Monday, August 18, 2014


Cuando el sol no tiene calor para dar al mendigo --
a mi alma fría, a mi alma congelada --
una hermosa canción, una canción de calidez, de calor lento.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Touchstone: Robert Duncan

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down

whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

--  Robert Duncan

Uploaded on Feb 6, 2011 by pennsound (One of the most remarkable treasures of literature, ever...)
to hear more, go to:
Ron Silliman on The Opening of the Field by Robert Duncan

"KWH Faculty Director Al Filreis curates a remarkable gathering of poets to present brief commentaries of books of poetry published in 1960 -- to help mark the 50th anniversary of each. Each poet will read his or her 500- to 750-word critical commentary or retrospective review, after which there will be a Q&A session and a celebratory reception. The poet's commentaries will later be published as a special feature on the poetry & poetics of 1960 in Jacket2."

Highly recommended:  Silliman's Blog

Sunday Phone Calls: When Even Death is Funny

It's been a rough week, the kind where the best communication turns out to be reminding the people whom you love that you do, indeed, love them.  It makes for a shorter phone call, a blink-of-an-eye visit, and calls for just a tiny greeting card, though the cost of postage does not change.

Growing up, Sunday was the day for obligatory phone calls to family members living far, far away.  Granted, it was usually my immediate family that bore the responsibility for the distance issue.  We tended to be overseas, or living somewhere inaccessible to even those relatives who enjoyed travel.  Or I could be honest and say that no one really gave a crap, and the Sunday telephone ritual was just another thing to check off the list.

I managed three calls today.

Those Dear Readers who've been with me a while know that my use of the telephone is, itself, miraculous, as I find it the least endearing mode of communication of the many modes we have in this technological age.

For instance, Grader Boob, one of my two beloved Brother-Units, is now so weak that his voice does not carry efficiently to the telephone receiver.  He prefers "Lumpy" now to GB, but that's just trivia.  And a lie. He has no sense of humor discernible any longer, cancer's gift, pain's offering.  As for his voice, part of it is also, I am guessing, change brought about by impingement of various nerves by those nefarious Lumps about which we so want to joke.

He could out grim the Grim Reaper, and will, I hope. Grumpy Lumpy seems to be so intensely in a snit because his life has been destroyed in what must feel like an overnight happening, despite what hindsight now reveals as a vine-like underground creep over a decade, culminating in Kudzu's blazing speed once that first tendril found the sun.

His pain is unimaginable, even to me, the Queen of Pain. His perennial lack of social graces, once endearing, now has the edge of a feudal samurai sword, his made to accommodate one-handed lunges. It's just a matter, really, of a shorter grip.  Maybe a tanto grip with a freaking 4-5 foot ōdachi blade.  I carry a small antique tanto in my obi, as do all my female friends.  Bianca Castafiore, we all know, is never without her 06 F.A.S.T. from Gerber.  She swears by the G-10 handle.  In a nod toward beauty, my dagger handle is a subtle, but distinctive, teal-green silk cord and black samé -- ray skin -- topped with a black iron tsuba bearing a dragonfly motif.

None of us bother with saya, or scabbards. Marlinspike Hall's women are famous for our mastery and obsession with fabrics of incredible tensile strength, and their artistic draping, which most men assume comes from a lurid obsession with shiny, metallic, decorative threading.  Yes, we live for the glint of reinforced brocade on a clear, hot summer day.

"The effect is elegant and rich without becoming fussy. "

Lumpy's issue is the same problem that turned the ōdachi into a ceremonial thing, a spiritual weapon.  The answer, I think, to the obstacle of how to carry his very particular sword, and successfully draw it, lies in providing him with a trusty steed, though that might attract undue attention as he canters about the hallways of higher learning. Better might be an unobtrusive trusty sidekick.  Like a dedicated sister in a wheelchair. I could pass off six feet of sword as a stylized assistive mobility device, no problem.  Who better to have his blessèd back?  Plus, I can help with any grading duties, and be the one to chuck chalk at any undergraduates who dare nap during class.

And here you thought a samurai sword reference was to end in its metaphorical stage! We are a knife-wielding clan, we are.  You should see some of Fred's knives. His nonchalant explanation for seemingly artless features -- a notch here, an odd finish to the metal, a strange blunt affect -- can chill my blood. He and Abbot Truffatore do not so much resemble Boy Scouts comparing five-tooled pocketknives as handy camping tools when they extricate their shiny toys from humble scabbards and lay them on felt-covered table tops as they seem men under the ancient enchantment of war.

So, though weak in body and voice, this Brother-Unit remains obstinately militarized, and determined to try teaching this semester -- two courses in person and one as an internet prof.  I want him to succeed;  I know he won't.  And so pardon my fantasy of squiring him à la Sancho Panza, ready, in the end, to do wheelies and behead the archaic administrators who failed him, impale the students who worked him into weakness, slash the desks and podia that his university maintained instead of providing health care for those who sat and leaned there.

I hate these Sunday calls.

And then there was the dear sister, caring for a waning mother, blindly navigating the end-of-life barriers thrown in their way by that same health care system that has failed the rest of this fucked-up family.  Mom is unaware of the obstacles she dodges, her memory gone, or maybe that stealthy faculty forces her to relive each trouble more than is useful.  The Sister-Unit has become a faithful nurse, tending three bed sores, feeding a weak 81-pound matriarch.  Her partner has leukemia -- that's some punchline, eh?  He is doing well, however, though they are smartly close-mouthed about it.  He's a Prince, a Peach, a Pear, which is the highest accolade of my people.

I did not even consider asking to speak to Mom.  In my mind, likely as confused as hers, I am an abstract construct to her.  The child who caused so much trouble.  The child who said "thanks, but no thanks" some 24 years ago, and by letter, not phone.  I'd had enough, enough doublespeak, enough lies, enough suppression, oppression.  I was careful to express my real gratitude for the raising, for the good times, for the afternoon on the sailboat, for the tea and toast, for the tips on dumping drinks into potted plants at cocktail parties, and the admonitions to stand up straight and be proud of my height.

She taught the art of thank-you notes, of indexing social debts (keeping a tit-for-tat list of Christmas card recipients and a neat list of who attended what party and what outfit she had worn to each). She taught the power of obligation, the complexities of generations.  She was, too, a teacher. Of little ones, but they are the most precious of all.  I did a brief stint as a substitute in a second grade classroom and was more terrified than when I faced a room full of savvy, educated, bright-as-the-moon, inquisitive young men and women.  It was Mom's influence that tainted my university teaching with the same urge to protect and defend that comes so naturally on behalf of six-year-olds.  (Sometimes that was a problem.)

I wished the Sister-Unit good courage and good luck, as she fights for some semblance of coordinated care, hires nurses, and deals with an overfed dog now prone to urinary incontinence.  Oh, and a doctor who opines only the glaringly obvious and does not return her polite phone calls.  It's not his mother, what does he care?  Oh, I take that back.  He's perfectly competent.  There's nothing to do but muddle through.

The other mother, the biological Mother-Unit?  I don't call, or not often, and cannot face it today.  She's likely to make a perfunctory inquiry about her first set of boys, and I cannot spit out the perfunctory lies, not today.  Maybe I should call, but have ready the most non-perfunctory of retorts.  "Lumpy? After winning Wimbledon, he took a brief rest in Monte Carlo -- you know what a gamer he is -- before sporting the yellow jersey on the Tour.  Right now, he's gearing up for a stint as Compositional Inquisitor.  He gets to wear flowing robes and a pouffy hat, Ma.  Isn't that grand?"

Of the other sweet Brother-Unit, I could just wow her with the truth, but her dementia, like her normal state, won't admit too much of the stuff.  So I'd say something like: "He still proudly marches to the beat of his own drum and radiates compassion and equanimity into the wavelengths of the universe, Ma, just like I told you last time."

The third call?  To an evangelical busybody who delights in telling me what to do and then, in undermining my efforts.  This week she taught me a valuable lesson about trust, as in:  Don't do it.  So the third call was harsh but easy. Her proselytizing had brought her no Godly approbation, just the stench of manure spread on burning sulfur. That may be overstating the matter.  I'll let you know.

How am I?  How do you think?  I'm in terrible physical pain, my right hand and foot have seceded from the union, I cannot eat, barely drink, sleep in fits, spasm at the whim of invisible cattle prods, and am returned to the days of fever and sweats, lethargy. Despite that, I take my cue from my siblings, a hardy bunch, smart enough to know that the only way through is through. That there is still music, and that even death is funny.

I cannot bear much more of this, but we all know I will.  My piddling troubles are as nothing. I still recognize beauty and humor -- but they must be either exquisite or of admirable kitsch.

© 2013 L. Ryan

Friday, August 8, 2014

BRAINPAN Bam ba lam...

I'm easy today.  In a hard way.  In a don't-mess-with-me kind of way.  Were you here, and don't you wish that you were?  Were you here, you'd observe, however, a laughing, Buddha-belly-rubbing me, full of cogent witticisms, and a wild overflow of Acts of Kindness. No, I don't expect that my Acts of Kindness will tip the Scales of My Personal Justice Plasticene Statue, mostly because, Hell, the scales are made of Plasticene.

Which brings this celebration of incomplete sentences and thoughts -- much of that lack done as an Act of Kindness toward vous et envers toi, usted y tú, toward the formal and informal, the plural and the singular, the public and the very private, and the greater sin of needing to throw off, burn, and bury the ashes in a truly leak-proof, environmentally perfect, sealed drum.... of those things that are now fiercely private but in need of the fresh air of a gentle, compassionate revelation.  Which brings this celebration of incomplete sentences, thoughts, and diring [neologism du jour], daring challenges of hidden derring-do to its natural first break, a celebration of the "tangerine skies and marmalade skies" that go so naturally with the "Plasticine porters with looking-glass ties" -- words that have been drumming an old beat in the Very Best of My Beloved Readers' brainpans since today's first paragraph.

* Wikipedia admonishes, in its Plasticine entry:  Not to be confused with Pleistocene or Industrial plasticine ["mainly used by automotive design studios"]
Plasticine, a brand of modelling clay, is a putty-like modelling material made from calcium salts, petroleum jelly and aliphatic acids. The name is a registered trademark of Flair Leisure Products plc. Plasticine is used extensively for children's play, but also as a modelling medium for more formal or permanent structures.

Take a few moments to dance -- horizontally or vertically -- or to sway -- sinuously or to some personal sassified jazzy beat -- with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds:

[The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney for the group's 1967 
album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.]

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly;
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head;
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes,
And she’s gone.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain,
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies.
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredible high.

 Newspaper taxis appear on the shore,
Waiting to take you away.
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds,
And you’re gone.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!

Picture yourself on a train in a station,
With plasticine porters with looking-glass ties.
Suddenly, someone is there at the turnstile:
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!
Lucy in the sky with diamonds!

To keep things as kaleidoscopic as possible, here are the words that Merriam-Webster's online site lists as rhyming with "brainpan." Take this offering, those of you who do not know the beauty of Lucy sparkling in Botticelli's half-shell of a heaven, those of you who are still, despite this deficit, also Very Dear Readers. If you feel excluded from the Reader Types being celebrated today, rejoice in the knowledge that Google's beloved animation celebration department partied down a few days ago in honor of John Venn's 180th birthday. Familiarity of, and inordinate fondness for, Venn diagramming are prerequisites for any True Reader of This Blog.

A Venn diagram or set diagram is a diagram that shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets. Venn diagrams were conceived around 1880 by John Venn. They are used to teach elementary set theory, as well as illustrate simple set relationships in probability, logic, statistics, linguistics and computer science.
Ready, set, rhyme!  BRAINPAN Bam ba lam...
adman, Afghan, aidman, ape-man, Bataan, bedpan, best man, Bhutan, birdman, boardman, boss man, brogan, caftan, caiman, cancan, capstan, captan, caveman, chessman, claypan, clubman, Cohan, cooncan, corban, cowman, Cruzan, C-Span, cyan, deadman, deadpan, deskman, dishpan, divan, doorman, dustpan, fan-tan, Fezzan, fibranne, flight plan, flyman, FORTRAN, freedman, freeman, frogman, gagman, game plan, glucan, G-man, Greenspan, hardpan, headman, he-man, iceman, inspan, Iran, japan, Japan, jazzman, Kazan, kneepan, Koran, Kurgan, leadman, liege man, life span, liftman, loran, madman, main man, Malan, Mandan, man's man, mailman, merman, Milan, milkman, newsman, oilcan, oilman, oil pan, old man, one-man, pavane, pecan, plowman, point man, postman, Poznan, preman, pressman, propman, Queen Anne, ragman, rattan, reedman, reman, rodman, routeman, Saipan, salt pan, sampan, sandman, saucepan, schoolman, sea fan, sedan, sideman, snowman, soundman, soutane, spaceman, Spokane, spray can, stewpan, stickman, stockman, straight man, straw man, strongman, stuntman, Sudan, suntan, T-man, TACAN, taipan, test ban, tin can, tisane, toucan, trainman, trashman, trepan, triptan, Tristan, tube pan, unman, vegan, Walkman, weight man, wingspan, wise man, yardman, yes-man
Why yet another post full of snark?  Well, one thing is that I managed to sync my entire music library into my relatively small, yet disturbingly faithful, mp3 player, which promptly ceased to function, forcing me to recall which songs were a true solace in the night and which were just ear candy.  That I was forced to do this by the criterion of megabytes and the tempering memory of hearing each song through cramping, seizing legs hips hands... and the pure fun of tossing the little music machine in the air every few minutes as proof positive that the memory was no memory at all but a real function of my reality.  Better, Grasshopper, to toss the mp3 player than the hot mug of coffee.  Now snatch the damn pebble from my hand spastic hand.

For that bit of mental evil, I made myself create a batch of lucious baked goods for Fred's Congregation of Mostly Fiery Aging Militant Lesbian Existentialists.  And for the Carteresque sinning in my heart that occurred while soaking the prunes in ancient brown-sugared rum?  I made the Hang-Over Gang coffee, taking individual orders as though they amounted to Divine Dicta -- which, of course, given the circumstances, they did.

I know you, vous, tu, tú, y usted, as well as I know you, you, and you over there hiding behind the Ray Ban Wayfarers and the frail, chipping diamonds on the soles of your old Italian shoes.  I mean, Buongiorno, amico mio, but, really, closed-toed Italian shoes require socks, temperate socks, of the discrete sort, and long, not those screaming fantasmini, intemperate things that women used to call "footies."

But perhaps I stray?

No, I don't.  I am just giving you set-types the chance to make a fun array of Venn diagrams. HiLArious allusions to meld, from many cultural highs and lows.

Synthesize away.

My smiles don't reach my eyes.
My Kind Acts leak the last of their kindness not long after conception.
There are no solutions to some problems that are not the answer of Nature -- not heartless, cruel Nature, but balanced Nature. Just excise my soul.
My tears reach my smiles and sweeten the savory items from my ovens.

I set out to make incredibly healthy muffins at 4:30 am yesterday.  So tired that I rested my head on the hot stove top -- believing the best muffins to be, um, *flash*-baked, I had cranked up the heat.  Even pre-heated my muffin tins and set off two fire alarms.  Which probably saved my forehead from second degree burns. Incredibly, due to the fact that I closed doors and room dividers before taking a cane to the offensive safety devices, the Domestic Staff did not spring into the Bucket Line to save the Manor, but slept on, in peace.

Marlinspike Hall was smoking.

Recipes are not loved when I bake, and even so, I am remarkably successful.  Yesterday, I decided to cook with tea.  Chai tea. I saw a tin, I recalled the smell, I despised the acrid smoke of pre-production, and dumped it into what seemed, anyway, a too wet batter.

They're amazing.
Prunes, raisins, oats, oat bran, a secret dried ingredient from a pilgrim known to rivers.
Moist. Yogurt. One huge freaking Jumbo Egg. A Szechuan-peppered hint of cream. All overmixed, by design, by inexplicable need.  They were half-cooked by the friction of my mixing, my beating, my scraping and stirring.

They're a blessing, but we're about out, and I woke today... Well, I woke like this post. Un-Venned, running from what I know to be true, hating the blending and compromise, no matter how well it works under reforming fires. I am not excited by what is the same, by what is shared; I long to keep the greater circle intact, impermeable.  Take me before the circles' skins are white-board fodder, collections of sets and hemmed-in relationships. Subsets smother.  Universal sets reek of desperation.

 Drown me in The River.

Symmetrical 5-set Venn diagram

© 2013 L. Ryan

Marmy Fluffy Butt, Elongated

Those attentive readers who are familiars of Marmy Fluffy Butt will gasp at the virtuosity she allowed the camera to witness, and then, without the usual *ack*::*ack* contrarian fanfare, capture.

Since her feline version of IBS has been brought under control, she's in love bug stage, and can often be found attached to my left hip.  She challenges Buddy the Outrageously Large Maine Coon for Manor leadership about every other day, and has inflicted several warning slashes upon little Dobby's face when he moved in for an innocent traditional DNA check.

She's full of herself, in other words.

We like this version of a long, slinky Marmy Fluffy Butt -- she is not hiding out with abdominal pain, she is, in fact, stretching to new lengths, she winks at me and cracks the worst kind of jokes, then *ack*::*ack*s to her heart's content!

Should Marmy enthrall you, these two old posts describe how she got her and her reign since:
Wednesday's CatCam -- Full of Woe and Wednesday Morning Blahs.

 photo 2d90792b-832e-4406-9975-a8757f28fa10.jpg

Please allow me to share my etymological discovery of the day!  One cannot observe the magnificence that is Marmy without eventually entertaining the term "hoity-toity."  Most often, her attitudinal fluffiness causes a mental stutter, leaving you psychically mumbling, "hoity, hoity, hoiteeee!"  Ah, but... anyway! The term "hoity-toity" actually made!

"Hoity-toity" begs for a hoity-toity origin.  And so was born an etymology with an accent, from an older world with smaller cobbled streets, and where the habit of looking down on people whilst sipping on a thick, caramelly espresso from the comfy vantage point of a limestone or bluestone or concrete tile perch:  "The term "hoity-toity" comes from the French words haut toit, meaning 'high roof.'"

Berlitz called it this way:  "The expression 'hoity-toity,' for ; pretentious,;  comes from the French haut toit — high roof — from which the pretentious looked down on the literally 'lower' classes."

In swoops snope to do what snope does:

Origins:   In common English speech, "hoity-toity" is an adjective used with disdain to refer to the pretentious, those who put on a show of pretending to possess refinement and sophistication (similar to "highfalutin"). So, some people naturally assume that such an unusual expression, referring to the cultured, must itself have a cultured origin — in this case a French-language reference to the (literal) upper class, people who looked down upon others from atop their high roofs (i.e., haut toit). 
"Hoity-toity" has nothing to do with French (or the French), however. The expression comes from our penchant for creating rhyming phrases such as "loosey-goosey" or "helter-skelter," and in this case its base is "hoit," an obsolete 16th century verb whose meaning is "to play the fool" or "to indulge in riotous and noisy mirth." ("Hoity-toity" was more commonly used to describe those who engaged in thoughtlessly silly or frivolous behavior before it became more of a synonym for "pretentious.") Attempts to find the word "haughty" to be an ancestor of "hoity-toity" are equally specious. 

I thought of mourning the loss of a lovely etymology.

Then, thinking of the Queen who prompted the whole half-arsed search, I realized how much closer she is to silliness -- *ack*::*ack* and a wink, followed by a seductive, round-bellied flop and presentation of one white-fuzzed, pink-skinned abdomen in need of rubbing -- than to serious haughtiness.

