Brown Hills Blowing Green
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Welcome back to "Here and Now."
This week, we concentrate on friends new and old and, with only a couple of exceptions, lesser know poets I've run across in used book stores.
You'll not find many poets you've read before this week. I hope you get the same thrill of discovery as I did.
We start this week with a new friend, Jessica VanDriesen, making her first appearance.
Jessica describes herself as a person with occasional flashes of inspiration and a driving desire to write poems. She is a native New Yorker, she says, currently having an adventure living and working in Poland.
She says this poem was written in 2000 when she was beginning to discover that she had something to say and poetry was the way she wanted to say it.
Here's Jessica's poem.
Can't Beat DNA
I wanted to write a poem
not just for you
or about you
or even to you
but one that would be, in all ways
True, it would be like having a lock of your hair -
an ownership of sorts -
but that was not the point.
It is not that I wanted to write the poem
to prove I could,
but that poetry is my last, best hope
for a vocabulary with which
I might encompass a whole person
and all the feelings in between.
I may even be right -
but I am naive to think I can do it.
It took a billion years of evolution
to write your song -
even if I could find the words,
paint the imagery,
say all that your
double-stranded helixes say
in a package
on which not even the daintiest angel
could get a good footing
for her pirouettes,
it would take me a thousand pages
and on each page a thousand words
and for each word a footnote
a hundred lines long
and I couldn't finish in this lifetime
or the next
or even all the lifetimes
it would take a poor sucker like me
to reach enlightenment.
Next this week we go to a classic, Li Po, born 701, died 762.
The Road To Shu Is Hard
A-eee! Shee-yew! Sheeeeee! So dangerous! So high!
The road to Shu is hard, harder than climbing the sky.
Silkworm Thicket nd Fishing Duck
Founded their kingdom in the depths of time,
But then for forty-eight thousand years,
No settlers' smoke reached the Ch'in frontier.
Yet west on T'ai-po Mountain, take a bird road there,
You could cross directly to O-mei's brow.
When earth collapsed and the mountain crashed,
the muscled warriors died.
It was after that when the ladders to heaven
were linked together with timber and stone.
Up above is
the towering pillar where six dragons turn the sun.
Down below is
the twisting river colliding waves dash into the turns.
The flight of a yellow crane cannot cross it;
Gibbons and monkeys climb in despair.
Green Umd Ridge - coiling, unwinding -
Nine turns in a hundred steps, round pinnacle and snag.
Touch the Triad, pass the Well Stars,
look up to gasp and groan.
Press a hand to calm your chest,
sit down for a lingering sigh.
I wonder as you travel west, when will you return?
I fear that a road so cragged and high is impossible to climb.
All I see is a mournful bird that cries in an ancient tree.
And cocks that fly in pursuit of hens,
circling through the forest.
Yet again I hear the cuckoo call in the moonlit night -
sorrow upon the desolate mountain.
The road to Shu is hard, harder than climbing the sky.
Whenever one shall hear this, it wilts his youth away.
Peak after peak missing the sky by not so much as a foot.
Withered pines hang upside-down clinging to vertical walls.
Flying chutes and raging current,
how they snarl and storm!
Pelted cliffs and spinning stones,
ten thousand chasms thunderous roar!
The perils - this is the way they are.
And woe to that man on a road so far -
Oh why, and for what, would he travel here?
Sword Gallery looms above with soaring crags and spires;
One man at the pass.
Ten thousand men are barred.
And if the guards are not our people,
They can change in jackals and wolves.
In the morning avoid fierce tigers,
In the evening avoid long snakes.
They sharpen teeth for sucking blood;
The dead are strewn like hemp.
Let them talk of pleasure in Bocade City.
The better thing is hurrying home.
The road to Shu is hard, harder than climbing the sky.
Edging back, I gaze to the west, long and deep my sighs.
(Translated by Elling O. Elide)
A not my fault note:
The inconsistent use of upper case at the beginning of lines in the Li Po poem is as it is in the book the poem is from. I don't know if there is a purpose to this inconsistency or just sloppy editing.
I picked thia photo, taken in front of Union Station in Los Angeles, to go with our next poem from good friend, frequent contributor and soon-to-be ex-Californian Alice Folkart.
Here's Alice's poem.
dulled, lulled, drowsing
over lush blossoms,
dressed up in pollen pants,
heavy yellow flying folds
of soft, luscious, powdered sunlight,
a ponderous weight for such little wings
to lift and carry to the hidden queen
I've been using a lot of poems from my book the past several weeks. This week, it'll be all new stuff, mostly light and mostly written for Blueline's poem-a-day workshop.
Here's the first one now.
it's monday morning
and I'm at Borders with
and I decide
to write my poem
for the day
but I think
I'm not desperate
I think there's my
for the day
all about it
but that goes
since it turns out
I'm still not desperate
enough to write
Robert Bly was already an important poet when he became deeply involved in the antiwar moment of the 1960's and 70's. As with many in the antiwar movement of that time and today, his smug assurance of his own superior virtue and intelligence is hard to take, but his poems are deep and powerful. Here are two of them.
The Asian War Begins
There are longings to kill that cannot be seen,
Or are seen only by a minister who no longer believes in
Living in his parish like a crow in its nest.
And there are flowers with murky centers,
Impenetrable, ebony, basalt.
Conestogas go past, over the Platte, murderers
From the Carolinas riding under the canvas.
Who are our enemies? Perhaps the soldiers
And the poor, those "unable to rejoice."
Counting Small-Boned Bodies
Let's count the bodies over again.
If we could only make the bodies smaller,
the size of skulls,
we could make a whole plain white with skulls in the
If we could only make the bodies smaller,
maybe we could fit
a whole year's kill in front of us on a desk.
If we could only make the bodies smaller,
we could fit
a body into a finger ring, for a keepsake forever.
After the anger and bitterness of Bly's poem, it's a good time for a change of pace, a little romance from another "Here and Now" first-timer, Ann Hite.
Ann's short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including The Dead Mule, Fiction Warehouse, The SiNK, Rocking Chair Reader, Moonwort Review, Skyline Magazine, and Poor Mojo's Almanac.
Her essays were chosen for Cup of Comfort, Chicken Soup, and Marlo Thomas' latest book Right Words at the Right Time Vol., 2 and her poems have appeared in Long Story Short and Literary Mama.
Here's her poem for "Here and Now."
A man who can see beyond his selfishness is a rare find in this world.
But, a man who can feel the deep movement of words written for him is a jewel buried in a treasure chest, waiting for the woman,
who is his match, a woman who feels his paintbrush strokes across her breasts and puts them to music.
The music is their life, sometimes loud, sometimes crashing screams, but always sweet love.
A woman can lose her way in this music and forget the turmoil screeching beyond the sound.
This is the relationship God intended for men and women, knowing they are not perfect, but reflect his vision, his vast painting.
This man and woman will never be perfect, but they will change the world if only their world.
Paint the words, word the paints. Meshed together they become one, intricate, braided, long, thick but strong, solid, and independent.
They create cells that become beautiful splashes of color, yellow, pink, and blue
on a large canvas that will live far ahead of them.
Into the air seeps the truth of fate, what ifs and how comes.
Release the words to the sky.
Tell the truth. Yell the love.
Praise the certainty.
Release the life.
Retell the story so others can see the power, determination and passion.
These words are for you love, my heart, my passion, my world.
Long after you have left this world our residue will still be sufficient to feed the souls. The woman fights to find the words, a loving battle, the words to feed his soul.
When she writes, each word is for him. He is the only one she will ever love.
He is the WORD, The Music released in her soul.
I love you
This is a little piece I wrote in my head several weeks ago while passing through West Texas on our way back from Vancouver as we began to see summer again after the great weather in the Northwest. I didn't actually put it on paper until a couple of weeks later.
it's the next to last day in May
on the rise
Aaron Silverberg has been writing since graduating with a degree in philosophy from the UC Santa Cruz. He is an improvisational flutist, ecstatic dancer and organic gardener.
