29 July 2012

That I did first kiss a Queen: Found Poetry

Being demanded what he thought of God,
             he answers that he was a good old man; 
and what of Christ,
             that he was a towardly young youth;
and of his soul,
            that it was a great bone in his body;
and what should become of his soul after he was dead,
           that if he had done well he should be put into a pleasant green meadow.
A 17th-C man on his deathbed. J. F. C. Harrison, The Common People of Great Britain.

Item: one cliff, one dungeon, one hell-mouth, one Dido's tomb.
 Item: eight pits, one ladder for Phaeton to ascend to heaven.
Item: two sponge-cakes and one city of Rome.
Item: one golden fleece, two gibbets, one laurel tree.
Item: one wooden vault of heaven, one head of the prophet Mahomet.
Item: three heads of Cerberus, snakes from
Faustus, one lion, two lion's heads, one big horse with legs.
Item: one pair of red gloves, three kings' crowns, one scaffold for the execution of John.
Item: one pot for boiling the Jew.
Item: four sets of vestments for Herod, one green cloak for Mariamne, one jacket for Eve, one costume for the Holy Spirit and three Spanish noble's hats.
Theatrical inventory from 1598 noted by Meyerhold. 

It is not the black clothes that are trying to the sight
-- black is the steadiest of all colours to work at;
white and all bright colours makes the eyes water
after looking at 'em for any long time;
but of all colours scarlet,
       such as is used for regimentals, 
is the most blinding.
It seems to burn the eyeballs, and make them ache dreadful
       . . . everything seems all of a twitter
       and to keep changing its tint.
There's more military tailors blind than any others.
H. Mayhew in R. Hughes, The Fatal Shore. 

Cohen said she "took off her dress" backstage
and was about
one Gatorade-bucket slam from a full dugout pout
when somebody said to sequin up because she was about to medal
Seattle PI, Winter Olympics 2006.

I now took them to Westminster Abbey and there did show them the tombs very finely,
having one with us alone . .
and here we did see, by perticular favour,
the body of Queen Katherine of Valois,
and had her upper part of her body in my hands.
And I did kiss her mouth, 
reflecting upon it that I did kiss a Queen,
and that this was my birthday, 36 years old,
that I did first kiss a Queen.
Samuel Pepys


22 July 2012

The Creation

The Creation

                      by James Weldon Johnson

And God stepped out on space, 
And he looked around and said:
I'm lonely—
I'll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That's good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That's good!

Then God himself stepped down—
And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas—
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed—
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled—
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again, 
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.

Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That's good!

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun, 
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I'm lonely still.

Then God sat down—
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I'll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky, 
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen.      Amen.

15 July 2012

Song of the Unseen Bird

Song of the Unseen Bird

                       H. L. Spelman 

To walk so long with her in so much quiet
Then hear that unseen bird, whose name
I don’t know, wouldn’t know where to find,
Singing somewhere among the leaf sheen,
Was to realize why, when his beloved hero-killer
Resolves at last to die, Homer gives us
Not the laments the sea nymphs wail
But the nonsense song of their limpid names
He makes up: Limnoreia and Doto and Proto
And sometimes there are no words
And Kallianassa and Kymodoke and Maera
And sometimes no words could be sad enough.

Ashwing, Seedquit, Spotted Larmer:
Tee-way tee-wee tee-wooo
you sang to us.

