Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Teach Me How To Sing

Photo by Barbara March

WESTERN WORD SHOP - A Vignette for Two Voices
—Barbara March, Cedarville

I’m having a party and want to order some metaphors, a few similes. Can you help me?

Well ma’am, I can sure try.

Do you have accents?

No, only plain black type. We are a simple word shop.


No o’s. Not this time of year. We’ll be getting more o’s in for Easter.

Okay. For starters I’d like a word that curves like a pine nut, is green as a beetle in a frozen juniper log and rhymes with arroyo.

Oh brother. Hold on, I’ll get the thesaurus.

For my second course I’m thinking of a phrase. Something like, cantankerous as a pixy with a pistol.

Now you’re talking.

The main course should be reliable as a meatloaf. I like crows fleeing the earth while mud blazes like a campaign.

Campaign? Are you getting political?

Oh no. I just—

Just what? Look lady, I’m trying to help you but you’re not making it easy. Like I said, this is a simple word shop. All the words we do here are two syllables or less. You’ve got me stretched thin as a worn latigo.

Oh, I like that.

Sure, sure. Let’s talk about dessert. How about a musical chairs rhyming game using jelly, limp as a squeezed tea bag, exotic pheasants and an obelisk?

Edgy. Très chic.

I said no accents.


Thanks to today’s contributors, including Ignimbrite Poet Barbara March, who reminds us that members of the Ignimbrite School of Poetry will present three readings in our area in February: two in Davis (Feb. 18 w/Ray and Barbara March, and Feb. 20 with the whole group, both at UUCD) and one in Sacramento (Feb. 21 at SPC). Check the b-board in the Kitchen for details, or go to


—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

Backpacking on switchback trails
to get where cars don’t go
treading upon rocks that feel like nails,
all the dimensions of slow

Huge calluses and blisters compile
while they conspire to take over the soles
each one a stone every mile,
souvenirs for walking on coals.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

On the walls, black suede, black
taffeta, black velvet—
she was always fascinated
by neon color brushed on midnight—
a unicorn with fairy-rider,
silver-dappled stallion by a river,
stars and Aztec symbols, Elvis….
these milestones of her
imagination. Step back and try
to see the pattern
of the whole
she's left us. Tawdry? Kitsch?
How she loved—how
shall we sell or give away?


—Taylor Graham

In the old VW combi, we never made it
over the mountains to Chihuahua.

Village boys masked for Mardi Gras—
we shared tacos with the local flies.

Christmas Eve, we broke down;
tented on the Grapevine. Dinty Moore

stew, our dinner on the holy day;
snowy angels singing from the stars.

Yosemite, Grand Canyon—we searched
the backsides where people died.

We loved and lost generations of dogs;
uncles, sisters, friends. Gravestones

of the heart. Milestones of the mind—
we've had adventures. Shall we

set out again for Talkeetna, or Obregón…
our vehicle full of the ghosts of dogs

and things we never managed?
Shall we make it over the mountain?


—Tom Goff, Carmichael Tahrir Square, sands assemble,
from all eight corners of the ancient
double kingdom, sands from the Valley
of the Tombs, sands from the interstices
between coffins and organ-coffins, arising

even the sands compounded solely of sand,
assembling into morsels, orts that listen
like ears of the millions; and now the Coptic
homemaker can speak Truth by her own name
into the journalist’s microphone; cosmopolites
and Brotherhood hoplites combining to roust

out the secret police in their sedans and limos
with darkened windows and bullwhip antennas.
Listening the sands and dirts and dusts of
Pharaoh and fellaheen, of the philosopher god
Locke. Assembled from the narrow streets’
blown bits, the tall pale ghost of Naguib Mahfouz
smiles a not-quite-so-ironical smile...even

Hatshepsut rises to help, cross-dressy as ever,
her man-beard proudly donned, eyes cagey,
but the kohl-heightened lines
about them and her lips plucked
electrically by hopes. In my neighborhood,
sunlight makes Prague Spring for the redwing
blackbirds, epaulettes exposed, flitting about
a Starbucks bird feeder pecking out grains and seeds.

What is not possible—Peaceable Kingdom,
Ra-resurgence, Marx heaven, or apocalypse
—in such a world?


Today's LittleNip: 

Green finch, linnet bird,
blackbird, nightingale—

Teach me how to sing...

—Stephen Sondheim, from the musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 



Barbara March