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Dec 2019 · 156
Apology "poem"
Lucius Furius Dec 2019
[I apologize for sending you this message via this "poem", but I can't think of any other way....]

As some of you may have noticed, each of my Hello-Poetry poems has a link (in the Notes) to an audio of me reciting the poem.  (See Examples below.)    

Much to my dismay, I recently discovered that, because of a mistake I had made, none of these links were working.  I've corrected the problem -- so if you've clicked on one of these links in the past and found it not working, it should be OK now.....

  (I'm a big believer in poems as feelings spoken aloud – not just something you see on a page.)
Examples:  
humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_068_babylon.MP3 and
humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_063_fullness.MP3
Lucius Furius Jun 2019
Here's to those who suffer voluntarily,
who rise above the mean and merely momentary
pleasure that we feel sitting on a couch,
eating Cheetos, watching reruns of "The Brady Bunch";

those who exercise, walk fast (raising weights
with their arms in rhythm to their feet),
jog, or actually even run --
as long as there's no clear goal in mind,
no Olympic medal, no short-skirted cheerleaders
proffering kisses;

residents of Blakely, Georgia, and Moosejaw, Saskatchewan,
who steadfastly resist removal to California
and similar climes, knowing intuitively
that delight in perfect weather is born in sub-zero winters,
in summer's humid swelter;

those who do without air-conditioning,
using the money for a violin
or books or trips to the local swimming pool;

those who fast, mortify the flesh, --
or at least skip breakfast occasionally,
refusing to indulge every ****** whim,
letting them ripen, at least now and then,
into actual, robust hunger;

monks in solemn Kentucky silence,
some, I suppose, are misanthropes, here I speak of those
with a normal affection for chat and hubbub
who restrict themselves to a reverent silence,
speech being used only in extremity;

blood donors.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_047_suffer.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Jan 2019
I say there is no physical beauty.
This skin, this flesh, this bone
are but the clay of which we make our beauty,
the instrument on which we play our beauty.
  
Witness the failure of funeral directors to please true aesthetes:
the dead Ingrid Bergman lacks the beauty of a living bag lady.
  
Tennis masters
given K-Mart rackets
win gracefully,
while the high-school violinist
playing a Stradivarius
fails to delight us.
  
Thus noses, lips, ******* have no beauty in themselves.
Perfect features are easily distorted by
anger, sloth, irritability, or conceit.
But in a rare few
energy, grace, composure, and sensitivity
are blended in such a quantity
that they overflow
and color with an exquisite beauty every pore of the body,
fill with a subtle music every gesture, every word.
  
I say there is no physical beauty.
This skin, this flesh, this bone
are but the clay of which we make our beauty,
the instrument on which we play our beauty.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_005_beauty.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm ).
Dec 2018 · 2.4k
The Bushman Speaks
Lucius Furius Dec 2018
This desert is our life.
From the dry earth we gather roots and melons.
Over the endless sands we hunt the gemsbok and the springbok.
  
Sometimes the ga roots are shriveled and bitter.
Sometimes men are sick with thirst and hunger.
  
When there is water we drink and sing and clap our hands.
When there is food we eat and dance and clap our hands.
  
The eland does not come to us and ask to be eaten --
one must know how to make the arrow and poison it
and where to look and how to hide and shoot. . . .
  
What man is so foolish as to expect more? To expect
the rain to be always falling, his eggs full of water and
his stomach full of meat?
  
You have strong animals to carry you.
You have much food and water.
Your digging sticks are hard and sharp.
Your shooting-sticks are like lightning.
  
You are a powerful man and a good man.
I can see that in your eyes.

But what you offer is a dream.
  
You can give us water and meat.
You can fill our hands with tobacco and perfect beads.

But you cannot give us happiness.

  
A man can only drink so much and then he is full.
If a man is always eating honey, he tires of it and becomes sick.
  
And even if all life were sweet --
what man is not food for lions and dogs?
A man who has tasted in his life no bitterness will find death very bitter.
  
My mouth longs for sweetness
but sweetness brings bitterness
and in the end they are one.
  
So I ask you:
Take your digging sticks and your shooting-sticks.
And do not leave them behind.
Go to the green lands you came from.
We shall walk in this desert as we always have.
(The occasion for this speech is the arrival of an expedition
headed by a European in a Bushman werf around the year 1900.)

Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_007_bushman.MP3 .
Note: This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Oct 2018 · 341
No Garden Flowers for Me
Lucius Furius Oct 2018
No garden flowers for me,
no gaudy, painted flowers
(hotel swimming pools beside the ocean).
  
Give me wildflowers --
ironweed and jewelweed,
chicory and Queens-Anne's-lace.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_008_garden.MP3 .
Sep 2018 · 453
Grandma's Funeral
Lucius Furius Sep 2018
I
"She's lovely . . . so natural."
A corpse pumped full of formaldehyde.
My grandmother? That prodigious maker of
pies, cakes, stuffing, and cranberry ice?
That lover of Burger King restaurants,
amusement parks, presidential elections, and long summer rides?
Her flushed face is like stone.
This body is a mockery of her being.
(Her fearless motion is done.)
  
   II
She gave us life.
Crass, fond, willful. She gave us life
like turkey and stuffing.
She is the answer to our dark questionings.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_012_grandma.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Sep 2018
I remember how you used to care for the flowers
and arrange the vegetables at the stand.
How carefully you drove the tractor.
  
I remember you coming out of a cornfield at dawn,
soaked with the dew, laboring under your basket.
  
All the tiny things you looked after --
kittens and toads.
  
And the strange foods you gave us!
  
O Gretchen, wherever you are,
I hope you've found peace.
  
How did you live in that harsh world?
Where did you hide your fragile spirit?
  
O Gretchen, wherever you are,
I hope you've found love.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_013_gretchen.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Aug 2018
I left my mittens in the Smokies.
It was that night at Maddron Bald on the ridge
after we'd hiked from Davenport Gap --
12 miles, 4,000 feet.
The girl gave us icicles.
Dazed and breathless, we pitched the tent
and scrambled into our sleeping bags.
  
The morning sun felt good -- Sterling Ridge
on our left, Cosby far below to the right;
Mt. Guyot with its spruces and firs;
lunch at Tri-Corner ****; then down through
the rhododendrons and mud to McGhee Springs.
Raven Fork -- the beech tree, the icy water,
the boulders, the sunlight.
Cabin Flats and Smokemont -- the rain,
the people with pancakes.
  
Campfires, backpacks, flapjacks, barley;
sunshine, lichens, blisters, . . . wood-smoke.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_018_mittens.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Aug 2018
How distant my Swabian* youth seems now.
I made a glider which really flew, you know.*
Not far, but yes, it carried me! I soared!
  
Some accused me of being a showboat,
of tooting my own horn. . . . I learned early
that the laurels don't go to the meek or the bashful.
  
Yes, I was a ****. Those aristocrats
on the General Staff* belittled the Fuhrer--
but where had they gotten us?
I liked his enthusiasm and optimism.
We were in a hole; he led us out,
got the economy going again,
restored the Sudetenland and Danzig.
(Danzig where Lucie and I had been married!)
  
