Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Garden of Verse: A Praise Song, A Red Dress, a Dream Meeting with a Cherokee ancestor... Verse-Virtual in July

            Many beautiful lines, words of wonder, and penetrating thoughts blossom in the poems in the July edition of Verse-Virtual. 
            Here are a few that caught my eye or ear or imagination.  John Morgan begins his poem "In Spider Country" with a quotation: "Aversion is attachment in reverse." In that case, I am 'attached' to spiders, which is startling news because I have never wished them near me -- rather quite the opposite. Still, as Morgan's poem shows, they are creatures of wonder.
In a breeze the web expands and sways, its guys
thread to the porch post and a bench where no one’s
sat for days. The golden speckled spider’s tiny
for this grand elaboration of trap. 

            Who said "traps are only made by me"? These silken traps are all around us and this poem reminds us that they are made by creatures with a knack for elaborate architecture marvelous to contemplate. 

            I'm a sucker for a dream vision, or a dream poem, almost as much as I am for a distinctly remembered dream of my own. Dreams seem to me the unevadable proof  that we are living in more worlds than one. Penny Harter's "Dream Meeting" evokes a meeting an "old woman" [who] "on a narrow bench
of pelts rose up on one elbow"
            The poem has the uncanny conviction of the real thing. I want to quote it whole, but I'll restrain myself. Still, the economy of detail, "her eyes demanding mine as I
stood silent on the dirt, lost in crickets..." is exactly right.  

            The particular gift that David Graham offers us in his two poems "Movie Scenes We Won't Be Viewing" and "Where I Want My Ashes Buried" is their matter of fact courage in asking us to face difficult realities. We wish to say, 'Can't we talk about something more pleasant?'
            What we will never see in the flicks, Graham's poem tell us, is gun play such as:

Rogue C.I.A. agent shot in the back
while eating a danish at the diner.
Unfortunately, the spray of gunfire also hits
the waitress, who twitches and gurgles

for five minutes before dying.

            No, we won't see that. The gunplay we see in pretty much every movie and Neflix drama we do tune into is comparatively clean, unreal, and involves no serious suffering to characters we care about except when the plot really needs it. What we really need is the corrective of poems like this. 
            Perhaps even less attractive is the notion of contemplating our ashes -- "
gray and flaky, with little chunks
of charred bone and minerals..."

            Stay with this poem, friends, for an answer to this unwelcome question that's both realistic and satisfying. 
            A "Paean," the title of Glenn Freeman's poem, is a song of praise, and the praise song is a traditional device in American worship services. Maybe that's why this poem has a spiritual resonance in addition to how beautifully its language flows.

Praise the broken, the ruptured, the disconnected; 
praise the grass overgrown, the dandelion 
seeds drifting over every beautiful lawn.
Praise the sad, the worried, the infected 
among us, the words we might use to heal, 
the syntax of sorrow and grief inverted 
into music. Praise the music. 

I love the inclusion of overgrown grass and the drifting dandelion seeds mixed in between "the broken, the ruptured" on one side and the "the worried, the infected among us" on the other. The poem suggests these failings, emotional and material, may be turned into music. Yes, many songs attempt just this alchemy. But look how fluently these words are woven together: "the syntax of sorrow and grief inverted/ into music. Praise the music."
          Some poems sing. This is one of them.

              A famous poem ("The Oven Bird") by Robert Frost depicts a birdsong posing the question, "What to make of a diminished thing."  Margaret Hasse's poem "Not Letting Go" appears to provide an answer: Don't accept the diminution. We may not be as young as we used to be, and the symbol of those yesterdays, a dress hanging in an attic closet

"....brief and bright,
pert, a ruby coronation,
a red hot damn of a dress."

may not serve the ends it once did. But Hasse's poem makes a case for choosing not to settle for a little piece of vision, a memory fragment, a diminished thing, and in the process invents a new interpretation of the metaphor of 'cloth.'

           To stretch this cloth a little further, these images and the poems of which they are part are all pieces of a bursting wardrobe, uncanny as a gateway into another world, that constitutes Verse-Virtual July 2017.