A little while back, RT fell on a concrete patio and fractured a rib. These things, painful as they are, can focus our energies and get us moving again. They can also drive us a little crazy, which might not be a bad thing, either.
Which brings us to tonight’s set of poems (and by the way, the rib seems to be healing nicely). All poems have an appointment with an anonymous meaning coach, which they may or may not keep. RT isn’t sure about this set, sidetracked, perhaps, by certain siren calls. The coach, in the meantime, taps its fingers loudly, as it should; we don’t want our words to be mish-mash.
The bargain isn’t easily struck. Each poem has its own inner necessity or logic, which is the meaning that it offers. But like the electric guitars that RT was listening to while he composed, such steely structure is offset by shape, color, tuning, and a combination of visual and musical drama. Poems can give little guidance as they emerge, or maybe all that is needed. It’s about what sounds good. And what means something (but what?).
three shorts #3
your fractured rib is;
mind forgotten, tottering.
death laughs; you laugh, gasp.
the boy next door curses—
proud, the cell-phone hum-a-lums
you back. buzz, beer bee!
before you, being
and ere February pass,
your car eyes. fat snow.
© 2017, The Rag Tree
Photo: 1990 Yamaha Pacifica 921. Freebird from Madrid, Spain. WikiCmns. CC BY-SA 2.0.
RT doesn’t talk much about the four years he spent in Paris as a teenager. It’s kind of like talking about what it’s like being a poet; you know you’re damn lucky to be one and that any mention of it brings out a surreptitious feeling in your interlocutor, “My life isn’t as rich as that!” Unless of course he or she happens to be a poet–and has admitted it to themselves. And the resentment that talking about Paris or poetry stirs up in people who have never had close encounters with either makes it very hard to describe the equivocal position of us makers (or makaris, as the Scots call us): we are in exile from the Great City as we are in exile from the deepest source of ourselves, the beauty in our voices. The sense of beauty is always with us, but it is not easy to actually go back to the places we acquired it and re-experience it directly.
Or maybe this is just a complicated way of saying none of us can go back to our youths.
Anyway, our sleepy poet has had yet another YouTube epiphany, this one just a few minutes ago as he listened to Joni Mitchell‘s “Edith and the Kingpin” from her amazing and difficult 1975 album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. God, this thing is gorgeous!
The song summoned feelings that RT usually leaves where he felt them forty or so years ago, memories of the intense beauty of Paris and the various thunderbolts of panic thrown at him by the muses as they awakened him to the transparency and mystery of the world. RT had a rather dramatic time in the City of Lights, but one that he kept to himself (and for some years after).
Or maybe this is just a roundabout reminder that poetry and Paris aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. What, after all, is wrong with being a commodities trader in Chicago, a teacher in Arizona, or a secretary in Boston? Lives like these are full of possibilities that creative folk in general don’t participate in.
RT knows that in fact his first encounters with poetry took place before his family’s posting in France, but not with the kind of urgency that neatly separates a teenager from the prospects of a normal life. Sorry, but you’re too busy struggling with your inner voice to be bothered with keeping a schedule…
And then there were encounters with the voice and images of Joni Mitchell to remind RT of what transcendent reality might look like. And come to think of it, it was in Paris that RT first acquired an interest in things ancient and Middle Eastern (not least from JM’s album Hejira). RT confesses himself plain puzzled by the relative obscurity that JM has slipped into, but trusts that genius will out and receive its due, even if the process takes a few more decades.
All of this is by way of introduction to one of RT’s recent poetic efforts and a link to Edith and the Kingpin. Here is the poem:
star plunges down the sky:
the impact shrivels a hill,
leaves the glowing nugget
to cool in a dusty, windy
and they come dancing,
singing for the rain, the
bolts that burst upon them:
thorny canes, fierce blossoms.
they cut a blade, free an axe
from the hard starfall,
shape lesser stone for walls
the waters are rising
& they people the cube
with Betelgeuese, Deneb,
Fomalhaut: seal the door.
they will make landfall.
