EVERYONE LOOKS NORMAL

Image result for a rose with a face

Everyone looks normal, except me.

Why don’t I look normal to the same degree?

To look normal, I have to stare at myself for hours.

Do I look the same as the other flowers?

There are many flowers. But I fear I don’t.

Or—is it that I don’t want to—so I won’t?

The roses will be picked and gathered; but the one I chose

Was the dream of the best rose—

I looked into my heart and saw

This rose was the strangest—it had no flaw.

I studied her rose for hours.

This study gave me more pleasure than the other flowers.

When I looked, I could not

Understand what I could love, and what I could not.

All I wanted was to look

At her, in nature, in a dream, or in a book.

It wasn’t that I found her prettier than the rest.

Her beauty imparted itself to my soul the best.

Pleasure, and pleasure alone, teaches us what is beautiful.

Ask me to look at her, again, and I will.

I don’t want my face to be normal.

But the normal is all I usually see.

Normal can be seen objectively,

But that’s not what I’m saying here.

If I am normal, that’s what I fear.

Everyone looks different, but normal, and that’s why

I love her. I was thinking about her today and started to cry.

I love her, but I don’t see her in any of the other flowers.

In order for her to seem normal, I have to stare at her for hours.

MATHEMATICIANS ARE BEAUTIFUL

Mathematicians are beautiful.

They don’t care about you guys.

They surprise the surprise.

Mathematics is a thing,

A thing seen, a thing made into things,

As well as the structure of your eyes.

Mathematics is an architecture that sings

And is wiser than your wise.

The ceiling of the poet was a misty dome—

Formulas roamed the evening.

The answer is going home.

You make a list to support your

Opinions. You stupid bore.

Each of your items proves

The infinite doesn’t love

The false infinite anymore.

USEFUL ARE THESE FIELDS

Image result for moon over hay fields black and white photo

Useful are these fields,

Useless that moon.

Put the hay in the barn!

The winter comes soon.

The fields will lie under snow,

But the moon will look the same.

Useful things suffer the shocks

Of time. Time even brutalizes clocks.

But the useless! Poetry! Your beautiful name!

I loved your name, only because

It was useless—until I realized how useful it was.

 

 

THE BEST SINGING

Image result for water in renaissance painting

The best singing belongs

To songs no one sings.

I didn’t hear voices for days.

What she said, I put to the side.

I need to select what stays.

Great wholes in the fabric

Of life, those forgotten days.

Long, forced politeness. Static.

Something was wrong.

The train was going the wrong way.

I heard a sad, mocking song,

I saw the detour and the delay,

Hulking ruins, boredom, secrecy;

I wanted no more of the human race,

Jewelry, legs, makeup on the face;

Frankly, I didn’t care.

Music as water. Mozart.

Piano Concerto 18 is more beautiful and more rare.

Please come here. Look here.

God is here. God is here. Not out there.

 

I BETTER LOVE YOU

Image result for driving at night in the rain

When we think too much

We lose the love we just want to touch—

And presently, material things and gold

Will turn love into what we cannot hold.

What is love? When I thought a lot about this

I planned on how to get nearer for a kiss,

But when I thought about what I was actually kissing,

I don’t know, something was missing.

If she’s beautiful—but short—

I pause, and I think: maybe I won’t.

But if she’s beautiful and also tall, I don’t.

I don’t think. But everything makes us pause—

This is good for love, but unfortunately the laws

Of desire, even those which make us gasp—

Change when love is in our grasp.

Thoughts in love, which succeed,

Diminish the love as they diminish the need.

Of course failure from beginning to end

Is love that can’t even pretend

To be love; it is the partially successful

Which tortures the polite lover’s will

And turns us into a poet at last;

Doubting love today, I write about a past

Love, which, I feel, was too conditional.

Love should have been better—but I was ill,

With a variety of intellectual complaints.

Here are my words: She loves one who paints.

He makes her look good.

As for her? I understood

Exactly every particle which flew

Directly out of her into me. I better love you.

 

 

 

 

THE ONE I LOVED BEFORE YOU

Image result for ghost ship in Romantic painting

The one I loved before you

I could not understand.

She was the dry sea.

But I love you. The soaked land.

When I first saw her, the skeleton which moves

And how it moves, was the first thing I loved,

Not the flesh which all flesh loves.

I saw what mimes the flesh is the deft skeleton that moves.

I loved in her what mimes what loves.

I do not love her, but what she moves.

Admittedly, I still see

In my mind’s eye how she moves.

She captured my eye—

And everything else—which must die.

My poems will blow over the empty sea

Of her sometimes, so please pardon me.

I describe her as the premonition of you,

As your precursor,

Though I did not dream that would be her

When her heart sailed into my heart.

A gaudy ship. I succumbed to her grand art,

Her modest thickness,

But most of all, her sickness.

I was cured by both the actual and the fake.

The mist which fell when it hit the lake.

I had no idea that you

Would exist. And take

Her existence, too.

You understand the skeleton that moves—

Moves, and mimes all flesh that loves.

I swore she would keep going on.

But you’ll be, when everything else that loves is gone.

 

A POEM INSPIRED BY BEETHOVEN’S LAST TESTAMENT

Image result for the art of perspective in renaissance painting

When the artistic invades the non-artistic, which it always does,

(Cathedral scenes inevitably have circling pigeons and doves)

Creating metaphors in the mind of a love which failed—

(We know philosophy flies free when desire is jailed)

We know that virtue and suffering accompany success,

And the more secretly and patiently the victim suffers, the better,

And therefore I want to say that Beethoven’s malady,

Which caused him, in despair and humiliation, to avoid human company

(Your companion hears a distant bell and you do not)

Is exactly like the painter who adds detail to things far away,

When we know that, in reality, in distance less details are seen—

In reality my experience of you is the same. My poetry and dreams,

Which you occupy, are distant even from distance, since they are dreams,

But you are known more in them, than when I see you these days on the street,

And you, from the secret malady of our lost love, avoid me.

I see less, when I see you. I cannot even see when I see, when we nearly meet.

 

 

 

 

 

THE GIANT SHY EGO

Give me a sign.
Rosalinda, are you definitely mine?
I will wait all day,
So take your time.
But definitely say:
Definitely mine.

The world is a point,
In the middle of a line,
I made a point with a black pen fine.
The point must be (what if you decline?)
Definitely Rosalinda is mine.

There will be a day,
Darker than the rest,
In which a sight, spied,
Glimpsed for a moment,
A vision spotted between bare oak and pine,
Regains our complicity; the vision: hulking you in a wide
Wood telling me you are definitely mine.

Rosalinda! the moon’s slow, unfolding line—
Orbit invisible! Untouchable, the ending, white.
Look, among the tops of the trees,
Like a Renaissance painting, the moon leaves.
Oh, Renaissance sight.

In a bright space, which shadows define,
Where her shadows define my shadows,
Defining more shadows,
Where leaf and leaflet curiously intertwine,
Time agrees with the mole on the hill,
The window sill. And I told her this is definitely mine.

 

TELL US WHAT HE TOLD YOU

Poetry! Tell us what the famous poet told you!

He told me he loved her as a poet,

That he knew no other way.

He sacrificed his language,

And all common affections, to poetry,

But he was stricken with the knowledge

Poetry was false; it resembled a play,

But a play without a stage, or beauty.

How can dumb illusion make reality stay?

Illusion becomes its own end;

Gaining poetry, we lose the human friend.

We are many things, he said; even poetry,

To a devotee like myself, only a part

Of life; I knew her above and beneath the art.

The art, the act, the expertise, the gestures,

Fuses in opposition to what belittles us,

And accuses us, and ages us, with its stain—

But we oppose it all in vain.

In love, we confuse solemnity

Of thought with sweetly sensual Aphrodite.

Sacred love mocks our appetites.

When we drink with Israelites,

Suspicion raises the glasses high.

After gaudy, intellectual nights,

We stumble on our positions and die.

Love turns to lust in the public square.

All is bad—everything we thought was fair.

Our passion crawls into passion’s bowl—

A bowl spilled, easily, by a spiteful or a careless hand.

Poetry cannot cure the fatal day—

No matter what we say—

Hovering over us. Death owns the wedding band.

Poetry could not assist

What we misunderstood, or, kissed.

There was nothing poetry could do.

(I’m not sure he wanted me to share this point with you.)

He hated the poetry which attempts to understand.

All he wanted was to be a coin gripped in her lovely hand.

I cannot recall his words; it’s been many years;

I translate only rot. Iffy syntax. Puffy grammar. Fears.

Listening to him, I could not distinguish the clear reason from the clearer tears.

But listen. You are too young to remember

The beauty, the cruelty, and how desperately he loved her.

 

THE SYMPTOM

Image result for americana painting

Beauty corrects the symptom known to us as sight.

Never, never, will the eyes see things right.

So beauty must fix the mistakes we see.

Or life and art would both be ugly.

We survive, but beauty is the reason we see.

The blind worm survives. And fleetingly.

The measure of all is based on how long

It takes beauty to correct the modern wrong.

The painting is yours, but the reason for the painting is me,

And you painted my love for your beauty falsely;

You were too modest and ashamed.

The too beautiful beautiful will always be blamed

For making us ignorant, immoral, and ashamed.

The beautiful painting knew to show

Beauty, so knowing would know what to know.

The perfect is an idea—but what do we see

When painting’s perspective is illusory?

We see perspective in its various moods:

Air, mist, or sun, which now the shadow includes,

Bright vistas, and whatever strains to escape

The vista: the column, the orchard, and the rope,

The rope at the end of the red road,

Where the world lays down its holy, Walt Whitman, load,

For the slow, lifetime plowing of a field,

Which the grim god knows will yield

A crowd crying, unruly, massed

For citizenship, for salvation—

Food, sports and sex: the harbor inside a nation—

Looking at us in the past.

YOUTH IS ALWAYS RIGHT

Image result for peter pan in painting

Youth is always right. Age is always wrong.

There is nothing at the end of the song

But what was wrong in the beginning.

Youth sighs. Age calls it sinning.

Age thinks to make a song to preserve

Feelings—which age doesn’t deserve.

Youth doesn’t need a song

Or rules. The old are wrong.

When you wrote your first poem, you were old.

Your first wallet.  You told what you were told.

The first moment you remembered childhood

You knew you couldn’t be any good.

The first time I put you in a song,

It made me think I loved you—it was wrong.

The muscle memory of our affair.

We kissed. Our parents didn’t care.

There is only one story: Peter Pan.

Peter outside of Wendy’s window, deciding not to be a man.

 

THE WORLD IS TOO BIG AND WAR IS TOO SMALL

Image result for pretty war maps

Your friend who is quietly smarter than you

Doesn’t want to argue. Look

At this map. If a war takes place here,

You will be left out. It’s not even close.

No one wants to fight for you;

They will try to understand; you’ll be bored.

On this vacation you plan to compare racisms.

You’ll be staying at a strange locale.

You want another man to disappoint you

So you might have a new one. As a child

You always wanted a new pet.

You wouldn’t take care of them.

Indifference will now suit up

And make a speech, and you will be

In the front, cheering. The crowd

Is swept up. You should be, too.

But you hesitate. War isn’t really for you.

 

 

KINDNESS SOME OF THE TIME

Image result for painting by sushmita gupta

Kindness some of the time

Is not kind.

It is true that this rhyme

Says she is blind—

Even as I praise her eyes.

Can kindness be a disguise?

It certainly can.

A woman naturally does not trust a man.

Are you so blind

Not to see a woman’s surrender is kind?

“I release you. Go, go.

You will cheat on me. I know.

You have cheated on me in your mind.

In every public forum, you are kind.

But that will be a thing of the past

When you cheat on me, at last.

I give you, then, permission to cheat.”

A woman’s mind is nice and neat.

Nicely, she will turn you out.

She is always kind. See? It is only you who doubt.

 

OF COURSE YOU MATTER TO THE POET

When the modern poet complains of his isolation

From normal, bourgeois society, he complains in vain.

Money, computers, banks, convenient stores, traffic, trains,

Parking lots, sidewalks, novels at beaches, or when it rains,

The isolated poet, far from these, complains. The complaint

Kills poetry, like modern painters who theorize—

But don’t know how to paint.

I took “modern” out of “modern poet.” Modernity,

In that moment, lost its hold on me.

It happened that fast.

I left Eliot where he was, insane, longing for a classical past.

Unlike Delmore Schwartz, I quit drinking.

All I had to do was change my thinking.

Of course you matter to the poet.

My love! All my poems are for you.

Here we are in Rat’s alley. May I suggest a trip to the zoo?

 

 

 

POETRY MAGAZINE’S INDIA ISSUE, JULY/AUGUST 2019

Image result for poetry in india

Poetry’s India issue is not an India issue.

In the globalist introduction by editors Kazim Ali and Rajiv Mohabir, we are told countries do not exist; only colonies and far-flung sub-cultures do.

In their introduction to Poetry’s “Global Anglophone Indian Poems,” the editors wish to erase the nation of India:

“Indian” is the wrong word to encompass  and label diasporic subjectivities of South Asians that descend from a system of indenture.

