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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. 

 

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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.

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. 

In these recent weeks WordPress has sent several announcements new people are following my blog. This is a marvelous thing and I am honored so. It does make me  feel some pressure to “put out” something deep, insightful or at least humorous. I am more likely to success with the later.  Being a clown is easy; at an early age I realized people were laughing at me so I figured the least I could do was to try to be funny.

Alas, nothing profound nor doggerel is leaping out of the recesses of my pumpkin. All I have today is dust thoughts.  Apparently this is not the first time dust has evoked my ire.  For no good reason I’ve been preoccupied again with the stuff.  I’ve discovered dust accumulates on the tops of all the picture frames. Even the light switches are surmounted by a thin gray film. There is a mild satisfaction to wetting a rag or paper towel and making a quick sweep across a frame and coming away with a grimy gray spot, knowing the world is just a little more clean from my sublimated OCD.

Like a lot of ‘hobbies’ when I find amusement in something I tend to go with it. I am flitting around the house looking for dusty tops such as found on the back of chairs or the tops of bed knobs. Jolly good fun. “Give Alice two pencils and she will be amused for hours” goes the expression.

No doubt this zany past time will peak and dissipate when I grow bored or there are no more unswiped surfaces or Someone takes away my Windex or I am finally medicated.

Dust – Sydney King Russell

Agatha Morley 

All her life 

Complained of dust 

like a good wife.

Dust on the table,

Dust on the chair.

Dust on the mantel 

she could not bear.

She forgave faults 

In man and child

But a dusty shelf 

Would set her wild.

She bore with sin 

Without protest,

But dust thoughts preyed

Upon her rest.

Agatha Morley

Is sleeping sounds

Six feet under 

The mouldy ground.

Six feet under

The earth she lies

With dust at her feet

And dust in her eyes.

Spo-fans know I like a good poem.

I recently purchased “10 poems to say good-bye” which is the final book in a series of anthologies starting with the words ’10 poems….”.  The first book it titled: “10 poems to change your life”.  I thought  the poems in “10 Poems to say good-bye” were lovely but I stopped reading them out loud as Someone found them morbid. He’s a tough audience.

To lighten the mood I began inventing addendum book titles such as –

“10 poems to make you itch”

“10 poems to read out loud in an oversold airplane flight”

and

“10 poems to read while being boinged”

It made me wonder: what are my favorite poems and do I dare shove them onto the Spo-fans? I used to publish a poem on my blog every, but they went over like lead balloons.  Either the poems were lofty or disagreeable, or my readers (at the time) were not the sort to appreciate a good poem.*

But what the heck. It’s my party and I will cry I want to. Here are my favorite ten poems. They are quite diverse, like my men.

If you want to read’em, they are linked.

I am curious to hear if you have a totally awesome thumping good poem you wish to share with me, for I always like a good poem*.

Beim Schlafengehen

Daffodowndilly

Equal to the Gods

Ithaka

The Journey

The Lost Hotels of Paris

Bear in There

Quiet until the thaw

Stolen Child

Valentine

*The clean ones, anyway.

I frequently have a fancy to run away.

This longing started early in life, thanks to a combination of ferocious reading and the vague terror I was different than others.

There were two elements to disappearing: First there was the ‘running towards’ element. Peter Pan, Alice, Milo, Dorothy, Lucy, countless talking animals, and science fiction characters continually wooed me to go find The Lands Beyond. For allure, their worlds beat my mundane life in Michigan by a country mile (I’ve always had a taste for the exotic and fabulous!).

The other element is ‘running away’. Escape was only solution at the time for being bullied and/or ostracized. For all my longing, I only ran away once, and this was in a peak of temper at my Mother.

My desire to seek out adventure (or at least remove myself from the prosaic) remains a strong one. I get rather tired of myself in the context of who I am. Mind! Life is not bad; I am not unhappy. This desire is about wanting to feel something new and adventuresome.

Now in my middle years I sublimate my ideation to scram through reading, viewing ‘escapist’ movies, and having as many trips as I can do/afford.  It is a thrill to be on the eve of a travel day, especially if it is to my favorite haunts like Palm Springs, Flagstaff, Santa Fe, Stratford Ontario, or Key West.

Curious –  I am not feeling any anticipation or excitement about next month’s Alaska trip, which is less than a month away. I believe this is because the trip doesn’t yet feel “real”. Someone did all the arrangements; the trip is still only an abstract idea.

To close, here is a bit of “Stolen Child” by Yeats :

Away with us he’s going,

The solemn-eyed:

He’ll hear no more the lowing

Of the calves on the warm hillside

Or the kettle on the hob

Sing peace into his breast,

Or see the brown mice bob

Round and round the oatmeal chest.

For he comes, the human child,

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

Oh the weather outside is frightful

but the fire is so delightful……

Last weekend a wind storm brought in rain and cooler weather. After months of record highs, we are down into the 50s and 60s. Tonight we will see the 40s.

I am not the right sort of person to live in Arizona, for I like the cold. I am very fond of winter and what winter used to mean. Winter was a time for staying home. My ancestors, who hailed from Northern climates, did the minimal outdoor tasks and then they stayed put. Activities were limited to sitting by roaring fires, drinking hot drinks, and telling stories.  This lasted four months (more or less) with twelve days at Christmas time to get jolly.  Cozy introverted activities are harder to justify in warmer times.

I love snow for the same reason. It allows me to stay home. There is no joy like curling up in a warm blanket with a hot cup of something and a good book. Outside the snow blizzard roars.

Alas there is no snow here, but it is cold enough to get the wooly socks out and the thick white cotton bathrobe. There is a comforter on the bed, and a warm pooch to share it.  A candle burns on the dresser. I could sleep for weeks, dreaming of winter thoughts of long ago.

QUIET UNTIL THE THAW – translated from the Cree 

Her name tells of how

it was with her.

The truth is, she did not speak

in winter

Everyone learned not to

ask her questions in winter,

once this was known about her.

The first winter this happened

we looked in her mouth to see

if something was frozen. Her tongue

maybe, or something else in there.

But after the thaw she spoke again

and told us it was fine for her that way.

So each spring we

looked forward to that. 

It’s the birthday of children’s author and illustrator Shel Silverstein (books by this author), born Sheldon Allen Silverstein in Chicago (1930). As a youngster himself, he wanted to play baseball or be popular with girls, Silverstein once said, but he couldn’t play ball and he couldn’t dance. So he wrote and drew to occupy himself, developing a signature style and wit that would delight children all over the world.

It was never his intention. He began his career as a cartoonist while serving in the Korean War, publishing in the military’s daily paper; when he returned from duty, he got a job as a staff cartoonist for Playboy magazine, where he also contributed several poems. It wasn’t until a fellow illustrator who was finding success publishing for kids put Silverstein in touch with his editor that he was convinced to try writing for children. The blend of witty and wistful that would later become his trademark was initially off-putting to some, who told him his work was too mature for kids, but not enough so for adults. He proved them wrong by publishing four children’s books in two years, including his most enduring — and category-defying — The Giving Tree.

Silverstein’s playful rhymes and dark humor achieved success for him in another arena too: songwriting. Of his many songs, his most popular may be “A Boy Named Sue.” About a man whose deadbeat dad named him “Sue” before he skipped town, the song was quintessential Silverstein: both silly and sad. When Johnny Cash sang it at his famous San Quentin State Prison concert, he was so unsure about whether people would like it he hadn’t even bothered to memorize the lyrics. The convicts went wild for the song, as did Cash fans all over the world. It remains pretty popular with kids too.

Silverstein avoided press, refused to go on book tours, and even requested that his publisher not release biographical information about him. As he said in a rare interview with Publisher’s Weekly, “I’m free to … go wherever I please, do whatever I want; I believe everyone should live like that. Don’t be dependent on anyone else — man, woman, child or dog.” Silverstein died of a heart attack in 1999 in his home in Key West, Florida.

 

Bear In There by Shel Silverstein

There’s a Polar Bear

In our Frigidaire–

He likes it ’cause it’s cold in there.

With his seat in the meat

And his face in the fish

And his big hairy paws

In the buttery dish,

He’s nibbling the noodles,

He’s munching the rice,

He’s slurping the soda,

He’s licking the ice.

And he lets out a roar

If you open the door.

And it gives me a scare

To know he’s in there–

That Polary Bear

In our Fridgitydaire.

 

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about death.  Blobby recently posted on his blog a very touching video of the finale of Six Feet Under. A young woman has a vision of how each of her family will die. The vision/video ends with herself, outliving them all, dying at 102. The ending of Six Feet Under reminds me of the conclusion of “Love, Valor, and Compassion”. A group of men each come forward at the end of the play and announce how they are to die. In both examples some people die early and abruptly; others grow old and die of age related illnesses.  Nobody’s death is ‘predictable’ and it seems pure fate as to who goes first and who outlives the others.  But the common denominator is: given time everybody we know will die, if we don’t die first.

I am thinking of death as I see my parents grow old and frail. Some friends are facing cancers and its possibility of mortality.  I am nearly 50; and I have many risk factors towards cardiovascular disease. My chances of seeing 60 are not great.  So I think of my own mortality and how much time is left for me.

I know I am no longer young, for a young man doesn’t think about this topic.

As death is inevitable, what is there to do? Carl Jung said the 2nd part of life was all about preparing for death viz. growing in consciousness and individuation.  Best to make Life as full and as meaningful as possible. So, when the inevitable decline towards death begins, we will be at ease. There will be no regrets, no fright, no sense of ‘where did Life go?” for we lived well.  That is the real definition of ‘death with dignity’: arriving there with the sense of beholding a marvelous story.   Small wonder this my favorite poem :

 

Ithaka by Constantine P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind-

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

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