BOOKS & THE CULTURE Winston “Pink seashellsthey easy, they in the shallow water, but the brown ones, they deep, they for the best divers, like me, Winston.” His gold bicuspid glints like a ring when he grins. Between us gleam shells like armadillos or rainbow tornadoes of bone. “I dive myself for all these shell. I wash them every one myself I dive. I sell. You want good shell, see Winston:’ One size too tight, his shirt front screams at the buttonholes. When he squats, his underwear droops through a slit in the seam of his shorts scissored from old trousers at the knees. I See him younger by twenty years, a boy after his first dive, hawking starfish and grinning ivory. Then, twenty years ahead, too old to dive, toothless, selling green sunhats woven from belts of palm. Only that gold biter will not stop glistening like wealth itself amid this paradise of tourists, orchids, shanties and the hoarding, hiding sea that swills the beach like mopwater. Sam in Mid-Song It comes to him in pieces like a poem. Fingers on the keyboard wait… For what? He’s listening to something he’s about to hear. It can’t be hurried. Each time he tries to rush it into sound, it comes out wrong. Still listening, he walks away, distracts himself by humming Rock, assumes the song will happen when he least expects it. And it does. Back to the piano… His fingers flex until cadenzas draw them to the right keys. The melody becomes a stream cascading over rocks. The rocks can’t stop it. The stream keeps surging over banks it’s just discovering. It sings as it goes, and what it sings is turning into notes and words right now, right now, right now SAMUEL HAZO Samuel Hazo lives in Pittsburgh, where he teaches at Duquesne University and directs the International Poetry Forum, for decades one of the most active poetry series in the United States. His most recent books are The Past Won’t Stay Behind You Stills The Rest is Prose He has written two plays, Solos and Until I’m Not Here Anymore!; the latter became a film for PBS. He has also published works of translation. In 1993 he was named the first State Poet of the Corn monwealth of Pennsylvania by Governor Robert Casey. Both these poems employ a keen sense of observation and attention to other people’s motions and voices, whether spoken or sung. The “song” element has long permeated Hazo’s melodious works. He memorizes his own poems immediately upon writing them and gives poetry readings entirely from memory. Naomi Shihab Nye FEBRUARY 28, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27
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