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Category: poetry to ponder

Bill and Flossie Williams

Arshile Gorky - "Hitler invades Poland" (1939)

Hitler Invades Poland (1939)

Arshile Gorky

________

it must be understood that World War l
changed everything, the old order,
orders, had been discredited, new
states were formed, territories allotted,
-isms proliferated, the arts had to, of
course, reflect that, and did, as many
-isms were hatched in the art world
as in the political world, indeed,
many more

which is why much of it at first
seems questionable, practitioners
were learning anew how to talk, paint,
make music, they were creating a new
conceptual universe to replace the one
that had been roundly discredited, the
one that had been around in the West
for the last two thousand years

therefore Schoenberg, therefore
Picasso, and therefore Finnegan’s
Wake
“,
for instance

we’ve been studying American
Modernists in the classes on the
Internet I’m taking
, none of whom
I find interesting, and I’m, contrary
to all expectations, losing even my
early enthusiasm for the much too
thorny, I think, Emily Dickinson

but here’s another abstruse poet
that I like in this poem

though I much prefer his wife
Flossie’s sardonic reply
, which
follows

________________

This Is Just To Say (1934)

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams

________________

Flossie’s Reply (1934)

Dear Bill: I’ve made a
couple of sandwiches for you.
In the ice-box you’ll find
blue-berries–a cup of grapefruit
a glass of cold coffee.

On the stove is the tea-pot
with enough tea leaves
for you to make tea if you
prefer–Just light the gas–
boil the water and put it in the tea

Plenty of bread in the bread-box
and butter and eggs–
I didn’t know just what to
make for you. Several people
called up about office hours–

See you later. Love. Floss.

Please switch off the telephone.

Florence Williams

____________

go Florence, I say, but you can
see, of course, why I’d say that

Richard

Chopin piano concerto no 1, opus 11‏


this is for Brain, who, according
to its response to my last blog,
is about to explore Chopin, a
transformational experience,
which I’d like to encourage
and heartily abet

____________

watch, be transported

Evgeny Kissin at the piano, Zubin
Mehta conducts, Chopin’s First
Piano Concerto
, an indisputable
masterpiece, just click

before this performance I will remain,
uncharacteristically, mum, let Chopin
speak for himself, from the early
Nineteenth Century, letting us know
what they were up to then

it appears to have been utterly
astonishing

Richard

psst: thanks Brain

“The Unwritten” – W.S. Merwin

Mickail Vrubel - "Pencils' (1905)

Pencils (1905)

Mickail Vrubel

_______

below is a poem wherein the poet,
W.S. Merwin, confronts his pencil,
any pencil, which each contains
all the words which will never be
written, it is a great spur to the
creative imagination, an evocation
of the infinities of possibilities
available to any artist, any
person, indeed, who dreams

but in the 21st Century, will
anyone soon wonder what’s
a pencil, when was the last
time, ask yourself, you even
used one

Richard

___________

The Unwritten

Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they’re hiding

they’re awake in there
dark in the dark
hearing us
but they won’t come out
not for love not for time not for fire

even when the dark has worn away
they’ll still be there
hiding in the air
multitudes in days to come may walk through them
breathe them
be none the wiser

what script can it be
that they won’t unroll
in what language
would I recognize it
would I be able to follow it
to make out the real names
of everything

maybe there aren’t
many
it could be that there’s only one word
and it’s all we need
it’s here in this pencil

every pencil in the world
is like this

W.S. Merwin

“I’ve Got a New Attitude”‏


as the Beatles once sang, Roll Over Beethoven

I’d been touching up my blog, specifically my
Elizabeth Barrett Brownings
, which WordPress
had to my dismay defaced, when one of my
submissions, the XXXlst, gave me the choice
of his Appassionata or Patti LaBelle, to
accompany me on the dishes, my ritual
homage to Sisyphean labour before the
limitless

both are electrifying

but I opted for a change, the effect of, maybe,
springtime, chose Patti, who’d awakened by
her very name a world of magical memories
for me, even inspiring me to find finally a
long lost friend, an ardent fan, then, of Patti

I looked for an appropriate, concert, length,
enough to finish my dishes, this is what I
found

I’ve been hooked on divas ever since

I hope you’re also enjoying them

Richard

psst: more Patti

“My City” – Christine Fichtner‏


at the end of her blog Christine Fichtner writes,

A fun Friday challenge by OM to describe any
city in less than 1 000 words.”

this is what she writes

” The endless rain of cars upon the streets lends a droning noise to the excited bustle of crowds that pace the streets in furious waves of cell phones and music players. Conversations you did not need to hear and lyrics you shouldn’t even be able to hear.

Up and down and across the buses loop with black coughs. At even intervals, as trains arrive with squeals as painful as aching joints, and the ground rumbles in a mockery of the earthquake that has been on its way for the last fifty years.

Around, buildings tower with promising winks and glassy eyes. Mirrors of desire. Coffee warms the hands of most who browse the streets.

Trees grow within their cages, trimmed and perfected. Blossoming in spring and illuminated in winter. They line the streets like ornamental filters. People flick their cigarette butts in appreciation.

An overpriced food truck. The same free newspaper you avoided two blocks back. No, you don’t have any spare change. You jaywalk a one way street. A car stops for you.

Every once in a while the sun deigns the city worthy of an appearance. But most days the skies mimic the cold cement, and cry for good measure. Ever followers, clothing of black and grey greet the eye like the dense fog that has been around all week.

Hard paths line the water, just beyond the shore. Bike bells and pounding steps followed by the scent of sweat. The occasional seal greets from afar, soon chased away by a ship’s horn. Gritty sand is cool in the shadow of the logs that line the beaches. Hills of grass and a spattering of trees give a semblance of privacy.

Every few months, fireworks cheer, costumes parade the streets. And sometimes birthday suits on two wheels flash past amongst cheering laughs.

Languages hum to each other. Every corner, a new one. Pointing fingers, flashing cameras, and large buses driving just a bit too slowly through the winding, illogical streets.

Yellow, red, black, signs lit, meters already running, slowing past bus stops and huffing when no one moves, speeding off for better luck elsewhere. Of course when you call, there are none available.

Because when night falls, the buses retreat and the alcohol pours and the police are unyielding with their sirens and dooming slips of paper. Stumbling from the bars and clubs, money scattered throughout the night, the cabs are there to collect the rest.

The scent of cuisines as you walk towards the water. Never the same one twice. Except for sushi.

Clothing sales as you move towards the pounding heart of traffic lights and beeping cars. Malls of stale air and clashing stores. Further away, niche boutiques and trendy wear eat away at your bank statement.

You avoid the east. The used needles that sleep beside someone who is not all there at the moment. The transactions that take mere seconds, switching hands as fast as they greet each other. And after dark, the knives that flash.

The buildings sigh downwards as you move north. Trees overtake the ground. Houses coexist among them, each with pet plants growing, well manicured and obedient. Here you hear the children playing, the dogs barking. Occasionally the complaint of a hungry cat.

Vehicles grunt their way up the steep roads. Colourful shoes flash as joggers and cyclists challenge the slopes. Up and up, until the forests swell, ripe with bird calls, dainty hooves, and snuffling snouts.

And the mountains overlook with the fondness as the city spreads like competing children. At the buildings that covet the watery view and the bright colours of the sun’s extremes.

As light fades, the clouds, in a rare moment of kindness, may choose to reveal the sky’s solemn sentries that dot the darkness in a slow, rotating guard. The city lights glimmer like a dying fire’s embers. It’s warm, and if you could, you would reach out and touch it. ”

______________

“I decided to describe my city, Vancouver.”,
she later explains, though by that time I’d
entirely, of course, got it, it should, I think,
be Vancouver’s official poem, right up there
with Chicago’s Chicago

bravo Christine

Richard

beyond Alice

                                       for Yolande

 
we had been talking, a friend and I, about
ashes – after, of course, my tale of Hawaii,
and my sacred purpose there with my
friend Greg around the memory of his
nephew and parents – the preparations
necessary to effect a smooth
transmission from one’s demise to final
disposition, a somber thought for many, 
but quite irreversible however, and better
sooner than too late, when bureaucratic
considerations inexorably and
inappropriately apply 
 
to do so had been for her a last-minute
thing, earlier too stark, invisible,
unconsidered, but a comfort, she said,
ultimately, for the process had thus  
itself become invisible, seamless, upon
a call the service duly submitted to her
particular wishes, of allowing her to sit by
the body till just before dawn, to avoid the
crush of the suddenly bristling morning,
and the probable indiscretions against
the solemnity of the night 
 
she remembered how she had herself
reverently cast her own husband’s
ashes, told me she had kept some
should she find somewhere else
another garden than the one she
tended now should she ever want
to wander
 
I spoke of my own ashes, others’ ashes  
 
 
she had with her husband cast those
of a sole remaining aunt of an afternoon,
from a rock on the seashore as the tide
moved in and out, feasting on sandwiches
and wine, I had seen dolphins dance out
on the ocean when I’d done something
similar myself around other ashes
 
a boy, a gay guy, she said came walking
before them on the same beach later,
earlier, I can’t remember
 
what do you mean gay, how did you
know that, I defensively countered
 
he was walking between two elderly
ladies, she answered without a beat
as though I hadn’t interrupted, holding
a tea service, complete with silverware,
china and napkins
 
I was glad I’d asked, I thought her 
conclusion incontrovertible
 
her husband thought they’d entered 
Alice’s wondrous rabbit hole, I thought
he couldn’t’ve been far off  
 
they asked 
 
the two ladies were his aunts, he replied, 
come over from England to commemorate
their sister, his mom  
 
this wasn’t at all a rabbit hole, I thought,
but somewhere immeasurably finer, holier,
transcendent, they would be offering her 
remains piecemeal to the rose garden,
there by the water in the sunlight on the
lawn, shaping sweetly their own ideas of 
what lay beyond
 
I’d heard utterly, of course, and ineluctably
there a poem 
 
my friend replenished our wine
 
we recalled our own departed spirits    
  
 
Richard  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonnet 128 – William Shakespeare‏

Sonnet 128

How oft when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more bless’d than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

 
 
                                William Shakespeare

 
 
it would not be incorrect to suppose that the
“wood” of which Shakespeare speaks here
is his own and not that of the instrument,
you’ll probably even enjoy the poem more
that way, which is to say for its saucy, not
to mention, unexpected and, ahem, 
protracted allegory 
 
you might also note the equally raffish
use of the word “jacks”
 
 
enjoy  
 
Richard  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

something creative

                                   (click on the picture should it fail)

                         “Vase of Flowers, after van Gogh” (2009)
 
                                     Apollo
 
                                       ____
 
 
 
with my suggestion neatly tucked under
his arm, of asking for it $1200.00, 
Apollo 
set off to sell his painting, “Vase of Flowers,
after van Gogh”, the one which has been
gracing my
 living room wall for several
years now
, a convenient place where he
could store it, maybe even indefinitely, 
while he made room for other paintings
 

the deep rust table, upon which rests the

white marbled vase which holds the

signature sunflowers, matches a somewhat 

lighter shade of it on my wall,
Burning Bush
it’s called, a colour I chose recently for its
associations with the miraculous, to freshen
up that particular corner  
 
to also see a burning bush every morning,

however metaphorically, as I start my day 

 

 

not having any idea what it might fairly cost

when
Apollo asked for my opinion, something
he couldn’t do by himself for being too intimately

connected, at
an opera evening the following
night at my place I asked my three opera guests,

who were sitting, of course, before the very item,

what they thought

 

the next day in an e-mail I wrote 
 
        “since we’re all, you, me, my mom, Claude

          and Yolande, whom I’ve included in these 

          deliberations, in the same position,

          stumped with regard to a price, I thought 

          I’d simply put all our uninformed opinions

          together and divide by 5 

 

          Claude,     2000

          Yolande,   1200 

          my mom,    700

          me,           1000,  recently upped from 800 

          you,               ?,  which is to say abstention,

                                     so that 5, to be fair, 
                                     becomes 4
 
                            ____ 
                           4900 / 4 = 1225
  

 

          but I’ll accept 1200, should you honour

          my call 

 

          after all, it’s my wall 

 

 

          love

 

          me” 

 
 
 
perhaps“, he’d asked, “you can make a suggestion 
 
towards a solution …
 
I’ll hear from you with something creative
 
as is your usual style“, he’d written from his own
computer in his own idiosyncratic manner, after
the prospective buyer had been up to my place,
viewed dispassionately, I thought, the painting,
though he’d warmly admired my apartment, then
left with Apollo to, ultimately inconclusively at
that point as it turned out, talk cost
     
 
I thought I’d been accordingly creative, not
without some commensurate glee
 
and quivered at what might be the result of my
creation, though the work might, sadly, leave
its now impressive standing on my wall  
 
which I knew, however, Apollo, would never
leave deficient
 
nor, for that matter, would I    
 
 
I’m not ready to set a price on it if you can’t 
come up with one, the collector had told
 
which left Apollo in a fix, until the
serendipitous $1200.00 
 
this is what Richard said, he told the buyer,
who’d indeed fretted, with noteworthy
consideration, about my having
to lose the painting, unaware that
everything turns to dust, to my mind, little
by little dries up, even in one’s imagination,
if it is to be transformed into other magic
 
  
I’d countered that at the right price the
exchange would be a spur to the
burgeoning painter, ready to pursue his
muse with just a little even inspiration,
inspiration an admirer could express in,
notably, dollars  
 
but I’ll discount down to 900, Apollo said, 
ceding to his insecurities, since I know you 
 
I’ll buy it for 1000, the man said, I would’ve
payed 2000, and showed him a work they 
both deemed inferior for which he’d payed
that much 
 
do not, he said, underestimate yourself,
you are a talented artist
 
 
later, looking over the entire transaction,
I asked Apollo, when will you acquire more
than tremulous confidence
 
I’m working on it, he replied
 
what about now, I said, you’ll only be an 
artist when you call yourself one, own it,
do it, now
 
okay, he said, today I am an artist, and
raised his arms wide to the open sky,
appropriately, I thought, surrendering
himself, with giddy determination, to
inscrutable heaven       
 
 
Richard
 
 
 
 

XLlV. Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XLlV. Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers

Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers
Plucked in the garden, all the summer through
And winter, and it seemed as if they grew
In this close room, nor missed the sun and showers.
So, in the like name of that love of ours,
Take back these thoughts which here unfolded too,
And which on warm and cold days I withdrew
From my heart’s ground. Indeed, those beds and bowers
Be overgrown with bitter weeds and rue,
And wait thy weeding; yet here’s eglantine,
Here’s ivy! – take them, as I used to do
Thy flowers, and keep them where they shall not pine.
Instruct thine eyes to keep their colours true,
And tell thy soul, their roots are left in mine.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

________________________

let me, much as Elizabeth is doing here,
submit these comments which I’ve been
sending you, all 44 of them specifically
on these sonnets, their very entirety,
not to mention other opinions I’ve
delivered on several other topics, they
are what I can return of what the world
has given me, the world has “brought
me many flowers”

“these thoughts which here unfolded
[for me] too,” while all of this was
happening, “And which on warm and
cold days I withdrew / From my heart’s
ground.”,
through “bitter [even] weeds
and rue”
sometimes indeed also,
despite, unreasonably perhaps, the
abundance of flowers, for I succumb
easily also, as poets often do, to
crushing despair – who’d o’ thunk it –
and can be categorically unforgiving
at times of an ungorgiving God

see Philip Larkin for instance on this one
before seeing even Nietzsche, and I could
name, of course, several others

“yet here’s eglantine, / Here’s ivy!”, I’ve
also found, and have concluded that
their example is the one to follow

be splendid, it is the only honourable
answer, I’ve devised, which God could
not easily dishonour

these verses have been as my flowers,
“take them, ….. / …. , and keep them
where they shall not pine. / Instruct
thine eyes to keep their colours true,
/ And tell thy soul, their roots are left
in mine.”

yours ever truly

Richard

“Horsetail” – Richard Wilbur‏

Horsetail

It grows anywhere.
This jointed stalk, with branches
like green floating hair,

Thrives in ditches and
Trackside gravel, and even
In oil-spattered sand.

Careless of all that,
Its foot-high grace enhances
Any habitat.

Like a proud exile,
It will not boast that elsewhere
It lived in high style;

And who, after all,
Would credit what its vague head
Must in dreams recall –

How it long looked down
On the backs of dinosaurs
Shadowed by its crown?

Richard Wilbur

____________

rather than an avowal, as in the Romantic
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, this poem is
instead an observation, a disquisition on
the fly, instead of an intensely personal
revelation, it’s a meditation on time

note that everything in this poem rhymes,
something not immediately evident for its
clever mixture throughout of iambic and
trochaic meter, to blur the rhythms as well
as the matching sonorities of traditional
poetry

iambic, da dah, da dah, da dah,
“To be or not to be”

trochaic, dah da, dah da, dah da,
“Mary had a little lamb”

compounded with the intellectual immediacy
of the subject it’s not unusual one would
miss the rustle of particular trees, however
sweet, for the majesty of the primordial forest

but it’s well worth revisiting the bristling
babble of the branches in conversation
with any stray cavorting breeze

Richard

psst: anapaestic, da da dah, da da dah,
“Lullaby, and goodnight”

dactylic, dah da da, dah da da,
out of the frying pan, into the fire