On The Street Where I live
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Welcome back. Only a few more days and we'll be free of Christmas carols for another year. A reason to celebrate the season even if you have no other.
It's been a strange week, 55 degrees at noon one day, 85 degrees at the same time the next day and 45 degrees the day after that. I go out every morning and feed the dogs, then check the thermometer to know what to wear for the day, tee-shirt or woolies.
A note to those who pay attention more than most. Usually, I try to find pictures that connect somehow with poems that follow. I freed myself of that restraint this week. In all but a few instances, I've used pictures I took last weekend in Austin, whether I could imagine some connection or not. Mostly not.
We begin this week with the crown jewel of San Antonio literati, Dr. Waldazo.
Don't you just hate it
When you find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator door
And you can't remember what you came there for?
So you look around and wonder
Hoping for a clue,
But nothing comes to mind.
You begin to curse and mutter....
Oh yeah! The fucking butter!
Chanting "Butter, butter, where are you?" the search begins
Top shelf juice and milk
In the back
Behind a big pot of last week's beans
In a moldy jar, something green
"God, I hope that furry thing isn't the cat!"
Maybe the butter is in the veggie bin.
"Damn! That cat crapped in there...again!"
Close the door in disgust,
Turn around and see Butter,
Right there on the counter!
So begins the rhetorical rant,
Once again you begin to mutter...
"Curses! What did I want with this butter?
Why do I need this fucking butter?"
So you begin to wander about the room
Butter in hand
Hoping for a hint, some clue...
About what to do?
A quick glance at the shelf inside the door
To confirm there's not a stick
Of Land-O-Lakes in the fridge.
Perhaps there"s a clue behind Door #2
"Butter, butter, what do you do?"
No longer a chant, but now a rant!
"Butter, butter, with what do you mix?"
"The pantry has all the ingredients for a cake I could fix.
Let's see, was it to use with vanilla or mint?
Are there muffins about?
Maybe a slice of toast?
Come on. Butter, give me a hint!"
"Okay, I give up, Butter you win!
To hell with what I was going to do,
I'll forget about you.
I'll stick you away...HAHHAHAHA
Behind some leftover casserole
Then just as before
You stand by the refrigerator door
Butter in hand
And then a fool's grin
When you realize that you came to the fridge to put the butter back in!
Morale of the tale:
Put everything back in place
Before you get shit-face.
This next poem is from The Temperature of This Water, a book of poems by young Korean-American poet Ishle Yi Park. The book was published by Kaya Press in 2004.
I enjoy very much the directly stated efficiency of Park's poetry and nitty gritty reality she embraces in it. She tells stories with her poetry, her own story and the stories of the times and places of her life.
Once, a father who sold fish
discovered his son
was a Flushing gangster
who extorted restaurants,
robbed livery cabs
at knifepoint, and bought
cigarettes and pizza
for older gangsters.
sobbing, he beat his son
for the first time,
each thud throbbing
like the long-dead planks
trembling under his boots.
the son ran away, slept
in pool halls
on burnt, uncovered
mattresses, had sex
with a prostitute,
wrap around him
like a wool blanket.
He returned at Christmas
to help with the fish store
filled with hungry,
He cashiered alone,
dozed in the heated Nissan,
wept only once.
The father watched him,
wanting to tear the blond
streaks out of his hair.
They moved in silence
through the freezer-cold stretches
of pre-Christmas Eve,
packing orders, tying blue bags,
hauling them onto shelves,
ordering more salmon, more halibut,
more cocktail shrimp.
The son, apron dirtied
and smelling like socks,
sat on top of a white freeze box,
his worn boots
hanging over the side.
He leaned on his fists,
cap over his eyes.
His father took a whisk
from a blue inhaler,
on the black tile's
gleam and kneaded
his only son's legs,
from ankle to knee,
slowly, slowly, through
the battered jeans
Under the pale pool
of fluorescent light,
one bulb broken,
too dim, the son let him,
the son let him.
We live in a country of bountiful harvests for most of us and, often, do not think of what that means. I think about it a bit with this poem.
I had no idea
when I stopped,
meant to just have
on the porch
and watch the people
but there was a
that blew me inside
and once there
the cooking smells
from the kitchen
I had not eaten
so in just minutes
I had a plate of
and refried beans
laid out before me
and ready to eat
and I thought
we are in this
life we lead
and we eat
and that's all
Next, I have a poem by Simon J. Ortiz from Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry, published in 1988 by HarperCollins.
Ortiz was born in 1941 and raised on the Acoma Pueblo Community in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He earned a Masters Degree in writing from the University of Iowa. He has taught Native American literature and creative writing at San Diego State University and the University of New Mexico.
Four Bird Songs
Is a little wind
in mountain's crooked finger,
is a river
into a secret place
that shows everything,
In your breath,
hold this seed
only a while
and seek with it.
One single universe,
only a little.
a morning hollowness
of a cave on the flank of a small hill
with its moan,
a twitch of skin.
In the distant place,
a wind starts
a waiting sound.
It is here now.
You are rewarded
By breathing he started
into the space
and around him,
cleared his throat,
said this song
is for rain
a tight leather sound
and then heavily.
the next day,
and he sang
another song for that.
An old stone
was an old blue,
the egg's shell
only moments before
under the sun
that had become new
against old sand.
A tear falling,
stirring into space
filling it completely,
making new space.
When he touched it,
and it moved,
it was still warm
with that life.
Iowa web-poet Justin Hyde hasn't been with us for a while. I'm glad to have him back.
some bar-napkin genealogy on a tuesday afternoon
in my family
it took them an average of
to get the job done
my great-great grandfather
who enjoyed absinthe
just a much as whiskey
strung it out for 103 years and
outliers like that
skew the hell out of a
straight arithmetic mean
so it's probably closer to
53 years but
this is a poem
not some god-damned
if you're a
fan of my poetry
there should be more to come
and if you're not
killer bees from
or the offhand chance
find the stones someday
pull the trigger.
Now I have a poem by Wendy Barker from her book Winter Chickens, published by Corona Publishing Company of San Antonio in 1990.
Barker, born in New Jersey, received a BA in English from Arizona State University. She taught English in high schools in Phoenix and in Berkeley, California, then earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Davis. At the time the book was published, she was Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas, San Antonio.
You, Arthritis Fusing Your Joints
Rocking on wind the house sways,
the trees pelt shadows
into the rooms, shadows in the shapes
of leaves, of twigs, of stones.
You tell me your knee has fused now.
The doctor asked how you were able
to drive with your ankle so swollen,
how you were able to dress yourself.
Could the elbows move above the shoulders,
could the fingers still
pull a zipper.
How long does it take
to fuse bones, to turn this
fleshy interlocking puzzle
of 206 separate bones
into one piece,
something to fit a frame,
You have been told
to lie down
for twelve hours a day,
horizontal, to stop
the grinding of the joints.
Stop the bones wearing
each other away,
bones that have pushed
against each other for thirty-six years,
infuriating the membranes
that have tried to hold them a bay,
tried to let them keep their distance.
This morning as the wind
turns the house inside out
I read in the paper
that two Brahma bulls
escaped from the packing plant,
plowed through a southside
and running, not ever
gunshot could stop them.
I wish your bones could gather
like reeds by the creek,
clicking and singing in breezes,
hard and green but slick
from the water, smooth and wet
gleaming from water.
I wish your bones could glide
easy as the twigs
of bones that let sparrows'
wings work, let them fly
in all this wind.
Or failing that, let them rage
like the bulls, great muscles heavy with purpose,
dark with power, pounding the sidewalks,
running the streets, running
over the fused flat ground,
breaking everything into stones.
