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Other Notable Works by Norbert Krapf, CB Follett and Robert Hamblin.
Louis Daniel Brodsky-
A Failure to Exorcise Demons
The longer he sits, in listless abstraction,
Trying to locate the sun’s core,
In the stained-glass fanlights entrancing him,
The stronger grows his fascination
With dissolution. Soon, his eyes melt
Like candles abandoned by gambolers
Ranting in drunken stupors. They drip images
A metaphor at a time,
Which fall to the paper below his pensive shape
And rearrange themselves, line by line,
In tiny, rhyming, cursive word-chimes,
Which he refers to as “poetic visions.”
As he examines the splatterings, for godly signs,
His mind buckles. He’s aware
Of something behind him, a force
Leaning over his shoulder,
Trying to read what his eyes have written,
Share his private insights.
He slows breathing to a cryogenic sleep,
To see if he might recognize his eavesdropper
By his heartbeat. Suddenly, his blood thins;
His skin goes cold as eels. Death flickers
Like a snake’s tongue, strikes. From his wax ashes,
Beelzebub beckons him home.
The nights slowly grow colder.
The old white Gothic manse shivers,
Suspires in shorter breaths,
Fills, each dawn, with a chill
That afternoon suns less successfully reverse,
As September-crisp days
Give way to October’s brittle vapors.
This morning, descending the stairs,
I can’t distinguish the floorboards’ creaking
From snapping, cracking joints and tendons
In my bare feet,
Nor am I able to slake the freeze
Racing up my bones,
Through the mazy space between them and their flesh.
What a strange, vague shape
My naked body casts
In mirrors I pass, on my way to the bathroom.
In this nexus between dream and dawn,
The demon who’s driven me
Doesn’t seem to recognize his reflection.
To me, he’s pale and frail, a trifle frightened.
My dormant, torpid body
Stirs from sleep’s vague opiate vapors
And lifts into daylight,
Like a heavier-than-air weather balloon
Struggling to overcome gravity
And gather the most recent readings
On the human condition.
Through my eyes’ portals,
Vision enters, oblique and translucent,
As though passing through alabaster corneas.
Unable to rectify the distortions,
My sensors collect raw data
And feed it to computers
Heated for squeezing meaning from sunspots
And aberrations in the atmosphere.
Soaring, now, through fog,
Rising, on invisible thermals, into a sky
Whose anodized patina consists of clouds,
My precarious flying vessel
Arrives at its predestined setting.
Breathing at this height is completely futile.
I am thrall; all decisions, choices
Are subordinate to an inordinate force
Attaching its apparatus to jacks
Wired psychically to my head and heart.
I float in eternity’s ocean,
A sweet, ambrosial Ishmael-seed
Hoping a hospitable shore will stop me,
Plant me in its galactic sand,
And let me grow, through fantasy,
Into a bloom fruiting among other blooms,
In Edenic serenity. Suddenly, I know
Why this altitude is so total:
Dying is 360 degrees;
Forever is the gone soul being drawn home.
An Ode to the Westerly Wind
October’s mid-Missouri mornings
Open slowly, day unfolding into day
Like tight-budded sweetheart roses
Wilting over the edge of a cut-glass vase.
Their pungent decay awakens me
To my own deliberate breathing, arouses my mentality,
Creates its own occasion for celebrating the senses,
This declining season — God’s most vital climax.
Despite His cosmic adoration of us,
Which sometimes assumes inhuman designs
And illusory, unappreciated shapes,
It’s difficult to assign divine wisdom to dying things
Or justify mystical intervention
As the given, not a variable, in the providential equation.
Yet without precluding euthanasia, suicide,
And irrational homicidal acts,
We must accept that how and when we leave,
Regardless the reason, are neither significant
Nor timely, just predictable within the scheme:
Trees, dogs, grass, water, people,
Even mackerel-crowded seas and mushroom clouds,
Disperse, dissolve, evaporate,
And are assimilated into the cycling stream
From whose springs unique currents surge inevitably.
Louis Daniel Brodsky, born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1941, attended St. Louis Country Day School. After earning a B.A., Magna Cum Laude, at Yale University, in 1963, he received an M.A. in English at Washington University, in 1967, and an M.A. in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, in 1968.
Brodsky is the author of fifty-five volumes of poetry (five of which have been published in French by Éditions Gallimard) and twenty-three volumes of prose, including nine books of scholarship on William Faulkner and seven books of short fictions. His poems and essays have appeared in Harper’s, The Faulkner Review, Southern Review, Texas Quarterly, National Forum, American Scholar, Studies in Bibliography, Kansas Quarterly, Ball State University’s Forum, Cimarron Review, and Literary Review, as well as in Ariel, Acumen, Orbis, New Welsh Review, Dalhousie Review, and other journals. His work has also been printed in five editions of the Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry. His latest books of poetry include Combing Florida’s Shores: Poems of Two Lifetimes and A Transcendental Almanac: Poems of Nature.
In 2004, Brodsky’s You Can’t Go Back, Exactly won the award for best book of poetry, presented by the Center for Great Lakes Culture, at Michigan State University.
It wasn’t that the time had
come for us to rip apart.
There was no orphan crying
like a fire in the mid-day sun.
There was no great kiss-off,
no one-up exchange of goodbyes.
Her eyes were baby blue,
mine were earth brown,
we were two planets
that had spun together
and revolved around one
another intensely for a time.
Then her star had to shine
elsewhere, my planet knew
where to stay put, and we
both knew it was all over.
But I still love the baby blue
I sometimes see across the sky
and hope she likes to touch
the earth on the path she walks.
GIRL OF THE HILL COUNTRY
(after Bob Dylan and traditional song)
If you’re traveling in the hill country
where woods roll as far as you can see
and the sun sets on the hazy Ohio river,
say hello to a girl I once loved.
Tell her I remember that wisp of hair
that trailed across big blue eyes,
the way she would say my name
with a voice that rose like a spring.
If you see snowflakes pile on cedar green,
tell me if she still wears that same smile
that makes winter skin tingle when
blood flows oh so slow in your veins.
If you see the old red barns lean
in heat where purple hollyhocks stand,
please ask if she remembers my name,
tell her I dream of coming back home.
If you’re traveling in the hill country
when yellow leaves fall, remember me
to one who lives there. My lips still
hold the sound of her name like a hymn.
BUDDHIST BLUES (ON LETTING GO)
No, no, baby, I do not want you.
Ain’t no way I could ever want you.
Who says without you I’d be blue?
So many women in this world wide & big.
Yeah, millions of women in this world so big.
Who says without you I’d have to go out & dig?
Why would I miss the light in your eye?
Now why would I miss the light in your eye?
Who says letting you go would make me cry?
No, no, no, babe, you ain’t the one.
Ain’t no way you could be the one.
If I want you, I’m one sorry son of a gun!
Why would I miss how you say my name?
No way I’d miss how you cry out my name.
You must think I’m playing some kind of game.
Oh babe, ain’t no way I could really want you.
No way in God’s sweet old world I want you.
If losing you is going to make me sad and blue,
ain’t no way in God’s sweet world I want you.
THE OTHER SIDE
B for KatherineB
My father’s waters were sometimes troubled
and my mother would try to keep them calm.
Sometimes she was our bridge to the other side.
My waters are sometimes troubled
and you try your best to keep them calm.
Sometimes you are my bridge to the other side.
Your waters are sometimes troubled
and I try my best to keep them calm.
Sometimes I am your bridge to the other side.
When a woman plays a piano,
sometimes she tries to keep us calm,
sometimes she tries to stir us up,
and whenever she lets her fingertips go,
she takes us beyond where we have ever been,
and she is our bridge to the other side.
THE DAY JOHN LENNON
–for Monika Herzig and her family, after
hearing her arrangement of “Imagine”–
The day John Lennon…
we were living in Germany,
had recently adopted a baby girl
from Colombia, and were happy
even though I was laid up in bed
with a painful sinus infection.
The day John Lennon…
we did not listen to the news
on the radio or turn on the TV
or talk to any friends on the phone
or neighbors in the apartment building
because I was sick in bed and we
just tried to take care of ourselves
and nurse our little world back
to routine health so we could
get ready for Christmas in Germany.
The day John Lennon…
it was the 8th of December,
the feast of the Immaculate Conception,
a holy day of obligation for Catholics,
but we did not leave our apartment
and I made it no farther from the bed
than to tiptoe to the bathroom
or to the kitchen table to sip
a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
The day before John Lennon…
our dear friend in New York
who was planning to visit us
when the German winter was over
went out and bought a Christmas tree
that she propped in the corner
of her studio apartment.
One day later she wrote a letter
in which she told us she would
not be able to put one single
ornament on her Tannenbaum.
The day after John Lennon…
I went in to work, stopped
to buy a newspaper, and read
the headline boldly proclaiming
that John Lennon had been…
When I reached my office,
I picked up the phone, dialed
our apartment number, and told
my wife something terrible
had happened: John Lennon had been…
“That’s not supposed to happen,”
she said after a painfully long silence.
