National Poetry Month: T.S. Eliot

Awfully close to dropping the ball just short of the goal line…I’m several poems behind, but you’ll get ’em all today.

01d607eebc06a53263dc57b7414cd1dcThe Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
By T. S. Eliot

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
               And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Quotes From The Dark Side: Paul Ryan

Because he cares….

”We’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people.”

—Rep. Paul Ryan, March 12, 2013



With all due respect to Shepard Fairey, whom I admired quite a lot:








Poetry Uncategorized

National Poetry Month: Robert Pinsky


I received the following facebook message last night, from the gallery of distant rogues: “Poesy Month, eh? Where’s the fucking Pinksy (sic), Chuck?”

Point taken.

An Explanation of America: A Love of Death by Robert Pinsky

Imagine a child from Virginia or New Hampshire
Alone on the prairie eighty years ago
Or more, one afternoon—the shaggy pelt
Of grasses, for the first time in that child’s life,
Flowing for miles. Imagine the moving shadow
Of a cloud far off across that shadeless ocean,
The obliterating strangeness like a tide
That pulls or empties the bubble of the child’s
Imaginary heart. No hills, no trees.

The child’s heart lightens, tending like a bubble
Towards the currents of the grass and sky,
The pure potential of the clear blank spaces.

Or, imagine the child in a draw that holds a garden
Cupped from the limitless motion of the prairie,
Head resting against a pumpkin, in evening sun.
Ground-cherry bushes grow along the furrows,
The fruit red under its papery, moth-shaped sheath.
Grasshoppers tumble among the vines, as large
As dragons in the crumbs of pale dry earth.
The ground is warm to the child’s cheek, and the wind
Is a humming sound in the grass above the draw,
Rippling the shadows of the red-green blades.
The bubble of the child’s heart melts a little,
Because the quiet of that air and earth
Is like the shadow of a peaceful death—
Limitless and potential; a kind of space
Where one dissolves to become a part of something
Entire … whether of sun and air, or goodness
And knowledge, it does not matter to the child.
Dissolved among the particles of the garden
Or into the motion of the grass and air,
Imagine the child happy to be a thing.

Imagine, then, that on that same wide prairie
Some people are threshing in the terrible heat
With horses and machines, cutting bands
And shoveling amid the clatter of the threshers,
The chaff in prickly clouds and the naked sun
Burning as if it could set the chaff on fire.
Imagine that the people are Swedes or Germans,
Some of them resting pressed against the strawstacks,
Trying to get the meager shade.
A man,
A tramp, comes laboring across the stubble
Like a mirage against that blank horizon,
Laboring in his torn shoes toward the tall
Mirage-like images of the tilted threshers
Clattering in the heat. Because the Swedes
Or Germans have no beer, or else because
They cannot speak his language properly,
Or for some reason one cannot imagine,
The man climbs up on a thresher and cuts bands
A minute or two, then waves to one of the people,
A young girl or a child, and jumps head-first
Into the sucking mouth of the machine,
Where he is wedged and beat and cut to pieces—
While the people shout and run in the clouds of chaff,
Like lost mirages on the pelt of prairie.

The obliterating strangeness and the spaces
Are as hard to imagine as the love of death …
Which is the love of an entire strangeness,
The contagious blankness of a quiet plain.
Imagine that a man, who had seen a prairie,
Should write a poem about a Dark or Shadow
That seemed to be both his, and the prairie’s—as if
The shadow proved that he was not a man,
But something that lived in quiet, like the grass.
Imagine that the man who writes that poem,
Stunned by the loneliness of that wide pelt,
Should prove to himself that he was like a shadow
Or like an animal living in the dark.
In the dark proof he finds in his poem, the man
Might come to think of himself as the very prairie,
The sod itself, not lonely, and immune to death.

None of this happens precisely as I try
To imagine that it does, in the empty plains,
And yet it happens in the imagination
Of part of the country: not in any place
More than another, on the map, but rather
Like a place, where you and I have never been
And need to try to imagine—place like a prairie
Where immigrants, in the obliterating strangeness,
Thirst for the wide contagion of the shadow
Or prairie—where you and I, with our other ways,
More like the cities or the hills or trees,
Less like the clear blank spaces with their potential,
Are like strangers in a place we must imagine.

Commentary Journal Quote

Best Damned Quotes–Dostoyevsky AND MLK Jr.

Today our righteous quotes make for an End-of-April Two-Fer.  My good friend Tony posted an excellent Dostoyevsky twitter quote last Friday, which at first made me feel a little guilty considering my, um, propensity for editorializing.  Being the bigger man has never really been my forte, I’m afraid, behavior that has traditionally gone unchecked since, in a very non-symbolic sense, I have usually, actually been the bigger man.  And when I haven’t been, it was pretty much a given big_769that I was the faster man.

