— From EF —

 Conrad has gone on a Billy Collins jag lately, and I am a delighted beneficiary. Often, as I am heading into the final lap of getting dinner ready, he comes into the kitchen and reads me two or three poems. This is delicious on several levels. I really like Collins’ poetry, but there is also the evocative echo of 1960, when we spent erotically addled hours in late-afternoon empty classrooms at Northwestern, CB reading to me from Yeats and Thomas and Housman. It wasn’t just the words, it was the voice.

OK, I have written often in the blog about the intoxication of poetry, but here I go again.

Common Core, standardized testing, multiple choice — aren’t these concepts that just thrill you to your toes? Poetry, and arts in general, have become frills, and wall-to-wall testing is what our increasingly-privatized education structure is making mandatory. Ever wonder why?

Poetry, specifically the oral tradition, is what carried the stories of our ancestors into the far reaches of our conscious shores. It’s how we hear the echoes in our bones. Rhythm, rhyme, and surprise can ignite fireworks in your soul, if you’re lucky enough to hear the voice.

There were times when speaking a language was made illegal. It happened in Ireland, Australia, and here in the good ol’ US of A. Forbid a language for a generation, and you can exterminate it. That’s the theory. Maybe you don’t have to make it illegal, you just make it unavailable.

Be part of the resistance. Go find a poem you love, and then read it to somebody you love. Then do it again, and see what happens . . .

 — From the Fool —

I had to get some cough syrup, and Jerry the pharmacist was in a talky mood. I go there cause it’s cheaper, but you gotta be careful to check what he gives you. Once I went in to get something for sore throat and after a couple of days it was pretty clear I didn’t have pinworms. But Jerry’s real interest is the news, so maybe that accounts for the pinworms.

He’s got the solution for the Greeks. The Greeks owe all this money and they can’t pay it back, so the Greeks, he says, need to make more money. “The fact is,” he says, “the Greeks spend more money, percentage-wise, on the military than any country in NATO besides the US.” I’m watching him drop some orange pills in with the pink, which don’t quite match. “And so they got all this army just sitting there.”

His idea is, they should grab some other country and sell it. Albania is close, but it’s probably not worth that much. Whereas Syria, most people there will soon be either dead or gone, and the Greeks could grab it up overnight. I pointed out that he’d stuck the prescription label around his thumb.

“But wouldn’t other countries object to that?” I asked.

“Don’t be dumb. The bankers just want the money. They don’t care where it comes from.”

He had it all thought out, so I said he should send his idea to somebody, if he knows anybody in Greece. There was some definite outside-the-box thoughts going on there, like with the ancient Greeks. Good thing my cough syrup was over-the-counter.

 — From CB —

In the loud-mouth coffee shop
a little bullety businessman, clipped near bald,
pitches his wholesale spawn.
Two phlegmatic seekers of fortune
absorb his rasp, venture a question
concerning prompt delivery.
“It won’t take a donkey’s year,” he says.

I might have wondered, spawn of what?
what quantity? what hidden purpose?
terrorist spawn to bring down towers?
Instead, I sipped tepid coffee and
pondered a donkey’s year.

Coon’s age, bee’s knees, mutt’s nuts
fly in the ointment, pig in a poke
kettle of fish, nest of vipers
cold turkey, the horse’s mouth—
no clue. The phrase left me
hanging on Grandma’s clothesline
toes barely touching the floor.

I see the donkey.
It stands in a field
carved of meat and hair
brain of suet, gasping heart
great with lament.
It lifts its muzzle, pumps bellows
honks like an eighteen-wheeler
bound for glory, high on meth
down a chiropracted highway
hauling its timely shipment of spawn.

It stands in stolid dignity, a braying absurdity
bitter eyes shocked wide: it’s
Not a horse, never will be, never, through its
endless donkey’s year.

“Donkey’s year.” I googled and found it:
A long, long time. And yet there still stands
the question of spawn. So much
that remains unknown.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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