God has taken from us the sun, which loving was too much like firefly July, watching our brother kiss the girl we were too little to love but loved! with cloying loyalty anyway. A name in a notebook and the little electric leavings of her path across our sky. But must we just go sunless sad, wearing moods like wet vestments at a mirthless service? No! We kick wet leaves on the cooling coals of long November and hoist such a hard, proud December that our summerlost girl - hand still in rival’s hand - turns in a wistful flourish to look back once upon us and wish that she were half so free as we.
This one. This one, this one, this one. I have stanzas and half-stanzas and semi-stanzas and absolute brain farts all over the page on either side of this one. Gerard has an essay titled The Arrival in which he talks about not only the work involved in really writing a poem, but the way a writer can be consumed by it. The way it works and more importantly the way it doesn’t work. The fact that you cannot, as he says “pound out “Howl” in a weekend on a diet of meth.” In other words, it takes a while.
I have a few that went that way. Cavity is one. Cut is another, so is The Whole Sky, All at Once. Tons of time poured into those, and they all still need work (Cavity in particular is a weird experimental thing that I almost hate). The one I’m putting up here today is just one stanza that looked complete in the middle of a general muddle, and I have to post it just so I can break its hold for a minute and get up out of this chair.
God has taken from us the sun
which loving was too much like firefly July,
watching our brother kiss the girl
we knew we were too little to love
but loved with cloying loyalty anyway.
A name in a notebook
and the little electric leavings
of her path across our sky.
Sometimes I’m somewhere – Jesus,
it’s no poet’s dream!
A street decayingly toothed with slouched houses
dirty cars and trash bins
(every day is collection day)
where muckfoot gutters suck shoes to the potholed road
in the scum-slurry brown of Autumn’s
(Winter you shrill beast, you crook, you tyrant!
Making the robes of three seasons’ bounty
cower and tremble dead to earth
before the world can limp naked
and embarrassed into your icy bed!)
Sometimes I’m somewhere – Jesus,
yes, no dream of mine!
A street wearing hard a century’s neglect
and the slop-rotten offerings of a
beaten world’s winter-tithe
all swamped under noondark and I think
thank God I’m a poet.
This is beautiful.
I wrote this originally in 2010. I’ve made a revision or three, but it’s still hokey and cheesy in places, especially the end. Every now and then you just embrace the sentimental, and I don’t know a better time for it than the beginning of Fall. It’ll still be Fall here in May of course, and you can expect a very different brand of sentiment out of me at that point.
At Once Against and With the World
Autumn starts for me like this,
with an evening’s cold, capricious kiss,
chiding me to stay alert
that I don’t miss my turn to flirt.
I shuffle down the dim-damp walks,
with lamps on slightly swaying stalks,
shouldering the feathered leaves –
those brittle-falling summerthieves.
And here the hub of town comes near,
with its public houses pouring beer
colder even than the air.
Because it’s close and warm in there,
I go inside against the cold,
where I like to think we’re men of old,
and on every wooden bench and stool
sits a girl – an honored golden rule.
They’ve hung their woolen coats on hooks,
the boys are warming them with looks.
A suggestive stitch, a hopeful hem,
autumn’s stockings, October gems.
In here we work with noble tones
toward a sense of coming home.
Because man is tempted to his best
when woman is so smartly dressed.
When everything to do’s been done,
we wrap the prizes we have won
as close to us as we are able,
and leave the rest upon the table.
Warm within and cold without,
It’s easy to forget about
The discomfort we’re supposed to know,
And on our brazen way we go.
Fall is where the season’s heart
Truly shows the human art
Of marching out with soul unfurled –
At once against and with the world.