Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Night Stalker

Wet shiny stones. Of course the archer tripped.
His unnotched arrow trickled to the ground,
And he stomped off, thwarted assassin, bent,
Incompetent, and loony as a grebe.

What is the point of bad guys, if it takes
A clever chappie to be nasty? Want
Is all, he told the darkness, and the cats,
Trolling for fallen nestlings, didn't care.

I meant disaster. If I had my druthers,
The gutters would run red. Babies would wail,
Alone in their bassinets. No one would come.
It's not my fault my mum smoked and my birth

Was unattended by dark prodigy
And bungled by a bonesetter half baked.
If I had my way, I'd be home in bed,
Smiling, a bloody handprint on my quilt.

Some brainy bastard cried himself to sleep.
The saintly prayed to be released. A corps
Of engineers built dams against the day
An asteroid would wallop Crater Lake.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cities of Literature

Dublin has just been named the 4th "city of literature" by UNESCO. (Right. The UN should be trusted on the subject of literature almost as much as the Nobel Prize people.) The first 3 were Edinburgh, Melbourne, and--get ready for it--Iowa City. Super. Dublin? No argument from me. Edinburgh? Sure--the train station is called "Waverly." Melbourne? Of course. Barry Humphries is from Melbourne. Iowa City? Let us move on, shall we?

How about London and Paris? Too obvious? How about Oxford, Mississippi, and Hannibal, Missouri, then? Or Denver. There's this world-class poet... .

Friday, July 23, 2010

An Anecdote of Middle Age

The stereo gathers no moss. It rocks
The lamp now bouncing closer to the edge;
My turntable will dump it on the floor
Unless I intervene. Why, you can think
A hundred divagating thoughts within
The couple seconds left to make the save,
Or not. There is a window to look out,
And spring is imminent. The Cyprian,
Who now wears lycra and a navel ring,
Instructs her votaries, commands the prone
Attention of the young and wish-they-were,
And favors sleeplessness by low-watt bulb.
Sequins are hers, and cottonwood like snow,
But pliable and weightless, borne by breeze,
Outside the window clearly, outside time.
I never liked that lamp much anyway,
Not much to rock by, at its shaded best,
Lava lamps having died so long ago,
Their tie-dyed coffins are as decomposed
As Toscanini by the grateful dead.
I save the lamp. You had to know I would.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pass me the ashes. Hold the shade.

There are moods in which Horace 4.7 seems to me the most perfect poem ever written. We no longer live in a time when every schoolchild is required to translate it, but here is a famous 4-line portion 3 times rendered into English.

Damna tamen celeres reparant caelestia lunae:
nos ubi decidimus
quo pius Aeneas, quo Tullus diues et Ancus,
puluis et umbra sumus.

Her losses soon the moon supplies,
But wretched man, when once he lies
Where Priam and his sons are laid,
Is naught but ashes and a shade.
(Johnson)

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.
(Housman)

Yet the swift moons repair Heaven's detriment:
We, soon as thrust
Where good Aeneas, Tullus, Ancus went,
What are we? dust.
(Conington)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Save your breath

An article in the CHE asks whether believers should pray for Christopher Hitchens. The best answer: Who gives a shit? Not Hitchens, I suspect, unless he is secretly pleased to know people are thinking about him, whoever those people might be (and whatever they might be thinking). The prayerful will do Hitchens neither good nor harm, of course; whether the additional smugness and self satisfaction engendered is good for those doing the praying is none of my business, though my opinion on the subject is pretty obvious.

What is most notable is the way some of the faithful have reacted. The author, Carlin Romano, quotes, "If you don't die a excruciatingly painful death, I suspect you will have months of incredible and terrible agony. Sort of like reading your articles, but not nearly as bad. You are a nasty and hateful man." Most of the community of believers will not have phrased their feelings so bluntly, but you know that a good many are smacking their lips over the notion that Their God still can deliver personal retribution. More sad than disgusting, or more disgusting than sad?

http://chronicle.com/article/No-One-Left-to-Pray-To-/66283/