Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

When a friend dies, how does it make you feel? Incarcerated by the instant, for me it is like writing a poem or taking a picture. I have to enlist every detail compulsively–to ensure I got it. And I wish I could stop breathing. Or I had Hermione’s time turner. I wish my father were still alive.

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Against my very will I find myself for home again
trending beyond the river’s expired month and hoping, panicked,
to somehow see again the ocean of my youth. Behind me
my years a dried up whisper, and you my bones in the yard.

Newly dead and with no history I lie face up to an unwashed desert
while a flight of tarnished wings, meaning nothing to my story,
line themselves across the atmosphere

to empty the day at the end of the day. That being said, your

voice in my innocent ear was such that I slid easily
down a waterfall of lies, and saw time as it walked
away from its partner of many years.

Tired work days often end like this:
my sun words dance prayer-like along a beam of light.

And blinded I can barely see the mercy that sends me back
released from a life the moment of pain flanked
on either side by silence. I would
wait up for you nights.

But you’re never coming home are you?

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Dad, everything I see these days seems to remind me of you.
I guess it’s just because at this time last year you
were still alive and I was in Spain wasting what days
I had left on rules and seduction.

Or maybe it’s because I’m spending all this time now
watching your grand-daughter grow up. I wish
I could tell you again and again about how she’s
learning to say my name—you know the one
you picked out for me forty eight years ago.

And though

I can think of you when I want to I still scroll through
saved messages on my phone hoping to hear
your voice out loud once more. I don’t know why
anyone would ever do that. Suppose I could

see you like you were before, I’m thinking you’d
probably seem too distracted—as if you can’t
quite grasp what to say to me and I have
to make my plane or waste a lot of money—

whose sadness were you telling me about? Whose death?
Yours or mine.

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Friends dying. Friends of clients dying. Friends of friends dying. Is this the calm before the storm?

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If you are new to poetry or old to life, looking for an entry or an exit, you must read Jed Myers. If you love Rilke or want to love him, if you remember Plath the way school teachers remember rain, if you can’t wait to teach your child to sing, or can’t remember what your kids look like, you must read Jed Myers. His is a poetry that echoes and persuades, for novice and expert, for the tactful and the embarrassed, into the field of poetry. He will help you when others have spun off into space, will wonder you when others have sunk too far under-earth, will confront you when others have forgotten you. Is this one about you? Is this one for your neighbor? From what headline was this one ripped? What tea was spilled over this one? That wasn’t the only one, was it?

After reading Jed Myers, you might actually say what you need to. You might want to go home done with all the fashionable micro-management that leisurely kidnaps so many lives these days. You might possibly long, for a moment, to take yourself more seriously.

Quite apart from technical skill, Myers’ poetry ranges further than the eye can see and provides what is sadly lacking from so much published work these days: a human voice. Too much the world of poetry looks for madness for madness sake, strangeness for shock value, like poverty for sustenance, thinking that it is helped in most what it hurts by. Not Myers, though. He has traveled through the eyes of his clients, his family, the news of the day and made it real again for people living real lives. Not the lives of post modern literary theory, not the lives of endless resentment and disdain. Real painful joyful, endless lives that remind me of those eulogized in Hesse’s unforgettable psalm to love’s only faith:

            …what a real living human being is made of seems to be less understood today than at any time before, and people–each one of whom represents a unique and valuable experiment on the part of nature–are therefore shot wholesale nowadays.

Sometimes I think only Jed understands Plath’s once enigmatic claim:

            Love, love, my season.

Only he could have written this without breaking a window first and slitting his own wrist in grief and rage:

            She’s his secret mother in her bare protuberant ribcage.

The purveyors of the culture of resentment will thus be quite disappointed that one more has fallen under the scythe of sentiment, succumbed to the demands of emotion, dared to dip from the ink of reality. For here is no cynicism, though there is pain and unblinking harshness (read “Twelve” and then bow to someone who said something you never could have, though you needed to). Here there is no betrayal, though there is a steady gaze. And certain lines jump in, as they should, to save a poem whose life has been braced against the coming of night, and whose viability has been gambled on the charity of the reader, praying that you will somehow work your way suddenly, unexpectedly, to this—

            She falls back on the breast to watch the stars.

