What We Found in Grandma's Attic   Wednesday, July 30, 2014






More fooling with old photos  this week. Like last week, I originally worked on the photos months, if  not years, ago with an application no longer available. I went back to the old, processed photos and re-processed them with a different application. The aim was to  create a distressed look, like very old, hand colored photos you might find in a trunk in your grandmother's attic after she passes on.

Such was the idea,  anyway.

I have a huge anthology this week, Reversible Monuments, an anthology of contemporary Mexican poetry. The book was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2002. It is a bilingual book, Spanish and English on facing pages.

All my poems this week not by me will be from the anthology.


Me
a moment comes, passes

Elsa Cross
Monsoon

Me
Gwendolyn

Alberto Blanco
Set Theory
Theory of Fractals

Me
her silence

Antonio Deltoro
Eggs Laid by a Tiger

Me
transition

Malva Flores
Turbid Diction

Me
nobody feels  sorry for Sally

David Huerta
Pathological  Beings

Me
how I  ended up a writer 

Tedi Lopez Mills 
My Voice Faithful  as a  Shadow

Me
like the end of the world is near upon us

Ernesto Lumberas
Where To?

Me
as the end of  night  begins

Pedro Serrano
Pool
Vertigo

Me
a girl-child plays in a summer park

Natalia Toledo
Temple
Silly Ghost
Revelation 

Me
until she sleeps

Veronica Volkow
The Valley of Zapata

 Me
the economies of joy

Me
what we  found in grandma's attic 





- Scheduled for cataract surgery early tomorrow  morning, so I expect I'll  be cycloptic for a couple of days. It has taken nearly five months to get to the actual surgery. It's been at  least 35 years since I helped my mother get her's done and I don't remember it  being such a big deal. So, I guess the procedure has become much more complicated or insurance has gotten a lot better. But, having been essentially blind in my right eye for about five months,  I'll do it however they want it done.  

Anyway, the point is,  the next Here and Now post might be a day or two  late. -
     








                                                     

Here's my first new  poem  for the week. My mood  for  shorter poems is carried over from last week.








a moment comes, passes

pastel moon
big and round and high
on the horizon

the color
of the rose heart
of hill country peaches








                                    

The first  poem from this week's anthology is by Elsa Cross. Born in 1946, Cross has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and teaches philosophy of religion an comparative mythology (thinking what a great course of study that would be to audit) at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. She has also taught at the Naropa Institute in Colorado and at Madrid's Universidad Complutense. She has been published consistently since the 1960s.

The poem was translated by  Margaret Sayers Peden.








Monsoon

The rain brought a new life.
Summer opened the sky
and we were consumed with it
                                                   overflowing grace.

Thunder,
               grand proclamation
from Mandagni to the lesser  cordillera,
from the shore to the river
                                          to the temple high above,

O Vajreshwari,
O Lady of Lightning
and Mandagni
                        silent mountain,
her hidden paths running over us.

The earth changes around us.
The rain brings its gifts
to her dark skin:
mantles of moss  like velvet,
fresh newness of cover,
                                       aromas.
And in the stable yards
a moment's inattention
ad vegetation bursts
                                 from cracks in the ground,
from moist  crannies in the wall.
Tiny little grasses appear
on the trunk of the banyan,
on the stone stairway to Tapovan,
among voices that become as soft
as the eyes of the cows
                                      watching it rain.

All the earth
                      naked
dark  like your skin
is  dressed
                    in a green mantle.
In rice paddies
                          behind the plow
boys shield themselves from the rain
beneath yellow burlap bags.

As the days go by the valley recedes:
water
           covers the green mantles.
From the temple high above
                                            a field off mirrors.
Rain inundates us.
It captures the heavens in its reflection.









                                       



Here's an old poem from July,  2008. This one, another illustration why I never write at home, but always in places like coffeehouses where I am surrounded by interesting, poem-worthy people.











Gwendolyn

Gwendolyn,
i've named  her
and i love
to watch
her talk -
American Sign,
with flashing eyes
and Gwendolyn
body
english
that seems too involve
every
movable
part of her physical being

as i watch her from
across the coffee shop
i have no idea
what she's talking about
but, by God
it looks very exciting








                                                      



Next from the anthology, two short poems by Alberto Blanco. Born in 1951 in Mexico City, Blanco is a poet,  visual artist, translator and art critic. He has published more than twenty books.

The poems were translated by Gustavo V Segade










Set Theory

In a dark room a candle is lit.

Everything in that room
is at once illuminated on one side
and projects a  shadow on the other.

Everything that has light casts a shadow.
Light and shadow go hand  in hand.

But if the flame itself has no shadow,
Does the candle's flame really have light?



Theory of Fractals

In nature there are only two kinds of beings:
the large and the small.

the large ones always are what they are.
The small ones are symbols.

Of course one must know
large in relation to what...
and small in relation to what...

All beings are  large in relation to something
and all are small in relation  to something else.

In other words:
all beings are large and small at the same time.

They are what they are
- we are what we are -
and always and ever will be, symbols.








                                                    

Here's another short poem from  last week - woman I know, and probably you know, too.








her silence

she suffers
with such exquisite silence

silence
like the scream of a banshee
at midnight

heard only by those
who have suffered her silence before...


such a disappointment
they were
to her









                                      


This poem from the anthology is by  Antonio Deltoro. Born in 1947, the poet studied economics and has published frequently, winning the Aguascalientes National Poetry Prize in 1996.

His poem was translated by Christian Viveros-Fauni.









Eggs Laid by a  Tiger

                                  ...marvelous original things
                                  like eggs laid by tigers.
                                           Dylan Thomas


Fascination for what is seen and  heard from the heights,  in the streets
    from the sidewalk.
Hypnosis triggered by a lone footprint in the cement, by the lack of
    footprints on the beach,
by an anthill of shoes in the entrance of the subway.
Sadness for shoes orphaned of feet, tracks of the unlucky,
more human still, now that they mean abandonment.
Horror of the shoes left by flight like false leads
for death to enjoy: foreshadowing  of casket, bad omens.
Pathos of shoes abandoned amidst  the massacre,
of those who fell before their footsteps, more painful even than
    screams.
Blindness of eyes to brilliant feet, of memory to that shoe
fallen among so many others on the wet  street.
Seduction of the feet of dreams, of the feet of laughter.
Bedazzlement of jumping feet, magic of feet in the treetops.
Enchantment of feet in the sky when they ascend horizontally, from
    the bed.
Attraction for feet when contemplating you from their soles;
love of the tongue that walks their path.
Freedom of naked toes when they leave their prison,
squirming like bird cubs in search of sustenance,
their nails fossils emerged from the Precambrian era.
Joy of feet liberated from their leather boxes,
they emerge  like doves from a magician's  top hat.
Clarity of feet on the beach, echoes of flesh, shadows erased by the sea.
Hallowed be thy feet, eggs laid by a tiger.









                                              





Another old  poem,  this one from July, 2009.











transition

had a talk
with the wild
kittens
this morning,
long distance,
of course, even  though
they sit by the door
and greet me when
i drive up and even though
i feed them twice a day,
they still don't let  me
get close enough to
touch,
understanding,
it could be, that
doing so will surely
have a negative effect
on their sexuality

they are still
cute
to watch
as they play with
each other - they are
kittens, after all -
sadly a  temporary condition
subject to change
any week now,  when
their transition to cat
will be complete

a new phase of life
for both of us
and a new  stage
in our relationship,
including, possibly,
an introduction to
Reba
who does not like,
at all,
having those creepy
pushy cat-beasts
on her porch...

but even as i say that
i know,
old Reba, loud-
barking dog that
she is, is at heart
just another
pussy








                                                                

Malva Flores is my next poet from this week's anthology. Born in Mexico City in 1961, Flores is a poet, essayist, fiction writer, and editor. She received the Elias Nandino National Emerging Poetry Prize in 1991 and the Aguascalientes National Poetry Prize in 1999.

Her poem was translated by Jen Hofer.









Turbid Diction

               (excerpt)

Whenever something dies
something is
already being born.
It takes its wreath of fire from the dead,
the fragile substance of its evocations:
     what still remains of its body.

What is left of its body is an aura flying
in the red dunes of memory.
There the clothing of images transformed:
tear or flower
bandage or burn.

What is born takes possession of that volatile aura
to give its body spiny consistency
     - it'll be a trunk, perhaps an oak-
which again
     anew
will inhabit the eyes that love augments
withe two people kissing
re-initiate each other 's foundation.








                                        

Okay, no names  required, but you know this person. We all do. A new poem from last week.








nobody feels sorry for Sally

nobody
feels sorry for Sally
better
than Sally does

and it pisses her off
when other people don't feel as sorry
for Sally as she
deserves...

she thinks
they're just not trying
hard  enough...

so
if some fine and sunny day
you see Sally coming
down a bright summer street
be sure
and tell her how sorry you are
about everything

then leave
quickly
before she can  tell you
all about
it









                                        

From the anthology now,  David Huerta. Born in 1949 in Mexico City, he is a journalist and contributor to the newspaper El  Universal, in addition to his work as a poet. He lectures frequently and coordinates numerous literary workshops. He has received numerous awards, among them a Guggenheim fellowship in 1978.

His poem was translated by Mark Schafer.











Pathological Beings

NOVEL

     With intolerant repose,
she yielded  to the incantations of  the wind.
     But he knew how
to drag her into a swoon, into the grim
     daybreaks of stupefaction.

     She had an inhuman face,
all white angles. He
     knew the sorcery of insolence
and the height of dominion.

     But  she knew the untoward
and tenacious method that confounded him.

     He was ignorant of the art of  dreams
and she smeared his face with nightmares.








                                            





Now a poem from July, 2010, an  explanation  of  how things turned out as they did.










 how i ended up a writer

i always wished
i could play the piano

any kind of music, classical,
jazz, Mongolian  diddle-bop -

i didn't care, i just wished
i could play it...

but when  i was learning music,
family finances dictated it  be an instrument
provided by the school which
narrowed the choice to snare drum

or tuba
and since snare drum
was reserved for girls
and smaller kids which i was neither

so
tuba
it was

and even though
i wasn't much good in my tubistical
endeavors

i'm sure i'd have been better
on piano,
being that piano  is where,
i'm sure, my musical flair

is nestled,
waiting to be awakened -
(also no one expects
you to parade around

with a piano
slung
across your shoulders,
thereby avoiding a lifetime

of  back problems
arising
from early-years abuse
by tuba)

and i also wish
i  was an artist,  a painter of
landscapes, fruit bowls, pots of red or yellow flowers,
and mostly beautiful naked women

but since i can't  draw stick figures
without losing  a couple of  sticks
or circles that aren't flat
on one or two sides

and since both music
and art
require studious
reading of instructions

among other lesser things,
and since i hate reading
instructions
I suppose i'll just  have to

stick
to writing
where ignoring  instructions
leads to  development

of a poetic voice
of your own
which i'm good at
and which is just as good

as doing things
right
as long as you do  it
with confidence  and a sense


of purpose

and
humor, too
of  course








                                                            



Tedi Lopez Mills is next from the anthology. She is a poet, essayist, translator and editor. Born in 1959 in Mexico City, she was Editor in Chief of the literary journal La Gaceta. In 1998 she received the first poetry grant awarded by the Octavio Paz Foundation. 








