Summer Rain Brings Desert Flowers   Friday, July 06, 2007


We're posting a day early this week. Tomorrow is full of stuff to do and it's not ever here yet. So, early though we may be, welcome to "Here and Now" and the midpoint of summer. It'll be a hot time in the old town tonight and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow....

Maybe some cool poetry will help.

We take up this week where we left off before, with more travel poems by Blaise Cendrars


Some crooks have just blown up the railway bridge
The coaches caught fire at the bottom of the valley
The injured swim in the boiling water from the disemboweled
Living torches run among the debris and spewing steam
Other coaches stay hanging 60 yards up
Men with flashlights and acetylene torches follow the trail down the
And the rescue is organized quietly and quickly
Under the cover of rushes and reeds of willow the waterfowl make a nice
   rustling noise
Dawn is long in coming
But already a gleam of a hundred carpenters called by telegraph and
   come by special train is busy rebuilding the bridge
Bang bang-bang
Pass me the nails

VII Trestle Work

Should you come to a river or a deep valley
You go over it on a wooden bridge until the company receipts allow
   them to build one of stone or iron
The American carpenters are unrivaled in the art of building them
They begin by laying a bed of hard rock
Then a first support goes up
Which supports a second than a third then a fourth
As many as are necessary to reach the height of the bank
On the last support two beams
On the two beams two rails
These daring constructions are reinforced by neither Saint Andrew's
   crosses nor T girders
They are held only by a few smaller beams and a few spikes that
   maintain the gauge of the trestles
And that's it
It's a bridge
A beautiful bridge

IX. The Thousand Islands

Around here the countryside is one of the most beautiful in North
The immense sheet of lake is a blue that's almost white
Hundreds and hundreds of little green islands float on the calm surface
   of the clear water
The delicious cottages built in bright-colored brick give this landscape
   the appearance of an enchanted kingdom
Luxurious maple mahogany boats elegantly decked out with flags and
   covered with multicolored awnings come and go from one island to
Any suggestion of fatigue or labor of poverty is missing from this
   gracious setting for multimillionaires

The sun disappears on the horizon of Lake Ontario
The clouds bathe their folds in vats of purple violet scarlet and orange
What a beautiful evening murmur Andrea and Frederika seated on the
   terrace of a medieval castle
And the ten thousand motor boats reply to their ecstasy

X. Laboratory

Visiting the green houses
The thermo-syphon maintains a constant temperature
The soil is saturated with formic acid with manganese and other
   substance which give the vegetation tremendous strength
In one day the leaves grow the flowers bloom and the fruits ripen
Thanks to an ingenious device the roots are bathed in electric
   current which guarantees this monstrous growth
Anti-hail guns explode nimbus and cumulus
We go back to town across the barren waste
The morning is radiant
The dark purple heather and golden broom still haven't shed their petals
The seagulls trace big circles in the light blue sky

More of Cendrars next week, when he leaves the east coast and goes west.

I share an on-line poetry workshop with Alice Folkart (along with most of the other web-poets I feature here). The workshop is on the Blueline Poetry Forum and the challenge of the workshop is to write a poem a day for at least 30 days. I've only recently come to the workshop to participate and, as of today, have only 77 days of poems. Some of the participants have as many as 600 or 700 days of writing a poem a day.

If you play the game, you are not only challenged to write every day, you also get to read a whole new crop of poems every day. Alice in particular has been posting some really sharp, enjoyable stuff.

So, this week, we have an Alice Extravaganza, featuring several of her poem-a-day poems.

Here they are.

Tokyo Cyber Cafe

My cubicle at WIP, the cyber cafe in Ogikubo,
third from the left, number 11, on the
fourth floor of a twelve-foot wide building,
above a bowling alley and darts club,
below, an indoor tennis academy,
and somewhere in here,
a dental surgeon and wigmaker,
not one in the same, I hope.

