SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ALEXIS KIENLEN

alexiskienlen

By Alexis Kienlen:


HOW TO PICK AN APPLE

find a ripe specimen,

gaze at its perfection,

cup it in your hand,

turn the bottom star to the sky.

show the end of the apple to heaven,

let it fall.



“How to Pick an Apple” appears here today with permission from the poet.



Alexis Kienlen is the author of two collections of poetry, 13 and She Dreams in Red. She’s also the author of a biography of a Sikh civil rights activist called Truth, love, non-violence; The story of Gurcharan Singh Bhatia. Alexis lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where she works as an agricultural reporter for a newspaper called Alberta Farmer. From 2001-2006, she was the Literary Editor for Ricepaper magazine, a Vancouver based Asian Canadian arts and culture magazine. She currently writes a weekly literary column for The Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune. Her poetry, fiction and journalism pieces have appeared in numerous publications across Canada and online. She’s currently working on a novel and a new collection of poetry.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is vivid and whimsical and whisks the reader away on a brief yet epic journey. Placing us, at first, in the everyday pleasure of picking an apple, the poem turns on the word “turn” in the fourth line. From there we are shifted upward, toward the stars and the sky and the heavens, and are transported from the orchard into the realm of the spiritual, the mystical, the otherworldly. The last line echoes what has been biblically ingrained in the western apple, the fall.

Today’s poem is dedicated to my friend Luis, a faithful reader of this series and a man who knows and loves a good apple.

Want more from Alexis Kienlen?
Alexis Kienlen’s Official Website
Buy 13 and She Dreams in Red from Frontenac House
Buy Alexis Kienlen’s books from Amazon
Blue Skies Poetry
Alberta Farmer Express

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Gayle King Is Wrong: Street Harassment Is Not a Compliment

Street Harassment Smile

Credit: Carrie Sloan, Flickr

Gayle King Is Wrong: Street Harassment Is Not a Compliment

By Leslie Maxwell

By now you’ve likely seen the video released recently by Hollaback!, a campaign to end street harassment, in which a woman walking around New York is harassed more than 100 times over a 10-hour period. (If you haven’t, it’s worth watching.)

Men of all ages harass her. White men and black men harass her. Men shout “Smile!” and “Damn!” and say, “Hey, beautiful!” A man walks alongside her, pestering her to talk to him, asking if he can give her his number. Perhaps most frighteningly, a man walks next to her silently for five minutes.

This woman’s experience is significant because it’s not unique. Women experience street harassment every day. I have my stories, and so do most women: getting honked at by passing cars, being followed for few feet or even a block or two, being yelled at by passing car. I’ve been sung to.

On CBS This Morning, co-anchors Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King discussed the video after watching a short clip of it. O’Donnell said the video resonated with her because she experiences some form of street harassment regularly.

King had a different take:

I’m just sitting here, Norah, going, I’m not going to get upset because somebody said, ‘Hey girl, you look good.’ You know what I say? I twirl and say ‘thank you’. It would be different if they’re, you know, throwing you on the ground and saying ‘Hey, I want to boink your brains out.’ For the most part, some of that stuff was inappropriate, but for the most part, they’re just saying, ‘Smile, you look good.’ But there is a difference between someone that goes over the line and somebody that just says you look great.

O’Donnell responds by explaining, “That’s different when someone says, ‘Hey, you look fabulous.’ It’s different when a guy is catcalling, Gayle, and saying, like, ‘Hey, baby.’ That feels threatening.”

But King remains unconvinced, “I don’t know. I guess it just depends. To me, there’s a line, and you have to know where the line is.”

By the end of the segment, O’Donnell and King agreed that there is indeed a line. But they clearly didn’t agree on where that line is.

The line is not, as King seemed to indicate, when a man throws a woman down and tells her that he wants to “boink her brains out.” The line is way, way, way before that.

These men are not complimenting women. These men are not telling women they look great. Their goal is to get attention from women – and because they are on the street, their goal is to have an audience.

Getting a woman’s attention is about power and control. If a man can get a woman’s attention and there are witnesses to that attention, then he has power over her. If he can get her to smile, it’s power. If he can get her to acknowledge him in any way, it’s power. If he can get her to say “leave me alone,” it’s power. Any response will do when your aim is control.

