Sherman Pearl
Sherman Pearl is, as far as I can see, a mensch. Whether he writes about the old Boyle Heights neighborhood that no longer exists, or the last speaker of Amurdag whose language will soon perish with him, or the boy who steals coins from a jar knowing the money is supposed to be used to grow trees in the Promised Land—what always shines through clearly is a unique and gentle voice that never strays into the sentimental. He is not afraid to be tough and profane—he is tough on those responsible for the ills and the madness he sees around us. In one poem he writes, “Maybe silence is the only language that lasts.” Poetry—especially contemporary poetry—often sets out to capture the dignity and richness of silence and the “unspeakable” in a few well-chosen words, and this is exactly what Sherman Pearl does in his best poems.

Swimming to Catalina

The swimmer in that stillness beyond breakers
that could carry him back
crawls the opposite way, toward open sea.
He's riding a different current.
His stroke opens the water, his kick churns the calm;
he sparkles ahead, fragment of a wave that's
always breaking.  He glides
from green into darkening blue, far and farther
from the lifeguards and sun-bathers
lounging with me on the safety of this shore.
The sea rocks him in its arms; the rollers
wash over him; again and again he sinks out of sight,
then bobs up as though he'd escaped the grasp
of the bottom; and the island's
still an ocean away, no more than mist
on the horizon.  I want to shout turn around, turn back
but he's out where the fins slice the surface,
where pelicans crash-dive to catch
the small elusive fish glittering below.
I've never been out that far.
One glance at the gray horizon
and I see the beach he's swimming toward,
the diamonds in the sand, the footprints of explorers.
I step in; the water's warm; the tide tugs.

2011 Sherman Pearl
Sherman Pearl was a Featured Poet who read his poetry at the August 2011
Second Sunday Poetry Series.