The Mondays come faster and faster

And so it’s time again for a Monday poem, when I just posted last Monday’s! Today, a poem on Arthritis, which I never thought about when young. But well described by Carol Moldaw, along with other strands of thought. Carol will be reading in October for Marin Poetry Center.

Arthritis

“Save your hands,” my mother says,
seeing me untwist a jar’s tight cap—

just the way she used to tell me
not to let boys fool around, or feel

my breasts: “keep them fresh
for marriage,” as if they were a pair

of actual fruit. I scoffed
to think they could bruise, scuff, Continue reading

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Faults

Everyone has them of course, even saints might be faulted for their saintliness–surely that would be hard to live with. But this week, after I set my hearing aids for safety in my hat while I swam and then lost them who knows where when I casually put on my hat–I have been berating myself for my inattention to the physical world, for the way I leave a trail of unfinished projects and detritus everywhere, and for other, more serious flaws that I will not mention here.  Continue reading

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Before moving on…

One last comment on my summer reading, A friend, knowing how much I liked Primo Levi’s book, The Periodic Table, gave me a gorgeous edition of his complete works. It is so good, I feel compelled to quote from it at length, and I’ve only finished the first book, If This is Man. In the afterword, he says he wrote this book as soon as he could after his experience, that it was “burning inside me” and needed expression. About the concentration camp, the Lager, he says:

“…the Lager was also and preeminently a gigantic biological and social experiment. Let thousands of individuals differing in age, condition, origin, language, culture and customs be enclosed within barbed wire, and there be subjected to a regular, controlled life, which is identical for all and  inadequate to all needs. No one could have set up a more rigorous experiment to determine what is inherent and what is acquired in the behavior of the human animal faced with the struggle for life…The only conclusion is that, in the face of driving need, many habits and social instincts are reduced to silence.” Continue reading

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Short poem by Larry Levis

I saw a documentary on Larry Levis, A Late Style of Fire,  two years ago that made me like him less. Nonetheless, this is a pretty killer little poem.

Wound

I’ve loved you
like a man loves an old wound
picked up in a razor fight

on a street nobody remembers.
Look at him:
even in the dark he touches it gently.

Larry Levis

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Summer reading

I know that you’re supposed to take up some frivolous books for the summer, but perhaps influenced by the morning and evening fog that characterizes coastal California, my reading has been more dour. I mentioned these books in an earlier post: A Century of Horrors, by Alain Besançon, Hope Against Hope, by Osip Mandelstam’s wife, Nadezhda, and most of Secondhand Time (I couldn’t get through all of it), by Svetlana Alexievich. I also just reread Czesław Miłosz’ The Captive Mind. All of these books deal with the phenomenon of Communism as it has been practiced since the Russian Revolution. Besançon’s thesis is that while Nazism was horrific, it was a brief nightmare compared to Communism. The Shoah was intense, killed millions, but was defeated and rejected.

Communism, on the other hand, while originating in an idealistic set of premises, has for over a century imprisoned, murdered, and instilled terror in many more millions, and is still doing so. It’s a powerful book, and lays out facts in a reasoned argument that’s hard to deny. Continue reading

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Charles Wright

Larry has been doing a series of poetry broadsides–letterpress copies of poems, suitable for framing.  He has selected poets of roughly his age group, and this one is on his upcoming list.

The Silent Generation

Afternoons in the backyard, our lives like photographs

Yellowing elsewhere,

xxxxxxxxxxxxx In somebody else’s album,

In secret, January south winds

Ungathering easily through the black limbs of the fruit trees.

 

What was it we never had to say?

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Who can remember now—

Something about the world’s wrongs,

Something about the way we shuddered them off like rain

In an open field,

xxxxxxxxxxxConvinced that lightning would not strike.

 

We’re arm in arm with regret, now the left foot, now the right foot.

We give the devil his due.

We walk up and down in the earth

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx We take our flesh in our teeth.

When we die, we die. The wind blows away our footprints.

Charles Wright

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Reading through old work

It’s a chore to try to decide what’s worth keeping, but once in awhile I go through my old work and throw a bunch away, put a smaller number of poems and notes in a folder called, Worth Another Look, which means I’m not ready to say keep, but not ready to discard. I’ll have to let a bit more time go by and go through the process again.

This snippet went into that folder:

The Other Woman

There’s always another woman.
It’s axiomatic.
She is always there.
She may not even exist.
Nonetheless…

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Why I include the simple things

This is mostly a literary blog, poetry, selections from novels and non-fiction. I have been reading a lot of literature about Nazism and Totalitarianism lately, including A Century of Horrors, Secondhand Time, and rereading Hope Abandoned. This was a very illuminating process. The stultifying political correctness of today, the offhand denigration of the capitalist democracy that supports us all, masks a kind of group think that Orwell would recognize and chide us for. We don’t see through it–the deadening of individual thought this self censorship promotes in the service of inclusiveness, identity politics, diversity.

Continue reading

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Easiest dinner

I saw this recipe From Alison Roman in Wednesday’s NY Times, and tried it. Fast, easy and delicious. I baked a sweet potato with it, which turned out to be a perfect accompaniment.  I realize I hadn’t posted any recipes in a while, not that I’ve stopped cooking…just need to post a few.

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Into the Mystery

Here is the final poem from Tony Hoagland’s new book, Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God.

Into the Mystery

Of course there is a time of afternoon, out there in the yard,
a time that has never been described.

There is the way the air feels
among the flagstones and tropical plants
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxwith their dark, leathery-green leaves.

There is a gap you never noticed,
dug out between the gravel and the rock, where something lives.

There is a bird that can only be heard by someone
who has come to be alone.

Now you are getting used to things that will not be happening again.

Never to be pushed down onto the bed again, laughing,
and have your clothes unbuttoned.

Never to stand up in the rear of the pickup truck
and scream while blasting out of town. Continue reading

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