Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Repent Nothing

Photo by Maureen Hurley

—Maureen Hurley, Marin County

I was born within sight of the ocean
but a nervousness dances within
when I stray too far from the coastal hills of my birth.
The slopes of Mt. Barnabe sheltered me.
The long arm of the ridge wrapped itself
around our house holding us in from the world.

Afternoons I'd ride the crest of the ridge
testing the odor of pine and bay.
Sweet lethe, the crickets sizzled
in the rattlesnake grass
shaking a soft rhythm in the breeze.

Thanks, Mo, and thanks to Carl Schwartz for his shopping "excursions"; see below.

It's not too late to sign up for tomorrow night's Seasonal Open Mic featuring Medusa's Kitchen readers and their poems of the season (winter, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa—whatever "the season" is to you, your own poems or somebody else's), five minutes each. If you'd like to read, please let me know (kathykieth@hotmail.com). That's at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac., 7:30pm, where we'll be featuring Ron H. Peat of Auburn, reading from his new book of poetry from Xlibris, and a new littlesnake broadside from Rattlesnake Press: A Bench Called Henry, from Sacramento's Richard Zimmer.

It's Seed of the Week Day. This week it's Self-Portraits. Send your SOWs to kathykieth@hotmail.com; no deadline. Mo Hurley's poem qualifies, don't you think? Here's another example:


—So Chongju

Father was a serf, seldom came home at night.
At home my gradmother, old as
The shriveled root of leek,
And a blossoming date tree.
Big with child, Mother wanted just one apricot.

I was a mother's son with dirty fingernails
Under a lamp by the mud wall.
With bushy hair and staring eyes,
I am said to resemble Grandpa on Mother's side,
Who in 1894 went to sea and never returned.

For twenty-three years the wind has reared two-thirds of me,
And the world has become a more embarassing place.
Some have read a convict in my eyes,
Others an idiot in my mouth.
Yet I will repent nothing.

At each dawn, brightly assailing,
The dews of poetry settled on my brow,
Mixed with drops of blood.
And I have come this far panting
Like a sick dog with his tongue hanging out
In the sun and in the shade.

(translated from the Chinese by Peter H. Lee)


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

I needed a vacation from civilization
to do some writing without all the
usual distractions.  A shopping trip
was in order to gather necessary
provisions, including of course
jumbles of generations of

crossword puzzle
foreign language
Oxford English

Now I’m ready to leave town!


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

can be an insufferable burden
on those who like to read.
Intellectual property lawyers
have locked up a significant
amount of worthwhile reading
matter with the prohibition:

No part of this book may be
reproduced in any form…
without permission in writing
from the author.

A person whose mind captures
images like a copy machine
cannot just pick out a book
and start reading it, even while
shopping.  They must follow
the mandate to get written
permission ahead of time!

Thank goodness for bibles
and poetry readings.


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

beyond the reach of the
librarian’s ladder, on a
precipice higher than ceilings
or rooftops, or even clouds

is a kind of savvy that defies
any material quantification,
that is not passed down from
father to son nor shared online.

It’s just that you get it or you
don’t, and many who do lord
it over those who don’t, as if
they are the chosen ones who

have been bestowed a royal
privilege to be shepherd for the
common man, those lowly,
pitiful, ignorant subjects.

These kings and queens do not,
cannot radiate a beacon of light
or blaze a trail to follow, they
only leave a gaping black hole

that poses an ever-present
danger to those fortunate
enough to have even a little bit
of that precious knowledge

who dare to harbor words and
thoughts that might take them
to a place that is up above

—Carl Bernard Schwartz

A series of wooden slats
each closely resembling its
neighbor, but each answering
to a different name and
producing a different result

TV remotes and garage door openers,
straight edge and serrated knives,
spouse number one and spouse number two,
front seat and back seat,
pickle halves, spears, and slices
the moment before you opened your mouth and
the moment after the bomb was dropped

A tap on the slat creates a tone
that does not exist alone
it is one part of an arrangement
like a chorus of voices
or a vase of flowers
synthesized, synchronized

Next in line, please…
What do you want on your sandwich?


Today's LittleNip:

—Kim Kwangsop

The general becomes a sword
The sovereign becomes a mausoleum
The rich become a fence
The poor become stones and sand.

I would become a cloud,
in the arms of a favoring wind
travel a thousand miles,
rain on the grasses burning
on a tomb.

(Translated from the Chinese by David R. McCann)



Self-Portrait (The Desperate Man)
—Painting by Gustave Courbet