For Day; For Night; For The Quiet In-Between
Monday, October 09, 2006
"Here and Now" number I.xvii.
Introducing guest storyteller Ava South, with a story about a Cajun country dance
Ava says she has been writing for as long as she remembers, but so far has only been published on the web. Her work can be seen on her online journals and on several sites dedicated to the art of writing.
She has been married for over 52 years, has 5 children, two grand daughters and one great grandson. Her passion is the outdoors, especially the shore. As a native Texan, Ava says knows about her Louisiana ancestors and relatives who live just over the state line in Vermilion parish.
Here's what she has to say about the Fais do do.
If it is ever your good fortune to be invited to a Fais do do, a simple Cajun country dance, usually in a church hall, or the armory or sometimes even in a private home with a large living room where all the furniture would be moved out onto the porch, be sure to go. It's a blast from the past, once one of the few ways country folk had of getting together to visit. Whole families went, from kids to aunts, uncles and elderly grandparents. Sometimes one family was chosen to keep the kids at their house, but often, the little ones were taken along.
The Fais do do
Benches against the walls all around, kids, adults, and in between watching each other and the crowd out on the hardwood floor that's been sprinkled with cornmeal. Dancers circle to a waltz time beat, twirlin' to Jolie Blond or some other accordion tune. Tante Marie keeps time rockin' somebody's baby, hummin' doh, doh, over and over again. Girls in home made dresses are feelin' pretty, gigglin' and whisperin' behind their hands. Boys in faded jeans, pressed shirts and hair slicked down with pomade are nervous as young colts around a new filly.
An old door laid cross two sawhorses and lined with fruit jars, holds some of Oncle Alphonse's elderberry wine; kicks like a mule but heats your belly too. AnnMarie is makin' eyes at that new boy from Lafayette. He's lookin' all unconcerned, but he's seen her. Poor ol' swamp rat, June LeBlanc is still smartin' from when AnnMarie slapped him last week when he tried to sneak a look down her shirt on the school bus.
The Bazille Waltz is startin' up and everyone is choosin' partners. I see June is tryin' his luck again with AnnMarie. She is stiff-lipped, but accepts his hand and is dancin' with him. As long as he keeps his eyes in his head and his rawboned hands to hisself, they might make up. His dad is piss poor and her folks own the feed store, so it's not a match made in heaven. Poor ol' June don't realize she is smilin' at the new boy over his shoulder.
A little stir is caused when Mayor White makes his appearance, all duded up in new khakis, his fat wife sportin' big hair, fake nails and a new muu-muu. They have nine children and there is much speculation as to how that happened, since they are both so fat, we wonder how they got close up enough to do the matin'. He is pressin' the flesh, carefully wipin' each handshake off after he greets each constituent. His beady eyes are slyly sweepin' the room for Ella Mae Castille, his latest conquest. His wife knows about it, but doesn't want to rock the marital boat. She has the diamonds and the Caddy, so she's satisfied with her status quo. Her pool boy is from way over in Carencro.
We have a guest singer from Texas, a Louisiana boy made good or so his PR says. He belts out a bastardized version of Joe Falcon's Allons Danser Colinda. Only the band behind him is authentic. His Mama would be so ashamed. I doubt he even knows what his badly pronounced French words are saying. Asking Colinda to dance when her Maman wasn't there was sure to ruin the little gal's reputation, but our Texas Cajun wannabe doesn't know that. No matter. His suggestive looks have the first row of girls passing him names and numbers. He is sure to score in the parking lot later with Jo Ann Lege. I only hope her papa catches him in the sights of his double barrel shotgun. Hot damn, that boy will pull up his pants and high tail it back to Texas fast with a peppered butt and a lesson learned.
About midnight and the music is gettin' softer, more slow dances. The crowd is thinnin' out, lots of old people gone by now. Early chores call them because the cows won't like waitin' for milkin'. I see some fogged up windows in some of the pickups in the parkin' lot. O yi yie, the confessionals will have long lines tomorrow and Father Palermo will be handin' out long penances, especially to the boys. He might pay a visit to some of the girls' houses, causin' much embarrassment. More than one of the errant girls will be in danger of being sent to the convent in Lafayette. "Let the sisters take care of her" is the mantra of many worried papas.
When the 2 am closin' time comes around, everyone will go home in groups, lest old Loupe Garou be hangin' around the dark dirt roads that lead to a few of the old home places far out in the swamps. Some of the younger people don't believe in the old werewolf stories, but the old folks still cross themselves when the name is mentioned. I confess to being pleasantly tired out, and as I get into my pickup, I am hummin' Jolie Blond, seein' her bright hair in my mind and wonderin' if she really was as pretty as the song says. I am stayin' at Tante 'Livia's tonight and will gladly sink into her big feather bed up in the loft. I know the mornin' will bring a big pot of strong coffee and some of her famous biscuits. We'll talk about the dance and how AnnMarie is lookin' for trouble, keepin' so many boys on her line. My ol' aunt is hopin' they can get her into the convent in time.
Ava's piece reminded me of this
I wrote this poem several years ago. It was published in The Green Tricycle in January, 2001. The Green Tricycle was one of several publications of Cayuse Press that have been discontinued. I miss them and wish they would come back. One of them, The Horsethief's Journal was the first to publish me when I returned to writing in 1998.
Here's the poem.
I could write
the way those cajun boys talk
down in Louisiana
I'd write a story
my dribbling dry creek
was the Mississippi
and my back porch
was a sturdy little pirogue
against its cool and mossy bank
and I'd sit in my pirogue
and watch that river
just passing on by
I'd suck me some
eat some of that
and fine little shrimps
red beans and rice
with deep fried
to some of that boot-schuching zydeco
from Queen Ida or Clifton Chenier
or the Zydeco Twisters
you becha mon
I'd be having me a high old time
sitting on my pirogue watching
the Mississippi flow by
if I could write like those cajun fellas
a high old time indeed
Carl Sandburg on jazz
Drum on your drums, batter on your banjos,
sob on the long cool winding saxophones.
Go to it, O jazzmen.
Sting your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy
tin pans, let your trombones ooze, and go husha-
husha-hush with that slippery sand-paper.
Moan like an autumn wind high in the lonesome tree-
tops, moan soft like you wanted somebody terribly,
cry like a racing car slipping away from a motorcycle
cop, bang-bang! you jazzmen, bang altogether drums,
traps, banjos, horns, tin cans -- make two people fight
on the top of a stairway and scratch each other's eyes
in a clinch tumbling down the stairs.
Can the rough stuff......now a Mississippi steamboat
pushes up the night river with a hoo-hoo-hoo-oo......
and the green lanterns calling to the high soft stars
......a red moon rides on the humps of the low river
hills......go to it, O jazzmen.
About that fence......
Turns out that I didn't need to worry about that 700 mile, 7 billion dollar fence I ranted about in an earlier "Here and Now."
As you probably know, both the House and the Senate passed the bill authorizing the fence and the expenditure of $1.5 billion on it and Bush either has or will shortly sign it.
However, Senator John Cornyn, Texas' senior Bush butt kisser, has been quoted in the press as saying that we shouldn't be concerned since the fence will not actually be built. The legislation and the money are really only for the purpose of getting the message out concerning our resolve re: illegal immigration.
Maybe somebody ought to tell The Honorable Bozos about email and it's superior qualities as a medium for getting messages out.
I visited the court last week of a judge whose practice it was to chain drunken cowboys to a nearby mesquite tree until they sobered up enough to pay their fines and return to rational behavior. Too bad he's dead.
The Second Commandment
Gary Blankenship continues his series on the Ten Commandments. Here's number 2.
You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
I looked in the mirror
and saw a handsome man,
a elderly gentleman whose face held
enough line to show he had experienced
some trouble in his long life,
enough smile to show he lived
without the turmoil souring his outlook,
enough gray to be distinguished,
beard to be casual,
smirk to make you wonder
if he has a secret no one else might know
I looked in the mirror
and saw a man who held his secrets close,
who did not willingly disclose his sins,
whether truly venal
or only minor enough to spend
nearly all of eternity in purgatory,
who slept sound enough,
but did not remember his dreams
even as they nagged him
as he went about his vacant day
I looked in the mirror
and saw a man who held his regrets
for the middle of long nights
when they roamed his rooms in search
of the fame and honor
he knew was his due
I broke the mirror
A new series on classical Chinese poetry
Sikong Tu was born in 837 and died in 908. He was the author of The Twenty-four Styles of Poetry, an influential Tang dynasty statement on the art of poetry that categorized classical Chinese poetry into twenty-four genres while embodying the essence of each style within a poem. He came from a distinguished family of government servants, but he himself had an official career marked by banishments and political instability. Despite these difficulties, he was celebrated in his time as a poet and as a critic.
