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Ken Rosen

Me And My Pigeon


A pigeon I couldn’t see suddenly roared

At me from the eave of a neighbor’s house

Or the nook of a maple tree, crooning,

Roaring, moaning as if from the whole

Of its soul or a hole in it, addressing its truth

To the truth of the cosmos, which neither it

Nor I could see—not cosmos, nor pigeon,

So late in the day, though not yet dusk,

Home-going cars hurrying past both of us,

Pigeon screaming, maybe laying its eggs,

Moon and stars safely invisible, dark bricks

Dangerous as the sky’s orchestral shell—

The Boston Shell on the Esplanade with its huge

Mouth gaping at me with richly inlaid, wooden

Toothlessness—me and the pigeon too,

Briefly a makeshift theater and stage,

Pigeon bellowing, me listening, safe


As the moon and stars from intimations

By space of inconsequence, nor it harassed

And half-eaten alive by cats, whatever’s

Left over, by rats, homely hidden pigeon,

The sidewalk’s awkward bricks, lifted

And twisted by street trees’ roots. In truth,

I had paused not to think or listen, but to rest

And ease my aching hips and knees, the kid

In the Pied Piper’s tale all over again,

Having outlived so many friends, unable

In so many ways and no doubt unwilling

To keep up with them passing through

Gaps in life’s chrome and blue mountains,

Off into the nebulous kingdom the pebble

In the opium pipe of any poem promises,

Limping home from lap-swim, the slowest

Of most at the pool, no joke, nor could I tell

If the pigeon was roaring and wailing

With sympathy, or scorn and mockery.

The Forest Opera


Simply put, this is the plaintive noise

Of the wind in the trees, and I still love

With the fervor the forest’s exertions

Deserve, everything living elected

By luck’s music, demon genius

Or beast fiddling like a madman

With someone’s actually quite silken

And horsehair, rosin dust and catgut,

Greedy, otherwise guilt and distress-free,

Amazed by the homely peace and grace

Conferred, yet nonetheless remorseless

As eternity. No one should miss contact


With eternity, love’s insistent religion

Perfected, the spurious confidence

That one is blessed. But maybe one was,

And life at its craziest was life at its best,

On pine needles, loose grit, limestone

Granite split by lines of quartz, loaves

Of firm round stone smoothed by the glacier’s

Melting work of grief and retreat, mute

Because no one heard it, creation properly

Secret, muffled bellows, mossy smells,

Mousy squeaks, eternity’s tensions

Finally and temporarily complete.

From high school, Ken Rosen went to Penn State University, 1958 to 1962, and was taught to read and write poetry by the late Jack McManis, poet, Calfornia tennis champion, kindly and revered cynic and nostalgist. He imparted to Rosen his own fierce and lifelong reverence for Hart Crane, James Joyce, and Willam Butler Yeats. After a year of irregular office and barroom reading instruction, Rosen remained at State College for the summer of 1960. He’d access to a friend’s left-behind, baby-blue and chancy Chevrolet jalopy—2nd gear needed to climb modest hills, let alone mountains—and Rosen used this vehicle to convey McManis to the town bus station. McManis was headed for Harrisburg, most likely, for airplane connections to Michigan, his older brother a professor in Ann Arbor. From the steps to his Greyhound Bus, McManis said—this relationship stubbornly clouded by incomprehension and long stuttering silences, so what happens is like a confession booth transaction: supplicant says, Father, I have sinned!, explains, receives advice, recites prayers, is forgiven and blessed, priest saying, Go and sin no more!—here Rosen’s in the mute grip of nebulous yearning and lockjaw alacrity, bus driver’s revving his engine, McManis looks down to speak, spoke, Kenneth, why don't you write some poems? Bus door closed, bus backs away, Rosen’s parting glimpse of his mentor is of McManis apologizing for sharing someone’s seat. Besides reversing the maxim to Poets are made, not born!, in this spirit Rosen taught stuff for 40 years at the University of Southern Maine. He believes a reasonable facsimile of his relationship with McManis is the Alec Guiness movie, The Horse's Mouth, McManis as Gulley Jimson, English expressionist painter fresh from  prison for harassing buyers for money for his work’s increased worth, Rosen as Nosey, the stuttering young man who pesters Jimson for painting lessons and visionary instruction. The Horse’s Mouth had the first naked woman Rosen ever saw in a movie. Wellesley, MA, 1959. In an instant young women on one side of the theater burst into giggles. A deep voice from the other side shouts back in Bostonian, That's not funny, lady! The women respond with further giggles, the audience again falls silent, and the film rolls on.

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