About Me

My photo
As the poet-in-residence at EcoHealth Alliance, my verse finds inspiration these days in topics of ecology and public health. I am reappraising the sonnets of E. A. Robinson for my dissertation at LMU Munich, where I tutor composition and poetics. I also teach English at MVHS and lead the literary circle at Amerikahaus.

20160725

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things – 
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; 
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; 
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. 

All things counter, original, spare, strange; 
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) 
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; 
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 
                                Praise him.

20160724

'No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,'

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief, 
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring. 
Comforter, where, where is your comforting? 
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief? 
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief 
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing — 
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked 'No ling- 
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief."'

    O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall 
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap 
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small 
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep, 
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all 
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

20160723

Munich, Winter 1973 (for Y.S.)

by James Baldwin


In a strange house,
a strange bed
in a strange town,
a very strange me
is waiting for you.

Now
it is very early in the morning.
The silence is loud.
The baby is walking about
with his foaming bottle,
making strange sounds
and deciding, after all,
to be my friend.

You
arrive tonight.

How dull time is!
How empty—and yet,
since I am sitting here,
lying here,
walking up and down here,
waiting,
I see
that time's cruel ability
to make one wait
is time's reality.

I see your hair
which I call red.
I lie here in this bed.

Someone teased me once,
a friend of ours
saying that I saw your hair red
because I was not thinking
of the hair on your head.

Someone also told me,
a long time ago:
my father said to me,
It is a terrible thing,
son,
to fall into the hands of the living God.
Now,
I know what he was saying.
I could not have seen red
before finding myself
in this strange, this waiting bed.
Nor had my naked eye suggested
that colour was created
by the light falling, now,
on me,
in this strange bed,
waiting
where no one has ever rested!

The streets, I observe,
are wintry.
It feels like snow.
Starlings circle in the sky,
conspiring,
together, and alone,
unspeakable journeys
into and out of the light.

I know
I will see you tonight.
And snow
may fall
enough to freeze our tongues
and scald our eyes.
We may never be found again!

Just as the birds above our heads
circling
are singing,
knowing
that, in what lies before them,
the always unknown passage,
wind, water, air,
the failing light
the failing night
the blinding sun
they must get the journey done.
Listen.
They have wings and voices
are making choices
are using what they have.
They are aware
that, on long journeys,
each bears the other,
whirring,
stirring
love occurring
in the middle of the terrifying air.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

#munich


Dear family and friends,

Jan, my mother-in-law, got home safe last night after taking shelter in a hotel and a restaurant; Laura and I got home just after the shooting began and stayed indoors, safe throughout.

With the new day comes clarity about what happened: As you've no doubt heard by now, the police have concluded that there was only one gunman, an eighteen-year-old Iranian-German citizen (whose apartment was in Maxvorstadt, our borough of the city, which may account for all of the police activity last night). 


From the perch of our second-story apartment on Schellingstrasse, we witnessed the workings of the response to the attack: From initial speeding police vehicles and circling helicopters to an unsettling lull, which was broken with the return of the speeding police vehicles and the helicopters; during one such quiet spell, our normally very busy street became, as you can see here, surreally lit in blue with the convoy of dozens upon dozens of ambulances (which we surmised were meant to assist in the evacuation of OEZ, the shopping mall where the shooting happened, or Tollwood, a nearby festival in the Olympic Park).


The sunshine this morning seems somehow both brighter and more muted. Some eighteen hours later, the city is back to normal, though in a quieter vein than its usual summer exuberance confers. Two hours ago, I went to the bakery, whose outside seating was full, to buy a newspaper and pick up breakfast. En route, I ran into two neighbors in our courtyard, bumped into an artist acquaintance around the corner, and chatted with the Spanish woman who manages the bakery. There was only one topic of conversation. 


Aloha,
Mark

20160722

‪#‎munich


Dear family and friends,

By now, you've heard the horrible news: There were shootings at multiple locations this evening in Munich.  Laura and I are now safe at home; Janet, Laura's mother, is also now safe at home. The whole city is on lock-down: No public transportation; no taxis; no leaving of stores, restaurants, offices, and hotels. The U.S. consulate has sent a message to stay inside.

The response to the attack is very much on-going: Police vehicles are intermittently racing back and forth down our street, which, normally a thoroughfare, is otherwise completely empty; there was a helicopter above us not long ago; we also just learned the GSG9, the German counter-terrorist unit, has been deployed.  An hour ago, some thirty or forty Malteser ambulances went by, presumably to help out with the evacuations of the shopping center or Tollwood, a nearby outdoor festival in the Olympic Park.

We'll all learn more with the news, but, for now, know that we are safe. To all our friends in Munich, please take good care.

Aloha,
Mark

A Noiseless Patient Spider

by Walt Whitman


A noiseless patient spider, 
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated, 
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding, 
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself, 
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them. 

And you O my soul where you stand, 
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space, 
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them, 
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold, 
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20160721

Sonnet

by Wallace Stevens


Lo, even as I passed beside the booth
Of roses, and beheld them brightly twine
To damask heights, taking them as a sign
Of my own self still unconcerned with truth;
Even as I held up in hands uncouth
And drained with joy the golden-bodied wine,
Deeming it half-unworthy, half divine,
From out the sweet-rimmed goblet of my youth.
Even in that pure hour I heard the tone
Of grievous music stir in memory,
Telling me of the time already flown
From my first youth. It sounded like the rise
Of distant echo from dead melody,
Soft as a song heard far in Paradise.
Note:  A recitation can be heard here.