Copyright © 2014, The Rag Tree
&, with thanks to JM for the inspiration, here is “Edith and the Kingpin”
* * *
you’re not here, you say
yes i am! i’m talking to you!
no you’re not; you never call
but i write you.
it’s not the same.
maybe this is the place.
What do you mean?
our love is a long saying;
this might be where we
say it best
but you’re never here.
the word takes me voyaging.
do you think it could ever work
all i have is these pearls.
Copyright © 2013, The Rag Tree
Photo: Ariel (1894). LOC. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
RT notes with sorrow the recent shooting at the Washington Naval Yard. He hopes that the United States will find a way to finally end the long string of mass shootings that has plagued the country for decades.
It’s easy at moments like this to think that no solution to pressing problems can be found. Things seem cut and dried and the forces opposing reasonable reform stronger than those working for constructive change. Then, at least in RT’s experience, you run across a bit of information or news that makes things seem less bleak.
Pushkin’s story itself is remarkable. Generally considered to be the greatest poet that Russia has produced (and Russian society reveres its poets), Pushkin was born into an aristocratic family, but was himself one-eighth black–a great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal (1696–1781), was a Black African page rescued from slavery in Istanbul, educated, and raised by Peter the Great. APG went on to become the General en Chef, in charge of building forts and canals in Russia.
The great-grandson’s story is just as unusual. By the time he was a teenager, Pushkin’s literary talent was recognized, and he graduated in the first class of the prestigious Imperial Lyceum. But Pushkin’s writings acquired a political bent. The Imperial government exiled him from Moscow; during this period, he became a Freemason. The poet was active in the Greek Revolution, but upon his return to Russia was exiled, this time to his mother’s estate. He was released from exile by Czar Nicholas I, but his time in Moscow was nearly as restrictive: he was unable to publish or travel at will (in fact, Pushkin’s play, Boris Godunov, was not published in its original, uncensored form until 2007).
Pushkin was famously sensitive about his honor, and died as a result of wounds inflicted in a duel over his wife’s honor.
Pushkin’s novel in verse, Eugene Onegin, written in Onegin Stanzas, has been hugely influential in Russian literature and cultural life: an opera, a ballet, a play, and several movies are based on it. But Pushkin’s dense language has proven difficult to translate into English, and he has remained relatively unknown in the English-speaking world.
Here, then, is the form for the Onegin Stanza: iambic tetrameter with the rhyme scheme “aBaBccDDeFFeGG”, where the lowercase letters represent feminine endings (i.e., with an additional unstressed syllable) and the uppercase representing masculine ending (i.e. stressed on the final syllable).
And a sample from Eugene Onegin:
My uncle -- high ideals inspire him; but when past joking he fell sick, he really forced one to admire him -- and never played a shrewder trick. Let others learn from his example! But God, how deadly dull to sample sickroom attendance night and day and never stir a foot away! And the sly baseness, fit to throttle, of entertaining the half-dead: one smooths the pillows down in bed, and glumly serves the medicine bottle, and sighs, and asks oneself all through: "When will the devil come for you?" (translator: Charles Hepburn Johnston)
Portrait: Alexander Pushkin; Painter: V.A. Tropinin. WikiCmns; CC 1.0 Public Domain Dedication.
The bleak fields are asleep,
My heart alone wakes;
The evening in the harbour
Down his red sails takes.
Night, guardian of dreams,
Now wanders through the land;
The moon, a lily white,
Blossoms within her hand.
–Rainier Maria Rilke, (trans. Jessie Lamont, 1918). Project Gutenberg, Public Domain.
a day with a happy ending… RT
(reposted from doodlemum)
plastic tarp blown off
the rose is probably dead–
petal hangs ghost white
© copyright 2013, The Rag Tree
Photo: Winter Landscape, Charles H. White. Source: Camera Work, No. 3, 1903. WikiCmns, Public Domain.