alice d’alessio | conversations with thoreau

12 11 2012

POETRY DISPATCH #384 | November 12, 2012

ALICE D’ALESSIO

Editor’s Note: I have one small problem with CONVERSATIONS WITH THOREAU, which has nothing to do with this thoughtful and moving collection of Alice D’Alessio’s latest work, her third book of poetry, following A BLESSING OF TREES and DAYS WE ARE GIVEN.

My problem with this book is the same problem I have with a number of small and independent publishers and editors who too often fail to see the whole picture. By this I mean the total presentation of a book.

No one’s got a lot of money to throw at this heroic endeavor: keeping the good word alive via the small and independent presses when the big ones won’t touch this stuff—for all the obvious reasons, and then some. However, these editors and publishers are the true keepers-of-the-flame when it comes to keeping hope alive in some of our youngest, oldest, often obscure writers in the country. There ought to be an annual award (and a big hunk of national financial support) for them, but there isn’t and will never be because …it’s never there for the outsiders, the risk-takers, the small guys who publish for the love of the work, do what they do, what they must, for all the right reasons.

Yet…

I still have a problem with some of their work. A problem, in this case, with the cover of Alice’s book. It’s the WRONG cover. Hard to believe, given what resources a university-based press might draw from. A cover that borders on cheap, flashy, ugly, out-of-synch, unbecoming to the beauty and power of the poetry to be found on the pages within—where the book feels and looks a lot better. Good paper, good layout, design. Another good book added to a growing list of more than seventy-five Parallel Press books published to date. Quite an achievement in itself.

However, a writer of Alice D’Alessio’s talent, accomplishments to date, deserves better. That’s my main gripe. And it happens all too often in small press publications where sometimes the publisher/editor himself is a poor judge of the aesthetics of publishing…no sense of how a cover is the handshake, the first contact between reader and writer. How it should lead to beauty and design within–the total package. Should an editor find himself incapable of addressing these issues, he should either put all this in the hands of someone who does or seek to get better at this himself.

My problem with this book is magnified by the fact I am the publisher of Alice’s, BLESSING OF TREES, and I was aware of the early poems in this new book that were based on the poet’s “conversations with Thoreau” which I loved and encouraged from the beginning—what’s more, really longed to publish, by themselves, in a very small book, a very limited edition of maybe 50 copies, beautifully designed, illustrated—a total work of art in itself. Unfortunately, for all kinds of reasons, this did not come to pass.

But, we do have those poems and more (two other sections, “Revelations” and “Seeds of Hope”) in this Parallel Press edition. Which I highly recommend.

Alice’s grasp of the natural world speaks to us all in ways that make us better just hearing her words. I just wish the cover sang as much as the poetry within. — Norbert Blei

A Walk to Wachusett

H.D.T. from Excursions

May I join you, Henry,
to hike the Massachusetts hills?
The country open and fresh
the morning exuberant with birds:
a place where gods might wander
so solemn and solitary.

You are seeking that blue boundary
of distant mountains, with only
your stout staff, a tent
and Virgil tucked under one arm.
I would come along.

We’ll drink from springs
and scavenge wild berries,
unhurried for appointments.
We’ll pause to contemplate
our natural world, ample, roomy,
with time bounded by wide margins.

Only an occasional farmer
to share his bread and milk,
and pique our interest with his strange accent-
in that halcyon time before trucks
when travelers had no fellow travelers
for miles, before or behind!

And I know I was born too late
or that we’ll have to find each other
in some warp of time. You
and I and Virgil, perhaps, can strike off
to see those undiscovered
unmined mountains,
beyond wild fields and forests.

Our Holy Howling Mother

Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty H.D.T. from Excursions

Bad news, Henry,
it’s hard to find Her anymore,
She’s been so scraped,
so raped, so scavenged.
And yet you’d be amazed to watch us
seek the relics left behind—
each lonely riff of trees,
each butterfly. Girded with late reports
we hurry to be the one who gets there first
who pokes the camera
at the purple prairie clover
chases the tattered Mourning Cloak
through ditches, races home
to post the photos on the web.

Yes, we fret about Her savage howling—
louder now in hot dry creek beds
and blown-off mountain tops.
But we are lulled by the sight
of an Oriole at the feeder
as Our Mother rumbles deep in her core
breathes fire and wind
in retribution.

What I’m Doing

What are you doing today? Write in your journal!
Letter, R.W. Emerson to H.D.T.

