March 8, 2008 Happy Birthday to Law Professor ML Lantzy of Syracuse University!
A snowy Saturday here in Utah! A fine and dandy day to read some delightful poetry. I have three excellent poems lined up. One by an eminent poet and two by friends.
The first is a C. K. Williams’ poem, “The Singing.” He gave me permission to quote his poems on my blog and website while I drove him to the airport after this year’s Palm Beach Poetry Festival in Delray Beach. Hearfelt thanks! Yes, I am blessed! And what’s more I have his voice in my ear when I read his work–this too, is a blessing. Here is his wonderful poem from the collection of the same title, for which he won the National Book Award
by C. K. Williams
I was walking home down a hill near our house on a balmy afternoon under the blossoms Of the pear trees that go flamboyantly mad here every spring with their burgeoning forth
When a young man turned in from a corner singing no it was more of a cadenced shouting Most of which I couldn’t catch I thought because the young man was black speaking black
It didn’t matter I could tell he was making his song up which pleased me he was nice-looking Husky dressed in some style of big pants obviously full of himself hence his lyrical flowing over
We went along in the same direction then he noticed me there almost beside him and “Big” He shouted-sang “Big” and I thought how droll to have my height incorporated in his song
So I smiled but the face of the young man showed nothing he looked in fact pointedly away And his song changed “I’m not a nice person” he chanted “I’m not I’m not a nice person”
No menace was meant I gathered no particular threat but he did want to be certain I knew That if my smile implied I conceived of anything like concord between us I should forget it
That’s all nothing else happened his song became indecipherable to me again he arrived Where he was going a house where a girl in braids waited for him on
the porch that was all
No one saw no one heard all the unasked and unanswered questions were left where they were It occurred to me to sing back “I’m not a nice person either” but I couldn’t come up with a tune
Besides I wouldn’t have meant it nor he have believed it both of us
knew just where we were In the duet we composed the equation we made the conventions to which we were condemned
Sometimes it feels even when no one is there that someone something is watching and listening Someone to rectify redo remake this time again though no one saw nor heard no one was there
~~Now here’s award-winning poet Elaine Winer’s poem, “The Dark Room” (forgive any errors in line breaks or spacing!)
THE DARK ROOM
by Elaine Winer
The safe-light leaks moist red into the darkness.
Bach sings his magic hills, the door says
Keep Out. Balancing light and time, strengthening
solutions, patience, love of solitude; but in the end
one must become a swimmer somersaulting
beneath clear green water.
We’d spent the week in Marrakash,
Mother,my three sisters, and I.
At dawn a driver came
to take us to the airport in Rabat.
The night was cold,
charcoal palm trees sketched against
a star-punched paper.
“You have time to see the Camel Souk,” the driver said.
“But your mother and crippled sister should wait
inside the car with me. Camels and horses
ridden to show their speed and strength can be dangerous.”
So Mother and Nonnie
walked with us only as far as the stone wall
that encircled the souk.
I had the driver take this picture there,
we five posed against the rough stone wall,
a family. Nonnie can barely hold up her head;
she died with Mother six months later,
but you can see the camera loved her eyes.
Caught in the flash they’re slightly bugged,
the lashes long and thick. Behind her
a boy’s head projects above the wall,
one arm flung high. Nonnie’s laughing,
although she never walked into the souk,
never passed through that opening on her crooked legs
but turned back to the car to wait with mother
while we three went on alone.
We entered inside the wall as the sun rose.
The enclosure held night to wall’s height,
a great cup filled to the brim with dark water
while all above it glittered; I loaded my camera
with black and white film and snapped
items of extreme romance, a flashing eye,
a flowing mane, camels standing on three legs,
the fourth bent back and tied; boys galloped
bareback, djellabas folded beneath slender legs.
The drumming of oiled hooves raised volcanoes
of white dust that towered in the dawn-fresh air.
Animals ran at us, a dangerous thunder we ran
blindly to escape. The sun plunged daggers of light
into our frightened eyes. The stout smooth men,
buying and selling, laughing at foreign women,
had the air of doing God’s work in the cold Moroccan dawn.
I place this negative into the enlarger’s carrier
and turn the timer to fifteen seconds. That black dawn diamonds the darkroom
briefly, then fades, leaving only the safe-light
filtered through red glass,
the sound of dripping water and Bach.
I transfer the paper to the developing tray.
Nonnie’s eyes meet mine, blooming
coins of light and warm black lines.
Her face ripples as though the water
were a chiding hand. Her mouth’s not right.
The first prints never are.
I change to a smoother paper and reset the timer.
The second photo lurches into being
like a shocked breath. It grows in increments.
No matter how I try, I never see
the exact point in time when the picture deepens
and comes together, when crawling lines create
a nose, a mouth, a wall. There is a moment in the darkroom
when the ability to see what was really happening
opens like an eye in darkness.
Leaning over trays,
images crawl into your soul
so black, so blackly beautiful,
so strongly, richly black; against it
eyes flare across the field like tiny spotlights,
like sequin-threaded moonlight, and everywhere
those rising towers of pale dust.
The sun hammered everything that rose
above the night, and so I didn’t see
half-shadows crow-clumping across the field.
I need the strongest whites the paper holds
to fight those chilling, those prophetic shadows.
Back in the car I said
It wasn’t much. And I said,
the field’s too rough. And I said,
we’ll come back some day.
You’ll see it next time.
Next we have “Your Voice” by Marie Lovas, a burgeoning poet. This poem recently appeared in Driftwood.
Your Voice by Marie Lovas
Hypnotic … the smoky timbre smooth, warm
as flowing syrup, scented of musk, of sleep.
I hear you though you’re not here, like morning fog your voice seeps into the labyrinth of my mind,
my dreams. Always there.
I await your return to hear your voice, to take me where the stars kiss the dripping dawn.
Goodnight. I beg you,
talk to me in dreams, seduce me with your voice as you fill my body and soul with rapture.