Sunday, June 21, 2015

June in Bloom in Verse-Virtual: A Garden of Verse

            The days of June go flying by. Why does this happen when the the 'days' are actually longer? Sometimes things move too fast to pose them for a picture and get the details right. Then we try to reconstruct the good moments, and the sad ones, looking back.
            However, as David Graham says in his poem in the June issue of Verse-Virtual, "Home Movie 1930," when too much time passes the images we keep have "gone historical." 
            The poem continues: 

          we cannot trust the past to tell us

            anything anymore, or even to speak
            in the same language.
            I particularly admired the poem's closing evocation of the lost time of home movies: "as toddlers stagger after balls on the gray lawn— all still moving their mouths as if underwater."
            WF Lantry's poem "A Season's Requiem" has a similar looking-backwards address. The poet remembers a singer's voice in a time of grief with these beautifully paced lines:
          grafting her harmonies across my pain,
            changing my loosened tethers into bonds,

            her voice, like shifted days, answers my thirst
            with early rain, and brings to mourning, ease.
            Still on the subject of lost times and remembered persons, I felt a personal pang on reading Alan Clark's poem "For My Father." The poem seemed to express the desire for a closer connection in a better place -- beautifully encapsulated in the lines --
          Where all the little wars we didn’t want to fight
            Are forgiven, are as if they’d never been, were only
            A few minor discords in the sovereign light of love
             If we wish to fly away to that better place, perhaps we can follow the birds. In Barbara Crooker's poem "The Green Blouse" (written after a painting by Bonnard reproduced in the journal), the poet tells us of two bluejays "bluer than the sky/ and they know it." These fortunate creatures have the perfect attitude toward the passing days of June of any other other month:
          ....Every day, there’s another cup of sunlight.
            They tilt back their heads, and they drink it all in.
             One the subject of birds, Emily Strauss's delightful "Index of Western Birds of North America" consists of 18 photos and accompanying one-line poems. I was particularly intrigued by a bird named "phainopepla: dictionary black crested help."
            Yes, I thought, the name "phainopepla" certainly makes one run to a dictionary.
             On a similar note, Kevin Heaton, a poet who enjoys whimsical words, concludes "Poet on Cannabis" with reference to "epiphytics in tall osmunda" to describe "an immaculate collaboration between maximum greens." Epiphytes are plants that grow from other plants without parasitically drawing on the host (saw some recently in a Florida everglade growing off of trees). Osmunda, I learn after help from the Internet is a genus of temperate-zone ferns. Thanks, Kevin, for the vocabulary expansion.
            Robert Wexelblatt gives us a trio of poems that cycle around the music of Bach and the closely related question raised by the title of the first poem, "Was Bach an Alien?" The poem begins in Olympus.
          When I first read the Greek myths, those sacred
            scriptures shrunk to fairy tales, I noticed
            how captivated the gods were by us,
            how they couldn’t resist mingling with us,
            meddling, impeding, even copulating.
            I pictured how tedious it would have
            been without us whose meanest village is
            livelier than Olympus.

            He then takes us to outer space where Glenn Gould's recording of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier is being beamed to any or all minds out there capable of listening to music. (Are we cheating? I thought on reading this. Shouldn't we be sending 'Sweet Caroline' to give them an idea of who we really are?) Some finely tuned lines later in which the poet raises this very question -- "Lewis Thomas cracked, 'That’s bragging.'" -- the poem works back to the Olympians with beautifully expressed conclusion.          
          ... I too like imagining
            those aliens, brainy enough to construct
            a phonograph, rapt, listening to Gould’s
            warm C-major prelude, struck dumb by the
            ensuing fugue, and jealous as the gods.

            Luis Neer's poem "No Shadow #1" also offers a fresh connection to the universe.
          By rising from your bed
            in the morning
            walking out into the wind

            you have entered outer space
            "The universe is here," Neer's poem concludes:  "You have held it in your hands."

            Trish Hopkinson's poem "Corked" opens a structurally adventuresome form that I learned (after inquiring) was a villanelle. The poems begins by pulling the cork on a battle of wine ("Bordeaux, it fills the bowl on stem on base.") for the first glass and ends with pouring the final one.
          Bordeaux, it fills the bowl on stem on base.
            Glass four emptied, no cork put back in place.
            Another of her poems, "Footnote to a Footnote" builds on itself like a spell or an incantation. "Jacuzzis are holy./ Garage door openers are holy..." Any further attempt to excerpt would lose the power of the poem's music.
            "The Last Days of My Life" Mark Jackley writes in the poem of that name -- one more turn on the theme of looking back -- may resemble the last days of high school.
          The days are long, the nights are sweet
            and if you lived by the sea
            you sat on the sea wall, which held back
            everything except
            your laughter and all the delicious,
            insane, intoxicating
            talk of holding on,
            of staying there forever.

            I never had such days in high school (college was more fun), but Jackley's poem makes me feel them.
            I also feel the days, or places, or stops along the way evoked by Firestone Feinberg's poem, an untitled lyric that begins:
          And along the way were shining souls
            Who came to walk beside me as I traveled through the land
            But little did I see them -- ...
            The poems sent shivers through me. I think we're all still walking that way, and through that land, and I just hope we can glimpse those "shining souls."

            Here's the link to the June issue of Verse-Virtual: