Monday, December 13, 2021

On Winter's Cusp

—Poetry by Caschwa (Carl Schwartz), Stephen Kingsnorth,
Joseph Nolan, Michael Ceraolo, and Michelle Kunert
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of Joseph Nolan

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

you know the drill, the item you ordered some
time ago is still sitting in some gargantuan
warehouse across the country and now wears
a brand, new freshly printed shipping label

another week or so will pass until they finally
scan the label and begin to actually move your
package into a sorting area, eventually onto
a truck, then maybe a cargo plane, then another
truck to another sorting area, and then…

if you are extremely lucky and all the planets are
lined up just right for you, the package is put
onto a delivery van and reaches your doorstep

now keep that in mind when you hear the news
people say that the authorities finally have the
goods on Donald J. T**** to put him away for a
long, long time…

when the facts rather indicate that he is still at
liberty to leverage other peoples’ money to impose
his will on everyone else, and a lot more calendar
pages will turn until it is a well documented fact
that he is booked, cuffed, confined, convicted,
and serving real time to pay for his crimes against
the people

when that much is true, and the window of time to
file an Appeal has lapsed, we can take a deep breath
and move on with our lives and our country according
to plan 


California shoreline draws millions
of visitors daily, and there are even
some humans among all those bugs

known for their compassion to post
signs on sign posts, most having
something to do with all the laborious

limitations and restrictions imposed by
the laws of our land, but Mother Nature
is not to be outdone by those signs

for she knows that she can command
even a greater measure of respect with
her jaws in the sand 


yes I can swim
Olympic competition, no
yes I can read
fall asleep before done
yes I can teach
myself, sometimes
yes I can do long division
slowly, laboriously
yes I can play brasswinds
one note at a time
yes I can meditate
once and if I levitate
yes I can write poetry
if that’s what you call shopping lists
yes I can do anything
when no one is watching 
Somewhere in Scotland

After last week's Seed of the Week: Frazzled
—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales, UK

The woolly jumper—not the sheep—
I’m kept awake thinking one’s lost—
but Christmas gift that’s lost its shape,
modelled in her short-sighted view,
the pattern typed, but then ignored.
Though loosely knit, unravelling,
those fibres keep their knotty curls
long after craft became a skein,
hank gathered, wound round facing palms—
when tempted by cat’s cradle qualms.
Smooth fresh plait turned, twist frazzled hair—
can this reduce in span and girth,
be pulled over my knobbly face,
like human skin, not octopus,
mixed purl and not, loop right and left?
There is a cost, if drop a stitch.

‘The best of season is the food’—
their own brand, as their advert claims—
but how come festival reduced
to stress of shopping, menu served,
far from the stable refugees?
Those sheep, their shepherds, dirty lot,
a failure as religious flock,
were first to see the mystery,
if god were grounded in the hay,
and stayed there, where the homeless lay.
I’ll still use facing palmistry,
oil, Aaron’s beard, like lanolin,
as psalmist seeking hope in need—
that frazzled world, those much abused
may find their piece, whatever lore.
This global jigsaw waits the whole. 

—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA

There was a root,
A branch,
A bud,
From which its
Fruit had fallen.

Many leaves had burst
Into bright sunshine.

The tree has since
Been cut down.
Others, still, are growing.

It was the tree
From which I fell,
Young and still

—Joseph Nolan
Images were blurry
In the pictures
Put up for display.

Ventured guesses
Concerning identities
Contained therein,
In impressionistic photography.

The world surrounded them.
It seems there was
No means of escape.

Caught in two dimensions,
Merely a part
Of the landscape.

Presumptive relatives
Were notified
And invited to attend
The Blurry Pictures Exhibit,
To attempt to identify
Vague figures
And describe their relationships
To the best of their
Addled memories. 
Cat Bliss

After “The Red Wheelbarrow”
By William Carlos Williams
—Joseph Nolan

So much depends
On the way
Buttocks flex
Around a thong
When a woman wears flip-flops
And walks along a
Beachfront roadway
With a friend,
On a bright, sunny day
By a beach in Brazil!
Pig Bliss

—Joseph Nolan

There is a short leash.
There is a short leash, I suppose
To commandeer a dog.

Only so much room
Is allowed to freely sniff
And piss on trees—
For a dog to do
As it might please.

Why don’t we walk our pigs?
Far smarter are they,
Than dogs, they say.
Maybe pigs won’t go along?

“You go first,” said the pig,
“I’m tired of having my neck
Pulled back
When you get impatient
And tell me it’s time to go.

