Friday, September 11, 2020

19 Ways of Looking at a Pandemic

Poetry for our time. What can I say, pandemics, wildfires, ash and soot and particulate matter of all sorts rain down upon us. And of course all this in the time of tRump and BLM. What next, a plague of locusts, floods of Biblical proportions?

Here is my offering for today, up at the International site Poetry and Covid: 19 Ways of Looking at a Pandemic, with due respect and apologies to Wallace Stevens:  

 Nineteen Ways of Looking at a Pandemic

By Dotty LeMieux


1.

the sound a boulder makes
before beginning
its deadly downhill
roll

2.

sunflowers
in their art deco vase
track time by the sun
so well you can set
your watch by it

3.

hush, don’t wake
the old man sleeping
on the park bench

4.

one purple crocus
in my weedy front yard

5.

hey, what do you think
you’re doing?
don’t you know
you can’t play basketball
without touching?

6.

I’m calling the police!

7.

rain in spurts
taunting us between
the times of quiet

8.

why does standing in line at Safeway
for an hour and a half
remind me of the drought years?

9.

they loosened EPA regulations
so people can get back to work
polluting again

10.

the police are too busy
confirming deaths
on park benches
to answer calls
about unsanctioned basketball
games in the park

11.

Presidential Press briefing —
I told him — don’t return
her phone call; she’s not
nice to me

12.

the boy in California
who died
when the clinic
refused him entry
no insurance

13.

in New York the first buds
of April break through
hoping for someone
to admire them

14.

They’re not doing the tests;
they said to come back later —
blind man in the park smoking

15.

I can smell his smoke

16.
  1. if you wonder where the homeless went
    when they kicked them
    out of the park
    just check the far side
    of the closed-down Community Center
17.

winter has been its own very long year
this year

18.

woman into phone, slumped
on the top step of her front porch —
they say the test won’t come back
for at least a week

19.

after all this,
spring

 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Wild Roof poems up now

 My poems now up at Wild Roof. Go to the link here.    

Here are the poems: (with slightly weird spacing.)


Rite of Return                       

Right into the city come the coyotes. The neighbor to the east calls in his cat. The neighbor to the west watches as one lone coyote slinks past Safeway, storefront church and gastro-pub. Follows dogs down my cul de sac, then turns and skitters into the oleander, pursued by sharp-hooved does. I see him at the very end of the driveway, scruffy long-jowled dog hunkered under the brush. Waiting.

first one Coyote

Then two; then multiple, time

before time, earth before earth

 Before there were people say the Miwok, there were “First People.” Coyote on hind legs, looking for a wife chooses Frog Women. Woos her with infinite patience; lingers on her stream beds; plays his paws among her lily pads; stalks her through water’s murk, plucking her out, long tongue lapping. 

 Coyote and Frog weave Earth

from burned-out stars and broken crockery

sky’s open border

After cocktails, the neighbor to the east says — The coyotes are killing the cats. And Animal Control won’t come for wildlife unless it is injured! You can tell he wants them injured. He wants their carcasses between his car wheels, he wants their hides scarred with pellets from his (legal) gun; he will do none of this though. Instead he says — I can trap them and carry them away into the hills where they came from. They do not belong in the city.

 Cats kill birds — says the neighbor to the west, the naturalist — The cats are killing the songbirds; soon there won’t be any left in North America. Keep your cat indoors! 

The neighbor to the east shakes his head — No! The coyotes have to go. I have never seen this cat loving man so angry. Out my window, Coyote smiles a sad smile slipping down the streambank.

all night from hill to hill

crossing canyons; rattling windows

Coyote’s dirge; Frog’s lament  


Animals Don’t Know They Have a Name

 

birds for instance, don’t care

that we call them thrushes

or Steller’s jay

 

or white crowned sparrow or Nuttal’s woodpecker — 

that sound they rat-a-tat-tat late

into the afternoon

creating granaries

against the winter

 

that season whose name they don’t know,

or summer, or any season 

 

except that stomachs grow

                or diminish, hunkering-in happens, or hunger —

 

 that we humans

delineate with nouns

and spelling, of which they know nothing,

 

crows, raucously patrolling their territory,

caucus with sharp cries alighting on the rough heat place

                        seeking crumbs,  avoiding splat

only by inches

 

then there is the owl

   barn or great horned or elusive spotted

hoot hooting into dusk, scouring below

for movement of rats, slither of gopher

          snakes, names they do not know,

 

nor does the deer on the hillside, the skunk

     rocking toward us, as we leash the dogs

who though domesticated only remember their names

when called home to dinner

 

above all circle the vultures their red heads alert

for remnants of unnamed animals

caught in the splat of forever

 

or sometimes when nights grow cold and food is scarce,

rotten orange fruits that once were called —

         by children in disguise —

           

jack-o’lanterns in some forgotten lexicon

of mystery and expectation.

 

 


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Blast from the Past - Turkey Buzzard Review

The Turkey Buzzard Review was a little magazine I published with the help of Joanne Kyger, Diana McQuaid, my then spouse and brilliant artist Terry Bell and so many others, beginning in 1977. Here is an account of that first publication by Kevin Opstedal in his

Dreaming As One 

Poetry, Poets and Community in Bolinas, California 1967 - 1980) 



The Turkey Buzzard Review was a unique little magazine that first appeared in July of 1977. With a cover designed by Terry Bell and silkscreened by Arthur Okamura, The Turkey Buzzard Review was inspired by Lew Welch's ''Song of the Turkey Buzzard'' and inside the front cover, above a Susanna Acevedo photograph of two turkey buzzards, was reprinted the last stanza of that poem,

NOT THE BRONZE CASKET BUT THE BRAZEN WING
SOARING FOREVER ABOVE THEE O PERFECT
O SWEETEST WATER O GLORIOUS
WHEELING BIRD
This first issue, ''lovingly dedicated to Lew Welch wherever he may fly'', was edited by Dotty le Mieux, assisted by Sara Schrom, Joanne Kyger, Susanna Acevedo, Charles Berrard, Terry Bell, Diana McQuaid, and Michael Rafferty. It was a group effort. The magazine featured works by Bill Berkson, Lawrence Kearney, Aram Saroyan, Joanne Kyger, John Thorpe, Michael Wolfe, Nancy Whitefield, with a collaboration written by Tom Clark and Lewis MacAdams, photographs by Susanna Acevedo, a painting by Lynn O'Hare, and drawings and cartoons by Gordon Baldwin, Terry Bell, Lynn Phillips and Ted Saladin. Inset among its 24 pages were excerpts from various sources related to turkey buzzards and vultures. The theme set by the Welch poem was carried through the magazine. Joanne Kyger said ''It was much fun and a group effort. We did have a hilarious theater event presenting 'Woodrat and Gopher visit Tibet', which was a benefit for the second Turkey Buzzard I think. Phoebe got ga-ga and kept kneeling at Lewis' feet, Sara fell over a bench before it was her turn to read, Nancy Whitefield's beanbag chair caught fire, etc, etc. It was a total participatory event, in which the audience acted out as much as the readers- actors.''
The Turkey Buzzard Review ran from 1977 to 1981 and produced only four issues, but it was a classic, eclectic little Bolinas magazine.



 


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Devolution

Just realized a poem of mine has been out for a couple of months in a great little literary review, Gyroscope, but I lost it in all the Covidity. Here it is:


Devolution 


The road is narrow
It is dark and Lisa drives
the Volkswagen slowly away
from the writers’ conference
I sit behind and light her cigarettes


Every few hundred feet our headlights
bounce back at us, reflected
off a patch of fog on the road
then brightens again
along the winding highway

We are driving
to a town called Marshall
where the houses sit on stilts
the bar leans out over the bay
Lisa says we’ll find men who won’t judge us
on our poetic style

Beyond the signpost
fog obscures the bay to our left.
walling the road in front of us
and I think -- So this is what it’s like
at the bottom of the ocean
dense and we grow fins.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Howling

In the Spring 2020 edition of Formidable Women by Moon Sanctuary Press, my howl for justice:

The Howling
 
starts at sundown
plaintive lament
call to the pack
warning                      
Yip owooooo
 
across the canyon
walls lined with oak and bay
madrone
 
holding the sound, buffering,
then release, ringing from reservoir  
to mountain flank
to canyon bowl
up brushy walls
coyote bush, acacia, poison oak,
wild iris
here and there
a tended lawn
dandelions separating the grass
moles, voles and wily
gopher burrow beneath
 
the call of the wild
on early April wind
ringing through canyons
cry of thanks, and gratitude, a lowing
of community                         
           
 I’m here, and yes I’m here too
and me and me and you
 
for tonight and as long as it takes
here on earth we honor
coyote brothers
owl sisters
acknowledge oak and madrone
mountain abiding
a ring of joyful noise  
to anchor us as ancestors
with stories to tell
 
tonight the sun slipping down
before the hunt begins
the call to come home, be safe,
the howling begins, from nooks
notched in the side of the mountain
echoing all around,  
from the flatland
from houses with lawns
from the ones
with jacked up trucks
and the ones with Beamers
the ones with no cars at all
 
all join
the joyful howling
the call    
(anyone listening?)
 
to painful human
solidarity
~

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Pandemics

Pandemics to the left of me, pandemics to the right. We are in the middle. So I've been, like you I assume, scribbling pandemic poems by the score. Also thinking about age, as I do always, and Ageism, which is a thing.

So this little journal entry is on that topic in relation to the corona virus pandemic.

Selected to be on the literary website Passager this week:


Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Dress

In this strange world of virus, Black Lives Matter, prottests and police over-reach, I have a serene poem of the past converging in the new publication, Purifying Wind, an anthology from Moonshadow Press. A sort of a Haibun, an ancient form, which I shamelessly use and undoubtedly misuse. Here it is for you to read:(phots that inspired it below)


The Dress                                                                  

1. 
1949                                       
She stands, one slim-fingered hand on hip, the other reaching inside the open rear window of a hump-backed car, the kind you see only in old pictures of your parents; her right hand on her hip, cocked at a flirtatious angle, posing to please unseen photographer; smiling, preening, teasing. The man, we assume it is a man, crouches low to improve the line of sight, captures classic Athenian bone structure— Grecian nose, head held high, hair back raven black against milky sky.
My mother (I wish I knew her then!) proud, poised in new blue dress accenting slenderness of waist, hips that mold to delicate splayed fingers; hips that have probably been caressed a thousand times by the man who now caresses her entirety of face, hair, body, eyes, catching her soul in his lens, the way primitive people’s souls are caught and held and sometimes enslaved by the camera’s unforgiving eye.
And let me tell you about that dress! It fits her like the skin of a newborn colt, like the feathers of a hummingbird in flight, like smooth bark of a eucalyptus tree before molting; she and dress melding as one, the thicket of hair a mystery framing a face that exists as an extension of that magnificent dress.
No one else could ever wear such a dress.
A dress of that blue they call navy; a field of flowers in yellow and white (I imagine - the picture is in black and white) splashed across the night of her supple body; navy as the Navy blues my father wears to sweep her off her dainty feet into this car, this life, this picture; Providence Rhode Island 1949, picture I sweep into the album with all the others taken from that time until the end of childhood.

from her bower of scented pine
the blue bird chants the wonder
of first newly cracked egg
2.
1971
This is the day I follow a woman, compelled, stalking her along a Manhattan street, my camera angled downward, synchronizing my steps to hers, snapping as I go, her bag slapping at her side, Capezio shopping bag adorned with Modigliani face familiar as the face of the woman by the car —dark hair swept back, eyes older, unsmiling, lips pursed like a woman who knows more than she bargained for – thwacking at the women’s thigh, against the dress she wears, Navy blue, sprinkled with yellow and white flowers, vintage rayon dress circa 1949 (I imagine) smart once more New York City 1971.
I do not know this yet; how can I? I am a visitor here, with my borrowed camera brought with me to steal the souls of strangers, as they call to me that way only strangers can. All I know is propulsion forward, that face now stylized on a plastic bag, holding dancing slippers, a tiger patterned leotard, or maybe only her lunch. I am drawn by the face on the bag and not the woman carrying the bag. If I look up at her; if I see the cant of her head, her hair might be blonde; she might be impossibly tall or fat; something tells me not to look, and my camera carries itself and me back to the face moving ahead and down and then finally out of range of my prying lens.
And that dress, fabric slick and worn and loved and smooth and loose and swaying about the knees, dazzling in sunlight, capturing me as I capture it; sealed away inside my mysterious black box and saved like a treasure, like a bird’s nest fallen from an apple tree in the last strong wind of winter. Like a talisman I do not know the meaning of
                                   
posing, I throw back my head
to reflection, miming laughter,
still unable to crack open and soar

3.
2015
Today, unpacking the past, digging through layers of unremembered memorabilia, I find, then frame, the two photos, forgotten until this move, hopefully the last. Placing them side by side, I stand stunned before twins; faces long, one laughing, the other not, one alive, the other cartoonish, a caricature of the first; but the dress! It arrests my brain, overwhelms the prints, collapses the years between, flower for flower, swirl for swirl, fabric for fabric. This dress, oh, yes, maybe mass manufactured in rayon after silk went extinct during the war, and fabric was scarce and saved, and passed down, and dresses went to thrift stores for fashion-retro minded 70’s chic chicks until today it reaches its final destination, in black and white on my wall, chemically preserved the way a corpse is drained of all color and saved for later reincarnation and remembrance.
                                   
in the park buzzards
one two three take flight and wheel
into thin air