Tag Archives: poetry by V.L. Bennett

Autumn Days Revisited–“A Change of Seasons”

Other than love, probably one of the most tried (or trite) and true subjects for poetry is the change of seasons.  There are a few new things to say on the topic, however, sadly enough.  Here goes:

 

A Change of Seasons

The fall is come
And the days are doing what they call
"Drawing in."
And I too am drawing in,
Shutting down and pulling in
My seasonal feelers
Like a snail's antennae,
Because sounds will be different in winter,
When they are muted by the snowfall.
My aspirations too
Are becoming flat characters,
Losing their roundedness,
No longer speaking of fully realized possibilities
But now only signaling outlines of things
Which may or may not come.
We have no hope of escaping
Without leaving the temperate zone,
Though meteorologists are already disputing
Inches of white, feet of rain,
Days' light, Nights' dark,
While what will come will come
Whether they argue or not.
And it's not especially dread that I feel,
For I'm used to it by now.
The unsettling element is rather
That things are now topsy-turvy,
And for certain days of autumn, it's summer,
For some days of winter, it's autumn or even July,
For some days of spring too, it'll be
An early and undue warm season,
Then back into a retrograde deep freeze on days
When we expect the sun to be smiling.
We are even getting used to climate change,
The adaptability of humans
Being apparently our biggest selling point.
But perhaps the question is due to Nature,
Or the gods, or Fate, or whatever you may happen
To believe in,
"How hard is it to change?"
What else should we be asking,
We, who are at least partly to blame
For this untoward state of affairs,
Given our ability to adapt,
Shouldn't we practice
Adapting our selfishness and greed,
Instead of trying to figure out how
To make the earth spin round in the opposite direction?
Even now, experts try to figure out how we can control the weather--
Wouldn't it be easier, and more economical,
All things considered,
To learn to control ourselves?
That would be a change of seasons I could really get into.

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 10/17/17

This isn’t a particularly “poetic” poem; in fact, it more than borders on the prosaic.  Nonetheless I wanted to share the point of view.  There may be better poems for other days.

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A Poem Combining Two Themes–“Costan and Merlu”

Sometimes, a poem just springs forth into the mind, however good or bad like the springing forth of Athena from the mind of Zeus.  This is such a poem, but I’ve thought about it a bit and managed to locate two themes from other works that I suspect contributed to its genesis.  The first is the tale of David and Bathsheba in the Old Testament, in which David sent one of his generals, Bathsheba’s husband, into battle so that he would be killed and David could have Bathsheba.  My favorite contemporary song, “Hallelujah,” mentions this episode briefly as well.  The second work is the tale “Billy Budd” by Herman Melville.  In it, a naïve midshipman, Billy Budd, is trapped into a confrontation with Claggart, a scheming superior officer, and accidentally kills Claggart in a fit of justifiable though excessive rage, and is condemned to death.  Somehow, I think these two stories came together in my mind and created this poem, which doesn’t exactly match either of them, but has the joint themes of a young officer being shoved into harm’s way, and a devious superior officer who is responsible for this.  The poem is cast back in time, which I think is also responsible for the somewhat old-fashioned tone of the remarks about the two main characters, being as Costan might today be seen as a womanizer plain and simple, and Merlu perhaps even a correctly behaving superior who gets the soldier’s mind back on what he is supposed to be there for, however harsh the task or sentence.  Still, I think with the tone cast as it is in the poem as written, the readers’ sympathies should rest mainly with Costan.  Here’s the poem:

Costan and Merlu

Costan
Was what women know as a warm man.
Up to all their wiles and tricks,
Even seeing a few where there were none,
But full of love and joy and yes, laughter,
Nonetheless.

Merlu
His superior
In the army
They wrinkled their noses up at
When they discussed him,
And more than one thought
“Cold fish.”
His love and attention wasn’t warm
Rather possessive and deigning,
Full of his own self-importance,
And seeing not them.

Costan
At the sight of a red petticoat,
Always had a second glance for it
Over his shoulder,
Merlu
Had the mort arrested
For crimes she’d only thought of committing
And thought disdainfully
Of poor people’s attire,
For modesty had nothing to do
With red petticoats,
And he flattered himself
That he was a modest man.

Costan one evening
Caught up with a lovely young smart thing
And chortled and sang with her
Under the wall, where they sat,
Sharing a bottle and some bread and cheese.
Merlu’s henchman
No less forward to impropriety,
But knowing what Merlu wanted,
Carried the news.
The next night,
Costan stood red-faced for reproach
In front of Merlu
Agreeing that yes, he had been most improper,
And bowing his head to anger and what was more,
Envy, though he hardly dared even to himself
Think of Merlu in that light.

Two days later,
There was a wall to storm,
A bridge to take,
And warning his friends to stand away from him,
Lest they too fall into disfavor
With the keeper of the garrison,
Costan accepted the mission
Forced upon him by Merlu,
But eager himself to shine.
The ending was inevitable,
Given Costan’s brave resilience,
And throwing of himself over the wall
Straight into enemy fire.
His loving and noble heart was breached as well,
By cannon fire he’d no way to fend off,
Since all he could think to offer was himself,
His skill with firearms not equaling
His skill with loving negotiations.

That evening, Merlu sat pondering:
What more need he do to preserve
The public order,
What ordinance or regulation pass
To keep his officers and men in line?
As he then stood, just before his window
He looked at another wall, like to the one
Of Costan’s trespass, and on it,
Flaunting bold and red,
As if someone had torn the red petticoats in pieces
And stuck them in place any way at all,
Someone had hastily painted the accusation
“Murderer!” to face his window;
He was startled, and for just a moment
Struck to the heart
That someone had read his thought.
Then, taking on himself once more
The yoke of office,
He sent a man out to clean it off
Or paint over it,
Sure, or no, not sure,
But avoiding the thought,
That someone knew him
Better than he had known himself.
Such knowledge comes too late for regret,
And in any case,
He was persuaded by the experience
That constituted all his life so far
That he was right to act so,
That Costan had been hostile
To the public temper and a danger
To public life.
And after all, once the word was painted over
From the wall,
There was no witness to the crime
And that made all the difference to him,
Though those who knew him sensed a subtle change,
A tension in the command,
As if he was second-guessing himself,
A lack of certainty, a questioning,
A questing for a solution to something
They knew not.
Came the day when he too was ordered over a wall
In front of his troops,
And taking a deep breath, nearly asking himself
If this was the price of it all,
He tried to be valiant, as valiant as he could imagine
Costan had been,
Though when his body came back also shot through,
The women and men of the town
Didn’t mourn him. Instead,
As his shattered body made its way on a stretcher
Through town, his last breath still not drawn,
He heard them saying, “It’s his time!” and laughing,
And then
Someone spitting by his frame,
And “Serves him right!”
“Vindictive peasants!” he thought, and shedding a tear
For his own passing, he died.

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 10/27/17

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Verbum satis (est)–“A Poem of Unequal Meters, for an Unequal Subject”

A Poem of Unequal Meters, for an Unequal Subject

Love is a thing that has no whys and wherefores
Love is a thing that comes but once a year;
Or once a century, or once a fortnight,
Love has no rationale, it’s oh! so clear.

Love is betwixt and between the poles and deserts,
Love is both hot and cold, angry and shy,
First we cast it off, and then we seek for it,
When we want it, then no love can we descry.

Love is both sure of itself and quite uncertain,
Love can’t decide whether to go or stay;
Where other things crawl and lump along life’s toll road
We often expect love freely to make its way.

We pay a huge price for love, yet eagerly give it
Many times to such contenders as value it not,
And whatever we have to invite its honest presence
Others would give up for what we have not got.

For lovers’ sakes we pull our hair, and beat our breastbone,
Like to a host of cannibals on the prowl,
Such spiritual nourishment torn from human sources
In a case of symbolic replacement, any old how.

On the days when love’s spirit, though, doesn’t plague us,
We fall for love’s body, a hand, a lip, an eye:
Yet always we find ourselves incredulous
Whatever our own appeal, that love passes us by.

For it doesn’t matter how modest we are, or how clever,
We’re born with a sense that it’s a democracy,
Yet often when love overtakes us, aristocratic
Norms prevail, and do not set us free.

So take your best shot at it, or forego it,
You’re born to it! Or, you lack love’s troublesome spark,
But be sure should you falter in love’s path, my dear, you will know it,
And find yourself lost and stumbling in the dark.

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 10/11/17

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A Poem for a Friend, Already Much Missed Though Still Present–“To a Departing Friend”

For the occasion of the publication of this poem, I don’t mind revealing that it is a poem based on fact, and is written for a friend whose presence will be sorely missed.  We’ve all lived through such an experience, when all the little debates and differences of opinion we go through with our friends are suddenly less important than the friend’s upcoming departure.  Debate is often a luxury of presence, and  later unity of mind and temper prevail, so that we can express what we deeply and truly feel, at the last possible moment, when absence will begin to be felt.

To a Departing Friend

Yes, I am full of commonplaces,
Conversational gambits,
Some not new, some all my own.
I say to you,
“‘…the feast of reason,
And the flow of soul.'”
And in search of some universal
(Or at least particular) truth,
You say in frustration,
“Defense mechanism.”
Considering my options,
And reviewing my mistakes,
I say,
“This is all I can do,
This makes me survive.”
In search of making myself and you
A little more perfect,
If such a thing could ever have degrees,
You point to this as my
“Comfort zone.”
Don’t chase your own tail, my friend,
That’s a ploy for kittens and puppies,
Who don’t yet recognize
The other end of themselves following.
The fact is,
That my life has been made so much better
By your intercession for me
With the storms and high winds
Of happenstance
Which precede
The visits of the gods,
And you have for a while
Kept me most divine company
In the space allotted us
Before the great dark.
Who knows if what heaven there is
Is not arranged and populated
By such conversations as ours,
And the sorrow and laughter
We have shared
Are not apportioned out
To all who would live on
Beyond their death?

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 9/29/17

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“Irony, Solipsism, and the Conceptual Slant”–an attempt at a philosophy

Though it’s sort of cheating to cap off a philosophical poem with a rhyme when the rest of it basically hasn’t rhymed, as if that answered the question and said it all (which it doesn’t, really), there’s irony even in the final couplet, for those who prefer their philosophy tough and mean.

Irony, Solipsism, and the Conceptual Slant

At the heart of the matter
Is humanity’s love of the absurd
We laugh together
At what makes us cry alone
In the silence of the night
For the absurdity
Of only feeling real oneself
When confronted
With another soul
Groping, seeking the light,
It is as if we were perpetually
Self-seeking, and needed a reflection
But that the reflection
Could not look like us,
But must look like another
To set us straight.
We are full of doublenesses,
And parleys with the other,
But really we ask ourselves
“Are we touching infinity
When we reach another mind,
Can it be that we make contact
With all that is grand and noble
In humankind
When we seek with what we call
Our inner selves,
Or is it all shadow play,
In front of an audience of one
From behind a white curtain
Put there by some overlord we don’t yet know?”
And as yet, there is no answer.
At the present time, we’ve more or less
Had it with the overlord idea,
So, we guess and think and pause
Still inept to fight off the notion
Of solipsism
Just because someone suggested it
Who had the same right to comment
As we do,
A license to deflect our attempts
To touch minds with him.
So it may be that philosopher
Was only talking to himself, too
But we can at least overhear him,
And can comment in turn
On his ranting speech,
As if he were a penny actor
Whom everyone could afford.
And if after all my thoughts
Are sitting there on the conceptual slant
Where you can lift them from their box,
And your thoughts likewise
I can avail myself of,
Then, don’t we have some consensus,
Though it’s boring not to revert
To our first, fine humane notions
That we spoke mind to mind,
Whispered thought to thought,
Felt heart to heart?
I write a poem,
You write a treatise,
I read aloud,
You mutter your clauses in an undertone,
Both testing them out
To see if they pass muster,
Each having that “ideal reader”
In mind whom so much ink has been spilled about.
Well, my friend, to paraphrase an old, silly catch-phrase,
If you read me and I read you,
No solipsist can part us two.
Two ideals obsessed with ideals we’ll be,
Of tone and temper bold and free.

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 9/27/17

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A Poem for a Season Past: “Wise Lovers”

Autumn is the time of year for saying goodbye to many people and things, summer among them.  Here is a poem for parting lovers who want to mitigate their suffering.

Wise Lovers

They each had deep-laid plans
For neither would be left;
At least, they thought of it
As not to be bereft.
One thought of life alone
After the ship had sailed
On love for the last time
And often wept and railed.
The other thought of days
Spent doing what he list,
Post facto happiness
At not to have been kissed.
For kissing would imply
That he had returned love,
And would incur the wrath
Of those ruling above.
And too, he thought of it
As generous and bland
To garner love and trust
With a well-opened hand.
And, who’s to say he’s wrong
When all is said and done?
Love listened to and heard
Is love near half-begun.
Nay, it’s no breach of faith
To say what’s possible;
Refuse to war with rules,
To cite life codicils–
You know, those edicts all
Follow when pressed at last
When thinking of breaches
Committed in the past.
Examples rule the day
For either of the pair,
One quoting poetry,
The other, custom’s fare.
So finally, they part.
While one will stay and mourn
The other seeks new shores
And who knows if he’s torn?
But both were well-prepared
Despite sorrow and dole,
Or using partial ways
To make a brand-new whole.
The first said to herself
“I will be left someday”;
The other said, “It’s time–
I must be on my way.”
Of Circe and Calypso
One could debate and ask
If such impediments
Made worse Ulysses’ task.
Odysseus was wise
Though wiser still may be
To love and count as nothing
Love’s inconvenient sea.
But both had planned ahead
As far as they could see,
And so my lovers end
Not so unhappily.
Though it is difficult,
Still, they can well forfend
To utter irked retorts,
Reproaches at the end.

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 9/19/17

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One of the Drawbacks of Representational Art–“Frustration With Representation”: A Poem

Borrowing and altering the phrase of the American Revolution “No taxation without representation,” this poem comes up with a different type of rebellion, sort of, against representational art in some of its manifestations.  Representational art, as you probably know, is art that’s made to resemble what it’s “about,” or “realistic” art, so-called.  This poem takes up only one issue of representational art; that is, whether or not it’s always convenient and pleasant to see something realistically portrayed.  Non-representational art has its disadvantages too, as the poem mentions.  The adage referred to is the one symbolic by now of Philistine, or plebian taste everywhere, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.”  Unless memory deceives me, the phrase was first used, or at least occurred, in William Dean Howell’s novel The Rise of Silas Lapham.

Frustration With Representation

Two wooded winter snow scenes hang on opposite walls,
One painted by a friend's former daughter-in-law,
Better, really, in its way
Than the larger one across from it,
Bought at an art sale.
The daughter-in-law
Painted from a fenced-in backyard
High atop a mountainside,
(Pioneer-style split log fence)
Looking over a frozen lake down below.
Water, other than snow, wasn't left out
  of the other painting either,
Only it was a scene of flatland
In the woods
With a stream and rushes meandering through.
High and low, snow everywhere,
And yesterday was the near-middle of March,
When we expected
The biggest storm of the season.
Why no flower- and sun-lit meadows to look at,
Why no autumn foliage,
Why no spring daffodils?
Isn't it enough that we have to see it outside
This late in the season,
Without seeing it inside as well?
Some things are more beautiful only at a distance,
But painful reminders up close.
Or, how about gazing in bewilderment
But also with fascination
At the field of yellow,
Yellow alone,
Painted by another friend,
Entitled simply "Blue."
Why that?
Why not "Blues," in justice
To the bright yellow blare
Of horns and saxophones
The mellow ochre of a clarinet,
Or was yellow
A state of contrary sadness?
Who knows what it meant,
But it's better than snow-for-snow,
However good the art,
At least from the perspective
Of knowing what one likes,
As the old adage phrases it.
Today, though, the sun is bright,
Yellow indeed,
When representation is true,
And not blue, except for sky,
And I listen to a little jazz (not blues),
In the spirit of the day:
We all have our representational moments.

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 3/15/17



 

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