Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Favorite Poem of the Day – “Scary, No Scary” by Zachary Schomburg

Time for my favorite poem of the day to be a little more modern. Here’s a great example of something that a lot of modern poetry does well — using ‘conceptual distance’ to invoke deep emotion.

This poem isn’t quite telling a story, but it is. Notice it’s in the second person. The poem creates a fictional reality in which the main character is you, and the emotion is the decay of the idea of ‘home’. It is very real and yet, not real at all.

Also, what do you think of Schomburg’s use of linebreaks? It helps create that sense of decay I think.

SCARY, NO SCARY

One night, when
you return to your childhood
home after

a lifetime away,
you’ll find it
abandoned. Its

paint will be
completely weathered.

It will have
a significant westward lean.

There will be
a hole in its roof
that bats fly
out of.

The old man
hunched over
at the front door
will be prepared
to give you a tour,
but first he’ll ask
Scary, or no scary?

You should say
No scary.

(*Other news* You may have noticed that the domain of this blog has changed! I’ve always wanted to update the lengthy and hard to remember URL which came from my mishearing of the lyrics of The Beatles’ “Two of Us”. Enjoy this new, easier to type and remember URL, cloudsandtreespoetry.com. It has been the title of the blog for quite awhile and some of you will recognize it from a recently posted Czeslaw Milosz poem. It is also a real domain name without the ‘.wordpress.com’ which is exciting! Don’t worry, if you’re really attached to the old URL, it’ll still forward you here.)

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Erasure Project #1: “The Principles of Regulation”

IMG_20130904_070731

I’ve been working on an ‘erasure’ project (since yesterday). I’m pretty excited about it so I thought I’d post some samples in the next few days until I finish and post the whole thing. The original book is “bhakti-yoga: The Art of Eternal Love”. DISCLAIMER: The unfortunate nature of erasure is that it involves…erasing. I don’t mean any insult to any Hare Krishnas out there! I have only the greatest respect for these very kind people, a few of whom I encountered yesterday and who gave me this book (for a dollar). Art is love y’all!

Maybe I should transcribe here:

the principles of regulation

The basic principle                                                     is that

everyone can become happy.
society teaches one

how to be situated

a child

grows up               to love

im-
perfectly            until
fully satisfied
and
love
mellows

Favorite Poem of the Day – “Esse” by Czeslaw Milosz

I realized just now that I’ve never posted this poem, the last line of which was the original tagline for this blog. It is my favorite poem of all time.

I found this in Czeslaw Milosz’s (Cheh-shwah Mee-lohsh is my impression of how to pronounce it) Nobel Prize portfolio. Milosz is a polish poet who is particularly fond of attempting to describe the indescribable nature of things. He is astonishingly successful at this hilariously ironic enterprise, and captures absolute beauty as he does it. I love him because he has come closer to describing anything than anyone I’ve ever read.

As a lure into more of his work I’m going to quote the last couple lines of his poem “Earth Again” which I read in his book “Unattainable Earth”. These are the lines that first made Milosz one of my favorite writers of all time.

“…for a short moment there is no death
And time does not unreel like a skein of yarn
Thrown into an abyss.”

Also search youtube for videos of him speaking/reading if you want an example of a great poet voice.

If you’re interested in other Polish poets check out Zbigniew Herbert.

Esse

I looked at that face, dumbfounded. The lights of métro stations flew by; I didn’t notice them. What can be done, if our sight lacks absolute power to devour objects ecstatically, in an instant, leaving nothing more than the void of an ideal form, a sign like a hieroglyph simplified from the drawing of an animal or bird? A slightly snub nose, a high brow with sleekly brushed-back hair, the line of the chin – but why isn’t the power of sight absolute? – and in a whiteness tinged with pink two sculpted holes, containing a dark, lustrous lava. To absorb that face but to have it simultaneously against the background of all spring boughs, walls, waves, in its weeping, its laughter, moving it back fifteen years, or ahead thirty. To have. It is not even a desire. Like a butterfly, a fish, the stem of a plant, only more mysterious. And so it befell me that after so many attempts at naming the world, I am able only to repeat, harping on one string, the highest, the unique avowal beyond which no power can attain: I am, she is. Shout, blow the trumpets, make thousands-strong marches, leap, rend your clothing, repeating only: is!

