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Thread: Three Poems after Montale

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    Three Poems after Montale

    i.

    Mistletoe, a city of snapshots taped to
    plaster, blue bottles and a fire's
    fitful sparks the only glimmers
    of warmth in your new lodgings.
    For you, this season without wreaths,
    I would manhandle a city, conjure
    a drizzle, then soften it to snow,
    paint lampposts deep reds and greens
    and so install around your room some
    snatches of the festive. But starting
    and ending here, these wishes are slipshod:
    they never seem to settle on a picture that
    touches you at all. Storms, ramshackle
    gifts fly freely, but the setting's
    the same: you dine upon sausage and frost.


    ii.

    The violent thrum of error,
    the catcalls of the wronged, the small
    crimes of a life, and the liquid horror
    of crimes to come—all
    this gushes and spurts inside
    me even in sleep, issuing from a source
    I cannot stop anymore. But now, astride
    a white-winged, metal horse,
    you float above the sea, the dream
    takes shape and lets you loom large ... until a cruel moon
    spotlights the beast's false joints, and screams
    blast it to shreds, and you come crashing down
    into the red-hot waves. Even in sleep
    I cannot save you from the carnal deep.


    iii.

    Oh, go when you must, but
    do not go for long! The place
    my thoughts built lingers, but its spirit
    is sick; every day new chinks
    show on its surface, and mad mouths
    surround it, hell-bent on seeing it
    crumble. Throw grub at them
    as they shriek to keep them happy, distract
    them with song, and let this room
    continue, this place where a heathen's only
    higher hope is realized, where chaos
    stays chained, and where your huge,
    luminous shadow keeps me agog.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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    Re: Three Poems after Montale

    Gold Leaves

    Someone ought to write about (I thought
    and therefore do) stage three of alchemy:
    not inauspicious metal turned into
    a gilded page, but that same page turned back
    to basics when you step outside for air
    and feel a radiance that was not there
    the day before, your sidewalks lined with gold.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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    Re: Three Poems after Montale

    Deer, December

    One of thirty nights I can't sleep
    I awaken to motion in the last dark
    out the window, tight against the hillside.
    I put on my glasses to stop
    the glass in the old house from wavering.

    Three of them, maybe twenty feet away,
    they nuzzle new snow,
    leaves and twigs not yet frozen hard,
    a poor diet, winter just begun.
    Foraging, chewing, staring lines into space.
    Their necks bolt upright only to the slight
    shift in what I imagine is wind,
    to things I can't hear, couldn't,
    were I with them outside and not still
    warm on the edge of the bed

    Then a cardinal is winter
    red against the even gray of 6 a.m.
    —cloudy, this time of year. I'll stay watching
    until I'm late for another morning meeting,
    my alarm clock not gone off—that must be it.
    I can't know how little I'll be missed.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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    Re: Three Poems after Montale

    One With Others (excerpt)

    THE VERY REVEREND PILLOW [at Bedside Baptist]: The injury that the rock-hard lie of inequality performs is unspeakable; it is irremediable, can be insurmountable. And very very thorough. No peculiar feeling to the contrary can be permitted to gain hold. You get my meaning.

    Back then, in case of rain, I would be lying if I did not say to you—you would be ill-advised to step under the generous eave of certain stores or [in the unforgiving heat] to take a drink from a cooler or even try to order catfish [at Saturday's]. And don't even think about applying for the soda jerk job [at Harmon's] or playing dominoes [at the Legion Hut].

    Back then we could not be having this conversation. You get what I'm getting at.

    Back then I would not be at this end of town unless I was pushing a mower or a wheelbarrow, the teacher [retired] told me over a big Coke at the Colonel's; even at that, back then, I would not be here, if the sun was headed down.
    [How far did a man have to walk just to pass his water, back then?]

