Monday, August 31, 2009

802. A Fervor Parches You Sometimes - Kenneth Rexroth

A fervor parches you sometimes,
And you hunch over it, silent,
Cruel, and timid; and sometimes
You are frightened with wantonness,
And give me your desperation.
Mostly we lurk in our coverts,
Protecting our spleens, pretending
That our bandages are our wounds.
But sometimes the wheel of change stops;
Illusion vanishes in peace;
And suddenly pride lights your flesh –
Lucid as diamond, wise as pearl –
And your face, remote, absolute,
Perfect and final like a beast's.
It is wonderful to watch you,
A living woman in a room
Full of frantic, sterile people,
And think of your arching buttocks
Under your velvet evening dress,
And the beautiful fire spreading
From your sex, burning flesh and bone,
The unbelievably complex
Tissues of you brain all alive
Under your coiling, splendid hair.

I like to think of you naked.
I put your naked body
Between myself alone and death.
If I go into my brain
And set fire to you sweet nipples,
To the tendons beneath your knees,
I can see far before me.
It is empty there where I look,
But at least it is lighted.

I know how your shoulders glisten,
How your face sinks into trance,
And your eyes like a sleepwalker's,
And your lips of a woman
Cruel to herself.
I like to
Think of you clothed, your body
Shut to the world and self contained,
Its wonderful arrogance
That makes all women envy you.
I can remember every dress,
Each more proud then a naked nun.
When I go to sleep my eyes
Close in a mesh of memory.
Its cloud of intimate odor
Dreams instead of myself.

Friday, August 28, 2009

801. In Love With Raymond Chandler - Margaret Atwood

An affair with Raymond Chandler, what a joy! Not because of the
mangled bodies and the marinated cops and hints of eccentric sex, but
because of his interest in furniture. He knew that furniture could
breathe, could feel, not as we do but in a way more muffled, like the
word upholstery, with its overtones of mustiness and dust, its bouquet
of sunlight on aging cloth or of scuffed leather on the backs and
seats of sleazy office chairs. I think of his sofas, stuffed to roundness,
satin-covered, pale blue like the eyes of his cold blond unbodied
murderous women, beating very slowly, like the hearts of hibernating
crocodiles; of his chaises lounges, with their malicious pillows. He
knew about front lawns too, and greenhouses, and the interiors of cars.
This is how our love affair would go. we would meet at a hotel, or
a motel, whether expensive or cheap it wouldn't matter. We would
enter the room, lock the door, and begin to explore the furniture,
fingering the curtains, running our hands along the spurious gilt frames
of the pictures, over the real marble or the chipped enamel of the
luxurious or tacky washroom sink, inhaling the odor of the carpets, old
cigarette smoke and spilled gin and fast meaningless sex or else the rich
abstract scent of the oval transparent soaps imported from England,
it wouldn't matter to us; what would matter would be our response to
the furniture, and the furniture's response to us. Only after we had
sniffed, fingered, rubbed, rolled on, and absorbed the furniture of the
room would we fall into each others' arms, and onto the bed (king-
size? peach-colored? creaky? narrow? four-postered? pioneer-quilted?
lime-green-chenille-covered?), ready at last to do the same things to
each other.

800. Reckless Poem - Mary Oliver

Today again I am hardly myself.
It happens over and over.
It is heaven-sent.

It flows through me
like the blue wave.
Green leaves – you may believe this or not –
have once or twice
emerged from the tips of my fingers

deep in the woods,
in the reckless seizure of spring.

Though, of course, I also know that other song,
the sweet passion of one-ness.

Just yesterday I watched an ant crossing a path, through the
tumbled pine needles she toiled.
And I thought: she will never live another life but this one.
And I thought: if she lives her life with all her strength
is she not wonderful and wise?
And I continued this up the miraculous pyramid of everything
until I came to myself.

And still, even in these northern woods, on these hills of sand,
I have flown from the other window of myself
to become white heron, blue whale,
red fox, hedgehog.
Oh, sometimes already my body has felt like the body of a flower!
Sometimes already my heart is a red parrot, perched
among strange, dark trees, flapping and screaming.

Monday, August 24, 2009

799. The Crux of Martyrdom (Simone Weil) - Morri Creech

[from Morri Creech's Field Knowledge, 2006]
Simone Weil at the sanatorium in Ashford, Kent, England, 1943

It's not that she has given up desire
exactly; more like, it seems, the will to choose —
to swallow bread, potatoes, the ripe pear
a nurse has brought her, which she must refuse
for Christ's sake. Or for her people starving in France.
At first she stayed up late, with prayer and cigarettes,
wrote long lies full of tenderness to her parents

I have never read the story of the barren fig tree
without trembling. I think it is about me

telling of friends in London, the spring's rich blossoms;
yet no word about her health, her body's slow
failure. Day after day the doctors come
complaining of her stubbornness. They know
her. And she, their hopes. Still, she must not choose
to eat, must refuse everything save the logic
of refusal, which she cannot help but choose.

the most beautiful life possible has always seemed
to me one in which everything is determined

So her reason revolves along its course
toward that sure consummation for which she waits.
She waits and waits. Too tired now to rehearse
the poem where Love bade His guest to sit and eat,
she dreams of that attic room He led her to,
where bread was sweet, the wine like sun and soil,
and she could see, beyond the attic window,

He entered my room and spoke: I understood
that He had been mistaken in coming for me

a city's wooden scaffoldings, those boats
unladen by a river, and the sun
raging above the trees . . .
The doctor's coats
Whisper by outside her door. She's alone.
No voice comes down to her; no hallowed word.
Even the headaches have stopped, which once held
her writhing in their vise. And yet she's stirred.

when my headaches were raging, I sometimes
had an intense desire to strike someone

Though it's late, and she's much too tired to write,
she can't quite still the current of ideas
or master her relentless appetite
for thought — philosophy, the worst disease
of a religious mind, perhaps her one
error. For hours she wrestles those abstruse
geometries, turning her whole attention

I will consider men's actions and appetites
as though they were lines, surfaces, and volumes

to the crux of martyrdom. French soldiers
and citizens in thousands have since gone,
quietly or not, to their deaths; how can her
own starvation measure against the ones
who could not choose to choose? Even her days
of factory work — yes, she's felt the strain
of labor, sweating near the furnaces

perhaps He must use even worthless objects
for His purposes: I must tell myself these things

that scorched her hands and fingers long before
Christ, like a migraine, seized her steady mind;
yet always she could have left. And now the war
has jilted her, denying her the blind
hand of necessity. She's made her choice.
The nurse bends down to take her pulse, offering
a sip of tea; but still she must refuse.

if I only had to stretch out my hand to grasp
salvation, I would not put my hand out

And though she's grown too weak to hold a cup
or spoon, she closes her eyes and sees that room,
that attic room, where she was told to sup,
and the long table shimmers, awaiting Him
who will offer her bread, although she must refuse
until He seat her there among the least
and feed them, too, who have no power to choose —

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back

till the Lord whose bread is hunger sets the feast.

798. Shemà - Primo Levi

Translated from the Italian by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann

  You live secure
In your warm houses,
Who return at evening and find
Hot food and friendly faces

Consider whether this is a man,
Who labours in the mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or a no.
Consider whether this is a woman,
Without hair or name
With no more strength to remember
Eyes empty and womb cold
As a fog in winter

Consider that this has been:
I command these words to you.
Engrave them on your hearts
When you are in your house, when you walk on your way,
When you go to bed, when you rise,
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

797. Such Is the Sickness of Many a Good Thing - Robert Duncan

Was he then Adam of the Burning Way?
hid away in the heat like wrath
      concealed in Love’s face,
or the seed, Eris in Eros,
      key and lock
of what I was?        I could not speak
      the releasing
word.        For into a dark
      matter he came
and askt me to say what
      I could not say.        "I .."

All the flame in me stopt
      against my tongue.
My heart was a stone, a dumb
      unmanageable thing in me,
a darkness that stood athwart
      his need
for the enlightening, the
      "I love you" that has
only this one quick in time,
      this one start
when its moment is true.

Such is the sickness of many a good thing
that now into my life from long ago this
refusing to say I love you has bound
the weeping, the yielding, the
      yearning to be taken again,
into a knot, a waiting, a string

so taut it taunts the song,
it resists the touch. It grows dark
to draw down the lover’s hand
from its lightness to what’s

796. Mr. Eliot's Day - Robert Francis

(Impressions upon perusing "The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot")

At 8:00 he rises, bathes, and dresses,
And very privately confesses.

At 9:00 he breaks fast with his host
On café noir and thin dry toast.

At 10:00, as one who bears the Grail,
A maid brings him his morning mail.

At 11:00, town. He offers thanks
At one old church and two old banks.

At 12:00, still in the mood of prayer,
He drops into a deep club chair.

At 1:00 he's lunching with a bishop
On spring lamb garnished with true hyssop.

At 2:00 the poet starts to nod,
Now toward, and now away from, God.

At 3:00 he wakes and makes repair
Of the strict parting of his hair.

At 4:00, back at his host's estate,
He picks a rose and ponders fate.

At 5:00, over a cocktail glass,
He is reminded of the Mass.

At 6:00 he and his favorite cat
Hold a brief, metaphysical chat.

At 7:00, with a distinguished sinner
And well-known saint, he faces dinner.

At 8:00 the three men still converse
On why the world is so much worse.

At 9:00, for lighter recreation,
They play charades on In-car-na-tion.

At 10:00, alone, robed in a jaunty
Dressing gown, he's deep in Dante.

11:00 strikes. Now hoots the owl.
He leaves the house for a deep, dark prowl.

At 12:00 he mounts, with measured tread,
The penitential stairs to bed

Friday, August 21, 2009

795. The Bubble - William Allingham

See, the pretty Planet!
Floating sphere!
Faintest breeze will fan it
Far or near;

World as light as feather;
Moonshine rays,
Rainbow tints together,
As it plays;

Drooping, sinking, failing,
Nigh to earth,
Mounting, whirling, sailing,
Full of mirth;

Life there, welling, flowing,
Waving round;
Pictures coming, going,
Without sound.

Quick now, be this airy
Globe repelled!
Never can the fairy
Star be held.

Touched––it in a twinkle
Leaving but a sprinkle,
As of tears.

Monday, August 03, 2009

794. Father's Voice - William Stafford

"No need to get home early;
the car can see in the dark."
He wanted me to be rich
the only way we could,
easy with what we had.

And always that was his gift,
given for me ever since,
easy gift, a wind
that keeps on blowing for flowers
or birds wherever I look.

World, I am your slow guest,
one of the common things
that move in the sun and have
close, reliable friends
in the earth, in the air, in the rock.