This sounds like something one would hear in the British Foreign Office around 1933.

Narratives flip. History repeats. The optimism of Indian independence from the British in the middle of the 20th century has been replaced by the pessimism of learned, anti-colonialist academics, who hold that there was no “Indian” independence from the “British” after all—because, according to Ali and Mohabir, “There is no such thing as cultural purity—Indian or not.”

A nation—which gathers together differences in a happy embrace—is this possible? It was not, according to the British Empire, whose very rule depended on division, nor is it anything the editors wish to get behind, spending most of the introduction asserting India isn’t real. Because nothing “culturally pure” exists. Which we all know, but…

“Culture” is a term always used broadly, and in terms of connection—and this is the very essence of the word; and this aspect of it shouldn’t inspire fear, unless one wants to get rid of culture altogether. We all admire gardens, and gardens grow, even as they remain gardens. Nations are nations in as much as they have a culture which binds the nation as a nation together, and this is a good thing. The editors, however, see danger:

The notion of a culturally pure India is a dangerous weapon leveraged to maintain social distance, as in some cases it fans anti-Muslim and anti-Black politics.

Is “social distance” civility? What do they mean by this?

And what exactly is “Muslim politics?” And is “Muslim” or “black politics” ever “pure,” and, because of this “purity,” is it, too, “dangerous?”

Or is it only the “culturally pure India” which is “dangerous?”

Division is always good, according to the editors—since the greatest unity India ever achieved was “an India that does not exist today, except for in histories kept by elders: a pre-partition British India, a single landmass owned by white masters.”

God forbid Indians get to rule a “landmass.” Better, according to the editors, that Indians are divided—to the point where they don’t really exist.

For Ali and Mohabir, Indian unity of any kind is either non-existent, white, or bad. India as a Hindu country is something the editors cannot bring themselves to even mention, as this, perhaps to them, is the ultimate horror. They refer to Hindus once—in the first paragraph, as if the religion practiced by a billion Indians, 4 Indians in 5, were a minor anomaly:

On the one hand, “Indian” languages were always transnational, or—in more modern times—global. Regional languages encountered one another, as well as Farsi and Urdu, during Mughal conquests; the concepts of Hindi as a national language and Hindustan as a national space were both developed in response to the perceived foreign influence of the northern empire builders. Crosspollination existed between the Urdu-speaking Mughals and Farsi- and Arabic-speaking cultures, both in spoken and written literatures. Queen Elizabeth I and Emperor Akbar the Great were exchanging letters in Urdu and English through their translators before there was a British East India company.

This is their first paragraph. What does this mean?

I understand protecting minority rights—constitutions and laws cover this; but to forever and preemptively assume the majority is the devil, and to always undermine it on principle isn’t exactly the recipe for a strong and happy nation.

The editors point of view seems to be that anything which has anything to do with “indenture” and “diaspora” is the best thing of all. A kind of strange, unholy, celebration of the results of the British Empire keeps breaking out in the rhetoric of the editors. Are the “white masters” hiding in the wings? In high rises in London? In the editorial offices of Poetry? We hope not.

That British Empire was quite a thing. “Colonies” and the “indentured” and “diaspora” everywhere. Did the British make India? Yes, absolutely, according to Ali and Mohabir—exemplifying the truth that the British “Divide and Rule” Empire still lives, spilling into everything, even the rhetoric which attempts to summarize the topic in a short introduction:

The earliest Indian poetry in English, including those poems by nationalist anti-colonial poets like Rabindranath Tagore and Sarojini Naidu, were poems from the British literary tradition. It would take a new generation of Indian poets, who included the Kala Goda poets Arun Kolatkar, Adil Jussawalla, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, and others, to begin developing a new Indian English aesthetic that drew not only on British influences, but local traditions as well as global ones.

Just as the British Empire both made and destroyed India, it continues to erase all sense of what anyone might say—including these editors, Ali and Mahobir—about Indian poetry in English.

The Indian “nationalist anti-colonial” poems were “poems from the British literary tradition.”

Got that?

Indian literary independence was British.

Therefore, Ali and Mohabir say,

It would take a new generation to begin developing a new Indian English aesthetic that drew not only on British influences, but local traditions as well as global ones.

But what is British influence if not “global,” thanks to its global empire? And how could poets like Tagore not have been influenced by “local traditions” back then, writing poems from “the British literary tradition?”

One can see how any attempt to extract “India” from “English” is hopeless. That is, if one ignores the content of poems and puts them into implicitly denigrated categories such as the “British literary tradition,” the only discernible aesthetic gesture made by the editors—whose introduction is otherwise lost in politics. Their aesthetic point begins with a platitude made regarding “tradition” and reasons from that nothing into more nothing. All the editors say is true—if truth is a circle starting at nowhere and ending at no place.

And now we come to the poetry selection.

As one might expect, there is no “British literary tradition” anywhere in sight.

The poems in the “Global Anglophone Indian Poems” issue of July/August Poetry, establish themselves right away as that which could not possibly belong to any tradition at all, except perhaps this one: Poems in English That May As Well Have Been Written in Urdu Since No English Speaker Can Understand Them. This will show those British white devils! And anyone who speaks their language!

The interesting thing about the 42 “Indian” poems in the Poetry Indian issue is that almost all of them sound like they could have been written by Ezra Pound—redolent of that flat, unthinking, anti-Romantic, anti-lyricism which roams the desert looking for an oasis of sweet rhyme intentionally never found, for the journey is to punish such desires.  And in this desert we rarely come across a person who speaks as a real person about some accessible thing that matters in a life really lived. It’s poetry that vaults at once past actual life, and any Romantic ideal of actual life, into some abstract library of learned reference. What we get is not Kishore Kumar as a poem (if only!) but a condescending or ironic reference to Kushore Kumar—in the abstract, attenuated, machine-like speech of the anti-lyrical, footnote, poem.

One of the better poems in the portfolio, by Arundhathi Subramaniam (it actually has a somewhat personable and lyric beauty) happens to contain the Kushore Kumar reference, a footnote gesture less annoying than usual. I also enjoyed the poems by Nabina Das, Rochelle Potkar, Sridala Swami, Jennifer Robertson, Ranjit Hoskote, Mani Rao, and Hoshang Merchant, though in most cases I’ve seen better examples of their work elsewhere. I’ve written about these poets in Scarriet. I compared Swami to Borges, praised Subramaniam as a “lullaby” poet, called Potkar a wonderful discovery, and even placed these poets into this year’s Scarriet Poetry March Madness. But here they are in Poetry. And of course I am happy for them.

Have I soured on the Indian poetry in this special edition of Poetry because I read the introduction first, and that soured me? Or were my expectations too high, thinking the venerable Poetry magazine would offer the best Indian Poetry selection I had ever seen?

Here’s the first poem we meet in the volume. It’s a kind of flickering, black and white, news reel of broken images, half-memories, abstracted references. Modernist to the core. What is it saying? We are not sure, exactly. India was never free, never happy? The ends of lines and the end of the poem, swoon towards their termination in an Eliotic whimper. What we do know is the poem is vaguely complaining, inglorious, and trying its best not to sound poetic (because the Romantics are not allowed).

Freedom (Nabanita Kanungo)

It would try to lisp a dumbness sometimes—
the language of welts rising slowly on the panes,
a cracked blur of riot-torn air,
confused which year it was.
.
The last time it made a sound was when
it crinkled on its way into a bin,
a great plot of justice. I wasn’t born, then;
my father was.
.
It must have been whole once,
for you could still conceive it like a dream,
a gloriously illegitimate thing, though;
until a country was torn out of its heart one day
and you saw its impaled ghost in the moon.
.
My grandfather told me we had slept so long
with a flag over us, we couldn’t run when
machetes poked us awake amidst still-dreaming heads
rolling in the streets like marbles struck in game.
.
There was nowhere to go and we went nowhere,
with its face slumped on our backs
and history books that said what had happened is the past,
.
until sixty years later, a community’s threats betraying
her voice, a poor nun requested me
to leave my month-old job in a convent
where I’d studied since childhood.
.
I keep trying to find its shape in photographs, old letters,
the wind of stories trapped in some cancerous throat, dying …
.
a tattered roof in the stars, a tent flying off
with meanings barely gathered into a heap.

One imagines a Modernist school teacher shaping this poem—and what is ironic about this, of course, is that Modernism was the period when the English were still (cruelly) ruling India. The Greeks, the Romantics, where is their influence? Why is Indian poetry ruled by a style belonging to early 20th century American Anglophiles, like Pound and Eliot? Pessimistic, anti-Romantic Pound and Eliot? Why? Poe fought for American literary independence—and was rejected, even reviled, by the Anglo-American modernist establishment (Eliot hated Poe as much as he hated Shelley).

Look how the first poem in the volume ends: “with meanings barely gathered into a heap.” Why should Indian poets linger in the tidal pools of late British Empire despondency? “Because we have troubles!” Of course you do—but why is the aspiration and promise and identity of the poetry you choose the sour, anti-Romanticsm of your British masters? The ones even British poets like Shelley found objectionable? Indians, what are you thinking?

What is the editorial mission of this Indian Poetry portfolio?

Poems not enjoyed as poetry, but deemed useful as vague, Modernist, teaching-sorts-of-things?

And as much as this may be somewhat useful, and wide-ranging, the editors have somehow managed, even in this case, to present a narrow vision of Indian poetry. Not so much Wall of Sound, as Wall of Pound. Indian poets stuck in a desultory, lost-in-time, Modernism. The editors have put Indian Poetry in a certain container, coloring what it contains. It doesn’t have to be this way. The Indian poets writing in English have access to a long tradition of poetry in English, including every sort of world historical poet translated into English. There’s no reason they must, in such large numbers, wear the stiffness of Anglo/American Modernism.

Trapped in the dullness of this anti-poetry (referencing all sorts of cultural things in a stilted manner) one dutifully marches through the gray maze of this highly learned affectation thinking: is Indian poetry today the attempt to smash the “British Literary Tradition,” in solidarity with a few dead, white, male, American poets, who killed their “British Literary Tradition” with the cudgel of Ezra Pound? (Never mind that the “British Literary Tradition”—whatever shallow idea one has of it—didn’t have to be “killed,” and why with Ezra Pound?)

I have discovered many poems by Indian poets lately, many of them poets in this Poetry issue, as well as many excellent amateurs who by dint of their academic outsider status, would never be selected for a collection like this.

I’m convinced the quality of Indian poems in English today is equal, or greater, to, the quality of poems written in the UK and America.

Yet Indian poets get scant attention.

Unfortunately (and this is nothing against the poets themselves represented here) you would not know this quality exists from Poetry’s India issue—which is a terrible shame.

It’s almost a betrayal.

When I was younger, I naturally thought poetry was everything, and editing was nothing. Now I’m beginning to think the opposite is true. I could name exciting Indian or Indian-background poets I admire, poets who don’t write like Ezra Pound, but write with honesty and vigor, and inhabit a variety of styles in a thrilling, even memorable, manner, and yet one might be moved to go find a poem by these poets and be underwhelmed—since no poet publishes poems of equal quality.

The selection matters.

Every poet—because it is finally the poems, not the poet, which matter—has bad and good poems.

It is important we find and assemble the good ones. Critics and reviewers must judge. This is all they are supposed to do.

Let me name some wonderful poets left out of this selection: Linda Ashok, Anand Thakore, Ravi Shankar, Medha Singh, Daipayan Nair, Kushal Poddar, Sharanya Manivannan, Sarukkhai Chabria, Joie Bose, Menka Shivdasani, Ranjani Murali, Akhil Katyal, Jeet Thayil, Sushmita Gupta, Urvashi Bahuguna, N Ravi Shankar, Abhijit Khandkar, Arun Sagar, Aseem Sundan, Sukrita Kumar, CP Surendran, Nalini Priyadarshni, Divya Guha, Arjun Rajendran, Aishwarya Iyer, Sophia Naz, Meera Nair, Arun Sagar, Tishani Doshi, Huzaifa Pandit, Bsm Murty, Sumana Roy, Aakriti Kuntal.

Sensual, hopeful, colorful, wise, spiritual, romantic, scientific, wry, affectionate. And yes, anti-Modernist. That’s why I love these poets.

It may seem an act of sour grapes to list a few of my favorite poets the editors missed, and there’s a danger an incomplete search of their work will disappoint. The last thing I wish to bring to Poetry’s Indian Poetry party is bitter words and no answers. Even passable Ezra Pound imitators deserve better than that.

 

WE BUILD

Image result for religious mob

Religion is not hard to ape.

Let’s say I’m God. Let’s say you can’t escape

Your memories. You can’t.

Even what you don’t remember will hurt you.

The rituals I perform, you perform,

The moment we understand each other’s speech.

Now the outside is warm, and you are warm;

Religion isn’t what is—but what we teach.

The slaughter of innocents

Has more religion in it than you will ever have.

The crowd, mute, aghast,

Gets religion very fast.

If you patiently explain

What needs explaining,

We may understand the rain

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s raining.

All religion needs: is that you are scared.

Terror is the best way to copy religion;

The professors cannot teach

Over the communist party member’s screech.

