Monday, July 23, 2012

Breaking the Witch's Fiddle

Midsummer Sunset
—Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

When you make hurricane eyes at me, little cloud,
my mind’s a far thunderhead. Estranged
from the snap of the levin or the consoling drumroll.
Mist upon mist, like thought upon thought.
You are my San Francisco: I toil in the vertigo
coils across Golden Gate walkway

to Sausalito, away from your loved Russian Hill,
Twin Peaks, Glen Park. Unseen sun glazes
a sheer gray curtain: why must your shine too
efface itself behind the sheen? Why cloak
your achingly slender white shoulders
beneath Marie Ponsot’s “hood of fog?”

But so it is: you turn your back, you iris out
like a lady Chaplin. Come back, little waif,
don’t become wraith without the option of return.
My gamine, gone lost in the fog-dazzle…


—Tom Goff

Tuesday afternoon. The raw heat chills.
Had you dropped by as usual, I, leaving work,
would now be leaving you. I drive the hill perimeter.
On the radio, Puccini’s Intermezzo from
Manon Lescaut, the satin of infinite happy
sorrow, sorrow, sorrow. Pacing the perimeter

I thought mine, but beyond,
where grasses dry & dirt seems to grow,
a coyote. Deep chest, scant waist. For a moment,
glassed-in man and far coyote seem to lock eyes.

I know who I am, but you, I can’t place.

I can’t place who I am, but you, I know.

Why is dryness always so lonesome?

What hunting here, any mice, no jackrabbits?

Where is your love, your mate?


—Tom Goff

Gray-helmeted, far-battered warrior
against all work save boozing. Scattering
Carib rums eccentric into your ring-
ripple, spilling cinnamon everywhere.

Incapable of pure love yet all tendresse
for worthy mouths or the slobbery inwards of lips,
you departed port by obligatory noblest
bound upon bound, all sails and no ship.

Feather and metal wing, my hardest hawk
of Akron, Cleveland businessfather’s enigma,
your figure-skate blade stenciled poetic jigsaw
puzzles, amatory tackle and block.

Your wish was to bridge all human time and skin
one sailor at a time: exquisite prowls
or carousals sordid, delvings into bowels
of living books. You gangplanked into sin;

and then you descended, a caisson-grandeur-king
donjon-plunged bends and benders Roeblinglike
from East River concrete root to water-clear sky-spike
and fretfully, harp-spun arch, could lyre and sing

conch-song Aeolian washes cable-strung
of saturate sound: a mystic game telephone-
lipping the breath-warm softening rumor-stone
ear by child’s ear from Brooklyn to heaven. Spring

gifted your best poems. An Amazon to debouch,
yet on went your revels, revetment-splintering dawn
you split with a gob from the USS Arizona:
how didst thou peel away from suchlike debauch

thy clarity, persisting through surface disturbance?
Ah, Saturn-centrifugal notes along pond-satin,
you, embouchuring Whitman’s American Latin
to sexual centurions, kin of the drunk Roman urbans!

We read of your mystery sailor “Evered,”
stationed prewar on this fated battleship,
wondering how from history he slips,
yet ponder the names aboard her (years later) like “Everett”:

berthed amidships at Pearl, such young men, infant in sleep.
One Japanese bomb in the left-open magazine:
Van Valkenburgh, Kidd—and your sailor?—blown in one sheen
of shock, black rubbery billow and steelfire sheet.

Annihilating rums and sodas let us drink
to mysticism’s evanescent sodality:
so many writers affix their sheer carnality
to pages that shred, inscribing in milk, not ink.

We guess at your end—was it Orizaba’s blades?
The blue desponding fathoms entombing Atlantis?
Swift sharks with razor incisors, remora-clad mantas?—
What “diced” you to “embassies” of galvanic stanzas?
O consummate Orpheus, leapt to Sargasso glades!

Your seaweed, coral & opal disintegrations
drift with what Modernistic scintillations? 

Head of Medusa, Didyma, Turkey

—Michael Cluff, Corona

Fluttering between nightshade
and nutmeg jammed jars
Euclid a deaf alchemist
rams reality
back into fresh cedar slats
rotund rarities
not touching ambivalent
advice in atoms  


Sense the roaring cataract
before the descent
into stiffening death breath
answer quixotics
when light drifts through bluebottles,
collecting fragments
recant in fluent Latin
to the father's ears. 


Stalker dons gray business suit
car chrome silk polished
black wingtips fresh from repairs
to their broken soles,
an unaware terse sleeper
when a door opens
slides deep into ribald dreams
knife bright passion.  


—Caschwa, Sacramento

When I am seventy five
My income will be
Just Social Security
Supplemented by

Coins I find on the sidewalk
Guest appearances
By dear presidents of old
Touching my bare feet



Our world is polar extremes
Healthy or ailing
Popular opinion polls
Wizard or dummy

We cannot stress this enough
Tasty or rotten
You are a beautiful swan
Or ugly duckling

High definition TV
Gotta have it now
Can’t stand to miss a pixel
Ten year service plan

Your numbers win without you
Happens all the time
The bankruptcy court is full
Can you spare a dime?

II ½.
Take liberties with the form
Screw it up royal
Make your own definitions
Turn it upside down

Shave and a haircut, six bits
That’s a retro price
DYI is big today
Start your own nation

It is time to go to bed
Eyes getting sleepy
The dishes will do themselves
Trust me and believe

A dream is in your future
It will feature you
In bed, asleep, not reading
Why are you still here?


Thanks to today's contributors! About his "Crane" poem, Tom Goff says: Don't know how well the "Hart Crane" piece works (an experiment in his manner, without necessarily understanding it), but I'm fascinated with the biography by Clive Fisher, and by what Crane does to poetic language, as seen in the new Library of America edition of his complete work. My private little theory is that he rejects some of the ordinary denotative language to describe experience, picking maybe the nearest or next nearest connotative or associative spinoff as a valid equivalent for the missing conventional word. Kind of like Charlie Parker discarding the ordinary triad and skating exclusively in the upper overtones or extensions of the chord, the sevenths, ninths, and elevenths. What Fisher can do to decrypt the original through line of each poem is impressive.

Thanks also to those intrepidarians who tackled the current Form to Fiddle With, the Imago. Poets also tackled the Seed of the Week, mostly by writing senryus—though be careful that you know what a senryu actually is. Some are still confusing senryus with haikus. See Medusa Mulls in the FUCHSIA LINKS at the top of this for some thoughts about that. Even though you're writing beautiful, short little poems, be careful whatcha call 'em...

And the City of Davis has a new Poet Laureate, Eve West Bessier! See the links on the green board at the right of this for info about her.


Today's LittleNip:

—Patricia Pashby, Sacramento

Towering black walnut tree
ancient growth snuffed out.
Jade-embroidered canopy,
hostel for squirrels
elbowed by brand-new stucco.
Limbs severed, trunk hacked.
Gatherers scamper—stockpile
fallen nut fallout.



 —Photo by Taylor Graham