Edna St. Vincent Millay (a clerihew)

cms_higgs-event

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare…

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Was heard to say
That only the author of Euclid’s Elements
Had seen Beauty without any habiliments.

What would she have said if she’d lived to learn
About the physicists at CERN
Who have seen the Higgs Boson
Without any clothes on?

 

Continue reading

Albert Einstein got panics (a clerihew)

“As I have said so many times,
God doesn’t play dice with the world.”

Albert Einstein

decaying-dice-detail

Albert Einstein got panics
From quantum mechanics;
He would have found the world far nicer
Had God not been a dicer.

Continue reading

How lovely is the semblance

15066135056_9684797134_z

How lovely is the semblance
Eternity is come
And Past and Future gathered are
In compass of this room;

How beautiful the sleeping form
The eyes that look within
The hands that do not seek to grasp
The legs that will not run;

Though Memory’s in water writ
However still it pools
This vision having once had
I cannot bear to lose;

I shall become a student
At that patient school of art
That studies years to draw one line
Direct from eye to heart.

 

Continue reading

There you were

6463446793_e9f697a60b

There you were
helping your friends
who were not yet married
before their reception
by cutting something small
smaller,
carrots or cucumbers,
something.

You were being mindful
of the knifeness of the knife
and how strange it was
not because it cut
but because of the way
it cut

and in consequence
you were working
slowly,
holding up
everything and everyone
that depended on you.

I loved you for
your mindful sluggishness,
and how you were unconscious
of your beauty
in the beautiful moment

so now
I think sometimes
how if that beautiful moment had lasted
I might have married you
and you me
and how eventually
someone else would have had to take over
for both of us.

And I think:
how lucky
one moment
doesn’t lead to the next.

 

Continue reading

Song that Came to Creeping in His Dream

Dragonfly - British libellulinae, or, Dragon flies (detail).JPG

Dragonfly, dragonfly,
Dragonfly, dragonfly,
Unstitch his eyes, unstitch his eyes.
The snow flies, the river is frozen,
Unstitch his eyes.

From tent to tent I go,
I go where I am wanted,
I go wherever they can pay my fee,
I go with the dragonfly,
Together we unstitch his eyes, we unstitch them.

This song is my breath,
Dragonfly, dragonfly,
This song is my breath.
Dragonfly, dragonfly,
My breath is this song.

They come by their twos and threes,
But we will come by our fours.
Stitch up their eyes,
Dragonfly, dragonfly,
Stitch up their eyes, stitch up their eyes.

 

Continue reading

A Song for Music, with Music, and Ham Kicker

20224198669_98ebf5be31_o

“A Following Song” is a songAlex Floor wrote the music and recorded it. As songs sometimes do, this one has changed its monicker: you may call it “They Went Their Ways.” It joins Stone’s Throw, which the redoubtable Godescalc (more mundanely, James) brilliantly set to music some time ago…

The thing came about this time because I once happened across the oddly-named Ham Kicker website, “an exhibition of collaborative musical work”:

Poets are encouraged to submit poetry. Songwriters are encouraged to work with poets and their poems to develop songs. Performers are encouraged to interpret or reinterpret songs.

So I sent Ham Kicker’s proprietor (turns out his name is Joe) a poem to put up on the site, and forgot about it for more than a year. And then, a while ago, Joe let me know that Alex had written and recorded music for what is now indisputably a Song. Which made me happy, as you might guess, for it’s a lovely song.

Here is the Hamkicker post introducing the thing; here (again) is the song in all its mp3-compressed glory; there’s sheet music! (I love sheet music!) Here, for some reason, is an undated interview with Joe.

And why not, here’s the poem again, with its new title:

They Went Their Ways

Down by the hill, or lower down,
The larks and lizards built a town.
They sang for fun and lay in the sun
And life was easy.

Seasons came, and came, and came,
And some were different, some the same;
The flowers grew, and blossomed, and blew,
And life was easy.

But a lark grows bold to stretch its wing
While a lizard sleeps and dreams of spring.
So the larks forgot – what the lizards did not –
That life is easy.

Then they went their ways, no one knew why,
Some to the desert and some to the sky,
With the turning spheres and the passing years,
Like life, so easy.

 

Continue reading

Paradise (pt.10)

7514483892_1a910ac4fc_z

One walked in silence,
remembering Paradise,
Mourning for Paradise,
the Paradise that was in desire,
and remains in desire,
Stones gathered together never to be used aright,
Paradise too long in the building,
Ruin of nothing,
lapped by the sea,

Surge of the sea…

* * *

“‘No ideas but in things,’
Bill Williams said,

“But as for me,
& I’ve minted a slogan or 2
in my day,
slogans thick as money,
words heavy as coins

& would have minted more
had my time not come…

“But as for me,
let me assure you,
“There are ideas
and not only in things,
“There is nothing easier than to get ideas,
let me assure you,
let me assure you of this.”

* * *

What can only be communicated in silence,
Darkness and silence….

 

Continue reading

“You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks”

durer_-_rhinoceros

“You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks,” he had explained in his brief and vigorous style.
Brave New World

You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks
You can’t teach her to play dead or dance
Though you whip or reward her, malign or implore her,
She won’t fetch, speak, beg or shake hands.

You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks
Not because she’s not worthy or fun
The rhinoceros goes where she wants to go
And will do what she always has done.

Try to teach a rhinoceros tricks
The results uniformly are gruesome
And the worst thing of all is, it’s quite possible
It may end up with her teaching you some.

 

Continue reading

Paradise (p.9)

pound-by-wyndyam-lewis-txu-hrc-1070-1000

Little-read now,
but in truth little-read even in his time;
And less loved,
but known for those who loved him in his time.
And the great tower
which was to have reached as high as Heaven
Undercut — or top-heavy,
or with too weak a foundation, —
Too long in the building, in any case.

The sea which gnaws at the land
The land which fills up the sea

* * *

And now in Venice, antique city,
All history encrusted upon her,
and in all her long impatience a kind of patience at last visible,
Pearl of the middle-world,
Her treasures flotsam, flotsam her art,
her history flotsam;
Her citizens flotsam, borne to the edge of the world…

And now, in Venice, what thoughts?

But to have envisioned Paradise
Though the hand was not the eye’s equal;
And to have approached the shoals of Paradise,
Of the chosen island, the site where the great building should take place,
Braved the reefs, stone to tear out a ship’s belly;
To have heard the waves crash and the susurrus,
Sea-surge, waves on the stones,
Day-long, night-long, as ever, so now,
And to have made a start anyway, though never an ending,
Is this a little thing?

“Bill Williams said you had a mystic ear, did you know?”
“He never said that to me. No, I never heard that.”
“A mystic ear, he said. Never a word wrongly chosen,
Never a word misplaced.”

Silence then, the old man perhaps pleased for a while…

But to have had a vision,
To have felt in one’s hand the heft of the stone,
To have made a beginning of things, —
Though on a too-narrow foundation,
The stone on stone laid too high,
Stone laid on stone, and on stone,
The vision made real,
which could not stand the weight of being made real,
Art outstripped by fancy…

 And to have had such a vision,
And to have made such a start

Is this a little thing?
Is this insignificant?

A start, never an ending.
And here, and here…
what thoughts, shaped in silence?

 

Continue reading

Paradise (p.8)

15819574554_b58bcfba50

And so Paris, and so then Italy,
between wars,
as always between wars,
her shores lapped by the gentle sea,
habitation of old gods…
So Rapallo,
so mare medius terraneum,
the sea in the middle of the world,
the cradle of man’s ambition…

Rapallo, Rapallo,
Hers a quiet grace,
neither the sinuous grace of Provence
nor the assured grace of Firenze
Hers a grace that cannot be multiplied
that cannot be exploited
She can be loved only by those who love her.

And the mule-driver:
“The famous poet
lives in that villa; I’ve seen him:
black hat and a purple cloak, and
he carries a stick. Maybe he was in the war?
‘s very famous, and so many visitors!”

Only the love of those who love…

(and twenty years on a new word will enter the language,
Rapallizare, meaning to put up concrete buildings all over the place,
to build without thought,
to scatter hotels like money.)

 

3319049591_2ecc37c79b_o.jpg

 

Continue reading