Best Poems From
(04/23/52 - xxxx)
LOVERS JUMP TO DEATH FROM BURNING BUILDING
From late night collapse of limes
rum lovers leap to death in each others arms.
Upon the sill they lean resigned,
dead calm revolving in a yellow light.
Neither fright nor anger nor drunken joy
calls them to this moment but habit.
Each morning settles something and so
they resolve half asleep in the window to
disturb the air. With thickened tongues
they obediently fall bidden by fire
hidden in all alarms.
Madly Singing For The Mountain
for Andy Linton & Philip Whalen
...arrived via email this morning while I was reading Madly Singing In The Mountains, An Appreciation and Anthology of Arthur Waley. Waley did more than any other single man to introduce Chinese and Japanese literature to the Western reader. His translations were the first of Asian poems that I read in my youth, taking them with me always on the mountain trail, do so still when in Mexico where one can honestly sit beside a well, hear the desert mountains hum, near up to that poem/place and remember those old poets who waited months and years to hear from a fellow friend and poet via tattered letters born by foot and horse over mountain ranges through all kinds of weather...
Email, there's no time or travel in all that, so one has to conjure travel, the endurance, and will to keep moving, in other ways, so this arrives from afar in the morning wind chill through the Autumn window:
XL. 'Into my heart an air that kills...'
by A. E. Housman (1859-1936)
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
Dear A. you haint sent me the Housman poem before but I am glad that you did...certainly sums up the inner weather and appoints one the always present task of contentment even if inner and outer matters are not in balance (if ever) (I gave up on balance long time ago...I rather see-saw, jee and haw, one ass at a time, testing each step for sure-footed-ness enough) ...
...time for you to get to those blue remembered hills and their equivalent within, the rough land therein to roam, find perhaps a view for a home, or rock, or glen, or stream and on and on...Taoism (not the kow tow and such but much there is indeed to bow to...funny and right that nature makes an old man naturally bow (and I'm bending more everyday, old knees can still pray despite my conscious will to curse) , bends him forward in advancing age bowing all the time in or out of mind) makes so very much sense to me in my old(er) age why I crave now some land beneath me, trees, hills, and a sky which is not quadrangled and tangled with wires and contrails, and a well would be nice and a porch and a nearby trail and a door without a lock for who would want to keep wandering spirits out, call in the fox and see what mischief is brought...and there keep humans far away/absent which may make my bitter heart the fonder for the fools that others and myself be and have been...nature's been the better friend so far (and books) , and you and others few who don't vex me much nor seem to be vexed by my past pissery and now growing, finally, curmudgeonly-leewardly-ness and cuss.
Remember this that I wrote when in the Blue Ridge much vexed by many and myself and reading via Waley that old fool and wise wiseacre Li Bao/Li Po? I'd been much in my cups and could not sleep inside that night so slept on the back porch hung over the stream flowing beneath, its good and non-judgmental company, lulled enough of me to slumber beneath the hard lumber of that old porch...woke up with the Waley book opened to Li Po's poem 'Alone And Drinking Under the Moon' (there was no moon that porch night) , managed to focus in the dawn light and read it again...then grabbed pencil and wrote:
Of Li Po Waking The Morning After (Cerca 1979)
'Let me be forever drunk and never come to reason!
Sober men of olden days and sages are forgotten,
And only the great drinkers are famous for all time.' - Li Po
'We share life's joys when sober.
Drunk, each goes a separate way.' - Li Po
Waking up among these frail green things,
by the stream I hear the hornets singing.
I do not fear them but I fear the sting
of light as day creeps into my shade.
I have read of sad and joyful things
under last night's moon and now I weep
for the Immortals fading from light
to light with their pockets of pine bark
and resin to chew, their wine of sorrow
to drink in their, and my, sorrowful season.
I am homesick for the earth as
these old poets knew it,
a thin veil of mountains,
winter birds pecking at suet,
some girls dancing, and a wife,
some young sons to pull the reeds up
fishing and weeping for my exposed
wino bones while I sit, drunk, pronouncing
upon the deeds of state. Pitiable.
Let there be leaving taking and coming to,
drinking and drinking again,
playing fool to the wisdom of the ages,
remarking at those unkind sages
who always smack their lips for war.
Give me again the hilltop cave,
the pilgrim come to call at the door.
Fires I will then light for this age.
Who comes to me in this season for reason
besides the bee and the mite, the winding gourd?
I have sat here in one spot so long
I begin to lose my sight. Look!
The stream is growing a beard in the daylight!
No word can bring back the Immortals but for wino joys.
There is a blight upon our time. I have been faithful to it
tipping my cup. The present is sufficient but I admit
I am ready to go. My time has come.
Leave the world to the scoundrels!
Now, olding up and bending low, I can truly shout,
Leave the world to the scoundrels!
and seek a lost contentment which, truth be told, I have never found but for moments which are good enough for me then and now...
Get a hike in this weekend, the leaves are bright there I'm sure, the air there breathable and pure unlike here...lucky you can have mountains so close at foot, a dooryard away there you are forwarding into pines...city bound and nigh unto penniless I will bow to the leaves within and keep inside today...too bright out there for my hellish mind...will read instead, of the Tao (a new book from Bloomsbury) and wrestle with a poem or two...get the ubiquitous pot of beans to a slow boil clogged with bacon, 'redolent' with garlic (just a fun thing to write) , and then get to the toil I love best (once the cornbread is in the oven) , poems, and wander the stacks awhile, my trails, find an old anthology I woke up craving, remnant of a dream, something Greek and of Argos, so want some Ritsos and Cavafy to match the mood since I can't get to any woods or Aegean...
Lastly, old friend, of old Ezra - the braggart bagged and penned then sent back to his chosen exile truly an exile from the inside out - one of his last Cantos writ, says he (from where he inwardly lived) , from Hell, seeking forgiveness, redemption, pray/plead his life work (of braying with footnotes a fractured Dantean ditty) (for all his cursed insanity and bigotry) that it/he (removing his hat and bending low) moved the cultural wheel goodly forward.:
What thou lovest well remains,
the rest is dross
What thou lovst well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lovst well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs
or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
What thou lovst well shall not be reft from thee
The ants a centaur in his dragon world.
Pull down thy vanity, it is not man
Made courage, or made order, or made grace,
Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.
Learn of the green world what can be thy place
In scaled invention or true artistry,
Pull down thy vanity,
Paquin pull down!
The green casque has outdone your elegance.
Master thyself, then others shall thee bear
Pull down thy vanity
Thou art a beaten dog beneath the hail,
A swollen magpie in a fitful sun,
Half black half white
Nor knowstou wing from tail
Pull down thy vanity
How mean thy hates
Fostered in falsity,
Pull down thy vanity,
Rather to destroy, niggard in charity,
Pull down thy vanity,
I say pull down.
But to have done instead of not doing
This is not vanity
To have, with decency, knocked
That a Blunt should open
To have gathered from the air a live tradition
or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame
this is not vanity.
Here error is all in the not done,
all in the diffidence that faltered...
The final verse, Canto 120, was published posthumously. This is the entire Canto 120:
I have tried to write Paradise
Do not move
let the wind speak
that is paradise
Let the Gods forgive what I
Let those I love try to forgive
what I have made.
Will call in the horseman and his short-legged horse, roll up this scroll, tie it tight with good cord, wrap it secure in chamois, pay the restless postman his due, his room, his board, and 'mail' this to you over the ranges, that ocean, to that high place 3 days by foot, Chidisan, mighty dragon, allowing your weight.
We are all a scandal. Enjoy that fact.
Kow towing toward the West (though you are in the Far East) where you are just watching the sun come up...keep an eye for the horseman moving your way,
Magpie, My Keeper, Is Flying - Upon Freeing the Gift of Creativity Turned Inward
for Elaine Bellezza, Beloved Anima-as-Fate
'There is only one real deprivation, I decided this morning, and that is not to be able to give one's gift to those one loves most...The gift turned inward, unable to be given, becomes a heavy burden, even sometimes a kind of poison. It is as though the flow of life were backed up.' - May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude
This afternoon while still somewhat hungover from last night's rich meal and several glasses of strong red wine, I stumbled as one does when hungover, only today without feet but with eyes, upon the above quote by May Sarton. I had awakened this morning with fragments of a dream, repetitive of other dreams the past few months, where I am carrying something precious and just cannot put it down in any old place or upon just any available surface. I cannot put it down until I find the right surface and location.
These dreams are full of torrential flood waters, or backed up, stagnant water, toilets full of filth and pungent bright orange dark urine days old and fermenting. I cannot unhand the burden even though the urge to pee or flee or drive a car away or into flood waters is strong. I must not put down the burden odd as it is; it is my laptop carrying case made of canvas. It is large enough to carry not only my laptop but also many books with which I cannot, will not be parted from as they are the must-have-with-me-always 'bread', my staple and stability in a given to me world out of balance.
I have understood the dreams only a little - something within the psyche is flooding up, over-spilling or has already, has not been adequately canalized, channeled, streamed and guided, shaped and formed. Or flushed. I knew that eventually, as dreams do when one sits consciously, patiently, persistently with them, they would yield their messages to me, and upon revelation these must be obeyed, brought out into the world, Carl Jung having said that one has a moral responsibility to dreams once they are kenned and must be conscientiously acted upon in the outer world. Just dreaming is not enough. Everyone dreams but not very many know to dream them out into the world, to let their messages unfurl, flood and flow to bring forth new consciousness, to reshape old forms no longer adequate to self, place and time into symbol and their sense, usually not literal.
And thus, only just now, upon opening up haphazardly in a book about Dostoevsky and his struggle with addictions which mirror the profound compulsion to create at any cost perhaps beyond one's capacities to renew oneself, I find May Sarton's quote and suddenly the dreams clarify and sharpen into focus; I understand them as the burden of creativity too long turned inward, the burden of writing, the burden of poetry which I have carried heavily for most of my life since middle school when I was 11 or 12 years old when books became my lifeline, my link to existence that I could live on in spite of not wanting to do so. Written words, books, kept me from disappearing though I was and remain a mostly invisible word.
And thus the floods. One cannot ignore them. Alphabets tumble and roil. One dare not ignore them. One must see them without a choice to not see them. In them I am suddenly made visible, bright orange p*ss pots and all. I am both appalled and pleased. My burden is upon my knees.
The backed up water, the urine, is creativity. A somewhat odd symbol of creativity, there is more than enough evidence that urination is symbolic of self expression which is creativity. In ancient Rome the highly valued dirt from the urinals of boys' schools was collected to be used as a cosmetic in order to restore youthful energy and looks. A young boy, or puer in Latin, is an archetypal symbol of ongoing creativity and inspiration, the puer aeternas, the eternal youth, well springs of ongoing creativity still imaged in solid fountains of the world where eternal waters flow from the peni of cherubic youth.
I have struggled my entire life with a strong urge to create, to write, to express in words that creative daemon within which torments no matter the completion of a poem or essay, a lecture, a psalm. And now my dreams have had me consciously, urgently seeking a place to put the burden down, to perhaps come to it anew. I imagine that landing the burden means bringing it down to earth, manifesting creativity all the more by bringing my efforts to others for the strongest part of the compulsive urge in my creativity has been to contribute one good thing, one good poem or piece of writing which in some way might further the culture even if only by a flea's leg length.
The dreams urge me to let the urine flow, to let the flood waters indeed flood over, to be less self conscious of what I write and say but to have at it all and to say my say. And to let whatever waves there are crest and break upon ever receptive banks and shores whose duty it is to allow what may come from motion without complaint, the more compliant toward as yet to be fully formed purposes as yet to be scored.
Synchronistically, a few days ago I listened to a lecture by poet Allen Ginsberg about Walt Whitman and his imitators, those who were goodly influenced by his effulgent, self indulgent style, his garrulous poems which presumed to express the very expansiveness of the North American continent over-flooded by a plague of itinerant, persistent poachers and prophets from Europe to Eastern disembarkation and then inland and Westward, compelled to overtake land and native peoples in their possessed, pushed wake. Ginsberg imagined himself to be a timely extension of this unruly school, as savage as the projected upon land and justly-resistant, resident humanity stretched beyond known bounds and sounds. Blood drowned and pounded the god-hounded land even now is flooded by unleashed mighty rivers seeking, if rivers seek at all, to undo and renew in horse shoe and other shapes the crimes of consciousness compelled to overtake while leaving it up to human souls to repent and repair, to prepare for more powerful insurgencies of land and Self ever seeking new and nower expressions of dirt and deity. There's enough history beneath layers to support the scarp and scrape of momentary yet monumental motions finally given mouths to utter what lies both beneath and within the heaping huzzahs of here here here full and deep. As in my dream, it is hard to steer in such surpassing tides and currents. Still, I am searching for holy campground that I may lay my burden down.
I have no wish to imitate Whitman nor Ginsberg - though both are easily imitated since they did so themselves, an occupational hazard for writers - but only to be obedient to the daemon, that urgent, emergent, creative force within. It rushes within and against me. No matter whether derived of the grandiose American continent and the even more grandiose sky or not, I have all too successfully braced against it in fear of failure, reprisal or, worse, complete indifference from others. My dreams now urge floods and resultant coagulations, they bring creative splurges to ground from hand to the hard world. And Nature, too, is indifferent but begs none the less and all the more to be given utterance and response.
Respondeo ergo sum. I respond, therefore I am. I respond, therefore the other, earth, all her ants, is as long as there are eyes, ears, and scanning minds to acknowledge and touch, wrestle, caress, shape - some in scansions - outer from inner, inner from outer, landscapes to be all too quickly discarded in time for what is sung just ahead. And seen. Or hoped, all praise to telescopes. We would be they, so addicted to horizons, to bring them close.
Something there is needs completion via coagulation, forming, shaping, and sharing with whomever may be open to clods delivered. If not, rivers will, as they will without reason, continue to overrun their banks and insist upon covering designated previous cultivations. Let then excess of creativity have its say, play out, and leave the critical post-considerations to others. I will surely sit and ponder spent what spills forth, to shape, to edit, to discard. And watch my little yard sink beneath needed and needy floods.
I will have done with deprivation and bring myself, what I have shaped and misshapen, to the world. These things, this burden, have I most loved and felt responsible for, have born the shame of. I have fought and have failed utterly again and again though my attempts have been, and still are, sincere though not blameless. Fear has been my encampment, a longing beneath knowing feet in secret cellars just beyond reach of contracted hands forever spelling hunger. I know open bastion doors and windows to now fling beyond embankments what has been wrung out of my floes and woes though hands wither from too much turning against and inward. What a relief to burst beyond boundaries too long successfully restraining.
I recently wrote a poem about much too too solid bastions of self, of forceful puer energy ramming through and over and into long buried storms and petrified forms, of passion mangling the delusion of 'norms' ignoring too sensitive alarms. Given May Sarton's May revelation this morning I now understand that the poem is about more than eros, it is about that powerful creative/destructive force, the daemon/tyro that ever urges outward intent on making and staking Self in new land and at least one aging man wrenched and rendered from dried and calcified encrustations. I am, to borrow from the insistent dream image, beginning to leak. And to break open.
Archeology - What The Stele Says 'Upon Taking A Much Younger Lover'
That this old ground yields to plow stuns.
What begins to be, earth swell, breaks
root-room open to blood means.
Old skeins tear upon what is new terrain,
hunger worn, long appended. There is
no blame for pain is the blessing.
All hurt now stings twilight quaked into being.
Your breath falls upon me now, taut, sinew,
bruising hand, purple inside flares warrior nerves
to unknotting surprise.
I am uncovered, thin, bared upon thinner sheets the man-
ripped to many images, torn into, landscaped to former curves.
No longer do I grieve enclosure, touching only myself,
delivered from layers.
Lines, veins, strung between Pole Star
and First River Mouth, an embedded ruin uncovered in milk floods.
Touch gently first what has been too long concealed.
Hard touch congeals once was telling mud remolded into
'Not again. Not yet the bleeding Centurion.'
Wield roughly then through gates too long shut.
When I cry out, do not mind. Blindly ram. Do not stop.
Magpie, my keeper, is flying.
Making Things Right In Exile - After the Chinese Poet, Po Chui 772 - 846 CE
He rests awhile in the wide orchard
where bright plum flowers rain. He
unrolls his pallet to sleep inside
the humming glade.
'Raiment, ' he writes in his sleepy
head, 'of leaves and bees. An old man
puts the best plum in his sleeve to
bring home to his bitter wife.'
'Why strive when nature is bounteous
and all ills can be made right with
wet sweetness? '