for funny stuff other than Flarf and Conceptualism.

38. Vijay Seshadri –2014 Pulitzer in Poetry

39. Ron Smith –The new poet laureate of the great state of Virginia!  North Carolina still waits…

40. Sherman Alexie –the first poet in BAP 2014. It used to be Ammons.

41. Erin Belieu  –Hilarious poem spoofing Seamus Heaney in her new book, Slant Six

42. Robert Pinsky  –has influence, authority and a lisp

43. Billy Collins –Becoming critically irrelevant?

44. Adam Kirsch –Senior Editor and poetry critic, also saying goodbye to TNR

45. Cornelius Eady  –co-founded Cave Canem.

46. Anne Carson –One of those poets one is supposed to like because they’re a little deeper than you…

47. Lucie Brock-Broido  –Emily Dickinson refuses to be channeled

48. Tony Hoagland  –still smarting from that tennis poem

49. Bob Hicok –He’s the new Phil Levine, maybe?

50. Yusef Komunyakaa –Won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993

51. Eileen Myles –Just published a novel about her younger days

52. Sharon Olds  –still glowing from her 2013 Pulitzer win, the book showcasing her exploded marriage

53. D.A. Powell –Studied with Vendler at Harvard

54. Cate Marvin –In BAP 2014 and on fire with p.c indignation.

55. Dean Young  –wants to be the best poet ever—in a late 70s Iowa Workshop sort of way

56. Chris HughesTNR owner: “Despite what has been suggested, the vast majority of our staff remain…excited to build a sustainable and strong New Republic that can endure.”

57. Alan Cordle –changed poetry forever with his Foetry.com

58. George Bilgere  –patiently enduring the Collins comparisons

59. William Kulik –the ‘let it all hang out’ prose poem

60. Amy King –Northern Lesbo Elitist

61. Leah Finnegan –Wrote in Gawker of TNR: “White Men Wrong White Man Placed in Charge of White-Man Magazine.”

62. Jorie Graham –Get ready!  Her Collected is coming!

63. David Kirby –“The Kirb” teaches in Florida; a less controversial Hoagland?

64. Don Share –edits the little magazine that prints lousy poetry and has a perfunctory, cut-and-paste blog

65. Paul Lewis –BC prof leading Poe Revisionism movement

66. Robert Montes –His I Don’t Know Do You made NPR’s 2014 book list

67. Cameron Conaway –“beautifully realized and scientifically sound lyrics” which “calls attention to a disease that kills over 627,000 people a year” is how NPR describes Malaria, Poems 

68. Charles Bernstein –He won. Official Verse Culture is dead. (Now only those as smart as Bernstein read poetry)

69. Richard Howard –Did you know his prose poems have been set to music?

70. Harold Bloom  –He has much to say.

71. Camille Paglia  –Still trying to fuse politics and art; almost did it with Sexual Personae

72. Vanessa Place –This conceptualist recently participated in a panel.

73. Michael Bazzett  –You Must Remember This: Poems “a promising first book” says the New Criterion

74. Matthea HarveyIf the Tabloids Are True What Are You? recommended by Poets.Org

75. Peter Gizzi –His Selected Poems published in 2014

76. Mark Bibbins –Poets.Org likes his latest book of poems

77. Les Murray –New Selected Poems is out from FSG

78. Michael Robbins –writes for the Chicago Tribune

79. Stephen Dunn –The Billy Collins school—Lines of Defense is his latest book

80. Robin BeckerTiger Heron—latest book from this poet of the Mary Oliver school

81. Cathy Linh CheSplit is her debut collection; trauma in Vietnam and America

82. John Gallaher –Saw a need to publish Michael Benedikt’s Selected Poems

83. Jennifer Moxley  –Panelist at the Miami Book Fair International

84. Bob Dylan –Is he really going to win the Nobel Prize?

85. Ann Lauterbach  –Discusses her favorite photographs in the winter Paris Review

86. Fanny Howe –Read with Rankine at Miami Book Fair

87. Hannah Gamble –In December Poetry

88. Marianne BoruchCadaver, Speak is called a Poets.Org Standout Book

89. Anthony Madrid  –His new book is called I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say

90. Robyn SchiffRevolver is not only a Beatles album.

91. Ted GreenwaldA Mammal of Style with Kit Robinson

92. Rachel ZuckerThe Pedestrians is out

93. Dorothea LaskyRome is her fourth book

94. Allan PetersonPrecarious is the new book: “the weed field had been/readying its many damp handkerchiefs/all along.”

95. Adrienne Raphel –“lavender first and by far”

96. Gillian ConoleyPeace is chosen as a Poets.Org Standout Book

97. Barbara Hamby  –“The Kirb” needs to know. She’s not on the list because of him.

98. Katia Kopovich –She coedits Fulcrum with husband Nikolayev.

99. Doc Luben –“14 lines from love letters or suicide notes” a slam poem viewed a lot on YouTube

100. Tracy K. Smith  2012 Pulitzer in Poetry for Life On Mars

 

 

 

 

 

BEYOND ALL THIS

Beyond all this
Perfect lovers kiss,
where no revenge exists,
nor reason for revenge,
nor those flaws,
which harden into laws,
As we look around, never knowing
whether the one we love
—do we love them?—
is coming or going.

