Dirty Gerty's Hurdy Gurdy


Only the poem knows what's true

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dad, Boccioni, Pollock, Chauras, and Teddy

I started Roethke's book, The Waking, which, (I was erroneous), won him the Pulitzer in 1954. It was published in 1953. Even so, after experiencing the first two poems, and his ingenious use of the word pelludious, (poetic license), I went outside, lay on the hammock. I looked up where the leaves of the Dogwood and Oak meet, and thought about nights when I would sit there, and watch as their canopy assassinated the sky's. It also brought me back to my father. He died of metastatic melanoma in May 2010. I wrote this poem after stepping inside, an hour ago, for him. The photographs were just taken... mind you, I may seem hideous as I have no make up on, save for lippie and mascara. Still, when I was in despair weeks ago and walked into the back room and saw Roethke's book, with Georgia O'Keefe's painting on the cover... I could not know it would enhance everything I have learned, and am learning. I even like to believe my father may have had something to do with placing it there... for Roethke was, like me, concerned with the way disparity makes for oneness, and how soon oneness can fall apart. He separated the soul from the body, for a time, only to find the two intertwined, and realize the anonymity of form. By the by, my father always believed in me, as does my mother. I only hope this is a fitting homage, to him... he loved art, and collyrium is a reference to the 50 stanzas of Chauras, lines of which he quoted in a love letter to my mom:

For Dad

There was a night, when Dogwood and Oak
Met each other and decayed the sky,
I lay on the hammock, the words you never spoke,
That space between leaves-stars in Pollock's eyes-
I'd blur the canvas, until the stars exploded
Into strides Boccioni may have painted,
Into what sweet hell as the wind collided,
And collapsed the stars into the dirt?

You will not answer when I break a leaf
And trace a question mark upon its hide.
And place it upon the earth-not within-
So no worm will invade its green,
But surely it will die. And you, within,
You cannot cry at your invaded flesh,
And in your last hours when air collapsed,
Were you oppressed by the worm's weight?

The words you never spoke come and go
As ghosts invented by shadows, but I know
You cannot answer them, so I do:
I tell them, the leaves are heavier
When they pretend to make stars,
And oppress us until we cannot breathe,
And we are locked in a glass box,
Anemones plucked from the real night sky.

If collyrium indents my cheek,
Plucks its petals, until all I feel are bones,
When tears just will not do-to wet shadow-
I cannot drink the rood, and become a ghost.
I feel the worm eating and I want to be the worm,
But even within the earth there is no inward growth.
So I go in and find without, enclose you in the night,
Where nothing can scar you, not even my poisoned sight.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kafka's Axe... and, well, my lost (one)!

I've been reading much Roethke as of late... and a friend, a wonderful poet, Rob Plath (one of Ginsberg's last students)... mentioned something Kafka said all writers and artists should do. Break their ice with a flippin' axe! Though I have suffered, and these past few days have been no exception, I decided, two days ago, to constrain my angst within a form, that hopefully breaks apart the mirror I've conveyed for my missing axe! *By the by, Roethke's first three books of poetry were/are still wondrous. I cannot wait to read The Waking, tomorrow, which he won the Pulitzer for in 1953. Still... I'm posting something of an inadequate poem, here, alongside photographs I took today. Because yes, even when I am ill, I "doll" myself (up). The blight of being "mad?"* :

The Axe

Lest we forget, the blond axe
Cutting ice petal by petal,
But still a film laughs behind,
And all contained in a cask,
Wrought from the very metal
The axe and Sun entwined.

Amaranth says it will not pass
And the ice film will not meddle,
It melts instead, stoops its hind,
So we may drink and trespass
The cask, our lips stung by nettle
Lined skin, our skin a bleeding rind.


Lest we remember, blood drawn thin,
Draws curtains from the Sun,
Sits in a room, not even shadows pass,
Looks for the axe, bones cave in,
Takes the barrel of an empty gun
Bled to chalk, maneuvering a cast.

But this cast contains my skin,
And casts me away from one,
I cannot shake off its putrid mask,
I bleed to find its bones within
To find my cask has been undone,
These bones, the fetor, where is my axe?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Blond Reaper


There is an orange leaf in the sky,
It has uncumbered the sun, for the moment,
Has slain its eyes. So it doesn't will the world
Unto a magnificent prism wheel, it does not
Take the stream and make it flow harder or less,
It could care less; it doesn't even know I see.

But in the center of a forest, deep and verdurous
In dark green and deepest black, my eyes are blindfolded.
I may feel a slight wind, and hear it upon the verdurous eaves,
But the roof is leaking, and its burden makes me bleed.
I rip the blindfold apart. And take a piece, and put it up,
To the blond reaper. But the reaper's eyes will not be slain,
For the cloth can only sustain a haze of muted green.

To go back to deepest black and dark green,
Is the dream I once broke apart. Tore. To the despair
Of my muting heart. But now, I want the orange to blindfold me,
Even in the second that it wills the sky, and stars and supernovas
And black holes to swallow it eternally. I may see, now, all the particular
Colors of a magical prism fall apart into a lifeless stream.
But I do not dream on these waters, because I know the stream is not lifeless.
I evoke roots in the forest's center, and it evokes currents, that take my roots away.

You held my arms; I was but a fragile pup,
You swirled me, in the Sound's warm crystal,
And made a liquid of its source. So even as I stand in the forest,
And see so many bright things amid the black, and feel so much
The withering of a breeze and the drowning of my roots,
And the headlong roof that keeps leaking,
You held me apart. You are the keeper of my heart,
Because you didn't mock the pup's laughter.
You sang with it, sang with me, your devoted child.

And now I hear so many things,
I despair in the rind just to rip my core,
But I want more, oh I do. I want you, and me, back.
To that day, when we swirled in laughter, and everything
Was just a touch. But the circulation will not let this be.
So I cry, and die under the glare of a little orange leaf,
Too important to think it could ever last.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Somali Cyclamen

Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle" is his most famous poem. People praise it for its tragic beauty, the way he rages against death, seeming to counter another poem he wrote (Death Has No Dominion). It saddens me, though, that the majority of people do not know the form in which it was composed. For Dylan did not go without a tennis net (Robert Frost reference) when he raged against the dying of the light. He took a much overlooked form, the vilanelle, much overlooked for its difficulty. (I wrote one when I was nineteen; it's in a journal somewhere, and have yet to try again). He constrained himself to the repetitions, the nineteen lines, the tercets and final quatrain. And walked in a form that brings self delusion, does not seem to evoke a conversation, yet walks into the meditation of dead, quiet things, things that scream for mercy and tear us (all) apart. The real poet finds instinct, yes, but the real poet must also be a critic. I do not listen to the claptrap that art is all inspiration. And that the greatest artists have a Muse. To me, it is bullshit. When Dylan wrote this, he worked within the form. Because form depersonalizes the rage of passion, that unchecked just brings forth messy ranting. It's this depersonalization that makes the poem most powerful. Effortless. Much as I value him and this, the most famous vilanelle ever written (Do Not Go Gentle), I must say it is not my favorite vilanelle. One that has been quite overlooked is Theodore Roethke's The Waking. And I will tell you a secret, out of all the poetry I've experienced, this is, by far, my favorite poem. (The Waking). "I wake to sleep and take my waking slow..." No one has ever topped that opening line, by my estimation. And by my estimation, no one can even be considered a poet until they have tried, the vilanelle. Now for some messy ranting! Yesterday, I decided to write a poem for someone of great beauty. I put it to paper, yes, the old fashioned way with a pen. And I had the thought that perhaps I should linger over it, take my time. But this came out in ten minutes. Exactly what a poet should not do! Still, I am posting it, as a dedication. Just do not assume it is about love or passion or anything but the dream of always being seen, even by what you may never see:
Somali Cyclamen

 The deep black of their deep light,
Fused, in the lichen, of a dead rock
In the isolation of an even deader night,
Your eyes. Take me back, and give mine sight.
So long, so long I wandered, mine gouged
By my very own hands, torn from flesh
And even ghost, in the adulation of dead men
Whose words spoke love, but could not see,
I was more than they could ever see.

 My eyes. Threads of blue, phosphoric flames,
Falling away,in a glass box, where tears
 Work to take their flames away.
And being shut away, where all is lost,
In the lament of a song no word could sing,
I see your eyes, want to see, all that they,
Have seen. And have them break the glass,
And invigorate the blue, with your touch,
The touch of deepest black, rooted in earth,
Where worms may devour everything,
But nothing dies, when nothing lives.

