Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

Seminar on Baudilaire

December 25, 2009

Baudelaire Seminar
I shall be attending a private seminar on these poems:

Four Poems by Baudelaire

Rising Up

Above the pools, above the valleys,
The mountains, the woods, the clouds, the seas,
Beyond the sun, beyond the aether,
Beyond the confines of the starry spheres,

My mind, you move with agility,
And, like a good swimmer that swoons in the wave,
You cheerfully plough the deep immensity
With an ineffable and virile voluptuousness.

Fly far away from these morbid defilements;
Go purify yourself in the upper air,
And drink, like a liquor pure and divine,
The clear fire that fills the limpid spaces.

Behind the boredoms and vast sorrows
That load with their weight foggy existence,
Happy is he who can, with vigorous wing,
Dart through the fields luminous and serene;

Whose thoughts, like larks,
Take a free flight across the skies at morning,
—Who soars above life, and comprehends without effort
The language of flowers and of things that are mute.

Correspondences

Nature is a temple where pillars, alive,
Sometimes emit indistinguishable words;
Man passes in there through forests of symbols
Which observe him with familiar looks.

Like lingering echoes that are mingled far off
In a one-ness tenebrous and profound,
Vast as the night and as the light of day,
Fragrances, colors, and sounds correspond.

There are fragrances fresh like the flesh of children,
Sweet like oboes, green like prairies
—, And others, corrupt, rich and triumphant,

Having the expansion of infinite things,
Like ambergris, musk, benjamin, and incense.
Which sing of the transports of mind and sense.

Beauty

I am beautiful, O mortals! like a dream of stone,
And my breast, where each batters himself in turn,
Is made to inspire in the poet a love
Eternal and as mute as matter.

I am enthroned in the blue like a sphinx not understood;
I unite a heart of snow with the whiteness of swans;
I hate the movement that displaces my lines,
And never do I weep and never do I smile.

Poets, before my grandiose poses,
Which I have the air of borrowing from the proudest monuments,
Consume their days in austere studies;

For I have, to bewitch these docile lovers,
Pure mirrors which make all things more beautiful:
My eyes, my wide eyes with their eternal lights!

Hymn to Beauty

Do you come from deep heaven or go out from the abyss,
O Beauty! Your look, infernal and divine,
Pours out confusedly goodness and crime,
And in this one may compare you to wine.

You contain in your eye the dusk and the dawn,
You emit perfumes like a stormy evening;
Your kisses are a potion and your mouth an amphora
Which make the hero cowardly and the child brave.

Do you come out of the black pit or descend from the stars?
Destiny, charmed, follows your skirts like a dog;
You sow, at random, joy and disaster,
And you govern all and answer to nothing.

You walk on the dead, Beauty, whom you mock;
Of your jewels Horror is not the least charming,
And murder, among your dearest trinkets,
On your proud belly dances amorously.

The mayfly, dazzled, flies to you, candle,
Crackles, goes up in flame and says: Blessed be this torch!
The panting lover bent over his sweetheart
Has the air of a dying man caressing his tomb.

Whether you come from heaven or from hell, what does it matter,
O Beauty! monster enormous, terrifying, naïve!
If your eye, your smile, your foot, open to me the door
Of an infinity that I love and never have known?

From Satan or from God, what does it matter? Angel or Siren,
What does it matter, if you render—fairy with velvet eyes,
Rhythm, perfume, glitter, O my only queen!—
The universe less hideous and moments less dull?

My thougts/reactions so far…
Beauty, Bowdlerized as Truth

Understanding is the Sphinx’ death,
Bursting mystery’s numinous bubble.
Answers kill wonder and awe.
Wisdom slays childhood and innocence.
Sobriety and moderation
Chain the manic frenzy of inspiration,
Where formerly daemon and muse took possession.

Beyond the bronze of being,
The mind’s lust fantasizes,
Stripping Draupadi naked
From her infinite attire.
The more we pull and yank,
The more she spins,
A dervish uncontrolled.
Heidegger, that red-eyed elder peeping,
Spies Being, bathing in her garden,
“Preferring not to” is her sweet refrain.
Our minds becomes entangled.
And it is then we know
That thought leads not the way out of this cave.
Our starry, upward gaze is dizzying.

I am an ugly Daedelus, singed
By perfection imagined, out of reach.
This vicious syndrome,
Poems amplified
In Phalerus’ infundibulum,
Have deafened me
More than waxen Sirens’ antidotes.
Psalms, become sonnets, reverting, again psalmic;
Sonic booms,
As time comes to a
Light-speed’s screeching halt,
And galaxies implode,
To singularities.

Can a poem be discussed in prose?
Or is the tuning fork, in sympathy,
Trembling, in vrittic emulation,
The only accord reached?

Anciently there was a tongue, declined
With endings as those languages now dead,
Whose similarity made all speech rhyme,
And prose a difficult and somber deed.

The height of mind is the language of one word,
Which, from it, when once uttered, comes one thought.
And that thought might be every thought;
The tidalness of space,
The birth of stars,
The wandering of suns and planets;
Cool clear jets of thought which might rain down,
Smoothly to one thin current of emotion.
Convections in the winds of reasons,
The vortex of meanings and the flow of words
From the mouth of the mind.
Signatures of the wind, the rain, and time upon the rocks,
‘Til they be sands to span the stones and pebbles;
The nature of resistance
In indigestible nuggets.

Words learned become lines,
Lines stanzas,
Stanzas poems,
And poems words again,
As concepts are captured by the general mind.

Tonic and chromatic of emotions,
Sing me a beginning that I may start.
Form for me the modality of thought,
The turn of time,
The line eternal that will rhyme
With itself and itself again in repetition.
Glisten with your voice the light of death,
Decomposing in a swamp a log, a leaf,
Born, now dying, cyclic and serene.
Tell my why a god’s first word is “green”.

Once, in the nerving shallow of this world,
A someone happened, and I happened too.
And we became each other,
Sinking through the noiseless voice embraced.
And we communicated.
And still there was no trace
Between the airless aethers of the waste
Of our exchange.
And still no change was made
Except within the realms of our recall.
And all around us was the gentle fall
Of sentence fragments,
Dust of old ideas.
And as it drifted past our face,
Upon the force of passions gone extinct
Expressed agos ago
At objects which they missed,
We came apart to find we were the same.
No name was different;
No souvenirs of all that passed between,
No places to revisit,
For there was no place,
Except in the passing time,
No sign remaining, symbol or design
To trace or recreate our path,
When we, so near, no longer had to hear,
For we could touch intention’s very lips,
No remnant to explicate at all,
Except for the sound consuming hush
Of displaced sentience,
It’s rush and fall,
At the tips of our fingertips.

There may never be another time
When you will meet,
When I will meet,
When we will meet,
And feel as we feel now.
There may never come another place,
Another glance where things seem as they are.
And here is the sadness in our happiness:
That what we are
Has still yet to become.

You cast your pebble
In the placid pool.
It sinks the circle of eternity.
A maelstrom vomits back
Ten thousand more,
At you, now stoned,
Harlot that you are.

I am preparing for my seminar tonight. The following analogy occurs to me:

Poetry, in its attempt to put beauty into words, is like the attempt of mathematics to express reality.

If a single integral is an area under a curve, and a double integral is the volume of a solid, then by analogy and extension, a triple integral must be the volume of some object in four-space.

The symbols and equations represent the reality as a model of that aspect of reality towards which they point, just as the poem points to some aspect of beauty.

We can express mathematically that which we cannot visualize.

We can create a world in which there is a beauty or a love greater than anything we could experience in the flesh, in reality.

Then, we are wounded by our own creation, since we are exiled from the picture of a paradise we have painted.

