“Little Morning Prose Poem” by Mick Albright

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The chill air is coming in through the window this morning fresh from its frolick down the mountain; it’s damp and crisp and carrying the scent of pine on its back, fall grass, and blue spruce. The muted chirping of small birds tells me they are farther away than they seem. I can hear the sound of tires on the Interstate, miles away; it’s a warm thrumming. There’s another sound out there; a tight barking: I’d say prairie dog, but it’s bigger. A raven, too, is playing on the windstream, whorls of wisdom for the Wanderer. I feel…not “other-than”; but, rather, “part-of”, “one-with”; laying here with Nature’s “good morning” rustling the hairs on my chest, knowing the best part of it all is the recognition of belonging.

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“I Want to Say”…a Poem by Natalie Goldberg

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Galaxy Petunias. Photographer unknown. (Pinterest)

Before I’m lost to time and the midwest
I want to say I was here
I loved the half light all winter
I want you to know before I leave
that I liked the towns living along the back of the Mississippi
I loved the large heron filling the sky
the slender white egret at the edge of the shore
I came to love my life here
fell in love with the color grey
the unending turn of seasons

Let me say
I loved Hill City
the bench in front of the tavern
the small hill to the lake
I loved the morning frost on the bell at New Albin
and the money I made as a poet
I was thankful for the white night
the sky of so many wet summers
Before I leave this world of my friends
I want to tell you I loved the rain on large store windows
had more croissants here in Minneapolis
than the French do in Lyons
I read the poets of the midwest
their hard crusts of bread dark goat cheese
and was nourished not hungry where they lived
I ate at the edges of state lines and boundaries
Know I loved the cold tap of bare branches against the windows
know there there will not be your peonies in spring
wherever I go
the electric petunias
and your orange zinnias

– Natalie Goldberg

(from Good Poems, American Places, Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor, as heard on The Writer’s Almanac; Penguin, 2012)

(Originally published in Top of My Lungs, Poems and Paintings by Natalie Goldberg, Overlook Press, 2002)

Smoke Glass Stained Bright Colors, A Stream-of-Conciousness Poem by Mick Albright

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Smoke Glass Stained Bright Colors

Mick A. Quinn, 2017


I wanna touch the earth. I wanna take it in my hands. I wanna grow something wild and unruly. I wanna sleep on the hard ground, in the comfort of your arms, on a pillow of blue bonnets, under a blanket made of stars…It’s thundering. I’m a tad psychotic. The A/C is off. I hate this coffee. Nothing tastes good. My bird finger is blue. I think I lost five pounds. Having a hairy chest makes a cool day feel like Hell’s armpit. I started cataloging the books in my library. I have a lot of books. I miss my daughter. I miss my grandson. The house is haunted by a nasty ghost. I put licorice on my thumb. I need more friends closer to my age. I prayed for the world today. The haze from the wildfires has been slowly dissipating. When I think about Virginia Woolf I get depressed. I think too much about anodynes, and salves, and balms in Gilead. And Anne Sexton haunts me with her shock of black hair. I wanna sleep on the hard ground, in the comfort of your arms, on a pillow of blue bonnets, under a blanket made of stars, oh, it sounds good to me. Bipolar people can’t be alone. Yellow like fresh butter. It’s the only color I want, like the offstripe of a bumblebee, a little old lady’s tea room, or a Daisy button. The color of red wine is good, too. Burgundy or maroon, deeper than a bruise, but lighter than dead blood. I can’t relate to other humans. Bipolar people have to be alone. I got my love, and I took it down. Climbed a mountain and I turned around. And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills, then the landslide brought me down. Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Mmm, mmm, mmm. My new sheets are dove grey, like absolution; or city puddle water—they are a thousand thread count; they kept touching me at Dawn and wouldn’t let me get out of bed. The dawn sun was a fuzzy peach. Sail into tomorrow, living day to day, that’s all I can afford to do, and all I’ll ever pay…is a song to sing to thank you, for making me alive, and a prayer to bring you comfort, Lord, help us to survive. I feel closed in. What I don’t want I have. What I want I can’t find. I think I’ve been abducted by aliens. I miss my old wood-burning fireplace. I want to fuck that big hairy hunter in that Pam Houston story, right there astride his pleasure on that bear rug, burnt red in the firelight where we’d never run out of wood. I want a pair of Stevie Nicks’ velvet high-heeled boots. And her black, ribboned tambourine. Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, cause I built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, children get older. And I’m getting older too. I want electric. Like Walt Whitman electric. Wise and far-reaching, pale pink, eggshell, moody blues. I want a kiss from time. A long kiss, tongue included. Drink me and know me, I’ll say to time. And time will chuckle and float away like a gold cloud, blurred and dusty. I’ve looked at clouds from both sides, now, from up and down, and still, somehow, it’s cloud illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all. I want love to take on flesh, like the Christ claims He did; put on flesh, and come and find me, deep in the evergreens; tethered to a mountain; nothing but stones to eat and river water to drink. Come and find me and let me eat of thy flesh, and drink of thy blood, love. Don’t be dark. Don’t be edgèd. Don’t be silent. Don’t swaddle me in expectation. But enter me, the same. When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know. No walls. Put me in a room with four sides of stacked books…they may not be as sturdy, but they are easier to stare down, blankly, and, if they come tumbling down and crush my five-foot-7-inch frame—well, at least I’ll die being smothered by something I love. Little boys are always trying to be grown men. I believe it was Cormac McCarthy who said that, three—no, four—times. Be good, little cowboy. God may not be listening anymore. All your teachers have blown away, like dust in the wind. The evening light still dies with the sun. But, Oz never did give nothing to the Tinman, that he didn’t, didn’t already have. And cause never was the reason for the evening. Or the tropic of Sir Galahad. So, please…It’s raining now, cold drops on my back and my bare butt, my pale feet; it’s wetting the hair on my arms and my chest—sweet, Rocky Mountain rain… Who needs salvation…when you can kiss the tip of every mountain? So, please…believe in me, when I…say I’m spinning round, round, round, round, smoke glass stained bright colors ooo image going down, down, down, down, soapsud green like bubbles oooo…

