Sunday, April 29, 2012

Viviane Hagner plays Vieuxtemps

We heard our last Orpheus Chamber Orchestra concert last night, at Carnegie. The program had a hodge-podge feel to it: Franz Shreker's Scherzo for Strings, Beethoven's Romance No. 2 in F major for Violin and Orchestra, Henry Vieuxtemps's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor and Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor. The new commission, Alex Mincek's Pendulum IX: "Machina/Humana," written in a modernist idiom and in homage to Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, amplified the discord.

The highlight of the concert, the Munich-born Viviane Hagner playing Vieuxtemps, was a superb memory to set alongside that of Gil Shaham playing with the orchestra at our first concert. Hagner was not a flashy player; she was, instead, deeply absorbing and utterly compelling. So was the orchestra accompanying her with passionate attention. The performance was in sharp contrast with the blandly professional rendition of Beethoven's Romance No. 2. Neither soloist nor orchestra seemed to have much heart for it. The orchestra's performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 was more involving, but hardly delicate. Too little space and light and balance.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

An Endlessly Variable Style

TLS March 23 2012

from Randall Anderson's review of Franco Mormando's Bernini: His life and his Rome:

The explosive exuberance of the Baroque signalled the evolution of Renaissance and Mannerist styles, and through Bernini achieved its greatest heights. For Benedetto Croce, Baroque decadence produced an art of bad taste (cattivo gusto artistico), but for Luigi Barzini, Jr it embodied something more liberating: "Baroque is when you can draw a straight line, but you prefer to draw a curve". The "plastic abundance", corporeality and expansive force identified by Wylie Sypher as hallmarks of Baroque style appear in surplus with Bernini, from his ecstatic St. Teresa, afloat on her own garments as much as buoyed by the Holy Spirit, to the yards of fabric, inflated by invisible winds, billowing around his busts of Francesco d'Este and Louis XIV.

***

From Commentary "Meaning in the margins: Victoria Lady Welby and significs" by John E. Joseph:

In the 1930s, Basic English attracted the interest of Eric Blair, who corresponded with [C. K.] Ogden about it. But on reflection, Blair came to agree with Welby: in order to resist mind control by tyrants, one needs variation, more words rather than fewer. To contradict false claims requires rephrasing them in a way that exposes duckspeak an doublethink. Under his pen name George Orwell, Blair produced his devastating satire of Basic English: Newspeak, Victoria Welby's revenge from beyond the grace on her protege's treachery.

***

from Matthew Reynolds' review of Lars Spuybroek's The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design:

Spuybroek develops an idea from The Stones of Venice: that the Gothic is an endlessly variable style. "The pointed arch", Ruskin wrote, "admitted millions of variations...for the proportions of a pointed arch are changeable to infinity, while a circular arch is always the same." The variety continues through the groupings of shafts to form columns and the patternings of tracery in windows. Spuybroek notes that "variability within an element leads to variability between elements": a column becomes a rib becomes an arch; an arch can split into multiplicitous strands of decoration. This is what allows him to extend the argument to computer-aided design: "the digital constitutes the realm of self-generating and self-drawing forms".

*

Spuybroek understands sympathy not as fundamentally emotional or cognitive, but as an instinctive bodily reaction: "sympathy is what things feels when they shape each other". He gives an example from Bergson: the Ammophila wasp which, in response to the wriggling of a caterpillar, stings it accurately in nine different nerve centres. This is how it can make sense for Spuybroek to talk of feeling "sympathy" with a wall.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Singing Stein

Just enjoyed an evening of odd, wonderful Gertrude Stein. Singing Stein is Encompass New Opera Theatre's contribution to Gertrude's Paris Festival at Symphony Space. The program note, written by Encompass Artistic Director Nancy Rhodes, describes the background and the works:

Tonight you will see Virgil Thomson's Capital Capitals, the first musical stage piece he set to Stein's words in 1927. Thomson turned the text that Stein wrote in 1923 using demographic field reports and statistics into a competitive musical conversation, a joust for four gentlemen.... During World War I, Gertrude drove an ambulance in the South of France, and became intrigued with the sunny cities of Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon and Les Baux. In Capital Capitals, she fashioned a garrulous discussion among four men who represent those cities. Capturing her wit, Thomson employs a panoply of rhythmic variety, using some of his Missouri plainchant, C majorish ditties, and undulant Spanish rhythms, both lyrical and satirical.

The second piece on tonight's program was written by the distinguished composer Ned Rorem. He set Gertrude Stein's melodrama, Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters to music in 1968, creating a tour de force for five singers and piano. Stein wrote the piece in 1943 during the war, when she and Alice B. Toklas were living in the south of France. Stein, a great fan of detective stories and mysteries, weaves children's games of murder into an exploration of reality.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poem: "The Dream Child"

Complete first draft. Decided yesterday to take away the section headings.


The Dream Child

—so what will Baby/be tomorrow?—

            Antonia Pozzi, “The Dreamed Life”


Who speaks to me speaks
to a stir—
in air, a ripple
of veil—perhaps—
speaking
caused the ripple,
hard to tell.

But body is sensed—
joy—as possibility,
everything small
but perfect,
toes,
lips capable
of taking
ravishment—giving.

They walk
the woods as others
make love,
the man who
will be sent away
to Rome,

the girl who will lean
back on grass—
trembling
until the slight wind
drops.

These children
take up so much space.
They tug, they push.
They stride ahead, expecting the world
to give way.
Even when they tumble,
they cover
ground.

I watch behind the elm
and step out—
a shadow.

Only when I open
my throat—
to call, to hiss—
do I
occupy
a place,
as when the sound
of the sea takes up the room
of a shell,
or when sky is skylark.

In their rage,
the dead break
things—soup bowls,
flour mills.
I can see
them, foreheads
burning,
but they can’t
see—the unborn.

They think they are
looking at a loaf
of fire, water
becoming soup.

Whatever else
I am, I am
the earth-clod
on which my parents step
together, her feet
on his feet.

Her fingers weave
between his fingers
like ropes
around a raft.

White wisps—
on a second
look—join
as cloud
and sail off.

I am
left behind.

My young mother, my young corpse,
black album
of images—I stroke:
girl graduate,
political meetings,
Alpine flowers,
gay ribbons.

You have baby
photographs.
I—have—nothing.

You call me
Herald,
but know me
as entombed waters.

The pen dips
in the waters

and writes its
message of love.

To be held
—inside—
your body,

to be fed
by sun

to be cooled
by goodness,

to be born…

to redeem
and be redeemed.

Annunzio
my mother calls in the dark.
I run
towards the name
of my father’s
dead brother.

I hear her sweet
urgency
but I can’t find her
in the woods.

I run
not with a marguerite
but bayonet.

Because my father loves my mother’s eyes,
I have her blue eyes.
The more he loves, the more blue.

I have her heart
that beats so fast that I am afraid
it will burst.

At night my sex
opens and opens—
impure lips—
to swallow

the moon.

A blessing,
a blessing and—dismissal
of what has already left.

From the interior
of the church—
you see a fountain
shooting up
and toppling,
at a distance too far
to be heard.

The mind has to
provide the music. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Poem: "The Dream Child"

The Dream Child 


—so what will Baby/be tomorrow?—

     Antonia Pozzi, “The Dreamed Life”


The Dream Child

Who speaks to me speaks
to a stir—
in air, a ripple
of veil—perhaps—
speaking
caused the ripple,
hard to tell.

But body is sensed—
joy—as possibility,
everything small
but perfect,
toes,
lips capable
of taking ravishment—giving.

They walk
the woods as others
make love,
the man who
will be sent away
to Rome,

the girl who will lean
back on grass—
trembling
until the slight wind
drops.


The Skylark

These children
take up so much space.
They tug, they push.
They stride ahead, expecting the world
to give way.
Even when they tumble,
they cover
ground.

I watch behind the elm
and step out—
a shadow.

Only when I open
my throat—
to call, to hiss—
do I
occupy
a place,
as when the sound
of the sea takes up the room
of a shell,
or when sky is skylark.


Sip

In their rage,
the dead break
things—soup bowls,
flour mills.
I can see
them, foreheads
burning but not
burning up.
They can’t see
the unborn.

They think they are
looking at a loaf
of fire, water
becoming soup.


Rejoining

Whatever else
I am, I am
the earth-clod
on which my parents step
together, her feet
on his feet.

Her fingers weave
between his fingers
like ropes
around a raft.

White wisps—
on a second
look—join
as cloud
and sail off.

I am
left behind.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poem: "The Dream Child"

The Dream Child 


—so what will Baby/be tomorrow?—

     Antonia Pozzi, “The Dreamed Life”


Who speaks to me speaks
to a stir—
in air, a ripple
of veil—perhaps—
speaking
caused the ripple,
hard to tell.

But body is sensed—
joy—as possibility,
everything small
but perfect,
toes,
lips capable
of taking
ravishment—giving.

They walk
the woods as others
make love,
the man who
will be sent away
to Rome,

the girl who will lean
back on grass—
trembling
until the slight wind
drops.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Poem: "Inferior Education"

Inferior Education 


Today, for the first time,
you struck your mother on the cheek.

     Yosano Akiko, “Auguste’s Single Strike”


Three things I was not taught as a child
but wish:

to strike my mother on the cheek
to contradict my teacher in public
to throw rocks at cops.

Now I am an indifferent citizen, keep-at-home critic,
afraid to go up against someone smarter.
I shout at my mother when she doesn’t come to the point,
striking her with words.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Poem: "Singapore Catechism"

Singapore Catechism


Laterite roots

     Liew Geok Leong, “Exiles Return”


You go where? 
I’m going from the literal to the lateral, from roots to routes.

You go where? 
I’m going from the lateral to the littoral, from routes to riots.

You go where? 
I’m going from the littoral to the literate, from riots to rights.

You go where? 
I’m going from the literate to the litany, from rights to rites.

You go where? 
I’m going from the litany to the laterite, from rites to rust.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Poem: "Batik Paperweight from Haig Girls School"

Batik Paperweight from Haig Girls School 

by the Aztec hand,/ the Quetzal hand

     Gabriela Mistral, “The Little Box from Olinalá”


Cased in plastic,
three miniature
reproductions

of batik the girls
are painting
in your school.

With the same
gift you greet
American art

educators
on your study
tour.

What do you
hope
to learn here

that you could
not learn
better

at
Pekalongan,
in central Java,

living
with the women
applying

molten wax
with
their tjantings

to the cloth,
outlining
Chinese phoenixes

or Dutch bouquets,
the motifs
of trade and control,

before dipping
eyes into
brilliant local dyes,

as their mothers
had done
before

and their
mothers before
them?

I will keep
this
paperweight

and weigh
my poems
down with it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Poem: "Blake's Influence"

Blake’s Influence 

the cities where he didn’t make love,
the kind of woman he despised,
the way he was influenced by Blake.

     Belkis Cuza Malé, “Poet’s Biography”


He didn’t make love in the city where he studied Blake.
He didn’t study Blake but saying that he did in the city
where he didn’t make love impresses his biographers.
He didn’t despise any women either—he was too mild
for vitriol—but said he did, tutors with pinched faces,
ministers’ wives in sundresses, girls strapped to babies.
He despised all women who made their lives negligible.
His biographers look up admiringly. One is skeptical,
so he repeats he didn’t make love in the city, for that
is true, and the skeptic sees the parallel to Jerusalem.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Poem: "My Situation"

My Situation

I’m situated somewhere/in the erotic left.

     Ana María Rodas, “Poems from the Erotic Left”


My politics is independent when it is not Erratic
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

I write in free and formal verse, my poetics is eclectic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

I question my dialectics (guess I can be called Socratic), 
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

My orientation is pragmatic in linguistics and economics,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left. 

In ethics my talk is idealistic, my walk opportunistic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

In matters apocalyptic, I prefer to be historic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

In matters domestic, I prefer to be individualistic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

I must confess my psychodynamics is somewhat bureaucratic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

Talk to me about your classics, statistics, semiotics, logistics,
     but tell me, tell me, you’re situated in the erotic left.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Poem: "Flute Music"

Flute Music 

How will I open the window, unless I’m crazy?
How will I close it, unless I’m holy?

     Adélia Prado, “Serenade”


His flute bends the garden around the moon,
enclosing the light of the new moon in roses.
The roses dissolve and when they condense
on their stalks they are redder than before.
This goes on for a long time. His flute bends time
and the moon obeys, falling and rising like water
along the curve of its light, grazing the wide lip
of the parapet, the intricate balcony, the eaves,
and at the top of the note joining moon and music
falls on the roses condensing into red.

She listens at her window, unable to go or stay.

Behind a rosebush I crouch, waxing and waning.


*

Besides Prado's poem, Debussy's Syrinx and Prélude á l’après-midi d’un faune were also in my head when I was writing this poem. As was Paul Morrison's Little Ashes, the 2008 film about the thwarted love between Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) and Salvador Dali (Robert Pattinson). The film is rather conventional in many ways, but one scene sticks to the mind. Unwilling to give himself to Lorca, Dali masturbates in a corner as he watches Lorca fuck his friend Magdalena in bed. Lorca climaxes, eyes locked with Dali's. Gay sex through the body of a woman.

From the Observer review of the movie:
In typically vivid language, Dali, who married in 1934, denied their relationship ever became physical. 'He was homosexual, as everyone knows, and madly in love with me,' he said, according to Alain Bosquet's 1969 Conversations with Dali. 'He tried to screw me twice... I was extremely annoyed, because I wasn't homosexual, and I wasn't interested in giving in. Besides, it hurts. So nothing came of it. But I felt awfully flattered vis-à-vis the prestige. Deep down I felt that he was a great poet and that I owe him a tiny bit of the Divine Dali's asshole.'

Monday, April 16, 2012

Three Chamber Concerts

Last Wed, GH and I heard in Avery Fisher Joshua Bell conduct the Academy of St. Martin in the Field as its new music director. The program was all Beethoven, beginning with the Coriolan overture, continuing with a thrilling performance of the violin concerto, and ending with the Fourth Symphony. The chamber orchestra played with clear precision and exciting dynamics under the baton of a violin. In the non-concerto works, Bell conducted from the seat of the first violinist.

Then, with LW and AG, at Zankel Hall on Saturday, I heard Takács Quartet play Janacek's String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters" (1928), Britten's String Quartet No. 3 Op, 94 (1975), and Ravel's String Quartet in F Major (1902-03). The quartet, originally made up of four Hungarian music students, and named after one of them, now resides at the University of Colorado. Two of its original members remain--Karoly Schranz (second violin) and Andras Fejer (cello)--but the newer members have been with the quartet for at least seven years. Geraldine Walther on the viola had her moments, but Edward Dusinberre on the first violin was stupendous. As AG remarked, the music was not played, it just flew from his fingers. He played on the recording of Beethoven's late string quartets that I own, as did Roger Tapping the violist who was replaced by Walther.

The next night, WL and I heard the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center play a poorly-conceived program of Debussy and Stravinsky. Bent on bringing out the differences between the two composers, the program alternated between lightweight pieces by Debussy and weightier works by Stravinsky. The miscellany of pieces had the unfortunate air of a student recital. I did enjoy Sooyun Kim's sensitive and coloristic performance of Debussy's Syrinx for Flute (1913). After the intermission, Jose Franch-Ballester's clarinet enlivened the performance of Stravinsky's Suite from L'histoire du soldat for Violin, Clarinet and Piano (1918, arr. 1919). The flautist and the clarinetist came together with other musicians to render a poetic performance of Debussy's Prélude á l’après-midi d’un faune. That and the well-played final piece, Stravinsky's Concerto in E-flat major "Dumbarton Oaks" (1937-38), were already worth the cost of the ticket. More, in this case, was not necessarily better.

Poem: "Portrait with Blue Shirt"

Valerie Mendelson, 2012



Portrait with Blue Shirt 

Alert, open,
the face has not
yet learned
to protect its look
from the world.

A sharp blow
—losing a foot
or acquiring
an incurable
failure—
will close it.

The face knows
its luck
will not hold.
It waits
for fate’s knuckles

but is not
ready (it is
a young face)
for the
slow crack
of age.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Poem: "Village Thought"

Village Thought 

huge unknown villages would entrust us with their thoughts

     Jeanette Miller, “These Green Paths…”


The village may smell of mangoes or strike you like a stone.

You may be carrying a gun, book or mirror.

Your arrival will change everything. Do you dare to be responsible?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Poem: "Crow in Training"

Wrote this today.


Crow in Training 

condemned so many times/to be a crow

     Claribel Alegría, “Ars Poetica”


The first time the caw-caw surprised me so much
that I dropped it like a burning stick. Second time
I repeated the cry with my head cocked to a side,
to better determine the iridescence of its report.
Just before the third boy fell on his rifle, a bullet
through his eye, I emitted so full and round a call
that the grizzled veterans coughed approvingly.
I counted off my triumphs of the day, seventeen
—there were many of us cadets in the gathering.
 The murder thinks my performance is promising.

Poem: "Prospectus"

Wrote this yesterday. I think it needs another stanza in the middle.


