We Must Keep Hope For The New Year   Friday, December 29, 2006




Welcome to "Here and Now" (Number II.1.1.), balanced on the cusp of the old and the new and longer than usual. The small dose of Calvinism on my mother's side that kicks in every now and then demands repayment for the past week of leisure.







Speaking of leisure activities.....

Here's how it works at the old mill pond.


this is what I learned so far today

little frogs
lie
for sex

well,
how do
they do that,
you might ask

(this
is the interesting part)

big frogs
have
deep
bass voices

little frogs
have
little
squeaky voices

though
lady frogs
could care
less about
the size
of the
croak,
some little frogs
learn to deepen
their voice
so they sound
real big
and really really
frog
macho,
scaring
from the pond
much of their
competition
and leaving
all the little
green girlie frog
darlings
for themselves

anyone
who's spent
an evening
at a West Texas
honky-tonk
will understand
the principle
immediately








Now that I've had my fun

Let's start the new year off for real with a history lesson from America's greatest poet, Walt Whitman, complete with references to Abe Lincoln, John Brown, an English prince, a mighty ship and a meteor shower.


Year of Meteors (1859-1860)

Year of meteor! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective some of our deeds and signs,
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad,
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the
       scaffold in Virginia,
(I was at hand, silent I stood with teeth shut close, I watch'ed,
I stood very near you old man when cool and indifferent, but trem-
       bling with age and your unheal'd wounds, you mounted the
       scaffold;)
I would sing in my copious song your census returns of the States,
The tables of population and products, I would sing of your ships and
       their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan arriving, some fill'd with
       immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold,
Songs thereof would I sing, to all that hitherward comes would I wel-
       come give,
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, young
       prince of England!
(Remember your surging Manhattan's crowds as you pass'd with your
       cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;)
Not forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was
       600 feet long,
Her moving swiftly surrounded by myriads of small craft I forget not
       to sing;
Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north flaring in
       heaven,
Nor the strange huge meteor-procession dazzling and clear shooting
       over our heads,
(a moment, a moment long it sail'd its balls of unearthly light over
       our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
Of such and fitful as they, I sing - with gleams from them would I
       gleam and patch these chants,
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good - year of fore-
       bodings!
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange ' lo! even here one
       equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this
       chant,
What am I myself but one of our meteors?






Photo by Jessica Reyna



Introducing a young San Antonio photographer

Jessica Reyna says she has had a passion for photography every since she was a child. After taking photography classes in high school, she studied photography and art in New Mexico, then returned to Texas earlier this year for a full time course of study in Philosophy and Art History at San Antonio College, while also working full-time. She hopes to work with a studio or art gallery in the future once her education is completed.




Photo by Jessica Reyna



Photo by Jessica Reyna



Photo by Jessica Reyna



Photo by Jessica Reyna



Photo by Jessica Reyna



We'll see more of Jessica's work in the future.







The "Poet-Historian"

Wikipedia has an extensive entry on Du Fu, one of the most extensive I've seen on the ancient Chinese poets. There's room here for only a brief summary.

Du Fu (712-770) was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty. Along with Li Bai, he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His own greatest ambition was to help his country by becoming a successful civil servant, but he proved unable to make the necessary accommodations. His life, like the whole country, was devastated by the An Lushan Rebellion of 755 (37 million people disappeared, either dead or displaced, between the 754 and the 764 census). and the last 15 years of his life was a time of almost constant unrest.

Initially unpopular, his works came to be hugely influential in both Chinese and Japanese culture. He has been called Poet-Historian and the Poet-Sage by Chinese critics.

Here are several of Du Fu's short poems, like much of his work, reflecting or referring to the dark times he lived in.


Facing Snow

Battles, sobbing, many new ghosts.
Just an old man, I sadly chant poems.
Into the evening, wild clouds dip.
On swirling wind, fast dancing snow.
A ladle idles by a drained cask of green wine.
Last embers redden the empty stove.
No news, the provinces are cut off.
With one finger I write in the air, sorrow.


Grazing in Springtime

The empire is shattered but rivers and peaks remain.
Spring drowns the city in wild grass and trees.
A time so bad, even the flower rain tears.
I hate this separation, yet birds startle my heart.
The signal fires have burned three months;
I'd give ten thousand gold coins for one letter.
I scratch my head and my white hair thins
till it can't even hold a pen.


Moonlit Night

In Fuzhou tonight there's a moon
my wife can only watch alone.
Far off, I brood over my small children
who don't even remember Changan.

Her satin hair dampens in fragrant mist,
jade arms chilled by clear moonlight.
When will we lean together between empty curtains
beaming as tear tracks dry on our faces?


Thinking of My Brothers on a Moonlit Night

Curfew drums cut off a traveler's road.
At the border, autumn comes with a wild goose's shriek.
From this night on, dew will whiten to frost.
The moon looks brighter at home.
My brothers are scattered now.
Who can tell me if they live or die?
I send letters but no word arrives,
and the war goes on and on.

Broken Lines

River so blue the birds seem to whiten.
On the green mountainside flowers almost flame.
Spring is dying yet again.
Will I ever go home?


Thoughts While Night Traveling


Slender wind shifts the shore's fine grass.
Lonely night below the boat's tall mast.
Stars hang low as the vast plain splays;
the swaying moon makes the great river race.
How can poems make me known?
I'm old and sick, my career done.
Drifting, just drifting. What kind of man am I?
A lone gull floating between earth and sky.


(Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping)







Everybody's got to be somewhere.....

And I'm usually in one coffeeshop or another, sucking up caffein and waiting for a poem to walk through the door. These popped in a couple of days ago.


coffeeshop shorts, six to a cup

1
wouldn't it be cool
to read the poems
the giants
chose to never write
and compare
them
to mine

mine
I bet
are just as fine

2
the vastly
pregnant
woman
rubs her belly
imagining
with her fingertips
the slight
vibration
of a sigh

3
all the pretty girls
say
"hi"
to me

good father
figures
I guess
are hard
to find

4
the south texas
girl
born and raised
wears a fur hat
and a fur coat
and fur boots
and though
it's fifteen degrees
above freezing
imagines
snowflakes
landing softly
on the open palm
of her fur-lined
glove

5
a broad
broad
round
woman comes in
with a trim and handsome
young man
like from the cover
of "GQ" or such

she laughs
in peals
like bright balloons
and all is explained

6
everyone
has a story
but rare
are those
I have the skill
to tell

still
I keep looking
listening
searching
collecting
anyway

satisfied to find
just those few








Audre Lorde was born in New York City to parents of West Indian heritage. The youngest of five children, she grew up in Harlem, hearing her mother's stories about the West Indies. She learned to talk while she learned to read, at the age of four. She wrote her first poem when she was in the eighth grade. After graduating from Hunter College High School, she attended Hunter College from 1954 to 1959, graduating with a bachelors degree. While studying library science, Lorde supported herself working various odd jobs: factory worker, ghost writer, social worker, X-ray technician, medical clerk, and arts and crafts supervisor.

In 1954, she spent a pivotal year as a student at the National University of Mexico, a period described by Lorde as a time of affirmation and renewal because she confirmed her identity on personal and artistic levels as a lesbian and poet. On her return to New York, Lorde went to college, worked as a librarian, continued writing, and became an active participant in the gay culture of Greenwich Village. Lorde furthered her education at Columbia University, earning a master’s degree in library science in 1961.

During a year in residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, funded by a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Lorde met Frances Clayton, the woman who was to be her romantic partner for 22 years - until Lorde's death from cancer. Lorde died November 17, 1992 in St. Croix after a 14 year struggle with the disease. In her own words, she was a "black lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." Before she died, Lorde in an African naming ceremony took the name Gamba Adisa, meaning Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.

In this poem, she speaks of the death of a friend.


Lunar Eclipse

Last night I watched the moon go out
become a dark opalescent glow
I could not believe what was happening
even as I saw the change in light

The first time I met you
we sat up all night reading
each other's poems    morning hopes
followed us down Cole Street
chattering like a flock of quits.

You stretch across out best years
like a living wire
between heaven and hell
at war    Being sisters
wasn't always easy
but it was never dull

I can't believe you are gone
out of my life
So you are not








The worst thing about a hurricane is the fruit salad effect

Puerto Rican poet Victor Hernandez Cruz shares this hard earned lesson about hurricanes.


Problems with Hurricanes

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it's not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I'll tell you he said:
it's the mangoes, avocados
Green Plantains and bananas
flying through the town like projectiles.

How would you family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying
Banana.

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
But
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat -
As a sign of respect
towards the fury of the wind
And says:
Don't worry about the noise
Don't worry about the water
Don't worry about the wind -
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And other such beautiful
sweet things.