    The river is impounded by
    the lake; below the lake the river
    enters the lowlands, it slithers
    through cypress and willow. And the air
    itself, cloudy or clear, stirring
    with smoke or dust or malathion,
    if you get my drift, must not
    be construed to be indivisible. No more
    than blood. There is black blood
    and white blood. There is black air
    and white air; this includes
    the air in the tires blowing out
    over the interstate between town and
    river, the air that riddles the children
    when a crop duster buzzes
    a schoolyard, the air that bellows
    from the choir of robes
    when the Very Reverend Pillow
    bids, Be seated, and even the air socked
    from the jaw of the champ, born
    seventeen miles west, in Sand Slough,
    when he took that phantom punch
    the year in which this particular round
    of troubles began.
    Today, Gentle Reader,
    the sermon once again: "Segregation
    After Death." Showers in the a.m.
    The threat they say is moving from the east.
    The sheriff's club says Not now. Not
    nokindofhow. Not never. The children's
    minds say Never waver. Air
    fanned by a flock of hands in the old
    funeral home where the meetings
    were called [because Mrs. Oliver
    owned it free and clear], and
    that selfsame air, sanctified
    and doomed, rent with racism, and
    it percolates up from the soil itself,
    which in these parts is richer than Elvis,
    and up on the Ridge is called loess
    [pronounced "luss"], off-color, windblown stuff.
    This is where Hemingway penned some
    of A Farewell to Arms, on the Ridge
    [when he was married to Pauline]. Where
    the mayor of Memphis moved after
    his ill-starred term. After they slew
    the dreamer and began to slay
    the dream. Once an undulant kingdom
    of Elberta and Early Wheeler peaches.
    Hot air chopping
    through clods of earth with
    each stroke of the tenant
    boy's hoe [Dyess Colony] back
    when the boy hadn't an iota
    of becoming the Man in Black.
    Al Green hailed from here;
    Sonny Liston, 12th of 13 kids,
    [some say 24th of 25]
    born 17 miles west,
    in Sand Slough. Head hardened
    on hickory sticks. [And Scott Bond,
    born a slave, became a millionaire.
    Bought a drove of farms
    around Big Tree. Planted potatoes.
    When the price came back up,
    planted cotton. Bought gravel. Felled
    his own timber. A buy-and-sell individual.
    When you look close at his picture, you
    can't tell if he was white
    or black. You can just tell he was a trim,
    cross-eyed fellow.] And the Silver Fox,
    he started out in Colt.
    Mostly up-and-down kind of men.
    [Except for Mr. Bond, he went in one
    direction when it came around
    to making money.]

    + + +

    GRADUATE OF THE ALL-NEGRO SCHOOL: Our teacher would tell us, Turn to page 51. That page wouldn't be there.
    GRADUATE OF THE ALL-WHITE SCHOOL, first year of lntegration-By-Choice: Spent a year in classes by myself. They had spotters on the trampoline. I knew they would not spot me. You timed your trips to the restroom.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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    Re: Three Poems after Montale

    Light Theology and the Persimmon Tree

    for Dorothy Bourque Miller

    Her kitchen was always filled with ordinary light;
    it was the one selected room she made all hers.
    From the north window above her sink she gazed
    at the white-tailed kites hovering over the ponds,
    listened idly to noisy killdeers chattering through
    the lazy afternoons in the pasture all summer long.
    When she was not satisfied with the lovely things
    she could bring us to, she thought selectively about
    the fruited hedgerows and orchards this time of year.
    Mayhaw jellies and muscadine jams were but some
    bright possibilities, but they never passed the test.

    Between the Charadrius vociferus in the pasture
    and that north window was a persimmon tree.
    When the skins on the fruit were just beginning
    to put on a lemon sheen, she would begin to see
    the red-gold they would become. She waited
    for the first frost to begin to relax the branches'
    hold and for the fruit to go into the manufacture
    of the final sugaring before she wrapped each
    globe in crisp white tissue. As the year parceled
    out its dwindling light, she came to our back doors
    before dawn, left us shallow boxes of golden suns.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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    Re: Three Poems after Montale

    Lumina

    We're all extensions
    of someone or another's
    golden light.

    In the moment
    I was made
    stars filled the sky

    & some parts
    of the bodies
    making me

    were fleetingly
    illuminated—
    briefly luminous.

    Druids see light
    in wood
    and worship trees.

    When we wave
    in recognition,
    we disperse light,

    set light in motion
    toward
    the beloved.

    We string our trees
    with lights
    in wintertime.

    We want
    to see ourselves
    in the dark.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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    Re: Three Poems after Montale

    It's All Gravy

    a gravy with little brown specks
    a gravy from the juices in a pan

    the pan you could have dumped in the sink
    now a carnival of flavor waiting to be scraped

    loosened with splashes of milk of water of wine
    let it cook let it thicken let it be spooned or poured

    over bird over bovine over swine
    the gravy of the cosmos bubbling

    beside the resting now lifted to the table
    gravy like an ongoing conversation

    Uncle Benny's porkpie hat
    a child's peculiar way of saying emergency

    seamlessly with sides of potato of carrot of corn
    seamlessly while each door handle sings its own song

    while giant cicadas ricochet off cycads and jellyfish sting
    a gravy like the ether they swore the planets swam through

    luminiferous millions of times
    less dense than air ubiquitous impossible to define

    a gravy like the God Newton paid respect to when he argued
    that to keep it all in balance to keep it from collapsing

    to keep all the stars and planets from colliding
    sometimes He had to intervene

    a benevolent meddling like the hand
    that stirs and stirs as the liquid steams

    obvious and simple everything and nothing
    my gravy your gravy our gravy the cosmological constant's

    glutinous gravy an iridescent and variably pulsing gravy
    the gravy of implosion a dying-that-births-duodenums gravy

    gravy of doulas of dictionaries and of gold
    the hand stirs the liquid steams

    and we heap the groaning platter with glistening
    the celestial chef looking on as we lift our plates

    lick them like a cat come back from a heavenly spin
    because there is oxygen in our blood

    because there is calcium in our bones
    because all of us were cooked

    in the gleaming Viking range
    of the stars
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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