Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"To Last": Poem of the Day

A few weeks back, I signed up to receive a Poem-A-Day, from the Academy of American Poets.  Some days are disappointments, some days the poem is too much for me, or too little.  Some days are sweet memories, more and more are revelations.

Today, it was "To Last" (2012), by D. A. Powell, and it was just right:

I have had to learn the simplest things
last. Which made for difficulties...
—Charles Olson

We know from accounts of the judgment of Paris how Love took first: 
the apple burnished by—it turns out—her own husband, working the bellows,
forging to Discord's specifications, her need to break the spaghetti strands
of marriage, her undiluted vitriol, that oversaw his flux and foundry, 
guided the sparking hammer to its urgent deed.

Spoils of war.

Power, undeterred and wily as it always is, the figural eye and its agency,
took gladly the second chair, from which advantage machinations could be seen.
Advised, conferred, deployed the second wave of ships, provided mercenary aid
to every side and fanned the air, and made her counsel with all sides, supporting
every one and none, out-waiting tides.

If we believe the Greeks, the spokes of Fortune's wheel in constant turn would allow
the last to be the first—beatitudes bestowed upon the losing side, 
a draught of time in which the wily ones, by their equine portage made
the mind the victor over Love's inconstancy and strife,
and, over brute acts, gave thought dominion in a golden age. But that's just myth.

Wisdom, you are the last to whom I turn. Not for your spear, 
fashioned in that same fire as all bright jealous objects of desire. But for your shield.
Protect the least of us. Or lift me from this battlefield,
and take me home.

Of the poet, there is this, from

D. A. Powell was born in Albany, Georgia on May 16, 1963. He attended the University of San Francisco, obtaining his bachelor's degree in 1991, and his master's in 1993. He then went on to receive his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1996.

He is the author of a trilogy of books, including Tea (Wesleyan, 1998); Lunch (2000); and Cocktails (Graywolf, 2004), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent book, Chronic (2009) received the Kingsley Tufts Award and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

His subjects range from movies, art, and other trappings of contemporary culture to the AIDS pandemic. Powell’s work often returns to AIDS, and his three collections have been called a trilogy about the disease. As Carl Phillips wrote, in his judge’s note for Boston Review’s Annual Poetry Award, of Powell’s work, "No fear, here, of heritage nor of music nor, refreshingly, of authority. Mr. Powell recognizes in the contemporary the latest manifestations of a much older tradition: namely, what it is to be human."

Powell has received a Paul Engle Fellowship from the James Michener Center, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, among other awards. He has taught at Columbia University, the University of Iowa, Sonoma State University, San Francisco State University, and served as the Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Poetry at Harvard University. He currently teaches at the University of San Francisco, and edits the online magazine Electronic Poetry Review.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mabuhay, Mes Amis, and Have a Nice Day!

"Quick, quick," I thought. "Wake the Fredster up, roust Sven and Bianca from their *very* original sleeping configuration (inspired by a shared Olympic synchronized diving obsession) and gather the Feline Remnant!  Hurry!"

These are not my average early morning thoughts, which normally range from "Oh, my God, please, Sweet Jesus, O Holy Mary, I cannot do this again." [as in " another day."]  The coda is normally, "Christ in a freaking hand basket, where are my pills?  Where is my grabber?  Where are my legs?  Why is there air?**"

After invoking this cheery crowd in the Medieval Kitchen, after the 20 minutes required to make each one a coffee with my one drip Melita cone (I broke the café presse last week), such that I was pouring Sven's stein a refill just after serving Marmy Fluffy Butt her first 13-ounce café au lait porcelain bowl.  

It didn't matter!  Their grumbling mumbling and weird kinesio tape art (another London 2012 fad) and gigglingly timed requests for coffee top-offs could not, would not, defer me from my joyous intention.

Okay, it *was* difficult to ignore La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, who has reached Tagalog in her project of artistic translations of Gounod's L'Air des bijoux ["Ah ! je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir"], such that there was a constant back beat groove of "Ah! kong tumawa upang makita ang aking sarili kaya maganda sa mirror na ito."

She finally paused in her Filipino practice session to request a cup of hot tea with lemon and honey, and everyone else had worn their wit out;  My moment had arrived.

"Good morning, my friends! Magandang umaga, ang aking mga kaibigan!  Bonjour, mes amis!" I began with good cheer writ large upon my face.

"It happens so rarely," I began...

"Oh, my God.  The miniature gay minotaur went after Field Marshall again," moaned Sven.  Field Marshall is 6ft 5ins tall and still growing.  He's the largest bull in the world and has not shared with us, as yet, his sexual orientation, although he seems to enjoy his stud work well enough.

"Crap-and-a-half," yelled Fred.  "The garderobes are blocked, and right on time, it's our busiest day in ManorFest.  I HATE medieval architecture...  Would it KILL the Haddocks to fork over enough for a dozen port-a-loos?  Do you KNOW what it takes to unclog a blocked garderobe conduit, DO YOU?"

"Fred, dah-ling," purred The Castafiore, "All caps, this is tantamount to shouting.  And it is too early to shout, yes, my Fred?"  She's been baiting him nonstop ever since he put her on the midnight-to-3 AM ManorMaze Rescue Duty

"*Ack*::*Ack*" was Marmy's contribution, while Buddy the Freakishly Large Kitten delicately placed his freakishly large paw into my now cold caffeinated beverage, leaving something small but indefinable floating on my careful foam.  Dobby assumed the Perfect Cat Position, and would not budge, no matter the rising kitchen tension.    

I began to dole out the heart-healthy and delicious sweet chocolate oatmeal with raisins that I had made, with love, and half-and-half.

That got my Big Girl Diva's attention right away. Bianca's is made with golden raisins soaked overnight in rum.  Sven prefers a dark bitter unsweetened chocolate and eight individual packets of Domino's Sugar and Stevia blend, and Fred ruins his with Organic Amber Agave Nectar.  The cats add a quarter cup bonito flakes and forego chocolate and sweetener.  And oatmeal.  

With everyone finally happy, and silent, I finally got to my intended objective:

"I just wanted to let you know that I slept well, don't have a fever, and that I haven't had any CRPS dystonia activity in over ten hours.  I am not harboring, to my knowledge, even a single rancorous thought, and am filled with love and appreciation for each and every one of you.  Marmy left a poop on the stool by the window in the Baroque Music Chamber, when she easily could have targeted the Oriental Rug Room.  Dobby threw up on my new sari quilt,but it washed well, and since it's actually made of old saris, who cares that it faded another few shades? Buddy scratched a hole in the bag of liquified rotten turnips, after taking the lid off of our wheelie bin, and really, it had a homey, nutty kind of smell that we might consider for our next batch of Original Manor Potpourri.  Fred scratched my right shin with his untrimmed big toe but the resultant ulcer didn't even bleed.  Bianca got to Tagalog and my migraine preventive medication worked like a charm.

"Clearly, I'm having a good day.  

"I thought that deserved an announcement."

** "Why is their air?" Cosby's third album, is my first memory of recorded formal comedy and I loved it.  Still do.  Much in the same way that I loved a catcher's mitt and wanted to use it in lieu of a proper first basewoman's mitt.  That may be how I built up my left wrist to such awesome proportions, a useless attribute because, right-handed, it did nothing to help my future forehand, but did inspire acumen as well as necessity for two-handed backhands.