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It has been almost a year since I put up a poem.There is nothing so anathema as a ‘poetry’ entry in the blood-shot eyes of The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections. They see poetry as ‘box-office poison” and they are not wrong.  I love a good poem and sometimes when one moves me so I want to share it – ratings be damned.

Last night I read a book on courage that had in it the poem. It comes from “Spoon River Anthology”. The dead of Spoon River cemetery speak about their lives and ends.  George Gray reflects on the ironical design of his gravestone. I hope you like it.  – Spo.

George Gray

By: Edgar Lee Masters

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me —
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire —
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Last night on the flight home from Wisconsin I wrote an entry about some melancholic feelings I was having after my holiday. I went to post it this morning but I can’t find it. I frequently misplace things and I am forever taunted by the Car Key Gnomes and Cup Sprites moving my things around but this one has me nonplussed. Where is it? Did I write it only to erase it?  Who can say.

The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections in their latest board meeting suggested I ‘shake things up” but they didn’t give me guidance what this means. Once again I am to deduce what on earth I am supposed to do. It reminds me of  when Mother would tell me to ‘stop doing that’ without clarifying what I was doing wrong. TBDHSR are going to be mad as wet hens when they discover I’ve decided to revive my “Poetry” entries.

Oh the horror.

I like a good poem and I like to pass on the ones I find amusing, moving, and powerful. They are poison at the box office (hence the ire of the who-know-who) but there it is. I will try this on a regular basis for a while until they catch on what I am doing and threaten to use my nadgers for earrings.

In honor of the misplaced entry that ought to be here this morning:

Forgetfulness – Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Insanity

Some demon or dastardly Muse got hold of The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections for they got wind of the notion of giving “The State of the Union” address. They’ve decided to do one. I received via certified carrier raven a scroll filled up with Board-reflections. It’s hard to read; there are tell-tale signs it was written by several hands. Many of the runes have been crossed out and new ones written in on the sidelines.  Someone seems to have spilled ink or mead on the third page making the writing unreadable. I think in the next Board meeting I will introduce to them word processing – and the concept of editing.

Here are the highlights Spo-fans may find amusing.  I’ve eliminated the name-calling and dangling particples.*

Food entries get an A+. These entries bring in lots of traffic and comments, as do suggestive titles that lure in the naïf and curious and the wicked old screws.

TBDHSR seem unanimous they loath the categories “Wicked words” and “Walking the dog”, possibly as they can’t pronounce “W” words well. Entries titled

“Spo-reflections on ……” make them sit up to see if I am going to be maudlin or profound, which they consider ‘poison at the box-office”.

They enjoy entries with pretty pictures and photos, especially of people hitting each other. They do not like ones with half-clad gentleman but they grudgingly admit they bring in the hits so they are passing on this one.

I am told to cease and desist the following Spo-isms:

 Tewksbury rats.

References to people’s height.

Activities involving grass-hills.

Oh the (fill in the blank) !

They like the word ‘thems’ as it has an ersatz-Old English tone and it reminds them(s) of their youth.

There was a unanimous decision (based the thumbprints in blood) under no circumstances am I to post any more entries with poetry. This is a disappointment for I like a good poem.  Before they connect the dots here is a video. The contents are quite apropos for today’s USA paranoid politics – and the poem reminds me of the Board.  Enjoy.

 

* I will tell you one exception: apparently my sobriquet around the office is “Troll-breath”.  I am not certain if this is funny or sad.

Quick – is there a poet in the house? I am driven to distraction trying to remember the name of the author and/or title of a certain poem. I have only one line to connect me to it, something about mother telling me what matters at a funeral not what you said but that you showed – but I doubt I have the words right.  Oh the pain.  Using The Google isn’t any help for it is a case or garbage in gets garbage out.  Typing in the words “Poem” and “Mother taught me” generates a myriad of close-enough-no-cigar poems (most of poor quality, written on Mother’s day). I suppose I should let it go so when I least expect it the actual poet/title/lines will suddenly pop into my Gulliver.

