All Is Struggle, Sometimes To Prevail
Monday, November 20, 2006
And welcome all, these few days before Thanksgiving, to "Here and Now" Number I.xxiii.
Beginning this week with a couple of bird poems
This is the second appearance by Alice Folkart in "Here and Now". She is a short story writer from Southern California who says she began writing poetry several years ago to sharpen her eye and her ear. She enjoyed it so much that she continues to work at both forms. Both her short stories and her poems have appeared in many print and web-based journals.
Here are two examples of her sharp eye and ear.
The Voice of God
pitched high as
tiny cows over the moon,
are going to town
in the hedge
as if the day
were about to end.
You know, that
mad tattering they
take up when
they think night
is coming on.
They are confused,
as birds often are
by dogs barking,
or the wind going
north by northeast,
or all the traffic lights
turning green at once
and you've got no hope.
It's only two o'clock
and night is yet far off
I think that they are
advising me to have a nap,
and who am I to ignore
the voice of God.
What Stirs That Bird?
What stirs that bird in the night?
He should be sleeping, silent,
yet he rips the black curtain of sleep
with his sharp little beak, a tweak
in time, the clock says three
but for me it might be two our four,
I just want to shut the door on him.
It's not right, this time of night.
His job is to herald the dawn
not caw like the spawn of the fiend.
I leaned toward liking birds and their song,
but this one's gone wrong, he's waking the bats,
scaring the cats, maybe it's rats that have climbed
in the tree, where he and his family are housed
and roused him to raucous defense.
My fear is that for me to hear him
is a slim omen of evil, a thought
like a weavel that burrows so deep
in my heart, the innocent start
of another dark night of the soul.
Rudyard Kipling asks questions of his time we might well ask again today.
They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and the whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung
Shall they come with years and honor to the grave?
They shall not return to us, the strong men coldly slain
In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
Are they too strong and wise to put away?
Our dead will not return to us while Day and Night divide -
Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
Shall they thrust for high employment as of old?
Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?
When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly and how swiftly they have sidled back to power
By the favor and contrivance of their kind?
Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take counsel with their friends,
To confirm and re-establish each career?
Their lives cannot repay us - their death could not undo -
The shame they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
Shall we leave it unabated in its place?
Another automotive poem
My '83 Thunderbird last week, now, on the other end of the scale, this. I just wrote it a couple of days ago. Hard to imagine a market for it, except here.
what if the fat lady sings and no one listens
has a car
so beat up and junky looking
that the will-work-for-food guys
through his window
when he stops at intersections
but it doesn't bother him
since he's more into music
so he just drives the heap
like it wasn't within sight
of that "better place"
where beat-up cars
are smushed and crushed
and transformed into foil
for whoppers and fries
and lawn chairs for old men
who sit on front porches
and smoke cigars
and drink straight whiskey
but to get back to the subject
it does worry me
mainly because I'm old
and tend to obsess on things
like fenders falling off mid-freeway
which reminds me of the saying
that it ain't over till
the fat lady
and the old broad's been
like a banshee
for months now
but the kid's
into jazz and if she's
he won't be listening
which makes me wonder
if a tree falling in the forest
makes no sound unless
could it be that the fat lady
with no one listening
produces no effect
on endings or beginnings
meaning this car
A couple of easy ones from E.E. Cummings
I use easy in the sense that these two poems are relatively easy to post. The irregular architecture of much of Cummings' work makes them a real pain to put up. These two poems, in addition to being a couple of his best known, are pretty straight forward structurally and less demanding of my minimal computer skills.
spring when the world is mud-
lucious the little
whistles far and wee
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump rope and
pity this busy monster, manunkind
pity this busy monster, manunkind,
not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim(death and life safely beyond)
plays with the bigness of his littleness
-electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange, lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
a world of made
is no a world of born-pity poor flesh
and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical
ultraomnipotence. We doctors know
a hopeless case if - listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go
About that wolf
Zbigniew Herbert was born in 1924 and died in 1998. He was known as the spiritual leader of the anticommunist movement in Poland. His work has been translated into almost every European language. He published both prose and poetry in numerous books, including Elegy For The Departure and other poems from which this little prose poem was taken.
The Wolf and The Sheep
--I've got you, said the wolf, and yawned. The sheep turned its teary eyes toward him. --Do you have to eat me? Is it really necessary?
--Unfortunately I must. This is how it happens in all the fables: Once upon a time a naughty sheep left its mother. In the forest it met a bad wolf who...
--Excuse me, this is not a forest, but my owner's farm. I did not leave my mother. I am an orphan. My mother was also eaten by a wolf.
--It doesn't matter. After your death the authors of edifying tales will look after you. They will add a background, motives, and a moral. Don't hold it against me. You have no idea how silly it is to be a bad wolf. Were it not for Aesop, we would just sit on our hind legs and gaze at the sunset. I like to do this very much.
Yes, yes, dear children. The wolf ate the sheep, and then licked his lips. Don't follow the wolf, dear children. Don't sacrifice yourselves for the moral.
(Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter)
There was a time when, if asked to list my favorite modern poets, I would have put Jeffers in first, second and third place. No longer. There are elements of Whitman in his style, and I think that's what attracted me. But where Whitman is all warm and natural, Jeffers seems cool and somewhat forced. If Whitman is a sloppy, wet kiss right on your mouth, Jeffers is a firm handshake and a polite howjdo.
Most of all, Jeffers seems a California poet to me, without knowing exactly what I mean by that.
It is time for us to kiss the earth again
A little too abstract, a little too wise,
It is time for us to kiss the earth again,
It is time to let the trees rain from the skies,
Let the rich life run to the roots again.
I will go to the lovely Sur Rivers
And dip my arms in them up to the shoulders.
I will find my accounting where the alder leaf quivers
In the ocean wind over the river boulders.
I will touch things and things and no more thoughts,
That breed like mouthless May-flies darkening he sky,
The insect clouds that blind our passionate hawks
So that they cannot strike, hardly an fly.
Things are the hawk's food and noble is the mountain, Oh noble
Pico Blanco, steep sea-wave of marble.
Fire on the hills
The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front the roaring wave of the brush-fire,
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful, and when I returned
Down the back slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,
Insolent and gorged, cloaked in he folded storms of his shoulders.
He had come from far off for the good hunting
With fire for his beater to dive the game; the sky was merciless
Blue, and the hills merciless black,
the sombre-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought. painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.
Gary Blankenship continues his series on The Ten Commandments
The fifth commandment is one of only two (if I remember my religious instruction correctly and, yes, despite all evidence to the contrary, I did have such instruction) that provide an affirmative direction to believers. All the rest are negative, the thou-shalt-nots that define the greatest of sins in the eyes of the god of Moses. It is ironic that these two affirmatives, remember the Sabbath and honor your father and mother, are probably the least considered of the ten, the one aggressive flouted in our 24/7 world and the other seeming to evolve from a affirmative obligation to honor to a negative, thou shalt not dump the old folks in a nursing home and never visit type of thing.
This is poem is one of my favorites from Gary's series, finding great loss, deep sorrow and love that the commandment suggests but does not demand.
Honor your father and your mother.
Thy mother does not remember her son,
whether her daughters hair
was flaxen or mouse brown,
what she ate for her last meal.
She does remember her first gelding,
what his hands felt like
when he rubbed her neck,
the song her mother sang
as they snapped beans on the porch.
Thy father remembers the scent of her breast,
the feel of her thighs locked in his,
a trout he caught when he was seven.
He does not remember her name,
when or how his father died,
his son's job,
his daughter's children.
They live apart together -
he in an apartment in the west wing,
she in nursing care in the south.
They see each other at Sunday service.
They do not remember each other,
but fall in love with a smile
freely offered by a long-lost lover.
Their children's visits fade
like a kiss stolen backstage
at a third grade spelling bee.
The styles of poetry
The 9th century poet Sikong Tu wrote of twenty four styles of poetry. This is next in our series of his poems describing each of the styles.
The Natural Style
Bend over anywhere and pick it up
but you can't take it from your neighbors.
Go with the Dao
and what you write is fine as spring.
It's like meeting flowers in bloom,
like seeing the year renew.
Once given to you it can't be taken
but gain it by force and soon you're poor again
A hermit in the empty mountain
after rain collects duckweed
and gains this calm inspiration,
moving about unhurried as heaven's potter's wheel
(Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping)
I think I might be in a rut
So here's another new poem that slips, again, into an automotive mode. I just wrote this one a couple of weeks ago. It doesn't seem likely to find a publisher.
here are some of things that are bugging me today
like the middle-aged guy
who just walked by
with a telephone thing
in his ear
you see a lot of that
men and women
passing through life
to their personal
it's bad enough
to have a cellphone
you have to always
have with you, poised
to interrupt any significant
thought that might sneak past
now you have to have
plugged into your head
what could anyone
possibly have to say
to these people,
pretty darn ordinary
people from what I've
seen, that's worth having
a phone stuck in your head
and then there's the woman
in the SUV that damn near
ran over me in the parking lot,
tiny woman, couldn't have weighed
over ninety pounds, in a vehicle
big as a banana boat, a pretty
young woman in a truck her husband
no doubt bought
as some kind of little-dick
she really needs
to reassure her man regarding
the size issue so he'll buy her
a car that'll let her see over
the steering wheel, unless
she bought the truck
on her own,
a whole different
We all go a-tramping...
Chris took a little solo outing through the Guadalupe Mountains (near the Texas-New Mexico border) a couple of weeks ago and came back with renewed appreciation of central heating and pictures. I'm going to use them on the photo gallery on the main 7beats site, but for reasons unfiguredout so far, am having trouble getting them to upload. In the meantime, here's a preview in mini-pic form.
