my poems

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When Poems Start Speaking Another Language

The greatest mystery in life is death. Yet another coup for irony, no? And also for literature, which has been preoccupied with this central mystery ever since Adam & Eve brought the (tree) house down by biting an apple, thus opening the door for that narrow fellow not-in-the-grass.

As for me, I’m not above getting on the mystery train myself. Or of using light humor to treat such heavy topics. The poem “Death of a Conversation” (included in this post), found in the first section of my new book Reincarnation & Other Stimulants, attracted the attention of translator Ralph Polumbo. Taken by the comic exchange between two neighbors – one a man trying to get to his car for a grocery trip, the other an ex-Jesuit hazarding answers to the great beyond – Polumbo decided to translate the poem (also include in this post) for a Spanish audience .

The lapsed Jesuit, Peter, has a thing for irony, too. His theory on the other side points to the contrast between the light people with near-death experiences claim to see and the dark that has been debated by others in both ways metaphorical and literal. Whether Peter has lost his way is left for the reader to decide. As for the poem’s speaker, he is simply in a situation familiar to  all of us, trying to disengage himself from small talk so he can return to the task at hand.

Here is the poem, which originally appeared in The Westchester Review, followed by Polumbo’s translation:

 

 

Death of a Conversation

by Ken Craft

 

Peter catches me between front door and car,

pretends to weed around marigolds. “Oh hey.”

That casual greeting his specialty. Daily conversations

mostly desultory before he breaks into his pet topic:

 

suicide. I know, a bad sign, but idle talk of killing himself

is Pete’s sole joy in life. At least he’s not overly repetitive.

He’s too much the lapsed Jesuit for that.

“That blinding light they talk about at the end,” he says.

“All bullshit. Black as coal dropped down a well at midnight,

if you want the truth. You recall anything –

a blessed thing — before you were born?

 

I want to say yes, I do, in fact. Make up stuff

about bullets bubbling the surf off Normandy,

the stench of canvas and sleeping soldiers in tents

under Shiloh’s heat, the wet patch of earth stuck to

Squanto’s umber knees as he finally stands

in his Pilgrim field of corn seed and fish corpse.

 

“It’s what makes death so easy,” he says. “It’s why

every fool manages it so professionally. It’s not

like we meet some snowy-bearded Maker

after unmaking ourselves — an angry God

directing us to Hell for jay-walking violations.

 

Mercifully, he never talks ways or means. Never razors

or hoses from exhaust pipes to windows of opportunity.

And certainly never the taste of metal, the last bullet

train to nighttime Tokyo.

 

“In fact it’ll be peaceful like the Garden of Eden

before the damn fruit and the sweet-talking serpent. Trust me.”

I want to trust him. I do. But I have to buy a quart of 2% milk.

A dozen pastured, cage-free eggs. Unbleached flour.

 

“Deer been at your hydrangeas again,” I note, pointing.

He glances at his patch of Eden, and I take the opportunity

to tell him I have to go. We all do, eventually.

 

 

Muerte de una Conversación

by Ken Craft, Ralph Polumbo (Translator)

 

Pedro me detiene entre la puerta de entrada y el automóvil,

simula estar quitando las malezas de alrededor de las caléndulas. -¡Oye!

Ese saludo informal es su especialidad. Las conversaciones diarias,

generalmente inconsistentes, antes de irrumpir en su tema favorito:

 

suicidio. Lo sé, un mal señal, pero cháchara de suicidarse

es la única alegría en su vida. Al menos él no es demasiado repetitivo.  

Él es demasiado reflexivo el ex Jesuita para eso.

-Esa luz cegadora de la que hablan al final –dice.

Son todas mentiras. Negro como el carbón cayó en un pozo a la medianoche,

si quieres saber la verdad. ¿Tú evocas algo –

alguna bendición- antes de nacer?

