William Faulkner (1897-1962)

So, who, then, is there left to play?
Hush up! In a world full of syllables,
One can only say things in one’s own way.

It’s no small wonder…

 

So, why is it language we twist when we really mean to turn?
Dwelling on riddles while the clocks slay time.
In no good, doggone exaggeration is how we learn.

It’s no small wonder…

 

So, when will it all come to some dusty, imaginative end?
Like whispers in a crowded room and idiots that tell the tale too soon.
I reckon, the chance to meddle remains our one true friend.

It’s no small wonder…

 

So, what, then, is there left to make up anyway?
The past and the future in a game of sleight of hand.
Aint one, not one, who gits how the poor players play.

It’s no small wonder…

One can only say things in one’s own way.

Willa Cather (1873-1947): “In Notions of”

In notions of infinity, we are born to miss the mark.
When time bends with us across those ever shifting narratives,
We build monuments to the sanctuaries of tomorrow
And take comfort in the prairie grass left swishing in the dark.

(We grow tall only to let our leaves fall.)

In notions of history, we pretend a world without end.
That place where what we have rests on whether we come or we go.
We listen to voices that fade into the mesas of stone
And long for what’s constant in the landmarks we choose to defend.

(We think we’re too trained to be stained.)

In notions of existence, we find splendor in what is stark.
Like a whistle poured out among the parched landscapes of the mind,
We know not for which of these territories we must labor,
And for which salvation we’re striving at the sound of the lark.

(We spend our days in curious ways.)

In notions of death, art plus religion is our only friend.
When we yield to the generations for the one thing that lasts,
We cement man and creation in wild multiplicity,
And bring judgment on the boundaries we can never hope to mend.

(We think we’re too strong to be wrong.)

Cotton Mather (1663-1728): “Seeing Through a Glass Darkly”

There’s something to be said for mastering the consequences
and for conjuring up history into a single word.

Good and evil see through a glass darkly;
but its poverty that mistakes debt for riches
and that conjugates salvation into a verb.

For how very tricky the gauge of morality can seem
as we willingly conform to the redemption of our time.

It’s too bad the battle refuses change
and the ages of light are not unexpected,
much like the covenants of the enlightened mind.

See, mediocrity lies in who makes the discovery
for humanity forever longs to control its own state.

Waging its war on the same points of view,
mystery remains no more to unravel
much like the questions that control our own fate.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881): “The Law of My Life”

Certainty is indeed such a very strange thing.
For how simple a simple step should almost seem.
Yet when melancholy breathes its pause on our flow,
it turns that utopia into a new kind of foe.

Drifting in this collective mediocrity,
where we must talk and talk until we all agree,
we let our history be the destination,
to be determined by the latest fright and sensation.

Yes, it is hard to ignore our evolution
with so many stalwarts who have it all so right.
Feasting on titles like we’re desparate for feeding,
we rest on this normalcy while our nation is bleeding.

Oh, it’s so very few who guide their wandering.
Navigating through such a complex audience,
somehow they know when to sift the drama from the dream,
leaving their soliliquoy minus the usual scheme.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834): “He, He Himself, and Only He”

In looking back, there is a truth to tell
for what is medicine is often hell.
Like great promise lost to multiplicity,
it’s hard to bring these things and thoughts into one,
to stand between and connect  man with the sun.

Yet, he, he himself, and only he
could imitate this activity
of elaborating essence into existence,
pointing us toward the creative power,
sacrificing the latest symbols of the hour.

For in the sadness we must settle,
leaving and cleaving to a new kind of medal.
Forged in unifying metamorphosis,
we wonder whether anyone can overcome the self,
that is, until we see Coleridge reconciled on our shelf.

Dick and Janet: “A Certain Kind of Premise”

There’s a certain kind of premise
where practice generates theory
from which we never tire or grow weary.

A girl and a boy and lasting love,
so similar in kind but different in degree,
questioning the assumptions that leave me hungry.

Bridging opposites in uncommon common sense
amidst models that always fail,
there’s this softness to their love that’s never frail.

Some say progress blooms out of necessity,
but at the equatorial point, it’s love that rests
with subjectivity and objectivity as its guests.

Yes, I peered into this love of a boy and his girl,
an ideal symbol that’s been copied by some;
yet they lack the will and the mercy to overcome.

A Renaissance of the Self-Portrait (A Conversation with Edna St. Vincent Millay)

In unity we miss the mark
with fairytales that refuse to divide
what is light from what is dark
for poverty is the ruin we provide.

With idealistic jesters running to and fro
repainting the lines of intellectual liberty,
absence in the presence, we know
for progress leaves behind our Jubilee.

So just where is this choral echo that’s surely passed
in that desperate race to save the planet?
The die’s been tossed, the lot’s been cast;
eternity reminds us that truth is stagnant.

See, here’s a story you think you’ve read
while in some heightened but afflicted state
where the soil is no longer living or dead
and the decent and the damned share the same fate.

Oh, how we must struggle with this portrait of the self
wondering who will forgive such a large debt,
for obedience is so much harder than wealth;
thus, we go on hedging the same, old bet.

Eventually, the fantasy lies in the mirror we propose
while the narrative still sits at the right hand;
the soul becomes the subject left to suppose
and it’s imagination that must renounce the land.

May Sarton (1912-1995): “In the House of Gathering”

In the House of Gathering,
the clown with the colored balloons
stands in solitude to the crowd.

Floating in moments
behind the painted face,
it smiles down at the
slow days and fast years.

Music, laughter, the rhythm of the blur,
The slight reverberations of
simple conversations.

(Oh how hard it is to wear other people’s faces.)

Twisting, turning, reshaping
the mass of rubber,
a dog, a cat, even a yellow horse.

The clown creates for the world
while the crowd rushes by
to experience the Whirlwind,
the Time Traveler, the
machines of speed.

(Oh how we anticipate each and every curve.)

Yet, the painted face is left
to smile on with its colored objects
even when one, turned too slightly,
explodes in its face.

Samuel F.B. Morse (1791-1872): “Gallery of the Louvre”

In this interlude along my interval,
I find my pastoral release.
It is an altogether more than ordinary anguish,
predicated on a cultural disunity I have sought,
willingly ignorant of what God hath wrought.

For how I reject the aesthetic dignity.

Yet even in these seasons of distress,
I find little worth rereading.
It is an altogether more than deliberate relief;
this spontaneous overflow of imagination,
it’s art in art for transatlantic fascination.

For how I reject the singleness of a future.

And in the stroll along the promenade,
I’m moved beyond all aspiration.
It is an altogether more different history
than the one enraptured by the Romantic’s snare,
for this one points me out of a world of care.

Yet how I masquerade in brightly lit doorways of discontent.

For when it’s time to bid farewell,
I no longer think about the price.
It is an altogether more certain covenant
in this room I have never yet stood
such a sweet hour if only I would.

Yet how I masquerade among the Father’s throne.

Olive and Whittaker

A little girl and her dog they were,
skipping along down the tree-lined lane.
In undivided philosophy,
together, once more, toward home they came
(living each day for more of the same).

The small puppy bounded and followed,
his beagle ears let loose and floppy.
Matching the girl step by silly step,
at first glance, he appeared to copy
(in unity bumbling toward sloppy).

But the little girl in her own way,
tried to imitate her little friend.
She still a girl and he still a pup,
no one could distinguish in the end
(which offenses they had left to mend).

Into the house, they burst in a loud roar,
like an echo of something that’s passed.
No more a girl and her dog were they,
but nature’s harmony fused too fast
(to hold the distinctions made to last).