Now missing forty-nine beats

After days of heat
The rain sizzles on the leaves
Here and there a drop
Eludes the green canopy
Joins with others on my cheek

Still my rage burns hot
For queers caught in the crossfire
Christianity
Islam hate terror and guns
America’s toxic mix

I excuse no one
I point ten fingers of blame
Pound both of my fists
And curse you all left and right
For the lives lost on that night

Our pulse continues
Pumping the red human blood
You still won’t accept
Equal in worth to your own—
Now missing forty-nine beats

AGG20160622

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Unexaggerated

The news of your death
As unexaggerated
As it’s heartbreaking
Continues to ricochet
All around the Internet

Today a message
Months and months after the fact
Ambushed by fresh grief
Over what should be old wounds—
Sorrow keeps its own schedule

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(for Ziad Ghaoui d. 2014)

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Arab Hunchbacks

You’ve forever ruined
All Arab hunchbacks for me
Ziad by being
Completely sweet and strange and
Dead so I can’t stand seeing

Reminders of you
Today is my fifty-fifth
Birthday and I am
Happy leaving the metro
Until I see another

You were a marvel
And constantly surprising
And I thought a friend
Of such unique proportions
A companion ’til old age

You laughing—singing
It was my birthday party
Two years ago now
We didn’t know then it’d be
The second-last time we’d speak

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(for Ziad Ghaoui)

Ziad Ghaoui March 2014

Ziad Ghaoui March 2014 Photo by MIchael Leon

guoande seal script jpegTo read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”
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Our Fathers, Who Are in the Heavens: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Immortal on the Riverbank”

“The price of granting the reality of change is to grant nothingness a kind of reality also,”
Peter Pesic, Seeing Double: Shared Identities in Physics, Philosophy and Literature

Nothing more seeming fragile than the snow,
Yet there exists a single, tiny flake
Condensed from mist ten thousand years ago,
Deep, deep, deep within a melting glacier,
Slowly, surely grinding the mountains down,
Inevitable as our frail fathers
Falling into their final silences,
Each death a solitary, unique loss,
A slow accumulation of nothing,
Perhaps the surest sign we yet have seen
In this our shared dream of humanity,
This ceaseless sweeping away of the dust,
The dust that gave life to the dust we are
Returning to the self-consuming stars.

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In Memoriam Robert E. Lavery, 1928-2015

Depth Charge: It seems my friends and I are entering into that stage of life where our fathers are leaving en masse.

Tune: “Immortal On The Riverbank”
To the Plum Blossom
By Li Qingzhao

Deep, how profoundly deep the courtyard is!
Spring comes late to these casements and terraces
Buried in mists and clouds.
For whom do you pine away, 0 Flower!
And lose your lovely looks quite
When but last night I dreamed-
How sweet and vivid that dream-
Your southern branches were bursting into bloom?

That you should be frail as jade
And your boughs lose much of their crimson sweetness
As though weighed down with infinite sorrow!
Away with that Tartar flute in the South Tower
Blowing away your rich perfume
Nobody knows whither,
And let the days lengthen
When balmy breezes blow.
But do stay till the apricot blossoms round out!

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

临江仙·梅·李清照
庭院深深深几许,云窗雾阁春迟。为谁憔悴损芳姿,夜来清梦好,应是发南枝。
玉瘦檀轻无限恨,南楼羌管休吹。浓香吹尽有谁知,暖风迟日也,别到杏花肥。

Lín jiāng xiān·Méi·Lǐ Qīngzhào
Tíngyuàn shēn shēn shēn jǐxǔ, yún chuāng wù gé chūn chí. Wèi shuí qiáocuì sǔn fāng zī, yèlái qīng mèng hǎo, yīng shì fā nán zhī.
Yù shòu tán qīng wúxiàn hèn, nán lóu qiāng guǎn xiū chuī. Nóng xiāng chuī jìn yǒu shuí zhī, nuǎn fēng chí rì yě, bié dào xìng huāféi.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

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Birdsong (For My Baby, For The Road): A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “New Version Sand of Silk-Washing Brook”

Witness to our sparse histories 
Black bare branches lattice the dawn‘s 
Grey winter sky with promises 
Of backyard birdsong

When you said he loved barbecue 
Thats when I knew he‘d been alive 
But after long illness was gone 
—And that’s when we cried

Soon after his—her final breath
—One last breeze of soft winter snow—
Her music followed memory
Where both had to go

This is what it means to be gone—
They can no longer share a meal
Or a dance in each other’s arms
—But we can and will

Beneath branches of full birdsong

AGG20150127
In Memoriam Gérald Chevrier (d. Dec 24, 2014) and Jacqueline Chevrier (d. Jan 10, 2015)

Gérald and Jacqueline Chevrier

Depth Charge: On Saturday, Jan 24, 2014, I attended the joint memorial service for Gérald and Jacqueline Chevrier, the parents of my friend Micheline Chevrier. I had never met either of them, but through the moving eulogy delivered by Micheline, I began to understand them and the influence they had had on her. That eulogy was a gift and a revelation and my poem nothing more than its pale shadow.

