it’s easy to pretend that we don’t love the world

In French, “aubade” means “dawn serenade” and the word has also come to mean songs or poems for lovers parting in the morning. If a poet has an aubade in his or her collection, I often for some reason find myself gravitating towards it, as I was to this poem by Patrick Phillips (1970-) from his newest collection, Elegy for a Broken Machine. As I make my way through this book, I’m appreciating his meditations on the elegant and cruel mechanics of life, the broken machines that surround us and comprise us as human beings.

phillips

“Aubade”

It’s easy to pretend
that we don’t love

the world.
But then there is

your freckled skin. Then:
your back’s faint

lattice-work of bones.
I’m not saying this

makes up for suffering,
or trying to pretend

that each day’s little ladder
of sunlight, creeping

across the bed at dawn,
somehow redeems it

for the thousand ways
in which we’ll be forsaken.

Maybe, sweet sleeper,
breathing next to me

as I scratch and scrawl
these endless notes,

I’m not saying anything
but what the sparrows out

our window sing,
high in their rotten oak.

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You are a bird-understander better than I could ever be

I was introduced to Craig Arnold‘s work about a year after he disappeared while hiking on a small volcanic island in Japan in 2009. I’m having trouble choosing just one selection from his gorgeously raw last collection, Made Flesh, so here is another poem of his that I love.

craig_arnold

“Bird-Understander”

Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal     all the people
ignoring it     because they do not know
what to do with it     except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death

it makes you terribly terribly sad

You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or     (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird

All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird     and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless

but you are wrong

You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song

These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt

you have offered them
to me     I am only
giving them back

if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not

So I bring no sad stories to warn the heart.

This morning I woke to a reminder from the poet Linda Gregg and the clear sunshine outside my window that amidst all the visible and intangible darkness of our lives, there is light.

“A Dark Thing Inside the Day”

So many want to be lifted by song and dancing,
and this morning it is easy to understand.
I write in the sound of chirping birds hidden
in the almond trees, the almonds still green
and thriving in the foliage. Up the street,
a man is hammering to make a new house as doves
continue their cooing forever. Bees humming
and high above that a brilliant clear sky.
The roses are blooming and I smell the sweetness.
Everything desirable is here already in abundance.
And the sea. The dark thing is hardly visible
in the leaves, under the sheen. We sleep easily.
So I bring no sad stories to warn the heart.
All the flowers are adult this year. The good
world gives and the white doves praise all of it.