New Year’s poem

As a sure sign of January, I saw an exercise bike by the side of the road with a “Free” sign on it. New year, new exercise resolutions, which segues nicely to Lucille Clifton’s poem:

i am running into a new year

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twenty-six and thirty-six
even thirty-six but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me

lucille clifton

A poem from Paris Review

I get lots of poems from various sources in my in box every day. This one I really like, problaby from his new book, Felon Poems:

Blood History

The things that abandon you get remembered different.
As precise as the English language can be, with words
like penultimate and perseverate, there is not a combination
of sounds that describes only that leaving. Once,
drinking & smoking with buddies, a friend asked if
I’d longed for a father. Had he said wanted, I would have
dismissed him in the way that the youth dismiss it all:
a shrug, sarcasm, a jab to his stomach, laughter.
But he said longing. & in a different place, I might
have wept. Said, Once, my father lived with us & then he
didn’t & it fucked me up so much I never thought about Continue reading “A poem from Paris Review”

Larry at the breakfast table

As background to this anecdote, yesterday both Larry and I read Mark Jarman’s excellent essay on Gilgamesh from his forthcoming book, Dailiness, which I will be reviewing. If you don’t know the Sumerian epic, Gilgamesh, it’s the oldest written story we have, in which a king and his friend kill the monster Humbaba.

This morning we were discussing, over fresh eggs and wonderful toast, the lack of acknowledgement and apology for our national racial history. I have just finished the Bryan Stevenson book, Just Mercy, and listened to him on Preet Bahara’s podcast. In addition to his work with unjustly incarcerated death row inmates, he has created a monument and a museum in Alabama that deal with slavery, lynching, etc. He said, “You don’t see any statues of Hitler in Germany, but there are 150 statues of Confederate heroes here. In Germany you can’t go five steps without a memorial or a museum about the holocaust. No one’s proud of that history.”

Talking with Larry, I said I thought as a nation we needed to acknowledge and talk about our terrible history of racial discrimination, starting with the native populations, slavery, Manzanar, etc.

Larry said, “I don’t know. Grudges run deep. I’m not sure talking about them would do much good. Humbaba’s descendants probably still hold a grudge against Gilgamash.”

Something brutal but beautiful

I have just finished reading Natalie Diaz’ first book, My Brother Was an Aztec. The poems are powerful, the imagery lush and unusual, but the subject matter–addiction, pain, the struggle with family and poverty–is told in unsparing detail. So I thought I’d start of 2020, a year that itself promises to be harsh, with one of her poems from the book:

The Beauty of a Busted Fruit

When we were children, we traced our knees,
shins, and elbows for the slightest hint of wound,
searched them for any sad red-blue scab marking us
both victim and survivor.

All this before we knew that some wounds can’t heal,
before we knew the jagged scars of Great-Grandmother’s
amputated legs, the way a rock can split a man’s head
open to its red syrup, like a watermelon, the way a brother
can pick at his skin for snakes and spiders only he can see.

Continue reading “Something brutal but beautiful”