There I was, all set to contemplate the mysteries of life and the universe and things got complicated.
and a little damp
for sitting around
the larger questions
and the universe
so i got me
some of the wood
i keep for such
to fill the
my fire base
a big problem
i only have about
a half a squirt
of lighter fluid
and i knew that
so i set out
to apply my
i wasn't ever
a boy scout
causing a quick
transition to plan
picking my backyard
clean of small twigs
and that pile
of natural fuel
the entire sunday
edition of the
newspaper of the
7th largest city
in the united states
(smaller than phoenix
by just two thousand
and i had a fire
not a roaring fire
by any means
but a fire at last
a smokey fire
a very smokey fire
such that my
in clouds of gray
and black smoke
leading me to worry
that one of my neighbors
might panic at all the
and call the fire department
but that turned out not
to be a problem
when it started to rain
putting out the fire
my hot chocolate
had gone cold
while I had been
to the fire so
i took it inside
and popped it
into the micro
wave until it
was steamy hot
then sat down
at the kitchen table
and watched it
all the while
the larger questions
of life and the
The poet is Bruce Isaacson, cofounder of the Cafe Babar Reading Series, publisher of Zeitgeist Press and author of love affairs with barely any people and Mad Dog Blues; the book is The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry; the poem is a wild and funny ride.
Lost My Job & Wrote This Poem
No longer will I swallow hard boiled
instructions. No longer smile at
people I'd like to bite.
Today I am free.
Today I am Mick Jagger's lips.
Today I am Kerouac's touchdown in Lowell '39.
Today I'm Jack Kenedy - ich bin ein unemployed!
There will be time later for assassins.
Today I am Lenin arriving at Finland Station
Napoleon back from Egypt.
Today I am Neville Chamberlain's peace
Timothy Leary's PhD
Joplin's vocal chords
I am used up - but new
and yesterday was my last day of work.
Now come the women who say no.
Now come New York Amsterdam Leningrad Rangoon.
Now comic books I'm to undisciplined to write
poems written on white bread and toilet paper.
Now comes literature rubbing at my leg like a dog.
Now come Christmas with its childish lies.
And I will believe all of them.
I'll make up new ones.
I'll buy Jesus a pink shirt & leather chaps
and wear them to parties of the damned.
I'm the vagrant with a purpose
the comrade in a Mercedes.
The King is dead. Long live dead capitalism!
Long live the bridge loan made of Rolaids.
Long live Hemingway's shotgun,
Long live the hand of God as it
fingers its way to your rectum
pushing you to do what you must.
You must tell the boss to treat you with respect.
You must stand up for free speech.
You must stand up in a crowd
of an overpriced New York restaurant
and shout - O Waste Nuclear Waste!
Tell the emperor when the people have no clothes.
Homeless & health farms, convenience stores & medicare,
tummy tucks for pets, advertising titty hope hologram.
I am the blister on the burn
I am the golden boy turning bronze.
I am Kerouac's belly,
Howard Hughes' germs,
I am Van Gogh's knife
looking back at you in the mirror.
I wrote poems for a nation of tv stars.
I became the floating eyeball
that looks over your shoulder as it
peering off the edge of the earth.
I have strip mined love for poetry.
I cracked bones like Jesus cracked bread.
That's how poems visit me.
Like the ghost of a lover done wrong.
Like a party for a world done wrong.
Imagine Abe Lincoln and Karl Marx
in the party masks of Nixon & Stalin.
The Popes collect gold, now the Russians prefer Pepsi.
I would rather take dictation from the planets.
From the strangest bottomfish scrubbing the sea.
From the worst delusion
of the best psychotic
waving poetry like a flag
in a wind that burns as it blows
I'm also happy to welcome back another web-poet we haven't seen in a while, Christine Kiefer.
Christine is an attorney in the midwest. More of her work can be found by clicking on her link on the right.
