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I asked the weeping psychic, walking on the muddy track beneath the soft ceiling of spring clouds. I had dreamt of God as a lover, myself warm and completed; then rent, sent out alone into the cold morning with a painful splinter in the sole of my foot. It is the last day to think before the blossoms erupt, the trees frantic with yellow and hectic pink, the necessary beckoning, light too bright, instinct overcoming. Once again I tread through a field of lowing cows under northern clouds, lonely, longing for Him.
I wrote this spring poem last May but golly, this mood has overtaken me once more. Points if you can guess the Cole Porter song which inspired this poem.
It’s May I’m out of register
it’s the cherry blossoms I’m quick and dirty
I need some means restriction
a mistake seen from afar
Maybe it’s the lilacs I’m mindful sex
I’m back of the envelope I’m Pearl Square
I’m a baby near a boiling kettle
a tiger on a calendar
Could it be the apple tree I’m instamatic
I’m back of the house I’m your city’s lake
There’s restless agora within me boundless
I’m street antibiotic I’m Ulaanbaatar
It’s May ferns forcing the forest floor
I’m an epidemic alphabet I’m your rabbit
the wind the rain the newly-opened window
it’s very late I’m still awake a door ajar
The world is wild with blooms today. Me too. Redbuds are making their presence known across the city. Me too!
Here’s a poem I wrote for Duffy about a redbud.
The Redbud Blooms for Just a Week
I stand at the curtained window, discreet,
watching you wait beneath the redbud,
the expression on your face oblique.
Years ago, men dug a hole in the rocky peat.
I held your hand as they lowered the sapling down.
We watched the tree straining to meet
the sky as it grew to sixteen feet.
The redbud has entered a stage of discernment,
has grown ring upon ring in winter cold, summer heat.
It exudes a faint scent, sweet.
Your bus appears and you are away.
Soon, workday green will arrive; flowers retreat.
Rhyming. All of it.
I can feel it now, a gathering wave of political poetry–BAD political poetry–rising up to crash upon my Facebook feed and in anthologies everywhere. It will often rhyme (that one-syllable name with the plosive ending will be so hard to resist) and use a four beat line. Or it will be a rewriting of some anthem or creed. It will be about an explicit political event. It will contain a grandiose character undermining himself with his own statements. It will contain well-worn phrases of rhetoric from politicians and the media.It will all be so HEART-FELT! Such good intentions! The sale of the anthologies (reaping single digit profits) will benefit progressive organizations. THERE WILL BE READINGS and I will have to go to them.
This is a lot of snark coming from someone who truly thinks we need political poetry–GOOD political poetry–right now. What will make it good?
- It might not be about any recognizable political event. Read Medbh McGuckian to understand this point. Any poetry written in a time of civic crisis becomes political.
- It will tell absolute truth (important in a world where “alternative facts” apparently exist.)
- Or it will make everything up. Poets are not bound to the rules of journalists.
- It will contain language which is fresh, interesting, original, and not a hint of rhetoric which we hear around us.
- It will contain NEW ideas. The ideas of the current administration, as disruptive as it attempts to be, follow along well-worn tracks. So do the ideas of the opposition. The poet needs to bring something new.
- It will contain feelings other than outrage and tenderness.
- It will disrupt.
- It will not reflect, but transform.
- No ideas, but in things. I stole that from Dr. Williams. Let’s close with this incredible political poem he wrote.
The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.
Cherry blossoms bloom
in January; spring thaw—
women singing out.
From above, the many pink-hatted protesters in Washington last weekend reminded me of the cherry blossoms come early. Being there was a powerful and sobering experience. I was reminded of the vast possibilities enabled by participatory democracy, and energized to see so many women of all ages gathering. It was especially sweet to see younger women feeling their power naturally. The mood was giddy–much laughing and singing–and I was reminded of how much fun we had in ACT UP, despite the desperate circumstances facing us. Never before have I spent an afternoon with half a million women wearing symbols of vaginas on their heads and chanting for the ouster of a president.
I was also struck by limitations. Clearly it was a gathering of middle-class white women and while I know efforts were made to include others, and some did come, this will limit progress to the issues which most concern them, if we are lucky. Now, middle-class white women have often throughout American history used the luxury of their privilege to minister to the social ills of society and advocate for change, and had success. But we are truly facing terrible times–I have thought carefully and rationally about my fear and I am convinced of this–and we will need more than polite people in Lands End fleeces calling members of Congress to combat what faces us.
What seems essential to me, because of my place in the world as a writer, is to notice the war on reason and truth which is being waged immediately by this new regime. How predictable and terrifying! To confuse vast numbers of people with evil bedtime stories is an old tactic, and my goodness, it still works! So we must tell the truth, friends. Call it as we see it, and not just to those in our bubble, but all around. Bold words from a blogger with three readers, I know. I am trying to figure this all out.