Wednesday, July 30, 2008

e.e.cummings

if there are any heavens, my mother will (all by herself) have
one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor
a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but
it will be a heaven of blackred roses

my father will be (deep like a rose
tall like a rose)

standing near my
swaying over her
(silent)

—from "if there are any heavens..." by E. E. Cummings

Monday, July 28, 2008

Meditations In An Emergency

The focus and title of the first episode of Mad Men for the new 2008 season:

Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O'Hara
Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious
as if I were French?

Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous
(and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable
list!), but one of these days there'll be nothing left with
which to venture forth.

Why should I share you? Why don't you get rid of someone else
for a change?

I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.

Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too,
don't I? I'm just like a pile of leaves.

However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of
pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of
perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the
confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes--I can't
even enjoy a blade of grass unless i know there's a subway
handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not
totally _regret_ life. It is more important to affirm the
least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and
even they continue to pass. Do they know what they're missing?
Uh huh.

My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time;
they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and
disloyal, so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away.
Or again at something after it has given me up. It makes me
restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them
still. If only i had grey, green, black, brown, yellow eyes; I
would stay at home and do something. It's not that I'm
curious. On the contrary, I am bored but it's my duty to be
attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above the
earth. And lately, so great has _their_ anxiety become, I can
spare myself little sleep.

Now there is only one man I like to kiss when he is unshaven.
Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching. (How best
discourage her?)

St. Serapion, I wrap myself in the robes of your whiteness
which is like midnight in Dostoevsky. How I am to become a
legend, my dear? I've tried love, but that holds you in the
bosom of another and I'm always springing forth from it like
the lotus--the ecstasy of always bursting forth! (but one must
not be distracted by it!) or like a hyacinth, "to keep the
filth of life away," yes, even in the heart, where the filth is
pumped in and slanders and pollutes and determines. I will my
will, though I may become famous for a mysterious vacancy in
that department, that greenhouse.

Destroy yourself, if you don't know!

It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I
admire you, beloved, for the trap you've set. It's like a
final chapter no one reads because the plot is over.

"Fanny Brown is run away--scampered off with a Cornet of Horse;
I do love that little Minx, & hope She may be happy, tho' She
has vexed me by this exploit a little too.--Poor silly
Cecchina! or F:B: as we used to call her.--I wish She had a
good Whipping and 10,000 pounds."--Mrs. Thrale

I've got to get out of here. I choose a piece of shawl and my
dirtiest suntans. I'll be back, I'll re-emerge, defeated, from
the valley; you don't want me to go where you go, so I go where
you don't want me to. It's only afternoon, there's a lot
ahead. There won't be any mail downstairs. Turning, I spit in
the lock and the knob turns.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Secret Life

by Stephen Dunn

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don't say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you've just made love
and feel you'd rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering, yes, yes,
you're brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you'd most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it's like a small fire
in a clearing, it's what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It's why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who'll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

After a Movie

by Henry Taylor

The last small credits fade
as house lights rise. Dazed in that radiant instant
of transition, you dwindle through the lobby
and out to curbside, pulling on a glove
with the decisive competence
of the scarred detective

or his quarry. Scanning
the rainlit street for taxicabs, you visualize,
without looking, your image in the window
of the jeweler's shop, where white hands hover
above the string of luminous pearls
on a faceless velvet bust.

Someone across the street
enters a bar, leaving behind a charged vacancy
in which you cut to the dim booth inside,
where you are seated, glancing at the door.
You lift an eyebrow, recognizing
the unnamed colleague

who will conspire with you
against whatever the volatile script provides....
A cab pulls up. You stoop into the dark
and settle toward a version of yourself.
Your profile cruises past the city
on a home-drifting stream

through whose surface, sometimes,
you glimpse the life between the streambed and the ripples,
as, when your gestures are your own again,
your fingers lift a cup beyond whose rim
a room bursts into clarity
and light falls on all things.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Layers -- by Stanley Kunitz

The Layers -- by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Exchange by Ron Rash

Thanks to The Writer's Almanac
The Exchange by Ron Rash

Between Wytheville, Virginia
and the North Carolina line,
he meets a wagon headed
where he's been, seated beside
her parents a dark-eyed girl
who grips the reins in her fist,
no more than sixteen, he'd guess
as they come closer and she
doesn't look away or blush
but allows his eyes to hold
hers that moment their lives pass.
He rides into Boone at dusk,
stops at an inn where he buys
his supper, a sleepless night
thinking of fallow fields still
miles away, the girl he might
not find the like of again.
When dawn breaks he mounts his roan,
then backtracks, searches three days
hamlets and farms, any smoke
rising above the tree line
before he heads south, toward home,
the French Broad's valley where spring
unclinches the dogwood buds
as he plants the bottomland,
come night by candlelight builds
a butter churn and cradle,
cherry headboard for the bed,
forges a dougle-eagle
into a wedding ring and then
back to Virginia and spends
five weeks riding and asking
from Elk Creek to Damascas
before he finds the wagon
tethered to the hitching post
of a crossroads store, inside
the girl who smiles as if she'd
known all along his gray eyes
would search until they found her.
She asks one question, his name,
as her eyes study the gold
smoldering there between them,
the offered palm she lightens,
slips the ring on herself so
he knows right then the woman
she will be, bold enough match
for a man rash as his name.

"The Exchange" by Ron Rash from Among the Believers. © Iris Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)