Winter Weather Advisory
this afternoon you dug yourself
out of the weather and asked
do I understand the magnitude of this day
I know ice is weighing on the trees
power lines are dragging
cars are spun in wrong ways
there is a man with no heat
who tells me lies in white
sits close to a fire and longs
for the feel of a woman,
any woman, on his arm
while a young girl with Dirty South
tattooed across her breasts
sleeps in a leather jacket and black boots
on my purple couch which my sister says,
"has seen lots of action"
My son is sixty miles north
jumping on his father's lap
saying "yes you can too snow-board"
I know a woman is in my hometown
smiling into another's eyes,
her heart beating like summer love
while down the road you
pack and move, and roll
and tell me to know the finality of today
that you've let the memory of me freeze
like the pipes around the corner
and I sit shivering in my warmth
with the electric buzzing
my stove in working order
and still nobody had better
ask me for a hot meal
Next, I have three African poets from the mid-20th century.
My first poet is Ingrid Jonker of South Africa. She was born in 1933 and committed suicide at the young age of 32. Although she wrote in Afrikaans, her poems have been widely translated into other languages. Jonker is often called the South African Sylvia Plath, owing to the intensity of her work and the tragic course of her turbulent life.
Jonker started writing poems when she was 6 years old and by the age of 13 had produced her first collection of Afrikaans poems entitled Na die somer (After the summer). Although several publishers were interested in her work, she was advised to wait before going into print. Her first published book of poems, Ontvlugting (Escape), was eventually published in 1956.
Her relationship with her father, never good, grew worse as she grew older and came into opposition to the government, of which he was a part, culminating at one point to his denial in a speech to parliament that she was his daughter.
She had begun a new collection of poems at the time of her suicide in 1965.
The Child Who Was Shot Dead by Soldiers At Nyanga
The child is not dead
the child lifts his fists against his mother
who shouts Afrika! shouts the breath
of freedom and the veld
in the locations of the cordoned heart
The child lifts his fists against his father
in the march of generations
who shout Afrika! shout the breath
of righteousness and blood
in the streets of his embattled pride
The child is not dead
not at Langa nor at Nyanga
not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville
nor at the police station at Phillippi
where he lies with a bullet through his brain
The child is the dark shadow of the soldiers
on guard with rifles, saracens and batons
the child is present at all assemb lies and law-givings
the child peers through the windows of houses and into hearts
this child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is
the child grown to a man treks through all Africa
the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world
Without a pass
The next poem is by Wole Soyinka of Nigeria. He was born into a Yoruba family in 1934. He studied at the University College, Ibadan and the University of Leeds, from which he received an honors degree in English Literature. He worked as a play reader at the Royal Court Theater in London before returning to Nigeria to study African drama. He taught in the Universities of Lagos, Ibadan, and Ife where he became Professor of Comparative Literature there in 1975.
He also played an active role in Nigeria's political history. In 1967, during the Nigerian Civil War, he was arrested and put in solitary confinement for his attempts at brokering a peace between the warring parties. While in prison he wrote poetry which he later published in a collection titled Poems from Prison. He was released 22 months later after international attention was drawn to his imprisonment. His experiences in prison are recounted in his book The Man Died: Prison Notes.
He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, becoming the second African to do so.
Here is his poem.
Your hand is heavy, Night, upon my brow,
I bear no heart mercuric like the clouds, to dare
Exacerbation from you subtle plough.
Woman as a clam, on the sea's crescent
I saw our jealous eye quench the sea's
Fluorescence, dance on the pulse incessant
Of the waves. And I stood, drained
Submitting like the sands, blood and brine
Coursing to the roots. Night, you rained
Serrated shadows through dank leaves
Till, bather in warm suffusion of your dappled cells
Sensation pained me, faceless, silent as night thieves.
Hide me now, when the night children haunt the earth
I must hear none! These misted calls will yet
Undo me; naked, unbidden at Night's muted birth.
And my last poet in this series is Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, a Congolese writer and politician born in 1938 in the town of Pointe-Noire. He is regarded as one of the major voices in francophone Africa and has published a dozen books of poetry and won several awards.