Sometimes it seems as though one of the greats has come back and is inhaling deeply one or the other of his turns, enigmatic to the end, toying with us, but not allowing us the luxury of dismissal – as one insane. The whispers of madness only, the promise, but not the full science. Like here:

            …and it seemed

            it was just the backs of their minds, opened
            with long-ago climbs to familiar boughs

            near their houses, across the mountains
            from each other, before they could know

            what it is to call out across space and time
            through the mind of the world to your lover.

Here you will find so many that have come before, all the good ones we all know, though perhaps we don’t like to admit it: Plath, Rilke, Eliot, Oliver, Millay, Celan, Levine, Olds, Shelley, Wright, Darwish, Davies, Whitman.

But you will find them as if by accident, and it will be easier with Myers than it was with those old saws. You will not need an English teacher or a lit crit guide to see you through the morass. You will find your way home because Myers is an expert, in ways the others could not be, at bringing you there. He spends his days helping those in the weeds find a path. He resonates to the lineage from which he hails, in that he is familiar with therapy, but as teacher rather than supplicant. The suffered rather than the endlessly suffering. Too true, we have longed for the sufferers to sing us through our lives, our loves, to be our entertainment and our comfort. But, as Kierkegaard also noted, when the singing gets too much, there we end. They spin out into the immaculate one-ness (didn’t Rilke say that?) and we are left wondering with what air could we have sustained such a song? What nutrition can we harvest from it? But with a poet like Myers, the food is neither bland nor foreign, not un-reachable, neither quite at hand. He counts the way to the stars carefully enough for us go with him—traveler or auditor, all are welcome.

Before I wrote this review, I wrote a poem that he made me write, though he didn’t know it. What poems will you write, I wonder, after reading his?—

            Fellow poet, fellow listener, I

            put you in my pocket and leave again, but
            never again. You understand. What it means
            to make words more interesting. You

            get it without my having to explain it to you:
            that a poem is nothing more than your excuse to

            find a silence I’ve never heard before.
            I want to write your review, but I don’t
            need to read all your poems to do it. Indeed,
            I don’t want to. Read them all. I don’t

            want to come to the end of your discovery.

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A foundry would be out of place in a medieval landscape, don’t you
agree? But she didn’t. She’d been wondering if she’d left
the door open and the oven on. When she went out. To meet her
future husband, the kind of man she’d never leave regardless
of how many abusive nights, countless doubtful insults, and
barely any moments of misunderstanding between them.
Because misunderstanding might have led somewhere else.
You know the rest. I don’t even have to finish that sentence
for you.

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Abusive relationships can be predicted in situations of intermittent reinforcement of the relationship. In situations in which the lover is unpredictably and variably reinforced by expressions of caring, or momentary relief of abuse, the lover is kept in a situation of relative deprivation with respect to the infrequent joys of the relationship. Each moment of seductive hope thus takes on a higher position in the lover’s hierarchy of sought after rewards. The lover is progressively shaped towards an insanity of devotion to the abuser, kept both fed and hungry in just the right balance to perpetuate violence, despair and fear. I think it is a mistake to locate the causes of these patterns within our-“selves.”

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as if built by nothing

my hand liked your hand
when it was last night
between waves

a whisper after ocean


transfix me with your rivers
and valleys

one said to the other

my shy embrace

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Omen was a word she learned from grey haired men.
At a tavern no one liked in winter, with a wind cruel and
their broth dangerously close to water. When she crept
up to them by the fire for company, she heard the word
repeated over and over, and found it


When she asked him about it, her teacher merely
brushed snow from his beard and looked
straight ahead at his own view of nothing.

The word eventually

fell by like everything had that winter. She thought that was
just. She thought everything should fall away in due
time when one lives a righteous life. Though perhaps
she was too quick to let go of some things. Like the
child that begged a scrap of bread every morning. Gone.
Like the lover she duped into a night of shelter from the
storm. Gone. Like regret.

The omen, if she’d spoken the long dead mountain language,
was sharp as the teeth on a new kit fox. Was about her.
Was true.

One of the truer ones.

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In one room a man and a woman are meeting for the first time.
their lips are still strangers, and their thoughts blind to the man
next door, who is carefully tearing stripes of paper into heart thin
markers for a grave he designs for himself on the floor
under his bed. They did not plan what is happening to them,
and he hauls the iron bed back in place every morning.

Neither knows where love shall take them.

They know only that they are like everyone else
in similar situations. I doubt they realize
the truth of their situations, nor would they care.

No one can say if it is right or wrong.
Their time has come. They lived more than most.

They may live some little bit more.

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