We’ve been growing more herbs these last few years. The Salsa Garden is lost, as well as most of the activities that used to surround it. Yesterday, walking with a beer through the brick bordered herb garden (used bricks salvaged from lost projects, saved from taken down chimneys – we’ve one clinker brick), I noticed three honey bees working the flowers of two elephant garlic plants. The flowers are round, purple and white balls of blossoms, about the size of a swollen baseball, blossoming one each at the top of five foot stalks.
It’s difficult of course to identify the plant a honey comes from, and these bees are foraging freely in urban wild yards up and down the block. And the elephant garlic is on its own, hardly a crop. I don’t know where the bees call home. The rampant peppermint growing up along the south facing wall will bloom soon, and will bring more bees, and butterflies, and hummingbirds. If our yard were a poem, it would be free verse.
I pulled out a prize find foraging in the neighborhood book box down on the corner this week: “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…And Other Modern Verse.” This is the 1966 edition that was welcomed in schools for a few years. It’s a textbook, but unlike most intro tos we see nowadays. There’s little discussion, and just one or a few questions for each poem gathered in a rear appendix. The title comes from one of the poems, written by John Tobias: “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity.” The book includes black and white photos scattered throughout. All of the poems are cast in italics, but not their titles.
This copy is a discard from “School District No. 1: Cleveland High School.” The “issued to” slip pasted on the inside front cover shows 10/15/71 as the first date, issued to a Donald Scott. There is a name ahead of Scott’s, Gene Brown, but no date. There are other dates and student names: Shirley Moe (undated); Felicia Tracy (undated); 4/6/76 Marie Dee. There are eleven names, one crossed out with blue ink such that it’s unreadable. The last date reads 5-15-2000. And seemingly out of place, “Iris Little 6th per” appears at the top of the slip, no date. There is a note “To the student:” which mentions how the book comes into the student’s hands, and includes a schedule of “charges” should the book be found damaged in some way upon return, including: “4. Defacing by pencil…1.00; and “5. General mistreatment (water soiled, burned, dirty, ink, lipstick, paint)…1.50.” This copy is in good condition, the only “defacing” done by school ink stamps: “Property of….” And the slip, pasted to the inside cover, which has so fascinated me I’ve barely looked at the poems yet. 160 pages.
Older then, one more yesterday notched into this haggard wasted belt, tight about, turning in the widening gut, but must be the clothes, despondent, I seem, up the block quirky bobber says, and I think he’s talking shit on my writing, but no, he says, your mien, like a traveler lost his way, fearful forged face, luggage jowls, over needy and under taken.
Ate too much, talking to self, I don’t travel well, I say, when he tells me, Go to Hell, but let’s go for a beer sometime. Drank to gorge, piss like a glacier melting, violating the graces, not a single work of mercy, no incense in my crucible, my feet leave a trace of beach tar on the pavement parchment.
As the third and final act ends, the boards weathered smooth, the audience awakes to the smell of coffee and petrichor coming down the aisles, the ushers throw open the great doors of the hall. But what’s this, another act? The players pretend nothing really happens backstage dressing room sweat when I present sweet flowers to the star.
“You are the light of the world. A city set upon a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
Not to mention something you’ve put up online. What’s posted online can’t be deleted or hidden. That is the poet’s dilemma, who craves publication but still has changes, or will have. But that is only a matter or problem of print. Oral poetry, or song, allows, invites, indeed wants variations. Covers. Over time, cities get covered up. The earth rises, and falls.
I assumed the Queen Mob’s Teahouse poetry editor position back in April, taking over from Erik Kennedy, Queen Mob’s second poetry editor, from May, 2015, who followed Laura A. Warman. The gig is volunteer work, of course, as befits any true poetic enterprise.
I first put up, on April 19, three poems by Jax NTP. It was then the idea came to me to use my own paintings as the header images over the poet’s work. I was struck by Jax NTP’s atmospheric, impressionistic poetry. The poems are packed with energetic images changing with the speed of “Highway 61 Revisited”:
“there’s a giant temple on hazard and new hope street blue reptile and green mazing skeletons, keepers of time how long can you sit there with the pain before you try to fix it?”
And I had just finished a painting, the impressions of which, the symbols within, the colors, the shapes, I thought might complement Jax NTP’s poetry. I don’t mean to suggest any of the paintings necessarily align with the poetry in any literal way. In any case, I continued to look for images within my collection of painting pic selfies for complementary impressions.
Reading and reflecting on Jessica Sequeira’s poems, and later looking for a painting to go with the posting on QMT, I again felt the suggestion with impressions that seems the essence of poetry, particularly of poetical delight:
“The heavens have promised rain for so many days. I think of waiting for torrents from the white sky. But it might be a long time. Or this could be a dream. Taking your hand, I guide it below, to my cloud.”
Well, the setting of Ashen’s “My Painter,” “sunlit among / lilies,” doesn’t quite align with the basement studio, though things are there too “casually flung.”
All my paintings I eventually give away, to family, friends, colleagues, who show an interest and enthusiasm. “City on a Hill” is hanging in my daughter’s den, looking out upon the backyard. The light in the room is perfect. I just want or hope the paintings have a life outside my basement, where, as Ashen puts it in “My Painter”:
“A blaze of light rims his white hair from under his thick swirl of brows black humour hides, and surprise”
After all the work on a painting, which isn’t really work, of course, but play, like the work of much poetry, we just might find a true work of art in what we’ve mostly ignored, in the mess we left behind. That tablecloth, for example, now that’s a work of art!
ands all sitting Angst I a T hangs silently a long ways down High Flyer Falls rip rap cliff walk Do Not Look Down Set All Alarms Valuables tosses bought stuff lands rock pine tree calmly waiting sea craggy end.
Met a hack on her back in the sack lovely but no ears lugged a sack of socks as winter uncoiled into spring all summer long rolled up socks & stuffed her bag till full it was wool tossed socks fool me going barefoot sandaled sock-less the warm early grasses of summer by the sidewalks along the seashore in a summer the weather news said would never end the waves the summer the ocean beaches & solid gold weekends.
Noir fall & fell fall hard that year markets failed & on socks tariffs hit feet cold wet & sore toenail fungus infestation & the wooly cooly hack kneed trumpet ear tinkered her socks along the esplanade & came the coldest winter lemonade stands closed nary a beer at the end of the year she was rich & to boot boasted the warmest toes so near impressed in silk slippers she was when I left her.
Across the street from the Estate Sale,
there’s talk if it’s a teardown,
while a couple of bushtits build
a hanging nest in a paperbark maple,
coming and going through the perfect
hole at the top of the sack woven
with string, spider web, tiny twigs
and grassy strands yarned around.
“Go easy,” she yearned. “Go around.”
Then came the night she won’t spring back.
Some do not come back,
even as the buds rise in the rows
heatly lubricated by the bees;
not all the plants pull through
that inscrutable winter stare.
But to turn under? Finished now.
Not to worry, the sun is the poshest one.
His light goes shallow, into the soil,
as easily as through fish water,
a clean singing glow.
The days are gone
this bud was for you.