After studying in high school he began a career as a teacher first. From 1961 to 1966, he studied letters in France, obtained a license from modern literature and Italian, then taught literature and poetry at the Center for Graduate Studies Brazzaville.
He became leader of the cultural movement and held various senior management positions, including director of the Academy of Letters, director of the Center for Higher Education in Brazzaville, then dean of the University of Human Sciences. From 1975, he combined the literature and and politics and became Minister of Higher Education, Culture, Arts and Tourism. After returning to teaching for a few years, he became Minister of Hydrocarbons in 1997.
And here is his poem, translated by Eric Sellin.
I got up early and faced the east
Which I thought was made of bright red brick
Like an old temple for the worship of Fire
In the eastern axis
In the minaret I saw a body worked over by ruin
Ready to collapse in a fateful fall
Like a bird about to break with space
Which had bourne it up to the clouds
The muezzin called out as thought the new age
Would appear at the end of his cry.
I was in one of the taller buildings downtown a couple of days ago and I had one of those moments when you remember you know something obvious that you never thought about before. I remembered that I remembered when elevators had human operators, usually an older man, often in a uniform fancy enough to belong to the admiral of the fleet.
It was a feat of technological faith to get into an elevator for the first time without an operator and have to pilot it yourself.
of their ships
in their high-rise canyons
by rows of buttons
The next poem is by Federico Garcia Lorca from the collection of his poems, poet in new york, translated by Greg Simon and Steven F. White.
Lorca was a Spanish poet, dramatist of stage and screen, painter, pianist, and composer. He was killed by Nationalist partisans in 1936 at the age of 38 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
The poem comes from a section of the book titled Introduction to Death, Poems of Solitude in Vermont. It's not clear to me if that is Lorca's title or the editors' of the book.
Lorca is not the kind of poet I normally enjoy, but I am able to appreciate the richness of his metaphor and imagery, even though I rarely understand exactly what he's trying to get at.
Landscape with Two Grave and an Assyrian Dog
get up and listen
to the Assyrian dog howl.
Cancer's three nymphs have been dancing,
They carried mountains of red sealing wax
and stiff bed sheets to the place where cancer slept.
The horse had an eye in its neck
and the moon was in a sky so cold
that she had to tear open her mound of Venus
and drown the ancient graveyards in blood and ashes.
wake up, the mountains still aren't breathing
and the grass of my heart is somewhere else.
It doesn't matter if you're full of seawater.
For a long time I loved a child
who had a tiny feather on his tongue,
and we lived inside a knife for a hundred years.
Wake up. Be still. Listen. Sit up in your bed.
is a long purple tongue that releases
terrifying ants and the liquor of irises.
Here it comes toward the rock. Don't spread out your
It approaches. Moans. Friend, don't sob in your dreams.
Get up and listen
to the Assyrian dog howl.
My next poem is by fellow web-poet Beau Blue. In addition to reading this poem yourself, I suggest you watch Beau's reading of it on "youtube." I don't know what to call they process he used to make his video, so I'll just call it animation. To see the video, copy and paste this
to your browser:
It can serve as an introduction to the work Beau does on his website which you can visit by clicking on his link on the right.
I know you'll enjoy it.
Trial of a Poet
A poet in our times is a semi-barbarian
in a civilized community.
- Karl Shapiro
Funny looking legs standing in the quicksand,
Here, have another drink and try to look respectable.
Remember, you can tell them all to go to hell
And the tax man will still come to get what he's expecting.
You only think that you can get to somewhere safe.
They humor you, you know, and it's insanity that's calling,
Leaving telltale traces in all your mirrored halls,
A tuft of gray and a vein that pops a little too close to home.
And you can terrorize the Jesus Christ into their souls
But we both know that you're just a homeless waif.
Face it, funny legs, you can make 'em laugh
But you cannot make 'em feel
You can even charge their lives with bright collections.
But you can never bring 'em home or call them orphans
And they will always see the spots on your reflections.
Limitations, after all, are meant to chafe.
So now, what say
let's you and I
try to survive
for one more day.