(C)2017 by Mick A. Quinn. All Rights Reserved.

[Acknowledgements: “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks; “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac; “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks; “Sail Into Tomorrow” by Olivia Newton-John; “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell, “Tinman” by America.]

 

Rain-washed, a Poem by Mick Albright, 2017

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Rain-washed

Today, wool-grey
Rain leans into its
Falling; every struck
Surface sings, a
Needle-song of plinks
and plings. And
Hollow things pull
Apart—red and naked
Like a heart.

Accept this rain-washed
Art. Every stroke
Untethers hope and
Flings it, flying,
Toward the Sun.

There is nothing that
Remains undone.

Heaviness falls, the
Rain cries,
Like Sin, wheeling.

Summer, now, a
Withered petal-
Dream of crisper air.
Heft and harrow disappear.
Little mirror-drops,
Languish like stars on the
Roof of my car. And
Light’s promise is
Crawling, like a
Thief at night,
Quietly away.

Mick A. Quinn
Lone Tree, Colorado
August 24, 2017

(C)2017 by Mick A. Quinn. All Rights Reserved.

Why You Shouldn’t Delay Reading The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson…

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There are various editions of Dickinson’s Complete Poems. This is my favorite edition, numbered by Thomas H. Johnson.

‘I’m embarrassed by how long I resisted Emily Dickinson’s “Complete Poems,” and I’m struck by how much my copy means to me now. As a daft young punk I too often sought out reckless emotion and vulgar effects, the same way one sometimes wants, when callow and feckless, to date a person with obvious physical attributes. Dickinson’s famous line — “I’m nobody! Who are you?” — is not what you want to hear when you are younger than 30, or, in my delayed maturity, closer to 40. It should have helped, but did not, when one of my favorite high school English teachers, Donald Glancy, explained that you could sing nearly all of Dickinson’s verse to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

I keep a commonplace book, a place where I write down passages that matter to me from the books I read. It’s packed with Dickinson, from her poems and her letters. These lines come to me, in my daily life, both in their intended contexts and quite far out of them. She explains why we read: “I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.” She underscores my sense of what it is like to watch cable news: “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain.”

She suggests what I am thinking when I order a Negroni:

“Bring me the sunset in a cup.” She catches why gay marriage took so long: “The Truth must dazzle gradually/Or every man be blind.” Her sarcasm rings down the ages: “They say that ‘home is where the heart is.’ I think it is where the house is, and the adjacent buildings.”

Few writers circled religion with more wary alertness: “They say that God is everywhere,” she said, “and yet we always think of Him as somewhat of a recluse.” She wrote: “The only commandment I ever obeyed — ‘Consider the Lilies.’ ” And:

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church;
I keep it, staying at Home,
With a Bobolink for a Chorister,
And an Orchard, for a Dome.

I could not stop for Emily Dickinson, but she kindly stopped for me. Her raw, spare, intense poetry was written as if carved into a desktop. Now that I am older and somewhat wiser, what I prize about Dickinson is that she lives up to her own observation:
“Truth is so rare, it is delightful to tell it.”

(from an article by Dwight Garneraug published in The New Yorker, August 2015)
(Art: Pinterest)

‘Whitmanesque’ Meets ‘Dickinsonian’ in the Poetry of the Dickman Twins

One August afternoon, Michael and Matthew Dickman boarded a bus in Lents, the working-class neighborhood in southeast Portland, Oregon, where they grew up. Michael, who is six feet one and a half inches, with pale, freckled skin, sandy hair, and blue-green eyes behind glasses, and who was wearing a frayed blue shirt and a blue sun hat, slid into a seat toward the back of the bus. Matthew, who is six feet two, with pale, freckled skin, sandy hair, and blue-green eyes behind glasses, and who was wearing a black T-shirt, sank into a seat close by. It was hot outside, and the bus, which was headed downtown, offered refuge from the arid intersection where they had been waiting: Ninety-second and Foster, where a junk-filled antique store with “Closing Down” signs in its windows faced off against the New Copper Penny, an establishment that offered ladies’ nights, and was considerably more tarnished than its name suggested.

The bus had barely swung into traffic when a stocky woman in shorts, with stringy, bleached hair, got up from her seat and stumbled toward Michael, clutching a Big Gulp. “I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, grasping a pole near Michael for support. “But are you guys twins?”

It is a question that the Dickmans are used to hearing, though it seems to be asked ritualistically, rather than in a genuine spirit of inquiry: the brothers, who are thirty-three, are each other’s double, but for that half inch in height, and for slight, shifting distinctions in body weight, haircut, and eyewear. (Matthew currently favors glasses with squared-off black rims; Michael’s glasses, which have dark-brown rims, are marginally more ovoid.)

“You’re so cute!” the woman on the bus said, gazing at the brothers.

“He’s cuter,” Matthew replied, with practiced graciousness.

Eventually, the woman returned to her seat, and started discussing twins with the driver. “They’re telepathic, you know,” she said. Several other passengers turned to assess the brothers, who bore the scrutiny of delighted strangers with the resigned equanimity typically shown by famous actors who have forgone Bel Air sequestration.

Michael and Matthew Dickman are poets, and though the subject matter of each is varied, they often draw from a similar well of images and experiences: the rough neighborhood of their youth, with its violent fathers, beleaguered mothers, and reckless, neglected kids. Their verse, though, is strikingly different. Michael’s poems are interior, fragmentary, and austere, often stripped down to single-word lines; they seethe with incipient violence. Matthew’s are effusive, ecstatic, and all-embracing, spilling over with pop-cultural references and exuberant carnality. “Kings,” which appears in Michael Dickman’s first collection, “The End of the West,” just published by Copper Canyon, describes the twins’ contemporaries in Lents, exalted and downtrodden:

They used to be good at being alive,
pointing their index fingers at
the trees, passing
invisible sentences
proclamations
knighting the birds
one by one
All down my street the new fathers
beat the kingness
out
of the
kings

In “Lents District,” which appears in “All-American Poem,” a collection published this past fall, Matthew Dickman also memorializes the neighborhood:

Dear Lents, dear 82nd avenue, dear 92nd and Foster,
I am your strange son.
You saved me when I needed saving,
your arms wrapped around
my bassinet like patrol cars wrapped around
the school yard
the night Jason went crazy—
waving his father’s gun above his head,
bathed in red and blue flashing lights,
all-American, broken in half and beautiful.

In Michael’s poems, a lot of things are described as dead: a cigar, hair, friends. In Matthew’s poems, hurried sexual encounters upstairs at parties recur. (“And probably not with the same girl,” Carl Adamshick, another Portland poet and a friend of the brothers, says.) Reading Michael is like stepping out of an overheated apartment building to be met, unexpectedly, by an exhilaratingly chill gust of wind; reading Matthew is like taking a deep, warm bath with a glass of wine balanced on the soap dish. “There’s something of the pugilist in Michael,” Major Jackson, another poet friend of the brothers, says. “There is something hard-edged and tough about the speakers in his poems. Matthew has such a big heart; he has very lush, surprising turns in his work.” The poet Dorianne Laux, who has been a mentor to both Dickmans, says, “Michael is a Nureyev—each movement is articulated—but Matthew is a whirling dervish.”

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Dawn, A Love Poem by Mick Albright, 2017

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Dawn

It’s more than the flower–
although every pale petal is important
if this incantation is to breathe;
stand; lift up its leg; and
dance. It’s even more
than all the honeyed light
spilling in folds from
the spoon of the Sun—
(stamen; anther;
filament; ovule)
all moist and chanting to
the goddess of devotion;
a few drips for the
roots, too,
for hope.

These are delicate words.

New, like the blue of your eye,
just before it closes in sleep;
when the last look we share
fades till morning, and
I’m still awake pondering
aquamarine, turquoise,
robin’s-egg.

It’s more about the way
the flower leans,
east, at dawn’s edge;
no need for time spent
considering options;
only bend, receive,
partake.

It’s more about the way
sunshine triggers
transformation
from warm white light,
into something sweet,
and beckoning love
alight.

Existence itself murmurs:

“This is not about a beginning;
or an ending. This
is desire, resting,
at last,
on the soft, daily bounty.

“This is the morning, noon, and night
of it all—
two things, merging;
trembling; moments full,

now, as you take to heart
this newness—this
pink-petalled blurring between
love as tether
and love
as wing.”

– Mick Albright

(C) 2017. All Rights Reserved.