Pile of Drafts

May 13, 2012

Pile of Drafts, except the first one, which is finished.  Guaranteed you’ll love them or your money back!

Springs

My grandmother says, “They’re going to change
the old Poland Springs into a golf course.”
In the former hotel, a grand health spa,
a white mosaic altar surrounds
the ‘original spring,’ fogged under glass,
no longer bubbling.  Mullioned windows
match the knight’s head, red-plumed, picked out in tile.
We wipe away the dust.  A photograph,
black and white, shows bustled women toasting
crystal glasses whose contents, clear water,
are invisible.  We don’t steal the photo.
We steal a box of lightbulbs, antique,
tiny pinlike points atop their smooth globes.
Surely, the golf course has nothing so fine.

***

The car is on the fifth floor.  Of course, once
there were cars on every floor, chrome Mecca,
the whole building designed to transport them
and you, the unwary buyer, ready
for the broad vistas of paradise,
newly accessible in this, your new car.
Now, the first four floors are offices,
the fifth, storage, thick with brown dust, orange
safety paint, Travertone acoustical
ceiling material in crushed boxes.
The wheels on the driver’s side are gone,
propped up instead on a file cabinet,
the hood stuck partially open by rust,
windshield cracked.  Oh, the places you’ll go.

***

It is brown, almost exclusively, rust
having colonized all surfaces not
impervious to rust: the tires,
rubber-wheeled and wooden-spoked, and the glass
still unbroken in one headlight.  Those are merely
gray, the dust settled in tiny dust snowdrifts
thick on the crank for the missing engine,
the bottom of the cursive spelling “Ford.”
Perhaps it is not an official
“Model T,” but its blatant age gives it
gravitas, the grime a badge, not of honor,
but survival: “I made it this far, I
didn’t get shot.  I still exist somewhere.”
I make a line in the dust on the hood.

OR

It is brown, almost exclusively, rust
having colonized all surfaces not
impervious to rust: the tires,
rubber-wheeled and wooden-spoked, and the glass
still unbroken in one headlight.  Those are merely
gray, the dust settled in tiny dust snowdrifts
thick on the crank for the missing engine,
the bottom of the cursive spelling “Ford.”
I reach out, to make a line in the dust.
Is that damage, to ruin the pristine
accumulation of age, of neglect,
to mark the thing as having been observed,
so that the next wandering stranger can’t think,
“How noble I am, to see this ancient thing”?

***

I.
This poem is about you, no one else,
not a reconstruction, all the pieces
seaglass smooth, revised into an ideal,
nor exaggerated caricature:
the thing itself, our old love, expired.
Words you whispered to the shell of my ear,
I can’t remember now, but once believed
you’d written those long poems just for me,
it was my pearly teeth & winedark hair
you sang and mourned and praised and loved.  But no,
she was some other woman, your lover,
half me, half her, old movies, song lyrics
forgotten.  So I tell you this poem
is for you: all of it lies, all of it true.

II.
I’m writing a love poem about you,
because I want you to live forever.
Shakespeare’s sonnets give life to her, or him
whom no one can identify, beyond
dark hair, or youth.  What color is your hair?
I swept the stars from the sky and called you
by one of their names, some constellation.
You held me so tight I felt all my flaws
were charming, and I smiled, or wept, or not.
You were perfect, marble, lifeless. Gone, like
Tennyson’s dead friend, he’s in the title.
I’m writing a love poem about you.
Our love has died.  I will live forever.
Or no one will read this, except for you.

Kinda interesting article asking whether or not great art is possible without ‘religiosity’ or an Aristotelian concept of the ideal.  I think the impact of aging and the ‘welfare state’ probably make a greater impact than the religiosity.

Roman Elegy VIII
Goethe
(trans. David Ferry)

When you tell me that you were unpopular as a child,
and that your mother spoke of you in a rueful

tone of voice, and that all of this seemed to go on
for a very long time, the slow time that it took

for you to grow up, I believe you, and I enjoy
thinking about that odd, awkward child.

The grapevine flower, you know, is nothing much,
but the ripened fruit gives pleasure to men and gods.

February 3, 2012

My Beautiful Leah
PJ Harvey

Did you see her walking?
Did she come around here, sir?
Black hair, brown eyes
My beautiful Leah

She was always so needy
Said, I have no-one
But even as I held her
She went out looking for someone
Looking for someone

She only had nightmares
And her sadness never lifted
And slowly over the years
Her lovely face twisted

Did she come around here, sir?
I swear you would remember
Black hair, brown eyes
Late September
October, November, December

It never leaves my mind
The last words she said
If I don’t find it this time
Then I’m better off dead

The Secrets of A. Roger

January 23, 2012

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago,
before there were lamps, before there were phones,
when the night-light was the moon, or the pale
ineffectual flicker of candles,
bedtime, supposedly, fell at dusk.
Today, blizzards leave us huddled inside,
imagining how alone we are, like
everybody else. Then, it was every night
externally imposed isolation.
What man can fight the dark? And so they slept.
Mostly. And woke halfway through the night,
to roll over, to fuck, to remember
the murky dreams they carried through the dusk,
to waste wasting hours waiting for the sun.

Acquainted with the Night

January 5, 2012

Acquainted with the Night

Robert Frost, 1936

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

November 18, 2011

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

***

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

***

I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity,—let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

Happy Endings

November 7, 2011

Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood.

