The Third Body – Robert Bly – Analysis

The Third Body

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

Robert Bly (1926 – 2021)

This is a poem about an elderly couple sitting on a park bench just totally content in the moment not looking for anything else in life just happy to be together in their comfortable known self. Perhaps they have been married for many years and know each other intimately. So this is really a poem about love, love that has grown from long term companionship. And love exist in in their silence. Perhaps love can always be found in the silence of life that speaks to us continually.

Between then they are one body although a couple. They both share in the one book being held in their hands as it is passed between them. But they are connected to a third common body. And this is the question asked by the poem –

Their breaths together feed  – but who? And a very living body that needs them, feed appears in two lines
They obey a third body – but to whom is their allegiance? And a promise made
someone we know of –attributes known – heard about but never seen … who is the poet talking about?

Like or great poems there is no answer other than in the mind of the reader.

so what can this body be –
perhaps it is marriage itself
their heritage
family
perhaps life
love
the body of goodness
or maybe spiritual connections
the bigger unity withing existence
Jesus or even God

Going back to the couple on the bench and both hands together with the book. Why do you think a book was chosen? And how is the book significant in their relationship? What a difference if it was a ham sandwich.

But there is certainly a feeling that this third body is connected in some way to death. The couple are at that stage when death is on the radar. There is a comfortable feeling associated with this connection and they have added their own personal value to this Third Body throughout their lifetime. They are happy and at peace with the world.

Robert Bly on Wikipedia

South of My Days – Judith Wright – Analysis

South of My Days

South of my days' circle, part of my blood's country,
rises that tableland, high delicate outline
of bony slopes wincing under the winter,
low trees, blue-leaved and olive, outcropping granite-
clean, lean, hungry country. The creek's leaf-silenced,
willow choked, the slope a tangle of medlar and crabapple
branching over and under, blotched with a green lichen;
and the old cottage lurches in for shelter.

O cold the black-frost night. The walls draw in to the warmth
and the old roof cracks its joints; the slung kettle
hisses a leak on the fire. Hardly to be believed that summer
will turn up again some day in a wave of rambler-roses,
thrust it's hot face in here to tell another yarn-
a story old Dan can spin into a blanket against the winter.
Seventy years of stories he clutches round his bones.
Seventy years are hived in him like old honey.

Droving that year, Charleville to the Hunter,
nineteen-one it was, and the drought beginning;
sixty head left at the McIntyre, the mud round them
hardened like iron; and the yellow boy died
in the sulky ahead with the gear, but the horse went on,
stopped at Sandy Camp and waited in the evening.
It was the flies we seen first, swarming like bees.
Came to the Hunter, three hundred head of a thousand-
cruel to keep them alive - and the river was dust.

Or mustering up in the Bogongs in the autumn
when the blizzards came early. Brought them down; we brought them
down, what aren't there yet. Or driving for Cobb's on the run
up from Tamworth-Thunderbolt at the top of Hungry Hill,
and I give him a wink. I wouldn't wait long, Fred,
not if I was you. The troopers are just behind,
coming for that job at the Hillgrove. He went like a luny, 
him on his big black horse.

                                            Oh, they slide and they vanish
as he shuffles the years like a pack of conjuror's cards.
True or not, it's all the same; and the frost on the roof
cracks like a whip, and the back-log breaks into ash.
Wake, old man. This is winter, and the yarns are over.
No-one is listening
                                                      South of my days' circle
I know it dark against the stars, the high lean country
full of old stories that still go walking in my sleep.

Judith Wright (1915 – 2000)

S1 … this is a winter statement of JW’s home country … and depicts Australia to the core … and at the end of the description of the natural setting the old cottage lurches in for shelter. The cottage needs shelter from the ailments as much as the residents need shelter. But it has survived and has become molded into the bush environment. The land wincing under the winter gives a degree of severity.

Tableland – refers to a plateau and a region of the Great Dividing Range in northern New South Wales where she was brought up

Medlar – a deciduous tree, they produce a delicious fruit in winter

S2 … you certainly get the feeling of comfort from within against the dark night winter cold … and there is nothing quite like a wood fire … and winter is always a time for inside time and talk … equates to age, dying, and memories and old Dan provides … seventy years of stories he clutches round his bones … providing a metaphoric blanket … and are as honey from his life … and summer is another yarn hard to be believed. And whether the stories are true or not is irrelevant. Oral communication was so important in JW’s life. The poem was published in 1946 and refers to the colonialisation of the land long before that. And a few of those old forgotten cottages hang on in a decayed life today.

