To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Friday, May 19, 2023

Jack Foley: Two New Pairings


[PAIRINGS is a sequence in which two (sometimes more) poems meet on the page in the way that persons might meet on the street. For the most part, they stand across the page from one another in the way that people stand across from one another as they speak. They have things in common and things that separate them. In many ways they illuminate each other. The “unit” in these pieces is not the individual poem but the meeting––sometimes the collision––of the poems. Cell phones destroy the formatting of Pairings so they need to be viewed on a proper computer screen. (J.F.)]

 Pairings 63: The Pretense of the Normal

             Drowning in the waters of stupidity                                                                 is there such a thing

            No lifeguard on duty                                                                                         as heart-provoking

            I listen again                                                                                                     or emotion-provoking

            Not to politicians but to poets                                                                           to go with

            Who can be as thoughtless as politicians                                                         thought-provoking?

            I think of Paul de Man

            Who made many mistakes in his life

            And who may be faulted on many counts

            But whose mind remained


            No one who met him

            Failed to feel it.

            How does a mind like that


            In this world

            Except by subterfuge, deceit, exile, cunning, charm, playacting,

            The pretense of the “normal.”


Pairings 62: W.B. Yeats


                        w.b. yeats sought                                                                      Gone at 73,

                        a foundation                                                                             Poet of Ireland,

                        in the ancient                                                                            Poet of the Other World,

                        stories                                                                                      Looking for its traces

                        of the peasantry                                                                      In the Wind

                        for the new                                                                               Among the Reeds.

                        Irish                                                                                         None like him

                        Culture                                                                                     For the passion            

                        which he and lady gregory would create                                Of renunciation

                        and which would have the beauty                                            “O what a sweetness strayed

                        of the old time                                                                          To barren Thebaid”

                        when the men and women heard                                            “The foul rag and bone shop

                        “the sounds of above.”                                                              Of the heart”––

                        did they not reject                                                                     Three books

                        the world?                                                                                 Quote that line

                        eat your porridge, child                                                           And leave “foul” out––

                        or the fairies will take you                                                         None like him

                        did the peasantry not say                                                            For the continual

                        in its beautiful                                                                            Recognition

                        myth making                                                                            That language

                        in its music                                                                               Always goes beyond itself––

                        in its deep                                                                                 Innisfree

                        imagination                                                                              Haunted by the words

                        in its fear                                                                                  Of a 3rd-century Neo Platonist––

                        what an ancient                                                                       The immense distance between

                        Mystic said,                                                                              This world

                        what Homer and Plato said                                                        And that other

                        what Plotinus said                                                                     From which

                        what Porphyry said                                                                    The “voices” came.

                        what Spenser Shelley Blake said—                                             Love of the woman

                        what escaped the lips                                                                 Love of the woman as Symbol

                        of the Unknowing                                                                     The tragedy

                        in the deep time                                                                        That spirit

                        when the wor(l)d was spoken                                                   Lodges itself

                        into being                                                                                 In the mire

                                                                                                                        Of flesh

                                                                                                                        And that a woman

                                                                                                                        Must grow old––

                                                                                                                        Not “unity”

                                                                                                                        But the fierce knowledge

                                                                                                                        That all we have

                                                                                                                        Is the power to know

                                                                                                                        What we cannot be or emulate.

                                                                                                                        The swans

                                                                                                                        Leap up in the pool

                                                                                                                        And descend again, and leap again.

                                                                                                                        I love him for the clarity of his

                                                                                                                        Monumental, daring, unerring                                                                                                                                        Vision.


                                                                                                                         I have lived with him throughout my                                                                                                                                                life

                                                                                                                        Lived with the symbols

                                                                                                                        The magic that leapt about his table

                                                                                                                        Lived not where he walked

                                                                                                                        But where he thought

                                                                                                                        In that sky to which

                                                                                                                        Helena Blavatsky

                                                                                                                        Brought him:

                                                                                                                        Demon Est Deus Inversus


                                                                                                                         In the dark you entered in 1939,

                                                                                                                        Did Plato and Plotinus welcome                                                                                                                                        you?


                                                                                                                        Did your soul rise, a falcon in the air

                                                                                                                        Ignoring cries to bring it back to                                                                                                                                      earth?


                                                                                                                        Did  Cúchulainn hhonor                                                                                                                                   show you the                         

                                                                                                                        That killed in battle frenzy the hound                                                                                                                                  of Culann?


                                                                                                                        Did Emer soothe the wounds that                                                                                                                                      ended you

                                                                                                                        And bind them deeply with a purple                                                                                                                                              cloak?


                                                                                                                        Did honeybees ignore you in that                                                                                                                                          dark

                                                                                                                        Where wild swans flew and fire                                                                                                                                           sweetly burned?


                                                                                                                        Did all the gyres end, did darkness                                                                                                                                      sing?

                                                                                                                        Did you become a consecrated bone?


                                                                                                                        Nothing is true, dear love, nothing is                                                                                                                                              true.

                                                                                                                         Poet of Ireland

                                                                                                                        Poet of the Other


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