Ah Love, you smell of petroleum
and overwork
with grease on your fingernails,
paint in your hair
there is a pained look in your eye
from no appreciation
you speak to me of the lilacs
and appleblossoms we ought to have
the banquets we should be serving
afterwards rubbing each other for hours
with tenderness and genuine
olive oil
someday. Meantime here is your cracked plate
with spaghetti. Wash your hands &
touch me, praise
my cooking. I shall praise your calluses,
we shall dance in the kitchen
of our imagination.

Judy Grahn

I hardly existed

July 10, 2020

In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.

Mary Oliver
Upstream: Selected Essays

Our political leaders are unenlightened and corrupt, but with rare exception, political leaders have always been unenlightened and corrupt. I stopped taking politics seriously a long, long time ago, therefore it’s had practically no effect on the way I’ve lived my life. In the end, politics is always a depressant, and I’ve preferred to be stimulated.

Tom Robbins
Jitterbug Perfume

Self Portrait

July 9, 2020

I did not want my body
Spackled in the world’s
Black beads and broke
Diamonds. What the world

Wanted, I did not. Of the things
It wanted. The body of Sunday
Morning, the warm wine and
The blood. The dripping fox

Furs dragged through the black New
York snow–the parked car, the pearls,
To the first pew–the funders,
The trustees, the bloat, the red weight of

The world. Their faces. I wanted not
That. I wanted Saint Francis, the love of
His animals. The wolf, broken and bleeding–
That was me.

Cynthia Cruz

Civilization

July 9, 2020

Those are the people who do complicated things.

 

     they’ll grab us by the thousands

     and put us to work.

 

World’s going to hell, with all these

     villages and trails.

Wild duck flocks aren’t

     what they used to be.

Aurochs grow rare.

 

Fetch me my feathers and amber

 

         *

 

A small cricket

on the typescript page of

“Kyoto born in spring song”

grooms himself

in time with The Well-Tempered Clavier.

I quit typing and watch him through a glass.

How well articulated! How neat!

 

Nobody understands the ANIMAL KINGDOM.

 

         *

 

When creeks are full

The poems flow

When creeks are down

We heap stones.

 

                      Gary Snyder

Slaughter all

July 9, 2020

There is no ethnic group on the face of this earth that has not been slaughtered; viz Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Britons, and thousands of other tribes worldwide. When, after a conflict, the best balanced leaders who have a stake in the future of all persons, are bypassed, and instead power is seized by the angriest and most grudge-holding, whose greatest stake is in the past…without new consciousness, and without strong reconciling actions…thus erupts a horrible recycling of living out the least of what is human in this world.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Letter To The Prince on the Anniversary of Kristallnacht

Even in Winter, you are not safe. Stay indoors, attend your hearths. Try to keep the night at bay by the telling of your tongue. Remember your kin, honour your ancestors. For at this time the dead begin to stir, riding upon hallowed and familiar roads, galloping through villages and wastes, flying through the forests of the mind. Such raids are reminders that the past is not a dead thing, but may return, like a hunter, to follow us for a time.

Ari Berk and William Spytma
The Wild Hunt

Poetry is dead

July 9, 2020

It happens every few years, perhaps oftener: we get the article, widely and usually well published, that declares poetry dead. Usually the accompanying sound is less a lament for this premature pronouncement than a jig on poetry’s prepaid grave. Rarely did I hear such an essay sound more like an Irish wake or a New Orleans jazz funeral, two sounds I think poetry should aspire to more often. A raucous solace.

Instead, poetry is dead.

I disagree; I plan wild essays; I respond point by point, debunking and spelunking.

But tonight, why not – poetry is dead. Let it be dead; let us write as if we are already dead. If poetry is dying, then let’s write a poetry pronounced D.O.A.

Perhaps it is because I have witnessed too many deaths these past few years, but I have tried to write a poetry of life, against those deaths and even Death in general. Maybe. But it also seems to me some of the same folks who think poetry is dead, or proceed without it, turn to poetry in crucial moments: at a death, or a wedding. Poetry as invocation, as ceremony.

For years I felt poetry was not ceremony, but the daily thing. The dirt. It is an everyday, not an occasionally. I still think it is. But perhaps the only way to make this truly true is to write a poetry that is not like death, but is death: surprising yet inevitable, everyday yet far-off in the future, an ever-present that we still manage to forget. In this, it may resemble jazz – or is this simply because, as Ralph Ellison says, “life is jazz-shaped”? Death may be jazzed-shaped too, just ask Gabriel and Satchmo in their cutting contest.

The only way to find out is to write a dead poetry.

I am not taking this lightly: I am not suggesting a poetry of suicide (don’t do it), or of homicide (give that up); I am not suggesting a poetry celebrating war, or ignoring war, or a poetry of a war that we celebrated too early our victory in, and now cannot ignore. (The deadening of poetry is celebrated too early and often too.) A dead poetry does not believe in “-cides” of any kind; it believes in insides, in soul and sorrow, in silence and also the singing that is against such.

Deadism believes that poetry should capture the living language; it just knows that we should write in dead languages too.

