Winter Night to Winter Day   Sunday, February 25, 2007




Healthy and, once again, freed from the obligation to support that capitalist Good Fairy they call the global economy, this number II.2.4 issue of "Here and Now" is sure to be a humdinger, or, at least, a dinger.







First, more from Alice Folkart. This is the first of several of Alice's poems we will be featuring this week.


Yeah, it's nice.

Nothing of trees or sky have I seen today,
nor birds, nor bugs, nor rising sun,
from my all-business, no nonsense office,
but, finally freed, I hurry home
thinking of dinner and a glass of wine,
and telling myself, no, first
you walk and breathe and stretch.

So I slip on my old shoes
my soft gray tee, tattered red sweatshirt,
blue windbreaker from the Salvation Army,
and head out into the sunset wind,
soon cold and dark and fresh.
Clouds piling themselves up above our hill,
trying to make a storm, seem important,
but they're nothing much but pretty.

On the home stretch, striding down the middle
of a shadowed, quiet street,
a man arriving home from work, parks,
gets out, slams the door, and, courteously says,
"Hi, there." To which, I reply, "Isn't it nice?"
Feeling immediately silly and inept until
he answers, looking about him, as if he had
just landed on this planet, "Yeah, Yeah, it's nice!"








Everybody's talking about immigration these days. Actually, everybody's talking too much about immigration, in my opinion. But that's not always true. Here's some talk on immigration by Puerto Rican poet Victor Hernandez Cruz that I like a lot.

The poem is from his book Red Beans.


Snaps of Immigration

1
I remember the fragrance of
the Caribbean scent that anchors into the
ports of technology.

2
I dream with suitcases
full of illegal fruits
Interned between white
guayaberas that dissolved
into snowflaked polyester.

3
When we saw the tenements
our eyes turned backwards
to the miracle of scenery
at the supermarket
My mother caressed the
Parsley.

4
We came in the middle of winter
from another time
We took a trip into the future
A fragment of another planet
To a place where time flew
As if clocks had coconut oil
put on them.

5
Rural mountain dirt walk
Had to be adjusted to cement
pavement
The new city finished the
concrete supply of the world
Even the sky was cement
The streets were made of shit.

6
The past was dissolving like
sugar at the bottom of a coffee cup
That small piece of earth that we habitated
Was somewhere in a television
Waving in space.

7
From beneath the ice
From beneath the cement
From beneath the tar
From beneath the pipes and wires
Came the cucurucu of the roosters.

8
People wrote letters as if they
were writing the scriptures
Penmanship of woman who made
tapestry with their hands
Cooked criollo post
Fashioned words of hope and longing
Men made ink out of love
And saw their sweethearts
Wearing yellow dresses
Reaching from the balcony
To the hands of the mailman.

9
At first English was nothing
but sound
Like trumpets doing yakity yak
As we found meanings for the words
We noticed that many times the
letters deceived the sound
What could we do
It was the language of a
foreign land.








A few short Vietnamese poems from the 11th century.


From Van Hanh (d.1018)


The Body of Man

The body of man is like a flicker of lightning
existing only to return to Nothingness.
Like the spring growth that shrivels in autumn.
Waste no thought on the process for it has no purpose,
coming and going like the dew.



Man Giac (b.1051 - d.1096)

Spring goes, and the hundred flowers.
Spring comes, and the hundred flowers.
My eyes watch things passing,
my head fills with years.
But when spring has gone not all the flowers follow.
Last night a plum branch blossomed by my door.



(Poems translated by Nguyen Ngoc Bich with W. S. Merwin


From Khoung Viet (c.1050)


Wood and Fire

Deep inside wood sleeps primal fire.
Set free, it kindles back to life.
If there's no fire locked up in wood,
where does a tinder's spark come from?


(Translated by Huynh Sanh Thong)



From Doa Van Kham (c.1090)


Remembering Priest Quang Tri

Though you fled the Capital for the woods,
your name came back - fragrance from the hills.
I used to dream of being your disciple;
Then the news; You're gone, our door is shut.
Only sad birdcries in the empty moonlight outside your hut.
Reverend friends, do not grieve. Look round the temple.
In rivers and mountains, his face still shines.



From Trn Nhan-tong


Spring View

The willows trail such glory that the birds are struck dumb.
Evening clouds balance above the eave-shaded hall.
A friend comes, not for conversation,
But to lean on the balustrade and watch the turquoise sky.


(Poems translated by Nguyen Ngoe Bich)







As challenge coordinator on an on-line poetry workshop called The Blueline, I try to come up with a new writing challenge every month for the poets who post in the workshop.

One I like to do every now and then is a Barku challenge because writing Barkus is both simple and a tension reliever. They"re also fun.

The story behind the Barku began about a year ago at the Ruta Maya coffee shop on the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio. I had forgotten to bring my notebook with me, so I was trying to write a poem on a cocktail napkin.

Eureka!!

What we need, I thought, is a new poetic form that fits on a bar napkin. So I invented the Barku, succinct and compressed in the spirit of the Haiku, but with slightly different and simpler rules.

I calculated that, to fit perfectly on a bar napkin a Barku should have no more and no less than 10 words on no more and no less than 6 lines.

So, ten words on six lines - no other rules.

Here are some Barkus written in response to the Barku Challenge. If you want to look at other responses, click on the Blueline link on the right, then go to the "Challenge Forum."


From Ellen Kombiyil (A first-timer on "Here and Now," writing from India.


Summer Barku

quick-quick
barefoot
back home
through streets
of hot
asphalt



from Rhonda Maltbie (Another "Here and Now" first-timer)


moonlight

moist windows -
blue eyes
trace
the curvature
of wet
skin



From Dan Cuddy


Diner Barkus

1) napkins
folded
neatly
while light
spots circles
of silent conversations

2) hammy
waitress
rumping
back and forth
kitchen door
always swinging

3) eggs
frying
whites
bubbling
yolks sitting pretty
like blonde babes



From Alice Folkart


Morning Ritual

get up
coffee
dress
coffee
go out
for more coffee


Introspection

I Meditate,
thoughtful eyes
half-closed,
focussed
on meaningless
cold toes


Reading the List of War Dead

Young.
All dead.
Blown
up,
laid down.
Stars
and stripes.



From Jack Hill


Barku morning

Sun Rose
As silent
Thunder
Morning glories
In cleansing
Dew



From Mary Jo Caffery


Barku Tries

Cranes
dance in
cornfield stubble
plie and pirouette
ageless
ritual

Juncos hunt
scattered seeds
in snow
gleaners
with
folded wings



From Gary Blankenship


squirrels

grey squirrels
search
for acorns
under
the housecat"s
watchful eye


barku from oz

Hot, fires,
bloody smokey.
Rain needed.
"Send her
down,
Hughie!"




From Susan McDonough (A "Here and Now" first timer, Sue splits her writing time between the Sonoran Desert and the southern coast of Maine.)


In Moments

early
spring rains
find an escape
from
ever cloudy
confines

spirits
wrung damp
leave air misted
their dusty
goblins
rearranged



And, of course, if you're going to give a challenge, you ought to be willing to take a challenge. So here are some Barkus I wrote.


Animal House

1. Kitty Pride

sleeps
all day
wakes
at night
to steal my
pillow

2. Peanut

frantic
for attention
thinks peeing
on carpets
an Olympic
sport

3. Reba

soft eyed
peace
keeper
comes to intercede
when people
shout


reelect Al Gore

1. climate change

hot
cold
cold
then hot
don't know
what to wear


2. selective service

wars fought
by
fools
who sought them are
extraordinarily
rare


3. what a mix

curiosity
honor
serious thought
depends on neither
lies
nor tricks








This is the title piece from William Heyen's book Lord Dragonfly. As with much of his work, there is a dreamlike quality to it, intermitent flashes of dream that, taken together, tell a story. I like the technique and the way it all comes together for him.


Lord Dragonfly


i.

A friend dies.
Another,
forcing the lilac to flower.

ii.

in a corner of the field, wild
grapevine climbs a lightning
groove in the ash trunk.
Where are the dead?


iii.

In the field's drizzle and gloom,
soft-glowing sheaths,
the souls of spikes
of goldenrod..


iv.

Breaking the field I find
a ring of round white stones,
gift of the glacier.


v.

As I dig, the old apple stump
tries pulling itself deeper
by its last root.


vi.

Inside the windfall apple
tunnels of bees
singing.


vii.

I'm glad,
grasshopper of my childhood,
you've grown your legs back.


viii.

Pure white found
a wild rose to live in,
for now.


ix.

Half the mantis still
prays on my scythe blade..


x.

In the mowed field,
a million crickets for hire.
My steps are money.


xi.

My wife away.
In a garden furrow,
I find her lost earring.


xii.

Lord Dragonfly
sees me from all sides
at once.


xiii.

Pear blossoms
sift the same air
as last year.


xiv.

No one has ever
seen snow fall here,
until next year.


xv.

The hummingbird whirrs,
only its ruby
throat feathers clear


xvi.

curves of the summer pepper
lit with every green.


xvii.

With trees overhead,
where is the void?


xviii.

One red cardinal,
one gray cardinal,
three cinnamon-spotted eggs.


xix.

I am safe here,
not a friend in sight.


xx.

I lean on my shovel,
trusting the field.


xxi.

Playing dead,
Japanese beetles tumble
from a skeleton leaf.


xxii.

Already morning glory
tendrils circle
my shovel's handle.


xxiii.

Beneath its tassels
an ear of corn
erupts in fungus,
the blackest light.


xxiv.

When I look for him,
he is away,
finding another home,
the borer that killed my poplar.


xxv.

Prune for shade.


xxvi.

Rooted,
the trees are green islands
in fog
in the shifting field.


xxvii.

Sunflower, my lamp,
on such a rainy day.


xxviii.

Tree-man
carrying branches
of silver maple
I walk through the storm.


xxix.

Evening: time to level
the frantic ant hill,
the field's brain.


xxx.

Meteor shower -
a little more, or less,
of the Lord.


xxxi.

Outside at night
I close my eyes:
the lost chestnuts' roots
luminous underground.


xxxii.

This western corner of the field,
this grove of ash -
if there were a place....


xxxiii.

Beetle's cargo:
heaviness?
happiness?
Neither, nor
both together.


xxxiv.

In the far galaxies,
collapsed stars,
yes, but here,
light escapes
even the blackberries.


xxxv.

In the autumn field,
my body,
a warm stone.


xxxvi.

Cosmos, planet, field,
and the dead
aware of everything!








And now this, from frequent contributor Alan Addotto


Song of a soldier writing home

Who am I?
I'm the little guy from down the street
who peed in your geraniums
on a dare from one of your kids.
Yep, that was me.
I hoped you would see
and get just as upset
as I thought you would be.

I am the boy who chased your cat
up the sycamore
in your back yard.
I wouldn't have hurt it
But it was your daughter
that knocked him out of the tree
with a clod of dirt.

I'm the kid that woke your whole family up
with the firecrackers
that New Year's day
throwing them up on the porch
right next to your front door.

I'm the one that
told your son about girls
and all that stuff.... you know.
and got Jenny from school
to show him her butt
if he promised not to touch it
which he didn't.
Yeah....that was me.

I was the one that taught him how to make
a slingshot
from an tire's inner tube
and the fork from your live oak
and it was me that broke
that side window in your garage
when we practiced that day....
but it really was an accident....
more than not anyway.

That was a long, long time ago
I hope I'm forgiven by now
for that and all the other stuff I did.








Several short poems from Langston Hughes


Gone Boy

Playboy of the dawn,
Solid gone!
Out all night
Until 12-1-2 a.m.

Next day
When he should be gone
To work -
Dog-gone!
He ain't gone.


What?

Some pimps wear summer hats
Into late fall
Since the money that comes in
Won't cover it all -
Suit, overcoat, shoes -
And hat, too!

Got to neglect something,
So what would you do?


Midnight Raffle

I put my nickel
In the raffle of the night.
Somehow that raffle
Didn't turn out right.

I lost my nickel,
I lost my time.
I got back home
Without a dime.

When I dropped that nickel
In that subway slot,
I wouldn't have dropped it,
Knowing what I got.

I could just as well've
Stayed home inside:
My bread wasn't buttered
On either side.


Maybe

I asked you, baby,
If you understood -
You told me that you didn't,
But you thought you would.








When I finally graduated from the halls of academia in 1971 (almost ten years after I started the process), I had a chance at a creative writing fellowship.

At the time, I was in my late twenties and had been around a bit, which left me feeling years older than my fellow students. Also, I had completed the last two years of my education on a $130 monthly GI Bill stipend and, after paying off the hot checks my friendly local grocer had been holding for me, had exactly thirty-five cents and a tank of gas to get home, the only place I knew of where I could count on getting fed.

I was sick of school, sick of teachers, sick of my fellow students and dead broke, so I passed on the opportunity and set out on what turned out to be a thirty year public service career doing work I loved from the first day to the last.

But that's another story.

What I meant to do before my mind wandered was explain the next piece.

When I first began to think of myself as a writer in the late sixties, I was mostly interested in writing prose, short stories. The irony is that none of the stories I wrote were ever published and have been lost while the poetry, which was mostly an afterthought, was published and saved.

A short fiction writer is still what I'd like to be, but I've tried and tried since my return to writing and seem to have lost the touch.

The few story pieces I have written were first done as poems, reconfigured, when I could, into a prose format. Here's one such.


Dinner For Two


As the sun sets to the west, the moon rises over the bay like a bright white button in the blue sky, deepening to black as we watch.

We had been warned that there was a hard freeze coming, the season's first, and the north wind bringing it to us began to blow just minutes ago.

It whips around the corner of the house, lashing the broad leaves of the banana plants. They had grown through last spring and summer and first half of winter to roof high, still green. By this time tomorrow, they will be soggy, brown stumps lying flat on the ground, though their roots, deep and warm, will survive and flourish tall again in spring.

The wind rattles the plastic plates we had eaten from. They are saved from blowing across the terrace and into the yard only by the weight of the silverware laid across them. The heavy knives and forks and spoons were a gift from my mother, given to us just before she died, taken from their box and cleaned and shined just this morning on a whim.

We had completed our meal, hardly talking at all.

We rarely do anymore, not like we used to, anyway, when the kids were still with us, talking about school and friends and comic books and the latest songs on the radio.

Really, we didn't talk that much then, either, I'm remembering, mostly listening to the children's lives. Not much in our own lives to talk about or listen to, it seemed.

Things change, I'm thinking, and things stay the same. And after a while, it's hard to tell the difference.

"Getting dark," I say.

"It will be a cold one," she says.

We gather up the left over bits and pieces of our meal and hurry back to the house, she ahead, me behind.

Both of us, listening intently to the running commentary of our own thoughts.








Frank Marshall Davis rose to prominence as a poet and journalist during the Depression and the Second World War. Prior to his departure for the Territory of Hawaii in 1948, he found himself the target of close scrutiny by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Un-American Activities Committee. This official interest during the anti-communist excesses of the time was due to social realist poetry he wrote responding to the racial discrimination and labor inequity of that period in American history.

Born in south central Kansas in 1905, he went on to attend Kansas State College, from 1924 to 1926 and again from 1929 to 1930 where he began to write his poetry. Ultimately, he would write three major collections of poetry: Black Man's Verse, I Am the American Negro, and 47th Street: Poems
. All of these collections as well as his chapbooks and previously unpublished and uncollected works appeared in 2002 as Black Moods: Collected Poems.

As a practicing journalist, from 1927 to about 1957, he earned a reputation as editor, managing editor, executive editor, feature writer, editorial writer, correspondent, sports reporter, music and theater critic, contributing editor, and fiction writer for the Chicago Evening Bulletin, the Chicago Whip, the Chicago Star, the Gary (Indiana) American, the Atlanta World, and the Associated Negro Press.


This poem is from Totems to Hip-Hop, A Multicultural Anthology
of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900-2002
, compiled and edited by Ishmael Reed.


Giles Johnson, Ph.D.

had four college degrees
knew he whyfore of this
the wherefore of that
could orate in Latin
or cuss in Greek
and, having learned such things
he died of starvation
because he wouldn't teach
and he couldn't porter.








The Book of Songs (c. 600 BC) is the earliest anthology of Chinese poetry and the source of the Chinese poetic tradition. Legend is that the songs were compiled by Confucius, though that is considered unlikely. But the book was of his time. He refers to it and it was part of the curriculum for his disciples. It is considered to be among the Confucian classics that form the basics of Confucian education.

Here are several of the 305 songs that make up the book.


White Moonrise

The white rising moon
is your bright beauty
binding me in spells
till my heart's devoured.

The light moon soars
resplendent like my lady,
binding me in light chains
till my heart's devoured


(Translated by Tony Barnstone and Willis Barnstone)


Fruit Plummets from the Plum Tree

Fruit plummets from the plum tree
but seven of ten plums remain.
You gentlemen who would court me,
come on a lucky day.
Fruit plummets from the plum tree
but three of ten plums still remain.
You men who want to court me,
come now, today is a lucky day!


Serene Girl

The serene girl is pretty,
waiting for me at the corner.
She loves me but hides from me.
I scratch m head, walking back and forth.

The serene girl is tender,
she gave me a red straw.
The red straw shines;
I love this beauty.

It was picked in the fields,
It is beautiful and are.
It isn't the straw that is so beautiful
but that it's a gift from a beauty.


In the Wilds is a Dead River-Deer

In the wilds is a dead river-deer.
White rushes wrap her.
A lady yearns for someone dear.
A fine man seduces her.

In the woods are clustered bushes,
and in the wilds a river-deer is dead
and wrapped up in white rushes.
There is a lady as fine as jade.
Oh! Slow down, don't be so harsh,
let of of my girdle's sash.
Shhh! You'll make the dog bark.


All the Grasslands are Yellow

All the grasslands are yellow
and all the days we march
and all the men are conscripts
sent off in four directions.

All the grasslands are black
and all the men like widowers,
So much grief! Are soldiers
not men like other men?

We aren't bison! We aren't tigers
crossing the wilderness,
but our sorrows
roam from dawn till dusk.

Hair-tailed foxes slink
through the dark grass
as we ride tall chariots
along the wide rutted roads.


(Poems translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping)







We also have a return engagement this month by Arlene Ang. Here's the first of a couple of pieces we will use.

Both poems are from her book, The Desecration of Doves.


The Implications of Lampshades

The color never matches
the upholstery.

Like drugged moths,
nicotine stains the edges;
yellow is unbecoming
not only in jaundiced patients.

There was a time when
the lady next door offered
to crochet covers in return
for small favors: brown sugar,
matches, a sip of Madira,
euthanasia for her cat.

She left the same way
one of the bulbs sparked
before turning black

Geckoes are attracted
to heat. The open book on
your lap is marked by shadows
of tails. This is where
the tale gets horny: the white
lumps hidden at the corner
of our bed are unhatched eggs.

Every night green insects
are reborn, dogs dig
freshly turned soil, nails grow,
a chapter in the novel ends.

Overhead like a genealogy
of kings, stars are going out.








William Stafford, born in Kansas in 1914, was an American poet and pacifist.

Although he began publishing his poems relatively late in life, he had published fifty-seven volumes of poetry by the time of his death in 1993. His first major collection, Traveling Through the Dark, was published when he was forty-eight years old. It won the National Book Award in 1963.

This is the title poem from that first published collection.


Traveling Through the Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the taillight I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason -
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all - my only swerving -
then pushed her over the edge into the river.








I wrote this tribute to my older bother in 2000, several years after he died at the age I am now. He had a strong resemblance to Paul Newman, both in looks and in the way he moved and, even as a successful businessman, the kind of daredevil attitude of Newman in the movie, Cool Hand Luke.


hellraiser

a hellraiser,
all his life a fighter,
him against anyone
who pushed
when they should
have backed away,
defier of authority,
disdainer of limits,
a cool-hand-luke of a man
always skirting close
to the sharp edges
most swing wide
around

     time comes
     you have to fight
     some son of a bitch,
     end it fast,
     hit him first,
     hit him hard
     and if he's still
     standing
     hit him again
     until he's
     not

that was his advice
to me when I was young
on how to fight a fight,
how to face the world,
how to live a life

the last time I saw him
he looked like an old man,
brittle-looking chicken-bones
wrapped tight in old leather,
only his eyes showing
the flash of the wild man
who was my my brother,
win or lose,
always
ready for a fight







And here's our second poem this week from Alice Folkart


The Little Blue Cup

He's washing dishes.
I should be glad.
I can write or read,
and keep my hands
more or less white,

but, crash,
there goes the little blue cup.
Clink, the square glass,
the last one,
I liked them.

The gnashing of
forks and knives
sounds like a battle to the death.
I will not look, I can't.
They're only things,

we can get some more.
My lesson for today
is to detach, very Zen,
and very hard.
The little blue cup was my son's.








Franz Wright, born in Vienna in 1953, won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book Walking to Martha's Vineyard published in 2003.

He and his father, James Wright, are the only parent/child pair to have won the Pulitzer Prize in the same category (Poetry).


Mosquitoes

Playing your trumpets
thin as a needle
in my ear,
standing on my finger

or on the back of my neck
like the best arguments
against pity I know.
You insignificant vampires

that sip my life
through a straw;
you drops of blood
with wings;

carriers
of insomnia
I search for
with a lit match....

I had a job once
driving around in a truck
to look for your eggs.
They can be found

in ditches, near
train tracks, outside
of a barn
in an upright piano filled with rainwater;

It is impossible to kill
all of you,
invisible in the uncut grass
at the edges of the cemetery:

when the dogs go down there it
looks like they've gotten into birds








Sometimes the day seems beat before you can really get it started.

I wrote this poem last week.


early rising

up
at 4:30
this morning,
couldn't sleep,
tired of fighting
the bed,
got up and
took a walk
through the
neighborhood,
all very quiet,
all waiting
for the new day,
even the dogs
on the corner
who bark at
every wind,
sleeping dogs,
let
them lie

drove to the diner
for coffee and the
morning paper,
more of the same
same same same
same old shit,
lying
president,
craven congress,
compliant press
all atwitter with the
dead model while
other dead
pile up
in old-news
places.
oh,
oh, oh they say,
who will see to
Anna's baby,
who will see to
the children
of all the other
dead,
I ask,
but no answer,
old news,
no time in sweeps week
for old news

so I say fuck'em all
and take my camera
to look for a sunrise,
a new day, we all wait
for a sunrise
to a new day,
but, no,
the sunrise
is hidden
behind power lines
and street signs
and tall buildings
that cover the sky,
that capture
the sky
and hold it
for corner office
hoodats,
who say, hell, son,
don't you pay attention
to the news, we
bought the sun
when we bought
the building
and the sunrise
concession
is ours,
so run along now
a'fore we make
your ass
arrested
for trespass
and misappropriating
my sunrise, you're
making shadows, boy,
with my
sun,
now scram

and
the old day
wins








Now, here's our second piece from Arlene Ang


Old Aged Is Not Quite What You Expect

Nothing betrays womanhood in the '60s portrait
save for a sharp tongue and a habit

of spitting from second-story windows.
Streets being more populated,

there have been some complaints lately.
What can I say? Aunt Cornelia is aging.

Objects appear larger in flight;
I was there when she threw cup and saucer.

Bruised chest and cuts heal;
coffee on my merino blouse, less.

Obsession with discontent poisons
remaining years. Beyond smashed porcelain,
urine-stained bed, denials of phone sex bills,
the sonar for trouble works overtime.

When a passerby rapped on the door,
Aunt Cornelia opened, still entranced

by her spittle centering the old man's bald spot.
After his fist came, she was speechless for days.

Hematoma spread discolor around hr left eye,
like raspberry jam, sweets for the sweet.








Keith Douglas was an English poet. born in 1920 and killed on the third day of the Normandy invasion in 1944.

Douglas described his poetic style as extrospective, focusing on external impressions rather than inner emotions. The result is a poetry which, according to his detractors, can be callous in the midst of war's atrocities. For others, Douglas's work is powerful and unsettling because its exact descriptions eschew egotism and shift the burden of emotion from the poet to the reader. His best poetry is generally considered to rank alongside the twentieth-century's finest soldier-poetry.

The title of this poem roughly translates to an ironic "forget me not."


Vergissmeinnicht

Three weeks gone and the combatants gone
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.

The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day, he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a demon.

Look. Here in the gun pit spoil
the dishonored picture of his girl
who has put: "Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht"
in a copybook gothic script.

We see him almost with content,
abased, and seeming to have paid
and mocked at his own equipment
that's hard and good when he's decayed.

But she would weep to see today
how on his skin the swart flies move;
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.

For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who had the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt

(Tunisia, May-June, 1943)








Here's a final ramble from me, written just a couple days ago.


tell me, what day is this?

I thought
this morning
that today
would be
a good one
to go tramping
in the woods
for pictures,
but I waited
too long
to start and now
a good lunch
and a comfortable chair
in the shade
has drained all
ambition
from me, so I think
I'll just sit here
on the porch
with my camera
and hope something
interesting comes by

it is an idle
life
I live now,
ambition
more often
thwarted than not,
and I have concluded
that it is good,
not that there is anything
wrong with ambition'
I've had that life -
the pleasure of
ambition
and success -
and it was good, too,
but that time is
passed
for the idle life
suits me fine,
like the picture
I just took
of a sparrow
eating pancake crumbs
on the table next to me,
he cocks his head
as he eats
tooks at me
as if to say well done,

and that's enough
ambition
for this day
for me








Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were one of the most successful writing teams of their era, writing for, among others, The Clovers, The Coasters, The Drifters, Big Mama Thornton, Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Ester, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Peggy Lee and Perry Como.

This is one of my favorites, recorded by The Coasters, who also did Little Egypt, Yakety Yak, Charley Brown, Young Blood, Along Came Jones and so many others it's making me misty-eyed just thinking about it. Well, not really, but they were a lot of fun.


Searchin'

Gonna find her

Gonna find her

I been searchin', uh huh searchin'
Oh yeah searchin' every which a-way
Oh yeah I been searchin', searchin'
Searchin' every which a-way
I'm like that Northwest Mountie
You know I'll bring her in someday

Gonna find her

Well now if I have to swim a river, you know I will
And if I have to climb a mountain, you know I will
And if she's hidin' up on blueberry hill
Am I gonna find her, child, you know I will

Well now Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade gonna nothin', child, on me
Sergeant Friday, Charlie Chan, and Boston Blackie
No matter where she’s hidin' she gonna hear me coming
I'm gonna walk right down the street like Bulldog Drummond

'Cause I been searchin', uh huh searchin'
Oh yeah searchin' every which a-way
Oh yeah I been searchin', searchin'
Searchin' every which a-way
I'm like that Northwest Mountie
You know I'll bring her in someday

Gonna find her

Gonna find her



Boston Blackie!!! God, I loved Boston Blackie.

That's it for this week. Until next week, au jus, you all

1 Comments:
at 1:03 PM Anonymous Alice Folkart said...

Great issue, and I'm not just saying that 'cause I'm in it. The Vietnamese poems took my breath away, as did William Heyen's - they just reach out from the page and touch me. The closing poem, about how you feel now and sitting there with your camera waiting to see if anything interesting wanders by is wonderful. I am feeling more and more like that. Arlene's poems are, as usual, charged with energy - I can see that old lady with her black eye, maybe I'll even become that old lady . . . And, the lampshade - oh yeah.

Everything, especially the super photos, just extra special in this - the barkus show well, don't they?

I know I'm forgetting something, but I liked everything . . .thanks for making this for all of us and for the honor of including my work.

Alice

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Winter Day to Winter Night   Sunday, February 18, 2007





This will be "Here and Now" number II.2.3, if I ever finish it. It is Sunday morning and I'm just beginning to work on it, at a time when I'm usually on my final proof.

The reason for the delay, two words you never, ever want to hear together, kidney and stones. Without going into detail, I'll just say that my life experience for the past couple of days has been limited to lying on the floor in a fetal position and moaning.

But, all trials pass, providing you find the right drugs (which I did), so "Here and Now" is back on track, maybe a little late (we'll see) and maybe a little shorter than usual.







Readers of "Here and Now" are familiar with Gary Blankenship from his ten commandment series which we featured here over a number of weeks. Those poems are emblematic of the way Gary works, he lays out a challenge for himself, like the ten commandments series or his fifty states series, then sets out to meet the challenge, providing us, along the way, with some lovely poetry.

An earlier challenge resulted in his book A River Transformed: Wang Wei's River Wang Poems as Inspiration. (For more information on Gary's book, click on the link to his website on the right.) His aim in this book was to transform through his own reinterpretation the poems of the Chinese poet Wang Wei.

I had the honor of providing an introduction to the book and, in that introduction, I wrote that the result of Gary's effort is both a book of wonderful poetry, as well as an introduction to the ancient arts of Chinese poetry for people like me who knew little of those arts and who, through Gary's book, came to appreciate the beauty and soulfulness of Chinese poetry from a time when the Western tradition of art was still mostly about painting their faces like Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart.

Here are a couple of Gary's "transformation."


After Wang Wei's Waves of Willow Trees - What Isn't, Is Forgotten

There are no castles on our horizon;
no ramparts to fly banners and warn
seabirds we have fled and do no follow!

Footsteps lead towards smoke and home,
We look back to the sea as if to recall
who was left behind unharvested.

Your hair floats unlike kelp at low tide,
fingers grasp unlike roots in soft sand,
your limbs as white as split driftwood.

I cannot see what you are, only what you aren't.
Your are flesh, blood and bone, but I see
shell, beach and surf as the moon turns orange

Around and around , a toy boat floats:
and old man argues its sail was ever blue.


After Wang Wei's White Rock Shoals - If Not One Lake, Another

Loons call across water lilies and eel grass.
Spooked by clothing tossed on autumn's breeze,
doe and fawn leap along the lakeshore.
Upstream, village dogs greet each passing car.

A truck door slams to drunken laughter.
Startled, we splash to shore and quick cover.
Redwings and bluebirds gather threads
o repair long abandoned nests.

On green rocks, once smooth and soap slick,
we listen to gossip cared across the water.
A muskrat dives beneath bleached sticks;
the wind rises to meet your shirt's wet touch

fawn nibbles a forgotten tube sock
under a cracked harvest moon.


After Wang Wei's Temple-Tree Path - Above the Tidal Flow

The path to the bay is slick with slush,
treacherous along a creek bed swollen
with a quick thaw and dead madrona leaves.

With each step, mud and winter grip
the bottoms of our boots like spider webs
cling to a frayed side porch screen .

We walk on as if the beach's wet boulders
mark the only rail that allows us
to journey with a modicum of surety.

You sit. Unable to continue?
Or more aware we were signaled
is it time?

The stylus no longer casts a shadow,
the calliope is deaf.








Arthur Rimbaud, the wild genius, scandalized French society, wrote some of the most visionary poetry or his or any other time, and ended up a merchant in Ethiopia. He made a small fortune as a gunrunner, but developed health problems that forced him to return to France, where his leg was amputated. He was going to stay at his sister Isabelle's house to recuperate but never left the hospital. Rimbaud died in Marseille in 1891, at age 37.

Here is one of his poems.


Evening Prayer

I live seated, like an angel in the hands of a barber,
In my fist a strongly fluted mug,
My stomach and neck curved, a Gambier pipe
In my teeth, under the air swollen with impalpable veils of smoke.

Like the warm excrement of an old pigeonhouse,
A Thousand Dreams gently burn inside me;
And at moments my sad heart is like sap-wood
Which the young dark gold of its sweating covers with blood.

Then, when I have carefully swallowed my dreams,
I turn having drunk thirty or forty mugs,
And collect myself, to relieve the bitter need;
Sweetly as the Lord of the cedar and hyssops,
I piss toward the dark skies very high and very far,
With the consent of the large heliotropes.


(Translated by Wallace Fowlie)







In the last two weeks, we have read from Listening to the Light by Cyra S. Dumitru as she let us into the mind of Eve and Adam in the Garden. This week, we finish the triangle with words from the Snake.


Words of the Serpent

I loved her too much to see her kept in that garden forever.
All that perfection and beauty, after a while it's numbing,

one ripe apple indistinguishable from the next.
Nothing ever dies, hardly ever changes.

We need bruises on the peaches, worms in the fruit,
long stretches of drought so we can live

the meaning of water.

Oh yes, I imagined the consequences.

I knew sooner or later
she would have to feel pain, feel her body

split open with seed. I trusted her
strength, believed she could grown

another skin bigger than the one before.
The first time I offered her the fruit

I thought I'd hooked her with the smell.
But then she darted away

among unopened lilies.
Persuading her certainly wasn't easy.

Her awe ran deep (as mine once did)
before I broke the confines of God,

sought less constricting skin.
The seeds in her were fierce embers.

Her hands had to make; they used to twitch in her sleep.
"See how far they can take you," I whispered.

"Turn piles of stone into mountains that sing the sky."
Finally she came to me.

"I am ready," she said, shoulders trembling.
The first bite she took was dainty. "Eat!" I said.

Her face, neck hands became sticky from the succulence.
I know because I flicked my tongue once across her.

Abruptly she stopped eating,
Wind filtered through her black hair; she tossed her head.

With her whole glistening body she listened
as if the felt the lark thrum the air.

Then Adam found her, scolded her with narrow eyes.
The fruit she offered him was juicier than what I had picked.

At first he drew back.
She rubbed the fruit between her hands

tore a piece with her fingernail
and he slipped it between his lips.

She then held the fruit while he chewed slowly,
eyes riveted on the small fires of her eyes.

That was when their love really began
when their souls first felt the weight

of bones pressing against them
when hand reached out for hand

not knowing how long warmth would answer.
:







Here's a new poem from me.


I was just thinking

it's a dreary
drab
drizzly
sunday afternoon
about 5 o'clock
with an unsure sun
not
up
not down
settling somewhere
in the middle
until further orders
are received
and I'm sucking
on a latte
at one of my back-up
coffee shops
surrounded by medical
students
talking loud
in some kind of latin
hip hop
while studying pictures
of intestines
and other bloody
viscera
and I'm not in a mood
to be thinking about
my innard
parts
but what else can you do
when someone else's gizzards
are laid out in full color
photographs
and besides that
don't these kids seem awful young
to be looking at other peoples
insides -
baby docs
god help me
I'm feeling
a little
sickly
but afraid
to show
it
around these kids
who might want
to try to cure
me -
damn
I miss my old doc
the one who knew
everything
and had a German
accent
and walked
in teeny tiny
little slide slide steps
like Tim Conway's
old man
character
on the Carol
Burnett show
in the good old days
of television
before everyone wanted
to be an idol or at least
famous
for five minutes
like whatshisname
you know who I mean
the one who
killed himself with an overdose
of boston baked beans
or was it navy








W. S. Merwin is said to be one of the most influential American poets of the latter 20th century.

He made a name for himself as an antiwar poet during the 1960's. His interest in Buddhist philosophy and Deep ecology also influenced his writing. He continues to write prolifically, though he also dedicates significant time to the restoration of rain forests in Hawaii, the state where he lives.

Merwin has received many honors, including a Pulitzer Prize and a Tanner Prize, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Academy of American Poets.

