MOTHER’S DAY

Mom laugh Pic Monkey Flowers

Years have past and still you are gone,

Yet in my heart,  you linger on.

My mind plays tricks: your phone is dead,

Mail got lost, your car repossessed.

You took a trip, forgot to call.

You got amnesia from a fall.

That’s not your name engraved on stone.

There must be more to you than bone.

On Mother’s Day I buy your card,

But don’t know where you really are.

I’m in heaven, I think I hear.

I’m all around you, very near.

Look closely in your mirrored eye,

For there you’ll see my soul sublime.

“I miss your hands, your laugh,” I say.

“I’d rather have you here to play.”

And just when all is doom and gloom,

A louder voice speaks in the room.

“Mom, I’m home, Happy Mother’s Day!”

And there you are…in my child’s face.

Mom and Me

EARTHQUAKE IN CHILE: NERUDA’S BIRTHPLACE

It seems the 8.8 earthquake which rocked Chile in the early AM hours is offshore near the Maule Region where Noble Prize winner and one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), was born.

My heart is saddened for the region and the lives lost.

How many poets or bright souls have been lost due to this tragedy?

In honor of Neruda and his country of birth, I post the following brilliant example of his particular genius.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example, “The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.”
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.


(En Español)

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Escribir, por ejemplo : ‘La noche esta estrellada,
y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos’.
El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.

Puedo escribir los versos mas tristes esta noche.
Yo la quise, y a veces ella también me quiso.
En las noches como esta la tuve entre mis brazos.
La beso tantas veces bajo el cielo infinito.

Ella me quiso, a veces yo tambien la quera.
Cómo no haber amado sus grandes ojos fijos.
Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.

Oir la noche immensa, más inmensa sin ella.
Y el verso cae al alma como al pasto el rocío.
Qué importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.
La noche está estrellada y ella no está conmigo.

Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta. A lo lejos.
Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.
Como para acercarla mi mirada la busca.
Mi corazón la busca, y ella no está conmigo.

La misma noche que hace blanquear los mismos arboles.
Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.
Ya no la quiero, es cierto pero cuánto la quise.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído.

De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.


Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
Es tan corto al amor, y es tan largo el olvido.


Porque en noches como Ésta la tuve entre mis brazos,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.
Aunque ésta sea el áltimo dolor que ella me causa,
y éstos sean los áltimos versos que yo le escribo.

By Pablo Neruda


Tonight I can write read by Andy Garcia

Death of a Pig

1 thing leads 2 another. At 1st, I was turned off by E. B. White’s title, Death of a Pig, & was determined not to read it. Sometimes I can’t take much gore. But, I couldn’t help myself, I read White’s story.

charlottes-web

I thought it was going to be about slaughtering a pig, but instead, it was about caring for a pig that White was going to slaughter, but ended up not, because the pig got sick & died. Poor pig. White agreed.

And then White said,  “I noticed that although he weighed far less than the pig, he was harder to drag, being possessed of that vital spark.” whitedachshund1So much is in this one thought. White’s talking about his irascible ten-pound Dachshund, a mini might, who he had to haul away from the hundred pound pig’s grave. Life is vital & willful.

I can only dream to write with such humble force. White led me to Montaigne’s The Essayist. I’m not that familiar with Montaigne, but somehow White led me to him. Montaigne is writing over 400
 years ago in a style that I can now see informed many writers I love…candide1

Voltaire being one.

Montaigne’s warning in On Books gives me pause: “Mistakes often escape our eyes, but it is the sign of a poor judgment if we are unable to see them when shown to us by another.” I struggle daily to find my own voice in word or song, & lines like that drive me crazy.

Shouldn’t it matter who is pointing out your mistakes? Am I even seeing all the criticism lobbed my way? Do I ever question the critic? What is a mistake? Turning right on red when the sign says, “Don’t turn on red” is a mistake. Using sentence fragments & calling it poetry, or numbers for letters as a techie innovation that seems to be leading us back to hieroglyphics, might be called a mistake by writers who stick to so-called rules, but is it?

Is having an abortion a mistake or poor judgment, or a logical choice on a planet where thousands of unwanted children die every day? I guess, Montaigne was speaking in the woo-woo Land of the Hypothetical. In Montaigne’s The Commerce of Books I found this jewel: “In books I only look for the pleasure of honest entertainment: or if I study, the only learning I look for is that which tells me how to know myself, and teaches me how to die well and to live well.”

That takes the pressure off—just read what entertains me. I never really cared about learning useless facts that add no pleasure to my life, anyway, such as there are more pigs than humans in Denmark, almost 5:1. pigs1Learning that 5.4 million Danes are subjected to the smelly poo of 25 million pigs informs me of nothing about myself or offers any clues as to how I should live or die. Most likely in this, Montaigne & White would agree.

Some days, I wish I could be White’s beloved pig instead of a worrisome middle-aged writer on the verge of something or another.

Oh to be immortalized in print by such an excellent wordsmith. The pig didn’t worry about deadlines or paying bills…or analyzing personal & professional mistakes. He did suffer a couple days at the end, but he didn’t go through the indignity of being eaten. Yes,  he was dead & who cares, but how do we know?

No swell way to die/ this flesh-eating frenzy/ whether pig, man, or writer.

Dead or alive, I fear I will always feel every rejection letter, every no thanks, & no way—another bit of flesh off the bone. And who has time to learn how to die well? Living occupies my every waking moment.

conpigcrop_12Other days, I’m not so worrisome (like today), & chow down on a ham & cheese—honey ham for me.  After all, there is no such thing as swine flu–it’s really the H1N1 virus.

I tug & pull at my leash, a regular feisty Dachshund. Let’s go this way!

Like White says, once you’ve given a pig an enema, there’s no turning back. Strip away all the trappings & just rite [sic].

MARIANNE MOORE’S ROMANCE WITH THE DAO PART 2

IN A CALIFORNIA SPEECH titled, “Tedium and Integrity,” Moore discusses Sze’s two books, The Tao of Painting and The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting.

One of her major points is that “painting is not a profession, but an extension of the art of living” (qtd. in Qian 226). For Moore, who viewed her poetry as her canvas, the word “painting” and “poetry” are interchangeable. Moore reverently extols Mai-Mai Sze, the artist/translator of the two ancient texts, as being “an angel to me and friend of the dragon-symbol” (Qian 181). For Moore, “the manual is to me a world of romance – the romance of words” (qtd. in Stamy 157).

Moore embarked on a lifelong love affair with words that “cluster like chromosomes” (Stamy 44). The Dao infused Chinese art was a catalyst for Moore’s inquisitive imagination, and in investigating the nature of this art she found, “A Chinese ‘understands/ the spirit of the wilderness’/and the nectarine-loving kylin” (CP 30). Being an inquisitive person with the formal training of a biologist, her investigation into why this art seemed to “breathe” life led her straight to it’s source, the philosophy of the Dao, the spiritual resource that fuels much of Chinese and Japanese art, especially that which portrays Nature-related themes.

Chan Buddhist or Zen painting technique is relentless in detail. “Each detail has its reason” (Sze 536). In Dao teaching, the student-artist is taught not only that “birds with long tails should be drawn with short beaks,” but also equally important is for the artist to know, “they sing beautifully and fly high” (ibid). Only if the details are drawn in this way (a communion with Nature from direct observation) will the results be lasting.

Modernist leaning writers like Moore, who searched for meaning, not only to survive, but to live a life of inspired imagination, found passion and joy in this thinking. Knowledge of the material sort is the direct result of a science that utilizes close observation, but Western science does not even try to answer that forever question; why are we here? Dao gave artists then and now a path to experience peace and explore that question in a useful, productive way, a way that creates breathable art, a pictorial representation of this invisible relationship between consciousness and flesh.

Moore found the Chinese recognition of how the individual should function in perfect harmony with landscape and animals defensible and “illuminating” (Qian 174). Moore treated Nature with respect in her poems about the jerboa, the basilisk, the jelly-fish, the elephant, and so forth. She does not embrace the Judeo-Christian idea of “man’s dominion over Nature” found canonized in the book of Genesis. As anyone knows who has lived in an urban environment, the city has toxic affects on the human body. Moore lived most of her life in urban New York. This parallel reality she lived in through her study of Chinese Nature artifacts, and in her poetry by analyzing it, kept Nature near and alive in her thoughts. Her relative good health and longevity is a testament to the healing power of this approach.

Moore, like everyone, needed help in dealing with her own struggles, and she found acceptance in society from her wit of words at an early age. “So I smile, (as if I had found a penny) when people tell me how they like them (poems) and talk about writing poetry and so on as if it were gymnastics or piano practice” (SL 63). Her invisible Father’s shadow and her station in life was ever present. Moore worked hard lest anyone doubt she was a woman of integrity. She would never lose her balance, such as her Father had.

In fact, she had dismissed her Father’s chromosome that made her female, and consistently referred to herself as male, and gave herself (and was given) a male pronoun in correspondence with her brother and mother (SL 4). Moore maintained her internal consistency. At a discussion at a Bryn Mawr Friends Meeting, Friend being the other name for Quaker, the discussion turned to “Progress and Women.” Moore made a point of saying, and then writing it down to her mother and brother, “we (women) are provoked with people for calling us unprogressive when often we fall short ourselves and fail in realizing our individual (her italics) ideals and just stop – comfortable – inventing all manner of excuses for our faint-heartedness and laziness” (SL 30).

Moore would later find solace in Sze’s canon regarding Chinese art to allay any “faint-heartedness,” a canon replete with tangible artifacts created by artists who displayed what Moore called “integrity,” a display of internal consistency, or a quality of being honest and using strong moral principals. In this Way of Daoism, she found a corroboration for dismissing the ego. In her “Tedium and Integrity” speech, Moore feels “very strongly what Juan Ramon Jiménez said in referring to something else – to what is not poetry – ‘there is a profounder profundity’ than obsession with the self” (qtd. in Qian 226). To give up egotism, which Moore renamed, “tedium,” what the “Buddhists call ignorance” (Qian 173), was not a problem for Moore, especially if it kept her from coming near the “ragged brink” (SL 63). She had consistently removed her self, her narrative, from her poems, a hallmark of Modernism. Skipping past her immediate heritage, Moore aligned herself with a sturdier, more reliable anchor, the “tao of the ancients” (Qian 177).

Born several generations before the confessional poetry of Plath, Hughes, Lowell, and others came into vogue, (Pictured Moore & Plath 1955) Moore didn’t indulge her readers with any details of her sexual relationships, nor did any potential partner of hers come forward (I doubt she had any, unless her niece, the executor of her estate, has information she’s not sharing). Linda Leavell has put forward a theory of an early crush on Peggy James (William James’ daughter), but without proof of a consummated relationship, it is mere speculation. Human nature being what it is, rumors swirl, and theories abound. Was she molested? Did she have an encounter that horrified her to celibacy? Moore’s mother wrote of her daughter’s “grim ‘sternness” and “Monk-like severity” (SL 118) Was she a lesbian? Moore supported the Woman’s Suffrage movement, but deferred to her brother’s wishes not to march in public and avoid “such public display” (SL 77). However much Moore wished to step out of her skin, the social and emotional restraints remained boundaries.

Not being Chinese, she didn’t carry the emotional baggage of Eastern misogyny. Was it only a coincidence that an intellectual like Mai-mai Sze, the Chinese artist who Moore described as an “angel,” had chosen her own alternative lifestyle, by choosing a lesbian relationship? Many of Moore’s intimates were homosexuals, such as Bryher and fellow imagist, H.D.; two of her biggest champions and editors of her first book, Poems.

(Bryher in Picture circa 1938)

There is some evidence that her mother, who never remarried after her separation from her husband before Moore was born, had an affair with the family friend, Mary Norcross. Yet, Moore gave no clues regarding her love life, and resisted the entire “homo/heterosexual binary itself” (Leavell). Moore seems to have found romance in the act of writing her poetry, a poetry infused with romance: romance with the Dao.

Next Week: Marianne Moore’s Romance with the Dao Part 3

See Part 1 for Works Cited Page.

Winnifred Bryher in Picture circa 1938

MARIANNE MOORE’S ROMANCE WITH THE DAO

I’VE ALWAYS ADMIRED THE TENACITY and word-skills of the poet Marianne Moore (1887 – 1972). Grouped into the Modernist Movement with Pound, Williams, Stein, Stevens, T.S. Eliot and others, Moore carefully sculpted a life by nurturing a razor sharp wit. She also found a balance for her sensibilities about relationships, and crafted ideas of how she wanted to present and even propagate her “insight and sympathetic ways” (Moore, SL 35) to the world at large. She worked hard at her writing, producing over 30,000 letters, which doesn’t include her articles and poems extant. At the age of twenty she came to the conclusion, “I want to write,” and “shortly I will have something to say” (SL 40). In part, Moore found sustenance for her balanced wit, and much of her “insight” in the aesthetic of The Dao.

