Too Poor for Water

bear-feet-robin-lee-vieira

We were always
needing, asking
for something we didn’t have.
Living on the kindness
from strangers —
the church folks
with the a dutiful goal
of giving to those
without.
Wood stove for heat
Water from milk jugs
filled across town.
Too poor for water —
Looking with wonder
at houses where
the normal people
lived —
our outhouse symbolic
one terrace down —
wondering what it
felt like
to wear the normal life
and live in a common town.

Photo Credit: Bear Feet by Robin Lee Vieira

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funeral song (for my mema 2001)

on-the-bridge-joana-kruse

ego-separation from the letting-go
is the last phase of loss.

solemn-silence is declared.
it will not lift, it can not lift
until vision clarifies.

imagine the world as a new
place created and transformed by
the without, adjusted perception
looks for meaning
submerged in the pain,
seeks solace from a fragmented spirit
that clings to us in absence.

each lost thing claims
a part of our souls
perfection
unravels the lies we hide
inside ourselves

leaving us
bare and jaggedly grieved.

we becomes
the creation of losses
evolves into shards of recovery.

stimulated by grieving
we acknowledge
the mirrors reflection –
our souls love for others.

Art Prints

Photo Credit: On The Bridge by Joana Kruse

untitled 2 (from 2005)

light-graham-dean

To write to you from
this dark place
where lights’ shadow
never rises and
full things don’t exist.

It was easier in
the abundance,
when my souls bounty,
like a garden at harvest,
burst to fullness,
needed emptying –

like a bowl overfilled.
Poems came then, like drops
of honey spilled across a table.

This empty time knows
nothing of words, lines, stanzas.
It cannot produce harvest
from a barren field.
Photography Prints

Photo Credit: Light by Graham Dean

Crumpled Sheets

reverie-richard-young

I can remember
the way you walk –
a fluid movement
with erotic appeal.

The way your hair
falls a certain way
across your cheeks,
beside your eyes.

A slight lift to the right
whenever you smile –
the honey sweet taste
of your lips, of you
in a passionate kiss.

I can remember
the way your back
feels soft and muscled –
warm – as I roll closer,
snuggle into sleep.

Waking to feel
the length of your legs
entwined with mine,
the width of your chest,

the weight of you
shifting, above and within
me — your chest touching mine,
soft whisper of words
against the nape of my neck.

I can remember
the strength of you
holding me, taking me,
hot against my flesh –
filling me completely
all those long years ago.

~July, 2011 South Carolina

Photography Prints

ARTWORK: Reverie by Richard Young. For artist information, other available works, and further details on this piece, please go here.

Stay Away from Reckless People

th7376NXPR

I start the day
thinking of nothing
in particular. Survival,
another day at the office
to get through — the
daily horoscope
smiles advice,
trembles warnings.

“Stay away
from reckless people – avoid
a mysterious x-love,
avoid daredevils and
those with death wishes.”

I think of you
for the first time
in weeks: lips,
whispered breath,
gentle touch
against my neck,
hands meeting your
warm hard presence
pulling me into memory.

My phone vibrates,
displays your name in bright
translucent green.

I end my day
thinking of mysterious
influences, daredevils, horoscopes,
and the cliff I once jumped from
with spectacular, reckless courage.

~May 2012

The Art of Seeing

 

 

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. ~Jonathan Swift

If I were going to select one thing that makes the difference in a poet and their poetry, or in the daily life of an average man, it would be the vision with which that person looks at himself and the world around him.

Jonathan Swift, a prolific writer, (best known for the prose masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels, and considered the foremost prose satirist in the English language*) gives a near perfect definition of (artistic-spiritual) vision when he says it is “the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

The poet’s true gift is his ability to see these invisible elements and then translate them. An excellent poet will see deeper than the average person. He will use this deeper vision, take in the essence of truth before him, and then use the medium of language to translate what he sees with intense emotion and minute detail. All great and poignant poetry is about vision, translation, and audience.

Poetic Eyes

Imagine yourself as a child opening a birthday gift – you tear the paper off the box and find a large magnifying glass inside.  The very first thing you do is go look at all the things you’re interested in with your new glass. You will see everything as before – but then, in a new way as the tiny elements of these things grow larger and clearer under magnification.

Now, imagine the poet, looking at everything in his world through a magnifying glass. He is already looking at the world around him, but he learns to tune his vision in such a way as to see deeper – as if he were holding a magnifying glass up in front of everything that catches his attention. This is how the poet “sees the invisible.”

Here is an example of detail from the poem, Death in Leamington, by John Betjeman:

She died in the upstairs bedroom
By the light of the evening star
That shone through the plate glass window
From over Leamington Spa.

Beside her the lonely crochet
Lay patiently and unstirred,
But the fingers that would have worked it
Were dead as the spoken word.

And Nurse came in with the tea-things
Breast high’ mid the stands and chairs —
But Nurse was alone with her own little soul,
And the things were alone with theirs./ …..

Betjeman uses a variety of poetic techniques in this excerpt, but pay special attention to his translation into imagery with meaning.

The death in Betjeman’s poem is recorded in slow-motion, each detail carefully carved in the readers mind, each small thing translated to perfection. We see the scene as the poet sees it – with the shared depth of sadness the poet experiences. He brings the moment to life in a vibrant, deep way which changes us, the reader, as we move through this episode with him. We see through his eyes.

Poetic Translation

The following poem is an example of a poet’s ability to use the smallest details, along with connotation, to create a vivid picture and joined experience with the reader. Robert Hayden is a master of experience translation in Those Winter Sundays:

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Hayden sees the past with his father in the new light of his own maturity. The poem explores the coldness (ingratitude) felt as a child and creates a mirroring effect with the coldness of the house.

The reader sees and feels the sadness, the understanding and regret, as the poet drills-down to the simple weekly experience. The poet is, at once, both child and adult speaking to us, telling us his story in a way that brings us inside of it with him. The words are translated into an experience for the reader.

Poetic Audience

A poet writes for himself to large degree. However, he writes in a fixed time and place – each decade belongs to the lingering poetic voices which have named it. This means that a poet must always be conscious of Audience.

The poem cannot exist away and aside from audience. It speaks from a place and time where others live, where history occurs, and the future becomes the past. In thinking of audience, we must bring time and place to the table, and also class, status, country, and world-view.

Audience, in the larger sense, is demonstrated perfectly by Allen Ginsberg in this excerpt from the poem, America:

America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.

Ginsberg is speaking in and from a particular time in American history. His poems resonate strongly with people of that generation sharing similar experiences. They resonate now in a more general sense or as an example of defiance and rebellion to the status quo for people of a different culture or time.

Culture is a part of poem and audience alike. The following excerpts, by Gwendolyn Brooks and Sterling A. Brown speak with a strong voice that is both living in and speaking from a particular culture:

We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

We Real Cool
The Pool Players
Seven at the Golden Shovel

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk Late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Excerpt from Riverbank Blues by Sterling A. Brown

A man git his feet set in a sticky mudbank,
A man git dis yellow water in his blood,
No need for hopin’, no need for doin’,
Muddy streams keep him fixed for good.

Little Muddy, Big Muddy, Moreau and Osage,
Little Mary’s, Big Mary’s, Cedar Creek,
Flood deir muddy water roundabout a man’s roots,
Keep him soaked and stranded and git him weak./…../

Brown’s poem about the Mississippi River speaks of a local, rural culture that lives with the good and the bad of the river. His poem tolls a warning while speaking generally of danger and oppression, yet deals specifically with the danger and oppression locally in relation to the River.

A “good” poem is hard to define. There are variances, personal preferences, and socio-political elements that make definition impossible. However, we can see that the hallmark of good poetry – poetry that lasts and brings a voice to it’s people, culture, and generation – is a combination of poetic vision, translation, and audience. The poet writing with strong abilities in these areas will be heard. ~

 “A culture is made – or destroyed – by its articulate voices.”   ~Ayn Rand

 

Art Prints

ARTWORK: Red Rose by Karen M. Scovill, courtesy of www.fineartamerica.com. You can find out more about the artist and view other works here.

*from Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

 

Rapture Me

Your voice purrs intimately,
soft rasp in my ear. Vibration
slides inside my heart, moves
my soul to weeping, strokes my
body to deeper craving. Awakens
my desire to feel
soft skin over hard muscles.

You remind me of the big cats.
A tiger I’ve wanted to touch
since youth — never fearing
the shimmering-bright cat
sky-bright blue eyes
soft-subtle purring
turning to devouring
without warning because
wild lives within
deep masculine brilliance.

I wonder why dangerous
exotic beasts rapture me —
(and I reach out my hand).

Your voice purrs intimately
in my ear as my body melts
into the sound of you
talking about nothing
as your words enter me.

September Afternoon

You are my quiet obsession. A mist

of mirror and memory that I return to

in my mind (heart) – that warm, vague

shadow I cling to: when my true world

stagnates, bores my senses. I call you

from that place of tedium . . .

know the faster heartbeat, breathless gasp,

flood of memories will surge to lift me

past today, this place — stable and solid.

Your voice on the phone —

a bright, hot, rushing wind that carries

me up and away to other places.

For R Rilke,

The poet R.M. Rilke has probably had the greatest impact on me of any writer. These poems were written in gratitude to him during 2005. © 2005 under Marissa Mullins.

Like Love

The Great Gift given

was not as simple

as your words.

Rather,

Like Love,

The emotion created by them.

Such simple little things

To grow such beauty

Out of stagnant air –

Fresh breath to a new

Century unlike the one

You came from.

We are Different –

Too busy, too smart, too …

We cannot perceive our own

Needfulness, do not realize

How Badly we need words

Like Yours –

Beauty flowing across

A white page of time.


It was all in the speaking

I look to where you saw —

wonder at the common tune

which seems to play itself

on both our instruments:

music goes on forever in our minds.

I see – here, there

A common chord. Same song

Sung by different voices

Years and times apart.

You are part of my heritage,

German Poet –

Souls and citizenship in common.

I would have liked

To meet you, have come

To know you, believe

We must be friends.


In the Quiet

 

 

 

in the Quiet (2006)

It is not unlike brokenness –

This feeling of having emptied myself

Into you, only

To find that you were already full

Unable to hold more.

 

I know of mistakes

That they are the “after-things”

The regrets and guilts of the next moments

Seem hidden in the times before.

 

I should apologize — for

 

The fact that you asked and received

 

The truth is it hurts

And that dismal pain reminds me…

I’m still breathing

It will be okay.

The world keeps moving

They keep talking

And I find in the Quiet

Moments of wonder

At the how and why of it.