Photo by Jane Blue, Sacramento
Don’t worry spiders,
I keep house
–Issa, version by Robert Hass
A dead bug, perhaps a dragonfly, clings
to the front door, a line drawing of a sea horse,
its long thin intestine clothed
in dry veined wings and a head, tiny
and resigned, a dead, profiled eye.
Next to it is a tiny spider, that has become
a star, a starfish, all caught in a web,
unseen now, the juice sucked from them.
The spiders weave and spin in the yellow
ceiling of the porch. I can’t bear
to sweep them away. I can’t bear to
sweep the desiccated art they leave behind
from the hospitality of my front door.
This weekend, head down to Modesto for the Song of the San Joaquin reading, or over to Mokelumne Hill for the Manzanita reading—two wonderful journals that you should be sending poems to. (See b-board for details.)
And don't forget the Banana Fest!
Earlier this week, we announced Rae Gouirand’s new One By One journal. Now there is another new one in our area: Snail Mail Review, Modesto's newest literary venture, is currently accepting submissions; guidelines are on FaceBook (search for Snail Mail Review), and the deadline is December 15. They also accept short fiction. (You can also pick up guidelines at The Barkin' Dog Grill in Modesto.)
Another workshop opportunity this Fall, starting Sept. 29, 6-7:30pm: New Voices Writing Workshop with Sacramento's Past Poet Laureate Julia Connor, to be held for ten weeks at South Natomas Library, 2901 Truxel Rd., Sacramento. This workshop (free to the public and open to all levels of experience) is sponsored by the Sacramento Poetry Center with a grant from the Sacramento Regional Foundation. Free, but advanced registration is reguired and the class is limited to 15 participants: go to cal.saclibrary.org/eventsignup.asp?ID=2
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the b-board...
...now I've gone and done something ELSE new! Will it never end??? (I know just enough about Blogspot now to be a danger to myself and others...) This time I've taken advantage of Blogspot's new Page option: I've moved several of the longer, wordier b-board features into "pages" of their own, which means the skinny blue box has a lot less posted on it now. Instead of scrolling down to the armadillo, the wolf, my bathrobe, etc., you can go to Sam's curtain-rod snake (right near the top of the skinny blue box) and click on any of the categories listed there, which will then appear in the cream-colored box where the daily posts usually are. Check 'em out, then click the "back" button on your computer screen, or go to the bottom of the cream box where it says Home, or click on Home on the list; any of that will bring you right back to business as usual. I'm very excited about this change, since it will allow me to post (and keep for longer than a day) a lot more material, including articles, photo galleries, a beefed-up Calliope—I haven't even begun to explore all the new things this will allow us to do. Thanks for your patience as we all explore the fun new world of [better-organized] cyber-poetry!
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Latrodectus Hesperus. Innocent
ring to that Hesperus; it means West,
sounds like Hesperides, daughters
who sprout into life under
apple-laden holy trees, the fruit
pure gold. Not a bit of it! This is
the Western Black Widow.
Do spiders have apple abdomens?
I saw such a fruit once, dangling
from a tree, eight slender branches…
Here’s what I remember:
At a rental storage unit,
eager to get at the books I’m moving,
and oh by the way, furniture,
I peel back the big concertina door.
Cobweb…leading straight to a wee
black apple, an inch from my face,
staring out from the door jamb,
treading irrevocably close. Do I
crush her with a scrap of paper?
Ignore her and get on with extracting?
With or without possessions, I escape,
nictating by tics askance
at her timepiece red tattoo.
Break the name into Latin parts,
we get Latro (robber) plus dectus
(roof-covered?); leave it Greek,
a biter in hiding. Either way,
that’s enough acquaintance with you, milady,
strong though your web silk may be,
gold though your apple must be
SOME OF YOUR LANGUAGES
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
for Elihu Burritt
Arabic, self-taught by lamplight after hours at the forge;
Bohemian (now known as Czech) and Basque. In
Celto-Breton you sent greetings to the Royal Antiquarian
Ethiopic and of course English;
French, Flemish, each new word memorized in “spare
headache, but you pressed on with Hebrew, Hungarian,
Icelandic, Irish, Italian—fifty tongues in all.
Just try to list them; try to
keep each one distinct, catalogued, and ready.
Latin became your key to Greek, The Iliad parsed one winter.
Manx was in your lexicon. Did I forget Dutch,
not to mention Chaldee and Cornish?
Old Norse (you translated the Viking sagas),
Persian, Polish, Portuguese. You didn’t claim
Québécois, that maple-leaf French, but
Russian you mastered, as well as Spanish,
Samaritan, Syriac, Swedish. In later years you
taught New Britain schoolgirls Sanskrit,
unraveled its sacred alphabet, its nouns, its
verbs, a very complex system, an ancient sound-dance.
Welsh sang in your blood, study-fatigue in your head (ref. pg.
xviii of Howitt’s “Memoir”). Was it by instinct
you caught mankind’s flighty speech as a swallow
zaps insects on the wing?
Some one asked for ‘the bond,’ and it was read; and there,
among great swelling words about liberty, we found it
written, that there was not...an inch of ground within the
limits of the great American Republic, which was not
MORTGAGED TO SLAVERY.
—Elihu Burritt, “All Mortgaged”
The night has a thousand eyes, so goes the song.
But that night in Massachusetts,
the sky must have had at least a billion eyes
looking down on the slave boy run this far north
in the land of the free. A bright night, full of stars
and slave-hunters coming with their dogs
scenting shadows darker than any silhouette
cast by star or moon.
Where can a bonded foot safely rest
in this New England pledged to Liberty
and Justice? Just read the bond of Union,
North and South alike. Even here in Worcester—
keep this from the children—no daughter
or son would understand why
fathers clothe the black boy in female garb
and arm-in-arm escort him to underground roads
bound for Canada, so far
from the birth-land that’s not his home.
ONE CITY TO ANOTHER
for Elihu Burritt, August 1852
London to Southampton, then by steamship to France
with a satchel full of letters. On the 19th you reach Rouen.
A Friendly Address, goodwill message from the people
of York in England to all the citizens of Rouen.
Raided by Viking (9th century); French Wars of Religion—
see the Calvinist scars on Notre-Dame de Rouen.
Le Tour Jeanne d’Arc recalls its warrior-maiden.
The English burned St. Joan at the stake in Rouen.
The Hundred Years War: under King Harry’s seven-
month siege, townsfolk starved on the rats of Rouen.
No time to meander through the Jardin des Plantes;
you’ve an urgent letter to deliver to the Mayor of Rouen.
While governments plot war, their subjects dream
of peace in London, Liverpool, Marseilles, Rouen.
What common hope binds men across the Channel—
freight handler of York, dockworker of Rouen?
The hostler in Bristol, the merchant in Aberdeen—
they want peace as much as any baker in Rouen.
And all the while, over centuries the Gros Horloge
keeps heavenly time over the ancient city of Rouen.
Fleeing up the wall,
the legs of a spider.