Tag Archives: Poetry

Wednesday Poetry Blogging

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The Wind

~Dafydd ap Gwilym (Translated By Gwyneth Lewis)

Skywind, skillful disorder,
Strong tumult walking over there,
Wondrous man, rowdy-sounding,
World hero, with neither foot nor wing.
Yeast in cloud loaves, you were thrown out
Of  sky’s pantry, with not one foot,
How swiftly you run, and so well
This moment above the high hill.

Tell me, north wind of the cwm,
Your route, reliable hymn.
Over the lengths of  the world you fly,
Tonight, hill weather, please stay high,
Ah man, go over Upper Aeron
Be lovely and cool, stay in clear tune.
Don’t hang about or let that maniac,
Litigious Little Bow, hold you back,
He’s poisonous. Society
And its goods are closed to me.

Thief  of  nests, though you winnow leaves
No one accuses you, nor impedes
You, no band of men, nor magistrate’s hand,
Nor blue blade, nor flood, nor rain.
Indeed, no son of  man can kill you,
Fire won’t burn nor treason harm you.
You shall not drown, as you’re aware,
You’re never stuck, you’re angle-less air.
No need of  swift horse to get about,
Nor bridge over water, nor any boat.
No officer or force will hand you over
To court for fingering treetop feathers.
Sight cannot see you, wide-open den,
But thousands hear you, nest of   great rain.

You are God’s grace across the world,
The roar when breaking tops of oaks are hurled,
You hang clouds’ notes in heavens’ score
And dance athletically over moors
Dry-humored, clever creature,
Over clouds’ stepping-stones you travel far,
Archer on fields of snow up high,
Disperser of rubbish piles in loud cries.
Storm that’s stirring up the sea
Randy surfer where land meets sea.
Bold poet, rhyming snowdrifts you are,
Sower, scatterer of  leaves you are,
Clown of peaks, you get off scot-free,
Hurler of mad-masted, foaming sea.

I was lost once I felt desire
For Morfudd of the golden hair.
A girl has caused my disgrace,
Run up to her father’s house,
Knock on the door, make him open
To my messenger before the dawn,
Find her if there’s any way,
Give song to the voice of  my sigh.
You come from unsullied stars,
Tell my noble, generous her:
For as long as I’m alive
I will be her loyal slave.
My face without her’s a mess
If it’s true she’s not been faithless.

Go up high, see the one who’s white,
Go down below, sky’s favorite.
Go to Morfudd Llwyd the fair,
Come back safe, wealth of the air.

Picture found here.

Saturday Poetry Blogging

Decaying-Leaf_hires

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

~ Adam Zagajewski
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Picture found here.

May the Goddess Guard Him. May He Find His Way to the Summerlands. May His Friends and Family Know Peace.

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So close — so close — mere hours from Samhain, with the veils as thin as spider lace, as thin as an Autumn leaf all gone but the veins, as thin as woodsmoke. One of America’s great poets, Gallway Kinnell has slipped away. If it is every truly said of any of us, then he goes forth shining, then his memory will be a blessing, then when he is remembered, he shall live.

NTodd has already posted one of my very favorite of Mr. Kinnell’s poems, St. Francis and the Sow. And how can you not love a poem with the line, “everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing”?

St. Francis and the Sow always reminds me of Seamus Heaney’s poem, St. Kevin and the Blackbird:

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.
*
And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

How can you not love a poem with the line: “A prayer his body makes entirely”?

As we writhe, all of us, within the death throws of Patriarchy, it’s so wonderfully helpful to have these images of strong men, men doing difficult things that affirm and support life, men who limn male strength, men who co-create the world.

Mr. Kinnell wrote about eating blackberries for breakfast:

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry — eating in late September.

How can you not love a poem with the lines: “the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge”?

And now that he’s slipped between the veils, I think of his poem, How Could You Not, for the poet Jane Kenyon

It is a day after many days of storms.
Having been washed and washed, the air glitters;
small heaped cumuli blow across the sky; a shower
visible against the firs douses the crocuses.
We knew it would happen one day this week.
Now, when I learn you have died, I go
to the open door and look across at New Hampshire
and see that there, too, the sun is bright
and clouds are making their shadowy ways along the horizon;
and I think: How could it not have been today?
In another room, Keri Te Kanawa is singing
the Laudate Dominum of Mozart, very faintly,as if in the past, to those who once sat
in the steel seat of the old mowing machine,
cheerful descendent of the scythe of the grim reaper,
and drew the cutter bars little
reciprocating triangles through the grass
to make the stalks lie down in sunshine.
Could you have walked in the dark early this morning
and found yourself grown completely tired
of the successes and failures of medicine,
of your year of pain and despair remitted briefly
now and then by hope that had that leaden taste?
Did you glimpse in first light the world as you loved it
and see that, now, it was not wrong to die
and that, on dying, you would leave
your beloved in a day like paradise?
Near sunrise did you loosen your hold a little?
How could you not already have felt blessed for good,
having these last days spoken your whole heart to him,
who spoke his whole heart to you, so that in the silence
he would not feel a single word was missing?
How could you not have slipped into a spell,in full daylight, as he lay next to you,
with his arms around you, as they have been,it must have seemed, all your life?
How could your cheek not press a moment to his cheek,
which presses itself to yours from now on?
How could you not rise and go, with all that light
at the window, those arms around you, and the sound,
coming or going, hard to say, of a single-engine
plane in the distance that no one else hears?

How can you not love a poem of death with the lines: “Now, when I learn you have died, I go to the open door and look across at New Hampshire and see that there, too, the sun is bright inside it, giving it light?”

Mr. Kinnell was sometimes compared to the American poet Walt Whitman. His obituary, from his own state of Vermont, says that he “embraced difficult issues. He protested the war in Vietnam. He protested the war in Iraq. He fought for civil rights. He argued against scarring the landscape of his beloved Northeast Kingdom.” The obit continues:

Kinnell was known for mixing the beauty of words with the harshness of social and political struggle. He was an outspoken critic of war, from Vietnam in the 1960s to the Iraq War in 2003. He joined a group of Vermont poets that year for a reading in Manchester after the White House called off a planned national literary symposium because some of the poets planned to read work opposing the Iraq War. A Rhode Island native, Kinnell recited the poetry of Whitman at that Manchester event.

“His bitterness is not because he was a bitter person or because he was anti-American or unpatriotic,” Kinnell said of Whitman in a 2003 Associated Press article. “It was because he loved America so much that he was continually disappointed.”

One of the things that I most love about Mr. Kinnell’s poetry is how willing he was to write about the hard truths. And so, since NTodd has already blogged St. Francis and the Sow, I’ll leave you with my second-favorite Galway Kinnell poem, The Bear:

1
In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear.

2
I take a wolf’s rib and whittle
it sharp at both ends
and coil it up
and freeze it in blubber and place it out
on the fairway of the bears.

And when it has vanished
I move out on the bear tracks,
roaming in circles
until I come to the first, tentative, dark
splash on the earth.

And I set out
running, following the splashes
of blood wandering over the world.
At the cut, gashed resting places
I stop and rest,
at the crawl-marks
where he lay out on his belly
to overpass some stretch of bauchy ice
I lie out
dragging myself forward with bear-knives in my fists.

3
On the third day I begin to starve,
at nightfall I bend down as I knew I would
at a turd sopped in blood,
and hesitate, and pick it up,
and thrust it in my mouth, and gnash it down,
and rise
and go on running.

4
On the seventh day,
living by now on bear blood alone,
I can see his upturned carcass far out ahead, a scraggled,
steamy hulk,
the heavy fur riffling in the wind.

I come up to him
and stare at the narrow-spaced, petty eyes,
the dismayed
face laid back on the shoulder, the nostrils
flared, catching
perhaps the first taint of me as he
died.

I hack
a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink,
and tear him down his whole length
and open him and climb in
and close him up after me, against the wind,
and sleep.

5
And dream
of lumbering flatfooted
over the tundra,
stabbed twice from within,
splattering a trail behind me,
splattering it out no matter which way I lurch,
no matter which parabola of bear-transcendence,
which dance of solitude I attempt,
which gravity-clutched leap,
which trudge, which groan.

