Jack Foley

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

dum illum modo habeam mecum

 

everything stops on this rainy morning for tears

everything stops on this rainy morning for tears

for the frail one the innocent the sweet

for the frail one the innocent the sweet

life plundered by encephalitis

life plundered by encephalitis

whom I have seen with his father on Berkeley’s sunlit streets

whom I have seen with his father on Berkeley’s sunlit streets

everything stops on this dreary morning in Oakland

everything stops on this dreary morning in Oakland

as I hear of another soul gone

as I hear of another soul gone

and rain rain rain at the window

and rain rain rain at the window

grief once more on this first day of march

grief once more on this first day of march

reckoned by some the beginning of spring

reckoned by some the beginning of spring

 

R.I.P. Max Argüelles

 

 

 

 

FOR IVAN ARGÜELES IN HIS SORROW

 

the gods exist to receive gifts

the gods exist to receive gifts

brother son wife

brother son wife

we give them up

we give them up

and the gods give us    ?

and the gods give us   ?

the gods exist to receive gifts

the gods exist to receive gifts

to listen to our anguish our pain

to listen to our anguish our pain

to watch and wait

to watch and wait

to expect

to expect

and so we acquiesce

and so we acquiesce

and grow old

and grow old

as things fail

as things fail

as frail   things fall

as frail   things fall

as the dark grows near us

as the dark grows near us

as our knees go

as our knees go

as our backs ache

as our backs ache

as our breath grows short

as our breath grows short

as we say the word “hospital”

as we say the word “hospital”

and the word “cancer”

and the word “cancer”

and the word “death”

and the word “death”

and the word “eternity”

and the word “eternity”

and the word “miserere”—

and the word “miserere”—

as we know

as we know

(though we know nothing of the gods)

(though we know nothing of the gods)

we are the gifts

we are the gifts

 

 

 

 

FOR THE BIRTHDAY OF SHELLEY K. POLLERO

 

Hey, Shelley,

How about those Port Chester people

Still here, still saying their say

In this strange who-would-have-thought-it world

Some—even many—are gone

And a grieving friend said to me yesterday

“Life and death are the same”

My own feeling

Is that nothing actually dies

It just enters the dimension of memory

Where it may change

Just as it changed in life,

When it argued, loved, and sometimes spoke its peculiar truth.

Life. Death. Time. Memory. Age. Sex. Hunger. Disease.

What do we do about them?

Wish good luck to all our friends

And tell them

We felt the same as they

Breathed the bright air, delighted at blue skies and the diamond shapes of night

Saw snow, went west, went east, went north or south

Just yesterday I met a French woman

And we spoke of Brassens and Brel and Jacques Prévert

And I said,

“Rappelle-toi, Barbara

Il pleuvait sans cesse

Sur Brest

Ce jour-là”

Do you see, Émilie

It rained incess-

Antly

On Brest

That day—Do you see

It plain?

(Name changed for the rhyme!)

Barbara is gone, and Émilie never existed

And Brest was destroyed by the “rain” of bombs.

You, Port Chester,

All the life in between.

Il pleut

Sans cesse.

 

 

 

 

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORST

AND THE WORST WAS WITH GOD

—Irish proverb

 

That old man is a leprechaun they say

They say he’s got a pot of magic gold

If you can catch him, you can have your sway

He disappears into the woods away

 

Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of this land

But who will drive out Patrick and his band

The Irish sing, the Irish drink and sway

And ghosts are riding in the Irish wind.

 

Ghosts are riding in the Irish wind

Our lives are like the grasses in the field

Soon, very soon, the wind will have its way

Soon, very soon, we’ll watch the world unwind

 

And be the ghosts that ride the Irish wind.

Be the ghosts that ride the Irish wind.

 

 

(words for music, perhaps: remembering the beautiful voice of Liam Clancy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

BIO

 

Jack Foley has published 15 books of poetry, 5 books of criticism, a book of stories and sketches, and a two-volume “chronoencyclopedia,” Visions & Affiliations: California Poetry 1940-2005. He became well known through his “multivoiced” performances with his late wife, Adelle, who was also a poet; many of these can be seen on YouTube. His radio show, Cover to Cover, airs every Wednesday on KPFA-FM in California. In 2010, Foley received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Berkeley Poetry Festival and June 5 was proclaimed “Jack Foley Day” in Berkeley. His selected poems, Eyes, appeared from Poetry Hotel Press in 2013. His most recent books are The Tiger & Other Tales, a book of stories, sketches and two plays; Riverrun, a book of poetry; and Grief Songs, a book documenting his grief at the death of his wife, Adelle. He has begun to perform poetry with his new life partner, Sangye Land.

 

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