Blood Work

http://matthewsiegel.us/

I WAS IN THE COMMONS KISSING, AND LUCY NEXT TO ME KISSING, TOO

Both of us under one boy or another.
That’s how we spent our senior year,
Beacon Hill, Harvard Square,
Coolidge Corner, anywhere
but Belmont, or Westwood Center.

Boylston Street for bongs—Reefer

Madness, incense, Yardley’s makeovers,
buffalo leather toe sandals—her baby was born
with encephalocele. While I held her,
I hoped she’d die, though tried to love her,
four months, she didn’t grow—Lucy rocking her,
cooing, passers-by smiled at the handsome mother,
then frowned—small gasps—when they looked closer—
my father paid for the funeral I don’t remember.
(There may not have been one.) Lucy had others—

a daughter, next a son, then nine years later,

she drowned in Maine, swallowed by the family pond,
at barely thirty, while I’m nearing sixty, and complain.

-Martha Rhodes

Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed from a Skull

Start not—nor deem my spirit fled:
   In me behold the only skull
From which, unlike a living head,
   Whatever flows is never dull.

I lived, I loved, I quaff’d, like thee:
   I died: let earth my bones resign;
Fill up—thou canst not injure me;
   The worm hath fouler lips than thine.

Better to hold the sparkling grape,
   Than nurse the earth-worm’s slimy brood;
And circle in the goblet’s shape
   The drink of Gods, than reptiles’ food.

Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
   In aid of others’ let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
   What nobler substitute than wine?

Quaff while thou canst—another race,
   When thou and thine like me are sped,
May rescue thee from earth’s embrace,
   And rhyme and revel with the dead.

Why not? since through life’s little day
   Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem’d from worms and wasting clay,
   This chance is theirs, to be of use.

-George Gordon Byron

To You

  by Walt Whitman

Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of
   dreams,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your 
   feet and hands,
Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, 
   troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true soul and body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs, out of commerce, shops, 
   work, farms, clothes, the house, buying, selling, eating, 
   drinking, suffering, dying.

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you 
   be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better
   than you.

O I have been dilatory and dumb,
I should have made my way straight to you long ago, 
I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have chanted
   nothing but you.
   
I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you, 
None has understood you, but I understand you, 
None has done justice to you, you have not done justice to
   yourself,
None but has found you imperfect, I only find no
   imperfection in you,
None but would subordinate you, I only am he who will
   never consent to subordinate you,
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better,
   God, beyond what waits intrinsically in yourself.
   
Painters have painted their swarming groups and the centre-
   figure of all,
From the head of the centre-figure spreading a nimbus of 
   gold-color'd light,
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its 
   nimbus of gold-color'd light,
From my hand from the brain of every man and woman it
   streams, effulgently flowing forever.

O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
You have not known what you are, you have slumber'd upon
   yourself all your life,
Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time,
What you have done returns already in mockeries, 
(Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in
   mockeries, what is their return?)

The mockeries are not you,
Underneath them and within them I see you lurk,
I pursue you where none else has pursued you,
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the 
   accustom'd routine, if these conceal you from others or
   from yourself, they do not conceal you from me,
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if
   these balk others they do not balk me,
The pert apparel, the deform'd attitude, drunkenness, greed, 
   premature death, all these I part aside.

There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied 
   in you,
There is no virtue, no beauty in man or woman, but as good 
   is in you,
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you,
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits 
   for you.

As for me, I give nothing to any one except I give the like 
   carefully to you,
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than
   I sing the songs of the glory of you.

Whoever you are! claim your own at an hazard! 
These shows of the East and West are tame compared to you, 
These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are
   immense and interminable as they,
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of 
   apparent dissolution, you are he or she who is master or 
   mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, 
   pain, passion, dissolution.

The hopples fall from your ankles, you find an unfailing 
   sufficiency,
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, 
   whatever you are promulges itself,
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, 
   nothing is scanted,
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what 
   you are picks its way.

"Poetry Is Not a Luxury" by Audre Lorde

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.

As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny, and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us.

For each of us as women, there is a dark place within where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, “Beautiful and tough as chestnut/stanchions against our nightmare of weakness” and of impotence.

These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.

When we view living, in the european mode, only as a problem to be solved, we then rely solely upon our ideas to make us free, for these were what the white fathers told us were precious.

But as we become more in touch with our own ancient, black, non-european view of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and therefore lasting action comes.

At this point in time, I believe that women carry within ourselves the possibility for fusion of these two approaches as keystone for survival, and we come closest to this combination in our poetry. I speak here of poetry as the revelation or distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean — in order to cover their desperate wish for imagination without insight.

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.

Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

As they become known and accepted to ourselves, our feelings, and the honest exploration of them, become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas, the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action. Right now, I could name at least ten ideas I would have once found intolerable or incomprehensible and frightening, except as they came after dreams and poems. This is not idle fantasy, but the true meaning of “it feels right to me.” We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.

