Our Mid-Month’s Poet: William Blake

The Tiger by William Blake

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Change of Policy

No Shoes. No Shirt. No Service. That’s not a real policy, is it?

I’ve decided to disable the like button on all posts from now until the Day of the Lord.  I hope you’ll still visit and comment if you like.

If I do get likes (from the Reader), it will happily bring to mind:

“Suppose it were the life-view of a religiously existing subject that one must not have a  disciple, that this is treason to both God and men; suppose he were also a little foolish (for if it takes a little more than mere honesty to make one’s way in the world, then stupidity is always necessary for real success and to have many properly understand you) and said this directly, with unction and pathos, what then? Well, yes, he would indeed be understood. Soon ten would apply, asking to be engaged just for a free shave once a week to preach this doctrine; i.e., and as further confirmation of the doctrine’s truth, he would have had the extraordinary good luck to acquire disciples who accepted and spread this teaching about having no disciples.”

- Soren Kierkegaard – Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Billy Martin

Billy Martin
At the little league park
where he graciously signed his name
he was different than
the times you saw him
from the bleachers
charge the pitcher’s mound
to argue
like one sees in drunken brawls
kicking a cloud of dust
into the face of the umpire
who himself part of an act
not far from pantomime
rotated his arm
like the hands of a clock.

Sketch 1: Water and Silt

Today’s poem can be found in my new collection or in accompaniment with John Spiers’ wonderful sketch.

My dad was a dreamer, a word that some people (not anyone here I’m sure) use dismissively. I never have.

He had many dreams and while this was not by any means the most important, it was one that had a direct impact on the way I view life.

All dreams don’t come true, of course. The rain does fall on the just and on the unjust.

Although my dad mainly made map and roads, he did on occasion put up buildings.  The particular ones in question were townhouses, which were not then the ubiquitous phenomena they are now.  There was every reason to believe the development would  be a success. Its location would be just a short commute into the metro area once the proposed freeway was completed.

But then the 1974 US recession took place and the freeway was delayed.

The comfortable life I had led was no more.

No, it wasn’t the Appalachian poverty you read about in Winter’s Bone but our new home was very old and in very bad shape, and though I always had something to eat, we ate what we could afford, and during that four-month period we consumed more eggs than we probably should have mainly because they came free from the ornery hens in the chicken coop in back.

It was difficult being uprooted, and I absolutely hated my time spent there. However, now that I’m much older (in fact, the same age as my dad was then), I can appreciate that the experience gave me an understanding I might not have had otherwise. Empathy is important as is a willingness to lend a hand.  There but for the grace of God go I.

 

 

The Color of Movement

The Color of Movement
A university student
spent the summer cycling
the States
with a controlled substance in his
possession.

At a bar on Route 66
he had a drink
with a local man
with the gift of gab
before going outside with him
to the alley.

They talked and joked
until a cop car peeked round
their shoulders.

He quickly put away
all incriminating evidence
and stood perfectly still
convinced of his constitutional right
against unlawful search and seizure.
His newly-found friend, however,
was less convinced,
sprinting off like
a bolt of lightning.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Wilfred Owen

Dulce et Decorum est  by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

 

 

 

Time

Time
Time never tarried in the mountains you called home
in the summer
when the sun never ceased to shine
except when the monsoons came
and the rain poured down.

You bought the only national newspaper available
not for the drivel about morning dawning
but for its baseball scores.

Pool was played over pitchers of beer
with your German friend
who taught you what you always knew
about nations,
and with others
whom alcohol did nothing to improve.

Late at night
you read in bed
the precious cargo
the yaks had delivered
from distant lands.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Robert Frost

A Late Walk by Robert Frost
When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words.

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.

Ireland

“A hundred cares, a tithe of troubles and is there one who understands me? One in a thousand of years of the nights?”
(James Joyce -Finnegans Wake)

Ireland is a beautiful country. Its luscious green landscape can calm the troubled soul.

800px-Akes_lough_gur_clouds_trees_Ireland(Photographer: Jon Sullivan)

Uragh_Wood(Photographer: Espresso Addict)

As an English speaker, there’s the added advantage that you’ll never struggle to communicate or make yourself understood.  There’s also that lovely Irish lilt.  It’s been a favorite of mine since I can remember and one I heard my grandmother use growing up. I always try to include a shan’t here and there in honor of her.

My grandmother and her sisters had left the poverty in Ireland for a better life, and while before their marriages they worked as domestic help in the home of one of the U.S.’ greatest railroad barons, that was the closest they would ever come to wealth; their lives were a struggle to get by.

When their parents, who had not come with them, fell ill, Mary, the oldest sister, returned to Ireland.  In the meantime, WWI broke out, and she was unable to return to America.  It was her son and family I visited.

I had not warned them I was coming, and when I arrived at the doorstep, he was not exactly sure who I was, but a little explaining convinced him, and I was welcomed into their home, where they fed me well.

One day we took a trip to see what remained of my grandmother’ s house:

picture 2 of family home in ireland

The view from it was absolutely gorgeous:

picture 1 of irish landscape

Their idea of America was greatly influenced by the movies they saw, and they just assumed everyone had a gun.  Now this was in 1984 when I’m sure everyone didn’t have a gun.  If they were to ask me now, what would I tell them? I know what the NRA would like me to tell them – no, but if they did, everyone would be a lot safer.