 

Quiero decir que sí, de hecho, lo recuerdo. Inventar algo acerca

de las balas burbujeando las olas en la costa de Normandía,

el hedor de lonas y los soldados dormidos en tiendas de campaña

bajo el calor de Shiloh, el húmedo parche de tierra pegado

a las rodillas marrones de Squanto, mientras él finalmente se para

en su campo Peregrino de semillas de maíz y cadáver de pez.

 

-Es lo que hace que la muerte sea tan fácil, -él dice. -Es por eso que cada

tonto lo maneja tan profesionalmente. No es que

nos encontremos con un Creador de barba

nevada después de deshacernos –un Dios enfadado

que nos dirige al infierno por cruzar la calle imprudentemente.

 

Afortunadamente, él nunca habla de formas o medios. Nunca de navajas 

o mangueras de tubos de escape a las ventanas de oportunidades.

Y ciertamente nunca del sabor del metal,

del último tren a Tokio nocturno.

 

-De hecho será tranquilo como el Jardín del Edén

antes de la fruta maldita  y de la serpiente que habla dulcemente. Confía en mí.

Yo quiero confiar en él. Yo sí. Pero debo comprar un cuarto de galón de leche al dos por ciento.

Una docena de huevos de pastura, libres de jaulas. Harina sin blanquear.

 

-El venado estuvo en tus hortensias nuevamente, – lo noto, señalando.

Él echa un vistazo a su porción de Edén, y aprovecho la oportunidad

para decirle que debo irme. Todos lo hacemos, eventualmente.

 

 

Translating is no easy business. Tough enough in prose, it is considered even more challenging in poetry, where questions of literal vs. figurative language arise, not to mention the minefields presented by idioms, slang, and sound devices.

Still, when you wake to find one of your poems speaking another language overnight, it’s a bit of a shock. Just like that, poems smarter than their author. Bilingual, even!

As for me, I’m OK with it. Flattered, even. After all, I’m still trying to conjugate the verbs to lie and to lay.

 

 

 

Memorable Lines: They Want To Be a Poem

Sometimes the genesis of a poem is an innocent but memorable remark someone once said to the poet. Many of my poems come into the world this way. 

For instance, “The Morning After,” which appears in my new book Reincarnation & Other Stimulants, sprung from something my mother once said the morning after a party at our house. She woke up, came out into the kitchen where my brother and I were eating cereal, saw all the liquor bottles still on the counter, and asked us to put them away.

But it’s the words she chose that struck my young mind and lingered to the present day. The words had to out somehow. They chose poetry as a way to do so.

Here’s the poem I wrote to recollect that moment. It originally appeared in South Florida Poetry Journal.

 

The Morning After

by Ken Craft

 

The kitchen ceiling is a soft cirrus of cigarette smoke,

and the white globe light Mom loves glows like a full

gaseous moon. Below, a table of highball glasses, cards,

coin kitties, napkin-bedded baskets, chips and Chex mix,

 

ashtrays of butts bent 90 degrees, some ringed with lipstick, 

some slipped off the edge. Sounds tinny and thin through 

the tube of time: radio jazz, Kennedy halves, quarters 

sliding like silver pucks across polished wood. In memory,

 

hours and minutes sprint by, stopping only for Sundays. Talk

and laughter grow louder as we grow little-kid groggier, falling

asleep in our beds up the hall, dreaming of family, friends, and

neighbors who never grow old and never feel pain and never die 

 

of lung cancer or cirrhosis of the liver or, God save us, natural 

causes. In memory, we eat Trix or Cocoa Puffs or Frosted Flakes 

as Mom comes out of her room in a housecoat Sunday morning. 

She’s squinting against a sunrise of empties and glasses half-filled 

 

with dead ice, the accordioned remains in ashtrays, the wounded 

bottles of liquor, brown and green and clear. She’s turning back

for the refuge of her room, saying: “Boys, could you put the bottles 

away for me, please? I can’t stand looking at them in the morning.”

 

What Color Is Your Book Cover?

A poetry friend asked an interesting question last week. She said, “What color is your new book’s cover? Is it blue like the first two?” (Leave it to a poet to rhyme.)

