my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Perfectly Heartbroken

We Say

Reginald Gibbons

We say a heart breaks—like
a stick, maybe, or a bottle
or a wave. But it seems, too,
like the consuming flame
of a moment, the field clump
that crackles upward from a match
and collapses, grass filaments
glowing in the ash-dust
then going out. Today
I take myself down by steps,
one at a time, into the sadness
I admit I can’t always reach.
There should be a room
at the bottom of the black stairway,
my friends sitting with strangers,
waiting, but there’s no one,
only the memory, when
the pale air flickers as if
it were an invisible flame,
of my aunt in her hospital bed
and beside her, about to be left
alone—the last sister, and so soon—
my mother, bent over
the purse in her lap, eyes closed.
I can see the patent leather gloss
and the shiny clasp that until
just now she had been
snapping open and shut, till—
just now—it broke. That breaking—
like a voice that cracks, cursing
or crying, or the song that falls,
out of thinking too far ahead,
into a smoldering loneliness—
was that the sound of the heart?

Pobiddy, Georgia

Mary Oliver

Three women climb from the car
in which they have driven slowly
into the churchyard.
They come toward us, to see
what we are doing.
What we are doing
is reading the strange,
wonderful names
of the dead.
One of the women
speaks to us-
after we speak to her.
She walks with us and shows us,
with downward-thrust finger,
which of the dead where her people.
She tells us
about two brothers, and an argument,
and a gun-she points
to one of the slabs
on which there is a name,
some scripture, a handful of red
plastic flowers. We ask her
about the other brother.
"Chain gang," she says,
as you or I might say
"Des Moines," or "New Haven." And then,
"Look around all you want."
The younger woman stands back, in the stiff weeds,
like a banked fire.

The third one-
the oldest human being we have ever seen in our lives-
suddenly drops to the dirt
and begins to cry. Clearly
she is blind, and clearly
she can't rise, but they lift her, like a child,
and lead her away, across the graves, as though
as old as anything could ever be, she was, finally,
perfectly finished, perfectly heartbroken, perfectly wild.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Live in the Layers

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

~ Stanley Kunitz ~

(Passing Through)

I listened to an interview with Lucia Perillo, a poet I posted back on March 12 . She stated that sometimes she has no idea what her poems mean. I was surprised to hear her say that. Perhaps Kunitz knows exactly what he meant when he said "live in the layers, not on the litter." But I think whatever he intended it to mean, he intentionally wrote the poem "large enough" to have different meanings for many people. That is the beauty of poetry. What the poem means to you does not have to be what it means to me. The term "scavenger angels" grabs my attention, very interesting but puzzling, I'm not sure what to make of that. Any thoughts?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Touch Me

Touch Me
Stanley Kunitz

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Elizabeth Lesser insists in her book Broken Open  that meditation is not an escape in which you visualize yourself in some beautiful setting. Instead, meditation is being fully present in the moment, being no one other than yourself wherever you are right now.  Kneeling in the dirt on a gray day, Kunitz recognizes in the crickets' song  his own  desire for love, universal and, as is demonstrated in his 100 years or living, timeless. What a powerful message.
"Touch Me "was the last of the poems he published in 2000. You must listen to him below.