With a weak smile, I finish my own religious speech.

I reach out my hand to you—

Only because you look like you care for me, too.

You really shouldn’t be jealous of Susan, or Molly, or Sally.

They’re not going to next Thursday’s rally.

You will only get in trouble if you are alone.

God. God. God. Pick up the first stone.

 

 

 

 

WHEN THE WORLD IS LESS FAR-FLUNG

Image result for on the phone crying modern art

When the world is less far-flung,

We will not miss each other

At the next street corner,

A minute or a mile, this way or that.

There won’t be long pauses

Before I say great things with my tongue

To you—each word’s end close to its beginning;

Every syllable spied on by its sinning,

Not for disobedience, but for pleasure;

No length between doubt and wisdom,

Its measurement the measure of measure,

In proximity to the good,

And we’ll always be near enough to be understood.

The moon will always be

Next to us; yours will not be a country

At war with mine; the hills will be

Together, so you and I can be together.

Distances will never be very long;

The universe will not be cold,

Or stretch out, in heart-breaking song;

No stars, far away, millions of light-years old,

Will, in the cold light-years, outlast us.

Planetary orbits will be happy to stand still,

The arms of the milky way will not move, in giant sadness, past us.

When I cry out to you, alone in the world,

Or plead with you over the phone,

Immediately we will call a truce,

And tremble in a happier tone.

When the world is less far-flung,

We will always be close, and young.

And when you go away,

Even then, someone will call out, and you will change your mind, and stay.

 

IF IT’S NOT TO MY ADVANTAGE

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If it’s not to my advantage, it doesn’t exist.

This is my first natural right—

Which I cling to with all my might.

When I was two, a two year old girl

Punched me in the face;

Nor was this a lesson in sexism or disgrace,

For what advantage to the good to be sexist?

None. Therefore in my heart sexism doesn’t exist.

I can’t tell you about what isn’t there—

This has no interest for feminism. None.

Now for me this subject is done.

Etiquette?  Don’t waste my time.

You’ll get no cover letter—I’ll just send my rhyme.

As for the secret to happiness, here it is:

The more folly we see, the happier we are—

That’s the whole secret right there.

Discerning the fake is the sole care of genius.

This makes us wise. Exquisite folly guides the genius.

Folly makes us laugh. And most of all, happy.

Tenuous balance—we find folly where we find the wise.

Common disease is wisdom’s greatest lure.

What is most intimate with disease, but its cure?

Capitalism and communism? Both are thievery.

All of us, stupidly, in lust, buy and sell;

The punishment is the priest’s fake, or the dictator’s real, hell.

Capitalism is willing thievery, and individual will

Is the one thing any government must fulfill,

So Capitalism, despite Marxist theory,

Is my choice, and so ends this query.

Finally, the secret to poetry: a woman fell

In love with a guy she thought looked like Brad Pitt,

Even though he didn’t look like Brad Pitt.

Because “Brad Pitt” was on the lips of her friends, surprise!

Words ruled her heart, and she thought it was her eyes.

Poetry is merely this folly in reverse: a surprise

In which what seems to be about words is really about the eyes

By way of the ears.

Dressed in blue, and smiling, a word brought me to tears.

 

I LOOK AT YOUR POEMS

Image result for reading a book in modern painting

I look at your poems. I don’t read them.

I know you too well to have a conversation

With you. It’s probably deeply insulting

That I don’t need to unravel you. I always found

You extremely attractive. The surfaces were always enough.

Not that I wouldn’t talk to you for a long time;

It was always you who cut short conversations,

Either embarrassed by what you are, or who you had been,

Or knowing, by my looks, that even as I listened,

I only wanted to kiss you, and wanted you to like me,

Pre-speech. That must have freaked you out after a while,

And I bet you found it belittling: I, more bookish and nerdier

Than you, but only wanting to undress you—

Not a very good nerd.

“You want a shallow homosexual,” I said.

You said, “that’s absurd!”

You try to block me out

With longer, and more complicated, poems.

You always had too much iron in your blood—

You compared your writing to healthy bleeding.

But you’re too complex, now. You are dying.

I run my eyes down your page, looking, not reading.

 

AMERICA, VICTIM OF TERROR

The Shah of Iran survived an assassination attempt in 1949. JFK did not, in 1963. 

A HISTORY OF AMERICAN FRIENDSHIPS

In 1776, France was friendly with the United States.