What’s intriguing is that colors of book covers never occurred to me. Or did it, only subconsciously? The first two are indeed blue, but the new collection, Reincarnation & Other Stimulants, is green. Color never entered the decision equation when choosing the first books’ cover, but it did in this most recent. The fir tree branches are evergreen. The connection for me was in the title: reincarnation. So I chose the simple metaphor of trees that are green when all else is dead in winter: evergreen branches.

Of course, I know there’s a science built around colors. For example, I read that chronic pain sufferers, when shown the color red, will feel more pain than when shown the color blue, even though the pain is the same. But I guess the pain isn’t really the same, is it, because impressions count as much as logical facts. Science be damned — you feel what you feel.

So now I’m left with this — two blue books, one green book. Since it’s come up (thank you, friend!), I’m saying to myself now: Earth colors! Blue, green. This from a man who loves nature and writes not a few nature poems (including in this book).

Now I wonder what marketers would say about all this. I admit to “judging books by their covers,” but I didn’t realize color might be part of the judgement — subliminally if in no other way — when I reach for a book to purchase it (or eyeball it online before clicking “CART”)!

The question remains, then, for authors and readers alike: Do we favor certain colored book covers over others? Maybe it’s time for a little excavation of your bookshelf. You might find you’re part of Team Red or Team Yellow or Team Blue. For the moment, I’m squarely in the Team Green camp, holding in my hands a beautiful new cover designed by my evergreen daughter.

Reveal Party: It’s a Book!


This reveal party will include no explosives, no unexpected brush fires, and no confetti, pink or blue. No, just this: It’s a book!

A third book, actually. A collection of poems that I hope will look up to its older books, now aged 5 and 3. A collection that I hope will find some readers like they did, too. Readers who might not only enjoy some of the poetry, but relate to it as well.

So without the noise and the fire extinguishers, let’s celebrate the July 13th birthday of Reincarnation & Other Stimulants by passing the cake. Have seconds, if you want. Life is sweet and frosting was invented to be enjoyed!

So On and So Fourth of July

fireworks

Here we go again. My third least favorite holiday (after Valentine’s Day and Halloween, I mean). The one no one calls July 4th and everyone calls “The Fourth of July.”

Still, this year brings an unusual Fourth. First there’s the elephant in the world, Covid-19 variants, rubbing its hands in glee at the thought of unvaccinated targets. You know, the “I have my rights (to spread disease that might kill people)!” crowd who learned at the orange knee of Typhoid Donny.

Second, there’s the dream slash nightmare (depending on the cable news you watch) that America might actually be thinking of circling back. You know, to the mess the Founding Fathers left for future generations (Civil War being the result). The one still festering because of words like these: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (except women, Blacks, American Indians, and assorted other minorities) are created equal.”

What if, some people are finally asking? What if we went back to all the beautiful language and ideals in our roots and made it real for everyone, not just the few and the privileged? And what if, other people are asking, we sent all these damn socialists back to where they came from so we can keep our myths how we like them?

So there’s that.

But this poem, a few years old now and originally printed in Issue 14 of Unbroken Journal as well as in my second book, Lost Sherpa of Happiness, is more of a lark. A rant, in fact, against all the  (insert invective here) fireworks. And drinking. And general mayhem particular to colors red, white, and blue. Writing it landed me squarely in Curmudgeons Amalgamated Local 406.

Hey. American or not, curmudgeonly or not, red, white, or blue, too, or not — Happy Fourth to you!

 

IT’S THE FOURTH OF JULY

by Ken Craft

and he’s listening to Oh Say Can You See in a sea of runners and an awakening 8 a.m. heat. The blue smell of Ben-Gay on the mentholated old guys & Axe on the sun-venerating young guys & armpit on the just-rolled-out-of-bed lazy guys & no one’s run a New Balance step yet. The ellipsis after the song’s last line is always a chant of USA! USA! USA! from the fun-run campers who must not read (at least footnotes) because they never feel the wet hand of irony in that disunited “U” running down their body-painted backs.

Jesus, but he bolts when the pistol goes, heat or no. On the course, though, he is passed by sausage-heavy middle-aged men & oxy-huffing retired men & stick-legged kids & women of all stars & stripes. Begrudge not, says the Bible, so he celebrates their speed or their youth, their fat or their fair sex—whatever hare-bodied thing there is to celebrate.

That night, after the picnic-table splinters & charred cheeseburgers, after the fries & bottles of we’re-out-of-ketchup, the fireworks mushroom into night clouds & umbrellas rain down hiss & heat sparkle, made-in-China reds, whites & blues. He cranes his neck, the skies soured with smoke & sulfur, holding tight the hand of his sweetheart.

Then it’s blessed be bed, after the grande finds its finale, only he is wakened by more (USA!) fireworks up the street (USA!) at 11:30 p.m. Still the holiday, after all, ignited by the undoubtedly drunk, after all, because booze is God-Bless-America’s drug of choice, after all. The outdoors explodes until midnight & he’s had about all he can stand lying down & cursed be Thomas Jefferson anyway, with his noble agrarian society & its whiskey rebellions & its pursuits of happiness & its God-given rights & its who-the-hell-are-you-to-tell-me, question comma rhetorical.

You know how this ends: It’s insomnia again. In the shallow, post-patriotic hours of the Fifth of July. Come cock-crow morning, on his walk, Fido sniffs the empty nips & plastic fifths along the sandy shoulder of sleepy roads. There’s even a patriotic Bud box, hollowed-be-its-name, white stars emblazoned on the blue of its crumpled carcass.

God bless America, he tells it.

My Poem in the Sunday Paper (Or: “Extra, Extra, Read All About It!”)

Although poetry is a familiar sight in small literary and university-based journals, it is increasingly rare to find it in larger, more mainstream magazines and newspapers. Meaning? When you do see poems in such widely-distributed periodicals, you cheer its editors and their priorities, which include getting more eyes on more poetry!

Perhaps the most famous example comes each Sunday in the New York Times Magazine, which features a regular column dedicated to poetry. 

Another, just up the coast a few miles, comes from the Portland (Maine) Press Herald’s Sunday paper, the Maine Sunday Telegram, where the poet Megan Grumbling edits and introduces the “Deep Water” poetry column each week. In the June 13, 2021, paper, she writes a gracious introduction to my poem, “Core Body Temperature,” which will appear in my third poetry collection, Reincarnation & Other Stimulants, due out in a matter of weeks.

Like many of my poems, the idea stems from a few simple words — in this case, a man who once knelt in a Maine lake, water neck-high, on a scorching hot day and told us he wasn’t coming out until he “lowered his core body temperature.” I’d never heard of such a thing, but both the words and the example surely impressed me, leading to this poem.

 

Go Deep! Go Wild!

Deep Wild

If you’re a FB person, I invite you to visit Deep Wild Journal’s Facebook Page, where they featured my poem “Thoreau Knows” yesterday to commemorate Henry David’s 203rd birthday.

The poem will appear in the print journal, Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry, the 2020 issue, which is scheduled to be released any day now. As I say of any journal that publishes my work, buy! I put my faith where faith is put!

So go ahead, FB types. Do some good for the little guy (Deep Wild Journal). Read their FB page. Endorse it. Then read it and, if you’re a writer and a lover of nature, submit to it for its next issue.

How Do You Like THEM Apples?

m80

There’s nothing quite like the quiet after a storm. Thus my love for the Fifth of July, waking early, hearing only birds and wind through tree and leaf. It makes me feel so, I don’t know. Independent of noise.

Thank you, God.

Yesterday was a passing strange day for this blog. Holidays are slow days for online traffic. Notoriously. I only put my poem “It’s the Fourth of July” up because, well, it was the Fourth of July.

