4.25.2016

Ars Poetica

it is addressed thusly:
A thought.
it reads:
We should stray not too far
In our wandering star to star
From the song which sounded first
And brought us to poetry's door
Awake with an unknown thirst
We knew that we must have more;

Can we sing all that we have spoke
And can we sleep once we've awoke--
And known the confluence of sound
And thought which made it true--
Not empty speech we had found
Once-heard, we then always knew?

So turn again, men of song
And you will have done no wrong
With rhythm you must count in time
Mere sentiment will only mar
Distill not away simple rhyme
From this then, stray not too far.

4.19.2016

Ever-Near

it is addressed thusly:
An ode.
it reads:
Breathe deep my friend, in the night
Breathe deep in the morning light
The sun comes up and the moon goes down
So long as the world is going round;
Rising and falling the cloaking mist
Cover and uncover what the sun has kissed
And make heard sounds of a distant place
Which come twenty feet yet from our face;
The Ever-Near - the things in the rain
The far-and-near become one again
Such a breath is the spirits of spring
The shadow of a bird now on the wing
Whose alighting is a certain-uncertain sound
In this cool chamber in which we've found
The crush of stone beneath our foot
Or the shining road else black as soot
Which calls us on, to another world
Though twenty feet ahead it is unfurled
We dwell no more in night and day
Though we see not yet a starry way
Such stars but a glimpse of settled mist
Vanishing whereupon the sun has kissed
And sound returns, and shadow returns
And wise is the man who yet discerns
Whether on this road it is day or night
What he may see in uncertain light--
So sound, so shadow must disappear
Then what remains is the Ever-Near.

4.05.2016

By The Waters of Babylon


it is addressed thusly:

A song.
it reads:
We are strangers in a land unstrange
It looks like it once was ours
Caught in its sleepy lagrange
With odd and uncertain stars;
We sit by the waters and weep
But no sound had mustered a cry
In solemnity, silence we keep
As the somnolent waters go by;
Asking from us but a song
The alien cant made correct
For folly alone made him strong
And his will is now quite direct;
But no is the answer we give
No to the moon and the stars
We cannot sing who still live
In a land that is no more ours;
If in time we had come to forget
What by troth a city had meant
What a king, a kingdom and yet
What else dark heaven had sent;
May our hand never rise ere again
Not to plow and never to sword
If we forget! Are we men --
Or arrears no man could afford;
But you, O folly of might
Though heaven be dark we recall
O our succor, O our light
Whose face makes the mighty to fall;
Blessed is he when he comes
To make life from lifeless bones
And takes all your little ones
And dashes them on the stones.
a postscript is here written:
"By the waters of Babylon" is a classical Christian lenten theme; in Great Lent we experience our estrangement through our ascetic struggle; but more poignantly, any man who is not progressive finds himself not a stranger in a strange land, but a stranger in his own home, now occupied by rude, often foolish foreigners. He has no king, no altar, and no sacrifice. Even more, he has no voice, because if he did he would speak only one word: ruin.

3.30.2016

1983


it is addressed thusly:

A thought.
it reads:
They only grip tight when the wheel is slipping
Orwell understood, and yet missed a truth
Of the transformation from free to uncouth--
Not how, but why the wheel they are gripping
Fingers white - with their eyes blood shot
Is it just the season - is it just our lot?
Or do Dracon and Nero have a brotherhood
What is the driver doing - in his driver's chair
Does he think at all, has he understood
Why does he have both his hands in the air?
He hits a bump - and now the chariot is tipping
It wouldn't be, had the wheel he'd been gripping
Light and firm and measured and fair --
They only grip tight when the wheel is slipping.
a postscript is here written:
a pass-word:
secure sovereignty

3.23.2016

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

it is addressed thusly:
Re-engineered, for Wallace Stevens
it reads:
I

Among twenty hills
Snow capped, all was still save this
The blackbird's bright eye.

II

Of three minds was I
Like a tree in which sat blackbirds
Three of them, that is.

III

Tossed in autumn wind
The blackbird went, but small was it
Amid great gestures.

IV.

This man and woman
Are one, and with a blackbird
One they still remain.

V.

Of speech or sighing?
The blackbird's song or just after?
Which delights me more?

VI.

Glass full of rude ice
The blackbird's shadow crossing
Marking unknown things.

VII.

Dreaming birds of gold -- ?
Men of Haddam! At your feet
See? The blackbird walks.

VIII.

Rhythm and timbre
I know, and the blackbird too
Is somehow involved.

IX.

The blackbird in flight
Vanished, one more circle's edge
Marked by its passing.

X.

Blackbirds in green light
Of their flight, even sweet singers
Would cry out sharply.

XI.

Riding a glass car
In fear mistook its shadow
But once, for blackbirds.

XII.

The river moving
Like it, somewhere the blackbird
Is moving in flight.

XIII.

Evening came early
Snow coming, in cedar-limbs
Had sat the blackbird.
a postscript is here written:
This is a Haiku transformation of Wallace Stevens' poem of the same name. I tried to maintain as much of his original style as possible, which was very like the core mood or approach of Haiku anyway. Additionally, the use of the word 'blackbird(s)' should be identical to the original part in his poem, in which it should be noted that blackbird(s) occurs precisely 13 times.

My intent here is to both show that Wallace Stevens was an excellent poet, and also that the formlessness of modern 'styles' gains them no boons. Although the Haiku imposes certain greater restrictions (especially see XI) nonetheless, even the simple formula of the Haiku strengthens each of his thirteen images.

Modern poetry is somewhat like a series of photographs of stones 'randomly' thrown in a pool. Unknown felicities arise, but they are the felicities we have already seen elsewhere when we examine them carefully. We do not lack genius yet, but virtue has gone with discipline.

3.17.2016

Blessing for a Woman

it is addressed thusly:
A song.
it reads:
For her may there always be
 A child aside, upon her knee-
Where she is, may there be found
 A song, a hymn, a pleasant sound
Where raindrops droop and birds still sing
 Her finger bear a single ring--
A bower, broad-beamed place of rest
 A babe asleep upon her breast
Where fields fertile now bud forth grain
 And under shadow, after rain
Beside the fire, may safety find
 Her there, and there, a quiet mind.

3.02.2016

Colder Still that Metal Box


it is addressed thusly:

A song.
it reads:
Pray for those whose rescue is
Only ruin - naught beside
Fate is cruel, and freedom more
And duty ill betide
Cold comfort in a picket line
Water and not wine
Colder still that metal box
Which knows our ev'ry sign;

But where has their redeemer gone
For their kin make good
Of this bargain made unthought
Pledged, not understood--?
Firebrands burn and light aflame
Light is light the same;
Colder still that metal box
Though it bear our name;

Its listless eyes must edge to sleep
Digits like a song
Whose guarantee, whose lullaby
Tells us right from wrong
I do not come to judge, it said
Black and white and red --
Colder still that metal box
The living and the dead.

It does not have our flesh and blood
Remaining pure ideal
Their bones must feel its icy prod
If their bones can feel;
Cold comfort from their Bacchus-bliss
Vinegar and piss--
Colder still that metal box
In whom their succor is.