Friday, March 18, 2016

Poem Friday: Frank X. Gaspar.

I ran across Frank X. Gaspar's book Night of a Thousand Blossoms at my friend's house a few years ago. I read a few poems and liked them, then bought a copy of the book for myself and spent mornings one summer reading them. I liked their expansive lines and the way he easily brought in his learned, well-read perspective without ever seeming to show off. I liked that I could imagine him reading, or thinking, or writing, someplace in a house in the late evening, when the early shift of people--people with day jobs, families, well-established routines--had gone to bed, and the late shift--the people who were out all hours, working in the night, coming home to dark houses--was still on the job. He was on the late shift, it seemed to me, ruminating and meditating.

This poem, "The One God Is Mysterious," is in Night of a Thousand Blossoms. It reminds me of the poem that begins Linda Gregg's Chosen by the Lion, "The Ninth Dawn," in which the speaker meditates on human suffering in the classical myths, and suggests that
                                         The gods
want the honey in the hive, are willing to have
the lovers destroyed. There is a grand design
pulsing around their perishing. 
Gaspar is not as dramatic as that, but the impulse is similar, to find in ancient texts--in this case, an illustration of a Babylonian sculpture--the rhyme with one's own experience--one's 
own memory of excess and extravagance,
of abandonment to the weight of everything
that pulls me down to ruin, those same ticks
and voices that lift me up and fill me with breath.
I want a life in which art, or history, or contemplation, makes 'every dark wish lie down with every bright wish':

The One God Is Mysterious

Frank X. Gaspar

from an illustration of Babylonian sculpture
The king and his queen are feasting.
They recline, sumptuously, on long divans
and are attended by naked servants. They
can have anything they want, this much is
clear, and I believe they have been having
sex with one another and with the servants.
Why wouldn’t they? Who among the servants
would not be honored to help? And it’s Babylon
after all, and doesn’t Babylon exist in your
memory? Isn’t Babylon the clear rumbling
of your heart at ease with its every craving--
not the way it is now, fenced off with spiked wire
and old pipes, with signs telling the pedestrians
to beware:  the litter, the old cans rusting. No,
this is my own memory of excess and extravagance,
of abandonment to the weight of everything
that pulls me down to ruin, those same ticks
and voices that lift me up and fill me with breath.
And don’t you want to drink the breath of your
beloved? And his beloved? And her beloved?
You see how it goes. The One God is mysterious
and He has made me crazy. Maybe I am the king
or the queen. Or one of those sculpted figures
that bend so sweetly toward them, so graceful,
so finely formed and desirable in every way.
I remember being desired like that, and desiring
like that also. And I remember my heart in its deep
voice, commanding. Now that my common neighborhood
is tucked in for the night, the cars parked in the driveways,
the blinds drawn and everyone’s drapes closed and the garage
doors locked, I can breathe easier. Now, in Babylon,
you see what is possible. The queen and her king are
dining, forever, in a gray frieze, but even so, they make
a fire in us, they free the ache from my shoulders,
they make every dark wish lie down with every bright wish,
they bring a great comfort to the harried in this land.

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