July 25, 2007

pick up my sound signal to you


Irwin Kline, Trash Can Revoltionaries, NYC, late-1960s

“Poetry should be passionate and outrageous and political and most of all revolutionary. I am a radical, although as I get older sometimes I get too soft and am just a liberal.” -- Gerald Stern

Poems by Gerald Stern:

The Bite

I didn’t start taking myself seriously as a poet
until the white began to appear in my cheek.
All before was amusement and affection-
now, like a hare, like a hare, like a hare,
I watch the turtle lift one horrible leg
over the last remaining stile and head
for home, practically roaring with virtue.
Everything, suddenly everything is up there in the mind,
all the beauty of the race gone
and my life merely an allegory.


Swan Legs

just for a second, when Mao stood up and walked
out of the theater in Leningrad the swan
stopped dancing and Khruschev just shrugged his shoulders
and lowered his eyes. Mao’s hatred of tutus
prevailed as his hatred of Russian food
and his hatred of clean napkins. Nixon and Kissinger
sat for the swan in Washington-they passed
notes between them and when they were finished reading
they tore them in tiny pieces. The swan believed
in suffering so she floated across the stage,
well, sort of floated, and so it goes; the pricks
down there in their seats they couldn’t care less, they feasted
on swan legs, they took care of themselves,
yet why should I pick on them, there is enough
feasting even without them. I usually know
pricks, the swan is lucky for such a bird
to do what she does to music, to do it to song,
her head in the air, so misunderstood and hated,
so wrongly loved; first her dark beak swaying,
and that is the violin, and then her leaping,
and that is the harp, or the comb-look at me forgetting
the comb, and the sweet potato, when I was a swan
myself, and I almost floated; the one I remember
she sang and trilled a little, that was a swan
with a voice, the thigh is wider than a chicken’s,
the flesh is dark and stringy; it was vinegar
they forced down the throat, plain distilled white vinegar,
to soften the wild flesh and kill the suffering.


Bob Summers: The Final Poem

There are two men I know who wander around all winter as I do,
half listening and half falling over rocks and curbs.
One is a bicyclist who pedals all day on
an old balloon-tire bike through Upper Black Eddy;
the other is a bridge-walker who wears a long army
overcoat with “P.O.W.” still faintly printed across the back.
There was a third who walked down the streets of Philadelphia,
touching base at the Chess Club and Frank’s and the Greek’s
like a farmer, or beggar, doing the daily round.
If you saw just the back of his head
and his hands waving you would know he was leading you
through one of his darker arguments;
if you followed him further
you would be dragged to a place where every connection was smashed
and the brain had trouble sorting out its own riches.
I last saw him concentrating with all his power
on the problem of simple existence,
trying to match words with places
and blurred thoughts with things,
reducing everyone who knew him or came near him
to a state of either pity or shame
because of his strangeness and clumsiness.
I remember the rope he carried
and the knot of terror he fingered as he daydreamed,
the knot of release, hanging slack like a crown
over the back of his neck,
always ready to guide him through his weakness,
ready to give him back his health and wisdom.


The Dancing

In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots
I have never seen a post-war Philco
with the automatic eye
nor heard Ravel’s “Bolero” the way I did
in 1945 in that tiny living room
on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did
then, my knives all flashing, my hair all streaming,
my mother red with laughter, my father cupping
his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance
of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum,
half fart, the world at last a meadow,
the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us
screaming and falling, as if we were dying,
as if we could never stop–in 1945–
in Pittsburgh, beautiful filthy Pittsburgh, home
of the evil Mellons, 5,000 miles away
from the other dancing–in Poland and Germany–
oh God of mercy, oh wild God.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice lyric in the title.

8:53 PM  

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