I have seen the effect he describes here. Salt water from bays along the lower Texas coast seeping underground to turn fields that previously produced two crops a year of watermelon, cantaloupe and cucumbers into salty wasteland. The bad news is farm land disappears; the good news is large ranches, like the King Ranch, have developed a grass that will grow in this environment and produce pastures for their Santa Gertrudis cattle.


Low Fields and Light

I think it is in Virginia, that place
That lies across the eye of my mind now
Like a grey blade set to the moon's roundness,
Like a plain of glass touching all there is.

The flat fields run out to the sea there.
There is no sand, no line. It is autumn.
The bare fields, dark between fences, run
Out to the idle gleam of the flat water.

And the fences go on out, sinking slowly,
With a cow-bird half-way, on a stunted post, watching
How the light slides trough them easy as weeds
Or wind, slides over them away out near the sky.

Because even a bird can remember
The fields that were there before the slow
Spread and wash of the edging line crawled
There and covered them, a little more each year.

My father never ploughed there, nor my mother
Waited, and never knowingly I stood there
Hearing the seepage slow as growth, nor knew
When the taste of salt took over the ground.

But you would think the fields were something
To me, so long I stare out, looking
For their shapes or shadows through the matted gleam, seeing
Neither what is nor what was, but the flat light rising.








This is the second appearance by Dan Flore in "Here and Now". Dan leads poetry workshops for the mentally ill and says he would like, eventually, to become a certified poetry therapist.


stained glass pictures

mother's eyes go black
images of me in a baby carriage
somewhere in Mexico,
and the old padre stroking her cheek
with the back of his hand
swim in her mind

she falls to the ground
every street noise
begins articulating her name

mother, let me hear your prayers
the churches stained glass pictures
all dance and spit on you

feel your lips
the ones that sang
the songs you wrote
just for me
songs of orchards waiting for us
and lightening bolts
we could swing from
mother, bring me the melody
I must sing to you now
where is it?
lost in your
mildew smelling bible ?
how many times did
you dunk it in holy water?

mother, I've seen you weep
after holding it in for so long
everyone who left you
is a diamond now
in your mind
all you can think of
was when
they were all
still coal

high in a steeple
a robed man lights candles
illuminating you and I
from years ago
my infant hand
around your finger
hymns swirl around our younger selves
golden, dreamy, and cradling
then all is dark
unlit candlesticks
plummeting







Howard Moss, poetry editor at The New Yorker for many years before his death, wrote often of the coast. This poem reminds me of Corpus Christi (pictured above), a city on the middle Texas coast where we lived for fifteen very good years. I will never forget driving along Corpus Christi Bay in a heavy fog just at sunrise, when the only contact with the world was a light lapping of waves against the shore and the muffled sound of gulls crying on either side as you passed.

That's my poem, not yet written. Here's Moss'.


At Georgica Beach

How roughly ambivalent the seizure is
Of the sea to fix each wave it undoes
In the wake each time of the breakage it was,

Each coming in to the edge of dry-dock,
And then, underneath, the long drawing back,
Leaving the minor clatter of shellshock....

It's day. The wind's up. The ocean's gambling
With light. The dice thrown, the game is running
Away with itself in runnels and creases -

The long cliffhangers, just as they strengthen
Their hold on the surface, break and capsize
Into the sinking spools and renewals

Of things getting ready only to be things.









Here, a small quiet moment on the rocky shores of Lake Travis, near Austin, Texas. Forty years of so ago, I sometimes went to a little cabin there to study and to write. The poem was written then, when I should have been studying. It was published in The Green Tricycle in 1999.


dusk

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

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

smoke and scents
of campfires rise

quiet
falls with the sun








From Elegy For The Departure, a book of poetry and parables by Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, this poem on the politics of crucifixion. A fervent and public anti-communist voice during his country's occupation by the Soviet Union, Herbert was familiar with show trials.


On the Margin of the Trial

Sanhedrin's court was not open during the night
blackness was needed by the imagination
it was in flagrant contradiction of normal practice

it is improbably
that the holiday of Passover was violated
because of a not very dangerous Galilean
the agreement of opinion of traditional antagonist -
Sadducees and Pharisees - is suspicious

it was for Caiaphas to carry out the interrogation
ius gladii was in the hands of the Romans
therefore why call on shadows
and a crowd roaring Free Barabbas

the whole affair it seems was played out between officials
pale Pilate and he terarch Herod
and impeccable administrative procedure
but who could ever succeed in making a drama out of this

hence the scenery of frightened bearded men
and the mob going up to a mountain named
for a skull

it might have been gray
without passions






Though we've featured her poems before, and will again in this issue, Jane Roken isn't just a poet. Here's evidence of her other talents.



Photo by Jane Roken



Photo by Jane Roken



Photo by Jane Roken










And here's another quiet moment from me, also published in The Green Tricycle. This one appeared in 2003. The Green Tricycle is another former publication of Cayuse Press that is greatly missed.

The poem also appears in my book, Seven Beats a Second


caress

midnight

hot breath
and
whispers

soft
  slow
    glide
      of skin
        on skin

tongue

strikes
like the bite
of a velvet adder

secrets
unveiled

surrendered

to the touch

to the smoldering
touch

of midnight








From her book Of Gravity & Angels, Jane Hirshfield tells us about her horse.


Heat

My mare, when she was in heat,
would travel the fenceline for hours,
wearing the impatience
in her feet into the ground.

Not a stallion for miles, I'd assure her,
give it up.

She'd widen her nostrils,
sieve the wind for news, be moving again,
her underbelly darkened with sweat,
then stop at the gate a moment, wait
to see what I might do.
Oh, I knew
how it was for her, easily
recognized myself in that wide lust:
came to stand in the pasture
just to see how it played.
Offered a hand, a bucket of grain -
a minute's distraction from passion
the most I gave.

Then she'd return to what burned her:
the fence, the fence,
so hoping I might see, might let her free.
I'd envy her then,
to be so restlessly sure
of heat, and need, and what it takes
to feed the wanting that we are -

only a gap to open
the width of a mare,
the rest would take care of itself.
Surely, surely I knew that,
who had the power of bucket
and bridle -
she would beseech me, sidle up,
be gone, as life is short,
But desire, desire is long.








And now, a couple of new poems from frequent contributor Don Schaeffer.


Memory as Hologram

The past is a story
told by someone else.

My life is a string
of the present.

Sometimes I have
the tools of speech and hand.

Sometimes I wander through the present
listening and watching like a ghost.


Corridor

He has to wake up
by six in his memory
to a warm breakfast.
There will be
an hour in the cold
waiting for the full
heat of dawn before
he can arrive amid the
false friends and pretensions
of the day.

Now there isn't much
he has to do and the
memory of swimming in a
sea of ambition and fellowship
has dulled. The hallway
is a long journey.
Tiny step followed by
pause to catch breath
follows tiny step.
He clings to the walking aid.
And when I look into his face
as I pass him, all I can see
is patience.








This seems to be the week for golden oldies (perhaps because my new stuff is not so golden), so here are two other sort poems written forty or so years ago. At the time of their writing, I was a frequently intoxicated American soldier living in an air conditioned American enclave far out on the West Pakistan frontier, within sight of the Hindu Kush.

Both poems were finally published in 2001, the first in Hawkwind and the second in Experimentia.


blackout at the oasis

listen now....

it's quiet

the sound of a thousand air conditioners suddenly stilled
and our island is one with the desert-blowing night



summer night at the end of the world

platt kerplatt kerplatt
tennis ball sounds far lit court
drunker than I thought








Now, Audre Lorde, from her book The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance speaks to us of perception.


Syracuse Airport

Clean jeans and comfortable shoes
I need no secrets here   at home
in this echoless light
I spread my papers out
around me.

Opposite    alert
a grey-eyed lady takes fire
one pale nostril quivering
we both know women
who take up space
are called sloppy.








You've seen her photographs this week, now here's another of Jane Roken's poems.


Mongolian prospect

The scourge of God grows
like a hardened crust
upon the wall of the town, its
ringwall of garbage, offal, rubble
Empty rusty oil drums resounding
with empty prayers to rusty ghosts
of Manchu, Soviet Union, Great Khan,
in vain, all in vain

Under a sooty shed roof
a child is soaking scraps of dried meat
in a leaky tin can,
feeding ancient three-legged
perplexed-eyed cat,
bringing stolen hay
for cat's bed,
saying goodnight
calling cat Grandma

And this
may be the sole reason
that some day
in spite of all
an Angel will descend
and alight
right
here








And I almost forgot. Here's another of my "name" poems. This one was published in Scope Journal in 2002.


Imogene gets away clean

Imogene
comes and goes
in a swirl of sex
and musky intrigue
leaving men of every age
to twist
in the vapors
of her libidinous wake

copulatory
imaginings burn
like a fever in their softened
brains
brains
made irrelevant
by that lower consciousness
that hangs between their legs
rising
like a divining rod
rising
as those very night fantasizes
that have nurtured the growth
of a thousand fancied dissatisfactions
pass in the flesh

Imogene
comes and goes
leaving a path of wreckage
like a summer storm
across the green and golden
pastures of well-ordered lives

wreckage
she leaves behind
like the wind leaves behind
a broken tree, like a flood
leaves behind sodden fields

unaffected untouched

Imogene gets away clean
every time.








And we end with Bukowski on the prideful excess of poets.


words for you

red dogs in green hell, what is this
divided thing I call
myself?

what message is this I'm offering
here?

it's so easy to slide into
poetic pretension.

almost all art is shot through with
poetic
pretension:

painting
sculpting
the stage
music

what is this foolish
strutting and posturing
we do?

why do we embroider everything we say
with special emphasis

when all we really need to do
is simply say what
needs to be said?

of course
the fact is
that there is very little that needs
to be said.

so we dress up our
little artful musings
and clamor for attention
so that we may appear to be
a bit more
important
or even more
truthful
than the others.

what is this I'm writing
here?

what is this you're
reading here?

is it no worse than the rest?

probably even a little bit
better?


Love those last two lines. Even in the middle of self-flagellation, the poet's ego makes its plea for assurance and recognition.

Until next week.

1 Comments:
at 2:42 PM Anonymous Alice Folkart said...

Note: webpage referenced is under construction (2/20/07). Wonderful issue. "I was just thinking' - the kind of poem I'd like to write, observation, just being alive, turned into a poem. Cyra Dumitru's 'Words of the Serpent,' opened my eyes, made me look again and again and think about the price we have paid for the ability to experience pleasure. Very well done. Moss's 'At Gerogia Beach,' read out loud is a revelation, a pleasure in itself and a lesson in observation and really good writing. Great choice. 'Heat,' Jane Hirshfield - her compassion and love for her horse come through in her comparison of her own urges and needs with those of this filly in heat, one almost feels that the poet has also at some time been restrained from acting upon her instincts - as have we all, I suppose.
Enjoyed both of Allen's poems 'Blackout at the Oasis' - the sound of all those air conditioners and 'Summer Night at the End of the World,' of course, tennis thwacks - the whole thing could only be bearable if you stayed just slightly drunk. 'Syracuse Airport' tickeled me - especially the idea of a woman watching a woman watching her and knowing that the other is thinking 'women who take up space are sloppy' - I've often felt this way, judged in public, not quite understanding, but Audre Lorde has the wit to define it and put it into a poem. Hooray! And, last but not . . . Jane Roken's 'Mongolian Prospect' - the child and the cat in the midst of all this want and need, the boy calling the cat grandma - this spark of sad love which will, if anything can, call down the visit of an angel. And, her photos, as also the photos by Allen, are wonderful and amazing!

Super issue - Glad that the kidney stone demons have gone away.

Alice
Alice.Folkart@Gmail.com

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Birds of a Feather, Poets Together   Sunday, February 11, 2007





Welcome again to "Here and Now," this one number II.2.2, another abbreviated issue as I tote various barges and bales for da man and too damn little of his filthy lucre.






We begin this week with Mary Jo Caffrey, appearing here for the first time.

She describes herself as a retired GI who did mercenary work for a few years as a substitute teacher. She says she and her husband live in Gretna, Nebraska with lazy dogs and silly parrots.

I began reading Mary Jo on one of the poetry forums recently and was especially struck with this one.


The Act of Reading Poetry

Most people who write poetry fall into a category
somewhere between nuts and famous, you know,
the sort of people read about in school,
either driven insane and into writing about it or the
authors of trendy sentiments that rhyme.
Advertising jingles are mostly to blame,
making readers and book buyers of people
not gainfully employed in endeavors
beyond eating chocolates and reading rhyme.

People who read poetry are an elite group,
whether they actually do read poetry or
just read the book jacket while eating chocolates,
before placing the poetry book
on the cocktail table,
the latest bestseller to gather dust
in the family home while nevertheless,
emitting the scent of good literary taste
to family guests.

Most people who actually do read poetry
do so because a beloved or physically bigger
family member writes poetry
Just as any self-respecting member
of society does not discuss
ess–eee-ex in public,
most stalwart people do not discuss reading
poetry unless the topic comes up -
and they always share a love for
reading poetry,
all the while thinking to themselves,
"roses are red,
violets are blue,
poetry is so much doo-doo"
and smiling sweetly
while thinking up worse rhymes
in their heads that can't be printed here
for fear of offending readers who might
actually read this poem.

The few, the brave,
the poetry readers in this age of humanity
caught in the Internet and mostly not kicking,
admits of poems only in songs sung with angst or abandon,
the world's experiences captured in MP3 players
for the listener's enjoyment.
Reading evolved into a selectively Internet skill,
accompaniment on screen to movies and photos with
an electrical gleam, except where newspapers are concerned.
People read newspapers mostly for a little diversion.
When vision blurs after hours on the computer screen,
the printed word beacons clarity in lettering and a chance to
ease eyes beaten to within an inch of their pixels.

Most people are exposed to poetry
in church, the safe once-a-week dose
in a Psalm from David, the first poet
of note expressing the inexpressible,
love of God, the only entity truly loving
words of praise for the gift of life
and redemption in a prayer in meter.

I suppose poems are prayers,
sentiments from the heart and mind
seeking a home in heaven or some
facsimile where the best human thoughts
find fulfillment,
if only in the words rising.

God loves a poet,
if only for a moment,
some small piece of
human thought
finding redemption
for the soul of a poet,
the part most like God
in even the briefest moment.








James Merrill was a Pulitzer Prize winning American poet, one of the most acclaimed American poets of his generation.

Despite great personal wealth derived from unbreakable trusts made early in his childhood, Merrill lived modestly. A philanthropist, he created the Ingram Merrill Foundation. which operated during his lifetime to subsidize literature, the arts, and public television.

Merrill served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1979 until his death in 1995 from a heart attack related to AIDS.


The Pier: Under Pisces

The shallows, brighter,
Wetter than water,
Tepidly glitter with the fingerprint-
Obliterating feel of kerosene.

Each piling like a totem
Rises from Rock bottom
Straight through the ceiling
Aswirl with suns, clear ones or pale bluegreen,

And beyond! where bubbles burst,
Sphere of their worst dreams,
If dram is what they do,
These floozy fish -

Ceramic-lipped in filmy
Peekaboo blouses,
Fluorescent body
Stockings, hot stripes,

Swayed by the hypnotic ebb and flow
of supermarket Muzak,
Bolero beat the undertow's
Pebble-filled gourds repeat;

Jailbait consumers of subliminal
Hints dropped from on high
In gobbets none
Eschews as minced kin;

Who hooked themselves - bamboo diviner
Bent their water
Vigorously nodding
Encouragement -

Are one by one hauled kisswise, oh
Into some blinding hell
Policed by leathery ex-
justices each

Minding his catch, if catch is what he can,
If mind is what one means -
The torn mouth
Stifled by newsprint, working still. If....If....

The little scales
Grow stiff. Dusk plugs her dryer in,
Buffs her nails, riffles through magazines,
While far and wide and deep

Rove the great sharkskin-suited criminals
And safe in this lit shrine
A boy sits. He'll be eight.
We've drunk our milk, we've eaten our stringbeans,

But left untasted on the plate
The fish. An eye, a broiled pearl, meeting mine,
I lift his fork....
The bite. The tug of fate.









I wrote this several years ago as part of my occasional "name" series. It was published in 2004 in The Muse Apprentice


five minutes in the fire with fiona

under the table
    her leg
    against mine
    moves
    slowly
    up and down

reaching for a paper clip
    her hand
    brushes mine
    long red nail
    leaving a trail
    of fire a scar
    smoldering

peering intently
    at the paper clip
    turns it over
    passes
    her fingertip
    slowly over
    the rounded
    end tongue
    pink against
    her lip in
    concentration

    (does she
    sneak a
    sidelong
    glance
    at me....)

I hear my name called...

for the third time
I realize
and look to the end
of the table past
the double rows
of staring eyes

yes sir
I ask

your report
he says

my report
I ask

your report
he says,
we're waiting
for your report

a laugh beside me
    like a whisper
    like a breath of
    warm air in a
    in a frigid room

    later
    she said

or

    was it just
    another
    laugh....









We have Jack Hill back with us again this week, with this piece that I spotted on one of the workshop forums we both frequent.

There is an air of sweet and unexpected melancholy to much of Jack's work. This piece is no exception.


Frost on the bedpost

My legs are cold but I'll be dammed if I'll wear
long-johns in the house; they make the hair on my
legs crawl.

The little stove in the lower level was tryin' hard,
doing it's best but losing ground.
Got to admit it had heart, if a four hundred pound
chunk of cast iron could; it truly did.

I'm tryin' to hold the cost of winter down but like
the little cast iron stove, I'm losing ground.

The wood pile is shrinking fast and the tractor called
it quits for the winter. Any ways, I don't think the
chainsaw will start.

Who'd a thought it'd get this cold....or is it my old
fire needs stoking.

When I go into the bedroom I can see my breath and
that ain't good, no one to warm my side of the bed.

I do recall the fun that was had warmin' a cold bed.








A few short Greeks from 200 to 400 B.C.



Cydias was a painter and poet bon in the island of Cythnus.


Beware

Beware. There are fawns
who, facing the lion,
die of fright just thinking
the lion might be hungry


(Translated by Sam Hamill)


Theocritus was a creator of pastoral poetry. His poems were termed eidyllia ("idylls"), a diminutive of eidos, which may mean "little poems."

There are no certain facts as to his life beyond those supplied by the idylls themselves. Certainly he lived in Sicily and at various times in Cos and Alexandria and perhaps in Rhodes.


Epitaph: Justice

The poet Hipponax lies here.
In justice, this is only fair.
His lines were never dark or deep.
Now he enjoys (like his readers) sleep.


(Translated by Fred Chappell)


Asclepiades was a physician/poet born in Prusa, Bithynia (modern Bursa, Turkey). he died around 40 BC in Rome.


Here lies Archeanassa

Here lies Archeanassa
the courtesan from Colophon
whose old and wrinkled body
was still Love's proud domain.

You lovers who knew her youth
in its sweet piercing splendor
and plucked those early blooms -
through what a flame you passed!


(Translated by Frederick Morgan)


Aristophanes of Byzantium was a Greek scholar, critic and grammarian
credited with inventing and naming some of the first forms of punctuation, including the period, comma, colon and semicolon.


On The Advice Of Praxilla

On the advice of Praxilla,
we are asked to look
under every stone
for a hiding scorpion.

The proverb sounds all right.
But, turning stones,
remember,
poets also bite.


(Translated by Sam Hamill)


Philodemus was an Epicurean philosopher and poet who studied in Athens, before settling in Rome about 80 BC.

Apparently, there was an extensive library at Piso's Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, a significant part of which was formed by a library of Epicurean texts, some of which were present in more than one copy, suggesting the possibility that this section of Piso's library was Philodemus' own. The contents of the villa were embalmed in the eruption of Vesuvius, 79 CE, and the papyri were carbonized and flattened but preserved.

During the 18th century exploration of the Villa by tunneling there were recovered carbonized papyrus scrolls containing thirty-six treatises attributed to Philodemus. These works deal with music, rhetoric, ethics, signs, virtues and vices, the good king, and defend the Epicurean standpoint against the Stoics and the Peripatetics. The first fragments of Philodemus from Herculaneum were published in 1824.


I Loved - Who Hasn't?

I loved - who hasn't? I worshipped - hasn't
everyone been in that congregation?
But I was crazy - did a god do it?
The forces that drove through my black hair drives the gray
announces the age of reason - I'm done.
As playtime I played, now I'll act my age.


(Translated by George Economou)






It's a cold, gray dismal day here in San Antonio, making this cold, gray dismal poem appropriate.

The poem is an "approaching my 60's poem," written four or five years ago. The interesting thing is, the further I get on the other side of 60, the less it worries me. I'm not sure if that represents coming to terms or giving up.

The poem is included in my book Seven Beats a Second


weather report

it's supposed to snow
in the hill country tonight
and now, near midnight,
clouds are banked high
in that direction, swirls
of clouds, mixed gray
and white and black,
reflected in the city lights,
they look like polished granite
piled helter-skelter
against a black felt sky

it won't snow here,
but it's cool enough,
a little above freezing,
with a strong north wind
that stings my face
with icy drizzle

wet days, cold nights,
it's like winters years ago,
cycles and cycles,
weather cycles,
life cycles,
death cycles, too,
I guess,
they always come in threes
it's said and it seems to be true

I used to think my life
was lived in five year cycles
and for a long time
it seemed to run that way,
with changes regular
as clock work
every fifth year

but now it seems
the pattern is broken
and my life is a a lull
even as time races past

I feel disconnected
from that flow
and I begin to wonder
if this is how life
winds down.
like being sunk
in plush leather seats
in a fast moving car

the world rushes by,
a blur of passing lie
and I want nothing more
than to stop,
to walk again,
to live again,
not behind glass
as the world passes,
but on my own feet,
to control again,
like before
when I was the one
who set the pace
of my life
and the direction
I would live it

the night is chill
and wet
but it will not snow for the snow cycle
is done and now
the night is just cold
and I am cold in it








Now for a visit with a couple of the good citizens of Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River.


Francis Turner

I could not run or play
In boyhood.
In manhood I could only sip the cup,
Not drink -
For scarlet-fever left my heart diseased.
Yet I lie here
Soothed by a secret none but Mary knows:
There is a garden of acacia,
catalpa trees, and arbors sweet with vines -
There on that afternoon in June
By Mary's side -
Kissing her with my soul upon my lips
It suddenly took flight.


Dr. Siegfried Iseman

I said when they handed me my diploma,
I said to myself I will be good
And wise and brave and helpful to others;
I said I will carry the Christian creed
Into the practice of medicine!
Somehow the world and the other doctors
Know what's in your heart as soon as you make
This high-souled resolution.
And the way of it is they starve you out.
And no one comes to you but the poor.
And you find too late that being a doctor
Is just a way of making a living.
And when you are poor and have to carry
The Christian creed and wife and children
All on your back, it is too much!
That's why I made the Elixir of Youth,
Which landed me in the jail at Peoria
Branded a swindler and a crook
By the upright Federal Judge!


John M. Church

I was attorney for the "Q"
And the Indemnity Company which insured
The owners of the mine.
I pulled the wires with Judge and Jury,
And the upper courts, to beat the claims
Of the crippled, the widow and orphan,
And made a fortune thereat.
The bar association sang my praises
In a high-flown resolution.
And the floral tributes were many -
But the rats devoured my heart
And a snake made a nest in my skull!








We have another first-timer for "Here and Now" this month, another from the wilds of the on-line workshop forum world, Billy Howell-Sinnard.

Billy lives in Hawaii where he is a nurse, and also a caregiver at home. He says he writes poetry, which his wife calls his mistress, when he can find the time.

I read this poem on one of the forums and immediately felt like I'd slipped back into my own childhood.


Blackberry Hunting

A sign reads DIP AHEAD,
and I remember dad grinning,
"Hold on." The two-tone Edsel dove
like a whale absorbing a wave,
breached the swell with long,
slow motion bounces. I screamed, giggled,
tummy a rolling jar of gumballs.

We lived in a small town that doesn't exist.
Grandma Collins lived across the street.
When Grandpa gathered blackberries,
she baked pies, her apron and fingers
stained the color of the droppings
on Dad's new Edsel. The houses
are gone. A few foundations remain.

I still crave blackberry pie. At the Red Barn
Buffet, I bought a slice advertised
as homemade. It wasn't the same,
don't think it ever can be.
I cross the dip. My stomach turns.








Next we have three anonymous poems/songs from Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


The San, also known as The Bushmen, are an indigenous population of the Kalahari Desert, which spans South Africa and neighboring Botswana and Namibia as well southern Angola. Archaeological evidence suggests that they have lived in southern Africa for at least 22,000 years. Genetic evidence suggests they are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, peoples in the world - a "genetic Adam" from which all the worlds ethnic groups can ultimately trace genetic heritage.


The Day We Die

The day we die
the wind comes down
to take away
our footprints.

The wind makes dust
to cover up
the marks we left
while walking

For otherwise
the thing would seem
as if we were
still living.

Therefore the wind
is he who comes
to blow away
our footprints


(Translated by Arthur Markowitz)



The Yoruba are an ethnic nation in Africa which constitute approximately 30 percent of Nigeria's total population. Many people of African descent in the Americas have claim to Yoruba ancestry to some degree because a significant percentage of Africans enslaved in the Americas originated from this region.

Several versions of the Yoruba origin exist, the most popular of which revolves around a figure named Oduduwa. Oduduwa was the head of an invading army from the East (often identified as Mecca, Egypt, the Sudan, or northeastern Nigeria) who established a constitutional monarchic system of government for the indigenous population he found.

Other versions suggest that Odduwa was sent by Olorun Olodumare (Sky Father), the Creator, to fashion the first humans out of the clay soil of lie lfe, an ancient Yoruba city in southwestern Nigeria. Evidence of this city has been discovered dating back as far as 500 B.C.


Oshun, The River Goddess

Brass and Parrots' feathers
on a velvet skin.
White cowrie shells
on black buttocks.
Her eyes sparkle in the forest,
like the sun on the river.
She is the wisdom of the forest
she is the wisdom of the river.
Where the doctor failed
she cures with fresh water.
Where medicine is impotent
she cures with cool water.
she cures the child
and does not charge the father.
She feeds the barren woman with honey
and her dry body swells up
like a juicy palm fruit.
Oh, how sweet
is the touch of a child's hand!


(Translated by Ulli Beier)


The Galla, also known as the Oromo, are found in Ethiopia and to a lesser extent in Kenya and Somalia. They are the largest single ethnic group in Ethiopia today, numbering around 25 million. They have inhabited parts of northeastern and eastern Africa for as long as recorded history.


Love Song

If I might be an ox,
An ox, a beautiful ox,
Beautiful but stubborn:
The merchant would buy me,
Would buy and slaughter me,
Would spread my skin,
Would bring me to the market.
The coarse woman would bargain for me;
The beautiful girl would buy me.
She would crush perfumes for me;
I would spend the night rolled up around her;
I would spend the afternoon rolled up around her.
Her husband would say: "It is a dead skin!"
But I would have my love!


(Translated by Enrico Crulli)






And another poem from Seven Beats a Second.

unfinished business

I have reached the point in my life
when I begin to understand
that I will not get out of it alive

and with that,
clarity

a million years of back-story
before us and consequences lingering
for past even a memory of our time,
leaving no end to things but the dark end
that comes to us all, despite the struggles
with pharmaceutical metaphysical
manipulations that occupy our final days

but even as we fight to change the rules
of life an death, it's not closure we want
but a chance to stay on this well-lit stage
past our character's plotted time, a chance
to see the play unfold past the limitation
of our own poorly written walk-on part,
waiting for a final act that will never come

your life....

my life....

it's all about unfinished business








Last week Cyra S. Dumitru let us listen in on Eve's thoughts as she dealt with the ease and challenge of the Garden. This week it’s Adam's turn.


Adam

I did think Eve peculiar
when I found her in that clearing,
hair tied wildly back with a piece of vine,
shoulders straining over a big rock.
Circles of stone everywhere.

"What are you doing?" I said,
almost tripping over a jagged rock.
"Making circles."
She didn't even stop to glance at me.
"I can see that. But why?"

Eve stood up straight,
gave me a look made my soul quiver.
"I don't know exactly,
Suddenly I just had to."
I caught her hand, "Let's go for a swim."

"I want to finish."
"How many more will you make?"
She shrugged, "As I make one,
the image for another begins.
It’s strange."

Off I went, hurt she wouldn't come too.
Floating on my back, slowly paddling my feet -
I noticed the ripples my body made,
circles that grew bigger even as they thinned.
A tortoise slipped into the water
green shell glistening in sunlight.
I closed my eyes and drifted.
Warm water easy as my own skin
world without edge
everything in place.

As the sun shone on my face,
orange spots gleamed beneath my lids
like small flaming stones.
I thought of Eve, sweat
beading along her back.

Rearranging, replacing.
My soul quivered again
as if trying to name
something yet to come.







Nancy Williams Lazar is another forum-mate, returning for her second appearance in "Here and Now" with a poem about a funeral practice that will seem very strange to many. She explains the practice and her poem with these words:

"For over a thousand years the Parsi people of Mumbai, India, have relied on vultures to carry out their funeral rites. In the last ten years these birds have become almost extinct from the use of diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory given to livestock to treat minor injuries. The loss of up to 30 million vultures is leading to a major health crisis across the region - a rise in rabies and bubonic plague will be likely result of this ecological tragedy."

I previously read about this in my old reliable New York Times Tuesday science section and thought I might try to write about it, but never felt I had come up with anything that treated the subject with appropriate respect. Nancy has done that quite well, I think, making a of it a matter-of-fact and moving love poem.

Here it is.


The Vanished Vultures of Mumbai

I have laid my dead upon the Tower
of Silence whose black door has no opening,
and painted windows give no view.


The dead may not touch ground
The dead must not go into water
The dead can not be burned

On a wide roof I have left my offering
to be carried away piece by piece,
consumed in the gullet of the sacred bird
whose neck glides like a finger
through shredded skin, goes for the liver
first, then to reams of soft chords
streaming in the sun.

The caged heart will be a trophy won
in a panic of black feathers.
I see my love take flight
my god requited.








Two Native American poems/songs from the 19th century.


Uvavnuk was a Netsilik Inuit shaman.

Shaman song

The great sea
frees me, moves me,
as a strong river
carries a weed.
Earth and her strong winds
move me, take me away,
and my soul is swept up in joy.


(Translated by Jane Hirshfield)


Another Inuit poem, this one both poet and translator unknown.


I Think Over Again My Small Adventures

I think over again my small adventures,
My fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach;
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing,
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.








This is, by my count, the 38th issue of "Here and Now" posted online since May, 2006. At some point, very soon, I need to make the time to go back to the beginning and identify everything, poem and photo, that I've used. Having not done that, I'm not sure that I haven't already used this poem. It's a popular poem at readings, so I read it often, which makes it always fresh in my mind. Now I can't be sure if the freshness if entirely due to that frequent reading or partially due to using it hear before. All this is by way of an apology if this is a rerun.

The poem is included in my book Seven Beats a Second


Texas BBQ

here it is, Sunday afternoon, as, as the sun begins to fall
to the west, I'm thinking of driving to Leon Springs for dinner

it's a bit of a drive for a BBQ sandwich but the brisket there
is the best and sliding along that scarred rail to order,
breathing in the mesquite smoke, watching them pull the
meat off the fire, fat all burnt black and dripping juice as they
slice it, reminds me of when I was a kid traveling with my
family trough East Texas piney woods, stopping along the
way at rickety stands half hidden in the tall pine trees
that came right up to the edge of the little two-lane highway,
just a lean-to shed, a roof over the pit, sweet smoke wafting
through the trees like ghosts of a time before, great slabs
of meat, spicy sauce hot as South Texas asphalt
and big bottles of sweet apple cider, all this I think of, then
settle for steam table mystery meat and canned pinto beans
from a generic BBQ chain closer to home

why do we do that, I wonder, we know what's good,
but settle for easy, turn our backs on the better days
for the convenience of now, build soulless hot tar deserts
from the gardens that were blessings given by the mother
of us all, like the hills all around the city, stripped of native
cedar and oak to make way for new Wal-Marts and multi-
screen cineplexes full of pimply faced kids with $10,000
teeth watching soul-dead comedies about other kids, libidos
unleashed, fast-food joints and same-same houses with
central air dens on postage stamp lots, nature fighting
to survive, as we are, crab grass in the cracks of our own
creations, innocent, yet the scourge of all we desire








Here is a found poem, literally found by artist and poet Lawrence Trujillo, neatly hand printed on the front and back of a sheet of lined notebook paper and folded into the pages of an old book he bought at a used book store.

It is both the bane and the blessing of the internet that nothing can remain mysterious long. I did a Google search on the first line and discovered that this is a song from an album titled Into the Mirror Black by a heavy metal group called Sanctuary. May be others are familiar with the group, but I'm not. But it's available from Amazon for under $10, so I'll probably give it a try.

The song/poem was written by Sanctuary members L. Rutledge and W. Dane.

I tell you, doing this blog, I just keep learning and learning things I didn't know.


Epitaph

Mark my grave, and call the winds of torment
Oh, remember me now, and feed the wind with your dreams
Feel my name, and feel my blood in your veins
Now the tide will turn, I will live on through you
Mark my name upon the flesh you create
No, don't cry for me, my son, myself

I am waiting my son, on the threshold to the other side
Cannot tell you what is here
What I see now is beyond your mind

I am formless, but I feel
All the questions burning in your head
Learn your lesson and never grieve
For there is no beginning, and there is no end

I'm standing at the door of time, I see life complete

Truth is never what is seems
Bodies wither, but your mind still dreams
No one ever can rest in peace
Until they've learned the game and become light to darkness
See me shine

I'm standing at the door of time, I see life complete
Oh father where will I be when I meet my time?
You will pass on and follow me, into the sanctuary

I am in the mirror, see my reflection in the stars
And as you search for truth, so I will shine to spur you on
Spur you on
Bathe in the pure truth of my light

Time is an illusion, death is not conclusion

All those who seek the truth will questions still remaining
Now listen closely, and all will be so clear
I am a messenger, a bringer of light from the other side
So chosen now to teach while drifting between lives
Drifting, drifting

I will be reborn







So let's end with a short (yes, there is such a thing) Bukowski poem.


unclassical symphony

the cat murdered
in the middle of the street

tire-crushed

now it is nothing

and neither are
we

as
we
look
away



What a downer, a terrible poem to end on. Let's find something a little more mellow to take us out the door.





catch of the day

it's not the fish we catch
that count
or the fish that get away

the catch of the day
is the time we stay
and the walking home
together




a last note



Lawrence Trujillo at February's Casa Chiapas Poetry Table


We continue to work on making our monthly read-around-the-table at Casa Chiapas an event and are hoping that improving weather from now through the Spring will allow us to continue to grow. What I can tell you San Antonio folks is that it is a fun, relaxed, no-pressure event and you're welcome to join us.

Hope to see everyone here next week and there next month.

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Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
Vienna's Gallery
Shawn Nacona Stroud
Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet