Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Tuesday Poem: " Excerpt from Summers and Springs" by Jaan Kaplinski

 

God has left us - I felt it clearly
digging the earth around a rhubarb plant.

It was black and moist. I don't know where he is,

only a shelf full of sacred books remains of him,

a couple of wax candles, a prayer wheel and a little bell.

Coming back to the house I thought

there might still be something - the smell of lilac and honeysuckle.

Then suddenly I imagined a child's face

there, on the other side, in eternity

looking here into time, regarding wide-eyed

our comings, goings and doings in this time-aquarium

under the light of the sun going down

and falling asleep under a water-lily leaf

somewhere far away in the west.

Jaan Kaplinski (translated from the Estonian by Jaan Kaplinski with Fiona Sampson)



For more information about the poet, Jan Kaplinski, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaan_Kaplinski


Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Me" by Chairil Anwar

 

When my time comes

No one's going to cry for me,
And you won't, either

The hell with all those tears!


I'm a wild beast

Driven out of the herd


Bullets may pierce my skin

But I'll keep coming,


Carrying forward my wounds and my pain

Attacking

Attacking

Until suffering disappears


And I won't give a damn


I want to live another thousand years

by Chairil Anwar (translated from the Indonesian by Burton Raffel)


For more information about poet,  Chairil Anwar, see:


Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Green Apples" by Ruth Stone

 

In August we carried the old horsehair mattress
To the back porch

And slept with our children in a row.

The wind came up the mountain into the orchard

Telling me something;

Saying something urgent.

I was happy.

The green apples fell on the sloping roof

And rattled down.

The wind was shaking me all night long;

Shaking me in my sleep

Like a definition of love,

Saying, this is the moment,

Here, now.

by Ruth Stone

Photo Credit: Jan Freeman


For more information about poet, Ruth Stone, see:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/ruth-stone

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Cut Grass" by Philip Larkin

 

Cut grass lies frail:
Brief is the breath

Mown stalks exhale.

Long, long the death


It dies in the white hours

Of young-leafed June

With chestnut flowers,

With hedges snowlike strewn,


White lilac bowed,

Lost lanes of Queen Anne's lace,

And that high-builded cloud

Moving at summer's pace.

by Philip Larkin


For more information about the poet, Philip Larkin, see:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/philip-larkin

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Zoom Calls in the Time of Coronavirus (Part 2)" by John Kenney


Why, yes,
that was my five-year-old son
running back and forth,
nude,
behind me,
shouting,
“Anus! Anus! Anus!”
while the dog barked
and my husband yelled
and I leaned away from the computer
so that no one would hear me scream
“Greg! For Christ’s sake, can you get the fucking kids out of here?!”
and then smoothly sat back up
only to see the rather stunned faces
of my colleagues
and hear my boss
remind everyone
to mute themselves.

by John Kenney 

Photo Credit: Rick Knief

For more information about the poet, John Kenney, see:

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Tuesday Poem: "If I Could Tell You" by W.H. Auden


Time will say nothing but I told you so
Time only knows the price we have to pay;

If I could tell you I would let you know.


If we should weep when clowns put on their show,

If we should stumble when musicians play,

Time will say nothing but I told you so.


There are no fortunes to be told, although,

Because I love you more than I can say,

If I could tell you I would let you know.


The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,

There must be reason why the leaves decay;

Time will say nothing but I told you so.


Perhaps the roses really want to grow,

The vision seriously intends to stay;

If I could tell you I would let you know.


Suppose the lions all get up and go,

And the brooks and soldiers run away;

Will Time say nothing but I told you so?

If I could tell you I would let you know. 

by W.H. Auden


For more information about the poet, W.H. Auden, see:


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Anne Sexton’s Last Letter to God" by Tracey Herd


This is the last letter I will write
sitting at my kitchen table

with the blue coffee mug

at my elbow and the pot

roasting each bean to perfection:

faraway continents

in my cluttered suburban kitchen.

The sun is sharp through the blinds,

crisscrossing the kitchen’s

clean tiles with yellow and white.

I walk a knife-edge of light.

This is the last letter I will write.


I have been a witch, clothed in rags

and shrieking. I have borrowed

the wings of angels and given them back:

a poor fit, and yes, like Icarus

I had no sense and didn’t much like

falling back to earth. I have had lovers

by the dozen, some poets and others

and a faithful husband that I left

in the end. I have written painfully evocative

letters from Europe and many poems,

but this is the last letter I will write.


God is in your typewriter, the old priest said
and I wanted a father so badly, that for months

I believed him, transfixed by small miracles

and clutching my golden crucifix

on my knees by the empty bed. Lately


I have given a few well-received readings

in my high heels and my favourite red dress,

the posters that displayed me in defiant pose.

I was always dramatic with my husky voice,

my fingers curled around a cigarette

and the ending always upbeat.


I have just lunched with an old friend

saying goodbye and something

‘she couldn’t quite catch’.


Now I have locked the front door behind me,

squinting a little as autumn spills down

from the skies and the trees. Here

is a small miracle and I am walking away.

I wrap my mother’s fur coat

tightly around me, although I have

no need of its warmth today. The sun

is a cat stroking my neck, winding itself

contently around my long slender legs.

I pause by the garage door to admire

the autumn leaves in their 
sourball colours.

A drink is in order. A double.

A toast to old friends, to those

on the other end of the phone and to those

who for one reason or another

have abandoned me. I pull the car door

closed and turn the key.

This, God, is 
my journey.
I have cut the lines

between us: no more tantrums.

No more poems. I am not

your daughter, your mother, your lover.

No more letters then, from me to you, God

and it amuses me to think of your

impotent displeasure as I settle myself

comfortably into the driver’s seat.

by Tracey Herd


For more information about poet, Tracey Herd, see:


Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Taxi" by Simon Sweetman


he’s in the back of the
car, as usual, and i’m
his taxi driver.
my son asks me
if the day he was born
was the best day of
my life.
and i say “yes.
of course”.
“what about when
you and mum got
married?”,
he quizzed.
“second. nearly as good.
can’t have one without the
other”.

he nods. and i didn’t go on
to tell him that the third best day
of my life was when he had
just turned two – and we were
driving to hawke’s bay
for christmas. he and his
mother asleep.
and i had the ipod connected
to the car stereo. and i had made
a playlist.
the theme from the tv show ‘taxi’
on a loop. (so that i didn’t have to
keep pressing play, or find
the repeat function – instead
i had the same track loaded
30 or 40 times…)
bob james’ perfect fender rhodes
instrumental – with
ralph macdonald on percussion and
idris muhammad on drums. sounds like
eric gale’s guitar slow-burning in the
lava-lamp glow.
i was their taxi driver. i’d look
to the left. then to the back-left.
that music from my childhood guiding
the way.
it was like i was the yellow-cab in a time-loop
(a new york minute?) driving over (and over)
the queensboro bridge.
checking my buckled passengers.
seven o’clock.
and
nine o’clock.
resting. their beautiful
faces. those wondrous souls.
all fire. all glitter and gold.
first and second.
(first equal of course!)
And the music my mantra, my
meditation, taking me back to the
friday nights when we’d wait
for dad to come home with the
fish’n’chips, when we’d laugh
at louie’s anger and jim’s madness
and the weird and silly and wonderful
latka…
me and my brother and my
mum and dad were maybe
at our closest watching m*a*s*h and family
ties, blackadder, the young ones, cheers,
married with children (and a few others).
definitely taxi!
but here i was…
driving the white lines with this
music that was taking me back
and taking me back as i was edging
ever-forward…in the yellow-cab of my
imagination.
whimsy. nostalgia.
and so much more than that.
(does there need to be more than that
though? those two things are so
beautiful, so joyous and sad all at once,
they’ve helped me along in so many ways
through so many ways…)
profound beauty all wrapped
up in that slick and lovely groove.
people would maybe call a song
like that ‘soulless’ – to me it’s the very
embodiment of soul…
and so it rolled on and on
and i did too.
checking their faces. me
elated. the calmest i’d been
in an age. or more.
and i was never
bobby wheeler.
i was their alex reiger.
but i was
better than alex reiger.
because they didn’t just
have me. i had them.
and we had the music.
even if it was only
me listening…
that was the third-best-day
of my life.
and if i whispered that
it was the best,
well, that was only
because they were
asleep.
and i
was their taxi.

by Simon Sweetman

Simon Sweetman doing an erudite poet impression
with lots of old books behind him. Photographer unknown.

Simon Sweetman is a podcast host, journalist and poet. He blogs every day at offthetracks.co.nz. When he’s not doing that he reads books, watches horror movies, walks the dog and photographs road cones – though not all at once. He has a brand new book of poems available called The Death of Music Journalism.

