Tuesday, June 21, 2011

you don't read Steinbeck

you don't read Steinbeck
when you have lived Steinbeck
you don't inhale a Red Pony
grasping for breath when you have
cupped an apron full of blood and buried
it in dust, the

Grapes of Wrath are still grapes, unlike
the dried up tits of a holstein
pulled raw and cracked as the calloused
fingers of a hungry child

i often shunned required reading like
the shunning received by town girls with
velvet ribbons in their hair, or from 
boys who all had a unique name for dirt; one
prefers reading instead about places
unseen, like a clean bed with feathered white pillows, like
the touch of soft hand or the music
of a contented mother's lullaby; reality is

cattle die too often in birthing, reality is a sow that
leaves a trail of swollen lifeless piglets behind
in removal from her deathbed.  winters were harsh, brutality in a
lesson of understanding that there is a surrender of cells
when all movement comes still, til thaw
pulls them again into an opening
of un-fertile field,

any reader
that sojourners down gravel knows
first hand shoes without sole, knows pebbles caught
and carried for years
beyond miles left,  it was then i had a knowing of all
saints by name and date
of consecration (martyred many as an
early morning cock to be served
up with soured  
butter over feed corn)

yet, i finally meant
up with Steinbeck's Cannery Row and a
coastline west of the Mississippi,  as Steinbeck
never really leaves one (gut or gutless)

whether you have read its pain
or just lived it

copyrighted 2011

Posted of One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry

Photo: John Steinbeck


  1. ooh lala what a piece.. i havent read Steinbeck.. but i lived.

    nice work! :)

  2. Very striking, I love it. Knock me over with a feather.

  3. This makes me realize how much Steinbeck influences the teachers I had in junior high and high school. All of these were assigned reading. Great poem, B.K.

  4. Great poem..and reality almost always hard.

  5. this is a lovely piece bk...i remember steinbeck as it was required reading...and growing up in the sticks it in many ways defines home for me...

  6. Great poem, vivid, perfect word choice.

  7. powerful and intriguing! pay me a visit when you can...xxxj

  8. "never really leaves one (gut or gutless)..." Grapes of Wrath left quite an impression on me—your poem does too. Clear. Definitely will remember this one, bkm. Very powerful.

  9. powerful piece...loved this phrasing "any reader
    that sojourners down gravel knows
    first hand shoes without sole, knows pebbles caught
    and carried for years "...pure beauty in your writing.

  10. This echoes particularly loudly for those of us who have spent time studying Steinbeck. Your imagery stirs up the dust on these books from so many years ago.

  11. I don't think it's required reading up here, heard of him, but never read. Lived a bit though, in some cases more than a bit. Thought provking piece..nice.

  12. I adored required reading
    It confirmed I wasn't the only one
    Offered hope of something better
    Allowed escape
    Encouraged debate
    Helped me think critically
    Reminded me of my divinity
    Empowered me to be. Me. Free.

  13. Oh, so much emotion and so real! I too was shunned "by town girls with
    velvet ribbons in their hair." Glad you eventually made peace with Steinbeck. Me...not so much.

  14. Such an excellent piece, pounding home the facts we know but don't want to look at, until we have no choice and can't look away...the line that carries "...brutality in a/lesson of understanding..." really hammered me, and the martyred cock is genius writing. The best thing about this piece is it asks for neither quarter nor pity. Fine fine writing, barbara.

  15. This is just brilliant. This is one of my favorites of yours.

  16. Your words are heavy with intensity. I could feel the images you described throughout.

  17. Passion and strong images flowing through the line and the honest facing that sometimes the pain has to be lived first before the poem or story resonates.

  18. Such an engaging and deep piece. The words, the images, everything- simply intriguing.

  19. Very nice! As always you nailed it!

  20. A fabulous piece about one of my favorites. Love Steinbeck and found a new refreshing look at him when I visited 'Cannery Row'.

  21. Intense and course piece with your perfect way of wrapping it in a delicate tapestry of words. Great write! ~ Rose

  22. think i def. have to check out steinbeck...just not sure if i heard of him before...enjoyed this bk

  23. Oh my!! This was soooo intense.. and.. FELT!!
    Some of the metaphors were STUNNING, Barbara...
    Compulsion has never resulted in any good I suppose.. esp. to those that have lived thru' worse...
    I think this poem has drilled into me some very hard lessons! Fantastic writing!

  24. Wow! Such inimitable power you've packed in to this poem, BKM! I love how it flows like a river being dammed and that the more it's pushed back the more it bursts and roars. I love all the stanzas and how you sustain the 'darkness in the grapes' but especially this truth deceptively buried in a stanza about deaths in the birthing of cows and sows...

    "... that there is a surrender of cells
    when all movement comes still, til thaw
    pulls them again into an opening
    of un-fertile field,..."

    Thank you for sharing your poetry!

  25. Such a confident poem. What you have described is the truth spoken with authority. I have read much Steinbeck---in awe---I loved the stories. Raw, tragic, fascinating. All describe your poem as well.

  26. This parenthetical part:
    "(martyred many as an
    early morning cock to be served
    up with soured
    butter over feed corn)"
    Literally left my mouth hanging open. It's so in-your-face. The implied narrative that you draw strings from throughout the poem definitely makes the message that much more impactful.
    Freakin' fantastic.

  27. You own me when I read your work. I am totally in your flow being moved here to there. Always inspired. Enjoyed as always.

  28. Oh, I do read Steinbeck and love every word.

  29. mind-blowing write, bkm. what happened to all of your love poetry? ;)

  30. Your concrete images give this piece great weight, and your metaphors are strong and raw.

    "...grasping for breath when you have
    cupped an.." Visual and gut-wrenching at once.

    "...the dried up tits of a holstein
    pulled raw and cracked as the calloused
    fingers of a hungry child..."

    I really like your way with words! Glad I found this site through Life@Cee.


  31. Love your words : "that sojourners down gravel knows
    first hand shoes without sole, knows pebbles caught
    and carried for years". Wow!

  32. Jingle appreciates your support to our poetry potluck.
    Our week 41 Theme is: Saints, Monks, and Meditations,
    Yet, old poems or poems unrelated to our theme are welcome… ;)
    Always, your poetry is sunshine to us!
    Looking forward to seeing U on Sunday, 8pm or later.
    Stay Blessed,
    Love and hugs.