French Press; Reflections; It is
By: George Burns
The first drops of the next storm
spot the sidewalk in front of the coffee house.
I wait for the grounds of the French press to settle
as the barista plays Ella Fitzgerald.
The First Lady of Song
sings love songs like a bird in spring
as she did on the radio one morning
while I watched the dark perks fall
into the clear water in the glass percolator,
slowly staining it black.
This is our first breakfast since my father
went back to sea the day before and
my mother is wearing her bowl of apples
apron and doing a jitterbug
like a bobbing robin
as she stirs our oatmeal
and scats along with Ella
on the early morning radio,
"Always True to You in my Fashion."
Afterwards, I will take the milk bottles
out to the metal crate on the porch.
For some reason I am happy,
even though she will soon begin looking
for a house without my father.
And now the grounds have settled,
the coffee in the percolator is black as obsidian
and the coffee house plays Louis and Ella,
"I Won't Dance,"
yet if we were in that kitchen again,
I would, just ask me.
floats in the window.
The moth outside
presses and flutters.
It, by the light of my lamp,
I, by some unknown star,
a blessing to lie
on your moist, green ground,
to feel your body press against mine
as you show me to the sun,
to feel your breasts
graze my face,
to feel your breath—
the air in your sky—
flow into my lungs.
To slip my fingers through
your silky, spiky grass
and burrow them into
your wet earth.
I want to come home
and celebrate you
with the exaltation of mountains
and the quietude of cowslips and daisies.
How could I
have forgotten you;
how could I leave you when you’re always here?
Let me be a fish in your stream,
an owl in your oak and the rabbit in its talons;
a lichen-stained stone
beside your sacred well,
or a man,
here in the grass
at your shrine.
George Burns was the owner of a small company in the semiconductor industry until he retired in 2008. He has been writing short stories and poetry for more than forty years.
His short stories and poems have appeared many literary magazines, including Alaska Quarterly Review, The Comstock Review, The DMQ Review and The Massachusetts Review.
In 2004, his poem, "Partly Heliotropic", was the winner of the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation Poetry Contest.
*George Burns' book of poetry "If A Fish" will be published by us this fall! Stay Tuned
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I signed up for a Robert Bly workshop in Asilomar in 1990, thinking it was a Men's Movement gathering with drums and whoops and stories. But it was a poetry workshop where I wrote a poem about a piece of driftwood I found on the beach. I was hooked. CNP: Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
Yes, it was Yeats. “Song of the Wandering Aegus.” I was working in a cannery and some guy said try this. CNP: Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Too many to name, but current favorite are:
Dorianne Laux, especially the poem, “Facts About the Moon."
Matthew Dickman, "All American Poem."
Tony Hoagland, "Entangle"
Ikkyu "Crow with No Mouth”
Jack Gilbert "Refusing Heaven"
Issa, Even with insects—
some can sing,
some can't. CNP: Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
Sometimes I'm like a frog: a poem comes by and zip I got it.
I like to go to coffee shops and write by hand, cursive. I'm following a path of loops, tails and focus and concept. I ask myself, is there a word for it? and if not, can I make one up and all the time I'm still that frog, or a dog always ready to go after some scent.
I use a keyboard to transfer from notebook to computer and when typing away, it's like driving on a highway, occasionally reminding myself there's a turnoff ahead.
Sometimes I'll use another poet and try and imitate them. Carl Phillips' style was an inspiration for my poem, Does the Road? CNP: How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
When I'm writing by hand, the width of the page determines line length. If a thought is too long for the page, I'll continue it indented below. I've been attracted by stanza symmetry for the last few years. I like William Carlos Williams idea of a machine made of words. The symmetry is a clue for the reader that some thought has gone into this.
Sometimes, in my exuberance, I'll let the line run all over the page and sometimes when the poem is highly fraught, I'll let the line look like a nervous breakdown, like a Richard Silken poem. CNP: Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Write a lot, read others. Read your work aloud. Imitate. Try not to make your work precious: Remember Gollum. CNP: What is your editing process like?
It never ends. I've got a poem I started in 2011 and I'm still working on it.
Show it to others. While you want to express yourself, you also want to be understood (sometimes). You want to make some kind of bridge between your brain and someone else's.
So it's like mindreading of someone you don't know. Good luck. CNP: When do you know that a poem is finished?
Often there's a yes. ahh. It's like meeting a love interest: Ohh, this is just right.
Then there are times you're so horny, you say, yes, this will do.