Tune: “Sand of Silk-Washing Brook” (a new veraion)
On Recovering from a Long Illness
by Li Qingzhao

Beside the window, convalescent I lie reclined,
My sparse hair greying at the temples,
My mind serene as I watch a waning moon
Climb the gauze curtains.
A drink of cardamom① leaf tips boiled over a living fire
Will do for me instead of tea.

An idler’s boon: Reading leisurely propped on pillows;
Lovelier after rain:
The view outside my door.
Sweet-scented cassia blossoms,
Delicate and loving,
Leaning towards me all day long.

①A medicinal herb still needful to the poet in her convaleseenee because of its effects of dispelling stomach ache, alleviating vomiting, etc., which can, however, be counteracted by a drink of tea.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

摊破浣溪沙 李清照
病起萧萧两鬓华,卧看残月上窗纱。豆蔻连梢煎熟水,莫分茶。
枕上诗书闲处好,门前风景雨来佳。终日向人多酝藉,木犀花。

Tān pò huànxīshā Lǐ Qīngzhào
Bìng qǐ xiāoxiāo liǎng bìn huá , wò kàn cányuè shàng chuāngshā. Dòukòu lián shāo jiān shú shuǐ , mò fēn chá .
Zhěnshàng shī shū xián chù hǎo , mén qián fēngjǐng yǔ lái jiā. Zhōngrì xiàng rén duō yùn jí , mùxī huā .

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

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Geometries of Time (Farewell, 2014)

Some say that it’s an arrow straight flying,
Others a circle, a spiral spinning,
But I do not know which geometry
Could do the trick of squaring the circle
Of this past year, could connect its patterns:
An evening of pleasant sensations,
Walking through a world muted by soft snows
To fall deeply asleep in his warm arms,
Circuses, sex, dancing, salt-water swims,
Ferguson, the disappearance of Doug
And Ziad, perhaps a mad multiverse,
Invisible to our quickly fading
Eyes that scan such a limited spectrum,
Knowing but never seeing what’s to come.

AGG20141229

Peace on Earth: A Response to “Happiness Approaches” by Li Qingzhao

Happiness always
Close being buried beneath
Piles of petal white
Memories suffocating
Under drifting shifting cold

Great uncles good friends
Ex-lovers have all been dug
Fresh graves this past year
Places for the returning
Cold mercy of the soft snows

To accumulate
Necessary amnesia
Each tiny unique
Erasure on erasure
Achieving monochrome peace

AGG20141212

Tune: “Happiness Approaches”
by Li Qingzhao

The wind has subsided,
Outside the curtains thick lie fallen petals:
A profusion of white and red.
The crab-apple blooms and fades:
A timely reminder
To lament the spring.

Drinking and singing done,
Cups of jasper empty.
The blue oil lamp flares and dims.
I fall into a trance.
Melancholy memories are unbearable—
Unbearable even without the call of a solitary cuckoo.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

好事近李清照
风定落花深,帘外拥红堆雪。长记海棠开后,正伤春时节。
酒阑歌罢玉尊空,青缸暗明灭。魂梦不堪幽怨,更一声啼鴂。

Hǎoshì jìn lǐqīngzhào
fēng dìng luòhuā shēn, lián wài yōng hóng duī xuě. Zhǎng jì hǎitáng kāi hòu, zhèng shāng chūn shíjié.
Jiǔ lán gē bà yù zūn kōng, qīng gāng àn míngmiè. Hún mèng bùkān yōuyuàn, gèng yīshēng tí jué.

 

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Roses Daring Bloom (from Whitman to Genet): A Response to “A Galaxy of Beauties: White Chrysanthemums” by Li Qingzhao

Lilacs by the door
In spring return the fragrant
Mortal reminders
Of Whitman’s comrades of love
In passionate purples doomed

Dark in Reading Gaol
Green carnations for Oscar
Chant for the disgraced
A fatal crisis of love
As dead men do dance on air

Alexandrian
Heart buried–not dead–a seed
Bloody with pleasure’s
Uncombed hair–tanned limbs–naked
In lost cities of desire

The full moon lacquers
Unknown Andalusian
Oleanders white
While somewhere Lorca’s corpse sings
For Jack’s cocksucker séance

Langston–3 A.M.
Harlem café with fairies
Prostitutes police
Strange fruit in magnolia nights
Sailors swallowed by the sea

Genet traced their flesh
On stolen scraps of prison
Paper–murderers
Engraved into red petals
Of spittled love–bloody cum

Roses daring bloom
On trellises of warm flesh
They and I have known
The bold kisses of strangers
Oblivious to the moon

AGG20141208

Depth Charge: The original Li Qingzhao peom, below, is the longest in the collection and is dense with historical and literary allusion. My response was a long time coming and is equally dense with reference to the great gay poets and writers: Walt Whitman, AE Housman, Oscar Wilde, CP Cavafy, Federico Garcia Lorca, Jack Spicer, Langston Hughes and Jean Genet.

Tune: “A Galaxy of Beauties”
White Chrysanthemums
by Li Qingzhao

Autumn chill steals into my small chamber,
Curtains hung low as the long night drags on.
It grieves me to see your creamy flesh
Damaged overnight by relentless wind and rain.
You are not like Yang Guifei⑴ flushed with wine,
Sun Shou⑵ with knitted eyebrows,
Jia Wu⑶ who stole royal incense for Han Shou,
Or Lady Xu⑷ who powdered half her face to please a one-eyed emperor.
It would be inappropriate to compare you to these.
On maturer thoughts, your charm may fitly be likened
To that of Qu Yuan and Tao Qian.⑸
Your subtle fragrance, wafted by a soft breeze
Has all the sweetness of blooming raspberries.

Pure as snow, slim as jade, at autumn’s decline, You lean towards people with infinite tenderness
And with as much pathos as the two fairy maidens
Who made a present of their belt pearls
To Zheng Jiaofu at Han Gao⑹
And Lady Pan⑺ writing a mournful poem on a silk fan.
Bright moon, serene breeze may be followed
By thick mists, dark showers.
It is Heaven’s rill that you shall wither
As your scented breath fades away.
There’s no telling how long
Your beauty will yet remain, love you as I may.
But with me as your devoted admirer,
Need you envy the orchids gathered on the riverbank by Qu Yuan,
Or the chrysanthemums picked by Tao Qian beside the cast hedge?

⑴ Yang Guifei, favorite concubine of Emperor Ming Huang of the Tang Dynasty (61 8-907), one of the most famous beauties in Chinese history.
⑵ Sun Shou, rife of Liang Qi in the East Han (25-220), notorious for her coquetry.
⑶ Jia Wu, daughter of a minister in the third century, who stole incense from the Imperial Palace to make love to Han Shou, then a minor official under the minister.
⑷ Lady Xu, a concubine of the one-eyed Emperor of the Liang Dynasty in the sixth century, said to be so coquettish that she powdered half her face to win his favor.
⑸ Qu Yuan, alias Qu Ping, great philosopher and poet of the Kingdom of Chu in the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.). Slandered by his political adversaries, he was out of favor with the king, and his loyal efforts to serve the state were ignored. He was exiled, and finally drowned himself in the river Milo, on whose banks he used to wander listlessly before taking his own life. His “Elegies of Chu,” in which he vented his political grievances, was an immortal contribution to classical Chinese literature.
Tao Qian, alias Tao Yuanming (c .365-427), one of China’s greatest writers of pastoral poetry. Abandoning the post of a petty official he enjoyed the life of a recluse in the quiet of his native fields, and wrote in praise of the simple way of living.
⑹ According to legend, Zheng Jiaofu was presented with belt pearls by two fairy maidens while passing Han G8o in present- day Hubei Province.
⑺ Lady Pan was a concubine of Emperor Cheng of the Han Dynasty (206-24 B.C.). Out of favor with the emperor, she aired her feelings in a poem inscribed on a silk fan. This attracted the emperor’s attention, and she was finally restored to his favor.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

多丽·咏白菊·李清照
小楼寒,夜长帘幕低垂。恨萧萧、无情风雨,夜来揉损琼肌。也不似、贵妃醉脸,也不似、孙寿愁眉。韩令偷香,徐娘傅粉,莫将比拟未新奇。细看取、屈平陶令,风韵正相宜。微风起,清芬蕴藉,不减酴醾。
渐秋阑、雪清玉瘦,向人无限依依。似愁凝、汉皋解佩,似泪洒、纨扇题诗。朗月清风,浓烟暗雨,天教憔悴度芳姿。纵爱惜、不知从此,留得几多时?人情好,何须更忆,泽畔东篱 。

Duō lì ·yǒng báijú · Lǐ Qīngzhào
xiǎo lóu hán, yè cháng lián mù dī chuí. Hèn xiāoxiāo , wúqíng fēngyǔ, yèlái róu sǔn qióng jī . Yě bù shì, guìfēi zuì liǎn , yě bù shì, sūn shòu chóuméi . Hán lìng tōu xiāng, xú niáng fùfěn , mò jiāng bǐnǐ wèi xīnqí. Xì kàn qǔ , qūpíng táo lìng , fēngyùn zhèng xiāngyí. Wéifēng qǐ, qīng fēn yùnjí , bù jiǎn tú mí .
Jiàn qiū lán , xuě qīng yù shòu , xiàng rén wúxiàn yīyī. Shì chóu níng, hàn gāo jiě pèi , shì lèi sǎ, wánshàn tí shī . Lǎng yuè qīngfēng, nóng yān àn yǔ, tiān jiào qiáocuì dù fāng zī. Zòng àixī, bùzhī cóngcǐ, liú dé jǐ duōshí? Rénqíng hǎo, héxū gèng yì, zé pàn dōng lí .

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

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