Watching the winter in the blood really getting out of the way ~ yesterday we left at 4 AM for another town (one where I once traveled at the same hour to be in a small college radio station to speak to the BBC who were calling to ask me to say a few words about Cid Corman's passing...) and by the time we arrived a little after 5, it was still 25 degrees. Nothing like a town waking up. Any town really. Or city. I can remember Las Vegas at dawn. The streets the night before a human whoring and splash of whirling lights. At 5 AM it's a desert town. No makeup. The faucet dripping from the night before, a whiskey bottle spinning on the sidewalk, the bum who looks up from his lotus position from the cement, and the lighting of that desert, spreading like a butter throughout all the toilet rinsing city. Santa Fe even finer. In this small town it's the birds awakening, owning all day at that hour.
Everyone was once a lover, even the worst. I read every morning in the local paper obituaries of people I've never known (but we have) and within those capsules are teaming life wanting still to be known as lived and shared. The woman of 50 years, knocked dead by a heart attack, never married, lived with or closeby to her parents is a world of hurt and longing, and yet finding all sorts of smaller passions for herself. I wish I had known this before she was gone. She might lift her eyes and clearly hear a friend read my poem "Passing" during his own public reading. The kindness of sharing that poem by this friend. At that moment it is his poem, then anyone's poem.
I've always read another poet in my readings. On the street readings I read easily 50% from others.
-ONE MUST BE AN INVENTOR TO READ WELL ~ EMERSON
I spoke to someone yesterday in chilly awakening town who had just attended a forum regarding 40 years ago when the Bank of America was lit up in outer Santa Barbara. Sweetheart, who has a quiet knack of being in the right places at the right time, was up in a tree during the unfolding event of some figures in nondescript clothing just showing up and suddenly inflammatory was everywhere, the bank was torched. It was going to burn. The intentions were direct. This storyteller had been there, like Sweetheart, as a student at the university...but in those great days the university had been stormed and shutdown by the students, there was business to tend to, a war to end (imagine the youthful power), a bank burned to the ground. As we drove into sleepy New England town there was a bank on the corner, never there when I was a kid. Pillars. I looked up to the sign the Bank of America. Yes, indeed, ugly enough to burn to the ground. Where is the local banker? To this day they never found who burned the California bank. A job well done.
It's a good day whenever poetry can be heard. We work in inches. Sometimes fire. It is occasionally rash and destructive, but so is burning whole villages live, whole cultures, destroying one person, all neighborhoods, town after town with no forgiveness. I've built many buildings. I never like seeing anything destroyed. No one to be hurt. And then again there is the human wave, or building, of sentiment and cause wishing to rise and care for the brutality wasted onto others.
Of course nothing beats the natural ~ so children, animals, the day dawn. The truest purveyors of what is up. We saw all ages of kids all day running and laughing and those wide expressions and an undying fearlessness and wonder.
I once wrote a poem looking out into a field and seeing a lone figure at work. It could have been me, it could have been you. The time was Spring.
It is Spring
Already you relax in a cotton skirt
Passing through mountains is a strong feeling
Fields plowed, new wood split, a hawk floating
Puffs of softwood in the gray hills
A river runs with snow melting
A small bridge neatly built to get by
There is pleasure in such places
An old woman and her huge straw hat
Raking the far corner of a hayfield
"Passing" from Where Rivers Meet, Bob Arnold
may day moonlight, photo © bob arnold