6
Until one day I totter and fall—
fall on this
stomach that has tried so hard to keep up,
to digest the blood as it leaked in,
to break up
and digest the bone itself: and now the breeze
blows over me, blows off
the hideous belches of ill-digested bear blood
and rotted stomach
and the ordinary, wretched odor of bear,

blows across
my sore, lolled tongue a song
or screech, until I think I must rise up
and dance. And I lie still.

7
I awaken I think. Marshlights
reappear, geese
come trailing again up the flyway.
In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear
lies, licking
lumps of smeared fur
and drizzly eyes into shapes
with her tongue. And one
hairy-soled trudge stuck out before me,
the next groaned out,
the next,
the next,
the rest of my days I spend
wandering: wondering
what, anyway,
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?

How can you not love a poem with the lines: “what, anyway, was that sticky insfusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?”

And, of course, he wrote what I think is likely THE great poem to the Great Rite: Last Gods.

Last Gods – Galway Kinnell

She sits naked on a rock
a few yards out in the water.He stands on the shore,
also naked, picking blueberries.She calls. He turns. she opens
her legs showing him her great beauty,
and smiles, a bow of lips
seeming to tie together
the ends of the earth.
Splashing her image
to pieces, he wades out
and stands before her, sunk
to the anklebones in leaf-mush
and bottom-slime—the intimacy
of the geographical. He puts
a berry in its shirt
of mist into her mouth
She swallows it. He puts in another.
She swallows it. Over the lake
two swallows whim, juke jink,and when one snatches
an insect they both whirl up and exult. He is swollen
not with ichor but with blood.
She takes him and talks him
more swollen. He kneels, opens
the dark, vertical smile
linking heaven with the underearth
and murmurs her smoothest flesh more smooth.
On top of the rock they join.
Somewhere a frog moans, a crow screams.
The hair of their bodies
startles up. They cry
in the tongue of the last gods,
who refused to go,
chose death, and shuddered
in joy and shattered in pieces,
bequeathing their cries
into the human breast. Now in the lake
two faces, floating, see up
a great maternal pine whose branches
open out in all directions
explaining everything.

How can you not love a poem like that?

I’ll always believe that Mr. Kinnell wrote the poems for the passing of Patriarchy, in all its forms.

Do you have a favorite poem?

Picture found here.

Monday Halloween Poetry Blogging

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A Witch

~ William Barnes

There’s thik wold hag, Moll Brown, look zee, jus’ past!
I wish the ugly sly wold witch
Would tumble over into ditch;
I woulden pull her out not very vast.
No, no. I don’t think she’s a bit belied,
No, she’s a witch, aye, Molly’s evil-eyed.
Vor I do know o’ many a-withrèn blight
A-cast on vo’k by Molly’s mutter’d spite;
She did, woone time, a dreadvul deäl o’ harm
To Farmer Gruff’s vo’k, down at Lower Farm.
Vor there, woone day, they happened to offend her,
An’ not a little to their sorrow,
Because they woulden gi’e or lend her
Zome’hat she come to bag or borrow;
An’ zoo, they soon began to vind
That she’d agone an’ left behind
Her evil wish that had such pow’r,
That she did meäke their milk an’ eäle turn zour,
An’ addle all the aggs their vowls did lay;
They coulden vetch the butter in the churn,
An’ all the cheese begun to turn
All back ageän to curds an’ whey;
The little pigs, a-runnèn wi’ the zow,
Did zicken, zomehow, noobody know’d how,
An’ vall, an’ turn their snouts towárd the sky.
An’ only gi’e woone little grunt, and die;
An’ all the little ducks an’ chickèn
Wer death-struck out in yard a-pickèn
Their bits o’ food, an’ vell upon their head,
An’ flapp’d their little wings an’ drapp’d down dead.
They coulden fat the calves, they woulden thrive;
They coulden seäve their lambs alive;
Their sheep wer all a-coath’d, or gi’ed noo wool;
The hosses vell away to skin an’ bwones,
An’ got so weak they coulden pull
A half a peck o’ stwones:
The dog got dead-alive an’ drowsy,
The cat vell zick an’ woulden mousy;
An’ every time the vo’k went up to bed,
They wer a-hag-rod till they wer half dead.
They us’d to keep her out o’ house, ’tis true,
A-naïlèn up at door a hosses shoe;
An’ I’ve a-heärd the farmer’s wife did try
To dawk a needle or a pin
In drough her wold hard wither’d skin,
An’ draw her blood, a-comèn by:
But she could never vetch a drap,
For pins would ply an’ needless snap
Ageän her skin; an’ that, in coo’se,
Did meäke the hag bewitch em woo’se.