I thought Poland would be the end
but when we attacked in the West
I didn't shrink away.
My troops and I were the very spearhead:
strike quickly; do the unexpected.
  
Who was I to deny
Germany's world-wide destiny?
  
The African war agreed with me.
The open space gave a latitude to my strategy
lacking in hilly, forested Europe.

The victory at Tobruk is often cited
as the height of genius, military.  
I, myself, prefer what preceded it:
the retreat into Tripolitania--
salvaging men and tanks, shortening supply lines,
lulling the British into complacency;
turning and stinging at Agedabia.

El Alamein: the Fuhrer and I part company.
"Victory or Death", he cabled me.
I disagreed: my men would not die senselessly.

We were desperate for gasoline.
Ship after ship was sunk trying to deliver it.
(Lax Italian security, no doubt.)
  
We were outnumbered five to one.
I favored withdrawing immediately,
consolidating troops in Europe.
The Fuhrer wouldn't hear of it.
  
I flew to East Prussia to confront him.
He'd grown pudgier, more strident--
wouldn't give an inch.
I sensed that not just Africa
but the war as a whole would be lost.
The weight of the forces against us was crushing.
The only question'd been their willingness to fight.
That had been answered at Stalingrad.
  
I fought on in Italy and in France,
hoping to convince the enemy
that the price of taking Europe--
especially Germany--
would be too high.

I really thought we had a chance
to stop them on the beaches.
But now that we've failed, our destruction's inevitable.
  
I've tried to make the Fuhrer see reason:
surrender to the British and Americans;
don't let our country be overrun by Russia.
  
He condoned ******--
ordered me to **** the French Jewish soldiers
who'd surrendered at Bir Hacheim,* for instance,
(I didn't) -- and much more. . . . And yet,
and yet, I couldn't quite bring myself to wish him dead--
and certainly never took part in that plot--
though, yes, I knew of it . . . after a fashion. . . .
Defending myself to that group would be hopeless. . . .
Lucie and Manfred must be spared
the humiliation of hearing me declared a traitor.

I bestrode the plains of Africa--
Rommel, the invincible--
always with the troops where the battle was most critical.
I was crafty and brave,
dared to act when others shied away.
I was the apple of the Fuhrer's eye;
idol of the German people;
scourge of the British military.
All the world applauded me. I lost--
but only when outnumbered overwhelmingly.
  
Now I sit in the back of this Opel*--
an outcast, a criminal--
waiting to take a cyanide pill.

We failed to assess properly
the will of other nations to honor treaties
and preserve their freedom.
And, more basically:
Were we right to force our rule on other people?

Icarus-like, we flew too high.

We were bold and strong
but it seems, in the end,
in the end, not supermen.
Swabia: A region of southwestern Germany (around Stuttgart) which had been a dukedom in the 10th to 13th centuries.

glider: In 1906 Rommel, age 14, and a friend built a full-size, box-type glider.

General Staff: High-level officers with formal military education. Rommel, having come up through the ranks, lacked such training.

no doubt: Rommel was correct in thinking that the British knew the exact destinations and sailing times of Italian supply ships, but was wrong as to the source of their information: it was coming from German ("Enigma") radio transmissions which the British had learned to decode.

beaches: Rommel was in charge of the defense of the coast against British/American invasion.

Bir Hacheim: A fort at the southern end of the "Gazala Line" (in Libya) which Rommel outflanked in his attack upon Tobruk in 1942.

hopeless: The army's Court of Honor (Field Marshal Keitel, Generals Guderian and Kirchheim) had been presented with evidence of Rommel's involvement in the plot on ******'s life (false) and his attempts to arrange an armistice with the British (true). With ******'s approval they had given Rommel a choice of committing suicide (and having his treason hushed up) or of going before the court (and, no doubt, being hung in public).

Manfred: Rommel's son.

Opel: The car which the officers who presented Rommel with his choices had driven from Berlin.

Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/audio/SoF_020_rommel.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2018 · 223
Mr. Thomas
Lucius Furius Aug 2018
Upon learning of the recent death of Willard Thomas, I decided to interview some of his former students in hopes of discovering the truth about this controversial figure.

    1.
"God, what a man! I've never known anyone who experienced life so intensely. His mind was plagued by unanswerable questions. His body was racked by the suffering of fellow human beings. His soul was tortured by the absurdity of existence.
  
His life was a struggle with the cosmos.
  
You could see it in his face.
You could feel it in his words.
  
And what a teacher! He hypnotized the class. He made books come to life.
  
We saw him in the meadow with Emily Dickinson,
drunk with daisies and the sunrise.
We saw him lugging Cordelia about the camp,
brains burst, arms aching.
We saw him fling the iron at Moby ****!!
defiant to the last. . . .
  
He was obsessed with truth.
He was in love with justice.
He was the hero of a tragedy called Existence
and he played his part surpassing well."

     2.
"Mr. Thomas was an ***. I know you shouldn't talk that way about a dead person but you said you wanted the truth and that's the truth. Every day he came into class with that ridiculous paisley tie and those irritating starched white shirts with the collars curled up at the corners and those baggy pants down to his shoe-tops and that mess of frizzy white hair and that grimace, that stupid idiotic grimace. And he couldn't teach worth ****. His lectures were a bunch of gibberish about "truth" and "justice" and there was never any discussion. The only ideas that interested him were his own. He thought of himself as some sort of tragic hero. He was a fool, a fraud, an ***. . . ."      

[In case you’re interested, I’m definitely in the camp of former student #1.]
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_021_thomas.MP3 .
Jul 2018 · 428
Laguna Beach
Lucius Furius Jul 2018
Lounging in the dry warmth of the sun,
overcome by the beauty of the green cliffs
rising above the hypnotic blue water. . . .
  
I think of Mann's The Magic Mountain,
obsession with the physical
(not, in this case, disease, of course,
but the sensual):
  
skin glowing in the year-round sun;
ripe fruit
falling into one's hand;
air, rich with the smell of flowers. . . .
  
Wouldn't such pleasure
inevitably dull the mind's keen edge?
  
Wouldn't Eden's ease
subvert all great endeavor?
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_026_laguna.MP3 .
Jul 2018 · 321
Goddesses
Lucius Furius Jul 2018
Kate Larson, Carol Ulverness--
19-year-old goddesses
I knew at college:
  
beauty so inward and effortless--
like Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus"--
that that of even the most celebrated actresses and models
seems to be contrived and self-conscious.
  
  
Like all of us, they're in their 40's now--
I wonder what they're like. . . .
  
Does some inner flame
still illuminate their faces and bodies?
  
Or were they flowers--
whose petals now have faded and fallen?
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_027_goddesses.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Jul 2018
J. Alfred, I'm sick of your whining --
get off your **** and do something!
Yes, I know life is meaningless.
I know you've got a lot of time on your hands.
Of course, tea parties can be boring.
But let me just ask here: "Is someone making you do this?
Is someone making you hang out with these cold, scornful
   women?"
Surely a guy like you could find someone to relate to. It's
    not that hard.

