Sunday, August 13, 2017

BW33: Happy Birthday - Alfred Corn

Alfred Corn - August 14, 1943 

Happy birthday to American poet, Alfred Corn, who will be 74 on August 14th. 

Fire: The People  

Toplight hammered down by shadowless noon, 
A palindrome of midnight, retrograde 
From last month’s solstice in smoke and flame, 
In molten glares from chrome or glass. I feel 
Fever from the cars I pass, delirium 
Trembling out from the radiators. 
The dog-day romance seems to be physical, 
As young free lances come into their own, 
Sunbrowned, imperial in few clothes, 
Heat-struck adulthood a subject to youth 
And fitful as traffic, the mind pure jumble 
But for that secret overriding voice 
Advising and persuading at each crossroads; 
The struggle toward freedom to forge a day. 

Smoke; flame; oiled, gray-brown air. 
Jackhammers and first gear on the avenues; 
Stuntmen driving taxicabs; patient, blue, 
Hippo aggressiveness of a bus, nudging 
Aside the sedans. And the peculiar 
Fascination of a row of workshops— 
The dark interiors with skylight sunstripes; 
A figure walking in slow motion among 
Pistons; rough justice of a die cutter; 
A helmeted diver, wielding acetylene, 
Crouched over some work of sunken treasure 
That sparkles gold at a probe from his torch . . . . 
Seismic shocks interrupt this dream—a stampede 
Of transports flat out to make the light, 
Mack truck, Diamond Reo, a nameless tanker, 
IT International, a Seatrain destined 
For the Port Authority docks—one more 
Corrugated block to pile on the rest, 
Red, green, gray, and blue, waiting for a ship 
In the Grancolombiana line . . . . 
The seagoing city radiates invisibly 
Over the world, a documentary sublime. 

Lunch hour, even the foods are fast, potluck 
In the melting pot: the Italian girl 
With a carton of chicken; Puerto Rican folding 
A pizza; the black woman with an egg roll; 
A crop-headed secretary in round, 
Metal spectacles eats plain yogurt (she’s 
Already mantis thin) and devours glamour 
Mags . . . . Our crowd scene, a moving fresco: 
But is it really there? The adversary 
Today is named Random. How capture all this 
Without being taken captive in turn, 
Install it as something more than backdrop, 
As a necessity, not a sundry? 
Suppose just an awareness of the way 
Living details might be felt as vision 
Is vision, full, all there ever was—this 
Instant palindromic noon, the joined hands 
Of the clock, end and beginning . . . . Surely 
The first to consider imagining stars 
Constellations had already done as much, 
Just by making some brilliant connections; 
Mind crowned itself in a round of leaps from point 
To point across the empty stage of night . . . . 

* * * * * 

Now as a pigeon banks, descends, hovers, 
And drops on asphalt with back-thrust wings, 
Comes a desire to be lifted in the balance, 
Rise to some highest point and then be met 
By a fierce new light haloing lashes shatter 
Into spears of aurora, naked eye become 
Prismatic at last and given to see in kind 
All the transformed inhabitants forever go 
About their errands, on a new scale: the rainbow 
Is the emblem for this moment filtering through 
The body’s meshwork nerves, and a heartbeat impulse 
All around puts troops of feet in step with music, 
Persistent, availing, that disregards the frayed 
Years, vagaries, downfall among trash, accident, 
Loss; or because it knows these rushes upward 
On something like heartbreak into the only sky, 
Air aspirant with fractioned voices, feverfew 
Of the sensed illusion, higher ground, progressions 
Sounded in the spheres—so each step takes them further, 
Sceptered, into daytime, saluting the outcome. 
There is a fire that surpasses the known burning, 
Its phoenix center a couple that must be there, 
Blast furnace, dynamo, engendering a city, 
Phosphor spines that bend and meet to weld, to fuse 
As a divining rod—sluicings, spillway, braid, 
Chorded basses that set myriad threads afire, 
Newborn limbs and reach of the proven tendon now 
Let go into empowered brilliance, rayed showers, 
The garden regained. In this light the place appears: 
Hands that rise or fall, muted gestures of welcome 
And good-bye, face that turns and comes forward to claim 
A smile latent in the afternoon air, vague crowds 
Falling down streets without character toward 
An offered covenant—love that gives them each a name. 

To learn more about Alfred Corn, check out this interview with Jorge Rodriguez-Miralles in 2013 as well as Huff Post Interview about World War I poets and Pif Magazine's interview with Derek Alger.

Please link to your specific post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you don't have a blog, leave a comment telling us what you have been reading. Every week I will put up Mr. Linky which will close at the end of each book week. No matter what book you are reading or reviewing at the time, whether it be # 1 or # 5 or so on, link to the current week's post.

1 comment:

  1. HI Robin,

    I haven't been here in ages and I working on a new computer. Somehow I double posted.


Thank you for your kind comments.