mercredi 31 décembre 2008

happy bloody fucking new year!


amerika, love it or leave it
a new year just o'er the hour
a us-jettisoned bomb falls on a
palestinian home, a calling
card of more to come, as
the prosecutors of war
stir the world to despair
just in time for a new year

why should they care?
their new year day was
months ago, forgotten with
their attonement prayers and
lands bought with wooden nickels,
as hawks sit on shoulders
and squawk, and the world
looks on, ever impotent

bye bye cheney bye bye bush
that's the way they put it
in the middle east
your days were always
numbered, the way blood
thickens when exposed to air
and the rows of grave stones
dotting a path on the straight and
narrow are lit up by the blood of
lambs and sanguine futures

hello capitalism, hello hillary!
i can't wait to watch you waddling
around the middle east in your
slick pants suits: they don't make
you anymore a man than
your fixed hard stare or
the hawk that sits on your
broad shoulders, quelle femme!

hello corruption, hello to more
blues and reds and in-fighting
and the do-something-anything!
congress who thinks it is god,
as it hands out toys for tots on
wall street: oh such good military
men, with no one whizzing off the
capitol steps: such excellent
role models of the corporate
catechism, a full-fledged religion
for the super wicked rich

yesterday today and tomorrow
hello to my heart that bleeds like
a fucking liberal, an ass no more or
less than my nemesis, blind, yet
grabbing as much as i can and
throwing it into the cart and then
wandering pointlessly with the
rest of 'em to cash out

hello my anima who bleeds
hello my animus who leads

jeudi 25 décembre 2008

Pour une femme qui déteste une certaine fête

à annie

où vas-tu, blonde et sombre, la belle au bois dormant? je suis ici comme d'habitude, me voilà à tes pieds en disant que c'est un jour comme tous les autres, il n'est ni spécial ni irrémédiable. j'essaie de parler—mais de quoi je ne sais plus ou presque, mais je vais marcher sur la pointe des pieds comme tu l'aimes. c'est le sens et le fond de cette fable, pour parler tout doucement de rien, que le moment n'est plus rien, un jour comme les autres jours,

sauf qu'il y a une vague de silence un peu exceptionelle, on doit admettre... et dans cette froideur de la ville, il n'y a personne dans la rue, on est tout seul, on peut presque entendre à l'intérieur le coeur qui bat! mais peut-être c'est juste que j'imagine ces choses, des choses en choses, remplies l'une sur l'autre comme des vieux papiers ou des fleurs mortes.

non, je n'ai écrit que pour dire que je t'aime un peu enfin et que je n'oublierai jamais tous ces mêmes matins, ces matines qui adoucissent le ciel au-dessus de la chapelle, ces adieux qui viennent trop tôt à la fin de chaque jour de décembre, un décembre comme tous les décembres, avec les cieux grisâtres et pleine la pluie quand ils s'ouvrent. un certain jour où on parle au coeur de la cité— tu restes dans ma mémoire, inquiète, tremblante, faible, et nous avions parlé sur les filles sans bordures... jusqu'à ta voix dans les messages est devenue plus calme et mésurée, ton haleine recommençait à zéro et la mienne ne s'arrêtait à jamais.

une heure plus tard nous nous retrouvions à notre coin et nous cherchions dans les rues un restaurant encore ouvert, trouvant seulement ton chinois à la fin du ligne 5. ce n'est pas un jour particulier... sauf pour ces lumières bleues qui se tordent dans le vent fort, nos mains brûlants du froid, pas de phrases complètes enrégistrées sur un dicto, rien sur cette certain couleur de brun que tu portais toujours. donc pourquoi dans ma tête faisait-il cet empreinte s'il n'y avait rien pour faire qu'on s'en souvienne, pas de mot, pas de geste?

je te laisserai m'expliquer un jour pas spécialement mémorable, à la fin de décembre, chaque année comme une autre au passé, après que nous ayons tourné la page pour de bon, laissé tomber les anciens vêtements, les manteaux contre le froid et les gants pour mieux toucher, toi marchant ici et là sans direction, moi courant après toi comme un parfum.



Translation:
For a Woman Who Hates a Certain Holiday
to Annie

where are you going, blond and somber, beauty sleeping in the wood? i am here as usual, i'm here at your feet, saying that it is a day like all the others, it is neither special nor irredeemable. i try to speak—but of what i no longer know or almost, but I am going to walk on tip-toes the way you like. it's the sense and the heart of this fable, to speak all sweetly of nothing, that the moment is no longer nothing, a day like all other days...

except there is a wave of silence a bit exceptional, you must admit... and in this coldness of the city, there is no one on the street, you are alone, you can almost hear the heart beating within! but perhaps it is only that i have imagined these things, these things in things, folded one upon the other like old papers or dead flowers.

no, i have only written to say that i love you a little at the last, and i will never forget all these same mornings, these morning prayers that soften the sky above the chapel, these goodbyes that come too early at the end of each day of december, a december like all decembers, with these graying skies and full the rain when they open. a certain day when we spoke in the heart of the city— you remain in my memory, worried, trembling, weak, and we spoke of girls without edges... until your voice in the messages became more calm and measured, your breath began again at zero and mine stopped forever.

an hour later, we found ourselves on our corner again, and we searched the streets for a restaurant yet open, finding only your chinese at the end of line 5. it is not a specific day... except for these blue lights twisting in the strong wind, our hands burning with cold, no complete sentences recorded on a micro, nothing about the brown color you always wear. so why in my head did it make this impression if there is nothing to make one remember, no word, no gesture?

i will let you explain it to me one day not especially memorable, at the end of december, each year like another in the past, after we have turned the page for good, let fall the ancient clothing, the coats against the cold, the gloves so to better touch, you walking here and there without direction, me running after you like a perfume.

vendredi 19 décembre 2008

Explication du texte: "Tout sur les larmes"

Here is an explication du text for my last poem "Tout sur les larmes". Do people write explications du texte for their own poetry? This may be a first! But it was such a fun exercise, and I uncovered meanings I didn't even realize were there; it was like what Frost said about completing a poem, then being surprised by it and asking, "Now how did I know that?" It started out as a letter to explain the poem to a friend, and later, I edited it for this blog. What I hope to show is the sense of hope in this poem, which is found subtly in the first section, strongly suggested in the last, with only the middle section, the bridge, completely devoid of it. Secondarily, I would like to show how this poem was constructed, first as separate parts, then synthesized by actions that flowed from my subconscious.

In the first section of "Everything About Tears", I have just found in my grandson a window for releasing emotional pain, and he is comforting me like a mother, through his little pats on my back and shoulder. In the second part, I describe the "hole" I find myself in, where I am unable to cry or to feel; I am "emptied". In the third section, I'm making a choice, live or die, cry or feel nothing, drown under "water", in all those unshed tears--symbolized by rain in the second section--or rise into the bright light of consciousness and permit myself to grieve my losses. Finally, i will myself to dig down, back into the "hole"; but now I am outside it: I'm making "The Choice", as the title suggests, to dig until I find tears. The tears are in the "hole", which is myself: I have to dig through several layers of myself to find them: through ash (death and resurrection), terra firma (grounding principle), mud (depression), salt (essentiality, tears) river (the flow from life to death, possibly the river Styx), rock (hard barriers), then molten lava (passion, hot tears). But I do not care how hot it may get, how I might get burned: I must get at the tears because I know that grieving is the only way to get free of the "hole". We're left with the hope that the goal of grieving can be achieved and that it will free me from the potential of emotional death.

After writing the second poem, "How This Works", and getting an empathic response from a fellow poet and friend, I began to feel very sad about my condition and began to cry, not sobs, just tears rolling down my cheeks and dripping off my chin. The next day, because I had actually cried tears of grief, I realized that this poem could easily be related to the one I'd written the day before, "The Futility of Tears". It was then that I decided to write a third section, a resolution, and combine them into a single poem.

The title of the latter is completely ironic, as it means the opposite of what it says: of course tears are not futile. My mother, in spite of her flashbacks, will not allow herself to cry, and simply fights her memories and feelings. We might remember that she is now a great-grandmother, an elderly woman, who may not have the time or capacity to plumb her own depths, and we can thus have compassion for her. Her mother, my grandmother, who is most likely out of the picture in the present time of the poem, was an obnoxious drunk who taught her daughter "not to cry at funerals" but rather to bottle up or drug herself against her emotions.
Now, if my grandmother was drunk "at her husband's" funeral and my mother was also there--"my mother socked her"--we realize that my mother was at her own father's funeral, a terrible thing in itself for a young woman, with the added sense of embarrassment at having her mother be "drunk and obnoxious". As for me, the third character in the first poem and now a grandmother myself, "i'm still crying as i watch Bambi," who represents the death or absence of the mother. Further, through my grandson's acceptance of my tears and his prescient ability to comfort me (like a mother), I am beginning to find my way out of this "hole" or emotional dead-space, as unrequited grief has kept me, my mother and her mother buried under the weight of painful memories.

