Thursday, October 22, 2009

Poem by Luke Deitrick: "Among Fields"

Today the's big day & we have two new poets to add to this here blog project, the first being Luke Deitrick, of Young Emerging Writers fame.  Here's what he as to say about his contribution:

"Living in the cornfield adjacent town of Geneseo has been quiet and delightful. However, when quiet turns to silent, Geneseo doesn't exactly have a prime selection of prospects to fill the void. What better time to ask "Why here?" "Among Fields" is a consideration of such questions. Of course, nothing says existential quandary like a scarecrow."

Indeed.  And now, his poem:

Among Fields

One day in a field
a cornfield with no corn,
a Child crafted a Scarecrow
straw, clothes, and hat adorned.

The Scarecrow had come to be.

The Child bade farewell:
“Stand proud, stand tall”
and fled to a home so far
as night began to fall.

And the Scarecrow was happy.

Late, late in the night
as the warm wind rose,
it took his hat, his only hat.
How coldly the wind blows!

But still, the Scarecrow was happy.

The next day, crows flew low, low, and lower.
Had the sky brought new friends?
The sight of him drove them high, high, and higher.
So quickly such things can end!

But still, the Scarecrow was happy.

Soon, the Scarecrow would wonder:
“Why am I here?”
After all, there was no corn to guard,
from all the way there to here.

But still, the Scarecrow was happy.

How could such a thing be true?
No hat, no friends, no answers
How could he be anything but blue?

Because the Child drew him a smile.

BIO:  Luke Deitrick is an aspiring hermit who finds no greater joy in life than a piece of toast. He was born in Springfield and moved to Geneseo at a young age. He has recently participated in the Young Emerging Writers program for the second time, and hopes to further publish work in the future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Poem by Robin Throne: "Hunter’s Moon"

Our next contribution today comes from Robin Throne of LeClaire, IA.  Though she says that the piece is "unfinished" I think it's still quite intriguing.  Here is her "contexual statement" about the piece:

"Over the Labor Day holiday, I was in Connecticut doing research for a novel and I was struck by the context of time and place, and how essential that perspective is to our own relative sense of time within a place. As I explored the restored 17th century historic villages of Wethersfield and Glastonbury, Connecticut, I could not help but relate this context to our own historical saviors of 19th century LeClaire. People like Debbie and Gloria, guardians of the repository of local knowledge at the Buffalo Bill Museum, and city leaders and shopkeepers who were committed to restoring the historical ambiance of Antoine’s village. People like Steve and Wanda who continue to work to keep the library doors open to groups like the LeClaire Genealogical Society and information accessible to relative newcomers like me who celebrated my 10th anniversary of my home along the great river on October 15. Or Bob who catalogs our cemeteries and chronicles them on his blog and Friends of the Library who bring the past to life in their fall reenactments of the founding fathers and mothers. I am not a descendent of Parkhurst or Suiter or Tromley, families of the first homes and parks and businesses. But I have found my place in this river village (as other newcomers like Peggy would call it), or city as it would prefer to be known.

On Labor Day, when the historical societies in Connecticut were closed and I was done scoping out the cemeteries, I found myself taking a road trip from New Haven to New London to Barnstable to Plymouth to Swansea and back to Glastonbury, thinking all the while about those that had arrived on this American shore from another place and renamed their cities and towns to honor their former places even if it were a place which no one would ever return.

In LeClaire, we name things for the people that platted this town, first families like Jones or Reynolds, or those that became famous like Cody and Eads. And of course, we name things for states and trees, the river and its valley.

Each month, as the respective full moon reflects over the river (often as if choreographed with the reflecting lights of Port Byron on the Illinois side), I am reminded of time, place and the recording of time and place through poetry. As Glastonbury, Connecticut, restores 17th century homes to bed and breakfasts and posts ‘founding’ signs that read 1693, I could live in a context of believing that this place, my 10-year home, was ‘founded’ less than two centuries ago. This year’s October hunter’s moon reminded me that time and place will always be relative for the observer, and although we seem to have a need to claim it as our own within our own perception of time and place, it was here before. Perhaps then we can be reminded that in doing so, we may also honor those that had claimed it then."

Very cool.  Very cool indeed.  So here is "Hunter's Moon" (unfinished):

Hunter’s Moon


The river is never the same in darkness as a swollen McCarty Creek delivers its goods
gurgling still from a sodden July, last remnants of burst tails flagging the wild grasses
like cotton batting, useless filter for crushed cigarette packaging with a one-way ticket
to the wider water tracing a refractive light path cast by a cosmic orange mirror.

Only you can walk on water and bring us to witness this abandoned bank camp
sheltering the thousand who carved out no abstracts or deeds, parcels or plats
now manicured with ornamental grasses, lattice and fence by the guardians
of four-inch grass and warring over clippings that crossed the line.

We see you rise in the comfort of our darkness, replacing the harvest before you
and illuminate the memories erased by day with hibiscus, cul-de-sacs and gazebos
to recall a feast of corn and squash and covenants signed and unsigned.

BIO:  Robin Throne lives in Le Claire, Iowa, along the great river. Her poetry has appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, Sylvan Echo, North Coast Review, Gypsy Cab, poetry motel, Mankato Poetry Review, Minnesota River Review, Connections, and The Muse.

Poem by Victor Snyder: "Danceland's Euolgy"

Thanks to everyone who has made it out to the evnets the past two night!  Tonight is the workshop at the Midwest Writing Center, so if you can, come.  Tomorrow is the big Visible Cities Poetry Project reading, and you should definitely come to that & hear all our contributors bring their work to life!  Details on all the remaining events to your right (& scroll down)...

Today's first piece is from Victor Synder of Stillwater, OK.  Victor is a QC native, and, well, I'll let him explain this piece & where he's coming from:

"I heard of your project from my close friend Nancy Kiefer, who I am collaborating with on a similar project, based on our memories of the Quad Cities of our childhood. We grew up together and lived only a block away from each other, so we share many similar experiences...

I am an artist, musician, song writer and poet. the poem is based on my years of playing music professionally in the Quad Cities area in the early eighties. Dancland, of course, is a well known landmark in downtown Davenport. I also share Nancy's view of the mid west Gothic flavor of the area that lingers in our memories, and was always fascinated with the seamier side of the Q.C.; the soft white underbelly of seedy bars, run-down strip clubs, and late night honky tonks where I often plied my trade. This poem is an impression from a musician's point of view; a front row seat, if you will, to the often bizarre pageant of life played out after hours in the Cities."

Very cool.  & thanks to Victor for his work.  NOTE: Danceland is Davenport, IA is decidedly NOT dead.  On Halloween, it will be packed with the undead, but the place is still there, still available, though perhaps underused.  But not on Halloween.  Visit here and here for more info.  & now, "Danceland's Euolgy":

Danceland’s Eulogy

Dan had a country western band,
I was a hired gun.
Dan had a gig three stories up;
A ballroom called Danceland.

Dan could not sing, but liked to call
His hired guns his “boys”.
We’d not rehearse his country noise.
He’d shout the key. That’s all.

Old men in tattered suits of plaid
And girdled glamour gals
Would shuffle round the floor like pals;
Lost friends they never had.

Big bands had graced this stage before
In glory days gone by,
But now these floor boards creak and sigh
While dancer’s feet grow sore.

And Dan, his voice is out of key
And echoes in this room.
An amplified, distorted boom
Is Danceland’s eulogy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two Poems by Matthew Heston

Next up we have two poem from Rock Island native Matthew Heston. Matthew is another product of the Young Emerging Writers program, and has published work in Buffalo Carp, and Slurve (see link below). What’s he have to say about his work here? Well, this:

“Having grown up in the QC, the River, and, by extension, all rivers, came to take on a certain meaning to me. I think both of these poems are a way of rethinking that meaning.”

So here are two poems by one Matthew Heston, “River Song (i)” and “River Song (ii)”:

River Song (i)

How hopeful we'd become having found ourselves
riverside again, finally found after miles of unrelenting

earth. We were romantic to the notion, with palms
open and steadfast feets – but seasons change. How

routine the moon became, like magic coming undone
before us, like realizing it was not halos we were wearing,

or that the ripples we created had no destiny, no destination
except, at best, an ocean to find and be lost in and forgotten.

Everyday, a new lesson in desperation, another glance
towards the horizon, another weight on our heavy

breath. We learned to speak between the sighing,
determined to stay planted at the prospect of weary limbs.

God damn the wind, we were bound, but battered, no
match for force nor fate. Then, finally, the collapse—

the gentle crumbling of our bones, it's almost as if
we didn't even notice, as if we'd known it all along.

River Song (ii)

                     Ask yourself, "Am I blessed or na├»ve?" Consider
the possibility there is no difference. Once, you saw the ocean,
became aware of its enormity, terrified by its breadth. There is
comfort here— the quaintness of a Midwest vocabulary keeps you
well situated, stable, still. Though you never saw the railroad, you
still claim it as inheritance. Remember how certain you were those
were angels you saw dancing in the river? It may have been the
moon, or the stars, or perhaps nothing more than headlights.

BIO:  Matthew Heston was born and raised in Rock Island, Illinois, and is currently a student at Bradley University. His poems have appeared in Buffalo Carp and Slurve.

Two Poems by Wes Solether

Greetings everyone! This is the big week & we’re starting it off right with several new contributors. First off, we have Wes Solether of Rock Island, IL. Wes is a student at Augustana College and recently appeared in the second issue of an outstanding new online magazine called Clementine (see link below). Here’s what he had to say about these two poems:

“I have always been interested in Invisible Cities and the fantastic ways that Calvino describes Venice. This summer, I went to Prague for a poetry workshop and fell in love with the city. I also got to finish The Baron in the Trees by Calvino while I was in Italy, really getting to see what he was writing about. The combination of traveling abroad, envisioning the cities I have been to, and your call for submissions led me to create some Invisible Cities of my own.”

And here they are, “The Windy City” and “The Haloed City”:

The Windy City

Appearing as a scar in the sea,
the Windy City has been dug out
five miles below the earth,
nestled between moth-eaten stone
and writhing worms.
The city rests on an opaque gullet filled to the teeth
with the carcasses of dolphins and whales.
A natural cemetery filling beneath us.

The waterfall from the sea
bisects the city into a blue world and a black world,
depending on what side you look through.
Both sides of residents see distorted images of themselves,
believing that demonic doppelgangers are on the other side.
The two sides war with sticks and broken bones
hurled through the waterfall,
striking stone and flesh.

Sometimes mistaken for the sound of fallen angels,
the wind breathes into the broken bones of the dead.
A resurrection of sound
created by a symphony of skull holes and earthworm paths.

The living in the city and the dead of the sea is a blurred line
when pots and pans are drilled out ribs
and the building are made with ivy withered from waves,
bone wrought with bone.

The Haloed City

The city consists of concentric circles
brilliantly lit at all hours of the day,
and no one knows how they are powered.
Everyone in the city is in a constant state of marriage.
When we entered,
we were separated by gender
and brought to the compatibility chamber
to meet our new spouses.

Some say it is a random process,
while the official stance is divine intervention.

The city exists in three sections.
The only couples allowed to live inside the innermost circles
must be married for at least fifty years.
The innermost section is full of gardens
and brims with golden light from underground,
creating a phantom lake around the legs
of the couples permitted to live there.
The golden gardens are really just cemeteries.

Sectioned off by a canal or a moat,
the Middle Circles of the Haloed City
are being worn down slowly by a heavy fog
that permeates through the sandy brick
and blankets the bedrooms
and sometimes you can’t see the face of your spouse
from across the dinner table.

The Outer Rim is little more than train tracks and box cars
where newly weds struggle to light a match.
There is no fog here,
but the air is heavy with throats
and whispers spoken harshly at night.
Cracked windows and punched-in walls
are always repaired by the morning.

Behind the twenty foot wall of the city limits,
exiled angels search dumpsters
to lick out the arteries of the recently deceased,
trying to find the source of the city’s lights.

BIO: Wes Solether is a current student at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. Craving a European adventure, he has gone across the pond to get lost on the cobbled streets of Prague. He also fought gladiators and weight gain in Rome and created a shortage of sangria in Barcelona. Recently, he has been published in Clementine.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Two Poems by Maureen Wallner

Two for one on this fine fall Wednesday!

Our second post today come to us from Maureen Wallner of Moline, IL.  Here is what she had to say about her two poems:

The first is through the lens of youth: a first home with its ideals and its sadness at differences, and being so far away from all that is familiar. The second has eyes opened, but not without nostalgia, seeing home for what it is and what it isn’t.

So here are Maureen's two poems, "67 Tolstraat" and "53rd Street":

67 Tolstraat

Day bed against wallpaper
gray with yellow sunflowers,
three steps to books and bones,
a virgin stethoscope,
blue gas flame beckoning in a fireplace.

Floor covered in our steps
on gray linoleum,
gray as ever-staring faces,
windows framing ever-rainy skies.

Bathroom separated by a shower curtain
two steps from the kitchen table,
soup bowls bulging in Belgian vegetables,
hands slipping in soapy bubbles.
Our deep porcelain sink under a rented hot water heater.

So many steps to Antwerp
to our first apartment,
bodies fused on a day bed
early Sunday mornings.

53rd Street

Exiting to 53rd Street.
Seconds flash, a vacuum,
and it is yesterday,

maples’ elbows by a roadside,
sleeping horse barns on Cote Vertu,
crunching gravel in an Austin back seat,
electric posts upside down giant stick men,
to bubby and gramps
on Hutchison.

Cote Vertu scraped
away as mold
for strip malls, condos,
asphalt smeared,
lamp poles blinding symmetric streets.

Here again,
bucking 74, a fanning highway
past a lonely farm house.
Solitary picture.
Like shoulders sagging into corn fields,
a steam shovel
A spot for new cement foundations
to prop stores, roll squeaky rusted shopping carts.

No vacancy
for winter wheat.

BIO: Maureen Wallner: From Illinois, USA, I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, a Canadian-American with one foot in each country. But my background in English literature and journalism is strictly from Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. I am also a writer: of non fiction, fiction, creative non fiction and poetry, some of it published, some winning contests, some placing in them. My first novel (not as yet completed) is historical fiction. “More than a Country,” it is a story of love and power and the illusion of freedom.

Poem by Elisabeth Athas: "We Will Stay Forever"

Today we have a couple contributions, but we'll start with Elisabeth Athas, age 16, of Davenport, IA.  Elisabeth is an extremely talented young writer, and she had this to say about her poem:

The poem "We Will Stay Forever" came to me as an image of what brought every person of this area to this place. Whether it be a past lived here, the idea of a better future, or simply a life to be lived peacefully, etc. At one time this area was void of life, until we all felt the pull to come or continue to stay here, and now that we are here a part of us will always exist here.

Nice.  Well, without further ado, here's her poem:

We Will Stay Forever

Along the shores we gather
currents of memories
whisper to our hands

Waiting to awaken the water
we deny the mists
guided by storms

It called to our hearts
bound between dams
we digress over its depths

So long ago
the river was silent
sand and weeds caressing waves

Along the shoes we gather
waiting to awaken the water
It called to our hearts
so long ago

BIO:  Elisabeth Athas is a junior at Davenport West High residing in Blue Grass, IA. So far, she has published poetry and short stories in the magazine The Atlas. She worked as an intern in the Midwest Writing Center's Young Emerging Writers program. Her favorite part of writing is the revision and editing process because she loves seeing that disasterous first draft shaped into something quite fantastic. She needs caffeine in her blood stream and is constantly learning to speak the truth in love.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Two Poems by former Quad City Poet Laureate Dick Stahl

Hello!  Today we are very fortuante to have two poems from the first Quad City Poet Laureate Dick Stahl.  Dick has long been a prominent poet in the QC area and we are thrilled to have him participate in this project.  Here's what he had to say about his contributions:

I chose "Cities & Memory" because I learned Davenport in the late 1940s and most of the 50s by going with my dad on his milk route every day in the summer and on Saturdays the rest of the year. I still remember his customers on parts of this route and many of the interesting people along the way.

