Friends: Today I am posting a poetic rendition of my personal “Journey to the West,” which is, as my Asian Studies students will recall, the actual title of the book “Monkey,” written by Wu Ch’eng-en and translated by Arthur Waley. The poems I have selected to represent my sojourn across our nation are set in New Jersey, Arkansas, Washington State, and California. I hope that you enjoy them.
Contemporary American Art – Melinda Patrick
Below – “Bright Blue and a Boat”; “Backstairs”; “Beyond the Cars”; “Lakehouse”; “Red Ribbon”; “Mocha Shouldered Ladies.”
A Poem for Today: My Journey to the West: Part I
by Robert Pinsky
Now near the end of the middle stretch of road
What have I learned? Some earthly wiles. An art.
That often I cannot tell good fortune from bad,
That once had seemed so easy to tell apart.
The source of art and woe aslant in wind
Dissolves or nourishes everything it touches.
What roadbank gullies and ruts it doesn’t mend
It carves the deeper, boiling tawny in ditches.
It spends itself regardless into the ocean.
It stains and scours and makes things dark or bright:
Sweat of the moon, a shroud of benediction,
The chilly liquefaction of day to night,
The Jersey rain, my rain, soaks all as one:
It smites Metuchen, Rahway, Saddle River,
Fair Haven, Newark, Little Silver, Bayonne.
I feel it churning even in fair weather
To craze distinction, dry the same as wet.
In ripples of heat the August drought still feeds
Vapors in the sky that swell to smite the state —
The Jersey rain, my rain, in streams and beads
Of indissoluble grudge and aspiration:
Original milk, replenisher of grief,
Descending destroyer, arrowed source of passion,
Silver and black, executioner, font of life.
Below – Rain falling on New Jersey Shore (photograph by Ilya Hemlin)
Contemporary American Art – Stephen Remick: Part I of II.
Below – “Ribbons and Barbs”; “Raft on a Still Pond”; “Standing by Peaceful Waters”; “Awestruck”; “Petals on the Path”; “The Pond and the Mountain.”
A Poem for Today: My Journey to the West: Part II
“Watching ‘Casablanca’ in Arkadelphia, Arkansas”
by Jo McDougall
t’s 3 a.m.
Fog permeates Casablanca
as fog floats above the Ouachita,
the river this town lies ragtag along.
Those flimmering creatures on the screen are dead,
the town at this hour is dead,
the vapor of that river rises
to touch my feet.
Now the early morning train
clangoring through Arkadelphia
I stumble toward my coat and my valise.
I must be gone
before the Germans,
the closed borders,
the informant sun.
O Ingrid, Humphrey, Sydney, Paul,
shadows on the banks of my life,
I point the remote and exile you all
Below – Photographs depicting the cast members of “Casablanca” mentioned in the poem; the Ouachita River at Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Contemporary American Art – Stephen Remick: Part II of II.
Below – “The Greenhouse”; “Heading Up the Hill, Looking Back (The Old Apple Orchard);” “Coming Home”; “Edge of Field in Snow”; “Tree House – Looking Up”; “Winter Path – White Light.”
by Denise Levertov
I was welcomed here—clear gold
of late summer, of opening autumn,
the dawn eagle sunning himself on the highest tree,
the mountain revealing herself unclouded, her snow
tinted apricot as she looked west,
Tolerant, in her steadfastness, of the restless sun
forever rising and setting.
Now I am given
a taste of the grey foretold by all and sundry,
a grey both heavy and chill. I’ve boasted I would not care,
I’m London-born. And I won’t. I’ll dig in,
into my days, having come here to live, not to visit.
Grey is the price
of neighboring with eagles, of knowing
a mountain’s vast presence, seen or unseen.
Below – Isolde Kowaleszyn: “Mount Rainier”
Below – “Morning Fog in the Buffalo River Valley, Arkansas Ozarks”; “Red Snow Barn, Ozarks”; “Red Rock Loop Road”; “The Pussy Willow Tree”; “Rainy Day Blues”; “Lonesome Highway.”
“Facing West From California’s Shores”
by Walt Whitman
Facing west, from California’s shores,
Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound,
I, a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, the
land of migrations, look afar,
Look off the shores of my Western Sea—the circle almost circled;
For, starting westward from Hindustan, from the vales of Kashmere,
From Asia—from the north—from the God, the sage, and the hero,
From the south—from the flowery peninsulas, and the spice islands;
Long having wander’d since—round the earth having wander’d,
Now I face home again—very pleas’d and joyous;
(But where is what I started for, so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?)