The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I chose this poem because of how gentle and carefree it is. Much like The Cross poem I selected prior to this one, I chose this poem because it deals with the issue of how people deal with the everyday hustle and bustle of life. And it asks then, after presenting a view many people do not share, how do you spend your time?
I have a curious animal, half kitten, half lamb. It is a legacy from my father. But it only developed in my time; formerly it was far more lamb than kitten. Now it is both in about equal parts. From the cat it takes its head and claws, from the lamb its size and shape; from both its eyes, which are wild and flickering, its hair, which is soft, lying close to its body, its movements, which partake both of skipping and slinking. Lying on the window sill in the sun it curls up in a ball and purrs; out in the meadown it rushes about like mad and is scarcely to be caught. It flees from cats and makes to attack lambs. On moonlight nights its favorite promenade is along the eaves. It cannot mew and it loathes rats. Beside the hen coop it can lie for hours in ambush, but it has never yet seized an opportunity for murder.
I feed it on milk; that seems to suit it best. In long draughts it sucks the milk in through its fanglike teeth. Naturally it is a great source of entertainment for children. Sunday morning is the visiting hour. I sit with the little beast on my knees, and the children of the whole neighborhood stand around me.
Then the strangest questions are asked, which no human being could answer: Why there is only one such animal, why I rather than anybody else should own it, whether there was ever an animal like it before and what would happen if it died, whether it feels lonely, why it has no children, what it is called, etc.
I never trouble to answer, but confine myself without further explanation to exhibiting my possession. Sometimes the children bring cats with them; once they actually brought two lambs. But against all their hopes there was no scene of recognition. The animals gazed calmly at each other with their animal eyes, and obviously accepted their reciprocal existence as a divine fact.
Sitting on my knees, the beast know neither fear nor lust of pursuit. Pressed against me it is happiest. It remains faithful to the family that brought it up. In that there is certainly no extraordinary mark of fidelity, but merely the true instinct of an animal which, though it has countless step-relations in the world, has perhaps not a single blood relation, and to which consequently the protection it has found with us is sacred.
Sometimes I cannot help laughing when it sniffs around me and winds itself between my legs and simply will not be parted from me. Not content with being a lamb and a cat, it almost insists on being a dog as well. Once when, as may happen to anyone, I could see no way out of my business problems and all that they involved, and was ready to let everything go, and in this mood was lying in my rocking chair in my room, the beast on my knees, I happened to glance down and saw tears dropping from its huge whiskers. Were they mine, or were they the animal’s? Had this cat, along with the soul of a lamb, the ambitions of a human being? I did not inherit much from my father, but this legacy is quite remarkable.
It has the restlessness of both beasts, that of the cat and that of the lamb, diverse as they are. For that reason its skin feels too tight for it. Sometimes it jumps up on the armchair beside me, plants its front legs on my shoulder, and puts its muzzle to my ear. It is as if it were saying something to me, and as a matter of fact it turns its head afterwards and gazes in my face to see the impression its communication has made. And to oblige it I behave as if I had understood, and nod. Then it jumps to the floor and dances about with joy.
Perhaps the knife of the butcher would be a release for this animal; but as it is a legacy I must deny it that. So it must wait until the breath voluntarily leaves its body, even though it sometimes gazes at me with a look of human understanding, challenging me to do the right thing of which both of us are thinking.
For this poem I have chosen Franz Kafka’s The Crossbreed. I have chosen this poem to follow suit after my post about absurdist poetry for a more existential poem. In this poem the narrator has inherited a cat-lamb from their father. This absurd animal then causes the narrator to impart on the thing their own thoughts and feelings, allowing us to understand the narrator better.
Tomaz Sal amun
I’ll draw a cross
Serpentines on my rocking chair
How pathetically the shirt hangs
Once the body has left it
Yet it’s still a shirt
And here’s what clinches our defeat for us
Both a suitcase and a T-bar
Have you ever seen a chair
Running from the bathroom towards the kitchen
Or vice-versa for it doesn’t matter
What about my eternal life
Have you ever seen a balcony railing
Saying I’ve had enough
I’ve had enough
I’ve had enough
I too am fond of my modest life
I too must have my share
And if you’ve walked down Glagoljaska street
And seen an old boot lying
Between house number four and the well
Left there from that year when
The last nighttime regattas took place and Mario won
Did the boot ask you
Hello excuse me
For bothering you here on the street but
Doesn’t it seem to you
Doesn’t it seem to you
Doesn’t it seem to you
Things are inscrutable in their craftiness
Unattainable to the rage of the living
Invulnerable in their endless flight
You can’t catch up with them
You can’t seize them
Motionless in their staring
With much thanks to a friend for finding me the translated version of the Slovak original, for this post I introduce the absurdist poetry of Tomaz Salamun. I particularly like this author because of what his works do with personification. Here, in this poem, the author deals with his views on how people spend their lives rushing about, worrying all the while either about their lives on earth or about that which lies after. I particularly like his comparison between objects, the personification he gives items contrasting the actions these items can’t take with the ones humans do take.
Poems that look weird
One time I wrote a poem that looked really weird
It looked like a scrabble board would
If I were playing against you and losing by three hundred or something
Because I’d just mix up all the tiles then, and
You’d be angry but you’d laugh and that would be fun
This other time you had The Paris Review anthology
And you were looking for a poem about boats to show me
And I pointed at a poem that looked weird
And I said, I hate it when they do that
And you said, I don’t, I think it’s pretty
Another time I was thinking about you
And I was thinking that you think that weird poems are pretty
And I think that you are pretty
I was thinking that there was something there, in that thought
Some sort of connection that was completely free of bullshit, finally
As I spoke of poetry that flows more like thoughts in my last entry, in this one I present the work of Tao Lin, a poetry writer whose style is just that. Poems that often don’t pause and give no break so as to become one massive chunk of text that is more of a in-the-moment thought process running rampant than a large but single point waiting to get across to the reader. I particularly like Lin’s style because it often contains questions that the reader feels as though the text provides them with an adequate answer for, but that the narrator of the text somehow overlooks.
I was a lot more comfortable being vulnerable and open
When I was younger it wasn’t clear if I was or wasn’t joking
But so much is broken, just like fuck it, the fix is in
If i can’t hide in plain sight anymore I’ll just stay hidden
It’s been a minute since I left this domicile
No need to change my outfit, I rock it like it’s going out of style
It’s not in style? Ain’t no one here to tell me otherwise
It’s more difficult to stay inside during the summertime
But most of the time it’s just like any other time
Avoid personal interaction and human touch, shut the blinds
It’s been a while since I left this bachelor pad
I need to go to the market soon cause the food is going bad
The food is bad, I found it’s difficult to just cook for one
With healthy recipes, well, depending on what book they’re from
If you want to eat healthy you gotta dirty some dishes
The frozen dinners quickly ready to serve and it’s so delicious
It’s not delicious, it’s disgusting, but it satiates the hunger with a quickness
And hey, at least it’s something, at least it’s something
At most it’s nothing, fuck’s wrong with you? I don’t know, I’m just adjusting
It’s been a month since I left this cabin
The doctor was worried about a fever and other difficulties I’ve been having
She called me on Christmas, that was my gift
She was worried I might die, I said “I might die? No shit”
It’s been forever since I said something that I can’t wiggle free from
If there’s anything I cherish in this self-inflicted prison, it’s freedom
Comes at a cost so I’m private to a fault ‘till I default
On the loan for home, it’s actually more like a vault
No one knows the combo but little old me
The head honcho, the holder of the key
Alone, but never lonely
It’s been a millennia since I left this dominion
And been in the company of any women
At least I got my kittens
Spent more cash on my cat than I did myself
When he stopped eating, I took him to the vet so they could check his health
They put a feeding tube into his neck
I said “Please let this work cause if it doesn’t I got nothing left”
I didn’t say that, but they saw that, cat had my tongue
I didn’t speak at all, they told me to call back
What, it wasn’t weird I could do nothing but stand right there?
Better fix this, money’s no object type stare
It’s been a year since I stepped into anyone else’s private quarters
I’ve been busy self-diagnosing disorders
First world problems, yeah, USA, number one
Top of the world, I’m in a tux and cummerbund
Welcome everyone to the party of the century
It’s sure to be one for the books, no doubt, medical ones especially
I chose this song, written and sung by the rap artist Sage Francis because while it is a song it feels far more like a poem. It’s a deeply personal song dealing with the performers depression and it flows much like poems written to a style where the author leaves no pause so each line flows like a torrent of thoughts. In essence this song is far more personal than most songs performed by artists, and due to the nature of that I feel as though it is more of a poem than an actual song