Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Passion of Irish Men

There are many photos of Yeats, this is my favorite. He looks wise and yet a bit tired, all of man but yet human, the best part of man. He looks deep in thought and perhaps even a bit tired. It's harder to nail down the perfect Yeats poem, there's too many choices, too many thoughts that roll through your head like red wine. I found this one though and thought of Will rocking his new Lilly and since I havent found the words for my own Lilly poem offer this to that gentle reader:

And as any bickering session always turns with the one I love to the time he's spend for just him, pleading with him to push work aside in my own unique fashion, I do love Down in the Salley Garden. It took me awhile to find the right song version, knowing that my Irish father would have wanted a soft gentle voice to sing the song because he wrote of her snow white feet.

DOWN by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

In 1923 Yeats won the nobel prize in literature and unlike most writers and poets finished his best work after being given the prize and the first Irishman to claim the coveted honor. He sang his song for an an entire nation of people and loved their legend and even loved the occult. He noted Shelley as an influence and I love his works as well, he had great taste. When Shelley wrote about a kiss it was as though no one else had ever heard of kissing before and wouldn't feel the same about it after.

The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In another's being mingle--
Why not I with thine?

See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;--
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

PB Shelley

I digress. You only have to look to pop culture to know how many have read Yeats' work and who love him.

And when one things of ephemera you think of the disposable use of a theater ticket or a playbill from some musical in new york you've seen once but it became part of you. So he compares this throw away memory of life's time passing to love.

"Your eyes that once were never weary of mine
Are bowed in sotrow under pendulous lids,
Because our love is waning."
And then She:
"Although our love is waning, let us stand
By the lone border of the lake once more,
Together in that hour of gentleness
When the poor tired child, passion, falls asleep.
How far away the stars seem, and how far
Is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart!"

Pensive they paced along the faded leaves,
while slowly he whose hand held hers replied:
"Passion has often worn our wandering hearts."

The woods were round them, and the yellow leaves
ell like faint meteors in the gloom and once
a rabbit old and lame limped down the path;
Autumn was over him: and now they stood
on the lone border of the lake once more;
turning he saw that she had thrust dead leaves
gathered in silence, dewey as her eyes, in bosom and hair

"Ah, do not mourn," he said,
"that we are tired, for other loves await us;
hate on and love through unrepining hours.
Bfore us lies eternity, our souls
are love, and continual farewell."


And my contribution?

Maybe it's the weather
perhaps the fall, the leaves falling in their deadening dance
someone wrote a dream on every one of those falling leaves
a dream of what they imagined their life to be
in a trip to the opera
to watch a woman dressed as an egyptian princess
sing in italian
everyone suddenly understands italian when its full of such pain
and in fall's opera
there is a young woman
so full of passion's promise
that her cheek turns red with blush
at a man's sweet smile and whispering italian phrase
and to conquer the girl with porcelain skin
he would tell her most anything
he will regale her with stories of white horses
and princes
and their love how it lasts forever

In a quiet moment leaning near a tree
she will ask him
"when is the last time you kissed a woman because if you didn't
you'd die?"
In that question his armor will fall to the ground
and he will be a tiny woodland creature
scurrying for ground cover

and if he is brave and aren't all men who murmur in italian brave?
if he is brave he will stand on the stage
and be naked
and say what he wants
and let the leaves fall where they will
passion is temporary after all and love is not
love is the tender moment when someone holds your hand
because the next moment isn't so easy
and he wouldn't want you to be alone

A man can live on little love
I have discovered this
but when he ia asked to live without passion
something of him dies
he stops believing in the white horses
he's sure they are all gray, and weary and dunked in bleach
their tails pulled into threads

He won't charge into the room with a sword
there will be nothing to fight for
his lawyer will write your lawyer a letter
and when someone asks him "what's wrong?"
he will smile that charming smile and tell you, "Nothing, perhaps I'm just tired is all."

Perhaps it is the weather
perhaps it's the smell of the leaves
maybe it's mozart's inspiration
or seeing one of Yeats' faeries in the garden
while you are pulling up the dead plants of fall
suddenly in the fall air and it fills his lungs
in the shadows all over the ground
suddenly love isn't enough and maybe it never was

Monday, October 25, 2010

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I think she had her own Superman:
"I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year."

Have you ever watched a man play Keno?

