Tag Archives: poetry.

W.S. Merwin

W.S. Merwin died about a month ago – I was late to discover his work. Maybe five years ago I picked up a collection of his in a second-hand bookstore and have been hooked since. Here is a favourite:

The Wonder of the Imperfect

Nothing that I do is finished
so I keep returning to it
lured by the notion that I long
to see the whole of it at last
completed and estranged from me

but no the unfinished is what
I return to as it leads me on
I am made whole by what has just
escaped me as it always does
I am made of incompleteness
the words are not there in words

oh gossamer gossamer breath
moment daylight life untouchable
by no name with no beginning

what do we think we recognize

Do yourselves a favour and read more of his poems.

National Poetry Day

So today is National Poetry Day. Last year I posted a poem I wrote for more or less the same occasion – you can read it here. And for today I am posting this – inspired by a conversation Significant Other and I had during our recent trip to Italy. Are we not deep? Shall I send it to the New Yorker?

Ode to the Banana

You truly are the King of Fruit and so inspired

Your merry yellow countenance is nature’s perfect wrapping, no polluting-our-seas plastic required

I carry you without a Kleenex and my fingers don’t feel sticky and icky

Like when I hold grapes

And when I carry you about, I feel very much at one with our cousin apes.

 

When peeled you still aren’t a sticky and icky kind of loot

At least as much as, say, your brothers in fruitdom, the orange, the apple and the grapefruit

Your potassium picks me up after illness and your sugar picks me up when I’m lackadaisical

You are inexpensive too

And ubiquitous, available in France and probably Timbuktu and Kalamazoo.

 

Oh, they say you are gross when you get all mushy

With black spots and inconsistency and feeling all squishy

But you can be the proud foundation of a smoothie

Or better yet, the reason to make that comfort food known as banana bread

From a recipe used to often I no longer need to read it, it is stuck in my head.

 

Oh, they say people slip and fall on you – is this what Sir Joseph Paxton wanted?

Your peels discarded on sidewalks, streets and paths leave some daunted

But if it wasn’t beneath Ethel Merman, Buster Keaton and Woody Allen

Then why treat it as some sort of evil plan

Better yet, you lazy souls, take those peels and put them in a garbage can.

 

Oh, they besmirch your name: Cavendish, Chiquita (top banana in the world today!) or Dole

By using it as a synonym for crazy, nutty and out-of-control

When their own names would better do the trick

How about the name of an actual nut to replace such words?

For “macadamia” and “pistachio” are two of the craziest-sounding words I have ever heard.

 

Cherries have pits, so much effort required to eat them

To open a durian you need a team of engineers on standby, and peaches have fur, biting into them

the gourmet equivalent of nails down a blackboard

You are also easy to draw. What is your flaw? Your only one as far as I can see

Is that you hide the deadly black tarantula, as sang Harry Belafonte.

 

But even scary, hairy spiders need a place to sleep

And dear banana, you give them that, a place to sleep deeply

And you give us B6, C, folate, manganese, on top of the aforementioned

So please dear banana, take a bow

And I mean right now.

I Shall But Love Thee Better After Death

And when thou hast learned to spell my name correctly! This is a photograph I took in Florence, Italy, recently, and it is an “Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived here” plaque, with some poetic writing about her-heart-of-a-woman, et cetera. That said, it spells her second name incorrectly – without a double T. Doppia T, Italians!

What I love about it, as a student of the Italian language, is the use of the passato remoto and the imperfect. I took a translation course in Italy in February and it was really hard to get the hang of when to use those two together.
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Mary Oliver

She passed away – loved so many of her poems, especially this one:

I Worried
by Mary Oliver
I worried a lot.  Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up.  And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

Beryl O’Links

Or, barrel o’ links. (Beryl O’Links is an Irish lass, she is!)

As we wind down 2018, a few links of interest: the death of Georges Loinger, may his memory be a blessing; trove of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems found; kitties domesticated themselves; and, Hijab in the House, by the brilliant Bruce Bawer. In regards this last story, I mentioned to one of my sisters this summer that I was concerned about the anti-Semitism of some of the rising young “stars” of the Democratic Party, and she insisted that anyone openly espousing contempt for Jews would never be elected. I was like, yeah, we’ll see. Cough.

“Villanelle” for Vera Brittain

Beautiful poem written by Roland Leighton for Vera Brittain. It was April 1915 and he was serving in France. He was killed by a sniper eight months later. (I dearly wish I had some of my uncle’s poems to his fiancee, Christine, but any letters she received, of course, stayed with her. If she kept them, perhaps her children have them – I have a hope one of her kids will see my other site and contact me, but it is possible she may never have told them about Norman.)

Violets from Plug Street Wood,
Sweet, I send you oversea.
(It is strange they should be blue,
Blue, when his soaked blood was red,
For they grew around his head:
It is strange they should be blue.)

Think what they have meant to me –
Life and hope and Love and You
(and you did not see them grow
Where his mangled body lay
Hiding horrors from the day;
Sweetest, it was better so.)

Violets from oversea,
To your dear, far, forgetting land
These I send in memory
Knowing you will understand.

D.H. Lawrence’s “Mountain Lion”

This poem is magnificent. Why did we have to read Lawrence’s novels at university, but not his poems? I could have lived without the former, but surely would have appreciated — even loved — the latter.

Mountain Lion

Climbing through the January snow, into the Lobo Canyon
Dark grow the spruce-trees, blue is the balsam, water sounds still unfrozen, and the trail is still evident

Men!
Two men!
Men! The only animal in the world to fear!

They hesitate.
We hesitate.
They have a gun.
We have no gun.

Then we all advance, to meet.

Two Mexicans, strangers, emerging our of the dark and
snow and inwardness of the Lobo valley.
What are they doing here on this vanishing trail?

What is he carrying?
Something yellow.
A deer?

Que’ tiene amigo?
Leon-

He smiles foolishly as if he were caught doing wrong.
And we smile, foolishly, as if we didn’t know.
He is quite gentle and dark-faced.

It is a mountain lion,
A long, long, slim cat, yellow like a lioness.
Dead.

He trapped her this morning, he says, smiling foolishly.

Life up her face,
Her round, bright face, bright as frost.
Her round, fine-fashioned head, with two dead ears;
And stripes in the brilliant frost of her face, sharp, fine dark rays,
Dark, keen, fine rays in the brilliant frost of her face.
Beautiful dead eyes.

Hermoso es!

They go out towards the open;
We go out into the gloom of Lobo.
And above the trees I found her lair,
A hole in the blood-orange brilliant rocks that stick up, a little cave.
And bones, and twigs, and a perilous ascent.

So, she will never leap up that way again, with the yellow flash of a mountain lion’s long shoot!
And her bright striped frost-face will never watch any more, out of the shadow of the cave in the blood- orange rock,
Above the trees of the Lobo dark valley-mouth!

Instead, I look out.
And out to the dim of the desert, like a dream, never real;
To the snow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the ice of the mountains of Picoris,
And near across at the opposite steep of snow, green trees motionless standing in snow, like a Christmas toy.

And I think in this empty world there was room for me and a mountain lion.
And I think in the world beyond, how easily we might spare a million or two humans
And never miss them.
Yet what a gap in the world, the missing white frost-face of that slim yellow mountain lion!

National Poetry Month

It is National Poetry Month – for the occasion, I wrote this poem. It isn’t very good – it doesn’t even rhyme. But it’s mine.

OLD-FASHIONED

I once lived in Paris

In an apartment with four other girls and four thousand cockroaches

My mother sent me letters about getting married

And books about getting married

And – in her tiny, precise script – advice about getting married

Advice hard come by; decades of marriage and few flowers behind her

 

She sent me articles about things that would kill me:

Date rape drugs

And certain vegetables

And taking strangers’ suitcases across borders

And unpasteurized cheese, of which I ate beaucoup with butter and baguette

Fears saved up from a lifetime of hurt, only occasionally dulled by her beloved Old Fashioneds

 

I was dating, if you could call it that

And studying French poetry and such

At the Sorbonne

I read about roses and profiting from my youth

Allons voir si la rose and cueilliez vostre Jeunesse

A sort of French, Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

 

Until a man who looked like the lead singer from A-ha

Fell in love with me and bought me roses

We saw ‘Goodfellas’ together

I laughed at the lowlifes

He was horrified by my laughter

He loved me so much I was sure I would shrivel up and fall

 

I sometimes look at his Facebook page

Half dreading I will see

“I’m so glad that girl wouldn’t marry me”

But I never do

I just see his big, splashy paintings, violet and red streaks like petals

And still the lead singer from A-ha, crinkle-eyed and bearded now

 

I became a journalist and wrote articles

about a German Shepherd who raised tiny baby kittens as her own

and about women over 40 getting pregnant at the sperm bank

gathering their rosebuds in a panic

which is something a friend of mine did and something I never contemplated

As I am old-fashioned

They Are Not Long

I do love this poem.

They Are Not Long

by Ernest Dowson

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

Robbie Burns

It’s his day and as such, I will link back to what I put up on this site two years ago – my favourite Burns poem, To a Mouse. (Yes, I realize the actual name of the poem was not simply To a Mouse.) Burns must have been something of an early animal rights guy, because he also wrote The Wounded Hare:

Inhuman man! curse on thy barb’rous art,
And blasted be thy murder-aiming eye;
May never pity soothe thee with a sigh,
Nor ever pleasure glad thy cruel heart!

Go live, poor wand’rer of the wood and field!
The bitter little that of life remains:
No more the thickening brakes and verdant plains
To thee a home, or food, or pastime yield.

Seek, mangled wretch, some place of wonted rest,
No more of rest, but now thy dying bed!
The sheltering rushes whistling o’er thy head,
The cold earth with thy bloody bosom prest.

Perhaps a mother’s anguish adds its woe;
The playful pair crowd fondly by thy side;
Ah! helpless nurslings, who will now provide
That life a mother only can bestow!

Oft as by winding Nith I, musing, wait
The sober eve, or hail the cheerful dawn,
I’ll miss thee sporting o’er the dewy lawn,
And curse the ruffian’s aim, and mourn thy hapless fate.