Winter Night, Dark and Cold
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Welcome to "Here and Now" number I.xxvii, a little longer than usual. We're taking Christmas week off, so we tried to squeeze a few things together here that might have been used over two weeks instead of one.
Fun in the snow
Not that we'd know anything about it here in South Texas, with our temperatures over 80 degrees for the last two days and more of the same for at least another week.
But, Kathryn Black knows about fun in the snow and describes it for us in this poem. She says that a lot of towns in the northern part of the country have their own suicide hill, an incline steep enough that when the snow falls it draws the neighborhood children to test their skills. Her hill was in Provincetown, MA where she grew up learning to sled and write poetry.
Kathryn and I shared several poetry forums for five or six years now and I hope I've grown as a poet as much over that time as she has.
Emerging from the bottle brush pines
we speed down hill, sometimes face first,
but always wrapped in candy colors
to see who will be first to reach the road.
No matter how much wax paper we use,
no one will find themselves under the tires
of an aqua Chevy, but a rock hits the edge
of my Flexible Flyer and misses my head.
For a few years I will be physically brave
so long as my grandparents provide sleds
and snowsuits, but I know this: I will do
anything to fly even if it means losing my face.
Survivor, and icon of lost days
Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the wildness brought by the rising sun
Horses at Dawn
the horses the horses the wild horses at dawn
as in a watercolor by Ben Shahn
they are alive in the high meadow
in the high country on the far mesa
you can see them galloping
you can see them snorting
you can hear their thunder distantly
you can hear the small thunder
of their small hooves
like wood hammers thrumming
on a distant drum
the sun roars &
throws their shadows
out of the night
Lost in high grass
The worst thing about a writing block is that the longer it lasts, the more it seems it will never end. It will, of course, because, in the long run, if you have the urge to write, you'll eventually find your way back into the state of mind required to do it. But, there might be a lot of false starts along the way.
dipping a toe
it's been a
but I think
how to do it
in no particular order
and I'm all ready
like a rooster cocked
or maybe even
A typically blunt response to those who bemoan and belabor their writer's block
Bukowski lets you know what he thinks of writers who don't write and gives clear direction as to what to do about it.
I hear of somebody who is going to
settle down and
do their work,
painting or writing or whatever,
as soon as they get a better light
or as soon as they move to a new
or as soon as they come back from the trip they
have been planning,
or as soon as.....
it's simple: they just don't want
to do it,
or they can't do it,
otherwise they'd feel a burning
itch from hell
they could not ignore
would turn quickly into
But, on the other hand, he also says this
Buddha Chinaski Says
you have to take
a step or
take a month off
pace is paramount
you aren't going to
there's nothing to
the second best thing in
a good night's
if you can
stay out of
arguments with the
Another icon of the lost days
I don't do slams; Allen Ginsberg did it all.
OO Bop Sh'bam
At the poetry slam
Scream and yell
At the poetry ball
Get in a rage
On the poetry stage
Make it rhyme
Talk real fast
till your time's passed
Sound like a clown
& then sit down.
Listen to the next
'cause she listened to you
Though all she says is
Always the second-banana
Eight century Chinese poet Meng Jiao was a quasi-loser through most of his life, then he died and it got worse.
He had to take the imperial examinations three times and, when he finally passed them on his third try, he was awarded on a humiliating, insignificant post in the provinces, which he went on to lose a couple of years later. He spent the rest of his life dependent on friends and patrons, with tragedies along the way, including the death of his wife and his three sons.
He was not a happy poet and though fairly successful during his lifetime, his reputation went into a tailspin after his death. His poems were brash and disturbing, as well as, often, shrill, self-obsessed and self-pitying. They were sharply denounced for their lack of grace and decorum.
The flavor of his work and the anger that ate at him can be found in this poem.
Write bad poems and you're sure to earn a post,
but good poets can only embrace the empty mountains.
Embracing mountains makes me shake with cold.
My face is sad all day long.
They are so jealous of my good poems
swords and spears grow out of their teeth!
They are still chewed by jealousy
of good poets who are long dead.
Though my body's like a broken twig
I cultivate a loftiness and plain austerity,
hoping in vain to be left alone.
The mocking crown glares at me and howls.
(Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping)
Poems like friends telling stories around a dinner table, that's my kind of poetry.
Victor Hernandez Cruz was born in a small mountain town in Puerto Rico in 1949. He moved with his family to the States when he was five. He attended Benjamin Franklin High School in New York City and was associated with The Gut Theater on East 104th Street. He published Snaps, his first collection of poetry, when he was twenty. From the early 1970s, Hernandez Cruz lived in San Francisco; in 1990 he returned to Aguas Buenas, where he continues to write in both English and Spanish.
This poem is from his book, Red Beans. Other books include Mainland, Tropicalization, By Lingual Wholes, Rhythm, Content and Flavor.
An Essay on William Carlos Williams
I love the quality of the
As it happens immediately
uttered into the air
Not held inside and rolled
around for some properly
Not sent to circulate a cane
Or a stroll that would include
the desert and Mecca
Spoken while it happens
Direct and pure
As the art of salutation
of mountain campesinos come to
The grasp of the handshake upon
encounter and departure
A gesture unveiling the occult
behind the wooden boards of
your old house
Remarks show no hesitation
to be expressed
The tongue itself carries
Pure and sure
Sudden and direct
like the appearance
of a green mountain
Overlooking a town.
Speak of the devil
I've heard some people say that their first reading of William Carlos Williams made them angry, feeling like they had been cheated or played with. Later they see the spontaneity Cruz was talking about above and often become his greatest fans. As for myself, I don't see how anyone can read these two poems without feeling they are there, watching over Williams' shoulder as events occur.
This is just to say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
The Great Figure
Among the rain
I saw the figure 5
on a red
to gong clangs
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city
Zbigniew Herbert, spiritual leader of the anticommunist movement in Poland, liked to express his opposition through fables. Here's one, from his book Elegy For the Departure.
The Fable About A Nail
For lack of a nail the kingdom has fallen
- according to the wisdom of nursery schools - but in our
there have been no nails for a long time there aren't and
either the small ones for hanging a picture
on a wall or large ones for closing a coffin
but despite this or maybe because of it
the kingdom persists and is even admired by others
how can one live without a nail paper or string
bricks oxygen freedom and whatever else
obviously one can since the kingdom lasts and lasts
people live in homes in our country not in caves
factories smoke on the steppe a train runs through the tundra
and a ship bleats on the cold ocean
there is an army and police and official seal hymn and flag
in appearance everything like anywhere in the world
but only in appearance for our kingdom
is not a creation of nature or a human creation
seemingly permanent built on the bones of mammoths
in reality it is weak as if brought to a stop
between act and thought being and nonbeing
what is real - a leaf and a stone - falls
but spectres live long obstinately despite
the rising and setting of the sun revolutions of
on the shamed earth fall the tears of objects
(Translated by John and Bogdand Carpenter)
The Seventh Commandment
Gary Blankenship is back with the next in his series taken from the Ten Commandments
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall marry and bear many children,
you shall obey thy husband in all things,
keep his hearth and home comfortable,
tend his flocks, gather his eggs,
birth his calves even in winter's direst clime,
wash his sperm stained knickers.
As she sorts Monday's laundry,
she runs discoveries through her mind
like a silent film about to implode
You shall ignore his transgressions,
you shall not question his travels,
why he stays from home for days
but brings back no game, harvest,
mysterious papers signed in invisible ink,
fish on a bright green line.
the smell of boys on his breath,
credit charges for trinkets a girl would toss
and she remembers her oath,
the promise she made that bright Saturday
beneath an arbor in the garden
As she irons Tuesday,
bakes cakes and pies Wednesday,
washes windows and floors Thursday
she considers vows
and the commandments she'd learned
before she could understand
and picks up the phone Friday
to dial back her life.....
A new poem
This poem was written yesterday, the third of three poems written three days in a row at Borders. I'm very happy with this poem (even though the response from early readers is mixed) since on the first of those three days, I had a hard time getting started writing anything (see dipping a toe).
toe wiggling for peace in our time
I was watching
a young girl
at the coffee shop,
a blond girl
maybe twenty years old,
of the plain girl
in the old movies
who turns out to be
when she takes off
and lets down
but this girl
is not Kim Novak,
she is just a girl,
on her book with
to pin down in her memory
or at least until the test
next Friday, all the important
stuff that'll move her up
to the next link in the drive
chain of American education
as I watch, I notice
under the table,
she's flexing her toes,
big toe arching high
then stretching, then
a slow wiggle-wave
of the rest of her toes,
one, two, three four,
right down the line
to little pinky toe
flexing in an arch,
a pint-sized version
of the big toe flex
that started the whole
sequence, again and again
arch, wiggle-wave, arch
what a universal thing
is this wiggling and waving
of toes, we all do it,
every one of us
with a toe to flex will flex it;
that might be what saved us
in our earlier, more precarious days,
sitting around a campfire,
mostly naked and unshod, all
our frailties open and exposed
to keep secrets
naked and unshod)
flexing our toes
in the embers' glow,
reminding each other,
with each wiggle and wave,
of our mutual humanity
maybe that's the answer,
the one the Baker Commission
missed, all of the war lovers
in a circle, naked, toes exposed
as they flex and point and wiggle
and wave at each other, signaling,
not victory or defeat, but denial
of holy wars and holy hates
and crusaders' lust for domination
Love poems from ancient Egypt
Thirty-five hundred years later, these could still work.
Pleasant Songs of the Sweetheart Who Meets You In the Fields
You, mine, my love,
My heart strives to reach the heights of your love.
See, Sweet, the bird-trap set with my own hand
See the birds of Punt,
Like a shower of myrrh
Descending on Egypt.
Let us watch my handiwork,
The two of us, together in the fields.
The shrill of the wild goose
Unable to resist
The temptation of my bait.
While I, in a tangle of love,
Unable to break free,
Must watch the bird carry away my nets.
And when my mother returns, loaded with birds,
And finds me empty-handed,
What shall I say?
That I caught no birds?
That I myself was caught in your net?
Even when the birds rise
Wave mass on wave mass in great flight
I see nothing, I am blind
Caught up as I am and carried away
Two hearts obedient in their beating
My life caught up with yours
Your beauty the binding
Without your love, my heart would beat no more;
Without your love, a sweet cake seems only salt;
Without your love, sweet "shedeh" turns to bile.
O listen, darling, my heart's life needs your love;
For when you breathe, mine is the heart that beats.
With candor I confess my love;
I love you, yes, and wish to love you closer;
As mistress of your house,
Your arm placed over mine.
Alas your eyes are loose.
I tell my heart: "My Lord
Has moved away. During
The night moved away
And left me. I am like a tomb."
And I wonder: Is there no sensation
Left, when you come to me?
Nothing at all?
Alas those eyes which led you astray,
Forever on the loose.
And yet I confess with candor
That no matter where else they roam
If they came towards me
I enter into life
(Translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock)
The killing part
Keith Douglas was born in Tunbridge Wells and educated at Christ's Hospital and Oxford. He served in North Africa during World War Two where he was injured by a land-mine and transferred home. Recovered, he returned to active duty to take part in the invasion of Normandy in 1944, in which he died at the age of 24 years. An example of his unblinking eye in the face of war and death is this poem.
How to Kill
Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long
The ball fell in my hand, it sand
in the closed fist: "Open Open
Behold a gift designed to kill."
Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
NOW. Death, like a familiar, hears
and look, has made a man of dust
of a man of flesh. his sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to the the center of love diffused
and the waves of love travel into vacancy.
How easy it is to make a ghost.
The weightless mosquito touches
her tiny shadow on the stone,
and with how like, how infinite
a lightness, man and shadow meet.
The fuse. A shadow is a man
when the mosquito death approaches.
The grieving part
W. H. Auden, born in 1907 and died in 1973, is often cited as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. He spent the first part of his life in the United Kingdom, but emigrated to the United States in 1939, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1946.
In this poem, Auden mourns the death of a lover.
Stop all the Clocks
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let airplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crepe bows around the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love could last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Dan Cuddy lives in Baltimore. He's had one book published, Handprint On The Window, which is available at Amazon.com. He's also been published in numerous magazines & ezines, most recently in the Loch Raven Review which has also used some of my stuff. He's active on several poetry forums, including one I visit often.
Dan says he enjoys writing and that it is second nature at this point. He's been married for 37 years; has 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren, one of whom was only 9 days old when last Dan and I communicated in late November.
tangle of wires
language is a tangle of wires
going so many places
some light up pictures in the mind
others vibrate their current to the heart
and others go to the poles outside
hum into a community of ears
the chaos of wires I hide
under rugs, behind furniture
at the edges of rooms
but nothing sociable would be lit or warm
without that tangle
From the Nabuatl people of Central Mexico, early-mid15th century
Can It Be True That One Lives On Earth?
