Archive for the ‘poems’ Category

Budapest on my mind

A friend of mine recently shared Anya Silver’s poem “Doing Laundry in Budapest”, which brought to mind a thematically-related poem of my own, from my first chapbook Budapest Suites (Montreal:  Pneuma, 1993) and first trade edition, Grand Gnostic Central and other poems. I share it here for my friend’s, and anyone else’s, pleasure.

 

_Vaci_utca_street_sign-

 

“Apply what you know to what you feel that’s more than enough”

 

On Váci utca, mongrel pigeons, flapping,

Mount American-style shopfront windows.

 

Grey cops in pairs or trios patrol;

Country people bag handiwork, whistling.

 

At the end of Vörösmárty tér, a blind man begs fillérs at tables in Gerbaud—

A blond father yells No! at a Gypsy girl and daughter.

 

Behind me a woman asks for directions:

Bocsanat.  Nem magyar.  “Nem Magyar?!”

 

NOTES:

Váci utca is a famous commercial street in Budapest; Vörösmárty tér is a square at the end of the street; fillérs at the time (1991) were pennies; Gerbaud is a famous café on, I believe, the square; the Hungarian that ends the poem can be translated roughly as “Pardon me. I’m not Hungarian.” “You’re not Hungarian?!”

I am aware that the racial designation of the girl and daughter in line 6 might, today, be read as an epithet; I retain it here as an index of the time of the poem’s composition; its use, innocent at that time, was also prompted by the alliteration with ‘Gerbeaud’….

 

 

“We’re doomed.”

….or, as the refrain of another “Dark Mountain” climate change jeremiad would put it, “It’s worse than that.”

It is, surely, rationally difficult not to deny the gravity of global warming and environmental degradation in general and not to fall prey to anxiety or even despair. It is not irrational, however, to maintain an open, critical mind and culture hope.

For instance, even fairly responsible media sources distort the findings of ecological researchers. For example, two recent studies of declines in insect biomass inspired copy such as “insect apocalypse,” “global ecosystem collapse,” “loss of all insects within 100 years,” and “collapse of entire food webs.” However,  learned reflection reveals the matter is less dramatic, far more complex, though hardly without concern. The same can be said for headlines about how humans have wiped out 60% of all animals on Earth in the last 30 to 40 years.

Much more could be said in this vein, but not quite eight months back, similar, dire and final pronouncements from Mayer Hillman prompted a number of poetic responses, of which the tersest and most direct was this:

 

Replies to Mayer Hillman

“We’re doomed.”

 

Your therapist would guide you

gently to see you’re fortune telling.

 

The dialectician would unfold the thought

that determination does not

 

foreclose unforeseen developments

being the condition of its own negation.

 

A happy chance slip of memory recalls

“What is real now was only once imagined”.

 

relax-nothing-is-in-control-quote-1

 

The writing life

Insights, like poems, sometimes just fall on your path, like the leaves from the trees thisIMG_3124 time of year.

A friend wrote me, and his experience so paralleled mine, and many others’, it was light work lineating his letter into the following poem. If you’re a thinker, writer, or artist, I imagine you might well agree.

 

Brief aus München

 

Yesterday I had a day

sitting for hours at my desk

playing internet-chess, thinking,

 

“this novel that’s kept me

from doing anything useful

a year now will never work”

 

and it was all my fault: I

chose this way, I

was sticking to this

 

idea, I was thinking

I could be not only a

writer but a novelist,

 

my father was right,

I left the right path

when I went to Berlin…

 

This morning, I got the idea,

I don’t know from where,

how it could work. Sun

 

shining on my balcony,

and I think: “Best choice ever,

to live and work like this.”

Gratitude by the syllable

IMG_2590Tomorrow, here in Canada, it’s Thanksgiving. Regardless of the nature and origins of the holiday in the U.S. and Canada, there is mounting evidence of how gratitude can shore up happiness. It was this insight that inspired my composing the following poems, each noting some experience for which I felt spontaneously grateful. You can read the sequence, here.

Thanks!

Replies to Mayer Hillman

Four_Horsemen_of_the_Apocalypse_-_Eduard_Jakob_von_Steinle

At the end of April, The Guardian published a dour interview with social scientist Mayer Hillman, wherein he pronounces “We’re doomed.”

Said interview resulted in some tangled discussion threads that, in turn, resulted in some poems (here, here, and here), and some friends’ sharing the interview on-line—again!—prompted the following intervention.

 

Replies to Mayer Hillman

                “We’re doomed.”

 

Your therapist would guide you

gently to see you’re fortune telling.

 

The dialectician would unfold the thought

that determination does not

 

foreclose unforeseen developments

being the condition of its own negation.

 

A happy chance slip of memory recalls

“What is real now was only once imagined”.

(a) Work on Myth

Dispatches from the Poetry Wars has shared a lively back and forth between, mainly, 800px-thumbnailBarrett Watten and Nathaniel Mackey, which, in turn, inspired some lively on-line discussion that turned, in part, around ‘myth’. Interested parties are encouraged to investigate the Dispatches site further for much related matter.

Before I sit down to work through Hans Blumenberg’s Work on Myth, I append the short poem below from Ladonian Magnitudes as a humble contribution to the communal deliberation!

 

Decay Pattern

 

When on earth

was myth a mouth

every head muttered

 

or is noys or

babble first what

 

articulate tongues

propagated on air

 

to ear empty

of echo of

familiar sound

One for Neil Rushton

Thanks to The Anomalist, I discovered this site administered by novelist Neil Rushton on Faerie lore. It resonates with some of my own concerns, an interest in the Celtic Twilight literary movement and the early work of William Butler Yeats, as well as with a parallel folklore, that around the UFO.

One aspect of said folklore is the Faery Light or Will o’ the Wisp, the topic of a poem fromsenathlight my first trade edition, Grand Gnostic Central, that links a sighting of Yeats’ recounted in his autobiography with tales told me by my great Uncle Peter and Aunt Julia on my father’s (Hungarian) side of their experiences in Saskatchewan.

 

Will of the Wisp

 

You say suddenly you saw

A light moving over the river

Just where the water rushes fastest

Brighter than any torch or lamp

 

Later a small light low down

Then over a slope seven miles off

You knew by hikes and your watch

No human pace could so quick

 

Here they trail wagons in blizzards

Swoop like owls to rap at windows

Come in view like oncoming engines

Over no tracks up to those waiting

Ye good old days

A friend brought to mind today his meeting a now-mutual friend, musician Zsolt Sőrés. I Trabant_P_601_S,_Bj._1986_(Foto_Sp_2016-06-05)had the luck to collaborate with Sőrés and his co-musician Zsolt Kovacs in Budapest, an aspect of which is memorialized in the first part of the poem I share below, from Ladonian Magnitudes. (As usual, the formatting here messes up the lineation: the original is written in tercets).

 

Pisces

“If our child is born in February or March it will be a Fish.”

 

Laszlo told us Tibor’d invited us to either his place or The Fish Restaurant

& Laszlo consistent with our unanimous consensus told him The Fish Restaurant

which miffed him a little but then why offer us the choice?—“You don’t do that!”

 

Besides he has a Stammtisch there

there’s always a table for him

“Of course, sir, just this way!”

 

So that day Kovács is supposed to arrive around five to record “Trabant” on DAT in his Trabant

because Tuesday after a solid three quarters of a litre of Tokaj, some beers before, innumerable Unicums, and even a little hash? then two big double vodkas

after the rehearsal for Wednesday night I spouted Marinneti glossolalia driving back to Laszlo’s in Kovàcs’s Trabant no one could stop me

 

So we went to the Tokaj bar Laszlo and I where they ladled half a deci of sweet and half a deci of dry into a glass for each of us drunk down in one go for the effect of a double martini

Then back up to Laszlo’s for a little more hash, no beer! vodka palinka Unicum whiskey two generic Gravol

Kovács an hour and a half late so I’m lying on the front balcony when the Two Zsolts arrive

 

Petra tells me she and Laszlo looked at each other knowingly as I swayed pale out the door

I remember raving the way I did the night before and arriving at The Fish Restaurant by surprise before seven

Sitting with Tibor and Laszlo who looked at each other and in Hungarian agreed I couldn’t eat with them

 

Ordering me a mineral water and putting me out on the balcony

Where I got up telling Petra I just need some air

And wander out into Buda’s streets looking for a bench

 

I remember Petra coming up and seeing how I was sitting tilting back and forth on a little wall over the Duna

The taxi arriving and Petra and Laszlo helping me up supporting me on each arm the taxi driver saying “Later.”

“Get up before they call the police!”

 

“Should I get an ambulance?”—“No, no, he’s just had too much to drink.”

And Kovács coming in his Trabant, me reeling beside him

Rolling down the window on the way and puking a great orange arc

 

Kovács tells me it was as if as he made the U-turn in front of The Fish Restaurant

everything I’d drunk sloshed out

One waiter pointed “Look! He’s doing it again!”

 


 

From Bremervörde we drove north to Otterndorf at the Elbe’s mouth

In the sun Matjes with raw onion on a bun and a plate of crispy gold Pommes with a big dab of mayonnaise

On the picnic table outside the strand café landside of the dike

 

Seaside a briny brown tide covered the sand and washed up cold over and drained through honeycombed red bricks enforcing the shore we walked on

Two black-suited windsurfers rode out fast crazy as the two boys splashing in the swimming pond just left of lunch

The sky painterly with grey-rain and sun-bleached clouds framing low sea daisy yellow mist and high blue

 

The Gasthaus we aimed at for an early supper closed so we drove in to Otterndorf

Brick houses cool sienna tomato rusted in early dusk

Even cobbled clean streets narrow as in Hamburg or Holland

 

A sample of Italian absinth and a flask of Grobmuter’s Apfelsaft in a gift shop just around the corner from the Ratskellar—“Danke, Mutti!” (Danke, Renate, for the absinthe spoon!)

A Norwegian acquavit before a litre of German beer and three rich Matjes filets Hausfrauen Art with a creamy apple onion celery relish and Bratkartoffeln punctuated by a bitter

A soft chocolate-dipped Eis eaten up quickly melting out the bottom of the cone

 

The way back musculature uncomfortable on bone-rack, aching joints, and threatening cramps

In bed sweat wet uncontrollable shivers chatter teeth and fingertips tingle numb

Every joint sore unable to lie still three seconds

 

Eyes rolling in a reeling lolling head

Delirious poetic prayers to Apollo in the name of his son Asclepius to shake from a leafy laurel branch drops blessed by Morpheus to cool my head and just let me sleep

Finally making myself puke three times about three in the morning

NaPoMo leftovers: Six Rimes

Standard eyes I shunlandscape-window-wall-color-artwork-painting-art-mural-tourist-attraction-characters-modern-art-trompe-l-il-gates-canyon-of-the-verdon-gorges-1019273

 

Dada data

Marxian Martian

 

‘incarnation’ read

aloud as ‘incantation’

 

Little Read Book

Ill-read Herring

NaPoMo (5): Some Praises of the May King

What’s Lebendig’lightwaves-09

Welcher Lebendige, Sinnbegabte, liebt nicht vor allen Wundererscheiunungen des verbreiteten Raums um ihn, das allerfreuliche Licht—mit seinen Farben, seinen Strahlen und Wogen; seiner milden Allgegenwart, als weckender Tag. / What living person, gifted with any sense, doesn’t love, more than all the wonderful appearances of spread-out space around him, the all-joyful Light—with its colors, beams, waves; its gentle presence, as waking day.—Hymnen an die Nacht, trans. Dick Higgins

 

Marks in, walking home, looking

in the used book store,

stroking the one friendly, fluffy

cat, intervening in a theological

dispute at the cash quoting

 

Spinoza in Latin and Daisetz

Suzuki summing up an evening’s

philosophical chit-chat:   “That’s what

I like about metaphysics—nobody

wins!” —stopping by the last

 

independent English-language bookstore, browsing

the poetry and philosophy, weighing

whether to buy a volume

or two but resolving just

to get the book I

 

ordered, paying off the dentist

for the new gold crown,

noticing Spring’s first green lush

after two weeks rain now

in intense sun, shaking up

 

a double martini or two,

commenting cante jondo on Facebook

to buck up a heartbroken

friend, priming a new withering

blog post “our postmetaphysical age”

 

sending me to Metaphysica Alpha

One:  “the senses are loved

for themselves, especially sight,” reading

Hymnen an die Nacht aloud,

Du kommst, Geliebte—” as Petra

 

opens the door, parsing that

first sentence together (…who doesn’t

love over and above appearance

spread out light, its colours,

rays and waves, gently everywhere

 

like the dawn?), philologizing Lebendige,

he shewed himself to them

alive”, “Son of the ever-living,

the senses of Sinn in

Sinnbegabte, allgegenwart, (omnipresent) everywhere.