It's home to me, and they're very nice.
For about $5 an hour I get a good chair,
all the tea, coffee or corn soup I can consume
and a library of tens of thousands
of porno comic books to be read in private booths
way in the back, where it's dark and scary.
There are showers too, and towels and slippers
for sale along with bags of potato chips
and girlie magazines and any brand of cigarette you'd like.

I think I'm the only poet.
I'm certainly the only foreigner and maybe
the only non-smoker and non-porno reader-player in the place.
They don't bother me. I don't bother them.
Don't ask. Don't tell. People don't look at each other here.
The whole point is anonymity. Valuable commodity here
in Tokyo where everyone huddles together in the same living room
even in the park or on the sidewalk and especially in the train station.

Terminal Sag

Wet rag, jet lag, torn bag, Terminal sag,
bloodshot hag, no tail to wag,

The stewasaurus,
too much mouse in too little hair,
breached, as they say in Japan, admonished me

"Close the shades!
This is a night flight,
sun comes up too soon as it is!"

They fed us something.
"You want animal, vegetable or mineral,
coffee, tea or just go to Hell?"

I gave it all
back, put on my life jacket,
circled my seat three times
and curled up to sleep,

but didn't and it was my own fault.
But I got all my joints and senses
safely home to find it's not a dream.

The cats are warming up the bed,
and I'm leaning more learnedly
toward a little temporary oblivion.

Getting There is Half the Fun

Yes, I'm going.
Don't push!
I'm running as fast as I can
toward the cliff,
cat hanging underneath one arm,
steering with the other.

My box-kite wings
flap and rattle.
Is escape velocity possible?
Here comes the edge.
Will we fall or soar?


Over the hungry waters!
Sharks and eels
look up through their ceiling
at this woman and her cat
careening above them,
dangling from a
fragile paper kite.

No superheros here.

It's a long flight.
No movie.

"Where's our island,"
asks Cat,
"How many
long nights and days
must we battle winds,
skim tops of storms,
look down at that awful sea?

"Shush, dear cat," I say,
"Everything will be hunky dory.
Just hang on."

And it is,
or will be.

Ahead, just below
the setting moon,
a volcano pokes its head
above creamy clouds,
shoots a toot of fiery smoke,
to show us the way,
belches a welcome.

I land, letting my feet down
as I have seen seagulls do.

The sand is hot
on my bare feet.

Cat jumps from my arms

An ukulele bird
sings nearby.

Palm trees laugh,
titter in their fronds,
pitch coconuts
at us.
It's all in fun
they say.

An Island welcome

On Hearing a Lawn Mower in the Distance

is working.

Not I.

I sit and write.

Hope for pie in the sky,
getting prosy,
not rosy, from hot
summer sun.

I'm made for the shade.

Don't like to run.
Would much rather pun.
More fun.

So someone,
not me,
is working.

Hour of the Cat

Day cools,
sun tumbles
toward silent sea,
cats creep out,
blue-black, gray,
marmalade orange,
plain and striped,
mottled in motley,
round green-yellow-eyed,
wild-whiskered, sharp eared,
tails taut or winding wrapped
around perfect prissy paws.

Wakening from their
all-day naps,
they stroll
in sundown breezes,
strike poses
among the roses,
disdain my pretty compliments,
and ask when dinner will be served.

Speaking of cats, here's a cat piece I wrote last week after hearing some cat news on NPR.

what can we do, they're smarter than us

there are 600
house cats in the
from pole to pole
from all the way
to all the way
and they all
from one of five
wildcats who
in the barely
that filthy-
living human-kind
were vermin
and that living
off the vermin
who lived
humans lived
was a hell'uv
a lot easier
than trying
to chase down
in the wild

thus did
the cat
on its own
and thus
did little
assume her
air of feline
if you know
the whole story
it's hard
to argue

This poem, by Beryl L. Bonney, appears in the book Bread and Roses: A poetry Anthology for Adult Children. The book, published by Heath Communications, Ind., and U.S. Journal, Inc., includes mostly poems submitted in response to a poetry contest conducted by Change Magazine relating to growing up in a family torn by alcoholism. This poem was the second place winner in the contest.

