- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 10/10/20
Greetings and Happy Weekend!
Another weekend and more poetry and music:
Two wonderful poems by Billy Collins:
We do not speak like Petrarch or wear a hat like Spenser and it is not fourteen lines like furrows in a small, carefully plowed field
but the picture postcard, a poem on vacation, that forces us to sing our songs in little rooms or pour our sentiments into measuring cups.
We write on the back of a waterfall or lake, adding to the view a caption as conventional as an Elizabethan woman’s heliocentric eyes.
We locate an adjective for the weather. We announce that we are having a wonderful time. We express the wish that you were here
and hide the wish that we were where you are, walking back from the mailbox, your head lowered as you read and turn the thin message in your hands.
A slice of this place, a length of white beach, a piazza or carved spires of a cathedral will pierce the familiar place where you remain,
and you will toss on the table this reversible display: a few square inches of where we have strayed and a compression of what we feel.
The name of the author is the first to go followed obediently by the title, the plot, the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain, to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag, and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps, the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember it is not poised on the tip of your tongue, not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall, well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war. No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
Sometimes hearing a poem read makes it even more meaningful. Here is Collins talking about reading a poem and then reading “Forgetfulness”: https://www.britannica.com/video/164445/Billy-Collins-American-work-documentary-Poet-Laureate
This is a wonderful article about Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate: https://www.wsj.com/articles/during-the-pandemic-billy-collins-finds-a-new-way-to-bring-poetry-to-the-people-11600444338?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1
Thank you, Debbie Kahn, for this extraordinary “Maybe I’m Immune” sung to the tune of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” James Corden hits it out of the park. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C76XMCJCVs&feature=youtu.be
Thank you, Scott Edelman, for providing this joint socially-distanced “Total Praise,” sung by a chorus of Black ministers and members of the Cantors’ Assembly: https://www.cantors.org/voicesforchange/