Beyond all this…!
Had we such imagination,
All would be bliss!
Had I but seen!
How could I look and look and miss
That perfect kiss
Beyond all this?

 

RELIGION IS MORE SCIENTIFIC THAN SCIENCE

There is no free will.

The past cannot be altered. The past is where we live; what we call “the present” slips (even at this moment) into the past too quickly for “the present” (where free will might be possible) to really exist; the future does not yet exist, so no free will is possible there, either.

Human consciousness sits in a cinema–watching history unfold as from a single spool— the single spool (the movie) the unique and singular ‘what is.’  As various as the world seems to be, it is but one thing happening one way, and we have no free will to change it. The “movie” represents nature, physical existence, all we cannot change, but can only watch; the planets, the stars, nature, the animals: the physical universe existing in time, all these things are “in” the movie, as well as our physical selves.

We cannot leap into an actual film we happen to be watching—for as real as it seems to us, it is only a record; it belongs to the past and we have no way to change what is happening in the film. Life works the same way; just as we cannot join the cast of a movie we are watching, in the same way we are helpless to change life: free will is an illusion, and this has been demonstrated conclusively by the simple fact that we live in the past.

If we accept there is no free will, the remarkable claim of this essay’s title will be easily understood.

The only difference between a Christian and a secularist at this point, is that the Christian believes that whoever made the film is good—that whatever or whoever is responsible for the spool of existence unfolding before our souls—who sit helplessly in the theater—cares.

Human knowledge is too limited to know anything of the filmmaker—and this is a scientific fact; all we can do is speculate that the spool-maker is indifferent to our fate—or not.

The former view—the universe is indifferent—is generally thought to be scientific, the latter, religious; but actually both comprise guessing about what is completely unknown; from our helpless position in the theater, watching the record of pure physical existence unfold as what-has-already-happened, we have no way of determining the nature of the spool-maker: for we ‘live’ in the absolute past of the spool; the spool-maker’s nature is beyond our reach—and science causes us to recognize this. So a benevolent film projector is as good a guess as any. This scientific guess is at the heart of Christianity. The Christ story and all the scriptures fall apart without this initial premise: The Creator is good.

The Christ story is most significant for belonging to the past; it cannot be altered, and here it lies in the same realm as life, which also belongs to the past. The Christ story is like a film within a film; like life, it is beyond free will; it exists in the past, like our childhood.

The Christ story does not have to be “real;” the Christ story is simply the figurative expression of a past which is also beyond our free will but which has one perceptual difference from the spool of physical existence—it is governed by the premise that the spool is made by something or someone who loves us. Since we have no way of knowing the nature of the spool-maker, the scientific guess can only be expressed in a figurative manner—by a story belonging to the absolute past: nothing about religious stories escape the absolute past. Christ is past tense, just as life is.

Understanding the radical nature of the pastness of the past—and how this aspect of our existence prevents any thing approaching free will to exist—allows us to see how scientific religion actually is, since without any free will, science is far less important than supposed.

Without free will, science as we commonly understand it cannot exist, since science implies changing our environment for the better. Science exists as science in the present, but religion exists in the present as superstition; but if the present does not exist, the past favors religion and causes science as a willed phenomenon to disappear, since the all-existing past cannot contain any human will, it being only a record, a film experienced by our souls sitting passively in a theater, falsely believing the unspooling of ‘reality ‘ to be something in our control.

Our position as a theater audience with no free will is a scientific hypothesis, and therefore a speculation that the spool maker is good and that we have no free will—the religious view—is actually highly scientific, if but a highly scientific guess, since a guess is all science is allowed (scientifically) to have, when it comes to the origins and absolute nature of the universe.

Now it may be argued that even if we accept fate as our fate, and that even if we admit that life ‘just happens’ and there is, in fact, no free will, this does not mean that science cannot positively effect change—look at the advances in medicine, just to take one example. Ignorance withers away under the lynx-eye of science, and since science has improved man’s lot in specific ways, we must assume science participates in free will.

But now, in the simplest manner possible, we must say what science is: the first “scientist” simply noticed something by accident, and this is all science really is, especially inductive, trial-and-error, Baconian science, which overthrew the Dark Ages model of Aristotle’s deductive, ‘lawful,’ fixed-star science.

A prehistoric caveman notices a rock precariously balanced on the top of a cliff and speculates it will fall on him; had he not accidentally seen this, he would have been crushed by the rock—is this free will? No, it is simply the physical universe fatefully unfolding.

Science is nothing more than an accidental seeing.

Later, one man happens to see a mosquito bite another man, and like the caveman and the precariously perched rock, a future event is predicted, medicine advances, science triumphs; yet science, as we can see, is just fate allowing us to notice certain things purely by accident—think of how all scientific discoveries in history are by rule, accidents, from the apple falling on Newton’s head to the various botched experiments in labs which lead to new understanding; these are not figurative tales; accident is really how science proceeds; and now the truth of science, of what science really is, flashes upon our souls; there is nothing scientific about science at all—it is happy accident, and nothing more.

Science has nothing to do with free will.

The Space Race wasn’t science; it was war—Russia and the U. S. racing to develop missiles and rockets; the moon merely higher ground, a tactical position in a rivalry.

Did the moon rocks brought back (many, many years ago, now) by the Apollo astronauts contain the key to understanding the universe? No. Science is no closer to understanding the universe. It is a truism that the more we learn, the less we know; the more science learns about the true nature of the universe, the less science knows about the true nature of the universe.

Science is an accidental seeing which, if the scientist is very lucky, leads to some practical, perhaps even temporary, result. This is not to say that science is not vital and beneficial: but philosophically, science is far more mundane than the lay person realizes; the best of science belongs to trial-and-error, and the greatest scientific advances are due to persistence, thinking, sweat—but mostly accident.

So here we are, without free will, sitting in the “cinema” and watching “life” (the film) go by.  We have no control of what is happening in the movie (the world, life , the universe) though occasionally we have the illusion that free will exists. Science, which owes its successes to accident, to mere after-the-fact observation, is no help for the soul which sits helplessly in the cinema and longs to control its fate.

We watch ourselves, helplessly. We do the wrong thing, even though we tell ourselves over and over again not to do it. Our life—how strange!—belongs to someone else.

Every crisis in life is a crisis of free will—we are shocked to discover that what we specifically told ourselves not to do we have gone and done, and we have done so, tragically, because deep in our hearts we long for free will, and this is the only way it can be experienced: we did what we shouldn’t have done— we did it, even though we were not supposed to do it; the act itself may or may not itself be of great importance, but what matters is that our act seems, in our soul, even if unconsciously, to partake of free will.

Love is of primary importance here, because when we are really in love, and not just gas-bagging about it, or just playing at it, we are utterly helpless and acutely aware of how we cannot do anything about the movie we are watching: we cannot make the person we are madly in love with, love us, and when they say it is over, for any number of reasons stated or unstated, we can only watch helplessly “the film” which breaks our hearts: the love now belongs to the past—and this fact makes us aware of life’s awful problem: ‘life happens’ and there’s nothing we can do about it, even as it causes us intense pain.  The pain is mostly due to the fact that we cannot do anything about it; we are brought to understand that we—who we really are, our souls—merely sit helplessly in a cinema watching all that is bodily and physical and material march forward, irregardless of what we might think or feel. Love gone wrong brings us face to face with our lack of free will, a fact we never want to face, because if we understand it too well, our motivation to live will disappear, and we will numbly ‘go through the motions,’ moving through life as a mere shell, hiding as best we can our nightmare emptiness from everyone.

The life of the scientist—results hinging on ‘accident,’ is no help to us, because this is the very thing that is breaking our heart, now that love has been lost: reducing our sacred love to an ‘accident’ is a concept which breaks our already broken heart.

And yet, this is one way to heal: the love we loved was an accident and maybe an accident will happen again. And further, our lover who left us has no free will, either; they did not really reject us, for they belong to mere accident, too. And so, from the idea that the best life can be is an accident; by this rather haphazard notion, we are comforted.

The accidental nature of science is its triumph, its happiness, its ebullience, its optimistic seeking-power, its joy.  Perceiving accident as the soul of science would seem to demean it; but in fact this is not the case. We do not intend to demean science. Not at all.

Religion, however, is more imaginative, less accidental, and closer to what we think of as true scientific thinking.

Religion scorns the accidental nature of scientific inquiry, and here we see the chief difference between science and religion. They are oil and water. They do not mix.

Yet free will belongs to neither.

The choice is between the accidental and the changeless.

The changeless is the sacred fact religion seeks; the accidental, the necessary realm of practical science.

Whatever belongs to the past is changeless, and this is why sacred religion always belongs to a changeless past: the Christ story would not be sacred if we changed it all the time; it is the fixed past of Christianity, or any religion, which is the key to its sacred nature.

Love will help illustrate the difference:

Truly and madly in love, we want that love forever.  We seek, religiously, the changeless.

Out of love and broken-hearted, we seek something else: hope in the accidental.

Desperately in and out of love, seeking to understand everything, we are religious.

Patient and calmly happy, ignorant of love’s slings, we are scientific.

 

A HOLIDAY POEM

 

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A certain amount of leisure
Defines a real man,
Not doing something—even though he can.

Despair is on the face of every middle aged woman I see,
Or a kind of triumphant anger
Staring from her baggy eyes defiantly;

She works hard, and her beer belly man works hard
Doing stuff for the house and yard,
But don’t get that shit near me.

Despair lives in the weary face of every middle aged person I see.
A forty-something woman told me her cell was shutting down
For the holidays; she needed time for herself; looking in her face,
I saw the worry and the years eating her beauty
So that even her smile looked like a frown—
It was horrible. And this is not an isolated case.

The only thing I could think was: keep this shit away from me.
I want no part of mortality, its triviality and its oblivion,
And its little bouts of superficial happiness,
And its ignorance and its whining and its complaint.

There will never be an interesting thought in your head.
I want nothing to do with this.
I will kiss my slender reflection in the bathroom mirror.
Then I will write a poem.
Then I will faint.
Then picture me, if you can, asleep in my beautiful bed.

 

 

I TALK TO HER IN DREAMS

 

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I talk to her in dreams.
She dislikes me in real life, it seems.
So I talk to her in dreams.

She looks real to me—and just as lovely—in dreams
And in those dreams she talks to me—
About what? A painter has nothing to see
Until they begin to paint—
And I am no lover until I faint—

So I can’t remember what she is saying:
It isn’t something definite, like what a radio happens to be playing;
She’s a victim of expertise; I don’t know what she really feels;
In life I never understood what she was saying;

Her struggle of mind meant little to me,
Since I was entirely enamored of her beauty—

(This is sadly how it is—
The man dies of beauty, the woman dies of kids)

So what was she saying in that dream last night?
It doesn’t matter. You know it doesn’t matter,
Even if you are one of those who think, and write;
It will never matter what she said to me in that delirious dream last night,
Only that she said something, and I was there
In the dream, and she was beautiful and fair,
Cruel time—which cannot touch my dreams!—had not taken that away,
And she was speaking to me: me, who never cared what she had to say.

Even a beautiful mouth has a tendency to speak
English, when it should be speaking Greek;
Ancient Greek, without modern expertise:
She will know life has one end: to please.

But in English she will talk of some fancy modern American film where every actor is untrue,
Saying who are you talking about I am not really making this particular point to you.

 

 

 

 

 

OUR LOVE RESEMBLES LAZARUS

Our love resembles Lazarus.
Despite what fate has done to us,
Our love comes back from the dead!
You can say yes if when you said, ‘no,’
You only said ‘no’ in your head.

Our love resembles Lazarus.
Love was dead
Without breath or bread.
Now it lives again in us.

Our love resembles Lazarus.
We say, “I hate you! We’re through!”
But I love when we do,
Because that’s when we kiss even more.
Lazarus picks himself off the floor
And love becomes famous, and goes on tour,
And sells more kisses than ever before.

 

 

WHAT DO WE EAT?

What do we eat when we eat someone’s kisses?
What do we drink when we drink someone’s soul?
Why does love always leave us in pieces?
Why can’t two halves ever equal a whole?

The man wants to come home to what is his.
The woman wants some other thing.
The man wants to sing to you, to you.
The woman just wants to sing.

There is nothing a lover hates more than a friend.
One wants passion to start. One wants passion to end.
Desire defines itself in its many ends
Which must be re-started.

We find safety in useful friends;
Excitement leaves us broken-hearted.

When I kissed her, I had to kiss her again;
Kissing makes us confront the end
Of pleasure, again and again;
Too tired from desire,
We end up loving the understanding friend.

The greatest lover is the greatest mirror.
If you love yourself, you and your lover will be one,
But if you hate yourself, you will see yourself—and run.

The abortion came at six o’clock.
What had been life became a rock.
Life had gotten in the way
Of the ex-mother’s pleasant thoughts
She longed to have, if she could have just one pleasant day.

Being a woman is hard on her.
She hates it when you look at her
And quickly look away.

But what she really hates is what you want.
To look at her all day.

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