INSINCERELY OFFENDED

Image result for the offended in renaissance painting

The biggest asshole is the one who insincerely takes offense.

To be offended, as wrongs go, is a relatively harmless thing in itself, and often earns the offended party points for virtue—and here lies the insidious nature of the insincere who are always offended: their bad spreads and increases, inspired, and under the cover of, the apparent good—which makes the insincerely offended impossible to stop simply and virtuously.

To take offense is to give offense—the offended shame the other by being offended by them, even though the “offense” is harmless—and sincere. And here the insincerely offended strike an even greater and more insidious blow against sincerity: when they insincerely take offense at something which is offered sincerely.

The asshole’s insincerity—because it hides behind virtue—is protected, increasing the truth of its insincerity. The asshole’s bad—which hides behind the good, is, for that very reason, is even worse, as all that is insincere (and called good) gradually chases out all that is sincere (and called bad).

This common, yet applauded, wrong, is able, like an infection without a cure, to spread harm and mischief vastly, and incalculably.

Justice longs, like any pressure, or force, to manifest itself in some way—for it would not be justice otherwise.  The more wrong and the more torture the faculty of virtue suffers, the greater likelihood of a dramatic reversal of the state of things—perpetuated over time by insidious wrong which hides itself inside the good.

Murder, and other truly criminal, brazen and anti-social acts, don’t happen out of the blue, but we are nonetheless often puzzled by the sudden and seemingly unexplained ferocity and evil of human behavior. These terrible offenses, replete with horror and irrationality, come about, very often, from the far less harmful, but constant, behavior of the assholes—who are able to seem good as they constantly shame and torture others.

The insincerely offended asshole is the root of all evil.

The good person is made to feel bad—even as they know themselves to be sincere.

The good person sees the bad person winning, as a seeming good person—and there is nothing the good person can do about it. Good is defeated by the bad, as all the good is sucked out of the room.

Good can, and will, suffer, in silence, knowing itself to be good.

Good, however, in a weak moment, may take offense itself, because of the insincere strategy of the bad who are offended, and good, now offended in turn, and rightly so, transitions to the idea that all offense taken is insincere, and bad is all—good succumbs to the atmosphere of bad, believing there is no more good, since being offended is the only reality, whether it is sincere, or not.

Since taking offense sincerely is actually a more helpless order of being than taking offense insincerely (the latter perceived to be more clever and ambitious and socially successful) good falls in line with the prevailing bad behavior—which ambitiously and insincerely takes offense.

The bad perpetuates bad as normal, and the bad flourish in their status quo status, insincerely offended by every means and manner one can think of—since the world is imperfect in every way, there is an infinite store of things which offend. “To be offended” becomes not only the de facto normal and safe position, but the strong and superior position.

This is how, in a normal and self-perpetuating manner, the bad grows and flourishes, always on the offended end of things, while the just and the good either convert to the bad-and-insincerely-offended normal, or, the good ineffectively fight back, either violently or pitifully, committing more harm, and looking truly bad, and becoming truly bad, in the process. The good is not only defeated by the bad; the good ends up becoming even worse, making the triumph of the bad even more certain and inevitable.

But take heart.

Build a house–or a poem—which doesn’t fall down.

You are good.

It is them, not you.

The world is more creepy, unfair and crazy than you ever dreamed.

But we’ll find a way out of this.

I promise.

 

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IF THE INTROVERT

If the introvert is really so,

Where can the introvert go

To escape public notice—their fear and doom?

They just slip into the bathroom.

Whether in a public place, or at home,

There’s a place where the introvert can truly be alone—

Better than the living room, or even hiding in bed,

Where someone else might lurk, the introvert’s dread—

Is a private room where the introvert really spends their life.

Look around. Where is your moody wife?

You might speak to them as they half-listen, half-hidden by their hair;

You might even make them angry. They aren’t really there.

You might feel fortunate to get them on the phone.

The truth is, the introvert is always alone.

The introverts, silent ghosts, climb inside their walls,

As Churchill’s voice looks for them, echoing in the stalls.

 

THE ENTRANCE

Image result for entrance with blue pillars

The entrance is all.

The entrance allows you to enter,

Unless it is locked, or too small.

This entrance seems meant for you,

And, as you go in,

You hear the sounds of love,

And feel the grip of sin.

The entrance had blue stone

Pillars on both sides

And marble for miles

Which no one derides.

The entrance is expensive

And when you entered it, you were

Different afterwards. But don’t ask her.

She is the queen of entrances.

She is official. She knows

Death is the entrance

Every palace shows.

This entrance, however, is so tall

You don’t see it. The sky

Seems to beckon.

But you are too small.

At the beginning of the entrance you die

To get out. She knows why.

You signed up with the others.

They waived the entrance fee.

And now you’re in a submarine

At the bottom of the sea.

 

 

GREAT

Image result for statue of shelley

His love was great—but I always hated that word.

Word associations are true, though they seem absurd.

The expression “great with child,” disgusted me;

I hated the word, “great;” men were obsessed with it especially;

“I’m great,” or “that’s great”—and I would roll my eyes.

I learned eventually everything great was everything that lies.

He did love me, and I found him difficult to resist;

He had such beautiful hands, and I never saw him make a fist;

He would have died for me, though melody and poetry

And beauty made him die.

I worked at loving, but he didn’t have to try.

His love was great. And that’s when I realized the lie.

He was gallant and romantic and tall.

But he loved me too much. So I chose not to love him at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DAYS YOU HATE

Image result for impressionist painting bright day

The days you hate come fast,

Taking the days you like, the days you love, the days you want, with them into the past.

This day, for instance, which is blurry and cold.

It is moving and sunny. The moon

Wants days to love, at least a few, before time grows old.

The day is for flirting, for making eye contact, and soon

Night welcomes your tide of regret and sorrow.

All these days!

Tonight these regrets dive down—

Before rising up to ruin what you love tomorrow.

 

LIFE IS A TROUBLED DREAM

Life is a troubled dream, and all that is written,

And recorded, and published, is wrong.

The poet studies notes because notes are seen,

But never by the ear which hears the song.

The paper is presented; the scholars nod, and walk away

Into misty decision.

All that was perfected and built,

Falls in the middle of derision.

Innocence will admit its guilt

To the assembled, or be silent, and be guilty, anyway,

Tomorrow, in worry, or in joy the next day.

She, with the deepest sigh,

A wife, deeply conflicted,

Lets the kiss stay, and life go by.

She can go into the public places,

Hear the music and see the faces,

And what they report later will be false.

In the moment Lily came near me,

Her eyebrows were all I wanted:

A shape in a moment hides for eternity,

Belonging to a bright world by a dark poem haunted.

 

 

 

 

EVERYTHING IS SPOILED

Everything is spoiled.

Young flowers are having sex.

Your adorable first love has a powerful ex.

The jokes you think are funny

Are not, and they are old—

The young’s mocking variations are soon to be told.

All the insights you thought you had,

Are reversed in the tongues of others

And they prove you are bad.

The ignorant and the bossy will always be the same.

The supervisor is calling your name.

Everything is spoiled.

All for which you surrendered, and toiled.

What you thought was new is faded around the edges.

A beautiful suicide you envied

Blabs your secrets on ledges.

Now up for ridicule, all you adore.

All not trending is trash in your favorite store.

Your heroes and hobbies are no longer on the shelf.

Surprised by the mirror, you are someone else.

The old and the feeble tell you what to do.

You triumph. In that moment you’re replaced by the new.

Everything which ran to you, now runs away,

Because you got older in a single day,

And the one you thought was pure and true

Loves someone even uglier and more ignorant than you.

LOVE THE INSANITY OF LOVE

I was yours when you loved me,

But ownership in love is no guarantee

Love stays—but here is ownership

Still—your breast, your arm, your lip

Are no longer mine to touch; but you live

In me, and “mine,” “yours,” words we give

To ownership, still apply.

Our love existed, and it will never die.

You hate me now, but I am yours.

Love cannot shut, once we enter the doors.

I am yours, and if I live inside your mind,

You belong to me; love is not kind or unkind;

Love’s a bridge which connects two,

The bridge is ours; nothing else belongs, or is true.

Just so, the doubtful truth of God. The thinking

Is ours, even as all the hates and loves are sinking.

If God speaks to you—they will call you mad;

Love the insanity of love; for only doubt is bad.

Believe in God, which you must do.

The mind is doubt; what loves your mind is true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOOLS MOVE TOO FAST

The fools move too fast—

But the wise see the fools were wise at last.

The wise shudder to find their wisdom was sick,

And healthy is foolish, for life is quick.

Life, in a moment, fades away.

The wisdom of years is blind to the day.

The sun rose and she let something show—

And calmly you stood there, as she slowly turned to go.

The wise scans the poem, and strives to see

What the fool, laughing, perceived instantly.

The wise talks on, holding your arm.

The fool slept, but still heard the alarm.

DO YOU EXIST TOMORROW?

Do you exist tomorrow?

I think you do,

But I don’t see tomorrow.

I only see today, and today, sorrow.

I see sadness because it doesn’t see tomorrow.

I hear madness because it doesn’t heed tomorrow.

I only see today, and hysteria, and a lack of care.

Hysteria was frozen before it was dancing there.

Does today have an obligation?

Does today have a choice?

On the calendar I see tomorrow’s teeming nation,

Without an understanding, or a voice.

Today, they say, has a choice.

Tomorrow wants to say something, too.

How somber the ear which hears tomorrow!

Tomorrow writhes and anguishes, suffering with old sorrow

Because I didn’t listen to you.

ACTING IN THE BEGINNING IS REAL IN THE END

Image result for green in renaissance painting

Acting in the beginning is real in the end.
So love, ritualized and slow,
Now, with me always,
At first, always made excuses to go,
And was sometimes seen,
Creeping with her. It seemed fruitless to send
Overtures of love into the tangled green,
Where she and the other moved,
But I did, and if she loved,
I knew it only when, once, she claimed:
“Custom and ritual defend
The best of love,” and she whispered I would soon be named
As one who loved in the end.
I was named. So, send, send.

Real in the beginning is acting in the end.
So death, which seems everywhere,
In deeds and thoughts,
Waiting, and always there,
Is yet, never seen,
Except where letters vanish, because to end
Love, we send love to where it’s always green,
Where love after love moves.
In fear, everyone loves.
I knew death best through hope, which claimed:
“Custom and ritual defend
The best of love,” and she whispered I would soon be named
As one who loved in the end.
I was named. So, send, send.

YOU MADE ME CRAZY

Image result for the lover swoons in renaissance painting

You made me crazy.

You made me sick. Sick at heart.

You put your smile in a dart.

Love thinks a lot. Love isn’t lazy.

I hope to never be rid of this.

Well, yes—maybe I do.

Let me go away.

Into the land of your kiss.

You made me crazy. Congratulations, you.

Survival is simple: Drink water. Stay out of the sun.

Be careful. Do what’s right at all times.

Don’t trust anyone.

But survivors don’t dream in rhymes;

Survivors don’t write rhymes for another;

Survivors don’t string their days with songs—

Lullabies learned from mother.

Forgive me love, for these wrongs.

You put love inside a letter

And sent that love to me.

I hope I never get better.

But has anyone hoped so bitterly?

 

 

NO ONE LIKES

No one likes to be beloved of insults.

No one likes free speech when something goes wrong.

No one likes freedom when freedom is free

To interrupt your song.

The news has a point to make—

Which, because it is news, is slanderous and wrong—

And makes it quickly in large letters

Before you have a chance to turn away—

Stay, poetry, stay—

Seeking better advice from your betters.

Old religions conflate loyalty, God and beloved—

In this, only, find the truly true.

Your lover came looking for you

But, you, an addict, wanted privacy—

You want this moment to hide from the last;

Addiction wants privacy—the privacy of now erasing the past.

Too much pain dwells there:

Hate. Terrible hate. And his love, of which you were hardly aware.

 

 

THERE ISN’T ANYTHING

There isn’t anything in the Constitution

Or in your heart or in these inscriptions

Discovered carved in rock by a lost sea

Which interests me.

There isn’t anything in the Sunday Times

Or in a doomed poet’s obscure rhymes

In a dusty room long locked without a key

Which interests me.

There isn’t anything in the sad story

Told by art and dance and everybody is sorry

As you turn yourself into a community

Which interests me.

I do what I want to do. I don’t care

What’s inside myself. Or inside there.

I am the outward life,

I can handle guitar, ship, knife.

Yes, I know. The unhappy wife.

A VERY THOUGHTFUL PERSON

A very thoughtful person

Told me everything was physical.

The universal is material, he said,

And vibrates with song.

One moment his face was beautiful

And then ugly, and I found this very beautiful.

He was ugly because he was afraid.

He preferred Edgar Poe and whole milk.

He unsettled me the way he disagreed

With smart people in funny ways.  And yet he was agreeable to me

In a closed personal space; I never knew the personal could hold such bliss.

