Tag Archives: poem

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This Is Just A Test

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Sinners

DSC_1147The big mountains sit still in the afternoon light
Shadows in their lap;
The bees roll round in the wild-thyme with delight.

We sitting here among the cranberries
So still in the gap
Of rock, distilling our memories,

Are sinners! Strange! The bee that blunders
Against me goes off with a laugh.
A squirrel cocks his head on the fence, and wonders

What about sin? -For, it seems
The mountains have
No shadow of us on their snowy forehead of dreams

As they ought to have. They rise above us
Dreaming
For ever. One might even think they love us.

Little red cranberries cheek to cheek,
Two great dragon-flies wrestling;
You, with your forehead nestling
Against me, and bright peak shining to peak –

There’s a love song for you! – Ah, if only
There were no teeming
Swarms of mankind in the world, and we were less lonely!

-D.H. Lawrence (Mayrhofen) from,  Look! We Have Come Through!

*Cranberries drizzled with honey

*Bowl made by Victoria Accardi

Kicks and Starts

IMG_0978My shoe is in a sorry state
Inclement times have altered the gait.
The heel worn down and smoothed,
Careens and jerks: the awkward proved.

The seams and creases have exposed
A scarlet sock peeking through my toes.
The inner soul won’t stay put
Bunching ceaselessly about my foot.

The long miles took their due
But I wonder, if I asked,

Would you want it?
If I gave it to you?

– JR/2013

Blindfold Art

I leaned me forward to find her lips,
And claim her utterly in a kiss

– D.H. Lawrence, from Lightning

IMG_1030After renewing my copy of Everybody’s Plutarch, one, possibly two, times more than the officially allowable amount, I reluctantly returned it. I thought I’d be tricky by getting another copy at a different library. Instead, I ended up with the book,  An Uninhibited Treasury of Erotic Poetry. I know, I love the title too.

Catullus, you’re a fool. I said,
What’s lost is lost, what’s dead is dead.
The game is over, that you know;
So let the little strumpet go.

Catullus, from Catullus Talks to Himself

I wasn’t even going to be picky, I know there are many editions of Noble Lives,  but just you try to search for a single book in a library that is many stories tall with all the ordinances accounted for. Let me save you some trouble by saying, it ain’t easy. First stop: the computer catalogue. I came away from that aspect ratio of small proportion’ s labyrinth with a piece of paper on which I had scrawled as many call numbers as I could fit. Next: pitstop at the circulation desk to pick up a copy of the floorplan. Third stop: level A, west wing.

In the secrets of your flesh
I make myself words
to be read by you alone

– Eve Merriam, from The Moment Before Conception

A partial but useless success- Plutarch in Latin. But why dwell on thoughts that serve as cruel metaphors for life? Moving on: level three, north wing, where I find a trove of books about Plutarch. Down a level: no luck at all. Back up a couple levels: berating myself for not organizing my list geographically,  looking for the 900 section, wait, no- the 800s, focus, Jessica!…disoriented, the low lights and lack of humans among the rows of books are so comforting as to begin to disconcert me. I put my bag on the floor and crouch down, sitting upon my heels for a moment’s respite.

Love Poem

Oh, your thighs
are numbered:

Two

But they are
as poles of the earth

And all
that there is

Is

Between them

-Judson Crews

Up a level, down, south, was it west? …my memory fades…A Modern Plutarch sits on the shelf. In fact it now sits on the desk next to me. But a comparison of, for example,  Mark Twain and Anatole French, while a good idea, was neither well executed nor the thing I was after.

Teach me, only teach, Love!
As I ought
I will speak thy speech, Love
Think thy thought-

– Robert Browning, from A Woman’s Last Word

Next to A Modern Plutarch, sat An Uninhibited Treasury of Erotic Poetry, which I did not attempt to resist. I opened to a random page – two lines that I know well. I don’t need much more encouragement than that.

Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove

Marlowe, The Passionate Shepard to His Love. I read an article once regarding pronunciation which suggested that “love” would have rhymed, back then, with “prove.” Love and prove, I find much pleasure in making the words sound alike in various combinations in my head (I think the article describe how it had been pronounced and rhymed, but I can’t recall).  Later in the poem “love” is rhymed with “move,” consequently I now relish saying Louvre whenever I see the word love. Love, prove….There is something that pulls those words to each other, love: tested, withstood, evidenced. They seem to belong together.

