Poet Of The Week

Sharon DeYoung

     December 20–26, 2021

Sharon DeYoung lives in Brooklyn with her fiancée and two cats. She is the winner of Poem of the Month honors for December 2021 at the Brooklyn Poets Yawp. Prior to moving to NYC, she lived in Los Angeles for fifteen years. She enjoys music from almost all genres, Latin and African dance, karaoke, and arts and crafts. This past summer, DeYoung was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Carlie Hoffman’s workshop The Excruciating on poetry and suffering.

Komorebi: For Clyde

 

I.

The storefronts are closed—

the sidewalks empty.

I wear disposable surgical masks

because to buy a reusable one

seems a concession

to the plague never ending.

My mind returns to a year ago

when an escaped parrot

captured the neighborhood,

and to words in other languages

that conjure the ineffable

in a way that this merchant’s tongue,

in all its streamlined practicalities,

is woefully unable.

I want to think if I’d lost it all

I could still be moved

to hope anointed tears

by the splendor

of Komorebi:

light filtering through the leaves;

shadows passing underneath.

A bird on the wing

wending above and below

a sun-struck canopy.

I want to say

if I’d lost it all

I could still feel free—

 

II.

To see that bird,

the Tanimbar cockatoo’s

wingspan

sprung,

flying solo

white as sugar

down the corridors of Brooklyn.

Taken from an Indonesian

archipelago,

struck down from his nest,

stolen from his parents.

This gorgeous living dinosaur named Clyde,

his majesty held hostage

on a sagging row-house porch

while sidekick Bonnie

preens herself to death

in a joyless cage

where their wings can’t stretch.

But Clyde knows the locks

and how to undo them.

Escaped, Clyde is the rock star

of the neighborhood.

A pre-A/C time erupts

where we hang out windows

to follow his daily migration

from sun-soaked fire escape

to children’s playground,

arriving just briefly enough to strut

and clutch his prized native fruits,

maybe enough time to record

a quick YouTube video!

His crest spanning out

like a proud pompadour

on the rare occasion

we’ve met his pleasure—

oblivious to the human hopes

he chariots

in his wild wingspan.

After the first frost

we feared the worst

when suddenly I saw him glide by

in the gathering light

of a muted sunrise.

I joyously posted on the neighborhood blog

the miracle of the morning—

Clyde lives on!

That morning a towel was thrown over him unawares

from his favorite fire escape

where he climbed

upside down and sideways

and thrilled us all.

He nearly took off a finger

but we all cheered.

The day he was claimed—

Clyde was free!

But I’d like to think

I could remember

as I died

the last time I saw Clyde

stream through the hallway

in the sky.

The whitest sand of the whitest beach—

untouched by hunger,

untouched by cold.

That the beauty of a Japanese word

could speak to me

like how I held my hand

when I wrote it

in calligraphy.

While Clyde has been caught

and has a bigger cage in which to fly

he isn’t truly free:

Clyde also longs

for Komorebi.

Perhaps Clyde will be caught

in a shaft of light,

perhaps,

I might.

In spring, the tree below the fire escape where he frolicked

burns white.

 

Brooklyn Poets · Sharon DeYoung, "Komorebi: For Clyde"

Tell us about the making of this poem.

Last year in the thick of COVID I was very isolated and felt trapped inside, and I started to think about a time when the whole neighborhood came together to save this escaped parrot Clyde and how much joy he brought to each day. I thought of a Japanese word I had written in a calligraphy class that captured the beauty of the natural world and just started writing and trying to tie all that together.

What are you working on right now?

I want to get a collection of poems together to send out to journals—I still have a lot of edits to make, particularly with punctuation, which has always been a sore spot with me.

What’s a good day for you?

Waking up, having my coffee with a cat on my lap, being in the sun, getting some exercise …

What brought you to Brooklyn?

I moved to NYC when my job transferred here, after I’d lived in LA for fifteen years. Initially I lived in Sunnyside, Queens, which I really liked, but we wanted to live in Brooklyn.

Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?

I’ve lived in Ditmas Park for about ten years now. It’s close to Prospect Park and there are a lot of beautiful, historic Victorian homes (some date from the ’20s) along streets lined with sycamore trees so it feels less congested than Manhattan and other parts of the city. There are also a lot of great restaurants and bars with live music.
 
Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.

The experience with Clyde was a really unique Brooklyn experience—seeing this bird climbing the fire escape across from my apartment building, and so many people following his daily adventures and joining together to save him so he didn’t freeze in the winter. And neighbors catching him after so much effort on the first really cold winter day was wonderful.
 
What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?

I consider Brooklyn Poets my poetry community. I love the Yawp readings, hearing other poets, and the workshop I took with Carlie Hoffman was amazing—there were so many talented poets in that class; it was a real joy. I’d like to have a poetry buddy where we share our poems and give each other constructive criticism.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

I’m just coming back to poetry after twenty years and really haven’t read any new poets since college. I’m being introduced to current poets through Brooklyn Poets.
 
Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

I didn’t really have any mentors, though I feel I’ve made some important new connections in workshops and other online poetry events.
 
Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

I’ve been reading the poetry of Alfred Tennyson and Thomas Hardy. Two of my favorite authors are Mario Vargas Llosa and Russell Banks, and I absolutely loved The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh. The short-story collection In the Country by Filipina American writer Mia Alvar was fantastic, as are the short stories of Canadian writer Mavis Gallant.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

I want to read more Emily Dickinson, Denise Levertov, and Coleridge, among so many others, and I want to discover the poetry of the present day. As far as books, I want to dive into short-story collections from writers all over the world. I’d like to read more Jack London, the autobiography of Charlie Chaplin, and travel writing.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I have trouble finishing books lately. Either I read a book very quickly or I don’t finish it but always hope I’ll return to it. I tend to discover new books by perusing the shelves of bookstores and libraries, reading reviews, and I get recommendations from my parents. I used to write in the margins when I was in college but now I sometimes mark favorite passages and list the page numbers on the flyleaf so I can go back to them. I collect and read physical books and I also read digital books.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

I’d like to write a sonnet.
 
Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

Ideally, I’d be holed up in a hotel somewhere with the blinds closed—no distractions. If it had a nice pool that would be a plus.

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

I love DUMBO. The park along the water has lovely landscaping, and somehow, even though it’s a narrow strip of land, there are many little winding paths that feel like a secret garden you can get lost in. You can look out on the water and walk the strand and people-watch—the last time I was there was the first nice spring day and I saw two couples taking wedding photos and two quinceañera celebrations. And there are great restaurants and shops and the powerHouse Arena bookstore.
 
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate the wild bouquet,

And from what I gather you may freely take,

For every earthly palpitation moves in me as good as it might move through you.

 
Why Brooklyn?

It’s a place in the city where you can still get lost in nature at Prospect Park and of course Coney Island is a blast and there are so many other neighborhoods to explore that all have their own personalities.