Sunday, January 4, 2009

Poetry and My Poems

Once in a while, I like to take a break from economics and read poetry. Here are some of my favorites:

AUBADE, by Rick Barot

Scintillas of the anatomical
on the vines, buds opening—
make me a figure
for the woken.

On the vines, buds opening—
blue, little throats.
For the woken,
this different tin sky.

Blue, little throats
speak to me in the right voice.
This different tin sky,
the playground thawing.

Speak to me in the right voice,
only clean, sweeter.
The playground thawing
into its primary colors.

Only clean, sweeter,
briary as honeysuckle,
into their primary colors
the words come: bitter, astral.

Full version after the jump:

I am sharing part of Barot's poem for educational purposes. It sounds and reads perfectly--a difficult combination. Even the unusual repetition, "bitter, astral," feels perfectly placed. The only blemish is the phrase, "blue little throats," which seems too harsh among "clean, sweeter," and "honeysuckle." This poetic form, which relies on repetition, is the "lilibonelle." More on poetry forms at Sol Magazine.

I also love a poem by C. Milosz called "Hymn," but I can't find it online. Here are the first few lines:

There is no one between you and me.
Neither a plant drawing sap from the depths of the earth
nor wind walking between the clouds.
The most beautiful bodies are like transparent glass.

Here is an interview with Mr. Milosz.

Another poem by Bill Watterson is a must-read. It's from Calvin and Hobbes' Indispensable Treasury:

I made a big decision a little while ago.
I don't remember what it was, which prob'ly goes to show
That many times a simple choice can prove to be essential
Even though it often might appear inconsequential.

I must have been distracted when I left my home because
Left or right I'm sure I went. (I wonder which it was!)
Anyway, I never veered: I walked in that direction
Utterly absorbed, it seems, in quiet introspection.

For no reason I can think of, I've wandered far astray.
And that is how I got to where I find myself today.

As you can see, poetry doesn't have to be in a Norton Anthology to be required reading. I own the complete Calvin and Hobbes collection, and Calvin has so many lines that are poetic in their own right. I shared the above lines to show readers that poetry can be found in unexpected places and to encourage readers to discover Calvin and Hobbes if they haven't already done so. Newer fans can share their thoughts on Calvin and Hobbes here.

Oh, the beauty.


Here are a few poems I found today, which I wrote about 10 years ago:


The mahogany maelstrom
stares at me.

Charred black holes
peeking through space,
gentle lashes nurturing
smoldering volcanoes.

copyright Matthew Rafat (written 1995-1999)


Bank statements invade dreams
Of holding hands, making babies, laughing for no reason;
And eyes that once sparkled are now jaundiced,
Critiquing every missing George Washington,
Forgetting the spontaneous smiles
That once would follow accidental breaking of dishes.
Now your reassuring voice seems like an important historical event
One should remember, but can't,
Like the date of the Missouri Compromise or the victor at Yorktown.
The laundry undone and the mold growing
Used to sit patiently while we lay on our backs feeling the wind brush our faces--
And it would be okay if we missed dinner
When I wanted to see your face above mine,
Your falling sweat sticking to my just-showered stomach.
But bringing Benjamin Franklin in the bedroom
Made you sexually insolvent, and I felt cheated, because I never invited him in--
It was as if you were making me part of a threesome without my consent,
Allowing little green men to rape me while you watched and did nothing.
Even the prospect of your copper-stained hands going through my hair
Would have aroused in me forgiveness--
But you always just plopped down next to me in the dark, faceless and foreboding.
One day, as you mentioned going down a tax bracket,
I packed my bags and left without your interest
And with the realization I would never be included
In your value estimations.

copyright Matthew Rafat (written 1995-1999)

Pellucid Life

Children dance their songs of glee,
Roses approve with laughs of scent,
The sun joins in, beaming smiles of light.
Women cradle bundles of sound,
Men walk with words of friends,
The world turns with slow of sure.
I sit amidst sights of smell,
Enjoying feel of touch,
Remembering you of love.

copyright Matthew Rafat (written 1995-1999)

Dupont Circle was one of my favorite hangouts when I lived in D.C. around 1999. I loved its coffeeshops and used bookstores. Back in the day, as soon as you got off the Metro and exited the escalator, you saw the aptly-named Xanadu's Cafe on your left. Dupont has become much more gentrified since then.

Dupont Circle

"No talking please,"
"No talking please,"
The jolly old man bellowed out,
Hovering over the chessboard,
About to devour his opponent,
Another old man, teeth and glasses broken,
Reflecting his shattered condition.
The old man must have wanted to be more than a wino once--
Whatever the dreams were, they certainly never included
Prostituting his knowledge of a queen's gambit for a ham and cheese sandwich.
The words of death didn't need to be said,
And they weren't, but the black king lay prostrate on the board
As 25 dollars exchanged trembling hands.

A drunk Physics major stumbled about,
Mumbling, "A win is a win is a win is a win,"
But then lost the next two games.

"Pow! Pow! Pow!"
In the corner, an entrenched Vietnam Vet, between sips,
Echoed out threats
Against the man who had just
Refused his request for a light.
A size six waist and double Ds walked in,
Capturing the crowd,
And I remembered thinking,
"God I wish those are real."
But they're not, and they're just as empty and heavy
As the old men's machismo
And their dances and drunkenness,
Gambling money they don't have,
Hollering words without force,
Trying to find connections in a city
That offers none,
As sorry and hopeful
As those two pneumatic sacks.

copyright Matthew Rafat

Answer to W.H. Auden

At the party,
Go sit in your dismal, desolate corner--
Good friends laugh and play
As you deem yourself their official mourner.

Blow the cobwebs from the mirror,
See the face of optimism resisted;
You cannot plunge the penknife
Into a heart that never existed.

Time will only say "I told you so,"
You've said over and over;
Let Time watch from the shadows--
I will kiss while it coughs, and be Life's lover.

copyright Matthew Rafat

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