Mountain Meadows Lie Still in Early Evening Gloom   Sunday, November 05, 2006




I didn't have much fun last week with the Halloween thing and since the purpose of this site is for me to have fun, we won't do that kind of thing anymore. Instead, we'll just go back to stacking one thing that catches my fancy after another until we get 3,000 to 4,000 or so words and which point we'll stop until we start up again a week later.

So now, posted a day earlier than usual because of a crowded schedule tomorrow, "Here and Now" number I.xxi.






From the foothills of the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania

Nancy Williams Lazar returns to "Here and Now" with a poem about words. It's first on my list of things I fancy this week.


Suppose

words had the power within them
to be understood, the way blood carries
oxygen to nourish, fights free radicals,
absorbs toxins. Suppose language was like money

to be spent, saved or invested.
Pain could be negotiated away,
loss filled, love dance freely in its
fire, warm and light without the burn.

Suppose I could place letters to your eyes
with my fingers, say how much I need you
and you would know, even when I seem
far away. In turn, you touch my arm with a phrase

that melts my longings. Suppose there were no more
veiled insults, inside jokes, and nothing we said
ever went over our heads. If words had any real
power I wouldn't even need to write this poem.







Beauty unseen by eyes educated not to see

`Warren Cunney (1906-1976) attended schools and conservatories in his hometown, Washington D.C. He also studied in Pennsylvania, Boston and Rome. Several of his poems of protest were recorded and issued in an album titled Southern Exposure. His later success was in Europe, with Puzzles published in Holland in 1960. In 1976, Storefront Church was published in London.

Early on, while still a student Lincoln University, this poem No Images won a national poetry contest and was widely reprinted in 1926.


No Images

She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.

If she could dance
Naked
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river
She would know.

But there are no palm trees
On the street.
And dishwater gives back no images.







Imitation, the sincerest form of a bad idea

I am very taken by the Tao Te Ching, the way its verses fuse contradictions to create clarity, the way they lead your through complexities to transcendent simplicity. I tried, once, to do something in the style and mood of those verses, with this result.


along the way

i
listen to the silence
and know a true mystery

whose answer is seen only
in darkness complete

ii
beauty is not known
in the stars

and water not found
in the seas

wet is a thing
of deserts searing and dry

a beauty
a diamond in the mud

iii
with this mark
I rend the universe

with this voice
I cry the apocalypse

together
we will defy all eternity

iv
from birth comes death
our birthright to die

leaving the unborn to live
forever, stay forever, be forever

while we pass in and out
of the eternal wake

v
sing softly
and let the song
become your voice

be at one
with the one
that encircles all

become the center
by letting the center
find the one that is you

vi
look at me
and see a construct
of belief

for I am not
until we agree
I am

vii
find the value
of that which is not

the hole in a cup
that makes its bowl

the cut in the wall
that opens a door

the empty corner of a heart
that awaits the embrace
of a love other-than-self

that which is not
is the nurture
for that
which may someday be

viii
the gifts of old
can only be seen
by those with a gift
for seeing anew

the blur of familiarity
blinds us

eyes tight shut
restore our deeper vision

ix
water flows
as it will go

bringing life
with the indifference
of a pure force true
only to its own measure

we can ride its tides
but never change them

x
listen

if I say nothing
you will hear the truth
of all I know

if you hear me speak
you hear a lie
for the truth cannot be told







So you've had Brand X, now here's the real thing

According to Chinese tradition, Lao Tsu lived in the 6th century BC, though many historians contend that he actually lived in the 4th century BC. He is credited with writing the seminal Taoist work, the Tao Te Ching. He is recognized as the founder of the Taoism or Daoism and was an important cultural hero to generations of Chinese people. His wise counsel is said to have attracted followers, but he refused to set his ideas down in writing, worrying that written words might solidify into formal dogma. Lao Tzu laid down no rigid code of behavior. He believed a person's conduct should be governed by instinct and conscience. He believed "simplicity" to be the key to truth and freedom. Lao Tzu encouraged his followers to observe, and seek to understand the laws of nature; to develop intuition and build up personal power; and to wield power with love, not force.


Here are Verses 11 and 17 from the Tao Te Ching


The Importance Of What Is Not

We join thirty spokes
to the hub of a wheel,
yet it's the center hole
that drives the chariot.

We shape clay
to birth vessel,
yet it's the hollow within
that makes it useful.

we chisel doors and windows
to construct a room,
yet it's the inner space
that makes it livable

Thus do we
create what is
to use what is not



Given that US elections are on us, here's what the Lao Tsu has to say about leadership

Leaders

There are four types of leaders:
The best leader is indistinguishable
from the will of those who selected her.
The next best leader enjoys the love
and praise of the people.
The poor leader rules through coercion and fear.
and the worst leader is a tyrant despised
by the multitudes who are the victims of his power.

