O. P. P…..

...or Other Person's Poems...


So, The Cruelest Month (April, National Poetry [Writing] Month) is 
almost upon us.

I have decided to undertake a variation or permutation of the 
Poem-A-Day project, something that I haven't done with any kind of 
real stick-to-it-ive-ness since about 2015, according to my records.

This year, since I have extra time, I've decided to do (again) not just 
NaPoWriMo but NaPoReadMo....as I did way back in 2015...

I have decided to read and post here one poem a day for the month of 

I am actually toying with the idea of doing TWO poems a day. One of 
my own as well as one by a favorite poet of mine.

We'll see how my time and stamina go....

In preparation for this I am sharing this piece by the poet, Loren 
Eiseley, Why Did They Go?

There were many lines in this poem that struck me and rang bell after 
bell in my belfry so I decided to type it out into my file of favorites 
on my computer (something that I have gotten in the habit of doing 
over the last few years with particularly memorable poems).

As I have been reading and rereading this poem over the last few days, 
it has struck me more and more just how timely and timeless this piece 

Eiseley has a way of making you feel that you are looking down the 
long corridors of time and history and pre-history and on even 
into the foggy future.

So, here you go.....

(Uh, I should note that the soundtrack to this and probably many 
upcoming readings is provided by the sonic symphony of our new 
environs, Wabash and Tholozan Avenues, Interstate 44 and the 
Burllington-Northern, San Francisco Railway Hub....as heard
from our front porch...)

Why Did They Go
by Loren Eiseley

Why did they go, why did they go away—
plesiosaurs, fish-reptiles, pterodactyls of the air,
triceratops beneath an armored shield and frills of thorn,
tyrannosaurs with little withered hands, but jaws more huge
than anything that stalks the modern world—
why did they go?
		     Were they
			         in the egg vulnerable?
But then there trotted after, through green glades,
			         horses the size of collies,
			         gracefully stepping cats
with teeth like knives.  They roared, they roared,
					         and then they struck,
	finding the jugular like adept assassins,
	searching through aeons till they came upon, in turn,
	camels, musk-oxen, antelope, and deer,
also the throats of bison heavy-maned with giant horns.
Mammoth, mastodon, beyond the knives of even such as these,
			they also ebbed away as the ice ebbed,
as the first wolves grew scarcer, and as man, naked, shook
his first flint-headed spear that had at last outsprung 
the giant cats. Why did they go, through eras, centuries, the strong,
							the strongest?
No one knows.
		Now man is master here with leaping death,
grenades, flame-throwers, the power of solar-flares,
					the force to hurl
missiles against the moon.  Now man is master here, a dinosaur,
	Gorgon, perhaps, incarnate once again.
Note the shrunk arms, bipedal gait, contrived
bulldozer jaws, but delicately manipulating still
						  with small dry hands
his final test-tube death.
			    There they all lie, pteranodon,
the deadly cats, dire wolves, cave lions, giant bears,
caught in the strata not to be returned.
Man deadly, deadlier, magical of brain, is he
					   truly other?
His seeming kind, the scaled ones of another age, 
						  roved the wide seas,
basked in the sun, stalked, grew
invincible, while tiny mammals watched
behind fern fronds so long an age passed as though it held
a wizardry that kept all shapes inviolate.

Why did the lizards go?  Why did the cats who carried
Florentine daggers in their delicate mouths
see fit to slip away?  Why did the swift wild horses,
					       giant condors, go,
				  the finest of their kind?
Why did they leave the Gila monster, mountain rattler,	
							hooded cobra,
					   safe, still, within the night?
Man had not come with that all-sinister devouring brain.	

Why did they go?  Because
time and the world love change.  No answer really, but I stare
							         and ask
what clock ticks in the heart.  We, too, have come
most recently from caverns in the rocks.  Our flesh is linked 
							     to these
great bones that we recover.  Have a care,
even in the symbol-shifting brain we may be
		unable to escape prophetic things.  We may
be wandering our own way on the roads of night, hearing the howl,
	           the guttural laugh of that which will replace us.

Soft-stepping cats, even the great wolves from the endless snow—
I will come and lie beside you comfortably.
It is the way 
		written in rocks,
					the way
of that mysterious nature I have ever followed.
Only the cause escapes me.  I am restless, 
comprehend quiet, am prepared to sleep
as few men are, given the time when plants from the wild fields
shower their seed and carefree rabbits hop
upon Fifth Avenue, when all of us are gone, not I alone.
		    Why do we go?  The rocks give back
strange answers, if at all.  Brother pteranodon,
I would have liked your wings;
		        your lifted head, proud sabertooth, to snarl;
		        mammoth, to trudge the world.
I am not sure I love
  	     the cruelties found in our blood
	     from some lost evil tree in our beginnings.
May the powers forgive and seal us deep
			     when we lie down.
May harmless dormice creep and red leaves fall
	 over the prisons where we wreaked our will,
Dachau, Auschwitz, those places everywhere.
If I could pray I would pray long for this.


(...coming back to my words, through the words of others...)

(...I am still saying thanks, still he is giving, gone one year ago...)

by W. S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you 
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings 
we are running out of the glass rooms 
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky 
and say thank you 
we are standing by the water thanking it 
smiling by the windows looking out 
in our directions 

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging 
after funerals we are saying thank you 
after the news of the dead 
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you 
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators 
remembering wars and the police at the door 
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you 
in the banks we are saying thank you 
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us 
our lost feelings we are saying thank you 
with the forests falling faster than the minutes 
of our lives we are saying thank you 
with the words going out like cells of a brain 
with the cities growing over us 
we are saying thank you faster and faster 
with nobody listening we are saying thank you 
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is

By W. S. Merwin

I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war
don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity
just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice
he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally
it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop
he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England
as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry
he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention
I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't
you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write

(Two of my favorite poems by my favorite poet, on the 
anniversary of his death.)
(Difficult if not impossible to pick favorites, really, 
but these two seem timely.)

(With many thanks to Whimsy Mimsy 
for the connections, for the muddled thoughts...)

(...let us stay deep in tides of our own...)
(...until the words come drifting by...)

Form (Less)


How do we dress...

...these forms... 

...that we find in the night?

Are they so ancient within us... 

...that they disappear... 

...into that with which we clothe them?

Do they hide behind... 

...what we put upon them?

Are they only there...

...as long as we look... 

...or as deeply as we see?

Or do we peer into a dark... 

...and empty... 


Rust Belt Buckle


Ms. Rebecca Moon Ruark over at Rust Belt Girl has been kind enough to share “Watching Time”, a little “phoetic essay” that I put together about my home town on the Old Mississippi.

I strongly encourage you to go check out her blog, especially her amazing story, ‘Recruit’, the print and audio versions of which are featured on Flock Literary Journal. Well worth the read AND the listen. A really touching and edgy story, well-presented by herself.

Many thanks, Rebecca!