We all admire great people, but we often don't understand what it is about them that we admire. Their private lives are hidden in dusty autobiographies which only occasionally reveal an instant which illuminates their greatness in a moment that lasts no longer than the flash of a paparazzo's camera.
This book of poems gathers up a parcel of those moments, first in great people's lives and then in the lives of ordinary people, to reveal something of what makes them of interest to us.
Each of us has experienced secret moments which have exposed, if only for a heartbeat, our true character. Sometimes we have hurried away from these naked moments, but at other times, we have had the courage to look at them fearlessly, trying to see what magic alchemy they might hold which can turn them into personal gold.
Public Lives & Private Secrets is an invitation to explore the meaning of the secret moments in your life.
Gary Lehmann teaches literature and poetry at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He annually publishes his poetry in journals around the world, delivers public lectures on history and literature, and publishes articles for journals and newspapers on literature and politics. He has written novels, several non-fiction books, and a play about Susan B. Anthony. During the summers, he interprets nineteenth century trades at the Genesee Country Museum in Mumford, NY where he has re-interpreted the cooperage to 1870 and the shoemakers' shop to 1835. He holds a Ph.D. in Literature and History from Duke University and lives with his wife, Wendy, in his long-time hometown, Penfield, NY.
From the book:
Picasso returned from Spain
his arms loaded with cubist canvases,
the best he ever painted.
He filled his apartment on rue Schoelcher,
relishing walls that shouted out a new vocabulary
that explained the way people really live.
But his old apartment house seemed empty and dreary.
His buddies Georges Braque and Andre Derain
deserted him to join the madmen in the trenches.
As if this weren't enough, his only remaining friend,
Guillaume Apollinaire, joined up too.
The season of emptiness descended.
Picasso moved to Montrouge
where there was at least some life
in the cabarets and coffee houses.
He skulked about like an old man
sipping cognac and coffee into the late night
and brooding on the masques of war.
He returned to Montrouge to discover that a thief had
stolen a bolt of linen cloth he had not yet stretched.
The insult hit him like a machine gun bullet.
The world it seemed stood so upside down
that it could not differentiate a cubist painting
that explained the whole impending disaster
from a blank bolt of linen cloth.
Lord Byron Takes a Swim
Shelley's drowning was terrible enough, but
his cremation on the beach was unbearable.
Soldiers split his skull with a spade
digging the body out of the sand.
His skin was chalky gray from the quicklime.
The water-soaked corpse took hours to burn.
The fire was very hot and slow.
Children gathered from the town to watch.
Byron was on edge because he knew that
Shelley had dared the storm only to taunt him.
He refused to be guided by good sense.
Had he drowned himself just for spite?
Then Shelley's skull split open and
the brains ran out into the upturned
skull plate dancing and boiling in the fire.
Byron could endure no more.
He stripped his clothes and swam into the sea.
If only he had refused stupid competitions.
Shelley's small boat was too fragile for storms.
Lord Byron swam for miles, all alone.
As the cold began to inhabit his chest,
he wondered if he had the courage to drown.
Did he deserve to live now that Shelley
had found such a heroic end to life?
Byron turned back toward shore.
More wood was being added to the fire.
Everyone was bored with burning dead poets.
Lord Byron emerged from a heartless sea.
Anais made love...
Anais made love all wrapped in irony.
She stroked her lover like a pet boa,
the snake within and the tigress without.
Anais made love in willful uncertainty,
always aware of the tentative touch, the quotable caress,
the trespass between raw nerves and the gift of words.
Anais made love like a cellist,
never knowing for sure whether she was the musician
or the sonorous body that made the sound.
Public Lives & Private Secrets is an 80 page hand-sewn paperback with flat spine - $15.00
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