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POETRY SWAP MEET: Poetry we don't usually know about, or?

Jade-Pandora
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Ruth Bavetta

CRITICAL MASS
for Albert Einstein

A friend of mine says she is losing bone mass,
twenty-seven percent of her is suitcased away.
“Gone forever,” she tells me,
to the winds of mother earth,
to swirl and be swirled, dust above the pyramids,
about the plains, above the churning seas,
to become part of the pillages, the battles,
the pogroms and avalanches, part of the cacophony
of congresses and the world’s brazen symphonies,

part even of the tepid water of my bath,
wherein I lie, wishing that I could float forever,
under the protection of its amniotic embrace.
I’d like to pull the water over me,
a warm and soothing blanket
to keep away the noisy fingers of the world.
But I can’t hide, the world will always find me
and I will always find the world.

My friend loses mass, I gain it.
As if it were the golden vapor
rising from a bowl of steaming emeralds,
I breathe it in, absorb it as a fish
absorbs the singing waters.
I enlarge, amplify, extend,
incorporate the overflow.

I absorb the murder weapons, the Rembrandts,
the common doilies, keys and maps,
unto the last, the cusp, the deus ex lawnmower.
I take in all this, expand and swell,
live all the lives that touch my own.
Oh, sorrowful world, is there no end?
___________________________

Ruth Bavetta: “I was a visual artist for years, until I found I also wanted images that could be painted with words. I wanted to use words, as I used images, to help me make sense of my life. Now, I’ve become convinced that neither words nor images will suffice, because there is no sense-making. There is only what is and what has been. It’s enough to know I am human, separate and mortal, and that’s where I find my poems.”

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Chidinma Opaigbeogu

AFTERNOON

Early morning brings the sounds of children sweeping front yards, 
water sloshing in clay pots held high on bald patches of heads,
women cooking porridge in the town square, 
the sound of gunfire.

Afternoon is my favorite time;
we children run out in our underwear,
dust sticks to our bare chests with sweat
as we kick our patched-up ball between splintered posts older than I am.
The sounds of small feet pounding dry ground signals the end of the game 
because everyone knows what time dinner is.

Evening brings competition: 
my seven siblings crowd the pot of quickly cooling soup,
sticky balls of pounded yam become glue in their hands 
as they wait their turn. I scrape what’s left.

When everyone’s bellies are full we retire to our sleeping mats.
Safely nestled in my own mat, sandwiched between my younger siblings, 
I look at my feet through the holes in my blanket. 
Parts of my toes have gotten lighter, and I am so excited. 
Wait until Mama hears I’m turning white!
Maybe when I’m completely white 
we could get good blankets, ones that aren’t so cold. 

The darkness closes me in, but doesn’t settle.
Night tosses and turns, 
its silence is berated with artillery. I hate the night.
I want it to be the afternoon. 
If it was the afternoon I could play soccer with my friends, 
and catch aku with my net after the rain,
and play as long as I want. And Mama wouldn’t say a thing about it 
because everyone’s happy in the afternoon. 
_______________________________

Chidinma Opaigbeogu: ”I started writing poetry when I was twelve years old as a way of connecting with the world around me. Over time, my work has evolved and has become more of an exploration of myself. As a Nigerian-American, it was often hard for me to define myself. I felt too Nigerian to be fully American, and not Nigerian enough to claim my heritage. This conflict within me has strengthened my desire to know more about the country my family comes from and has spurred the writing of poetry that explores key events and experiences such as the Biafra War and the rich food culture in Nigeria. I hope to continue to use poetry as a tool to explore culture and identity and to find others who may have felt that same confusion as I.”

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Susan Carroll Jewell

AFTER THE EXTINCTION

And when you pass,
an unfamiliar drip and splash
globule in space, know

that we are your arrogant
twin, newly cosmic and drifting
through the galaxies, vibrating

strings of collective energy blown
into the heavens from Earth,
remnant strands of humanness

formed from the streams of birthday
leftovers and nests of ribbons
unboxed. A face on a backdrop

of starlight declares who we were,
closed lips and a pointless nose,
a hollow ear and open eyes startled

not at the speed of light but of extinction.
Our brain still circles with inescapable
science, our art left behind, the Gothic

glass and Pollack paint of a wasted
culture. And if you see these colored
cords wiggling like conceited wires

through the universe, know that they
hold badges of mistakes, a neck
that connects to nothing but a lanyard

with a label—Hello, My Name Is—
like a poet grasping for a last line,
a saving grace.

