—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento, CA
Start here and work forward:
The Garden of Eden.
A warm, ripe peach
fragrant on the tree.
A palm rises
lips and tongue and teeth.
under a frilly canopy
of floral-print vines:
another juicy mouth
sweet on mine.
Our flesh illuminated
by a praying hands night light.
THREE PROSE POEMS
—james lee jobe, davis, ca
may the cruelties of the world pass through you and do no harm, like a child walking through fog. may even your bruises and scars be healed. may the hope for a better life never leave you. may you have sunlight and showers in equal measure, and may you be blessed with kindness, both in giving and in receiving. and when the end is near, may you be able to relax and welcome it for the rite of passage that it is.
* * *
the valley oak trees are perfect and still. the sky is empty and perfectly blue, no clouds, no airplanes. all is quiet, you can hear your own breath. and then, striding across the top of the world, your life comes along to take you away again. and you, you fool, you go.
* * *
i am reading the beatitudes in the book of matthew when a ghost rises up from my bible. "live your life like a cycle of the moon," it tells me. going outside and looking at the dark sky, i see that the moon is pretty full, and the stars are spread out like soldiers with a commander. "blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." i say that to the moon and stars, because there is no one else there. the ghost stayed inside the house, hovering above the floor, rubbing his translucent hands together the way my mother always did when she worried.
[a Prisoner’s Constraint]
air moves across, covers us. we assume
air, air is sure. one enormous air.
air caresses, cures us. curious, we consume
our air, aim our arrows. are we aware?
we can see our air—a smear, a scum
on air. science warns us. can science save
us? can we rescue our essence,
air? our own, our common air. so rare.
LIGHT AS AIR
Breeze wafts the morning’s news
through metal knots filigrees of bell-tower,
headed down Main. Remember how you used to
rhyme to the ringing of its bronze.
But you’ve been up since dark-thirty, not
catatonic but watching the shyster moon’s long
descent, and listening for that old space-
shifter, Coyote whose howl knits the night up
tight. No room to breathe. Remember
the time—without end or dimension, it seemed—
you’d light up the same cigarette you met,
way too young to know the scholarly evidence—
you always went for the tallest tales.
How time runs down, the poetry
of oxygen canisters. Remember when
you left the imprint of your breath on air.
MORMON EMIGRANT RIDE
His logbook records the metric stats:
70.6 miles; hours and minutes on his bike;
elevation profile, how many thousand
feet of ups and downs.
He tells nothing about the keening
of wind through pines and cedar
and what it meant
to emigrants who’d come so far
and then turned back again—
not on bikes, but blazing
trail across high Sierra,
the long hard climb with creaky wagons.
Over Tragedy Spring—where
they found the murdered scouts buried—
can you hear a keening on the wind?
BREATH OF APRIL
Her Grandmother April’s in the blood.
Sap rising in the girl’s legs—long legs to leap
astride a horse,
palomino of longing, its tail waving
“don’t call me home.”
Spring breeze from the west riffling
unkempt blonde hair, fine gold passed down
breeze like the breath
of the grandmother long gone wandering off
in April, her mind not keeping pace
with her legs.
Again it’s April. The month
of twining vetch can’t hold while roadside
poppies beckon mazes,
old logging roads with forever views.
How much is lost in time?
a girl senses grandmother-spirit
at the edgy world
between subdivision and drop-off canyon—
not harking the family’s calls, “come home!”
Down generations her blood runs April
in any season, her breath
free lofting canyon breeze.
There are corps today who still pump toxic pollution in our air
Even in the ’50’s they hired their own “environmental” scientists
They got a British geneticist doctor named Bernard Kettlewell
who took pictures of dead peppered moths glued to trees
Kettlewell would be their figure to the media, saying
that despite the dirty air even killing off essential insects as well as birds
and people suffering from breathing problems that could develop to become fatal
he claimed that all of nature would be saved by “evolving” like the pepper moth
and that people could “adapt" also to darkened, filthy air
just as moths would turn darker to conflate themselves with the soot-covered birch trees
Kettlewell worked his whole life in favor of corporate industry
though some, such as biologist Rachel Carson, would become enemies
Research as in Carson’s Silent Spring should have also quieted claims of Kettlewell’s sort
Kettlewell himself suffered from breathing and lung illnesses
died shortly after falling from a birch tree doing “research”
but his myth he made up still is claimed to be true in kid’s biology textbooks
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA
—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento, CA
Happy Whiteness Day
Take the day off
Go to the bleach
Raise the old flag
For property owners
For duly ordained
Everyone else is
Either an object or
To combat uprisings
Ahem and amend
Under the light of white
Don’t put that flag down
The war is not over
The South will rise again
I cannot join you
My feet hurt and
My calendar’s full
Then tee time
Then chocolate cake
THE FIRST 100 DAYS
—Carl Bernard Schwartz
Oh say can you she sells sea shell down
By the dawn’s early Light Cavalry Overture
What so proudly we Hell no, I won’t go!
At the twilight’s last night’s dreaming
Whose broad stripes and bright scholars
Through the perilous stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight!
O’er the ramparts we’ve already watched that
Were so gallantly streaming texts and video
And the rocket’s red riding hood
The bombs bursting in like uninvited guests
Gave proof through the mail
That our flag was still photography
Tonight the moon is
like a bruised shadow
tattered by wolfish teeth
hiding inside the empty cavern where a heart should be
Our thanks to today’s diverse contributors—a true breath of fresh air as we celebrate (and bemoan) our Seed of the Week, The Air We Breathe, on this May Day, 2017. (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day for a long chat about May Day around the world.) For more about Taylor Graham's "prisoner's constraint", go to ouliposting.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/oulipost-15-prisoners-constraint/.
Friends of Sacramento Poet Theresa McCourt will be saddened to learn that she has passed away after her accident last week (see Saturday’s post). Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time. (See Facebook remembrances at www.facebook.com/theresa.mccourt/.)
This week’s local poetry begins with Michael Ellis and Barbara West plus open mic at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm. About tonight’s reading, Barbara writes: “Guitarist Lonnie Ayala will be available to accompany me for our 10-min. long performance piece, 'The Cherry Tree Carol'—an imagining of Mary and Joseph meeting as community organizers, including Joseph's struggle to come to terms with the news of her unexpected pregnancy. We performed it twice last week, at Davis Poetry Night, and then for the Full of Crow issue release party in Oakland—it has been enthusiastically received! Here's the text in case you want a preview: www.fullofcrow.com/fiction/archivedstories/winter-2017-barbara-west/."
Tonight is also the deadline for Sac. Poetry Center's poetry contest (theme: Protest Poetry) for those who are under 30. Email w/short bio to firstname.lastname@example.org/. Cash prizes, pub. in Poetry Now, read at SPC. And submissions open as of today for the next issue of The Poeming Pigeon at www.thepoetrybox.com/ThePoemingPigeon.html?mc_cid=4a308097d3&mc_eid=b02a0f9fa2#opencalls/. Theme for this issue is “Love Poems”. Check out the green box at the right of this column for some other recently added submissions opportunities.
Thursday (all day till midnight) is Sacramento’s annual Big Day of Giving (www.bigdayofgiving.org), a day to make online donations to your favorite non-profit organizations, including Sac. Poetry Center. SPC will host a thank-you party from 5:30-8:30pm, featuring art, music by Extra Innings Band, food, and sponsored by SPC, Women's Wisdom Art, Soroptimist Int'l, Stories on Stage, and SPC Archives Project at CSUS. And of course Thursdays also bring Sacramento’s weekly Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, with featured readers and open mic, 8pm.
And next weekend (May 5-7), the Gold Rush Writers Conference in Mokelumne Hill will feature Antoinette May, James Ragan, Donna Levin, Kevin Arnold, Lucy Sanna, Amy Smith, Sally Kaplan, Monika Rose, Erika Mailman, Kathy Boyd Feller, Robert Balmanno, Sarah Armstrong Garner, Kathie Isaac-Luke, Indigo Moor, Tom Johnson at the Hotel Leger, Mokelumne Hill, CA. Info/schedule: goldrushwriters.com/.
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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