THERE IS A LIVING SAPPHO AND IT IS CHUMKI SHARMA

Many scholars have said many things about poems: they are called, variously: epideictic, symbolic, lyrical, epic, intimate, personal, ancient, erotic, moral, psychological, traditional, honorable, dishonorable, sublime, metrical, simple, imagistic, deep image-ist, narrative, expressive, epistolary, Romantic, ritualistic, conventional, oral, ceremonial, private, formal, complex, natural, sexual, stoic, emotional, lovesick, historical, martial, haunting, memorable, subjective, contemporary, colloquial, feminist, precise, mythic, patriotic, fragmented, anonymous, famous, silly, obscure, magical, literary, rhetorical, religious, marvelous. Just to name a few.

Wine, too, can be called many things, and the making of wine is complex, but wine, like poetry, is experienced as wine in the first sip.

Poetry is known as poetry immediately.

Love has a thousand names, and is truly million-faceted, and needs time to sort itself out, even though love, too, may come, at first, with a sip, and, with one kiss, we may wonder, “Is this love?” But love requires duration.  It requires thinking.

Poetry, like wine, like music, destroys thought, and, at its best, becomes thought which is not thought, and that is its pleasure.

Wine, and poetry—as much as what creates them requires vast amounts of complexity—do not require duration to experience—like the first strains of music, we know at once that we are seeing poetry or drinking wine.

Sappho has but a few surviving fragments, but the wine of Sappho lives; we can go over to the shelf and drink from her right now.  Scholars call her the template for nearly everything lyrical—and beyond.

We don’t require more than fragments when it comes to poetry.

Poetry is the speech of Fragment.

This does not mean that all fragmented speech is poetry.  But it does mean that Poetry is very difficult to do, because you have to impress your devotees with just a few words.

One can make one’s lover mad with desire with a brief whisper, but that is only if the conditions are right, and Love is there to help, and we all know that Love is a very powerful god.

All the more impressive then, when humble poetry can make a stranger sigh or weep with a few words.

Rather than use all those words the scholars use, we would rather introduce Chumki Sharma to you as the poet of The Fragment.

What is the world without music, and what is music without melody, and what is melody but a few rising and falling notes?

We wish to introduce Chumki Sharma bereft of all scholarly pretension.

Please see what you can do with this idea.

Why is the poem small? Because the poem, to be itself, is small.

Of course there are many poets (mostly male) who came after Sappho, who had to beat their chests, and pile on the fragments, but fragments is all they finally are.

Now it is certainly possible to have a humble poet who can, with all due modesty and humility, produce a poem (fragment) with a particular lovely sound in the brevity of its sweetness and sweetness in its brevity, and, wishing to lengthen this delight for listeners, using the melody of the fragment, spin a poem into a certain length, for mere pleasure alone: once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, etc.  This is perfectly acceptable.

But your epic writers, your long-winded writers, those tedious, meticulous, bombastic bores!  Sappho would gag.  The fires along the river would gasp and go out.  The bright flames on the banks would douse themselves.  The coy, melodic snakes would crawl back into their holes and die.

We value the skill that lengthens a poem into an acceptable 100 lines, as Poe recommended.

And then there is the genius of Chumki Sharma, who presents the essence of the poem before intellectual impatience has a chance to spoil it—this is the greatest skill: the skill which poems like ‘The Raven’ build on and pay homage to; there is the rare and beautiful reflection, and then there is the thing itself, which the lake reflects.  Poe is the lake; Chumki Sharma is the essence of the reflection that is in the lake.

Her poetry is the wine—before mortals get a hold of it and turn it into mere clever poetry; she is the melody before it is turned into a skilled homage to melody.

There are countless brief poems, and many lovely ones.  Brevity, like anything else, catches us, very often, looking somewhere else for that brief moment; and yet, we know our readers will agree with us, that it is easy to tell, at the first sip, the godlike quality of Chumki Sharma’s poetry, which dwells with brevity, not as shape fashioned, but as pure being, and our readers, we are sure, will note how it rivals the best brief poems (fragments of eternity) ever written.

Chumki Sharma is Bengali and comes to us from Calcutta—the cultural capital of India when Britain ruled over her, but now a great modern city of a great modern country, beset with all the beauty and pain of the modern world; her poems come to us in English, from the naked, unfettered mind of a civilized woman transcending all the contradictions of civilization, arriving like the goddess on the shell, wearing neither chains of translation for English readers, nor the noisy chains of learning—a sad, austere soul singing what could be wine, or love, in the humility of her singing.

Why are Chumki’s poems brief?

Because she is modest.

This is the only reason, and the poet will feel this one reason sweetly eclipses a hundred learned reasons.

Inferior poets—and the true poets will understand—have other reasons for why their poems are brief (I made my intellectual point quickly and felt I could stop. I belong to the ____ school!  I revised it down to this size.)

Chumki is a master, because she has one reason for the lengths of her poems—her modesty.

We expel here, politely, those scholars who have a thousand reasons for why a poem is a certain length, or not.

The epic intention in poetry has long been overthrown as a useless, antiquated idea—if Sappho’s work had survived fully intact, as Homer’s did, this perhaps would have happened faster.

We do not remember Petrarch’s long work for which the Italian master was famous during his lifetime—only his shorter poems to Laura.

“I find no peace, yet I am not at war…I burn and I am like ice…I grasp nothing yet embrace the world…because of you, lady, I am this way” —Petrarch, Canzoniere #134

And with this exquisite passage all epics are eclipsed.

The cup is small which brings up the water from the spring.

The best known epic poems exist for us in fragments: short episodes, scenes, and well-known lines.

