Posts Tagged poetry
Nearly two years ago, the poet and blogger Alan Sullivan died. His final project, a new translation of the Book of Psalms, has been published. The translation can be ordered here. His collaborator and advisor on this translation, Seree Zohar, was kind enough to send me a note to tell me this, and to gently correct my impression — as I wrote in my post about his death — that the work remained unfinished. Sullivan, in fact, completed the translation in the very last days of his life, and I am glad to make that correction.
More on Alan Sullivan as poet is found in this brilliant tribute here.
If You Forget Me
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
— Pablo Neruda
Was thinking, by-the-by, about some dogs I have loved, and how I get along with (and like, if truth be known) dogs better than most people. So sentimentalism be damned: here’s a dog poem.
St John Lucas was an early 20th century anthologist of poetry and friend and mentor to Rupert Brooke.
The Curate Thinks You have No Soul
The curate thinks you have no soul;
I know that he has none. But you,
Dear friend, whose solemn self-control,
In our foursquare familiar pew,
Was pattern to my youth — whose bark
Called me in summer dawns to rove —
Have you gone down into the dark
Where none is welcome — none may love?
I will not think those good brown eyes
Have spent their life of truth so soon;
But in some canine paradise
Your wraith, I know, rebukes the moon,
And quarters every plain and hill,
Seeking his master. . . As for me,
This prayer at least the gods fulfill;
That when I pass the flood and see
Old Charon by the Stygian coast
Take toll of all the shades who land,
Your little, faithful, barking ghost
May leap to lick my phantom hand.
— St John Lucas
You sometimes forget about authors. They sort of fall out of your head. Expect more Millay in the future.
And You as Well Must Die, Belovèd Dust
And you as well must die, belovèd dust,
And all your beauty stand you in no stead;
This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
This body of flame and steel, before the gust
Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,
Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead
Than the first leaf that fell,this wonder fled,
Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.
Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.
In spite of all my love, you will arise
Upon that day and wander down the air
Obscurely as the unattended flower,
It mattering not how beautiful you were,
Or how belovèd above all else that dies.
— Edna St. Vincent Millay
My own, with at least Easterish themes of death and rebirth. Originally published on 7/10/10.
You came to us, no vital signs, no breath
Found dead, or nearly so, by the mall
You last saw cars, careening carts, a child.
Then falling, hard pavement, blood, a void empty
Of consciousness when help came, skin mottled.
(And paramedics glared and muttered Too late)
But still by breaking bones your heart caressing
Blood returned, with oxygen, drugs and life.
No life did we see, but a purple face,
(Though never we speak it, we thought Too Late,)
V fib, we worked the algorithm, shocked
Gave epi, shocked, and then surprising you,
You gasped, and meaning to die, you did not:
Eyes from a dark face stared incredulous.
Easter in Pittsburgh
Even on Easter Sunday
jungle of lilies and
ferns fat Uncle Paul
who loved his liquor
so would pound away
with both fists on the
when the church was a
stone pulpit shouting
sin sin sin and the
fiery fires of hell
and I cried all after-
noon the first time I
heard what they did to
Jesus it was something
the children shouldn’t
know about till they
were older but the new
maid told me and both
of us cried a lot and so
mother got another one
right away & she sent
away Miss Richardson
who came all the way
from England because
she kept telling how
her fiancé Mr. Bowles-
Lyon died suddenly of
a heart attack he just
said one day at lunch
I’m afraid I’m not well
and the next thing they
knew he was sliding un-
der the table. Easter
was nice the eggs were
silly but the big lilies
were wonderful & when
Uncle Paul got so fat
from drinking that he
couldn’t squeeze into
the pulpit anymore &
had to preach from the
floor there was an el-
ders’ meeting and they
said they would have
the pulpit rebuilt but
Uncle Paul said no it
was the Lord’s manifest
will and he would pass
his remaining years in
sacred studies I liked
Thanksgiving better be-
cause that was the day
father took us down to
the mills but Easter I
liked next best and the
rabbits died because we
fed them beet tops and
the lamb pulled up the
grass by the roots and
was sold to Mr. Page the
butcher I asked Uncle
Robert what were sacred
studies he said he was
not really sure but he
guessed they came in a
bottle and mother sent
me away from the table
when I wouldn’t eat my
lamb chops that was
ridiculous she said it
wasn’t the lamb of God
it was just Caesar An-
dromache Nibbles but I
couldn’t I just couldn’t
& the year of the strike
we didn’t go to Church
at all on Easter because
they said it wasn’t safe
down town so instead we
had prayers in the library
and then right in the mid-
dle the telephone rang it
was Mr. Shupstead at the
mill they had had to use
tear gas father made a
special prayer right a-
way for God’s protection
& mercy and then he sent
us out to the farm with
mother we stayed a week
and missed school but it
rained a lot and I broke
the bathroom mirror and
had to learn a long psalm.
— James Laughlin (1940)
Yes, the fiftieth edition of Favourite Poems. You might wonder why a blog about nurses and nursing (and some other stuff, but mostly nursing) does poetry. The answer is simple: because nursing is far more than all the mundane tasks we need to do to care for our patients. Poetry by its nature forces you to think in a different way, better understand the human condition, ourselves and, yes, our patients. If I had my druthers, I would have a poem read before every shift — though my colleagues might object.
Anyway, a few short comical poems by Ogden Nash.
Further Reflections on Parsley
***** ***** *****
No Doctor’s Today, Thank You
They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful,
well, today I feel euphorian,
Today I have the agility of a Greek god and the appetitite of a
Yes, today I may even go forth without my galoshes,
Today I am a swashbuckler, would anybody like me to buckle
This is my euphorian day,
I will ring welkins and before anybody answers I will run away.
I will tame me a caribou
And bedeck it with marabou.
I will pen me my memoirs.
Ah youth, youth! What euphorian days them was!
I wasn’t much of a hand for the boudoirs,
I was generally to be found where the food was.
Does anybody want any flotsam?
Does anybody want any jetsam?
I can getsam.
I can play chopsticks on the Wurlitzer,
I can speak Portuguese like a Berlitzer.
I can don or doff my shoes without tying or untying the laces because
I am wearing moccasins,
And I practically know the difference between serums and antitoccasins.
Kind people, don’t think me purse-proud, don’t set me down as
I’m just a little euphorious.
***** ***** *****
The one-l lama, He’s a priest.
The two-l llama, He’s a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama T
here isn’t any Three-l lllama.*
*The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.
— Ogden Nash
Eight haiku by Matsuo Bashō, translated by R. K. Blyth. Wikipedia tells us the Shinto priesthood deified Basho in 1793, a sort of minor god of poetry, and for a time critical evaluation of his work was literally considered blasphemous.
Moonlight slants through
The vast bamboo grove:
A cuckoo cries
Ah, summer grasses!
All that remains
Of the warriors dreams.
Along this road
Goes no one;
This autumn evening.
From time to time
The clouds give rest
To the moon beholders.
The butterfly is perfuming
It’s wings in the scent
Of the orchid.
Yes, spring has come
This morning a nameless hill
Is shrouded in mist.
It is deep autumn
How does he live, I wonder.
The old pond
A frog jumps in
The sound of water.
In Winter in My Room
In Winter in my Room
I came upon a Worm –
Pink, lank and warm –
But as he was a worm
And worms presume
Not quite with him at home –
Secured him by a string
To something neighboring
And went along.
A Trifle afterward
A thing occurred
I’d not believe it if I heard
But state with creeping blood –
A snake with mottles rare
Surveyed my chamber floor
In feature as the worm before
But ringed with power –
The very string with which
I tied him — too
When he was mean and new
That string was there –
I shrank — “How fair you are”!
Propitiation’s claw –
“Afraid,” he hissed
“No cordiality” –
He fathomed me –
Then to a Rhythm Slim
Secreted in his Form
As Patterns swim
That time I flew
Both eyes his way
Lest he pursue
Nor ever ceased to run
Till in a distant Town
Towns on from mine
I set me down
This was a dream.
— Emily Dickinson
A poem for a Saturday morning. Just because.
O winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.
He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain’d, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath rear’d his sceptre o’er the world.
Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.
He takes his seat upon the cliffs, the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch! that deal’st
With storms, till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driven yelling to his caves beneath Mount Hecla.
— William Blake (1783)