Thannks very much again to Mr. Stahl for his contribution to this project & to the poetry/writing scene throughout his lifetime.  Enjoy!  Comment!  Share this link with friends! 

City Excursion

Davenport is not the grand Mississippi River,
not her star-studded troughs
of sun stipples, her slow, lazy roll of sleepy
winks, her reaching foamy fingers
of slapping waves
against the seawall in Le Claire Park, her eddies
that turn everything
around like feverish, dancing
dervishes, her five mile-per-hour speed chase
on the waterway, her silver streak
of Rapids' water that assays the boom
of the mother lode of rivers,
her East-to-West flow
that resets all compasses or her spring rise like a goddess
that calls all souls to their knees.

So watch your step
when you board the Pipe Dream
docked here. The waters beneath its deck
charm like none other. Their spells
splash with fantastic spirits.
You won't recognize the heaven-gazing spires,
bank clock, crowded streets,
sloping, brick levee and band shell
from your deck chair.
You won't even recognize yourself
after this excursion
on fabled waters. Discover something
of his river, and you'll discover something more
about this grand city
you call home.

Learning Davenport by Route

for Victor and George
names of my grandfather's milk
wagon team of horses

"What's Tuesday's next milk stop?"
my mother asked her father on the wagon. "Don't ask me,
ask them!" he responded, pointing
to Victor and George.

His team knew the daily stops
like they knew the way
to the barn. Blinders did not stop them
from stopping at all paying customers from Waverly Road
east along West Locust Street past the Fairgrounds
to Five-Points.

Nicknamed "Half Pint," I learned my father's Waage's Dairy
route for Tuesday. Dempsey Hotel, Colorado Cafe, Bishops
and Times Cafeteria, then the Second Street strip:
Kresge's, Woolworth's, Schlegel's and Grant's.

While he worked the five-and-dime stores,
I shared my morning with the great Mississippi River.
Leaning against the black railing in Le Claire Park,
I shared my breakfast, a half pint
of fresh chocolate milk,
with the silver power of sun-sparkling waters.

By 10 A.M., we returned to the Colorado Cafe
and headed west on Rockingham Road
to the Double Y Dairy. Then to Rolff Street
and a peak at Rubin Bobo's chimney, a perpetual-motion machine
built in the 1920s near the river and abandoned
when it didn't work. Not a milk stop, but a milestone,
my father said, to man's eternal quest
"to get something for nothing."

With a little horse sense, a high-riding, never-ending river
of fierce undertow and a tall, fireless chimney,
I got something for nothing. I learned a city.
I learned Davenport by route.

BIO:  Dick Stahl taught English for 34 and a half years at Davenport Central High School (his alma mater), retiring in 2001. His three books of poetry include After the Milk Route (1988) and Under the Green Tree Hotel (1996), both published by Augustana College’s East Hall Press. Mr. Farnam's Guests, my latest book, was published in 2004 by the Midwest Writing Center. From September 2001 to September 2003, he served as the Quad City Arts' first Poet Laureate.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Poem by Nancy Kiefer: "Royal American Show"

Hello everyone!  Hope this Monday finds you well.  First, the Poetry Project & I are starting to get a little press around the Quad Citites.  Check it out here.

