Where Things Went Wrong   Wednesday, September 20, 2017





This is from my first book, Seven Beats a Second, sometimes still available at Amazon in used copies.













where things went wrong

life
gets more screwy every day

and I don't like it

I liked it better
when I didn't have to play dodge'em
on the highway
with all the beam-me-up-scotties
with cell phones in their ears

I liked it better
when the crazy person on the sidewalk
talking into air
really was a crazy person talking into to the air
and not a dweeb yuppie
talking to his dweebette girlfriend
on some kind of phone thing too small
for me to see

I liked it better when men were hard
and women were soft and cars had fins
and the president was smarter than the
average dumbass drunk at the corner bar

I liked it better
when Desi loved Lucy
and Gorgeous George was the meanest guy
in TV wrestling

I liked it better 
when a microwave
was what your girlfriend did
when she was across the room with her
parents

I liked it better
when I was young

a real up-&-comer

and the pretty girl on the park bench
was waiting for me








After last week's experiment, I return to form, poems (mine and others') and pictures.


Me
where things went wrong

Me
saw the morning moon

John Balaban
Atomic Ghost

Me
two young women

April Bernard
Praise Psalm of the City Dweller

Me
blacksmith

Me
just  little story

Me
a gaggle of English teachers

Joy Harjo 
Who Invented Death and Crows and Is There Anything We Can Do to Calm the Noisy Clatter of Destruction 

Me
for the love of someone's life

Martin Espada
The Death of Carmen Miranda
The Community College Revises Its Curriculum  in Response to Changing Demographics

Simon J. Ortiz
They Come Around, the Wolves - and Coyote and Crow, Too

Me
am I a terrible person?

Charles Levenstein
Another Kaddish

Me
a walk downtown - 1968

Anne Coray
Direction
Just West of Home
January Thaw

Me
a promise to pretend something more interesting tomorrow

Me
fat man dancing

Me
poppin' fresh poems

Brendan Constantine
Last Night I Went to the Map of the World and I Have Messages for You

Me
things'll work out













First for the week, from early August, may have posted it before.










saw the morning moon

I saw the morning moon
today
bright and full
in the morning-blue sky

earlier
I had seen
it's bright face
in early morning dark

a moon for all season,s
circling
in the forever sky

how
it could be
if a life could be forever fitting
like the moon
while the sky above
brings constancy
to the living of it

such
creatures
are we all, searching always
for security in such

contradiction











My first library poem this week is from the anthology, Atomic Ghost, subtitled "Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age." The book was published by Coffee House Press in 1995.

The poem I selected to post is by John Balaban. Born in 1943, Balaban is a poet and translator, and an authority of Vietnamese literature.

It is the title poem for the book.







Atomic Ghost

As our plane droned south to Peoria
all the cattle ponds and creeks below
caught sun, flared bight, then faded
back into smog seeping from Chicago,
so that looking west through oval ports
you saw jags of water wink and flash.

The the sky ballooned with light so bright
the firmament bucked and our plane
dropped like a sign through the magnetized air
and the woman who ordered the Bloody Mary
swirled in her seat, a small cyclone of ash
saying syllables of smoke in the whirligig fire.

Almost at once, cells quirked and recombined.
In the company of scorched ant and armadillo
new lives shuffled forth, sick in their seed,
irradiated, wracked with lunatic genes.
Queer things issued from monsters of the past
as earth reassessed the error that was man,
that was me, my wife, our child. All
entered the pall of incinerated air.

Oh, to be cast from the Garden again and forever.












My first old poem with a school theme. This one from 2015.

The photo to the left, by the way, also to the school theme - myself in 1967, studying Russian for the U.S. Air Force at Indiana University.













two young women

cool November morning
under yellow early sun
two young women
teenagers
lean legs
pumping
long
loping
strides
white teeth
flash
ing
loose hair
stream
i
n
g
be
hind
red ribbons
flying

running
across the intersection

school bell ringing










From my library, this poem is by April Bernard. I is taken from her book, Psalms, published by W. W. Norton in 1993.

Bernard was born in 1956 in New England and graduated from Harvard University. She worked as senior editor for Vanity Fair, Premier, and Manhattan. She currently teaches at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.





Praise Psalm of the City-Dweller

                                           for C.B.

Lift your heads, all you peoples, to the wet heat rising
     in the air shaft
to the pigeon feathers scattered on the sills, to the grey
triangle of sky that drifts like a soft, wet shawl

For this is the day of the heat, when yellow sedans herd like oats,
when the smell of the body contains its own joyful death

See how the young men of the city weep and all upon
     one another's
shoulders, see how they turn their shining faces away
     from us who stand
encumbered by the changing sky

There was a place made, a clearing in the wilderness of bricks,
where they gathered to sing - the microphone warbled,
the hot smell of tar and hope fanned in wings of smoke

Shout singing in your praises, all you peoples, for
     there will be more
days like this, when the mouths of all the dogs fall open, pink
and quivering, and cats lie down like lambs and close
     their eyes

While the hot grey heat rises like tissue from the skin,
     accumulating
in clouds of tears, there will be more days

Break the stick across your knee, O my brother, begin again
in the heat of further days
















We all find our place, sooner or later.











blacksmith

I have thick, blunt
fingers
and large hands,
a gift from my father,
the blacksmith

maker of hard, useful things
usually with the ugliness
of his utility first
philosophy

things that serve their purpose

like my poems,
rarely
beautiful,
but utilitarian,
usually serving the purpose
intended

a blacksmith among
poets...

Dad would be proud
















Another in the school theme, this one from 2014.













just a little story

the great yellow street whale
stops
red lights
flashing...

even though only a car length
from my destination,
my own driveway,
I stop, so the children
can exit safely

a boy gets out
carrying a back pack
and two crutches,
reaches back into the bus
and pulls out another
back pack,
then reaches into the bus again
and brings out his
little brother, carries him out, and sets him
on the grass by the sidewalk...

as the bus leaves,
the boys' mother comes from down the street

the older boy picks up both back packs
and the crutches; the mother sits on the curb
so that the younger boy can climb
on her back,
and they set off down the sidewalk to home,
the older boy, hands full of backpacks
and crutches, the younger boy,
holding tight onto his mother's back, his
arms around her neck, his face buried
in her long dark hair, they walk, a bright trio,
after school, at the end of the day...

just a little story -

but is it a poem?

some I know will stomp their feet
and pull their hair,
cry to the poetic heavens
and shout - NO, NO,
NOT EVEN EVER...

well, I don't care...

I know only that it is a story,
though little,
completely told,
needing no more to be said....

a vision
of a

mother and child reunion















School days, school daze, good old golden rule days. Anybody else remember that?













a gaggle of English teachers

every Monday morning
in the coffeehouse, early,
a gaggle of retired
English teachers,
my age, or maybe a little older,
high school teachers,
probably,
though from the way they talk
it seems clear they regret
all the universities' loss by their pedagogical absence

(the one struggling with removing the trash can lid,
looks at me,
says,
"you'd think someone with a Ph.D wouldn't
have such a problem with trash can
lids")

another,
skinny,with malnourished hair,
toenails like a badger
digging,
and a thin, reedy,whiny
voice that would drive me nuts
after ten minutes
in a classroom, talks the most -
says Fuck this & Fuck that
a lot
in that English teacher voice,
like she's fallen into an old Norman Mailer novel
and can't get up,
and it's all I can do
not
to laugh out loud,
thinking back 60 years,
imagining old Mrs. Buck,
my 115 year old (at the time)
high school English teacher
saying Fuck this and Fuck that...

and thank god by English teacher days
are far behind me














This poem is by Joy Harjo, from her book The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, published in 1994 by W. W. Norton.

Born in 1951, Harjo is a poet, musician, and author. She took the surname of her paternal grandmother when enrolling in the Muskogee Nation and is recognized as a highly influential writer in the second Native American Renaissance of the late 20th century.








