When Hamlet comes back to Elsinore, the place he’s coming from is Wittenberg. Which is fitting. It’s where, 80-something years earlier, Martin Luther started the Reformation, and Hamlet is a challenging play. It talks back to royals, the Catholic Church, the rich, the pseudo-intellectual. It calls out meddlers, and suck-ups, and the public’s poor taste and trendy love of boy bands. It tells actors to stop over-acting. It tells everyone, through Ophelia, to knock it off with the sexual double standards. It redefines the “rules” of Tragedy, subverts the audience’s expectations, and points out the motives for, costs of, and pointlessness of war. Of course, Wittenberg; it would’ve been the capital city of raising the subject, then getting things done.
I know this isn’t the equivalent. I’m not that delusional. But two weeks ago I brought up the Reformation since this year marks its 500th anniversary. I posted half of a new list of 95 Theses.
These are the rest:
A Running List of Things I Need to Thank: / the God of Gravity / for moving some to be acrobats;
the God of Summer Vegetables / made manifest in corn;
the God of Collision— / creator of football and molecules—
and all the Underdog Gods / of All the Overlooked . . . / I need to thank plenty.
You still send Cougars to invade the city! Thank you! / And what about the way a ripple will rise / for no reason, on a pond. Is there a bonus for noticing this? (Scott Poole).
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars . . . / And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven (Walt Whitman).
I bless the power of seed, / its casual, useful persistence, / and bless the power of sun, / its conspiracy with the underground (Paula Meehan).
What is the meaning of meaning? / A river.
That’s it? / Well, maybe a wide enough one to skip rocks.
I know a whale that will come to the boat whenever / she can and nudge it gently along the bow / with her long flipper. / I know several lives worth living (Mary Oliver).
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves (Robinson Jeffers).
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident / As the rock and ocean that we were made from (Robinson Jeffers).
Some day I’d like to play chess with the rain / to see if there’s a pattern.
And I’d like to ask a barn owl where it lived / before there were barns.
But habit is a great deadener (Samuel Beckett).
FOUND: The Registry of Human Excuses. Recovered out wandering dully wherever. Answers to any of the following: Regrettably, Mistakes Were Made, We Intend to Cooperate Fully with the Investigation, However, On the Other Hand, Our Hands Are Tied, It’s Not My Fault That, You Need to Talk to So-And-So, You’re in the Wrong Line for That, I Hear You Sir or Ma’am but Without Form 24B . . .
LOST: All copies of 24B.
And so many acres of our final forests I can’t count . . .
and I can’t count extinctions; they all subtract to forever.
Every hour we live, every minute, / becomes that much more difficult to believe. / The truth circles us pointlessly like an asteroid. / It was breakfast all day long for the great King / of the Dinosaurs, it was the Garden of Eden, / Lizard Heaven. Who / ever thought they’d all have to walk the plank? (William Carpenter).
Pancho Villa strides into the light / dragging his bright spurs. “Hey gringos,” / he shouts, “you can’t camp here, it is forbidden.” / But they ignore him. Already they have invented cement / and are busy burying the grass. / “Go away,” says one of the gringos to Pancho Villa, / “you don’t even have a badge” (Richard Garcia).
Do hilltops claim they’re more worthy than valleys?
Do reef sharks disapprove of my beliefs, / or yours, or anyone’s?
I’ll ask again / since I’ve forgotten, What’s the virtue / of sameness? There can’t be one without two / in the first place.
That’s policy for you. Policy is what the kingpins want (John Updike).
Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it (Margaret Atwood).
it’s a quest because of questions.
for whatever made our hearts made them rhythmic, / and our eyes two melodies.
You’ve heard sharks don’t sleep?— / your heart should be seven sharks. / Hunting what?—more heart.
Just once the kid with bad eyes hit a home run in an obscure sandlot game. You may ridicule the affectionate way he takes that day through a life drab enough to need it, but please stay the hell away from me (Richard Hugo).
In the world of the imagination, all things belong (Richard Hugo).
for our minds weren’t ignited by gunpowder or factory assembled / but remember like the ocean, think like the wind.
I think it was Emerson said / We estimate a man by how much he remembers. / In place of which I’d dish up the following: / We remember a man by how much he esteems the “we” (Diane Raptosh).
No tree has leaves so foolish / as to spar among themselves (Diane Raptosh).
Do you know the difference between worry and concern? Worry is destructive, but concern is a thinking mind solving a problem (Duke Ellington).
We need myths that will help us to identify with all our fellow-beings, not simply with those who belong to our ethnic, national, or ideological tribe. We need myths that help us to realise the importance of compassion, which is not always regarded as sufficiently productive in our pragmatic, rational world. We need myths that help us create a spiritual attitude, to see beyond our immediate requirements, and enable us to experience a transcendent value that challenges our selfishness. We need myths that help us to venerate the earth as sacred once again, instead of merely using it as a “resource” (Karen Armstrong).
In the oldest story we know of, sharks came first: / the perfect idea, perfect shape. / And then the rest of Creation—the sun, the moon, / this planet—to give them a home.
We live on that afterthought, / build boats to crisscross the water, / build churches like islands / surrounded by our cars.
We kill sharks by the millions / and sing along from our hymnals.
In the end, standing at the gates of heaven, / what if we’re asked one question: “How are My sharks?”
And what have I done / with my life? What / song can I sing out / across this dark water? (Ken Brewer).
Rob Carney’s fourth book, 88 Maps, was published by Lost Horse Press (distribution by University of Washington Press). Previous books and chapbooks include Story Problems and Weather Report, both from Somondoco Press.