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Re: The L.D. poems


Tonight, L.D., a friend, so close a reader you would fall in love with her, questions my themes. She means to say my themes reoccur and she is right. Her comments bring me back to you.

Themes? Not a strong word unless writing a critical paper. I wonder if stories works better?
The themes, my brother, are still the themes you and I tracked down when you were alive. All I've looked to since then is an opening in the scene in which these themes get played out, fleshed out, predicated upon. But isn't this true of all the blues?

Awkward phrasing?

My brother, the stories you and I tracked down. Stories we fleshed out,

chanted, marked with imaginary highlighters, but isn’t this true of all the blues? Billie Holiday and Lester Young?

I got a picture for you you

You you is that your final choice?

might remember of two young men. One is the son of fortunate circumstance. The other is a son without circumstance. They meet in a bookstore. They are both devotees of a certain type. One could not be less concerned, less motivated by his good fortune. The other could not be more unaware of his lack of fortune. When they meet the understanding between them is immediate, coming even before the first exchange of words. Their preoccupations have to do with one thing only.

They meet in late August of '73. While it comes across as a cliché it is apt: their paths diverge December of '77. For over four tendering years they walk, walk miles through different towns, work together, walk through so many nights and so many days, talk and argue in so many shabby apartments, push each other, question through so many days, day by day, go off on their adventures and come back comparing notes and edging each other on.

My themes, L.D., come out of those four plus years. And they were your themes too. And I can prove it. And I can prove the plenty of our themes. It is what we were after on the street, in the apartment, in the work place, by dawn and dusk. And what I’ve decided is this. Keeping to it all is what stays the unfinished, thematically driven business.

L.D., my stories compose themselves and they are also your stories. It is what we were after on the street, in the beat- up apartments, the diners open all night.

(an appeal to the senses, to help balance and vary the narration.)


Damn it, man.

The clock is ticking.

Tonight I want to reach you
through your music, and I know I can't.
Music is what poetry wishes
to be and knows it can't.
Not in the fleshed out sense,
not in the sensual ear.

Second use of fleshed out; is there another phrase?

I've made a discovery.
It is a poem I made. It was the year you died.
Only this moment I make the connection.
I called it Sheet Music.

Why repeat made?

a poet's job is
In print
lovers are left to
trace lips.

You had a way of strapping
your guitar to you like she was
a big bottomed Venus holding you up.
And you in the hallway or down

Big bottomed Venus? Must cry-out for a new image, yes?

Your strapped on a guitar
like a poem all by itself,
a signature.

in that Newport tavern swinging her
from side to side like singing was
the only instrument to get you
through another Rhode Island night.

Fol de rol, Crazy Jane said. And
Love is all
That cannot take the whole
Body and soul. Crazy Jane said.
And I understood the beauty of Yeats
and of his Crazy Jane by the music
you put them both to.

When I want to hear your baritone again
I go back to Yeats again.

As though my sorrow were a scene
Upon a painted wall...


I read
the poems you put to music.

And your voice is inside me.

I can only represent what you taught me.
I cannot flesh out the tonalities of your truth.
And you are right, L.D. In fact, unsung
a poet's job is partially done.

I want your music back in my ears.

I shine with what you taught me,
I search out tones, colors of the truth.
You are right, L.D. unsung a poet’s
Job is partially done.


These things you said and still
in stillness of how dead poets speak
you said in stillnesses of every lover's night
and we walked in the moist winters
and we talked through the strong springs
and we worked through every summer, only
to lose again in autumn what we knew.

The things you said I still hear, you said
poets speak in stillness and in moist winters
I am still. And we worked through strong
springs and the common summers
only to lose again in autumn what we knew.

This is the truth. Every time
we lost what we knew in dryness leaves.

We never bettered ourselves or our lovers.
Our scansions always lacked a little.
You couldn't figure through your loneliness.
I couldn't figure through my false steps.
And always the year came back, back
around to where you were wanting a girl
in dead leaves and autumn breeze.

This is the truth, L.D. I envy you
every time autumn comes on.

Around to where you were wanting a girl
in gold leaves and autumn tied around her
like a gold bandanna.


Perspective shows nothing of what we see.
Perspective tells only how we see things.

I've got the pen and ink drawings you made thirty years ago.
It was commissioned, work for which you never got paid.
Just now I see how the set contains a portrait.

A portrait of you.

In the back-distance there is a cathedral whose spire
is as stylized as a fairy tale church or as falsely heightened
as a wealthy, Texan, Baptist sanctuary.
Coming forward to the drawing's surface it must be noticed
there is no mid-distance, nothing to accommodate
the vanishing perspective where distance and closeness meet.