What a world of difference among those leaders!
In the last two types, what is done
is without sincerity or trust - only coercion.
In the second type, there is harmony
between the leader and the people.
In the first type, whatever is done happens
so naturally that no on presumes to take the credit!


(Verses translated by Ralph Alan Dale from his book Tao Te Ching, A New Translation and Commentary)






At the end of the wide desert crossing is the mountain top

Gary Blankenship is back this week with the fourth of his series of poems drawn from the Ten Commandments


Commandment IV

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Combine and thresher continue to harvest,
regardless of which Sabbath is kept -
corn, wheat, alfalfa need to be taken
from the dry fields before they burn
or Septembers thunderstorms begin.

Pickers enter the truck gardens
tomato, watermelon, peaches
must be gathered before they rot
on vine and limb - value lost,
too meager to continue the farm.

The hunter in the forest,
fisherman on the sea,
logger in the mountains,
housewife in the kitchen

secure in the belief
God loves the laborer,
hates waste

time enough for holy days
during winter's dark months







Anonymous Swedish poem from the 17th century


Beats me how they ever got a reputation for being dark and gloomy.


Deep in the Forest

Deep in the forest there is a pond,
small, shaded by a pine so tall
its shadow crosses her surface.
The water is cold and dark and clear,
let it preserve those who lie at the bottom
invisible to us in perpetual dark.
It is our heaven, this bottomless
water that will keep us forever still;
though hands might barely touch they'll never
wander up an arm in caress or lift a drink;
we'll lie with the swords and bones
of our fathers on a bed of silt and pine needles.
In our night we'll wait
for those who walk the green and turning earth,
our brothers, even the birds and deer,
who always float down to us
with alarmed and startled eyes.


(Translated by Jim Harrison)






I think as long as I don't hang out with people taller than me, I'll be ok.


I wrote this recently, following a confrontation with a photo taken from above and behind. New house rule, no more photos taken from above and behind.

The poem has not been published.


next in a long line of bald heads

it is visible
only from above,
but, still,
it is what it is

in my sixty second year
I am growing a bald spot
right on top of my head,
a little to the rear,
right where my dad
started his

first
this little glimpse of skin
though thinning hair, then

boom!

a quick advance
to the front
and each little remaining
hair is like a lonely soldier
stranded apart from its fellows
on an expanding patch of pink,
valiant guardsman, struggling
to hold the line as each day
another hair falls, surrendering
its pink-turning-sunburned-red
outpost
to the unflinching foe
of skinheadedness

that's the way it is,
my father's bald spot
becomes my bald spot
as we are all recipients
of bits and pieces of those
whose line we follow

some don't so willingly as me
accept their genetic fate,
fighting back against their genes
with every
potion
nostrum
diet
exercise
ritual
rite
voodoo spell
and surgery
available from real
and pseudo-science

it's a losing battle

we are only a reassembly
of parts passed down
from those who came before,
so, no matter how we work
to hide the truth today,
we shouldn't be surprised
when first baby comes
complete
with Grandma Gertrude's nose
and Uncle Elmer's stuck-out ears







Two poems from Korea


Kim Sujang was a Korean poet of the late 17th - early 18th century. Judging from these two poems, you would think he would have been a significant poet of his period, but I can't find anything beyond the above and several listings of his name, with no additional information, on the internet. He is unknown to Wikipedia.

Whoever he was, these are both nice poems.


Deception

Look at that girl in blouse and patterned skirt,
Her face prettily powdered, her hair as yet unpinned.
Yesterday she deceived me,
And now she's off to deceive another.
Fresh cut flowers held firmly in her hand,
Her hips swinging lightly as the sun goes down.


Moonlight

Moon light shines on the lotus pond;
    lotus fragrance pervades my clothes.
There's wind in the golden jug
    and beauty playing the lute.
    Captivated by the mood
    I sing a sad refrain.
    Pine and bamboo sway to my song;
    cranes dance in the garden.
Thus, happy with relatives,
    glad with friends, I'll live
    the span allotted me by heaven.


(Poems translated by Kevin O'Rourke)






A cat story from Bukowski


Butch Van Gogh

just before leaving East Hollywood my cat got
into a fight that left
him with a cauliflower ear.
now that we're settled in San Pedro
I took him to a vet yesterday.
they had an EMERGENCY room
they had animal dentistry
shock therapy
electrocardiogram
preanesthetics
operating room
psychiatric clinic
with psychological evaluation work and
behavioral modification
a dermatology clinic
intensive dare unit
private nurses and
24-hour medical observation
along with the usual
pills and
ointments

the estimate
came to $182.50
and there would be additional charges for
follow-up treatment and medication.

