Monday, January 16, 2023

Welcoming Winter: Poems and a Pic for January

  
















I have three poems in the January issue of Verse-Virtual., the online poetry journal for which I am a very regular contributor: three every month.

This month's contributions include one on the seasons, "Welcome to Winter." One on a harrowing encounter: "The Blind Guy." And One on the need human beings have for one another, titled "Shepherd Me."

Here's

Welcome to Winter


Cover your body with white fat 
Grow hair on your neck, the backs of your hands,
ankles, spleen
Smother your skin with the oil of musk,
so effective for reducing unnecessary contact
     with others of your own failing species
Cultivate aging machines
They laugh in the face of long-range forecasts
They spit in the wind of progress
They resist as a point of pride

And turn your old car into a dogsled
drawn by the neighborhood delinquents
who refuse to attend those academies of unpleasant demands
offering the acres of the despondency the elders call ‘facts’

Welcome, deep season! 
Scrub your windy teeth on the tall and prickly points 
of Father Pine, the always acerbic Arborvitae,
and expel your mouth rinse on the gleaming ice follies of 
    yesterday’s lacy network of river and streams
converted now into an arterial network of
    just plain freaking cold

Let the ice steam for all comers!
You steam, we all scream
I swallow my fear in huge gulps of repentance
     for all that summer love
Embrace me, icicle mother, and all your greenie beaming children
waving frozen wings of beautiful death


To read my other poems, and those of 62 other poems contributing this month, see

Verse-Virtual



https://verse-virtual.org/2023/January/knox-robert-2023-january.html

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Garden of the Seasons: Monthly Reminders

 Every year, at year's end we make a calendar for the coming year consisting of photos taken in every month of the preceding year. Here are this year's exemplars. [Quotes come from recent poems.]

January 

They're flighty
they keep flying away from imaginary dangers
Who knew the world was so pitted 
by emergency in the watches
of the wintry morning

from The Birds of Winter

 



February

birds cease their endless ebb and fly to pose for my happy season album close-ups 

-- from At Least I Was Alive 

March

Things to do:

Fertilize perennials

Add mulch to hold the water

Plant more native plants

More bulbs? Crocuses? -- from A Year of the Garden

April

Your towering daystar

That tosses spring flowers into the shade

and drowns the trills of April

when nesting songs are on the wing -- from

A Poem About Summer 

May 

They are burying children

On the first days of June

The world is a beautiful place

That we have turned into a slaughterhouse

I ask the Roses to forgive me

I beg the Irises to stay a while longer

And help us become as they are, keepers of beauty--from Slaughter of the Innocents

June 

The dream that wakes me in the morning

The good fortune to be here still

The good love

I don’t know, can tulips say that?

Soon it will be roses -- from All We Really Have Are Tulips

July 

To be the god I once played at becoming,

Naming the spring,

Demanding a dance of attendance,

All those white and purple flags of allegiance

Rippling in the joyful days

To come -- from Spring Rain

August 

August feels a little late

You’d thought that by this latter date

You’d surely have more done

The bees are in the asters

The butterflies are rare

The twilights have a sharper tone -- from Calendar Days 

September

September’s songs are mellow

You’re not going back to school

Marigolds are yellow

And resolution is the rule -- Calendar Days 

October

Edged by the

late, late bloomers

Mums the word -- Calendar Days

November 

I walk the half-bared, spotted earth

Looking for signs of old friends

Who is back for sure, and who is dicey

Which bets I have placed last autumn

Folding their hands, or their tents before I can plan a rescue -- Spring Rain



December 

What rolls the night, so early in these

     last December days,

rolls the earth backwards, onwards,

back into the light,

Oh, rays of light!

And what pours forth, what pours forth --

from The Heart of the Universe

2022

In the life-giving ecstasies of a Berkshire spring

I am thinking not of lilacs last-blooming

     in the April of the war’s climactic year,

but of the fall of 1858

When a live-ammo demo at Harper’s Ferry exposed

the US Army as the last defense of slavery -- 

from Fighting Words 


Some More garden photos and a few from The Berkshires (below) I'd like to keep around, just 

in case I forget what the world looks like at different times of year.





































