Morning Fog Slips Back To Sea
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Welcome to "Here and Now" number II.6.1.
Interesting stuff this time, everything from an Egyptian Pharaoh to a German expressionist, plus me and a couple of our friends.
It is probably not good form to start with the same poet two weeks in a row, but I found this fine book of Sandburg poems in a used bookstore next to our hotel in Vancouver. And what a used bookstore it was, books in shelves ceiling high as well as stacks along both sides of every aisle so that, wherever you walked in the store, it was a one-way passage.
Plus, of course, I really love the old prairie populist. He, and others like Norman Thomas, Harry Golden, Eric Hoffer and an old Sociology and Ethics professor of mine, August Grusendorf, provide the emotional base to my politics, however old fashioned and passe it currently is.
Anyway, here he is, Carl Sandburg from Carl Sandburg, Selected Poems published by Gramercy Books in 1992.
Poems Done On A
Late Night Car
I am The Great White Way of the city:
When you ask what is my desire, I answer:
"Girls fresh as country wild flowers,
With young faces tired of the cows and barns,
Eager in their eyes as the dawn to find new mysteries,
Slender supple girls with shapely legs,
Lure in the arch of their little shoulders
And wisdom from the prairies to cry softly at the
ashes of my mysteries."
II. Used Up
Lines based on certain regrets that come with
rumination upon the painted faces of women
on North Clark Street, Chicago
In the rain and wind
Like mouths of women
Beaten by the fists of
Men using them.
O little roses
And broken leaves
And petal wisps:
You that so flung your crimson
To the sun
Here is a thing my heart wishes the world had more of:
I heard it in the air of one night when I listened
To a mother singing softly to a child restless and angry in
Here's a series of character sketches from me that I hope Sandburg might have found some affection for.
at Starbucks near the mission, 6 am
and lower lips
jumps and dances
when he chews
like a squirrel
flicking his tail
in the crook
of a tree
and hiking boots,
straight gray hair
in a page boy
to end square
at the nape
of his neck
in a tan
in a corner
about his mother
and the other women
who screwed him
also saw him
as he passed
at me too
as I ate at a sidewalk cafe,
I could see his eyes burn
and the spittle
from his mouth
eating, he yelled
where she's at
it's hard to tell
and talks to everyone,
has no teeth,
so hard to understand,
but she smiles
and it makes you
want to smile
almost to his waist,
so white it shines
in morning sun
looks like a
or a professor
for a cigarette
like Joe Frazier,
that kind of hulking
on the sidewalk
calls others out
one at a time
sits on the corner
at a table
of his inspiration
the returns to his table
make some changes,
all the motherfuckers
been keeping me
but more ambitious
as he pushes pamphlets
she follows them
half way down the street,
pleading for dialogue
pleading for attention
in a tee-shirt
says he does
saw a board
drive a nail
wash your car
cut your grass
fuck your sister
if you were paying
attention, he says,
but I can
I can do it
And here's a poet Sandburg would have stood with on any line.
Born in Switzerland to a family of diplomats in 1955, Yang Lian returned with his family to China when he was a year old and was raised in Beijing. During the Cultural Revolution he was sent to the countryside to be "reeducated." He worked as a grave digger, beginning to write poetry in his free time. Later he was cofounder of Jintian, a literary magazine associated with the Beijing Spring. His work was banned in 1983 during the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign. Since 1989, the year of the Democracy Movement and the Tianamen Square massacre his books have been banned on the mainland again.
Later he took on a New Zealand citizenship and has lived and worked in Australia, Germany and the United States. He currently lives in London.
Collections of his poetry in English include Yi, In Symmetry with Death, Masks nd Crocodile, Where the Sea Stands Still, Notes of a Blissful Ghost, and The Dead in Exile.
An Ancient Children's Tale
(From the Poem Cycle "Bell on the Frozen Lake")
How should I savor these bright memories,
their glowing gold, shining jade, their tender radiance like
silk that washed over me at birth?
All around me were industrious hands, flourishing peonies,
and elegant upturned eaves.
Banners, inscriptions, and the names of nobility were everywhere,
and so many temple halls where bright bells sang into my ears.
Then my shadow slipped over the fields and mountains, rivers
as all around my ancestors' cottages I sowed
towns and villages like stars of jade and gemstones.
Flames from the fire painted my face red; plowshares and pots
clattered out their bright music and poetry
that wove into the sky during festivals.
How should I savor these bright memories?
