Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Stealing the Angel's Trump

I'm flying to Utah in the morning for a reading in Logan, May Swenson's hometown. Swenson took off for Greenwich Village as soon as she was old enough to leave home on her own, but Utah State is a loyal publisher and advocate for her work -- which is sprightly, formally inventive, wild, and under-read. I know that there will be a warm and receptive audience there, and lots of thoughtful and interesting people at the school, but I have to say just at the moment I am not looking forward to stepping off the plane in Salt Lake and seeing, in the distance, the white towers of the temple, where the golden angel Moroni perches on top, holding out his golden trumpet. Just now I would like to get ahold of that horn and blast out a message on homophobia, imposing your values on others, using fear and distortion to promote legislation you approve of, and using a busload of church money to influence public policy. Would someone please take those people's tax-exempt status away now? Jon Stewart notes that the LDS has such a long history of defining marriage as between one man and one woman! Is that why they're so anxious about my marriage?

But speaking of May Swenson, here's a delightful and startlingly contemporary stanza from her poem, The Key to Everything, which appeared in her book ANOTHER ANIMAL in the mid-fifties:

Is there anything I can do
or has everything been done
or do
you prefer somebody else to do
it or don't
you trust me to do
it right or is it hopeless and no one can do
a thing or do
you suppose I don't
really want to do
it and am just saying that or don't
you hear me at all or what?


Justin Evans said...

I hope your time in Utah was not that bad. As a poet, something has always felt a little short in Utah ever since Dave Lee left and Ken Brewer passed away.

Bill Matthews said...

Thanks for this. Here's a favorite of mine from know this spot in Central Park?... I thinks it's the lake that borders on the Ramble with that wonderful stone arch bridge

Water Picture
by May Swenson

In the pond in the park
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and
wriggle gently. Chimneys
are bent legs bouncing
on clouds below. A flag
wags like a fishhook
down there in the sky.

The arched stone bridge
is an eye, with underlid
in the water. In its lens
dip crinkled heads with hats
that don't fall off. Dogs go by,
barking on their backs.
A baby, taken to feed the
ducks, dangles upside-down,
a pink balloon for a buoy.

Treetops deploy a haze of
cherry bloom for roots,
where birds coast belly-up
in the glass bowl of a hill;
from its bottom a bunch
of peanut-munching children
is suspended by their
sneakers, waveringly.

A swan, with twin necks
forming the figure 3,
steers between two dimpled
towers doubled. Fondly
hissing, she kisses herself,
and all the scene is troubled:
water-windows splinter,
tree-limbs tangle, the bridge
folds like a fan.