The Dead Sing Brokedown Palace for Ken Kesey (May 8, 1984), by Alan Walowitz

The Dead Sing Brokedown Palace for Ken Kesey (May 8, 1984)
by Alan Walowitz

The last we ever saw the Chief—
after he took good care of McMurphy,
broke his neck a couple of places
and broke out into the night—
one hand was latched to the bumper of that chicken van
the other hitched to a tree to keep the wrestling team inside
from sliding off the cliff in the worst snowstorm
the Cascades had seen since ’58.
But by then the Big Injun was getting small again,
worn down and laid waste by the high-talking hucksters,
and pickpockets, and card-sharps,
but along with it came this hard-won but unspeakable wisdom:
Ain’t nothing we can do to make things right.

Still, Kesey, he’s gotta live with the death of his wrestler-son,
another twenty-one years, a sentence he could never do sober or sane–
till one night in Eugene, Kesey sitting in a box over the stage
with the smoke wafting off the rafters in waves
the Dead turned to him–for all their shambling harmony,
close as they ever got to as-one–and sang:

         Fare you well, fare you well
         I love you more than words can tell
         Listen to the river sing sweet songs
         to rock my soul

The Deadheads were stone-silent as if there were ghosts in the bleachers
and the silence enveloped Kesey like an embrace.
Then–finally–he knew: Art needn’t be a fist to the face.
In fact, maybe he’d been wrong about everything,
and maybe, just maybe, and against his better judgment,
he might begin some merry madness all over again.

Process note: This story is legendary and, like most legends, I don’t know how true: How Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, found some peace when the Grateful Dead played “Brokedown Palace” for him after the death of his son who had been a collegiate wrestler. I guess the reader can decide how true this sounds, though I like to believe it.

Alan Walowitz (www.alanwalowitz.com) has been published various places on the web and off. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry. His chapbook, Exactly Like Love, is available from Osedax Press, and his full-length book,The Story of the Milkman and other poems, will appear soon from Truth Serum Press.

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A Whiter Shade Of Pale, by Debi Swim

A Whiter Shade of Pale
by Debi Swim

Waiting for the end of day
waiting for the dreams to come
waiting for I don’t know what
everything is going
slowly going
everything is going
away
And is this the way my world ends
one losing at a time
one giving up at a time
one concession
one desire
one usefulness
after another
waiting for that
whiter shade of pale
Someone tell me
what has it all been for
the striving
the trying
the working
the playing
the cursing
the praying…
the opening of my eyes
the closing at the end
what was all that
in between?

Debi Swim writes primarily to prompts. She is a wife, mother, grandmother and persistent WV poet. Blog: https://poetrybydebi.wordpress.com/

Boys Together Clinging (After Walt Whitman & David Hockney), by Tim Dunne

Boys Together Clinging
(After Walt Whitman & David Hockney)

by Tim Dunne

And so they gathered round for a selfie,
boys together, thumbs up, grinning and clinging,
an unexpected photo opportunity on this
Wednesday Amsterdam shift.
The shout to rescue a celeb or two, from a hotel lift,
uncovered a famous artist with press pack in tow.
David, 81, now sits centre on the stool so thoughtfully
passed through the door’s forced gap,
flat hatted and beaming. Not every day
he gets rescued by such dashing knights.

Not quite We Two Boys Together Clinging,
but Walt I’m sure, would rejoice in the
camaraderie so visibly on show here.
Their ‘red badge of courage,’ never in question.
Their enemy, fire and flame,
a conflagration no less lethal
than the smoke and shell of a Civil War battle.
So David, incarceration ended, smiles serenely,
while the boys around him cling together
full satisfied in the knowledge, of a job well done.

Hockney, David, b.1937; We Two Boys Together Clinging

Sources:
A copy of photo and BBC News article can be seen here:
https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-47401639

We Two Boys Together Clinging by Walt Whitman:
https://www.bartleby.com/142/56.html

We Two Boys Together Clinging by David Hockney:
https://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk/artwork/we-two-boys-together-clinging

Process notes:
The poem was written in response to the BBC web article which describes how David Hockney got stuck in a lift in a hotel in Amsterdam and had to be rescued by a local Fire crew. From his smiling face, surrounded as he is by hunky Dutch firemen, he seemed to have enjoyed the experience! The way the men were gathered together reminded me of Hockney’s early painting We Two Boys Together Clinging, which is in itself an allusion to Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name and his experience as a medical orderly in the battlefields of the American Civil War.

Tim Dunne has now taught English and Drama for more than 40 years. At first in the North West of England, then North Wales and for the past eight years abroad, first in Saudi Arabia and now in Azerbaijan. Home though, is up in the mountains of Snowdonia in the beautiful Croesor valley, where he lives with his wife, Bev, daughter Phoebe, six cats and one dog. Though now legally a pensioner, he has no intention of retiring just yet.

Ten, by Misky Braendeholm

Ten
by Misky Braendeholm

All the sky and albino clouds,
and pale constellations watch her
like poetry.
She’s a marigold bath
on the beach,

a honed curator
of her own shining shore.
A sunbathing iridescent.
Like a sacrifice. Lain.
Laid. Lying. Talking

softly in your ear, softly, softly,
so you must lean in to hear her
golden pleasures, to hear her
one perfect scoring ten.
And the sun sinks behind her,

sinks behind her sweeping eyelids,
and she blooms. Adorns
the sand like old charms.
Shines gold and pearled
as a firefly in July.

Then she sighs like a surprise,
and apologises for her beauty.

(inspired by the movie “Ten” 1979)

Misky Braendeholm’s work is regularly published in monthly issues of Waterways Poetry in the Mainstream, and Ten Penny Players.

Marilyn’s poem was submitted for the Fall 2019 Edition. You may submit your work for this edition at redwolfeditions AT gmail DOT COM. Submission guidelines here.

Borrowed Poetry

Red Wolf Editions Fall 2019
Theme: Borrowed Poetry

Poems often are in dialogue with other artistic works. That makes us a collective. Things become interesting when there is a two-way street. As poets we read other poems, we consume movies, plays, music, various art forms. These things can be a springboard for our own thoughts and creativity. It’s something I do as well drawing inspiration from other experiential forms.

Just for instance riffing off lines from another poem.

We Are All Voyeurs

“The world is ugly/And the people are sad.”—Wallace Stevens

I read a couple of bleak poems that reeked of
cheap perfume. Mostly amorous crap.
Some guy who peeked through the wall saw
a woman take off her clothes, then kissed
her husband, then put her hand inside his
pants. They engaged in coitus, I think.

Me, I’m sitting by a bay window, looking at
the spreading branches–morning had broken
and the sunlight warmed my soles.
I’m slowly coming out of my shell
in the pine-scented air, portentous.
I combed out my voluminous hair.

The allure of woman, I think, lies in
some mystery–butt cheeks shifting under
maroon panties, for instance. She held up
a white blouse, like a veil. I thought about
God–where is he–nowhere here, not in
this seedy low-life, not this pageant.

Then I thought, tremulous, that search for
light must begin in darkness. Swirling
colors that begin to emerge into beauty.
Who held the brush but the artist
who is all body, and soul, when
in service of something so ineffable.

The lines in the first stanza references Mark Strand’s poem “The Way It Is.” The original Mark Strand poem reads:

My neighbor’s wife comes home.
She walks into the living room,
takes off her clothes, her hair falls down her back.
She seems to wade
through long flat rivers of shade.
The soles of her feet are black.
She kisses her husband’s neck
and puts her hands inside his pants.

In this issue we’re looking for these two-way streets. We borrow ideas and lines from another. No artistic work is a closed shell. You crack open the shell and the egg oozes out. What does your eggy consumption feel like? That’s what I’m interested in. Do you fry it sunny side up or poach it or turn it into a fancy omelette with mushrooms and so on? What is your experience of it?

In terms of borrowing ideas, you may also make your poem into some sort of response to another artistic source. This happens quite easily. For instance, after watching a movie, you may want to write about it. After listening to a piece of music, you may want to reference it. After viewing a piece of art or performance, you may want to tell the reader your perception of it in a poem. What are the things you’d highlight, that had struck you somehow?

In terms of referencing, you could do it in a deep essential way or you could do it quite casually–a quotation or whatever. We can be stretchy when it comes to definition. Make your poem an aesthetic response of sort. If life is about experience, your poem would be an aesthetic response to what happens in another aesthetic portrayal of it.

Anything can be borrowed. Borrowing isn’t copying. Please don’t be a skunk and plagiarize. You have to make the poem your own. Please clearly credit your source.

Read our submission guidelines here. Please check back on our site to see if your poem has been selected. We will not be sending out any rejection letters.

Submissions period: March to August 2019. Selected poems will be posted on this site and compiled into a PDF release in Fall 2019.

Irene Toh
Editor
Fall 2019