Monday, May 1, 2017

Ode to Fortitude


I cleared my mind to write a poem last night to read today at the Long Island City Landing. The first word that came to me when I blanked out was fortitude. For years that's been the first word to appear when I clear my head to write. So I wrote a poem spinning off the sound of the word and read it this afternoon in heavy wind with the City skyline behind me.

Ode to Fortitude

Fortitude for years!
forty years of fortitude.
In Hamlet Fortinbras says,
"Go softly on."
go softly on, dude
what else is there?

Fortitude for forty year old virgins
forty winks followed by
forty days of the flood
40 days of the flood
followed by 40 days in the desert
forty days flew out the window

It was my first solid
word: Fortitude
whenever I shut my eyes
and let a word come to me
its always "fortitude"
sometimes it comes out as "fortified"
like in a cereal commercial
fortified with essential minerals and vitamins
fortified with the essential

The onomatopoeia of the word
those fricatives
like little sonic word forts
the ramparts of verbal attitude

fortified like a 45
put on a 45
like a record baby
right right
round round
or a gun
pull out a 45
A president, #45
unfortified unfortunately
forcing the feds
to forge ahead with
a dirty plan
in Florida
a Florida-fide misfortune
knight to bishop, check

what a night in Florida meant
to Elizabeth Bishop, check mate
Florida like the palm
at the end of Wallace Stevens' mind
Stevens never made it there
but he knew it was the final embellishment
"The thing is, America's heritage
is founded on transcendentalism,
so it makes sense that we cannot reach
what is evermore about to be anyway.
'The final embellishment'
a'saith Wallace Stevens,"
A'saith my friend Emord.

Make a fort in your living room
out of couch cushions
over 40 years ago
put a 45 on the turntable
a rousing, hair-raising rendition
of 16 tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Making a fort at the beach
Against the wind
fourteen years ago
drinking a 40 in the hood
confiding in a friend
with nothing left to hide
thinking hard about food
turn flour into bread
bread into roses

Then there's the Ford you drove
four to the floor
a Ford Crown Vic was your ride
over the hills of San Francisco
and back through the back woods
of Joplin MO
in your grandfather's Ford
going all the way back to the first man, Adam
in the first automobile, a Ford
a Ford on either side
like Ford Maddox Ford

There's the fjords fortifying Norway
jutting up from the depths of the sea
into sheer mountain sides
like Karl Ove Knausgaard
jutting up from Norway as a force
in the field of literature
A force field of attitude
A fortitude of solace
like Superman in the fortress of solitude.
the fortitude of solace
inside the fortress of solitude
fortified with solace inside forty years now
of Garcia Marquez's 100 years of solitude

Over forty years old
and you're already an old dude
Forty more and you're worm food
Fortifying the worms
food for the next generation of food

Forty quaaludes and finally

FIght against the flood
and stand on higher ground
for four or five minutes with gratitude
fighting against the flood
until the flood overtakes the flight
the flood overtakes the floodlights
the fortitude to stand against the tide
until the next generation
can take over the hood
like a blood infusion
the next generation
fortified with my blood

Then, as if on cue
this very morning
the pope appeared
in a Ted Talk and said
Tenderness is not weakness
It is fortitude

Go softly on, dude

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