Tuesday, August 21, 2007


For Kris Hemensley : remembering John Steinbeck

The memory
of reading
John Steinbeck
is the feeling of a Wright Morris
shred of dusty lace
shadow drapes across
the muted glass...
peeling flaking paint dresser
bundled cutlery wrapped
in motley cloth
rusty old tobacco tin
lid slightly ajar
weathered tracery disintegrating...

Light and shade sepia
Beyond the open doorway
A hope and despair...

[Wright Morris in Laos]

(February, 2007)

Dear Kris,
After I said the opening lines to you, on the phone, I did sit down and try and make a poem, which is something I seldom do...I find it difficult to catch the sentence...eluding me like a fleeting brushstroke across my thoughts...(or a reflection of the moon, rippling, in the sake, in the bowl, held in the hand of a wandering poet, sitting out on a frosty night, of a full moon, drinking from a fine porcelain bowl...) then it's gone...later I found Cannery Row in Isabel's bookshop in Luang Prabung (L'etranger) and reading the introduction I thought I did remember John Steinbeck...after all, I could have made up what I remembered...and I had taken out the word "splintered" !!! I write this to you, for your birthday, listening to Issan music falling glass through my ears with the split on split sound of the rain on the tin roof outside my window...the rainy season prelude...

Cannery Row, Introduction
"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood....."

Why write when you can gather these wonderful pieces of text from here and there...

Catherine O'Brien
(April, 2007)

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