Wild Geese know the season but do you, Mary Oliver?

April 2, 2015

Hand-crafted notes from an adulterous generation no. 2
[Flash Fiction]

by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna

“The American poetess, Mary Oliver, inspired Freddie by her poem, Wild Geese. He wrestled with it like Jacob wrestled with the angel…”

A heavy tear slid down Martha’s cheek, she paused and took a sip of water from a stainless steel bottle.

Martha looked over to the open casket with a black glossy piano finish. Her handsome brother lay peacefully with death. He had a face that reminded everyone of superman. It was the strong, square jaw.

“I remember the day Freddie first heard Oliver’s poem. Another student had read it in his junior year high school AP English class. He came home wildly excited. He could not praise the poem enough at dinner and then he read it – defiantly, enthusiastically, and proudly.”

Martha smiled and Freddie’s ex-husband, Roy Saul, sighed loudly in the front row as he removed his buffalo-hide, long coat.

Martha reminded Roy of Freddie. She and Freddie had the same dark brows and lashes. And full lips.

If only Martha were a man. He would go down on her…

Martha continued speaking.

“Some say Oliver’s words transformed Freddie. Or put him under an enchantment.

Not all at once. The apparent transformation from the outgoing, gorgeous, varsity jock that had nailed three prom queens to the soft-spoken, sensitive book worm and monkish lily gardener would unfold in due time. Freddie’s transformation, however, happened much later. By greater words than the words of a poet.”

Sitting two rows back from Roy, Louis Cohen, Freddie’s neighbor, a prayer warrior and Messianic Jew, gave a loud Hallelujah. He wore a pin on the lapel of his black suit jacket. “Repent” was written in silver.

“Freddie’s journey, however, was a long and dark journey. I can tell you this because we were very close. He shared everything in his heart with me. Just as I shared my heart with him.”

“That’s why I have to remember Freddie and share him with you as he is. For Freddy has not abandoned us and we shall see Freddie again. In glory and with a crown.”

Roy interrupted Martha with a loud, enthusiastic voice.

“Freddie was handsome, stylish, intelligent, funny, charming and well endowed!”

Martha was not going to let Roy dominate the moment…

“Yes, Freddie was all that. And you’ll get a chance to share your memory with us after I have spoken, Roy.

But Freddie was also lonely. He felt rejected. He had lost trust in people. Freddie had lived in a place of fear, sorrow, despair, anger, grudge and hate.”

“If he had taken the Xanax and Valium I used to deal to him, he would have felt so much better,” shouted Roy from his pew.

Roy stood up – slender, ripped and glorious in his custom-fitted white suit. He turned to the friends and family sitting behind him.

“Freddie wanted to go clean. Whatever that means, right? Honestly, it didn’t help him.

‘Clean’ made Freddie morbid and serious. How boring is that!”

“And that’s why you cheated on him and broke his heart,” Martha asked Roy.

“That’s why you had brought six lovers (on different occassions) into the same bedroom that you shared with Freddie – thinking that Freddie wouldn’t come in from the garden and find you taking pleasure with someone else.

Or if he did (which he did) that it wouldn’t break his heart.

As if he didn’t long for true things, for true love and for your goodness.

Or will you say that Freddie is not entitled to these things? That none are entitled?”
Roy turned around. He was almost embarrassed by Rachel’s public accusation and sat down.
What the fuck does she know about things. She’s not gay. She doesn’t know how we feel.
Roy turned possible replies to Martha over in his mind.

Martha was not going to have the last word on things. She didn’t know shit. She lost her husband to another woman. She had stage three breast cancer and two kids with heroine addictions. What the fuck did Martha know about anything!


Tears streamed from Martha’s blue eyes.

“We’re here to honor our Freddie and share our love for him.

And to love Freddie is to want to know him.”

Looking around, Roy’s eyes locked with the eyes of another man who sat across the aisle from him – a hot, new date. Roy felt excited, warm and tingely in all the right places.

Martha continued.

“Freddy walked in darkness for most of his life. He walked in dry places where there was no rest.”

