I’ll be reading Tuesday, June 27, at 6 pm at the Thoreau Farm, 341 Virginia Road, Concord, as part of the Massachusetts Walking Tour’s kickoff event for the second leg of the group’s tour from Thoreau’s Walden Pond to Wachusetts. The MA Walking Tour gives an annual bipedal tour promoting local arts and culture.

The 6-7 pm program June 27 will also feature an ocarina player and and a songwriter, and from 7-8 is a concert. There’s a day hike that morning from Walden Pond to Acton, if anyone’s game.

See their website for all their hikes and concerts, all of which are free: http://masswalkingtour.org/2017-tour/ June 27: **KICK OFF EVENT Concert – Thoreau Farm 341 Virginia Rd. Concord, MA 01742 SHOW: 6-8pm | COST: FREE Local Performers: Wendy Drexler-Poet, Ben Blum, Ric Allendorf

“The Birch”

“The Birch,” from Before There Was Before, was first published in The Hudson Review. I remembered that the “little brown dog” was on the back of the slipcase, and that the book was Thomas Mann’s Joseph in Egypt. The dog was actually the logo for Alfred A. Knopf. This was the book! Funny how some memories bob back up while others are unrecoverable.

The Birch

I scramble up the slippery trunk. I’m five,

in my own backyard. I fling my one leg,

then the other, hoist myself into the tree.

Then I crack open the shells

of my sunflower seeds, wiggle out

the kernels with the tip of my tongue,

spit the empty shells down to the grass.

I peel bark the way I want to,

the way I peel my scabs to see

the pink skin, the new part underneath,

just born. I watch

clouds scrub the sky. I stay up here

in my brave room until all the fathers

have walked home from the bus stop after work,

carrying the newspapers under their arms,

the streetlights just coming on.

My father is not coming home. He’s left

my mother and me and all

his shirts and his camel’s hair coat

in the hall closet. All his books

on the shelves, even my favorite

with the little brown dog I love

on the cover, his front and back legs

outstretched, running hard.

Video Link to Reading at Aeronaut Brewing, May 17, 2017

Thanks to my friend John Harrison for the video. This poem is called “The Book of Apology.” I composed most of it at Marie Howe’s workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Marie’s assignment was to write an “embodied poem” for the next day, that is, a poem composed in the mouth and not written down, to be recited the next day in class. Everyone “wrote” powerful and moving poems that day.

Aeronaut Brewing

is a pretty cool place to read, a giant warehouse buried in the labyrinth of Somerville streets. You can just make out the big steel vats of beer in back. Great beer on tap. Hospital-type wrist bracelets have something to do with drinking. Friends came, which made the reading lots of fun. We’re now calling ourselves the Iris Sisters, coined by Holly (far right), because we share the same publisher, Iris Press. With Susan Donnelly in the middle.

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