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Poetry

Personal Inventory: Fearless (Temporis Fila) by Kaveh Akbar

Personal Inventory: Fearless (Temporis Fila) by Kaveh Akbar

The following poem evokes AA’s fourth step (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”) and the gravity of apologies. This is from Kaveh Akbar’s chapbook/collection, Portrait of the Alcoholic.

Personal Inventory: Fearless (Temporis Fila)

“I know scarcely one feature by which man can be distinguished from apes, if it be not that all the apes have a gap between their fangs and their other teeth.”
– Carolus Linnaeus

A gap, then,
a slot for fare.

I used my arms to learn two,
my fingers to learn ten.

My grandfather kept an atlas so old
there was a blank spot in the middle of Africa.

I knew a girl…

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“Poem Ending with a Sentence from Jacques Maritain” by Christian Wiman

48371f41bb6f5d05f255b10fc9d18d0aThis poem by Christian Wiman was recently published in America Magazine. His newest collection, Hammer is the Prayer (such a cool title), is available now.

It was the flash of black among the yellow billion.

It was the green chink on the chapel’s sphere.

It was some rust or recalcitrance in us

by which we were by the grace of pain more here.

It was you, me, fall and fallen light.

It was that kind of imperfection

through which infinity wounds the finite.

In the Church of All the Answers – Nina Forsythe

We’ve had numerous requests to post this poem on the site, since it first appeared in the Church Issue of The Mockingbird. You can see why:

inthechurchofalltheanswers

 

Don’t Make a Movie About Me – Johnny Cash

Don’t Make a Movie About Me – Johnny Cash

From the Man in Black’s brand new collection of found poems.

Christmas 1982

If anybody made a movie out of my life
I wouldn’t like it, but I’d watch it twice
If they halfway tried to do it right
There’d be forty screenwriters workin’ day and nite
They’d need a research team from Uncle Sam
And go from David Allan Coe to Billy Graham
It would run ten days in the final cut
And that would mean leaving out the gossip smut
And I do request for my children’s sake
Don’t ever let ’em do a new re-make
The thing I’m sayin’ is, don’t you see,
Don’t make a movie ’bout me
Even for…

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Three Stanzas of W.H. Auden’s “In Sickness and in Health” (1940)

crc4mugwgaay0pyBeloved, we are always in the wrong,
Handling so clumsily our stupid lives,
Suffering too little or too long,
Too careful even in our selfish loves:
The decorative manias we obey
Die in grimaces round us every day,
Yet through their tohu-bohu comes a voice
Which utters an absurd command – Rejoice.

Rejoice. What talent for the makeshift thought
A living corpus out of odds and ends?
What pedagogic patience taught
Preoccupied and savage elements
To dance into a segregated charm?
Who showed the whirlwind how to be an arm,
And gardened from the wilderness of space
The sensual properties of one dear face?

Rejoice, dear love, in Love’s peremptory word;
All chance, all love, all logic, you and I,
Exist by grace of the Absurd,
And without conscious artifice we die:
O, lest we manufacture in our flesh
The lie of our divinity afresh,
Describe round our chaotic malice now,
The arbitrary circle of a vow.

Making A Cross – Francine Sterle

Of 385 varieties, to make the simplest
all you need are two sticks:
one vertical; the other, horizontal.
Call one time; one, space or
life—death, good—evil, male—female.
You choose. Any polarity will do
as long as the cross-piece cuts across
the one upright. Now, it’s a human form
with arms outstretched. Rub them together.
A couple of sparks, a few more,
a flash of light, a slow increase in heat,
and radiating around you: uncontainable fire.

“The Galilee Hitch-Hiker” by Richard Brautigan

Here is the first part in a series of poems entitled “The Galilee Hitch-Hiker” by Richard Brautigan. Brautigan, known for his dark humor and wildly imaginative metaphors, lived a highly stylized life racked with despair and alcoholism, and–though his writing often seemed silly–he understood the way of the cross, as evidenced by the twist in the following poem. I was reminded of Jesus’ message to Herod in Luke 13:

Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.

“The Galilee Hitch-Hiker”
by Richard Brautigan

galilee-oar-posterBaudelaire was
driving a Model A
across Galilee.
He picked up a
hitch-hiker named
Jesus who had
been standing among
a school of fish,
feeding them
pieces of bread.
“Where are you
going?” asked
Jesus, getting
into the front
seat.
“Anywhere, anywhere
out of this world!”
shouted Baudelaire.
“I’ll go with you
as far as
Golgotha,”
said Jesus.
“I have a
concession
at the carnival
there, and I
must not be
late.”

An Upholder’s Confession

An Upholder’s Confession

This one comes to us from friend and contributor Lindsey Hepler:

In her recent book about habit formation, Gretchen Rubin describes four types of people: obligers, rebels, upholders, and questioners. Without ever taking her short quiz, I already know which type I am: an upholder, through and through. Upholders, Rubin says, respond readily to outer and inner expectations. Basically, we are rule followers and rule lovers.

On the positive side, being an upholder often contributes to success in school, where being a good rule follower is essentially seen as the same thing as being a smart/gifted child. An adult tells us what…

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Nonadaptation – Czeslaw Milosz

From the Polish master’s final volume of poetry, Second Space, brought to mind via Benjamin Self’s truly exquisite essay on the Impertinence of Beauty, ht KW:

41+5K2UvKRL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I was not made to live anywhere except in Paradise.

Such, simply, was my genetic inadaptation.

Here on earth every prick of a rose-thorn changed into a wound.
whenever the sun hid behind a cloud, I grieved.

I pretended to work like others from morning to evening,
but I was absent, dedicated to invisible countries.

For solace I escaped to city parks, there to observe
and faithfully describe flowers and trees, but they changed,
under my hand, into the gardens of Paradise.

I have not loved a woman with my five senses.
I only wanted from her my sister, from before the banishment.

And I respected religion, for on this earth of pain
it was a funereal and a propitiatory song.

Another Terrible Week Ends

Poems, with their frustrations, are apt oblations.

See: A failure of sound in line one,
And two. And now three.
A fitting clang for a clanging land:
Half-formed,
One-third too much logic,
Savagely lucid, like a siren.

Going from Jericho to Jerusalem to family dinner,
In a beat-up Buick, taillight out. He groans,
Pierced in his side, for his wide-set nose.

Perception is

The sound of hawking CDs on the corner, is
The sound of He’s gotta gun, is
The sound of tap tap tap, is
The sound of Oh my God, is

Perception.

A black teenage boy sobs at a podium.
A young black woman sobs at a podium.
A black police chief…

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Death – George Herbert

Death, thou wast once an uncouth hideous thing,
Nothing but bones,
The sad effect of sadder groans:
Thy mouth was open, but thou couldst not sing.

tumblr_l5u25b1LfY1qac76ro1_500For we considered thee as at some six
Or ten years hence,
After the loss of life and sense,
Flesh being turned to dust, and bones to sticks.

We looked on this side of thee, shooting short;
Where we did find
The shells of fledge souls left behind,
Dry dust, which sheds no tears, but may extort.

But since our Savior’s death did put some blood
Into thy face,
Thou art grown fair and full of grace,
Much in request, much sought for as a good.

For we do now behold thee gay and glad,
As at Doomsday;
When souls shall wear their new array,
And all thy bones with beauty shall be clad.

Therefore we can go die as sleep, and trust
Half that we have
Unto an honest faithful grave;
Making our pillows either down, or dust.

“Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell” by Archibald MacLeish

When he moved to Paris in the 1920s, Archibald MacLeish (1892 – 1982) ran with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, and I have every suspicion that his God-wrestling Pulitzer-winning legacy will make a cultural resurgence soon enough; here’s hoping.

Despite first appearances, the following poem doesn’t just pit science against faith. Rather, it emphasizes the persistence of the unknown versus the known and the unmeasurable versus the measurable. As with much of MacLeish’s work, it’s designed to affect us emotionally, not just intellectually.

Eugenia-Loli6

Eugenia Loli

Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell
by Archibald MacLeish

Science, that simple saint, cannot be bothered
Figuring what anything is for:
Enough for her devotions that things are
And can be contemplated soon as gathered.

She knows how every living thing was fathered,
She calculates the climate of each star,
She counts the fish at sea, but cannot care
Why any one of them exists, fish, fire or feathered.

Why should she? Her religion is to tell
By rote her rosary of perfect answers.
Metaphysics she can leave to man:
She never wakes at night in heaven or hell

Staring at darkness. In her holy cell
There is no darkness ever: the pure candle
Burns, the beads drop briskly from her hand.

Who dares to offer Her the curled sea shell!
She will not touch it!—knows the world she sees
Is all the world there is! Her faith is perfect!

And still he offers the sea shell . . .

What surf
Of what far sea upon what unknown ground
Troubles forever with that asking sound?
What surge is this whose question never ceases?