Just at drawing's surface there is the dancer.
He is muscular. He is stripped down to his ecstatic soul.
He is poised and balanced on one foot, his other leg bent
in the certain leap whose high step extends his reach.
And his arms, strong, arc above him to make a nimbus over him.
He is taller and nearer than church spire.

I never made the connection before. I never got
this self-portrait of yours in pen and ink.

They say King David shamed a wife when he danced to the Lord.
I say you danced to your body’s holiness as shamelessly.

The church, the dance image, and the vulnerability displayed in saying you never saw the connection before---

excellent. And how natural, how easy to add seating to that description,
balances ecstatic soul---in any case, we now have an objective metaphor, an image for what verse 11 shouts in prose:


…” a kind of love affair between two young friends when they were starting out and how the dead friend has kept alive in the narrator for over 30 years. #11 could not be a clearer statement of intention. And I think the insight worth the reflection.”


The case is famous. But here again I never knew what you knew about what you could get yourself involved in.

Fransesco Cenci (1549 - 1589) was soaked too thoroughly in his patrician power. Do you remember the Polanski movie, "Chinatown", in which John Houston plays the character of an urban developer so powerful he irrigates a desert, murders a civil servant wise to his development take over, and so makes modern day Los Angeles just by channeling water resources? Do you remember how his character says he is powerful enough he can do anything with no consequence to himself? And then his daughter, played by Faye Dunnoway, who he ****s and gets pregnant, and watches her killed in a cop chase scene down in Chinatown while he drives away with her child by him unconsequenced.

Cenci outstripped Houston's character in lack of proportion. In this sense he might have been the first modern man. He wasn't just an opportunist. He was a man for whom will itself was reason enough to make material his will. I submit that modern man takes after Cenci. He being just a prototype, a first trial model for mass production.

The legal case was circumstantial and unclear. It is likely Cenci murdered one of his sons who stood up to him. It is more likely he raped his beautiful daughter, Beatrice, time and time and time again. It is fact that Beatrice and her other brothers conspired to kill their father. I am guessing their mother knew about the conspiracy, but would plead innocent to the facts at trial, just as she had pled ignorant of her daughter’s rape.

There was a Pope involved. It seems like there is always a Pope involved in poor decisions and judgment calls. Pope Clement VIII refused a pardon of Beatrice. And so she got executed in the fashion of the day for having seen to her father's death who likely killed a son of his and who likely raped her again and again and again.

I am getting to you, L.D. Hang with me please.

(yeah, verily.) still the tiresome docent, the Slate Magazine movie editor:

Shelley might have been the first to take up the story. He made a tragedy of it all. And tragedy it was in his eyes. And tragedy is always the final scene in the contest between prerogative and liberty. Then Artaud who took up the story. The story fitted perfectly his notions about a Theater of Cruelty. And how thin is the gossamer shield between order and disorder. And how through dance and body language the theater must again get symbolic again in action.

Now you up on the stage that night.

Pretty heavy switch to this dark interpretation from the church just a few lines before, nes pas?

You the dancer, one of the bravos Beatrice and her brothers hire to commit parricide. You in your body speech playing out the stylized body speak of father-murder. I see you this night the way I saw you then, back in the fall of '75, when you were a dancer and you were a murderer, when you were on the stage stylized. You dressed in black and dancing, appearing once, then twice in the back space like a slowly building suggestion, then a third time, only now, leaning your body into the act of parricide, no longer just a suggestion. You, my sweet friend. You the father killer. And the acts of murder before you and after you that you stylized. In black. In dance movement. In act.

Seriously, man. Did you ever reckon, even once in your sweet life, with all you could get yourself involved in?


Last edited by Bernie01, Feb/26/2013, 5:35 pm


Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Feb/26/2013, 5:01 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
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Re: The L.D. poems


Days and nights.

You were a masseur that year.
You had taken to healing bodies with your hands.
You got a job at the Edgar Caycee Institute

no footnotes, no docent, trust me to get the ref if you just say, Edgar Caycee.

north of Virginia Beach. Surf pound would have been in your ears.
The Virginian and I drove over from C'Ville.
We picked you up, brought you back for Christmas.
The Virginian wrote one of his best essays
predicated on that day, cold and winter gray day beachside.
And you, all the way back, in the car,

saying your disgust at having to kneed your fingers into
the doughy flesh of the self-indulgent who can afford
tuitions particular to spiritual institutions.

