“Rodgers had infinite talent—but limited soul.
Hammerstein had infinite soul—but limited talent.”
— Stephen Sondheim on his mentors
Benjamin Blaze was born on the longest day of the year
where it’s incandescently hot in Davis, CA listening to corn
grow high as an elephant’s eye in the university student garden.
Per usual when we drove up to stay with my son’s family,
on Ben’s third birthday the two of us woke early before 5:43 sunrise
while pond frogs croaked, crickets chirped, his parents tried to sleep in.
This particular morning Coachie abracadabra pulled out and demonstrated
how to use a simple nutcracker brought north to crack open walnuts
we’d picked from surrounding trees on a previous visit.
Of course one backstory has to do with the elaborate soldier Nutcracker
(now sadly broken) Bubbe bought him at a San Francisco Symphony
Tchaikovsky performance the previous Christmas.
The current plan is to separate shells from the meat he’d mix
into our scrumptious pancake batter—just like locally-grown, personally
harvested black and straw and boysenberries added in the past.
A farm boy in training alongside a farm girl mama, he really enjoys hearing
me belt out Oklahoma, which musical’s lyrics surprisingly had stuck
since last sung 60 years ago with Mother who accompanied on the piano.
Although Benjie’d only met Mom once as a newborn at her centenary
two years before she died, he always spoken warmly, referring to
“Great Grandma Rhoda’s stool she gave me and used when she was little.”
Ending our celebration picnicking on the community commons
before setting off amazing Rocket Copter Slingshot LED technicolor flairs
following 8:35 sunset, we all cuddled then tucked boychick into bed.
Afterwards I returned to an ongoing yawnfest project scavenging
sixty years of LCohen’s discarded dross, looking for rare golden nuggets
of wheat winnowed amidst a depressing amount of chaff.
Apparently only post struggling for decades with dozens of false-start
Blue Raincoat drafts, becoming newly maniacally laser-focused OCD—accounts
suggest a change-of-pace selfish, offensive artist—that masterpiece took shape…
Evidently Richard Rodgers was a creative genius able to knock out melodies
in minutes, but Oscar Hammerstein struggled to produce what I consider wonderful
(if at times a bit schmaltzy or middlebrow) poetry—even at my humbler level
I learned to work hard to earn brief bursts of recognition, recommit effort
required to sustain improvement plus proportionate public reward: still widely
if less prestigiously published, is this septuagenarian losing such ruthless energy?
Gerard Sarnat won the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for a handful of recent Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. Gerry is widely published in academic-related journals (e.g., University Chicago, Stanford, Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Pomona, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan, University of San Francisco) plus national (e.g., Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, MiPOesias, American Journal Of Poetry, Clementine, pamplemousse, Deluge, Poetry Quarterly, Hypnopomp, Free State Review, Poetry Circle, Poets And War, Cliterature, Qommunicate, Indolent Books, Pandemonium Press, Texas Review, San Antonio Review, Brooklyn Review, San Francisco Magazine, The Los Angeles Review and The New York Times) and international publications (e.g., Review Berlin and New Ulster). He’s authored the collections Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting the Ice King (2016). Gerry is a physician who’s built and staffed clinics for the marginalized as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO. Currently he is devoting energy/ resources to deal with global warming. Gerry’s been married since 1969 with three kids plus six grandsons, and is looking forward to future granddaughters.