Vivaldi might have cut his "Four Seasons" by half or more had he lived in Southern California

David Gordon works as a Student Affairs Assistant at UCLA. He is a young man, born in Santa Monica, California, and a graduate of Brentwood School in Los Angeles and Pomona College in Claremont, California. He became interested in language at an early age and began writing poetry at 16. A poet, a composer and a visual artist, David sees all three forms of art as necessary, complementary sides of life.

I am just now becoming acquainted with David's work by reading him on one of the on-line forums I visit.

His poem is as true of South Texas as it is of Southern California. We try to go at least once a year to someplace where we can see a season change so we can be reminded of the cyclical nature of life.




No Winter

The sun does not blink in Los Angeles.
January comes and goes, dreamlike,
yet rivers are not still.
Pines do not weep with snow.

Rain does not lull weary drivers, their cheeks
pressed against windshields to dull the heat.
When spring leaves brush the glass,
it does not remind them of morning.

There are no basements to cool off the blazing chord of June.
Only veins of water and sewage hide under melting asphalt.
Traffic sighs like weary trumpets,
as few eyes peek out to chase lonely birds across the sky.

It is Autumn thirst, not cold, that strips branches bare,
and in the dust that boils off the mountains,
I always breathe the same summer.








Up the barricades

Norman Nawrocki is a Vancouver-born, Montreal-based cabaret artist and activist. He performs as writer, actor and vocalist/violinist for the "rebel news orchestry" Rhythm Activism.


Galvanized

Me?
I've been
renovated
upgraded
condomized
gentrified
relocated
vacated
upscaled
displaced
remodeled
expropriated
privatized
terrorized
dispossessed
repossessed
evicted
restricted
and kicked right out

Now
I've been thinking
and drinking
crying and
whining
trying real hard
to figure it all out
I've been reading
and writing
talking and
squawking
asking why
it's always me
that's gotta go
So now me
and my neighbors
are all hooting
and hollering
refusing to move
barricading the doors
and all the windows too

'cause we're contesting
protesting
defying
resisting
organized
persisting
pissed off
fighting mad
and tired of getting
relocated
vacated
upscaled
displaced
evicted
restricted and kicked right out
This time
we're staying








Introducing Luny

I wrote both these poems several years ago. My inspiration for Luny was a plumber by the name of Roy who met my father every day after work for a beer. They had a lot in common, about the same age, both working men accustomed to getting their hands dirty, neither educated past high school and both coming of age at the very depths of the great depression. They had a lot to talk about, but the talk never went past the time required to nurse to empty the contents of one beer each. They were talkers, not drinkers.

Roy was a small, wiry man with the ability common to many depression survivors to smoke a hand-rolled cigarette down to a stub so short you'd think he'd have burn scars all over his lips. He was a man of insistent curiosity about everything and without fear when it came to doing whatever necessary to satisfy his need to know everything about what ever curious thing caught his eye.

After writing the first poem, I was very taken with Luny and wrote the second one, with the idea I would do a series. The third poem, the next in the series, was supposed to be about Luny, under the influence of his wife who was introduced in the second poem, becoming a Sunday School teacher, but I could never get it down. The idea of Roy/Luny as a Sunday School teacher defeated me.

I used the first poem in my book, Seven Beats a Second, and the second was published in the journal Hawkwind.


Introducing Luny

Luny says,

     "Hit's a big sombitch,
     ain't hit."

and I nod
because it really is very, very large.

     "Seen one like it onct in Tupulo."

He scratches and spits and scratches again.

     "Hit was almost as big as this,
     but not quite."

He takes off his hat and wipes sweat from his head.

     "Black, too,
     just like this'un."

We circle it, in opposite directions,
me at a distance, intimidated
as any normal person would be.

But not Luny.

Luny doesn't give a damn,
he just wants to look.
He walks right up to it, sticks
his face right up to it,
pokes at it with his finger.

     "Lookeehere, you ever seen sucha thing?"

And I look at Luny, climbing
over all the wonders of the world, sticking
his fingers into every crack in the universal order
of things as they should and always will be, saying,

     "Well, wouldja look at that!"

then moving on to the next curiosity to grab
a hold of his always hungry hillbilly mind.

And I think, nope, I never did see such a thing.


Millie, Billie, Lolly, Lou and Lester

Luny met Molly on a Sunday evening
in Tuskaloosa at a potluck supper
at the First Corinthian Baptist Church.

I was there talking to Luny
when Molly walked in, a slender little girl
in a flowery dress carrying a big bowl
of country cornbread dressing.

     "Did'ja see that girl,"
     he asked,
     "the pretty one in the flowerdy dress?"

I said I did.

     "Do you know'er?"

I said I did.

     "Can I meet'er?"

I'll introduce you, I said,
I think she'll like you.

So, I did, and I could tell
right away, she did.

     "Pleased to meet'cha, Mr. Luny,"
     she said.

     "Just call me, Luny,"
     he said,
     "most everybody does."

     "Well, you can call me, Molly,"
     she said.

He did and pretty soon they wandered off,
heads together, talking and laughing,
leaving me to spend the rest of the evening
with Brother Borchuck, talking about
the cane bottoms benches out front and the need
to get them repaired before one of
the heavier brothers or sisters of the church
busted through them and sued us all,
including the Lord.

I didn't see Luny again until I was leaving.
He was in his pickup, smoking one of his
roll-your-own Bugler cigarettes,
spitting stray tobacco from
his lower lip like you have to do
when you roll them as loose as he does.

     "That little Molly sure is pretty,"
     he said,
     blowing tobacco from his lip.

I agreed and said
I think she likes you.

     "I know she does,"
     he said.

Luny took another drag from his cigarette
and blew it out and pulled on his left ear.

     "Says she likes kids,
     says she'd like to have a bunch."

A bunch of kids, I said,
that's a lot of responsibility.

     "Yeah," he said,
     "I don't think I'd want more than five."








Back to style school

We haven't checked in with 9th century Chinese poet Sikong Tu in a while. He was the author of The Twenty-four Styles of Poetry in which he sought to define and illustrate through poems twenty-four different styles of poetry. Previously we've had The Placid Style, The Potent Style and The Natural Style. Here's a fourth style from among the twenty-four.


The Implicit Style

Without a single word
the essence is conveyed.
Without speaking of misery
a passionate sadness comes through.

It's true, someone hidden controls the world;
with that being you sink or float.
This style's like straining full-bodied wine
or like a flower near bloom retreating into bud.

It is dust in timeless open space,
is flowing, foaming sea spume,
shallow or deep, cohering, dispersing.
One out of a thousand contains all thousand.


(Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping)







Markers of grief that does not fade

Frequent contributor Jack Hill returns with this piece.


I wish it weren't December

I remember as though it were yesterday…
as a matter of truth,
I do not.
My Son said I was there!
Where other than there
would you be.

He said I wept
when it was time to go,
the priest left
long ago;
the workmen wanted to close,
I can't recall any more.

My daughter held my hand
where once was held by
her Mother.
She said I trembled.
God,
I wish it weren't December.








The Nolan Street Underpass Murals

How to explain this confused mess?

First, the Nolan Street Underpass graffiti mural was created as part of a community arts project near downtown on San Antonio's Eastside.

An Eastside community leader complained, after the fact, that the community was not consulted and that the murals did not reflect the vision of the community. What is certain is that this particular community leader was not consulted (though others were) and, as to the community vision, that's hard to tell since the community and its vision is in flux as artists, displaced from other art centers in the city due to housing and studio costs, move in.

What is also not in question is that this particular community leader knows how to work the system. She was able, through a city-sponsored graffiti clean up program, to get a cadre of young people to whitewash over the offending art. She was able to destroy about half the murals before someone with the city woke up and stopped her.

The murals went up in July. I first saw them a couple of months later while driving my wife to work on a day my car was in the shop. I knew I wanted pictures, but I was working and busy on weekends and on and on with a similar list of excuses, so I didn't get down to the site to make the photographs until last week, several weeks after the whitewashing.

But I did get these pictures, hard to take because of the size of the murals and the up and down slope of an underpass. This is what's left of the Nolan Street underpass murals.






































I do not have the names of any of the creators of these pieces. I do have the name of those responsible, by both commission and ommission, for the destruction of their work and I will not forget them.







Talk to the animals

I wrote this piece back in 2004. I used it in Seven Beats a Second with the revised title explaining it all to my dog Reba because, when first workshopping it, no one understood I was talking to my dog. Some even saw it as some kind of anti-female statement of male superiority. So, I changed it to make the dog element clear in the title.

I'm returning to the original title here because I never liked it the other way.


explaining it all to Reba

she stares

rapt

big brown eyes
wide, unblinking

hanging on every word
like it was God's own true
revelation she was hearing

and I'm thinking,
Christ,
I'm really on a roll tonight

submerging myself
in the techniques of instruction,
overwhelming myself
with my own higher-being brilliance







Love won then lost, what would we do without it

I saw this neat poem on lost love by Ray Sweatman on one of the poetry forums I visit and immediately wanted it for "Here and Now." I was very happy when Ray agreed to let me use it.

Ray has an MFA from Columbia University. He teaches ESL, is co- poetry editor with PJ Nights at from East to West and says he is still waiting for one more person to buy his book Nothing lit can leave from lulu.com , so he can afford to buy one for himself.

I told him I understood his predicament completely, sharing much the same situation with my own book.

Here's his poem.


So Much

It's easier to pinpoint when we fell
Harder though to know when it left

So much is our own grainy light dreams
Thrust out into the hope of space

So much is brick wall.








From those who have little, more is taken

And now, Gary Blankenship on the eighth commandment, the next poem in his series on the ten commandments.


Commandment VIII

You shall not steal.

They lived their life frugal,
with small saving enough
to send their kids to a decent college,
spoil their grandchildren,
keep the place mostly modern
and own an almost new car.

They seldom made a purchase
without a bona fide need in mind,
seldom bought anything frivolous,
though she had her collection
of inexpensive salt and pepper shakers
and he owned hats he seldom wore.

They lived their life in such a way
they should have lived in comfort
in their senior years, house paid for,
truck well maintained.

Until an "official notice"
that looked like an bill,
a contractor who did not finish,
warranty not honored,
televangelist scam

Until illness, an accident,
their memory faded

They were children
when a handshake was more
than enough to seal a deal.

They lived until a signature
was not worth the disappearing
ink it was written in.








The jazz poet

Jack Kerouac was born in Massachusetts in 1922 and he died in 1969.

He is considered the father of the Beat Generation. His work includes, most famously, On the Road, as well as The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, Lonesome Traveler, Desolation Angels, Dr. Sax and Mexico City Blues.

Kerouac said he wanted to be considered a jazz poet "blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam session on Sunday." It is said that, like many a jazz artist's solos, his improvisations were not always as spontaneous as he wanted us to believe they were and that he understood the merits of edits and revisions.


Mexico City Blues, 64th Chorus

I'd rather die than be famous,
I want to go live in the desert
With long wild hair, eating
At my campfire, full of sand,
Hard as a donut
Cooked by Sand
The Pure Land
     Moo Land
     Heavenland Righteous
     spring
     the thing

I'd rather be in the desert sand,
Sitting legs crossed, at lizard
High noon, under a wood
Board shelter, in the Dee Go
Desert, just west a L A,
Or even in Chihucha, dry
Zacatakies, High Guadalajara,
- absence of phantoms
 make me no king -

rather go in the high lone land
of plateau where you can hear
at night the zing of silence
from the halls of Assembled








Japanese poets, 7th-9th Centuries


Prince Otsu

Prince Otsu (663 - 686) was a Japanese poet and the son of Emperor Temmu.


On The Eve Of His Execution

The golden crow lights on the western huts;
Evening drums beat out the shortness of life.
There are no inns on the road to the grave -
Where is the house I go to tonight?


(Translated by Burton Watson)


Priest Sami Mansei

Almost like his poem, I can find nothing about Priest Sami Mansei except that he lived in the 8th century and, according to several sources, this poem is the only surviving example of his work.


Our Life In This World

Our life in this world -
to what shall I compare it?
It is like a boat
     rowing out at break of day,
leaving not a trace behind


(Translated by Steven D. Carter)


Ariwara no Narihira

Ariwara no Narihira (825 - 880) was a Japanese waka poet and aristocrat, linked through both maternal and paternal lineage to Emperor Kammu.


From The Ise Monatari

Regretting the Past

Is that not the moon?
And is not the spring the same
Spring of the old days?
My body is the same body -
Yet everything seems different.

Facing His Own Death

That is a road
Which some day we all travel
I had heard before,
Yet I never expected
To take it so soon myself.


(Translated by E. Vos)







Two French poets, 19th-20th centuries


Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire was born in Italy in 1880 but grew up speaking French and moved to France at an early age. He was a poet, writer, and art critic. Among the foremost poets of the early 20th century, he is credited with coining the word surrealism and writing in 1917 one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play Les Mamelles de Tirésias. Two years after being wounded in World War I, he died at 38 of the Spanish flu during a pandemic.


The Cavalier's Farewell

Oh God! what a lovely war
With its songs its long leisure hours
I have polished and polished this ring
The wind with your sign is mingling
Farewell! the trumpet call is sounding
He disappeared down the winding road
And died far off while she
Laughed at fate's surprises


(Translated by Anne Hyde Greet)


Jules Supervielle

Jules Supervielle was born in France of Basque lineage in 1884. He published twenty-nine volumes of poetry, and was admired by many of his contemporaries. He died in 1960.


Rain And The Tyrants

I stand and watch the rain
Falling in pools which make
Our grave old planet shine;
The clear rain falling, just the same
As that which fell in Homer's time
And that which dropped in Villon's day
Falling on mother and on child
As on the passive backs of sheep;
Rain saying all it has to say
Again and yet again, and yet
Without the power to make less hard
The wooden heads of tyrants or
To soften their stone hearts,
And powerless to make them feel
Amazement as they ought;
A drizzling rain which falls
Across all Europe's map,
Wrapping all men alive
In the same moist envelope;
Despite the soldiers loading arms,
Despite all this, all that,
A sower of drizzling rain
Making the flags hang wet


(Translated by David Gascoyne)






Year's end is a time for nostalgia

This is one of the first poems I wrote when I returned to writing in late 1998, based on an earlier draft written nearly 30 years earlier. It is an account of a trek across the Manzana Mountains near Albuquerque, New Mexico in late December, 1964. The poem was published in The Horsethief's Journal in early December, 1999, a couple of weeks short of thirty-five years after the events described actually occurred.

There was a mighty urge as I was posting this poem to rewrite it. I have, in fact, learned a few things about writing since the poem was done and many parts of it set my teeth on edge. But it is what it is, so I left it as it is. Whatever its many weaknesses as a poem, it is still for me a repository of some really good memories.

Leaving no cliche unturned, here it is.


December Passage

Through forested foothills we hiked,
through the evergreen cusp of mountain chill
and sun warmed December desert,
following an uphill twisting trail
cut by deer and bear and mountain cougar,
until the horizon stretched red below us
and stars flickered bright overhead.

On a rough and rocky slope we slept,
amid the whispering feral rustle of wild nocturnal life,
until, in the silence of dawn, we woke
under dim and gloomy skies.
Lightly falling snow was soon a flurry,
then a pale storm, then a curtain of white,
finally a cloak wrapped tight around us,
muffling he sights and sounds of our passage.
Through swirling white we trekked,
bucking our packs up a zigzag path, over the crest,
to a clearing covered by a mantle of snow,
protected from the frigid wind by encircling trees.
We rested for the night in this high refuge,
kindling a fire to warm our circled camp.
We turned our backs to the encroaching dark,
drawing close around the blaze and,
under a canopy of stars flickering in the black crystal ski,
shared the warm and radiant light of the jittering flames.
Later, secure in the glow of crackling embers,
we pulled the cold clear night around us and slept.

We woke to a blood-bracing cold,
in the pink-tinged dark that signals the approach of sunrise.
Dawn broke, still and silent,
and the air was clean and clear.
High, high overhead, the track of an invisible jet
sliced twin lines of white
across the deep, dark blue of the cold morning sky,
neatly thin lines at first, well-defined and stark,
then swelling into broad bands of gauzy white
that spread across the empyreal vault above us,
then dissipated and disappeared.
Like the contrails of the jet above us,
we began to stretch out along the trail
on the downhill passage,
drifting apart again,
the mountain's mystic kinship fading,
dissipating
under the centrifugal force of journey's end.



Jeez, I don't want to beat myself up too much, but this is really not so good.

If nothing else, reading it again does make me feel better about what I'm writing now. I was very fortunate when I first returned to writing in 1998-99 to hook up with the original Blueline Poetry Forum where I became part of a comunity of poets who could help me work through a piece like this and on to something better. The original Blueline is no longer with us, but many other poetry and arts forums are. I know that most of the readers of "Here and Now" openly admit to being writers, but if there are also any secret, shy or otherwise reticent writers reading this, I urge you to go on-line and find a forum that works for you. If you wish to become better, you must expose your work (and yourselves) to people who face the same struggles as you.

It is risky business, this laying yourself open to the possible embarassment of serious critique. But it does not help you to become a better writer if no one reads your writing. It also does not help you if the only people who read your work are afraid to be honest with their response. And, finally and most importantly, it does not help if you cannot listen to such honest response to your work with an open and willing mind.

We are all learners in life, at everything we do. Such a waste if we don't get better at life with each living day.







But I can't leave without a couple of self-inflicted attaways to stave off the competition for Dora from the guy with the big hat

I had poems published in four journals December, one I already mentioned two weeks ago, and three more since then.

First, I have a poem in the latest Loch Raven Review here at

http://www.lochravenreview.net/2006winter/index.html


The title of the poem is calendars. This is a really nice zine and I'm always pleased when they accept my work.

I also have two poems in the journal Dispatch. Their url is

http://litdispatch.net/dp/three/index.html


The poems are I’ll let you know when on pages 25-26 and Java Notes, Scene 1 on page 41. Dispatch is a new (this only the third issue) and very ambitious journal. I expect to continue to submit to them and hope they'll take at least some of what I send.

This issue is some 140 or so pages and you have to download it to read it. I downloaded it and nothing blew up, so, for the sake of the risk-adversive when it comes to downloading from the internet, it appears safe.

Also, I have four poems in the new issue of The Angry Poet, three that are new and one (storm brewing) that they held over from the last issue. The three new poems are it's all about me, the weight of a butterfly, multiplied and wolves at the door. You can go directly to my page in the journal at this url.

http://www.theangrypoet.com/writings/poetry/itz/


I like The Angry Poet. It appeals to my usually submerged anarchist instincts.

All three of these journals are on the links list on the right of this page.

Until next time.

1 Comments:
at 12:12 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

allen,
another excellent blog. I love your photographs

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Sunrise, Christmas Day, 2006, San Antonio, Texas   Monday, December 25, 2006





Our best wishes
To you for a
Happy Holiday
Of your choice
&
Peace and Joy
Throughout the New Year
For You
&
All you hold dear









We'll be back with regular stuff next week. In the meantime....







cheers
tuya

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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.


Suicide Hill

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
insistently
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
while
but I think
I remember
how to do it

first
in no particular order
paper
pen
and I'm all ready
like a rooster cocked
to crow

now to
begin

now...

well
maybe not
exactly
now

maybe tomorrow
or maybe even
the day
after








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.


excuses

once again
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
installed,
or as soon as they move to a new
city,
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
and "soon"
would turn quickly into
"now"








But, on the other hand, he also says this


Buddha Chinaski Says

sometimes
you have to take
a step or
two
back,
re-
treat

take a month off

don't
do anything
don't
want to
do anything

peace is
paramount
pace is paramount

whatever
you want
you aren't going to
get
it by
trying too
hard.

take
ten years
off

you'll
be stronger

take
twenty years
off

you'll
be much
stronger

there's nothing to
win
anyhow

and
remember
the second best thing in
the world
is
a good night's
sleep

and
the best:
a gentle
death.

meanwhile
pay
your gas
bill
if you can
and
stay out of
arguments with the
wife








Another icon of the lost days

I don't do slams; Allen Ginsberg did it all.


Bop Sh'bam

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
In double-time

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
Peek-a-boo-boo








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.


Frustration

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
spoken thought
As it happens immediately
uttered into the air
Not held inside and rolled
around for some properly
schemed moment
Not sent to circulate a cane
field
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 plaza
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
the mind
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
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
firebrick
moving
tense
unheeded
to gong clangs
siren howls
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
     kingdom
there have been no nails for a long time there aren't and
     won't be
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
        heavenly bodies
     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


Commandment VII

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.

his secretions,
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
study
at the coffee shop,
a blond girl
maybe twenty years old,
reminding me
of the plain girl
in the old movies
who turns out to be
Kim Novak
when she takes off
her glasses
and lets down
her hair

but this girl
is not Kim Novak,
she is just a girl,
at ease,
studying for
finals, concentrating
on her book with
highlighter poised
to pin down in her memory
forever,
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
(it's hard
to keep secrets
when you're
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

I
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,
perfume a-wing
          Like a shower of myrrh
Descending on Egypt.

Let us watch my handiwork,
The two of us, together in the fields.

II
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?

III
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

IV
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.

V
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.








Entanglements

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
your love?

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,
insists:
"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.


Acting

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
like outfielders
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.

1 Comments:
at 4:19 PM Blogger michi said...

ah, so many lovely words. thanks for the auden. i pass by the house where he died sometimes.

m

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Loch Raven Review
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