It Is What It Is   Friday, March 30, 2007





OK, we have to face it. A whole two weeks of Spring having passed, steaming, stinking, miserable Summer is on the doorstep here in South Texas, leaving haters, like me, of every woeful aspect of summer with no option but to snivel and whine, as if making our misery plain will somehow change the weather and alter the seasons.

But since that won't work, a stiff upper lip is required. People will get sick by mid-May of our complaining and begin to avoid us if we don't stop.

So, lip stiffly in place, here is "Here and Now" number II.3.5 with nary a hint of my desperate internal angst exposed.







We start this week with two poems from my favorite Polish poet, Zbigniew Herbert.


Chord

Birds leave their shadows
in their nests

leave then the lamp
instrument and book

come to a hill
where air grows

I will point out
an absent star

deep under the turf
are tender roots

the wind will lend it mouth
for us to sing

we will knit our foreheads
not say a word

clouds have haloes
like saints

in place of eyes
we have black pebbles

good memory heals
the scar after departure

perhaps glimmers will glide
down the bent back

      truly truly I tell you
      great is the abyss
      between us
      and the light


Farewell to the City

Chimneys salute this departure with smoke

a barge flows on the river windows quiver and complain
stucco composes a gray wreath on the pavement
the hair of dust dragging almost into infinity

on the island is a ringing of lights in black ropes
the crab of a cathedral blind dripping with soot

the stony lips of choirs
prophets' heads shells and the barking of bones
a souvenir after the psalm to a star rose and chalice

through the middle of the city with the haste of poor funerals
a barge flows on the river loaded with rubble


(Poems translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter)







Online poet Dana L Pertermann was born in the Pacific Northwest. She says her poetry reflects her changing world view as she has moved across the US and lived in Europe for several years. She is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Archaeology.

This is Dana's first appearance in "Here and Now."


thermal

in my weak state
i am frantic
from a lack of laughter

life is cold, and i was suckered in
with no bootstraps
lassoed to the darkness

the force of your touch
strikes me
licking away my resolve

and my nights are aflame
with the shadow
of glaciers melting






Painting by Javie Garcia



I've used the poems of William Heyen twice on "Here and Now." The poems were from his book Lord Dragonfly, which consists of five "sequences." Two of the sequences are made up of a number of very short poems/verses. Those are the two sequences I've used so far, the title sequence Lord Dragonfly and Evening Dawning. Because the individual verses were so short, I was able to use the entire sequence in both instances. The next sequence is titled Machines, a series of poems about machines, both realistic and fanciful or metaphorical. Since the poems in this sequence are longer, I can only pick and choose poems to use. This is the poem I've selected this week, from the sequence Machines.


The Machine That Puts You To Sleep

There come a time
after your several new lives,
to die. Your soul knows when
and tells you, sometimes trembles
under a warm sun,
sometimes warms your limbs and face
in a flurry of snow
as though your bones were candles.
You know, and by this time
welcome your own soul's choice.
Those around you,
all those you've loved
for so long, will watch your eyes
begin to bloom to black flowers,
and will know, and be happy,
looking ahead to their own time.

Your soul will tell you the morning.
Your loved ones will walk you
to the machine's door, say
a few words, and walk away.
You'll enter the machine,
walk in the dark to where
a wall of water glows
with its own black light.
You'll walk into the water,
Your lungs will breathe water.
The water will lift you to where
your lives will pass before you
like a film. Now the machine's tides
will turn in deep silence. Now,
as though the moon drew you,
downward, the machine will drop you
into a dreamless sleep at last, forever.








It is indicative of the kind of week I've had that I have no new poems of my own to post in this issue.

That means it's time to pull out some oldies.

We lived for fifteen years on the Texas coast, in Corpus Christi, a small city of about a quarter million residents, a great city and a great place to live. We left there for our move north to the hill country, another great place to live, in 1993. Bored with retirement, I moved back to Corpus Christi on a weekly commuter basis in 2001-2002. A year and a half of making the 300 mile round trip weekly commute convinced me that boredom was not all that bad a thing after all, so I returned to my mostly full time life of leisure in San Antonio.

This poem was written, and then published in Tryst, during that period. Later, I used it in my book, Seven Beats a Second.


ripples

the bay is flat
     so still
underwater currents
can be seen on the surface
     like smoky streaks
     on an antique mirror,
     so still, like time
and the earth's rotation
have stopped and the sun
has stopped overhead, its
burning light sharp and clear,
     while offshore
     a small fish leaps
     and slaps the water
     with a crack
that starts a small wave
pushing out in a circle
from the small jumping fish,
     the only motion
spreading across the bay
     to the gulf
small leaping fish pushing
against the Gulf of Mexico
and the Atlantic beyond
     small leaping fish
     making ripples
in universal waters
     an anti-tide,
     a nibble-surge
against the moon's orbit
and the rightness of all








This poem by Jane Hirshfield is from her book Of Gravity & Angels. She has been a particular favorite of several readers of "Here and Now."


November, Remembering Voltaire

In the evenings
I scrape my fingernails clean,
hunt through old catalogues for new seed,
oil work boots and shears.
This garden is no metaphor -
more a task that swallows you into itself,
earth using, as always, everything it can.
I lend myself to unpromising winter dirt
with leaf-mold and bulb,
plant into the oncoming cold.
Not that I ever thought
the philosopher meant to be taken literally,
but with no invented God overhead,
I conjure a stubborn faith in rotting
that ripens into soil,
in an old corm that rises steadily each spring:
not symbols, but reassurances,
like a mother's voice at bedtime reading a long-familiar book,
the known words barely listened to,
but joining, for all the nights of a life,
each world to the next.








Sally Kamerling is a retired nurse. She says she has long had an interest in poetry and is just starting to try her hand at it, working with other poets in online workshop forums. She says she lives in central New York where they are just ending a short but powerful winter with lots of snow, leading her to write this spring poem.

This is her first appearance in "Here and Now."


Gray Skies in Spring

Puddles left from last night's rain
mirror
the low gray sky
spread over our valley
like the underside of a lumpy old quilt.

Our tall young maples
reach for the sky
as if to pierce the gloom
and catch
a glimpse of sun

And scattered carelessly about
in yards
small islands of snow
sit isolated
gray
and
desolate
waiting for the end.








These poems, by various poets, are from the anthology Making Callaloo - 25 Years of Black Literature, edited by Charles Henry Rowell.


Our first poem is by Rita Dove, the second African American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize (after Gwendolyn Brooks, who well see more of later in this issue). From 1993 to 1995 she served as the first Black and the youngest Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress.

Heroes

A flower in a weedy field:
make it a poppy. You pick it.
Because it begins to wilt

you run to the nearest house
to ask for a jar of water.
The woman on the porch starts

screaming you've plucked the last poppy
in her miserable garden, the one
that gave her strength every morning

to rise! It's too late for apologies
though you go through the motions, offering
trinkets and a juicy spot in the written history

she wouldn't live to read anyway.
So you strike her, she hits
her head on a white boulder

and there's nothing to be done
but break the stone into gravel
to prop up the flower in the stolen jar

you have to take along
because you're a fugitive now
and you can't leave clues.

Already the story's starting to unravel,
the villagers stirring as your heart
pounds into your throat. Why

did you pick that flower?
Because it was the last one
and you knew

it was going to die.




Angela Jackson is native of Mississippi. She has written many volumes of poems, several short stories, and a popular romance novel. She is best known for her poetry.

The Love of Travelers

(Doris, Sandra and Sheryl)

At the rest stop on the way to Mississippi
we found the butterfly mired in the oil slick:
its wings thick
and blunted. One of us, tender in the finger tips,
smoothed with a tissue the oil
that came off only a little;
the oil-smeared wings like lips colored with lipstick
blotted before a kiss.
So delicate the cleansing of the wings
I thought the color soft as watercolors would wash off
under the method of her mercy for something so slight
and graceful, injured, beyond the love of travelers.

It ws torn then, even after her kindest work,
the almost-moth exquisite charity could not mend
what weighted the wing, melded with it,
then ruptured it in release.
The body of the thing lifted out of its place
between the washed wings.
Imagine the agony of a self separated by gentlest repair.
"Should we kill it?" one of us ask. And I said yes.
But none of us had the nerve.
We walked away, the last of the oil welding the butterfly
to the wood of the picnic table.
The wings stuck out and quivered when wind went by.
Whoever found it must have marveled at this.
And loved it for what it was and
had been.
I think, meticulous mercy is the work of travelers,
and leaving things as they are
punishment or reward.

I have died for the smallest things.
Nothing washes off.



Thomas Sayers Ellis is a poet, photographer, and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY and a core faculty member of the Leslie University Low Residency MFA Program.

A Kiss in the Dark

In our community everything was kept quiet,
behind closed doors. When dogs got stuck
it was because one was hurt and the other
was a friend helping it home - just like a friend.
Once Reverend Gibson ran from the church
with a bucket of hot water and when it separated them,
they sang. That's why it was such an event,
a mistake equivalent to sin, when my parents
left their bedroom light on, door open.

Mistakes are what gave light to that tiny apartment
darkness and tried to conquer. And imagination,
How there had to be more to it than the quick
and crude "He put it in and he took it out."

A naked bulb on the dresser next to where
they made me made them celebrities, giants, myth.
I watch their black shadows on the wall,
half expecting fade out and something romantic
as the final scene of "Love Crazy," my father
a suave William Powell, my mother's slender body
a backwards C in the tight focus of his arms -
close shot, oneiric dissolve, jump-cut to years
before their separation and the arrival of hot water.



Terrance Hayes graduated in 1994 from Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, where he played basketball and majored in painting. From 1994 to 1997 he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry at the University of Pittsburgh writing program. From 1999-2001 he was an assistant professor of English at Xavier University of Louisiana. Since 2001 he has been on the creative writing faculty of Carnegie Mellon University, where he is a full professor.

Touch

- for Y.K. & brothers playing football in the parks, in the streets, and in the dark.

We made our own laws,
I want to be a Hawk,
A Dolphin, a Lion, we'd say

In stores where team logos hung
Like animal skins.

Even by moonlight,
We'd chase each other
Around the big field

Beneath branches sagging
As if their leaves were full of blood.

We didn't notice when policemen
Came lighting tree-bark
& our skin with flashlights.

They saw our game
For what it was:

Fingers clutching torso,
Shoulder, wrist - a brawl,
Some of the boys escaped,

Their brown legs cut by thorns
As they ran through the brush.

It's true, we could have been mistaken
For animals in the dark,
But of all possible crimes,

Blackness was the first.
So they tackled me,

And read me my rights without saying:
You Down or Dead Ball.
We had a language

They did not use, a name
For collision. We called it Touch.








Online poet Christine Kiefer says that, when not pretending to write, she is an attorney smack dab in the middle of the US of A. My own reaction after reading her stuff is to say that, if she's just pretending to write, she's one heck of a good pretender, a "great pretender" even, as in the '50's rock and roll song.

This is her first appearance in "Here and Now."


Done things I wish I could undo

that we hadn't gone to the market that morning for the butter nut squash
I was to cook with coconut and brown sugar or the watermelon,
small and seedless, your favorite, and those damn red delicious apples

that you hadn't fixed the wobbly kitchen table my kids and I
abandoned months ago - when I'd cut their pork chops
I thought it would just collapse right there on the sleeping cat underneath

that I hadn't bought you a toothbrush, the green one that stands diagonal
leaning up against mine, orange and worn because of my obsession
with teeth, yours sharp and noticeable, mine brushed countless times a day

that you hadn't done that one load of laundry for me while I was at work
the one with the bathroom rugs that I should wash more often, the mint
green one that when freshly washed shows footprints by the shower

the one with your print, from the last time you were here








This poem was written during that same 2001-2002 period I mentioned earlier. It was published in The Horsethief's Journal in 2003.


welcome home

it's early morning and I'm looking for this
apartment that was listed in the classifieds

(on the beach, the ad said,
half a block from the Sea Shell Motel,
lovely view of the bay at sunrise)

through fog so thick I could run over
a dozen geezers reading their free
USA Today in the lobby of the Sea Shell
Motel and not know it until my insurance
premiums went up in the next quarter

but with the humidity so high
all my car windows are so smeared
with condensation inside and out
that I can't see the fog and I figure
what the hell and don't worry about it

I'm looking for Bushnick Street
and all the street signs are lost somewhere
in that thick fog that I can't see anyway
because of the goddam humidity

until I finally give up and
turn off my air conditioner
and open all the car windows
thinking that if I get the smeared
windows out of the way maybe
I can see through the fog enough
to at least figure out where I am

but that doesn't work either
and all I do is let in a black
cloud of starving mosquitoes
that settle on my face and arms
like a cactus blanket, greedy little
vampire bugs nipping a hundred
little nips, sucking my blood, leaving
wet red splotches as I flail my hands
around, slapping myself silly at seven
o'clock in the gulf coast morning
and I'm reminded about all the things
about this place I haven't missed








It's been several weeks since we've done Bukowski, the favorite of all my favorites. Though I understand my high opinion is not universally shared, several weeks without him is still too long. So here he is again.


I'm a failure

I locked my car door
and this
guy walked up
he looked like my old
friend Peter
but it wasn't Peter
it was a skinny dude
in blue work shirt and torn jeans
and he said,
"hey, man, my wife and I
need something to eat!
we're starving!"
I looked behind him
and there was his
woman
and she stared at me
her eyes brimming with
tears.
I gave him a five.
"I love you, man!" he
hollered, "and I'm not going to spend it on booze!"
"why not?" I said.

I went and
took care f some business
came back
got into my car
and
contemplated
whether I had done
something good
or been taken.

as I drove off
I remembered my years on the
bum
starved, damn near beyond repair and
I had never asked anyone for a
dime.

that night
I explained to the lady I lived with
how I often gave money to panhandlers
but that
in the darkest hungriest times of my
life I had refused
to ask anyone for
anything.

"you just never knew how to do any-
thing right," she said.







Here's a little quasi-remembrance, published in Retrozine in 2003.


Stringing Fence on the Rio Grande


It was damn hot the summer of '63 and me and my friend Toby was right in the middle of it all, working for a fella named Lackland Caintrail in the cactus and caliche badlands between Laredo and Old Guerrero.

