Monday Bonus

It’s been ages since I’ve printed anything Larry said, but this evening, I asked him a question about the man who recently repainted our fence. It’s been a week and he hasn’t come around to collect his fee.

“Should I email him and ask him about it,” I wondered aloud, “Or just wait, because it’s not my problem?”

“B,” Larry responded.

Then, over dinner he told me about Ian and Sylvia. you may have heard their 50’s hit, “Love is Strange.” It was a long and intricate story that lasted all through dinner. I had just finished an article in the New Yorker about Agnes Caillard, a philosopher, and her idea of “aspirational love,” love as a sort of ladder towards the best vision of yourself. Certainly this long, rich  intertwining of my life with Larry has been that.

Marvin Bell

Marvin Bell died in 2020. I had corresponded with him–a generous man, a famous teacher of poetry.  Here is one of his poems:

To Dorothy

You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
and a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
of a windy night, it brushes the wall
and sweeps away the day till we sleep.

A child said it, and it seemed true:
"Things that are lost are all equal."
But it isn't true. If I lost you,
the air wouldn't move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn't be yours. If I lost you,
I'd have to ask the grass to let me sleep.

Marvin Bell
from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000, Copper Canyon Press

Tony Hoagland’s Last Book

I just finished Turn Up the River,  written as he was dying of cancer, published posthumously. It has some terrific poems in it, including this one:

On Why I Must Decline To Receive The Prayers You Say You Are Constantly Sending

Because first of all, I have a feeling that they didn’t cost you anything,
and so I have to wonder: What is their actual market value?

For you, is the prayer like a radar-guided projectile
mounted on the hinged-together wings of several good intentions,
propelled by the flawed translation of a Rumi poem?

Anyway, my mailbox is already pretty much occupied for the season.
At the beginning of May a big mother wren started moving in,
one mouthful of straw and twig at a time.

For three days she flew in and out, in and out and in,
building a nest the size of a small soup bowl.
Then she sat on her eggs for two weeks, cooing and fluffing to keep them warm.
Then she was busy feeding her young.

I think the heat passing through that mother’s body into her brood
has already surpassed the endoplasmic vibrational voltage
you’ve mentioned as a feature of the prayers you are sending me.

I understand that you are doing your best
to hoist yourself up toward a spiritual life,
even if it is through the doorway of a kind of pretending.

But if you really care, as you claim, please
will you kindly sit down and work your shit out?
Stop stealing reality from the world
and replacing it with make-believe!

The newspaper says that poorly aimed prayers
are causing flat tires on I-25.

The sandalwood incense blowing across the valley
is already causing cab drivers a lot of allergies.

So sit still and just look at the colors of the changing sky.
And could you stop burning so many candles, please?

My god, think how many hours and hours and hours —
think of how hard those bees worked
to make all that wax!

Bert Meyers

There are so many new poets, sometimes it’s hard to remember how many good poets have come and gone! Here’s Bert Meyer’s homage to a wonderful allium.

The Garlic

Rabbi of condiments,
whose breath is a verb,
wearing a thin beard
and a white robe;
you who are pale and small
and shaped like a fist,
a synagogue,
bless our bitterness,
transcend the kitchen
to sweeten death—
our wax in the flame
and our seed in the bread.

Now, my parents pray,
my grandfather sits,
my uncles fill
my mouth with ashes.

Bert Meyers, “The Garlic” from In a Dybbuk’s Raincoat: Collected Poems.