When we broke up I told him, his face streaming with tears, “you can’t worship me like this.”

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN

Image result for beautiful face with malice in painting

What does it mean when I want to cry

But I have no idea why

And I can’t, and heavily sigh

For a whole dull and dark cold day?

The release of crying would be a joy,

My tears like a penetrating ray,

Loosening the gloomy air,

Curing the darkness; feeling saving feeling

From a feeling of despair,

My crying, like a spring rain,

A harbinger of winter’s demise.

Will my tears be made of joy or pain?

Will joy joyfully render my cries?

I don’t know. Pain and joy, there is a lot—

But then I see a face

Beautiful with malice—not grace—

And I know why I want to cry, but cannot.

 

IF THE WISE DON’T PRAISE

Image result for death in renaissance painting

If the wise don’t praise

Heartbreak and cold,

Death, and getting old,

Who will? I count the days

From my beginning to my end.

Indifference will not make me bend.

A child in the womb not wanted must die.

A lover, without warning, turns cold

And waste and dark and gravity

Oppresses; the new becomes old

So death can make room for the new.

Who is wise who doesn’t praise you?

 

 

 

 

MORE WELCOME THAN THE SUMMER SUN

Image result for low sun in cloudy winter sky

More welcome than the summer sun,

You sun of December.

You simmer in my slumber.

Summer sun repeats the world

But the sun of December

Is the sun I remember.

Waking in cold dark,

There are no peaches outside my window growing, no lark.

The December shroud

Has made the crooked day

Esteemed far away.

I wake, and my fearful thoughts speak out loud

To no one in the dark.

There are no peaches outside my window growing, no lark.

No nightingale is singing.

Soon the sun will climb mistily into its seat

Where my life and dull December meet.

It’s just another cloudy day.

Estimation estimates summer far away.

The sun of December

Is the sun I remember.

 

I HAVE AN IDEA FOR A SONNET

Image result for chiaroscuro in painting

I have an idea for a sonnet.

I am going to let you in on it.

Once I share this idea with you

I hope this is all I need to do:

Sharing and writing it

The same: the dark, and lighting it

Will make the dark disappear—

A dark idea the poem hopefully makes clear:

My idea is not darkness, but darkness fled,

A light seen, instead,

So the writing isn’t the idea at all,

Except you see the shadow crawl

Down the page—the idea fleeing.

Light is the only thing you’re seeing,

But not as light—only in the way

It is making my idea (darkness) go away.

My words, dark, represent light;

My idea, wrong, couldn’t be more right:

The very act of writing erases

The dark idea my bright poem replaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARTY OF BILL CLINTON GETS A FEMINIST BONER

Against our will, we choose.

We have no will, not because we don’t choose, or cannot choose, but because we do.

Are you a Democrat, or a Republican?

“I’m neither.”

Of course. Wink wink. 

It is frighteningly apparent to every soul how crudely dual life is. Yes—I mean “no!”—it really is a binary existence; everything in life is a series of 0/1, eternally.

This is why every American is either a Democrat or a Republican.

And why “being a Democrat” or “being a Republican” is finally meaningless.

We might as well say “One” or “Two,” and, as throngs crowd around One, or Two, endowing One or Two with this or that virtue, the crowds are hardly aware that they are only participating in duality, in One and Two. The “Democrat” and “Republican” duality is a laughable and impossible affair.

But “heating up” is what “discussions” and “contest” and “rivalry” will naturally do, as existence would rather be “heated up”—the world would rather be warm than cold. The force which gave birth to you (the arms of a parent or a lover which clamber towards you) is from an ancient energy—a rivalry and a desire long forgotten, but still burning in history and mankind: swirling, bright, brutal, senselessly binary.

“Meaningful” itself is an opposite, and so on.

Everything exists because of its opposite (the binary) and not because of itself.

The binary is why we never feel comfortable or satisfied—why desire and doubt go on forever.

The initial choice exists because of the binary nature of reality.

“Democrat” or “Republican” = only a further elaboration of hidden, forever branching out, 0 or 1 choices.

The most famous modern American poem: Frost “The Road Not Taken,” concerns an either/or choice at a fork in the road.

The world’s most famous poem: “The Raven,” wonders is that someone at the door—or not?

Betrayals—in love—the switching of sides, the switch from “I love you” to “I hate you” in lovers and friends and close family members—betrayals are particularly noteworthy—and similarly, the sudden revelation of love where previously there was none—these switching actions fill us with awe, not just because of their immediate social effects, but because duality itself stuns our very souls, and the secret is briefly revealed and powerfully felt: the terrible truth that our reality is in fact nothing more than zeros and ones.

We are only half-aware why, in certain moods, we don’t want to talk. We know that talking, in the long run, will be better for all parties, but we can’t bring ourselves to join any sort of dialogue.

In our deepest, contemplative selves—when we get in touch with ourselves, feeling content in our soul’s lonely existence—the dialogue, the binary nature of conversation, just because it is a binary existence, is what we strongly abhor.

God is the singularity of existence; a devotion to God—the one—is how we attempt to defy the weary back and forth of binary life, even as unhappy, binary life encompasses God itself: Do you believe in God? Or not? Yes or no? Give us an answer, please. In our souls, the annoying binary of dialogue is precisely what God transcends.

The greatest philosophy, the great pagan one which spread outwards from ancient Athens—anticipating Christ, clearing the ground for monotheist religious ecstasy and reason—promoted the dialogue as its method, even as binary, counter-philosophical souls looked on it suspiciously as “not actually binary” since its dialectic sprung from an apparently monotheistic self-assurance—anathema to the great thinkers of Doubt, awash in the worldly pain of the binary.

The dialogue which has a design on us is not really binary; its “dialogue” is a trick, and many revolt against the genius of Shakespeare’s plays (dialogues) and hate monotheism, the divine, the sublime, and all that transcends the binary—with the crass, wild, laughing energy of chattering monkeys in the trees.

The organizing police action of politics makes use of the monkey life, the binary life, the chattering, empty dialogue life, which implants “us against them” in the appalling socialized brains of the unthinking. The “organized,” the binary political animal, wakes up hating others (and sinks, swooning, even in love, hating others,) and hating others is the mantra they live and encourage; hate, which is easily spread, like a flame—vindicates itself, and triumphs, and spreads, and, alas!, grows, simply by being hateful for no reason. The political, binary philosophy wins, apparently so easily, and conquers its opposition apparently so easily, since opposition itself is its god.

The binary (I belong to 1 and you belong to 0) is an error which only love and genius escapes.

