No Use Crying

I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
~ James Wright
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Unspeakable

Poetry is the art of saying the unsayable, that which can only be said in a kind of music, which can be said in no other way.

I have always felt, very strongly, that all art should be allowed to speak for itself. Maybe that’s most essentially true of poetry.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Our lives are a mystery to us. So much happens at the level of shadow and heartbeat, of spirit, breath and reflection.

If you ask a poet, “what does it mean?” you’re asking for the unspeakable to be spoken, for a song without music, for a kind of life demeaned and stripped of art. If it could be said the way you want it explained, it wouldn’t be poetry in the first place. You’re asking him to take that work out of its context and put it in yours.

Read it again. Read it at sunrise or in the bathtub. Read it while rain pounds on the house. Read it with one eye open or with a mouth full of feathers and wine. Read it over and over until it gets through to you. Or give up. Move on and try again when you’re older. When you can hear the clock more clearly ticking, maybe it’s time.

His art is eccentricity, his aim
How not to hit the mark he seems to aim at,

His passion how to avoid the obvious,
His technique how to vary the avoidance.

– Robert Francis

http://poemhunter.blogspot.com/2007/05/pitcher.html

Let Them Not Say

Let them not say:   we did not see it.
We saw.

Let them not say:   we did not hear it.
We heard.

Let them not say:     they did not taste it.
We ate, we trembled.

Let them not say:   it was not spoken, not written.
We spoke,
we witnessed with voices and hands.

Let them not say:     they did nothing.
We did not-enough.

Let them say, as they must say something:

A kerosene beauty.
It burned.

Let them say we warmed ourselves by it,
read by its light, praised,

and it burned.

Jane Hirshfield, 1953

The Corn Moon

This time of year, I often remember my college days. I would sit in my dorm room, and in the carrels of the university library, and on picnic tables by Big Chico Creek, breathing in poetry.  I took in long, deep breaths as one does on entering a bakery on a rainy day.

There was an autumn feel to it; a descent into more sublime atmospheres. Leaves fell and crunched underfoot as we walked to class. In those days, there was no pumpkin spice everything. There was Bly and his snowbanks north of the house; Stafford with his images of geese and rivers; and there was Wright with his equine redemption and industrial grief, his momentous confession of a wasted life, “as the evening darkens and comes on.”

It’s the poet’s job to be outdoors a bit longer than others as the days shorten and The Corn Moon appears. As the fog rolls in at the end of the day and the pumpkins lose their green camouflage, we must continue taking notes.

There is a certain sadness in the house, even as the fires are banked for morning. Someone who shined our shoes won’t do that for us anymore. Somewhere deep in our ritual DNA, we begin lighting candles against the universal fear of what the shadows hide. Summer is over.

Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Therefore,
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

~ James Wright

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