Fragments Strung Together to Make a Whole

Cold, clear morning. Just below freezing. Frost riffs across roofs and grass the sun has not yet touched. The hoary, grey-silver stubble of winter blades, stiff. The skinny, rigid jogger skips by again, down the road, round and round she goes. A squirrel. No birds. Quiet. Clarity. Wind nil. Across the street on the sidewalk guy wearing black beard pulling red wagon up the hill in the wagon a child sitting holding the rails.

Back inside, a couple of books: “nothing but the music: Documentaries from nightclubs, dance halls & a tailor’s shop in Dakar, 1974-1992” (Thulani Davis, Blank Forms Editions, Brooklyn, 2020, but just out, pre-ordered & in snail mail about a week ago, January 2021, 63 pages); and “Paris: a poem” (Hope Mirrlees, first published in 1920 by the Hogarth Press, 175 copies, handsewn, this edition in 2020, also recently received, Bloomsbury House, London, 59 pages).

In an Afterword (long after, 100 years after), of “Paris: a poem,” Sandeep Parmar shares the setting: “Spring 1919 was quiet and cold….The weather put a dampener on the First of May demonstrations,” and she quotes from a letter, “Riots were expected but all fell flat and it was like an English Sunday – traffic stopped shops shut and nothing doing” (56-57). Sounds a bit like the morning here described above I just came from back inside to read and write. That’s not as easy as it might sound, at least not the reading part, not reading “Paris: a poem.” The poem itself runs from page 3 to page 23. The remainder of the book is Foreword (Deborah Levy), the aforementioned Afterword, and Commentary (by Julia Briggs, 2007, reworked to fit this edition), this last running from pages 25 thru 51, including Works Cited and an Addendum by Parmar. There’s also a page of notes apparently part of the first edition. For the aficionado of the obscure, this little book is a goldmine. And here I am, panning for gold:

The sun is rising,
Soon les Halles will open,
The sky is saffron behind the two towers of Notre-Dame (22).

The close of Parmar’s Afterword wants quoting in this little review just wanting to share what resources might be extracted:

“But it also startlingly brings to life a city lost to the past: the voice of an old nun chanting masses, American servicemen at jazz clubs, hawkers on the street, the sounds of newly opened metro trains and the glare of advertisements for exotic colonial products, the famous and nameless dead, as well as the living who have endured tragedy and survived, who must now inhabit this great metropolis side by side with those they mourn.”

(59)

Which might bring us back to today, what we began our little review with, still a cold, clear morning, now with cup of coffee, a couch, and “Paris: a poem” to carry us through to a sun low in the south noon and another early evening of thanks for the “nothing doing” of the moment. For we are doing as little as possible, still stuck in our own tragedy and attempts to survive, masked and not famous, inhabitants of this Earth, these cities, constantly renewing, so frequently we often miss what’s passing as it passes. And perhaps that’s the purpose of poetry – to still the passing for recording and reflection and renewal.

Tomorrow, or the day after, I’ll talk about the other little book recently acquired: “nothing but the music.”

Blast Famous Forth: A Still Life

She wanted a holo
phrase,
did Hope
Mirrlees 
100 Years Ago –

This year the 4th of July fizzles
like the silverfish on the floor
of the black and white cassock
closet in the church up the hill
through Hilltop Park in the dark
walk thru ocean arch morning.

This year, 2020, I recall and recall:

YELLOW
BANANA
SUNRISE

(or sunshine)

and the fish dash
as we rush
from the Sacristy
to the Service,
the altar pickled
in red, green, and blue.

Blast Famous 4th!

I thought you’d be

Quieter this year

and you were
thank you.

We can’t know how much or what we’ve forgotten,
and where we are certain we remember we might
be mistaken; thus the value of the still life which
fixes or remedies one of the problems of our time.

After all, I really don’t recall
if she said BANANA YELLOW SUNRISE
or YELLOW BANANA SUNRISE
or SUNRISE, or SUNSHINE.

What I remember is that I got one wrong.
So I was still in the game, so to say,
if you want to look on the bright side.