As soon as I check my balance and pay some bills
before they’re overdue, scrub up
spilled spaghetti sauce
from last night’s cooking spree,
do my exercises—stretch, bend, reach, groan—
take a pain pill, strip the purple sheets
and dump them in the wash, check my email,
invite a widowed friend to dinner
call the furnace man, the dentist

then I plan to walk among
the gold and crimson trees, listen
to leaves fall, cranes squabble
in the marsh; gather seeds from bee-balm,
milkweed pods, coneflower—all ripe and waiting
but time slips by, and I see the clouds
clump overhead, draining the color, but

before the rain comes, maybe a few miles
or so to name each plant and bird,
butterfly, and beetle (in Latin)
muse on the succession of trees—
contemplate our oneness with nature,
and take meticulous notes in my journal,
accompanied by sketches,
I know that’s how you did it, Henry.

But my watch says it’s after 4, and the phone
rings, the mail comes, and I must start the evening meal,
peel potatoes, pound a meatloaf into shape.
If you could join us for dinner, Henry,
maybe you could explain how to simplify.

[from CONVERSATIONS WITH THOREAU, Parallel Press, 2012.]





the white bicycle part II

5 05 2012

POETRY DISPATCH No. 371 | May 5, 2012

THE WHITE BICYCLE, Part II

The Best Prose Piece plus Selections from the Second Wave of Poems

EDITOR’S NOTE: I neglected to include the best “White Bicycle” prose piece in Friday’s posting which featured the three poems which best captured the image.

Part II leads off with the story by Jean Casey, followed by an at random selection of good poems which fell into a category the other judge and I saw as ‘the second wave.’ None of these selections are in any kind of order, they’re just good poems—which didn’t quite make the final three for reasons I previously mentioned. (And there are more, which I may or may not get around to featuring sometime.)

I would add one thing to the poetry finalists who were chosen and the prose writer. The other judge is an excellent reader, writer, editor who resides some distance from Wisconsin and would not have known any of the writers had I included their names—which I did not. I certainly expected there would be some disagreement over our choices, and we would have to work this out.

Once the noon deadline was reached, I made my final choices, in no particular order, just three poems and the one story I liked best, then awaited an e-mail from the other judge. There were no phone calls, no e-mail discussion between us. When the e-mail from the other judge arrived later in the day, I was beyond astounded to discover we both picked the exact same works! This almost never happens. –Norbert Bleib

The White Bicycle

by
Jean Casey

He had never won anything before, not a single thing, and now he had this amazing jackknife with all sorts of important attachments which made an important and heavy weight in his pocket. And all because of the Old Ellison Days parade. Oh, he knew it wasn’t a grand thing, but it was a yearly event with fire engines, some folks on horseback, an honor guard of veterans, a few simple floats, and a bunch of kids on decorated bikes and some politicians in shiny cars. This year they announced prizes to include the bikes. He didn’t give it much thought, because he was never a part of anything like that. Fat and slow with a hampering stammer, he hung around the edges of life. His 6th grade teacher tried, because she knew he was bright inside, but he avoided her help.

But this year, before the parade, he felt an urge to enter, especially knowing about the grand prize for bikes, that knife! It came to him one moonlit night when he lay in his bed before sleep that he could avoid somehow being seen as his lumpy self if he…yes! If he went covered up…yes, indeed! As a ghost! Everything must be white! His old bike was a dark maroon, rusty, tired. But, if he painted it…!

No way could he get by with this unless he consulted his mother. In the morning he found her with her mouth filled with clothes pins hanging a wash on the outside lines. She listened, fastening some socks with the stored pins. “The only white we got around here is flat wall paint left over from the living room, but you can use it, and you’ll need an old sheet to wear. I have one. We’ll have to cut eye holes in it, but that’s okay. I’ve got a chain link belt, come to think of it, that ought to help you cinch it in.”

He said, excited, “I think I’ll ask dad for his old straw hat! If he let me, I could paint it white too! I think a ghost should have a hat!” He didn’t stammer, she noticed.

Parade day, he said not a word to anyone, played his part, accepted his prize from the puzzled judge who asked for and didn’t get his name, because this ghost never talked. And now, the bike was propped up in back of the barn, and he would redo it bright red. His dad gave him money for the paint. The prize would stay in his pocket, unless he was at home whittling.


…remember the rides
all the bikes in my life
now white as ghost shadows.

Bonnie Hartmann

THE WHITE BICYCLE

by Sharon Auberle

when everything is falling apart
my friend, when you’re stuck
in the horse latitudes
mired in a dark
night of the soul
when you’re no longer sleek
sexy and smooth

find the white bicycle
climb on that
fat-tired slow beast
pedal and huff and
laugh like you mean it
whistle sing shout
and cuss use words
your mama told you never to

push that bike up a mountain
when you get to the top
when you’re near
to over the hill
when night is falling fast
jump on whoop and holler

ride that old bicycle down
no brakes allowed
fireflies and stars
your only light
and when you wipe out
(and yes, honey, you will)
darkness like a big pillowy woman
will come along and wrap you up
whisper everything’s gonna be allright…

no worries, baby,
she’ll carry all
your broken pieces home…

A WHITE BICYCLE

by Chris Halla

Parked here by an old man
shaped like a question mark

Hoping a young girl in a yellow dress
would eventually steal

his white bicycle away
on a green, spring afternoon

The White Bicycle

by Alice D’Alessio

I dreamt I saw it standing all alone
beside the blue barn wall.
Ghost, what are you doing here?
I asked, recognizing every
feature – the torn seat, the gash
in the front tire from the time
we hit the tree; the dented fenders,
handlebars minus their grips
minus the bell that Mickey Loman stole;
and best of all, the fancy chain guard –
to keep my pants from catching on the chain
and getting greasy. My first bike,
bright and shiny blue it was
and trimmed in red.
It meant the war was over.

The shadowy background
made the bike seem luminous.
You’re lookin’ pretty good, I said,
for an old guy. And then I thought
I heard it whisper, You too.
Let’s go race down Kaiser Hill,
shall we? There’s still time.

The White Bicycle

By Don Fraker

Nearly an albino,
But for her leathery dark barnacle of a seat,
Tattered, betraying her age –
Paint no cure for that condition.

Mobya was my vessel,
Her now-departed basket ferrying books
From their orderly, patient moorings at the library
To the needy harbor of their offloading.

Got her in junior high,
Whitened her in unspoken tribute to the first teacher who credited me with adult capacities,
His brine-soaked incantations of albatross, and mutiny, and whale,
Setting me a-sail on new-seen old adventures.

Though now my daughter’s ark,
No more the carrier of tomes
Of late evanesced, ether-borne,
Her bleached carapace transports me still.

THE WHITE BICYCLE

by Ralph Murre

the way she rode it
as much on clouds
as on concrete

as much from as toward
on a pavement of dream

the way I saw or didn’t see
the way it didn’t seem
she any longer needed me
to run along beside

the way the ride then
circled back in setting sun

the thing about a cycle
is the way it’ll repeat

her white bike may come back
may lean up
again against my shack

who knows when a cycle
or circle is complete?

Resurrection

by Paula Kosin

Even though it is not Easter
My mother hauled her old bike,
Tired, rusty but full
Of fond memories,
Out of the depths of the garage
And in the cool shade
Painted it white
The color of the Risen Lord
Of new life
And alleluias
And once she started
She just spray painted the whole damn
Thing
Tires, spokes, chain, pedals, handlebars
Every nook and cranny
Figuring that if a little paint made it look better
Then a lot would make it look wonderful
And the dirt and scratches and rust disappeared
Before our eyes
Like a miracle
And now it stands outside
Starkly propped against the blue sky garage
Drying and poised perhaps
For her ascension into Heaven





arbor day | alice d’alessio | jim robbins

27 04 2012

Photo by Norbert Blei

POETRY DISPATCH No.369 | April 27, 2012

ARBOR DAY:
Alice D’Alessio, Jim Robbins

Enter
………the Forest

Find the path where rain drips from beechlings
brightening their greenest green
trembling the twisted ties
of yellow moccasin flowers.

Pay homage to cedars,
robed in lace, their spongy
carpet a velvet dusk, breathe their incense;
lay hands on ironwood and linden,
each with its secrets. Come with me

I will show you the way. Here in this temple
we study the Druid fathers
learn to grow old proudly,
chant the psalm of the hemlock.
We will hold white limestone in our hands,
recite the only prayers we know.

Alice D’Alessio

WHY TREES MATTER

by
Jim Robbins*

Helena, Mont.
TREES are on the front lines of our changing climate. And when the oldest trees in the world suddenly start dying, it’s time to pay attention.

North America’s ancient alpine bristle-cone forests are falling victim to a vora¬cious beetle and an Asian fungus. In Texas, a prolonged drought killed more than five million urban shade trees last year and an additional half-billion trees in parks and forests. In the Amazon, two severe droughts have killed billions more.

The common factor has been hotter, drier weather.

We have underestimated the importance of trees. They are not merely pleasant sources of shade but a potentially major answer to some of our most pressing environmental problems. We take them for granted, but they are a near miracle. In a bit of natural alchemy called photosynthesis, for example, trees turn one of the seemingly most insubstantial things of all — sunlight — into food for insects, wildlife and people, and use it to create shade, beauty and wood for fuel, furniture and homes.

For all of that, the unbroken forest that once covered much of the continent is now shot through with holes.

Humans have cut down the biggest and best trees and left the runts behind, What does that mean for the genetic fit¬ness of our forests? No one knows for sure, for trees and forests are poorly understood on almost all levels. “It’s embarrassing how little we know,” one eminent redwood researcher told me.

What we do know, however, suggests that what trees do is essential though often not obvious. Decades ago, Katsuhiko Matsunaga, a marine chemist at Hokkaido University in Japan, discovered that when tree leaves decompose, they leach acids into the ocean that help fertilize plankton. When plankton thrive, so does the rest of the food chain. In a campaign called Forests Are Lovers of the Sea, fishermen have replanted forests along coasts and rivers to bring back fish and oyster stocks. And they have returned.

Trees are nature’s water filters, capable of cleaning up the most toxic wastes, including explosives, solvents and organic wastes, largely through a dense community of microbes around the tree’s roots that clean water in exchange for nutrients, a process known as phytore-mediation. A 2008 study by researchers at Columbia University found that more trees in urban neighborhoods correlate with a lower incidence of asthma.

In Japan, researchers have long studied what they call “forest bathing.” A walk in the woods, they say, reduces the level of stress chemicals in the body and increases natural killer cells in the immune system, which fight tumors and viruses. Studies in inner cities show that anxiety, depression and even crime are lower in a landscaped environment.

Trees also release vast clouds of beneficial chemicals. On a large scale, some of these aerosols appear to help regulate the climate; others are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. We need to learn much more about the role these chemicals play in nature. One of these substances, taxane, from the Pacific yew tree, has become a powerful treatment for breast and other cancers. Aspirin’s active ingredient comes from willows.

Trees are greatly underutilized as an eco-technology. “Working trees” could absorb some of the excess phosphorus and nitrogen that run off farm fields and help heal the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. In Africa, millions of acres of parched land have been reclaimed through strategic tree growth.

Trees are also the planet’s heat shield. They keep the concrete and asphalt of cities and suburbs 10 or more degrees cooler and protect our skin from the sun’s harsh UV rays. The Texas Department of Forestry has estimated that the die-off of shade trees will cost Texans hundreds of millions of dollars more for air-conditioning. Trees, of course, sequester carbon, a greenhouse gas that makes the planet warmer. A study by the Carnegie Institution for Science also found that water vapor from forests lowers ambient temperatures.

A big question is, which trees should we be planting? Ten years ago, I met a shade tree farmer named David Milarch, a co-founder of the Champion Tree Project who has been cloning some of the world’s oldest and largest trees to protect their genetics, from California redwoods to the oaks of Ireland. “These are the supertrees, and they have stood the test of time,” he says.

Science doesn’t know if these genes will be important on a warmer planet, but an old proverb seems apt, “When Is the best time to plant a tree?” The answer: “Twenty years ago. The second-best time? Today.”

*Jim Robbins is the author of the forthcoming book “The Man Who Planted Trees.” [Source: New York Times, April 12, 2012

Planting
................the Trees

You came and planted trees!
Braving April drizzle, you cradled
your twigs, searched out
the colored stakes, dug holes
and firmed the mud around the microscopic roots.

Now three days past, I roam
the lumpy stream bed, where nettle
and angelica invade in ragged clumps,
admiring my young shoots-
thin embryos of trees, like miniatures
for a Lilliputian world, where thumb-sized people
plow their rug-sized fields.

These are my countdown years.
As tree cells grow--
patiently sending nutrients
up and down their sticky veins—
and mine deplete,
how can I say what joy they'll bring,
these simple sticks? Already a bug-sized leaf
unfolds its crenulated edge. Those that survive
to turn their juices into syrup,
or flaunt fall's banners
become the friends who placed them here.

Alice D’Alessio

[from: A BLESSING OF TREES, Cross+Roads Press #21, 2004, o.p.]





norbert blei | the prose poem: alice d’alessio, al degenova, ralph murre, susan o’leary

17 10 2011

Photo by Al DeGenova

POETRY DISPATCH No. 356 | October 17, 2011


THE PROSE POEM:

Alice D’Alessio, Al DeGenova, Ralph Murre, Susan O’Leary

Editor’s Note: I presented a weekend writing workshop, “the poetry of prose” on Washington Island almost two weeks ago. I see prose poetry not so much as a strict form but more as a way to make a clunky prose line breathe, sometimes sing.

It was a good weekend of writing, discussion, reading…with great participants, as always–mostly my tried and true, solid bunch of Clearing advanced writing students, with solid credentials of publishing and/or book credits behind them.

I learn a lot from them, whether it’s my annual Clearing class (beginning and advanced) or this new, autumn-weekend writing workshop we established on the Island a year ago–thanks to Karen Yancey, who handles the registration details, keeps the party going on the Island; Dick and Mary Jo Purinton, who provide the perfect setting for Island living and learning; and Jude Genereaux, who facilitates communications, easing much of the burden from my back, especially last minute glitches. My thanks again to all of them.

Without going into definitions galore of prose poetry or class instructions, assignments etc., I promised the class a lot of work–and a little exposure on “Poetry Dispatch,” if things went well. So I thought I would share with readers three of the prose poems the students themselves selected (by secret ballot) from their reading on Sunday morning, when each writer read a favorite, best ‘polished-to-perfection’ prose poem of his or her own from class assignments just the day before.

Everyone quietly listened to everyone else, then secretly noted on a piece of paper (folded and passed on to me) the three favorites. The three favorites became four because of a tie.

Here they are, presented alphabetically by author. Enjoy, enjoy. –Norbert Blei

The Left Hand Speaks

by Alice D’Alessio

Perfect, save for one flawed knuckle, beautifully seamed and creased, I am content to be what I am, the left hand, the second hand, the neglected hand. For I have a secret.

It is true that my neatly fitting skin is turning blotchy now, stretching into ridges and crevices. Yet it does its job so well, wrapping tight the underworkings, the critical bone and tendon, the rivers, streams and estuaries of blood and other juices that keep the fingers active and lubricated. It protects from invasion of those enemies that would enter and do great harm.

After seven decades of flexing and gripping, I am capable and strong, my five digits line up like soldiers for review, from short to tall, and back to short, to my sturdy thumb, altered a bit at the base with a lovely triangular scar. How well they stand at attention.

It’s true my partner, the right hand, gets all the glory. It is the one extended to shake the hands it meets, it picks up the pen and writes, brushes teeth, waves, plays a major role in buttoning, tying, stirring. But behold – on keyboards we are equal! And furthermore, there were glory days, now gone, when I was supreme. When we teased that violin into music, the runs and trills, the haunting melodies – it was I and I alone who found the notes, knew exactly where to press the string – never flat nor sharp – to make the purest sound. All the other one did was saw that bow across and back, across and back. I made the music, created the sweetness of tone with my vibrato. I, the genius twin, blessed with the gift of perfect touch. The other one, purely utilitarian. I rest my case.

At the Ancient Pond

by Albert DeGenova

Drunk with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please. But get drunk – Charles Baudelaire

The hanging Spanish moss looks one-hundred years younger today, I’ve drained the ancient pond through a red and white striped straw and licked the salt from the rim, the frog sings plop and I’m tokin’ on his flip flopping feet, on mind altering harmonic resonance, the whole band is in tune – the cool cats, the birds, the wind, the dirty swamp, cars speeding by pulling boat trailers, the hammering on the roof, the knife as it slices the bread, the dentist’s drill, the kid next door practicing guitar. Wake up!… Plop goes the blue-orange sunrise. Plop goes the weasel. What is the sound of stagnant water, water filling the bathtub or poured from a bucket, water as it gulps air swirling down the toilet? What is the sound of Eve’s first orgasm echoing through the universe? Of one hand clapping?
Plop! Plop! Plop!

Stitches in Time

by Ralph Murre

It, too, is called a thimble; this heavy galvanized fitting I splice into three-strand hawser on deck. Outbound tug Maria. My old man at the helm.

But the notion of “thimble” takes me back to that other sort, silvery there on the third finger of her arthritic hand. Grandma Maria. Seems it’s always been there, protecting that fingertip from the little stabs she knew were coming, leaving the rest of her bare to the unforeseen wounds that would come. There was the thimble as she pushed and pulled needle and thread, stitch on stitch, as depression flour sacks became dresses, as a spare blanket became a suit. Stitch on stitch, still, as my christening gown was shaped. White on white, as a tiny row of sailing boats was embroidered upon it. Rising infant to be bestowed beneath crosses of cathedral’s spires on the high hill. And her father before her, sewing stitch on stitch, white on white, patching sails blown out ‘round The Horn, stitch on everlasting stitch, triangle needle and leather palm, from Roaring Forties to Tropic Trades, and more than once, stitching a shroud: a benediction, a blessing. Fallen sailor to be bestowed beneath crosses of brigantine’s rig on the high sea. Aroma of pine tar, beeswax, mutton tallow. A very old man, long at anchor, calls out “Daughter, bring me rum.” She looks up from her sewing and agrees, “A thimbleful, Father,” as an ocean of time slides by, sewn with a meridian of stitches.

The faithful Maria rises to meet the oncoming swell. Settles. Rises again.

HEAD IN HAND

by Susan O’Leary

The hands come to the face to hold, to hold, as a rounded comfort to sustain. And in that comfort, the balm of touch. The hands become the Pieta of self, embracing with such tenderness, such desire to undo crucifixion, to bring solace to the impossible, to physically counsel grief.

With their sure shield, knowledge and reality can be shut out. At least in this moment. At least as, echoing their curve, the shoulders bend forward, the neck bows, and with eyes closed, words unspoken, breath halted, the body forms its own safe cave of retreat.

They have arrived too late. Or like Mary have had to remain and unwillingly witness sorrow. But their paired presence signals we are not alone. The earth spinning, they are the space that holds spinning in its orbit.

Photo by Mary Jo Purinton





Alice D’Alessio, Susan Godwin, Jerome J. Jagielski, Joan Wiese Johannes, Jackie Langetieg, Mariann Ritzer | WISCONSIN POETS’ CALENDAR 2012

1 10 2011

POETRY DISPATCH No.353 | October 1, 2011

WISCONSIN POETS’ CALENDAR 2012
Alice D’Alessio, Susan Godwin, Jerome J. Jagielski, Joan Wiese Johannes, Jackie Langetieg, Mariann Ritzer

Editor’s Note: I am pleased to say that The Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar for 2012 continues to accomplish its mission for poets and poetry here on the home-front, annually showcasing some of our most respected poets (books and publications to their credit) as well as introducing newcomers to its pages,

I continue to commend the long history of the Calendar for this open-minded approach, as well as the co-editors of the publication this year, Jeffrey Johannes and Jean Wiese Johannes, for their superb efforts in putting together another handsome volume featuring the work of over two hundred Wisconsin poets, not to mention the beautiful cover art and watercolor illustrations of William Karberg of Port Edwards.

Here’s to everyone responsible for the project, including, business manager Michael Farmer, and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets who published this work.

Though I have read and enjoyed all the poets, regretfully (time, space, etc.) I present a mere six to give some idea of the range and talent to be found here. No other explanation as to why these six poems other than the way a poem calls attention to itself and settles for good somewhere in the reader’s psyche. No other measure of personal choice except perhaps a smile, a heartbeat, a related memory …something in the poem whispering ’yes’ in those late-night hours I consign to reading, when a particular poem won’t let me go. The next night could very well be some different poems entirely. — Norbert Blei

What I Learned From the Important Poet

That it’s not enough
to let the Poem out for a quick pee
you’ve got to take it
for a long walk
on a frost-filmed morning
let it tangle its leash around your legs
yanking for attention
…….sniffing for lagniappe.

Or perhaps
you should consider
turning it loose to roam
through city alleys
on a sultry night
to acquaint itself with abandon
with those who wrap themselves
in newspaper blankets
clutching their shoes and bottles
let it nuzzle the pizza crusts
needles condoms.

If there’s still no leap or whimper
drag it if you can
across the highway
to a gnarly clump of oak.
Encourage it to snuffle
leftover nature coax it
to remember
it came from the wild from weeds and rot
birdsong and blossom. Let it wallow
dig deep.

Warn it about the traffic. Let it find
its own way home.

—Alice D’Alessio

Dreaming in the Midst of a Madison Winter

I’d like to be that man who visits celebrities
in their homes, except the houses I enter
must be flawed as well as beautiful. And their beauty
hold herb gardens of thyme and rosemary
and the spice of cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

The sun will blaze through a skylight
to a faded red terrazzo floor; I’ll lie limp
on the fainting couch and dream of muscular Italian men
who sit at my side,
stroking my toes and humming Neapolitan songs.

I found one today—in a Mound Street co-op
filled with cats, paintings and a musk of mystery.
I stayed the afternoon, drinking lemon grass tea
and sharing sensual looks with the cats

then drove home on Regent Street satisfied with my life
behind the wheel of my ’89 Oldsmobile
both of us growing more obsolete each day.

–Jackie Langetieg

Oak Hill Cemetery

………..Comfortably they walk
………………..in graceful steps
……………….a slow movement
………...among the community
……….of hallowed tombstones
a congregation of wild turkeys

–Jerome J. Jagielski

Things To Do Around Port Washington

an homage to Gary Snyder

Peel the fog
Count and climb the steps to St. Mary’s Church
Smell smoked fish; eat smoked fish
Collect dead alewives on the beach
Count children in Catholic families
Find your brothers’ graves, your father’s grave
Listen for the Angelus bells at noon and six o’clock
Wash your hair in Lake Michigan
Imitate the one o’clock whistle
Find Mile Rock
Dig your toes in Sauk Creek mud
Swing from vines on Moore Road
Watch old Dula mumble on her porch
Find God in stained-glass windows in St. Mary’s Church
Slap through Lake Michigan waves at midnight

–Mariann Ritzer

early autumn sunlight
streams through birch leaves
honey on my toast

–Susan Godwin

Come Closer

Heavy air wanders
around the corner of the barn
bends into evening
and staggers through the peonies

to meet me under the porch light
where dizzy moths flit
and midges swarm
around the naked bulb.

Tonight I wonder why
I once thought love darkens
too soon in June
when days are too long

and nights too eagerly late,
when stems grow spindly
weak from
too much too fast too soon.

A night-blooming blossom
luminous as the moon
reminds me of something
I should have done.

–Joan Wiese Johannes

To Order Calendars:

Michael Farmer, Calendar Business Manager
P.O. Box 555
Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Phone: 920.839.2191

mfarmer1876@gmail.com
wfop.org/calendar.html





alice d’alessio | days we are given

22 12 2009

PoetryDispatch No. 305 | December 23, 2009

Alice D’Alessio

Days We Are Given

DAYS WE ARE GIVEN is Alice D’Alessio’s third book of poetry, an “Earth’s Daughters” chapbook contest winner for 2009, and a winner in every way a poet makes sense and beauty of her life through words.

I’m proud to say that Cross+Roads Press published her first major collection in 2004, A BLESSING OF TREES, which won the Council for Wisconsin Writers Posner Prize for poetry. It was an immediate bestseller, admired for the delicacy and depth of Alice’s poems, the sheer beauty of the book’s layout and design.

I’m proud to say as well that Alice is one of those Cross+Roads Press writers who moved beyond ‘first publication’ with Cross+Roads to test the waters elsewhere with new manuscripts—and continued success. A new collection of hers, Conversations with Thoreau, has been contracted for with Parallel Press, UW Madison.

DAYS WE ARE GIVEN continues to explore the poet’s personal history, joy, pain, revelation…the coming to terms with time, relationships…the comfort in those days we are given. Here is a poet who loves the play of words—and plays them well, perfect pitch, the harmony of past and present.

The book is divided into three sections: “Things Left Unsaid,” “Infinite Discords.” and “Days we Are Given” Each a book unto itself. All together…where the harmony comes through. –Norbert Blei

CODA

for my mother

You broke my heart, you said.
And then you died

leaving the two raw pieces in my lap,
like weeping pomegranate.

Because I tasted the seeds and knew
the underworld? Because your meadows

couldn’t hold me, and beyond the fence
I found a wilderness more tempting

than you – virtuous as a nun –
could comprehend? Was I to blame?

You loved the idea of my life: dinners for eight,
bright kids, bright flowers, filling your dreams

of domesticity. Was it wrong
to hide frayed edges as they pulled apart?

Only daughter of a lonely mother
I was doomed to disappoint

as every seed you planted escaped
your nurturing to flaunt

its own wild weedy dance.
Look, the marsh marigolds we treasured

have disappeared this spring
gobbled by deer, overrun by reed canary grass
but still the redwing blackbird sings.

SONNET FOR MY FATHER

All down the long, dark halls they sit and wait
like faded pansies in July. Help me, they say,
the voice a prayer that comes too late:
help me to not grow old or take me away.
My parents are here, where they never meant to be,
hothoused, like all the rest. Reduced from book
to page to paragraph, their memories consigned to me;
their vision gone. How short a time it took

to steal their worth – my mother’s clever hands,
my father’s love of books. He copied and reread
the words of Freud, Carnegie, Franklin, tried to understand
their secrets; wanted poems to rhyme – how else, he said,
can they be poems? Daddy, this is for you.
You gave me the words. Arrangement, I can do.

TWO CHAIRS

A narrow street, all in confusion,
the children scrabbling back and forth
on muddy cobblestones,
and you in tweeds, impeccable.
I say, we need to talk.
We always needed to talk
and never did, back then -
our words
boxed in like inventory
along the shelves of gritted teeth.

I drag the chairs, position them just so.
Cheap lawn chairs, they move easily,
scrape the cobblestones
like metal fingers.
Too close, too far away. I keep moving them -
facing each other? Side by side?
An inch or two this way, and that. As if
all the world depends on how we sit.
As if we are Palestinian and Jew
forging impossible treaties,
and not two nice people who never learned to talk,
who let the silence go on widening
to a chasm no words could ever bridge.

WAKING UP

When I tell you about my dream,
I think you’ll understand:

we are standing on a pebbly shore -
last summer’s shore – at sunset
and the waves keep rolling toward us
with crests of coppery fire,
and troughs, deep indigo.
In the dream, they lose brightness
as they pile up at our feet
in thick translucent folds -
rise to our ankles, knees,
to our waists. I know we will drown soon.

You watch calmly and say,
that’s how it is. I scream
and try to run, but cant move,
my feet buried in sticky muck
as the dream unravels.

See? I say.

But you don’t see, because you don’t dream.
And you tell me again
in that off-handed way,
you’re crazy, you know.
And anyhow
, you say,
you didn’t drown, did you?

WE READ THE NEWS

and yet, we make up shopping lists,
schedule physical eighteen months from now,
go on the Net to scout resorts
for winter getaway, look at map of Italy
and say the soft names yet again.

Buy membership at fitness center,
for three years of pedaling, pumping iron;
plant trees for the next century, pausing
from time to time with sudden gasp,
as if a cold chill lapped our ankles.

We sign papers that promise
long term care, mark the calendar
for lunch in trendy pub
where, benched and boothed in hum
and chatter, we study laminated menus,

weigh the merits of gorgonzola pasta
as if our lives hung in the balance
as if the sheer number of decisions,
stacked like sandbags, will hold it at bay -
the silent tsunami gathering force in the rearview mirror.

INVENTORY

How we dug in fifteen logs for steps
to carry us up the back hill
to the farmer s fence,
named it Sunset Boulevard;
put a bench there facing west;
six startled cow-eyes looking back
like, What?

How we tried to make a prairie –
burning, lugging eighteen buckets of seed
and flinging in wide arcs till we ached
and dropped exhausted on the deck,
and watched five crows
pick out their favorites. How on our knees
we cheered the ruddy clumps of bluestem,
the first three stalks of Indian Plantain,
Compass Plant. It takes a thousand years
to make a prairie, but we could tell ourselves
this was the start.

How we watch some hundred billion stars
slide left to right each night
while coyotes wail off-key
and bats dip and swoop
in their nightly smorgasbord.

We’ll be old here, perhaps next year,
and maybe the world will fracture –
sluff away under its sorrows –
but you and I have counted these moments,
balanced the tally, and called ourselves rich.

Editor’s Note: DAYS WE ARE GIVEN is available directly from the author, 3418 Valley Creek Circle, Middleton, WI 53562, $8.00 plus $2.00 for shipping and handling. The book is also available from Earth’s Daughters, P.O. Box 61, Central Park Station, Buffalo, New York, 14215. Website Earth’sDaughters.org.









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