1989–1990 Readings and Talks

Anthony Hecht and J. D. McClatchy

Hecht and McClatchyNovember 1, 1989

Saul and David

— Anthony Hecht
 
It was a villainous spirit, snub-nosed, foul
Of breath, thick-taloned and malevolent,
That squatted within him wheresoever he went
…….And possessed the soul of Saul.

There was no peace on pillow or on throne.
In dreams the toothless, dwarfed, and squinny-eyed
Started a joyful rumor that he had died
…….Unfriended and alone.

The doctors were confounded. In his distress, he
Put aside arrogant ways and condescended
To seek among the flocks where they were tended
…….By the youngest son of Jesse,

A shepherd boy, but goodly to look upon,
Unnoticed but God-favored, sturdy of limb
As Michelangelo later imagined him,
…….Comely even in his frown.

Shall a mere shepherd provide the cure of kings?
Heaven itself delights in ironies such
As this, in which a boy’s fingers would touch
…….Pythagorean strings

And by a modal artistry assemble
The very Sons of Morning, the ranked and choired
Heavens in sweet laudation of the Lord,
…….And make Saul cease to tremble.

Read more about Anthony Hecht


Resignation

— J. D. McClatchy
 
I like trees because they seem more resigned
to the way they have to live than other things do.
—Willa Cather
 
Here the oak and silver-breasted birches
Stand in their sweet familiarity
While underground, as in a black mirror,
They have concealed their tangled grievances,
Identical to the branching calm above
But there ensnared, each with the others’ hold
On what gives life to which is brutal enough.
Still, in the air, none tries to keep company
Or change its fortune. They seem to lean
On the light, unconcerned with what the world
Makes of their decencies, and will not show
A jealous purchase on their length of days.
To never having been loved as they wanted
Or deserved, to anyone’s sudden infatuation
Gouged into their sides, to all they are forced
To shelter and to hide, they have resigned themselves.

Read more about J. D. McClatchy


Listen to the Reading

 

Charles Wright and Pamela White Hadas

October 18, 1989

Still Life on a Matchbox Lid

— Charles Wright
 
The heart is colder then the eye is.
The watchers, the holy ones,
know this, no shortcut to the sky,
A single dog hair can split the wind.

If you want great tranquility,
it’s hard work and a long walk.

Don’t brood on the past.
The world is without appendages,
no message, no name.


Read more about Charles Wright


from Circe

— Pamela White Hadas
 
for “Perseus”

I

[Circe and Odysseus confront each other. He has come to her palace
to retrieve his crew, all but one of whom she has turned into swine.]

Because your men were making pigs of themselves,
that’s why. And for fun.

Notice, there’s room in the sty
for at least one more–beast

Look sharp!–
Those wolves–
I made them, the lions too–they’ve come to stay
though they think like men (I didn’t change their minds)
that they can cajole me–
what oinks and whines!–
with gutsy purrs to break the spells.
It lends
a certain pathos to the place–no?
The sun’s
my father. I inherited his lack
of pity–
only a degree of power–
like him
I love to captivate–
in my way–
turn back
evolution a bit now and then–
a whim.
But you look antsy–you look mad in fact.
Come in.
Let’s talk.
It’s only the first act.

Continue reading “Circe” at Porkopolis.

Read more about Pamela White Hadas


Listen to the Reading

 

Charles Simic and Carolyn Kizer

April 11, 1990


Tapestry

— Charles Simic
 Simic and Kizer
It hangs from heaven to earth.
There are trees in it, cities, rivers,
small pigs and moons. In one corner
the snow falling over a charging cavalry,
in another women are planting rice.

You can also see:
a chicken carried off by a fox,
a naked couple on their wedding night,
a column of smoke,
an evil-eyed woman spitting into a pail of milk.

What is behind it?
–Space, plenty of empty space.

And who is talking now?
–A man asleep under his hat.

What happens when he wakes up?
–He’ll go into a barbershop.
They’ll shave his beard, nose, ears, and hair,
To make him look like everyone else.

Read more about Charles Simic

 


Food of Love

— Carolyn Kizer
 

Eating is touch carried to the bitter end.
Samuel Butler II

I’m going to murder you with love;
I’m going to suffocate you with embraces;
I’m going to hug you, bone by bone,
Till you’re dead all over.
Then I will dine on your delectable marrow.

 

You will become my personal Sahara;
I’ll sun myself in you, then with one swallow
Drain your remaining brackish well.
With my female blade I’ll carve my name
In your most aspiring palm
Before I chop it down.
Then I’ll inhale your last oasis whole.

But in the total desert you become
You’ll see me stretch, horizon to horizon,
Opulent mirage!
Wisteria balconies dripping cyclamen.
Vistas ablaze with crystal, laced in gold.

So will you summon each dry grain of sand
And move toward me in undulating dunes
Till you arrive at sudden ultramarine:
A Mediterranean to stroke your dusty shores;
Obstinate verdure, creeping inland, fast renudes
Your barrens; succulents spring up everywhere,
Surprising life! And I will be that green.

When you are fed and watered, flourishing
With shoots entwining trellis, dome, and spire,
Till you are resurrected field in bloom,
I will devour you, my natural food,
My host, my final supper on the earth,
And you’ll begin to die again.

Read more about Carolyn Kizer


 

Listen to the Reading