About the blues
James A. Emanuel is a poet and scholar from Nebraska. He has published more than 300 poems, 13 individual books, an influential anthology of African American literature, an autobiography, and more. He is also credited with creating a new literary genre, jazz-and-blues haiku, often read with musical accompaniment.
Get Up, Blues
Never climb a hill
Or sit on a roof
Just bend low
And moan in the street
And shake a borrowed cup.
Just sit around
Get up, Blues.
Learn what it means
To be up high
Eugenio de Andrade is said to be Portugal's best-known living poet. He is the author of twenty-nine volumes of poetry as well as numerous children's books, collections of prose writings and a number of translations of both classical and modern literature.
In Praise Of Fire
of utter sweetness comes:
in the windows of tenderness.
in the bright
labyrinth of whitewashed walls.
the purple shade of ships.
where I have a home
on the edge of autumn
The lemon tree, the hills.
in the utter sluggish
sweetness of the afternoon
(Translated by Alexis Levitin)
A 19th Century Chinese feminist and radical nationalist
Qiu Jin was born in 1879 and was executed by her government in 1907. She was a poet and a student of martial arts. She was an ardent feminist and anti-Manchu radical. She worked as a teacher and ran the newspaper Chinese Women which sought to promote equality among the sexes. She wrote essays promoting feminism and nationalism and was involved in planning an uprising for which she was arrested and decapitated.
She wrote this in a letter to a long time friend, encouraging her to take up the banner when she was gone.
Letter to Xu Jichen
Who talked passionately with me about fighting common enemies?
Who idolized the traveling swordsman Guo Jie?
Now things have gotten so dangerous,
please change your girl's garments for a Wu sword.
(Translated by Tong Barnstone and Chou Ping)
Chinaski goes Hollywood
In a review last Sunday's New York Times book review section of Charles Bukowski, a biography by Barry Miles, Ron Powers describes Bukowski's life of willful poverty, nearly constant drunkenness, bar-fights, arrests, whoring, volcanic feuds with almost everyone, liquor-induced hemorrhages and vomiting spells, apartment-smashing rampages, self-loathing and suicidal despair and asks, was it worth it?
Who knows, but from all that hardship and self-destruction came his brutal, profane and darkly hilarious poems, skeletal, self-referential (he wrote about nothing but himself, with almost frightening honesty), almost devoid of metaphor but alive with hard truth told in the language of down-and-out bars on down -nd-out streets in the down-and-out parts of town. To read Bukowski is to enter into a tornado of fury.
Toward the end of his life, he found a new life of ease that he talks about in some of his later poems with wry disbelief. His books and poetry collections began to sell as they never had before, beyond the cultists that had followed his work for years, and movies were made from his books.
This poem is about a part of that new life.
lunch in Beverly Hills
it's a shame, it's a damn shame,
sitting here at this table
spread with clean white tablecloth,
on a verandah overlooking Beverly Blvd.
a light lunch, you might even say a
business lunch, your lawyer has
collected some money due you from
a movie producer,
your bright energetic lady
lawyer, her assistant and my wife,
we eat and drink wine, and then order coffee and talk
mostly about the impending war
as at all the tables around us
there is more talk about the im-
pending war (although at the table just
behind us some men laugh loudly
so they must be talking about
I feel very strange, very odd
that we are sitting at this table
spread with an immaculate white
tablecloth with all the successful
people sitting here with us
with the war about to start
or next week
as we sit over wine and coffee
on a beautiful, clear day in
and although I am guilty of nothing,
I feel guilty nonetheless.
I think that I would feel better about every
thing if I was sitting instead in a cheap room
with flies crawling my wine
not pleasant, of course, but at least it's war of
but I am in Beverly Hills and that is
all there is to
I reach for my gold card as I
twist in my chair and
ask the waiter for the
Here's another one that'll never get published anywhere
This is what happens whenever I get too close to the New York Times' Thursday science section
why I'll never be a realist
there is a theory
to a transformation
of one thing
to another thing
which is the reverse
of the first, creating
a reverse thing
back to the first
with an additional
according to the theory,
these back and forth
from symmetrical entities
can continue into infinity
without change to the first
unit upon which all subsequent
transformations are performed
but, this cannot be true
the confines of time,
nothing can ever be
as it was before
the image of me
in the mirror
is not the same me
who cast the image
and the me
who sees the image
is not the same
as the image shows,
which is before the me
looking and after the me
of the first image,
making the me
viewing the image twice removed in time
from the me who the image
is supposed to depict
in this cascading symmetry
of changing me's
and me depictions,
is the smallest increment
of time just past, out of reach,
in other words, to us forever
Time to go.
And now, a Thanksgiving joke to go out on.
A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and says,"I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."
"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams. "We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her."
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this,"
She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way."
Pretty lame. Thanksgiving doesn't seem to be such a great joke subject, unless you count stupid turkey jokes.
More seriously, check this out.
Exceptional photographs and a sad and haunting story. Thanks to my friend Bob Anderson for sending it to me.
Until next time.