Thursday, February 17, 2011

420. now I lay me down to sleep

Careening down the mountain
on the one remaining rail
of the broken railbed,
gathering speed, my arms
spread wide, hunched-up,
tensing for the crash

is when I shudder awake,
many times already,
in this cold white room.

In Hungary, before Trianon,
Nem, nem, soha
life was likened
to licking honey,
to licking sweet honey
from a thorn.

I have seen the future
and don’t want to go there.
Like a reversing van,
a pantechnicon, very
very slowly backing in.


Nem, nem, soha
: No, no, never -- the Hungarian rejection of Trianon, the treaty that took away two-thirds of its land and people after the Austro-Hungarian army was defeated in the Great War.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

419. poetic language

Poems, you know
have little to do with fancy language.
There is no need to use
special words which you would
never use in daily speech.

You would not say, 'Hark, the dawn!'
to your mama, nor would you remark
that the raiments of night unfold the stars
as you talk & laugh with the boys,
so why the hell do you do it now?


Keep language simple. You need to keep close
to the smells, and to the brightness and shade,
to the colours, the sublety of changes,
the roughness and smoothness of touch,
to the sudden sound that turns your head,
the tang of the pickles and mustard,
to the shapes and the sudden movements,
the instant flash of a blade, the way time
stops. It does in a crisis. That split second of disbelief
is what military training aims to dispel. And so,
when in a suburban MacDonald's that deranged stranger
slits the throat of your companion, just like that,
you shoot him (American version), or you knock him
on the head (European version) and call the police.
The police come in and put up crime-scene ribbons;
the colours may vary, but this is what they do.

So, anyway, you don't proceed or glide down to the Mall.
You go there. You don't partake of light refreshment,
you have a coffee, a snack, or lunch. Likewise, you don't
'sincerely' regret the effects of collateral damage, you admit
you've killed hundreds of innocent women and children.
Language can be dangerous, misleading, often a total lie,
in the sense that verbal markers completely lose their meaning
when connections are lost to the things they describe.
I am no great fan of 'heightened' language, I have seen too much
of it put to abuse. Elections, for example. I would say to young poets
(and to the older ones, also) that there is no need for any special
poetic language, and that it is generally better, ever and always,
to employ the demotic, to write in the way you think and talk.