Oh, this is fun. I get to say something that everybody will read and love. Or everybody will read and…? Or everybody will skip to get to the good stuff.
Wait! Don’t do that. I know the good stuff comes from our many fine contributors, but I would at least like a chance to say so. Okay, I just did say so, but please allow me to elaborate.
This time around, for our seventh issue of Subprimal Poetry Art/Music, we’ve had the pleasure of receiving many fine submissions. In fact, we had to let some of them go due to production time constraints. Well, due to money constraints too, for this issue marks our first voyage onto the paying market seas. As a human being and a writer, I think that writers ought to get paid. I know it’s not a large sum right now, but we’re looking into ways in which we can increase that.
But back to our writers and artists — and the works they’ve entrusted us with. This issue we received many fine and compelling prose poetry pieces. Well, that’s what I call them and also (as you may know) what I have a special fondness for…
The scene at the sound was of light
hurtling toward the beach, dusk
turning the shore and sea oats granular
and vanishing in the shadows, alive
but crouched in a mode of surveillance,
patient for a glimpse of us, weathering…
We made a raft and life preservers out of fifty raincoats. It was Frank’s idea. We got out of there while our toilet paper and soap crafted heads went on sleeping and the guards felt satisfied. We were tucked in, alright – tucked into icy water in our homemade raft, and by God and all the celestial beings waiting at Angel Island, it held us up and carried us across the deadly current to freedom. But before that, back while we hovered near the prison, pumping air into the raft with the concertina, we were so jumpy our breaths came quick and we thought…
Regarding her work, the artist says:
This painting was inspired by the haunting arias often found in operas. I was listening frequently to opera during this time and found both the vocals and music ethereal and otherworldly. I felt the need to combine this feeling with the beautiful aesthetics of an old, ornate opera house. I believe beauty and darkness coincide and wanted to paint these elements together.
The look in your eyes of carefree
naiveté, of life lived on the cliff
face of an angel staring through
my plans, speechless to my
ramblings. The prospect of
normalcy, the expected
development of a child,
a father’s hopes cycloned with
one word. But
staring at your newborn
look of innocence
how could I know
I was wrong.
After life swallows your soul and slaps you senseless. After the workplace bullwhips, browbeats, and bulldozes your dignity. After your hands grasp ambition like an ax handle until calluses are birthed, sore and pleading for caress. After you almost assassinate your dreams and then willingly kill for them. After this world sells you out and shoves you towards oblivion.
After you've been left shivering, …
We are tempted to make of the man
an angel, the dark one, endlessly falling,
his nimbus of flame like wings,
but this angel is wingless. He flies on pain.
We follow the path of his descent
and his suffering draws from us
an endless feminine response
to the agonies of men. We want…
Regarding her work, the artist says:
Each of my paintings began as a drawing; I make several drawings until I come up with shapes and compositions that I find pleasing. In the case of Dreamscape, many of my influences are evident, the first being music,in this case Nuyorican salsa. The yellow vessel on the lower left has dancing legs, the building and bread (pan) represent Nu Yor, Puerto Rican New York; the table on the lower right is also dancing. Objects emerging from vessels and windows and portholes are also common themes in my artwork, as is the cactus. Visual influences other than the usual slew of artists are George Herriman, creator of Krazy Kat comic strips, Max Fleischer, creator of Betty Boop and the 1920s German noir film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
When the man with the gun stopped by for his glass of wine & a hug from La Senora we thought all would be well with our world & for a few days it was. No more mealy-mouthed muggers to worry the neighborhood & no more blood in the culverts. But that all ended just as fast as it had begun. It’s now Thursday & no one is free to reminisce. In fact, no one wants to be around any of us. Oh. There’s the occasional crank call & alerts. But, for the most part, we’ve quartered alone. Samson was the first to crack. Who can say why? He was always the most impetuous. Someone penned a note that made the rounds. There would be a rendezvous at the lake Saturday night. Our options would be revealed. Saturday night rolled around & I heard music in the distance a bit like that cool jazz from the 1950’s. Through the light fog, I could barely make out the silhouette of a sailing ship with the lines of a schooner. It was then he came from the dunes with her on his arm. He smoked a long cheroot & she a meerschaum pipe. As they came closer he gestured for me to follow. At the ship I walked the plank & settled aboard. The dockhands tossed the lines & we were under sail. Two days later we landed on Atoll Hercules where I was to stay until my days were few & my story had become historically irrelevant . . . That’s all I remember of that time & those who were in my company. Once the ship departed there were only the rowers who came in the night & the harness & the incessant chimes.
There was an extended period of nothingness during which I was so insentient, the only reason I knew I lived at all was that sometimes, roused by a gentle swaying, I swam up to just below the surface of awareness. The rocking brought me dreamily up through the dark, after which I drifted, insensate again, back into oblivion.
One day, still in darkness, I was all at once awake and cognizant. Something pressed against me from all sides, holding me immobile. I closed my eyes and waited.
When I opened them again, faint, grey threads of light were filtering through whatever it was that enveloped me. I compulsively jerked, knowing in some instinctual part of myself that I had to get out of this shroud-like confinement, and I had to do it soon. I forced myself into motion…
I want to write to you
and implore you to fight
like Dylan Thomas to his father
though I’ve long hated the idea of that poem
and said as much, that I’d never
write such a thing, never burden
someone with the need to stay alive
just to make it easier on the rest of us
who love you with cowardice.
So while I’m aware that you’re waking early,
consulting the mirror and asking big questions
and thinking of how futile it all seems,
know that we’re selfish,
but don’t think we want anything more
than you at the table this year
serving whatever you found in a magazine
that looked appealing on paper
and, in practice, is perhaps imperfect
but will definitely suffice.
Regarding her work, the artist says:
The collage Violeta [from Violeta del Carmen Parra Sandoval, a Chilean composer, songwriter, folklorist,and visual artist] is part of a series, My Literary Icons, which includes Pablo Neruda, Flora Tristan, and others.
To my father
When it’s not only your memories but yourself you’ve lost, misplaced like a pair of reading glasses, left on the counter of the DMV when you got to the front of the line to find you left your wallet in the dash and had to head back out to the parking lot and turned in a circle, thinking, where did I park? where did I put my keys? Father, somewhere in there behind the blank stare and all the confusion when your eyes find mine, focus and unfocus and swim off, I imagine you in darkness in the tunnels, groping along, with even the damp walls that guided you gone, receding back beyond the reach of fingers. As you stare in disbelief — that you could be this man, this helpless and alone. That there is no shaft of light. No ladder leading up and out and home. No soft hand to grasp or lilting voice to lead you on. Only the echo of your own voice insisting that you can’t have come so far to find these tunnels don’t lead somewhere or at least go on forever everywhere beneath cornfields and strip malls, the slow moving rivers of the Midwest, the hurtling interstates of the north. So far from the distant sounds of the world above, a half-remembered love song you might have heard on the lips of your father in the nursing home as he stared emptily off at a television bolted to a wall. Your lips moving silently just like his as if a song might lead you back or out, your arms outstretched to silences that finally have no turnings but bloom like that clearing in the woods that found you once, a child of seven lost for an hour that may have been a century.
And I half want to let you let you go: anywhere, everywhere, turn left or right or stop, no longer searching for the man you were but drop down deep to feel the ground. And find your hands again impossible and strong and young, pushing the earth across a galaxy of burned out suns like some teenager pushing a car on the downslope of an unlit gravel road. It starts to move a little slow, then speeds up, rolls away, you stumbling after, waving, falling, calling to your date, Now! Now! Pop it! Now and she does — laughing as the engine jolts and purrs and something in you shudders, then opens — like a door.
Dear Suki: Rio de Janeiro, April 25th
at the top of the world, the fault down
the valley affords me an early morning
dream. My eyes meet the gorging sun,
fast as though through a musical box
to nettle my heart's roseate blooms. I
scale the concrete steps with you here,
gilt damask charts the seven notes in
my breaths breathed low. A wrenching
anecdote in succession of sounds are
my inverting sky without you. Dearest
Suki: you, who are never still, a restless
skirt tossing my brindled grey, a surface
to my bottom, always letting myself be
teemed with a luster so fine that I weave
stories depending on the slant of your sun.
Blame the machine
for the fact that white petals on the water’s surface
have closed my mouth to the possibilities
and I refuse to swallow the song
that sticks in my throat
until my husband, lying beside me in bed,
lifts himself on one elbow in the dark.
“Breathe,” he says to move me with the holy spirit,
but this is less about movement
than about a failure of transportation;
about a woman whose jewelry knots in the box
and requires surgery at the business end
of fingernails and straight pins;
about chains that snap and reds that turn blue,
blues that run sluggish and forget to breathe,
giving rise to lightning on the horizon
as dendrite and neuron drown.
From under water, my eyes
see the plum petals,
the white rafts floating on the great sea
where all the rivers empty.
Do you remember those days when the air had a pulse and the sun was something we bathed in? Please say you remember. I do. I remember the yearning that dripped out of you, teeth on your lip, eyes like magic flames. I remember shuddering in the bed beside you the night it all began, my terror so great the sheets were vibrating and the thrill of it all, and when the movie ended and silence gripped my shoulders and my body stilled and the atoms in the air stopped dancing and the shadows turned their heads and the outline of you glowed at the edges—I didn’t say it then but I swear it, you were lit up as if your skin was composed of a million fireflies like sparks from our hearts—and the spirit of something dived into my open mouth and commanded my head forward and my lips claimed yours and I didn’t know what I was doing but it didn’t matter anymore and fireworks of colours we could never again imagine exploded around our faces and we felt the Earth’s spin and instantly it was as if we’d been asleep forever and were now finally awake— you remember it, don’t you?
The stars were so bright that night we couldn’t sleep…
When my 25-year-old son died in a snowboarding accident on December 27, 2000, I was writing about raising my two kids, being a poet and teaching, and how each of these three vocations informed the others.
Now my beautiful son, who was to marry his fiancé Kristen in five months, was dead. Hundreds of miles from where it had happened, I obsessed about how there must have been something I could have done to stop this accident. Like so many who have suffered loss, I lived with a barrage of what-if-I-had-only-done-this-or-that’s, no matter whether I could have taken those actions that day or the day before or even years before his accident. Since I had failed as a parent, I didn’t deserve to write. Writing was a discovering, a becoming. I didn’t want to discover or become anything, only to have my son back…