The Dao, also called The Tao, The Way, The Path, or Zen (in Japan), encourages the artist to develop a “wide and keen observation, eventually to find in enrichment of the spirit, the secret of the rhythm of nature” (Sze 18). This was a perfect marriage for Moore’s burgeoning sensitivities that grew out of her early desire to “scrape sparks from the ground, from the mere excess of animal spirits” (SL 39). The Dao offered another framework, not necessarily to replace, but to enhance her American/Western tradition.

Born into a society where women didn’t vote, or legally own their own bodies
, Moore reached out to the Eastern tradition to feed her meditative spirit. Like the virgin Queen, Moore remained single, yet celibate—married to her art.
Moore & Mother: Zorach Painting 1919

Her mother was her mate for life (Leavell).

Moore sensed in China, “a cultural superiority to Europe itself,” and justified this as many Westerners did, and still do, “because of China’s historical longevity” (Stamy 5). Like her predecessor, Emerson, Moore moved the “struggle for American definition to another and, for her, a superior site” (Stamy 5). At Bryn Mawr, a Quaker school, Moore was encouraged to meditate on her inner light and the beauty of God’s creation: Nature. These sensibilities did not discourage Moore from investigating likewise philosophies.

Some of her early successes as a writer were a direct result of her investigations into Chinese artifacts. One of her early poems published in her book, Poems (The Egoist Press 1921), was about a Chinese scroll or screen (Willis). As Professor Zhaoming Qian explained in a graduate lecture for a Modernist Workshop at the University of New Orleans, early Moore used “Chinese motifs on the surface level,” and later Moore treated “Western motifs with Chinese perspectives.”

In “He Made This Screen,” Moore experimented with her imagist ekphrasis. In lieu of a narrative, she described a piece of art. It’s as if she were circling the dragon, trying to free her style of writing. Her Modernist leanings were apparent—the image is the thing, but she fell back on meter and rhyme.

“Nine Dragons” Chen Rong 1244 Boston Museum of Modern Art

He Made This Screen

not of silver nor of coral,
but of weather beaten laurel.

Here, he introduced a sea
uniform like tapestry;

here, a fig-tree; there, a face;
there, a dragon circling space —

designating here, a bower;
there, a pointed passion-flower.

In her poem written almost forty years later, “O To Be A Dragon” (CP 177), Moore was still circling the space, but had switched gears. Moore wanted to not just circle, but become the Modernist Dao Dragon, which for her was the “symbol of the power of heaven.” She wanted to become one with the space now enlarged to the “totality of heaven and earth” (Qian 182).

The Dao invigorated Moore’s mind throughout her life. In her late 60s, after receiving her book set of The Tao of Painting and The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, ancient texts by Chieh Tzu Yuan Hua Chuan, and translated by Mai-Mai Sze, Moore wrote to the publisher, John Barrett, “You cannot imagine my excitement in possessing these books […] it “is pleasure enough for a lifetime” (qtd. in Qian 168).

(Sze 320) Her romance goes further into the realm of passion in describing how she “passionately admires […] – an insect-and-frog picture,” even suggesting that if she were in a mental decline, “Volume I of the Tao would, I think, help me to regain tone” (qtd. in Qian 169).

Not an idle statement for someone who never met her father because he was institutionalized for a “nervous breakdown” before she was born (SL 3). Moore identified a space in which she could live and create, but most importantly, feel good about life, as if the Dao kept her sane.

Always a good thing in troubled times: Sanity.

Next week. Marianne Moore’s Romance With The Dao Part 2

Works Cited

Leavell, Linda. Marianne Moore, the James Family and the Politics of Celibacy.
     Twentieth Century Literature. vol 49: 2. Hofstra U, 2003. 219.
     http://www.questia.com/ 10 Oct 2008

Moore, Marianne. Complete Poems. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

—. Marianne Moore: Selected Letters. Bonnie Costello (ed) New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Pollak, Vivian. Moore, Plath, Hughes, and “The Literary Life. American Literary
     History 17.1. USA: Oxford UP, 2005.      http://muse.jhu.edu.ezproxy.uno.edu/journals/american_literary_history/v017/17.1pollak.html   18 Nov 2006.

Qian, Zhaoming. The Modernist Response to Chinese Art: Pound, Moore, Stephens.
     USA, U of Virginia P, 2003.

Stamy, Cynthia. Marianne Moore and China. USA: Oxford UP, 1999.

Sze, Mai-mai. trans. The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. Chieh Tzu Yuan
     Hua Chuan, 1679-1701. New York: Princeton Univ. P, 1977.

