Guest poem sent in by Ravi Mundoli
(Poem #657) The Dark and Turbulent Sea
Sailboat, sailboat - so Heart counts the ships at sea in order to raise his thoughts above matters of flesh. Heart is at the beach in his red swimsuit and nearby on towels or tossing balls in the air are abundant examples of female dazzle. Often Heart is comforted by the waves' regulation, the distant line of watery horizon, and the air with its mixed aspects of seafood, salt and sweat. But here at the beach Heart is no closer to the sea's soothing sway and resultant philosophical reflection than on a city street. Lolling and frolicking nymphs, pink flesh, and half-bared breasts, consume his vision and so in desperation Heart counts the ships at sea - sailboat, sailboat - in hopes he'll be restored to calm. This for Heart enacts life's essential problem- the distant vista with its philiosophical paraphernalia is disturbingly hidden by the delights of the foreground. Why for instance, mull over mortality when a bevy of young ladies is engaged in a bosomy bout of volleyball just a few feet away. Jiggle, jiggle thinks Heart, it leads to trouble. Sad to say, he hasn't thought of Kierkegaard all day. Heart is even hesitant to swim or take a nap lest he miss some beauty adjust a strap or hitch her halter up. as for the dark and violent sea it's just a distraction, easily ignored; moral issues, highbrow notions - all forgotten. This is in answer to a question asked the next day by a man in his car starting through his tempest - streaked windshield at the wind pummeled beach: Why's that guy sitting there grinning? Heart's having a picnic, even though its storming. Raindrops run down his neck. Heart stares at the waves disappearing into the fog and feels able at last to see what's there in peace. And what's that?: What lies ahead and what always has been. All the immutable why's and wherefores. But now Heart's distracted once again. Beneath the sand he has found a polka dotted bikini top. What amazing luck! Heart presses it to his lips, then folds it neatly in his basket. Is he aware of the wintry weather's fierce attack? Guess not.
Stuff: Dobyns has published 21 works of fiction; a book of essays on poetry, "Best Words, Best Order" (St. Martin's Press, 1996); and ten books of poems, most recently "Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides." His most recent novels are "Boy in the Water" and "Church of Dead Girls." A collection of his short stories, "Eating Naked," is forthcoming from Holt this year. Dobyns' poems have won many awards and prizes, including the Lamont Poetry Selection, the Poetry Society of America's Melville Cane Award and Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. His novels have been translated into some 15 languages, and two of them have been made into films ("Cold Dog Soup" and "Two Deaths of Señora Puccini"). Whether working in prose or poetry, he is a storyteller of great playfulness, caustic wit and heartfelt tenderness -- provocative and deeply curious. The present poem is from "Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides". In "Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides," we see the world through the melancholic eyes of Heart -- blood-pumping organ, lover, poet and skeptical philosopher of the everyday. Heart reflects on the vagaries of love, the cruelties of time and on "how some folks get pearls, others pebbles." Dividing two sections of Heart poems is the long "Oh, Immobility, Death's Vast Associate," which is a jazzy disquisition on human isolation and inaction in the midst of a planet full of people brooding over problems of gravity, age and memory. Full of Dobyns' characteristic black humor and maniacal imagination, the poem also admits moments of irresistible affirmation: But the flower, the poem, the sonata, the song: all beauty is a form of eager activity. Within its delicate body each daisy is a rowdy dance. "Pallbearers" has been called "a cycle of medieval morality poems for a new Dark Age." "Stephen Dobyns is nothing so much as the Dean Swift of contemporary American poetry," writes The Washington Post. "Satirist and absurdist, unsparing chronicler of the body's runaway appetites and the body politic's rampant festerings, a searing moralist camouflaged in a manic style and a flair for the macabre." But, as Hayden Carruth said, while "his manner is tart, often sardonic,.at heart the poems are profoundly humane," struggling as they always are with the paradox of the human condition: "How hard to love the world; we must love the world." -- [broken link] http://www.smith.edu/newsoffice/Releases/00-025.html The book is an excellent one, the poems all seem "relevant" even though (!!) Dobyns uses such modern day images as fax machines and email to put his point across. In particular, the separating out of "Heart" as though he were a separate person, with a separate consciousness from the more business-like brain seems like a brilliant literary trick. You will have to read the book to understand what I'm saying :-). Ravi Mundoli