Sunday, April 1, 2018

Semana Santa


SEMANA SANTA

The time of year when the world
Transforms into the inside of a tin can
Cooking in the noontime sun
Is when Jesus Christ is crucified
To astonishment of delirious crowds
Dropping in heat like dead insects
As reservoirs languish and asphalt streets,
Cracked, peeling, cry out for water.

Palm Sunday flutters weakly, a flag
Raising his arms in faint breeze.
You listen to the story of the Passion…
By the time Jesus is entombed,
You are wrung out and numb.
Days later, Maundy Thursday is mentholated,
Rising and setting in a wooded garden.
The reprieve is illusory.

Darkness shoves night inside an oven.
Soon you cannot escape Good Friday,
Twice hotter than the night before—
Turning round and round,
You are roasted on all sides,
Dripping as if broiling on a spit.
Two days’ provisions running low,
Holy Saturday finds you sitting peacefully

Beside a corpse for a companion
Inside a tomb pervaded by silence.
Comforted by cold, you imagine the sun
Without seeing the dawn.
You doze off the instant you wake up
To Easter Sunday suddenly present,
Pure, fresh water illumined by glory.
Inhaling a cloud, you glimpse the crystal city.

Originally published in The Galway Review (February 15, 2016)



The Resurrection, detail (1600) by El Greco

Monday, March 19, 2018

Three Poems about Work – Analysis and Commentary


I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.


The Child's Bath (1893) by Mary Cassatt

One of the great poems of the English language, “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman depicts a compelling metaphysical vision—expansive, joyful, hopeful, and confident—that of a working-class chorus singing “strong melodious songs,” not literally but rather in the poet’s imagination reveling in the transcendent reality of a nation newly conceived: democratic America.


To Be of Use by Marge Piercy



Herakles and the Nemean Lion, with Theseus and the Minotaur (540-530 BCE)

The poem is a lyric exposition roundly closing, “the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies.” Principal strength of this poem lies in the series of striking metaphors—“black sleek heads of seals bouncing like half-submerged balls,” “pull like the water buffalo,” and so on—that serve as the vehicle for the expression of profound, deeply felt sentiments about work. Overall effect is vivid, cumulative, and climactic.


Edward Hopper’s Office in a Small City by Victoria Chang

The man could be the boss or could have a boss the man could have a
heart or could not have a heart the man is not working should be working

should be making profits not in fits but constantly the man looks out over
the yellow building over everything he must be the boss must be someone

significant because he is constant is above everything maybe the man is
deciding who to fire who to lay off who to slay with a fire maybe he is deciding

who to hire who is the best liar but the man doesn’t smile doesn’t smell the
flowers below or look at the people walking in the streets or the cars honking below

the man sits and stares at the shapes of vents on the roof of a building rearranging
them people are just shapes a circle for a head rectangles for the body and arms and

legs this man’s head over this woman’s body this woman’s head with another
man’s legs maybe the man is looking at the horizon wondering why a plane in

the sky is pointed downward towards the morning glories or the okra plants in the
meadow or a building with five sides


Office in a Small City (1953) by Edward Hopper

This poem was originally published in New England Review, Vol. 33, No. 1 (2012), page 8. See:

http://www.nereview.com/back-issues/vol-33-1-4-2012-2013/vol-33-no-1-2012/victoria-chang-edwardhhopper/

Using stream-of-consciousness, the poem almost rambles, with curious, unpredictable twists and turns. Subtly satiric—“the man doesn’t smile doesn’t smell the flowers below,” “people are just shapes”—the subtext introduces into our contemplation of Hopper’s classic oeuvre, meanings fresh, provocative, unexpected, and surprising. Both painting and poem are mutually enriched.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sententiae


“Tyrants impose, peoples depose.

“He who builds the future without regard for the past is like one who looks into the mirror and promptly forgets what he sees.”


1986 People Power Revolution

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sententiae


“Aloneness is alienation, solitude communion.”

“Solitude is the companionable presence of God.”


The Anchorite (1881) by Franz Ejsmond

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Short of It (more)


I listen to broken grass…

I listen to broken grass
Dried out by summer
Popping underfoot like
Frozen grass in winter.

***

Forbearance is silence…

Forbearance is silence,
Virtue of the meek.
Silence is complicity,
Oppression of the weak.

***

I like my coffee hot and black...

I like my coffee hot and black—
hot hornet stings,
black squid ink—
heady broth of
bitter cumin,
red pine smoke,
dusky forests,
blue lightning.

***

I like my tea hot and sweet...

I like my tea hot and sweet—
hot thermal blooms,
sweet billowing mists—
suffusing beverage of
crow-black herbs,
white-petal clouds,
distilled memories,
prophetic dreams.

***

THE JEWELER

Afternoon is a jeweler
Setting hours in gold,
As silver glinting waves
Slap the garnet shore.



Scottish shortbread fingers

Monday, January 1, 2018

Odds and Ends


This blog is a personal journal for public consumption:



Seated Figure (1989) by Ang Kiukok

The Short of It


You are the reflection...

You are the reflection on the pavement of a rainy day,
Mirror of the sky painted briefly by shadows of a bustling world.
Where is my soul but in your image?
Eternity will reveal your beauty glistening in the memory of water.

***

How dark the sky...

How dark the sky,
Bright the water
When silver fish
Reflect the moon.