—Joyce Odam, Sacramento
Superstitious, I cross my shadow with
words, giving it a taste of sentience,
exchanging myself with its non-texture.
Shadow, I say, teach me not to feel.
And Shadow does a formless dance
on the wall, which I emulate.
And Shadow says,
teach me how to feel
and we writhe together
in shuddering candlelight.
Tonight I become my shadow.
My shadow does the weeping this time.
Thanks, Joyce, and thanks to the rest of today's contributors for finishing up our talk of Black Sheep. Today we have three beautiful photos from D.R. Wagner. Can you write a poem about them (or anything else!) without using any adjectives? One of my first poems was so full of adjectives that Joyce Odam said it was “too pretty”—I’ve never forgotten that. Too much of a good thing! So our Seed of the Week is No Adjectives—try going without them for once and see what that’s like, then send the results to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs, though; if this one hurts your head too much, scroll down to the SNAKE ON A ROD on the B-Board and click on Calliope’s Closet for all our past SOWs.
Rae Gouirand writes that her up-coming Davis workshops are full, but she still has room in the SPC workshops, plus the October Cache Creek 'Shop: While you're in the SNAKE ON A ROD, click on Workshops/Retreats for all that's going on this Fall.
SPC Announces Its Manuscript Contest Winner
Sacramento Poetry Center announces that the winner of the 2010 Sacramento Poetry Center Manuscript Contest is Melissa Morphew for her manuscript, Bluster, which our final judge, Indigo Moor, has just selected as the winner. Melissa Morphew, a graduate of the University of Georgia's Ph.D. program in English, is the recipient of several national and international poetry prizes, including: The Academy of American Poets College Prize, The Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize, The Cecil J. Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, The W.B. Yeats' Society Poetry Prize, and several Pushcart Prize nominations. In 2006, her full-length collection of poems, Fathom, was published by Turning Point Press. Morphew's poems can be found in the pages of the most respected U.S. literary journals, including The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, and Prairie Schooner. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, TX. She also has a Wikipedia page: wikipedia.org/wiki/Melissa_Morphew
WHERE BLACK SHEEP FREELY ROAM
—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento
Strolling through the “good” part of Sacramento
where even the sidewalks are kept sparkling
clean, one finds the Capitol and some taller buildings
housing financial services for the high rollers.
Renowned hotels and eateries with valet
parking boast so many stars as to be the envy of
kindergarten high achievers worldwide.
Here is home to a virtual cascade of money
backed by the full faith and credit of the
United States of America, which appears to
be intercepted near the top by a strict pecking
order of highly placed individuals.
Just a few steps over is the poorer part of town
where black sheep freely roam. This area plays
host to tattoo parlors and sidewalk vendors,
transients, gaudy sex shops, mass transit depots,
seedy liquor stores, newly released convicts, and
of course fund challenged public facilities to at
once aid and confine those who have lost their way.
Locals casually walk from one part to the other
and back again like chameleons, just blending
in with whatever surrounds them. Pimps and
poets alike unknowingly rub shoulders on the
street, harboring diametrically opposed concerns
about being discovered.
There is little worry that the black sheep will
exceed their station, only that they will
detract from the cascade of money cherished
by their neighbors.
BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE
—Hunferth (Chris Kaiser), Narberth, PA
Black is the new white
Pulling the wool over the world’s eyes?
Or transmuting thru aged alchemy?
After decades of glory
Gory with dreams of defiance
Ashen-covered from the fringe
They awaken in the smelting cave
Shedding skins of past lives
Living for moment-by-moment bliss
They seek the light
And the light seeks them
Can a life unfulfilled, unpromised, uncompromised
Black is the new white
THE SEQUENCE OF THE CURSE
(After "The Art of Poetry" by Yves Bonnefoy)
The curse is part of the mouth.
The mouth is innocent and led by the word.
The word is innocent of the mind,
The mind is contorted by the mouth.
The word must be uttered to escape.
The mind must free the word through the mouth.
The mouth is obedient to the curse.
THE SIMPLE JOY OF TASTE
(After “Man Eating” by Jane Kenyon)
on a slow afternoon in a shady spot with sunlight
patterns flickering all about—a pause in time
that removes from the time of others—that simply
suspends—and the one with the ice cream cone
sits at a round stone table in the small breezeway
and licks the drips at the edge of the cone
and licks at the thumb the ice cream has melted
down, and a leaf decides to fall right then onto
the table where it is duly noticed and admired
THEY TELL IT LIKE IT WAS
It’s not as if they spun the daylight down—
dizzy with love’s sweet vertigo—and young
—brash as children—but he broke his crown
and she forgot the little song she’d sung.
And they forgave themselves their little folly:
how they tumbled; how they wept and clung
—he as hero. She could not stay jolly.
There was no metaphoric pail of water—
no such chore. He had heard a volley:
War, he whispered. She was someone’s daughter;
he a wayward son, and they rewrote their story.
And there was one more lesson that he taught her:
love is full of tears, and war is gory—
and if they told the truth, they would be sorry.
Hang onto it, baby, don’t let it go.
It means something to you; don’t let it go.
Don’t let it take you away from your low.
Hang onto it, baby, give it a sigh.
Hang onto it, baby—don’t let a high
deprive you of all that chance to cry.
REACHING THROUGH LANGUAGE
Take a word, and bless the word alive.
Make it sing, and never let it hide.
Wear it like a talisman—wear it
all your life. And when it binds—
ah, when it binds—cut it with a knife.