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Neglected Poets G-L:   David George   Samuel Greenberg   Hazel Hall   Robert Hayden   H.D.   Nazim Hikmet   Vicente Huidobro   Robinson Jeffers   Stephen Jonas   Weldon Kees   Kate Light   Duane Locke   Amy Lowell   Mina Loy

David George (1930-2003) 

  Born David George Vogenitz. Poet, artist, freelance photographer. David George's work appeared in over one hundred literary magazines and anthologies in North America and Europe, including The Anthology of Magazine Verse and The Yearbook of American Poetry. Did seminal work on the Andalusian Gypsy as an anthropologist and wrote THE FLAMENCO GUITAR in 1969. That book traced the making of the guitar from tree to instrument with anecdotes of asuntos gitanos in the substantial endnotes. Photo gallery: http://www.stevekahn.com/flamenco/fp_collection_1.html 

American Gothic   Beauty   Burly Cobb's Barn   Dignitaries   Georgia O'Keeffe....    In One Of Goya's Paintings   Landscape With....   On Fields Of Grey Regret   Rippled Surface   The Balcony   The Girlie Show   The Lassitude Of Ulysses

American Gothic

 

––an oil on beaverboard by Grant Wood, 1930

 

The tines are attentive to silence and slow time––

The sticking point of action deferred, the glum

Expressions on their faces, as they stand

Side by side, emphasizing the tines

 

That symbolize what a farmer is about.

They scoop up hay, or cattle-feed, or the dirt

Accumulating in the steaming stalls,

The dark corrals of flesh and bone and blood.

 

In one fell swoop, the tines will play their part

Scooping up and stacking. They bite through bales

With the horrendous appetite for work

 

The farmer has, the Gothic worker, that

Never stops working, never stops to smile

Until the tall and sacred silo is full.

 

2

 

The lightning-ball on the roof is not a cross.

This is not a church, in spite of the sharp

Window peaking, the arching, triangular

Window in the second-story loft. Each face

 

Repeats the archness, the arching brows, the eyes

Not even glasses can temper or disguise.

This man is a priest in the Gothic sense.

He sees the world intently, through his own

 

Interpretation of what is right and wrong.

Righteous he stands. Righteous he falls. Each man

Assumes the duties and status of a priest.

 

The woman, however (the perfect cameo)

Tends to her flowers on the porch. She fills

The kitchen with the honest smell of bread.

 

3

 

But it’s the tines, the trident in the hand,

The poignant, dangerous trinity of tines

The painter chose to emphasize, when he put

A pitchfork in the fist of a man like this––

 

A hand like this––a work-hardened, capable,

Clamping-down kind of hand––a farmer’s fist.

He’s all of this beneath the priestly stance:

The black jacket, the holy pose, the collar

 

Buttoned and starched. He is a man to fear,

A heavy-handed man who has his way.

Perhaps there is another way, but he

 

Has never heard of it. Perhaps he did,

But only later––long after he was dead––

And then it didn’t matter what he said.

 

Beauty

Sometimes unexpectedly, unbidden,
Beauty comes. Not a downpouring of doves,
Not a Venus, sheathed in an ivory shell,
Not even the lenses of Stonehenge in its season––
 
Stones aligned to catch the sun as it moves
Mystically, majestically, through holes
And crevices. Not even these spectaculars––
The light against the dark, the white ecstatic,
 
Stars falling and setting the sky on fire––
Take possession, or let the moment take
The horse high over the hedge with an unseen rider.
 
It comes when least expected, when the dark
Opens a crack to let light filter in––
A word, a look, a sudden realization.

 

Burly Cobb's Barn

 

––an oil on canvas by Edward Hopper, 1931

 

It’s too remote to record without a deed

Bringing it up to date. How many barns

Gave up their boards for fireplace mantels?

How many hardwood floors became the walls

 

Of tiny, rustic estates? They’re scattered about

Hither and yon, like a Christian martyr’s bones––

Bits and pieces, that multiply in the shops

Of ikon-makers and antique-dealers, the men

 

Who covet them. But what a relic needs

Is restoration and peace, not sacrifice––

Not unlike the old man who prepares

 

By buying a casket big enough to breathe in––

At least until the tearing-apart is over,

The screech of nails, the sobbing of relatives.

 

Dignitaries

 

Attuned to the hush of God’s revolving door

(The well-oiled hinges, the whisper of the wings

That glide behind, come out ahead of you)

The Men-That-Matter are aware of things

 

That lesser men never knew existed.

That’s why they’re lesser men. It all begins

Out in the street. The doormen smartly salute

Disembarking dignitaries, their cars

 

More elegant than others, more discreet

Than those that cart the other men to work.

They have, in fact, that black and well-worn look

 

Reserved for state occasions. After all,

The classical is never old. It gleams

Behind the tinted glass of myth and dream.

 

2

 

The ministers-of-state (for they are that)

Seem to float from door to elevator.

Italian-leather slippers (supple shoes)

Encase the toes you know are manicured.

 

They lightly navigate the marble halls,

And take their ease in gold-embroidered chairs.

Only the finest wool, the finest sheep

Contribute to the tailored suits they wear.

 

Men of the cloth, what gods elected them?

Are they ecclesiastical in fact?

Are they an ancient, biblical elite?

 

And if there is a heaven, will they greet

One another by name, and take their seats

To play the same hereditary game?

 

Georgia O'Keeffe And The Buffalo Skull

––a photograph taken in 1948 outside of her house at Abiquiui, New Mexico, now in the Albright Gallery, Buffalo, New York

 

Seated on rough planking, wearing a hat,

The round black sombrero of the vaquero, its loop

Dangling down and loosely-knotted, she sits

Holding the ancient skull of a bull in her lap.

 

How many times has she painted that skull, her hand

Cupping the upper jaw, her fingers laid

Along the row of massive teeth worn down

By years of grazing on buffalo-grass and sage?

 

Its horns are still matted, the mossy bark of an oak

That clings to the branch long after the rest of it

Has blown away across the desert terrain.

 

Taking her place with dignity among

The petroglyphs of buffalo-hoof on stone,

She too is old and weathered at sixty-one.

 

2

 

But what is sixty-one to such a woman

Still working, at ninety-six, in the sun

That blanches whatever it touches? Did she take

The force of the sun in her fingers, leather now,

 

And let its yellow tongue slide down her skin?

For thirty-five years, she was never far from the skull

Photographed here with the artist, her cupped hand

Clutching the skull of her friend, her constant companion,

 

Its head alone as large as her torso, its eye

Dead and empty, old and wise as the soul

Hidden, perhaps, in its bone-marrow. She sits

 

Solemn and old and wise, as if she knows

The thoughts behind the bone, behind the eye

Empty and hollow but still alive in her hand.