Street harassment and the desire for control that motivates it is a problem. It perpetuates a centuries-old notion that women exist for men’s pleasure. In the first-year writing course I teach, when we read excerpts from Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1792, students are surprised at the limitations women faced in the late 1700s, at the education many were denied. Yet when we get to the part in which Wollstonecraft writes that many men are “anxious” to make women “alluring mistresses,” students make parallels to the way women are still often seen today.

While King may not see anything wrong with a man telling a woman he does not know that she is beautiful, there is something wrong with it. It objectifies her by suggesting that she is nothing more than something to look at. It suggests that her happiness might depend on how a stranger on the street sees her. And any man anxious to make a woman anything other than who she is seeks control.

These desires – for power and control – are why the line is far before we get to knocking a woman to the ground wanting to “boink her brains out.” So no, street harassment is far from “harmless,” and it’s certainly not a compliment. Women are not and should not be seen as “alluring mistresses” – and it’s time we push back against that outdated notion.

***

Leslie Maxwell lives, teaches, and writes in Durham, N.C. Read more of her opinions in the News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C) and other writing in The Fourth River and decomP magazinE. Find her online at lesliemaxwell.com.

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KAREN PAUL HOLMES

Karen Paul Holmes with roses

By Karen Paul Holmes:


DRAWN INTO CIRCLES

Last evening, I placed fresh towels on both dog beds
heard scratching and rearranging in the night.
This morning, each dog lay curled
into a circle of towel
like a bird’s nest.

How life loves
a circle:
the sun
cups of tea
pizza, roses, embraces
wedding rings, cathedral domes, bells
with notes radiating like ripples from skipped stones
the egg, the womb, the opening, downy heads
suckling mouths, breasts, eyes filled
with delight for bubbles
and bouncing balls.

Why do we box ourselves into corners
put our babies into rectangular cribs
build square houses and boxy buildings
drive cars to perpendicular crossroads
stare at newspapers, monitors, dollars
go to our rest in hard-edged coffins
slowly lowered into matching graves?

It’s a comfort
to imagine our rounded bones
becoming round bits of the globe
our spirits rising to orbit among spiral galaxies
joining those who completed the circle before us.



TEACHING MOZART IN STONE MOUNTAIN PRISON

I didn’t know what crimes they committed,
didn’t want to: those 12 guys glaring at me,
wondering what I had in store.

No female had taught there before
so I wore a calf-length, shapeless dress;
no make up; tortoise shell glasses instead of contacts.

Twice a week, iron gates banged behind me,
paperwork shuffled, an armed guard took me down
a warren of halls. He stationed himself by my door.

I needn’t have worried–soon knew, just as told,
if one prisoner caused trouble, he’d be jumped
by the others grateful for the chance of a college degree.

This was music appreciation. None knew the classics,
but one had played William Tell Overture in band.
All began to embrace opera, symphony, sonata—

I think the music transported them, comforted
even as they struggled to study in noisy rows of bunks.
One evaluation stays with me 30 years later,

Thanks be to God for blessing us with Mrs. Holmes.
But I felt blessed early in the semester:
We arrived at Mozart Piano Concerto Number 21.

Their books covered just the first movement, yet
I left the record playing into the second, saying,
You’ve got to hear a bit of the andante.

Muted violins conjured the ethereal melody while
repeated notes in the violas mesmerized.
After the pianist took up the solo for several bars,

I reached out to lift the needle… Twelve students
—no longer thief, mugger, murderer—
sang out in unison, No, leave it on!



“Drawn into Circles” was first published in Poetry East and appears in the collection Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), and “Teaching Mozart in Stone Mountain Prison” was first published in POEM. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.



Karen Paul Holmes is the author of the poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), which tells a story of loss and healing “with grace, humor, self-awareness and without a dollop of self-pity,” according to Poet Thomas Lux. Karen received an Elizabeth George Foundation emerging writer grant in 2012. Publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Caesura, POEM, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Every Day Poems, The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia, and the forthcoming anthology of Georgia poets from Negative Capability Press.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems shed new light on existence, demanding that we reconsider our human condition. “Drawn into Circles” deftly considers both the concept of the ‘circle of life’ and the roundness of nature versus the right angles of the man-made world. “How life loves / a circle: / the sun… the egg, the womb, the opening.” So “[w]hy do we box ourselves into corners / put our babies into rectangular cribs / build square houses and boxy buildings”? “It’s a comfort / to imagine our rounded bones… joining those who completed the circle before us.” While “Teaching Mozart in Stone Mountain Prison” engrosses us in a moving narrative that forces us to forfeit our assumptions and accept the beauty of being human. Both poems demand a second read, and a third, and neither poem leaves us quite the same as we were before we encountered them.

Want more from Karen Paul Holmes?
Buy Untying the Knot from Amazon
simply communicated, inc.
Interview with Karen Holmes on NetWest Writers
Reality Show: Save This Marriage on SoundCloud
Kentucky Review

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SENTIENCE MATTERS: Zoöeconomics — A Call to Recognize Nonhuman Sentience in Political and Economic Thought

Zoöeconomics: A Call to Recognize Nonhuman Sentience in Political and Economic Thought

by Gabriel Gudding

The following is a small fantasy expressing the wish for the advent of a heterodox school of economic history and thought that sees economic systems as schemas expressly for creating, regulating, and satisfying the bodily habits of both human and nonhuman animals. Seeing economic systems in this light — as schemas for bringing realities to porches, goods to ports – will make, hopefully surprising, sense if you continue to read.

The approach I outline below is similar to the capabilities approach developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, but one expressly focusing on the body as a lens through which to view economic behavior. In Sen and Nussbaum’s view, markers of economic development are not limited to GDP and economic growth, but extend to whether political and economic conditions increase or decrease “substantial freedoms” and human dignity. A zoöpolitical adjustment to the capabilities approach, then, would extend the attribution of substantial freedoms and dignity beyond the realm of the human to include considerations of well-being for all sentient beings. A chief difficulty with this adjustment, obviously, is that billions of these beings are already directly implicated in markets by dint of their being commodities.[1]

Both neoclassical[2] and Marxist economics dismiss well-being and bodily desire as a means of understanding markets. For decades now post-Marxists following Bataille, Baudrillard, Deleuze and Guattari, as well as a host of contemporary feminist economists, have critiqued both the rationalist bias of neoclassical economics and the degree to which the value-labor bias in Marxist thought has exempted the desiring body from its theories as something exogenous to markets.[3] See in particular the work of Julie Nelson, Marianne Ferber, and Gillian Hewitson for the ways gendered constructions of the body have shaped conceptions of economics.

The wish here is for the advent of the view that economics and politics are the study of the enrichment and impoverishment of sentient life. In sum, a zoöpolitical approach to economics would be a sentience-centric reformulation of market analysis, economic history, and political rhetoric.

Obviously no current orthodox school approaches this model. The newest and nearest heterodox school to touch it is likely ecological economics, recently characterized by Gowdy and Erickson as a study of “the human economy both as a social system and as one imbedded in the biophysical universe, and thus both holistic and scientifically based.” Such an economics, they argue, “is poised to play a leading role in recasting the scope and method of economic science.”[4] Their definition however mirrors the broader problem of anthropocentrism in the history of ecological thought. (See, for example, a previous post on the troubled anthropocentric nature of eco-criticism and ecopoetics in literary thought since the 1970s).

But how would this work?

I’m guessing in one way this would be less a new methodology of economics than a return to some of the cardinal elements in the work of classical political economists like Smith, Ricardo, and Mill who all at some point categorized the dimensions of economic analysis in terms of the satisfaction of bodily desires and habits. There is, after all, no category of goods or behavior, economic or otherwise, that is not in some way connected with the satisfaction of bodily sensation.

