So you want to live forever

This is how it feels when you’re seventy-three
You ache in places where your aches can’t be

Five times a night you get up and go pee
And fall asleep watching favorite shows on tv

Your drool runs down your chin for all to see
And the pills you take they give you the burpies.

You can’t remember where you put your keys
You search for glasses you’re using to see

You lose your car in a parking lot or three
And it takes hours to find where it ought to be

So it’s forever you want you age to be?
Wait till you reach the age of one hundred and three.

Trinity

The Lord God
went down to a lake
to wash His hair,
His long black hair.

A blue bird landed
on His broad shoulder.
The blue bird sang
her blue bird song:

“When the Lord God
made the world,
He made three dimensions
light, dark and shadow.

“When the Lord God
made the world,
He spun the world
into sun, moon and earth.

“When the Lord God
made the world,
He sliced it into three
land, sea and sky.

“When the Lord God
made the world,
He blessed it with three
a past, a present and a future.

“When the Lord God
made the world,
He shot it with three arrows
lust, love and heartbreak.

When the Lord God
made the world,
He kneaded three out of clay
man, woman and child.

“And He loved the three
and they were to bless Him
with three broken hearts
disappointment, doubt and frustration.

“And the land quaked
and the sea roared
and the sky wept
past, present and future.

“A dog, a cat and a horse
came upon their God
of light, dark and shadow
and they gave Him a smile.

“Then God knew the world
was impossible to love
and yet it was impossible
not to love the world.”

Thus the blue bird sang
on the broad shoulder of God
washing His hair in a lake
in the land of Eden.

Before the walls

The old man Priam came to the tent of Achilles
to plea for the body of his son, the old man came
for Hector slain before the walls where Patroclus fell
before the walls, before the walls of the city
where ten thousand Greeks were cut down,
and ten thousand Trojans more.

Priam mourned and Achilles too, they cried for all
the dead that night, these sons of Mars grieved the deaths.
They spoke of heroes, of horses and the sea.
“I was a child once,” the king said, “the city my home.”
“I was a boy too on an island a distance away.”
“I was a rider of horses.” “I a runner of races,” Achilles

unburdened his heart. “Then I took up the spear.”
“And I the shield.” “King, you make a good shield.”
“You are a great spear. Without you, the Greeks would be gone.”
“Why did my cousin die?” “Why did the gods steal my son away?”
“You are a king and I but a man, yet we grieve the same.”
“This is why the gods gave us tears,” the old man said.

And what did the Warrior say? “Tears are not enough.
The grief that I fear will never fall away.” “Nor mine.”
The old man carried his son home to the Funeral Games
before the walls that were once the city of Troy,
home to Helen and Paris, Andromache and once Hector,
the first-born of Hecuba and Priam inside the walls

of Troy.

Open Your Eyes

 Open your eyes, wipe the night away.
Open your eyes. It is morning,
the eastern sky awash with the sun and its many colors of light.
Slowly the world arises to do its daily dance.
The lonely and the loved gather themselves up for the new day.
Some waltz easily through the early hours;
for some, it is a difficult march
to be walked only after several cups of coffee.
Early runners dash onto city streets
where they run their morning runs.
Their sneakers pound a steady beat.
From the houses, from the homes that the runners pass,
breakfast aromas seep out to them,
voices rise and fall in a chorus of conversations.
“Up and at ‘em,” they chant,
some with a slight tone of the resignation that is Monday,
many accompanied by the sound of running water
as they shower, they shave, they brush their teeth and comb their hair.
In a suburban backyard,
butterflies flitter from roses to wisteria to crape myrtle.
A squirrel scampers from tree to ground and goes foraging for breakfast.
Two robins touch down on the birdbath, scoop the water into their beaks and drink.
Blue jays chatter while the bluebirds come singing,
their best songs sung for they who give an ear.
With its air cooling the skin, a breeze
eases through the oak, the mimosa, the loquat tree,
all standing near the tall metal fence at the property’s edge.
Leaves rustle. Wind chimes tinkle. Occasionally a dog barks.
A clarinet and piano jazz duet drifts in from two neighbors away.
Three cats appear at the kitchen door, a gray, a tabby, a black-and-white
meowing, scratching the wood, hungry from a night of out-and-about.
The door opens. The cats rush inside,
each heading for a bowl of Purina,
each chomping the dry brown pebbles of chow.
The black-and-white looks up. His big round eyes whisper,
“The day is such a joy, such a wonder,
if you open your eyes. Just open your eyes.
See and taste this day. Chew it well
and let its season pass in God’s good time. Soon
the butterflies will be gone.”

I’m a man who likes poets … and poetry

April is National Poetry Month, so this one is for all ye poets out there, and all ye who read poetry.

I’ve been told that if you want to be a poet, you should support poets. And not just the old dead ones but the living breathing ones. By buying their books. Well, I have my share of poets on my book shelves. There’s a special place because I believe poets deserve better than they’ve gotten over the years. Don’t know any that make a living off of their poetry. Just talking, better known as lecturing, and teaching about poetry.