I attended the seminar on Baudelaire last night. About 50 people showed up for it, and they split up into two groups, with a professor to lead each group.

25 people sit around a huge table, and the professor asks an opening question about the poems. I tried to take a lot of notes. Anyone is free to respond, question, or make a point. When they begin speaking, they “have the floor” for a minute or so. There is no system to it, but it seems to work in a random but orderly fashion. All participants have experienced this particular method of seminar for years, so, they are accustomed to it, sort of like a sports team I suppose, running around, but trained, disciplined, to act as an organic unity of “seminar”. One elderly gentleman had been doing it since 1944. He was really quite remarkable when he spoke.

I did not speak the whole evening, but made notes. There were plenty of people to participate. Had there been some embarrassing silence, then I would have thrown issues/topics onto the table for discussion. But there was no need. And I am free to absorb what they were discussing, and write my own thoughts privately.

I am going to review my notes, and try to put into words what was said.

The opening question was: “What is it about Beauty in these four poems that so fascinates Baudelaire?”

The point was made that Baudelaire seems to be suggesting or seeking where beauty comes from but not what beauty is (in stark contrast to the manner that a Socrates or an Aristotle might try to define the what something such as, say “Justice” or “Virtue”.)

The seekers or admirers or lovers of Beauty seem to be passive, and Beauty, though at times personified, with moods (such as hatred) seems aloof and indifferent to the effect it has upon the seekers, or perhaps even an innocence (in the sense that Beauty is unaware of what is going on).

In these poems, there seems to be a self-sufficiency to Beauty. The French word (I have to look up the spelling) ingenue (an-je-NEW) was mentioned as the word for innocent.

Someone commented that Beauty does not seem to know that it is creating horror or death.

There was some discussion of “opening the door to infinity.”

Beauty seems “cold hearted” in the poems, with a “heart of snow” combined with the “whiteness of swans”.

How self-conscious is Beauty in these poems?

(I am narrating what I heard said, and not my own thoughts, so I shall dispense with phrases like “someone asked” or “somoneone commented”.)

Is there a struggle between Beauty and the poet?

What Baudelaire describes of Beauty seems amoral, neither about goodness nor truth.

The professor mentioned the meaning of “tenebrous” as having to do, in the Catholic Church, with the notion that, between the crucifixion and the resurrection, God dies, and there is some form of chaos. I am not very familiar with this notion.

There was some discussion of the soul “wandering in a forest of symbols.”

Then, there is the wordless language of flowers.

Someone mentioned Baudelaire’s pleasure in self-loathing.

There is something which draws the soul or spirit back to a primordial “one” or unity.

There are correspondences and a synesthesia (like tasting colors).

How does one “say the unsayable?”

How does one understand the “mute language of flowers?”

The most important word Baudelaire uses is ‘esprit’ or mind, in the intellectual sense, which is sort of at odds with all the sensuality going on.

Baudelaire seems content “not to know” Beauty, i.e. not to understand in an intellectual sense.

In the previous post I attempted to summarize some of the things others were saying during the seminar.

In this post, I shall try to put into words some of the things I was thinking about, but did not say.

We would like to think that truth is beauty; beauty truth
but in reality, truth is often ugly and beauty is illusory.

Baudelaire questions whether Beauty is from heaven or hell.

I was reminded of how Socrates was always saying that “every person, by nature, desires the good.” I suppose what Socrates says is kind of a solepsism. I mean, why would you desire it, truly, if you sincerely felt it was not good. But, if what Socrates says is true, then even people like Hitler by nature desire the good. So we have a world of good and evil, which result from the actions of a multitude of souls/beings striving toward something which is only good, but aloof, distant, above, like a Platonic form of Justice or Virtue; an unmoved mover, which moves and motivates everything else, but is itself unmoved and unsullied, untainted.

