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Archive for April 3rd, 2011

Picture a slender somewhat grave man approaching the lectern. Matter-of-fact. Even slightly reticent. With only the briefest introduction he begins to read, and now you’re suddenly jolted by verse that is tart as some strong organic acid. Or wickedly funny. Or so tender, so full of love, you want to beg this person to be your friend, too.

And sometimes all three of those in the same poem!

I have admired Dave Manning’s poetry for a decade, but the images that seethe up through his lines have been simmering from California in the ‘60’s all the way to Cary, NC yesterday. Sarcasm that is never cruel. Sweetness never treacle. And always lurking a page or two away that divine wickedness.

Two of my favorite are collected in his book-length The Flower Sermon. In almost every poem a mystery hovers at the edges. The lines between waking and dreams, between chemistry&physics and the spirit realm, between existence and the everafter, all these lines are blurred and merging.  From the poem Mysteries:

How can light so absolute be gone –
no lesson to learn, no explanation?
Only a wall where a door
once opened. A mystery

like death
or where fire goes
when it goes out.

A poem like a Zen koan, more question than answer. The act of discovery comes after I’ve finished the last line; its silence reverberates, its hushed clamor.

And the last two stanzas of Mallards in Winter, which cries to be read when spring is still a thing hoped for but mostly unseen:

Their peace is so profound I cannot
disturb them. Their house is icebound,
but its attic is the sky. In the tearing storm

I invite them to take refuge in my dreams.
At the canvas edge, where the seasons
change, they escape into springtime.

So many of Dave’s poems intimate that where there seems to be no escape – from ice, from winter, from death – the mystery of hope abides.

Crested Dwarf Iris

Here are the complete poems:

Mysteries
you are the music
While the music lasts.  —  T.S.Eliot

I light candles to the way
you eyes would find me
from the far choir loft
and you would smile,

to the day
we brought the smell
of Liquidamber leaves indoors
with us, the first two stair steps
wet with the May rain; on a wall
a painting I had never seen —
geese rising from a marsh at dawn —
street sounds with tones,
the green-bue of late afternoon.

How can light so absolute be gone –
no lesson to learn, no explanation?
Only a wall where a door
once opened. A mystery

like death
or where fire goes
when it goes out.

 

Mallards in Winter

With the leaves down, I see them
paddle the creek-length, green heads
against the lighted flow.

They drift downstream in silence,
as if in a painting on a silk screen,
toward Lake of the Winds.

Their wakes show them to be real.
I watch them bob and disappear,
then emerge from the banks into the winter’s

silvering light. They let the current
take them, soundless, through
the shadowed channel’s mystery.

Their peace is so profound I cannot
disturb them. Their house is icebound,
but its attic is the sky. In the tearing storm

I invite them to take refuge in my dreams.
At the canvas edge, where the seasons
change, they escape into springtime.

[from The Flower Sermon, Main Street Rag Publishing, (c) 2007 David T. Manning]

 

Links to other poems by David T. Manning:

Dave Manning Sampler in WestEndPoets Newsletter
www.Westendpoetsweekend.com/pdf/WestEndPoetsNewsletterjanuaryFebruary2011.pdf
www.Westendpoetsweekend.com/pdf/WestEndPoetsNewsletterMarchApril2011.pdf

At the Spring, in Rattle
http://rattle.com/blog/2009/05/at-the-spring-by-david-t-manning

Mirella, in PoetrySpark
http://Poetryspark.sparkcon.com/poems/manning/mirella.html

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