Last week my household hosted a party.
A wine tasting party.
And lest you think that we were being all hoity-toity and elegant, let me specific: this was wine-tasting AND poetry!
To be specific, the extremely haughty instructions we issued were as follows:
The results were . . . . . shall we say . . . . hilarious?
The level of ridiculous and outright crazy that can be achieved by grad student about to embark into Finals Week remain unsurpassed.
It takes absurdity to an art form.
And it must be preserved. At all costs, this night of brilliance must be recorded for the generations to come!
They begin quite prettily, but quickly descend into violence, grammar abuse, and mixed metaphors, and bestrewn with many references to animals and pocket watches.
Therefore, behold the fruits!
Please – please! – share your reactions, chortles, favorite lines, memories of that night, and general criticism according to your prefered school of literary theory.
(And, should you wish to more closely examine the written record, to psychoanalyst the handwriting, or trace the progression of ideas and wine-intake, click the headings of each “poem” to be taken to the pdf files.)
An Autumn mist soft enough to induce . . . Dreams of summer, peach and pumpkin in a truce, In a musky, brilliant friendship born of love Comes an unwanted child of the rine, Mediocre and gulpable, from California, Liquid Light streamed from above Like swarms of clustering bees that issue forever in fresh bursts From the hollow in the stone and hang like bunched grapes as they Hover beneath the flowers in the spring there Or rainwater in the red wheel barrow, after the chickens Have given up and left, and sunlight suspends undreamt daydreams over that slumbering abstract of the sky, or, the fallen leaves, slowly rotting out their lives upon the floor Of an aging forest, whose death will mulch the trees into lofty splendor.
Sweet and forgetful, slightly uneventful, But also like a smack, a smack in the head, in the head with an oak, an oaken board. Young turtles rustling through last year’s undergrowth – the loamy, sun-warmed soil, far from farmer’s careful toil, lies fallow, Forgetting grain and men, and all but sleep (And the slow step of turtle feet.) Death, death to the enemies of Bogle – hear, hear! (here, here?) where?? - To Melville, Joyce, Woolf and Gogol. Brimming with bitterness Bursting with booze and blackberry breath Under the heavy boughs and among the dusty roots Through the time – brittled leaves, a small people make their way in a large world. A difficult world, they can’t reach the door-handles, and cats are enormous and trample mountains in their quest for elephantine mice. Like cranes winging their way to the Gray Havens to escape the winter snows And Frodo, sad Frodo, grips the ship’s bow And glimpses spring.
O’ thou First Wine of Cana, Ending not with a growl but a mumble. Sharply smooth with a touch of spice, ending smart Is just as nice. Reposing on a silken cushion, This genie wine grants your every wishing.
But – be kind to your wine – treat it well, Lest the devil of bad taste chase you to hell. For it pinches with a pepperine pincer. Buttery soft, with sharpness of spice, New deerskin leather and this wine are both nice. O SWEET ARABIAN SPICE O whiskered kitten snoozing in the cherry tree Lick, suck the fruit until your whiskers are thoroughly splattered. I’m having a parley, with Bob Marley, thanks to this Gnarly. Live when from the thunderous sea the surf-beat crashes upon the great beach and the whole sea is in tumult.
This wine needs no friends. It contents itself, keeping company with good books. There, alone, but without loneliness It rests, communing, with the rest, Nourishing souls on the blest of the Blest, Which is wit, talk, words dry on the surface, yet cutting deep into the soul. Soul to break into the nooks The silly dwelling of sips and stews, wit and words, But free to fly and taking wing, I’m hoping of its release, Or of a friend, a good one, and quiet, the old hound by the heaped-up fire, The worn stool, and winter afternoon, graced by the windowsill cat. Like the multitudinous nations of swarming insects Who delve hither and thither about the stalls of the sheepfold In the season of Spring when the milk splashes in the milk pails. And Don Coyote feasts upon the unobservant chicken.
Goose down on a soft spring breeze Would strike with more weight. The dreams of a sleeping goose would not Grow a civilization with ease. Fruit roll-up, all grown up? Oh, consummation devoutly to be wished! I have nothing to say about this. – Then stop her lips with a kiss. But not if she’s your ‘sis. Unless, of course, this is Star Wars. Like some ox of the herd pre-eminent among the others, a bull, who stands conspicuous in the huddling cattle. My heart is a pocket watch!
A delicious acidy grape concoction. The “I sunk your battleship” of fin wines And the “hot potato” of game action. “Tastes like nail polish” is an unexpected reaction. One hopes for more from the land of the gods Than acetone. Then slip this travesty upon the clods of dirt. A hurt, a flirt, a blinding squirt Flight of feathers and on and on: Ernie wouldn’t give this wine to Bert. Like a four-house team careering down the plain, All breaking as one with the whiplash cracking smartly, Leaping with hooves high to run the course in no time. Their spirit creaks and crumbles the coursing chariot, And as they thrust free from the straining lash, The charioteer crashes to earth, and drinks deeply of dirt’s sorrows and joys. Carpenter: Euclidean abstraction tingles between his touch And the unhewn wood: strong hands, rough with The lessons of violent elegance, coax a curve from parallels.
Stretch your nose into the musty corners of a castle And smell the ancient dust, wed to stone through lengthy habit. It is cool and gray upon the nose But plunge in, live a while, and a fire crackles at your toes. Now, freak out, because some old cat lady thinks she’s a witch holding you in her “castle” [abandoned factory]. And her cats think you are a [horribly generic] mouse. [quotidian?] For this is the fancy ketchup of the vine. Recall the chalk under the hooves of the White Horse, Ground into a fine mist much finer than this But not tasting much different (ly). Like a lion who leaves the farmyard when he is exhausted Attacking the dogs and men who do not allow him to carry off the fattest of the cattle, staying awake all night, craving meat, he keeps attacking but accomplishes nothing like a little bitch. But then there is chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better. Thou halt not covet they neighbor’s lion, nor his ass, nor his wind chimes tingling at midnight. Turtles!
Like grassy fields. With a hint of mites Dry as valley bones, might like this with a scone. If grapes’ secret nature were cherries, Thus wine would be the james Bond of Vin’ries. Shall these bones love? Shall these bones – - (Moses said, resignedly, “no”,) No, but they taste good with fava beans On the 8th of May, when last light gleams, Like herd stampeding, driven mad as the darting gadfly Strikes in the late Spring when they long days come around, This wine bottle is fatter that its dessert would seem to merit. But . . . it is beautiful.
A shallow secretary with pink fingernail, Whose mind of peanuts often fails Hwaet! Beowulf drank mead, and if you care For the Renaissance faire, you can drink “mead” that Tastes like this (though the Anglo-Saxons would uproot their hair). What could go with such a brew? Perhaps a Whataburger number two. Like Children’s cough syrup, like a melted popsicle . . . Naughty sweet lip gloss. Some philosophy students say “This wine needs to be chilled.” Sometimes I think philosophy students need more wine to chill. But such philosophies are stilted, stiff. This wine’s a nymph, a draft from a deep well - The crisp curl in the secretary’s hair. (She’s a nymph By moonlight, or when she’s in the well. Which isn’t often; An amanuensis can’t afford such watery hijinks. When she knows how to spell.)
A little dry reminds me of a small town and teenage drama: Overrun with monkeys with punching habits and hair trauma. Orpheus himself is bested and Pan undone. Togas, laurels and greasy shutters, tan, shone. Now for something completely different, this one Is refreshing and tart, but not distributing swords, Save the status quo of monarchy, carry on with the words, There’s nothing wrong with the middle of the road, Jut shift your gear into the correct mode, Let the median flavor wash over your taste, And eschew all patience in favor of haste. Then the fat carp, drifting in the summer stream Will swallow the murky light like wine, and dream of an unsalted ocean. Like some lion at bay, dreading the gangs Of hunters closing their cunning ring around him. knowing full well that April is the cruelest month breeding deepest works of cormorants divorcing time. O,o,o, this Penfold Rawson’s wine It’s not elegant or intelligent . . . .
Sunshine and sand fill the flip-flops Flip flip screw-up Beat box, gel pops. Makes me want to pill pop Like an expert singer, skilled at lyre and song – who strains a string to a new page with ease, making the sheep-gut fast at either end And plucks a note straight form the heart of ancient pine, dark and tremulous, like a flock of aging cicadas; a song for common times, tamed to the familiar pageant of the town square revelry – haunted, still, with the unspoken memory of dragons. Fear! Fire! Foe! But no. Awake, embrace, breath again For ’twas but nightmare pain You Cretan holiday may continue apace in the dawn of love and light. I’m on a warm, deserted beach, and Snuffuluffagus is singing quietly.
Srgt. Pepper with a sweet-heart, no longer lonely. To see beyond into truths unseen. Black psychedelia sweeps aside the curtain. A little flock of truffle-hunting boars, conspiring and subtle, pirouette over the autumnal forest floor. Why? – Because Srgt. Pepper is oh so lonely. Live when the west wind moves across the grain deep standing, boisterously, and shakes and sweeps it till the tassels lean. From this barley, comes this wine. Irony? oh and so much more. Hills that have never been hills but on the tongue, less than this, they are nothing: thus argued they grasp dreams and roll happily through your mouth. Know thyself γνώθι σαυτόν Don Oboe Glee Feathers!!!!!!!
And as a special treat, I give you the grand finale, the piece de le resistance! This was found floating about the dining room once all guests had taken their leave. Hear the beautiful cadence and potential in these lines . . . and watch it all fall apart.
The Poem I am a flitting wren On the lighthouse of unlikely Desire. No elephants come here, Or splendid, lightning wrought tendrils of orange flavored sky. We’ll carve the thick air like ice blocks, and spangle the sky with pocket watches (like a watcher waits for morning) after Time has stopped.