Once again I offer a guest poet. This is an antediluvian poem, that is, it was written long before the flood, or current deluge, of cyber emotion and virtual living and received opinion that threatens to drown us all.
From William Stafford:
How far friends are! They forget you,
most days. They have to, I know; but still,
it’s lonely just being far and a friend.
I put my hand out—this chair, this table—
So near: touch, that’s how to live.
Call up a friend? All right, but the phone
itself is what loves you, warm on your ear,
on your hand. Or, you lift a pen
to write—it’s not that far person
but this familiar pen that comforts.
Near things: Friend, here’s my hand.
My “guest poet” this time is Langston Hughes, American,1902-1967.
He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. He famously wrote about the period that “the negro was in vogue”, which was later paraphrased as “when Harlem was in vogue”. It’s a little poem I memorized long ago and sometimes recite to myself.
In the spirit of the first intent and sub-title of this blog—POEMS, POETS AND PROSODY—I offer this work of William Stafford as my guest. He was an American poet who, many years ago, deeply inspired me for his easy and regular manner of writing, his loving where language can go, his insight, and his truth-telling. Though our work may appear to have little in common formally, the vision, and the heart, are the same.
THE WAY IT IS
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
This town is haunted by some good deed
that reappears like a country cousin, or truth
when language falters these days trying to lie,
because Aunt Mabel, an old lady gone now, would
accost even strangers to give bright flowers
away, quick as a striking snake. It’s deeds like this
have weakened me, shaken by intermittent trust,
stricken with friendliness.
Our Senator talked like war, and Aunt Mabel
said,”He’s a brilliant man,
but we didn’t elect him that much.”
Everyone’s resolve weakens toward evening
or in a flash when a face melds—a stranger’s, even—
reminded for an instant between menace and fear:
There are Aunt Mabels all over the world,
or their graves in the rain.