rootes in solide erthe & 2 other poems

Le Meschacèbè (Palmer in the Pocket)

                                                              For Jo Beth Britton

The river pours out of the Peabody Hotel
through a lobby fountain full of ducks
cotton floats on barges through the air
sky sweeps down to the sea
cloud wind bellows across the oxbow lakes
abandoned by the river where it turned
away in its elegant course
le Meschacébé

& the Corps of Engineers can’t do nothin’ about it
when the river changes course again
when the flood waters rise whole villages move
when the flood waters rise above the natural levee
delta sea-foam spreads humus across the valley
rich oleaginous loam
fish swept between trees slipt through houses in outer
space and hid in the clouds of stars
rivertopped houses soaked in nutrients at roots
pike crushed to fish meal beneath their feet
pushed south from lakes up north
downriver by floodwaters cold
to a Delta visible from Mars
& when the waters receded
the first mounds appeared

Eros is possibility
& the most erotic unleashes the most possibility
Le Meschacébé flicks its tongue into the moon

mother out of which flows
tap water ice car washes
the senseless articulated by a migrant thrush
jays squawking in the fields below the crescent
gulls swirl across the grass, sweep and return
sweep and return
searching for seeds

& all the water in the world rushes down, the people
crushed atop their houses
one hundred miles above the river’s mouth
or 300, where Monroe now stands & Sonny Boy
broadcast blues
live over mythic radio
in the valley known as the Delta
Ouragan stroke
when the Corps blew the levee
the world disappeared
and Houston Stackhouse levied the blues

“The first time I heard Muddy’s “Flood,”
wrote Robert Palmer
“I remembered
an afternoon, years before, when I felt
an overcast sky
dropping lower and lower, increasing
a peculiarly disturbing
pressure I could feel
in my blood. I was sure
the heavens were going to pour down
rain and lightning bolts at any moment.
But the storm never came—
it was inside me, a perception of a gathering
emotional storm
that I’d unconsciously projected
into the cloudy skies.”

I didn’t know it was history
I just thought it was great music
poetry pushed through a guitar’s neck
blasted out of a sound hole
a taste of the best basting
a drum ever took
roasted pearls of twilight
scratched into the sky

Night Notes, an Email

                                              to Kathleen Kraus

Patricia's birthday is tomorrow &
I guess we're going to have to find a way
to celebrate after all.   I mean,
for better or worse, the day of her birth
brought some joy into my life.
We got it bad.
We're in Memphis. Our neighborhood
is probably under water. Our house
might not be standing. Patricia's school
might be the one we heard
had been destroyed. We'd just gone
into her studio to make sure
a particular photograph was
off the floor. Our lives have been changed,
 "changed utterly," as Yeats put it
"a terrible beauty is born"
The city is 80% under water.
Our town, across a very large lake,
is also under water.
We had just bought the house in April.
It is also possibly
under water. It might have been reduced
to a foundation slab. We don't know
and won't for a few days
We think we'll probably stay near the Delta
until martial law is lifted in Slidell.
Our house is in one of the worst hit
neighborhoods. But I was thinking about the little house
on Jourdan
and my dear friend Kathleen...
we're using wifi at a coffeeshop here.
Red Roof Inn rocks.
They let us bring in our dogs & parakeets!
Oh, you know the score,
our whole town
was built on what used to be wetland,
used to be lagoon, used to be water.
now water wants it all back.
The storm they said could happen has happened,
and please let there NOT be another one next week.
No matter what happens to the physical city,
the spirit that created the second line will never die.
We'll be ok even if our house is totaled.
I wasn't ready to let go yet. We'd only been there four months—
with no New Orleans across the lake,
there is little in St. Tam, even for Patricia,
who has spent most of her life there—
As refugees we're not doing too badly,
You are a joy. Don't forget that.
Don't lose touch.
            in the wake of Hurricane Katrina

rootes in solide erthe

feet bare padding soil
last week, I paid
last insult to hip and thigh
now an early spring and narcissus
all coming up: late planted arugula
spinach lettuce and Chinese cabbage
& I hope we get a good crop before
the summer heat arrives
         and it all dies

the blueberry out of its tub has rootes in solide erthe
leafing a bit and the new citrus too
I’m trying to remember what I told them all this morning
& what was that song I sang

                   “so come all ye rolling minstrels
                   and together we will try
                   to rouse the spirit of the earth
                   and move the rolling sky”

                            (“Come All Ye,” by Sandy Denny & Fairport Convention)

©2020 Dennis Formento


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2 thoughts on “rootes in solide erthe & 2 other poems

  1. What a unique voice you have! I especially liked the last stanza of “Le Meschacèbè”. You have a good way of placing the reader in the midst of your descriptions. Thank you for sharing these with us. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dragonketet: Thank you. “Le Meschacebe” came through long collaboration with the poet John Sinclair, who moved to New Orleans from Detroit in the early 90s & was working in a similar vein, using the words of blues musicians to tell the story of their music. He’d been mining a book by his friend Robert Palmer, a musicologist, called Deep Blues, a history of the blues from the Mississippi Delta to Detroit & Chicago. I was also editing a magazine called Mesechabe: the Journal of Surregionalism, focused on the ecology and culture of south Louisiana, the Mississippi and the delta region. So it kind of fell into place. Robert was living in New Orleans too, but succumbed to a long illness. The poem is dedicated to his widow, Jo Beth Britton. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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