Foggy Morning Mysteries   Friday, December 21, 2007


II.12.4




This being a holiday week issue, I expect there'll only be about seventeen people reading it. If I knew who you were, I'd send you a Christmas present. But since I don't, I guess the best I can do is wish you a Merry Holiday of Your Choice.

I think I have some really good stuff this week, so I bet all those other people off drinking eggnog and stuff are really going to be jealous that you read "Here and Now" and they didn't.

Well, maybe so...








My first poem this week is from a book that is practically a relic - an original, first edition copy of A Coney Island Of The Mind, published by New Directions Paperbook in 1958 when Lawrence Ferlinghetti was only 38 years old, one of the new voices of his generation.

I had this book years ago, lost who knows when, probably in some move from one place to another.

The poem is one of his best known and a good one for this time of year.



Christ Climbed Down

Christ climbed down
from his bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
theis year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in mange
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
Pennsylvania
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carolers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
ice skated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary's womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody's anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings








My next poet, David Anthony, is appearing here for the first time.

David is a British businessman, born in North Wales and living near London in Stoke Poges, close, he says, to the church where Gray wrote his "Elegy", which he describes as a source of much inspiration.

He has published two poetry collections: Words to Say in 2002 and Talking to Lord Newborough in 2004.

David says this poem has an element of fact, telling this story:

My uncle was entertaining an American friend and his wife. His father (my grandfather) was the village carpenter, and when he heard the saw he knew a coffin was being made, while the guests of course did not. The friend wrote an account of it for his Illinois university magazine.

The banshees are fanciful.


To read more of his poems, you can go to his website either by clicking on the link on the right or by copying and pasting this url to your browser:

http://www.davidgwilymanthony.co.uk/index.html



Tale From a Merioneth Village

A howl cut through the winter's wind. "Who died?"
the young man asked. His thoughts were torn away
from college friends he'd just brought home to stay.
"Poor Hywel Jones", his grandmother replied.

The guests shared glances, knowing ghosts abide
in Celtic lands - those keening wraiths who stray
when souls are crossing - and they felt the fey
forebodings carried where the cold wind cried.

Across the road, his grandfather once more
bent to his task: the same old man who made
the babies' cots, now built a thing to hold
no hope, no future. As his power saw
began to turn again, its cutting blade
bewailed an ending and the wind blew cold.








My next poem is by Leslie Ullman, from her book Slow Work through Sand published by the University of Iowa Press in 1998.

Ullman is the author of two other poetry collections: Natural Histories, which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1979, and Dreams by No One's Daughter. This book, Slow Work Through Sand was the co-winner of the 1997 Iowa Poetry Prize.

Ullman has been awarded two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. She directs the MFA Program at the University of Texas at El Paso and is on the faculty of the Vermont College MFA Program.



The Mountain outside My Window

is the only one of its kind.
And one of millions.
I look into its face
and feel clouds moving

across my skin. And felt
animals begin a slow
migration inside me. I wait
for words I've never spoken

to arrange themselves, to push
boulders and dead trees aside.
Words from my belly, heart, and bones.

The animals move like lava
over flat land. Their dark fur
is full of silver. Fox
I could say, but these animals

are huge. And graceful as bears.
And the light in their fur is
flint, is deer streaking across

an ice field, is hundreds of white
birds rising from black water.
I want to put my arms around them
but I would be hugging air,
I learn to wait in this chair
for one word, then another
to appear like stars that only

seem, to one who doesn't know
the stars, to rise at random
from the dusk as the mountain
glows by itself, then goes out.








Now, let me introduce you to our dog. You would like her if you knew her.



reba

it is a damp night
with low clouds
that reflect back
to earth
all the lights
of the city
making
it brighter
here in my
neighborhood
than under even
the most
radiant
moon

reba and i
are taking our walk,
the almost-mile
we do every night

it's late

reba is very
jealous and protective
of me and bristles
and barks
at every dog we meet
and i can't get her
to stop, so,
even though she begins
to follow me around
with the walk-me stare
beginning about six,
we don't go out until
after nine, when we have the
streets to ourselves

she's a lovely dog, a
border collie mix,
gently and sweet natured,
and bright and curious
as a young child - we
got her at the humane
society, the second to
take her home; the
first returned her
for reasons i cannot
even guess, but it's
clear they disciplined
her with a broom
because brooms
terrify her - she hides
in the bedroom when
we sweep the kitchen
and comes out
only when it's clear
the broom monster
has been returned
to its closet

it is in the nature
of having pets
that you will probably
outlive them
and having kept dogs
all of my life
i've outlived
many,
but none of those
losses, i think,
will compare to the loss
when this dog's time
arrives

but that's not now

now
she's in the den
by the fire,
waiting
for me to come in
and finish the
Harry Potter movie
we started
before the walk








And now I have poem from Whole Sky by Pamela Kircher. The book was published in 1996 by Four Way Books.

Kircher lives in rural Ohio, and holds a MFA degree from Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals including Best American Poetry, 1993. She has been awarded three Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships and a resident fellowship at the MacDowell Colony.



No Telling

Every year before Christmas
death, it seems, throws down
more tight nets than ever before
and pulls harder, like the moon,
on everyone. There is no telling
who lays a pistol, one bullet
in a briefcase and goes to work,
which one rattles pills
in the cup of a hand for hours
and who spends seven nights
before the mirror touching
the razor's edge then lying
smoothly in the tub,
the porcelain a little like the feel
of faith, cool and unsurprising,
The beauty of it is there isn't any
question anymore, only the inevitable
rising of the wind that combs the trees
knowing what is lost
is lost and this, the thin branches
holding no secrets, is all there is.








Next, a return engagement with our friend T Rasa, back to writing poetry after a four year hiatus.



Pete and Me

      I.
I always worried
when Pete's lips turned blue
it happened when he became passionate
about some or other violation
of social protocol
Today it was graffiti
We aughta shoot'em all he said
as we slipped under the overpass
I almost said
that seemed a bit severe
but he was driving
and his face was getting red
blue lips would be next
and we still had fifty miles to go
I told him the graffiti will crumble
along with the overpass
when the N American and Cocos plates
heave up another nine point five
That we'd always have spray can freaks
and it's not worth having a heart attack
Then I wondered about CPR
at seventy miles per hour
decided to let it rest
but Pete persisted
said he hated how we always
tried to make things nice
only to have some prick come along
and muck it all up
I said the Hopi
probably feel the same way
about someone building a stupid overpass
in the middle of their sacred desert
I knew I was pushing it
had to get us out of this
let Pete chill
Yea I guess we aughta shoot'em
I said

      II.
With his constant whining
I didn't care much for Pete
but had to vaguely agree
with some of his thought
and simple ideas
It would be nice if we could just
get rid of all the hucksters
spammers thieves and despots
just shoot the morally depraved
but good god the magnitude
of that endeavor left me breathless
yet didn't phase Pete in the least
Just do it was his anthem
and I depended on him
He was my ride to work
I couldn't drive since I came down
with a vertigo my doctor couldn't diagnose
lost my depth of field
when I turned my head too fast
Off balance all the time
I paid gas and oil
Pete the payments and maintenance
Good deal for me
but damn the constant harangue
Pete had an audience at work
A small group at breaks
larger one during lunch
oil conspiracies and communists
mormons on a mission
rap music and moral decay
how it was when they were young
now going to hell
because we're always changing
from what was good
to who knows what
His veins never popped
when he spoke to his group
they never disagreed
only my retorts colored his face
Close to quitting time
I wondered if I could
keep the conversation topical
Yea right I thought

      III.
Twenty miles south of town
we passed a couple of oddly dressed
young something or others
Orange and green spiked hair
faces full of pins and darts
skinny with black tooth smiles
trying to change a tire
Pete didn't even slow down
or swerve to give them room
blew past like a formula one
I wouldn't want to stay within
a hundred feet of someone
who looked like that he said
I said it's just a style
My neighbors looked askance at me
when I grew duck-tails as a teen
My dad said his uncles told his dad
he'd never amount to anything
when he trained his pompadour
then said very little
when he returned from the war
with a purple heart
Get over it I said
but his face was puffing up
He was nearing apoplectic
I sensed his eyes roll back
the steering wheel steady and unmoving
Slumped in my seat
I could barely see the looming culvert
as the sound of tires on gravel
roared above the wind noise
I felt the impact in the chest
remember a far off siren
the sound of shearing steel
a hand on my shoulder
telling me it was all right now
they were here
and I would be ok
I looked toward Pete
but there was just a mass
of tangled metal
Six days later in a foggy room
a nurse said he's awake
heard my brother ask me
if I thought I was going to make it
Couldn't talk
with the tube in my throat
blinked twice for no
Brother ambled over
well Pete I don't know
if I can get here tomorrow but
I'll check in on you thursday
for sure
I stared and tried to nod
I'll have to get used
to having a name
after living so long
without one.








My next poem is by Travis Watkins from his book My Fear is 4 U published in 2006 Laymen Lyric Productions of Houston.

Watkins is an exciting young poet.

Here's what they say about him at laymenlyric.com, a website where you can hear Watkins read as well as a number of other young poets. I'm going to be putting that website on my links, so you'll be able to click on the link to check it out. Once you get to the site, click on poets and you'll a large selections of poets to choose from, including Watkins.

Anyway,here's what they say about Travis Watkins.

As a 6 foot 4 inch 300 pound former Division 1 football star, Travis Watkins doesn't seem to fit the image of a stereotypical Spoken Word Poet. Yet as the winner of the coveted National College Language Association Award for poetry, and a top 8 National Poetry Slam Ranking, it's clear that Travis isn't concerned with images and stereotypes.

Travis spent 4 years as a starter and 2 year team captain of the University of Kansas football team, where he was honored as a finalist for the District V Academic All-American Team, before graduating with honors in U.S. History and African American Studies in 2005. While attending K.U., Travis also managed to find time to volunteer as a mentor to "at-risk" youth at VanGo Mobile Arts, while making a name for himself as a dynamic up and coming performance poet.

Travis won his university's monthly Poetry Slam for a year straight before being retired and given hosting duties his senior year. As host of K.U.'s Poetry Slam, Travis shared the stage with Def Poetry Jam Poets Jason Carney and Helena D. Lewis, and, in 2005, the scholar-athlete turned poet was honored with the College Language Association's national award for poetry.

After graduating, Travis was accepted into the highly selective Teach For America program, committing 2 years to teaching in our country's most poverty ridden inner-city schools. While teaching high school U.S. History in Houston TX., Travis began a meteoric rise in the world of contemporary Slam Poetry by leading his team to the semifinals at the 2006 National Poetry Slam, and making it to the Individual Final Stage finishing 8th out of over 350 poets at his first official National Slam Competition.

Travis now ranks as one of the top young poetic talents in the nation and is touring the globe as a performance poet and motivational speaker. Travis incases his touching personal stories and insightful socially conscious views into a powerful display of poetry unlike any you've ever seen. You may have read poetry, you may have heard poetry, but you've never truly "experienced" poetry until you've witnessed Travis Watkins live.


That's a much longer introduction than usual and a bit over the top, but I'm really excited about this guy.

Before you go to the website, here's the poem from the book.



"Those who would give up essential liberty, to gain little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
                  Benjamin Franklin


All Terrorists Rejoice

"And I'm proud to be an American..."
Where at least I know the bombs ain't bombin' me.
But the malicious tendencies
Of our domestic policies
Are now worse than overseas.
At least as far as I can see.
From sea to shiny sea,
Seems like this freedom isn't free
Oh no, with freedom come a fee, cause'....

If you sacrifice your rights
And give all your liberty,
In exchange get peace of mind
and sense of security
Well, isn't that just slavery? Listen...

When Bush offers protection
In every place I'll be
That doesn't mean I'm free,
That means somebody's watching me.
Now I don't want no' nut-job
Flying his planes into me
And, I'm not anti-American
Though I see how some could be.
And I don't believe in terrorism, but
Wasn't Mcvae from Tennessee?
And Malvoe was a Muslim
Not no' Pakistani.
I bet you Afghanistan
Wouldn't claim no Ted Kaczynski.

If it's terrorism you want
You ain't gotta swim no' sea.
If it's terrorism you want
It could be you, hell, it could be me.
Cause' hate's not innate, it's taught
And it ain't no' foreign theory.
So before you look at me with complexity
Let's examine history.

Now, everybody loved Osama
When he was killin' those commies.
And we gave a damn about Sadam
Till he affected currencies.
Then we go and set up shop
On land that's called holy.
And if you want something to top
We take the side of Israelis.

All evil has a cause
Even Hitler blamed treaties
And, all evil has a cause
Even if it's not rightfully.

So we can fight the war on terror
But, don't forget our liberties
Cause', all terrorists rejoice
When we destroy democracy.

All terrorists rejoice
We've...
Destroyed democracy

Fall 2003








I've been noticing how expressive some people's faces are as they talk and how different that is from the normal blank look with which I usually face the world.



know what I mean?

i've
been watching
faces,
watching
their expressions
as people talk

i'm a bit of a
stoneface
myself, well not
entirely stoneface,
i can do maybe
three different
faces,
mean,
pissed-off,
and mean and pissed-off,
but I have to concentrate
to do them and
not a one of the three
is much use in non-
adversarial
social
situations

(this doesn't count
the goofy
look
that comes over me
way too often,
with no effort
on my part)

dissatisfied
with my own minimalism
face-wise,
i've
been watching,
thinking
i could maybe
learn a thing or to
by watching others,
studying them,
you might say
and I've run across,
just in the past two days,
two fascinating
faces,
both girls
in their twenties
who must be
master-orators
in the nonverbal
world,
faces so expressive
i could almost
hear them
talking to me
all the way across
the room,
nothing exaggerated,
just casual brilliance
in the way their entire face
was involved in every word
they said, making me
feel like that skinny
weakling on the beach
who gets sand kicked
in his face by the
muscle man
who then walks off
with his girl
friend
and i'm thinking
holy cow, these girls
use muscles
in their face
that i just don't
have and no
amount of
physiognomical
charles atlasing
is going to change that

i guess when
it comes to non-
verbal communicatin'
i'm stuck with a lifetime
of eating sand and
losing the girl

know
what I mean?








I visited the used book store again this week and bought this weird little book of poetry by Rikki Ducornet called The Cult of Seizure. The book was published by The Porcupine's Quill in 1989.

Ducornet was born in New York and has lived in North Africa, South America, Canada and France. In 1988 she was a Fellow at the Bunting Institute and recipient of a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. As of the time the book was published, she was teaching Creative Writing at the University of Denver in Colorado and working on her fourth novel. The Cult of Seizure was her sixth volume of poetry.

To tell the truth, I can't figure this book out. It seems like all the pieces are a part of some whole that I can't see. It seems to be about a certain Hungarian countess of the 16th and 17th centuries who murdered over 600 young women, apparently convinced by two of her servants that she could be young beautiful forever if she bathed in their blood.

I don't think I'll be able to use anything else out of this book without using the whole book, but here's one of the pieces from the book that gives a hint of the whole thing.



3 - Magic Snow

Witches hop croaking from the pyre
Gunpowder tied to their throats with wire.
Anything is possible. Anything at all!
Hypochondria! Melancholia!


Eat snow, Erzebet; may your lips be cold-
The world is burning.
Rub your lips with snow, name the hour,
Kneel before the first man you see.
He will be horned.

Tear from the earth a rooted man;
Animated by the heat of your hand
He will struggle and try to bite.
Threaten him with fire. Lick him with your cold tongue.
He will relent, foretell the moves of constellations
And instruct in the secrets of pleasure.

He will sing of the girl crushed beneath the moon,
Of the sting of the King's scorpion,
The exact words of the talking Teraphim;
Together you will dismember Eve.

Blue spirit, white spirit
spirit of the knife -
You will hold him to your lips.
You will play the Game of Breatings.

Endings.








Here's a wonderful new piece by Alice Folkart. The minute I first read it on the Blueline Forum, I knew I wanted it for "Here and Now."



Beauty, Courage Too

The local pub, a thatched shack on the beach beneath brooding volcanic mountains, features Hawaiian music on Fridays, Aloha Friday, it's called here because, PAU HANA - work is done. Three mid-life guys in Aloha shirts play uke, guitar (slack key) and bass and sing, all in Hawaiian, songs you might not have heard before. The food's not much - beef stew, sandwiches, soup, drinks from the bar, but people drop by to listen and sometimes sit in with the band or dance a hula or two.

It's an older crowd, mostly Hawaiian. Last night the band started a song, and there was a twitter from a front table. A white-haired woman stood up and pushed her walker out in front of the band, stood for a moment with her hands raised, to test her balance, I think, and called out, "Keolo!" The man she'd been sitting with, maybe her husband, reached forward and pulled the walker away and she started to dance. Yes, her hips swayed. Yes, she floated her arms above her head, looking up as if at stars, down as if into the waves, yes, she turned and moved with swooping grace. She cared, at least for a few minutes more about the music and the beauty than about the pain.


Beauty
Courage too
danced








Ramon Lopez Velarde was a Mexican poet, born in 1888 and died in 1921, who was often called "poet of the provinces" because of his love of the old rural customs of his country during a time of rapid change.

My poem is from a collection of his work titled Song of the Heart, a bilingual book with Spanish and English on facing pages. The book was published by the University of Texas Press in 1995.

The book's translator was Margaret Sayers Peden.



Avid, Ambivalent Lips....

At midday I honor
the commendable precept of going to hear
Sunday mass; and at these high rituals
you, too, appear: chiseled profile, riotous
hair, a warm brown neck, intent stare,
ambivalent lips avid to savor scruples:
lips formed for bestowing lingering kisses
and for slowly mouthing love's syllables
in assiduous idylls, but also
for persuading a dying man
to say "amen."

Slender silhouette escaped
from an oblong window of stained glass
or from the warp-waist flask of some alchemist;
you couldn't know that at one such mass
when with anguish I observed
your eyes mist during a passage
of the Gospel, I stood nearby, ready to dry
your tears with loving tenderness,
nor could you know
what a sweet danger you pose
to my arrogance...Like the rosy fingers
of a child to a fragile castle
of cards or dominos.








It's really hard to read a newspaper without feeling the need to rant and rave. There are so many rantable things, every single day; Bush and his crew of malignant nitwits, the Texas state emergency services director who has decided that in future disasters people wishing to get out the way of, for example, a hurricane will have to be background checked before they can get on an evacuation bus, or the state higher education board (Texas, of course) who seem to be on the edge of allowing the recognition of a degree in Creationism for a religious hocus pocus college somewhere in the state, and the list goes on. Many days I find it hard to restrict myself to just one rant.

Well, here's one from last week.



where does justice draw the line

i want to write
about the four
children
murdered
by their parents
in this city
in the last two weeks,
to memorialize them
somehow,
but cannot

i don't have the language
to say what i want to say
and my mind drifts
to other things
related,
to evil,
for example

i don't believe
in god
but i do believe
in evil,
the diabolic
evil
of mass murders
and the casual
evil of parents
who kill
their children -
the mother who
smothered her baby
because it would not
stop crying,
the father,
angered to madness
by his wife,
who shoots their
two daughters,
age 10 and 5,
in the head,
then kills
himself,
the woman
who swings her
baby like a baseball bat
to strike her lover -
what do we do
with these people?

i'm a believer
in capital punishment,
i believe humanity
has the right and obligation
to protect itself against
the most evil among us,
some born that way,
i am convinced, evil
from the moment
they leave their mothers'
wombs, others who learn
their evil from the circumstances
of their life,
born or made, i don't care,
it is the consequence
of their act
not the consequences
of their lives that matter,
as a consequence
of their act
they do not deserve
our solicitude;
maintaining the life of
charles manson
for a year
costs as much or more
than sending a needy
student through a year
at an ivy league college -
I say kill the bloody
son of a bitch
and send the money
to the kid

but that's an easy case

it's the drawing of the line
that makes these questions hard

three parents killed four children
in this city in the last two weeks

where do we draw the line
for them?

where does justice
draw the line
for these four
children?








Carl Sandburg has been out of fashion for many years now as we have come to value "cool" more than his kind of hot passionate denunciation of the lies and inequities of his times (and ours).

He's just a little too corny for our postmodern sensibilities.



The Right to Grief

To Certain Poets About to Die

Take your fill of intimate remorse, perfumed sorrow,
Over the dead child of a millionaire,
And the pity of Death refusing any check on the bank
Which the millionaire might order his secretary to scratch
    off
And get cashed.

    Very well,
You for your grief and I for mine.
Let me have a sorrow my own if I want to.

I shall cry over the dead child of a stockyards hunky.
His job is sweeping blood off the floor.
He gets a dollar seventy cents a day when he works
And it's many tubs of blood he shoves out with a broom
    day by day.

Now his three-year-old daughter
Is in a white coffin that cost him a week's wages.
Every Saturday night he will pay the undertaker fifty
    cents till the debt is wiped out.

The hunky and his wife and the kids
Cry over the pinched face almost at peace in the white
    box.
They remember it was scrawny and ran up high doctor
    bills.
They are glad it is over for the rest of the family now will
    have more to eat and wear.
Yet before the majesty of Death they cry around the
    coffin
And wipe their eyes with red bandanas and sob when the
    priest says, "God have mercy on us all."

I have a right to feel my throat choke about this.
You take your grief and I mine - see?
Tomorrow there is no funeral and the hunky goes back to
    his job sweeping blood off the floor at a dollar sev-
    enty cents a day.
All he does all day long is keep on shoving hog blood
    ahead of him with a broom.








There are many things I admire about the Whitman series by Gary Blankenship. First, of course, there's the elegance of his language, but, also, the sense of history he brings to each piece, almost as if he's writing in Whitmen's time, seeing the things and feeling the things Whitman saw and felt.

Here are two more poems in Gary's series, poems inspired by the people in Whitman's Song of Myself

The italic lines are quoted from Whitman's poem.





Song of Myself #4 - Pilot

The pilot seizes his king-pin

I grab another
and another
truncheons juggled
as my tug pushes a barge up the river
past deadheads
sunken boats
rotten wharves
and an old black man
asleep on the river bank
as the world's largest catfish
nibbles his hook clean
I juggle
a wife in Orleans
mistress in KC
nibble another at Natchez
dodging cannonballs
from a lost rebel regiment


Song of Myself #5 - Mate

The mate stands braced in the whaleboat

I contemplate the greats:
Moby who took Ahab's leg
Monstro who swallowed Geppeto
Jonah's
Orca
the humpbacks yet to be saved by the USS Enterprise
sperm who battled giant squids in the briny trench
narwhale
the last beached at San Clemente
and wonder if my harpoon is sharp enough
lance is honed enough
hawsers are strong enough
that I might join the legendary hunters
and defeated
rest
beneath








As we kill the best of our new generation in our own foolish war, it might help to remember the death of generations before us in foolish wars of their own. Like Harry Williams of Spoon River.

From the Spoon River Anthology, of course, by Edgar Lee Masters.



Harry Williams

I was just turned twenty-one,
And Henry Phipps, the Sunday-scholl superintendent
Made a speech in Bindle's Opera House.
"The honor of the flag must be upheld," he said,
"Whether it is assailed by a barbarous tribe of
    Tagalogs
Or the greatest power in Europe."
And we cheered and cheered the speech and the flag
    he waved
As he spoke.
And I went to the war in spite of my father,
And followed the flag till I saw it raised
By our camp in a rice filed near Manila,
And all of us cheered and cheered it.
But there were flies and poisonous things;
And there was the deadly water,
And the cruel heat,
And the sickening, putrid food;
And the smell of the trench just back of the tents
Where the soldiers went to empty themselves;
And there were the whores who followed us, full of
    syphilis;
And beastly acts between ourselves or alone,
With bullying, hatred, degradation among us,
And days of loathing and nights of fear
To the hour of the charge through the steaming
    swamp,
Following the flag,
Till I fell with a scream, shot through the guts.
Now there's a flag over me in Spoon River!
A flag! A flag!








We went out to dinner a couple of nights ago and mariachis at a party across the room reminded of some earlier times.



volver

dinner
at Casasol
tonight,
chili con queso,
crispy taco,
margarita
on the rocks,
the stuff I like,
and at the other end
of the room
some kind of party,
with mariachis
playing my favorites -
Volver,
El Rey,
Jalisco -
reminding me
of the years I spent
working further
south
and the parties
at the end
of every month,
men only,
bbq and lots
of beer
and singing,
always singing,
gathered around
Gustavo
and his guitar,
full-fed,
some-drunk,
and singing
all those wild
and mournful
Mexican songs
of love and
loss and
brave soldiers of the
revolution








Neeli Cherkovski was born 1945 in California. He has written biographies of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Charles Bukowski, with whom he co-edited the Los Angeles zine Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns. He was a sometime political consultant for candidates in the Riverside area and came to San Francisco in 1975 to work on the staff of then-State Senator George Moscone. He produced the first San Francisco Poetry Festival and in the mid-1990s founded Cafe Arts Month, a yearly event celebrating San Francisco's cafe culture.

Cherkovski is the author of Whitman's Wild Children, a collection of essays about twelve poets he has known: Michael McClure, Charles Bukowski, John Wieners, James Broughton, Philip Lamantia, Bob Kaufman, Allen Ginsberg, William Everson, Gregory Corso, Harold Norse, Jack Micheline, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. This book combines biography, personal stories, and poetry analyses.

Cherkovski is currently writer-in-residence at the New College of California in San Francisco, where he teaches literature and philosophy. Cherkovski's body of poetry includes Animal, Elegy for Bob Kaufman and Leaning Against Time, for which he was awarded the 15th Annual PEN-Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Award in 2005.

Here's his poem, taken from The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.



The Woman at the Palace of the Legion of Honor

She does not know that I am staring at her
       as she stands in her bright yellow dress
       looking at something by Rodin,
She does not know that I believe in the solemn
       things sculpted by Rodin,
Looking like poetry
       or the secret of clay.

If only I were brave and handsome,
       I would let her hear my mind
       as I equate her with the statue.
I don't think she has even glanced at me,
       and here I am, so close by,
       confused,
       listening to Rodin,
And listening to the woman
       who stands there,

looking like poetry
       or the secret of clay

1965








Next, I have a wonderful poem from our New Zealander, Thane Zander.



My children

I don't know why, but I haven't ever written any poems about my children. It was always a struggle bringing them up and I guess because I missed the last seven years of their lives I missed all the good and bad that didn't escape them.

I was there for both births
I held Marita's hand
mopped her brow
helped her with her exertions.

The first was plain sailing
pure natural birth, at first I thought "a boy"
when a rebuke from the midwife
suggested girl.

Amy, right from birth, was a dream girl
she grew well, learnt well, behaved well
an overall joy to have as a child.

I think of the times when my illness ruined her outlook on life. Why was I mad, I was never like that, always a cool calm collected character, yet sometimes my then ten year old could get under my skin. I guess she forgave me, we talk and chat and generally love each other as adults.

I ducked out for a smoke
Marita was still in Labour
but things weren't going well,
the epidural was a sure sign.

I got back and was in time
to see Ashleigh born, blue though
the medical staff in a race for life
to resuscitate her, breath life into her.

They succeeded, but it was the start of a difficult life for all. After three months she was back in hospital, not feeding, breast or bottle, and she wasn't thriving. The next nine months saw her in and out of hospital with all manner of reasons. She had to have a gastric tube feeder, something we got used too, but having to take her out in public was a problem. People cringed. They didn't understand.

The doctors told us
she would probably be dead
by seven, a deadline
we were determined to beat
she was a little fighter
on medication for epilepsy
still only able to eat soft food
but she got our love
unconditional, and sadly maybe
to the detriment to Amy.
Amy loves her now more than she did
so that's made me happy,
after me and Marita go,
it's odds on favourite Amy will look after her.

Are we a happy family. Generally yes, we had to go through it all and have to come out smiling. Sure the hard times are still there for Marita (as we split when I was diagnosed Bipolar), she had to bring up the girls herself as I struggled with my problems. Will we get back, probably not, though one never knows.

I haven't seen my girls for three years now,
though I chat with them often on the internet,
but it's not the same, I'd love to go see them now
to share a moment or two, to dance, to smile
but alas my situation forbids me this luxury.

I'm lucky, I have two lovely girls, both finding life as I found it, an open book and a open mind. I hope both will find their own paths and make a mark on an otherwise loveless world. Tomorrow I'll sleep contented, after talking to my girls.








Some people have bad days; some people have really, really, really bad days.

This is dated about 400 B.C. with its author unknown. It was translated for our reading by R.P. Secheindlin.



from Job

Chapter 3

Then Job spoke and cursed his day and chanted and said:

Be damned, day when I was born
    and the night that said, "A man has been conceived!"
Make that day dark!
No god look after it from above,
    no light flood it.
Foul it, darkness, deathloom;
    rain-clouds settle on it;
heat-winds turn it into horror,
That night - black take it!
    May it not count in the days of the year,
may it not come in the count of the months.
That night, that night be barren!
    No joy ever come in it!
Curse it, men who spell the day,
    men skilled to stir Leviathan,
    to stir him up to war again
    and put an end to time.
May its morning stars stay dark,
    may it wait for light in vain,
never look upon the eyelids of the dawn -
because it did not lock the belly's gates
    and curtain off my eyes from suffering.

Why did I not die inside the womb,
    or, having left it, and give up breath at once?
Why did the knees advance to greet me,
    or the breasts to give me suck?
I would be lying now asleep;
    then I would be at rest
with kings and counselors of the earth
    who would build its ruins into palaces,
or with princes, men with gold,
    men who fill their tombs with silver.
Why was I not stillbirth, hidden,
    like infants who never saw the light?
There the wicked cease their trouble,
    there the weary find their rest
where the captives have repose
    and need not heed the taskmaster,
where low and great all abide,
    the slave, now free, beside his lord.


why is the sufferer given light?
    Why life, to me who gag on bile
who wait for death that never comes,
    though they would rather dig for it than gold;
whose joy exceeds mere happiness,
    thrill to find the grave?
Why, to a man whose way is hidden,
    because a god has blocked his path?
For, my sighs are served to me for bread,
    and my cries are poured for me for water.
One thing alone I feared, and it befell:
    the very thing I dreaded came to me.
No peace had I, no calm, no rest;
but torment came.








There I was, working hard to get my poem for the day.



poem for the day

I'm on the
starbucks
balcony atop
the hard rock cafe
looking down
on the river
and the riverwalk
hoping for a poem
to leap up
from the crowd
grab me by the
ears
and say
write me, fool,
before I get away

but that didn't
happen
so I'm stuck
with telling you
about the river
and how they've
been trying to
clean it up,
make it a clear
stream
instead of the muddy
river it is; they made
a little progress, can't
see, never will see
the sludgy bottom,
but you can see now
the ducks' feet
as they paddle under
water, a kind of
revelation
especially when you
see them paddling
like a power ranger
when they get in front
of one of the tour
barges, it's a funny
sight, as are many
of the tourists
but I always figured
it is a tourist's
responsibility
to look like a
yahoo
so locals have
some comic relief
as recompense
for the crowded
highways
and lack of
downtown
parking

looking down
on the riverwalk
it's clear the tourists
are living up to
their responsibilities
today
as I've lived up to mine,
making a poem
for this
day








My next poem is by a poet I had not know before, Arthur Sze. Born in New York City in 1950, he is a second-generation Chinese American. He was educated at the University of California, Berkeley and is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 from which the following poems are taken, published 1998 by Copper Canyon Press. The poems originally appeared in his collection The Willow Wind first published in 1972.

He is also a translator releasing The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese in 2001.

He is the recipient of a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Book Award, a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowships, a George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship, three grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, and a Western States Book Award for Translation.

He was a Visiting Hurst Professor at Washington University and a Doenges Visiting Artist at Mary Baldwin College. He has also conducted residencies at Brown University, Bard College, and Naropa University. He is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts and is the first poet laureate of Santa Fe.

Here are several of his short poems.



Strawberries in Wooden Bowls

You carry flowers in a jug of green wine,
and the smell is that of the first fires in autumn
when the leaves are blown into their reds and grays.

The sunlight rains through the glass.
As you reach across the table
the fences outside disappear.
The fields are green with their rain
and the wind curls the stars in the cold air.

You stand now, silent in the window of light
and the milk you pour is glazed.
The strawberries in the wooden bowls
are half-covered with curdled milk.


The Olive Grove

Up on the hill
the morning moon washed clean.
Thin dogs no longer
leap in the sunlight,
and I walk, easily, up the path.
The gatekeeper snores
in his rocking chair,
and only the wind
keeps him moving

Turning now through the yard
I recall his eyes.
The leave tinged
with inevitable grays.
With one hand
I pluck the olives off the white lattice.
Their thick skins
rinsed in the moonshine.


A Singer With Eyes of Sand

A singer with eyes of sand they said -
the western wind
                sweeps me home,
and I'm carrying you, my desert,
in my hands.








I'll finish up this week with this little piece of...well, I'm not sure what.



the girl in white stockings

the girl
in white stockings
swings her leg,
her unshod foot,
perfectly arched
instep,
like a metronome

fantasies
ensue

on a snowy field
under
bright december sun

in a white room
white walls
thick white carpet

popcorn







Before I go, I want to pass on a word to anyone who may have purchased one of my books via my 7beats.com website. Because of my error (I didn't do what they didn't told me to do), the charge for the book may not have gone to your credit card. To fix that, 2checkout.com is going to have to submit charges to your credit card now. So, if you see that, don't be concerned. It's not a new charge, it's a charge that should have been applied when you purchased the book, but wasn't.

If you have any kind of indication, including your memory, that an earlier charge was applied, please let me know (allen.itz@gmail.com). I trust 2checkout.com is correct about this problem. It will not be a problem in the future because, now that I have been told what I'm supposed to do, I'll do it.

Sorry for the mix-up.

For San Antonio area folks who would like to buy a book but don't like buying things on the internet, the books are available now at a couple of locations, La Taza Coffee Shop at Crown Meadow and 281 and Half Priced books on Broadway. I also checked on stock at the Twig Bookstore, also on Broadway and books are still available there. I also still have a few books left at Casa Chiapas on South Alamo, right down from Rosarios.

Venues for book sales are hard to find here. I was surprised to discover, too late to make a difference, that there's only one independent general subject bookstore in San Antonio. (in a city with a million plus people, can you believe that?) The chains are just too hard to deal with for a little guy like me, so I'm more and more looking into coffee shops as a possible sales point.

Anyway, so long for this week.

And remember, please, all of the works featured in this blog remain the property of their creators; the blog itself is produced by and is the property of me....allen itz.





Wait, wait, we're not done yet. Just one little piece of unplanned, last-minute silliness before I go.

D and I were having a nice outdoors lunch this morning at a place over in Southtown called Madhatters. They had an oldies radio station on and right in the middle of my half of a club sandwich they played this song. It was the first big hit for thirteen-year-old Dodie Stevens in 1959 and was written by Mark Grant.

I was either a sophomore or junior in high school in 1959 when this came out and, from the distance of nearly 50 years, I remember it as a really good year, a dumb, jerky, fun time perfectly represented by this dumb, jerky, fun song.

Copy and paste this url http://www.last.fm/music/Dodie+Stevens to your browser to watch Dodie Stevens sing this song. You can also check out a video of the Simpson cast dancing to it.



Now I've got a guy and his name is Dooley
He's my guy and I love him truly
He's not good lookin', heaven knows
But I'm wild about his crazy clothes

He wears tan shoes with pink shoelaces
A polka dot vest and man, oh, man
Tan shoes with pink shoelaces
And a big Panama with a purple hat band

ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh
ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh

He takes me deep-sea fishing in a submarine
We go to drive-in movies in a limousine
He's got a whirly-birdy and a 12-foot yacht
Ah, but thats-a not all he's got

He's got tan shoes with pink shoelaces
A polka dot vest and man, oh, man
Tan shoes with pink shoelaces
And a big Panama with a purple hat band

Now Dooley had a feelin' we were goin' to war
So he went out and enlisted in a fightin' corps
But he landed in the brig for raisin' such a storm
When they tried to put 'em in a uniform

He wanted tan shoes with pink shoelaces
A polka dot vest and man, oh, man
He wanted tan shoes with pink shoelaces
And a big Panama with a purple hat band

ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh
ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh

Now one day Dooley started feelin' sick
And he decided that he better make his will out quick
He said ""Just before the angels come to carry me
I want it down in writin' how to bury me."

A'wearin tan shoes with pink shoelaces
A polka dot vest and man, oh, man
Give me tan shoes with pink shoelaces
And a big Panama with a purple hat band

ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh
ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh
ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh

And a big Panama with a purple hat band




Ok, now we really are finished.

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