Next we have an outstanding contribution from Seattle artist & Rock Island native Nancy Kiefer.  She has been following the project literally since day one, and wanted to contribute some work, which I think we're all happy that she did.  When she first contacted me about thr Project, here are some of the things she related to me regarding her feeling about her hometown:

"I am sort of watching on the side since I live in Seattle. I grew up in Rock Island, though. I've never loved a place more. I love it not only because it is beautiful, and the light shines on the river so uh...19th century like, but also because it contains this midwest gothic thing that is hard to express. Something to do with humidity, big chain smoking ladies buying baloney at the market, corner taps, hard work, racism, birds, and old houses. I'd say most of my work has to do with that in some way. Recently I've been looking at Mauriac's short stories and I read in the introduction that he placed all his stories in the little French town he grew up in--he walked the streets, the rooms of the house, etc. I can understand that as that is the way I make art, with the QC in mind. In my case, the 1960-1970 version of it." 
                                                       Nancy Kiefer, Sept. 3, 2009

Very cool & to me, she is getting at the heart of what I hoped this whole Project would be about-- those connections we have with place & the various terrains places have: topographical, emotional, aesthetic, memories.  So I want to thank her for her insights and her contribution, "Royal American Show":

Royal American Show

Must have been payday because Lila packed up the Cadillac and drove us over the Centennial Bridge to the carnival then gave us each a fat roll of tickets. Bruce had a broken arm but that didn’t stop him from getting in the rocket ship with me and there were no belts so we slipped all over and his cast came down and hit us both on our heads. The Mississippi Levee smelled of tar the hawkers sweaty and swearing and yelled hurry up buy this cinnamon treat and Lila said sure why not so we all got one and it was a piece of red glass wrapped around an apple something from a fairytale it almost broke our teeth. Cotton Candy on a humid day in June doesn’t last you have to eat it fast before you go into the Fun House so we did and on that day it was hot like an attic in there and someone had peed on the slide the one you need to exit so we had to make our way backward out of that dark crooked unfun house in the chaos someone slammed me against a wall with their body then in the dimness one kind-voiced boy wearing a robin hood hat with a tall feather walked me out saying I was going to be okay. Wasn’t that me sniffling when we came out into daylight? Evidently because Lila said honey let’s take you home But Please Lila not before we see the woman with no head I begged and she said okay baby. I loved Lila that day and every day after because this lady neighbor with Jane Mansfield platinum hair and cat blue glasses called me baby on such a June afternoon while the woman with no head turned out to be fake an optical illusion I knew because I looked close and could tell.

Bio: Nancy Kiefer is a visual artist and writer living in Seattle who grew up 8 blocks from the Mississippi in Rock Island, Illinois.  You can find her online here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Poem by Ryan Meehan: "No Surprise is Ever a Quiet Surprise. Everything is Loud Somwhere."

Hello everyone on this cold, wet fall day.  Before we get to today's contribution, I just want to remind you all that the Visible Cities poetry project will be accepting submissions through Sunday, Oct. 18, so please send along your work.  Now that we're in to October you can expcet a lot poems by area writers to be posted, as well as by other contributors, and updates about the public events and my chapbook, Complicated Weather.  Click on the links on the right for more info about events, submission guidelines, purchasing my book or whatever.  Thanks!

Now, on to the good news.  Today's poem comes from Ryan Meehan of Moline, IL:

No Surprise is Ever a Quiet Surprise.  Everything is Loud Somwhere.

They’ll bring sand…

And iron combs to dry their
hands like angry men
As it will stand…
Thrown from every orifice in
hell for it to cleanse

It’s Winter…It’s Winter…

Shell every picket fence…
And burn all the streets
until they finally reach the end.
And when they bring the sand
We’ll gather along with the river’s pride 
And continue to stand…

It’s Winter…It’s Winter…

It’s Winter…

And drop every leather shackle and hence
Restore the glory we once had sent
And get on your knees it’s time to repent
And get on your knees it’s time to repent
And it will be like hell on earth…and hell, like

It’s Winter…It’s Winter…
And I will continue…
Until I’m in dentures…
So indentured…

BIO: Ryan Meehan is a freelance writer from Moline, IL.  He is a nonpartisan non-fiction writer.  He has one cat and enjoys speaking about himself in the third person to boost his ego and distract himself from the otherwise horrifying existence which he lives.  He currently works in the telecommunications sector.