Family Abuse

In the silent war
only wishes die
and love is buried.
speed into rooms
where tension is smoke to be cut
with laughter, a camouflage
to cover wounds of smiles, and the blood
   that spills
is always called pride.
We limp away
to amputate
another feeling.

Next, we have a poem by young New York poet, Daniel Donaghy. The poem is from his book Street fighting poems published by BkMk Press in 2005.

One Thing That Didn't Make the Papers

Found on silver Bridge,
hung, belt around his neck:

Ready Eddie Dillaplane
from Oakdale Street;

old Jameson drinker
who never lost a fight

or a pool game at Felix's;
who coughed railroad dust

and Chesterfield phlegm.
Who shoveled walks

for nothing after storms,
who neighbors called

when roofs leaked;
who had a '66 Barracuda

he called his only child,
and a wife who didn't drink;

who had a horseshoe scar
on his back from a fight

they had one Christmas,
And who, having outlived her,

settled his tab with Felix,
checked himself in the mirror,

said good-bye to no one,
just walked out.

Dan Cuddy is another of the Blueline "poem-a-day" poets and he's getting to be a regular in "Here and Now" with his intense, close to the bone poems.

Here's another.

whether weather or not

weather creates worlds
I grab you by the collar and tell you this
maybe if
but it is not
I want to tell you
that the morning haze is sfumato
or the afternoon haze is a squeegee smear of paint
over what was a perfectly articulated morning landscape
or the flick of white dots sticking to roads,trees
is cold,calculated, intellectual art
attempting to cover the edges and curves of the sensuous
with the one-dimensional plane of willed thought
art is the weather found in the mind
but you are not the artist but the object
displayed everyday in a huge gallery of objects
I tell you this,
not the rhetorical you that is me,
but you, not show you this
because my individual egotism is my personal art
a pop artist would say
"it is all about ME"

Our next poem is from James Laughlin and is taken from his book The Secret Room

That Afternoon

when we were walking in the sunbright woods
and you were laughing so deliciously,
"dulce ridentem" said Horace of his girl Lalage
when suddenly I did what I'd been longing to do,
pulling you to me and touching for an instant
your sweet little breast, an impulse of courage,
and of course you sprang away,
but you did not reproach me, you put your arm
around my shoulders, as if to say
you were pleased by my avowal...

but the god was jealous of my happiness;
you haven't come to walk with me again.

With this poem, Jessica VanDriesen makes her second appearance in "Here and Now." Jessica usually posts on another workshop associated with Blueline. I don't post on that workshop often, but I do find poets on it, like Jessica, to use here.

(Jessica writes from Poland. Being a somewhat old guy, this "world wide web" business just blows me away. I am in awe that, first, it exists and, second, that it is such a scarcely noticd, routine part of our live.

By my count, we've had four continents represented here in the last month by web poet comrades of mine.

Tea Leaves

If I had read the leaves that night
what would I have seen,
or understood?
If I had held on to the kiss,
would it have made
a difference?

If I had read my soul that night,
what might I have said-
stay? take me
with you?
- and so saying,
where would I be

If I chart the stars, strands of our fate,
will they ever bring us together?
Would we ever bring
And, if so,
would we be happy?

Or next poem is by Paul Durcan, from his book Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil

Jack Lynch

to Mike Murphy

Jack Lynch is an accountant n Rio.
Born in Sao Paulo in 1939
Of a first generation Brazilian, middle-class father from
Who was devoured by a mulatto working-class goddess.
His father had him christened Jack because he liked the black
      look of him.
If he hadn't like the black look of him he'd have called him
(His father divided up the human race into Jacks and Claudes.)
Jack made his home in Rio thirty-odd years ago.

Nothing happens in Rio that Jack Lynch doesn't know about.
Yesterday I sat with him in a cardboard shack
In a shantytown in Rio and listened to him
Tell the wide-eyed chisellers about his own daughter
Jumping off the top of Cocovado.
(His daughter is a champion hang-glider.)
He shakes his head, holding back the tears.
"I can't say I'm not proud of her."
The slum kids offer him handfuls of grime
Crying out to him - tell us again.

Today it's the same story.
Only this time we're on the patio
of the private members' bar
At the Gold Club 10 kilometers west or Rio
Gazing up at yet another Sugar Loaf mountain
With yet another shantytown adhering to its precipices
And from whose peak his daughter has jumped off in her hang-glider.
Back in Rio at twilight walking the Red Beach
Under the Sugar Loaf mountain at Urca
Just when I think there's nothing more
He can tell me about his hang-gliding daughter
He points a finger up at a cliff-rim -
His daughter has been known to ride a motorbike
Along the edge of the cliff.

Jack, what do you mean -
"Along the edge of the cliff"?
He explains about a two-foot wide rim.
Anyway ... that's another thing his daughter does:
She rides her motorbike along narrow spaces
On the top of things - cliffs, roofs, parapets,
It's not just that Jack Lynch lives on another planet
It's that Jack Lynch is himself another planet.
Jack Lynch is a Brazilian who lives in Brazil.
The slum kids offer him handfuls of grime
Crying out to him - tell it again.

Here's a little paranoid fantasy I wrote this week for the poem-a-day workshop.

Fantasy, probably, but you know Big Brother has to be working on it.

small dreams slip by unnoticed

too large

they know
the dreamers

they are

One of my used book store finds is a collection of work from Gilbert Sorrentino titled Selected Poems 1958-1980 with nearly 300 pages of poems.

Here's one of them.


Rats move swiftly along a wall,
they can frighten by moonlight;
while a mouse
can leap the rafters

of the house more
noisily, there is nothing
quite like a rat
blinded by nature

and fear, swallowed
by space, dead
center in the room;
you can see the mustaches

twitching. He doesn't know
which direction to take,
he is lost in the open area,
men have shot themselves

in the head
for less reason.

Now we have a fun piece by Khadija Anderson, another web poet compatriot. Khadija also posts on Blueline, but I found her this time on Wild Poetry Forum, another very fine on-line poetry workshop. I used to post there often, but lately just haven't had the time.

Happy Hour

today I wanted to lie on the floor
chin on the ground
and look across it eye level
like I might find something
under the furniture
but the only thing is
there is no furniture
only a mattress and
I don't want to look under that
I would have to pick it up and
I might only see dust and maybe
a used Kleenex

so I stood up and looked at the floor today
and out the window
and at the sidewalk
and at a pigeon
he was fat
for the winter and gray
maybe to match the sidewalk
he looked really good
and warm

someone came over and said
what are you thinking about
and I said
cause they wouldn't understand about
the pigeon
or the floor

I wanted to lie on the bed today
and stay there forever
but I knew someone would come in
and make me get up
so I left the house quickly
I went and had a beer
and deep-fried mozzarella
Happy Hour $4.95
but I'm not very happy about it

I am sitting in the corner
drinking a beer and waiting
for mozzarella
and waiting
for Wednesday
cause it's only Monday and
today I wanted to lie on the floor

Well, we haven't had any fun with Shel Silverstein in a while. Let's remedy that, with these poems (sorry no illustrations) from his book A Light in the Attic

Crowded Tub

There's too many kids in this tub.
There's too many elbows to scrub.
I just washed a behind
That I'm sure wasn't mine,
There's too many kids in this tub.


Rockabye baby, in the treetop.
Don't you know a treetop
Is no safe place to rock?
And who put you up there,
And your cradle too?
Baby, I think someone down here's
Got it in for you.

Strange Wind

What a strange wind it was today,
Whistlin' and whirlin' and scurlin' away
Like a worried old woman with so much to say.
What a strange wind it was today.

What a strange wind it was today.
Cool and clear from a sky so gray
And my hat stayed on but my head blew away -
What a strange wind it was today

Magic Carpet

You have a magic carpet
That will whiz you through the air,
To Spain or Maine or Africa
If you just tell it where.
So will you let it take you
Where you've never been before,
Or will you buy some drapes to match
And use it
On your


"A genuine anteater,"
The pet man told my dad.
Turned out, it was an aunt eater
And now my uncle's mad!


If we had hinges on our heads
There wouldn't be no sin,
'Cause we could take the bad stuff out
And leave the good stuff in

I shaved my beard last night. I do that about every five years of so, just to remind myself what I look like. Every time I'm hoping for something better than the last time, but it never works out.


with beards
should shave them
every five years, at
least, if only to account
for their accumulation of chins.

I do
and I did
and I still have now
the same two I had before
and their bobble and shake is
near imperceptible when I laugh

that's the good news
for this independence day,
this warm and wet fourth of July

Next we have three poems by 8th century Chinese poet, Wang Wei, considered, with Du Fu and Li Bai, one of the three greatest poets of the Tang dynasty. While his poems seem very straightforward, they also include subtle infusions of Buddhist consciousness.

The poems are from The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry, an anthology
that surveys the full 3,000-year traditions of Chinese poetry, from the ancient to the contemporary.

Green Creek

To find the meadows by Yellow Flower river
you must follow Green Creek
as it turns endlessly in the mountains
in just a hundred miles.
Water bounds noisily over the rocks.
Color softens in the dense pines.
Weeds and water chestnuts are drifting.
Lucid water mirrors the reeds.
My heart has always been serene and lazy
like peaceful Green Creek.
Why Not loaf on a large flat rock,
dangling my fishhook here forever?

Visiting the Mountain Courtyard of the Distinguished
Monk Tanxing at Enlightenment Monastery

He leans into twilight on a bamboo cane,
waiting for me at Tiger Creek.
Hearing tigers roar, he urges me to lave,
then trails a pouring brook back to his cell.
Wild flowers bloom beautifully in clusters.
A bird's single note quiets the ravine.
In still night he sits in an empty forest,
feeling autumn on the pine forest wind.

Song of Peach Tree Spring

My fishing boat sails the river. I love spring in the mountains.
Peach blossoms crowd the river on both banks as far as sight.
Sitting in the boat, I look at red trees and forget how far I've come.
Drifting to the green river's end, I see no one.

Hidden paths wind into the mountain's mouth.
Suddenly the hills open into a plain
and I see a distant mingling of trees and clouds.
Then coming near I make out houses, bamboo groves, and flowers
where woodcutters still have names for Han times
and people wear Quin dynasty clothing.
They used to live where I do, at Wuling Spring,
but now they cultivate rice and gardens beyond the real world.

Clarity of the moon brings quiet to the windows under the pines.
Chickens and dogs riot when sun rises out of clouds.
Shocked to see and outsider, the crowd sticks to me,
competing to drab me to their homes and ask about their native places.
At daybreak in the alleys they sweep flowers from their doorways.
By dusk woodcutters and fishermen return, floating in on the waves.

They came here to escape the chaotic world.
Deathless now, they have no hunger to return.
Amid these gorges, what do they know of the world?
In our illusion we see only empty clouds and mountains.
I don't know that paradise is hard to find,
and my heart of dust still longs for home.

Leaving it all, I can't guess how many mountains and waters lie behind me,
and am haunted by and obsession to return.
I was sure I could find my way back on the secret paths again.
How could I know the mountains and ravines would change?
I remember only going deep into the hills.
At times the green river touched cloud forests.
With spring, peach blossom water is everywhere,
but I never find that holy source again.

