Saturday, March 25, 2017

Celebrate the End of Midterms with Nicole Surginer and Carl Scharwath

Tonight I'd like to return to the blog-zine with Nicole Surginer's poems and Carl Scharwath's photographs.

Arches of Sappho

Arched landscapes painted
in prizmed realities.
Beauty locked in the
clutches of paralyzed time.
Frozen to infinity,
a hostage held
by  primeval machine.
An eternity lost
to a faltering compass.
Though bound in chains,
tethered to a heart
ingrained in stone;
Her spirit drifts
in shifting river flow.
Capsizing between shores
of penance and rage.
A timeless tale weaving wind,
fluttering paper doll wings
as words dance
from a faded page.
Shifting time as clouds glide
entranced by the arches.
Love captive in mourning
an ending she cannot accept.


I hold my silence in your distance
that you may live peace
In this place devoid of life,
where emptiness leeches
the color from my world, I linger.
Having failed to purge you from my
Blood, the plague of loneliness
pulses a cold I cannot shake.
My heart, shackled to your eternity
sees you in every stillness.
Your face in the beams of an
 early morning moon.
Hears your voice in the song
of a whispering wind.
Your heartbeat in the flutter
of dragonfly wings.
 She searches in endless frenzy,
 thirsting your taste in the fog.
Then in the dread of night,
she seeks you in my dreams.
A lifetime of full moons
and starless skies spent
 captive to her restless pull.
I am wearied from her plight.
For an empty heart is heavier
than a pillar of stone.

 I am trying to find some songs for this evening.  Before midterms I was listening to some intriguing lost albums from the 1960s and 1970s.  

I've found Charlie Rouse's "Bitchin'" from 1974:

This links to Ahmed Abdullah's entire album Life's Force.  However, I think it will be well worth the listen!

Back to grading tomorrow!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bill Cushing on Not Driving and Words & Images by Kerfe Roig

When Bill Cushing sent me his essay on not driving in Puerto Rico, I said that I would save it until we really needed it with all the winter weather.  I didn't realize that I would be publishing Bill's essay on March 10!

Bill Cushing

I hail from New York City, which is famous for aggressive drivers, but I’ve also lived in Virginia, Maryland, and Florida long enough to have come to understand driving conditions in those places. I’m now in Los Angeles, so perhaps the less said about driving, the better. Like every other major city, Angelino drivers have their own “idiosyncrasies,” some maddening. For instance, while New Yorkers approach driving as a sort of high-speed version of “almost” bumper cars consisting of near misses and acrobatic lane-changes, L. A. drivers have a problem with anyone being in front of them—even if such a move makes sense.
Still, whenever the topic of lousy driving comes up—as it does, my reply stays consistent: “No matter how bad it is here, it’s worse in Puerto Rico.”
I spent three years on the island but foreswore driving pretty quickly. First, I really didn’t need to, living close enough to work to walk or ride a bike. Moreover, the island’s publico transit system works pretty well for getting about as long as one isn’t in a hurry, which nobody there ever is. Puerto Rico is one place where the maƱana attitude thrives; I believe the national motto must be “tranquillo.” In fact, I quickly came to the notion that if watches weren’t jewelry, Puerto Ricans would have no practical reason to wear one.
Getting back to the issue of driving—or more specifically NOT driving, I decided to forego the practice for two reasons: to keep my sanity and to avoid psychosis.
Puerto Ricans drive as if immortal; I saw acts defying reason, sense, and sanity, for example watching one guy drive down a main street backwards for almost a mile—on a main road no less. Then there was the morning I saw somebody on the shoulder of an expressway, this butt sticking out in the potential path of oncoming traffic, shuffling paperwork in the backseat—all while only 20 feet from the relative safety of an exit off ramp.
I even watched police cars pull stunts that made me think, “You know, that has got to be against some law—if not a municipal one, at least one of common sense.”
Of course, that attribute (common sense, that is) is rarely prevalent on the road anywhere, so it makes sense that it was lacking here, but it was so absent that I decided that driving was something I didn’t need to bother with, and after about three months, the only time I drove was when it was absolutely needed—such as moving or entertaining visitors. Otherwise, I got along nicely without having to use that option.
Once, after declining to drive, my father-in-law told me that I had to drive.
“Oh,” I replied, “I need to be a homicidal maniac, do I? No thanks.”
Still, I did put up with all the maddening circumstances and drove until the day I actually beat my neighbor to work by walking. That became the deciding factor. Later, a coworker, hearing I had given up cars, asked, “Don’t you know how to drive here?”
“Of course I do,” I replied. “You close your eyes, jam on the gas, randomly twist the wheel, and honk the horn constantly. I just choose not to.”
One of my favorite conversations took place when my wife’s son would tease me, as a gringo, for not being able to dance. It became something of a mantra: white guys have no sense of rhythm and can’t dance very well. I took it in stride, but then I saw a real opening for a parry. After months on the island, I asked him, “David, since you guys are so good at dancing, how come you can’t seem to friggin’ drive? It’s pretty much the same thing.”
He had no comeback for that.

And I continued to not drive.

I'll follow Bill's essay with some new words and images by Kerfe Roig.  She is currently a non-driver as she lives in New York City, but her poem is inspired by Nina Simone.

Wild wind and dancing stories (a shovel poem for Nina Simone)

Unlimited, let
spiral breath entangle me,
let my essence fly
in levitation, away,
fiercely overflowing with
the fullness of you.

For who, what, are we?
a sum or a mixture?  Are
wings born of creatures
dancing?  Or patched from parts of
stories left hanging in the
fragments of the wind?

Come ride on the wind
of turning.  The current is
opening toward the
threshold of desire.  The wind
hears our confession.  Air:  so
foolish, hungry, wild.

end phrases taken from “Wild is the Wind” by Ned Washington and Dimitri Tiomkin

I'll start with Nina Simone's version of "Wild is the Wind":

I've been listening to a lot of Larry Young lately.  He happens to be one of the many jazz musicians born in the 1930s.  Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but his album Lawrence of Newark is as timely as ever.

"Sunshine Fly Away" opens the album:

The next cut is "Khalid of Space Part Two -- Welcome":

"Alive" features James Blood Ulmer who has performed in Montgomery County recently:

I'll finish with "Hello Your Quietness (Islands)":

Did you hear the cello in some of the songs?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Toula Merkouris, Carl "Papa" Palmer, Karen O'Leary, and Angelee Deodhar

Walking around outside reminds me that it's not quite spring yet, but we are getting closer and closer!  Since this semester has been a busy one, making this blog-zine a weekly event, I am going to post the work of three poets tonight.

The first is Canadian poet Toula Merkouris whose poem "Walking Amongst Time" received an honorable mention in our Thelma's Prize contest (Winter 2015/6).  Since last year, Toula has written a children's book, Darla Dilly Don't Be Silly.  This book should be out any day.

Pigtails, Pinafores, and Pumps

I can remember sitting in the auditorium listening to the MAN speak about life
the road less travelled
and choice.

I can still feel humming in my chest
the vibrations of a train approaching the station
the wind caressing the loose tendrils of my hair
picking up speed, the sound thunders in my ears
whipping my hair in every direction until
my tightly woven plaits hang free
finally, the frenzy subsides and
I can see two ribbons lying at my feet.

I can remember thinking of the sound curtains make as they swish together over the stage
like an owl swooping through midnight's embrace
with a mouse's tail dangling from its tightly clenched talons
a veritable feast
Looking down I can still see one perfectly formed drop of blood
staining the front of my crisp white button-down shirt
dreams lying like collateral damage on the side of a highway
don't worry!
perfectly camouflageable by the ruffles of my pinafore
The weight of expectations worn
with a wink and a smile and a thank you ma'am
Let's talk about glass ceilings
and butterfly wings beating against Mason jars.

I can remember seeing multihued stars exploding like DISNEY fireworks from behind
rubbing the sleep out of the corner of my eye
using the palm of my hand, none too gently
the shock of midday sun on alabaster skin
I try to stand
like a colt with legs splayed out beneath it
in four different directions.
Numbness: its expiration date is long past.
I take a deep breath,
Thank you transplant surgeon
Did you know the Doctor blew up the lungs of the very lovely lady who signed her card in exactly the right place before
stapling them shut?

Now I can go on my way to the honey tree
with long legs striding along confidently
a barely perceptible shock of crimson seen from the underside of my brand new Louboutin shoes
The hot sun at my back
I look down
See how I tower over the shadow lying in front of me?
Do you see the barely perceptible yellow chalk outline around the contours of my distorted form?
I see it
it doesn't matter which way I turn
it doesn't matter how much it rains;
Like when my daughter thought it would be a good idea to use permanent marker to play connect the dots on my bedroom wall. Such a lovely pattern.
I jump and click my heels together
Looking for a way home.

Next is Carl "Papa" Palmer with "Mommy's Dance."  

Mommy’s Dance

Watching her in the kitchen
as she does dishes at the sink
oldies playing loud on the radio

Kate Smith White Cliffs of Dover
Patti Page Tennessee Waltz
Doris Day Whatever Will Be Will Be

She sings smiles into her sponge microphone
How Much Is That Doggie In The Window
dressed in her bibbed apron evening gown
swaying with her dashing dishtowel partner

Sashaying the linoleum ballroom floor
to big band music Glenn Miller playing
back ground for At Last with Etta James

Twirls while opening drawers cabinet doors
wipes the cupboard counter crooning
Yes Sir That’s my Baby by Count Basie

Gives a deep curtsy to her damp string mop
soft shoes to Bye Bye Blackbird exits stage
right to that place in my heart for Mommy

Carl "Papa" Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, VA now lives in University Place, WA. He is retired military, retired FAA and now just plain retired without wristwatch or alarm clock. Carl, president of The Tacoma Writers Club, is a Pushcart Prize and Micro Award nominee.      MOTTO: Long Weekends Forever

I'll conclude with Karen O'Leary's poem enhanced by Angelee Deodhar's visual.  This is the URL for the image

Tonight I'll play some of the songs that Carl "Papa" Palmer mentions.

Here is Etta James' version of "At Last":

Or you may prefer the Glenn Miller Orchestra's version:

Do you know Patti Page's "Tennessee Waltz"?

She also sang "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?"

I'll finish with "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby" by Count Basie.  Oscar Peterson is on piano.