 

3

 

Georgia thinks like a Zuni. The Zuni believe

The sun is a hole in the sky. The artist knows

The Zuni have lived forever in the sun

She has endured but slightly, began to crave

 

When living away too long from its healing rays.

The sun has baked her too––the clay in her veins,

The ox blood and urine of her adobe home,

The idle thoughts of the skull she holds in her hand,

 

Its eye still gaping, staring back at the sun.

Her needs are simple: the sky above her, the sod

Tiling her roof, the cantilevered logs

 

Keeping the rain out of her cave, the sun

That gives her heat and light, the refried beans

Simmering rich and brown in a black pot.

 

In One Of Goya's Paintings

 

––based on a Goya painting of a dog (1820) and a Turner seascape, Dawn after the Wreck, 1840

 

In one of Goya’s paintings, a little dog

Rises out of the mudbanks of Madrid.

Its melancholy mouth, its mournful eyes

Express in paint the howling sentiment

 

Turner’s dog is trying to express

All by itself on an empty strand, the sea

Lapping at the shores of its loneliness.

Nobody seems to know what Goya’s dog

 

Symbolizes––as if it mattered to him,

Padding about nearly deaf with his black paintings

Constantly on his mind. Did Turner’s dog

 

Bay at the moon until the moon was lost

Behind a cloud? Or did it bay and bay

All night, all day, for what was missing at sea?

 

How strange it was: only a dog, and yet

Nothing is more appropriate than a dog

To keep the faith, to bay at the moon, until

The painter pays attention to its plight.

 

In one bold stroke, the painter eliminates

Empty gesture––the figures on the shore

That didn’t believe in what they couldn’t see.

Only the dog stayed awake for days, and searched

 

For distant lights, for the sight of a battered boat

Drifting out of the black and into the blue

Of early dawn. Only the dog remained

 

When everyone else had given up the search––

The sea turning green, then blue, then green and then

Only the wind was howling, only the sea.

 

Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus

 

––an oil on canvas by Pieter Brueghel, 1558

 

Whether or not it was Brueghel who painted the flight––

The Fall from Grace, the harsh, ambivalent cry

Of one forsaken at the height of his life,

The fact remains that Icarus, all alone,

 

Learned what it was to be a falling stone.

A watcher said he “plummeted”––one who was there

Looking for nothing, apparently, when he saw

Something new, a naked man, a god

 

Folding its wings like a waterbird, to dive

Into a watery grave. What marks the spot?

What monument to science or to art

 

Commemorates the passage of a man

From earth to sky, from sky to earth again––

Who sacrificed, who paid the ultimate price?

 

2

 

Nobody ever accused him of moderation.

The sun, that day, was gilding the sky with gold––

A setting sun, reflected upon the wings

Suddenly limp––as if his stiff resolve

 

Melted down at the instant of ignition.

This is the way, his father said, the sky

Keeps its distance, is never overrun

By premonitions, by fleets of alien things.

 

Don’t fly too high, his mother said, before

He spread his wings and leaped into the wind

Without a backward glance. He must have guessed

 

That there was more, much more to it than the leap

He blithely made into what appeared to be

Nothing but air in a vast arena of stars.

 

On Fields Of Grey Regret

 

––based on an anonymous Civil War photo

 

On fields of grey regret, the bodies fall––

Good men all, and younger than the grass

That paints them green and black. How high must bone

Pile upon bone before the taste of brass

 

Legislates an end to the blood-letting?

The stones are red, the sky is red, the dawn.

A dead sun glints on rusty bayonets,

On bones the color of marble and broken slate.

 

On fields of grey regret, the bodies fall

In stony rows for no good reason at all––

And they are falling yet. How deep? How tall?

 

How long must the wind rustle a dead man’s hair?

My fingers itch to scratch an ancient sore.

How smooth the faces of those who go to war!

 

Rippled Surface

 

Two raindrops, falling into a pond,

Become the pond that they are falling on––

Become the moon, the tree, the tangled limbs

Intertwined with broken rings, and the rain

 

That left two drops behind. How soon will they

Assimilate with what they have become––

Give up their rings, the ripples that the wind

Will smooth with its white hand? Already, they

 

Are slowing down their microscopic sense

Of oceanic pride. Their ripples are

Running out of steam, the inner surge,

 

The energetic sense of what they were

Before they fell upon a tranquil pond

That once was still, will soon be still again.

 

The Balcony

 

––a memoir of yellow roses in Seville, including an early portrait by Matisse

 

The tall and ornate door on the second floor

Opened out on courtyards of light and sun.

Huge yellow roses climbed the balcony

From brick planters, ascending wrought-iron bars

 

Up to the washlines threading the flat roof.

The Gypsy maid, who could out-sing finches, complained

Yellow roses were inundating the space

Up to now she felt safe in. Couldn’t he

 

(Her enemy, the gardener) get a grip

On all those messy petals, perilous thorns?

She didn’t sing for a week until he did,

 

Her sighs and groans floating darkly through the door

Always ajar, because of the slender breeze

That stirred the curtains, alleviated the heat.

 

2

 

An early Matisse was hanging motionless

At one end of the spacious room, with light

Pushing its way through the hordes of yellow roses

That seemed to pause, drop a few petals, and pass

 

Upwards and onwards on their way to the roof.

The light from the balcony dappled the Matisse

Already scarred––according to la condesa––

By careless brushstrokes by the maestro himself.

 

Take it, she said. The face is all wrong.

I’m doing abstracts now, by which she meant

She was collecting Braque and Picasso.

 

The early Matisse, like his Woman with the Hat,

Was still considered scandalous, when she

Divested herself of all her early mistakes.

 

 

3

 

The roses filled the studio, the door

Always ajar, the roses spilling in

Until the floor was yellow with roses, that slid

Gently across the tile. All night they rustled,

 

Their petals drifting across the polished floor.

The Gypsy maid was horrified when she saw

The balcony clogged with roses, even the floor

Littered with petals that had a life of their own.

 

The early Matisse was motionless. His face

Didn’t react to the roses. Perhaps he knew

It wasn’t easy to choose between life and art––

 

The open door, the roses blocking out light,

The hordes of yellow roses posing as art––

Bold intruders that had a life of their own.

 

The Girlie Show

 

––an oil on canvas by Edward Hopper, 1941

More like an ikon of Byzantine intent,

The stiff, hieratic attitude reflects

Nefrititi in the nude, her hair

Reddened with henna, her cheeks with actor's rouge.

 

Is that lipstick on her nipples? Her breasts

Forge ahead like the prows of battleships

Not exactly dancing over the waves,

Probing the night air like ballistic missiles.

 

A prehistoric bird of prey, she strides

Across a naked stage in a pool of light

That follows every jerky movement she makes.

 

The drummer in the pit beneath her feet

Has turned away, as if he knows by rote

Each step she takes, each bump and grind, each turn.

 

2.  The latest hits

 

He doesn't have to look at her, to keep

The driving beat, the tattoo of a stick

Upon obliging skin. He sets the pace,

The rate at which she moves, as if his hands

 

Were on the quick, invisible strings attached

To head and toe, to each mechanical limb––

Even the message centers in her brain.

The drummer is the man that makes her move

 

Across the stage, no matter what her mood.

The drummer is the man she learns to love

Above all others, the only man she obeys.

 

How effortless––the way the drummer plays

The latest hits with slender, stuttering sticks––

And she responds with twitches, grunts and groans.

 

3.  A star upon a stage

 

Didn't another, a famous dancer, respond

To flute and drum upon a distant stage?

What was it about her, that set her apart from this

Burlesque dancer, whose strident movements seem

 

Contra naturum––: the harsh, discordant drum

Inviting her to step into a light

That leaves her nothing to herself, that steals

The last small shred of what she was about

 

Before a drummer turned her out, before

She became a star upon a stage?

Now she starts and stops upon command––

 

A puppet on a string that tugs at her

Incessantly, as if she were nothing but

A ticket-taker, a temple prostitute.

 

4.   Strutting her stuff

 

Why did this careful painter endow her with

Such a set of boobs? He must have seen

The bulbous shape of rubber bicycle horns

That squawk when squeezed. Did his enormous hands

 

Yearn to make a barnyard sound? And why

Did Jo––his wife of many years––remark

How closely did the dancer's legs resemble

Her very own (although she was the model)––;

 

As if a part of Hopper's wife were up there

Strutting her stuff, letting it all hang out.

She must have noticed that her husband centered

 

The dancer's navel at a point half-way

North and south, and nearly coinciding

East and west in the center of the stage.

 

5.   Once Rubenesque

 

She doesn't slink. She whips her body out

In sullen arcs that dart about as she moves.

Her stance, however, does not disguise the wings

Lurking under her skin, that flow behind

 

Like some repellant, reptilian thing.

But far beyond the dancer and the drummer,

The hoots and jeers, the ripples of applause,

Another sound––the flute and drum––invade

 

These nightly invocations to the gods

Of here and now, the fleshy gods of burlesque

That turn their backs on her, as the drummer did

 

When she became––even for him––too profane;

When her flesh, once Rubenesque, became

The flayed carcass of Rembrandt's famous ox.

 

The Lassitude Of Ulysses

 

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

                        ––Tennyson, “Ulysses”

 

The lassitude of Ulysses––fair hand at making

The sea caress him, the crew come to his call,

Lashed out at his wife’s suitors: he slew them all.

And what did Homer have him do then? Not a thing.

 

It ends in a wine-cup: the flesh of a stuffed-ox and song––

Barbaric howling, the walls of a great hall hung

Red and dripping, the heads of a kingdom impaled,

The wine-god jesting with his harsh underling:

 

Cup by cup contesting, keeping his courage up

Against the day the sea drained out of his sails.

Penelope knew. She tucked in the threads of her grief,

 

Spindled in homespun a sheath for the terrible knife

Slicing, slicing, the man and the wife in half––

Until he fit the garment she had woven.

Samuel Greenberg (1893-1917)

  Dead of tuberculosis at 23, this forgotten New York poet & sonneteer, who lived his life in poverty,  is vaguely recalled for his influence on Hart Crane. Very hit & miss, his structural strengths outweigh his thoughts; but this immature poet had Owenian potential.

Conduct    Literature    Ruins    Science

Conduct

 

By a peninsula, the painter sat and
Sketched the uneven valley groves
The apostle gave alms to the
Meek, the volcano burst
In fusive sulfur and hurled
Rocks and ore into the air
Heaven's sudden change at
The drawing tempestuous
Darkening shade of Dense clouded Hues
The wanderer soon chose
His spot of rest, they bore the
Chosen hero upon their shoulders
Whom they strangely admired - as,
The Beach tide Summer of people desired.

 

Literature

 

And now! What hath the Orient’s page?
Whose script - can weigh ink of ancient noble volumes
We call curious - to bare, our interest with us
Who will not gather tales, that fly as feather Plants
Which wind doth carry into blossom here?
The grey bearded philosopher and his faded books
That counsels, rare consolation, like an Old Painting looks
A common wealth of joy - no matter!
Which scrawl, thou dost inherit
Be it - Persian - Hindu - African - Malay
Hath shaded many a minds, bound love!
Certified beauty - and lent thy placid spirit
To those, whose passion wont, nor gained
Liberty’s fetters, Ah ‘tis still constant, everywhere - and to chide its merit!

 

Ruins

 

Shock of Ruined Towers describe as follows
Flood of Johnston was the pity and wreck
Of labored destroyed cottages and Barns
afloat sadly damaged see --
From San Francisco - to Rome - we know
and Heard of the disasters, The sieving
Volcanoes - that cover completely in ashes
Pompei - and small villages, Being, The Death
of many - we picture the smashed and lost
Homes - and torn and cracked. - stone Buildings
Churches - the disabled Park statues and
Museums of Arts spoiled and useless.

 

Science

 

Science! The smithy of the sea!
That bent an eels perfect glide
That shaded fennels yarrow wide
Swallowed pearls that marbled the checkered Dee!
Who poured the phantom, in love’s comely phase
And chased huge heavens within ash of thought
thus saved the human helpless outlook tide
The ships course, its fate will decide
Whether its safety - that of power hold!
In dreams of marines, legend base
That I in all wonderment doth hide
But ere thy unfolded - systemed way
Of long - long ago - hath begun and lured
Nature to thy heart - in patient wounded spirits clay.

 

Hazel Hall (1886-1924)

  Brief fame in the 1920s would not last for this invalid poet. Note the density of music & rime, & how she undermines many of the lines which would fall to cliché  in a lesser poet. She combines the best of Emily Dickinson & Edna St. Vincent Millay, yet with little of their downsides.

Company    Finished To-Night    Flight    Light Sleep    Stairways   Sunlight Through A Window   Things That Grow

Company

A footstep sounded from the street...
Listening, I knew of you!
With the good singing of your feet
You came in, too.

Companioned by the sun and rain,
Mingling with the winds at will,
You passed, but in your step's refrain
I have you still.

Finished To-Night

I have unleashed my hands, like hounds,
And I must not call them back;
They are off with virile bounds
On the hidden quarry's track. 

Though there come rain or sun-
Fleet and lean and white,
They will follow the scent until they run
The quarry to earth, and the quarry is night.

Flight

A bird may curve across the sky--
A feather of dusk, a streak of song;
And save a space and a bird to fly
There may be nothing all day long.

Flying through a cloud-made place
A bird may tangle east and west,
Maddened with going, crushing space
With the arrow of its breast. 

Though never wind nor motion bring
It back again from indefinite lands,
The thin blue shadow of its wing
May cross and cross above your hands.

Light Sleep

Women who sing themselves to sleep
Lie with their hands at rest,
Locked over them night-long as though to keep
Music against their breast.

They who have feared the night and lain
Mumbling themselves to peace
Sleep a light sleep lest they forget the strain
That brings them their release.

They dream, who hold beneath the hand
A crumpled shape of song,
Of trembling sound they do not understand,
Yet love the whole night long.

Women who sing themselves to sleep
Must lie in fear till day,
Clasping an amulet of words to keep
The leaning dark away.

Stairways

Why do I think of stairways
With a rush of hurt surprise?
Wistful as forgotten love In remembered eyes;
And fitful as the flutter
Of little draughts of air
That linger on a stairway
As though they loved it there.

New and shining stairways,
Stairways worn and old,
Where rooms are prison places
And corridors are cold,
You intrigue with fancy,
You challenge with a lore
Elusive as a moon's light
Shadowing a floor.

You speak to me not only
With the lure of storied art-
For wonder of old footsteps
Lies lightly on my heart;
And more than the reminiscence
Of yesterday's renown-
Laughter that might have floated up,
Echoes that should drift down.

Sunlight Through A Window

Beauty streamed into my hand
In sunlight through a pane of glass;
Now at last I understand
Why suns must pass.

I have held a shadow, cool
Reflection of a burning gold,
And it has been more beautiful
Than hands should hold. 

To that delicate tracery
Of light, a force my lips must name
In whispers of uncertainty,
Has answered through me in a flame. 

Beauty is the core of fire
To reaching hands; even its far
Passing leaves a hurt desire
Like a scar.

Things That Grow

I like things with roots that know the earth,
Trees whose feet, nimble and brown,
Wander around in the house of their birth
Until they learn, by growing down,
To build with branches in the air;
Ivy-vines that have known the loam
And over trellis and rustic stair,
Or old grey houses, love to roam;
And flowers pushing vehement heads,
Like flames from a fire's hidden glow,
Through the seething soil in garden-beds.
Yet I, who am forbidden to know
The feel of earth, once thought to make
Singing out of a heart's old cry!
Untaught by earth how could I wake
The shining interest of the sky?

Robert Hayden (1913-1980)

  Another underappreciated black poetic giant. His obscurity stems from his slim poetic output. Those Winter Sundays is right there with Frost's Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening as one of the supreme American- and world- lyrics.

Fredrick Douglass    "Monet's Waterlilies"    Those Winter Sundays

Frederick Douglass 

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful 
and terrible thing, needful to man as air, 
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all, 
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole, 
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more 
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro 
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world 
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien, 
this man, superb in love and logic, this man 
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues' rhetoric, 
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone, 
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives 
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

"Monet's Waterlilies"
  (for Bill and Sonja)

Today as the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
        I come again to see
the serene, great picture that I love.

Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
        The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
        that was not, was, forever is.

O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
        each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy. 

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

A video of this sonnet can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81-GCoslURo&list=UUN5kTfj5u8XcTBg51Z65EKw 

H.D. (1886-1961)

  The purest of the Imagists, and much neglected in these days of Confessionalism. Sublime!

Heat    Oread    Sea Poppies

Heat

O wind, rend open the heat, 
cut apart the heat, 
rend it to tatters. 

Fruit cannot drop 
through this thick air- 
fruit cannot fall into heat 
that presses up and blunts 
the points of pears 
and rounds the grapes. 

Cut through the heat- 
plow through it 
turning it on either side 
of your path. 

Oread

Whirl up, sea-- 
whirl your pointed pines, splash your great pines 
on our rocks, 
hurl your green over us, 
cover us with your pools of fir. 

Sea Poppies

Amber husk 
fluted with gold, 
fruited on the sand 
marked with a rich grain,

treasure 
spilled near the shrub-pines 
to bleach on the boulders: 
your stalk has caught root 
among wet pebbles 
and drift flung by the sea 
and grated shells 
and split conch-shells.

Beautiful, wide-spread, 
fire upon leaf, 
what meadow yields 
so fragrant a leaf 
as your bright leaf? 

Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963)

  Years in a Turkish prison could not deter this giant. Unfortunately most of his greatest verse is too long to fit here- but check it out- especially the titanically great book-length poem Human Landscapes.

On Living   The Blue-Eyed Giant....    Today Is Sunday

On Living

                I

Living is no laughing matter:
        you must live with great seriousness
                like a squirrel, for example-
        I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
                I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
        you must take it seriously,
        so much so and to such a degree
      that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                your back to the wall,
        or else in a laboratory
                in your white coat and safety glasses,
                you can die for people-
             even for people whose faces you've never seen,
             even though you know living
                is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
        I mean, you must take living so seriously
             that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees-
             and not for your children, either,
             but because although you fear death you don't believe it,
             because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

                          II

Let's say you're seriously ill, need surgery -
which is to say we might not get
                    from the white table.
Even though it's impossible not to feel sad
                    about going a little too soon,
we'll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we'll look out the window to see it's raining,
or still wait anxiously
                    for the latest newscast ...
Let's say we're at the front-
          for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
          we might fall on our face, dead.
We'll know this with a curious anger,
    but we'll still worry ourselves to death
    about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let's say we're in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
                   before the iron doors will open.
We'll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind-
                      I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
    we must live as if we will never die.

                 III

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
         and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet-
         I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
         in pitch-black space ...
You must grieve for this right now
-you have to feel this sorrow now-
for the world must be loved this much
                    if you're going to say ``I lived'' ...

The Blue-Eyed Giant, The Miniature Woman And The Honeysuckle

He was a blue-eyed giant,
He loved a miniature woman.
The woman's dream was of a miniature house
with a garden where honeysuckle 
grows in a riot of colors;
that sort of house.

The giant loved like a giant,
and his hands were used to such big things
that the giant could not
make the building,
could not knock on the door
of the garden where the honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colors
at that house.

He was a blue-eyed giant,
He loved a miniature woman,
a mini-miniature woman.
The woman was hungry for comfort
and tired of the giant's long strides.
And bye-bye off she went to the embraces of a rich midget
with a garden where the honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colors;
that sort of house.

Now the blue-eyed giant realizes,
a giant isn't even a graveyard for love:
in the garden where the honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colors;
that sort of house...

Today is Sunday

Today is Sunday.
Today, for the first time,
                       they took me out into the sun
                       and for the first time in my life
I looked at the sky
                       amazed that it was so far
                       and so blue
                       and so wide.
I stood without moving
and then respectfully sat on the black earth,
pressed my back against the wall.
Now, not even a thought of dying,
not a thought of freedom, of my wife.
The earth, the sun and me ...
                                          I am happy.

(translated by Randy Blasing & Mutlu Konuk)

Vicente Huidobro (1893-1948)

  Long overshadowed in his native Chile by the politically minded Pablo Neruda, Huidobro crafted one of the great long poems of the 20th century- ALTAZOR- as well commanding lyrics of sonority & imagery far more surreal than alot of so-called SURREALISTS.

Arctic seas    Ars poetica    Nature Vive    Storm

Arctic seas

Arctic seas
Suspend from the sunset
Among clouds a bird burning
Day upon day
Feathers falling
On the tiles of rooves
Who unfurled the rainbow
There's no peace now
My bed
Soft as wings
Across arctic seas
I search for the lark that flew from my breast

Ars poetica

Let poetry be a key
Opening a thousand doors
A leaf falls; something flies;
Let all the eye sees be
And the soul of the listener shake.

Invent new worlds and watch your word;
The adjective, when it doesn't give life, kills.

We are in the age of nerves.
The muscle hangs,
Memory, in museums;
But we are not weaker for it:
True vigor
Resides in the mind.

O Poets, why sing of roses?!
Let them flower in poems;

For us alone
Do all things live in Sun.

The poet is a tiny God.

Nature Vive

To the accordion he leaves the end of the world
Pays with rain for the last song
There where voices join a huge cedar tree is born
More soothing than sky
A swallow says Papa 
An anemone says Mama 
Blue there and in Wolf's mouth
Blue Mr. Sky who moves away
What's that you say
Where will he head
The lovely blue blue arm
Give it to Mrs. Cloud
If you are afraid of Wolf
The wolf with the blue mouth
With the long tooth
To eat up Grandmother Nature
Mr. Sky scratch out your swallows
Mrs. Cloud extinguish your anemones
Voices join above the bird
Greater than the tree of Creation
Lovelier than a current of air between two suns

Storm

Stormy night
The darkness bites my brain
Devils
drive the thunder
having their vacation
No one goes by in the street
She hasn't come
Something
fell in the corner
The clock
stopped

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

  Shamefully ignored by the Academy- Jeffers is one of the greatest poets to have written in English. An apostate during the Chicken Little 1920s- note how "fresh" his nature lyrics still sound today in comparison to the dross of Pound, Eliot, & the High Moderns.

 Love The Wild Swan    Science   The Deer Lay Down Their Bones   The House Dog's Grave    Their Beauty Has More Meaning    The Purse-Seine

Love the Wild Swan 

"I hate my verses, every line, every word.
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try
One grass-blade's curve, or the throat of one bird
That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch
One color, one glinting
Hash, of the splendor of things.
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,
The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings."
-This wild swan of a world is no hunter's game.
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast
Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.
Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self?
At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can
Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.

Science

Man, introverted man, having crossed
In passage and but a little with the nature of things this latter century 
Has begot giants; but being taken up 
Like a maniac with self-love and inward conflicts cannot manage his
      hybrids.
Being used to deal with edgeless dreams,
Now he’s bred knives on nature turns them also inward: they have
      thirsty points though.
His mind forebodes his own destruction;
Actaeon who saw the goddess naked among the leaves and his hounds
      tore him.
A little knowledge, a pebble from the shingle, 
A drop from the oceans: who would have dreamed this infinitely little
      too much?

The Deer Lay Down Their Bones 

I followed the narrow cliffside trail half way up the mountain
Above the deep river-canyon. There was a little cataract crossed the
      path, flinging itself
Over tree roots and rocks, shaking the jeweled fern-fronds, bright
      bubbling water
Pure from the mountain, but a bad smell came up. Wondering at it I
      clambered down the steep stream
Some forty feet, and found in the midst of bush-oak and laurel,
Hung like a bird's nest on the precipice brink a small hidden clearing,
Grass and a shallow pool. But all about there were bones lying in the
      grass,clean bones and stinking bones,
Antlers and bones: I understood that the place was a refuge for
      wounded deer; there are so many
Hurt ones escape the hunters and limp away to lie hidden; here they
      have water for the awful thirst
And peace to die in; dense green laurel and grim cliff
Make sanctuary, and a sweet wind blows upward from the deep
      gorge.-I wish my bones were with theirs.
But that's a foolish thing to confess, and a little cowardly. We know
      that life
Is on the whole quite equally good and bad, mostly gray neutral, and
      can be endured
To the dim end, no matter what magic of grass, water and precipice,
      and pain of wounds,
Makes death look dear. We have been given life and have used it--not
      a great gift perhaps--but in honesty
Should use it all. Mine's empty since my love died--Empty? The
      flame-haired grandchild with great blue eyes
That look like hers?--What can I do for the child? I gaze at her
      and wonder what sort of man
In the fall of the world . . . I am growing old, that is the trouble.
      My children and little grandchildren
Will find their way, and why should I wait ten years yet, having lived
      sixty-seven, ten years more or less,
Before I crawl out on a ledge of rock and die snapping, like a wolf
Who has lost his mate?--I am bound by my own thirty-year-old
      decision: who drinks the wine
Should take the dregs; even in the bitter lees and sediment
New discovery may lie. The deer in that beautiful place lay down
      their bones: I must wear mine.

The House Dog's Grave 
(Haig, an English bulldog)

I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you’d soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the nights through
I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read- and I fear often grieving for me-
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying.
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope that when you are lying

Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dears, that’s too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been.

And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided….
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

A video of this poem can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaS4I_t_sso&list=UUN5kTfj5u8XcTBg51Z65EKw 

The Purse-Seine

Our sardine fishermen work at night in the dark of the moon;
      daylight or moonlight
They could not tell where to spread the net, unable to see the
      phosphorescence of the shoals of fish.
They work northward from Monterey, coasting Santa Cruz;
      off New Year's Point or off Pigeon Point
The look-out man will see some lakes of milk-color light on
      the sea's night-purple; he points, and the helmsman
Turns the dark prow, the motorboat circles the gleaming shoal
      and drifts out her seine-net. They close the circle
And purse the bottom of the net, then with great labor haul it in.

                      I cannot tell you
How beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible, then, when the
      crowded fish
Know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wall to the other
      of their closing destiny the phosphorescent
Water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender body sheeted
      with flame, like a live rocket
A comet's tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outside the narrowing
Floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come up to watch,
      sighing in the dark; the vast walls of night
Stand erect to the stars.

