It is old school customIt is old school custom Regarding the title, “trenta-sei” is Italian for the number “thirty-six.” Ciardi uses the number in the title to give name to a new poetic form for a 36 line poem he himself created. In a letter to Vince Clemente, Ciardi defines the poetic form when discussing an earlier poem titled “A Trente-sei for the Boat People”: “A trente-sei is six six-line stanzas, the second of which begins with the second line of stanza one, the third with the third line, the fourth with the fourth line, etc. Them Eyetralian troubadors forgot to invent it, but I did it because it is a natural form and because it just came out that way. I may even try it again.” to pretend to be sad
when we think about the early death of Keatsthe early death of Keats English Poet John Keats died in 1821, from tuberculosis, at the age of 25..
The species-truth of the matter is we are glad.
PsilanthropicPsilanthropic A word Ciardi makes up here, meaning something like ‘merely human,’ taken from the Greek psilos (mere) and anthropos (man)” among exegetesexegetes People who interpret scripture; skilled interpreters,
I am so moved that when the platethe plate The collection plate in which church goers may drop a monetary offering for the church and pass along to others comes by
I almost think to pay the God—but why?
When we think about the early death of Keats
we are glad to be spared the bother of dying ourselves.
His poems are a candy store of bitter-sweetsHis poems are a candy store of bitter-sweets Echoes John Keats’ sonnet “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again”: “once more humbly assay / The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit” (lines 7-8) .
We munch whole flights of angelswhole flights of angels An echo of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Following Hamlet’s death, Horatio says, “Now cracks a noble heart.—Good-night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!” (Act 5, Scene 2, lines 359-360) from his shelves
drooling a sticky glutglut An excessive, abundant supply; a surplus, almost enough
to sicken us. But what delicious stuff!
The species-truth of the matter is we are glad
to have a death to munch on. Truth to tell,
we are also glad to pretend it makes us sad.
When it comes to dying, Keats did it so well
we thrill to the performance. Safely here,
this side of the fallen curtain, we stand and cheer.
Psilanthropic among exegetes,
as once in a miles-high turretturret A castle tower spitting flame,
I watched boys flower through orange winding sheets
and shammedshammed Faked, pretended a mourning because it put a name
to a death I might have taken—which in a way
made me immortal for another day—
I was so moved that when the plate came by
I had my dollar in hand to give to death
but changed to a penny—enough for the old guya penny—enough for the old guy A Greek mythological reference to the fee for the boatman Charon, ferryman of Hades, to transport the dead to the underworld was two pennies, one for each eye. The line also echoes T.S. Eliot’s epigraph to “The Hollow Men”: “A penny for the Old Guy” (1925).,
and almost enough saved to sweeten my breath
with a toast I will pledge to the Ape of the DivineApe of the Divine Possible reference to Hanuman, a Hindu monkey deity. The god of death, Rama, protected him and prevented him from the experience of death.
in thanks for every death that spares me mine.
I almost thought of paying the God—but why?
Had the boy lived, he might have grown as dull
and leave us a formed feeling. O beautiful,
pale, dying poet, fading as soft as rhyme,
the saddest music keeps the sweetest timethe saddest music keeps the sweetest time Echoes Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “To a Skylark”: “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought” (line 90).