As I said, I read a great deal of it. Never in any systematic way but I have read deeply in certain areas: World War II, medieval, lately a lot of nineteenth-century world history and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American history. A persistent theme of mine seems to be man?s inhumanity to woman and man. Lots of examples of that in history and right up until the seconds before I finish typing up this sentence. Lots of metaphorical possibilities to mine there too! I?m just curious: I don?t want to take tests on what I read; I don?t want to argue with history professors about theories. An example of the kind of book I like best would be about the daily life?in as great detail as possible?of a fifteenth-century German pig farmer.
The Drowned River uses a famous saying of William Faulkner?s as an epigraph: ?The past isn?t dead. It isn?t even past.? How important is that idea to your poetry?
Well, I believe Mr. Faulkner was right. I don?t think he meant simply ?history repeats itself,? though that?s implicit too. I think he?s saying that humans are pretty much the same as we?ve always been. I think he?s saying that despite all the tremendous advantages the modern world brings us, we carry our past, ourselves, our history, with us always. As a country. As one country among many others. As individuals. I think he?s taking a swipe at our human arrogance, the relentless drive of the human ego.
To Help the Monkey Cross the River -- Thomas Lux
which he must cross, by swimming, for fruits and nuts, to help him I sit with my rifle on a platform high in a tree, same side of the river as the hungry monkey. How does this assist him? When he swims for it I look first upriver: predators move faster with the current than against it. If a crocodile is aimed from upriver to eat the monkey and an anaconda from downriver burns with the same ambition, I do the math, algebra, angles, rate-of-monkey, croc- and snake-speed, and if, if it looks as though the anaconda or the croc will reach the monkey before he attains the river?s far bank, I raise my rifle and fire one, two, three, even four times into the river just behind the monkey to hurry him up a little. Shoot the snake, the crocodile? They?re just doing their jobs, but the monkey, the monkey has little hands like a child?s, and the smart ones, in a cage, can be taught to smile.
Render, Render -- Thomas Lux
Boil it down: feet, skin, gristle, bones, vertebrae, heart muscle, boil it down, skim, and boil again, dreams, history, add them and boil again, boil and skim in closed cauldrons, boil your horse, his hooves, the runned-over dog you loved, the girl by the pencil sharpener who looked at you, looked away, boil that for hours, render it down, take more from the top as more settles to the bottom, the heavier, the denser, throw in ache and sperm, and a bead of sweat that slid from your armpit to your waist as you sat stiff-backed before a test, turn up the fire, boil and skim, boil some more, add a fever and the virus that blinded an eye, now?s the time to add guilt and fear, throw logs on the fire, coal, gasoline, throw two goldfish in the pot (their swim bladders used for ?clearing?), boil and boil, render it down and distill, concentrate that for which there is no other use at all, boil it down, down, then stir it with rosewater, that which is now one dense, fatty, scented red essence which you smear on your lips and go forth to plant as many kisses upon the world as the world can bear!
Is there no change of death in paradise? Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs Hang always heavy in that perfect sky, Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth, With rivers like our own that seek for seas They never find, the same receding shores That never touch with inarticulate pang? Why set the pear upon those river banks Or spice the shores with odors of the plum? Alas, that they should wear our colors there, The silken weavings of our afternoons, And pick the strings of our insipid lutes! Death is the mother of beauty, mystical, Within whose burning bosom we devise Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.