Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Recent Poetry, January 2016

A Wish for 2016

Happy New Year, one and all!
May your genoise never fall,
May your kitties never cower,
May your bamboo never flower
(When it does, you know, it dies),
And may you fully realize
The insubstantiality
Of the line ‘tween you and me,
And may compassion thus result
Quite naturally, so you’ll exult
In every other being’s love.
And may you never lose a glove.

The Difference Between You and Me

Though it might be compared
To the border between
A cirrus cloud
And the surrounding sky,
Or to the distance between
The two hydrogen atoms
In a water molecule,
Or to the thickness of a
Leaf of paper in a book
As big as the universe, still,
It's significant enough
That we can reach across it
And greet each other.

Addendum to the Rig Veda 

Truth is one;
The sages call it
by many names.
Including truth.
And one.

Ad Librum

With the Common Era came
A glorious new technology,
A meet and right occasion to
Rejoice without apology:

The codex, with its pages sewn
And turn-able with lightning speed
Has over two millennia grown
To be the way we masses read.

It triumphed over every form
Of word-transmittal known before:
Clay tablets in cunieform
And parchment scrolls--oh, what a bore.

And what a handy thing it is!
So marvelously portable.
You needn’t be a techno-whiz
To use it. It’s affordable.

At a desk it can be read,
Or in some worthy library,
Or in a bar, or in your bed,
Or in a busy priory.

It can unite your little soul
To those of Keats and Sonny Rollins,
Pushkin or Marcel Pagnol,
Murakami, Billy Collins,

Poe or Tanya Savicheva,
Hunter Thompson or Colette,
Linji, Dogen, Shantideva,
Sting, Alanis Morissette,

Marcel Proust or Mary Shelley,
Chekhov or Maurice Sendak,
Cher or Sandro Botticelli--
Yet it fits right in your pack.

May the forces electronic--
Kindle, KoboGlo, or Nook--
Ne’er diminish this great tonic
For the mind. We love the book!

Questions for Simone Weil

A man whom
Truth had knocked off
His horse got up
And spent the
Rest of his life trying
To explain what had happened,
As those who suffer
Such undignified
Are inclined to do,
Even as words fail them
And their listeners misunderstand.
Included in his
Peculiar attempt at
Articulation was
The claim that
There is neither slave nor free
(nor male, nor female,
Nor Jew, nor Greek—
He was really only
Getting us started).

When, a century shy of two
Millennia later,
You declared
The faith he preached
To be the religion of slaves,
And you yourself one
(a slave, if not
Exactly a Christian),
Had you not yet read
His Epistle to the Galatians,
And when you did, was
Your view revised?

Or, as I like to think,
Had you indeed
Already read it
When you made your claim,
Without misunderstanding
Him at all?
Was what sounded like
A contradiction rather a
Corrective humbly offered
To those of us inclined
To ignore the relative
In the face of the
A simple recognition
That one would need to know
Slavery or freedom in order perceive
The lack of distinction
In the first place
Or to understand
Why it’s beautiful?
And, given the general state
Of the world, was
The slave identity, sadly,
Still the one that best fit?
And was this nothing but
Your own peculiar
Attempt at articulation,
Offered after your own fall
From the horse?

Modesto, California 

The town I’m from will resist
Having a poem written about it,
For such ephemeral stuff
Is usually, and quite reasonably,
Incinerated by the relentless
Sun there, like spilled pie filling
In a self-cleaning oven.
Our ancestors hailed from
Iowa or Arkansas,
No trace of Europe left on them,
And impulses to literature were smoked out
With the haze of burnt rubber 
From the smudge pots
That preserved the peach blossoms
Through the frost of March.
Poetry would have made no sense
To my grandfathers, who,
Grateful for having made it through
The 1930s there alive, had no use for
Something in so exalted a position
On the hierarchy of needs.
Literature was for those beyond
The mountain ranges
You saw if you looked east and west,
Even though Keats was taught in school,
As the curriculum required, though the kids,
Quite reasonably, rolled their eyes at it,
For it didn't belong to the wineries,
canneries, factories, or farms.
But, reason being a trajectory,
At some point, someone paused,
Stopped in his tracks by
One of those incomparable
Valley sunsets, and he saw the secret
Beneath the strip malls, the check-cashing outfits, 
The mega-churches, and the walnut orchards,
With their trees’ trunks painted white
Against sunburn, and he started keeping
T. S. Eliot in his locker at E & J Gallo.
And my granddads, catching sight of it
At break time, quite reasonably rolled their eyes.
Modesto had succumbed.

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