Riding in a Car, Winter
The clouds were shaped like presidents;
A friend said snow was coming.
I said the presidents were shaped like clouds;
For political life …
You said the houses were closed against winter
Like granaries—only Odysseus
Has the key. I wished the story of hunger
Could be funny—just turn a phrase—
The rich have all the cake; the poor run off
With the keys. The startling thing
About the sky in northern latitudes
Is the tendency to see scripture
In the mackerel and mare’s tails—
So there are gods under every leaf.
Stories circulate. Plain men starve.
The clouds resemble waves
Returning from far shores
Where money is useless.
The clouds were shaped like presidents;
A friend said snow was coming.
I don't imagine that people have been losing sleep over my apparent disappearance from the blogosphere these past weeks but I do want to explain "the dilemma"as I've come to know it. If you are blind or visually impaired and you use screen reading software to interact with computers andwebsites you discover over and over again that your ability to negotiate these machines and environments is very fragile. Recently the folks at Type Pad adopted a new posting site for their bloggers and I found that this newfangled site didn't work with my screen reading software. This is of course a boring story and if yu're blind like me you know that it's also a never ending story. But I'm now back in business having upgraded my screen reader to a newer version.
Now that I'm back I really ought to have a great story to tell. I was under the earth with the sun for company–both of us in hiding in due appreciation of an old Scandinavian folk tale. We were rescued at last by a iron monger poet who could recite all the poems of his people going all the way back to the day the earth rose from the back of a turtle.
So being away wasn't so bad. I can report however that both the sun and the iron moner had bad breath. Cosmic breath. Even Paracelsus would have found it hard to hang with those guys.
Does poetry make anything happen? Auden said no but who would argue that America is no better for the publication of Leaves of Grass? Who would argue that the wide readership that we have seen in recent years for novels by Toni Morrison or the popular poetry of Bily Collins has not made our nation a more reflective and discerning place? Poetry will not influence a tyrant beyond the arrest of the poets but it may influence what comes after. Last year the University of Iowa Press published an astonishing collectonof poems that were written by the captives at Guantanamo Bay. We stand today in the expectation that this prison will be closed and that the individuals who have been detained there will at last be accorded their human rights under the bylaws of the Geneva Convention.
Poetry is slow. It is generally the case that the human conscience is steadfast though it lacks initial speed.
In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately (though I hope this hasn’t been your dear caste of mind) I am presently in Geneva, New York where I spoke about Emily Dickinson and blindness last evening. Last week I was in Moscow, Idaho where I taught creative nonfiction to an especially talented group of graduate students although I also absorbed some odd right wing “juju” which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I wrote about this sad, aleotoric anti-magical ennui at the “Split this Rock” anti-war poetry blog. See:
I received the following note this morning and I want to pass it along. The entire disability rights community owes a great deal to American war veterans who have pushed the envelope for disability rights and accommodations after each and every foreign war. Let's honor those who have served our country and in turn those who have worked assiduously to serve veterans.
HAVE YOU HEARD?
The Veterans Health Administration has designated today, November 6, 2008, as the first annual National Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service Day "Where Quality of Care Results in Quality Life!" At the end of World War II, no agency or method existed to provide quality prosthetics to America’s disabled soldiers. On November 1, 1945, in response to both Congress and veterans, VA created the Prosthetic Appliance Service. Its purpose: to develop a system through which artificial limbs of the highest quality as well as other prosthetic appliances would be provided to disabled veterans. Today, VA medical centers celebrate and recognize the significant contributions of Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) personnel in delivering world-class quality service to disabled veterans. Observances include presentation of the Under Secretary for Health’s Award for Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service of the Year to the Togus, Maine VA Medical Center by Frederick Downs, Jr., PSAS Chief Consultant. Many medical centers will host presentations for staff and veterans on prosthetics and orthotics and display the unique services and high tech equipment PSAS provides. Wherever you are, stop by your Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service today and thank them for a job well done!
A woman sat next to me on the metro and began softly talking to herself, talking like birch leaves at the summer house, talking and talking and I knew that she had no volition. My Finnish isn’t fluent but I could tell she was speaking a pre-war working class slang, a lingo that the old street horses would have known; the open grained speech of her husband and her children. Of course you can see where I’m going. It didn’t take long to learn they were dead and long ago, long ago. There have been so many times I’ve felt how little I know. My capers and satires are thin in these moments. "yes," I think, "I have suffered but my sorrow is a mechanical thing like the pulleys in a dumb waiter, willy nilly window up and window down. But there is something other: wilderness of the thistles, thistles with the worms under the spikes, thistles from which their soup is made, thistles in a dictionary of soldier slang. It was a short train ride. That train couldn’t take me where I wanted to go.
A Rhyme of Centrist Fantasy
You can take the middle of the road
If no one's breathing down your neck;
But truckers are on the left and right
and They're out of road kill–so what the heck?
You better hit the gas my friend,
you chose the center path.
There's only one way you can fend–
Hit it man and don't look back
We stood on a quay talking of illness,
Of a friend’s discomfort, the long solo of our age
Now people have the luxury of slow death.
A wooden shack leaned on the sea wall
Like something one finds after walking
All night—the house in a Russian tale,
Its windows open to admit souls.
Anyone can talk of dying, the measure
Of tongue and footfall, of boats in darkness.
But groaning, incapable as men are
We talked in the rhythms
Of singers from Tallinn:
Men who stayed up all night,
Turning their sleighs into coffins.
Autumn and the bees
Flying among roses
Are like men working without guilt–
Prisoners all the same
Beneath their darkening windows.
Half in the manner of St. Augustine and half in the sotto voce of Linus Pauling who hoped to live forever the clock hints of lives unfulfilled. The northeast window takes it up: these asides and hand wringings until dull matter reflects our wishing like a Mexican mirror. There’s nothing we can do to hurry ambition. Tonight my good friend Dr. S goes to bed thinking about post-molecular medicine. All day he has seen children who are going blind because there are pin-point spots in their respective genes. We are so close to curing blindness. We have advanced one hundred years in the past decade. We need only five more to restore sight. The FM says the world is ending. Everywhere evidence mounts for the end of culture. The great laboratories will be overrun by looters like the libraries of Mesopotamia. And while the winter stars rise fat and imperfect war merchants are planning the destruction of hospitals with American taxes. We are so close to making the young firm; the old see; the broken mind calmed; the old Rosicrucian marriage of light and dark; the very promise of matter; soul clap its hands; going to sleep is like rolling up a scroll, hiding it among stones for the ones who surely will arrive. Tonight I say they will come: the builders and doctors; the mathematicians and young artists from the orchards. 11 O’clock at night & we have work to do. Let it be said we stood upright in our age.