© 2013 L. Ryan

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Reminder

Into this pitch darkness we're hurled
Where there's not a glimmer of light
It's not the end of the world
It's just the middle of the night

And the blackest of flags is unfurled
In all this absence of light
It's not the end of the world, good people,
Merely the middle of the night

The middle of the night, that's what this is
If death is the real test, this is just a quiz
When grey creeps through your window, it will be day light
The end of this darkness is almost in sight

Into a ball of fear you are curled
And you're holding on with all of your might
But it's not the end of the world, little sister,
It's just the middle of the night

In the maelstrom of your mind you are swirled
You're almost down the drain but not quite
It's not the end of the world, my brother,
Rather the middle of the night

The middle of the night when you fear everything
But the birds will awake soon you will hear them sing
You doubted you'd make it not sure you'd survive
Now you're dead tired, you're still alive

Around fate's fickle finger we're twirled
Small wonder we're all so up tight
But it's not the end of the world, good people,
Merely the middle of the night
No it's not the end of the world as we know it
It's just the middle of the night

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pointe Work

       Great by association

I was great once,
by association.
I imagine that I sauntered
and twirled my tossed curls
passing under Sather Gate
with a grand crème and shiny briefcase.

A few nights after The Great Writer
shared his love
for a breakfast waitress,
I rose from our bed in the middle of the night
-- he was not there --

And I did not know where he was.
(Oh, yes, I did.)
My heart was broken so
I was extremely naked
under a thin pink gown.

I ran into the cool night,
the gown my comet tail in solar wind,
and down the street, stopping
on the corner of 59th and Telegraph.
almost the precise border of two towns.

I stood below the red neon cross
that marked that north edge of Oakland,
a mere shimmer of a woman
before the much more truly pink
Memorial Tabernacle Church.

Then running across the street
to the green-slatted bus bench,
I sat, knees folded in my arms,
and waited, we suppose,
for the bus, the every twelve minute bus.

A bus came, stopped,
whisked open its old doors
with a big wavy swoosh and creak,
but I shook my head "no."
The driver shrugged, drove on,
in a blue sweater with leather-patched elbows.

(Another stupid white girl
sitting on a bench,
may as well be naked
in those cheap pink gowns
shred to flimsy filmy pieces
in the street lamp light.
And they all know where he is.)

Humid air from the bay condensed
upon my body, the famous pink gown
stuck to all those moist places
where it shouldn't   And I knew

I had worn out my welcome as the crazy lady
on the green bus bench on the corner
beneath pink stucco and a red neon cross,
that had so many days guided me home. 

(Just hours ago
with an armload of fresh food
and Peet's unground coffee,
blessed by Chez Panisse
and all the makings of gazpacho.)

Packed by dawn,
when he came home,
I had gone.

We did this dance three times,
pretending a pas de deux --
entrée, adagio,
step pas pas step,
coda -- was just a fractured solo.

I did pointe work,
shreds of buffering cotton
following me around
in my affected dancer's stumpy walk,
until I could rise en pointe again,
ferocious tall, ferocious long.

Three times, I came back.
Three times, I left.

Always for his waitresses,
because "they like [my] poetry."
But the last time, the last time,
I turned left, for once,
and went west
-- left is always west --
into the hills, up rarefied high,

To Kentucky Avenue,
an ambassador's home,
and rented that room with its rocking chair,
from where, mute,
I could see the reflections
of five counties,
the Golden Gate,
but hear no poetry.

Photography credit: A Mélange Et Moi, "The Shoe in Art, The Shoe as Art," 7 January 2011

© 2013 L. Ryan

Blaise Pascal and Other Stupid People

I don't suppose this is a "real" poem as it recounts the two times I have actually argued with beloved and good-natured friends that I had written poems that I, of course, had not.  For one, they are both short and perfect.  For two, when had I ever shown such acumen or humor?  If you catch me sleepy, I still might argue that I could have written them, if temporal reality had not got in the way.

Blaise Pascal and Other Stupid People

Twice in my life
I became so confused
That I could not remember
If it was my poem

or not.

Once, I struggled to stuff
the recurring mumblemumble of Beatrice Ravenel,
Charleston's girl, branded an occasional
poet, when she really

was mostly not.

She'd written a poem
called Fear  that I so loved
I claimed it, renamed it, though,
a much more à propos Stupid People,

but i wasn't

the poet, no, it really was the mumblemumbled
Ravenel, herself, who penned that acid
brevity, that truth that could straighten the spines
of the scoliosed.

It was not me.

In the other instance of fugitive provenance,
I fought admission with ferocity
(It was so ridiculous!) and tried to make off
with Jacques Prévert's Les paris stupides,

and imagine, still that he'd not

mind at all, but might buy me a café at some
café, and laugh and laugh and laugh.
he knew how the mind can reel
before the shrinking chasm of the original.

Here is Prévert's poem, oh --
and I often confuse Prévert with Brel,
for reasons not worth the fathom --
in its lucious back-handed smack of a kiss:

Les paris stupides:   un certain Blaise Pascal   etc… etc...

You must understand, of course,
that paris is not Paris, that a pari is
a bet, and the Pascal's bet, or Pascal's
wager, has come to cause some of us to snigger.

Pascal said, in loose translation:  ""You must wager;
it is not optional... Let us weigh the gain and the loss
in wagering that God exists...
If you gain, you gain all;

if you lose, you lose nothing.
Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists."
Some sniggered then, more snigger now,
And just as many secretly hope that he is right,

un certain Blaise Pascal, etc... etc...

The thing is, I could have written it,
had time and space allowed, if first writer
didn't have author's dibs. But as for
Ravenel, I shiver

knowing that that poem is so beyond me.

This is what the genteel lady wrote
under the rubrique of one-worded Fear:

I am only afraid 
Of the cold dull lids of eyes,
And the cold dull grain of sand in the soul,
ndurate, insensate, not to be made incandescent
Even by God.
I am afraid of the stupid people.  

All that I know, for sure,
is that I wish I could wield words
like laughing whips, riotous riata,
a sting and a laugh,
a sting and a laugh,
a slap and a deep, deep kiss.

© 2013 L. Ryan

One Hour and 57 Minutes Long

       US death row inmate Joseph Wood has died after an execution in Arizona took nearly two hours to kill him.


   Paradox is a luxury

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

But paradox is a luxury,

in poetry as in life,
except for its one hilarious application --
which you can bet is thick and snarled, and simply
twisted -- when you wait on death row, to die.

Yes, I have to specify "to die,"
honor-bound to those
who just don't believe it,
can't fathom it, and
who never see it coming.

(They think, too, that the moon walk
happened on a studio stage)
Their knees don't jangle as they stroll
all lanky and slack-jawed
down some last hall
to some studio-staged
final production, with gurneys
and men who don't look
you in the eye.

Oh, thick, snarled, and twisted -- that paradox
with a punchline that strains to win
before some other voice --
a preacher man, a governor --
sucks the perfect practiced laughter
into the pure static of white noise,
a vacuum, a saw, a toothed edge,
a just-out-of-range radio station,
offshore  -- some foreign language.

But if whispered the way Mama did,
way back before you can remember,
just at the beginning of some night's humid rest,
your sweaty head on her soft breast --
should that privilege of comfort's
remembrance  not be one
you've molested or stabbed
or drowned, or otherwise lost,
should that sweet rest still exist,
should sleep still mean sleep,
with its promise of waking,
and should open eyes still really see?

well, then bless your rapid heart, and bless
your wicked bones, because it's just like going
to sleep, washed clean and all-forgiven,
jammies fresh from the dryer,
stray cotton strands stink, almost burnt --
mama was useless, really,
couldn't do a damn thing right,
never bothered to scrape the thick
mass of nasty felt from the lint trap
the lazy bitch --

If not forgiven, at least,
you'll make up for it
tomorrow ["i promise and
i swear," she whispers
over your damp curls, now
a patterned part of her torn gown]
because you'll wake
with that forever
soapy floral scent,
no acrid smells,
no burnt flesh.

We'll need skin toner, rubbing alcohol,
(though wouldn't witch hazel be nice?)
new razors, for you, my baby,
with lotioned strips, and three, four blades,
sponges, loofahs, rubber bands,
a tourniquet, a cannula, a steady hand,
some pretty scalloped-
edged pink paper tape, and wipes
to sanitize our hands, and child,
smell the mix of lotion with my sweat,
and pump your fist to make those veins
stand up.

Dream of tomato sandwiches clotting on white bread
as we slap our knees, lined up in nantucket rockers
on someone's perfect sea front porch and
laughing, hear us whisper:

"It's just like going to sleep."

© 2013 L. Ryan