Tuesday, April 30, 2019

National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day with the Queer Eye Guys!

To celebrate National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day today, the Queer Eye guys visited a sweet pupper named Lacey. Her handler makes a good point in the video: when you adopt a shelter pet, you save not only the life of that pet, but you make room for the shelter to take in another animal. You save two lives by adopting a shelter pet!



https://www.americanhumane.org/blog/national-adopt-a-shelter-pet-day/
https://www.humanesociety.org/
https://theshelterpetproject.org/
https://www.netflix.com/title/80160037

Monday, April 29, 2019

"When Giving Is All We Have" by Alberto Rios

It's been a wonderful National Poetry Month, and I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed sharing these superb poets and their beautiful words. For our last post of the month, let's look at a profoundly tender piece by Albert Rios (previously here) called "When Giving Is All We Have."

When Giving Is All We Have
by Alberto Rios

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.



https://www.facebook.com/albertoalvarorios

Friday, April 26, 2019

"Orange"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I have posted work by myself each Friday; for this final Friday, here is "Orange," a piece from a recent series of color poems.

Orange

Because we were in high school and he was a friend of a friend,

Because his name was Martin and he was a drummer in a punk band and drove a beat up orange 1971 Ford Bronco that belonged to his dad since it was the only car they had that was large enough to fit his drum kit,

Because I invited him to my house that night when the harvest moon was full and orange, and the evening was still warm from the sweltering day,

Because he was nervous, smiling, darting eyes, in a ripped tee shirt and leather jacket, with a new buzz cut he wanted me to see,

Because Ray Bradbury’s book THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES had just been made into a television miniseries and because there was a free-from stucco apartment complex nearby that looked like the set of the film,

Because I suggested we take a walk there among the orange glow of the bug lights at every front door that made the open air walkways seem alien,

Because I started to sing—teasing at first but then softly-- “Are you lonesome tonight?” by Elvis Presley and because Pete Farndon from The Pretenders had Elvis hair and a leather jacket,

Because he let me touch his hand, his arm, his neck while he held his breath,

Because I could feel his heart beating and he didn’t say anything,

Because his eyes showed me he wanted to but he couldn’t bring himself to do it,

Because we got back to my house and he said, “Well, I gotta go, bye,” his eyes confused, reluctant, already departing,

Because we could have, should have kissed that night and because we saw each other many times after with friends but never had that chance again,

And for no other reason.

©JEF

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "This Is The House"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I have featured song lyrics that double as poetry, and for this final installment (until next year), let's read the lyrics to a highly enigmatic, beautifully mysterious song called "This Is The House" by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, better known as Eurythmics. Taken from their 1983 sophomore album "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)"--several songs on that album are like little tone poem riddles, including the songs "Jennifer" and "This City Never Sleeps."

This Is The House
by Eurythmics

Esta es la casa (This is the house)
Este es el cerro (This is the hill)
Esta es la historia (This is the story)
Es algo chiquitito (It's a little thing)

This is the house
This is the hill
This is the story (it's a little thing)
A lock of hair
An invisible smoke trail
Nothing there but the dust and the rust
Oh, everything changes

This is your picture (it's in black and white)
This is the family having a party
There's a crack in the ceiling
And there's an open door
Nothing there but the dust and the rust
Oh, everything changes


http://eurythmics.com

Monday, April 22, 2019

"The Eighth Elegy" from THE DUINO ELEGIES by Rainer Maria Rilke

For national Poetry Month, here is "The Eighth Elegy" from Rainer Maria Rilke's epic THE DUNIO ELEGIES (previously here).

Started in 1912, but not completed until after the First World War, the ten ELEGIES are mournful and plaintive, like a traditional elegy. But there is also an anxiety present, a longing, a yearning, an élan toward… something. They are questioning, restless. The ELEGIES seem to be trying to find answers, searching for a truth about what is real—searching for a wider truth. They are searching for new ways of thinking and being.

The Eighth Elegy truly captures the difference between existence and EXISTENCE by exploring the perspective of an animal. Rilke shows that, as humans, we are trapped where we are because we are self-aware, we possess knowledge of time, of our beginning and our ending; almost as if thinking itself creates for us a type of prison (a very Buddhist idea, by the way). We know too much for our own good. But the animal looks out into the world and does not see “world”; instead the animal sees itself. When you are part of everything, there is no separation, no difference between “me” and “not-me.” This is what Rilke strives for: to see ourselves “in everything, healed and whole, forever.” This is a breathtaking idea.

The Eighth Elegy
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Robert Hunter

Animals see the unobstructed
world with their whole eyes.
But our eyes, turned back upon
themselves, encircle and
seek to snare the world,
setting traps for freedom.
The faces of the beasts
show what truly IS to us:
we who up-end the infant and
force its sight to fix upon
things and shapes, not the
freedom that they occupy,
that openess which lies so deep
within the faces of the animals,
free from death!
We alone face death.
The beast, death behind and
God before, moves free through
eternity like a river running.
Never for one day do we
turn from forms to face
that place of endless purity
blooming flowers forever know.
Always a world for us, never
the nowhere minus the no:
that innocent, unguarded
space which we could breathe,
know endlessly, and never require.
A child, at times, may lose
himself within the stillness
of it, until rudely ripped away.
Or one dies and IS the place.
As death draws near,
one sees death no more, rather
looks beyond it with, perhaps,
the broader vision of the beasts.
Lovers, serving only to obstruct
one another's view of it,
approach the place with awe...
as if by accident, it appears
to each behind that precise spot
before which the other stands...
neither can slip behind the other
and so, again, the world returns.
We behold creation's face as though
reflected in a mirror
misted with our breath.
Sometimes a speechless beast
lifts its docile head
and looks right through us.
This is destiny: to be opposites,
always and only to face
one another and nothing else.

Could that surefooted beast,
approaching from a direction
different than our own, aquire
the mental knack to think as do we,
he would spin us round
and drag us with him.
But he is without end unto himself:
devoid of comprehension,
unselfscrutinized, pure
as his outgoing glance.
We see future; he sees
eternal completion.
Himself in all.

Even so, within the alert warmth
of that animal, the weight and care
of one great sadness dwells.
He is not exempt from an unclear
memory-which subdues us as well:
the notion that what we seek was once
closer and truer by far than now...
and infinitely tender.
Here... distances unending.
There... a gentle breathing.
After that first home, this one
seems windstruck and degenerate.
O bliss of the diminutive:
creature born from a particular womb
into womb perpetual.
O delight of the mite who
leaps on, embryonic, though
his wedding day impends!
All is womb to him.
But observe the lesser
certainty of the birds
who seem to know both
circumstances, by
very birthright, like
some Etruscan soul rising from
the cadaver of a sarcophagus
sculpted with its tenant's face.
Imagine the general bafflement
of anything born of the womb
and required to take flight!
Frightened by its very self, it
cuts the air with fractured arcs,
jagged as bat tracks, cracking
the porcelain sky of evening.

We are, above all, eternal spectators
looking upon, never from,
the place itself. We are the
essence of it. We construct it.
It falls apart. We reconstruct it
and fall apart ourselves.

Who formed us thus:
that always, despite
our aspirations, we wave
as though departing?
Like one lingering to look,
from a high final hill,
out over the valley he
intends to leave forever,
we spend our lives saying
goodbye.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter 2019!

Happy Easter and happy spring renewal to all!


Easter developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre, derived from the Anglo-Saxon Pagan month of Eostur-monath (which roughly corresponds to our month of April). This month was named after the goddess Ēostre or Ostara who symbolized the dawn, spring, renewal, and rebirth of the earth after the long winter.

Now we celebrate by decorating eggs, a symbol of birth and fertility and new growth, and with chocolate rabbits, since bunnies are also a symbol of spring.

When I was little, I always loved Easter time because my grandmother displayed vases of daffodils and lilies, and panoramic sugar eggs around the house. And my aunt hollowed out eggs, cut a window in the side of the shell, and painstakingly assembled pastoral scenes inside using miniature trees and flowers, and tiny ceramic rabbits to make literal panoramic eggs. But the best part was the Easter Bunny who came to deliver beautifully dyed and decorated eggs in a basket full of chocolate and treats; my mom and dad would guide me through the house with clues as to where the Easter Bunny hid my basket (thanks Mom and Dad--I miss you)!

