Archive for December, 2011

Puppetry Redefined

December 29, 2011

The curtains part as if inside a river in the snow.
We’re sitting in a fancy Chinese restaurant to see a play.
The waiter brings us wine and waits to take our order.
On stage an ancient erhu, shown in silhouette
behind a hand-painted screen is set to play (I read
from the program) ‘the music of Swallows River’. A shadow play,
in its ancient Chinese form, always begins in tears—
a child’s tears. The tears turn to rain, rain to river.
You will need to love them more
than you might ever think, the poem begins.
For even if misery is all there is, and all we know
is like an empty stage, full of empty chairs,
the river carries the children into the new life.
We can’t think that they are alone there. Perhaps this poem
is a kind of congregation of our selves, a place to gather
all the shadows that we need to keep alive on stage.
Our poetry is thus made for puppets redefined…
The room grows dark. The chairs remain empty.
Swallows River flows across the stage and into the snow and sea.
I order the General Tso’s Chicken. Brown rice, please.

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Such Riches

December 22, 2011

Should you be interested, the relevant passages in Proust for ‘I am falling asleep…’ can be found on pages 162 -169 in the new translation by Lydia Davis of Swann’s Way. Penguin Books. The USA edition, 2003.  Such riches indeed.

I am falling asleep, Marcel says, taking a young girl in his arms.

December 20, 2011

There was a time when he was always taking long aimless walks, but today it’s different. He has a goal in mind, a date deep in the Combray countryside. The landscape expands as he travels. His parents have returned to Paris in preparation for Madame’s gynecological appointment (though Marcel did not know this), so he’s not pressed to return home early; in fact, he’s rather inclined to stay out for the afternoon, find a spot to settle down in, and read a good book.

He has The Stones of Venice to read, he has his umbrella in case of a sudden downpour, and he has his spyglasses, a neat pair that folds up and fits comfortably in a side pocket. In his novel, Marcel rather forgets to mention how often he kept a pair of opera glasses on his person; how often he used them, peeking across the low hills at lovers in the woods, spying on strangers and casual friends, intimate friends and at times his own lovers. You learn to forgive the great artist his little peccadilloes…and he would tell you he was studying the landscape, the birds, the wind in the willows,  that sort of thing…but Marcel had a bit of the voyeur in him, even at an early age.

In Search of Lost Time tells the incident this way. Marcel has walked out to Montjouvain, the house which was once owned by M. Vinteuil and is now occupied by his daughter, Mademoiselle Vinteuil. M. Vinteuil had recently passed away and his daughter is in deep mourning. Marcel portrays himself as nonchalant about visiting the area: he was fond of the reflections in the small pond next to the house; it was hot; he finds a shady spot on the hill above the house…oh, just with a view into the sitting room window, that’s all…and falls into a deep sleep. No one is around; the countryside is sepulchral.

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December 18, 2011

St. Lucy’s Gown

December 13, 2011

Becalmed brides, sisters, speech
so faint the spider, who
can only know land as a wave
of webs, could hear their voices
only as the distant, fallopian sounds
he always heard at human birth.
The tension in his eyes
was like a wake of cold water,
as if the sea had parted
and gravity had brought his web
to rest against a bucket on
the frozen floor, too cold for life.

How I do love you,
Little Betty Bo Peep.
How I do care about
your lovely, lonely sheep.
And you too Miss Muffett,
that such a king should play bo-peep,
and go to fools
while grapes hang frozen on
your vines. I might
have explained the clouds to you.
I might have found the great breath.
Do you see this?
Look on her: look, her lips.
St. Lucy’s gown forever fits.

Polyhymnia Disinterred

December 8, 2011

If Polyhymnia could be
a winter afternoon’s great beauty,
or night, as it fills the moon’s girth
with still translucence restored from earth…

If Polyhymnia could be like the sleigh
we got for last year’s Christmas day,
not so  hot for winter’s snow,  but good once spring’s
trapeze and high wire act started up…

If Polyhymnia could be a spider moved
up from creation’s mold to sewing skirts
for dandelions… Polyhymnia, who likes shedding gowns
for scales, who never sings, who never clowns,

who never tempts the winter’s night with a serenade—
Polyhymnia, disinterested, disinterred, delayed.