LOVE DOES NOT EXIST

Love does not exist, and I know this to be true.
I am not sitting on the train with you.
I have made observances as the scientists do.
Love does not exist as I knew love with you.

When do you see lovers who cannot stand to be apart?
Speaking scientifically,
Though I defend myself poetically,
Science sees the secret avenues of the heart,
Science sees the secret movement of the eye
Following the beautiful lover’s eye carefully.
Science may even be poetry.
If there is a better experiment than I,
It is perhaps these trains
Which time hearts and carry brains.
What is this great big oil stain?
What did you do? Who did you see on the train?
How many do you see on the morning commute
Writing the poem and hearing the flute?
Love does not exist, and I know this to be true.
I am not sitting on the train with you.

AT THE END OF LOVE

At the end of love, love begins,

Love, having always loved,

Even as hate breaks hearts and grins,

Even as hate breaks hearts suddenly

Without warning. Do you remember how you did that to me?

I still loved you when you didn’t love me.

I kept my love alive. Love always wins.

At the end of love, love begins.

 

HOW CAN I NOT END MY POEM HERE

How can I not end my poem here,

Where the sentence ends, as love draws near?

The end of all ridiculous poems approaches,

The play has ended, the enormous coaches

Are pulled up in front of the grand theater

Which housed an exemplar of illusion

For an hour, dispelling the vague confusion

Which attends on us in our days without end.

The audience, I love less, of which you were not one,

Choosing instead to stay home and make fun

Of everything history has done to us

Of which historians make such a fuss

In their impotence, and expect us to make a big deal about, too.

The play is long over. But my poem is just starting to fall in love with you.

LET’S STAY HERE

Here, in the moment, here, where our eyes first met;

Here, this moment, this moment never forget;

Let’s stay here, in the liquid beauty of our looking eyes:

Ocean! Ocean—no shore, no sad-sounding bird shore cries;

The store front window, reflecting only skies;

Don’t go back into the store, into the labyrinth of lies

Where our lives exist; let’s live where you know mine and I know your eyes.

 

Make no movie, for that means so much work;

Different camera angles, other actors, the director is a jerk;

No; stay here, where the tremendous ocean sighs

With music; you have a love for clouds; clouds are imprisoned in the skies;

Skies of continuous clouds, clouds caught, appearing, going,

Clouds found nowhere else but in skies—skies which frown on their own winds blowing;

Our eyes knowing more about beauty and minds—than minds themselves are knowing.

 

Let’s stay here! In the superficial flatness of a frame,

Where many a dying lover has scrawled their forgotten name,

A space where all that wastes life, sadly and slow,

Wipes a flat life clean in an instant, erases everything we know,

But since we in the flatness live, we survive,

Where the eyes begin, always beginning, and alive;

Known, the beginning, when you looked at me and I looked at you,

The beginning of the beautiful. The beginning of the true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STAY IN AND THINK ABOUT TOM

The law interns are crafting language for the next big case

That will surely destroy religion at last.

The stadium needs painting. Forget about that. It’s raining.

She was slightly surprised her neighbor’s children grew up so fast.

Now it’s raining. All that seemed rather interesting is gone.

Stay in and think about Tom.

There’s time in the bright days to laugh.

Sun makes life seem to go on and on

But the rain closes in and defines

Edges and endings. Stay in and think about Tom.

He’s tall, intelligent, brash, and slender,

Sensitive, clumsy, loves her like a dog,

Loyal, but irritatingly playful. Maddeningly tender.

Push him away in a foul mood and look he’s gone.

He wrote her too many poems. He should have stopped.

It’s raining. Stay in and think about Tom.

The finest notes of the slow movement resemble rain.

Of course she loved him, but it can never be the same.

She thinks of wind chimes. Stay in and think about Tom,

The mouth. The love that tried to make her a mom.

The pastry shop is open late. Movies can be watched

And sweet music heaves itself at her any time of day.

Stay in and think about Tom.

There will be time to do lots of things. Breathe.

She wants them but she never wants them to stay.

 

 

BRENDA HILLMAN AND LYN HEJINIAN

Poetry is most likely deemed successful if it does two things:

1. It describes what must happen.

2. It describes it as it must be described.

Most people, looking back at their lives, would say,  I could have, or should have, done it another way, sure.

Poets, however, tend to feel uneasy as poets unless they are able to say, I had to write that.

Most people might see their freedom as a certain point of pride: there’s nothing that I must do. I did that because I liked it.

But poets would almost rather say: I had to write those poems, and I had to write them as I did. I had no choice.

How else to explain the furious truth of this by Brenda Hillman:

Talking flames get rid of hell.

That had to be said. Only Brenda Hillman could have said it.

It talks of hell and how hell exists, but does not exist; it talks of how flames may or may not talk, and flames might be people or they might not be people.

It has the stamp of poetry, and there’s nothing more to say about it.

Marla Muse: What do you mean, Tom? You always have more to say.

This time I don’t.  I’m saying something which is too difficult to explain.

Marla Muse: Because Brenda Hillman said something too difficult to explain?

Yes.

Marla Muse: Tom, you are so awesome.

Thanks, Marla.

Lyn Hejinian’s line succeeds on the same principle:

You spill the sugar when you lift the spoon.

Obviously this has many meanings.

Marla Muse: Many meanings.

Marla, if you were not here to help me, I don’t know what I’d do.

Lyn Hejinian (pictured above) wants to be loved.

So does Brenda Hillman.

This tournament shows this from a certain angle.

 

 

 

RICHARD BLANCO AND CONNIE VOISINE: MORE MADNESS IN THE SOUTH

Is poetry democratic, or is it radically individual?

This argument is a good one, for both sides have a lot to say: language unites us, but what price to simply roll us all into a ball?

And yet what price obscure triviality?

Like all good arguments, to prove there really isn’t an argument at all is what the intelligent try—be accessible and unique: surely that’s possible?

Perhaps it’s not that easy.  Imagine you are at the podium in front of a crowd during the swearing-in of the president of the United States.  How can you possibly go for the surprising and the unique?

A podium in front of millions is surely where poetry goes to die.  Four years ago, Richard Blanco fought against that death with this:

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes tired from work.

This line marches along with a certain poetic solemnity: we like how “one sky” is echoed by “our eyes.”

And what could be more uniting than “one sky” and “tired from work?”  We can relate.

Perhaps this is all poetry is really striving for.  To speak for as many as possible, and to truly speak for as many as possible is all the poet can finally do.

What is the counter-argument?  Write a poem for this person, but not for that person.

Surely the universal is the best?

Connie Voisine, we get the feeling, did not write her line for the podium.  She was probably feeling reflective and calm.

And yet—her line may resonate just as much with the millions.  Why not?

The oleanders are blooming and heavy with hummingbirds.

Though we must concede that if someone knows exactly what oleanders look and smell like, they will like her line more.  Isn’t that true?

Marla Muse: Do you know what an oleander looks like, Tom?

Marla, I pass.

What’s interesting is hummingbirds are not heavy. That’s the poetry, many would say.

But as for oleanders, yes, how much does the audience know?  That matters, of course.

But does that in any way alter the formula?  Write to as many as you can?

Blanco wasn’t taking any chances: “sky,”  “eyes,” “tired,” “work.”

How safe is safe in March Madness?

Marla Muse: Not very safe.

Sky versus oleanders.  Only one can win.

 

 

 

 

 

SARAH HOWE AND EMILY KENDAL FREY: FIRST ROUND WEST BRACKET ACTION

Here’s another Madness contest which splits our brains—the infinite gulf poets navigate—between imagery and speech, between showing and telling, between photograph and rhetoric, between gazing and sermonizing.

Sarah Howe, a youngster who just won the T.S. Eliot Prize, snaps, snaps, snaps with her camera:

the razory arms of a juniper rattling crazily at the edge of that endless reddening haze

And there the eye goes, to the juniper—with thought hurrying to catch up.

But since the eye can’t really “see” poetry, thought gains, and takes the lead, and universities are founded—where they teach Endless Reddening Haze 101.

Meanwhile, Emily Kendal Frey asks the eye to do nothing, appealing to the Muse in a completely different way:

How can you love people without them feeling accused?

This line goes to the heart of all social and romantic confusion.

And a juniper does not have to be mentioned.

Pictures unite us immediately, for every reader, whether they want to or not, see what the poet has seen, and language is precise enough that we all “see” the “razory arms of a juniper rattling crazily at the edge of that endless reddening haze.”

Showing is something which poetry can do.

If we watch a really good dancer, we might think to ourselves, boy they are good, without enjoying the dance itself.  We love what the dancer can do, but we don’t love the dance.  And yet, loving what the dancer can do, we will still stand around applauding with others, because of what the dancer is doing, and have a good time, united with the appreciative audience.

Telling is something poetry is.

Thought is less direct in the showing that poetry does, because first the poet has to say, I am going to show the reader this particular thing I see, in order to present a poem which…

Thought is more direct in the telling of poetry, because they are the same.  The following is a thought: How can you love people without them feeling accused?

The combination of “love” and “accuse” is what makes the thought startling and interesting.

It is a psychological truth that has a certain original force.

But does Frey’s line “unite” everyone immediately?

No, because some would say: this doesn’t make any sense. To love is not to accuse. Not in my world, anyway.

But the psychologically subtle, the psychologically astute, will understand the truth of this line—it is wise, for it contains a deep understanding of human psychology.

We apologize if all we have said so far is a truism, and nothing about poetry has really been said.

Or, perhaps poetry lives in those places where nothing about poetry can really be said.

The juniper rattles, accusing us, no matter which one of these poets wins.

TOO BEAUTIFUL IS BEST: AN EASTER POEM

You may know the beautiful—-
And those who aspire to be beautiful—and all the rest.
But for tears and poetry that transforms,
Too beautiful is best.

Too beautiful to have, too beautiful to rest,
Too beautiful to want—too beautiful
Is truly beautiful. Too beautiful is best.

You whisper your love to the beautiful,
In long paths, holding hands.
With the too beautiful you cannot speak
For reasons only the beautiful understands.

Lie beside the remembered, and rest;
The remembered fits inside of pictures;
Remembered is remembered as it dies, beautiful, in the west—
A boiling horizon of tamarind trees—
Remembered—a scent in the midnight breeze—
Dying, and beautiful.
But too beautiful always is.

You may know the beautiful—
And those who aspire to be beautiful—and all the rest.
The beautiful you know are beautiful.
But too beautiful is best.

 

 

 

 

 

I GOT READY FOR LOVE, NOW I GET READY FOR DEATH

I got ready for love, now I get ready for death,
With the same uncertainty, the same excited breath,
The same thrilling heartbeat, the same glad sadness,
The same restraint, the same dignity, as I hide my madness.

You saw me on the street, I smiled and said hello.
After a little conversation, I smile again. And go.

 

W.S. MERWIN TAKES ON JULIE CARR

Poets should not depend on things, on pictures, on colors: that’s for painters.

All the best poets know that “no ideas but in things” is the worst possible advice for the poet.

Ideas use things in poetry, but poetry is speech.  Adding measured emphasis (metrics) is never unwise; our own experiments (too complex to write about here) show music to be a poetry too excitable for words, but still containing ideas—which live behind every good image in every good poem.

When reading essays: read what they think.

When reading poems: read what they do.

But in both cases, the essence is an idea.  Philosophical acumen is the basis of all artful communication.

The greatest poets have always warned: avoid cheap politics and avant-garde tricks, which are just excuses to be lazy and stupid.

Classical learning is the only learning.

Small beer is small beer.  Snot on the sleeve is snot on the sleeve.

There’s nothing magical out there. Daddy Ezra can’t help you. Only classical learning and your pretty face can.

William Stanley (W.S.) Merwin has been publishing poetry for 60 years; he managed to make contact with icons in his youth—guys like Pound and Robert Graves and Berryman and Blackmur and T.S. Eliot—he’s a pretty famous poet (also a translator), but unfortunately, no famous poems. Merwin abandoned punctuation in his poetry in a beat/hippie move when he was in his 40s—when he was in a bit of a crisis and leaving Europe for good and coming back to America in the late 1950s.

Merwin understands that poetry is speech, and leaving off punctuation was the earnest attempt to make ‘speech-which-is-not-speech,’ or trembling, misty poetry, and to a large extent he has succeeded in that regard.

Merwin has said that in abandoning punctuation, he was leaving the page where punctuation nails things down to embrace how people talk, which is almost the same thing, though it misses the point of punctuation, which helps talking—it does not hinder it.

But Merwin is a good poet because he plays with ideas, and came to realize Pound was dead wrong about the image, and so much else. “The intellectual coherence of Pound’s work is something that I don’t any longer believe in.”  (Paris Review interview, 1986).

you know there was never a name for that color

One can see in this one line Merwin, the poet, rejecting all the painter’s tricks—those the silly Imagists insisted poets try—and instead, exploding with iambic and anapest rhythms, raining down upon us an idea, in the implied question: what does it mean, exactly, when a color doesn’t have a name?

Merwin, first seed, will be tough to beat with this one.

Julie Carr began as a classical dancer, and to dance, you need music, and poetry is a kind of dance to music—we don’t hear the music but we see the dance, the poetry.

Julie Carr is also a mother, and still young, and as soon as she turned to poetry, she accumulated awards; reading her, one gets the feeling when it comes to the flags and banners of poetic speech, she got it, and got it quickly.

Either I loved myself or I loved you.

This line has a kind of delicious despair, a romantic power; there is an intoxicating idea in the symmetry displayed in “Either I loved myself or I loved you.”

We have no doubt this contest will be a very interesting one.

 

 

 

EVERY SINGLE THING WE THINK IS REAL IS NOT

Every single thing we think is real is not.

You loved me when the summer was hot

But now that you don’t love me, that memory hurts

And so I don’t think about that memory a lot,

And no, I don’t even look now at this one who flirts.

Every single thing we think is real is not.

 

Every single movie, look, laugh, and poem is fake.

And mutability erases everything, everything—but this ache,

Which is the pain of knowing every single thing is fake.

Every moment flies, and was never real before its flight.

 

Moment! There’s an hour that wants to talk to you. Can you take

A half a moment out of your busy moment’s day

To listen to what my sad complaining hour has to say?

No? Okay, I’ll just talk to this mass of moments in the night

Of how every beautiful thing is built to break

And every single thing we think is real is fake,

And not only fake, painful, and the pain goes on and on

Even when all of the fake things, and everything, is gone.

 

 

A FACT FROM BOSTON: A POEM

“The fact,” I tell each Kolkata lady, a fact I say now with a solemn smile—

“Will you stay, just a minute, by this imaginary magnolia for awhile?—

The fact is nearly as embarrassing as its presentation.

I have one life. But elsewhere there are many.

The man usually gives birth to a few children. But. Just in case.

Biologically, the seeds he carries—each one a different face—

Are so numerous, it is a miracle of miracles, yes—

If a planet, barren but habitable, elsewhere in outer space

Had enough eggs waiting, one man, in one act, could make a whole race.

This is why men are crazy: it is because there are so many.”

And, of course, yes, so many are ugly and hateful, more would be sad and funny.

But this one, once beautiful, has not had one.

The most beautiful she was, of her particular race;

She was not from Boston, but from a wrecked and ancient place;

He loved her madly, loved her elusive, modest, beautiful face,

With a sweet, repressed, polite, poetic passion—

You would have seen Kolkata transformed into a very poetic place.

They kissed in deserted places; they lived to kiss sad, smiling expressions

That flitted across their two shy faces.

It was not easy. Boston is not a quiet place.

But now they are apart. Something happened to the heart.

He dies every hour, for his children, for his poems, in the joyous agony of many.

She sits, bored, holding her phone. Her happiness is to not have any.

Kolkata ladies, now I know you must be on your way.

Thank you. There you are. Patiently, your scent lingers in the saffron day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DON’T PRAISE ME

Don’t praise me. I will think it’s irony.

I am so insecure these days.

You’ll hurt me the more you love me.

Your poems will make me hate you. Don’t praise.

The hundred sonnets you wrote me last week

I cannot help but feel is some kind of joke.

In thousands of lines you said you loved me so much, that you could not speak.

That’s irony, rich guy; you confuse me. Has love made you broke?

And will you give your love silently to someone new—

As you continue to “not speak” in poems to me?

Or shower poems on someone who doesn’t mean a thing to you—

Speaking, not speaking, loving, not loving in an orgy of irony?

And then what will those poems mean? Why don’t you go away.

I need to love someone else, who doesn’t have a thing to say.

 

 

A POET’S LOVE CAN LOVE

A poet’s love can love
One they have not loved yet,
One they have not kissed yet.

A poet’s love can love
One who sighs for nothing
On the other side of the planet.

A poet’s love can love
One they have never met,
One who is unlikely.
One they will not forget.

Some build a love,
But only build a tomb.
They send too many flowers
And smother love in its room.

But a poet’s love can love
A tiny bit of gloom,
A strong cup of tea,
Which tastes like that gloom
Unfailingly.

A poet’s love can love
A small, comfortable room,
A small room for eternity—
A love that weeps for doom,
And laughs for sanity.

 

 

ALONE I LOVE

image

The one who loves me is alone.

Alone she loves,

Without meaning or melody or tone.

I saw her one day in a forest by a stream.

Oh shadow. Oh blue dream.

From bough to bough in my poetry

I in the world became the world and then became free.

Take a look at these. I wrote them when no light shone.

When I was the only light. When I was alone.

 

Alone I love,

Alone I know,

Alone I came, and alone I go.

Alone was how you found me.

Tomorrow, darkly,

When you see me faintly,

When your lips with mine agree,

I will know at last the reason for my poetry.

Not a meaning or a melody or a tone

Will be in them until then. I wrote them for you alone.

 

 

MORE THAN YESTERDAY— A NEW SCARRIET SONG

 

And a bonus poem:

WHAT WE FEEL AND WHAT WE SAY

What we feel and what we say
Are so different, the way
To know which way I am leaning
Is to heed carefully my poem’s meaning
Because poetry, written on the page
Is helpless to show my tears and rage.

My feelings have nothing to do with speech—
Which has a mental agility feelings cannot reach.
So you and I must agree
To not look for feelings in my poetry.
Just listen to me very carefully:
I love you. I’m trapped. In this poem. Help me.

WHEN ASSHOLES SAY YOU CAN’T

When assholes say you can’t,
That’s exactly when you can.
That’s exactly when you should
Love this man.

Insurance was in place
For each model and clan.
So they said you couldn’t
Love this man.

Remember when they said,
“He’s an asshole,” but you ran
To him and he kissed you?
His kiss was better than their plan.

They were the assholes.
Now you know you can
Be the woman you want.
If you love this man.

 

 

 

I CLOSE MY EYES

I close my eyes on the commute home.

It’s true that crowds make me feel alone—

But most alone when I need one.

I don’t need to see the urinal as I pee.

I would rather not look at each station or face

Even though I know the mundane is a kind of poetry,

And it’s a miracle that every image is in its place.

That’s what she would say when I sat next to her

And she would look out the window at the mundane

And she hated when her view was blocked by another train.

The subway door presses on me. I discern winter coats,

Enough world for me to experience.

I can hear, in a few, passionate, musical notes,

More than everything I see, including this world that looks back at me

With a need, or two, a little sexual attraction, a little curiosity.

I would rather hear the music.  I close my eyes.

And then I open them. There’s the world. No surprise.

 

 

 

SONGS AND POEMS FROM SCARRIET

You might call Scarriet the Song and Poetry site.

We are restoring the beauty and the epigrammatic force of poetry by bringing to poetry all the virtues of song—while keeping poetry’s “integrity” as a “modern” product, which is not quite song.

The prose-and-speech experiments of modern poetry have our highest respect; the force of natural speech is vital to good poetry—although good poets understood this before modernism.

We fear modernism has gone too far in the other direction—away from all that used to make poetry poetry.  Poetry can be poetry.  Or poetry can be poetry.

By giving our readers a listen, by letting our readers hear the poems spoken and the songs sung (dare we use the word?) by our Scarriet editors, we think illumination and edification are possible.

The following are both a few minutes long. Click on them. Don’t be afraid.

The first is a poem, written by the Scarriet editors, called “Small High Cloud,” a poem which aspires to music.

The theme is the chaos of love and the wish to escape it. The ending metaphor is a “small high cloud.”

There is plenty of rude, complex, metaphoric, emotional, figurative speech in the poem, “Small High Cloud,” but all the more then does the poem, weighed down by its “rude speech,” struggle towards pure song as it reaches its close.

The first example, “Small High Cloud,” is talk which, in spite of its meaning, wants to be a song.

The second example is a song which longs, in spite of its music, to talk.   But it fails to talk, as it ends with two notes, which “say” good bye.

The second link below is a song written (and recorded in a somewhat embarrassing, amateur fashion) by the Scarriet editors, “Go Away (I Will See You)”—which aspires to be a cloud in its conflicted longing.

SIN WITHIN SIN

There’s nothing wrong with sin.

What gets us is the sin within the sin.

It’s not what you wanted, it was what you had to do

To get that certain shoe.

And when you’re old

You look ridiculous in that shoe, that shoe, exciting and bold.

 

It isn’t the sin. It’s when you’re relaxing,

What walks in.

Tell her to get rid of her high heels.

It’s snowing, and she’ll fall.

Love her, and find out, deeply, how she truly feels.

Then you discover she never loved you at all.

You find, in the end, she wasn’t a port.

She leaves you. Why? Because she’s afraid she’s too short.

 

She feels the politics. Her sophisticated views are it.

It’s just a pity the Democratic party is a crime syndicate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PAUL MCCARTNEY AND BILLY COLLINS: FOR NO ONE

Paul McCartney can be seen on You Tube interviewed by the poet Billy Collins—and it points up the superiority of the pop musician to the poet, in our day: Collins comes across as a mere fan, asking questions of the ex-Beatle which merely elicit answers we’ve heard before. You would think perhaps a poet of Collins’ stature could have steered this brilliant pop songwriter into novel intellectual territory.  But no. McCartney was funny, charming, and interesting. Collins was diffident and dull.

Collins said what was interesting about the early Beatles was “the chord;” they were playing new chords.  But this is completely wrong.

Paul playfully pointed out how the melody of his song “Blackbird” was borrowed from a Bach riff and how jazz’s more sophisticated chords influenced the Beatles, and Paul repeated the story of how the boys went across Liverpool on a bus to learn the chord B7 from an older guy—which is really just an elaborate joke since chords can be found in a book and it only takes a few chords to play rock music; the anecdote is one of Pauls’s favorites because it points up what humble novices the Beatles were and the mock worship of a chord is the equivalent of a desire for a woman or a drug.

All of this went right over the earnest poet’s head, Collins so certain that the Beatles were “inventing new chords.” That wasn’t the secret or the appeal of their music. Billy, the Beatles were not introducing new “chords” to the world. If Collins knew anything about their music, he wouldn’t have ventured this observation; Paul was too polite to correct him; he merely turned to his rich supply of jokes and anecdotes to brush the naivé poet aside; Paul did remind Collins in passing, during his rambling reply, that pop music, including much of the Beatles music, is built on three standard chords.

It was not a correction, or a lecture; it’s not Paul’s style to be didactic or stern; he laughed at Collins, but no one knew. When faced with the assertion that the central beauty of Beatles music was the new chord, he merely dragged out the B7 story. Paul was greatly influenced by his jazz musician father. Paul probably knew exactly what a B7 was. But it’s a great story, anyway.

Collins also made the cliched observation that early Beatles music wasn’t nearly as interesting as the Beatles’ later period—when a host of characters invaded their music, like Eleanor Rigby and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  Well, yes, sure, the later Beatles did expand their lyric content superficially, but this makes 1967 and 1968 far more important than 1964 and 1965 in a way which obscures the Beatles’ real genius.  The early work was not just “love me do” and “yea yea yea.”  And as Paul impishly pointed out, the “sophisticated” lyric content Collins was naively hellbent on praising, was mostly due to—“drugs.”

Genius has a simplicity which the bumbling, ordinary understanding misses.  Collins hadn’t a clue what to ask Paul McCartney. Collins, the poet, was adrift on the notion that the Beatle song, “Penny Lane,” could perhaps pass as a poem.

Collins has written some very good poems and is obviously an intelligent man.

Blame the time we live in. The divide between poet and pop musician is so great, mutual interest can’t exist.

This demonstrates what John Crowe Ransom said almost a century ago: “the Modern” means specialization, and song and poetry, once brother and sister, are now different, have taken different jobs, and moved apart.

Whether this “specialization” is always a good thing, and whether poetry does not, in fact, live in great popular music, is perhaps the great aesthetic question of our day.  How long will modernism’s “specialization” estrangement hold sway?

It wasn’t like Paul McCartney was saying anything interesting about poetry. He never asked Collins about the secret to writing poetry, or seemed the least interested in what Collins wrote.  Here was the Paul that everyone hates, basking with a grin in the crowd’s adoration: “Yesterday. Maybe you’ve heard of it?  wink wink.” (This aspect of Paul’s behavior makes one long for the more sour Lennon—the truism of why they complimented each other.)

When Collins asked Paul about the difference between writing songs and poetry, Paul was certain they were different activities—which perhaps dooms McCartney’s (attempts at) poetry, and makes McCartney, on the flip side, a fool like Collins.

McCartney, surely knowing that he is a certified “failed poet,” opined that poetry to him was like writing in a “diary;” one brings in “things” to try and make them “interesting,” and this was either Paul’s way of insulting poetry—the kind Collins and modern poets write—or, it was what Paul really thinks poetry is.

But McCartney’s feeling was telling, for “diary writing” does not make one famous; and Paul was sitting their being interviewed because he is famous, and Collins, compared to McCartney is not, and no poet today is, and so Collins wanted to know what Paul thought—Paul didn’t care what the Collins, the “diary writer” thought.

Soon after the interview began, someone brought Paul a guitar, and it was his prop, his crutch, his ticket to glory; McCartney couldn’t stop nervously fiddling with it, almost as if any moment the guitar was going to demand it be played; no serious talk about poetry was going to take place in this studio—Paul had brought ‘his Yoko’ (guitar) to Collins’ sacred interview—it was the rock star’s space, not poor Billy’s. The guitar was there. And where was Billy Collins’ instrument? Billy Collins could have used his voice to quote great poetry throughout the interview; what would Paul McCartney have thought of that? Collins didn’t dare.

Collins did get to play teacher to the pop genius for a couple minutes: that’s what most poets are today—university professors. The interview was at a college because Paul is a step parent of a college student.  So Collins read a little from Paul’s book of published poetry, declaring it “good;” probably an agonizing couple of minutes for the pop star—McCartney’s “poetry”—and it must be obvious to everyone—is exceedingly average.

Collins did stumble on an interesting topic when he asked Paul about cover songs. Collins assumed that Paul had all sorts of opinions about others who covered Beatle songs, but Paul honestly said he was happy with anyone who played his music—“Wouldn’t you be happy if you heard someone on a street corner reciting one of your poems?” he asked Collins, and of course the sheepish response was yes.

This led to McCartney’s necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention anecdote, which does throw an interesting light on creation and performance: when the Beatles were first playing out in the shows that featured lots of other rock-and-roll bands, the Beatles used play-lists of “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard (1956 hit) and other songs by contemporary artists—the Beatles in the early days played other people’s material, not their own. What happened was, that bands who went on stage before the Beatles, would be covering the same songs—which the Beatles, fearing repetition, then couldn’t play.  And so, simply to avoid this problem, the Beatles wrote their own songs.

Paul said he dreamed “Yesterday,” and that he was sure at first that he copped a song that already existed.

Paul’s humility—one which humbly celebrates that creation is nothing but a kind of absent-minded, fortuitous  imitation—was something that Collins, the modern poet and “Beatles fan” couldn’t get his head around.

For imitation is finally at the heart of the whole matter: beware, beware, said Plato of imitation—do not trust art and its imitative reality.

To imitate is—to fool.

Today we have different brands of fancy yogurt—with 0% fat. Yogurt today, aping the original product, is robbed of an essential ingredient by diet faddists. Imitation of the old is practiced by the fraudulent—to lure fans to a fad. (Animal fat is good for you. Imitation non-fat yogurt, extremely popular, is actually bad for you. We should be wary of imitation, even as we admit how ubiquitous it is.)

The young, white Beatles played black music for millions of new, white “fans.” (Viewing on You Tube recently a June, 1965 concert in Paris, when the Beatles were at the height of Beatlemania fame, I noticed that the song played by the Beatles that got the audience most exited and brought out the most police protection was not a Beatles song; it was—Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.”)

McCartney knows what the game finally involves, and what a “fan” really is—a foolish, bankrupt, byproduct of purely cynical and expedient imitation which attaches itself to something else—race, sex, etc—specifically to cater to new audiences for new sales.

The irony that Paul’s claim to fame is called, “Yesterday,” and that, despite his enormous talent, he has not produced anything memorable or critically acclaimed in the last two-thirds of his long, productive life, hovers over his current notoriety—a notoriety still able to steamroll Billy Collins and any poet who sits across from him.

The Beatles were a business.  They were in the music business. They wrote their own songs out of necessity, and those songs were created from a knowledge of other songs the Beatles absorbed as they were growing up and listening to their parents’ music—a vast, expansive library of old, lovely, tuneful music, too large for any ear to grasp, and later, American blues and country music, rock and roll music which already existed, which they learned as they played together in Liverpool, and then in Hamburg for hours and hours, weeks and weeks, months and months, and then back to Liverpool, over a period of years: the “10,000 hours to become proficient” formula was cited by Collins. Paul agreed that all those hours of playing, especially the long hours of performing in Hamburg long before the Beatles were famous, helped tremendously. It enabled them to play a great version of “Long Tall Sally,” for instance.

Paul did mention that he had a great English teacher in school who taught Shakespeare and Keats and Chaucer. Chaucer’s dirty bits got the students’ attention, Paul recalled, and he said if he were not a rock musician, his next choice of vocation would be a teacher of literature.

Why were the two—McCartney the lyric pop song writer, and Collins, the poet—unable to connect?

Collins played the fan, and Paul, the success.

Perhaps the great divide is this: Song: I love you. Literature: Let us examine what ‘I love you’ really means.

The theme of “appealing to girls” was a strong one. When Collins brandished students’ questions at the end of their talk, he made a point of saying that some of the questions were “can I meet you, later?”

Paul has often admitted, cheekily, the Beatles were formed “to meet girls,” and when he and Collins briefly discussed early Beatle lyrics the mockery was palpable: “love me, do;” “please, please me;” “she loves you.”

But the devil is in the details, and details were what the two refused to discuss.

This is what the “specialization” of modernism has done: it has made everyone generally ignorant.

The interview, by the logic of specialization, was forced into the following category: Famous Pop Musician Interview. This is where it remained.

McCartney, a phenomenal success in his field, seemed utterly ignorant of poetry; Collins, successful in poetry, seemed utterly ignorant of song.

In the modern age, we seem to like it this way. We prefer to be blind in a sea of “experts” and “specialists,” even when it hinders a great deal of interest and pleasure.

The English teacher—the one who obviously shaped McCartney—once imparted general knowledge: Shakespeare’s poetry was simply, the world.

But Shakespeare’s towering acheivement is now considered not “specialized” enough.

The student of poetry in the Creative Writing Program New Order is now a diarist who specializes in themselves. This is the specialization which now dominates everything and fosters general ignorance.

The truth is that “She Loves You” is a lot more interesting than “I Love You”—it is a whole order of magnitude more interesting. It involves three people instead of two, and is, in fact, a master Shakesperian stroke. Collins was ignorant of this, and even Paul seemed so, as well. Early Beatle work was dismissed by both men as juvenile. Popular song, even as popular as the phenomenal success of the Beatles, was assumed—by two men who should have known better—to have absolutely no poetic interest. And somehow love songs—music “appealing to girls,” was assumed to be vacuous, when, in fact, nothing is more interesting and complex than love and its attractions.

But this is what happens in an age of specialization.

Love belongs to friendship and sex to the prostitute.

Everything is business. Everything is expediently separated out—to the destruction of the whole person. This alienation brought about by division of labor overlaps the Marxist complaint—which makes sense on its own, without having to get into a Left v. Right quarrel, or a Socialist v. Capitalist one—more specialized nonsense that covers up what unites us. Division of labor here and there has its place, obviously, but one can see how, in modernity, it simply gets out of hand, killing the whole person.

When does division help? Certainly the Marxist complaint against division of labor can get out of hand, as well.

Why should we rue the fact that Collins is Collins and McCartney is McCartney? Perhaps it is good neither artist understands the others’ art—isn’t this what makes each excellent? Isn’t it good that song is with song, and poetry is with poetry? Perhaps modern specialization and its divisions make perfect sense. We simply can’t have Shakespeare anymore: the best we can do is have a McCartney here and a Collins there.

Or: perhaps the Beatles output as a whole could only have happened because of Shakespeare, and poetry in general will decline if we forget general knowledge and indulge in highly modernist, Creative Writing Program, specializing.

Paul’s song “For No One” belongs to the Beatles earlier period, or, perhaps more accurately, the middle “Yesterday” period—and this remarkable song has no chance in the Collins universe which divides the Beatles work into unsophisticated “love songs” and sophisticated songs like “Eleanor Rigby” and “Penny Lane.”

It might be argued that Paul wrote “Yesterday” as a revenge against “Long Tall Sally,” the song that perhaps in the boys’ minds remained their best Beatlemania song, despite all their original output.

“For No One” emerged during the “Yesterday” period, and received little attention—fans liked it, but it was just another “love song.” Critics liked it, too, and some admired it as more sophisticated than “yea, yea, yea,” but Billy Collins wasn’t going to bring it up. It remains an obscure Beatle song.

But this is the sort of Modernist mistake which boasts that everything 19th century is naivé and sing-songy and no one needs to write like Keats and Byron anymore, and that crunchy content is everything. But the truth of the matter is that simple words can be very profound, and the song “For No One” is a very profound song.

The modern prose poem which Collins writes relies on crunchy content to carry its message. And humor. And Collins happens to be very good at this kind of poem—Collins really is as good in this area as McCartney is in his.

The point of this essay is not that McCartney is a greater genius than Collins—only to observe the intersection between a sensibility based on modern poetry and a sensibility based on pop music within the context of: What is art? What is significant? What is valuable? What contributes to the making of art?

Music adds to what Paul is doing as a poet in his songs: “she loves you” written on the page is not the same as “she loves you” sung with music in the Lennon-McCartney composition. But that does not mean “she loves you” is not poetry, nor does it mean that poets do not have the music of words at their disposal—they certainly do, even as metrical language and rhyme tends to be eschewed by modern poets like Collins.

Another feature of modern poetry which is relevant and makes it so different from a pop music sensibility is the pride of exclusivity—the powerful New Critic idea that worthy, sophisticated poetry needs and wants nothing from outside. This New Critical view inhibits truth, for all art is formed by what happens outside of it, and this is one more unfortunate, if noble, error the modernists made.

The truth is finally what we seek—whether it is in science, in love, in politics, or in art.

If we view poetry through the modernist lens that a poem exists on an island of its own making, we cannot possibly see the truth of what makes McCartney’s music interesting.

Collins, schooled in modernist poetry, praised later Beatle compositions like “Eleanor Rigby,” since they feature “characters” in a little drama: there on the island of Paul’s song is a unique world, a unique character named Eleanor Rigby—enough to please any modernist New Critic. And the song is a good one, spoiled a little by the lyrics which telegraph its message: “look at all the lonely people.”

But what Collins cannot appreciate is this:

“Eleanor Rigby” features an interesting metrical/music based on a pronounced dactylic/trochaic rhythm.

The character’s name in Paul’s composition couldn’t be Eleanor Smith—based on sound alone.

If her name were Eleanor Smith, it would be a different song—rhythmically and melodically. A totally different song. But in a Collins poem, changing Eleanor Rigby to Eleanor Smith would hardly matter.

These sorts of considerations are just as important in early Beatle songs as later Beatle songs. They used to be important in poetry, too. Collins, the modern poet, is fixated on Eleanor Rigby, the character, but she’s not a character. She’s a piece of rhythm. Collins, as a modern poet, has a limited appreciation of pop music. Rhythm used to be crucial in poetry, but since modernism, it no longer is.

Paul, who was writing rhythmical poetry in his Beatle songs unconsciously, attempted to write what he thought was “real poetry” for his book, Blackbird Singing, and failed.

The truth is this: poems are not islands: it matters very much how they get made, and Paul wildly successful, and, at the same time, humble and humorous and without pretence, admitted that the Beatles’ creativity was extremely imitative and accidental—the Beatles’ “creativity” existed in the context of merely expanding a crowd-pleasing playlist containing a certain type of composition which they were basically imitating in the manner of excited boys trying to please girls.

But genius can grow in any soil, and the plainer and simpler the soil, the more profoundly is genius able to display itself. Genius is not a complication within a complication; genius is that which blows complication to bits. And the truth is always the larger truth: what are all the facts about this poem-song?

Paul wrote “For No One” on a ski holiday with Jane Asher in March, 1966, roughly a year after “Yesterday” and it has the same theme, only expressed in a slightly more dramatic way. But it wasn’t on Collins’ radar because “For No One” only uses “you” and “her,” and doesn’t have a real crunchy content. It happens to be one of those exquisite pop songs which teeters on the edge of “poetry,” and yet wouldn’t really turn heads as a poem, if it were just presented on the page.

But what is amazing is that “for no one,” the phrase itself, has a meaning that is ambiguous in the song—“cried for no one” refers to the woman who is leaving the man, the woman who has now moved on—and so we have emotion (“cried”) coupled with indifference (“for no one”).

“No One” turns out to have meaning outside the song itself, if we think of Paul McCartney’s actual identity as a writer of hit songs.

The phrase may refer to: 1. the faceless crowd (which is “no one”) 2. himself, who is “no one” compared to the famous songwriter Beatle, 3. The famous songwriter Beatle, who is “no one” compared to Paul, the person, 4. John, who was pulling away from him as co-songwriter and friend, and thus, “no one,” or 5. “no one” needs or truly expresses insincere pop song emotions in pop songs.

All these work—outside of the poignant and relevant meaning “for no one” has within the song.

This is the sort of territory we hoped Collins might have ventured into in his discussion with McCartney, but nothing like this could occur. Specialization—Collins’ role as humbled modernist poet/pop fan—prevents it.

There’s a You Tube video of Paul in the studio with just an acoustic guitar, as he first auditions “For No One” for Beatles’ producer George Martin, and one is struck immediately by the confidence, the melodic invention, the nonchalant effort of the genius, who plays the song quickly, it pouring out of him, seemingly without thought. And we notice something else: “For No One” concerns the saddest situation it is possible to experience in ordinary life: loving someone who no longer cares about you—and yet, despite the poignancy and misery expressed overtly by the lyrics, Paul, as he plays it in all its expressive sadness, smiles at one point, and is thoroughly enjoying himself. He is able to be two-sided, not weighed down by the weight, Paul McCartney taking flight into a heaven of accomplishment and pleasure—even in the very misery of the subject of the song.

 

 

 

YOU CAN’T ESCAPE SAINT VALENTINE’S DAY

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Love might be theater, or love might be a play,

But you can’t escape Saint Valentine’s Day.

You might get together with the girls and dish:

But talking cannot hide your secret wish.

Better to lie on your solitary bed

And let your wish play out in your head—

But how long can that wish, as a wish, stay

Before you get morbid and sad?

No matter what you do, no matter what you say,

You can’t escape Saint Valentine’s Day.

It’s only a day, a mark on the calendar,

You are wise, you are free; to you it shouldn’t matter,

And all of this nonsense will soon go away.

So why are you sad on Saint Valentine’s Day?

 

 

ELEGANT BUT SEX-MAD

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I was disgraced in the rain;

It dampened every inch of my skin.

I went to my middle-aged Muse,

But she wouldn’t let me in.

I was disgraced on the train;

A middle-aged woman asked me why

My middle-aged lover was crying. How kind.

I hadn’t caused her to cry.

I was disgraced by my brain,

A poem I was hiding within,

Made better while it was hiding;

Hidden never seems like sin.

Old women adore me,

And children love me, too.

Middle-age is nothing but pride,

Elegant, sex-mad, you.

THE STREET

Keep flowing, street.
Without you, I have no one to meet.

The house that stands next to you,
With books of rivers, rivers of emerald green—and blue
Ponds, which tremble beneath the azure, too,
Is a house where she, perhaps, was born,
With her brother, and the mother still tender and unshorn.

I find a street that started without her, in a distant country,
A country of boats, who brought babies by boat,
Babies so young they do not sing,
But in their mothers’ arms, with closed eyes, cling—
For all the crying they once did
When the world was young and green and the terrible father hid,
Has worn them out.

But the father came
And built roads and streets and buildings, and down this street
I came with you to find her,
To trace streets back,
Back, back, before our love, and before this lack.

Why did I weep when I saw pictures of her family?
Why did she make me weep with joy?
She had lost so much love.  Was it my fate to annoy,
Because I was happier in my family and in my life,
Than her, sad, like the thin edge of a thin knife?

LOVE IS THEATRICALITY

The dilemma for us is this, poor toad:
Love must be theatrical to show itself as love,
But as soon as love enters the theatrical mode
It stops being love.

You brought her flowers and a poem.
Love became exposed and known.
You took her aside and said:
“I love you. You are doomed. You can no longer think it is all in your head.”

Your love spurted ink.
You brought love out of hiding,
Where, indifferent and not curious,
It had belonged to all. Now it’s yours, you think.

The minute love raised its head to be seen,
A thousand photographers flocked
To beauty, with skin almost perfect, just slightly pocked,
And your love turned sophisticated and hidden, that was so sweet and green.

Beware a lover with loves and cards and flowers!
Beware the gestures and the rugs and the cries,
The sudden kiss in the elevator. And the lies.

But also beware the lover who is talking
To you—and the one standing near.
This one has been stranded for hours.
Beware the lover with the soft, low undertow,
Toad! Those drowsy, sweet, soft, sucking, powers.

 

 

THE LOVER IS

Why love? Because love is alert.
That’s a good reason for love.
No one is more sensitive to being hurt
Than one in love.

The hyper-awareness of love is why
The quick, creative eye
Happily sees the truth. And dimly sees the lie.
The alert and searching eye is the heart of love.
The lover is why all lovers cry,
Why all lovers are detectives before every sequence of futurity.

You see the look in the eye, and know why—
It is a lover mad to know the answer.
This is no football player, no dancer.

Iago will rehearse
Not knowing. A lover in reverse.

But here is the philosopher—tortured and alert,
In love with you, and hurt,
Tortured and curious beneath the sun,

Watching stars hate stars
Until the fire and the mystery are done.

 

 

ONCE I SAID

Once I said I loved you

I could not go back

To the way I was.

Those words changed who I am.

Some have no words

To clothe and comfort them.

Some do not speak the speech

That is them; they have no

Conversation with the past.

Before their speechless souls

You would stand speechless and aghast!

 

They cannot be relied on to talk

On anything. Theirs is the poetry

Of insinuation and the glib stare.

Analysis finds they are nothing.

They bring nothing to fruition.

They boast of how they change,

And yes, they change, they change;

But the only good that lasts

Is what is changed by love.

 

WOMEN DON’T PLAY CHESS

If you don’t hear from her for a week,

She is not plotting behind a curtain.

None of what she does is a chess move.

A woman is always uncertain.

A woman is always Socratic,

She is too smart to think she knows.

Too much certainty wears her out—

The certainty that comes and goes

In the mind of the great male thinker

Always certain he can figure it out

If he just has a little more time—

Better to live in dreams and dream for her a rhyme.

She prefers endless ease in the face of endless doubt.

Make her think and she will kill you,

Make her think about thinking and she will go on her way.

A woman never has time to consider

Those grandiose efforts to make her stay.

 

SATURDAY

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Poems are not written, they are sighed

By pain, to escape pain, for pain does not wish with pain to reside.

You, who do not think, think

Poems are written by someone’s hands

When someone’s thoughts fall in a barrel of imported ink.

The professor who said this is a dirty liar.

Poems are sighed by me—who cried in the sink,

Who moaned on a walk—with a heart severely smitten

By you—not someone else—you. It was Saturday.

Friday, I had loved you willingly, willingly.

Then all that sighing. It came suddenly;

I fell ill on Saturday. You had to go. You wouldn’t say.

I sighed in my soup on Saturday.

Why you had to go, I don’t know, you wouldn’t say.

Why did you go? Now I can’t believe in Saturday.

Sunday is no better, and when Friday came again,

I believed in the Friday that was gone

Even as Friday saw me suffering, and then

Suddenly more sighing was going on.

You silly ass! Poems are not written, they are sighed

By pain—to escape pain, for pain does not wish with pain to reside.

 

 

 

 

SHE DREAMS OF ME

Today I saw the saddest face:

A mask of misery and disgrace

Presented for my taste;

The mask is the truth. All of life is a waste

When love is destroyed by pride,

When lovers, once lovers, deride.

The river of love is both narrow and wide;

In the stream we played side by side;

Now big ships ride

The swelling waters; we still touch the waters

But are lost to each other on the other side.

In our miserable aloneness

We follow the old habitual paths

And often cross in those paths.

She boils. She suffers the sin of wrath.

I am placid. I neither weep nor laugh.

I am sorrowful, and loving as always.

I have no desire to speak; she

Doesn’t value speech, poetry

Isn’t her thing; she thinks of me

Much more viscerally;

I don’t dream of her, but she

Dreams of me.

In that dream I say, “Please,

Can’t you see

That I love you?” And she

Turns in her sleep violently.

 

 

 

 

 

I NEVER WANTED MORE THAN THIS

I never wanted more than this,
To feel happy, because useful,
And if greater happiness were needed
Perhaps to meet you later for a kiss
And if work were hard: a garden to be weeded,
As long as there was nothing sad or amiss,
I could look forward to that extra joy
With quiet joy. I never wanted more than this.

A sadness in darkness or rain
Afflicts those already afflicted with pain.
A sadness that creeps in with the shadows
Afflicts you and I, in vain.
Here is the window. I see trees in the distance.
Here is the interesting light.  Your kiss.
I never had a joy like this.

 

ALL TRUE POETRY WRITES AGAINST POETRY

All true poetry writes against poetry—
Passion speaks in a moment only.

Poetry only to a moment pertains.
All speech is a spasm—an electric impulse of our brains.

We need to forget everything we said:
Speech is beautiful—but like hair, it is dead.

A word near a word makes a meaning that is new.
That’s the glory of poetry—if that’s what you want to do.

But don’t trust words. Keep looking in her eyes.
From words all sorts of misunderstandings arise.

She could not decide between those two;
Forgive her, that she could not make up her mind.
Those indecisions and revisions
Were like poems. Inconsequential. But not unkind.

 

 

WHEN SONG IS PAIN

When song is pain—

A hit by a female artist,

So the husband producers can take limousines,

When song is pain,

A young girl, emotionally engaged,

Will never be the same;

When song is pain,

That has to be the best song to hear

In the mall, when you don’t have to be cognizant of the rain;

When song is pain,

You might briefly escape common sense

And feel what the wordless is saying;

When song is pain,

It will never be a poem, or a very good song.

Pain is nothing. Pain is wrong—

A shadow following you down a sunlit lane.

 

DON’T RUIN IT

When hair hides a beautiful woman’s face

I curse hair and desire and the human race.

I curse beauty and desire and my disgrace

When hair hides a woman’s face.

Don’t ruin it, I said to myself, which you always do.

Oh God look at her. She’s loving you.

Don’t give me Rumi or politics or science.

Give me a beautiful woman’s face.

Don’t give me biblical injunctions and wisdom and advice.

Really. You are thoughtful and nice.

But I will love her at my own pace.

When a song comes into your head,

Record the melody softly. Don’t add a drum.

Beauty must be gently fed.

Time is the same for everyone.

She’s yours. Don’t throw a fit.

Don’t ruin it.

 

WHY DO YOU RUN FROM MY POEM?

Why do you run from my poem?

In it, you can be fulfilled.

In my poem you can never be

Misunderstood or killed.

You love photographs?

But in these photographs you come across as self-willed.

Poetry is trending—poetry is the new way

For one to get attention. What do you say?

In my poem you can never die.

Look, there is no evil eye—

In my poem no false eye stares you down

As you look fake in your red makeup,

Or moan in your stiff white gown.

You will be glorious in my poem. You will never die.

You will be hidden from every monster

And look pretty when you cry.

Why do you run from my poem?

Things will turn out well.

I control everything. The heaven of your being

Avoiding the grasp of hell.

What I say goes. Nothing else gets in

To change my poem—or ruin your skin.

You want to look good? You will never look better.

I can make you beautiful

With a word, or grace you with a letter.

You reside here, where there are no tombs.

Lillys on the hills surround your life.

There are roses in your rooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IF YOU DON’T REMEMBER

If you don’t remember
How we loved and kissed,
Since obviously you were out of your mind,
I will tell you—and if there’s any hatred or sadness I’ve missed
You can tell me later, if you are still feeling unkind.

My poetry always knew what I loved and whom I loved
And when I wrote my poems to you,
That was the first act of love, remember?
That was how you and I knew,
If that helps you to remember.

The red envelope
With the poem within
Was the start of a love
That ended in sin.

If there is one kind of sin I wish to remember,
It is the one that travels in mist and wind,
And blows lovers about.
The first time you let me kiss your lips
There was never any doubt.

I had to kiss you again and again,
Whether the weather was cold, or dry, or wet.
You had a face, and a chin, and breasts
Which I cannot forget.

But if you cannot remember,
I’ll tell you what I’ll do.
I’ll remember for both of us.
My mind, to live, will divide in two,
As that shady garden grew, when the lovers went
Into the garden’s shadows, and love seemed to end,
And even sorrow seemed to be spent.

 

IF SHE DOESN’T LOVE YOU

If she doesn’t love you,

Watch her get old.

Time’s her new lover.

Time loves her slowly

The way she likes. You were too bold.

You wrote her poems and proclaimed

Your love and felt a love for her like death.

Now time is the one who feeds on her breath.

She was not a poet and didn’t want to be told

She was one. That just got old.

You heaped too much praise on her days.

She wants that friendly style,

Of friends, who tell her she’s a doofus with a smile.

You were too bold. Retreat, and watch her get old.

Time is hers. Time is the one she gets to hold.

 

THOMAS BRADY UNLEASHED

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The spirit who guides Scarriet

This poem, To ____ was published on Scarriet in April of last year— here read aloud by Thomas Graves.

This poem, Beauty Is Wrong, also comes from April, 2015.  A reading by Thomas Graves.

Eleanor Windsor.  A new version of the song. Recorded by Brady very recently on his phone with acoustic guitar.  Points for anyone who knows who the person is in the photograph standing next to JFK.

I Had A Dog.  A cheesy, moody rock tune, showing that Brady can do, well, anything.

Beautiful Indian Girl with Cat is one of our personal favorites:

Fantasy for Strings.  What is Brady doing here?  Classical music? What is classical music?

And finally, Now That The Night Is Falling.

 

THE DAY IS A POEM

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The day is a poem. I cannot write one.
I’ll tell you why the day is a poem. Okay. So:
It has some wind, clouds, rain: a warm January day;
It was a warm December, bereft of snow,
So this day symbolizes, with its warm cloudiness,
The whole winter so far: everything is going to be okay.
The shortness of the day provides a certain gloom,
The darkness from the clouds feels a little sad,
The kind you get in a warm, dimly-lighted room,
And the dampness is like a melody in a minor key,

But if there is a poem here, today is its tomb
And that’s what I need to explain:
I don’t want you to think my poem and day agree;
There isn’t any trick this poem is playing.
The “Bottled Liquors” sign of the liquor store
Across the street as I sit with my coffee here,
Slouching and writing, is not what I’m saying.
This windy day prevents a poem, not because there is more
Poetry in it than I can capture; there’s poems in this day,
And theater—tables with Greek chorus—in this café, sure.
But what I mean by: “this day is a poem. I cannot write one,”
Is a truth not always so, and it may not be true tomorrow.
It has to do with me, and my feelings. Probably my sorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

I DIDN’T LOVE

I didn’t love, because things weren’t ready.
I didn’t love, because things weren’t there.
I had to have an agent and a manager.
I had to prepare.

Someone said love was simple,
Sitting with a poem on his bed,
Writing his own simple music.
I adored him for everything he said.

I didn’t love, because I couldn’t rest
Before the simplicity of love’s stare.
I had to have clouds, shadows and mountains
Before I could care.

I didn’t love, because there were others,
I didn’t love, because love isn’t fair.
I had to be the one. The only one.
So I didn’t dare.

I didn’t love because poetry is dying,
The arts and civilities are lying.
How can one trust lust?
My little life said, beware.

Because lives move,
I didn’t love.

 

 

 

HER NAME IS SORROW

For A.

Her name is sorrow, which I whisper in fragmentary dreams.

Dreams of her are fragmentary when I wake to find my dreams

Are dreams; sadly, only dreams—

Nothing but fragmentary dreams—dreams of dreams,

Dreams dreams are dreaming; so fragmentary, she is not even real in dreams, unreal

Even in dreams, in vivid dreams that are almost life, so real these dreams,

Even in dreams as real as this, she is not real in the most fragmentary dream that seems.

She doesn’t want to be real for me, she is unreal even in the sweet reality of dreams.

She reviles me with such surety, because in life I included her in schemes.

She refuses even to seem as she seems to appear in dreams.

 

THE ONE WE LOVE THE MOST

Blind! Blind! We run to the feast!
The one we love the most is the one we know the least.

Stems and flowers! Orange flowers and roots in the way
And the dark forest blooms in darkness and the darkness breathes
And the blues singer sings: “Do you know what I say?”
Do you know what I say?

The round darkness hurries overhead
To eternity—an eternity not quite dead,
An eternity that curls and purrs and lies on the floor
With you, and you whisper, and there is always more.
There is always more.

You were good for me and I was good for you.
It was because we were bodies believing they were new.

Trapped between narcissism and the unique,
I found you so beautiful and strange, I could hardly speak.

Blind! Blind! We draw near the feast!
The one we love the most is the one we know the least.

THERE ARE LOTS OF THINGS WE LIKE AND ENJOY

chumki

There are lots of things we like, and enjoy,
But the truth of all we adore is this: what we like
Is a brief gift and distracts us from the truth
That life is painful and brief,
And pleasure dies in the arms of grief.

We knew what we liked would never last,
And this made us think we liked it more
As it made us forget the truth, underlying:
The thing loved is the thing dying.
This is why the lovers are lying.

Do you hear the thrill in my voice?
It is not because I am glad—
No, no, it is because I am sad.
If I love you, if you see me loving you like mad,
It is not because—it is not because I am glad.

I am kissing you, and you are kissing me,
As if otherwise drowning were our fate, and we
Breathe each other—for the time being, kisses being free—
As the air once was, or time, or the rolling sea,
As love once was, and nothing, you almost nothing to me.

I BEGAN WITH EMOTION

image

I began with emotion

And what does emotion know?

Emotion is the result

Of thinking that is slow,

So an anxious mind

Has a feeling the world’s unkind—

What’s thought killed by what’s felt.

And there I saw you, with a sad face,

And said hello. Isn’t the world an emotional place?

I didn’t hear a word you said.

I wish love were music instead.

EVENING PIANO

image

Her hands remember the piano

And soon she is remembering her sorrow

As he, who is older, smiles without regrets

And listens to her music her music forgets.

The evening does not see the evening,

The world cannot see the world.

He smiles, remembering when she was a girl

And he worried about everything.

Her sorrow is surprised how much her sorrow seems

To be the music she is playing for him—who loves to sleep, a sleep lovely for its dreams.

THERE IS ONE LOVE LOVELIER THAN YOU

There is one love lovelier than you.

She kisses me with a face

So beautiful, all ugliness is gone without a trace.

She is beautiful and because she is beautiful, true.

Beauty is good—not for what it is, but for what it can erase.

She kisses me with a beautiful face

Born in darkness, from shadows born,

From atmospheres, from no ordinary mother torn,

Born from mist, by the ether kissed,

Mist drifting from the misty river this morning, early,

A morning that is still night, and still forlorn,

Especially sad, but sadness without worry,

Hanging by the river bank, never in a hurry,

From untroubled shadows lingering, she was born,

And she kisses me, who am forlorn, with kisses true.

There is one love lovelier than you.

THERE IS A LIVING SAPPHO AND IT IS CHUMKI SHARMA

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

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

Poetry is known as poetry immediately.

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

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

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

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

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

Poetry is the speech of Fragment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please see what you can do with this idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why are Chumki’s poems brief?

Because she is modest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with this exquisite passage all epics are eclipsed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The One Night Stand—

Enough of putting poetry

on a pedestal.

I thought of the geek

in my Physics class

long back, to whom

‘Gauss’ Law  for Magnetic Fields’

was more desirable

than me.

What chance did Poetry stand

with her transient words

against the universal

elements of

‘Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?’

After spending the night with

‘The irrationality of the square root of 2,’

I return to poetry

this morning

like an errant lover

vaguely repentant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She leaves.

Chumki leaves the circus, the gallery, the forest.

Chumki will kill lyric poetry with a science geek.

She is the poet of escape.

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

—“Running Away With The Garden”

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

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

Love rules all the comings and goings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We quote poem #1 in full:

Shape of Emptiness—

He buys me coffee in a cup

so light my lips drown, scald

in the heat of the liquid.

Nothing exists between me

and the cup in my hand.

Heat seeps through it like

mist on the hills.

The potter’s wheel spins

shaping emptiness.

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

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

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

#10 The Train Missed Me—

Thirst so old, it becomes

the air I breathe.

Between a cup of

tea and Valium,

I choose the latter,

relish the sweetness

of pill after pill

melting in the heat

of my mouth.

Hypnotic song of the

morphine in my veins.

And rain,

after many days

of no sunset, rain.

The drops vanish into

my barren fields, vapour

hisses from the cracks.

Rain lashes on the

window, sprays on my

bed, pillow, face, hair

and all I can smell

is the beginning

of the end.

Reaching the station

just as the last train leaves.

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

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

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

#12 Dirt Builds A World

Cleanliness drive in the city,

a century’s dirt to be swept

underneath. I see

old women everywhere,

like crones out of fairy tales,

sweeping dirt from the streets.

I stop one of them, ask her

for three wishes.

She stares at me, eyes

of Bobbies on a thief,

mutters to the old woman

next to her, “she doesn’t even

know Hindi, her blouse is too flimsy,

what is going to become of us?”

All I want is her broom.

New Moon

I tiptoe around your dusty footprint

on the walls of this heart.

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

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

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

This is what this poet does to us.

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

“No colouring books for my son.”

[…] He drew his own sky.”

[…] Once my little Van Gogh turned our

asphalt floors into vibrant forests.

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

…he made me a box to keep my bangles.

The Bouganvillea spills over

the chained link fence outside my window.”

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

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

The Book on The Art of Bombing—

On the eve of the 70th anniversary

of the Hiroshima bombings,

you call me and tell me to write on war.

You say a poet should be versatile,

should be able to write on any topic anytime.

And I remember the book you had gifted me,

perhaps as a bribe for a poem on war?

“How To Make Hand Grenades For Dummies.”

That book the same size as the Gita

on my grandfather’s desk,

Motifs of flowers and fighter jets

on the cover of the book

sharing the sky with bombs falling like rain.

Today a woman who loves to read

will hold the book in her hands.

Today a man will be killed by a raindrop.

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

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

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

I am in all and none I own.

After every rain

I leave the place for

Something called home.

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

In the moonlight

I step into my own shadow.

— #3 The Inmate

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

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

Salem, MA Dec. 22, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN SPRING I SHALL BE OLDER

In spring I shall be older, and in summer, older still.
Let me stay here in winter, where I’m young, despite the chill.

The love who betrayed me has a birthday in December.
When I knew Him, He was young. And that’s all I remember.

Youth’s vanity and pride hurts no one. It is the length
Of years and its wisdom that wounds. Love has no strength

In the God who forgives mistakes, though He is deep and wide.
It is not youth’s folly which ruins. Only age. And its pride.

 



 

 

 

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