“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”
–Fyodor Dostoevsky

Yeh, Words to aspire to, but I’m not that guy–and pretty soon this quote popped into my mind (and yes I had to look it up to get the exact words right)

Rev Martin Luther King“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr

So, I’m thinking I’ve learned one of two things here.  Either that real wisdom comes from knowing when to practice understanding, and when to abandon understanding for defiance and confrontation.  Either that, or Dostoyevsky was simply a skinny little chump afraid of getting his ass kicked by the bullies.*


*A patently unfair joke at his expense–Dostoyevsky was a great writer, who survived internment in a labor camp after he pissed off the Tsar.  I love his stuff.  Hemingway loved his stuff, too, and that means he’s good enough for anyone.

Commentary Funny and/or Strange

The SHAG-WAGON Parked On My Fence

062 063So, we garden–the front part of our .67 acre plot is somewhat presentable–flowers, trees, a chemical-free lawn–but the “back 40″ is under my domain and reflects my particular Appalachian redneck sensibility.  At present, the lawn tractor sits in the middle of the lawn with a flat tire (as good a place to leave it as any). The trampoline, in its 7th year, has seen better days–nothing some duct tape, canvas thread, and an industrial strength stapler couldn’t fix, at least from an pragmatic perspective.  Aesthetically…?

There are piles of salvaged materials that might be useful at some point–a stack of old bricks, a pile of river rock, the framework of an old trellis that had been standing long after I succeeded (no easy feat) in eradicating the virus-laden concord grape vines we inherited with the house.  You never know when you might need some 10’x4″x4” posts, right?  Two aged cold frames with broken lids (this is the year I’m going to fix those, right!) (right?), a big pile of broken shipping pallets from the massive branch (pretty much the entire top, actually) of Old Man Willow, that fell into our compost operation with a crack and a smoosh in the fall.  There’s also our “legacy” Wen-Oh-Nah canoe, a sentimental favorite my best friend bought new in 1983 and in which, after I inherited it, my kids now ply the local waterways with their friends (which is really pretty damned awesome.)  We’ve hauled away one trailer load of debris–to be the bones of a summer bonfire–with another to go.  And a stack of newer pallets from which we’ll build the new compost bins.  Eventually.

The Gardening Season actually started off poorly back in February, when I happened to glance out the window and notice a mini-van parked awfully close to the fence along the 065alley behind our garden–not really an alley, exactly, more of a grassy right of way onto which a neighbor delivered 20 tons of limestone so she could turn left and go downhill the one time a year she takes her boat out, thereby opening what had been a peaceful, utilitarian sward to all the traffic in the neighborhood–which primarily means a dozen or so young people who occupy a few apartment conversions on the street behind us.  A lot of folks around town devote large portions of their waking thoughts denouncing and demeaning the university students who are the social and economic lifeblood of our community. I like having the students around–it adds vigor to the neighborhood; but I’m less keen on their driving.  Or shall we call it careening?  Although that, too, has it’s entertainment value–not to mention the fact that careless driving is hardly limited to their particular demographic.

Terry Inciso/Indiana Gazette,19350714/

We had a hard winter–almost daily snow in small increments, with snowfalls requiring shoveling on 27 occasions (yes, I counted)–and while there is no maintenance on the paper alley my neighbor graveled, a few folks braved it regardless of the accumulated snow, which predictibly turned to about 10 inches of compressed snow beneath a thick layer of ice.  The driver of the mini-van I mentioned (remember that?) had decided to go up the hill, a feat I wouldn’t have tried in my truck with the 4/Low engaged.  It just wasn’t going to happen.

By the time I slipped into my felt pack boots and shuffled up to the garden a tow truck driver was trying to winch the van off my fence by force, but the angle was such that all he could achieve was dragging the damn thing back downhill, scraping the van down the entire length of fence.  The humiliated young driver sat sullenly behind the driver’s seat in his purple Ford Windstar, chain smoking cigarettes and refusing to make eye contact with any of us.  The dick.

This is not “our” rat-faced boy, but a representative example of the subset.

No, no, that’s too rough.  He was young, he was embarrassed…its–just–DO SOMETHING to help yourself, or maybe roll the window of your van down and apologize profusely for parking your stupid ass van on my fence.  Gagh!  I hated the kid on principle, for not interacting…but also for the smoking, for how he looked–you know that rat-faced look people whose mothers chain-smoked while pregnant get?  don’t tell me you don’t know that look!  well, yep–that’s him–but mostly I hated him for the chrome on his van–a shitty old mini-van full of bench seats–because he’d removed the “Aerostar” chrome and replaced with letters that spelled out “SHAGWAGON”.  An airbrushed license plate on the front bumper, like guys who owned Camaros used to get in the 1980’s–with swoopy cursive letters in glitter-infused script–only this one wasn’t a tribute to some girl named Rhonda–this said, you guessed it “ShagWagon.”  In glittery, gold cursive.

