July Fade   Wednesday, July 29, 2015





Nothing much special about my photos this week, mostly the hill country around San Antonio.

But what is special is this week's anthology,Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry (a bilingual edition). It's a coffee table sized book with somewhere between 70 and 80 (my rough count) poets. It was published by the University of Texas Press in 1996.

I have to  transcribe everything that goes into "Here and Now" and it's usually a chore, but not this time. I enjoyed reading and transcribing every poem I used this week and if I'd had more time I would  have enjoyed doing more.

I've used the book here a number of times, usually starting at the beginning of the book and working toward the end which left me with fewer of the most recent poets. This week I concentrated on the last portion of the book with more recent  poets, including  a few still writing today.

I also have my own stuff, including a number of poems from 2008. Apparently I was on a roll when it came to short  poems in 2008.

Also, I don't want to forget, I have two poems by my poet friend Alice Folkart.


Here's what I have for you.

Me
Juliette's Place

Alice Folkart
Waiting for the second sitting
Trueby

Me
the Pharaoh's solution

Me
story time
study hall
time for decaf

Octavio Armand
Braille for Left Hand
Another Poetics

Me
where do boys go?

Adelia Prado
Stained Glass Window
In Portuguese

Me
an atheist defends Jesus from  those who appropriate his name

Me
sitting at a stoplight on San  Pedro Avenue thinking of dead people    

Rosario Castellanos
The Return       

Me
it's a whole different thing  

Me
pretty young women with large bosoms want to be my friend  

Roque Dalton
Ars Poetica

Me
yes, we have none today

Raul Zurita
Even Forsaken They'd Flower  

Me
while I sleep

Ernesto Cardenal 
Leon

Me
fragments

Alejamdra Pizarnik
The Awakening

Me
no papers
the unwelcome Samaritan    

Ferreira Gullar
Oswald Dead
In the Body

Me
girl
Audrey Hepburn
the saddest poem
Mexican ash 
at the grown-ups table
the good pediatrician
poor little Pumpkin
the problem with forests
raindrops in sunshine
the skunk and the buzzard met
normal
Nancy Morejon
Love,  the Attributed City

Me
departures

Me
best to dream of October      










About half way through a strange week, writing stuff  that doesn't fit any one's definition of poetry except my own and even that isn't for certain. Also, a kind of homecoming poem. I haven't  used my mostly make-believe friend Toby in a poem in more than ten years. Welcome back Toby.










Juliette's Place

a small  town,
a crossroad on a flat, featureless plain,
the light at the intersection
changed
five years ago from red, yellow,  green
to a blinking caution light that drivers on the state highway
mostly ignore, most  not even  slowing down
anymore as the town fade

on the main street (named "Main Street,"  a joke now
since it is about the only street left) a  small grocery,a small
hardware store,surviving, with WalMart twenty miles
down the road, only on credit  sales to the few farmers
still trying to make a living out of the leach-out dirt
that blows always in the wind, its nutrients sucked out by
the wind, blown into the next county, farmers,and thus
the hardware store, just one more bad season from bankruptcy...

and there's a small diner on the street too, where farmers
sit all day while their soil and their future is whisked -
they don't eat, never do, nobody does unless
they have no other choice, cause, let's face  it, they
say, Bobby Earl keeps a filthy kitchen and can't cook
anything, been that way since Betsy left, she got the kids,
he  got the cafe where nobody eats...

the only large building in town,
the only two-story building the town ever saw,
is on the south end of Main Street, the end nearest
the state highway...

it was a bank in  the town's very short prime, now
vacant  and dust-deep like most everything else on Main,
on the ground floor, stripped  of everything that might be sold,
teller cages, chairs, tables, desks, a few dried out  fountain pens
lie scattered on the dusty floor in the big empty room, the little chains
that tied the pens to the tables broken, still attached to the pens
like the tails of  fossils dug from some more fortunate
section of the planet...

and the vault door, a small vault as you would expect
from this money were what little money people had stayed
safe under their mattress, the door sprung open like a dark mouth,
gasping for air...

but there is a second door outside,  not the large padlocked doors
to the bank, but a small door, rough-painted green, and behind
the door a long narrow staircase  to the second floor,
a huge room the length and width of the entire bank below,
dark but for the islands of light over green  felt, Juliette's,  the
is called,though no sign announces it,  named after Juliette
here and gone so many years before few even remember her,
or who she was or  why she came or whey she left, her place,
her ghost some say still watching the click and clatter of ivory balls
from high in the darkest corner...

and on a stool in the same corner, Santiago,  300 pounds of  cigar
and whiskey breath - while Juliette's ghost, he is the corporal
presence that watches over the  tables and the play and the players,
tables  at the furthest end of the room from the stairs,
the serious players,where the big money is held in the cigar box
at Santiago's feet, the players who  come to this woe begotten
scratch of a near-death town for the big money games, against the law
in the rest of the state, but nobody cares when you're a near dead
town on a flat and featureless plain, a holy ghost town
for all  the sharks  and dandy's and serious shooters and wannabe
losers...

me and my friend,Toby were there once, just passing through,
stopped at the little grocery store fora beer and saw all the fancy
cars crowded  around  and were curious  so we went up  the
narrow stairs to  take a look...

we  stayed for two games, just Toby and me, playing 8 ball, not
paying much attention to our own game, more interested in the smell
of big money being won and lost at the other end of the room, until
Santiago,who had been watching us from the time we came in,
made a motion, pointing at the door, letting us know without getting up
from his stool that hospitality time for strangers was over...

Toby was  a tough guy,  black as coal sack and mean as a snake when
he felt disrespected like he did right then, and I was worried
since I was a lousy pool shooter and an even worse  fighter and was
hoping Toby wasn't going to start something I couldn't  finish
(as had happened several times in the past) but even Toby,  after one
look at Santiago knew better...

so we left, drove out of that little corpse of a town and never
looked back, though I think about it sometime, wonder
if any part of the derelict town is still standing and doubting it,
except for the big bank building, vacant on the bottom, pool balls
clattering upstairs, Santiago on his  stool and Juliette
high in the corner, drifting  like smoke from the last time
Santiago  lit his cigar...

even if it's not  there, I know it's somewhere, Juliette's place
will always be somewhere, in some corner of some fading town
too  small and too far gone for  anyone to care what goes on...

if you see it, go on in,  smell that sweet money changing hands,
but don't expect to stay for more than two games...

Santiago, he don't like strangers  hanging around too long...









I  have two poems by my Hawaiian friend Alice Folkart. She is also my housemate from Blueline's House of 30 where I have read her poems from many years now. These poem are from last week. In her third round of chemotherapy, the poems demonstrate her  strength and the humor that all who know her or who have read her poems know never fail to bring a smile and a chuckle of recognition.

The last time I used one of Alice's poems I also used a photo from  the web that turned out not to  be  her. This time I'm pretty sure that this truly is the Alice we know and love.








waiting for the second sitting

Discussing Death
over tea in the garden,
two women,
with their IV stands,
their blossoming hats,  layers of shawls,
smoky dark glasses against the sun,
help themselves to tiny sandwiches,
eschew the tarts
(chemo makes sweets taste tinny),
and agree that even as it is,
Life isn't so bad.

The cat, curled up on the grass
in the shade of the table,
listens and wonders when they'll get tired, want to go in,
leave the rest of the sandwiches to him..
He smells salmon, marmite,  tuna salad
and maybe chicken.
He's glad that their present hobby
of taking lots of medicines,
has stolen their appetites.The best will be his;
although he'll not touch those nasty little tarts.
The birds can have them. Birds will eat anything.


Trueby

I'm not measuring out my life in coffee spoons,
not walking on a beach, or wondering if I dare eat a peach
(if you could get a decent peach here in Hawaii -
they're flown in green from the mainland -
they look great, but have no scent and no taste),
I'm  tracking the days and hours by daily treatments,
time in radiation five days a week, every day at 10:40,
and then chemo with the crazy nurse on Tuesdays.

Saturdays and Sundays I'm allowed to rest,
to stay at home - days that I dread and treasure.
Have to fill them up, but not as I would like,
to blot them out with sleep or worry,
days for visiting with friends,  a cup of tea,
some gossip,  talk of the future perhaps
guaranteeing that tomorrow and tomorrow
will open to us, not matter what.

So, today I will shower and drive to the Cancer Center
for my date with Trueby - the machine,
her real name is TRUEBEAM (reassuring),
but I've made her my friend and think of her a Trueby.
I can tell that she likes it because she purrs
as she  circles round me, cranking open different apertures,
sizzling and giggling and taking care of me.










Satirist Jonathan Smith suggested that the solution to the Irish famine of his time would be for the Irish to eat their babies. A real joker he was. Even so, it seems to me his solution is backward. If you're going to eat anyone, it should not be the babies but the old geezers who contribute nothing to the world but complaints anyway. (But not me.)









the Pharaoh's  solution

men drinking coffee
at the old gent's table at Mylie's
Diner, it's how the day starts,
every morning, 7 a.m. with
their  personal coffee mug
looped at their hip through their
belts, Mylie's Mug it says,
along with their own
name, their own
personal
mug...

and the strange thing
as I listen to them is that I'm an old
man myself now and the talk
I hear is the same
as the old-man talk I  heard
more than 50 years ago,
it  being fate's cruel joke
on young men that
they all turn into the old men
of their youth,
holding the same
resentments, misinformation,
prejudices, misplaced nostalgia for
the "good old days"
and mistrust of the present
as the old men they mocked
before they themselves
fell
into the trap of fossilized
perspectives...

how did this happen
to those
young men and
even more interesting to me,
how did I escape
the trap that drew them
into such a  diminished
state...

I have a theory...

back in the day
when I was a younger
man,  dealing with the problems
of the city where I lived, I often
heard it said (and I said it myself)
that the only solution to many
of  the problems was a mass
die-off of the cadre of ancient
obstructionists who held firm
against any change from the
world they grew up in...

remembering that
in way ancient times
the Pharaoh Ahmose decided
that the expanding number
of Hebrews in his kingdom
were becoming a problem
so he decreed the murder of all
their baby sons, a radical solution
that I do not recommend, but still,
when it comes to old people
who insist  on standing astride
the gates of today
holding back the flood of future days,
a little natural passage of souls
misfiring like the spark
on a '42 Plymouth
wouldn't hurt
for long...

also remembering that  not
all Hebrew sons were killed
by the Pharaoh, one in particular
later made his mark in the
desert...

and,as far as this natural
elimination is concerned,
you should just call me
Moses,
and exception to the Pharaoh's
solution...









These are three short observationals from 2007. In 2007 I was  spending most of my writing time at a corner table in the cafe at Borders. Lots of traffic, great for people watching.

