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Poetry Wednesday

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 by Dawn Summers

The legendary Maya Angelou died this morning, watching TV alone. So much of her work has touched my life at various stages that it was hard to choose one to feature, or easy, I guess, since I can’t get it wrong.

The Detached
Maya Angelou

We die,
Welcoming Bluebeards to our darkening closets,
Stranglers to our outstretched necks,
Stranglers, who neither care nor
care to know that
DEATH IS INTERNAL.

We pray,
Savoring sweet the teethed lies,
Bellying the grounds before alien gods,
Gods, who neither know nor
wish to know that
HELL IS INTERNAL.

We love,
Rubbing the nakednesses with gloved hands,
Inverting our mouths in tongued kisses,
Kisses that neither touch nor
care to touch if
LOVE IS INTERNAL.

R.I.P

Poetry Wednesday

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by Dawn Summers

Someone on twitter linked to this poem. I really like it. So cute, simple, yet evocative. Poems like this make me think I can write poetry, but then I try and welp…

If the ocean had a mouth
by Marie-Elizabeth Mali

I’d lean close, my ear
to her whisper and roar,
her tongue scattered
with stars.

She’d belt her brassy voice
over the waves’ backbeat.
No one sings better than her.

Would she ever bite
the inside of her cheek?

Would she yell at the moon
to quit tugging at her hem,
or would she whistle, drop
her blue dress and shimmy
through space to cleave
to that shimmer?

What did she mean to say
that morning she spit out
the emaciated whale
wearing a net for a corset?

All this emptying
on the sand. Eyeless
shrimp. Oiled pelicans.

Within her jaws the coral forests,
glittering fish, waves like teeth,
her hungry mortal brine.

Poetry Wednesday

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 by Dawn Summers


Strange Fruit

By Abel Meeropol

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.

Poetry Wednesday

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 by Dawn Summers

Clareified’s persons of the year, Vero and Notorious L.I.G., came into town last week. We went out for “Mexican” (the restaurant had a matzo menu posted on the front door for Passover…so, I remain skeptical.) Afterward, we went to see the play “Ann” at Lincoln Center.

It was a terrific tribute to Ann Richards, the one-time Governor of Texas. I’ve long blamed her for Al Gore’s loss, but the play was funny, witty and touching, so all is forgiven.

I say so a lot. So?

Anyway, the play ends with a poem she told her secretary to save for “a funeral someday. I had no idea it would be my *own*” she says in her signature Texas drawl.

The lines:

Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

stayed with me. Hours, days, weeks… they vibrated through my head. That, we still are.

Yesterday would have been Vella’s 38th birthday and, for the first time this year, I went to visit his grave.

I find it easily now. Someone before me had planted some flowers at the edge of his stone, but otherwise, the site remains unchanged.

Our 20th high school reunion is in a few weeks and I can’t help but imagine that we would be talking by now. Every day facebook alerts me of my classmates’ giddy plans. Happy Hour! Picture taking! Tours! After party!

“WE GOT INVITED TO A CHRIS FIQEN PARTY!!! WE’VE MADE IT, VELL!!!”

It’s cold. I stuff my hands in my pockets.

Drinks with the popular kids… that couldn’t be further away from my high school experience if they’d sent out an update changing the venue to the moon.

I would go if it were on the moon though. Seeing the moon would be cool.

Happy Birthday…sorta.

I concede. I’m older than you now. You found a loophole. Bastard.

Whatever we were to each other…

I’m surprised how empty the cemetary is. I passed a car driving in, but other than that, I haven’t seen anyone else.

I am alone.

…That, we still are.

I can’t think of anything else to say. So, I say goodbye.

Death is Nothing at All
Henry Scott Holland
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

The blight man was born for

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012 by Dawn Summers

I went to Thanksgiving dinner at a college friend’s house.

The cast of characters at her dinners is surprisingly unchanged since she first started having them in 2000, after she graduated from law school and moved to New York. I have probably made it to 8 or 9 out of those 12. This year, as I surveyed the table looking for my placecard, I noticed I was seated at the children’s table.