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Iustin Panta

HOW BEAUTIFULLY YOUR FIRE BURNS

After I put some more logs on the
fire in the fireplace
she said, “How beautifully your fire
burns.”
We sat for a while and talked about
simple things.
But those words, “How beautifully
your fire burns,” her tone of voice, the knowing and gentle
gesture of her head, especially that pronoun “your”—
all this lingered: the peace, the
profound simplicity of things;
again and again: only the simple
things never disappoint.
This is the scene that was given rise
to, after several weeks
it so happens that you live on the little square right where they set up
the playground for children. They installed the equipment—little electric cars,
the play-box with all its handles and gears, the merry-go-round—a beautiful
woman of metal, with upraised arms, and on her skirts little benches where
children sit to be turned round and round while being raised and lowered.
However the motor of the merry-go-round doesn’t work, the mechanical
woman is immobile, and her enormous face stares fixedly at your window.
One night, opening it, you were overcome, as if under a state of hypnosis, by
the immobility of her face and her eyes, and since then you no longer air your
rooms in the mornings, you no longer gaze out your window
in the evenings—you’re sure that she goes on staring at you all the time
these events took place one night, in
my quarter in the outskirts of the city
when the power failed and we were
left in the dark, all alone, in my
narrow room.
And all I had at hand was merely the
glow of my cigarette when I suddenly
felt the need to look at her face.
And then I traced the outline all
around her face with my cigarette—
her image, lost in the smoke and the
almost nonexistent glimmer of my
cigarette, was
only a halo, her face then envisaged
only her look.
“I think we’re friends now,” I told her
in that room in my quarter in the
outskirts of the city:
that was my reply to “How beautifully
your fire burns.”

translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Mircea Ivanescu
_______________________________

Iustin Panta was trained as an electrical engineer. A Romanian poet, he produced five books in the last decade, largely prose poetry. He was a poet of reverie and anxiety, retrospection and obsession. He once asked translator Adam Sorkin which he liked best, knowing or desiring, and himself answered with the latter. Iustin died September 27, 2001 in a car accident, on his way to an award ceremony in Bucharest. He was 35 years old.

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Susan J. Erickson

ODE TO ANTIQUES ROADSHOW

He looks like the kind of man who dries the dishes
each evening after dinner as he and his wife stand
at the sink, the dying light rinsing over their faces.

He hands the appraiser two vases, explains in a voice
like chipped crockery that his wife bought the vases,
but died before she could bring them to the Roadshow.

The appraiser says they are Bohemian Mantel Vases
made in about 1880, rare because of the scenic
images painted on them and worth about $4,000.

Now the man and the appraiser are both in tears.
I can’t imagine the vases on my mantle, even if
I found them for $4 at the Wise Buys Thrift Store

on Holly Street, but I am in love with the man,
with the appraiser and the entire Roadshow audience.
In Tucson, I fall in love with the guy in the brown-

striped shirt who brings in a brown, blue and white-
striped Indian blanket that Kit Carson supposedly gave
to the man’s grandmother, the foster child of a poor farmer.

The appraiser tells him it is a Navajo chief’s blanket
made from hand-woven wool as fine as silk and says
it is a national treasure and worth maybe a half

million dollars. How much would it cost, what
would it be worth to run my hand over the stripes Kit Carson,
the grandmother and the Navajo chief once touched?

In Secaucus, a woman brings an early American
card table. She tells the Keno twins, Leigh and Leslie
(I can’t tell them apart), that she bought the table

at a garage sale for twenty-five dollars. The brothers
are as excited as runners at the start line—in fact
they look like they could have run cross-country

track in college. Leigh, or maybe it’s Leslie, says the table,
circa 1794, has a label with the maker’s name, John Seymour.
The brothers crouch, show us the inlaid bell flowers

on the table legs and point to their elegant taper.
Luckily, the woman’s cleaning efforts with linseed oil
and turpentine did not destroy the table’s patina. By now

I know patina and provenance are as valuable as a blue
chip stock certificate. By now I know someone
will show up with a stone sculpture purchased as a relic

from the Yucatan jungle or a Fabergé egg from a guy
selling off his collection. Then the appraiser takes
us through the tricks of the making-things-look-old trade,

the art of making the not-real look real. I can sympathize
with such purchases. I’ve chosen a few things in my life
where the patina wore off and the provenance was over-

rated. If I were to visit the Antiques Roadshow, I would
bring the pottery jugs my father collected along the Mississippi
River from what was probably a saloon dump site.

The jugs are heavy, inscribed with Dutch words
of many letters and look like pieces from a still-life
painting of a table set for an evening meal of bread

and cheese. I know they are not valuable. I see some
on the internet remarkably like those I own. But I would
tell the story of how my dad came home from work

with boxes of jugs and bottles in his pickup,
how we girls listened and knew that life could—
at any moment—bring surprises. I would tell how

ten years later my father drowned in the river while
repairing flood-damaged bridges. Then I would
take the jugs back home.
_________________________________

Susan J. Erickson: “I could write an ‘Ode to the Practice of Poetry,’ and one of the lines would be something about it being a constructive outlet for my obsessions. My fear of spiders has found its way into more than one of my poems. Am I less fearful? Well, I can sometimes handle a spider sighting on my own without calling in emergency help. I’m also obsessed with Antiques Roadshow and can watch an episode more than once. Writing about Roadshow has given me some insight into why I find it so compelling.”

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Freya Jackson

WAR FILM

They’ll make a film about all of this someday—
Someone’s probably writing it already, spitballing:

Can we get DeVito to play Trump; let’s call it satire;
Have you seen Jo Jo Rabbit—throw down enough

Money we can make it critically acclaimed, baby—
Can we get more corpses on the wide shot; them,

Us, it doesn’t matter; can we get Adam Driver
To play Bobby from Idaho, Indiana—somewhere

Rust Belt—can we frame his hands here, how
They move and twist and turn—watch him shake

Out the war, tuck it into those big hands of his,
Pan outside to the dead, the weight of the slain:

The good guys, bad guys—feel the mechanisms of
War already beginning and forget that it is

Not yet unstoppable, not yet written into history,
The people who might die are still, today, living—

Tearing bread, feeling the closeness of water
In the air, making space for love, wherever they

Might be, whatever they believe in, before they
Feel that inevitable movement of parts, the slow

MGroaning of loss before the military steamrolls
Through, leaving in its wake nothing of value—

A spare can of Coca-Cola, a superfluous leg, the U.S.
Flag and all that rubble, which is to say war never

Ends, not completely—the rip of earth cannot stitch
Itself together without leaving a gap, something holy

That aches to be watered, even as it is left, forgotten—
Tonight, somewhere there is a man waiting in line

At the border, his papers are in order, despite
All that he has left behind him, despite all he could

Not carry with him and all that he carries with him
That he wishes he could leave behind; he keeps

Crossing and uncrossing his legs, he is waiting
To be seen; he feels his daughter behind him—

Drowsy-eyed, half swaying as the wind moves
Her hair while her father crosses and uncrosses

His legs and the night sky turns a gradient red—
But no one wants to watch a film about that.

_____________________________

Freya Jackson: ”This poem is responding to Trump’s actions, which will most likely start a war with Iran, and thinking about how we digest images of war and the kind of war stories we like to tell (such as Sam Mendes’ new film 1917) verses the kind of things we don’t want to think about (displaced people as a result of war, socio-political consequences which last years and even decades after the war finishes).”


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Michael Meyerhofer

SILVER-BACKED CHEVROTAIN, WITH FANGS AND HOOVES, PHOTOGRAPHED IN WILD FOR FIRST TIME

Schoolkids all over the country
keep pace with TV cameras

by practicing a new word—impeach
even as a dozen time zones

from the leaning pillars of democracy,
unseen for decades, a silver-

splashed deer with fangs
tiptoes out of the undergrowth

and presses his nose to the lens,
two unlit moons kissing

in the wild gaps between rivers.
Why should these days matter?

Bones are just the bones
of whatever else came before:

a quickening of dust into rock,
into fire, into blood, then

a softening of God into rain.
See how each drop opens

like luggage, how a heart can only
be a heart if it dies screaming?

Meanwhile, the chevrotain
moves about on hooves

so thin, the mind recalls
the ankles of a ballet dancer,

the stick-limbs of a cave painting.
Even those fangs, used

to fight over mates, only led
to a thickening of muscles

around the throat. We repeat
what we know. Each generation

an untamed refrain you need
not sing, unless you want to.

________________________________

Michael Meyerhofer: “This poem came about after interrupting a long day of watching political analysis videos by reading about an extremely rare animal photographed in the wild for the first time, and those events seeming strangely related in a way I couldn’t logically articulate.”

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Martín Espada

Born: January 1, 1957, Brooklyn, New York, NY



MORIR SOÑANDO

for Luis Garden Acosta (1945-2019)
Brooklyn, New York

I saw the empty cross atop the empty church on ‪South 4th Street‬, as if Jesus
flapped his arms and flew away, spooked by one ambulance siren too many.
I saw the stained glass windows I wanted to break with a brick, the mural
of Saint Mary and the Angels hovering innocent as spies over the congregation,
and wanted to know why you brought me here, the son of a man punched
in the face by a priest for questioning the Trinity, who punched him back.

This is El Puente, you said. The Bridge. I knew about the Williamsburg Bridge,
eight lanes of traffic and the subway stampeding in the open windows of the barrio
all summer. You spread your arms in that abandoned church and saw the spinning
of a carousel better than any wooden horses pumping up and down at Coney Island:
here the ESL classes for the neighbors cursed with swollen tongues in English;
there the clinics on contraception, the pestilence in the veins of the unsuspecting;
here the karate lessons, feet spearing the air to keep schoolyard demons away;
there the dancers in white, swirling their skirts to the drumming of bomba;
here the workshops on Puerto Rican history, La Masacre de Ponce where your
mother’s beloved painted his last words on the street with a fingertip of blood.

I was a law student, first year, memorizing law school Latin, listening to classical
guitar on my boom box as I studied the rules of property: It’s mine. It’s not yours.
I saw only what could be proven by a preponderance of the evidence: the church
abandoned by the church, the cross atop the church abandoned by the Son of God.
My belly empty as Saint Mary of the Angels, I told you I was hungry, and we left.

I wanted Chinese food, but you told me about the Chinese take-out down the block
where you stood behind a man who shrieked about the price of wonton soup,
left and returned with a can of gasoline, splashed it on the floor and pulled a box
of kitchen matches from his pocket. Will you wait till I pick up my egg roll and pork
fried rice? you said, with a high school teacher’s exasperated authority, so he did.

You could talk an arsonist into postponing his inferno till you left with lunch,
but you couldn’t raise the dead in the ER at Greenpoint Hospital, even in your suit
and tie. You couldn’t convince the girl called Sugar to rise from the gurney after
the gunshot drained the blood from her body. You couldn’t persuade the doctor who
peeled his gloves and shook his head to bring her back to life, telling him do it again,
an arsonist in medical scrubs trying to strike a wet match. You couldn’t jumpstart
the calliope in her heart so the carousel of horses would rise and fall and rise again.
Whenever you saw the gutted church, you would see the sheets of the gurney
dipped in red, all the gurneys rolling into the ER with a sacrifice of adolescents.

We walked to the luncheonette on Havemeyer Street. A red awning announced
Morir Soñando. To Die Dreaming, you said, from the DR, my mother’s island.
The boy at the counter who spoke no English, brown as my father, called Martín
like me, grinned the way you grinned at El Puente, once Saint Mary of the Angels.
He squeezed the oranges into a drizzle of juice with evaporated milk, cane sugar
and ice, shook the elixir and poured it till the froth spilled over the lip of the glass.
Foam freckled my snout as I raised my hand for another. Intoxicated by morir
soñando number three and the prophet gently rocking at my table, I had a vision:

ESL classes healing the jaws wired shut by English, clinics full of adolescents
studying the secrets of the body unspeakable in the kitchen or the confessional,
karate students landing bare feet on the mat with a thump and grunt in unison,
bomba dancers twirling to a song in praise of Yoruba gods abolished by the priests,
the words of Puerto Rican rebels painted on the walls by brushes dipped in every
color, pressed in the pages of notebooks by a generation condemned to amnesia.