S3 … The poem breaks for two examples of cattle droving stories. Charleville in Queensland to the Hunter in NSW is a distance of over 1100km. Drought times can be devastating to land and cattle and sixty were lost at the McIntyre encased in dried mud on a riverbed. A sulky came to into camp carrying a dead driver with flies announcing the death. Three hundred were left out of a thousand and they were in terrible condition. Droving was key to JW’s family life and for those interested in her family history and droving I recommend her book ‘The Generations of Men’.

The Generations of Men’ is the pioneering story of the ancestors of Australia’s best-known poet, Judith Wright. The names, dates and events are factual and are based on diaries, letters and personal reminiscences. Wright has taken this factual material and with her poet’s imagination turned it into a reconstruction of a past era; people, places and even moods. This is a beautifully written family history that documents not only the settling of Wright’s own family into New South Wales, but also the life of a nation, as Australia was colonized by ‘generations of men’ unsuited in many ways to the historical and geographical context of their new environment. For many years unavailable, Judith Wright’s elegant chronicle is fascinating both as a historical document and a personal meditation.

S4 …  Different climatic conditions to deal with, the Bogongs refers to an area of the high country of Victoria where snow frequents. And brought them down; we brought them

down, what aren’t there yet is typical vernacular of the day. Tamworth is in northern New South Wales and Thunderbolt is the name of a famous bushranger. And there is a typical though subtle regard for authority in the response of the drover to Thunderbolt.

S5 … Well old Dan, when reflecting on his memories as they come to mind, may be subject to poetic and entertaining reconstruction due to both his age and a creative spirit. And I do like the analogy of shuffling a pack of cards as he skips from one year to another. Then the frost on the roof and the back log on the fire find a voice to break his thoughts, or a request from JW to wake up. No one is listening to history. And this is truly relevant in relation to JW’s life-long concern in relation to the mistreatment of Aboriginal people and the destruction of their culture. But JW holds the stories as she reflects on the past. They still go walking in her sleep. And they are very dark in her night sky.

Judith Wright on Wikipedia – she was an outstanding Australian poet who spent much of her life campaigning for the environment and Aboriginal land rights.

Ilya Kaminsky – ‘Deaf Republic’ – the Ukraine War

At a U3A Poetry meeting discussion ensued concerning the power of poetry compared to the power of factual reporting. We were considering Ilya Kaminsky’s … book ‘Deaf Republic’. Here are some enormously powerful lines from one of the poems in his book ...
 
That Map of Bone and Opened Valves 
 
I watched the Sergeant aim, the deaf boy take iron and fire in his mouth― 
his face on the asphalt, 
that map of bone and opened valves. 
It's the air. Something in the air wants us too much. 
The earth is still. 
The tower guards eat cucumber sandwiches. 
This first day 
soldiers examine the ears of bartenders, accountants, soldiers― 
the wicked things silence does to soldiers. 
They tear Gora's wife from her bed like a door off a bus. 
Observe this moment 
―how it convulses― 
The body of the boy lies on the asphalt like a paperclip. 
The body of the boy lies on the asphalt 
like the body of a boy. 
I touch the walls, feel the pulse of the house, and I 
stare up wordless and do not know why I am alive. 
We tiptoe this city, 
Sonya and I, 
between theaters and gardens and wrought-iron gates― 
Be courageous, we say, but no one 
is courageous, as a sound we do not hear 
lifts the birds off the water. 

Ilya Kaminsky (1977 -

Considering these three lines ...
The body of the boy lies on the asphalt like a paperclip. 
The body of the boy lies on the asphalt 
like the body of a boy.
We liked the removal of the paper-clip symbolism in the next line – the boy was like the body of a boy gives emphasis on the human being viewed, going from the poetic to the factual within the poem.

The poem is purely fictional or a poetic statement of the sort of thing that does happen considering inhumanity, and of course the Ukraine is in the public eye. But these words were written well before the invasion by Russia.

Here is a powerful 'factual statement' from The New Yorker media …

“Back at the police station, Fedorov endured long interrogation sessions. His captors pushed him to resign and transfer his authority to Danilchenko. Fedorov took the opportunity to ask what they were doing in his city. They had three explanations, he remembers: to defend the Russian language, to protect Ukrainians from Nazis, and to stop authorities from mistreating veterans of the Second World War. “It was all funny and absurd,” Fedorov said. He told the soldiers guarding him that ninety-five per cent of Melitopol’s residents speak Russian; that he has lived in the city all his life and has never seen a Nazi; and that, by his count, thirty-four veterans live in Melitopol, and he knows just about all of them personally, has their numbers saved in his phone, and tries to visit them often. But his captors seemed to take their imagined picture of an anti-Russian, fascist--ruled Ukraine seriously. ‘They repeated it like a mantra, over and over, as if they were zombies,’ Fedorov told me.
“An air of menace, even violence, was never far away. At night, Fedorov could hear the screams of people being tortured. The Russian soldiers said that they were Ukrainian saboteurs who had been captured in the city after curfew. At one point, Fedorov listened as a man in an adjoining cell shouted in agony; it sounded as if someone was breaking his fingers. ‘This was happening one metre away,’ Fedorov said. ‘What would stop them from coming to my cell and doing the same thing?’”

Power in words is always dependent on the reader or hearer, their emotional state at the time. But here are my thoughts …

The reporting does highlight reality in a factual statement compared to the artificiality of poetry. Both are powerful and thought provoking. Reality demands a response of some form – can we let this happen! Whereas poetry goes beyond actuality to give emphasis to that demand for change using language as a powerful word voice in effecting change. And in this case making us aware of what is happening far away from our individual lives because of the association with the terrible actuality of the Ukraine war.

Ilya Kaminsky a YouTube reading from his Deaf Republic book

Ilya Kaminsky on Wikipedia

Some ‘Reunion’ Words

Travelling back, going forward
(at the village reunion)

Of course you can’t go back, the mind
plays tricks distorting, colouring at will,
and you imagine what it will be like -
to meet up again. But nothing prepares you 
for the actuality of that first encounter.

There will be some you haven’t seen
for fifty years along with some that you
will never see again. You accept that initial
shock of change before recognition and
the acknowledgment of ‘yes it is him, or her’.

Then it is the past living again, the past
that attaches irrevocably, continuously,
the past you can’t escape from. Someone
says ‘do you remember’ and you likewise
retort ‘do you remember!’ each triggering.

And they are here now, with you again. Their 
memories coalesced with your understanding.
The way it was. And smiles broaden in the 
wake of rekindled friendship when the
world was opening wide before you.

They say ‘you haven’t changed’. They are
oblivious to the you that is now. But perhaps
they are right, that there is something permanent
beneath the skin. A certain character which you 
unwittingly showed in those formative years.
 
But it was something quite unexpected that
totally caught you off balance. A forgotten
girlfriend recognised you instantly welcoming
you with an immediate hug. She still slim in body
and in that brief moment a perfect fit.

Then time to disperse, to pick up the threads
of ongoing life, to let that unsettling emotional
swing subside. You were part of them and
they will remain part of you. And the past 
continues irrevocably to define who you are.

Richard Scutter July 2019

Election Day in Australia – The Political Environment

Tomorrow is Federal Election Day in Australia for both the House of Representatives and the Senate though many have already voted.

on the beach
the plastic choke of humanity
washes the skin

Voting for the environment is a world consideration, not just Australia. For the many who have never come to these shores the beach is typically synonymous when thinking of Australia. On the Beach is a well-known book by Nevil Shute in which Australia is the last place to suffer radiation after nuclear fallout has destroyed the rest of the world. It was made into a film in 1959 starring Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck.

Whatever Party wins, the environment must be of prime consideration. Australia like many parts of the world is experiencing extremes in weather involving drought, fires, and floods. And I would really like to see something done about the amount of plastic polluting the oceans and being washed up on our beaches. It is truly time to do something!

Australia is
adorned with adorable awesome amazing
Beaches
VOTE YES
and pick up a bit of litter!

… and here is a link to a new edition of Nevil Shute’s ‘On the Beach‘ – https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6582666/modern-messages-in-on-the-beach/

Places of Poetry – A UK Poetry Society Anthology

I have recently found out about a UK Poetry Society project called ‘Places of Poetry’. The compilation of poems being based on places in the UK. People all over the UK submitted some 7,500 entries for possible inclusion. The project resulted in a book called ‘Places of Poetry’, Mapping the Nation in Verse, edited by Andrew McRae and Paul Farley and published in 2020.

Details on the setup for this project were explained on this Website –  

https://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/university/title_749467_en.html … which mentions Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate who submitted his poem ‘Snow’ in relation to Marsden in Yorkshire. It starts: ‘The sky has delivered its blank missive. The moor in coma.’

And Project details are also on the UK Poetry Society Website – https://poetrysociety.org.uk/projects/the-places-of-poetry/

Simon Armitage was born in Marsden and if you want to see a YouTube video of Simon placing a marker on the Map at quarry near Marsden where the Snow poem features … (68) Simon Armitage pinning the Snow Poem 1 – YouTube

The book is available as an eBook – Places of Poetry eBook by Paul Farley, Andrew McRae | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster AU (simonandschuster.com.au)

The Day Lady Died – Frank O’Hara – Comments

The Day Lady Died
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday  
three days after Bastille Day, yes 
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine 
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner 
and I don’t know the people who will feed me 
I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun  
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy 
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets 
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank 
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard) 
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or 
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres 
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness 
and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE  
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and 
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue 
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and 
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton 
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it 
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of 
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT 
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing 
Frank O’Hara (1926 - 1966)

The actual day in 1959 is particularly important and this is defined in terms of Bastille Day (14 July), three days after making it 17 July. And it is very hot in the New York summer indicated by the sweating in the last stanza. But what is it that is so important about this day and who was ‘Lady’ (she was known as ‘Lady Day’).

This is a poem about place, the place being New York and if you don’t know New York it is difficult with all the references. Frank O’Hara is walking the streets and picks up a paper. It was Billie Holliday on the cover of the New York Post he bought. 

The sudden realisation that Lady, that great Jazz Queen, has died and he and like those who know her are momentarily stunned on hearing of her death.

If you appreciate Jazz and know New York this poem will have more depth of meaning as you walk the same path. For example, you would know that …

The Five Spot Café was a jazz club located at 5 Cooper Square (1956–1962) in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City, between the East and West Village. In 1962, it moved to 2 St. Marks Place until closing in 1967. Its friendly, non-commercial, and low-key atmosphere with affordable drinks and food and cutting edge bebop and progressive jazz attracted a host of avant-garde artists and writers. It was a venue of historic significance as well, a mecca for musicians, both local and out-of-state, who packed the small venue to listen to many of the most creative composers and performers of the era.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

And Frank O’Hara certainly knew New York. He was part of the New York Poetry scene and he frequented Five Spot where he appreciated the voice of Billie Holliday firsthand.

And even if you know nothing of the City, I am sure you can appreciate the bohemian flavour of a poet on his regular walk not exactly knowing how Mike and Patsy will feed him in the evening. It looks as though he buys something to take, alcohol for Mike and something to read for Patsy. Verlaine was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement and the Decadent movement. He details exactly what he did that day from the 12:20pm time he started walking to the name of the teller at the Bank. And he is obviously familiar with the theatre.

And it is a poem about the sudden notification of a death in the midst of on-going life that stuns a person ‘breathless’. There is a spiritual connection in the last stanza as Billie Holliday’s voice enters his mind, Mal Waldron was a jazz musician.

I can remember when Diana died, I was at an early morning church service that Sunday in the village of Hartley Wintney when the minister spoke about that tragic overnight car crash. Later that day we flew out from Heathrow with no delays despite possible pandemonium at the airport.

This is perhaps the most well-known poem by Frank O’Hara.

Frank O’Hara – Frank O’Hara – Wikipedia

Billie Holliday – Billie Holiday – Wikipedia

A Poem from the Iona Community by Peter Millar

Each month Peter Millar, a long-time member of the Iona Community shares a reflection.  At Easter it took the form of a poem which Peter asked readers to share with others.

Reference There is no copyright on this poem. No quotes from others. It
would be great if you could share it in these days of Lent and of Easter. Thank you and let us hold God’s amazing world in our hearts.
Peter.

Easter 2022 
                            
Every new day across our planet
there is a constant certainty moving in our midst - it is this:
violence, disconnection and radical change 
are our sure companions and disturbers.
Sometimes the whole edifice spins too fast as we
ponder the human future and the divisions that ensnare us. 

Yet within these shadows are fragile possibilities of light
always inviting us to engage with other visions and
truths -  ones that spring from our depths:
emerging from places of insight, where life-giving
currents still flow freely in fractured times.
Ancient wisdoms that renew and restore. 
 
I call it Resurrection,
while others who don’t go there, know its meaning.
Whatever our path, is it not the willingness to see
our world through the eyes of Love; to know we are all wounded
healers: to walk in another’s shoes: to touch the Good Earth and its radiant
Mystery, and to believe that farewells should be free of regrets, that matters
most in every age? 

 Peter Millar, Edinburgh, Easter 2022

I know Easter has come and gone but I am sharing this poem because it aligns with my view of the latent nature of love (or Jesus) in all humanity. In this case defined by Peter in his Easter poem as ‘Resurrection’ –

… while others who don’t go there, know its meaning.
whatever our path, is it not the willingness to see
our world through the eyes of Love; …

And so inclusively expressed independent of traditional religious spirituality.

The resurrection is a gift. An amazing gift of love connecting all humanity in that common denominator giving purpose to the world. At the same time providing individual support and care empowering the on-going beautification of life.

And even if our world is violent and chaotic – life-giving currents still flow freely in fractured times.

I am sure we can all recall the many times when the basic goodness within humanity has been particularly relevant in supporting us at challenging times in our lives. And isn’t the Good earth wonderful in its radiant mystery?

The Iona CommunityWelcome to the Iona Community – A Christian ecumenical community