I was highly and immediately irritated.

I had poured myself a glass of wine before walking into the dining room, so I turned on the Texans/Lions football game, sat on the sofa and thought about my choices. It was an issue of fairness, I decided, there were other single women coming to dinner and they weren’t put at the children’s table.

I don’t even care about Thanksgiving. Never have, in fact. If nine-year-old Dawn could have gotten safely from Halloween to Christmas without stopping for turkey in between, she would have! I know this, because she sketched out pretty detailed plans for same in her diary. And now that I love football? DUDE! I would very happily wake up at 11:30, shower, make coffee and then watch football in bed for the next 12 hours.

Nope, this would not stand. I decided to come up with some benign excuse, one that would get me out of there, but not cause a scene. I don’t care about Thanksgiving, but I wouldn’t ruin it for others.

I poured another glass of wine and settled on some vague stomach ailment. The kitchen door creaked open and a woman I had never seen before walked into the dining room.

“Hi. I’m Lisa. I went to Yale with her.”

“Dawn. Me too,” I drank deeply from my glass.

“Oh yeah… maybe we met before. Were you at the wedding?”

I raised my eyebrow. The game was back on, I needed to start exhibiting symptoms of my stomach ache, but here I was, now trapped in a conversation with a, presumably, crazy person. If she were at the wedding, she would know that I was *in* that wedding — a conspicuously plump brown ball wrapped in green satin with green fingernails — which I swear had seemed like a great idea at the time.

“Uh…yeah, I was there.” I finished my wine.

“Oh, then we probably met then. Have you heard of Yale Ladies?”

I refilled my glass, leaving about a swallow in the bottle.

“Well, I was one.” I swallowed that swallow straight from the bottle and put the empty bottle on the floor.

She chuckled. “No, it’s a charity organization. I started it a few years ago with my friend Mira, she’s upstairs.”

I had been told that my nephew was upstairs napping with the son of another of the dinner guests.

“Oh, is she napping with the babies?”

“No, she’s praying. She’s muslim.”

“Oh.” I took a sip of wine from my glass. I turned back to the football game.

She was quiet for a bit, then said “so you like football?”

I continued watching. “Yeah.”

A few more moments of silence, then:

“I used to watch, but I don’t really anymore.”

“Mmm,” another swallow.

“Oh, so I was telling you about Yale Ladies. We do a lot of community service and we’re planning a big conference in DC with a number of prominent speakers. I’m very excited, but I can’t divulge any of the names yet.”

“Mmm.”

“Well, I can tell you, but you can’t tell anyone!” She tells me.

“Mmm.”

She laughs awkwardly, “you’re not interested in any of this, huh?”

Andre Johnson, who I started in my game against VinNay, drops a pass and it’s recovered by the Lions, who I picked to lose.

“FUCK!… oh…what? No, that sounds great.”

“What do you do? We’re always looking for new people to join…”

I finished my wine. Seriously, I swear they are making wine bottles smaller than they used to…

“Uh…I’m very busy working. I’m a lawyer. I work all the time. Working…”

She fell silent. I went back to watching the football game. I reached for my glass and frowned at its lightness. I eyed Karen’s bar and smiled.

I half refilled my glass with some Lagavulin. I swirled the scotch around.

I decided to stay.

I didn’t notice when whatever-her-name was left. But when I cheered the Texans victory and looked around self consciously, I was alone.

I was hungry and probably drunk.

From the couch, I yelled that by law, hors d’oeuvres should be served between the football games, to prevent death. My host’s husband brought me a meat pie.

I was hungry, but I did not like it. So, I said something like “UGH. YUCK. WHAT IS THIS?”

Turns out, whatever-her-name’s grandma made it, and she brought some for the party.

“Oh,” I replied, wiping my tongue with my fingers and washing it away with more scotch.

I had seen some grapes in the fridge earlier.

“Bring me grapes!”

“No, you’ll ruin your appetite.”

“GGRRRRAAAAAAAPPPPPPPPPPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.”

Yeah, definitely drunk now.

Guests started arriving about an hour after that, including my tablemates at the aforementioned children’s table — the 2-almost-3 year old and her five year old brother, their parents, as well as the parents of the nine-month-old infant.

“I brought coloring books for your kids,” said the infant’s mom, producing the books and markers.

The older children sat down to color.

“WHERE IS MY COLORING BOOK?!” I asked from a prone position on the couch.

She laughed. I was NOT joking. RUDE.

The little girl walked over and handed me a marker and said I could color with her.

“That is SO nice of you,” I said.

“You’re pretty,” she replied.

“You are the best little girl in the whole wide world.”

My dinner at the children’s table was awesome, as I was totally the boss of them. Also, they fried a turkey and that was the coolest most delicious thing ever in all of human history. She also made a roast turkey, but when offered pieces of said roast turkey, I replied “Um… if there is fried turkey, why on earth would I eat non fried turkey?” At which point, my minions also decided that they would only eat fried turkey. They would also only eat the pies I would eat as all other pies looked “like something Tony Romo would eat and Tony Romo was not cool.” Incidentally, all whining, complaining and fighting were all prevented by me looking at them and saying “mmm… that’s probably what Tony Romo would do.”

“He’s not cool,” they would reply.

“Nope. He is not.”

YOU’RE WELCOME PARENTS.

I drifted over to the grown up table for a bit, during dinner, to say hello or steal back the plate of fried turkey… boring, I thought, absconding with the foodstuffs and returning to my land of little people. I wondered though, was that really my place or had I just decided to make it so.

Is that not the way of all things? You find what in life you can live with and accept them; those that you cannot tolerate, you leave.

No right or wrong; good, nor bad, but that believing makes it so.

Or something.

Thinking about the night, and some of the weirdness of this year in general, got me thinking about this poem:

Spring and Fall
Gerard Manley Hopkins

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Poetry wednesday

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 by Dawn Summers

Angela is GONNA love this poem! (What? Poetry Wednesday? Angela? WHAT YEAR IS THIS?!?!) Smiles. Sighs. But, hey, look how short it is:

Evening
Dorothea Tanning

He told us, with the years, you will come
To love the world.
And we sat there with our souls in our laps,
And comforted them.

The NYC subway people have brought back their “Poetry in Motion” series. This was the most recent one. I don’t know why it struck me, but it did. I haven’t stopped thinking about it — I think it’s because, even though here it says “Evening,” on the train it was called “Graduation.”

The idea that the world is supposed to become more endearing with time, is a curious one. I just finished an odd book called 1Q84, set in Japan in 1984 (or a facsimile of same) and one of the themes of that book was that life was just a stringing together of losses. Actually, that was also the theme of the book I read before that one, The Marriage Something or another, by Eugenides — that book sucked it.

Anyway, I also get the sense that the listener in the poem doesn’t believe the speaker’s assurances either.

Curious.

Poetry Wednesday

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 by Dawn Summers

We all want something beautiful…I wish I was beautiful. — Counting Crows

I had such a weird day yesterday. One of those days where the universe seems to be telling you one thing at noon and then by midnight you’re pouring out of a rocking Madison Square Garden after your New York Rangers laid down the smack on the division leaders (including your goalie stepping *OUT OF THE NET* to punch a dude in the face; and yes, it costs us a goal, but it was totally worth it!) and it’s like the universe is telling you a different something altogether.

I used to go on these car trips with my best friend in high school and while I don’t think we got lost often, when we did, I was always anxious and impatient and wanted to either be where we were going OR certain that we were on the right path to get there.

“Dawn,” he would say in his aggravatingly calm way, “it’s about the journey. We’ll get there.”

I would glare and say “easy for you, the white guy is NEVER the first one stabbed to death.”

Alas, I relent. Let the universe send it’s conflicting cacophony. I’m here. I’m listening.