08 July 2012

As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying *

             William Faulkner


Pa and Vernon are sitting on the back porch. Pa is tilting snuff from the lid of his snuff-box into his lower lip, holding the lip outdrawn between thumb and finger. They look around as I cross the porch and dip the gourd into the water bucket and drink.
         "Where's Jewel?" pa says. When I was a boy I first learned how much better water tastes whicn it has set a while in a cedar bucket. Warmish-cool, with a faint taste like the hot July wind in cedar trees smells. it has to set a least six hours and be drunk from a gourd. Water should never be drunk from metal.
         And at night it is better still. I used to lie on the pallet in the hall, waiting until I could hear them all asleep, so I could get up and go back to the bucket, It would be black, the shelf black, the still surface of the water a round orifice in nothingness, where before I stirred it awake with the dipper I could see maybe a star or two in the bucket, and maybe in the dipper a star or two before I drank. After than I was bigger, older. Then I would wait until they all went to sleep so I could lie with my shirt-tail up, hearing them asleep, feeling myself without touching myself, feeling the cool silence blowing upon my parts and wondering if Cash was yonder in the darkness doing it too, had been doing it perhaps for the last two years befor I could have wanted to or could have.
         Pa's feet are badly splayed, his toes cramped and bent and warped, with no toenail at all on his little toes, from working so hard in the wet in homemade shoes when he was a boy. Beside his chair his brogans sit. They look as thought they had been hacked with a blunt aze out of pig iron. Vernon has been to town. I have never seen him go to town in overalls. His wife, they say. She taught school too, once.
         I fling the dipper dregs to the ground and wipe my mouth on my sleeve. it is going to rain before morning. Maybe before dark. "Down to the barn," I say. "Harnessing the team."
Down there fooling with that horse. He will go on through the barn, into the pasture. The horse will not be in sight; he is up there among the pine seedlings, in the cool. Jewel whistles, once and shrill. The horse snorts, then Jewel sees him, glinting for a gaudy instant among the blue shadows. Jewel whistles again; the horse comes dropping down the slope, stiff-legged, his ears cocking and flicking, his mis-matched eyes rolling, and fetches up twenty feet away, broadside on, watching Jewel over his shoulder in an attitude kittenish, and alert.
        "Come here, sir," Jewel says. He moves. Moving that quick his coat, bunching, tongues swirling like so many flames. With tossing mane and tail and rolling eye the horse makes another short curvetting rush and stops again, feet bunched, watching Jewel. Jewel walks steadily toward him, his hands at his sides. Save for Jewel's legs they are like two figures carved for a tableau savage in the sun.
         When Jewel can almost touch him, the horse stands on his hind legs and slashes down at Jewel. then Jewel is enclosed by a glittering maze of hooves as by an illusion of wings among them, beneath the upreared chest, he moves with the flashing limberness of a snake. For an instant before the jerk comes onto his arms he sees his whole body earth-free, horizontal, whipping snake-limber, until he finds the horse's nostrils and touches earth again. Then they are rigid, motionless, terrific, the horse back-thrust on stiffened, quivering legs, with lowered head; Jewel with dug heels, shutting off the horse's wind with one hand, with the other patting the horse's neck in short strokes myriad and caressing, cursing the horse with obscene ferocity.
         They stand in rigid terrific hiatus, the horse trembling and groaning. Then Jewel is on the horse's back. He flows upward in a stooping swirl like the lash of a whip, his body in midair shaped to the horse. For another moment the horse stands spraddled, with lowered head before it bursts into motion. They descend the hill in a series of spine-jolting jumps, Jewel high, leechlike on the withers, to the fence where the horse bunches to a scuttering halt again.
         "Well," Jewel says, "you can quit now, if you got a-plenty."
         Inside the barn Jewel slides running to the ground before the horse stops. The horse enters the stall, Jewel following. Without looking back the horse kicks at him, slamming a single hoof into the wall with a pistol-like report. Jewel kicks him in the stomach; the horse arches his neck back, crop-toothed; Jewel strikes him across the face with his fist and slides on to the trough and mounts upon it. Clinging tot he hay-rack he lowers his head and peers out across the stall tops and through the doorway. The path is empty; from here he cannot even hear Cash sawing. He reaches up and drags down hay in hurried armsful and crams it into the rack.
         "Eat," he says. "Get the goddamn stuff out of sight while you got a chance, you pussel-gutted ** bastard. You sweet son of a bitch," he says.

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying. First published 1930. Vintage Press 1990, from the 1985 corrected edition, 10-13.

* Agamemnon to Odysseus, Odyssey XI: "As I lay dying the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyes for me as I descended into Hades."  
** Pussel-gutted = bloated.

01 July 2012

The Byelaws

The Byelaws

                       Glyn Maxwell

Never have met me, know me well,
tell all the world there was little to tell,
say I was heavenly, say I was hell,
harry me over the blasted moors
but come my way, go yours.

Never have touched me, take me apart,
trundle me through my town in a cart,
figure me out with the aid of a chart,
finally add to the feeble applause
and come my way, go yours.

Never have read me, look at me now,
get why I'm doing it, don't get how,
other way round, have a rest, have a row,
have skirmishes with me, have wars,
O come my way, go yours.

Never have left me, never come back,
mourn me in miniskirts, date me in black,
undress as I dress, when I unpack pack,
yet pause for eternity on all fours
to come my way, go yours.

Never have met me, never do,
never be mine, never even be you,
approach from a point it's impossible to
at a time you don't have, and by these byelaws,
come my way, go yours.

TLS, April 6, 2012.