Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gathering the Fragments, Beautifully

Blue Ruins, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 24"
private collection, Arvada, Colorado

...Let’s buy some toy soldiers
and melt them with glass.

Let’s burn up the armies
that have never loved us. Let’s

give the sun all our money
and pay it never to return.

Let’s sing to the moon
All day and the stars all night

so that they never go dark. Let’s
laugh at the clouds until they rain

gray with anger and thunder
from gray embarrassment.

Let’s paint the hospitals with milk

and the funeral homes with tears

and the sky some color

other than blood.

Let’s place candles
in the bullet holes of the Earth

and snuff the flames out

only when we have finished
writing our poetry....

--from "Lorca in Fragments" by Oakley C. Merideth

A lyrical to-do list, Oakley, one in which the priorities make so much sense. First things first. Poetry before the political, always. Then again, the two do not have to contradict each other, when performed with grace. And this is such a graceful homage to Lorca. I always take pleasure in the way your poems move from one image into the next, a blossom of meaning opening, subtly, almost imperceptibly, the way a flower opens to the sun.

As I'm sure many of you know, last month was National Poetry Month in the United States. And, at the end of that month my son learned that his poem "Vulgar Latin" received Honorable Mention in the undergraduate Academy of American Poets Prize competition at The University of New Mexico. Two undergraduates were recognized--Oakley, and Katlyn McKinney, who took first prize honors (and a cash prize) for her poem "Water Passing." Both poets will receive an official acknowledgment from the Academy of American Poets this summer.

This news of Oakley's latest literary honor satisfies me. Even the fact that such a competition exists, one which encourages young people to develop their gifts, satisfies me. Our lives are often bereft of poetry. We hunger for it. And it is my pleasure to offer up this tasty morsel, Oakley's honored poem:

Vulgar Latin

Some days your mouth
is a birth canal,
stories spilling out
of a child you hardly remember, how
she came out of you
like a full moon
emerging from a broken window,
her face imbuing the drafty room
with a pale light.

She was a January Capricorn
born just an hour or two before
the first papers were whispering
their headlines onto the dark porches
where they had just fallen.

That was the morning
you began to speak a dead language,
your eyes sliding backwards
to peer curiously into your skull
and your tongue free

To form a word you had never encountered:

Two syllables that fell
onto the hospital floor
and spread outward across the linoleum
like ashes touching a checkerboard
of white and black water.

Some days you clutch
the nearest pieces of furniture
and whisper to yourself
while the rest of the house
is stifled by your voice.

some days you say the word vaguely
as if you were recalling the name of a ghost,
and then you stop speaking,
the utterance yielding to silence
like a piano drifting out of tune.