Photo by Bob Dreizler, Sacramento
—Roberta Hill Whiteman
We learn too late the useless way light leaves
footprints of its own. We traveled miles to Kilgore
in the submarine closeness of a car. Sand hills
recalling the sea. A coyote slipped across the road
before we knew. Night, the first skin around him.
He was coming from the river
where laughter calls out fish. Quietly a heavy wind
breaks against cedar. He doubled back,
curious, to meet the humming moons we rode
in this gully, without grass or stars. Our footprints
were foreign to him. He understood the light
and paused before the right front wheel, a shadow
of the mineral earth, pine air in his fur.
Such dogs avoid our eyes, yet he recognized and held
my gaze. A being both so terrible and shy
it made my blood desperate
for the space he lived in:
broad water cutting terraced canyons,
and ice gleaming under hawthorne like a floor of scales.
Thick river, remember we were light thanking light,
slow music rising. Trees perhaps, or my own voice
out of tune. I danced a human claim for him
in this gully. No stars. He slipped
by us, old as breath, moving in the rushing dark
like moonlight through tamarack,
wave on wave of unknown country.
Crazed, I can't get close enough
to this tumble wild and tangled miracle.
Night is the first skin around me.
Earth Day is April 22, but hey—it's never too early to get started on such things, so the Seed of the Week is Deserts. No, not desserts (as in "just desserts")—deserts. Send your desert (deserted?) poems to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.
Part Two of our Earth Dance is to bring nature poems to the Open Mic tomorrow night at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30pm, as we celebrate the release of Carol Frith's new full-length poetry collection for David Robert Books, two for a journey, along with the sixth birthday of Rattlesnake Press. Be there!
And try to keep up with all the other readings and workshops that are going on around here this month; your calendar people are scrambling to stay on top of it all!
Calendar additions for this week:
•••Thurs. (4/15), 8pm: Poetry Unplugged @ Luna’s features Poet/writers Jessalyn Wakefield and Christopher Fairman. Free, but one-drink minimum appreciated. Hosted by frank andrick, 916-446-7322 or email@example.com/. Luna’s: Art Luna at 916-441-3931 or www.lunascafe.com/.
•••Thurs. (4/15), 7:30pm: The Nevada County Poetry Series presents Bob Stanley and Heather Donahue, two of the West Coast’s most dynamic performers, writers, poets and ambassadors of free expression. Tickets available at the door for $5 general, seniors and students, and $1 for those under 18, refreshments and open-mic included. The show will be in the Off Center Stage (the Black Box theater, enter from Richardson Street) at the Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley. Info: (530) 432-8196 or (530) 274-8384. The reading and open-mic will be videoed for presentation on Nevada County TV, channel 11.
Bob Stanley, the current Poet Laureate of Sacramento, has written poetry and volunteered in poetry organizations for over three decades. President of the Sacramento Poetry Center, Stanley has led workshops and readings all over Northern California. In 2009 he edited Sometimes in the Open, an anthology of poems by sixty-five Poets Laureate from around the state. Widely published in journals, Stanley’s poetry has won numerous awards, including the California Focus on Writers prize in 2006. Stanley has a BA in English from UCLA and a MA in Creative Writing from CSUS, and he teaches English at CSUS and Sacramento City College. Rattlesnake Press released his first chapbook, Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger, in 2009.
Heather Donahue’s first career was as an actress, most notably in The Blair Witch Project and the Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries, Taken. Her first encounter with Nevada City came on a road trip escape from L.A. From her first Blackstone Benedict at South Pine, she knew she was going to live here. Her inner tree sprite had caught the enchanted itch, but it still took six more years to leave her slender yet familiar life in Los Angeles behind. Eventually she found herself at the end of a red dirt road with 27 chickens, a puppy, and more vegetable seedlings than she could count. Her stories are widely published in such places as Bust Magazine and The Orange Coast Review. She was a member of the Literature Alive council and has participated in the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She is currently at work on a book about her year of living rurally, Growgirl.
Jack Hirschman reads at Sac. International Film Festival in Sacramento April 21:
•••Weds. (4/21), 7pm: 24th Street Theater (2791 24th St., Sacramento) presents the documentary: Red Poet: The Story of Jack Hirschman. Q&A with the filmmaker, Matthew Furey, and reading by Jack Hirschman after the movie. $10 admission for Jack's film and reading—plus, this will get you into the Thinking People's Shorts Showcase at 6pm and the short film, Lychee Thieves, at 7. Tickets at www.ncwfonline.org/april212010.html/. Sponsored by the Sacramento International Film Festival, The Sacramento Poetry Center, and Poets & Writers through a grant it has received from the James Irvine Foundation. Also showing:
6pm— The Predator’s Return, directed and produced by Jerald Fine. What if the newest resident of your nursing home was the same Nazi officer that murdered your entire family 60 years earlier? (deadcenter.bside.com/2009/films/thepredatorsreturn_deadcenter2009)
6:15— The Line, directed by Richard Sabatte and produced by Anita Merzell and Liz Destro. In life, there are many lines a woman must endure. This is perhaps the most painful . . . The agony, the ecstasy, The Line.(www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi1157300761)
6:25— Path Lights, directed and produced by Zachary Sluser. One day, when walking his dogs in the Pasadena arroyo, Bobby (John Hawkes) sees a bottle fall from the sky, almost hitting him. He decides to trace down the culprit. (pathlightsfilm.com)
6:45— Poi Dogs, directed and produced by Joel Moffett. Poi Dogs is the story of two local Hawaii teenagers who take a small step towards love by moving beyond their desires to act cool. (www.poidogstudios.com)
7:00— Lychee Thieves, directed by Kathleen Man and produced by Angela Laprete. Trouble ensues when four local characters on the island of Oahu (Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese and Caucasian) clash over a miraculously bountiful lychee tree. (lycheethieves.com/Home.html)
7:30— Red Poet: The Story of Jack Hirschman, directed by Matthew Furey and produced by Francis Furey. In 2006 Poet Jack Hirschman was named Poet Laureate in his beloved home city, San Francisco. Red Poet, a story of a man's personal journey and redemption through art. (www.redpoetmovie.com)
8:30— Q&A with the filmmakers
8:45— Poetry reading by Jack Hirschman
FIRE IN THE SANDBOX
—Virginia Hamilton Adair
With my favorite playmate, my husband of thirty years,
I came often to our little homestead we named Shiloh
in the vast sandbox of a Mojave valley.
Five acres without roads or wires or water,
but splendid with raw oysters and icy martinis.
Once we saw a faint red glow in the sky
between sunset and gegenschein.
Something to drive toward in the dusk.
Three miles by sand, two or three by road,
and yes, the Twenty-nine Palms dump is burning.
Finally we come upon it, a lonely bonfire for our eyes alone.
Beside the shapeless mountain, crest afire,
an abandoned sofa waits in its cretonne cover,
expectant, somehow. "Sit there," I say, and you sit.
"Oh, for a camera and a bit more light,
to have you pose forever on the faded chintz."
Why do I see Paolo and Francesca circling the pyre?
Come to my arms, Paolo, before the burning carriage
reaches the sofa.
The tower like Pisa starts to lean,
the bed of flowers no longer green,
the baby carriage in between.
What was the portent of this eerie scene?
Long lost, except in the camera of the mind.
Carrying in our hearts the lovers' flame,
toward Shiloh then we turned and came
while in the dark the sandbox burned.
TASK FOR TWO
—Virginia Hamilton Adair
I pull it toward me
and you turn and lay
it with care and stretch
from marshy verdure drawn
a strong and malleable
stuff repeating a certain
rhythm: our arms tense
but not our mood; we like
doing this together: tighter
you say and I obey you
while the act takes form
between us until we come
close to the finish of that
strand and turn the smooth
frame over, four legs
in air, proud of our under-
side as well as surfaces,
who grow in skill, skill
and the pattern firmer every
time we repeat this ritual
with long and knotted rushes
to reseat a chair together
for the bottoms
of each other, children, friends.
THE JESTING CLOUDS
—Virginia Hamilton Adair
Beside a sea that fell like splintered glass
we shared the golden rapture of the sun,
I, smiling at the grains of sand that spun
between my fingers, while a radiant mass
of those great argosies of cloud that pass
across the heavens was mirrored in your eyes.
"If we could get to them, we'd roam the skies,"
you said. A shadow swept the pale dune grass.
Why did you wish for joys beyond our reach?
By some uncalculated sky-born joke
the clouds came down to us on ropes of rain.
We had to race for shelter up the beach,
our luminous sea and sky gone gray as smoke
and the sand sodden where our love had lain.
—Virginia Hamilton Adair
Since you chose to die
I must speak to the dark
A rill of words
insisting on passage
Through the mausoleum of earth
through the zeros of absence
Through choked channels, dry deltas,
into the unanswering sky.
—Virginia Hamilton Adair
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."
The effort took Miss Barrett several days,
resulting in a book of amorous lays,
when wives were weak behind their whalebone stays.
And did she yawn and smilingly endure
as Robert's verse got more and more obscure?