About Blaise Kielar

Blaise Kielar, now . . .

Sunday Elephant

 

A4crop

Across the watering hole from us humans,
African elephant scoops hay with relaxed trunk,
sweeping the ground near feet, no need to look,
letting sweet aromas guide the nonchalant motion.

More purposed coiling up to the mouth,
right back down to continue the forage.
Tail sweeps sideways in a slower rhythm,
not to chase flies – dog-like pleasure?

One tree trunk of a leg cocked at a slant,
like a street corner dude posed to impress,
two curved tusks intact, surely not worried,
safe from poachers in the North Carolina Zoo.

No concern for machine guns
and chainsaws, or ivory trinkets,
just natural calm on a grand scale
and surprising cockiness on display.

Year-end Inventory

No winter peace,
the small retailer
sweeps aside the chaos
of Christmas sales,
revealing too many to count
New Years Day,
and pay tax April 15.
Scratch and dent, forsaken,
or mistakes needing resolution,
all echo my emotional inventory,
foibles and triumphs both
caused residue far beyond
the corner cobwebs.
Too late for the clearance table,
the stagnant drag along with me
into a new year,
expecting rebirth
again.

POPS

One pistol shot
changed his life,
but not how you think.
Only 11,
gun from Mama’s lover
stuck in his shirt,
celebrating New Years Eve
shooting into the air,
a poor man’s pleasure
long before civic fireworks.
Showing off
for the other kids,
your shot, of all the gleeful noise
down the streets,
your shot was seen by the cop
who knew you as trouble.
Arrested
to begin a New Year in jail,
taken away from mother
and delivered
to the colored waif’s home.
The cop
and the judge surely thought
that would teach you a lesson.
Yeah,
they were right,
but not how they thought.
Thrown in with the lost,
the forgotten, and just plain bad boys,
Louis
remembered singing for coins
on the streets with his friends.
A cornet from his teacher –
who figured it would change him,
but not how he thought,
and certainly not what
New Orleans
and the world
were expecting.

[another poem based on historical events]

Louis Armstrong;s first cornet

 

 

ONCE I HAD A HERO

Only once
have I carried a rifle in public,
for a 6th grade school play
about the pioneers,
my father’s World War II carbine
an essential prop.
After school,
when I got into the way back
of a neighbor’s station wagon,
pointing that gun out the rear window,
I already felt strange.
Then she told us
that President Kennedy had been shot.
Driving towards home,
my journey away from innocence
had already begun.

Black and white TV set:
smiling John and Jackie
waving from a black
Lincoln convertible.

Three years before
I played the role of JFK
in my classroom debate.
As the only Catholic,
it was a logical fit.
My pride at how I did
grew when he was elected for real.

Black and white:
a riderless horse
in the funeral procession,
tall black boots turned backward.

Only once
did I shoot a living thing.
My Dad did not teach me
how to change the oil
or fix wooden things but
he did teach me to shoot.
So when my cousin Steve and I
took air rifles behind Grandma’s house,
it was no surprise that
I saw a bird, aimed,
fired one shot, and he fell.
When we ran up,
excited as boy heros,
Steve saw he was suffering,
no longer able to fly,
and killed him point blank.

Black and white:
Jack Ruby in a fedora
shoots Oswald point blank,
camera catching Oswald’s pain.

Only once did I share an experience
with a President.
As Capitol tourists going to Mass,
my parents and I were already praying
when a group of men in dark suits
made a disturbance,
the Secret Service,
clearing an area for the President.
After Kennedy entered,
I thought it odd
that nobody sat near him,
a long pew with one bowed head,
restless hands and a troubled face –
every time I turned around
it seemed darker there.
After Mass, I was outside
as he came down the steps.
When our eyes met,
his bright smile
seemed to match mine.

Black and white:
John John at the foot of steps,
farewell salute to his father and hero,
on the day of his third birthday.

Richard Blanco in Durham

Finding out that Richard Blanco was speaking for free in Durham at the Carolina Theater, I was shocked. Shocked that I was so out of touch with such cultural events that I stumbled across it in the free Durham News that hits my driveway every week. And even more shocked that the theater was packed!

I happily paid $50 to attend the reception so I could speak with him. When I sidled up, he was already talking about the similar states of music and poetry in the US now, and that he would like to see both return to more live interaction, like sitting around the campfire or in your living room. Not prepackaged technological media goods but a vital community expression of the personal and collective story. In his view, the role of an artist is to be a visionary, whose function is to persuade. A poetry reading is not a courtroom, yet still – scenes are set, stories are detailed, and one strives for the rousing finale that will leave those gathered convinced of the artistic truth just given voice, and pondering how they will let it resonate in their lives.

In his MFA program, having already received his engineering degree, Richard never recited a poem – it was always just read silently, or critiqued as a written document. I encountered the same attitude at NYU in graduate school for musicology – no need to hear or play music, just study the notation. What our world needs now are more occasions where people gather in the presence of their fellow expressive artists, who give voice to their creations in every mode they can think of – and giving all present an opportunity to respond in any way they feel moved: applause; dance; tears; or the sacred act of sitting in silence and receiving the heart and soul of their fellow citizen, shared openly.

I feel Blanco’s call to come out of my artistic closet – to not just commit my poems to ink and paper, and then upload to my blog, and share on Facebook. He is inspiring an attitude change! Find or call gatherings in my community where expression is live and fresh, and which solicits some sort of response from all attending. This is the impetus to launch the further evolvement of Players of Now – our first Expression Jam. Originally scheduled for November 14, we are postponing it into early 2014.

One Letter

There is no Art,
nor is there Life.
No loss, no gain,
no us, no them.

All our categories and labels,
divisions and distinctions,
are merely linguistic –
letters with no more meaning
than the letter “I.”

Hafiz Lives!

What is it about these old Sufi poets that their magic continues even today?
A conspiracy between a translator, a bookstore and poetry-loving friends blows a Tuesday evening dinner in Chapel Hill into the spirit realm.

bh1

Bhavani is a friend who loves and creates poetry, so for her birthday, I went to a bookstore and got two Ladinsky-translated books of Hafiz poems. The Gift is a collection, and A Year With Hafiz has a poem for each day of the year. Before I take The Gift into the restaurant, while appreciating a colorful sunset, I just open the book and read the first poem my eyes find. It is “I am really just a tambourine.”

Good
Poetry
Makes the universe admit a
Secret:
“I am
Really just a tambourine.
Grab hold.
Play me
Against your warm
Thigh.”

Before presenting the book to her as a gift, I read that poem. Being a percussionist, she especially likes the image of playing against her warm thigh! Then she reveals that she already has that book.  So I go back out to the car and get  A Year With Hafiz to give her instead. After a toast, she decides to read the poem for her birthday. It is the same poem!

The Last Tomato

tomatoThe vines are withering
yet a few tomatoes
miraculously ripen
some each day.
No birds or insects
defile this fertile fading.
Smaller and less robust
than its summer siblings,
each miniature offering
packs homegrown flavor
into an abbreviated form.
In three bites
only a memory.

Birds of Dawn

Summer finally vanquished
cool breeze of fall
welcomed
through the bedroom window
a bit chilly
all night
under warm weather sheets.

As the black lightens
into gray,
two distinct chirps
awake me,
sharing news
of the coming sun.

The short cheerful rhythms
help disperse
the darkness
along with my fading slumber.

“It’s a new day,”
they seem to celebrate
and I agree,
though eyes shut again
and breathing slows.

A Play for Rob and Larry

Scene – After clearing spider webs away, a Human is sitting on a dock looking over a suburban lake, drone of Interstate traffic too far away to intrude. Warmth of the summer’s day is gradually dispersed by a Northerly breeze.
Backstory – Two men I have made music with have, or are about to, breathe their last on this plane and no poem or postcard can reach them in their new state.

Act (the only and only)
A gentle but insistent wind blows right to left – towards True North.

[Wind] As you cannot see me but only feel my effects, so are you to your departing brothers.

[Silent pause to show blowing of leaves and perhaps a scarf]

[Lake] Wind, you may ripple my surface, but my secrets have settled to safety in my mud. Many bodies slumber here – turtle, snake, fish, clams and the cremated remains of human friends who have gone on.

[Wind] Only gravity grants you your existence, whereas I am impelled by heat and cold, making currents out of nothing.

[Lake] Ah, as do my currents, but in a slower rhythm within my fluid medium.

[Human, rising to stand] As above, so below.

[Wind increases and ripples march faster across the water]

[Human] Both Wind and Lake are welcome here, and both remind me of just how fleeting this life can be. My fellow travelers once could feel your caresses on their skin, and could sing your praises in their own unique ways. Now, released from their fleshy form, they can caress us as wind, as water, as Spirit, in any moment when we care enough to tune in.

[Offstage, toning begins, imperceptible at first, gets louder as Human looks around for its source.]

[Human, confused at first, looks around for an explanation, something rational. Instead falls into acceptance of the tonal mystery, and, with a contented expression, crouches, perhaps even kneels, on the dock. Then begins to join in the toning, “Om.”]

The volume of the toning gradually gets louder. Human stands, arms slowly rising towards Heaven. Light slowly increases in intensity until the brightness dissolves everything into Oneness. At the peak of brightness, the toning stops, with its echoes reverberating for an extended fade out.
No curtain needed.