Wanda Coleman (1946-2013) in memoriam
LIVING IN THE DEEP WEST
Â In memory of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013)
SoCal and what you called the Deep West keel
over without you and your defiant signifying.
You skipped right over absinthe, opium, mescaline,
LSD, heroine, orgy and weed to reach the Zone.
You wrote Days of Our Lives, you won an Emmy,
you slid into the Zone on slippery bars of soap
opera, all choruses, no breaks, just one long jes-grew
coda 20 volumes long. In code and flat-out truth,
you logged L.A. behavior hot to cold. In erosong
you sexified her landscapeâ€™s dips and swells, her
heavens, her hells. Anything but quiet or quaint,
your pictures in wall-painted language (sliced
between canyons and summits and ridges) stick
to the ribs and to the heart half-free or caged.
Concrete streets and freeways couldnâ€™t always go
the distance or reach the intimacy you loved.
What was a Watts-born woman to do but learn
to boogaloo? Or sail the desert? Or walk the sea?
— Al Young
26 November 2013
Â© Al Young
— Langston Hughes
Time-weary, still, he feels safest winter nights
in the kitchen by the stove. At the back
of his too-studied brain, cave-dwellers groan.
No music, no texts, no ghosts at his side. Just
silence enough to let him listen to the Mystery
from which heâ€™s descending. Few ever know;
fewer care. When the pull of phone calls dies
and paramedic fire truck sirens dial down,
he can boil eggs, toast bread, drizzle oil,
peel fruit and thank and see forever into
this moment that staggers, opening endlessly
here into now. Deeper than anything he can
remember, fiercer than any fictitious futures,
pure Mystery stops him cold with warmth.
“Consider Me” by Langston Hughes was first published in 1951, the be-bop inflected period of his great “Montage of a Dream Deferred”. Copyright Â© 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.
The quickie 3-minute version
Al Young ‘Live’
California’s poet laureate emeritus reads, recites, croons and sings him some poetry and blues with Barry Finnerty’s Jazz Roots Trio at Berkeley’s 2010 Watershed Festival | October 7, 2010
The full 22-minute set
Published on Sep 5, 2013
“I have part of this in higher definition on this site. This is fairly high defintition. Al Young was a while back awarded poet laureate of California.” — John Rhodes (poet-videographer who filmed this 22-minute set in HD)
The scents of summer, once so moist and vast,
now scorch your nose. O how your pricked eyes water!
This fireâ€™s going to last and last and last
until your in-laws, wife, two sons and daughter
collapse among the Pepsis, Cokes and chips.
The makeshift rescue center, where youâ€™ve learned
some distant neighborsâ€™ names from their own lips,
fills still with losers just like you. Hurt. Burnt.
A dry La NiĂ±a winter, snow-melt, drought
(July: Colfax, June: Colorado Springs,
New Mexico) let heated winds strike out
across your parchment landscape with a zing
that flared up like a sulphurous safety match.
But hereâ€™s the catch: Can this mean climate change
is real? Do savvy Californians watch
what happened back in 2009, the range
of wildfires: Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz
(their so-called Lockheed Fire), the Station Fire
near L.A.? Half a million square miles. News.
You sweat. Your wife and family, they perspire.
AoĂ»t, aoĂ»t, aoĂ»t, aoĂ»t! â€“ August, moaned in French,
needs no translation. You can smell and feel
the fall and peel of summer. Inch by inch
you sink into this smoky state. You reel.
You suddenly realize what really counts:
Youâ€™re still alive. Donâ€™t underestimate
again how unseen danger creeps and mounts.
Ooo, ooo, ooo, ooo â€“ August stops you at its gate!
– Al Young
Â Photo: Joseph Robinson
from KQED San Francisco
Ceramic artist Susan Duhan Felix (Berkeley’s Art Ambassador) at Heyday Books on Al Young Day, February 5, 2013
WAYS TO STAY AMAZED
Â for Susan Duhan Felix
Must birthday toasts state always, â€śHereâ€™s to youâ€ť?
Consider how the woman and the man
whose love and sperm and egg conjoined to issue
a shining daughter; light on water. Stand
back. Picture yourself pulled along two trails
that weave and duck, then twist-turn artfully.
Â Imagine how our biosphere emails
us messages. Now only partially
eclipses Then. Does Happy Birthday mean
youâ€™ve risked another round, so now you rest?
Â Consider origins, consider clean,
fresh starts, blank slates. remakes, the breathing past.
This you, this I â€“ crocuses flowered from mud.
Let light amaze, let beauty feed your blood.
Â Â© Al Young