Thursday, December 17, 2015

History is like an Impressionist Painting

Three days ago on the Daily Walk, around the corner 
on the street with gingko trees, one yard has suddenly
burst into blossom! Whoever gardens there has planted out 
many colors of primrose and a few cyclamen, also in bloom.
These are never blooms one sees in December!
And it made me yearn for spring!
(Square iPhone photo, overcast day, no processing.)

The mail brought a new Paris Review today, 
but I haven't been able to look at it until tonight. 
It has five poems by Henri Cole, 
whose name I know, but whose poetry 
is only slightly familiar to me. I have seen some, 
and he has published many books, 
but I haven't paid much attention. 

Here is the first one:


On this tenth day of the year, I play Stravinsky
and sip vodka from a paper cup, taking in the view.
Tendrils twining, leaves rippling, guts absorbing nutrients,
brains processing information--all of it is dust now.
He, she, all of them lie under sod, men and women
no longer rivals in love. Bodies grow old and fester.
History is like an Impressionist painting, a variegated
landscape of emotional colors. As night falls
owls, bats and hedgehogs come out to hunt.
I take joy in considering my generation. I rewrite
to be read, though feel shame acknowledging it.
Scattered among imposing trees, the ancient
and the modern interact, spreading gems of pain
and happiness. I curl up in my fleece and drink.

Henri Cole   (born 1956)

Paris Review 215, Winter, 2015, page 218.

This is a 14-line poem, but t doesn't seem like a sonnet. The visiting of graves is interesting to me--
it is something I haven't been in a position to do, most often, my family graves were elsewhere, And the kind of travel where one visits graves of the famous, hasn't been the kind I have done. But naturally this makes me wonder where Lowell is buried. And I think it would be well for me to see who is buried around here. I seem to remember that there is a burial ground near New Almaden for the workers in the old mercury mines.
My husband's family always visited the village cemetery in Liberty, Idaho, on Memorial Day. They neatened up the grounds and the tombstones and maybe brought some decorations, and finished up with a smashing picnic!
My Facebook friend, the American haiku poet, Tom Clausen, who lives near Ithaca, New York, seems to take almost daily walks and bicycle rambles near his home. As is often true of places in the East that were settled earlier than here in the West, there are small burial grounds and family plots--many of which exist in a neglected state. He photographs in these places sometimes, and meditates on the people who are gone and the lives they might have led.
I think the owls, bats and hedgehogs are my favorite part of this poem. Have you written any poems about burial places? Tonight the final question on Jeopardy was about the French Pantheon, which became a burial place for the seriously important folk of France. None of the contestants answered correctly.

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