It is not necessary to sweep away epics and longer works, in order to better see the soft lantern flame of Chumki S. She exists everywhere. Her dancing flame is everywhere. She has no desire to inhibit poetry of any length. But she would not make you stay. She would not keep you. For she will not be kept.

There are billions of short poems in the starry universe, but we come to show you some real star light.

What are critics for, but to keep those moments which the world is too busy to know?

Let us move in closer, then, for a look at this lovely Bengali poet’s poems, where gods stand just above the humble dust, keeping watch at the starry windows.

Only the flute is played in the golden, evening air.

There will be no beating of the drum. The heart is sufficient now.

There is an essence of a sad life here; her poems contain perhaps the essence of a sad life (and so much as they are this, they will live forever).

Dignity, a strange, sad dignity, more so than beauty, lives in her poems; in their fragmentary wholeness, the poems of Chumki S. do not strive for beauty—she is not Coleridge or Poe—but something almost more divine, something deep, deep beyond this, which even a Poe or a Coleridge would be alive to: what we can only characterize as patient, philosophical sorrow.

Petrarch’s lyric triumph made tremendous claims for poetry as an expression of inescapable love which afflicts all sensitive creatures; the brief lyric, since it overthrew religion and the epic, has nearly made all the world and all life its home; with horror the parent watches their child seduced by brief beauty: the brief popular song, the brief promise, the brief kiss, the brief and sudden impregnation, and only then length, study, science, responsibility appear, in the person of the child who must be raised.

Chumki Sharma meets this problem head on, in a unique way, one which embraces and yet sweetly rejects the heretofore inescapable template of all lyric poetry and it’s sweet poison. She is Petrarch and Laura’s child. Chumki saves us from the sweet hell which kills millions in its love-lyric reality. With one poem! This is poem #24 in her book:

The One Night Stand—

Enough of putting poetry

on a pedestal.

I thought of the geek

in my Physics class

long back, to whom

‘Gauss’ Law  for Magnetic Fields’

was more desirable

than me.

What chance did Poetry stand

with her transient words

against the universal

elements of

‘Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?’

After spending the night with

‘The irrationality of the square root of 2,’

I return to poetry

this morning

like an errant lover

vaguely repentant.

This poem is more than a mere complaint. The greatest poets kill poetry anew, take poetry off its pedestal, question it, defy it; here in one fell swoop Chumki picks up lyric hopelessness and parks it between science and religion; there is a seven century long sigh of relief as Petrarch the lovesick poet is overthrown by “a geek” that makes the less than desirable poet herself “vaguely repentant.” There is a great laugh in that “vaguely”—the laughter of the simple, thoughtless, slowly turning wisdom of the ages, captured for us—now—by an English poet from Calcutta.

If poetry is a fragment that destroys thought, then it is like a pill, or a drug—one meant to soothe and relax. Poetry operates the way any drug does, by interfering with our normal functioning.

Poetry is simply a recognition that human emotions which exist around love can act like a drug, and poetry is merely that which can take these altering emotions which center around love, and put them into a pill.

The pill—working in this case, as a poem—functions always by the result of one person affecting another (one definition of love) and so the poet who manufactures the pill is always under the sway of another, and that is how the poet is a poet and is able to make a pill which affects our feelings.

We said Chumki Sharma is modest, and that is why her poems are short; this would seem to contradict what we are saying, for modesty doesn’t equal the ruthless ambition to make a pill which alters our emotions; but the poet needs to have suffered from love to make a pill which repairs love sickness; her modesty is due to suffering in love, for the modest are always modest precisely because of a strong respect for love’s power; the heartbroken are never arrogant, and the heartbroken make the best poets. The best lyrical poets have been crushed by the power of beautiful love.

Chumki Sharma is more than a love poet. But nonetheless love is the language of all lyric poetry and love merely hides in the background with this modern day Sappho; we do not find in Chumki Sharma’s poetry Sappho’s jealousy (it seems a foreign emotion to this beautiful woman from Calcutta, or perhaps she feels it is beneath the dignity of the Muse). We do not find anything like the love which demolishes the poet of the Canzoniere—Sharma’s poetry does not quite reach the pitch of Petrarch’s beautiful sufferings from love, producing the fragments of Petrarch’s desperate sighs.

Chumki Sharma does not remain to suffer in love, watering the ground upon which she stands with her tears.

She leaves.

Chumki leaves the circus, the gallery, the forest.

Chumki will kill lyric poetry with a science geek.

She is the poet of escape.

“Detangle the deep roots of the rose bush I planted […] I pull the plants from the earth, one by one.”

—“Running Away With The Garden”

Running away with a garden is a marvelous poetic conceit. One could almost start a whole poetic tradition with it.

Now it is true, that in love, as inevitably as we leave, we are left.

Love rules all the comings and goings.

Love has its rules, true. But in the poems of Cumki Sharma, it can be said that she is in flight, and we follow her. She feels deeply, but does not feel sorry for herself.

In her poem, “A Stranger In An Autumn Forest,” we find Chumki wondering, if not quite lamenting, about an attractive stranger she sees in a simple but mystical wood:

“Will he […] fade away with all his flesh?

[…] An ache grows in me that I have no desire to banish. If not him, this pain then.”

In these few lines is contained the entire Suffering Love Trope, what W.H.Auden called the “Divine Eros Tradition” of Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare (the Sonnets) Shelley, etc. “If not him, this pain then” sums it up entirely!

In her poem Chumki is speaking of a stranger—and he is presented as an imaginary figure leaning against a tree in the poem; this is similar to Dante’s Beatrice and Petrarch’s Laura, aloof maidens who seem imaginative at times, even as they cause pain. The Eros is divine—not fleshy, not shameful, and perhaps not quite real. The pain is real, but pure, and yet to call pain pure does little to help the sufferer. Or perhaps it does help by way of diagnosis, pinpointing the pain, identifying its cause, which perhaps is part of the pill’s power. “What ails me?” You are in love, child.”

Two things now need to be said. Chumki does escape, in a way. “A Stranger In An Autumn Forest” ends with an image of the sky above the tree. A pure, simple image. A pure, simple escape.

Second, Dante and Petrarch created divine targets of their divine and lovely pain: Beatrice and Laura, private associations which, in their poems, became famous. This raises interesting questions about male versus female love: women do not make monuments of their private sufferings.

In Dante and Petrarch the love becomes stronger in the loss, leading to what is essentially worship of God—worship of a deity who is everything and nothing. Everything, because Creator, nothing, because nowhere in sight.

The loss of love, the lover who has left and broken your heart, can remain an irritation, or it can become a religion.

Our religion, our being, as expressed in lyric poetry, is how we express that irritation. Do we go, “Oh damn!” Or do we drape our irritation in beauty? Or do we become a scientist, and wonder not about God, but emptiness?

The first poem in Chumki Sharma’s just arrived, first book, Running Away With The Garden, is a metaphysical tour de force. It is a sly treatise on advanced physics. We come face to face with the idea that poignancy and brevity in the poem may be due to the fact that the poem is a succinct and profound mathematical formula. The battered lover’s modesty is wisdom. Mad love hurts her into science—and poetry.

We quote poem #1 in full:

Shape of Emptiness—

He buys me coffee in a cup

so light my lips drown, scald

in the heat of the liquid.

Nothing exists between me

and the cup in my hand.

Heat seeps through it like

mist on the hills.

The potter’s wheel spins

shaping emptiness.

A number of profound ideas flow into each other in this poem. 1. Matter shapes emptiness. 2. The shape of emptiness is matter. 3. Matter (therefore) doesn’t “exist.” 4. Existence is “buying” and exchange. 5. He buys her coffee: (heat, energy)—but not a cup (matter, stability, order, house). 6. Then a transition quickly to a startling beautiful, nature image (“mist on the hills”) that feels absolutely appropriate, even as it increases our wonder: the “energy exchange” of mist in a natural landscape. The poem finally returns to artifact: making (and implicitly buying and selling) a vessel, which brings us back to that cup of emptiness holding energy. “Nothing exists between me and the cup in my hand.”

This is a metaphor for Chumki’s poetry: the pill, the drug, of her poetry dissolves in the reader: it is a pure, visceral experience without “poetry,” without a medium, getting in the way. “Nothing exists between [you] and…” Chumki’s poetry, like the iconic fragments of Sappho, like the new lyric transcending Petrarch’s love sickness: the ultimate lyric drug cure, disappearing entirely into the reader’s consciousness.

This poem, for instance, makes the case exactly as we are describing it, and of course we quote it in full:

#10 The Train Missed Me—

Thirst so old, it becomes

the air I breathe.

Between a cup of

tea and Valium,

I choose the latter,

relish the sweetness

of pill after pill

melting in the heat

of my mouth.

Hypnotic song of the

morphine in my veins.

And rain,

after many days

of no sunset, rain.

The drops vanish into

my barren fields, vapour

hisses from the cracks.

Rain lashes on the

window, sprays on my

bed, pillow, face, hair

and all I can smell

is the beginning

of the end.

Reaching the station

just as the last train leaves.

It makes no difference that this poem is all about herself, all about her feelings—with lyric genius, less is more, and the template is the poet, and if it fails to interest, this is not because the poem is “only” about the poet’s feelings (Petrarch’s Lyric Revolution), for how the poet interests us makes no difference, and all the better if the poet herself is interesting, and she is, but ironically due to the poetry, which nonetheless disappears, like the coffee cup of no substance, into herself. Or, is it herself disappearing into her poetry, and the reader who stands intrigued and dumbfounded, the reader the real witness of the train (the poem, Chumki) leaving?

Chumki, the poet herself, not Love, will determine who leaves and who is left.

Another trope she uses is the atomistic, Lucretius universe, symbolized by endless dust which gathers and must be swept away: fine particles of dirt represent endless epics, endless effort, all those old traditions which the lyric poet must take into account and deflect with a brief and wholesome and devout sigh, and no one does it more coyly than Chumki Sharma:

#12 Dirt Builds A World

Cleanliness drive in the city,

a century’s dirt to be swept

underneath. I see

old women everywhere,

like crones out of fairy tales,

sweeping dirt from the streets.

I stop one of them, ask her

for three wishes.

She stares at me, eyes

of Bobbies on a thief,

mutters to the old woman

next to her, “she doesn’t even

know Hindi, her blouse is too flimsy,

what is going to become of us?”

All I want is her broom.

New Moon

I tiptoe around your dusty footprint

on the walls of this heart.

The heart is the finite entity upon which the infinite dust becomes a writing pad—which will not be erased by any “cleanliness drive” (earnest moral project) if the tiptoeing poet can help it. Chumki invokes a world with a few naughty (filthy) lines.

This lyric mastery is on display throughout Chumki’s book of 30 poems.

It is why we dare to trumpet her greatness, even though her modesty may rebel, and reject it all, as we look around to find her, longing for her lyric pill that has a thousand names, but which immediately makes us burn like ice and freeze like fire, in a delicious agony both artificial and natural, a thrill at once very old and very new; we betray all we are devoted to in this poet’s arms, even as it feels in her embrace that we are true.

This is what this poet does to us.

Her drug works quickly. She sums up the whole universe of single motherhood in a poem on her son, #5 “My Little Van Gogh,” with the smallest drop of her exquisite lyric poison:

“No colouring books for my son.”

[…] He drew his own sky.”

[…] Once my little Van Gogh turned our

asphalt floors into vibrant forests.

His father was angry. I was secretly happy he was taking his art beyond […]

…he made me a box to keep my bangles.

The Bouganvillea spills over

the chained link fence outside my window.”

The lyric gift of Chumki Sharma crumples every awkward convention with a whimsical, soft touch. She is truly the ideal of Goethe’s Eternal Feminine, the wise female force in action.

We quote the whole of poem #6 in her book:

The Book on The Art of Bombing—

On the eve of the 70th anniversary

of the Hiroshima bombings,

you call me and tell me to write on war.

You say a poet should be versatile,

should be able to write on any topic anytime.

And I remember the book you had gifted me,

perhaps as a bribe for a poem on war?

“How To Make Hand Grenades For Dummies.”

That book the same size as the Gita

on my grandfather’s desk,

Motifs of flowers and fighter jets

on the cover of the book

sharing the sky with bombs falling like rain.

Today a woman who loves to read

will hold the book in her hands.

Today a man will be killed by a raindrop.

Chumki Sharma will not let the world tell her how to write poetry. Lyric poets who have the insight and talent and joy and grief of Chumki Sharma owe the world nothing. The contradiction exists: the extreme modesty of the invisible poet—who is, nonetheless, the world, and holds the fate of the world with the way she administers her lyric drug. We are killed by Chumki’s raindrop.

That she “is the world” is not too large a claim—she makes herself the subject of her poetry, which is how the lyric drug works: “Today a woman who loves to read” is the essence of self-awareness which makes the poem and the world one in the mind of the reader—in that escape from the world, to the world, which is the great social act of the art of poetry itself.

As Chumki writes in the final stanza of her haunting poem, #8 “The  Gallery:”

I am in all and none I own.

After every rain

I leave the place for

Something called home.

We look for Chumki Sharma in ourselves. And then we realize she is looking for us, but this is the final illusion, for a poem has no eyes. Chumki Sharma knows that even the gift of lyric poetry cannot go that far. She must be satisfied, and we must be satisfied with:

In the moonlight

I step into my own shadow.

— #3 The Inmate

We shall be watching Chumki Sharma for a long time to come.

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

Salem, MA Dec. 22, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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53 Comments

  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 27, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    This is one of the most eloquent defenses of a poet I have ever read. I also believe that Chumki Sharma is a truly gifted, jeweled poet though I wish you had fully quoted the Running Away With The Garden poem as it puts all other of the poems mentioned in the shade and indicates great, heart wrenching genius. I really mean that. I do not agree at all about your theory about fragments which must be a theory close to your heart and mind Mr. Graves as you continually bring it up-though looking at poetry in terms of fragments can be rewarding. I also do not agree with you about brevity. The poem in general has its own musical trajectory to follow, it HAS to follow this, whether it turns out to be brief or epic; it is not a piling on of fragments; it is a following of the melodic thread and its components until it ends, the way a lifetime ends exactly- and not before-it is meant to. Walter De La Mare (truly my favorite and a great lyricist) had engraved on one of the windows of his home some quote about not every word in a poem is jeweled or needs to be. In my opinion, it is the underbrush of the poem that sets off the flowers of the poem and without the underbrush of the less than stellar parts of the poem there would be no real sense of the flowers. It is taken as a whole. In being taken as a whole even as life can be, only then can it really be understood.

    I want to say also how much I love her poem about her son, really lovely.

    • thomasbrady said,

      December 27, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      Thank you, Mary.

      Necessary is the “musical trajectory,” true. I was thinking more about the opposite of necessity: the ideal: the fragment of the fragment of the fragment, the essence of pure poetry, which defies all addition and subtraction, comprising an ultimate thought of no dimension, the part of the flower that makes the new flower, and is smaller than the flower (fragment) because it is a seed. I think Chumki is ‘starting over’ in a radical way—not intentionally, but nonetheless importantly.

    • Anonymous said,

      January 13, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      Mary, just reading all the comments on this post today. I am deeply touched by your kind words. Your looking up my poem, reading and remembering it is one of the most beautiful thing that has happened to me. What more could a poet ask for? And I note with joy, how you have connected with every leaf and petal of the poem. Thank you so much Mary.

      • Chumki Sharma said,

        January 13, 2016 at 4:11 pm

        I forgot to enter my name in the last comment.

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          January 13, 2016 at 5:12 pm

          That’s o.k. I wanted to say about your Running Away With The Garden Poem that my Grandfather had flower beds (I grew up with my grandparents as my father and mother)in our backyard in various corners and when I read your poem the feeling of stooping down and looking at the brilliant zinnias, and the actual feeling of the hot sun on the back of my neck and the kind of wild onion smell of the zinnias came back to me so strongly it was like literally being carried back in time. It is very real what you say about my connecting to every leaf and petal in your poem, I really did. A poet like you who can cause the reader to feel like they have actually been transported back to their childhood home THAT STRONGLY is a real gift from God. I cannot praise that poem enough.

  2. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 27, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I do also feel there is a beautiful condensation, concentration of essences in her poetry that is quite startling. “Today a man will be killed by a raindrop” Just exquisite. The heart can’t stop thinking about it.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      December 27, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      THINKING THEY ARE JEWELS

      the lifespan of a poem
      who can hold in their hands
      the hummingbird width

      the petal’s curve on the wind.
      my friend my vanished friend
      one fragment calls

      to the other
      over a gulf of centuries
      millenia

      a child stoops down
      to small flowers in the grass
      thinking they are jewels

      mary angela douglas 27 december 2015

      • Chumki Sharma said,

        January 13, 2016 at 4:13 pm

        This is exquisite..and the last stanza just steals my heart.

