Monday, November 19, 2012

Dave Church, Big Joe Mohr, false grace and heroin co-inkydink #2


Dave Church, Big Joe Mohr, false grace and heroin    co-inkydink #2

LISTENING

by the window,
leaves ripple --
waves
being pulled ashore
at low tide.
               Dave Church

    Near Grand Lake, Colorado, there were 142 wooden steps (I counted) to the tavern in a gold mining era wooden building, all clinging precariously to the mountain-side. Imagine the effort involved in hauling beer kegs and other supplies up the steps, beyond just getting one’s own self there.  It was a bare minimum, rowdy and good-time mountain-folk hangout - and such a view!  A large paperback for perusal by those who had to spend a few minutes on the men’s room commode sat on top of an always empty paper towel dispenser.  The paperback consisted of poetry written by locals, with one exception - a poem by Dave Church, Providence, Rhode Island.  Dave and I had an on-going correspondence, and he stated yes, that was his poem - now I wonder how Dave (‘Church’) knew about and submitted to that local poetry collection, nor have I seen another copy or issue since then.  My next time through that area, some months later, the steps, bar and building were gone. 
    Dave’s poems for bear creek haiku would arrive scrawled on the back of cab tickets, poems he wrote while waiting in his cab for a fare - sometimes he would enclose a dollar or two from his tips and his correspondence usually included coffee stains plus the odor of cigarettes.  He was (and remains) an authentic, unique poet, a some sort of slightly ornery gentleman...along the way, he had also kicked drug addiction, including heroin.

    Shortly after the above-mentioned mountain tavern poetry paperback episode, well-known and worthy poet George Held wrote to me about Dave dying on Thanksgiving eve, 2008 - Dave was sitting in his Checker cab waiting for a needed car repair before going back to work - ‘Church’ may have been working on a poem as his heart stopped.  George had received a letter from Dave 10 days prior to that Thanksgiving and I had just accepted several poems of Church’s for the next bear creek haiku.  In George Held’s tribute, published, among other places, in New York Quarterly Poet, he mentions reading of Dave’s death in Barbaric Yawp, edited by John and Nancy Berbrich.  This was my introduction to Yawp and it’s editors, and, because of them, my first interaction with poet Stephanie Hiteshew - she and Dave Church had published a chapbook together - all of whom will have poetry in the upcoming bch anthology. 

    Excerpts from George Held’s article:

    ‘As the editor says in hisYawp bio note, Dave had recently been writing a lot of short nature poems, many based on the haiku, like the six printed in this issue.  He was able to switch from his mostly urban poems to haiku, because he had no set agenda for his poetry:  he found a subject wherever he looked, and his eyes were always keenly open.  His openness to subject and poetic forms made him an original as did his ornery, independent outlook on life, politics, mores, and poetry itself.  He both resisted and rejected classification.  Though some might see him as a neo-Beat, a descendant of Bukowski, or street poet, he eluded any such categories and he was critical of all of them.
    Because it eludes any particular school of poetry, the element in a poem he valued most was what he called “mouth-feel,” which he mentions in his blurb for my chapbook Grounded.  “Mouth-feel,” he told me, “is the quality of writing that makes a poem sound and feel natural when read aloud, and that quality might be found among poets either known or obscure.”  Rare as it is, “mouth-feel” resonates in at least one of those last six mature poems in Barbaric Yawp.

Dark sunrise
Last night’s fog and rain,
Lingering.

  This brief lyric speaks for no school, except maybe the ancient one of Basho, whose classical simplicity it recalls.  Neither Beat, Buk, nor Street, this is just plain great poetry.  These words, and many other uttered and authored by Dave Church, will linger at least as long as we do.’

    It’s time you met Big Joe Mohr.  A Nam vet, Joe, a single parent, raised his son together with his two nephews after his younger brother died.  Big Joe was a tin-smith, a musician, a respected - yes, even loved - headman, or tribal chief, of a surprisingly large population of local hippies, young folk, alternative other elders and et cetera.  Big Joe new of Church because I would occasionally mention him during extensive conversations Joe and I had, many of those conversations as we (Big Joe, I, us and ours) stepped back from our workaday worlds for a few road adventures- one, especially (and here comes quite the digression) remains within me - weeks, rather, some few months on a Pacific beach beside the village of Maruata, Mexico, included Grandmother Margarita’s abueyo teachings and Mayan spiritual leader Masatl’s all-night sweats - evenings we would all drum and dance together, always honoring tortoise as it came, went, nested and hatched its young - Maruata, where two of our compadres, Eduardo, from Mexico, and Hennig, from Spain, were lost in the Pacific as we all, including a group of Mexican Marines and native villagers, attempted, and for the most part succeeded, in saving the lives of others from two huge, deadly ocean waves that suddenly swept across the beach...some felt the waves were caused by an underwater nuclear test blast detonated by an European government with claims to nearby islands, a theory which had, as I recall, credibility...the morning after, I stood beside Hennig’s nine-year-old daughter as she said, ‘my Dad, he is a brave man, and now he has gone to live with all those brave tortoises’ - - - well, tears weren’t expected when I began this post - another story asking to be told - yes, but, another time, another time...

