Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Calm in the Center

—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Anonymous Rain Photos



Calm in the Center, everything serene,
students not querulous-rudely demanding things;
occupied keen at their work. The sky shines clean.
Last night’s rain poured into hearts: the wetness clings,
nothing is parched for now. Drought in abeyance
one more month or so. Awaiting flowers
that sprout on February’s ornamental pears. All faience,
the glaze and brilliant hard surfaces after showers.

So lifeloved, old poems tell us, we should be
happy as kings. Same rubric for fortunate queens;
savoring all the few fruits the weather affords,
how can we not—how can we—richly enjoy
this break in the weather, imparting its sun-kissed sheens,
when schoolchildren bow: are bullets their teachers, their lords?


Tutors meet interesting people. One,
the great-grandniece of Edith Wharton, came
into our learning center. Nothing of fame
or literature clearly visible. Her name Jones!

Yes, maiden name same as maiden Edith Jones
the eventual great novelist. By bits
this history teased itself into place, like hits
all separate on the Internet, small stones

strewn subtly, clear to the house of the witch in the woods.
The facial resemblance to Wharton surely there.
A shade or two darker than strawberry blond her hair.
Like Lily Bart’s her family branch, brought low: few goods.

Penmanship somewhat like mine, I remember of her.
Her diligence, inner reserves—in character.
Hers a generation sheer genius decided to skip:
still, iceberg unaltered far down. A most definite tip.

Well, I lost track of her, in senses twofold:
what came of her dream? In what ways like her great grand-aunt
a Newbold?


“[It was] his common way…to evaporate his thoughts in a Sonnet.”
        —Sir Henry Wotton, on Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex

“The thoughts I have I can’t…evaporate…
on paper,” says a student. Right: “elaborate”
is what you mean? She laughs elaborate
Blue Angel contrails that evaporate
when exposed to air. Her crisp, elaborate
thoughts float in clear suspension—which evaporates
halfway between Bic and pulp. Evaporates!
No matter the thought, bone-simple, bracelet-elaborate…
Yet what poem in the mind does not dissolve,
fine inkmanship transfigured out of form,
held helpless on the reader’s fierce resolve
to re-form it, clear, distilled? So, love, this form
waits on the lovely reader for solution.
Free it from suspension, grant me resolution.

(first pub. in Tule Review, Winter, 2010)

[On Revising the Above]

I wrote this from an encounter with you: girl
student young, but more than that, alive;
no doubt you wrote and thought, not in a hive
of mental beeswax buzzing, not in the whirl
of perplexity and mystification here
hinted. Poetic license must mate with care,
not wild exuberance—masking subtle fear
that this distortion was never coined to share:
your character was evident even then,
when you would write of loving hikes and swims,
alert to holistic signs, unguarded skin.
You must think words skin-sensitive to the hymn
that’s nature vibrating beneath, or flying sky-loops.
Adornments, words, thin as your gold earring-hoops.

            for the poets of Tough Old Broads: Viola Weinberg 
            Spencer, Victoria Dalkey, Kathryn Hohlwein, and,
            in memoriam, Ann Menebroker


All through the storm the heedless blackbird trills;
While thunder rocks and tears the coppery sky
And lightning splinters fleck the curtained hills
Persists his melody.

So when your body pitches in the trough
Of bitter tides of longing may you know
Some solace of the careless lilt of love
I sang you long ago.
                             —Arnold Bax (1883-1953)


Arnold Bax, neglected musical master
caught amid extramarital mistressy bigamy,
could summon up twin arts, entwined creativities
plucked from the Bishopy (write it!) kind of disaster.
English composer, English poet too,
he indites—when wrenched almost in halves by love
or the suctioning dread of disappearing soon;
he jots, when nearly drained of his marvelous trove
of chromatic tempest, Magellanic surge
of orchestral song—this wistful little thing:
Bax hears a small blackbird whose heart’s-brimful flings
tinwhistle-faraway flutings all through a storm,
past sharp electric talons, spurred by an urge
that, till he finds his listener, takes no form.

Who is the Baxian blackbird? Who’s the she-listener?
For Arnold, she could be “Tania,” Harriet Cohen
the concert pianist. Tania isn’t alone,
though. Could he mean Mary Gleaves? Is even he sure?
Bax may not get to decide. Blackbird and longing:
are they not one? Symbolic, the fluted tune
piercing the absent lovewoman on the dune
of wet and salt that lashes and lifts and strongwings
the desirer, the rider of that discordant roll.
Yet for how many eons have the throats of birds,
the women, the wantings, mingled and sunk in the din?
Ah, promise-breaker, sing to the girl in your soul,
your silent stray gamine core, all feminine.
Tempt her to come back, this time with honest words.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Tom Goff

You live outside my fence. Inside with desire,
I mime your soft fling around me hands and arms.
I steady my palm in the unseen peak of the fire.

Content to live in one green inch of shire,
I am, when removed from you, removed from harms.
You’re the unseen coil of pure heat, the cathedral spire.

The first time I met you. My mind won’t cease to inquire.
You bobbed a slight curtsey, one cosmic iota of charm…
You live outside my fence. Inside with desire,
I steady my palm in the unseen peak of the fire.


A big thank-you to Tom Goff for today’s fine poems, including his “Another Art”, which is from his recent chapbook,
Tintagel 2.0, from Tiger’s Eye Press (

Unfortunately, Medusa made a mistake recently by saying that this Saturday's Art Reception at Sac. Poetry Center would feature Straight Out Scribes. That's a mistake; the Scribes won't be featured until June. This Saturday will be " \ a guy called nick \", 5-8pm.

And another note, that Tower Records Founder Russ Solomon has passed away at the age of 92; see Russ was a friend to Sacramento and to Sacramento poetry.


 Celebrate Poetry, which keeps us from getting wet!

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