Monday, July 25, 2016

Playing with Words

Montana’s History Lesson

Bulky Pompei’s Pillar
Towers over Yellowstone's Rivering,
A rugged brown bluff
Engraved with historic graffiti

With Clark’s signatur'd
Declaration still writ large
Behind Plexiglas for us to gawk,
But Lewis ended it all;

Still the icy water courses on
Toward our Big Muddy
Finally down to the Gulf,
Each of us a brief tag
In this
Muddled flow of history.

-Daniel Wilcox
First pub. in Lunarosity

"...history provides much evidence to show that the minds of poets have functioned like antennae."

"Poets express the beliefs, hopes, and ambitions that are eventually recognized by everyone. Ultimately, these values become part of a nation’s sense of identity."

"We learn what common experiences unite their people. We learn what they cherish from the past and what they aspire to in the future.
The practical language of the elected legislator [and the historian] supplies the record; the imaginative language of the [poet and novelist] gives that record both its meaning and its spiritual dimensions."

"But no matter how seriously we take these discussions of poetry, we must remember that poetry is also a form of playing...
with words, rhymes, and using their imaginations...the play of meanings...
the simplest kind of play with meanings is punning.
"The Elements of Poetry"
John Malcom Brinnin

Here is a playful rendition to nature, history, and human wording by a former teaching colleague
of ours at Perris High School in California:

Perris Valley

by Larry Yohn*

Join me now in seeing the beautiful playing of beings all around us,
Expressively sharing the biosphere of earth with us.

Dolphins frolicking, dashing spray at sea,
Squirrels with their tails flowing, leaping tree to tree,

An elk stag bugling, sounding his love call,
Peregrine falcons mating in free fall;

A timber wolf cocking her head quizzically,
Tiger cubs cuffing, sprawling clumsily;

Penguins popping up on the ice flow,
Humming birds hovering, darting to and fro;
A big dog bounding high to catch a Frisbee,
Kittens with their tiny claws having an unquilting bee;

Thoroughbreds at the gate, tossing their heads a prancing,
Elephants trumpeting, in the jungle dancing;

Otters sliding down the mud slide,
A white whale sounding, breaching high an’ wide.

All kinds of play are found round the world,
From chess in the Ukraine to bull fights in Spain,

From Olympic Games with banners furled,
To Death Games amid sand grains at El Alamein,

Yes, play is a word we use every which way,
From gun play to sword play to word play to foreplay,

From gamboling lambs in a meadow in May
Or a gambling man in old Santa Fe,

One space to play in,
One place to fly free south of L.A.

And in from the sea, diving away from the D.C.3,
High in the wind over Perris Valley, valley, valleeee, Perris Valleeee.

I close my eyes and see people at play,
Age in the night to this day:

A batter swinging in the box,
A climber reaching on the rocks,

A skier swooshing by on skis,
A glider gliding in the breeze,

A biker pumping by on a bike,
A tyke pedaling on a trike,

A bird watcher watching birds,
A poet stringing together words,

A caver torching in a cave,
A surfer riding on a wave,

A marathoner running the race,
A poker player playing an ace,
A gambler rolling on the table two dice,
A skater twirling on the ice,

A soap box speaker being verbose,
A late night comic being gross,
A gymnast swinging on the rings,
A guitarist playing on the strings,

Skydivers swooping to the formation,
[A band playing the National Anthem]

Chuck Anderson- yellow, Al Krueger - orange, Tom Henley - blue, Larry Yohn - black.
Photo by Carl Boenish

*From AP Wire:
"NOVEMBER 14, 1999
POMONA, Calif. (AP) - A parachutist died after crash landing into a guard
wall of a race track during opening ceremonies Sunday for the...NHRA Finals."

"Lawrence Yohn, 59...was part of a four-person team that
parachuted onto the Pomona Raceway as part of pre-race ceremonies...
The national anthem was playing while Yohn made his
jump onto the track."

"Yohn was a skydiving instructor at Perris Airport Sport Parachuting Center
and an Aztec Sky Diving Team member. He had jumped more than 2,500 times...
a 1-legged jumper who taught high school, and was an avid reader. Yohn lost his
leg in India on a motor scooter 30 years ago."

Under the Sky World

Under the sky world
Below the sloshing white caps,
Liquid life undulates down through
The watery sphere’s domain;

Deep down under

A soft brilliance of rays from
Above strike silver lines down
Through the deepening green
While strange denizens move in
Rhythmic concertos;

Deep down under

A great turtle flippers alone, dull-jade submarine;
Then sheened orchestras of under creatures
Tuna, halibut, and cod their way
In a Strauss waltz west with the current;

Deep down under

Snorkeling deeper,
Finned life multiplies to the seventh
Wide oceans crowded round,
Translucent, entrailed, scaled and numinous;
Scuttling down to endless flips of tail
Iridescent, orange, purple, yellow;

Deep down under

Suddenly spades-black ink billows out
Deep in the guts of the world’s water
To the side of the neon coral,
So mused reefs,
Expanding, darkening the undermost

Deep down under

Arms, arms, arms, and arms—
Many a league,
The fabled

--Daniel Wilcox

First pub. in The Greensilk Journal

Art Clasps

A Monet moment
splashes in vibrancy--

yellow-orangish irises
rise from blue and green
130 years after the paint.

Below the beauty

But the impractical clasping
of the momentary irises

by impressed paintbrush strokes,

scintillating eye glances

and shimmering lights up for us to see,

saved from
the oblivion of another time and place.

Likewise a fellow traveler, I clasp words

to this sheet, my own flat canvas--irised memories

For new eyes

-Daniel Wilcox
First pub. in Mississippi Crow Magazine

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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