* dusting with dilruba ahmed & francisco quevedo

Snake Oil, Snake Bite – Dilruba Ahmed

They staunched the wound with a stone.
They drew blue venom from his blood
……….until there was none.
When his veins ran true his face remained
lifeless and all the mothers of the village
wept and pounded their chests until the sky
………..had little choice
but to grant their supplications. God made
………..the boy breathe again.

God breathes life into us, it is said,
only once. But this case was an exception.
God drew back in a giant gust and blew life into the boy
and like a stranded fish, he shuddered, oceanless.

It was true: the boy lived.
He lived for a very long time. The toxins
were an oil slick: contaminated, cleaned.
But just as soon as the women
kissed redness back into his cheeks
the boy began to die again.
He continued to die for the rest of   his life.
The dying took place slowly, sweetly.
The dying took a very long time.

Quevedo_(copia_de_Velázquez)

 

Francisco de Quevedo, my bespectacled friend above, was known for having a life philosophy which, at its core, believed that we begin dying the moment we are born. One could argue that this is simply a way of choosing a side in the old “is the glass half full/half empty” query. There’s a subtle, complicated optimism, though, to his statement, that is easy to miss. One gets a better sense of the man’s thoughts in another quote:

Polvo serán, mas polvo enamorado.

Which roughly translates to: Dust be , but dust in love .

2015 was a tough year. About midway through, I found myself in the hospital due to some stomach issues. Having one’s life fall from them, even for a moment, is humbling. On the ground, in the dust, humbling. But then, as this week’s poem describes, there is the “giant gust” that brings us back to life, and returns us to our dying. Ahmed’s poem wins me over each time I read it for the way life is evoked in several actions, and moves from reality and rite to a hopeful, complicated reconciliation.

As the first week of the new year ends, I want to wish all of you who pay me the compliment of visiting this blog and visiting my poems the best in all aspects of your lives. I wish you another year of being dust, but dust in love.

Happy Quevedo-ing!

José

* one year later & three chinese poets

[the lyric poet] always says “I” and sings us through the full chromatic scale of his passions and desires – (Nietzche)

*duly noted*
*duly noted*

Think what you will of Nietzche, he goes overlooked as a poet – and I don’t mean his actual poems but more the spirit with which he approached his writing.  Like the quote above shows, the big N had a way with the aphoristic insight, a lyric way of understanding the world that showed in everything he said.

It is in this spirit that I started this blog a year ago.

Along with having a place for people interested in my work to find me and connect, I wanted a forum with which to share some of what feeds me creatively with fellow readers and writers.

In the past year, I have shared not only poems I admire but other things as well (philosophy, songs, etc.) that have stirred me and made me think – always with an eye towards how it relates to poetry, the writing of it, the spirit of it.

I recently admitted to fellow poet and blog buddy Miriam Sagan that only now, a year later, have I begun to understand what an ever-evolving animal a blog can be.  The Influence has more and more come out of my notebooks, out of my thoughts on a given week.  This approach feels right.

This blog, ultimately, is a reader’s blog.  The enthusiasm that drives me to share is that of a reader, and what insights I stumble upon are due to reading well.  I hope to continue appealing to the reader in all of you.

Lyric poetry is often defined as short and personal.  In many ways, our very lives can be defined as such.  Reading is where these two worlds – where many worlds – meet.

*this, too, is reading*
*reading*

Here are three poems from Vikram Seth’s book Three Chinese Poets – translations from the work of Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu.  Each poem in its own way pays attention to the short and personal world we live in.

***

Birdsong Brook – Wang Wei

Idly I watch cassia flowers fall.
Still is the night, empty the hill in Spring.
Up comes the moon, startling the mountain birds.
Once in a while in the Spring brook they sing.

*

In the Quiet Night – Li Bai

The floor before my bed is bright:
Moonlight – like hoarfrost – in my room.
I lift my head and watch the moon.
I drop my head and think of home.

*

Thoughts While Travelling at Night – Du Fu

Light breeze on the fine grass.
I stand alone at the mast.

Stars lean on the vast wild plain.
Moon bobs in the Great River’s spate.

Letters have brought no fame.
Office?  Too old to obtain.

Drifting, what am I like?
A gull between earth and sky.

***

Happy drifiting!

Jose