A.E. Stallings

Today I read a review of Alicia Stallings new book of poems, This Afterlife, by David Orr, in which he mentions: The main thing Stallings has going for her is that she’s good at writing poems. She is!. I reviewed her book LIKE  for ZYZZYVA a few years ago. She often uses form, meter, rhyme, as in this unusual sonnet. I don’t know if this is in the new book, I’ve ordered it, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Sea Girls

“Not gulls, girls.” You frown, and you insist—
Between two languages, you work at words
(R’s and L’s, it’s hard to get them right.)
We watch the heavens’ flotsam:  garbage-white
Above the island dump (just out of sight),
Dirty, common, greedy—only birds.
OK, I acquiesce, too tired to banter.

Somehow they’re not the same, though. See, they rise
As though we glimpsed them through a torn disguise—
Spellbound maidens, wild in flight, forsaken—
Some metamorphosis that Ovid missed,
With their pale breasts, their almost human cries.
So maybe it is I who am mistaken;
But you have changed them. You are the enchanter.

A.E. Stallings




A penny for your prayer

I really try to ignore the political scene. It’s just too depressing, and like the changing of time for Daylight Savings and back, feels totally outside my control. But after reading today about prayer breakfasts on Capitol Hill, I felt moved to compose this:

Prayer’s a very private thing—
a scouring of the soul, a reckoning,
a probing of just what is meant,
a clarifying of intent.
And anyone I’ve seen to pray
in any kind of public way
who makes a show of piety,
advertises their propriety,
shows up, on examination
to be a card-carrying member
of the hypocrite nation.

Larry, on reading it, shrugged and said “too unsubtle,” and came up with a pithier, more succinct version:

If it’s public it ain’t a prayer.

It’s bon mots like this that keep those gourmet meals coming.

In the same NY Times article, they referenced David Orr’s selection of poems to assign to Congress. Here are two I’d choose:

Sailing to Byzantium by Wm. Yeats

Cantatrice by John Berryman.  As I can’t find this online, here it is, Dream Song #233

Misunderstanding. Misunderstanding, misunderstanding.
Are we stationed here among another thing?
Sometimes I wonder.
After the lightning, this afternoon, came thunder:
the natural world makes sense: cats hate water
and love fish.

Fish, plankton, bats’ radar, the sense of fish
who glide up the coast of South America
and head for Gibraltar.
How do they know it’s there? We call this instinct
by which we dream we know what instinct is,
like misunderstanding.

I was soft on a green girl once and we smiled across
and married, childed. Never did we truly take in
one burning wing.
Henry flounders. What is the name of that fish?
So better organized than we are oh.
Sing to me that name, enchanter, sing!

*                    *                *

How about that for a prayer?