"Sun Dials" - David Noah

"Sun Dials" - David Noah

Everything with shadows is a clock.
Even the bee's dim blur on stigma and ovary
or the pulse of a field mouse in tall grass
can track the seconds of the sun's arc.

A deer will shade dry leaves
exactly at this hour each year you live,
and the owl's wings ticking over snow
are swift and certain as a strobe light.

Nothing stays noon for long.

(From the 2014 collection "how nothing is left unchanged: 11 poems" by David Noah. Above: Self-portrait of the poet / photographer as his own sun dial.) 

"Lines for Winter" - Mark Strand

"Lines for Winter" - Mark Strand

for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

Mark Strand (1934-2014) spent the decade after the publication of Selected Poems [1980] not writing poetry. Strand admitted that “I gave up [writing poems] that year. I didn’t like what I was writing, I didn’t believe in my autobiographical poems.” He turned to other forms of writing instead, including children’s literature with The Planet of Lost Things (1982). As with his poetry, Strand focused on questions of loss, using the story to address the common childhood worry about where things go when they are lost. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States and taught at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago, and Columbia University. He died in late 2014 at the age of 80. 

"Praise for the Yiddish Poets" - Stephen Kuusisto

"Praise for the Yiddish Poets"
(Stephen Kuusisto)

It should be easy to carry the morning on our backs,
The sky weighs less at sunup, but you knew that.
And you knew how the long march
With the heavy wagon... how that story
Became the children -- it's in the milk,
A tin-pail taste before the words began.
You take up a pencil and write:
I've lived in so many towns;
Everywhere, the milk turns
Before it reaches the table.
Then, modestly, you cross out the towns,
Cross out the table, everywhere
is replaced by the morning star.
Milk tastes less of tin,
More of odori, wild herbs
Growing beside the road.

Today begins the celebration of Hanukkah. "Praise for the Yiddish Poets" by Stephen Kuusisto is from his collection Only Bread, Only Light (2000). Stephen Kuusisto is a professor at Syracuse University and speaks widely on the topics of disability, diversity, education, and literature; he is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening. At five years old, Kuusisto underwent multiple eye surgeries to correct his crossed eyes. Now with 20/200 vision in his "better" eye, he is legally blind. “I see like a person who looks through a kaleidoscope," Kuusisto writes in his 1998 memoir Planet of the Blind, "my impressions of the world at once beautiful and largely useless.” Letters to Borges, his latest collection of poems, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013.

"The Life of Spice" - Alx Johns

"The Life of Spice" - Alx Johns

Which came first
the chicken or the mummy?
preserving the flesh or making it yummy?

Someone shook flowers
at the tomb's breath
like the little sling of David.
Once upon a time,
frankincense fought Frankenstein. 

the chili sauce's skill
to form your focus for
the moment, a mouthful
of forgetting
in nasal drip and forehead sweat.

Bury the carrion
in peppers, petals, and seeds,

add some salt, and carry that
carcass clear
across the desert. 
Do more than survive.

Alx Johns' first collection, Robot Cosmetics,  has just been published. "The Life of Spice" by Alx Johns and artwork / printing by Paul Moxon [above] was the third in a 2013 series of  broadside collaborations between writers and artists at Smokey Road Press, Athens, Georgia. His work was selected as the 2012-2013 winner of The Pavement Saw Press chapbook award; he is tonight's featured reader at Word of Mouth Cincinnati.

Scenes for the holidays - David Oates

Scenes for the holidays - David Oates

Christmas show, graceful dancing
“five golden rings”—
spray-painted hula hoops rattle

country graveyard
on some plots
little Christmas trees

with dad at keyboard
eight year old says yet again
“It’s MY Christmas gift!”

at Christmas parade
Bee, Train, Ladybug, all in lights —
watching parents toke

three a.m., reading in a hotel lobby—
thank God they’ve stopped
the Christmas music

church service 
ornament falls from Christmas tree

after Christmas
bright and full
recycling bins

trying to reach downtown 
blocked by Christmas parade--

a family reading 
of the Christmas story 
Furby® chuckles

the pine branches 
offer up the snow
Christmas gift

bare dogwood
hung with pine needles
Christmas is near

the trees hold 
their snowballs 

clear blue day, snow-covered 
trees illuminated.  From the limbs, 
wind blows puffs of snow like  
glittering sand clouds, 
flashing in the sun. 

though the snow on the ground is melted
snowman  lingers
ignoring prognosis

icicles from car grill—
sixteen-year-old’s sparse beard          

two inches of snow
9-year-old Georgia girl 
won’t come inside

The runoff 

David Oates is an Athens area writer, radio host, and man of many scenes. His show Wordland is heard on WUGA-FM 91.7 / 97.9 at 8 pm  Sunday, and again on Tuesday at 3:30 pm. He also hosts Wordmusic, the regular monthly event at Hendershots featuring Athens-area writers and musicians. The next Wordmusic event will be held this Wednesday December 17th beginning at 7:30 pm. Sign-up for Wordmusic begins around 7 pm.

"I Would Really Hate That, I Really Would" - Charley Seagraves

"I Would Really Hate That, I Really Would" - Charley Seagraves

I would hate to have to live in a cardboard box,
have to dumpster dive for bagels and lox,
every new day to put on a pair of yesterday's socks,
I would really hate that, I really would.

I would hate to have to drive a chicken truck,
have to deal daily with all that chicken muck,
have that truck break down and then get stuck,
I would really hate that, I really would.

I would hate to have to live in Afghanistan,
have to try to survive in that godforsaken land,
have to duck and dodge the Taliban,
I would really hate that, I really would.

I would hate to be a thief on the run,
afraid to go anywhere without a loaded gun,
a life of paranoia, that would be no fun,
I would really hate that, I really would.

I would hate to be trapped in a room with Rush,
have to listen to that prick posture and gush,
at some point I'd have to tell  Rush to hush,
I would really hate that, I really would.

I would hate to be adrift in the Atlantic Ocean,
without any rations or any suntan lotion,
my only compensation being the ocean's motion,
I would really hate that, I really would.

I would hate to be confined in solitary confinement,
without a chiropractor to adjust my alignment,
with only my thoughts for comfort and refinement,
I would really hate that, I really would.

So, whenever I complain about the universe,
whenever I start to spit and sputter and curse,
I stop and realize that things could always be worse,
and I would really hate that, I really would.

"Unexpected" - A poet bee

"Unexpected" - A poet bee

our poet bee,
is large and solitary.
She's rude and crude
and does not live
in any hive.
Instead she tunnels
in wood
and feeds pollen to
her brood.
At this she's very good.

She doesn't dance
nor take the chance
to follow sterile sisters
to work the flowers
to make honey
for mother queen,
who has a contract
with a keeper,
who sells their sweat
and sweet labour
for money.

Too obscene.
Virginica's wise.
She skips that scene.

Much she knows:
in flowers are lies.
Pollen and nectar,
and deadly surprises.
Such it goes,
she realises.

An unquestioning sister,
with dance directions,
finds some showy petals.
Too late for reflections.

A crab spider's grab,
and the sister's a meal.
Soon freeloader flies 
will be there to steal.

Unlucky sister, worker,
we're so sorry and sad.
What a horrible deal.
You were had.
Apparent success
and then the

The poet bee
is independent
and free.
She's alive,
as are we.

What a buzz.

A poet bee is frequently seen around the UGA campus and often at The Globe. More of the bee's poetry can be read at this link. If you'd like to learn more about bees, check out the poet's Bee Hunt! page. It's worth a buzz by. [photo above: Xylocopa virginica, pollinating Passiflora incarnata, by John Pickering]