 

YOU ARE THE ONLY AUTHOR WORTH READING

Image result for chappaquiddick

You can tell if it’s bad—you can feel it in your blood.

Witnesses to these events will write books,

Calling it fact, calling it fiction. Sometimes I believe them.

CBS is your parent. They don’t

Tell you everything, because today things need to be done.

The scandal sheet destroys your faith in mom and dad.

Or Christianity; innocent belief was all the joy you had.

Chappaquiddick was bad, or was it bad?

It all depends.

One glance at that right wing rag and your innocence ends.

Gangs come into government believing what you cannot believe.

It’s not belief. It’s muscle. To make you fear and grieve.

Here’s temptation. Money to do bad things may be really good.

The poet finds himself in the middle of a dark wood.

A scandal sheet is set to rhyme so the horror might be understood

By women in scarves. Those who are good.

Darling, be innocent and smile.

It will be okay, for a little while.

 

 

 

 

I CAN SUM UP WHAT YOU’RE FEELING

Image result for passengers on a train in painting

I can sum up what you’re feeling

Though you’re ignoring me,

You don’t know me, and you’re reading a book.

All I have to do is look.

The painter who can depict an actual person is rare.

Poetry has an even tougher task,

But I don’t care.

A woman is pretty, about thirty two,

She has brown, parted hair.

She could be any young woman,

But look what my poetry can do:

The worry in her forehead—

A few wavy lines—

Shows an unconscious awareness of former times,

Happier times, when she was a child.

But what has changed her?

The author she is reading is explaining, as all authors finally do:

You are no longer young, my dear,

And there’s nothing you can do.

 

 

I DON’T THINK THEY KNOW

Image result for three graces in renaissance painting

I don’t think they know

How beautiful they are.

They are beautiful, but how beautiful can

One faint light be to one faint star?

What medium can allow me to see

How beautiful—Oh God—

These creatures are to me?

I would tell them, but modesty,

By elaborate custom, will not speak.

This is why there is art and love:

To say with the Roman how lovely flows the Greek.

To say with marble how a form,

Despite enduring modesty,

Can make the coldest thinking warm.

Do these look in the mirror

And find their own form beautiful and strange?

Can they know what I know,

Before I come in range?

I think they know. They already know.

Therefore, before I sigh, and go,

There is no art I can leave to express

Both what is, and what doesn’t dare express

This love. My eyes and sighs are helpless.

 

 

PROSE SAYS IT’S OKAY

Image result for purse in renaissance painting

Prose says it’s okay.

Prose says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

And prose, in its way, is always right.

Poetry has no advice for you in the night.

Poetry is the heart, broken forever,

And light and happiness will never

Enter poetry’s chambers.

The new erases. Poetry remembers.

All scholars are uncomfortable

With poetry which sounds like song.

Poetry breaks what is already broken.

Embarrassed love tried to hate. But that was wrong.

The scholars are now forgotten. Their verse

Was prose.  Put secretly into the purse,

A folded note for the ages,

Will now be read aloud for the animals in their cages.

 

FUNGUS

Since she made an end to us,

Her elegant head looks like a large fungus.

She is too old, now, to breed.

She’s the food, and will feed

On herself, with increasing regret,

Hating herself, my revenge yet.

Hatred has made her a hateful monster;

And to think love almost saved her.

She followed me by lake and wood

And we saw beauty, and it was good.

But love adds love to what is already there:

Love found nothing in her, and she didn’t care.

We love for the first time and don’t know how.

She chose safety. So it doesn’t matter now.

 

 

 

MAXINE SINGLETON JONES

Image result for clouds in renaissance painting

Stand in the way of elysium,

With cloudy garb haunting

Your classical body and face,

On the steps of the outdoor symposium.

Clarity is the rhetoric of your race,

Clarity from bitter centuries, oppressed,

Your rhetoric beating like a drum,

Around your outdoor speech, nature

Is complacently dying—

The autumn mist is beautiful—

Historically oppressed, your race,

And you, every oppressor, defying,

You accuse, and therefore no poetry—

No poetry, your rhetoric’s disgrace.

How can you express desire

Without a poet’s cloudy fire?

Your beauty fears beauty will come.

You stand in the way of elysium.

 

 

I DREAMED YOU ASKED ME TO PLAY

I dreamed you asked me to play

Something I couldn’t.

I remember knowing I dreamed—

And anything can happen in a dream—but I wouldn’t.

A piece of music which I loved, was impossible,

Which I once played.

I played that piece in a dream long ago;

What kind of dream, I don’t know.

I searched for a second, then a third chord,

So you wouldn’t be bored.

I suffered through a passionate harmonic interlude.

I revived, and found you half-asleep, but still with that attitude

When you somehow manage to be indifferent, yet charm.

I pressed my face against your slightly pudgy arm,

Your hair surrounding your face, tickling me.

For you, I always translated musically.

Barbarous fruits hung in the shadows.

Bats would soon be on them.

I remember what it was–but not exactly how—I played.

If that dream had stayed,

Perhaps I could have learned greater music;

The tide gives swimmers an important clue:

How not to drown, when viewing languorous you.

But I drowned. This is what I tend do.

In dreams I sometimes know what a composer understands:

It has nothing to do with mathematics,

And everything to do with the hands.

 

HERE’S THE PATH

Image result for flowery path in renaissance painting

Look. Here’s the path I used to take.

If I took it now, my heart would break.

It’s the path she and I took.

Now I can’t look.

Here’s the train I used to take.

If I took it now, my heart would break.

It’s the train she and I took.

Now I can’t look.

Once, I spoke tenderly in these places to her.

It’s not uncommon to see love occur:

Actors can make it happen.

It’s a simple matter of math.

The universe is one. We were two.

Now I cannot take that path.

 

 

 

ONLY ARCHITECTURE SAVES THE POEM

Image result for view of tall building renaissance painting

Only architecture saves the poem;

The stairs can be built with sighs,

But there should be a hint of something solid

When the poet in front of the audience cries,

When the poet mourns never, never, never,

Will I look into your eyes.

The poem can be built with emotion.

But will it withstand the heavy wind

As it stands by the picturesque ocean?

The wind has a tendency to blow

About the roof—which covers what you will never know.

Architecture makes the poem last—

Famous Raven rhymes and stanzas from the past.

The fact of your form dissolves and fades;

Never will your old self return;

Never will you return to the earlier grades.

But this poem balances on a block,

Devoted to a poem’s walls, equipped with a clock—

Deep-voiced, vibrating, in heavy tick-tock.

You can see from the top of the poem

Where the passages of rhetoric go.

Your promotion, thanks to architecture,

Allows you to see insignificance below,

The whining around Big Sur,

Masonry too close, now, for anything to grow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRAVELING TO THE MOON

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I write poetry, every day,

In a cartesian way.

I’m traveling to the moon.

I have less and less to say

To those comparing bars in bars.

Yes, pretty soon

I’ll fall into silence,

The various winking stars

My only friends.

They crowded upon me, once,

North of the busy city,

When I was a boy,

Cousins young, life a floating joy;

The plentiful, silent stars

My loyal companions, not

The panting excitement of politics,

Government and ego distributing sticks.

Distance is my mother. Bless me, I’ve got

A body, ambition, and a mind;

I feel; I know; I’m not blind.

Thank you. Of course you’ve all been kind.

I’m traveling to the moon,

Where silence envelops me soon.

 

 

 

 

 

HURT ME AS I SLEEP

Hurt me as I sleep. Sleeping, I know nothing,

There is no injury, when nothing is real.

Invade my orchard. There are no apples to steal.

Hurt me as I sleep: the poetry stays inside.

Seeing my inner melody only, you cannot possibly deride.

The girl, frozen, on the gloomy stairs,

Who seems to be reading a book,

Is merely frozen. Take a look.

You might remember that it was then

You failed to remember. And again.

Or her, laughing. Do you think she cares?

Hurt me as I sleep. What can hurt us when we’re dead?

Only slander, by malice, or innocence, fed.

Fire, earthquake, or flood: the dead will not feel pain, or wake.

The same with sleep. It has no heart to break.

 

 

WE SEE MOMENTS

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We see moments, and moments

Don’t make any sense.

The moments are going to places

We cannot see.

The all of it moves forward gallantly,

But living in the present tense,

We flounder blindly.

We cannot understand faces.

When strangers arrive,

We try to know them when they smile,

And know in a moment the truth,

That dies after a while.

We don’t know our friends.

We know them in the beginning of a moment,

But the moment ends.

 

 

THE IMAGE

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This poem hides what inspired it.

If mentioned, the poem would fall apart.

This is the pity of love. This is the cunning of art.

If you saw the image which inspired

My words—words which make their debut

As a poem, you would laugh.

I leave it out. Even though it’s true.

Truth contains some laughter.

Expression begins in sorrow and rage.

The emotional life weakens you.

What starts warmly in life, ends on a cold stage.

It must die: the seed, the laughter, the loud heart.

This is the cunning of love. And all its art.

 

 

SOMEONE KNOWS HOW WE LOVED

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Someone knows how we loved,
Someone knows how we sighed,

Someone knows how we met secretly.

Someone knows how we laughed,
Someone knows how we cried.

Someone knows how we wanted love,
But no one knows how it died.

No one knows we still love the love our very love denied.

Only love ends in love,
In love, as in the beginning.

But we were ignorant.

We thought we were sinning.

When our love ended, we smiled weakly;

We were strong only in our resolve

To end a love we couldn’t solve.

Love couldn’t solve the love, either.

I was weak in love. I could not leave her.

So I loved her more.

She went back to herself.
No one knows how.

Only poetry
May write to her now.

Isn’t this what love is for,

To make the end resemble the beginning?

Killing the end defines the sinning.

 

 

 

 

UNOFFICIAL BECAME OFFICIAL BECAME LOVE

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Kiss, a word often used,
Came to mean something lovelier when we kissed—
As when honey oozed and snake hissed
In all that uproar of nature;
There can be no dictionary meaning for that rapture;
The meaning will inevitably be missed
Even if you see the word:
Kiss, kissing, kissed.
But use the word anyway, because our kiss
Isn’t anything a scholar can dismiss.

Our kissing was unofficial; it was slang;
It was like love being taunted by a gang.
Our kissing wasn’t supposed to happen,
Just as nature and existence weren’t supposed to occur.
I don’t know if it was me, or her,
Or why, or whether it had to be,
Only that it was joyful, and joyful still,
Now that our kissing is official.
Our kissing has its uses now.
You cannot find us in the dictionary,
But no scholar stands above
The result. It doesn’t matter how
Unofficial became official became love.

 

EFFICIENCY

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Efficiency, the lauded, is no one’s friend.

If work’s efficient, your employment must end.

Quick robots are making humans obsolete.

I put my humanity, humbly, at your feet.

Where is my use? Where is my pride?

A machine? A poet? Can you decide?

Love is pleasure—the highest efficiency

Makes you happy in a robot’s arms, miles from me—

Out of work, alone, slowly revising poetry.

The news of the layoff came in a flash, from above;

I had no real choice—as in poetry, or fate, or love.

 

 

 

 

MAY THIS POEM NOT KNOW

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May this poem not know what I’m saying.

For the best poets are just playing.

May this poem not know my mind.

For the best poets are unkind.

May this poem never pause or think

What I’m mixing into this drink,

What in the reader’s blood will flow—

Before the poem has a chance to know.

Yes, I loved you—but it was all in fun.

It’s a sensual poem. Are you done?

ASK ME

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Why would a poet ask for anything?

Like the philosopher, he disturbs

By questioning.

He wants reviews, blurbs,

Public praise, letters of introduction.

He’s empty. He doesn’t own a thing.

The poet is constantly needy,

And needy with honesty.

The poets feels a lascivious heart

Is not as bad as slander.

Do you think a poet has anything?

Do you think truth has anything to give?

A poet is the last one to tell you how to live.

Sit on a hard seat, and listen to him gas.

He’s no ordinary lunatic;

He wants you also to be an ass,

As you celebrate poetry,

And give stuff to him.

This makes you civilized.

O, the ice cold glass!

Before you drink, kiss the rim!

You, too, can be prized,

By writing things on him.

Hey, try poems yourself, stylized

In a way which makes them extra short.

Almost say. Be a modern heir.

He’ll give you a glowing report.

Look for it in that great big pile of papers there.

 

PERFECTION WAITS

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Perfection waits,

In the word, heaven,

Or perhaps somewhere else,

And look, it is almost here,

In the morning’s white-turning-to-blue sky,

With the intersection, the streets, clear

Of traffic at last, the holiday tourism gone by,

Since all obey the calendar,

Like one cell in your body telling you to die.

Everybody listens when the time arrives,

But you missed the signal, thank God.

Here you are, waiting by the stream.

I was afraid you would find my request too odd.

Perfection is more than a dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAREWELL ALWAYS

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To those we love, it is farewell always.

Those we hate, do not get, from us, a goodbye,

But like those we love, they, too, may give us a wave, when they die.

