As part of my ongoing attempts to minimize my exposure to dust and other allergens, I’ve eliminated half the shelves in my den and moved, or gotten rid of, a large number of books.
This means I don’t have to do nearly as much dusting, which is a good thing because generally I don’t. In dusting and discarding, though, I discovered several books that Mike had loaned to me — awhile ago, apparently — and I haven’t gotten back to him. Since we’re having breakfast Sunday, I’ve been motivated to finish one of the books, and hopefully a second.
I started with a book of poetry called Bottom Falling Out of the Dream, written by Floyce Alexander. I’ll have to admit that once I started reading I was surprised by the content of the poems, many of which focused on Mexico and various revolutions in South America. Stylistically, the poems also seem influenced by hot-blooded Spanish poetry.
Despite the fact that the book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, I’m afraid my poetry tastes run closer to Chinese or Japanese poetry than Spanish poetry as very little in the book appealed to me, though this comes closest:
HOMAGE TO MIGUEL HERNANDEZ
y ahi te quedas, al mundo le diria
For so much suffering from love
Of your wife's sweet olive breasts
And the halo of salty air
Around the head of your son
Whom you never saw,
You retched in your cell seven years
And groped along the shit-littered floor
For the lost pulse of Spain,
And when your last fit of coughing began,
Spitting out the scraps of your lungs,
You sent down to us, in your death,
Your poems smuggled between bars
And out under the noses of the Civil Guard,
Into hands that did not want to go on.
Of course, my limited exposure to revolutions in Vietnam seemed anything but Romantic, but it’s nice to think that a poets’ love for his wife and child helped to sustain him while imprisoned by the the Spanish Civil Guard.
Considering that I couldn’t really think of anything appropriate to say on Martin Luther King’s Day, I was initially attracted to this poem:
THE LOTUS EATERS
homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
gunned down, Memphis, 4 April 1968
This is the dance America wanted! the dance of death.
The small animals come out of the ground,
Nothing left of them but their skins and shells,
Saying: Americans, kill what you can't
Sirens! Yellow fire-trails!
The year of the lean wolf stalks America,
Eats its own entrails, devours its children.
Immolation of the children of Asia.
Ambush of the ghost of Guevara in Bolivia.
And now our Gandhi, holed up in Memphis,
Taking a breath of air, leans back on the hotel
Balcony, all the sky a southern calm, slow drawl
Of clouds, filling his eyes, before lightning cracks:
Red-necked, corpulent, born diseased, man-snake
Twisting its scaled body through narrow clefts
In the hills-white man! who knows how to murder,
And does, the dark-skinned man, a tattoo of bullets
Against the rough-cut cross of his body- a lesson,
They said, chewing persimmons, spitting snuff, drinking
Vagrants of spittoons, my father, uncle, grandfather,
Slung over their shoulders, leaving home, glum,
ready to hunt down deer.
I like this poem a little better every time I re-examine it, no denying that. However, I think it might be saying more about how the poet felt about family members than serving as a real homage to Martin Luther King. Instead of advancing King’s cause, it’s more likely to lead to the kind of rioting that swept America after his death.