May 2015

for Lawrence Sullivan

There are days when 
one should be able 
to pluck off one’s head 
like a dented or worn 
helmet, straight from 
the nape and collarbone 
(those crackling branches!)

and place it firmly down 
in the bed of a flowing stream. 
Clear, clean, chill currents 
coursing and spuming through 
the sour and stale compartments 
of the brain, dimmed eardrums, 
bleared eyesockets, filmed tongue.

And then set it back again 
on the base of the shoulders:
well tamped down, of course, 
the laved skin and mouth, 
the marble of the eyes 
rinsed and ready
for love; for prophecy?

Strange fruit was originally a poem written by a Jewish school teacher, Abel Meerpool, after seeing a photograph of a lynching in a civil-rights magazine. The photo was a shot of 2 black men hanging from a tree after they had been lynched in Marion, Indiana on August 7, 1930. The two men are the “Strange Fruit.”

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

“I don’t know where to go.”

“Neither do I. Let’s go together.”

In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway american dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
Its a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while were young
`cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run (more…)

Your poetry sounded like spoken salsa.
I am in love with your language, courtesies,
Hospitality, the way you spoke to me.
I could write like this for a very long time
And I could even write like this in rhyme.
Through the traffic of Caracas, I overheard
The song of the improbable linnet,
And the sorrows of Bolivar, of whom,
I’m far from fit to speak – a man my size,
With a dead love, but a real hero.

‘O brave new world that has such noises in it!’

I could wear a brimmed hat and smoke cigars
On a verandah in my coffee plantation
(If I had one) holding up my rum punch
To catch the sunset in its tawny depths.

I could do that. I could do lots of things.
But probably, I’ll do nothing at all.
There’s something in me that insists it sings
Freely, for nothing, the lovely, lonely art
Called poetry, an art you understand.

Look tight to taste the buzzard’s arc,
ignored thrash and thrash along the coast
to pool and slate with shine and cries
of jackdaw child and rattling kite.

I loved to be here.
Kissed over there and
running here and taught nice words
from people dripping nets and
treading steps with bounce and bounty.

Poised, the cliffs are able to soak it all in, all day.
And they get to stay.
As bare, as covered, as washed and weathered
as friends to the sea and sandy sky.

It is time to go.

For us a picture floats awhile and fades a print for our minds to
point at what was there on a summer’s holy day.
Your faces, your feet, your laughter shrieks
and your thirst and your feed,
in that air, in rocks and pools
forever slammed from high with jackdaw’s cry and the spread wheeling buzzard’s gaze.

You are there, always now, you cling with chat and crash running with the water
to throw yourself to the waves. You are there.

Dans le fond des forêts votre image me suit. 

There is a panther stalks me down:
One day I’ll have my death of him;
His greed has set the woods aflame,
He prowls more lordly than the sun.
Most soft, most suavely glides that step,
Advancing always at my back;
From gaunt hemlock, rooks croak havoc:
The hunt is on, and sprung the trap.
Flayed by thorns I trek the rocks,
Haggard through the hot white noon.
Along red network of his veins
What fires run, what craving wakes?  (more…)

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