Prospectus

My navel has sunk so deep that it touches
the other side of my body. Flesh rushes in
after the steep fall and leaves the opening
a pulpy slit. You can stick in three fingers
and not reach the tubes of the sea urchin.

My skin is so highly polished that you can
check your face on my bicep, fold it at right
angle at the corner of my elbow, or stretch
and contract over the wide curves of my ass.
You can see the curious crowd behind you.

No one is admitted on just his own merit.
It is by chance or history that you got in.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Poem: "Skills"

Skills


By an improved anguish

     Laura Riding, “The Wind Suffers”


As you would help a student organize
her shifty thoughts in shapely paragraphs,
stiffen the backbone of her sentences,
clear up the verbiage and proof the spelling,

you checked into a hospice, with his help,
after you stopped the ill treatment of death.
The passage would be lucid, you decided,
with humor, dignity, and, you hoped, grace.

So when the window rattled with the wind,
like an excessive use of the em dash,
you did not shush the weather with a comma
but left it alone—the inspired break.


i.m. Carol

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Poem: "Singapore as One-Night Stand..."

Singapore as One-Night Stand/One-Night Stand as Singapore

the heart/can sometimes be troublesome

     Lee Tzu Pheng, “Singapore River”


I pull out of him. Short trip but I have seen all the sights worth seeing.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Poem: "Recognition"

Recognition

a duck that would not lay / and a runt of a papaya tree

     Tzu Pheng Lee, “My Country and My People”


Did you grow a bean plant
as a school science project,
noting carefully in a jotter
book the stages of growth
that a dark-green textbook
taught? They did not say,
the books, what to do with
a full-grown bean plant,
and so I reluctantly threw
it down the rubbish chute,
feeling bad at the thought
of leaves squelched with
gum, hair, chicken bones,
the slender white stalk
bent. Did you dig a hole
in the schoolyard secretly
and plant an orange pip,
then watch the soil keep
quiet? Did you keep chicks
(all the children did) as if
you were back in a village?
After accidentally stepping
on one to death, did you
give away the other chick
because someone told you
that it would die if it were
alone? Did you hear that,
or did you, my Country-
woman, hear another say,
no one dies of loneliness?
Or did you hear both voices
sometimes in competition,
like hawkers in a pasar
malam, sometimes in
counterpoint, when you
signed the divorce papers,
when the Senior Minister
in an interview regretted
sending women to school,
when you lectured on the
Romantics, remembering
the bean plant cast away
in its plastic jelly mould,
when your son shifted on
your hips, when you wrote,
the home air-conditioning
raising goosebumps, a poem?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Poem: "Helen the Poet"

Helen the Poet 


All words, anyway
are epitaphs.

      Linda Pastan, “Friday’s Child”


I often confuse epigraph with epitaph,
to write with to grieve.
But your poems speak so well of love. 
Yes, they are brief.


for Winston

Saturday, April 07, 2012

"Summer: Three Poems"

Summer: Three Poems 

The man starts stripping upon arrival in the room
     and I feel something has gone wrong

               Hayashi Amari


Though he rises to his full height, I am taller by an inch.
     He does not come back for a second kiss.


On the train I look away after catching his eye.
     He gets off without giving me another look.


He is putting away his laundry when I arrive.
     Let’s get on with it, closing his drawers.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Emerson Quartet Plays Mozart and Beethoven

WL and I heard the Emerson String Quartet play at Alice Tully two nights ago. The performance of Mozart's Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K.546 (1788) and String Quartet in B-flat major, K.589 ("Prussian") (1790) was polished but not particularly compelling. WL said they sounded like a band accompanying Viennese waltzes. I agreed. I said they sounded like elevator music. The Alternate Finale to Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat major, the final movement that he substituted for the original Grosse Fugue on the insistence of his publisher, was not much better. It was light and airy enough, like candy floss. Only the slightly manic tempo of the performance gave the music an edge.

After the intermission was the main event, the full string quartet. The first four movements were still played in a rather uninspired fashion, the Presto performed at a very fast tempo. In the fifth, the Cavatina, however, there was a transformation. It was as if a completely different group of musicians took over. Instead of well-shined professionalism, we heard deep and genuine investment on the part of the players. According to the program note, Beethoven reportedly stated that no music he had written moved him as deeply.

