Remains of the Season

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.

The Partridge Part 1

IMG_4132On 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.

 © Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 1981, 2014

Advent Dance

Here’s something from A Matter of Mind to remember the holidays by.

The Advent Dance

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.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2014

On your way out? Here’s a poet worth taking note of. Her name’s Colleen Abel. You really should check out her two poems in the Wintere 2014 issue of The Cincinnati Review.

Piano Bar Blues

Here’s a little something from A Matter of Mind for Friday night.

Piano Bar Blues

(1)

I’m just a man
like anyone else. I can

Blue Jay

Blue Jay (Photo credit: steveburt1947)

command
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.

(2)

You know
one thing I know
is you
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
fall.

(3)

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.
Next day
my wife,
who’s best friends with his old lady May,
asks how’d it go.
Real slow,
I say.
Didn’t see a soul I know.

(4)

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
wicker domed
watching from a swinging perch
blues.

The kind that weigh
you down even when the door is open
because you get so hungry
not even love
can fill you up.

(5)

You know when I saw you two come in
I felt sick
like I was watching someone commit
sin.
A no win
situation,
like when you begin
a set
and get
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.

(4)

No,
There’s no way.
You can try,
but you’re gonna lose
because there’s no way
you can kiss away
those blues.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

Now I think I need to hear a little Ray Charles before we go.

Infinities Will Make You Cry

Where Einstein feared to tread.

The Antennae Galaxies are undergoing a collisi...

Even if you’re not sitting around contemplating either the very large or the very small universe, you owe it to yourself to watch this and then go to YouTube and subscribe to acapellascience.

The probabilities are endless. Galaxies colliding inside the head of a pin.

And if you want to know how to say hello in Russian, you can find out here.

Revision

As a writer, what type of relationship do you have with your creations?

Brian’s sense of humor isn’t right…

Revision:

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic 2013.

For another take — a magnificent take — on a writer and her character, you must see this video of a poem by by Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz. Then visit the project website at the link below.

Here is the site: A Study on Character Development.

For a Few Days More

If you hurry…

…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.

In the meantime, enjoy Ennio Morricone’s music.

Pange Lingua

Group portrait of children at their First Comm...

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

(March 5)

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.

(March 19)

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.

(April 20)

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.

(May 19)

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.

(May 24)

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.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

The music is from the Medieval Latin hymn Pange, Lingua, Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium, which means “Tell, tongue, the mystery of the glorious body.”

An editor told me they prefer to use the plural pronoun rather than he or she and be correct.

A Scene from Twelfth Night by William Shakespe...

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:

English: banner Shakespeare

English: banner Shakespeare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you want to use one part of speech for another (for instance you want to google something) Shakespeare said:

  • This day shall gentle his condition. (From Hamlet)

If you want to alter the meaning of an adjective here’s how Shakespeare did it:

  • Wherever in your sightless (= invisible) substances. (From Macbeth)
  • That is deceivable (= deceptive). (From Twelfth Night)

If you don’t want to bother checking for subject-verb agreement:

  •  These high wide hills … draws out our miles and makes them wearisome (From Richard II)

If you’re tired of determining whether it’s he or him or it’s who or whom:

  •  Yes, you may have seen Cassio and she together. (From Othello)
  • Pray you, who does the wolf love? (From Coriolanus)

If you’re not sure of how to form the comparative or superlative and it’s just too hard to look it up:

  • And his more braver daughter could control thee. (From The Tempest)
  • With the most boldest and best hearts of Rome (From Julius Caesar)

If you need to cut insignificant words (such as to or for) to stay within an arbitrary word limit:

  • As deep as to the lungs, who does me this? (From Hamlet)

I found these examples — and there’s more to see — at the Shakespeare Resource Center Web site.

Before you check it out, though, why not join the fray below…