December 28, 2010
Keeping with the bird theme, a Tweet by Juliet Wilson reminded me of an old poem of mine written in 1987, when I was part of the Hoboken, NJ, poetry scene. It was published in the journal Chalk Circle in 1989, when I was one of a group of writers known as “The Decompositionalists.”
“Crow’s Rosary” was about the changes that were happening in Hoboken at the time, and the clash of cultures that continued thereafter as the mix of ethnicity and artists gave way to gentrification. No doubt it is a very different place today.
Here is my poem
Hoboken again after so long gone, yet the gregarious scent of coffee lingers;
the ka-chung, ka-choong of the old furnaces is replaced by the dolorous
buttoning of starched white collars–
Tinderbox matchbooks, this town harbors a legacy of fire–
a last-resort for some to stem the tide of condo-conversion.
The siren-scourge filling the air once filled by shipyard steam.
One crow equals one square mile in this mile-square-city and that lone crow
follows me from rooftop to steeple, from apartment to train depot,
end to end and back again–“Carrion waiting, carrion waiting!” he cawcries.
Somewhere on the cobblestone Court Street, he stops–
the garbage piled high in the alleyway.
Resuming flight, his feathers soiled by ashes, carrion of this
melting pot boiling over too high a flame–his rosary chanted-out above
the rooftops; church bells echo the litany of the displaced, “Carry on waiting.”
“I’ll die in your rosary,” sighs the Hoboken muse. “So carry on waiting.”
The Hoboken muse, the wife, dressed in black even in the heat of summer,
soothes the dusky sky.
The hammer’s hammer harkens: “Make way! Make way for the new tide that
rises above the din and dun! A new sleep is upon us!”
No morning comes without the hammer’s calling for work to be done;
another home displaced in Hoboken. They never cease except for
the obligatory coffee break taken 10 minutes after waking us all up.
A peregrine falcon rests on our laundry pole out back,
starling-eyed–showing us the underside of our breadwinning days,
challenging us to use those drear, found things.
The litany of lonesomeness leaves nothing left for the crow’s rosary
to be counted on. In the weepdusk, he cries in a deafening crowd,
“Carry on waiting, carrion. Carrion waiting!”
The curry-garlic-jalapeño-covered walls and streets now come
prepackaged, processed for microwaves and barbecues–
I see, in my eros-dreaminess, your suppliant flesh
resting on the tar beach; feel the embrace that comes
when our flesh conjugates a verb–
while the crow, soaring alone, surveys the tumult of our disheveled days.
This is a ghost of Hoboken–and I am to carry on with my waiting,
carry on as the crow with his lonesome rosary.
Who has the time to let the coffee steep, to savor the “last drop?”
And what does this new Hoboken mean to us, so unlike what it was to us?
Altar-clouds rise above us, an endless stream of
forgetting and rising, forgetting and rising,
linked by the crow’s rosary, the litany of lonesomeness.
There’s a gibbous moon out back, illuminating the night kitchen.
“Thee sees we love our garden,” says the Hoboken muse. “Let me assure you:
tho’ it may be only clapboards and clay pots now, its future is ardorous bounty…”
We live in shells cast aside by others, hollow bodies awaiting obsolescence.
Knowing this, the streets seem more calamitous.
Knowing this, we set-about preparing the earth’s redeeming.
Now you come to me with your chalice of hopelessness:
We are never so alone as when we long for lost things.
—Scott Edward Anderson, Chalk Circle 1989
December 22, 2010
For all my birding friends out there, who are preparing for the Christmas Bird Count, I thought I would share my poem, “Confusing Fall Warblers.”
The poem was inspired by Plate 52 in Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds, which bears the same title, and features all the bird names that appear in that plate in one poem.
I’ve also decided to try out Xtranormal — a fun text-to-movie application, which adds a curious dimension to the telling of the poem, which you can watch here:
Here is the poem as it appeared in the journal Isotope, Spring 2004:
Confusing Fall Warblers
(Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds, plate 52)
“You changed your name from Brown to Jones and mine from Brown to Blue” George Jones
Was it Hank Williams
she called the Nashville warbler,
or was it the black-throated blue?
Was it Wilson’s warbler
she heard in the bog up north
chattering chi chi chi chi chi chet chet?
