Richard Jarrette – It is Never Finished

Profile Richard Jarrette LE P&W Dec V Two 2018

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It is Never Finished, poems by Richard Jarrette

Richard Jarrette is author of Beso the Donkey (MSU Press 2010)—Gold Medal Poetry Midwest Independent Publishers Association 2011; A Hundred Million Years of Nectar Dances (Green Writers Press 2015); The Beatitudes of Ekaterina (Green Writers Press 2017); The Pond with paintings by Susan Solomon (Green Writers Press March 2019). Poetry Columnist VOICE Magazine of Santa Barbara, California, his books have been endorsed by W.S.Merwin, Jane Hirshfield, Joseph Stroud, and Sam Hamill, and are used as MFA writing program texts as well as for psychology, philosophy, and religion courses. Jarrette is a retired psychotherapist who lives reclusively in the Central Coast region of California after formative years in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina where he is considered a regional writer as well.

Falling Into A Metaphysical Abyss I Visit Tu Fu
After The Catastrophic An Lu-Shan Rebellion
Near The End Of His Life Seeking Guidance

I follow the master’s chant to his house—

Don’t condemn heroes to weep like heavy rains, leave
men to grain, women to silk—let us go in song again.

I’m full of complaints that my nation is ruled
by enemies millions of soldiers once defeated

and now violent mobs cheer some low imposter
as he destroys their farms and banishes patriots.

Tu Fu is weeping for his nation and his dead
son and daughter wracked by malarial fevers

but smiles through the bone piercing drizzle
offering the last of the good floating-ant wine.

Sing an old song with me he says—

Just now, as we meet again, the season of falling
blossoms gracing the world—how lovely it is.

Tu Fu (712-770 c.e.)
The Selected Poems of Tu Fu (1989) David Hinton Tr. pgs 110-111

Apart From Righteous Fury At The Neo-Nazi Junta
Maybe Some Of My Rage
Is Aging Melancholy

I’ve made the myth of a sword in my spine
guttering in there tailbone to crown—

cut off my wings
pulls at my nerves
always thirsty.

I’ve made a test of it for some King Arthur—
Po Chü-i
Master William Merwin
Adrienne Rich

or Sappho
or Smokey-the-Cat

whose tail trembles when I stroke her spine
and she marches on my lap.

What fingers will find the strings of my harp?

I’m just a man with a stiff back and a limp
humming an Elvis song

to a picture of Mary Brown
who died when we were eleven.

When I Steered My Father
Through The Tasseling Corn

Roy Estone’s dark wings were made of knives
but they’ve become thin and lacy—

brushed my face last night like the black moth
that shares his weakness for honey.

An elder woman took my wrist at his brother’s funeral—

I’m going to give you the Word.
I loved your father.
Everyone loved your father.
Black brown red white old young man woman child.
And he loved everybody.

He still carries me on his shoulders at times
through the tasseling corn

above the copperheads and rattlers
as I navigate toward Uncle John’s store—

the skew-jawed shack where he sold tobacco and sugar
and said Hey and I said Hey back.

Hot day. Hot day.
Hot tomorrow. Hot tomorrow.
Corn’s tasseling. Corn’s tasseling.

And gave me a hunk of wild Grandfather Mountain
honeycomb he’d set aside in a jar under

the counter with the corn whiskey that made Aunt
Ruby’s teeth gleam through her red lipstick.

Li Po Scolded By Blossoms You Let Your Grief Go
Then I Found It Which Drowned An Old Demon

Not gibbons from both banks of your river as you sailed for Tu Fu—
but crows cracking wise or starving or fuck off

to the unfeathered clod by the gone river willows
twelve months a year dead dog bone dry.

I clung to your book memorized the breezes
studied poems about you—slipped my tongue into your grief laden reach

for the edge of heaven and my knife grew heavier than the boat
taken by the sand where my river was and ruby wine.

Taxonomy Of A Prayer

Thus, Shariputra, without attainment,
bodhisattvas take refuge in Prajnaparamita
and live without walls of the mind.

The rufous-winged sparrow
at his forage my soul at its matins.

Aunt Max and I pulled ticks off the feral
cats she’d half-tamed in the forest

and then off each other in secret—I’ve been the tick
waiting for a delicious idea to near

and teachers to feed my way into.
It’s happened I’ve been carried far—thrilling

only to watch my host vanish through walls
I can’t scale on fifty-six knees.

© Richard Jarrette