This poem is dedicated to all members and artists of The Rock of Ages Consortium, for your love and support of fellow artists everywhere who we honor on this site by exhibiting their incredible works of “colour” online.
“I am a Rock! and yield to none!”
The swelling words of a tiny smooth stone,
“Neither time nor season can alter me;
I am abiding, while the ages flee.
The pelting hail and the drizzling rain
Have tried to soften me, long, in vain;
And the tender dew has sought to melt,
Or touch my heart; but it was not felt.
There’s none that can tell about my birth,
For I’m as old as the spinning earth.
Generations of man arise and pass
Out of the world, like the blades of grass;
And many a foot on me has trod,
That’s gone from sight, and under the sod!
I am a Rock! but who art thou,
Painting beneath the restless bough?”
The painter was shocked at this rude salute,
And lay for a moment abashed and mute;
She never before had been so near to here
A rock that spoke, this mundane sphere;
And she felt for a time at a loss to know
How to answer a thing so coarse and low.
But to give reproof of a nobler sort
Than the angry look, or the keen retort,
At length she said, in a gentle tone,
“Since it has happened that you were thrown
Into this river that’s become your home
From beneath this tree, as a child I grew,
Now listening to a stone, so hard and new.”
And so it shall be, this Rock that speaks to me,
I will cover it with paint, and then we’ll see,
And quickly adorn with the stroke of my brush
It’s time, it’s season, it’s storm, it’s touch,
Not the gentle dew, nor the grinding heel
Shall ever subdue, or make it feel
Abandoned, unloved, unwanted, alone
For I’ll paint this rock and take it home.
But soon, from this Rock, she sunk away
From the comfortless spot where the pebbles lay.
But it was not long before the soil broke
The artist sat once more ‘neath mighty oak!
And, as she painted and painted; the colors spread,
The Rock looked up, and wondering said,
“Modest artist! Please, I shall never to tell
If you covered me in paint, this granite shell;
See the pride of the river has swallowed me.
Won’t you pick me up? Won’t you set me free?
Am I to meekly sink in the darksome earth,
Never to attain my potential, my worth!
And oh! how many more will tread on me,
While you sit and paint beneath this beautiful tree?
Your artistic vision towering towards the sky,
Can transform such a Rock as worthless as I!
Useless you release me, for centuries here,
I’ll be sitting in this riverbed from year to year.
But never, from this, shall a complaining word
From the painted Rock again be heard,
For the artist transformed it, without and within,
Gave it new purpose, and love again.
The Rock its vow she could never forget,
It lies brilliantly painted in painted silence yet.
The ground beneath my feet rumbles.
Softly at first, and then with each step
increasing in its timbre.
The air is damp and mossy with a gray light
filtering through the canopy of spruce and pine.
Wet thunder rises; my ears are muted
by the intensity of a river plummeting
over slick rock lips;
a roiling, massive death spiral.
Half the volume swan dives elegantly
hundreds of feet into a pounding foaming white pool,
while my pounding heart matches the outpouring,
beat for beat.
The other hangs mistily in the frigid air,
gently nourishing the brown-green algae with its spit.
I cannot help but marvel at the sheer anger of it all,
wondering how many open-mouthed bass
thrust forth into open space, gargoyle-eyed as
the river disappears beneath them,
recognize this as the end of their swim?
Death, anger, power…and yet
so serenely beautiful
Rage on, Snoqualmie,
before the winter’s freeze deprives you
of your liquid dance!
One of my closest friends confessed to me today that she was strongly contemplating giving up her blog because one of her readers keeps disparaging every written entry as “amateurish” and “meaningless.” I told her she should be thankful that she had at least one devoted fan who felt so compelled by her writing that he simply had to take the time to respond to everything she writes. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty.
Sometimes you just have to shout into the void to know you still have a voice, and that the echo that ricochets back is someone else’s acknowledgment that you’re not alone.
Consider for a moment that we are all jugglers. It is, afterall, what life demands of us; constant juggling – of time, relationships, our attention, responsibilities. We feel ourselves continually caught up in the demanding task of keeping many things up in the air simultaneously, smoothly rotating, round and round.
Suppose then, in our quest to be the best juggler possible, we see that we are juggling three balls: one rubber, one wooden, and one crystal.
In the course of our juggling, we slip and drop one ball. Let’s say it’s the rubber ball. What happens to it? No real damage done, right? It bounces. It comes back to you. This rubber ball might represent your education, your job, your contributions to the community in which you live. It is the decisions you make everyday that defines not the depth, but the breadth of living. In the course of your life you may drop this ball several times…you may change jobs, you advance, you are laid off, you make new friends, old ones slip away, you go back to school…it is constantly moving in new directions.
Do not overly concern yourself when this rubber ball slips and falls to the ground; it will retain its resiliency, bounce back, and everything will be fine.
Suppose now you lose your focus for a second, perhaps a day or two. You drop the wooden ball. What becomes of it? Well, it’s a bit noisier, true, but in all likelihood it will become scratched, perhaps chipped. In time, after a few falls, it may even take on a new shine, a new patina.
This wooden ball represents your health and your spirituality. It changes…constantly. It evolves. It will not look the same today as it will tomorrow. That is its nature. Be mindful of keeping this one aloft, but do not distress if from time to time it slips your grasp. It, too, is resilient and in the long run, it endures.
But what then of the third ball? The crystal ball? What happens if you take your eye from it for a moment and it hits the floor? What becomes of it?
It shatters! It will not return to you for it is utterly destroyed.
This crystal ball represents your close, intimate relationships. Your husband, your wife. Your Mother and Father and sisters and brothers. It represents your children and their children, et. cetera, et. cetera. It represents family and all close and cherished relationships. It represents the giving and the receiving of love.
If you drop this ball, no amount of effort will repair it. It is lost forever. For this reason alone, you must be acutely and forever focused on keeping this ball in the air at all costs.
As you juggle life, keep this lesson in mind, and keep your priorities likewise aligned. Allow for mistakes in life (the rubber and the wooden balls), but never accept your life as the mistake (the crystal ball!)
How temperamental is the man in me
who misses you but will not call –
because I find the thought of romance
more alluring than actual love?
I drink to burn the voices in my belly
that mock my tenuous hold on sanity.
I buy my smokes one at a time because
I have no vision of or faith in tomorrow,
and I make my living scratching
the underbelly of this wretched world.
This desolate city, crumbling beneath the
broken wings of blackbirds…it is my home.
It is where I live. It is where I shall die.
My pen scrapes past its veneer of civility shedding light upon the ugly, the lost,
the torn asunder.
I take my walks at night under clouds
all dressed in muted black.
I am callous with the hipsters and the tweakers camped by the muddy rivers;
the hookers and the pimps and the holy man and the goddamned garish fluidity of this headache world.
I live in a city of fifty thousand accumulated flesh tombs pretending about the news
and the weather, their minds drifting always back to the same goddamned thing.
How pathetic to be so far away
in space but not in time?
How desperate is the faith convinced by two arguments; both to be and not to be?
When I stumble, I lean against the wall or the lamppost, reading a page of Plath or a passage of Hemingway, and all I can think is how courageous their exits were.
I yearn for their knowledge of the final crossing. I read words, not novels, because words are better spit than woven.
I accept my fate, gazing at my expiration date
and pouring another drink as I turn off the radio and sit silently in the dark chambers of my thoughts.
I remember you,
but implore you to remember me not.
Past the tick-tick-tocking of the midnight hour,
Wrapped in sweat-stained cotton sheets,
Robbed of sleep and feeling sour
Like a muffled drum sounding nothing beats –
In the dying petals of the poet’s flower.
This syrup sleep removes the pain,
While dreams remain beyond my reach.
