Monday, August 5, 2013

Poetry on Back Roads -- Stillwater Festival

     On Saturday, September 7, a poetry festival will happen in Stillwater, PA (a small town not far from Bloomsburg where I lived and professored for many years).  From noon to 9 at the Stillwater Memorial Park (63 McHenry Street (Rt 487) Stillwater, PA), organized by Kevin Clark, held in a revival-style tent, the the reading will have nature and agriculture as its theme -- and featured poets will include Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Sheryl St Germain, and Jack Troy.  (And there will be two open mic sessions.)
     Offered below are two poems by festival participants -- these are poems of numbers and travels (and more):  "Double the Digits" by Penn State poet, Julia Spicher Kasdorf, and "Tag Clouds," by Stillwater festival organizer, Kevin Clark (contact using StillwaterPoetry-at-yahoo-dot-com). 

Double the Digits     by Julia Spicher Kasdorf

We called the game Jenny made up driving
back roads through West Virginia

at twice the speed on signs. Foot on
the gas, foot on the brake, she'd take

a 25 mile-an-hour curve at 50, triumphant
until something thudded under the hood,

then hissed as we drifted to the berm;
engine block cracked, her dad's Peugeot

left for the wrecker, sold for scrap.
She never could tell him how girls,

16 and 18, could get so bent on speed
they'd ignore an oil light's warning.

When my dad's Plymouth Fury hit 78,
weightless, on a crested curve of Route 136

and nearly flew into the grill
of a soda delivery truck, we swerved

toward a pole on Donna's side then
were gone before the guy hit his horn.

We never said it, but close calls
like that made us see state troopers

on front porches, hats in hand, moments
before our mothers open the door. Yet

we played that game every chance
we got until college separated us

from our fathers' cars. Jenny divorced,
then married a canoe guide up north.

Because Donna's husband is black,
she can't set foot on her home farm.

And at 35, I can barely stay in the lines
so I keep going back, as if those times,

half a life ago, could explain why some women
get driven by a dumb desire for flight.

     I found "Double the Digits" online at Avatar Review;  it previously appeared in Paris Review and also is the opening poem in Kasdorf's collection Poetry in America (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011).

Tag Clouds     by Kevin Clark

Seven Counties, three mountains,
four hours of driving,
these were the measurements—
the numerical value of my love;
space and time
that doubled on the return trip.
PA 837; U.S. 22; I-99; 322; 45 East --
a route, a pattern of coming-going.

You who tired with your daily 2-mile commute
to work, who always surrendered driver’s seat,
never quite appreciated the lower back sweat
on vinyl, the cramped-legs ache,
the eye-strain concentration of such a trip.
You did not know the energy of moving fast,
of overtaking the tandem tractor-trailer
before the steep grade climb into Ebensburg,
nor the way sky merges with hill at Cresson
as I try tag with cumulus clouds
before the road falls near Altoona’s curve.

I’m not counting the gasoline at $2.68 a gallon;
the cold case of  twenty-four 12 oz. Yuenglings;
the four dollar Organic Wheat bread, and
Spring Bank Raw Milk Cheddar ($7 bucks a hunk)
from the Amish stand in Woodward.
The bouquet of wild flowers is all you see.
Your teenage son will pillage the fridge
for the rest -- but, hey, it was meant to be eaten
by someone.  I suppose.

This isn’t about investment, money spent,
squandered, or budgets blown by impulse.
I meant it when I said order “whatever” at the Lewisburg Inn.
I didn’t flinch (did I?) when we cased the jeweler’s window display.
Because this is the price of commitment;
romance’s cash receipt, or -- when things sour -- guilt’s hefty tuition.
Visa, Discover, Master Card.  A ledger of things leftover,
bills delivered, even when your letters stop.   

For additional information about the Stillwater Festival, contact organizer Kevin Clark (using StillwaterPoetry-at-yahoo-dot-com). 

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