Who Invented Death and Crows and Is There Anything We Can Do to Calm the Noisy Clatter of Destruction?


What a hard year. We're all dying, even that crow talking loud an
kicking up snow.

Maybe he thinks he can head it off with a little noise, a fight. Or his
silver-colored soul just wants some attention in his feathered suit.

That's what I like about crows. Decorum has another shape. They
aren't afraid to argue about the inarguable.

We fly into the body and we fly out, changed by the sun, by crows
who manipulate the borders of reason.

Of course it's not that easy, and I'm circumventing the matter as I
marvel at the sun sleeping in the sun -

the talk of crows getting in the way of poetry. I have a question for
my soul, a creature who has little patience with crows - and less
with snow.

This question grows new leaves with each hard rain yet bends
grief at loss in the cold.

This morning the question gleams with particles of sun. There's
crying; there's laughter.

What do you make of it?

***

When I hear crows, talking, death is a central topic. Death often occurs
in clusters, they say. They watch the effect like a wave that moves out
from the center of the question. The magnetic force is attractive and can
make you want to fly to the other side of the sky.














Is it just my good fortune, or does everyone see stuff like this?












for the love of someone's life

a fat man
in flip-flops
running,
flip flops flapping,
belly bouncing,
long chin-whiskers
flowing on either side
of his face

held high
in his right hand
a  bouquet of roses,
red roses
for the great love 
of someone's 
life

poor Cupid,
so hard to get good help
these days,
he says,
as he runs to make
his own deliveries












Next I have two poems by Martin Espada, from his book, A Mayan Astronomer in Hell's Kitchen, published by W.W. Norton in 2000.

Espada, born in Brooklyn in 1957, is a poet, essayist, translator, editor and attorney. Much of his career has been dedicated to the pursuit of social justice, including fighting for Latino rights and reclaiming the historical record.






The Death of Carmen Miranda

Dying on television,
on the Jimmy Durante Show,
spinning another samba for the tourists
when she staggered beneath the banana headdress
and dropped to one knee.
The audience began to giggle
at the wobbly pyramid of bananas,
but the comedian with the fat nose and the fedora
growled "Stop the music!" and lifted her up.
"I cannot find my breath," Carmen said,
fingers fanning across her chest.
The mouth of the camera opened
to chuckle at her accent, but then
widened into an astonished "Oh."

Later that night, at the mansion,
her maid found Carmen sleeping without breath,
could not unlock the mirror from her fingers.
The hair no one saw on television was unpinned,
grown long beneath the banana headdress,
bleached yellow like the bananas.



The Community College Revises Its Curriculum in Response to Changing Demographics

SPA 100 Conversational Spanish
2 credits

The course
is especially concerned
with giving police
the ability
to express themselves
tersely
in matters of interest
to them














Simon J. Ortiz wrote the next poem, included in his very large collection, Woven Stone, published The University of Arizona Press in 1992.

Born in 1941, Ortiz is a Puebloan writer of the Acoma Pueblo tribe. A key figure in the second wave of the Native American Renaissance, he is one of the most respected and widely published and read of Native American poets.

I love the storytellers.




They Come Around, the Wolves - and Coyote and Crow, Too

I told you about those Wolves.
You must talk to them,
meeting them someplace,
mountain trail, desert,
as your campfire,
and call the Uncle or Brother
but never Cousin or In-law.

"I am happy that your recognized us
and called us by the proper term,"
the Uncle said.
He was sitting there
with his hands held together,
met my eyes, then, being humble,
dropped his gaze to his hands.

"We come around
but we have a bad reputation,"
the Uncle said.
"I'm glad you came," I said.
He smiled but his eyes were sad.

"I was so pretty
and everyone liked me.
My voice especially.
Everyone would stop to listen,"
said Crow.

Coyote was silent.

"I would sing and sing.
Mockingbird and even Parrot
were jealous of me.
My feathers would shine and shine,"
said crow.

Coyote was silent.

Thinking Coyote wasn't listening,
Crow asked, "Are you sleeping?"

"No," Coyote said.

"Did you hear what I just said?"
asked Crow.

"Yes," said Coyote.

And Crow waited for Coyote's comment.
When it didn't come, he decided to sing.

"Cawr, cawr, cawr," Crow sang.

"Stop," said Coyote.

Crow waited for the favorable comment.
He closed his eyes and made ready to bow.

Coyote silently crept away.

"Are you my friend?" asked Coyote.
"One can't be too choosy," said Crow.
















An attack of unseemly honesty.












am I a terrible person?

I try
to feel guilty
about the wonderful weather
we're having, such weather
a direct spin-off of the terrible weather
bringing tragedy to the coastal areas of, now,
two states

but I am not successful

for I am a typical human,
concerned first
and above all else
with me...

when lightning strikes me
it is a disaster, an awful, piteous thing,
a call to the heavens
for mercy from all from all sides
and quick arrival of the national guard
and a presidential visit...

but
when lightning strikes you,
well, it is truly an awful thing,
but your awful thing,
not mine - let's get together
over coffee so I can tell you how sorry I am,
maybe next month, after your shoes
dry out, I'll buy the coffee, a true exercise
of my generous soul...

am I a terrible person?

well,
probably...

and so are you, I'll bet,
virtue being a right time
right place type of thing, easier
said than done, easier said and done
in easier times...

I hope my bluntness
doesn't offend you, but let's face it
my cave is better and more precious to me
than your cave -

it's just the way things work out in the world of humans
still not so far as they like to think
from their early-day caves...












This poem is from my poet friend Charles Levenstein. It's taken from his book, Poems of World War III, published trough Lulu Press in 2006.

Chuck is a Ph.D. professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in the study of  international comparative labor issues, labor economics and labor history. He is active in labor issues, as well as environmental and disarmament issues.






Another Kaddish

I slice strawberries
as the sun rises,
wet blood of the fruit
stains my hands

whose knuckles are yours
although no hard labor,
not a callous, reflects
you final bequest.

He fled the Latvian village
where berries grew wild,
for America, where a child
could become a modern man.

He was there when they blasted
the subway tunnels in Manhattan,
wore a stone chip in his hip
as a proud souvenir.

Still, he dreamed of growing berries
in the sandy soil of Queens,
a pensioned men with Baltic memories,
playing in the lost countryside.

I slice strawberries,
the daily mourner's meditation,
to affirm his heart, honor the journey,
prepare an American breakfast.
















This piece is from 2012, a memory of a day in Kabul, Afghanistan. One little passage earns its place in the school theme.

It was one day out of three spent there, not much, but enough to leave me with lasting sympathies for the tribulations of the people of that country.









a walk downtown - 1968

the sleeping
camel
nods
it's great brown head

````

the street
to the main road
is unpaved,
orange-tinted clay
with gravel

```

the baker
sells
his nan from a wooden
push cart,
soft and chewy bread
when fresh and warm,
hard as roofing tile
when cooled

````

a line of small children,
uniformed
for school, meet us,
the pass,
going the other way

````

a ramshackled book store
books piled in the storefront
window like
refugees,
read, then thrown aside...

two books to take home,
Mao's Little Red Book, red plastic cover,
original version translated to English,
freshly shipped through the mountains
from the cultural revolution
raging next door,
and a book of Pashtun poetry, translated
by a professor at the state university
we pass on the road,
some poems of his own composing

````

drinks atop
the Spirizan Hotel,
an international collection of foreigners
looking for a place something
like home, alcohol
chilled in a glass

````

pass the Soviet Embassy
in an open stretch of desert,
red brick, like a very large prison,
waiting,
inmates pending...

we stop and go in,
knock and are
admitted,
as low-order American spies
on a busman's holiday, apparently
not considered much of a
threat, so we buy
more books , maps -
a smell inside, the sour odor
of a very bad future
coming

````

a pleasant walk
in the high mountain air,
the city's rough houses
climbing the bare mountainsides
that cup this green valley,
impossible to imagine
the blood
and savagery to come

````

all quiet at the US AID house,
looking out my window,
a deep-shaded courtyard
and the smaller house
next door,
a cat on the roof
dozing,
its silver belly
rising and falling
in deep cat
sleep















These poems are by Alaskan poet Ann Coray. The poem is from her book, Bone Strings, published in 2005 by Scarlet Tanger Books












Directions

something
is humping
its mother
in the woods

her only seeds
are stones
released
in a black lava

listen

to where
we are going

a geology
of dark birth


Just West of Home

Cold waves
abrade this granite
to a husk,
an island cave.

Deep inside,
my oar strikes once
the skiff's rib,
the sound walled
in a gutted silence.

To enter
is to know, suddenly,
the stomach of death:

              ghost of a sterile scent,
              drift of a weightless vessel.


January Thaw

The world emerges in three shades:
gray, gray-black and a color
that had been white.
But even this is a lie;
the yellows of the sick
tinge the aspen trees, and the birches
are reminiscent of flesh.

It is the wrong time of the year for grieving.
We wanted no birthing room for spring,
first steppingstone to death.
Frozen, the land postponed
our betrothal to agony and joy.














Another fulfilling day on the "B" team.










a promise to pretend something more interesting tomorrow

Friday morning,
the beginning of a weekend,
a long weekend this time
and I know lots of people are excited
about that, but I don't observe
weekends so it's not an issue of
relevance to me...

that's not to say I don't note
the difference
between weekdays, all the same
to me - doing the same things
at the same places -
and weekends which offer little bumps
in my timeline...

Saturday morning at the coffeehouse,
instead of people drinking their morning
backbone before work, there's the bicycle patrol,
the gang of young to middle-age yuppies
who gather in the earl hour to ride
Sally ride

and the yoga practitioners...

ten to twenty women and usually
one man, being led through their tortured
stretching by a beautiful dragon-master
with the body they all think they're going to have
after their session one of these Saturday mornings...

and Sunday morning -

when I meet Dee at Barnes & Nobel
for coffee, she, after church, me, after
finishing my daily poem at the Starbucks
with electrical outlets that I visit only on this
special one day a week morning...

she reads the newspaper that I save
for her, while
I steal magazine reads, (careful not to
fold, spin, mutilate, or leave any other sign
of my illegal passing) - usually The New Yorker,
Rolling Stone, and Entertainment, where I review
the movies I'm not likely to see this or any other
week, but, being a citizen of the world,
movies I need to know about and, the sneaky
part of the morning, looking at the new books, checking
out what I might steal for my Kindle...

a pretty boring poem this, but true to my usually
boring life, a documentary poem, so to speak...

I promise to pretend something more interesting
for tomorrow's poem...















From 2009, a seasonal poem celebrating the season very soon to be upon us.

(picture on the left, my son, Chris, on one of his mountain hikes - picture taken by a hiking companion)











fat man dancing

fat man
dancing throwing
his arms to the
cool
clear
sky -

the kind
of bright autumn
day
when this sort of thing
happens


















From 2010, having no connection to school except maybe the poet should be better schooled in poetry-making protocols.










poppin'-fresh poems

nonsense
no-sense
nun-sense
nunchucks
chuck-roast
roast-in-hell
hell-no-I-won't-go
no-go-charlie
chuck-it-all

I was told once
that when challenged
to find an idea for a poem

on method
recommended
to overcome the block

is to begin listing
words -
an exercise in subconscious

inspiration mining-
and out of one of those words
will pop a poem

just like that poppin'-fresh
dough boy
pops out of a tube

of biscuit dough
like you buy at the supermarket
and - POP - everyone

all of a sudden
makes biscuits just like
grandma's...

well
it just doesn't seem to work
for me -

it's just all nonsense,
I think, no sense to it at all,
none -

even nuns
would sense the futility
of that route

but not me,
prisoner that I am
to unsupportable ideas

and desperation, explaining
a lot of crazy ideas
like the sense of nunchucks

up-side my head
whenever I watch Charlie Chan
movies and wonder how

such a canny detective like Chan
could end up with such
a dumb-ass number one son,

Chuck was, I think his name,
running through his dad's movie
like a third-rate circus clown

looking or his celebrity roast,
never realizing
that all the great comics

are roasting in hell,
their punishment for mocking
the great creator's

building plans -
dumb old Chuck never realizing
that he'd be much better off

as a no-go-Charlie
when it comes to celebrity roasts
because I've seen them

on TV and after Paul Lynde
died
they were never funny again

so,
hell, no, I wouldn't go -
unlike this poem

which would be
better served if it was gone
and I just chucked it all

and wrote something
about blue jays
singing

and dandelions
dancing
and lions lying down

with lamb chops












Last from my library this week, a fun poem by Brendan Constantine. The poem is from his book,
Letters to Guns, published by Red Hen Press in 2009.

Born in Los Angeles, Constantine has taught poetry at high schools and colleges for the past eighteen years. In addition, he brings poetry workshops to hospitals, foster care centers and shelters for the homeless. He is particular proud of his work with the Alzheimer's Poetry Workshop.





Last Night I Went To the Map of the World and I Have Messages for You

America says it has misplaced your number.
I wasn't comfortable giving it out. I said
I'll let you know.

Africa's birthday is this weekend.
There's a party. No gifts.
                                        Just come.

If you're planning to go, Greece wants
to know if it can get a lift. Awkwardly
                                                 so does Turkey.

Russia wanted me to say The worm knows
the cabbage but the worm dies first.
I have no idea what that means. Do you?

Japan looked really uncomfortable all night
but never spoke. Is something going on?

Ireland asked to be remembered.
I sang it to you.

I didn't get to connect with Europe
but, as the French say, Isn't that just
                                                           too bad.

Is that everyone? Oh yes, the oceans.
They asked what they always ask
and I promised I'd repeat it,
                                Why do you never call?
                                       When are you coming home?
















Last for the week, a bit of reassurance (that I'm not sure I believe myself)










things'll work out

seasons change,
still dark when I get downtown
at seven, the tall buildings still lit
against the night, floating pools of light
as I come in on I-10...


````


early morning bicyclers
speed past on Broadway, 50 miles an hour at least,
don't know if they could stop
if the traffic light changed,
not sure they would
even try...


````


workers gather in the dark
by the large hotel being built,
nearly finished, by the river at the
Jones Street bridge, they talk, they smoke,
organize their tools, fasten their heavy belts, waiting
on the boss' go-ahead


plasterers and painters strap
on their stilts...


````

a tall young man
and a short young woman
do stretching exercises
before their morning run, swinging
legs and arms and squats and jumps,
fifteen minutes of warm-ups, still haven't
started their run when I have to leave

good exercise, this warming up
and not nearly as bad on your knees
as actually running...


````


trouble at the coffeehouse, sign on the door,
says, sorry, won't open until 9...

hungry,
frustrated,
head back across town
to my regular diner close to home

a table in the back
where I can
work

Pioneer Breakfast -
$6.49
two eggs with biscuits
and sausage gravy
on the side

I guess things'll work out
if you just let
them...











As usual, everything belongs to who made it. You're welcome to use my stuff, just, if you do, give appropriate credit to "Here and Now" and to me



Also as usual, I am Allen Itz owner and producer of this blog, and a not so diligent seller of books, specifically these and specifically here:


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 I welcome your comments below on this issue and the poetry and photography featured in it.

  Just click the "Comment" tab below.






Poetry

New Days & New Ways


Places and Spaces 






Always to the Light




Goes Around Comes Around




Pushing Clouds Against the Wind




And, for those print-bent, available at Amazon and select coffeehouses in San Antonio


Seven Beats a Second






Fiction


Sonyador - The Dreamer





                                                            


  Peace in Our Time




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Where Things Went Wrong
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Links
Loch Raven Review
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