There were days that even Judy had the Blues.
But there are days when all lost souls do...
Friday, June 25, 2004
(Saint Joan and Guinevere)
Don't let it be misunderstood
what it is to be alone with an overwhelming mood,
to be untaken once again, a savage wallflower at the waltz,
waiting for a chance to see eternity, not me, improve its stance
but, how, dear distant Guineverehow can I say that?
It is so seldom understood
why that which is chosen is most difficult in all the world,
why human hearts confused by doubts become enclosed by walls
why did they not break out or dare to ask
that lonely brave young Joan of Arc to dance?
Don't try to tell it now to any woman or any man,
don't even try to understand, how this reality of lies
surrounds us like a phantom's spell too subtle to undo.
Love's pirouettes in new soft shoes are all as real, World News avows,
as this old-dancing-shoe world-weariness will allow.
If you think cold sober reason can defend us from such dizzy views,
attend with me this still interior spinning room,
recline with me and shine those coal-black eyes I love this way
till gloom comes up the sheets like flames and clings to me
like smoke and stings your lids and leaves your lips quite parched...
How many dazed and daunted fools here, Gwen,
have seen the undisguised device or tool
of endless time reveal itself
and stood their ground before it?
How many voices strangled in the middle of
Whose given word unbroken will have the strength to cry aloud
when silent tears have drowned us in our pride, yet left us dry?
There's such a world of difference now between
Saint Joan's unfaded passion and what is left of mine.
Christ, be my new religion, Gwen, the wine on which I choke!
Well, why not laugh? Am I another priest or clerk
whose soul records this wide and syncopated concatenation of lies?
A cipher whose unsteady slate chalks up the works and warps
of clumsy possibilities, of cockeyed evolution? Who dances
minuets in mud-boots at the ball and mars the parquet floor?
Time again, time that's hung with festive variation,
time in fluid movement through the seasons,
through space arranged just-so for no apparent reason,
while celibates with beards hang fire in dominoes and masks,
limp puppets on taut strings with only one thing left to do...
When time and space put on their ballet shoes and spin,
whatever keeps us cheek-to-cheek will do for us, we grin,
within the raveled convolutions of this costume ball gone bad
but, still, that which is constant amid our own inconstancy
in part becomes our God. So, can you imagine the paradox I'm in?
The puppet-master moves the puppet,
but man is moved by nothing, or, like that damned Cauchon,
by nothing but momentum and inertia,
forgetting every heedless, dark, and broken heart that watched
the clean white hem of Joan's unarmored muslin smock begin to burn,
while time moved forth, at first slowly, lately fast,
it never stops or pauses, but glides like wind through grass
beyond the reach of love's embrace and far beyond recall
as season follows fallow season disguised as Guinevere
and we invent new reasons to turn away from grace.
Despite it all, I am a worldly man
neither hedonists nor ascetics have ever made
much sense to me; in truth or maya, both will bleed.
So, turning, I stumble one little step further
and pray that one step is what leads to another...
Alone again with an overwhelming mood,
I dream of Joan of Arc's undying, aching, fiery soul
and love's expiring old soft-shoe for Gwen
as if such strength and sweetness could be true,
as if I ever knew that dancebut how can I say that?
Note: Pierre Cauchon
Pierre Cauchon (kosho), 1371-1442, Bishop of Beauvais, Joan of Arc's tireless persecutor; the primary judge in her 1431 trial. He felt that her refusal to wear women's clothing was by itself proof of her disobedience to the church and of her heresy. At the same time, neither he nor any other official said or did anything to protect her when her brief effort to comply resulted in the English military guards being demonstrative about their sexual interest in her. In short, they attacked her, though she and God fought them off. Unfortunately, she and God did not have the same success with Cauchon's conduct of the trial.
Joan's "rehabilitation" trial took place in 1456. She was canonized in 1920.
10th draft: 06/26/04
©1975 Ronald C. Southern
Posted by at 10:33 PM
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Listen, oh listen,
Listen to this wayward wind that blows
Cool and calm through noisy streets,
Between the voices, between the choices,
Our palms outstretched, upraised,
The evening sun in glory,
Indifferent to our praise.
These many faces you contain,
Hold back or offer to my
I want to, yes,
I want to, no,
I want to shake these youthful dreams and say,
"Give up these tears or tell me why!"
I'd nibble your ears
And whisper, whisper
Oh, but not for love
Or do I mean, for Love Alone?
What man will dream his life away
And only speak to phrase or frame his own defense?
He is closed up in a fortress that is safe but dark.
Safe. But Dark.
But listen, listen,
Listen to this wind that gently blows
Calm and cool through cluttered streets,
Our palms outstretched, upraised,
The evening sun in glory
Indifferent to our praise…
4th draft: 06/23/04
©1974 Ronald C. Southern
Posted by at 2:50 PM
Friday, June 18, 2004
For someone who has accumulated so little,
I seem to have a lot of little things,
Whether preserved or accidentally kept
Or tucked away or spilling out like boys at play—
It’s odd just which things in the world will stay.
I run across them now and then,
Pictures and small decorations,
Oddments of different kinds,
Dusty things, dull or waxed or dingy things,
Leftover pieces and parts,
Black metal music machines and softish dreams,
Early technologies and quasi-arts
I can barely call the names of any more.
Things that I stopped in the middle of making,
Arts and Crafts projects,
Like that one braided belt I couldn’t complete,
Things ill conceived, badly done, or tangled,
Or hard things that were always breaking
Or soft things that would just never fit,
Like that wallet with leather parts too thick to sew,
Possessions of little value too valued to throw away.
Some things get lost too easily, I grant,
Yet others seem to cling.
Slides I took of Dan and Charlotte’s happy wedding,
Made moot by hostile divorce and my own estrangement.
Crinkled poems I sent copies of to people I once loved;
Unrelenting Christmas cards received in twos and ones—
Now all the addresses are changed, it seems.
Now all these things are strewn and stuffed
In cluttered boxes, cabinets, and drawers.
What can one do, after the rise and the rush of events,
With wornout remnants still in evidence
Of these losses and lost friends?
Envelopes that remain—some bottle-ringed, stained, and mottled,
Some with bent-cornered post cards or folded yellow pages spilling out.
Those old receipts, reminders, questions, answers,
Paper peregrinations, perambulations, and forgotten nascent thoughts,
The letters I penned and posted back in youthful haste—
Meaningful these days only to a few old hearts.
Books my friends wrote in—inscriptions, notes, graffiti.
One, who loved Durrell’s Quartet as I did,
Said he’d see me “in another book”—
Some did, some didn’t, George, and some Will yet, I guess.
Some, like you, may dream sweet music to the bitter end
And wish to paint those Dali-esque landscapes in reality,
But reality seems so far away now, back when no one we knew got sick,
I don’t even know how to begin that measure or if you in fact are dead.
Drawings in black and white by friends who now live far away,
Hidden, stored in folders for decades, hung now on paneled walls.
Sketches, sometimes of me, Art and otherwise, now draw me in,
Remind me, remand me, return me for a while in thought,
Where a sense of those old days surrounds me, but never stays.
I tracked dear Wilfried down in Friedberg after 30 years
And we were elated at first. He said he’d long ago abandoned Art
But that it didn’t matter. Too soon, he had no more to say,
Not even of his birds. His life is blurred and lost again in Germany
And, no matter what I say, my old friend is lost to me anew.
Things that people left behind—
A fine line drawing by that Hessian, perhaps,
Or a notebook cover some thoughtless lover
Once scribbled patterns on
Or wrote her treasured name across…
What was a purple and white macramé hatband,
Made for me in happy days by a woman I possessed,
But now so faded two colors have for years been one.
The leather hat I made myself—long gone.
It is so strange how some things stay possessed
Whether I have retained them or not!
Bill’s yellowing old blue-lined address book,
Left here years ago and not returned or sought;
It’s still around, moved from here to there
And back again as time goes by.
I spot it now and then among toy dragons, beside a butterfly in glass,
Some battered insect and cactus books collecting dust, a slight smell like must,
Reminding me of those fungus-scented, antique-timbered, unswept rooms
Where Bill and Waldine worked at Coppini’s defunct old sculpture studio.
Last year’s snapshot of Paula,
Brown-haired with a sprinkle of gray,
Seated with her daughter’s handsome happy half-Tibetan baby boy.
It does not seem so long ago she was a college girl
I made love to and tried but failed to love.
Around and round I went with her like a dog on a bone until perversely
We were friends again. She knew how I’d tried to hate her,
But gave me her forgiveness. I don’t see her much any more,
But I know she makes a very handsome grandma now
And feels remarkably good to hug.
Two black and white old photos of a high-school girl,
My sweetheart then and blonde, but long ago turned gray,
A bright young beauty twice preserved
In glass and silver frames she gave me with her heart.
She’s been discreetly displayed just so for thirty years—
One photo with a smile and one quite serious but serene.
I’ve kept them in this or that room
In each succeeding home I’ve had without her.
Though she’s another’s wife, and plump and flushed and older,
I know that beauty still.
At times I can’t believe I still conserve these foolish things,
These old and sometimes faded dried-up near-forgotten things.
My life is only here upon this page and spilling out once more
Where nothing new is wondrous or will stay,
But I have known a few who were the best,
Of whom I am reminded by all these little things
How good it was to know them
And that I know such beauty still.
10th draft: 06/18/04
©2003 Ronald C. Southern
Posted by at 9:08 PM
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Your obsession with your father
Gave you good material, I must say.
All that poetry, I mean. I envy you that.
Always having interesting subject matter.
You've made hay of it, and every poem was good!
It's odd how twisted you got, just thinking
About how powerful he was when you were little
How intelligent he was, how all-encompassing!
I wonder how it was I never felt him like that,
Never felt him turn his finely focused heat ray on me?
Did I just not draw his fire
Or was I fireproof in some way?
Was I insensate and could not apprehend
That fire and heat despite it being there?
I guess it was only of a certain kind
Familial, insidious, insinuating,
Not quite for public consumption.
It is strange, isn't it, how, among three offspring,
It was the girl in the middle, not the boys,
who most emulated him?
Perhaps they knew something about him
That you never absorbed?
Was it just that their fascination was less?
Was there something to avoid,
And they required a greater distance
Than Adoration could allow?
Boys don't care much for Adoration,
Unless they're the ones getting it
But that's neither here nor there.
Or is it?
3rd draft: 06/01/04
©2003 Ronald C. Southern
Posted by at 6:41 PM
Judy Garland's Blues
Why was Judy Garland sad?
Did she have everything—but not love?
What drove Judy Garland mad,
Or do I give her too much credit?
Was she just privately unlucky, after all the public luck?
Did she have two armfuls of nothing in the worn valises
She dragged into another mansion of expenses, pills, and airs
Amid lost things never declared, forever beyond her reach?
Did she have everything—but not love?
Was she too often left behind as a child
Or was she poisoned in the vein
As by too many drinks or a rattlesnake...
Twisted by some familial demon spirit she became
That Voodoo spirit, the reel and spin, the deadly living blues,
Forever frightened—no matter her age or image or magic—
Of what to choose and what to lose, out of control to the end?
Did she, like you, like me, have everything—
But could not feel the love that others gave
Or stay as brave as needed every moment?
Current draft: 4/12/2010
3rd draft: 04/26/05
©2004 Ronald C. Southern
[This is a separate and different title from the blog title.]
Chigger, Texas, USA