Possibility is neither forever nor instant. It is also not easy to sustain belief in its efficacy. We can sometimes work long and hard to establish one beachhead of real resistance to the deaths we are expected to live, only to have that beachhead assaulted or threatened by canards we have been socialized to fear, or by the withdrawal of those approvals that we have been warned to seek for safety. We see ourselves diminished or softened by the falsely benign accusations of childishness, of non-universality, of self-centeredness, of sensuality. And who asks the question: am I altering your aura, your ideas, your dreams, or am I merely moving you to temporary and reactive action? (Even the latter is no mean task, but one that must be rather seen within the context of a true alteration of the texture of our lives.)

The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet-whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom. However, experience has taught us that the action in the now is also always necessary. Our children cannot dream unless they live, they cannot live unless they are nourished, and who else will feed them the real food without which their dreams will be no different from ours?

Sometimes we drug ourselves with dreams of new ideas. The head will save us. The brain alone will set us free. But there are no new ideas still waiting in the wings to save us as women, as human. There are only old and forgotten ones, new combinations, extrapolations and recognitions from within ourselves, along with the renewed courage to try them out. And we must constantly encourage ourselves and each other to attempt the heretical actions our dreams imply and some of our old ideas disparage. In the forefront of our move toward change, there is only our poetry to hint at possibility made real. Our poems formulate the implications of ourselves, what we feel within and dare make real (or bring action into accordance with), our fears, our hopes, our most cherished terrors.

For within structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, feelings were meant to kneel to thought as we were meant to kneel to men. But women have survived. As poets. And there are no new pains. We have felt them all already. We have hidden that fact in the same place where we have hidden our power. They lie in our dreams, and it is our dreams that point the way to freedom. They are made realizable through our poems that give us the strength and courage to see, to feel, to speak, and to dare.

If what we need to dream, to move our spirits most deeply and directly toward and through promise, is a luxury, then we have given up the core-the fountain-of our power, our womanness; we have give up the future of our worlds.

For there are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt, of examining what our ideas really mean (feel like) on Sunday morning at 7 AM, after brunch, during wild love, making war, giving birth; while we suffer the old longings, battle the old warnings and fears of being silent and impotent and alone, while tasting our new possibilities and strengths.

from “Sister Outsider: essays and speeches” page 36. Published by Crossing Press, 1985.

thereconstructionists:

For more than half a century, poet and essayist Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929 — March 27, 2012) explored with equal parts courage and conviction such complex cultural phenomena as identity and ideology, gender and politics, oppression and freedom. The recipient of numerous honors, including the National Book Award for Poetry, two Guggenheim fellowships, and a MacArthur “genius” grant — Rich is celebrated as one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century.
For Rich, art was as much a tool of creative expression as it was a vehicle for empathy, for expanding one’s understanding of the world beyond the limits of the individual. In a 2005 conversation at the Kelly Writers House, she articulates her ethos with a beautiful definition of art:
One of the great functions of art is to help us imagine what it is like to be not ourselves, what it is like to be someone or something else, what it is like to live in another skin, what it is like to live in another body, and in that sense to surpass ourselves, to go out beyond ourselves.
Rich’s own life was anything but ordinary. In 1953, she married Harvard professor Alfred Haskell Conrad, who fathered her three children. Over the decade that followed, her career exploded, in the process catapulting her into a spurt of personal growth, self-discovery, and political awakening. In 1970, stifled by the institution of marriage, Rich divorced Conrad. In 1976, she met and fell in love with Jamaican-born novelist and editor Michelle Cliff, who became her lifelong partner and inspired Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems (1977), her first literary exploration of lesbian desire and sexuality, later included in one of her most celebrated works, The Dream of a Common Language (1978). The two remained together for thirty-six years, until Rich’s death in 2012. In a lamentable manifestation of the current failings of marriage equality, as of this writing, her Wikipedia entry still lists Conrad as her only spouse.
In 1997, in protest against the growing monopoly of power and the government’s proposed plan to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, Rich famously became the first and only person to date to decline the prestigious National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed upon an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States, previously awarded to such luminaries as Ralph Ellison, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Updike, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and fellow reconstructionist Maya Angelou.
But despite the strong undercurrents of political and sociocultural commentary, Rich’s work was driven first and foremost by the irrepressible stirrings of her inner life. She reflected in an interview:
A poem can come out of something seen, something overheard, listening to music, an article in a newspaper, a book, a combination of all these… There’s a kind of emotional release that I then find in the act of writing the poem. It’s not, ‘I’m now going to sit down and write a poem about this.’
Learn more: Brain Pickings | Wikipedia

thereconstructionists:

For more than half a century, poet and essayist Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929 — March 27, 2012) explored with equal parts courage and conviction such complex cultural phenomena as identity and ideology, gender and politics, oppression and freedom. The recipient of numerous honors, including the National Book Award for Poetry, two Guggenheim fellowships, and a MacArthur “genius” grant — Rich is celebrated as one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century.

