This issue marks the eighth time that Birmingham Weekly has celebrated National Poetry Month by publishing the work of Alabama poets. The men and women whose work appears on these pages are but a few among dozens of practicing poets from around the state. Of particular note are two poems by Jeanie Thompson, founding director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum. “Cornbread” and “Picking Blackberries on the Walk to Colonnata” are reprinted with permission from Thompson’s fourth collection The Seasons Bear Us, just out from River City Publishing (rivercitypublishing.com).
We are proud to publish this work in keeping with the wise and vital mission of National Poetry Month, to support the efforts of American poets and to advance the art of poetry.
All of the artwork that appears alongside these poems will be on display at Space One Eleven starting on Friday, April 24, in an exhibit called "Double Wides: Photographs by Bradford Daly." Running concurrent with "Mostly Metal: Art from Sloss Furnaces," the show begins with a reception at 6 p.m. on Friday and continues through May 8. Complete details are online at www.spaceoneeleven.org
I look at water now
its silvery spill in sunlight
I can turn it on at any time
as if some of Earth were mine
wholly mine for just this instant
of the fingers’ turning and I think
of waters everywhere over Earth
roiling and spinning looming in deeps
and the little trickle in an African veldt
the saved-up cups and containers for a week
that barely equal one turn of my faucet
and the miracle lessens because of me
Lord, and how little I know to do
And how your abundance dances so before me
– Ted Haddin
ANOTHER ONE DONE GONE
Her voice stopped time.
It tore through
the disconnected din, shocked the air
like lightning before the clap
that sweet moment when all is
silent, warm, bright,
hairs bristling under collars.
– Madison Underwood
PICKING BLACKBERRIES ON THE WALK TO COLONNATA
For Daniele Spina
After the quarries, as we troop up the winding mountain road
on our way to Colonnata, Daniele spots a treat
he wants to share with us. He climbs the rock wall like a
knowledgeable bear after fruit sweet as any summer.
Later we will see the crucifix from 1584,
school of Michelangelo.
Part of me had remained in the marble tomb of the cave
at Carrara, where we learned how the blocks were cut,
and children splashed in puddles at the center of a mountain.
Those cool floors and soaring walls had invited us to stay.
We felt their spirit, forgot the world outside.
The sun glinted on marble toys and the world was still
crazy with war and death
– but here at this moment of our walk
to Colonnata, there were blackberries, sweet, staining
the fingers of our friend’s hand as he said, “Here, is a big one!”
and offered the fruit to me.
– Jeanie Thompson
DESIGNATE HOW MOTION MAKES
courage. If stillness is swallowed like vitamins
from a drugstore down the street or if something
unfed follows me home, there are no apologies.
There are bolts to latch, yes, and admonitions,
unwrappings and praise. The invisible
things are quitting. Such a sputter,
all agape with un-matched clutching and motive.
Carry everything home. I say your arms,
but I am picturing your hands. It is punishment
(or something dressed up to favor).
Movement was the sign, an apology
and a fault. No one gets the sea for life.
When you find the archway, sure-smoothed
with unclaimed pacing, there will
be a litany.
I reach for brick to mean careless, for wait
to mean balance.
– Britney Blalock
One hand-clasp thick
still springy, a young
beech fell in the forest.
Other trees heard
the sound. Fallen upon
by a rotted trunk,
and old habit maybe
or a creaking love,
something it couldn’t
escape, being rooted.
The sapling arches,
green leaves against the dirt.
I try to lift
the weight of death
and can’t. Kiss
a leaf, wish
that the twig’s last
winter will be
in the way of trees
not demise but return.
Or that it might bend
back to the sun
as beeches sometimes can.
I walk on, grateful
for once to be rootless.
YOU’RE NEVER WITH WHO YOU WANT TO BE
You’re never with who you want to be
so stand up and take your pill.
While Jill Hathaway was making hay,
her sister was making Will.
And Josephine loved a financier
while Bonaparte loved a Pole
You’re never with who you want to be
you’ve got to play a role.
When Plato came home to Mrs. Plato
she smiled at him so coy.
She might have saved herself the trouble
he much preferred a boy.
While Romeo waited for Juliet
she’s engaged to anoterh man.
