In February, which is coming

eros-e1354571794589When I remember that I am the god of love, I am not surprised by how my body responds to beauty. I am not surprised that the love I feel came to me unaware, something outside the reach of my conscience, beyond the intricate workings of the cerebellum bumping against the medulla bumping against the midbrain. And yet in that jungle, the sensory cortex lives on top, near the crown, the place where I am reworked each moment by the way the world picks up its corner and shakes cobwebs and magic into my path.

A poet who wrote more of death than of love (although loving was always a part of the passing) spoke of birches being bent by ice storms, when really what he wanted to talk about, what he

. . . was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself . . .

Truth with its brain diagram flashing in my mind wants me to know why I love and why I feel and do what I do, why I can’t leave Psyche to her path, why I want to chase after her and why I continually hover on the edge of the picture frame she fills with each task that takes her farther from me.

Or is it closer?

Toward the end of the poem, the poet says,

May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

Yes. Yes, I believe that. I who can fly with abandon know that earth is where Psyche will live with me. Bone to body to bone. Bone of our bodies to bone of the earth. That never changes. Heart and soul and body, the very nature of our breathing, the fire that burns inside us or refuses to rise from ashes: all of these things change with time and growth. Not bone to bone. Psyche, you know that I am here. You know where you will find me when you have found yourself.

Earth is the right place for love.

Can you hear me whispering that to you? Would this help you stay on your path?

My questions fade with the day. Days spin their fabric into new clothes unfamiliar and fitting. Whatever I wear does not change the fact that I feel.

Blood will not relent or back down or fade into apparition. It forever returns me to myself as . . .

In the greeting card aisle every February, strange mutations of me exist in red and pink. I am coupled with roses and endearments and gilt lettering. Gold-lined envelopes compete with the fluorescent lights above. This is the path that others have chosen for me. A fledgling hip hop singer in a Britney Spears perfume ad where she is Psyche. The matchmaker with the physique of a Chippendale’s dancer in porn videos.

Choose your own image, Psyche. Or better yet, choose to know what breathes behind the image.

This evening as I sat on the windowsill gazing at nothing and everything that earth astounds me with, I felt your thoughts turn to me. I have been living with poetry, and so have you. Your words open me more than I thought possible. You have given your life to a promise again.

When I return to you, I will whisper
What I dreamed on the road
Into your ear, smooth down your wings
With the tips of my fingers and lie
In the warm curve of your body
Like a question mark followed
By parenthesis. I do not know
If I will survive, yet if I do,
I intend to retain everything,
To share it with you, to come to
The end of my dreams and to open my eyes.

This time, Psyche, when you open your eyes, I will be there in the glory of whatever light we make. I will be there, and we will know each other for the time that is to come. Stay on your path and know.

–Eros

(Shaun Perkins)

Poetry has no part in society

nopoetryA friend of a Facebook friend (neither of whom I know personally) posted this today:

I feel like poetry has no part in society. We never use poetry in our lives but sometimes it is fun to read. I feel like if poetry doesn’t rhyme then it isn’t a poem.

******

I feel like poetry has no part in society.

Young One, you are right. It has no “part.” It has, in fact, a “whole.” It is the whole of our society. It exists to take its flashlight into the darkness of the human soul and shine it around and show everybody else what’s going on in there.

Shelley said in another century that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world. I still believe this to be true. A poet is a special kind of being who feels compelled to use the form to uncover truths about our world. It, thus, does not have a part: It instead demands the all.

We never use poetry in our lives.

My Child, the first tool of the poet is metaphor. Have you made any comparisons today? Bet you have, whether you said them, wrote them or just thought them. We can’t help but be metaphor-makers.

Has a poem ever enriched your life? Of course, it has, whether you think about it every day or not: It has impacted you. From the poetry in nursery rhymes you heard as a child to the specious poetry of advertising to the tales of Shakespeare and The Odyssey and The Iliad, passages from the Bible, poems that became songs and songs that became poems: These pieces all live in us.

You can’t use poetry like you use a blow dryer or a pencil or a chainsaw. You let poetry use you. You let the language and the experience embodied in those words use you to create a picture in the mind’s eye and a way of being in the physical body. We are the filters for the experience of poetry. We are the tools, not the poems.

But sometimes it is fun to read.

Agreed.

I feel like if poetry doesn’t rhyme then it isn’t a poem.

Is this a poem?

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Damn straight it is. Langston Hughes. Word.

Innocent One, there is no definitive idea of what a poem is. My favorite definition of poetry is Emily Dickinson’s. She said that if she felt when reading as if the top of her head were coming off, then she knew it was poetry.

Saying a poem has to rhyme is like saying the sun goes around the earth. Both propositions were never true even when they were a part of the collective unconscious.

The Conqueror

fearAnd I ran for miles
I ran through blackened fields hissing
Below my scarred feet, through dirt roads
Sidelined by progress and the advent
Of the telephone and the cultivated rose
And I ran for being here

We remember
In our bones if not in our behavior,
The struggle inside the web,
The thorn of the hackberry
And the stronger man’s grasp,
Made strong by words
And not by muscle

And I swam too far
I swam out through the river
Til time could not reach me
And the gnats circling
Above the rotting branches
Punctuating every stroke
Finally abandoned me

We remember
Each life blossoming in the new,
The courageous choked in the bully,
The weak reborn in a singer’s lullaby
To the world ever-changing
And never-changing and waiting
To surrender
Its
Hold
On
Fear

–Shaun Perkins

This World is Open

worldisopenWe have these stories about the perfect place. That first Biblical story of the land of love and fruit created in the image of the fruit-maker, the lover of all things sensory, all things finite and mortal. Potential blossomed on the vines trailing across the garden paths.

Paradise in the stories where people go to find the lost world of hope and opportunity, where the streets glisten with welcome and the seasons adopt the human to nurture through change. Continue reading

Poem Town

national-poetry-month-520x271I just submitted a grant application for a project I’ve been thinking about . . . maybe all my life. Poem Town. There’s some inspiration there from Edgar Lee Masters who created Spoon River Anthology, a collection of poems from former residents of Spoon River talking from the grave. When I taught high school, we always created a town and emulated Spoon River by collaborating on a cast of characters and then writing poems to go with each one. Imagining a town and its inhabitants and the stories that intertwine and create the community is an exciting, inspiring act. Continue reading