I went to a benefit poetry reading recently which was organized to help collect funds for the health care required by the heart of a poet named Dean Young. He is beloved by many. Discovering his poetry has been a pleasure, if very intimidating. I wrote a long piece on my own heart after hearing about his congenital afflicted one. Apparently, I am not alone in this. We laughed over the french fries in the cafeteria as another told me of all the American poets who strive for less and less sentimentality now struggling to write about Dean and his heart, the word “Heart” coming into play far more often they would have liked to. How to write about mortality and love and friendship and poetry without all the necessary cliches. I fail at it. Of course.
I shall post up my own poem when I summon the courage this week, but for now I leave you with one of the poems I enjoyed at the reading, read by James Galvin, head of poetry department at Iowa Uni. James has a ridiculously fantastic way of reading, slow, sexy and deliberate, with a deep voice, and all the correct pauses, making humor arise of situations written that may have evaded a reader. It was a joy. This is the poem he read by Dean.
Sources Of The Delaware
by Dean Young
I love you he said but saying it took twenty years
so it was like listening to mountains grow.
I love you she says fifty times into a balloon
then releases the balloon into a room
whose volume she calculated to fit
the breath it would take to read
the complete works of Charlotte Bronte aloud.
Someone else pours green dust into the entryway
and puts rice paper on the floor. The door
is painted black. On the clothesline
shirttails snap above the berserk daffodils.
Hoagland says you’ve got to plunge the sword
into the charging bull. You’ve got
to sew yourself into a suit of light.
For the vacuum tube, it’s easy,
just heat the metal to incandescence
and all that dark energy becomes radiance.
A kind of hatching, syntactic and full of buzz.
No contraindications, no laws forbidding
buying gin on Sundays. Not if you’re pregnant,
if you’re operating heavy machinery because
who isn’t towing the scuttled tonnage
of some self? Sometimes just rubbing
her feet is enough. Just putting out
a new cake of soap. Sure, the contents
are under pressure and everyone knows
that last step was never intended to bear
any weight but isn’t that why we’re standing there?
Ripples in her hair, I love you she hollers
over the propellers. Yellow scarf in mist.
When I planted all those daffodils,
I didn’t know I was planting them
in my own chest. Play irretrievably
with the lid closed, Satie wrote on the score.
But Hoagland says he’s sick of opening
the door each morning not on diamonds
but piles of coal, and he’s sick of being
responsible for the eons of pressure needed
and the sea is sick of being responsible
for the rain, and the river is sick of the sea.
So the people who need the river
to float waste to New Jersey
throw in antidepressants. So the river
is still sick but nervous now too,
its legs keep thrashing out involuntarily,
flooding going concerns, keeping the president
awake. So the people throw in beta-blockers
to make it sleep which it does, sort of,
dreaming it’s a snake again but this time
with fifty heads belching ammonia
which is nothing like the dreams it once had
of children splashing in the blue of its eyes.
So the president gets on the airways
with positive vectors and vows
to give every child a computer
but all this time, behind the podium,
his penis is shouting, Put me in, Coach,
I can be the river! So I love you say
the flashbulbs but then the captions
say something else. I love you says
the hammer to the nail. I love Tamescha
someone sprays across the For Sale sign.
So I tell Hoagland it’s a fucked-up ruined
world in such palatial detail, he’s stuck
for hours on the phone. Look at those crows,
they think they’re in on the joke and
they don’t love a thing. They think
they have to be that black to keep
all their radiance inside. I love you
the man says as his mother dies
so now nothing ties him to the earth,
not fistfuls of dirt, not the silly songs
he remembers singing as a child.
I love you I say meaning lend me twenty bucks.
of course, James ended his reading with saying…”No, seriously, lend him twenty bucks”. Which the audience smiled and smiled at.