Atomic Courtesy Collaboration – Jacobson

A collaboration with the talented Marcy Erb and featured on her eclectic blog Illustrated Poetry | Art by Marcy Erb

Illustrated Poetry

GIF by John Sapiro

Atomic Courtesy

To smash the simple atom
All mankind was intent.
Now any day
The atom may
Return the compliment.

Ethel Jacobson

collage of beige and red particles escaping from a black concentric reactor

John Sapiro and I began our email correspondence about this little poem and the history of the atomic age a few months ago, before the early August anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but amidst the early chaos of the pandemic. It seemed almost ridiculous to be talking about yet another threat to worldwide health, peace, and humanity and yet, it was the mood of the day. I couldn’t find an exact date for Ethel Jacobson’s poem, although it is in a book I have that has a copyright date of 1952. And so our conversation centered mostly around the cold war of the 1950s and 60s but veered around widely. We talked about the physicist Richard Feynman and his…

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To Fanny

cf. TV Commercial

I know it—and to know it is despair
To one who loves you as I love, sweet Fanny,
Whose heart goes fluttering for you every where,
Nor when away you roam,
Dare keep its wretched home:
Love, love alone, has pains severe and many;
Then, loveliest! keep me free
From torturing jealousy.

— Keats, “To Fanny”

What’s Her Name Today?

Quote

“the oxford companion to modern poetry”

the oxford companion to modern poetry

…the major part of his verse is published on his very sparsely visited WordPress blog.
He is still part of the Romantic school even though this mode has long been repudiated.
His work lumbers through the same recurring themes over and over again —
the failed (or failing) romance, the ever popular carpe diem trope and a kind of bitter melancholic nostalgia that this reviewer, for one, finds distasteful.
An early instructive example is “Astrophysics (Halley’s Poem)”.
Here the lover is unflatteringly compared to Halley’s Comet.
She left the poet in 1986 traveling at high rate of speed and the grandiose Galileo quotation would only gild the lily if there was a lily to gild.
His more recent work such as “And the operator said, ‘May I help you please?’” again finds the poet au fait with loving and losing.
Poems such as these have this reviewer wondering whether Tennyson’s famous aphorism is generally applicable.
Providentially his verse is interlarded with songs from the 1970s (the poet’s salad days) and occasionally (and regrettably) some hair metal classics.
We do not expect a volume of his collected works at this time but anticipate further elaboration of these leitmotifs on his blog.

— J.S.

And the operator said, “May I help you please?”

National Geographic Magazine (1948)

I waited all night, I remember that
smoked a cigarette
watched TV
went out and saw some friends
drove by your house
went to a bar and had a beer
got back home and tried to sleep…

— J.S.

I knocked the phone off the nightstand
And the operator said, “May I help you please?”
and I said “No thanks, baby tonight there ain’t no help for me —
see I just had a bad dream, that’s all that’s wrong with me
see I just had a bad dream.”

Crying In My Sleep

O MISTRESS mine, where are you roaming?

cf. Maclean’s Magazine (1970)

O MISTRESS mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your true-love’s coming
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting—
Every wise man’s son doth know.

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty,—
Then come kiss me, Sweet-and-twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

— from Twelfth Night

Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes

Ceci n’est pas une intersection.

Photograph by Daniel Monteiro via Unsplash

Ceci n’est pas une intersection.

In the warm twilight
I am translated
refracted
at the red light
the song on the radio
preternatural
holding, as ‘twere,
the mirror up to nature
and unravels my heart

— J.S.

Inside Out

“the docent”

Patio from the Castle of Vélez Blanco (1506–15) on view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 534

the docent

just before
closing time
i found myself
in european sculpture and decorative arts
lost in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries
with so much to learn
and you resplendently reverberant
in a white blouse
like an impressionist painting

— J.S.

Hatchie — Sure

by heart

cf. Carleton H. Graves, “A game of chess” (detail) (ca. 1905) (edited)

by heart

the car passed under
the lights on the overpass
your voice traced
a rush of autumn
at the restaurant
your smile
echoes
across the years

— J.S.

