poetryrepairs #235 v17.03:025

RALPH MONDAY : 'Bergman's Island' & Other Poems
Introduction
Lost German Girl
The Bones of May

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Introduction

Why write poetry? Simply a rhetorical question, perhaps, but in this age of diminishing readership of any type of text, let alone the unique challenges of poetry, why create works that will most likely have a minimal readership? For me the answer is simple: I believe that poetry is the highest form of art that no other aesthetic medium can approach: not film, music, painting, drama, or fiction. The uniqueness of poetry lies in the fact that none of the above mentioned can express the totality of the human condition, that only poetry says what cannot be said any other way: what it means to be human from something as ancient as the Epic of Gilgamesh, to the subjectivity of 19th century Romanticism, or something more recent as the High Modernism of The Waste Land. Good poems express the real, the subjective, the objective, the metaphysical nature of being, of ways of knowing that transcend the actual and express the mythical, archetypal nature of human existence. Poetry gets at being and meaning in manners challenging the reader both emotionally and intellectually through the use of figurative language, especially a well-wrought image like Pound’s dictum: “An image is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” So of course, I am a Modernist. I disdain postmodern poetry for what the majority of it really is: poorly written narcissistic whinings of a self-indulgent, undisciplined generation that believes that history began at the moment of individual birth. For poetry to be great or even good, the poem must encapsulate the universal human condition. The poem must sing to all in every clime, time, and situation. The reader should come away with personal satisfaction, a new way of looking at the world, an epiphany of being. If that is the case the poet has done his/her job, for writing poetry is a lonely endeavor, a plumbing of human consciousness in all its manifest subtleties. Here then is an offering that I hope meets the reader’s expectations. Here are presented images that, hopefully, will meet the demands of Pound, images that might engender a sudden sense of liberation, of freedom from time and space limits, of immediate and profound growth that brings us all closer to the realm of unknown, ontological being, so that we might touch the face of what cannot be said, but only imagined in words, the art of the hidden sublime. There is only one poem in the collection that I will speak about, and that is the concluding work: “Sunday Morning a Century After: A Homage.” November 2015 saw the 100th publication anniversary of Stevens’ “Sunday Morning,” one of the greatest poems of the 20th century. In homage, I wrote my version based on the original structure of “Sunday Morning.” Like the original my homage contains eight stanzas of fifteen lines each written in unrhymed blank verse. However, other than the structural organization the poem is my original creation in that it has the woman in Stevens’ poem, speaking now from the grave, pondering the questions raised in “Sunday Morning” from the vantage point of 100 years later. I certainly hope that the reader enjoys this poem and the entire collection. If so, my labor is fruitful. Ralph Monday 8.21.2016

poetryrepairs #235 v17.03:025





Lost German Girl

I see her in the YouTube video, faded color, war’s disillusionment etched like veins of dark coal beneath her eyes her face. She walks death’s road in late spring 1945, like some exiled German Antigone, bodies on either side, the black sweater a robe a ferryman would wear on the river of the dead covering her slender form as some crematory shroud. Face bruised by some laughing god, or Russian soldiers after they had their way with her. Still, her cheeks are chiseled fire strokes, tangled mass of hair burnt wheat field stubble. She looks into the camera like one staring at the underworld’s gates, before turning away and the film whispers remember.

poetryrepairs #235 v17.03:025





The Bones of May

Berlin, May 1945, what was once a woman. The ghost doesn’t know she is a ghost, no legs, torso, arms or hands, but a fashion sense still remains for the latest lipstick, store shop dresses, high heels; phantom taste buds long for fresh tomatoes, cool drinks and Moroccan coffee. The rubble filled streets that she walks without legs—this is a desert made by cold machines releasing yards and yards of bones. Once a woman, a spirit now nothing to say. Nothing to ponder. Walk this broken concrete made coffin-stones shaded by varying light, her Führer a burned mausoleum stretched somewhere in blue shade. What is she now—unwarmed staleness, a voiceless spell scratched on rough stone, some broken doll from memory. For the living a thought-form being whose atoms still maintain form, energy, blown about in mad waves for priests to make senseless incantations with crosses and cauldrons. Condensed to primal essence, this she of lost atoms, voice particles, song particles, the moments of love and despair, young kisses at night no internet archive can reclaim this vanished pixel. Not to go backward, not to watch the soldiers, the women, the children reeled in sepia reverse by a documentary film catching the edge of the chapel door. Not to go backward the bones of May passing all the forgetful faces. She sees herself in the film walking, walking, foiled with redness, thinking, thinking—that girl is not me. That girl is dead, and she will in her scattered atoms forget everything by the end of this shattered street. Forget history forget self forget home that hurts when turned to a face lost in a mangled alphabet of noise, propaganda of living and turned to dig up joy from the soil from the edge of dirty waters, found only that the bones would do, those bones of May that dissolution of imagery moving from one door to another.




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read more poetry

RALPH MONDAY : 'Bergman's Island' & Other Poems
Introduction
Lost German Girl
The Bones of May


Acknowledgements

Many thanks are offered to the following journals and editors where some of these poems originally appeared. Without the selfless and untiring toil of the individuals who work long hours to bring poetry to an audience, the words in the following pages may have lain mute and unread.

In Praise of Spoken Differences Subprimal Poetry
Holy Theotokos Save Us Ink Sweat & Tears
Sunday Morning a Century After: A Homage Crack the Spine


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