Have you ever watched a man play Keno?
You aren't going to find a rocket scientist
waiting for the lottery ball to fall
they are off guiding rockets
You aren't going to find a man of industry
or a great man of thought pushing the button
over and over again
hoping for a little jingle of music
and some coins to fall loose
Men of industry are in a meeting
playing golf
planning his next big move

I saw a man playing Keno
his face like a dead limb on a tree
falling to the side a little
waiting for a strong wind of something
to push him free
waiting for the jingle of coins

He was playing hoping to win it big
to take his wife to Kansas City, the land of
well nothing, it's Kansas City
Famous people lived there
Walter Cronkite, Hemingway,
the Great Jazz Saxophonist; Charlie Parker
but they all left and Hemingway told people
he was from Oak Park

He must really love this woman I thought to plan the big
trip to Kansas City, the land of whatever it was
the land of
but he shook his head slowly like a man married
to someone who was once charming and even interesting
and now was a robot of herself
angry with the world
her friends avoiding her calls
unless they need something
a ride to this place
or a few dollars for dinner
You see they don't really come around
they don't have to listen to what he listens to
night after night
and when a co-worker asks how she is
he just nods, just fine
knowing she's busy hating something hating and hating and hating
and his only respite? the little bouncing balls of Keno
the mindless game of lottery where he has no control
no power
no big meeting he's missing
just life spinning off another 20 years of nothing
glad his unborn children aren't watching this
life of his the dead limb of life
hang just a little closer to the ground
hoping the air conditioning works when he gets home
and maybe she's asleep on the sofa
dreaming of Kansas City


Millay wrote of nothing ordinary. She was the first female poet that caught my attention back in high school, Ms. Kerns English class. Kerns was very quiet, wore her hair in long braids rolled up on the side of her head and she knew poetry. She was serious about poetry. In the season when everyone was reciting the Raven, she loved Millay and so do I. Millay was the first woman to ever receive the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. If you are looking for a good fall read Nancy Millford's; Savage Beauty charts her life in a mysterious fashion.

Floyd Dell wrote of her "a frivolous young woman, with a brand-new pair of dancing slippers and a mouth like a valentine." She wrote of love you see, not the ordinary love of some shack worker an his rabid wife but of the out of the ordinary love and broken hearts and high expectations.

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.


This is a favorite

OH, THINK not I am faithful to a vow!
Faithless am I save to love's self alone.
Were you not lovely I would leave you now:
After the feet of beauty fly my own.
Were you not still my hunger's rarest food,
And water ever to my wildest thirst,
I would desert you–think not but I would!–
And seek another as I sought you first.
But you are mobile as the veering air,
And all your charms more changeful than the tide,
Wherefore to be inconstant is no care:
I have but to continue at your side.
So wanton, light and false, my love, are you,
I am most faithless when I most am true.

and of course..the first poem of Millay's I heard in Mrs. Kern's English class:

Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;
In my own way, and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.
Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess; but that's permitted me;
Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.
If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.
Should I outlive this anguish—and men do—
I shall have only good to say of you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Fall of Man

"American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough."
— Pat Conroy (Beach Music)

Nothing Ordinary

I was riding in the woods today listening to the hush of leaves under the tires
the sun low in the sky throwing fall's shadows all over the ground making
the air feel dark and mysterious the earth spinning and strangling the last breath of summer's promise
wondering what part of the garden I'd pull from the ground when this journey
found me back at home
and as I turned the corner there in a glade of trees all green and brown
was a brilliant orange tree and I was compelled to stop and admire it
it was though it was from a dream, just that beautiful, nature screaming at me
and it was so brilliant it made me ache a little
you there with me as you always are, as you promise you always are
I could smell leaves burning somewhere as the mother of the earth itself satisfied all senses
if I had to put all you are in a metaphor it would be that tree
I could point to the leaves that make up the whole and know those parts of you I admire so
I gathered some leaves that had fallen as a burning flame and called one brilliant and another charming and yet another fun
And if I had to sift among my arm's fill of them, sifting through handsome and gallant and protective and wise, I would hold closest to me the fun of you
It is that fun that makes time stop, that makes me a child again in awe of nature, in the strength of man as often you are all I cannot be
It makes everything around me seem clearer and creates moments under the tree
when I can stop my life, stop the world from spinning and admire it and you
and then create this moment when I have the power to write about it
This is my song you see, a giving of thanks for all you share with me
for the way you love me and mostly for the way you let me love you
you, that just this morning I could pause and know you were looking for me
and for you to know what that means to me
You see, and I don't know that you do, you are the miracle set against the world so ordinary
In a world where we are taught that ordinary is good and mediocre, the standard
the brilliant orange tree set ablaze with fall
reminding us to cherish every moment because soon it changes into something else
Those moments when you are close are nothing ordinary if only because you are part of them and I hold them close even when you seem so far away
and the only constant
the only truth
the only thing that matters
is that I love you

I was listening to Bill Withers this morning riding in the woods. Recently on a local station here they played a week of rock from A to Z by song title. I listened while I worked, listened while I ran errands and wondered what the next song would be. I hadn't imagined how many song titles started with the word Angel. This amused me so. I developed a theory as I was listening all the way to Z, that men love so deeply. Every woman's name you could imagine had a song and a song title. There were Jackies and Lelas and even a few Carolines. This also amused me. I couldn't think of many song titles with a man's name written by a woman. My theory? That women love the idea of what men are supposed to be and men love women for what they are. Just a theory. I haven't written in awhile busy with some larger wholesale orders and a new art adventure.

Thanks for the notes asking how I am doing. I appreciate it. As for the stalkerama drama? I leave that to old ladies with nothing to do all day but patrol when their husband is perusing online porn. I have bigger fish to fry and the Feenie Foodies of the world know what they are and what they aren't they don't need me to remind them. As they spin and whine they only make themselves miserable. They own that misery, I do not.

If you are looking for a little Bill Withers, here ya go. I love this song.

Here's Lenny Kravitz and his version and it's just as wonderful but a little faster


And for Pat Conroy, well he's brilliant and insightful. I have used the above quote before in his reference and it always bears repeating. I admire men for their calm, cool spirit and the wisdom they offer when cooler heads prevail.

"Memory in these incomparable streets, in mosaics of pain and sweetness, was clear to me now, a unity at last. I remembered small and unimportant things from the past: the whispers of roommates during thunderstorms, the smell of brass polish on my fingertips, the first swim at Folly Beach in April, lightning over the Atlantic, shelling oysters at Bowen's Island during a rare Carolina snowstorm, pigeons strutting across the graveyard at St. Philip's, lawyers moving out of their offices to lunch on Broad Street, the darkness of reveille on cold winter mornings, regattas, the flash of bagpipers' tartans passing in review, blue herons on the marshes, the pressure of the chinstrap on my shako, brotherhood, shad roe at Henry's, camellias floating above water in a porcelain bowl, the scowl of Mark Santoro, and brotherhood again."
— Pat Conroy (The Lords of Discipline)

When I think of memories that inspire me I think of this passage from the Lords Of Discipline and hold the things to me that make me who I am. I hold the memory of seeing Van Gogh's night scape for the first time at the Art Institute, and Monet's water flowers covering the walls of that sacred place. I remember my first English teacher reading us the stories of the Greek Gods and the first time I read the grapes of wrath. I think about holding Richie when he was still a baby (and wondering how Will enjoys that now), I think of cool ohio summers on the porch sipping iced tea and the smell of cut grass always reminds me of mowing in the summer with my father and then going for a chocolate malted afterward. Seeing sand brings me back to moments at the lake house when Richie was younger and the endless times I've brushed sand off his clothes after he'd been playing on the beach all day. I can't go swimming without thinking of Suzy and I swimming at the lake and seeing the big white wooden fish off the pier and knowing we were close to home.

"The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave
anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the
genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language.
Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a
ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in "Lonesome Dove" and had
nightmares about slavery in "Beloved" and walked the streets of Dublin in
"Ulysses" and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my
mother killed by a baseball in "A Prayer for Owen Meany." I've been in ten
thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers
in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous
English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and
women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me
when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English
language. "
— Pat Conroy

This has to be my favorite Conroy quote other than the quote from the Prince of Tides where he wishes two lives were apportioned to every man and woman and it was the secret life that sustained him now.

Because of John Irving I could feel Garp fly the way home with his kids in the back seat, and only because I read Atlas Shrugged did I understand that being selfish was actually the way to share of yourself. Yes, Ayn Rand changed my life. Read Anthem and you will know why she loved America and why I do. When I read Misery I was on a city bus on my way to class and had to stop and get off it was so terrifying. Later when I read the Tommy Knockers I was in awe of King's power and the stories he tells. I was pissed when nowhere in the bridges of Madison county did Waller mention that Yeats wrote that poetry and so much more. I remember sitting at the lake wondering how anyone could claim that kind of love and then be powerless to follow it. It took a wise man later to explain it to me to take the edge off that anger. Books make up who we are, what we value and what we imagine heaven will be. There is a moment when Hemingway was writing of Killmanjaro when he wrote of a man's pain, the raw truth of what he knew and how brave he was for putting it out in the world, his own frailties. If he were only remembered for this that would be enough. What books have moved you? Changed you? When we stop reading we are done dreaming.