She got out at Raspail. I was left behind with the immensity of existing things. A sponge, suffering because it cannot saturate itself; a river, suffering because reflections of clouds and trees are not clouds and trees.

On the Steps Ahead

1.

Tchaikovsky, like this other side
of lostness, is incomplete again.
I lean into violin on the train

To hear it absolutely. I want
to make purpose of, complete,
ugliness. My era. I see beauty

if I crane my neck enough
somewhere back there in the rain.
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35, I know

is behind the mis-colored sky.
I hear it pushing subway cars.
Spilling out as umbrellas open.

2.

I have been living under skyline.
In the negative space. The only place
For pieces of you, Tchaikovsky,

a leaf caught on the raincoated
concrete step. The life we have yet
To live. In windows, wall-less

if I could paint them, if I had paint-
buckets of rain and you
over and over again, every step

ever upwards. When I carry you
I am together with my discomfort.
I am walking so close beneath beauty.

Favorite Poem of the Day – ‘A Warning’ by Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson publishes frequently in The Sun. His work is a fantastic exercise in voice, and shows how that element of writing can seamlessly knit together narrative, emotion, and thought. I’m not sure I agree with the ‘belief’ of this poem but I sure do enjoy the voice behind it. You can find Anderson’s book here, which is on its way to my house right now. I’m excited!

A Warning

Today I feel better, because I woke thinking everything that disappears from the planet
might reappear somewhere else. The thought was grand at first. I imagined the dodo,
silly and lost forever, still alive in some other dimension. Inevitably, though,
the thought became smaller. I tried to save it by imagining the dodo’s core
ingredients recycled and assimilated into otherness: absorbed by predators or
scavengers, turned into dirt. I began to care less about form. If my body broken into atoms
still exists, then the loss of my body is not a true loss,
for I was only briefly human.

Yesterday, when I woke, I felt not so good, because I realized that every day the possibility
of my sleeping with two women at the same time diminishes.
A sad thought
first thing in the morning. It only proves how ridiculous thinking can be:
the wrong thought can waylay all other plans and send one into a daylong daydream
about Porno World, where the best career you can have is plumber or pizza-delivery guy.

And now I am sad once again because it is unpleasant to realize that both thoughts carry
equal weight in my mind: a world where nothing dies because everything still exists,
and a world where beautiful women call you up to fix their television but decide
they’d like to fuck you instead. I thought of their mouths on my body, and also I
thought of the dodo being not extinct but opening
a fragment of sky low to the horizon — even the air at our feet is sky —
and stepping through into dodo heaven, becoming the dodosattva, but still
essentially a large, flightless bird, easy to catch, pleasant of taste.

Now it occurs to me that even if the dodos came back, I wouldn’t be happy for long.
And even if two bisexual roommate stewardesses suddenly ravished me midflight,
eventually I would want more than that — more mouths, more women —
and even smothered under the weight of their passion somehow I would want more flesh, less air.

Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,
and I want to cry when I think of my heart,
muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy.

I Read Poetry in Wisconsin

So in lieu of updating my resume, folding laundry, and doing dishes, I am uploading this, as promised: the recording of the reading I did on WDRT during my trip to Wisconsin earlier in the summer. Recordings of me reading my poems are played with the Wisconsin State Laureate Max Garland’s, which are fantastic. I chose the music accompanying the pieces and was interviewed throughout. What a great time and big thanks to Lisa Henner and WDRT out in Viroqua, WI.

Rocks

Last night there was another storm and he could see patches of black ice on the road where the river must have flooded. The radio crackled quietly. He looked out the window and shifted down a gear. The water had been very high and further down the river there would be rapids.

He parked in the gravel lot. As he stepped out of the car he could smell the cold. The sunlight was grey but the sky bright blue and the river, dark green and brown. It was higher than he had ever seen it and thunderous, a static cupping his ears and a resounding deep bass far away, like a drum struck by god.

He stepped through the gate with the ROAD CLOSED sign. The gravel path had disappeared into the river; it looked as if the river had exploded. The trees along the bank had already been exposed completely, the dirt entirely stripped from their roots. The forest seemed naked, shivering. He had taken a walk here with his parents right after the big storm a few years earlier. He had been looking down at his feet, stepping carefully. He looked up; his dad was helping his mom over the rocks.