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          January 13, 2016 at 5:06 pm

          My sister and i used to look out through the window when we were little on little pink flowers that grew in clumps lining our front sidewalk when the morning dews were still on them. We actually thought that the dews were real diamonds and that if we went outside quick enough we could gather all the dew “diamonds” and then our family would be rich, rich, rich! from all the jewels.

          This was an idea we didn’t hear anywhere in a story or anything, we just felt that way. And we rushed out into the yard but everytime we thought, oh the diamonds melted and thought we hadn’t been fast enough. That’s where this poem came from, Chumki. I am so happy you like it.

          • maryangeladouglas said,

            January 14, 2016 at 4:30 pm

            This is a poem I wrote today on the same subject as the THINKING THEY ARE JEWELS only the camera zooms in a little more closely in the detail to the actual memory that triggered the JEWELS poem.

            I dedicated it to Chumki Sharma because her appreciation made me think somehow more deeply about the source memory of the poem which came into more vivid focus then. Thank you, Chumki!

            DIAMONDS IN THE YARD

            [to the exquisite poet, Chumki Sharma]

            it won’t be the same when we are older
            no child knows to think
            and neither then, did we

            playing with the doll sized sink
            the little dishes
            believing in three wishes

            and though we try we try so hard
            to gather the diamonds in the front yard
            and the hard frost glittering on the ground

            when we go out
            they can’t be found.
            so we imagine we just weren’t quick enough

            and maintain hope.
            who cares if all the diamonds melt from
            all the surfaces welcoming light

            we have the right to dream
            I say to the children in that backyard scene
            whenever I’m looking back.

            but ah, they can’t hear me…

            mary angela douglas 14 january 2016

    • Chumki Sharma said,

      January 13, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      🙂

  3. Andrew said,

    December 27, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    Well, I am sure Chumki is lyrically alluring and all that —
    but I am still waiting for her to rhyme.
    Otherwise it’s just existential/personal observations broken up with weird line spacing.

    • Chumki Sharma said,

      January 13, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      There was a time, I could only write in rhymes. Somehow, I shifted from that space Andrew, and all I am left with are images in my mind.

  4. D said,

    December 27, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Walking with Dogs in Italian Winters

    Remembering silence,
    a flower shifts uneasily,
    the last color of fall
    in the green cavalry.

    Telling the dogs “Come with me,”
    smelling their need to escape.
    Wavering, brilliant daisies
    that up and down
    the smoldering roads
    stare into the sun –
    Daffodils are burning,
    roots are giving up, hiding in the dirt.

    The mother dog running – quicker than her daughter –
    sniffing unnoticed near a littered lot.
    Flirting with every flower, every leaf,
    holding this moment and the straining leash together.
    Picking at roots with boots
    of the plants something planted out of love,
    lifting the concrete carried out over
    softer roads, or roads less threatening,
    before living becomes a stranger’s job.

    Breath of my mouth implies my brain, my crotch, my silence.
    I watch the dogs sniffing the plants
    one by one: their playing, my forgetting.
    The daisy. The daffodil. The nameless root of all being.
    I wonder if a garden
    means paying attention to dreams.
    These flowers will have me dead or alive.

    • Chumki Sharma said,

      January 13, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      This is brilliant. Such an amazing one in response to “Running Away With The Garden”..thank you 🙂

  5. thomasbrady said,

    December 28, 2015 at 3:02 am

    I think as with people, poems have a body and a soul. The strong bodies rhyme and show off stanzas in the sun. But the soul—the clear-eyed soul, holds out the simplest truth, with extended hand, to everyone.

  6. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 28, 2015 at 4:08 am

    That is a point beautifully made.

  7. D said,

    December 28, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    All of you, after the violet-bosomed Muses’ beautiful gifts, children,
    hasten, and the song-loving, clear-toned tortoise-shell-lyre:

    but as for me, my flesh, being tender once before, old age now
    seized, and white hairs bore themselves out of black;

    and heavy this spirit made itself, and knees will not carry me,
    these truly being quick to dance once, equal to fawns.

    These indeed I lament often; yet what should I make of it?
    Ageless, being human, it is not possible to oneself become.

    For even Tithonus once, they would say, rosy-armed Aurora
    was stirred up by love to go carrying to the ends of the earth,

    Being beautiful and young, yet all the same overtook him
    in time hoary age, having a deathless wife.

    – Sappho, 65aD / 58LP

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      January 13, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      Wonderful to see (hear) this.

  8. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 28, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    You know, Thomas Graves, your website would be much improved if you did moderate it a little. There seems to be quite a lot of “trolling” activity going on here and there in various guises, people with their own snarky, dubious, spiteful little points or innuendos to make. It’s for that reason I’m leaving Scarriet but I do warmly wish you well, wish Ben Mazer well, wish every honest person who ever commented here well, and to you know where with the rest of them. God bless your song.

    • thomasbrady said,

      December 28, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Mary, don’t leave. Scarriet wishes to do a piece on you. We need people like you who are not trolls. I honestly hadn’t noticed “trolling.” I’m not annoyed by snark or off-topic that much. I’m just not. I don’t have any interest in controlling conversations, which are often better if they can simply go where they go. I will not beg you to stay, though I may, but I hope you will reconsider!
      Tom

    • Andrew said,

      December 28, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Mary – we can coexist.
      Never assume you are not loved and appreciated.

      “Moderation” leads to censure which leads to the totalitarianism that you so eloquently resist.