I hope the Easter Bunny brought you some treats! Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bunnies 2019

I always say: if you want to see a grown man turn into a five-year old boy, just show me bunnies.

Friday, April 19, 2019

"Red"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am posting work by myself each Friday; here is "Red," a recent piece from a series of color poems.

Red

The boy stands among
men before the mirror,
seeing others only in reflection
Careful with his company, he freezes
in the light, turns to alabaster
Eyes and lips sewn shut
Widower even before love
Careful with his company,
not to get snared in the bloodline

Not daring, holding his breath,
the price of survival
A dozen vials of red: a way to
calm, a talisman to ward
Every dance song an elegy,
moving in the crimson light
Each nervous smile a reason
So scared of something
happening
or not happening
or of what could
or couldn’t work

Hovering over the club, the bar,
everyone there, a specter
Vigilance, weariness,
young faces, old expressions,
the specter at the corner of their eyes
Held his breath for a decade,
Lived with the specter, vigilance,
without a right to complain or cry
without a vision of a time to
learn to stand inside his life,
life itself, not the story of it
A time to learn again
to breathe,
in and out,
at ease,
each breath followed by another,
heart still beating

©JEF

BEAUTY: Egg Art For Easter--Elisa Sheehan

Elisa Sheehan makes gorgeous art from eggshells based on the Japanese art of kintsugi (previously here) where a piece of broken pottery is fixed using gold. This highlights the crack and the repair, giving the object a sense of history, of use, and of extra value. Sheehan does the same with eggshells which of course must be broken to be used. In her statement about her kintsugi eggs, she says, "I’ve always loved the Japanese art of “kintsugi” wherein broken pottery is repaired with gold and rather than trying to disguise the break or flaw, it is highlighted and therefore elevated to a status of beauty. Its age is celebrated, its history is seen, its flaws are revered. I think it’s a good way to think about ourselves, others and our relationships as we age - not to try to look like our former, younger selves but to embrace our “breaks and flaws” and to honor them and see the beauty in them."


https://elisasheehan.com/

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Poem In Your Pocket Day 2019

Every April during National Poetry Month, one day is set aside for Poem In Your Pocket Day, a day when people take a favorite poem with them through their day to share with the world. This year, the event is today, April 18th, 2019. Today I will be sharing the powerful, urgent "Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti...in honor of his hundredth birthday last month but also because we live in desperate times and this poem is needed.

Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "Pulse" and "We Love You"

For this installment of The Poetry of Rock n' Roll in honor of National Poetry Month, I give you a two-fer of rock songs that also double as true poetry.

Formed in 1977 as an art rock/punk outfit, The Psychedelic Furs (previously here) burst onto the music scene in 1980 with an eponymously titled album which featured some startling, stream-of-consciousness songs. Staccato lyrics both in sound and meaning meld with a sense of contempt for the modern world expressed in sarcasm or a heightened examination of the minutia and everyday objects of 20th century culture. Such isolation and scrutiny inevitably results in making the minutia of life seem ridiculous, thus protesting the ways the modern world reduces and dehumanizes us. Indeed, there are ways that the lyrics of The Furs remind me of the Beat Poets...

There are also recurring motifs on each song on the album, things like "bodies that scream," the colors red or blue, cars, dreaming, and religion.

Pulse
by The Psychedelic Furs

My baby paints herself red
She paints her hair
Her hair is dead
She's living in the city
With the bodies that scream
We are all Jesus
We all dream

See the dancer in there reeling
Paint the sky upon the ceiling

Four useless gods upon a day
So blinded by the filth on Sunday
Saying the words for the idiots
You are lyrical drivel
Optical sewer

Listen to the flowers fall
Paint the words upon the wall

This is the pulse of fools like you
Who sound so red and turn so blue
The sound of uselessness in slumber
The war is over if you want

See the dancer semen reeling
Paint the sea upon the ceiling

Pulse

My baby paints herself red
She paints her hair
Her hair is dead
She's living in the city
With the bodies that scream
We are all Jesus
We all dream

See the dancer semen reeling
Paint the sky upon the ceiling

That's pulse




We Love You
by The Psychedelic Furs

Oh, we all dream

I'm in love with Catholics
I'm in love with your blue cars
I'm in love with the words that scream
We are so stupid, we all dream

I'm in love with Frank Sinatra
Fly me to the moon
I'm in love with fools like you
I'm in love with doing the twist

I'm in love with the bodies that scream
They fall so far, they fall so far
I'm in love with The Supremes
Oh, 'Baby Love'

I'm in love with Sophia Loren
I'm in love with Bridget Bardot
I'm in love with the whole dumb scene
I'm so in love, you know what I mean

I'm in love with Althea and Donna
All that sh*t that goes uptown top ranking

I'm in love with The Factory
I'm in love with the BBC
I'm in love with your TV
They're so in love with you and me

(I'm in love with) A nuclear bomb it falls
(I'm in love with) Shopping city dreams
(I'm in love with) Real men they go
Through the air for oxygen

Love is just a car like you
That turns so blue and turns so blue
No blue cars will run my world
No playboys will black my word

I would walk a million smiles
For one of your miles, Bob
Hey, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop

We love you, we love you, we love you
We love you, we love you, we love you
We love you, we love you


http://www.thepsychedelicfurs.com/

Monday, April 15, 2019

"The Last Suit" by Ted McNulty

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am featuring special poems by special poets each Monday. This is a touching, poignant poem by Ted McNulty.

The Last Suit
By Ted McNulty

In the men's department
of Clery's, the pensioner
shy of what he's doing
asks for something dark,
then feels satin lining
around his shoulders,
and the trousers like boards
down his legs,
and he will tell
the fitter if he asks
the suit is for a christening.


Poet Ted McNulty died in 1998, the year this poem was published.

Friday, April 12, 2019

"Indigo"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am posting work by myself each Friday; here is "Indigo," a recent piece from a series of color poems. This is about and dedicated to a dear friend who died last summer.

Indigo
(for Odette)

The psychedelia of the tiny Catholic chapel
from her childhood school dormitory:
incense haze, echoes, kaleidoscopic glass,
it was truly something when she was ten years old,
but nothing compared to this.

When she recited her mantra,
flew across the room at the meditation retreat
and watered the earth with her tears,
it still wasn’t enough.
She flirted with mystery, loved to take
the unknown road just to
see where it led. To make a connection.
To come full circle.

The murky space between day and night,
not afternoon, not yet evening,
with its cool, glaucous light was
her favorite time of day,
a lacuna tucked between two planes.

The walls came down,
no compass or map,
she is crackling light now,
unlimited…
to come full circle,
to see where it leads,
here she goes
into the vast indigo.

©JEF

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "A Waste Land"

To observe National Poetry Month, once a week I am featuring lyrics of rock n' roll or pop songs that also double as exquisite poetry.

This is a very short but succinct piece by Bryan Ferry called "A Wasteland" from his 1985 album "Boys and Girls." While the music is quite haunting, we are focusing on the lyrics and in this case, brevity is power.

A Waste Land
by Bryan Ferry

When love's gone,
There's no one...
A waste land,
A ghetto.

When love's gone,
A tear on
A waste land...
Your pillow.



http://bryanferry.com/

Monday, April 8, 2019

"'N'em" by Jericho Brown

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am featuring special poems by special poets each Monday. Here is an absolutely beautiful poem about integrity, dignity, love, family, and community by the amazingly talented Jericho Brown.

'N'em
By Jericho Brown

They said to say goodnight
And not goodbye, unplugged
The TV when it rained. They hid
Money in mattresses
So to sleep on decision.
Some of their children
Were not their children. Some
Of their parents had no birthdates.
They could sweat a cold out
Of you. They’d wake without
An alarm telling them to.
Even the short ones reached
Certain shelves. Even the skinny
Cooked animals too quick
To catch. And I don’t care
How ugly one of them arrived,
That one got married
To somebody fine. They fed
Families with change and wiped
Their kitchens clean.
Then another century came.
People like me forgot their names.


http://www.jerichobrown.com/

Friday, April 5, 2019

"Man Of This Moment"

In honor of National Poetry Month, I will be posting work by myself each Friday; here is a recent poem, "Man Of This Moment."

Man Of This Moment

His compass points in all directions.
The daytime is gilded in sun light but the sky is dark
with dots of sprinkled stars and a humming moon.

He was never good with spoken words but now
he yearns to tell someone
and transmit to them everything.
His silence is no longer ruminative.

The wind tickles the tall grass, he walks across these
open fields edged by slim, velvety trees,
carrying a large black and white cat who tells him
stories of comfort, of times gone by.
He likes the companionship.
He has lost his distrust of all people,
there is no need for it now.
If he came across another, he would
look at them with the sense of a
blank paper, free of marks or notes.

His thinning hair, his frame no longer thin
like when he was in high school, his letterman jacket
in black and red leather, snug and small, a warm
fuzzy knight on the breast.
He is flexible.

He is waiting for the meteors.
He feels as though he just saw them
but here they come again.

©JEF

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Poetry of Rock n' Roll: "America"

In honor of National Poetry Month, once a week I will be featuring lyrics of rock n' roll or pop songs that also double as exquisite poetry.

To begin with, let's examine a piece by a prolific songwriter. Paul Simon wrote this song "America" for him and his partner Art Garfunkel to sing on their 1968 concept album "Bookends." Rock journalist Bud Scoppa said, "the record is a meditation on the passage of life and the psychological impact of life's irreversible, ever-accumulating losses". The stunning song cycle also describes the life and death of the romantic ideal of the American Dream and this song addresses that theme with brevity and grace. There was a tremendous amount of social change and dissatisfaction at that time (the Black Panthers formed two years earlier, the Summer of Love was happening, the Altamont riots happened the following year, and the Kent State Shootings would happen two years later), a groundswell of young people questioning a rather empty way of life they were simply expected to inherit and follow, and be quiet about it.

As usual, I am presenting this song (and all songs this month) with lyrics only since that is what I am focusing on. But this is a song where the music--a gentle and naïve melody, and a quirky arrangement that is playful but world-weary--is necessary to get the complete picture. Do Google it and give it a listen.

America
by Paul Simon

"Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag"
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

"Cathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America"

Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat"
"We smoked the last one an hour ago"
So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

"Cathy, I'm lost," I said though I knew she was sleeping
"And I'm empty and aching and I don't know why"
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America



http://www.paulsimon.com/

Monday, April 1, 2019

"In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See..." by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

In honor of National Poetry Month, I will be presenting special works by selected poets each Monday in April.

And let's start this month with a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, legendary poet, artist, publisher, and co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, who just celebrated his 100th birthday on March 24, 2019!

In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See...
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see
the people of the world
exactly at the moment when
they first attained the title of
‘suffering humanity’
They writhe upon the page
in a veritable rage
of adversity
Heaped up
groaning with babies and bayonets
under cement skies
in an abstract landscape of blasted trees
bent statues bats wings and beaks
slippery gibbets
cadavers and carnivorous cocks
and all the final hollering monsters
of the
‘imagination of disaster’
they are so bloody real
it is as if they really still existed

And they do

Only the landscape is changed

They still are ranged along the roads
plagued by legionnaires
false windmills and demented roosters
They are the same people
only further from home
on freeways fifty lanes wide
on a concrete continent
spaced with bland billboards
illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness

The scene shows fewer tumbrils
but more strung-out citizens
in painted cars
and they have strange license plates
and engines
that devour America

Happy National Poetry Month 2019!

April is National Poetry Month, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets since 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.


How to celebrate?

Read your favorite poet again.
Read some new poetry.
Find a new favorite poet.
Write some poetry.
Leave poems for people to find in public places.
Read poetry out loud to family and friends.
Dream a poem.

Throughout April, I'll be posting poems, some by me, some by others, as well as a series of lyrics to popular songs that double as exquisite poetry.

And this year, Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 18th! Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

Poem in Your Pocket Day was originally initiated in 2002 by the Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, as part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States, encouraging individuals around the country to join in and channel their inner bard. In 2016, the League of Canadian Poets extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada.

Happy National Poetry Month!

https://www.poets.org/