The body of the nonhuman animal expressly has suffered as a body devoid of sapience, suffered by the failure of both orthodox and heterodox schools to consider the somatic realities of desire, the body-in-pain, the pleased animal (human and nonhuman), and affective labor as key dimensions of economic analysis. This disavowal has spread paradoxically to the study of being itself. We have even seen in recent years the advent of Object-Oriented Ontology, a reactionary philosophical movement that insists on classifying the sentient being (especially the nonhuman being) as just another object.[5] Significantly, this movement arrives at precisely the moment when feminist economics and veganic thought are trying to bring the bodily sovereignty of the subaltern to the forefront of economics, ecology, social justice, and ethics.

It seems axiomatic that the more economic history can be considered a monetary sublimate of a collection of specific bodily habits – categories and concepts about bodily desires and aversions in general (diet, methods of moving the body, thermal regulation) – the more clearly the sentient body and its propensity to suffer will be seen as central, and not exogenous, to markets.

At the moment, the suffering of the nonhuman body is, in both the neoclassical and Marxist views, disavowed, and as such it is rendered a kind of capital. Gillian Hewitson and many others have argued similarly that the disavowal of the sexed body in the neoclassical model allows women, specifically the womb, to become a kind of capital (see, for example, Hewitson’s “womb-as-capital”).

Such disavowals are of course central to markets that function to control and police and profit from the bodies of other beings, whether they are teens and women, men or nonhuman mothers, whether calves, goslings, chicks, piglets, bulls, sows, boars, roosters, hens, and the countless other nonhuman persons who are not farmed animals but who instead live in and near our houses and cities and are subject to traps, poisons, guns, nets, slingshots, and clubs: crows, migrating song birds, mice, rats, raccoons, fishes, et al.

How then in this new model are goods framed? Consider that in a very real sense all modern and antiquated economic systems are built explicitly on the trade and sale of items that (a) are either sentient themselves, or (b) alter somatic perception and aid in the regulation of somatic expectation: from the Neolithic spice trade along the Silk Road to the 15th century rise of mercantile capital and the later advent of food multinationals such as the Dutch East India Company (1602) and the British East India Company (1707). Even the mineral interests of industrial capital and the conspiracy of labor and government in neo-capitalist markets and the impulse toward service economies are driven by somatic expectation. The economy of thermal regulation, for instance, was certainly part of the incentive behind the formation of the fur-trading Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670, which, by the way, is still in operation, being one of the oldest corporations in the history of commerce. The wish to extend the active use of eyesight past sundown drove the harvest of trees and the hunting of whales. All industries are expressly, not incidentally, somatic. Each of these industries tries to entrain and control bodily habit, and their activities are functions of how we expect and wish our bodies to feel.

In short, the formerly heterodox, and now entirely orthodox, focus on economic history as a struggle to control the means of production doesn’t get at the real economy: the struggle is more precisely to control the means by which our bodies are consciously and unconsciously provided certain feelings. This isn’t a matter of the anomic production and consumption of goods so much as it is a deeper matter of the satisfaction of desire and aversion.

Consider that just as mercantile spice trade’s unprecedented movement of vegetation over the globe was built on a valuation of mouth taste and the use of spices as a medicine[6] whose purpose was and remains to increase our appetite, much of today’s economy serves a systematized, and nearly unconscious, valuation of muscular ease relative to bodily movements, and the felt, if non-conscious, bodily expectation of ease arising from that relation. The movement of horse culture to motorized culture marks a radically increased expense of money and effort to acquire and maintain a particular kind of easeful movement. An array of vehicles is used, fitted with interior furnitures (small doors, dashboards, seats, buttons, lights, rails, handles, levers, knobs, dials, mirrors, windows, accelerators, motion meters) to augment the movement of the body horizontally (train, automobile, bicyclic locomotion, boat) and vertically (elevator, air travel, escalator, stairwell). So widespread is this new culture of vehicular engagement that we can reasonably speak of a wish for a supranational union of ease.

Even furniture is a variety of static machine that facilitates the adoption of a range of postures and patterns of blood flow in order to ease the musculature and augment cognition. Furniture’s effect on one’s expectation of bodily and relational ease is mostly non-conscious, yet it is precisely the phenomenon that drives this industry. Any argument to determine whether we evaluate the exchange-value of furniture through its aesthetic rather than kinesthetic dimensions misses the point that both satisfy bodily expectation: aesthetic satisfaction is merely a subtler form of pleasure than postural ease.

