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101: Prelude

I have a confession to make. In fact, I have a few confessions to make. See, I’ve been writing poetry for around ten years. Before that, I wrote lyrics. Before that, I tittered down things now and again, grand ideas in my mind for the next great story, and surprisingly legible scribbles of unsurprisingly childish notions. Regardless, I’ve been fascinated with writing for as long as I can remember. I still have hope that one day I might not be half bad.

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Perspective: ‘The Enduring Premonition’ by Owen Marshall

I often feel like there’s something just out of reach. I don’t know what it is, but I feel like it’s physically hidden behind some invisible corner. It’s the feeling of something on the tip of the tongue, but more vague and expansive than language can succinctly describe.

For years, I’ve referred to the feeling as “in the corner of my mind”, or some variation thereof. I tend to keep it linguistically out of reach, because I feel like whatever it happens to be is meant to stay out of reach. There’s something of the Holy Spirit in the ordeal.

I’m not going to pretend the feeling is close to unique, in reality or in poetry; but I recently found a beautiful turn-of-phrase by New Zealand writer, Owen Marshall, that encapsulates the same feeling of ambiguous distance while turning it somehow more real, more malleable. The describing phrase, from the poem The Enduring Premonition, reads thus:

A wingspan of futility

across our shallow tea-cup days

Granted, there’s something macabre about the line and title, something almost destitute, but I’m a sucker for such ideas. It puts a gothic feel on that invisible thing, a feeling of heaviness. But it also finds a resignation to inevitability, that it’s not something that needs to be outrun. I love a shallow tea-cup day, and if I can find those beneath the wingspan of futility, well, I think that’s something nice.

Purgatory/Paradise

I’ve given up the Fig Leaf,

I got a new haircut, trimmed my beard

I’ve given up the Chapel,

for the dream of hopeless possibility.

I’ve given up the idea

I was born ever-curious

that Fault was in an apple.

to Cupid’s vocation.

I’ll argue every day

I accepted, many years ago, my nature

that The Effort must improve,

and the futility of looking past my heart.

yet the thought of hopelessness

The hopeless romantic

near to tears did have me move.

herein resides.

 

PERSPECTIVE: ‘Diligence Is to Magic as Progress Is to Flight’ by Marianne Moore

With an elephant to ride upon—”with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,”
   she shall outdistance calamity anywhere she goes.
Speed is not in her mind inseparable from carpets. Locomotion arose
   in the shape of an elephant; she clambered up and chose
to travel laboriously. So far as magic carpets are concerned, she knows
   that although the semblance of speed may attach to scarecrows
of aesthetic procedure, the substance of it is embodied in such of those
   tough-grained animals as have outstripped man’s whim to suppose
them ephemera, and I have earned that fruit of their ability to endure blows
   which dubs them prosaic necessities—not curios.

By Marianne Moore

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He Was My Brother/A Cause

He was my brother
Five years older than I
He was my brother
Twenty-three years old the day he died

Pick out a number,
choose any one,
pick out a number;
any number’s too soon for that loaded gun.

Freedom writer
They cursed my brother to his face
“Go home, outsider
Mississippi’s gonna be your buryin’ place”

Take a stand
for the cause of your heart.
Dirt is dirt,
and any land’s the right place to start.

He was singin’ on his knees
An angry mob trailed along
They shot my brother dead
Because he hated what was wrong

Heaven is near’ to the ground,
Hell is closer to the heart.
Synchronize to the angel’s sound
and live a life and death the better part.

He was my brother
Tears can’t bring him back to me
He, he was my brother
And he died so his brothers could be free
He died so his brothers could be free

Pick out a number;
it didn’t matter before.
All that mattered
was the heartbeat and the just cause.