Archive for July, 2005

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Book Review: The Jubilation of Falling Bodies

July 31, 2005

There is a lot of poetry in this world. To my taste, some is good, some is fair, and some is inspiring. I like to wander the bookshelves of my library or book store and pick out poetry books to try, kind of like the sample at the ice cream store, tasting a flavor, and if I enjoy what I sample, going back for more.

Well, I was lucky to have sample the flavor of Ifeanyi Menkiti’s The Jubilation of Falling Bodies. This chapbook, published in 1978 in a limited edition by The Pomegranate Press, captures Menkiti’s lush images and generous prose in a collection of thirty-five poems in three sections: “Persons and Places,” “Strictly Academic,” and “Weird Companions.”

In “Persons and Places,” Menkiti takes us on a journey to places near and far, from Harvard Square to Agra, India. In each place, we see the story of the person who inhabited it. “To a Certain Pretty Girl” relates the story of a flirtatious encounter over lunch (which leads to humiliation): “…and here / is a million kisses / from the guy who sat / at the table next to yours / who spilled coffee / on his brand new shoes / while watching you…” Another poem, “In Agawam”, even deals with the subject of Massachusetts’ affection for itself (“Massachusetts so much / in love with itself / the longest street / in the state / is named Massachusetts…”).

“Strictly Academic” deals with the questions that need answers. In “Oedipus”, Menkiti notes “my father slept / with my mother: / when I want to do / what my father did / my father gets / all worked up / & says I’m weird.” In “Holy Confusion”, Menkiti deals with the question of whether coffee is good for you by going to the real source. In “Earth Receive Her”, the reader is treated to an understanding of the process after death.

“Weird Companions” provides six sublime portraits of the absurd, while revealing some amount of universal truth. In “The Matador” we find “She dodges the bull in the ring, / The bull follows her here and there. / She and the bull are ready to collide. / The matador is wearing a skirt.”

The poems through the chapbook are accompanied by woodcut prints which add a stark and beautiful contrast to the words themselves. The book is an inspired collection of moving poetry, and one I would recommend to anyone interested in the language of images.

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Tarot: Four – The Emperor

July 30, 2005

Ever-present in my life, you are the
Madrigal and I, a single voice your
Poetry defined. You are the master,
Ever stern and solid. When I need you,
Rough protector, you are there. But why can’t
Others see your weakness? Show your fears and
Ready heart! They are not faults, my father.


The next in the Tarot series, this poem is written as an acrostic (where the initial letter of each line spells the subject of the poem). Additionally, the lines are trochaic pentameter, to give a suggestion of classical poetry.

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“The Hard Way” – Song Lyrics

July 26, 2005

8/1986

Yes I know that our love’s getting colder,
And I know that what we had is gone,
And before this old love gets much older,
We have got to build it up strong.

CHORUS:
Yes and I learned my lesson the hard way,
Whatever we try to do
Is gonna hurt me and you.
Yes and I learned my lesson the hard way,
Not with love and open arms,
But with pain and scars,
Yes and I learned my lesson the hard way.

And whenever I think about the future
All I see is us breaking apart,
What we need is some love and some laughter,
What we need is to give from the heart.

SPOKEN: And I know

CHORUS:
Because I learned my lesson…

I wish that our love would grow stronger,
I wish that our problems were gone,
But now I know that we will stay together,
And we’ll try to rebuild this love strong.

CHORUS:
Yes and I learned my lesson…

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Tarot: Three – The Empress

July 25, 2005
Dear Mom,

Did I ever tell you?
Did I?
That my world was more complete
when you were in it?
That I know I owe my very existence
to your patient breath and willing heart?

The creation you underwent to create me
is awe-inspiring. Gestation, feeding me
and encompassing my every need.
Your self-sacrifice and giving overwhelm me.

What act of my creation can compare?
My petty concerns pale in comparison
to life-giving. Nurturer, source of my life,
I honor you as mother and creator.

Dear Son,

Did I ever tell you?
Did I?
That my world was more complete
once you were in it?
That you redefined my very existence
with your quiet breath and fragile beating heart?

The creation I underwent to create you
filled me with awe as well. Inspiration, feeding me,
intuition saw to my every need.
I sacrificed nothing, and only gained from

this act of creation. I compare
you to a pale tree, born out of
life-giving, nurturing mother’s milk.
I honor you, my creation, as your mother.


Another entry in the Tarot series, this is conceived as two letters which sit as mirrors of each other. I tried particularly to have the language echo from one to the other. This was also written as a letter to my own mother who passed away before I could say these words to her.

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“Waiting for the Storm” – Song Lyrics

July 24, 2005

5/1986

Salmon swimming out to sea,
Someone’s calling after me,
Open doors and see the sights,
Laughing, lonely, deadly nights.

I’m just waiting for the storm,
Lighting flashes, sense alarm,
Don’t hear what they say to me,
Crosses, stars, don’t talk to me.

CHORUS:
I’m just waiting for the storm,
Seeing I don’t fit the norm.

Right is left or left is wrong,
Vision clearer, vision strong,
Turn around and see the light,
Clouds surrounding, forming night.

Light and darkness seem to merge,
Like to, ’bout to, on the verge.
But I cannot seem to move.
Stars have stopped and won’t resume.

CHORUS:
I’m just waiting for the storm,
Then my life will fit the norm.

What wrong with the clothes I wear?
And the way I fix my hair?
Does any of me bother you?
I don’t care, you shouldn’t too.

I’m just waiting for the storm,
For the day I’ll be the norm,
Don’t know what it’ll do to me,
Just as long as I can see

CHORUS:
The clouds, and wait for the storm,
When what’s strange will be the norm.
I’m just waiting for the storm,
Seeing I don’t fit the norm.

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“I Need You Tonight” – Song Lyrics

July 22, 2005

UPDATE 09/30/2005 — After much too much time, here is an mp3 file with me singing the song. Hope you enjoy it!


6/1984

I wanted a love,
I wanted one night,
I didn’t think what my love would do to you,
I always thought I could make it right.

CHORUS:
I need you tonight,
To laugh with me, to cry with me,
To live with me, and to die with me.
I need you tonight,
To love me, to hold me,
To praise me, and to scold me.
I need you tonight.

I needed a friend.
I needed a hand.
I thought that what you gave was the best that you had,
I didn’t know that love was not your plan.

We got in a fight,
Said not what I felt.
What I meant was love, what I said was hate,
And all our love began to melt.

CHORUS

And now I’m alone,
And now we’re apart.
How I’d love to see us back together again,
Come on, love, let’s go back to the start.

CHORUS


One of a number of songs written for a group I was in during High School titled “DEBE and the Unshakables”. Like all great high school bands, we never actually played together (it was all in the dreaming, not the self-actualizing), although I do have a pretty sweet melody for this number. Maybe I’ll sing it into a wav file and post it up here for you to listen…

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At the Window

July 21, 2005

5/1985

Here
at the window, I stare
at the twilight, And pic-
ture the sunsets, Of
ages gone by.

Alone
at the window, I stare
and I wonder, If life
in those old days, Was love-
ly and sweet.

And then
at the window, When dark-
ness has risen, I re-
alize life, Is a well-
traveled path.

And
maybe someday, When life
is completed, I’ll see
all the old days,
And know.

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Tarot: Two – The High Priestess

July 20, 2005

Come, dead humanitarian, meet your unconscious.
It knows extra-ordinary things,
there’s enough inside, appearing in colors.
Secret-telling, keeping the veil.

Confident people read the arcane card,
their powerful existence tries to perservere.
But the feminine subtlety hides behind the curtain.
Goddess! Priestess! Show me your intuitive secrets.

There is so much significance in poetry.
Your fears teach you that you need to
unwillingly uncover the uncanny.
The card reveals your secrets. the scroll too.

She is the Priestess, and the Fool reveals her.
She is the water, the ‘true’ life leader,
yet Tora is the path. Her crescent crown shows her grace.
She sits high, like Tarot, to remind us she is ready,

Solomon learned his job from her.
She is intuition, dreams, your guide.
She is just. She is control.
She is the quandary.

She is success revealed.
“Finally,” she whispers, “I am the Yin.”
Shrouded, the goddess reveals her profound knowledge.
Listen to her, she is your subconscious.


This is a web poem. I took the text from the first 10 web pages I Googled with the search phrase “High Priestess Tarot” and copied the text into a text editor. I then alphabetized the words from the 10 web pages and removed the most common ones (“I”, “the”, “in”, “and”, etc.). The words that were left were reordered in random order, and I searched through the resulting text to find phrases I liked which I then ordered to make this poem (after adding back some of those common words for syntax and sense). Do you think it is a coherent piece? Does it tell you much about the card itself?

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The Lady or the Tiger

July 19, 2005

2/18/1986

Here I stand,
one moment in time,
living in a minute.
Forward and behind
I see two roads,
one to the past
and one beyond.
The Holy Couple confounds me,
surrounds me on all sides,
giving me choice after choice:
“The Lady or the Tiger,” it voices
and I work at maddening puzzles
which when solved provide no answers,
only leading to another moment in time.

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Tarot: One – The Magician

July 18, 2005

Within the Mage’s hands great powers flow.
His wand and finger join both earth and sky.
The card reads: as above then so below.

The magick he possesses comes aglow
from knowledge gained which others did descry:
within the Mage’s hands great powers flow.

His knowledge freely there for those who know
that mastery exists as will’s ally,
the card reads: as above then so below.

Infinity the sign upon his brow.
Upon his table, the four symbols lie.
Within the Mage’s hands great powers flow.

To see this strength within you start to grow –
Observe – there lies a path in you to try.
The card reads: as above then so below.

And now your road laid bare, depart and go!
Your power and determined thought apply!
Within the Mage’s hands great powers flow,
the card reads: as above then so below.


The second poem in the Tarot series, this one is focused on the Magician. The poem is written as a villanelle. Information on the Magician may be found here.