REMEMBRANCES OF ICONIC CHICAGO

I remember old, green copper and concrete lighthouses,

Green algae seaweed patched concrete water level lighthouse bases,

Water-worn wooden posts standing at angles in front of them

We floated past on the Chicago River tour boat that afternoon

They render in my mind more than

 

the iconic Chicago skyline,

the angular, massive, stainless-steel Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park,

the Aquarium,

The Sears Building we went up in to the observation floor,

The Green Mill Speakeasy where Al Capone used to hang,

 

As does the folk art that covered the walls on all three floors in The House of Blues

A shrine, it seemed

I remember one set depicts images of folk shot with bullet holes, bleeding

Every folk in the paintings shot, in that African-American artwork’s neighborhood

I remember the second-floor stage with nine world religions symbols across and above it

Symbols captured in language in the central iconic image above the stage

 

UNITY IN DIVERSITY

ALL ARE ONE

 

The burning heart on the ground-floor stage curtain

Iconography like the Catholic Sacred Heart

(Yes, I remember, too, the disappointing blues band there in iconic Chicago)

Taking home rather the impression of a visit to a shrine

 

As does a black man at Buddy Guy’s who remembered me from The House of Blues last night

Joined us at our table tonight, with funny jibes, japes, and jabs

While his wife smiled and shook her head sometimes

 

As does the personal appearance of Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the 4th of July

At an outdoor concert in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park early evening

Seeing her more memorable than the event itself

And now in Canada we see Mayor Lori Lightfoot on TV and smile at each other

 

(Maybe the free Picasso “Untitled” in Daley Plaza)—Carol liked it perhaps the best

 

Of course, I remember the patient, eager, hour’s wait to get into the Art Institute of Chicago

Paying extra for a special exhibit I now forget

Waiting in line to just view certain paintings:

“Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare,” by Monet

“American Gothic”

And me being the only one in a whole exhibit room of early Christian art

(Part of me is glad that the proximity of religion

Hasn’t let Christian art be considered art in the same sense as Monet’s Impressionism)

 

Carol and I talk about what we remember

We talk about the trip

Things that meant, what Chicago meant

Chicago meant

CANADIAN GEESE

The Canadian Geese don’t know that today is Thursday

They stand in the park with their necks extended high

Some sit on the grass with their necks tucked

They pluck at the grass in the park with their bills

I have a meeting tonight at 7:00

But don’t need to know that today is Thursday

I know there will be tomorrow, and that tomorrow

I have a morning meeting at 9:30 and a good band is playing at 7:30 that night

But right now I’m eating a hot dog and watching the Canadian Geese

And that’s all I need to know

My hot dog has nothing to do with the day of the week

Or the Canadian Geese who will soon fly south, but I don’t know when

And I don’t suppose that they know when, or know that they will fly south at all until they do

These Canadian Geese are not in my week and calendar

These Canadian Geese plucking at the grass in the park with their bills

POINTLESS QUESTIONS

Whom do I get mad at?

Ordinarily, somebody would pay

What it did to me

What I went through:

–Uncontrollable tears

–Whole week-ends spent in bed sleeping

–Trying to work through sedating meds

–Fighting to live, pay the bills

Someone ought to pay

And I look back

To how I was

What I go through, now

Someone ought to pay

 

Bitter, the capacity to remember

 

And I ask why did it happen to me?

Why

Why did I have to choose between the psych-ward

And a life side-effected into dragging

A sluggish body and thick mind all over

Bad work-days that barely eke out

My existence

 

God only knows

 

Then, I ask again

What did I lose in it all?

Was it but imagination’s fabrication of an idealism

Of what it is to live, what life is?

Whose life hasn’t been collapsed around?

Incredulous wondering what happened to me

That it would happen to me

That it would happen

What I went through, go through, now

 

For me, it was bipolar disorder, for others

It could be anything, I guess

And demur a list of any number of crushing things that ruin

I conclude my words with a blank to be fulfilled in

 

Then there’s the question of God

Poetics: Proving Your Rhyme

The submission guidelines for a journal I looked at read, “No rhyming poetry.”  I feel that rhyme is nevertheless justified in poetry, but that rhyme must justify itself.  In writing rhyming poetry, it must be clear why the poem is rhyming.  I’m not referring to hip-hop conventions.

I recently read Shelley’s EPIPSYCHIDION.  Shelley assumed by means of poetic convention that his epic must rhyme.  In fact, while I’m no Shelley scholar, I think that most of his poetry, maybe all of his poetry, did rhyme and employ metrics.  Wordsworth considered Shelley a master of style, perhaps the greatest stylist of the English Romantic period.  But in reading EPIPSYCHIDION, I found the language tortured in order to unite rhyme, metrics, and sense.  I’m afraid to say the same of Shakespeare’s sonnets.  But a baroque use of language is proper for a Renaissance poet.  It would not be appropriate for Frost, and Frost masterfully writes rhyme so liquidly that it reads like prose.

On the other side of this discussion is Carl Sandburg.  He privileged immediate expression and despised the reworking of an original impression in order to form rhyme and rhythm.  So we get a massive collection of insignificance.

Making a poem rhyme for no reason is a recipe for insignificance, too.  But then, there is sense that wants to rhyme and beat.  Blake’s THE TYGER has to be in rhyme and rhythm.  Otherwise the poignant line, “When the stars threw down their spears/And water’d heaven with their tears” wouldn’t be such a dramatic shift in voice.  And the energy of the tyger wouldn’t be there without the rhyme and beat that make the tyger burn.  I started to write a poem about flowers a while back, not that I’m a Blake or Shelley by any means, and realized that a poem about something pretty and delicate should be pretty and delicate, too.  A loose set of lines wouldn’t be as formally structured as a flower is.  So the flowers spoke in rhymed stanzas of meter.

Rhyming doesn’t go in poems that exhibit a deconstruction of language as do those of Wallace Stevens and others.  (I know that Stevens wrote before deconstruction was invented.)  In his poems, any word he fancies could be called into the mix of his abstract arrangements of language.  So rhyme would be meaningless.  Even if Stevens wanted to emphasize a couplet with rhyme, it would fail, since there is essentially no emphasis anywhere in his poetry.  That’s the whole point.

So I didn’t even consider submitting to the journal that prohibited rhyming poetry.  Rhyme and rhythm are as important to poetry as are free verse, deconstruction, or any other style persons prefer.  But today, rhyme isn’t a convention–perhaps the opposite.  And a poem must prove its use of rhyme.

BARED SKIN

Lying on the raft anchored out from the beach,

Which floats upon icy-cold summer Lake Superior

I would bake in the Upper-Peninsula Michigan weak summer sun

Until the surface of my skin felt hot

Plunging into icy Lake Superior

Feeling the bracing, cold water against my heated skin

The sensual feeling, my skin become my consciousness

My consciousness, my skin

In the deliciously chilling Lake Superior water

Dove under water over all my made frigid skin and face.

I climb back up onto the raft and bake off the chill

In the summer Upper-Peninsula Michigan sun

Repeating at my leisure through the passing week-end summer afternoon

 

We like bright summer sun’s heat on our skin,

Basking as bare as we can in its rays,

And the general warm summer air.

Summer cools into fall, fall freezes into winter.

Who enjoys winter’s brace upon our barely exposed skin?

And yet,

Extraordinary stimulation excites sense

Like chill Lake Superior water

Or heat of the sun on bared summer’s body

Or brisk, crisp air in winter’s bite on the barely exposed face

My sensuous face embraces icy air’s welcome winter brace

As much as sensual summer’s pleasant bake on my skin

And now, among fall’s gold and russet colors, I think of coming icy air again

 

HUMAN DEFINITIONS

Coleridge smoked dope and wrote about Xanadu

At times I think Key West is Xanadu

And that Xanadu and Key West are a human mind.

The waves pass through the dock pylons.

An avalanche of cocaine hasn’t turned America into poets.

 

Plato loved the stars for an unchanging eternal pattern

I might hate them for that but they are beautiful.

The tide flows like the stars, but the sea is different.

The sea could never be unchanging, but it is always the sea.

Key West is of the sea and not the stars.

 

The Greeks made forms for the stars spattered against the deep.

They gave us Orion and Cygnus and the Serpent around the pole star.

The serpent has potential

I’ll bet Chinese make different groups.

I’ll bet every culture has to make groups.

The stars are a scary randomness.  Not like the sea.

The sea is unchanging and always the sea.

Key West is like the stars and like the sea.

The waves pass through the dock pylons.

Publishing Poetry

I just discovered an alarming factoid.  I perused the New Yorker magazine submissions page tonight.  They state that they do not accept poems that have been previously published.  INCLUDING POSTS ON PERSONAL WEB PAGES!  I read further and discovered that they do not publish previously published poems even if THEY HAVE BEEN DELETED FROM A WEB PAGE!  I put many of my new poems up here on my page.  But I now find that that precludes them from publication in the New Yorker.  Wow!  I’m certainly going to need to think about this in the future.

I’m not criticizing the New Yorker.  This is merely a public service announcement to all my cyber friends on the web.

SARASVATI

There was one Goddess who comprehended it all, inspiration

And they comprehended it all together and lit the Agni Flame to call upon her, invocation

To explain her, today, we make a list

 

Long before philosophy, before science was

The Word

Before music was chanting and chanting

Verse

Created everything in the Vedas

It was all there, is all there

Song

Devas, devotion, communion, community

Sacred Flame

Carrying burning souls’ aspirations into Agni unto Sarasvati

So it was, it is in Homer, Apollo’s Delphi, in David’s

Psalms

It’s all there: wisdom, lex, lux, love, lifegiving inspiration, love giving life

Praise and supplication

 

And Babel specialized each species and genera, specious

So we have scientists, philosophers, musicians

Poetry

Alone, isolated, island unto itself, no word is an island,

Style

Isn’t sufficient to suffuse sapientia, Sophia, sophistry, silence

I live literature all allowed together, all awed

A lawless freedom of discipline

Makes

A discipline out of words

Alongside science, philosophy, music

And primal unity of what matters together

Breaks

FRAGILITY

It’s good

I’ve got it good

Let me have it good

I know only too well the Fragility of Goodness

 

I want

I want it easy

I don’t want to struggle anymore

I know only too well the Fragility of Goodness

 

All right

Bring it on if it must

Life’s taught me I can take it, when I have to

Just let me rest a space

I know only too well the Fragility of Goodness

EVOCATIVE NOMINATIVES

Sky mountains waterfalls ocean depths

Snowflakes white earth rivers frozen lakes

Leaves in the air fallen on the sodden ground enveloped by the season

Raindrops vaporescent oceans downpours clouds

Mist meadows fog sky rainbows

Faces mobs friends the human race

Love a God above devotion heaven sky and earth

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