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I Have Learned So Much

I
Have
Learned
So much from God
That I can no longer
Call
Myself

A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
a Buddhist, a Jew.

The Truth has shared so much of Itself
With me

That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, an angel,
Or even a pure
Soul.

Love has
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
And freed
Me

Of every concept and image
My mind has ever known.
From: ‘The Gift’ by Hafez
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

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Affirmation

To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
     Donald Hall

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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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poetry-in-motion

In slow rhythm, I awoke in a bundle
of comfort and peace made of arms and legs
and torsos in sync with your low-pitched
intake of breath from our air-pool, forehead
snug against cheek, and then our exhale moans
through my chest while somewhere deep
in our bundle a spark flares to another beat.

I love you tells only half what I feel
when you are the other half of me.
Naida West.

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I enjoy reading a blog called Logarithmic History. Using a logarithmic scale mapped onto the course of one year the blog traces the History of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day. On about Valentine’s Day, the history of the universe had arrived at that point when sexual reproduction on earth begins with eukaryotes. The author of the blog appropriately provides us with a poem for Valentine’s Day, by the biologist Langdon Smith. Martin Gardner has a nice account of the poem, in his book “When you were a tadpole and I was a fish,”

Evolution
By Langdon Smith (1858-1908)

When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.

Mindless we lived and mindless we loved
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we caught our breath from the womb of death
And crept into life again.

We were amphibians, scaled and tailed,
And drab as a dead man’s hand;
We coiled at ease ‘neath the dripping trees
Or trailed through the mud and sand.
Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed feet
Writing a language dumb,
With never a spark in the empty dark
To hint at a life to come.

Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,
And happy we died once more;
Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold
Of a Neocomian shore.
The eons came and the eons fled
And the sleep that wrapped us fast
Was riven away in a newer day
And the night of death was passed.

Then light and swift through the jungle trees
We swung in our airy flights,
Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms
In the hush of the moonless nights;
And oh! what beautiful years were there
When our hearts clung each to each;
When life was filled and our senses thrilled
In the first faint dawn of speech.

Thus life by life and love by love
We passed through the cycles strange,
And breath by breath and death by death
We followed the chain of change.
Till there came a time in the law of life
When over the nursing sod
The shadows broke and the soul awoke
In a strange, dim dream of God.

I was thewed like an Auroch bull
And tusked like the great cave bear;
And you, my sweet, from head to feet
Were gowned in your glorious hair.
Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave,
When the night fell o’er the plain
And the moon hung red o’er the river bed
We mumbled the bones of the slain.

I flaked a flint to a cutting edge
And shaped it with brutish craft;
I broke a shank from the woodland lank
And fitted it, head and haft;
Then I hid me close to the reedy tarn,
Where the mammoth came to drink;
Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone
And slew him upon the brink.

Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes,
Loud answered our kith and kin;
From west to east to the crimson feast
The clan came tramping in.
O’er joint and gristle and padded hoof
We fought and clawed and tore,
And cheek by jowl with many a growl
We talked the marvel o’er.

I carved that fight on a reindeer bone
With rude and hairy hand;
I pictured his fall on the cavern wall
That men might understand.
For we lived by blood and the right of might
Ere human laws were drawn,
And the age of sin did not begin
Til our brutal tush was gone.

And that was a million years ago
In a time that no man knows;
Yet here tonight in the mellow light
We sit at Delmonico’s.
Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,
Your hair is dark as jet,
Your years are few, your life is new,
Your soul untried, and yet –

Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay
And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;
We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones
And deep in the Coralline crags;
Our love is old, our lives are old,
And death shall come amain;
Should it come today, what man may say
We shall not live again?

God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds
And furnish’d them wings to fly;
He sowed our spawn in the world’s dim dawn,
And I know that it shall not die,
Though cities have sprung above the graves
Where the crook-bone men made war
And the ox-wain creaks o’er the buried caves
Where the mummied mammoths are.

Then as we linger at luncheon here
O’er many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
Were a tadpole and I was a fish.

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I hate poetry. At least I hate wading through much of modern poetry (and to be honest, most of the poetry of the past) to find something that I enjoy. It’s like plowing through Facebook to find something to like. Thankfully, any Facebook entry that takes more than a tenth of a second to absorb I skip anyway.

Poetry originated as stories with sound effects to help remember them. Later the rhythm of the language developed into different forms. English, at about the time of the Renaissance, began adopting foreign forms. This did not always work. In Italian, a sonnet could recite a laundry list and still sound good. In English sonnets suck. Poetic form should follow the natural rhythms of the language if at all.

Modern poetry, it seems to me, falls into a few categories.

First, there is imagist shit. You know, a poem about a leaf on a tree, that is incomprehensible, never mentions tree and uses the word leaf only once.

Love at the Beach.

The sun warms my body
It spreads to the world around me
I think of you enfolded in its arms
My balls itch from sweat

Or, we have love poems celebrating modern sexual sensibilities.

I dream of doing you doggy style,
In the meadow of the night
Your eyes
Like comets streak across the sky
Striking deep into my heart.

Or, poems centered on common domestic scenes.

Little Maisie,
Stumbles across the floor
Through the tortured shadow
of the window frame.
Takes a shit on the hardwood
and says,
Yuck!

Or attempts at comedy:

I saw Mickey Mouse
As Steamboat Willy
On the telly
Last night
We both have skinny arms
But I can’t whistle.

Among the foreign forms, haiku seems popular today even though it makes no sense in any language but Japanese. Take the following quote from the blog Sex and the Shameless “I just can’t go anywhere without bumping into someone who has been inside me” and turn it into haiku:

 I can’t go anywhere

Without bumping into someone

Who’s been inside me.

(18 syllables instead of 17 but close enough.)

Rap on the other hand, is real poetry. Although it is derived from black urban argot, it reflects the dialect and the social experience well. Its explosive beat at the end of each phase welcomes violent urban images. For this and other reasons, it is difficult to replace,

Hey mothafuka, I’ll cap your ass

with,

A thing of beauty is a joy forever

and expect it to sound right. On the other hand, who knows or more importantly who cares.

(Note: If you think I am kidding [and if truth be known I am. I love Denise Duhamel’s Snow White’s Acne], here is an excerpt from John Ashford’s poem Daffy Duck in Hollywood:

Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky
Over the Fudds’ garage, reducing it–drastically–
To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on
A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover.
Suddenly all is
Loathing.

At least I agree with Ashford that Suddenly all is Loathing.

Or, Nick Flynn’s Bag of Mice:

I dreamt your suicide note
was scrawled in pencil on a brown paperbag,
& in the bag were six baby mice.)

(more…)

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