Thursday, September 30, 2021

A Time for Sorting

I need to get this straight before I go any further:

the difference between garbage and trash.

I can tell a Republican from a Democrat, most of the time

but take Manchin for instance. Garbage or trash?

Garbage, I think, is stuff like bones, pits, rind, peels

and forgotten cream cheese from the back of the fridge

that went astray, turned rancid and irremediable,

along with tissues, paper towels and assorted yuk.

While trash is junk mail, and washed plastic

with another chance at a go around.

What about pizza boxes I hear you ask. Not quite

paper anymore, it goes with the yuk like certain senators.

And then there is rubbish. Brits would say Manchin

is rubbish if he were running in Yorkshire for constable

with his ties to Big Pharma and mining interests.

I love how the English say, I’ll sort it out, as if

it were only a matter of separating clothes

for the washing machine or which trash/garbage

bag to use. Did Sherlock Holmes sort it out?

I suppose he did after getting high and playing his violin.

The game’s afoot he would declare to Dr. Whatshisname.

Everything was sort-able back then. There were no

Manchins in the mansion. The manor house had butlers,

scullery maids and bootmen who knew their place

and knew garbage from trash. The garbage lived upstairs

with their spoiled children, rotting souls and nefarious plots. 

Their alibis were lies that didn't pass the smell test

and this was Baskerville with a hound sniffing for truth.

Then there is Senator Sinema, pronounced cinema,

as in the stench of B movies,

in spite of Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett.

I’m thinking all this as I throw out the two bags,

one in each hand to keep my balance.

It takes me a while to get there before

the truck starts backing up, beeping its final vote.

 

 

 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Two Poems

 Continuum

 

Take it from me, a lapsed pharmacist,

don’t discard that ointment, those capsules.

It is just a made-up number for computer sake.

People, certain people, go on past their shelf-life

with a passport to another realm.

 

She lives in an un-named region

between synapses. She whispers,

sometimes she sings beyond

the genius of the kettle and the wind.

There is a light, unextinguished.

An interstitial spring with a potency gravitational,

overthrowing the fictitious expiration

of calendar or clock.

 

I take it back. Pills do break down,

lose some milligrams and die of subtraction

even as she multiplies.

Vapors escape from apothecary jars

with the elixir of life. It is her breath I inhale,

a small gust that moves my keyboard.


________________________________________


Table for Four at Saladang

 

Is there anything we don't cover

over undocumented Pad Thai

and corn fritters in reconciliation? 

Three genarians, (two septua, barely or not quite 

and I a late octo) chew over the menu

of what went wrong or just went.

While Democrats wrangle and ice floes melt,

we talk of second and third bananas,

the poetics of baseball, old flames extinguished,

and reed instruments from the renaissance,

dropping names like fumbles in the backfield

from Mark Taper to Mark Twain,

to Bosch not Hieronymus, and others anonymous,

Hector and Achilles to the Greater Antilles,

(even though life doesn’t rhyme, sometimes I must)

as a fly finds low-cost housing in my noodles,

with Peggy presiding from the empty chair

blessing our table.

  

 

 

 

 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Beauty and Truth


The cathedral is an enormous candle
reaching and dripping at once—
a kind of beauty only sorrow knows…


Those lines are part of a poem I wrote almost thirty years ago when Peggy and I visited the Strasbourg Cathedral. I have no idea where they came from except, I do remember having a dream my body turn into the shape of a gothic church. Peggy went on to make a construction box out of it which included my poem.

These words were recently brought back to me by a friend who plucked them from a book of poems titled Along These Lines comprised of Peggy’s poetry and mine. The kind of beauty only sorrow knows feels particularly apt these days.

Keats was on to something when he related truth with beauty, even devastating truth, the reality you might want to turn away from. For Rilke beauty is but the beginning of terror / we are still able to bear. Beauty is not the word that comes to my mind but it certainly enhances the senses and concentrates the mind.

The Dutch knew this when they rendered magnificent still-life paintings with a withering petal in the bouquet or a fly on a leaf signifying decay.

We flock to New England in adoration of the spectacular foliage dying in their reds and rust. Leaves with chlorophyll were to be admired but without its green even more so. The sycamore was never more beautiful than in its sorrow.

There is a certain clarity in grief, something cleansing which could be called truth. Qualities of symmetry and elegance we usually associate with beauty are replaced by a state of vulnerable open-heartedness. There is a special authenticity in confronting the truth of mortality. Yeats called it a terrible beauty.

Looking back brings me to the beauty of our life together, a celebration even now in the midst of sorrow. A candle reaching and dripping at once.                  

 

 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Enthusiasm

A word well-traveled which originally meant as if possessed by God.  The almighty got dumped along the way as needlessly extra weight and the word, enthusiasm, safely landed to earth. To correct the attribution one was not even possessed at all any longer just passionate about... whatever. Peggy was a world-class enthusiast.

After visiting the Lascaux caves Peggy's ardor for petroglyphs was all-consuming. We heard about a hillside wall covered with mimbres art work. The desert ranger warned that the area from the road to the wall was known to have rattlesnakes. It meant nothing to Peggy but everything to me. I had to practically yank her out of the trek.

She carried a book of Wallace Stevens poetry around with her to inspire or give permission to be baffling or zany. About fifteen years ago we made a pilgrimage to his house in Hartford, Connecticut. We slowly drove his one mile walk to work at the insurance company where he is said to have composed his poetry. There would be plaques on the sidewalk along the way with some of his bewildering lines.

We also went to Emily Dickinson’s abode and breathed her air in that bedroom where she stitched her poems and confined herself even as her imagination roamed the town of Amherst and beyond.

We ventured to Keats’ house in Hampstead Heath looking for nightingales, to Elizabeth Bishop's small town in Nova Scotia, to a room in a Spanish hotel where Rilke wrote some poems and to the spot in Basel, Switzerland where Herman Hesse composed one of his novels. We followed our bliss to Greenwich Village and tracked down Edna St.Vincent Millay's apartment, not far from where Peggy lived as a young woman and to Robert Frost’s farmhouse where he had many miles to go before he'd sleep. We even looked for the address on Baker St. where Sherlock Holmes never lived. 

Enthusiasms can be exhausting and maybe that’s the idea, till all passion is spent. There is nothing so exhilarating as the literary hunt. Of course at the end of it you know nothing more than when you started out except as food for the imagination. And that’s no small thing. It can also bring you to that state of ecstasy (out of stasis).  

In fact enthusiasms may lead to a sacred search, divinely inspired. What you find is an aspect of yourself to move the world an enormous inch and what could be more holy than the act of creation? If the goal was to capture an essence of the author it was always doomed. No attainment is part of a receding horizon which every writer experiences. The journey is the destination.  

 

        

 

 


Monday, September 6, 2021

Pencils

 My father wore one behind his ear.

Always a short stub as if it started out

half used up. Peggy liked hers long and sharp.

She wrote in one of those notebooks

with the black and white cover

we used eighty years ago.

The pencil had to be a number two.

Maybe they were twice as good as number ones.

 

I was the guy who sharpened them.

The shavings brought me an inhalation of the forest

and she took it from there. Painted birds

flew off the page from reptilian roots.

She found rhizomes which led to a glade

with spears of sun as yellow as her pencil.

 

She made her woods an orchard or an estuary,

a rainforest or a grove. Bee-loud or hushed.

Solitary in a minion of one.

Thoreau was a pencil man with a head for graphite.

It’s safe to say he wrote his notebook by his own invention.

Peggy and I went  to Walden Pond and his cabin.  

Were there pencils? No, but his ghost still haunts

the red oak and buckthorn. 


Consider what  pencils go through

with misspellings, words morphing to their opposite

and erasures, ouch, with never a complaint or fatigue.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

They let us know their lifespan

as the pink rub-out turns pale

and their hexagon gets rounded.

It is said one pencil contains 45,000 words.

(I'll take their word for it.)

and that doesn't include all the

exclamation points on those                                                              inexhaustible Thursdays.

                                                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Andalusian Epistemology

Don’t go away. This is not about

anything Andalusian nor epistemology.

It is just the punchline of a joke

Peggy and I used to tell.

 

And now I can’t remember the joke.

We used to say those words for the sound of it,

for the stumbling polysyllabic of it all,

for the numbing pretentiousness.

 

It was a private joke which loses

everything in translation.

I want to ask her to remind me

where it came from

and where the choreography

of our ritual dance has gone.

Two, as she said, is a sacred number

and it is evening in this long-night city.