Here are two poems from his book Thoreau's Chair.
if only life were linear
like one of those ultra-modern sidewalks
at the airport.
but there are always diversions
the ads along the way or
you run into a friend you haven't seen in years or
you forgot to pack something or
you get hungry and decide to snack or
you get to thinking about how much you'd rather
be home with your children or lover or garden or...
you can't remember where our were headed or
what flight would get you there.
all of us really know where conveyor belts lead...
coffins into crematoriums,
Batman to his 700th doom.
nothing more precious can happen than the thing
when you can hop off
walk dance sing dawdle
in your own sweet time.
Your Life Is Dramatic
Every office worker is waiting
without a breath
for that swashbuckling pirate
dagger clenched in sourgnashed teeth
to swing through the sterile
plate glass window
to rape and plunder the computer and
its archfiend monitor, while the mouse scurries for cover,
to yell at the top of his east end's lungs
"Grab the rope, matey, and swing yer arse outta here!"
And thence to sail to some Caribbean island where
bare-breasted women and children move like waves.
There is that one peculiar moment of terror
when the office worker grabs the proffered twine
releasing a breath held for years
only to choke on the next
while the shards of mangled glass
gleam with sharkly delight.
The office worker is repelled and strangely attracted
by the noxious pirate
whose mouth is moving
as the coarse rope swings out
through the sickening maw.
The office worker jolts awake
from a monoxide slumber.
Peering through the stained driplets.
Wondering, wondering, wondering
where the drama of a lifetime goes
when it is not played out.
Next, our friend Jim Comer returns with this beautiful poem.
Finale, the Submerging Sun
I'll forever remember twisted
silhouettes; three ancient trees
stand before us; the blaze
of another sun slips
into darkening blue -
our palms gesture a last aloha;
we turn away with scarlet eyelids
to walk the green mowed lawn;
we reach for each other's hands;
offer slight smiles that fail,
but send a final signal.
Twelve years from wedding
to letting go for sale - I wonder who
will leave the lanai at the end
of the day - stem-ware wine in hand -
to walk the green, the coarse-white
sand lipped with black lava -
colliding with breakers of white
and the submerging sun?
Next, here's a series of three barku on a common coffee shop (what else) theme. I wrote this a couple of months ago. I may have used it here before.
1. story time
2. cubicle vet
on her back
From ultra modern sidewalks to ancient meadows, now, a poem of seduction by Greek poet, satirist and, judging by this piece, occasional pornographer Archilochus from about 650 B.C.
The opening section of the poem is fragmentary. I post it as it is in my source material.
Fireworks On The Grass
Back away from that,(she said)
and steady on [ ]
Wayward and wildly pounding heart,
there is a girl who lives among us
who watches you with foolish eyes,
a slender, lovely, graceful girl,
just budding into supple line,
and you scare her and make her shy.
O daughter of the highborn Amphimedo,
I replied, of the widely remembered
Ampimedo now in the rich earth dead,
There are, do you know, so many pleasures
for young men to choose from
among the skills of the delicious goddess
it's green to think the holy one's the only,
When the shadows go black and quiet,
Let us, you and I alone, and the gods,
sort these matters out. Fear nothing:
I shall be tame, I shall behave
and reach, if I reach, with a civil hand.
I shall climb the wall and come to the gate.
You'll not say no, Sweetheart, to this?
I shall come no farther than the garden grass.
Nebule I have forgotten, believe me, do.
Any man who wants her may have her.
Aiai! she's past her day, ripening rotten.
The petals of her flower are all brown.
The grace that first she had is gone.
don't you agree that she looks like a boy?
A woman like that would drive a man crazy.
She should get herself a job as a scarecrow.
I’d as soon hump her as [kiss a goat's butt].
A source of joy I'd be to the neighbors
with such a woman as her for a wife!
How could I ever prefer her to you?
You, O innocent, true heart and bold.
Each of her faces is as sharp as the other.
Which way she's turning you can never guess.
She'd whelp like the proverb's luckless bitch
were I to foster get upon her, throwing
them blind, and all on the wrong day.
I said no more, but took her hand,
laid her down in a thousand flowers,
and put my soft wool cloak around her.
I slid my arm under her neck
To still the fear in her eyes,
for she was trembling like a fawn,
touched her hot breasts with light fingers,
spraddled her neatly and pressed
against her fine, hard, bared crotch.
I caressed the beauty of all her body
And came in a sudden white spurt
while I was stroking her hair.
(Translated by Guy Davenport)
Friend and regular contributor Thane Zander writes of the course of his life.
The Captain Series - the Last - Me
I've stood at the helm of a ship, Driver
I've stood in the middle of a boat, Captain
I've stood in my room - memories,
the way things could have been
if I hadn't been afflicted genetically.
I sit in my chair, writer
A stand behind my chair, watcher,
I stand and pace my room,
Captain without helm,
I salute myself, as it is done.
I measure my domain in yards now,
no longer in miles, whence my boat days
I take a rule of thumb and apply it to life
then scrutinize all around me with measured eye
a hangover from my surveying days, the sun sets
on a life fast approaching relinquishment,
the shades dimmer now, the moon strong
the ice on the beard says get warm and live
the beard and face behind it say bring it on,
the lady of my life my last vision, and her girls.
America didn't invent John Wayne, we just put a name and a face to the archetype. But every since he was first introduced, he, or some iteration of him, has walked across American movie screens on a regular basis.
The latest is Bruce Willis in the next in the Die Hard series. These movies are such fun, like the Saturday afternoon movies I used to see in the old Alto Theater in my little home town of La Feria, Texas.
The hero/villain formula never changes, just gets stretched in new directions.
I saw the trailer for the new movie and went right home and wrote this, you might even say, loving tribute.
fire fire fire fire fire fire
miss miss miss miss miss
one thousand times
or some version
as they fall
in a crimson mist
who shows up
runs to helicopter
goes the rotor
as it begins to rise
for more sweaty
I'm still dropping into used book stores when ever I can. I found several books last week, including Street fighting poems by poet Daniel Donaghy.
Donaghy, from New York, holds an M.F.A. in creative writing fro Cornell University and, at the time the book was published, was completing a Ph.D in English at the University of Rochester. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts and the Cornell Council for the Arts. His poems have appeared in a number of journals.
Twenty seven years ago next August, my father died of emphysema after fifteen years of struggle and decline. This poem, from Donaghy's book, reaches me deeply.
(Note to San Antonio folks: the Half Priced Books on Broadway near downtown has the best poetry selection I've found in SA.)
My Father Shot Free Throws
From the window I watched
him go through his routine:
deep knee bends, two dribbles,
a long drag from his Pall Mall,
a few backspins of the ball
before he was gone into the void
of that rim, the blank space
he lived in for an hour each night.
free of us nagging him
to quit the smokes and heavy drink,
free of my mother over his shoulder
when he spat blood,
rubbing his back, crying
when he refused to go for X rays,
free of all but the constant
wheeze in his lungs that kept
him nearly always out of breath,
that kept him awake,
sent him downstairs for water
ten out to the drive,
my father easing into it,
a few lay-ups, some jumpers,
always a neighbor's light on,
always the hacking cough,
the soft hiss off the boards,
always the underhanded shot
Now for another of our friends and frequent contributors, Khadija Anderson.
I float in water
lay in a large innertube
head back, eyes closed
arms and legs dangling
the innertube rotates
turns slowly, deliberately
I picture the Milky Way
content, suspended in darkness
long arms reaching into space
the pilgrims in Mecca
circumambulating seven times
incessantly rotating, around and around
feet grounded on the earth
whirling dervishes in long robes
heads tipped, eyes closed
turning slowly, perfectly
arms lifted towards the heavens
I float on my back in water
like a worshipper, like the universe
This is a very new poem, written last week.
precious and sweet
precious and sweet.
Reminding ourselves that virtue and poetry do not always walk hand in hand, here's a poem by Mao Zedong, tyrant and mass murderer.
The scene is the north lands.
Thousand of li sealed in ice,
ten thousand li in blowing snow.
From the Long Wall I gaze inside and beyond
and see only vast tundra.
Up and down the Yellow River
the gurgling water is frozen.
Mountains dance like silver snakes,
hills gallop like wax-bright elephants
trying to climb over the sky.
On days of sunlight
the planet teases us in her white dress and rouge.
Rivers and mountains are beautiful
and make heroes bow and compete to catch the girl -
Yet the emperors Shi Huang and Wu Di
were barely able to write.
The first emperors of the Tang and Song dynasties
Genghis Khan, man of his epoch
and favored by heaven,
knew only how to hunt the great eagle.
They are all gone.
Only today are we men of feeling.
A good rant is like a huge thundercloud, building and building until it covers the sky. Friend and "Here and Now" contributor Dan Cuddy has build some nice clouds in the past. Here's his latest.
like yesterday's lottery ticket
that ticket just lie in the thick uncut grass
this poem too
or somebody singing in the shower
or a religious tract
shoved into the mailslot in a door
not even spat upon
like a guy
wanting to be noticed by that pretty gal
red dress white polka dots
she's bursting at the seams in the right places
all she said was
not even that
not even a contemptuous lift of the eyebrow
no one picks up this poem
or many others like it
we all write
but few of us READ
the local news
who shot who
is molesting kids
or embezzling funds from a local charity
the usual rank stuff
no attempt at poetry
the bleeding poems
left out in the rain
It's summertime, sure 'nuff...and I hate it.
hell no, I won't go
across the sofa
in my air conditioned
like a phone
of growing up
in a house
where the phone
never rang at
world I go
James Laughlin founded the publishing house of New Directions in 1936, while he was still an undergraduate at Harvard. His first book of poems, Some Natural Things was published nine years later. These poem are from his book The Secret Room first published in 1993.
I like these little poems. Simple, direct, and honest.
Some People Think
that poetry should be a-
dorned or complicated I'm
not so sure I think I'll
take the simple statement
in plain speech compress-
ed to brevity I think that
will do all I want to do.
Pull up your skirt
just an inch or two
above your knees
sit quietly where
I may watch you
from across the
room. I am old and
impotent but such
small pleasures can
still give me delight.
Passport Size Will Do
I beg you to send me your picture
For my album of imaginary conquests
You will be in excellent company
I am not (even in my imagination)
Promiscuous and invite only the best.
At The Post Office
It makes his day when
by happy chance he en-
counters her on his morn-
ing visit to the post office
it's as if a rose had
opened to greet him.
For The Finders Within
I cannot name them nor
tell from whence they
come I cannot summon
them nor make them lin-
ger they come when they
wish (and when least exp-
pected) and in a moment
they are gone leaving
their burst of words
which become my song.
The Happy Poets
It's to lie side
By side in bed
Helping each other
Improve our poems.
Patiently I'm waiting
For the day when you'll discover
That it was always me
You were waiting for.
Better Than Potions
Our village love counselor
tells her lovelorn young
clients that kittens cannot
be caught but if you stay
where you are and do some-
thing interesting the kit-
ten will soon come to you
Death Lurches Toward Me
but the gods do have
some pity in these
last months the verses
seem a bit less paltry
not quite so garrulous
touches of truth in them.
Another little piece written for the poem-a-day challenge.
girls telling secrets
at the round table
and laugh again
at the round table
in the corner
Paula Rankin's first book was By The Wreckmaster's Cottage, published in 1977. This poem is from her second book, Augers, published four years later, in 1981. I'm sure she's continued to publish, but I can find no more current information.
Here's the poem.
You blame me for losing my rings,
three in five years.
I say, "My fingers lose weight with loving."
I too have wondered at the ease
with which they slid off undetected:
one into dirt my hands dug out for bulbs,
another into river,
and one I last saw pulling sleeves
from a Laundromat dryer.
None had enough scratches to be a symbol
for unending love, so when I think about them,
I do not think of gold circumferences
but of the space inside and what fills it:
somewhere dirt, muck on river bottom,
lint in a stranger's pockets are the fingers I should have grown,
the one I keep trying to fatten
or if nothing else works, coat with glue.
Finally you turn to me, empty-handed,
saying, Here is the ring of imagination,
imagine love that goes on forever,
imagine this is the last ring you will be given,
imagine anything you need to make it fit.
My fingers are nearly all bone.
But I imagine a ring shrinking like skin.
Painting by Lauren Dodski
This poem is from the painting above which I found intriguing for all the things it can suggest to an attentive viewer.
portrait of a girl at night
in woolen layers
The next poem is from Parties, a first collection of poems by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, published in 1988, Morgan has since published three other books of poetry and expects to publish a fifth this year. She is currently the 2007 Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University.
Here is her poem. I understand the wonder she express here. We have one of these birds that lives around the little creek behind our house part of the year. It is an amazing thing to see this far from where we would expect to see it. Unlike Morgan's heron, mine doesnt seem to be ailing, just seems to like the neighborhood. Even when I was out at the creek cutting grass with my weed trimmer, she didn't move, just stood calmly on those ridiculous legs and watched.
The moment between what wasn't
and what is
has to shock like the instant
I saw the three-foot heron
perched like a prank
in my front yard.
I've known a few annunciations.
My God I'm in love was one,
and the bloodied baby's head
between my thighs. Then
my thin son with a suitcase,
in my review mirror.
The elegant heron stood in my yard,
in my cluttered neighborhood,
miles from water, fish, its kind.
It curled and uncurled its neck,
scanning the air for bearings.
All morning I thought
it would fly away.
By afternoon I was afraid
it never would.
Who could miss this incongruous sight?
Everyone who passed by did.
Walkers, drivers, runners, children
never noticed the great blue heron
dying by my Pontiac.
It stood there all day long,
bearing its weight
on legs as frail as marsh grass.
The next poem is by Wesley K. Mather and is taken from his book Into Pieces published in 2003. Although his poems appeared in many publications, this was his first book.
Reflections from a Tractor
Immersed in childish pleasures
like Sunday morning walks
The cornfields of Missouri whip themselves
with geometric excitement
Stalks-wide greed-strangle the soft warm soil
robbing it of life's essential chemicals
Once, strange, lush rainforests
Now, fields for agriculture
Someday, lifeless desert
Floating in the timeless nothing
No more life; no more protein
The sun's chromosphere will encompass the earth
and zap the animation right out of it
But that is not today;
today we can still look at the swirling fields
Children run through the fields
They feel the silt on their arms itching nicely
They pull each other's hair
They are not concerned with deserts or chromospheres
City children would be jealous if they
knew what job cornfield days could bring
We've had three new friends of "Here in Now" this week, beginning with our first poem, then one near the middle and now, near the end, this piece by Scott Acheson.
Scott is originally from Kansas City and has traveled around the world three times. He has doctorate in chemistry from the University of Iowa and was a scientist and technical writer for 25 years. He took up writing poetry 2 years ago and now works as a swim instructor in the inner city of Charlotte, NC. He says he loves to swim and enjoys several muses.
He says this poem came to him while staying at an Econolodge in Mojave, California after an early morning swim in its tiny pool.
Though he says it's still a work in progress, Scott invites you to visit his website at http://timeofflight.blogspot.com/.
Time of Flight
wearing a postage stamp pool.
Cold and refreshing water, speckled with
grime and two-week old newspaper.
As I look up through the silver sheen at the surface,
the moon sits, residing comfortably in the morning sky.
Plastic garden chairs, crowded and haphazard,
decorate my walled garden.
Symbols of a crossroads, a desert neither cold nor hot.
An airbase glued, like a Band-Aid on my skin.
A place for down time. Gasoline souls,
wandering like the Joshua trees that
randomly spot the yellow undulating hills.
A diesel stench over asphalt
and fields of wind turbines churn.
They whine eternally, providing comfort.
Air conditioners exhaling heat,
returning cool breeze to the blue room.
Hearts beat slowly and bodies are kept dry.
The Econolodge, blinking its decoration:
A Chinese fan on the wall, held by a giant's hand.
A girl whispers in the early morning.
An awareness of something.
Come swim in the desert.
Sometimes, when we get of a certain age, change becomes a dirty word, rife will all sorts of unpleasant possibilities...and so complicaters everything at a time when what we most want is simplicity.
for ten years
I've written my
chairs are gone
and the wobbly tables
and the dingy walls
with holes where paintings
were hung then taken down
it's like some kind
of dark paneled
how can I write
in this environment
That's all for now. We'll fly back in week for our next roosting, same time, same tree. In the meantime, may your white's be white, your brights be bright, and all the yolks in your life be sunnyside up, but not runny.