Thursday, November 22, 2007

Swimming Up Ladders, All Our Different Ways

Contributor copies for issues #159 & 160 went out in the mail this past weekend, so the full run of Lillies will be following over the coming weeks. My apologies to subscribers as things are even later than usual.

I just finished
Tristram Shandy today and I can’t praise it enough. Just a fantastic, hilarious piece of fiction. Sterne is right up there with Swift, Rabelais, Voltarie and Cervantes as an early satiric genius, if not the best of them all. Also, I’ve been working my way through Let Us Compare Mythologies, Leonard Cohen’s first book of poems, recently reissued in a 50th anniversary edition. Sadly, I can’t recommend it. A selected edition of his work might be able to scrape 2 or 3 poems from this volume; even that might be pushing it. I enjoy Cohen immensely, both song and lyric. This is just one book that should have remained obscure.

Also I was working my way through
Mary Oliver’s House of Light when I ran across this unexpected (by me anyway) gem.

The Buddha’s Last Instruction

“Make yourself a light,”
said the Buddha
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal—a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire—
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

Issue #130 of Lilliput is a broadside of the work of the wonderful
Miriam Sagan. Entitled Fish Ladder: 19 Tanka, here is a modest selection:

Through the fish window
we saw the silver salmon
swim up the ladders
of the dam, and thought
suddenly of our lives

You don’t dream
of anything—
not the sea
not the past
not those
houses that open

the silver-backed gorillas
watch us through the glass
you wonder what it means
to be “a person”

Girl-child by the edge
of the sea, you have come down
to crab shell,
beach stone, tide swell, where
everything changes.

We all give thanks in such different ways … Don


Issa's Untidy Hut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffery Skeate said...

Concerning interesting references to Charles Wright's most recent book "Scar Tissue" in the "Beneath Cherry Blossoms" blog dates August 30th, August 31st and September 7th 2007 . . . I have read Wright for many years and found this particular collection more difficult to wade through, but also found it well worth the effort. "The Wrong End Of The Rainbow", published in 2005 as a chapbook by Sarabande Books, is actually "Part I" of "Scar Tissue". There are two poems in "Part III" which also came from "The Wrong End Of The Rainbow"; they are "The Sodbusters Saloon and Hall of Fame" and "The Silent Generation III". I bought "The Wrong End Of The Rainbow" on a fly fishing/see friends trip to Virginia in the spring of 2005 and my memories of the book are intertwined with those of our trip to the Appalachian mountains. I have always believed Wright to be a very great poet; "Black Zodiac" and "A Short History of the Shadow" are among my favorites. Thank you for the opportunity to comment . . . great blog! Regards, Jeffery Skeate.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks very much for your observations and suggestions. I have read and very much enjoyed the individual poem here and there by Charles Wright and, so, with your encouragement, won't give up. Perhaps another time or two through Scar Tissue is also the thing to do. Glad you liked the blog, which will be staying put here at Issa's Untidy Hut. More soon, Don