Monday, March 15, 2010

In a Poetic Mood

The other day I heard someone say that whatever fairy tale you liked most when you were a girl (or I guess a boy as well...though that's not what they said) probably says a lot about the type of adult you turned into.

I had to really think about that. I wasn't sure what my favorite fairy tale was when I was young. Snow White? Not really, the witch scared me to death and the dwarfs made her clean for them all day. I mean when you think about it - all those princess fairy tales have some really awful parts - getting pricked by a spinning wheel and falling asleep for forever, having an evil wicked stepmother and stepsisters? It's all kind of scary. But the one book/story that I would pay rapt attention to over and over again was Alice in Wonderland. I loved my book and I loved to look at the illustrations. But it also seemed like a massive puzzle to me. Why is a Raven like a Writing Desk? I really wanted to know. Eventually I memorized the poem "The Jabberwocky" just because I thought it would be cool. I did that in college. I haven't repeated it in years and now I'm a little rusty on it. But I always remember that the vorpal blade went snicker snack. I don't know why but I always loved it.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Then last week Jordan came home with this huge project she had to do on Coleridge. I thought AHA! a school project I can actually help with because I know something about this. I memorized one of his poems in high school.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

I'm a little rusty on that one too, but I always remember the opening stanza. For some weird reason that poem pops into my mind on odd occasions. When Holden was in high school and he got into slam poetry I became interested in the type of poems he was memorizing. This is the type of poem he was reciting (I've mentioned this one on my blog before, but I just love it):


Mockingbirds are bad-ass.

Mockingbirds are the MC's of the animal kingdom--
they listen, and mimic, and remix what they like,
they rock the mic.
Outside my window every morning
I can hear them sing
the sounds of the car alarms
like they were songs of spring.
I mean: if you can talk it,
a mockingbird can squawk it.
So check it:

I'm gonna catch mockingbirds.
I'm gonna trap mockingbirds, all across the nation
and put them gently into mason jars
like mockingbird Molotov cocktails.
And as I drive through a neighborhood, say,
where people gotta lotta
I'll take a mockingbird I caught in a neighborhood
where folks ain't got nada
and just let it go, y'know--
Up goes the bird, out come the words:
"Juanito! Juanito! Vente a comer, mi hijo!!"

I'm gonna be the Johnny Appleseed of sounds.
Cruising random interstates and city streets,
rockin' a drop-top Cadillac with a big back seat,
packing like thirteen brown paper Wal-Mart bags
full of loaded mockingbirds.
And I'll get everybody.

I'll get the nitwit on the network news, saying:
"We'll be back in a moment with more on the crisis."
I'll get some asshole at a watering hole
asking what brand the ice is.
I'll get that lady at the laundromat
who always seems to know what being nice is.

I'll get your postman making dinner plans.
I'll get the last time you lied.
I'll get: "Honey, just give me the frikkin' T.V. Guide"
I'll get a lonely little sentence some real bad judgment in it:
"Yeah, I guess you could come inside--
but only for a minute."

I’ll get an ESL class in Chinatown, learning:
"It's raining, it's pouring..."
I'll put a mockingbird on a late-night train
just to get an old man snoring.
I'll get your ex-lover wishing someone else good morning.

Cuz I'll get everyone's good mornings,
I don't care how you make 'em:
Aloha. Konnichiwa. Shalom. A salaam malaikum.

I'll get uptown gurus, downtown teachers,
broke-ass artists, and dealers, and Filipino preachers.
Leaf blowers, bartenders, boob job doctors,
hooligans, garbagemen, your local Congressman
and the spotlight guys in the overhead helicopters.

Everybody gets heard, everybody gets this
one honest mockingbird
as a witness.

And I'm on this. I'm on this 'til the whole thing spreads
with chat rooms and copycats and moms, maybe,
tucking kids into bed, singing: "Hush little baby, don't say a word--
wait for the man with the mockingbirds."

And then come the news crews, and the man-on-the-street interviews
and the letters to the editor--everybody asking:
"Just who is responsible for this citywide,
nationwide, mockingbird cacophony?"

And somebody's finally gonna tip the city council
of Washington D.C. off to me
and they'll offer me a key to the city,
a gold-plated, over-sized key to the city,
and that's all I need, cuz if I get that--I can unlock the air.

I'll listen for what's missing--
and I'll put it there.

I've probably bored some of you to tears - but this is one more from a local Phoenix poet named Klute, that I just really like:

A Prayer for Her

She doesn't believe in God.
There's no Heaven,
No Hell,
And she's on a mission to live forever or die trying -
Me...I'm in love with dying.
While I don't want to expedite my exit
I'm also not afraid of the end,
Because I know that this world doesn't compare
To the one up there.
But all that makes me wonder
What will happen when Death does us part?
I was brought up to believe that only believers
Tip their hat to Saint Peter
And enter the Kingdom of Heaven
She's an atheist
The best she can hope for is an eternity in limbo
Hanging outside the gates of Hell,
And that's only if she's really good.
I can clean off last night's indiscretions
Through the sanctity of confession,
But when her last breath slips from her lip,
On her soul will be the stains of sin that we made together.
Now, I know we're supposed to believe that God is love,
But there is evidence to the contrary
In those bodies that bobbed in the floodwaters
And in the anguished wail of women that still echoes in the Egyptian night.
It's an odd thing to think that the woman you love
Might wind up in Hell on the basis of belief,
And most of the time I have faith in a God who isn't full of furious anger,
But I want to send this warning up to Paradise and down to the Pit:
Treat her soul with tenderness
Give her an honored place in eternity
Send flights of angels upon angels to guide her to her rest;
Because if the Almighty judges her harshly
And I've successfully received the sacrament of the sick and the dead
Know that you will find me hovering over Hades
Waiting to catch her soul to circumvent her passing into perdition
If she leaves this earth without me,
Know that on the day and the our of my death,
I will pinch the Reaper's scythe from his bony hands
And use it to pick the locks on the gates of Hell.
This will not be like when Orpheus descended
There will be no dulcet tones to bring Charon to tears
Or to sing savage Cerberus to sleep
I will lay waste to the Abyss with my love
And obliterate the Fallen with a single stare
I will snatch her from the whirlwind...
Or i will be consumed by it with her.
If there is no room for her in Heaven
I will remain with her in Hell,
For there would be no delight without her,
No ecstasy in her absence.
So God,
If you're listening,
Please understand this is not hubris,
Nor a challenge to your mysterious ways,
But as an entreaty to allow her past the Pearly Gates,
Because if my beliefs are true -
She, and atheist, is your avatar,
And that you'd really only be reclaiming in death
Something that you accidentally placed on Earth in life,
And that in your infinite wisdom
I, your lowly servant, managed to find.


Suzanne Barker said...

Makes me want to break out all my books of poems and get all poetical too! I've always loved Robert Frost.

Cynthia said...

Are you kidding me??? I can't even read those poems. And you memorized them??
Sadly, I've never been a fan of much poetry. It could possibly be because I don't understand (or take the time and effort to understand) most of it.


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