If you insist to drag me on,
You’ll have to lead the way.
That is what I say,
Since I am a pig!”
Husky Bliss

MODERN OLYMPIAN ODE #46 (1960, 1964): Hail the Conqueror's Conqueror
—Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, OH

He was only three
when Italy invaded his country,
he and his family had to relocate more than once
due to the ongoing war,
it was poetic justice that Abebe Bikila
conquered the conquerors (and the rest of the world)
in Rome in 1960

The marathon was scheduled
to start in the late afternoon
and finish after dark in order to
avoid the heat of the day as much as possible
Bikila had new shoes for the race,
but they caused uncomfortable blisters
so he decided to run barefoot
Near the end of the race
part of the course was lit by
Italian soldiers holding torches,
saluting Bikila on his way
to victory in world-record time

Four years later he would wear shoes,
this time he would have to overcome
having had an appendectomy
only five weeks before the race
And he did overcome that obstacle,
winning again in world-record time,
the first person to win the event twice

In 1968
he would try for another championship,
the third time was not a charm:
running on a broken fibula
he had to drop out after ten miles

His life would be cut short five years later,
but that's a subject for a different poem

* * *

MODERN OLYMPIAN ODE #47 (2021):  Hometown Hero
—Michael Ceraolo

She was born and raised near enough,
just across town in the same county,
for the poet to claim neighbor status
with a hometown hero
                                    And yet
Katie Nageotte came perilously close
to the reduced glory of just having
competed in an Olympics;
with perhaps unintentional drama,
she missed her first two attempts
at the pole vault's opening height,
she cleared it on the last attempt
she cleared the four subsequent heights,
the last one sixteen feet, one inch
Only three other competitors,
including the defending gold medalist,
cleared a height higher than the opening one,
but none equaled Katie's mark

Praise the latest
in the long line of Buckeye State greats

* * *

MODERN OLYMPIAN ODE #48 (1996, 2000): Grace (and Greatness) Under Pressure
—Michael Ceraolo

She was already an elite athlete,
having won a silver medal in the 400 meters
in Atlanta in 1996,
Cathy Freeman would take it up a notch
in Sydney in 2000
she would have the honor of lighting the Olympic flame,
and then she would face the increased pressure
of competing before her home country
There had been calls for her to boycott these Games
because of her Aboriginal ancestry,
she resisted the pressure from those
who call on others to sacrifice their dreams
while giving up nothing themselves

She was never the fastest out of the blocks,
but she won her first-round race,
she won her second-round race,
she won her semifinal heat,
bettering her times each round
she saved her fastest time for the final,
and it was enough to win her
the gold medal

in a gesture beyond the imagination
and the capacity of the boycotters,
she did her victory lap draped
in the Australian and Aboriginal flags,
a small gesture toward reconciliation
Busy Christmas Street in the '50's

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

 I caught my Mom humping a guy who also plays Santa Claus
        and no, I know the guy certainly wasn’t my Dad wearing a red suit—
        Look, I’m fifteen and my mom tells me to be a good Christian
        and don’t be messing around and get pregnant or a disease like HIV
        Well, Dad happened to be on a business trip out of town
        and Mom didn’t expect me to come home so soon on a night out with my friends
        and she admits that no, it wasn’t the first time with Santa  
        She and “Santa Claus” were doing it on the couch in front of the T.V.
        I’m like, damn, Mom, if you’re cheating
        at least get it on with some hot dude
        and perhaps he ought to be rich and famous, too—
        in that case, Dad would likely better understand
        why, with a guy far less attractive than him  
        Indeed, screwing with Santa Claus just isn’t cool—
        It would be the same with a clown who entertains kids  
        Like, how I am to explain at school how traumatized I am now?
        I just can’t unsee, even in my mind, Mom getting laid with "Santa Claus”
        At church I said, please pray for my mom for committing the sin of adultery with Santa Claus
        and then telling me and my Dad she’s not sorry
        How can I ever forgive her?
        I wanted, again this Christmas, for the family to gather with some friends for company
        But I guess Dad’s decided, this time, to leave Mom out in the cold


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joseph Nolan

Each person,
A wound,
Held in place
By a scab.

Held in place
By an act
Of grace–
Blood can
Turn solid.


The 2021 Winter Solstice is just around the corner (, as are the other celebrations of December. And we have wonderful poets, as always, to help us light up the darkest days of the year. Our thanks to all of today's, including Joseph Nolan, who has also found us some mighty fine pix!

By the way, Michelle Kunert assures me that, in her “adultery with Santa Claus” poem, “the girl is definitely not in any way based on me, nor is the mother in the story based on my mother or anything she did. I made the poem up after hearing the “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” song over and over at work”. Sometimes fiction really is stranger than truth, yes?

•••This Sat. (12/18), 6-7:30pm: Poetry Art Walk in Placerville presents “Bringing Back the Light” open mic, Winter Solstice 2021 at Toogood Cellars, 304 Main St., Placerville.




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