For me, Beauty, like Aristotle’s God, is an unmoved mover, but a diety which is continually begotten by the human mind and imagination.

We human beings have the wonderful and terrible capacity to imagine a perfection greater than anything which could ever exist; not simply the best of all possible worlds, but a better than any possible world. This potency of our imagination is both our blessing and our curse.

I apologize if I seem so articulate about my ideas, and somewhat vague in my recapitulation of the discussion. My ideas are more accessible and clear to me, than the ideas of 30 minds around a table. One would need to study a video tape, but that was not an option.

Actually, it would be kind of neat, if there were like a world wide study group, on something like Baudelaire (or pick an author of interest), and if there was a television channel with seminars on that author, and then blogs and message boards, and really fine minds around the world, fashioning some grand comprehensive understanding or insight. Of course, that sort of thing has been happening, in a sense, for millenia, the grand dialogue or grand narrative of all the great writers and thinkers, who study one another, across the centuries. But with Internet, and modern media technology, such a process might possibly be greatly accelerated.

If one or two readers of this forum choose to attend a four year college like St. Johns, in Annapolis, or Sante Fe, then they will spend four years in seminars having conversations similar to what I am narrating here, on books like Kants Critiques, Tolstoy, Homer, Plato, Rabelaise, Pascal, Descartes, Locke, etc. etc. It is sort of a luxury education, because it does not directly prepare you with some “marketable skills” such as accounting or brain surgery. But it does give you one thing in your undergraduate education which is hard to find in a traditional university or college; continual daily expository dialogue – you really learn how to think on your feet. This is a very different experience from sitting in a lecture hall, reading textbooks, taking exams and finals, writing papers.

Anyway, back to the topic of what I was thinking about but not saying in the seminar.

I could not remember the name of the mathematician that Kurt Godel argued against in the World Parliament of mathematicians around 1900. I had to google (yes, I confess it). That mathematician was Hilbert. Hilbert argued that any statement which is true in mathemitics must be provable by means of a theorem or theorems in an axiomatic system. Godel believed that it was possible for there to be things which are true but not proveable within a particular axiomatic system. Godel finally PROVED that their must necessarily exist certain unproveable truths in his incompleteness theorem. What this all sort of means, is that the job of mathematicans is never ending; mathematics can never reach a point where it is finished, and we know all there is to know (a goal which Descarte dreamed of and which Hegel called “Absolute Knowledge”).

Now, what does any of this have to do, pray tell, with Baudelaire and Beauty, you may wonder. Well, in a like fashion, we may ask whether the task of the artist or poet or author will ever be finished. Will there ever be a “great american novel” (or the great Lithuanian novel… pick your favorite nation)?

Baudelaire seems to be an olympic swimmer madly paddling towards an opposite shore which always seems within reach, but is in reality, unreachable.

Rising Up

My mind, you move with agility,
And, like a good swimmer that swoons in the wave,
You cheerfully plough the deep immensity
With an ineffable and virile voluptuousness.
For some reason, these lines remind me of Wallace Stevens,

Emperor of Ice Cream

Strong men whip
In kitchen cups
Concupiscent curds.

Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.
A Sphynx is only enthroned as long as it is obscure. Once we answer all its questions, then, we are no longer subject to it. The Sphynx is suddenly unemployed. BUT, we too are suddenly unemployed (no more windmills to go jousting at).

Is reality analog or is it digital? If it is digital, then ultimately, everything can be precisely expressed as a sequence of numbers, or symbols, or genome DNA codes, or words, or statements.

If, however, reality is analog, then any attempt at digital representation is doomed to be only an approximation, like the irrational number Pi.

You know, in Homer’s Iliad, there is the wonderful scene of “the aresteia of Diomedes”.

In Greek, the word “aristos” means “best”. We derive our word “aristocracy” from “aristos”. Often, in discussions, we find ourselves trying to “get the best” of someone else.

http://www.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/iliad5.html

Aristeia

This “aristeia” or “best of” Diomedes can be understood as a sort of peak experience — it’s a natural high when you have one of these days, and it’s as if a god is metaphorically present.