No, you're not Prince Hamlet --
and you're not an attendant lord either.
You're J. Alfred Prufrock!
Eat a peach, for-God's-sake!
Talk to the mermaids!
Just do it!

<Note: It's useful to think of Whoopi Goldberg as the speaker.>
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_039_prufrock.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Jun 2018
My children, as you leave home little by little--
first grade school, then college,
your own apartment, perhaps marriage--,
I hope you'll think fondly of these walls which housed you,
the slanted yellow-pine ceiling you lived under,
the warmth you felt there--
thinking of them not as a barrier
which kept you from being what you needed to
but as a harbor
from which you sallied forth to meet the ever-widening world,
to which you retreated in too-strong wind.

Yes, there are bad people in the world,
but the random person driving on the expressway has a mother who loves him
and most--by far the most--
want nothing more --like you-- than peace and happiness.

Though I've pondered deeply the universe's mysteries,
I fear I lack religion.
And if I've bequeathed unto you this unbelief,
placed on your shoulders this terrible burden,
I apologize.
It is, perhaps, my greatest failing.

(Are the tools I've given you really strong enough to fight infinity?  Strong enough to deal with our ultimate aloneness?)

May you be rich and smart but, above all, kind--
known as someone who treats others fairly.

May you find the sort of love
your mother and I have found.

Have children -- lots of them!

Return often! not out of filial duty
but rather curiosity:
"And what might those old codgers be up to now?"
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_065_children.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Jun 2018 · 537
Love Is Not All
Lucius Furius Jun 2018
(After Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem by the same title)                                    

Love is not all. It is not meat nor drink
nor slumber nor a roof against the rain.
In the beauty of sunlight falling on water,    
love is hardly a major factor.                                          
It cannot stop a bullet
or lift a crashing plane
-- or make a stopped heart beat again.
Yet people are killing themselves
even as we speak, for lack of love alone.
It may well be under pain of torture,
starving/dying of thirst,
tested by want past resolution's power,
I'd strike a bargain:
a cup of water for a different life,
a life without memory of you and our children;
I'd trade our love for food. It may well be.
I do not think I would.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_066_love_is_not_all.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Jun 2018 · 372
Girl of the Tzabarim Dance
Lucius Furius Jun 2018
If only I could do with my words what you,
with your arms and legs and hands, do,
girl of the Tzabarim dance.

You let your body go.
You let the music and God flow through you.
No false smile; only the subtle bliss
of one possessed by the dance.

The feeling threatens to overwhelm you;
you master it into a graceful gesture, a delicate turn.
You let the music of God possess you.

You dance like the women danced
when David slew the Philistine,
girl of the Tzabarim dance.

If only I could do with my words what you,
with your arms and legs and hands, do,
girl of the Tzabarim dance.
youtube video of the Tzabarim Folklore Ensemble:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLszdqHMEhQ

Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_071_tzabarim.MP3 .
May 2018 · 274
This One Blink
Lucius Furius May 2018
How quick we move from labor nurses' hands,
wrapping us in a diaper, to taxidermists',
artfully arranging our limbs in the casket.....
What matters in this moment, this
one great blink of God's eye,*
is not what we own or've done
but the press of flesh upon our flesh;
the feeling; our Communion.
* The lifetime of a human (70 years) is to the lifetime of the universe (14 billion years, so far) as 10 seconds are to the lifetime of a human (2 billion seconds).

Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_072_blink.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Apr 2018 · 413
I Miss You
Lucius Furius Apr 2018
I miss you.
Here at the foot of Mount Royal
(really only a hill),
which I climbed this morning,
I miss you.

I ask what's real.
In this clamour of work,
of French and English ...

It's your touch that's real,
your eyes looking-at-me-with-love,
your lips.

Here in Montreal,
at the foot of Mount Royal,
I miss you.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_080_i_miss_you.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Apr 2018 · 406
Do Not Think
Lucius Furius Apr 2018
Do not think because I have a roving eye
that I am any less in love with you.
A knowing wink, a bashful smile, a haughty stare,
these are the terra incognita
which I, beauty's student, must needs explore.

But like Raleigh in Guiana, in search of El Dorado,
thinking of  his Bess,  
or Daniel Boone in Kentucky,
it is you I am thinking of, always,
and it is to you I will, Odysseus-like, return.
You can see the poem – with pictures – (and hear it) at https://humanist-art.org/do-not-think/ .
Mar 2018 · 203
The Body's Machinery
Lucius Furius Mar 2018
Marco!  One minute you seemed perfectly healthy,
the next you were sprawled on the floor by the drinking
    fountain
like a sack of potatoes.

(How reliable our machinery is usually--
just think if your car ran 60 years nonstop!....)

But, Marco, seeing you there on the floor,
I knew we live at the mercy
of neurons and corpuscles
(our own little wires and pistons)
and when they stop, we stop.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_077_machinery.MP3 .
Feb 2018 · 514
Sickness and Art
Lucius Furius Feb 2018
I
Of course you're right in saying that I'm sick:
No healthy person wants to **** himself....
But those psychiatrists' pills
'd **** me just as surely as this gun:
They'd **** the me that feels.

   II
You ask how I'm doing....  I fear, not well....
By all objective measures I should be content,
but the heart mocks objectivity.

I cling to life by the thinnest of threads:
My art is the thread by which I cling....
Written some years ago.   Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_081_sickness.MP3 .
Jan 2018 · 218
We Remember
Lucius Furius Jan 2018
Do we ever really fall out of love?
No matter how badly the affair ended
some tender moment dominates the memory;
a high-water-mark of our feeling.

It's love's flood that we remember,
not low boredom, tedium, or anger.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: https://humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_085_remember.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Jan 2018 · 677
Adam and Eve
Lucius Furius Jan 2018
Adam and Eve

Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths, ...
--from Wallace Stevens' "Sunday Morning"

In Eden fair did Adam and Eve
live in perfect harmony.

"No plant or animal devoureth we,
only ripe fruit as falls from the tree."

By bright-green lily-pads in sphagnum bogs
the herons waded gracefully,
bullfrogs croaked their deep, clear calls;
bluebells, delicate yellow buttercups
were rampant; larks sang in the mulberries.

"No pain or hunger knew we there,
only the sameness of Eden fair."

Even the bounty, the beauty, the civility,
the rich perfection, stretching out like the wall
of the great oval garden, day after day,
year after year to eternity,
grew tiresome.

"No shame in our nakedness knew we ...
nor lust, nor desire, nor carnality."

It's the exogamous, the unfamiliar,
which stirs in us the deepest passion,
the basso continuo of mortality
which gives to desire its piquancy
--of which they knew nothing in deathless Eden.

"We wanted to look outside the wall.
We didn't mean from God's grace to fall."

Their lack of control, their disrespect
invited tragedy....
But to deny what one feels,
to deny what one is
is to risk even greater calamity....

"God expelled us from the Garden.
Now we'll know death and all that's human."

