this pain cannot last

MAKE IT TILL MORNING (wikimedia commons)alone in the night
black pain my only beacon
make it till morning

* * *

this pain cannot last
when shall we two dance again?
my husband’s wet eyes

* * *

These are two death haiku I should have written a few months ago when I knew I was dying. But I was too sick for poetry then.

They came to me last night while reading Belinda Broughton’s poetry. Please take a moment to visit her blog. You’ll be glad you did.

* * * * * * *

Thanks for reading.

Alice

our eyes

320px-Amy-IImy eyes rove wide and high
where I find ev’ry cloud
even in the blue sky
drifting smudge at the edge
storms are always coming

old man’s eyes cast downward
to find lucky pennies
gutters and well-oiled streets
life-time coin collection
enough for one day’s food

young man’s eyes behind veils
while heat-seeking missile
follows swaying targets
ancient rhythms inspire
his new-old drummer’s life

young boy swims ev’rywhere
without holding his breath
his eyes look underneath
seems surprised when drowning
finds and takes him again

* * * * * * *

Thanks or reading.

Alice

ADDENDUM:

An important reader of mine (my dad) asked if I could re-write something he’d written and add it on to this poem. You’ll find his request/version in the comments. He’d like to know what you think.

replacement knees hurt bad
eyes on feet so won’t trip
street full of frozen trash
looks up beautiful sky
  lands ass first can’t get up

* * *

Alice

still lost at death’s door

These three haiku were written for the Haiku Horizons word prompt “clear”.

LOST AT DEATH'S DOOR (wikimedia commons)some clear teacher’s rules
all he wanted in his life
still lost at deaths’ door

* * *

you don’t love me now
clear from the way your eyes shine
watching her walk by

* * *

 my next step is clear
when you tell me where to brush
paint-by-numbers wife

* * *

To enjoy more haiku or to join in the word prompt fun, click on the link below:

THIS IS THE LINK TO HAIKU HORIZONS WORD PROMPT.* * * * * * *

Thanks for reading.

Alice

it was a poetry reading

ARTBAR AND CAFEAround four yesterday afternoon, for the first time in over a month, I had the crazy impulse to read my poetry out loud to strangers again.

It was a warm mid-summer evening at Santa Cruz’s only year-round open-mike poetry reading. I joined the jostling poets at precisely five-thirty. Those who arrived late, were hesitant or even polite missed out on their opportunity to read for four minutes at a microphone in front of a crowd of the coolest of the cool wordsmiths in town. I limbered up my French-inspired line-navigation tactics and my American traffic-jam management techniques and got my name on the reading list.

Since my last visit, the wall art in the café had been changed. The decorative manual typewriters had gone missing and the piano and microphone had been shifted to the far back corner. This allowed more room for café seating. But the gi-normous papier-mâché Holstein head still loomed high on the wall as if in wait of the massive earthquake of bovine liberation. The rusty California King-sized architectural light rack was still suspended from the rafters above the heads of the café crew. When the massive earthquake of bovine liberation rocks the cafe, it will also take down those who grill bits and pieces of old Bessie.

This is the venue for a poetry reading.

On the outdoor patio before the reading, I sat among a scatter of solitary poets and waited. I asked a young man what he’d been writing.

“I decided to try a new voice,” he said. “I’ve stopped writing poems that rhyme.”

I asked how it was going. He said it was a different process.

The old cool dude sitting next to him flapped his hands at poetry that rhymed.

A second old cool dude offered “the” definition of poetry. He said that it didn’t include rhyming.

“There’s a definition of poetry?” I asked.

Poems with rhymes are out of style. Although I seldom write in rhyme, I’d brought a poem to read for open mike that rhymed.

Then old cool dude number one began to orate the ancient history of intellectual man with an emphasis on men standing with their legs spread apart. He modeled this.

“Heraclitus and Plato,” he said. “Socrates and Aristotle. The dark ages bound men’s legs together.”

He demonstrated by pressing his knees close to one another.

It was a poetry reading in the raw.

He was entrancing. I hung out and felt poetic. I drank my ruby herb iced tea and didn’t even need to get out my sketch book to occupy myself. Not once.

“What about women?” I asked him. “While all those men were making history with their legs spread apart, what were the women doing?”

He stood to peel off his sleeveless t-shirt and put it back on inside-out as if to hide the cigar-shaped whale picture that rose up his front and center.

He told me that he was afraid that he’d use up his poetic energy ahead of mike time. He doesn’t read poetry. He just goes to the mike and does an impromptu monolog rather like the ones he speaks without a microphone. He talks just like his poems sound. He doesn’t rhyme.

EARLY POETRY READINGS BEFORE THE AGE OF THE MICROPHONE“Empty and be full,” I suggested. “When you write poetry, you make room for more poetry to enter.”

Then, he told me that “they” are most afraid of poets. He gestured to himself,  around at us and then beyond the open courtyard toward the street.

I could see his point. Poets are people who have a knack for seeing the truth and spelling it out in writing. This is one if the reasons poets are denigrated in our culture as being slackers and labeled as insane. There’s only so much truth people can tolerate.

“They have us surrounded,” he confided. “They’re coming to shut us down,”

I looked around.

“I don’t see them,” I said.

Another cool old dude, one who’d been prone to solitary laughter up to this point, leaned over and smiled at me.

“Have you tried vape?” he asked.

“No,” I told him.

I didn’t have the heart to reveal to him that I hadn’t partaken of the evil weed in any form since the1980’s. And besides, I don’t have a medical marijuana card.

It was a poetry reading.

It was also a friendly get together. Before and between reading sessions, a large swath of the internal workings of the poet’s Monday night open mike peer group vanished to the riverbank to commune with their muses, their smokes and one another.

It was a poetry reading.

 

Well-aged hippy dudes, neon-haired babes and folks in multi-color-multi-print-multi-gendered clothing competed to be the coolest being around. All of them came in first.

My personal favorite for the most courageous clothing award was a young man who wandered in late. He wore an inexpensive black suit with a white dress shirt. The tie was off his neck but I could sense its vibe nearby. Perhaps it was inside his sensible soft-sided briefcase or his jacket pocket. He came and stood next to plain black me and became the other ordinary raisin perched on a curried goat cheese and celery stick snack tray. On a racetrack jostling full of edgy and otherly-attired steeds, a plain dark horse with a smooth brown haircut becomes neon.

It was a poetry reading.

But it also a group struggle with individual flickering hand-held electronic devices. One woman gave up and went back home because she couldn’t get her recalcitrant device to hork out her new shit in time for her four minutes of fame.

“I can’t get it up,” she shouted to the waiting crowd.

The old dude contingent guffawed.

Only me and a cool old guy who hadn’t had a shave or a hair cut since the Viet Nam conflict read from the ground-up and pressed bodies of dead forest friends. I felt more out-of-date than antique with my white pages trembling in the spotlight.

It was a poetry reading.

LADY GAGA DRESSED UP AS A POET (wikiemedia commons)I enjoyed the best in novelty hair. I saw earrings that seemed to be the work of humorous Gods. I had never even imagined such unique assemblages of clothing as I saw in action. And I simmered in a word stew of the best poetry I’ve ever heard read live from the corner microphone of the crowded Tannery Artbar & Café.

I clapped till my hands were sore. I laughed. I hooted. I clicked my fingers. And I read a rhyming poem aloud to a completely non-rhyming audience. I apologized for rhyming. Then I read a second poem that didn’t rhyme just so they’d know I wasn’t an obligate rhyming poet. They clapped.

I’m really glad I went.

It was a poetry reading.

* * * * * * *

Thanks for reading.

Alice

 

 

http://alicekeysmd.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/arsenic-sweets/

 

 

the festival of the book

THE CAT IN THE HAT (wikimedia)“Why don’t you write a blog about this?”

Although I write and publish my thoughts and family life to the world each day, it still startles me to find out that someone knows I’m a writer.

She and I were taking down the event tents together at the end of The Festival of the Book at Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz on Sunday afternoon.

It took me a few moments to remember who she was (insert apologies for my lame memory retrieval system here). She’s the librarian who was running the family craft program at our neighborhood library over a year ago.

She’s a lovely person (whose memory retrieval system obviously works better than mine). All the librarians I’ve ever met have been lovely people. Librarians are friendly, helpful, creative and organized.

I’ve never met a librarian I didn’t like. I even liked the edgy-humored skinny dude that worked the library circulation desk in another town far away and the serious-faced book-cleansing children’s librarian I met in northern France. I may be the world’s biggest fan of librarians and libraries.

I’m not a joyous reader and lifetime learner because of terrifying elementary school reading circles or dull textbook stories about Dick, Jane and Sally or indecipherable third-grade phonics workbooks. I am what I am today largely through the early influence of bookmobile librarians, the works of Dr. Seuss and my big sister reading aloud to me. Because of them, I began to read before I got to school.

“You can’t learn to read yet,” my mom warned me when I was five years old. “Your teachers won’t like it if you don’t leave them any work to do.”

HungryCaterpillarI tried to wait. But I couldn’t. I was a hungry caterpillar stuffing myself with leaves from books. Some internal mechanism had been triggered which set me inexorably on the path to becoming this winged thing I am today. Reading became a compulsion. I consumed books and they consumed me. I woke up with pages of printed text on the inside of my eyelids and dreamed I was reading books that I’d written.

But we only had a few books of our own at home. And I grew up in a rural area with no way to get to a library in town. I was often reduced to studying cereal boxes and toothpaste tubes to satisfy the fascinated craving my eyes had for printed words.

Most of my childhood reading material depended upon the kindness of bookmobile librarians. They shuttled the sacred treasures to my eager waiting hands. And the books they brought helped me discover the range of possibility in life.

Since I could read my entire bookmobile allowance in a single sitting, the bookmobile librarians allowed me check out more than my allotted number of books. They also let me read far ahead of my official grade shelf. And, best of all, they brought me special stacks of books they thought I’d enjoy. It still brings tears to my eyes when I remember the first time a bookmobile librarian reached under her counter and brought out a pile of books she’d selected just for me. She was a true-hearted children’s librarian before the job was invented.

Even though I treasure all librarians as the gifts from the universe they are, I have the warmest spot in my heart reserved for children’s librarians. Children’s librarians are the guiding angels who shepherd children into the world of books. The keys to a literate adulthood are held in their gentle nurturing hands.

Modern American libraries have become much more than book storage and retrieval systems. They’ve also become a hub for community activities, an after-school hang-out for kids and a place for free family fun. And for us, libraries have provided affordable structure to my home education curriculum. No matter what my boys wanted to learn, our libraries have been there for us. Whether it’s boat building, the history of the Japanese Samurai or the physics of tides, we have always found the books we needed. We all studied French together from a course we checked out from our local library.

Every step of the way, librarians have been there to help us, So we like to help librarians and libraries whenever we can.

Over the years, everyone in our family pod has been a library volunteer. We’ve shelved books, helped with craft events and worked on fund raisers. I sat on a library advisory board for many years.

Yesterday, George and Paul and I went to Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz as volunteers for the library’s annual summer Festival of the Book. Every year at the end of the summer reading program, the library throws a big party at the park for all the kids who completed their summer reading goals.

I was on craft duty. I helped make a lot of loud fun and also what seemed like hundreds of feather-boa marionette puppets. The boys helped supervise a steady crowd of kids who surrounded a wading pool filled with bubble soap. When I went over to give them a lunch break, they told me that the main parts of their job were to keep kids from splashing and keep them from hitting one another with the giant bubble wands.

While I was there, no one tried any bubble-wand sword fights. But toddlers did want to climb into the slippery blue pool hands first. Each time one made it in over the elbows, I used my hands to squeegee bubble soap off soft little arms and handed out another bubble wand.

CHILDREN WATCHING MARIONETTES IN 1935At The Festival of the Book, there was also a reading tent in the shade next to the woods with real dogs to read to, a hotdog lunch, a puppet theater, hula hoops, face painting and a professional marionette show. But, according to my younger son, the best part was the book sale.

The summer reading program awards a variety of prizes to kids who complete their summer reading goals. Paul received a stack of coupons good at local businesses PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS (wikimedia)and a free ticket for his vegi-dog lunch. But he was most excited to be able to shop at the children’s book sale with the coupon he’d earned. He came away with a complete boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia and a copy of “Peter and the Starcatchers”. He was a happy boy.

The turnout for The Festival of the Book was bigger than expected. We ran out of some craft materials late in the day but had plenty of face paint, paper bag puppets, bubble soap and noisy fun left till the very end.

After everything had been packed back into the library van, we returned home, exhausted but happy, in our dust-covered shoes.

* * * * * * *

Thanks for reading.

Alice

 

tidy tits, the god channel and you can’t eat words

TIDY TITS AND LIPSTICK SMILE (wikimedia commons)TIDY TITS

she’d been warned off poetry
only thirteen and surprised
to find herself bleeding words

a sensible old woman
with sensible wide flat shoes
carried a tuna sandwich

and wore the same hair since she
was ten and still in anklets
warned her about poetry

writing poetry leads to
insanity she advised
secretarial college

it’s safer to write the words
of bosses wait till you’re told
timed typing tests and shorthand

professional success from
pretty obedient smiles
tidy tits and lipstick lips

* * *

POET IN STRAIGHTJACKET (wikimedia commons)THE GOD CHANNEL

molten lava flows through
the universal soul
leaves one blackened and ash
purified with meaning

but chanting in couplets
and quatrains to angels
a stripped-bare concrete room
kindly nurses wear jeans

watch through reinforced glass
fill another syringe
with ice and jitters to
shut the God channel down

writing poetry will
cause insanity the
mind can only handle
so much truth at one time

* * *

NewYorkSocietyForTheSuppressionOfViceYOU CAN’T EAT WORDS

“Writing poetry causes insanity.”

She seemed serious.

I chose to joke.

“Yep. Been there, done crazy. Done with all that. Now I write poetry instead. It’s easier on the system than drugs.”

“I used to write poetry,” she said in a quiet voice. “I had to stop.”

She’d once gone so far as to pay to publish her own slim volume with a plain white dust jacket so as not to detract from the words inside. She’d called it “Whisperings and Visions.”

One copy is on her living room shelf. A second is on the shelf in her mother’s care home. The rest used to be in a carton in the back of the attic. Her husband burned them in the driveway during their divorce.

“It’s for your own good,” he’d shouted. “You’re taking poetry too seriously. You can’t eat words.”

At first she’d felt angry. But later she realized she was relieved the box was gone.

By her early thirties, the novelty of the burning coals, raw sewage and bleeding wrists of poetry had worn off. The edgy molten free-verse of her private east-coast college days had succumbed to epic payments and endless commutes, crying babies and dead-end jobs.

She gave up trying to chew the steel trap of modern American life off her leg many years ago. Instead, she’s comforted herself by wearing tie-dye shirts with a tidy denim skirt on weekends and making contributions to save the whales.

Since she gave up on the insanity of poetry, she’s had brief weekend flings with haiku but always made certain to count the syllables on her fingers.

“People only pretend to like haiku,” she said. “Everyone writes haiku but no one reads it. No one buys poetry. You can’t eat words.”

She lives in a two-story house with a view, a sprinkler system and a yard crew. After her two kids left for college, she bought a Golden-doodle to fill the quiet. But, since no one is home during the day, she pays for doggie daycare. She still has payments but she also has a job that just might last till the end of the road so long as she doesn’t think too much about anything out loud or in public.

One could do worse. Many do.

But now that she’s won the American game, she wants her soul-fire back. She just doesn’t want to burn the prizes down in the process.

* * * * * * *

Thanks for reading.

Alice