Bachelor Afternoon

Bachelor Afternoon

With his gut spilling over his abdomen,
he stands almost like a hamburger—

almost flat on the kitchen tile,
and as wide as his kitchen island. Eggs,

sunny side up, over a pound of sausage
have their yolks slit on his plate.

His pot-bellied pit bull gobbles
the slop as soon as it smacks the floor.

Finished, he pulls his plain T-shirt
fold by fold over his belly rolls, then smears

the grease across his pimpled lips.
From a pack of smokes, his potato spud

fingers pluck a battled cigarette;
he spits his chew and bites the filter,

lights it and fits sideways out the door.
His feet depress the concrete.

People step aside, as if a tank—
its cannon still smoking from the blast,

its steel momentum like Fate—
were crushing the streets of Auschwitz,

but he’s just fetching his mail
on an otherwise easy afternoon.

by Ryan Dowling

Playing God

Playing God

I myself do not believe in Him, no. And yet, whenever someone opens their mouth to let a beam of light shine out, and projects the God they have in mind against the sky, and grows intoxicated—I admit I get a little envious.

Then a large flock of ducks flies through God’s face—Ducks!—infinitely more variegated than He. Yes, a giant flock of them, just like that—quacking up a Second Coming— fleeing hunter and hound—out of the cattailed fen. Their wings beating over His eyes, their feathers falling out of His hair, they burst His features into a thousand iridescent birds!

And they fly—fly right through the razorwire of the sky.

They burst upon the dining room windows of family reunions. They fall onto suburban front lawns with a ka-put!—and float belly-up in the local reservoir. This one here, the loudest of them all—this one with his head held high—will be reborn through the propeller of a small plane—carrying a donor heart from Miami to Seattle—a boy aged three.

Sometimes, when I’m intoxicated, I too can see God in the sky—placing one bird above another—the cross in the eye of the hunter—the adrenaline after the smoke.

by Ryan Dowling

Baudelaire: One Foot In The Grave

Which Is True? (translation by Arthur Symons)

I knew a certain Benedicta who filled earth and air with ideals; and from whose eyes men learnt the desire for greatness, beauty, glory, and for everything that strengthened their belief in immortality.

But this miraculous child was too beautiful to live long. She died only a few days after I had come to know her, and I buried her with my own hands, one day when Spring wafted the contents of its censer even as far as the graveyard. I buried her with my own hands, well sealed in a coffin of wood, perfumed and incorruptible as an Indian casket.

And as I stood gazing at the place where I had hidden my treasure, all at once I saw a little person singularly like the deceased. She was trampling on the fresh soil with strange hysterical violence, and was laughing and shouting:”I am the real Benedicta! and a vile slut I am, too! And to punish you for your blindness and folly, you shall love me as I really am!”

But I was furious, and I answered: “No! no! no!” And to add emphasis to my refusal, I stamped my foot so violently that my leg sank up to the knee in the earth over the new grave, and like a wolf caught in a trap, I remained fastened, perhaps forever, to the grave of the ideal.

by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

Prose Poetry

A prose poem uses any and all poetic techniques except for line breaks.

Although most prose poems are in the ballpark of a page long, certain novels (such as Joyce’s “Ulysses”) have been considered “prose poems” based on their elevated language and poetic sensibility.

As a writer, the challenge of the prose poem is to create poetic qualities—music, imagery, meaning, etc.—without the aid of line breaks.

Whatever The Poem

Whatever The Poem

A badly written poem: I’m sure it will not sell,
but still it must attempt to earn its stay.
It must stand at intersections, under streetlights,
among the stupid and insane.

And a better poem has bigger problems;
for surely one sees how its substance stoned a nun,
—after its form aborted her son
—after it gave her husband its word.

Reader be harsh: Hatred’s a finer art than praise:
It is the horse-spit in the priest’s ear.
It is the prostitute looking over her shoulder
at the poet working kitty-corner.

by Ryan Dowling

Robinson Jeffers Against Publicity

Let Them Alone

If God has been good enough to give you a poet
Then listen to him. But for God’s sake let him alone until he is dead; no prizes, no ceremony,
They kill the man. A poet is one who listens
To nature and his own heart; and if the noise of the world grows up around him, and if he is tough enough,
He can shake off his enemies but not his friends.
That is what withered Wordsworth and muffled Tennyson, and would have killed Keats; that is what makes
Hemingway play the fool and Faulkner forget his art.

by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

Metapoetry

Metapoetry, simply put, is poetry written about poetry.

A metapoem can be a full-fledged treatise (Horace’s “Ars Poetica”) on composition. Or it can be a passing comment on something like the relationship of the poet to the public, as in the poem above.

Since any one view of poetry is subjective, the poet must write convincingly of the stand he or she is taking.

In this poem, Robinson Jeffers makes a plea that the poet be spared of the contaminants that come with notoriety.