But a lot of people must have been home and on the web because a lot of people visited “Updates on a Free-Verse Life.” Most the site’s seen in over a month, in fact. And from all quarters of the Internet.

No one bought a book, which, ironically, was the prime reason for starting the blog so many years ago, but hey, poetry books usually sell only when they come out. Period. Two years later? It would be like Lourdes, where you’d have to separate the mirac- from the –ulous to find readers willing to take a chance on you.

Plus there are all sorts of myths (truths?) about sales and poetry books. One is that only other writers of poetry books buy poetry books, but even that has limits. As a poet, you can only extend your fiduciary kindness so far.

Two is that established poets outsell still-establishing poets (“Here, Peter Quince!”) by a country mile (“country” being Russia, east to west).

Three is that poetry books cost too much. Yes, there’s that. Though you can also argue that poetry by its nature is richer reading than prose because it holds up to rereading and, like music, offers greater pleasures through the act repetition (think “refrain” instead of “refraining from reading”).

In any event, there’s no getting around the fact that parents advise their children to grow up and become lawyers and doctors, not poets. “My son is a doctor,” women will say to their golf party at the club, never, “My son is a poet. How do you like them apples.”

Oh, would it were so. Just to see the expressions on the faces of ladies wearing lime-green skirts and visors before they tee off on the absurdity of it all.

Happy Fifth, folks. Enjoy your barbecued leftovers or, if you’re not American, enjoy the all our ironies from afar. (Assuming you’re bored with enjoying your own!)

A Day in the Life (Non-Beatles Version)

clock

5:30 a.m. Rise and, first and foremost, get water boiling for a carafe of freshly-ground coffee. The first cup is the best. Always. But that never stopped a man from nursing numbers two and three.

6:00 a.m. Before checking the old inbox, repeat three times: “I need some good news today.” Click. See Merriam-Webster’s word of the day only. Well, at least it’s not bad news.

6:30 a.m. Begin writing. The focus has moved in the direction of a YA novel, but some mornings I’m still in the mood to tinker with poems from MS #3, even though it’s out a-courting some nine lucky publishers. I Know, You Know, and Don’t Know (the names of Mark Twain’s dogs, and you can look it up) that, when the manuscript is accepted, these revisions will be allowed through the pre-publication gates, so it is a worthwhile habit.

7:30 a.m. Timeout for breakfast. For me, it’s been the same drill lately. The night before, I take out an 8-ounce Bell jar, put a few raisins and a dash of cinnamon on the bottom, fill halfway with organic Old-Fashioned Oatmeal, then another round of raisins and cinnamon, followed by the second half of oatmeal, topped off with a third and final touch of raisins and cinnamon. Then I slowly pour in unsweetened almond milk (you could use the milk of your choice) until all the oats are just covered. Put on the top, set in the fridge, and know that, by morning, it will be cool bliss. I follow up this cold oatmeal breakfast with a sliced orange.

8:00 a.m. More coffee, more writing. Some days it’s more deleting than writing. Some days I get to show off my addition skills. But more often I find myself tearing down yesterday’s progress, like a little bully boy at the beach who kicks other kids’ sandcastles down. The bully in me = eyes 24 hours wiser.

10:00 a.m. Take a reading break. Whatever the book of the moment may be (and right now, it’s Robert Bly’s News of the Universe), usually, or sometimes I go to the two “ongoing” reads when I’m in the mood for them: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (and would we had a leader who read it and followed it — or was even capable of reading it and following it!) or the Complete Essays of Montaigne. By now, Marcus and Montaigne are my best buds, a sad commentary on males and their lack of close friends, at least compared to women. Still, in the time of Covid, this lone wolf stuff works to guys’ advantage, no?

