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amazing-beautiful-river-3

The River
Yes, we’ll gather by the river,
the beautiful, the beautiful river.
They say it runs by the throne of God.
This is where God invented fish.
Wherever, but then God’s throne is as wide
as the universe. If you’re attentive you’ll
see the throne’s borders in the stars. We’re on this side
and when you get to the other side we don’t know
what will happen if anything. If nothing happens
we won’t know it, I said once. Is that cynical?
No, nothing is nothing, not upsetting just
nothing. Then again maybe we’ll be cast
at the speed of light through the universe
to God’s throne. His hair is bounteous.
All the 5,000 birds on earth were created there.
The firstborn cranes, herons, hawks, at the back
so as not to frighten the little ones.
Even now they remember this divine habitat.
Shall we gather at the river, this beautiful river?
We’ll sing with the warblers perched on his eyelashes.
 Jim Harrison

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I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl—
Life’s little duties do—precisely—

As the very least
Were infinite—to me—

.
I put new Blossoms in the Glass—
And throw the old—away—
I push a petal from my gown
That anchored there—I weigh
The time ’twill be till six o’clock
I have so much to do—
And yet—Existence—some way back—
Stopped—struck—my ticking—through—
We cannot put Ourself away
As a completed Man
Or Woman—When the Errand’s done
We came to Flesh—upon—
There may be—Miles on Miles of Nought—
Of Action—sicker far—
To simulate—is stinging work—
To cover what we are
From Science—and from Surgery—
Too Telescopic Eyes
To bear on us unshaded—
For their—sake—not for Ours—
Twould start them—
We—could tremble—
But since we got a Bomb—
And held it in our Bosom—
Nay—Hold it—it is calm—

.
Therefore—we do life’s labor—
Though life’s Reward—be done—
With scrupulous exactness—
To hold our Senses—on—
by Emily Dickinson

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William Douglas Lansford and his wife Ruth were very active on California coastal protection especially the preservation of the Ballona Lagoon during my association with the efforts to conserve California’s irreplaceable coastal resources. Lansford was also a distinguished author. His Wikipedia page describes some of Lansford’s literary accomplishments as follows:

“Lansford began writing over 300 short stories and articles for American magazines the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, Argosy, True, and other Men’s adventure magazines, Leatherneck Magazine, Stars and Stripes and many others. He wrote several non-fiction books such as the biographies Stranger than Fiction: The Real Life Adventures of Jack London (1958) and Pancho Villa (1965). The latter was filmed as Villa Rides in 1968 with Lansford doing an early draft of the screenplay.

“Lansford wrote many teleplays for American television series such as Four Star Playhouse, Wagon Train, Bonanza, The Rookies, Starsky and Hutch, CHiPs, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also wrote the screenplays for made for TV movies depicting Jesse James (The Intruders) and Charles Whitman (The Deadly Tower). He produced, directed, and wrote the film Adios East Los Angelos.”

Lansford passed away in 2013.

After reading my posting of Flower Song of Nezahualcoyotl in This and That (see above #72  and in my blog https://josephpetrillo.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/this-and-that-from-re-thai-r-ment-by-3th-8-shadow-0008-june-27-2019/) Bill’s wife wrote me the following:

“Bill did a detailed outline for a mini-series on the conquest of Mexico (NOT Cortez centered) but never lived to do the scripts. In the process, he became so intrigued by Nahuatl poetry and its distinct style that he wrote a chapbook of original poems in that style.”

Here is that poem:

 

NEZAHUALCOYOTL

     By William Lansford

 

 

In the night Nezahualcoyotl awoke; indeed,

He awoke, bolting in the night,

In the darkness; under the moonless void, he awoke,

With racing thoughts of dark despair.

He, a King, our mighty Lord,

Poet of an Empire, Voice of Texcoco,

Thought of his Empire,

Of the Golden Orb of Fire –

Of Tonatiuh, Traveler of the Skies,

Drinker of Blood, Eater of Flesh,

Giver of Life to the World.

Where did the Golden Warrior, the Disk of Fire

Hide each night?

Into the belly of the Earth Monster they said he went;

Swallowed by the Eater of Graves, he, the Earth God,

Tlaltecuhtli.

There he slumbered, regaining his strength, his spirit,

As Nezahualcoyotl had once regained his spirit,

When youth was his and sleep was his beneath the gentle

light

Of Coyolxauhqui, Moon-Sister of the stars, of Huitzilopochtli.

Now Evil Spirits ruled the night; the Ghosts,

The fearsome heads roamed with fangs of flint and burning

eyes

And at the Crossroads the Crying Women waited for the unwary,

And sinners’ corpses, long decayed, rose from

Unholy graves to haunt the living.

Such were our times, my Lords,

That ancient Nezahualcoyotl could no longer sleep,

For slumber, peace, indeed, rest, eluded him and

His Poet’s mind burned like comets, like volcanos

in the night,

Grieving for his people –

Despairing for his country’s fate.

What did Nezahualcoyotl sense in the darkness

That none of us sensed?

Across the Lake; across glittering Texcoco Lake;

Our Moonlake; rested the Mightiest Lord on Earth.

The Emperor Axayacotl, Lord of Aztecs, of the Mexica,

Slept in his palace, amid the splendor of Tenochtitlan,

The Mother of Kingdoms, bellybutton of the Moon.

And now – as the Golden Warrior burst free of the

Monster’s throat;

Now, at the 9th hour, the hour of Tlaloc; indeed,

the end of darkness,

The Snake-drum Priests awoke to greet our Prince of Light –

Sun God – God of Life –

And blood flowed for golden Tonatiuh to drink;

And blood was sprinkled on his altars;

And prayers were chanted

And all was well, yet –

This night was the first when Nezahualcoyotl could not sleep;

No longer slumbered; indeed, could not court repose.