Parallel Lines

Quote

Poem to my 18-year-old self

These sharp Springs
Matter most
After years
Will be time enough to sleep
Carefulness and tears

Now while life is raw and new,
Drink it clear, drink it deep!
Let the moonlight’s lunacy
Tear away your cautions…

Never fear,
Age will catch you…

Only graven in your soul
After all the rest is gone
There will be ecstasies,
These alone

— John Weaver, To Youth (excerpt)

Part III: It is the autumnal mood with a difference.

cf. Katsushika Hokusai, “Under the Wave off Kanagawa…” (ca. 1830–32)

Oh, never this whelming east wind swells
But it seems like the sea’s return
To the ancient lands where it left the shells
Before the age of the fern;
And it seems like the time when after doubt
Our love came back amain.
Oh, come forth into the storm and rout
And be my love in the rain.

—Robert Frost, “A Line-storm Song” (excerpt)

“King Of August”

cf. photograph by StockSnap via Pixabay

king of august

driving home from my first date
a symphony of street lights
and a million stars in the sky
an incandescent spark
flying through a dark street
midnight holds no secret
only my triumphant heart

—J.S.

Quote

“Portraits” (V-VIII)

“Portraits” (V-VIII)

V
(John Keats)

The thought of her
in that darkest winter
fevered torment
but your eternal summer
will not fade

VI
(Jane Dornacker)

You did not know me
but I was always listening
and when I lost you
I pulled my car over to the side of the road
and prayed

VII
(Hans Castorp)

As Spender said of Eliot,
A wonderful poet disguised as a businessman.
Just ask Clavdia.

VIII
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

A romantic resting against a mantelpiece clock.
You were right, Scott—
the past is forever.

—J.S.

“And Wilt Thou Leave Me Thus?”

cf. Cincinnati Magazine, 1971

And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay, for shame,
To save thee from the blame
Of all my grief and grame;
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay!

And wilt thou leave me thus,
That hath loved thee so long
In wealth and woe among?
And is thy heart so strong
As for to leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay!

And wilt thou leave me thus,
That hath given thee my heart
Never for to depart,
Nother for pain nor smart;
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay!

And wilt thou leave me thus
And have no more pity
Of him that loveth thee?
Hélas, thy cruelty!
And wilt thou leave me thus?
Say nay, say nay!

—Sir Thomas Wyatt

ENG 101

David De Vries, “Room 103, small classroom…” (2001)

ENG 101

I heard his raspy old voice talking

about a poem about a spider

and he even looked like Frost

but I was looking

out the door out the window

at the ultrablue sky

and wondered

about designs

–J.S.

Kinderszenen

Anna Curtis Chandler & Irene F. Cypher, “Audio-Visual Techniques For Enrichment Of The Curriculum” (1948)

Kinderszenen

after school

I finished my Yodel and the telephone rang

unable to contain my excitement

I ran through backyards

until I reached her house

she lowered the tone arm

and I fell in love

–J.S.
 

Last Train To Clarksville by The Monkees

“Let us go then, you and I…”

cf. Remo Farruggio, Basin Street (1938) and LIFE, 1968

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

–T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (excerpt)

“Soli Deo Gloria”: Grand Central, December, 1982

Grego, Street Musician (2014)

“Soli Deo Gloria”: Grand Central, December, 1982

onrushing out into the

42nd street passage

huddled in the corner

frayed and fallen

drifted from the street

in pieces and broken-down

Yamaha nylon string guitar

the third Brandenburg

reverberated, echoed, re-echoed

transfixed and transfigured

I put all my money in his well-worn open case

It was almost Christmas

–J.S.
 

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048 – III. Allegro by TXGQ

at the music store, August, 1979

Benjamin Balázs, “Where My Heart Belongs…”

at the music store, August, 1979

I had to reach way up

rosewood,
sunburst,
cigarette burn—

the salesman plugged it into a Pignose

the sun was streaming in through the windows

He gave me an imitation tortoise-shell pick

my index finger pressed across

e

a

c#

a circuit closed

on the way home

the late summer afternoon sun was starting to set

I rolled down the car window and

reached for the Pat Travers 8-track tape on the passenger seat

–J.S.

“Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception…”

cf. Home Movie PA 000111 and photograph by Kevin Lee via Unsplash

Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending…

–T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages

She put her finger in your cheek so hard it must have made your dimple there, and said, “Maple.”

“Tornado”

Your mother named you. You and she just saw
Each other in passing in the room upstairs,
One coming this way into life, and one
Going the other out of life—you know?
So you can’t have much recollection of her.
She had been having a long look at you.
She put her finger in your cheek so hard
It must have made your dimple there, and said,
‘Maple.’ I said it too: ‘Yes, for her name.’
She nodded. So we’re sure there’s no mistake.
I don’t know what she wanted it to mean,
But it seems like some word she left to bid you
Be a good girl—be like a maple tree.
How like a maple tree’s for us to guess…

–Robert Frost, Maple (excerpt)

Duet On Mass Ave, June, 1981

Mohamed Hayibor, Church of Christ, Scientist (2016)

Duet On Mass Ave, June, 1981

Over the sound of water splashing in the fountain
and the warm summer night air

I heard your melody echoing around the entire city

then I gave you my guitar and you played the introduction to Roundabout

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

–J.S.

“Yet see in the uncertain sky above your uncertain station– the sign she left you…”

Eastman Kodak Company, “How to make good movies…” (1938)

The many faces of defeat
Invite you home:
They offer you such silence
As has no truck with time.
The face of horrid purpose,
The train of circumstance
There, the door is closed upon;
They shall no more advance.
Yet see in the uncertain sky
Above your uncertain station–
The sign she left you, passing,
Persists in affirmation.

—Ray Smith, The Sign

Nighthawks

cf. Edward Hopper, Nighthawks (detail) (1942) and Detour (1945)

Your eyes that once were never weary of mine
Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,
Because our love is waning.

–William Butler Yeats, Ephemera (excerpt)

You’re leaving now
It’s in your eyes…

February

Ron Hoffman, Helping Hands Will Get This Skier’s Car off the Ice (1974)

Don’t think Brown ever gave up hope
Of getting home again because
He couldn’t climb that slippery slope;

Or even thought of standing there
Until the January thaw
Should take the polish off the crust.
He bowed with grace to natural law,

And then went round it on his feet,
After the manner of our stock;
Not much concerned for those to whom,
At that particular time o’clock,

It must have looked as if the course
He steered was really straight away
From that which he was headed for—
Not much concerned for them, I say:

No more so than became a man—
And politician at odd seasons.
I’ve kept Brown standing in the cold
While I invested him with reasons;

But now he snapped his eyes three times;
Then shook his lantern, saying, “Ile’s
’Bout out!” and took the long way home
By road, a matter of several miles.

–Robert Frost, Brown’s Descent, or the Willy-nilly Slide (excerpt)

Look on the map, I think we’ve been there before
Close up the doors, let’s roll once more…

Reading “Ivy Day In The Committee Room” On The Train, November, 1980

cf. Lottie, “Train view” (2012)

Reading “Ivy Day In The Committee Room” On The Train, November, 1980

his face lapsed into darkness but, as he set himself to fan the fire again, his crouching shadow ascended the opposite wall and his face slowly reemerged into light. It was

a gray day with an almost constant and heavy rain beating down against the train window.

“What are you doing in the dark?” asked a voice.

The cabin lights were off. I stared at the distant red signal light in the mist and felt a chill. I fumbled for my book.

A denuded room came into view and the fire lost all its cheerful colour. The walls of the room were bare except for a

smoking compartment sign. I was alone. A voice asked for my ticket.

“Is that you, Hynes?” asked Mr. O’Connor.
“Yes. What are you doing in the dark?” said Mr. Hynes. advancing into the light of the fire.

The train pulled out of the station and I thought about what you said.

“Tell me,” he said across the fire, “what brings our friend in here? What does he want?”

I guess I just wanted to see you one last time.

“What age are you?” he asked.
“Seventeen,” said the boy.

As the train slowed into the station I looked for you. A man was getting into his car and heading home.

“Tell me, John,” said Mr. O’Connor, lighting his cigarette with another pasteboard card.
“Hm? ”
“What he is exactly?”
“Ask me an easier one,” said Mr. Henchy.

–J.S.

Into My Own

Ernst Halberstadt, “Westward” Sails Back to Long Wharf from Outing at Great Brewster Island… (1973)

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew—
Only more sure of all I thought was true.

–Robert Frost, Into My Own
 

Kansas – “Point Of Know Return”

Love and a Question

cf. “Miscellaneous Color Shots”

A Stranger came to the door at eve,
And he spoke the bridegroom fair.
He bore a green-white stick in his hand,
And, for all burden, care.
He asked with the eyes more than the lips
For a shelter for the night,
And he turned and looked at the road afar
Without a window light.

The bridegroom came forth into the porch
With, ‘Let us look at the sky,
And question what of the night to be,
Stranger, you and I.’
The woodbine leaves littered the yard,
The woodbine berries were blue,
Autumn, yes, winter was in the wind;
‘Stranger, I wish I knew.’

Within, the bride in the dusk alone
Bent over the open fire,
Her face rose-red with the glowing coal
And the thought of the heart’s desire.
The bridegroom looked at the weary road,
Yet saw but her within,
And wished her heart in a case of gold
And pinned with a silver pin.

The bridegroom thought it little to give
A dole of bread, a purse,
A heartfelt prayer for the poor of God,
Or for the rich a curse;
But whether or not a man was asked
To mar the love of two
By harboring woe in the bridal house,
The bridegroom wished he knew.

–Robert Frost, Love and a Question

How could love be so wrong?
I don’t know why…

“I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need, by sun and candle-light…”

I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light…

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”

I never knew how complete love could be
Till she kissed me and said…

 
delphin-enjolras-and-the-best-fireplace-video-edit-1080

cf. Delphin Enjolras, The Fireplace and The Best Fireplace Video

“While on the shop and street I gazed my body of a sudden blazed”

cf. Deseronto Archives, “Woman standing outside Bismark Leroy Detlor’s bake shop…” (ca. 1920)
and photograph by Jeff Sheldon via Unsplash

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

–W. B. Yeats, “Vacillation” (IV)

“He noticed nothing in it to remark. He was not used to handling stars thrown dark”

cf. Photograph by Dewang Gupta via Unsplash

Never tell me that not one star of all
That slip from heaven at night and softly fall
Has been picked up with stones to build a wall.

Some laborer found one faded and stone-cold,
And saving that its weight suggested gold
And tugged it from his first too certain hold,

He noticed nothing in it to remark.
He was not used to handling stars thrown dark
And lifeless from an interrupted arc.

He did not recognize in that smooth coal
The one thing palpable besides the soul
To penetrate the air in which we roll…

—Robert Frost, A Star In A Stoneboat (excerpt)

Only shooting stars break the mold…

“As trade had suddenly encroached upon a sacrament.”

Charles O’Rear, Sign on a bluff signals the site of a future condominium… (1975)

A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.

–Emily Dickinson

“Now you recall this memory as if it were someone else’s story.”

cf. The Fire Within (Le feu follet) (1963) and Home Movie: 98927: St. Croix River and 1956 Honeymoon

“Now, you recall this memory, as if
it were someone else’s story…”

—from Margo Button, “With No Explanation”

Been breaking down
Do you want me now?

“Heart, we will forget him!”

Robert Burns, The Window Seat (ca. 1905) and startgrid, “Clouds Time Lapse – YouTube”

Heart, we will forget him!
You and I, to-night!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me,
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you’re lagging,
I may remember him!

–Emily Dickinson

Back in my room I wonder
Then I sit on the bed
Look at the sky
Up in the sky
Clouds rearrange…

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

cf. Calvert Richard Jones, “Colosseum, Rome, Second View” (1846)

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

—Shelley, Ozymandias

She’s everything you dream about
But don’t fall in love…

Who goes with Fergus?

8 1/2 (1963)

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

—W. B. Yeats, Who goes with Fergus?

His head halted again for a moment at the top of the staircase, level with the roof:

Don’t mope over it all day, he said. I’m inconsequent. Give up the moody brooding.

His head vanished but the drone of his descending voice boomed out of the stairhead:

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery
For Fergus rules the brazen cars.

—James Joyce, Ulysses

“I think I’ll just call up my wife…”

Ron Hoffman, Vail Village at Night (1974)

I think I’ll just call up my wife and tell her
I’m here—so far—and starting on again.
I’ll call her softly so that if she’s wise
And gone to sleep, she needn’t wake to answer.”
Three times he barely stirred the bell, then listened.
“Why, Lett, still up? Lett, I’m at Cole’s. I’m late.
I called you up to say Good-night from here
Before I went to say Good-morning there.—
I thought I would.— I know, but, Lett—I know—
I could, but what’s the sense? The rest won’t be
So bad.— Give me an hour for it.— Ho, ho,
Three hours to here! But that was all up hill;
The rest is down.— Why no, no, not a wallow:
They kept their heads and took their time to it
Like darlings, both of them. They’re in the barn.—
My dear, I’m coming just the same. I didn’t
Call you to ask you to invite me home.—”
He lingered for some word she wouldn’t say,
Said it at last himself, “Good-night,” and then,
Getting no answer, closed the telephone.
The three stood in the lamplight round the table
With lowered eyes a moment till he said,
“I’ll just see how the horses are.”

–Robert Frost, Snow (excerpt)

“Sensorium”

Peter Ilsted, Mother and Child in an Interior (1898)

“Sensorium”

1965: a song – “Come fly with me, said the little red sled”

1966: a hand in my hand on a frozen pond

1967: a poem – “Then there’s a pair of us–don’t tell!”

1968: a rush of perfume and cold air to say goodnight

1969: a light in the darkness

“Nessun maggior dolore
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
Nella miseria…”

—J.S., “Sensorium”

“Driftwood”

At Cape Cod, August, 1969

I am scattered in a thousand places

here and there —

now and then

the wind and waves wash me ashore

ceaselessly

leaving something behind

a remindering

a finding of lost time

I never left

–J.S., “Driftwood”

To the couple that were kissing at the Greyhound Bus Station, July, 1981

Charles O’Rear, “Train passengers bound for St. Louis, Missouri, board a chartered bus…” (1974)

To the couple that were kissing at the Greyhound Bus Station, July, 1981

You probably don’t remember me.

I was standing next to you waiting.

I was the guy with the guitar and the paperback copy of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.

You’re in your late fifties or early sixties now.

You’ve been married for 35 years.

It doesn’t seem possible

Because the sun is still reflecting off the luggage compartment door

And the driver is still getting impatient

And her blonde hair is still glistening in the late afternoon haze

And I knew I was going to be late.

–J.S.

“I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence…”

Left: Helen D. Van Eaton, “My First Glimpse…From A Pennsylvania Ferry-Boat” (ca. 1910)
Right: Arthur Tress, “View of Upper New York Bay from the Staten Island Ferry” (1973)

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and
the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half
an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence,
others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-
back to the sea of the ebb-tide.

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so
many generations hence…

—Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

I’ll be waiting
Time after time…

“So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years- twenty years largely wasted…”

cf. “Build Your Vocabulary”

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years-
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres-
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholy new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate,
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate – but there is no competition –
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

—T. S. Eliot, East Coker (excerpt)

“legato con amore in un volume”

James Jowers, Tompkins Sq. Park (1967)

Nel suo profondo vidi che s’ interna,
legato con amore in un volume…

I saw within its depth how it conceives all things in a single volume bound by love…

–Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Paradiso