poems, golems, poems

Thanksgiving Dinner

Posted by matt on 5 February 2012


1. Cold Fruit Chorus
Cousin brain surgeon
deftly sections a grapefruit,
gobbles down each bite.

2. No Soup for Il Duce
Bundled up, they race
home, surprising even their
abandoned shadows.

3. Her Exquisite Beef Loman
“I wouldʼve dumped him!”
she tells the wind (right after
Death of a Salesman).

4. Before It Was Pie
A prizewinning rose
swayed wildly in that grinning
field of smug pumpkins.

5. Finnish Courtesan
Blue winter pauses
against unspeakable odds
then shoves right on in.

–M. Salomon

Image: Trophy Wife Holiday Dinner by Kevin McShane.

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Recommended Reading

Posted by matt on 6 November 2011

Mark Kraushaar

The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize:

James Fenton & Mark Kraushaar

Folger link

7.30pm Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Elizabethan Theatre, Folger Shakespeare Library

201 East Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20005

Tickets: $15

Introduction and conversation moderated by Joseph Harrison, poet and Waywiser Press Senior American Editor.

The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, created in honor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, is awarded annually by Waywiser Press for a poetry collection by a poet who has published no more than one book. The winner receives $3,000 and his collection is published on both sides of the Atlantic. Mark Kraushaar is the 2010 recipient. He will be joined by this year’s judge, James Fenton.

Mark Kraushaar’s first collection, Falling Brick Kills Local Man, won the 2009 Felix Pollak Prize. He was the recipient of Poetry Northwest’s Richard Hugo Award and two Wisconsin Arts Board awards for poetry and has been a finalist for both the Walt Whitman Award and the May Swenson Prize. His poems are widely published and anthologized.

James Fenton has worked as a political journalist, drama critic, book reviewer, war correspondent, foreign correspondent, and columnist. A winner of England’s Newdigate Prize for poetry, he is the author of several volumes of poetry. His latest work is Selected Poems. He edited The New Faber Book of Love Poems and D. H. Lawrence’s Selected Poems. He was an Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1994 to 1999 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and recipient of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Excerpt from Third Street Muscles and Fitness*

…and for a moment, for a discrete, small portion
of what I will one day refer to as the past,
there’s the five of us facing three
double-door sized panes
of rattling glass:
rain on the awnings, rain over the windows,
rain over the gutters and rain
in soft, sparkling ropes along the curbs,
and into the drains and under the ground.
Mark Kraushaar

*From The Uncertainty Principle © 2011 by Mark Kraushaar

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Requiem–Bei Dao

Posted by matt on 5 November 2011

for Shanshan

The wave of that year
flooded the sands on the mirror
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and the meaning of leaving
the instant when all languages
are like shadows cast from the west

life’s only a promise
don’t grieve for it
before the garden was destroyed
we had too much time
debating the implications of a bird flying
as we knocked down midnight’s door

alone like a match polished into light
when childhood’s tunnel
led to a vein of dubious ore
to be lost is a kind of leaving
and poetry rectifying life
rectifies poetry’s echo

Bei Dao
Translated by Eliot Weinberger and Iona Man-Cheong

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Requiem–Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted by matt on 4 November 2011


Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Requiem–John Updike

Posted by matt on 3 November 2011


It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
“Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise — depths unplumbable!”

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
“I thought he died a while ago.”

For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.

John Updike

See also the discussion of Updike’s poem at the Immortal Muse blog.

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Día de los Muertos

Posted by matt on 2 November 2011

Image: Día de los Muertos by Glen’s Pics

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Halloween 2011

Posted by matt on 1 November 2011

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when memory stirs, save a life

Posted by matt on 11 September 2011

Muslims for Life

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Posted by matt on 10 July 2011

Water Lily Pond & Weeping Willow (Monet, 1916-19)


day was
things were simple
and the ideas
inhering in things
even simpler

day was
we’d already
memorized tomorrow
unintruded upon by the lilies
how faithfully we rehearsed
the coming day meaning it to be
nothing more than the full enacting
of our rote learning and nothing less

oh how day was
but for the flash of lilies
and now how suddenly
it is that day was

–M. Salomon

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Geoffrey Hill–Requiem for the Plantagenet Kings

Posted by matt on 21 June 2011

For whom the possessed sea littered, on both shores,
Ruinous arms; being fired, and for good,
To sound the constitution of just wards,
Men, in their eloquent fashion, understood.

Relieved of soul, the dropping-back of dust,
Their usage, pride, admitted within doors;
At home, under caved chantries, set in trust,
With well-dressed alabaster and proved spurs
They lie; they lie; secure in the decay
Of blood, blood-marks, crowns hacked and coveted,
Before the scouring fires of trial-day
Alight on men; before sleeked groin, gored head,
Budge through the clay and gravel, and the sea
Across daubed rock evacuates its dead.

Geoffrey Hill, 1955

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Frank Bidart–”Inauguration Day”

Posted by matt on 12 March 2011


Today, despite what is dead

staring out across America I see since
Lincoln gunmen
nursing fantasies of purity betrayed,
dreaming to restore
the glories of their blood and state

despite what is dead but lodged within us, hope

under the lustrous flooding moon
the White House is still
Whitman’s White House, its
gorgeous front
full of reality, full of illusion

hope made wise by dread begins again

–Frank Bidart in Slate, 20 January 2009

Frank Bidart reading, links here.

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Advent of the 13th Sign

Posted by matt on 23 January 2011

On January 13th 2011, Ozzy Osbourne’s
daily horoscope took a sudden turn:

This is your big day, truly your biggest yet.
That vague feeling you’ve always had–
that people have been ignoring you
(at least since 167 AD)–is suddenly affirmed
by a global burst of sub-cosmic recognition. The stars insist
this would be a perfect day for you to wear something
other than black, to court favor with people in really really high positions,
to gamble on adventure, to feed the serpents,
and to flirt with strangers. But you must take great care,
at all costs, to avoid accountants, firearms and transfats.

What a frigging ruckus.  Well, I suppose it’s not every day the astrologers
add a sign to the zodiac.  And this revision has implications.
Two and a half millennia of celestial symmetry now irrevocably
ruptured.  Suddenly, one star sign matches everything or nothing.
Is that sign mine?  The operators at e-Harmony are standing by
to take your calls all night long.  And, oh yes, they are bothered.

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that, like Ozzy,
I too admire reality.  Even so, I just can’t help feeling
that the advent of the 13th sign is just one more thing
bigger than ourselves. Just another looming otherly thing—
like big government, like grizzly moms, like Goldman Sachs,
like Glenn Beck, Wikileaks and nymphomaniacs–
merely the latest in a series of big-assed little things sent here to afflict us,
to inhabit us with no higher purpose than to Ophiuchus.

–M. Salomon

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2011–Toward Change (Jung)

Posted by matt on 9 January 2011

Illuminated Tree

There are no longer any gods whom we can invoke to help us. The great religions of the world suffer from increasing anemia, because the helpful numina have fled from the woods, rivers, and mountains, and from animals, and the god-men have disappeared underground into the unconscious. There we fool ourselves that they lead an ignominious existence among the relics of our past. Our present lives are governed by the goddess Reason, who is our greatest and most tragic illusion. By the aid of reason, so we assure ourselves, we have “conquered nature.”

But this is a mere slogan, for the so-called conquest of nature overwhelms us with the natural fact of overpopulation and adds to our troubles by our psychological incapacity to make the necessary political arrangements. It remains quite natural for men to quarrel and to struggle for superiority over one another. How then have we “conquered nature”?

As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. The change must indeed begin with an individual; it may be any one of us. Nobody can afford to look round and wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself. But since nobody seems to know what to do, it might be worth while for each of us to ask himself whether by any chance his or her unconscious may know something that will help us. Certainly the conscious mind seems unable to do anything useful in this respect. Man today is painfully aware of the fact that neither his great religions nor his various philosophies seem to provide him with those powerful animating ideas that would give him the security he needs in face of the present condition of the world.

I know what the Buddhists would say: Things would go right if people would only follow the “noble eightfold path” of the Dharma (doctrine, law) and had true insight into the Self. The Christian tells us that if only people had faith in God, we should have a better world. The rationalist insists that if people were intelligent and reasonable, all our problems would be manageable. The trouble is that none of them manages to solve these problems himself.

Christians often ask why God does not speak to them, as he is believed to have done in former days. When I hear such questions, it always makes me think of the rabbi who was asked how it could be that God often showed himself to people in the olden days while nowadays nobody ever sees him. The rabbi replied: “Nowadays there is no longer anybody who can bow low enough.”

Carl G. Jung, Man and His Symbols, (1964) pp. 91-92

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Edwin Markham–”The Man with the Hoe”

Posted by matt on 31 December 2010

Man with a Hoe (Jean-Francois Millet), Getty Museum

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes,
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity”
Is this the dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the caverns of Hell to their last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this–
More tongued with censure of the world’s blind greed–
More filled with signs and portents for the soul–
More packed with danger to the universe.

What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Thru this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time’s tragedy is in that aching stoop;
Thru this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Judges of the World,
A protest that is also prophecy.

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quencht?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream;
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,

How will the future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings–
With those who shaped him to the thing he is–
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world,
After the silence of the centuries?

Edwin Markham

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W. B.Yeats–”Among School Children”

Posted by matt on 30 December 2010

Among School Children
I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading-books and histories,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
In the best modern way – the children’s eyes
In momentary wonder stare upon
A sixty-year-old smiling public man.

I dream of a Ledaean body, bent
Above a sinking fire. a tale that she
Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event
That changed some childish day to tragedy -
Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent
Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,
Or else, to alter Plato’s parable,
Into the yolk and white of the one shell.

And thinking of that fit of grief or rage
I look upon one child or t’other there
And wonder if she stood so at that age -
For even daughters of the swan can share
Something of every paddler’s heritage -
And had that colour upon cheek or hair,
And thereupon my heart is driven wild:
She stands before me as a living child.

Her present image floats into the mind -
Did Quattrocento finger fashion it
Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
And I though never of Ledaean kind
Had pretty plumage once – enough of that,
Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.

What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap
Honey of generation had betrayed,
And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape
As recollection or the drug decide,
Would think her Son, did she but see that shape
With sixty or more winters on its head,
A compensation for the pang of his birth,
Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?

Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
Solider Aristotle played the taws
Upon the bottom of a king of kings;
World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.

Both nuns and mothers worship images,
But those the candles light are not as those
That animate a mother’s reveries,
But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
And yet they too break hearts – O Presences
That passion, piety or affection knows,
And that all heavenly glory symbolise -
O self-born mockers of man’s enterprise;

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

W.B. Yeats

Image: Herstmonceux Chestnut Trees by debs-eye

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