ABOVE SAND CREEK
Fifty miles west the salty sea
lures its children to table.
White clouds tumble in
the blue waves of sky,
swell around the hills
and rise to the ridges.
Raven snags a worm
along the empty bank—
all too soon, life is labor
in delicate muscles of the wing.
The rising sky
holds the light
of a windblown star.
Time has always
been this way. This blue.
Or this blue?
I spit out the bone—
all that remains
is the sacred.
TO THE ANTIPHONIST, FROM BILL NEPHELE
after Odysseas Elytis
Neither cloud nor dream can exist in words—
not even the olive tree, silvery,
and in winter, slate blue. The light of
an extinguished star no longer guides
our destiny, indivisible, unseen,
even as it empties the sky.
Navigating by the rose, we steer
without pause through the burning ruins.
But when we speak our truth, the children
swarm the station, bothering
the frightened passengers. You’re not old,
the stone steps to South Heaven Gate
and the trains are old and now I see,
the songs are ancient. I’m not partial
to romantic love, not to politics or speeches,
and even if God designed the cathedral and the shark,
we, like the wave, eventually will empty.
So, what do you say—
shall we give the earth back to our feet?
(First published in RATTLE)
NEW YEAR MANIFESTO
Here, and hear words unite,
as the sun’s lance comes to rest
on the precise spot, verbally. Though
it’s a winter sun, with commitment and love
change will come…and the seasons
will once again speak freely.
(First published in hardpan)
Broken-hearted, shuddering land—
shadows of tall palms melt
like the hands of children
in the blood-dark dust.
Thanks, Bill! William O’Daly was raised in Los Angeles, and after coming of age as a poet, translator, and fiction writer in the Pacific Northwest, he returned to his beloved Sierra Nevada where he lives with his wife and daughter. Long ago finding kindred artistic spirit and soulful sustenance in the work of Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda, he published eight books of the late-career and posthumous poetry of el poeta del pueblo (Still Another Day, The Separate Rose, Winter Garden, The Sea and the Bells, The Yellow Heart, The Book of Questions, The Hands of Day, and World’s End) with Copper Canyon Press. He also has published a chapbook of his own poems, The Whale in the Web, with Copper Canyon, and numerous poems, translations, essays, and reviews in a range of magazines and anthologies. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, O’Daly was a finalist for the 2006 Quill Award in Poetry for Still Another Day and was profiled on NBC’s The Today Show. With co-author Han-ping Chin, he recently completed a historical novel, This Earthly Life, based on the Chinese Cultural Revolution. This Earthly Life was selected as a “Finalist” in Narrative magazine’s 2009 Fall Story Contest.
Upcoming Activities and Events for William O'Daly:
Poetry and Translation Workshop, UC Davis Extension, Sacramento: O’Daly will teach the poetry and translation workshop at UCD Extension’s Downtown Center, beginning Tuesday, February 1, at 6pm. The workshop will offer thoughtful critique of participants’ poems and poems in translation, supported by readings of poems in The Book of Luminous Things (anthology) and discussion of the elements that distinguish poetry from prose, with special emphasis on the line. We’ll explore image and metaphor; pacing, rhythm, and sound; and ways of meaning, intending to propel the poet toward discovery, breakthrough, and ultimately publication. To learn more and sign up: extension.ucdavis.edu/unit/arts_and_humanities/course/listing/?unit=ARTS&prgList=WRT&coursearea=Writing
The Ignimbrite School of Poets Read at Crossroads for the Arts, February 21:
O’Daly will read with former Sacramento poet laureate, Julia Connor, with Barbara March, executive director of Modoc Forum and the Surprise Valley Writers’ Conference, and with other fine poets who last June walked, climbed, sat, talked, and wrote their way into the Ignimbrite School of Poetry. This “school” of poets formed naturally in Surprise Valley, CA, during the conference “The Poetic Spirit: An Exploration of Inner and Outer Landscapes.” There, poets and writers explored the Hayes (Nevada) and Warner (California) mountain ranges and shared theories and experiences of “poetry of place,” in its many forms and rooted in geology, ecology, biology, botany, and humanity. Host: Bob Stanley, 1719 - 25th Street, 7pm.
In other news: The Bay Area continues to celebrate the birth of Jack London (see b-board); Michelle Kunert sends us her take on that. And the dream/swim poems continue to come in. Thanks, as always, to all our contributors.
Hey—let's all get behind Sacramento Poetry Center's The Sacramento Poem project! Deadline has been extended to March 1; see the b-board for details. Don't be put off by the "renga" word; just send 'em five shiny lines about Sacramento for inclusion in what could be the world's longest poem. It'll be fun—you don't want to be left out!
—Sandy Thomas, Sacramento
If you go past the black rock, by the Sheraton,
you can swim with the stingrays
just past that, couple of miles or three,
is the giant sea turtles' feeding haunt,
but if you swim over there, on the other side
of the wall, there are sharks
see out there, the humpback whales are
waving their fins.
FOR JACK LONDON'S BIRTHDAY JANUARY 12
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
On Easter break 2007 I visited Jack London's home
in the east Sonoma mountain area
along with a guy I don't even care about anymore
I wondered if London, known for Call of The Wild,
finds irony in his own property returning to nature
(most likely due to the lack of enough state funding
for the state park built upon his family's residence)
Here were stones bordering the ruins of a dream house
which burned down in 1913 before the family even moved in:
never rebuilt, overgrown with native grasses and weeds
London's actual cottage was closed for renovations
Apparently otherwise it would have to be condemned
I really felt bad for this French couple
who stood sadly at the sign on its porch
the same porch where London himself had died
in 1916 of his severe illnesses at the age of forty
as if they been invited to come
and now to be suddenly turned down
In broken English they complained
so much around there they visited was also closed
A small museum was open though
with a TV showing some silent film footage of London
including some home movies he made on his ranch
and with footage of him with some prize pigs he bred
Also featuring some under-glass displays
of personal items and first editions of his books
Some stories of his personal tragedies
including being kicked out of a San Francisco Socialist party
Alas, if only George Orwell had then been around
to console Jack's soul about not being a good socialist
and that he was not a "failure"
Indeed other American authors such as John Steinbeck
probably could've stepped up to build a better memorial
WHAT SHE SAID
—Trina Drotar, Sacramento
“Watch where you swim,” is what she said when I
crossed the street to visit Pauly, the kid with glasses
even thicker than the ones I wore at age five; and
it’s what she said when I went to school that first day
and learned that the teachers expected me to already
know how to add and subtract and multiply and divide,
and I think now how strange it was that they didn’t
expect a working knowledge of calculus and the recital of
our nation’s history; and it’s what she said when I rode
that pink bike, the one Santa brought for Christmas but
that she had to put together because Santa’s helpers were
out on strike that year (which also explains the missing
handlebar tassel); and it’s what she said when I moved into
my own apartment far from home (two blocks away, if I’m
not mistaken); and it’s what she said when I accepted my
first job working in an office on the twenty-second floor
(which would technically be the twenty-first since there was
no thirteenth floor); and it’s what she said when I went to the
prom, when I played softball, when I learned how to cook,
and when I learned to drive in the parking lot that was, and
still is, always empty as though it had been created for that
particular use; and it’s what she said as she closed her eyes.
Jeanine's new book, Caught in Clouds
(from Finishing Line Press),
and Trina's new littlesnake broadside,
Cormorant in the Desert
(from Rattlesnake Press)
January 12, 2011