If rivals receive fearsome displays,

The nothing the hated receive, is more unkind.

Yet the calm we affect

For those we deeply love and respect

May make us seem careless and blind.

We are in this fix and we cannot get out—

We hate with such certainty, and love with such doubt,

That sometimes we find—

In the morning, after the battle,

Everything cold and still—

One we loved with our senses poisoning our mind.

The body hates the mind—

Which tells it where to go.

And death is only bad because of the ones we love, you know.

THERE IS ONLY ONE LINDA

There is only one Linda,

And Linda wants it so.

Linda will always be Linda

As far as Linda will go.

The first time I saw Linda,

I didn’t know Linda was her name.

But Linda came out of her mouth

And that’s when Linda came.

My eyes fixed on Linda

And Linda registered fast.

Her name flew quickly after:

Linda, a memory to last.

Perhaps the leaves she held,

Bunched in her lovely hand,

Will keep the memory,

As I in my memory understand.

She belonged to Linda,

And seemed to want to be Linda,

As I later thought,

When I reflected on meeting Linda

By chance—not sought.

Not seeking Linda, or anyone at all,

I had sauntered up to her.

Sometimes these things occur!

She was indifferent then,

Indifferent now. But when

She complained that even men

Were using her name, Linda,

I wondered what possible agenda

Could there be?

Linda! Tell me.

But Linda remained aloof,

And sad, like any owner,

Turned away, as I cried,

There is only one Linda.

And I have proof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE MAKES BEAUTY IMPOSSIBLE

I love beauty more than love, and she

Was able, after a while, to see,

Because she was beautiful, this truth about me.

Everything to me gradually became ugly:

The farms we visited, rural places

With ponds and moss, faces

Of other women, sunsets, the sky,

The bees. Music needed her sigh

Before I could listen. Beauty flew

Away from everything. Finally, I knew

Only what she was, what she could see.

Her love took beauty away from me.

Beauty was hers, and love made this so.

Her beauty the only beauty possible to know.

But she knew this was wrong.

She didn’t want her beauty to be all of my song.

She was uncomfortable with her beauty’s report.

She thought her legs were too short.

She didn’t want her beauty filling my head—

So all other beauty to me was dead.

She knew beauty lives throughout

The world; of course she began to doubt

My love for her; it was only beauty

I loved—her, the only beauty, was insanity.

She could not be the only beauty for me.

And now that she’s gone, a door

Opens: Beauty I’ve never noticed before.

But beauty only makes me sad

Because of her—her, who I had.

 

 

 

 

MISANTHROPY [THE ESSAY]

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And love all human kind” —Shelley

Misanthropy is the greatest evil.

Misanthropy’s siren song is difficult to resist.

Misanthropy will make us love—by hating someone else, by hating others.

Misanthropy insinuates itself even into love.

Misanthropy takes many forms, and is the great seductive pull against all that is necessary for life.

The poor depend on small favors from people to survive, and vast millions of urban poor have no escape from the worst aspects of the human race—most of the world’s poor either put up with people to some degree—or they perish.

Great persons emerge from peopled poverty armed with the greatest weapon: a deep love and understanding of mankind.

Misanthropy is the basis of insanity, false rhetoric, slander, crime, and all sorts of human misery.

The rich can select who they associate with, and boss around the rest.

This is why the wealthy lifestyle is so attractive—it allows us to keep needy and annoying people at a distance, but the danger to those who escape the gravity of having to deal with people is that the rich devolve into hateful misanthropy, and end up seeing people as objects.

The rich, at the top of the food chain, fall prey to hatred of those below them. They loathe sprawling humanity—and the buying and selling which caters to humanity’s wants and needs.

This is why wealthy elites hate “capitalism”—which, when we clear away the endless, complex, professorial, socialist, theorizing about it—is just buying and selling.

Pro-capitalists cannot be “elites”—no matter how large their bank accounts. You may be rich, but if you are a businessman, you will always be seen as an uneducated buffoon.  You will never be fawned over in Vanity Fair. You will never be loved by the Windsors. You will never be a senator from Massachusetts or New York. You will not belong to secret societies—unless you are a secret traitor to the capitalist cause.

This is why the elite believes contraception is preventative health care. Less people is considered healthy. After all, in their hearts, all elites feel it is the poor and the ignorant who tend to have more children. Women in poverty who are in the trenches having children and peopling the world live the most painful life imaginable.

Misanthropy belongs to money, and it isn’t stupid; it’s quite logical—which is precisely why its evil is so seductive.

Actually, misanthropy, for all its “logic,” is finally more stupid than stupid, as evil always ultimately is.

“Less people” drives up prices,—college tuition, food, fuel, everything we need—because there are less people paying to keep elitist institutions afloat—institutions whose very message boils down to “less people is better.”

The fashionable Left is educated dumb.

The working class Right, because it is less misanthropic, is even dumber.

But there is no Left or Right.

There’s only top and bottom.

The “right” is near the bottom—those Trumpers, those members of the working class, who vaguely, in an uneducated manner, or under-educated manner, object to elitist manners and logic.

“Left” and “Wealthy Elites” (some call it “Deep State,” some call it Kennedys—or any family seeking to be the new American “royals”) have become the same thing.

Human devolution is always a top/bottom event, not a left/right one (and here, ironically, the Left is correct! but the Left—again, an irony!—is now the “top.”)

Why does the ‘no debate’ philosophy of radical, doom-oriented, environmentalism—misanthropic at its core—spring from wealthy elites?

Isn’t the answer obvious?

Why is liberalism, which favors, in all its edicts, less people on the planet, the essential religion of the richest of the rich?

Isn’t the answer obvious?

It is the siren call of misanthropy—which seeks to free itself  from the torture of living.

Ah, living! The “fever called living” as Poe called it: all the painful, human-centered burdens of life: raising children, exploiting and controlling vast, indifferent nature, the complex and laborious tasks of engineers and businessmen and blue collar workers. And then, in addition, the ‘car salesman’ support of this painful, traditional life with morale-boosting religion—human consciousness giving itself up to something ‘higher.’

And what is this ‘higher’ entity, finally?  This God that the secular Left sneers at?

What is God, really, after all the symbolism is wiped away?

Nature, fecundity, and growth.  Stupid capitalism. What people do.

That’s what it is.

God, a fancy which defies settled, logical, misanthropy, is the opposite of the savvy, scientific, leftist “less people is better.”

“Less people is better” is the modern, leftist, elite mantra.

And the opposition’s mantra, only vaguely understood by the working class members of the anti-Left (anti-Top): “More (and the efficiency and ingenuity necessary so more can thrive) is better.”

