Saturday, November 26, 2011

On the death of Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone has died and I didn't know much about her when she was alive. Except that she was very old.

According to the BBC, her best-known work, including The Solution and Simplicity, came after she turned 70. In 2002, she won the National Book Award for Poetry, for In the Next Galaxy. She was 96 when she died.

Stone's second husband, poet Walter Stone, took his own life in 1959 - the year of her debut - leaving her to bring up three daughters.

Eta Carinae

The snow is coming straight down
Like heavy rain,
The crows protesting—
What do they know?
So the weather patterns change.
The crows, blue jays,
The soggy robins, the gold finches—
Dupes of the weather,
All deceived by the light.
The sun, wobbling and coughing
Along the dust belt;
The entire galaxy
Shuddering with Eta Carinae
Swollen to term.
The super-novae, like Christ,
Come to illuminate the ignorant,
Who can only swallow one another.


We pop into life the way
Particles pop in and out
Of the continuum.
We are a seething mass
Of probability.
And probably I love you.
The evil of larva
And the evil of stars
Is a formula for the future.
Some bodies can
Thrust their arms into
a flame and be instantly
cured of this world,
while others sicken.
Why think, little brother
Like the moon, spit out like
A broken tooth.
"Oh," groans the world.
The outer planets,
The fizzing sun, here we come
With our luggage.
Look at the clever things
We have made out of
A few building blocks—
O, fabulous continuum.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Boredom by Margaret Atwood

Tuesdays can be so dull. The week seems to stretch ahead with little hint of respite in our regimented lives. Wednesday is hump day - perhaps the worst - although one day we will be dead and in our last days we will probably give our right arm for a month of Wednesdays.

Still this circle of the week and the seasons can be claustrophobic. It can trap us in these ever decreasing circles like the rings inside a tree. Freedom is a relative concept, decreed by time, circumstance and wealth. Routine, once familiar and comforting, can also be our jailer.

And now we are trapped in our unbending ways, shuttered off in rooms and kept from the sun. Atwood's poem makes me think of the repetition of the saw and the hard and flat Canadian plains where there are no horizons. And God knows we need something to aim for.

Bored by Margaret Atwood

 All those times I was bored
out of my mind. Holding the log
while he sawed it. Holding
the string while he measured, boards,
distances between things, or pounded
stakes into the ground for rows and rows
of lettuces and beets, which I then (bored)
weeded. Or sat in the back
of the car, or sat still in boats,
sat, sat, while at the prow, stern, wheel
he drove, steered, paddled. It
wasn't even boredom, it was looking,
looking hard and up close at the small
details. Myopia. The worn gunwales,
the intricate twill of the seat
cover. The acid crumbs of loam, the granular
pink rock, its igneous veins, the sea-fans
of dry moss, the blackish and then the graying
bristles on the back of his neck.
Sometimes he would whistle, sometimes
I would. The boring rhythm of doing
things over and over, carrying
the wood, drying
the dishes. Such minutiae. It's what
the animals spend most of their time at,
ferrying the sand, grain by grain, from their tunnels,
shuffling the leaves in their burrows. He pointed
such things out, and I would look
at the whorled texture of his square finger, earth under
the nail. Why do I remember it as sunnier
all the time then, although it more often
rained, and more birdsong?
I could hardly wait to get
the hell out of there to
anywhere else. Perhaps though
boredom is happier. It is for dogs or
groundhogs. Now I wouldn't be bored.
Now I would know too much.
Now I would know.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Verse of the Day - Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas is one of my favorite poets and Fern Hill is surely one of his best poems. Which makes it special.

Fern Hill is about childhood and youth and its exuberant verse runs like the imlpulses of the young until its bittersweet conclusion; "Time held me green and dying/Though I sang in my chains like the sea."

It also echoes the estuaries and rolling green hills of  South Wales that Thomas made his own. You have to go there really to feel it and understand.

Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs

About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.