Such A Dark Road We Travel Now
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Welcome to "Here and Now" number II.1.5.
We begin this week with one of Robert Frost's best known poems.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
His all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But there are no cows,
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't like a wall,
That wants it down," I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Gary Blankenship returns with the tenth, though not last, poem in his series on the Ten Commandments.
You can learn more about Gary and his work by clicking on the link to his website to the right of this page.
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet
your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant,
nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.
I do not envy his SUV,
house with views of both the rising and setting sun
pedigree cat and best of show dog
pool boy and gardener
secretary and nanny
second trophy wife
Instead I covet the peace
that we imagine existed
among the ancients
but never did
and will not again
A little love poem doesn't hurt every now and again. I wrote this one seven or eight years ago. It was finally published in 2003 in The Muse Apprentice.
anniversary thoughts on a winter night
the cold night seeps
through the window
beside our bed,
damp, coastal cold
that makes midnight fog
fall to the ground,
reflecting in the pale light
like the tiny sparkles
of broken glass
you see scattered
on the street
after an accident
when I brush against it,
is a cold jolt
that pushes me across the bed
to lie closer to you,
to wrap myself around you,
embracing your warmth
like an animal
drawing tight around itself,
seeking the internal fire
of its own beating heart
to protect itself
from the cold hand
are my fire tonight
and nights past
and nights to come,
the warm nest that saves me
from cold and loveless nights,
the light that sustains me
through dark and lonely days
are the center of life and warmth for me
and so I am
William Heyen is an American poet, editor, and literary critic. He taught American literature and creative writing for over 30 years before retiring in 2000. He also briefly served as Director of the Brockport Writers Forum, a series of readings by and video interviews with numerous American and international authors.
His books of poetry include Depth of Field, Noise in the Trees, The Swastika Poems, Long Island Light), Erika: Poems of the Holocaust, Pterodactyl Rose, Crazy Horse In Stillness, Pig Notes & Dumb Music: Prose on Poetry, and Diana, Charles, & the Queen. He also authored a novel, Vic Holyfield and the Class of '57.
This poem is from another of his books, Lord Dragonfly.
A crow's black squawk -
my white field lost again.
I clod across the field.
From the outer world,
a siren, and a dog's
In high snow,
which way the root,
which way the tip
of the bramble arch?
the frozen field.
In the long, lowest needles
of white pine,
frozen in urine.
White moon shell,
and a single gull
flying toward me
My cabin within,
I close my eyes to find it.
My footprints already
in front of me,
I walk toward the other world.
I address the door,
pray, once more,
for that opening
Pine chair cold,
World, mind, words -
wax, wick, matches.
Under my cabin,
To see the white sea,
I and my old pen knife
scrape a porthole
in the frosted window.
my own footsteps
drifting with snow.
What kind of blood
in the red-twig dogwood?
St. Francis now a spruce
into his dark boughs.
Logic, logic -
trillions of intricate hexagons.
From another time
at fields edge
the first ash
veiled in a dream
in falling snow.
mote of male blood
in the winter ash.
Under the snow,
insects speeding to summer.
frost my window.
I am thirty-eight.
Evening is dawning.
I place this cabin
in your begging bowl.
Dying, the brain
In the end,
the Milky Way's stars.
Candlebeam and dust,
river and fish,
as long as they last.
Blue stars in the blue snow
over the elm stump.
In the window,
holding out their arms
my mother and father,
above, within, beyond the field.
I have come to have
everything, but now
weep in chapels
under the spruce boughs.
Even winter evenings
spores of black knot killer
of cherry, plum, and apple
drift over the field,
but will anchor.
Verdun, Belsen, Jonestown - still,
from indwelling darkness, human
music, a summons
A boy, I killed these sparrows
whose tsweet, tsweet now
enters my cabin,
I still hear
the summer woodpecker, red
godhead hammering holes
into my heartwood.
How long have I been here,
scent of pinesap
flowing through my chair?
Milky Way nowhere in sight,
moon hidden, all
earth gone -
there is a life, this one,
beyond the body.
According to Portuguese poet Eugenio de Andrade, he wrote this poem January 3, 1989 in memory of Chico Mendes, Brazilian organizer of Sustainable Rain Forest Campaign and leader of local rubber tappers. Mendez was born December 15, 1944 and, according to Andrade, murdered December 22, 1988 by powerful Amazonian ranchers due to his opposition to rain forest destruction.
In Memory of Chico Mendes
News comes from Brazil, Chico
Mendes has been killed, his death
wraps itself now in the first frosts,
even sorrow makes no sense,
the ball continues circling in orbit, one day
it will explode, the universe will then be cleaner.
