Thursday, April 30, 2015

National Poetry Month: A Conversation with Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman in Spite of Biographers
by Joanne Cage

I told you about myself. I never claimed to be perfect.
Those who dig at my life with suspicion
are punished with confirmation.
They do not diminish me;
they do not even diminish themselves.
They prove what I told you long ago:
they look for me in themselves,
and find themselves in me.  I am large,
I am the book writers, I am you.
I exist in the multitudes I love.
You are still welcome here.  Come,
and you will carry away as much and as good
as you have always carried away,
and I will not dry up, I will not be exhausted.

The size of your vessel will measure
how much of me you carry away.
So come on, bring your bucket or wheelbarrow–
Bring your begging bowl, cask or barrel–
Bring your bare hands, heart and brain,
and I will fill them up with large thoughts
on which you will ruminate like the great ruminants.
I will give you antidotes to fear and loneliness.

Read the books if you like, but I tell you again:
I am not there.  They have not pressed me between boards
nor bound me at the spine.
If you look for me in the books, you may lose me,
hate me, feel ashamed we met and talked together,
but you can never forget me.
As long as crowds mill around in city streets
and someone’s murdered in an alley;
while soldiers die and babies are born to women,
and men can dream like children
and believe in things the way they ought to be;
as long as dry leaves drift onto graves
and the world goes on as it always has,
you will remember the stories I told you
and read my letters written in the grass.      


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Celebrating National Poetry Month

Thanks to Barry Marks for allowing me to post this amazing poem. One of my favorites.

I Stop to Ponder the Stentorian Colors of the Day
by Barry Marks

The railing down from the deck
to the garbage cans was wobbly and
since you left I’ve certainly had
time on my hands,
so I unretired my rusty box saw,
found an old two-by-four
and some three penny nails,
and got to work.

A dog was barking, yelling his name
at the dog next door
Big Dog Who Swims! Big Dog Who Swims!
To which his neighbor barked back,
Dog Who Hates Cats! and
some nearby mutt yapped
Mama’s Favorite! Mama’s Favorite!

A cardinal was shouting
Beauty! A mockingbird said
the same, of course.

A chameleon shot out of the hedge,
stopped by my foot, and turning from green
to almost-brown, sneered
You can’t see me then skittered off.

The sky was whispering until
I looked up and it screamed,
to which the grass responded,
Joy is fragile!

And the saw
sang in my hands
and the wood?
Come on, now. An old two-by-four
with a bent nail in its heart?
Everyone knows dead wood
has nothing to say.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Half In, Half Out

I think every writer stands in the doorway of their prison. Half in, half out.  - Sherman Alexie

Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile
by Adrian C. Louis

July 4th and all is Hell.
Outside my shuttered breath the streets bubble
with flame-loined kids in designer jeans
looking for people to rape or razor.
A madman covered with running sores
is on the street corner singing:
O beautiful for spacious skies…
This landscape is far too convenient
to be either real or metaphor.
In an alley behind a 7-11
a Black pimp dressed in Harris tweed
preaches fidelity to two pimply whores
whose skin is white though they aren’t quite.
And crosstown in the sane precincts
of Brown University where I added rage
to Cliff Notes and got two degrees
bearded scientists are stringing words
outside the language inside the guts of atoms
and I don’t know why I’ve come back to visit.

O Uncle Adrian! I’m in the reservation of my mind.
Chicken bones in a cardboard casket
meditate upon the linoleum floor.
Outside my flophouse door stewed
and sinister winos snore in a tragic chorus.

The snowstorm t.v. in the lobby’s their mother.
Outside my window on the jumper’s ledge
ice wraiths shiver and coat my last cans of Bud
though this is summer I don’t know why or where
the souls of Indian sinners fly.
Uncle Adrian, you died last week—cirrhosis.
I still have the photo of you in your Lovelock
letterman’s jacket—two white girls on your arms—
first team All-State halfback in ’45, ’46.

But nothing is static. I am in the reservation of
my mind. Embarrassed moths unravel my shorts
thread by thread asserting insectival lust.
I’m a naked locoweed in a city scene.
What are my options? Why am I back in this city?
When I sing of the American night my lungs billow
Camels astride hacking appeals for cessation.
My mother’s zippo inscribed: “Stewart Indian School—1941”
explodes in my hand in elegy to Dresden Antietam
and Wounded Knee and finally I have come to see
this mad fag nation is dying.

Our ancestors’ murderer is finally dying and I guess
I should be happy and dance with the spirit or project
my regret to my long-lost high school honey
but history has carried me to a place
where she has a daughter older than we were
when we first shared flesh.

She is the one who could not marry me
because of the dark-skin ways in my blood.
Love like that needs no elegy but because
of the baked-prick possibility of the flame lakes of Hell
I will give one last supper and sacrament
to the dying beast of need disguised as love
on deathrow inside my ribcage.
I have not forgotten the years of midnight hunger
when I could see how the past had guided me
and I cried and held the pillow, muddled
in the melodrama of the quite immature
but anyway, Uncle Adrian…
Here I am in the reservation of my mind
and silence settles forever
the vacancy of this cheap city room.
In the wine darkness my cigarette coal
tints my face with Geronimo’s rage
and I’m in the dry hills with a Winchester
waiting to shoot the lean, learned fools
who taught me to live-think in English.

Uncle Adrian…
to make a long night story short,
you promised to give me your Oldsmobile in 1962.
How come you didn’t?
I could have had some really good times in high school.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Road From Selma

This powerful poem, written by June Brindel in 1965, was posted on Women Writing Birmingham on March 7, 2015,  the 50th anniversary Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama.

THE ROAD FROM SELMA                                                                        June Brindel
The road from Selma stretches in the rain
white as a shroud, rimmed with stiff troopers.
The marchers stand bowed, hands joined, swaying gently
their soft strong song stilled.
Then up from a Birmingham bed
rises a gentle Boston man, Jim Reeb,
steps softly back to Selma
and moves among the stilled marchers.
The troopers stir, link arms,
close ranks across the road
stretching from Selma in the rain
white as a shroud.
The Boston man, Jim Reeb, walks toward the troopers
and they straighten and stand guard tight as death.
But someone moves behind them, waves his hand.
“That you, Jackson?” Jim Reeb peers ahead.
“That’s right, Reverend. Come on through.”
The troopers tighten guard, straight as death
But Jim Reeb doesn’t stop.
He goes on through,
right through the stiff ranked troopers
white as a shroud
rimming the road from Selma.
And Jimmie Lee Jackson takes him by the arm
and they march down the road to the courthouse.
Over in Mississippi Medgar Evers stands,
three young men rise up from a dam in Neshoba County
and they all go down the road
and walk right through the tight stiff trooper line
and down the road from Selma.
And from all over there’s a stirring sound.
Emmett Till jumps up and runs laughing like any boy
through the stiff white rim.
Four small girls skip out of a church in Birmingham
and the tall old man in Springfield gets up
and goes to Selma.
And down from every lynching tree
and up from every hidden grave
come men, women, children, heads carried high,
passing a moment among the bowed, stilled troopers
and down the white road from Selma.
Until the age long road is packed
black with marchers streaming to the courthouse.
And the bowed stilled group in Selma
raise their heads, hands joined,
swaying gently, in soft strong song
that goes right through the stiff ranked troopers
white as a shroud
barring the road from Selma.
Copyright © 1965 June Brindel.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Morning

This morning my sister, Susan Cleveland, and I went to church at the Leeds Presbyterian Church. 

I love attending the Leeds Presbyterian Church. The first time I can remember going there, I was about five years old, and we went to the wedding of a classmate of my sister, Joanne Cage. The Leeds Presbyterian Church was founded a long, long time ago, (even BEFORE I was born!) in 1821. The church was built in its present location in 1891.

Here's one of the beautiful windows from the church; I think these were added in the 1980s. The interior of the church is beautiful, peaceful, and welcoming.

Susan and I especially enjoyed the hymns this morning, both being blessed with a love of music and remarkable singing voices. I think the people sitting near us were equally pleased, although Susan laughed at the funny words in one of the songs. She does this all the time. I don't know why I keep letting her go to church with me, but I guess I'm used to it.

After church, we had a delicious meal at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and came home happy and full of joy and good food.

Now, back to work. These days I spend most of my time at the computer, typing, typing, and typing some more. That's about it. Hope everyone had a joyful Sunday morning!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Questions, questions, questions

Here in Alabama, the weather is beautiful and perfect for a walk on the mountain. What secrets and mysteries could you discover on Moonlight Ridge?

There's a fun Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge quiz
on Goodreads today. 
Are you a Goodreads fan?
Can you answer these questions? 

Here's the first question:

What fell out of the sky when Lily Claire and Willie T. were playing in the rain?


Monday, April 6, 2015

Lily Claire and Willie T. are Back!

I'm so happy to announce that Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge is out in a great new edition, available now on Amazon and Kindle!

I want to thank all my folks who have been waiting so patiently for this new edition. Hooray!

And for Moonlight Ridge newbies, thrills, laughs, a few tears, and surprises await you! Learn how Lily Claire Nash and her famous cousin, Willie T., find a lost treasure using an amazing map on Moonlight Ridge.

Book Two of the Moonlight Ridge Series is in the works, and we're hoping for an autumn 2015 publication date, just in time for Halloween. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements.