ALL THAT WAS COOL

Led Zeppelin Photos | Limited Edition Prints & Images For Sale

All that was cool is now not cool

because the cool got old.

The stance once seemed so bold.

That long-haired guy seemed

so cool and scary,

emitting screams

in cloudy music—

but this tattoo is now fat and gray.

The cool thunderstorms have moved away.

The cool cooled.

Those inside the school were schooled.

The reporter’s expertise

has been laid out in a deep freeze.

Poets who needed to be right

got guns. Cool is the night.

The cool stare

is now an officer’s glare.

Hippies! Are we almost there?

The Atlantic is lovely at this time of year.

Nothing motivates quite like fear.

Nature, darling, knew

how to make herself green–

Rosalinda! Did you?

THE WORLD

Sleeping Cupid – Michelangelo | Learnodo Newtonic

The world has gone to sleep. And I?

I have been asleep.

A long and gloomy sky

has been my friend.

Dreaming and poetry without end.

You should try a life like this.

A worm, too, can kiss.

You—so often seen in the sun—

don’t understand.

Let the blood move slowly

from your arm to your hand.

The best thoughts are not for just anyone.

TOM BRADY: THE STATS, THE SCANDAL AND THE SCIENCE

The science of sports is like the science of anything else. It includes two basic things.

The first is scientific measurement—the hard data. Data which indicates, transparently, the reality of what occurs in a framework or context which makes sense, a context useful in understanding the data itself.

The second is whatever wishes to hide measurement, hide the science—distort the objective view in order to advance whatever human agenda or secret motive happens to come into play. This second aspect of scientific measurement involves a frame only in the sense that the intent is to leave out important information from the frame.

The first thing is what scientists do—they measure. More than anything else, science is measurement.

Velocity, temperature, percentages—how often does something happen and to what degree? That’s it in a nutshell.

But measurement also includes context: velocity of what, a velocity compared to what? Frequency—in terms of what? 99% of science is observable measurement which reflects the reality of whatever is being measured in the most complete manner possible. It has nothing to do with opinion, judgment, experience, credentials, or expertise. Data and its completeness is all. If a scientist is not urgently advancing these two things: data and completeness, something is wrong.

The second thing, obviously, is contrary to science—but it is often accomplished by scientists—because human activity is not solely based on science, and never will be. There are plenty of overriding reasons why transparent, factual information is not desired, and is not forthcoming. When we consider anything scientific, we must also take into account the whole (scientific) picture, which may be non-scientific or even anti-scientific: either neglectful or careless when it comes to science, or rationally anti-scientific (dishonest) on purpose. It often profits us not to be scientific.

Sports is most obviously scientific—in its devotion to statistics.

Mathematical and scientific minds, as well as artistic ones (art matches measurement and science to varying degrees) are drawn to spectator sports; the nerd, as well as the jock, have an interest in what is both competitive and measurable.

How good am I? I am this good: I scored 5 touchdowns. I struck out 20 batters. The nerd and jock both joy in this kind of measurement and science. Pride measured is extra special—measurement, even if it’s dubious measurement, swells it.

Unlike life, sports is full of immediate, understandable, and precise measurement, and this is why it is interesting to so many. The clock annoys and interrupts life—we consider its impact on us cruel, vague, and random. But the clock in sports is part of the thrill. In sports, the simplest of measurements is sexy.

Because science inevitably deals with data which is complex, the more scientifically minded sports fan will demand more nuance in scientific sports measurement: you ran for 5 touchdowns—but why? Did the linemen who pushed the defense out of the way not deserve much of the credit? The defense hardly touched you because of the big guys who blocked for you. Or you threw for 5 touchdowns: but your swift and elusive receivers were wide open and your blockers gave you plenty of time to throw.

Measuring the number of times a runner crosses the goal line is simple. Measuring how many meaningful blocks were made—by a particular lineman on a particular march down the field—is impossible. Measuring “how open” a receiver was when a quarterback completed a touchdown—and why—is impossible.

Well, perhaps such measurement is possible, but it is so difficult, it is never measured.

What should we measure? This is as important as the measurements we actually look at.

Statistics are limited by how they are able to measure the overall performance of a sport involving complex moves by many individuals.

And to limit the data is to limit, or even eliminate, the science.

“I scored 5 touchdowns” becomes math, not science.

If the context—everything which happens on the football field—is not seen or measured completely, then science cannot be said to be present. Measurement demands complete measurement. Science demands complete science.

If complete data is not available, scientific certainty fades into the background, even as crude types of certainty remain fixated in people’s minds: “X scored 5 touchdowns!”

The owner of a football team may prefer not to have stats for blockers—otherwise he may be forced to pay them as much money as the star running back.

Most of the original NFL teams were funded by gambling winnings. Gamblers are notorious for wishing certain pieces of information be suppressed. Here, then, is their “science.”

There is always motivation—somewhere—not to be scientific. Not to truly measure. Not to see the whole picture.

Or sometimes it’s just too complex and we don’t want to bother with it. But let’s leave aside this reason for now and assume the best measurement is always the true one.

To succeed in the game itself, what is hidden is key.

Stealing signs in baseball or football immediately comes to mind. (There is also the remarkable example of the tennis champion who noticed a player he did not fare well against telegraphing where his serve was going by the brief, unconscious movement of his tongue just before he served.)

Sport does not routinely measure cheating. There is an obvious reason why this is so. It would defeat the game’s entire legitimacy in the fans’ eyes if such a thing were routinely or officially measured.

Cheating, by its very, nature, avoids measurement—even though cheating itself, to succeed, must, in itself be scientific.

There is a science which defeats science.

And this truth lies at the heart of all criminality—and is the reason why a successful criminal must be regarded as a successful scientist—in every sense of that word. Science concerns data, not morals.

One doesn’t need to be a true scientist to ask interesting scientific questions, or make important advances within smaller regions of the whole.

Ultimate data—that which includes measurement of all data, both seen and unseen (including data deliberately hidden by a few)—is moral, in the sense that truth is associated with justice, but this is not how we define science—the scientist (who we normally think of as a specialist) almost never studies the whole picture.

A good scientist is understood to look at whatever needs to be looked at—but who knows “what needs to be looked at” in the whole universe? Are there any true scientists, then? Maybe a few: Plato, da Vinci, Leibnitz, Newton, Franklin, Einstein.

Most baseball fans are familiar with the Moneyball revolution in baseball—the short of it is this: using statistical observations hidden from standard statistical reporting, a poor team (the Oakland A’s) was able to assemble successful teams for less money. The science of Moneyball was superior to the first-hand, observational science of actual baseball scouts—statistics (measurement) was able to see what the eye could not. Data (measurement) can be more significant and nuanced than the naked eye.