When I was young I gazed down at the world,
watching purple grapes, like the night, drift in from the west
and spill over in a busy street. Every drop of juice became a star
set into the bronze mirror where my glowing face looked back.
My heart blossomed like the earth or the ocean at daybreak
as camel bells and sail painted like frescoes embarked
from where I was to faraway lands to clink the gold coin
of the sun.
When I was born
I would laugh even at
the gazed and opulent palaces, at the bloody red
walls, and at the people rapt in luxurious dreams
for centuries in their incense-filled chambers.
I sang my pure song to them with passion,
but never stopped to think
why pearls and beads of sweat drain to the same place,
these rich tombs filled with emptiness,
or why in a trembling evening
a village girl should wander down to the river,
her eyes so clear and bright with grief.
In the end, smoking powder and fire erupted in the courtyard;
between endless mountains and the plain, horse hooves
came out of the north, and there was murder and wailing
and whirling flags and banners encircling me like magic clouds,
like the patched clothes of refugees.
I saw the torrential Yellow River
by moonlight unfolding into a silver white elegy
keening for history and silence.
Where are the seven-leaved tree and new grass,
the river's song beneath a bridge
of my dreams?
There is only the blood of an old man selling flowers
clotting my soul,
only the burned houses, the rubble and ruins
gradually sinking into shifting sands
and turning into dreams, into a wasteland.
(Translated by Tony Barnstone and Newton Liu)
My memories are not nearly so dramatic.
chicken and dumplings
thinking of food
to thinking of
who cooked for us
every night of the week
and thinking of her
and her cooking
to thinking of her
but her dumplings...
good, like biting
into a sweet cloud
chicken and dumplings
I'd pay a hundred dollars
for a plate
of her chicken and dumplings
with fresh peaches
in a light syrup
that's the way
Wendy Cope is an English poet born in 1945 who, in addition to winning many awards and publishing three books of poetry, wrote this funny little piece.
Two Cures for Love
1. Don't see him. Don't phone or write a letter.
2. The easy way: get to know him better
Our friend Jane Roken joins us again this month with more tanka.
string of tanka
golden jewels, white satin
post to post
offering whitest fragrance
as landing strip
for tiger flies
up city streets
bright shops shouting
up loud lights
nada nada nada
lost the map
on the wall
are you off-beam
just like me?
going up the arctic line
I saw two black horses
one was eating snow
and frozen brushwood
the other was scared
covered by snow
ready to go
last year's cygnets
slowly attaining grace
but still diffident
their queen mum
make them toe the line
the metallic voice
of the turnstone
carpet of leaves
floating on the stream
some part company
others stick together
one joins a rock
I enjoy a nice, cage-rattling rant. Here's a good one by Deborah Garrison from her book A Working Girl Can't Win.
Sometimes you have to say it:
Fuck them all.
Yes fuck them all -
the artsy posers,
the office blowhards
Fuck the type who gets the job done
and the type who stands on principle;
the down-to-earth and understated;
the overhyped and underrated;
Get a bullshit detector
Up your bum.
You can't be nice to everyone.
When your back is to the wall
When they won't return your call
When you're sick of saving face
When you're screwed in any case
Fuck the culture scanners, contest winners,
subtle thinkers and the hacks who offend them;
people who give catered dinners
and (saddest of sinners) the sheep who attend them -
which is to say fuck yourself
and the person you were: polite and mature,
a trooper for good. The beauty is
they'll soon forget you
and if they don't
they probably should.
I can rant, too. Grrrrr.....
up the banner, up the flag
where does it say
the proper position of a toilet seat
it's not in the bible
chapter and verse
in the constitution,
the federalists papers
the magna carta,
or in the political philosophy
of any seer, sage, savant
or political science crackpot
I can find in any of the learned journals,
how do things like this
become law then
when not precedentially established
men are taught from their earliest years
to check the target
before getting down to business
if men, so often deemed insufficient,
can do this, why not also those persons
of the femalien persuasion
who so readily complain
when this law of toilet seat alignment
is disregarded by those brutes
when they piddle
from the evolutional advantageous upright position
up the banner, up the flag,
let the toilet seat rebellion
Joining us on "Here and Now" for the first time is Jason Rubalcaba, a 30 year old poet from San Antonio. He is married and has one child. He has been writing poetry for 15 years and hopes to write for much, much longer.
But There is Something Beautiful
But there is something beautiful
in death, too.
Holding its fleshless head high,
cutting a swathe through the mob
that tries to understand
the movement of this shadow
through science and poetry -
But we must always fail
our heart beat,
the ticking timepiece
in our quest for the absolute.
