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Charles North - Four Poems

Charles North

Piece of a Rhapsody

The dawn turns into a maple tree then a fakebook from the windy 1940s
then back into dawn and speaks. It would be nice if writing as well as
reading took a lot less time. That by the way is chapter one. With the net
out, shaded in or not, and the sadder exclamations, sprocket and well-
wisher, sending a pigeon as an envoy. Just in case. As for the suggestion
that the natural world is no more constructed than a Plan de Paris, it
was followed by a thin cloud of reddish smoke, more plum than scarlet,
spattered by daylight.

Crepuscule with Paula

Does realism get your vote? It gets mine.
The plants with their insatiable thirst for appearances,
the heart-stopping 7:00 p.m. air moonlighting as a pressed-
   cardboard Korean ashtray
(server, modest coaster) decorated with a single blondish branch
holding six leaves and a piece of rose-colored fruit (pear,
   plum, ripe peach)
slightly raised as if applied to the flat, creamy space behind
flecked with light gray, light green, and brown marks of varying
from pinpricks to ashes, pencil (it looks like) to brush.
The romance of the window panes (I'm squinting a little) has
to do with the misguided view, the one with the Fates schmoozing
under the maroon awning of the high-rise (schmoos is more like
and the embarrassed-looking sycamores revealing for all they're
in their slightly fictionalized but emotionally accurate way,
   which contributes to the overall tone
without detracting from the realistic participation,
a motorbike taking the corner too fast, a cat knowing the worst
   that can possibly happen and managing to avoid it,
which could be the key signature if not for a free-standing
radiance just outside, unmoored, a hint of plum or Anjou pear.

Study for "Everything"

Tenure schmenure the sages are all on the Hudson River pier.
  Don't lean over too far.
I wouldn't be surprised to see arms and legs, even a vital organ
   or two
representing the shy - passive-agressive - inner life.
Brushing out followed by... brushing in.

If people in high-rises shouldn't groan
neither should the brownstones huddle closer together
each time there's a hint of autumn in the air or in the trees -
like, if you'll pardon me for saying so,
rushing to cremate the dead when everyone,
themselves included, knows we want them around for as long as
   humanly possible.

Not, of course, that the pangs have much choice
regarding where to settle, or be observed.
A rusty hydrant is as good as a park bench.
The handful of pigeons poking around a chunk of baguette near
   the grass
don't seem to agree, but they're hand-stamped,
inks (some line, too?) already beginning to fade.

I only know what I know is one version.
Another - as witness so many royal portraits
or the parade of experimental drugs
for a dread disease - is that knowledge works only some of the
Really works. Never mind how things
seem as opposed to how they see themselves, or why
appearance stakes so much if not everything on the distinction.

from Elevenses (collaboration with artist Trevor Winkfield)

SEPTEMBER 27. ("Autour de mes cartes...") The Rodchenko
Mayakovsky one from so long ago - looking daggers at the world in an
uncomfortable-looking suit and tie and dangling a brimmed hat and
a cigarette from long fingers. His wooden chair pushed back against
a bare wall (thin wainscotting) is clearly too small for someone his
height. High-top laced shoes glued to scratched floorboards while he
waits, handsome, wary, and aggressive, for the next question about his
work, his loves, and his changing relationship to the Party.

SEPTEMBER 30. Disambiguation: An Inkling

not The Inklings, who met in a semi-formal, or at least regular, manner
at the Bird and Baby (Eagle and Child) pub on St. Giles St. in Oxford
in the - 1930s? - most notably C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. From ink as
well as hint? Jimmy would know. The pub figures in Colin Dexter's
Inspector Morse mysteries. When we were there it was packed, not
easy to place an order (in front, with no room for people to get around
you) or navigate the narrow aisle to the other end

of summer. In the air mostly, given cold wet grass and cold earth. Is
it ever not? (Does nature never get embarrassed?) Inklings in smells,
breezes, sudden clearings, ejaculations. Why did the ox ford the stream
here? To get to the other quad.

NOVEMBER 1. Some ideas are nearer and dearer than others, the
problem is how to make them permanent and not just "souped up"
for the occasion. With the corollary that permanence is, to at least
some degree, a function of souping up. Take the one about daylight
supported by nothing until you and I realize we're the ones chosen to
carry it, along with the grocery bags, paper coffee cups, and list of things
that really should be done by lunchtime. Ideas that can't - or won't -
adjust to the times gust into oblivion without so much as a blink (the
Seven Civic Dwarfs, half the bunk house, Porrex and Ferrex, the Hotel
de Dream, the rooster crowing its head off - I'm scratching the surface).

NOVEMBER 15. A smell of garlic

and the almost sun leans on a linden tree, affecting nonchalance.

NOVEMBER 19. The silent e that looks back at you from the ends of so
many words, though I have a suspicion it doesn't always do so happily.

NOVEMBER 20. Pale green celery leaves and the smaller, whitish
hearts that signify narcissism in the unmediated sense - but I only
recently learned that narcotic has the same root, which might explain
to some degree those mornings when fog, for want of a better term, is
unrelieved. What is the 'good life' apart from focus on what is good
about it for as long as that lasts, absent which the notion has so little
content or connection to the conscious self that the smallest breeze
or grinding of brakes puts and end to it? Of course, horse radishes and
turnips are hearts too (never mind artichokes); possibly Macoun apples
with their short season; whereas the outer-directed eggplants, carrots,
kale, tomatoes, pumpkins, etc., live healthy and useful lives reveling in
"Monopoly" colors. As do cars and national flags.

Copyright © Charles North, 2020.

These poems are from the collection "Everything and Other Poems", pub. The Song Cave ( 2020. All rights reserved.

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