December 02, 2008

Poetry, from the New Yorker

Ok, ok: I know you're getting tired of hearing about my readings from the New Yorker. But its the only magazine I read regularily, since I commute with it, and I really just love it.

Recently I've really been enjoying the New Yorker's poetry. In the December 1st issue there were two wonderful poems, the first classical in form, and lovely, the second more modern, and challenging, but quite good:

Signing Ceremony, by Clive James


Hotel Timeo, Taormina

The lilac peak of Etna dribbles pink,
Visibly seething in the politest way.
The shallow vodka cocktails that we sink
Here on the terrace at the close of day

Are spreading numb delight as they go down.
Their syrup mirrors the way lava flows:
It’s just a show, it might take over town,
Sometimes the Cyclops, from his foxhole, throws

Rocks at Ulysses. But regard the lake
Of moonlight on the water, stretching east
Almost to Italy. The love we make
Tonight might be our last, but this, at least,

Is one romantic setting, am I right?
Cypresses draped in bougainvillea,
The massed petunias, the soft, warm night,
That streak of candy floss. And you, my star,

Still walking the stone alleys with the grace
Of forty years ago. Don’t laugh at me
For saying dumb things. Just look at this place.
Time was more friend to us than enemy,

And soon enough this backdrop will go dark
Again. The spill of neon cream will cool,
The crater waiting years for the next spark
Of inspiration, since the only rule

Governing history is that it goes on:
There is no rhythm of events, they just
Succeed each other. Soon, we will be gone,
And that volcano, if and when it must,

Will flood the slope with lip gloss brought to boil
For other lovers who come here to spend
One last, late, slap-up week in suntan oil,
Their years together winding to an end.

With any luck, they’ll see what we have seen:
Not just the picture postcard, but the splash
Of fire, and know this flowering soil has been
Made rich by an inheritance of ash.

Only because it’s violent to the core
The world grows gardens. Out of earth we came,
To earth we shall return. But first, one more
Of these, delicious echoes of the flame

That drives the long life all should have, yet few
Are granted as we were. It wasn’t fair?
Of course it wasn’t. But which of us knew,
To start with, that the other would be there,

One step away, for all the time it took
To come this far and see a mountain cry
Hot tears, as if our names, signed in the book
Of marriage, were still burning in the sky?


Peace, by Stanley Moss

The trade of war is over, there are no more battles,
but simple murder is still in.
The No God, Time, creeps his way,
universe after universe, like a great snapping turtle
opening its mouth wagging its tongue
to look like a worm or leech
so deceived hungry fish, every living thing
swims in to feed. Quarks long for dark holes,
atoms butter up molecules, protons do unto neutrons
what they would have neutrons do unto them.
The trade of war has been over so long,
the meaning of war in the O.E.D. is now “nonsense.”
In the Russian Efron Encyclopedia,
war, voina, means “dog shit”;
in the Littré, guerre is “a verse form, obsolete”;
in Germany, Krieg has become “a whipped-cream pastry”;
Sea of Words, the Chinese dictionary,
has war, zhan zheng, as “making love in public,”
while war in Arabic and Hebrew, with the same
Semitic throat, harb and milchamah, is defined
as “anything our distant grandfathers ate
we no longer find tempting—like the eyes of sheep.”
And lions eat grass.

No comments:

Post a Comment