Uncle to the Ruler of Kings; father to 400 Princes;

Lord of Texcoco, Poet to the World –

Nezahualcoyotl found no rest.

And from his burning mind, his fears, his wisdom, and

his sorrow sprang

These words for men to ponder:

We are a river, flowing to the sea –

And we shall not return…

By William Lansford

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Aphrodite Metropolis


Harry loves Myrtle—He has strong arms, from the warehouse,


And on Sunday when they take the bus to emerald meadows he doesn’t say:

“What will your chastity amount to when your flesh withers in a little while?”


No,


On Sunday, when they picnic in emerald meadows they look at the Sunday paper:


GIRL SLAYS BANKER-BETRAYER


They spread it around on the grass


BATH-TUB STIRS JERSEY ROW


And then they sit down on it, nice.


Harry doesn’t say “Ziggin’s Ointment for withered flesh,
Cures

thousands of men and women of motes, warts, red veins,


flabby throat, scalp and hair diseases,


Not expensive, and fully guaranteed.”


No,


Harry says nothing at all,


He smiles,


And they kiss in the emerald meadows on the

Sunday paper.


Kenneth Fearing

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Given the events of the recent weeks in the United States, the massacres of innocents by White Nationalists, the abandonment of the fight against climate change, shredding of protections against nuclear holocaust and the looting of the national treasury, this poem by William Butler Yeats captures the dread we in America feel at this time as well as it did one hundred years ago. Then the slouching beast crept towards Berlin. Today its claws grip the heart of our nation while the worst in our citizens march into our cities and towns, our schools and shops our churches, synagogues, and mosques full of passionate intensity and carrying assault weapons.

 

The Second Coming
BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born
.
William Butler Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He belonged to the Protestant, Anglo-Irish minority that had controlled the economic, political, social, and cultural life of Ireland since at least the end of the 17th century. Most members of this minority considered themselves English people who happened to have been born in Ireland, but Yeats was staunch in affirming his Irish nationality. Although he lived in London for 14 years of his childhood (and kept a permanent home there during the first half of his adult life), Yeats maintained his cultural roots, featuring Irish legends and heroes in many of his poems and plays. He was equally firm in adhering to his self-image as an artist. This conviction led many to accuse him of elitism, but it also unquestionably contributed to his greatness. As fellow poet W.H. Auden noted in a 1948 Kenyon Review essay entitled “Yeats as an Example,” Yeats accepted the modern necessity of having to make a lonely and deliberate “choice of the principles and presuppositions in terms of which [made] sense of his experience.” Auden assigned Yeats the high praise of having written “some of the most beautiful poetry” of modern times.
(www.poetryfoundation.org/)

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Cloony The Clown by Shel Silverstein
I’ll tell you the story of Cloony the Clown
Who worked in a circus that came through town.
His shoes were too big and his hat was too small,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.

He had a trombone to play loud silly tunes,
He had a green dog and a thousand balloons.
He was floppy and sloppy and skinny and tall,
But he just wasn’t, just wasn’t funny at all.

And every time he did a trick,
Everyone felt a little sick.
And every time he told a joke,
Folks sighed as if their hearts were broke.

And every time he lost a shoe,
Everyone looked awfully blue.
And every time he stood on his head,
Everyone screamed, “Go back to bed!”

And every time he made a leap,
Everybody fell asleep.
And every time he ate his tie,
Everyone began to cry.

And Cloony could not make any money
Simply because he was not funny.
One day he said, “I’ll tell this town
How it feels to be an unfunny clown.”

And he told them all why he looked so sad,
And he told them all why he felt so bad.
He told of Pain and Rain and Cold,
He told of Darkness in his soul,

And after he finished his tale of woe,
Did everyone cry? Oh no, no, no,
They laughed until they shook the trees
With “Hah-Hah-Hahs” and “Hee-Hee-Hees.”

They laughed with howls and yowls and shrieks,
They laughed all day, they laughed all week,
They laughed until they had a fit,
They laughed until their jackets split.

The laughter spread for miles around
To every city, every town,
Over mountains, ‘cross the sea,
From Saint Tropez to Mun San Nee.

And soon the whole world rang with laughter,
Lasting till forever after,
While Cloony stood in the circus tent,
With his head drooped low and his shoulders bent.

And he said,”THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEANT-
I’M FUNNY JUST BY ACCIDENT.”
And while the world laughed outside.
Cloony the Clown sat down and cried.

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This poem is very close to my heart. It is written in a poetic form called Villanelle, a rather complex rarely used poetic format. Wikipedia describes it as follows:

A villanelle, also known as villanesque, is a nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately at the end of each subsequent stanza until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines. The villanelle is an example of a fixed verse form. The word derives from Latin, then Italian, and is related to the initial subject of the form being the pastoral.

Dylan Thomas’ poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” also is written in that form.

 

My Darling Turns to Poetry at Night
BY ANTHONY LAWRENCE

My darling turns to poetry at night.
What began as flirtation, an aside
Between abstract expression and first light

Now finds form as a silent, startled flight
Of commas on her face — a breath, a word …
My darling turns to poetry at night.

When rain inspires the night birds to create
Rhyme and formal verse, stanzas can be made
Between abstract expression and first light.

Her heartbeat is a metaphor, a late
Bloom of red flowers that refuse to fade.
My darling turns to poetry at night.

I watch her turn. I do not sleep. I wait
For symbols, for a sign that fear has died
Between abstract expression and first light.

Her dreams have night vision, and in her sight
Our bodies leave ghostprints on the bed.
My darling turns to poetry at night
Between abstract expression and first light.

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