“Freedom isn’t the same for girls…”

The Quiet World

November 4, 2011

The Quiet World
Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say, “I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.”

When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper, “I love you”
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

“When a Woman Loves a Man” by David Lehman

So sometimes I get bored and read random things on poets.org. And I was doing that today instead of paying attention to what I ought to have been, and I came across this poem. And I hated it. It is shockingly sexist. Indeed, the sexism isn’t even covert, it’s blatant and apparent. Tracing the anti-women tropes was almost fun, except for how it was gross.

When a Woman Loves a Man
David Lehman

When she says margarita she means daiquiri.

She’s drinking girly drinks? And she wants a drink girlier than the girly one she’s already asked for? And she’s too dumb to know what she really wants? Or doesn’t even remember the name of the drink she likes? Okay.

When she says quixotic she means mercurial.

She uses words she doesn’t know the meaning of, so she must be stupid. And of course, “mercurial” describes her quite well if his assertions against her in this first stanza are true.

And when she says, “I’ll never speak to you again,”
she means, “Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window.”

Oh, those darn women, never saying what they mean. Of course, a tiny act of affection from the mister will be enough to soothe even this huge anger in the missus.

He’s supposed to know that.

Women expect men to read their minds when they don’t say what they mean. And we never say what we mean.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia

City man, country girl?

or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,

Men are creators, women are consumers. And there are those anti-Boston sentiments from a New Yorker.

or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he is raking leaves in Ithaca

Women are defined by what they wear. Men are defined by the manly things they do.

or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

Men do stuff while women wait for them to come home, and are unhappy about it.

When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning

The inconvenient timing of ladies’ love?

she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade

Ah ha! He does something stereotypical. Though why this is happening at one ten in the morning is a bit unclear.

and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.

You knew it was coming: women are defined by their passive bodies.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.

This is the long-form version of “women always take hours to get ready.” It also implies that women are unreliable and can’t complete tasks on time.

When she says, “We’re talking about me now,”
he stops talking.

A few options are possible. She may be asserting that the conversation has covertly changed from a conversation about ‘us’ to a critique of ‘her,’ and by stating it she is attempting to oppose it. Alternately, the narrator of the poem is accusing women of talking about themselves too much. And he has nothing to stay about ‘her,’ despite this being a love poem.

Her best friend comes over and says,
“Did somebody die?”

Again, twofold. One, women detect changes in mood rapidly (because we’re all about feelings). Two, the narrator is hating on the ‘sisterhood’ of women who defend each other. Those women and their friends, they always gang up on you.

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream

If she loves him, she’ll get naked in public with him.

on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle

Yes, someone is certainly laughing.

of water rushing over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

I mean, I think I see here the idea of things not seeming so far away and foreign, or that maybe, somehow, men and women might not seem alien to each other. But even using ‘alien’ in this poem, with its heavy relationship context, just brings up the old men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus trope. The situation here, naked swimming, isn’t about the kind of unity found in deep conversations, it’s about the oxytocin-swapping snuggly-feel-goodiness of a pleasant shared experience, which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with actual compatibility or happiness.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

‘Sup, allusion to Eve, the quintessential bad woman.

When he says, “Ours is a transitional era,”
“that’s very original of you,” she replies,
dry as the martini he is sipping.

Women are insulting shrews. Even when he says something worth insulting.

They fight all the time
It’s fun
What do I owe you?
Let’s start with an apology
Ok, I’m sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying “Laughter.”
It’s a silent picture.

Domestic arguments are funny because of reasons. #trufax

“I’ve been fucked without a kiss,” she says,
“and you can quote me on that,”
which sounds great in an English accent.

The content of what you say is not important, the sexiness of how you say it is important.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it another nine times.

WELL THEN WHY ARE YOU STILL TOGETHER?

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the airport in a foreign country with a jeep.

Men do exotic things and women show up to hang out with them.

When a man loves a woman he’s there. He doesn’t complain that
she’s two hours late
and there’s nothing in the refrigerator.

Women should provide food, and men who don’t complain about women not providing food or not having impeccable timing and control of airline schedules are saints.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She’s like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn’t want the day to end.

Women like to spend time with men! But they’re childish, you know.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.

Men don’t like to spend time with women, they just like to look at them. If midnight = where the moon best fits, then sleeping = where women best fit. So basically, ladies, shut up and hold still so we can stare at you without you staring back. This is what it takes to be loved.

A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.

P.S. Here are some nice romantish images so you can tell I really love her no matter how much we fight.

I apologize for trolling this poem the flip tone of my analysis. My husband sometimes has a hard time reading feminist writing, because the writing can be very dismissive of attempts at alternate claims. But sometimes there’s really nothing else to do. I’m disappointed that poets.org has posted this poem, because some kid who doesn’t know better is going to see this poem and think it might actually be good. Part of me would like to imagine that Lehman doesn’t mean it, that these images are so clichéd that they’re meant to be ironic. But the irony seems so bitter it must go around the corner and be earnest again. So, if I do take this poem seriously, I’m confronted with the horrifying idea that a man (or every man) thinks that all of the stereotypes about women are true, and that in order to con this man into loving me (“When a Woman Loves a Man”), I’ve got to embody those stereotypes. Of course, embodying those stereotypes will also make this man resent me. So what’s the point? Let’s just not be in love at all.

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