Tall Tales   Saturday, May 26, 2007

Welcome back. We've been gone, but here we are again with "Here and Now" number II.5.4.

I apologize for the inconvenience some of your are running into in loading the blog. Our "Supersize" issue from the end of April is a huge file and is apparently causing some delays in loading for some readers. I'm continuing to fish for ideas on how to speed things up, but haven't come up with anything that works up to now. A consolation is that the when I post next week, the "Supersize" issue will slip into the archive and the problems some are having will go with it. We will still be slower than I would like, but not nearly as bad as it is now.

We start with one of the great old American standards, Carl Sandburg, and some of his short poems from a series he titled Handfuls. The first one is probably his most famous one, the one almost everyone who reads has read (even if they don't remember it).


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Jan Kubelik

Your bow swept over a string, and a long low note quiv-
    ered in the air.
(A mother of Bohemia sobs over a new child perfect
    learning to suck milk.)

Your bow ran fast over all the high strings fluttering and
(All the girls in Bohemia are laughing on a Sunday after-
    noon in the hills with their lovers.)


Crimson is the slow smolder of the cigar end I hold.
Gray is the ash that stiffens and covers all silent the fire.
(A great man I know is dead and while he lies in his coffin
  a gone flame I sit here in cumbering shadows and
    smoke and watch my thoughts come and go.)


Your whitelight flashes the frost tonight
Moon of the purple and silent west.
Remember me one of your lovers of dreams.


Sand of the sea runs red
Where the sunset reaches and quivers.
Sand of the sea runs yellow
Where the moon slants and wavers.

White Shoulders

Your white shoulders
I remember
And your shrug of laughter.

Low laughter
shaken slow
From your white shoulders


Yellow dust on a bumble
bee's wing.
Gray lights in a woman's
asking eyes.
Red ruins in the changing
sunset embers;
I take you and pile high
the memories.
Death will break her claws
on some I keep.

Here's a little culinary advice from me.

ordering chicken at popeye's

I like the
my specialty
but you gotta
watch them
or they'll stick
with a wing

get one of those
and you might as well
be eating

Next, a bit of prose from our good friend Alice Folkart

Impossibility of Hate

Ruby hated lots of things, Brussels sprouts, loud music, hot weather, yappy little dogs, but she couldn't hate people.

As a child, she had been urged to hate "Nazis," then "Japs." A few years later, she was supposed to hate North Koreans, Commies and Russians. And, after that, she was told that the Viet Cong, North Vietnamese, also Commies, should be hated. One war after another -- these were bad people she was told. Everyone hated them.

She tried to work up a good hate. She saw the Nazis and Japs in the Newsreels on Saturday, at the movies, then saw the Koreans and the Viet Cong in her own living room, on TV, men in uniforms, with helmets and guns, slogging through mud or jungles, throwing grenades, firing machine guns. She got a good look at them as prisoners, starved-looking, dejected men in rags, hanging their shaved heads, bare feet on dirt or snow.

She wondered about them, their families, why they were fighting, what they did when they weren't soldiers, what they would do after if they weren't killed. These were real people for her. She couldn't hate them.

Ruby's childhood had been uneasy; she had been unwelcome in the world. Her mother, and grandmother, and even some of the neighbors, had roughly passed her from hand to hand, no one wanting the responsibility. She could have hated them. Instead, she became careful, tried to please, made herself useful, and wondered why they'd taken her in and what they were going to do with her. She couldn't help but feel their anger and despair at being stuck with her; she felt as if she were looking into a mirror; she couldn't hate them. She learned that it wasn't her they hated; it was only her existence, such a burden, such an inconvenience, such an expense. They couldn't see past these.

Her life was precarious even when she was kind and thoughtful and made herself very small. What might happen if she ever allowed herself anger, gave in to hatred, burst out in fury?

She was sure she would die. The guardian of the moment would call all the others together, point at her, yell, "Ungrateful, insubordinate, messy, noisy, demanding, dirty, eats too much - there's only one thing to do. FIRING SQUAD!" Machine guns, black and angular, would jump into their hands. One of the women would lead her to the concrete block wall in the back yard, offer tie a blue cowboy bandana over her eyes, then step away.

Rattatat Rattatat!

No, she couldn't hate anyone.

Arlitia Jones is a poet who would have been dear to Carl Sandburg's heart. Jones is a butcher as well as daughter and sister to butchers. Born in Washington state, she moved with her family to Alaska when she was very young. In Alaska, her parents opened a wholesale butcher shop and taught her and her brother the trade.

She continues to work full time in the shop as a meat wrapper and bookkeeper, while also earning a MFA degree from the University of Alaska where she teaches creative writing part-time.

Here are two poems from her book The Bandsaw Riots.

Meatwrapper's Lyric

Out of the corner of my eye I peg her
to be the pretty wife of an important man.
Always, it's ones like her who ask, "How can you
stand the sight of blood?" She watches me
weigh out the three pounds of extra lean ground round
and wipe my hands on my apron to keep
from spoiling the clean white butcher paper
I wrap it in. "You get used to it," I shrug
and think of the blood's aged color -
not that hot red shock of a life leaked out -

more brown and watery as old coffee,
blood dull as engine oil on the cutting room floor
where we've racked through with our heavy boots.
Thursday night must be "her night" to cook
for husband and two kids. Her recipe, from a magazine,
will clutter her kitchen with forth-eight separate ingredients,
an electric chopper and, I'd bet money, a double broiler.
I smile. Count back change. "It's no big thing.
I wash my hands a lot and when I get home
the kidses dog goes apeshit licking my feet."


Raise a ruckus, I told those women,
beat pots and pans and rattle your chains.
Enough of coyness. Give 'em hell
and when the bosses tell you go home
you tell 'em Mother Jones gave you a chore to do.
Put your brooms in the air, start to howl
and tell 'em by God you'll clean up
any scab dares cross your line.

Fifteen men died
in that explosion in Arlington. I saw
their bodies hauled up
out of the ground and I looked
in the eyes of those miners' wives
and found desperation, not grief. Miners' wives
can’t afford grief, they still got children to feed
and nothing left to them but a handful of scrip and a debt
at the company store. Mother, they cried,
what do we do now? and this is all I knew
to tell them: you fight like hell
till you go to heaven and God willing
that ain't coming yet. And I'll tell you this,
I'd been there the year before and I'm grateful
to say those men died organized. And the next day
the miners came out and Mr. Rockerfeller
didn't make a dime off anyone's brokedown back.

Enough of hypocrites! Your men
have breathed black air long enough. Now
the Pinkertons are carrying arms, I said, so you keep
our men busy at home and you go
and claim their right to see the sun.

It ain't fair to spend the daylight underground
with nothing but the yellow flick of a candle.
You claim your right to your husbands, to wash
the hell off them one day a week. Sisters, I told them,
power is never given, it's always taken.
Rockerfeller has no heart, and the poor man
has a mansion of sorrow.

Here's a fun poem from "Here and Now" first-timer, Dawn Shepler Shimp.

Dawn says of herself that she lives in rural Ohio, where she writes poems and tries to save the birds who continually fly into her windows.

Sonnet on How My Husband is Making Me Fat, Wherein I Randomly Change Rhyme Scheme Mid-Poem for No Reason Whatsoever, but Decide to Leave it because, Hell, this is just Practice and Hell, the Original Rhyme Scheme was Wrong for a Sonnet Anyway

I look up and gaze down my long driveway
to see a man who's walking, dressed in gray
it's just my husband going out to get
the paper in his jammies, sure, but yet

it startles seeing his form in the haze
of fog that's lifting up and off the pond
and it occurs to me that in my brain
the chemicals don't know that I am wrong

to startle, only know that I felt fear
and set to work to normalize and keep
homeostasis, try their best to clear
the panic chemicals, and what is cheap

to use in this process is cortisone
which leads to belly fat. So, there you go!

Here's another one of mine, written last week.

an old man coming

if an apple
on my head
I'd say
and eat it
and the whole
of Newtonian physics
would have been

not you

for you,
every yin
has a yang,
every issue
a deeper issue
with connections
and ramifications,
that must be
as well as lessons
that must be learned

I used to be
that way

then I looked
in a mirror,
saw and old man
and went

Now a poem by Rita Dove from her book On The Buss With Rosa Parks.

Against Self-Pity

It gets you nowhere but deeper into
your own shit - pure misery a luxury
one never learns to enjoy. there's always some

meatier malaise, a misalliance ripe
to burst; Soften the mouth to a smile and
it stutters; laugh, and your drink spills into the wake

of repartee gone cold. Oh, you know
all the right things to say to yourself: Seize
the day, keep the faith, remember the children

starving in India....the same stuff
you say to your daughter
whenever a poke-out lip betrays

a less than noble constitution. (Not that
you'd consider actually going to India - all
those diseases and fervent eyes.) But if it's'
not your collapsing line of credit, it's
the scream you let rip when a centipede
shrieks up the patio wall. And that

daughter? She’ll find a reason to laugh
at you, her dear mother: "Poor thing
wouldn't harm a soul!" she'll say, as if

she knew of such things -
innocence, and a soul smart enough to know
when to get out of the way.

And another of mine, from several weeks ago.

green pastures

cat wants

dog wants

rooster wants
the day

isn't anyone

From New Zealand, our friend Thane Zander presents us with this piece.

An Errant Poet Paints an Andy Warhol piece

It started with a painting at auction
reaching ninety five million dollars

The artist passed away in 1988
the same year another artist, my mother
passed away, though her works command
a striking free fee, such a giving lady she was.

Warhol on the other hand, Green Cars Crashing
sucks a load of cash out of some suspecting buyer,
generally a mish mash of paint and papier mache
the likes of school aged kids splattering with love.

The times when he held a can of Campbell's Soup
up as art, cracked my funny bone, I have a gift then
as I dabble freehand with pastels and watercolours,
One senses his pop culture versus my kiwi culture

far outweigh the latter. I search my room
for a masterpiece, something worthy of millions
and spy a decrepit translation of the Maori in me,
I had displayed and received reverence and accord.

What would a dead artist do with ninety five million?
What would you do with that amount? Swing from
the rafters and do bally hoop with chickens
in the foul house of life, cluck cluck, what the fuck?

I measure my next attempt at Art, raise the hands
above the keyboard, and ..... The End, signed me.

Gilbert Sorrentino was born in Brooklyn in 1929 and lived there and in Manhattan all his life. He published six volumes of poetry and five novels before he died in 2006.

This poem is from his collection, Selected Poems, 1958-1980

The Meeting


We all know too much of loneliness. I used to think
a man came stronger out of it. That might
be so. Testing the old vapidities
is not the same as saying them. They come at you
screaming, they cut up the soul,
injure you remorselessly: these things
that once lay under our surfaces waiting to be used
as objects to cause laughter, are become
fiends, they have northern eyes, blue
eyes, there is nothing at the bottom of them, they
sit in faces that leer obscenely, that take on
the faces, the shapes and declensions of friends, They
if you will listen to them, if you can
bear it.


"Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mae currunt,"
not necessarily so, not at all so, or say that
the sky changes you. I picked up
pieces of petrified wood in Arizona, climbed
a mesa that had stood there 6 million years, it was
made of clay and rose coral, on top of it, I saw
as far as I could see in all directions, nothing: but
sky, but earth, but sky and earth, meeting, the
evil winds laughed at and past me. On the road you sat
in the car, the children in the car, your leg protruded
from the open door, and I was suddenly made barren,
a terrible aloneness, and the winds
frightened me.
            I thought I should not see you again,
the sky was full of blood and darkness, the blue was
the blue of the west, our west, deadly and implacable. it
the eye of Satan, of all false gods, the evil eye.


He said he could give up everything
except he could not give up anything
when the test was made of him. He
is a quiet man, I used to mistake

that for strength
when I was younger.
I mistook it for solidity
and thought all stronger

men were silent. I have always
talked, to much, and hated
it in myself. But what is speech
but the release of strength

that threatens to destroy us?
What is speech but
the incantation that can make
me out of mud and mountains

out of slime and nothingness?
"Still waters run deep," is a lie,
bring me the talkers, the windbags,
confessors and liars, the

men who talk all night and all day
who do nothing but talk, who
won't stop even when they have no more
to say, silence

is no more than the lid
of the garbage can.


I touched you, it was as if
I had never touched anything, you

were water, there was a smell of water
in your hair, your ands
were quick and nervous

fragile to hold and there was water
on them

I want to shatter the winds
that prey on us I reach

through years for your hand.

Our next poem is from another "Here and Now" first-timer, Khadija Anderson.

Khadija says she is a Butoh dancer, poet, and alumni of The Evergreen State College. A mother of four, ages 3 1⁄2 to 22, she lives in Seattle and is pursuing a career as a poet while earning a living playing with babies. She says she actively challenges the myth that persons near age 50 are getting old.

soy mysterioso

I told you he grabbed my ass
as we danced a slow salsa
told me I was beautiful
hell yes it was a line
but I fall for those

Tony with his smooth
merengue pulled me close
hips swaying together
god I fall for that

the tall man I danced with
asked if I knew the cha cha
are you alone
my heart is pounding que linda

you laughed but
here I am now
thinking about them

Another observation piece, from a young girl I saw at Borders.

Sister Rosa would not like this at all

the dress
worked ok at home
in the mirror
but now, out in public
with her friends,
she is excruciatingly
of the scooped
that shows the
soft curves
of the sides of her
and the little
of her nipples
against the soft fabric
of her blouse and she is embarrassed,
walking quickly
looking left and right
with downcast eyes
like a child about to be
with her hands held
in front of her chest

if Sister Rosa
were to see her now
she would

Driving 4,000 miles, as I did several weeks ago, allows plenty of time to listen to CD's. Among the ones we listened to was an old CD called The Highwaymen, featuring Willie Nelson, Kris Kristoffrerson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. They recorded the CD then did a tour together. This was probably 15-20 years ago. I like all four and remembered, when listening to it in the car, how much I had liked the CD when it came out.

Among my favorite songs on the disc is the title song, written by Willie Nelson. It's a four verse song, with Nelson taking the first verse, Kristoffrerson, the second, Jennings, the third, and Cash finishing with the final verse.

Here it is.

The Highwaymen

I was a highwayman, along the coach roads I did ride,
With sword and pistol by my side.
Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade.
Many a soldier shred his lifeblood on my blade.
The bastards hung me in the spring of twenty-five:
But I am still alive.

I was a sailor, I was born upon the tide,
And with the sea I did abide.
I sailed a schooner round the Horn to Mexico.
I went aloft and furled the mainsail in a blow.
And when the yards broke off, they said that I got killed:
But I am living still.

I was a dam builder across the river deep and wide;
Where steel and water dud collide.
A place called Boulder on the wild Colorado,
I slipped and fell into the wet concrete below.
They buried me in that great tomb that knows no sound;
But I am still around.
I'll always be around,
And around and around and around and around.

I fly a starship across the Universe divide.
And when I get to the other side,
I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can.
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again.
Or I may simple be a single drop of rain;
But I will remain,
And I'll be back again,

And again, and again and again and again.

If you've never heard the song, or haven't heard it in a while, find it on the web somewhere and pull it up. These guys, unique in their own right, really work well together as an equally unique four of a kind.

Now, something darker from me, written after Virginia State.

the devil can find you anywhere

it's part of living in the city
we think
the noise of sirens
the fire trucks
the ambulances
the police cars
their supercharged engines
whoosh of air
and power like a bear's
long growl
as they cross the creek
just down the road;
all the little murders
the little killings that come
so often it begins to seem
like a stream of blood
a flood of blood
passing on weekends
the nude woman found
in a drainage ditch
shot dead
the baby in her crib
shot dead as a drive by
bullet penetrates the thin wall
she sleeps by
bar fights
that lead to shootings
in parking lots
blood on oily asphalt shinning
in the flashing lights
domestic disturbances
that rise from desperation
separation from hope
and too much to drink ending in rage-deaths
(I had a friend when I was thirteen, killed
by his father, shot as he tried to protect
his mother) so many
that we loose count and it's just another
half inch story on the back pages
and when we think of it at all we
shake our heads at the viciousness of it all
imagine quite places
where the sirens don't wail
all night, where murder and tragedy and rage
only happens on tv and we daydream
like this until something happens like happened
this week and we realize the devil can
always find you anywhere
and we see that
comes to
quiet places too

Michael J. Sottak is a strong poet, visiting "Here and Now" for the first time.

He included this note with his poem

"We all travel somewhere for something. I think some few strays actually find it....but the definition of what you've found is dubious,,,,and fleeting....leave me no walls."

There is a vital, driven element to his work that is reflected strongly in his note.


the wind drops the temperature
not enough to stop the heat
and the reggae man is singing marley
as margueritas and women sweat on salt
rims of stained glasses chilled raw conch
and the hollow ring of marimbas
you have you got any mamba in you
do you can you
the train at three a.m. the
who did you say where it was going
or what do i care
you smell like heaven
god and whiskey

Carol Ann Duffy was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1955, grew up in Stafford, England, and attended the University of Liverpool where she received an honors degree in philosophy in 1977. Her poetry publications have received many awards

She is a member of the Royal Society of Literature and currently lives in Manchester, where she lectures on poetry for the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.

These two very funny poems are from her book The World's Wife.

Mrs. Rip Van Winkle

I sank like a stone
into the still, deep waters of late middle age,
aching from head to foot.

I took up food
and gave up exercise.
It did me good.

And while he slept
I found some hobbies for myself.
Painting. Seeing the sights I'd always dreamed about:

The Leaning Tower
The Pyramids. The Taj Mahal.
I made little watercolors of them all.

But what was best,
what hands-down beat the rest,
was saying a none-too-fond farewell to sex.

Until the day
I came home with this pastel of Niagara
and he was sitting up in bed rattling Viagra.

Frau Freud

Ladies, for argument's sake, let us say
that I've seen my fair share of ding-a-ling, member and jock,
of todger and nudger and percy and cock, of tackle.
of three-for-a bob, of willy and winky; in fact,
you could say, I'm as au fait with Hunt-the Salami
as Ms. M. Lewinsky - equally sick up to here
with the beef bayonet, the port sword, the saveloy,
love-muscle, night-crawler, dong, the dick, prick
dipstick and wick, the rammer, the slammer, the rupert,
the shlong. Don't get me wrong, I've no axe to grind
with the snake in the trousers, the wife's best friend,
the weapon, the python - I suppose what I mean is,
ladies, dear ladies, the average penis - not pretty....
the squint of its envious solitary eye....one's feeling of

Conflict, conflict, conflict - I report on the conflict in my life.


my cat
is not talking
to me
all because
at the time
of the dread
flea collar exchange
I was the villain
holding her

does not forget
these things

a conservative cat
she does not welcome
finding every variation
in her daily routine
and every instance
when her pillow is moved
from one side of the room
to another
and even the best intentioned
cat food brand change
as threats
to the natural order
as defined
in the kingdom of the

as it happens
I am a trans-border
between cat
and the more laid back
realm of the dog
so I'll just swim
the river, so to speak,
and spend some time
with the dog regime
until she gets over it

they'll put up with
you know
so long as you
their hairy tummy
and don't
their naps
without good reason
like for example
a new chew toy
or a walk in the park

should take notice

Charles Entekin was born in Alabama, took his B.A. from Birmingham Southern College and was a graduate student in Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and the University of Alabama. He completed an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Montana.

Entekin was one of the founders of the Berkely Poets Cooperative and has taught at various colleges and universities and served as the Associate Director of the Center for Contemporary Writing at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California.

These two poems are from his bookIn This Hour.

2642 Dana, Berkeley, California

To buy an old house, with grace, with sloping ceilings,
brass fixtures, cross beams and redwood cornices...
Our neighbor told us the past owners
had a fortress mentality; giant redwoods,
Chinese and Japanese elms walled them in with greenery;
that the woman of the house wore the pants
in the family.

Our first morning we are fog-bound in the ocean gray
world of shadows and cold wet air. Nathan begins
crawling in his first year of life. Occasional
streaks of sunlight filter through the windows.
I feel us in the bones of the house; your wrinkled belly,
and pink, warm undersides of your breasts.

Today I find myself siding with the woman,
her tastes in small matters, curtains, princess trees,
purple flowers by the back deck; everywhere
the husband left things worse for his efforts, leaky
roof, pressed sawdust floor beneath the caulked kitchen tile,
back door with busted hinges. And I wonder at their lives,
at how it must have been, want to take
everything he did down, start again.
But the house was here before the chaos
that must have plagued their days. The dark red body
of the wood, the wainscoting, like the forces of a language
we live inside of, like the taste of you
I carry in my mouth, like the touch of you, light,
and moist with your longing for me,
that place we come to in the dark.

Night In Yosemite Valley

      I have come back weary,
stand with wet hair after a shower,
in moonlight, in the massive blackness
of Cathedral Rock rising up behind us,
blocking the stars.
      Here something holds me to the earth,
I move slowly, awake to glass-like granite
of boulders born millions of years ago,
to a flitting in the dark gloaming, bats,
and I feel the planet's deaths,
how they have come and gone,
the quick breaths of a saxophone,
the seasons, and my own life
suddenly stills.
      Listen, I want to slip reasonably
out from the trees, cross meadows in the darkness,
sneak past the shy deer, colorful backpackers,
and climb up to the snow line. Tonight I know the open
moon, and city lights that blink up and down
the freeways call to someone else. I am alive;
my childhood sparks like a filament in the dark.
      And I stand still in this thin moon,
between childhood and old age, as if what comes next
will be read from the edge of the wind, coldly,
openly, as obvious as the moon over Basket Lake.

Dan Cuddy has been with us at "Here and Now" several times. Here's his latest.

"act your age"

because it is an act
in a drama
a comedy
the fool
i hang myself upside down
monkey of dreams
view the world
as if young

how cracked the face in the mirror
the road to hell

Brian Blanchfield lives in Brooklyn, New York and teaches in the B.F.A. creative writing program at Pratt Institute of Art. His poems have appeared in various publications. This poem is from his first collection, Not Even Then .

Two Moons

The moon will all but disappear, which is to say the world is in the way
again. It will take two hours to return to full, which is what we, in our
way, call a whole half lit.

I was stunned by lawn sculptures of waves outside the long lobbied
Delano on South Beach, its oceanside wide open, its twenty-five-foot
billowing white drapes sucked to my back and then not and then sucked
again, its cavity fighting mine.

The galaxy is all wrong with a nine-dollar cosmopolitan. I couldn't get
daylight's alibi. Someone said gimme an O. I said gimme another. We
couldn't get the bartender's attention. Obtundity nearly knocked me

Dennis said he didn’t know about lunar ones but the wind that rushes
in when the sun goes out brings the scent of your secret desire.

At Grand Army Plaza, by nine lanes spinning into fewer, I make it to
the middle. The moon is already phased to the size of an eyelash. or
someone's distant hand cupped at his sunned brow, making you out.
Poor white parenthesis, is everything inessential? should everything
come between? Someone cheer the sidereal.

But no one has outsprinted our coverlet to star in warmth on rock. I
imagine it new, another tournament beginning, an open, and invitational.

I wrote this one day before yesterday for the poem-a-day workshop at the Blueline Forum.


float a check....

float an idea....

my boat....

down the river
we call our time,
through the shallows
and the deep,
through slow and lazy
and through rapids,
on either side,
splash foam
cold on our faces,
warm in our eyes

going, always,
the river goes

the true condition
of life
no matter how
we fight it

up a creek
a paddle

Irish poet Paul Duncan published his first book of poems in 1967. Since then he has published fifteen more, including Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil, from which this poem is taken.

Brazilian Presbyterian

Ten days ago in Fortaleza,
Evandro - a young
Brazilian Presbyterian -
Drove me to the sea.
In a country with a population
Of Two hundred million
There was no one
To be seen at the sea.

I sat on the dune
Under a coconut tree;
Diving in and out
of the South Atlantic;
At fifty years of age
A nipper in excelsis.

Driving back into Fortaleza
I put the question to Evandro:
How would you - a young
Brazilian Presbyterian -
Imagine heaven?

Driving on in silence,
Caressing the steering wheel
Of his Space Wagon,
The Brazilian Presbyterian
Began to think aloud:
"Heaven.....is a place....
That....woud surprise you."

In our life today, we keep running so much it's hard to keep a connection to where we've been. Despite being generally careless with "things," there a few items that I keep close to me as a reminder of where I came from, my father's pocketknife and watch, my grandfather's ring and fancy clothes brush, and this old bed I sleep on.

this old bed

I sleep
on the bed
where my father
was born
one hundred years ago
this summer,
second child of Celeste
and August
amid the rocky hills
and pecan and flowing streams
in the little
Texas-German town of

I sleep
on the bed
that has slept my family
through two world wars
and multiple wars of lesser scope,
through eighteen presidents
of the United States,
some wise
some not
some equal
to the needs of their time
some not,
through musical
from ragtime to
though prohibition
and the era of bathtub beer,
the gilded age
the jazz age
atom bombing
getting bombed
in the suburbs
and getting sober
with AA,
through six presidential
assassination attempts,
in Dallas
on the launching pad
in near earth orbit,
kitty hawk
to a man on the moon,
the cries of the dead
from famine
from genocide
from indifference
of the ruling class
from incompetence
of the ruling class,
through Bull Connor
and his police dogs,
through King
and his dreams
and his death on a
motel balcony,
through the triumph
of good
and the reemergence
of evil,
the cycle played out
over and over again
in the days of yellow
journalism, through
Murrow and Cronkite
and Brinkley and Huntley
on radio and tv
and now new messengers
on the web
Wikipedia fact
and Wikipedia fancy,
truth swaying
on a tumbling pedestal,
lies flying in the wind,
and fools,

through it all,
all the times of
reaping and
the bed
has calmed the nights
through three generations
of sleep,
and midnight dreams,
waiting now
for the final sleep
of this generation
and the lying
down to rest
of the next

Setting aside any and all highbrow pretension, I must admit that this poem written by American movie icon Jimmy Stewart and read by him to Johnny Carson on the old Tonight Show is among the most moving thing I ever saw on television.

Reading it now, I can see that you had to have there for the full effect, just proving, once again, the power of a really good reader.


He never came to me when I would call
Unless I had a tennis ball,
Or he felt like it,
But mostly he didn't come at all.

When he was young
He never learned to heel
Or sit or stay,
He did things his way.

Discipline was not his bag
But when you were with him things sure didn't drag.
He'd dig up a rosebush just to spite me,
And when I'd grab him, he'd turn and bite me.

He bit lots of folks from day to day,
The delivery boy was his favorite prey.
The gas man wouldn't read our meter,
He said we owned a real man-eater.

He set the house on fire
But the story's long to tell.
Suffice it to say that he survived
And the house survived as well.

On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,
He was always first out the door.
The Old One and I brought up the rear
Because our bones were sore.

He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,
What a beautiful pair they were!
And if it was still light and the tourists were out,
They created a bit of a stir.

But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks
And with a frown on his face look around.
It was just make sure that the Old One was there
And would follow him where he was bound.

We are early-to-bedders at our house -
I guess I'm the first to retire.
And as I'd leave the room he'd look at me
And get up from his place by the fire.

He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,
And I'd give him one for a while.
He would push it under the bed with his nose
And I'd fish it out with a smile.

And before very long
He'd tire of the ball
And be asleep in his corner
In no time at all.

And there were nights when I'd feel him
Climb upon our bed
And lie between us,
And I'd pat his head.

And there were nights when I'd feel this stare
Ad I'd wake up and he'd be sitting there
And I'd reach out my hand and stroke his hair.
And sometimes I'd feel him sigh
   and I think I know the reason why.

He would wake up at night
And he would know this fear
Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,
And he'd be glad to have me near.

And now he's dead.
And there are nights when I think I feel him
Climb upon our bed and lie between us,
And I pat his head.

And there are night when I think
I feel that stare
And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair
And he's not there.

Oh, how I wish that wasn't so,
I'll always love a dog named Beau.

Well that's it for this time. See you again next week.


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We're Back   Saturday, May 19, 2007

Eighteen days on the road, little over 5,000 miles - 1,000 via Amtrak and 4,000 by rental car- and we're home.

It was a beautiful trip, San Antonio to Los Angeles by rail, then hugging the coast on highways 1 and 101 to Vancouver, back to Seattle and finally home through Arizona and New Mexico.

We're worn out, but would not have missed a day.

We've had nothing new on "Here and Now" for three weeks. While we're putting together new material for a regular blissue, here's a little travel journal, photos and poems, we hope you enjoy.

on a slow train

in the morning,
we settle back into our seats
and the journey begins

later I will see how easy
it can become to believe
the train is a bubble
in the rushing stream of reality
flashing by -
but tonight, for this first ride,
I am conscious of ever bump and rattle,
listening to the train's wail
at every road crossing
as we rumble through San Antonio's
south and west sides

wailing this time
for me

in the observation car,
two screen writers,
brother and sister,
their way through
alpine, texas
then return to their

enough reality

from buckets
of rain
like a switch
is thrown
rolling left
and righ

then past
the dry hills
and into a desert
blooming green
on every side from
great gushes
of rain
that swept through
a month ago
puddles in the desert

as has been said
old men
like to talk
when young girls
can be cornered
on a train

of sand
where tides
once ruled
the night
and the day

juniper bushes
like islands
in the stream

six hours late
to los angeles,
flowers everywhere,
a garden of color
where ever we look

to late to start
the first leg of
our drive
so it's early
to bed
a walk around
to see the sights

early breakfast
with a triple dose
of nine cent coffee
at phillipes,
then off,
for our first encounter
with the adventures
of california
road signage

we both decide
we've seen graffitti
that was more illuminating

moonstone beach, cambria

up early
for a drive
to the village
for coffee

and man and his dog
to the only "open" sign
I can find

and an LA times for me,
a table in the corner
for the man, his dog
beside his chair

a woman
comes in,

why didn't you tell me
it would be so cold,
she says,
frizzy blond
and a Diane Keaton
too old for her
pouty lips

why didn't you tell me
it'd be so

it is cold
on the boardwalk
and wet from fog
just now clearing
over the water,
still deep
and dense above,
topping the mountain
about half way

sun reaches
for the shore

gulf surf whispers
on soft tan sand;
pacific surf crashes
against rocks

pounds them to tiny
bb sized
more stable than
but slipperier
when wet

it's difficult
to walk on the beach
and the tide
is deceptive, every
fifth wave coming
on the sand
your feet,
catching your feet
and wetting your shoes
if you're not attentive

the sign beside
the boardwalk
says not to feed the
but the squirrels
can't read
and don't care

down with the establishment
the rebel squirrels
seem to say
as they follow me
down the boardwalk,
run ahead
to stand and beg

I stop for a moment,
kneel down
for a close-up
of a brilliant yellow and white
look up to see
a battalion
of squirrels in an arc
around me, standing
ramrod straight,
front paws
held together
in supplicant pose
for the beneficence
of the tall stranger
to the world
that was me

I leave
in a hurry
concerned the situation
might get ugly

the sun sets,
my god,
the sun sets
in a golden sky
in ripples as far
as I can see

the sun sets,
my god,
it sets
and the ocean
seems to boil

the waves
are monstrous
white in the
approaching again


Coffee Shop,
two eggs
wheat toast
and hash browns....

a good start,
then kerrie smiles
and the day is made
though the sun
has barely

close in
on either side
of the road,
like driving
a green-wrapped canyon,
green walls
channeling me
quick islands
of light
through leafy

defeat my camera,
its capacity
to see and record
too constricted
to capture
the vast life around me,
the height and breath
of the giants
only in pieces
that can never
to the whole

I am defeated, too,
by such giant
two thousand years and more,
still living, still
to the blue above

the fullness
of such life is
my grasping

the pinched
who would cut this life
and bring the giants down
before their time
are also beyond my

the power
of the tides,
white surf rolling
like thunder
make a hungry,physical presence,
eating the rocks,
bringing them down

given time,
they would eat
across this continent
and through
the shores of europe


46 degrees
at 6 in the morning

up early
as usual and found
in Old Town,
with a covered porch
at streetside

morning latte
and the Times,
like being home

but better

through the
light-patched forest,
the coastal tides and sand,
the green carpets
of farmland
and pastures
over the hills
through it all,
flashes of nova
exploding in the

of Mystery,
worthwhile stop,

for an elevated
tour through the trees

too steep
for me, but
great fudge
and clean restrooms

and a man
in a fringed leather coat
selling hand-carved flutes
he plays in little

like whispers
through the trees

coos bay to astoria

the skinny
on coos bay

it closes
on sunday

passing by
the Caves
of the Sea Lions,
we stop for a visit

great brown batches
of them bask in the sun
on the shore, their snores
up and down the rocky coast

inside the cave
they are in constant movement
struggling for their preferred
rocky perch, the obvious kings
of the hill are big and gruff,
roaring at pretenders

and roars,
like a bass choir

the strange thing
about astoria
is everything but
bars and fast food
closes at 9 pm

as throughout
the northern coast,
road signs seem designed
to perplex rather than

beyond that
the less said
the better


like with the first sighting
of an oasis
after crossing countless
desert dunes,
there is a near-desination
that blinds a traveler
when journey's end is near,
and I am a victim
of that blindness now,
seeing little of this small city
but the hotel and the shopping centers
that surround it on three sides

there's an historical district
I'm told is quite

next time

a brook
behind the hotel
runs clear,
water rippling
over rocks and under
fallen branches

is closely manicured,
to the landscaper's

by the ornate iron gate,
the purple blooming
we've seen since Los Angeles

all very pretty,
framed for inclusion
in the Chamber of Commerce

at "Mi Familia"
mexican restaurant
across the parking lot
from the hotel

the menu includes
three times under different names
and descriptions
and pollo en mole twice

comfort food
from home


disparate elements
come to harmony
under a clean bright sun

the city
is frantic alive
desperate rushing,
like the round black bomb
of a thousand cartoons
is real here
and everyone is running
to stay ahead of its long fuse

not what I had expected

exciting at first,
but though I've only
at a sidewalk cafe
and watched,
after two days
I am exhausted,
as if I had been racing, too

the drive of the place is
even to an observer,
like an afternoon
under a summer sun

I have done nothing
and it has left me

spring day
and the locals
seem as amazed by it
as am I

open a map
on a street corner
and three people will rush
to give you directions

at a coffee shop
with a tourist brochure
on your table
and you will get advice
from every side
on the best places to go
and the best ways to get there

but there is another side
to these most friendly,
helpful people,
a mister hyde side
that blossoms
like a meat eating
jungle plant
the minute they get behind
the wheel of an automobile,
maestros of the unnecessary
treating every city street
as a race to the next stop light,
competitive as fifteen year olds
for each square inch of street surface

it's karma dis-equilibrium,
all the everyday niceness
creating a pressure-cooker
of pent-up aggression,
unleashed by access
to motorized transport

but that's only a


who talks to who?

what do they talk about?

why do they feel so strongly
about the need to talk
that they build a special
for it?

is there remediation for the incompetent

all these questions
as I read
"The Morris J. Wore Center
for Dialogue"
chiseled into the facade
of the great stone building
across the street from me

capital of the province,
on an island
accessible only by
by ferry
at no inconsequential cost

if texas politicians
hear about this,
on the moat around austin
will commence

to follow

seattle to reddig

like vancouver
on decaf,
the city
and bustles
without losing
its mellow

in the tourist-rich
historic district
on two nights
of a three game series
with the Yankees,
cool is kept

even with tourists
in couples,
or as a protoplasmic
following a tour leader
down one street
and up another,
seattle cool
is kept

while bums,
and mentally derailed
street corner
make their way
through the tourists
and down,
for a quarter
a dollar
a cigarette,
whatever they think
the mark might part with,
mostly ignored,
eyes averted, by the whistle
britches brushed and spiffed,
their despair
and humiliation
and desperate scratch for life
by the northcoast culture
that claims to liberal values,
their social network of concern
boiled down to, may the best beggar

in the face
of our brothers'
isn't enough

so many people
at the public market
on a saturday morning

so many people,
so many colors,
so many accents
in constant moving
of flesh and camera

on every corner,
guitar cases open
for cash
contributions to their
on one corner
two old men,
one an almost operatic tenor,
singing guthrie
in perfect harmony

on another
two young men,
with back flips
and 21st century twists
on 70's pop

and food

pizza stands,
chowder emporia,
fried fish and chips,
tacos de pescada,
fresh vegetables,
and fresh fish
still with smell of
cold alaskan spray,
and fish
and more fist,
an 8-pound
king salmon
fed-exed to our chef/musician
in austin

they'll be a party
on blueberry lane tomorrow night

worth the price

on the road
thirteen days now,
twelve nights in hotels
and one on a train,
and I've seen too much,
most of it passing too
and can't sort the images
listening to the radio
with two stations
bits and pieces of each,
snoop dog and rev. billy bob
barker completing each other's


both of us with
the going home frantics
we scrap our plans to return
by rail via los angeles -
we'll drive instead,
2 days
through oregon and california,
a day for arizona and new mexico,
then a very long day from el paso
to san antonio

a day early

hope the dogs

heading south
on I-5,
on both sides
of the highway,
in the light breeze
like green surf,
like where green
comes from,
the prototype green
for all the universe

this is what it's supposed
to look like
I can say

this is green

a good night
in eugene,
hotel computer
but beds are good
and my back lets me sleep
through the night

dinner at the
"Flying Dog Cafe & Deli,"
adjacent to the U of O campus,
the whole area
a hive of students,
teeming, like
the strip at UT was in the old days,
and cowboys,
frat brats,
guitar strumming
dylan wannabes
and pink-haired girls
like a street mural,

a sturdy, friendly girl,
the waitress
at the flying dog
tells about
a friend from dallas
who didn't know about kumquats,
then admits
she didn't know about armadillos
before meeting her friend

(basically a possum in a shell,
I tell her, eaten by some, mostly
by the same people who eat possum)

she laughs
and says she was happy
she and her friend
each learned something
from the other

a good thing
about friends,
she says

on mount shasta
against the sky
like diamonds
on blue felt

set aside for a moment,
photos are required

another new friend
takes our
us together,
mountain top

redding, california,
a starbucks
and a Times

that's enough

going home

the green hills
flatten as we travel south
and, with the mountains
lost behind brown haze,
the drive past fresno
toward bakersville
takes me back fifty years
or more to the rio grande valley
farms I grew up around say back when

ruby red grapefruit,
lemons, limes
and avocado
hung in orchards
all around our house,
and, in fields
within walking distance,
winter vegetables

anything would grow
they said,
bring in some water
from the rio grande,
poke a dry stick in the ground
and you'd have a tree
to hang a swing on before summer....

rotting in the field,
stinking in piles along the roadside
when the cost of harvest
was more the price at selling,
or, successive frosts,
a season's crop,
a year of planting, irrigating,
hoeing, lost in one overnight freeze,
that's how winter vegetables ended,
and the citrus was lost when an acre
of rv's parked overnight
was worth more to the owner
than an acre of fruit hanging
golden ripe, even in the best year

tractors parked behind the barn,
small farmers became school bus drivers
while the big farmers sold out,
banked their money in cd's
and took up a regular life,
put aside their sunrise to sunset
working days and constant watch on weather
that could come after them like an alley thug
and take everything they had ever
worked and cared for

the miles here in this california valley
flash past my windshield
and the fields pass
in their richness

reminding me
how all good things
can pass from our hands
as fast as a dog's bark in the dark

past bakersfield
and back into mountains,
not the soft green mountains
of the north, but stark

the beginning
of the harsher beauty
we will see as we ease
into the southwestern deserts

sand stretching,
reaching up mountain
dust storms
on mountain

chemehuevs valley,
the turtle and the whipple mountains -
jokes about ninjas
and squeezing the charmin' -
past rocks
black as coal at night,
sharp shards scattered all around
volcano debris
or blowback from meteor impact,
something catastrophic
to throw these rocks
across hundreds of miles
of arizona terrain

we want to stop and look
but the road is too narrow,
with too many trucks
passing too fast in both directions

another mystery
to carry home with us

at least 100
arranged down the highway
in platoons, each with a
platoon leader and rear guard,
my age, just about all of them,
gray and grizzled
and heavier around the middle
then when they fought their war

a memorial day run we passed first
coming out of tehachapi,
then saw again hundreds of miles later,
past tucson,
two old warriors lying bloody on the road,
bikes crumpled into the rear of an rv.

in phoenix
the night of the fifth game
of the nba playoff series,
suns vs spurs

our rented car
had california plates

after seventeen days on the road,
good days,
better days,
no day we could not take
it's the day,
las cruces
at last

el paso in sight

a long drive tommorrow,
near 600 miles,
but the stop at day's end
will be home...

80 miles an hour

still time for flowers


sierra blanca
van horn
leon springs


the dog
runs and jumps
and pees on the floor

the cat howls
her deepest, loudest growl,
the one she uses when she's

they're both in my lap

And that's what we did on our summer vacation.

We'll be back next week with a regular blissue. I visited a lot of used book shops along the way,
so have lots of poets I never heard of before for next week.

Thanks for visiting, as we say here; come again next Saturday for the latest.

at 7:11 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

great pictures and wonderful poems to go with them!!!

at 8:02 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your travel log Allen. Too many favorite pics to mention one. I loved seeing (what can be seen of) the redwoods again. I think the poem starting "like with the first sighting of an oasis" is a very good idea worth pursuing further. It has an interesting mood. May be useful as a metaphor for something.

at 7:46 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! Brought back fond memories of my vacation trips up and down the west coast with my family in the 1960's.

John Strieb

at 4:36 PM Blogger Alice Folkart said...

Allen and Dora - wonderful, beautiful, I've seen most of it myself, and see that with your words and pictures you've made it look at least as good as it is, and sometimes better. Glad you're home safe - love description of dogs and cat welcome - true, true,

Thanks for taking us with you.
Coffee 9cents at Phillipe's? I'd forgotten.


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