EXPANSIVE POETRY ONLINE
A Journal of Contemporary Arts 

 

 

POEMS

by

Frederick Turner
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IN PRAISE OF WOKE

Woke is the place of no more dreams,
Woke is the ending of confusion,
Woke is what is, not that which seems,
Woke is the death of all illusion.

The dream of having is a lie,
For having is another's loss;
You live because the others die,
You're either bossed or are the boss.

The dream of love makes you a slave
To someone else's quest for power;
Hook up, consume each other, leave;
Wash off the odor in the shower.

The dream of history's a tale
Of one tribe's crushing of another;
If one succeeds, then one must fail--
Wake up to this, don't trust your brother.

Wake from the dream of family,
The birthing-place of all oppression,
The workshop of authority,
The cold molester's sick obsession.

The dream of justice is a laugh,
The horse-faced exercise of power,
A bonus for the legal staff,
Who charge the victim by the hour.

The dream of beauty is a myth,
A trick of clever advertising,
Made for controlling people with,
And stopping discontent from rising.

Creation and discovery
Are just despoilings of the earth;
There are no wonders left to see,
And nothing's worth more than it's worth.

The dream of God--now that's the worst,
And Jesus was the biggest loser:
The last are last, the first are first,
The martyr is the worst accuser.

Your father's wars, your mother's screams,
The other's slavery, made you;
Be woke, and cast away your dreams,
For there is nothing that is true.

 

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ON “GENDER”

One sunlit day to come we'll see
A city wealthy, just and free
Where difference of he and she,
The virtues of the king and queen
And of the repertoires between,
Are honored, served, enjoyed, and seen.

There'll be no law to which one's tied;
Nothing enforced or codified;
One's glands a horse that one may ride,
Bound only by the ancient rein
That governs friendship, love, and pain,
And won't leave children in the rain.

But it may take the end of "gender,"
The weapon of the reprehender,
To bring about that coming splendor;
For nature and society,
Good servants, rule with cruelty--
But ridden well, make each one free.


TAKING DOWN THE SAIL

There's a kind of poem that's an island
With a house, a jetty, and a beach.
One end rises to a little highland;
There are hills across the waters of the reach.

It need be no more than just an acre,
But it has a tiny sheltered cove;
Part of it is forest, that its maker
Vowed to keep untrodden as a sacred grove.

And the house is wooden, creaky, fragrant,
And the kitchen-garden's fresh and green,
There's a climbing rosebush with a vagrant
Spray of buds that frames an oceanic scene.

Underneath's a cavern you are using
As a cellar, keeping old wine cool,
Where a cleft, with fresh air softly oozing,
Tells of darker surgings and a hidden pool.

And there is a secret mechanism
Powered by the long tides of the sea
That preserves the past as in a prism,
So what was is also what will come to be.


EFFIGY

No juice survives the natron of the mummy,
Papyrus poetry wraps groceries.
The puppet-maker has become the dummy,
The painted eye is that which never sees.

In burial rites of Africa and Asia
Embalmers knew they should hook out the brain.
The cost of information is erasure,
So that the royal face might live again.

Elide the living lines that you have written,
So that the dead ones, perfect, might remain?
Better the apple that was never bitten
Than knowledge bought with such amazing pain?

 

 

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MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN
            Hiking in Texas, June 18

So I ignore the heat advisory:
Texas and I still play this little game.
It's not the heat, it's the humidity
That gives our steam-bath its dishonored name:
It's not the heat, it's the humility.

The air's so wet it feels like lukewarm oil.
Why should things dry and cool when there's nowhere
For H2O to go, no way to boil?
Foot hauled by foot I sweat into that air,
And breathing seems like unproductive toil.

Why do this stupid thing at seventy-nine?
What does he prove, what means he by this sign?
Texas was made for fools who long to strive,
And only thus do fools know they're alive.

EFFIGY

No juice survives the natron of the mummy,
Papyrus poetry wraps groceries.
The puppet-maker has become the dummy,
The painted eye is that which never sees.

In burial rites of Africa and Asia
Embalmers knew they should hook out the brain.
The cost of information is erasure,
So that the royal face might live again.

Elide the living lines that you have written,
So that the dead ones, perfect, might remain?
Better the apple that was never bitten
Than knowledge bought with such amazing pain?

 

 

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THE BROKEN TENT

The tent-pole's cracked, and now the canvas shakes,
And wherewith shall I bind the wounded spar?
Surgical tape? Raw twine? The dig-site stakes
To splint and clamp the perpendicular?

This woven tent endures a deadly storm.
Supplies are running low: the wars nearby
Turn all our excavations into harm:
Whatever we discover breeds a lie.

There have been mornings here that swelled the heart,
Nights braided with the silent Milky Way,
Days rich with the investigators' art,
Before my team began to drift away;

My friend, asleep, should not perceive me so:
The storm is here for me to undergo.


EARLY MARCH ON FARM-TO-MARKET 302

A windpuff-bonnet of fáawn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
O let them be left, wildness and wet

A sapphire zephyr out of the south sky
Has filled the creek and packed the bright brown shells
Of oakbud, mesquite, cedar. And the high
Sephiroth of the season calls its spells.

Sandro's blue lover bursts into the time,
A rough annunciation: Chloris speaks
Forth April's Flora like a wanton rhyme:
In pains of love the flowery cosmos shrieks.

My priest Saint Gerard, you knew the desire
That made the father father-forth the spring:
However cruel and violent the fire,
It cannot help but sing.


CARTE BLANCHE

After three thousand pupils and those forty books,
It seems I'm given carte-blanche by the secret Boss.
I can't say I'm not grateful, but the new assignment
Carries no budget, sets no deadline, targetless.

I'm not the sort to get my kicks from helping friends.
I suck at it, I love them, but there is no joy.
I'm not possessive, I'm relieved to be ignored,
And what I do seems calculated to annoy.

I've said what I apparently came here to say.
Others have said it better; some no longer applies.
I never wanted for material before, but now
I never seem to catch the ball upon the rise.

So maybe my assignment's just that I should Be,
But for this task I am totally unprepared.
A poet is supposed to be quite good at it:
Quite frankly, Boss, I think I am a little scared.

 

 

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ON DANA GIOIA

What in another age would not be found
One of the captain virtues of a man
Can in a time when all hell is unbound
Become a heroism, and a plan.

Like that comedian's, who leads his land
Against the madness of unbridled power,
Gioia's frank courtesy, not sharp, not bland,
Becomes truth's voice in this chaotic hour.

A brother poet, whose urbane sweet line
Contains a melancholy irony
(Whose kernel is a glory that's as fine
As that of some more noble century),

He holds intact that civil, mute accord,
Whose pen is still as mighty as the sword.

 

 

LET'S AWAY TO PRISON

So like that child, who having missed the bus,
Gives up, and catches breath, and feels the sun
Warm on this autumn day, and seeing thus
That there is no reprieve, has just begun
To celebrate a little holiday,
So I now start to see another way.

I sometimes see amid the roaring welter
Of public talk and social media
A thought of mine borne in the helter-skelter,
Or warped, in some encyclopedia;
And bless it on its way, but don't mind much;
It had its chance, it got a little touch.

But it's all gone, it's all out of my hands,
I see the general rush of it, but don't much care;
I'm not a subject of its loud demands,
I'm more excited by this sunlit air,
These gold and crimson trees, this silver moon,
The open terrace of the afternoon.

 

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Frederick Turner EPO Poems Prior to 2023

 

 

                

 

 

 

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