 

Two huge fisherman were walking towards him. They nodded as they passed. One was missing his arm above the elbow, the sleeve of his waders held closed against the water with a rubber-band.

He had come hoping to find a small island in the middle of the river. He remembered the rapids in that spot had risen to almost six feet. He had stared at those waves crashing in on themselves, his face wet, but never rushing forward until his parents had said they had to move on.

When he reached the spot where it used to be there was only water, flat and fast, water rushing straight through trees. He stared at it for a minute. He took a deep breath of cold air. Once, it had been warm and the water was lower; he had jumped across the rocks and stood on the island. As it started to rain lightly he had stripped and gone into the river.

 

Closer to the car, the water slowed into a wide curve and a dead tree jutted out from the bank. He remembered his Dad crouching on the edge and pointing.

“Right there is where I want you to scatter my ashes.”

“Okay, Dad,” He had tried to laugh, to clasp his shoulder naturally, “Not for awhile.” Just two men by the river. When he was younger they used to walk together here and he would find sticks to throw in. He ran along the edge racing them downstream as they dipped and bucked through the rapids until they blended with the water and he lost sight of them.

Favorite Poem of the Day – ‘Fedoras’ by Max Garland

I’ve been reading Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography. Though I realize this recalls exactly not his time period, every era of the past melds into just that, the past, to those of us who really need to read a few history books. Anyway, my poetry was played on the radio in Wisconsin along with Max Garland, the poet laureate of Wisconsin, reading some of his own work. His writing is incredible. I’ll post that recording soon.

This must be one of the best radio stations in the country: http://wdrt.org/

Fedoras

They come out of the 1940’s
to be your parents. Their faces
swim and settle into clarity.
The crook of an arm. The fount
of a breast. They come from
the time before your life,
before the things that fill
your life. Before water
sprang from the faucet. Before
television loomed in the corner
and even the house cats gathered
to watch. They come from after
the war, when all the movies
were jubilant, even the sad ones
bloodless. It’s as if you
were handed down to them,
as if you were a pearl
they would polish into life.
From times of great difficulty
they come, though speaking
with a deep nostalgia,
lowering the language to you
like a ladder, rung by rung.
Before you existed, they are,
which is like something
out of the Bible. Out of
their own childhoods they come
to be stricken with this,
to be stricken with time,
of which you are the immediate
symptom. Bringing their jewelry
and shaving brushes, wearing
their fedoras and hairdos,
they come to be your parents.
You have your father’s eyes
someone says. But no, you
have your mother’s face and eyes
is the more common opinion.
They send you wobbling out
like a top in front of them.
The wind could almost bowl
you over. You turn back
and they are dressed
like characters in a movie
or a dream. You turn back
and this is love. Your own name
sinks in and separates you.

Hole in Blue

Dad is driving me home from the train.
“That hawk dive-bombed the window
and died on the table. I got rid of it.”

I think of garbage, our bones. I walk down
To the edge of the woods. No power;
I can’t use the toilet. Our ground is hollow:

Years of Dad seeding grass, grubs
Eating roots, Dad poisoning them.
Nothing dies, just hollows out.

We never begin that tree-house, broken
Glass grown into the ground, bits of sky
Reflected as in lakes seen from your plane

Crashing over Minnesota.
I am at my friend’s house, doing laundry,
I tell him how I sat in the yard playing

And how that hawk cawed with me.
I wanted to see its eggs then, to know
it found a mate around my house.

I come back a year later. A few days
Feeling hopeless until I see a hawk
Against white, winter sky. A baby,

Alive. How old could it have been?
I want to speak to it, to tell it I’m sorry
for living here and leaving it empty.

Scavengers

Two vultures in the morning
Arrive together with the crows;
This – insanity I wake up from.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

Vultures are noiseless except for wings
Thumping the air. From far away:
Heavy things falling to the ground.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

Vultures who love each other
sit together on the pool-house roof
opposite my parents on the porch.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

I visit home again, watch them
shade each other from the sun,
black bones thick, outstretched.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

Flying over my brother, he looks up:
grotesque feet, grey genitals, fingers,
Shadows on us, through the porch.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

Heavy things fallen to the ground.
Mom never looks up, I hear:
I have no idea what that was.