I was reminded of this Tom Waits song from a recent Facebook posting and it immediately put me in mind of two James Wright poems, one for obvious reasons, the other maybe not so obvious. In any case, I'm thinking out loud here: Merry Christmas, good holidays, and Happy New Year, folks.
Two poems by James Wright
I was only a young man
In those days. On that evening
The cold was so God damned
Bitter there was nothing.
Nothing. I was in trouble
With a woman, and there was nothing
There but me and dead snow.
I stood on the street corner
In Minneapolis, lashed
This way and that.
Wind rose from some pit,
Another bus to Saint Paul
Would arrive in three hours,
If I was lucky.
Then the young Sioux
Loomed beside me, his scars
Were just my age.
Ain't got no bus here
A long time, he said.
You got enough money
To get home on?
What did they do
To your hand? I answered.
He raised up his hook into the terrible starlight
And slashed the wind.
Oh, that? he said.
I had a bad time with a woman. Here,
You take this.
Did you ever feel a man hold
In a hook,
And place it
In your freezing hand?
I took it.
It wasn't the money I needed.
But I took it.
In Response to a Rumor That the Oldest Whorehouse
in Wheeling, West Virginia, Has Been Condemned
I will grieve alone,
As I strolled alone, years ago, down along
The Ohio shore.
I hid in the hobo jungle weeds
Upstream from the sewer main,
I saw, down river,
At Twenty-third and Water Streets
By the vinegar works,
The doors open in early evening.
Swinging their purses, the women
Poured down the long street to the river
And into the river
I do not know how it was
They could drown every evening.
What time near dawn did they climb up the other shore,
Drying their wings?
For the river at Wheeling, West Virginia,
Has only two shores:
The one in hell, the other
In Bridgeport, Ohio.
And nobody would commit suicide, only
To find beyond death
Finally, a poem from issue #51, back in 1993, by the fine poet, Christien Gholson, to commemorate the day today. It was #18 in the "Brobdingnag Feature Poem" series, in which the editor slips in a little something beyond the normal ten-line constraint. Enjoy.
Sudden Compassion in the Alley Behind
The Apartment, Christmas Day
The Lords of Trash
ride the beerbox skidding across black ice.
Their laughter calls down the dead
who will not accept their death,
waiting behind black windows made of sudden crow wings.
They tumble into the world
and enter the bodies of flying ragleaves,
freed from the ice, tossed blind
back up through the black crow windows
without a sound.
Everything is alive like a merciful warning.
Even those souls gnashing each other
behind sudden dark windows, desperate
to finish something that's already finished.
The tossed leaves shimmer over starlings
praising the chimney smoke that warms them
and the leftover smoke opens its mouth,
drinking down the seed husk coins
the sparrow let fly onto the wind.
New Year's day -everything is in blossom!I feel about average.Issatranslated by Robert Hass
By way of explanation, under the classical calendar in Japan, New Years is later in the year, about the 2nd or 3rd week in February, around the coming of spring. Also, it is tradition that everyone celebrated their birthday on New Years. Issa's undercutting of tradition here is really his poetic signature.
And quite funny.
Happy Christmas all, and, for the coming New Year, may you feel about average.
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