Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Mark C. Durfee, Citizen poet of Detroit
A broken down old house in Detroit.
A rose growing out of the foundation of a levelled bungalow.
A city going to hell, and a man seemingly going to hell.
All is decay and confusion. But the Detroit denizen looks up, not down, while all around him the streets are filled with loopiness, murder, mayhem.
...Are we ready to look at
the lives ignored for so long
without fear of corneal blindness?
Is it time now? Are we ready
to turn face to the darkness
of the tortured days and
place our eye upon them?
You do know,
you do know don’t you
that if you don’t look you’re blind already? ...
Look up, look up for a way for the city and for the man.
And he can already, though blind, see the high-seated charioteer..
Mark Durfee lives in Detroit. He has scarecely ever left town. There wasn't the time..
A series of car accidents (Where else but in Detroit, mostly freeway?) has left him all but immobile.
But he is WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY
The skies are strown with stars,
The streets are fresh with dew
A thin moon drifts to westward,
The night is hushed and cheerftd .
My thought is quick with you.
Near windows gleam and laugh,
And far away a train
Clanks glowing through the stillness :
A great content 's in all things.
And life is not in vain.
Mark Durfee, with his echoes of Henley.
And he knows not who Henley was.
And of Dylan Thomas not going gently into that night.
Natural talent. But art and life teaches that somebody has already thought of what you now think. But, sadly--better.
So it would seem that Mark Durfee, likening himself to a blind seer, augurs for the high-seated charioteer. It is not a Greek god up there, but an Englishman named Henley who too saw polluted, death-filled London slums. And he could also see his own high-seated charioteer. And likely would have welcomed Mark to his fire.
So a publishing for Detroit poet Mark Durfee.
A grudging publishing, for the Island Grove Press committe is divided, The ladies are murmuring back and forth...He is not ready, he is not ready.
But there are people who just have to be published.
People like Mark Durfee, who are writing for their lives.
And braver than you or I, Gunga Din.
The covering letter for Mark's poems makes all the mistakes that a poet can make in a covering letter. A chumminess with the editors, hyperbole, Uriah Heapism.. Viz,
To:Island Grove Press
Dear Editorial Board,
I pray your indulgence o arbiters of things submitted if I have not exactly followed the proper course of laying my poetry at your alter. It has been awhile since I’ve been to this particular church. Years in fact and I tremble at the prospect of roofs caving in and pews flying across the room as I enter the door to your worthy institution, to crush me.
Before I allow the demons of doubt to persuade me otherwise allow me to explain the poetry I am submitting for your consideration. First nothing here is previously published or currently available in any public domain and are not part of a multiple submission package.
I chose these four pieces as four different styles of my writing done in years past (’05-’07). The disparity of style being the theme that connects them as opposed to some connective doctrine. In my own mind, that after forty years of trying I still have not settled on one particular style of writing is both curse and pleasure. And as long as I am in the confessional, I will say that I am branching out looking for new experimental ways of expression but am not quite ready for a public debut of that method yet so I lay these at your feet for consideration instead.
While I have no curriculum vitae to submit or even a worthy resume other than I have been published in The White Pelican journal, have a chap book on the market available from The LeadFoot press (Black, White and Blue in Detroit-2006), and somehow or another duped the editors at Detroit’s Metro Times, Free Press and Detroit News to occasionally publish a letter or two, I am ever looking for ways to be heard among the rather loud choir in the church of publication. While I would love a solo, a lead tenor part would be perfectly fine if you think my work up to the challenge.
For you consideration I thank you, most humbly.
Mark C. Durfee
I must say I overrode my editorial board.
I understood that here was a man very nearly going to hell.
His cry must be heard. Even if it seems sometimes a shriek.
First a litle prose:
Going, Going, Gone
This Goddamn cursor keeps blinking at me like I should be writing something or playing with it or anything other than let the bitch wink at me…”I think it’s an alien uprising” the cursor that tells you, “you must do something with me. Something, anything, just keep writing until I stop blinking; I won’t stop blinking until you put something down on this electron filled pad.”
God it’s like mosquitoes…as long as you’re moving those little nuisance diseases carrying bastards won’t land on you; but as soon as you stop…you’re meat, blood and, hopefully a recipient for tsetse sickness, malaria or swine flu…”swine flu; why swine flu?” Because cursors are like mosquitoes and virus plagued pigs they just won’t leave your stupid constipated blocked ass alone without being an annoyance or a near death feeling. “Don’t just sit there run, move feed it, feed it bent and broken letters, feed the cursor anything to make it rest bloated on the couch.” The cursor god demands
I feel it now, the invasion into my electron filled space, my last brain cell is gone, lost in the space between winks, my mind has turned into a black vertical line that blinks until someone else uses it.
And now some poetry.
You Already Hold the Key
I want to be the key
in your head.
that opens the secrets
Making you afraid, wanting to be dead
I’d lay there with you
sighing and crying alone in the dark.
I want to open all the secret
places of your heart.
A spirit within you made not seen
looking at and removing
the things that make you afraid
Wishing you’d never been.
Taking fear away to a
dark and silent room
where I could cast all fear
remorselessly to doom.
I would be a key allowing you
freedom from your fears;
comforting your one last lonely cry
drinking the soon forgotten tears.
I’d like to be the key
Opening space, widening the bars
and let you dance unafraid in the dark
to a new tune played among the stars
I wish I were the key,
The key to release your fear.
But you hold it already, it jingles on your ring
all you really have to do is turn the thing.
(Fine poem. But one is tempted to add a Cf.. Not a footnote, but Control Freak....But then all people of high intelligence tend to mold people somehow).
ELEVATORS AND WAITING ROOMS
Waiting rooms are similar to elevators except they don’t put a magazine rack in the elevators to help avoid human contact. In elevators you stare at the rising or descending numbers just waiting your turn to get off and away. In waiting rooms you stare at words and pictures to ward off contact and conversation waiting to get out. The results are the same; both places are as isolating as a bad marriage.
And finally, the bone of contention, this poem.
Inchoate, hissed one Board member. Clarity, clarity above all else.
I have attempted to edit, without Mark's permission but I suppose that is not entirely kosher.
Trained to Submit
Wild wolves tamed and trained
to be showpieces.
(But as for me)
I like to wear prey
on my sleeves.
Conquest is not respected
unless it is shown off.
Wolves, the pack animal,
trained to submit
trained to attack my enemies.
Let the wolves return from near extinction.
My sleeves are empty.
Well, not empty of talent.
Good luck, Mark.
Proprietor, Island Grove Press.
Mark C. Durfee is published now by Island Grove Press, Toronto, Canada.Mr. Durfee holds all rights.