A whiskey slumber subdues the brain
While my toss-n-turn reveals a breach,
As time grinds on just the same.
I rise to write the poet’s dribble
And gorge upon liters of stale red wine.
Behold, my words, a bastard’s scribble!
Writ upon the passage of borrowed time.
Each tick, each tock, from my life is nibbled
I cannot rest while my muse is clanging
Inside my head a poor man’s verse,
Nor can I stop the incessant banging
As my thirst for libations meets an empty purse!
These words are ripe for a morning hanging.
Upon the tick-tick-tocking of the morning hour,
Sweet sleep descends upon my brow.
Within my bed I hide and cower;
An ink-less pen is a horseless plough –
In the dying petals of the poet’s flower.
Emotionally exhausted and viscerally spent, I have just completed my readings of those I have affectionately nicknamed the “Suicide Sisters” – Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath.
I had hoped to glean some understanding of how incredible writing is influenced by depression, personal anguish and mental illness. Had I known how jagged this footpath was, I might have thought twice before beginning such a journey.
I literally fell in love with all three of these Spirits. I cried without shame. I physically felt pain at times. At times, especially with Virgina Woolf, I would swear I heard their whispers in my inner ear.
This has been the most difficult, hopeless literary undertaking of my life. Hope had a way of getting misplaced, if not lost outright, when reading these women.
At times, I had to remind myself to breath. In truth, at times I didn’t want to.
the world spins on a tilted shaky spindle
and we hold on tightly with our hopes and dreams
(there is no space for anything but dreaming!)
we defy gravity with our capacity to love and cherish
we are gods treading boldly on a blue-green marble
beneath a sea of stars tossed upon a blue-black canvas
the universe painted in brilliant colors in random rotation
stoking the fires of our imagination with worlds beyond our reach
the non-dreamers toil in despair, and soon to dust return
while we float through infinity and blow kisses to the sun
dream, dream, dream…close your eyes and open your mind
(there is no space for anything but dreaming!)
Happy Birthday to one of my greatest inspirations: T.S. Eliot (he is the reason I write as D.L. McHale)
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is perhaps one of the most introspective and transforming pieces of modern poetry ever written. It resonates, for me, on a substratum of my inner being, to which I rarely penetrate; for my life has been mostly a constant evasion of myself. My losses stack up accordingly.
In honor of his birthday, and his priceless contributions to both modern literature and to my own creative metal, “let us go then, you and I” to:
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse A persona che mai tornasse al monda, Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero, Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo. The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening, Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains, Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys, Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, And seeing that it was a soft October night, Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time For the yellow smoke that slides along the street, Rubbing its back upon the windowpanes; There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair–
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin– (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have know them all already, known them all–Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all– The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all– Arms that are braceleted and white and bare (But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!) Is it perfume from a dress That makes me so digress? Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume? And how should I begin? . . . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets.And watched the smoke that rises from the pipesof lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .
I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. . . . . . .
And the afternoons, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! Smoothed by long fingers, Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers, Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed, Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet–and here’s no great matter; I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And, in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all, After the cups, the marmalade, the tea, Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while, To have bitten off the matter with a smile, To have squeezed the universe into a ball To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead, Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”–
If one, setting a pillow by her head, Should say: “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all, Would it have been worth while, After the sunsets and the dooryards and sprinkled streets, After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor–
And this, and so much more?–
It is impossible to say just what I mean! But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while If one, setting a pillow or throwing off a shawl, And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all, That is not what I meant at all.”. . . . . .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous– Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old . . . I grow old . . .I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. Shall I part my hair behind?
Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves Combing the white hair of the waves blown back. When the wind blows the water white and black. We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown. Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
MY HUMBLE ANALYSIS:
Meet Prufrock. (Hi, Prufrock!). He wants you to come take a walk with him through the winding, dirty streets of a big, foggy city that looks a lot like London. He’s going to show you all the best sights, including the “one-night cheap hotels” and “sawdust restaurants.” What a gentleman, he is! Also, he has a huge, life-altering question to ask you. He’ll get to that later, though.
