Something Else Again   Wednesday, July 01, 2015






More my-Texas photos this week.

Also, I have an  interesting anthology this week, Chinese Love Poetry. The book was published in 2004 by Barnes & Noble Books from an original publication that same year by the Trustees of the British Museum. The book includes what is considered the "Triple Excellence" in the arts in the Chinese tradition - poetry, calligraphy and  painting. It also includes a very interesting history of early Chinese  poetry and well as a  section on the use of symbolism to write about  subjects like sex which was  not to be directly addressed in polite tradition, interesting things like, for example, virginity might be described  using the image of a peach or peony, for a happily married couple, mandarin ducks, pairs of magpies or fish, many-seeded fruit like melons and pomegranates to indicate  a hope for many children and cicadas and peaches the wish for a long life.

With all that  information, no translator(s) are credited.

Again a lot of my old stuff,  which I  enjoy reviewing and transcribing for the post.

Here's the line up:

Me
rivers run  full and fast

Xue Tao
Gazing at Spring II & III

Me
abuelita de los todos  

Me
waiting for promised lightning

Zhang Jiuling
Looking at the Moon and Longing for Distant Lover

Me
so this is my brain on fug

Bei Dao
Purple

Me
Fulton Street hustlers

Me
a community, a house

Cao Zhi
from the Nymph of the Luo River

Me 
retracing the Way

Li Bai
Drinking Alone Under the Moon

Me
noises unto heaven

Me
the very big tree

Mao Zedong
Militia Women

Me
me and Jimmy Carter

Wang Wei
Green Gully

Me
all together now

Me
thinking right is good

Zhang Hua
Admonitions of the Court Instructress

Me
it will be a time of lessons

Guan Hanqing
Tears from the Boudoir

Me
forbidden

Me
into the hills

Xu Zihau
The Tenth of the First Month is the Anniversary of my Husbands Death; I Wrote this After Weeping   

Me
The Sunday crowd at Starbucks

Du Fu
Moonlit Night

Me
places I've never been
normal
a little bitty woman

Me
the cutting  room  floor

Me
I  wrote a poem about that tree  
 







                                                                   




This from last week and what a great couple of weeks it's been, from sub-Saharan to subtropical in four weeks of near daily rain.












rivers fun full and fast

walking
my dog on a sunny morning
after weeks of rain...

the rivers run fast and full
and the lakes rise
and the aquifer creeps
into the lower levels of limestone
caverns
cutting short  the tourists family-friendly
spelunking...

and the  universe is awash
in green and I am green with it all,
cloaked in it, soaked in it, one with the green
running rivers and lakes and cavern
pools rising...

two more days of sun and flowers will bloom,
hidden now deep inside their green  hosts,
waiting for their day of liberation,
freed to spend their glory, loosed from
dark sky  prisons to spread
their colors in early morning  sun
at the end of June...








                                                                      


First from this week's anthology, Chinese Love Poetry, here are two poems by Xue Tao.

One of the most famous courtesans  in Chinese history, Xue lived from 768 to 832, during the Tang dynasty. She learned to write poems when she was  eight and also excelled at calligraphy, often using small pieces of crimson-dyed paper for her work.










Gazing at Spring II & III

I gather herbs
and tie
a lover's knot

to send to one
who understands my songs

So now I've cut
that springtime sorrow
off.

And now the spring-struck birds
renew their cries.


~~~


Windblown flowers
grow older day by day.

And our best season
dwindles in the past.

Without someone
to tie the knot
of love,

no use to tie up
all those love-knot herbs.








                                                                                         



This poem is from January this year, a celebration of the little old crossing  guard at the end of our street.











abuelita de los  todos

the rotund little crossing guard, silver curls
trickling under the back of
her white crossing-guard cap,
commands the intersection
with the authority of her orange vest,
parades  sternly across the rush-hour street,
little feet paddling fast against the cold asphalt,
like a mother duck
she pulls in her wake a gaggle of
tiny ducklings, all bundled head to toe,
against the cold...

whatever else might befall them
as the day progresses, her little charges are safe for now
under her fierce shield

abuelita de los todos -
la guarda bajo el sol naciente








                                                                             


Sometimes the best one can do in a poem-a-day bind is stall for time.

Like this is from last year.












waiting for promised lightning

pumping gas...

pumping iron...

pumping my fist
upon receiving a $5 coupon
at  Bar-B-Cue is us...

pumping
Mary Sue in the back seat
of a '48 Hudson - oh
how soft
those seats and Mary Sue

(you don't  have to read the above
it's what I call
"priming the pump"

dropping a few irrelevant words
down the well
with  hope that the addition
to the well of
irrelevant
words
will
through force of  the Heimlich Maneuver
or some such science-word
thing having to do with one force
activating a countervailing
force
will cause good words
to rise
to the surface
being irresistibly pushed there
by the irrelevant word

meaning, according to the Heimlich equation,
that an actual poem will start
somewhere
below...

...patience
may be required
being
it's
a process thing
and process things
must
process
else they would be called
miracles
like Jesus' face on a tortilla
or Jimmy not cracking corn
when the master's gone away
or my 1906 computer
suddenly humming and buzzing
again
or  the phone company guy
arriving before 11:59 for a service visit
promised between 8 a.m. and noon,
or me getting a hot date
when I was fifteen years old
or next week,
which ever comes first -

miracles,
you know,
where would we be without them ,
the miracle of conception
and birth,
the miracle  of divining wisdom,
the miracle
of Slinkies and Hula Hoops
and  Rice Crispies
snapping and crackling and popping
every time,
the miracle of meteors not crashing
into the earth
like last time, except this time
making us the new  dinosaurs, converting the tar pits
into some form of fuel
for the finally and again
ascendant cock-
roach, no longer getting squashed
in kitchen corners (that's why cowboy boots
have pointy toes, you know)
them doing the squashing  this time
instead...

...and the little circling thing is circling
on a blue screen
which means the aforementioned pending poem
is still processing, but not so quickly
so if you have something
else
to do
you should go ahead  and
take care of it

and I'll give you a call
when the processing
poem
is processed, arisen,so to speak
from the depths by the force of the
Heimlich processing primal
push
to relevancy
in this portion of the universe

but maybe since the phone guy
hasn't come yet
I'll just  email
you
or maybe send a tweet
which I almost  never do,  fearing
being pigeon-holed
as just another tweeting
twit

waiting
for promised lightning








                                                                                      

Next from the week's anthology, Zhang Jiuling, born 673 and  died 740.

Formally, Count Wenxian of Shixing, Zhang, chancellor to Emperor Xuanzong, was also a noted poet and scholar of the Tang dynasty.











Looking at  the Moon and Longing for a Distant Lover

A clear moon climbs over the sea;
To its farthest rim
     the whole sky is glowing.
Lovers complain - how endless is the night!
Their longing thoughts rise till dawn.

I blow out the candle
     to  enjoy the clear radiance,
Slip on my clothes
     for I feel the dew grow thick.
Since I cannot gather a handful of moonlight
     to give you,
I shall go back to sleep
     and hope to meet you in a dream!








                                                                  




Wrote  this last week - learned a new word that day (actually, two of them).












so this is my brain on fug

so this is my brain
on fug

(interesting word, officially
meaning a room that is very crowded,
warm, smoky, but otherwise useful as a euphemism
for Steinbeck,  Mailer and probably others
when the word they wanted to use was not
to be approved by mid-century America publisher)

but that's another subject and I don't know
how in the world I let it slip into  this otherwise
intensely personal exercise in introspection, but
you know, how a mind can slip and slide  when under
the influence of a fug morning (not literally, the  place
where I write is actually bright lit by sunny-morning-
after-rain light and the air is fresh and sweet and
not at all smoky or  over-warm - instead it is as I am tying
to explain, my mind that is all fugged up  this morning
and I don't want anyone to believe that this place
is in any way, shape or form fuggly [not "fugly", with a
single  "g" which I have learned this sunny-morning-after-rain
lit day is, in the modern, with-it lingo
a contraction of
"fucking ugly"
...])

but
speaking of my fug-brain
perhaps I have already spoken of it too much
and, having induced fug-brain to all those around me,
it is probably time on this sunny-morning-after-rain morning
to let the fug slither and slide out my ears
and just enjoy the day

fugging a, bro!








                                                                   
Next from the book Chinese love poems, a piece by a modern poet, Bei Dao.

Bei Dao is the pen name of Zhal Zhenkai. Born in Beijing in 1949, he was a Red Guard in the late 1960s and became an underground poet in the 70s. He regarded his most  famous poem, The Answer, as a personal challenge to the political leadership. It is said that his work since the 80s is characterized by bitterness and despair.








Purple

bright afternoon
the bugle call over and over
persimmons filling trees shimmer
like knowledge in the mind
I open the door to await night
and in a sage-master's time
read books, play chess
someone on a throne
throws a rock

doesn't hit me
spectral boatmen row past
ripple-light creates you
etches your skin
our fingers intertwine
a star puts on the brakes
shine all over us








                                                                                   


I won some kind of award for this poem back  in 2007, not a big one, but 2nd place  or honorable mention or something like that.

Anybody who's ever hung out in a bar before lunch will recognize these guys.










Fulton Street hustlers

it's eleven
in the morning
and you can  tell
the drinkers,
the
down-
but-not-
outers,
squinting
in the mid-
day sun
as they cross
Fulton Street,
leaving their
$40-a-week
motel room,
heading for
breakfast
at one of
the dozen
taco shops
in the neigh
borhood,
chorizo and
eggs  with
a  side of
re-fried
beans,  two
flour tortillas
black sludge
coffee and
six aspirin
for the head
that won't stop
aching  until
they get their
first beer,
their scrambled
eggs chaser
that officially
starts the day

mostly men,
careful with
appearances,
fresh shined
boots, sharp
creased jeans
and starched
long-sleeve
cowboy shirts
with fake pearl
snaps,
pool shooters,
dark throwers,
penny tossers,
pinball wizards,
and hustlers of
most every kind
living on the edge
always on the edge
of losing usually,
they live on alcohol
and beer nuts,
cheap meals at flytrap
eateries and
dark places where
the truth is only
what you can see
in a smoked bar
mirror,  where pre-
tending is easier
than not








                                                                                    



 I wrote this is 2011, an appreciation of the House of 30 poetry forum where I write my pieces every day.











a community, a house

    Rumi said:

    There is a community of spirit.
    Join it and feel the delight
    of walking in the noisy street
    and being the noise.
    Drink all your passion,
    and be a disgrace.
    Close both eyes
    to see with the other eye.

a community
a house
the sweet noise
of poets
fearlessly
sighted

seeing
with the lens
of their unobstructed eye
the proud
and horrible stories
of our kind

speaking...








                                                                                      


The first poems in the book are from The Book of Poems, a collection of  some of the earliest Chinese poetry, written over the span of centuries, with the earliest of the poems tentatively dating back to  1000  BC. While interesting historically, I didn't find anything I wanted to use here. Instead I have a poem by  one of the earliest credited poets in the book, Cao Zhi, who lived from 192 to 232. The poet  biographies in the  book have no information on this poet, but according to his  Wikipedia entry he was a prince of the state of Cao Wei during the three  kingdoms period  and an accomplished poet.










from The Nymph of the Luo River

All at once she straightened herself
Skipping this way and that.
To her left a brilliant streamer,
on  her right a cassia flag.
O she bares  her white wrist at the  fairy bank.
She  plucks lingzhi from the shallows.
O how my emotions  delight in her pure beauty,
Yet my heart is troubled and anxious.
Lacking a good matchmaker to convey my joy,
I consign my words to the gentle waves.
Longing to express my sincerity in advance
I unfasten  a jade ornament by way of a sign.








                                                                                     


My wife bought me a new copy of the Tao Te Ching, for Father's Day. I had two copies that have disappeared (I'm guessing I sold them to the half-price book store without meaning to.) It is a beautiful book and though the text as is is beautiful, that didn't stop me from trying to come up with my own re-translation of the existing translation in words I would use. Rewriting is one of the ways I find a deeper sense in things.









retracing the Way
              (with respects to  Lao Tzu)

after the Tao Te Ching - "Naming the Nameless"

What came before?

the nothing that was everything
created by she
who was not
for we
who to understand
must invent
names
for things we cannot
see until they
are named

so we call  it  the "Tao"
that is in all there is from
infinity to infinitesimal
and in us
the mystery that links
us to the all that is nothing
like we, nothing but
for our part
in the greater nothing
of all...


