Wednesday, April 20, 2011
In the Washington DC area, politics is local news. Just as Iowans follow hog futures, the folks here in Northern Virginia pay attention to what’s going on in Congress. The big news recently was the budget fight and the possible shut down of the Federal Government. Congress seems to have forgotten that they are there to run the country, not just to get reelected.
The following poem by Alicia Suskin Ostriker was published in 2005 and still seems relevant. I heard it one morning on the radio, on The Writer’s Almanac, one of my favorite sources for new poetry. The link is below.
The puzzled ones, the Americans, go through their lives
Buying what they are told to buy,
Pursuing their love affairs with the automobile,
Baseball and football, romance and beauty,
Enthusiastic as trained seals, going into debt, struggling —
True believers in liberty, and also security,
And of course sex — cheating on each other
For the most part only a little, mostly avoiding violence
Except at a vast blue distance, as between bombsight and earth,
Or on the violent screen, which they adore.
Those who are not Americans think Americans are happy
Because they are so filthy rich, but not so.
They are mostly puzzled and at a loss
As if someone pulled the floor out from under them,
They'd like to believe in God, or something, and they do try.
You can see it in their white faces at the supermarket and the gas station
— Not the immigrant faces, they know what they want,
Not the blacks, whose faces are hurt and proud —
The white faces, lipsticked, shaven, we do try
To keep smiling, for when we're smiling, the whole world
Smiles with us, but we feel we've lost
That loving feeling. Clouds ride by above us,
Rivers flow, toilets work, traffic lights work, barring floods, fires
And earthquakes, houses and streets appear stable
So what is it, this moon-shaped blankness?
What the hell is it? America is perplexed.
We would fix it if we knew what was broken.
Friday, April 15, 2011
My dear Spark Friend VALERIEMAHA shared this wonderful poem with me and suggested I pass it along for National Poetry month, something I am delighted to do.
Read and enjoy.
By Ted Hughes
Because it is occasionally possible, just for brief moments,
to find the words that will unlock the doors of all those many mansions inside
the head and express something - perhaps not much, just something - of the crush of
information that presses in on us from the way a crow flies over
and the way a man walks and the look of a street and from what we did
one day a dozen years ago.
Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us
precisely the way we are, from the momentary effect of the barometer to the
force that created men distinct from trees.
Something of the inaudible music that moves us along in our bodies from
moment to moment like water in a river.
Something of the spirit of the snowflake in the water of the river.
Something of the duplicity and the relativity and the merely fleeting quality
of all this.
Something of the almighty importance of it and something of the utter
And when words can manage something of this, and manage it in a moment,
of time, and in that same moment, make out of it all the vital signature of a human being
- not of an atom, or of a geometrical diagram, or of a heap of lenses -
but a human being, we call it poetry.
Saturday, April 09, 2011
April is National Poetry Month, so I am sharing the following poem by Edna St Vincent Millay. Just read it, and make of it what you will.
Edna St Vincent Millay
To what purpose April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only underground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
Did you know Edna St Vincent Millay died falling down a flight of uncarpeted stairs?
Sunday, March 27, 2011
We had snow here last night, but by noon it was all melted. When I spoke to my Dad this morning I told him about the snow and he said “It’s kind of late in March for snow.” I am delighted that at 97 he is still oriented enough to know that.
The following poem speaks of “changing everything carefully.” For the last year and a half that’s what I’ve been doing – changing everything carefully – not all at once, not big changes, but real changes.
This is one of my favorite poems for spring.
Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and
changing everything carefully
spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
and from moving New and
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and
without breaking anything.
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