* Title from Lawrence’s Lightning-
“Repeating with tightened arms, and the hot blood’s
blindfold art.”

** The Uninhibited Treasury of Erotic Poetry (“edited and with a running commentary by”) Louis Untermeyer. He makes clear in his introduction that by “erotic,” a more classic sense, by way of Eros (love), is meant.

Back to Plutarch- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Apfel

IMG_1002In the center of it all
Oh, apple of my fall
The parts that I have bitten
Even those that once were hidden
Caught useless in your thrall-
recall! recall! recall!
This is the taste of knowing
Your sweetness reckoning
a delicious peck our greatest haul-
that’s all! that’s all! that’s all!

Dissimulate Days

IMG_0006Bitter Lemons

In an island of bitter lemons
Where the moon’s cool fevers burn
From the dark globes of the fruit,

And the dry grass underfoot
Tortures memory and revises
Habits half a lifetime dead

Better leave the rest unsaid,
Beauty, darkness, vehemence
Let the old sea-nurse keep

Their memorials of sleep
And the Greek sea’s curly head
Keep its calms like tears unshed

Keep its calms like tears unshed.

– Lawrence Durrell

Lawrence Durrell’s non-fiction book, of the same title as his poem, Bitter Lemons, describing his time spent living in Cyprus (1953-56), is a beautiful account of one man’s attempt to assimilate himself into a culture not his own, to understand and illustrate through words what traveling does to one’s interior as well as exterior being.

How sad it is that so many of our national characteristics are misinterpreted! Our timidity and lack of imagination seem to foreigners to be churlishness, taciturnity the deepest misanthropy. But are these choking suburbanizes with which we seem infused when we are abroad any worse than the tireless dissimulation and insincerity of the Mediterranean way of life? (35)

The joy with which he describes the landscape, the people, the mood, and the air of Cyprus is wonderful. The difference between his English humor and the humor of Greek island people is some sort of beautiful mathematical equation.

His name is Frangos,’ he said, with an air of a man who explains everything in a single word. (39)

If you have read Lawrence’s brother, Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, then you might find, as I did, a revisiting of a similar spirit in the first half of this book. But this is not a book told (retrospectively) from the eyes of a ten year old. As events and relations between England and Cyprus deteriorate, it takes on a much more lugubrious tone. Fear and paranoia permeate the air, but as happens, people forget to remember their grudges, especially once they have got to know and like one another. The tension within each person to toe the national line and conjure up hostilities for former friends is sad and moving, if not predictable.

My one cavil is that if I hadn’t read Amateurs in Eden (biography about the marriage between Nancy and Lawrence written by Nancy, but not Lawrence’s daughter) I never would have known that Nancy was with Lawrence for the duration of this period. In fact, if I’m not mistaken it is her simple and lovely line drawings that end each chapter, although, again I could find no credit given in Bitter Lemons that confirms the identity of the illustrator. That is strange. And unsettling. I wish I didn’t even have that piece of information because the amount of extra energy such an omission in an autobiographical piece of literature requires is so great as to perversely focus my attention where Lawrence clearly did not want it to go.

She walked about the harbor at Kyrenia with a book and with the distracted air which betokened to my inexpert eye evidence of some terrible preoccupation- perhaps one of those love-affairs which mark one for life. (97)

Durrell’s eye for subtle details and succinct suggestions of what lies beneath a look, posture, or smile is powerful.  I found the above quote haunting. Is there such a thing? To be marked for life? The sensitivity of Durrell’s observations are arresting, entertaining, and at times, simply profound.

I am run away

IMG_0808Awakened this morning by the Wind of My Soul,
leaped out of bed,
away from the sleep that you stole.
The words in my head
left over from the dreams in my bed,

What is this
What is this

Cold air laps against my skin,
(it’s important not to think as the walk begins)
my movement a hymn, harmonizing the pieces of the day
as always, defined and trimmed
not by what is,
but by what’s been.

What is this
What is this

An ecstasy of anxiety
my breath: piano forte.
The staccato steps say, I am run away
to find a melody esprit
And this,
this is where I let my music take me.