Sunday, December 21, 2014

Poem: "Look Now" ("Alas we live in the Age of Cupcakes.")

Lot's wife, courtesy of Evidence Ministries.
Scythe, an online journal which published many wonderful poets, is no more.  "Look Now" was included in issue IV in 2011. Thanks to Joe Milford, editor.

Look Now

The past is behind us, dear, down the block,
slumped beneath yon greeny elm, bereft as

Peter Pan’s shadow stuck amongst children’s
knickers and feeling separated-at-birth-ish.

No no, don’t look back.  (The that-was-then is
over with its hot-asphalt August allure

ever rankly receding as if its mother’d
never remonstrated Skulkings unbecoming.)

Not everyone is well-raised as we, my love, and
don’t say you haven’t noticed.

I hear good Lot’s wife to whom was said
Eyes forward became all salt, all the time,

salty of tongue as a pirate yet pillar of
the salt community until to legend licked.

What’s the past to say we haven’t surmised
from our shadows at 5 o’clock fore & aft?

Sure we’d like that recipe for Old Witch Cake
with canned pumpkin our sister baked.

Alas we live in the Age of Cupcakes.
Those who know the past are likely as those

who don’t to forget to bake at 350o ‘til springy
to touch.  I’d wager Madame Lot,

like Orpheus, figured So few in authority
ever speak truth, what’re the odds this time.

Sarah Sarai, first published Scythe, Issue IV, 2011

Monday, June 2, 2014

Yet More on Compiling Poems into a Collection: Ask for Help

Last November I wrote how I went about ordering the poems in my new, and second, collection. I thought I accomplished the deed, finally, submitted the ms. to a few contests, was a runner-up at one, but, in fact, my collection wasn't accepted. Okay, three rejections is nothing. A sense that someone besides my solitary self could help--that's something.

This Winter I had a chance to work with some poets in a Sunday workshop. They are all wonderful. The workshop facilitator is amazingly adept at interpretation and a specific style of sophisticated insight. I understand why she's had the good success she's had.

Another poet in the workshop also wrote really smart comments on my poems. I've known her for a few years, feel comfortable that she understands or senses my underdogness and some of the beyond the pale events of my life. And if she doesn't, she does. I asked her to read my collection, for a probably too small fee, and give whatever feedback she felt it warranted.

Result? She civilized the book. Without making any specific comments, she divided the poems into three sections. Suggested three or four titles for each of the sections. Reorganized the poems (hard copy) with their new page number in the lower right corner. She tossed a few poems. I mainly agree with the toss. I fully agree with the new order.

6/4/2014:  THIS PARAGRAPH IS A LIE. That poem wasn't excluded. I simply misplaced it in my reordering of the pages.  It's back in, and my "wise" understanding of why it "should" have been excluded is b.s.  Makes Me Rethink Everything All Over Again. I am a sheep, no?  Ahem: One of the poems cut, and there weren't many, is "This Way and That," originally published in lovely Lavender Review (Mary Meriam, editor). At first I was surprised with that suggestion as the poem is a crowd pleaser at readings. Other of my poems aren't as accessible, easy, all neatly packed and ready to be heard. I like this poem but the door clanked shut on it. It will find another home.

My title had been But Then Again. The new suggested title is Unlucky Thumper.

I'm thinking.

Last November's posting on this:

Assembling my Poetry Collection So Each Poem's Comfortable with its Neighbors: take 3 with more to come 


Friday, April 25, 2014

Ada Limón's poem "Drift"

 Thrush Poetry Journal has just published an anthology of the poets of its first two years. "Drift" by Ada Limón was in the inaugural issue of Thrush in 2011.


Some blur of a bird makes
a kid-like laugh out of sea air
and we, heart-hardy, kick
a crack-up back at it like
the opposite of throwing stones.
Like releasing tiny hot air
balloons up, moon-bound
and hell-bent on defying
the usual gravity of this spin.
Sky, here, we toss a bone
into your open endlessness,
the sound of crackle, a timber
of animal-warmth. Oh let us be
a bird flying wholly for the sake
of flying, to be that breath-
machine that even the anchored
earth-bound wavers want
to root for, want to look up
and say, rally, rally, win.
Ada Limón, Thrush Poetry Journal, 2011
 For information on Ada Limón, visit her website:
 The anthology?  Thrush Poetry Journal: an anthology of the first two years, here (on Amazon) 
 The painting is Roberto Matta's 'La revolte des contraires' (The Revolt of Opposites); 
    Matta is Chilean

Monday, March 31, 2014

Eve on Her Deathbed (by Linda Pastan) + Judithe Hernandez (L.A. artist)

 "Mascara #2" by Judithe Hernandez
It is part of a 1983 triptych called "Mascaras" (Masks).

Eve on Her Deathbed

In the end we are no more than our own stories:
mine a few brief passages in the Book,
no further trace of plot or dialogue.
But I once had a lover no one noticed
as he slipped through the pages, through
the lists of those begotten and begetting.
Does he remember our faltering younger selves,
the pleasures we took while Adam,
a good bureaucrat, busied himself
with naming things, even after Eden?
What scraps will our children remember of us
to whom our story is simple
and they themselves the heroes of it?

I woke that first day with Adam for company,
and the tangled path I would soon follow
I’ve tried to forget: the animals, stunned
at first in the forest; the terrible, beating wings
of the angel; the livid curse of childbirth to come.
And then the children themselves,
loving at times, at times unmerciful.
Because of me there is just one narrative
for everyone, one indelible line from birth to death,
with pain or lust, with even love or murder
only brief diversions, subplots.

But what I think of now,
in the final bitterness of age,
is the way the garden groomed itself
in the succulent air of summer—each flower
the essence of its own color; the way even
the serpent knew it had a part it had to play, if
there were to be a story at all.
by Linda Pastan, published in Paris Review, #192, Spring 2010

*Judithe Hernandez,

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Amiri Baraka's "Getting Less & Less Safe Out Here" (The Baffler Pulled It, Last Minute)

Getting Less & Less Safe Out Here
(Tin Tin Deo, Diz)
                               by Amiri Baraka
The world is less safe
without Hugo Chávez, imagine not, reality
Is ill enough. The world
Is less safe
Without the poets Jayne Cortez, or Louis Reyes Rivera,
Or Sekou Sundiata
much less safe without Arafat or Rabin,
A much more dangerous place
We in, with mouths closed by death, assassination. With
We wonder is it the planet’s imperialist police
That killed him, like Arafat, some secret ugly
Shit, like you know they got
With Malcolm and Dr. King
The crazy white folks was screaming so loud
They shd die, there was even some negro zombie preacher
In Chicago, boy, joined with them at the hip
Who screamed and hollered and wallowed
On the sidewalks, they wanted to run Dr. King’s street
In front of his dope dispensing south side joint.
But Chávez, I swear I think
They killed him. Some kind of death ray white
poison like they slipped Arafat. With Cabral and Biko
The animal sounds of the racists
Allowed them to shoot straight out,
They cd take off Touré with the “gone to Europe
For medical treatment” tip
but Chávez I know they killed, Ditto
Arafat. Imagine
Rabin being stalked by a right-wing Israeli nut
A Patriot, Lieberman or Netanyahu might say, imagine that
The cries from money and a new edition
Of white supremacy canceled out opposition.
They tried to get Fidel for so many years
But Fidel being Fidel walked through the flail
with the wail of an organized people, and they failed
But Chávez, we gotta know
Imperialist death science is my feeling
They always either killin or stealin
Amiri Baraka, 2013/2014.  (Amiri Baraka, 1934 to 2014)

I have the proof page / pdf of this poem as it was to be published in The Baffler. Really classy layout. The Baffler pulled the poem at the last minute. Thomas Sayers Ellis, Poetry Editor of The Baffler (then, maybe now), offered to email the pdf to any who requested it. And so.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When at a Loss, Pessoa: "A broken gateway to the Impossible"


But at least, from my bitterness over what I'll never be,
There remains the hasty writing of these verses,
A broken gateway to the Impossible.
But at least I confer on myself a contempt without tears,
Noble at least in the sweeping gesture by which I fling
The dirty laundry that's me -- with no list -- into the stream of things,
And I stay at home, shirtless.

Fernando Pessoa, from Poems of Fernando Pessoa 

***image from Art and My Life

A bit about Pessoa

Friday, March 7, 2014

Life is Without Meaning and so Is Advertising

This posting may be of limited interest. A friend who is in advertising strongly suggested I read "Absolute Advertising: Ground-Zero Advertising," a chapter from Simulacra and Simulation, a small and intense collection (1981) of essays by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard. As is demanded of the French, Baudrillard is cynical. I'm not sure there is are counter arguments to his contention that the meaning we may find in life is scorned and ignored by advertising, although he did, as they say, paint with a broad brush, offering few specifics. Except for the majesty of Las Vegas, rising from the desert every day, sinking into its darkness at night. I offer the image, not his, dare I write, nostalgia.

I tend to argue with my reading, explain lapses in perspective to writers. And then, as I did reading this chapter, I argue with myself to not argue, just read. The essay is eight pages. Elegantly dismissive. And not about to give ground. For my own benefit, I copied a few quotes. Consider this posting a Notes to Self or a reminder to fight for meaning. The culture is dissolving its own importance.

from the essay

Advertising, therefore, like information: destroyer of intensities, accelerator of inertia.

It is not that people no longer believe in it [advertising] or that they have accepted it as routine. It is that if its fascination once lay in its power to simplify all languages, today the power is stolen from it by another type of language that is even more simplified and thus more functional: the language of computer science. has both "entered into our customs" and at the same time escaped the social and moral dramaturgy that it still represented twenty years ago.

It is confused with itself (and the eroticism with which it ridiculously cloaks itself is nothing but the autoerotic index of a system that does nothing but designate itself--whence the absurdity of seeing in it an "alienation" of the female body.

There is no longer a staging of the commodity: there is only its obscene and empty form.

Note: the image is from Metropolis in Barcelona. Also note that Baudrillard is smoking, as is required of French philosophers.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Poem: The Common Ancestor, Chrysanthemum Edition

I find myself reluctant to draw on references from old wells of reading, although the refs sometimes sneak in. Nothing dies and every word I've read or heard is in me. I'm the cloud, not of unknowing but of cyberspace.

But then cyberspace was created by us so the mimicry is not double-edged but rotund, a mirrored carousel. A porous scrim. The wells I'm thinking of are children's lit--universal, beloved, and, plausibly cute, as in use-with-caution. And Sunday School lit, in my case the Bible (King James, old school). Christian Science Sunday School, the loneliest place in the world. In almost every other religion, if you need help, folks assemble, casseroles are offered along with good wishes and company. In C.S. everyone goes home and reads the texts. I'll take the casserole and a hug.

Oh. Another in my few The Common Ancestor poems names Jesus. But you get the idea.

The Common Ancestor,
Chrysanthemum Edition

I was so there where we met up
after I kicked
and you opened or
I kicked you open.

Everyone kicks Mom.
If they don't, a doctor's called
and Mother converts
to keep sharp objects away.

Judy, Tina, Sarah after
my oldest sister so don't worry
on her.

Three sacred rivers are sourced
in the common memory.
Mom rode a rivulet home.
Sarah Sarai. A version of this poem appeared in Boog City Reader, Issue 83, 2013. 
Buck Downs is the poetry editor. David Kirschenbaum is the mastermind. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

With Malice (Maxine Kumin's "Woodchucks")


Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the little woodchuck's face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.

Ten minutes later I dropped the mother. She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next. O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

There's one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form. I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they'd all consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.

From Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief, by Maxine Kumin, published by Penguin Books. Copyright © 1972, 1982 by Maxine Kumin, 1925-2014.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lucille Clifton . . . a heaven . . . "here rests"

*(See below)
There is nothing I need to say about this poem except that it must read.  Every poet is clever, but harnessing the quick impulse so a reader's taken aback with storm speed; moved ahead with compassion.  That's Lucille Clifton's genius.


here rests

my sister Josephine
born july in '29
and dead these 15 years
who carried a book
on every stroll.
when daddy was dying
she left the streets
and moved back home
to tend him.
her pimp came too
her Diamond Dick
and they would take turns
a bible aloud through the house.
when you poem this
and you will   she would say
remember the Book of Job.
happy birthday and hope
to you Josephine
one of the easts
most wanted.
may heaven be filled
with literate men
may they bed you
with respect.
by Lucille Clifton, from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991. BOA Editions, Ltd.,
*image: One of Thawan Duchanee's houses.