Next, I have a poem by Nikki Giovanni from her book My House, published by William Morrow & Company in 1983.
Giovanni was born in 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee. She is a Grammy-nominated poet, activist and author. At the time the book was published, she was a Distinguished Professor of English at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
i always wanted to be a bridesmaid
honest to god
i could just see me floating
down that holy aisle leading
some dear friend to heaven
in pink and purple organza with lots and lots
of crinoline pushing the violets out from my dress
or maybe in a more sophisticated endeavor
one of those lovely sky blue slinky numbers
fitting tight around my abounding twenty-eights
holding a single red rose white gloves open in the back
always forever made of nylon and my feet nested gently
in chandlers number 699 which was also the price plus
one dollar to match it pretty near the dress color
wedding rituals have always intrigued me
and i'd swear to friends i wouldn't say goddamn not even
once no matter what neither would i give a power
sign but would even comb my hair severely
back and put that blue shit under my eyes
i swear i wanted to be in a wedding
[20 dec 71 ]
Here's a poem from my book, Seven Beats a Second.
dinner plate moon
dinner plate moon
rising round and bright
in the April sky,
spreading pale blush
across the hills and valleys
of our central texas home,
casting faint shadows
in the groves of oak and pecan
that grew up wild around us
we watch the stars flicker on
as night becomes itself,
appearing one by one
until we see it all,
the moon above,
and all the
soft night's stars,
ageless and unchanged,
while our time passes,
their glow ever-blazing
My next poem is by Margaret Atwood from her book Two Headed Poems published by Simon and Schuster in 1978.
Atwood, born in 1939, is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, feminist, activist and winner of the Booker Prize and Arthur C. Clarke Award. At the time this book was published she had been a finalist for the Governor General's Award seven times, winning twice.
fromFive Poems For Grandmothers
It is not the things themselves
that are lost, but their use and handling.
The ladder first; the beach;
the storm windows, the carpets;
The dishes, washed daily
for so many years the pattern
has faded; the floor, the stairs, your own
arms and feet whose work
you thought defined you;
The hairbrush, the oil stove
with its many failures,
the apple tree and the barrels
in the cellar for apples,
the flesh of apples; the judging
of the flesh, the recipes
in tiny brownish writing
with the names of those who passed them
from hand to hand: Gladys,
Lorna, Winnie, Jean.
If you could only have them back
or remember who they were.
How little I know
about you finally:
The time you stood
in the nineteenth century
on Yonge Street, a thousand
miles from home, with a brown purse
and a man stole it.
Six children, five who lived.
She never said anything
about those births and the one death;
her mouth closed on a pain
that could neither be told nor ignored.
She used to have such a sense of fun,
Now girls, she would say
when we would tease her.
Her anger though, why
that would curl your hair
though she never swore.
The worst thing she could say was:
Don't be foolish.
At eighty she had two teeth pulled out
and walked the four miles home
in the noon sun, placing her feet
in her own hunched shadow.
The bibbed print aprons, the shock
of the red lace dress, the pin
I found at six in your second drawer,
made of white beads, the shape of star.
What did we ever talk about
but food, health and the weather?
Sons branch out, but
one woman leads to another.
Finally I know you
through your daughters,
my mother, her sisters,
and through myself:
Is this you, this edgy joke
I make, are these you long fingers,
your hair of an untidy bird,
is this your outraged
eye, this grip
that will not give up?
My webpoets in this issue are all folks we haven't seen in a while. Jack Hill is one such and I'm happy to see him back, as I'm happy to welcome back all those who have been missed in their absence.
A season for everything
I'm setting here waiting for a poem,
looking out the window
at the sweet gum tree
with it's red and yellow leaves,
a harvest picture;
all that's needed are pumpkins.
A doe runs through the picture
I see the whites of her eyes,
it's deer season.
Two hundred thousand eyes
are searching for her,
with one thing in mind.
Then I sit back
wait for a four legged poem
to run across the screen.
