Thursday, December 30, 2010

We Stare in Thought

Photo of Medusa taken by Cynthia Linville
at The American International Rattlesnake Museum, 
Albuquerque, NM, 2010

—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Attention publisher:

Cancel my lifetime subscription
to Pathetic Pathways for the
Depleted and Defeated
effective immediately.

I’ve had quite enough
taste of sour grapes,
other peoples’ gripes,
grandiose pontifications,
and throw another pauper
in the hopper propaganda.

It is time for me to enjoy
a renewal of my choices.

Unleash the positive voices.

Renew the vision,
whatever it takes,
that elevates one’s sights
above earthly mistakes.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

To get born in a coal camp takes guts.
My mother rode a horse straight up the mountainside to get born here.
She rode on a coal train to get here.
She rode in a hay wagon to get here
she rode muleback
she slung herself over a donkey’s hip
she rode the wind and screamed like an eagle
she dove through the sky
she yanked clouds around and re-channeled rivers
she clawed icicles off mountaintops
she did not come gentle into this hard life
she rode the tail of a giant possum
she straddled a cat’s ass
she came galloping full bent round the turn driving hard day
and night to get born here
black hair like satin ropes snapping in the wind
eyes like sky blue marbles glittering in the sun
she was a length of dynamite
long and red and lean like her mama and papa
this is where she charged out of Mammaw’s belly
in late December 1905 in a coal camp in Westbourne TN
She was a human fireball,
not a baby.


Thanks to Carl and Pat and today's other contributors! Rattlesnake Museum—wow! (Don't read the news clipping below if you're still eating breakfast.) Carl says his poem is about Medusa's "evil twin", and Pat celebrates her mother's birthday today.

Cache Creek Spring Workshop w/Rae Gouirand: MARK DOTY; THE ART OF DESCRIPTION

Thursday mornings, 10am-12pm

Ten weeks: January 20-March 24, 2011

Rae Gouirand writes: This workshop at Woodland’s Cache Creek Preserve will consider not just Doty's poems but also his writings on poetry, and examine the truth behind his statement that "What descriptions—or good ones, anyway—actually describe... is consciousness, the mind playing over the world of matter, finding there a glass various and lustrous enough to reflect back the complexities of the self that's doing the looking." This workshop will be structured somewhat differently than the topical sessions of the past: While we'll be observing the same organizing principles we usually do (the first hour of class devoted to discussion, the second hour to independent work on the Preserve site), there will be official homework and reading between class sessions (some of which will be self-assigned by the participants). This ten-week workshop will meet indoors in the Preserve's education office on cold or rainy winter days, or outdoors in our gorgeous outdoor classroom as weather permits. Registrants are required to commit to regular attendance, and will need to purchase copies of Doty's The Art of Description as well as his Still Life With Oysters and Lemon. Early registration is strongly advised; space is limited. Free to the public (donations to Cache Creek Nature Preserve are accepted in any amount to help support the program; no one will be turned away for lack of funds). To register, simply email with your name, email, and phone number.

PS: Sacramento-area folk: there are still slots open in the Sacramento section of Rae’s Creative Nonfiction workshop at the Sacramento Poetry Center (Wednesday nights 7-9 PM, January 12-April 27, $375). If you're interested, email and she'll forward the info and the registration form to you again—they start soon!


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

Setting out to emulate
Ludwig von Beethoven
who is said to have composed
entire symphonies while
strolling in the forest, I
grabbed some writing
utensils and went outdoors.

Oakwood, Woodside, The
Meadows, Sierra [all kinds
of second names], each one
comprised of private property
honeycomb apartments,
managed by this and that LLC,
LLP, or HOA, whatever.

One had to have a vested
interest in the real estate to
get close enough to see, hear,
smell and feel the life in the
few remaining trees.

Maybe a regional, state, or
national park would be the
answer. Tourists, admission
fees, long lists of restrictions.
Maybe not.

What if heaven itself is now
populated by investors and
regulated by lawyers?

I’m siding toward leaving the
forest behind and heading out
to sea past the three mile limit,
to where music and life simply
stop when they are done instead
of expiring like contracts.


—William Bronk

Kortlandt, who studied chimpanzees in the wild, concealed
within his blind, would sometimes see them find
his eyes, and stare in thought and wander off.
Contemplation and doubt were what he saw
or thought he saw, behind their searching eyes
these times and others, as if they tried
to make sense of an always, or often, puzzling world.

It seems a sad as well as a wondrous thing.

He doesn't say, but he leaves the thought to occur
that our primate nature could be, not as we think
it is: to know, but only to be disturbed,
as these simpler beasts are disturbed, in their simpler world,
that all the unknown should strike us, even though
it stops at that. No more. We stare in thought.


—William Bronk

He lets us into a room which must
be any room in an ordinary
house on a street where buses, perhaps,
go past us, or once we arrived just
too late to watch a parade. This
is a city, anyway, where
we always seem to be at the wrong
season; the weather is bad, and our friends
are somewhere else. Here in the room
though, there is a fragrance we had all
but forgotten from somewhere, and all around
us, a great ingathering of lovely things
from such long distances of time
and space, we marvel to see again,
and for once together, what we have failed
before to connect. Or so it seems.
Does it matter than on a second look
the room is empty, or if not that,
that the things that are gathered here are things
we never saw before? No.
With what sweet eloquence
these objects speak and ask no reply;
for listen, it is we, ourselves, who sing.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

random act molotov cocktail thrown through the
window of the home of a 102-year-old woman
just before midnight last night when asked
if she has any enemies she smiled her
old woman smile and said “Oh yeah!”



Another photo from the Rattlesnake Museum
courtesy of Cynthia Linville, Sacramento