Ascension Day: a poem

Yesterday was the Feast of the Ascension, so this is late. I guess it is still May 30th in California and points West (up to the International Date Line) though:

 

ASCENSION DAY

Ascension Day. A helpful article explains

It was not up, up, up  like Apollo

But in a cloud of unknowing. It marks

 

High summer, long days at this latitude.

Any explanation somehow strains

Considering what it has to follow;

 

The resurrection, when humanity embarks

On a new course. Our attitude,

Believe what we will, no longer remains

 

What it was; even doubt is no longer hollow,

But encloses a specific moment that sparks

Through time since, a reason for gratitude.

 

Back to the Ascension. Lifted out

Of the human round. A culmination –

If the story was just about

 

One time, one place, one nation –

It was not so. There is an After.

Still to come, Acts; the illumination

 

Of Pentecost. Plenty of exalted disaster.

Plenty of human error, the fall of Saul.

The realisation we can have but one Master,

 

Hard earned as this knowledge is for us all.

Ascension is a beginning, like all ends,

In that cloud there is the call,

 

To follow our path wherever it sends.

 

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“Terza Rima”, Richard Wilbur

Published in The New Yorker in 2008, here is a gem-like little poem by Richard Wilbur reflecting on the casual power of terza rima, the form in which Dante wrote the Commedia and also that of Robert Frost’s Acquainted With The Night:

In this great form, as Dante proved in Hell,
There is no dreadful thing that can’t be said
In passing. Here, for instance, one could tell

How our jeep skidded sideways toward the dead
Enemy soldier with the staring eyes,
Bumping a little as it struck his head,

And then flew on, as if toward Paradise.

“Stealth”, Howard Stein

“Stealth”, Howard Stein

It’s heading into midsummer. So, the perfect time to post a short poem about autumn. “Stealth” by Howard Stein (who has an interesting bio)captures the transitory, and elusive, nature of the seasons. Me, I’m still thinking 2019 is a new year, rather than one nearly half over. From Songs of Eretz Poetry Review:

Stealth

Howard Stein

Fall arrives by stealth —

Just when no one is looking,

A few telltale leaves

Scrape along the dry sidewalk.

Soon, there is no turning back.

Poet’s Notes: In mid-September 2018, I was sitting on my porch, noticing an occasional brown leaf float to the ground. A few dry leaves scratched on the sidewalk when the Oklahoma breeze was swift enough. From that spell emerged this poem.

“My Life by Water” – a found poem by M. Stone

I greatly enjoyed M Stone’s found poem “My Life By Water”, constructed using… well, you can follow the link to find out – and does it matter? It stands on its own merits as an evocative piece of writing with some interesting juxtapositions.

MY LIFE BY WATER
I rose from marsh mud.
I knew a clean man
I married
in the great snowfall.
Consider at the outset—
I am sick with the Time’s
tradition.
Keen and lovely man,
alcoholic dream.
I lost you to water, summer.
Now in one year
my life is hung up.
July, waxwings
hear
something in the water.
Along the river,
the graves—
traces of living things.

Writer M. Stone

I’m thrilled that my found poem “My Life by Water” is included in the new issue of Unlost Journal! Many thanks to the Editors.

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“Machinery” by Robert Wrigley

On what would have been my father’s 87th Birthday this poem by Robert Wrigley seems fitting. It captures something of the tension between the worlds of literary endeavour and the practical, literal workaday world ; a world with, as Wrigley writes, its own evocative vocabulary and moments of poetry:

Machinery

by

 

My father loved every kind of machinery,

relished bearings, splines, windings, and cogs,

loved the tolerances between moving parts

and the parts that moved the parts,

the many separate machines of machinery.

Loved the punch, the awl, the ratchet, the pawl.

In-feed and out-feed rollers of the thickness planer,

its cutter head and cutters. The barrel and belt sanders,

the auger, capstan, windlass, and magneto.

Such a beautiful vocabulary in his work, words

he knew even if often he did not know

how they were spelled. Seals, risers, armatures.

Claw, ball-peen, sledge, dead-blow, mallet,

hammers all. Butt, mitered, half-lap,

tongue and groove; mortise and tenon,

biscuit, rabbet, dovetail, and box: all joints.

“A poem is a small (or large) machine

made of words,” said William Carlos Williams.

“To build the machine that makes the machine,”

said Elon Musk. Once my father repaired

a broken harpsichord but could not make it sing.

The chock, the bore, the chisel. He could hang a door,

rebuild an engine. Cylinders, pistons, and rings.

Shafts, crank and cam. Hand-cut notches

where the hinges sat. He loved the primary feathers

on the wings of a duck, extended and catching air,

catching also the tops of the whitecap waves

when it landed. Rods, valves, risers, and seals.

Ailerons and flaps, yaw control in the tail.

Machinery, machinery, machinery.

Four syllables in two iambic feet. A soft pulse.

Once I told him what Williams said,

he approached what I made with deeper interest

but no more understanding in the end.

The question he did not ask, that would have

embarrassed him to ask, the question I felt sure

he wanted to ask, the one I was too embarrassed 

to ask for him, was “What does it do?”

Eventually the machine his body was broken,

and now it is gone, and the mechanically inclined

machine in his head is also gone,

and most of his tools. The machines that made

the machines are gone too, but for a few

I have kept in remembrance. A fine wood plane

but not the thickness planer, which I would not know

how to use. A variety of clamps I use to clamp

things needing clamping. Frost said

“poetry is the sort of thing poets write.” My father

thought it was the sort of thing I wrote,

but what mattered to him was what it did.

What does it do, and what is it? 

A widget that resists conclusions.

A crank that turns a wheel

that turns. A declaration of truth

by a human being running at full speed

in a race with no one, toward nowhere

except away from the beginning and toward arrival.

Once my father watched the snow

and noted how landing on the earth it melted.

He said, “It’s snow that doesn’t know it’s rain.”

 

“The Sonnet Is Dead”, a sonnet by Joanna Cleary

From the Summer 2018 issue of Temz Review here is a sonnet (of course) by Joanna Cleary. I like its ironic treatment of contemporary lit crit certainties. And of course, the poem itself subverts the title:

The Sonnet is Dead
By Joanna Cleary

The sonnet is dead; we’ve talked it to death.
Love is complicated, political.
And what could be more complicated than
a sonnet? They are always ironic,
my professor said sternly to the class.
Always. The idea is ironized
in the sestet. I was still half-asleep,
retracing my pen over the octave,
thinking that it first could have been written
on a day as rain-splattered as today,
and the poet could have walked home slowly
with both feet wet from stepping in puddles
as sunlight appeared in the sky again
to touch water drops shining on cobwebs.

“I am missing too many important things/because I don’t know how to read.” -‘If I Knew Braille’, a poem by Holly Day

From The Writing Disorder

If I Knew Braille

 

If I knew Braille, perhaps I could read
the graffiti of purple-mouthed limpets clinging
to old, sea-washed boulders
the secret Bibles of zebra mussels clinging to dry-docked boats
the last, profound gasps of snails and slugs dried out in clumps
on the sun-baked pavement in front of my house.
There may be language in the teetering piles of droppings

the rabbits have scattered throughout my yard
written in squirrel on the skin of half-nibbled tulip bulbs
lifted from the ground and carried into the trees
in the fresh pattern of teeth marks gnawed into the table leg
by the dog. I am missing too many important things
because I don’t know how to read.