It is said that when the Tang dynasty was overthrown and the last Tang emperor was murdered, Sikong Tu starved himself to death in protest.
I only have seven of the twenty-four poems and I'll spread those out over a number of weeks.
The Placid Style
Dwell plainly in calm silence,
a delicate heart sensitive to small things.
Drink from the harmony of yin and yang,
wing off with a solitary crane,
and like a soft breeze
trembling in your gown,
a rustle of slender bamboo,
its beauty will stay with you.
You meet it by not trying deeply.
It thins to nothing if you approach,
and even when its shape seems near
it will turn all wrong in your hand.
(Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping)
A white man's black history
Several years ago an exhibit of historical pictures toured the states. The pictures were images taken at the lynchings of African Americans in the 1920's and 1930's. (I may be off a bit on the dates. Some might have been as late as the 1940's.)
The pictures are shocking. Most unsettling to me was one particular picture of the hanging of a man and a woman, with images of the white people, men, women and children, standing around the hanging bodies as if at a carnival. The most awful thing is that the people looked so normal. Where you would expect to see evil personified, you see instead people who look just like the people you stand in line with at WalMart or the grocery store or the bank or wherever you go during the normal course of your day. Such evil potential in the banal, every day that surrounds us is an awful thing to contemplate. These pictures strain any illusion that there might be an overriding natural goodness in the hearts of mankind. Instead, they seem to argue the contrary, that the evil we face in the world does not come from some alien Dante-world, but might just spew from within any of us at any time.
I wrote this poem in response to those pictures. It was published in Hawkwind in 2002.
pictures from an american lynching
it's not the hanging black bodies
that chill me,
it's the smiling white faces below
the white man standing
under the swinging body
of the young black girl,
beer in his hand, hat cocked to one side
like he was a movie star
the two pretty girls
arm in arm beneath the carnage,
posing for the camera
like a picture at the county fair
in dusty overalls
standing at his mother's side,
holding on to her dress
with one hand,
with the other
to the bare feet of the black man
dangling over his head
so familiar, these faces
like from the family albums
I looked at as a child,
seeking among the pictures there
the story of how I came to be
so damn familiar!
What the heck, another jazz poem
Quincy Troupe was born in New York City in 1939, son of Negro League baseball catcher Quincy Trouppe.
He has enjoyed a long and successful career as a writer and teacher. Troupe works include James Baldwin: The Legacy, Miles and Me: A Memoir of Miles Davis and Miles, the Autobiography (written with Miles Davis) for which he won the American Book Award for 1989. He also edited Giant Talk: An Anthology of Third World Writing and is a founding editor of Confrontation: A Journal of Third World Literature and American Rag. He taught creative writing for the Watts Writers' Movement from 1966 to 1968 and served as director of the Malcolm X Center in Los Angeles during the summers of 1969 and 1970.
Among his other honors and awards are fellowships from the National Foundation for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.
This is one of his many jazz poems.
(for Louis Armstrong, Steve Cannon, Miles Davis & Eugene Redmond)
with the music up high
boogalooin bass down way way low
up and under eye-come slidin on in mojoin
on in spacin on in on a riff
full of rain
riffin on in full of rain & pain
spacin on in on a sound like coltrane
my metaphor is a blues
hot pain dealin blues is a blues axin
guitar voices whiskey broken niggah deep
in the heart is a blues in a glass filled with rain
is a blues in the dark
slurred voices of straight bourbon
is a blues dagger stuck off in the heart
of night moanin like bessie smith
is a blues filling up the wings
of darkness is a blues
& looking through the heart
a dream can become a raindrop window to see through
can become a window to see through this moment
to see yourself hanging around the dark
to see through
can become a river catching rain
feeding time can become a window
to see through
Three short poems from 12th century Persia
Awhad ad-Din 'Ali ibn Vahid ad-Din Muhammad Khavarani, better and more briefly known as Anvaria, was born in Turkmenistan. He studied science and literature at the collegiate institute in Tun (now Firdaus, Iran), becoming a famous astronomer as well as a poet.
Anvari's poems were collected in a Deewan (a volume of collected works). His elegy Tears of Khorasan, translated into English in 1789, is considered to be one of the most beautiful poems in Persian literature. The Cambridge History of Iran calls Anvari "one of the greatest figures in Persian literature".
Anvari won the favor of the ruler of Khorasan, which allowed him to go on to enjoy the patronage of two ruling successors. But, favor won can become favor lost, which happened to him when his prophesy of disasters in October 1185 failed. As a result, he was forced into a life of scholarly service, eventually taking his own life in 1189.
Known as a writer of beautiful poems, he shows another side in these three short poems.
I drink but don't get drunk:
I abuse nothing but the goblet:
I worship wine in order to avoid
Worshipping self, like you
(Translated by Godffrey Squires)
I wrote a panegyric on you --- and I'm sorry,
There's no point in these lays of one's own making;
My praise was like a wet dream --- when I woke I found
I'd spent spunk on a worthless undertaking.
Take What He gives You
Take what he gives you, even if it's paltry --
To this lord paltry's quite a bit;
A gift from him is like being circumcised --
Once in a lifetime and that's it!
(Two poems translated by Dick Davis)
What we wish when we do what we do
I am sitting here
in darkest night
as one more poem
watch me as I strut
across the page
letter by letter
like one of your
walking across the
hood of your
all the way to
are meant for that,
a captive there
you will do as I
not the other
I always have.
I always will.
I am the last
poem of this
and as you
sleep later in the
in the dark
you with your
as you snore your
I will be here
when you are
and the black
for the last time,
will amount to
but I will
One of mine from Seven Beats a Second
I always liked this poem, but couldn't find anyone to publish it until I did it myself in my book. I was reminded of it again last week at Big Bend, thinking of a time when natural light was the only light and night was truly "black as night."
imagine the stars
on cold desert nights,
spread across the wide black sky,
beyond the desert and high mesas,
past prairies where trickster coyote calls,
past the land of mortal men
to the place where spirits hunt
ghosts of buffalo
with this blaze of night around you,
far stars bright
with cold unchallenged light
how you must fear the starless night,
when clouds close the sky around you
and bind you prisoner to the dark
How do you say "male chauvinist pig" in Greek?
Palladas was a 4th century Greek poet, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt. All that is known about him has been deduced from his 151 epigrams preserved in the Greek Anthology. His poems describe the persona of a pagan schoolteacher resigned to life in a Christian city, and bitter about his wife to the point of misogyny.
Something like this.
Women All Cause Rue
but can be nice
to be precise
(Translated by Tony Harrison)
Paul the Silentiary, also known as Paul Silentiarus was a 5th century Byzantine poet noted for his description of Hagia Sophia as if it were a meadow of marble due to the many colours of marble employed in its construction.
Mouth to mouth joined we lie, her naked breasts
Curved to my fingers, my fury grazing deep
On the silver plain of her throat,
and then: no more.
She denies me her bed. Half of her body to Love
She has given, half to Pudence:
I die between
(Translated by Dudley Fitts)
Coming up at Casa Chiapas
Singer/songwriter Andre Lamar, along with bassist Chris Itz, will be appearing at the restaurant/coffee shop Saturday evening, October 14th. Casa Chiapas is on the edge of downtown, in the King William/Southtown District, at 928 South Alamo.
I mentioned their CD, Remember a couple of months ago. If I ever figure out how, I plan to include a couple of cuts from the CD on "Here and Now." Andre is an excellent writer, singer and instrumentalist and, with Chris laying down some weight on the bottom, they bring a good sound to Andre's good songs.
The girl lies down on the hill
In the grass in the sun in June.
Love calls for the breaking of will,
The young man knows that soon
His will to be free must break
And his ego, dear as a wife,
His hand is a brown mistake
Lacing him to life.
As blank as a flower, her face
Is full of the meadow musk
And the shadow of grass like lace
On the hill where she wills the dusk
Got word a couple of days ago that one of my poems (invisible) will be published in the winter issue of Hiss Quarterly. I'll commence to further bragging when the issue is out and available.
Gotta run. Until next week.