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I Marry Jane Kenyon Every Five Years


1 Year

There's just no accounting for happiness,
…Happiness


She sat with the men and took a Rémy Martin,
V.S.O.P between her palms. As she bent forward
to light my Havana, I could see into her green dress
all the way to the navel.

She looked like a very fast swimmer.

“Are you a mermaid?” I asked.

“Darling, give me a Churchman’s No. 1, please.”

Whimsical diffidence as when Jane Kenyon
met Donald Hall or Sylvia Plath at Cambridge
bit Ted Hughes’ cheek so hard he was bleeding.

Year Five

...white irises, red peonies; and the poppies
with their black and secret centers...
lie shattered on the lawn…Heavy Summer Rain


After our first married quarrel, we sailed
to America. She stood at the glacis railing
of the lounge, eye shadow the tint of maple aide,
fending the salutes of handsome young
lynx, her copy of Jane Kenyon in a hip pocket
formed to her impeccable backside;
A princess on steps of the Forbidden Palace
fingers in greeting splayed open like a jeweled fan.

Year 10

...take the trouble to speak; someone
who can't sleep, or who does nothing
but sleep; can't read, or call...
for an appointment for help…Having it Out with Melancholy


The year I lost my job she offered intimate
kisses as though offering hot bread in aluminum
foil until I no longer needed her so desperately.
She abided my black dyed ponytail, my drifting
Havana smoke turning the room the color
of a gas pilot light.

Year 15

And the merchant's wife, still
in her yellow dressing gown
at noon, dips her quill into India ink
with an air of cautious pleasure…Dutch Interiors


She began writing,
taking my photographs and translating
them into stories; our marriage
with the age disparity, our first quarrel
that ended divinely on the SS United States
at latitude I do not remember, in raging frost
we made into our own Honolulu, gifting bananas
yellow as the new convertible I was finally
able to buy her.

Year 20
 
When I awake, I am still with thee
…Having it Out with Melancholy


She told stories after dark, but the dark tonight
passes like a phantom empty of her reading
Jane Kenyon to me, clear she is gone
and not returning, but I offer a Rémy Martin
to the room, to the air, love’s melancholy voice
spoken to an empty room.


Last edited by Bernie01, Jul/1/2013, 2:53 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jun/29/2013, 6:35 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: I Marry Jane Kenyon Every Five Years


Hi Bernie,

I like the way you’ve structured the poem: a few lines from Kenyon followed by a scene from the relationship. The five year intervals allow for changes in circumstance and in the relationship, as well as time for reflection on those changes.

1 Year

I love the line: “Are you a mermaid?” It is indeed whimsical: a playful, charming come-on. I wondered if you needed that third line from “Happiness” and thought the first two lines might be enough.

Year Five

I like everything in this section except “Neurasthenic butt” which I found to be too flippant and jarring, almost hostile. Maybe something like:

her copy of Jane Kenyon in a pocket
perfectly molded to her neurasthenic hip;

Year Ten

I noticed here how we learn something new about the N and the woman in each section as the relationship becomes deeper and more tender. I thought you might change “One year” to “the year”. The image of the hot bread in foil is nice.

Year Fifteen

USS United States felt repetitive to me. Maybe change the name of the ship or drop completely:

our first quarrel ended divinely
at latitude I do not remember,

Year Twenty

Too sentimental perhaps but I wondered about this possibility of having them read Kenyon to each other. Perhaps something like:

She told stories after dark, but the dark tonight
passes like a phantom empty of her reading
Jane Kenyon to me, clear she is gone and not returning

Otherwise (!) I love the last stanza, the way it ties back into the beginning. And those last three lines: perfect.

Using the Kenyon quotes as a spine works for me but I may not be the best judge, so I’m interested to see what others think. There are several interwoven love stories operating in the poem, which I find fascinating, rather sophisticated and yummy.
Jul/1/2013, 8:29 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Bernie01 Profile
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Re: I Marry Jane Kenyon Every Five Years


K---

what a whirl.

i've made the changes you highlighted.


...her copy of Jane Kenyon in a hip pocket
formed to her impeccable backside;


the SS United States was intended to show a time frame and the English origin of the couple---hence, the Churchman's No 1 cigarette....


i have never smoked, but if i did....LOL


the company made an issue of their product delivering 15 minutes of bliss...

so they say...

darling, we have 15 minutes, he's smoking a Churchman's No 1.

or,

tell the judge i'll be there in 15 minutes, i'm smoking a Churchman's No. 1...

i had my honey moon in England and it amused us to say things like...

darling, i couldn't possibly take out the trash just now, i'm smoking a Churchman's No. 1.



it had flair....like Philip Morris, which played on the crowded hotels of the WW II years and so you find a bellhop saying,

call for Philip Morris...

i don't know if there was such a person, but i think my early excitement about one day going to new york began with those radio commercials....


you picked up on something that is subtle, but key to the poem:

each story, each five year block presents the couple in a new state of their relationship..

we see their growth, their change.

good poem or bad, it is more important to me to convey that progression.

don't believe i will be making changes, there are just several poems i put on hold to work on Jane Kenyon, but maybe the retort to the mermaid question....but no hurry...


a late model for this type of story telling is the six hour Scenes From a Marriage--- Ingmar Bergman's grand film made for Swedish TV.

Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson.

one very subtle spine, when Liv Ullmann is fed up and confronting her husband her hair is carefully braided down her back, but an hour or next morning we see her hair flowing and unwrapped. i don't know how often that sequence was repeated, but i thought to myself, ah, just the detail that
catches the depth, sensual and emotional, without the need for dialogue driving home that idea.


thanks for carefully reading through this poem, i don't think it is a particularly easy poem and for a breezy reader, and we are all in a hurry these days, so much could be missed---and that independent of the poem's success as simply good or bad.

thanks again.

bernie




 


 

Last edited by Bernie01, Jul/1/2013, 3:03 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jul/1/2013, 12:12 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
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Re: I Marry Jane Kenyon Every Five Years


Bernie,

Even in your poetry you live in a very different world from mine. That's a good thing. I don't know that I'll ever be able to capture this world that you capture so well. The scenes somehow remind of those glitter calendars from way back, or those beautiful songs from out of the 40's, maybe the 30's or 20's. Katlin has done a decent job of looking at the poem. I hesitate to comment on it in detail because there is more complexity in it than I can deal with at the moment. It sparkles though, and moves along.

Stuff like this throws me: "And the merchant's wife, still
in her yellow dressing gown
at noon, dips her quill into India ink
with an air of cautious pleasure…Dutch Interiors"

I'm thinking where does this come from. I'm reminded a bit of the Great Gatsby.

Good stuff. Zak
Jul/1/2013, 6:25 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: I Marry Jane Kenyon Every Five Years


Z---

from Gatsby:


"He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them one by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher – shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of indian blue. Suddenly with a strained sound Daisy Bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily. “They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before.”


each of the little story vignettes here begins with a quote from Jane Kenyon's poetry. the four lines you highlighted in this crit are my favorites from her poetry.

elsewhere, i noted poem titles---i have 250 poems and i know that because I had to select down to only 120 for a contest. Yipes!

Within that 120---a poem about bees---

Scholarly bees who attend college and graduate with high marks
go to dewy clover fields wet enough to prevent a scalded mouth,
dull bees are sent to Cleveland, to my house, and others nearby
where the gardens are limp green, plants like washed dollar bills
passed from hand to hand by men who work on production lines.



a leisurely visit to Chichicapa, Mexico---my mostly invented city in Mexico:

Mezcal Del Maguey Chichicapa
is one dirt road farther than the day laborers from Oaxaca.

Coconut farmers live there, hands and clothes carry the scent
of bath soap.

The men are brown as beans. Washing under outdoor pumps
their bellies are plump and white.





children arriving by magic directly from Darfur at a fancy dress ball in Boston---complete with a cow that transpires...during the course of the poem.


I stumble over a dying cow, brown
as winter gloves, soft to the touch
peaceful, even elegant in this death,
dark eyes round as moulded clay.
The visitors quietly gather around.
A child touches my shoulder,
the hand pats like a priest at a grave.





a backgammon gambler in Bangalore---secretly in love with a 16 year-old visitor to the illegal gambling den where he works:


Macassar oil for my black hair,
my last 700 US dollars;

The gambling tables brushed
smooth as a race horse;


In the morning air, the purple air
of the airless gambling pits
you stroll by, smooth tideland
of your belly, the stern look
your eyes give out;

your face full of rupees
and barely sixteen years old.




the lover of a girl vendor at the Bombay Royal Race Track who sells hot spices and pungent sauces:


...If I order, she shyly
returns my soiled 2 rupee note. Nestled
close together on the subway ride home,
she has a rich masala scent, hands fragrant
with black gram. How richly she smells.
She thinks I mean the Chanel I purchased
from Suraj, my half-brother who sells
purloined discs and perfumes at the station.




the city of my youth:

Commonweal

The Post-Intelligencer, a newspaper
with a name longer than mainstreet

writes:

Expect a day of such lassitude
even ducks lie basking on satin backs,
upturned bottoms rusted brown.

Windows are wide open
like disbelieving eyes.

Boys tinker with a Ford. Two women on
a front porch lean together and kiss.
Wings dip in the birdbath.

The high school band teacher tunes
violins, first one and then a second,
lowers his head and begins to weep.

The city bus stops for gas,
officer Paul Diamond finishes lunch,
in the next county a stolen car report,
he knows the need for men like himself.

An old dog is helped to its feet and fed.
A motorcycle stirs dust and disappears.

A woman hides $200 in her brassiere,
exposes an areole and smiles thinking
how her husband would enjoy watching.


...

Mulberry trees, graceful as girls at ballet.

A Black couple study in the park bleachers,
she sees Karnack, Luxor and universities
founded in her name, a wind still blowing
from Kemet billows his polo shirt
into the robe of a scholar.

At six, practicing Jews walk past Mormons
to synagogue. Card players at the VFW
fish eye a large pot. At Sacred Heart,
Mrs. Ridgeway's B-5 bingo card wins
a basket of cellophaned bath salts.

Afternoon fades on the doorstep, a vacuum
cleaner salesman knocks hopefully.
A Vietnam Vet sits on a davenport, snaps
on the lamp, holds a book but does not read.

A child nestles into the ribs of his father,
a mollusk into the sea bed, dusk unfolds
like a woman undressing for her bath.

....

Sing-song chop of a pedaled bicycle,
The Post-Intelligencer evening edition
arcs in the air and rattles the screen door.




well, just things i see---sometime more with the heart than the eyes.

A young Chinese girl with a limp, unemployed and just dumped by a callous boy---the cold factory floor where she once earned her living.

a Forumula I driver in the 1950's, a WW II Japanese fighter pilot in his sleek, deadly Zero fighter plane:

...our two fighters surround
an Australian Kittyhawk in a ripe line of sky.

We fire until the plane disappears over
the soiled mass of Port Morseby.

In our tent, a sleepwalking Hiroyoshi
writes a poem:

quote:

High-up the seedless clouds are matted, ruffled white
as face powder. Sakai signals "go home."
A motor is hardly needed to pull my plane toward base.
I set the fuel lever to "Lean" and edge the cockpit screen open,
fresh air sweeps around me and I am a flight scarf free in wind,
my only friend goes ahead and I follow rising on the incense
of chrysanthemum ash.






i will soon be back at UCLA attempting to patch the liver. i never know how well my brain will be working when they get finished, so i wanted to clear my desk of this Jane Kenyon poem and the poem you saw elsewhere, The Mine.


i mention, reprise other poems...i hope there are themes there which you can fully
embrace---not the execution of the poem, just the world they suggest.


thanks for your comment about the Jane Kenyon poem, i hope you saw the brief history that provoked the poem after Katlin gave me a link to Kenyon's real life husband, Donald Hall, and his staggering memorial to her---who he now survives.


bernie


   



 











Last edited by Bernie01, Jul/1/2013, 9:08 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Re: I Marry Jane Kenyon Every Five Years


Bernie,

I may have glanced at the Kenyon biography you mentioned. I'll look at it again. Thank you for posting those selections. They are remarkable pieces. You say you're going in for some kidney work. I hope it turns out well for you. I started to say a lot more but deleted it. You never know quite what to say under these circumstances and fear you may say the wrong thing. Just let us know how everything is. If your mind isn't as razor sharp as usual, at least let us know you're okay. Zak
Jul/2/2013, 2:45 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: I Marry Jane Kenyon Every Five Years


Z---

yes, the liver. the children remind me they are no longer little girls, and they demand the full status --- usually bugging the doctors when i am out of view.

so, i am learning to be open about personal matters.

i talk with other transplant patients, folks who like myself, who have come across the stormy n atlantic (dramatic image...LOL) to qualify to be on a wait list.

you've got to be pretty sick as determined by a computer derived formula---blood tests and other hard data. at my age, and non-drug familiar body, the horror might be the post-operative period---100 pills a day to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ.

Yipes!

i never even smoked and chewing gum was not allowed in my grade school...LOL.

a virgin body. a blessing for more than 50 years, but now, but now....almost any drug seems to immediately impact my ability to think...whole poems disappear from memory.
my biological daughter who knows me like a book, has this miraculous ability to stand beside me and fill in words when i flounder, she does it so smoothly that even i sometime don't notice.

Yipes again.

until we reach the post operative period---assuming the transplant takes place, i can lower or eliminate prescribed medicines---none are able to restore let alone cure my liver, but the hope is that they retard the disease.

thanks for your comment.

enough such talk, now William Somerset Maugham says...let's have cakes and ale.

let's all just keep writing new poms.



bernie

   

Last edited by Bernie01, Jul/2/2013, 6:02 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jul/2/2013, 5:51 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
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Re: I Marry Jane Kenyon Every Five Years


Bernie,

This whole thing about aging, "no-fault" aging and sometimes dying is an ongoing narrative. My brother's little friend, Chucky, drowned at the age of six. Lupe, a boy at our school died at the age of twelve. And so forth. Could go on. I had a heart attack on a flight from Dallas to Chattanooga. Agent Orange, the VA said. This in spite of good health, low cholesterol, gym workouts. Who's to say why? I mean, the kidney thing. Yes, write your poems when you can. Do your children know where to find your collection? Zak
quote:

Bernie01 wrote:

Z---

yes, the liver. the children remind me they are no longer little girls, and they demand the full status --- usually bugging the doctors when i am out of view.

so, i am learning to be open about personal matters.

i talk with other transplant patients, folks who like myself, who have come across the stormy n atlantic (dramatic image...LOL) to qualify to be on a wait list.

you've got to be pretty sick as determined by a computer derived formula---blood tests and other hard data. at my age, and non-drug familiar body, the horror might be the post-operative period---100 pills a day to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ.

Yipes!

i never even smoked and chewing gum was not allowed in my grade school...LOL.

a virgin body. a blessing for more than 50 years, but now, but now....almost any drug seems to immediately impact my ability to think...whole poems disappear from memory.
my biological daughter who knows me like a book, has this miraculous ability to stand beside me and fill in words when i flounder, she does it so smoothly that even i sometime don't notice.

Yipes again.

until we reach the post operative period---assuming the transplant takes place, i can lower or eliminate prescribed medicines---none are able to restore let alone cure my liver, but the hope is that they retard the disease.

thanks for your comment.

enough such talk, now William Somerset Maugham says...let's have cakes and ale.

let's all just keep writing new poms.



bernie

   



Jul/3/2013, 5:32 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: I Marry Jane Kenyon Every Five Years


Well, Bernie, you're going to have to come back to the board to get my take on your poem. Glad it's finally happening, the transplant. Sweet talk your nurses no matter what.

Tere
Jul/3/2013, 7:15 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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