A famous error on Homer’s part suggests to the scholars that the poet was unclear about certain aspects of military history.

Breaking ranks they rushed ahead in their chariot,
charging Diomedes already dismounted,
rearing up on foot. (5.12-14)
Apparently, after all the hoopla, these warriors use their chariots only to taxi themselves to the line of battle; then they park, dismount, and start the day’s fight.
Pandarus is one of the victims of Diomedes — interesting to students of Chaucer, who quite rightfully despise Diomedes, who for all his success here is a butthead.

Hephaestos saves a warrior. Aeneas is hit by a rock, but his mother Aphrodite protects him. Diomedes actually wounds Aphrodite though, so Apollo has to protect Aeneas. Ares too is wounded and complains to Zeus about favoritism — Zeus always sides with Athena. But Ares, the god of war, is surprisingly chewed out in this epic. At the end of the book, no gods are involved in the war directly.
Diomedes was kind of an ancient John Wayne. There have been times in my seminar life when I felt that I was shining for a moment in such an aristeia, or watching someone else in their momentary flash of glory and triumph.

There are times when an “aristeia” is necessary, and even sufficient. And there are other times when being John Wayne means being a “butthead”.

Years ago, I read an astute observation about the Russian space program visa vis the American space program. The American astronaut had so much control of his ship, that one might call the astronaut a pilot. The Russian vehicle was under so much ground control that the astronaut was more properly a passenger taking a ride than a pilot mastering his destiny. The observer attempted to attribute this difference to a difference in the ideological mentality of the two societies. When you have an army filled with John Waynes, then, when they are cornered, with their backs against the wall, then they come flying out of the bunker bare-chested, screaming, with a hand-grenade in each fist. When an army is conditioned to unquestioning obedience to one centralized authority, then if that authority is suddenly destroyed, or inaccessible, then they are at a loss as to what to do.

Many species of mammals are gregarious, but, as Aristotle once pointed out, humans are the only political animal. Societies are herds taken to the extreme.

Like lingering echoes that are mingled far off
In a one-ness tenebrous and profound,
Vast as the night and as the light of day,
Fragrances, colors, and sounds correspond.

http://www.netglimse.com/holidays/go…/history.shtml

Service of Tenebrae
Some Western churches still celebrate a medieval liturgy called the Tenebrae, or Service of Darkness, in which candles and lights are gradually extinguished until the congregation sits in complete darkness—a representation of the darkness that covered the earth at the death of Jesus (Mark 15:33). Scripture readings and hymns lead the worshipers in a communal repentance for the sins that made the Crucifixion necessary.

The Tenebrae service ends with the strepitus, a loud, harsh noise such as the slamming of a book or crashing of a cymbal. This echoes several scriptural sounds: the final cries of Jesus, the earthquake at his death (Matt. 27:46-53), the shutting of His tomb, and the second earthquake at His rising (Matt. 28:2).

We do not need to be as notorious in our sinning as Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) to remember our own darkness, as he did, on Good Friday. Wilde’s 1881 poem “E Tenebris,” titled after the Tenebrae, reflects his own long, conflicted entrance into Christianity that would culminate in a deathbed conversion. In the poem, he appeals for mercy:

E TENEBRIS

Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach Thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on Thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God’s throne should stand.
‘He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.’
Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.

What are “Flowers of Evil?”
What is the language of mute things such as flowers? What are Flowers of Evil (Fleurs du Mal) and what do they have to tell us?

A flower is a symbol for us which points to a Spring and a Summer to come and is a harbinger of some future fruit to bear or seed to yield.

Jung speaks of shadows which we project into the world and then behold as if they were real and “out there” and truly other that us. We do not see such shadows as of our own making.

A thought blossoms, and such a flower is portentous of an action or deed.

We wander in a forest of symbols which give us familiar looks and glances.

Correspondences

Nature is a temple where pillars, alive,
Sometimes emit indistinguishable words;
Man passes in there through forests of symbols
Which observe him with familiar looks.

Like lingering echoes that are mingled far off
In a one-ness tenebrous and profound,
Vast as the night and as the light of day,
Fragrances, colors, and sounds correspond.

There are fragrances fresh like the flesh of children,
Sweet like oboes, green like prairies
—, And others, corrupt, rich and triumphant,

Having the expansion of infinite things,
Like ambergris, musk, benjamin, and incense.
Which sing of the transports of mind and sense.

What I say to you each day, these thoughts and sentences which drip as from some alchemist’s alembic, drop by drop, day by day, like the squeezings from some ancient olive press: such thoughts are not my thoughts in the sense of the me you might sit with at a table and share a cup or glass. These words are from the virtual self I might have been, were I to be recast with infinite time and power, and an expansive consciousness of galactic proportions. The daily me is as mute as those flowers of Baudelaire. I can only give you familiar glances at the table, portentous of what I would like to say, but cannot.

It is only through the wine press and alembic of the written word that the portrait of our virtual self emerges in a painful pointillism of points and viewpoints, arranged and rearranged upon a canvas stretched, and framed just in time for our funeral.

I awaken at ungodly hours which such thoughts as these, fleeting, and I must arise and attempt to capture them in words, or, like timid unicorns sensing lust, they will elude their author.

There are conversations with the dead which may be overheard only in seminars with are soliloquies and monologues. There are attentions which span epochs. Such seminars as these are not infested with the plagues of ego and sophistry.

Such a glacial seminar is mentioned in Malachi:

The Seminar in the Book of Prophet Malachi

http://www.ccel.org/c/calvin/comment…/iv.iv.xiv.htm

http://www.rjconline.org/mn19.html

One of the verses in Malachi reads “Az nidberu yir’ei Hashem, va-yakshev Hashem va-yishma, va-yikatev sefer zikaron lefanav, etc., Then those who fear the Lord conversed, and God heeded and listened, and it was written in the book of remembrance before Him.”

Malachi 3:16. Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.

http://www.online-literature.com/for…50&postcount=2

Rabbi Kook, the first Ashkenazie Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, quotes a Rabbi of old, Nahman from Bratslav regarding the 3rd chapter of Malachai (which is the last book of the Old Testament). The verse in Chapter 3:16 of Malachi reads: ““Those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them. A book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His Name.”

The Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav comments that “Two men who live in different places, or even in different generations, may still converse. For one may raise a question, and the other who is far away in time or space may make a comment or ask a question that answers it. So they converse, but no one knows it save the Lord, who hears and records and brings together all the words of men, as it is written: “They who serve the Lord speak to one another, and the Lord hears them and records their words in His Book” (Mal.3.16)

This is the Talmudic dialectical process.

Is Beauty the Flower and Truth the fruit? But what shall we say of flowers which yield no fruit? What shall we say of a wondrous Spring which leads to no laborious harvest of Fall?

Wise Lady Diotema tutored Socrates in a ladder of divine ascent, climbing arduously, rung by rung, from the particulars of sense perception and tactile pleasures to the very Forms which cast such shadowsplay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Ladder of Love
http://www.mc.maricopa.edu/~yount/te…to-ladder.html

Starting from individual beauties, the quest for the universal beauty must find him ever mounting the heavenly ladder, stepping from rung to rung–that is, from one to two, and from two to every lovely body, from bodily beauty to the beauty of institutions, from institutions to learning, and from learning in general to the special lore that pertains to nothing but the beautiful itself–until at last he comes to know what beauty is.

And if, my dear Socrates, Diotima went on, man’s life is ever worth the living, it is when he has attained this vision of the very soul of beauty. And once you have seen it, you will never be seduced again by the charm of gold, of dress, of comely boys, or lads just ripening to manhood; you will care nothing for the beauties that used to take your breath away and kindle such a longing in you, and many others like you, Socrates, to be always at the side of the beloved and feasting your eyes upon him, so that you would be content, if it were possible, to deny yourself the grosser necessities of meat and drink, so long as you were with him.

But if it were given to man to gaze on beauty’s very self–unsullied, unalloyed, and freed from the mortal taint that haunts the frailer loveliness of flesh and blood–if, I say, it were given to man to see the heavenly beauty face to face, would you call his, she asked me, an unenviable life, whose eyes had been opened to the vision, and who had gazed upon it in true contemplation until it had become his own forever?

And remember, she said, that it is when he looks upon beauty’s visible presentment, and only then, that a man will be quickened with the true, and not the seeming, virtue–for it is virtue’s self that quickens him, not virtue’s semblance. And when he has brought forth and reared this perfect virtue, he shall be called the friend of god, and if ever it is given to man to put on immortality, it shall be given to him

(Plato – Symposium 210a-212b).
Jesus once saw a fig tree from a distance, whose foliage and bloom promised fruit. Yet, when he approached to partake, he found no fruit. So, he cursed the tree saying “Xeranthesete!” (Be thou whithered). The next day, the Apostles observed that the tree had dried up and died. The blind see at once. The dead arise immediately. The tree dies overnight.

Is the fig tree evil because it is useless?

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The Dead Baby Factory

December 21, 2009

The Dead Baby Factory

I remember how easily you laughed.
You laughed at the drop of a hat.
You laughed at the slightest thing.
When I was 49 and you were nine.

The TV groaned as usual.
The newscaster spoke of tragedy.
The death of many infants:
A pharmaceutical error
In quality control.

The TV voice
Repeated ad infinitum:
Dead babies….
…Babies dead
….Babies died
…Dying

You starred blankly,
Immune to daily tragedy
Frankly, in a trance.

But I began to sing a silly song,
and dance a senseless dance:

“Oh, the dead baby factory,
Crunch those babies,
Grind them up,
Squish them,
Scrunch them…”

You laughed until you cried.
You rolled upon the floor
Beyond control.

Life is senseless.
We are senseless too.
We laughed ourselves senseless.

The more I sang and danced
The more you laughed.
Because you laughed,
I sang and danced all the more.
You doubled over
Rolling on the floor.

Laughter, song and dance
Until you pee your pants.

Human life IS, in reality,
A “Dead Baby Factory”,
Except they age the product
Until it’s slightly elderly.

With Ernest and Julio Gallo
We can say:
“We sell no wine before its time.”
But today we are having a special:
Buy one baby,
Get two free.

The shortest verse in Scripture:
“Jesus wept.”

And, as we danced and sang,
Those babies resurrect
And sing and dance with us
Clapping and keeping time.

Macabre or debonheur?
I guess you had to be there!

The tragic and comic blur.

And there we were,
Lost in a moment of childhood,
Forever found,
Throwing humor
Against horror
And winning,
Sartrean humor
Against the anguish
Of senseless existence.

And there we ever are
In that lost and found collection
Realm of the trans-eternal
Moment of recollection
In life’s department store.

We are there right now,
Staring the Void in the face,
Beware be damned!
And back it stares at us and grins
And grimaces
With fun-house mirror faces.

We dance and sing with Nietzsche.

Well, why not?
Life is peachy!

– (5/06/2003)

Why Did You Have To Smile?

September 13, 2009

I was ready to die.
It made sense because
Nothing made sense.

But you had to come along
And smile,
And speak with such a
Sweetness in your voice;

The violence of love!

Oh, you didn’t know it was loaded?

Your smile with such charm,
Your voice with sweetness,
Your eyes hiding a promise of tomorrow?

Now, what am I to do?
Now, that you make no sense,
Everything makes perfect sense.

See what you’ve gone and done?
I hope you’re pleased!

(written in 2008)

Song of the Afternoon

September 7, 2009

Song of the Afternoon

Pentameter of thought,
I walk with thee iambic
Along asbestine shores.
Our footprints
Are asteriated whispers
In the sand.

Aurelia, you echoed to me once
Astyler through the mansions of desire.
Your audile lips soft kisses on me sang
But I was deaf to you and to your ways.

Aspurges me,
Deserting thoughts,
With warm aspersions,
Sitting, sipping time,
In the aftermath
Of the aubade.

Not even Death
Or gold of sunsets
Sing as sweetly as
Your wings are made.

(written circa 1966)

Unfinished fragment (at age 16)

September 7, 2009

Beneath the gambrelled roof of trees
Of leaves untorn by archers’ shafts
Of branches innocent of all
But purling chinks of trysting squirrels
Grew grass and thistles shivering
With anxiousness and gangrel swarms
Of bees and insects warmed to frenzy
By the lambent dawn.

(I had wanted to write an epic length poem
but this was as far as I got)

The River

September 7, 2009

The River

River with your tributaries
No one seems to know your source
I’ll not bother with your queries
I’ll just let you flow your course.

Never do you mind or care
Moving earth from place to place
Farmlands you might rob or spare
Nothing seems to slow your pace

Up a curve – around a bend
Shallow spots and places deep
Will you ever learn to mend
Eyes that you have caused to weep

Place a seed in water shallow,
Watch it slowly drift away
Will it sprout in field and fallow
Or will it be led astray.

As I peer to see your ending
Where you empty no one knows
As it is with you my comrade
That’s the way a lifetime flows.

(This is the earliest poem, written 1963 at age 14)

On Ocean’s Edge

September 7, 2009

On Ocean’s Edge

I touched her and she touched me
And we were one by the sounding sea.
A midnight mist caressed her hair,
And lips were pressed in holy prayer
Of thanks that we were there
To share such kisses.

Hisses of tide on the jagged stones,
Entering into enchanting unknowns.
Identities sunken in intimacy,
Entities drunken in ecstasy,
Daring that loneliness places on loan,
Hidden horns warn us of dangerous zones;
Beware, beware.

Much welcome tones to such as we,
I, my love and the sounding sea.

(written circa 1965)

Incoming Tide

September 7, 2009

Incoming Tide

The body of an ancient sea
Completes the circuit of my veins
And tugs me when I drink at streams
And, tasting tears or sweat, I know
I should return to it again.

And in my sleep I watch it stretching
To the unconcerned horizon.
Watch, unable to decide
If sea meets sky
Or sky meets sea.

And too, the sun seems unimportant
Impotent and far away.

And rains are noiseless effigies
Of death to my myopic eyes.

And I can hear its lapping yet,
Mute, through umbilical generations.

And sometimes though, just sometimes,
Inside I feel uneasy.
And then I know the tide is swelling in.

(written Monday, June 27, 1966 at 1:00a.m.)

Death Is a Soft Gray Kitten

September 7, 2009

Death Is a Soft Gray Kitten

Death is a soft gray kitten
Fondling my thighs,
A dead gray moth
Lying in the fallen leaves.

Once a butterfly was off
Unfolding petaled loves.
But then, I know, a butterfly deceives.

A touch of birth,
An after-taste of death,
It’s hard to tell the worth
Of flowers with one breath.

As pleasures lie
So leaves and petals fall;
So moths and butterflies must die.

A soft gray kitten fondles of us all.

(written circa 1965)

Is You

September 7, 2009

Is You

As is here
There is nothing
As something so soft
As a tear.

As is often goes reaching
From fire to frost is the gloss of your cheek
As each slender week tenderly tossed goes calendering,
Secretly, year lost to year.

As is here
There was nothing
Is something
As no one
Is you.

(written circa 1965)