Quite Different Chains: free verse

I’m not sure
I can even write
“free verse”
anymore.

Ever since I started
using specific
poetic forms,
I find
myself
writing poems
to be read aloud;
their purpose,
if they are to be effective
when spoken,
dictates employing some kind of
cadence,
at least the semblance of some
rhythm.

You see, even there, a sense of
time
emerges from what might
at first glance or gloss
appear to be just a bit
of prose.

It’s poetry, they say,
if it provides
a distillation of a thought,
an image meant to show not tell,
a conscious fight against just
words for words sake.

To agree,
or disagree,
with such a notion
is to put yourself
in one of two
opposing camps.

Myself?

I’d rather set up tent
out in
the land between.

21 MAR 2017

See Here Now: forensic poetry

“See here,” one poet said, “for beauty’s sake,
I would enslave a thousand listless men,
and though it cause the earth’s deep core to shake,
would carve away the mountains with my pen
that one and all might see as noble truth
a majesty against which swords will fail:
the pure and simple honesty of youth
that conquers all despite seeming so frail.”

“Indeed,” a second poet made reply,
“You might, with that great monumental deed
achieve what heretofore has stayed undone
despite a seeming overwhelming need;
and with a mighty geyser spewing ink
lay waste to man’s vast petty enterprise
that with its many graveyards gives a stink
that leaches into both loved and despised.”

“No matter,” the first poet’s quick retort,
“What form that beauty takes, this much is known:
the fool who finds the chasing merely sport
will find at length, no beauty of their own.
And furthermore, despite the world’s distain,
true love may still play conqueror at last:
what else, pray tell, could lure a world in pain
to soldier on after the die is cast?”

“A vanity,” the other bard rejoins,
“the hope that without fact is false belief,
a wish that mankind’s reason would purloin,
and leave them no real succor or relief.
See here: what good is thinking something so,
if absent evidence, none prove it true?
Youth grows to age, and those who think they know
turn into drooling fools like me and you.”

“But poetry,” the first said in return,
“Is no mere fancy pushed out on the breath;
and though its fire may scald, rather than burn,
its soothing balm may also ward off death.
What harm in that? The world is hard enough
without depriving mankind of some salve
to bind its wounds and smooth away the rough,
the bitter dregs it is our lot to have.”

“Besides, everyone knows the world is pain;
we need no more reminding, everyday,
that loss is the finale of each gain
despite the heavy price there is to pay.
What good is sad complaining about fate,
or moaning on the future’s downward path?
Enjoy the moment, ’til it is too late.
While you still can, find some reason to laugh.”

20 MAR 2017

If the Germans Could Laugh Like the Irish

If the Germans could laugh like the Irish,
reckless, deep in drunken ambrosial seas,
walking wandering paths,
their cracked looking-glasses on open hearths

(these are the holy fools)

If the Irish could laugh like the Germans,
deep and still like endless speech-lost oceans,
climbing somber mountains,
their rise and fall engineered by the night

(these are the gods’ architects)

If the Germans could laugh like the Irish,
their eyes warm and hair gentle heather-swept,
greeting quiet morn in song
and weeping proudly in their silent grief

(these are the poets of the gods)

If the Irish could laugh like the Germans,
strong and firm, like dark primeval forests
meeting sun’s fade in song
and building stories in their silent sleep

(these are the holy dreamers)

If the Germans could laugh like the Irish,
if the Irish could laugh like the Germans,
if the earth both revere,
and the sky and the sea could hear them all

(these are the gods’ ploughmen)

If the Irish could laugh like the Germans,
if the Germans could laugh like the Irish,
their fires burning bright
across the valleys deep
and over mountains high
in morning’s rising fog
and in evening’s cool mist,
with awestruck joy and mirthful fearlessness

(these are the storytellers of the gods).

corrected version 20 Sep 2001

TS BS

My idol was once Eliot:
I sought out stranger words
to seem more erudite and suave,
and introduced philosophies
through quotes in native tongues;
with long, ecstatic footnotes
in expository text
I piled up paraphrases,
odd translations and asides.

The simpler the subject,
the more complex grew the form,
until it took a thousand lines
of interlocking code
to show not tell in tortured verse
what could be said
in just three words.

08 FEB 2017

I wonder if like days

I wonder if, like days that start to shorten
and slowly cede their hours to the dark,
each hour’s breath becomes much more important,
because it marks the dying of a spark;

or if, because we pay it no attention
it simply slips away into the mist,
and suddenly, as if without a warning,
is gone, and it (and we) cease to exist.

I wonder if, in those last fleeting seconds,
what breathes at last becomes more self-aware;
and as its edges slip off into nothing
concedes there is so much more nothing there,

and if that nothing we mistake for something
(because despite the truth, we wish it so),
is only to ourselves of such importance
because we can control its letting go.

I wonder if, like some fire’s dying embers
that turn to ash extinguished on the wind,
what we think so important is remembered
beyond what we, conceited, call the end.

11 NOV 2013

Mere Words

Are they still weapons, these mere words
we use to crystallize what thoughts
may form at random in our heads
or like to squeeze out for some end,
a worthy cause we would advance,
a blessing, curse or snare of love,
some cleverness sure to impress
or at least baffle for a time?
How everyone is armed these days!
It takes so little effort now
to build an arsenal behind
a screen of anonymity.

There are more poets, it would seem,
than there are fishes in the sea,
more than the stars out there in space,
more now than ever were before,
and each would wield a sacred sword
to cut away the rotted flesh
and free the suffocating soul
so it may somehow serve the world;
and everyone assumes their blade
will make the most important cut,
remove the cancer, scour the wound
and make the body pure again.

There is no end to such deceit:
that words alone can change the world,
that careless phrases in the void
transform some evil into good
by virtue of their worth alone,
or by some miracle subdue
the brute force that enslaves the world
and makes it blind and deaf;
while everyone pretends they hear,
that they are the sole conduit
by which the universe declares
itself, and by that act, survives.

They may be weapons, but what use
are words in such unthinking hands
that would destroy to somehow build
a world that values their intent.
Just how will some mere phrases turn
the tide of angry sentiment
that grows against the use of thought
and would devour diversity,
while everyone, in pantomime,
acts out some peaceful, loving role
without believing it themselves?
What good can such words do?

30 APR 2013