Better than a Great Song

Serenade_(1921)_-_Walsh_&_CooperSeveral years ago, British poet John Fullerwrote a poem with a bright future as a chart-topping pop song.  Perhaps its catchy flow is due to the fact that it’s a strict villanelle, or perhaps it’s due to the fact that the poem is about unrequited, but not tortured, love. There’s just enough heartache to make it interesting, but no one is suffering too badly.

Fuller is known for mastering traditional form and making it palatable.  The villanelle for example can be denser, with a darker, more obsessive subject matter, as is the case with Dylan Thomas‘ “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

But Fuller’s speaker, although in need of attention, makes it clear that he is out to have a good time. He has drinks, allows city sounds to enter the conversation, and possibly even takes a break to play the guitar.  Sure, his date is off-puttingly jaded, but he might actually enjoy being strung along. Together, they are playing the eternal game, and, as readers, we are lucky we get to watch.

 

Song

You don’t listen to what I say.
When I lean towards you in the car
You simply smile and turn away.

 

It’s been like this most of the day,
sitting and sipping, bar after bar:
You don’t listen to what I say.

 

You squeeze a lemon from a tray,
And if you guess how dear you are
You simply smile and turn away.

 

Beyond the hairline of the bay
the steamers call that shore is far.
You don’t listen to what I say:

 

Surely there’s another way?
The waiter brings a small guitar.
You simply smile and turn away.

 

Sometimes I think you are too gay,
smiling and smiling, hour after hour.
You don’t listen to what I say.
You simply smile and turn away.
Photo credit: Still from the American silent film Serenade (1921) with George Walsh and Miriam Cooper, page 62 November Photoplay.

Te lo vi

 

Yo lo vi; te lo vi todo.

 

Te vi mi mano abriendo y cerrando

el cuero de un libro pesado.

 

Te vi mi mano mostrando y tapando

el reflejo de un tenedor bordado.

 

Te vi mi piel guardada.

 

Te vi la falta de crucifijos

en las paredes de mi casa.

 

Te vi la falta de edificios

en la vista de mi ventana.

 

Te vi mi perfil de florero recién lavado.

 

Te vi mi postura al montar a caballo,

con brinco discreto de buena equitación.

 

Te vi mis lenguajes clásicos y lejanos,

con sílabas que resuenan su larga educación.

 

Te vi mi tacón alto como si fuera guante blanco.

 

Yo lo vi; yo sé que te lo vi:

en el centro puro de tu ojo oscuro

 

te vi mi ojo verde,

despedido por su merced.

 

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—De mi libro “Entre domingo y domingo”

Abandoned Men

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Brooklyn Copeland is a young, prolific poet who has published individual poems in venues like Poetry Magazine and The New York Times. She also has several chapbooks and  full length poetry collections available.

As readily available as her work is online to peruse, I found it hard to pin down. “Self-conscious” is definitely a word that came to mind. “Intentional” is another. But, then I also wanted to say “evocative” and “effective.”

I considered “skilled” but then read a few poems again and changed my mind. “Simple” is a word that comes up again and again. “Simple” is good, as it is in Copeland’s case. But “skilled” is no doubt a better word.

Perhaps the poems below is skilled. It’s hard to tell. But, it’s most certainly evocative and effective. One thing is for sure: it is short and ends well, as if the poem itself was built to present the last five lines. The lines deserve it.

Prayer’s End
Nature remains
            faithful by
                         natural light,
only. Immeasurable,
            invisible in the wind.
                         Visible when
blades
            and branches bend.
                         The wind
speaks fluent
            rain. Despite it
                         the rain
falls straight. And beyond it
abandoned barns
                         defend
            abandoned
men.

Photo Credit: C.E. Price

 

This post is part of my ongoing collaboration with Zeteo Journal.

The Open Dishwasher

 

Today, you fell face first into the open dishwasher

 

One plastic prong bruised your nose

Another gave you your first black eye

 

I rushed to cradle you

And sing your falling down song

 

Then I took you outside to show you

The birds, the lizards

The cloudless blue sky

And the moon, your moon, visible today at noon

 

The moon made you calm

Luna, luna you said

And pointed up

At the cloudless blue sky

 

I sat you down close to me

Ready to hold you

If you still needed my arms

 

But you looked at the white powder moon

At a lizard that dashed from the bush

And at crests of neat waves rising in the pool

 

After a moment, you sighed

Your first veteran sigh

 

Just yesterday

I checked the classifieds

For work I might be paid to do

 

I do this sometimes

To confirm I remain hireable

And am more than this lullaby mother

 

Who sits with her child

To be soothed by the moon

 

 

The Potomac Journal’s summer issue is finally out, and two of my poems are in it! Above is the first. The second will be featured here shortly.

 

 

Oh, Zelda

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Los Angeles’s Silver Birch Press just released an anthology dedicated to “The Great Gatsby,” and I am thrilled that my poem “Oh, Zelda” was selected as part of the book. The poem is about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda, who was a tumultuous part of Fitzgerald’s fame, fortune and misfortune.

If anyone is interested in ordering copies of the book, please click here to be directed to Amazon.

Below is my poem:

 

Oh, Zelda

 

Pretty much, you

were a crazy bitch.

 

Incensed by beauty

in others, talent in others.

 

No one else was Zelda.

Zelda painting. Zelda

 

writing. Zelda dancing.

Zelda loving. Zelda

 

interrupting. No one had

your husband. Or your

 

name. A belle,

at times, more often

 

a tease. Bad Zelda, who

silenced entire books.

 

Drunk Zelda, who shut

them down like boys.

 

All the rage, all of it,

yours. Sorry Zelda,

 

making the cottage

beds, blowing softly

 

at the suffering fire.

Sweet Zelda, who says

 

it won’t be so. Again

the happy host. Again

 

the righteous muse, who,

for a second, stood right

 

upon the floor. But,

silly Zelda, you boiled

 

a pot of rings and gold,

and you got taken

 

to the crazy home.

The unwell woman

 

in the attic, with you,

told decades too late.

 

No new love

or worried young girl

 

could save you from

the locked doors above,

 

the savage blaze below.

 

 

After Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”