Category Poetry

Decay and Renewal: An Analysis of Walt Whitman’s “This Compost”

Some 16 months ago (about 60 posts in BlogTime), I feautured Robert Ingersoll’s eulogy of Walt Whitman, with a brief commentary indicating I would return to Whitman’s work, it being the inexhaustible centerpiece of American poetry that it is.

So, following the advice of reader Robby Miller at that time that I keep a copy of Leaves of Grass always handy and open it at random moments to a random page and read for a spell, I did just that the other night and landed on “This Compost.”

Such an ecological theme for these times, yes? Conjuring images of all those nice organic carrot peels and lemon rinds we lovingly transport to our backyard compost bins, there to mix with leaves and the miraculously multiplying worms to eventually create a teeming dark pile of life-giving soil.

But Whitman takes a different, slightly darker tack in “This Compost,” where there is not a carrot peel or zucchini tip in sight...

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Two Moon Poems: New and Full

The full moon tends to get all the best press and draw the most eyeballs and adulation, but for my money, the new moon (or at least the “new moon + 1 day”; more on that below) is every bit as worthy of our regard.

The full moon represents abundance, being topped out, awash and abursting, like the universal mother with breasts so full of milk she cannot bear to move another inch until she drains them into the avid awaiting mouths of her children.

The full moon lights up the entire earth; we must remain deep in shadow if we are to avoid its glare (as if we’d ever want to, unless we’re a burglar or thug).

But the new moon, that mere sliver of hope, is everything that abundance and fullness are not. Spare and subtle, it allows the stars top billing, encouraging their shine and prominence on the cosmic stage, generous to a fault...

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The Tides As Science and Metaphor

I’ve been steeped in tides on two different occasions over the past several months, luxuriating for several days each time on different coasts, watching the tides do what they seem to have been doing for quite some time now.

I’ll bet you know the drill:

The tides come in…

The tides go out…

Kind of repetitive and boring, eh?

Truth to tell, for all the time I’ve spent seaside, growing up in Southern California and then living on the beach for a couple of years in my adult life, I haven’t investigated the science of tides all that much. I have always vaguely understood them to be controlled by the moon with some kind of mysterious gravitational push and pull, but beyond that, I have enjoyed tides mostly as a balm for my soul, a kind of hypnotic transitional happenstance resembling the passage from day to night and back again, summer to fall and so on.

The rhythms of nature.

But of course, science ...

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A Poem: “The Last Japanese Soldier”

THE LAST JAPANESE SOLDIER

(Hirō Onoda was a World War II Japanese army officer who surrendered only in 1974, having hunkered down in the jungles of the Philippines for nearly three decades, refusing to believe the war had ended. He returned to a hero’s welcome in Japan, where he died in early 2014.)

I’ve been tracking him, trying to ascertain
what caused this severance from reality,
this deep ignorance of the situation awaiting him.

Duty-bound to a fault, he goes about his pinched days
calmed by routine and subservient to no one save
the fear of exposure from the dark of his hut.

The world closes in.

It’s tragic, how he missed the good news that
followed the bad, the war’s disconsolate
end opening to vistas so long obscured.

I go in alone, no cover or air power behind me,
hoping to coax him into conversation and the
beginnings of trust, understanding, rapprochement.

My heart goes out to him.

He...

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Why Bother With Poetry?

Because there’s a drop, on a leaf, and it seems to weigh a hundred pounds, but it’s not falling, and you are amazed, and you want to help it along but you just watch dumbstruck instead as the morning sun brings forth some back light and still you wait, it’s almost unbearable, this wonder, this anticipation, this incipience, and someone really should write a poem about it.

So you see if someone has.

Because entire civilizations of ants are at your feet, in the garden dirt, scurrying.

Because of them.

Because of vultures mad with the sight of the fresh-felled antelope, and the lion who has finally yawned and stretched and left it behind.

Because of the flaps of a million wings, and a thousand camera clicks trying to capture them.

Because sometimes you get to bursting, and you try to find a word or three and all that tumbles forth is, “Wow, that’s so great!” But you know that won’t cut it.

Maybe p...

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