Tuesday, September 30, 2008

RIP Hayden Carruth (1921-2008)

Hayden Carruth


for Denise
A dark day in June. Looking across the valley
at our mosaic, the meadows, woodlots, and plowed fields
on the opposing hills, I see as through a glass

darkly, or rather as through a window
somewhere inside, semi-translucent, into
a familiarity become almost unknown with the years,

Like the sun, so often unseen in this part of the world,
a presence learned long but nearly always hidden.
It moves across the zenith. A strange noontime.

Somewhere over there are the tiny figures
of those I knew. They move, scarcely visible,
in their rounds of chores and pleasures, like people

in an ancient painting. The air shifts and darkens,
and a plume of rain falls like the lazy drift
of a window-curtain, muslin, in a whiff of wind,

and in a few seconds is gone—vanished. Hardly
enough to dampen the air. It is as if an intimation
had been given and then almost instantly withdrawn.

[originally published in Verse]

Although Hayden Carruth only contributed one poem to Verse, his work and example have been hugely important to me since I started writing, thanks in part to happening upon his Collected Shorter Poems as a fledgling poet. The incredible range--formal, stylistic, thematic--of his poems astonishes me every time I read his work. Carruth was a great poet of love, "neighborliness," music (especially jazz and the blues), old age, poverty, labor, protest, the natural world, and more. He had a very difficult life, and he endured. His anthology, The Voice That Is Great Within Us, deservedly remains in print. His criticism is a wonderful example of honest engagement with the work. He will be missed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reginald Shepherd, another poem

from Verse

Reginald Shepherd

One of Their Gods

Was he lightning poured from a smashed flute,
music carved from someone's bones
I know? Qualities absently enter his mouth
where spring and snow are the same, song
-bred, sound-led: frozen in parenthesis.

Warped windows ripple like light
snow (grayed pane a single plane
waves past, wet leaves meander
winter winds), the curtness of his lyric
body, male odalisque with unlit

cigarette: in danger all the time, in winter
falling ice, in summer falling safety
glass, blue-smoke-flowering stars
uncounted as of yet, some illion or another
night obscured by streetlights, head

-lights, an oceanic black with islands
in it, incursions of opaque color
at patterned intervals, contingencies
of trees and buildings blinking out. Club
-headed weeds, wet pebbles, my beloved

is white and muddy: these tattered
bodies sheeted in news as if it were
sleep rub off on the hands,
flowerboats spilled of all cargo.
He will scatter on black waters.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

i.m. Reginald Shepherd, 1963-2008

Reginald Shepherd

Probably Eros

The whole is not his fault, elegy
full of small bird and the light
starting to starve. Gods are sucking off
gods in alleys and I call it spring,

a gap between catasrophies
until the day I am a tree. Afterward
they smoke clove cigarettes. The reigning
bees, the rain he’s been, the present

tense ripples into form: front yard
sunflowers fascinate tomorrow’s August, days
dry grass and filled with old news, new
spores. Dead ladybugs smear windowsills

with laws of wall, good fruit become s fuel
will turn to ash: turn the latch. (Seasons
pass through me like flaws, rattling
rust-worn gates, dried gourds.) Birds

are chirring branches green and the bees
want to have sex with them, all things
are full of monetary gods, world-sick
with ritual outline and poisoned

by too much song. The beautiful
boys ruin my sky, raw meat wrapped
in silk and spoiled milk: boredom’s
ache in the shoulder blades, arms

raised in the epiphany posture.

[originally published in Verse]