White, Heather. Moral, Manners, and Marriage: Marianne’s Art of Conversation.
      Twentieth Century Literature. Hofstra U, 1999.        http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0403/is_4_45/ai_61297799 10 Oct 2008

Willis, Patricia C. (curator) Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University,
     1997 http://www.library.yale.edu/beinecke/orient/mod10.htm 10 Oct 2008.

Picture of Moore with Book: 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia

A PRAYER FOR WILMA’S ARRIVAL

Gust – the whipping wind
wraps lovingly around dieing limbs,

releasing

life from the bondage of
limbo, a pale place between
alive and not quite dead.

Others not ready
to die – die anyway
cracked in two.

The splintered shards stab
at the free air.
The radar rumblings kick

dogs in the rear, lift
spirits out of a deep slumber.
Taken sand swirls in a twister

of wished potential – a
howling black melody skips over
cracks. A door bangs

to remind me the experience is shared.
The banging owns no
rhythm or rhyme.

The sound defies prediction.
Upper air balloons
fail to warn the

very people who set their
sails, while they sail away
to parts unkown conditions

deteriorate quickly.
The people, at this moment
in time, forget to care.

Like me, the people are
hiding in their safe room,
that place of phantom noises.

Fear breaks down the door;
the belching engine blows.
The Western Train Wall wails

and rolls over me.
Twitching, the grey squirrel
pauses briefly

at the unboarded window
to scrunch his teeny nose
as he scurries by for shelter.

To know what he knows
in his parallel world,
that would be something to know.

The Anima is a-walking
on a walk about,
cleaning house as she goes.

My sister calls to check.
“You’re alright?”
I think no – and say yes.

I’m not alright – but
I’m not all wrong either.
Two worriers fix naught.

And so I pray –
Once upon a time the wind stops.
The banging ends.

Amen.

© October 24, 2005

Hey You

Hey you,
I send you kisses.
I send you my mouth –
full of a fine dry Italian wine.
The oak perfume lingers
around our lips touching,
while tongues search
soft insides of petals and stems.
I send you the heavy air from my lungs,
full of bright red blood,
as I write dull black lines
on a scrap of tree that will never
be seen by your epic eyes.
The pregnant air hangs all around with our dreams,
and our potent idea of two people locked arm in arm:
in that moment – safe,
in that moment – alive.
Hey you, I send you kisses,
and a piece of tile washed back to me
from the windswept sea. This piece
of clay, only less than the life we knew,
now holds my hand, and on an occasion such as this,
I almost hear the buried sound of you saying,
‘Hey you, there you are…’

On The Beach ©2005

Where’s Bill?

And I thought my life was in a piss pot.
Will you marry me Bill?
I love you so and always will.
Cut the crap, idiot.
Talking to myself,
I wallow in a syzygy of self-loathing –
my inability to do things,
like fix the muffler on my car
or the hole in my roof
or save a drowning city.
Manmade malfeasance
trapped thousands of people
in Bill’s town when the water rose
suffocating my Jazzy Town, the whole world’s
Fatty Tuesday Town.
It’s hap’nin’ on the TV, death.
It’s hap’nin’ on the street, stench.
Is Bill a refugee or an evacuee
or just fucked-up?
I’m on your side, Bill,
when you are losin’.
I’d never scheme or lie, Bill,
there’s been no foolin’.
Wait! I found his picture
on the Internet,
a non-wedding event.
“Committed to a perpetually unmarried life.”
Bill’s words. We’ve never met,
but Bill and his non-wife look happy, in love.
Feeling voyeuristic,
I lurk around Bill’s party
on display to anyone with a search engine.
Tho’ uninvited I yell,
“Get all your stuff and get out!
The flood’s comin’!”
Pixel faces smile back mute.
My link to Bill sank
into a pestilential superfund swamp.
Bill must have got out before
THE LEVEES IN NEW ORLEANS BROKE.
Poor people diein’ – nothin’ new there.
Poor animals diein’ – nothin’ new there.
No way would I abandon my dog Winnie,
well, not on purpose.
Sure, Winnie runs off
every time the front door is open,
but that’s no reason to desert her.
My dumb dog doesn’t deserve to
drown in filth or die of thirst.
No one I know’d have anyone in their life,
if loyalty’s based on bein’ sharp 24-7.
Kisses and love won’t carry me.
Come on and marry me Bill!
Not even six feet of shit can silence
a song or bury a city called New Orleans.
Seriously,
where the hell is Bill?

C. S. Reeder ©2005