Poetry

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Scepticalscribe

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Another of my favourites - I decided to learn this one off by heart when I was still at school, I liked it so much (and no, it wasn't even on the course, although it did appear in the course textbook).

The Terrible People by the American writer and poet, Ogden Nash

People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it,
And I wish I could afford to gather all such people into a gloomy castle on the Danube and hire half a dozen capable Draculas to haunt it.
I dont' mind their having a lot of money, and I don't care how they employ it,
But I do think that they damn well ought to admit they enjoy it.
But no, they insist on being stealthy
About the pleasures of being wealthy,
And the possession of a handsome annuity
Makes them think that to say how hard it is to make both ends meet is their bounden duity.
You cannot conceive of an occasion
Which will find them without some suitable evasion.
Yes indeed, with arguments they are very fecund;
Their first point is that money isn't everything, and that they have no money anyhow is their second.
Some people's money is merited,
And other people's is inherited,
But wherever it comes from,
They talk about it as if it were something you got pink gums from.
Perhaps indeed the possession of wealth is constantly distressing,
But I should be quite willing to assume every curse of wealth if I could at the same time assume every blessing.
The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money can't cure,
Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you are poor.
Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won't buy, but it's very funny -
Have you ever tried to buy them without money?
 
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lizkat

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I confess that despite my rose colored glasses, I've often referenced with some kin over the past four years a totally off the rez screed penned back in the 1980s by Donald Hall, (1928-2018) titled Prophecy.

He left just about nothing and none of us unscorched in assuming the role of the poem's persona. The poem is included in a 2015 collection, "The Selected Poems of Donald Hall", in which he noted briefly that it's actually part of a longer poem titled The One Day. However, it had been published freestanding in Harpers and appeared in the Paris Review that way also. The One Day is only available now in used hardcover or paperback format, I think. Most of Hall's work is collected in assorted volumes also available as e-books.

The Harper's presentation was published in November of 1987. Whenever I have reread it over the years, more and more of it has struck me as prophetic indeed, which is fairly alarming. I mean back then it was alarming as prophecy... but the alarming part now is that a lot of has come to pass.

Here are a couple stanzas but I appended a spoiler with the entirety. I hasten to say that a lot of Hall's other work is nothing like this, in fact some of it is downright bucolic, reflecting his long residence in New Hampshire.

from Prophecy by Donald Hall​
The landscape will clutter with incapable machinery,​
acres of vacant airplanes, schoolbuses, and ploughs​
with seedlings sprouting through discs and turning brown.​
Unlettered dwarves will burrow for warmth and shelter​
in the caves of dynamos and Plymouths, dying​
of old age at seventeen. Tribes wandering​
in the wilderness of their ignorant desolation,​
who suffer from your idleness, will burn your illuminated​
missals to warm their rickety bodies.​
Terrorists assemble plutonium because you are idle​
and industrious. The whippoorwill shrivels and the pickerel​
chokes under the government of self-love. Vacancy burns​
the air so that you strangle without oxygen like the rat​
in the biologist’s belljar. The living god sharpens​
the scythe of my prophecy to strike down the red​
poppies and the blue cornflowers. When priests and policemen​
strike my body’s match, Jehovah will flame out;​
Jehovah will suck air from the vents of bombshelters.​
Therefore let the Buick swell until it explodes;​
therefore let anorexia starve and bulimia engorge.​

Prophecy
--by Donald Hall​

I will strike down wooden houses; I will burn aluminum
clapboard skin; I will strike down garages
where crimson Toyotas sleep side by side; I will explode
palaces of gold, silver, and alabaster: the summer
greathouse and its folly together. Where shopping malls
spread plywood and plaster out, and roadhouses
serve steak and potato skins beside Alaska King Crab;
where triangular flags proclaim tribes of identical campers;
where airplanes nose to tail exhale kerosene,
weeds and ashes will drowse in continual twilight.

I reject the old house and the new car; I reject
Tory and Whig together; I reject the argument
that modesty of ambition is sensible because the bigger
they are the harder they fall; I reject Waterford;
I reject the five and dime; I reject Romulus and Remus;
I reject Martha’s Vineyard and the slam dunk contest;
I reject leaded panes; I reject the appointment
made at the tennis net or on the seventeenth green;
I reject the Professional Bowling Tour;
I reject purple bathrooms with purple soap in them.

Men who lie awake worrying about taxes, vomiting
at dawn, whose hands shake as they administer Valium,
skin will peel from the meat of their thighs.
Armies that march all day with elephants past pyramids
and roll pulling missiles past Generals weary of saluting
and past President-Emperors splendid in cloth-of-gold,
rain will dissipate soft rumps of armies. Where square miles
of corn waver above Minnesota plains, where tobacco ripens
in Carolina and apples in New Hampshire, where soybeans
turn Kansas green, where pulp mills stink in Oregon,

dust will blow in the darkness and cactus die
before it flowers. Where skiers wait for chairlifts
wearing money, low raspberries will part rib-bones.
Where the drive-in church raises a chromium cross,
dandelions and milkweed will straggle through blacktop.
I will strike from the ocean with waves afire;
I will strike from the hill with rainclouds of lava;
I will strike from darkened air
with melanoma in the shape of decorative hexagonals.
I will strike down embezzlers and eaters of snails.

I reject Japanese smoked oysters, potted chrysanthemums
allowed to die, Tupperware parties, Ronald McDonald,
Kaposi’s sarcoma, the Taj Mahal, Holsteins wearing
electronic necklaces, the Algonquin, Tunisian aqueducts,
Phi Beta Kappa keys, the Hyatt Embarcadero, carpenters
jogging on the median, and betrayal that engorges
the corrupt heart longing for criminal surrender:
I reject shadows in the corner of the atrium
where Phyllis or Phoebe speaks with Billy or Marc
who says that afternoons are best although not reliable.

Your children will wander looting the shopping malls
for forty years, suffering for your idleness,
until the last dwarf body rots in a parking lot.
I will strike down lobbies and restaurants in motels
carpeted with shaggy petrochemicals
from Maine to Hilton Head, from the Scagit to Tucson.
I will strike down hang gliders, wiry adventurous boys;
their thighbones will snap, their brains
slide from their skulls. I will strike down
families cooking wild boar in New Mexico backyards.

The landscape will clutter with incapable machinery,
acres of vacant airplanes, schoolbuses, and ploughs
with seedlings sprouting through discs and turning brown.
Unlettered dwarves will burrow for warmth and shelter
in the caves of dynamos and Plymouths, dying
of old age at seventeen. Tribes wandering
in the wilderness of their ignorant desolation,
who suffer from your idleness, will burn your illuminated
missals to warm their rickety bodies.
Terrorists assemble plutonium because you are idle

and industrious. The whippoorwill shrivels and the pickerel
chokes under the government of self-love. Vacancy burns
the air so that you strangle without oxygen like the rat
in the biologist’s belljar. The living god sharpens
the scythe of my prophecy to strike down the red
poppies and the blue cornflowers. When priests and policemen
strike my body’s match, Jehovah will flame out;
Jehovah will suck air from the vents of bombshelters.
Therefore let the Buick swell until it explodes;
therefore let anorexia starve and bulimia engorge.

When Elzira leaves the house wearing her tennis dress
and drives her black Porsche to meet Abraham,
quarrels, returns to husband and children, and sobs
asleep, drunk, unable to choose among them,
lawns and carpets will turn into tar together
with lovers, husbands, and children.
Fat will boil in the sacs of children’s clear skin.
I will strike down the nations, astronauts and judges;
I will strike down Babylon, I will strike acrobats,
I will strike algae and the white birches.

Because Professors of Law teach ethics in dumbshow,
let the Colonel become President; because Chief Executive
Officers and Commissars collect down for pillows,
let the injustice of cities burn city and suburb;
let the countryside burn; let the pineforests of Maine
explode like a kitchen match and the Book of Kells
become ash in a microsecond; let oxen and athletes
flash into grease: I return to Appalachian rocks;
I shall eat bread and prophesy through hours or millennia
of Jehovah’s day as the sky reddens above cities.

Then houses will burn, even houses of alabaster;
the sky will disappear like a scroll rolled up
and hidden in a cave from the generation of idleness.
Mountains will erupt and vanish becoming deserts
and the sea wash over the sea’s lost islands
and the earth split like a corpse’s gassy
stomach and the sun turn as black as a widow’s skirt
and the full moon grow red with blood swollen inside it
and stars fall from the sky like wind-blown apples,
while Babylon’s managers burn in the rage of the Lamb.
 

lizkat

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Haiku draws my attention today, for a break from news briefing emails imploring me in vain to read deeply their empty takes on the day.



On a branch​
floating downriver​
a cricket, singing.​
-- Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)​
(translation: Jane Hirshfield)​



Here is another from Issa, translated by Robert Hass

All the time I pray to Buddha​
I keep on​
killing mosquitoes.​
 

niji

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To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing​

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honor bred, with one
Who were it proved he lies
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbors' eyes;
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.
 
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