SHORTLY HEREAFTER

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Too much of something in the way of angels
has been flying overhead and dropping
digital illusions on our sullen task and grief—-

a moon-beamed manna in a splendid light
with sorceries to turn a cynic desert
of deep yearning into rivers of belief.

Shortly hereafter there will be too many
books to read, for which there is no need.

Great is our gratitude, and much too much
we eat, we drink and much we almost say
before it is too late, but don’t say after all;

we stagger off to bed with our big heads
and rise at daybreak like a tribe possessed
to gulp our coffee, drive a bee line to the mall.

Shortly hereafter there’ll be hell to pay, but
at the least, we will have had a feast.

Too many leaves have fallen, cut loose
last night when a wild wind woke us with its
hellish howl among the maples, ash, and oak;

now in the morning light they lie in layers
thick, damp, limp as tiny landlocked wings
whose former ties to angels broke.

Shortly hereafter, there’ll be lots of raking
we must do, before the work is through.
.
.
SHORTLY HEREAFTER

44 responses »

  1. Thank you, Cynthia, again for this offering crafted with such phrases: dropping digital illusions on our sullen task and grief; ….limp as tiny landlocked wings whose former ties to angels broke…. I am glad to have this today as my own grief finds no resonance around me…..on the verge of tears for the emptiness of it all, and I see there is no way around, above or under it…. I go home tomorrow afternoon, leaving all this love, as it is, behind.

    • I was very pensively considering, on Thanksgiving day, as I watched the Macy’s Parade on TV, (and was not at all impressed) a line from an old poem of mine….”you are not of your time, you ARE your time…” It’s a cliché that older people regret “what this world is coming to,” but it does really seem true to me that there are changes and different “times” that coincide with the different generations. Much that is happening now doesn’t seem right (and it just may not be!) but as you say, there’s no way around, above, or under it. What to do? I dunno….shall we stick together and not give a damn? That would be in keeping with the spirit we remember from our generation. (Last night I listened to a reprise of all the folk music of the 1960’s and sang along in idiotic delight!) I think of you with understanding and affection as you approach that soupçon north of three score and ten.

    • Harold would hate it…but only because it didn’t fit one of his formulae. Actually, after I read your comment I went back and counted instances of what could be called free-standing adjectives, (with no mingling of adjectival noun or verb phrasings)…..not too many. So I would have to have an interesting argument with Harold. Fortunately, I think he’s dead now, so it won’t be in the offing.
      You, on the other hand are very much alive, and I’m happy to hear from you. Glad, too, that you like the poem. (I don’t do chatty phone calls very well, Marta. Please forgive me for not picking up on your last one.)

  2. Intended or not – I love the ambiguity of the opening line – Too much of something in the way of angels… – remove the something and let the angels fly! is my preference. Then there’s less wind (I mean hot air) to blow and less dead leaves to rake with fewer books to needlessly read! This poem, for me Cynthia, conjures up images of post-thanksgiving drifts of leaves, slightly aimless, slightly this way and that, a lovely capture of when ties to angels are broken…

    • My preference is to let the angels fly, too, Bruce….but there always seems to be something in the way of angels….something only in the manner of angels, but not angels. Then, too, you and I are of the avant-garde: we already don’t read unnecessary books! That’s what happens with the realization of the old cliché “life’s too short.” So one goes out and rakes the leaves, angels or no, until they reappear.

  3. For me this poem is almost like one of those books of interlinked short stories; three openings, three shortly hereafters, and some beautiful language and image–rivers of belief, tiny landlocked wings, and that wind. Goodness, Cynthia! Lovely and loaded.

    • Such an excellent insight, Lisa. The three parts came separately as I was trying to make a single thing. Whether it holds together is another question..as is the “meaning” of it all. But sometimes a poem insists on being done, even when not entirely fathomable, even to its maker; so I left this one to be what it is. Thank you!

  4. “thick, damp, limp as tiny landlocked wings
    whose former ties to angels broke.”
    God you are brilliant. Evocative of Frost.
    And I have to add, shop till you drop. It’s like crack cocaine for some…….

    • You’re so right..! There does seem something a bit “disturbed” on the faces of all those shoppers I’ve seen today on TV.. (which is the only way I can see them, since I cannot, and would not anyway be seeing them in person). Will they shop ’til they drop?
      I hate being an old fogey who says “what is this world coming to?” but really, “what is this world coming to?” Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comment, Cindy. Frost, despite all the academic prattle to try and diminish him, is a favorite of mine….

        • Yes. There was a very academically influential, full-length biography written some years ago that painted him as an egomaniacal phony….someone who was a sly and rabid self-promoter who affected this wise old country bumpkin facade in order to sell books. Who knows? There are always those who make it their business to bring down genius. If it happened to Shakespeare, it could happen to anyone. It doesn’t take away from the work itself, though, which we can still admire and enjoy.

    • I’m glad the three parts “marry” in your estimation, as I wasn’t quite sure if that worked. It is indeed like putting together odd puzzle pieces when one tries to capture the mixed emotions, especially at this time of year. Thanks, Oscar!

  5. I have read and reread this poem yesterday and today Cynthia. It’s very rewarding. There’s something about the rhythm of the words and the brightness of the imagery that is deeply pleasing, although it took my dim brain quite a while to puzzle out your first two stanzas and their accompanying couplet. Always interested in the form of a poem, I saw how the “shortly hereafter” couplets divide the poem in three and act as a kind of refrain. Three discrete topics, but those ‘hereafters’ and the title link it all together, don’t they?
    Cindy Knoke above says “Frost”, and I see what she means, but the form of this poem put Yeats into my mind: his “Long-Legged Fly”. There too we find three separate items linked and expanded by the theme of three couplets. Yeats put his couplets into italics, which you might have done here as well if you had wanted.
    Of course your poem has very different preoccupations; whereas his was historical, yours is an unflinching gaze on the contemporary world. And the personal too, I guess: the last section turns my mind away from social observation to the lone individual raking leaves late in life. As I should be doing this bright November morning after a windy night here in England!

    • Such a wonderful comment, John. I have been thinking about that comparison to Yeats’ “Long-Legged Fly” and enjoying how it is similar and also different. There’s a logic to the Yeats poem, since for all three parts he has exactly the same statement in his refrain. (I have read the poem at several different times in several formats: with the refrain italicized, but not set off; with nothing italicized or set off; and with the entire poem italicized! It makes me wonder about the liberties taken by editors and what the original intention of Yeats was!) My own couplets have only the phrase “shortly hereafter” in common, and it was indeed a concern that this wasn’t enough to tie it together. I guess recent experiments with the ghazal have convinced me—almost—that a connecting thread can be based on very little that is explicit but seems to arise by sheer juxtaposition sometimes. The urge to comment on our social world is outrageous and presumptuous, but irresistible, I find. That’s when I know it’s time to get out there and rake some leaves. Thanks a lot, John!

  6. You portray with some especially beautiful language the aftermath of an intense gathering of friends and family and the disfluency of automatic gratitude–people need to stop and think. An emotional hangover is inevitable after feasting on insight.

  7. WOW!!!!!
    “…we stagger off to bed with our big heads
    and rise at daybreak like a tribe possessed
    to gulp our coffee, drive a bee line to the mall.”

    This is superb. So powerful!

  8. I read your poem-a-week every Friday when it is published and then I come back to it (sometimes I forget, but mostly I try to remember) and reread it many times. Every time I read this one, I thought of something different and I expect I will continue to do so if I keep reading it every day. Today, your first 3 stanzas make me think of NoMablodoodoo or whatever it’s called. All this digital stuff dropping on us every day, soon too many books to read, wannabe authors, big heads, yearning. Perhaps I’m bonkers and have let Bruce’s opinion on the November write-a-thon infect me. Anyway, a wonderful, kind of, paean to the passing of November.

    • Right on target, Susanne, about the too many books, and wannabe beliefs….. at least that’s what got the first stanza started…which fed into Thanksgiving and Black Friday, which became all too much,…especially when I looked out my window and saw fifty gazillion bags worth of fallen leaves lying on the ground. All too much of a muchness. Sometimes writing about it is a palliative, at least for a little while, as I’m sure you know. Thanks. Do I sense you’re glad November is over?

  9. My third attempt to comment Cynthia. This is so powerful, on so many levels – one heck of a poem! I need more time to read again and again – each time brings more insight and emotions. Phew! Stunning Cynthia. Thank you.

  10. Pingback: Just because – redosue

  11. We are a tribe possessed – what measured, evolved being gulps their coffee?! Particularly when it’s the only pleasure of being in those malls. 🙂 A raking of the leaves drives out the demons; for me, it’s hanging up the washing.

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