“No it isn’t!” was all I could add.
All day after the day John Lennon…
all I could hear was the tune
and the lyrics of a song I loved
in which John Lennon tried to imagine
the kind of world I wanted to give
to my daughter, and now that she is
26 years old, I still hope and pray
that our children and hers will dream
and that we can learn to live as one.
*All these poems appear in the CD Imagine-Indiana in Music and Words, with Monika Herzig.*
Links to buy:
Norbert Krapf, a board member of the Etheridge Knight Festival who lives in Indianapolis, is emeritus prof. of English at Long Island Univ. His poetry collections include Somewhere in Southern Indiana and Looking for God’s Country (Time Being Books). Forthcoming are Sweet Sister Moon, love poems and tributes to women (WordTech Editions), New & Selected Indiana Poems (Indiana Univ. Pr.), and the forthcoming jazz and poetry CD with Monika Herzig represented in this issue, Imagine: Indiana in Music & Words (Acme Records).
Take a little time to gaze out the window.
Watch the blue jay try to be a humming bird,
to snatch a seed trinket from the junco’s feeder.
Watch a young raven hunker in the Monterey cypress
as crows dive on him, over and over
and he awks his annoyance. Notice
that the monarchs are back on the butterfly bush.
Take time to watch the garter snake wriggle
below camelias and under baby’s breath.
This is enough.
This may be the best there is.
That and Ursa Major steadfast above,
the moon pulling the tides in and out:
those in the oceans,
those in our bodies.
What the End Is For
Let the sky grace through canopies of leaf,
let the songbirds acappela. Monkeys
that scatter through branches, let them
drop the husks of unknown nuts.
Let the parrots flash a rainbow
just at the corner of your eye. Let Apollo,
boy with a brace of horses, let him
yank his blazing star across the heavens
douse it in the sea at end of day. Let the darkness
settle like coal dust, the same dust
that caused my grandmother such grief,
let the darkness dip in from the east
and pull the country after it, let the birds
find roosts that seem to them safe,
let the owl stir as hawks dip to rest
and the whipperwill ruffles his nightwings.
Let the vultures gather in their favorite trees
made guano-white, let their trees shine
like many moons swaying.
Let voles and weasels begin to stir, let me
begin to wind down with soup and warmed bread,
let the dog curl up by the fire, and the cat
open her sloe-yellow eyes, stretch out her claws.
Then let us move toward rest.
There is something comforting in unfamiliar stars.
No shapes dragging us into old tales of a hunter
and his dog, no crab, no winged horse, no Polaris.
Here boats follow a star low on the horizon,
here clumps of palms anchor small motus like a string
of jade stones. ‘Sorry, Mr. Moto, no two motus are alike,”
says Tom, puzzling over which speck of land
signals the channel thru the reef.
Overhead the moon is whispering through clouds
that later will spill down our hatches
onto our sleeping heads full of sea turtles with quilted shells,
but now the moon rises out of her flounces and reveals
a missing forehead and crown. A partial eclipse
has caught us unaware and lopped off the top into shadow
like knocking off the tip of a soft boiled egg in its cup.
Moon, slowly regaining her loss,
throws her powerful gaze down our mast and gleaming
hardware, down our whitened pontoons to pool over
the pale water like spilled cream. We are sitting at the bow
talking in low voices, occasionally humming,
looking for familiar star clusters. There is a kite
and the scorpion taking up the entire western quadrant,
its claws, its long curved tail. We’ve claimed a part
of this alien sky. Below the gentle slop of our bow on water
sleep the animals and fish of the coral, their colors
dulled by midnight, not even the moon can paint them now.
This morning, we drove over the hills of Raiatea to the ancient
temples of the Murae, stones and formations that cover
the bones of their ancestors. Land meets water here,
where frail canoes once set off for Samoa and Hawaii, with casks
of water and only the Orient Star by which to steer.
Their arms, strong and oiled-sleek, dug in the oars
across an open ocean toward unknown islands “They are
our cousins”, says Michele, “We are all polynesian.”
Next month from all the islands, New Zealand to Hawaii,
will come the long canoes for the Racing of the Tribes.
Beneath the breadfruit, gliding over the rays
and reef sharks, they will noisily race
singing in unification.
Michele looks out to sea, and back,
back into the flickering lights of history.
*”Gathering Henry” has been previously published two years ago by Comstock Review.*
Winner of the 2001 National Poetry Book Award from Salmon Run Press, CB Follet has had poems published by Ploughshares, Alligator Juniper, Calyx, Americas Review, Peregrine, The Cumberland Review, Rain City Review, Ambit (England), The MacGuffin, Snowy Egret, Birmingham Poetry Review, New Letters Review, Psychological Perspectives, Without Halos, The Iowa Woman, Heaven Bone, Green Fuse, Black Bear Review, among others. I have been in many anthologies; received contest honors in the Billee Murray Denny, New Letters Prize, the Ann Stanford Prize, the Glimmer Train Poetry Contest and several contests from Poetry Society of America among others. Five poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Poetry Prize plus an nomination as an individual poet..
Five collections of poetry, the most recent Hold and Release, 2007. I am editor/publisher of ARCTOS PRESS, including the anthology, GRRRRR, A Collection of Poems About Bears; publisher and co-editor of RUNES, A Review of Poetry, 2001-to present.
WINTER STORM WATCH
All day the sleet
but when I step outside
I hear its busy rattle
on the ground
and feel the icy spikes
against my hands and face,
driving me back inside
to join you at the kitchen table,
where we sit with cupped hands
around mugs of hot chocolate
and watch the birds
and squirrels quarrel
over the feeders
scattered about the deck.
There are worse ways
to spend a winter day.
In fact, I rather hope
the prognosticators are right
and the sleet will turn to snow
and the snow will continue all night,
blocking the streets
and shutting out the world
so tomorrow, again,
we can sit at the kitchen table
with hands cupped around mugs
of hot chocolate,
watching the birds and squirrels.
THIS FALL DAY
across the street
like a large covey
of small quails
the mother hen,
in the mere moment
of a passing car,
rise into the air,
on the rich flurry
of fluttering wings.
I catch my breath
at the sudden surprise
of such instant
this poignant image
of time remembered,
this fall day
like the knowledge
of the heart’s
in the rush
of the shifting season.
that, walking on,
I feel no regret
that the quails
have once more lighted,
brittle leaves banked
against the savage curbs.
They don’t announce
like signs saying
or Beware of Dog.
And no matter
how hard you try,
or wish you could,
you can’t make
like reservations for dinner
or road stops
on vacation trips.
We no longer believe
they come from God,
a divine breath
transforming the poet’s mind
into an aeolian harp.
Yet there is still something
incalculable and magical,
even if not quite divine,
in the mystery of composition;
and the imagination,
whether skydiving into space
or spelunking through the dark,
remains a brave and faithful
and for some,
as necessary as breathing.
Poets, live in unexpectedness.
Only the keen and believing eye
sees a sudden symphony
in the flight of pigeons,
knows the thunder of sunlight
splashing against their wings.
Somewhere today in north Mississippi,
still cruising the narrow blacktops
that wind and loop and crisscross
before they collapse into a rutted field road
leading to a dirt yard,
an abandoned barn,
and a frail, unpainted farm house
anchored to the ground by a tv antenna
tilted like a broken promise,
is a pickup truck named “Dream Weaver.”
I saw it once,
limping along Highway 45
just below Booneville,
before it turned off the main road
and disappeared, heading God knows where—
its oversized cab, short bed,
warped frame pointing the front wheels east
and the back ones west,
its magical name, relic of some grander day,
stenciled across the tailgate
on a field of rusting, mud-splattered stars,
its driver no one I knew,
The day was early summer
after no spring at all,
a day of untinted blue sky
and sunlight as thick as honey.
Passing cyclists sliced the wind
with lovers laced to their backs,
and at every stoplight
beautiful young women dawdled
behind the steering wheels of convertibles.
Children frolicked in every park and yard,
and old men lounged on courthouse benches,
hawking and spitting their ancient grief
into the bright, splendid air.
With one self I drive on, duty-compelled
toward an appointment in Tupelo,
but with another I turn back to follow
the Dream Weaver.
I see him, home again, sitting on the front porch,
strumming a guitar, dreaming in song.
Tonight he and his lover will lie
on a blanket beside a lake.
When he comes to her he will bring
the moon riding on his shoulder,
and her fingers will pluck stars from his hair
and give them back to him as eyes.
Robert Hamblin is Professor of English and Director of the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University. A native of Mississippi, he is the author of three volumes of poetry, From the Ground Up: Poems of One Southerner’s Passage to Adulthood; Mind the Gap: Poems by an American in London; and Keeping Score: Sports Poems for Every Season. He has also written a book about college basketball and co-edited twelve scholarly books on William Faulkner.