Home Walks The Fisherman, Dinner In Hand
Monday, September 04, 2006
And in-hand also, "Here and Now" number I.xii.
Shel Silverstein wants to take a cruise
I knew Shel Silverstein as a cartoonist in Playboy long before having a child led me to discover Silverstein the poet. Turns out, he, like Seuss, is one of the rewards that come to parents via their children. Though not as inventive with language as Seuss, by never writing down to children his poems dig deeper, giving children and their parents things to think and talk about together.
Needles and pins
Needles and pins
Needles and pins,
Sew me a sail
To chatch me the wind.
Sew me a sail
Strong as the gale,
Carpenter, bring out your
Hammers and nails
Hammers and nails
Hammers and nails
Build me a boat
To go chasing whales.
Chasing the whales,
Sailing the blue,
Find me a captain
and sign me a crew.
Captain and crew,
Captain and crew,
Take me, oh take me
To anywhere new.
A little marital advice from one of my poems
marriage and the art of accommodation
being of patient
I do not respond
when she tells me
to cover my mouth
every time I sneeze
even though being
sixty-two years old
and long a master
of proper sneezery
I do know how
to do it
Another visit from Guest Blogger Allyn "Prophyry" Garavaglia
Last time we heard from Po, he was telling us about his search through the midwest for WMD and/or Elvis.
This time we have an example of his art, along with a poem that introduces his friend Red. He has a number of poems featuring Red in a more central role, but most are too long for this little blog.
If you want to see a more of Allyn, check out his blog at:
Refrigerator Gremlins (When Meat-loaf Attacks Vol. 1)
I went in a friend's fridge to grab a beer,
before I see a little magnet that said-
"Abandon all hope- Ye who enter here."
I just sort of scratched my head,
as I glanced apprehensively over at Red-
He said, "Put your ear up to the door first, and see
if you can hear anything moving."
So I did, and everything sounded still and silent
save for a dull hum-
But I thought it might be a trick,
so I knocked kinda softly first, and swallowed a big
As I reached out kinda timid like
for the handle, sort of as if it might bite,
Bobby walked in and asked "What the hell you
I heard Red chuckle, as I nearly jumped out of my skin,
cuz we both knew how Bobby was.-
one of those woe-be-gone Brothers & friends,
and a fairly strong argument against the use of
I mean he was pretty much harmless, but sorta like a
man'o war jellyfish
He may not mean any harm in what he does, but
you're still hit-
Let’s just say that Brother Murphy and him hung out a
And if cleanliness is truly next to Godliness
Then our good Brother Bobby was the 23 Hell
(Which is sort of like the 23 Psalm backwards-
anything green in that pasture was hardly still.)
Now I'm not saying that ol' Bobby was anything short
of a goodly sort, save that the boy'd have ette
anything that didn't ette him first-
Which inside his home was a fairly viable threat.
(Yeah Baby, even the mice abandoned that ship
and from the looks of things,
it appears that they scraped their feet on the way
"Uh, do you have any beer man," I asked
Which I figured he did, but I wanted to be sure it was
worth the risk-
I mean any deliberate near death experiences should
have some kind of reward.
"Bottom shelf man," he said, and I raised my brows
As Red sort of stifled chuckle-
Because this meant I'd have to get down to face-level
to whatever lurked beyond that door.
I waited for Bobby to step back out
before I pulled my knife, and flicked it out-
Double checking to make sure that Red was ready to
bail out, if a hasty retreat should become necessary."
"One," I reached out and grabbed the door from well
"Two." I winced a little bit and my body tensed
"Three!" I flung the door open quick, and sure enough
something come hauling out at me- screeching loudly.
Red was up on the table and I on the counter
before whatever it was could mount a decent attack-
When Bobby came back in and said "Hey dude, where'd
you find my cat?"
A poem from the Toltecs
The Toltecs dominated much of central Mexico between the 10th and 12th century. Their dominance initially gained through conquest, their cultural influence continued past their period of control. The Aztecs considered them the originators of all civilization and the name "Tolteca" became another word for artist, artisan or wise man.
This poem is by an unknown poet in the mid-fifteenth century when Toltec power was already well into decline. Already weakened by other enemies and in exile from their former capitol, they finally lost their last stronghold to Hernan Cortez not too long after the time of this poem.
What most fascinates me about this poem is the evidence it gives of the continuing self-absorbed struggle of artists to define themselves and their worth, even then and even there.
The artist: disciple, abundant, multiple, restless.
The true artist: capable, practicing, skillful;
maintains dialogue with his heart, meets things with his mind.
The true artist: draws out all from his heart,
works with delight, makes things with calm, with sagacity,
works like a true Toltec, composes his objects, works dexterously, invents;
arranges materials, adorns them, makes them adjust.
The carrion artist: works at random, sneers at the people,
makes things opaque, brushes across the surface of the face of things,
works without care, defrauds people, is a thief.
Translated by Denise Levertov with Elviar Abascal
The Books of the Chilam Balam
The Catholic Church in sixteenth century Mexico taught Mayas how to read and write their own language by adapting the Latin alphabet to Maya.
Although the Church had intended this new knowledge for religious education, the Maya saw it's potential, recording in this new written form everything from prophecies and rituals to petitions to the Spanish Crown. Most important of the manuscripts created during the century following the Spanish Conquest were the Books of the Chilam Balam.
The Chilam were native priests and Balam, meaning "jaguar," was used as a signifier of rank or respect. Some think that there was an original "Jaguar Priest" who was of such high regard that his title became the the name for all the Chilam Balam texts.
The texts describe life in Colonial Yucatan from the Maya perspective, as well as reflecting religious and mythological traditions. Some texts relate epic sagas based on traditional lore and the oral history of the region.
This particular text speaks of the defeat of the Itzas, one of several ethnic groups claiming lineage to the Toltecs, by rival claimants to Toltec heritage.
Maybe I'm finding allegory where there is none, but it seems to me this is a telling of the conquered and their conquerors throughout time, with underlying reference to the experience of the Maya with the Spanish, an early example of poetry as subversive politics.
Flight of the Itzas
They came with a fury
with a rage without reason
with a thirst for blood,
for heads, for jewels.
Came into our lands
to conquer for no quarrel,
to seize for the sake of seizing,
to claim for an absent king
our lands, our corn, our people
They came from the east,
those foreign lords,
came to the village of Nacom balam,
took the town and the people
and the fields and the trees
and even the great black crows.
Then the Itza went away,
left by the thousands.
Thirteen measures of corn
they had per head,
and nine measures and
three handfuls of grain.
And many of the magicians
from the town went with them
and many of the town's daughters
formed their growing troop.
They did no want to join
the treacherous foreigners,
did not want to bow
to a foreign god,
did not want to pay tribute
to a foreign lord.
They guarded their birds
and their stones,
their jaguars and
their three magic emblems
and fled with spears
deep into the dense forest.
Before the conquerors came
there was no sin,
no sickness, no aches,
no fevers, no pox.
The foreigners stood
the world on its head,
made day become night.
There were no longer
any lucky days
after they came into our lands.
There was no more sound judgment,
no more great visions.
The great teachers never came again
nor any great priests,
just death and blood
and sorrow, sorrow, sorrow!
Translated by Christopher Sawyer-Lacannol
The rant beast returns
I think I've kept my cool about this pretty well, but, but as a born and bred Texan, it's been irking me for six years and enough is enough.
Listen carefully, news media.
George W. Bush does not have a ranch.
A ranch has some variation of this creature.
Without some variation of this creature you do not have a ranch.
Lyndon Johnson had a ranch, a working ranch with a number of these creatures, before, during and after his presidency. Although he employed a ranch manager, Johnson was involved in every important decision pertaining to his ranch up until the day he died.
In addition to his other activities, LBJ was a rancher.
George Bush does not have a ranch.
George Bush has a country estate.
A "country estate" can be defined as a productive resource put to complete and total waste. Much like his presidency.
And I haven't even mentioned how insulting it is to cowboys when some columnist refers to Bush as a "cowboy president." Drunk on Saturday night, a cowboy can do some pretty stupid things. But never, ever has a cowboy, even on the rowdiest Saturday night imaginable, started a war he didn't know how to win against a country that wasn't a threat.
A poem from the book, Seven Beats a Second
A reminder that special prices on the book and CD continue through September. Email me at email@example.com for details.
Several years before being selected for the book, this poem appeared in Planet Magazine, one of the few places on the web where good science/science fiction poetry could be read. I placed several poems there before they changed their format.
blood and gristle
forged from trash
of exploding stars,
prone to sag
helpless at birth,
in unremitting decay
such poor use
our body seems
of the eternal elements
but lightening strikes within
tiny electric jabs that jump
from receptor to receptor
finding courage, honor,
theories of our origin,
joy and laughter
to mock the truth
or our condition
so much more
than we appear to be
offspring of unimaginable light
seeking an antidote to dark
Frank O'Hara was born in 1926 and died in 1966 after being hit by a vehicle on the beach at Fire Island, New York.
Though Charles Bukowski out lived O'Hara by nearly 40 years, they were contemporaries during their formative years, though from very different social strata.
They were also similar as poets. For both, their life was their poetry. They both seemed to have transcribed their life to the page almost as they lived it. This poem, "A Step Away From Them" by O'Hara, is a good example of that sense of immediacy.
A Step Away From Them
It's my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk among the hum-colored
cabs. First, down the sidewalk
where laborers feed their dirty
glistening torsos sandwiches
and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets
on. They protect them from falling
bricks, I guess. Then on to the
avenue where skirts are flipping
above heels and blow up over
grates. The sun is hot, but the
cabs stir up the air. I look
at bargain wristwatches. There
are cats playing in sawdust.
to Times Square, where the sign
blows smoke over my head and higher
the waterfall pours lightly, A
Negro stands in a doorway with a
toothpick, languorously agitating.
A blond chorus girl clicks: he
smiles and rubs his chin. Everything
suddenly honks; it is 12:40 of
Neon in daylight is a
great pleasure, as Edward Denby would
write, as are light bulbs in daylight.
I stop for a cheeseburger at JULIET's
CORNER. Giulietta Masina. wife of
Federico Fellini, "a bell’ attrice."
And chocolate malted. A lady in
foxes on such a day puts her poodle
in a cab.
There are several Puerto
Ricans on the avenue today, which
makes it beautiful and warm. First
Bunny died, then John Latouche,
then Jackson Pollock. But is the
earth as full as life was full, of them?
And one has eaten and one walks
past the magazines with nudes
and the posters from BULLFIGHT and
the Manhattan Storage Warehouse,
which they'll soon tear down. I
used to think they had the Armory
A glass of papaya juice
and back to work. My heart is in my
pocket, it's Poems by Pierre Reverdy.
Success as a poet came much more quickly and easily to O'Hara than to Bukowski, probably due, at least in part, to their class differences.
The poem illustrates those differences. As O'Hara casually walked this sidewalk at lunch, Bukowski might have been one of the laborers feeding "their dirty glistening torsos." As much as I like them both and find them both so alike poetically, I can't imagine O'Hara getting through an evening with Bukowski without getting punched in the face and thrown out on his ass.
Another of my poems
Aging is about transitions, a leaving behind of treasured things with hope for new treasures to come. It is about willingness to accept the unpredictability of every next step and the temporary nature of self and all that self implies. It means understanding that the trees you plant (and you must always plant trees), willl provide shade on sunny Sunday afternoons, not for you, but for men and women and children you will never know.
I have had to set aside
like the dozen
in my closet
there is strangeness
to its absence,
an empty well
and a small fear that life
not always pushing
is certain to decline
my life now
is not what I expected
it to be,
but it is
what it is
and there is in that
a chance for
A morning poem from Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The critic crow
struck by the song of
has his commentary to make
do not wake
until I make
this poem about it
Then rise & shine
is your world
Remembering an extraordinary man
goddamn big-ass snakes
there was a story in the newspaper today
about some big snake they caught somewhere
reminded me of a time about 40 years ago
when I was crossing the King Ranch
on Highway 77 in a beat up old VW Beetle
and I saw a rattlesnake cross in front of me
that was longer than my car front to rear
and big around as my leg
big-ass goddamn rattlesnake
and that made me think of an uncle,
long gone now, who used to cross the ranch
on horseback ninety years or more ago, before
the state put in the road that split the ranch in two
two weeks every month was his job,
a week going and a week coming,
riding daylight to first dark every day,
sleeping under a rough woolen blanket
on the ground around a campfire
like the vaqueros have been doing all the years
since there was cows and cowboys
I think of my uncle riding his horse
through that deep chaparral,
cactus and mesquite thorns
grabbing at him all along the way,
and the javalina and bobcats
and snakes longer than my car
creeping all around him as he slept
at night and I say, thank you lord,
for broad Texas highways
and German engineering
And that South Texas story ends it for now. We'll be back next week if if my computator don't break and I can get my camera fixed.
OOPS! Almost forgot my attaway
Two poems accepted last week for the next issue of Dispatches. It's not due until December, but I'm very pleased with the news. It'll be the first time I'll have my stuff in this journal. More info at release time.
Photos by Allen, Dora and Billie Itz