Sunday, April 30, 2017

poem for peace, last day of poetry month

Pray for Peace by Ellen Bass, in her book The Human Line

Pray to whomever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah. Raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekhina, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.
Then pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.
On the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,
for everyone riding buses all over the world.
Drop some silver and pray.
Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latte and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.
To Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, pray.
Bow down to terriers and shepherds and Siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.
Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.
Making love, of course, is already prayer.
Skin, and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile cases we are poured into.
If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.
When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else’s legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheelchair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer as the earth revolves:
less harm, less harm, less harm.
And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas–
With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.
Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.
Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Scoop your holy water
from the gutter. Gnaw your crust.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Humanity I love You by e.e.cummings

Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both
parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard
Humanity i love you because
when you’re hard up you pawn your
intelligence to buy a drink and when
you’re flush pride keeps
you from the pawn shop and
because you are continually committing
nuisances but more
especially in your own house
Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down
on it
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity
i hate you

Monday, April 24, 2017

I've been loving and loving and loving

a poem by Sir Paul McCartney

Yesterday it was my birthday,
I hung one more year on the line.
I should be depressed, my life is a mess,
But I'm having a good time.

I've been loving and loving and loving,
I'm exhausted from loving so well.
I should go to bed, but a voice in my head
Says, what the hell!

It was not my birthday yesterday. Mine is in August!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ayn Rand and the deranged presidente

I just read a piece about Ayn Rand. Learned more about her than I care to know. I was wooed into reading the article because it had the absurd title of something like "how Ann Rand turned people selfish and greedy". Baloney. There have always been selfish, greedy people in this world and many of them gravitate towards others who are greedy and selfish.

I learned Alan Greenspan was one of her devoted acolytes, fyi.

I learned she surrounded herself with a nasty, gareedy, selfish, brutish and callous crowd -- people like herself.

The piece did not mention, but I already knew this, that as she aged, even though she had raged against Social Security and Medicare from its creation until she became very sick. She did not want her husband to lose all their assets as she died from lung cancer so she accepted Medicare.

Is there a better case for Medicare for all? Even the big kahuna libertarian hater, Ayn Rand, turned to Medicare as she aged.

And get this:  I learned that she had always been a heavy smoker and her acolytes all did whatever they could to emulate her so they mostly all smoked heavily. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, intimates suggested she tell, at least, her closest circle of admirers so they might stop smoking. She refused. No reason to be kind to others, not for Ayn Rand, just because she was dying of lung cancer.

A couple years ago, on Christmas Day, I went to the Jewish museum in SF with a friend. There was a superb photo show on exhibit. I don't remember the photographer's name. He shot photos of iconic, famous people. His photo of Ayn Rand captures her evil, her essence of evil, so well that I was chilled in the instant I looked at it. I averted my eyes, not wanting to feel any more of her darkness. A great photo, however. One snap and she was perfectly captured.

The ugliness unfolding in the world was always here, held in check by many of the things Ayn Rand objected to:  social safety nets, environmental protection, equitable wealth distribution, government regulations to force the greedy to treat workers well. Bosh. Nonsense. Says our deranged presidente. If children are put to work in unsafe conditions, have no fear. There will always be poor parents desparate enough to send their poor children to work in unsafe conditions.

Will our deranged presidente allow regulations that would avoid another Trianagle Waist Shirt Fire?  That case was the first case in our Torts book. Many women, and some children, died because the employer locked them in to keep them working. No wasting time to pee, ya know?

How about this consideration? Ayn Rand wrote fiction. How can so many allegedly intelligent people profess they abide by her fictional beliefs? Even she did not actually abide by her own dark vision when she needed . . . government help.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I can give you my loneliness

What can I hold you with?
I offer you lean streets, desperate sunsets, the moon of ragged suburbs.
I offer you the bitterness of a man who has looked long and long at the lonely moon.
I offer you my ancestors, my dead men, the ghosts that living men have honoured in marble: my fathers father killed in the frontier of Buenos Aires, two bullets through his lungs, bearded and dead, wrapped by his soldiers in the hide of a cow; my mothers grandfather just twenty four- heading a charged of three hundred men in Peru, now ghosts on vanished horses.
I offer you whatever insight my books may hold, whatever manliness or humour my life.
I offer you the loyalty of a man who has never been loyal.
I offer you that kernel of myself that I have saved, somehow the central heart that deals not in words, traffics not with dreams and is untouched by time, by joy, by adversities.
I offer you the memory of yellow rose seen at sunset, years before you were born.
I offer you explanations of yourself, theories about yourself, authentic and surprising news of yourself.
I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the hunger of my heart; I am trying to bribe you with uncertainty, with danger, with defeat.
Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, April 21, 2017

what have you done to the world

Carol Ann Duffy – The Bees
This collection is well worth buying. I am choosing not a Christmas poem as such, but a lovely clever sad poem about the moon – well, by the moon, almost.
Darlings, I write to you from the moon
where I hide behind famous light.
How could you ever think it was a man up here?
A cow jumped over. The dish ran away with the spoon.
What reached me were your joys, griefs,
here’s-the-craic, losses, longings, your lives
brief, mine long, a talented loneliness. I must have
a thousand names for the earth, my blue vocation.
Round I go, the moon a diet of light, sliver of pear,
wedge of lemon, slice of melon, half an orange,
silver onion; your human sound falling through space,
childbirth’s song, the lover’s song, the song of death.
Devoted as words to things, I gaze, gawp, glare; deserts
were forests were, sick seas. When night comes,
I see you gaping back as though you hear my Darlings,
what have you done, what have you done to the world?

keeping the stars apart

When I was in h.s., and also in my college years, I would stumble upon a poet or fiction writer I loved and proceed as quickly as possible to read everything they had published. Interlibrary loan helped.

In h.s., one of my literary discoveries was e.e.cummings. I loved his free form poetry. I began to secretly aspire to be a poet. My mother discovered my infatuation and openly and unkindly mocked me for liking such a trivial (HUH?) nothing of a poet. After that, I distrusted my own taste for a long time and moved as far away from poetry as I could get. I did not take any poetry classes in college, only fiction (and other subjects, of course. . . ).  My mother even mocked the poet's choice to spell his name in all small letters, which was a detail I quite admired. To dare to be who he felt like being seemed wonderful to me. Now, here I am, almost 64. No one will leave me when I turn 64. My nearest and dearest already have. Anyway, this poem pleases me A LOT.

This poem had me swooning the first time I read it and swooning each time I read it.  My mom mocked me for liking e.e.cummings. Her sting kinda lingers even now.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
ee cummings

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

poem for poetry month

I just read that a five year old Navajo/Kiowa boy was denied entrance to kindergarden because he has very long hair. In his culture, hair is sacred and not to be cut. I read that and, as happens to much in this too angry and too unkind world, it broke my heart. I thought "I should write a poem"; then I remembered this great poem by Jack Gilbert.

A Brief for the Defense. by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.