Martha’s tears increased.

“However, Freddy was transformed and he found freedom at last – a peace and joy which I am…

… still trying to understand.

Freddie discovered that life was more than him. That it was more than himself. That freedom was being free from him. From his unending search for self-pleasure and self-amusement.

Freddie had discovered that his hunger, loneliness and pain could be healed by God. When he lived out the word of God. And, expeditiously, by being a gift. For we are made wonderfully. By helping others do good. Helping them to be good.”

Martha had difficulty speaking.

“When I was driving Freddie to the hospital…

and he was bleeding all over the car.

He put his hand over my right hand as it lay on the steering wheel.

He. Said.

He. Was. Happy.

Because. Finally. Finally. HE. WAS. GOOD.

Jesus. Had. Justified. Him. And. Made. Him. Righteous.”

Martha was quiet for a moment. She took a deep breath.
“And then Freddie closed his eyes as he recited his reply to Mary Oliver.

And this is what he said.

Before he died in my arms – on the shoulder of I95…

‘Wild Geese know the season but do you?

You do not have to be good;
you do not have to be made complete and know joy
and to receive God’s blessing.
You can be a tare – torn, cursed, worn and thirsting,
cursing the day you were born;
blasphemies rolling off of your swelling tongue.
Meanwhile, the stars still rejoice –
each was counted and named.

You can be fiercely free, flung,
undone, like glowing coals, hurling, burning brightly
and bearing down, angrily,
equally upon neighbor, lover, enemy,
family, even stranger
for little birds have made wicked nests in your heart.
Meanwhile, the Leviathan
shakes his square beard with laughter.

You made them yours, your flesh, who you are, set apart,
these fiery darts – like treasure.
Precious. As powerful as any addiction.
Rebellion and rejection,
pride, prejudice and self-seeking pleasure?! Repent!
Repent. The Kingdom is near.

Where are the mighty buffalo?
Where, the buffalo hunters?
The bee and the butterfly?!
Were their gods but idols too?
Nearer. Now, in fact. Hereto.
Due are the rents, praise, thanks and living sacrifice.
Notice rolls down like thunder.

Meanwhile the whole world shudders
with shame for the lawless things;
the hearts of men grow colder
while their hands profit evil.
No moon lit garden, no goose,
no mossy rock nor shall poetry
redeem our depravity.


Stan Faryna

2 April 2015
Fairfax, Virginia


Almost Poetry: #Ferguson by @Faryna

August 18, 2014

Almost Poetry: #Ferguson

by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna

#Ferguson in my inbox this morning. It’s from John the Baptist.

Almost Poetry: #Ferguson

Almost Poetry: #Ferguson


Stan Faryna
18 August 2014
Washington, D.C.



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We must love one another or die, wrote W. H. Auden

December 11, 2013

Reflections on Auden’s poem September 1, 1939

by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna

J.S. Bach, Saint Matthew’s Passion

In the face of impending war and for his contemporaries who did not know, a world war, Wystan Hugh Auden reminds his reader of several things which we, today, will also benefit by.

Oh – Auden is considered among the important writers of the 20th Century.

1. We must love one another or die

2. Though we are busy in each our own everyday trials, comforts and leisure, things are going on in the wider world and, quite possibly, terrible things

3. Despite all our pretenses, happy talk, busy-ness, and self-deceit, most of us were never happy. And, more importantly, that we were never good and, thereby, we shall not be spared impending terrible evils and torment that defy our present imagination.

September 1, 1939
by W.H. Auden 

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.



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A heart-felt letter to my President

August 31, 2013

A heart-felt letter to my President

by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna

John Lennon, Give Peace a Chance

Yesterday, Seamus Heaney died at the age of 74. He was a poet. He was also the 1995 Noble Prize laureate in literature. In other words, he was a somebody.

Seamus Heaney

Yesterday, the drums of war were beaten. Lies and deception poured from the mouths of so called world leaders and statesmen. But the peoples of the world knew better. They knew the facts being presented were askew, the calculus was bogus, and the journalists – they are as outrageous as money changers in the temple.

