Wednesday, October 08, 2008


poem for the new year

This being the Jewish High Holiday season--Rosh Hashanah, the New Year (literally "Head of the Year") having been last week, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, beginning this very evening, I thought it would be nice to post my most Biblical poem, written in 1984, and later published in John (Jack) Clarke's poetry journal intent., which was fitting, because it is also the most Clarkean poem I ever wrote.

Beginning with yesterday's first imagining of this post, I wanted some sort of title such as the one I have finally chosen, "poem for the new year". When I finally laid my hands on a copy of the poem (I couldn't find one in my apartment, nor my copy of the appropriate issue of intent., so I had to go to my Safe Deposit Box at the Dime Savings Bank for the copies secured there), it was a charming surprise to be reminded by the date at the bottom of the poem that it was written very close to the start of a New Year as in January.

I am probably not telling the reader anything that she or he does not already know, but allow me to point out that "minyan" refers to the quorom of ten men that traditionally is needed to conduct a Jewish prayer service, and here connects with the Biblical narrative of Abraham pleading with The Lord to save the two condemned cities if there are ten worthy people there. "Intellectual tears" evokes Blake's lines from "The Grey Monk": "For a Tear is an intellectual thing,/And a Sigh is the sword of an Angel King".

Lot's Wife Turns to the Lot of the City

Murderous fire and sulfer from the skies
not deflected by the force of enough
satisfactory citizens forming a minyan
as minimum constellation to
serve as shield of wonderful light for
the city's living flesh against
the knuckles of judging flame
the lucky woman couldn't take in her
stride, so halted,
turned to witness, with body and heart
bleeding as instantly she
solidified to
bitter intellectual tears standing
firm as eternal
saving saline
mercy of all
health and preservation.

2 January 1984

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008


the copier's at the zoo, the check is written

"i'll meet you at the zoo & we'll xerox" is a line that has long intrigued me from Bernadette Mayer's 2005 book, Scarlet Tanager. It's from "Stanzas In Meditation", a thirteen line poem that appropriates--or better said, activates--certain elements from Part I, Stanza I of Gertrude Stein's book-length poem of that name.

There seems to me something somehow very right about the image of xeroxing at the zoo; I like to visualize someone going into a special room at a zoo containing a public xerox machine and making all the copies s/he needs. The image is mysteriously pleasing; and likely popped into Mayer's mind because of the animal species name at the end of the word "xerox". One could leave it at that.

But I'd like to suggest that the image also points to the way that a zoo must reproduce as best as possible the physical environment each of its animals would be inhabiting in the Wild. That, I think, is the secret of why the image has always "worked" for me.

And when I look at the poem as a whole I think truly there is further support for my reading of the image. But we won't get into that now; to look at the poem properly I'd have to examine it in the light of the Stein poem, & I'll save that for later.

But I'll note that I have written the check to help Ms. Mayer and Mr. Good attain assurance that as the weather grows colder they will have (see the previous post) the domestic heat environment needed by human beings, and that very truthfully, it's in the mail.


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