Archive for July, 2020

Young Isaac is strolling through the orchard, another undifferentiated non-linear autumn afternoon of this perplexing equation we call life. Some of the fruit has detached itself and translocated several meters closer to the center of the earth. It has begun, with the help of fermenting microorganisms, to succumb to entropy. Isaac steps in it. He slips.

Isaac’s 70 kilograms, density of water, accelerate at 9.8 meters per second per second. Suddenly prone, the gravity of the situation strikes him. There, 10 centimeters from the tip of his nose, lies a perfect red spheroid. Glossy. Fragrant. The tiny lenticels on its taut unblemished skin are arranged with the symmetry of stars distributed across the heavenly sphere. “What an apple!” young Isaac exclaims, “Artios!” (his years of Greek instruction now finally relevant): That which is perfectly suited to its nature. The essence of appleness.

And how will Isaac’s own essence be transformed by this epiphany? How will yours and mine? No longer undifferentiated, will he discover his many gifts and their ideal trajectory? Will we ours? For are we not each of us an essence, our process of formation either distracted and garbled by the noisy physics of our history and our surroundings or alternatively able to grasp that trajectory perfectly suited to our unique nature? Besides mass and density and the ability to struggle upright against gravity, don’t we human animals also possess the agency of choice and change and discovery?

Isaac sits up and regards the apple. You know where this is headed. It will be 218 years before young Albert slips and falls and realizes that what Isaac experienced is actually the curvature of space. Meanwhile why don’t we all, each of us, sit up and regard our nature. Artios! To become that which is the perfect expression of our nature. It’s about time.

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I have been a DAVID MANNING fan since I first sat up and discovered poetry. Whether he does it with a compassion that draws me deeper into the circle of human family or with a wry and pointed barb that makes me snort, he regards human nature and tells its truths. I will be the first person in line when his NEW AND SELECTED is released from PRESS 53 later this year.

And I have been favored to preview the manuscript. Wandering these wonderful poems spanning decades I enter an inner landscape and pass from reader to personal companion. There is a deep imagination at work; there is joy and no lack of laughter and sometimes a little weirdness; there are bright moments of insight and connection.

Most of all there is WONDER. No aspect of our human situation or our confounding universe goes unnoticed. David’s artistry gathers a desert landscape, a snatch of opera, a funky conversation and weaves from them with perfect sense and sensitivity an affirmation. When I reach the final page I say, “YES, that is the way it is.”

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Sailing with Anne

Santa Monica, California, 1950

After her sailing class we cast off
into the ruffled Pacific blue, tide
incoming, echoes of great breakers
lapping the dock. She-the sailor,
the tiller, mine.

As we headed west, tacking
into a strong breeze I remember
marveling at who she was
to do these things. I imagined her
at the helm become Anne Bonny,
running a four-master down,
the setting sun turning red lights
in her hair.

I hope we left something there-
if only a boat paint-scrape
or salt spray from her hair.
Maybe something from that day
was never lost, but joined
the Pacific’s history, some trace
still riding the blue circuit
between the poles, with the sea-grape
and tiny life that make the coral.

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Star Journey

Sometimes at night I return

to the Griffith Park planetarium

where stars from the surrounding hills

come out to music.

North of Los Feliz

I step from city lights into the night

sky of Patagonia with its wind-swept shores

under the warm lights of Fornax,

Fomalhaut, Alpha Crucis, a bright canopy

of southern stars, to music-Gymnopedie,

Satie’s barefoot dance.

Then, under the soft night sky,

I take off my shoes

and find my way into the stars.

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David Manning’s NEW AND SELECTED POEMS is anticipated later this year from Press 53.

Star Journey first appeared in KaKalaK 2017 – Anthology of Carolina Poets
Sailing with Anne first appeared in Pinesong: The North Carolina Poetry Society

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