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Category: Poetry

POEM: The Menagerie

(Note: Jen and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary today. I wrote this for a previous anniversary.)

The Menagerie
For Jennifer

I remember the menagerie –
red ants, cockroaches,
a dog that stole underwear.
Horned toad burying himself –
at least, we assumed it was a “him” –
under the bush beside the screen door.
Lime-green geckos clinging to
sun-warmed stucco, cooling
in the desert evening.
Blue plastic bowls with the name of
our furry practice child.

I remember the meeting –
front-row seats at a round table
just across the dance floor from the band.
Hesitantly approaching two women
and knowing instantly.
Suddenly the sets were twice as long
and the breaks twice as short.
I’d hurry to put down my saxophone
and continue the conversation.

I remember the desert –
long hike with fast-beating heart.
Brilliant moonlight washing over the hills,
air warm enough for shorts
even in the middle of the night.
The swelling drone of bees as they
awoke to the Sonoran sunrise.
A horizon so distant that we could watch
the sun pour onto the land like thick honey
filling the mountains’ bowl.

I remember the restaurant –
heart in my throat,
ring in my hand,
one knee on the hard tile floor.
You said “yes” and applause drifted over
to our table.

I remember the train –
exhausted after semi-circumnavigating the world.
Comatose kitten in a plastic box and
tired smiles as the train pulled away from Narita
and headed toward Tokyo, then north.
No jobs, no place to live.
All the world before us.

I remember the trees –
white cherry blossoms flowering
outside the second-floor window.
Early morning sounds of
from the sunken field below.
Waking at night as the house shook and
deciding there was trouble just as
the tremor stopped.

I remember our son –
watching in awe as life emerged
to the strains of Nat “King” Cole,
the same sounds that joined us together
in the desert now welcoming our newest bond.
Walking down the hall where the
others waited and bursting into tears.
“It’s a boy.”
Crying again with worry in those
first harrowing hours.
The same emotions repeated three years later.

Mostly, I remember you.

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Call for government response, in rhyme

A classic Burma-Shave sign poem

From today’s Albany Times-Union:

Greenfield residents use touch of humor to push town for road repairs

By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
First published: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

GREENFIELD — Denton Road residents have adopted an old advertising technique to protest the street’s poor condition.

Upset that the nearly 2-mile corridor straddling Greenfield and Saratoga Springs hasn’t been repaved in years, neighbors plugged campaign-style signs with balloons into nine bales of hay and planted them along the road.

In an echo of the old rhyming roadside ads for Burma-Shave shaving cream, the green placards form a jingle for passing motorists: “Try to avoid, The hazards here, And say out loud, Elections are near! A safe road, Is just a mirage, But we do have, A new town garage, Thank you Greenfield!”

Read the rest of the article at the TU site.

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BOOK REVIEW: 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border

Poet, teacher, author and Chicano activist Juan Felipe Herrera has collected some of his most provocative and autobiographical writing in this volume. These “undocuments” chronicle Herrera’s travels in the U.S. and Mexico, and his relentless search for the soul and story of a people.

Herrera’s poetry is shouted with an upraised fist at one moment, intoned with a somber brow the next. He has no illusions, but his best work is powered by a grand vision of the past and the future.

Some of the work is helped by a knowledge of Spanish, which I don’t possess. Even so, I had no trouble being caught up in the sound and spirit of Herrera’s writing.

We need more documentary poetry like this to capture the real history of this country, and of the peoples and cultures within it.

Highly recommended.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Wild Party

Joseph Moncure March wrote this tale of debauchery and deception in rhyming couplets in 1928, just before the world descended into the depths of the Great Depression.

Decades later, artist and author Art Spiegelman (of MAUS fame), found a copy in a used bookstore and fell instantly in love with the darkness and depravity of March’s lost classic. In 1994, nearly 70 years after the publication of The Wild Party, Spiegelman published this illustrated version.

March’s short, taut thriller beautifully captures the grim determination of a group of down-but-not-out actors, dancers and vaudeville performers as they use drink and sex to mask the depression of their everyday lives. Spiegelman’s woodblock-style illustrations add the perfect touch of dark sensuality that at times turn to stale, harshly lit reality. The poem builds to an inevitable climax of violence that nevertheless leaves the reader sitting up straight and waiting for the end.

William S. Burroughs said of The Wild Party: “It’s the book that made me want to become a writer.”

Highly recommended.

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