      Trolls are people too…

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        December 28, 2015 at 9:47 pm

        Trolls are people too. That’s got to be the funniest true thing I’ve ever heard. If I was the kind of person who was fond ot T shirts with slogans on them I would get one with that on it. The thing a person of truly ultimate kindness would say, trolls are people too. I have far to go in kindness to really feel that way. Although I remember when Troll dolls were popular so that softens it a bit. However, I have always really hated that folk tale about the trolls under the bridge and the three billy goats gruff. I hated all of it. The silly goats, the awful trolls. I even hated the bridge. I believe I had good folkloric instincts as a little kid. Of course now, wouldn’t you know it, even in a PC world that horrible folk tale has survived everything. It is in every possible anthology. It will probably be on Broadway some day.

        • Andrew said,

          December 28, 2015 at 9:50 pm

          Mary – I sometimes act like a troll…

          But I’m really not one.
          I’m just a poetic human with strong opinions.

          • maryangeladouglas said,

            December 28, 2015 at 10:04 pm

            Andrew, It would help if I had grown up with brothers. I tend to take everything the wrong way. You have a right to your own opinions of course. And I know you are a poetic human being. To paraphrase Kermit, it’s not easy being a poetic human being. I used to watch that TV program My Name Is Earl about the guy with instant karma who was so good natured. I forget if it was a cousin or whoever hung out with him, but during a time when I was severely out of work and looking for pennies under the sofa cushions I didn’t even have (I mean no sofa cushions) there was a show where the cousin was asking Earl for money and he said “I need money for Muppets and whatnot” This made me laugh for hours: the juxtaposition of muppets and whatnot (as if on an exam you were asked: use the words muppets and whatnot in a sentence together) because my grandparents always used to say “and whatnot” and we even had a piece of catch all furniture kind of etagere we called a whatnot. English major joke I guess. My sister and I when we were children used to puzzle over endlessly the fact that our new school shoes were called Hush Puppies and so was the fried bread that went with catfish. (called hush puppies). These reflections are just to entertain and amuse I hope and to show that the dilemma of being a poetic human being does have its compensations (and what-not) Is what not hyphenated or one word or two words…

            • Andrew said,

              December 31, 2015 at 7:35 pm

              I am one of three brothers (no sisters)- so pity our mother who enjoys both quilting and Ballet.
              These facts would explain my talent for spontaneous obnoxiousness, both intentional and unintended.

              Happy New Year Mary! Jesus is Lord.
              (and to hell with anyone who does not esteem Our Lady Scarriet)

              • maryangeladouglas said,

                December 31, 2015 at 7:52 pm

                Haha Andrew. Your poor mother. Take her out to the ballet sometime, won’t you? A beautiful one like Giselle or Swan Lake. “Talent for spontaneous obnoxiousness” (and honesty, and a heartfelt quality) like Peter who Christ loved so much. But Peter walked on water, remember? (until he looked down). Don’t look down, Andrew. I love Jesus too it’s the only thing that gives me hope for the New Year. Our Lady Scarriet, I like that. Very Catholic, medieval and chivalric, the chivalric colours especially becoming on the current owner, Thomas Graves.

                May we all walk on water in the New Year with our eyes on Him whose steadfast love we can really depend on. God knows I need to. I have the lifelong tendency to look all about me at the disasters and freak out like Chicken Little. Pray for me.

                • maryangeladouglas said,

                  December 31, 2015 at 7:56 pm

                  I will consider myself lucky to walk on land. I trip on my shoelaces all the time.

  9. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 28, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    I will stay Thomas because I really do respect what you are trying to do. I respect especially your deep reverence for Keats and Poe and your bravery and persistence (with others) in letting the blog Harriet know that not everyone out here is going along with the ‘program’ and that this is still a free country if we chose to act like it. I will stay because I love the cause of Poetry more than anything else in this world except God and the family I was born into and I will stay because your poetry and your essays are beautiful and brave even when I don’t agree with them in every aspect, and because I can’t find anywhere else where any of this is true, even by a fraction. I respect also that you championed Ben Mazer, who is trying with all his heart and mind to connect with poetic tradition and bring it forward into this generation in his own unique style; in your championing of Chumki Sharma, who is a true lyricist and a person clearly who cares about speaking her poetry in public which can’t always be simple in India, and of course, most of all because of your championing of Valerie Macon when everyone else with a platform was either heaping abuse on her or silent. Also I appreciate your allowing me to post my poems here and there. You do not have to do a piece on me. That is not why I came here or why I am staying. I realize whatever you do is by your own inner light and choice. Of course its an honor. I also want to say I appreciated the Peppermint Patty essay forgive me I can’t think now of who wrote it; very interesting and with twists and turns like the best of essays in the past; many textured. We should be able to love many things without being snobs. I believe that, with Ray Bradbury. Your approach is like that.

    This is a poem I wrote because my Christmas was strange and I’m sharing it because I know many people have this situation. That’s my goal in my poetry. I understand and I understood from a young age in lyric poetry you can take your own feelings and create a kind of music that will also resonate for other people. That is my goal. To register everything I feel in a higher register in the hope that it will help someone else either to endure pain or to apprehend more the beauty close at hand.

    ON ANOTHER DAY

    they say you descended from Kings.
    even from God.
    all I know is that when I speak

    to you, you don’t turn away.
    they say princes brought you gold
    frankincense and myrhh.

    all I know, when my heart hurts
    I can tell you why and
    you don’t tell me: grow up,

    get over it.

    you don’t say, airily, oh,
    just let it all go by.
    and smile, smile smile.

    you do not quibble.

    you have real feeling

    when I am dealing with
    all I can’t understand
    and when o my soul

    has arrived at the last terminal
    on a very shaky bus ride
    past neighborhoods of

    straw becoming gold
    so that I don’t know, anywhere,
    where I am or

    if I can…
    then I speak only
    no matter to whom I speak,

    to empty air.
    to indecipherable stares
    though I speak their language perfectly

    and I bereft from all sense of
    knowing how to proceed
    or even, what is needed at all until

    it is long past unbearable

    I cry through all the walls I know;
    I know

    You are there.

    mary angela douglas 28 december 2015

    • Chumki Sharma said,

      January 13, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Beautiful..