Doughy flesh of the self-indulgent who can afford…. Can this be summarized with better force?

Another day. Actually it was hitting on midnight when
you showed up, walking three miles between our apartments,
with sketch in hand, and you scared and seized and
shivered by what you had in hand.
I've since published what you saw and called her 'Lady by the Pond.'
I think you were shaken by what you saw that night,
drew out in pen and ink essentially;
this naked woman kneeling before a pond, the
tree stripped of leaves behind her, the crescent moon
on her lips and reflected in the pond.
Her belly accented with a single line’s stroke, her breasts defiant,
the way her moon smile has for mediating between
ineluctable moon face and water reflection.

Here the colloquial voice, the natural speaking voice works perfectly well. Why not a color reference? Touch/feel of a surface, a temperature---and be careful those references to

Her belly

Her breasts defiant

So often used these days to describe women---usually said to be beautiful---that’s why I strive to find a flaw, physical flaw, in a person I am describing.


And still that single, leafless tree back behind her.

And a third day. The day you showed up in St. Augustine.
I was so ****ing weirded out that year. My mother dying grotesquely,
my other wife beating me in private more frequently,
and you suddenly there, sitting on a park table under the light house,
beneath the squat oak trees, guitar in your arms,
waiting for me to come back to town, certain I would show.
I saw your face in the dusk and I was safe, home.

Nice ending to this verse, lot’s of action and detail including that abusive wife.


You had slipped out of town.

You slipped out of town…

No word of goodbye…

Just better diction, yes?

There was no word of goodbye and I've since imagined
it was a midnight slip, and so done in darkness.
Within a month or so I left Providence too.
But you left town for NYC.
My departure was more a strategic retreat.
I was back in C’ville, back to the
bookstore where we first found friendship.
I've wondered what my wife must have felt that winter:
first her lover and then her husband.
But not to worry. She became a wealthy woman.

In those years I started renting rooms let out by old women.
My rent supplemented their income.
My presence offered security.
My motive amounted to a further retreat.
And you took to New York City streets like
a honeybee takes to tupelo nectar.
I think the city streets in which you found yourself
eased your body and pleased your sense for nonsense.

I like the renting of rooms let by old women…

There is something I've wanted to share with you all these years.
It is a discovery I made.
You may recall how we brought each other discoveries.
There is a reason for this I'll get to presently.

It was the anthology of Chinese poetry Confucius
defined, set for all time, made classic.
The odes, smaller and larger, and the folk songs.
Songs of city life, songs of mountain and river,
songs of love and friendship and exile,
songs you would have taken to, put music to.
Confucius summed up the message of some 300 poems this way:
"Have no twisty thoughts."
This is why I know you could have put those
ancient poems to perfect music.

I’ve never reconciled to losing you to the City.
But here is how I think the City spoke to you.
It is a poem Confucius would have known some
2,500 years ago and called "Town Life."

Sun's in the East
her loveliness
Comes here
To undress.

Twixt door and screen
at moon-rise
I hear
Her departing sighs.

There is a story, my brother, about a valley
and mountains and a river and two warlords whose
armies stand ready, poised to
throw themselves into each other's arms murderously.
Between them sit Confucious and his lyrical friends.
Maybe they are in the middle belly of that valley.
And the young man refuses to leave off singing the odes.
And the opposing armies are forced to wait for him,
cool their heels, busy themselves with chit chat.
And Confucius sings the odes, plays his music, knowing
what matters to him. Only then is he ready to go.

I should have sent you the poetry.

The docent telling that valley and mountains story…what impact, what did you feel about the story? Make it personal. Otherwise, just a label.


L.D., I get it and finally why
these poems address you and you damn near
two decades dead. Your mother
wrote a letter that said you tried to keep alive
long enough to see your one son born.
I think of this and I think of your one child's mother.
It is the double pain some women must bear in birth.

Spare us the medical insight… instead, a detail, a color, a scent, let me know one of you was there, like vets in a war.

It is the double pain some women must bear in birth

We both know how memory is mostly a liar.
We filtered through the range of lies when you were alive.
We both know experience does not tell on a man.
And we both know that behind it all, the
women, the children, the workplace, the title,
when a man comes back to his space, room or wilderness range,
he must measure where he stands in the range of things.

Just so preachy, prosy, so much the high school debate squad, the philosophy 101 course.

Sometimes I envy you that you got to die young.
Other times I figure you should have lived longer.
Then you would have taken in what it means to
love and die, love again and die again
in the way all sutured lovers must.

The rain beats down
on my window tonight
like the rain
beating down on my door.

It is the poetry in you I miss the most.
The way you had for going after things.
There was no censor in your proceedings.
There was only the discovery that counted.

You are the only man I've known to speak to me this way.



I am finally getting around to asking you
the question I've meant to ask all these years.
I never thought to ask the question when you were alive,
or, if I did, I think I knew it would do us no good.

A man who trades in ideas like a man trading in
women, the stock market, in futures, or in politics
is an unfinished man. He is a first born fool,
a gallant tarnished at birth, a rube, romancer, a
charlatan, snake oil salesman certain that
the next flim flam he pulls off will complete him.
This is something I know about theorists, intellectuals,
and ideologues, all careening between
one idea or another and the next.
It all keeps unfinished business, and it keeps that way
because such men are born unfinished business,
no matter the sway or the convincing moment.
The same is true of certain women. Only,
they play out the incompleteness in
beautiful dance step beautifully. And in tragedy.

It all keeps unfinished business, and it keeps that way
because such men are born unfinished business…

Men are born unfinished,

not exactly a break through observation.

I know this to be true, L.D., since I am such a man.
I have always been unfinished business, one step behind myself.
I was unfinished the first time I saw you and saw
the completeness in the way your feet stood you to the floor,
and I will finish unfinished, a trickster and shape-changer.

But you. You came on the scene complete.
You were like the sibyl's son whose father stays mysterious.
You had instincts of a cat who trusts himself completely.
You had the body-knowing of a bodhisattiva sitting
lotus fashion underneath the bodhi, woman tree.
You never questioned what you desired, and ideas
were play things for you or costumes you put on
in the way a woman puts on a dress just to judge its properties.

Your mother delighted in telling stories about you.
Do you remember the one about when you were five?
You were living in an apartment, some storeys above ground.
You went out on the balcony, climbed up to stand on the railing.
You must have perched perfectly between balcony and air.
Your mother found you, controlled her panic,
and in even tone asked what were you doing.
Your reply: "Mother, the truth of it is and that's the way it is."

Do these stories work, this tender childhood memory? Adds volume to the poem, but depth? Do we gain insight into the core story---your iconic friend for life?

This is the sense I make of your life.
Decades later I make no sense of your death.
It is too late now and, anyway, nobody asked.

I would have taken your place, my best brother.
You had no business with Death.
Why didn’t you let me take your place?

I want to see you, L.D. I want to tape back
together your bones and your flesh and your soul.
I want to see you seeing things again.

Physical and real, good, no docent, no chinese poetry---real pain and anguish.

Down in C'ville I could find you in that
Greek restaurant. Gus and Sophie owned and
ran the place where we would meet up and
maybe we would talk too much.

But place never defines a man, unless, of course,
he is not his own man. You were your own man.

And you were going so well, then suddenly the two lines above that seem so thin, place never defines a man---a real estate add or what?

Your eyes looked through lies while forgiving the liar.
Your body spent itself on truths you had no name for.
You heard rhythms no one else could hear.
Your needs only once or twice betrayed you.

You were always quick to recover.

Maybe you remember the last time we sat across
from each other. It was an all night diner up in Providence.
Dirty street, late night blues runners, you and me.

That was the only time you ever lied to me, man.
The lie so deep in your eyes is what broke my heart.

Good close. The poem lighter now, faster narration; less distractions. I still vote for more color, feel and taste---let me know you saw something, put hot foods in your mouth, that when you stumbled your hand found a frosted rail, rust or the wood surface of a 100 year old table; not just that the poem in perpetual thinking mode. And when the poem does think, make sure it is not in labels, or philosophy 101 essays. One more pass to silence any still speaking docent;

But much better now, I think.


Last edited by Bernie01, Feb/27/2013, 2:38 am


Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Feb/27/2013, 12:39 am Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
Terreson Profile
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Re: The L.D. poems

Very good, Bernie. Now you've finished your crit of the suite you can go on to bigger, better things. I confess I find your comments registering on the snarky side of the number line. You've charged the suite with faux philosophy, with carrying bromides, with constituting a class in Philosophy 101, and with a voice the voice of a docent. Not just once but more than a few times. I'm left questioning motive on your part, since, I don't think the suite is guilty of any of the above mentioned charges.

Feb/27/2013, 8:17 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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i've identified the dead bodies. examples of what prompted my comment.

raise them up, it's your poem. no personal arguments need apply.

i hope you agree.




Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Feb/27/2013, 8:52 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
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Re: The L.D. poems

for all of us who crit---this fun and instructive meeting imagined by Cynthia Ozick in---

Helping T.S. Eliot Write Better.


excerpts from the short satire:


... I notice you have a whole lot of question marks all over, and they go up and down the same ground again and again. You've got So how should I presume? and then you've got And how should I presume? and after that you've got And should I presume? You'll just have to decide on how you want that and then keep to it. People aren't going to make allowances for you forever, you know, just because you're painfully young. And you shouldn't put in so many question marks anyhow. You should use nice clean declarative sentences. Look at this, for instance, just look at what a mess you ve got here-


I grow old ... I grow old ...

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.


and here, the young T.S. answers his editor:

"Since you're saying he doesn't feel like Hamlet, why put Hamlet in? We can't waste words, not in 1911 anyhow. Now up here, top of the page, you speak of


a pair of ragged claws

scuttling across the floor of silent seas.

exactly what kind of claws are they? Lobster claws? Crab? Precision, my boy, precision!"

"I just meant to keep it kind of general, for the atmosphere-"

"Let's get down to business, then. The idea is excellent, first-rate, but there's just a drop too much repetition. You owned up to that yourself a minute ago. For instance, I notice that you say, over


In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo,

and then, over here, on the next page, you say it again."

"That's meant to be a kind of refrain," Eliot offered modestly."

Yes, I see that, but our subscribers don't have time to read things twice. We've got a new breed of reader nowadays. Maybe back, say, in 1896 they had the leisure to read the same thing twice, but our modern folks are on the run. I see you're quite a bit addicted to the sin of redundancy. Look over here, where you've got

'I am Lazarus, come back from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all--

If one, settling a pillow by her head,

Should say: 'That is not what I meant at all;

That is not it, at all.'

Very nice, but that reference to the dead coming back is just too iffy. I'd drop that whole part. The pillow, too. You don't need that pillow; it doesn't do a thing for you. And anyhow you've said 'all' four times in a single place. That won't do. It's sloppy And who uses the same word to make a rhyme? Sloppy!"

hope you enjoy as i did.



Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Feb/27/2013, 9:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
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Thanks for that, bernie. Made me laugh,

Feb/28/2013, 1:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
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Bernie01 wrote:


i've identified the dead bodies. examples of what prompted my comment.

raise them up, it's your poem. no personal arguments need apply.

i hope you agree.



Dead bodies? Or bodies with voices speaking a language the critic cannot understand. The one poetry critic I distrust the most is the one who assumes his is a priveliged position. Physics teaches us that, in the universe, there are no such points of view.

Feb/28/2013, 7:19 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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The one poetry critic I distrust the most is the one who assumes his is a priveliged position.

them's bad ones, of course, but not to worry.
you would not be confused with such a loathsome person.

just teasing, yup, you mean me. i list examples for my comments, specifics.

why not address one or two of those? not for my sake, but for the poem; it would not be the first time i'm wrong, not the first to be right if there is such a thing where sensibiity and nuance are so important and personal.

makes sense to me, not you?




Last edited by Bernie01, Mar/1/2013, 12:04 am


Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Feb/28/2013, 8:08 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
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Your link reminded me of this poem you probably know:

Workshop By Billy Collins

In a workshop setting like this one, someone posts a poem and someone else responds. Then it's up to the writer to follow the critter's suggestions, or not follow them, as s/he sees fit. It's as simple as that, n'est-ce pas, mes amis? (Hope I got that right as it's been a while since I took French class in junior high. emoticon )

Feb/28/2013, 11:10 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
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Bernie, yours is a practical suggestion. At this point, however, I can only repeat myself. Much of what you suggest, by way of changes and edits, would make of the suite a Bernie, not a Terreson production, since, as best as I can tell your suggestions reflect how you proceed, not how I proceed. That said, I did avail myself of your comment to the effect the series would benefit from being shorter and tighter. I had already decided it should be shorter. You simply persuaded me to make it happen. Taking what was originally a set of 33 poems down to 20 poems I think speaks to having weilded a pretty sharp knife. As said elsewhere, however, and leaning on Poe, undue brevity produces merely the epigrammatic.

Anyway, much of what you suggest would rid the suite of two features on whose axis I think the poems revolve. The conversation that takes place as if through a one way mirror and the love between two men who started down the poet's way together. I do not understand why that does not carry over. Viewed singly the poems are slight, minor. The super-organism of the suite, so to speak, not so minor.

Maybe time to let it go. Thanks again.

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