Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Anthropoets

To celebrate National Poetry Month I offer the following:

What is Anthropoets?

I was at an Art Fair one August afternoon under a blistering sky and wandering the aisles looking at the crafts and photographs and paintings. At each booth I knew there was one object each vendor prized among all others because it held secrets only they understood. It wasn’t important to fathom those secrets but perhaps it was important to appreciate them. So I choose one craft or photograph or painting or sculpting and commented on it. Sometimes my comments elicited a smile, sometimes they elicited a frown. Only occasionally did I manage to spark an enthusiastic conversation. Of course it was impossible to guess which object held value, so I learned to apply a value myself. Only then was I able to engage these people in conversation. I had to understand them. And one day the sky purpled and it drizzled for awhile and the wind was cold. The aisles were vacant and for a while the vendors sat under their canopied tents and sold nothing, their tables and boxes full of crafts and photographs and paintings, and even the ceramic frogs seemed ready to jump into the wet grass. And when I blinked one day I sat there with a table full of books and they were all sincere, well-intentioned books; and then there was this book, but the rain had driven the customers away. But I liked the book because it had value for me, and so it became like one of those sketches or a small painting that gets pushed back into a corner or lost in the bottom of a box. If you find it there might be value to it, but first you have to understand it.

Here are three selections from ANTHROPOETS

Highway Notes on the Elegiac Mourning Prairie
Thomas McNulty, from Anthropoets

Far back from the road a farmhouse
leans in the air, lost in the tall grass,
sunlight rolling in waves off the torn shingles.
A row of waiting sparrows on the dead telephone line.

Ghost of a girl in an orange dress
waiting on the porch, waiting for
a painter to find the hue of her calico, waiting
for a poet to scratch five lines about her green eyes
and soft upturned lips. Dust and more dust.

On a bright and windy day the corn and wheat
waves, old housewives calling for their husbands,
wondering where they’ve gone to: what corner
tap and sandwich parlor, what bingo hall?
A widow’s liver-spotted hand waves at passing cars.

Ink Drawing of A Man Swallowing a Dragon
Thomas McNulty, from Anthropoets

In the distance a line of trees pierce a sky
studded with exaggerated stars and it might be autumn
because it is always autumn in Celtic folklore, and there is
always a sense of beauty in the shadowy mottled blur of leaves
swaying, a delicate stroke of ink, and we might begin to think
the gaseous pools of night are offering messages from some darker
Gods than those we are accustomed to, and then this man with
an elongated jawline forcing the ascendant Wyvern into his mouth;
already the writhing coils of dragon, the flapping wings, beating
against his ribs, tearing the moral nature of his soul.

He is frozen midway in his effort to consume the dragon, to spare
the sleepy village, barely visible in the corner, from this pestilence
of ancient evil threatening maidens in their eiderdown beds – their
dreams are fearful, fevered with anxiety; they whisper
songs in their dreams; chants and invocations; magic protections
against the dragon in every man that sometimes slithers up the
throat to see through man’s eyes, to peer out of the mouth,
to survey the world, waiting.

Mrs. Clause and Her Spider
Thomas McNulty, from Anthropoets

Motherless child, she was
orphaned at three weeks;
war widow at twenty,
keeping company with a spider
at eighty.

In the afternoon she naps.
She dreams swift blue rivers,
the rolling fertile farmland of Belgium
where the air itself tasted clean, but these
are images on a faded tapestry in a monastery
turned to rubble by the Luftwaffe.
She pulls at the tapestry fabric, organizing threads, trying to recall
the fresh scent of lakes –

On Sunday morning the false promise of bells
awakens her.
She takes a glass jar to the playground, sprinkles in sugar,
watches the ants march in, spins back
the lid, brushes away the soot and sand
of another Chicago landfill.
“It’s Mrs. Clause!” the urchins spellbound;
and regal in her red blouse
she walks the Queen of Marquette Park,
the jar undulating with furious life.

After supper, she sits near her desk,
opens the jar and plucks at the flinching mass.
One by one, day by day she drops an ant
onto the cobweb; then a strike too swift
to see as one movement, the spider feeds.

The traffic hums outside, disembodied voices
catch the wind and flee –
Now, with the sun nearly down, the sky like an unhealed wound,
the freezing wind comes off Lake Michigan,
whips and plummets with the speed of a knife to cut bone,
and this cold wind, unhappy, relentless, sounds
to her like children crying; a distant wail,
rising and falling.

Copyright © 2012 by Thomas McNulty. All rights reserved.

You can order your copy of ANTHROPOETS by clicking HERE!

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