Wednesday, August 30, 2017

On three poems by Rolf Jacobsen

Rolf Jacobsen is said to be the first modernist Norwegian poet.  See the Wikipedia article at  "Rolf Jacobsen (8 March 1907 – 20 February 1994) could be said to be the first modernist writer in Norway. Jacobsen's career as a writer spanned more than fifty years. He is one of Scandinavia’s most distinguished poets, who launched poetic modernism in Norway with his first book, Jord og jern (Earth and Iron) in 1933. Jacobsen's work has been translated into over twenty languages. The central theme in his work is the balance between nature and technology – he was called "the Green Poet" in Norwegian literature"

Three of Jacobsen's translated poems appear at    I've commented on these three poems as follows:

"Antenna-forest":  In this poem, the city has replaced the forests and where there were trees, there are now antennas on roofs.  The antennas apparently look like crosses and at the end the poet asks "Who's resting here / in these deep graves?"  The implication being (I'm guessing) that by replacing forests with cities, we are not only killing nature, replacing it with unnatural structures, but by doing this we are sealing mankind's doom.  Considered from the roofs, the buildings are graves in which people rest.

I don't agree with this very popular environmentalist position.  It could happen, but only if mankind does nothing to correct this trend.  The Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski) once infamously insisted that we return to a pre-industrial life style and killed a few people with letter bombs to get his manifesto read, but Kaczynski and perhaps Rolf Jacobsen take a short view.  I'm also an environmentalist, but don't believe it would be good to abandon scientific and technological progress in favor of  Luddite existence.  Jacobsen doesn't say quite what Kaczynski does and maybe at times I've been this pessimistic but given homo sapiens modus operandi, so to speak, I anticipate that we will move to the moon, then to Mars and from their perhaps to one of Saturn's moons.  In other words we are not doomed (IMO) to die (as a species) in the sterile structures we have replaced the forests with.  At the present time we in our Liberal Democracies still count on growing populations to finance our entitlements, but if we can quit doing that we needn't turn the earth into something like the planet Trantor from Isaac Asimov's Foundation.

"Guardian Angel":  This poem begins a bit like a pessimistic environmentalist poem.  The Guardian Angel is the bird that knocks on your window that you cannot know?  Why can't you know it?  Because you are blind.  The birds that knock at your window are "the blossoms that light up for the blind."   In the second stanza the Guardian Angel is the "glacier's crest above the forests."  There are no glacier crests above the Californian forests, nor do we haven any cathedral towers (or at least not many inasmuch as I've never heard of any here) so the Guardian Angel is probably Norwegian.  The Guardian Angel declares that the (Norwegian) reader of the poem loved this angel long ago, implying that the reader no longer loves him even though the angel walks along side him by day and speaks to his heart even though the reader doesn't know it.   Lutheranism doesn't emphasize Guardian Angels, Roman Catholics do, or have.  This Guardian Angel sounds a bit like the Holy Spirit.  The last stanza describes the angel as a "third arm" and "second shadow, the white one, / whom you don't have the heart for and who cannot ever forget you."  If Jacobsen intends this as a Christian allusion it isn't quite orthodox in Protestant theology although it might be acceptable in the Roman Catholicism sense.  The Holy Spirit is described in the New Testament as providing help to all those who belong to the Lord.  However, the recipient of the Angel's poem is described as not having the heart for this angel, and by extension the Holy Spirit; so if this is a Protestant Christian allusion then the theology behind it is Universalistic, i.e, all will be saved.  The two Protestant orthodox positions are (1) those whom God chooses will be saved, and (2) those who choose God will be saved.  Perhaps the recipient is Catholic and is at least estranged from the  Catholic Church.  But perhaps he belongs in some sense to the Catholic Church "who cannot ever forget you."

"Sand":  This strikes me as a naturalistic poem which expresses the Second Law of Thermodynamics and is not placing the blame for this entropy on homo sapiens.  "The starry worlds above our heads" are subject to this Law as well as is earth.  I've attempted to keep up with the latest cosmological theories and the cosmologists are not as certain of the position expressed in this poem as Jacobsen is.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Susan’s 5-shot Taurus 357

    Pressing my ear against the wall I
    Heard, “We had trouble enough with
    Him last time.  Now he has three
    Powerful friends.”  And someone
    Else, “I know, but if we work this
    Right, he will . . .”  They must have
    Moved to another room.  I leaned
    Back thinking it was me they were
    After, but if so . . .  Ben was strongly
    Built but was he powerful in the
    Meaning meant?  I didn’t think so
    But he had attended gala shows --
    Becoming the center of attention --
    I didn’t know what else. Small

    Duffy – was always alert on a trail
    But not powerful – unless they
    Planned an ambush.  Jessica was
    Yet to find her place in the warp
    And woof of our defense: one of
    Them stole up to our window
    And looked in.  I could hear her

    Growl.  The steps of stealth out
    On the public thoroughfare – the
    Moon shining through our window –
    A tormented owl, a dog barking far
    Down the street.  My three lifted their
    Heads as one. I lay where I was but
    Reached out for Susan in my sleep.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Late-Night Duty

    I couldn’t remember whether
    This was a quest or we were
    Running for our lives – dreamed
    I was down to one dog and had
    A full tank of gas.  We seemed
    To be well into the desert on
    A desolate road.  Jessica sat

    Beside me, staring forward,
    Intensely interested.  I had. 
    My old Colt Trooper next to
    The console and my Mossberg
    Persuader behind Jessica’s
    Seat.  They had come after us,
    I recalled, half a dozen of them.

    We had fought, of course, which
    They didn’t expect, then bombs
    Had fallen everywhere.  You
    Wouldn’t think they had so
    Many.  I desperately needed
    Sleep, but Jessica urged me to
    Keep going.  There was no

    Shade anywhere and no
    Coolness or surcease of pain.
    I woke long enough to turn
    Onto my other side.  Ben and
    Duffy were there for that.  I
    Couldn’t risk them though for
    This.  Only Jessica understood

    The sensitive nature of our search
    And the need to stay alert.  She 
    Looked out growling. I flexed my
    Shoulder.  One of them must have
    Clubbed me when I went down, 
    But I forgot about that when I
    Grabbed my S&W Model 19 and

    Shot him, center mass.  The noise
    I feared would wake Duffy and Ben;
    So I shot swiftly, reloaded and 
    Shot again.  Once the neighborhood   
    Was gone though, there was no
    Point in defending an empty
    House.  We could see lights Up

    Ahead from a small town.  We
    Paused, engine running, looking down
    The road. Lights flickered as though
    Something was moving in front.
    The sky was brilliant with stars once
    I shut my headlights off.  Jessica stared
    Into the night and then looked at me.
    Was there nothing to see?  Did she
    Want to get a closer look?  She wouldn’t
    Say.  I’d had a good run and might hide
    Away my last few days but not with
    Jessica and hers.  I started the engine,
    Turned on the lights and drove toward
    The town. Three men stepped out

    With rifles pointing toward us.  I
    Paused the Jeep.   “I’m friendly
    If you are,” I shouted.   “Well then
    Come ahead and we’ll Just see.” 
    I looked over at Jessica. 
    She bared her teeth and growled.
    I put the Jeep in reverse and
    Checked the time.  This was
    When Jessica usually pawed
    Me awake.  I got out of my
    Lounge chair and stretched
    Out on the floor.  Sometimes
    She would lay down next to me. 
    Sometimes she would get up into
    The chair.  I sometimes didn’t
    Sleep at all keeping them safe.
    With just the Jessica left I
    Rolled down my window and
    Stuck my head out into the
    Cool night air and the
    Night – one more time.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Jessica, Dead


    I entered the shop, telling the lady
    I needed another dog.  “The one you
    Sold me is dead.”  She turned to the
    Manager saying, “he wants a refund.”
    “No, no, I don’t.  I’m willing to pay
    Full price.  I just want another.  “Okay,”
    The manager said, but we don’t

    Have another.  The closest we have
    Is an Airedale; which you can have.  A
    Male.”  “A male?” I moaned.  “I don’t
    Know.  It isn’t what I need.”  The man
    Shook his head.  “She may be one of
    A kind.”  “So I’ll just wait,” I said,
    Backing out of the shop.  She rushed

    Up then, licking my face, demanding
    Attention.  “I’m right here!” She yelled,
    Punching my arm with her paws.  “I’m
    A little fat perhaps, but I’m not dead!
    You need to take control of this silly
    Dream.”  A strong wind blew us up
    Against a wall.  “You can’t just let

    Me die,” she plaintively said, licking
    My hand.  “I don’t want to,” I replied,
    Kissing her head, but this dream is
    Beyond my control.”  “Not here,”
    She said leaping up.  “Not now.  I’m
    Missing from your dream so you must
    Find me – not some stupid Airedale!

    A male at that.”  I want to find you,
    But I thought you were dead.  They
    Told me you were.  It isn’t that I want
    Another.  I don’t, you know?”  “You
    Think I’ll slip away because she did
    Two years ago, but I won’t.”  “But how
    Do I really know,” I wailed and sighed?

    “Because I tell you so.  Get hold
    Of this dream and hold onto me.”
    I groaned, rolling over against her
    On the floor.  She was on my right.
    I sat up in the dark, finding Ben on
    The other side.  I needed to turn on
    A flash to find black Duffy in the dark.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Poets dying

    We watched the bold display of the half-turned
    Looking-back face, the eyes, and smirking
    Leer as he walked up the stairs to the
    Scaffold and caressed  the lever, leaving us
    Wondering whether this fall through the hole
    In the floor was all there was or whether
    A lifetime of thinking derogatory thoughts

    Culminating in one defiant outburst was
    Something we should aspire to as an
    Example of confessing Him before men
    As it were despite the consequences. 
    Though critics crept upon us with their
    Brands of cowardice, when the day came
    We were still not yet ready:  A thunder-clap

    As the hangman tested his gear!  Was
    This a meaningless test or a condemnation?
    Our befuddled thoughts and the looking about
    Through rheumy eyes confused us with fear.
    Words jumped out as though vomit from
    An OED.  We this coming day would rather
    Jump from the Orizaba in the Mexican gulf.

    On days gone by we thought we’d rather
    Step from the boat to the shore without
    Wetting our feet.  “You won’t like this as
    Much as I do” the hooded man whispered,
    Grasping the handle with both hands.   If only
    Earlier we had put our head in and turned on
    The gas, we would now not feel our violent

    End, merely the critical pin pricks producing
    Each one a single drop of blood.  As the days
    Passed though, our supply depleted, we tied
    ourselves to our mast and shrank from
    The maw that yawned before us.  We were
    Not ready for the crack of the trap or the
    Roar of the hangman watching us fall.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Invite Death to dinner


    “Hey Lucky,” someone shouted
    And shouted again.  I looked down
    From my third story perch.  “Who
    Do you want?”  “Are you Lucky”?
    A gaunt man with a long beard
    Looked up.  “Not to my knowledge,”
    I replied.  “Good looking lady like

    This, anybody’d be lucky to have
    Her come to town.  Better come
    On down.”  “Is she a tall woman with
    Jet black hair, black eyes and purple
    Nails?”  “Yeah,” the gaunt man said
    With a wink.  “I’ll be right down.”  He 
    Smirked and said, “I thought you might.

    “She’ll be waiting, I suspect.”  And
    Indeed she was, rolling her window
    Down in the back, “Get in” she said.
    “Now why would I do that”?  I held
    Back, standing stock still.   “This next
    One is on me and in the cosmic
    Nature of things, the next comes now.”

    “And that means I owe you dinner,”
    I scoffed and peered in through her
    Window for a closer look?  “Are you
    Still a woman?”  “Well you can see
    I am.  I’m here for you as you can
    See.  Are you ready for me?”  “I don’t
    Think so,” I sighed, “but I could eat

    And while I don’t remember it quite
    The way you say, “I’ll buy you dinner if
    We take your car.”  “My limousine, you
    mean?  Please show it respect,” she
    Smiled.  I got inside, sitting opposite.
    “What are you drinking,” she asked,
    Pointing at the onboard bar?  “Rum and

    And coke I guess, being a Marine.  It
    Might be nice on such a day as this.”  “Now
    Why is that,” she asked, cracking the can,
    Pouring the glass half full then filling the
    Rest with Ron Rico rum?  “My wife died
    Two years ago.  I never drank while she
    Was alive.  Never looked at another woman

    ‘Till now – if that’s what you are.”  Two years
    Is a long time,” she said, “if those forty years
    With her were incomplete.”  “I see,” I said, not
    Seeing.  She said “How would I know you haven’t
    Been drinking, and haven’t been looking,
    Seeing as you’re here now with me, a nice
    Cool drink just recently poured”?  “I don’t

    Think you count,” I said, and I’m only here
    For the conversation.”  “That’s what they all
    Say, Sugar, and the booze?”  “If you hand
    Me that glass, I’ll let you know.”  She set it
    In the cup holder near my hand.  “Whenever
    You’re ready,” she said, and looked at me
    Through the smoke from her cigarillo.  More

    Beautiful than she’d been at lunch, but I
    Searched inside and found no hunger, no
    Desire.  She knew it too – told the driver to
    Pull to the side of the road.  “You won’t
    Drink that, I know,” she gestured toward
    my drink.  “You could go to war with it
    Or meet me in my room.”  “If you were
    Real I might.  We’ll never know.”   I
    Mumbled in confusion, “but not now,
    Not you. Surely you have something better
    To do than pester me.”  She seemed
    Amused.  “I can never tell about you.
    You spend a lot of your time with the
    Dead, but now you say you have no

    Claim on death – won’t even drink to
    Her good health.”  I shook my head,
    Wondering at the metaphor and the
    Look she was giving me, mild it seemed
    And sad.  “I’ll just walk home from here if
    That’s okay,” I said.  “You bet, Sugar, she
    Smiled once more.  “The next one’s mine.”

Death invited me for lunch


    “It’s on me,” he said, “wine?”
    “I don’t drink any longer,” I said.
    “Ah, I heard that – hurt my
    Feelings -- thought you didn’t love
    Me any more.”  “What do you mean,”
    I asked nonplused?  “All those stunts
    Of yours, the handstands on top of
    Oil derricks and third-story balconies.
    Back then you were rushing toward me
    Full of heat, walking across those bridges
    On the rails.  I thought you loved me then.”
    “What,” I asked amazed.  “Is death a girl?
    “I can be if you like.”  “No, don’t” I said. 
    “I don’t care.  What do you want with me now?

    “What do I want?  Why to be your friend,
    To urge you to get your ducks in a row.
    Your kids, you know could use your
    Money.  Don’t become selfish after all
    This time.”  “Too bad,” I said.  “They’ll
    Have to wait.  You need to be sneakier
    Than this.  What are you having for lunch?”

    “If I can’t have you,” she sniffed, and
    Turned toward the waiter, “I’ll have the
    Fillet mignon, au jus, very rare.” “Of
    Course madam, “he said, “and you sir?”
    I shoved the menu aside, “Chef’s Salad,
    Blue cheese mixed in.”  “Very good, sir”
    He said and bowed.  “They seem to know

    You here,” I observed, looking about at
    The furtive glances, the haste with which
    They ate, the dashing away of those who were
    Paying their bills.  “They love me one and all,
    The shy things.  Just won’t say so.  There’s
    Always someone nearby with a sack full
    Of Jealous thoughts,” she said looking around.

    I glowered at her over my fork.  “As long as
    You’re here, perhaps you’d tell me what it is
    Comes next?”  She frowned, “After your salad,
    You mean?  “Well, if it’s okay with you, we’ll
    Look at the dessert menu later on.”   “No, not
    The salad, you, Death.  What comes after you?” 
    “Why I don’t know.  They never tell me anything.
    I’m just a servant.”  “A Civil Servant,” I suppose,”
    I sneered.  “Well a bit like that, but more like a
    Cosmic Servant, I would say, she said, puffing
    Out her chest.”  “Well who are the ‘they’ you
    Referred to,” I asked then?  “Who are they ever,”
    She cocked an eyebrow looking about the restaurant. 
    She opened a case and took out a thin cigar,

    “Do you have a light,” she asked in a sexy
    Voice, leaning toward me with the cigarillo
    Between her lips?  “I don’t smoke,” I said,
    Backing away.  “Well I do, dear boy.  Here
    Use my Zippo.  I took it, clicked open the lid
    And turned the little wheel watching the fire,
    Seeing her eyes watch mine.  “Look pretty good
    To you,” she asked?  “Your cigarillo or the fire?”
    “Whatever you like she said in a husky voice
    Drawing the smoke into her lungs.  I don’t get
    To play an active role.  It’s whatever comes my
    Way.”  “Sort of like road-kill perhaps?”  I said.
    She leaned back and chuckled, “If that’s your
    Desire, then let’s leave now.  I’ll get the bill.”