Discord ... despair.... Are you better off?
Coaxing grain from the cracked, parched earth?
Maybe you paid too much for your freedom?...
Maybe you wish you were back in the Garden?...

"There be good inside the Garden;
there be good outside....
There is no perfect Eden."
Hear Jerry/Lucius read this poem (at https://humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_095_adam_and_eve.MP3 ).    This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( humanist-art.org/audio/SoF_095_adam_and_eve.MP3 ).
Jan 2018 · 462
John Brown
Lucius Furius Jan 2018
John Brown, you scare me!
You look like a man possessed by a demon.
You look like a man who could **** his son.
You look like a man who believes in a principle,
John Brown.

He drew blood, your son did.
You took him to the woodshed and whipped him;
but then you had him whip you, harder and harder....
now what kind o' crazy-assed thing is that to be doin',
John Brown?

You were a farmer, tanner, wool-trader,
land-dealer, surveyor, shepherd.
Failed at them all, went bankrupt.
But loved your family, held it together,
John Brown.

You lived with black people at North Elba,
seated free black men in your pew at church....
They expelled you, didn't they
--those white hypocrites--,
John Brown?

Your sons murdered pro-slavery men in Kansas,
loud-mouthed, innocent men,
dragged them from their beds, in the name of God,
chopped off their arms, sliced their throats....
You were there,
John Brown.

Somehow you knew
--what were the odds that 200,000 men would die?--,
somehow you knew the earth would be drenched in blood,
somehow you knew rivers would run red with blood....
How did you know? How did you know,
John Brown?
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_097_john_brown.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Sep 2017
[by Edna St. Vincent Millay]*
When you are dead, and your disturbing eyes
No more as now their stormy lashes lift
To lance me through...as in the morning skies
One moment, plainly visible in a rift
Of cloud, two splendid planets may appear
And purely blaze, and are at once withdrawn,
What time the watcher in desire and fear
Leans From this chilly window in the dawn...
Shall I be free, shall I be once again
As others are, and count your loss no care?
Oh, never more, till my dissolving brain
Be powerless to evoke you out of air,
Remembered morning stars, more fiercely bright
Than all the Alphas of the actual night!
I just love "your disturbing eyes"!....  This is the sixth of ten or so of her poems I'll be posting....
Sep 2017 · 148
Lament
Lucius Furius Sep 2017
[by Edna St. Vincent Millay]*
Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I'll make you little jackets;
I'll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There'll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.
Edna Millay fits in so well with the spirit of Hello Poetry:  a strong passionate woman, expressing her feelings so perfectly in verse!   This is the fifth of ten or so of her poems I'll be posting....
Sep 2017 · 174
Spring
Lucius Furius Sep 2017
[by Edna St. Vincent Millay]*
To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
Edna Millay fits in so well with the spirit of Hello Poetry:  a strong passionate woman, expressing her feelings so perfectly in verse!   This is the fourth of ten or so of her poems I'll be posting....
Sep 2017 · 515
The Cameo
Lucius Furius Sep 2017
[by Edna St. Vincent Millay]*
Forever over now, forever, forever gone
That day. Clear and diminished like a scene
Carven in Cameo, the lighthouse, and the cove between
The sandy cliffs, and the boat drawn up on the beach;
And the long skirt of a lady innocent and young,
Her hand resting on her *****, her head hung;
And the figure of a man in earnest speech.
Clear and diminished like a scene cut in cameo
The lighthouse, and the boat on the beach, and the two shapes
Of the woman and the man; lost like the lost day
Are the words that passed, and the pain,-discarded, cut away
From the stone, as from the memory the heat of the tears escapes.
O troubled forms, O early love unfortunate and hard,
Time has estranged you into a jewel cold and pure;
From the action of the waves and from the action of sorrow forever secure,
White against a ruddy cliff you stand, chalcedony on sard.
Edna Millay fits in so well with the spirit of Hello Poetry:  a strong passionate woman, expressing her feelings so perfectly in verse!   This is the third of ten or so of her poems I'll be posting....
Lucius Furius Sep 2017
[by Edna St. Vincent Millay]*
Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by.
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Or that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
Or that a man's desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.
This have I always known: Love is no more
Than the wide blossom which the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales.
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.
Edna Millay fits in so well with the spirit of Hello Poetry:  a strong passionate woman, expressing her feelings so perfectly in verse!   This is the second of ten or so of her poems I'll be posting....
Lucius Furius Sep 2017
[ by Edna St. Vincent Millay ]*
Never, never may the fruit be plucked from the bough
And gathered into barrels.
He that would eat of love must eat it where it hangs.
Though the branches bend like reeds,
Though the ripe fruit splash in the grass or wrinkle on the tree,
He that would eat of love may bear away with him
Only what his belly can hold,
Nothing in the apron,
Nothing in the pockets.
Never, never may the fruit be gathered from the bough
And harvested in barrels.
The winter of love is a cellar of empty bins,
In an orchard soft with rot.
A few of Edna Millay's poems have been included in Hello Poetry, but she wrote so many great poems!  And she fits in so well with the spirit of Hello Poetry:  a strong passionate woman, expressing her feelings so perfectly in verse.   This is the first of ten or so poems I'll be posting....
Aug 2017 · 690
Casablanca
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
Oh Rick, if only things were so simple. . . .
If only there were Nazis shooting children,
bullies like Major Strasser waiting to take over,
women like Ilsa --
so beautiful and passionate
that just the memory of their love, just the shadow,
is enough.
We would sing the Marseillaise
and in the air itself,
just breathing in that hot, dry air,
would find all the meaning we need.

But we live in an everyday world,
with everyday human beings.
And we must start again each morning,
with scraps of faith and feeling,
to make the world's meaning in the foundry of our heart.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem at humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_100_casablanca.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
Rembrandt, you maniac!
While other guys were down at the local tavern,
drinking and playing cards,
-- or off visiting Paris --,
you were in the studio.
Long after your students had left,
there you were, slaving away.

Did your family get sick of posing?

Others painted us as we seem
-- a bit better-looking, I suppose. . . .
You painted us as we are:
proud, sorrowful, hopeful, uncertain.

Where we'd seen only ugliness you found beauty.

The Bible? You made it human:
We felt Christ's pain! Magdalene's astonishment.

You were foolish with your money,
failed to pay your debts.
We forgive you.

You were stubborn, mean, obsessed.
You loved us
only when you were painting us.
We forgive you.

You worked on your own paintings
instead of ones which might have sold at higher prices,
ones which might have paid your debts.
We forgive you.
Because your art is so incomparably beautiful
we forgive you.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_099_rembrandt.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 717
Oh, Dad
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
1  

"Oh, Dad," cried my son,
with the huge, unrestrained sobs of a five-year-old,
"Justin Borley knocked me down. <sob>
He kicked me <sob>
and called me a loser <sob>
because we lost the game."

"Does it hurt badly? Where does it hurt?
Let me give you a hug....
Justin Borley is a bad, mean boy.
A few children are like that....
I will speak with his parents....
You must not be; you must always be kind....
Though you can defend yourself."

"What does that mean?"

"You can knock his leg or arm if he tries to hit you....
There will be many, many other games....
Some you will lose,
but most, I think, you will win.
You will be a champion!".

"What kind of champion?"

"I don't know.... A baseball champion,
a chess champion, a chemist....
You're smart and strong.... You will be a winner!"


  2

"Oh, Daddy," cried my daughter,
with the heartfelt sobs of a sixteen-year-old,
"I loved him so much,
I wanted him so much,
and now he's gone.
I'll never find anyone else to love;
I might as well be dead."

"My darling, you are so beautiful and smart,
so pretty and graceful and spirited....
The boys who love you will be as countless as the stars,
as many as the sands on the shores of Lake Michigan....

"You are like a cherry tree,
putting forth its first few delicate blossoms,
which have been blackened by a hard, late frost.
We are sad, but know --
we feel in our hearts --
that this strong young tree will grow,
that its blossoms and fruits will be many....

"I know it's hard for you to believe,
but you will find other boys to love --
not the same as him --
nothing is ever the same --
but, in their own ways, equally perfect."


  3

"Oh, Dad," cried my son,
with the quiet sobs of a 33-year-old,
"Is this all there is: we're born, we live, we die;
our children are born, they live, they die....
How dispiriting, how terrifying ...
that this universe should be
devoid of meaning and empathy.
We walk on a cold treadmill,
day after day, year after year,
millennium after millennium....
Forsaken.
Why suffer this torment?
Why not step down?
Why not just get off?"

"Some could answer with words about
a 'kind and loving God'....
I can't.

"Fifteen billion years ago, the universe grew in seconds
from a pinhead to a radius of a trillion miles.
The supernovae, nuclear furnaces, forged the elements.
One hundred thousand years ago, **** sapiens emerged
     in Africa.

“Your body is made up of those elements,
contains actual genes from that first **** sapiens....

"You say life's a torment.
Sometimes it is.
But I say
for every ounce of suffering
there is, in time,
an equal, exactly counterbalancing,
experience of joy.
You can play your part in this gigantic pageant,
this extravaganza of joy-sorrow --
or not.
But never doubt that your mother and I love you.
You can walk out into the sunlight,
you can smell the rose-blossoms, newly-opened,
you can let your finger be grabbed by the hand --
the incredibly tiny hand -- of a baby --
or not...."
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF17.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 779
A Poem of the Millennium
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
January 1, 1000

Year One-thousand, January One,
starts the new millennium.
The villein, Jacques, in Reims,
wakes to find his world unchanged.
His hut stinks; his flour's wormy.
He fears God's wrath, but trusts His mercy.
Walled in by his community,
set in Christian certainty;
by their fireplace, with his family, sitting,
he plans the plots he'll plant come spring
The stars above him do not move;
he knows God's power --and His love.

                                                          ­                                        
1118

Others loathe such conformity:
their minds and spirits must be free.
Tutor Pierre finds knowledge increase
in the arms of his pupil Héloise.
Risking life and reputation,
they learn a different conjugation.
(L'Université de Paris's great philosophe
and the canon's niece --in reckless love.)
You think the danger overstated?
Let me remind you that Abélard was castrated
--and the **** confined to a nunnery ...
whence she wrote most eloquently.
("Though I should think of God, I think of thee.")  


225

Dear Francis,
I hear that when you visited St. Peter's
you exchanged clothes with a beggar
and stood all day at the door of the church;
that you asked the people of Gubbio
to be kind to the wolf who was eating their sheep;
that you call birds your "sisters" and fire, your "brother";
that you would have us give all that we own to the poor....
--Perplexed in Perugia

Dear Perplexed,
I ask only that you see God's hand in all creation:
wolf, *****, flower, stone --
God gives to each His rain and His sun.
What man is in the eyes of the Lord,
that I am --and nothing more.


1517

Martin Luther says you can't buy salvation;
the individual conscience is the only true religion.
Of intermediaries, he'll have none;                              
Man is responsible to God alone.
The Bible, being God's holy Word,
must, by each Christian, be read and understood.
Humble toil is a service of God
far surpassing the holiness of monks.
God is terrible in his majesty;
by faith in God, are we made free.  


1611

[London; Shakespeare addresses assembled friends as he
retires to Stratford;... a mysterious stranger rebuts.]

"Despite it surely not being my intention
to slight the worth of imagination,
to doubt the value of our fictive craft,                                          
there can be no question:  in their import,
the actual deeds of actual men
must, perforce, surpass the disembodied pen.
This [pointing] is merely men upon a stage;
these, merely words I've placed on the page."

"Master Shakespeare, I beg to differ:
it is your words which will live forever.
When fiery Phoebus ten million times
has run his course 'round rotund Earth, men will
still be astonished at Lear's great woe,
still sigh with Juliet for her Romeo."


1711

They've placed Monsieur Voltaire in prison.
This will not postpone the Age of Reason.
Men will speak and write as they see fit,        
be governed by laws and the intellect.
        

1783

[General Washington, at Annapolis, Maryland]

"My friends, I'm honored deeply,
by the faith which you here show in me,
your confidence that these qualities
which served so well in war might now
to governance be applied successfully.    

"I, myself, have doubts:
I fear that battle's clear, cold steel will be dulled
in the gauzy murk of diplomacy.
And though I were suited to this high estate most perfectly
still I should shrink from it.
I think of Caesar,
returning, triumphant, from Gaul,
his heart full of zeal for the good of his people,                  
who achieved much, but whose lordly rule
gave way to others far less wise....

"There's a name for a man raised above men as a god:
it's 'king'. I'll have no kings!

"Thus, I surrender to you,
the duly-elected representatives of the States,
the outward and visible sign of my authority:
this sword. Let the world take note
that these united States, born under tyranny's yoke,
shall, in word and deed, henceforth
be governed democratically."


July 27, 1890

Vincent finds his world has narrowed,
(--what wonders he'd seen in la lumière d'Arles!--)
all the things for which he's sorrowed--
rejection by his cousin Kee,
reliance on his brother's charity,
failure of his "painters' community"--
come welling up....
He walks to the field from which he'd come.
In his pocket, the letter he'll never mail.
The wheatfield he'd so recently painted.
In his pocket, by his chest,...
the gun.


July 16, 1945

[Robert Oppenheimer, near Alamagordo, New Mexico]

    If the radiance of a thousand suns
    were to burst into the sky at once,
    that would mirror the Mighty One's splendor....
    I am become Death --World-destroyer.
    --The Bhagavad Gita

Everything was so much clearer
when it seemed the Germans might get the thing first....
Now it's all so terribly muddy....
Who knows what these generals'll do with it.
...The radiance of a thousand suns....                                                         ­                                                 

That 100-foot tower --completely gone!...
If we didn't do it, someone surely would....
I am become Death --destroyer of Worlds.  


