Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Masks

Golden masks excavated in KalmakarehLorestanIran.

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” 

“I believe in my mask-- The man I made up is me
 I believe in my dance-- And my destiny” 

“A mask tells us more than a face.” 

Three pictures of the same female noh mask 

Midweek Motif ~ Masks

Masks. Can't live with them and can't live without them! And in addition to our personal masks, there are also cultural and ritual masks that are precious to the faithful and also to collectors.

Can we tell when someone is undisguised? 
Do we prefer people to maintain the mask?

Your Challenge: In a new poem,
unmask a mask, reveal its use and properties, or tell its story.

Masks from Many Cultures - Screener

We Wear the Mask 

by Paul Laurence Dunbar
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

The Poem as Mask by Muriel Rukeyser

When I wrote of the women in their dances and 
      wildness, it was a mask,
on their mountain, gold-hunting, singing, in orgy,
it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone
      down with song,
it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from
There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued
beside me among the doctors, and a word
of rescue from the great eyes.

No more masks! No more mythologies!

Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand,
the fragments join in me with their own music.
Image result for feather masks
File:Venetian Carnival Mask - Maschera di Carnevale - Venice Italy - Creative Commons by gnuckx (4821060456).jpg
File:CE Mask and RFK Mask (33892334294).jpg
WWI Gas Masks
Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
(Next week Sumana's Midweek Motif will be ~ Finding a Sanctuary.)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Blog of the Week - Mary's Thoughts in Troubled Times

In recent months, our very own Mary has written some stirring poems about the changes in daily life in the USA since November. I share her concern over these changes and her yearning for the way things used to be. I asked her if she would share a few of them with us, and happily she said yes. Let's dive in.

Sherry: Mary, in recent months, since the election, I notice that many of your poems have taken on political tones. This is the case with many of us who are distressed at how things are going under the new regime.  Would you like to tell us about this change in your writing? 

Mary:  Well, to be truthful, I really was never politically active before.  I paid attention to the news but had confidence, for the most part, that things would work out and that those in Washington D.C. and our state government had the best interests of their constituents at heart. I can no longer rest easily. 

I fear the influence of big money.  (I suggest the book Dark Money by Jane Mayer if people really want to know how billionaires have maliciously and purposefully furthered their agenda in this country.) 

I am not sure what I can accomplish and sometimes feel very powerless, but I feel compelled to do something.  To make telephone calls.  To attend ‘town halls.’  And, I guess, writing poetry is sometimes a safety valve for me, even though sometimes I wish I could ‘escape’ with my poetry rather than continuing to stress out in words.

Sherry: I applaud your many phone calls to legislators. I am sure they have some effect. I was moved by your poem “Yearning for Ordinary.” Let’s take a look:

We take ordinary for granted
don't realize how extraordinary it is
until slowly methodically
it is being eaten away

Under cover of night
civil rights are rolled back
right wing agenda
moving into place

And everyone still smiles
as if life's the same
we dance with the devil
who waits with his chains

While environment is ruined
and big banks hold sway
and education is forsaken
and healthcare denied

We take ordinary for granted
don't realize how extraordinary it is
until slowly methodically
it is gone and too late.

Sherry: We all yearn for ordinary these days, when each news broadcast brings more bad news. Just ordinary, everyday life, as we lived it before November, seems like a dream to me, now.

We don't want to be political. We would far rather live our lives peacefully, trusting that our leaders have our best interests at heart. But, when they clearly don't, we have little choice but to speak up.

Tell us about your poem, won’t you, and how you felt writing it?

Mary:   I wrote it when I was thinking back 3 years, 6 years, 10 years and thinking about the way things were then & the things I took for granted.  I took for granted that protection for the environment was a universal goal, for example.  I took for granted that women  had control over their own bodies (though even then there were people who wanted to take this away).  

I had taken for granted that there were checks and balances in our government that would work. I had believed that everyone supported freedom of the press. I had believed that no government would tamper with public education.  I could go on and on. 

Sherry: I trusted those checks and balances too. Clearly, they are not working now. 

Mary: As I wrote this poem I realized that there are a large number of people in this country (and in others) who just go about their lives without reflecting on the direction we are heading.  Many people think it will not really affect them. Many people are willing to ‘dance with the devil’ (see poem below) either through apathy, feelings of helplessness, or blind trust. I wonder what it will take for people to wake up and see that government (and life) as we know it is being dismantled one step at a time.

Sherry: There isn't a person alive on the planet who isn't now, or soon will be, feeling the effects of climate change. The new policies and changes occurring now will affect many millions in your country very soon. I think people will be waking up with a jolt.

Your poem “Justice” is another with which I resonate strongly.


Justice is only as good
as the judge.

Justice depends on
facts revealed.

Justice can be too harsh
for a penitent person.

Justice can be too soft
for a mass murderer.

Justice does not chastise
those who are above the law.

Justice should be
impartial but isn’t.

Even terrorists
believe in justice.

In wars both sides
believe in justice.

Without laws would
justice exist?

Justice for all
means what?

Sherry: I keep remembering Benjamin Creme's quote: "There can be no peace without social justice." The lack of compassion in the changes being made will result in a lot of suffering, a lot of civil unrest. 

Mary:  I wrote this poem when reflecting on what is happening with the judicial system in this country.  I fear what will happen with our Supreme Court and Circuit Courts, as they are filled (by this administration) with people who would like to get rid of the Roe vs. Wade decision and make all abortion totally illegal again, (as well as not paying for women’s birth control) & with those who are against LGBT rights and protections.  

I fear also that many of the things that are happening clandestinely outside of the judiciary are so subtle (like information being removed from government web sites) that most will not take note.  I fear for the undocumented & cry for their heartless treatment.  And, of course, feel almost powerless in the way that healthcare is being taken away or made prohibitively expensive - especially for the poor or the aged.  But actually for everyone except the very rich.  I definitely worry about justice right now.
Sherry: I agree. They distract us with some nonsense that keeps the media busy while in the background democracy is being dismantled, good things undone. Just days after the election, vitally important information representing years of study and compilation disappeared off websites. We don't even know what is being destroyed at agency levels.

I love so many of your recent poems. ("Weeks Go By", "We the People", "I Will Celebrate Today" – I especially love this one!) Would you like to choose a third poem and tell us about it?

I try to smile more than frown
read books and take walks
visit current museum exhibits
enjoy menus of new restaurants.

I search out recent movies
take a country drive
check offerings on public television
ponder recipes in a new cookbook.

I try to think Easter lilies
jelly beans and chocolate bunnies
grass greening as robins chirp
as it should be the season of hope.

I try to appreciate each day
as if life was still normal.

Mary: I wrote this poem basically as advice to myself (and others).  Despite all, we do have to try to find things in our lives to enjoy.  We have to appreciate the good and also to try to bring happiness to others in our lives.  We have to find a way to put our concerns aside and find enjoyment in each day.  We have only one life.  We have only today.  We need to strive make our life and our day a good one.

Sherry: There is always much to enjoy and be grateful for, in our daily lives. Now, more than ever, we do need to appreciate them, and take what pleasure and comfort we can.

In closing, I would love to include your poem “My Song for Today”, which offers us a road-map through the evening news, when we put our faith in ourselves, the good things in our lives, and our God.

When I had no happiness,
the sunrise was my joy.
When I had no time,
I threw away my watch.

When I had no friends,
I walked with my dogs.
When I had no sleep,
solitude was my rest.

When I had no youth
I conjured myself sage.
When I had no voice,
poetry gave me words.

When I had no love, my
granddaughter gave a hug.
When I had no dreams
I learned to enjoy the dark.

When I have no faith
I act as if I do.
When I have no peace
I rest in my God.

Mary: I was feeling at peace and in a positive place when I wrote this poem, Sherry.  It is one of my recent favorites too.  One I should remind myself to read each day.  Smiles.

Sherry: It warms my heart, Mary. And thank God for dogs! They're God's messengers, who teach us what unconditional love truly is.

Thank you, Mary, for this encouraging chat. I hope our readers feel as uplifted as I do, after reading it. And thank you for all you do, keeping Poets United serenely chugging along all these years. 

Well, friends? We hope you enjoyed this. Feel welcome to join the conversation in the comments. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Poetry Pantry #362

Sacre Coeur - Montmartre - Paris

 Eiffel Tower - Paris

The Louvre - Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral - Paris

Greetings, Poets! Hope you all had a good week & wrote lots of poetry.  As the French just celebrated Bastille Day on July 14, I decided to share a few photos of Paris that I took a few years ago. They are labelled above.

There is always so much going on at Poets United. I hope you have seen Sherry's wonderful feature last Monday - three poets who have written poems on a political theme:  Colleen, Annell, and Laura.  If you missed it, there is still time to take a look!

Then on Wednesday Sumana's theme at Midweek Motif was Movement.  Many of you wrote to that theme.   (Susan's theme for the coming week will be Masks.  Plan ahead if you have time.)

Cat lovers and cat owners in the blogosphere, I hope you saw Rosemary's "Ode to the Cat" featured for I Wish I'd Written This.  Of course, Rosemary herself is a cat owner/ many of you know.  Nice article...and if you haven't read it, there is still time to scroll back.

This  Monday Sherry is featuring my blog as the Blog of the Week.  Alas, she twisted my arm.  Smiles.

Now with no delay, let's share poetry!  Link your poem before. Stop in and say hello in the comments.  Visit the poems of others who link.  Looking forward to reading your poems!

Friday, July 14, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

Ode to  the Cat

The animals were imperfect,
unfortunate in their heads.
Little by little they
put themselves together,
making themselves a landscape,
acquiring spots, grace, flight.
The cat,
only the cat
appeared complete and proud:
he was born completely finished,
walking alone and knowing what he wanted.

Man wants to be fish or fowl,
the snake would like to have wings
the dog is a disoriented lion,
the engineer would like to be a poet,
the fly studies to be a swift,
the poet tries to imitate the fly,
but the cat
only wants to be a cat
and any cat is a cat
from his whiskers to his tail,
from his hopeful vision of a rat
to the real thing,
from the night to his golden eyes.

There is no unity
like him,
the moon and the flower
do not have such context:
he is just one thing
like the sun or the topaz,
and the elastic line of his contours
is firm and subtle like
the line of a ship's prow.
His yellow eyes
have just one
to coin the gold of night time.

Oh little
emperor without a sphere of influence
conqueror without a country,
smallest living-room tiger, nuptial
sultan of the sky,
of the erotic roof-tiles,
the wind of love
in the storm
you claim
when you pass
and place
four delicate feet
on the ground,
all that is terrestrial,
because everything
is too unclean
for the immaculate foot of the cat.

Oh independent wild beast
of the house
vestige of the night,
lazy, gymnastic
and alien,
very deep cat,
secret policeman
of bedrooms,
of a
disappeared velvet,
surely there is no
in your manner,
perhaps you are not a mystery,
everyone knows of you
and you belong
to the least mysterious inhabitant,
perhaps everyone believes it,
everyone believes himself the owner,
of a cat,
or friend
of his cat.

Not me.
I do not subscribe.
I do not know the cat.
I know it all, life and its archipelago,
the sea and the incalculable city,
the gyneceum and its frenzies,
the plus and the minus of mathematics,
the volcanic frauds of the world,
the unreal shell of the crocodile,
the unknown kindness of the fireman,
the blue atavism of the priest,
but I cannot decipher a cat.
My reason slips on his indifference,
his eyes have golden numbers. 

– Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Normally I'd put this in 'The Living Dead', but I very recently used a Neruda poem that way – and besides, being a great admirer of cats, how could I not wish I'd written this worshipful poem?

(Is it about a specific cat, cats in general, or the archetype of Cat, do you think? To me, it works as all three.)

I don't usually give you the same poet in such a short space of time – if at all – but this is such a treat that I couldn't  resist. I hope you enjoy it too.

For further information on Neruda, it is all here in that previous post about him.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors. The source of this photo of Neruda is unknown.

Extra: A little over three years ago, I posted a poem by Marian Haddad, Reverence, in 'I Wish I'd Written This'. I put a link on facebook as usual, and this year it showed up in Marian's facebook memories, which inspired her to ask me to share with you the following, which at the time she found herself too 'technologically challenged' to manage :

Thank you, Rosemary Nissen-Wade, dear friend, for having shared this, and to all who kindly took the time to read it, and for their generous words and reactions. I am moved by them---and grateful and honored it moved them.  With love and gratitude, Marian Haddad

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Movement

      “The world is always in movement” — V.S. Naipaul


“I do not believe in political movements. I believe in personal movement, that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change – within himself, not on the outside.”— Joseph Brodsky

      Midweek Motif ~ Movement

I was listening to a Bengali song the other day when suddenly I heard the voice of the words in a different note I was not familiar in my childhood. I was aware and amazed how the song writer had captivated a ‘movement’ all around him. In the song the focus is mainly on a plant, engrossed in the bliss of life merrily singing of its motion. It’s a Tagore song. Here is a translation which I did:

River dear, in a fit of frenzy you rush at will
I, a dazed magnolia, insomniac, sit fragrance-filled
Ever quiescent, I keep my deep treading concealed
In each sprouting leaf and flower trail my path reveals
River dear, motion-thrilled you wildly race
Losing yourself in course endless   
Ineffable is my rhythm; a life’s stir towards light
The sky knows its bliss as do the silent stars of the night

Movement is a layered word to me; both its noun and verb forms. What picture does it create in your mind when you see the word?

To me the word immediately sketches the image of physiological posture of pain and suffering of ageing. Then on second thought it becomes a voice of that organized effort to bring about or resist changes in the society.

Let’s see how the word speaks to you.

Souls’ Festival
by Matsuo Basho

souls’ festival
today also there is smoke

from the crematory

The City In The Sea
by Edgar Allan Poe

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.

There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.

Around by lifting winds forgot
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently-
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free-
Up domes- up spires- up kingly halls-
Up fanes- up Babylon-like walls-
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers-
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathed friezes intertwine
The viol the violet and the vine.

Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.

                                 (The rest is here)

The Owls
by Charles Baudelaire

UNDER the overhanging yews, 
The dark owls sit in solemn state, 
Like stranger gods; by twos and twos 
Their red eyes gleam.

 They meditate.

Motionless thus they sit and dream 
Until that melancholy hour 
When, with the sun's last fading gleam, 
The nightly shades assume their power.

From their still attitude the wise 
Will learn with terror to despise 
All tumult, movement, and unrest; 
For he who follows every shade, 
Carries the memory in his breast, 
Of each unhappy journey made.

Please share your new poem below and visit others in the spirit of the community --
(Next week Susan's Midweek Motif will be - Masks)