—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
Muse, tell of the time I sat
and watched the White Discus fish
in the Chinese restaurant
within the bright glassy slats,
eyeing its futile swish.
All purity, all pearl skin
lit iridescently up
idling inside that foursquare cup,
that clarity-walled one bin.
Unblinking innocent eye:
gold shimmer. An eye of content?
Or a fish-saint patiently pent?
As a lamb-placid eye rolls mildly,
a woman appears at the glass.
The hostess, the takeout-bringer?
No, she’s awaiting her dinner.
She, charmed by the odd white fish,
charms it to her with a caress.
Such is the dulse of her mood
(might she be forgetting her food?)
her fingers caressing the glass
seem to penetrate to the fish skin
via atmospheres perfumed and thin.
She strokes glass—thinks of a furred cat?
And the catfish-deep fish, at the tact,
seems to yearn toward touch on its skin,
through the medium, liquid-and-bin.
She murmurs…in Mandarin?
Never is hers the mischievous din
children clink at the fish they would fright.
Discus will not relinquish the wet;
Aquarium clings to its light.
Undissolving lit windowy vat.
Can confinement inside that penthouse
yield an opening into the Real;
the tank’s castle, the kelp shreds, the keel
of coral, all doldrums, no souse,
admit of a bond with this creature,
this aqualess fingery reacher?
Neither of us, I won’t overstress,
will be feasting on watercress…
Look for more radiance in the sunset rouge.
The “noon’s a purple glow” in this new weather.
The lunar rainbow is the midnight feather
flame, our flame, seen far away as Bruges.
Moonrise and sunset.
Ash-rise and dust-set.
The violet-haired cloud, hours before sundown.
The mummification of the fountain spray,
the splash whose drops are butts in the ashtray.
The Fanta Orange rides cloud above the town.
Foretastes of nuclear winter,
if that scenario is what you remember.
Earth shreds, forever ember?
Decanted from residue, air charged with burning glue.
Moonrise and sunset.
Ash-rise and dust-set.
Dermot O’Byrne, I must make words of you.
What famous composer’s alter ego
so drank of the first self’s second-home brew,
the essence of mind-drive, inner stream-flow,
diverting song floods to word-polyphony?
Absorbing the Celtic story stock,
starting from Irish twilight euphony,
yet spiking with tart wit the shock
of legend and tragedy gleaned from Yeats and Synge.
Your bravest poem, “A Dublin Ballad,” intenser
not just for the Easter-Risen martyrs it sings,
but (Englishman) baiting Ireland’s British censor.
Your best work, perhaps, in Wrack, your story-trove:
The title-item, of course, and in “Before Dawn,”
your clever gun-runners ironically rove
toward fates implied; yet purposefully, cunningly on.
“The Vision of St. Molaise” surmounts
the rest, I think, in delineating how art
defies the skin’s and bone’s death—yes, it counts—
yet, tough and fragile as the abbot’s heart-
won task of illuminating vellum, most potent,
it dissolves (like confronting a basilisk?) at one portent…
E.J. MOERAN, SYMPHONY TWO
Your Symphony One seems unsurpassable;
G Minor, worthy of Mozart’s crowning work
in the same key. Now, write a pleasurable
Symphony Two. The sophomore jinx, the curse,
the spell of immanent live death heavy upon you.
Frightful, to be dubbed fraud without a fresh opus,
never mind all your fine other works. Lost focus,
alcohol—whatever scatters effort—to daunt you,
as nothing, now that you are gone. Pitched dead
into the Kenmare River. Mere scraps remain
of your new symphony. Yet these bits, read
by Martin Yates, now metamorph back to grain
from grass. Your E-Flat Symphony Two reshapes
under his hands. Authentic? Cavilers
abound to decry resurrection, sour grapes
bobbed for in communion wine. Sore levelers
slight second chances, posthumously granted.
Yates, himself no small composer, hedges,
terming his work of reconstruction Sketches
for Symphony Two. His diligence unstinted,
Yates voices triumph self-effacingly.
Symphonic writing—is it not like chess?
Each use of primal note-cells deliberately
pressed onward, to draw or to win, fewer moves to guess.
The living man and the dead man do seem to fight,
the fragments of the deceased resisting day,
the cunning man seeking retrieval from the deep bay,
teasing drenched scraps to cohesive form and light.
This wrangling of motifs (two forceful wills)
binds two distinct visions, disaggregates twin skills…
THE TWO SARNIAS
John Ireland, I admit new thoughts of you,
just having finished Toilers of the Sea.You meant to lead life with a protected view,
I think, from atop a beachfront tower in Guernsey.
What stirs thoughts of tall towers more than Sarnia,
An Island Sequence? Written for the wistful,
the cognoscenti knowing it no Narnia.
Guernsey is Sarnia, Roman for that fistful
of terrain stuck in the Channel, with Victor Hugo.
You knew his poetic novel emblematic
of all sea-reach prosceniums where too few know
what depths they sound, yet ventures—acrobatic
as self-taught engineer Gilliatt’s rescue of
a ship’s steam engines, waged barehand against Fate,
whether as trials of self for fortune or love—
transpire quite oft; in fact, proliferate.
Your great piano suite was your depth-sounding.
Do Narnias wage war? Sarnia fell soon
to the Stahlhelm, the jackboot; the abounding
grace, fleeing St. Peter Port in time, our boon,
especially now that Sarnia’s orchestral:
in your score sweetness, sadness bound together,
with Hugo epigraph. What wonder, claustral
thoughts: that, not only proof against tough weather,
but safe from imagined stormtrooper platoons,
you sought your Rock Mill. Like a Martello tower,
Guernsey-reclusive. Scant land-miles from dunes,
enough salt air to redouble conjuring power.
You should have lived when Sarnia was arranged
for symphony orchestra by Martin Yates;
from your fine ivory methods unestranged,
yet translated through eerily shadowed gates…
SUMMER MUSIC (symphonic poem, Bax)
Much summer rain in the form of solar shine.
Needled below by grass points we lie prone,
with few or no clothes; air, to the palate, wine
traversed by drunken dragonflies at drone.
Rain down on us, you summer shower, as wet,
or up: two-pronged assault by grass and air.
Prickle our flesh, you summer ants, who get
our heedless crumbs, yet not our love’s full fare.
Your rapturous face on my face, early dew
dissolves like wind-lost words in all the sheen
pressed fine from skin, ecstatic moisture you
bestow as rich ones rain largesse, my queen.
With excellent warrant we lie drenched in rain,
if the rain comes, or if instead more sun.
Intoxicate or saturate: seed-grain
spills generous from your flower-head, vast hot One.
When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.
Thanks to Tom Goff for today’s fine poetry! For more about Dermot O’Byrne (aka Arnold Bax), go to www.irishtimes.com/culture/music/the-sound-of-sadness-permeates-musical-commemorations-of-the-rising-1.2606834/. To see Discus Snow White cruising, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LP90GEe-Ks/.
The latest issue of Sisyphus is now available at sisyphuslitmag.org/.
Noon today (and tomorrow) is the drop-off time for art submissions for the City Of Trees Art Invitational at Sac. Poetry Gallery. Info: www.facebook.com/events/1942904702669282/. Then, if you’re in Angels Camp this evening (or thereabouts), drop in on the One Hot August Night Romantic Poetry & Prose Reading and open mic, 6-9pm, Vino Metate Tasting Room on Main St. 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.
Oh well, celebrate poetry anyway!
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