My Voice  Faithful as a Shadow

                    (Guillaume Apollinaire)

Where does the note fall among  reaching boughs
Where does the wing drop its white feather
Where does time lose
And who dies with the final bell
Who tolls it if they've all gone
All planted flags in a patch of ground
All gone off with the war

Say there's no return
Only this trench halfway across a decade
This jungle of blood without return
The daughter of your head
The wounded daughter of some fatherland
Minerva set down in the landscape of obuses
Through the country of your footsteps was mud
Mud and dessicated skin on prongs
Polished iron the mirage in your forehead
Alibi like light between plate and skull

Life did not have that shine
Did not have the resplendence of new things
The garden after the battle
The balm of myrtle
The solace of a new language
Towers     cables    a train's last car
Beyond clouds of smoke
Shouts of victory
Other consonants     other rituals
And from behind every shutter a different eye
Another vowel on the lips
And your voice faithful as a shadow
Like the days and nights
Faithful to its own succession
Your voice from here, from there
Sings it does not know where
It does not sing









                                                          
Complaining about the weather last week because the weather was damn-well worth complaining about.









like the end of the world is near upon us

a week
of starless nights
the sky above and all below
a day-old pot of thick hot  soup

still
as after-dinner
leftovers unstirred
since last ladled
for dinner since
forgot

left to crust-over  on  the stove

we try to remember
the cool evenings of spring
the cold north winds
of winter

hoping they will come again,
but in these nights
it seems so
unlikely

we  try to rekindle
our hopes
with iced-coffee in the morning
and cold lemonade
when the afternoons
broil...

such a futile exercise
in self-deception
when it's clear the end of the world
is near upon us








                                                

Next Ernesto Lumbreras. Born in Ahualuco Del Mercado, Jalisco, in 1966, Lumbreras writes poetry, plays for children, artists' monographs. His poem was translated by Rebecca Seiferle.









Where to?

In the absence of progress:
                                  0    12    123    1234    12345
The roads toward Poetry evade simulation, generality,  repetition.  They
sense in distinction, not a short cut, but the possibility of deviation.

    ~~~

This equivalence seduces me: Poetry = Harmony. I clarify, I am not
talking of order.

    ~~~

The nature of harmony is multiple. They symmetrical is one of its faces,
the most legible of all.

    ~~~

Who sleeps at the foot of a blazing fire - let's reconstruct this image in
our mind - seems to dream a wounded lion.

    ~~~

When we stare at the fire we feel a tutelar presence. If to sing  its misery
renews the mire of our mysteries, to confound us with its foliage calms
the soul of the damned.

    ~~~

Poetry calls us together around a bonfire. Places in our heart a seed of
piety. Keeps a black beetle in our eyes.

    ~~~

Some time ago I surprised some children playing in the garden. The
game was very simple. It consisted of forming new species. Thus kept
spring forth, the ant with the back of a centipede, the caterpillar with
the head of a grasshopper, the earthworms with the extremities of a wasp.
     Of the game's participants, there was a little girl who hesitated to
show her specimen. With a little penknife, absorbed and nibbling at her
lower lip, she was cutting  I don't know what. finally, at everyone's
expectation, she permitted us to see her  creation: a dandelion with a
scorpion's sting.

    ~~~

I who was watching the children play,imagined my invention: a child
covered, to the neck, with dead leaves. His name could not be other:
autumn with the face of child.
    Idleness suits the maker of poems. But Poetry is not only an accu-
mulation, scholarly handbooks, sucker punches to reason. Poetry is a
gradual affair.









                                     





 One of my early, early morning poems from July, 2011.











as the end of night begins

the moon
at midnight
is full and bright,
slipping
through the trees
like a slow and lonely
dancer, drifting
as the end of night begins...

toward the west
and away from the other  side of the sky,
the edge of the world over which
it's  bigger, brighter sister
will soon rise
to claim  a new day

high in
the cold, cold sky,
near where the domain
of all earth creatures end,
icy scudding clouds
provide chill backdrop
to the pale sister's
passage

the siblings
never  together,
can only nod in passing








Born in Montreal in 1957,  Pedro Serrano is the next poet I have from this week's anthology. He is a poet, editor, translator, and author of the  libretto for the opera, Las Marimbas de l'Exil/El norte en Veracuz.

His poems were translated by Geoff  Hargreaves.







Pool

The trees are a mane of shaken yellow,
woven from points and silicon, from green clouds.
Glass is broken sands, tags  of wind.
Water is light, distorting, trembling,
(fragmenting shapes like a fragmented mind.
The crystal pool in the shrinking river stones,
tadpoles dark and jittery,
foot entering water
pain of cold,
the spread of silt turns milky.
Inside, I shake like an uptight mirror.


