Saturday, April 28, 2018

**Poem: "Gazebo for Two Anarchists"

Gazebo for Two Anarchists

                                             -after Storm King Arts Center, NY

I wait hours for you,
winding along the 84s and 87s,
your mother's 3rd hand relay
of your whereabouts as reassurance,
that and acting Noguchi pit
in the granite peach,
reclining in the burning ivy with
Moore's iron maiden,
prickled to anxious by
Nevelson's poky house of cards.
You push your voice like
a gun to my back,
sneak from behind as I
ring up your mother one more time,
the sun sinking straight
into the wary horizon.
"Put down that phone!"
I obey; you never have to beg.

My life starts each year in September,
shuffling thru colonial leaves,
damp autumn winds
piercing china skies,
clouds moving quicker than stars.
We met in July, at the start of the eighties,
bought matching dresses at the foreign booth
to burn Sinatra, listen to incense
creak on the metal dorm sills in.
Your husband hangs between us now,
beloved by proxy,
English cowboy met
on another range.
The moon shone on all of us,
but the love fell on you.

Long picnic shadows
join us at the tables, with
bare turkey and cheese on wheat.
I have a photo of myself
dangling from a pointed cannon;
later, I would stumble on an old god
at a mountainside lodge,
my lips melting into his hundred apologies,
soon to be multiplied.

You and I chat up mothers, molehills
in that metal gazebo,
as if the normal setting for us
was this spare trolley.
Anarchists? I'd like to think
our love lives beyond the system,
our lives apart from cocktails and terror.
You shine rocks with your fingertips,
mold gold into the things we need.
I write it all down,
Basho of the Hudson,
hoping straw sandals, orchids for laces
will be enough.
The trolley stays as we part,
twilight bellowing in the distant space.
Gazebo tea-talk lingers
on my windburned mouth.
The mountains stay behind.

CAR  4/14/98

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Forever Plaid: Auctioning Sylvia

In March, the surviving child of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, painter and poet Frieda Hughes, sold at auction a number of her mother’s personal effects, to the tune of $551,862. The items included such mundane offerings as a yellow sundress, a costume jewelry necklace whose source is unknown, and of course, one of her mother’s signature plaid skirts from her days at Smith College. Hughes’ reasoning, as if she needed to provide one, was that being the last in her family (her brother Nicholas, an infant at the time of their mother’s suicide in 1963, committed suicide himself in 2009), she was fearful that the provenance of some unique items would be lost after her passing.

Of course, many do not live to provide the history of significant artifacts after their own death, and yet the information is passed on. And Frieda Hughes of all people has a right to seek some profit, after all her mother’s life and death have cost her. Little known is the fact that profits from the publication of Plath’s Collected Poems went to her and her brother, and not the so-called villain Ted Hughes. Yet, it doesn’t all sit right with me. A chair? A few bits of cloth? Sylvia Plath, like Marilyn Monroe, has transcended what fame she’d achieved in life to rise to a supernatural status straddling the literary and pop star worlds. The significance of these things because they belonged to Sylvia has multiplied exponentially, and their monetary value at auction clearly prove this.

I am not walking in Frieda Hughes’ sad, heavy shoes. I can’t imagine what she remembers of her mother, if anything. To carry that legacy into the art world, let alone life, must be an unimaginable burden. She paints, she writes, but always with the specter of the giants that bore her hovering overhead. But I can’t imagine either that many of us would part with such personal tokens. An exorcism of a kind? Frieda Hughes is herself a survivor, and that is something to be proud of in this realm. How she does it is her business.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hallmark- Curse or Blessing?

As well as being National Poetry Month, April is the birth month of the writer and poet Maya Angelou. Best known for the first of her many autobiographies, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, her poetry was equally celebrated, and in 1993, she became the first poet to read at a Presidential Inauguration since Robert Frost.

In 2001, however, Hallmark presented a decently designed line of greeting cards that featured Angelou’s words. Nicely done as they were, the idea of selling one’s poems, especially the poems of such a distinguished writer as Maya Angelou, really rubbed me the wrong way. It smacked of the kind of cheap self-exploitation that I would never have expected of her.

Maya Angelou documented in detail the many jobs she’d done to support herself during her life: dancer, fry cook, sex worker, actress, and activist. In the last few years of her life, in constant physical pain according to her son, she completed several additions to her ongoing memoir, including one about her relationship with her mother.

Why can’t I completely shake the idea that Hallmark cards were beneath her then? They were beautiful, a cut above the sentimental drivel that one expects from a greeting card, and are clearly still held in high regard by many. They sell on Ebay for a bit more than they retailed for fifteen years ago. No other poets to my knowledge have followed suit, and why would that be, since Hallmark has proven such a product can be done tastefully, and presumably sell well?

Maybe it’s just that so few of us send cards, or any kind of personal mail, anymore. I have to get my niece’s card in the mail tomorrow, for her Saturday birthday. Chances are whatever I find won’t be the equal of a Maya Angelou card. But, would I purchase one if it was in front of me? I still don’t know.