21 April 2014

lie here and learn


Now that I know
That passion warms little
Of flesh in the mold,
And treasure is brittle,

I’ll lie here and learn
How, over their ground,
Trees make a long shadow
And a light sound.

By Louise Bogan

August 1922
Source: Poetry (June 2012).

13 April 2014

when you moan, even the devil don't know what you're talking about.

the old man insists that this is the best thing he's ever seen on youtube.

10 April 2014

house of stone

Mandolin Orange - House Of Stone from Live & Breathing on Vimeo.

On “House of Stone,” Frantz’s fiddle and Marlin’s guitar are paired with the disjointed image of a church auction. The melody is peaceful, but Marlin’s lyrics speak of struggle and the devil’s temptations. It’s a fire-and-brimstone lullaby.

“Growing up in the South, hymns were a common part of my childhood,” says Marlin. “My mother played piano for the church, and so did her mother before that. Many of those old tunes refer to a mansion of gold that awaits all believers in heaven. ‘House of Stone’ is meant to be some kind of modern hymn that uses some of the same terminology to convey a contrary idea. To me, a mansion of gold seems too much like an infomercial for the afterlife.”  
(Chris Parton, http://www.cmtedge.com/2013/05/07/mandolin-orange-trade-a-mansion-for-house-of-stone/)

It's a churchyard auction, a sight to see,

where the eyes are big, and the odds are lean.
The pockets all are empty, the chances all are gone, 

but there's a free bet yet on a house of stone, 

a house of stone. 

Now some may sing sounds of hallelujah 

and dream about a mansion of gold, 

but to each be true and to each be known. 

My dreams all are resting on a house of stone, 

a house of stone. 

09 April 2014

the heart's stubborn pretending

Getting Old

by Jack Gilbert

The soft wind comes sweet in the night
on the mountain. Invisible except for
the sound it makes in the big poplars outside
and the feel on his naked, single body,
which breathes quietly a little before dawn,
eyes open and in love with the table
and chair in the transparent dark and stars
in the other window. Soon it will be time
for the first tea and cool pear and then
the miles down and miles up the mountain.
"Old and alone," he thinks, smiling.
Full of what abundance has done to his spirit.
Feeling around inside to see if his heart
is still, thank God, ambitious. The way
old men look in their eyes each morning.
Knowing she isn't there and how much Michiko
isn't anywhere. The eyes close as he remembers
seeing the big owl on the roof last night
for the first time after hearing it for months.
Thinking how much he has grown unsuited
for love the size it is for him. "But maybe
not," he says. And the eyes open as he
grins at the heart's stubborn pretending.

"Getting Old" by Jack Gilbert, from Collected Poems. © Knopf, 2012.

20 March 2014

i was stolen by gypsies. (it's the first day of spring)

I was stolen by the gypsies. My parents stole me right back. Then the gypsies stole me again. This went on for some time. One minute I was in the caravan suckling the dark teat of my new mother, the next I sat at the long dining room table eating my breakfast with a silver spoon.

It was the first day of spring. One of my fathers was singing in the bathtub; the other one was painting a live sparrow the colors of a tropical bird.

-By Charles Simic from his collection TheWorld Doesn't End

11 March 2014

for a while was mine


by Hayden Carruth

When I was forty-five I lay for hours
beside a pool, the green hazy
springtime water, and watched
the salamanders coupling, how they drifted lazily,
their little hands floating before them,
aimlessly in and out of the shadows, fifteen
or twenty of them, and suddenly two
would dart together and clasp
one another belly to belly
the way we do, tender and vigorous, and then
would let go and drift away
at peace, lazily,
in the green pool that was their world
and for a while was mine.

"Forty-Five" by Hayden Carruth from Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey. © Copper Canyon Press, 1996.

09 March 2014

in the spring time the stars began looking for him (photos of mission bay jellyfish posing as nebulae)

[In the spring time the stars . . .]

By John Spaulding

In the spring time the stars began looking for him
By summer time they had found him
By autumn time they had wounded him
       so that the orange and red of his blood began
       to leak from the sky onto the leaves of the trees
By winter time they had slain him
       so that his white fat began to melt and drip
       falling as snow all over the land

And then he would begin to rise again
       first as sap in the trees
       stretching higher and higher
until his back ached but
       knowing he would not stop until
       his black fur was hidden
       deep among the unborn
behind the dark wall of the night sky

John Spaulding, “[In the spring time the stars . . .]” from Walking in Stone. Copyright © 1989 by John Spaulding.