For fun, here are a few short pieces by Marcus Valerius Martialis, known in English as Martial, Matrial was a Latin poet from Hispania best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. In these short, witty poems he cheerfully satirizes city life and the scandalous activities of his acquaintances, and romanticizes his provincial upbringing. He had a keen sense of curiosity and power of observation which bring to life the spectacle and brutality of daily life in imperial Rome.
Here He Is Whom You Read And Clamor For
Here he is whom you read and clamor for,
tasteful reader, the very Martial world-
renowned for pithy books of epigrams
and not even dead yet. So seize your chance:
better to praise him when he can hear
than later, when he'll be literature
(Translated by William Matthews)
You Are A Stool Pigeon
You are a stool pigeon and
A slander, a pimp and
A cheat, a pederast and
A troublemaker. I can't
Understand, Vacerra, why
You don't have more money.
(Translated by Kenneth Rexroth)
You Sold A Slave Just Yesterday
You sold a slave just yesterday
for twelve hundred sesterces, Cal;
at last the lavish dinner you've
long dreamed about is in the pan.
Tonight! Fresh Mullet, four full pounds!
You know I'll not complain, old pal,
about the food. But that's no fish
we'll eat tonight: that was a man.
Ted's Studio Burnt Down
Ted's studio burnt down, with all his poems.
Have the muses hung their heads?
You bet, for it was criminal neglect
not also to have sauteed Ted.
Oh If The Gods Would Make Me Rich
"oh if the gods would make me rich," you said -
gods like a joke, and so they did -
"I'd show you all what living's for,"
But you dress like a scarecrow and your shoes
are patched. From ten olives you
set six aside; you stretch one scant dinner
until it's two. The tepid pondslime
you call pea soup; the bilge you drink for wine,
the lank, parched whores you call amours -
you call this squandering? You anal lout,
act rich or else restore the gods their loot
before they haul you into court.
(Poems Translated by William Matthews
You've planted seven wealthy husbands
While the bodies were still warm.
You own, Chloe, what I'd call
A profit-making farm.
(Translated by Fred Chappell)
I wrote this piece several years ago, as one in the series of poems with female names in the title that I mentioned last week. The poem was published in Eclectica in 2002, then is included in my book Seven Beats a Second.
flying a kite with Katie
and loops the loop,
a blue and white kite
against a blue and white sky
brown on brown,
with white teeth
flashing with laughter
at the glory of the day
she holds the string
pulls as the kite begins to stall
lets loose when a gust of summerwind
lifts the kite and takes it toward the clouds
and I hold her,
not so tight, she says,
this is hard to do, she says,
back off so I can concentrate, she says
and I back away
as a great flurry of winds comes,
billows her dress against her back and legs
and she seems to fly like the kite away from me.
Arlene Ang lives in Spinea, Italy. She is the author of The Desecration of Doves and is the recipient of The 2006 Frogmore Poetry Prize. Her website is at www.leafscape.org/aang and can be reached directly through the link on the right.
This piece is from her book.
Evenings when squid-spat meringue clouds
swim across the full moon,
rain seems so imminent
you taste wet soil on your tongue.
Even the noon wash struggles against drought.
If you watch from your window
hands trapped in grillwork,
if you watch with 13-year old eyes
that still mirror blotches on wet beds,
the wind is Paganini playing
the clothesline while thunder gates
of hell open behind the sky stage
This approaching storm has so much
the feel of war, something you've dined with
as spectator whose appetite for bad news
increases with every meal.
In the backyard, victims are grass,
the procession of torn marguerites,
pegs flying like shrapnel, dried leaves.
Here from fenced life behind the glass
you watch your mother run
in an effort to rescue clothes,
her pleas for help
a silent movie you've watched so many times
you forget to laugh.
Alcaeus of Mytilene, born in the 6th century BC, was a Greek lyric poet and an older contemporary and an alleged lover of Sappho. He was born into the aristocratic governing class of Mytilene, the main city of Lesbos, where his life was entangled with its political disputes and internal feuds. A man of military experience, he had a somewhat different view of the beautiful Helen.
Her Heart So Stricken
....Her heart so stricken, Helen
clutched her breast and wept for Paris
as he, in turn, deceived his host;
and she stole away on his boat,
abandoning her child and her husband's bed....
And now how many brothers of Paris
lie planted in black earth
across the plains of Troy?
All for that woman, chariots ground to dust,
noble, olive-skinned men all slaughtered
on her behalf.
