Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Feeding time

Once there was a time when bird song heralded the beginning and the end. Of days and nights. As resolutely as the hands of a clock, but much less painfully. All that remains now are ghostly wisps. And a memory slowly unraveling, thread by thread. Did the robin sing that tune? Did the titmouse sit on this branch? Once we were so young and green. Where did the time go?

It is not quite an attempt to catalogue what time has done to us but a measure of what we did in our time.

Thursday, 14 April 2011


We had the problem of age, the problem of wishing to linger.
Not needing, anymore, even to make a contribution.
Merely wishing to linger: to be, to be here.

And to stare at things, but with no real avidity.
To browse, to purchase nothing.
But there were many of us; we took up time. We crowded out
our own children, and the children of friends. We did great damage,
meaning no harm.

We continued to plan; to fix things as they broke.
To repair, to improve. We traveled, we put in gardens.
And we continued brazenly to plant trees and perennials.

We asked so little of the world. We understood
the offense of advice, of holding forth. We checked ourselves:
we were correct, we were silent.
But we could not cure ourselves of desire, not completely.
Our hands, folded, reeked of it.

How did we do so much damage, merely sitting and watching,
strolling, on fine days, the grounds of the parks, the arboretum,
or sitting on benches in front of the public library,
feeding pigeons out of a paper bag?

We were correct, and yet desire pursued us.
Like a great force, a god. And the young
were offended; their hearts
turned cold in reaction. We asked

so little of the world; small things seemed to us
immense wealth. Merely to smell once more the early roses
in the arboretum: we asked
so little, and we claimed nothing. And the young
withered nevertheless.

Or they become like stones in the arboretum: as though
our continued existence, our asking so little for so many years, meant
we asked everything.

Arboretum a poem by Louise Glück.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


In the tiny corner of this tiny part of that tiny speck suspended in a sunbeam* April is celebrated as the National Poetry Month. Which is absolutely marvelous. We need not just one day but 30 days at a stretch to bring to the frontal conscience of the world at large, that which is important. Well, a tiny part this maybe but it does think it’s the edge (or is it the end?) of the world and of all western civilization. So February is devoted to Black History and March to Women’s History and then comes April. And with the advent of spring comes poetry. But naturally.

Most people have a difficult relationship with poetry that is if they bother to have any relationship at all. But that’s just because they read bad poems or more likely they don’t read enough poems. Or even more likely because they don’t know how to read poems. But those concerns for a month at least are laid to rest. Every publication worth it’s weight in ink is publishing poems. And for those who read all (and any kind of poems), read a lot of poems and often enough know exactly how they ought to be read this is marvelous. Ah! But I already said that.

When confronted with so many poems, and so many unheard of poems you know what is even more marvelous? Coming upon one that echoes something you felt in the not so recent past. And if that happens before you have emptied your cup of coffee in the morning it is beyond marvelous.

K. 453
Karl Kirchwey
(from The New York Review of Books)

On May 27, 1784,
   as he followed Vienna’s back streets home,
Mozart paused, startled, by a pet shop door
   and listened to the allegretto theme

from his own piano concerto in G-Major
   repeated by a starling in a cage.
He’d written it only five weeks before—
   had God given them both the same message?

He counted out thirty-four copper Kreutzer.
   Pleasure was like the iridescent sheen
in the dark plumage: an imagination livelier,
   perhaps, more fecund and ready than his own!

He entered this in his new quarto accounts ledger,
   but where the price should go, he wrote the tune
instead—transcribed it a second time, rather—
   and then, in his small hand, wrote Das war schön.**

*For me April till now has been about Carl Sagan for no particular reason at all except there are times when he is sorely missed.
**that was beautiful