Saturday, October 11, 2014
The Morning Reading: "Give us just a few decades of grace, to encourage the fine art of acquiescence and we might save the race"
- Carolyn Kizer
From Sappho to myself, consider the fate of women.
How unwomanly to discuss it! Like a noose or an albatross necktie
The clinical sobriquet hangs us: codpiece coveters.
Never mind these epithets; I myself have collected some honeys.
Juvenal set us apart in denouncing our vices
Which had grown, in part, from having been set apart:
Women abused their spouses, cuckolded them, even plotted
To poison them. Sensing, behind the violence of his manner—
“Think I'm crazy or drunk?”—his emotional stake in us,
As we forgive Strindberg and Nietzsche, we forgive all those
Who cannot forget us. We are hyenas. Yes, we admit it.
While men have politely debated free will, we have howled for it,
Howl still, pacing the centuries, tragedy heroines.
Some who sat quietly in the corner with their embroidery
Were Defarges, stabbing the wool with the names of their ancient
Oppressors, who ruled by the divine right of the male—
I’m impatient of interruptions! I’m aware there were millions
Of mutes for every Saint Joan or sainted Jane Austen,
Who, vague-eyed and acquiescent, worshiped God as a man.
I’m not concerned with those cabbageheads, not truly feminine
But neutered by labor. I mean real women, like you and like me.
Freed in fact, not in custom, lifted from furrow and scullery,
Not obliged, now, to be the pot for the annual chicken,
Have we begun to arrive in time? With our well-known
Respect for life because it hurts so much to come out with it;
Disdainful of “sovereignty,” “national honor;” and other abstractions;
We can say, like the ancient Chinese to successive waves of invaders,
“Relax, and let us absorb you. You can learn temperance
In a more temperate climate.” Give us just a few decades
Of grace, to encourage the fine art of acquiescence
And we might save the race. Meanwhile, observe our creative chaos,
Flux, efflorescence—whatever you care to call it!
Carolyn Kizer, Pulitzer-Winning Poet, Dies at 89
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Ode to a Few Yellow Flowers
- Pablo Neruda
Against the blue shaking its blue,
the sea, and against the sea,
a few yellow flowers.
the developed sea is so important,
its myth, mission, yeast,
of a single yellow plant
explodes on the sand
and your eyes
to the ground,
escaping from the magnanimous sea
and its whip,
We are dust, we shall become.
Not air, or fire, or water
we shall be
a few yellow flowers.
Monday, September 29, 2014
- William Stafford
You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightening before it says
its names- and then the clouds' wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles- you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head-
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
The Morning Reading: "what world is this that makes our lives sufficient even as the horizon’s rope is about to snap"
Khaled Mattawa 's book, Amorisco, features a long poem, “East of Carthage: An Idyll.” Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya and has spent much of his adult life living in the United States. Yesterday he was awarded an MacArthur genius grant.
Here's the opening.
EAST OF CARTHAGE: AN IDYLL
Look here, Marcus Aurelius, we’ve come to see
your temple, deluded the guards, crawled through a hole
in the fence. Why your descendent, my guide and friend
has opted for secrecy, I don’t know. But I do know
what to call the Africans, passport-less, yellow-eyed
who will ride the boat before me for Naples, they hope.
Here the sea curls its granite lip at them and flings a winter
storm like a cough, or the seadog drops them at Hannibal’s
shores, where they’ll stand stupefied like his elephants.
What dimension of time will they cross as the Hours loop
tight plastic ropes round their ankles and wrists?
What siren song will the trucks shipping them back
to Ouagadougou drone into their ears? I look at them
loitering, waiting for the second act of their darkness
to fall. I look at the sky shake her dicey fists.
One can be thankful, I suppose, for not being one of them,
and wrap the fabric of that thought around oneself
to keep the cold wind at bay. But what world is this
that makes our lives sufficient even as the horizon’s rope
is about to snap, while the sea and sky ache to become
a moment to peel itself like skin off fruit, and let us in
on its sweetness as we wait, smoking or fondling provisions,
listening to the engine’s invocational purr. In an hour
that will dawn and dusk at once, one that will stretch
into days strung like beads on the horizon’s throat,
they will ride their tormented ship as the dog star
begins to float on the water, so bright and still,
you’d want to scoop it out in the palm of your hand.
U-M Arabic poetry translator wins 'genius' grant
This poem - and this poet - were brought first to my attention by Forest Gander in his essay post, "Libya: Don't Look Away." Photo of Medusa Head by Forrest Gander.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
- W.S. Merwin
When the war is over
We will be proud of course the air will be
Good for breathing at last
The waters will have been improved the salmon
And the silence of heaven will migrate more perfectly
The dead will think the living are worth it we will know
Who we are
And we will all enlist again
Check out Matthew Zapruder's essay on Merwin at the LA Review of Books:
When the War Is Over: On Merwin and the Language of War
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
- Amy Lowell
This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
|Lesley McSpadden , Michael's Brown's mother.|
- Claudia Rankine
You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.
You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.
Why do you feel okay saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, be propelled forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.
As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable, hasn’t happened before, and the before isn’t part of the now as the night darkens and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.
When you arrive in your driveway and turn off the car, you remain behind the wheel another ten minutes. You fear the night is being locked in and coded on a cellular level and want time to function as a power wash. Sitting there staring at the closed garage door you are reminded that a friend once told you there exists a medical term — John Henryism — for people exposed to stresses stemming from racism. They achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure. Sherman James, the researcher who came up with the term, claimed the physiological costs were high. You hope by sitting in silence you are bucking the trend.
When the stranger asks, Why do you care? you just stand there staring at him. He has just referred to the boisterous teenagers in Starbucks as niggers. Hey, I am standing right here, you responded, not necessarily expecting him to turn to you.
He is holding the lidded paper cup in one hand and a small paper bag in the other. They are just being kids. Come on, no need to get all KKK on them, you say.
Now there you go, he responds.
The people around you have turned away from their screens. The teenagers are on pause. There I go? you ask, feeling irritation begin to rain down. Yes, and something about hearing yourself repeating this stranger’s accusation in a voice usually reserved for your partner makes you smile.
A man knocked over her son in the subway. You feel your own body wince. He’s okay, but the son of a bitch kept walking. She says she grabbed the stranger’s arm and told him to apologize: I told him to look at the boy and apologize. And yes, you want it to stop, you want the black child pushed to the ground to be seen, to be helped to his feet and be brushed off, not brushed off by the person that did not see him, has never seen him, has perhaps never seen anyone who is not a reflection of himself.
The beautiful thing is that a group of men began to stand behind me like a fleet of bodyguards, she says, like newly found uncles and brothers.
The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.
At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?
It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.
I am so sorry, so, so sorry.