                                    Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top
On a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light: how could I help
      but recall the seine-net
Gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you how beautiful the city
      appeared, and a little terrible.
I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together into
      inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now
There is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable of
      free survival, insulated
From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all
      dependent. The circle is closed, and the net
Is being hauled in. They hardly feel the cords drawing, yet they shine
      already. The inevitable mass-disasters
Will not come in our time nor in our children's, but we and our children
Must watch the net draw narrower, government take all powers--or
      revolution, and the new government
Take more than all, add to kept bodies kept souls--or anarchy,
      the mass-disasters.

                                  These things are Progress;
Do you marvel our verse is troubled or frowning, while it keeps its
      reason? Or it lets go, lets the mood flow
In the manner of the recent young men into mere hysteria, splintered
      gleams, crackled laughter. But they are quite wrong.
There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew that cultures
      decay, and life's end is death.

Stephen Jonas (1920-1970)

  Along with Langston Hughes & early Quincy Troupe, one of the few 'Jazz' poets who actually had an ear for music. Although not a deep poet, the music is the 'thing'.

1          35          73

from EXERCISES FOR EAR

1

in trips sweet may
upon those damsel
feet of hers

carpets spreading
green before her
cowslip & clover

down to banks of
ever chickling streams
of gurgle-happy

waters & the sky
's one big squash
of pumpkin smile

35

a musick
a spreck
             a formal rack-
                          et in time

a yak-yak
               a means
               of talkin' back

73

j who intended a grand passion
ended a one line haiku

then there was small c who also
intended a grand passion

                he ended a
one note samba

Weldon Kees (1914-1955?)

  His 7/18/55 disappearance near the Golden Gate Bridge has obscured this devastatingly mordant & witty lyricist's excellent verse. Small, taut, & darting images & ideas are the Keesian hallmark that resurfaces again & again.

For My Daughter  1926  Return Of The Ghost  Robinson

For My Daughter

Looking into my daughter's eyes I read
Beneath the innocence of morning flesh
Concealed, hintings of death she does not heed.
Coldest of winds have blown this hair, and mesh
Of seaweed snarled these miniatures of hands;
The night's slow poison, tolerant and bland,
Has moved her blood. Parched years that I have seen
That may be hers appear: foul, lingering
Death in certain war, the slim legs green.
Or, fed on hate, she relishes the sting
Of others' agony; perhaps the cruel
Bride of a syphilitic or a fool.
These speculations sour in the sun.
I have no daughter. I desire none.

A video of this sonnet can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyy3X82owck&list=UUN5kTfj5u8XcTBg51Z65EKw 

1926

The porchlight coming on again,
Early November, the dead leaves
Raked in piles, the wicker swing
Creaking. Across the lots
A phonograph is playing Ja-Da.

An orange moon. I see the lives
Of neighbors, mapped and marred
Like all the wars ahead, and R.
Insane, B. with his throat cut,
Fifteen years from now, in Omaha.

I did not know them then.
My airedale scratches at the door.
And I am back from seeing Milton Sills
And Doris Kenyon. Twelve years old.
The porchlight coming on again.

Return Of The Ghost

No sudden leavetaking, by your grace, 
This time, old ghost, so long abroad. Friend of this house, 
Warm all your evanescence by this fire 
That burns the both of us for ending nights. 
All through my germinating years, you, unfatigued, 
Obsessed the attic's dust, the cellar's dark, 
Moaning belowstairs, creaking the doors. 
The days marched with your continuities. 

And now the nights begin. Your absence breeds 
A longer silence through the rooms. We haunt ourselves. 
There is a shutter, pounding in the mind, 
Old spiderwebs that drift behind the eyes, 
A moaning in the heart that warms insistently. 
Old Ghost, friend of this house, remain! 
What is there now to prod us toward 
The past, our ruinous nostalgias?

Robinson

The dog stops barking after Robinson has gone.
His act is over. The world is a gray world,
Not without violence, and he kicks under the grand piano,
The nightmare chase well under way.

The mirror from Mexico, stuck to the wall,
Reflects nothing at all. The glass is black.
Robinson alone provides the image Robinsonian.

Which is all of the room walls, curtains,
Shelves, bed, the tinted photograph of Robinson's first wife,
Rugs, vases panatelas in a humidor.
They would fill the room if Robinson came in.

The pages in the books are blank,
The books that Robinson has read. That is his favorite chair,
Or where the chair would be if Robinson were here.

All day the phone rings. It could be Robinson 
Calling. It never rings when he is here.

Outside, white buildings yellow in the sun.
Outside, the birds circle continuously
Where trees are actual and take no holiday.

Kate Light (1960-    )

  Light writes witty poems on sometimes light matters- yet with occasional alacrity & felicity. She is a violinist for the NYC Opera, & far better than the many neo-Formalists with greater name value.

Advertisement   And Then There....   Maybe Hidden

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If safety can be had from hollow men
whom one can place to fill the empty chair,
let's leave them to their task of sitting, then;
while I'll these blow-up men to you compare:
From far off you pose, endangered, rare—
and, coated as you are with scent and skin,
you are surely filled with hotter air;
still, neither heart can quite admit me in.
Though Safe-T-Man can dress for many roles—
wearing hats for winter or for tropic breezes—
in commuter lanes, the real men can count tolls;
yet...do not fold to fit precisely in valises.
To buy or not to buy the button-on legs—?
Can anyone be safe? the question begs.

And Then There Is That Incredible Moment,

 

when you realize what you're reading,
what's being revealed to you, how it is not
what you expected, what you thought
you were reading, where you thought you were heading.
Then there is that incredible knowing
that surges up in you, speeding
your heart; and you swear you will keep on reading,
keep on writing until you find another not going
where you thought—and until you have taken
someone on that ride, so that they take in
their breath, so that they let out their
sigh, so that they will swear
they will not rest until they too
have taken someone the way they were taken by you.

*for Agha Shahid Ali

 

Maybe Hidden

 

is my favorite space. Maybe finding
treasure buried underneath a mound
of brow, or cowering behind a binding
fear; tracing over and over the same ground
until some artifice gives way...Perhaps I'd rather
bring somebody out than be myself brought
out. That bit of him that I can gather
while the rest runs wild--I never doubt
its verity or value; but if one who's not
so reticent throws a rope my way, do I reach out?
Or retreat into some quiet place
where I can dream without intrusion
about my love, and how he loves seclusion...

 

Duane Locke (1921-    )

 

  As of 2/06, Locke has published 5634 poems. He is also a painter and photographer, whose varied career can be traced with a Google search. Note especially two key aspects of his verse: 1) how clichés are cleverly undermined, and 2) the sly music of his poems that transcends the binary notion of meter with alliteration, assonance, and varied rhyme schema.

 

Al Fresco Café Poems #:   76   77   78   79   80

 

AL FRESCO CAFÉ POEMS #76

 

The stem of the moon was softening,
Drooping, wilting in a vase
Modeled after the contours of her lips.

 

Petals fallen to become a temporary impasto
On the thin surface that was the foundation
Of the  finite and infinite earths black butterflies.

 

So I arise out of the aubade on fallen moon petals
To reverse Pygmalion and send the stone
That became alive and an universe back into stone.

 

But I recognize what was never more
Than ideology always becomes indelible,
Only Connecticut crossroads become a blank song.

 

So I will answer the fog and its silence,
Talk to its gauzed glitter and white shiver,
Fell the loss, the gain, dipping down like a desert dry rain.

AL FRESCO CAFÉ POEMS #77
 
If she would not talk about the willow,
Talk about
The tree
As if
It were a tree of wax, or plastic, or steel,
If she would not regularize the irregular
Into proper places, make the tree recognizable,
The tree
Could maintain in our perception its true nature.
The tree
Could be
A magician,
Its leaves the ornamentation of a magus wearing appearal,
The tree could surpass Hermes Trismegistus
In his chanting of  Gregorian chants.
If she would not classify, analyze, formalize the willow,
Its birds would stay as they are magic words.
 
If she would not talk,
According to tradition,
Not talk in correspondence
With the language of lies that the people speak
About the willow,
The willow
Would marry us.
AL FRESCO CAFÉ POEMS #78
 
A confession:
 
I have had only
                       A modicum
          Of mass and pop culture experience;
 
This modicum
Was an unwanted intrusion.  You cannot escape
The prevalence of mass and pop culture triviality.
 
So to exorcise this pollution,
I write poems. I usually, over and over, preface the poem
With this quote from Adorno:
 
 Truth is the antithesis of existing society.
 
But in this poem, this exorcism, I will not preface the poem
With any quote from Adorno, but one from Andrew Marvell:
 
Lady, if we had world enough and time,
This coyness were no crime.
 
I am not sure I got the Andrew Marvell quote correct,
But very few will care to check,
But here is my poem, my exorcism:
 
When a series of sharp-
Pointed,
Skinny, anorexic
Mountians appeared, canvas-colored,
 
On
 
The shopping mall parking lot in Spring,
It was due
To a collapsed circus tent
That collapsed on a number of tall people beneath.
 
So, when oppidan opossums, with urban
Shortened tails and their next of kin
Viewed from under the urban garbage bin
The scene,
 
The oppidan opossums saw
 
The latest quota of quotations marks
That were brought from an article
That would
Be a mimesis of a mimosa
Speaking in known tongues, thus
No understanding.
 
It was when the flower girl with flowering dogwood
Passed the bin
With her next of kin, knitting needles.
There were three knocks on the door of the wind,
But the wind was in the kitchen,
Malavitch was in the kitchen,
A white on white kitchen.
My chin was in the kitchen,
The rest of  my face was dislocated in Chinatown.
 
Gazelles went around and around
The
Gazebo.
 
AL FRESCO CAFÉ POEMS #79
 
The sky is sliced by linear clouds that want to underline,
The clouds want to underline
                                             A sentence,
But there on the blue here are no sentences.  No sentences
Beyond the blue, not even
                                        In the seventh heaven,
Or in the six beneath.
 
So another heuristic attempt takes off its clothes to be
Baptized,
The new born bathrobe waits on a chair back
By the bathtub.
 
The start.  What start.  A start to what.  What?
What is the beginning?  A game of solitaire,
Slant rhyming the void, or visualizing the or/
Or oR  O. R.  o r  r o
 
Oo rr oo rr
 
OR is it an oration?
 
Pebble spit from the mouth to speak.  To speak what.
To speak to whom.  Is the speaker doomed.  Is
The speaker outside always in a room?
 
(the question mark an useless sign, for there are no answers,
Henceforth,
No
Questions.)
 
I just heard a shot down Tampas North Jefferson street.  What
Reader did you hear.  The Decline of the West?  The sound track
From a Godfather movie?  Tim McCoy with his hand off the trigger,
Slapping with the palm of his hand the hammer?  The celebration
At the opening of the Panama canal?  Another person killed in Iraqi?
 
No, not, a game of solitaire, for no self to play, a game is rules
And regulation, therefore an illusion, no rules, no regulations,
All games are mirages, hallucinations, arranged fictions, opium
For the people.
 
Another shot on Tampas North Jefferson Street, an argument
Over cocaine for the people.
 
A game is tame, has a pen.
 
A game has Frost on its fence, its tormented and sliced trees.
 
Not an oration, for orations have workshop rules
And workshop regulations, voices,  to supply opium, cocaine,
And poems
For the people.
 
Is this moment of  joy, a toy, an intangible touch, no metal
Surface
To rub and redden a fingertip, a ghost toy.
 
I play with a ghost toy and have a theme, a ghost theme,
 
A theme sans contours, sans flesh.

AL FRESCO CAFÉ POEMS #80
 
I(?) spatially located under what is designated in ordinary
Parlance as a willow
 
Want, desire, dream about hearing in a silence, this non-existent,
Actually in a metaphoric or symbolic silence,
 
Hearing in this silence
What has been spoken hitherto by no one.
 
(The familiar has tricked us, fooled us, drugged us too long,
Most of our lives have been squandered by his our belief,
Our faith
In the familiar.)
 
I listen to this silence, record
What is dictated by this silence.
 
The sea is gone, the sea has been taken away by oil companies, but
There is a few spaces of wet wrinkled sand, a pitchfork is stuck in
The wet, wrinkled sand, seaweed, the hair of the unborn Venus, the fetus
Aborted by Priests and Playboy, Venus hair is wrapped around each pong.
The hair
 
Has never heard of telephones, the only current connection
between people in late capitalism,  ears no longer touch,
the only touch of the ear is the ear
Against a telephone receiver, the telephone receiver has replaced
Lips,
That tiny cell phone has replaced hips, the hair of Venus has never
Heard of the telephone that murdered her, Venus.
 
Each strand of  Venuss hair wrapped around the pong
Of the pitchfork stuck in wet, wrinkled sand
 
Now distraught and wishing to die like the Sybil in a cage
Gives wrong answers
To all the questions asked about love.
The voice of the hair of Venus twisted
Around pitchfork prongs
Supplies the wrong answers
That passes as wisdom
In the newspaper column giving advice on love,
In horoscopes,
In the leather-sofa-ed offices
Of psychological counselors.
 
The waves of the vanished sea are washing
Tossed-away wedding rings onto the shore,
The wedding rings are leaping
Onto the wedding ring fingers
Of those with paralyzed lands, those
Who has been lobotomized
By belief in the language of lies
That is spoken by the people.
 
The gulls laugh. The gulls laugh.  The gulls laugh.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

  Derided as an "Amygist" by the eternally paranoid Ezra Pound, Lowell was, after H.D., probably the most image-conscious of the Imagist poets & her poems- while not always deep, often leave vivid memories & phrases.

A London....    Astigmatism    Patterns    Petals    The Taxi

A London Thoroughfare. 2 A.M.

They have watered the street,
It shines in the glare of lamps,
Cold, white lamps,
And lies
Like a slow-moving river,
Barred with silver and black.
Cabs go down it,
One,
And then another.
Between them I hear the shuffling of feet.
Tramps doze on the window-ledges,
Night-walkers pass along the sidewalks.
The city is squalid and sinister,
With the silver-barred street in the midst,
Slow-moving,
A river leading nowhere.

Opposite my window,
The moon cuts,
Clear and round,
Through the plum-coloured night.
She cannot light the city;
It is too bright.
It has white lamps,
And glitters coldly.

I stand in the window and watch the moon.
She is thin and lustreless,
But I love her.
I know the moon,
And this is an alien city.

Astigmatism
  To Ezra Pound;With much friendship and admiration and some differences of opinion

The Poet took his walking-stick
Of fine and polished ebony.
Set in the close-grained wood
Were quaint devices;
Patterns in ambers,
And in the clouded green of jades.
The top was of smooth, yellow ivory,
And a tassel of tarnished gold
Hung by a faded cord from a hole
Pierced in the hard wood,
Circled with silver.
For years the Poet had wrought upon this cane.
His wealth had gone to enrich it,
His experiences to pattern it,
His labour to fashion and burnish it.
To him it was perfect,
A work of art and a weapon,
A delight and a defence.
The Poet took his walking-stick
And walked abroad.

Peace be with you, Brother.

The Poet came to a meadow.
Sifted through the grass were daisies,
Open-mouthed, wondering, they gazed at the sun.
The Poet struck them with his cane.
The little heads flew off, and they lay
Dying, open-mouthed and wondering,
On the hard ground.
"They are useless. They are not roses," said the Poet.

Peace be with you, Brother. Go your ways.

The Poet came to a stream.
Purple and blue flags waded in the water;
In among them hopped the speckled frogs;
The wind slid through them, rustling.
The Poet lifted his cane,
And the iris heads fell into the water.
They floated away, torn and drowning.
"Wretched flowers," said the Poet,
"They are not roses."

Peace be with you, Brother. It is your affair.

The Poet came to a garden.
Dahlias ripened against a wall,
Gillyflowers stood up bravely for all their short stature,
And a trumpet-vine covered an arbour
With the red and gold of its blossoms.
Red and gold like the brass notes of trumpets.
The Poet knocked off the stiff heads of the dahlias,
And his cane lopped the gillyflowers at the ground.
Then he severed the trumpet-blossoms from their stems.
Red and gold they lay scattered,
Red and gold, as on a battle field;
Red and gold, prone and dying.
"They were not roses," said the Poet.

Peace be with you, Brother.
But behind you is destruction, and waste places.

The Poet came home at evening,
And in the candle-light
He wiped and polished his cane.
The orange candle flame leaped in the yellow ambers,
And made the jades undulate like green pools.
It played along the bright ebony,
And glowed in the top of cream-coloured ivory.
But these things were dead,
Only the candle-light made them seem to move.
"It is a pity there were no roses," said the Poet.

Peace be with you, Brother. You have chosen your part.

Patterns

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.

My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles
on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon --
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
"Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se'nnight."
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
"Any answer, Madam," said my footman.
"No," I told him.
"See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer."
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

Petals

Life is a stream
On which we strew
Petal by petal the flower of our heart;
The end lost in dream,
They float past our view,
We only watch their glad, early start.

Freighted with hope,
Crimsoned with joy,
We scatter the leaves of our opening rose;
Their widening scope,
Their distant employ,
We never shall know. And the stream as it flows
Sweeps them away,
Each one is gone
Ever beyond into infinite ways.
We alone stay
While years hurry on,
The flower fared forth, though its fragrance still stays.

The Taxi

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

Mina Loy (1882-1966)

  Loy's intellect & plunging rhythms enliven poems that dive & move through topics bordering on the surreal & those as material as sexuality. Often totally missing from Modern anthologies she has seen her name recognition increase with recent books of her poems & prose writings. (nominated 6/11/01 by Jessica Schneider)

Apology Of Genius    Lunar Baedecker    Moreover, The Moon---

Apology Of Genius

Ostracized as we are with God 
The watchers of the civilized wastes 
reverse their signals on our track 

Lepers of the moon 
all magically diseased 
we come among you 
innocent 
of our luminous sores 

unknowing 
how perturbing lights 
our spirit 
on the passion of Man 
until you turn on us your smooth fools' faces 
like buttocks bared in aboriginal mockeries 

We are the sacerdotal clowns 
who feed upon the wind and stars 
and pulverous pastures of poverty 

Our wills are formed 
by curious disciplines 
beyond your laws 

You may give birth to us 
or marry us 
the chances of your flesh 
are not our destiny --- 

The cuirass of the soul 
still shines --- 
And we are unaware 
if you confuse 
such brief 
corrosion with possession 

In the raw caverns of the Increate 
we forge the dusk of Chaos 
to that imperious jewellery of the Universe 
--- the Beautiful --- 

While to your eyes 
A delicate crop 
of criminal mystic immortelles 
stands to the censor's scythe. 

Lunar Baedeker 

A silver Lucifer
serves
cocaine in cornucopia

To some somnambulists
of adolescent thighs
draped
in satirical draperies

Peris in livery
prepare
Lethe
for posthumous parvenues

Delirious Avenues
lit
with the chandelier souls
of infusoria
from Pharoah's tombstones

lead
to mercurial doomsdays
Odious oasis
in furrowed phosphorous---

the eye-white sky-light
white-light district
of lunar lusts

---Stellectric signs
"Wing shows on Starway"
"Zodiac carrousel"

Cyclones
of ecstatic dust
and ashes whirl
crusaders
from hallucinatory citadels
of shattered glass
into evacuate craters

A flock of dreams 
browse on Necropolis

From the shores
of oval oceans
in the oxidized Orient

Onyx-eyed Odalisques
and ornithologists
observe
the flight
of Eros obsolete

And "Immortality"
mildews...
in the museums of the moon

"Nocturnal cyclops"
"Crystal concubine"
-------
Pocked with personification
the fossil virgin of the skies
waxes and wanes----

Moreover, The Moon--- 

Face of the skies
preside
over our wonder.

Flourescent
truant of heaven
draw us under.

Silver, circular corpse
your decease
infects us with unendurable ease,

touching nerve-terminals
to thermal icicles

Coercive as coma, frail as bloom
innuendoes of your inverse dawn
suffuse the self;
our every corpuscle become an elf.  

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