January 1, 2000

Year Two-thousand, January One,
starts the new millennium.
The sales-clerk, Jacques, in Reims,
wakes to find his world unchanged.
He's got Internet access! Two cars!
He doesn't fear the universe....
The only group he's part of
is guys who drink at the local bar....
He goes to church, but doesn't believe.
His job, his marriage --nothing is certain....
Even the stars above him move.
He knows God's power --but not His love.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF16.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems (https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 599
Pocahontas
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
Pocahontas, Little Snow-Feather,
what possessed you to marry that pale stranger,
to cross the blue, blue Atlantic,
leaving behind your mother and your father?
How naive you were to think they wouldn't destroy you....

But Pocahontas, Little Snow-Feather,
bones-under-England-soil, it is your spirit--
not that of Cortez or Colonel Forsyth*--
your generosity, your love, which will prevail.
* Little Snow-Feather: "According to the early colonists, Pocahontas, like all other Powhatans, had two names.  

* Pocahontas, the name given to her by her father, was translated by the English to mean 'Bright Stream Between Two Hills' but in the Powhatan tongue perhaps meant 'Little Wanton.'  Her secret name, known only among her own tribesmen, was Matoax, 'Little Snow Feather,' a name conjuring up the image of a slim, amber-skinned girl enveloped from neck to knee in a mantle woven of snow-white feathers plucked from the breast of a wild swan.  Such a mantle, worn by Pocahontas in winter with moccasins and leggings of finely dressed white skins, would have given her people ample reason for calling her Matoax." (From G. S. Woodward's Pocahontas.)

* pale stranger:  I recently found that I didn't know as much about the historical Pocahontas as I thought I did.  I had reckoned the Disney movie (the first one) to be laughably inaccurate in showing Pocahontas staying behind when Captain John Smith returned to England (--everyone knows she married him and went with him, right?....).
    Pocahontas, the 11-year-old daughter of Powhatan, chief of the 8,000-person Powhatan Confederacy, was a great help to the early Jamestown settlers.  She learned their language, got certain of her elders to secretly trade them critically-needed corn and fish, and warned them away from ambushes planned by her father's warriors.  She was especially friendly with John Smith and --by Smith's account-- saved him from death at her father's orders.  (Throwing herself on him to protect him is probably something Smith invented to add drama/romance to his Historie --though we can't know for sure.)  There were certainly no other Englishmen in the vicinity.  Smith was injured (a gunpowder accident) and returned to England --but that was not until 1609 --2 years after the near-execution --by which time Pocahontas and he were no longer in communication.  She found contact with the settlers increasingly dangerous as the war between her people and the English grew fiercer.  In 1613 the English kidnapped her for the odd dual purpose of blackmailing her father and making her into a gentlewoman.  Powhatan decided that she wasn't really suffering and refused to pay the ransom.  A different John --John Rolfe--even more of a gentleman than John Smith-- fell in love with her.  They were married in 1614, had a child, and in 1616 sailed to England for a 9-month visit.  As they were about to embark on their return voyage, Pocahontas got pneumonia (or perhaps tuberculosis) and --after all this, only 21 years old-- died and was buried in St. George's Parish Church, Gravesend, Eng.  She'd had an emotional reunion with John Smith in England.  Years later, he was said to have commented: "Poor little maid.  I sorrowed much for her thus early death, and even now cannot think of it without grief, for I felt toward her as if she were mine own daughter."
[Pocahontas II is far inferior to the original.  It doesn't even begin to have any historical basis.  Pocahontas is jailed in the Tower of London; John Rolfe and John Smith team up to rescue her; they subvert an armada threatening to destroy the Powhatans; Pocahontas chooses John Rolfe, sails back to Virginia with him.  Though Judy Kuhn once again does the Pocahontas singing, the songs she's given are far, far inferior to those in the original.]

Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_096_pocahontas.MP3 .
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
Never transplant a poet's heart.
It wouldn't start.
Or, if it did, would stop
at some seemingly minor shock.

The vena cava is much too slender,
the endocardium, much too tender.
It takes a life-time to learn to live
with a heart so horribly sensitive.

Graft the skin and kidneys.
Interchange the brains.
But never, never transplant a poet's heart.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_094_transplant.MP3 .
Aug 2017 · 388
Now You Will Feel
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
"I said I didn't love you,
I said I didn't want you,
but continued to act normal,
to extend common courtesies,
even--
in moments of weakness--
a certain kindness.

"The treatment failed.
Your sickness lingers.
Now you must feel the cold truth of my not loving you."
The speaker in this poem is not me; it's a woman I was in love with.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_084_feel.MP3 .
Aug 2017 · 324
What Taxes Me
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
It's not any great tragedy but the mundane,
the quotidian, which taxes me:
haircuts, shaving, the mowing of lawns;
leaf-raking, tooth-brushing, driving to work;
taking out the garbage, matching socks;
flossing, timesheets, getting gas for the car....

I long to be forced to flee at night,
all wits and energy required just to survive.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_078_taxes.MP3 .
Aug 2017 · 1.5k
Star-Stuff
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
Sweet Earth, each molecule of me has come from you.  
Sesame seed, broken into amino acids and calcium,
became my tiny bones; bananas, potassium,
the cells of my brain.

If we could trace each atom back, we'd find
Kansas, Iowa, Ecuador, Spain.

And further still, through unimaginable millennia,
these same atoms --the very same-- were flung from a supernova,
only to recombine, here, on Earth.

"Of star-stuff, are we made." Carl Sagan said.

And then (when I'm dead)
the same in reverse:
the atoms' slow dispersal:
pulled in by roots, washed by rivers, melted in magma,
blown, finally, to smithereens by the exploding sun....

Star-stuff, once again, become.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_074_star_stuff.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 1.7k
Babylon
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
O Babylon! Your God is a sport-utility vehicle, a VCR, and a two-car garage!
You delight in images of killing and artificially-large-breasted women!
Your arteries are clogged with Big Macs and a thousand pieces of Kentucky-Fried Chicken!
Your God is Technology.  Your God is Progress.

Your skyscrapers rise to the heavens!  Your astronauts fly to the moon!
You clone sheep! alter genes! make a mountain into a parking lot!
Your fields flower!  Your grain-bins groan under the weight of the ripe corn!
But the land of your soul is a desolation.

O God of Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, and Bill Gates,...
All the nations adore Thee!
(Pretty soon they'll be ordering Papa John pizza by cell phone in New Guinea....)
Your God is Mammon.

After the movies, after the Quarter-pounders-with-cheese, super-size fries, and a large Coke,
after the evening news, the Hostess cupcakes, golf, beers, and swimming 20 laps,
the hunger will be the same as the day you first felt it, O Babylon!
the thirst of the soul, O Babylon!
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_068_babylon.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 903
What's True
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
God waited for Abraham's arm to be actually starting down, the biceps fully tensed.

Nothing short would do; in extremity, we learn what's true.

With a good job, a good marriage, a fine son, I had everything one could expect.  
And yet there was a lingering dissatisfaction; a malaise.
It seemed, deep down, that I didn't really feel or believe in anything.

.........                                             ­                                 
On Saturday morning, August 11, 1990, my three-year-old son and I rounded the corner at the south end of the block where we live.  We were out for a walk.  (He had been born through in-vitro fertilization, everything else had failed -- including several previous in-vitro attempts.)  He was riding his tricycle -- it's amazing how fast a three-year-old can go on a tricycle with big wheels. . . .  The house next to the corner had tall bushes growing right out to the sidewalk.  As we passed the house, my son speeded up.  My attention was diverted to men working across the street trimming trees.  Their chainsaws drowned out the sound of a car backing out of the driveway next to the house with the bushes.  The car was moving slowly and I can see in the slowest of slow motion -- I screamed, but I'm not sure just when (there's no sound track to this movie) -- the car backing into the left handlebar of the tricycle, tilting it over to the right, my son breaking his fall with his right hand.   (As low to the ground as he and the tricycle were, they could not be visible in the driver's rearview mirror at this point.)  And, then, the car stopping.  Did the car stop because of my scream?  Or had the old man driving the car seen my son at the last second before he disappeared behind the car?
.......

I learned instantly with the terrible weight of that tire inches from my son's head, that I wanted with a giant, horrible wanting for this boy to grow up healthy and to have children of his own who would, in turn, have children of their own, and that having my wife hate me for losing him would be unbearable.

All the unfairnesses I had suffered in life -- ALL of them --
instantly became meaningless. Everything was clear.
This is what I wanted; this is what I believed.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_062_true.MP3 .  This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 303
That Magic Summer
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
That magic summer where we first met and wooed
fades further from us with each passing year.
The words we spoke are gone; the words' tune lingers on.

We'd tasted love--
sweet, imbalanced, temporary--
now longed for the same only more complete,
more complementary.

Intimacy comes easily to some.
Others store their feelings up:
treasure for those who can rightly claim it.

We met at a party for new students,
drinking strawberry daiquiris.
For me, the attraction was immediate;
a bit slower for you, you say.

We were wary; our trust grew quickly.
And we, in the confines of this serious trust,
at last could be
our own childish, playful selves.

We went to movies, plays, folk-dancing;
walked in Crystal Lake Park;
ate; watched your soap opera;
touched each other constantly;
fought; made up elegantly.

And then, as we sat on a warm stone bench
on top of that underground library,
eating lunch,
--heart in throat--I said:

"The pleasure I have known in being with you
for these six weeks is something quite unusual.
And if the same is true for you,
if this's a love which could lead to marriage,
then I will try to find a job nearby,
where I can see you frequently.
But if your love is of a lesser sort, then I
will cast my net this great world o'er
and go where Fortune takes me."

                                   Then you,
not hesitating a single moment,
flooding my eyes with your radiant smile,
replied, "It could! Oh yes, indeed, it could!"

Much has happened since,
but I say it was then, that summer, that moment,
love reached the final, high plane
where we, though hardly conscious of it now, still dwell.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_059_magic.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 3.8k
In Champaign
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
It promised to be quite ordinary,
that old student/new student/faculty social hour.

I had come to Champaign with high hopes a year earlier,
starting a new career (--and hoping to find someone to love).
Now, with just three months left,
my studies had been a success,
but I had not found anyone to love.
And now I was thinking beyond Champaign:
where I would go, what I would do with my new degree.

I scanned the faces in the crowd.
Mixed in with all-too-familiar classmates and teachers were new people:
A formidable, blonde-haired woman
with a big voice and a large imitation pearl necklace;
no meek, retiring librarian here; a Valkyrie.
A guy with wire-rimmed glasses in his early twenties;
congenial, but serious; he had studied engineering.
A girl; stylish, extroverted;
loved Faulkner; engaged to be married.
A sensitive, thirty-ish woman; recently divorced;
her ex had stuck her with a mountain of credit card debt.
And you, in a pink dress.
No jewelry, not much makeup.
Nice figure.
Very simple, very pretty.
A wonderful smile.
Obviously bright.
You had gone here as an undergraduate.
You had taught school in Iowa for several years
and now were back to get a Library degree.
You had grown up on a farm.
You were eminently lovable.
You were, amazingly, unmarried.

I felt that I was at an art exhibition in nineteenth century France.
Here was Raffaelli's "Boulevard of the Italians"
which had sold for 500 francs.
Over here Lecomte de Nouy's "Ramses in His Harem"
which had brought 1900.
And over here in the corner, neglected,
Van Gogh's, "The Artist's Room at Arles".
I felt like shouting,
"My friends, can't you see the beauty of this painting:
its simplicity and purity, its energy; the symphony of its colors!
You have opted for these smooth, conventional paintings
and left this one, the most valuable of all, unsold. . . ."

I felt like hugging you, right then and there.

You were number two or three on my all-time "instant attraction" list.
But I was wary -- so many others had not worked out, why would you?

Our first date was a "Streetcar Named Desire".
I put my arm around you during the play and held your hand as we walked back    toward your apartment.
I invited you to "Bubby and Zadie's" cafe. You refused and offered no alternative.
I was devastated. So this, too, would come to nothing.
We would walk the three blocks back to your apartment.  We would say    goodnight.
I would go home and cry. That would be that.

But when we arrived, my hopes soared: you invited me up to your apartment. You really just didn't like Bubby and Zadie's -- and you liked and trusted me well enough that the intimacy of your apartment didn't seem inappropriate. We talked for a long time and kissed. When I left, all traces of wariness were gone. The coming weeks would not be ordinary.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_058_champaign.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 934
Letter to Sophie
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
Garden Parkway YMCA
Dallas, Texas
22 November 1963

Darling Sophie,

Could it be only two months since I let your fingers slip from my hand as that train departed Voronezh station? I fear that this trip was a great mistake. . . .

The boat sailed from Sevastopol as scheduled. Just two days and we were through the Bosporus/Dardanelles and into the incredibly blue Aegean and the Mediterranean. On September 27 we passed Gibraltar and started the long haul across the Atlantic. The work was not demanding though the ship was quite ***** and not really very pleasant.

We docked at Houston in the state of Texas on October 9. Defecting was surprisingly easy. There was supposed to be work in Dallas so I walked/hitch-hiked here last month. But I have not been able to find any work.

The people here, though friendly, are coarse and brash. The stores overflow with televisions, record players, mink coats, but there are many very poor people here too...

The great American leader, Kennedy, was shot and killed today, driving in his open-topped car along the streets of this very city.

My money is gone; my strength, exhausted. How blithely I left you and Russia behind! I feel my lips brushing the tiny hairs on the back of your neck, your ******* swelling. . . . Sophie! May you know great happiness and love! I only ask that in the spring when you visit Krymskaya Pond, that you remember how we knelt there, how I whispered in your ear there, when the air is filled with the scent of its cherry trees that you remember what we felt there. . . .

  Yours, always,    Nickolay
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_055_sophie.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 480
I Should Have Known
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
You don't really need me, do you?

Oh, you enjoy being with me.
You enjoy kissing me.
You enjoy having me at your side.
You enjoy playing the games that lovers play.
Perhaps you love me.
But you don't really need me, do you?
What I mean is
you don't lie awake at night thinking of me
you don't leave your homework unfinished because
your mind is tormented by the thought of Lucius
you don't go to sleep at night wishing my arms were around you.