Maybe my luck will
be better than hers.
Storyville, A Hidden Mirror is a fascinating book of poetry by Brooke Bergan, centered on the story of the red light district that served the needs of the men, both high and low, of New Orleans. Almost all the poems were inspired directly or indirectly by the photographs of E J Bellocq.
Bellocq was a commercial photographer whose business was centered around the ships, shipyards and warehouses of New Orleans. All that survives of his work is not those commercial photographs, but the relatively few photos he took of prostitutes in Storyville. Although the prostitutes he photographed were usually partially or fully nude, the results are not salacious, but true portraits in the classical sense, revealing as much about the character of his subjects as their skin.
The character played by Keith Carradine in the movie Pretty Baby was based in part on Bellocq.
Bergan has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has taught writing classes and workshops for fifteen years in grade schools, high schools, libraries, colleges, and universities to widely diverse audiences around the country.
The book was published by Asphodel Press in 1994.
To Bellocq In Heaven
Some people think you are
a movie star seducer/
protector of a teenage
girl, Papa Bellocq,
about your photographs.
The man who played you
learned the way of your
big view camera quickly
"producing decent portraits
in a day," as he had learned to
ride and shoot for someone else
or sing a country-western song.
For just that once
you got to be romantic,
not the mincing "waterhead"
who "waddled...like a duck"
the printmaker thought he knew,
Jose Ferrer on his knees
in a top hat, impotent
without a camera
In a novel, hydrocephalic
again, corrupt, it is you
who defiles the plates,
"making and destroying
...from the same source."
Light-absorbed, you ring
yourself in fire, dying
decades before you really
did, probably of diabetes
from those orange jelly
slices that you loved.
To the critic you are
a pornographer, turned artist
only by the crumble of wear
you had no hand in, because
your "harsh, unmediated" image
of a nude prostitute is "exposed,
facing the viewer," as she faced you,
Your friends deny
you were misshapen,
say you were "rotund
and balding," spoke
with a thick French accent,
or Teutonic, or New Orleans,
always carried a camera, and
hated having your picture taken.
Malle, Ondaatje, Friedlander,
Joe Sanarens, Johnny Wiggs, Adel
(movie director, novelist, printmaker
photographer, cornetist, prostitute)
those who knew you, or thought they could
from a drawerful of glass plates, a handful
of memories, make you the homosexual-pederast-
voyeur-pornographer-sentimentalist they want to see.
Denied your chance to crop or choose
explain, the gashed out face or re-
touch it, you leave us only 89
8x 10 glass plates, bright
flecks of a world you saw
as whole. What you did not show:
open cisterns breeding yellow fever
mosquitoes thick as gauze mattress
whores like gray mist shadow plague's
living corpses out of graves in high
water moccasin ashes photograph
buried face down purple permanganate
clap squeeze ten cent a fuck heat
hazed river air black vomit in
summer you sometimes took pictures
of pretty girls at the Pontchartrain beach.
I wrote this next poem in 1971. It was finally published 28 years later in Alchemy.
conceits of the recently evolved
some time ago,
way, way back there
in the beginning,
we climbed up from the sea,
all of us,
from our best
to our worst
and everyone in between,
we fought our way up
from the foaming, salty sea,
licked our amoeba lips,
hitched our britches
over our amoeba hips,
and began to build cities,
kill our brothers
name the stars
how full of ourselves
we have become
since those first days,
self-exulting and prideful,
crowing like the cock
who lights up the sun,
too much pride, perhaps,
for a one-celled accident
with a few optional accessories
Coleman Barks was born in 1937 in Tennessee. Although he is well known as a poet, he is best known as translator of Rumi and other mystic poets of Persia.
This is one of his poems, taken from a collection of his work titled Gourd Seed published in 1993 by Maypop Books of Athens,
Orange Circles on Lavender Wings
A moral question for the intuition: How long
to keep coming out by this pond in Oconee County,
hoping the dog will show up, the dog
my son lost track of here unbelievably,
she's such a whiney crybaby wanting total
attention and constant contact, and what
he was doing anyway with his friend Jim and Jim's dog
on Jim's father, Rufus' many hundreds of acres, remains
mostly unanswered. This is my fifth time out twenty miles,
walking this kudzu-engulfed-and lizarded road
to hear App bark just once. All the way in to the slime pond
with the rotten dock, up through pines past
a deer stand to a scrawny orchard
with my whistling and calling, baffled
that a runt of the litter, five-year-old, spayed collie
could be lost in this tangle, or ever leave the safety
of road for any reason, I try to grieve
for my dead dog, and my cold, quick son,
who seems so little concerned, and uncatchable
in his escape cars. I haven't cried yet
over the dog, gone four nights, probably
lying down eaten up with ticks and mosquitoes and hornets,
or shot by someone for a fox, or maybe alive,
decided to go wild, unlikeliest
chance. This long.
Tonight's the last after-supper run.
Then I'll put ads in the papers, and it's up to how
it is to be. In my mind now she seems a little, loose
leathery pod, like those hanging on a bush
outside my cabin, and I'm not there so I can't check
whether this one's rotten inside, or broken open
with whatever it is free and flying around with
orange circles on its lavender wings,
close to my face.
The girl down the street whom I've called
"sentimental doglady" goes out, two and a half weeks after,
knocks on every door of a housing development,
locates word of a thin, tick-crusted
something, wandering the area, stays and waits
with her husband, and there's the dog!
By God, I change my tune
about crying and giving up hope.
And now, although Susan McDonough hasn't been gone from us as long as the others, I welcome her back with equal pleasure. Susan splits her time between Arizona and Maine and I'm certain I can tell where she is by her poems. This is a dark, winter poem that has to come from Maine.
numbness, double or nothing
pages, it's all
fate, the shuffle,
it shall fall.
hard we try
I careen and
bump into life
honeyed or bitter.
so I'll inhale
in my lungs,
through each cell
like a last breath.
and I'll spit -
choke out each
bad face card
coated in its
My next two poems are by Kenneth W. Brewer, Poet Laureate of the state of Utah.
Brewer received his doctorate in creative writing at the University of Utah in 1973. He retired from Utah State University after 32 years as a writing teacher.
The poems are from the book sum of accidents published by City
Art of Salt Lake in 2003.
The Pink Clouds
In her childhood
Adah's family watched
the pink clouds
that floated over the Lake
like large balloons.
"Harmless," the radio said,
so they stood outside
in the fields, or watched
from porches, kitchen windows,
fishing boats, playgrounds.
They trusted the radio.
On her twelfth birthday,
the animals began to die.
Two foals were still born,
all the lambs but two
came out dead, one
with two heads, one
with no legs, one
like a half-chewed Milky Way.
the county agent said
but he never found any.
Adah's mare died,
just dropped in the corral.
No reason for it.
She prayed so hard
God became her enemy.
She has never liked summer.
"A winter soul," she says.
She doesn't breathe well summers,
asthma, allergies, she's never
bothered to find out.
She prefers the winter air,
cold, clear, and the stormclouds
of gray or black -
nothing that floats,
Genealogy At Fish Haven
Adah begat Carl.
Adah married Joe.
Adah lives alone
in the house at Fish Haven.
She raises horses,
registered, each name
a blood link
to the past.
Joseph out of Sarah,
leans into his mane
fast along the trail
The Lake glitters in the sun.
A redtailed hawk circles.
An ibis lifts its head
as if something
were about to change.
What the heck - having done one poem from my book, might as well close this week with another.
brotherhood of the forever spreading stars
a million billion
you's and me's
in never ending
size and shape
scattered in places
we can never be,
places so far,
to all we know
that only minds
can ever chance
to see the possibilities
of all our fellow
you's and me's
I've already gone overlong this week so will quickly exit, not forgetting to say:
All the work on this blog remains the property of its creators - the blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz