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February 06, 2020


I hope it's not too impolite to do this, probably it is, but times are weird. Here's a prose poem I brought back today, in celebration of Donald Trump's acquittal. It was translated into a number of languages following the Abu Ghraib events, which are now pretty much forgotten, of course, though Trump does his best to keep the memory alive by championing the employment of torture:  

By the way, there is, in Forche's legendary poem, a curious detail that seems off. In Central America, during the 1980s, grocery bags were decidedly not made of paper, but of plastic. I worked as a literacy and adult education instructor on two occasions in Nicaragua, once for six months in 1980 and then for nine months in 1983, in the mountains, in the midst of the Contra war. I went back on two later extended occasions to do research for books and articles I later published on Nicaraguan poetry and culture, with the close collaboration of Ernesto Cardenal, the great Nicaraguan poet and Minister of Culture at the time. Never once, in all that time do I remember seeing a paper bag, such as we have at grocery stores here in the U.S., either at supermarkets or at the outdoor mercados. It is possible, I suppose, that this Colonel in Forche's poem had special commissary stores where such paper sacks were available, I don't know. Anyway, I am not calling the veracity of the memory into question, just noting the anachronism, if that's the word, which is highlighted by the fact that severed human ears would be less "messily" kept in a plastic bag, rather than a paper one. Human ears are not mushrooms, after all.

Forgive me, I know three comments under a single poet is obnoxious, and I promise this will be my last one, but I want to be clear that I admire Carolyn Forche. She and I graduated from the same program, at mid-level Bowling Green State U. (she some years before me), and she was kind (and brave!) enough to provide a supporting comment for the Araki Yasusada writings. Here is what she said (present at Jacket Magazine, from years ago):

"’Yasusada’s’ writing is an entry into a spiritual space . . . It is a
work of art in the largest sense."

As caretaker of that work, I value that comment by Carolyn Forche. (Poor Charles Simic is another matter, altogether. There's a surprising--sad and confused, in his case--link to Yasusada, there, also).

OK, basta ya.

Thanks for your comments. Interesting about Forche. I have been to El Salvador several times--no memory of what kind of shopping bags were there, but it was such a heart-breakingly beautiful country--the people especially.

My love for the poems you post, especially by poets of the caliber of Denise Duhamel and Terence Winch, is unbounded.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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