Saturday, June 09, 2007
I've been haunting the used book stores again and found some poets for this week I'd never heard of and others I'd heard of, but never read. I hope you find them as interesting and fresh as I did.
After six months, I finally got around to changing out the photos and poems on the main 7beats site. There's a link at the top, if you would like to check it out.
It was never my intention to leave that site static as long as I did this time, but got pushed aside as I concentrated on "Here and Now," which has turned out to take much more time than I had ever imagined. I'm having fun with it though, which makes it worth the time I'm spending on it, hoping, of course, that others are enjoying it as well.
For the last two months we've had more than a thousand visits per month (1,110 in April and 1,300 in May). This is the result of a continuing increase every month in the number of people stopping by. I don't know how that rates on other people's good-bad meter, but it's great on mine. I'm always happy to have more visits/visitors, so, if you like what you see, pass it on.
Self-promo done, let's move on to the good stuff.
We begin this week with a poet new to me, Ishle Yi Park. Of Korean American heritage, she was born in New York in 1977.
A recipient of a fiction grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts, her work has appeared in numerous publications, including New American Writing, Best American Writers of All Colors 2001, and The Best American Poetry of 2003. She has performed in the United States, Cuba and Korea, and was a featured poet on HBO's Def Poetry Jam.
I like her very much.
This poem is from her book The Temperature of This Water.
- for David
Don't shoot a parachuter in air, but paratroopers are fair game.
When you capture a P.O.W., follow the 6 s's: search secure silence
segregate safeguard and speed them to the rear.
Stick together against Army & Navy punks.
Bless equipment men and commanding officers with bigger plates
at mess hall.
Smoke only in steam-filled showers.
Wash at least twice a week; pay particular attention to body creases.
Don't turn your head at "Yankee go home."
Don't think about your girl getting her back dug out by the next
man in Queens,
don't remember your titi Margie cooking up a pot of fried wings
for your departure,
how you both cried for an hour at her kitchen table.
Memorize Biggie's Ready to Die, unlike the rosaries you always forgot,
along with this is my rifle, there are many like it, but only this one is mine,
along with the dirt-hill chant, '57 Chevy with a tankful of gas,
got a mouthful of pussy and a handful of ass . Sound off - one...two.
Sound off - three...four. Sound off - one...two...three...four...
Remember - it matters where you die. In combat, a hero; in Brooklyn
Stop waiting for her letters, which grow scarcer than war rations.
Don't give a fuck about no one cuz they don't give a fuck about you -
Fuck the sergeant's wife on Guantanamo Beach,
remember her thick haunches against wet rock, the crashing foam,
Don't cry where they can see you. Don't give up don't give up don't
give up -
just two more years - do not go home a punk...
Remember you are an American fighting man: amphibious force-in-
the word marine, coming from the Latin marinus, meaning "related
to the sea," amphibious from the Greek amphibion, literally,
"living a double life."
Name things exactly - Civilian. Combatant, Officer, Wife., Man.
When I cannot look at your face,
I look at your back
curled away from me in sleep,
half buried in polyester sheets.
I know it supports you
under wooden crates of packed beef
hauled off loading trucks
on lamplit streets. It's almost geometric
in its tight bend, hoist, pull
that cranks you through the mornings.
In these strange lights,
its ridges are reptilian and fierce,
but when my fingers graze your spine,
it shudders like a quiet earthquake.
Our friend, Alice Folkart, shares with us recent moving experiences.
Real Estate refugee,
my knapsack on my back
sensible shoes, insensible blues.
I painted the door today,
the one we'll walk through
when we leave for good.
The neighborhood knows,
and grows cozy and nosy.
Night whispers like
bats flap round the house
in the dark, like a lark, singing
out of tune, or the moon
not coming up, or a cup of cold tea.
Ah me, I can see the long road.
I shoulder my load, to walk on.
I wrote this poem about 2001-2002, as I was beginning to learn to trust my readers, learning that, not only was it not necessary to spell everything out, it was usually better if you held back and let the readers discover things not said. This poem, particularly, was a revelation to me as I saw the deeper I cut the deeper and darker it became. My own opinion is that I have never done this better than I did it here.
Later, in 2005, I used it in my book Seven Beats a Second.
the cruelty of cats at play
her black smile
cut like a dagger through the dark
slicing cleanly to the heart
"I have something to tell you,"
Here are tributes to two tall mountains in the hills and valleys that make up American art, Whitman, the poet, and Alberta Hunter, the seminal jazz singer and song writer.
The Whitman tribute was written by California poet Larry Lewis, while the poem to Alberta Hunter was written by Lyn Lifshin, author of 100 books and editor of four books dedicated to American women writers.
I say we had better look our nation searchingly
in the face, like a physician diagnosing some
- Democratic Vistas
Look for me under your bootsoles.
On Long Island, they moved my clapboard house
Across a turnpike, & then felt so guilty they
Named a shopping center after me!
Now that I'm required reading in your high schools,
Teenagers call me a fool.
Now what I sang stops breathing.
It was only when everyone stopped believing in me
That I began to live again -
First in the thin whine of Montana fence wire,
Then in the transparent, cast-off garments hung
In the windows of the poorest families,
Then in the glad music of Charlie Parker.
At times now,
I even come back to watch you
From the eyes of a taciturn boy at Malibu,
Across the counter at the beach concession stand,
I sell you hot dogs, Pepsis, cigarettes -
My blond hair long, greasy, & swept back.
In a vain old ducktail, deliciously
Out of style.
And no one notices.
Once, I even came back as me,
An aging homosexual who ran the Tilt-a-Whirl
At county fairs, the chilled paint on each gondola
Changing color as it picked up speed,
and a Mardi Gras tattoo on my left shoulder.
A few of you must have seen my photographs.
For when you looked back
I thought you caught the meaning of my stare:
A Kosmos. One of the roughs.
And Charlie Parker's grave outside Kansas City
Covered with weeds.
Leave me alone.
A father who's outlived his only child.
To find me now will cost you everything.
you could hear
from here to
I've got the first
record I made
on Black Swam ran
away from home
away from Beale St.
working at a night
club called Dream
land brother Louis
Armstrong up to
play 2nd trumpet
his first wife
at her husband's
funeral I love
church but until
they put that sand
and dirt in my face
ladies and gentle
man I've had enough
Our New Zealand friend and frequent contributor, Thane Zander takes us for a walk around town to see sights.
I'm driving around Allentown,
dusty summers day
where winds are wafting,
children stick figures
on a pavement sweating.
Broomsticks walk behind the kids
carrying shopping bags
the pedestrian crossing
the days produce.
I see the black sandbox
of a Police Cruiser keeping the peace,
the vagabonds disguised as trees
in the park resounding to a stereo
supplanted in a clock tower.
The Tonka toy of my Mercedes Benz
cruises middle Lifelessness Avenue
clowns on stilts laughing
the dinner sets on the post boxes, glowing.
Arthur the Butcher, shop open
stands like an overgrown Sausage
selling his wares, and his ways
dreaming of surfboard days
the tar seal melting under summer sun.
Moody Ladies of the Seventh Day Adventist
pass out words of wisdom
pass out in the heat
pamper each other with Lovey Dovey cloths,
Reverend Greengauge passes, discerning.
Stick figures of humanity, walking
the day set to the tune of the clock rock
the chime of the Eleventh Hour
as old soldiers bow their heads in remembrance.
I wrote this piece about the same time I wrote the cruelty of cats thing, maybe several weeks after. It was another of my attempts at saying more with less. I included the poem in my book Seven Beats a Second.
while a bald man burns
three gulls circle
a bald man burns
in the fierce island sun
I trace gargoyles
in the sand
with my toe
you pretend to study
the book in your hand
three gulls circle
in the fierce island sun
Going back a few years, about three millennia, in fact, here are two short poems from the Rigveda, an ancient Indian religious book. It is a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns dedicated to Rigvedic deities. It is counted among the four Hindu sacred texts known as the Vedas, said to be composed between 1700-1100 BC.
Hymn To Night
So vast our Goddess Night, she rises,
star-eyes gazing everywhere.
all her finery of dress displayed.
Space high and low she fills, Eternal Night,
her beauty driving out the dark
Close on the heels of sister Day
she treads. Let darkness run ...
As you draw near; we turn for home
like birds that wing to nest.
Life everywhere retreats: man, beast
and bird. Even the soaring hawk
returns to seek out rest.
Night, shield us from the wolf and thief.
Throughout your hours let there be calm.
Pitch dark has brought a shroud for me.
Dawn, drive it, like my debts, away.
Child of Day, to you, as to a calf,
my Hun is offered. Receive it now
as paean to a conqueror.
(Translated by Edwin Gerow and Peter Dent)
May The Wind Blow Sweetness!
May the wind blow sweetness,
the rivers flow sweetness,
the herbs grow sweetness,
for the Man of Truth!
Sweet be the night,
sweet the dawn,
sweet the earth's fragrance,
sweet Father Heaven!
May the tree afford us sweetness,
the sun shine sweetness,
our cows yield sweetness -
milk in plenty!
(Translated by Rainmundo Panikkar)
Our friend Patricia Cresswell describes herself as a reclusive poet with a temperamental muse who keeps wandering off at the oddest times. She says she's been published here and there both online and in print.
The last poem we looked at, May The Wind Blow Sweetness is a simple poem. Sometimes that's all we want, a simple poem, part of a simple life, as Patricia explains.
I don't want to suck hard
to mine the marrow of your words
let me be a water walker
and skim the placid surface
later laid back, lazy, I will cogitate
too hot today
my mind all muzzy with
dragon fly wings and lemon drop
sunsplashes on newly minted leaves,
save depth for November.
Most of my poems include some element of humor and many include some level of social commentary.
Like this one, also included in Seven Beats a Second.
my kind of people
need not apply
while reading historical
no krinkly, wrinkly
with foul smelling
who count their money
in dark little rooms
no judges, no fire chiefs,
no social workers,
no grocery store clerks,
or used car salesmen
also, no candlestick makers
if they're still around
none of them either
and no swathy skinned
men with mustaches
no baldheaded men
with brittle hair
piled higher than
six and one half inches
none too short
none too tall
none too big
and none to small
and none too
no men in tangerine
and no women
in pedal pushers
no arabs, no blacks,
no wops or jews
no russians, maldavians,
limeys frogs, krauts,
poles, czechs, hunkies,
nor tightfisted scots
they just need not apply
and no chinamen, either,
and none of their oriental
and damn sure no syrians
and canadians, too
and kansans, californians,
new yorkers, iowa
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
From ancient Indian hymns we travel upstream in time to a modern Indian poet, Sudeep Sen.
Sen was born in New Delhi in 1964 and studied literature there and in the US. As an Inlake Scholar he completed an MS from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. His poetry collections include The Lunar Visitations, New York Times, and Dali's Twisted Hands, and the book the following two poems are taken from, Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems. At the time this book was published ten years ago, he had another one in the works, Blue Nude, which presumably been published, along with an unknown number of other titles.
He is widely published and, as an invited speaker, has read his work around the world. During 1992/1993, he was the international poet-in-residence at The Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, and, in 1995, a visiting scholar at Harvard University. He works as an editor in publishing and, was living in London and New Delhi at the time this book was published.
I bought the book at a used book store in San Antonio. It is signed by the poet with a dedication, written in 2000, to the book's original purchaser "Ray." My copy includes the original sales slip. None of that is particularly important, but, still, a little back story which I always enjoy.
Here are the two poems from the book.
of the Trossachs,
like a belt
of tarmac ribbon.
Fragmented Feathers And Transparent Bones
In the rowdy noise of an unknown cafe, you
lost a bag with three books - three books you
treasured, bought at a familiar bookstall outside a concert hall,
where some new jazz continued improvising itself all
night. All of a sudden unannounced Carnatic strains
were heard, M S Subalakshmi on stage
sung in formal scales, tones unlike
the chords you are familiar with, heard at a dinner last night.
When you hold a mirror to the sun,
you get blinded not by its light, but
in the heat that scorches the pupils
and chokes all speech, stammer-still.
If you hold a mirror to an arc-light, you get
blinded by its very core, the overheated tungsten
reflection that coils and recoils -
while other orbiting particles
swimming innocuously, refract, fracturing
the white into colour, in darkness. Appearing
gradually, blossoming in this black, the colour of
a loved person's eyes sparkle, dreaming of
Java, or some unmapped archipelago,
searching blue and red and yellow
fish. As the city dies, the night deepens, the
fusion fades, and the rhythm of the classical and the
blues slowly plays itself out - the concert
finally ends - the people long departed, doors shut.
But in this empty hall - the stage
curtains will remain drawn, stretched
out to the wings, as does the shaft of a lone spotlight,
that too remains lit, unswitched - perhaps an oversight
of the overseer. But in this light
appears another sight,
an unusual theater - a large superimposed image
of a bird - many birds - covering the entire stage,
their stories softly unfolding in flighted metaphors -
beaks and bones -
transparent skeleton, hollow fossil forms
finely sketched, etched permanently,
written with quiet wisdom, in ancient Persian calligraphy.
To me, science and poetry are two sides of the same coin, each, at its heart, about mystery and investigation, understanding and explaining. As Muriel Rukeyser said, "I care very much about that meeting place of science and poetry."
That's what draws me to the weekly New York Times science section. I find lots of good ideas for poems there. This particular poem came from a story in the Times about two galaxies in the middle of a million year process of collision. It is also included in Seven Beats a Second.
meanwhile, in the Hydra constellation
a storm of stars
passes soundless through the void,
crossing unimaginable distances
to meet, to crash in a flash
of exploding suns and primordial fire
stretching across a billion years,
a furnace unlike any
since the first great eruption
that came from less than nothing
to blast a cosmos into being
and around these speeding suns,
orbiters like our own earth home,
and on some of them, creatures
like ourselves, product of an evolutionary
trail from muck to self-discovered glory,
inventions of their own histories, periods dark
and light, times of cruelty, death and genius flowering,
people like we are people, struggling through life,
seeking grace, forgiveness, the salvation of love,
seeking honorable life and an honorable end
that end comes to them now, across the void
in a storm of stars colliding, an end ablaze
with the light of creation deconstructing
From the anthology From Totems to Hip-Hop, Edited by Ishmael Reed, there is this poem by Josephine Miles.
Miles was born in 1911 in Chicago and grew up in Southern California. She began writing as a child and was first published, as a child, in St. Nicholas, a children's magazine. Her first book of poetry was Trial Balance, published in 1935, followed by nine other books, including Lines at Intersection, in 1939, Civil Poems in 1966, Coming to Terms in 1979 and Collected Poems 1930-1983.
She was a member of the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley from 1938 to 1978, for many years the only tenured woman in the English Department. Afer she retired as professor emeritus, The Berkeley Poetry Review dedicated a special issue to her and her work.
Josephine Miles died in 1985.
Though the willows bent down to shelter us where we played
House n the sandy acres, through our dolls,
Especially Lillian, weathered all the action,
I kept getting so much earlier home to rest
That medical consultation led to cast
From head to toe. It was a surprise for my parents
And so for me also, and I railed
Flat out in the back seat on the long trip home
In which three tires blew on our trusty Mitchell.
Home, in a slight roughhouse of my brothers,
It turned out Lillian had been knocked to the floor and broken
Across the face. Good, said my mother
In her John Deweyan constructive way,
Now you and Lillian can be mended together.
We made a special trip to the doll hospital
To pick her up. But, they can't fix her after all, my father
You'll just have to tend her with her broken cheek.
I was very willing. We opened the box, and she lay
In shards mixed among tissue paper. Only her eyes
Set loose on a metal stick so they would open
And close, opened and closed, and I grew seasick.
A friend of the family sent me a kewpie doll.
Later Miss Babcox the sitter,
Afer many repetitious card games,
Said, We must talk about bad things.
Let me tell you
Some of the bad things I have known in my life.
She did not ask me mine. I could not have told her.
Among the bad things in my life, she said,
Have been many good people, good but without troubles;
Her various stories tended
To end with transmigrations of one sort of another,
Dishonest riches to honest poverty; kings and queens
To indians over an adequate space of time.
Take this cat comin g along here, she said,
A glossy black cat whom she fed her wages in salmon,
He is a wise one, about to become a person.
Come to think of it, possibly Lillian
Is about to become a cat.
She will different eyes then, I said,
Obviously. Slanted, and what is more,
Able to see in the dark.
(During her childhood, Josephine Miles became severely disabled by rheumatoid arthritis and spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair.)
The more I write, the easier it has become for me to slip into my own natural style and rhythms. That means short lines, with stanza breaks more like paragraphing than tied to any specific form. Some readers don't like this, but to me this structure adds impetus to the poem as it trickles down the page. I liken it to being slightly off balance as you descent a flight of stairs, pushing you to the next step before quite ready for it, but never falling, finally reaching the bottom with a sense of completion and restored balance. It's an example of what Bukowski said about wanting to write the way people read. I think people more naturally read down the page than across it, and that by minimizing the time spent reading across I can be more in tune with what reders most naturally want to do.
Works for me.
Here's an example I wrote a week or so ago.
through the rainy months
so that wildflowers
and spread seed
for next year
the water flows
and mossy green,
of brilliant gold,
up to my waist,
catching every glint
of the rising sun, pushing
their own yellow light
of the sun,
as the day
only a few days
left to us until
fade and droop
and the seeds drop,
through the blaze
and winter ice,
of this morning
until the rising
of new spring days
return to renew us
Born in 1913, Muriel Rukeyser was a poet, literary translator and political activist, best known for her poems about equality, feminism, social justice, and Judaism.
Though her first book of poetry, Poetry & the Ages, was treated harshly by the critics, she continued to write and publish and was eventually described as the greatest poet of her "exact generation."
Muriel Rukeyser died in 1980.
I found this poem in the anthology Contemporary American Poetry.
The Speed of Darkness
Whoever despises the clitoris despises the penis
Whoever despises the penis despises the cunt
Whoever despises the cunt despises the life of the child.
Resurrection music. silence. and surf.
No longer speaking
Listening with the whole body
And with every drop of blood
Overtaken by silence
But this same silence is become speech
With the speed of darkness.
Stillness during war, the lake.
The unmoving spruces.
Glints over the water.
Faces, voices. You are far away.
A tree that trembles.
I am the tree that trembles and trembles.
After the lifting of the mist
after the lift of the heavy rains
and sky stands clear
and the cries of the city risen in day
I remember the buildings are space
walled, to let space be used for living
I mind this room is space
this drinking glass is space
whose boundary of glass
lets me give you drink and space to drink
your hand, my hand being space
containing skies and constellations
carries the reaches of air
I know I am space
my words are air.
the man : act exact
woman : in curve senses in their maze
frail orbits, green tries, games of stars
shape of the body speaking its evidence
I look across the real
vulnerable involved and naked
devoted to the present of all I care for
the world of its history leading to this moment.
Life the announcer.
I assure you
There are many ways to have a child.
I bastard mother
there are many ways to be born.
They all come forth
in their own grace.
Ends of the earth join tonight
with blazing stars upon their meeting
These sons, these sons
fall burning into Asia
Time comes into it.
Say it. Say it.
The universe is made of stories,
not of atoms.
blazing beside me
you rear beautifully and up -
your thinking face -
erotic body reaching
in all its colors and lights -
your erotic face
colored and lit -
not colored body-and-face
but now entire,
colors lights the world thinking and reaching.
The river flows past the city.
Water goes down to tomorrow
making its children I hear their unborn voices
I am working out the vocabulary of my silence.
Big-boned man young and of my dream
Struggles to get the live bird out of his throat,
I am he am I? Dreaming?
I am the bird am I? I am the throat?
A bird with a curved beak
It could slit anything, the throat-bird.
Drawn up slowly. The curved blades, not large.
Bird emerges wet being born
begins to sing.
My night awake
staring at the broad rough jewel
the copper roof across the way
thinking of the poet
yet unborn in this dark
who will be the throat of these hours.
No. of those hours,
Who will speak these days,
if not I,
if not you?
Muriel Rukeyser was a social activist almost all her life. She would have appreciated this poem by frequent "Here and Now" contributor Dan Cuddy.
The State of Yesterday's Nation
the owner of a House and Garden TV Mansion
more like the before than the after
the debonair hard-ab formally dressed couple
at galas with crystal chandeliers,
small talk pursed on lips like sips of champagne,
smiles as twitty as the hired trio's flute-player's
serendipity, contracted to wear tuxedo,
combed, cultivated five o'clock shadow,
accompanied by a black velvet-gowned
violinist, blonde, young, comparatively
good wholesome Juillard catalogue appearance,
and both accompanied by a tall Gaugin of a bass player,
who loves to rhythmically blump blump blump
to the titillating twitter and the saw of sweet
string sound reverberating in the glass halls
where the Charity Fund raiser picks pockets
and farts clandestinely in corners behind a potted palm
the A-type personalities
dressed in battleship gray boardroom business attire,
male or female, the same neutered appreciation
of humanity's depreciation, and the cold blue or brown
eyes that are opaque glass, vision obtained
through the willful fantasies in a very spare word head,
all speeches written by rote and read
interchangeably with a word here, a word there
altered, like the taking in or letting out of a suit,
a hem,ahem,hmm,umph,clearing the throat
before justifying another transfer of processes overseas,
another lopping off of debt-swilling mid-management
and those who stoke below
the near retirement age,winding down,nest-egg provided
silver-haired,carefree,waiting to visit children,
grandchildren,dogs,cats,canaries,and able to
lift fork in hand,bony,blue-veined hand, the slightest
morsel that will not pump up the rump,swell the legs,
roll grandma and grandpa to the emergency room,
red-faced,gasping,raspy voice,lungs nicotine-stained
like an oil spill, a Valdez valedictorian this senior
corporate slut and slug
the contented spiritual peace of 21st century America
working smarter, not harder for the upper crust,
the veneer of so well-to-do, oh
those with George W Bush eyebrows and Dick Cheney
leers,sneers, impeachable offenses ignored, like Putin's
pretty, petty putti politics---ah, the pickle-pepper
world of politics where what makes sense and to whom
is secreted behind big oak doors that children
better not mess with
a happy camper this couple with just a little
savings, a pay away from needing relief,
though always needing anti-acid inner tubes
to throw into litmus red water of turmoil,
of agitation beyond washing and Washington,
the rivet of high cholesterol-nerves sphinctering
like a throbbing hose of worry,
a slurry of instability, the economic chute
overburdened with debt and no other prospect
for a job, much less gold, this camper
with a patched tent in a rained-on field, the mice
floating like leaves past the huddled ones
inside that tent, they, the shivering humanity,
holding on to their three part pole joined together,
the father,the sun,the holy ghost,
but not a prayer for economic salvation
or better weather
asking what you want
or truly,truly,truly need
but what other sacrifice can you make
for this country while the rich get fewer,richer
marry incestuously,set up kingdoms in many emirates
and islands of this world, the turquoise sea
shining as if in a travel brochure, the couples,
if a little aged, or seasoned as they would say,
very bronze in skin,very thin, but muscle-tone hard,
even at eighty, tummy-tucked, female breast-boosted,
male appendage enlarged and at the bar boasted upon,
among colleagues, among cognoscenti in the
weigh ins and outs of the world
a sparse bank-account watching it evaporate
certainly curtailing whatever dreams life provided
like a pimp
on their way down Via Condotti to the Spanish Steps
where they could reminisce about the Roman empire
and a country before George W Bush, like Nero, fiddled,faddled,
fuddled a nation's wealth and health into that good
I-slambic internecine feud food fight and oil
always boiling oil on this global temperature
nuclear proliferating stable globe
anything but lousy prospects ahead
two old folks unemployed,unemployable
pensions petered out into utility costs
food,medicine, cable TV
I spend a lot of time sitting someplace, just looking and listening. This poem presented itself to me as I walked across a supermarket parking lot.
The poem is included in Seven Beats a Second.
Piggly Wiggly promenade
walking across the parking lot
in high heels and black capri pants
that drew attention to hips
going a little broad and ass
on the way to droop
and a white cotton blouse
tucked tight into her pants,
nipples round and hard as marbles,
nodding with every step
she struts as she passes me
and smiles and you know
she's having the time of her life,
giving all the little bag boys
free in this parking lot
for at least a while,
free at least until the groceries
are safely loaded into her Volvo
and she's on her way to pick up
little Brittany at ballet
Michael Van Walleghen is a professor of English at the University of Illinois. He has won many awards and fellowships. His first book was The Wichita Poems. This poem is from his third collection, Blue Tango.
The president is speaking
but I'm a long way off -
as far north apparently
as Labrador or Finland
some desperate latitude
where everything is wet
or frozen solid. A wet
black road, black trees
glittering with ice...
then a dead-still lake
a cottage leaking smoke.
Inside, the Muse herself -
dazed by too much television
lost in anchoritic gloom...
But now she's found at last.
It's spring! A cat's paw
ripples far, far out
across the lake. Then
the curtains move
and birdlike shadows
flutter in the mirror
where we undress...
all but forgotten
on the flickering tube
our uncanny president
turns suddenly passionate.
He wants to bomb something -
Libya, or maybe Finland...
It's hard to tell. Static
and other voices interfere.
It all sounds vaguely
like a bad war movie -
or maybe a motorcycle gang
getting stoned down there
impatient for their turn.
In any case, the Muse
is not amused. She thinks
I ought to do something -
her poor heart beating
like some exquisite bird
the cat might catch
a hummingbird, a finch
a toy still fluttering.
When all else fails, memory comes in handy.
attending to my social calendar in 1969
I was a year
in a compound
on the desert,
worked rotating shifts,
changing every three days,
then off three days,
a wasted three days
since we couldn't leave
because the people
outside the walls
didn't like us
we liked them,
it was safer just
to stay close
and find something
to do, filling the time
by choosing from among
the activities available...
of getting drunk
bowling was hard
with only two lanes
and the movies were
or three year old
stuff we had seen
before we left the states
and sleeping during
the day when on
swings or mids
so usually we just
which was nice
because it offered
many more choices
or the movies, like
drunk at the NCO club,
drunk at the pool,
drunk out by the wall
or just a solitary
drunk in the barracks
a long way from home,
we figured we had
of good reasons to get
was shooting at us,
of all to stay drunk
Guillaume Apollinaire was a French poet, writer and art critic born in 1880 in Italy to a Polish mother. Credited as one of the among the foremost poets of the early 20th century, he is credited with coining the word "surrealism" and writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play Les Mamelles de Tiresias, in 1917.
He suffered severe head wounds during World War I and died two years later at the age of 38 during the Spanish flue pandemic.
These short poems are from his book Alcools, translated by his great admirer Donald Revell.
Brushed by shadows of the dead
At the lawn's end of the day
Columbine undresses entirely naked
And covets her reflection in the pool
A twilight street-magician
Touts tricks to be performed
The untinted sky is constellated
With astral milk
Harlequin the milk-faced magician
Welcomes his audience
Fairies and conjurers
Having unhooked a star
He tames it in his arms
His orchestra is a hanged man
Playing the foot-cymbals
A blind man rocks a baby
And doe and fawns go by
A midget observes sadly
The giantism of Harlequin
On the coast of Texas
Between Mobile and Galveston there is
a big garden filled with roses
There is also a mansion
It is one big rose
A woman walks there often
Alone in the garden
When I cross the lime-tree road
We are face to face
Because she is Mennoite
Her roses and her clothing have no buttons
My jacket is missing two buttons
The lady and I ae almost one religion.
On High Street in Cologne
She came and went all night
Whoring her tiny her pretty
Bored in streetlight
Drunk in cellars
Rescued in Shanghai
En route from Formosa
Apprenticed to poverty
For love of a pimp
Who stank of garlic
I've known all kinds of people
Unequal to their fates
Uncertain as the fallen leaves
Eyes like dampened fires
Hearts like gaping doors
The Wind by Night
Oh! the pine tops grind as they collide
The wind is moaning from the southern places
From the river nearby triumphal voices
Of pixies laugh into the gusts
Attis Attis Attis bare breasted sexy
It is you the pixies ridicule
Your trees are falling in the gothic wind
Your forest panics like a primitive army
Whose lances of pine trees tremble in retreat
And now and now extincted villages muse
like virgin girls or poets or old men
They will never respond no matter what happens
Not even the vultures pounce on their pigeons
The gypsy foretold
Our two lives thwarted by the nights
We told her goodbye
And Hopefulness sprang from holes in the ground
Heavy as a circus bear
Love danced when we commanded
The bluebird lost its feathers
Mendicant friars lost their prayers
A person know damn well he's damned
But hope of loving along the way
Compels us to consider hand in hand
The words the gypsy meant to say
India is well-represented this week with, first ancient India, then with modern India and now this poem from our good friend Ellen Achilles, greeting the morning in and writing from India.
With waking, the ache, right beneath
my shoulders on either side of my spine
where wings should grow but don't.
I am an ordinary woman
wiping the dust of days, serving omelets,
cracking eggs. It goes like this:
Get up, go, I tell myself
but my body only wants to lie in bed.
Poems, let go into air, take flight
on breath. I melt butter in a pan.
If only I could dissolve into day
step over the balcony's thick rail
and float into sun, morning-angled
to reveal a spider's web, woven
gossamer threads that spill from my gown
and hush, the sound of beating air.
Wendy Rose was born in 1948 in Okland, California of Hope and 'Me-wuk ancestry. She taught American Indian Studies at the University of California at Berkeley as well as at California State University Fresno. Currently she is coordinator of American Indian Studies at Fresno City College. She is the author of ten volumes of poetry and has contributed to more than fifty anthologies.
This poem is from one of those, Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry.
"Truganinny, the last of the Tasmanians,
had seen the stuffed and mounted body of
her husband and it was her dying wish that
she be buried in the outback or at sea for
she did not wish her body to be subjected to
the same indignities. Upon her death she
was nevertheless stuffed and mounted and
put on display for over eighty years"
Paul Coe, Australian Aborigine
You will need
to come closer
for little is left
of this tongue
and what I am saying
I am the last one.
I whose nipples wept
and saw so many
their mouths empty and round
their breathing stopped
their eyes gone gray.
Take my hand
black into black
as yellow clay
is a slow melt
to grass gold
and I am melting
back to the dream.
do not leave me
for I would speak,
I would sing
one more song.
They will take me.
Already they come
even as I breathe
they are waiting
for me to finish
We old ones
a long time.
take my body
to the source of night,
to the great black desert
where Dreaming was born.
Put me under the bulk
of a mountain or in
the distant sea;
put me where
they will not
Haven't we all be in the position some time of feeling like we've inadvertently slipped into someone else's world, an almost empty room where an husband and wife fight, or a couple get very romantic, or two friends talk about personal problems in the most graphic way, all as if we were either invisible or just not there.
For our last piece this week, we have this from our California, soon to be Hawaii, friend Alice Folkart with her report on just such an event.
Couldn't Hide the Bride
All I wanted was some chopped liver on rye, a little extra onion, please. I'd missed lunch. The place was nearly empty and so the two waitresses felt free to shout to each other across the diner. The tall one, maybe 45 is getting married day after tomorrow in the diner. Going to wear a blue dress. Now that her mother had finally found her own place, a place that would take the dogs, she and Clive could finally be alone, make a home for themselves, and none too soon since who knew when one of them might die. Her mother had been cheated twice by the grim reaper. First husband died at 43, and second, only seven years later, seven, the magic number, at 52. No more husbands for her. Black Labs and Pugs, much more reliable.
But, she said, I'll wear a blue dress and the minister isn't charging us, isnt that sweet. She's a customer. We weren't surprised about my father's death. He'd been hit in the nose with a baseball bat when he was a kid, 128 stitches, right across his face. Quit school at 14 'cause they called him scarface. Probably built up pressure in his head and that's why he died so early. Just like my youngest son, bike accident, head injury, they told us he'd never walk or talk or nothin', but here he is, and only limps a little, of course there's the tic, but most people don't even notice. And everybody's invited on Friday, too bad about Harry's stroke. It'll be at 6:30. Do you think it's appropriate for my big brother to give me away? Do you think he could get here from Montana before Friday? Is a blue dress OK?
Couldn't hide the bride
stories rolled from her mouth
like slightly flat music from a piano
Beginning this month, we'll have two poetry events at Casa Chiapas.
Friday wasn't working too well for our Poetry Table, so instead we're switching to the second Thursday of every month.
That's next week, by the way, so those of you in San Antonio should mark your calendar to join us next Thursday evening at 7 pm at Casa Chiapas, 926 South Alamo, for our round table reading and discussion of poetry.
The fourth Thursday of each month will feature a new poetry event, "Heartbeat of the Soul," sponsored by art impresario and poetry supporter Le Lowry and hosted by San Antonio poet Jon Fuller. These Thursday night events will included featured poets as well as open mic readings.
Having come together on this new schedule, Le Lowry,Jon Fuller, Casa Chiapas' Eddie Martinez and I think these two regular Thursday night poetry events will compliment each other, providing two different ways to enjoy local poetry, while increasing attendance at each.
If you're around San Antonio on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, come on downtown and join us at either or both events.
Until next week.