But France invaded Mexico, supported the Confederate States of America, and became imperial Opium War allies with British Empire. The land of Balzac and Lafayette became kooky U.S. hating intellectual realm of Derrida, Sartre, and Foucault. Divine American patriot and Socratic, scientific, Poe was dimly reflected in lurid and vulgar Baudelaire.

In 1819, Spain was friendly with the United States.

But the Spanish Empire secretly paid a high ranking U.S. general as a spy to sow discord in U.S. territories and sought to conquer South and North America. U.S. expansion in North America was a response to Spanish, French, and British imperial designs. How did the U.S. become the bully? Well, that’s easy. Anti-American propaganda.

In 1823, Argentina was friendly with the United States.

Argentina had lots of German and British citizens; often supported belligerent Europe over U.S. peace.

In 1860, Russia was friendly with the United States.

Russia succumbed to the internationalist Terror which became the Soviet Union. Since 1989, a potential friend.

In 1871, Germany was friendly with the United States.

Germany succumbed to the internationalist Terror which became Nazi Germany.

In 1898, Japan was friendly with the United States.

Japan viciously invaded Korea and China in the 1930s, creating chaotic conditions for Communist China and North Korea; Nazi ally, attacked U.S. in WW II.

In 1905, Korea was friendly with the United States.

Invaded by Japan, North Korea succumbed to Chinese Communism.

In 1909, Mexico was friendly with the United States.

A pawn of the Spanish Empire; a great trading partner with the U.S. but fair trade crippled by NAFTA.

In 1935, India was friendly with the United States.

The U.S. urged the British to leave India in the 1930s and 40s. The Empire would have none of it. Unfortunately, Richard Nixon (who humiliated the U.S. by his policies and by allowing himself to be “Watergated,” helping to legitimize the anti-U.S, Shadow Government, which murdered JFK in 1963) supported Pakistan in the 1971 war with India, as Pakistan carried out genocidal rape against almost a half a million Bangladeshi girls and women.

In 1941, China was friendly with the United States.

China succumbed to the internationalist Terror of Maoist Communism.

In 1944, Britain was friendly with the United States.

The Evil Empire of Divide and Rule. As its power waned in the 20th century, it found new life as the Shadow government within the U.S. and the CIA.

In 1957, Egypt was friendly with the United States.

Sought Arabist hegonomy in Middle East. Their queen was Shah of Iran’s first wife and she was disgusted by Iran’s backwardness.

In 1958, Iraq was friendly with the United States.

Iraq became pawn of CIA’s shadow government. Ruled with iron fist by dictator Saddam Hussein; Iraq had been intentionally created by Britain with internal divisions threatening to break apart at any moment.

In 1966, Iran was friendly with the United States.

Iran succumbed to the internationalist Terror of Ayatollah Khomeini, who murdered secular high officials in British dominated Iran for 30 years before 1979 Revolution. U.S. hating, Shadow goverment, CIA created false flag “coup” in 1953 to discredit U.S. on behalf of MI6 and Churchill—who made America the bad guy even though every drop of Iran’s massive oil supply was stolen by the British Empire.

THE SAME

Image result for on the train in 20th century art

I want to live

But I am not creative.

So I find myself on a crowded train

Going to my paper pushing job.

Poetry for a Communist, Romantic Slob

Is my life’s work, you could say.

I’m not creative. The only way

To be creative, if you’re not creative,

Is to be creative within this context;

To admit, at once, that everything’s the same.

Wordsworth’s verses, Mozart’s music, it’s all the same.

A dog, no matter how small, is a dog, and has that dog identity,

Just as Pericles is Pericles, forever the same.

The novels I picked up at random just now,

The new ones at the front of the store,

Characters putting out cigarettes, and feeling

Hot, or tired, and saying “What shall we do?”

Every novel sounds the same.

In the train, staring at people—

Forget smart, researched, writing—

Just look; you can see truth in faces;

You can see every prejudice is true;

You can see the truth of surfaces. Not from any unkind

Impulse—prejudice is only the tragic recognition

That everything’s the same! Take me and you.

All we said, and did, was cliché.

We shared our secret prejudices. We “broke up.”

I’m not creative. But I loved all the way!

A clichéd thing making a clichéd sound,

When I did my research, was all I found.

 

 

WHAT I PICK OUT

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What I pick out

Is nothing. There is doubt

In every scene and look.

This is not a photograph. Or a book.

This is reality. And it frightens me so.

There are too many choices. I don’t know

Anything. Or where to go.

Reality! Can there be more? More doubt?

What I pick out is you.

Because you picked me out.

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