You’re never with who you want to be,
it’s part of nature’s plan
When Antony died, he called for Cleo
while making his dying gasp,
but she’s up in a tower taking her ease
and lying down with an asp.
While Caesar was up in Gaul with his army,
dividing it with his life,
three men in Rome were drawing straws
dividing up Caesar’s wife.
The time will come when you’ve left your Frankie
and run off with Nellie Bly, but while you’re embracing
her eye will light on someone passing by.
So as you lead the parade of life
the band plays just one tune.
You’re going to be with the one you want
when Christmas comes in June.
– Andrew Glaze
No one here
but you and me and perfect
in its iron skillet.
On the stove beside it, turnip
greens bubble, essential
to such union.
No other human,
just dog and woman
on Sunday night, alone.
I’ve proven the theorem
again, equation of
salt, baking soda, and powder
into one cup of meal, one
egg, and the buttermilk
I sniff, still okay five days past,
it’s tangier, just right.
Here’s the tricky part: heat
shortening in the skillet
as the oven temperature rises.
Be patient – work slowly –
and when the grease is hot, it will
bind the mixture, make the crisp
coat firm. Sixteen minutes
and it’s turned out like a dancer
on the green ceramic plate.
You get the first bite.
I kneel and pull apart the thin
wedge I’ve cut for you.
Just a dog.
Eye to eye,
remember when someone
told the puppies to hush?
Did you catch
a steaming ball of corn dough
in your dream?
Lick my fingers – it’s that good.
When he returns –
his hand, too.
– Jeanie Thompson
I am invincible, armed
with modern plastic pencils instead
of the freshly-sharpened weapons
wielded by my predecessors. But I am sick
of slipping fingers and lead that shatters
at the point of no return. I want to unhinge
secrets of meaning and madness, rhythm
and rhyme. I want to describe just-so
the pinkish tinge of my backpack, the texture
of three bunnies who boogie
above the zipper but these moments drown
in a sea of tinny voices:
A for apple
B for ball
C for cat
perched on the wall where my
Abstract Brain Crashes
ma, me, mi, mo, mu ooze
mermaids might motivate
musicians.To do what? Funny
how phonics fails to flood
the mind. Vowel and consonant should slip away
for coffee and stolen kisses
not a pre-printed, cartoon on cardboard
arranged marriage. C-A-T. Cat. A sound born
of meow and sly eyes. Sharp angular edges. Soft
center, like Alli’s kitty whose razor claws
conceal a purr. Today I chew
my plastic dagger and try to capture
the feline’s arched spine
in a linguistic snapshot. I play hide
and seek with that perfect word, crouching
just out of reach, but lead snaps
– Sarah Wilkening
The last time I saw her at the river
It flowed beneath us in an unseen stream
That passed me by with a wintry shiver
I saw no water moving but a dream
I thought yes I heard a nightingale cry
When the moon projected hours so golden
Set against the blackest pines and curtained sky
Its unseen wind came to ground so cold then
The rivery moon drew across my eye
In such a cold dark light encoded I
Hated to see the current carry her by
Longed for the high fern banks the river eroded
When we meet on that moonlight river
Tell me who’s the given, who’s the giver?
– Stephen Humphreys
HOMAGE TO THE LANGUAGE OF BASEBALL
If three-fingers Brown throws a yakker to Sweetbreads Bailey ?
Will Captain Hook plead for a Lawrence Welk ?
Jumping Joe and Shufflin’ Phil ride the pine pony?
And Boom Boom Beck sits in the hole ?
While Jittery Joe prays for dying quails ?
Because there is no room at the inn ?
Half Pint Rye has the best stank eye in ?
The Show ?
Motormouth Blair yells at Blind Tom who calls?
Balls and cement mixers which
Oil Can throws for Baltimore chops ?
Can Pig Pen Dwyer dial eight and can Mother Watson make a ?
Good leading lady ?
Only if Uncle Charlie flies by Gettysburg Eddie ?
While Steamboat Williams and his skillet are hoping ?
for a ?
Can of corn ?
And no one makes a Merkle boner ?
The Dead Milkman is listening to chin music ?
And it is time for Preacher Rowe to convert ?
Kickapoo Ed ?
Who is out of ?
– Philip R. Theibert