Moreover, common expectations of bodily position induced by furniture become a part of a larger system of dispositions concerning bodily movement across landscape, making the outdoors an assemblage of surfaces and obstructions over which human ease is carried as a freight.

These ergonomically induced dispositions themselves join an otherwise larger economy of impassivity, indifference, and even aversion concerning the impediments constituted by waters, trees, nonhuman animals, etc., meaning in a sense that this economy of dispositions actuated by furniture is confederated with an even larger system of indifference toward both landscape and animal. This systematic indifference is evident by the general ubiquity of the body parts of animals exploded and frozen everywhere throughout our world – supermarkets, homes, restaurants, even on highways, jets and trains.

This is an industry of the distribution of indifference toward the suffering of other beings, such that we neither notice nor care that they also, each of them, once too were living with the difficult wish to be happy.

We could also, setting aside musculature, contemplate the economies of dermal comfort vis-à-vis heat and cold, humidity, specifically as they relate to air conditioning and thermal regulation. In this sense we might consider that blankets are thermal tarps. Or that cars are the means by which we carry conditioned air from building to building.

If these are somatic economies devoted to the satisfaction and maintenance of bodily expectations, the dominant supranational economy at present is based on the denial of the bodily expectations of other species, the farming of nonhuman animals. This global economy – 64 billion land animals killed per annum, trillions in the water – functions precisely by the disavowal of the suffering of conscious creatures.

The animal-industrial complex (which includes the transportation and service industries as well as agriculture and the pharmaceutical industries) is an empire of animal suffering – an economy built expressly on the suffering of nonhuman bodies and the pleasures of human convenience and leisure – and it is the most dominant economy, in terms of planetary ecology, in the history of human commerce. It is the single most impactful driver of global climate change since the advent of the Holocene. But its global dimensions are not limited to the planetary scale: even at the minute level of thoughts and convictions held by individual human persons and communities, the consumption of animals has markedly damaging ethical effects on the worlds of humans and nonhumans alike.

This economy of animal ablation is, remarkably, characterized by the simultaneous controlling and ignoring of nonhumans. The animal-industrial system functions as the epitome of what Robert Proctor might call an agnotologic economy – one that works by actively inducing an ignorance in both consumers and producers. We can intimately as consumers desecrate the bodies of nonhuman beings by eating them while at the same time remain unaware that we are eating a body. We can intimately gain mouth-pleasure from their bodies while at once remaining ignorant of the pain and sorrow that the nonhuman animal endured so that we could steal this pleasure. We can feel comfort and love while eating a turkey while collectively denying the turkey’s wish for comfort and love, her desire to play and live. We can do this despite knowing that they have the same neurotransmitters and hormones we do and that the vertebrate brain is remarkably consistent in its anatomy, such that it is a sure bet the Umwelt of the turkey is similar to that of the pig and that of the human.

A zoöpolitical economy would necessarily involve a zoöpolitical ecology and a zoöpolitical ethics, the common notion being that the thoughts and feelings, the worlds and families, of other vertebrates and invertebrates should actually be of consequence to our sense of who (and here an animal and an insect is a who) we should love, how we should eat and build, and with what we should make our clothing and our music, our food and our shelter. Empathy and love are not enough when it comes to the bodies of our most other Others. Justice must sit at the heart of an economics that recognizes the imperatives of bodily and mental sovereignty for those whose nerves obligate them to turn away from pain.

***

Notes:

[1] In addition to Nussbaum and Sen’s The Quality of Life (Oxford UP 1993), see in particular Nussbaum’s Frontiers of Justice (Belknap 2007), in which she exposes Rawls’ theory of natural law to criticism for its failings to provide clarity to matters of justice in three areas where justice cannot be derived from self-interest: namely in obligations toward people with disabilities, toward transnational peoples, and toward nonhuman animals.

[2] It’s generally considered there are three major tenets of neoclassical economics: the economic behavior of people and corporations is composed of rational choices; people and corporations strive to maximize their ability to satisfy needs and increase profit; and decisions are made independently based on perfect information.