11:00 a.m. If it’s not raining, I make a short drive to the beach, where I get out and walk four miles. At the beach, everything is normal and as it ever was: the surf, the sand, the seagulls and all the other S’s. They have no clue what “coronavirus” means. Nor do they care to. I can learn from cheek like that. I get a lot of “writing” done while I walk, too, thinking about that morning’s writing and where it went wrong or could go “righter.” As I logged many years at the ocean’s side as a boy growing up, looking out at the shards of sunlight on the seas’ surface brings me back, too. From your eyes, without being able to see your body, you forget that you’ve aged because, damn, it all looks the same, just like the days when you were young and limber.

11:30 a.m. How is it I never gave white sharks a second thought all those years I swam in the ocean? Now-a-summer, it seems that’s all I think of while in the briny, being vigilant, being ready to do battle with the weapons at hand (read: none). Of course, there’s no telling if I’ll even be able to swim at the beach this summer. It depends on the C-word (for once, not “cancer”) that the surf, sand, and seagulls have never heard of because they never listen, anyway.

12:30 p.m. Home for lunch. These days, not much, because you cannot eat as much after 50, for one, and because lunch is the least interesting of meals, anyway. For me, it’s typically a protein powder shake (vegetable source) with frozen organic strawberries and blueberries and a sliced apple thrown in. And please, don’t get on my case about the “organic” thing by calling me a “foodie” or a “yuppie” or whatever label people like to throw about in our label-addicted world. “Organic” predates the conventional, herbicide- and pesticide-laden fruits and veggies we eat now. “Organic” simply means REAL and CONVENTIONAL because it’s what your granny (or certainly great-granny) ate before all the chemical giants came to the fore in the era of WW II (in that sense, we are all Germany and Japan). So “organic” means “real food,” straight and simple, the way it was from time immemorial. Got a problem with that?

2:00 p.m. Practice on-line French. I took cinq ans of French back in the day but recall precious little (or, as they say in Paris, “petite presciouse“). They say that this, along with learning a musical instrument, is your best hedge against Alzheimer’s. I try to do at least 30 minutes of practice de français une jour.

2:30 p.m. I think to myself: “Remember when people worried about Alzheimer’s? Remember when “going viral” was a good thing?” Then I stop thinking for a bit, at least in that direction. Safer that way.

3:00 p.m. Time for a 30-minute nap, though it’s not a sacred animal for me or an assured thing or even an everyday thing, necessarily. It all depends on how the old insomnia thing was acting the night before.

3:30 p.m. Afternoon coffee, about as late as I dare. This is a small leftover cup from the morning, so nowhere near as good, but still good, and still better than snacking on processed food (again, thank you WW II era). I do this while going through another hour or two of reading the book of the moment.

5:30 p.m. Supper. I’d make a lousy European or cosmopolitan sort, as those folks like to eat at 9 at night or so. Still, there is good new for early suppers like me. The later in the evening you eat, the more likely it is that calories become fat while you sleep. Unless, of course, you’re blessed with one of those metabolisms. You know, the ones where adults can eat like 14-year-old boys and still look like healthy sticks.

6:30 p.m. On bad days, the nightly news, although this almost assuredly brings on a bout of indigestion. On good days, straight to some bubble-brained comedy. Of late, it’s been the six seasons of Schitt’s Creek and the six seasons of Community. Now it’s Netflix movies. This is all Covid-caused. Previous to this homebody-by-force stuff, I mostly loathed the movies and television shows. You know. Like Holden Caulfield did. After the word “phonies,” he probably said, “I hate the movies” more than anything else.

8:30 p.m. Last check for “good news” in the inbox from editors fighting it out for the privilege of publishing my poems (and what a joyful cartoon image THAT is!). Why do these people take so long? Why do I continue to dream that, some day, some editor will happen to read the work I submitted via Submittable on the same day it arrives and JUMP on it before any other editor can? Blame the last thing out of Pandora’s Box. Anyway, after this delusion, I repair to the kitchen to make tomorrow morning’s Overnight Oatmeal (see 7:30 a.m. entry for, ahem, recipe)

9:00 p.m. To bed with the book of the moment. This usually lasts all of 20 minutes before I drop the book on my face, making a literary divot on the bridge of my nose.

2:30 a.m. If I’m lucky to get this far, the first wake up. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get back to sleep within 20 minutes, but if it goes longer than that, it usually drags out for 90 minutes at least, forcing me to witness that most unseemly of hours: 3 to 4 o’clock, the hour that inspired me to write these poems:

 

Insomnia
Ken Craft

Three is the loneliest number on a clock
when the night can’t save you.

No doubt it is the constellated tug,
a conspiracy of stars, the silent, primal

voice that whispers the uselessness,
that grinds greater gears,

that mocks the hubris of careful plans,
set alarms. Every blanketed life around you

sleeps safe and happy and secure
like nothing can touch them, like change

has made its exception, named it you,
and passed finally over the frosted roof.

 

 

3:30
Ken Craft

In the dark
from over the water, a rooster
celebrates my insomnia

 

5:30 a.m. Wake and sing the simple ditty by some obscure minstrels from long ago: “Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.” And a fine déjà vu to you, too, using something as dated as a comb.

May you all have a great “day in the life” of your own, for today and many more.

The Physics of Aging

astro

When you market your poems, you’re often as surprised by the ones editors don’t select as the ones they do.

“Really?” you say, when they select “A” from the bundle of five you submitted instead of, say, “C” or “D,” which you liked better.

Then, when a publisher accepts your collection, the clock starts ticking and time works against you. A point is reached where you can no longer market the remaining poems that did not win a spot in poetry journals and thus, the Acknowledgments page.

Orphans, you can call them. But sometimes poets hold a special place in their hearts for some of these orphans — the guys that were rejected more than once by editors who just didn’t see the poem as a “fit.” (Editors love that word, though it gives writers fits.)

One longish (for me) poem I was always partial to is “The Physics of Aging,” found in my rookie effort, The Indifferent World. I like how it’s divided into three parts that seem different yet share a thread. I like how it gets high on alliteration, especially the first part’s “…mortality stumbles on / starlight, slows like satellite / parabolas raking the soft black / silt of a summer night.”

Of course, as any experienced poet will tell you, coming up with a great phrase like “raking the soft black silk of a summer night” does not a poem make. It’s like doing a great hundred yard dash in a 5-mile race. You’ve still got work to do, kiddo.

Anyway, it was fun. And I still have fond memories of writing it. And I still enjoy rereading it. What else can a poet ask of his own stuff?

 

The Physics of Aging
Ken Craft

I. Einstein Says

In space, aging trips against air
so thin it’s unseen; the march
to mortality stumbles on
starlight, slows like satellite
parabolas raking the soft black
silt of a summer night; in this
empty silence, Einstein says,
age gets silently sucked
into vacuums of immensity,
of immortality. Time
slows. God yields.

II. Story of the Star Sailor

Time jammed on noon Eastern
Standard, the astronaut peered
through his bubble helmet, swiped
a fat, clumsy glove at some
celestial smudge that turned out
to be inside the polycarbonate.
Squinting scientifically, he verified
that Ponce de León,
Conquistador of Death, got
as far as the Pleiades in his age-
old quest. Said star
sailor felt for the reassurance
of his vent pad—carafes of cupped
oxygen from Cape Canaveral—
then sipped of time, borrowed
and decanted. No moments later,
he transmitted coordinates
to Houston: “Spanish flag
floating beside Taurus, over.”
The astronaut waved
his immense hand at the blue planet
below. With youthful indiscretion,
he coined his upcoming
reentry “the second coming.”

III. Dust to Dust

Here I humbly shave
before a thinner space,
the thrift of a mirror.
Its silver truths shift
in hydrogen clouds. Swirling
a bath towel, I observe
the distant whorls of me, white
stubble hidden in nebula
of steam and Barbasol. Within
seconds, unbeknownst
to mankind, the second coming
will shred Einstein’s
sky, bleeding the blue
days upon us.

 

“The Physics of Aging” © Ken Craft, The Indifferent World, FutureCycle Press, 2016