Summer Ends In A Rush Of Green And Yellow
Monday, September 25, 2006
Welcome to "Here and Now" number I. xv.
Friday night reading at Casa Chiapas
I'll be reading this coming Friday night (September 29th) at Casa Chiapas, 928 South Alamo, San Antonio. I'll read for about an hour beginning about 7:45.
Come, have dinner, have coffee and desert, and enjoy the poetry. The reading menu will include poems from the book Seven Beats a Second as well as new work.
As I mentioned last week, this will be a first for Casa Chiapas. If there's a good turnout, poetry night could become a regular event.
Guest blogger Gary Blankenship returns with the beginning of a new series
I both admire and envy Gary's ability to choose a series theme and stick to it. When I try that, I get lost about half way through, leaving me with a pile of unfinished series in my junk drawer.
In this series, Gary will interpret each of the Ten Commandments in light of the way we live today. He is doing this in response to a challenge on Poetry Kit (http://www.poetrykit.org/pkp/index.htm). The series could become available in print when completed, including Gary's poems as well as the poems of others who entered into the challenge.
More of Gary can be seen at his blog (http://garydawg.blogspot.com/) and at Fireweed (http://www.mindfirerenew.com). Both sites can be accessed through the links at the top of the page, right side. Gary's excellent book, A River Transformed is available for purchase here:
Gary begins with the first commandment. The series will continue in coming weeks.
You shall have no other gods before Me
On the cover of People magazine,
teenagers scream in ecstasy
over the latest Idol heartthrob.
In a bank in Beverly Hills,
a well-groomed executive counts
the dollars in his account in Grenada.
On a cable channel owned by billionaires,
heads of hair rail against the blasphemy
of one mother who has lost her son in war.
A president would be king,
a king would be a prophet,
a prophet proclaims he is god
and we scream
on Sunday afternoon
when our team scores
to secure a win
and our devotion
to the team store
Two more poems from love-stricken Egyptian poets. Who would'uv ever guessed.
Judging from the response, the Egyptian love poem, The Voice Of the Swallow, Flittering, Calls To Me from a couple of weeks ago found favor with a lot of readers. So, here's a couple of more, both, like the first, from Egypt around 1100 B.C. and both by poets unknown.
Song Inscribed On An Earthenware Vessel
Once more your pass her house, deep in thought,
darkness has fallen, hiding you:
I would gain entry there,
but for me no sort of welcome opens;
Yet the night is lovely for our soft purposes,
and doors are meant to give passage!
Doorlatch, my friend, you govern my destiny:
heaven for me needs a good turn from you;
(And once safe inside, our longhorn as payment) -
oppose no spell binding power!
Add oxen in praise to the door, as needed,
lesser beasts to the lock, slit geese
To doorjamb and lintel, suet for sockets -
and let all that moves turn quietly, quietly!
But the choicest cuts of our fine animal -
go instead to the sawyer's apprentice
If he makes us a new door - of rushes,
and tie-latch of brittliest straw.
O then, a man big with love could come anytime,
find her house welcoming, open,
Discover the couch decked with close woven bedclothes,
and a lovely young lady restless among them! -
(You walk back and forth in the dark)
"The mistress of this choice spot has been lonely.
Dear heart,who held you so long?"
I Found My Love By The Secret Canal
I found my love by the secret canal,
feet dangling down in the water.
He had made a hushed cell in the thicket, for worship,
to dedicate this day
To holy elevation of the flesh.
He brings to light what is hidden
(breasts and thigh go bare, go bare),
Now, raised on high toward his altar, exalted,
A tall man is more than his shoulders!
(Poems translated by John L. Foster)
If you're going to write today, you have to write about the war
This poem was written early in the Iraq war, after the invasion and about the time the insurgency began to show its face. (As Gomer Pyle, a renowned military expert, at least in comparison to the war's promoters, would say, "Sur-prise! Sur-prise!")
At the time I had un-retired myself and was commuting to work in Corpus Christi, living weekdays on the coast and weekends in San Antonio.
The poem was published by Junket in 2003 and was included in Seven Beats a Second last year.
in the last days of March in South Texas
clear sky, bright sun,
the last north wind of the season
pushing hard against me as I drive south,
back to the coast for another week
many weeks I have done this now,
a year and a half of weeks,
north on Fridays to the rocky hills
and quiet comforts of home, home
to family, to all my favorite places,
then back on Sundays to the coast,
until the road is hardwired in my memory,
gray asphalt ahead and behind,
I'll pass a hundred miles sometimes
and not remember any of them
but today is a day just past the first edge of spring,
a spring just past a wet and mild fall and winter
so that now, spread out on either side of the road,
lies the soft side of South Texas chaparral,
neon green mesquite, mustard yellow huisache,
pastures of bluebonnets, creamy white buttercups,
Indian paintbrushes, red or deep pink,
depending on the light, sunflowers
lining the highway on tall green stalks
and just around a softly rising curve,
a mother and her baby, sitting together
in a deep patch of bluebonnets,
the mother posing, look a daddy, she's saying
as he circles, focusing, getting just the right shot
seeing this small family reminds me
of a picture in the Times this morning,
a mother, bare feet grimy from her dirt floor,
a colorful blanket laid out by a wall, a treasure maybe,
where just moments before was lying the baby
she holds now in her arms, long graceful fingers
holding the baby tight against her breast
perhaps she heard them coming,
the two soldiers standing in the open door,
rifles ready, three people afraid, not knowing,
friend or foe,
friend or foe,
the woman, her face under some trick of light,
is a bright frozen mask in the dark interior,
the soldiers, awash in sunlight, with backs to the camera,
are tense, their hands tight on their weapons,
their fingers tight, it must be, on the triggers
while the baby sleeps in its mother's trembling arms,
an innocent in a time and place
where innocents will die with the wicked,
where the just and unjust will find a common grave
I think of all those who have died in my time
and of all those who will die now
in these last bloody days of March and I ache for God,
the God I knew as a child, of green trees and cool winds
blowing soft across a pasture dancing with his colors,
a compassionate God who would enfold
all the mothers and babies and frightened soldiers
into the protection of his billowing robes
but that God, it seems, is not the one in charge today
so these last days of March will continue without him
William Meredith on how love is like a letter to one who cannot read
Touching your goodness, I am like a man
Who turns a letter over in his hand
And you might think this was because the hand
Was unfamiliar but, truth is, the man
Has never had a letter from anyone,
And now he is both afraid of what it means
And ashamed because he has no other means
To find out what it says than to ask someone
His uncle could have left the farm to him,
Or his parents died before he sent them word,
Or the dark girl changed and wants him back for beloved
Afraid and letter-proud, he keeps it with him.
What would you call his feeling for the words
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?
The rant beast roars
A 700 mile fence.
That's what they're talking about. Not a simple little chain link fence around your back yard, not a brick fence around a gated community, not even some kind of security fence around your whole city, they're talking about a 700 mile super-duper, triple-whammy fence between Mexico and the United States.
Considering where this is fence is going to be built and that the government is going to be in charge of building it, figure billions of dollars, including screwdrivers, hammers and toilet seats. (The estimates range from 2 to 7 billion, so you probably ought to figure on, in the end, 15 to 20 billion.)
When "dumbass idjet" isn't strong enough to describe someone who comes up with a really, really stupid idea, what words can you use instead?
How about "Republican Congress?"
There is a bright spot in the midst of this dumbassity, at least for Mexico.
Building the fence will be the best thing to happen to the Mexican economy in its 500 year history. Just think of all the illegals we'll have to hire to get the damn thing built and how much money they'll send home while they're building it.
Or, better yet, we could avoid all that unnecessary work and waste of natural resources and just give the billions to Mexico. An economic stimulus of that magnitude could lift the Mexican economy to such a level that there would be enough jobs for everyone in Mexico and no one would have to come across the border to work.
Of course, then we might all have to learn how to do some jobs we don't want to do now. Maybe we could call it character-building.
Whatever. I don't get it.
American business sends thousands of jobs to India and it's called "out sourcing," a business model for the 21st century. Some poor Mexican farmer comes across the border to pick pickles and we're supposed to spend billions to build a fence to protect us from this pickle picking felon who's stealing jobs from unemployed pickle pickers all across America,
Instead of building a fence, let's pass a new law giving all the money to Mexico, as I suggested. We could call it the Peter Piper Pickle and Pepper Pickers Protection Act.
Two Norwegian fragments (c. 1000), author(s) unknown
Now it is late winter
I walked through a spring wind
Bending green wheat
in a field near Trondhjem.
Like a strange sea creature,
Draws back into itself,
Restoring grass to earth.
Every poet has a 9-11 poem
Here's mine, published a couple of years ago in The Muse Apprentice. The poem was an attempt to visualize again the scene most of us saw on television, disjointed, surreal, unbelievable, yet, somehow, familiar, like a bad Japanese monster movie, Godzilla, rampaging, again and again, across Tokoyo, thousands of Japanese extras fleeing in clouds of smoke and ash.
outtakes from the first day of the war
leads to anything
gray streets awash
in a gray tide
e c s
in concrete and steel
so it stays
so it doesn't
like an old man's
make it straight
s t r a i g h t
in and out
through the weaving
of our lives
bring the pieces
in a gray mask
Born 1597, Vincent Voiture lived until 1648. A Frenchman, he tried to keep the ladies happy along the way.
Lord, I'm done for ; now Margot
Insists I write her a rondeau,
Just to think of it gives me a pain:
Eight "o" lines and five in "ain" -
A slow boat to China is not so slow
With five lines down, and eight to go
I summon Sono Osato,
Adding, with an eye for gain,
disco Lord, I'm done.
If from my brain five others flow
My poem will in beauty grow:
Comes eleven, that is plain,
And twelve to follow in its train.
And so thirteen rounds out the show -
Lord, I'm done!
Bukowski considers the end
like a dolphin
dying has its rough edge.
no escaping now.
the warden has his eye on me.
his bad eye.
I'm doing hard time now.
I'm not the first nor the last.
I'm just telling you how it is.
I sit in my own shadow now.
the face of the people grows dim.
the old songs still play.
hand to my chin, I dream of
nothing while my lost childhood
leaps like a dolphin
in the frozen sea
I indulge myself with an old poem
I first started writing poetry with some seriousness when I returned to college in 1969 after military service and other greater and lesser adventures. I quit writing after stumbling into real life as a college graduate with thirty five cents in one pocket and a hole in the other. I didn't write poetry again until after I retired for the first time in 1998. A couple of the poems in wrote in 1969-71 were published at that time. More have been published since I started writing again, including this one.
I wrote this poem, very much a product of its times, in late 1969. It was finally published in the January, 2000, issue of Avant Garde Times, a nice little journal, slightly off the wall, that has not published in several years.
I would not, probably could not, write this poem today, any more than I could be 22-23 years old again. That's what makes it kinda of interesting to me (and maybe to you, too, I hope).
notes from a grounded witch doctor
breaks the light
into silken clouds
of floating pink
into the expanding
corners of my pulsating room
falling back falling back
afraid of reaching
give me room
no longer afraid
jumping for the clouds
into the ever expanding
corners of my pulsating room
clouds of taffy
pulling me to the floor
phosphorescent walls quake and tilt
throwing off slippery shadows
that pool at the floor
eat at the floor
and leap at me
with the deliberate
of an incandescent tide
at my feet
the angry lobster redness
the infectious angry redness
colors my feet
crawls up my leg
pulling at my body
pulling me to a high place
i stand atop a hill
in the shade of a tree
a wide-reaching tree
birds sing from the tree
and i understand the song
and try to sing along
but the birds stop
and leave me singing
until a bird lunges from the tree
to stand on the ground
and becomes a shadow figure
a man in black
a man with no face
black space where a face should be
the shadow faceless thing
begins to cry
and the birds come from the tree
and sit on his shoulders
great black crows
evil black crows
they sit on the phantasmal shoulders
the ground collapses beneath me
the hill flattens beneath me
and i'm in a valley
and the hill is behind me
and the figure
and the crows
stand on the hill and cry
so far above me
as the hill shimmers
through the heat of the valley
fades and disappears
i'm alone in the valley
in the dust of the valley
in the hot hot dust of the valley
it grows hotter and hotter
in the valley
and I'm lying naked
in the boiling mud
of the valley
people stand around me
men and women without faces
black spaces where faces
men and women
in long black skirts
that drag in the mud
they laugh at me
great ghastly specters
from a tribal past
they laugh at me
i press my cracked lips
into the mud and try to suck
for water and burn
my face and my lips and tongue
cool dew-wet grass
i run my tongue over the grass
bite into the grass
chew on its coolness
i lie on my back
under the cool fresh sky
and stretch out my arms
and pull handfuls of grass
and throw them at the sun
and let the grass
rain back on me
and i catch it with my body
i crawl beneath
the grass and meadow flowers
and roots and working earthworms
and look up to watch
the sun in its interminable agony
ever circling burning circling
clawing at my eyes
burning at my eyes
searing my eyes and cheeks
and screaming tongue
i close my eyes
and i'm in a room
a small room
a dark room
a black room
a room without light
but for a small dot
pulsating off and on
off and on
off and on
off and on
in one corner of the room
the dot grows
bigger and bigger
off and on
bigger and bigger
it crashes toward me
washes over me
leaves me in a lonely light
lying on my floor
linoleum cold against my cheek
i turn on my back
alone on the floor
I've read that learning to write is a process of first figuring out who to steal from. The people I stole from for this piece could fill a small town phone book. Back when I wrote it, I imagined it read by Richard Burton. I think it would work. Of course, if they could get Burton, the same thing could be said by the people who wrote the phonebook
Uh Eee Uh Ah Ah,Ting Tang Wallla Walla Bing Bang
Speaking of witch doctors...
Three American doctors go on a safari with an African witch doctor.
After a few hours driving they decide to get out of their jeep and walk around for a bit.
Suddenly from out of the bushes comes a charging elephant.
The witch doctor is able to shoot the elephant, but it is too late. The three guest doctors have all been crushed to the ground.
After examining the damage done to his the doctors he decides to see what he can do to help them.
One doctor's brain was half smashed and the witch doctor replaces the brain with the elephant's brain.
The second doctor got his intestines and stomach ripped open so the witch doctor swaps the elephant stomach with the ripped one in the doctor.
The Third doctor was out cold with a face locked in pure horror.
The dead elephant's foot is directly on top of the doctor's private parts. The witch doctor is distressed at this, since the elephant is a female and the normal transplant parts are not available.
Seeing as he has no choice in the matter he decides to go to work with what he has available.
After the doctors are all patched and healthy again, they go home.
Two years later the doctors meet in a conference where a new drug is being tested.
They quickly catch up on what they been doing since their trip to Africa.
I can't seem to get lost anymore, the first doctor says. For some reason, I always know my way around.
The second doctor rubs his belly and says I'm always hungry. I can eat and eat and never get full.
The first doctor turns to the third doctor, How about you, he asks.
Well, the third doctor says, my wife is finally smiling again, but there is one problem.
What's that? the other two ask in unison.
I have to real careful when I go out to eat or drink somewhere where there might be peanuts on the table.
On a clear day, you can see it's over, for now
My self-indulgent inclusion of three long poems of my own, not to mention a rant and the stupid witch doctor joke, have extended this issue much past its normal length, leaving some planned things undone.
I had planned to introduce Roxie, Bobbie Gogain's alter-ego, in this issue, but you'll have to wait until next week for the pleasure of her company. We have good stuff coming up in the next weeks, including Bobbie's Roxie series, Gary's Ten Commandments series, a piece on a Cajun Fais do do by Ava South, a poem on cleaning our her "sent" file by Nancy Williams Lazar and many other works from poets writing on the web.
And so, three notes in closing:
First, there's less than a week left to get the book and the CD at September Sale prices. Email me by the end of the week. firstname.lastname@example.org
Next, to those readers in or near San Antonio, remember the reading at Casa Chiapas Friday night. Hope to see you there.
Finally, Dora and I are going to spend a couple of days up in the Chisos Mountains Basin at Big Bend National Park, on, it turns out, the same days I usually set aside to prepare this. So, "Here and Now" might be a day or two late next week, but never fear, we will be back, with, as was the original plan, less of me and more of everything I can find that's good (and free of possible copyright entanglements).
And another one last thing, a correction, and a lesson on how ignorance perpetuates itself.
Weeks before Casa Chiapas opened I heard from fellow coffee shop hangers-on that a new place called Cafe Chiapas was going to open on St Mary's. That name struck in my head and refused to leave, despite daily evidence that it was wrong.
So, all of you who have been trying, unsuccessfully, Google "Cafe Chiapas," that's why. There is no such place. But there is, for sure, a place called Casa Chiapas where I'll be Friday night reading poems.