Robert Bly is a character in the poetic landscape of the 20th century, an outsider who forged a career though his passion for poetry. I wish I had known him and not just known Continue reading “Robert Bly”
This weekend I had my grandsons overnight and broke out the Puffin puzzle, which we had a lot of fun with, but didn’t finish. Then the Sunday NY Times arrived, with a brochure for cruise ships. It had this image on the cover.
When I opened my email this morning, here was a Diane Seuss poem from Poetry Daily, not about puffins, but about one of those gorgeous, detailed dead game paintings from the 1800s. Somehow, it seemed in sync with the theme.
Still Life with Turkey
The turkey’s strung up by one pronged foot,
the cord binding it just below the stiff trinity
of toes, each with its cold bent claw. My eyes
are in love with it as they are in love with all
dead things that cannot escape being looked at.
It is there to be seen if I want to see it, as my
father was there in his black casket and could not
elude our gaze. I was a child so they asked
if I wanted to see him. “Do you want to see him?”
someone asked. Was it my mother? Grandmother?
Some poor woman was stuck with the job.
“He doesn’t look like himself,” whoever-it-was
added. “They did something strange with his mouth.”
As I write this, a large moth flutters against
the window. It presses its fat thorax to the glass.
“No,” I said, I don’t want to see him.” I don’t recall
if I secretly wanted them to open the box for me
but thought that “no” was the correct response,
or if I believed I should want to see him but was
too afraid of what they’d done with his mouth.
I think I assumed that my seeing him would
make things worse for my mother, and she was allI had.
Now I can’t get enough of seeing, as if I’m paying
a sort of penance for not seeing then, and so
this turkey, hanged, its small, raw-looking head,
which reminds me of the first fully naked man
I ever saw, when I was a candy striper
at a sort of nursing home, he was a war veteran,
young, burbling crazily, his face and body red
as something scalded. I didn’t want to see,
and yet I saw. But the turkey, I am in love with it,
its saggy neck folds, the rippling, variegated
feathers, the crook of its unbound foot,
and the glorious wings, archangelic, spread
as if it could take flight, but down,
downward, into the earth.
I have a strong preference for brevity, and this little poem packs a punch:
In your pools and in your ponds
Carp, how long you live
Is it that death forgets you
Fish of melancholy
Translated from the French by Michael Zapruder (from Poetry Society of America)
|This came from the Academy of American Poets. I know it’s not May, but it seemed appropriate anyway.
Previsão do Tempo
O espírito de rebelião
também chamado de tristeza e desânimo
começou de novo sua ronda sinistra.
Sua treva e seu frio são de inferno.
Por causa de maio, esperava dias felizes;
e ensolarado até agora só o recado de Albertina,
escolhido pra cantar Jesus é o pão do céu.
Pão sem manteiga, Albertina,
é bom que o saiba.
É com ervas amargas que o come.
The spirit of rebellion
also called hopelessness
has begun another sinister round.
His dark and cold come straight from hell.
I was expecting happy days from May,
but so far the only sunny thing was Albertina’s news
that she was chosen to sing “Jesus is the bread of heaven.”
That’s bread without butter, Albertina,
just so you know.
We eat it with bitter herbs.
Among the poems I receive is this one, from Women’s Voices for Change which posts a poem with commentary every Sunday. This seemed like a good one to start 2022:
we are permitted to celebrate.
even now. “not like it was
so great in the middle ages,”
says my son, the new father.
true it is, especially for those
of peasant stock, like us.
in the ravine, small clusters of
people in masks step aside
as I push Emma in her stroller.
light falls through the leaves
like confetti over Emma.
she is perfect, though born
under the flag of Covid.
by ancient law it is said:
if a bridal party meets
a funeral party in the path,
the funeral party
must step aside.
as if she knows.
I read this about New Year’s resolutions in the Paris Review this morning:
“One estimate suggests that almost half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and yet fewer than 10 percent successfully follow through… It might be tempting to do away with this farce altogether, but before we commit to being noncommittal about the New Year, it’s worth thinking through some of the options.”
So here’s an option. My approach to this tradition is “aim low and succeed.” Some examples from past years:
No movie theater popcorn
Only good chocolate
Learn to make better salad dressings
I’m happy to report that I was able to sustain each of these resolutions, and they improved my life by a small increment. This year?
Get more massage
I have great hopes for this. Oh, you looking for something a little more uplifting? How about this: