Featured Poet : John-Michael Albert, Dover
Since moving to New Hampshire from Texas in 1999, John-Michael Albert has become the author of five chapbooks, Some Posthumous Thoughts of a New York Secretary (2002), Texas Rose Rustler (2003), Boston Fruit Market (2004), Boy with a Conch (2005), and Two Fat Squirrels (2006), as well as the forthcoming book, Two Ply and Extra Sensitive (Kennebunk ME: Sheltering Pines Press, 2007). He serves on the board of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and on the organizing committee for the annual Jazzmouth: Portsmouth Poetry and Jazz Festival. Mike has also been poet-in-residence at Timberland High School (Plaistow). He hosts and co-hosts monthly readings in Dover (Dover Mic!) and Portsmouth (Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program Hoot and Portsmouth Beat Night: Open Mike), and has read his work at many state venues. Mike is also the editor of the upcoming anthology of New Hampshire-related poems, old and new, entitled, The 2008 Poets’ Guide to New Hampshire. When he is not otherwise participating in readings, he supports the thriving Seacoast poetry culture as an enthusiastic audience member. Mike works as an accountant at the University of New Hampshire.
About “Peace Herself Is Sitting” Mike writes:
Peace is one of the great themes of world poetry. I think it is attractive to poets because it is as elusive as any of the other great themes, beauty, happiness, love, a long life lived in the presence of cherished friends, and so on. In the end, we’re all cornered by these themes because, although attainable in small quantities, and certainly unforgettable, they’re also ephemeral. It is the poet’s responsibility to show the way out. In “Peace Herself Is Sitting” I attempt to wrap the many contradictions I’ve experience in the pursuit of peace in the specific details of my apartment life by the Cocheco River above the dam in Dover. I conclude, here at least, that what there is of peace is to be found in the ordinary details of everyday life; in the words of the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, it is especially to be found in the ultimately ordinary thing, ourselves.
Peace Herself Is Sitting
Peace herself is sitting at my desk in the summer:
no music, no TV, no radio, no phone,
listening to the birds by day and the frogs by night.
Peace is walking down my street in a snowstorm,
the neighbors’ houses glowing golden
from every window; but otherwise silent, silent.
Peace is writing a while, reading a while,
rising from my desk and getting a glass of water
in the kitchen, then lying down on my dogwood quilt for a nap.
Leaves will fall, flowers will wither, birds will disappear;
the neighbors’ kids will roar by: car-stereo sennets woof out
their arrival, and tuckets pursue them tweeting as they leave;
I’ll pass a newsstand and scan the headlines, the photos;
a friend cackles news of armies, bombs, and body parts,
and the endless assurances from the powerful rising above it all.
But the only news Peace tolerates
comes from the tongues of birds and frogs.
Translated neatly into the quiet applause of wind-blown trees,
it is taken up by the rippling surface of the river
above the dam, and the shivering daubs of wildflowers
hiding among the dry grasses in my unmown lawn.
Where then, my friend Villon, is my muffling snow,
my exultant leaves, my yawning summer windows,
or even my neighbor’s houses winking at me in the winter night?
I really shouldn’t care. The wheel of stars turns over them all,
Peace and her thousand opposites, to the faint scratching of my pen
and the sigh of thousands of pages of poetry turning, turning.