Saturday, November 19, 2016

"Tell the truth"


  good luck
  with that -

  or settle
  for $25 M

  a routine


iii  Saul Loeb
     Agence France-Presse

Friday, November 18, 2016

Reference points for the pending era

Sun in the heaven,
Thou art the cause of my mirth,
Star in the evening
Thine is my province since birth;
Depths of the sky
Yours are the depths of my worth.

 An American poet who concentrated
 repeatedly on reference points to
 mark, or verify a "normal life" -
 despite external conditions - wrote
 this short poem in comparative youth
 and called it, Self-Respect. That in-
 teresting value, seeming these days
 to have precipitated the least res-
 pectful moral framework for knowing
 normal life, ever to descend upon
 America, comes back to mind as so
 many grope for reference points now,
 to endure it, and of course, not
 merely to transcend it but to erase
 it. Voltaire's Écrasez l'infâme isn't
 the phrase we need, but it's apt.
 What one wants, are reference points
 for pursuing humane life.

Resistance is not an interval, 
but absorption necessarily is. 
The extraordinary debasement 
of our culture, to be exalted 
early in the coming year, can-
not be repulsed without some 
period of digesting its ignom-
iny, humiliation, and ravaging 
malice. Simply the reflections
the facts summon to qualify it,
excite its Bacchic vengeance.

We take time, not to ignore,
not to delay, not to console,
but to refine that resolve
which is the vessel of hope.
We don't presume, our proven-
ance does more than anticipate
us. No. But it is galactically
competent, and does not melt
before some snarling meteor.

             Build up the walls about me; close each door;
             And fasten all the windows with your bars;
             Still shall I walk abroad on Heaven's floor
             And be companion to the singing stars.

             Whether your prison be of greatest height
             Or gloomier depth, it matters not. Though blind
             I still shall look upon the burning light,
             And see the flowers dancing in the wind.

             Your walls will disappear; your doors will swing
             Even as I command them. I shall fare
             Either up hill or down, and I shall be
             Beside the happy lark when he takes wing,
             Striking sweet music from the empty air,
             And pass immortal mornings by the sea.

Wallace Stevens
Frank Kermode
  and Joan Richardson
Wallace Stevens
  Collected Poetry
  and Prose
The Library of America, 1997©

ca 411 BC
Robin Robertson
Daniel Mendelsohn
Harper Collins, 2014©

John Richmond
Self Portrait
ca 1840

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Democracy is risk

   The most extraordinarily beautiful
   intelligences in letters we have
   known - the most valuable keepsakes
   of a precarious and sometimes delu-
   sional tradition - nevertheless en-
   gage us to have feeling for each
   other, which possibly only the gods
   could ever muster. And then there
   are the builders, who introduce an-
   other prod to fraternity, letting
   us draw peace from contemplating its
   fruit. How can one decline the risk?

Le Corbusier
Palace of the Assembly

Russian sailor
  San Francisco harbor
Photo, Laurent

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Make us a watchman ii

   Picture a yacht
   Canting at speed
   Over ripple-ribbed sand.
     Change its mast to a man,
     Change its boom to a bow,
     Change its sail to a shield:

   Notice Merionez
   Breasting the whalebacks to          picket the corpse of Patroclus.

                An ostentatiously new Administration
                is fouling its grave with every as-
                signation that splits it wide open,
                every lifting of every previous mask.
                Its headlong leaps into catastrophe
                fly beyond diverting, to arresting.
                Panic and its chaos are foretold.

                It isn't how wrong we were at Troy.
                It's how we inherit its precedents.
                The ink isn't dry on the country's
                divorce from reality and already a
                pall of burning waste engulfs her,
                our tinpot czar of trash entertain-
                ing Putin's Bonaparte on a raft of
                tweets from Tilsit. 

Christopher Logue
War Music
  An Account of Books 1-4
  and 16-19 of Homer's Iliad
The Noonday Press
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997©

Simon Sebag Montefiore
The Romanovs
  1613 - 1918
  Scene 6: The Duel
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016©

Monday, November 14, 2016

Under the radar

  an innocuous commuter's 
  scarcely noticed, even 
  as Monday morning casts
  suspicion on his movements.

Harold Hollingsworth

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Make us a watchman

    The selection of Mrs Clinton, 
    which we gather is not to take
    place in the Electoral College
    after all, but in cascades of
    footnotes to our history's end-
    less brief of remorse with what
    is chosen in her place, had nev-
    ertheless primed us to alertness
    to the paths of future policies.

    At least now, the future is re-
    ceding as the past exhumes its
    myths. Come as you are govern-
    ment is bound to be diverting.

Excuses for the change

               . .              We're sick of green,
               of weeds reseeding, lurid pokeberries
               bunched and fat. The season's mean

               with an open, metaphorical
               kind of discipline. The walnuts are thick
               with walnuts, but stripped by wind of leaves.
               Persimmons soften for our sake.

               I'll strain them for their pulp when they
               are almost rotten; we'll celebrate
               the sweetness of decline - fall's little
               ditty, where mercy rhymes with fate.

  Selection of Tree Fruits
APR/Honickman First Book Prize
American Poetry Review
Copper Canyon Press, 2011©