(Translated by Sam Hamill)
In high school, Edward Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology was my favorite. My preference in reading has always been toward narrative (in music, it's melody, another kind of narrative) and Spoon River delivered, not just one story, but pages and pages of short stories and their characters.
The problem is how to pick just one. By judgment of the dart, here's Masters' story of Windell P. Bloyd.
Wendell P. Bloyd
They first charged me with disorderly conduct,
There being no statute on blasphemy,
Later they locked me up as insane
Where I was beaten to death by a Catholic guard.
My offense was this:
I said God lied to Adam, and destined him
To lead the life of a fool,
Ignorant that there is evil in the world as well as good.
And when Adam outwitted God by eating the apple
And saw through the lies
God drove him out of Eden to keep him from taking
The fruit of immortal life.
For Christ's sake, you sensible people,
Here's what God Himself says about it in the book of Genesis:
"And the Lord God said, behold the man
Is become as one of us" (a little envy, you see),
"To know good and evil" (The all-is-good lie exposed:
"And now lest he put forth his hand and take
Also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever:
Therefore the Lord God sent Him forth from the Garden of Eden."
(The reason I believe God crucified His Own Son
To get out of the wretched tangle is because it sounds just like Him.)
I wrote this several years ago. It appeared in very nice, but shortlived, journal Experimentia in 2002.
god smites an infidel
how like a god am I
passing my days and nights
in a blur of godly thought
particular to my godly sphere
crawling on my steering wheel
a single sugar ant trudges
with antish concentration
making his antly way
across his antly world
with hardly a break in my celestial
I cock a distracted thumb
and squash the buggly creature
wipe his jellied remains
on my pants
and continue my meditations
so like a god am I
sailing supremely through
my sunny universe of me
Jack Kerouac with a memory of his father.
My father, Leo Alcide Kerouac
Comes in the door of the porch
On the way out to to downtown red,
(where Neons Redly Brownly Flash
An aura over the city center
As seen from the river where we lived)
-- "Prap - prohock!" he's coughing,
Busy. "Am," bursting to part
the seams of his trousers with power
of assembled intentions.
"B-rrack - Brap?"
(as years later GJ would imitate him,
"your father, Zagg, he goes along,
Bre-hack! Brop?" Raising
his leg, bursting his face
to rouge outpop huge mad eyes
of "big burper balloons
of the huge world")
To see if there's any mail in the box
My father shoots 2 quick glances
Into all hearts of the box,
No mail, you see the flash of his anxious
Head looking in the void for nothing.
Howard Moss was an American poet, dramatist, and critic. He was poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine from 1948 until his death in 1987. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1971 and the National Book Award in 1972 for Selected Poems.
Moss was born in New York City. He attended the University of Michigan, where he won a Hopwood Award. He is credited with discovering a number of major American poets.
News from the Border
The fishermen lug in their nets, the take's
Too small, the natural's shunted aside
For derricks busy recouping the wastes
Of the limitless profits of coal and oil.
Barely able to reach the dunes
(The other half of the parenthesis
in reverse). the waves have had years of going
on like this. As blue as gas,
The lights up, goes out, The breakers
Pursue a few mad screaming gulls,
Mean little beasts hooked on garbage.
And further along, there's the hotel's
Honeycomb windows looking out to sea,
A tray of ice-cubes, each with its sniper.
Yet the summer clients stay faithful:
For instance, in Room 608,
Ms. Minerva, a former goddess, is keen
On not getting up. "One day," she threatens,
"Is so like another that one will come
When I won't even try at all. Brandy?"
But others are dying like Florida love-bugs
On beaches so covered with freighter fat
That even birds evolutionally adjusted
To the profit motive are saying, "We can’t
Take it anymore," In South America,
An orchid enthusiast has stupidly mated
A gentle species in love with itself
Canadian poet Don Schaeffer returns with two new poems. Don can be heard reading some of his poems at http://members.shaw.ca/enthalpypress/sunless.MP3.
I wake up
before the short Winter day
separates from its night,
I monitor the air
telescope my eye,
on guard for the entrance of a dark path.
In the sixty-seventh year,
the first year of
irreversibles, most healing, for the first time,
will not have time to finish.
The people that know me
in real life, the ones I
see all the time, some of them
speak and others never do,
known strangers, breathers and
belchers. I hear a Wurlitzer organ
and taste a thick soup, a folk soup like borscht.
When I was in Smitty's today
and asked him, the waiter told me
yes he worked there for many years,
there and another place. I told him,
you don't know me, but I watched you grow older,
seeing you about 40 times since my
children were toddlers and we
carried out own potty seat into the restaurant.
Some of them are gray,
the ones who can ramble on about the cost of bath soap.
I apologize for thinking that. We speak
Stranger to stranger, within the radius, within the
borders of the town, sometimes brusquely other times
like people who pass through time together.
Jan Emmens was a Dutch poet, art historian and cofounder of the literary magazine Tirade It is said that in his poems, essays, and aphorisms, he tried, by means of intellectualism, irony, and self-mockery, to come to terms with his own vulnerability.
Born in 1924, he committed suicide in 1971.
The Lion of Judah
Now that I know so much, I know better
that I feel much less, only
sometimes I've a hankering to be
the Lion of Judah, Cuirassier
of eighteen-thirty, frog in the Achterhoek,
a queer mug altogether, Sinbad's Roc,
townclerk of Amalfi in eleven-eighty.
I see of course that this is out of the question,
and rake with care at my garden, astounding myself
over a pebble, three ants and a sparrow
who feels uneasy in all that silence.
Here's another poem by Arlene Ang, this one the title piece for her book The Desecration of Doves mentioned earlier.
The Desecration of Doves
Diana always entered through the back door.
She reanimated the pall-grave mother we never knew
on a pay-by-day basis while Father maneuvered
lightning deals, the thunder of his Land Rover
rarely announced his return. He never found out
he had hired the Huntress. We followed her like geldings
until she caged us behind the kitchen window,
spectators who had much to learn of delicate craft.
In rare moments of sadness, Father would mention doves.
The bevy in the yard was the only feathered trace of Mother
in our memory. Diana taught us to lure them with corn
towards out hands, then the nanosecond art of twisting necks.
The stench of feathers dipped in boiling water
was cleansing before the ritual -
blood down the sink, approaching fire,
a simmering of sauces. For hours, she slow-cooked
meat and bones while the neighbor's cat
devoured heads, spat out beaks in the tiled floor.
We dressed as little deities for dinner.
And doves, served in individual plates, were ambrosia.
Bukowski reflects on the importance of a good night.
fighting with women
playing the horses
sometimes I get too exhausted
to even feel bad
it's then that
listening to the radio
or reading a newspaper
the toilet looks kind
the bathtub looks kind
the faucets and the sink
I feel this way tonight
the sound of an airplane overhead
voices outside are
gentle and kind.
now I am content and
I watch my cigarette smoke
work up through the lamp shade
and all the people I have wronged
have forgiven me
but I know that I will go mad
I need good nights like this
you need them too.
no bridge would be
Some weeks ago I mentioned the movie Hard Candy and the incredible, raging, incendiary performance of its lead actress Ellen Page playing a 14 year old intended victim (maybe/maybe not as it turns out) of a pedophile. Nothing I've seen this year matched the mesmerizing intensity of her performance in this movie.
The performance did not go completely unnoticed, with Page selected as best actress of the year by the Austin Film Critics Association. Not one of the big time awards, I suppose, but Austin critics see a lot of movies, especially indies, associated with the annual South by Southwest event so they are not undiscerning on the subject of movies and superior performances.
Giuseppe Ungaretti is recognized as one of the foremost Italian poets of the 20th century. He was born in Egypt in 1888 into a Jewish family from Italy. In 1912 he moved to Paris, where he studied for a few years. In 1914 he joined the Italian army and fought in World War.
Two of his poems, Soldiers - War - Another War and Vanity were made into song by American composer Harry Partch (Intrusions, 1949-50).
He died in Milan in 1970.
All night long
my dead friend
(he with white teeth
gnashed in a grin
at the pale moon
he with stiff hands
the darkest zone
of my own silence)
I have been writing
I have never
felt so much
Sometimes, the Poetry Fairy comes through with a poem and sometimes she just leaves me to brood alone in an empty room.
a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and a can of sardines
but the gray fog
does not clear
I study the scene around me
and watch and watch
as if by watching hard enough
I can make the poem
like on a dialogue board
in an old silent movie
it works sometimes,
but not today;
all is as dull
and many days before
best I give it up for now
and write a grocery list
One of the benefits of having children is that you get to read Dr. Seuss aloud, with all the gusto and fun he deserves, without feeling self-conscious.
Here's my favorite of all the Seuss stories.
Yertle the Turtle
On the far-away Island of Sala-ma-Sond,
Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.
A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.
The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.
The turtles had everything turtles might need.
And they were all happy, Quite happy, indeed.
They were....until Yertle, the king of them all,
Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small.
"I'm ruler," said Yertle, "of all that I see,
But I don't see enough. That's the trouble with me.
With this stone for a throne, I look down on my pond
But I cannot look down on the places beyond.
This throne that I sit on is too, too low down.
It ought to be higher," he said with a frown.
"If I could sit high, how much greater I'd be!
What a king! I'd be ruler of all I could see!"
So Yertle the Turtle King, lifted his hand
and Yertle the Turtle King, gave a command.
He ordered nine turtles to swim to his stone
And, using these turtles, he built a new throne.
He made each turtle stand on another one's back
And he piled them all up in a nine-turtle stack.
And then Yertle climbed up. He sat on the pile.
What a wonderful view! He could see 'most a mile!
"All mine!" Yertle cried. "Oh the things I now rule!
I'm king of a cow! And I'm king of a mule!
I'm king of a house! And, what's more, beyond that,
I'm king of a blueberry bush and a cat!
I'm Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!"
And all through the morning, he sat there up high
Saying over and over, "A great king am I!"
Until 'long about noon. Then he heard a faint sigh
"What's that?" snapped the king
And he lookes down the stack
And he saw, at the bottom, a turtle named Mack,
Just a part of his throne. And this plain little turtle
Looked up and he said, "Beg your pardon, King Yertle.
I've pains in my back and my shoulders and knees.
How much longer must we stand here, Your Majesty, please?"
"SILENCE!" the King of the Turtles barked back.
"I'm king, and you're only a turtle named Mack."
"You stay in your place while I sit here and rule.
I'm king of a cow! And I'm king of a mule!
I'm king of a house! And a bush! And a cat!
But that isn't all. I'll do better than that!
My throne shall be higher!" his royal voice thundered,
"So pile up more turtles! I want 'bout two hundred!"
"Turtles! More turtles!" he bellowed and brayed.
And the turtles 'way down in the pond were afraid.
They trembled. They shook. But they came. They obeyed.
From all over the pond, they came swimming by dozens.
Whole families of turtle, with uncles and cousins.
And all of them stepped on the head of poor Mack.
One after another, they climbed up the stack.
THEN Yertle the Turtle was perched up so high,
He could see forty miles from his throne in the sky!
"Hooray!" shouted Yertle. "I'm king of the bees!
I'm king of the butterflies! King of the air!
Ah, me! What a throne! What a wonderful chair!
I'm Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!"
Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
"You Majesty, please....I don't like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can't stand it. Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food. We are starving!" groaned Mack.
"You hush up your mouth!" howled the mighty King Yertle.
"You've no right to talk to the world's highest turtle.
I rule from the clouds! Over land! Over sea!
There's nothing, no NOTHING, that's higher than me!"
But while he was shouting, he saw with surprise
That the moon of the evening was starting to rise
Up over his head in the darkening skies.
"What's THAT?" snorted Yertle. "Say, what IS that thing
That dares to be higher than Yertle the King?
I shall not allow it! I'll go higher still!
I'll build my throne higher! I can and I will!
I'll call some more turtles. I'll stack 'em to heaven!
I need about five thousand, six hundred and seven!"
But, as Yertle, the Turtle King, lifted his hand
And started to order and give the command,
That plain little turtle below in the stack,
That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he'd taken enough, And he had.
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
And his burp shook the throne of the king!
And Yertle the Turtle, the king of the trees,
The king of the air and the birds and the bees,
The king of a house and a cow and a mule.....
Well, that was the end of the Turtle King's rule!
For Yertle, the King of all Sala-ma-Sond,
Fell off his high throne and fell Plunk! in the pond!
And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course....all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.
A note for San Antonio readers before we leave for the week, artist and poet Lawrence Trujillo will have paintings up at the Keller-Rihn Studio on the 2nd story of the Blue Star Arts Complex next Friday, February 2nd. That will be the First Friday for February.
For those outside San Antonio, First Friday is a monthly arts event in San Antonio centered around the downtown King William and Southtown districts. Lots of good stuff goes on.
The Blue Star Arts Complex, an adaptation of historic warehouse buildings into an arts-oriented mixed use development of loft/studio apartments, galleries, retail, performance spaces, artists' work spaces, and design offices, in addition to its various ongoing gallery shows and activities, is a major participant in every First Friday.
LAST MINUTE SCHEDULE CHANGE: Lawrence's show scheduled for February 2nd has been postponed. Instead of his work appearing as a part of a larger show, it will hang in a couple of weeks in a show dedicated to just his work.
To see samples of Lawrence's work, click on his website link on the right.
That's it. Back again next week.