04 March 2014

scar tissue is visible history

(This poem was suggested by a former student of the old man--an MVH alum working hard up in Santa Cruz.  Thank you to Brother Paul Bishop--a scholar and a gentleman)

The Joins

       Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending precious pottery with gold.

What's between us
often seems flexible as the webbing
between forefinger and thumb.

Seems flexible, but it's not;
what's between us
is made of clay,

like any cup on the shelf.
It shatters easily. Repair
becomes the task.

We glue the wounded edges
with tentative fingers.
Scar tissue is visible history,

the cup more precious to us
we saved it.

In the art of kintsugi,
a potter repairing a broken cup
would sprinkle the resin

with powdered gold.
Sometimes the joins
are so exquisite

they say the potter
may have broken the cup
just so he could mend it.

The Southern Review
Winter 2014

(related?  see elsewhere in this blog:  "Scars" by William Stafford)

photo from:  http://listeningtoleaves.blogspot.com/2012/11/kintsugi-art-of-repairing-teaware.html

27 February 2014

rocks in my pillow

Well, Rocks In My Pillow,
The Cold Ground Is My Bed,
The Highway Is My Home
So I Might As Well Be Dead.

I`m Walkin` And Walkin`;
Seems I Have No Place To Go.
My Mother`s Dead And Gone;
Father Throwed Me From His Door.

I Got One Pair Of Shoes,
Don`t Even Have A Change Of Clothes.
I Got One Pair Of Shoes,
Don`t Even Have A Change Of Clothes.
And This Road I Gotta Travel
Is So Muddy And Cold.

Well, I`m Gonna Get Religion,
Learn how to Pray.
I Need Help Bad,
Lord, And That Is The Only Way.

I`m Travelin` And Travelin`;
Seems The Road Has Got No End.
And I Ain't Got Nobody
In This Mean Old World To Call My Friend.

I Got So Much Trouble,
Sometimes I Could Cry,
I`m Gonna Find My Mother`s Grave,
Fall On The Tombstone And Die. 

26 February 2014

the missing shade of blue that lingers against the hills in the cooler hours before dark

Half Omen Half Hope

By Joanna Klink

When everything finally has been wrecked and further shipwrecked,
When their most ardent dream has been made hollow and unrecognizable,
They will feel inside their limbs the missing shade of blue that lingers
Against hills in the cooler hours before dark, and the moss at the foot of the forest
When green starts to leave it. What they take into their privacy (half of his embrace,
Her violence at play) are shadows of acts which have no farewells in them.
Moons unearth them. And when, in their separate dwellings, their bodies
Feel the next season come, they no longer have anyone to whom
To tell it. Clouds of reverie pass outside the window and a strange emptiness
Peers back in. If they love, it is solely to be adored, it is to scatter and gather
Themselves like hard seeds in a field made fallow by a fire someone years ago set.
In the quiet woods, from the highest trees, there is always something
Weightless falling; and he, who must realize that certain losses are irreparable,
Tells himself at night, before the darkest mirror, that vision keeps him whole.

On the verge of warm and simple sleep they tell themselves certain loves
Are like sheets of dark water, or ice forests, or husks of ships. To stop a thing
Such as this would be to halve a sound that travels out from a silent person’s
Thoughts. The imprint they make on each other’s bodies is worth any pain
They may have caused. Quiet falls around them. And when she reaches
For him the air greens like underwater light and the well-waters drop.
They will see again the shadows of insects.
They will touch the bark and feel each age of the tree fly undisturbed
Into them. If what is no longer present in them cannot be restored,
It can at least be offered. Through long bewildered dusks, stalks grow;
Rains fill and pass out of clouds; animals hover at the edges of fields
With eyes like black pools. For nothing cannot be transformed;
Pleasure and failure feed each other daily. Do not think any breeze,
Any grain of light, shall be withheld. All the stars will sail out for them.

Joanna Klink, “Half Omen Half Hope” from Raptus. Copyright © 2010 by Joanna Klink.

24 February 2014

two sheets of glass to shiver between. Let it drop.

photo from: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_WzTFvICt9XE/TJzHVCyhhfI/AAAAAAAAAYs/LpvihOudAyY/s1600/Albany+&+Bedford+Wonder+Package+and+Super+Deli.jpg

Waiting for This Story to End Before I Begin Another


All my stories are about being left,
all yours about leaving. So we should have known.
Should have known to leave well enough alone;
we knew, and we didn’t. You said let’s put
our cards on the table, your card
was your body, the table my bed, where we didn’t
get till 4 am, so tired from wanting
what we shouldn’t that when we finally found our heads,
we’d lost our minds. Love,I wanted to call you
so fast. But so slow you could taste each
letter licked into your particular and rose-like ear.
L, love, for let’s wait. O, for oh no, let’s not. V
for the precious v between your deep breasts
(and the virtue of your fingers
in the voluptuous center of me.)

Okay, E for enough.

Dawn broke, or shattered. Once we’ve made
the promises, it’s hard to add the prefix if. . . .
But not so wrong to try.
That means taking a lot of walks,
which neither of us is good at,
for different reasons, and nights up till 2
arguing whose reasons are better.
Time and numbers count a lot in this. 13
years my marriage. 5 years you my friend.
4th of July weekend when something that begins
in mist, by mistake (whose?), means too much
has to end. I think we need an abacus to get our love
on course, and one of us to oil the shining rods
so we can keep the crazy beads clicking,
clicking. It wasn’t a question
of a perfect fit. Theoretically,
it should be enough to say I left a man
for a woman (90% of the world is content
to leave it at that. Oh, lazy world) and when the woman
lost her nerve, I left
for greater concerns: when words like autonomy
were useful, I used them, I confess. So I get
what I deserve: a studio apartment he paid the rent on;
bookshelves up to the ceiling she drove
the screws for. And a skylight I sleep alone
beneath, and two shiny quarters in my pocket
to call one, then the other, or to call one

twice. Once, twice, I threatened to leave him—
remember? Now that I’ve done it, he says
he doesn’t. I’m in a phonebooth at the corner of Bank
and Greenwich; not a booth, exactly,
but two sheets of glass to shiver between.
This is called being street-smart: dialing
a number that you know won’t be answered,
but the message you leave leaves proof that you tried.
And this, my two dearly beloveds, is this called
hedging your bets? I fish out my other
coin, turn it over in my fingers, press
it into the slot. Hold it there. Let it drop.

Jan Heller Levi, “Waiting for This Story to End Before I Begin Another” from Once I Gazed at You in Wonder. Copyright © 1999 by Jan Heller Levi.

Source: Once I Gazed at You in Wonder (Louisiana State University Press, 1999)

20 February 2014

the embarrassment of being in the world (from IMDB "memorable quotes" from La Grande Belleza)

Jep Gambardella: To this question, as kids, my friends always gave the same answer: "Pussy". Whereas I answered "The smell of old people's houses". The question was "What do you really like the most in life?" I was destined for sensibility. I was destined to become a writer. I was destined to become Jep Gambardella.

Jep Gambardella: We're all on the brink of despair, all we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little... Don't you agree?

Jep Gambardella: This is how it always ends. With death. But first there was life, hidden beneath the blah, blah, blah... It's all settled beneath the chitter chatter and the noise, silence and sentiment, emotion and fear. The haggard, inconstant flashes of beauty. And then the wretched squalor and miserable humanity. All buried under the cover of the embarrassment of being in the world, blah, blah, blah... Beyond there is what lies beyond. And I don't deal with what lies beyond. Therefore... let this novel begin. After all... it's just a trick. Yes, it's just a trick.

tony servillo in paolo sorrentino's La Grande Belleza. go see it again.

go see it.

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

by Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul   
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple   
As false dawn.
                     Outside the open window   
The morning air is all awash with angels.

    Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,   
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.   
Now they are rising together in calm swells   
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear   
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

    Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving   
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden   
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
                                             The soul shrinks

    From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every bless├Ęd day,
And cries,
               “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,   
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

    Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,   
The soul descends once more in bitter love   
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,   
    “Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;   
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,   
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating   
Of dark habits,
                      keeping their difficult balance.”

Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” from Collected Poems 1943-2004. Copyright © 2004 by Richard Wilbur.