Desert Fog Like A Blue Sea Rising   Saturday, October 27, 2007


II.10.4




And we're back with another issue of "Here and Now." More good things this week - welcome and enjoy.








This is a good and timely poem to start with this week. It's by Tony Hoagland from his book donkey gospel, published by Graywolf Press in 1998.



Honda Pavarotti

I'm driving on the dark highway
when the opera singer on the radio
opens his great mouth
and the whole car plunges down the canyon of his throat.

So the night becomes an aria of stars and exit signs
as I steer through the galleries
of one dilated Italian syllable
after another. I love the passages in which

the rich flood of the baritone
strains out against the walls of the esophagus,
and I love the pauses
in which I hear the tenor's flesh labor to inhale

enough oxygen to take the next plummet
up into the chasm of the violins.
In part of the song, it sounds as if the singer
is being squeezed by an enormous pair of tongs

while his head and legs keep kicking.
In part of the song, it sounds as if he is
standing in the middle of a coliseum,
swinging a 300-pound lion by the tail,

the empire of gravity
conquered by the empire of acrodynamics,
the citadel of pride in flames
and the citizens of weakness
celebrating their defeat in chorus,

joy and suffering made one at last,
joined in everything a marriage is alleged to be,
though I know the women he is singing for
is dead in a foreign language on the stage beside him,

though I know his chain mail is made of silver-painted plastic
and his mismanagement of money is legendary,
as I know I have squandered
most of my own life

in a haze of trivial distractions,
and that I will continue to waste it.
but whenever I was going, I don't care anymore,
because no place I could arrive at

is good enough for this, this thing made out of experience
but to which experience will never measure up
and that dark and soaring fact
is enough to make me renounce the whole world

or fall in love with it forever.








We had a long-awaited weather event this past week. Here's what I wrote about it.



at last

Autumn snuck
in over
the weekend

shhhh

don't scare her
away

mid-seventies
high
mid-forties
low

blue skies
blue
skies blue
blueblueblue
skies

leaves me
smiling
apeshit
in love
with the
morning

Summer
that
lowlife
sweatdripping
stinksmelling
son of a
bitch
is gone

tossed
out
on his ass
for a couple
of months
at least

at last








Next, I have the title poem from the book Sister Betty Reads the Whole You by Susan Holahan. The book was published by Gibbs-Smith Publisher in 1998.



Sister Betty Reads the Whole You

Some people are too nervous to have hands on their head.
Some people don't like you inspecting them, so I keep my
eyes down. I look at hands.

A picture for you now: tops of trees against a gray sky. A
bird flying. Wind blowing. The bird looks like a hawk. You
were in a deep well. The only way to be free was to look up.

I begin to see you in a house of worship. Musty. With a long
pole you're reaching up, opening stained-glass windows,
letting in the light, In that life you were a sexton. Windows
were your job. You listened to the choir practice. You drank
but you were forgiven. You were kept on - housed, clothed,
fed. In that lifetime you brought your feet to the church.

I see a child in a swing, the kind that boxes you in. Up or
down you can't fall out. That is a mood swing; nowhere to
fall except into your own being. That's why you chose the
mother you did. Who could give you more mistrust?

Give up the illusion that the distraught, angry mother
is God. No longer tell yourself you must be perfect to be
loved.








San Antonio's David Kelly returns to us this week with his dry wit intact.



Ostrich Alert

If I were an ostrich I'd run around nude
Astounding each person I met.
They'd all note of my status; unhatted, unshoed,
And they'd be quite surprised, you can bet

I'd gobble down hammers and tacks by the tray,
And drink pots of ink and old glue
and I'd bury my head (for I love a cliche)
In the sand; it's what ostriches do.

With lions about I might tremble with fear,
But each zebra'd be properly scored.
That's how I'd react if you chanced to come near,
So consider yourself to be warned.








Now, from The Longman Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, my son's textbook that the college bookstore wouldn't buy back, I have a poem by Michael Harper.



We Assume: On the Death of
Our Son, Reuben Masai Harper


we assume
that in the 28 hours,
lived in a collapsible isolette,
you learned to accept pure oxygen
as the natural sky;
the scant shallow breaths
that filled those hours
cannot, did not make you fly -
but dreams were there
like crooked palmprints on
the twin-thick windows of the nursery --
in the glands of you mother.

We assume
the sterile hands
drank chemicals in and out
from lungs opaque with mucus,
pumped your stomach,
eked the bicarbonate in
crooked, green-winged veins,
out in a plastic mask;

A woman who'd lost her first son
consoled us with an angel gone ahead
to pray for our family -
gone into that sky
seeking oxygen
gone into autopsy,
a fine brown powdered sugar,
a disposable cremation:

We assume
you did not know we loved you.








We haven't heard from out good friend Alice Folkart in a while as she was otherwise occupied dealing with a move from California to Hawaii.

Well, she's back now with a couple of poems from her experiences during a visit to Japan.



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 nonsmoker 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.



ON TIME in Tokyo a Very Big Deal


We stand at the bus stop
topped by new spring green
8:04 the big blue bus is due

Short man ahead of us,
packaged in a dark-blue overcoat,
brief case at the ready
Hey, Eddie, it is Sunday,
where are you going?

He's in a hurry,
full of worry,
checks his watch,
would scratch his crotch
if we couldn't see.

Doesn't look at me,
so, I check mine.
8:05.

Man alive!
He peers accusingly at the
posted schedule, is it wrong?
What's taking it so long,
that bus.

Yup, should be here,
at 8:04, open the door.
The unthinkable fate.
It is late.

He leans from the curb
not to disturb, but to search the street.
Just one bus from the fleet,
where is it?

Not here, Oh Dear!
Checks his watch again.
I check mine.
8:06.

Consults the timetable again,
a wren watching with her little eye
from way up high in a branchy tree,
this time he looks very close
as if that will bring the bus into focus.

Checks his wrist in a businesslike way,
pulse or watch, I cannot say.

8:07 says my Timex, smiling up at me.

Four of us wait, in a state,
rebellion brewing, people stewing,
but, there, there it comes,
the bus, just out of reach
beached beyond a red light.
Stopped, we mopped our foreheads,
got out our change at its approach,
boarded at exactly 8:08
four minutes LATE!








Now I have a poem by Ralph Angel from his book Neither World published by Miami University Press in 1995. I picked the book up a couple of weeks ago, but don't think I've used anything from it yet. At the time the book was published, Angel taught in the writing program at the University of Redlands in California. For the most part, his poems are not easy reads, which is probably the reason this is my first use of his work.



Breaking Rhythm

And then the head is at odds with the body.

And then the head strangles your way of thinking.

But don't get me wrong. It's not
that I'm saying life's taking us nowhere,

if I'm not saying yes, I'm a liar, a liar who does not
dwell in the shadow of his own home -


kind of your average, respectable, two-bit junkie
   who thinks he knows what he's after,
and what he's after is nightmare. Concussive. Brutal.
   The unending
ritual of eluding detection rising up and taking
shape with flaring nostrils and enormous hands,

and if it just happens to be pain that he's in right now,
well, at least, pain is who he is for a while.



No big deal. Out loud
the pulse quickens and, very loudly, prolongs itself.

Anger slams the door on a mettlesome friend of a friend,

and then I am boredom paying for groceries,
most happy when you chew on my chin
in luxurious sweat, in our sexual oil,

exhaustion on the subway back to the city. The fact is
I can only hear one part of myself at a time.



And it's late. And I'm tired. And it sounds like
all or nothing. A fistful of thirst and a cup of hot tea,

the silence shame gathers into no boundary

The robe. The pocketknife. The loaves of bread.
Mud on the carpets. The shatter of leaves.

The wonder, the wonder, the wonder.








Here's another from Alice Folkart. If you'll look at the first letter of each line, you'll see that this is an Abcdarian. I'm hopeless at doing this kind of thing, any form, actually, but I do admire those who can.



Getting There - Tokyo Subway

Absolute chaos down those stairs.
Bent like pipe cleaners - people conform
crushing each other only slightly,
defeating the design of the boxes on wheels,
engineer's dreams realized here, underground.
Fighting and fright not allowed down here.
Gathering momentum, the train burrows into the dark,
hoping for a safe arrival (aren't we all?)
Implicitly believing in the system. quirk-backed old ladies
jumping on and off trains, count the tiles in the floor,
keeping it all to themselves, canes at the ready.
Leaning into each other, we pack ourselves in
Making it work in a snuggly, wiggly way.
Nobody complains, each is necessarily alone.
Other people can't exist. There wouldn't be room.
Pointless to worry, just wedge in and go.
Quote bible verses, recite the Sutras, silent chant.
Remote control in the hands of Japan East Railways.
Sobriety is not a requirement.
Tempered and trusting, truant from reality.
Unwavering and steadfast like obedient dogs we go.
Verdict? None. No judgment here.
Why not? What for? Where would it get us?
Xenophobics need not apply.
Your trip is the same as mine, man.
Zero tolerance and complete bliss.








From the anthology (huge anthology) The Outlaw bible of American Poetry, here's Dominique Lowell, known by many contemporary poets as "the Janis Joplin of spoken word." She is the author of two books, Pile and Bitch.

Bike Messenger Leading the People
An Anarchy Poem. It's Devil's Night in Detroit

I burn my own house down cause it ain't my house
it's your house
your shit your shit your shit
incitement to riot
burn it down burn it down burn it down burn it
down burn it down
there's so much paper
burn it down burn it down burn it down
the kindling's there for the fuel for the fire
it would glow burn beautiful orange liking flames
paper paper paper paper
it's all just fuel for the fire
the big bonfire
violence against buildings
violence against property
the ultimate act of rebellion
and I'm gonna build me a guillotine
at One Sansome
right by The Wall
right where it says "The Sharper Image"
grab these fuckers by the hair
drag em by their power nooses
and chop their lousy heads off
it's French Revolution time
burn it down
and there'll be a huge famous painting of me
bike messenger leading the people
yeah

43 years she said
43 years I was chained to a desk
43 years I pushed around rubber bands and paper
clips and xerox memos
43 years and I hated every goddamn minute of it
now I drink in cheap bars
now I wait for my landlord to sell my building so he
can toss me on the street
43 years of all that paper paper
pushin pushin paper
of being an appliance part of the hardware the
interior decorating
43 years of being no one for a paycheck
well you know what I say
all these buildings the skyscrapers
all that chrome and glass filled with all that paper
well we could have ourselves
one hella Molotov cocktail

all we need is a little gasoline
just one match
light the fucking match
what are we waiting for?
all these people in their starched white shirts
who act like they own the street and the sidewalk
and the fucking world
because they do
burn it down
burn it down burn it down burn it down burn it
down

goddamn peds
goddamn clogs
goddamn termites
goddamn ants
goddamn drones
in my way I am
lost in the forgotten guts
of dead office equipment souls
Jesus came to the marketplace
Jesus came to Market street and He said
burn it down
all you buyers and sellers He said
burn it down
you profane my world

I am riding my bicycle through the den of lepers
and I am trying to remain unscathed
and me well I'm a white slime maggot
I was fed television and twinkies
and the scroungy ethics
of depression children parents
one who can't throw way a piece of wilted lettuce
one who buys crates of the finest just to watch it rot
we are the refuse of a decaying system
we are products of decay
but oh! the fragrant twisted beauty of death
the rollicking waltz to be danced
come on come on come on
light the match








Well, I can't rant with the force of Dominique Lowell, but I do have my causes.

This poem is from my book Seven Beats a Second.



let's go shoot a big fat capitalist

a flack for the Safari Club
defends the sporting ways
of his wealthy employers

look, he begins,
with a nod that says
listen up!!!

you tree
hugging
elephant
kissing
liberal
commie
nitwits

there are
thousands
and thousands
of elephants in Africa
shooting a few
is no threat to the species

in fact, he adds

shooting elephants
is good for elephants

thins the herd, you know

reduces overgrazing

insures sufficient resources
for those that remain

we love these elephants,
you see

and only do what we must
for the good of the herd

well....
I say, of course

all for the good of the herd









I have a poem now by Brian Blanchfield from his first collection Not Even Then, published by the University of California Press in in 2004.

Branchfield teaches in the B.F.A. creative writing program at Pratt Institute of Art.



Even Funnier Than Pretending To Do It
Is Actually Doing It


Action. Mania, monster to follow. A searchlight against our window
above the block they closed off to shoot the Godzilla remake woke me.
The neck of the crane was nuzzling the cathedral downstairs, an edit away
from fantasy. Zoom at will. You were still asleep. More perfect than I:I
is no scale. I thought about it again.

The day we met, my friend Bethesda's boyfriend explained - about
having let his roommate Manhattan crawl in bed with him every night
she'd been gone - what's even funnier than pretending to do it. And he
actually laughed, she said, and cried. It is funny, in actuality. Like
sitting, standing, walking, sleeping isn't it.

An actual secret takes time, and a here-on-out, hypnosis.

When we went down for Chinese, every doorway had soldiers under
walkmen, doomed extras waiting to shoot the illusion. What is
not razing, scorching, swatting, lashing? What good is camouflage on
Twenty-fifth Street?

And does Tokyo come back from something like this? In the original,
they had to recreate everything in miniature and fill the screen, steady
the camera. Now in New York, you put the succubus in afterward.
Action mania.

Tanks edge, troops scramble, live, aiming for its eyes, for platforms on
the craning crane head, a storey above us. The commotion is incomplete,
an engine of cries withheld. Not so laughs.

There is a light trapped in my eyes which doesn't go when I close
them. I crouch over you to see you, to make sure of you. The director
calls for Continuity to prepare a second take, a mayhem more the same.
I am thinking about it again. I am doing it, this time on location.
Pandemonium never sleeps. You cannot pretend.








Gail Tremblay was born in 1945 in Buffalo, New York. She is Iroquois, MicMac, French and English. She is an artist and a poet, showing her art internationally and her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals.

Her poem is from Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry.



Night Gives Old Woman the Word

Dark whispers
behind the echo
of the wind. Mind
is trapped by patterns
in the sound.
Night works a spell -
Moon spills her naked light.
Reflected fire illuminates.
the ground. The pull
of night words makes Earth-Woman
give off heat. Soil glistens
dampened by her sweet.
Corn seed feels the planet's turn,
unrolls her root,
prepares to send a shoot
above the dirt. Moon
attracting water in the veins
makes corn leaves uncurl
and probe nocturnal air.
The leaves stretch out
to catch the coming dew.
Clan mother, watching,
hears the planets move.
Old, clan mother listens
to the words - all nature
speaks as slowly seasons
turn - marked by the waxing,
waning Moon; messages
become imprinted on old bones.
Earth works in dark
as well as light. Life
moves in constant spiral
through the sky. We plant;
we harvest, and, at last,
we feast. Clan mother listens
and is filled with thanks.
Night murmurs and plants
grow in the fields.
Old Woman hears dark
speak the ancient word.








I'm doing another poem this week by our friend from New Zealand, Thane Zander. I usually try to avoid using the same poet two weeks in a row, but I do so like the stuff he's been doing lately.



Drying an apron on the hot element

You know the feeling
nothing going right
life a crock of shit
the phone's been silent for weeks
the cat scratches your legs
mail is all bills
and the winning lotto tickets alludes you

so burn your favourite apron on a hot stove
smoke out the house
burn all the mail
carpets ringing wet from buckets
carried from the bathroom to the kitchen
conscience

the neighbours see the smoke
ring the fire brigade to poop on your party
why did they do that, you don't know them
the fire is out when the big red engine
with the noisy siren directs attention to your plight
a policeman passing races in to clear the house
sees you standing with your last bucket
the burnt rag on the stove
rings the psychiatric assessment team
to assess you
fuck the damage
it's you they're worried about.

You mention the bills and the lotto ticket
as if that will stop the process
burly firemen assess the damage,
place the rag in the closed bin
turn the element off
turn to have a private chat with the cop
seems this is the third time in a few months
yes psychiatric help needed.

You sit in the corner, light a smoke
not realizing it's a doobie
the cop grasps the weed and tosses it in the bin,
"You don't need that where you are going"
You weep
where are your family
where are your friends
what happened to the world you knew,
the job long gone, too weak to work
the policeman sums it up,
"Been a hard few months huh"

You stand up and go to the bathroom
lock the door
take a leak
light another smoke, a real one this time
open the window (as you don't smoke inside)
the cop bangs on the door
you give him silence
he knocks harder
the fireman pokes his head in the window
says everything's ok
you close the window,
close your life
say good bye to your home
exit the bathroom
close all the windows, lock the door
let the cop lead you out
and for the third time in your life
you're lead away to the Ward
to recover from another depression.








Audre Lorde, 1934-1992, was the author of ten volumes of poetry and five books of prose. This poem is from one of those collections of poetry, The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1994.



Judith's Fancy

Half-built
your greathouse looms
between me and the sun.
Shell-smells on the morning wind.
You are younger than my daughter
the boy you hold is blond
the moon is new.
My sloping land brings our eyes level
"Welcome, neighbor," I begin.

Were we enemies in another life
or do your eyes always turn to flint
when meeting a Black woman
face to face?

Your child speaks first.
"I don't like you," he cries
"Are you coming to babysit me?"








Here's another poem I wrote last week.



turning point


going away
party

steaks
as big as
South Dakota

laughs
and family stories

a turning point
I know

we watch
hope for the
best

gone now
further
than he's ever
been









I have two poems from the anthology This Same Sky, put together and edited by Naomil Shihab Nye. The first poem is by a poet you probably never heard of, unless maybe you're from Denmark, and the second is a Nobel Prize winner from Mexico

The first poem is by the Danish poet, Benny Andersen. He was a musician before becoming well known for his children's book, radio and television comedies, and collections of short stories and poems. The poem was translated by Alexander Taylor.



Goodness

I've always tried to be good
it's very demanding
I'm a real hound for
      doing something for someone
hold coats
   doors
     seats
get someone a job
   or something
open   up my arms
let someone have his cry on my shirt
but when I get a chance
I freeze up completely
some kind of shyness maybe
I urge myself - do it
fling your arms wide
but it's difficult to sacrifice yourself
   when somebody's watching
so hard to be good
   for more than a few minutes
like holding your breath
however with daily practice
I have worked up to a whole hour
if nobody disturbs me
I sit all alone
with my watch in front of me
spreading my arms
    again and again
no trouble at all
I am certainly best
when I'm all alone.


The next poem is by Mexico's Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz.

The poem was translated by Eliot Weinberger.



A Tree Within

A tree grew inside my head.
A tree grew in.
Its roots are veins,
its branches nerves,
thoughts its tangled foliage.
Your glance sets it on fire,
and its fruits of shade
are blood oranges
and pomegranates of flame.
        Day breaks in the body's night.
There, within, inside my head,
the tree speaks.
    Come closer - can you hear it?








This is the first poem I had published when I returned to writing in 1999, after thirty years of being too busy elsewhere. Actually written in 1969, It appeared in the January, 2000 print issue of Maelstrom. It's a bit of a strange little thing and seems to fit well here between the Paz piece and Cummings.



cowboy movie

comecomecome
she said tome
in her low voice
and sighed
as I moved closer

comecomecome
she said to me

jjjjjesus

stuttersam
     crawled
into his corner
     and sighed
     and cried
in the shallow shadows
of his silver sombrero

comecmecome
she cried to me









I never think of e. e. cummings as a writer of war/antiwar poems and am always a little surprised when I run across poems written from his experience as an ambulance driver in the WWI. I usually think of him as writing from some alternate universe, somehow aloof from regular things like wars.



IV

it's jolly
odd what pops into
your jolly tete when the
jolly shells begin dropping fast you
hear the rrmp and
thennearerandnearerandNEARER
and before
you can

!

& we're

NOT
(oh -
- I say

that's jolly odd
old thing,jolly
odd jolly
jolly odd isn't
it jolly odd


VII

come gaze with me upon this dome
of many coloured glass, and see
his mother's pride, his father's joy,
upon whom duty whispers low"
"thou must!" and who replies "I can't"
- yon clean upstanding well dressed boy
that with his peers full oft hath quaffed
the wine of life and found it sweet -

a tear within his stern blue eye,
upon his firm white lips a smile,
one thought alone:to do or die
for God for country and for Yale

above his blond determined head
the sacred flag of truth unfurled,
in the bright heyday of his youth
the upper class American

unsullied stands,before the world:
with manly heart and conscience free,
upon the front steps of her home
by the high minded pure young girl

much kissed,by loving relatives
well fed,and fully photographed
the son of man goes forth to war
with trumpets clap and syphilis








Here's a short poem by our friend Dave Ruslander, from his book Voices In My Head.



Self-Medication

I thought happiness rode these tracks
before my veins blew
and I lost the map to the future.

My mind is a cobblestone street
down which the dragon walks

I'd go straight
but all I see are corners.








Next, I've got a couple pages of what I call the journals of Julia Alvarez from her book Homecoming. I suppose I should quit calling her work here a journal, even though they seem so real to me, because, in a way, it takes less than full account of her creative art.

Homecoming, published in 1984, was her first book. She has been very busy since then, writing more books of poetry, essays, and fiction then I can list here.

She was a poet in the schools for the Kentucky Arts Commission from 1975 to 1977. In that capacity she visited elementary schools, high schools, colleges and communities throughout the state conducting writing workshops and giving readings.

In 1978, she served in the same capacity with senior citizens in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1978 under the aegis of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Arts Council of Fayetteville. This project produced an anthology, Old Age Ain't For Sissies. She also conducted workshops in English and Spanish at Mary Williams Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware sponsored by the Delaware Arts Council and the Wilmington School District. This project produced an anthology, Yo Soy/I Am.

Alvarez taught English and creative writing at California State University, Fresno, College of the Sequoias, Phillips Andover Academy, University of Vermont, George Washington University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before coming to Middlebury College as an assistant professor in 1988. She was promoted to full professor in 1996 and resigned her tenured position to write full time in 1998. The college created the position of writer-in-residence for her, where she continues to teach creative writing on a part-time basis, advise Latino students, and serve as an outside reader for creative writing theses by English majors.

During this period she also published her second novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, which was made into a movie by Salma Hayek.

Her most recent book, which I just saw in a Borders last week, is nonfiction, Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA.

***************************************************

Greg's got custody of Sally and wants
to fall in love with a stepmother so
Sally can have a mommie like her friends
in daycare and draw to bit sticks hold-
ing a little stick with a happy face
between them. They come over to my place,
Sally sits on Dad's lap and sucks her thumb,
hungrily or sadly, we ask which one?
She doesn't know the words for what she feels
yet, so she shrugs her answer. Don't worry,
I'm okay.
We play Alphabet. Greg says,
A, and I answer, Apple. Sally laughs,
unstoppering her mouth. We have a ways
before we get to the letter for love.


***************************************************

I ask a married friend about a man.
Listen, she says, pretend, and in the end,
you're not able to tell the difference
between the real and the induced romance.
Remember Hamlet tells his wayward mom,
"Assume a virtue if you haven't one,
the next night will be easier to be good"?
Whether this man was meant to be your true
and everlasting love's beside the point.
After a time all lovers disappoint
their loves, that's when a marriage starts!
And then, his well-off, considerate, good heart
will keep you happier much longer than
some true love you mistook for a husband.








Now, one last thing from me.



gone to sheep

I've always tried
to go my own way
though oft times
it was more the trail
of drift than direction

but which ever way,
I stuck to it
with a combination
of hope and stubborn
denial of other paths

- how necessary it is
in this world for the hopeful
to be of stubborn faith -

like my ancestors,
those german settlers
convinced that the rocky
hills of central texas
could be made into
farms

they lost
in the end,
of course,
and eventually
went to sheep,
just as I lost,
though
as the years pass,
my loss seems less
than appeared
at the time

for I, too, have gone
to sheep, these white pages
that graze on my memory
and imagination, seeking
to some hopeful
end








Before closing, I want to mention that Jessica Reyna and Thomas Costales, two photographers whose first presentation to the public of their work was on "Here and Now," will be included in a show of several photograpers presented by LeArtWorks at Casa Chiapas on November 2nd as part of Southtown's monthly First Friday Art Walk.

Those readers from San Antonio might want to stop by and take a look. As usual on First Friday there will be art, music, good street food and lots of people.

Drop in on South St. Marys in the evening on November 2nd and take in the scene.

Speaking of the scene, as usual, all of the work presented in this blog is owned by its creators. The blog itself is the property of and produced by me....allen itz.

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Midnight Musicale   Friday, October 19, 2007


II.10.3




Back again for another week. I have to step our of blog world and deal with some reality-based issues just about all day Saturday, so I'm posting a day early again. I didn't have as much time as usual to chase down work from web-poets this week, so there more of me in this issue than I normally use.

So, no more of me right now. Let's move on to the good stuff.








I start this week with a poem I like by Alaskan meatcutter, bookkeeper and poet, Arlitia Jones. The poem is from her book The Bandsaw Riots, published by Bear Star Press in 2001.



Radical

The cases of whole chickens are on a pallet
clear back in the freezer, under
the evaporators where ice collects

like a smooth clear hide, making
a single block of the entire shipment.
I/ve come for one case

and beat at the ice-bound mess like a crazy woman
until the box comes loose and my hands
go numb, no more dexterous

than feet. Sometimes I yell out
poems, my cloud breath winding away
in the whirring fans, to keep my mind

off the cold. I will arise and go
now
...something something...bean rows...
The lines get lost. This isn't the bee-loud glade.

And I'm not Yeats.
Just a woman hating her job,
freezing her ass off in a meat locker,

a woman who found books early in life
and always came at them like a stray
to a strange hand offering food.

Really meant for me? I took the bait:
One woman in all of Moby Dick, scrubbing pots
at the Spouter Inn. To Henry James,

the literature of manners, I was
eavesdropper, maid
behind the door to the magnate's

mahogany room. At coffee break
we fight over the padded chairs
in the office, the cutters and I.

White coat, white apron, hair done up
in a bun, I look like the bride
of the USDA, nothing like a poet

who has anything to say. And I almost
believe it until I think of this:
that my mother, who survived her childhood

hiding in the tall grass out back
until the house fell quiet, didn't
fuck me up

despite every excuse,
the poverty and the anger,
the mother with the knife, the father

drunk and mean on a fifth of anything,
and the nuns who would have her believe
people live the lives they're given

not the lives they choose.
She's proof that's not always true,
I'm proof for what is given:

food on the table and my own clothes to wear,
books on birthdays, so much love and
a crack at something she never had.

In the family business she's teaching me the books
because a a woman should always have something
to fall back on
, and so I balance ledgers,

bring accounts receivables up to date. Should I die
before I wake, you'll have to know
where the money is
, and in this is her faith

that the daughter will carry on,
finish what the mother leaves undone.
That's how it is with us, work

always on the table, the day's receipts to tally.
She's patient with her poet-girl and curious
sometimes about what goes on in my head.

She caught me reading at the front counter
the day our hometown paper carried the story
of Bella Abzub's death.

Born in Manhattan, 1920, U.S. Congress-
woman and a butcher's daughter like me, she called for
women's worth to be held the same as men's -

how strange to think this radical.
I know I'm worth the men.
What I think of are the women,

the books I read, and the animals I eat - I hope
I'm worthy of them. And the family
that raised me up. My mother asks

Are the invoices done? and I go back
to the 10-key. I know whose daughter I am,
and the woman I'm determined to be.








I introduced Wayne Scheer to you a couple of weeks ago. Wayne is a writer from Atlanta. After teaching writing and literature in college for twenty-five years, he says he retired to follow his own advice and write. He can be contacted at wvscheer@aol.com.

Here's one of his short, very funny prose pieces.



Lentil Soup

Will Squires flirted with the language but he had commitment problems. Mixing metaphors like James Bond mixed martinis, Will liked to shake things up and stir the drink with the last straw.

He tried running the gamut while toeing the line, but occasionally he'd end up towing the line from here to China and back on a slow boat. He'd let out enough line to go deep but just as he prepared to reel her in, the Great White Tuna would take him east of Eden, this side of paradise, unable to go home again.

But his heart was where his hat hung, where folks always took him into their confidence and showed him what they were made of. Exhausted, he'd return, like the prodigal sun on a cloudy day or a horse that escaped after the barn door was closed. And just when he thought it was safe to go back into the water, he couldn't stop thinking about yesterday.

Will tried finding his way, or his will, but no matter which way was up he'd go down the staircase to heaven and find himself up the creek with too many paddles. Simply put, when the road of life forked, he took the spoon and ran away with the cow.

But that's not to say he didn't try to find a new paradigm; it's just that when he thought out of the box, he heard Pandora laugh. He sought connection and closure, but he found himself caught between the moon and New York City.

Will flirted with coherence, but when he finally took the bull by the horns and ran with it, he preferred a bowl of lentil soup.








Next, we return to our late-19th/early-20th century French traveler-poet Blaise Cendrars, last seen in Japan. This seems a rare Cendrars to me, slipping into a kind of surrealism at the end that is not usual for a direct, earth-bound poet like him. Nice just the same.



from IslandsXI. Softened

Garden overgrown like a clearing in the woods
Along the shore drifts the eternal humming of the wind in the leaves of
    the filaos
A straw hat on my head and a big paper parasol over that
I contemplate the games of the gulls and cormorants
Or I examine a flower
Or some rock
Every time I move I scare the palm squirrels and palm rats

Through the open window I see the entire length of a steamer of
    medium tonnage
Anchored about a mile off and already surrounded by junks sampans
    and boats loaded with fruit and local products
At last the sun sets

The air is crystal clear
The same nightingales are singing like mad
And the big vampire bats glide silently across the moon of velvet wings

A young girl goes by completely nude
On her head on of those old helmets collectors are so crazy about these
    days
In her hand a big bouquet of pale flowers which give off a powerful
    scent reminding you of both tuberose and narcissus
Suddenly she stops at the garden gate
Some lowing bugs alight on the horn which forms the top of the
    helmet and the apparition becomes incredible

Night sounds
Dead branches braking
Sighs of animals in heat
Crawling
Humming of insects
Birds in their nests
Whispering voices

The gigantic plane trees are pale gray in moonlight
Light lianas sweep down from their tops and are gently blown by an
    invisible mouth

The stars melt like sugar








We haven't seen Sara Zang in a while. Well, she's back with us this week. Sara is from West Virginia and operates The Peaceful Pub poetry forum at http://p206.ezboard.com/thepeacefulpub.



A Moonbeam Tapping at my Window

surely
Basho wrote the moon
tonight

without punctuation
a brief moment
of brilliant glow

floating
over windfall apples
fire and music

a moonbeam
threaded through the eye
of silver needle

a beacon
slicing indigo
the planet ever grateful








The next poem is from American Dreams, a book of poetry and prose by Sapphire. The book was published in 1994 by Vintage Books.

The first time I used a poem by Sapphire her, I described her poems as screams. They are some of the darkest, strongest poems I've ever read. They are full of despair and anger, and also, honesty. The poems are excellent, making it especially difficult to pass over many of her poems as too angry, too strong and too dark for for "Here and Now." What I'm left with are milder, but still excellent, poems such as the one that follows.



fromArisa

4/23/86   9:50 A.M.'
Weatherman had said mostly sunny but it’s snowing today.
Arisa committed suicide yesterday.

4/29/86   4:05 A.M.

sleep is over me
like a dark cloud
my throat is raw tight
my mouth sour salty
robbed of dreams
coming from the underground
I awake.

I'm tired already
of cleaning
this white bitch's house,
her white body
clad in black.
IRT line brings
me down from
Harlem to clean today.
I worry when
I'm gone,
3 locks
I leave
the radio
& lights on
still I worry
they'll get in.
I try to think positive
in circles of shimmering
white light;
everything is white
down here on the upper west side,
you are over it all
invisible
does anybody
see me?
I hope not,
pushing this
baby carriage
4:15
in the morning
sour fuzzy shit
lives in your mouth.
you have gone
thru this
before,
it's all
frightfully hard,
you wish
you were dancing
on long legs in Paris,
but you're not.
J. says Arisa
was mentally ill
& we don't know what
that's really like.
I know that
she fell
flying,
Arisa's jumps
were always
good.
up until
this last one
I felt she lacked
a sense of drama,
the ability
to express herself
fully,
but she did
just fine
this time.
my pen stops
at the bruise on
the side of her face,
and how old she looked
in that casket,
jaw clenched
lips pierced like clay
and pressed together
over her large teeth,
that white dress
folded hands waxen.
your father says
he never saw you
so peaceful,
he was probably
tired of you
too.
you were a
hard one to get
anything out of
and always angry
sometimes
I saw breath
fill your body
& turn you
soft cloud
turquoise blue,
rest
sigh
you hated
me too.
you knew
what was wrong
with everyone
except yourself.
now you
are gone,
you who never
really had to
work for a living,
fine tuned
cellulite-free
burning bright
stumbling
silly
pitiful
admirable
strong
courageous
Arisa,
who never wore
the rubber gloves
of defeat.
I can't guarantee
how,
but that you'll
be remembered
is sure,
as I trudge thru
white ladies' houses
without style
or dreams,
things you never
had to do,
I'll remember
your horrible
bright smile,
how strong &
beautiful
your legs
&
ahh yes -
how well
you
jumped.








Next, we have our web-poet friend from New Zealand, Thane Zander. I've been critiquing Thane's poems (as he has mine) for several years now and every new one he writes seems better and deeper than the last. Here's one of his latest.



The Life of A Poor Man in Armistice Avenue

The footpath his domain
a red wall his bedstead
bus stop seat, his bed
traffic passing, lullaby
bag and booze, sleeping tablet .

His name once was Jerry Falwell, an affluent ne'er do well. From a family which held respect and standing in the neighbourhood. All the sons (five in all) successful, scholars, businessmen, a preacher.

He rifles through his long coat
finds the Bible, prays
opens the page anywhere
reads a scripture by heart
the lifeblood of a step down.

Jerry went through seminary, passed with flying colours, given a parish in Lower Brooklyn, the place a haven for all the street dwellers escaping the law. It was his demeanour to help the lowlifes, though he never thought of them that way, life's lost minds.

The brush in his right pocket
used to fluff down the sleeping areas
to remove lint and dust and unwanted leaves
once used to paint life’' sorrow
today the brush is in bed, ready.

He found it hard to follow the teachings. So much hypocrisy, so much not to be understood, yet people would recite it verbatim or read between the lines, to each their own. Unfortunately in charge, he'd argue.

The state of the Nation
well that was their business
(pointing to the passing cars)
the dog from 1st and 40th peed
as it always did, near his bed.

He looked again at the Bible, knew which Psalm to say for his peace, which passage of Genesis to appease. Still even on a cold street corner the words were too much to take in.

He stepped down from life
decided to walk the streets
attend to the "lowlifers" - bowed
speak to them at their level
street preacher and believer - just.

The paint on the seat was a rustic brown, sort of earth tones meant to give the city a little life. The fire Hydrant next to it a shiny Yellow, the bus stop sign red and ready. The police haven't been for days now, they usually move him on daily.

Food courtesy of the Food Bank
toileting, a shelter around the corner
for street folk to come in and shower
to do their toileting needs,
another ex-padre runs the joint.

The key date was 11th September 2001 when the madness hit the Twin Towers, when his parish was inundated with grief and morbidity. Wives and children of Firefighters, the dust coated urchins choking to death, the poor lucky to survive.

Across the street, Subway
scraps from the bin interesting fare,
the daylight hides it's flashing sign
hides the well to do clientele
capable of paying for their meal.

He long gave up on money, it never meant anything to him anyway, just something to burn holes in pockets. His total life, even in the seminary, geared to pennilessness. He does whistle though, and does it enough throughout the day to afford a packet of smokes and a bottle of wretched wine.

Sometimes he'd wake up,
rummage through pockets
find another ten dollar bill
stuffed in his greatcoat pocket
the donor a complete mystery.

The walk to where the Twin Towers stood was lengthy, but necessary, to see why the world had gone crazy. On the way, he passed several homeless people and asked them what they thought. Most mentioned they were lucky not to be there, the subterranean carpark a common haunt.

The dark of night finds him walking
searching for the forbidden truth
searching for a dog to pat
reaching a hand out to humanity
supplicant in his demeanour.

The Bomb that dropped on Baghdad was beyond his comprehension. Violence should never begat violence in his mind. If he was punched by the street gangs he’d cower until the attack was over and move on, licking his wounds.

The Teacher, another homeless man
passes the time of day while walking
they speak of nothing in particular
though their life is sort of like that,
dawn reaches into their psyches .

Towards Central Park, to feed the birds with scraps from the Subway bin, the peace and solitude a boon, maybe good does exist he thinks. A female jogger runs well round him, must be the stench, he's used to it now, the shunning. The birds are happy though the pickle gets met with disdain.

Homeless people live long
some can be homeless all their lives
others, mostly start after failure
failure to fit in with society
the need to just drop everything and crash.

Father Dominic from the Catholic church looks after all the central city lost, ministering all the spiritual needs, looking out for the dying, the doomed, the ones that have given up life totally. There are a few. Jerry doesn't exactly trust him, but lets him carry on. Just cause.

The story of the Homeless
never ever stops, ceases, ends
every time you look and see them
see the lives they left behind, help
by passing the time of day if they ask.








This next poem is by Earle Thompson and was taken from the book Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poets.

Thompson was born in 1950 and grew up on the Yakima Indian Reservation in Washington. He has published a chapbook, The Jupiter Moon Pulls at My Bones. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies.



Mythology

My grandfather placed wood
in the pot-bellied stove
and sat; he spoke:

"One time your uncle and me
seen some stick-indians
driving in the mountains
they moved alongside
the car and watched us
look at them
they had long black hair
down their backs and were naked
they ran past us."

Grandfather shifted
his weight in the chair.
He explained,
"Stick-indians are powerful people
they come out during the fall.
They will trick little children
who don’t listen
into the woods
and can imitate anything
so you should learn
about them."

Grandfather poured himself
some coffee and continued:
"At night you should put tobacco
out for them
and whatever food you got
just give them some
'cause stick-indians
can be vengeful
for people making fun of them.
They can walk through walls
land will stick a salmon up your ass
for laughing at them
this will not happen if you understand
and respect them."

My cousin giggled. I listened and remember
Grandfather slowly sipped his coffee
and smiled at us.
The fire smoldered like a volcano
and crackled.
We finally went to bed. I dreamt
of the mountains and now
I understand my childhood.








I wrote this a couple of days ago after hearing a news item on National Public Radio.



my evolutionary theory rebutted on NPR

some years ago
I was having some internal
maintenance
done, and the doc and I
decided that, as he
was passing though the
neighborhood
he would pick up my
appendix
along the way

everything went fine
except after it was over
the doctor said he
didn't take my appendix
because he couldn't find it

since word was the appendix
didn't do anything anyway, a
"vestigial organ" they called it,
I wasn't too upset, in fact
my apparent lack of appendix
supported the theory I had
that I was of a higher
evolutionary
order than most of the people
I ran into in south texas,
having evolved past the need
for an organ that was supposed
to be in place so that ancient
man could digest tree bark
and I was surely past that

alas,
I learned today on NPR
that scientists now think
they have discovered a
reason for the existence
of this little sac glued
to the top of your stomach

(it retains a cache of good bacteria
to be pumped into the system
if some event depletes
your gut's
normal supply of the
good bacteria
needed to maintain a
healthy
happy stomach)

such a fall from grace

one minute
an evolutionary marvel,
homo sapien of the future,
and the next
a bacterially challenged
loser
missing essential
parts








It's been a while since we've looked in on Robert Bly. Here's a poem from his book Selected Poems, published by Harper Perennial in 1986.



An Evening When the Full Moon Rose As The Sun Set

April 11, 1976

The sun goes down in the dusty April night.
"You know it could be alive!"
The sun is round, massive, compelling, sober, on fire.
It moves swiftly through the tree stalks of the Lundin
    grove as we drive past....
The legs of a bronze god walking at the edge of the world,
    unseen by many,
On his archaic errands, doubled up on his own energy.
He guides his life by his dreams;
When we look again, he is gone.

Turning toward Milan, we see the other one, the moon,
    whole and rising.
Three wild geese make dark spots in that part of the sky.
Under the shining one the pastures leap forward,
Grass fields rolling as in October, the sow-colored fields
    near the river.
This rising one lights the pair of pintails alert in the
    shallow pond.
It shines on those faithful to each other, alert in the early
    night.
And the life of faithfulness goes by like a river,
With no one noticing it.








I'm pleased to welcome back Nancy Williams Lazar who appeared in one of the very early issues of "Here and Now."

Nancy lives in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. She worked for two years as a freelance reporter for the Allentown Morning Call after retiring from her furniture manufacturing business of 20 years. She is back now to her first love- poetry and taking the time to explore.

Her poem relates to the funeral rites of the the Parsi people of Mumbai, India. For over a thousand years, they have relied on vultures to carry out their funeral rites. In the last ten years these birds have become almost extinct from the use of diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory given to livestock to treat minor injuries. The loss of up to 30 million vultures is leading to a major health crisis across the region - a rise in rabies and bubonic plague will be likely result of this ecological tragedy.




The Vanished Vultures of Mumbai

I have laid my dead upon the Tower
of Silence whose black door has no opening,
and painted windows give no view.

The dead may not touch ground
The dead must not go into water
The dead shall not be burned

On a wide roof I have left my offering
to be carried away piece by piece,
consumed in the gullet of the sacred bird
whose neck glides like a finger
through shredded skin, goes for the liver
first, then on to reams of soft chords
streaming in the sun.

The caged heart will be a trophy won
in a panic of black feathers.
I see my love take flight
my god requited.








The next poem is from the book The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, published by Thunder Mouth Press in 1999.

The poet, Reg E. Gaines, is Grand Slam champion of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, winner of the Bessie Award, a Grammy nominee and a two-time Tony winner for best book/lyrics for Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk. At the time this book was published, Gaines had a new book just out, The Original Buckwheat. Since then he has done more work on stage and has released several cd's.



welcome to mcdonalds

(may i take your order please?)

as i bust into mcdonalds and this sister ringing fries
is squabblin with this brother moppin the filthy floor
now the sister (who's kinda cute)
is in the process of bein steam/roomed by some buppy
who's droppin lines he must have lifted from some
nineteen seventies black exploitation flick
so the sisters pissed the brothers stressed
and the buppies new nikes was gettin wet
all this time i'm standin in line
tryin to order a fish filet with no tartar
seems the sisters sick a ringing fries
cuz she hikes her hands rolls her eyes and says
"punk motherfucka coward ass bitch
yours hairs too straight and you walk with switch"
the buppies french wave stood at attention
as his boys frick and frack cracked the fuck up
then/the manager
who happened to be a male member of the
caucasion pursuasion
tried to pull a newt gingrich impersonation
and set the sister straight
so she hits void
snatches the cheese stained apron
from around her dancehall hips
pokes out her lip
then precedes to rip into he boss
who makes like forest gump
then runs to the back
and hides behind a freezer
meanwhile the brother with the mop
was diggin into his thick grey sock
tryin to find a vial a rocks
seems like he got his slick lil hustle goin down
and like a circle is round we wind up back at me see
i was just tryin to order a fish filet with no tartar
when i stated getting impatient
cuz you know how shot go at micky dees
"when you getting off?"
"girl how much your earrings cost?"
"i heard she's fucking the boss!"
and i should been more patient
but i had to catch a bus
and maybe i need to get in touch
with my more sensitive side
but then i thought
fuck this shit
walked outside and split








I don't know what brought this poem back to mind, maybe the rash of "noose" incidents we've been reading about.

I wrote the poem several years ago when there was a photographic exhibition of old pictures of the lynchings of blacks in the southern and not so southern parts of the country. I never saw the exhibition but I did read a story about it which included one of the pictures. The picture is as described in the poem and it a great impact on me.



pictures from an american lynching

it's not the hanging black bodies
that chill me,
it's the smiling white faces below.

so familiar, those faces.

the white man standing
under the swinging body
of the young black girl,
smiling,
beer in his hand, hat cocked to one side
like he was a movie star.

the two pretty girls
arm in arm beneath the carnage,
smiling,
posing for the camera
like for a picture at the county fair.

the child
in dusty overalls
standing at his mother's side,
wide-eyed,
holding on to her dress
with one hand,
pointing
with the other
to the bare feet of the black man
dangling over his head.

so familiar, these faces.

like from the family albums
I looked at as a child,
seeking among the pictures there
the story of how I came to be.








Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912. The youngest of fifteen children, he worked as a pianist, a busboy, and a basketball player before he took up photography, and later the work of poet and film director. His many books, in addition to this one, include The Learning Tree, A Choice of Weapons, and Voices in the Mirror. Until seeing this new book of poetry and photography on the remainder table at Borders, I though he had died several years ago. Wrong. Gordon Parks is now in his nineties, living in New York City.



Haram! Haram! Haram!

During those same merciless moments
when four mangled corpses were
burning and being torn apart in Falluja,

Haram (the Arabic word for forbidden),
prayers were touching the blue-domed mosques.
There, in Islam, where the human body is sacred,
to desecrate on is to commit the gravest sin.

So for Haram's sake, and none other, Arabia's clerics
voiced apologetic confusion. That macabre celebration
that took place afterward was throbbing but unacceptable.

Long ago the cries of worshippers filled the mosques of Falluja.
The assassinations were heroic.
But Haram frowns on burning torsos strung from bridges!








Here's a little bitty bite of a poem I wrote last week. As I've mentioned before, I post on the "House of Thirty" workshop on the Blueline Forum. The objective of that workshop is to write a poem a day for thirty days. I'm on my sixth 30-day series. Some of the workshop participants have like 30 30-day sequences, which, without breaking out my higher math skills, works out to a heck of a lot of poems-a-day. The pressure of the poem-a-day regime means, at least in my case, falling back on short-form poems when it's bed time and I haven't done my poem for the day. That's fine with me because I like the shorties and I've now used about four times as many words to introduce the poem as I did writing the poem.



october sunset

clouds
trimmed in pink
like the center
of a peach

tangerine
on the horizon








The next poem is by Wendy Barker. It is from her book Winter Chickens published in 1990 by Corona Publishing Company.

Barker has published four collections of poetry. Her latest book, Way of Whiteness, won the Writers League of Texas Violet Crown Award for Poetry in 2000 and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.

Individual poems and translations have appeared in such journals as Poetry, The American Scholar, North American Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Nimrod, to name a few. She has received NEA and Rockerfeller Bellagio fellowships. She is a professor of English at The University of Texas at San Antonio.



Drive to the Pig Farm

Past clipped yards.
Nasturtiums hang over slat fences.
Fields rise out of wounds left by the road.
Jagged places, healed with lupine, poppies.

Drive toward he hills.
Waves of wild carrot, yellow clumps
of wild mustard. Drive past all these,
past the small purple-bladed flower

opening in the shade of live oaks.
Past the farm with red stables.
Round the final turn
mud reaches to the horizon.

Hills of mud piled with pigs.
Hundreds of pigs, sprawled
on their sides, fat haunches limp,
stiff blond hairs rising

over the flesh like sparse fur.
One hunches dog-like,
two-toed foot under its belly.
Their feet mince through the stink, old

potatoes scattered like stones
over the ground.
They lift wet noses over barbed wire,
grunt quietly as we scratch their backs.

Swarms of pigs, half in,
half out of warm brown mud.
Noises from somewhere under their throats,
insistent as the buzz

of flies circling their eyes.
We turn from the fence, pull shut
the doors of the car and drive,
drive back to the rows

of hourse, pastel colors,
pruned roses climbing the walls.








I haven't used any of the really old stuff in a while, so here are some Egyptian love songs (author[s] unknown) from the period 1600-1000 B.C. The songs were translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock.



I

You, mine, my love.
My heart strives to reach the heights of your love.

See, sweet, the bird-trap set with my own hand.

See the birds of Punt,
Perfume a-wing
                Like a shower of myrrh
Descending on Egypt.

Let us watch my handiwork,
The two of us, together in the fields.


II
The shrill of the wild goose
Unable to resist
The temptation of my bait.

While I, in a tangle of love,
Unable to break free,
Must watch the bird carry away my nets.

And when my mother returns, loaded with birds,
And finds me empty-handed,
What shall I say?

That I caught no birds?
That I myself was caught in your net?


III
Even when the birds rise
Wave mass on wave mass in great flight
I see nothing. I am blind
Caught us as I am and carried away
Two hearts obedient in their beating
My life caught up with yours
Your beauty the binding.


IV

Without your love, my heart would beat no more;
Without your love, sweet cake seems only salt;
Without your love, sweet "shedeh" turns to bile.
O listen, darling, my heart's life needs your love;
For when you breathe, mine is the heart that beats.








Here's a love poem, of a sort, I wrote several years ago. It's included in my book Seven Beats a Second. It seems a little strange to some, because of the way it comes at the love theme.



flambeau

no moldering
in a dank and dismal box for me

I want to go out in a fiery flash,
consumed in flames and heat
until all that's left of used-to-be-me
is ash and bits of charred and brittle bone

mix this small remainder of what I was
with water, a cement base,
and shiny river pebbles, with a poem
or two cut in paper strips
to weave through the mix
as my love for you has been threaded tight
through all the better parts of my life

from this potion,
make a little concrete bowl
where birds can come to bather
and drink and preen their feathers
in first and last light of every day

set this bowl with its elements of what's left of me
on a pedestal in a shady place near a window
so you can see as the birds come and go
and sometimes think of me









The next poem is by Jack Kerouac. It's one of the 242 Choruses of his book Mexico City Blues. He called these pieces choruses as part of his wish to be read as a "jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam session on Sunday."



25th Chorus

Don’t worry about death
Once you're there
Because it is trackless

Having no track to follow
You will rest where you are
In inside of the essence

But the moment I say essence
I draw that word back
And that remark - essence's
Unspoken, you cant say a word,
essence is the word for the finger
that shows us bright blankness

When we look into the God face
We see radiant irradiation
From mindless center
Of Objectless fire roe-ing
In a fieldstar all its own

Is my own, is your own,
Is not Owned by Self-Owner
but found by Self-Loser -
Old Ancient Teaching








Bush was on tv today explaining about how we have to be careful to not let those poor kids get too healthy. I didn't watch, but wrote this instead.



cold shoulder

liar murderer
thief-in-chief
on tv
again today

didn't watch
never have
never
will

used
to make me
spout
angry poems

no
more

anger
has burned itself out

nothing left
but ash that crumbles
at the merest touch

and indifference,
like an icy
prison
cell








I'll end this week with several short poems from The Same Sky, A Collection of Poems from around the World selected by Naomi Shihab Nye. The book is an excellent anthology published by Aladdin Paperbacks in 1996.



The first poem is by Eka Budianta from Indonesia. The poem was translated by E. U. Kratz.

Family Portrait

I am like Jojon, the farmhand from Tegal
Who left his wife and two children behind
To pedal a pedicab in Jakarta.
Like Salka, the fisherman in Cilincing
Separated from his family on Madura Island.
Every three months or twice a year
We meet our wives and children, to free ourselves from longing.

I am a contract coolie, far from family.
That is common, sir, common. Very common.
We are the hundreds of thousand of coolies
as the city's construction sites
Who have left our families behind in the village.
When looking at the clouds in the bright sky,
We do not cry, but neither are we delighted.
White clouds that pass over my village,
Tell them my life in the city's alright.

I'm just Jojon, on contract in London.
You and the children live quietly in the village.
When you see the mist descend from the sky,
Or when it rains for days before Christmas,
Relax, sleep in peace
In your dreams I will send millions of stars,
As long as you, in your prayers, also mention my name.


The next little poem is by Christine M. Krishnasami from India.

beside a stone three
thousand years old two
red poppies of today


And finally, this poem by Karl Krolow from Germany. The poem was translated by Kevin Perryman.

The Open Shutter

Someone pouring light
Out of the window.
The roses of air
Open.
And children
Playing in the street
Look up.
Pigeons nibble
At its sweetness
Girls are beautiful
And men gentle
In this light
But before the others say so
Someone shuts
The window again.








Time to be heading on down the road. Until next week, remember, all the work included in this blog is the property of its creators, while the blog itself is produced by and the property of me....allen itz.

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The First North Breeze   Saturday, October 13, 2007


II.10.2.




And we're back again. I had an interesting week, at least the first several days of it when I did some traveling. I drove about a thousand miles last weekend, making a big circle from San Antonio up into West Texas and back, trying, as much as possible, not to take any road twice in different directions. For the most part I was able to do that, taking pictures all the way. All of the photos in this week's issue are from that excursion.

There'll be more about that as we go along.








I begin this week with several light poems from The Same Sky, A Collection of Poems From Around the World



Ingemar Leckius is from Sweden. He was born in 1928 and published his first book Other Rites in 1951. He is also a critic and translator. His translator for this poem was May Swenson.


Locked In

All my life I lived in a coconut.
I was cramped and dark,
especially in the morning when I had to shave.
But what pained me most was that I had no way
to get in touch with the outside world.
If no one out there happened to find the coconut,
if no one cracked it, then I was doomed
to live all my life in the nut, and maybe even die there.
      I died in the coconut.
A couple of years later they found the coconut,
cracked it, and discovered me shrunk and crumpled inside.
      "What an accident?"
      "If only we had found it earlier...."
      "Then maybe we could have saved him."
      "Maybe there are more of them locked in like that."
the said, and started knocking to pieces every coconut
within reach.
      No use! Meaningless! A waste of time!
A person who chooses to live in a coconut!
Such a person is one in a million!
            But I have a brother-in-law who
      lives in an
      acorn.



Our next poem from The Same Sky is by Miroslav Holub, a Czech poet and immunologist. He was born in 1923 and died in 1998. The poem was translated by Kaca Polackova.


Napoleon

Children, when was
Napoleon Bonaparte
born? asks the teacher.

A thousand years ago, say the children.
A hundred years ago, say the children.
Nobody Knows.

Children, what did
Napoleon Bonaparte
do? asks the teacher.

He won a war, say the children.
He lost a war, say the children.
Nobody knows.

Our butcher used to have a dog,
says Frankie,
and his name was Napoleon,
and the butcher used to beat him,
and the dog died
of hunger
a year ago.

And now all the children feel sorry
for Napoleon.



And our last poem for the week from The Same Sky is by Michael Ondaatje, a Canadian born in Sri Lanka in 1943. His book The Cinnamon Peeler includes poems spanning twenty-five years.


Sweet Like A Crow

for Hetti Corea, 8 years old

Your voice sounds like a scorpion being pushed
through a glass tube
like someone has just trod on a peacock
like wind howling in a coconut
like a rusty bible, like someone pulling barbed wire
across a stone courtyard, like a pig drowning,
a vattacak being fried
a bone shaking hands
a frog singing at Carnegie Hall.

Like a crow swimming in milk,
like a nose being hit by a mango
like the crowd at the Royal-Thomian match,
a womb full of winds, a pariah dog
with a magpie in its mouth
like a midnight jet from Casablanca
like Air Pakistan curry,
a typewriter on fire, like a hundred
pappadams being crunched, like someone
trying to light matches in a dark room,
the clicking sound of a reef when you put your head into the sea,
a dolphin reciting epic poetry to a sleepy audience,
the sound of a fan when someone throws binjals at it,
like pineapples being sliced in the Pettah market
like betel juice hitting a butterfly in mid-air
like a whole village running naked onto the street
and tearing their sarongs, like an angry family
pushing a jeep out of the mud, like dirt on the needle,
like 8 sharks being carried on the back of a bicycle
like 3 old ladies locked in the lavatory
like the sound I heard when having an afternoon sleep
and someone walked through my room in ankle bracelets.

The book's editors were kind enough to include this note: A vattacka is a vegetable. Pappadams are extremely thin, crispy, round lentil wafers, which can be dipped into various sauces. Brinjal is a British word for eggplant.










My favorite part of my weekend drive was Hwy. 170 from Presidio to Terlingua. The road goes along the path of the Rio Grande, within view of the river in many places, and on the southern edge of the Big Bend State Ranch. This is a huge ranch adjacent to the Big Bend National Park. It was sold to the state for a small price or donated outright (don't remember which) by the ranch's owners. It's not a long drive, only about 80 miles, but it took nearly all of Sunday morning because of the twist, turns and frequent stops for pictures. Along the drive, you get to see the river in both a desert environment, where it is a green belt crossing the sand and caliche flats, and through the mountains where you can see it far below on the floor of canyons it's carved through the ages of its flow.



rio grande

carves
canyons
through mountain rock;
lays a winding ribbon
of green
across white desert
dust

creatures
great and small
come to it,
drink,
live another day








One more little bite from Marfan by Peter Reading then I'll let it rest for a while.



fromMarfan

Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa, built
in 1886 of native stone
and bricks made locally, three stories high
with an octagonal tower capped by a dome
on top of which the fancy classical figure
of Justice once held in her outstretched digits
the symbol of her calling but now fingers
only the dusty hot air off the desert -
an irate cowpoke back in history,
quitting the calaboose across the street
(where he'd been held for being drunk), observed
"There ain't no justice in this goddam county",
and shot the scales plumb out of the goddess's hand.








Again, this week, another love poem from Beki Reese.



confused

Sometimes
you are exactly what I need.
Our years together
left an easy understanding between us;
I fit just right beneath your arm
and when I'm lonely
your presence here can ease the ache.

Sometimes
I want more than this easy friendship.
I need the comfort of skin on skin,
to cool my fevered blood with you.
But something in me holds me back,
cannot commit in exchange for love.
There are some hurts that haven't healed,
some fears that are not put to rest,

some dreams my heart still can't let go.








Through many dynasties, the writing of poetry, along with other refined arts, was a social requirement of China's rulers and the Chinese ruling class.

I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the poems of China's elite during the sixteenth century. These poems are from The Anchor book of Chinese Poetry, published by Anchor Books in 2005. The poems were translated by the book's editors, Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping.



The first poet of that period we look at is Yang Shen, born in 1488 and died in 1599. (It seems unlikely that he lived to such and old age, but these are dates the book gives). He began his life as a high-placed member of Chinese society, but fell from the emperor's grace and was sentenced as a convict to permanent military service in exile. During his 35 years of exile, Yang Shen became a very successful and prolific writer and scholar, traveling widely in his mind even as his body remained stuck far away in Yunnan province.


On Spring
Ocean wind blows ocean trees
and for ten days I shut my doors,
sitting here, grieving the loss of spring blooming
and counting red petals falling the wall.



The next poem is by Wang Shizen, born 1526 and died 1590. Wang was another highborn. He passed the highest imperial exams and achieved high position, but returned to the capital in an unsuccessful attempt to save his father, a famous military man who had been ordered executed by the prime minister, Wang's enemy.

After this, no longer able to sustain regular postings, he turned his life to writing and scholarship and became a leading literary light of his day.


Climbing Up the Taibai Tower

It is said in the past Li Bai
gave a long howl and climbed up this tower.
Once he paid a visit here
and his high reputation remains for a hundred generations.
Behind the white clouds the sea dawns
with a bright moon, a celestial gate, and autumn.
As if to greet Li Bai's return,
the Ji river water flows with music



Gao Panlong (1562-1626) came from a wealthy family of landowners who gave him away to a granduncle who was unable to have his own children. A neo-confucianist, a stoic and a fatalist, he became a serious scholar. After a political schism in 1593, he was demoted and sentenced to live far from the capital as a jail warden in Guangdong province.

After the death of the emperor, Gao's friends came back to power, appointing him to a number of important positions. Another political turnaround 1624 put him in jeopardy again, this time for his life. Learning that imperial bodyguards were coming to get him, he drowned himself in a pond on his family's estate.

This poem describes his life as a scholar.


Idle in Summer

I sit in meditation in the long summer,
not a single word all day.
You ask me how can I do that?
My heart is at ease when I have nothing to do.
Fishing boars are returning in fine drizzle,
children are noisy in woods.
Northern wind suddenly turns south,
the sun sets behind a distant mountain.
I feel happy at this scene
and pour a drink to go with this great mood.
Gulls fly away from the pond.
In twos they keep coming back.



Zhang Dai (1597-1684) was born into a family of wealthy scholars and officials. He was a tea connoisseur and like his family lived extravagantly, surrounded by elegant art and fine antiques. This life of ease changed after the 1644 Mongol invasion when he lost all and fled to the mountains where he lived as a hermit - penniless, hungry and cold - for the rest of his life. Many say he wrote many of his finest pieces during these difficult last years.


fromTen Scenes of the West Lake: Broken Bridge in Melting Snow


A long bank and shade of tall willow.
Sparse moonlight shifts through.
My feet step in the loose sand
as if walking in snow.








There's something about driving on a long highway, listening to old music, that brings back old times, old regrets.

I wrote this last week while on I-10 heading west.



singing with Peter, Paul and Mary

it's raining in Alpine
they said
but I'm still
a long way from there,
doing 80
under clear
West Texas
skies,
singing along
with Peter, Paul
and Mary
with her long
blond hair
and strong
clear voice
and we're
singing about
hammers and
lemon trees
and fast race horses
and magic dragons
just like we
did back in the
day,
good days,
those several months
in '64-'65 when it
looked like it was all
going work out really
OK, when it seemed
peace and love
and social justice
were within our grasp,
sure, then, that we
were a better,
brighter
future,
not just regurgitations
of the dismal
past

that future is with us, now,
and what cynics we have
become in this new age,
our better selves
laughable
and remote








I don't use Charles Entrekin often. His poems are very personal and indirect and centered on relationships. You have to be in a mood to set yourself aside so that you can slip into his mind before the poems work. They are not poems that can be experienced successfully from the outside. I guess I'm in one of those moods today because I really enjoyed this poem.

The poem is from Entrekin's book In This Hour, published by Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press in 1989.



Point Pinole

Lying in sunlight, I know her like memory
eyes closed, freshly
fallen, veins and dreams over her eyelids.
I stare into Eucalyptus leaves, watch
two black fishermen hold up their catch
to one another. In the distance
behind the Golden Gate, the sun
casts everything in pink. In a few minutes
we will leave. Nothing will be the same.

A barge creeps across the skyline.
She sits up, legs straight out like a child,
and I see beyond here, almost breaking,
the top branches caught in the heavy wind,
bending something inside me, and yes,
this is what follows, these winds
blowing always from the same direction,
from what we leave behind,
a reality of mornings,
of lone day after another,
of keeping safe in a safe house.








Alex Stolis is writing a series of poems based on the Tarot deck. Here is the third in that series.



Card III

The Empress becomes an Agnostic


she imagines blackbirds flying in a straight line
over flat land, wonders how love feels when it's raw
before the sharp edge of regret cuts down the sun.

night drifts to dream and she sews a scarecrow
using rags from the past.
she'll hide her sins and wrap his straw arms

around herself to keep warm. she never believed
in second chances and even now is not willing
to trade memories for repentance.

one day, when loneliness is gone and forgotten
she'll hear a voice catch in the wind and listen
for the distant sound of beating wings.








My next poem is by Michael Van Walleghen, professor of English, at the time his book was published, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The poem is from his book Blue Tango, published in 1989 by the University of Illinois. This is his second book. His first was The Wichita Poems.

There's usually a at least a touch of humor in Van Walleghen's poems, as well as an air of exaggeration. He writes about his father often, the kind of off-kilter father you wouldn't want to have yourself, but one who would be fun if he was the father of your best friend.



Peach Isle

first the sky turns green, then
green-black, crepitating, alive

with lightening. Car lights
start coming on, streetlights

the lights in riverside apartments -
while on the river there begins

a cacophony of anxious whistles
thunder, the clangorous alarms

of a channel buoy, close by....
This is not a good idea Joe

I hear my mother say. Already
an icy spray has soaked us

to the bone. Our stupid oars
are useless. We bobble merely

in the wake of motorboats, yachts -
everyone fleeing for cover but us

and the keening oar-boat dreadnoughts
anchored in the gloom above Peach Isle

our Sunday paradise and picnic spot.
I'm six weeks old on this picnic

an infant Jonah, fitfully asleep
still dreaming the panicky instant

of his own conception - dreaming
monstrous fish, the destruction

of cities, all the Hieronymus
Bosch landscapes of 1938....

Let's throw him overboard Bernice
my father whispers, Otherwise

it starts to rain - egg-sized hail
starts bouncing from the seats

and we huddle there like refugees
machine-gunned in their dinghy....

Sinking instantly, sucked down
like the swatted flies I'd throw

years later, when the war was over
to sunfish on our bright lagoon -

eight years old, mysteriously alive
a stormy price living with impostors.








Jim Corner is, like me and many of the poets I've met in internet workshops, a retired person, in his case, a retired minister. There are many of us who, given time after a busy life, find the exercise of poetry a way to keep our brains from coagulating as well as a way to think about things in our life we never had time to think about in any serious, sustained way before.



Several Ways to Spend the Hours

I never thought I would splurge
five days, each week alone,
attached by your love - connected
by cell phone. Strange how my
retirement dream consists of hours
to fill: discoveries at Starbucks,
those vanilla cinnamon twists,
meeting a woman with theology
darn near mine, a man whose alloy
leg allows him to ride his motored
tricycle, a reporter who asked
for an interview before writing
an article about my poetry.

I almost never read the paper
except for movie reviews;
I find better writers on CNN
or NPR. That's not all: I love
to converse; those dialogues
and interviews fill my cup
along with my aromatic java.

I sing beneath my breath
"I love coffee, I love tea;
I love java and java loves me -
a cup, a cup, a cup!"

My wrist watch reports moments
and hours. Today we will meet for lunch
about noon; we will chat about you
and the Mexican children you teach,
about this poem I composed
as you crossed Apache Trail at 6:30
a.m. this morning.

I sing the old ballad, Silver Threads
Among the Gold: "Darling we are growing
older, silver threads among the gold,"
huummmm....








My next poem is by Steve Healey from his book Earthling published by Coffee House Press in 2004.

Healey teaches writing to prisoners in several Minnesota Correctional Facilities and is Associate Editor of Conduit Magazine.



I live two doors down from the powerball winner

She's bathrobed in her backyard,
    her first cigarette of the day.

The sun just scalped her lilac hedge,
    she's headlined in orbit.

Doing last night's dishes I soap
    her queendom logarithmically,

Rooftops free from gravy stain,
    hills of misc. sink below skyline.

It's all you minus the germs:
    everyone wins a staring contest.

Everyone either spoon, fork, or knife,
    that's what I try to remember.

Give the dog a bone for love,
    find something else to hold.

Those buttercups weren't lying
    to our chins (weren't the TV people

more beautiful in person?).
    Same with grass blades, just mown,

greener than green, despite no rain.
    Not real rain whose rust licks

a few generations, not lightning
    as your now-disposable time/income.

Dear Director of Human Resources,
    my nom de guerre is good neighbor.

I'd like to be swaddled in the Battle
    of Hastings, as seen on tapestry.

This is only a test. One if by land,
    two if by three. So much quiet,

gossip makes it a garment
    we share like a short alley.

Surround my arousal, if you would,
    with pocket-sized Presidents.

According to Pentagon sources
    the bellybutton can't be located,

there's no source. As a result,
    congratulations, and welcome

to the Fertile Crescent. Do you
    need a light? How about some sugar?








Ku Sang was born in Seoul in 1919 but grew up in what is now North Korea. After studying in Japan, he returned and began to work as a journalist, then was forced to flee to the southern part of Korea before the Korean War. He was an editorialist and columnist in one of the major Korean newspapers for many years. He taught in universities and published many volumes of poems and essays, as well as writing a number of plays. He died n 2004.

This poem was taken from his book Wastelands of Fire, originally published in 1984 under the title From Dreyfus' Bench. It was republished under its new name in 2000 by Forest Books.



Here and there

A turnip field on a mountainside.
Around an ancient, springtime-drowsy rock
a single blowfly buzzes.

It comes and goes, all the time,
among old, panlid-like pats of dung
that lie in the grass on the crestward path,
now perching low on the rock's shaded waist,
now squatting high on its sunburned brow,
now moistening itself at the stagnant water
held in deep pits on the rocky crown,

then delicately folding its legs in prayer,
depositing spots of pustular waste
or laying tiny, nit-like eggs,

then flying off to land on a spring chrysanhemum's
                                      stamens,
a single red spot in the midst of the turnip field,
and there, like a little boy hypnotized by a cinema screen,
stares down at fields, rivers, roads,
as they stretch out level to the far horizon

and suddenly the world seems all suspended,
like a green, dead body,
a moment without the sound of breathing,
a moment delivered from starvation, disdain and
                                      slaughter,

this moment, without curses or conspiring,

and somehow, blowfly, dungfly,
as if for you this stillness
bead a grieving fear,
echoing, your buzzing seems to weep.








Shafter, Texas is about two/thirds of the way between Marfa and Presidio, on the Presidio side. The first you see of it as your crest a hill is the white steeple of a church in a little valley below. Then, as you pass the church, you see crumbled, overgrown brick buildings on either side of the road. I wrote the next poem, which tells a little of the story of Shafter. In a way, Shafter is unique only that it is a whole town that has faded away. As you pass through this whole badlands region you see abandoned homes and buildings frequently, adobe, brick, wooden structures where people once at least temporarily found a way to live in this rough country. But it doesn't ever seem to have lasted.

The latest example of this is the town of Lajitas, bought by a developer who built a championship golf course and an international airport and luxury condominiums on the theory that there were people of great wealth around the world who would be willing to pay big bucks to get away from it all. What he discovered is that people who said they wanted to get away from it all really didn't mean all.

If you want to buy a town not too cheap, the owner Lajitas recently declared bankruptcy and is willing to talk.

Anyway, that's another story. This is the poem about Shafter.



ghost town

Robert Speed,
a Texas Ranger,
known as a
rowdy drinker
and bully
of the weak
was killed here,
shot twice with a 45
colt revolver
by William Howell
in his saloon

the day before,
Speed
shot Howell's
dog
and since Howell
was holding the dog
at the time
it was assumed
by most in Presidio
County the dog
was not the
target

most agreed
it was a clear case of
self-defense


on Cibolo Creek
at the east end
of the Chinati Mountain,
16 miles north
of Presidio
or 16 miles
north of nowhere
you'd probably say
if you'd ever been
to Presidio

a ghost town
now, but in 1880
is was a silver mining
town, growing to
1,500 souls, all
well cared for now
by a new church,
white, with a steeple
that shines bright
in the West Texas sun

all the rest
is old stories
and crumbling brick








Now, back to the travels of Blaise Cendrars, half a world away from where we last left him.



fromIslands

I. Chow

The little port city is very busy this morning
Coolies - Tagals Chinese Malays - are unloading a big junk with a
  golden stern and sails of woven bamboo
The cargo is china from the big island of Japan
Swallows’ nests harvested in the caves of Sumatra
Sea cucumbers
Ginger preserves
Pickled bamboo shoots
All the merchants are very excited
Mr. Noghi pretentiously dressed in an American-made checkered suit
  speaks very good English
Which is the language these gentlemen use in their arguments
Japanese Kanaks Tahitians Papuans Maoris and Fijians


III. The Red-Crested Adder

Using he hypodermic needle he administers several injections of
  Doctor Yersin's serum
Then he enlarges the arm wound making a cruciform incision with the
  scalpel
He makes it bleed
Then he cauterizes it with a few drops of lime hypochlorite


IV. Japanese House

Bamboo stalks
Thin boards
Paper stretched across frames
There is no real heating system


V. Little Garden

Lilies chrysanthemums
Cycads and banana trees
Cherry trees in bloom
Palm trees orange trees and wonderful coconut palms loaded with fruit


VI. Rock Garden

In a basin filled with Chinese goldfish and fish with hideous mouths
A few have little silver rings through their gills


VII. Light and Delicate

The air is balmy
Amber musk and lemon flowers
Just being alive is true happiness


VIII. Keepsake

The sky and the sea
The waves come in to caress the roots of the coconut palms and the big
  tamarinds with metallic leaves


IX. Fishy Cove

The water is so calm and so clear
In its depths you can see the white bushy coral
The prismatic sway of suspended jelly fish
The fish darting pink yellow lilac
And beneath the waving seaweed the azure sea cucumbers and the
  green and violet sea urchins









Dave Ruslander and I have been critiquing each other's work on workshop forums for nearly ten years now. It's always a pleasure to sit down and take a read with him through his book Voices In My Head




James River

Silver-blue water boils,
pounds boulders,
roils alive.

Whirlpools swirl and
I taste eddies.
Vortices rush my ears.
My eyes skitter over whitecaps
that tickle running water.

Up a path through the trees,
away from the river,
a stagnant green pool waits.
A weathered pier reaches
toward pond's center
where a white-haired man
swishes his fly rod.

Back and forth rhythm,
nine o'clock, twelve o'clock, three.
He casts an offering
and optimistic whim.

The bait skates
and the line floats after
nothing that I can see.









Next, two more entries from the journal of Julia Alvarez. (I know they aren't really journal entries, but that's the way they read to me and that's the way I think of them.) These are from her book Homecoming published by Grove Press in1984.



I met a man at self-improvement
weekend. Most people who were there were sad,
divorced and sad, or in bad marriages
they couldn't leave for convincing arguments
they sadly told about. When his turn came,
he said right out, I want to sleep with you
and touched my hand. The leaders of the group
invited me to share whatever came
into my head. The sad participants
waited; his sad eyes wouldn't let me go.
My sad ex came to mind. He said he hadn't
meant for us to go bad, he loved me so....
Couldn't we try once more? I looked the man
straight in the eyes and sadly answered both.

**************************************

A man invited me to eat with him
at the Sirloin Saloon. I accepted
although I'm borderline vegetarian
and conversation was all I wanted....
don't ask me why. I said, I know I'm not
supposed to come unless in the back of
my mind I think maybe we've got a lot
in common and could maybe fall in love.
Of course, that's the prime cut! Most likely we're
both starved for sex and split up when we get
too serious. We gabbed till our order
cooled down. It was a pleasure to have met
a woman he could just talk to, he said.
My steak was raw. I cut it and it bled.








Such a sad life had Sylvia Plath, always heading, it seems, into some dark night. Even her poems on motherhood have in them some dark air of despair.



Morning song

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
in my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.








Here are several little bits of observation from my drive last weekend.



three bits

1
driving due east
directly into the early sun
on a flaming sea of
orange glare
and haloed silhouettes

2
vulture circles
overhead
rising with desert
heat
falling between
shadowed
canyon walls

3
snake
crosses ahead of me
head swaying
left and right, pulling
its long body
behind,
slowly slithers
behind a boulder
beside the trail








Here's a short piece by Patti Smith, singer, songwriter, poet, and, as described by William S. Burroughs, shaman. This is from The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.



Notebook

I keep trying to figure out what it means
to be american. When I look in myself
I see arabia, venus, nineteenth-century
french but I can't recognize what
makes me american. I think about
Robert Frank's photographs - broke-down
jukeboxes in gallup, new mexico....
swaying hips and spurs....ponytails and
syphilitic cowpokes. I think about
red, white and blue rag I wrap around
my pillow. Maybe it's nothing material
maybe it's just being free.

Freedom is a waterfall, is pacing
linoleum till dawn, is the right to
write the wrong words, and I done
plenty of that....








I wrote this poem several weeks ago, then set it aside, not sure what to do with, whether it was good or it stunk. Finally took it out of limbo to expose to the world to sink or swim on its own.



watch a mason build a wall

I have watched
a mason
build a wall,
straight and level,
brick on brick,
until space
became a room,
a house, a place
of living,
dying,
a place
of love and
despair,
all from space
shaped
by the hand of man

I have watched
a mason
build a wall
like a teacher
shapes a mind,
opening
by enclosing,
bringing discipline
to unruly
thirsts
to know

I have watched
a mason
build a wall
like a saint
restores
a sinner,
bringing order
though forgiveness,
banking
fires that rage
within

take some time
from your day

watch a mason
build a
wall








Jim Barnes, born in Oklahoma in 1933, is of Choctaw-Welsh descent. In the 1950's, he migrated to Oregon where he worked for ten years as a lumberjack. He returned to Oklahoma and earned a Bachelors Degree at Southwestern State University and later an M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas. His poem is from Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry.



La Plata, Missouri: Clear November Night

Last night in La Plata an avalanche of stars
buried the town in constant light the way the red
coalburners on the Santa Fe used to send fires

climbing night and falling back again, burning sheds,
hay, carriages, whatever was set along the track.
An avalanche of stars, last night the Leonids

fired every farm with ancient light, curdled mild
in Amish churns, and sent dogs howling through field
and tangled wood. Never was there such a night like

this. Lovers sprang from one another's arms, reeled
away from lurching cars and thoughts into a state
of starry wonder no human act could have revealed.

As if by common will, house lights went out. The late
work left, families settled out into the snow
unaware of cold, unaware of all except that state

which held us all for those long moments. We saw
and saw again the falling stars course Bear and Swan
take field and farm, take all, and give it back as though

a gift given was given once again. Our lawn
on earth was full of promise in the snowing light.
Earthbound, we knew our engine on a rare November run.








Let's end the week with some fun by that very serious funmiester - e. e. cummings.



This is poem XXXVIII of Part ONE of the book Is 5

Will i ever forget that precarious moment?

   As i was standing on the third rail waiting for the next rain to grind me into lifeless atoms various absurd thoughts slyly crept into my highly sexed mind.

It seemed to me that i had first of all really made quite a mistake in being at all born, seeing that i was wifeless and only half awake, cursed with pimples, correctly dressed,cleanshaven above the nombril,and much to my astonishment much impressed by having once noticed(as an infantile phenomenon)George Washington almost incompletely surrounded by well-drawn icecakes beheld being too strong,in brief:an American,is you understand that i mean what i say i believe my most intimate friends would never have gathered.

   A collarbutton which had always not nothurt me not much and in the same place.

   Why according to tomorrow's paper the proletariat will not rise yesterday.

   Inexpressible itchings to be photographed with Lord Rothermere playing with Lord Rothermere billiards very well by moonlight with Lord Rothermere.

   A crocodile eats a native,who in revenge beats it insensible with a banana,establishing meanwhile a religious cult based on consubstantial intangibility.

   Personnel ne m'aime et j'ai les mains froides.

   His Royal Highness said "peek-a-boo" and thirty tame fleas left the prettily embroidered howdah immediately.

   Thumbprints of an angel named Frederick found on a lightning-rod,Boston,Mass.

   such were the not unhurried reflections to which my organ of imperception gave birth to which i should ordinarily have objected to which,considering the background,it is hardly surprising if anyone hardly should call exactly extraordinary. We refer,of course,to my position. A bachelor incapable of occupation,he had long suppressed the desire to suppress the suppressed desire of shall we say;Idleness, while meaning its opposite? Nothing could be clearer to all concerned that that i am not a policemen.

   Meanwhile the tea regressed.

   Kipling again H.G. Wells, and Anatole France shook hands again and yet again shook again hands again,the former coachman with a pipe-wrench of the again latter then opening a box of newly without exaggeration shot with some difficulty sardines. Mr. Wiggins took Wrs. Miggin's arm in his,extinguishing the spittoon by a candle furnished by courtesy of the management on Thursdays,opposite which a church stood perfectly upright but not piano item;a watermelon causes indigestion to William Cullen Longfellow's small negro son,Henry Wadsworth Bryant.

   By this time,however,the fight of crows had ceased.   I withdrew my hands from the tennisracket.   All was over.   One brief convulsive octopus,and then our hero folded his umbrella.

   It seemed too beautiful.

   Let us perhaps excuse me if i repeat himself:these,or nearly these,were the not unpainful thoughts which occupied the subject of our attention,to speak even less objectively,i was horribly scared i would actually fall off the rail before the really train after all arrived.   If i should have made this perfectly clear,it entirely would have been not my fault.






That's it for this week. But, before closing, I want to slip into a little bit of politics, especially in light of the late breaking news of Al Gore's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I address this to Americans like me, who look forward to the next election with dread, seeing the whole thundering hoard of candidates and finding no one about whom you can say anything more than - better than the mess we have now.

I think "better than the mess we have now" is much too low a standard, particularly considering that what we have now is the worst that's ever been. If you agree and if you would like to see a candidate you would feel good about voting for, I encourage you to go to www.draftgore.com and sign the petition.

As time passes it unfortunately seems more and likely that there's nothing that can be done that would make Al Gore want to face another presidential election campaign and the abuse he would be bound to get from the low-life sleeze-balls on the other side, but think how good you would feel on election day if he does change his mind and you get to mark your ballot for him.


re-elect Al Gore


1. climate change

hot
cold
cold
then hot
don't know
what to wear


2. selective service

wars fought
by fools
who sought them
are extraordinarily
rare


3. what a mix

curiosity
honor
serious thought
depends on neither
lies
nor tricks


www.draftgore.com.

What the heck, it can't hurt.


Finally, must add, as always, all the work included in this blog is the property of it's creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me - allen itz.

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