Hope Abides   Sunday, December 09, 2018







hope abides

dry
as an old West Texas well
after a year and a half of drought

but hope abides,
like a butterflies migrating
across busy highways,
so many
that even with those who end their annual
DNA-required thousand mile pilgrimages as smudges
on fast-passing windshields, enough escape
the journey to their ancestral spawning grounds
in Mexican jungles in numbers numerous enough
to break tree branches by the weight
of their mass resting..

many don't make it to the end of their journey,
but even more do, meeting their genetic requirement
to meet at a certain place at a certain time
and at that place and at that time, meet, mate
and create new generations of strivers, new
generations of survivors...

and their line goes on to new days and new
journeys, hope, as a butterfly understands it,
carries their line through generation after
generation and, as hope abides, so do
they...









Here they are


Me
hope abides

Me
suspicion

Yevgeny Yevtysgenko
Babi Yar

Me
sugar on grits and other offenses

Alexander Shubanov
Dog's Paradise

Me
a red-headed woman
the beautiful woman with a crooked little finger

Luis J. Rodriguez
Black Mexican

Me
unlike super extra crispy bacon
the squirrel in the tree

William Carlos Williams
Proletarian Portrait
To a Poor Old Woman

Me
posse
couples dancing

Alice Walker
The Old Warrior Terror
Judge Every One with Perfect Calm

Me
breaking the night

Jimmy Santiago Baca
from Martin
from Meditations on the South Valley

Me
about the creation of winter on the 12th day

Me
a generation defined
















There is a better way, some say.












suspicion

I
live
my life
under he suspicion
there is not enough time..

and then there are
the tiny sparrows
on the table
right outside my window,
happy little birds
share
a crumb,
their good fortune
revealed in good time,
life-affirming
dun-colored creatures of the air,
fed, ready for high-flying,
their wait is over
until
next time
which they have
since time for them
is the immediate,
the crumb on the table,
the wind beneath their wings,
the tiny chirping off-spring in their nests,
knowing not time
they always have time...










First from my library for this post is this anthology, Holocaust Poetry, published by St Martin's Griffen in 1999.

The poet I selected is Russian Yevgeny Yevtushenko. The poem is Babi Yar, referring to a ravine in the suburbs of Kiev where Nazi forces murdered 33,000 Soviet Jews. It was a brave poem for it's time, indirectly damning officially denied Russian anti-Semitism, making Yevtushenko wildly popular in the United States and to a lesser degree in Russia.

But the Kruschev "thaw" faded, as did the poet, at least in the the West.

As to the first line of the poem, a monument does now stand at the site of the mass killing, at least in part because of Yevtushenko's poem.





Babi Yar

No monument stands over Babi Yar,
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.
I am afraid.
                    Today I am as old in years
as all the Jewish people.
Now I seem to be
                            a Jew.
Here I plod through ancient Egypt.
Here I perish crucified on the cross,
and to this day I bear the scars of nails.
I seem to be
                   Dreyfus.
The Philistine
                       is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
                            Beset on every side.
Hounded,
              spat on,
                          slandered.
Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face,
I seem to them
                        a young boy in Bialystok.
Blood runs, spilling over the floors.
The barroom rabble-rousers
give off  stench of vodka and onion
A boot kicks me aside, helpless,
in vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
                                          "Beat the yids. Save Russia"
Some grain-marketeer beats up on my mother.
O my Russian people!
                                    I know
                                               you
are international to the core.
But those with unclean hands
have often made  jingle of your purest name.
I know the goodness of my land.
How vile are these anti-Semites -
                                                      without a qualm
they pompously called themselves
the Union of Russian People!

I seem to be
                   Anne Frank
transparent
                   as a branch in April
And I love.
                   And have no need of phrases.
My need
               is that we gaze into each other.
How little we can see
                                   or smell!
We are denied the leaves,
                                         we are denied the sky.
Yet we can do so much
                                     tenderly
embrace each other in a darkened room
They're coming here?
                                Be not afraid. Those are the booming
sounds of spring:
                            spring is coming here.
Come then to me.
                             Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
                                                      No, it's the ice breaking...
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar.
The trees look ominous,
                                       like Judges.
Here all things scream silently.
                                                and,bring my head,
slowly I feel myself
                               turning grey.
And I myself
                      am one massive soundless scream
among the thousand thousand buried here.
I am
        each old man
                              here shot dead.
I am
         every child
                           here shot dead.
Nothing in me
                        shall ever forget!
The "Internationale," let it
                                           thunder
when the last anti-Semite on earth
is buried for ever.
In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage, all anti-Semites
must hate me now as a Jew.
For that reason
                         I am a a true Russian.

(Translation by George Reavey)



















Living on the wild side.       
               















sugar on grits and other offenses

I
like the
way the young woman
salts her grits...

(I put sugar on mine,
which earns me the approbation
of all my hillbilly family
including those who have previously
approbated me for my politics,
which I don't care, since,
regarding my grits, or politics, or religion, for that matter,
my thoughts are the produce of a process of deep philosophical
internal duologue and argument which I won, sugar
on grits, rational politics, naked-dancing-in-a-circle-around-a-fire
religion being the way life on this planet should be arranged, and by the way,
can somebody please do something about Capri pants, by god, ugliest
thing a woman ever put on even the most pleasing body)

and the woman with her salt
she, by god, shakes that shaker like a judge pounding a gavel
as miscreants snivel and shrivel before the majesty
of her judgment

I like that in a woman...











This poem is by Bulgarian poet, literary critic, translator and teacher, Alexander Shubanov Born in 1941 and serving as Chairman of the English Department at Sofia University, Shubanov has published five volumes of poetry, three books of essays as well as critical studies of major English writers and translation into Bulgarian the Canterbury Tales and Paradise Lost.

It is a bilingual book (Bulgarian and English) published by Ivy Press in 2002 and translated by Ludmilla G. Popova-Wrightman.












Dog's Paradise

He lies on his back
on the soft grass.
Under the soft sun.
His legs-spread in four directions.
Like flower petals.
His teeth - forgotten.
His prick -
on show.
He doesn't open his eyes
to see who passes by -
friend or enemy.
He doesn't remember his enemies.
The universe licks his belly
with the tongue of a bitch.
















Having fun with people I see at the coffeehouse.














a red-headed woman

a red-headed woman
drops
a handful of coins
and quickly
bends
over
to get them
and
I regret the loss
of my better days
when
I would have gotten there
first

would have paid
for my coffee



the beautiful woman with a crooked little finger

the beautiful woman with
a crooked little finger, wild-child
look hair flying in a cloud
around her face, usually dressed
darkly, pants and jacket
and black shoes, high heels
that make her walk like they're
supposed to, straight back, long
strides, confidence, strength, unlike
so many women whose high heels
make them look wobbly
and uncertain, this woman knows
her place and will take it
whether you like it or
not...

I see her most mornings at the
coffeehouse, but I don't
know her

being she's a little scary
to an old fella
who's not accustomed
to the underside of
domination










This piece is by Luis J. Rodriguez from his book The Concrete River, published by Curbstone Pres in 1991.

Rodriguez was born in El Paso in 1954 and grew up in Watts and the East Los Angeles area. His poems spring from memories of growing up there as well as his varied experience working as a steelworker, carpenter, blast furnace operator, truck driver, and chemical refinery mechanic. Later, he became Director of the Los Angeles Latino Writer's Association. At the time his book was published, he lived in Chicago where he is a writer for an all-news radio station.






Black Mexican

     The worst thing you can do is fall in love with a whore
                                                                        - a homeboy

     ....but she's a woman
                               - me

The girl appeared through the red haze
of stage lights, a black Mexican
who told her family in Acapulco she was working
in Tijuana cleaning homes when in fact
she sold herself to sailors and tourists
reconquering the people on weekends

She came to me, her small frame leaning
against a table, all of 15 years,
dark eyes shining through smoke.
Or I came to her, a teen aged runaway from Lomas
hitchhiking into the void of antiquate,
needing more than the empty stares
of sunlight in the mirror.
Or she came to me, yearning for this dance
and the wraith of real love

She walked up
with dreams of America
and yellowed teeth.
She came in the caricature of a voice,
with motherhood
sliced across her belly
and eyes of hiding in mud fields
as family sounds
closed in on her, carnivorous like dogs,
murmuring about how pretty she is,
how it doesn't hurt
and the fathers,
and uncles,
the brothers,a slamming into her
until she could squeeze into herself
and die.

Across the way was a hotel of cracked plaster.
It hallways echoed with the shouts of drunken boys,
blond like Ohio,
who scrapped off the Tijuana women
from the soles of their feet.

We crossed the street
with the asphalt erupting beneath us
and folded into  hotel room.
She undressed,
revealing the skin of ancient  tribes;
still fighting, still bleeding,
I lay on the bed.
Told here no.
Told her yes.
Told her I had no money.
She looked at me as if sorry.
We exchanged fingers
then kissed and I cried,
kissed and cried into the moments
of my first sucking.

















A couple of manly things you learn if you live long enough.















unlike super extra crispy bacon

the
long-faced man
in the John Deere cap
eats his bacon
with the flourish of a man
who grows his own

I notice
he eats his bacon
super extra crispy just like me,
got to have some crackle when you bit it,
and not all limp and droopy
like a lover
who can't make it to win, place,
or even show, loser in the romance
derby, win a race,
lose a race ,stranded
at the starting gate
race...

some night are
just like
that

unlike super extra crispy bacon
which will never
fail you



the squirrel in the tree

the squirrel
in the tree
on a low-hanging 
branch
in the dim morning light
stares
at me, challenges me
eye to eye,
huffs and puffs and barks,
chuck, chuck, chuckle,
reminding me of
my old honky tonk days,
it's always the smallest guy
in the bar
who starts the bloodiest
fights













Next, I have two poems by William Carlos. Williams, from A Book of Luminous Things, described as an international anthology of poetry and edited by Czelaw Milosz. The book was published by Harcourt Brace and Company in 1996.

I hold Williams second only to Whitman in terms of his influence on American poetry. If Whitman was the grandfather of the beats, Williams was their daddy. I love his wit and his clear-eyed vision.

I have very fond feelings for these poems, examples of the kind of observational poetry which I try to do myself (but not so well as Williams).














Proletarian Portrait

A big young bareheaded woman
in an apron

Her hair slicked back standing
on the street

One stockinged foot toeing
the sidewalk

Her shoe in her hand. Looking
intently into it

She pulls out the paper insole
to find the nail

That has been hurting her



To a Poor Old Woman

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
The taste good
to her. They taste
good to her.

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked on in her hand

Comforted
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her














Here's a couple of "what's the weather today, Alexa" poems.

Photo by Chris











posse

intensely red
sunrise
streaked with angry
orange, reflected
on the underside of low clouds
stretched
across the horizon
like long, thin fingers

sunrise
serving notice
to the day,
like a posse
coming over a hill,
guns of morning
blazing



couples dancing

burning
rotted fence boards
in my chiminea
on a windy day,
smoke chases me
from one side
to the other, 
dancing
in the unseasonable sun

I dance with it to the tune
of its wild abandon















The next poems are by Alice Walker, taken from her book, Revolutionary Petunias, published by Harcourt Brace and Company in 1973.

Best known as a novelist and perhaps forever known for one of them, The Color Purple, Walker is also a prolific poet.















The Old Warrior Terror

Did you hear?
After everything
the Old Warrior Terror
died a natural death at home,
in bed. Just reward
for having proclaimed abroad
the True Believers never
doubt True Revolutionaries never
smile.


Judge Every One with Perfect Calm

Follow the train full of bodies;
listening in the tiny wails
for reassurance of your mighty
right. Ride up and down the gorges
on your horse
collecting scalps.
Your creed is simple, and even
true; We learn from each other
by doing. Period

Judge everyone with perfect calm.
Stand this man here and that one
there;
mouths begging open holes.
Let them curtsy into the ditch
dug before them.
They will not recall tomorrow
your judgment of today.


The QPP

The quietly pacifist peaceful
always die
to make room for men
who shout. Who tell lies to
children, and crush the corners
of old men's dreams.
And now I find your name,
scrawled large in some one's
blood on this survival
list















An early morning wake-up call that won't be denied.












breaking the night

grackles,
roosting in trees,
on power lines, spread across parking lots,
rising with the sun
to break the dark,
chase away the shadows
and split the morning
with the relentless razor's edge
of their 
song...

hundreds of them 
screeching
at the rising sun,
defining
cacophony...












In Martin & Meditations on the South ValleyJimmy Santiago Baca presents two long narrative poems revolving around the semi-autobiographical character, Martin. A mestizo "abandoned as a child and left to build a life on his own in Sanjo, a barrio in Albuquerque.

It's a New Directions Book, first published in 1986.

I chosen two pieces, one from each of the poem series.









From Martin

In Santa Fe as a boy
I watched red tractors crumble dirt,
the black fire of disc blades
upturning burned leaves and cornstalks in their wake,
while I collected green and red commas
of broken glass in my yard,
and romped in mud slop of fallen tomb-trunks
of cottonwoods
that steamed in the dawn by the ditch,
The,
                         the fairytale of my small life
                                        stopped

when mother and father
abandoned me, and the ancient hillgods of my emotions
in waves of my senses
screamed, and the corn seeding of my heart
withered - like an earth worm out of earth,
I came forth into the dark world of freedom...



And this is from the second series, Meditations on the South Valley.

As the series begins, Martin is exiled from the South Valley by circumstances beyond his control. He misses his home very much.

IV

Send me news Rafa
of the pack dogs sleeping
in wrecked cars in empty yards,
or los veteranos
dreaming in the whiskey bottles
on porches
of the past - full of glory and fear.
The black smell  of wet earth
seeps into old leaning adobes,
Austere-faced hombres
hoeing their jardines
de chile y maiz in the morning,
crush beer cans and stuff them in gunny sacks
and pedal on rusty bicycles
in the afternoon to the recycling scale,
and at Coco's chante
at dusk tecatos el juntan,
la cocina jammed like the stock exchange lobby,
as los vatos raise their fingers
indicating cuanto quiren.
There is much more I miss Rafa,
so send me news















An theory regarding the origin of winter.














about the creation of winter on the 12th day

dry and cold,
the kind of winter day
god had in mind on the 12th day
when he got around to
making winter...

(a busy fella he was
in those early days, when the universe
was a-poppin' with the things
he was a-creatin' - he did summer first
but then noticed the heat was making Adam
sweat and that when Adam went to sweatin'
he go all horny, which god was not yet prepared
to deal with so it was either create
anti-persipiants and the whole accompanying advertising industry
or the option of just creating winter
with cold winds and ice and snow and shit like that,
so he said, hell, let there be winter...)

and so here I am, snug as a bug...

(bugs were the first day, original creations,
don't ask me why, except to bedevil the eventually created two legged creatures)

snug as a bug by a quietly roaring fireplace, long johns laid out before it, warming
before my entry into this beautiful cold and sunny winter day,
so, thank you, Adam for demonstrating this need to him upon  whom
the title "Almighty," was rendered by people less sophisticated then the likes
of you and me, except, you know he did create this winter day

which should count for some kind of mighty...









One last poem for this post.

After living through the assassination of a president and the days of ceremony associate with his burial, I am not particularly moved by presidential funerals.

Not a particular supporter of George Bush during his presidency (though admitting he was the best president we could have had to deal with the potential disasters of the end of the cold war and the dissolution of the Soviet Union) I was especially moved by one moment in the proceedings. That was the indelible moment when Bob Dole was helped from his wheelchair to stand and salute his fallen comrade in arms - two warriors who, though the certainly had a right to, never traded on their war service.

Though bringing nothing special to my service, I also served when called. Many in my time were also called and also served. At the same time, for reasons good and bad, many were also called but did not serve. Probably unfair to those who did other, possibly better things than serve when called, but it still makes a difference to me, who did and who did not. I hold their subsequent activities to account when considering their lack of service.

I was very pleased to see the influx of those who served after the last election. Our politics had become almost devoid of them and will be better with them.



a generation defined

a frail warrior
bent by age and old wounds,
is helped to uncertain standing,
strong and steady
only in his salute to a fallen comrade-in-arms

a generation is defined
in this one sad
moment









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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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Hope Abides
Doodlebug Dust
The Bureau of Quiet Obfuscation
By the By and Away
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This, For All the Those Who Disturb My Sleep
Finding My Book In A Second-Hand Book Store
Some People Say This Is Art
In a Land So Far Away
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