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        January 13, 2016 at 4:57 pm

        Thank you, Chumki Sharma! Bless you. (and your (beautiful…) poems). (beautiful…) Heart.

    • Andrew said,

      January 14, 2016 at 1:58 am

      I like what you say here Mary.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        January 14, 2016 at 2:22 am

        I’m glad we could find out about Chumki Sharma not only through Scarriet and Thomas Graves but through her own poetry and her heart here and elsewhere expressed toward other POETS. This does not always happen! Many times it doesn’t. It gives me hope for the future of the hope of poetry as it is meant to me not only in the U..S. but throughout the world. And I am most grateful to Thomas Graves for keeping this blogsite Scarriet alive through good times and bad in order to find this out. There’s a real contribution to Arts and Letters. (and hearts anf flowers, noting wrong with that dear Poetry Foundation/Harriet. Is there???

  10. Andrew said,

    December 28, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    […not everyone out here is going along with the ‘program’ and that this is still a free country if we chose to act like it. I will stay because I love the cause of Poetry more than anything else in this world except God and the family I was born into and I will stay because your poetry and your essays are beautiful and brave even when I don’t agree with them in every aspect, and because I can’t find anywhere else where any of this is true, even by a fraction.]

    That’s why I stay with Scarriet too.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      December 28, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      I’m very glad to hear that Andrew. I know you are very dedicated to poetry yourself, and put your whole being into your own poems. I’m certain all of us who do that will be published in the golden and ivory extensive libraries of Heaven (at least that’s the way I see it). Happy New Year (almost)…I’ve learned a lot of new things from your comments. I started thinking about your very deep love of rhyme and I was curious all of a sudden about poetry in the Bible (did it rhyme in the original, and apparently, some of it did) but I have no hope to learn Hebrew or Greek. I love rhyme too though rhyme seems to fall more within my lines than at the end and when it falls at the end I have to be careful that it doesn’t create a kind of sing song affect.

  11. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 28, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    David Bittner is the name of the essayist Scarriet published whose writing style I like very much. Also Gary Fitzgerald’s poems and I forgot to say I love the best Chumki Sharma’s poem about the old crones and the three wishes, very colourful and real and a person who can make a fairy tale episode up out of their own life and give it real texture is forever a poet I admire.

  12. thomasbrady said,

    December 29, 2015 at 1:56 am

    You guys are great. Thank you…

    A brotherly hug for Andrew…

    A sisterly kiss for Mary…

    God bless you!

  13. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 29, 2015 at 3:03 am

    Poetry family is also family.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      December 29, 2015 at 3:04 am

      God Bless Thomas Graves; long may he reign (over what he is meant to reign over)

  14. thomasbrady said,

    December 29, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    And yes, Mary. I do want to feature you soon.

    I just need time to relax with a whole bunch of your poems and come up with the best way to appreciate them.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      December 29, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      The last thing my poems would want to do is create deadline stress as their author went through that enough in the secretarial typing pools and beyond. They want, if possible, to be some kind of escape hatch into a mometary beauty that can perhaps be prolonged into some kind of respite for a reader. They would encourage you, hsppily, to relax. as they dislike homework, ESPECIALLY over the holidays.

  15. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 29, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    hsppily is happily in Elvish. it looks like a hybrid of happily and sappy. I hope my poems are not sappy (except the tree ones). but they’d rather be sappy than cynical.

    here’s the only New Years poem I’ve ever written. in reality I never sent a poem to a literary magazine though I have entered their contests sometimes and a grant application process to an Art’s Council once when I was between jobs. Nothing happened. Then I got that well meant book Poet’s Market but the more I read the terse stipulations of all the little magazines and presses the more the poems just didn’t want to go so I let them stay home and watch cartoons.

    WE’LL STAY HOME

    just before New Year’s Day perhaps
    (it came to me then):
    the reason why all those poems

    kept rolling back
    from the little magazines,
    the eccentric, the eclectic and the trendy;

    the hole in the wall morose, cryptic;
    those Flagship Publications with their
    golden apple slips flung into the hold,

    and not for safekeeping.

    not anything they would
    spell out directly, but isn’t it, maybe,
    they just don’t want any

    sunlight in the poems?
    and I can’t help it, can I?
    if a stray beam suddenly, may,

    glint in the corner.
    or moonlight unaccountably
    flood the floor of it,

    my unrepentant, unsubmitting submission.

    well. let them throw their
    cheerless parties for the poems
    shut tight against the encroaching,

    oh, how embarrassing… Light.

    we’ll stay home.
    confetti, anyone?
    pass the Cherries Jubilee, please…

    mary angela douglas 26 december 2015

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      December 29, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      Earlier poem, same idea but not New Year.

      SECOND THOUGHTS IN THE SEASON OF MISTS, ETC.

      [to my poem with sincere apologies]

      oh dear, don’t you sometimes feel
      when mailing a poem out to some magazine
      or contest in the wilderness

      all sight unseen

      oh no, it forgot its galoshes and
      it looks like rain.
      or what if it gets on the wrong bus

      after school or if it’s too short
      to reach the bell to be let off.
      what if it never comes back?

      never mind never mind
      you want to say quite loudly
      but the postman’s already been.

      goodbye, little poem.
      fare thee well.
      next time we’ll just stay home

      watch old cartoons
      or movies on t.v.
      or view the drizzle from the porch

      of deep antiquities
      or flit, like Keatses nightingale;

      pure dazzlement-
      quicksilverly,
      in the trees

      mary angela douglas 29 october 2013

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        December 29, 2015 at 11:35 pm

        LIVING OUTSIDE STALE CUSTOMS OF THE WORLD

        living outside stale customs of the world
        we painted our foreheads with
        sunset colours

        looking in mirrors
        we would not forget them.
        over the cobbled

        fringes we would ride
        riderless the horses
        at our side

        in the milk white light of dreams
        and everything as it seems in
        the fairy tales

        not on tv
        not on the rungs of enterprise
        painting the gold in the swallows eyes

        dark violet on the appian way
        inhaling the bakery pastries scent
        for free; my apricot jam and sipping

        the air from the gold rimmed china cup
        will you remember me oh clouds
        when I like you pass away

        and the sweet rains rain
        without us then

        mary angela douglas 29 december 2015

        • noochinator said,

          December 30, 2015 at 2:24 pm

          “New Year’s Resolution”
          for William Kulik

          I used to hate myself for all the eff-ups I committed each day. Now I count them, and see how high I can go

  16. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 30, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    AS IF IT WERE CHRISTMAS FLOWERING

    she loved the word crimson as if it were
    Christmas flowering, the colour of carols;
    lavishly bells from

    cvepe paper rafters ringing
    in honeycombed laughter
    with rustling as ringing;

    crimson, she was singing

    let it be made of taffeta,
    a favorite dress and
    beaded with little stars;

    crimson, a rose garden gown;

    a lost thing found; the sound a sparkle
    makes on a country way to town
    with town full of unceasing presents

    like a Saturday in December;
    the home that you remember

    and pomegranates and cherries
    and the resounding: cerisely cherishing-
    all other evidence to the contrary-

    a language of sheer Joy

    mary angela douglas 30 decenber 2015

  17. thomasbrady said,

    December 30, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    I am going over all of Scarriet 2015 and see that dear Mary was featured on Jan 7, 2015. How time flies. But I’ve seen so many good things of hers since then.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      December 30, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      I do remember that I was featured before and with a beautiful picture. I was very shocked in a good way. To be featured again would also be a miraculous feeling to me but I do not want to presume on a friendship. I hope I am not doing that. Ever.

  18. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 30, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    P.S. I had a horrible Christmas Eve and a dismal Christmas Day so I am starting Christmas over in my head and house and celebrating Christmas like the Russian Orthodox do on what is (usually) our New Years Day and somehow, because of that I can’t stop writing Christmas poems, but I am very happy with them, reflecting Christmases of my childhood at their best. So,Merry New Year.

    THIS PROCESSION OF ANGELS

    this procession of angels
    by candlelight flickering
    and the tinseled, haloed;

    the golden cardboardy wings
    of little children
    may seem simple;

    and even countrified.

    but angels depicted in the Florentine
    manner perhaps look on,
    a little wistful

    at the scene so holly bright
    and well meant,
    all around

    and they-
    bow down.

    mary angela douglas 30 december 2015

  19. maryangeladouglas said,

    December 30, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    EVEN A STONE CHIRPING IN THE ROAD

    [to the Russian poet, Osip Mandelstam]

    even a stone chirping in the road
    they would praise as great poetry
    in a dim age.

    there have been many so praised
    and the glass raised high
    with few to wonder

    why do they worship the eclipse
    and let the sun go ragged.
    who knows?

    maybe God
    or Christ
    who saw it long before

    the Ark set sail
    or the evening mail was lost
    for a thousand years;

    the starry telegrams
    from jail
    by those indicted

    for Beauty.

    mary angela douglas 30 december 2015

  20. thomasbrady said,

    January 13, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Running Away With The Garden

    Deafening silence,
    a single leaf drifts down,
    the lone colour of fall
    midst the green canopy.

    I invite her to
    come with me, tell her
    she needs to escape.

    Fragile, lush Bouganvilea
    cascades down the walls
    of the garden of
    this heart,
    Peonies bleed petals,
    Tulip bulbs hide in dirt.
    A coiled glistening
    snakeskin lies unnoticed
    in an empty pot.

    I memorise
    every flower, every leaf,
    hold this garden safe
    inside me.
    Detangle the deep roots
    of the rosebush I planted
    as a bride, lift the smooth
    stones carried from the
    picnic spot by the river,
    before love became a
    stranger.

    Sweat kisses my neck,
    my breasts, my silence.
    I pull the plants from
    the earth, one by one.
    The Sage. The Daphne.
    The Bleeding Heart.

    Sometimes the safest
    gardens are the ones
    we tend in our dreams.
    I know these ferns have
    heard me cry.

  21. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Thank you for posting Chumki’s poem. I feel like painting it on my wall and then fingerpainting flowers and ferns all over the wall with it, by way of illustration. But being an eternal renter I would get in trouble. I’m glad it’s pasted on the walls of Scarriet though (with flowers?)

  22. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 13, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    NEVER SAND FLOWED THROUGH HER HOURS BUT ONLY GOLD

    [to my mother, Mary Adalyn Young-Douglas]

    never sand flowed through her hours, but only gold
    I told the small roses when she had gone
    as they say, on to her reward

    despite her desert precints and the need I felt
    to cry out to all and sundry, but she is still alive!
    institutions thrive

    on the Soul buried up to its neck.
    but you were decked with invisible jewels
    the way your children thought of you

    and glittering in the hallways
    where the others down at heel
    forgot themselves, and shuffled in between

    their severals worlds. severed.

    forget me nots forget me nots!
    true blue violet colours I would scatter
    in your wake

    the heart breaking, breaking like crystal
    that you are gone.

    mary angela douglas 13 january 2016


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