This is what a “Shag Wagon” should look like.

Now, like you, I have some images in my mind of what a van that is dared to be called “ShagWagon” should look like–and it ain’t mom’s old grocery-gitter  There are certain expectations that come with–that are obligatory to–the hubris associated with bestowing such a title, and in this case none were satisfied.  Dude didn’t even have chrome rims!  Or 8-Track.

Dude needed a slap to the side of the head, regardless of parking on my fence.

And no, before you take the next logical step, this entire article wasn’t merely an 1970s-custom-vanartifice through which I could introduce nudity to Old Road Apples (recall this is a blog that was originally created to be about old poems I wrote in college!).  Just keep in mind that the Very Hot Woman in the photo above now lives in a retirement community in Scottsdale Arizona and spends her days knitting mittens (both of them lefts) for her grandkids back in Muskegon while watching CSI:Miami and bitching about that Kenyan-Irish bastard, O’Bama. As the second vintage photo demonstrates, it’s possible to make my point without scandalous photos of retirees, but not nearly as much fun.

066So, that’s how the garden year started, even though I took considerable satisfaction in horrific scraping sounds elicited by The ShagWagon as the final, brute-force solution to it’s liberation was to drag it down all 50 feet of my fance–post and rail with 4″ steel mesh stapled to the outside, all of which took many small, but cumulative–and deeply rewarding–bites from the paint.  The dipshit never did apologize–nor approach me, or even make eye contact, not even 067last weekend when my daughters and I spent an entire morning re-seating the connected portion of fence in the side yard, which had all fallen apart–and down–with the forcible misalignment of the corner post in the back.  Grrrrrr.


Random Internet Photo: Fiat Cowgirl

So, I owe you an extra poem–yesterday got busy, man–and a real live handwritten homespun entry–and both are on the way, I promise.  But, in the meantime, I’ll hand over another interesting photo I stumbled by at some point and saved for just such an occasion.  How about this one; I think it’s from Tumblr, and like all things Tumblr had been reposted a gigazillion times, so I don’t have a credit, but it’s cute and just what I need for my grumpy, slightly hungover mood:



Balled of Cliven Bundy by Stephen Colbert




Friday Morning Rock & Roll Idols: The Reivers

Man, I loved these guys.  If a band ever deserved to be rich and famous, it was The Reivers

The Reivers: In Your Eyes


National Poetry Month: Marianne Moore

MM yankeesThis is one of my favorites–and one I bet you never read before.  Marianne Moore should be a lot more famous than she is,   She was also a rabid baseball fan.  Imagine a time when poets could be popular enough to garner press at a Yankees game!  It’s a shame she’s been overshadowed by her male peers–but, unfortunately, that’s how it works.  Poetry may be written for the masses, but it’s preserved by moribund academic institutions, where poets like Moore remain disrespected for their commercial popularity and still–alas–trivialized for being women by a surprisingly (overcompensate much?) patriarchal establishment.  Still, this poem rocks:

He “Digesteth Harde Yron”  by Marianne Moore

Although the aepyornis
or roc that lived in Madagascar, and
the moa are extinct,
the camel-sparrow, linked
with them in size–the large sparrow
Xenophon saw walking by a stream–was and is
a symbol of justice.

This bird watches his chicks with
a maternal concentration-and he’s
been mothering the eggs
at night six weeks–his legs
their only weapon of defense.
He is swifter than a horse; he has a foot hard
as a hoof; the leopard

is not more suspicious.How
could he, prized for plumes and eggs and young
used even as a riding-beast, respect men
hiding actor-like in ostrich skins, with the right hand
making the neck move as if alive
and from a bag the left hand strewing grain, that ostriches

might be decoyed and killed!Yes, this is he
whose plume was anciently
the plume of justice; he
whose comic duckling head on its
great neck revolves with compass-needle nervousness
when he stands guard,

in S-like foragings as he is
preening the down on his leaden-skinned back.
The egg piously shown
as Leda’s very own
from which Castor and Pollux hatched,
was an ostrich-egg.And what could have been more fit
for the Chinese lawn it

grazed on as a gift to an
emperor who admired strange birds, than this
one, who builds his mud-made
nest in dust yet will wade
in lake or sea till only the head shows.

. . . . . . .

Six hundred ostrich-brains served
at one banquet, the ostrich-plume-tipped tent
and desert spear, jewel-
gorgeous ugly egg-shell
goblets, eight pairs of ostriches
in harness, dramatize a meaning
always missed by the externalist.

The power of the visible
is the invisible; as even where
no tree of freedom grows,
so-called brute courage knows.
Heroism is exhausting, yet
it contradicts a greed that did not wisely spare
the harmless solitaire

or great auk in its grandeur;
unsolicitude having swallowed up
all giant birds but an alert gargantuan
little-winged, magnificently speedy running-bird.
This one remaining rebel
is the sparrow-camel.