The Death of Music Journalism is available now in all good bookshops, as they say, or go direct to: https://thecubapress.nz/shop/the-death-of-music-journalism/

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Detox Mansion" a song by Warren Zevon



Well, I'm gone to Detox Mansion
Way down on Last Breath Farm
I've been rakin' leaves with Liza
Me and Liz clean up the yard


Left my home in Music City
In the back of a limousine
Now I'm doin' my own laundry
And I'm gettin' those clothes clean

Growin' fond of Detox Mansion
And this quiet life I lead
But I'm dying to tell my story
For all my friends to read
Well, it's tough to be somebody
And it's hard to keep from fallin' apart
Up here on Rehab Mountain
We gonna learn these things by heart

Well, I'm gone to Detox Mansion
Way down on Last Breath Farm
I've been rakin' leaves with Liza
Me and Liz clean up the yard

What goes on in Detox Mansion
Outside the rubber room
We get therapy and lectures
We play golf in the afternoon

Well, it's tough to be somebody
And it's hard not to fall apart
Way up on Rehab Mountain
We gonna learn these things by heart


by Jorge Calderón & Warren Zevon

 

NOTE: Warren Zevon was an outlier on the California rock music scene in the early to mid-70s when the scene was dominated by radio-friendly soft rock by singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne. Zevon brought a literacy to his songs that very few were attempting in an era when acts like The Eagles were in the ascendancy.

Zevon struggled with alcoholism and drugs like many other artists and he may have been a lot more commercially successful had he been able to rein in his demons. But the flip side may have been that those demons that plagued him also made him stand out as one of America's great, and to some degree unsung, songwriters.

He was no stranger to self-mockery as he demonstrates with great aplomb in this song. I often wonder if Liz Taylor and Liza Minnelli knew that they were name-checked in this song.

For more information about songwriter, Warren Zevon, see:

Photo Credit: Elias Stein/Getty Images

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Hipster Cancer" by Paul E. Nelson



July 26, 2014 - Dear T. -

"bright eyes in wells
watch for the sun's assassin;"
                 - Denise Levertov

"The past can wait," she'd
say - even today where his
hipster cancer can't be hid
in his giant beard, where
a toddler only a nuisance
not a direct link to the
numinous.
                  I'd've wanted
a cannabis boutonnières at 17
 but long lapsed my High Times
subscription. Call it Skywalker
 but only yr head's in the clouds
   not yr jiwa.*


*jiwa = Indonesian for "soul" 


Paul E Nelson, June 2019, photo by Philip Brautigam


Poet & interviewer Paul E Nelson founded SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) & the Cascadia Poetry Festival. Since 1993, SPLAB has produced hundreds of poetry events & 600 hours of interview programming with legendary poets & whole systems activists including Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger, Robin Blaser, Diane di Prima, Daphne Marlatt, Nate Mackey, George Bowering, Barry McKinnon, José Kozer, Brenda Hillman & many others. Paul’s books include A Time Before Slaughter/Pig War: & Other Songs of Cascadia (2020) American Prophets (interviews 1994-2012) (2018) American Sentences (2015) A Time Before Slaughter (2009) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (2013). Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia (2015), 56 Days of August: Poetry Postcards (2017) and Samthology: A Tribute to Sam Hamill(2019) Make it True meets Medusario (2019), he’s presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Nanaimo, Qinghai & Beijing, China, has had work translated into Spanish, Chinese & Portuguese & writes an American Sentence every day. Awarded a residency at The Lake, from the Morris Graves Foundation in Loleta, CA, he’s published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster, Hambone, and elsewhere. Winner of the 2014 Robin Blaser Award from The Capilano Review, he is engaged in a 20 year bioregional cultural investigation of Cascadia and lives in Rainier Beach, in the Cascadia bioregion’s Cedar River watershed.
 

Paul is an active member (since 2004) of the Subud spiritual community, serving as Local Helper and Rental Agent of Subud Greater Seattle, webmaster of Subud Pacific Northwest, Secretary and webmaster of the Subud International Cultural Association’s USA chapter and has many other positions in the past.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Ghost Town" by Andrew M. Bell



Picture Clint’s flinty-eyed stare

as he squints into the harsh sun

down an abandoned street.

Ears attuned for the chink-clink of the villain’s spurs

hear only the eerie moan of the nor’wester.

 

Silt swirling in small twisters is

flung like an insult into Clint’s eyes,

the grey, turgid liquid that spewed forth

now desiccated by the unforgiving Canterbury sun.

