Joan Bauer
        Joan Bauer divides her time between Pittsburgh and Southern California, where she was born. Her poems have appeared in The Comstock Review, 5 AM and Quarterly West, among other journals. In 2008 Main Street Rag published her collection The Almost Sound of Drowning, and she has also edited, with Judith Robinson and Sankar Roy, Only the Sea Keeps: Poetry of the Tsunami, published by Bayeux Arts in 2005.
       Joan Bauer writes poetry that is a meeting place of peaceniks, warmongers, Adrienne Rich and People’s Park, Che Guevara and the Vietnam War and the Great Wall of China as well as blind dates with Chekhov scholars. In one of her poems someone shouts out at a reading, “I came for poetry not politics”—Joan Bauer is not shy about taking a stand, about being political, but (refreshingly) nothing in her work is forged from anger or bitterness or done heavy-handedly, and there is much humor here, and optimism—in spite of the “drowning” in the title of her book. Indeed, there is more waving here than drowning.  She is also a gifted reader, and her words take a new dimension when she reads them aloud. I have heard her often at Tebot Bach in Orange County. But there’s nothing Orange County about Joan Bauer.  Cosmopolitan and yet sweet, Bauer does work that, we hope, will not be drowned out in cacophony of other voices, but will be around for a long time to come.

Hanoi, 1996
God save us always from the innocent and the good.

--Graham Greene, The Quiet American

The airport, a strife-worn shell, encroached by green.
Flood fields of rice, water buffalo. I am alone,
but for those guards. Coarse uniforms, red stars.
Soldiers or police? I don't ask. Young boys approach
to sell their thin-paged books. "You are Chinese?"
(My Cherokee eyes miscast me everywhere)
"In school we study English every day!" Dusty bus ride
to the City of Lakes. Shift-streams of jeeps, old bikes,
tri-shaws. Red banners skitter. A huge and smiling
Ho Chi Minh, dove and child. By late-day light, I criss-
cross bustling streets that bloom with brass-caged birds,
hand-painted screens. Aged to ochre, the French facades.
In Hoan Kiem, I find a glistening lake. Yellow blossoms
frame the view: a crimson bridge, legs like lanky cranes.
At dusk, I see pagodas melt to grey. Two frail, white-
bearded men, silent on a bench. "Not one angry glance,"
I whisper to the sky. "They won, so now they like you,"
sky replies. "The sin of pride was yours, don't you agree?"
By night, the city swells with steaming pots. A street-side
feast of pho, with clams and eel. An ancient grandmere
shakes her head and smiles, "You have no children?
Sad! So sad!" Sidewalk smoke floats past the flowers.
I see four generations gathered. I know beyond banners,
smiles, facades-soldiers' twisted limbs, hovels
built of tin, cheap wood. A hundred years of conflict.
They survived. Beneath the Hanoi moon, I saw it there.

Originally published in The Almost Sound of Drowning, Main Street Rag, 2008. 


2010  Joan Bauer
Joan Bauer was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the March 2010 Second Sunday Poetry Series