Instructions for reading
—Bob Stanley, Sacramento
read your poem in the night
read your poem in the street
read your poem in the colonnade, in the capitol, in the office, on the beach.
Your poem is the answer to the questions of your life
Your poem is the question you wanted to ask but forgot
the sensory record of the refraction of your mind
and heart and the reflecting of the light off the spider
on the window.
Yes, just the window.
The poem you read in the night will be dark
The poem you read in the street will be hard
The poem you read in the colonnade will be arched, lovely, sheltering,
maybe a little too ornate and
it will not be heard by as many as you hoped
but your words, when they fade, will still reverberate
The poem you read in the capitol
that’s one you will savor
even as you hear footsteps of capitolites
click by in an attempt to not be touched
even as you hear chatter echo marble halls.
you know some of them have poets locked in them
though they may not know this yet
some of them will listen
and your words
while not the entire key
will fumble in their pockets
to help them find it.
The poem in the office you file in a secret file and read
to one confidant only:
the office the office
how can there be a child within & how can
there not be?
The poem on the beach you sail wide into big wind
shout to the bigness of it all
wind, wave, sky, songs that run through your don’t understand mind
and youth and age and the one the ones you love
beside you all around you on that
It’s a poem that would exist even if it didn’t
and it’s both yours and not-yours so you raise your voice
shade your eyes from the low sun and just
let it go.
THE BANJO IS THE INSTRUMENT OF LIES
If you must play music, my son, avoid the instruments that veer from the righteous: beware the zither, the dobro, and the distant sounds of oud and bozouki.
Avoid the lure of slide guitars,
but shun most of all the banjo
for the banjo is the instrument of lies.
With his face of sorrow, the minstrel sings a happy song
And the banjo that makes this possible, hybrid of drum and string,
survivor of middle passage, Africa to Alabama,
cheerful tone bright as fallen angel’s wing.
Far worse, the five string banjo, than even the fiddle,
for the fiddle has at least one string tuned to the lord
banjo strings are but
edges of laughter and fear.
Everything that comes from a banjo player is lies
watch his eyes
but don’t you watch
MTV SCREEN AT THE ROOST, FOLSOM LAKE COLLEGE
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Two tremendous explosions, Damascus, Syria:
no mention by whom, what rebel or terrorist cause.
Too early for analysis (news comes earlier,
always—show the blowups, never the laws
or reasons). Then it’s on to something else;
it’s MTV, where this Hurt Locker expels
some prior sliver of news…and is expelled.
Explosions in foam: espresso and milk get mixed.
White blasting brown? Is this how lattès get fixed?
MY FUN CAR
(The vacant house next store draws squatters and drifters
but no good faith offers.
Good work wasn't enough, good fortune failed to pay a visit,
accounts receivable failed to pay anything.)
My happiest driving experience
was in my 1966 Mustang
with the 289 (small 8) engine
Then followed some bad expert advice
the housing boom and bust
More bad expert advice
Now 4 cylinders have been furloughed
their fuel source cut off completely
for savings, say the experts
The car and engine remain the same size
with half as many cylinders expected
to do all the work and carry the load
My 1-cylinder lawn mower sits
alongside the driveway and laughs,
this is your future, Mustang
A neighbor and her husband left in late September, saying she'd be out of town till mid-October
Since I watch the place I could have the last of her Summer tomatoes
There was, surprisingly, still plenty of the ripe fruit that she grows in her front suburban yard
along with some other kitchen garden edibles such as peppers, beans, and squash
even though the tomato vines propped up with fencing are now turning brown and starting to wither
I immediately savored these last flavors of Summer
including heirlooms that tasted better than any I bought, whether organic or not, from grocery stores
I chopped them up with peppers and onions to make salsa for dipping tortilla chips
which I decided to eat as some meals rather than as an appetizer or for a party
I even sent some of the tomatoes to my parents and a legally blind friend as "payment" for some of his home-brewed "kombucha" tea
I can't wait to finish up these last-of-the-summer tomatoes I temporarily hold in my fridge in a Debby Meyer Green-bag
Maybe I will prepare some in the Excalibur dehydrator (though it uses a lot of electricity) for fake "sun-dried" tomatoes—possibly for Fall-time chili
—Michael Cluff, Corona
Dressing up for work
in a shirt and tie
muted and too subtle
with tight blood-clotting wingtip shoes
every weekend and some Saturdays
is like a bad movie
on a non-ending loop
with fading colors
being in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre",
"Plan Nine From Outer Space"
or "Halloween II"
as a victim even
would be a nice alternative
in almost all ways.
NIGHTMARES OF THE YOUNG
Mom keeps showing up
in a fifties hair bob
serving Swiss steak, pineapple upside
down cake and tomatoed okra.
The movie progresses from bad
to worse when the wind
blows her back to Kansas
in a balloon from a state fair
carrying "Omaha" on its side
and our terrier
protects her in toto
and sepias, then overwhelming
mauves and puces
and carnations only found
in abandoned milk cans
sporting smiling cows
in pearls and lorgnettes.
BUT THEY DIDN’T DO SEQUELS
BACK IN THOSE DAYS
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
Rick and Louie didn’t
Stay long at the Free French
Garrison, eventually wandering
To Northern California and
The Ryde down in the Delta,
Discovering the magic
Only a pink hotel and rustling
Palms can make.
right here. This evening's fog dissolves the road
just past the guardrail, and the hills beyond—
a landscape cast, I thought, in solid earth.
Is everything clear to small birds? They stay,
they won't fly. This place is drear in winter
but enough like shelter, last resort, life
in its sure uncertainties. Vast, I'd tell
those birds, the unseen world, the sheer expanse.
What roads, what gears have driven us to this
inevitable or just plain flawed end
of travel? This dry land that we called home
for years; this one bare tree we've known by name.
Here, stars and lightning awed us to our knees.
This is how sky comes down to gather us.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
ARS POETICA 9/24
A wild thing barely glimpsed between
forest edge and meadow, sunlit
amber eyes, pricked ears.
Girl with blue feathers in her hair, passing
in a crowd. Willow's secrets.
A bighorn ram—living statue on sand-
stone—not apparition, but
dissolving in dawnlight before the shutter
could blink. Or that deep-bodied
military cargo plane that slipped
through a Sierra pass
below me, and was gone
before I could lift my camera.
Dreams of an old dog dying.
September sunset fading on my lens.
Stalk the wild poem
with nothing but words.
Our thanks to today's poets, and to Katy Brown for the late-summer photos taken at Apple Hill, including the elusive deer in the apple orchard.
Bob Stanley is ending his reign as Sacramento Poet Laureate with a burst of readings and the release of the anthology, Late Peaches: Poems by Sacramento Poets. He will be reading with incoming Poet Laureate Jeff Knorr tomorrow at a new venue, Capital Beer and Taproom; at Sacramento Poetry Center on October 13; and the anthology will be released at readings on Oct. 18, Oct. 20, and November 8. See the blue board at the right for details. Thanks, Bob, for all you've done for Sacramento these past years as PL, and for all you continue to do as SPC President.
And check out the other readings this weekend, including the new Avid Voice at the Avid Reader in Davis, which will feature D.R. Wagner, Phillip Larrea and Pietes Pastoos tonight.
Mon amour chèrie, si tu me comprenez,
je te prie d'écouter a la Revèrie pour Claude Debussy.
I’m torn apart and alive, alive and torn apart,
near you, near you, in you and out of you.
Bury me alive in your mouth. Your lips and eyes,
your small delicately working breasts, your
dark dark hair, mon ange!