INCANDESENCE

Last evening I was attending a first literary event, called Incandesence, Burning Light of Sunfire Writers, at Fremont Correctional Facility in Canon City, 45 miles south of Colorado Springs.  The Sunfire Writers are the men in our weekly Sunfire Writers Workshop which I have facilitated for 10 years every Thursday from 1:30 to 3:30.

Last evening’s one hour event, in which 9 men, (offenders in prison official language) gave a stand up performance of poems, stories, memoirs and “writers manifestos” to a small  audience of their fellow prisoners, and a video camera. They had spent months writing and rewriting and weeks preparing and rehearsing.  Most of the men recited their work from memory; one was a 2500 word award winning short story, recited for 15 minutes, with excellence, from memory, by one of our best writers.

Big deal, huh?  You bet it was.  And for more than their courage and confidence to get up before their peers and be vulnerable, and share, their creativity, sensitivity, and intellectual prowess.  A big deal also, because after ten years of my giving the workshop, the prison officials, with the great help of Captain Q., consented to supporting the program and allowing an audience of fellow prisoners to hear the writers.

Here is what I wrote to Captain Q., this morning:

“Late evening’s literary event was a sure success, most importantly because having an audience brings full circle the work the writers create. And that helps me to motivate them to work more diligently. Writing is a lonely profession, but we write alone to share with others. If there is no one to share with, writing becomes frustrating work in a vacuum; but with an audience — usually for us writers, through journals and literary magazines, also blogs — but the FCF Sunfire Writers do not have real access to them — most of the lit magazines now require submission of material through on-line Submit services; (the Internet is forbidden to inmates) so, knowing that from time to time, that they can have an audience, a live audience to hear and appreciate their work, makes their work fulfilled and meaningful, and helps the men feel appreciated, and more confident.

“Thank you for making it all possible, and know that the real value is more than a chance to perform, the real value will occur week after week, because of acceptance, and affirmation as writers, and with new confidence, the men will grow and evolve to being better writers and better persons.

“I am so proud of the Sunfire Writers.”

SO, with April as National Poetry Month, get out there, attend a slam, support or produce a poetry event, create an audience to give appreciation for and meaningful full-circle “payment” to your writers for all they create alone and need and want an audience with whom to share their work. And go to your local Independent Bookseller, and buy two books of poetry, one for yourself, and one to give away.

 

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At 6 a.m. This Snowy Daylight Dawning

Watching the terrible news of children gassed in Syria, I could not imagine the pain and grief of the father holding his four-old daughter, looking down at her, feeling her stiff and dead body, seeing lifeless eyes. Unable to write any more than this, but wanting to offer some sense of empathy with the father, I retrieved a former poem I wrote years ago, after reading about the shelling and death of children,  in Kosovo. Sensing again their death I sense and share now this father’s grief and loss.

The newspaper photo shows a sled on red snow
in Kosovo, with the caption,
“Shelling kills six children playing in the snow”

When all this world
is white with ice and snow
cold floorboards chill my feet,
the air bites icy cold,
my shoulders hunch up for heat.

I see this life as pure and clean,
the land virgin white, the air Madonna blue,
this moment bright and fairy.
But outside my window
the street light turns from green
and now I see upon the snow
red light
RED light
RED LIGHT
From man’s own making
red light upon the snow.

Red light tinged with pink.
Red light as gurgling in the lungs.
So where are all our darling children
This day of snow and light?
I fear they lay as bright, as bright
Upon the snow, as this red light.

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Coo Cooo

Snow. We awaken to many inches of snow. And more swirling, slanting, sifting snow. Silence.

White light. A snow blows the steaming breath of many gods . How silly of me. Not many gods. But a breath of one god — a powerful snow storm, and the cars, covered with heaps and heaps of snow, sit like stranded arks in sea of white.

Branches and bushes bow and bend under the snow weight. Skinny trees stand with some branches pasted with frosting. Crack, branches break. Thud on the roof.

Car tires slice the wet street.  I hear my feet crunch the snow. I breathe out a white cloud. Snow stops. Listen. Coo Cooo, echoes from a distant tree. This dove, like Noah’s bird with an olive branch in its beak, tells us the storm has ended.

Surely, no storm lasts forever. Now go kiss a snowflake. Amen.

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Mother’s Hand

Mother’s Hand
(revised today, 4-3-2017)

So much depends on shaking out wrinkles
from this clean dry handkerchief, then
laying out this white cloth onto the ironing board.

As we lift the steam iron, so much depends on
Mother’s hand on mine, helping me
guide the point into the corner, then we
glide the iron, slowly, along the seam.

So much depends, depends
on Mother lifting away her hand,
her encouraging whisper, “Now,
turn the cloth over, press lightly —
that’s perfect.” So much depends on
setting the iron onto the metal pad.

Depends. Depends on lifting each corner
to fold the cloth over onto itself; with
Mother’s hand on mine, we
delicately iron down the fold line,
“Is that good?”
“Perfect.” I set down the iron.

So much depends on
folding this white rectangle in half again,
— as Mother lets me iron the crease —
steam puffs
cotton shines.
pressing this folded cloth
to my nose — breathing in —
smells like Mother.

When you’re five years old, with
the whole world pressed and clean
so much depends on ironing handkerchiefs,
with Mother’s hand
on your hand, forever. Amen

James Ciletti
(Thanks to W. C. Williams)

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The peppered palate

Or the Poet as Chef

When I sit down to a seven course poem
I expect the poet to serve a verbal feast
that I need a fork and knife to eat

Like tasty vowels kissing my lips —
Enjoy sliding p’s and q’s across the lines–
Sip succulent sibilant similes

Slice crunchable consonants
Munch molar masticating metaphors
Swallow easily with a digestible burp

Then say, “Now that’s a poem
You can sink your teeth into.”

(Note, I began to sauté this when at a
poetry house call, I said, “I consider myself
a sensate poet.,” A guest asked, “Why?”
I answered, “Because I write poems
that you need a knife and fork to eat.”

I’ll be re-writing this, the 2nd draft
and serve various versions,later this month,
bring your knife and fork, and a napkin.

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April is the sweetest month

April is the sweetest month and also National Poetry Month.

Some of my fellow poets have avowed to write a poem every day in April. I’d rather be helping my grapevines get ready to produce new wine in October. However, to spark my own creativity, sort of shine a flashlight beam into my ears and find out what is in there, — you know, we really have no idea what we can or will create until we take pen or brush or other tool in hand and move into the imaginative and thoughtful creative process — so

thinking that we are so arrogant to believe we can write a new poem every day, my choice is to simply write everyday, post it here, and hopefully unearth a few nuggets or fresh green onions that will sparkling and spice up our imagination or salad.

This is a misty moistly morning here Colorado Springs and I encourage all of us, this first day of April to take pen in hand, or brush or other creative instrument and make something happen with it — whether Mary flourishes out a design for a stained glass window, or Helen Hudson picks up her guitar and sings a song to the birds, or Bill Barns shares a memory of his first love affair with Italy.  DO IT, this is our gift, and spiritual grace.

With clear and chill winds fisted clusters of blossoms pink the peach trees; garlic swords point to blue sky. A song trills from our ash tree. Always, now or after the rain, damp earth assures me that life will go on;

that starlight will necklace night and a planters moon will shine on new potato plantings; onion bulbs push up green tendrils, and OH! the greening of the lawn for barefoot tickles and comfort for our eyes. YES, OH YES, this spring is the very best and sweetest. Amen.

The new curator of the Vatican art treasures assures us,
“Art is a spiritual ambassador.”

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Spring Delight

   Millionaire’s Spring Delight

Yesterday, had I been a millionaire
able to hire a gardener or two, I ‑‑
still would have knelt in the earth
and brushed back the crunchy leaves, to see,
touch, oh! green shoots of new garlic,
tulips, peonies, dandelions. . .

 

Yes, pruned scratchy rose bushes
sucked blood from my thorn‑stabbed thumb;
cut back the lower aspen branches,
plucked up the dry and dead tomato and
pepper plants, snapped off hollyhock stalks.

 

Yes, yes, even spaded the earth and
drilled my finger into the rich soil
and planted white onion bulbs. Now,
the earth under my fingernails ‑‑
curved sliver of the silvery new moon.

 

James Ciletti © March 2013

Recently published in the 2014 issue of

the Poet Laureate project’s, Poetry While You Wait.

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