On my shelves, it starts with Old Man Gilgamesh himself. Compared to Gilgamesh, Homer was a modern. Then there’s the ultimate anti-war novel, The Iliad, and his partner, The Odyssey. Both are translated by Robert Fagels. I like him. I like him a lot. Haven’t gotten his translation of The Aeneid yet. And then there’s The Divine Comedy about a man who suddenly goes middle-aged crazy. That’s the male version of menopause. Some might blame it on Beatrice. I blame it on middle-age. You can tell that’s what the man is suffering from by those opening lines of The Inferno, Canto 1:

“When I had journeyed half of our life’s way,
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
for I had lost the path that does not stray.”

He couldn’t buy that new red Ferrari, so off he went on a journey, to hell and back so to speak. And right by his side is another fellow I like a lot, Geoff Chaucer. Geoff is English for Jeff. His journey begins in April and “When in April the sweet showers fall….” Elmore Leonard says don’t begin with the weather but it seems to work well for old Geoff. Course, next door is the Poet Supreme, the House of the Bard. I’m talking Shakespeare here folks, and my version is the big fat volume of The Norton Shakespeare. A lot of Shakespeare in a lot of book. Not sure about what to say on Elmore’s advice about the weather cause here’s another writer starting off with the weather:

“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York….”

Guess these guys can break the rules if they want to. Beside these fellows is Alfred Lord with his Idylls of the King. Must admit that one of my favorites of his is “Ulysses”. Ulysses is Roman for Odysseus. In the poem, Odysseus is an old man and longing for the adventures of his youth. When you get old, you too will understand his meaning.

Now I am not partial to Walt Whitman and Emily D, though I have a volume of her stuff on my shelf. Though her poems don’t fit the form, I think you can call her the American haiku-ist. I’m sure Basho would be honored to have her in his company. They do fit the spirit.

I even have a couple of T S’s volumes but he’s not someone I would call a friend. Too brainy for me. Nor do I care much for Robert Frost. I lose something of the meaning of the poem because he depends so much on rhyme. Oh, I know how hard it is to do what he did, but it gets a bit distracting.

No, it’s Basho, Elizabeth Bishop, Gary Snyder, Dylan Thomas, Pueblo Neruda, Jane Kenyon, Derek Walcott, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Anne Sexton, James Dickey, Seamus Heaney, Naomi Shahib Nye and Garcia Lorca for me. Some dead, some living. I tend to turn to these friends when I am looking for some good companionship. They all wear well on me. And I even have a local poet, Summer Rodman’s “A train came by and slow ed”. Reminds me a bit of John Ashbery. And these are just a few of the two or three shelves of poetry I have.

There was a time that I found e e cummings interesting. But I tired of his gimmickry, although I still pull out “On Being Brand New” for a good laugh.

I’ve always read and bought poetry. I’m not sure why. I just like having them around to whisper in my ear their secrets and their beauty. It took 9/11/01 to make me value their value. Afterwards I picked up Auden’s “September 1, 1939”, Anna Akhmatova’s “Reading Hamlet”, and the one Whitman I like. Though it is awfully wordy and seems to go on way too long, it is “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”. In it, Whitman mourns for Abraham LIncoln. There are moments in that poem that are intensely moving. As far as Akhmatova is concerned, I keep coming across those words,

“To the right, wasteland by the cemetery,
beyond it the river’s dull blue.”

That seemed to measure my feeling after 9/11. Guess I am a little bit strange to feel that but I did, and sometimes still do.

I don’t know how I came by this love of poets and their poetry. It certainly does not run in my family. No poets among my kin. Nary a one. Maybe it came from reading The King James Bible and The Psalms early on. I sure do like reading Jesus’ Blesseds and Psalm 23 in the KJB. Haven’t found a better translation. Maybe those were the sections Old Will worked on. I just know that poets give me great comfort and I wish there were a hell of a lot more of them. Perhaps if there were, we’d have a bit less war and injustice.

I’ve often wondered why I have watched and studied politics so much over the years. If Boris Pasternak and his Zhivago should have taught me anything, it is don’t give a damn about politics. It never solves anything. And often makes matters worse. Then there’s Yeats’ wonderful lines:

HOW can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?
Yet here’s a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there’s a politician
That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war’s alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms!

Again maybe I should have embraced Zhivago as a role model. Maybe I would have been much better off. I know politics gives me a headache these days, hearing arguments about things that most of us don’t take any comfort in. A lot of this and a lot of that. Mostly tweedledee and twiddledum. Why don’t they just get on with it? As the fellow said on Saturday Night Live a while back, “Just fix it.”

One of my favorite intros to poems and poets is Molly Peacock’s How to read a poem … and start a poetry circle. She introduced me to Jane Kenyon’s wonderful poem “Let evening come”, one of my favs these days. In all my poemer-writing years I have never come close to something so lovely, so beautiful. It reveals to me how much beauty there is in the world if we only look and see.

So here I am late on a Saturday night. I’ve finished my weekly chores and I find myself turning to a poem or two for comfort. Not sure what has gotten into me. But I raise my glass and toast them all everyone. Thanks for the poems that have been spoken and that are to be spoken.