Can it be true that one lives on earth?
Not forever on earth; only a little while here.
Be it jade, it shatters.
Be it gold, it breaks.
Be it a quetzal feather, it tears apart.
Not forever on earth; only a little while here.
(Translated by Thelma D. Sullivan)
A poem about lost love
Portuguese poet Eugenio De Andrade writes of his search for its recovery.
Song With Seagulls of Bermeo
Is it March or April?
It's a day of sun
close to the sea,
it's a day
in which all my blood
turns to caresses and dew
What color did you wear?
The light of dawn or lemon?
What clouds are you looking at,
what high hills,
while turning your face
from the words I write,
standing there, demanding
Is it a day in May?
It's a day in which I stumble
on the air
in search of the blue of your eyes,
in which your voice,
within me, asks,
"se fue la melancolia,
amigo mio del alma?"
Is it June? Is it September?
It's a day
in which I am laden full with you
or with fruits,
and I stumble through the light, like a blindman,
in search of you.
(Translated by Alexis Levitin)
Who could have ever guessed
A poem in which Scottish Minister and poet R. S. Thomas learns about the real and the not so, and is not happy with the knowledge.
Being unwise enough to have married her
I never knew when she was not acting.
"I love you" she would say: I heard the audiences
Sigh. "I hate you;" I could never be sure
They were still there. She was lovely. I
Was only the looking-glass she made up in.
I husbanded the rippling meadow
Of her body. Their eyes grazed nightly upon it.
Alone now on the brittle platform
Of herself she is playing her last role.
It is perfect. Never in all her career
Was she so good. And yet the curtain
Has fallen. My charmer, come out from behind
It to take the applause. Look, I am clapping too.
One from the book
I wrote this poem several years ago. It was published in 2002 in Retrozine, then I used it last year in my book Seven Beats a Second
when nighthawks fly in memories dark
nighthawks glide through the dark,
shadows against the star-lit sky,
soaring between trees,
picking insects from the air
shagging high, easy flies
(nothing to it, with a shrug
as they toss the ball in
the birds fly through the air
and I think of old heroes
jumping from their planes,
uniforms glistening black,
Blackhawk, the leader,
Chop Chop, the Chinaman,
Andre, the Frenchman,
with glossy black hair
and a pointy little mustache,
and Olaf, the squarehead German
(that's what they called my father,
third generation in the country,
first generation to leave
the central Texas enclave
of squareheads and krauts,
always careful through two wars
not to draw attention to themselves
and their German ways, quietly
keeping to themselves,
raising their sheep and cattle
on rocky hill country pastures,
facing good times and bad
with squarehead persistence)
and, before Blackhawk, there was Smiling Jack
with his movie star looks, and his friend,
Fatstuff, with a belly so large buttons
flew off his shirt like popcorn in a pan
(dad had a belly like that,
from his emphysema
ballooning his lungs,
making them heavy with spit,
swelling, degenerating tissue
dragging his lungs down,
collapsing his chest,
displacing his stomach,
pushing his belly out
like he was pregnant with
the fruit of his own death)
those popping buttons are on my mind
as I gasp for air after a flight of stairs
and I think of my own belly pushing
ahead of me and wonder
what it felt like to die in pieces
A last, and I do mean last, word on Don Rumsfeld.
And that word from Shel Silverstein.
The Toy Eater
You don't have to pick up your toys, okay?
You can leave 'em right there on the floor,
so tonight when the Terrible Toy-Eatin' Tookle
Comes tiptoein' in through the crack in the door,
He'll crunch all your soldiers, he'll munch on your trucks,
He'll chew your poor puppets to shreds,
He'll swallow your Big Wheel and slurp your paints
And bite off your dear dollies' heads.
Then he'll wipe off his lips with the sails of your ship,
And making a burpity noise,
He'll slither away - but hey, that's okay,
You don't have to pick up your toys.
A last note before the sun slips behind the old garden gate
I mentioned several weeks ago that I was posting on the 7beats photo gallery some pictures Chris took while hiking through the Guadalupe Mountains near the Texas-New Mexico border. A problem developed and I just now got them posted. The problem, as is very often the case with me, was my continuing insistence on doing a very simple thing bass-ackwords. Just go to the main 7beats site and click on "Photos."
Adalente con brio, misa druge.