Mother Goose Rhyme

Martin Shkreli, Pharma Bro’ –
How does your karma grow?
With Retrophin and Daraprim
And seven long years in a row.

Awash in wind…

UD shares the best wind poem she knows. It’s by Ted Hughes.

**************

Wind

This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up –
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

Valentine

N.V.N.

There is a sacred, secret line in loving
which attraction and even passion cannot cross,—
even if lips draw near in awful silence
and love tears at the heart.

Friendship is weak and useless here,
and years of happiness, exalted and full of fire,
because the soul is free and does not know
the slow luxuries of sensual life.

Those who try to come near it are insane
and those who reach it are shaken by grief,
So now you know exactly why
my heart beats no faster under your hand.

******************************

[From Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova, translated from the Russian by Jane Kenyon with Vera Sandomirsky Dunham (1985)]

******************************
******************************

One does feel this –
That everything from paper hearts to fervid verse
Only faintly approaches the insane grief-shaken
Love the free soul can conceive.

We are therefore kindest to ourselves
When we close our mind-forg’d manacles
Somewhat
Around our too-fast-beating hearts.

UD.

Beautiful writing about a beautiful game.

Did you not see Cam Newton
Splattered all over the Superdome turf
And Dante Fowler Jr. slam Tyrod Taylor’s head
So hard into the EverBank Field grass that he sent him
Straight into concussion protocol?

You can still crush quarterbacks.

Did you not see Travis Kelce
Absorb a skull shot so vicious
It left him wobbling like a dazed boxer?

You can still hammer receivers.

It’s football. A lot of us fell in love with it
In part for the violence, and the violence remains.

*****************

Not much has changed through the years
Besides the size of the beast. It’s big guys
Banging into each other for three hours,
Giving and receiving sub-concussive hits nobody talks about.

Watch the Steelers and Jaguars smash heads
Sunday at Heinz Field. You’ll see a game
As violent as any they played in
1960s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s.

Whatever’s been lost in gratuitous savagery
— a Dick Butkus clothesline tackle — is more than
Compensated for by greater size, strength and speed.

The 60 mph collisions from 1970 are 90 mph now.
And it’s not Volkswagens anymore. It’s 18-wheelers.
Ben Roethlisberger is bigger than Dwight White was
When he played for the Steel Curtain.

Near-Anagrams Hymn on …

… the word of the day.


Dzhisös, the hohliest ov mortal men
On this, our fallen earth of eoliths,
To thee we offer selihoth, amen:
Qui thollies peccata mundi, inwith.

New Year: From Delmore Schwartz, “In the Green Morning, Now, Once More”

The merry, the musical,
The jolly, the magical,
The feast, the feast of feasts, the festival
Suddenly ended
As the sky descended
But there was only the feeling,
In all the dark falling,
Of fragrance and of freshness, of birth and beginning.

UDesque Seasons Greetings

A gray dawn breaks
Over the “deaf-mute space ocean”
And UD shuts the window of morning readings
To tap out electric greetings:

The better part of wisdom is to share
Keep your mind in hell and do not despair.
In interludes among fests of nativity,
Do not forget the voice of our declivity:

“Why do people fear dying alone and unloved?
What difference does it make?”
“You know in the end, none of it matters,
What happens to you in your life. Not suffering.
Not happiness or unhappiness. Not illness. Not prison. Nothing.

Among some porcelain, among some talk of you and me
Do not forget: The blood jet is poetry.

A UDesque Christmas Prayer


Caretaker! take care, for we run in straits.
Daily, by night, we walk naked to storm,
some threat of wholesale loss, to ruinous fear.
Gift us with long cloaks & adrenalin.

Who haunt the avenues of Angkor Wat
recalling all that prayer, that glory dispersed,
haunt me at the corner of Fifth & Hennepin.
Shield & fresh fountain! Manifester! Even mine.

John Berryman

A Poem.

Alien Visitation

A second crew with whom to mourn
Th’ uncaptained flight of being

Back-up pilots from the planetary bush
Their super-accelerator a higher-order joke

On our common want of a destination
An estimated time of the arrival of meaning

*******************

Flying at 88,000! Boiling the calm Pacific!

*******************

Then, taking a seat in our cabin to share
Camusian notes on the silence of the universe

“Your children wander aimlessly poisoned by cocaine, / Choosing to indulge their lusts, when God has said abstain.”

Senate candidate Roy Moore’s poem warns us that the end is nigh because of our indulged lusts and aimlessly wandering children.

He knows whereof he speaks.

Poem.

THE NARCOTIC FAMINE


‘The American opioid-overdose epidemic must be addressed in the same stroke as the [global] narcotic famine.’

Hard to imagine
Narcotic famine

The stark hills the plain
Wide face of pain’s

End-of-life. Our morphine-feed.
Their tumbleweed.

Or the black unmitigated tea
Of uninfused misery.

Against our continuous bolus
The subcutaneous solace

That tranquils labored breath,
Sedates us up to death …

Their bitter unassistive pill.
Unpalliated kill.

Richard Wilbur, a Great American Poet, has Died.

At 96. Here’s one of his best poems. It’s nice and seasonal.

In the Elegy Season

Haze, char, and the weather of All Souls’:
A giant absence mopes upon the trees:
Leaves cast in casual potpourris
Whisper their scents from pits and cellar-holes.

Or brewed in gulleys, steeped in wells, they spend
In chilly steam their last aromas, yield
From shallow hells a revenance of field
And orchard air. And now the envious mind

Which could not hold the summer in my head
While bounded by that blazing circumstance
Parades these barrens in a golden trance,
Remembering the wealthy season dead,

And by an autumn inspiration makes
A summer all its own. Green boughs arise
Through all the boundless backward of the eyes,
And the soul bathes in warm conceptual lakes.

Less proud than this, my body leans an ear
Past cold and colder weather after wings’
Soft commotion, the sudden race of springs,
The goddess’ tread heard on the dayward stair,

Longs for the brush of the freighted air, for smells
Of grass and cordial lilac, for the sight
Of green leaves building into the light
And azure water hoisting out of wells.

******************

UD‘s Wilbur posts. (Scroll down.)

The Ball Turret Gunner, today.

From my mother’s sleep I fell into State U.
And I drank in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Miles from home, loosed from my parents’ love,
I woke to black vodka and the nightmare brothers.
When I died I was .495 booze.

The Death of John Ashbery is a Bump in the Day, A Flooding of the Council.

America’s greatest postmodern poet has died. And just like he was saying, one is – on hearing of his death – bumped from one’s dog-perch.

DAY BUMP

Whether the harborline or the east shoreline
consummated it was nobody’s biz until you got there,
eyelids ashimmer, content with one more dispensation
from blue above. And just like we were saying,
the people began to show some interest
in the mud-choked harbor. It could be summer again
for all anyone in our class knew.
Yeah, that’s right. Bumped from our dog-perch,
we’d had to roil with the last of them.

It’s taken a while since I’ve been here,
but I’m resolved. What, didn’t I print,
little piles of notes, slopes almost Sicilian?
Here is my friend:
Socks for comfort (now boys) will see later. Did they come?
The inner grocery had to take three sets of clips away.
Speaking to him of intricate family affairs.
I’m not what you think. Stay preconscious.
It’s just the “flooding of the council.” No need to feel afraid.

*********************

Whatayawhataya. Hold on and we’ll try to make some sense of it. All the while remembering first this from Ashbery:

What [my poems] are is about the privacy of all of us, and the difficulty of our own thinking. And in that way, they are, I think, accessible if anyone cares to access them.

IOW: The soul of man is a far country (Heraclitus).

And second, this from John Koethe:

The tone [of an Ashbery poem is] likely to be nostalgic and its motions those of reverie. Its predominant feelings are passive ones, like resignation and loss; its language is resonant and suggestive; the use of narrative past tense invests it with a mythological quality; and its overall effect is one of tenderness. It dissociates itself, especially in its transitions and patterns of inference, from everyday ideas of rationality and control; its awareness of language is informed by a sense of its limitations…

So here we go.

****************

DAY BUMP

[The poem will narrate a break in a day – something bumping into the normal flow of event. But as in the phrase bumping up, there is something clarifying about this disturbance, this – to use a word we’ll find in the poem – sudden roiling.]

Whether the harborline or the east shoreline
consummated it was nobody’s biz until you got there,

[Coastal holiday setting, it seems, harbors and shores; and if you look at the next stanza and note the word resolved, you’ll see that a conflict between, or confluence of, stability and instability appears in the poem. The speaker awaits a friend who will join him at the shore/harbor, and nothing will clarify itself until he gets there. Consummation has a sexual connotation as well, and I’m going to suggest that this poem may be about Ashbery remembering himself as a closeted young man among straight friends. Finally, on the assumption that many of Ashbery’s autobiographical poems are about writing poetry, there’s maybe a suggestion here that nothing in the world “consummates” or “resolves” into existence until the poet puts it into words. Until then, it’s all roiling and flooding and bumps.]

eyelids ashimmer, content with one more dispensation
from blue above.

[His friend is not a writer; he is merely content that nature has gifted him with another beautiful blue day, sunlight in which his eyelids shimmer. Actually, our writer isn’t a writer yet either; both of them continue to live in that blessed condition of unselfconscious youth in which you take the world, eagerly, just as it comes to you. You are one with it.].

And just like we were saying,
the people began to show some interest
in the mud-choked harbor.

[Hm. Maybe there’s a threat of flooding there – maybe it’s not a “harbor” at all, but, looked at more carefully, a mud-soaked about-to-be-flood.].

It could be summer again
for all anyone in our class knew.
Yeah, that’s right.

[Language drawn from the poet’s youth here, when he was still in “class,” and when he and his friends said to one another would-be cool phrases like Yeah, that’s right.].

Bumped from our dog-perch,
we’d had to roil with the last of them.

[Locals, these boys were above it all, watching the summer visitors with cool disregard; the oncoming flood has however knocked them from their dog-days perch, and they’ve got to join the rest of humanity as it tries to stay afloat in life. Which is to say, we have a Wordsworthian poem on our hands, lamenting the loss of childhood and the onset of adulthood.]

It’s taken a while since I’ve been here,
but I’m resolved.

[The poet has returned to his early home, and he is now a “resolved” adult – he has resolved into something – a personality, a poet, a citizen…].

What, didn’t I print,
little piles of notes, slopes almost Sicilian?

[Here is his reference to his career as a poet, his “fall” into writing and out of a world of soundless joyous unity with nature, his infinite strenuous burning efforts – Sicilian, with volcanic elements – to know the world as opposed merely to be in the world.]

Here is my friend:
Socks for comfort (now boys) will see later. Did they come?

[Ja, very obscure lines. Part of this I think is simply the “privacy” of Ashbery’s particular life – Ashbery was famously painted with argyle socks – but I think the larger idea super-compressed here is again the Wordsworthian one of youth regarded from the perspective of age. We’re boys now, with whatever – sports socks – but we will eventually be old men wearing comfort socks. As for Did they come? I’m thinking about sex – I’m thinking about how the word socks is not far from sex and sucks, and that the poet is recalling not comfort sex but athletic sex and asking a specific question about their youthful sexual experimentation. In this regard, and keeping the idea of whether something was “consummated” or not in mind, that “day bump” could also be read as someone’s erection.]

The inner grocery had to take three sets of clips away.

[Socks, clips, youth – I’m thinking bicycles here, with the poet’s mind full of the memory of objects which he takes off the brain-shelves and puts in his poems – his inner stocked grocery. Memory clips. Perhaps he’s talking about the poet taking “clips” of his past out of his mind and using them poetically; perhaps he’s alluding to the death of friends from home.]

[And now the way-enigmatic final lines of the poem:]

Speaking to him of intricate family affairs.
I’m not what you think. Stay preconscious.
It’s just the “flooding of the council.” No need to feel afraid.

************

Okay, so people are starting to take an interest in the mud-choked harbor — the boys’ eyes are beginning to “shimmer” with a sense of the congested psychic mess that the mature human mind happens to be. Or the boys are beginning to sense the power of their “pent-up aching rivers” – their libidos. They don’t quite feel threatened with all of that yet; but they sense the possibility of the oncoming flood of mortal pain and complication that awaits them.

In this particular remembered conversation between the poet and his friend, the poet recalls both deep candor and confidences between them (intricate family affairs) and his own actual disturbing, “roiling” secrets. I’m not what you think, he now says to his friend. I’m gay. Maybe you, my friend, begin to sense that disturbing fact, but from this vantage point I prefer that you stay preconscious, so that we can draw out this blissful pre-flood life as long as possible. What you’re seeing – what you’re disturbed by – is a sudden “flooding” of your precocious grown-up rational faculties – the “council” that sits in your head – as it begins to identity certain difficult truths. But stay young! Hold off fear and confusion as long as you possibly can.

