Poets You Can’t Get Rid Of

2/23/10

“Poets You Can’t Get Rid Of,” was to be the theme of tonight’s meeting of the “Poets Read Poetry” group which has been cancelled because of the weather. The slush became thicker. The air over the river turned as opaque as heavy tracing paper. We were scared.

I had planned to make blog #3 a report of our meeting. But I can’t. OK. This will give me more time to go over my choices for the next time.

More time. More time alone in the house surrounded by ice and wind and rain. More time to listen to Red Garland play “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).”         More time to eat the truffles that were a Christmas gift. More time to listen to Rick Margitza play, “Widow’s Walk.” How does a young guy like him know how this feels? He’s so good. So black velvet and longing, digging deep. So good, I’m going to Paris in April to hear him work his tenor sax four nights in a row.  He’s that good.

Time to go over my poems.  Time to cut and staple them into tidy little packets for the group. I read a stanza of “Aegean Melancholy,”

…The long lament of the woman,

The lovely woman who bared her breasts

When memory found the cradles

And lilac sprinkled the sunset with fire!

By Odysseus Elytis

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

One I must include for the Poets Read Poets group in case they outlive me and attend my funeral–the favorite poem of my middle-life.  I want it read there in whatever big church hosts my farewell. Yes, it’s an unorthodox choice for such an occasion, but those who know me well will know that romance–having it, losing it, finding it again, trying and trying has been a major part of my life. Why not my death, too?

Half an Hour

I have never had you, nor I suppose

will I ever have you. A few words, an approach,

as in the bar the other day—nothing more.

It’s sad, I admit. But we who serve Art,

Sometimes with the mind’s intensity,

can create—but of course only for a short time—

pleasure that seems almost physical.

That’s how in the bar the other day—

Mercifully helped by alcohol—

I had half an hour that was totally erotic.

And I think you understood this

and stayed slightly longer on purpose.

That was very necessary. Because

with all the imagination, with all the magic alcohol,

I needed to see your lips as well,

needed your body near me.

C.P. Cavafy

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Yannis Ritsos understands desire, too. I love those Hellenes! The brain, the body, the heart, the soul, the living, the dead, the sea, the olive, the church, the brothel. Thavmassia! (Wonderful.)

Keeley gets it with his translation, in just two lines from:

Miniature

….He doesn’t look at her.

He lights up his cigarette. His hand holding the match trembles.

These Greeks have warmed my ice-bound house. They are not the first.

#####

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