[3] For a succinct history of this phenomenon, see Jack Amariglio and David Ruccio’s “Modern Economics: The Case of the Missing Body,” in Cambridge Journal of Economics, 2002.

[4] Gowdy, John and Jon D. Erickson. “The Approach of Ecological Economics.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 2005, 29, 207–222

[5] For example, and typical of other writers in this mode, Levi Bryant, in his The Democracy of Objects, classifies animals as “asignifying entities” and insists, as is the habit among members of this school, that the category “nonhumans” doesn’t expressly refer to nonhuman animals, but conveniently includes wires, boxes, dolls, hammers, and cork. It’s an interesting democracy that reinscribes its most basic chauvinisms and ignores the suffering and exploitation of mothers.

[6] A spice is a medicine taken to increase the appetite.

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JACINTA V. WHITE

JVW by John H. White

STANDING IN COURAGE
By Jacinta V. White

Dangerous, wanted
Endangered, hunted
             Majestic
Beauty protected
Enraged
             You, young
                          Black man
Stand in courage
             In love
             In honor
                          Resurrected
             In glory
Forget put upon shame
Young man stand
             In beauty
             In strength
             In dignity
Stripped and threatened
Generations down
                                       Hands down
Young black man
             Brother, father, husband, son
Stand in your weariness
Stand in your strength
             In your courage
             In your truth
             In your faith
Stand knee high in the depths of your passion
                          Take your crown, young black man
             Wear your crown
Young black man



“Standing in Courage” was originally published by New Verse News and appears here today with permission from the poet.



Jacinta V. White is a NC Arts Council Teaching Artist and the founder of The Word Project. Her chapbook, broken ritual, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. Most recently, she has had poems published in Typoetic.us, Prime Number Magazine, and What Matters, an anthology published by Jacar Press.

Editor’s Note: “A wild patience has taken me this far…and when freedom is the question it is always time to begin.” So says Adrienne Rich, and your faithful editor agrees. It is time to begin. Speaking up. Speaking out. For freedom, and against injustice.

There is a rich history of poetry in social justice. Of outcries from the poetic heart of humanity for human rights. Since time immemorial poets have used their words to demand equality, whether based on race or class or gender, and from time to time they have even been heard.

Today’s poem takes part in this critical tradition, demanding the world pay attention and that the world order be reversed. It cries out for the oppressed to rise up, not in violent retribution, but in glory. It requires us to admit and to remember, while allowing us our outrage, our grief, and a new hope alike.

Want more from Jacinta V. White?
Jacinta White’s Official Website
Typoetic.us
Prime Numbers Magazine
The Word Project
Jacinta White on Facebook

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EDGAR ALLAN POE FOR HALLOWEEN AND DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

Halloween-graveyard
By Edgar Allan Poe:

SPIRITS OF THE DEAD

Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!


THE RAVEN

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
                                             Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
                                             Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“ ’Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
                                             This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
                                             Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
                                             Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon I heard again a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
                                             “Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not an instant stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
                                             Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
                                             Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
                                             With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
                                             Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
                                             Of “Never—nevermore.”

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
                                             Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplght gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er,
                                             She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
                                             Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
                                             Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
                                             Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
                                             Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
                                             Shall be lifted—nevermore!



(Today’s poems are in the public domain, belong to the masses, and appear here today accordingly.)



Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American author, poet, editor, and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. (Annotated biography of Edgar Allan Poe courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Editor’s Note: Your faithful editor of this Saturday Poetry Series is a HUGE fan of Halloween. This year I’ve decided to celebrate with poetry! “The Raven” is a classic poem of the macabre, and as such is a perfect nod to All Hallow’s Eve. I am particularly partial to this rendition by the Simpsons, because Halloween should have both tricks and treats involved. In addition to “The Raven,” well-known and beloved, I was pleasantly surprised to find “Spirits of the Dead,” a poem that calls out to Dia de los Muertos, when the veils thin between the worlds of the living and the dead and we welcome the spirits of those who came before us. “[F]or then / The spirits of the dead, who stood / In life before thee, are again / In death around thee, and their will / Shall overshadow thee; be still.” Happy Halloween!