The best thing about barku is they feel like haiku, but they aren't nearly so demanding. (Also, I get to make up the rules. Oh, also, don't go looking for a definition of "barkunal." It's my word, not in the dictionary yet, but I have hopes, for a barku bacchanal)

I wrote these last week.

a barkunal

in the morning
from branches
with dew

at noon
lunch time
for me
as well

day ends
with five o'clock
freedom puddles

We have a poem now by Paula Rankin from her book Augers.

For My Mother, Feeling Useless

Some people grow chalky dust on their skin
like leaves on a dirt road.
My mother, who would not run to the drugstore
without clean underwear, stockings,
hair pinned, two spots of blusher,
who believed everything mattered,
now sighs, no need, no need

Who am I? she asks
of my father's, my sister's and my faces
on the wall, under glass.
Her face lies on them
until it cannot bear the likenesses.

If she goes out for supper
no one knows if she comes back
or keeps driving
into the ocean
or down a dirt road spraying dust.

On her last plane ride
she had a vision
of being taken up
beyond the top cloud;
then she heard a voice
telling her she had to go
down, she was needed.

When I was a child,
she owned two dresses,
many aprons. There was great need
for her hands in the sink,
in the threadbox with needles.

There was great need
when my grandfather's brain
turned to mush, when my father lost
his sense of touch.

I leave my house
and go down the clay road
where the trees smother
into ghosts of themselves.
A car spins past, coating my legs
with gravely powder
and I warn, Back off, dark space,
I've got connections

My husband and children saw me leaving.

Susan McDonough splits her time between Arizona and Maine, a great combination, in my mind, as long as it's mountain Arizona and not desert Arizona.
Too many deserts in my life already.

Sue is also a "poem-a-day" vet and that's where I got this poem.

Among the leaves

peanut butter
toast eaten in the cool
you see your breath and write your day

weeds challenge zen
campanula bloom tall
slender stalks away from the fray
free rein

The sun
backlights spider
web decorated with
morning's dew - symmetry's practiced

send messages
of use and worth to brain
hands callous while the heart softens

We used a poem by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Here she is again, with another poem from her book Parties.

Power Failure

All the relations sleep

Forced to early beds by lack of light
Mother, sister, husband, children
have left me
to delight in my own power.

The storm that downed the wires is over,
steady rain's moved into the backyard.

I sit on the top of the steps,
bare feet getting rained on,
watching the lightning bug
high in the pin oak
bright as the end of my cigarette.
Below me a gardenia glows
unconnected to its charcoal foliage.

A gray shape shifts among these
blacks and lights.
Another cat does not surprise me.

Leaning against the screen door
I'm vanishing with a Cheshire smile.
For not one of them -
Mother, sister, husband, children -
will travel the black house sightless,
come up behind me,
see what I am up to

until the power comes back on.

Our next poem is by Aaron Silverberg, from his book Thoreau's Chair. It's kind of smaltzy, but I'm of an age and personal history to be moved by it.

Already Arrived

My son Joel and I went to the nearby park together.
I sat at the far end of the children's wooden play tower,
basking in the dusking sun.
Joel played nearby, all around me, and finally went off
by himself to swing on the swings.

A part of me wanted to watch over him and assure his
safety. Another part knew better and I stayed to enjoy my
own sustained peace.

When I went over to join him, he walked up to me and
said, "Let's go home Dad."
I replied, "What a wonderful idea."

As we strolled down the path I held his hand, but almost
immediately he moved my hand around his shoulder and
hugged my thigh.
We walked in this awkwardly beautiful manner down
toward the basketball court.

He said to me, "Dad, I love you so much."
With a tear in my eye I replied,
"I love you too Joey, so much."

It was a little embarrassing. The court was full of strong,
sweaty, bare-chested young men. But I didn't let go until
the very last second.

On the other side of the court he ran up ahead,.
I watched his sturdy little frame pad up the blacktop
wishing with all my might that this precious little boy
never change or
that I might never reach the turnoff
head between two tall firs,
getting somewhere
when I had already arrived.

This is the opening section from the antiwar (Vietnam) poem The Teeth Mother Naked at Last by Robert Bly. The whole poem is much too long for our format here, but considering the similarities between then and now, I expect I'll do the entire poem, in sections, over the coming weeks. I think I mentioned when I used one of Bly's poems a couple of weeks ago, though I appreciate the artistry of his anti-war poems, there is, to me, an attitude of superiority to them, an aura of one species judging another, lesser species. I sense no feeling of commonality in his poems with the killed and the killers and that commonality is where the tragedy lies. Humans killed by Klingons is one thing; humans killed by humans is a much deeper, more tragic other thing.

I believe our current war is an abomination, made even more so by the stupidity that led us to start it and the incompetence of its execution, and I write antiwar poems. I hope in all such poems I write, I do not loose sense of my brotherhood with all involved, those that die, those that kill and those that order the killing. We are the same kind, after all, and to deny that is to shirk responsibility and to deny the tragedy.

This poem, along with many others, is in Bly's collection Selected Works, available, possibly, at a used book store near you.

The Teeth Mother Naked at Last

Massive engines lift beautifully from the deck.
Wings appear over the trees, wings with eight hundred

Engines burning a thousand gallons of gasoline a minute
    sweep over the huts with dirt floors.
Chickens feel the fear deep in the pits of their beaks.
Buddha and Padma Sambhave.

Meanwhile out on the China Sea
immense ray bodies are floating,
born in Roanoke,
the ocean to both sides expanding, "buoyed on the dense

Helicopters flutter overhead. The death-
bee is coming. Super sabres
like knots of neurotic energy sweep
around and return.
This is Hamilton's triumph.
This is the triumph of a centralized bank.
B-52s come from Guam. Teachers
die in flames. The hopes of Tolstoy fall asleep in the ant
Do not ask for mercy.

Now is the time to look into the past-tunnels,
hours given and taken in school,
the scuffles in coatrooms,
foam leaps from his nostrils.

Now we come to the scum one takes from the mouths of
    the dead.
Now we sit beside the dying, and hold their hands, there
    is hardly time for goodbye.
The staff sergeant from North Carolina is dying - you
    hold his hand.
He knows the mansions of the dead are empty.
He has an empty place inside him,
created one night when his parents came home drunk
He uses half his skin to cover it,
as you try to protect a balloon from sharp objects.

Artillery shell explode. Napalm canisters roll end over
Eight hundred steel pellets fly through the vegetable
The six-hour-old infant puts his fists instinctively to his
    eyes to keep out the light.
But the room explodes.
The children explode.
Blood leaps on the vegetable walls.

Yes, I know, blood leaps on vegetable walls...
Don't cry at that.
Do you cry at the wind pouring out of Canada?
Do you cry for the reeds shaken at the edge of the marsh?
The Marine battalion enters.
This happens when the seasons change.
This happens when the leaves begin to drop from the
    trees too early.
"Kill them: I don't want to see anything moving."

This happens when the ice begins to show its teeth in the
This happens when the heavy layers of lake water press
    down on the fish's head,
and send him deeper, where his tail swirls slowly,
and his brain passes him pictures of heavy reeds, of
    vegetation fallen on vegetation...
Now the Marine knives sweep around like sharp-edged
they slice open the rice bags, the reed walls, the
Marines kill ducks with three-hundred dollar shotguns
and lift cigarette lighters to light the thatched roofs of
They watch the old women warily.

We will continue with this poem in coming weeks.

Now a little poem by me. I hope I pass the Robert Bly test.

here's an idea

charlie parker
a solo long
even by his
usual lengthy
I was just
for a good
way to end it

well did you
about taking
the horn out
your mouth
said miles

now our set
on and on
in Bagdad
and Abu Ghurayb
and Sadr City
as well as
Kirkuk Najaf Karbala
Nasriye Ramadi
and all those
far away places
with strange
where we die
piece by piece
day by day
week by week
month by month
and year after year
after year
all the bodies
all those broken
and says
this has to
we have to
end it, we
have to stop
all this death
and destruction
and dishonor
and there are a
suggestions on
and none
seems good enough
fair enough
safe enough
to satisfy
addicted now
to the taste of
who want
this death music
to go on and on
and on
from the
of saints
and musicians
miles croons
did you ever
just take
the horn
your mouth

This poem by Ishle Yi Park is from her book The Temperature of This Water


This is a story about two people
searching for a home. No. This is a story
about a country searching for a home --

liberation fighters spilling blood
to speak their own words, whole as moon-dusted
pears weighing down orchards. Farmers beating
hourglass drums on dirt, cracking their throats
and sweatriver backs to call this land Chosun. Son.

My father grew up barefoot, eating robins' eggs,
ripping skins off trees, kicking a leathery rugby ball, prying open
a locked door to get at candy and toy trucks
the GIs left his father.

My mother also grew up chasing army trucks
for bubble gum and trinkets,
until she realized some things are not
worth chasing. For bending into dust.

But they bent for each other -
in dust, in drinks, with handwritten letters
in a language I must mouthe to read,
their words forming calligrams of love.
No. This is not romantic.

These were my parents, running
with students, rioting and beaten,
tanks riding bareback through Seoul.
This is about my father, waiting tables at Friendly's,
sloppy and loose-tongued, the other whiteboy waiters
laughing at his flustered mouth.
This is about my mother, picking thorns
off roses in a factory with her sister,
her fingertips scarred and bleeding.
This is about her sister,
who bought them over by marrying
a white soldier who became crazy,
then a family secret.

Breaking bones of mackerel.
croaker. Over the dinner table.
Breaking each other. Bruised rib,
scarred elbow. Twenty-five years of
selling fish. Breaking backs. Promises.

This is about a daughter..
With a suitcase packed with Wise onion chips
and a moth-eaten blanket. Typing fourth-grade runaway letters
Staring into her rice,
kimchee flung, guksu spilt, bowl chipped -
thrown. Girl, curled in a bunk bed.

Girl grown.
Trying to find home in wild asphalt rhythms,
a bleeding copter-scarred sky.
Headlights and searchlights and strobelights
and him. Wire-thin , carved.
His eyes swallowed by her whole.
He was beauty. He split her skin,
kissed her hip bones, bruised her jaw.
She pried him open, searched he chords of his hair,
listened to the clave of his heart, punched his chest. Tried to leave.

Dragged him across carpet,
his arms a bracelet around her ankles.
He refused to let go of his only home.
And she began to see: how we cling to frail walls,
dilapidated roofs, rib-like planks, knobby floorboards,
this first home/body pounded and grown out of necessity,
love. Biting love. Survival love.

The daughter looked back.
At her. At him. Calloused. Apron-stained. Graying.
And she began to cry.
For them,
her country.
Ravished, split, clawing.
      All for home.
            And began to love
               this leatherbacked thing she called a heart.

We will finish this week with this poem, written a couple of years ago as a hurricane was coming in somewhere along the coast and I was remembering the only (and the last) hurricane I ever sat through. It was a little one, but still enough to convince me to never try to ride out another one. Oak trees, I am certain, were not meant to bend that way.

Thinking about the rains we’ve been having for the last two weeks brought the poem to mind.

after the storm

absolute still

leaves hang limp
like fresh-washed socks
on a clothesline

the winds blow

the rains pass

the tides recede

the heavy tropic air stays,
thick, like a wet curtain
all around, and the sun

in a bright sky
blown clear of clouds,
burns down
on the wet earth and
all the wet things on it

and the roar of recent hours
is forgotten, the blowing
and the crashing and
the rain surging
like a rampant flood


as bone-weary
settles in

That's it for this week.

Back to the old bunkhouse. As John McClain would say (did say in all four movies), yippee kai yea ............


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