James Lee Jobe and Gailmarie Pahmeier appeared before an air-conditioned crowd at the Sacramento Poetry Center on Monday June 23 before a crowd that had just learned of former president Luke Breit’s admittance to University of California, Davis hospital earlier that morning for what appeared to be a stroke. Our best wishes here at SPC in the days ahead to Luke.
James Lee Jobe, straight from the Republic of Jobe (situated near Davis), entertained and heartened the gatherers with poems about family members and daily incidents from life. He led off with a long poem about, among other things, being trapped inside public transportation moving phallically through the night and contemplating a Dennis Eckersley breaking ball that sneaks under that annoying line of the bifocals rendering it unable to hit. Here it is in its entirety:
Letting The Poem Find Us
We know there is a poem on this bus,
the #42 Loop bus from Yolo County to Sacramento.
We have been searching for it
since we boarded. We looked first to the driver,
one we haven't ridden with before.
His tremendous stomach is the wooden horse
that hid Odysseus and his men
when they finally took Troy.
-- It's a line, but not a poem.
There could be a poem in the fact
that no one looks at each other,
except for us, of course. We stare
at random riders like film noir detectives
picking out a suspect. They get on, get off,
gaze out of the windows with Please Kill Me boredom
painted on their faces,
the dullest dullards who ever yawned unashamed.
They've already give up.
If there is a poem there, we don't want to write it.
Perhaps there is a poem in the bus itself, after all,
it is a metal, motorized penis sliding
across the feminine surface of the Teeth Mother herself.
We are riding in a mobile porn movie,
we are John Holmes, and maybe our pen
really is mightier than our sword.
There might be something there
as it does make us uncomfortable.
We'll get back to that in twenty years.
We are trying too hard, we tell ourselves.
We will never find a poem like this!
We are a rookie pinch-hitter in the bottom of the ninth,
two outs, a runner on second base,
down by a run, and it's a road game.
Dennis Eckersley is on the mound, and he is young again somehow,
and he is looking at us like he doesn't particularly like us.
"Hey Dennis, it's only a game, man."
Eckersly looks us right in the eye, spits on the ground, winds up, kicks,
and puts an inside curve right where we loose it
in our bifocals! Man! Dennis Eckersley pitches around our bifocals!
How can we ever find a poem about riding the #42 Loop bus
when we are behind in the count for wearing bifocals
and our metaphors are getting the better of us?
That is trying too hard.
Our chi is unbalanced.
We are not relaxing into the poem.
We are going to start again, close the notebook
that we take everywhere, open it again
and just let the poem come to us. We are going to breathe
and just let the damn poem find us.
Another poem called “Assholes” spoke of coming across a collection of young men who were tasting the first sublime defeats in life and declaring everyone “assholes.” To which, the speaker, spoke quite affirmatively and admonished them they should never forget how they had been screwed over. It was a heartwarming moment.
Gailmarie Pahmeier wound her way down from Reno to be with those assembled at SPC on a Monday night. She delivered a memorable reading that others would be remiss in not attending if she should come back down the hill and join us again (which I hope she will do when her new book West of Snowball, Arkansas and Home from Red Hen Press becomes available in 2010.
She started off reading some baseball poems from The House on Breakaheart Road in the persona of Emma, who is one of the main characters of the story. She also read some poems from her upcoming collection on Red Hen (see above) which features the letters from her godfather, Brownie, who had left his home in Arkansas for health reasons to live out his final days in the dry heat of Arizona. During this time Brownie wrote one letter each day back home. In the book Pahmeier collects bits and pieces of these letters and writes response/companion poems on the opposite page, a tender tribute to her grandfather and her family back in the Ozarks. Finally, she read several newer pieces, the last of which, “When in St. Louis, Consider the Saint” ruminated over the sad fate of the historical saint for whom the city was named, the patron saint of wigmakers, and used the language of the Bible as an overlay for her speaker’s visit to the city.
For those people who like poems with strong characters with a lot of heart of substance, you might want to catch Gailmarie Pahmeier the next time she passes through Sacramento.