Moneyball largely consisted of the following insight: filling your lineup with guys who walk a lot will tax opposing pitchers more than guys who swing a lot—this involves a physical aspect of the game—a pitcher throwing a lot of pitches—indirectly reflected by statistics. It isn’t just the numbers, but how you think about them. True, without the numbers, without the raw measurement, one would be lost. The numbers are there for you to see—walks equal bases exactly as different types of hits do, but since a hit is a hit and a walk is only a walk, the hits largely received more attention. Another thing about hits and pitching which Moneyball discovered: a safe hit is one of the most important statistics in baseball. What was never measured, however, was what percentage of balls merely put into play become hits—and this measurement led to a startling statistical insight as to how effective a pitcher is. Measuring how often a pitcher allows the batter to make contact turned out to be a far more meaningful stat than runs allowed—since luck plays a large part in how many struck balls turn into safe hits, and safe hits lead to how many runs a pitcher allows—perhaps the most important statistic, traditionally, for a pitcher.

I’m not aware of a Moneyball equivalent in football—statistical insights to revolutionize how we see and measure football—now America’s most popular game.

This is probably because football is not “read” or understood in statistics the way baseball is. Football is a tangled up team sport and no stats truly reflect individual, scout-able excellence—except for perhaps how fast a player runs the 40 yard dash. There’s a single number that matters in football—number of super bowl rings. This is not a scientific number, however—because all sorts of factors and all sorts of players figure into winning a single game.

What is scientific is that dynasties—no matter what the sport—are as necessary as star players for interest and ratings. Great players must be manufactured, as well as great teams, for any team sport to have any lasting success. In spectator sports, hierarchy and royalty are all. The NFL must have dynasties—privileged teams to love and hate.

Football, as something scientifically measured, does feature roughly the same amount of statistics (raw data) as baseball.

There is a divide, however, between stats (raw numbers) and myth (greatest game, greatest catch) and football, more than baseball, relies more on myth than numbers. Baseball represents a lot of things to a lot of people and is very heavy on the myth side of things, as well, but baseball is ultimately more about “Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs” where football is more about the following, which I found on the internet:

Years after he finished playing in Baltimore, the late Johnny Unitas is still remembered and idolized for what he did on the football field. Perhaps the most unbreakable record in professional football is Unitas’s record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Some people feel that record is living on borrowed time, and yet, even the most prolific passers like Dan Marino and Peyton Manning have yet to take it down. Unitas deserves every accolade he gets and then some as one of the league’s all-time great quarterbacks. Unitas was the winning quarterback in the so-called “Greatest Game Ever Played,” the 1958 NFL championship against the New York Giants, quarterbacked a successful title defense in 1959, then defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V.

Most of Unitas’s records have now been broken with the advent of rule changes that favor offensive production, but Unitas pioneered such mainstays as the so-called “two-minute drill” that are still used today. Unitas is without question a top-three or top-five quarterback in NFL history, and there is a strong case for him to be as high as he is here.

Unitas and the Baltimore Colts began play at 2 p.m. every Sunday, which was unique to Baltimore: The Colts wanted to make sure that everyone who wanted to had time to go to church before the game started. So the saying went that for Colts fans, the day started with God, and the day ended with God, just in a different form the second time—as he wore No. 19.

In baseball, hits, walks and strikeouts per inning give a very good indication of a pitcher’s effectiveness. Two-thirds of those numbers (walks, strikeouts) are pretty much controlled by how the pitcher throws over a certain amount of innings.

The stats for a quarterback fit neatly into a QB rating.

The QB rating combines the percentage of completions, yards, TDs, and interceptions—a very simple calculation based on 4 numbers, but which has more to do with hidden factors than it does with the quarterback. All the quarterback’s numbers (complete passes, yards thrown, touchdowns, and interceptions) involve a host of other players (both on offense and defense) not to mention the game plan of the offensive coach and the defensive game plan of the defensive coach.

Here’s a big problem with myth and numbers in football.

Johnny Unitas has a lifetime QB rating of 78.2. This rating is dismal in today’s rankings. Just to pick a few quarterbacks at random who have little mythic weight: Carson Palmer: 87.9. Matt Schaub: 91.1. Trent Green: 86.0.

This is like Babe Ruth without big home run totals. Johnny U. is a myth without numbers.

The reputations of Ruth and Unitas both involve rule changes—which radically alter reality as well as statistics.

Ruth benefited by major league baseball altering the ball—the “dead ball era” ended with Ruth himself, as 10 home runs once led the league–and Ruth suddenly hit 60. Based on this stat alone, a myth was born.

After the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, the sacred game of baseball needed a diversion—1920 (coincidence?) marked the end of the dead ball era, when Ruth began to put up big numbers.

Football also changed the way the game is played—but more gradually. Football was once more like a wrestling match—and a nasty one. Players trying to catch a pass could be paralyzed or crippled. Passing was risky, and “establishing the run” was a necessary game-length strategy. The old, “great” quarterbacks played meat-grinder football, often in the mud, and this is why their QB ratings are quite pitiful, despite their heroic status.

Terry Bradshaw won 4 super bowls in the 1970s with the Pittsburgh Steelers (known for abusing steroids during that era) putting him in a very elite class.

Yet Bradshaw’s career QB rating is 70.9 and he threw a total of 212 TDs—and almost as many interceptions—210. Today, a QB who throws as many interceptions as TDs is considered a failure.

Ironically, Tom Brady, considered the greatest QB of all, benefited from a rule change just as Babe Ruth did, and it may be cynically observed that just as the Black Sox Scandal in baseball was conveniently over-shadowed by Ruth’s glorious exploits, Tom Brady, GOAT, was the perfect distraction for an NFL scandal—Brady’s own team, the Patriots, was hounded by accusations of cheating in the scandal known as Spygate.

Rules making it easier to pass the ball in the NFL were applied gradually, and as late as 2002—the Patriots’ defense stopped “The Greatest Show on Turf” (mud no longer a factor in the NFL by then) by breaking the arms of the Rams’ receivers as the Pats won their very first Super Bowl, with Tom Brady, who threw for just 145 yards and 1 TD, winning the MVP award. The Pats made it to the Super Bowl when Brady, who was sacked and fumbled late in a playoff game that year, ending all chances to win the game against the Raiders, got another chance, due to a bizarre NFL rule which reversed the season-ending play. Because of how the Rams’ passing game was assaulted by New England, rules protecting the passing game were put into place the very next year. Passing now became easier to do and more important than ever.

Here are the season numbers Tom Brady put up in the 2007 season, with investigators closing in on Spygate that very year.

For comparison, recall Terry Bradshaw, a 4 time SB winner’s lifetime numbers: 212 TDs, 210 Int.

Tom Brady’s numbers in 2007, the year of Spygate: 50 TD and 8 Int. QB rating 117.2

In 2003, a season in which Pats won the super bowl, Brady’s QB rating was 85.9.

In 2006, Brady’s QB rating was 87.9—typical for him, until everything changed in 2007.

The NFL in 2007, in the wake of scandal, found its Babe Ruth.

An interesting thing to consider is that a season for a quarterback is almost the same as a game for a baseball pitcher, in terms of throws.

Average pitchers can throw no-hitters.

QB Milt Plum, in 1960, when QBs had an average QB rating of about 60, earned a 110.4 QB rating.

Is there a scientist who desires to find out why?

Y.A.Tittle, a famous QB (1948-1964) whose number was retired with the New York Giants and won an NFL MVP in 1963, threw more interceptions than TDs. His QB rating? 73.6.

Another famous New York quarterback, “Broadway Joe” Namath, whose one super bowl victory made him forever famous, and opened the door for the then-inferior AFL to join the NFL (a very profitable merger—the heavily favored Colts appeared to throw the game) had a career QB rating of 65.5.

A new set of statistics is required in football to reflect what actually happens on the field.

Here’s a much-needed stat: how much time is the QB given to throw? This is measurable, but if we don’t see this, we have no way to truly judge a QB. A QB who has 4 seconds is a superstar compared to a QB who has 3 seconds before he is hit. One second is everything. This can lead to a 30 point spread—yet this is not part of football’s statistical lexicon.

And here’s a more important one. There are no football stats for ref calls.

Ref calls (including bad calls or missed calls) can easily generate up to half the yardage (or more) in a football game.

This alone makes football stats highly incomplete, and therefore, one could argue, unscientific and meaningless.

American political history is a mosaic of conspiracies—optimists insist they are “theories” only. American football, rife with questionable ref calls, parallels American history—fans can only watch and wonder how much is a conspiracy theory—and how much the fix is in.

If there is any doubt that ref calls matter, we only need to glance at an NBC sports story from about 10 years ago.

The headline: Four Years Later, Bill Leavy Apologizes to Seahawks

[NFL referee Bill] Leavy said in reference to his infamous performance in Pittsburgh’s 21-10 win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL “…I impacted the game and as an official you never want to do that.”

Here are comments under the article from passionate football fans, ranked from least to most scientific.

1) There are always bad calls. Sometimes I hate the refs, sometimes i love them. It all balances out in the end.

This is not science. “It all balances out in the end” is wishing.

2) I can’t believe the Seahawk fans are big babies.

Since divided loyalty is a reality of sports (like politics) every accusation (even truthful ones) will be passionately countered.

3) I laugh every time I hear this stuff…

To some, this is amusing. They can afford to laugh, because bad calls in the NFL may not be reviewed.

4) Darrell Jackson pushed off clear as day. How can you say that was a questionable call?

NFL rules are so ambiguous that a call can go anyway a ref (or the NFL, a private entity) wants. This is the main point most fans miss.

5) Seahawks need the refs to allow holding on passing plays to even keep the game close…

More evidence that refs decide games—simply by not making holding calls. A counter-thesis (in favor of Pittsburgh) which also implies the refs impacted the game.

6) Not A Seahawks or a Steelers fan… but Seattle was screwed royally. The fix was clearly in and the holier than thou NFL is just as corrupt as the NBA. Furthermore, Mr. Goodell and Mr. Stern are both of a similar mindset… “we’ll” decide who “we” want to be champs and if that means getting a few calls “wrong” during the big game, then so be it.

This is how many fans see sports—but it doesn’t stop them from watching.

7) Lots of bad calls in the Steelers v. Cards super bowl that favored Shitsburgh too… hmmm
6 championships* 4 thanks to steroids and 2 thanks to the refs.

hmmm is always a sign that a little science is happening.

8) The facts are these: The official who called Jackson for the penalty -negating a touchdown- was born and raised in Pittsburgh.
Ben Rothswhatever didn’t get in the end zone. That was obvious on the replay, but Leavy still allowed it.
Darrell Jackson caught a pass at the end of the first half where he got one foot in bounds and the other foot hit the goal line cone. If a running back touches a cone with the ball, it’s a touchdown. In this case they ruled it an incomplete pass. The NFL changed the rule the next season to specify that one foot + cone = touchdown.
The ‘holding’ call on Sean Locklear, negating a completion ot the 2 yard line; it’s clear on the replay that Leavy was reaching for his flag BEFORE LOCKLEAR EVEN TOUCHED THE STEALER HE SUPPOSEDLY HELD ILLEGALLY. John Madden even comments on this during the replay.
Sports Illustrated never even printed a Seahawks Super Bowl Champion edition before the game; only a Steelers one.
$400 million dollars bet on the Steelers came into Las Vegas the Friday before the game from ‘East Coast betters’ – according to an ESPN report.
And lastly, the retiring Paul Tagliabue got to hand the Vince Lombardi trophy to his best friend in the league, Dan Rooney.
But no, the game wasn’t fixed. How could that happen? Bill Leavy just made some mistakes.
Right.

This is the most scientific post on the NBC article—in which the referee admits to making mistakes in favor of Pittsburgh. This fan comment speculates on what happened on and off the field. Obviously, a play by play analysis of the game is necessary, and that’s not possible here.

The point here is not to declare the game was fixed.

Fans will always wonder. That’s as scientific as it gets.

Science, without loyalty or optimism, needs to cast its eye in every possible direction.

As we enjoy the game.

And worship our gods.

DESIRING LAUGHTER, AND WEAK

Need a Good Laugh? Check Out Some 17th-Century Dutch Art - The New York  Times

Desiring laughter, and weak,
I made them laugh,
the citizens of my poems.
I was weak and became a poet,
and came to it so I could laugh,
because the weak need to laugh.

In the old days of rhetoric
when persuasion shook marble
hospitals—who knows what idiosyncracies
were used to whisper under doors?
I have been laughing
since professors made poems weak.

Beautiful pessimism is what I decided to seek.
Thereupon I decided I also had to laugh
And make fun of the muse, who saw
I meant no harm. I knew I was weak—
I knew I had a weak jaw
and would do better to keep to the law.
I took terribly seriously the first Greek
who lived in the city—away from tooth and claw.

NON-POETS

Plato, c.1560 - Paolo Veronese - WikiArt.org

Non-poets are impressed when poetry

hides in the news—but a symbol

doesn’t need to be true.

Poetry hides and lies. Plato knew.

An army of images surrounds

a poet feeling sorry for himself.

A poem dies in its sounds,

somewhat like music does,

or the lying rhetoric of the news.

I loved everything about you.

Now I’m confused.

WITH WHAT PURE VANITY DO NATURAL THINGS EXIST

Animals in Art - Albrecht Dürer

With what pure vanity do natural things exist,
Their feathers, their fur, their mandibles,
Their necks, their wings with strange patterns,
A leaf serving its tree, and by accident, our eye.
For them an accident is all that matters.

The animals look at us, whether we live or not,
Baudelaire! They eat us or wait for us
To do something; their city becomes a tomb;
We might see right through their bodies: Ah! young
Termites! To classify them is our doom.

We think humans are stiff with vanity;
With hypocrisy they seek religion;
Pity these: helpless hunter, anxious prey,
Lost in a merciless wilderness—
Where we once lost our way.

Vanity, teethy darkness and error!
Vain thoughts and vain ambitions!
The animals die and re-awaken images of hell
In those who smell the night, taste the night
And eat its eyes as well.

All that’s perfect is done in one kind of silence or another,
Yet poetry asks that we speak.
Is poetry not the most ridiculous failure?
Are not all poets weak?

NOT ME

Soldier, Renaissance paintings, Renaissance art

Love is pleasure. But hate

becomes love’s fate—

since paradox is everywhere.

You know it’s true.

Even now paradox is destroying you.

But not me! Can that be?

Have I reasoned paradox away

in my poetry?

By the slightest measurement

I know what paradox has meant.

They agonize: what is poetry for?

It seems beauty is made to be

destroyed and wasted. I adore

what dies—this paradox has more

of paradox than even paradox

can describe: the love and hate

which breaks out in every tribe

almost ruined me:

I hated you in my poetry.

I betrayed myself with cleverness

which made me ignorant. Nonetheless,

as you can, at this moment, see

I am fighting back, if not in that,

then in this, poetry

which says I still love you;

pleasure still moves

me in you by the smallest possible degree.

WHEN YOU SPEAK, WHO LISTENS TO YOU?

a man with a past | Romantic art, Art photography, Pre raphaelite art

Dad felt depressed after the wedding,

despite his successful children dancing

and hugging. He and mom, dragging

their ninety years, slowly moved

into the next room;

the loud music afflicted their ears.

Two of his sons researched the dj’s

selections on their phones, getting

into music from various angles.

The younger wedding guests looked like angels.

Dad imagined, I’m sure, sitting at the head

of some table, offering wit and advice

to children and grandchildren. At least be nice,

at least pretend to listen.

Eat vegetables. Don’t yell.

I still remember the sound my old phone made

when my ex-lover sent me a text.

When you speak, who listens to you?

Who stands at the window, dreaming? You do.

SHE WILL KNOW POETRY

Renaissance Art School in the city Wheaton

She will know poetry

Immediately

who never got it in school.

Fortunately for poetry,

there is no rule

taught in any school,

no dictum, ought, or should

which makes poetry any good.

She cannot learn it

from women full of anxiety

or bland, confident men.

When I love her madly

she will know it then.

WHAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ABOUT THINGS

Clearing Storm at Gibraltar | Smithsonian American Art Museum

Everything is a thing; the poet

discovers the idea the first time

he writes a good poem, the lover,

when she glimpses the truth: all love

is the same. It hurts to let go

of your personhood and your pride;

you are a thing there feeling a thing inside.

Do you want me to go on?

Someone else’s expertise

will bring you to your knees.

Imagination puts things together

to arrive at what you might say

is an insight: it happened yesterday

and now whatever you are is not the same.

A thing happened. You can’t blame

this or that person; they did not sing.

Or, if they did, it was nothing but a thing.

It was a thing. It was a thing.

It was a thing.

The virtuoso noticed how things relate

and how a certain thing

makes a certain thing wait.

DO YOU REMEMBER

Death of Edgar Allan Poe still debated

Do you remember when you read the Black Cat

by Edgar Allan Poe?

The whole cycle of love was explained:

something I would rather not know.

You were disgusted when I came too close,

yet longed for me when I was far away.

This explains the craziness of love.

It is why that mix of cynicism and sadness

describes everyone we know.

It is why life is a gruff joke.

I no longer read quickly.

Do you remember when you read the Black Cat

by Edgar Allan Poe?

THE LION

File:Eugene Delacroix, Lion, 1848-1850. Watercolour, heightened with white,  15.2 x 20.2 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

The lion was dying

and the antelope,

who suggested peace

to her new friend,

did not know why.

“Peace is beautiful,”

said the grass—

the grass—

as beautiful, in its collectivity,

as any woman—

and the antelope’s child,

in love, and unable to eat,

was also dying.

War had ended

and the beautiful grass

could not understand

why the antelope suffered.

“You don’t need to eat me,”

sang the grass. “I will not;

I love you,” said the sweet

antelope’s child, dying. Peace

had won, and death and its peace

had spread to every valley.

War and God no longer existed

on the plain. The last lion

saw the beautiful antelope

when he closed his eyes at last,

too weak to proclaim his love.

We met because you were free;

the love that injured us

produced all the poems

which preceded this one.

Call it fate;

whatever is inarticulate

is God. To be free,

you made war on the child

in your womb. That’s what

happens in the wild—

there was never a child.

You went to war so you

could be free—

and you could meet me.

No wonder our love was strange.

THE GREEN AND THE BLACK: DELMORE SCHWARTZ AND A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES

The Most Fatiguing of Occupations”* | You Do Hoodoo

A narrator of an autobiographical tale pleads with his parents not to marry—their courtship is up on the screen in a documentary/romance. ‘Don’t have children,’ he yells at them, helplessly, ‘what are you doing?’ An usher in the dream cinema says, ‘Wait, what are you doing? You can’t say whatever you want in a theater.’ A microcosm not only of a life but of a removed and powerful feeling for and against that life—“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” by Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966) has a poetic transcendence condensing thousands of movies and novels.

At 21, in July, 1935, near the calendar day of his death, Delmore Schwartz wrote perhaps the best short story in English (go read it now if you haven’t).

Get ready.

A Delmore Schwartz revival is coming.

The only possible breakthrough equivalent in American Letters, equal to Delmore’s tale, which did not involve obscenity issues or cunning self-promotion, was Poe’s Raven/Philosophy of Composition/”A long poem does not exist” phenomenon a century earlier.

Like Poe, Delmore was no blue-blood who belonged to a well-established clique. Poe was an impoverished orphan, cut off by a wealthy guardian. Schwartz was a Jew trying to succeed in a world with WASP Harvard at its center and he was also bitterly aware of an inheritance denied him—a Great Depression and corrupt lawyers ate into his father’s legacy which would have made Delmore quite well-off.

Delmore was acutely aware of his outsider Jewish immigrant background even as he ran in Allen Tate’s Modernists circles in a vain attempt to be the next Ezra Pound. He was both arrogant and brilliant enough to half-laugh at this dilemma, ignore this dilemma, perhaps, even as one suspects it pushed him towards paranoia and madness.

Poe and Delmore were outsiders, yet so extraordinarily adept at poetry, fiction, and criticism—all three—they threatened to outstrip every Anglophile above them.

Poe tangled with the wealthy Harvard professor, Longfellow, and thumbed his nose at Emerson. Poe also wrote devastating reviews against New England circles—the same circles which would produce the American-turned-Britisher T.S. Eliot (Eliot’s grandfather, who knew Emerson, left Harvard Divinity School to co-found Washington University in St. Louis).

Delmore was a bit more ingratiating than Poe. Schwartz was pals with nearly everyone, from big shots like Pound, Eliot, Tate, and Ransom, to second-tier figures like Berryman, Jarrell, and Lowell. James Laughlin, who used his Steel fortune inheritance to float Modernist-literature-which-didn’t sell (New Directions) was Delmore’s publisher; a year younger than Delmore, Jay loved to ski and was prone to depression and Delmore bossed him around—when it came to making publishing decisions, it was the blind leading the blind.

Inside positions, top appointments, tenured professorships eluded Delmore, and in the end, Delmore was just as much of an outsider as Poe.

Delmore’s longest term of employment was as an English Composition instructor at Harvard, correcting endless “themes” (freshman papers). He should have been given a chair in his honor and a couple of small seminars of graduate students to teach, but the fates were not kind to him—given how much talent and intellectual ambition he had.

Delmore’s age consisted of short lyric, simple painting, poignant story, strident essay, and cement architecture, but just as the Civil War with its body count shocked the delicate aesthetic community of Poe’s, World War Two and its Boom swamped the introspective, modernist, pessimism of Delmore—a film fan and a philosopher, who lamented TV’s popularity.

Schwartz was on top of the world in 1938—and lost to it by 1943—drinking and popping pills. He did pick himself up a few times, no doubt breathing a sigh of relief when newspapers announced the Axis Powers lost in 1945. Delmore was seeking to add to his fame during a window of time in the early 40s when Pound and Eliot headed up the clique he labored in and no one was sure which side was finally going to win the war. Delmore’s biggest award was the Bollingen Prize (awarded to him in 1959)—a prize made famous by Pound, who won the first-ever Bollingen in 1948 after escaping hanging for treason.

A lady’s man, Delmore would re-marry in 1949 (Elizabeth Pollet, a beautiful blonde novelist who married someone else in 1948 when Delmore got cold feet, admitting she loved Delmore the whole time) and his stories, reviews, and anthologized poems secured his reputation during the late 40s, but as his biographer put it, 1947 saw the “beginning of his worst depression—from which he never entirely recovered”—at this time, “Allen Tate, in Sixty American Poets, concluded that Schwartz had not ‘lived up to his early promise.'” Delmore knew this to be true—but hated someone else saying it.

Delmore did say it, in a journal entry, quoted by Robert Phillips in the introduction to the selected Letters:

“I must think of the house on Ellery St: where I lived alone, drank until I was a problem drinker, fell in love foolishly and vainly wasted the years when I should have been at the height of my powers: during most of the Second World War and after…”

Delmore does not blame his failure on the United States—but this is what Delmore-intellectuals all like to say, by way of some crude remarks made by Baudelaire. Dwight MacDonald, one of Delmore’s oldest friends from the Partisan Review days, in his introduction to Delmore’s Essays, compares Delmore to Baudelaire’s Poe. Here is MacDonald quoting Baudelaire:

“In Paris, in Germany, he [Poe] would have found friends who could easily have understood and comforted him; in America he had to fight for his bread.”

Delmore came to believe this rubbish (the food of nearly every literary intellectual) that Europe is superior in every way to America. Here is Delmore in a letter (8/8/1957) to the English poet Stephen Spender:

“English publishers…do not believe that the best of all books is the bankbook and the writing of poems a self-indulgent hobby…”

This is ironic, since Spender was being secretly paid by the CIA (this would have been “paranoia” had anyone said it then). Here Delmore’s naive side is on display: the belief in the nobility of English publishers; the cynical side of Delmore was constantly ridiculing president Eisenhower.

Delmore was always complaining about the “Almighty Dollar,” and he did face money problems—this did belong to his decline.

Middle-aged Delmore was like the Rolling Stones, who made money touring, long after they stopped writing good songs—only Delmore’s 1930s reputation was used by others (Recommend/review my friend’s book! Be our mag’s poetry editor! Write an introduction for our anthology!) while no one paid Delmore much money; he was fairly stable in the 1950s until his second wife left him—this, combined with his poverty, and everyone using him, and his non-existent belief-system, finished him. Delmore was a dead man walking for the last ten years of his life.

In the last third of his career, Delmore had no center, no belief, nothing to fall back on, except poetry—which he wasn’t able to write. It would be wrong to make too much of Delmore’s Jewishness. Delmore was whatever he wanted to be; he could admire Heine and discuss Jews with Karl Shapiro, but then turn around and say to Robert Lowell (in a 1/27/55 letter):

“I am…a royalist in literature, a classicist in politics..and an Anglo-Catholic in all questions of lyric poetry.”

Delmore said his favorite of his own poems was “Starlight Like Intuition Pierced The Twelve,” written, he said, in 1943, because it had him liking Christianity without having to believe it. Delmore’s madness may have been partially due to his inability to feel genuinely about anything.

As James Atlas describes Delmore in the 1940s—only the second decade of his career—and yet, sadly, the beginning of the end:

“Delmore’s most famous epigram, that ‘even paranoids have real enemies,’ could well have served to characterize Harvard’s intellectual climate, for he was hardly alone in being competitive, high-strung, and temperamental, and had only to elaborate and refine real instances of rudeness in order to arrive at the conspiracies he found so dramatically satisfying.”

Atlas, again: “Bowden Broadwater refused to invite the Schwartzes [Delmore and his first wife, Gertrude] to his parties because ‘they are always imagining that people are talking about them, and they glower from corners.'”

The only certain thing about Delmore’s entire life and literary career is the perfection of the tale, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities;” everything else is ambiguous and painful.

First—and what gets the most attention—mainly because the embarrassment was fictionalized so well by Delmore’s friend, Saul Bellow, is Delmore’s personal destruction: he died, childless and alone, from a heart-attack at 52, looking like an old man.

Second, is the poetry, which is decidedly minor: three anthologized poems, but no great poems, towering above the rest, were ever produced. The world waited, but it never happened—yet he’s remembered as a poet.

Third, he did go on to produce more fiction, mostly realistic and autobiographical, occasionally transcendent or surreal, but none of it has the poetic intensity of “In Dreams,” which has a vivid, searing quality lacking in Delmore’s other stories—which often read like he took a vacation from the calling that produced that first masterpiece. He never escaped the autobiographical fire which burned so brightly in the tale which introduced him to the world—he didn’t use it; he let it use him. He never “got over” things—he picked at them. He suffered from insomnia his entire life. Was this his fault? Do we love him in spite of it? Yes, we love him: no, we don’t blame him; but this is beside the point.

Fourth, the criticism, which is surprisingly polished, even-handed, and likable. And this is somewhat disappointing, given Delmore’s genius. In the critical prose we get Delmore’s Dr. Jekyll side. His essays are full of phrases like “We ought to remember that perhaps…” Pound, though it’s clear Delmore had no illusions about him, is defended as a beautiful and historically important poet who must be read over and over again. Delmore repeats all sorts of Modernist truisms—Rimbaud was great because he hated the bourgeoisie and capitalism and yet Rimbaud failed because his hatred was too extreme, and yet, this too, makes Rimbaud great. There is a faint sympathy for things like Christianity (one can feel Delmore always trying to come across as calm) but every time Christianity is mentioned, it is “dying.” A diligent errand-boy for Modernism, we are continually reminded, “The age in which one exists is the air in which one breathes.” Capitalism isn’t dying, but it’s hateful. The Romantics (old-fashioned, every one) wrote about “nature.” Poe (who Schwartz, like all Modernists, never admitted to, nor actually seemed to, have read) was “naive.” Twentieth century letters, for Delmore, quite simply pours from the head of Rimbaud (and Blake). Because “Christianity was dying.”

In “Rimbaud in Our Time,” Schwartz writes, “[Rimbaud] attempted to return to an ancient purity, a time previous to Europe, and Christianity, a pagan culture: ‘I am a beast, a Negro’… But he cannot accomplish this departure because Europe is everywhere.”

The Rimbaud of “I am a beast, a Negro” is one of those big, stupid ideas which poets and intellectuals should examine, dismiss or refine, not feed. Schwartz was certainly not the only one guilty of this; the young Delmore strove to please a Modernist hierarchy which mostly accepted him; he belonged to that camp and willingly, or unwillingly, breathed that air.

Delmore favored a “special language” for the poets (he adored Finnegan’s Wake) and privileged the didactic over beauty in poetry. If we believe Delmore’s own words, it was because he was stuck in “his age.”

Delmore loved to gossip, joke, and argue—and exceptional at all three, these three inform his work—which continually struggles to rise above gossip, joke, and argument—and reach the level of literature.

He made two great mistakes in his late 20s, following his initial splash.

First, rushing into print a poorly translated Rimbaud.

Second, spending five years writing and publishing a long, didactic, Greek-chorus, autobiographical, prose poem full of exclamation points.

If someone were bent on ruining his career, they could not have given him better advice to that effect.

Glancing at Understanding Poetry 3rd edition, the textbook used in all the schools (the surest way to fame, actually) during Delmore’s lifetime as he sought the lasting respect and recognition he never got, what do we see?

The influential textbook, put together by two New Critics (the unofficial group Schwartz lovingly worked for and with) is filled with Delmore’s rivals, their poems prominently illustrating poetry lessons.

Only one of Delmore’s poems sits at the back of the book, within almost 100 pages of poetry merely reproduced for extra reading, or “study” as the book puts it.

What is this poem?

It is the “Heavy Bear” poem which appears in Delmore’s first book, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” named after the tale, but which contains mostly poems—of uneven quality—published by James Laughlin at his family estate in Norfolk, Connecticut. Laughlin was pushed into publishing by his friend Ezra Pound (who Laughlin stayed with in Italy after graduating from Harvard). Both publisher (Jay) and writer (Delmore) were in their early 20s.

“The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me” (untitled in the book) depicts a person clumsy with appetite and anxiety—a poem of adolescent trepidation and nervousness, which unfortunately contains the lines “Climbs the building, kicks the football,/Boxes his brother in the hate-ridden city.”

One knows poets through textbooks. Unfortunately, for Delmore, “The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me” sitting in the back of Understanding Poetry was not enough to keep his poetry in print.

Pound and Williams were used to illustrate lessons (paltry ones—but nonetheless) in Cleanth Brooks’ and Robert Penn Warren’s tome.

Another poem in Delmore’s first book shows the same theme, but here adolescent anxiety mars the writing itself:

I am to my own heart merely a serf
And follow humbly as it glides with autos
And come attentive when it is too sick,
In the bed cold of sorrow much too weak,
To drink some coffee, light a cigarette
And think of summer beaches, blue and gay.
I climb the sides of buildings just to get
Merely a gob of gum, all that is left
Of its infatuation of last year,
Being the servant of incredible assumption,
Being to my own heart merely a serf.

(first stanza)

This is the humble, depressed side of Delmore—he also could be imperious, caustic, and manic.

The pairing of a young, arrogant, writer with a younger publisher (one who was more into skiing than literature, to boot) was bound to lead to disaster. Schwartz was prolific, as well as a genius—but poor publishing decisions can ruin the relationship between public and writer—unless that writer is a Milton or a Poe.

Poor reception—lack of sales—introduces doubt, and this was terrible for a writer like Delmore, a young, sensitive, outsider.

Delmore’s second collection of poetry did not appear until 1950, and was savaged by Hugh Kenner, author of the Pound Era. Vaudeville For A Princess, a thin, rather unattractive, hardcover published by New Directions, was not well received.

The first poem which greets the reader in Vaudeville is “On A Sentence By Pascal:”

“True eloquence mocks eloquence.”
Did that Frenchman mean
That heroes are hilarious
And orators obscene?

Eloquence laughs at rhetoric,
Is ill at ease in Zion,
Or baa-baas like the lucid lamb,
And snickers at the lion,

And smiles, being meticulous,
Because truth is ridiculous.

Then follows a short essay, “Existentialism: The Inside Story,” which ends, “As for me, I never take baths. Just showers. Takes less time.”

And the second poem in the book, begins:

The mind to me a North Pole is,
Superb the whiteness there I find,
The glaring snows of consciousness
Dazzle enough to make me blind,
Until I see too much, in this
Resembling James’ governess.

And the final stanza:

The mind resembles all creation,
The mind is all things, in a way;
Deceptive as pure observation,
Heartbreaking as a tragic play.
Idle, denial; false, affirmation;
And vain the heart’s imagination—
Unless or if on Judgment Day
When God says what He has to say.

This sort of writing may be amusing—but if you wish to be taken seriously as a lyric poet after a 12 year absence, this is not the way to do it.

The only poems Delmore was known for were three—including “Heavy Bear”—included in his first book, all written before he was 25.

The one book of ‘poems only’ which Delmore published was his third collection, Summer Knowledge, Selected Poems, issued 5 years before his death.

Vaudeville for a Princess, his second collection, which biographer James Atlas calls a “slight achievement,” includes dazzling yet bizarre essays, including cynical summations of Hamlet and Othello by Shakespeare—missing what’s great about these plays and explicitly saying they have no meaning—a glimpse no doubt, into Delmore’s soul.

Writing in the Age of Freud, Delmore, in all his work, wrote almost exclusively about himself—and whether he is a great author depends on how much he understood himself—which this reviewer believes was just enough to make Delmore Schwartz a worthy object of study.

In one of the essays in Vaudeville, we read this about a literary party:

“he was making unkind remarks about editors and critics. This caused an awkward silence because several of the critics were friends of his host and his host was a very kind man…” “I had been warped by being forced to earn my living as a literary critic…”

In another essay from Vaudeville, “Don Giovanni, Or Promiscuity Resembles Grapes,” we get insights on being a playboy which ring true—one comes away believing that Delmore was that breed of melancholy and guilty seducer who may have significantly ruined his literary career and his sensitive nature with screwing.

The sonnets which close out Vaudeville is not a “slight achievement;” they are wonderful, but they do tend to be a little didactic. There are three kinds of poets—the bad ones, the ones worthy of study, and the ones who produce poems we just plain love: Delmore, I think, belongs to the second category—which is no mean feat.

The treatment of Delmore in Delmore Schwartz, The Life of an American Poet, by James Atlas, is like most other responses to Schwartz as a literary figure—respectful, when not being condescending.

It is true that Delmore became paranoid at the end of life, but Atlas is clearly not happy with 36-year old Delmore’s behavior during a cocktail party (“Delmore’s suspicions about his friends were by now verging on paranoia”) but one can understand why Delmore might be upset:

“When William Empson, just back from China and sporting a Mao suit, volunteered that giving the Bollingen Prize to Pound was the best thing America had ever done, Delmore turned on him and accused him of being a traitor to England because he was a Communist. The Mizeners, who lived next door, heard Delmore shouting long after the last guests had gone home.”

Atlas ends the anecdote with “Delmore shouting” as if this proves Empson was reasonable and Schwartz was not—clearly it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Hayden Carruth describes the poet’s decline in 1952, when Schwartz was 39:

“He still looked rather boyish like that old photograph in the Oscar Williams’ anthologies, but his features were somehow softened, hazy, blurred, and his voice was so quiet that I had to bend my head to hear him. I had the impression of great sadness and sweetness. It was as if he was lost and knew he was lost, and had given up caring about it. The exhilarated spirit his older friends remember was never apparent to me, but rather a quietness and a desire to cling to little things—little actions and objects—as if from a simple attachment to littleness for its own sake. He looked and spoke like a defeated shipping-house clerk.”

To see how brief the career of Delmore Schwartz actually was:

Schwartz was born in 1913. The composer Verdi was born in 1813.

By 1840, Verdi’s two young children, a girl and a boy, and his wife, were dead of illness. Verdi’s only son died before he was 2.

Life was not easy in the 19th century, but people were tougher perhaps.

In the year Delmore was born, in Brooklyn, in 1913, a statue of Verdi was placed in his home town in Italy. Delmore died not too far from Verdi Square in mid-town Manhattan.

In 1842, Verdi’s opera Nabucco—the subject: Jews in exile—debuted, in the spirit of unification of Italy. “Song of the Hebrew Slaves” from that opera made Verdi famous.

By 1942, decisions by Laughlin and Schwartz were seriously undermining Delmore’s literary career.

Schwartz’s career theme was alienation—Verdi’s, the opposite, even though suffering and sorrow belonged to Verdi’s life and art.

Verdi had been hit with loss of wife and children. Schwartz, according to Delmore’s biographer, mourned the death of James Joyce, his favorite baseball team (the Giants) not doing well, and Adlai Stevenson losing to Eisenhower in the 1952 election—Schwartz said president Eisenhower would be like “Julius Caesar.”

1847, Verdi’s opera Macbeth opened.

With the poor reception of Vaudeville for a Princess in 1950, Delmore’s career as a poet is nearly over. A book of essays never appeared when Delmore was alive. His fiction was good—but didn’t sell. The public thought of him as a poet, or a critic—but the only poetry really known of Delmore’s was published in 1938.

1851 Rigoletto

1853 Il trovatore

1853 La Traviata

1857 Simon Boccanegra

1959 Summer Knowledge, Delmore’s Selected Poems—reprinted old ones, a few new ones—is published.

According to the Atlas biography, in the late 50s “Editors were magnanimous and deferential to his reputation…Poetry encouraged him to submit verse and paid for it in advance (an unprecedented gesture for Poetry…both William Maxwell and Howard Moss at The New Yorker isolated what was publishable from the disorderly manuscripts he submitted…the quarterlies regularly accepted his work, whatever its quality…

1961 Successful Love (stories) is reviewed by Time and Newsweek. Delmore attends the party in which Norman Mailer stabs his wife. By now Delmore’s life is torn by paranoid episodes and poverty.

1865 Don Carlos

1966 Delmore dies on July 11th, (the birthday of Verdi’s son)

1871 Aida

1874 Requiem

1887 Othello

1893 Falstaff

1901 Verdi dies.

But enough bad news about Delmore Schwartz.

I said a revival was coming. What about that?

Thanks to the work of Ben Mazer and the kindness and receptivity of the Schwartz estate and the publishing house FSG, the Collected Poems of Delmore Schwartz should make an appearance as early as next year—Mazer is finishing up his monumental task as we speak, not only collecting Delmore’s poems but discovering ones never seen before.

Mazer has also asked for new essays on Schwartz—which will be coming out even sooner, from Madhat Press.

There is also The Uncollected Delmore Schwartz, already recently published, from Arrowsmith Press, Ben Mazer, editor.

Schwartz produced enough work—not just poems—and was personally involved in so much of 20th century letters, even if he is judged, finally, as a minor poet—and this is open to argument, let the arguments begin—he must be seen as a major literary figure who has too long been neglected and out of print.

There is plenty to cheer about in the career of Delmore Schwartz:

Here he is, writing to Ezra Pound:

“you seem…to have slowed up…in the old days you were in the middle of everything. Now you seem to have your gaze trained on Jefferson and Social Credit…and a phenomenon like Auden…does not seem to exist for you…” (1938 letter)

“I have been reading your last book, Culture. …A race cannot commit a moral act. Only an individual can be moral or immoral… I…resign as one of your most studious and faithful admirers. Sincerely yours…” (1939 letter)

Go, Delmore!

Here he is, in his essay “The Isolation of Modern Poetry,” correcting T.S. Eliot:

“It is said that the modern poet must be complex because modern life is complicated. This is the view of Mr. T.S. Eliot, among others. ‘It appears likely,’ he says, ‘that poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult.'”

“But the complexity of modern life, [Delmore points out] the disorder of the traffic on a business street or the variety of reference in the daily newspaper is far from being the same as the difficulties of syntax, tone, diction, metaphor, and allusion which face the reader in the modern poem. If one is the product of the other, the causal sequence involves a number of factors on different levels, and to imply, as I think Mr. Eliot does, that there is a simple causal relationship between the disorder of modern life and the difficulty of modern poetry is merely to engender misunderstanding by oversimplification.”

Delmore is right. In fact, Poe, in pointing out how complex civilization had become in his day, asked for brevity in the face of greater hurry due to modernity—which is quite different from difficulty.

T.S. Eliot is wrong. Thank you, Delmore.

Here is Delmore, in another essay, instructing Yvor Winters—who attempts to theoretically isolate every element of poetry:

“One does not start with meter, nor with the explicit statements, but with both, taken together. Their relationship is one of reciprocal modification; each ‘characterizes’ the other, and they cannot be separated, a fact upon which Winters himself insists. This fact is often forgotten. One is offered examples of sublime verse and nonsense rhymes with the same vowels or in the same meter, in order to show that meter is not expressive. This is the error correlative to that of Winters. Mr. Eliot himself was once guilty of it, in a lecture. He read several verses of Tennyson, and then lines with the same meter and rhyme-scheme from a nonsense ballad of Lear. The audience giggled; Mr. Eliot concluded that here was indeed a problem, and then passed hurriedly on to another subject.”

Delmore not only cuts down Winters, he humbles Eliot. Delmore was a real critic.

Here is a poem from the sonnet sequence in Vaudeville, which has both clarity and mystery, and speaks to something not only important to Delmore and to poets, but to all of us:

How Each Bell Rings And Rings Forever More

This life is but fireworks at the fancy shore
Among the summer people, drinking gin,
Chilled by the vanity and the senseless roar
Of breakers broken quicker than a pin,
By the moon broken, soaring and unheard,
–Thus we are tossed! by powers from afar,
By puns on rocks in Christ’s most obscure word,
Or, when the moonlight glitters, by a star!

Look well and you will see there is no stay:
No one takes back a word, but once for all
What has been said can never be unsaid
No matter what trash and newness every day
The fresh years bring and break and take away:
This is the poet’s power, this is his dread.

Let the revival of a writer in the middle of it all, on every level, begin.

INSIDE MY CONTEMPLATIONS

Renaissance Tower Paintings | Fine Art America

Inside my contemplations

I find the most wonderful things.

Not songs [fools]

But how singing sings.

You told me a red wine you were drinking

belonged to your novel, so I couldn’t have it.

What was I thinking?

Our son’s breakfast fell from his plate

as neat rows of friends (hundreds)

looked up at the high towers of Harvard.

Pancakes, syrup and the richest cream:

I will have it, silly wife—

This is my dream.

Entertainment is entertaining

and entertainment formulas abound.

Choose a topic, violence, a plot.

Or choose the sweetest sound.

What is a prime number?

What is a prime minister?

Note the leaves of my dream

scattered on the ground.

I was the most arrogant adolescent;

I knew simplicity and youth were good.

[I just like it dad!]

The mathematics of failure

is damn glad it’s misunderstood.

A LANDSCAPE SEEN FROM A GREAT DISTANCE

Genius | Song Lyrics & Knowledge

The old woods have passed away.
Cloudy domes, tall storms,
Tower above the night sky—
A strip of glowing horizon
Where a thousand cities lie
Is all we see of our sky tonight
Lost in turgid, earthy light—
Vapor in the air, flames on the ground
Combine to keep the stars from sight—
Solemn bells in the distance sound—

Rain. Mist. Smoke and distant bells—
The air’s alive over the scene.
In their agitation, in their hoarse
Metal excitement, the bells
Beat upon the vaporous air—
The world whispers below.
The light of a thousand towns
Sends sulfurous shafts skyward
Into the darkness, the agitated storm—

The world is on fire.
Our desire
Makes everything warm.

WHEN YOU REACH A CERTAIN AGE

Concrete Cutting: Treating Tree Roots Under Concrete Footpaths

When you reach a certain age

you feel like you’ve died—

even though you have not died.

Life seems like an extremely

well-made film with a subtle plot

you have little interest in.

It’s too highbrow for your taste—

yet the film is covered

in accident and filth.

The filmmaker is a genius

but you have no idea what

he is trying to say.

A series of minor decisions by a large committee,

which includes a lover you no longer

love, have made their mark—

and there’s nothing more you can do.

You find the excitable spoken

in a foreign tongue. Whatever is earnest

and clear makes you laugh.

You always thought the end

of your life would be brutally sad

and missing her would crush you.

Why then do you feel a strange

and delicate sense of revenge

In the middle of this helplessness?

Why do you care

Although you should not care?

THERE IS SOMETHING FAINTLY COMICAL

Jean-Marc Nattier (1685 – 1766, French) | LA CONCHIGLIA DI VENERE

There is something faintly comical
and hopelessly masturbatory about love.
Sex made me weary; it made me laugh.
It’s difficult to make desire last
unless it cannot be.
When I couldn’t have you
you made more sense to me.
When I lost you
I found you singing in my poetry.
Please don’t think
I don’t take love and you seriously.
Laughter saved me
from the awful weight
of love. And as for hate…?

I did well, too.

When I laughed a little bit at you.

THE END OF SUMMER

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A great melancholy came about

when one small cloud blocked the sun.

Did I feel this melancholy—

or was it felt by everyone?

I may as well observe

it was the end of a long weekend

at the end of summer

and I desired the sun to shine.

But one small cloud interfered

and the sun was no longer mine.

The cloud represents vanity—

or is it, instead, the sun?

Am I concerned with symbols—

or is it everyone?

We spoke of poetry for days:

What can be said, and how?

Your poem once brought me to tears.

What does that matter now?

BECAUSE NOBODY TALKS TO YOU

Reaching For The Stars - Abstract Energy Art Painting Painting by Modern  Abstract

Because nobody talks to you

without an agenda of their own,

you listen to me, as I confess

with a certain charm on the telephone.

I prefer to walk down the street

covered in trees and the sun above

clinging in private to thoughts of love.

But when you call, I listen thoughtfully

as if I were composing poetry

and trying to find a plot

in all you say, whether or not

I know you or can see you.

I have finished with my own words

and now yours and the sound of your voice

surround me. How did I find

a way out? I heard you. I was kind.

The wolves and the wild cold,

the sad universe getting old,

Were forgotten. I listened as if

we were both in a small skiff

under the stars on the sea.

At that moment I knew you were listening to me.

LOVE WILL LOVE

Step into an Impressionist painting in France

Don’t tell me what you want—
Don’t tell me what you need.
Love will love those who love—
Until the indifferent fates intercede.

You worry about education,
The pills, the rumors, the weed,
Love will love those who love
Until the indifferent fates intercede.

I took you right into the zoo
When it was time for the animals to feed.
Love will love those who love
Until the indifferent fates intercede.

We look at the past in the past:
The trip to Key West with the Swede.
Love will love those who love
Until the indifferent fates intercede.

Your reputation is good.
Don’t be embarrassed by your greed.
I am going to be nice to you
Until the indifferent fates intercede.

I could tell you I love you forever
And list my every need.
Love will love those who love
Until the indifferent fates intercede.

IT WAS ALREADY TRUE

Walter MacEwen - Vanity | Classic art, Victorian art, Art

She used to say, “love has an expiration date”

and “love is finally as unreliable

and uncharitable as hate.”

What could I do?

She believed it—so it was already true.

I watched as the inevitable took place:

by unseen degrees, the passion

left her face.

She would say:

“Love is madness. Isn’t that Plato?”

My favorite philosopher, but I pretended,

after a helpless pause, not to know.

What could I do?

She believed it—so it was already true.

We’ve all been there: you love someone

so much you cannot argue with them;

you lack energy, and when you try,

you lose the argument if you look in their eye.

Your reaction only makes it worse.

You fight the inevitable

with charming verse

she ends up mocking

gently, while pulling up her stocking.

Small gestures take on great

significance. She’s right. Love is hate

you realize, oh God, as you begin

to hate, what can I do?

She believed it—so it was already true.

The passion lasted almost three years

watered with an underground spring of tears.

What could I do?

Believing the worst—it was already true.

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