—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
I abandoned myself to callow and immoral idleness and simply lazed and dreamed all day long.
—Arnold Bax, letter of August 12, 1916 to Harriet Cohen
The callow and immorally idle Bax
—you humbug, when did you ever misspend one day?
Your so-called laziness hangs long candle-racks
in tallow-, beeswax-, paraffin-strung array;
so many shaping, dripping, hardening works
hung at first heat or coalescing cool
through manifold revisions. Someone shirks
in this green England. That someone, that fool,
not you. Bemoaning your age, your edge less virile;
or you claim your pieces tossed off—sprezzatura,
that gentleman’s airiest bluff, that coloratura.
Then—oldest of musical saws—you reckon sterile
your newest sonata, poem, or short story.
Left hand orchestrates old scherzos, right hand jots songs.
The coy shy fortune-seeker in you longs
to hear performed your “Concertino” score.
This perfect concerto, branded baby-grand:
sweet offspring christened as if by back of hand.
You downgrade self, misnaming its category.
Name scalding red flows from the caldera’s dark core.
in memoriam: Debora Larry Kearney,
Folsom Lake College Professor Emerita
Debora, do you remember, I still say
—in poems, the dear departed can reply—
that day of the writing conference by the Bay?
So balmy, the empathetic air did sigh
along with us the imperatively cooped
up with our fellow academics there
in some quite august civic structure. Air,
pure air and light, the remedy for the drooped
and workweek-bent. No go. But, lucky for us,
we chanced on the exact same poetry reading:
the great Beat poet Ann Waldman chanting, chanting
from her book on Florida’s half-mermaid, half-walrus
species: her title, Manatee / Humanity.
Her expert incantation (call it Manatee /
Humanity / Advocacy), nigh-inaudible filigree,
backed, she explained, by her son’s electronics.
Mixmaster scramble, recorded squawk and blare
and beatdown groove—assault made audiophonic,
Beat Generation allegiance to ye old “unsquare”
sense of the fully-untended inconsequence.
We got the poetic message. It was intense.
Later, I solo-roved the Union Square shops
for San Francisco amazements, galleries
crammed with famous artists’ names. The props
I gave myself for visually bagging trophies:
there, it’s a Miró! And over here, Chagall!
Close to the hotel, who happens by but you, Debora…?
I relate my spellbinding discoveries, and ah,
like Aristotle or Sappho taking the air,
Debora, you’re back from already having been there
and matter-of-factly sized it up and seen it all…
DANCE IN THE SUN
(from Four Orchestral Pieces by Arnold Bax)
Who faster stamps the rhythm of this dance?
You flash like spokes on Bax’s bicycle.
The sun’s wheel spins out flaring sparks of chance.
I try and fail to keep up with your prance
And pounce, fast faint words echo-traceable,
More like the living rhythm of a dance
Than bolts or sine-waves from some necromancer’s
cliché wand, magic trivial and dull;
Your own wheel spins out flaring sparks of chance,
As Baxian rhythms throw off with their slants:
The ear thinks downbeat, pickup: gullible
To living rhythm’s tantalizing dance…
If sly caprice is kin to sweet romance,
Will you be someone’s happiest downfall,
Your wheel fling sun-spun, daring sparks of chance?
Will they cast over his life the predestined trance
That spellbinds—in full sunlight—to your rule
Your partner in the arrhythmic grip of chance?
Who are you if not the sun-spun wheel of dance?
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
A man whose life was
lacking control thought
it would be better if
he went out and bought
to put in the ground,
call all the shots and
boss them around.
So he went to the nursery
to discover and know
what kinds of plants
they felt he could best grow;
at the nursery they showed
him seeds of discontent,
also bare root dissatisfaction
in case that was more his bent
“Feed them anger and fury,
much daily dissension,
surround them with mulch
made from bones of contention.
If these plants ever give
you any trouble at all
remind them you’re the boss,
next to them you stand tall.”
DON’T OPEN IT
Your name and address
on a business check,
fresh as new coins minted
showing through a crisp
suggesting a nice benefit
to kindle your hope,
Imagine thousands of
dollars free and clear,
discretionary funds for
necessities like beer
then the fine print reveals a
super high-interest loan,
as if exploding your debt
is a nice thing to own,
or it is a quasi-check in a
generous dollar amount
to reduce the purchase price
from a figure too high to count
of a brand new, fully loaded,
Act today, don’t delay,
what are you waiting for?
GUYS, FACING THE CAMERA
(Borrowing liberally from Joyce Odam’s “Gulls,
Facing North”, Medusa’s Kitchen, April 24, 2018)
Watching HDTV images of an older, gray-haired
politician uttering his partisan comments because
he was given the mike, and there it was—
Beyond the face, a thin black horizon line:
That bold, narrow shadow cast by a meticulously
groomed collection of aged hairs no longer rooted
but merely resting upon the scalp,
now silently eroding the presumption of merit his
high credentials had brought to the podium, which
made me sad because I agreed with what he said.
Someone left the windows down
a cat got in and went to town.
At last the cat is gone and out
though the smell remains
both in our car and in our snout
and proven allegations
may culminate in a big bust
to take down those high and mighty
who have violated our trust
So we might get lucky soon
and be singing a cheerful tune
this is not about a payday
but the pendulum of karma
finally swinging our way.
KEEP YOUR SHOES ON
What is the absolutely
dirtiest thing that you
could bring into your house?
Well don’t worry, it is
not your bare feet or your
well-worn, soiled footwear.
The winner is poetry!
All those images gathered
from acres of rural growth:
the community toilet of so
many creatures you would
never welcome inside, plus
the ugliest of raw feelings
bared wide open in verse,
creating a greater exposure
to risk, like using fiber glass
to replace durable steel siding.
Crash helmets won’t save you.
No amount of refined laboratory
equipment or technical training
are required to see these
troublesome elements, more
voluminous than bacteria, and
even available in LARGE PRINT.
Fair warning: when a poem
bombs, the radioactive fallout
can remain for millions of years.
on a kid,
in the mud.
case is not
Thanks to Tom Goff for his fine poems today, and to Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) for his also-fine poems and for his river photos. About his poem, “Maybe”, Carl says, “The rhymes are forced, the rhythm doesn’t flow well, and the lines are oddly broken. Thus ‘Something is not right here’ is the underlying theme of this poem.” He also says that “Everyone should keep a Med Kit (Medusa’s Kitchen) handy!” Wise words, Carl.
Poetry in our area, as we close off National Poetry Month, was supposed to begin tonight with a fundraiser at Sac. Poetry Center—it was originally announced as a fundraiser for Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, and there's still a note about it on the SPC calendar, but as I haven’t heard any more about that, I suspect it has been cancelled. So go down there at your own risk, or ask Bob Stanley what're the haps... Anyway, there will also be a big reading in Davis tonight from 7-8:30pm at the John Natsoulas Gallery, featuring Jane Hirshfield, Indigo Moor, Linda Scheller and Gerry Pineda. Get there early (doors open at 6:30) to get a seat!
Tuesday from 5-7, Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around meets in El Dorado Hills at the Library. On Wednesday at 3pm in the CSUS Special Collections Room of the Library, there will be a presentation of VocaLabUlary, a poetry-music collaboration between faculty and students.
Thursday is the Big Day of Giving, and there will be a celebration of same at Sac. Poetry Center from 2-8:30pm, presented by Sac. Poetry Center and Women’s Wisdom ART. Also on Thursday: Ladies’ Night Out in Old Sac, 8-10pm, and Poetry in Davis features Stan Zumbiel, Jeff Knorr, and open mic, 8pm at the John Natsoulas Gallery.
And two workshops this weekend: 2018 Gold Rush Writers’ Conference, May 4-6, in Mokelumne Hill, and Wakamatsu Workshop in Placerville on Sunday, 2-4pm. 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.
Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back