Laocoön

GREEK COLUMN LINDOS

 

Laocoön

This figure of complexity
persuades a lingering

glance, the two-fold
inclination entwined,

horror expressed
in tandem, the sons’

limbs compressed
as the father struggles,

realizing true
sacrifice, the inward

grasp of storm and
wrath and serpent,

his face
echoing those yet

to come, breached
walls, a city in

flames, the cries
of warnings unheeded.

 

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Laocoön, through Virgil’s Aeneid, is the source of the phrase “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” The poem, which first appeared in The Blue Hour Magazine, was inspired by the sculpture “Laocoön and His Sons,” which resides at the Vatican. You might find Wikipedia’s entry of interest. Originally posted on the blog in February 2016.

Yesenin

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Yesenin

Respite, involuntary and gentle
circling one’s
collar, a touch barely felt, renewed.

Or, the other turns,
belying expression and the halted voice.

The recursive window, closing.
A final poem in blood.

And beyond the glass? The face behind
the indifferent mask
designs its own

smile, risking everything
as the chair’s leg tilts,

inertia become constriction,
the taut lapse begun.

* * *

A fascinating poet, Sergei Yesenin died nearly 90 years ago. You might check out his bio on wikipedia.

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Fifty-Word Review: Forth a Raven, by Christina Davis

(Originally appeared in December 2013)

Christina Davis’s Forth a Raven offers stark, textured, intelligent and lyrical pieces in a stripped-down yet ultimately complex, reflective language. Encompassing the tension of different realms – the spiritual and the secular, the extraordinary and the mundane, her work, quite simply, astounds. Read this book. Seek out her work. It’s sublime.

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White Mules and a Column of Smoke

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White Mules and a Column of Smoke

I am thinking of a place I’ve never seen or visited,
much like Heaven or Jot ‘Em Down, Texas, but with better
beverages and the advantage of hindsight and seasoning,
a glance back or to the peripheral, with a side of memory
and sliced, pickled jalapeños topping a pile of imagination.

And how do we so clearly remember what never occurred?
That book I read in 1970 was first published three years
later. A drowned childhood acquaintance ordered a beer
and sat next to me at a party in college. The open fields
I recall from the garden walls in France, where homes stood.

If only we carried with us slide shows or grooved vinyl
to trace back our lives – photos and recordings of those daily
remembrances – detailed notes indexed on cards, or data
embedded in our palms and accessed by eye twitches.
Would such evidence improve our lives?

Which filters shutter moments and thoughts, twist them
into balloon animals we no longer recognize? False
accusations and convictions aside, can we trust what we
know to be true? That oak stands where it has for four
decades. I bleed when cut. The sky still leers above us.

 

 

“White Mules and a Column of Smoke” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge. I am grateful to Natalie Butler, who sponsored the poem and whose photo inspired me.

 

Lament for Five White Cat (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

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Lament for Five White Cat (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

Five White cat always made sure
no rats gnawed my books,
but this morning Five White died.

On the river I offered up rice and fish,
and buried you in its lazy currents,
chanting my lament. I could never neglect you.

One time you caught a rat
and carried it squealing around the yard
to frighten all the other rats
and keep my cottage clear of them.

We’ve shared space aboard this boat,
and although the food is meager
it’s free of rat piss and droppings
because you were so diligent,
more so than any chicken or pig.

Some people speak highly of horses,
saying nothing compares to them or donkeys.
But we’re done with that discussion!

My tears prove it so.

* * *

The transliteration from Chinese-poems.com:

Self have 5 white cat
Rat not invade my books
Today morning 5 white die
Sacrifice with rice and fish
See off it at middle river
Incantation you not you neglect
Before you bite one rat
Hold in mouth cry around yard remove
Want cause crowd rat frightened
Thought will clear my cottage
From board boat come
Boat in together room live
Dry grain although its thin
Evade eat drip steal from
This real you have industriousness
Have industriousness surpass chicken pig
Ordinary person stress spur horse drive
Say not like horse donkey
Already finish not again discuss
For you somewhat cry

A Song Dynasty poet, Mei Yao-ch’en (or Mei Yaochen) died in 1060. His great poems live on.

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Tell it Slant: How to Write a Wise Poem, essay by Camille Dungy

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Few essays on writing poetry grab me by the collar, slam me against the wall, and say “Listen, dammit!” But this one did.

Camille Dungy’s words sear through the fog. She tells it slant. She tells it true. She explains how some masters have done it. If you’ve not read her poetry, seek it out. You’re in for a treat. If you have the good fortune to attend a lecture or reading by her, do so. She’s energetic, wise and kind. She knows.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/247926

FIrst posted here in 2014..

 

 

Cedar Grove (after Wang Wei)

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Cedar Grove (after Wang Wei)

I sit alone among the cedars,
play my guitar and hum.
In this dark forest
no eye spies me but the moon’s.

My take on Wang Wei’s “Bamboo Grove,” from this transliteration copied somewhere along the way:

alone sit dark bamboo among
strum lute again long whistle
deep forest man not know
bright moon come mutual shine

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“Cedar Grove” made its first appearance here in March 2014. I adapted it to fit my circumstances…

You might find the Wikipedia entry on Wang Wei of interest.

Echo Charm

Echo Charm

Right on left, or returned

what circles back, unbroken
yet opened?

Your mouth centers me.

Diminished, I rise, listening.

Grass rubbing against grass.
The lizard’s scarlet throat, swelling.

Not refusal, but denial.

Eyes the color of blood.

You practice your words carefully,
repeating each special phrase.

Blood the color of sky.

Sky the color of eyes.

And always the warm shade.

Success, Pancetta-Scrambled Eggs and Evergreen Review

Lyra and Baraka

How do we poets measure success? When I first started writing I believed that getting a handful of poems published in journals would provide that measure. Within a couple of years that belief morphed into publishing in better journals, and perhaps someday having editors ask to see my work. Then I thought chapbook publication would indicate achievement, as would having work accepted by a few “unattainables” — those journals that publish “THE GREATS,” not mere mortals like us. And of course winning contests and prizes would prove real success, as would full-length book publication. I’ve checked off all of those standards but one — full-length book publication — and still feel, well, lacking. The goal line keeps shimmering ahead, and likely always will. All this is to say that I have three poems up at Evergreen Review, an unattainable if ever there was. I must admit to feeling a moment of panic when Evergreen Review poetry editor Jee Leong Koh’s announcement email arrived this morning. “Are these poems good enough?” I asked myself. “Who am I, and how the hell did I ever think my work belonged there?” As I said, the goal line keeps moving, and I don’t know if true success in the poetry world, whatever that is, will ever welcome me. But this morning’s breakfast of pancetta-scrambled eggs and toast was delicious, if I say so myself. So I have that!