Tonight was the annual Fundraiser for the Squaw Valley Poetry Conference. The two hour reading takes place at The Starr King Room of the Unitarian Church in San Francisco.  The poets were Forrest Gander, Brenda Hillman, Evie Schockley and Dean Young. Also Kazim Ali, whom I wanted to meet. Last year I got his book, The Far Mosque, and liked some of the poems there. He was born in 1971, which makes him almost forty, and his manner is easy and relaxed, with  poetic presence that makes me sense he will continue to shine. After he read the poem Dear Shams –which appeared on the back page of APR Volume 39 – I shouted, YES!   (Oh yes!) Here it is: my favorite poem of the evening.

Dear Shams

There’s no answer to winter
watching the sun set over water

it falls so quickly
you have not been lost

branches, oligarchs of  the sky
everybody listening for silence

where and where did you go
twelve-stringed music, rejoin me

in the sun-year I swelled long shadows
in the moon-year the valley folded itself up

Poet Kazim Ali

you are the beloved I would not love
at the fountain witless and still

a stream pours over rocks making music
could the water rush over me

the sun drops so quickly into its banishment
could I please forget to breathe and drown

will the ocean rejoin me
you have not been lost

can I be reborn as a guitar
will you be reborn as music and hum inside me

one day you stopped looking at me
and I knew

the last note is lingering in the box
of my body

you did not vanish in the marketplace
I still imagine you in me as my breath

broken in thirds
corded to sound

I took your name when the sun came up
sun of winter, sun windless and wistful

come down across the water
undone sun give me the drunk go-ahead

last time I searched for you
this time I become wooden and resonant

prepare yourself in pure sound
last time I raved without senses

oh pluck me my angel my paper-maker
I want to feel you hum inside me

pluck me pluck me
and hum

<>    <>              …and he read the poem, Dear Rumi with the lines:

…At the fountain in the village square,/ the books are still sinking, bereft of your hands.

Even the mountains are bending down trying to save them...     [This guy is amazing!]

But there were other poets and poems.

Last time I went to this event, Lucille Clifton read.  Tonight was a series of tributes and remembrances by the featured poets. Brenda Hillman read a couple of fox poems, both hers and Lucille’s poem:

one year later

what if,


entering my room,

brushing against the shadows,

lapping them into rust,

Lucille Clifton 1936-2010

her soft paw extended,

she had called me out?

what if,


i had reared up baying,

and followed her off

into vixen country?

what then of the moon,

the room, the bed, the poetry

of regret?

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A wonderful evening of poetry from excellent poets! Lucille, you are missed!