to finally enter this world
a little taller than me: a young man
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,
and running water.
And I'd say, What?
Autumn: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and also post-season baseball (GO GIANTS!), spookily-decorated treats and, in my corner of the world, some of the loveliest weather we get all year. This past weekend the Blue Angels swooped into town and the rooftops were full of revelers. My boys were all about the jet planes but I loved the Rear Window-esque peeks into everyone else's goings on just as much.
The Love for October by W.S. Merwin
A child looking at ruins grows younger
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips
in the sun.
Sick children so something from a favorite book this week, read at a late hour before getting up again.
Just This by W.S. Merwin
When I think of the patience I have had
back in the dark before I remember
or knew it was night until the light came
all at once at the speed it was born to
with all the time in the world to fly through
not concerned about ever arriving
and then the gathering of the first stars
unhurried in their flowering spaces
and far into the story the planets
cooling slowly and the ages of rain
then the seas starting to bear memory
the gaze of the first cell at its waking
how did this haste begin this little time
at any time this reading by lightning
scarcely a word this nothing this heaven
Image by Alice Myers via the Best Scottish Poems website
At the risk of sounding like a wide-eyed American I will confess that I did not know what 'dogging' meant, in the UK sense, but I could tell I was missing something so I looked it up. This poem is from the Scottish Poetry Library publication Best Scottish Poems which was guest edited this year by one of my favorite poets, Roddy Lumsden. As in years past I liked so many of the poems but this one, being funny, naughty and about the French, practically begged me to share it here.
The Académie Francaise Considers a Word for Dogging by Andy Jackson
Chiennage, a literal response, is cast aside,
its laziness the thin end of the wedge, reminder
that the Anglophones are twenty miles across
the ruffled sleeve of water, typing into blogues
and laughing in their pockets at le yé yé, snide,
and covetous and lacking in élan. They ponder
whether poetry would work, consider coarse
equivalents - attroupement de rut, though stags
are cheapened by comparison with sleazy
rosbifs blundering priapically in leisurewear.
Dehorgie is a possibility, a cut-and-shut creation
with a pleasing wit. Etranger-plonger - smirks
from young duffers round the room - easy
on the ear but too contrived. Onomatopoeia
puts its hand up after momentary hesitation,
volunteers ouambam. Chairman says it doesn't work
for him, and dingue-dongue, shique-shaque, fouhaha
make shagging in a layby sound okay.
Someone mentions gender - masculin ou feminin? -
and that's enough to force adjournment for the day.
More Best Scottish Poems, 2011 edition, over here. It is a very enjoyable read and I especially like the author and editor comments beneath each poem.
I loved this book so much I'm having trouble writing anything about it. It was one of those lucky secondhand finds, I'd never heard of it and had no idea who Gregory Orr was. Published in 2002, it looked pristine, unread, but it's thoroughly battered now, creased and scribbled in and mine. It's all about how poetry helps us live.
I started reading poetry a little over four and a half years ago, late in life and at a time when things were not going all that well. I mean all the sudden I was reading Keats on a freezing New England bathroom floor at 3am by the light of one of those smelly candles praying the baby (the first one) wouldn't wake up. This book is very much about that kind of thing and it was lovely to read, and he starts in the introduction talking about music and about how songs also save us over and over again and how real it is so I knew right away I'd found friend.
He writes about how we collect our favorite poems and lines, treasure them, and fashion them into something that helps us navigate our lives. And he really is at this point just talking about poetry but to me it's so much more too- songs of course, images we love, and also a certain type of blog post, the ones we write ourselves trying to capture and make sense of our own experiences, and the ones we find by those miraculously kindred souls who become our favorite bloggers because they express for us what we might not be able to say for ourselves, or because they share stories from their lives that somehow echo ours even if they live a world away. And play the perfect song to go along.
The isn't an anthology really but Orr includes a lot of poems and of those that were new to me I think this is my favorite.
Feelings Wakened by a Mirror by Po Chu-i
My beautiful one gave it to me when we parted,
but I leave the mirror stored in its box.
Since her flowering face left my sight,
autumn waters have no more lotus blooms.
For years I've never opened the box;
red dust coats the mirror's green bronze.
This morning I took it out and wiped it off,
peered into it at my haggard face,
and, done peering, went on to ponder sadly
the pair of twined dragons carved on its back.
April 26th is Poem In Your Pocket Day here in the US. I've always liked the idea of it, of people carrying around a few cherished, crumpled lines maybe to share but truthfully just because they're needed. To borrow a phrase from someone we'll be hearing more from in a minute, I really am this foolish.
I've been saving this one especially for today, from this.
The Great Poet Has Gone by Adam Zagajewski
Thinking of C.M.
Of course nothing changes
in the ordinary light of day,
when the great poet has gone.
Gray sparrows and dapper starlings
still squabble heatedly
in the tops of ancient elms.
When the great poet has gone,
the city doesn't miss a beat, the metro
and the trams still seek a modern Grail.
In the library a lovely girl
looks in vain for a poem that could explain it all.
At noon the same noise surges,
while quiet concentration reigns at night,
among the stars- eternal agitation.
Soon the discotheques will open,
indifference will open-
although the great poet has died.
When we part for a long while
or forever from someone we love,
we suddenly sense there are no words,
we must speak for ourselves now,
there's no one to do it for us
- since the great poet is gone.
(translated by Clare Cavanagh)
I've got a great song for you too- it's written by Mark Spence, author of the first poem in the collage above, and performed by him and his band Royal Chant.
Royal Chant - Hesitation Kills
Recovering from last week's festivities and shaking my head over the inner workings of my three year old who, through the round of bunny sightings, egg dyeing and hunting plus spring-themed baking, parties and days out, kept demanding to see Santa.
The rain has returned now and with it a little quiet, so back to the books. Over the past few weeks (I got very happily sidetracked by this and the next one is on the way) I read through A Book of Luminous Things, an anthology edited by the poet Czeslaw Milosz. This was my favorite thing in the book, it's such a strangely sweet and unexpected tale-
Toast by Leonard Nathan
There was a woman in Ithaca
who cried softly all night
in the next room and helpless
I fell in love with her under the blanket
of snow that settled on all the roofs
of the town, filling up
every dark depression.
in the motel coffee shop
I studied all the made-up faces
of women. Was it the middle-aged blonde
who kidded the waitress
or the young brunette lifting
her cup like a toast?
Love, whoever you are,
your courage was my companion
for many cold towns
after the betrayal of Ithaca,
and when I order coffee
in a strange place, still
I say, lifting, this is for you.
My little one had a birthday last week. If this doesn't sum it up I don't know what does.
Spinning by Kevin Griffith
I hold my two-year-old son
under his arms and start to twirl.
His feet sway away from me
and the day becomes a blur.
Everything I own is flying into space:
yard toys, sandbox, tools,
garage and house,
and, finally, the years of my life.
When we stop, my son is a grown man,
and I am very old. We stagger
back into each other's arms
one last time, two lost friends
heavy with drink,
remembering the good old days.
I can't read it without crying - perhaps it's that feeling I sometimes, on a bad day, have of my own life being pretty much over, my remaining years flying into space.
But how we love them. What are you gonna do, eh?
I am addicted to Instagram - it's kind of like Twitter only with pictures so there's no worry about spelling/being witty, making it perfect for parents of young children and other perennially exhausted individuals. I also recently learned how to make nifty photo collages on my phone. Here you see the result of my two new pastimes. You might notice the prominence of glitter nail polish, an emergency measure after the sad thoughts of last week. Similar to tea, there is no situation glitter nail polish can't improve.
And the same is true of favorite books. Edwin Morgan's The Second Life is one my new (poetry-era) favorites and it's got everything, all the big things, but I have been resting my eyes on this sweet, simple snapshot.
Linoleum Chocolate by Edwin Morgan
Two girls running
two rolls of linoleum
along London Road-
a bar of chocolate
flies from the pocket
of the second, and a man
picks it up for her, she takes it
and is about to pocket it
but then unwraps it
and the girls have a bite
to recruit the strength
of their giggling progress.
The Second Life is out of print but many of the poems are in this.