—Charles Mariano, Sacramento
“your face looks troubled”
just talked to a guy at Starbucks,
while buying a Santana CD
took it over to the counter
to pay for it
and this guy and his friend
look at me
like i’m from another planet
“what that?” he asks his friend,
like i’m not there
“think it’s a CD,” his friend says
the coffee guy adds,
“they use these on MP3s too”
“MP3?” the other guy says,
“nobody uses that anymore”
i’m standing there, money in hand
feeling old, wanting to put the CD back
instead, i whip out
a small notepad
to write this down
the guy looks at me confused
“what’s that?” he asks
“an inkpen,” i say
“and that” he asks pointing
“a notepad,” i answer
his eyes go wide,
then walks away
“why did that upset you?”
my friend asks
but think my born-on date’s expired”
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Jail cheek by jowl with zoo, lake, park, and school.
Lot’s changed since the Man in Black made lockdown dance.
A verse by William Matthews, no poet’s fool,
compares that barb-fenced stretch above river slants
to Scotland—yes, in the late Sixties, the gorge
slow-channeling broth from the Folsom Dam spillway
surely would mist a small Inverness, a porridge
of fog-belts not unlike Saturn-ring parfait.
Nor Johnny C. nor William M. witnessed drought
so comprehensively vaporize the vapors,
swept clear now: sky-clear view from the trail bridge
bookended now by tall “watchtowers” in homage
to that joyous constricted concert. Without thought
of metafictive guard rifles…angled at bikers?
Long since, Cash, Carter, all guítars, inmates vectored
elsewhere-absorbed. Star thistle and dust, the gold record.
THE START AND ASCENT OF THE DECLINE AND FALL
October 16, 1764:
young Edward Gibbon hears barefoot friars chant
Vespers: he is sitting at a slant,
on some stout rock or column stub. The lore
and allure of what he listens to jars with ruin,
the wrecked temple collecting, scattering vocal notes,
while soft insistent mental moths or motes
dance “Rome” and “damage” to the point of obsession
in his dreaming head. It’s divine intercession
at play in a skeptic’s brain. A theme, a true new one!
Of course, we can’t take at face value this account.
A sparse yet too-easy readiness of detail,
the fraud of perfect recollection. Fail
the Historian’s self-administered history exam.
Yet what does it amount
to, our carping at his impassioned recounting?
We now learn the day was rainy, no day for sitting
in grave meditation upon poor sober Rome.
But skepticism cuts both against and for his tomes’
supposed time-stamp: for what finer place to sit
in twilight state half poised between trance and wit,
rained upon, hard by a column-bosque sunk in a mud-hole,
crazed with the drone of priestly song and all.
A moment made for brooding, then surmounting:
what better weather for falling empires than rain?
Computerized, chip-encrypted, but look at this!
Quivering-jellyfish fingers not now a hindrance
to focus. I’ve achieved near-Singularity bliss
via SnapFish, smartphone. Is this in-silico romance
like Ansel Adams’ geomantic liaison with cameras?
I doubt it. To value means vesting with difficulty.
And yet: see, my own desk kickstands no chimera.
Nora’s portrait, by my “sheer blind skill,” not one bit faulty.
Far lovelier than that I took: that she here was
who metamorphosed this lens-rondel perfectly square.
Her image seems poised on half-zestful, half-tristful dream.
This driftalong face assays river-trail, summer-gold grass,
green brush. Dark eyes relinquish or capture air,
the surround: bird-blur, leaf-blend, the whole lens-ready meme.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
What I have
Is a camera,
That my grandfather
Finally won on the
Down on Beach Street.
Took him a while,
So I also have the
Deeds to three unused
Gravesites in Evergreen
South of Kewanee,
Illinois. So I wish
I could say
That I can see pictures
Of dead people.
But on the film,
Prairie rows of
Towards a grey
Easy to mow, easy, too
To remove, if payments
And such go wrong. (Have
You ever walked along
The back wall
Of a cemetery?)
There are other
Images, too. Lincoln
And Douglas sneering
At each other after
The Galesburg debate.
The SS Eastland, tipping
Past recovery, most
Lost into Lake Michigan,
July, 1915. U.S Grant,
On still another World
Tour, handing out yet
Grinning, as much
As Grant could.
And that—could it be
In a hospital bed,
Men in white
Lab coats, hoping to
Kodak Brownie Hawkeye.
Never always saw the truth,
But never actually
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
All night the wind swarmed, uprooting trees,
jamming the road, fast-floating leaf-ghosts,
refuges in the dark. Distant sirens, ambulance
or fire, we couldn’t say, just so it didn’t
come closer. Next morning the old man—
grandfather of a place we couldn’t remember—
walked across his field where the sheep
had been, along the edge of trees. Broken
branches everywhere. Only a slenderest limb
calm as a scepter in his hand, a wand;
hollow, whittled at one end for his lips; a flute
of his own devising. I couldn’t pronounce
its name. He lifted it, kissed it to make it sing.
So fine a throat, a tune as hollow as night
that storm sweeps clean, lonely as call
of the owl, or coyote saluting sky
from a dark hillside. Dawn a luminescent
stain for morning to wash blue again.
Tonight SPC presents readers from its long-running Tues. Night Workshop, which is sponsored by the Sacramento Poetry Center, with space provided by the Hart Senior Center (916 27th St., Sac.) every Tuesday night from 7:30-9 pm. My understanding is that the workshop originally began in the late ’70’s, founded by Theresa Vinciguerra, and was facilitated over the years by a number of people, including (among others?) Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Jane Blue, Carmela Ruby—then Laverne Frith had it for two years starting in 1996. Since then, Danyen Powell has facilitated the evening, meaning he makes sure everyone has equal time and the group doesn't get too rowdy. Any poet who wishes to attend can bring 15-20 copies of a poem for workshopping—which means criticism from 10-20 poets of various levels. If you are able to take a little gentle nudging, your poetry will grow considerably in this setting. I attended for many years; it was a huge part of my poetic life and it fostered the birth of Rattlesnake Press.
If you'd like to attend, you're more than welcome, but you might want to contact Danyen first (530-756-6228). The group meets every Tuesday except the two around Christmas—though you might want to check about July 4. There's no long-term commitment; give it a try and see if it works for you. Click here for a video about SPC that includes footage of the workshop: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E-M-Dcb8VU&feature=relmfu