My memory lapse also happens with bits of lyrics to songs, but this is usually not a problem for long. Someone easily identifies song bits for me, sometimes coming up with the title of the tune even as I struggle to explain what it is I am trying to remember. Opera arias and show tunes are conveniently covered by a coterie of consultants (curiously, most are named Will). Alas, I don’t know of any Spo-fans who are expertise in poetry.

When I was a boy it was considered clever if not high-class to have a handful of poems memorized for sudden recitals (upon request) but these requests never came and I’ve lost the key to safety deposit box in my brain labelled “Poems: memorized”. Even the poetry books on the office shelf are a challenge to remember what poems are in which tome.

I should start writing down Spo-poems and favorites in some sort of work document for easy retrieval. This exercise may jostle my memory to recall how to recite a few of them – other than Mr. Eliot’s Guide to Practical Cats poems.  Spo-fans are welcome to leave in the comment his or her ‘favorite poem’ title(s) for me to look up and read. Who knows, maybe someone knows the poem about “what mother taught me” (author begins with a “B”).

lost-poem-john

St. Valentine ’s Day is not celebrated in the House of Spo other than Urs Truly buying sweeties for the candy dish.

Someday I should write an entry on “Cupid and Psyche” which is one of my favorite myths. It is a great story how Eros marries Mind (after many ordeals) to produce conscious state of being.

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As a Valentine I offer Spo-fans this poem; it is one of my favorites:

Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart. I give you an onion. It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light like the careful undressing of love. Here. It will blind you with tears like a lover. It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief. I am trying to be truthful. Not a cute card or a kissogram. I give you an onion. Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are. Take it. Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring, if you like. Lethal. Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.

Newer Spo-fans may not know I like a good poem. I will stop the blog from time to time to post one.  They don’t often get read or evoke comments. But I like them.

This one is from Spoon Rive Anthology. In this tome the dead of Spoon River, IL tell tales from their graves of how their lives really were and their regrets and loves. They advise the living.  Here is what Marie Bateson says:

Marie Bateson

You observe the carven head

With the index finger pointing heavenward.

That is the direction, no doubt.

But how shall one follow it?

It is well to abstain from murder and lust,

To forgive, do good to others, worship God

Without graven images.

But these are external means after all

By which you chiefly do good to yourself. 

The inner kernel is freedom,

It is light, purity –

I can no more,

Find the goal or lose it, according to your vision. 

 

images

All day long things pop into me gulliver: memories, characters out of books and scenes from movies, songs, and words of wisdom from long ago mentors. As a shrink pause to  wonder ‘why’ this item suddenly appeared and what triggered it and what does it tell me about my situation or self. Sometimes these pop-ups are worthwhile to share with patients to illustrate a point.

Today –  for no apparent reasons yet realized – this poem or lyric – appeared:

I still remember a summer gone by

Why was it over so fast

I still remember when we said good-by

Why can’t our summertimes last?

Do you remember me? once I called you my own

I’m sad as I can be for it’s no fun all alone

Why can’t a memory roll away like a tear?

Why do I go to my window 

Hoping you will appear?

Cause I need you

Cause I miss you

Cause I wish you were here.

Curious: I can hear the song clearly but I can’t remember the context. I think it was in a movie. *  Going just with the words, the it appears to be about someone longing for another now lost to him or her. In my process of expanded imagination (as a good Jungian does) I sense this isn’t about me longing for some past love but someone – or something longing for me to return to it. I am not sure. Certainly it is about longing for something or someone that is no more.

It makes me think what is it I am missing and longing to reconnect with?  I don’t believe this is a literal longing for some past love; it is something more esoteric and profound. Indeed I hear it recited in a female voice; this makes me think it is a symbolic representation of something and not of someone.  Some sort of Anima message.

It is a bit unsettling. It isn’t so much I can’t deduce what it is or why it is popping up all of a sudden from the recesses of my pumpkin. What is concerning is its ‘past’ element. There is a longing to go back and retrieve something lost and reconnect. I am usually suspicious of “going back” as it is not forward. Yet I don’t feel this is a siren song. It sounds lost.

There is something of which I am out of touch calling me to join her/it.

Certainly the emotions it evokes are pathos and sadness.  So what is it I have lost in myself? Why is it repairing now? And how to I find it?

I need not worry. Eventually it will manifest itself consciously either from more careful analysis or merely in time. Truth and archetypal energies will be heard; if they don’t succeed the first time they keep at it (through dreams or daydreams or synchronicity) until the person connects with it.

Meanwhile I feel the melancholy of not finding the path to it.  I am missing something and I need to find what it is.

* I would be most grateful if some Spo-fan can ‘name that tune’ for me. I think knowing some of its actual context would help me to solve the mystery.

Until I have some decent time to write a decent entry, here is one os my favorite poems, apropos for the day…..

Valentine – Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

I associate June with strawberries and 5AM sunrises. The month’s official soundtrack is Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I am very fond of the music; I never tire of the play. Happily I get another serving this summer when we go to Stratford, Ontario.

I love going into the forest of Athens and be part of the comic mismatch. I have to be careful when I see MND, for I know the play by heart; I tend to move my lips like a priest as he says his prayers.  Like the rude mechanicals I want a part. But being ‘slow of study’ I prefer the lion’s part.  If I could I would be Oberon if only for the poetry. *

I never tire of it. It’s an old favorite yet it is being forever done in a different manner.  I enjoy seeing the different interpretations and settings.**  I wonder what Stratford will do this summer.  I wouldn’t mind a traditional setting complete with gossamer and fairy-wings.

I have a recording of MND I made from LPs from a college dorm library. It emphasizes the somnolence; the fairies are quiet and soothing, talking almost in whispers.  It is puts me asleep no matter what.

 

You spotted snakes with double tongue,

Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;

Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong,

Come not near our fairy queen.

Philomel, with melody

Sing in our sweet lullaby;

Lulla, lulla, lullaby, lulla, lulla, lullaby:

Never harm,

Nor spell nor charm,

Come our lovely lady nigh;

So, good night, with lullaby.

Weaving spiders, come not here;

Hence, you long-legg’d spinners, hence!

Beetles black, approach not near;

Worm nor snail, do no offence.

Philomel, with melody

Sing in our sweet lullaby;

Lulla, lulla, lullaby, lulla, lulla, lullaby:

Never harm,

Nor spell nor charm,

Come our lovely lady nigh;

So, good night, with lullaby.

 

Good night from Spo-land  !

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  • Some say I am more like Titania: a fairy queen in pursuit of a Bottom.

** Only once has a production fallen flat. Some know-it-all at the University of Chicago decided to cut out Act I to start with Act II with Oberon and Puck in a homosexual relationship.

POETRY

Urs Truly likes to read poems. 

 

NPR recently sent a link to a collection of poems titled “Poems to make grown men cry”. There were ten of them. By the time I got to Poem #4 I was ready to write myself a prescription for Prozac with a Xanax chaser. They were indeed marvelous but ye gods!  Harry Potter’s Dementors could do no better at sucking out the joy of your life.**

 

I am not a profound reader of poetry.  I tend to enjoy them on a rather superficial level. Most poems I read make no impact; often I don’t ‘get them’. But once in a while I find one that makes me shiver and quake. I am continually reading poetry, hoping to find yet another ‘thumping good poem’ to add to “Poems to make Spo emotional”.  I have poems for ‘every occasion’. Some give me comfort; others invariably cheer me up (Shel Silverstein’s poems do a fine job here).

 

I like that poetry can move me so.  A love of Poetry came to me later in life. I don’t recall being moved by them in my youth. I suppose poetry appreciation is a sort of wisdom, something that requires age and experience.

 

Spo-fans might ask if I have ever written any poetry. I wrote only one. It was a sonnet composed for a lady-love in my medical school class.  She accepted it with thanks without conviction. I doubt she even read the damned thing.  Looking back it seems a ridiculous thing to have done. I had one and only inspiration to write a poem and it was wasted so. Alas, I don’t have the soul of a poet; I wouldn’t have a clue how to compose another one. Spo-poems I fear would rival those of the Volgons.

 

All the same, I am grateful for poetry, including the ten lugubrious ditties I mentioned. They go into my ghost-bag of Thumping Good Poems.

 

Who needs Prozac or Xanax when I have Yeats and Mary Oliver?

 

** If you want a taste, read this one.  Or this one. 

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