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

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.

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

GENERATIONS

Well known that the elderly don’t

Connect well with the young

But what is new is that it is me

Intellectual trends pass relatively rapidly

I’m out of touch, and

I doubt that what is timeless

Is current

I can’t appreciate contemporary art

Poetry publishers eschew rhyme

Educators put lessons on students’ cell phones

I write poems with pen on paper

 

When we were young, we were hostile

To the older generation

Deliberately sought to overthrow

Society, social dropouts, protesters

We were, when we were

Young

 

Today’s young are indifferent to us

Neither in opposition, nor respect

To them, we are not

I am

Though I am displaced

Generation gap

Agism

But now it’s me

A MOTHER’S LIFE

My mother’s life is and was

All giving

My creator, an image of my Creator.

Her very blood infused into my veins

She has made a home and a life for me

In my weakness, she was strength

In my want, she was plenty

In my soul, my mind, my aspirations

My mother’s heart is poured into mine

In our differing visions, or visions shared

My mother was there

Supporting, condoling, celebrating

Much of me is not her

Much of me is her

It matters not

She gave, gives

A mother’s life is and was

All giving.

IN THE PEAK OF COVID-19

What was that I needed to get done today?

Well, nothing really—I can barely remember

When they shut us down, shut down my ambition

–“I have to what?!”—”Do what?!”–

That mandated sloth that tells me stall, stop

So I slouch upon my couch, and pass time

At times, I take the time to touch base

With a treasured book—which I never would have

Chasing time filled with needless activity

Chasing a job, a dollar, more money

No money and nothing to spend it on—

I would go to the mall, the bookstore, the casino

And with a home library filled with good books

I never did read, read now—sometimes

When I can find the incentive

And my poems that I organize to send out

Re-read, fix, edit,–search out publishers

When I can’t find the incentive

And just slouch upon the couch

And watch TV that I don’t like

Don’t like not doing what I want to get done

This mandated sloth, this slovenly lost ambition

Not even waiting for it all to be over

Just waiting on time, making time, taking time, time to get something done

Plenty to get done today, and nothing, really

MUSINGS ON MUSIC

Music isn’t just pretty sounds, a pulse

Rock isn’t just a distorted guitar

Blues isn’t just a 12-bar form

Music should strike fire from the heart, so said Beethoven,

Music is poetry of the soul, heart and soul

Soul music, the existence of the soul

Touched by fire, music is a living thing

Life-giving, live or recorded, alive through ages

Living with individuals through life, through aging,

In youth or age, youth and age

Peasant and king hear the same music, so say the Chinese

Pounding through the heart, hearing, heard with soul

Existence of the soul, sounds’ salve, alive

Conducted through electricity in the brain

Singing through synapses in the soul

Symphony of the senses sent from on high

Humans sang before they spoke,

The lilt of language’s inflections

Performances perfecting the human condition

Culture, cultivation, culmination of the muse’s calling

Meaning so much more than pretty sounds, a pulse

A LITANY

The Keepers of intellectual trends hold apparent power

And to make it, some are slaves to the Keepers’ fashion

I am a free man to my own muse

I am a priest who intones the litany:

 

Blake was a free genius, self-published,

And died in literary obscurity

Until T. S. Eliot gave him a name

Shelley knew, “Nor fame, nor power, nor love, nor leisure”

Whom all English students now study

Though F. Scott knew fame and wealth,

Gatsby didn’t even sell out its first printing

And F. Scott never knew the book as all high school students do

They suppressed Hemingway’s Pulitzer

They fiercely debated whether Frost were a poet, Wyeth a painter

The Impressionists showed in the Exhibition of Rejects

And Moreau, in the National Paris Salon

Pollock had his 10 years, before his suicide

Mozart died unknown, unsung

 

We can’t give our contentment to the Keepers

It rests in the beauty of our art manifesting,

In the pen of the writer alone with paper or laptop screen,

And a  happy finished project

In the living-room, study, or dorm room

With, or without, the blessing of the Keepers

GETTING TO ME

I’ve never been so mad and spiteful in all my life

I watch the death toll rise daily without abatement

At home alone, practicing shelter-in-place to help the initiative

I get mad easily these days

I choke in my rage at what looks like incompetence and self-serving

By the president, what seems cruel partisanship of Wisconsin’s legislature

Putting lives at risk by disallowing an election’s delay during the pandemic

I crave statesmanship

I’m ashamed at the ill-will I feel, what I wish would happen . . .

While safe at home, COVID-19 is still getting to me

IT NEVER USED TO BE

Mike noticed me shaking

Playing at an open stage

The way we had in clubs years ago

The legacy of my psychotic episode years ago,

The effects persisting in my involuntary shakes, fear, and incompetence

Brett noticed me shaking

Almost convulsing onstage at the keyboard

It never used to be like that

The ease, the drive I had to perform

Then the caving fear onstage

The lingering apathy that stole

My passion to play hour upon hour at home

Getting better hour upon hour enthralled

Or onstage before crowds

Eager, excited, up

Darryl tried to jam with me last spring

Remembering my former ability

Thinking me as capable as it used to be

It was sad, the attempt, his generosity

One player quenched by bipolar disorder

Likely doesn’t mean much

But it does to me

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