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Updated 12:51pm - Jul 29, 2014

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Sample poems from California's poet laureate

California Poet Laureate Al Young will visit Crescent City on April 13 as a part of his "Top to Bottom Tour" of rural and "out of the way" towns around the state.

While here, Young will make visits to two schools and will sign copies of his most recent book of poetry, "Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons," at a 5:30 p.m. chamber mixer. The mixer will be held in a tent near the Del Norte Public Library, where winners of The Daily Triplicate/Business Im-provement District's youth poetry contest will also read their works.

Young and local poet Ken Letko will give a poetry reading beginning at 7 p.m. inside the library, for which a $2 donation is requested.

Here are some select poems from Young's book:

Eco

Divide a house against itself and truth still holds,

The house, the home, the household where you dwell—

someplace that counts, that needs to count—will fall.

Eco in Latin means just that. Economy, ecology

sizzle up from a dialect with an army to defend

and spread its sounded ways of thinking look-and-see.

"Ba-Ba-Bar… Bar-Barbara Ann" was what Romans heard

from tongues that did not speak to them. Barbarians

they called such babblers. And now at every gate

you enter or approach, barbarians stand watch.

Like another kind of echo, it bounces back: the slaughter,

the rape, the thieving massacres. Your very daughter

cringes at your approach. Stealing from Peter to pay Peter

puts Paul at risk again and then some. You put it back

together stone by stone. You finally get it straight.

What thunders down through time feels nothing like a horse,

not even one with wings. What runs through time is us

and us and us and us; there never was, nor is there now, an other.

Cloud Savoring

Really no reason to keep notes,

to nose around with no one here

to hear what you favor or see.

Loneliness arrives in so many flavors,

everybody's got something to savor.

Cloud-watching'll trump cloud-catching

anytime. The way to seed a cloud: just take it

in and look inside of you; the story's there.

The pictures clouds suggest rush by

like living forms of any kind, informed

and warming to the breath of lifetimes.

What big-time plays have skies put on?

What stories, what grand narratives?

What soul-tales sweep the rushed horizon now?

The play of light on clouds: dramatic dreaming.

Cumulus, stratus, cirrus, nimbus—clouds are us.

Darkness, Its Very Hang and Feel

To sit in the dark and write about love—

what could you be talking about?

Cooling, soft shadows, the little town

buried under the city, the woods and trees

or desert before the town emerged,

no margin for error, nothing terrifying,

just love rolling off your fingertips—

part one, part two, part-time, partytime, oooh

—big notes, little notes, fattening flats;

shimmering (make that shimmying) sharps.

You know how you talk when love comes down.

The way the world worked back in olden times

you came into this world backwards, came

out of the very blackberry darkness you knew

you'd circle back to, crying again; a place

where light gets farmed. Does quiet light shout,

or does it sigh? Lay you to rest down there

where you can be the sun, where you can actualize.

The Elvis I Knew Well Was Spiritual

The Elvis I knew well was spiritual.

The books he'd read on mystics, yoga, Jung

and Jesus, Buddha—long before your digital

technology kicked in and Mao Tse-Tung

became an icon you could click—he tried

to buy enlightenment. He thought a check

might do the trick: big bucks, love tendered, wide

and blank. No deal. No Ouija board, no deck

of tarot cards could trump his fate. His star

beamed underneath (or far beyond) the God

he knew as blackness, gospel, blues. As far

as light-years went, Elvis could ride and nod.

He couldn't get high on glory, glamour, fame.

Blissless, he drugged you with his moves, his name.

The Alchemy of Destiny

Eternal nights have been known to surface in a day

and never melt away except in quick neglect.

On a blanket of insect sound, under a garden of stars,

night: the side of you that not so much hungers

as thirsts. Years before we left our star-based homes,

ancestral codes were sewn into us, twisted there,

glazed and mapped onto the DNA of our story

beginnings so that we might never forget the origin.

Cricket cricket cricket cricket cricket—language

gauged to soothe while inwardly it startles, then

memorizes its moves. On a planet programmed

for electrifying connections, muted, mutable,

all mood and no work, the alchemy of destiny is prized.

 


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