"Jesus," I told the vet, "this is a ten-year-old de-
balled alley cat. I can get a dozen of these for
nothing."

the vet must made little circles on a piece of paper
with his pencil.

"all right," I said, "go ahead."

"Butch Chinaski," the vet wrote down the patient's
name.

when I went back to get him 3 hours later
they had most of his skull wrapped and
he had a little wet hole drilled in the side
of his head, he came out of room 6
carried by a nurse in a tight white skirt.

"what'd you do?" I asked, "give him a
lobotomy?"

we're back home now, he just sits on top of
the stove and stares at me. he's unhappy, he's
Butch Van Gogh Chinaski.

like a friend of mine once told me:
"man, everything you touch turns to shit!"

he's right.







Tao Te Ching, Verse 63


The Secrets of Getting Things Done

Act without acting on.
Work without working at.

Enter bountifulness when it is still insufficiency.
Answer with kindness when faced with hostility.

Begin a difficult task in its easy stage
because large problems grow from small ones.

Begin a task in its formative state
because complex issues originate from simple ones.

But beware of those who promise quick and easy solutions!
Accept problems as challenges.

In this way, the sage accomplishes great tasks
without ever having to struggle with them.


(Translated by Ralph Alan Dale)






Time slips past like shadows

I wrote this several years ago. It was published in 2004 in the Taj Mahal Review


ending time

I never had a plan in life,
just lived it as I found it
and trusted,
in an uncluttered way,
that as I did my best each day
I made the next day better

simple as this system sounds,
it mostly worked for me,
but now I feel the pressure
of time and heft decreasing,
as, in this finite span of time
we have, time passed
is a measure of time remaining

I think of that
and how poorly I use
whatever use remaining,
and, worse,
how unlikely it is
I will learn to use it better,
leaving me to to end this life
in the haphazard way I lived it,
beginning things with never a thought
of how they might be ending
and ending things
incomplete
and sooner than I expected

Meanwhile
the sky is full of stars tonight,
each little star a multiple
of the one we call our own

and somewhere there,
it has been my faith,
another light is dimming,
someone who counts with me
the ending time
and the details of its passage







Another Waka poet

Ono no Komachi was a famous Japanese Waka poet in the mid to late 9th century. Her birth and death dates are uncertain, as is her social status. Noted in contemporary writing as a very beautiful woman, she may have been a low-ranking consort or a lady-in-waiting of an emperor

As a poet, Komachi specialized in erotic love themes.


Six Love Poems

1
Autumn nights, it seems
are long by repute alone;
scarcely had we met
    when morning's first light appeared,
leaving everything unsaid

2
Yielding to a love
    that recognizes no bounds,
I will go by night -
for the world will not censure
    one who treads the path of dreams

3
Though I go to you
    ceaselessly along dream paths,
the sum of those trysts
    is less than a single glimpse
        granted in the waking world


(Three poems translated by Helen Craig McCullough)

4
Thinking about him
I slept, only to have him
appear before me -
had I known it was a dream
I should never have wakened


(Translated by Donald Keene)

5
Doesn't he realize
that I am not
like the swaying kelp
in the surf,
where the seaweed gatherer
can come as often as he wants


(Translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Atsumi)

6
A diver does not abandon
a seaweed filled bay....
Will you then turn away
from this floating sea-foam body
that waits for your gathering hands?


(Translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Araani)






Written in 1969

And finally published 30 years later in The Green Tricycle in 1999.

dusk

the midsummer lake
heaves and rustles
like some great animal
shuttering
in the gathering dark

under pins of white and yellow light
crickets chip
the soft stone of night

smoke and scents
of campfires rise

quiet
falls with the sun







Returning to Casa Chiapas

I will be reading again this coming Friday, November 10th, at Casa Chiapas, 928 South Alamo. I'll be joined this time by poet Renee Gattas. This will be Renee's first public presentation of her work.

I expect we will begin about 7:30-7:45 or so.






Today is November 5th


Day after tomorrow is election day.

Vote, if you haven't already.

Try to pick the good guys (of either gender persuasion).

Poop on the rest.


Until next week.






Wait, wait, I almost forgot

This was posted on the Blueline Poetry Forum by Jim Fowler.

The Washington Post Invitational Contest asked readers to submit
"instructions" for something written in the style of a famous person. The
winning entry was written in the style of William Shakespeare.

I'm sorry I don't know the winning author's name


The Fervid Hokey-Poke

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.


For those of you who don't speak Elizabethan and need a refresher on the original lyrics, here's a cheatsheet.

THE ORIGINAL:

You put your left foot in,
You put your left foot out;
You put your left foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!


Now I'm done.

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