Vertigo

I touch the cornerstone of the year,
pushcarts of stone and sand,
step nervously alight with fear,
on the splayed grief of my shadow.
I walk and walk and walk, tumbling slowly into ravines.
I long to touch the sky with my lips,
to spread my dolphin wings in flight
and feel cool air around my body.
But I'm built of these four or five speechless stones,
of this unyielding load.
So I walk, reeling out stories and shrieks,
drown in the terrifying echo of the soul's dome,
incandescent blue and wounded.
How to smash this crystal net?
How to raise, in a solar juggling act,
these four truths, stones, up to life's sun?
I play with them like echoes or sighs.









                                                   


Here's another from last week.









a girl-child plays in a summer park

a girl-child
with long braided hair
and deep violet
eyes
runs in a park
blowing soap bubbles,
a stream of soap bubbles
caught by the wind,
blowing through the trees

there is your true God

a pretty girl-child
blowing bubbles, each bubble
a universe let fly  by winds of chance,
one bubble yours
and mine,
where we sleep...

innocent
and unaware all the sharp edges
in the matriverse
in which our God runs, blowing
translucent universe
bubbles
watching them drift in the wind,
watching them pop
as harsh and unwelcoming
space and time
finds them

arbiters of order,
all the mechanics of space
and time, hostile
to such free and open flying








Next from the anthology, Natalia Toledo. Born in 1967 in Juchitan, Oaxaca. The poet writes in Zapotec and Spanish. In addition to her other publications, her work has appeared in several anthologies of indigenous-language poetry. She also appears frequently at international conferences of indigenous poets. She is also a gourmet chef specializing in Oaxacan cuisine, particularly that of the Isthus of Tehuantepee.

Her poems were translated from Zapotec (I assume, it's not  Spanish) by Alberto  Rios.



Temple

Eye in the center of the triangle
of a God who sees nobody.
The head of Minerva strikes my arm,
long and thin like a water snake.
Convulsed pulse,
clot of life.
The eye has a voice:
in what swamp did you leave your cowardly body.
The sweet basil shakes.
The thorn of my skin falls.


Silly Ghost

Skeleton buried
at the edges of the river.
Men who sling their balls
over the head of fear.


Revelation

Purple flowers
are born on the back of the wall.
Carpeted quarry stone in the air
that moves and detaches.
A bird's beak wakes me,
takes a piece of me
my body jumps from the petate
it is the hen of fear.
There's only one way
to stay on earth. Roll.









This  poem is from July, 2012.

It was just a couple of weeks after this poem that we finally gave up and put Reba down. This after having watched her conditions grow worse and worse, until even the medications we gave her several times a day were doing no good. This after a  week of up-all-nights, trying to comfort her as her pain  was so great she couldn't lie down, she spent  the nights circling and circling.

I  was holding her head in my hands as the vet  gave her the injection, looking into her brown eyes, watching her life light fade from those eyes.

As I was leaving the room, I turned and saw the vet stroke her dead back, saying a small prayer, I think.

He is now my vet for life.

She was a wonderful dog, friend and companion for nearly 20 years. I still miss her sometimes, glad  that  I have golden  Bella to comfort me now when memories return.





until she sleeps

    Reba
sleeps in the back of my car,
on her way for a bath
and beauty treatments
at Pet's mart
as  soon as I  finish breakfast...

overdue for a  bath
because  I've been concerned
about how frail she is
and how the pain  in her hips
requires special gentle handling...

but
let's face it,
she stinks...

    poor dear,
so thin,so fragile,
so hard for her to lie down,
so hard for her to get up,
following me
from room to room
when I'm  home,
lying beside
me when I'm working
in  my office,
her brown eyes
pleading
and there's nothing I can  do
but  hold her head
until she sleeps
and whisper in her deaf ears
that she is not alone...