Morir soñando: Luis, I know you died dreaming of ‪South 4th Street‬, the banners
that said no to the toxic waste plant down the block or the Navy bombarding
an island of fishermen for target practice thousands of miles away. Morir soñando:
I know you died dreaming of vejigantes, carnival máscaras bristling with horns
that dangled with the angels at El Puente. Morir soñando: I know you died dreaming
of the next El Puente. Morir soñando: I know you died dreaming of the hammer’s claw,
the drill whining to the screw, the dust like snow in a globe, then the shy genius
raising her hand in the back of the room. Morir soñando: I know you died dreaming
of the poets who stank of weed in the parking lot, then stood before the mike
you electrified for them and rubbed their eyes when the faces in their poems
crowded there, waiting for the first word, so we could all die dreaming, morir
soñando, intoxicated by the elixir of the tongue, oh rocking prophet at my table.

_________________________________

Martín Espada: “This poem is an elegy for a dear friend and mentor, written to mark the first anniversary of his death ‪on January 8th.‬ Luis Garden Acosta, through his activism, organizing and vision, not only changed his community in Brooklyn, but the lives of untold thousands like me. Please see his obituary in the New York Times.

Jade-Pandora
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. . .

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Aaron Poochigian


CENTRALIA, PA

I.

Up a collapsing asphalt road
there is a quaint coal-mining town
that lost its priest and postal code
because brimstone will not stop burning
from casket-deep to two miles down.
When no amount of higher learning
could suffocate the fires of Hell,
the Feds bought all the locals out
but me. Me. Someone needs to tell
the tale of still evolving wrong.
Call me Gasp the Landlocked Trout,
and ragged is my song.

 
II.

A coughed updraft
through crack and shaft,
Cretaceous
exhalations stain
a vanished Doughnut Shop,
a lost Laundromat, absent St. Ignatius.
A purple sign on Main
says Stop
to vapor. There are no police
cruising what had been neighborhoods,
and there is no disturbance of the peace.

Sometimes, out for a Sunday drive,
I’ve seen odd fauna in the sooty woods:

a stiff
stag jutting from a sinkhole, smoke
issuing from his nose and eyes, as if
he had been burnt alive.

And once—no joke,
and I’m no drugged-out tourist—
what were
the noxious dead, I guess,
in indignation swirled
out of the cracked earth screeching “Leave!”

(And the indignant forest
echoed, “Leave!”)

Come close, now, world,
and heed a burr
that is a mess
of phlegm:

may no reprieve,
no trick of time, redeem
the reckless them
who zoned a dump
atop an old coal seam.
And him, the chump
who, by igniting trash,
birthed an inferno, hollowed out the land
and turned our breath to ash—
I curse his hand!

_________________________________

Aaron Poochigian: “In the Spring of 1962, someone burned trash in the Centralia, Pennsylvania, landfill. The fire reached a coal seam and spread to the massive coal deposit underneath the town, which has since been evacuated and demolished. Some few remain. The fire is still burning.”

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Rolli

LET US NOT EVEN DREAM

of speaking
no
for the stars are
luminous
phones
in the palms of night

__________

Rolli:“The screen glow of extinct millions of cellphone-holding species may only just be reaching our planet now.”

Sky_dancer
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The Cosmic Dragon
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Spiritual Chickens

A man eats a chicken every day for lunch,
and each day the ghost of another chicken
joins the crowd in the dining room. If he could
only see them! Hundreds and hundreds of spiritual
chickens, sitting on chairs, tables, covering
the floor, jammed shoulder to shoulder. At last
there is no more space and one of the chickens
is popped back across the spiritual plain to the earthly.
The man is in the process of picking his teeth.
Suddenly there’s a chicken at the end of the table,
strutting back and forth, not looking at the man
but knowing he is there, as is the way with chickens.
The man makes a grab for the chicken but his hand
passes right through her. He tries to hit the chicken
with a chair and the chair passes through her.
He calls in his wife but she can see nothing.
This is his own private chicken, even if he
fails to recognise her. How is he to know
this is a chicken he ate seven years ago
on a hot and steamy Wednesday in July,
with a little tarragon, a little sour cream?
The man grows afraid. He runs out of his house
flapping his arms and making peculiar hops
until the authorities take him away for a cure.
Faced with the choice between something odd
in the world or something broken in his head,
he opts for the broken head. Certainly,
this is safer than putting his opinions
in jeopardy. Much better to think he had
imagined it, that he had made it happen.

Meanwhile, the chicken struts back and forth
at the end of the table. Here she was, jammed in
with the ghosts of six thousand dead hens, when
suddenly she has the whole place to herself.
Even the nervous man has disappeared. If she
had a brain, she would think she had caused it.
She would grow vain, egotistical, she would
look for someone to fight, but being a chicken
she can just enjoy it and make little squawks,
silent to all except the man who ate her,
who is far off banging his head against a wall
like someone trying to repair a leaky vessel,
making certain that nothing unpleasant gets in
or nothing of value falls out. How happy
he would have been to be born a chicken,
to be of good use to his fellow creatures
and rich in companionship after death.
As it is he is constantly being squeezed
between the world and his idea of the world.
Better to have a broken head—why surrender
his corner on truth?—better just to go crazy.

Stephen Dobyns

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Felix Dennis
( center in photo: British Poet of the ‘60s counterculture, died in 2016 at age 67 from cancer )

Snakeskin Boots
(Harrow-on-the-Hill 1964)

I remember the hill and the sun in her hair,
  I remember the moss on a tombstone seat,
With the grass as tall as a mad march hare.
  I remember she kicked the shoes off her feet.

I remember her calling me ‘daft as a brush’,
  And the taste of the orange she helped to peel.
I remember she mocked my feeble moustache
  And my snakeskin boots with their Cuban heel.

I remember the lids of her eyes as we kissed,
  I remember the shock of a gentle slap
As she hissed ‘Not here!’ and circled my wrist
  When I fumbled the catch of her brassiere strap.

I remember it rained as we raced for a fuck
  To my room.  I remember we tore off our clothes
Except for my boot where the zip had stuck —
  And her poached-egg breasts, I remember those.

I remember we tumbled both half insane
  On the bed, and the arch of her back as I came.
I remember we did it again and again,
  And we screamed...
     ...but I cannot remember her name!

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Wally Swist
Is best known for his poems about nature and spirituality.
Born: April 26, 1953, New Haven, CT

THE RINGING OF SILENCE

They are not in any hurry, there are fewer expectations.
What is different this time is their stillness,

but not what is delicious about their familiarity.
They learn through the practice of separation

how to become more tender.
After she takes off her dress, she asks him

for one of his shirts, and he decides on the green corduroy.
She chooses to wear it unbuttoned, all night.

__________________________________

Wally Swist: “‘The Ringing of Silence’ was initially written at Fort Juniper, the Robert Francis Homestead Cottage, where I had a writing residency in 2003–2005. The poem was revised much over the years. I say ‘revised much’ because I kept on trying to hone the imagery and the rhythms. I’d need to relay that certainly my reading the love poems of Yehuda Amichai, whom I met, and those of Kenneth Patchen (especially the memorably resonant ‘‪23nd Street‬ Runs into Heaven’) were what most likely laid the groundwork for the composition of this poem. However, in making the poem my own, I needed to address the subject of the poem, the woman who was, and still is, the love of my life. Our relationship morphed over a period of seventeen years from knowing at first sight, for both of us, I think, that the other was the one, but we went from lovers and friends to just friends to most recently lovers, significant others, and awakened human beings. I just revised this poem again in November 2018. The poem, as well as us, and most importantly us, have evolved over the years; my time crafting the poem actually parallels our crafting our relationship with each other, as well as ourselves. Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet, a book that was compiled years after his death, that to write ten good lines towards the end of one’s life was worth all the years leading up to such an accomplishment. I have written only an eight line poem in ‘The Ringing of Silence,’ but I have come to know firsthand what Rilke wrote and what I originally read when I was a young man, 45 years ago. What is even more of an accomplishment, in human terms, is that I am in a relationship with the woman in the poem in my life in stronger and deeper ways than ever before and that ‘The Ringing of Silence’ is one of the poems that is a tribute to our growth as a couple.”

snugglebuck
snugglebuck
Dangerous Mind
United States
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Joined 3rd Feb 2014
Forum Posts: 1797

Big thanks to Jade posting a poem from my favorite poet.  My greatest influence has been Felix Dennis.  One of the few poets ever featured on 60 Minutes.

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