Picture found here.

Wednesday Evening Poetry Blogging

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Samhain

~ Annie Finch

(The Celtic Halloween)
In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother’s mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
“Carry me.” She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.

Picture found here.

Highway 15, Central Virginia

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Highway 15, Central Virginia

~ Hecate Demetersdatter

And Autumn after Autumn,
Virginia’s seeds keep falling
On this red clay.
On this clay made red by iron,
On this iron that ruddies my blood,
On this clay that pentacles the hematite moving through my veins.

First Peoples track turkeys
and sedum falls on clay.
Englishmen rave in Jamestown,
and jimson weed falls on clay.
Settlers light out for the Blue Ridge,
and ragweed falls on clay.
Slaves follow Miss Harriet through bogswamps,
and toadflax falls on clay.

Vultures eat dead deer.
Chipmunks fill their cheeks with seeds.
Raccoons wash paw paws in sleepy creeks.
Mushrooms decay into duff.

As blue and grey collide, brother spilling brother’s blood,
asters, white and blue, fall on clay.
(Iron red blood drips onto iron red clay. One thing becomes another, in the Mother, in the Mother. Perhaps when a thousand Autumns pass, we’ll know what this became. It’s clear we’re still processing this, still working out the story.)
As sharecroppers trade scrip for flour and coffee,
scarlet magnolia seeds fall on clay.
As cotton is king and ragtime plays,
horsenettle falls on clay.

Women make sausage gravy, die in bloody births, wring chickens’ necks, make quilts, and ostracize each other, as colonized people do.
Children skip stones.
Old people eat grits inside log cabins made close with smoke.
Knights of the KKK burn crosses.

As boys go off to die for Duke Ferdinand,
Autumn camellia seeds fall on clay.
As radios play jazz,
withered poke berries fall on clay.
As we all get rich on stocks,
broomsedge seeds fall on clay.
Miz Holiday’s strange fruit drops to the ground and is buried under clay.

The WPA builds damns, cuts roads, seeds fish.
The black diaspora swells. New York. Baltimore. Chicago. Detroit.
Bottle trees sprout outside respectable homes.
Tobacco money grows colleges and gardens.
Segregated drinking fountains stain the land.
Separate is proposed as a synonym for equal.

No one believes it.

Seeds fall.

Weeds grow along the liminal space between pavement and pine forest.
Old women gather cool plantain leaves, ripe blackberries, and the birth control of Queen Anne’s seeds.
Chicory flowers escape from Monticello and bloom blue across the state.
Foxtail and goosegrass feed the birds.

And Virginia’s clay absorbs them all.

Each Autumn, there is a new harvest.

We drive past, drunk on dappled sunlight and shadow, in love with every weed we see. We, too, are made of this harvest. We, too, will fall on clay.

Picture found here.

Friday Night Poetry Blogging

The Conjugation of the Paramecium
~ Muriel Rukeyser

This has nothing
to do with
propagating

The species
is continued
as so many are
(among the smaller creatures)
by fission

(and this species
is very small
next in order to
the amoeba, the beginning one)

The paramecium
achieves, then,
immortality
by dividing

But when
the paramecium
desires renewal
strength another joy
this is what
the paramecium does:

The paramecium
lies down beside
another paramecium

Slowly inexplicably
the exchange
takes place
in which
some bits
of the nucleus of each
are exchanged

for some bits
of the nucleus
of the other

This is called
the conjugation of the paramecium.