Mr. President: The people long for history and hope to rhyme.

The Cure at Troy

by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.

Stan Faryna
31 August 2013
Fairfax, Virginia

Blame it on the poet Anthony Wilson

July 12, 2013

Blame it on the poet Anthony Wilson

by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna

Haddaway, What is Love

Blame it on the poet Anthony Wilson. He writes in his blog, today, about Love. Holub’s Love. Read it here: Falling in love with Holub’s Love.

Anthony’s blog post and Miroslav Holub’s poem (that Anthony shares with us) inspired me to look again at a poor attempt I made many years ago – a poor attempt to reflect on Love. To live up to Love. To drink upon stars.

And looking, I smiled, because there is some good advice in that mess. And, ironically, I cannot count the times when such seemingly sound advice was unheeded. In friendship. In romance. In faith. In pursuing, perfection – whatever that means.

And that is what I want to share with you, today. Laugh (or smile) with me at my own chagrin. And TRY, try, please try… not to take the foolish half steps that I keep on doing!

Thank you, Anthony.

Drink upon the stars

by Stan Faryna

As far away as the stars

sparkling like champagne bubbles
above lonely country lanes.
As close as a flame’s lick
that promises to consume
an eager moth – instantly.
As sweet as Casablanca –
fragrant lilium beckons
us like the Lotus eaters
of Homer.
Like a grassy
path in want of wear –
some warn it’s runs the minefields.
Dares us to walk barefooted
across the broken bottles
of our reckless, past license
and hot, spent cigarette butts.
Our demons, tall as mountains,
may hide behind blades of grass
but the feet that run, fleetly,
naked, innocent, fly freely…
Oh – how they fly!
Half steps, however, break hearts
as easily as shale cliffs
crumble under a foolish foot.
How often have foolish feet
carried me by the half steps
across the slippery slopes
of pride and ingratitude,
down the broken, rocky lanes
that terminate abruptly?
If love is a fearless path…
If love is a fearless path,
let us go there, fearlessly!
Let us drink upon the stars.
Stan Faryna
12 July 2013
Fairfax, Virginia


June 15, 2013


by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna

Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Ray Dalton, Can’t Hold Us

There are friends with whom I shall never share poetry. Because, unfortunately, poetry is superfluous to those who lack an intellectual spirit. Or spiritual life.

Or brave heart.

I’m not obsessed with poetry. It’s not a daily ritual for me. Nor weekly. But reading it (or remembering it) on occasion, one may find a place for the genuine – as the American modernist poetess Marianne Moore put it.

Today, there may be no necessity for the genuine when our questions can be managed with addictions, prescriptions, hook ups and outrageous materialism. Until you want to live wholeheartedly, feel strongly and love… fiercely and truly.

And only then will you know that you too cannot live without great books, beautiful music, art, illuminated friends and, oh yes, poetry.

Stan Faryna
15 June 2013
Fairfax, Virginia


by Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician–
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and

school-books’; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

How to write bad poetry like a nobody

April 28, 2013

How to write bad poetry like a nobody

by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna

Andres Segovia, Asturias for Spanish Guitar

The poet blogger, Anthony Wilson of the Lifesaving Poems blog, writes today about his encounter with Michael Symmons Roberts’ poem, Ultramarine. His blog post is here:

Michael Symmons Roberts’ ‘Ultramarine

Anthony’s post reminds me of my first encounter with the same poem years ago. Roberts’ Ultramarine provoked questions about life and death, self-reflection (not to be confused with navel gazing), and [gulp] a necessity to write – to write (bad) poetry.

If a poem does that to you (like what Roberts’ Ultramarine did to me) – it’s good poetry.

When I say I do bad poetry, I say this not out of false modesty in anticipation of future praise. But I do say so with the lingering shame of those many, many letters of rejection taped to the bedroom wall of my younger Patsak self.

Nonetheless, I share my prose with you (below) – that you can get a feel for how not to write poetry. Also – I share this to share my self with you. Perhaps, Johnny too will discover it someday.

“Nobody” is everyone, a person without accomplishment, and also a reference to the Odyssey when the cyclops, Polyphemus, asks Odysseus for  his name. – in case you wondered about the alternate title.


Cerulean Blue

or A Self-Portrait of a Nobody

I knew him well, better than you. Knew him
like a warm wool scarf wrapt around the face
on a cold January morning stroll
along Spuistraat, passing Magna Plaza.

I knew the hidden smile sweeping the street
with tassels of saffron, burnt umber, thyme,
gold, sandalwood, dark plum and a little gray –
the man wasn’t as tall as Tom Baker.

And the scarf had stretched beyond twelve feet.
Knew him like the dull pain – its claws gripping
his ankles and its teeth burying into his calves
as he left the Willis on South Wacker –
an exhausting, inescapable friend
that persecutes, tries and tests your patience.
There were times he couldn’t take one more step
down a fragrant spring path in Cismigiu
and he would linger with a cigarette –
as if he meant to. And maybe he did.
I knew him like a Solomon searching
for a perfect blue – cerulean, in fact.
Ultramarine may be a misadventure
like forbidden, swollen areolas,
like a shuddering gasp of completion.
With someone that does not belong to you.
Does anyone?! Ever belong to you?
Cerulean is ubiquitous – not cheap
like kitsch (to be displayed) in a Florentine curio –
not even a cabinet adorned with angels
or six winged seraphim gilt in gold.
But he had tried anyway. Wouldn’t you?
Cerulean is effervescent, sweet, fleet
like light glinting on an artichoke’s crown
in the afternoon gardens of Monticello
or the first, unsteady flight of a robin.
That’s how I knew him. A cerulean blue.
Like the old dog that still chases his tail –
going round and round in twirling, whirling,
unabashed circles like a dervish
in prayer; like a twister on the sea,
moving over the face of time and space,
blinking like the light of a distant star
that prevails against the darkest of nights
and is gone when you take a second look.
Like a nobody.
That’s how I knew him. Did you know him too?

Stan Faryna
28 April 2013
Fairfax, Virginia

Recent blog posts:

Beauty, Come and Get Some

Freedom is Solid7

Season 3 Finale of The Walking Dead

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When your best is suck. And other social media DOHs

February 5, 2013

When your best is suck

And other social media DOHs

by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna
Among the many splendid things to be received from the blogosphere and elsewhere is… beauty.
Yes, beauty. It glitters greater than gold. It shines brighter than diamonds. And no amount of cash can make a slave of it.
Recently, Anthony Wilson, one of the bloggers I follow with much enthusiasm, shared a poem by Galway Kinnell. The title is Saint Francis and the Sow.
Wilson also writes wonderful things. He shares beauty with us. Writing about the goodness of sharing poetry, the blogging poet bemoans the lack of poetry shared.
My hunch is that the social contract we forge with each other when sharing poems, whether in person, or on email, or on blogs, is vastly underrated as a mechanism for cultural transformation
Like most complaints, it is a gentle call to action. It is one that spoke to my heart. Thank you, Anthony.
And reading Kinnell’s poem that Wilson has so generously shared on his blog, I wanted to share it with you. But for reasons different than Wilson’s reason.
I want to share Kinnell’s Saint Francis and the Sow with you because when our best is suck, when our ambitions, broken promises and failures are a mountain of dirt, we are the sow. As pigs, of course, we may not be deserving of pearls. Just as Christ himself has said. Matthew 7:6
But as Kinnell’s poem reminds us, even a sow wants, receives and is uplifted by blessings. Beyond it’s intelligence and comprehension. More importantly, beyond all its apparent ugly.
And I was uplifted and blessed. It is my hope that you shall also be uplifted and blessed by this poem below.
Stan Faryna
05 February 2013
Fairfax, Virginia

Saint Francis and the Sow

Galway Kinnell, Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2001)

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as Saint Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch

blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow

began remembering all down her thick length,

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine

down through the great broken heart

to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and

blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.