Check out this latest post at Roxi St. Clair. (And then spend some time roaming the site. You’ll be glad you did.)
It demonstrates an excellent understanding of the Haiku Sensibility and how to apply it in English poetry. The only suggestion I would make if I were editing the poem would be to consider the word “at” rather than “to” in the fifth line.
On the Poetry Editors and Poets list on LinkedIn, there is an ongoing discussion on what exactly is stream of consciousness and how is it used in poetry. One poster has called for members to post examples of stream of consciousness poetry. Here is my contribution. It is a poem I wrote when I was in graduate school and entered in a competition for graduate student poetry. It won honorable mention.
The Partridge, Parts I & II A Riddle and Proposed Solution By Joseph Saling
Poetry has become incestuous. Conversation with a friend, May 18, 1981
Donald E. Carr points out that the sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain. “This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it is”. Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Icarus fell because he believed one could soar too high. In my yard, flowers restore a sense of order to chaotic days. In my house, the books scream at me from many rooms. I’ve lost all power to see or know or dream of Michelangelo, of works that aren’t and never could be. In my yard foremost resides a sense of order. You know who I am. Look down. You’ll find me trampled under foot.
The quail exploded from the weeds and pheasants stretched their necks and lifted their bodies in flight. We made fires in the cleared fields.
Mowers cut the air with noise. In the yard I come and go, dreaming of Michelangelo. My hand smells of gas, sweats on the vibrating chrome, lifts to take a beer.
There’s never silence, even when the work is done; freeways never cease.
They grumble like gods’ stomachs taking Modern Communion.
In a theater, as in Plato’s cave, shadows flicker on the wall. Here there are no truck sounds, no incessant pounding, no backing machines with warning whistles; only frozen iotas from the past that pass into our future. Celluloid sound walls that block the roar from Boeings crying as the sky, molecule by molecule, is swiftly subdued. That was 43, and none of us was eager to go.
One crazy one night shot off his own toe while we waited for the boats. We all envied him being the only sane one.
Television light, pulsating energy, strokes the blades of a fan, causes it to slow, even reverse direction.
Now there is no noise; the sound’s erased them all, even the memory of crickets, only an electric whine and voices almost human on mid summer nights.
You weren’t there to see. My Lai’s only a match flame. We built other fires.
You could pass your fingers through the fan, it moves so slowly.
You know who I am. The one on the bus with the misshapen head. The one who embarrassed you with too loud talk. It’s my eyes that you refuse to look into, so mine teach you nothing. You see me talk to myself, and sigh to get off. In all this world there’s only idiots who see what is.
Visions are easy. I saw the lighted tree once in October blaze. I saw a boy fall reaching to pick an apple.
No one buried him. He fell and was drowned. I heard his parent warn him that that would happen, and he believed it. No quail were left in the field. We’d created yard.
Mowers cut the air. In my yard I come and go. I trample flowers,
and in them find a dead bird my cat has brought home to share.
Yesterday with the tree planted in its stand,
the tinsel being all that was left to do,
and the Celtic music filling the room
with the richness of its Irish brogue,
we danced, father and daughter, a jig.
And as I reached up to drape the branches
in their silver shimmer and felt the pain
make its way across my arm and chest,
I knew the last thing I would say would be
I’m glad we danced.
respect when I place
myself at the keyboard, face
bathed in blue light.
I do alright.
Not like Mary.
Fell in love with a fairy
used to come in all the time.
His name was Harry.
He’d sit here at the piano making eyes
at all the guys.
Mary never got wise.
one thing I know
can’t kiss away the blues.
Not the real blues.
Not the hollow note
deep in your throat
kind of blues
that wake you in the middle of the night
because the silence gets so loud
you can hear starlight
It’s a job.
Last week some slob
laid fifty bucks beside me.
Forget what you see,
he said. I’m not here.
My wife wouldn’t understand.
All I did was hold her hand,
not like I planned
it or anything. So I fanned
his fantasy for a while,
played My Funny Valentine and with style
closed my eyes tight.
I said, I don’t see nobody tonight.
They go away.
who’s best friends with his old lady May,
asks how’d it go.
Didn’t see a soul I know.
I tell people who come in all the time
you can’t kiss away the blues,
not those lonely in a crowd blues.
Those caged bird
watching from a swinging perch
The kind that weigh
you down even when the door is open
because you get so hungry
not even love
can fill you up.
You know when I saw you two come in
I felt sick
like I was watching someone commit
A no win
like when you begin
an undeniable urge to piss.
Maybe I shouldn’t say this.
After all I see a lot of dirt.
I’ve watched a lot of men chase a skirt.
Jesus, I don’t mean that.
It’s just when you’ve sat
where I’ve sat,
you get tired
of watching friends choose
the place you gotta be to play the blues.
There’s no way.
You can try,
but you’re gonna lose
because there’s no way
you can kiss away
…you can still catch my story “Fireflies” in the lead position of the July issue of The Bacon Review. Simply click on the title after reading the editor’s comments on the left side of the front page. If you wait, you’ll still be able to see it, but you’ll need to go to the archives section of the The Bacon Review Web site. Whether you read the story now or later in the archives, there’s space on the site for you to leave a comment. I’d like to know what you think.
Group portrait of children at their First Communion, Holyrood School, Swindon, 1949 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you know the words, sing along while you listen to the poem.
On Taking First Communion in the Hospital After He Was Struck by a Car
When he heard the angels sing, they sounded more
Like sirens. Strapped to a board, riding through
The red-lighted city, he called out for
His mother to make them stop. He’d lost a shoe.
His stomach hurt, and their song, he knew, was death.
He couldn’t see her, but he heard her speak
To men up front then say to him, It’s best
To let them be. It’s not that far. Just keep
Holding my hand. He asked her was he dying. Of course you’re not. God’s not done with you.
When they arrived, they made her let go her hold. I can’t come, she said, I have to do what I’m told,
And left him by himself in a room, lying
On a table, afraid to think what God might do.
White walls and sheets, white pillow. Pale white light
From fluorescent tubes. Even his gown is white.
The priest wears a black cassock and white surplice,
Takes out a gold case he lays on the white surface
Of the bedside table, and holds up a wafer
Whiter than the prayer book his father placed there.
What did they say he was to say? My Lord,
I am not worthy. But only say the word
And my soul will be as white as this room I’m in.
The body tastes sweet, but not as sweet as the wine
That follows. And when he hears his mother’s voice
It seems an angel speaks and says the choice
To take communion is an early sign
He surely has a place in God’s design.
Days pass, then a month. It seems forever.
Then a nun arranges them two by two.
They march across the street together.
They wait their turn in a wooden pew.
Then a nun arranges them two by two
To go inside the confessional box.
They wait their turn in a wooden pew.
They listen while the sister talks.
To go inside the confessional box,
She says, they’ll need to remember their sins.
They listen while the sister talks.
She tells them how confession begins.
She says they’ll need to remember their sins
To ask the priest to be forgiven.
She tells them how confession begins
With an act of genuine contrition.
To ask the priest to be forgiven
They march across the street together.
With an act of genuine contrition
Days pass, then a month, it seems forever.
Once in the church they stand against the wall
As sister shows them how their hands must point
To heaven and their eyes always look down
As if they were little lambs. Then she calls
Them to the altar railing. When they join
Her there, she makes them kneel. Don’t look around.
First wait, then cross your arms over your chest.
Look up, put out your tongue, and close your eyes.
Remember, remember this. Whatever you do,
Never open your mouth and never chew.
Just bow your head. You’ve the living God inside.
Let the host dissolve and know that for the rest
Of your life God will always be a part
Of you, both in your mind and in your heart.
On Sunday children gather at the school
And walk across the street, like little lambs.
They enter the church where sunlight filters through
The blues and reds of sainted glass. Their hands
Pointing to heaven, they walk down the aisle.
Sister said no first communion a second time,
And so from a place apart he watches while
Each takes the bread and sees none gets the wine.
In the vestibule he stands off to one side.
His father shakes their hands. The nuns delight
In patting heads of carefully combed hair
And call each a vessel where God abides.
He suffocates in all the filtered light
But once outside dissolves in the sun’s white glare.
A Scene from Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare: Act V, Scene i (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Oxford Dictionaries Web site says the use of the plural third person pronoun as an alternative to the “he or she” construction is actually a throwback to 16th century English and is gaining in popularity and acceptance. But I can’t help it. It sounds ignorant or just plain lazy, especially when editors, whose job is to help writers be precise and effective in their use of the language, are the ones advocating it.
Correctness in the use of language isn’t about blindly following rules. It’s about meaning and clarity. It’s about being understood. Consider this:
If your child wants good grades they need to pay attention in school and study.
Who are they? And exactly how are they going to help my child?
An editor recently told me her company (I could have said their company but chose not to) are moving toward making the use of the plural pronoun part of the house style. When I pointed out that the use of they in the sentence above is open to misinterpretation and gets in the way of effective and efficient communication, her explanation was that the copy editor had pointed out that Shakespeare had used the construction, so it is ok to use it now.
I didn’t really have an answer other than to point out that Shakespeare also used “thou” and “hath,” which didn’t impress the editor very much. But then I got to thinking that citing Shakespeare’s use as a justification for unorthodox constructions could solve some problems a lot of people worry about. Here’s a sampling of Shakespearean constructions you can point to when someone tells you you don’t speak good: