Two deaths

Two amazing poets died this week, W. S. Merwin and Linda Gregg. I have posted several of Merwin’s poems before. Somehow though, I never have posted a poem by Linda Gregg. Here’s a sample:

Death Looks Down

Death looks down on the salmon
A male and female in two pools
one above the other
The female turns back along the path of water to the male 
does not touch him and returns to the place she had been 
I know what Death will do
Their bodies already sour and ragged
Blood has risen to the surface under the scales
One side of his jaw is unhinged 
Death will pick them up 
Put them away under his coat against his skin 
and belt them there
He will walk away up to the path through the bay trees
Through the dry grass of California to where the mountain begins
Where a few deer almost the color of the hills will look up until he is under the trees again 
Where the road ends and there is a gate
He will climb over that with his treasure 
It will be dark by then
But for now, he does nothing 
He does not disturb the silence at all
Nor the occasional sound of leaves
of ferns touching 
of grass or stream
For now he looks down at the salmon 
Large and whole 
Motionless days and nights in the cold water Lying still 
Always facing the constant motion

Linda Gregg

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Lynn Emanuel

This wonderful poet is coming to read here next week. I have posted one of her poems before, but thought I’d post another, from her book “The Dig.” This poem, as many in the book describe a childhood at the edge, with unreliable caretakers. The description of “wringing of every cent from every dollar,” resonated with me, and I love the details of the description.

The Red Kimono

I stare at the brass scarred by beating until
it is as bright and uneven as a lake in August when the sun
melts all reflections into one wide gold zero, when the sky
itself is wide, is hot as the bell that this schoolmaster,
inappropriately strict, tips to summon the children from the unrelenting
heat of noon. The long tape unrolls from the teeth of the adding
machine onto the scarred deal. Over and over the budget unreels
and spills, liberated from the sprockets and machinery of will.
My mother sits with a pencil and ticks her teeth, we are broke,
every avenue of escape is closed, even the car tires at the curb
are fat black zeros, all the scheming and coaxing, the wringing
of every cent from every dollar, has come to nothing. I watch
my mother swab up the dust, her hair tied in a rag, her naked
feet, nails bloodied by a tiny brush. Misery, misery, the cranes
of good luck hunch at the snowy mountain of her left breast
as she bends to set the empties on the step in the housecoat
the landlady lent.

Lynn Emanuel, from The Dig

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Vija Celmins and spiders

I have been wanting to see Louise Bourgeois’ massive bronze spiders at the remodeled San Francisco Modern Museum of Art, and finally got there this week. They were as wonderful as I expected, muscular, dynamic, fun.

The bonus was the Vija Celmins retrospective. Her work starts as representations of single objects (very moving, somehow, painted with love on gray backgrounds) and moves into meticulous graphite representations of the ocean, the desert floor, the night sky. All very tenderly, lovingly done.

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A new poet

I subscribe to several “poem-a -day” sites, and once in awhile, discover a poet I don’t know whose work interests me, as this morning, a poem by an Irish poet.

Makebelieve

And on the first day 
god made  something up. 
Then everything came along:  

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A reading I’m proud to invite you to

I’m excited about this upcoming reading because I’m reading with two terrific poets in a very congenial setting, Britt Marie’s Wine Bar on Solano. Here are the details.

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A series of poetry videos

Barbara Reynolds runs a reading series the second Sunday of the month at Britt Marie’s, a wine bar on Solano. I am reading there March 10th at 3:30. But here is Barb herself, speaking one of her poems. This is the first in a series of three.

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A perk

If you are living with Larry, he might say to you from time to time, “I have something funny to show you.” And it will be very funny. Here was today’s offering, which you get to share just by reading this blog.

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Monday poem

Ted Kooser was US Poet Laureate in 2004. His poems often deal with the farming communities of the midwest, like this one, which does a great job of capturing a moment and a perspective.

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Ted Kooser

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Preparing for planting

I haven’t been able to do much in the garden since my encounter with the Land Rover, but this week I hired some help and we dug potatoes, weeded, spread compost and mulch. We left the parseley and a few onions.

Here is the first bed, ready for planting. Then the rains came and settled everything in. Soon this bed will have peas, lettuces and maybe a tomato or two.

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Fast Gas

Dorianne Laux just came out with a new book that I’m reading. Here’s a poem I really enjoyed

Fast GasX

  for Richard

Before the days of self service,
when you never had to pump your own gas,
I was the one who did it for you, the girl
who stepped out at the sound of a bell
with a blue rag in my hand, my hair pulled back
in a straight, unlovely ponytail.
This was before automatic shut-offs
and vapor seals, and once, while filling a tank,
I hit a bubble of trapped air and the gas
backed up, came arcing out of the hole
in a bright gold wave and soaked me — face, breasts,
belly and legs. And I had to hurry
back to the booth, the small employee bathroom
with the broken lock, to change my uniform,
peel the gas-soaked cloth from my skin
and wash myself in the sink.
Light-headed, scrubbed raw, I felt
pure and amazed — the way the amber gas
glazed my flesh, the searing,
subterranean pain of it, how my skin
shimmered and ached, glowed
like rainbowed oil on the pavement.
I was twenty. In a few weeks I would fall,
for the first time, in love, that man waiting
patiently in my future like a red leaf
on the sidewalk, the kind of beauty
that asks to be noticed. How was I to know
it would begin this way: every cell of my body
burning with a dangerous beauty, the air around me
a nimbus of light that would carry me
through the days, how when he found me,
weeks later, he would find me like that,
an ordinary woman who could rise
in flame, all he would have to do
is come close and touch me.

Dorianne Laux

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