For Rich, art was as much a tool of creative expression as it was a vehicle for empathy, for expanding one’s understanding of the world beyond the limits of the individual. In a 2005 conversation at the Kelly Writers House, she articulates her ethos with a beautiful definition of art:

One of the great functions of art is to help us imagine what it is like to be not ourselves, what it is like to be someone or something else, what it is like to live in another skin, what it is like to live in another body, and in that sense to surpass ourselves, to go out beyond ourselves.

Rich’s own life was anything but ordinary. In 1953, she married Harvard professor Alfred Haskell Conrad, who fathered her three children. Over the decade that followed, her career exploded, in the process catapulting her into a spurt of personal growth, self-discovery, and political awakening. In 1970, stifled by the institution of marriage, Rich divorced Conrad. In 1976, she met and fell in love with Jamaican-born novelist and editor Michelle Cliff, who became her lifelong partner and inspired Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems (1977), her first literary exploration of lesbian desire and sexuality, later included in one of her most celebrated works, The Dream of a Common Language (1978). The two remained together for thirty-six years, until Rich’s death in 2012. In a lamentable manifestation of the current failings of marriage equality, as of this writing, her Wikipedia entry still lists Conrad as her only spouse.

In 1997, in protest against the growing monopoly of power and the government’s proposed plan to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, Rich famously became the first and only person to date to decline the prestigious National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed upon an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States, previously awarded to such luminaries as Ralph Ellison, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Updike, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and fellow reconstructionist Maya Angelou.

But despite the strong undercurrents of political and sociocultural commentary, Rich’s work was driven first and foremost by the irrepressible stirrings of her inner life. She reflected in an interview:

A poem can come out of something seen, something overheard, listening to music, an article in a newspaper, a book, a combination of all these… There’s a kind of emotional release that I then find in the act of writing the poem. It’s not, ‘I’m now going to sit down and write a poem about this.’

I believe that we are put here in human form to decipher the hieroglyphs of love and suffering. And, there is no degree of love or intensity of feeling that does not bring with it the possibility of a crippling hurt. But, it is a duty to take that risk and love without reserve or defense.

—Allen Ginsberg (via thatkindofwoman)

(Source: yeshecholwa, via oceanvuong)

You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.

James Baldwin, Conversations with James Baldwin (via ethiopienne)

(Source: bookshavepores, via oceanvuong)

Be patient, yes, and how hard that is, especially when it’s yourself with whom you have to be patient. It’s very hard, of course. But nobody ever said it would be easy. And one of the traps we fall into is thinking too much about the result—whatever we imagine or hope that might be. The real thing happening is that you are using your time in a way that answers you deep, no matter what fits it gives you, and it always feels better to have worked in a given day, no matter how badly the work seemed to go or how hard it was. To engage in the activity at all is to do something sustaining; and in fact it gives meaning to everything else. That’s why I keep repeating the mantra: this day’s work. Just this day’s work. Did I work today. If the answer’s yes, no other questions. It’s enough. Try to forget about it and go have fun—enjoy that most delicious feeling of wasting time when you have used it well earlier.

-Richard Bausch

We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not dread bleak dusty imageless locomotives,
we’re golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked
accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179382

The Numbers 

How many nights have I lain here like this, feverish with plans,
with fears, with the last sentence someone spoke, still trying to finish
a conversation already over? How many nights were wasted
in not sleeping, how many in sleep—I don’t know
how many hungers there are, how much radiance or salt, how many times
the world breaks apart, disintegrates to nothing and starts up again
in the course of an ordinary hour. I don’t know how God can bear
seeing everything at once: the falling bodies, the monuments and burnings,
the lovers pacing the floors of how many locked hearts. I want to close
my eyes and find a quiet field in fog, a few sheep moving toward a fence.
I want to count them, I want them to end. I don’t want to wonder
how many people are sitting in restaurants about to close down,
which of them will wander the sidewalks all night
while the pies revolve in the refrigerated dark. How many days
are left of my life, how much does it matter if I manage to say
one true thing about it—how often have I tried, how often
failed and fallen into depression? The field is wet, each grassblade
gleaming with its own particularity, even here, so that I can’t help
asking again, the white sky filling with footprints, bricks,
with mutterings over rosaries, with hands that pass over flames
before covering the eyes. I’m tired, I want to rest now.
I want to kiss the body of my lover, the one mouth, the simple name
without a shadow. Let me go. How many prayers
are there tonight, how many of us must stay awake and listen?

-Kim Addonizio