Berkeley Times on December 3, 2015

Newspaper Column

The Berkeley Times

As appeared in the Berkeley Times on December 3, 2015:


The host pointed to paintings on the Gallery walls, “Water, water, water” the theme. Mud patterns in a drying lake, ocean waves breaking, the Napa River vigorous and full, the same river this year: a trickle.

The feature looked like a Dr. Frankenstein experiment! Two rows of stitches angled across his shaved cranium, each four inches long.

Nothing like a monster, though, when he read. Kid stuff, energetic and cheerful.

Lucy hit a homer,
I saw it, I was there!
And by the way her bat cracked,
I knew she hit it square.

Showing the forty-some, mostly white elders a little joy of life?

She took off running like the wind,
Toward first base, and more,
Her team was losing by a run,
Her hit could tie the score.

Gary Turchin made his living reading to school children and it shows. He touched the stitches and quipped, “You can’t fault me for narcissism. Who else would love me?”

Did you know the Moon is gregarious?
That cumulus clouds are full of themselves?
That the Sun has a shy side, but we don’t see it?
That lightning and thunder are at odds, and have been for centuries…?

Tongue in cheek provocation, “because there’s no substitute for the truth.” What if everything was wrong, and there is no truth?

What if the Universe was a chalkboard,
all chalked in,
and God: the Eraser
creating space between?

Turchin has an aggressive Parkinson’s disease. Those stitches show where surgeons probed his brain. “Before they routered … with their elegant science,”

A young security guard chased me into the crosswalk…
Demanding to see my receipt.
I yelled at him, “You don’t know anything,
you fool!”
He was young and stupid,
and hadn’t yet learned to distinguish ‘handicapped’ from ‘thief’…

The surgeons probed around and Turchin talked, to show what functions they touched. “Don’t mess with the poetry nodes!” Louder, “Let me keep my ability to speak!”

Turchin extended the theme in “The Geometry of Water,” asking water for its measurements. “It will laugh, scoff even, ‘You dividers and geometers….’” Water took on a voice with signature directness, listing how water transforms itself, magically. The poem concluded

“If I am not your God,
I am the mother of your God.” …

Surgeons will insert a battery in Turchin’s chest, hoping to override the earthquakes running through his nerves. Do we need special effects?

Someone yelled, “When will they turn on the battery?”

“That’s for me to know and you to guess.”

The Gallery’s next theme is “Color Matters.” You can bet they’ll bring a telling palette to racism. Find out how at 1805 Ashby Avenue, or downtown in their walkway between Center and Addison Streets, or at