MEMORY HELD HOSTAGE
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
(There is something I
Really need to forget
But my memory refuses
To open that door)
Almost 50 years ago
I awoke from a coma
Did not recognize family
Or the logic of bandages
I remember the encounters
Trying to peel away layers of
Gauze, then the nurse would
Smile and rewrap it
There was one meeting with a brain
Doctor who said that if I actually did see
What had hit me, my mind would have
Blocked out the memory to protect me
So today I am the proud owner
Of an abundantly clear memory
Of reconstructed images:
Rumors, hearsay, innuendo
Riding my motorcycle in traffic
Struck by a car, airborne 15 yards
Skidded on my helmeted head
Knocked out for 10 days
There is still a small chance
That I continue to hold that memory
And that something unpredictable
Will trigger it…..??
Meanwhile I am limited to shooting
At silhouettes where I can quantify the
Number and paths of ricochets
But no more than that
THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO REMEMBER
—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
A piece of the sky
presses my spine
hard against memory.
I fend off tomorrow
refusing to walk
that trail of dead thorns.
I want to fall out bright,
revert to empty.
Hope is a luxury I can’t remember.
I want to be ruined by rain.
* * *
Wanting to be ruined by rain,
I walk a piece of the sky
in a trail of thunder.
I can’t remember
ever being this empty.
My thoughts fall brightly
among the stars;
my spine becomes the Milky Way.
This is what I want to remember
as I turn towards tomorrow.
* * *
I turn towards tomorrow,
tears falling brightly as stars
on dead thorns.
No longer walking against memory,
I stretch towards hope.
I carry a piece of the sky
against my spine.
I have been ruined by rain.
HEARING ANTON RUBENSTEIN’S FOURTH PIANO CONCERTO
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
I’m reading a biography of him
whose works go scarce-played in Mother Russia’s self
for mainly the usual reasons: he earned pelf
as one whose keyboard colossus hands could limn
imaginings that thundered or could skim;
despised, rose from a low-bourgeois start, to wealth
and, gossiped of as Jewish—not always in stealth—
fought hard for musicianship, this was his hymn,
to build a conservatory, build compositions,
the former advanced, the latter behind the times
because not of the radical Five. And yet
some Rubinstein gems get past that inquisition
Music History 101, like rhymes
impregnable—still, who’ll catch him in eons’ net?
[This one Tchaikovsky, Brahms would borrow notes from:
once we cease idolizing the new-at-all-cost,
once we deign to disinter names lost,
to love the dust-lowly ones—will his time come?]
The last page or two [of Bax’s First Sonata] reduced
that Chappell [piano] to a mass of clanging ironmongery,
and you to a Harmonious Blacksmith. These piano fights
are exhilarating, but they are not musical pianism.
—George Bernard Shaw, to pianist Harriet Cohen
How many know Bernard Shaw knew Arnold Bax?
Shaw reviewed music in tandem with Bax’s uncle.
Here’s Shaw, that man of Irishry in facts
and fanciful wit, this suavest of oracles
for Fabian socialism, rebarbative drama
sand-arid in drollery. Perfect in Wagnerism.
Pronouncing like a sequestered Dalai Lama
on worldly, passionate song split as by schism
off far from Shavian realms of footlight glare.
Oh, this is no anvil-clangor, black notes or white.
These keys ring priestly gold from an iron frame:
such carillons might’ve cathedraled for the fair
Natalya* and Arnold, all through the fabled white nights.
What’s Russia for Shaw, to Bax’s Slavonic dream?
*Natalya Skarginska, pursued to Russia and Ukraine
by ardent young Arnold Bax
The denunciation by academicians of any deviation from
[the orthodox story of] Shakespeare’s works reminds me of
the scorn heaped on Alfred Wegener, the German geologist
who sought to explain surface features of the earth by what
he called “continental drift.”
—Charlton Ogburn, Jr., The Mysterious William
I’m about to read Wegener’s biography.
This is the man mentioned when the amateur’s
great role as forerunner, as discoverer,
serves us to justify our insurgency:
unorthodox Shakespeare scholars—we’ve found our man,
the Earl of Oxford Shakespeare, contra belief.
Yes, Wegener, not unlike us, scorned by the chief
among geologists of his day, was banned
for depicting how continents drift plate by plate,
when tear-apart Africa, South America, soft-
baked snickerdoodle halves, float off on fate.
But, Oxfordians, behave as he did when scoffed:
proud amateurs, be many-sided like Wegener:
astronomer, physicist, balloon pilot, ice-trekker:
we aim at this man’s art and scope; far thinner
our resumés, juxtaposed with this hero “beginner.”
ACCESS TO HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS
[Unlike the teenaged Alfred Wegener,] modern children
miss the beautiful colors produced by mixing reagents
almost at random, as well as the mystery of combining
two colorless liquids at room temperature to produce a
violent geyser that renders the beaker holding them too
hot to handle.
—Mott T. Greene, Alfred Wegener: Science,
Exploration, and the Theory of Continental Drift
How shielding we are, of others and ourselves,
our offspring small selves we must think versions of us,
or why on earth else this parental copter fuss?
As if tide pools equaled continental shelves:
one slip in your wade is to fade in the sucking of waves.
So armored by survivalist bunkering down,
walking through life part bubble, part Kevlar gown,
when will we throw open our safety-sealed enclaves?
I’m pouring poetic danger into this flask,
to witness the upshot with Alfred, pressing close,
unworried for face, for fingers and hands, as long
as the flask vibrates a tattoo, innocuous
limp liquids transformed to fizzing abandon-songs
of risk. With “fumes and booms”—real world, unmask!
FROM THE HILLIAD, BOOK SEVEN
And after the debate-spears flung, each warrior aiming
for the other’s head in fiery single combat,
each would have brought out the stabbing short sword
of statistics, accurate or misleading, but that
the herald strode between the two combatants
parting them and in a loud voice thanked all,
contenders and audience alike for their part
in this rousing or enraging civic contention.
And Hillary’s partisans gave a great stir and cheer
like the thousand-voiced migratory vocalise
of south-winging geese in autumn, their handshakes
and wide-mouthed acclaim presaging a hopeful welcome
to the Capital City, also signaling their vast relief
that their chief of women had come away unhurt
at the hacks of the small-handed* antagonist;
not only this, but her followers breathed joy
that he had not escaped altogether unscarred
from the thrusts of her short yet acute stabbing sword…
*In Greek, the term, μικρό-χέρι, also signifies “underhanded.”
(Loeb Edition, vol. 1, pg. 75)
Unlike with Christmas, there are rarely ever “cute” Halloween house displays
Some Halloween displays on front lawns are in fact kind of “gory”—
For instance, a guy I know portrayed hacked-up human body parts being picked by buzzards
Others decorate with bad, cheap and ugly Halloween decorations made in Chinese sweatshops—
including the “cob-webbing” that can entangle birds when used outside
Besides the skeletons and skulls are definitely not the arty “Dia de los Muertos” kind
and fake-looking plastic gravestones never mention any notable names
along with “zombies” or other creatures that just look like dummies
When people try to make “ghosts” using white sheets, it just looks corny
Among the best Halloween decorations are just homemade carved Jack-o’-lanterns
and harvest-themed wreaths that Martha Stewart would recommend for your door or front window
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
Where do they store all the old histories—
the color of each purple sunset, the violet-red
flame consuming a dawn I saw coming
over a ridge whose name I’ve long forgotten?
Each moment in the building and fall
of the Palace of Shapur. The wild animal eyes
watching me from forest thicket. Towers
destroyed by war, and looters coming after.
The briefest dreams are recorded there,
and who dreamed them. Voices of winds,
lost mountains that followed their rivers.
All the falls of rain, its voices calling
to windows and walls. Even considering
the shrinkage of age, how many stories,
shelves and drawers? Who could
capture every moment; who has time
to sort and catalog, numbering each spine?
A RAINY EVENING
We’ve hung our slickers to drip
on linoleum. The dogs—wild spirits
of weather—came in shaking storm
from their fur, rolling on carpet
and couch, shedding rain-joy on every
fiber of the house. Rain surrounds
our world complete tonight, talking
through walls, writing its history down
windowpanes, beating its pulse
against the roof. Will the creek rise,
overflow culverts, ravage the road?
And wind—break-dancing our old oaks.
In the morning, will we have a drive-
way? Turn off the TV, internet—rain’s
washed the satellite dish clean of any
signal from outside except the rain.
Our news is rain, the voice of poets;
most beautiful music. Just listen.
Everything we needed in our Kelty packs—
mummy bags and three-day rations, canteens
replenished at every creek. I lost track of time
except miles trekked, sun down, sun up, moving
shadows, glare off granite. Gradually emptied
provisions from our packs. Emptied my mind to
flycatchers in willow, meadow hush; lizard track
across trail, wind in lodgepole, water song over
rock. Until, our packs so light, we ended back at
trailhead. Click of key in lock. I startled at the
crack of closing door, tires crushing gravel. Too
fast down chipseal, everybody in a hurry. Radio
clash of music—I wasn’t ready for the brash of
city. A concrete overpass I knew would crush us
if it fell; concrete river below.
listen deep within
the mountains’ song still full of
gravity and flow.
—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento
Five Russian men chatter in Russian
at a restaurant table, gingham cloth,
silverware and napkins neatly placed.
At a restaurant table, gingham cloth
aprons of waitresses welcome us
as we sit down to dinner.
Aprons of waitresses say VELKOMMEN
but I hear a French greeting and I smile,
responding with, Muy bien, gracias.
I hear another French greeting and smile.
My husband holds one of my hands. Then
suddenly a sugar packet appears.
My husband holds one of my hands, then
suddenly the sugar packet disappears,
reappearing from behind his left ear.
The sugar packet disappears again,
reappearing from behind his right ear.
I love this place. I love his way.
Responding with Muy bien gracias
we remain seated and finish our dinner,
silverware and napkins neatly replaced.
With sugar suddenly appearing
and reappearing from behind his ears
I love this place, his way with sugar.
LIMONIUM (a Pleaides)
—Carol Louise Moon
Landscape of salt marsh. At times
like these, wool-bundled, I walk
looking for my favorite flower—
Lavender of the Sea which
lives and thrives in salty breeze;
lovely blend of purple-blue.
Life is good here by the sea.
PIONEER DAY TARTOUM
—Carol Louise Moon
Horses prance around our park;
we hear them clopping down the street.
It’s hometown Pioneer Day, once again.
We hear the clopping in the street
as leathered mountain men on steeds
wave to families lined along the park.
Leathered mountain men on steeds
and Spanish ladies, high in stride
on horses decked with yellow roses, wave.
Spanish ladies high in stride
have practiced all year long for this,
along with clowns and
high school marching bands.
We’ve waited all year long for this—
it’s Pioneer Day, once again!
We wave to families in the park
along with high school marching bands.
In our hands our yellow roses wave.
TWO STANZAS FOR WINE FESTIVALS
—Carol Louise Moon
Around our hometown park the horses prance.
Gazebos gaily decked in boughs of green—
where ageless couples of the town had danced
to banjo bands—a blithe romantic scene.
They looked for love throughout the timeless years
and raised a glass to glories they had seen.
* * *
You, the neutral pronoun
Wash up, drink down stuff
We, another neutered note
Holds good promises
They, the people over there
Not us, they're them
Stretching in between
Ours knows us best
Moved to be here now
How doesn't matter at all.
—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA
Our thanks to today’s many contributors on this, Sacramento Poetry Day! Celebrate tonight at Sac. Poetry Center with poets Sarah Pape and Michael Spring at 7:30pm, or go up to Placerville for Poetry in Motion at the Placerville Sr. Center, 6-7pm. On Weds., Time Tested Books in Sacramento presents Arturo Mantecón and Gilberto Rodriquez, with musical accompaniment by Arturo Balderrama, 7pm. As always, Poetry Unplugged will meet at Luna’s Cafe Thursday night, 8pm. Then ride over to Angels Camp on Friday, 5:30pm, for Hallow Words: Scary Story and Poem Night with Blanche Abrams (bring scary stories and poems of your own choosing; she’ll provide the Poe). Also down south, this time in Modesto on Saturday, poets Rosa Lane, Nina Lindsay, Stella Meratlis and Gillian Wegener will read at the Stansilaus County Library, 2pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
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