Monday, October 3, 2016

The Garden of Verse: Poems in October's Verse-Virtual Shine Like October Skies

            The October edition of Verse-Virtual offers some ravishing poems for a ravishing month. The passion play of the seasons reaches a kind of climax in October, given the sensational blossom/dying fall of the northern woods and the "urban forest" in the midst of which most of Northeastern urban types dwell, side by side with the sturdy stabilizers of a habitat that underlies and enables our earthly existence. It's the month when the fires from the furnace at the heart of earth's rock-clad mantle seem to blaze in the red-giant end of the visible spectrum, flung to the heavens by our deciduous traveling companions.
            October. Winds blow in, frontal waves wash in and out, skies dramatically darken. Then the next day, or the next hour, a silent sky twirls beneath a clear blue bowl, an umbrella of light, in which we see straight to the empty marvel of forever. It's a miracle, it's magic. It's a turn in a cosmic circle game against which we may seek to drag our feet, yet the wheel of the seasons rolls along, large as life, endless as time. The great express train of the cosmos roaring into the station.
            All aboard for October!
            It's also time to kill the wasps, Dick Allen's poem "Hornet's Nest" reminds us, an act both intriguing and sad, and ultimately sacramental:
Hundreds of them, accursed, their papery gray masses
hidden in eaves, in the junctures of two-by-fours,
or hanging in shrubs or behind olive branch foliage,
wait to be opened.
Every sentence in this poem makes you feel again, or truly recognize for the first time, something that you know you've felt attempting this act yourself : "And at the heart of everything, the larger body of sorrow..."
Allen's poem leads us to that heart of things. Every word counts here. To read the rest of them see
               In his fabulous poem "Cities," Robert Wexelblatt levels his poetic calibrator at cities to evoke, tabulate, and analyze as (his poem tells us), "God levels his great eye on cities to punish or exalt..." In a Whitmanic act of encompassing the world's epic fullness, his poem continues, "[God] aims His huge finger at them as to say  This is what I charge you to build, I want walls, libraries, bodegas, 
ghettos, schoolyards, hot-dog stands, electric grids, trash trucks, 
sewers, playgrounds; I want bullies and brokers, matrons and 
call girls, lawyers and legal heirs."
                 Filled with the wonders of the modern world, the poem finds all the right words to evoke all the right ideas and take us up and down the avenues of the human attempt to accomplish what God -- whatever that word means here -- commands when he human flesh and mortar to combine in the making of a "City." The poem is a recipe for making a poem, as the city is the poem of itself:
Go on, add, subtract, multiply, make a 
city of yourselves spread out like the theory of bodies, like My 
immense Leviathan, make a Behemoth of patiently accreted cells, 
just as I made you..."
                Sonia Greenfield's "Four Ghost Stories" tells us about some of the people who used to live here among us, the so-far survivors of the cities and towns our lives in part enable. The protagonist of Ghost Story (1) tell us she hitched a ride. The results are lyrical: "His radio played songs
on the AM dial. I left a fog on his windows.
The road here is fully blind and mudded to rust
with half-melted snow. I was dropped off
in a brown-leaf ditch."
All the lines in each of these four poems sing like those, as if spirits are singing their beautiful death songs. The speakers of these poems made me think of Plath's famous lines (though without Plath's bravado): "Dying is an art. I do it well. I do it so it feels like hell."             
                  Ghost number 4, a child, recalls "Once, in a public bathroom,
I took the hand of a stranger, but she shook
me free." Between this heart-breaker and the next observation -- "I could bedevil my mother in her room, but there’s no point." -- lies not a single word. The artistry is breathless.
            To read the rest of these poems, and all the others see: