Farewell, by Caryl Johnston [*POEM*]

Farewell

From you I wanted a great and noble gesture,
A revelation of the infinite generosity of the universe
That has allowed such a petty creature as man to exist.
I wanted in you a fearless embrace of the beauty
Of the moment, a sovereign self-disregard,
The supreme sense of air between five fingers
That knows that nothing lasts, knows it cannot hold,
But with its hand plays the game of passion to the end,
And finishes by wiping off its own hot tears,
While honoring, in a few words, all that was lost.
I wanted this from you! — I wanted you to love me
For what I could almost see in you, and sensed,
And poured out in words  – Come, come!
You did not come. You could not see me
Slipping away between the spaces in your hand
As you stood and waved goodbye — perhaps
Your hands were light, had not felt the weight of tears.

________________________________________________________

Caryl Johnston is a poet and writer
who lives in Philadelphia.
Here is one of her blogs.
The above poem is taken from her book
Indulge Me Once (www.lulu.com).


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14 thoughts on “Farewell, by Caryl Johnston [*POEM*]

  1. I was deeply moved by this poem. It has an understated beauty that comes from the poignant sadness with which it was wrung from the heart. It has lacrimae rerum written all over it…a pure gem made of crystallized tears.

  2. Generally speaking, this website specializes in formal verse. Rhyme and meter are particularly appreciated here. These are not old-fashioned. They are part of our Western heritage. Meter has been around from Classical antiquity. Rhyme came much later. But rhyme and meter have been with us since Chaucer (14th century) and it is only relatively recently that free verse has become fashionable and indeed de rigueur.

    Free verse, alas, has made everyone a potential poet. It has democratized poetry. Even a railways timetable or a business letter can be presented in free verse. All one needs is the ability to write prose…and then one sticks in the line breaks.

    Hence it is that free verse, at its worst, has been called “chopped up prose.”

    Honestly, I hate modern poetry! It’s so smart-assed and prosy and pretentious for the most part. Completely divorced from music.

    Without musicality—without rhythm and lovely magical sounds—there can be no intoxication.

    If you have written any truly musical verse, Caryl, please let us see it. By “musical” I mean with a regular beat, and stresses, and with a careful heed to the number of syllables in each line. Such verse is perennial. It is not to be despised just because it is out of fashion. It will make a comeback, I am sure.

    In the 18th century, every poet wrote in heroic couplets. Pope and Dryden set the fashion. Now nobody writes in this style:

    “Let Observation with extensive view
    Survey mankind from China to Peru.”

    — Samuel Johnson.

    That was the obligatory style for over a century. Now it’s free verse. Chopped up prose. I wish people would give up writing in this bland and boring chopped-up prose. It’s so easy! As Robert Frost said, free verse is “like playing tennis without the net.”

    Caryl, if you have ever written a rhymed sonnet or rhymed quatrains, please let us have a sample.

  3. I see Darkmoon specializes in formal verse. In rhyme and meter. She certainly knows her prosody. However, she occasionally writes free verse. (“Lilith”, “In Memoriam Matris”, “I Regret”).

    She has also experimented with another form of verse akin to free verse, but far harder to do: syllabics.

    In syllabics, each line contains a precise number of syllables. Verse 1 will thus contain the same number of syllables as Verse 2, Verse 3, and Verse 4. There is no rhyme but there is an underlying rhythm and a mathematical precision.

    Darkmoon’s best poems in syllabics, in my opinion, are “Under Cold Moons” and “The Keys of the Unseen.” Other poems in this mathematical mode are “The Green Fields of Longing” and “The Graveyard of Dead Girls.”

    Curiously enough, the influence of Islam informs many of these poems. There are Quranic references in them. (I refer to the second and third poems mentioned above). I know this, being into Islam myself.

    I have never met Darkmoon, but I have read her poems repeatedly and know many of them by heart. Especially the mystical ones recited on YouTube by Patrick Willis. These are well worth listening to. Try this one:

    Magic Kingdom – YouTube
    ► 3:33► 3:33

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23HmHP8o_Yk

  4. Hey, Caryl, beautiful poem. Never thought you had it in you! Thought you were a strictly intellectual type, academic to a high degree, with nary a human emotion in sight! Especially after reading this high-powered and rather abstract essay of yours.

    http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2011/11/remembering-douglas-reed/

    A study in contrasts. A bit like Darkmoon in this respect. Who would think that the mooney and mystical Ms Darkmoon could also write erudite essays like “America Vanquished”?

    I’m not a poet myself, of course. More a musician-composer. It’s true what Berenice says about modern poetry. It holds little charms for us musicians. Its pedestrian prosiness, its lack of rhythm, and its sheer ugliness and pettiness makes us musicians want to puke.

  5. @ Berenice

    Speaking of Darkmoon’s verse:

    “Curiously enough, the influence of Islam informs many of these poems. There are Quranic references in them.”

    Really? I have read LD’s poems with particular interest, since I adore their musicality, but I have yet to detect the slightest trace of Islam in her work. I think you are reading things into them which they do not have. What “Quranic references”, pray tell?

  6. “I have yet to detect the slightest trace of Islam in her work. I think you are reading things into them which they do not have. What “Quranic references”, pray tell?”

    Take it from me, Darkmoon has been influenced by Islam, though not as much as she has been influenced by Vedanta.

    I remember her once revealing on the Xymphora website, years ago, when Islam had come under attack, that she had considered converting to Islam at one stage. She said she used to say three Islamic prayers every day: sura 1, sura 113, and sura 114. I made a note of that comment and started saying those suras myself—the shortest suras in the Qur’an, each no longer than the ‘Our Father’.

    This is not the right time or place to discuss Darkmoon’s Islamic influences, but I hope Caryl Johnston will forgive me if I digress slightly to do so, since the subject has arisen. I will be very brief.

    [1] http://www.darkmoon.me/2010/the-keys-of-the-unseen/
    This entire poem, writen in strict syllabics, is steeped in Sufi mysticism.

    “All things have their histories
    written down in Sijjin in the
    Book of Deeds.”

    “Sijjin” is often mentioned in the Qur’an, as is the “Book of Deeds” (= “akashic records” in Theosophy). See here:

    http://muslimvilla.smfforfree.com/index.php?topic=2525.0

    [2] http://www.darkmoon.me/2010/the-tree-of-evil/
    This poem, too, is steeped in Sufi mysticism and Qur’anic thought. In particular, the reference to the Tree of Zaqqum

    “See!—the cities of Satan
    where the evil tree Zaqqum
    offers its bitter fruit…”

    See:
    http://inthenameofallah.org/Zaqqum%20OR%20Cursed%20Tree.html

    [3] http://www.darkmoon.me/2010/the-green-fields-of-longing/
    This entire poem describes the Islamic paradise, complete with lush gardens, crystal streams, and bright-eyed houris (virgins).

    “In the gardens of paradise
    watered by crystalline
    streams, they stroll with
    their long-lashed loves
    eating the bittersweet
    apples of endless desire.”

    Anyone steeped in the Qur’an would at once know that Darkmoon has drunk deep from the springs of Sufi mysticism. Surprisingly, she remains a practising Roman Catholic.

    No wonder orthodox Catholics hate her!

  7. Why is Darkmoon hated by her Catholic brothers and sisters? Because she reeks of heresy.

    For example, she has been constantly attacked on this site by one Darrell Wright, a former Catholic monk who has described her thought as “syncretist” and who got very wound up with her when she put in a good word for reincarnation!

    Darrell Wright, many of whose religious poems have been published on this site—see under “Other Poets”—managed to persuade the editor of this site to delete Darkmoon’s more “profane” translations. He described these translations as “obscene” and “morally disgusting”.

    I refer to the beautiful poems of the French lesbian poet Petra Scandali — a pen name, I believe, for an aristocratic young Frenchwoman.

    I have often asked the editor of this site to restore these banned poems, but he has so far refused. It appears that Darkmoon herself has no say in the matter. She is constantly being abused on this site — and no one bothers to monitor these offensive comments. I find this very strange.

    Sincere apologies to all for this digression.

  8. @ Sardonicus

    It [modern poetry] holds little charms for us musicians. Its pedestrian prosiness, its lack of rhythm, and its sheer ugliness and pettiness makes us musicians want to puke.

    it depends what modern poetry you are reading. much of it is garbage, but some of it’s really good. i would say that as many as 90% of modern poets — the type who get published in the “little magazines” — are pretentious pseuds.

    no one bothers to read these magazines except subscribers…people who all happen to belong to th same circle of pseuds. almost all of them are earnest academics. ink-stained intellectuals.

    i think the poem above by caryl johnston is well above average. any poetry editor who rejected such a well-crafted poem would need to be shot. though the poem is in free verse, it has its own subtle rhythms and the line breaks occur at just the right points.

    the main thing is not form though. it’s content. this is a simple poem about lost love. its title says it all. much was promised, but nothing came of it.

    You could not see me
    Slipping away between the spaces in your hand
    As you stood and waved goodbye — perhaps
    Your hands were light, had not felt the weight of tears.

    beautifully put.

    as lasha say, the poem is “a pure gem made of crystallized tears.”

  9. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who wrote in to comment on my poem, also
    the other one. I’ve been touched by the response. It’s nice to find a site where
    people actually care about poetry.
    Concerning my style, such as it is: I am not interested in writing traditional verse as such, but I am interested in musical and rhythmical forms which support a poem aspiring to communicate a coherent idea, or ideas. It is the coherence, rather than the formality, of the poem that interests me: rather, coherence is the new formality. I tried to express this notion in the epilogue to “Indulge Me Once” called The Pure Fool. Here is a poem from that section:
    52 Reply to Critics
    You say it sounds already written, my verse–
    A nineteenth-century poet in the twenty-first.
    You presume ours is the age of incoherence;
    No one today writes with thought in mind.
    Are you surprised that I agree with you?
    This is the worst age of the world, and worse
    Is yet to come. But I’ll not hasten it, and pretend
    We all still look human in the hollow wind.

    This little epigrammatic poem does not really address the issue of formality vis a vis coherence – it’s only a start, and just indicates the direction of my thinking.
    Thanks again, everyone.

  10. “Concerning my style, such as it is: I am not interested in writing traditional verse as such, but I am interested in musical and rhythmical forms which support a poem aspiring to communicate a coherent idea, or ideas. It is the coherence, rather than the formality, of the poem that interests me: rather, coherence is the new formality.”

    Two points:

    “I am not interested in writing traditional verse” is an unfortunate turn of phrase because you give the phrase “traditional verse” a pejorative connotation. As if tradtional verse was passé and old hat. And as if your own verse was very trendy and cutting-edge.

    I don’t mean any disrespect but “I am not interested in writing traditional verse” sounds a bit like “I am not interested in traditional morality”. Or “I am not interested in traditional grammar.”

    I put it to you, Caryl: if someone says they’re not interestred in traditional morality, it means they’re immoral! And if they’re not interesed in traditional grammar, it mean’s they’re illiterate!

    (2) “It is the coherence, rather than the formality, of the poem that interests me: rather, coherence is the new formality.”

    This is weak and won’t bear logical scrutiny. Why? Because it implies that coherence has only come into its own with the abandonment of traditional verse.

    Shakespeare wrote traditional verse. So did Keats and Shelley. Are they “incoherent”? Of course not! Whatever “coherence” you strive for, they strove for too. They can hardly be accused of incoherence.

    If traditional verse were NOT coherent, it would be useless.

    By saying “coherence is the new formality”, you make it sound as if all verse ever written in the old days was lacking in coherence.

  11. I recently purchased a copy of a drawing signed by the artist and with a lot number out of 200 prints. It is of a mother with her child. It is signed by Caryl j Berry. I can’t seem to find any information on this artist . Does it happen to be Caryl Johnston the Author?

    1. I doubt it. Why should Caryl J Berry be Caryl Johnston? As far as I know, Caryl Johnstone is the author’s real name and her books are published by Lulu under her own name.

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