Monday, June 04, 2018

What Do You Hear?

—Photos by Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

"Joan Didion’s house for sale,” said a headline blurb in the Sacramento Bee,
            the house once dwelled in by the author, which inspired actress Greta Gerwig to write the script for the movie,  Lady Bird
            The renovated house (which really doesn't have anything left from the late ’40’s when Didion lived there for two years in high school)
            is now being sold for $1.75 million at the corner of 22nd and T Streets in Sacramento
            It should at least offer up prospective buyers more than Didion in its history—
            perhaps something, for instance, that Didion actually “owned”
            even if it’s just a desk where she might’ve written her first works,
            or the evidence of some spell or curse she left upon Sacramento before leaving…

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

—Michael H. Brownstein, Chicago, IL

A touch on the shoulder
The doubt in the weighing
Every angst against credit
Nothing expected in doing

Someone speaks on your behalf
Someone else against your wishes
A third stays neutral and a fourth
Silently turns their back away

A slap on the turn of a cheek
The punch to the groin
Every anger a scar blackening
Nothing but pain and stuttering

No one to really talk to
No one to take a stand
A day goes by this way

Silently words turn to stones


Can’t anybody spell anymore?

And what happened to simple
grammar principles, like matching
number and gender, not jumping
from one tense to another in the
same sentence, using initial
capitals, and putting some form
of punctuation at the end of each

Did all that just get left behind at
school in the stuffed pockets of
that forgotten jacket, along with
the colored chalk, candy wrappers,
and wads of chewing gum briefly
started, rudely interrupted by some
authority, but not at all finished?  


While people personify the whims of the wind as
howling, slapping, whamming

maybe a snake hears the wind
slithering or hissing

a horse hears the wind

a dog hears the wind

and a thief of any species hears the wind
shout “opportunity”


Lost two close relatives to Alzheimer’s disease,
one that teases at first like little, easy to handle
sparks which quickly grow into huge roaring
flames that consume all of one’s better intentions

those special women used to have incredible,
super powers, could write something brilliant,
snap a prize-winning photo, say just the right
words at the right time, and now that is gone

taken away like when someone at the train
station bumps you and pilfers all your cash,
or like when arthritis imposes nonnegotiable
limits that change everything, forever

memories no longer served them well, so hand-
written lists, including lists of the lists, took their
place, if they could ever find the list before
familiarity became buried in antiquity

perhaps some of the things they used to
cherish are still waiting patiently for them under
piles of unswept dust, or inside boxes stored on
the highest shelves in the darkest rooms


Going back at least to the 3rd millennium BC,
people noticed and named the planet Mercury.
Then around 1500 BC the liquid metal was
discovered.  In more modern times Galileo
suggested to Evangelista Torricelli using mercury
in a vacuum barometer, which Torricelli is credited
with inventing in 1644.

Then in 1869 the Periodic Table of Elements was
devised, listing mercury as Atomic No. 80, leading
up to mass media meteorologists finally using the
expression “inches of mercury” when talking about
barometric air pressure.

But I didn’t know any of this history when growing
up in a Los Angles suburb in the middle of the last
century, remembering only how breathtakingly swift
our next door neighbors would zip in and park their
’58 Merc in the driveway adjacent to our rose bushes.

—Caschwa   (playing the Devil’s advocate)
Yes, the North won the war, but the
South will rise again and get their
trophy back, so don’t lose hope. 
Even world wars have come and gone,

which in the whole scheme of things
makes war no more definitive than
a semicolon; so it is just a temporary
setback. After all, how can we expect

the pen strokes of a few men sitting
around a table to all of the sudden
alter the course of an institution
thousands of years old?  Some men

are meant to be masters and others
slaves.  Our dear Lord ordained this
pecking order and our dear Constitution
will just have to catch up with the way

things really should be, all the way from
professional athletes taking a knee for
the national anthem, to proper coffee
shop protocols, to TV network show

cancellations, to the guiding principle
that all blacks are a threat, but some
Nazis are fine.  Raise the flag, 


Today’s LittleNip:

The framers of the Constitution
were not trying to impose on every
legislator that inflexible classroom scenario:

Time’s up!
Put your pencils down,
no changing answers allowed.

Actually, it was quite the
opposite intention:

Use checks and balances to thoroughly
review the answers, and amend them
as necessary to get them right.

That is the meat of what
makes America great.
Let’s chew on it.


Our thanks to today’s poets: Michelle Kunert remembering Joan Didion’s house in Sacramento; Michael Brownstein and those bullies at work; and Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) with his garden photos and his sometimes-ironic take on US politics.

A reminder that the deadline for the Swan Scythe Poetry Chapbook Contest is June 15. Info:

Poetry in our area begins at Sac. Poetry Center tonight, 7:30pm, with Shawn Pittard, Moira Magneson, and open mic. Tomorrow night at 5pm, it’s Poetry Off-the-Shelves in El Dorado Hills at the library on Silva Valley Parkway. Then Thursday, Sue Meserve reads at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, 8pm. On Friday, Susan Kelly-DeWitt’s Hybrid Forms class will be reading at Sac. Poetry Center, 6pm.

Saturday’s Second Sat. Art Reception at Sac. Poetry Center will feature an Opening Reception beginning at 4pm for Straight Out Scribes’ Legacy: A Four-Generational Art Show, with artist talks, door prizes, refreshments. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


Is it Friday yet?
—Anonymous Photo
(Celebrate poetry!)

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