Beautifully Strange Poem …

It seems to me that these days some people are mighty quick to judge others.  They judge us by the colour of our skin, by whether we attend the same church as them, by where our ancestors hail from, by our level of education or the field in which we work, they judge us by our sexual orientation — who we choose to love — and by our political affiliation.  All this judging … and for what?  I am no better than you, nor you than me.  It is our actions, the way we treat others, that determine who we are, not the colour of our skin or our political party!  This has weighed heavily on my mind of late, for I, too, am judged and seemingly found to be lacking by many.  And last night, as I was preparing for bed, leaving one last quick message for a beloved friend on Facebook, something caught my eye.  You may remember back in March, when I posted a lovely poem by Laura Ding-Edwards, titled The Mountain.  This is another by her that I think speaks volumes.  Titled Beautifully Strange Poem, it is “A poem about living with mental illness, the importance of being kind and the beauty of our uniqueness.”

Laura-Ding-Edwards

Dying For The Fiction – a poem by Paul Vincent Cannon

The single most important thing that should be on everyone’s mind today is the environment, for if we don’t take steps to stop the bleeding, none of the other issues will matter before long. Blogger-friend Paul lives in Western Australia and he writes poetry. Most times, I can even understand his poems, which is saying something, for I am often find it difficult to understand the subtle, hidden messages in most poetry. Last night, I visited Paul’s blog, as I try to do a few times a week, and was stunned by his poem of the day. Please take a minute to read it … it’s short but says an awful lot in a few words. Thank you, Paul, for your generous permission to re-blog “Dying for the Fiction”.

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dVerse Poets – Poetics – Climate Crisis

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Cartoon found at sites.duke.edu

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”  Rachel Carson

Dying For The Fiction

They filled in the wetlands and gave me a house
of dreams filled with death,
and we cut down the trees that gave us life
that we might see the views of the city lights,
in a panic we scorched everything in the
belief that we must perpetuate production,
the very poison that kills all,
while giving happiness in spades of plastic that
smothers reality and makes us long for more
fictions that soothe and inspire
how self murder is so healthy for us,
I awoke this morning to find
my limbs removed,
my lungs cut down
and plastic in my gut,
I am Eco,
I…

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Pity The Nation …

Khalil-Gibran

Those last few lines especially sound familiar, don’t they?  Perhaps this makes the case that, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.  Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran’s poem Pity the Nation, published posthumously in the book The Garden of the Prophet in 1933, inspired another poet named Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Today I focus on Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s version of Pity the Nation, for although it was written and published in 2006, I think it fits the current circumstances of the United States today, as well as a number of other nations.  A bit about Mr. Ferlinghetti who, by the way, celebrated his 100th birthday last month!Ferlinghetti-birthdayLawrence Ferlinghetti is an American poet, painter, socialist activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is the author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration.  FerlinghettiFerlinghetti has expressed that he is “an anarchist at heart”, however he concedes that the world would need to be populated by “saints” in order for pure anarchism to be lived practically. Hence he espouses what can be achieved by Scandinavian-style democratic socialism.

Without further commentary, I give you Mr. Ferlinghetti’s poem …

PITY THE NATION
(After Khalil Gibran)

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerers
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture
Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own
Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
Sweet land of liberty!

 — Lawrence Ferlinghetti
San Francisco, January, 2006

The Mountain

A few days ago, I came upon a poem.  Typically, I pass right on by most poetry, for unless it’s very short, like a limerick, I rarely understand it.  In college, poetry thoroughly defeated me, even the simplest of them.  But, for some reason this one caught my eye and I read it … once, then again. And I thought, “BINGO!”  This is how I sometimes feel, as if I simply can’t do what needs to be done.  However, being a stubborn wench I typically give myself a good ‘talking to’ and get on with the business at hand.  But this poem struck a chord, and its message is, I think, beautifully and yet simply conveyed.  The poem, titled The Mountain, is by Laura Ding-Edwards of Herefordshire in the United Kingdom.  Since I enjoyed it, I thought perhaps you might also …

The Mountain

The Mountain

Jolly Christmas Eve …

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‘Tis the day before Christmas and both Jolly and I have much to accomplish … and little good cheer to share.  We did, however, bake you cookies!  In lieu of my usual funny stories, and as a nod to Christmas Eve, I bring you a timeless classic …

Night Before Christmas‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;xmas-1The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,xmas-2When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.xmas-3The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,xmas-4With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;xmas-5“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

xmas-6.pngAs dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.xmas-7And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.xmas-8He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.xmas-9His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;xmas-10The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.xmas-11He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;xmas-12He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;xmas-13He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”xmas-14


Dr. Clement C. Moore, who wrote the poem, never expected that he would be remembered by it. If he expected to be famous at all as a writer, he thought it would be because of the Hebrew Dictionary that he wrote.

He was born in a house near Chelsea Square, New York City, in 1781; and he lived there all his life. It was a great big house, with fireplaces in it;—just the house to be living in on Christmas Eve.

Dr. Moore had children. He liked writing poetry for them even more than he liked writing a Hebrew Dictionary. He wrote a whole book of poems for them.

One year he wrote this poem, which we usually call “‘Twas the Night before Christmas,” to give to his children for a Christmas present. They read it just after they had hung up their stockings before one of the big fireplaces in their house. Afterward, they learned it, and sometimes recited it, just as other children learn it and recite it now.

It was printed in a newspaper. Then a magazine printed it, and after a time it was printed in the school readers. Later it was printed by itself, with pictures. Then it was translated into German, French, and many other languages. It was even made into “Braille”; which is the raised printing that blind children read with their fingers. Christmas

Let America Be America Again

langston-hughes-5.jpgLangston Hughes was a leader of the Harlem Renaissance and a great poet, activist, novelist and playwright.  He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City.

As I have mentioned a few times before, I am poetically challenged and have a difficult time understanding poetry.  I am a pragmatist, a realist, and am rarely able to see hidden meanings, much preferring that words say exactly what they mean, rather than taking a roundabout path and relying on me to properly interpret them.  Poetry tends to often be elusive, cryptic, symbolic, and as such, I am generally lost by the third line.  There are exceptions, however.

A few days ago, this poem by Langston Hughes crossed my path, and as I read it, the words moved me, for they are just as true, just as meaningful today as they were when the poem was written in 1935.  For a time between then and now, perhaps the nation was on its way to realizing the dream of equality, liberty and justice for all, but we have since lost our way, more so in the past two years than at any other time.

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Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes, 1902 – 1967

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Saturday Surprise — Limericks!

Saturday is finally here, the weekend lies ahead, and it’s time for Saturday Surprise!  I was mopping the floors yesterday, trying to think of what I would do for this week’s post, and I thought, for some reason, of our friend Colette, who has been mostly off the grid since around Christmas … last I heard, they were in Thailand, I think.  Colette is one who can come up with a limerick to fit any occasion on the spot.  And I always enjoy her contributions.  I, however, am not in the least bit poetic.  In fact, when it comes to poetry, my college literature teacher seriously considered a career change after two semesters spent with me.  I am very much a literalist … I do not get sublety nor hidden meanings … I take both words and people at face value.  So no, I did not get that Frost was talking about homosexuality in one of his poems, and I did not understand the author’s meaning in so many stories and novels.

So no, I cannot write limericks, but I do enjoy them.  And so, for today’s post, I went in search of … a few fun and funny limericks!

A patient who kept getting worsetoon-1

Cried out ‘I must go home now, nurse!

You’ve done all your best

And performed every test

But I’ve come to the end of my purse!

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toon-2At times I’m so mad that I’m hopping.

My angriness sets my veins popping.

I yell and I curse,

With swearwords diverse,

But my wife does much worse: she goes shopping”

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toon-3There was a young fellow named Hall

Who fell in the spring in the fall.

‘Twould have been a sad thing

Had he died in the spring,

But he didn’t – he died in the fall.

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There was a young lady named Harris,toon-4

Whom nothing could ever embarrass,

Till the bath salts one day

In the tub where she lay

Turned out to be plaster of Paris

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Now if only Colette would drop by and add hers to the collection …

And on that note, I shall end with a song that has been stuck in my head for the past few days …

And let us not forget that tomorrow is the big day … Super Bowl Sunday!!!

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Have a great weekend everyone!!!

 

Before The War Came

Some time ago … I believe it was early in 2016, I discovered a blogger from India by the name of Anam, writing as Love Read Dream. Anam is very young (17-18) but wise beyond her years. She is at times funny, other times pensive, but she writes as well as any I have read. A few days ago I read a poem she wrote titled Before the War Came, and I was so touched by her words that I wanted to share it with my readers. Please allow me to introduce this beautiful young lady and her touching words. Thank you, Anam, for this hauntingly beautiful poem, and for your permission to share it with my friends.

Fade Into Oblivion

hiraeth(n.)  
a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the grief, the yearning for the lost spaces of your past.

“Go back to where you came from!”
I wish I could.
But my home is burning.
And I’m aching for the beautiful place my home once was.
There is a name for this feeling.
Hiraeth. It’s Welsh.
A foreign word for a foreign person.
“You are Dirty!” “Immigrants!” “Job stealers!””Refugees!”
My blood is tainted by my foreignness.
Maybe that’s the dirt you’re talking about.
I wish I had an answer for you.
But I’m drowning in nostalgia.
My dreams are invaded by images of my home.
The way my home has been invaded by war.
In this state of daydreaming,
I’m sorry if I accidentally bump into you
I’m sorry if that makes you jump out of your skin

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Of Truth and Tyranny

Fellow-blogger Brenda Davis Harsham offers us a poem and some thoughts on truth, especially as it relates to our world today. Please take a moment to read … I found it touching and timely. Thank you, Brenda, for this lovely post and for your generous permission to share it!

Friendly Fairy Tales

Watercolor of red poppies

Poppies for
remembrance.
Fallen soldiers.
Fallen journalists.
Blood spilled in fields.
We cannot sleep.

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Green Thumbs, Heroin Addicts and Poetry …

Today I shall give my brain a rest.  I generally write about “things that matter”, world affairs, government, social norms and aberrations, man’s inhumanity to man, and other “heavy stuff”.  Today, I am tired, so I am writing in what I hope will be a more lighthearted tone.  So I thought that today I would share with you a few of my quirks and flaws, the chinks in the armour, so to speak.

  • I do not have a green thumb. I love flowers, plants, herbs, fresh veggies and the like, and I am persistent, every year planting and tending some combination of these.  And I typically end up with a “garden” that looks like a dust bowl reject.  House plants?  Yes, I have many, all in various stages of death throes.  I will never forget many years ago, after watching me try and fail at all manners of indoor greenery, my mother-in-law gave me a plant and said “This is a very hardy plant; you simply cannot kill this plant.”  Two weeks later when she came to visit, guess what?  Yep, the “un-killable” plant was dead. Muerto.  Mort.  Vεκρός. So no, I do not have a green thumb, have never had a green thumb and probably never will have a green thumb.  My neighbors, refugees from Syria, are very prolific gardeners … the whole family, mother, father and sons.  Their 16 year-old son (I wrote about his bicycle being stolen a few weeks ago in https://jilldennison.com/2015/10/22/broken-bike-broken-dreams-lost-hope/) took pity on my postage-stamp “garden” and did everything, letting me into it only to water.  I had really beautiful flowers this year … Cosmos, Sunflowers, Marigolds and another unidentified variety!  I wish I had taken pictures, as the same neighbor has since pulled all the stalks, cleared the land, and saved the seeds to plant next year.  He gave me the seeds to keep (though I’m not sure he actually trusts me on this) with a warning to “don’t let the sun see them”.  Sigh.
  • I am not a heroin addict. I am, however, a book addict, or as I prefer to think of it, a bibliophile.  The heroin thing came about a couple of weekends ago when my family and I were making our almost-weekly trip to our local Barnes & Noble.  A book store is a dangerous place for me.  I browse, yes, in fact I can browse for hours, happily sipping my Starbucks in whatever cup it may have been served.  But at the end of the journey, I also buy.  Only twice in my memory have I left the bookstore without buying a book.  I could show you a picture of my bedroom/library with shelves bending precipitously low beneath the burden, stacks in every corner, nook and cranny and on every horizontal surface. So anyway, as we pulled into Barnes & Noble on that Saturday, I stated that perhaps I would not buy a book this time.  After a few exaggerated gasps, after the initial shock wore off, my daughter naturally asked “why?”  I glumly said that I felt perhaps I was addicted to books and that surely I needed to try to cure myself of this addiction.  But then, I thought about it, and I rationalized (a skill I think we all possess to a greater or lesser extent) and said “but you know … maybe a book addiction isn’t so bad … I mean, at least I am not a heroin addict, right?”  So that is the latest of our family’s insider jokes … at least grannie isn’t a heroin addict.  (For those of you who are quick to look for skeletons in every closet, no, I have never tried heroin and if you dig in my closet you will find … more books)
  • I do not like poetry. I have many friends and fellow-bloggers who like poetry a lot.  I do not.  I think I am of at least average intelligence, but I just don’t get poetry.  I did not like it in high school, I hated it in college, and I avoid it at all costs now.  I know that many people find great beauty and solace in poetry, and I am the first to admit that my inability to enjoy poetry is a flaw within my own character.  I think I am too much a pragmatist and not enough an idealist to enjoy the indirect, nuanced meanings that are the trademark of most poems. That said, I do on occasion like a cute little limerick, along the lines of  …..

There was an Old Man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
His daughter, called Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.
– Anonymous

So now you know all my quirks and flaws.  Okay, okay … this is only three and yes, there are way more, but this is all I’m admitting to for now.  It was rather a relief to sit down and write something without that nasty “T”-word in it!  And now, back to the grind.  Have a good day, everyone!