Irish Dancers, Old Sacramento
Photo by Michelle Kunert
My black hills have never seen the sun rising,
Eternally they look north towards Armagh.
Lot's wife would not be salt if she had been
Incurious as my black hills that are happy
When dawn whitens Glassdrummond chapel.
My hills hoard the bright shillings of March
While the sun searches in every pocket.
They are my Alps and I have climbed the Matterhorn
With a sheaf of hay for three perishing calves
In the field under the Big Forth of Rocksavage.
The sleety winds fondle the rushy beards of Shancoduff
While the cattle-drovers sheltering in the Featherna Bush
Look up and say: ‘Who owns them hungry hills
That the water-hen and snipe must have forsaken?
A poet? Then by heavens he must be poor.'
I hear and is my heart not badly shaken?
LIFE IN A DARK CELLAR
—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento
Some eat good food, drink fine wine—
perfumed spirits leading a lovely life.
Others, homeless, live on the streets.
A few have found a place to stay—they
sleep on cots, set upon a dirt floor, in a
dark cellar, rented for a few dollars.
Over-watching eyes search the darkness,
for a man who couldn’t pay his rent. He
gives a hopeless plea to stay, but is put out.
One man, living so long in that dark hole, has
dark-ringed eyes, and is called the Mole. He
fears someone may steal his warm shoes.
The happiest one is an old black man, who
hums along, washing things in a laundry tray.
He talks about when he was young and strong:
I used to sing like the stars with love songs
that thundered in my heart. Those times are
over, those songs are gone, no longer mine.
Lying on a cot, dirt floor beneath him, a pale
bearded man, out of work, has a bad cough—
cold weather made him ill. He lies thinking—
I take my life and give all I can—let the years
go by—the good and the bad—if I don’t get
any better, this would be a sad place to die.
Two calendar additions:
•••Tonight (Weds. 3/17), 7-8:30pm: Our House Gallery presents their open mic poetry series, Poetry in Our House, at 1004 White Rock Rd. #400, El Dorado Hills (Montano de El Dorado Center, south of Hwy 50 on Latrobe Rd. at White Rock Rd.). Open mic; sign in by 7pm. Info: 916-933-4278.
•••Thursday (3/18), 8pm: Head down to Luna’s Café (1414 16th St., Sacramento) as Poetry Unplugged brings to the stage two diverse talents who share a common root of Stockton, CA as launchpad and sometime-inspiration to their written and performed work. A bit of the old and a lot of the new for you!! Jackson Griffith will read prose and poems, spin some tales and tail out with a selection of songs of “Jackson Classics”, and Alan Satow will … no doubt … perform “Alan Satow”—and who knows what that means?!? And if you get there early (which is recommended for table seating, since Poetry Unplugged has been known to go SRO), you can get a cool program with work by Alan Satow and Jackson Griffith, produced by Satow himself for the event.
Kathryn Hohlwein: The Homeric Imagination
•••Six Wednesday nights: March 24, 31 and April 14, 21, 28 and one other date, 7-9pm: Sacramento Poetry Center/Room to Write presents Kathryn Hohlwein and “The Homeric Imagination” at SPC/Room to Write, 1719 25th St., next to Alliance Francaise in the R25 Arts Complex at 25th and R Sts. in Sacramento. English Professor Kathryn Hohlwein taught The Homeric Imagination as a graduate seminar for 30 years at CSUS. After retiring in 1998 and moving to New York City, she began a new project: bringing the excitement of Homer's two great poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, to larger, more generalized audiences in the United States and abroad. She and her partner, Greek actor Yannis Simonides, have worked together to prepare audience-participation readings of these epics to audiences all over the world. Their organization, The Readers of Homer, has put on these readings in Greece, Turkey, Uruguay, Egypt, and wherever the wind blows. And they read in the language of the host country: Greek on the northern Aegean island of Chios; Arabic at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt; and Spanish in Montevideo, Uruguay. They encourage anyone to read 20 lines in their native tongue, since Homer is translated everywhere. But they also present the poem in English (in Power Point) so that people do not get lost.
Professor Hohlwein is excited to be presenting Homer’s work again in Sacramento. This is a rare opportunity to study with her for six evenings in the Spring and six in the Fall. We will read The Iliad this spring (using Richmond Lattimore’s translation from U. of Chicago Press), The Odyssey this fall. The two poems play off and inform one another, and anyone seeking to know Homer must know both. Each epic is 24 books (or "rhapsodies") long, and thus we will discuss 4 books at each meeting. There is no prerequisite; anyone who can (and will) read is welcome. The cost is $150 for each six-week session. Please contact Professor Hohlwein with any questions, or to register: email@example.com.
WHAT’S FOR THE CELLAR?
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
We dug up the potatoes too soon,
grubbing with our hands
in moldering soil laced with rotten straw.
Not too soon, they just didn’t grow,
while sheep pushed through the fence,
ravaged eggplant, tomatoes, peppers.
Ground squirrels burrowed the zucchini,
nibbled cabbages, devoured chard.
Long since, spring winds blew
apple blossoms off the tree. Last night,
raccoon finished off the chickens.
What’s left of field and garden
after all the nurturing and feeding,
rich composting of earth, is half
a bucketful of tiny white potatoes,
mere nubbins, enough small russets
to make a meal, give thanks.
An empty cellar. Nothing to put away
for what’s to come of hunger.
The sun goes down pennant-orange
behind rooftops, leaving red
reflections in glass. Somewhere
something seismic is about to happen.
She wears an amulet against it,
but it clogs her throat. There are
no self-truths on a globe of shifting
plates; of winds to blow
your breath away, scatter your walls.
The cellar is a sometime-safety.
What passes over
will leave, where used to be
ceiling, shards of light.
CANAL BANK WALK
Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal
Pouring redemption for me, that I do
The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,
Grow with nature again as before I grew.
The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third
Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,
And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word
Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.
O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web
Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,
Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib
To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech
For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.
And sometimes I am sorry when the grass
Is growing over the stones in quiet hollows
And the cocksfoot leans across the rutted cart-pass
That I am not the voice of country fellows
Who now are standing by some headland talking
Of turnips and potatoes or young corn
Of turf banks stripped for victory.
Here Peace is still hawking
His coloured combs and scarves and beads of horn.
Upon a headland by a whinny hedge
A hare sits looking down a leaf-lapped furrow
There's an old plough upside-down on a weedy ridge
And someone is shouldering home a saddle-harrow.
Out of that childhood country what fools climb
To fight with tyrants Love and Life and Time?
It would seem to me...an offense against nature, for us to come to the same scene endowed as we are with the curiosity, filled to overbrimming as we are with questions, and naturally talented as we are for the asking of clear questions, and then for us to do nothing about or, worse, to try to suppress the questions...
Our thanks to today's contributors. Taylor Graham will read this Friday at The Other Voice in Davis; see last Monday's post for details.