Cue tumbleweeds,

but the sole arrival is a family carload 

seeking the solace of the state-sanctioned sea.

Dad winces as he drives through Dodge City,

and his suspension surrenders to another pothole.

 

Dusty venetian blinds are

closed like the eyes of the dead,

the blanched grass clutches at the windows,

and weeds suffocate once proud gardens,

fissures scar the lawn

with the earth’s vengeance.

 

Clint springs like a cougar at

a shadow in his peripheral vision,

but the villain is already out of range,

running carelessly towards a life full of promise.


by Andrew M. Bell

Photo Credit: Joe Hayes

For more information about poet, Andrew M. Bell, see:


AUTHOR'S NOTE: The poet would like to acknowledge the editor of The Press in whose pages this poem was first published in 2013.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Forget About Healing" by Jeff Foster


Some days, you just have to forget about ‘healing’.
You have to stop trying to feel better, trying to overcome your emotional wounds, or trying to be anywhere other than where you are.
You have to embrace the day as it is.
And you have to give yourself the most sacred permission of all:
To shatter. To break. To be an ugly mess.
To lean into a place of utter humility and powerlessness in yourself.
To cry out to the heavens, “I can’t do this!”
To admit utter defeat in the loss of the life you had imagined.
To crumble to the ground, lonely and hopeless and profoundly ruined.
To want to die, even.

And there, in the darkest places, in the blackness of the underworld, you may begin to rediscover... life.
And learn to love the beginnings. A sacred reboot:
A single breath. The way the sun warms your face.
The sound of a tiny bird singing in the tree over there.
The raw simplicity of a single moment of human existence.
Hell has been transmuted, through love and patience.
You have discovered the wholeness in your brokenness.
You have given up your idea of ‘healing’, and you have uncovered something infinitely more healing:
Your authentic self.
Beautiful and true and utterly unfixable.


by Jeff Foster


For more about poet, Jeff Foster, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Foster_(spiritual_teacher)

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Tuesday Poem - Song - "Common People" by Pulp


Not a poem, but a fine piece of social observation nonetheless:


She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge
She studied sculpture at Saint Martin's College
That's where I
Caught her eye
She told me that her Dad was loaded
I said "In that case I'll have a rum and Coca-Cola"
She said "Fine"
And then in thirty seconds time she said
I wanna live like common people
I wanna do whatever common people do
Wanna sleep with common people
I wanna sleep with common people
Like you
What else could I do
I said "I'll, I'll see what I can do"
I took her to a supermarket
I don't know why
But I had to start it somewhere
So it started there
I said, "Pretend you've got no money"
She just laughed and said
"Oh you're so funny"
I said "Yeah?
Well I can't see anyone else smiling in here?
Are you sure"
You wanna live like common people
You wanna see whatever common people see
Wanna sleep with common people
You wanna sleep with common people
Like me
But she didn't understand
She just smiled and held my hand
Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
'Cause when you're laid in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you called your Dad he could stop it all, yeah
You'll never live like common people
You'll never do whatever common people do
Never fail like common people
You'll never watch your life slide out of view
And then dance and drink and screw
Because there's nothing else to do
Sing along with the common people
Sing along and it might just get you through
Laugh along with the common people
Laugh along even though they're laughing at you
And the stupid things that you do
Because you think that poor is cool
Like a dog lying in a corner
They will bite you and never warn you
Look out, they'll tear your insides out
'Cause everybody hates a tourist
Especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh
Yeah and the chip stains and grease
Will come out in the bath
You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go
You are amazed that they exist
And they burn so bright
Whilst you can only wonder why
Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
'Cause when you're laid in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you called your Dad he could stop it all, yeah
Never live like common people
Never do what common people do
Never fail like common people
Never watch your life slide out of view
And then dance and drink and screw
Because there's nothing else to do
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Oh, la la la la
Oh, la la la la
Oh, la la la la
Oh, la la la la la la
Oh yeah
Songwriters: Candida Mary Doyle / Jarvis Branson Cocker / Nick Banks / Russell Senior / Stephen Patrick Mackey
Songwriters: Candida Mary Doyle / Jarvis Branson Cocker / Nick Banks / Russell Senior / Stephen Patrick Mackey
Common People lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., BMG Rights Management
Common People lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., BMG Rights Management

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" by Anne Sexton


No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:

cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,

arms and legs made of Limoges,

lips like Vin Du Rhône,

rolling her china-blue doll eyes

open and shut.

Open to say,

Good Day Mama,

and shut for the thrust

of the unicorn.

She is unsoiled.

She is as white as a bonefish.


Once there was a lovely virgin

called Snow White.

Say she was thirteen.

Her stepmother,

a beauty in her own right,

though eaten, of course, by age,

would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.

Beauty is a simple passion,

but, oh my friends, in the end

you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.

The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred--

something like the weather forecast--

a mirror that proclaimed

the one beauty of the land.

She would ask,

Looking glass upon the wall,

who is fairest of us all?

And the mirror would reply,

You are the fairest of us all.

Pride pumped in her like poison.


Suddenly one day the mirror replied,

Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true,

but Snow White is fairer than you.

Until that moment Snow White

had been no more important

than a dust mouse under the bed.

But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand

and four whiskers over her lip

so she condemned Snow White

to be hacked to death.

Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter,

and I will salt it and eat it.

The hunter, however, let his prisoner go

and brought a boar's heart back to the castle.

The queen chewed it up like a cube steak.

Now I am fairest, she said,

lapping her slim white fingers.


Snow White walked in the wildwood

for weeks and weeks.

At each turn there were twenty doorways

and at each stood a hungry wolf,

his tongue lolling out like a worm.

The birds called out lewdly,

talking like pink parrots,

and the snakes hung down in loops,

each a noose for her sweet white neck.

On the seventh week

she came to the seventh mountain

and there she found the dwarf house.

It was as droll as a honeymoon cottage

and completely equipped with

seven beds, seven chairs, seven forks

and seven chamber pots.

Snow White ate seven chicken livers

and lay down, at last, to sleep.


The dwarfs, those little hot dogs,

walked three times around Snow White,

the sleeping virgin.  They were wise

and wattled like small czars.

Yes.  It's a good omen,

they said, and will bring us luck.

They stood on tiptoes to watch

Snow White wake up.  She told them

about the mirror and the killer-queen

and they asked her to stay and keep house.

Beware of your stepmother,

they said.

Soon she will know you are here.

While we are away in the mines

during the day, you must not

open the door.


Looking glass upon the wall . . .

The mirror told

and so the queen dressed herself in rags

and went out like a peddler to trap Snow White.

She went across seven mountains.

She came to the dwarf house

and Snow White opened the door

and bought a bit of lacing.

The queen fastened it tightly

around her bodice,

as tight as an Ace bandage,

so tight that Snow White swooned.

She lay on the floor, a plucked daisy.

When the dwarfs came home they undid the lace

and she revived miraculously.

She was as full of life as soda pop.

Beware of your stepmother,

they said.

She will try once more.


Looking glass upon the wall. . .

Once more the mirror told

and once more the queen dressed in rags

and once more Snow White opened the door.

This time she bought a poison comb,

a curved eight-inch scorpion,

and put it in her hair and swooned again.

The dwarfs returned and took out the comb

and she revived miraculously.

She opened her eyes as wide as Orphan Annie.

Beware, beware, they said,

but the mirror told,

the queen came,

Snow White, the dumb bunny,

opened the door

and she bit into a poison apple

and fell down for the final time.

When the dwarfs returned

they undid her bodice,

they looked for a comb,

but it did no good.

Though they washed her with wine

and rubbed her with butter

it was to no avail.

She lay as still as a gold piece.


The seven dwarfs could not bring themselves

to bury her in the black ground

so they made a glass coffin

and set it upon the seventh mountain

so that all who passed by

could peek in upon her beauty.

A prince came one June day

and would not budge.

He stayed so long his hair turned green

and still he would not leave.

The dwarfs took pity upon him

and gave him the glass Snow White--

its doll's eyes shut forever--

to keep in his far-off castle.

As the prince's men carried the coffin

they stumbled and dropped it

and the chunk of apple flew out

of her throat and she woke up miraculously.


And thus Snow White became the prince's bride.

The wicked queen was invited to the wedding feast

and when she arrived there were

red-hot iron shoes,

in the manner of red-hot roller skates,

clamped upon her feet.

First your toes will smoke

and then your heels will turn black

and you will fry upward like a frog,

she was told.

And so she danced until she was dead,

a subterranean figure,

her tongue flicking in and out

like a gas jet.

Meanwhile Snow White held court,

rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut

and sometimes referring to her mirror

as women do.

by Anne Sexton


For more information about the poet, Anne Sexton, see: