Featured Poet: John-Michael Albert, Portsmouth
John-Michael Albert (Mike) was born in Ohio in 1951, moved to Houston, Texas
when he was 16 and moved to the Seacoast of New Hampshire on Ground Hog Day
in 1999. He has a BA in Music from The University of the South ('80;
Sewanee TN), where he also won a scholarship to study Medieval History at
Oxford ('78). Forty of his musical compositions are available from his
publisher, Yelton-Rhodes Music. He has served the NH poetry community in
many capacities, as a board member of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire
(PSNH) and Jazzmouth: The Portsmouth Poetry and Jazz Festival, as host,
contest judge, invited reader, workshop leader, essayist and also as sound
man, when needed. He is the author of Vivaldi for Breakfast, published poems
2005-2009 (Moon Pie Press, 2009) and Two-Ply and Extra Sensitive, published
poems 2000-2006 (Sheltering Pines Press, 2006). He edited the two volumes,
2008 and 2010, of The Poets' Guide to New Hampshire (PSNH, 2007, 2009), a
travel guide to the State containing 400 poems by 300 poets from across the
last two centuries. His "New and Selected Poems, 2000-2010" will be
published in April 2012. He is currently serving as the 8th Portsmouth (NH)
"Childhood is a wonderful resource for poetry. It's dissolved in memory, so a
dogged slavery to facts is unlikely to smother the poetic spirit. And it's
filled with a prelapsarian sense of freedom and innocence. Long before the
present era of "helicopter parents," where both disapproval and parents are
ubiquitous, it was ultimately permissive and sensual, without the slightest hint of sin. And for me, the most sensual season in childhood was always
summer: nearly naked, barefoot, toasted dark brown, sunrise to sunset spent
with gangs of kids pursuing every possible curiosity with guileless hearts.
And cousins; there's something especially conspiratorial about cousins. It's
only later that we realized that the adults were just trying to get rid of
us, or that some of the things we did as children wouldn't be overlooked if
we repeated them as adults. But that didn't matter then. "Blackberries" is a
sense poem. All five senses are given their due--and a couple of others:
innocence and experience, to boot. In the "wrap up," I just had to toss St.
Augustine a child's forgiveness for stealing those famous pears with his
friends. It has been eating at him for about sixteen hundred years now and I
think his instincts have been telling him all along that it was no big deal.
I just wanted to confirm those instincts for him, child to child."
It was a ploy, of course. One of mom's tricks.
Take your cousins down to the ditch and
bring back some blackberries for desert.
And we were off with plastic butter tubs
(leaving the aunts and uncles talking
on the porch, the rotisserie tumbling
over the coals, the ice-cream churn humming
to beat the bees), with no thought of returning
because we were happy, and we were with friends.
Then, in the ditch (squashing the late
mulberries under our bare feet, yearning
for the wild cherries that my mother warned
were poisonous), we ate and picked and ate and...
and ran out of ripe blackberries long before
even one tub was full.
And we walked slowly back up the hill
(into the sunset, into the fragrances of
barbecued chicken and citronella candles,
into the colors of Kool-Aid, and parsley
and paprika on potato salad), and we washed
the summer dust from our measly pint with
the garden hose, and offered them to mom,
who wrinkled her nose and unceremoniously
dumped them into the churn.
It was then that I made one of the great
discoveries of my young and very sensual life:
blackberries aren't really black, they're
deep purple; and they make home-made ice cream
just about the sexiest thing a sun-burned kid
can put in his mouth this side of hot, ripe
peaches, purloined from a neighbor's tree.
For more information about John-Michael Albert visit:
Photo by Keri Cleveland Photography, Atlanta, July 2009