    I wrote the following letter to George Held, my response to his letter about Dave Church passing.  Included are comments by Big Joe, some of which were initiated by a comment of mine about Church, whom, I felt, Joe sensed was a heart-brother -

      ‘Thanks for the info about Dave Church.  I had not heard of his death, nor, probably, would I have anytime soon.  I have read your tribute and on-line bio’s about Dave.
      I would share the following with you - every so often, a poem or two would arrive, written, sometimes typed, on the back of a cabby ticket.  There might be a wrinkled dollar or two from his tips included.  Usually they were stained by coffee and smelled of cigarettes.  Made me (and my wife) smile. 
      Whatever Dave thought of bear creek haiku - at times I cold sense a ‘disgruntlement’ - his letters were always welcome.  Once I asked who he considered his mentors.  A 3-page letter came back, each paragraph beginning “do you know?”, as he wrote at length of several (I assume) East Coast poets he respected.  And, no, I knew none of them.  I have lost the letter.  Wish I hadn’t.
    His poetry would appear in the oddest places.  Once, in a dingy tavern near Grand Lake, CO, a small mountain town, I found a copy of the local poetry publication on top of the towel disperser (which was empty) in the men’s room.  All the poems in this publication were written by local mountain folk, with one exception - a haiku by Dave Church.  *(I’m adding a quick note about Grand Lake, known as Spirit Lake by the mountain Ute, who, during an unexpected shoreside battle against Arapaho and Cheyenne warriors, placed their families on rafts for protection, a strong storm came over the mountains, and those on the rafts were lost - Grand, or Spirit, Lake is a supposedly bottomless volcano crater and retains much of the mystery and presence of it's past historical episodes, including those just mentioned)*
     The past 2-3 years, a fair number of my friends, many Nam vets who had managed to step away from addictions, in particular heroin, have died youngish.  It may be that the unsurmountable cost of a heroin addict’s lifestyle is, even if one quits, a shortened lifespan. Friend Big Joe, not long before his quick and unexpected passing, told me the “inner strength and will power one has to have to quit gives rise to a false grace.”  A grace in the sense that “rough edges and struggles just aren’t important”, that “one has earned a type of wisdom, an aspect of enlightened mind that can be valuable, nurturing when shared with others.”
    False, in the sense that this existence, ‘you know,’ said Big Joe, “it just doesn’t have that much to offer.  The false part is that you are kind of removed from everything, it seems so much easier to just let go of it, to move on.”  Dave, perhaps, had this sort of grace about him, a false grace, a narrowly defined aspect of enlightened mind, yet, an inner grace, a worthy grace, nonetheless.
    Perhaps Dave’s death will be midwife to an anthology of bear creek haiku poets later this year in honor of the poets that have and will continue to find their way to my desk.  In honor of Dave. And Big Joe.  (And Bill, and Ray and Steve)
    Sometime within the next month or two I will dedicate an issue of bear creek haiku to Dave Church.  Several of his poems still linger here.  If you know of anyone who might want to be included, you could, if you choose, ask them to send their poems (and more of yours).’


    There is a quarried bench dedicated to Big Joe beside a nearby lake with a view above the water of mountains.  I sat there awhile before writing this post...on a rock bench beside four aspen...upon the bench is a quote from one of Joe’s songs -

‘In the course of a lifetime
In the moment it takes to breathe
You may suddenly find
You’ve got everything you need’
                                Big Joe Mohr


   And here are Dave’s poems that were waiting to be published when I received George Held’s letter - they appeared in issue #85, which was dedicated to Dave Church - 

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP

In the corner 
Of the ceiling
A spider weaves

I’m not alone

After all...


HIGH TENSION BLUES

Sometimes I’m unable
To make a poem
Because sometimes
I put too much
Pressure on the pencil


IN A GARDEN OF WILD FLOWERS

Butterflies  butterflying
Mesmerize these eyes,
And I realize,
The cord connecting me
To the center
Is still there,

And stronger than ever.


QUICK GLANCE OUT THE WINDOW

Snow Swirling Swirling
In the frostbite wind.
Slow-walking lady --
Elderly,
I’ll bet
In her eighties,
Pulling a laundry cart,
Eyes straight ahead.


LATE AFTERNOON BREAK IN MY CHAIR BY THE WINDOW

Cigarette smoke in dim space around me
like a long thin cloud drifting
toward the light through a hole
in a worn towel for a curtain.


IN THE BACKYARD

the old wooden bench
        surrounded 
by leaves and wildflowers


I DON’T ALWAYS UNDERSTAND

I don’t always understand
The lyrics in wind and rain,
White winter sky,
Cry of thunder,
The rise
And fall
  and pull
  of moon -

But I dance to their music.





George Held’s poem, from the last page of issue #85

HACK POET
        for Dave Church

You drove whenever --
Nights, holidays, hurricanes --
Your notebook beside you
To receive a new idea
For poem or story whenever
It came to you

Till last Thanksgiving, when
Your hack came to a stop
With your last heart-thump.
Every passenger
In the small press
Mourns your loss.





two by Stephanie Hiteshew - 


Oh

rose 
that blew apart



Greeting

clouds curl
around fingertips
of dawn.


Barbaric Yawp (Bonehead Publishing) states of Stephanie’s Hiteshew’s poetry/publications  ‘imbued with the spirit of stark nature and hobo wisdom’
Finding Solace in the Wind, cover by Sarah Walroth


two by Barbaric Yawp editor John Berbrich

Barefoot, I step outside
onto the cat’s latest gift -
a cold mouse-head


A pileated woodpecker
Arcs
From tree to tree
Laughing

And knocks on the bark
To see
If any insects
Want to come out and play


one by Barbaric Yawp editor Nancy Berbrich

four wet dog noses
pressed on a frog in the road
wow! -- five spring away





poets who were in the Church issue, #85 -

new grave
heaped with funeral flowers
compost of death. . . .

Sharon Fotta Anderson



Without the next generation
the finality of death is like erasure

So I will continue to write in ink.

Seren Fargo



a little red drum,
a reed flute and tambourine
left beside the pond

Jane Stuart



   Day Dreams

Love came to me
or so I thought
till I awoke
to find you gone
leaving behind
a half filled coffee cup
and a burning cigarette

Maybe I should consider myself lucky
yes
I’m glad you didn’t stay
leaving me with a life time
of dirty dishes

Peggy Dugan French




wind

i too

am rumor

Ed Markowski



boy and his father
toss wind-up helicopters
into fall twilight

Kelly Jean White


night balancing day --
across the fence, mist clings
to withered fields

Margaret D McGee


murmuring water
whispering pines
    no secrets
Gerald A McBreen


         Cats Won’t Acknowledge Death

Creamfoot
does not worry,
little hairy Buddhist
rolling on her perch, savoring
the sun.

Karen R Porter



Rain 
Tinkling in the downspout
The wall clock
Chimes noon
In the empty room


An old barn
Shouldering rain
Onto the earth.

James B Peters



TOUCHING THE DEAD

It’s not so much
fear of contagion
as the fear of
finding one’s own
heart unstuck.

William Meyer Jr



Within every light rain,

between the drops,

the sure, soft

steps of my

dear, dead

friend.

Don Wentworth




Cluster of pine needles--
only a thousand
make the sweetest pillow

Carl Mayfield


Her upbent elbow hooked her purse
and like her mother she walked in straight steps
across the street
as stadiness raced the quickening quaking of her soul.

Claudia Ullman



         It’s An Old Story
We meet in surprise
We speak in salespitch
We plot in red-eyed shadows
We drive in childlike excitement
We enter in anticipatory fear
We meet for real in animal need
We end in a kind of insanity
We know now the soul, but not the person
We dress in silence.

cee



          JUNKYARD EXISTENCE

Junkyard existence:
Choking smoke of burning tires.
Dreams turned to ashes.

                     DAWN

So gradually
Light separates from darkness.
Morning always wins.

Vivian Bolland Schroeder



UNHOLY WORRY

so many times
in my mind
the world has ended

now when i hear
that knock on the door
i stay seated and breathe

Michael Morrell


Gallery of Snowflakes

    I discovered a gallery of
Snowflakes, each individually
     Framed and magnified.
Their intricate designs, beautiful
Maps of the soul of the creator.

Michael Bruce Foster



Rear View

Traveling light -
I keep my past
out of sight.

John Constantine Mastor


dancing on lightning ridge
all the LSD of my youth
was not in vain

Michael Ketchek


last harvest
memorizing the smell
of tobacco leaves

Rich Heller


“memories (good)”

precious little things
pebbles in a tumultuous ocean
enlightenment in an
avalanche:  guide out of hurt’s labyrinth

Ashely Veitch


Winter Woman

skin of golden ash
mystery of face
abstracted in beauty
loosened chignon of promise
graceful ellipses of waist, widening to
hips opening like 
the mouths of a river
giving birth to the world

Judith Partin-Nielsen  -  Judith, my wife, quoted her favorite Church poem as I worked on this blog post:

started saving for my
retirement today -
threw ninety cents
in the fish bowl



 for Dave Church and for Big Joe Mohr 

  
see you in a moment - ayaz daryl nielsen 


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