You have your friends.
You have your home.
You have your mother and your father.
You've never been really lonely.
You've never really suffered.
You've never wanted to drive your car off a cliff or
put a bullet through your head.
You've never ached with all your heart.
You've never wanted anyone completely and forever.

But don't feel bad.
It's not your fault.
I should have known.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_046_known.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 414
But Still
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
You will say it was quite unintentional,
this leaving the building without saying good-bye.
("Can't I depart, just once,
thinking only of daisies and chocolate pudding?...")

There are in this world enchanters and enchantees.
It's only the latter whose hearts are chained to heavy
    stones,
who could no more leave a room, forgetting you,
than they could, for several minutes, forget to breathe.

How lightly a goddess walks the earth,
evoking smiles in everyone,
but, still, you break our hearts--
like tigers stepping on sparrows' eggs,
like a deer, walking silently through a strand of spiders'
    silk,
taut between trees,
you break our hearts.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_043_but_still.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Aug 2017 · 371
A Charm
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
Your demure expression,
the unfailing grace with which you meet
the small misfortunes which we meet each day.

Your ready smile, intelligent gaze...
(the eyelashes covering your half-closed eyes).

The care you take in your dress--
nothing fancy, but always pleasing--
never letting one forget you're a woman.

That warm-red, slightly orange, sweater,
the color of poppies,
so perfect next to your yellow hair....

Let these words be a charm against
all actual physical love;
let them somehow quench the passion
which they are tokens of.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_042_charm.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Aug 2017
[A child of indeterminate ***--either a delicate-featured boy or a tomboy-ish girl--, 9 or 10 years old, enters the chamber where the United States Council of Artists is meeting.]

"Is this the United States Council of Artists?"

[The Chairman of the Council responds:] "Yes. Who are you?"

"That doesn't matter. Are all the high arts present? Poetry, Music, the Visual Arts?"

"Yes. . . . There are people from all the various arts here. . . ."

"The Hour of your Doom is upon you."

"What do you mean?"

"You've failed to create with feeling.
Nuclear angst no longer excuses you.
Moral uncertainty, the dissolution of society,
no longer excuses you.
The 'Death of God' no longer excuses you.
Human beings have not changed.
We are not the hollow men.
Great art
comes from the heart;
your superfluities will now depart.

"Painter! Isn't it true that the same day you started work on this [holding up a reproduction of the painting "Incongruities: White Lines, Pink Lines"] you visited a hardware store with a middle-aged clerk whose face was wonderfully sad and quizzical? That as you walked home the pattern of the sun shining through the trees onto the sidewalk was marvelously variegated?


"Composer! Tell me honestly [playing a cassette recording of "Duet in F-Minor for Flute and Woodblock"] that these rhythmless sounds move you. . . . It's made with the head, completely with the head.

"Poet! Isn't it true that you've never written any poems expressing your deepest feelings: your love of your older sister; the painful growing-apart of you and your wife leading up to your divorce; your hatred of the stuffy academics who denied you tenure; the passion you felt for that Australian ******* Corfu last summer. . . . Instead you've written these [holding up a book entitled Root Crops, No Metaphors and reading from it:]

     translucent, magenta-veined root-tips
     push, cell by cell, into humid grit;
     dark green, dark-red-veined crowns
     expand profligately sunward. . . .

"Great art
speaks to the heart;
your superfluities will now depart."

[Another Council member:] "Mr. Chairman, with all due respect to this --surprisingly eloquent-- young person, I suggest that we return to the business at hand which is" [consulting his agenda] "the allocation this fiscal year for haiku in South Dakota."
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_042_charm.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Jul 2017 · 759
In The Fullness Of Time
Lucius Furius Jul 2017
. . . go out into the evening,
    leaving your room, of which you know each bit,
    your house is the last before the infinite, . . .
    (from Rainer Maria Rilke's "Eingang", MacIntyre translation)
  
The light which strikes my retina
as I look at the Great Galaxy in Andromeda
left there two million years ago.
(Hominids made tools from stone then, but had not yet    
    learned the use of fire.
Genetic material from certain of these hominids has been passed
from one being to another and now is in my own body.)
  
Millennia from now, humans who have
colonized the farthest reaches of our galaxy,
laboriously creating and maintaining Earth-like atmospheres,
will marvel that there once was a place so perfectly suited to
    human life
that such labor was unnecessary. (Just as we marvel that orchids,
whose precise temperature and humidity requirements would seem to necessitate a greenhouse, grow wild in the Amazon.)
  
I cannot believe in a personal God,
intervening in human affairs, but stand in awe
of the terrible force which set the stars and galaxies in motion
--strewing them like so much confetti--;
the life-force running through each living creature,                                              
as straight and true as a ray of light from that galaxy in Andromeda,
willing us to live, grow and be fruitful.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_063_fullness.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Jul 2017
"Janice, I sat next to you in Latin.
We were sophomores.
You were a cheerleader
but smart too.
The excitement was unbearable
(Cicero; the shape of your sweater . . . ).
I asked you to play tennis."
"You did never."
"Yes, I did."
"I suppose I didn't want to get sweaty."
"So then you would have gone with me to a movie?"
"No, I doubt it. . . . I was a brat."
"You were divine.
I wrote a poem for you in Latin."
  
"Lynda, we met at The Three Penny Opera.
You were an usher.
I was a college student; you were in high school."
"Yes, a 'townie'."
"I put my arm around you.
I stroked your hair.
When I tried to kiss you on the forehead our noses collided."
"I was expecting a lip kiss."
"It was a powerful attraction,
but it wouldn't have worked."
"No, we could have made great love,
but it wouldn't have lasted."
  
"Gina, you lived on that 'hippie farm'
at the edge of town.
I was the 'knowing elder',
the one who'd worked on a real farm.
You were so high-energy, so alluring.
Guys flocked to you:
William and Michael; Davy, back home;
sexually involved with all of them."
"Not Michael really."
"You seduced me--
I think you wanted to make William jealous--
not that I was unwilling. . . .
I was, however, impotent."
"I wanted adventure and, yes, I suppose I did want to make
       William jealous."
"Our intimacy awakened me.
I realized what I'd been missing.
Your rejection was devastating."
"I didn't mean to hurt you.
I didn't know you were so fragile."
  
"Carla, I loved you in your apartment.
It was all softness and warmth;
**** carpet, soft bed,
Carole King on the stereo. . . .
We slept together, showered together."
"I really listened to Carole King?"
"Your parents were divorcing.
You didn't have time for a relationship."
"I don't think I was ready."
"Just as I was overcoming my impotency. . . ."
  
"Sarah, I loved you on a camping trip.
We kissed at dusk in the Great Smoky Mountains."
"I remember."
"I felt so connected--
physically, intellectually, emotionally.
You smiled with your whole face, with your whole being.
I wanted to be with you steadily.
You said it wouldn't work.
I guess you were right:
I couldn't love someone who couldn't love me completely.
When we parted,
I cried uncontrollably."
"Yes,
I remember."
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/old-site/audio/SoF_037_former.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
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