Misanthropy seeks escape from “more people is better” pain.

Misanthropy seeks peace, extreme pleasure, future-less hedonism, the ease of limited feeding from natural sources—so much easier than the complex needs of an ever-increasing, “more people is better,” human society.

It is easy to see misanthropy as a good.

Misanthropy is the desire to be alone with the beloved.

To exist in perfection apart from the competing, striving, teeming world.

Misanthropy is the poet, the lover, and the sage.

But, alas, false gods, these.

Misanthropes are smart. The cheerful are stupid. So the elites say.

Misanthropy is extremely seductive—and has a myriad of songwriters and flute players.

Necessity, which is at the heart of labor and comfort for masses of sprawling, buying-and-selling, waste-discarding, polluting humanity, is the most powerful enemy of misanthropy—the phenomenal advance and expansion of human society since its primitive recorded beginnings is proof that misanthropy is the temptation, but not the rule. Misanthropy is the solipsism from which we eventually wake.

But why necessity?  Why is expansion, why is more—the growth witnessed throughout history, since humans were hunter-gatherers—necessary?

Death.

Death makes wild, reckless, cunning, persistent, growing, stupid, capitalist, breeding, life, necessary.

The sorrow of death has one cure. More life.

Crushing sorrow has one cure. More of whatever is good. Never less of whatever is good.

Good always demands there be more of itself.

More is not always good.

But good is always more.

The only antidote to death is life—life, whose essence is to ever increase, in order to safely defy the eternal pull of gravity, entropy, and death.

The highly educated, avant-garde, misanthrope lives in constant fear, as ever-naive, ever-productive, ever-needy humanity—whether the Mozart, or the simpleton—crowd in.

The misanthrope is certain: cunning, sleepless humanity, irresponsibility breeding and increasing, is evil, and this evil can only be remedied by the misanthrope’s “quality of life.” And this “quality” always demands the faucet of humans to some degree be shut off—the “quality” of the misanthrope inevitably means one thing and one thing only: “less people.” Not less pain. Not less bullshit. Less people.

The misanthrope fancies there is no God—in exact ratio to how much he fancies he is God. The misanthrope is certain he knows happiness—in people individually, and in humanity as a whole—and the misanthrope is certain that 50 million people have a better chance at happiness than 100 million people. Not in some cases. But in all cases.

The misanthrope is obsessed with “quality,” and “quality” always translates, for the misanthrope, to “less people.”

The misanthrope asks, why shouldn’t “Nature-and-how-people-live-in-it” define human behavior, rather than “ever-expanding-human-happiness?”

The misanthrope, being a misanthrope, doesn’t want to hear the answer.

All “human behavior,” and all “how should humans behave?” questions include “Nature” by implication, and “happiness” and “expanding happiness” is the only human motivation which can possibly exist. And what is the very essence of “Nature?” It grows.

The misanthrope, in his less-is-better dream, in his desire for the immured, and the peaceful, and the self-ordered, lives in constant, anxious, tortured, indignant, superior, elitist, dread.

In person, he may not be misanthropic at all.

His learning makes him so.

 

HOW CAN I CALCULATE YOUR WORTH?

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How can I calculate your worth?

Diamonds, gold, oil, are tucked inside the earth—

To the penny we calculate their worth.

And the calculation of getting them.

Are you worth more than a gem?

Are you as rare? I got you for a smile,

And you make it infinitely clear

I cannot trade you. You’re here.

Let me be in your quiet company for awhile,

And never estimate your worth

By things we wrestle from the earth.

You’re common, and came to me with ease.

You weep; you say “thank you” and “please.”

So why are you more valuable than gold—

Which everyone wants, and which never gets old?

 

WRITING RETREAT

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Virtue grows to become vice, until it shrinks again, back to virtue.

Vice grows in stature, is virtue, and if it keeps growing, becomes vice again.

The dials of morals constantly adjust.

Vice and virtue are not absolutes.

This wildly fluctuating truth often escapes morally determined individuals—who contribute more to vice as virtuous individuals, than those, who bent on vice, accidentally discover they have done a good thing.

True condemnation must be reserved for those (usually leaders in a position to impact society) who grasp the dynamic described above, and, masking themselves in virtue, fan virtuous behavior into a conflagration of vice.

Love, for instance, is a virtue— until it becomes so predominant that it leads to hurtful promiscuity.

Selfishness is a vice, but growing into a healthy independence of spirit, turns to virtue.

Moral transformations are unpredictable, and even unruly—continually challenging our moral intelligence.

The usefulness of the Program Era—where mere students of literature were converted into students who write literature themselves—has devolved from virtue to vice.

We have gone from: “I would like to become a writer.”

To: (whiny voice) “Look what I wrote!”

Millions who fancy themselves poets (that is, every reader of poetry today) are now purveyors of harm—the virtue of curiosity for what it might be like to be a good writer, has expanded into the vice of certainty that one is a good writer.

The virtue of literature as a bridge to understanding, sympathy, and knowledge has been replaced by the vice of literature as personal soap box. The people have turned into an ignorant mob. Democracy guided by law has grown into a clamor of self-interest.

Not only do the poets ignore any writing which is better than their own—no, the situation is far, worse—they positively resent writing which is better than their own, since they fear it will usurp them and their mantra, “Look what I wrote!”

Talk about the bad chasing out the good.

Vice (for the moment) is rampaging like a flood, through all channels of poetry, to a profound degree, and the Creative Writing Industry is to blame.

In the rush to be someone, no one knows anything.  Like what a good poem is.

Quadrivium has been pushed out by trivium.

The swords and spears of rhetoric, grammar, and logic have crushed what used to be the feminine charms of poetry’s soul: geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy.

The virtue of literature—a beautiful device for subtle yet expansive communication within a nation of educated readers—has become the vice of literature—a megaphone for anyone with a loud voice, a sore bum and a big ego.

But this could change, and quickly.

Present vice need not be destroyed and conquered, only diminished—into a virtue.

The clamor will tire of itself, and reduce itself into a voice.

Mine.

And you will hear.

 

 

 

SOME ARRANGE THEIR LIVES THIS WAY

Some arrange their lives this way,

So it ends with sitting, exhausted, thinking of nothing.

There’s a worse way to end: bitter, blaming others,

Moving a lot, blaming others. We’re always blaming others.

So it’s not bad to surrender, I suppose, utterly defeated,

When love is inextinguishable and goes on forever

For this one person, though it didn’t work.

Blame ruins everything, even love.