Yellow-throat or orange-crowned,
from Tennessee, Connecticut, or
Canada, the prothonotary
clerks for the vireo from Philly,
who is neither lawyer nor warbler,
but is often mistaken–
Was it the hooded warbler
that startled her from the thicket,
or mourning warbler’s balancing notes
chirry chirry, chorry chorry,
that made her cock her head
to listen for its secret?
And tell me, tell me truly,
was it only
that sad country song
playing on the car radio
that made her cry?
–Scott Edward Anderson
December 11, 2010
The apparent suicide of Mark Madoff, son of Bernie Madoff, on the 2nd anniversary of his father’s arrest put me in mind of a poem I wrote about the financial crisis and the rising number of suicides among high-fliers.
At the time, there were reports that a growing number of individuals who “had it all” and lived extravagantly but couldn’t handle it when their house of cards fell.
The second line is a reference to W.B. Yeats’ poem, “The Scholars,” and there is an intentional pun in the first stanza, which was first noticed by my pal, Joe Donohue, who read an early version of the poem, and which wasn’t as poignant at the time.
Here is my poem,
Collap$e, or The Financial Suicides
Damned and damning are the fools,
Their bald heads forgetful of sins.
Believing greed and graft are virtues,
They made all the rules,
Spent lavishly on short-term views,
And made-off with the most wins.
Masters of the Universe,
They excel at immoderation, going all-out,
But never mastered failure or humility.
Faced with losing everything or worse –
Riches and status – they take the tidy,
Albeit cowardly way out.
In the end, they come to find out
Everything that man builds or begins
Endures only for a moment.
Their legacies, without a doubt,
Are consumed in the fires they foment
With their lies, deceit, and sins.
–Scott Edward Anderson
December 8, 2010
The Beatles Story, a Liverpool Museum devoted to the Fab Four and that British city’s favorite sons, held a poetry contest this fall in honor of John Lennon.
John would have been 70 years old on October 9, 2010, had he not been gunned down by a psychopath 30 years ago today.
The contest rules were simple: 40 lines on Lennon or his 40 years on Earth. I entered, but didn’t win the contest.
And although it may ruin my poems chances of being published in The New Yorker (to whom I’ve recently submitted it — forgive me, Paul Muldoon), I’ve decided that it’s important for me to share it with you on this day when so many of us are remembering John.
Here is my poem:
John Lennon at 70
“The streets are full of admirable craftsmen,
but so few practical dreamers.”–Man Ray
Lennon, the boy, practically an orphan;
Chip on his shoulder, mad at the world.
Lennon, the teenager, the rocker, the mocker,
Hard-driven, jealous, troublemaker, and bold.
Lennon, the young man, an edge to his attitude
And confident swagger; “To the top Johnny!”
Lennon, maturing, tightening up, melodic,
But still biting, sardonic, coming into his own.
Lennon, twenty-five, songsmith; honest, open, real.
A turning point: meeting drugs and Dylan.
Lennon, experimenting, laying down tricks
Rather than tracks; quirky, artistic, obscure.
Lennon, twenty-eight, life changed by a “Yes.”
Branching out, becoming an Artist.
Lennon, approaching thirty, back to his roots;
Raw, stripped-bare, primal screaming J.
Lennon, early 30s, getting political in the N-Y-C,
Under the influence; message trumping music.
Dr. Winston O’Boogie, mid-30s, recapturing
Some of the old magic, putting aside mind games.
Mr. Lennon, “retired,” house-husband, baking
Bread and raising a son; “just watching the wheels…”
Lennon, stretching out, almost forty,
Enjoying writing again, for himself and for Sean.
Lennon at 40, middle-age for most, a new record out.
He’s done more than many at this age or older, even.
Lennon, talking to his audience of survivors,
“We made it through the seventies, didn’t we?”
Lennon, walking in Central Park with Yoko.
“It’s John Lennon I can’t believe it…”
Lennon letting his guard down,
A new sense of purpose, renewal, direction—
Lennon, at 40, dead in his doorway.
“I read the news today, oh boy…”
Lennon’s life: meteoric, troubled, brilliant,
Full fathom flaming—
Lennon at 70: would he be a grumpy old man,
Still on the stage — or both? We’ll never know.
I read the news today and think: We need him;
Then hear John’s voice, singing “Love is all you need.”
–Scott Edward Anderson