~~~


after the Tao Te Ching - "The Loss of Innocence"

before the separation
of kind from kind, people from people,
master from slave , ruler from the ruled,
all lived in innocence

before
wisdom
became the victim
of clever distinctions of vacant
meaning, before divisions
that lulled the wisest into
intrigue,the gentle into virulent dissension
over the most
small and the most large

stealing innocence


~~~


after the Tao Te Ching - "The Paradoxes of Returning to the Great Integrity"

to return to innocence and the love
of our fellow travelers
on the Way - three affirmations:

hold tight to the simple and true;

take into your essences only that which feeds
the necessities of your body and soul;

let  your life become defined
by the love of kind for kind, soul for soul,
traveler who seeks the Way
for seekers who similarly travel,
the you in you for the you
in others;


~~


after the Tao Te Ching - "Overfulfillment"

seek
more than you need
and you will never find the end of want;

see
to be better than all others
and you will be always alone among
others;

seek
to  keep hidden that which you covet
and others will covet it
as well and take it
from you;

seek
to be more beloved than  all
and you will  forge  links that chain you
to never satisfied expectations;

avoid the greed
for more and always more;

follow the Way
and you will find that which you need
in the innocence of honest
fulfillment...








                                                                                     




One of the masters, now, from the anthology of Chinese love poems. Li Bai (also Li Po, which I prefer), born in 701 and died in 762, the Chinese poet who most seems like a fella you'd want to go out with on Saturday night to drink and shoot pool.










 Drinking Alone  Under the Moon

Among  the flowers, with a whole pot of wine,
- a solitary drinker with no companions -
I raise my cup to invite the bright moon:
It throws my shadow
          and makes us a party of three.

But moon
          understands nothing of drinking
And shadow
          only follows me aimlessly.
for the time
          shadow and moon are my fellows,
Seizing happiness
           while the Spring lasts.
I sing:
           the moon sails lingeringly,
I dance:
           my shadow twists and  bobs about.
As long as I'm sober,  we all frolic together;
When I'm drunk, we scatter and part.
Let us seal for  ever
           passionless friendship -
Meet again
           by the far-off River of Stars!



 





                                                                     


This is from 2008.

For  me as a writer, silence is a quiet death. Nothing comes to me without the sound of life all around it.










noises unto heaven

sound
is to  life
as
silence
is to death
says
Danie Barenboim,
so
beat
your drum
blow your horn
surround
me with sound
musicians
quick-talking hucksters
bloviating politicians
gossipy neighbors
crying babies
wailing fire trucks
marbles on a hardwood floor
grasshoppers cricking
the small splash
of a leaf
on a quiet  pond

surround me
with the
roars
& rattles
of  day
& breathy little
whispers
of night

surround me
with the sounds
of life

let me not slip away
in silence








                                                                                      



This is such a marvelous sight in such an unexpected place. The last time I saw it was probably about 40 years ago. But I thought of it again in 2013 while traveling on the coast road near it.









the very big tree

all the oak trees
on the middle coast near
Rockport-Fulton
grow with their branches
spread west, having been pushed
that way by ever-blowing
gulf winds
since they were seedlings

(think Donald Trump and his hair
in an opposing wind)

it is a marvel to see them,
so strange in their
appearance,  testament
to the persistence of life
in every environment

most marvelous to see,
most  persistent in its grip on life
is the big tree near the marshlands
of Aransas Wildlife Refuge,
estimated to be 1,500 to 2,000 years old,
reputed to be one of the oldest
trees in the United States,
grown in in some welcoming verdant forest
but in the unforgiving salt and sand
of the gulf coast, survivor of drought,
hurricanes, shipwrecked Spanish sailors
struggling to reach the shore,  to survive
the cannibal Karankawa, pirates,
salt water tides, family
picnics on wide blankets under
the spread of its  massive limbs,
dead-later lovers
carving their passion and promises of undying love,
children
climbing, lasting through  it all
growing
growing
growing
taller
taller
wider and wider
through century after  century...

getting  fragile now in its old age,
threatened by another drought, local firemen
pump fresh water to its roots, years ago
a fence built to protect it from picnickers
and children and  vandals, a fence that fell  down
while the tree held fast its sandy grip,
the fallen fence replaced by chain  link,
the tree then like a prisoner, protective custody
even as it hangs on...

now a new fence,  a  pretty pine-wood  fence,
the big trees fallen brothers from the north
its protector now, with observation decks
so the quick-living, fast-dying
humans can look and marvel at the ancient
in their back yard, wonder at the slow  pass of history
on this out-of-the-way spit of coastal sand
and marsh and wintering cranes and
misshapen  trees...

how much longer will this tree survive
within its new and pretty fence,
longer than the fence for certain,
longer than those who come today to see it,
longer than he who writes this early
morning, longer than the Jesus
whose concurrent birthday we so assiduously celebrate,
longer than the malls where the faithful become
the consumed, manipulated into wanting
everything, always...

how much longer will the big tree survive,
wanting only the rainwater and sunshine and unpolluted air
that nourishes it,
all such necessary things
hostage to our endless wanting, the tree's past
our past, the tree's future
unfortunately ours
as well

https://www.google.com/search?q=big++tree+aransas+wildlife+refuge+photo&newwindow=1&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=2uWNVaqIGo_igwSJsIuIDw&ved=0CB4QsAQ&biw=874&bih=459








                                                                   




Chinese emperors were expected to be patrons and practitioners of the arts, especially poetry.  Mao  Zedong was no exception.












Militia Women

Early rays of sun illumine the parade  grounds
and these handsome girls  heroic in the wind,
     with  rifles five  feet long.
Daughters of  China with a marvelous will,
you prefer handy uniforms to colorful silk.








                                                                              




Well, Jimmy wasn't much as presidents go,  but at least he gave us dirty old men some cover.












me and Jimmy Carter

I  have thought
an occasional dirty
thought

(wait
there goes one now)

I used to feel  bad
about it

but then I figured

hell!
I'm a human being

and the last  time we didn't
have dirty thoughts
was in that mystical  mythical
garden
where snakes got equal time
with lions and unicorns
and brontosauri

at least until  snake had his dirty
way and the rains came
and (how unfair) the dirty snake
got lifted above the waters
while the gently brontosauri
and pure-as-the-driven snow unicorn
got left behind  to  paddle through waters
until they finally sank to the depths
of mystery and loss...

so,
given that history
mu conclusion is that the Holiest on High
must  have meant  for us to have
dirty thoughts, else why would He have saved
the original generator of
devilish and dirty
thought
while
damning into forever
never was some others who were  pure
as the driven snow

thus
even suggesting to me that the Holiest on High
may have some dirty thoughts of  His own
and maybe snake wasn't smart or dirty enough on his own
and had some help from H on H in those dirty thoughts he infiltrated
into the minds of the original you and me whose garden vacation
was prematurely ended by succumbing to the dirty thoughts instigated
through  snake by H on H Himself, maybe because fauna and flora
upkeep in the garden got  to be more expensive  than anticipated and budget
reductions were necessary...

anyway,
I take all this to mean
that the dirty thoughts with which I occasional entertain myself
are part of the Holiest on  High's  plan and I should cultivate
them as  homage to His
holy intentions

so I will
as part of my duty to honor
the great Him who sets all the rules both pure
and unbelievably dirty...

(look
there goes another
one...)








                                                                               


Here's another master from the Chinese love anthology and a contemporary of Li Po, Wang Wei. Born in 701 and died in 761, Wang ways seems to me a kind of  dour fellow, doesn't seem like he'd be as much fun on Saturday night as Li Po, but he did write some beautiful poetry.












Green Gully

If I want to reach Yellow Flower river
I  always follow Green Gully stream;
It coils through the mountains
     with ten thousand turnings,
Hurrying along
     it barely covers a hundred li.
What a clamour it makes among the  jumbled rocks!
Deep  in the pinewoods
     how quiet and still it seems.
Adrift with water-chestnuts,lightly swaying,
Translucently it mirrors reeds and rushes...
     My heart is free at at peach,
     As tranquil as this clear stream.
     Let me stay on some great rock
     And trail my fishing-hook for ever!








                                                           


This is from 2009.

I get lost in these musings, not  particularly productive,  but better for sure than addition to reality TV or People Magazine.










all  together  now

i lack
the imagination
to convince myself
of the existence of any kind of  god,
but i am willing to consider there might  be
more than one realm of being -
and earthly dimension where we, as
moral, thinking, flesh-creatures, are
responsible
for all the outcomes of our life,entities
of  blood and bone accountable
to the moral and civil standards of our time
for how we treat our self and others  - no  one
to blame or praise but ourselves
for the course of our
actions...

however we imagine the dream of it,
this first dimension could be
only a temporary flesh-life,
just a phase we're going through, both
product  and precursor of
some communal existence,
a collective consciousness of all living things,
from stones in the field who grow and diminish
through the passage of time, to the sizzle
of lightning in a thunderstorm at night,
to tiny creatures whose flesh-life is  limited to minutes,
to  all the creatures of the forests and fields and
jungles and seas, and,  finally to you and me...

the life most  know, maybe
only a small portion of the  life-eternal
unknown to all but the very few
of our blood and gristle  kind,
the great masters, the root-finders who
follow the pat that puts them
in the flow  of time
and life
never-
end
     ing








                                                              



 A meditation on right-thinking from late December,  2013.













thinking right is good

the East
and much of the Midwest buried
under ice and snow
while here
the sun shines bright
above a clear blue sky
and the temperature is wandering
about between 50 and 60
and it is a beautiful day
this morning  before the night
before
and I'll try not to be
unnecessarily smug at my good
fortune because
I'm sure there will be a cloud
here some day

and in the meantime
it is a pleasure to be smug
because all those uppity Easterners
and cud-chewing Midwesterners
deserve a dose of outsider
smug
now and then
after all the terrible things
they say about  my home
state in the heart of which
I am now deep, hi ho  hi  ho...

such meanness I demonstrate
here, hardly my normal
self for I find no pleasure
in the misfortune of others,
except when I can contrast
my good  fortune to their
otherwise fortune
which
I am completely convinced
they deserve...

bunch of damn liberals
and dairy farmers
who claim Santa Claus
is not white and neither is Jesus
and how stupid is that
cause everyone knows God
is white and Jesus is his son
so he must be white too,
white dude Dad and Jew mother
but we'll forget the mother
part since to talk  about that
would be for certain another front
in the War on Christmas which is about
white Christians ad is definitely not about
Jew mothers...

how hard to understand is  that
hi ho hi ho

no wonder they have ice and  snow
and we don't because they think wrong
and deserve it  while us thinking
right certainly
deserve
our bright sun and blue sky
and temperatures in the 50-60s

simple as that
hi ho hi
ho








                                                          



This piece of court schooling is by Zhang Hua.

Zhang, born in 232 and died in 300, was a Jin dynasty official and poet. He  is  one  of two earliest credited poets in the book.












Admonitions of the Court  Instructress

No one can please forever; affection cannot
     be for one alone;
If it be so, it will one day end in disgust.
When love has reached its highest pitch,
     it changes its object;
for whatever has reached its fullness must
     needs decline.
The law is absolute.
the beautiful wife who knew herself to be
     beautiful was  soon hated.
If by a mincing air you seek to please,
     wise men will abhor you.
From this cause truly comes the breaking
     of favor's  bond.








                                                                                        




I am pleased and  proud to say that on the day of the Supreme Court decision, 108 same-sex couples were married in  San Antonio, the cradle of Texas freedom.










it will  be a time of lessons

it will be a time  of lessons

much like the days so long ago
of the great declaration
of emancipation
we will learn in weeks to come
about the capacity
for charity and compassion and,
above all,
the willingness
to love and let love be
among the many
we know...

some will disappoint us
and in some we will find a welcome surprise...

as charity is desired, so charity
should be returned,
charity
for all, for those who cheer
and for those who cannot find within themselves
the love for others that allows them
to cheer along








                                                                 

Moving ahead in time in the anthology, Guan Hanqing, born 1220 and died 1300.

A poet, playwright, and actor, Guan lived during the Mongol Yuan dynasty.










Tears from the Boudoir

Should wives weep
For absent
Husbands, when jade mirrors bear
Dust, when sewing no longer
Suffices, when bracelets come
Loose, when foreheads are
Wrinkled? I say yes!









                                                                               



This is from 2010 and I haven't changed my mind since. Words are important and it's important not to deny them their place in our language.










forbidden

Every word is a construct of centuries, a mark of a specific, unique thought, with a meaning that can only be approximated no matter how comprehensive your thesaurus, an idea of something carried from some dim past to our own world and time.

To  forbid a word is to forbid not just the richness of our language but the richness of our kind as  well.

I resist
the idea of "forbidden" words
because
I think words are words
and as a writer
if  I find that a particular
word is the right word
then I want to use it
gloriously
because, as writers  know,
finding the right word
is a glorious thing
in a world
where the word is most often
the nearly right word
or maybe the wrong word
altogether

I
think,
once found,
the right word
should be used fearlessly
but that doesn't mean
all words
are equal in their suitability

I
for  example
almost never
use words like cunt
or motherfucker
or spic
or nigger-lover
or any such
because I almost never
write poems
where those words
are the right words, though
some do write such  poems
that are good  poems
that used the  words perfectly
and I applaud
both the excellence of the poems
and the fierceness of the poets
who commit to  the requirements
of the truth in their art

for I believe
truth
is the first obligation
of the artist
and a word,
if used as it should be used,
is a form of truth
and
truth
should never be
denied
or rendered
forbidden








                                                                      




Visiting where the roots still show, 2007.










 into the hills

we took a drive up
into the hills
today,
to the place
where my roots lie
deep, to the little store
my grandfather built
one hundred years ago,
looking to the second floor,
to the window in back,
imagining the room
therein
where my father
as a baby
slept through nights
more than 90  years past,
to the street
in front
built wide enough
for  an 8 mule
wagon
to make a u-turn,
and to the crowded
sidewalk
where tourists
every day come to  see
a facsimile of the little
town that used to be
for real, and back
to  granddad's store,
a chocolatier now
where I bought
a piece of  fudge
to remember
him by








                                                              
Next, another more recent poet from the anthology.

Xu Zihua was born in 1873 and died in 1935. Educated at home and interested in poetry at an early age, she became a widow while still young. She became principle of the Xunxi Girl's School and in 1906 hired revolutionary poet Qiu Jin as an assistant. After he was  executed in 1907, she organized a funeral which  several thousand  people attended, turning the funeral into a public protest. She advocated for feminist (today's name for it) issues such as self-education, child education, health care and economic self-sufficiency. Though she remained on the government's wanted issue, she continued to write poems and essays in Qiu's memory.




The Tenth of the First Month is the Anniversary of My Husband's Death; I Wrote this  after Weeping

Three slow years have gone by, my tearful eyes
     have dried up,
Although alive, I seem dead - how much more
     this hurts me!
Having tasted bitterness deeply, I know the
     hollowness of human affairs.
I envy those sleeping in peace in the world of the dead.
The cuckoo  survives, weeping for its millennial pain:
It might change into a crane and return once and for all to the void.
I suppress my grief, supervise the libation and vegetarian offerings,
Then return to teaching the two little orphans at my knees.








                                                                             





My poem for the day last Sunday.











the Sunday crowd at Starbucks

actually not such a crowd
this morning,
but I'm here early so sharing
coffee space with just a couple of the
regulars - others will appear
at their appointed
time
and place...

it's a reassuring thing
to be a regular at a place
where you can count on seeing
the same people, like the tides coming
in, each wave different and more of the same,
all the regular people and the world is in its regular orbit,
all the regular  people,
and just to add a little spice, something shiny
and different being tossed in the foam and salt water  fluff
of the in-coming tide, a different face
sipping  their latte over the Sunday Times,
and on this Sunday,
the most regular of days,
a different face in a different place,
a moment of spill-over Saturday night madness
to salt the bland soup of this most
regular of
days

not not often
and not for long...








                                                                               

 Now a return to the Tang dynasty masters, Du Fu, born 712 and died 770. Along with Li Po he is often called the greatest of Chinese poets.








Moonlit Night

There will  be moon tonight
          over Fuzhou.
In the women's rooms
           she is gazing at it alone.
From afar,
           I pity my little children.
They do not know yet
           about Ch'ang-an.
In the sweet mists
           her cloud-like hair is damp;
In the clear  shining
           her jade-white arms are cold.
When shall we  two lean beside
           the filmy curtain
With moonlight on both
           and the tear-stains dry?       








                                                                    




Here's are several short poems from 2008.










places I've never been

dreams
last night
like memories
of places
I've never been
and  people

family
friends
long gone
maybe to  these
places
I've never been

waiting  
for
me


normal

some
will say
normal
is boring

well

still
i
say
it's nice to get
back
to


a little bitty woman

a little bitty woman
short
and trim,
gray hair,
sky blue eyes
magnified
by round rimless glasses

she walks the halls
with a loose
sliding gait that reminds  me
of a 50s hipster
to cool to actually put foot
to floor, a little bit of float
and glide, and she cocks
her head to the side
when she talks to you

reminding me
of a sparrow
eyeing  a particularly
fat and tasty
looking
worm

with a little hint of  hunger
in those sky
blue eyes
watching
as you speak







                                                                                       



 This, my last  old poem of the week, is from 2012, a memory poem about the limitations of memory.











the cutting room floor

memory, like movies,
is not linear, but scene by scene
passing

I remember
looking at a reflection
of myself in a store window
in Houston, January 10, 1966,
waiting for induction
and a bus ride
to basic training in San Antonio,
recognizing the image
in the window
as the last time I would see myself as a civilian
for some years to  come...

I don't remember
taking the oath or getting
on the bus or the several hours
on the bus, but I remember getting off
in San Antonio, lining up
with a scruffy collection of  recently former civilians,
greeted, not gently,
by a North Carolina accented Drill Instructor

I remember him tall and thin, intense eyes
under the brim of a hat pulled 
low and I remember my new name,
"big'un" he called me, and "big'un" I was
for the next nine weeks...

I  remember  a ragged march
to  our  barracks, but nothing else
that day; I  remember standing in cold
January rain the next morning,very early,
for breakfast, but I don't remember breakfast;
I  remember standing in line
for haircuts, the shearing of our last  civilian vanity,
but  I don't remember the actual cutting;
I remember standing in line to get uniforms,
fatigues in olive drab, khaki 1505s, and dress blues,
a wool overcoat fit for arctic weather, a fatigue coat
my son took to college years later,  a raincoat I  still wear
when it rains, a fatigue cap, a cunt cap,  a dress hat
to wear with  dress blues, but I don't remember
boots, I  don't remember socks,
I don't remember shoes...

I remember marching,
everywhere marching, but I don't remember
where we went; I remember
smoke breaks,"smoke'um if  you got'um."
crumpled cigarettes
pulled from crumpled packages
carried in our socks;
I remember guarding our passage, running ahead
at every street crossing, standing in the intersection
at parade-rest, one hand extended, open  palm,
stopping oncoming traffic for our flight  to pass (each group
of recruits called a "flight");  but
I don't remember what crossing guards
like me were called, except that it was something
that sounded much more military and special
than  "crossing guard"

I remember running the obstacle course at the end of training,
severe shinsplints making a difficult run,
but I remember none of it but the pain
and the Drill Instructor at the end of the course
giving me a thumbs up as I passed;
and I remember, as squad leader, marching my squad of recruits
to the parade field for our final graduation
pass before the base  commander,
but I  don't  remember
marching that final 100 yards
across the field...

I remember the meningitis scare after  training
quarantine,
sleeping January nights in the barracks
with all the windows open,
I remember making three friends during the isolation,
one now dead,
the other two long since lost to the maw of time passing...

out of nine weeks of living,
I remember  maybe as much as half a day
if your scrunch it all together,
the rest lost to the cutting room floor, like all the slow parts
of the run-of-the-mill movie
that has been my life so far,and, as the movie
flickers on to its  final hours,
more of it ends on the floor,less and
less of it ever to be seen on the screen
off memory..

just another plain-vanilla "Flubber"  of a movie passing,
lucky to even gross
its cost







                                                                  





From this  week, a little Monday bit to give the week a  push-start.










I wrote a poem  about that tree...

I wrote a poem about
that tree, the one
at the edge of the parking lot
with the forked trunk
and the pink roses beside
and  the squirrel  chattering at passing dogs...

yes.
that one...

I wrote a poem about that tree...

it has recovered
nicely









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´╗┐Poetry
New Days & New Ways


Places and Spaces
 



Always to the Light






Goes Around Comes Around




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Seven Beats a Second






Fiction


Sonyador - The Dreamer






                                              Peace in our Time




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