Thursday, December 19, 2013

"It has something to do with silence and idleness"

Grains of Sand
    What is the holy secret this planet hides?
    A child may find it at last by the deep sea tides,
    Or in some meadow at dusk exploring alone
    The House of the Broken Heart, or the haunted stone.

Queen of Cups
    It has something to do with silence and idleness
    More than a little to do with loneliness.
    A holy and hidden secret powerful to bless,
    Answering all Earth's prayers with one word "Yes!"

~ Helen Adam, from "The Last Secret"

Find more about Helen Adam here, where you can see two wonderful video clips of her.

Reclining Nude, Sir Edward Poynter, 1901

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"I rejoice in all your round worlds"

Now I may believe in the world
I think the world may be round
and firm & free & easy to love
I rejoice in all your round worlds
I know where you are silk & spice

~ George Garrett, from "Some Women: A Baker's Dozen"

The Model's Siesta, Theo van Rysselberghe, 1920

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"alone and more than alone"

From the tawny light
from the rainy nights
from the imagination finding
itself and more than itself
alone and more than alone
at the bottom of the well where the moon lives,   
can you pull me

into December? 

~ Denise Levertov, from "Everything That Acts Is Actual"

Photo by Maria Browning, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

He chose to long for her...

He chose to long for her by envying

the candle that glowed upon her
beautiful face, the shadow
that followed in her every move... (more)

~ From "Careless Perfection" by Daniel Halpern
   The complete poem is at Poetry Foundation

Nude woman with a fan, Henri Lebasque (1865-1937)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"But let the dancing stop..."

The dancing ape is whirling round the beds
Of all the coupled animals; they, sleeping there
In warmth of sex, ignore his fur and fuss
And feel no terror in his gait of loneliness.
Quaint though the dancer is, his furry fists
Are locked like lightning over all their heads.
His legs are thrashing out in discontent
As if they were the lightning's strict embodiment.
But let the dancing stop, the apish face go shut in sleep,
The hands unclench, the trembling legs go loose—
And let some curious animal bend and touch that face
With nuzzling mouth, would not the storm break—
And that ape kiss?

~ Jack Spicer, "The Dancing Ape."

You can hear Spicer read the poem here.

Monkey before Skeleton, Gabriel von Max, c.1900

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"the shifty epitome of pure swagger..."

by George Garrett

Lord, but I do dearly love
these, your large, slow reedy messengers,
your spies clad in shiny feathers,
sentinels of high places squawking
and cawing arrivals and departures,
raggedy fliers rising in a black caucus
or, grounded, the shifty epitome
of pure swagger and bravado.
Old crows, noisy flock,
we came through bad weather together
when all the trees were a cruel glitter
of ice and earth was a hard-hearted stranger
who wished only catastrophe upon us,
you and I, shabby and insufferably proud,
perched here to witness the robins' return.

Rooks have returned, Aleksey Savrasov, 1871

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Stop humming this instant..."

   The present state of the world is so miserable and degraded that if anyone were to say to the poet: "For God's sake, stop humming and put the kettle on or fetch bandages. The patient's dying," I do not know how he could justifiably refuse. (There is, of course, an inner voice which says exactly this to most of us, and our only reply is to pretend to be extremely hard of hearing.) But no one says this. The self-appointed unqualified Nurse says: "Stop humming this instant and sing the Patient a song which will make him fall in love with me. In return I'll give you extra ration-cards and a passport"; and the poor Patient in his delirium cries: "Please stop humming and sing me a song which will make me believe I am free from pain and perfectly well. In return I'll give you a penthouse apartment in New York and a ranch in Arizona."
   To such requests and to the bribes that go with them, the poet can only pray that he will always have the courage to stick out his tongue, say, like Olaf the conscientious objector in Cummings' poem—"There is some shit I will not eat,"—and go on humming quietly to himself.

~ W.H. Auden, from Squares and Oblongs

Portrait of a Poet, Pablo Picasso, 1902

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"tart recompense for what was lost"

I Dreamed That I Was Old
by Stanley Kunitz

I dreamed that I was old: in stale declension   
Fallen from my prime, when company
Was mine, cat-nimbleness, and green invention,   
Before time took my leafy hours away.

My wisdom, ripe with body’s ruin, found   
Itself tart recompense for what was lost
In false exchange: since wisdom in the ground   
Has no apocalypse or pentecost.

I wept for my youth, sweet passionate young thought,
And cozy women dead that by my side   
Once lay: I wept with bitter longing, not   
Remembering how in my youth I cried.

*For the past few days I've been sorting through a mess of very old files, stuff I haven't touched in more than 20 years. It's like excavating my life, and it has been enlightening. Age looking back at youth is a cliché — one that Kunitz is toying with in his poem — but familiarity with the cliché did not prepare me for the shock of the actual experience. It is shocking to see how I have misremembered who I was, shocking to see how thoroughly I have revised the story of my life in the course of living it. Do we all hypnotize ourselves with a private fiction? Is it a gift or a loss to be shown what sort of person you truly are?

Allegory of Prudence by Titian, c.1570