 Your eyes. They see. Everything.
And oh, I want them, to see me.
That I may touch the earth, and still see,
The ghost is only ghost when it is rooted.
 In the isolation of a deep dead night:
Take me back, and give mine sight!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Black Tulip, again!

For all my suffering, my journey into the blood life:

 Black Tulip

I have always kept you, sweet rind,
Covered you in the cloak you gave to me,
Making me invisible, and blind,
To everything I should see.
But in the agony of my body,
Handing me a black tulip when I held a rose,
And didn’t even feel the thorns,
The thorns that would dispose my blood
To the air, and I could not even feel,
In this agony I threw away the rose.
Because I did not understand it did not see,
The impression of my body, my seed, the black,
Decaying to take me, back to what I could not see.

 I have my hand displayed outside a car window,
And amid all the rind’s perfect turbulations,
The laughter of a breeze, the echo of what I see.
I’ll hold the core in my hand, because I have seen it,
Decay. I have seen my own face fade away. And when
 I used to display death as a black flag, oh me, it is life,
Life’s greatest lover and friend, It is that bend in the road,
I do not want to see. For I have fallen into deepest black.
I do not want to come back. I have seen the wind. I have
Seen the rain breathe. I cannot achieve eternity or space,
In the concept of what I dream, but oh I can dream that
Eternity and space are more than distant relatives,
Catching a conversation after too much silence
And yet committed to the silent vow: I do not make a vow to you.
You will break me apart into a prism, and circulate my colors
To eyes that will not see, too stuck on the rind, to ever know,
The nature of invisibility. But I do love you, more than rind ever knew.

 You took my body and made it a soul,
You gave me the black tulip, and I did not hold back.
You wear no mask, you are no vision, but what I am is your vision,
You know all visions break apart, circulate, and die.

 But you are my blood, and I see you more than rind ever knew.
And I cannot be but to stay true, to the life that isn’t me,
 To rise in the bevy of sunset, and discard my cloak,
And let my nakedness feel the blood of a dead rose,
Mourning without veil, the sound of black,
The color of white, the blood, the dead attack.

The execution of Federico Garcia Lorca

I am drawn to Lorca's lecture on "duende." I've just been experiencing it. And (I) wrote this poem, as an homage to him, over the weekend. Of course, he deserves much better than my pen. Rooted deep in the earth, where what births us brings us to our end. But, he is by far my greatest influence. And I only wanted to capture that moment, in 1936, during The Spanish Civil War, when the horrid Fascists executed him, point blank, reportedly beside a matador and school teacher (also executed). For a man who said Dali found "eternity with limits," I must say, Lorca, your eternity was too beautiful to traverse time:

 The Execution of Federico Garcia Lorca

 The refuge was washed in your blood,
Dead volcano, dead church,
 And for everything that hummed in the silence,
You did not give word.
A Cypress branch
At dawn. The sun.
Mystical reaper with its eyes shut.
Take my body, oh, but never a thousand violins!

 I cannot hear the tears, and think my well is dry.
 And in the mirror of my eye,
I find everything sharp and shattered.
And wonder, why, did I, escape the pool,
That granted me my face,
And gave beauty a mountain?
Is this the dream I must erase?
 Lay down your gun, give the gun disgrace,
But, oh, don’t disgrace me!

 I hear a thousand violins
And oh, they are silent.
Traveling to mountain
And sea. And Andalusia. Just to taste, I see.
But where will the embrace go,
If it cannot carry me?

The lullaby. I need to go where I cannot see,
But oh, the terror, is overwhelming me!
So many, so many, are watching me.
Even as they cannot see.
My body will be a dead church,
My ghost a dead volcano.

 Yet somehow, I must march beyond the birth,
The blood, the breathing, the moaning pain.
And find a morning in its deepest rain.
And see I was not a dream in vain,
Because all dreams are painters,
And we the stealers of their brush,
Even in the lush fog.

 Will my body erase you, mountain?
Or will I erase you, sea?
 I give the brush back to you,
And go, where even summer, cannot dream.