Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Maps Are Circular; Poems Spiral

Samba de Terra Brazilian Dance Troupe
Banana Festival, Sacramento, August 2011
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

           After Sylvia Plath’s “The Munich Mannequins”
          (“Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children.”)
—Jane Blue, Sacramento

As Sylvia Plath might say:
Captivity is absolute; it cannot be reversed.
Hard as windows, it boxes the heart.

Where rain forests hum like the blind
the skulls of bats, folded in false night
waiting for what? The electric day

the perfect sleep.
It stands for: the perfection of care.
All of us, in Seattle, a family.

So, in their silver beauty
the cobras hang today
in the night house of the Woodland Park Zoo

clothed and hooded in their lamé suits
diamonds on lorgnettes
insufferable, without thoughts.

The rain lets go its particles of light.
Ghosts pass by. In the stalls
arms poke in hay and spray elephants.

The ordinariness of the doors
the steel handles, the beige plastic veneers
and polyester bottoms hibernating in chilled élan.

Outside, the closed concession stands.
Winking and waiting.


FINDING MYSELF (a Linvillanelle)
—Catherine Weaver, Los Altos

I was walking upstairs,
Looking through the attic
To find lost memories.

I sifted through old treasures
That once were so valuable
And now have no meaning.

Where could I find them?
The objects I used to use
To know who I am?

To know who I am,
I sifted through lost treasures,
The objects I used to use.

Where could I find them
To find lost memories?
Looking through the attic.

I was walking up stairs
That once were so valuable
And now have no meaning.

And now have no meaning,
Where could I find them-
I sifted through old treasures

That once were so valuable.
Looking through the attic
To find lost memories-

The objects I used to use.
I was walking upstairs
To know who I am.


—Ann Menebroker, Sacramento

Who does the body belong to
that lies so sullenly across the early
morning path in the parkway?
A toe nudging touching the purple shirt
gets no response. Probably a body
no longer dreams, having been defined
by its lack of movement, even
to its imagination. No flies yet. No
column of ants line up to this
museum-quality litter.
Perhaps the night before
there was too much abundance
of drink. Perhaps it was
awake too long.
Maybe it got sick. I roll it quietly
over to some bushes to conceal
either its napping or eternal quietude
and go on with my journey.


           (for Roland Emmerich’s forthcoming Shakespeare movie)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Who hath writ Shakespeare?
     An ever-changing reason.
     A no one of honest name.

Why does the man hide?
     Only if the truth cringes.
     Labor sifts love, silted. Shush.

Won’t right names echo?
     Hard to see through governments.
     Tough on the harsher powers.

Who knows where he hid?
     Many who won’t soon tell us.
     We do, never to tell them.

So what if he did?
     Shakespeare. Read. Find who’s missing.
     If you can, life’s left half-told.


—Don Feliz, Sacramento

We venture from Mexico
three hundred miles
from home in a storm.

It's dark; the wipers don't
work. We save the battery
just for tail lights.

Our Chevy chained close
to a friend's Ford towing
over the Grapevine.


The mustard colored 1973 Ford Maverick
with non-functional gas gauge
breaks down in the New Mexican desert
well outside Deming.

Back home in So Cal
I could be more sure
that the limitations of math,
mileage and prayers
would get me
to the station
with just enough to spare.

Travelling to grad school
in South Mississippi
late in August 1981
I am
running late
which has altered my usual reserve
into a devil-come-the-worst
sprinter that depends
on tail winds
and crossed digits....

Sometimes you fall
like here
on Interstate 10
but a maverick sometimes
hits the right stride
the perfect luck...
I am near
an emergency phone box
and the abandoned Shell
still had tepid drinking water
from a half-clogged fountain
running merrily away.

—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA


—Taylor Graham

Not Mustard. Back in the day,
they called it Goldenrod, or maybe
Harvest Gold. Goldie for short,
this old car faded, rusty now
like so many other things. Today,
Ike the old wether is loaded
where the backseat used to be.
Visit to the vet, where a nice lady
will gaze into his sheep's eyes
and listen to his complicated innards.
Ike's grown long in the tooth—
what teeth he still has—but
to everyone at the vet's
he's Handsome or Sweetheart.
They call him by name, make him
feel special. Then the drive
back home in a tired mustard-
yellow car that's hard to start.
We shouldn't name our cars
nor our sheep. But as Goldie
climbs the last hill home, the late
sun turns August-dry grass
to golden, and there's the pretty
new ewe whose name is Rosy.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Somehow the poems you sent me
slipped out of my pocket,
and the map—go east, I think
it said, to the eldest willow's shade,
a valley with the most delicate
curve of moon; climb
a ladder whose rungs are lit
like feathers. There was shadow
of an unseen bird, and
a whirlwind twisting dust to sky.

Maybe your poems escaped
into someone else's dreams, like
ferns layered into stone
of the unconscious—not a forgotten
country, but caught in memory
or universal history—a place
that keeps coming back,
years after you leave it. But
maybe I've got this all wrong.
Maps are circular. Poems spiral.


Thanks to all these poets for today's contributions, including Jane Blue and her daughter, Catherine Weaver. About her poem, Jane writes: Joyce Odam's poem after Sylvia Plath's "The Munich Mannequins" [see yesterday's post] made me think of this one, which is patterned, in syntax, exactly after Plath's. You learn a lot about a poet doing that. She never once said "I".  People are also writing to our Seed of the Week: Poems beginning with a mustard colored car, and to other forms and themes from past weeks, including Annie's poem about what to do with a dead body, which was one of our recent Questions of the Day. It's all good, healthy food for Medusa...

D.R. Wagner sent us a couple of quotes from Juan Luis Borges, and Robin Gale Odam sent us a compelling photo she found of Borges—see below. She writes: Monday’s LittleNip in Medusa’s Kitchen, a quote from J. L. Borges sent in by D.R. Wagner, made me remember this photo of Jorge Luis Borges. (I became curious about Borges after reading D.R.'s “A Scurrilous Gesture” in Medusa’s Kitchen on 1/21/11.) Here is a link to a delightful biographical article on Borges (Jorge Juis Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths): Thanks, Robin Gale! See below for another quote from Borges that was sent to us by D.R.


Today's LittleNip: 

What always happens, when one studies a language, happened. Each of the words stood out as though it had been carved, as though it were a talisman. For that reason poems in a foreign language have a prestige they do not enjoy in their own language, for one hears, one sees, each of the words individually. We think of the beauty, of the power, or simply of the strangeness of them.

—J. L. Borges



Juan Luis Borges