Our fears can only subside
in the face of this...
that carries us against our will,
down below -
for our eyes must close
and our heat must cease
with the clutching hands sweet release
our threadbare spirits, absolved, for the moment, at least.
Here are several more of the travel jottings of Blaise Cendrars. Cendrars was the inspiration and the model for the travel notes I did during our recent vacation (see "We're Back"from two weeks ago). Cendrars' work is much better than mine (no surprise there) because he is both a better writer and, more important, a better and more acute observer. Perhaps a lesson there for those of us who sometimes seem to be writing with our ears and eyes closed.
Another of his secrets, I think, is he records observations straight, without obsessing on explanations.
The Captain Is a Terrific Guy
All the same the captain's a terrific guy
Yesterday he had the pool set up just for me
Today without a word and simply to please m
He swung the ship around
And skirted Fernando de Noronha so closely I could have almost picked
Fernando de Noronha
From far off it looks like a sunken cathedral
It's an island with colors so intense that the green of the grass is
There is a grotto that goes all the way through the island
There's a peak whose name no one cold tell me
It looks like the Matterhorn and it's the last pillar of Atlantis
What a feeling when I look through the spyglass and think I've
discovered the traces of a ridge of Atlantis
In a bay
Behind a promontory
A beach with yellow sand and mother-of-pearl palm trees
A white wall
High as a cemetery's
In gigantic letters it bears the inscription you can easily make out with
the naked eye
There are some traces of farming
A few houses
A radio post two pylons and two Eiffel Towers under construction
An old Portuguese port
With the spyglass I make out a naked man on the prison wall waving a
The nights are absolutely beautiful with no moon with immense stars
and the heat that will only get hotter
As the churning propellers turn the dark water more and more
phosphorescent in our wake
They're all there in their deck chairs
Or playing cards
Or having tea
Or being bored
There is however a little group of sporty types who play shuffleboard
Or deck tennis
And another little group that goes swimming in the pool
At night when everyone is asleep the empty chairs lined up on deck
look like a collection of skeletons in a museum
Dried-up old women
Chameleons dandruff fingernails
Three naked men on the open sea
In a jangada they hunt the sperm whale
Three white beams a triangular sail one outrigger
An American couple dances apache dances
The Argentinean girls gripe about the orchestra and heartily despise the
young men on board
The Portuguese burst in applause when a Portuguese song is played
The French have their own group laugh loudly and make fun of
Only the little maids want to dance in their pretty dresses
To the horror of some and the amusement of others I ask the black wet
nurse to dance
The American couple dances apache dances again
The sea continues to be sea blue
The weather continues to be the most beautiful I have ever seen at sea
This crossing continues to be the calmest and most uneventful you
could possibly imagine
I love the powerful storms that come this time of year.
dark as the devil's black eyes
as we race to clear skies
It's said that Sylvia Plath had "daddy issues" or, more likely, absent daddy issues since he died when she was eight years old.
You do not do, you do not do
Anymore, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breath or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time -
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters of beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you
In the German tongue, in Polish Town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.
It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich.
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene
An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of Tyrol, the clean beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy-ancestress and my weird luck
and my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
I have always been scared of you.
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You -
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.
If I've killed one man, I've killed two -
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.
Here's a more introspective piece to go with Plath black vision. I did this last week.
we are all
of the same stuff,
for selfness -
accumulation of wealth
scratching for a way
and be loved,
all so that we can
all so that we can
that at the most basic
we are the same,
one could be
but for the smallest
details we cling to
like we once clung
to our mother's breast
those small details
that make us
among the billions
Joyce Wakefield is a new friend of "Here and Now," appearing with us for the first time.
She lives in Southern California, an Oklahoma transplant. She is a poet, writer, and editor with Moondance - Celebrating Women's Creativity, with works in Loch Raven Review, Byline, Poems Niederngasse, and others. Her poem Sevenlings ... sometimes I feel was chosen by The Writer Magazineas best poem of 2006.
I planted too many seeds, just in case.
Now, the plants spread beyond
the carefully organized bed, almost wild
speckled leaves hiding the treasure
of creamy yellow zucchini, new variety
for bread and soup and neighbors.
I watch your growth, amazed,
how do you know to blossom
to bear the fruit, to shade them
from harsh sun and teach them water?
Soon now, I will ask of you this fruit.
This fruit that will become bread,
sweet, warm, walnuts wound
through shreds of zucchini, no icing
to hide the taste of sunlight, of water,
of your loving care, hiding the fruit
from predators, snails and beetles alike.
If you knew, would you be pleased
at your efforts and success
or would you let them die
being themselves and not bread.
Akhenaten was a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, especially notable for attempting to compel worship of the Aten. It was the first known attempt at monotheism the world had seen. Suggested dates for Akhenaten's reign are from 1353 BC-1336 BC. His chief wife was Nefertiti, who was made famous by her exquisitely painted bust now on view in the Altes Museum of Berlin.
This worship poem is credited to him.
Hymn To The Sun
eternity in life,
all faces followers of
All the colors, beams of
Place, man, cattle, creature-king,
& tree of every image
rise upon our
sees the Seeing
rise upon our
As you made. And as you
pass we settle
equal to the Dead,
Earth that waits
return in Heaven
palms upturned to
Light your being is
Touch the voicing in
hears Man -
This One, we give, to walk,
purely to your
toward your coming every
Day, you gave your
Son, forever in your
your son, my heart
knows you the
Eternal is the Light
you are the watchful
Sees light that breathes
light stunned by
Light before your
up from nests a
Wavering in wing
(Translated by John Perlman)
Akhenaten wanted to start a new religion. My ambitions are somewhat less grand.
my to-do list
was a time
when grand ambition
in the morning
all the labors of my day
and my darker dreams
and wiggle my toes
and my charge
for the day is
Diane Glancy, born in Missouri, of German, English and Cherokee parents, received her BA from the University of Missouri, an MA from Central State University in Oklahoma and an MFA from the University of Iowa. She teaches Native American literature and creative writing at Macalester college in St. Paul, Minnesota.
She has published four collections of poetry, One Age in a Dream, Offering, Iron Woman, and Long Dog's Winter Count, from which the following poem is taken. She also published a collection of short stories in 1990 titled Trigger Dance.
You bend the road where light begins,
watcher of cock fights
& pearls on the ears of loud women.
You plow chaos
with your tractor
& pull from me the teeth of gladness.
You are the image of stars,
the whisper of wind on a country road.
Under our flooring
there's mud like lard in cake pans.
You, God, squatting in your tomato-
rows, would you look up?
There's a massacre going on,
we're fast turning the last corner we can turn.
We're calling out your name.
"E hok a yee." You Spirit,
in our harness
This has been the best spring in my memory, almost over, but great while it lasted.
and we live
in a hundred
in the softest
wet spring and
grow in fields
and beside roads
going to market
going to town
wet spring now
days of summer
for a moment
Here's a little Rimbaud seduction.
The First Evening
- She had very few clothes on
And big indiscreet trees
Threw their leaves against the panes
Slyly, very close, very close.
Sitting in my big chair,
Half naked, she clasped her hands
Her small feet so delicate, so delicate,
Trembled with pleasure on the floor.
- The color of wax, I watched
A small nervous ray of light
Flutter in her smile
And on her breast - a fly on the rose bush.
- I kissed her delicate ankles.
Abruptly she laughed. It was soft
And it spread out in clear trills,
A lovely crystal laughter.
Her small feet under the petticoat
Escaped, "Please stop!"
- When the first boldness was permitted,
The laugh pretended to punish!
- Poor things trembling under my lips,
I softly kissed her eyes;
- She threw her sentimental head
Backward: "OH! that’s too much!...
"Sir, I have something to say to you..."
- What was left I put on her breast
In a kiss which made her laugh
With a kind laugh that was willing...
- She had very few clothes on
And big indiscreet trees
Threw their leaves against the panes
Slyly, very close, very close.
Was thinking kind of old the other day - wrote this.
sight and hearing
crackling when I stand
that keeps me awake most nights
the drooping skin
the wasting muscle
all of that I knew
but no one warned
of the moments
I would miss past days
to the point of aching
August Stramm, born in 1874, was a German poet and playwright who is considered one of the first of the expressionists.
After traveling to the United States several times in his youth, he settled in Berlin. In 1912 - 1913, he wrote two plays, Sancta Susanna (which was subsequently used as a libretto for an early opera by Hindemith) and Die Haidebraut. These were the first of many to appear before the war.
Stramm had served his mandatory year of duty in the German army and was a reservist with the rank of Captain when the war broke out in 1914. Called to duty, he served first in France, then at the Eastern Front where he rose to the rank of Battalion Commander.
He was killed in hand-to-hand combat in 1915.
This poem is from a collection of early German expressionist poems called Music while drowning
The doorway catches with stripe ribbons
my stick raps
the straddled kerbstone
A dark kiss
steals shyly out of the door
the street lamp
up the street.
(Translated by Patrick Bridgwater)
We have fought many wars in our history, including the one that killed the poet Stramm.
The most deadly of our wars, with a half million dead, was the Civil War, one we fought against ourselves. A couple of our wars were morally mandatory, at least one, while not necessary for our survival, produced results for us and for the world that made it worth the dying. The rest were mistakes, errors by leaders either led to war by lack of wisdom or pushed to war by public opinion they lacked the will and courage to disobey.
Our current war is unique among our other wars, first in the blatant lies, ignorant foolishness, and hubris that led up to its instigation and, second, the deadly incompetence of its execution.
Over 3,600 Americans have died in this war, as well as tens of thousands of Iraqis and in all those deaths I see no national interest of the United States of American, no pressing enemy laid low, no increased safety or security for our citizenry. Only pointless death by the thousands.
That's a hard thing to say near Memorial Day when we honor the sacrifices of those who have paid the ultimate price, but it must be said since the needless deaths of the sons and daughters of our country in Iraq are being used as justification for the future deaths of others.
It is an obscenity, that cannot be stopped now that it has begun. Another hard truth.
This is my poem for Memorial Day.
thinking of this memorial day as an island in a river of blood
can be done
about this man,
the river of blood
has become honey
to his tongue
and his bitter-end
that in the midst
of screams that
eyes and ears
they cannot see
they cannot hear
and what can be done
those of us
who see no succor
in the future,
what can be done
about this flood of pain
of some error
to its own hellish end
Xue Tao was a well-respected Tang dynasty poet. She was born in 768 in Sichuan province where her father was a minor government official. She ended up a very successful courtesan, one of the few paths for women in Tang dynasty China that encouraged conversation and artistic talent. Later she put on the habit of a Daoist churchwoman and went to live in seclusion. More than one hundred of her poems survive, including this one.
Flowers boom but we can't share them.
Flowers fall and we can't share our sadness.
If you need to find when I miss you most:
when the flowers bloom and when they fall.
I pull a blade of grass and tie a heart-shaped knot
to send to the one who understands my music.
Spring sorrow is at the breaking point.
Again spring birds murmur sad songs.
Wind, flowers, and the day is aging.
No one knows when we'll be together.
If I can't tie my heart to my man's,
it's useless to keep tying heart-shaped knots.
Unbearable when flowers fill the branches,
when two people miss each other.
Tears streak my morning mirror like jade chopsticks.
Does the spring wind know that?
So how about a little limerick fun that doesn't mean anything at all.
Too bad none of them are dirty.
The last time I slept with the Queen
She said, as I whistled "ich Dien"
"It's royalty's night out,
But please put the light out,
The Queen may be had, but not seen'
The fine English poet, John Donne,
Was wont to admonish the Sunne;
"You busie old foole
Lie still and keep coole,
For I am in bed having funne."
(On T.S..Eliot's "Prufrock")
An angst-ridden amorist, Fred,
Saw sartorial changes ahead.
His mind kept on ringing
With fishy girls singing.
Soft fruit also filled him with dread.
Richard Leighton Green
(Apropos Coleridge's "Kubla Khan")
When approached by a person from Porlock
It's best to take time by the forelock.
Shout. "I'm not a home
'Till I've finished this pome!"
And refuse to unfasten the door-lock.
Did Ophelia ask Hamlet to bet?
Was Gertrude incestuously wed?
Is there anything certain?
By the fall of the curtain
Almost everyone's certainly dead.
After thinking about it for years and years, it finally came to me how the rules of our life are made.
division of labor
set out to play
pick their noses
make up the rules
We will close this week with a poem from Gary Blankenship.
I have contacted Gary often, requesting permission to use one of his poems, and he has always obliged. Lucky for me and for all "Here and Now" readers who m ight not have had opportunity to read him before.
This poem is from his book A River Transformed: Wang Wei's River Wang Poems as Inspirationand demonstrates once again his feel for the Chinese masters.
After Wang Wei's South Hill - Leaving the City
A fisherman waves,
his skiff lifted by the ferry's wake
and curls from a tramp steamer headed north
to deliver toys to the river's children
A black fish pod breaks the surface,
passengers crowd against the wet windows;
the city's last red radiance ahead.
I leave with too many questions.
Do the answers lie in firs near a gravel stream?
You seem certain, your smile without doubt,
except when you glance south, behind us.
Beneath the water, ghost nets, spotted shrimp,
shadows lost to a painter's palette.
Until next week.