Sherman Pearl is a retired journalist and publicist who has published four books (latest: The Poem in Time of War, Conflu:X Press, 2004) and is working on a fifth. He is among the founders of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival and a former co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets. Sherman's work has appeared in more than 50 literary journals and anthologies (notably Sam Hamill's Poets Against the War anthology). His awards include 1st prize in the 2003 competition of the National Writers Union, judged by Philip Levine. Most recently, he was honored with an International Publication Award by the Atlanta Review and the 2007 Anderbo Prize.

PANDEMIC

If we could name the illness we'd find a cure.
We'd invent a pill, give it a nickname
that numbs the ache with lighthearted swallow.

After the swallow the lips would sweeten,
feel urges to kiss other lips without fear
of spreading anything but affection.

And affection would mutate into passion
and passion to love and love would become
the name of what's been going around.

What's going around is spread by the pall
falling on all the love-seekers.
It passes among the otherwise healthy

touching their hearts with the queasiness
that Adam the Name-Giver knew
as he sought a name

that might've cured him of the plague
of aloneness. Finding none
he tore part of himself out of himself

and called her Woman. He kissed her
to calm his need but could find
no name for the malaise taking hold

of the two of them, the symptom
not even love could cure,
the longing that called them into the world.

STANDARD TIME

Radiance from a body that exploded a million
light years away reached out telescopes yesterday,
just in time to remind us
that the clockwork universe has forever
been whirling toward oblivion, that the serene
night sky is a time machine out of whack.

What can we do, love, in this diminishing light
but turn the hands back, recoup the hour
we lost last spring. What can we do
with this small gift of time
but rock it away on our porch swing and forget
that time has made swings and porches

passe. I know that the consellations
are racing apart but they seem so permanent now,
familiar as friends who don't fade a day
till the night they die. Tonight, in this hour
of consolation, nothing's moving
but us, our back and forth, this slow pendulum.

ROCKET SCIENCE

This poem is not rocket science
yet it, too, is trying to thrust itself out of orbit,
rise into the unknown. It will not,
however, rain missiles on unseen enemies;
nor was it fathered by transplanted Nazis.

Rocket science is what easy "ain't".
Art is infinitely more fragile; builds spaceships
out of spider webs. But it knows
how to mourn those lost in the ether;
it lets us witness their travels through time.

It is not rocket science
but it hitchhikes onto the scientsts' rockets.
When they land on alien worlds
it unveils the beauty under the bleakness;
it transmits urgent reports from the dark side.

Art is the lonely capsule
that wanders through space after the rockets
have fallen away. It is the gasp
of astronauts who've glimpsed a magnificence
science can't name. It is that name.
Sherman Pearl Moonday poetry reading


2008 Sherman Pearl


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