They believed in spirits – no, not the Holy Spirit, formerly known as the Holy Ghost, which they no doubt did believe in.  But other ones you  might have read about.  While on the side of the materialists without their rigid arrogance stance that everyone is in error and could see right if they’d just listen, I could understand as we drove through the mist like I understood on those windy roads in Germany’s deep forests how Grimms’  fairy tales had come to be.

They asked me what my parents’ reaction would be if I married a Protestant.  Their Catholicism obviously meant a lot to them in a way that it had never or would ever for me.  They took me to a place called Martyrs’ Rock where the Catholics had prayed when their religion had been forbidden under English rule.

After a few days, they drove me into the city of Sligo where I would take the train, but not before I thumbed a ride to Yeats’  grave.

 

Yeats_grave_tn

I also thought to drop in and see what The Yeats Society was up to.  I can only guess they didn’t know what to make of me.  Very unlike Copenhagen a few weeks later where at the tourist bureau they put me on the phone with a Danish professor whose expertise was Kierkegaard and who was willing to meet up for a drink to talk about the great Dane:

Soren_Kierkegaard(Photographer: Sperantarice)

All roads, and train tracks for that matter, lead to Dublin.

 800px-Grafton_St,_Dublin(Photographer: Donaldytong)

 “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay…”
(James Joyce – Finnegans Wake)

220px-Duclin_Liffey_Dark_2008(Photographer: Jerome)

By all means enjoy the pubs:

800px-Temple_Bar_Dublin_at_Night (Photographer Trevah)

 Whether or not Guinness is actually the emperor of malted liquors I can only say if you do drink it, you will not forget it.

If you find a place with live music, by all means indulge.  Irish music has a real soul to it.  In case you doubt me:

 Enjoy both the city and the country in this lovely enchanted isle.

 

A Dry County

A Dry County
You drank
as those in the Midwest do
second nature
a beer or two.

You did not see
the wind sweeping on the plains
as much as the sun
beating mercilessly down.

A landscape with oil rigs turning about,
mechanical drills set to bleed the earth dry.
A windmill whose parts had been
disassembled.

You drank
as those in the Midwest do
second nature
a beer or two.

 

Sketch 11: The Final Embrace

As those of you who visit on a regular basis know,  every month (okay, nearly every month) I write a little background on one of the poems in my first collection, Watercolors.  If you haven’t got it, it’s free. You can download it at Smashwords by clicking on the cover on the right or here at Barnes & Noble.  By all means, write a review.

Anyway, our poem this month is The Final Embrace.  It’s about learning of the illness that would eventually take my dad’s life and journeying back to him.

Before I got the news, I was sitting in my apartment, which had a wonderful view of the sea and listening to James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James. Because I didn’t have a phone (At the time, the waiting list for one was something like eight years.), my mom had called my next door neighbor.

Living in a relatively small city, I had to fly out from a larger one about two hours away. It was before the days of the Internet so I had booked my tickets through a travel agent. Unfortunately, I had found a very greedy one. While in the street with my suitcase waiting for my taxi, someone from the travel agency told me they’d made a mistake in the pricing and needed more money. I thought I’ll give you whatever you want – I’m not going to argue. And I thought how I would give all the money I had if only my dad would be well again.

Green Leaves

Green Leaves
Green leaves move through the sky
like darting swallows.

Days and dates are as fluid
as the rapids
that ran down the creek
to the falls.

She’s unable to sit still
even for a moment
as if doing something
would fight off the decline approaching
on every side.

Her fingers are pointing,
bracing herself at every corner.

Green leaves move through the sky
like darting swallows.

Amnesia

Amnesia
With a friend
of years
you carefully traced
the steps
of a man who had come with a trade
to the thirty-eight states
and while you weren’t expecting to see
the hooks where the carcasses hung
the town’s first meat market
had been listed
as a historic site.

The blonde girl
you asked for directions
was as cheerful as could be
and asked you to contribute
something to the family of soldiers
who you knew were sent
not to promote peace in the world
as they no doubt believed
but to spread
a special form of chaos.

It could hardly be standing
in this land of amnesia.

No, raze the building
and in its place
let towers rise
to assault
the memory of a man
who brought his goods
with horse and buggy
into the capital city.

Our Midmonth’s Poet: William Butler Yeats

When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Shopping with Dementia

Shopping with Dementia
Unable to decide what
she wants
until she
sees someone
with it,
unwilling to listen
to any suggestion
that comes from my mouth
without feeling
I’m telling her
what to do.

After longer
than I’d like
to imagine
we’d finished
finding what
she may or may not
have needed.

The cop
at the exit
stopped
the blacks and latinos
and had them
open up
their bags
and produce their receipts
while we
were waved on
past.

Skipped Stones

Study of Water Plants in May

Skipped Stones
Leaves
sprout up
out of nowhere,
and are
rolled,
the smoke of which
comes from
the parted lips
that warn
of the dangers
of relying on
imagination,
and tell you
there are not
in fact
places
where your stone
might have stopped
as it skipped
across the waters.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit  1 Graphic 50 Words.