Don’t Go Back to Sleep Rumi

the breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
don’t go back to sleep.

you must ask for what you really want.
don’t go back to sleep.

people are going back and forth between the
doorsill where the two worlds touch.
the door is round and open.

don’t go back to sleep.

Being sorry & colored at the same time

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 by Dawn Summers

I just finished Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf – a movie based on a choreopoem by Ntozake Shange.

It’s a good movie with some amazing performances, but it also reminded me of some rather great poetry. I starred in a production of this when I was 13. It occurs to me now, that may have been an inappropriate choice for our merry band of teenagers, but our director was a larger than life dramatist who believed we could own whatever work if we believed in ourselves and the art. Yes, that’s how she talked.

All the time.

Ms. Wade can we go to McDonald’s after rehearsal?

Darlings, you can go to the moon and the stars and places not even yet mapped in the galaxy. You are all powerful.

Um…okay, but really, I guess what I was asking, more specifically, is will you give us the money to go to McDonald’s after rehearsal?

She and her husband Adam would write afro-centric one act plays for us and we’d rehearse in their one bedroom apartment in Harlem. I googled their names. But nothing came up.

Anyway.

I was a smart alecky, prudish Uber catholic girl at the time, (pretty much me now, but without the back pain), so Shange’s work made me very uncomfortable. The subject matter, the syntax, the sharing the stage with other girls (I AM A STAR, WOMAN!); I just didn’t get it.

I did it and owned it and ate my McDonald’s afterwards.

But I was happy when we moved back to comedies. And fancy Shakespearan monologues that made me feel clever and sophisticated.

I read For Colored Girls again in college and I liked it more then and got more of “it,” than I had six years earlier, but rereading some of these poems tonight, well, I was so blown away by the truth…the raw clarity of her words, that I had to reprise my poetry posting for a moment.

And on a Wednesday at that!

I struggled between picking this poem and a Lady in Green Poem “Somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff” (These poems are somewhat easier understood heard.) But ultimately, I chose this one because it touches on the issues from that poem — losing too much of yourself to people who could not care less about your stuff — but also the unique struggles of women who don’t want to be bitches, but also don’t want to be trod upon. And of colored girls who cdnt stand bein sorry & colored at the same time/it’s so redundant in the modern world.

Word.

lady in Orange

ever since i realized there waz someone callt
a colored girl an evil woman a bitch or a nag
i been tryin not to be that & leave bitterness
in somebody else’s cup/ come to somebody to love me
without deep & nasty smellin scald from lye or bein
left screamin in a street fulla lunatics/ whisperin
slut bitch bitch niggah/ get outta here wit alla that/
i didnt have any of that for you/ i brought you what joy
i found & i found joy/ honest fingers round my face/ with
dead musicians on 78’s from cuba/ or live musicians of five
dollar lp’s from chicago/ where i have never been/ & i love
willie colon & arsenio rodriquez/ especially cuz i can make
the music loud enuf/ so there is no me but dance/ & when
i can dance like that/ there’s nothin cd hurt me/ but
i get tired & i haveta come offa the floor & then there’s
that womna who hurt you/ who you left/ three of four times/
& just went back/ after you put my heart in the bottom of
yr shoe/ you just walked back to where you hurt/ & i didnt
have nothin/ so i went to where somebody had somethin for me/
but he waznt you/ & i waz on the way back from her house
in the bottom of yr shoe/ so this is not a love poem/ cuz there
are only memorial albums available/ & even charlie mingus
wanted desperately to be a pimp/ & i wont be able to see eddie
palmieri for months/ so this is a requium for myself/ cuz i
have died in a real way/ not wid aqua coffins & du-wop cadillacs/
i used to joke abt when i was messin round/ but a real dead
lovin is here for you now/ cuz i dont know anymore/ how
to avoid my own face wet wit tears/ cuz i had convinced
myself colored girls had no right to sorrow/ & i lived
& loved that way & kept sorrow on the curb/ allegedly
for you/ but i know i did it for myself/
i cdnt stand it
i cdnt stand bein sorry & colored at the same time
it’s so redundant in the modern world

Miles to go

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 by Dawn Summers

When I started doing regular poetry Wednesdays, it was always my intention to end the series with this poem. Of course, it was also my intention to only do it for one year and I managed to keep it going for almost two.

