Monday Poem

Ross Gay is a sincerely upbeat poet, optimistic but never smarmy.  Here is his poem from Bringing the Shovel Down (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011).

Sorrow Is Not My Name

after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers

Not a poem

I know everyone is posting moving, relevant poems right now. But I thought a little levity would be more useful. Here are some favorites from a list of “Rules of the Blues:”

  1. The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch–ain’t no way out.
  2. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs, and broken-down trucks. Blues don’t travel in Volvos, BMWs or SUVs. Most blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Walkin’ plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.
  3. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best place to have the Blues.
  4. You can’t have no Blues in a office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.
  5. You have the right to sing the Blues if:
    a) You older than dirt
    b) You blind
    c) You shot a man in Memphis
    d) You can’t be satisfied
  6. If you ask for water and your darlin’ give you gasoline, it’s the Blues.

There are more, but you get the idea. If you have to stay in your house or apartment to flatten the virus curve, it’s not the Blues.

This one seemed perfect for my good friend Laurie, a natural perfumer. You can see her products at https://purrfumery.com/collections.  But I don’t think you’ll find this one there.

When You Can Get It

A woman went to the perfume counter and asked,
What scent says, I think it rained last night?
The clerk turned to her cabinet, put her hands on her hips, then
offered a small blue bottle. The woman put a drop
on her wrist. It smelled of jasmine and wood smoke.
There was also iron and something like mint, only
colder. No, she said, I mean I think it rained but I’m not
sure. The clerk consulted her bottles again, opened
a drawer by her feet. Finally, she went to a coat hung
on the back of a chair and dug in the pockets. She
withdrew something tiny and held it out. It was a gray
bird, wet and alive. Its throat flashed purple and green
as it panted. This is the last of it, she said.

Brendan Constantine

From Moira, The Woodbury University Literary Magazine

Henri Cole

Henri Cole has written many powerful poems, but “Radiant Ivory” is one of my favorites, starting with the title, which seems so vibrant just on its own. I think it is the specificity of the language that makes the poem come to life for me. Phrases like “perforated silver box,” and snow as “white, insane, slathery,” reflecting the poet’s inner turmoil:

Radiant Ivory

After the death of my father, I locked
myself in my room, bored and animal-like.
The travel clock, the Johnnie Walker bottle,
the parrot tulips—everything possessed his face,
chaste and obscure. Snow and rain battered the air
white, insane, slathery. Nothing poured
out of me except sensibility, dilated.
It was as if I were sub-born—preverbal,
truculent, pure—with hard ivory arms
reaching out into a dark and crowded space,
illuminated like a perforated silver box
or a little room in which glowing cigarettes
came and went, like souls losing magnitude,
but none with the battered hand I knew.
from Middle Earth, Farrar, Straus & Giroux