Friday, November 4, 2022

The Garden of American History: Things Are Bad Now -- They May Have Been Worse 100 Years Ago


 






A new book by Adam Hochschild, reviewed in the New York Times this month  by Thomas Meaney, offers an early 20th century context for America’s current political crisis. Titled “American Midnight,” the book reminds us “that there are other contenders than the period beginning in 2016 for the distinction of Darkest Years of the Republic. By some measures — and certainly in many quarters of the American left — the years 1917-21 have a special place in infamy. The United States during that time saw a swell of patriotic frenzy and political repression rarely rivaled in its history. [The government’s] terror campaign against American radicals, dissidents, immigrants and workers makes the McCarthyism of the 1950s look almost subtle by comparison.”

Here's a link to the book review American Midnight

          The period that Hochschild writes about is traditionally known as The Red Scare, and it’s the era when two immigrants were framed in Massachusetts for robbery and murders they did not commit that became an international cause known as the Sacco and Vanzetti case. 

That cause celebre was the starting point for my novel, “Suosso’s Lane,” which focuses on the Plymouth origins of the case. Bartolomeo Vanzetti was an Italian immigrant who settled in Plymouth’s immigrant neighborhood – North Plymouth, regarded then as a separate enclave – in 1915. He boarded with an immigrant family who lived on a street called “Suosso’s Lane,” hence my book’s title.

          Millions of people around the world attended demonstrations or otherwise protested America's racist scapegoating of two Italian immigrants because of their political beliefs. And because of widespread prejudice against the flow of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, including Italians, but also Poles, Russians, Greeks, Jews, Hungarians, Serbs and other Slavs. 

"Suosso's Lane" was based on research I initially undertook for the Plymouth, Mass. newspaper I was then working for ("The Old Colony Memorial"). The novel also includes a fictional story about late 20th century history buffs seeking new evidence relevant to the 100-year-old case. 

"Suosso's Lane" was published by Web-e-Books in 2016. I still have copies of the 570-page paperback available for purchase. If you're interested in the book, or in the Sacco-Vanzetti case, you are welcome to email me at rc.knox2@gmail.com. 

You can also find more info about "Suosso's Lane" at my website robertcknox



Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Garden of Verse: A Salute to Autumn Skies, A Fond Farewell to the Growing Season, and a Fortunately Minor Fall from Grace





















My poems often have seasonal cues. This month I offer a love letter to autumn skies, a fond farewell to another growing season -- despite a less than generous helping of that essential ingredient, rain -- and an account on a near-disaster that has nothing to do with seasons but something to do with me.

Maybe a near-disaster for my body can a be a wake-up call to my brain. Here's my poem about a fall from a piece of exercise equipment caused by simply not paying enough attention to the here and now. 


After A Fall on the Treadmill at the YMCA

Is someone trying to tell me something? Someone (or thing) is taking my measure, picking its spots, as I fall flat on my face on that moving staircase People line up for their turn, the Asian mother and her very sensible little boy as I step onto the treadmill I had moments before paused (hadn’t I?), from the side, thoughts (apparently) elsewhere, and am sent flying, face-first and two bounces through the infield. Keep away from machines, a voice whispers, They’re always planning something. Someone is taking my measure. Not, I hope, for a winding suit. The numbers are in, I’m sure, the gang standing at the corner watching the traffic as the rain begins to fall, the final scene sketched on the storyboard. Take your time, boys. No need to hurry the job.



Here's the beginning of my poem about discovering,

much to my displeasure, that I'm out of touch with the phases of the

moon. It's a little like forgetting that the Earth is still

turning.


A Note to Autumn Skies


Don’t think 
you can get away with keeping it all to yourself!

So tonight, well after dark, I catch a glimpse 
through a living room window of the sky 
     above the neighbor's house 
when I’m reaching out to lower a blind,
the only gesture that would put me at the proper angle to see – 
Whoa! Is that the moon? Where has it been?
Where have we been? 
Lost in a weeks-long clouded dominion,
the misrule of the heavens?

