Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Up From Out Of In Under

Norma Kohout talks to Bob Stanley
Photo by Katy Brown

—Norma Kohout, Sacramento

Sunday evenings we curled up on the couch
a bit drowsy,
the radio on
listening to Vince Scully call the Dodger games—
or in a romantic reverie,
Gordon Jenkins’s Seven Dreams . . .
anticipating Bill’s favorite song:
“Living on a Houseboat Ain’t Like Living in Sin,”
humming some of it.

Wood in the brick fireplace crackled.
The two children snoozed
or played cards in front of the hearth.
Sometimes an ice storm blew down
The Columbia Gorge; it
brought a feeling of being sheltered.

Contentment must still live there
on Center Street in Portland,
a fire burning
in the fireplace,
Sunday evenings in the fall.


Thanks, Norma! Norma Kohout played tennis in her San Francisco years, served as counselor for The San Francisco Boys Chorus, worked as a secretary, and was a student at San Francisco State College. In Modesto, she taught junior high school English and participated in three teacher organizations. In Sacramento, it's been poetry, poetry, poetry. She says highlights include receiving the Chaparral Golden Pegasus Award in 2001 and Chaparral’s Roadrunner Award in 2008. She has been published in Senior Magazine, Tiger's Eye, Rattlesnake Review, and Song of the San Joaquin, plus various other Chaparral and Ina Coolbrith Society wins and publications. She published a littlesnake broadside, Out the Train Window, from Rattlesnake Press in 2006, and a rattlechap, All Aboard!, in 2009. Also, Norma co-facilitates a weekly senior poetry group with Joyce Odam. Click on Norma's photo on the bulletin board at the right for more about her.

Today the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will be giving Norma an award for community service. That's at the County Administration Bldg., 700 H St., Sacramento, 2pm.

It's Tuesday—Seed of the Week Day. Let's go with Moms: not just the sentimental greeting card one, but the complex, multi-dimensional human we called Mom, biological or not. Send your Moms to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. I'll start with one of the first poems I ever wrote (apparently I had Issues With Mom even then...):

—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines

Sometimes mothers hum, polishing
RevereWare at the sink, or embroidering
palm trees on dish towels for the church
bazaar. Their children can hear them

humming all over the house: Kate Smith
a buoy bell for children’s boats
on foggy nights. But sometimes
the humming stops: then small boats

grind up against sharp icebergs
of disapproval, get lost in the black waters
of some latest grown-up
shipwreck. Those silences

hum clear through dinner—louder than
the old refrigerator—louder than the slow
drip of the clock—louder than Kate Smith
ever thought of being . . .


—Norma Kohout

The wind dropped. The rain held off
this evening of Holy Week.
The small church is spare; banners,
flowers, all adornment stripped away.

A scattering of parishioners sits quietly
in the wooden pews. Before them
the simple altar, the empty console,
ranks of organ pipes graduated about a great,
stained-glass window, brilliant in late sun.

By Second Reading the rose window
is a dark-blue circle with a few bright jewels. . .
But during the Gospel story of foot washing
light behind the window darkens;
it becomes a great circle of indigo,

foreshadowing the Good Friday darkness,
that after two terrible days, will yield
to Easter light, streaming down
sapphire and emerald, ruby and topaz
over the lilies, and over the white and gold banners
inscribed, “Hallelujah.”


—Norma Kohout

Yes, he was a different kind of dad
than the others on the block.
They hadn’t “served overseas;"
and that meant seeing

corpses in muddy trenches and killing
in “No Man’s Land.” It was different
that he owned a Manlicher rifle
and Luger pistol he could take apart
and put together blindfolded.

His good looks, military bearing,
ash blond hair and British mustache
were different. He was
the only dad that awakened neighbors
starting up his truck at seven a.m.

That felt a little embarrassing,
although our friends liked his kidding
and the nicknames he dreamt up.
They never seemed to notice

that he left after dinner, having changed
into his tan twill shirt and pants—Lucky Strikes
and wallet tucked into his pocket—driving away
in the old Duesenberg with the red leather seats.


Today's LittleNip:

—Morris Bishop

I lately lost a preposition:
It hid, I thought, beneath my chair.
And angrily I cried: 'Perdition!
Up from out of in under there!'

Correctness is my vade mecum,
And straggling phrases I abhor;
And yet I wondered: 'What should he come
Up from out of in under for?'



Laverne Frith and Norma Kohout listen to music
at Danyen Powell's house, 2010
Photo by Katy Brown