Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In Memoriam

Gertrude Petra Landrum
(June 10, 2011 - June 10, 2011)

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom...

(Isaiah 40:11)

In Memoriam

Gertrude Petra Landrum
(June 10, 2011 - June 10, 2011)

Dear daughter,

We called you Gertrude as a placeholder before you were born and when you were taken from us after only a few minutes, it didn't seem right to call you anything else. It took me ages to be able to write anything about you but I finally did this January and wrote about naming you. There's so much I would like to say to you. But I'll say happy birthday for now. I miss you. I'll be seeing you.


CRADLE SONG

And what should I call you, little daughter? Cartographer of expectation,
the blue veins beneath your translucent skin a map to the branches of hope

and all its tributaries? Strong spear that shakes itself loose from my grasp
and falls to earth without a sound, tight as I grip? Rock against which will shatter

the future’s glassine dodecahedron? Repetition of my toes
and the toes of my maternal grandfather before me? Foxes run wild

in the vineyard. Sailors go down to the sea in ships. Antelope leap
across the sunburned veldt, faster than the fastest lion. And you sleep

attended by my indelible wishes, by holding on and letting go,
by the instantaneity of pure affection, by love which is all you’ll ever know.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Marginal Notes from a Book of Horace


Spring has overcome the dim days of April. I wake in the morning light, sure I've overslept, to find that it's still early. I haven't written in months, here or elsewhere. 30/30 drained me and there was nothing in the bleak months to speak of. But now the black days of winter all are through; life returns with the blossoms. I don't often post my own poetry; I don't often post here at all anymore. But here's a poem for the day, dear reader, something to break the silence between us.


MARGINAL NOTES FROM A BOOK OF HORACE

Let your hair down before you pull it back again. Time passes like a river,
carries us to death’s great Atlantic. But for now, we have these days
of pretty insobriety –– pleasure boating, wine, and walks in the orchard.
Raise your cup to the dusking light. Life isn’t always vernal flowers
and the pink moons of spring. But sometimes it is.



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Diffugere Nives


This translation from the Latin of my favorite Roman poet into the English of my favorite British poet is among the most beautiful I know. The snows are fled away here, dear reader, and the fashion of the earth is altered. Spring has brought the swans back to the lake. I wish you well and wish Housman a happy birthday.


Diffugere Nives

        Horace, Odes, iv, 7
        (translated by A.E. Housman)

The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
And altered is the fashion of the earth.

The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fear
And unapparelled in the woodland play.
The swift hour and the brief prime of the year
Say to the soul, Thou wast not born for aye.

Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.

Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall add
The morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has had
The fingers of no heir will ever hold.

When thou descendest once the shades among,
The stern assize and equal judgment o'er,
Not thy long lineage nor thy golden tongue,
No, nor thy righteousness, shall friend thee more.

Night holds Hippolytus the pure of stain,
Diana steads him nothing, he must stay;
And Theseus leafves Pirithous in the chain
The love of comrades cannot take away.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yeats and Losing in Love


I'll admit that whenever I read Yeats' love poetry, I feel a deep injustice that Maude Gonne (and later her daughter Iseult) rejected his marriage proposal -- how could you not love someone who's that good a poet? It probably says a lot about me that I equate creative talent with worthiness in love. But in truth, poetry hasn't proven that effective in the pursuit of love, in my life or in Yeats'. Of his poem, "He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven," Yeats' said, "it's a perfect way to lose a lady." Perhaps, yes, but what beautiful way to go:

He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tupelo Press 30/30 Project - Day Eight

I'm more than a week into the 30/30 Project, writing a poem a day for the month of January. There have been moments as thrilling as any I've experienced as a writer -- lines forming themselves as if of their own volition, ideas fusing with music. There have been moments of sheer panic as well as hours pass without a thread to follow through the maze of poem drafts. I've taken liberties with Lorca, given a nod to dear friends, bestowed a voice upon a poison mushroom, invented new lives and written my own.

If you've been one of my kind readers, following my daily progress, please consider donating a dollar or two to Tupelo Press so they can continue to promote all their wonderful poets and projects. You can find information on how to donate at the 30/30 page. View it as a trade. Here's a list of what I'll be exchanging for donations.

$1+ -- A letter or postcard
$10 -- A handwritten poem
$20 -- A poem on a prompt of your choosing
$35 -- A limited letter-press print of my poem Cicada by the artist Marie Kinscher (see above)
$100 -- A private reading