Caintrail was a banker, bought himself a few head of stringy looking cattle and a hundred acres of Rio Grande brush and decided he was a rancher, even though he didn't know diddly about range cows and ranching.

Course, I wasn't much of a cowboy either, but Toby knew the work and he'd got me out of scrapes before and I knew he'd watch out for me, get me across a pasture without too much cow flop on my boots, keep me from sitting on a cactus or pissing on a rattlesnake.

Mostly, we was fixing up the fences, putting in new cedar posts, stringing barb wire, so I didn't need to know much, just how to turn a post hole digger, though it's easier to talk about than do since putting a hole in that hard-packed South Texas caliche is not much different from digging in an asphalt parking lot in downtown Fort Worth, except it's hotter'n hell and the only shade in fifty miles is under a scrubby huisache bush that's more'n likely already been claimed by a nest of rattlers.

It was hard, hard work, and the harder it got and the hotter it got, the thirstier we got, and the thirstier we got, the longer seemed the days and night baking in the desert, waiting for the end of the month and our paycheck.

Sometimes, we just couldn't wait for the end of the month. So after work, we'd clean up best we could, put on some good jeans, polish up our fancy-Dan boots and drive the forty miles to town, to where the Red Cross kept its blood bank open late for cash-starved rig hands and cowboys running dry, tight and summer night lonely.

Me and Toby would line up with the other roughnecks and take our turn, getting as much as we could for our blood. That wasn't much for me, barely buy a six-pack, but Toby, that boy had a gold mine running in his veins, each pint worth enough to get us across the bridge to Nuevo Laredo with money for a woman, tequila, a couple of pretty good cigars and a big plate for each of us of anything besides pinto beans.

Next morning, sleep deprived, wrung out, and hung over in that hot desert sun we'd swear we'd never do it again, but we knew we would cause it gets pretty lonely out in those South Texas badlands and sometimes a lonely cowboy just gotta get rowdy like cowboys oughta do.






Painting by Javie Garcia



The next three poems are by Gwendolyn Brooks, first African-American recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, from the collection of her work, Collected Poems. She was born in 1917 and, in style and form, those early times are reflected in her work. In many other ways, her poems seem very modern and up to date in mood and outlook, a kind of late 20's flapperishness, in the best sense of that word, exuberant, freethinking, independent, and very smart, qualities that were submerged in many women for a while by social pressures and role conformity, but that returned with great passion and urgency in the later part of the century. Here are three examples of how the old mixes with the new.


southeast corner

The School of Beauty's a tavern now.
The Madam is underground.
Out at Lincoln, among the graves
Her own is early found.
Where the thickest, tallest monument
Cuts grandly into the air
The Madam lies, contentedly.
Her fortune, too, lies there,
Converted into cool hard steel
And right red velvet lining;
While over her tan impassivity
Shot silk is shining.


a song in the front yard

I've stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it's rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun..
My mother sneers, but I say it's fine
How they don't have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tell me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George'll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).

But I say it's fine. Honest, I do.
And I'd like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the street with paint on my face.


Sadie and Maud

Maud went to college.
Sadie stayed at home.
Sadie scraped life
With a fine-tooth comb.

She didn't leave a tangle in.
Her comb found every strand.
Sadie was one of the livingest chits
In all the land.

Sadie bore two babies
Under her maiden name.
Maud and Ma and Papa
Nearly died of shame.

When Sadie said her last so-long
Her girls struck out from home.
(Sadie had left as heritage
Her fine-tooth comb.)

Maud, who went to college,
Is a thin brown mouse.
She is living all alone
In this old house.








James Fowler has been with us here several times. Here's one of his latest poems.


Stone Concubine

Wet stone, tumbled by incessant
seas, waits on the sand, like a jade
green mermaid. I pick it up,
roll its oblate form in my fingers,
like a blind man touching lips.

The choice green pebble joins with me
in my pocket. Secure, smooth, select,
it rubs my cloth, a stone concubine
languishing like an Odalisque lover.

Next day, I found another.
Tossed the old talisman to sea,
where it ground gradually to sand,
a spurned lover in Neptune's bed.








Frequent "Here and Now" contributor Gary Blankenship has been writing a series of fifty poems, each poem evocative of one of the fifty states. I hope we'll be seeing some of those poems in future blissues.

In the meantime, I ran across a book, Across State Lines, put together by The American Poetry & Literacy Project, which compiles poems pertaining to the various states by a variety of poets, both modern and less so. Though not nearly as challenging a project as Gary set for himself, there are still some good poems.

Here are several, heading across the country as the crow flies, assuming the crow flies alphabetically.


CALIFORNIA

This poem was written by Charles Foster. Google came up with a number of Charles Fosters, but none that I could definitively pin this poem on. It's still a fun poem, though.


How Everything Was In The End Resolved In California

it
wasn't
san
andreas
fault
it
wasn't
mine
things
just
started
sliding



FLORIDA

And here's a Florida poem by Wallace Stevens

Nomad Exquisite

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth
The big-finned palm
And green vine angering for life,

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth hymn and hymn
From the beholder,
Beholding all these green sides
And gold sides and green sides,
And blessed mornings,
Meet for the eye of the young alligator,
And lightning colors
So, in me, come flinging
Forms, flames, and the flakes of flames.



MICHIGAN

Philip Levine, a Michigan native, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet. He is the Distinguished Poet in Residence for the Creative Writing Program at New York University.

Drum

Leo's Tool & Die, 1950

In the early morning before the shop
opens, men standing out in the yard
on pine planks over the umber mud.
The oil drum, squat, brooding, brimmed
with metal scraps, three-armed crosses,
silver shavings whitened with milky oil,
drill bits bitten off. The light diamonds
last night's rain; inside a buzzer purrs.
The overhead door stammers upward
to reveal the scene of our day.

                              We sit
for lunch on crates before the open door.
Bobeck, the boss's nephew, squats to hug
the overflowing drum, gasps and lifts. Rain
comes down in sheets staining his gunmetal
covert suit. A stake truck sloshes off
as the sun returns through a low sky.
By four, the office help has driven off. We
sweep, wash up, punch out, collect outside
for a final smoke. The great door crashes
down at last.

            In the darkness the scents
of mint, apples, asters. In the darkness
this could be a Carthaginian outpost sent
to guard the waters of the West, those mounds
could be elephants at rest, the acrid half light
the haze of stars striking armor if stars were out.
On the galvanized tin roof the tunes of sudden rain.
The slow light of Friday morning in Michigan,
the one we waited for, shows seven hills
of scraped earth topped with crab grass,
weeds, a black oil drum empty, glistening
at the exact center of the modern world.



NEW MEXICO

John Balaban is a poet and translator who teaches at North Carolina State University.

Passing through Albuquerque

At dusk, by the irrigation ditch
gurgling past backyards near the highway,
locust raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods.

A Spanish girl in a white party dress
strolls the levee by the muddy water
where her small sister plunks in stones.

Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot.
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer.

Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm,
rocking the immense trees and whipping up
clouds of dusk, wild leaves, and cottonwool.

In the moment when the locusts pause and the girl
presses her up-fluttering dress to her bony knees
you can hear a banjo, guitar, and fiddle

playing "The Mississippi Sawyer" inside a shack.
Moments like that, you can love this country.



