* Poetry

Oct. 6th, 2021 09:12 pm
mind_over_metal: (the power of love)
[personal profile] mind_over_metal
Because I serenade Erik, and Erik sends me poetry.





Neil Gaiman, "Sonnet"

I don’t think that I’ve been in love as such,
Although I liked a few folk pretty well.
Love must be vaster than my smiles or touch,
For brave men died and empires rose and fell
For love: girls followed boys to foreign lands
And men have followed women into Hell.

In plays and poems someone understands
There’s something makes us more than blood and bone
And more than biological demands…
For me, love’s like the wind, unseen, unknown.
I see the trees are bending where it’s been,
I know that it leaves wreckage where it’s blown.
I really don’t know what ‘I love you’ means.
I think it means ‘Don’t leave me here alone.’




Margaret Atwood, "The Loneliness of the Military Historian"

Confess: it’s my profession
that alarms you.
This is why few people ask me to dinner,
though Lord knows I don’t go out of my way to be scary.
I wear dresses of sensible cut
and unalarming shades of beige,
I smell of lavender and go to the hairdresser’s:
no prophetess mane of mine,
complete with snakes, will frighten the youngsters.
If my eyes roll and I mutter,
if my arms are gloved in blood right up to the elbow,
if I clutch at my heart and scream in horror
like a third-rate actress chewing up a mad scene,
I do it in private and nobody sees
but the bathroom mirror.

In general I might agree with you:
women should not contemplate war,
should not weigh tactics impartially,
or evade the word enemy,
or view both sides and denounce nothing.
Women should march for peace,
or hand out white feathers to inspire bravery,
spit themselves on bayonets
to protect their babies,
whose skulls will be split anyway,
or, having been raped repeatedly,
hang themselves with their own hair.
These are the functions that inspire general comfort.

That, and the knitting of socks for the troops
and a sort of moral cheerleading.
Also: mourning the dead.
Sons, lovers, and so forth.
All the killed children.

Instead of this, I tell
what I hope will pass as truth.
A blunt thing, not lovely.
The truth is seldom welcome,
especially at dinner,
though I am good at what I do.
My trade is in courage and atrocities.
I look at them and do not condemn.
I write things down the way they happened,
as near as can be remembered.
I don’t ask why because it is mostly the same.
Wars happen because the ones who start them
think they can win.

In my dreams there is glamour.
The Vikings leave their fields
each year for a few months of killing and plunder
much as the boys go hunting.
In real life they were farmers.
They come back loaded with splendor.

The Arabs ride against Crusaders
with scimitars that could sever
silk in the air. A swift cut to the horse’s neck
and a hunk of armor crashes down
like a tower. Fire against metal.
A poet might say: romance against banality.
When awake I know better.

Despite the propaganda, there are no monsters,
or none that can be finally buried.
Finish one off and circumstances
and the radio create another.
Believe me: whole armies have prayed fervently
to God all night and meant it,
and been slaughtered anyway.

Brutality wins frequently,
and large outcomes have turned on the invention
of a mechanical device, viz. radar.

True, sometimes valor counts for something,
as at Thermopylae. Sometimes being right,
though ultimate virtue by agreed tradition
is decided by the winner.
Sometimes men throw themselves on grenades
and burst like paper bags of guts
to save their comrades.
I can admire that.
But rats and cholera have won many wars.
Those, and potatoes
or the absence of them.
It’s no use pinning all those medals
across the chests of the dead.
Impressive, but I know too much.
Grand exploits merely depress me.

In the interests of research
I have walked on many battlefields
that once were liquid with pulped
men’s bodies and spangled with burst
shells and splayed bone.
All of them have been green again
by the time I got there.
Each has inspired a few good quotes in its day.
Sad marble angels brood like hens
over the grassy nests where nothing hatches.
(The angels could just as well be described as vulgar,
or pitiless, depending on camera angle.)
The word glory figures a lot on gateways.
Of course I pick a flower or two
from each, and press it in the hotel
Bible, for a souvenir.
I’m just as human as you.

But it’s no use asking me for a final statement.
As I say, I deal in tactics.
Also statistics:
for every year of peace there have been four hundred
years of war.




Ellen Bass, "The Thing Is"

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.




Bruce Weigl, "Elegy for Peter"

That night we drank warm whiskey
in our parked car
beyond woods now lost to the suburbs,
I fell in love with you.

What waited was the war
like a bloody curtain,
and a righteous moment
when the lovely boy’s

spine was snapped,
then the long falling into hell.
But lately, you’ve been calling me
back through the years of bitter silence

to tell me of another river of blood
and of the highland’s
howl at dusk of human voices
blasted into ecstasy.

That night in sweet Lorain
we drank so long and hard
we raised ourselves
above the broken places,

mill fires burning
red against the sky. Why
is there is no end
to this unraveling.




Catherynne M. Valente, "A Monstrous Manifesto"

If you are a monster, stand up.
If you are a monster, a trickster, a fiend,
If you’ve built a steam-powered wishing machine
If you have a secret, a dark past, a scheme,
If you kidnap maidens or dabble in dreams
Come stand by me.

If you have been broken, stand up.
If you have been broken, abandoned, alone
If you have been starving, a creature of bone
If you live in a tower, a dungeon, a throne
If you weep for wanting, to be held, to be known,
Come stand by me.

If you are a savage, stand up.
If you are a witch, a dark queen, a black knight,
If you are a mummer, a pixie, a sprite,
If you are a pirate, a tomcat, a wright,
If you swear by the moon and you fight the hard fight,
Come stand by me.

If you are a devil, stand up.
If you are a villain, a madman, a beast,
If you are a strowler, a prowler, a priest,
If you are a dragon come sit at our feast,
For we all have stripes, and we all have horns,
We all have scales, tails, manes, claws and thorns
And here in the dark is where new worlds are born.
Come stand by me.





Stephen Dunn, "Sweetness"

Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear
   one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
   has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it,
   for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving

someone or something, the world shrunk
   to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
   that doesn’t leave a stain,
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ....

Tonight a friend called to say his lover
   was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low

and guttural, he repeated what he needed
   to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief

until we were speaking only in tones.
   Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
   then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don’t care

where it’s been, or what bitter road
   it’s traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.







Yehuda Amichai (translated by A.Z. Foreman), "Ein Yahav" with original Hebrew here

A night drive to Ein Yahav in the Arabah.
A drive in the rain. Yes, in the rain.
There, I met people who grow date palms.
There, I saw great tamarisk trees and great risk trees
There, I saw hope barbed like barbed wire
And I said to myself: It is the truth. Hope must be
Like barbed wire to keep out our despair.
Hope must be a minefield.

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Professor Charles Xavier

May 2015

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