A Soviet of Sound, 1986
by SANFORD DORBIN
Here’s Sviatoslav Richter
scouting the steppes by train.
Stops ad lib in some unpromising village
& his aides have a concert organized
in an hour. A tortoise convention, full house.
The tender and tough-love way he addresses the keys
lifts their bread-and potatoes-hearts.
People who’d never heard this kind
of music before locked elbows after,
swaying in the aisles in tribute—
Richter-scale enthusiasm & away
first thing in the morning.
[NOTE: In 1986, Richter embarked on a six-month tour of Siberia with his beloved Yamaha piano, giving possibly as many as 150 recitals, at times performing in small towns that did not even have a concert hall. It is said that after one such concert, the members of the audience, who had never before heard classical music performed, gathered in the middle of the hall and started swaying from side to side to celebrate the performer. –Le monde de la musique, May 1989]
Sanford Dorbin is a retired librarian and wood cutter living in northern California. Never Enough Light: New & Selected Poems 1966-1994 was published by Igneus Press of New Hampshire in 1995.
by JAYDN DeWALD
Evenings, in the damp grass under the folding table.
Were you grappling with your loneliness, even then,
Little plastic sword across your lap?
The pine trees
Rustled in the darkness; the Coleman lantern hissed.
I remember: I would tap my father’s workboot, and
One callused hand would descend,
pinching a scrap
Of pork meat. My mother would skim her bare feet
Over the grass. Hours, watching the shadows dance
In the turnip garden,
listening on the TV to the war
In Iraq. But they had made a space for you: a chair,
A placemat. Once, against the chainlink fence, I sat
ignoring their bellowing at me,
Hot blood spurting from Agamemnon’s neck. Rain
Brought us together again: beneath a dripping eave.
Did you believe you’d find something—
a little soul—
Deep within? Mornings, and the gray lambs bleated
In the silence, in the mist. I lay under our dark coats
In the closet, my mind flittering from empty sleeve
to empty sleeve.
Jaydn DeWald, a graduate of Pacific University’s MFA program, currently lives with his wife in San Francisco, where he plays bass for the DeWald/Taylor Quintet and serves as Senior Poetry Editor for Silk Road. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bellevue Literary Review, Columbia Poetry Review, The National Poetry Review, West Branch, Witness, and many others.
Taft, California: January 10, 2013
by MATT FORD
At the base of the grapevine
You’ll find a valley which city-dwellers
Emptiness. Finally out of L.A. smog, but
You wont be able to see
Air thick with oil and pesticides
Your lungs channeling more energy
Simply to function
Unless you grew up there
Horizon dotted with rocking oil drills
Back and forth, up and down
Big white Chevy pickups
Small houses where workers live
Working to keep roaches from occupying their beds
Merle Haggard and Buck Owens
Country music on the radio stations
If you proceed west from Highway 99
Like a tumbleweed, you’ll roll into Taft
Conceived with the railroad
Nursed on oil
Still nursing on oil
Standard Oil’s corporate headquarters
Local holiday: “Oildorado”
It’s the Wild West, but rich
No labor unions rich
Named after a huge trust-busting president
A union man
Who is gnawing at the wood of his coffin
Disgusted with his name
Being used for a corporate town
His legacy ignored
Making his way back to the surface
To scorn his namesake
And that slave labor legislation of 1947
Today, a child brought a shotgun to
Taft Union High School
Carried it down Wildcat Road
Past the neighbors
To shoot two students
Now you’ve heard of Taft
It’s on the map
First school shooting of 2013
Some say guns don’t kill people
I believe that
But they wont say
Social environments create people
Who kill people
Matt Ford lives in Fresno, California. He is a history teacher, traveler, and writes poetry to stay sane.
Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)
Poets Basement is now on Facebook. Find us as http://www.facebook.com/poets.basement.
To submit to Poets Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at email@example.com with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work). Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where. For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights. Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx – use “Save As” to change docx or odt files to “.doc”). Expect a response within two months (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).
Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.
For more details, tips and suggestions, visit http://crowvoice.com/poets-basement. Thanks!