NEW YORK

This piece was written by Nikki Giovanni.

Just a New York Poem

i wanted to take
your hand and run with you
together toward
ourselves down the street to your street
i wanted to laugh aloud
and skip the notes past
the marquee advertising "women
in love" past the record
shop with "the spirit
in the dark" past the smoke shop
past the park and no parking
parking today signs
past the people watching me in
my blue velvet and i don't remember
what you wore but only that i didn't want
anything to be wearing you
i wanted to give
myself to the cyclone that is
your arms
and let you in the eye of my hurricane and know
the calm before

and some fall evening
after the cocktails
and the very expensive and very bad
steak served with day-old baked potatoes
and the second cup of coffee taken
while listening to the rejected
violin player
maybe some fall evening
when the taxis have passed you by
and that light sort of rain
that occasionally falls
in new youk begins
you’ll take a thought
and laugh aloud
the notes carrying all the way over
to me and we'll run again
together
toward each other
yes?



TEXAS


Rebecca Gonzales, a native of the Bronx, writes and performs in both English and Spanish.

South Texas Summer Rain

Dust cools easily
with the lightest summer ran.
Not rocks. In the midst of dry brush,
they hold the sun like a match,
a threat to the water
that would wear them out.

Dust becomes clay,
cups rain like an innocent offering.
Not rocks.

They round their backs to the rain,
channel it down the street where children play,
feeling the rocks they walk on,
sharp as ever under the water,
steaming away.

If rocks would hold water at all,
it's only long enough
for a cactus to grow gaudy flowers,
hoard a cheap drink,
flash it like a sin
worth the pain.








Here's another piece from the 2001-2002 period I mention earlier. The poem was published in The Green Tricycle in 2001.


lying with my lover on the beach at midnight

the beach was best at midnight
when the daytrippers were at home
nursing sunburns, or in a bar,
honky-tonk dancing in gritty flip-flops

the beach was best at midnight
when its beauty was ours alone,
when the sand gleamed white in moonlight
and stars spread across the gulf sky
like a blanket of lights on the tropic night
when the surf breaking against the shore
was the only sound, a low hint of rumble
like far-away thunder, constant in the distance

the beach was best at midnight
when we lay together on a sandy towel
wrapped in the whisper of rising-fallings waves








Speaking of Gary Blankenship, here is a poem he wrote in response to a challenge I started on the Blueline Forum. The challenge was to write poems about presidents. The challenge on top of the challenge was to write poems about the presidents named by historians as the five worst presidents in American history. (No, George the Lesser was not in consideration. The consensus is that he ought to get to complete his term before being identified as the worst ever.)

The five presidents selected by historians as the worst were:

1. James Buchanan - Rejected Slavery as an indefensible evil, but refused to challenge the constitutionally established order, by compromising when he should have stood firm, allowed the introduction of slavery into western territories, unwilling to stand firm against he secessionist tide. A devote man, but weak in his use of presidential power and influence, bears partial responsibility for the eventual succession of the southern states and the Civil War which followed.

2. Warren B. Harding - Hail fellow, well met, could not say no to crooked friends and acquaintances. In his own words, "I am not fit for this office and should never have been here."


3. Andrew Johnson - Former tailor who rose to the office of Vice-President, then to the Presidency upon Lincoln's death. Though a Democrat, he was a staunch supporter of the Union and the only southerner to retain his seat in the US Senate after succession. In my schoolboy days in South Texas, he was held in esteem for holding back "the carpetbaggers." The most recent evaluation is that he was astonishingly inept and indifferent to the plight of the newly freed slaves.


4. Franklin Pierce - A Yankee with southern principles. He believed in national expansion even at the cost of extending slavery, putting an end to the founders' hope and belief that the slavery issue would fade away and that slavery itself would die a natural death if it could be restricted to the Union's original slave states, and thus setting the stage for the Civil War. Of President Pierce, Theodore Roosevelt wrote that he was "a servile tool of men worse than himself...ever ready to do any work the slavery leaders set him."


5. Millard Fillmore - vice-president to Zachary Taylor, became President when Taylor died. Essential to passage of the Compromise of 1850 which included the "Fugitive Slave Law" which compelled the federal government to return fugitive slaves to their southern owners. Though this may have averted a national crisis and postponed the Civil War, in the end it also strengthened southern obstinacy and belief that the Union would not take action if present with succession as a fact. Twenty years later, The News York Times opined that Fillmore's great and disastrous mistake was to "see in slavery a political and not a moral question."

Gary chose to write about Millard Fillmore, arriving at the president, as might be expected from Gary, in a way no one would have predicted.

Here's the poem


A Short History of Bathtubs

In '17, the Sage of Baltimore wrote
Millard Fillmore (voted worse president
ever - not Mallard Fillmore, the cartoon)
installed the first White House bathtub.

HL's hoax still believed and repeated
many times in the near century since
perhaps because who would accept
the do-nothing Fillmore bathed
or the first tub was put in by John
Adams (bathing illegal in Boston,
Mass without a doctor's orders),
any of another dozen candidates.

Maybe simple as the nation's first cynic,
who considered his fellow Americans
boobs and Babbits, could not himself
admit they would accept the Know-Nothing
Millard installed the first White House library.








Li Qingzhao was a Chinese writer and poet of the Song Dynasty, regarded by many as the premier woman poet in the Chinese language.

In 1101 she married Zhao Mingcheng, with whom she shared interests in art collection and epigraphy. The couple lost most of their possessions when they fled following the collapse of the northern Song; Zhao died in 1129. Li subsequently settled in Hangzhou, where she remarried and then divorced.

Only around a hundred of her poems are known to survive.

A crater on Mercury is named after her.


Warm rain and sunny wind

Warm rain and sunny wind start to break
   the chill.
Willows like eyes, plums like cheeks.
I already feel spring's heart throbbing.
Wine and poems.
Whom can I share them with?
Tears dissolve my makeup. My gold hairpin
   is heavy.

I try on a light spring robe threaded with gold
and lean against a hill of pillows.
Till it damages the gold phoenix pin.
Alone, I hug dense pain with no good dreams.
Late at night, I am still playing
as I trim the wick.


(Translated byWillis Barnstone and Sun Chu-chin)







Here are several passages from Gatha Saptashati, a 2000 year old collection of erotic love poetry from India.


Clearly a god is kissing that lady,
making her nipples go stiff.
There is no way to approve of such a lover,
even if he is a god.

****

The gods have parceled him out,
his beauty caught in my eye,
his talk in my ears, heart in my
heart, his thing in my thing.

****

A girl longing for dalliance
should never set out in the dark.
The flame of desire burns bright,
far too bright in the dark.

****

After our lovemaking
he takes one step away to look at the moon
and returns in five minutes,
but I feel bitterly abandoned.

****

When her friends asked her why
saffron blossoms stuck to her breast
she brushed them away, only to reveal
bite marks of her lover, left and right.

****

If you can't bring him to his knees
with that glance like an arrow
and that musical walk you've perfected
he's a sanyasi, a holy man for sure.

****

Friendship with a bad man -
a line drawn on water;
with a good man - etched forever
deep scrip in white marble.

****

Good men can never be lovers,
for they must keep themselves constant,
tell the truth most of the time,
keep the tigers of passion in cages.

****

Let those who want sainthood
keep to their path of denial - no harm.
But I know what I want, and wait
for a chance for my eyes to say so.

****

The love gods have special affection
for women who like it on top,
their hair fanned out, disheveled,
eyes closed, their thighs trembling.


(Translated by David Ray)







Online poet Susan McDonough who's been with us here on "Here and Now" several times submitted several responses to the Blueline challenge. She submitted an acrostic on James Buchanan (she enjoys acrostics and is very good at them) and a poem on William Harrison. Although Harrison was not one of the five worst, he was included as a bonus because of the unusual and unusually short circumstances of his presidency. He gave a two hour inaugural speech on a very, very cold January morning, caught pneumonia, and died thirty days after taking office.

Here's Buchanan


So Forgettable

Just what you are....
amazing the someone could amputate
masterfully their own success and
earn the best of the worst presidential
shackle to wear for recent eternity.

Bumbling buffoons abound under
umbrella of leaders (sssh no names - Patriot act)
castrating north from south, hate finding
harbor no heading off. One can't armchair
adversity out of the way with no nerve
nor plan. #15 could have changed history
optioned oppression, challenged an un-civil war -
no, he watched as a river of red turned tide.



Here's Harrison.


"Harry" Takes A Powder

William Harrison is said to be one of the worst
Presidents in history but how bad can you get
in thirty days? Doesn't it usually takes longer
for the public to consider a politician inept?
(being inept currently a prerequisite for politicians)

I believe it may have begun with him not listening
to his mom. I mean the man didn't wear a coat
in the freezing air of January! If a man isn't going
to listen to his mom will he listen to his cabinet?
Strike one.

Now add an inaugural speech (edited for length by
that wordsmith Danny Webster) that lasted two hours
on a day so cold sparrows froze onto branches.
Strike two (they should have killed him for that!)

Next, he lets "the team" doc treat him when he takes ill.
The cures ran the gamut from opium to snakes. How can
a guy be that gullible?
Strike Three.

The dude swung himself out of good health and into a place
called "6 feet under" which later became a popular HBO
series after the second turn of another century.








Now, four summer haiku from the master Basho.


Summer grass -
all that's left
of warriors' dreams.

*

As for the hibiscus
by the roadside,
my horse ate it.

*

A bee
staggers out
of the peony.

*

A fishy smell -
perch guts
in the water weeds.








Here are two moon poems from the same 2001-2002 period. The poems share a page in my book Seven Beats a Second and are also available, with art, as a poster.


the pull of the moon

half moon
cut precisely by earth's shadow,
one part shinning
in the clear October night
like a great yellow lantern in the sky
and the other, dark and mysterious,
though barely seen by the eye,
still a mover of tides
and midnight meditations

so it is with my love for you,
as the bright in you pulls me,
even more the secrets
of your darker moods


the moon rising

ripples of wind
ruffle bay waters
like a lover's hand
soothing soft tangles
in her beloved's hair

gentle winds

quiet waters

bright stars warm
in the cool
autumn dark

the moon
rising,
empress
of the night








This poem by Galway Kinnell is interesting at least in part because of where it's been. It's from an anthology, Poetry in Motion: 100 Poems from the Subways and Buses and is one of many poems that appeared on New York City public transportation between 1992 nd 1997. It surely must have been an interesting and unexpected read for a weary commuter riding home on the subway late at night.


Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden on the tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.








From The Song of Songs a song of the groom and a song of the bride, translated by poet Chana Bloch and Hebrew scholar Ariel Bloch.

Scholars think the songs in the text were written down in the third century B.C. around the time of Alexander the Great.


The Groom

Oh come with me, my bride,
come down with me from Lebanon,
Look down from the peak of Amana,
look down from Senir and Hermon,
from the mountains of the leopards,
the lion's den.

You have ravished my heart,
my sister, my bride,
ravished me with one glance of your eyes,
one link of your necklace.

And oh, your sweet loving,
my sister, my bride.
The wine of your kisses, the spice
of your fragrant oils.

Your lips are honey, honey and milk
are under your tongue,
your clothes hold the scent of Lebanon.



The Bride

Come, my beloved,
let us go out into the fields
and lie all night among the flowering henna.

Let us go early to the vineyards
to see if the vine has budded,
if the blossoms have opened
and the pomegranate is in flower.

There I will give you my love.

The air if filled with the scent of mandrakes
and at our doors
rare fruit of every kind, my love,
I have stored away for you.








A final poem, written several years ago, unfortunately still relevant today as the war continues.

As a veteran of the Viet Nam era, I remember what it was like to cross an airport lobby in uniform on my way home in 1969.

That's why it seems especially important to me to remember that, despite the mind-boggling stupidity and immorality of this current war, the men and women fighting it didn't grab guns and rush off to Iraq on their own. They were sent by their government and, for better or worse, in our democracy, that means they were sent by you and me. The shame of this war is on the backs of the leaders of our government who started it and the citizens like you and me who, whether for or against it, let it happen.

This poem was written in October, 2004 and appeared shortly thereafter in the website Poets Against the War.


welcome home the warrior safe and whole

let us not think today of those who remain,
but celebrate instead only you, home now,
safe for a while from the lying old men
who sent you away, the craven old men
whom passed their own war in hiding,
saving all their valor for a day
when risk would again be borne by others

- oh, safe now in their high office,
how they glory in sending others to die,
no hiding now for them,
but photo ops far from the line of fire,
in the garb of warriors,
on the deck of a warrior vessel,
watch them preen, thieves that they are,
stealing honor from the blood
of men and women better
than in their grandest dreams
they could ever be -

but you are not them
you went with honor and with honor you now return,
far away from the sand,
from the desert heat,
far away from death lurking beside each road,
around each corner, behind each wall,
behind, you must fear, every smiling face

through the random grace of whatever gods
look out for warriors and their families,
you are home,
home to friends and worried kin,
to wife and dancing daughters
- grown so in the months you were gone -
home to gentle hills and dew-drenched pastures,
home to the cleansing rain of October,
to the cool nights and shifting colors of early autumn,
home to your wife's warm bed
and the arms of all who waited for your return



Back next week.

Until then, I offer my thanks and appreciation to all who contributed to this issue and to our reading pleasure and remind everyone that all material reproduced in this issue remains the sole property of its creators.

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Sunset on the First Day of Spring   Saturday, March 24, 2007



Just a note in passing on the death of Richard S. Prather, creator of Shell Scott, Private Eye, and a whole series of books full of blood, brawls, babes, boobs and bad guys brought low, all in good humor. I spent my early teens reading all those books and though I probably should have been reading something of higher tone and greater moral impact, I read what I read and had the best fantasies of any thirteen year old I knew.

Would that we all could do as well, beginning here, with "Here and Now" number II.3.4.





Our first poem this week is in the form of a wee bit of a history lesson from returning on-line poet Mary Jo Caffrey, proudly, she notes, of the Caffrey-Powers Clan.


The Miracle that Slithered

So low, these varied ropes of length and scales
might be overlooked by anyone searching for
four-leaf clovers above the bog, on a hillside
emerald green set off by sky bigger than the sea,
roiling green-deep depths and a mist like a
benediction from Patrick, sackcloth donned
missionary to Druids and Viking spawn there
on the island, scattered like dog packs in a
country even now the Brits covet, curse of
island greed in tasting Thames, lifeblood of
a bigger fish that will eventually be fed.

Snakes underfoot in Eire, hanging in the trees
like broken branches seeking prey, snakes in
Irish hovels, scratching skins on homespun
wool blankets, seeking warmth in Irish winter,
even cozying up to sheep in the shed, living
collars on the dumb animals, sharing warmth
in snake lore, undulating staffs for shepherds
brave enough to hold them.

Patrick saw all that snakes infiltrated there in
Ireland and grew more and more outraged, especially
finding a thin small one curled around his still-warm
beads after praying the Rosary.

God help me and guide me, this is the end of
snakes in Ireland!

Patrick's prayer echoed in the hills as he marched from horizon
to horizon on that little island, stamping his travel cane on the
ground like a giant, waves of motion through the ground,
waking snakes and compelling them
to follow this bearded missionary so like God,
waves of snakes a living river, a quarter mile wide
and sometimes making hissing sounds like the wind
through pine needles, now snake breath through fangs.

On Patrick went, till the end of the island he reached.
There on a cliff Patrick stood like Moses, staff raised
high as he commanded the snakes into the sea. Then a
green waterfall fell into the sea, shimmering, and
disappeared. So all the snakes in Ireland migrated
into legend and myth, or so they say.

Patrick kept the smallest one for a pet,
a little snake that reminded him of God's mercy
and the blessings of moderation.








Later in this issue, on-line poet Sarah Zang will welcome the onset of early spring. In this poem, French poet Rimbaud welcomes the onset of a new day. Although he died before the turn of the 20th century, Rimbaud continued to inspire generations of writers and freethinkers, including Allen Ginsberg, Jim Morrison of the Doors and many others, as well as, to a greater or lesser extent, me and every other poet I know.


A Good Thought in the Morning


At four in the morning, in summer,
The sleep of love still continues.
Under the arbors dawn evaporates
     The scent of the festive night.

But yonder in the huge lumberyard
Toward the sun of the Hesperides,
In shirtsleeves the carpenters
     Are already moving about.

In their desert of moss, calm,
They prepare the precious panels
Where the city's wealth
     Will laugh under false skies.

Ah! for those charming Workmen
Subjects of a Babylonian king,
Venus! leave Lovers for a little while,
     whose souls are crowned.

       O Queen of Shepherds,
     Take brandy to the workers,
     So that their strength may be at peace
As the wait for the bath in the sea, at noon.


(Translated by Seth Whidden)







Anne Sexton began writing poetry as therapy after attempting suicide in 1956. From that beginning, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Live or Die, and taught at Harvard and Colgate universities, and was appointed as a professor at Boston University, writing and writing and writing until her poetry ended as it had begun, with a suicide attempt, this time successful, in 1974.

She wrote this poem after viewing the famous van Gogh painting.


The Starry Night

(That does not keep me from having a terrible need of....shall I say the word....religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars - Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his brother)


The town does not exist
except where on black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die.
It moves. They are alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die:
into that rushing beast of night,
sucked up by that great dragon, to split
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.








This being the beginning of the fifth year of our war in Iraq, I submit this poem, written last week and triggered by a photo in the New York Times.


four years after liberation

     (from a photo in the New York Times)

barefoot
in shorts
and a ragged tee,
four,
no more than five
years old,
standing behind an
American soldier,
eyes bright and wide
with fear,
hands
over his ears

     the caption reads
     gunfire
     is heard nearby


child of
war

child of
our war,
yours and
mine








Portuguese poet Eugenio de Andrade speaks of desire.


Eye of Water

Everything ached within,
so strong was his desire:

the earth
and its wall of sadness,

the adolescent murmur not of wasps
but of linden trees,

the breathing of wheat

fire gathered at the waist,

and open kiss in the shadows,

everything ached within:

a fragile, sweet, gentle
masculine watering of the eyes,

carmine squandered on mirrors,

lips,
the instruments of joy

so strong was his desire:

the melancholy sweet
magnificence of frightened animals,

a difficult summer
in high beds of sand,

a sigh's delicate stalk,

the business of ruined fingers

the unfinished harp
of tenderness,

a pulse clearly pensive

ached within:

on the eve of becoming a man,
on the eve of becoming water,
time burning

strangled nightingale,

my love white mulberry,

the river
tilted
towards the birds,

shared nakedness, morning games,
or if you'd rather: nuptial,

the torrential silence,

the reverence of masts,

in the interval of swords

a child is running
running on the hill

after the wind

so strong was his desire
everything, everything ached within.


(Translated by Alexis Levitin)







Poet and teacher of literature Gary Soto writes of his first experiences leading a classroom.


Teaching English from an Old Composition Book

My chalk is no larger than a chip of fingernail,
Chip by which I must explain this Monday
Night the verbs "to get," "to wear," "to cut."
I'm not given much these tired students,
Knuckle-wrapped from work as roofers,
Sour from scrubbing toilets and pedestal sinks,
I'm given this room with five windows,
A coffee machine, a piano with busted strings,
The music of how we feel as the sun falls,
Exhausted from keeping up.

               I stand at
The blackboard. The chip is worn to a hangnail,
Nearly gone, the dust of some educational bone.
By and by I'm Cantinflas, the comic
Busy body in front. I say, "I want the coffee."
I pick up a coffee cup and sip.
I clip my heels together and say, "I wear my shoes."
I bring an invisible fork to my mouth
And say, "I eat the chicken."
Suddenly the class is alive -
Each one putting on hats and shoes.
Drinking sodas and beers, cutting flowers
And steaks - a pantomime of sumptuous living.

At break I pass out cookies.
Augustine, the Guatemalan, asks in Spanish,
"Teacher, what is 'tally-ho'?"
I look at the word in the composition book
I raise my face to the bare bulb for a blind answer.
I stutter, then say, "It's like 'adalente'."
Augustine smiles, then nudges a friend
In the next desk, now smarter by one word.
After the cookies are eaten,
We move ahead to prepositions -
"Under," "over," and "between,"
Useful words when la migra opens the doors
of their idling vans.
At ten to nine, I'm tired of acting,
And they're tired of their roles.
When class ends, I clap my hands of chalk dust,
And two students applaud, thinking it's a new verb.
I tell them adelante,
And they pick up their old books.
They smile and, in return, cry, "Tally-ho"
As they head out the door.








Now this from Victor Hernandez Cruz


Libros

This is a leaf
It is from the palms
That the river of words
is entering the valley
Into the caves
the winds of hurricanes
Chasing the crabs
of the oceans
Leafs hanging in the
wind are the archives
Of the gone
Exchanges between thought
and fingers
In the landscape
alphabet of rocks
The library of Alexandria
emptied into a Bedouin
guitar
Sprayed from the desert
into flaminca's eyes
Who sailed the Atlantic
To make the pineapples
compose coplas
Upon sheets of golden
sun rays
So hot that insects want
to take off their clothes
And just be whispers
writing out of palms









On-line poet, Lana Wiltshire lives in Southern California, not far from the beaches where she grew up. She says she writes because it is the most joyous, engrossing, satisfying thing she can do each day. When she's not writing....well, she's always writing, she says. But sometimes she also teaches History and English at local middle schools and high schools.

This is Lana's first appearance in "Here and Now."



What Stays and What Goes

I take one
last look around the bedroom.
Blank white walls, pale
gold carpet,
generic blinds
offer no hint of lives
lived here: all joy, sorrow,
death
              erased.

No hospital
bed, no oxygen
machine with its snaking
tubes - just silence
remains.

For a moment
shadows play through
the room and memory
colors the walls again.
Then I walk away.
              Ghosts
don't live in rooms, but in hearts.
I plan to take mine with me
this time.








William Butler Yeats on old loves and could-have-beens.


When You Are Old

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes once had, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.






Painting by Blas Hernandez Jr. and Rita Ramos



Nobel Poet Octavio Paz on poetry


Proem

    At times poetry is the vertigo of bodies and the vertigo of joy and the
vertigo of death;
    the walk with eyes closed along the edge of the cliff, and the verbena
in submarine gardens;
    the laughter that sets fire to rules and the holy commandments;
    the descent of parachuting words onto the sands of the page;
    the despair that boards a paper boar and crosses
    for forty nights and forty days, the night-sorrow sea and the day-
sorrow desert;
    the idolatry of the self and the desecration of the self and the dissipa-
tion of the self;
    the beheading of epithets, the burial of mirrors;
    the recollection of pronouns freshly cut in the garden of Epicurus, and
the garden of Netzahualcoyot;
    the flute solo on the terrace of memory and the dance of flames in the
cave of thought;
    the migrations of millions of verbs, wings and claws, seeds and hands;
    the nouns, bony and full of roots, planted on waves of language;
    the love unseen and the love unheard and the love unsaid; the love in
love

Syllables seeds.


(Translated by Eliot Weinberger)







Next, we have two poems from on-line poet and frequent "Here and Now" contributor Alan Addotto . This is a gentler, quieter Alan than we're used to.


Awake in the dark

The other night
as she slept

The bluish night light
in the bedroom
was just bright enough
..... soft and unobtrusive
as I suppose
it would be inside a cocoon
if it were tinted a pale cerulean.

Kwan Yin sleeping
I reached over
and touched her right breast.

A pulse.

Life. Yes!

Nothing I didn't expect
.....yet
still somewhat of a surprise.
Her presence and mine
at the same time and in the same place
both caught up in the quiet coincidences
that had brought us there
together.

She didn't stir
except for the dreaming movements
made
beneath lidded eyes.

That and
.....the riseandfall of gentle breathing
with the reaffirming warmth and
reassurance in just touching her.


The sound of wind chimes in the twilight

What would you of me,
Love?
Foreverness in this body,
in this place?
This, I am afraid, is not mine to give
though I would if I could
and wait out the star-dimmings with you
and more.
But have we not done that before?
Have we not in other bodies other than these
watched many sweet light-bornings
and their slow retreats into darkness
uncountable and repeating
played
again and again?

Yes,
have faith. Don't be afraid.
Time has no bind on you and me.
We have no business
with just this single temporality,
this single set of brief breaths
strung out over fragile years.
No,
this is not for us, these limitations.

Be brave, my dear heart.
Be brave.
As there was no start in the past
there is no ending at last.

Smile.








James Wright spent most of his life in New York City, but never, in his poetry, forgot his rural roots.


Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year's horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.








The Chinese poet He Qifang was born in the early years of the 20th century and was greatly influenced in his poetry by Western literature. Despite joining the Communist Party near the very beginning of the revolution and years of loyalty to the party, he was, like many teachers and intellectual, persecuted and sent to the countryside for "reeducation" during the Cultural Revolution.

He died of stomach cancer in 1977.


Shrine to the Earth God

Sunlight shines on the broad leaves of castor-oil plants,
Beehives nestle in the earth-god shrine.
Running against my shadow,
I have returned circuitously
And realized the stillness of time.

But on the grass,
Where are those short-armed children who chased after chirping crickets?
Where are those joyous cries of my childhood playmates,
Rising to the blue sky at the treetops?
The vast kingdom of childhood
Appears pathetically small
Under my feet, which are dusty with foreign dust.

In the desert, travelers treasure a glass of water;
A sailor resents the white waves beyond his oars.
I used to think I possessed a paradise
And hit it in the darkest corner of my memory.
Since then I have experienced the loneliness of an adult
And grown fonder of the mazes of paths in dreams.








An important trait to be developed when workshopping your work on any of the many on-line poetry forums is the ability to accept all criticism with equanimity and appreciation. All criticism is helpful, you must convince yourself, even when it's clear that your critic missed the point of your masterpiece entirely.

Hard as it is to admit sometimes, it's true, criticism makes better poets.

Some have a harder time developing this trait of grace under pressure than others.


progress report on learning to accept criticism graciously

skanky
bitch,
with her own
little band of
acolytes,
all of them
reliably
certain
to confuse
attitude
with talent

time to get
zen

think
of the forest

think of
the tree
falling
with no one
around

I can do that

she's a tree...

she's a tree...

a snarky bitch
tree
fallen on the
ground
rotting with bugs
and poison
mushrooms
and little rabbit
turds
and no one
cares








From the classics with ideas that resonate still in our time, this short piece from William Wordsworth


The world is too much with us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The Winds that will howling at all hours
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for every thing , we are out of time;
It moves us not - Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea;
Or hear old Titan blow hs weathered horn.








Du Fu, forever falling in and out of favor with authority, never achieving wealth, never achieving high government position, lived an active life in difficult and unsettled times.

Born in 712 B.C. and dead before his 50th birthday, he is said to be the undisputed genius of Chinese poetry, The Daoist Li Bai was more popular, it is said, and the Buddhist Wang Wei more sublimely simple and intimate with nature, but Confucian Du Fu exceeded them both in thematic range and master and innovator of all the verse forms of this time.

Here are two of his shorter poems. At the time they were written, invasion from Tibet seemed imminent, keeping him from returning to his home and family.


On Yueyang Tower

In the past I heard of Dongting Lake,
and now I climb Yueyang Tower

and see Wu and Chu unfold east and south.
Heaven and earth float there night and day.

Not one word from my family and friends,
I'm old and sick and have just my lonely boat.

War horses charge north of the mountain passes.
I lean against the rail and sob.


Climbing High

Gibbons wail into a high sky of wild wind,
Birds circle a pure isle of white sand.

Leaves drift and shift from countless trees.
The Yangtze River boils and rolls without end.

I've wandered forever, a thousand miles of autumn woe.
I climb the terrace alone, sick as always in my lifetime.

Bitter pain has turned my temples to snow.
I'm so poor I can't even afford muddy wine.









On-line poet Sarah Zang welcomes early spring in this next poem.

Her poems have appeared in many online and print journals, including Poetic Diversity, Get Underground, Subtle Tea, Poetic Village, Kookamonga Square, Wordflair, Muse Whispers, New Classic Poems, and others. She is the keeper of the key at Wordflair Community of Poets and Writers at www.wordflair.net. She also has her own website, "Pitching Pennies," which can be accessed through the link on the right.

This is Sarah's first appearance in "Here and Now."


Early Spring

A breeze
stirs pinpoint stars,
tousles trees still free
from summer egos.
A raccoon,
gaunt from winter battles,
fishes a tasty morsel
from the fresh thawed stream.
All earth sits shy
in new green,
We are given these days
for healing.








William Carlos Williams on a widow's mourning. Though not acknowledged in the poem, the widow is said to be his mother, as he, in the poem, seems to be addressing his own grief through her.


The Widow's Lament in Springtime


Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirty-five years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
loaded the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turned away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.








Blaise Cendrars learns that past is past.


Hotel Notre-Dame

I went back to the Quarter
As I did when I was young
I think it's a waste of time
Because nothing in me recognizes
My dreams or despair
What I did eighteen years old

Blocks of houses are torn down
The names of the streets are changed
Saint-Severin is stripped bare
The place Maubert is now larger
And the rue Saint-Jacques has been widened
I think it all looks much better
New and older at the same time

And so by whisking my beard
Off and with very short hair
I bear the face of today
And my grandfather's skull

That's why I have no regrets
And I call to the wrecking crew
Knock my fucking childhood to the ground
My family and my habits
Put a train station in its place
Or leave an empty lot
Which will release my origin

I am not my father's son
And I love only my great-grandfather
I made a new name for myself
Visible as a blue and red
Billboard upon a scaffolding
Behind which new futures
Are being built.








Wally Schirra was one of the heros of my time. I wrote this poem in 2004, upon seeing mention in the newspaper of his 81st birthday. I just saw in the paper a week or so ago a story on his 84th.

The poem appeared in The Green Tricycle shortly after it was written.


Wally Schirra is 81

I remember watching
Wally Schirra
report Neil Armstrong's
first step on the moon

Wally wept that night

maybe he cried
for the chance he lost
to make his own mark
in the virgin lunar dust,
or maybe for the earthrise
he would never see

he may have wept
for the lost mystery,
our bright goddess
for a thousand generations
no longer so remote

or maybe he wept for all of us,
making this first step together,
this first emergence from the womb
of our endangered mother earth.







On-line poet Susan McDonough is back with "Here and Now," ruminating on the weighty decisions of a dog's life.


Decisions at Midnight

The dog has difficulty
deciding who he will
sleep with tonight.

Maybe he should hang out
with the teenage girls
and ask to share their ipods.

or curl up under the quilt;
warm in the crook of Nancy's arm
but out of "jump down" range

instead he settles in his circle
next to me, growls at my feet
telling them not to move.








Gwendolyn Brooks, born in 1917, was publishing poetry by the time she was seventeen years old. Her first book, A Street in Bronzeville, won a series of prizes, including Guggenheim fellowship. With her second poetry collection, Annie Allen, published in 1949, she became the first African American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize.


The Mother

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breast they would never suck.
I have said Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine? -
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
Your were born, you had body, you died.
It's just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
All.








This is a piece I wrote in 2005 and used in my book Seven Beats a Second published shortly thereafter. I don't think I ever sent it out to anyone else.


my kind of people

fat girls
need not apply

no skinny
bucktoothed boys
who masturbate
while reading historical
romance novels

no krinkly, wrinkly
old people,
drooly-chinned
babies with foul smelling diapers
no bankers
who count their money
in a dark little room
at midnight

no judges, no fire chiefs,
no social workers,
no grocery store clerks,
barbers, bakers,
or used car salesmen

also, no candlestick makers
if they're still around

none of them either

no blonds
with dimples
and no swarthy skinned
men with mustaches

no bald-headed men
with beards
nor women
with brittle hair
piled higher than
six and one half inches

none too short
none too tall
none too big
and none too small

and none too
in between

no men in tangerine
bermuda shorts
and no women
in pedal pushers
(any color)

no arabs, no blacks,
no wops, no jews

no russians, maldavians,
limeys, frogs, krauts,
poles, czechs, hunkies,
greeks, swedes,
irish sots,
nor tight-fisted scots

they just need not apply

and no chinamen either
and none of their oriental
cousins

no africans
no eyptians
and damn sure no syrians

no mexicans,
peruvians, chileans,
panamanians,
pomeraniams,
argentineans,
and canadians, too

and kansans, californians,
new yorkers, iowa
porkers, nevadans
or any of the rest

all of them
just need not apply
all that riffraff
just need not apply
cause now we're
getting down to
the right kind of people

my kind of people

me

and, maybe,

you








Don Schaeffer, on-line Canadian poet and regular contributor to "Here and Now," lets us in on one of his nightmares.



The Return Trip

They teach us
in space cadet school
that the return vehicle
is very small
so we have to shrink
before we can go home.

I lay here
thinking about that
and get frightened








Anonymous Egyptian love songs, circa 1500-1100 B.C.


Pleasant Songs of the Sweetheart Who Meets You in the Fields

I
You, mine, my love,
My heart strives to reach the heights of your love.

See, sweet, the bird-trap set with my own hand.

See the birds of Punt,
Perfume a-wing
          Like a shower of myrrh
Descending on Egypt

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

II
The shrill of the wild goose
Unable to resist
The temptation of my bait

While I, in a tangle of love,
Unable to break free,
Must watch the bird carry away my nets.

And when my mother returns, loaded with bids,
And finds me empty-handed,
What shall I say?

III
Even when the birds rise
Wave mass on wave mass in great flight
I see nothing, I am blind
Caught up as I am and carried away
Two hearts obedient in their beating
My life caught up with yours
Your beauty the binding.

IV
Without your love, my heart would beat no more;
Without your love, sweet cake seems only salt;
Without your love, sweet "shedeh" turns to bile.
O listen, darling, my heart’s life needs your love;
For when you breathe, mine is the heart that beats.


(Translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock)







I wrote this piece somewhere in early 2005, about the time I began putting Seven Beats a Second together which was about the time I started getting behind on my record keeping. The result of that in the case of this poem, as with almost everything I've written in the two years since, is I don't know exactly when I wrote it and exactly what I did with it. Luckily, I did know that I included it in the book which turns out to contain, apparently, the only remaining hardcopy of it I have.

I keep telling myself I need to sit down for a week or two and get all this straightened, but I haven't been able to find the time to be that bored.

I do think I remember the poem was written in response to a challenge, probably on the Blueline forum. I'm thinking the challenge might have had something to do with Dali.

Realizing that I may have already done way too much commentary on such a slight poem, here it is.


eyes of Sister Jude

sharp eyes
like tempered blades
that cut clean through when angry

guarded eyes
that weigh and judge
and stand ever alert for betrayal

dark eyes, deep,
softened only once for love
then moistened by a long night's weeping

but only once
and it was long ago








Finishing up with an unusually terse Walt Whitman, but still a beautiful piece and very Whitmanesque, with all the elements that make him (the poet and the man, inseparable and always one) impossible not to love.


A Noiseless Patient Spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tireless speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need to be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul


Tally-Ho!

2 Comments:
at 1:46 PM Blogger Alice said...

Allen, good stuff here. Enjoyed. Will keep me coming back.

Alice

at 6:59 PM Anonymous Martha said...

Allen, this is phenomenal. Thank you.
( a friend of Alice )

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