It’s been a rewarding exercise. I had almost forgotten how much I loved poetry and poem analysis. What can I say? I’m a word nerd. Ooh, I should get that on a T-shirt! Alas, I have honestly long run out of poems that I really wanted to write about. Though I managed to find to some wonderful new poems from google searches and all my fantastic guest bloggers, I can no longer sustain a weekly poetry post. But the space remains open for anyone who wants to contribute them and I’ll readily publish any new interesting poems I come across.

All that administrative stuff out of the way, let’s talk about Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening.

There are a handful of poems I can still recite by heart after being forced to learn the words in school, and this is one of them. Pearatty, I think, told me once that Frost, in an interview, shunned attempts to assign any deep meaning to this poem. “It’s just about a snowy night.” That story makes me laugh because I love this poem because not only is it very short and simple, but it’s also twisted and dark. The image of this lone rider *reluctantly* making his way back to town out of a snowstorm even on the darkest night of the year…well, it’s quite a grim assesment of his life, isn’t it?

He wants to stay out here. Forever, possibly. But he has promises to keep. And things to do and so he trudges on.

I’m writing this post from the warm comfort of my dining room table, but a few inches away, I can see the snow drift resting heavy on my balcony door. I watched Sunday night’s precipitation slowly cling to my railings and fill up the flower pots. I recalled watching storms from my bedroom window, as a kid, and delighting in how the fire escapes in the back of the building slowly turned from black to white. Snowfall can be a seductively hypnotic phenomena. So maybe the poem is just about a snowy nighht. Or maybe it’s about all the things that can suddenly catch us unawares, capturing our attention. All those shiny distractions which tempt us away from responsibility and obligation.

If we’re lucky, something will gently shake a bell or tap us on the shoulder and remind us to get going. If we’re not, well, there’s always the spring thaw.


Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

King Nothing (by guest blogger Fisch)

Monday, December 27th, 2010 by Dawn Summers

Did you ever love a song so much that you played it over and over and felt that it really spoke to your soul…until you finally looked up the lyrics and were like “wtf is this crap?”

(When I write my book based on Dawn’s life, there will be a chapter filled with the lines she overuses. Here would be where she’d say “umm no? Me neither. ‘Whistles’)

(Another thing about Dawn…If I had forgotten to write the poetry-Wednesday that I volunteered for, she NEVER would have reminded me. Because it would be, oh, so much more devastating if I remembered on my own days later and said OMG.)

(The book will be titled “Scrutable.”)

This poem was something like that for me (the WTF part, not the crap part).

Ozymandias
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

When I was younger, I must have heard the snippet “I am ozymandias king of kings, look on my works ye mighty and despair” and thought it was a bad-ass statement. I even said it to others once in a while when I wanted to be particularly bad-ass.

But as I learnt when I finally read the poem…I had it backwards.
The “colossal wreck” is all bark and no bite.

So what’s the lesson?

We’re all tiny tiny specks in a tiny tiny part of the universe and no one will remember any of us in a hundred years, let alone a thousand or ten.

But isn’t that such a relief?
Nothing we do or don’t do really matters, because we’re nobody. We’re all nobodies.
Yay.

(Except for the fact that Ozymandias is immortalized not only by this poem but by the bible too, as supposedly he is the king of the Egyptians that wouldn’t let Moses go…ten plagues…yada yada…So maybe what we do does matter?)

Of course, this whole argument about nothing mattering because we’re so small and fleeting, goes on the assumption that that would be the measure of what matters. If instead we judge based on the affect we have on others during our lifetime, then it’s a good time to spread some holiday comfort and joy.

Happy holidays!