Write not like something endangered – not like a spotted owl –or reintroduced into the wild, but dead already. (The poetry of “They’re coming to get us,” the poetry of the horror movie I’ve seen too much of, the poetry of lament, of victimization, or worse, of declaring the various and nefarious threats to freedom, equality, blackness, or justice, seems to take to much pleasure in watching the killer even as it shouts out warnings in the theater. This poetry is over, but unfortunately not yet dead.) Write not like a coming extinction, but like the extinction already. That said, do not write like a dodo, something more rare and flightless – but like a passenger pigeon, a poetry once plentiful and ever-present and so therefore killed off.

Do not write a poetry of rarity, or of rarification, but of never again.

Do not even write this poetry but find it, come across it, and step over it. The helpless ant that in the end can lift more than ten times its weight: that is a poetry.

Maybe what we need is an undead poetry – not to take death back from poetry, but to take death back from death itself. A poetry of shambling power, devouring everything it its path. A vampire poetry that will live forever, sexy and dangerous and immortal, shape-shifting when necessary.

That bat in my friend’s toilet (true story) a poetry. That dog. That mewling cat caught under my house that left sometime in the night: a poetry. It is hard to find, and harder to coax out, but will one day emerge on its own.

In the meantime, a poetry that speaks from the mouths of those gone that aren’t really gone, a poetry of ghosts and haunts. Of haints: not ain’ts. Dead is something you can be, after all, is not itself an ain’t. The ain’ts I’m afraid are here, among us living.

Instead there’s haints, which our poetry should be: hainting, hard to pin down, glimpsed but believed. That’s the poetry I believe in. A poltergeist poetry that moves things, and us, when we least expect. . .

Deadism like those movies with voice-overs that sound not only dead, but by the end you find out are from a dead man: the one not ready for a close-up, but floating in a pool, the one who knows what he can’t know but tells us anyway. A poetry not of witness, or of victimhood, or of experience or innocence, but of the moment after: write like a saint, not the picture of a saint. Write like the bone in the box, the relic to be kissed. Better yet, write like the saints that have been officially declared saints no more; write like something once holy, now decanonized and attempted to be forgotten. Write not like remembering, but the forgetting. . . write like something you don’t mean to be erased but one day know will: then let them try.

Someone I read said Johnny Cash (bless his heart) didn’t write like a saint, but as a sinner, which meant someone who could be redeemed. That’s right, it seems to me. And one of the most powerful things was his album, after the album he thought he’d die in – the sequel to good-bye. (The Man Comes Around) is just as powerful, if not more than, the goodbye itself.

We should write a poetry that is after the goodbye, that is not the long farewell but the hello after. The hereafter – a word that in itself is undead, both here and gone at the same time. I’m a long gone daddy – and being here, and being gone, seems what we need now. . . the talk of someone whose time is up, and who knows it – but talks anyway.

Only by writing a dead poetry, a zombie poetry, can the thing come back to life, not so much reborn as born for the first time. Maybe we got it all backward: we die, then we live? Only poetry knows for sure.

Kevin Young
Deadism

Before Dark

July 8, 2020

They used to mass
in the crowns of oaks
on every street for blocks around
but have gone elsewhere,
the evening no longer
gathered by their feathers
but by the leaves, which blot
whatever light is left to the sky.

Whether we saw the crows
as a barely worth mentioning
image of death for the way
they took over branches
with perfect authority,
whether, where did I hear it, their
numbers were thinned by disease,
nothing avails. They are

missing, the crackle of wings
against the weight of their flight,
beaks that broke open
broadcasting any scrap of news.
Like our children, they carry off
whole years, like the wind-borne thought
of cries never welcome enough
day or night in our ears.

Jennifer Barber

I live, at all times, for imaginative fiction; for ambivalence, not instruction. When language serves dogma, then literature is lost. I live also, and only, for excellence. My care is not for the cult of egalitarian mediocrity that is sweeping the world today, wherein even the critics are no longer qualified to differentiate, but for literature, which you may notice I have not defined. I would say that, because of its essential ambivalence, ‘literature’ is: words that provoke a response; that invite the reader or listener to partake of the creative act. There can be no one meaning for a text. Even that of the writer is a but an option.

Literature exists at every level of experience. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It embraces; it does not reduce, however simply it is expressed. The purpose of the storyteller is to relate the truth in a manner that is simple: to integrate without reduction; for it is rarely possible to declare the truth as it is, because the universe presents itself as a Mystery. We have to find parables; we have to tell stories to unriddle the world.

It is a paradox: yet one so important I must restate it. The job of a storyteller is to speak the truth; but what we feel most deeply cannot be spoken in words. At this level only images connect. And so story becomes symbol; and symbol is myth.

It is one of the main errors of historical and rational analysis to suppose that the ‘original form’ of myth can be separated from its miraculous elements. ‘Wonder is only the first glimpse of the start of philosophy,’ says Plato. Aristotle is more explicit: ‘The lover of myths, which are a compound of wonders, is, by his being in that very state, a lover of wisdom.’ Myth encapsulates the nearest approach to absolute that words can speak.

Alan Garner
Aback of Beyond