Reading an obit hyperlinked to a blog
hyperlinked to love poems, one might assume
death were itself conclusive. It is said
Poseidon, the protector of seafarers, is
more powerful a god than the Roman Neptune,
since Greece is surrounded by the sea.
A friend asked if connections between people
had their antecedents out in space, as stardust,
or beneath us, at the bottom of the sea.
All I know is I’d rather be a mariner
than an astronaut. A shipmate told me
there are more airplanes at the bottom
of the ocean than submarines in the sky.
In part, perhaps, because I am an older guy,
I wonder why people seem so obsessed
with a poet’s sexual proclivities, as if
that’s something somehow fixed, predestined.
My favorite poets are so because of what
and how they write, not with whom or how
they spend their private moments. Poetic
sentiment is universal, ubiquitous, maybe
even transformational, if you listen.
It didn’t take me long to figure out
I might not be able to coast by on
my good looks alone. The escalator
froze tonight at Capitol South. Not cool.
Next time I’ll take the steps.
I want to tell y’all about this amazing poem
I stumbled upon. I can’t stop reading it,
can’t stop listening to it being read
by its creator on the Poetry Foundation website.
It has quite addicted me to its charms.
It’s titled: “Prologue – And Then She Owns You.”
What’s it about? It’s about New Orleans,
and the thought of the Katrina disaster
runs all through it, though the poem never
mentions the the storm, or the flood,
or all the death and destruction that resulted.
In fact, I’d pretty much call it – a love poem.
Maybe because I’ve been there –
two or three times, back in the ‘80s.
Maybe that’s why it appeals to me.
And yes, I know it’s whacked to write a poem
about another poem, but this thing
really has me dizzy in its appreciation.
I’m gonna make it a subway poem,
even though I don’t think New Orleans
has a subway connecting its parishes
by tunnels underground. But it’s ok.
Just read it. You will see.
I am fully occupied today with preparing for Monday’s class, so I am posting a poem today that never quite made it to the blog. It is a chronicle, sort of, of my early impressions of working in an archival repository. It has no name, other than “Postcard #10,” so now it will become “subway poem #7.”
There are no spirits lurking in the aisles
and corners. Just cartons of documents,
details of lives. Whether well-lived or ill,
these papers tell the story – marriage, birth,
land acquired, taxes. Death. It’s all there.
No need for the rattling sound of zombies –
ghosts of events yet to come – in graveyards.
Might this be the judgement we fear? The words
and deeds, archived records we leave behind
won’t deliver souls to any heaven –
or hell. It’s just a mirage, this image
of hereafter we’ve been trained to accept
as truth, the certain object of our faith:
dried, folded, faded, in a dusty box.
I learned the recitation of “In Flanders Fields”
from my dad, word for word and line for line
until I got it right. He’d recite his favorite
poems whenever he was self-medicated.
Pop saw action in Italy, the so-called
“Good War,” the integrated Army Air Corp,
its own small miracle for the time.
And so I’ll dedicate this subway poem
to his memory, keep the faith unbroken,
and let him sleep in peace.
Years later, before my own enlistment,
I came across Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est,”
and it shattered all my youthful illusions
about the glories of war. Later still,
I found James Shirley’s “Dirge,”
said to be Robert Frost’s favorite poem.
Owen must have read it as well, I’m sure.
This poem is about poems and father memories –
no subway trains run through it – and service
and sacrifice that sometimes goes unpaid.
Fourteen lines is an approximation –
fewer lines, or more, may be sufficient.
But line length must be paid attention to.
It’s Veterans Day. I’m doing laundry
and checking what folks are talking about
on Facebook and Twitter – news of the day.
And the news is not good: a coup attempt
is underway in the home of the brave –
we’ve seen the play before but no one owns
the script. I’ll be riding no trains to work
for the rest of the weekend. My office
is closed and a couplet is all that’s left.
It took me all these years to figure out
I might be the spook who sat by the door.
It’s the Green line that goes east to Anacostia.
All the eastbound trains, though, pass through
L’Enfant Plaza, every line except the Red.
Anacostia is my spiritual home, you know,
both my endowment and my inheritance.
The bridge that crosses the Anacostia River
has always been a gate for me, an arch
straddling two dimensions, space and time,
a transition and a transformation affording access
to new hopes, new loves, and new opportunities.
East is the new frontier. Go East, young man!
The Orange line to New Carrollton was packed
this morning. I felt like a canned sardine.
But a large crowd got off at Farragut West –
must be lots of jobs and offices there.
It’s good to know. Sometime stanzas spill out
in strange order. We have to re-arrange
our rambling thoughts, take stock, get back on track.
Caught the Red line at NoMA after work –
sometimes on Wednesdays or Thursdays
I work with special collections at DCPL,
that’s DC Public Library for short,
temporarily housed at Penn Center in NoMA
(that’s North of Massachusetts Ave for short).
I read some Walt Whitman on the train
that puts me in a pleasant state of mind –
hypnotic, and I almost miss my stop
at the transfer point to the Blue, Orange
& Silver Line.
There could be worst things than the hustle
and bustle of commuting. Like these minstrel
shows – performing, dancing on the train platform –
dancing to the music. People are watching,
turning their heads to see as they walk by.
But why bother? It’s the same old minstrel
show. Why bend your
neck to look? The dance
steps haven’t changed in 100, 200 years.
Not meaning to sound philosophic, but I worry
about my people, caught up in the same tricks
generation after generation, and doing the same
minstrel dance for white folks who are too
eager to be hypnotized. Oh well. The Orange line
train approaches, and I have more Leaves of Grass
to read before we reach the Bottom.