One of the things I like best about these observationals is that enough time has passed that I remember nothing and know only what I read.










story time

the girl
with the ruined
face,
eyes dancing
as she tells
a story

too low
for me to  hear
but her
companion
leans forward
almost  touching
listening
intently

I envy his
proximity
and the
air
he shares
with her
smile



study hall

she
has brown
secret-keeping eyes
and perfect teeth
that flash  white
when she
smiles

studying
with three fellow students,
all boys
competing for her attention,
with one well-arched brow,
she controls the
agenda


time for decaf

she always seems
on the edge
of panic

eyes bright
smile tight
hunched forward
as she talks to you
as if ready to pounce

she makes my coffee
at Starbucks

I think she's been tasting
too much of the
product










Born in Cuba in 1946, Octavio Armand and his family were twice exiled from his home country, the first time in the 1950s by Batista and the second by Castro in 1960. An anthologist and the author of several books of literary essays, he has lived most of life in New York.

From this week's anthology, here are two of his poems.










Braille for Left Hand

                                    to Carol Maier

     1
     The world does not close in your eyes; there
you are born, with the weight of one lip on another.
There everything fits, as in a room that grows emptier
and emptier.

     You are not in your eyes. You are here,
hinting at presence. Irresistible. As if
trapped in a statue.

     Someone buries you, forgets you behind
awkwardness.

     2
     Yes, the shadow is astute. The statue
knows a lot. But once again you touch walls,
faces; and the warmth of a cup creates
order.

     3
     Beside you, brewing words, Braising them.
Since you have not stayed on your eyelid. You are
here, in palms no gypsy will read.

     Touch them.  Tunnel between these
lines, mole; make your little space; read.

1976                                   Translated from Spanish by Carol  Maier


Another Poetics

The eye that sees,
sees what?
The word that tells,
tells what?
Beliefs belie?

I bathe in a mirror:
my body is one color
and distance another.

With black letters:
green leaves.
With black letters:
lips red
like yours.

I hide in your breathing.
I sharpen a hawk
until it soars
and I burn the page you read
with your eyes, which I also burn,
your eyes black as letters.

You and I
will drink together
long sips
of water more crystalline
than absence.
On a final winding line
dry water for a lingering thirst.

1986                                  Translated from Spanish by Carol Maier












Feeling a bit nostalgic for horned toads and red ant beds.











where do boys go?

where do boys go to
these days
to stroke between a horned toad's
horns, to watch a tarantula cross a hard packed
train; where are the red and beds
to piss on, and the dirt roads and arroyos to chase down
on touch, stripped-down bikes (the bicycles they ride today
would fold their delicate little frames into a submissive
crouch if ever introduced to a dirt road), where are the muddy fields
to play slip and slide and the thick brush where boys can hide
from the world and girls and grown-ups and smoke Parliament cigarettes , where
are the places where boys can be be boys,where mischief can be
innocent and nothing is forever and never means until tomorrow after
school...


~~~

"I'm looking under
a dress of wonder
that I overlooked
before"

we sang with not a clue of what was "under" and free to make it up
as we went along, imagination we assumed  made us experts...

where do boys go today  to capture such gifts of innocent
ignorance...

is there a place safe for such
innocence,  such
ignorance

as  eased us into the harsher truths
of it all...








 Next from the anthology, two poems by Brazilian poet Adelia Prado. Born in 1935, she taught philosophy at the time the anthology was published. Although she didn't start writing poetry until she was 40 years old, in 2014 she was awarded the Griffin Lifetime Achievement Award.










 Stained Glass Window

A church facing north
and to its left and embankment,
a railroad.
The sun, more than half-way west.
There are some boys in the shade.
I'm there with my foot resting on my big toe.
My hand caressing my hair, come to rest a quarter of the
     way up my thigh,
where it bounces and shyly returns like a dancer's
     awkward leap.
Everything is pulsing and revealing to me,
it's as good as foreplay but not provoked by sex.
an existence this pure.

                                                 Translated from Portuguese by Marcia Kirinus


In Portuguese

Spider, cork pearl
and four more which I won't say:
these are perfect words.
Dying is inevitable.
God is weightless.
A butterfly is always in transition,
like soap in a boiling kettle.

God knows these are all strange things
that exist in the mind,
corruption exists because of
original sin.
Words, things I've desired before.
My mind tires of this sad oration.
Jonathan said to me:
     "Have you eaten our yogurt?"
What sweetness envelops me, what comfort!
Words are imperfect, they exist only for poems
and I ask where do
     these winged insects and this friendship come from,
     your arm brushing up against mine.

                                                      Translated from Portuguese by Marcia Kirinus








Lots of Christians running around today, more into politics than Christ's lessons, loud, obnoxious, intolerant, self-righteous, loudly sanctimonious, and bossy. I'm not a Christian myself, but it does seem to me that a whole bunch of the Christians making the most  noise wouldn't know Jesus if he tapped them on the should and said, hey, look at me. Probably wouldn't like him very much either.

I wrote this little piece in 2011, striking a blow for  Jesus Christ, one heck'uv a fine fella.






an atheist defends  Jesus from those who appropriate his  name

 the church is a creation of Paul,
not Jesus,
says one of the religiosos
to the others

a historically inconvenient fact easily
verifiable to those who look
and recognizing it
in a flash

my mind is cleared
as all the contradictions
between
the  two thousand

years
of Christianity
and the thirty years
of Jesus

are explained -
Jesus, on one hand,
claiming for himself no divinity
(for how could he claim divinity

yet
instruct us, the least  divine
creatures
in all of creation,

to be like him)
claiming the god of the Jews,
not as his father
but as love, and peace

and forbearance,
for it is through forbearance,
he taught,
that freedom and justice will come,

the inheritance
of the meek,
a joyful heart
and peace of  the just -

Jesus,
the revolutionary Jew,
the greatest danger to his ministry
not the Roman or the other Jews

but the church founded in his name
by Saul who became Paul, the evangelist,
the mystic,
the counter-revolutionary

denier of the flesh
and human will -
and so, in his church's teaching
the favored creation becomes the lowest,

subject to the will and approval
of a revised Jesus,
an anti-Christ Christ
who calls upon his faithful

to grovel prostrate before
the ascendant
princes
of quarreling sects

and the dogma
that debases
his
name












A moment of clarity.










sitting at a stoplight on San Pedro Avenue thinking of dead people

sitting at a stoplight on San Pedro Avenue
on my way to my coffeehouse
this morning, thinking  about all the dead people
in my life, thinking of an aunt and uncle
who lived in McAllen at the time and how when I was a  kid,
six or seven or so, I would spend a week with them
in the summer...

childless at the time and happy to have me around,
I  remember how on Saturday I went with my uncle to his office
in a tall building downtown, riding an elevator, my first, and playing
with my toys on his carpet while he worked and I remember how
during the week I played on  a large undeveloped field
across from their house, open land, no brush, unbroken and not
farmed and I would spend the day playing in the dry caliche dust,
and I remember the field littered with the shells of snails, thousands of them, generations
of snail bones, white, like bleacher  bone in the desert, small  bones white in the dust
and the bright Rio Grande Valley sun...

and I think of how little I  remember of that week, not a meal, not a night
in bed, just the elevator and my uncle's carpet and small bones, white and dusty,
and I think how my aunt and uncle and most of the people I've ever known
are like small bones now, white bones under layers of dust, and how sad
it seems that so much of my life is about dry, white bones baking
in a desert sun...

and then, before the light turns green,
a young Latina crosses the intersection in front of me,
pedaling hard on her bicycle, heading, no doubt, to the college
two blocks down the street, a backpack strapped to the back  of her bike,
full of books, I imagine, as the young woman, long black hair streaming,
strong, brown legs pumping as she rises and falls on her bicycle seat, the future
racing past on a bicycle, life racing past, black hair streaming and brown legs pumping,
and for a while at least I forget about the white bones buried in the
dust of my life, and for a moment the hourglass is turned back and the sand
that is my life no longer trickles down from the small cloud remaining, instead
the glass is full and vibrant streaming, life not a memory of fading bones but
a vision of black hair streaming and brown legs pumping, life,
pumping...








The next poet from this week's anthology is Rosario Castellanos.

Born in Mexico City in 1925, Castellanos spent much of her childhood in Mayan southern Mexico. After traveling to Europe and the United States for advanced study in aesthetics, she  returned o  Chiapas to work with Indian theater groups and the Indigenous Institute of San Cristobal. Much of her work and life was spent trying to bridge the distance between Mexico's pre-Columbian and European traditions, a divide that continues  to exist in Mexico today between classes, cultures and traditions. I am surrounded here in the coffeehouse by an exhibit of Mexican folk art, the show titled, "Cruzes y Cositas," the only evidence of European  influence the shrine to the Virgin Mary by my table.

Contemporaries described the poet, who died in 1974, as a solitary person who often seemed lonely, that loneliness probably no better expressed anywhere than in this poem.






The Return

I walk the land  of Anahuac which is
the land of my dead.

Yes: as their names suggest - and other signs -
they are dead. They do no speak.

Some, the most recent, have their chins tied
with the final kerchief.
Others with their jaws intact,  calcium reverted
to its mute mineral  state.

So, then, do not ask me
to live for them.
To see the world the do not see, to body
forth a destiny left incomplete.

If I need justification
for existing, for doing
and, above all, for not erasing myself
(which would be logical based on the evidence)
I will have to obtain it some other way.

From the living, who turn their backs on me,
who do not see me but who if they did
would reject me like those who know
that, by a law of nature, fewer bodies mean
more space and air and hope?

From those who arrive with the  grenade already poised
to  explode between  their hands?
From those who see in me an obstacle, a ruin,
a hideous sight
that must be destroyed in order to construct the new?

No. The answer will not
come from humans alone.

Perhaps to undertake  some great work...
Work? Change nature's face?
Add some book to the bibliographies?
Change the course of history?

But that's a man's job  - again  -
cut to time measured to fit men
following the criteria
they use to accept or reject.

They what? God? His reign?
It is too  late now to invent
or  return to golden childhood.

Just accept the fact: you are here
and it's the same as if you had stayed or never
left. The same. For you. For everyone.

Superfluous here,  Superfluous there. Superfluous
exactly like each and every one
you see and do not see.

No one is necessary
not even for you, who by definition
are so needy.

                                                Translated from Spanish by Magda Bodin)












No doubt, I am the master of self-justification










it's  a whole different thing

many years ago
I worked for a newspaper,
not a big deal  paper, just a little
community thrice-weekly...

this was in 1964, yet
even today
I get angry when I see someone
grab a paper from the rack
without paying for it,
read it,
then put it back,
stealing
is what  they're doing,
flat-out stealing
the work of the  reporters
and editors and photographers
and copy proofers  and printers
and circulation people
who did the work to make the paper
and who make their living
out of the newspaper's sales -

at the same time,
I feel no guilt or  shame
for the two or  three magazines
I read each day that I never pay for...

I tell myself
that a newspaper
is like the first kiss in the morning,
a  welcome wake-up to the day

but reading a newspaper
someone else has already read,
well,
that's just sloppy seconds,
the bloom gone from the rose,
the fresh welcome
smeared like ink to often fingered -
just not the same thing
at all...

~~~

magazines
are different -

promiscuous,
made to be fondled by many hands,
they are the ones that play around,
their slick covers
impervious to fingerprints and rough handling,
long ago  deflowered
and none the worst for it,
stacked and bundled,
fodder for barbershops and VA hospitals
scattered around over-full waiting rooms
providing relief from the boredom
of the mostly disinterested -

they are the whores of literature,
made to be used and reused, passing
from hand to hand

not like a fresh
virgin
newspaper
at all











The thing is, I like it.












pretty young women with large bosoms want to be my friend

pretty young women
with  large  bosoms
say
they want to be
my friend
on Facebook

this is a bizarre
development for me
at my age, pretty
young women
with large bosoms
wanting to be my
friend,
and,
come to think of it,
pretty young
women
with  large
bosoms wanting
to be my friend
is not something
I recall
happening
to me at any age...

it seems to have
started
shortly after I shaved
my head, perhaps
it's a Daddy Warbucks
thing or  maybe
exposing my
scalp
has
somehow
exposed the boiling
core
of sexuality
blazing  within
my loins...

or maybe
not...

at any rate
I've been hesitant
to become
friends
with pretty young
women with large
bosoms on Facebook
because who knows
what they might
be after since
I'm not
rich
so
I  think
maybe it's my
bod,
or my scintillating
intellect
(though the bod
would be my
choice,
happy to save
my scintillating
intellect for tea
with the older
ladies)...

but in the end
I think these pretty
young women with
large bosoms
are just nurses,
charity workers, out
to sooth the shriveled
soul and other parts
of dried up old
men,
or maybe they are
just
confused
about the riches
I don't have...

best I decline
their offer of friend-
ship for the sake
of both of  us,
me too old
and they too young,
for the rending
heartbreak
that will surely
follow
our mutual
disillusionment...

plus
if my wife found out
I was being friendly
with pretty young  women
with large bosoms
I  would be in immediate
danger of losing
bathroom  privileges
and sleeping in my car
with my dog which
is really
small
(the car
not the dog)
and already smells deeply
of dog...

it's for the best
my dears,
I say to all  the
pretty
young women
with large bosoms...

move on, try to forget me,
possibly
you might check in with
the old sailors'
home,
teeming with old men
fully as bald as  me
and actually
you don't really have
to be that young
or have such large
bosoms for them, so
you can let yourself
go a bit -
just
wear a skirt
and hosiery,
for they, after a life
at sea, are experts in the
lessons of any port
in a storm...

~~~~

and if it doesn't work out
with the old
sailors
you might
call me again,
who
knows
what evil might lurk
in the hearts of bald old men
give a chance  for
second
thoughts...







Next from the anthology, Salvadorian poet and revolutionary, Roque  Dalton. Born in 1935, the poet studied law under the Jesuits in San Salvador, in Mexico,and in Chile. As a member of the Communist Party, he was frequently imprisoned and lived most of his life in political exile in Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Cuba. He returned to El Salvador in 1975 as a member of the People's Revolutionary Army and fought as a guerrilla. In hiding, he was  assassinated that same year, reputedly by a member of a rival Maoist  faction of the Party.

I love the exuberance of this poem, with more than few hints of the Whitman.






Ars Poetica

                         to Raul  Castellano

Anguish exists.

Man uses his old disasters as a mirror.

Barely an hour after dark
that man picks up the bitter scraps of his day
painfully places them next to his heart
and sweating like a consumptive who still hasn't given up
sinks into his deep, lonely room.
Here, such a man chain smokes
he concocts disastrous cobwebs on the ceiling
he loathes fresh flowers
his own asphyxiating  skin exiles him
he stares at his cold feet
he believes his bed is his daily grave
his pockets are empty
he's hungry
he sobs.

but those men, those other men,
gladly bare their chests to the sun
or to murderers on the prowl
they lift the face of bread out of ovens
like a benevolent flag against hunger
they laugh so hard with the children even the air hurts
they fill with tiny footsteps the bellies of blessed women
they split rocks like stubborn fruit in their solemnity
naked they sing into the refreshing glass of water
they joke around with the sea playfully taking it by
     the horns
they build melodious houses of light in windswept
     wildernesses

like God they get drunk everywhere
they settle with their fists against despair
their avenging fires against crime
their love of unending roots
against the atrocious scythe of hatred.

Anguish exists, yes.

As does despair
crime
and hatred.

For whom shall the voice of the poet speak.

                                               Translated from Spanish by Richard Schaaf












This old piece is from  2013.











yes, we have none today

sociologically,
metaphysically,
and astronomically
I believe that
yes,
it is true
we have no  bananas

today

and probably for many more days
to come
since the decline in power
of the guarantors
of our bananas, the despots,
tyrants,
and  banana barons
in Central America

and
I believe it is true
and this is why the lyric
"bird
bird bird
bird is the word
bird bird
bird
is the word"
has been rummaging through my brain
for at least six weeks
and also the probable cause
for my inability to remember
of  the bird in question
is part of an actual song
or a jingle for Thunderbird wine,
or a song lyric
transposed to Thunderbird wine
by those of us who drank
too much too often
of the bird,
waking on subsequent mornings
with a thunder bird
of a headache

which is the likely reason
some of us learned no algebra
in algebra class, what brain we had  available
at the time concentrating
on our algebra teacher's exceedingly fine
legs, disgusted with ourselves
at how in our post-Thunderbird stupor we were lusting
after a veritable ancient, 40, at least,
but damn fine legs
and a nice ass
too
as she, with her back to us,
scribbled nonsensical numbers
on the blackboard, as if we were to pay any attention
to  those numbers and the totality of algebra
with that ass staring us in the face

which is why it took me ten years
to finish college,
all my subsequent math teachers
warty old men with barely any ass at
all

and maybe even why I continue
to attempt
to be a  poet,  being as how our English teacher
was 87 years old with varicose legs
and a  droopy ass (what  could be seen of it),
leaving nothing for us to do but read
the classical canon of fine
literature,
"Silas Marner," et. al.
while writing deathless lines of poetry and prose
to which, of course,
she never extended any hint of appreciation
near the extent we thought it deserved

which probably explains
why
Faulkner was a drunk
and Hemingway pulled a shotgun
on himself...

all of which proves
how complicated and interconnected
is the world and the universe
of birds
and wines
and teachers
and, of course, bananas
of which we have none
today...











Born in 1951 in Chile, Raul Zurita, is  the second poet in the anthology. There is one younger, but her poem is very long, two long for me to transcribe here.

With publication of his first book, Purgatorio, in 1979, Zurita was recognized as one of Chile's most dynamic and experimental younger poets.










Even Forsaken They'd Flower

Forsaken they would not see the prairies but only  a cry
crossing the valleys     phantasmal     intensifying     as if
all Chile were rent by a scream over its meadows

     i.     Because Chile was a baby bawling in the meadow

     ii.    That's why Chile was rent     shaken     hearing
             those cries

     iii.   That's why everyone waited     bawling for other
             meadows that could turn their sorrows green

So that forsaken they could begin to hear from the valleys
the bawling of the newborn turning their sorrows green
and the forsaken children of Chile would behold only
meadows there

     iv.     For there Chile's  sorrows could become green

     v.      For the valleys would grow form pain  like
              the newborn
     vi.     For all the children of Chile would again hold
              forth the greenness  forgotten in the valley

So that  bawling all the children of Chile can be held forth
like a greenness reborn of their sorrows and there they
could be seen running over the meadows     all beside
themselves with joy singing even forsaken  they'd flower

                                                                     Translated from Spanish by Jack Schmitt












The days have been very hot, but the nights cool and breezy, lovely for moon-bathing.










while I sleep

moon-bathing
last night
under a bright summer
three-quarter
moon

     a silver coin
     with an edge bitten off
     by a hungry
     space cowboy
     still
     believing in moon cheese
     and crackers

a soft wind
against my body,
a cool wind, relief
from the triple-digit day

     not like when I was a kid
     visiting the hill country
     to see all my aunts and uncles
     when they came in from their  ranches
     for barbecue brisket
     on picnic tables under pecan
     trees, days hot like today,
     but no relief at night,
     midnight dark still  as a grave,
     not a whisper of wind, sleeping
     with my cousin in his bed,
     open door, open windows bringing
     no  relief...

different now
after all the years passed,
cool nights like this
that draw me out from my bed,
stripped down
to bathe in the quiet  rustles of dark,
the world stripped also
of all  the  artifice of daylight
pretense...

truth,
such as it is these
days of lie and evasion,
blowing on my back,
soft and cool, a last hope for us
in the truth of night
and the moon
and the soft southern breezes
of South Texas
night...

encouraging
me to believe a new day
is coming
while I sleep...








This piece from the anthology is by Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal. The poet's principal commitments throughout his life were to the politics of Marxist revolution and the power of liberation theology. Born in 1925, Cardenal was long involved in poetry and and in political work against the Somoza  regime, Then in 1954 he entered a Catholic seminary to train for the priesthood. His initial theological education took place in a Trappist monastery. Later he studied in Mexico and in Columbia. Ordained in 1965, he returned to Nicaragua and established community on an island on Lake  Nicaragua. Somozan soldiers destroyed the monastery in 1977 and he went into exile, returning after the revolution to serve as minister of culture for the Sandinista government.







Leon

I used to live in a big house by the Church of St. Francis
which had an inscription in the entrance hall saying
                                        AVE MARIA
and red corridors of brick,
an old red-tiled roof,
                                     and windows with rusty iron grilles,
and a large courtyard just unbearable on stuffy afternoons
with  sad clock bird singing out the hours,
and some one's pale aunt in the courtyard reciting the
        rosary.
In the evenings I'd hear that angelus bell
               ("The Angel of the  Lord declared unto Mary...")
the hand of a distant little girl playing a note on the piano,
              and the bugle from some barracks.
At night a huge red moon rose above Calvary
They told me stories of souls in purgatory and ghosts.
                                  At midnight
the shade of General Arechabala rode a hose through the
       streets.
And the noise of a door closing...A black coach...
And empty cart rattling as it rolled through the Calle Real.
And then all the roosters in the neighborhood crowing,
and the song of the clock bird,
and my aunt who'd leave each morning for mass at 4
with the bells ringing in St. Francis,
                  ringing
in Calvary
                                   and in St John's Hospital
and the jars of the milkmen clattering on the stone
      pavement
and a bread vendor knocking on a front door
and crying
                            BREAD 
                                                   BREAD

                                                          Translated from Spanish by Jonathan Coben

















Here are some stray thoughts from 2008.












fragments

waiting
for the mercy
of your smile

```

the night
is long
and ever  darker

```

sunshine
in the desert
moonglow
on the sand

```

short conversation
on
better days

```

the tides 
pushed forward 
sucked back by the moon

```

white 
rose opens
swallows
morning dew

```

blue jay
protects her nest
stares
me down

```

seven days
too little time
to fill  a week
with love

```

children grow
leave
behind
bright shades 
of memory

```

free
to find the
time
that is my due

```

i lied...
she knows...
no truth can repair
the breech









 From the anthology, Alejandra Pizarnik, born 1936 in Argentina in a small town near Buenos Aires to Jewish immigrant parents of Russian and Slovak descent. She had a difficult childhood, struggling with a strong European accent, a stutter, acne and self-esteem issues. In later life she  described her poems to a friend as "small flames for someone who was lost in a strange world." Eventually she ended her life in 1972 at the age of 36 by taking an overdose of a prescription drug.











 The Awakening

                                                 to Leon Ostrov

Lord
the cage has become a bird
and has flown away
and my heart is crazy
because it howls at death
and smiles behind the wind
at my ravings

What will I do with my fear
What will I do with my fear

Light no longer dances in my smile
nor do seasons burn doves in my ideas
My hands have undressed
and gone where death
teaches the dead to live

Lord
the air punishes my body
Behind the air there are monsters
that drink my blood

It is a disaster
It is the hour of emptiness not empty
It is the moment to bolt closed the lips
to hear the screaming of eh condemned
to study each one of my names
hanged by its neck in nothingness

Lord
I am twenty years old
My eyes are also twenty
yet say nothing

Lord
I have lived out my life in an instant
The last innocence shattered
Now is never or nevermore
or simply was

How is it I don't kill myself in front of a mirror
and disappear to reappear in the sea
where a great ship would await me
with its lights burning?

How is it I don't pull out my veins
and with them build a ladder
to flee to the other side of night?

The beginning has  given birth to the end
Everything will remain the same
The worn-out smiles
The concerned concern
The questions of stone on stone
The grimaces that mimic love
Everything will remain the same

But my arms insist on embracing the world
because they still haven't been taught
that it's already too late

Lord
throw the coffins out of my blood

I remember my childhood
when I was an old woman
Flowers died in my hands
because the savage dance of joy
destroyed their hearts

I remember the black mornings of sun
when I was a girl
which is to say yesterday
which is to say centuries ago

Lord
The cage has become a bird
and has devoured my hopes

Lord
The cage has become a bird
What will I do with my fear

                           Translated by Frank Graziano and Maria Rosa Fort









This is another poem from 2008 (turns out it was a pretty good year). For most of that year, the coffeehouse where I spend most of  most every day was downtown right above the Riverwalk, a great place to go and walk along the river if the work was blocked.

There was a homeless woman that I saw every morning when I arrived, a striking woman that I  wrote several poems about.  Here are two of  them.








no papers

the autumn
lady
street person
was
dancing
in the parking lot
this morning

dressed
in her normal
browns
& reds
& golds

slow-moving
arms
and hips
and shoulders
and head to a kind of
calypso beat

not in a world
of her own
as you might think,
but
in the music

she stops when i drive up
walks to the rail
and pretends to look  down
at the river

i've said hello
to her  several times
early in the morning,
like now,
but she never responds,
because she is black
and i am white
because she is woman
and i am man
because she is homeless
and i am homed
because she is the queen
of this street
of this parking lot above the river
of the water
that flows in her river

and of this and every morning

and
i
am just a trespasser
a  passer-through
a migrant
with no
papers

meaning
no
good morning
greetings
are required
or to be acknowledged...


the unwelcome Samaritan

the autumn lady
is not well -
she bends over
by the black, iron rail
that looks down
on the river
and  coughs and coughs,
her blanket  would
tight around her

she does not seek help,
does not acknowledge me,
will not  accept help,
and i am tempted to the arrogance
of the unwelcome Samaritan

but
so little
this woman has,
the dignity of choice
as  to how to  live or die
all she has left

her
tragedy,
if such it turns out to be,
is hers alone,
a final possession
i will not choose to take from her

     is this
     my thought and  my inaction
     an allowance
     or  is it avoidance -

     a question
     that pricks softly
     at my conscience...








Ferreira Gullar was born in 1930 in Sao Luis do Maranhao where he was educated and later worked as a journalist and disc jockey until he moved to Rio de Janeiro. An early Concretist writer (examples of Concretist work are included in the anthology but cannot be duplicated here, at least not by me), he broke with that discipline for a more "formalistic approach" and more direct political engagement as he struggled toward creating a sense of "revolutionary art" which ultimately led to his exile from Brazil. At the time the anthology was published, Gullar had returned to Rio where he is considered one of the Brazilian masters most influential for younger writers.






Oswald Dead

Yesterday in Sao Paulo they buried
an anthropophagous angel
with banana-leaf wings
(one more name that blends  into our tropical  vegetation)

The schools and the founders of Sao Paulo
didn't stop
to look at the body of the poet who had announced the
        civilization of idleness
Speed produces slowness

The hanky in which for the last time
he blew his nose
was a national flag

FOOTNOTE:
It was sunny all day long in Ipanema
Oswald de Andrade helped the sunset
today. Sunday, October 24, 1954

                                                Translated from Portuguese by Renato Rezende


In the Body

Why try to reconstruct with words
      what the summer blew
      between clouds and laughs
through the air, with old  papers?

the dream in the mouth, the fire in the bed,
the desire in the night
are only this
contraction (this lightning)
of a jawbone within the face.

Poetry is the present.

                                          Translated from Portuguese by Renato Rezende











I'm staying in 2008 for several more shorts (but not as short as the last ones).












girl

dancing
across the stage 
as  she delivers
my order of decaf
and a scone
then back again
still dancing
still in the music

the abandon
of dance
and rhythm
and music 

and youth

elixir
bringing
a moment of light
to an old soul
heavy
with the news of the day


Audrey Hepburn

lord
she was beautiful

but we were
adolescent boys
in a time of
mammary
obsession
and
never
noticed


the saddest poem

the saddest
poem
is

the
sigh
of a  lover's
farewell


Mexican ash

orange clouds flaring

raining
mud-drops
 leaving a coat
of grey
Mexican
polka
dots

everywhere

a scent

of  Mexico burning


at the grown-up's table

i often forget
when dealing
with peers
of my own age,
feeling
like a child
seated
by some accident
at the grown-up's table,
exchanging banalities,
wishing
i could go outside
and play


the good pediatrician

William Carlos Williams,
the good pediatrician,
drops his little
bursts
of reality
into  this fog-infected world
and clarity
has its moment
in the sun

and in that bright light
we, his children
play


poor little Pumpkin

little
Pumpkin,
Texas -
hiding out
amongst  the trees

KoKo's
Gas-N-Grub

Faith
Evergreen
Baptist Church

poor
little Pumpkin

population
43


the problem  with forests

the problem with
looking at a forest
is that
all
you
can
see
is
trees


raindrops in sunshine

rain drops
in sunshine
gleam
like diamonds
from the sky

somewhere
there is a
rainbow


the skunk and the buzzard met

the skunk
and the buzzard
met
in the right land
of  U.S. 87
about three miles west
of Veribest, Texas

careless skunk,
greedy buzzard

together  now

a bloody
tangle
of fur and feather
roadkill

stink


normal

some
will say
normal
is boring

well
still
i
say
it's nice to get
back
to










Here's another Cuban poet from the anthology, Nancy Morejon. Born in 1944, Morejon studied French literature and culture at  the University of Havana. A journalist, theater reviewer, essayist, editor and poet, she lives in Havana and works for the Cuban Writers' and Artists' Union











Love, Attributed City

                                             for the reader, companero

Here I say again: the heart of the city has not yet died
for us need never die
oh, dream, the summer screens return
and he carpenters' hair blowing in the morning
merging now with all I leave in the wake of my steps

my heart is lodged in the city and its adventure

freely with all I leave in my wake poetry comes:
flower or demon
poetry comes freely like a bird
                                                  (I offer it a red tree)
and it alights fiercely on y head and eats
                                                        what is sclerotic in me;
but now it's not just the dawn, not just the
                                                                  singing  of birds
not just the city

here I'll tell of coastal waves and the Revolution
here poetry comes with a beautiful sword to make my
        breast bleed
                                     who am I

who hears the dream of my cursed youth
for whom do I speak, what ear will say yes to my words
the mouth of the poet fills with at each time it yawns

                                      who am I

the guerrilla, the roving madwoman, the Medusa, a
      Chinese flute,
a warm chair,  seaweed, the coast guard's cannon, anguish,
the blood of the martyrs, the ovum of ochun on this earth

                                        who am I

that I go again through the streets, among orichas,
through the dark and corpulent heat,
among school children  reciting Marti,
among the cars, the hidden niches of the streets,
the summer screens, into the Plaza of the people
among the blacks, the guardacantones,
though the parks, the old  city,  the old, old neighborhood
       of Cerro,
and my cathedral and my port

here I say again: love, attributed city

                                                            Translated from Spanish by  Kathleen Weaver










This poem written in 1964, is, I'm pretty sure, my  first. A separation poem, an important stage in my life ending, leaving behind people who I had come close to after a very intense period of association, next, all unknown. One of those moments in life that you know, even as you're living it, will never be forgotten










departures

snow pelts the parking lot
with cotton ball  ferocity,
muffing street and city noises,
cloaking the bustle of early evening
with a mantle of winter white

from behind our frosted
plate-glass curtain,
we watch and draw closer
in sympathetic chill

softly,
we join each other
in quiet carols

spring is the proper time
for leaving friends and lovers,
when the earth and an aborning universe
demand there be new ones to comfort us

but Christmas...
Christmas is a sad time
for long, likely final
departures...












July fades to August, and there's not a damn thing to be done about it.












best to dream of October

the green Starbucks umbrellas
slowly pivot
on their stands
in a warm morning breeze,
shading
tables and chairs
in an empty courtyard

the cool, early mornings
circulations that stirred early day
for the past several weeks
gone  now  as July
edges
into the baking hell
of August in South Texas...

two
months
remaining
before north winds
cool the breaking day,
rising from the western mountains
and the long cold prairies between us
as the sun rises orange, a more mellow first light
than the red  fires burning the east horizon
in the blistering kiln of summer...

I  read a poem
of an afternoon in Vermont,
forested cool as I imagined it, South Texas
summer dreaming, temporary reprieve
from the reality of July 26th...

here and now,
my home for most of my life and
most likely the rest of it
as well, best to  dream
instead of the north winds coming
in October, the smell
of mountains and the long
cold prairie between
us...





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