Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Poems: Ekphrastic with Walker Evans and Mogwai, Brad Manning anger, and mistaken ecstasy

If it weren't for Ruth Mowry, I wouldn't get the guilt level up to appropriate levels for updating this gol-durned blog, poor little neglected creature. It's been a busy time for poetry, since Colorado Springs is making the theme of its runup to National Poetry Month "Ekphrastic Poetry" - Poetry based on or inspired by works of visual art. There will be a big whoop-de-do at Marika's April 16, with artists and writers listed to the left, but to kick it all off, the Poetry West organization had Brian Barker of CU Denver and Copper Press conduct a workshop on ekphrastic poetry on March 5. Since Barker brought along a huge portfolio of Walker Evans' photography, and I still haven't gotten over the obsession in my teenage years with James Agee's and Walker Evans' Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, I of course had to pick my favorite Evans photo, with the result below:

Rivertown Apostasies (for Walker Evans' 'Main Street Faces')

Disdain of the downward glance
Hat brims 45 degrees from condemned.
Morgantown, Beantown,
collaboration or a temporary alliance?

Black-market vegetables,
the Capone we never saw,
Fallen in a Thunderbird stupor
or the getaway Schwinn of ruptured kickstand,
offering the rolled shirtsleeve as tourniquet,
but with every bank in failure who smirks at the fallen?

Loring Wirbel
March 5, 2011

I also realized after the fact that a poem from late February, based on a piece of music and the cover photo of Mogwai's Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, fit the ekphrastic definition nicely:

On Crying at Mogwai's 'Music for a Forgotten Future'

Some days, you just have to let out a primal scream – IdaRose Sylvester

I’ve sampled enough trails to brokenness
Minus a healing option
That missing doll parts
are the expected palate cleanser

Jigsaw pieces kicked under a walnut armoire
The wound of incomplete grown common.

The path to Chorro Falls admits no jaded warrior.
I see the cityscape in a waxing moon,
its back bay undisturbed
Still water to crusted sand
to cancerous mercury vapor Star of Bethlehem.
A pattern love enabled,
save the missing jigsaw.
This step in love, that step in love.
But mad belief does not replace a slate shelf
tumbling to the canyon floor.
Instead, this tightrope replaces one absent jigsaw.
Will the next?
My niece, priestess of high adventure,
is glad she did not fall to her death today.
I am glad that only the jaded turn around,
but so very tired of Godel’s incompleteness.

Why not a winter’s end
praising the melting ice carnivals,
Madison to Sana’a?
In Finland the finest hotels are carved anew
each year from blue ice
a crystal bed of consummate cum
a palate cleanser
But frosted concierge does little good
in the horse latitude of Carthage.
An ice sheet, a slate sheet
tumbles from a Siberian Camino del Rey
to the canyon floor.
So much for your revolution.
So much for the world made new.
So much for that jigsaw puzzle.

“Peaceful, peaceful!”
Manama moans.
I long to lift the Cabernet
to savor victory upon victory
to find my missing socks
but we always travel the path more broken
and that has made all the difference.

Loring Wirbel

Feb. 18, 2011

(If you click on the highlighted song title above, you'll find the music that inspired the poem. The truly obsessive can walk to Chorro Falls in the video below.)

Now, here are two other recent poems to conclude this mess. My friend Robert said that topical poems have a short shelf life, but when I heard about Bradley Manning being subject to new death-penalty charges and being stripped naked nightly in solitary confinement, well of course I had to offer this poem:

The Legitimacy of a Naked Manning

Synonym search in the Merriam put out to pasture,
a stolen NATO playbook,
assumes a dictionary legible to all.

No-fly in Tobruk
responsibility to protect,
assumes I voted a captive parent
in the last My Weekly Reader poll.

Dangerous toys in wrong hands,
boys in bound hands,
assume I trust my toy chest
to the warrant officer hiking nuclear football.

Goddess Diana of the thousand-day epoch of Harvey Milk,
leading our blessed prayer of Espionage Act
assumes I have witnessed her halo afire in a leaked life hereafter
Assange assignation assertion assume assume.

I assume nothing.

Myriad miles of copper-zinc pipes springing WikiLeaks
at each T-joint
carry less legitimacy than Bradley’s hands
testing the slipknot,
The five centuries of Westphalian honor,
nightmare, triumphalism,
more transitory than the piss spattered on Manning’s toes.

Loring Wirbel
March 6, 2011

And finally, to rejoice in all the myriad things done wrong in a banner year-of-doing-wrong:

Ecstatic Mistakes

What if neither tactics nor strategies are intended to work? –
Kent Ingram

Wisdom attained from the error of infinite looping is merely Lesson One.
Yes, the dessicated nerve endings of the phantom limb
howl like gangrenous bone shard.
And yes, many students flunk early.
Just ask the wrong-angled pile of rag and bone
who leapt from the steak-house roof
in a dizzy stupor of self-imposed identity theft.
He is not having fun.
He will have to take an incomplete.

But that was first semester’s lesson plan.
We skip the obvious sociopath for now.
Watch the peristaltic bile in the healthy specimen
collect for each lover’s lie, each agile cheat,
an acid meant as solvent for chronic pain.
Now here comes the hard part,
take it to the bridge.

Installed the flange upside down.
I love my wrong.
Let my child hear the audible bile.
I love my wrong.
Conduit cut to the wrong diameter.
I love my wrong.
Defrauding the lover that mattered most.
I love my wrong.

Newbie first-formers chant “The things which hurt, instruct.”
You laugh past hurt.
Let the cartoon clown hammering his thumb
be your silly satori.
Every fuckup sparkles in prevenient grace.

Loring Wirbel
Feb. 21, 2011


Ruth said...

Hey, this is one of those times when guilt is good!

That last line of "Ecstatic Mistakes" about sums it up, beautifully! Not your poems, but your voice.

Wonderful, and thank you for letting me guilt you into this rich foursome post!

Loring Wirbel said...

Thanks so much, I should have better initiative on my own, but prodding helps. You are an example for all.

Ruth said...

Thanks, but I am a Facebook schmuck. :|

Loring Wirbel said...

Naah, one merely dwells where one is comfortable. I can't get my Twitter suit to fit right, no matter what I do.