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Archive for January, 2009

The darkness of the world often makes me want to howl at the moon.  Starving children in Haiti.  A woman whose life has been shattered by rape.  A man bleeding on the side of the road.  The list of injustice and suffering goes on and on.  All of the hurt sometimes seems too much to handle.

But every now and then, something comes along to shatter the darkness.  A voice of humanity, one that says, hell yeah, it can be dark, but I’ve got to keep going.  That’s what the poetry of Christopher Cunningham means to me.

I’ve been a fan of Christopher Cunningham’s work for quite a while now.  He’s certainly not a newcomer and has had several publications, including Screaming in Some Beauty, Flowers in the Shadow of the Storm, Thru the Heart of This Animal Life, A Measure of Impossible Humor, and many more.

In A SOUND TO DRIVE AWAY THE COMING DARKNESS, Cunningham once again displays a mastery of language with clean, smooth lines.  Yet each line is lyrical, each verse is a beautiful song unto itself.  Already, I have dog eared the book from reading it so many times.

The poems in this book are not “starry eyed,” nor do they deny the darkness.  In his poem outsiders, the dog is behind a fence on a short leash in a cold rain.

“there is no help

in

the darkness

of the deluge.”

But I love the fact that the dog does not whimper.  He does not curl up and die.  The dog’s lungs are strong.  Even when he battles the wind and the thunder and no one hears, he does not stop.  And as the powerful ending of the poem tells us,

“the chain

shines

when the lightning

flashes.”

I will never forget the image of that shining chain in the darkness.

The poems in this book realistically portray the darkness, the human search for answers, the human quest to find the light.  In looking for meaning where there is none, the sun is

“an ugly tumor

in the

baleful sky.”

Yet the narrator is alive.

“that is

something,

anyway

in this

season

of

dust.”

Cunningham’s poem, the capacity to be stunned by grace, reveals to the reader the sound that will drive away the coming darkness.  Laughter!  Who could not love that?  Who could not love a poet who has the capacity to laugh when peering into the barrel of the loaded darkness?

Cunningham’s sense of humor can also be seen in poems like the salad is too damn wet.  We can all relate to those disappointments of life, and the human reaction:

“we want the best,

we want the topnotch,

we want the giddiness,

we want the joy.

and we are almost certain

that

nothing can

go

wrong.

.

and then it does.”

.

Still, we eat the soggy salad anyway.  Because that is what we must do.

I cannot help but think of one of the most powerful scenes in western literature when I read this book–the final scene from The Grapes of Wrath.  Even when the water is rising and all is lost, there is the struggle to survive.  The small ones do not give up.  In Cunningham’s world, a homeless Vietnam vet makes choppers out of discarded soda cans.  A murder of crows rises up through the gloom like a black sun.  There is hope.  There is life.

I could write an essay about each one of the wonderful poems in this book.  However, I should let you check it out for yourself.  A SOUND TO DRIVE AWAY THE COMING DARKNESS can be purchased  at alt-current.com for ($6 + $2 shipping in US, $3 shipping outside of US) by clicking HERE.

You can also send cash, check, or money order (made out to Alternating Current) to:

Alternating Current PO Box 398058, Cambridge MA 02139 USA, or Paypal the complete amount to the email address alt.current@gmail.com.

You can also check out Christopher’s work at Guerilla Poetics Project.

A SOUND TO DRIVE AWAY THE COMING DARKNESS is well worth the low price.  I tip my hat to you, Christopher Cunningham.  Your words have been a great light during some of my darkest days.

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This post is in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. .It is so important that we remember his work and the many others who have suffered from the hands of hate. .

I think it’s a mistake when people say “that was then and not now” or “that was them and not us.”. Evil knows no geographic borders, and it is not contained to one microcosm of time..

****

I gave the girl a name and added St. Ginny’s Molasses Feed and the modern day ending for this poem. .

The rest was told to me as a true story by an elderly lady who said she had lived near the girl. . The girl was about twelve and mentally challenged. . She thought she was being punished for stealing. .

According to the lady, the story never made the papers, and there was no investigation.  After the girl grew up, she became known as “crazy,” because she sang to herself all the time..


The Barn at the End of the Road

.

is where five men in white hoods

raped a black girl named Belinda.

.

Folks said she was slow,

retarded, just didn’t know.

Her only sin was when

she took molasses cookies

.

that were cooling

on a white lady’s

open window sill.

.

The sun was red and low

on her dusty oak road

.

when she heard the dark

rumble of hooves

.

and thought maybe

judgment angels

swooped down upon her

in crisp white sheets.

.

Little Belinda Sunshine

who sang solos so sweet

the preacher let her ring

the church bells each week

.

was carried to a barn

where she tasted

sawdust and blood,

.

where she smelled

the stench of old whiskey

tobacco and hate,

.

where she felt

the scorching flames

when they pounded down

the doors of her temple.

.

She was found the next day

mule leather around her face

singing Amazing Grace

covered in pig shit next to

.

a hundred pound bag of

St. Ginny’s Molasses Feed.

.

Now fifty years later,

the road does not end.

There is no barn, only

big houses, shiny cars.

.

But if you walk

to the park

where the children

spin round and round,

.

you’ll still hear the

wind-creaky screams

of a good little girl

who went to hell

for stealing cookies.

.

Not even bulldozers

can scrape away

sins in old barns.

.

Not even time

can blow away

the retribution

for lost souls.

.

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

.


.

.

.

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My poem, The Fall of Miss Sopa, Eater of Clay, has been published in Poiesis #2.   There are excellent poets included in this edition.  The featured writer is J.J. Campbell.

Edited by leah angstman of Propoganda Press/Alternating Current, Poiesis proves that there are wonderful editors left in the world.  I’m not just saying that to suck up, either!  I’d still think she was awesome, even if I didn’t get accepted.

leah has a genuine concern for poets and the promotion of their work.  Perhaps that is because of her own experience as a poet/writer, editor, publisher, musician, actor, and visual artist who has been in the small press and underground art movement for over fifteen years.  But I think leah’s concern is also because of her heart and compassion as a person..That heart makes a big difference for me when deciding which journals to promote or where to send my dollars.

Copies can be purchased here or through the mail for $4 (plus $3 shipping) via cash, check, or money order made out to Alternating Current, PO Box 398058, Cambridge MA 02139 USA, or via PayPal with the email address alt.current@gmail.com.

You can check out more of the titles available through Propoganda Press here.  I have just written a review for an amazing book by Christopher Cunningham, and I will share it with you here soon.

Poets promoting each other’s work–sharing, reading, and learning.. Ain’t that what it’s all about?

So please…check out the poets who have work published by leah and also support good small presses like this one!  I know I plan on ordering more of the poets I see in the catalog.  And maybe an extra copy of Poiesis #2 for Mama :D

.

.

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Breathing Poetry

My poem, We Leave the Beaches for Tourists, is up at Breathing Poetry (January 13 post).. A new poem is posted every day. . Thanks so much, Nancy!

I see some awesome poets I know over there.  .Holly Dunlap of Lost Kite, Juliet Wilson of Crafty Green Poet, and Rachel Westfall of The Waxing Moon.

Another friend, K. Lawson Gibert of Old Mossy Moon just found out her poem is over there, too.  Congratulations on a well deserved honor, K!

There may be other people I know over there, and it’s always great to check out people I haven’t met yet.. So I’m headed back over to read some more right now!

Please hop over there and see this beautiful site.

..

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Feral Girl

Headlines: Feral Girl Found

Wandering Davis Island, July, 1976

. Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

.

Maybe eight-years-old and she didn’t know

who had shown her how to find the sweet

little clams on the bay side of the island.

.

She didn’t know what teacher taught her

the time to mend nets for schools of mullet

is when white butterflies swirl on the shore.

.

She didn’t know if some soft voice told her

what wild stew onions grew where,

or if hands other than her own

had made the bow and arrow.

Who showed her how to shoot a goose,

pull the feathers with a whisper, start a fire?

.

Maybe feral girls are just born

knowing those things.

.

She barely remembers a scent called Mother.

But she can remember the wind,

the day the tide almost sucked her away.

She did know it was hot, then cold,

four or five times, and wild, pretty ponies

make best friends after they bite her hand.

.

She knew the old shack wasn’t abandoned

with her in it, and the pee pot smelled better

if she soaked it in the ocean.

.
They called her a green eyed savage

(she did know how to fight).

Doctors were shocked when she told them

she had taught herself to read, to write.

.

They released her to an old couple

who didn’t like her smell or touch.

They wondered why the only

wild animal that made her howl

was the television when it hissed on.

.

They wondered why she was so dirty

in new pink dresses, why she pissed

on all the dolls that first Christmas.

Or why she never learned how

to not speak her mind

so she stayed quiet.

.

The old man learned that feral girls

can be useful; they don’t cry and can

climb the riggings of a shrimp boat,

hang high and work upside down,

walk on salt with tough tar heels.

.

At fourteen, she could hoist a winch

like a man, had an exact map of currents,

moons and tides inside her head.

Her nets were always heavy.

.
As she grew, so did the piles of paperwork,

dissertations they presented, police reports,

drug abuse, truancies, runaway A.P.B.’s,

needles, medications, abstracts, objectives,

psychological profiles and probes.

.

It had been nine long years

and still she kicked their cubicles,

rolled her eyes, bit their soft hands,

ran from a world full of highways.

.
The smallest thing of all tamed her.

Somehow, she knew just how

to hold her daughter gently,

to be careful of the sweet, soft spot.

.
The doctors published their final papers,

took a trip to the Bahamas, never came back.

As time washed by, she tried so hard

to bury those salt crusted thoughts

beneath her daughter’s shiny, wooden floors.

.
But every now and then, a reporter

comes knocking at her door.

Then she has to wander back

to those Outer Banks, where she

rides wild ponies, where she sees

the glint of periwinkles in the tide.

.

She feels the pounding passion

of white, hot sand, tastes the salty

love of an oyster and hopes

some faint scent in the curling waves

will foam up and stay with her forever

.

on that wild, lonely,

and quickly eroding shore.

.

.

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