Why do you want fiction, or poetry,

When you can have the real truth here?

Despair and love combine to make she and I last.

She, alone, and I, alone, just as we were in the past.

 

THE THREE TRUTHS

There are three truths. The first: society is polite

And what is right for them, for you must be right.

This is the truth of laws and what is published and said.

This is language and morality and all that needs to be read.

This is value, in the building and the gem,

These are the rules, and it’s your loss if you don’t understand them.

But there are two more truths, and these apply to you.

Your appetite, your wishes, whatever outside of society you desire to do.

And your truth, unlike society’s, is not one truth, but two.

Democratic society’s one truth applies

To all—but not to the individual; otherwise the self dies.

Those you meet who are dense, cowardly, obedient, and have no soul

Are brittle keepers of correctness; they have no art; they are apes who play a role.

Worse are those who avoid rules, and believe “I am the measure of all.”

Eccentric, controlling, crazy, their goal is to make you crawl.

But self-knowledge and understanding is the Code of Three,

The truth of laws—plus the the double truth of the self—and that would be me.

I love my country, then myself, and then myself expressed in poetry.

I love others as members, like myself, of lawful society,

Secondly, I strive for self-knowledge: what, in my soul do I want?

Thirdly, the truth of you—if I want to love you, but I can’t.

Loving and knowing the society of rules

Is necessary—but this is not the love of individuals—

The passion of sex and jealousy and psychology and murder,

Desire which kills, enslaves, eats, bites, hates law and order,

The emptying impulse, which also fills.

But even the murderer is a victim of rules and laws.

Strict obedience lives in the lion’s claws.

Poetry has one truth: the truth of you: what do you want?

The genius breaks rules for you.  But you can’t.

Escaping truth, you wandered into the shade.

You thought to escape poetry, but found out how it is made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN LOVE WAS A MOOD

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When love was a mood,

At times it was happy, at times it was rude,

At times it was crude,

When love was a mood.

When love was a thought,

I sold remorse and remorse I bought,

And sometimes we fought,

When love was a thought.

When love was a word,

It was near another and became absurd,

Or was true, but hardly heard,

When love was a word.

When love was a spell,

I wondered and pondered so it made me unwell;

I, in awe, she in her shell,

When love was a spell.

When love was a tune

It circled the moon

And we knew the distance would catch us soon,

When love was a tune.

But when love was you,

It was then I knew

Nothing was true,

When love was you.

 

 

 

THE GREAT LOVE

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The great love is always assumed to be wrong.

“I don’t want to be right,” says the passionate song.

The great love is never between two

People. “I’ll never find another you”

Is what we think, but this is true

Only because something is wrong.

The world is filled with passionate hearts,

But a heart must die before it starts.

Everyone knows inside what is right;

Intricate seeing requires some light,

But morality lives in the dead of night;

Morality guides us every day.

It is who we are. Morality never goes away.

And morality and the heart are the same,

Justice and truth, our life and our name.

The great love, as we suppose, is wrong.

It wonders at the moon. It crawls along.

It is not a decision made by the mind.

It thrills and dissembles. It is not kind.

I heard its sad, inhuman song,

Beautiful and right, ugly and wrong,

Which sounded in the squeaking of a train,

In a voice, desperate because of the rain,

A voice annoyed because of the wind,

A brittle smile refusing to give in,

A secret whisper, a pain, expressed,

Which found no comfort upon my breast.

A despair, which none could see,

Killing her will, poured over me.

A song shared with no one around

Was more than a song. It was ours. A sound.

We saw things others couldn’t see.

She looked with bewilderment at me.

Our love, waking and dying—

Was a fear of a truth, betrayed by lying—

So that our truth, only our truth,

Was the one and only proof,

That something exists which is unique,

A loneliness, terrifying and weak,

Because it moves apart

From every good and perfect heart.

 

ALLITERATION: A BRIEF ESSAY ON POETRY

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A poem is just an interesting person saying interesting things.

I don’t read Heine and Shakespeare and Keats for phrases of pretty alliteration.

The poets today describe Shelley’s statue—and then tell you what it means.

The image at the end of Ozymandias is not an image, per se; Shelley is saying something.

All purely imagist poetry is nothing but pathetic fallacy, or, if not, then it is pure impressionistic poetry, comprised of images only—which more properly belongs to painting and the eye.

Be a Japanese painter, if this is the kind of poetry you are interested in.

Critics complain of “statement poetry,” as if poetry were not the simple desire to say something—which is all it is.

Shakespeare is great because of what he says—as he adds in his art.

Like rhyme, which is avoided because it becomes sing-songy, if one doesn’t know how to do it, poets avoid statements, or speech, because they are deficient there, too. They have nothing to say.

When Shakespeare, the master, asks “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” he is not making that silly mistake of trying to describe a summer’s day. No poem could.

Keats, in his sonnet, “The House of Mourning,” professes the same sentiment when he rebukes Wordsworth for writing a sonnet “on Dover.”

There Dover sits, Keats is saying, and a poem about Dover is bound to fail, precisely because poets do not exist to say anything about Dover. That task is for a painter, a photographer, or a travel essayist. Nothing at all against Dover.

There are those who think song lyrics have rhyme and therefore poems should not rhyme. And they reason themselves into a corner, unfortunately: if any attempt at sound as a tool is eschewed, what is left?  Describing what we see—but pure seeing cannot be done with poetry.

We’ve seen trees, and therefore, when trees show up in a poem, we think we see them in the poem.

We don’t.

The poet has not, and never will, make us see, with certainty, trees.

The poet, every time, is saying something about trees.

But critics and readers who are sure that poetry is not someone saying something (having convinced themselves that poetry is far more subtle and attenuated) rejoice in the idea that no reader will agree with another—you do not see the same “trees” I see; correct, but instead of seeing this ambiguity as a bad thing, the ‘poetry as seeing’ error is compounded, as poetry of precise and accessible speech is rejected, and a far more insidious error arises—the one which celebrates ambiguity as a good.

Either way, the poet will go about describing Dover, naively thinking Dover (not actually depicted) really is presented—or: implicitly finding the “poetry” in the very fact that there are a million Dovers.

I have heard, countless times, readers celebrate a poem for meaning a different thing to every person, as if this obvious shortcoming were somehow a virtue. They know poetry cannot be seen. And, for this reason, are sure it cannot be understood, either.

Now poetry can see a little bit, but only in the service of poems like “Ozymandias” or “Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day?”

These poems do not attempt to describe Dover. Yet every citizen of Dover, if they can read, will read these two poems—and agree on what they say.

 

 

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