Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Bastard Son of Sisyphus

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Charles H. Halsted, Davis

Odysseus, the bastard son of Sisyphus
Sailed by the stars of his destiny,
Outlasted the ire of Poseidon,
Who sent searing sun,
Gales and freezing rains
To punish his audacity

For blinding the one-eyed Cyclops,
Sailing past the Sirens’ songs of desire,
Seducing the goddess Circe, and
Feasting on the cattle of the gods.

A seer from hell foretold his choice
Just one of two paths to be taken,
As his hair turned gray
His skin more weathered:

To plant his oar in Ithaca
Renounce the sea
Till the soil and savor his wine
Lie down again with Penelope,

Or to presume his youth once more
Set sail to taunt the gods of destiny
And die by wreckage on a rocky shore;
Never to find the paradise of heroes
At the far edge of the western stars.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

Penny thought she might stop dating
as soon as
Otis flew home from Afghanistan
but she’s been having so much fun
what does he expect her to do
stay home with him and her knitting?

here is Joe at the door
his first question
whaddya hear from your old man?
Joe’s anxious about Otis
his former best friend
now pfc with a sharpshooting medal
but no more so than
Frank, Al, or Duane
she likes to tease them
you better look out
Otis is due any day now

she loves her status as an easy lay
a sireen, if you will
I’ll regret not doing more of this
when I’m 80…

being married to Otis for 7 years
is long enough
if he wants a divorce he can have it
anyway he probably
hasn’t been a model of purity overseas
Penny knows she isn’t the only sireen in the world


—Caschwa, Sacramento

The computer tech
Restored my site
For that I gave him money
And then some more money,
One more installment to go…

Idealists join the military
For the high purpose of
Making things better over there
By killing people
To make things safer back home
Where we kill people
For no good purpose at all.

My doctor sent me a telegram
With this one urgent message
To manage my health:


—Dillon Shaw, Davis

The ocean is absolutely teeming with life
coral reefs miles long
kelp forests acres high
life in the deepest, darkest, coldest places imaginable
life in unbearable heat and pressure
life in every tide-pool
so much life a blue whale
the largest animal alive
can live off the krill it eats
by swimming with its mouth open
the ocean is the most populated body on the planet
so why is it that
when I look at her
the ocean
she seems the loneliest thing I've ever met
perhaps it's because
for all the manatees, porpoises, fish, mollusks, seals,
jellyfish, plankton, krill, sea turtles, and even humans
on their little boats
so much life
but only one ocean


—Dillon Shaw

When she was Six her father left
When she was Eleven her mother said it was her fault
When she was Twenty Two she dated a man
who abused and betrayed her
When she was Twenty Three she got a job
protecting others who would not thank her
When she was Twenty Four she had the health of a sixty-year-old
When she was Twenty Five she had a stroke
and her voice was no longer her own
When she was Twenty Six she said "no more"
moved to the coast with only a handful of possessions
I met her When she was Twenty Seven
She taught me the wonders of the Ocean
of Sea-Shells and Sea-Glass
and the nature of Inner Peace


—Dillon Shaw

I couldn't sleep
I loved her and couldn't have her
and I couldn't sleep
So I went looking for the sunrise
because it was in no hurry to come to me

Searching, I found the Ocean;
Majestic, Timeless, Wise
You've heard it all before
So beautiful and powerful
but it couldn't help me
or wouldn't
I was too small

Searching, I found a precipice;
marked by a child's aging grave
a rotting wooden cross, dead flowers, a porcelain doll
so lonely and sad
Giving up on the sunrise, I heard the taunting of seals
laughing hysterically in front of me and behind me
but I couldn't see them, so I kept going

Searching, I found a ledge surrounded by ocean
on all sides
I was flying, and free
The seals kept mocking me, but I never found them
or the sunrise...
or her...
But I flew


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

In a faraway land, a town on a river
to the sea. Water flashing crimson-silver,
salmon up-currenting to spawn.

But the countess was enraged: one day's
salmon-catch reserved
for the common people of the town.

A countess craves salmon.
If she has none, the people shall have
none. She ordered her pawns

to fall her trees across the water.
So small a thing, a weir. Free sound of river
blocked, town landlocked, everyone;

no salmon swimming home to spawn;
gray wall of trees axed down.
Only after centuries, a channel was cut

freeing the town, letting the salmon run—
undoing what the dead had done.


Thanks to today's contributors! Pat Hickerson and Charles Halsted are talking about Odysseus, about which Carl Schwartz has his own poetic comment, and Dillon Shaw, former student of D.R. Wagner's, is back with us. And about her poem, Taylor Graham writes, DR's weir reminded me of something in Elihu's Walk from London to Land's End (1865). Here's a retelling. Taylor Graham, Katy Brown, and D.R. Wagner will be continuing their poetic "conversation" (which has been going on in the Kitchen for some time now) at the open mic portion of A Starry Night in Lodi this Sunday. Speaking of D.R., check out the photo (below) of him with Doug Blazek. There's a lot of poetic history in that photo...

Make history of your own by entering Tiger's Eye Chapbook Contest, deadline for which has been extended to Oct. 31: And if you're thinking of publishing your own chapbook, Margaret Bell reports: The folks at Alphagraphics in Rancho Cordova are good at what they do. They are wonderful to work with. They are very affordable—particularly if you have already done a lot of the required proofing, etc. yourself. They do not require you to get a certain number of copies on the first run. Call Usha Datla, the owner, at 916-221-1838.

And don't forget that the next deadline for Sac. Poetry Center's Tule Review is TODAY, Aug. 27:


Today's LittleNip: 

Whenever man tries to probe into the universe's dimension of time, he will finally be confronted with eternity. Where he tries to understand the dimension of space, he will be finally confronted with infinity. And where he tries to understand matter by separating it into ever smaller particles, he will always discover something that is even smaller, and be confronted with the fact that there is no final smallest particle.

—Gerhard Staguhn



 Doug Blazek and D.R. Wagner