Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

The Gospel of St. Thomas

This is the meadow by my house
I can’t pass by and not think of you

Nothing happened there to remind me of you
Of any of you
Your home wasn’t nearby
We never sat there together, brushing mosquitoes away in the summer
We never had dinner at the cafe across the street
We never drove the ribbon of road past its tall grasses
But it always takes me back to you

You are always with me

You exist as part of me, inextricable
No matter how far away I run, who I turn to
Where I go or what I do
How many stones I turn

You are always with me

The Gospel of St. Thomas, author unknown


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Vex me, O Night, your stars stuttering like a stuck jukebox,
put a spell on me, my bones atremble at your tabernacle

of rhythm and blues. Call out your archers, chain me
to a wall, let the stone fortress of my body fall

like a rabid fox before an army of dogs. Rebuke me,
rip out my larynx like a lazy snake and feed it to the voiceless

throng. For I am midnight’s girl, scouring unlit streets
like Persephone stalking her swarthy lord. Anoint me

with oil, make me greasy as a fast-food fry. Deliver me
like a pizza to the snapping crack-house hours between

one and four. Build me an ark, fill it with prairie moths,
split-winged fritillaries, blue-bottle flies. Stitch

me a gown of taffeta and quinine, starlight and nightsoil,
and when the clock tocks two, I’ll be the belle of the malaria ball.

“Vex Me” — Barbara Hamby

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Happy Leap Year

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
“Love has no ending.

“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

“I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

“The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.”

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
“O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

“In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

“In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

“Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver’s brilliant bow.

“O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.

“The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

“Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

“O look, look in the mirror?
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

“O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.”

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

“As I Walked Out One Evening” — W. H. Auden

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Although it was a long time ago, it’s still chilling to read a chronicle of your friend’s suicide written with such matter-of-factness as if it were the minutes to an HOA treasury meeting or something equally banal.  The inclusion of such personal details, such as the chocolate chip cookies, make it even stranger.  And I don’t even know what to make of the fact that they repeatedly call her “Julie” instead of “Julia.”  An exerpt:

Feb. 2001 “Please help me prevent another MIT student suicide,” Dr. Josephson writes to Randolph after Carpenter learned orally that the Random Hall Judicial Committee planned on allowing Karpe to remain in Random and talked with Dr. Josephson. “Throughout Julie’s telling of the tale, it was clear that she felt the committee had spoken, and that she had no other recourse but to move out of Random to escape, or to escape through death.”
April 2001 An MIT administrative review panel is held, overseen by Assistant Dean Carol Orme-Johnson. Karpe does not dispute the allegations against him. The contents of that panel’s decision are a subject of dispute, but several people who have read it said that it indicated that Karpe, who had been provisionally removed from Random Hall, would be allowed to return.
April 20, 2001 The administrative panel releases a decision including a provision for Karpe to move back into Random Hall.
April 25, 2001 Carpenter picks up a copy of the panel’s decision left in an unattended room and signs for it, according to the lawsuit. “No one from MIT spoke with Julie concerning the contents of the decision or monitored her reaction to it,” the lawsuit later says. Carpenter also uses her laptop to purchase sodium cyanide by mail-order over the Internet.
April 27, 2001 By Friday, Carpenter has received the cyanide. That weekend she goes to a barbeque at the Connecticut home of her friend Kristin Josephson and chats about returning to visit the Josephsons in June. Carpenter “seemed happy and did not give us any sign that she had planned on taking her life,” Josephson’s mother, Dr. Lynn Josephson, later told The Chronicle of Higher Education.
April 29, 2001 After returning to MIT, Carpenter goes to a birthday party and eats chocolate-chip cookies on the Random Hall roof deck before returning to her room, where she ingests the cyanide.
April 30, 2001 Carpenter is found dead in her room early in the morning by her roommate. There is no suicide note, though her death is later ruled a suicide by the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

It still seems like it didn’t happen some days.  What did Eliot say?  Death or life or life or death / Death is life and life is death / I gotta use words when I talk to you / But if you understand or if you don’t / That’s nothing to me and nothing to you / We all gotta do what we gotta do

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I’m listening to Pandora this morning, which is an advisable respite from Project Playlist.  I’ve got about fifteen little radio stations set up, but this morning I’m listening to the “Air” station (the band, not the mixture of gases).

Pandora does this weird thing sometimes where it throws a completely random song into your otherwise homogenous radio station (like an Amy Grant song on my “Gorillaz” radio station the other day…what the fuck?), I think just to see if you’re paying attention.  Today, it was “Come In From The Cold” by Joni Mitchell.  Because Joni and Air have so much in common.  But I digress…

Although it was bit out of place between Trentemøller and Electric President, the song nevertheless pleasantly reminded me of my college days spent listening to Joni Mitchell on my CD walkman while snuggled under my covers on cold Saturday mornings.  I loved Joni Mitchell.  I had all of her songs memorized.  I wanted to be like her, living a bohemian life in a Paris apartment with a scandalously older man, drinking inadvisable amounts of red wine every day and occasionally flying back to New York to associate with my poet and artist friends at a Chelsea cafe.

It inspired me to post a few Joni Mitchell songs, which aren’t among the ones that I fell in love with in my heady adolescence.  These are some of her “middle-age” songs, which I find myself strangely identifying with at the ripe old age of 27.  Either way, they’re beautiful lyrics, so…enjoy. (more…)

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The God Who Loves You

I was listening to The Writer’s Almanac this morning, as I do every morning at 8:30.  Garrison Keillor’s voice always gives me hope for the rest of the day.  On a side note, even though I’m fully aware of what Garrison Keillor looks like, for some reason, every time I listen to him I picture Spalding Gray instead.  Is this because they both have/had a penchant for monologues?  Or is it because my shallow, little brain wants to believe that someone with Garrison Keillor’s voice ought to be at least slightly more good-looking?

Regardless, Keillor read a poem this morning that is fairly new, as far as the long history of poetry is concerned.  “The God Who Loves You” was written by Carl Davis in 2001 and published in his aptly titled anthology, Practical Gods.  I’m not going to try and explain why this is such a brilliant poem and why everyone should read or hear it at least once; I’m just going let you discover why for yourselves:

The God Who Loves You

It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you’d be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week–
Three fine houses sold to deserving families–
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you’d have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you’re living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don’t want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day’s disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
And would you want this god to compare your wife
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You’d have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you’re used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You’re spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven’t written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you’ve witnessed,
Which for all you know is the life you’ve chosen.

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In honor of the great maestro:

Nessun Dorma

Il principe ignoto
Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma! Tu pure, o Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza
guardi le stelle
che tremano d’amore e di speranza…
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun saprà!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò,
quando la luce splenderà!
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
che ti fa mia.

Voci di donne
Il nome suo nessun saprà…
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir!

Il principe ignoto
Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle! All’alba vincerò!
Vincerò! Vincerò!

The Prince
Nobody shall sleep!… Nobody shall sleep! Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know…
No!…No!… On your mouth I will tell it
when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence
that makes you mine!…

The Chorus of women
No one will know his name
and we must, alas, die.

The Prince
Vanish, o night! Set, stars!
Set, stars! At dawn, I will win!
I will win! I will win!

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