I finished Yusef Komunyakaa’s book of poetry, The Emperor of Water Clocks, this morning. I want to read more by this poet. I’m fascinated how he mixes references, some so ephemeral others probably obscure to many people. For example, in his poem, “Et Tu, Brutus,” it takes a second to realize that the poem is about a couple of comedians who have graduated from Second City in Chicago and are now living in New York.
They left the Second City
after years of stand-up & improv,
& came here to search faces
in crowds, on boulevards
& subways, and audition
at a level of slow pain
that pulled them apart,
it’s not that Komunyakaa is writing about specific people. He has used these two to make a poem. I think it’s a good poem.
His more erudite references move from Mussolini to Byron’s Don Juan to the artist Turner. What I’m not capturing is how he uses all these things effortlessly and creates new interesting poetry that draws me in.
Here’s a poem I especially liked this morning:
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Great Ooga-Booga, in your golden pavilion
beside the dung heap, please
don’t let me die in a public place.
I still see the man on the café floor
at the airport beneath a canopy
of florescence, somewhere
in the Midwest or back East,
travelers walking around him
& texting on cell phones
while someone shocked him back,
fiddling with dials & buttons
on a miraculous instrument.
Was the memory of a dress in his head?
Great Ooga-Booga, forgive me
for wearing out my tongue before
I said your praises. No, I haven’t
mastered the didgeradoo.
I don’t have an epic as a bribe.
My words are simple. Please
don’t let me die gazing up at a streetlight
or the Grand Central facades.
Let me go to my fishing hole
an hour before the sun sinks
into the deep woods, or let me swing
on the front porch, higher & higher
till I’m walking on the ceiling.
I guess I’m thinking about airports since Eileen and I get on a plane Monday and fly away to California to see the Jenkinses that live there: my son, David; his wife, Cynthia; our three grandkids: Nicholas, Savannah, and Catherine.
Today is Earnest Hemingway’s birthday according to The Writer’s Almanac. Also, the Almanac attributes a saying to him ,”Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” I always look forward to traveling with Eileen. She is my ideal travel companion (as well as ideal life companion).
I am meeting my friend Rhonda to play piano duets this morning. Yesterday I met with my substitute organist who will be covering for me a week from Sunday. This Sunday the piano trio is performing and I have been trying to hit the keys with some solid rehearsal this week in preparation.
Speaking of preparing, I am suddenly overwhelmed this morning with all the things Eileen and I will have to do to prepare for this upcoming trip. Yikes.