If you want a good poem about war, you never have to look further than the Polish poets, who were invaded by someone every century.
The End and the Beginning
After every war
someone has to clean up.
straighten themselves up, after all.
Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
and bloody rags.
Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.
Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.
We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.
Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.
From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
and carries them to the garbage pile.
Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.
In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.
Translated by Joanna RTrzeciak
I don’t write many overtly political poems, but this one seems to sum up my hopes and fears for today.
It’s Friday. We pull out of the Paris climate accord
and I get my hair cut as Aretha bridges
troubled water. I could lay me down,
but I doubt that would accomplish anything.
Would anything accomplish anything?
Still, I’m uncomfortable doing nothing,
an equivocal activist, pretty sure
I can’t count on my teammates,
jumpy as a handful of BBs
dropped on stone.
Yesterday I listened as my favorite spiritual leader, Margaret Holub, struggled for words of consolation after the Pittsburg shooting. She said that words didn’t come quickly to her, and I reflected that anyone to whom words came in facile way after a such a rift in the social fabric would be a charlatan. That online meeting we were a part of was faltering, baffled.
It’s hard to get in touch with grief when the fabric that binds us is stretched so taut that random attacks against schoolchildren, worshipers, politicians who don’t agree with you becomes routine. After all, the unrelenting business of life goes on; you still have to floss your teeth, eat, be somewhere on time.
I think what consoles in these moments is touch, candlelight, song—the primitive ways we come together as human animals in a world that contains darkness beyond words. Taking an extra moment to hold those you love close.
So here’s a song by Aly Halpert:
And last night, thinking about what poem might help, I came up with this:
And Death Shall Have No Dominion
I got the news that Tony Hoagland, a poet often featured here, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. His partner sent out this message:
November 19, 1953 – October 23, 2018
You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
Don’t be ashamed to be a human being– be proud.
I’m sad at the loss–here is a sample of why: Continue reading
In case you think that formal poetry is over, A. E. Stallings is able to write poems on contemporary themes using form and rhyme. To wit, a sonnet about bedbugs. Or is it?
Bedbugs in Marriage Bed
Maybe it’s best to burn the whole thing down,
The framework with its secret joineries.
Every morning, check the sheets for blood
As though for tiny lost virginities,
Or murder itself distilled into a drop.
It might take lighter fluid to make it stop:
Maybe it’s best to just give up and move.
Every morning, check the seem of seams. Continue reading
Today it’s been three weeks since my close encounter with a Jeep. You would think it gives me a lot of time for poetry, but I’m finding it hard to concentrate on anything serious. I did come across this poem, though, which I am passing along:
The Blessed Angels
How much like
angels are these tall
gladiolas in a vase on my coffee
table, as if in a bunch
whispering. How slender
and artless, how scandalously Continue reading
One of my poet friends who doesn’t live nearby, sent me this this morning. It did cheer me up after a very dispiriting week.
If you have your health, you have everything
is something that’s said to cheer you up
when you come home early and find your lover
arched over a stranger in a scarlet thong.
Or it could be you lose your job at Happy Nails
because you can’t stop smudging the stars
on those ten teeny American flags.
I don’t begrudge you your extravagant vitality.
May it blossom like a cherry tree. May the petals
of your cardiovascular excellence
and the accordion polka of your lungs
sweeten the mornings of your loneliness. Continue reading
Since my last post, I had an encounter with a Jeep while riding my bike. It didn’t go too well for me, and I’ve been rendered pretty immobile with injuries to my right foot. Luckily, that’s all, and according to the amazing physicians at Highland Hospital, there will be “full functional recovery.” But the process is long and difficult.
Through this all, Larry has come through as a stellar nurse, caretaker, and cheerleader. Not only has he taken on most domestic chores, he is a rock when I am down. Plus, he’s so adorable! I love this photo.
I am lucky to have an ally in this chancy life.
One of the projects sponsored by Poetry Society of America is short poems posted in panels on NY subways. Larry caught a glimpse of this one, exiting the train:
Like peas in their
green canoe, like
in a row, sit
drops of dew
along a blade
of grass. But
subject to their
weight they slip
if they accumulate. Continue reading
In New York I went to see an exhibit of drawings by Picasso, Klimt, and Schiele. Schiele, who died at 28, saw Klimt as a mentor, but took his erotic drawing further, I think. These certainly seemed like the best of the show to me. I wonder what it is that makes a line on paper come to life?