A Poem for Today
“On Seeing Larry Rivers’ Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art”
By Frank O’Hara
Now that our hero has come back to us
in his white pants and we know his nose
trembling like a flag under fire,
we see the calm cold river is supporting
our forces, the beautiful history.
To be more revolutionary than a nun
is our desire, to be secular and intimate
as, when sighting a redcoat, you smile
and pull the trigger. Anxieties
and animosities, flaming and feeding
on theoretical considerations and
the jealous spiritualities of the abstract
the robot? they’re smoke, billows above
the physical event. They have burned up.
See how free we are! as a nation of persons.
Dear father of our country, so alive
you must have lied incessantly to be
immediate, here are your bones crossed
on my breast like a rusty flintlock,
a pirate’s flag, bravely specific
and ever so light in the misty glare
of a crossing by water in winter to a shore
other than that the bridge reaches for.
Don’t shoot until, the white of freedom glinting
on your gun barrel, you see the general fear.
Below – Larry Rivers: “Washington Crossing the Delaware”
Musings in Autumn: Francis of Assisi
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
American Art – Part I of II: James Washington Jr.
In the words of one writer, “James W. Washington, Jr. was a celebrated African American painter and sculptor who spent the majority of his career working from his Seattle studio. He was born and grew up in rural Mississippi in the segregated South.
James Washington taught as a WPA artist in Mississippi in 1938 and curated the first exhibit of African American artists in Mississippi. He migrated to the Seattle area in 1944 to work in the Bremerton Naval Yard as a journeyman electrician during WWII war production years.”
Below – “Woodchuck Eating”; “Grouse Sunning”; “Dorset Lamb Reclining”; “Thrasher”; “African Grouse.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Kim Addonizio
I think I detect cracked leather.
I’m pretty sure I smell the cherries
from a Shirley Temple my father bought me
in 1959, in a bar in Orlando, Florida,
and the chlorine from my mother’s bathing cap.
And last winter’s kisses, like salt on black ice,
like the moon slung away from the earth.
When Li Po drank wine, the moon dove
in the river, and he staggered after.
Probably he tasted laughter.
When my friend Susan drinks
she cries because she’s Irish
and childless. I’d like to taste,
one more time, the rain that arrived
one afternoon and fell just short
of where I stood, so I leaned my face in,
alive in both worlds at once,
knowing it would end and not caring.
Musings in Autumn: Matthew Desmond
“No moral code or ethical principle, no piece of scripture or holy teaching, can be summoned to defend what we have allowed our country to become.”
American Art – Part II of II: George Tsutakawa
Artist Statement: “For me, 1960 or thereabouts was a time to take another look at the philosophy and art of the Orient, particularly Japanese art that I had become familiar with in my youth.
Through my travels and my studies of traditional Japanese Arts, I was able to reaffirm my conviction in the Oriental view of nature which sees man as one part of nature, a part that must live in harmony with the rest of nature.
From 1960 on, I attempted to express this relationship between man and nature in my works. My sumi drawings are a direct response to nature; my fountain sculptures are an attempt to unify water, the life force of the universe that flows in an elusive cyclical course throughout eternity, with an immutable metal sculpture.”
Below – “Mt. Rainier”; “Sumi Landscape”; “A Study for Obos”; “Eternal Laughter”; “Crabs”; “Fountain of Wisdom.”
A Third Poem for Today
“Call of the Night”
By Djuna Barnes
Dark, and the wind-blurred pines,
With a glimmer of light between.
Then I, entombed for an hourless night
With the world of things unseen.
Mist, the dust of flowers,
Leagues, heavy with promise of snow,
And a beckoning road ‘twixt vale and hill,
With the lure that all must know.
A light, my window’s gleam,
Soft, flaring its squares of red—
I loose the ache of the wilderness
And long for the fire instead.
You too know, old fellow?
Then, lift your head and bark.
It’s just the call of the lonesome place,
The winds and the housing dark.
Musings in Autumn: Philip Roth
“In America everything goes and nothing matters, while in Europe nothing goes and everything matters.”
Art for November – Part I of III: Takao Tanabe
Below – “Mountain Range”
Howard Zinn (1922-2010) was an American historian, playwright, social activist, and author of more than twenty books, including the influential “A People’s History of the United States.”
Some quotes from the work of Howard Zinn:
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
“Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.”
“The prisons in the United States had long been an extreme reflection of the American system itself: the stark life differences between rich and poor, the racism, the use of victims against one another, the lack of resources of the underclass to speak out, the endless “reforms” that changed little. Dostoevski once said: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
It had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. This was not just because the poor committed more crimes. In fact, they did. The rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. But when the rich did commit crimes, they often were not prosecuted, and if they were they could get out on bail, hire clever lawyers, get better treatment from judges. Somehow, the jails ended up full of poor black people.”
“If those in charge of our society – politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television – can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.”
“History is important. If you don’t know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”
“Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals the fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such as world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
“I wonder how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own.”
“The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.
Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.”
Art for November – Part II of III: Stephen Lack
Below – “Annual Report Faceless Corporation”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“Unpacking a Globe”
By Arthur Sze
I gaze at the Pacific and don’t expect
to ever see the heads on Easter Island,
though I guess at sunlight rippling
the yellow grasses sloping to shore;
yesterday a doe ate grass in the orchard:
it lifted its ears and stopped eating
when it sensed us watching from
a glass hallway—in his sleep, a veteran
sweats, defusing a land mine.
On the globe, I mark the Battle of
the Coral Sea—no one frets at that now.
“A poem can never be too dark,”
I nod and, staring at the Kenai, hear
ice breaking up along an inlet;
yesterday a coyote trotted across
my headlights and turned his head
but didn’t break stride; that’s how
I want to live on this planet:
alive to a rabbit at a glass door—
and flower where there is no flower.
Musings in Autumn: Casey Gray
“American consumers benefit from disparity & exploitation. I benefit from disparity & exploitation & so does my family. there is no way to be a consumer in this country without causing pain.”
Art For November – Part III of III: Jesus Carlos Villalonga
Below – “I Weep For The Poor Indians”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Bob Hicok
A few hours after Des Moines
the toilet overflowed.
This wasn’t the adventure it sounds.
I sat with a man whose tattoos
weighed more than I did.
He played Hendrix on mouth guitar.
His Electric Ladyland lips
weren’t fast enough
and if pitch and melody
are the rudiments of music,
this was just
memory, a body nostalgic
for the touch of adored sound.
Hope’s a smaller thing on a bus.
You hope a forgotten smoke consorts
with lint in the pocket of last
resort to be upwind
of the human condition, that the baby
and when this never happens,
that she cries
with the lullaby meter of the sea.
We were swallowed by rhythm.
The ultra blond
who removed her wig and applied
fresh loops of duct tape
to her skull,
her companion who held a mirror
and popped his dentures
in and out of place,
the boy who cut stuffing
from the seat where his mother
should have been—
there was a little more sleep
in our thoughts,
it was easier to yield.
To what, exactly—
the suspicion that what we watch
cornfields that stare at our hands,
that hold us in their windows
through the night?
Or faith, strange to feel
in that zoo of manners.
I had drool on my shirt and breath
of the undead, a guy
dropped empty Buds on the floor
like gravity was born
to provide this service,
we were white and black trash
in an outhouse on wheels and still
some had grown—
in touching the spirited shirts
after watching a sky of starlings
flow like cursive
over wheat—back into creatures
capable of a wish.
As we entered Arizona
I thought I smelled the ocean,
liked the lie of this
and closed my eyes
puppeted against my lids.
We brought our failures with us,
their taste, their smell.
But the kid
who threw up in the back
pushed to the window anyway,
and let the wind clean his face,
I couldn’t make out
but agreed with
in shape, a sound I recognized
as everything I’d come so far
to give away.
Musings in Autumn: Henry Beston
“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Joanna Fuhrman
Everyone I ever loved is standing
on a platform with a gun.
In the cartoon version, a flag pops
with the word ‘bang.’
In the soap opera version,
my face turns the color of merlot.
In the haiku version,
metal gleams in the narrow shadow.
In the Republican version,
two guns wrap themselves in a single flag.
In the Langpo version.
idolatry yips yaps paradigm the.
In my diary version,
I wonder why everyone hates me.
In the indie film version,
a gun flickers over a mumbled tune.
In the Chekhov version,
(well, you already know.)
In the 10 o’clock news version,
the crisis in violence is rising.
In the action film version,
a shot means profits are rolling.
In the catalog version,
the smoke’s hue is a burnished moss.
In the teen movie version,
a nerdy gun removes her glasses.
In the lucid dream version,
I kiss a muzzle and it blossoms.
In the music video version,
a gun turns into a mouth.
Canadian Art – Christopher Walker
In the words of one writer, “Artist Christopher Walker was born in Montreal, Quebec. As a child, his oil paintings depicting Quebec rural landscape gave birth to his love and dedication towards art and the environment. A traditional approach along with a distinctive, contemporary style stemming from his unique yet poetic observations of the human condition and the environment make Walker’s art a unique and progressive format of realism.”
Below – “Summit”; “Distant”; “The Opportunist”; “Luna – Transformation”; “Subdivision Seven.”