Cut to a bunch of women entering and leaving a room. The women are talking about the famous Renaissance painter Michelangelo. I don’t know why they’re talking about Michelangelo, and I never learn. Welcome to Prufrock’s world, where no one does anything interesting.
Did we mention that it’s foggy. Like really, really foggy. The fog has a delightful yellow color, and it acts a lot like a cat.
Yawn. What a day. i’ve accomplished so much already with Prufrock. There’s still a lot of stuff he still wants to get done before “toast and tea.” People to see, decisions to make, life-altering questions to ask. But not yet…There’s still plenty of time for all that later.
Where did the women go? Oh, yes, they’re still talking about Michelangelo.
Yup. Pleeeen-ty of time for Prufrock to do all that really important stuff. Except that he doesn’t know if he should. He’s kind of nervous. You see, he was about to tell someone something really important, but then he didn’t. Too nervous. Oops! At least he’s a sharp-looking guy. Well, his clothes are sharp-looking. The rest of him is kind of not-so-sharp-looking. People say he’s bald and has thin arms.
But he still has pleeen-ty of time. And he’s accomplished so much already! For example, he has drank a lot of coffee, and he’s lived through a lot of mornings and afternoons. Those are pretty big accomplishments, right? Plus, he’s known a lot of women. Or at least he’s looked at their hairy arms, and that’s almost as good.
Prufrock says something about how he wishes he were a crab. Oh, Prufrock! Always the joker. Wait, you were serious? That’s kind of sad, my friend. Don’t you have important things to do?
Oops! It looks like he didn’t do that really important thing he meant to do. He was going to tell someone something life-altering, but he was afraid of being rejected. So he didn’t. Oh well.
Meanwhile, Prufrock keeps getting older. He doesn’t worry about that really important thing anymore. Instead, he worries about other important things, such as whether to roll his pant-legs or eat a peach.
Ah yes…the peach! This is no ordinary question about fruit. This is perhaps the raciest line ever written…given the time in which it was written. Again, ” Do I dare to eat the peach?” Im not going to spell this out for you. I think you now know to what the “peach” refers.
It turns out that Prufrock really likes the ocean. He says he has heard mermaids singing – but they won’t sing to him. Boy, you sure do talk a lot about yourself, Prufrock.
Finally, he brings us back into the conversation. He talks about how we lived at the bottom of the sea with him (geez, we don’t remember that one!). It turns out we were asleep in the ocean, but all of a sudden, we get woken up by “human voices.” Unfortunately, as soon as we wake up, we drown in the salty ocean. Boy, what a day. We thought we were talking a walk, and now we’re dead.
And we die…we drown. And in that moment we understand, finally, the message of his love song….
Does any of it really matter…life, love, indulgences, hope, fear? For we age, and in aging become, not someone, but something to laugh and point at. And then we die.
To All My Friends and Followers of “THE WINTER BITES MY BONES”
Artists from all over the world are invited to participate in this International Mail Art Project organised by the Faenza’s Watercolourists Association.
Everyone is welcome to participate, all ages and skill levels. An exhibition of the received works will have place in Faenza, Italy, during the first days of November 2015 for the yearly St. Rocco fair of the city .
All the works will be exhibited online in a special album posted in the event too and later there will be also pictures taken at the exhibition.
Theme: “Life in the XIX century” (years 1800/1899)
Size: Postcard (10 x 15 cm)
Technique: Free (watercolour, painting, drawing, collage and so on)
Rules: No jury, no fees, no return of the works, only original works, no copies. It is up to the artist to send in envelope or not, only 1 piece for each artist.
Deadline: Works must arrive by the 15th of October 2015.
Please clearly indicate name, address and email address on the back of the card.
Send your card to:
Associazione Acquerellisti Faentini
c/o Silvano Drei
Via Portisano 46
48018 Faenza (RA)