Seamus Heaney, “Follower” …

•July 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

seamus heaney-74488179_52711c
Seamus Heaney


My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horse strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

Octavia Butler, “Beware: Ignorance…” from Parable of the Talents

•July 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

OctaviaButler_96dpi-2Octavia Butler

– from Parable of the Talents

Protects itself.
Promotes suspicion.
Engenders fear.
Fear quails,
Irrational and blind,
Or fear looms,
Defiant and closed.
Blind, closed,
Suspicious, afraid,
Protects itself,
And protected,
Ignorance grows.”


Adam Zagajewski, “Auto Mirror” …

•July 9, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Adam Zagajewski

“Auto Mirror”

In the rear-view mirror suddenly
I saw the bulk of the Beauvais Cathedral;
great things dwell in small ones for a moment.

      [Trans. Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass]


Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me” … poem & video

•July 8, 2016 • 1 Comment

lucille clifton 2
Lucille Clifton

“won’t you celebrate with me”

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.



Linda Gregg, “A Dark Thing Inside the Day” …

•July 5, 2016 • 2 Comments

Linda Gregg
“A Dark Thing Inside the Day”
So many want to be lifted by song and dancing,
and this morning it is easy to understand.
I write in the sound of chirping birds hidden
in the almond trees, the almonds still green
and thriving in the foliage. Up the street,
a man is hammering to make a new house as doves
continue their cooing forever. Bees humming
and high above that a brilliant clear sky.
The roses are blooming and I smell the sweetness.
Everything desirable is here already in abundance.
And the sea. The dark thing is hardly visible
in the leaves, under the sheen. We sleep easily.
So I bring no sad stories to warn the heart.
All the flowers are adult this year. The good
world gives and the white doves praise all of it.

Something new – “On Writers” – wip

•June 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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“On Writers”

[A journey … or Relativity, if an image from Escher were words]

       “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”
               Franz Kafka, July 1922


For writers… What do you do when there’s nothing to write? No source, no inspiration, no material – How do you take pen in hand? push your fingers over the keys? speak to the darkness of lost ideas?

What makes a writer a writer? Not the act of writing – surely. Anyone can be a writer, but that doesn’t make a writer. Must be something more – something that defies time and stacks of drafts or so-called finished works.

Is it finished works that determines a writer? Publications? Years of practice – of doing? Name recognition? Controversy? Silence? Whispers in shadow or screams in light? None of these completely satisfy the determination of the what or who.

And… Why should any one thing define me? Kafka says “monster” when it’s not happening, but if that’s the case, then the monster is already there, has always been there – waiting. Waiting for a hush, a pause, for stillness, for the frozen will of panic. I must be greater than the sum of my tenuous parts– A question, not a statement. A prayer, not an answer.


Frank O’Hara, “Windows” … and my own commentary on the poem…

•June 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Frank O’Hara


This space so clear and blue
does not care what we put

into it         Airplanes disappear
in its breath and towers drown

Even our hearts leap up when
we fall in love with the void

the azure smile the back of a
woman’s head and takes wing

never to return         O my heart!
think of Leonardo who was born

embraced life with a total eye
and now is dead in monuments

There is no spring breeze to
soften the sky         In the street

no perfume stills the merciless
arc of the lace-edged skirt


Frank O’Hara was notorious for writing, then misplacing or losing interest in drafts. “Windows,” a work not included in Collected Poems, didn’t surface until later – in American Poetry Review and in O’Hara’s Poems Retrieved (1977). I don’t really know – or need to know – the story behind this poem, but the lines do affect me in ways that aren’t easily explained. That’s part of the poem’s greatness.
The opening is powerful: a space that can hold everything we place in it. I like the fact that the window is not judgmental about what becomes part of its field, but is very accepting. The scope of the poem’s imagery is magnificent – an endless sweep through windows (note the plural) into an infinity of sorts: (the universal or object/non-human oriented) space so clear, airplane, tower, monuments, window’s breath, no breeze, taking wing, the void; (and the specific and very human – mostly in the poem’s second half) azure smile, a woman’s head, Leonardo’s eye, no perfume, the arc of a skirt). I read drowning towers as a city’s skyline – appropriate to a poet firmly rooted in every aspect of New York – an urban view that swallows great buildings and people in its own striking beauty.

Two specific references – “our hearts leap” and “O my heart” – may focus more on O’Hara himself, or at least his view of himself as a writer. Unlike the impressive window that opens the poem, urging the reader to become lost in that space, the artist (Leonardo, O’Hara, you, me) dies in monuments, a more disturbing window, leaving no wind to “soften the sky.” “Monuments” could stand for the view that imposes limits – of any kind – on the artist or the art.

In this short poem, the reader is pulled from a secure place and made to “fall in love with the void” – the unreachable, the unsayable. The poem ends with the sweep of the “merciless arc of the lace-edged skirt,” taking the reader into a void of a different kind. “Lace-edged skirt” implies society, time, restrictions, human physicality, desire. “Merciless” is an effective word choice here. O’Hara could intend the reader to take this as time’s relentless force – even Leonardo, great embracer of life, came to dust. He also could be making a statement about sexuality – and here read society’s restrictions and expectations, a different sort of window – the lace boundaries of conformity and roles. Either way, the poem ends with an upward sweep into a puzzling but fecund unknown.

I drift… I disappear …


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