The Grosse Fuge was also given its full heft and density. The program note, by Paul Schiavo, describes the movement of the music thus:

It begins with what Beethoven labels an Overtura: 30 measures of prelude presenting a single thematic idea in several rhythmic iterations. With it, the composer establishes a tonal idiom by intense, restless harmonic inflection. Beethoven now begins to treat this nascent theme in fugal imitation, adding a vigorous second idea as a counter-subject, and developing theme and counter-theme together in complex echoic counterpoint. Eventually, the strict contrapuntal treatment gives way to other developments of startling diverse character: a euphonious cantabile episode, scherzando passages that might sound trite in a less elevated context, another large fugal section, and more. Such extraordinary juxtaposing of fugal counterpoint with very different sorts of musical invention explains, and is explained by Beethoven's famous heading of the Grosse Fuge score: Tantôt libre, tantôt recherché (Sometimes free, sometimes rigorous")
.
The performance of the last two movements touched the sublime. Of the Grosse Fuge, Stravinsky wrote that it was "this absolutely contemporary piece of music that will remain contemporary forever.... I love it beyond any other." That night, the distance between musicians and us melted away, and the music filled me with intolerable longings.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Poem: "The Hero of Our Story"

The Hero of Our Story 

Many young poets will pick up my book of poems
and, casting a cold eye, put the lightweight down.
They are looking for a harder and heavier stone
against which to flex, and grow, their strength.
They wear severe eyebrows and a steel monocle.

Only one, a nobody really, who presses back
while all the others surge forward like a wave,
will smuggle me out under a lamb jacket, glad
that the man in the book is as light as the book
in the man was heavy. Only one will get home.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Epigraphs: An Invitation to Write

For National Poetry Month, I wrote a guest blog-post for Chloe Miller's blog, a post about women poets who have been inspiring me to write.  Reprinted as an example is my poem "Eve's Fault," first published in tongues of the ocean. The blog is full of writing goodies: prompts, advice, interviews.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Poem: "Reversi, Also Called Othello"

Reversi, Also Called Othello 


no matter how many turns/you make

      Tzu Pheng Lee, “Tough, Love”


Flip over a black
lie to white. Flip
coffee in a diner
mug. Flip 1st sight.

Flip a coin. Flip girls
and boys. Flip and
then flip back black
light. White noise.

Flip dark hair on
pale shins. Flip a
treasured negative.
Flip a safety pin.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Poem: "Old Testament"

Old Testament 


My glossolalia/shall be my passport

      Gwyneth Lewis, “Pentecost”


Lucky you! My glossolalia sends me to jail
where I am given a little bread but no ale.
The Lord orders me to go to Chicago
but I’m smuggling my haggis to Tarshish,
while trading on my derivative English,
on my way to the Tower of San Francisco.

Or not. God’s robocops will lie in wait
for that obvious circumvention of fate.
I will book my train ticket to Morocco.
There, in a bazaar of bizarre tchotchke,
I will smoke pure hokum in a hookah,
and dream of a world without Chicago.

No? Dreams are the Lord’s territories.
The seraphim come and go as they please
and they will lecture me about Chicago.
I will board the space shuttle to Seattle.
I will motor to Bali in my red Beetle.
I won’t go, I just won’t, to Guantanamo.

English will get me everywhere, not bunk,
and keep me out of a whale’s ribbed trunk.
It will even deliver me up to Hokkaido.
Unlike you, I’m no good at balderdash,
mumbo jumbo, gobbledegook, perhaps,
instead of Florida, you go to Chicago?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Poem: "Against the Flying Serpents"


Against the Flying Serpents


If I had never existed, what would stand
in my place? More lilies or roses?

            Dulce María Loynaz, “Digression”



In my place a new river.
A new snake wriggles out of the mud bottom of the river,
mouth sore from the bulging sac of venom.

In my place more ibises,
the birds that Moses launched against the flying serpents, according to Josephus,
that the Egyptians launched against the flying serpents, according to Pliny the Elder,
sacred missiles, fighting chronicles.

Infestation—
a termite colony in a grand piano.

Green fire on a brick wall. Film of ash on the drinking glass.

Peacocks singing in the Botanic Garden.

If you had never existed, you had never existed,
the sky at night chides.
There would be no place to fill.

I retort,
If I had never existed, I would have to be made up,
like a name for the light that streams through a keyhole in an old house
and flaps its wings.

Who ever believe a sky without keyholes called stars?