Photo by Katy Brown, Davis
Evening. The trees in late winter bare
against the sky. Still light, the sky.
Trees dark against it. A few leaves
on the trees. Tension in their rigid branches as if
—oh, it is all as if, but as if, yes,
as if they sang songs, as if they praised.
Oh, I envy them. I know the songs.
As if I know some other things besides.
As if; but I don't know, not more
than to say the trees know. The trees don't know
and neither do I. What is it keeps me from praise?
I praise, If only to say their songs,
say yes to them, to praise the songs they sing.
Envied music. I sing to praise their song.
Big poetry day/night! Start the day with Molly Fisk on radio at 10am (www.capradio.org/programs/programdetail.aspx?showid=8156), then go down to the Central Library at 6pm to hear Judith Tannenbaum talk about her work with poetry and prisoners, sponsored by Sac. Poetry Center. That reading will be over just in time to head over to Davis to hear Molly Fisk read at Bistro 33 (open mic at 9). Then it’s back to Sacramento for the Mahogany Urban Poetry Series at Queen Sheba's Restaurant, 1704 Broadway (17th and Broadway), where DJ Rock Bottom spins at 8 and there’s Spoken Word-type open mic poetry hosted by Khiry Malik at 9pm, $5 cover, all ages: see mybmsf.com/01WordOut_Single.asp?wordoutID=3524/. Is this great Poetry Country, or what? (More info on the b-board.)
We're talking about Trees this week, but heck, you can send us poetry about anything! The Kitchen is always open and the Snakes are always hungry. Send artwork and pix, too. That's firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.
Thanks to today's contributors for their leafy lovelies. Michelle Sackman continues her "Urban Solace" cycle, and Katy Brown's red Japanese maple is part of an on-going series of photos she's doing about a little tree in Sacramento on her way to work, photographing it through the seasons. (It's right down the street from the two dogs who hang out on their owners' roof. Yes, roof.)
Tom Goff and Taylor Graham read at SPC last Monday to celebrate the latest Tule Review, and I hear the joint was packed to the rafters, but that the evening's proceedings were well-run by Editors Theresa McCourt and Linda Collins and perked right along, despite there being 17 readers! Have you seen the new Tule? It's very elegant—glossy and perfect-bound. If you don't have one, pick one up at The Book Collector for $10. Here's to many more... (Next deadline is Sept. 15: www.sacramentopoetrycenter.org/tulereview.htm/.) And Taylor Graham will be reading again at SPC, featuring with Michael Paul, on Monday, Aug. 16. See you there!
URBAN SOLACE XIX
Alone Under a Tree
—Mitz Sackman, Murphys
He would never tell anyone from work
Not even one of his friends
But he loved to come to the park
To this special place
This quiet oak tree
Away from the paths and the crowds
At least once each week
He came and discussed his life with Mr Oak
A good listener
Never criticized or told him he should do better
He just listened heart to heart
After these sessions he always felt lighter
Filled with happiness despite his challenges
THE SEQUOIA SHAPE
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Cold groves of sequoias. Your hand in mine, ensuring
our icily spiral climb turns by slow footfalls.
Upended, the odd giant victim-tree, whose root-ball’s
all snowburst spike—can blasts freeze into enduring?
Truer, more secret endurance instills the live trunk.
A narwhal strength-of-tusk stability,
“unicorn” swirl-horn torsion, nulls fragility.
Sequoias in skyward spiral designs can link
sunbeam to soil by long thoughtlike chains. Intrinsic
twists drink in a great dark that dispenses light.
O’Keeffe with her vulviform flowers, mystics, eccentrics…
Such sequoia-like seekers envelop our quest for insight:
my whirling out, restrained by your deepening down
—the transparent aspiring kind of dark suction down.
INDEPENDENCE TRAIL (II)
We come to Independence Trail
on a beautiful spring day—Nora’s
birthday, in fact—to see the April things:
the great wooden flume a corridor
to an anteroom, and at the far end of that anteroom
the benign dragon who bears gorgeous waterfall
in her mouth like cold fire; the buckeye’s
howitzers of burgeoning whiteburst,
the endless curling ferns and wildflowers;
sodden or springy leaf-mats under the feet
and next to no dust.
We see the trailhead and then: look!
a thin but blossoming puff, a spew
of seed-smoke from a fire pod, flame
in the tree tops of the high ridge
atop the trail. How can these fires be,
leaping fit to choke a Missoula smoke
jumper stuck by the silk of the chute,
in pines so lately rained through?
On what fir-thronged patch of garden
would any rural homebody light
a controlled burn? To these questions,
and others we’re too ignorant to dream
could need asking, we reply, Silence.
But we’re only shushing ourselves,
not the wingbeats of nature,
nor the insensate roar of fire.
Today’s trail, a winding we can’t retrace,
just as we know certain fevers mean,
leave that thermally pulsating skin
untainted with your questing hot lover-fingers.
Uncertainties like redbuds all around us:
crown fires leaping and leaping tip to tip
every spring, raising hot red-violet alarm,
then snuffed, no damage, and yet
everywhere death upon death to take the breath:
the little petals just swell and crumple like lungs.
“GRACES OF AN ENGLISH LANDSCAPE”
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Will the utilitarian and unsparing science of the latter days...shear away these beautiful tresses?
—Elihu Burritt, A Walk from London to John O’Groats (1864)
Of hedgerow tree and hawthorn hedge
who can adequately sing?
Who but the birds who nest there at the edge
of cultivation? Like many a lovely thing
we take for granted, endangered now.
Who can adequately sing
of plough-horse and the brindle cow
in an age of iron, smoke, and steam
one takes for granted? Endangered now,
the unprofitable margin and unbridled stream.
The picturesque has little place
in an age of iron, smoke, and steam.
Still, a traveler’s lightened by the grace
of unproductive leaf, and shade.
If picturesque has little place,
who mourns the work of axe and blade?
Who but the birds who nest here at the edge
of unproductive leaf and shade,
of hedgerow tree and hawthorn hedge?
(from Taylor's new book, Walking With Elihu, from CreateSpace. See b-board to order from Amazon.)
PHYSICS OF APPLE FALL
The sheep have counterclockwise wended
from oak shade to swale below the one lone
apple tree with its single surviving apple.
In April, it was less than nubbin. February
storms blew every other blossom
off the tree. This apple—would it have fallen
differently in spring? Scientists puzzle
over this. The sheep have had their
fill of grazing. They lie beneath the apple
tree and meditate on sweetness.
Their physics is the rumen of the universe;
or, when will this one apple fall?
A wizened apple kept too long on the twig,
scent of rot at the core. Or, a perfect
emblem of our globe that twists on its axis—
letting loose, just now. The sheep arise,
not worried if an apple’s pecked by birds,
or Adam lost an Eden in its fall.
THE TREES DON'T CARE
about our usual argument over
whether you made us late, whether
I nag too much. As we whizz along
the freeway in our hot metal time
capsule, the grand old trees we pass
don’t care—I doubt they even
notice (certainly they don’t bother
to turn their heads) as I natter on
about this and that, and you
apologize for the forty-ninth time,
and we end up back where we started,
even at seventy miles an hour. But
the trees don’t care at all. They just
lift their graceful armloads of blossoms
and toss them all over the stage, like
long-limbed ballerinas on opening night. . .
—Kathy Kieth, Pollock Pines
When you consider something like death, after which (there being no news flash to the contrary) we may well go out like a candle flame, then it probably doesn't matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, care for one another too deeply, are excessively curious about nature, are too open to experience, enjoy a nonstop expense of the senses in an effort to know life intimately and lovingly. It probably doesn't matter if, while trying to be modest and eager watchers of life's many spectacles, we sometimes look clumsy or get dirty or ask stupid questions or reveal our ignorance or say the wrong thing or light up with wonder like the children we all are. It probaby doesn't matter if a passerby sees us dipping a finger into the moist pouches of dozens of lady's slippers to find out what bugs tend to fall into them, and thinks us a bit eccentric. Or a neighbor, fetching her mail, sees us standing in the cold with our own letters in one hand and a seismically red autumn leaf in the other, its color hitting our senses like a blow from a stun gun, as we stand with a huge grin, too paralyzed by the intricately veined gaudiness of the leaf to move.
—Diane Ackerman (from A Natural History of the Senses, 1990)