- Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

“You can produce fine poems without believing anything, but it corrodes the spirit and eventually rots the seed-corn of the heart.”

R.I.P., Linda Gregg. Here are some poems and some quotes from her writing.

“[I]t is crucial that a poet see when she or he is not looking—just as she must write when she is not writing. To write just because the poet wants to write is natural, but to learn to see is a blessing. The art of finding in poetry is the art of marrying the sacred to the world, the invisible to the human.”

 

The Presence In Absence

Poetry is not made of words.
I can say it’s January when
it’s August. I can say, “The scent
of wisteria on the second floor
of my grandmother’s house
with the door open onto the porch
in Petaluma,” while I’m living
an hour’s drive from the Mexican
border town of Ojinaga.
It is possible to be with someone
who is gone. Like the silence which
continues here in the desert while
the night train passes through Marfa
louder and louder, like the dogs whining
and barking after the train is gone.

from In The Middle Distance

 

The Secrets of Poetry

Very long ago when the exquisite celadon bowl
that was the mikado’s favorite cup got broken,
no one in Japan had the skill and courage
to mend it. So the pieces were taken back
to China with a plea to the emperor
that it be repaired. When the bowl returned,
it was held together with heavy iron staples.
The letter with it said they could not make it
more perfect. Which turned out to be true.

—from All of It Singing

 

We Manage Most When We Manage Small

What things are steadfast? Not the birds.
Not the bride and groom who hurry
in their brevity to reach one another.
The stars do not blow away as we do.
The heavenly things ignite and freeze.
But not as my hair falls before you.
Fragile and momentary, we continue.
Fearing madness in all things huge
and their requiring. Managing as thin light
on water. Managing only greetings
and farewells. We love a little, as the mice
huddle, as the goat leans against my hand.
As the lovers quickening, riding time.
Making safety in the moment. This touching
home goes far. This fishing in the air.

—from All of It Singing

 

Let Birds

Eight deer on the slope
in the summer morning mist.
The night sky blue.
Me like a mare let out to pasture.
The Tao does not console me.
I was given the Way
in the milk of childhood.
Breathing it waking and sleeping.
But now there is no amazing smell
of sperm on my thighs,
no spreading it on my stomach
to show pleasure.
I will never give up longing.
I will let my hair stay long.
The rain proclaims these trees,
the trees tell of the sun.
Let birds, let birds.
Let leaf be passion.
Let jaw, let teeth, let tongue be
between us. Let joy.
Let entering. Let rage and calm join.
Let quail come.
Let winter impress you. Let spring.
Allow the ocean to wake in you.
Let the mare in the field
in the summer morning mist
make you whinny. Make you come
to the fence and whinny. Let birds.

—from All of It Singing

 

Elegance

All that is uncared for.
Left alone in the stillness
in that pure silence married
to the stillness of nature.
A door off its hinges,
shade and shadows in an empty room.
Leaks for light. Raw where
the tin roof rusted through.
The rustle of weeds in their
different kinds of air in the mornings,
year after year.
A pecan tree, and the house
made out of mud bricks. Accurate
and unexpected beauty, rattling
and singing. If not to the sun,
then to nothing and to no one.

—from All of It Singing

 

Looking for Each of Us

I open the box of my favorite postcards
and turn them over looking for de Chirico
because I remember seeing you standing
facing a wall no wider than a column where
to your left was a hall going straight back
into darkness, the floor a ramp sloping down
to where you stood alone and where the room
opened out on your right to an auditorium
full of people who had just heard you read
and were now listening to the other poet.
I was looking for the de Chirico because of
the places, the empty places. The word
“boulevard” came to mind. Standing on the side
of the fountains in Paris where the water
blew onto me when I was fifteen. It was night.
It was dark then too and I was alone.
Why didn’t you find me? Why didn’t
somebody find me all those years? The form
of love was purity. An art. An architecture.
Maybe a train. Maybe the shadow of a statue
and the statue with its front turned away
from me. Maybe one young girl playing alone,
hearing even small sounds ring off cobblestones
and the stone walls. I turn the cards looking
for the one and come to Giacometti’s eyes
full of caring and something remote.
His eyes are loving and empty, but not with
nothingness, not for the usual reasons, but because
he is working. The Rothko Chapel empty. A cheap
statue of Sappho in the modern city of Mytilene
and ancient sunlight. David Park’s four men
with smudges for mouths, backed by water,
each held still by the impossibility of what
art can accomplish. A broken river god,
only the body. A girl playing with her rabbit in bed.
The postcard of a summer lightning storm over Iowa.

—from Chosen By the Lion

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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