Want to read more by and about Edgar Allan Poe?
PoeStories
The Poetry Foundation
Academy of American Poets
Poe Museum

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DIANE LOCKWARD

Lockward-headshot

By Diane Lockward:


SERVICE FOR THE MURDERED BOY

                           In Tibet they lay their dead
                           on the side of a mountain.

All night I dream of the murdered boy
decomposing in the Himalayas,
laid out under a Banyan tree.
No monsoon of grief in this unarable land,
only mountains rumbling
with footsteps of tigers, snow leopards,
and moon bears. A hundred vultures fill the sky.
All circle in, nuzzle the boy with snouts and beaks,
and devour him until nothing’s left but bones
and a skull, resting on stones hard as fists.

I dream a mission of monks, roaming
the desert, spinning prayer wheels,
and searching peasant villages for the right
boy, the one birthed at the exact moment
of death. They lift the born-again buddha
and carry him home.

But my dream lasts only as long as the night.
Morning brings echoes of Ave Maria.

The father’s wearing a red jacket
with white leather sleeves, the kind
boys wear when they make the varsity team.
He leans into the mic and says,
“I don’t want to talk about the future,
or games that won’t get played,
or the boy who shot him. I want to talk
about songs that were sung.”
Then he breaks down, turns to his son
still smiling in the blown up photograph.

I don’t want church music, soft and mournful.
I want hard rock, heavy metal,
music all bass and treble, cranked up full blast,
the kind that blares out windows of cars
driven by boys, the kind that rocks
the ground and trembles the earth with their songs.


A MURMURATION OF STARLINGS

                     It was raining dead birds.
                              —Mayor Brian Levine, The Star-Ledger, 1/27/09

Starlings dropped from the sky,
mid-flight, like balloons suddenly deflated.

No time to spread their wings and glide on air,
and, synchronized, to soar and dive.

No time to close their wings, to wrap
themselves in shrouds of feathers, and sleep.

They fell like water balloons tossed blindly
from dormitory windows.

They fell like rocks dumped from the unlatched
rear end of a construction truck.

They fell like bombs, like stars, like fallen angels,
they fell like dead starlings.

Hundreds plummeted from the sky
on cars, porches, and snow-covered lawns.

They’d taken the poisoned bait
and, headfirst, dreamed one last time of England.

Birds who’d once disturbed a king’s sleep
with cries of Mortimer, Mortimer.

Memento mori, forcing us to contemplate
unexpected death.

Do we not already think of the fallen,
earth’s fields littered with corpses?

Dark vision made real,
their glistening bodies, silent now and still.

Birds who’d sung their own song
and wooed their mates with lavender and thistle.



“Service for the Murdered Boy” is from the collection Eve’s Red Dress (Wind Publication, 2003) and “A Murmuration of Starlings” is from the collection Temptation by Water (Wind Publications, 2010). These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.



Diane Lockward is the author of The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop (Wind Publications, 2013) and three poetry books, most recently Temptation by Water. Her previous books are What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve’s Red Dress. Her poems have been included in such anthologies as Poetry Daily: 360 Poems from the World’s Most Popular Poetry Website and Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times, and in such journals as Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Gwarlingo, and The Writer’s Almanac.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems are, sadly, incredibly timely. I was originally drawn to “Service for the Murdered Boy” with thoughts of Michael Brown, but now both poems cry out in response to yesterday’s school shooting in Washington. Written years ago, the mourning and meditations of these poems are heartbreakingly timeless. There is a still and quiet beauty in their language and imagery, a slowing down of time that enables us to grieve. These mindful pieces reflect upon both today’s atrocities and the mourning songs that are as ancient as poetry itself. So, too, do these poems turn in upon themselves, questioning the very act of contemplating death: “Do we not already think of the fallen, / earth’s fields littered with corpses? // Dark vision made real, / their glistening bodies, silent now and still.” And they speak in chorus with those who have lost their children, to those who seek only to remember: “I don’t want to talk about the future, / or games that won’t get played, or the boy who shot him. I want to talk / about songs that were sung.”

Want more from Diane Lockward?
Buy The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop from Amazon
Diane Lockward’s Official Website
Diane Lockward’s Blog
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