TWO POEMS FROM THE SIXTIES
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
1. FREEFLOWING IN BERKELEY
Tammy opens her eyes wider than
she needs to see. Snow White
is counting her fingers again—
still only five, but she keeps
counting...Harry sits in Robin's nest
trying to hatch unhatchable eggs...
Julie, a Pisces, reports good vibes
from a Libra whose moon is rising
on the cusp.
Robert's nickname is Robbie. But he
wants to change it to Barry...
Mary C. hoped for an immaculate
conception, had a kid she keeps
Sue makes lovers uneasy by tapping
on a fake rose...
Tracy lives with five people who are
each of them three other people.
Tracy prefers to hike alone...
Omega has a new idea for working math—
I've a new idea for making a poem—
2. COCKTAIL PARTY
Am drawn to sitting on the floor
watching knees flashing,
my unglassed hand fondling silk slipping by,
nudging leather boots,
warming up to wool.
Making a poem in a forest of legs—
calling on vodka intuition,
pubic lanterns for light,
match cover to scribble on.
A young Apollo joins me,
relives the Oedipus complex.
We play the get-well game.
I ask three times, "Do Fish Swim?"
Calmed, he plays to a win,
starts caressing wool and chiffon
in our discreet lower atmosphere.
Incense weaves by lit thoughts
and nimble knees.
The Rolling Stones ravish creatively.
No one steps on us since we're not trying
to rise, and no mean surprise in what
we mumble. Since our hands don't desire flesh
but fondle denim, leather, cotton,
we're the life of the party—
unimpinging our impropriety,
puny, but perfect.
HOMELESS IN THE CITY
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area
And came to consider the Los Angeles Rams
With Roman Gabriel at quarterback
As the home team, until they moved to St Louis
Somewhere buried in storage I still have
One of those goblets from Shell Oil stations
Featuring the Los Angeles Rams
Maybe it is best left buried
Meanwhile the Dodgers whom we had long ago
Inherited from Brooklyn were now a Los Angeles staple
Expert and colorful announcing by Vin Scully
Go Dodgers! Root for the home team!
Golden Glove first baseman Steve Garvey
Packed his bags and took his game
And marital issues to San Diego
Leaving Los Angeles fans to find a new homie
The World Champion Los Angeles Lakers
Played at Jack Kent Cook’s Fabulous Forum
Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West
The creative voice of Chick Hearn
Say goodbye to amazing fast-break baskets
And hello to chest-pounding Kobe Bryant
Fine if you are OK with one of the five players
Taking 100 percent of the credit
When I moved up north it was all about
The Sacramento Kings, and any player
Who had marketable talent was traded away
Far, far away to a real contender
Now the Rams, no longer my home team
Have come back to Los Angeles, no longer my home
And the San Diego Chargers are moving to L.A.
To become the world’s richest homeless people
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
Fate seems hostile to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural,
much as it menaced his First: in the Capitol chambers,
Lincoln and colleagues sit captive to a drunken
preamble by the Vice-President-elect. Dusting
their black-garbed shoulders of invective and drivel,
all serpentine slowly to the outdoor speakers’
platform. The table, whereupon to stack layers
of speech, far too low—the usual—for Lincoln. No Stephen
Douglas now to fling aside rivalry and hold the stovepipe
hat in comradeship. Gray gloom overhead, the chill
almost a tactile color. Then the miracle: a thin beam
of sun slices through cloud, lights on the President’s head.
We know somehow the words will be brief, will be
a summons to binding, reconciling, will be masterful
in the feathered touch of this iron-handed man.
Again the clouds come to temper the hopeful beacon:
we are so far along, we are so far yet from done.
Now comes a President much less the master, so much
more the drunk. May the cold event be sparsely attended.
May the early light be brilliant and blue only
to close in with iron-handed bands of black cloud
the instant this hairweave-headed lumpkin
rises to utter his Twitter…
In Bax’s music of a “Celtic curve,”
note-contours which might be Yeats remade sheer sound,
in tales and poems all smoke of the peat, the turf,
that whole black stricture of work as tightly wound
as furls the silken flag around the stick,
Bax portrays his young soul a slave to color:
as tactile as jolts the Donegal cart to the hayrick,
aural as ripples the spring stream’s pebbly dolor,
visual as flares the aurora borealis
that melts Glencolumcille to a red-gold sky-chalice,
transcending all conscious fingertip-and-eye-sense,
brightening our dark elements only to flense
them, shadow from vista, flesh from skin: the veil
no sooner sewn gleaming than shorn aside, baring the Grail.
SONG OF THE NIGHT
(Karol Szymanowski, Third Symphony
for solo tenor, chorus, and orchestra
to a poetic text by Jelaluddin Rumi)
Music, wrapped sinew-and-satin-skin symphonic
around the living bones of one young woman,
you vibrate with deep tremors of the chthonic;
your grace resounds, earth-bass beyond treble human.
What dislocating shudder, sympathetic,
makes your dark vibrance jar and blend with mine?
What Szymanowski suspension, horrid tectonic,
beautiful storm atonal as giddying wine,
strikes earthquake-crack, the mantle’s doomsday chord;
renders Rumi, gentlest of mystic mages,
through fault upon fault, through dissonant crust-slippages,
pitch-black, for all his consoling midnight words?
Could it be you, my song, my night, whose sigil,
soft hair touching apricot cheeks, bedevils my vigil?
WINTER LEGENDS (BAX)
Mysterious cold summons, this weird piece is,
an interlocking thicket of rhapsodies, legends
of no clear mythic coherences as Greece has.
This Nordic-crystal brisk December, rage bends
down these flames the thin hand of a bard or sage tends.
We stravague snow-crusted bosks, below the fleeces
torn famously from clouds wherever a hedge sends
twigs up tough through mist, or vapor ceases
where fenceposts shoulder their burly inroads out.
We stray into snow voids even the coldest ghosts
must bypass to survive. The iciest lost
clasp ivory, ebony weaves, hope to surmount
ecstatic death-surrender. Dawnlight at last.
The slow palm of sun, one brief caress, releases.
A week of storm. Rain pulled the switch
and let the floodgates loose. This stool
of land’s an island, road’s a ditch
gone wild like kids let out of school.
The waters leap and dance. They itch
to shatter bounds, breach every rule.
With hoe and rake I snag and pitch—
the creek laughs at each useless tool.
One stick or straw becomes a witch
to cast the spell called Whirlypool.
A break in clouds? one sunbright glitch
of rainbow colors in the pool….
On the highway overpass, a rainbow
touches down on the woman in her thrift-
store dress and streaming hair.
It’s hard walking in the storm. A break
in clouds. And there she stands
at the pot-of-gold end of the rainbow,
as if her shoes are suddenly so
heavy with coins, she’ll have to lay her
parcels down on wet pavement
and pour gold into her grocery bags.
I wonder if she knows she’s wearing a
rainbow, her gray dress washed
with it, her drenched hair flashing rosy
amber. For an instant
before the sun withdraws—
even now, is she too close to rainbow
to feel the colors on her skin?
if I stepped out of my body I would break
into blossom. —James Wright
Tonight, everything flashlight-glitters in rain
against dark. I almost step on bright blossom
clusters, silver-green rosettes—tree lichen torn
from branches by the storm, still clinging
to fragments of bark dark-wet as a starless night.
Lichen scattered like daisies on grass I walk
in rubber rain-boats. The border’s roaring
downcreek that cuts in and out of fence, the next
country west raging with news: wind and rain
to bundle against. Everything’s distorted
past broken, my flashlight reflecting off drops
and puddles. Medieval primitive. A gargoyle
with stone wings lets water rush through,
my face lit upwards by the light I hold too low.
Like tree-lichen I could break into blossom.
MOON PAST PERFECT
As it came up over Stone Mountain
you told me it was full last night, now already
past its perfect roundness. Just look, you
said. The Wolf Moon, a cold hunger—its wolfs-
fur haze after storm. The moon less than
round, less than bright. It suffused the sky,
everything fairy-misted, rain clouds broken up
to the west. Imperfect as it was, it cast
its glow over the whole east pre-empting stars.
It blurred the shadow of dead thistle still
standing in the field, and glossed my shadow
as I walked our dogs at bedtime. They zigzagged
imperfect tracks in wet grass, but we left
no moon-shadow trace as we passed. Perfect
moonlight flawed from a moon not
perfectly round, we spend it by moments.
coin as worthless as moonlight—
tonight as lovely
GOLD RUSH SNAPSHOTS
My iPad camera shows me the disturbed
reality of Monet’s streetlamp angels—his failing
eyesight becomes discovery, shatter-vision.
I see two rough hands shaking a pan
of gravel in a water-trough—another gold-
panning demo at the fairgrounds.
My iPad transforms it to swirls
of sun-gold rippling rainbow, pan to trough.
Shall I trust my lens for a vision
I would have missed, but for
the click of a trickster lens which tells
a truth by lying?
FAIRYTALES BEFORE SLEEP
Walking toward bedtime after rain,
field-grass is a dark ocean tiding under
the moon, a stationary headlight.
It illuminates a small square of ground
under my feet. Sticks and bones washed
down in the flood. More rain
to come—call it fate, a blessing.
If there’s a staircase of air to climb
from this drenched earth beyond that
silver ship of moon, I must take it
on faith, stepping carefully
on what’s given.
ANOTHER BIRTHDAY FOR DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
—Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
The longer I live the greater Martin Luther King looks
compared with those who have tried to carry on his work.
The man had integrity, guts, ideas and class.
It was heartbreaking in the Sixties to be young and
filled with hope for change in America, only to see
JFK, MLK and RFK murdered in the same decade.
Young people of all kinds had hope back then even if
we saw little change. We thought it was time for a quiet
revolution of ideas in America. That never happened.
My hope is Mike Pence doesn’t succeed Donald Trump
the way Lyndon Johnson succeeded Jack Kennedy. We must
find a peaceful way to get through these next four years.
THANKS TO BARBARA HILLMAN
—Claire J. Baker
from this poet
of a thrush
Our thanks to today’s fine poets, and to Taylor Graham for all the shots of her neighborhood last week when the rain was so heavy. A happy birthday to Caschwa (Carl Bernard Schwartz), who celebrated last Saturday, and thanks to Donal Mahoney for reminding us that today is the day we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.
Poetry readings in our area this week begin tonight with Straight Out Scribes, NSAA, Michael Ellis, Sean King at Sacramento Poetry Center, 7:30pm. On Thursday at noon, SPC sponsors Thursday at the Central Library in Sacramento; then Straight Out Scribes will read at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sac., 8pm. Then on Saturday, Mosaic of Voices will feature Carol Frith and Aeisha Jones at Sac. Poetry Center, 4:30pm. 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.
For info about Africa’s Rain Queen, see rainqueensofafrica.com/2011/03/modjadji-the-rain-queen/.
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