Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Governor Mark goes all in

June 28, 2009

This last piece of the series of email communications between S.C. Governor Mark Sanford and his Argentine mistress is all-Mark, including this misspellings and awkward phrasings. Note especially references to a “world wind tour”, a “full tank of love in the emotional bank account” and “I don’t want to put the genius back in the bottle.” He’s such a poet, yet he doesn’t know it.

From Mark to Maria:

It was indeed a long day. I am most jealous of your salad under the palm tree.

Three thoughts in one note now that I have a moment. One the travel schedule is about to get real busy (and this distresses me for the way it may well make it more difficult to get your notes over the next few weeks), two unfortunately all the feelings you describe are mutual, and three where do we go from here?

One, tomorrow leave at 5 am for New York and meetings. Will think about you on its streets and wish I was going to be there later in the month when you are there. Tomorrow night back to Philadelphia for the start of the National Governor’s Conference through the weekend. Back to Columbia for Tuesday and then on Wednesday, as I think I had told you, taking the family to China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Thailand and then back through Hong Kong on world wind tour. Few days home then to Bahamas for 5 days on a friends boat for the last break of the summer. The following weekend have been asked to spend it out in Aspen, Colorado with McCain — which has kicked up the whole VP talk all over again in the press back home.

Two, mutual feelings. I have been specializing in staying focused on decisions and actions of the head for a long time now — and you have my heart. You have oh so many attributes that pulls it in this direction. Do you really comprehend how beautiful your smile is? Have you been told lately how warm your eyes are and how they softly glow with the special nature of your soul. I remember Jenny, or someone close to me, once commenting that while my mom was pleasant and warm it was sad she had never accomplished anything of significance. I replied that they were wrong because she had the ultimate of all gifts — and that was the ability to love unconditionally. The rarest of all commodities in this world is love. It is that thing that we all yearn for at some level — to be simply loved unconditionally for nothing more than who we are — not what we can get, give or become. There are but 50 governors in my country and outside of the top spot, this is as high as you can go in the area I have invested the last 15 years of my life — my getting here came as no small measure because I had that foundation of love and support so critical to getting up in the morning and feeling you could give and risk because you already had a full tank of love in the emotional bank account. Since our first meeting there in a wind swept somewhat open air dance spot in Punta del Este, I felt that you had that same rare attribute. Above all else I love that inner beauty about you. That gift of yours is going to make a tremendous difference in (The State deleted sons’ names) life — and in anyone’s life who is blest to be touched by yours — you need to rest very comfortably in that fact. As I mentioned in our last visit, while I did not need love fifteen years ago — as the battle scars of life and aging and politics have worn on this has become a real need of mine. You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that is so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificently gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night’s light — but hey, that would be going into the sexual details we spoke of at the steakhouse at dinner — and unlike you I would never do that!

Three and finally, while all the things above are all too true — at the same time we are in a hopelessly — or as you put it impossible — or how about combine and simply say hopelessly impossible situation of love. How in the world this lightening [sic] strike snuck up on us I am still not quite sure. As I have said to you before I certainly had a special feeling about you from the first time we met, but these feelings were contained and I genuinely enjoyed our special friendship and the comparing of all too many personal notes (and yes this is true even if you did occasionally tantalize me with sexual details over the years!) — but it was all safe. Where we are is not. I have thought about it and in some ways feel I let you down in letting these complications come into a friendship that I hope will last till death. In all my life I have lived by a code of honor and at a variety of levels know I have crossed lines I would have never imagined. I wish I could wish it away, but this soul-mate feel I alluded too is real and in that regard I sure don’t want to be the person complicating your life. I looked to where I often look for advice and counsel, and in I Corinthians 13 it simply says that, “Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude, Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right, Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things”. In this regard it is action that goes well beyond the emotion of today or tomorrow and in this light I want to look for ways to show love in helping you to live a better — not more complicated life. I want to help (one of Maria’s sons) with film guys that might help his career, etc. I also don’t want you walking20away (sic) from some guy (I take it the younger guy you mentioned a t dinner) because of me — and what we both have to see as an impossible situation. I better stop now least this really sound like the Thornbirds — wherein I was always upset with Richard Chamberlain for not dropping his ambitions and running into Maggie’s arms. The bottom line is two fold, my heart wants me to get on a plane tonight and to be in your loving arms — my head is saying how do we put the Genie back in the bottle because I sure don’t want to be encumbering you, or your options or your life. Put differently, given I love you, I don’t want to be part of the reason you are having less than an ideal week in what sounds like a cool spot.

Lastly I also suspect I feel a little vulnerable because this is ground I have never certainly never covered before — so if you have pearls of wisdom on how we figure all this out please let me know … In the meantime please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul. I love you … sleep tight. M

PS. I will make it a point in NY tomorrow to drop by a store and get that movie I promised to send your way … I am encouraged to know you will not keep it beside the bed least we have tangible evidence of two pathetic figures missing each other far too much to live a few thousand miles apart!

You have not brought complication or are not bringing complication to my life, on the contrary you’ve fullfiled (sic) me with happiness and made me aware how you can feel when you love somebody. I can think with my head but only feel with my heart so I can’t avoid it even knowing is hopelessly impossible. The guy is the one I told you ,just three years younger than me, but I am not in love and won’t fall in love with time so I have to continue my way … be alone for some time and if I am lucky enough will someday feel towards somebody, what I today feel for you. At least you made me realized it can happen.

I don’t know if I did understood (sic) well about what was unsafe or not safe. Before our mails use to have other contents … if you want to go back to that and don’t write love things and so on because is not safe for you it’s ok with me, i (sic) love you and by no way would do something that can harm you, so please let me know.

I don’t know how we figure all this out and I am not interested in knowing. I prefer to think we’ll see each other again somewhere sometime in this life and in next. Will be missing you till then… . .

Have a great trip with the ones you love … they are the kind of trips you will never forget and for your boys will be unworthable (sic) not only because of the places they will visit but for sharing all that time with you.

Send you millions of kisses that will last till we get in touch again. best wishes from the deepest of my heart.

P.S.: I don’t want to put the genius (sic) back in the bottle because I truly believe in freedom. I never gave you sexual details but now you don’t need to imagine you can close your eyes and just remember. I’ll do the same.

O America! I file now my taxes

April 15, 2009

There’s a little-known provision in the U.S. Tax Code that I think I’m going to use with this year’s income tax filing. Even though the Internal Revenue Service provides taxpayers with dozens of different forms to make it easier to communicate all the appropriate information, you are not in fact required to use any of these forms. As long as they get the data they need in a timely fashion, other formats are acceptable.

So instead of using Form 1040 like I might normally do, I’m going to file my 2008 income taxes in free verse, with inspiration from America’s greatest poet, Walt Whitman.

O America!

Thy gleaming towers of commerce lie in rubble and ruin

Your once-proud people shamble through unending off-lays and sizings-down

They struggle to find work, both the learn’d and unlearn’d

The homefires they thought were theirs are possessed anew

Usury stalks the land where once there was a reasonable credit market

Lo, I watch the dark clouds of fate gather, yet hope I must

As it is in my American spirit!

 

Yes, you must levy a surcharge upon your citizenry

It is how we will pay for the stimulation and the bailing and the eventual recovery

That will someday soon return our land to its promontory on the mesa on the hill

Return its people to their hurrahs, so as to squelch the fury of rous’d mobs

(I’m looking at you, Fox News).

 

The security of thy corpus is bound up in a social net that numbers tens of myriads

My number is but one of these – 287-39-6312

This cipher is mine and mine alone, and I glory in its individuality

My love, my spouse, my lifemate, she too is joining me in this annual celebration

And her number too is of interest to thee – it is 365-08-4118

We file jointly, for we are married.

 

And, yea, we do want to pay the tripl’d dollar

To go toward the Presidential Election Campaign

Though we desire as well to register our strenuous protest and objection

To the ongoing war with Mexico.

 

You wish to know the assembled value of my wages, my salaries

You wish to know the value of even my tips, tho they pale in comparison

To the worth that was visited upon me by my father in heav’n

Forthwith I will divine these and show thee to a cent

The integer is sixty-seven thousand

Seven hundred and thirty-six dollars

Or so that is what I deign to report.

 

I have interest in life in all its aspects

In the brown ants and the little wells beneath them

And mossy scabs of the worm-fence, heap’d stones, elder mullein and poke-weed

I have interest in how you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d me over

And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart

But I report no interest of the taxable kind

And no unemployment compensation and no Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.

 

No one shall claim me as dependent, for I am so fiercely independent

That sometimes it makes my head hurt, and my acquaintances annoy’d

At this point I shall claim a deduction of seventeen thousands and nine hundreds

For so it has been direct’d by statutes in the rule of levies

I shall subtract this from the previous line to arrive at my taxable income

Despite the horror of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events.

 

O America!

You have already withheld substantial fractions of my annual fortune

As I can see from the box numbered two on my Form W-2

I do not begrudge this contribution to thy welfare and that of my fellow citizens

For we all must labor together to build a nation of brothers, a nation of sisters

Tho I sure wish you didn’t spend so much on that folly of a program

To build a cow museum in the land of the Nebraskan.

 

I claim no earned income credit

I claim no nontaxable combat pay election

I claim no recovery rebate credit

For I have seen the worksheet on pages 17 and 18

I only claim to celebrate myself, and sing myself.

 

I will now add my total payments to calculate my tax

As it is express’d in the tax tables I must now consult

As once I consulted with the boatmen and the clam-diggers

The butcher-boy and the blacksmith and the runaway slave

(I think that butcher-boy had a thing for me, tho that shall be another sonnet)

And now, because line 10 is larger than line 11, I shall subtract line 11 from line 10

This is my refund, and I glory in its amount, even as I had hop’d for more.

 

I hereby direct that said sum shall be directly deposited

With all alacrity and without undue delay

To an account I designate as one of “checking”

And with a routing number that aspires to be the lofty 4732985

And yet in reality will never reach those hallowed heights.

 

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean

But I shall be good health to you nevertheless

I stop somewhere waiting for you

And so I affix my signature here

So you know that it is me.

 

The poetry of financial disclaimers

February 22, 2009

There’s a certain art and poetry to everyday life if you know where to look for it. One of the big differences, I believe, between happy people and sad people is that the happy among us are able to find joy and beauty in a bad situation. I often cite the great poet Raymond Stevens on this subject and his claim that “everything is beautiful in its own way/Like a starry summer night or a snow-covered winter’s day”.

 

In my real-life job working for a financial services company, I get to read a lot of writing that was never intended as anything more than stiff, informative prose: cash flow statements, auditors’ reports, etc. Occasionally, the author’s rhetoric will soar to unintended heights (perhaps while looking for a way to explain huge executive compensation packages, for example) but it’s usually pretty pedestrian stuff. Unless you can look at it a little differently.

 

The language that follows is a boilerplate disclaimer that appears in almost every financial document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. With a little imagination, an italic font, and the right line breaks, however, it’s a work of art:

 

These statements are intended to enjoy

The protection of the safe harbor

For forward-looking statements provided

By the Securities Exchange Act.

These statements can be identified

By the use of the word or phrase

“well positioned,”

“expect,”

“expects”

or “would have”

in the statements

 

These forward-looking statements

Are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors,

Domestically and internationally,

Including general economic conditions,

The cost of goods,

Competitive pressures,

Geopolitical events and conditions,

Levels of unemployment,

Levels of consumer disposable income,

Changes in laws and regulations,

Consumer credit availability,

Inflation, consumer spending patterns and debt levels,

Currency exchange fluctuations, trade restrictions,

Changes in tariff and freight rates,

Changes in the costs of gasoline, diesel fuel, other energy,

Transportation, utilities, labor and health care,

Accident costs, casualty and other insurance costs,

Interest rate fluctuations, financial and capital market conditions,

Developments in litigation to which the company is a party,

Weather conditions,

Damage to the company’s facilities from natural disasters,

Regulatory matters and other risks

 

The company discusses certain of these factors more fully

In its additional filings with the SEC,

Including its last annual report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC,

And this release should be read

In conjunction with that annual report on Form 10-K,

Together with all of the company’s other filings,

Including current reports on Form 8-K,

Made with the SEC through the date of this release

 

The company urges you to consider

All of these risks, uncertainties and other factors

Carefully

In evaluating the forward-looking statements

Contained in this release

 

The forward-looking statements

Made in this release

Are made only as of the date of this release,

And the company undertakes no obligation

To update them to reflect

Subsequent events

Or circumstances

 

Poets for our time (about 30 years ago)

February 8, 2009

The rise of folk and, ultimately, rock music was grounded in a lyrical foundation that gave us pop stars who were also poets. Beginning with the likes of Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Simon and Garfunkel, it’s a tradition that has stalled in the contemporary era. Though Jewel may have published a book of poetry – including “I lived in a car/But couldn’t drive far/My teeth they are weird/It’s chewing I’ve feared/Yet somehow I’m hot/Which forgives quite a lot” – it’s hardly comparable to what the giants of the 1960s and 1970s were able to produce.

Two of my favorites from that earlier period were the Doors and John Denver. Mercurial front-man Jim Morrison composed lyrics for the Doors that were every bit as evocative and stirring as anything written by bards as far back as Shakespeare. When Morrison cries out “Father/Yes son?/I want to kill you/Mother/I … want…  to/Waaarrriiiihhhhyyyyaaaa!” in his masterpiece “The End,” it’s not hard to imagine Coleridge, Byron or even Emily Dickinson adding “right on, dude.” When John Denver soars through the musical heights of his beloved Rocky Mountains, he’s flying in the experimental tradition of earlier wordsmiths such as Buddy Holly, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Amelia Earhart.

I thought I’d take a look at one short piece from each of these inspired giants, and try to analyze what it was that causes our emotional reactions to be so profound. I start with Morrison’s tone-poem “Horse Latitudes”:

When the still sea conspires an armor

And her sullen and aborted currents breed tiny monsters

True sailing is dead

Awkward instant, and the first animal is jettisoned

Legs furiously pumping their stiff green gallop

And heads bob up

Poise

Delicate

Pause

Consent

In mute nostril agony

Carefully refined and sealed over

I remember when I first heard this piece as a young man how sad it struck me that early seamen had to throw horses overboard when the winds died. What a terrible fate those noble beasts faced. They suffered at least as much as Morrison himself did after his arrest on obscenity charges for exposing himself during a concert. I see the exposed horses as an allegory for the act he allegedly performed on stage in Miami, though I hesitate to think what the “mute nostril agony” might be symbolic of. This poem captures perfectly the angst of a time when America’s youth were questioning traditional morals, and what the hell something like this was doing on a rock album.

Now, let’s contrast that hallucinogenic imagery with a folksier sentiment from Denver’s classic “I’m Sorry”:

It’s cold here in the city
It always seems that way
And I’ve been thinking about you, almost every day
Thinking about the good times, thinking about the rain
Thinking about how bad it feels alone again

 

I’m sorry for the way things are in China
I’m sorry things ain’t what they used to be
More than anything else I’m sorry for myself
Cause you’re not here with me

 

I’m sorry for all the lies I told you
I’m sorry for the things I didn’t say
More than anything else I’m sorry for myself
I can’t believe you went away

I’m sorry I took some things for granted
I’m sorry for the chains I put on you
More than anything else I’m sorry for myself
For living without you

Denver, obviously, is sorry – he’s very, very sorry. To this day, some critics claim he was a sorry songwriter in more ways than one, though I tend to see his pathos in a more positive light. Remember that this song debuted in an era when the U.S. was feeling its way in a post-Vietnam world, trying to consider old relationships in a new light. Amidst the profound self-pity about his girlfriend leaving, he still takes time to offer regret about the Cultural Revolution in China and the hardships that caused for a billion people, as well as the cold and rainy forecast in his hometown. By the end of the song, you can tell he’s heading to a better place – this is about the time he left Colorado for California and the contentment that came from his role in movies like “Oh God” and “Walking Thunder.” We lost a great poet but we found an even better actor.