Just Flow with It, by MinagraphySpeaking of my Goya: I had it handy when Arlo Guthrie’s
“Alice’s Restaurant” came out: I had read Woody’s

fictionalized autobiography, Bound for Glory
(E.P. Dutton: 1943): somehow Arlo’s

twenty-minute song-story-recitation
moves right along with the 60’s. Woody Guthrie,

Oklahoman, died, 1967, Huntington’s disease,
the young folk singers and composers coming

by to see him, including Bob Dylan.
“This Land Is Your Land” is true: it

shows the score: The mind’s chaos, sometimes,
especially at close of day, when the sun burns

terror far off and again in the mind, Nin feeling
every detail the settlings drift in “the trough”

which keeps hulling itself for her inundation,
as I say, worse as Night Thoughts wake up

shaking the sun’s reflection: a chair in the big
room gathers Nin into that light, her dimmer

browning among lines leaving me ragged as a
human being can be, tossing and turning,

waiting and yearning for glimmers to patch
our haggardness − health-plan from Blue Cross-Blue

Shield Family to MediCare A, B, & D
(hospitals, doctors, prescriptions). The sun

in the morning patches the porch, the yard:
the falling leaves from the poplar slide by Cricket’s

wheat-colored pose sprawled on the bricks,
half in and out of shine: she knows what it’s like

to play the shadows, though last night she scratched
her Bean bag, making her bed, and tinkled on the blue

flowers covering the inner lining. Merle Haggard
has been pardoned for his juvenile transgressions,

though he blends those early detentions into his
compositions. The crows caw over the tall

pecan-trees greening brown toward ripeness
as the mourning doves fly higher, straighter

now that dove-season’s in. The mockingbird
seems less heartless, not so much bent on

claiming territory as he was a month ago:
Haggard’s associated with Bakersfield, California:

a gabble of Canadian geese just scared Crick and me,
honking and veering real low down over

Derek’s Canopy: when Haggard got low, his music
lifted him through and up out of the times

he served Time, surviving his success of
being a star. Like Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell,

and Don Gibson, Merle Haggard’s a songwriter-singer-poet
of the “common people”: “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,”

“The Bottle Let Me Down,” “Swinging Doors,” “Mama’s
Hungry Eyes.” “Sing Me a Sad Song” he got from

Wynn Stewart, a Bakersfield performer too:
Hag heard Wynn sing the song, asked to record it:

Haggard’s career shot up, out, scattering into daytime
variety shows, starting in the mid-sixties after he

recorded a song he named his band after,
Liz Anderson’s “From Now on All My Friends

Are Gonna Be Strangers,” his rambling days as rebel
shaping Merle Haggard, the entertainer-singer-artist:

I think that’s what I’m trying to do: Nin’s depressed
and I’m in H forward and back to her, asking for

help in our song, this mindful indulgence
full of contrarieties: words cannot express

my hurt for Nin who seems to translate into
herself everything she sees − to her, not distortions,

but to me, real tortuous upheavals of missed
perspectives, there being many, it’s true; take away

one stress, a boulder in the way, and another pops up.
She renders in mumblings my telephone heaves

with our son or with our bass player. Nin’s responses
jack discourse out of context, while we play and sing

and have a good time as she cycles, with or without Help
from EMSAM, lamictil, saphris, zyprexa, wellbutrin,

prozac: maybe she will be able to account a shape for
our finances: right now her song’s the “End of the World”;

I feel bad just writing that: I must go on − let go, wanting H
to hold my hand out of harm’s hole, bear me up, with one

vertical plank on the left and another on the right, a
piece middle way, horizontally, adapting my identity to

unsung singers like Walden, Kentuckian, Connie Hall
who let her heart fly away for Decca and Mercury:

“Fool Me Once” and “It’s Not Wrong.” Vera Hall, too,
Alabaman, beautiful, unknown songstress Alan Lomax

recorded as she spent most of her time as domestic
servant: who knows but what she might have been a

force like Zora Hurston, who also knew service as a
domestic: or consider our July, “the slave girl,” who

started having babies at twelve and cleaned houses for
somebody else all her natural-born days and

died a slave’s life, though she lived after the
Emancipation which “freed” her into

frustration and poverty during Reconstruction. Help me
understand how women like Vera Hall could sing

the caged bird’s tune and make a living as a
washerwoman and cook: help me not

forget the African-American woman from Livingston.

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Shelby Stephenson's Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize (Allen Grossman, judge).

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Born in Bucharest, Romania, Mina spent her childhood in theatre, amongst preparing actors, dusty props and costumes, and most summers by the Black Sea, capturing the world with her plastic panoramic camera. Fascinated by movies and cinematography, she frames the world in overexposed imagery that reflects the luminosity of her vision. Since her move to NYC, she fell irreversibly in love with Coney Island, a subject that has been the center of her work for the past 3 years. She was a featured artist of the Greenpoint Gallery in Brooklyn and is a member of Norfolks NYC Art Collective. Her site is

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