    3 a.m.
sitting beside  her
on the  floor
stroking her head
until she sleeps...








                                                        

Last from the anthology, a poem by Veronica Volkow, poet, translator and art critic. Born in Mexico City in 1955, she completed graduate studies in comparative literature at Columbia University.

Her poem was translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.










The Valley of Zapata

Night rose up from the earth:
magueys,  stones, shrubs,
now shadow.
Slowly the earth releases light
and day lingers overhead like a lake,
     soon to be become
just another of the the stars.
Slowly, clouds drift by
shades of orange and gray,
earth's sun,
mirrors sunflowers,
and beyond, farther ... once
swirling their radiantly white mist
     infinitely revealing
clouds that duplicate their shape on the mountains.
Shadows that are faint copies
or day's decalcomanias on night's emptiness/
     now all-encompassing
a single shadow above the valley,
     a rock
barely sculpted by tenuous light.
Headlight's beams obscure the darkness
probing the road,
maize shredded in the wind,
a few glimmers in the distance
are they automobiles
or rooms illuminated in the distance
     like tiny headlights?
It's shooting sparks,
the campesinos here would say, "It's huixtleando"
in their Spanish borrowed from the past
where hear a "vide" or "trujeron"
in the same breath with "Fab" or "Volkswagen,"
words that have been added to their lives
like plastic bags and tin cans
in the dirt and rock
where women have knelt for centuries to knead maize,
Spanish paralyzed like misery,
abandoned by history,
also like misery,
where the passing of time merely means more
torn plastic and bottle caps 
in mud much older than the streets.









                                                         





 This is my last old poem for the  week, from July, 2013.











 the economies of joy

I know
people who
harbor
disasters  yet undone  but
darkly imagined

bankrupt
in lifespirit,
they spend and spend
and spend from  their limited store
of good  feeling

fearing
every new day
for the worst options
assumed but not  yet apparent...

how they impoverish themselves
and those around them
and they wallow in their misery,
eyes to heaven,
beseeching the greater powers
for respite
from that  catastrophe
that will blow away like a strong  sour wind
all the good  they are too frightened
to enjoy...

it is a poor investment of the only life
we will ever get, the only chance
to  pass through this veil

(of tears, they would say,  denial  ever their refuge
from joy)


~~~


and there are others

(and I am one)

who seek to harvest their joy,
eat, sup  sleep and wake with,
make love to the joy
they see always within reach,
passing through the hard times
that come to all to endure
while never losing sight of the promise
of another day coming, a day when the sun will rise,
a breeze of new delight will sweep through
the hours...

wise investors...

the economies of joy,
only through spending it
can one make it
grow









                                           


Here's my last poem for the week.








what  we found in Grandma's  attic

memories,
boxes of  memories,
trinkets and seashell treasures
from county fairs
and rodeos
and neighborhood garage sales...

a straw hat,
a guitar with three broken strings
and two missing frets,
a cane pole, with lead sinkers
and a red and white bobber, a  catcher's mitt
and a wooden bat, a
tiny ring inscribed
"Baby Charles"
and none of us know who
Baby Charles is or was, a train ticket,
Laredo to Del Rio,
never used,
a sun bonnet, yellow
with purple flowers,
a collection of Comanche arrowheads,
old maps
with lines drawn in dark, soft pencil lead,
tracing country
roads long since abandoned,
rebuilt for faster, sleeker cars
than ever drove there before, an
old wallet with two five dollar bills
tucked away in a secret pocket,
a bundle of letters
written
in a fine, feminine hand -
we read the first
and no more, for from the first
it was clear the thin, jasmine scented
letters, still smelling so sweet
after so many years since
sent and received,
were saved
for her to read again
and not for
us...

and
photographs,
like memories, old,
faded, torn,  and blurred

forget-me-nots mostly
forgot,

the only one who might remember
now lying still beneath soft
grass in an after-life park of the dead

all
left behind for us
to try to understand,
to try to know a person
familiar to us all our life, but
still at the end
unknown...

a last chance for her to speak...

a last chance for us to
listen










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