...

Here's a link to see the rest of the poem

November 2022 Verse-Virtual


And here's an excerpt from my poem bidding farewell 

to the home gardening seasons


Time swims like the big fish
     that got away to swim again
Swiftly!
   Swiftly!
Suddenly too chilly this morning to water the plants
Verfallen? Then winter on the lip
     of tomorrow

Again, a link: November 2022 V-V 


Finally be sure to check out the "Poetic License" column by my fellow fiction writer 
and poet Robert Wexelblatt on "Thoughts About Writing."
You can find that here  Poetic License 



Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Garden of Verse: Bio notes and Poems of Growing up

 

          Editor Jim Lewis calls October's special issue of Verse-Virtual " a deeper look at the contributing editors and columnists who have been the quiet foundation of every month's journal, almost from its inception. I invite you to take time to read the expanded bio notes and poems from this group of people I am pleased to call my friends. 
        The issue features "expanded bio notes and poems." Here's how my bio-note began:
         "I grew up in a brand-new postwar neighborhood in suburban New York, my childhood a modest example of that era’s unacknowledged white privilege. My parents had experienced Depression childhoods, my father dropping out of high school to support himself. My mother’s family twice lost their home when breadwinners died and she went to work after high school, rather than to college, to support her mother. Because my father was a war veteran, he was eligible for GI loans that enabled him to buy a house in a new neighborhood and paid for his “night school” college education. I attended a couple of newly built public local schools and, when the Ivies were seeking to broaden their student body by accepting students who graduated from a public high school and were not related to alumni, received a needs scholarship from Yale. I majored in philosophy, but realized my true love was literature.

In addition to those "expanded bio notes" on growing up in a new postwar subdivision home my parents purchased with a GI loan, my offerings included a poem about the central role "going to the beach" played in my Long Island childhood. A poem about being "Bobby." A poem about the role of "My Mother's Music" in our childhood. And a poem about raising our own children in Plymouth, MA, called "America's Hometown."

Please take a look. Here's the link: Bio Notes and Poems 

Anne Meyerson, my wife, posing under a statue of the goddess of  female strength and wisdom in Paris. Here's a quote from my notes:
 



Sonya Meyerson-Knox, our daughter, who lived and worked in Lebanon after graduating from Mt. Holyoke College. From my poem "America's Hometown": At the corner of Massasoit and Mayflower,/ where Winslow relieved a sachem of a serious hurt,/ we settled in a white-wood tower/ to raise our kids on Plymouth dirt."


"While living in Boston I met, married, and started a family with Anne Meyerson, my personal bridge over troubled waters and Here's a piece from the poem "America's Hometown": 
At the corner of Massasoit and Mayflower,
where Winslow relieved a sachem of 
a serious hurt, 
we settled in a white-wood tower
to raise our kids on Plymouth dirt... "

Saul Meyerson-Knox, who 
earned a master's degree in classical guitar performance.












From that same poem:
"Our young spread their 
wings 
in open space.
We kept them warm with 
history tales,
moral precepts performed 
with passing grace: 
Uplift the Fallen, 
Save the Whales. "







Sonya visiting with her grandmother, my mother,                                                                        Jean Doris Congreve Knox. This is from my poem 

My Mother’s Music

Debussy? my wife guessed. 
Rachmaninoff, I suggested.
Both names sat at times on the plinth above my mother’s keys,
certain moments, themes, quick-stirring romantic throbs,
the instant cereal of childhood’s stirrings emerging, here again
all these decades after those first imprintings. 
The babyduck follows ever after – 
and followed whatever else she played... 
 


In addition to those "expanded bio notes" on growing up in a new postwar subdivision home my parents purchased with a GI loan, my offerings included 
a poem about the central role "going to the beach" played in my Long Island childhood. A poem about being "Bobby." And, per the above, poems about 
the role of "My Mother's Music" in our childhood and a poem about raising 
our own children in Plymouth, MA, called "America's Hometown."

Please take a look. Here's the link: Bio Notes and Poems