Curious, how very differently two people can read the same poem.

For John Ashbery’s ninetieth birthday, the Guardian’s poetry critic reproduces and discusses this late-career poem of his:

Life is a Dream

A talent for self-realization
will get you only as far as the vacant lot
next to the lumber yard, where they have rollcall.
My name begins with an A,
so is one of the first to be read off.
I am wondering where to stand – could that group of three
or four others be the beginning of the line?

Before I have the chance to find out, a rodent-like
man pushes at my shoulders. “It’s that way,” he hisses. “Didn’t they teach you anything at school? That a photograph
of anything can be real, or maybe not? The corner of the stove,
a cloud of midges at dusk-time.”

I know I’ll have a chance to learn more
later on. Waiting is what’s called for, meanwhile.
It’s true that life can be anything, but certain things
definitely aren’t it. This gloved hand,
for instance, that glides
so securely into mine, as though it intends to stay.

******************

In her telling, it’s bristling with homophobia, Auschwitz, coming of age, and love; UD on the other hand reads it as a mildly anxious gloss on Yeats’s similar late-career poem, Circus Animal’s Desertion.

Both poems, IMHO, feature old poets reflecting on the process of aesthetic creation, on the way some people – people like them – are sort of both blessed and cursed with the ability to take the random broken stuff of the world and transform it into art. In Yeats, the poet mucks around in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Ashbery’s in the same trash- and lumber-yard:

A talent for self-realization
will get you only as far as the vacant lot
next to the lumber yard

Same point, no? A capacity for transforming the vague fallen dross of the world into meaningful formal beauty is only a capacity – all your poetic life you must try to get farther than the vacant lot (note the nice internal contradiction of that phrase, the word “lot” meaning not only enclosed place, but many – so again the rag and bone shop, the lumber yard, is full of things; there’s a lot in or near that lot; but since nothing has been done to transform any of its objects and make it meaningful, it is vacant, expressionless). The vacant lot is the abundant object-nothingness, the object-silence, of the world that confronts the poet again and again as he attempts to write a poem and give the world words. At this late stage in their poetic lives, both Yeats and Ashbery are feeling some degree of panic, let’s say, as their imaginative powers wane (What can I but enumerate old themes) and their profoundest images begin to look old.

Letters, being “read off,” the beginning of the line: The rest of Ashbery’s first stanza expresses – in his typical oblique vague dreamy way – the difficulty of beginning a poem — beginning an Ashbery poem, with a capital A. This poem self-reflexively elaborates upon the perennial gnawing anxiety of the poetic vocation, the creative imperative; and the surrealistic introduction of the nasty urging rodent-like man in the next stanza would, in this account of the poem, be the poet’s own anxious impatient self-punishing insistence on a life of continued artistic productivity: Don’t just muck around inside this dream, you fool – you’ve learned how to make anything “real” – that is, you’ve learned how to give anything persuasive aesthetic shape and life – and your vocation is to continue to do so. Take whatever you like from the lumber yard/rag and bone shop. Take

The corner of the stove,
a cloud of midges at dusk-time.

And fashion it into poetic form.

Or maybe Ashbery’s poem/poetic dream is the temporal inverse of Yeats’s – maybe this is the old Ashbery remembering himself as a young poet, a poet just beginning to be “schooled” in poetry. If so, his last stanza is the old poet reflecting on his subsequent decades of education in world-transformation:

I know I’ll have a chance to learn more
later on. Waiting is what’s called for, meanwhile.
It’s true that life can be anything, but certain things
definitely aren’t it. This gloved hand,
for instance, that glides
so securely into mine, as though it intends to stay.

What is life, and what is a dream? Both dream and life are dream, and if you are a poet “It was the dream itself enchanted me.” Dream is anything, but sly life slips in things that boast of solid empirical real life, like the sudden feeling in your hand of a gentle, guiding, and loving gloved hand that slips so easily into yours and seems destined to stay by you permanently — that’s a certain thing that definitely is not life. That is the poet’s writing hand gloved into a false comfort and ease which amounts to an evasion of the artistic imperative. Think of the complex invitations and evasions of the painterly hand that dominates Ashbery’s most famous poem; “Life is a Dream” is yet another enumeration of the theme of poetic consciousness and poetic procedure:


Dreams prolong us as they are absorbed […]
Something like living occurs, a movement
Out of the dream into its codification.

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