Sunday, September 21, 2008

Melancholy

Goodbye D W F
We felt less alone because
You saw so clearly
--ppw



RIP David Foster Wallace 1962 - 2008
(he didn't write poetry, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a poet)



A commencement speech Wallace gave at Kenyon college:
http://www.marginalia.org/dfw_kenyon_commencement.html

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What is there beyond knowing

What is there beyond knowing

What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can't

turn in any direction
but it's there. I don't mean

the leaves' grip and shine or even the thrush's
silk song, but the far-off

fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven's slowly turning

theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;

or time that's always rushing forward,
or standing still

in the same -- what shall I say --
‘moment’.

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn't have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there's a temple, I haven't found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds.

Mary Oliver

Questions About Angels

Questions About Angels by Billy Collins

Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.

Do they fly through God's body and come out singing?
Do they swim like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and
forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads?
Is there a wall these tall presences can look over and see hell?

If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?

If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?

No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos arc meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.

Last Visit to My Mother

LAST VISIT

Pared to the bone,
The ivory skin is wrinkled,
Cool and soft to the touch.

Spare flesh on the old bones,
The hands plucking,
Plucking the sheets -
Questioning, moving.

She lies on her side,
The blind eyes open.
Still smelling sweet.
She always has.

I bend to kiss her hands.
To tell her I am here.

"Oh, cover me with kisses,"
She cries in that hoarse,
Rusty voice -
And I do.

Silence then as
She drifts away,
Listening to the voices of memory.

"Mother, it's OK to go," I say.

The next morning she dies,
Alone in the room.

I could have stayed,
What urgency called me away?
I wanted so to see her out,
To ease her through the door.

I ache for the chance
To be with her again.

Mary Murphy 8/15/89

Shopping Urban

Shopping Urban by Jane Shore

Flip-flopped, noosed in puka beads, my daughter
breezes through the store from headband to toe ring,
shooing me away from the bongs,
lace thongs, and studded dog collars.
And I don't want to see her in that black muscle tee
with SLUT stamped in gold glitter
shrink-wrapped over her breasts,
or those brown and chartreuse retro-plaid
hip-huggers ripped at the crotch.

There's not a shopper here a day over twenty
except me and another mother
parked in chairs at the dressing room entrance
beyond which we are forbidden to go.
We're human clothes racks.
Our daughters have trained us
to tamp down the least flicker of enthusiasm
for the nice dress with room to grow into,
an item they regard with sullen, nauseated,
eyeball-rolling disdain.

Waiting in the line for a dressing room,
my daughter checks her cleavage.
Her bellybutton's a Cyclops eye
peeking at other girls' armloads of clothes.
What if she's missed something—
that faux leopard hoodie? those coffee-wash flares?
Sinking under her stash of blouses,
she's a Shiva of tangled sleeves.

And where did she dig up that new tie-dyed
tank top I threw away in '69
and the purple wash 'n' wear psychedelic dress
I washed and wore
and lost on my Grand Tour of Europe
and my retired hippie Peace necklace
now recycled, revived, re-hip?

I thought they were gone—
like the tutus and tiaras and wands
when she morphed from ballerina
to fairy princess to mermaid to tomboy,
refusing to wear dresses ever again.
Gone, those pastel party dresses,
the sleeves, puffed water wings buoying her up
as she swam into waters over her head.

Monday, September 1, 2008

September 1, 1939

SEPTEMBER 1, 1939 -- by W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.