Cherrylog Road

This post I wanted to share another of my favorite poems, Cherrylog Road by James L. Dickey.

Dickey was born in Buckhead, Georgia in 1923. He would attend Clemson University before joining the U.S. effort in WWII. He served as a Night Fighter in an air squadron in the Pacific Theater and flew over 100 combat missions. After the war he spent time continuing his education and taught and lectured for awhile. He eventually decided, in his words to “Chase the buck,” and he began to work as a writer in advertising. He would return to more personal writing and would publish his first collection of poetry in n 1960 called Into the Stone, and other writings. He would become a national poet Laurette in 1966 and publish his acclaimed novel Deliverance in 1970. He would even have a cameo in the Burt Reynolds starring film adaptation.

Dickey’s writing is known for a sense of primitivism that he envokes even as modern man would like to escape from it. He often in his writing inhabits animals and gives us nature’s perspective. He liked to blur the lines of reality and the dream world and often base human desire.

In the poem Cherrylog Road a young man has parked his bike in a junkyard and is awaiting his girlfriend to come along for a make out session in an abandoned and decrepit auto. While he waits he gathers up some parts for girl to show her dad as an excuse to go in the first place. I love this poem, hope you enjoy it as well. Keep up to date with Mid-American-Culture and follow us on Twitter for fresh content daily and I leave you on Cherrylog Road.

Cherrylog Road

Off Highway 106
At Cherrylog Road I entered
The ’34 Ford without wheels,
Smothered in kudzu,
With a seat pulled out to run
Corn whiskey down from the hills,
And then from the other side
Crept into an Essex
With a rumble seat of red leather
And then out again, aboard
A blue Chevrolet, releasing
The rust from its other color,
Reared up on three building blocks.
None had the same body heat;
I changed with them inward, toward
The weedy heart of the junkyard,
For I knew that Doris Holbrook
Would escape from her father at noon
And would come from the farm
To seek parts owned by the sun
Among the abandoned chassis,
Sitting in each in turn
As I did, leaning forward
As in a wild stock-car race
In the parking lot of the dead.
Time after time, I climbed in
And out the other side, like
An envoy or movie star
Met at the station by crickets.
A radiator cap raised its head,
Become a real toad or a kingsnake
As I neared the hub of the yard,
Passing through many states,
Many lives, to reach
Some grandmother’s long Pierce-Arrow
Sending platters of blindness forth
From its nickel hubcaps
And spilling its tender upholstery
On sleepy roaches,
The glass panel in between
Lady and colored driver
Not all the way broken out,
The back-seat phone
Still on its hook.
I got in as though to exclaim,
“Let us go to the orphan asylum,
John; I have some old toys
For children who say their prayers.”
I popped with sweat as I thought
I heard Doris Holbrook scrape
Like a mouse in the southern-state sun
That was eating the paint in blisters
From a hundred car tops and hoods.
She was tapping like code,
Loosening the screws,
Carrying off headlights,
Sparkplugs, bumpers,
Cracked mirrors and gear-knobs,
Getting ready, already,
To go back with something to show
Other than her lips’ new trembling
I would hold to me soon, soon,
Where I sat in the ripped back seat
Talking over the interphone,
Praying for Doris Holbrook
To come from her father’s farm
And to get back there
With no trace of me on her face
To be seen by her red-haired father
Who would change, in the squalling barn,
Her back’s pale skin with a strop,
Then lay for me
In a bootlegger’s roasting car
With a string-triggered I2-gauge shotgun
To blast the breath from the air.
Not cut by the jagged windshields,
Through the acres of wrecks she came
With a wrench in her hand,
Through dust where the blacksnake dies
Of boredom, and the beetle knows
The compost has no more life.
Someone outside would have seen
The oldest car’s door inexplicably
Close from within:
I held her and held her and held her,
Convoyed at terrific speed
By the stalled, dreaming traffic around us,
So the blacksnake, stiff
With inaction, curved back
Into life, and hunted the mouse
With deadly overexcitement,
The beetles reclaimed their field
As we clung, glued together,
With the hooks of the seat springs
Working through to catch us red-handed
Amidst the gray breathless batting
That burst from the seat at our backs.
We left by separate doors
Into the changed, other bodies
Of cars, she down Cherrylog Road
And I to my motorcycle
Parked like the soul of the junkyard
Restored, a bicycle fleshed
With power, and tore off
Up Highway 106, continually
Drunk on the wind in my mouth,
Wringing the handlebar for speed,
Wild to be wreckage forever.

Another Saturday Morning Poetry Corner.

Hey everyone, I was thinking about the way people come across poetry and what that initial contact was that introduced us to a poem. Growing up in the 1980’s my first feel for poetry came from Robin Williams and Director Peter Weir’s 1989 film, Dead Poet’s Society. I’m actually sure I’d enjoyed some Shel Silverstein that Mrs. Wagner read us in first grade, but Robin Williams made it epic.

Honestly, aside from a couple of good performances, notably Mr. William’s, the movie isn’t that good. It’s heavy handed and slightly derivative. William’s plays Mr. Keating, an English teacher at an all boys prep school. He’s the righteous fire brand who hopes to fuel the boys out of their ultra conservative 1950’s life. He does it with poetry. William’s is awesome at oration, no doubt benefiting from his years as a stand up comedian. He gives the boys pieces of poetry by Frost, Keats, and Dickinson and fires them up but they don’t ever analyze a damn thing. The writing is kinda weak and he totally blows the meaning of The Road Not Taken. I’ve set through a few commencement speeches that do the same. However to my twelve year old self who was thrilling on the adventures that summer of Batman, Indiana Jones, and even Field of Dreams, the climatic end of Dead Poet’s Society was pretty fantastic. Mr. Keats is being dismissed for his rebel rousing ways and in a show of solidarity, the kids that made up The Dead Poets Society climb atop their desks and break all the rules and recite Walt Whitman’s eulogy to Abraham Lincoln Oh Captain, My Captain. It was pretty cool then and even today. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and keep up with several things considered here at Mid-American-Culture.

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

And here’s the Oh Captain ending to the film so I guess spoilers?

The Dying of the Light

Good morning, today I’ll share with you another of my favorite poems, Do Not Go Gentle into that Goodnight By Dylan Thomas.

Dylan Thomas was born in Whales in 1914. He was an average student who dropped out of school at age 16. He sought work as a journalist and would eventually work for the BBC. He would rise to literary notoriety in 1934 with the publication of his work, Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines. Thomas married Caitlin Macnamara in 1937. The family would struggle financially as Dylan worked as a writer. He would take on reading tours to supplement income. His marriage to Caitlin was fairly destructive and they both drank heavily. Dylan would also become a pretty big fan of American candy bars while he toured the U.S. and would add to his unhealthy lifestyle. During his fourth trip to the U.S. he fell gravely ill and would pass away at the young age of 39. It was the time in America that would give Dylan Thomas his popularity and following in literary history. I first encountered him in High School where my literature teacher had a framed photo of him hanging off the chalk board. Here’s my favorite Thomas poem.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 19141953

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

.

Here is Sir Anthony Hopkins doing a brilliant reading. Have a great weekend and keep checking in with Mid-American-Culture as we bring fresh content daily.

I Miss Sylvia Plath

Good morning everyone, in sticking with my Saturday Poem sharing I present my favorite Sylvia Plath poem, The Colossus. The poem was released in 1960 as part of a collection called The Colossus and Other Poems. The collection stands as the only selections of poetry Sylvia published before her death at age 30 in 1963.

The poem is full of wonderful imagery that was a hallmark of her work, she had a way of telling you something in her poem but also leaving it to the reader’s own interpretation. My favorite line is ” I crawl like an ant in mourning”

Sylvia was prolific in her short 30 years on the planet, I’d invite you to grab a cup of coffee and pull it close and enjoy this poem and then search out more of her work, she also published a novel, The Bell Jar that has a place among the best American literature. Have a great day and keep reading.

The Colossus

I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It’s worse than a barnyard.
Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.
Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.
A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered
In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.
Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,
Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing.

Let’s look at The Mending Wall.

Hello everyone and good morning. The birthday of my favorite poet, Robert Frost was celebrated this past, last week of March so I thought we’d take a look at one of his poems, The Mending Wall.

It was one of Frost’s earlier poems published in 1914. It’s about two farmers and their annual spring meet up to repair the stone wall the separates their respective properties. The narrator is unsure if a wall is really needed feeling that it keeps people apart. The neighbor quotes the ideology of his father that “good fences make good neighbors.” Here’s the poem and happy Easter weekend to you all.

The Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side.  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn't it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'  I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself.  I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors

The Emperor of Ice Cream

Hello everyone. Hope you all are staying dry on this rainy Saturday in February. Today I’m gonna share one of my favorite poets with you, Wallace Stevens.

Wallace Stevens was born in October 2nd, 1879 in Reading, Pennsylvania. He was Harvard Educated and a graduate of the New York Law School. He was a fantastic Modernist American Poet, he spent his life as an insurance agent. He lived 2 lives of sorts. This was especially evident at his funeral in 1955 when a large turn out gathered to pay their respects. Half the crowd were friends from his long professional life. The other half were fans of his poetry. Either side had the full picture of the man in his entirety.

The poem I’m sharing is a study upon a elderly lady’s death and the work about way to which life inevitably goes on. It’s called The Emperor of Ice-Cream.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.