In the third poem, "The Choice", I've found a way out of the "hole": I have to cry, and I compare and contrast the two options of crying or not crying and their consequences. Ultimately, I decide to bring my grief into the "sunlight" or into the open, to consciousness--"the eye...wakes up"-- and I will do what I must in order to have a breakthrough of my long buried grief. I must get tears to flow and, consequently, the feelings behind them. I am choosing the flashbacks driven away by my mother, I am feeling the feelings drunk away by my grandmother, and i'm going into those depths, even as i squat outside them, looking in. I have made my choice; I will dig myself toward the tears, I will spring them like a fount, I will free myself by feeling, which is the opposite of what my feminine ancestors have done. Because I have chosen the positive, entering the "sunlight" or action, and not the negative, drowning by "water" or inaction, there is a sense of renewed purpose and enlightenment, and the reader is left hoping, if not knowing that I might well succeed.

mercredi 17 décembre 2008

Tout sur les larmes














 

to Georgia Ronan Crampton for dreams, allegories and visions

I. The Futility of Tears

My mother told me that
she sometimes has
flashbacks in the shower,
but now she simply shouts
"Get thee behind me!"

Her mother taught her
not to cry at funerals:
at her husband's, she was
drunk and obnoxious
until my mother socked her.

I'm still crying as I
watch Bambi with my
grandson. He's put
his arm around my shoulder
and he's patting me,

His little hand taps
a smile through
my tears, our eyes
connect in a strange dance
of familial understanding.

II. Comment ça marche

J'ai un vide
qui m'habite
qui me nourrit
et me mange
dedans

le vide infernale
où je dors
pendant que
je meure
chaque jour

tristesse san fin
un trou pour
tout le temps
où la pluie
tombe d'en haut

moi en bas
sur le dos
coeur leger
coeur vidé
mon sacré coeur

III. Le Choix

If I try a bit harder
to hold myself
beneath the surface,
I will drown and be
no more, no fish,
no rock, no twig,
not even a lark of
a thought, a naught.

If I rise like a bubble
and blink in the sun
with a glint of a fish
scale jumping up for
bugs, then mere air
will carry me along
like the odd, thin-gray
bird one spots in
winter pictures.

An eye underwater
cannot discern a
lakedrop from a tear:
ils ne tomberont pas
dans l'antigravité des
eaux, ils se fixeront
derrière ces bulbes
en les poussant ouverts
comme les yeux morts.

The eye caught by
sun wakes up: hot
it weeps out effortlessly
its acidy depths, then
dries of its own saltiness:
les larmes, un son,
l'appel d'une mouette,
la lêvure de tristesse,
l'ouverture d'un tombeau
je ne voudrais pas
être traître du soi:i will plumb a grave
with empty hands,
i will dig at silky ash
then terra firma,
mud, salt, river, rock
then molten lava
until they come.


Painting:
John Everett Millais, Ophelia

mardi 16 décembre 2008

Le Choix


If I try a bit harder
to hold myself
beneath the surface,
I will drown and be
no more, no fish,
no rock, no twig,
not even a lark of
a thought, a naught.

If I rise like a bubble
and blink in the sun
with a glint of a fish
scale jumping up for
bugs, then mere air
will carry me along
like the odd, thin-gray
bird one spots in
winter pictures.

An eye underwater
cannot discern a
lakedrop from a tear:
ils ne tomberont pas
dans l'antigravité des
eaux, ils se fixeront
derrière ces bulbes
en les poussant ouverts
comme les yeux morts.
(they will not fall
in the antigravity of
waters, they will fix themselves
behind the bulbs
in pushing them open
like dead eyes.)


The eye caught by
sun wakes up: hot
it weeps out effortlessly
its acidy depths, then
dries of its own saltiness:
les larmes, un son,
l'appel d'une mouette,
la lêvure de tristesse,
l'ouverture d'un trou
(tears, a sound,
the call of a gull,
the leavening of sadness
ouverture of a hole)


je ne voudrais pas
être traître du soi:
(i would not want
to be a traitor to the self:)

i will plumb a grave
with empty hands,
i will dig at silky ash
then terra firma,
mud, salt, river, rock
then molten lava
until they come.

lundi 15 décembre 2008

Comment ça marche


J'ai un vide
qui m'habite
qui me nourrit
et me mange
dedans

le vide infernale
où je dors
pendant que
je meure
chaque jour

tristesse san fin
un trou pour
tout le temps
où la pluie
tombe d'en haut

moi en bas
sur le dos
coeur leger
coeur vidé
mon sacré coeur


(How this works
--translation)

I have an emptiness
that inhabits me
that nourishes
and eats me
from within

the infernal emptiness
where i sleep
while
I am dying
each day

sadness without end
a hole for
all time
where the rain
falls from above

me below
on my back
heart light
heart emptied
my sacred heart

jeudi 11 décembre 2008

The Futility of Tears


My mother told me that

she sometimes has
flashbacks in the shower,
but now she simply shouts
"Get thee behind me!"

Her mother taught her
not to cry at funerals:
at her husband's, she was
drunk and obnoxious
until my mother socked her.

I'm still crying as I
watch Bambi with my
grandson. He's put
his arm around my shoulder
and he's patting me,

His little hand taps
a smile through
my tears, our eyes
connect in a strange dance
of familial empathy.




vendredi 5 décembre 2008

Esperanza


I wake up in the dark
A little light shimmers
from the oil burner, 5am
and the tv's on with
a conversation that
pulls me in:

"We are the ones
we have been waiting for"
It's Alice Walker, her
round beautiful face
glows with peace and
enlightened thought,

Her voice soft and deep
like a lilac-filled breeze
and she's talking about
massaging the feet of the
great Miriam Makeba
after a New York concert

while Miriam explained
that she had to wear those
high heels because her
public expected it, but
Alice tells us that
Miriam died singing barefoot

Alice had written an
open letter to the newly
elected president Obama,
the first African descendant
to move into that famous
house built by slaves

She tells him, cultivate your
own happiness, don't become
like all the other graying
men who take on the
enemies of past presidents
and lose their bliss

She told him, Be a lover,
father, light to others,
keep that winning smile,
and let the rest of us do our part
to focus like a laser on war
and eradicate it for good

"We are the ones
we have been waiting for"
I think about Nina Simone,
James Baldwin, the men and
women who sang and wrote
about hope, esperanza

as my friend in Spain calls it,
Nelson Mandela, Jesse Jackson,
and oh yes Hugh Masakela
and Mama Afrika, yesterday
we said goodbye to Odetta and
esperanza's what's still going on

Built up brick upon stone,
it crossed infamous bridges,
batted tremendous averages,
sang wild and beautiful arias,
found infinity in a peanut, landed
hundreds of knockout blows

Esperanza's been chanted
in long marches across city
and town to the top of the
mountain, where we strained
with our steps toward
a promised land of good

Alice tells him, We always
knew you would come
to fulfill that promise, a new
generation to redeem all
that we have lost and won
with the totality of our hope

But let us each do our part,
It doesn't fall alone upon
your shoulders, we all
need to participate because
"We are the ones
we have been waiting for"

And suddenly that esperanza
fills me up too, it comes
fast, hot and hard
like the rocket gibraltar
or a riff by Jimi Hendrix,
blue like Bessy Smith, red

like Ella, and i'm ready for the
healin', ready to be washed
clean and reborn, rarin' to take
it on because i'm here waiting too,
lit up with the morning light
and a boatload of poems


mardi 2 décembre 2008

Letter to my son


i've been looking for my youngest son for several months; i figured he was alive and well, wherever he was. and i found him where? myspace (of course).
reading one of the poems on his blog, i heard strong traces of my own language, rhythms, rhymes and repetitions, and i thought, could poetry be part of our genetic inheritance or did he simply hear enough of my voice that it became an intrinsic part of his own? someday we might isolate a poetry gene: would that all the world could have it or be damned by having it! it depends on the poetic vision, and i believe that all voices are needed. my son's poem spoke of optimism and hope, leaving behind sadness and failure and grasping the future from atop a starlit hill. i echoed his sensibility in the note i left him. i felt changed.

think you're gonna do it, bébé/ over the hump and into the ready/ following your heart or your foot, doesn't matter/ what matters is the journey to it/ when you get to the top, jump up/ catch a star, or better, create one/ the least important thing is the past/ the most important thing is truth/ and love's the brightest star of all that burns so hot/ it's petrol, nothing lasts without it/ or comes of any good because/ it's what the stars are made of in this world/ the stars that outlast death and birth/ where is is and was was and/ there's no time like the present to be born/ now as the great transitive chord reaches across/ eons of pain and wipes them out with a silver blade/ and we look down from the mount and then raise our glasses/ to the thing that gives all joy and sacrifice/ love, more than a wonder drug /love, the one element that ain't retrograde/ it's ahead of its game, it's a paved highway/ straight through the heart of darkness to the light/ and to the city on the hill where we'll dance/ to celebrate the second coming of love incarnate/ you're gonna do it, bébé, you're gonna be there to see it

love you, bébé.