The Truth Is Out There, Somewhere   Friday, January 25, 2008


Here we are again. Welcome.

No preamble this week, we'll just get right to it.

Our first poem this week is by Sylvia Plath from the book Poetry For The Earth, a collection of poems from around the world that celebrate nature.

Two Campers in Cloud Country
        (Rock Lake, Canada)

In this country there is neither measure or balance
To redress the dominance of rocks and woods,
The passage, say, of man-eating clouds.

No gesture of yours or mine could catch their attention,
No word make them carry water or fire the kindling
Like local trolls in the spell of a superior being.

Well, one wearies of the Public Gardens: one wants a vacation
Where trees and clouds and animals pay no notice;
Away from the labeled elms, the tame tea-roses.

It took three days driving north to find a cloud
The polite skies over Boston couldn't possibly accommodate.
Here on the last frontier of the big, brash spirit

The horizons are too far off to be chummy as uncles;
The colors assert themselves with a sort of vengeance.
Each day concludes in a huge splurge of vermilions

And night arrives in one gigantic step.
It is comfortable, for a change, to mean so little.
These rocks offer no purchase to herbage or people:

They are conceiving a dynasty of perfect cold.
In a month we'll wonder what plates and forks are for.
I lean to you, numb as a fossil. Tell me I'm here.

The Pilgrims and Indians might never have happened.
Planets pulse in the lake like bright amoebas;
The pines blot our voices up in their lightest sighs.

Around our tent the old simplicities sough
Sleepily as Lethe, trying to get in.
We'll wake blankbrained as water in the dawn.

I remember the the event well, witnessed it on television as it happened and wondered at the grand new reach of ourselves.

Our friend Alice Folkart returns this week to share her remembrance of the day.

When the Moon Hits Your Eye....

July 20, 1969, Reita and I headed out of the Hotel Comercio, the cheapest hotel in San Sebastian, Spain. We wandered up and down the cobbled streets looking for a little tienda that would sell us some bread and cheese and maybe a bottle of cider. We were kinda on the wrong side of town.

A ruckus stirred the dust up ahead, men were running in and out of one of the many back-street bars, a black and white TV was set at the side of the doorway, tuned to some kind of Sci Fi show, space men walking around in the desert, and, "Hey, look, that one's got an American flag." One of the Spaniards saw us, we were obviously not from around there, "Americanas, Americanas!" he yelled into the bar, and then to us, "La Luna! La Luna! You comprend? You see?" And he pointed to the TV and pulled us into the bar. "Yes, yes, we are Americans," we said. Glasses of wine appeared before us, bits on ham on wedges of bread, and everyone singing, "La Luna! La Luna!" It seemed that all men really are brothers, and for that moment, we were their sisters.

We'd been traveling down through France and into Spain, snugly contained on an endless train ride, and had only got off because the town looked so nice. We weren't even sure where in Spain we were. We'd spent the day finding a room, wandering through shops and going down to look at the beach. We hadn't seen a newspaper, even a Spanish one, nor heard a radio or seen a TV, in days, and here our own country had gone off and landed on the moon without us.

La Luna, La Luna,
the moon in your eye

Julia Vinograd is a Berkeley street poet. She has published thirty-five books of poetry and won the American Book Award of the Before Columbus Foundation. Her poetry recently earned a Pushcart Prize.

This poem is from The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.

In the Bookstore

I went down to the bookstore this evening
and found myself in the poetry section.
But for every thin book of poems
there was a thick biography of the poet
and an even thicker book
by someone who's supposed to know
explaining what the poet
is supposed to've said and why he didn't.
So you don't have to waste your time
on the best the writer could do,
the words he fought the darkness and himself for,
the unequal battle with beauty.
Instead you can read comfortably
about the worst the writer could do:
the mess he made of his life,
how he fought with his family,
cheated on his lovers, didn't pay his debts
and not only drank too much
but all the stupid things
he ever said to the bartender
just before getting 86'd will be printed for you
and they're just as stupid
as the things everyone says just before getting 86'd.
The books explaining the poet
are themselves inexplicable.
The students who have to read them
I left the poetry section
thinking about burning the bookstore down.
Some of the poet's work comes from his life, ok.
But most of the poet's work comes
in spite of his life, in spite of everything,
even in spite of the bookstores.
So I went to the next section
and bought a murder mystery but I haven't read it yet.
I find I don't want to know who done it
and why;
     I want to do it myself.

I was looking through some of my poems from last year and ran across this one that I wrote last April.

a glad poem

of sad poems
of mad poems
looking for a
about a sunny day
when spirits are low
or a glad poem
about a rainy day
when gardens thirst
about a big orange moon
when lovers
or a moonless night
keeping werewolves
at bay
or trees in the desert
where Bedouins rest
or sand in a box
so a child can play
and dream

I want a
glad poem
for all like me
who need relief
and a friendly spirit
to make us
a glad poem
so we can all be
by sad
and mad

Photo by Jessica Reyna

I'm pleased to welcome back young San Antonio photographer Jessica Reyna, with five of her newest photos, the one above and the four below.

Downtown #1
Photo by Jessica Reyna

Downtown #4
Photo by Jessica Reyna

Downtown #9
Photo by Jessica Reyna

Passages at the Alamo
Photo by Jessica Reyna

This being written on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, I thought of Dr. King and his oratory, certainly a kind of poetry. I went through some of his speeches and settled on this one, the very last one, given on the night before his murder. Though lacking the elegance of his "I have a dream" speech, this one seems to me to hold the essence of his message.

I've read that King was extremely tired and busy and did not want to go to Memphis, but was convinced the sanitation workers strike would fail without him.

So he went.

The entire speech is too long, so I'm using the conclusion only.

Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we've got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point, in Memphis. We've got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus; and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters in life. At points, he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew, and through this, throw him off base. Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother. Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn't stop. At times we say they were busy going to church meetings - an ecclesiastical gathering - and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn't be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that "One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony." And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem, or down to Jericho, rather to organize a "Jericho Road Improvement Association." That's a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the casual root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effort.

But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It's possible that these men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as a setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles, or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the day of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?".

That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, "Are you Martin Luther King?"

And I was looking down writing, and I said yes. And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that's punctured, you drown in your own blood - that's the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states, and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I've forgotten what those telegrams said. I'd received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I've forgotten what the letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I'll never forget it. It said simply, "Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the Whites Plains High School." She said, "While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing you to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze."

And I want to say tonight, I want to say that I am happy that I didn't sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream. And taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great movement there. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering. I'm so happy that I didn't sneeze.

And they were telling me, now it doesn't matter now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say that threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

My next poem is by webpoet, Walter Durk. Walter was born in New York and has lived in Asia and in numerous places in the United States.


I left you in your apartment
as I went about my business,
my own wants, own needs,
in another place where you were not.
We spoke briefly by phone
about when we would meet again
to share a few moments together,
father and son.

To talk about how you used to fish
and why you can't now,
about the medications
in amber vials on top of the dresser.
And other things
that meant so much to you,
and meant so little to me.

Next, I have two poets from The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry. They are contemporaries, both from the same period during the Son Dynasty. The poems were translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping.

First, Wang Anshi.

He was born in 1021 to a modest family with a history of government service. Although he started out as a provincial official, under the Emperor Shenzong he became the most important politician of his time, a reformer who sought to regulate many aspects of Northern Song culture, from education to the military. When the conservative forces in the government opposed his reforms, he fell from favor and resigned.

About fifteen hundred of his poems have survived, along with a number of his prose pieces.

Plum Blossoms

Where the wall turns, several branches of plum flowers
unfold blossoms on their own against the cold.
From afar I know they are not snow
as an invisible fragrance spreads

Late Spring, a Poem Improvised at Banshan

Spring wind took flowers away.
It paid me back with clear shade.
Dark flourishing trees quiet the road on the slope.
The garden house is deep behind waves of branches.
I take short rests when the seat is set up,
with a walking stick and sandals I look for hidden scenes
but see only Northern Mountain birds
passing by and leaving a sweet sound behind.

My next poet from the Song Dynasty is Su Shi.

He was bon in 1036 in Meishan in the Sichuan province to an illustrious family of officials and distinguished scholars. He and his brother and father were considered among the finest prose masters of both the Tang and Song dynasties.

His political career was was unstable and included demotions as well as promotions, twelve periods of exile and even three months in prison. Through it all, he was a renaissance man who, in addition to his unstable political career, was an innovative master of poetry, prose, calligraphy an painting.

Written on the North Tower Wall After Snow

In yellow dusk the slender rain still falls,
but the calm night comes windless and harsh.

My bedclothes feel like splashed water.
I don't know the courtyard in buried in salt.

Light dampens the study curtains before dawn.
With cold sound, half a moon falls from the painted eaves.

As I sweep the north tower I see Horse Ear Peak
buried except for two tips.

Boating at Night on West Lake

Wild rice stems endless on the vast lake.
Night-blooming lotus perfumes the wind and dew.
Gradually the light of a far temple appears.
When the moon goes black, I watch the lake gleam.

Here's another episode in the continuing story of me and my smarter dog.

weather woes

it's 35 degrees
with a fine mist
blown in lateral
by a brisk north

it's not the coldest
night this year
but it is cold
to keep me inside

I try to break the news
to reba
that she won't get
her walk tonight
and I can tell
she's not understanding
it at all

unlike kitty pride
who's been hiding
under the bed
since I got home
lest I grab her
and fling her into
has no thought
of weather

in her canine way
she knows only
day and night
and each one
that comes
new in
every way
with no relation
to the ones
that came before
and weather
is just stuff that
of no interest
of no consequence
in the dog-view
of the universe

but she accepts
as she always
and goes
quietly to her bed
head and tail
hung low to the floor
like an
innocent condemned
then denied the grace
of a last
woe is me
her body cries
with each mournful step

I will make it up
to her tomorrow
with a slow pace
that allows
a double sniff
at every

Linda Hogan is a Native American poet, storyteller, academic, playwright, novelist, environmentalist and writer of short stories.

Her ancestry is Chickasaw, but she has written that her family's military background meant that she grew up in a peripatetic way that denied her any sense of belonging to an individual Native community, mostly living in Colorado and Oklahoma.

She was the first member of her family to go to college, and not only did well there but went on to receive her MA from the University of Colorado in 1978. She began writing professionally while working in a career for orthopedically handicapped children.

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

The Truth Is

In my left pocket a Chickasaw hand
rests on the bone of the pelvis.
In my right pocket
a white hand. Don't worry. It's mine
and not some thief's.
It belongs to a woman who sleeps in a twin bed
even though she falls in love too easily,
and walks along with hands
in her own empty pockets
even though she has put them in others
for love not money

About the hands, I'd like to say
I am a tree, grafted branches
bearing two kinds of fruit,
apricots maybe and pit cherries.
It's not that way. The truth is
we are crowded together
and knock against each other at night.
We want amnesty.

Linda, girl, I keep telling you
this is nonsense
about who loved who
and who killed who.

Here I am, taped together
like some old civilian conservation corps
passed by from the great depression
and my pockets are empty.
It's just as well since they are masks
for the soul, and since coins and keys
both have the sharp teeth of property.

Girl, I say,
it is dangerous to be a woman of two countries.
You've got your hands in the dark
of two empty pockets. Even though
you walk and whistle like you aren't afraid
you know which pocket the enemy lives in
and you remember how to fight
so you better keep on walking.
And you remember who killed who.
For this you want amnesty
and there's that knocking on the door
in the middle of the night.

Relax, there are other things to think about.
Shoes, for instance.
Now those are the true masks of the soul.
The left shoe
and the right one with its white foot.

Francina has been with us before, but it was a long time ago.

She was born in 1947 and lived for the first thirteen years of her life on a riverboat delivering cargo to Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. Later she studied accounting, French, English and German.

She has called many places home over the years, including the United States for 12 years before moving back to the The Netherlands 10 years ago. She has traveled extensively to North Africa, Thailand, and the Caribbean, and most countries in Europe as well.

She says her interest in poetry started in 1990 when she became a member of the Wallace Stevens Society . She says she is also especially likes Japanese and Chinese poetry.

Here is one of her poems.


A pine-cone on the windowsill,
its scent vanished with the years, gone,
nevertheless it will remind me still,
those days spent on a mountain side,
and night's transition into dawn,
when the world coloured by morning light.

Wildflowers, rustling corn and creek
and you, it is yourself you seek;
until that last one day in May,
when I could no longer stay,
and all was said and nothing left,
besides a pine-cone on the windowsill.

Its scent vanished with the years, gone,
nevertheless it will remind me still.

Donald Justice was born in Florida in 1925 and died in Iowa in 2004.

He graduated from the University of Miami and went on to teach for many years at Iowa Writers' Workshop, the nation's first graduate program in creative writing. He also taught at Syracuse University, the University of California at Irvine, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Justice published thirteen collections of his poetry. The first collection, The Summer Anniversaries, was the winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize given by the Academy of American Poets in 1961. Selected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1980. He was awarded the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1991, and the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1996.

His honors also included grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockerfeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003. His Collected Poems was nominated for the National Book Award in 2004. He was also a National Book Award Finalist in 1961, 1974, and 1995.

This poem is taken from The Longman Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry.

Dreams of Water


An odd silence
Falls as we enter
the cozy ship's-bar.

The captain, smiling,
Unfolds his spyglass
And offers to show you

The obscene shapes
Of certain islands,
Low in the offing.

I sit by in silence.


People in raincoats
Stand looking out from
ends of piers.

A fog gathers;
And little tugs,
Growing uncertain
Of their position,
Start to complain
With the deep and bearded

Voices of fathers.


The season is ending.
White verandahs
Curve away.

The hotel seems empty
But, once inside,
I hear a great splashing.

Behind doors
Grandfathers loll
in steaming tubs,

Huge, unblushing.

I wrote this early in the week.

Sometimes you just have to say enough's enough.

new year's resolution

it was a painful
terrible day,
but not the only
day of pain
and terror in our
or likely in our

it is a day to be
marked in black
on all the calendars
in our future
and it is time,
now, seven years
after the fact
to account for it
in ways beyond
the murder of innocents
and proud real estate
to the ground

time to consider the
of that day
we have

time to go past
the often repeated
of 9/11 horrors
politicians use
to frighten us

time think of the
of the years since
that day

and that reality

two wars
killing thousands
of americans, with
hundreds of thousands
of other dead, guilty
and innocent buried
alike under
the rage of war

billions of dollars
stolen from our
and sent to burn
in the desert

our good reputation
bringing shame
to our friends
and comfort
to our enemies

induced in the name
of "homeland security"

that threaten our
freedoms more
than the worst
that could be done
by bearded radicals
in dry mountains
and dark caves
far away

our military
true protectors
of our lives and fortunes
brought to near collapse
by armchair warriors
and ideologues,
always ready to fight
to the last someone

all this leaving us
weaker at home
and across the world
than we have ever been
in my lifetime

making it time to say
what most do not
want to hear

the cure
has been worse
than the disease;
our response to the evil
of that day
more harmful to us
than the evil itself

it is time
we grow up
as a people
and recognize
we will always have
and the best defense
against them
is not making more
but making more
that the best answer
to irrational hate
is rational love
of freedom and
that is all inclusive
and not limited just
to those who seem
most like us

I propose a new year's
that this year will be the
end of our obsession
with 9/11,
an obsession
that has twisted us
and made us victims
not of a foreign
but of our own

that this year
we set aside fear
and those who would
frighten us
for their own benefit

that this year
we declare
we will not trade
for security

it is not our way

My next poem is by Pablo Neruda from the anthology This Same Sky with poems from around the world selected by Naomi Shihab Nye.

The poem was translated from Spanish by William O'Daly.

What is it that upsets the volcanoes
that spit fire, cold and rage?

Why wasn't Christopher Columbus
able to discover Spain?

How many questions does a cat have?

Do tears not yet spilled
wait in small lakes?

Or are they invisible rivers
that run through sadness?

Now here's Thane Zander again, with more of his multilayered stories.

Purple Dyed Hair and other nuances.

You dye your graying hair purple, a sign that things aren't sitting well with your aging. No matter how many times people say things like "you look great" and "I wish I was in your shape at your age" don't weigh too heavily on your disposition. Even I have said you are great, but still, the changing of hair colour and lipstick (a deep reddish orange) signifies that things on your mind weigh heavily.

The presents unwrapped
playthings played with
the little ones
dancing to singsta
Great Aunty Neva
singing Green Green Grass of Home.

The planet shifted direction
last night
a minor readjustment
so as not to collide
with an errant Mars,
no one noticed
except Great Uncle Albert
eyes stuck to his old telescope
He sucked in a breath
and died peacefully
his secret
just that.

Yes we argued, the dress was just too skimpy, yes I like it on you, but the looks you'll get from the public just not marriage endearing. Knowing you're tarting yourself up for your 50's irks me, am I supposed to move with these changes, or dare I behave myself, set a good example and grow old graciously. There's not a lot I can do to hide my advance into netherworlds for aging rockers, my long haired mullet a sign I'm too fighting it, but at least it's a badge of office for my age. Looking like Mary Suffragette the Prostitute is not my cup of tea.

Although she danced
her heels kicking up
she still showed enough leg
to intimate a liaison,
she had golden hair then
even as a child it was gold
I made my move when she
moved into the neighbourhood
star struck from first meeting,
yes childhood love
that blossomed to eternity.

We argued, this time the kids were away at school, we argued about our changing lives, about the mellow me, and the indignant you, we argued to the blue blazes until the purple of your face matched you finely dyed hair (which started this anyway). We decided to settle amicably, the grey would come back, the dresses less eye catching, the lipstick less threatening. I promised to mow the mullet and to trim the long beard. Well we didn't actually agree to anything, but we both knew what each thought of the other at such a crucial stage of matrimony. I reminded her the other ladies of the school committee would have adverse things to say about her, she chortled, a sort of mellow "fuck them."

Kids, what were they
all that mattered
in a 19 year old's summer
was good times and sex
beggar the consequences,
yes she was on the Pill
but really, it didn't matter,
she'd know when the right moment
was to stop taking it
to test the fertility waters,
a few years yet,
maybe a few months
soon however marriage bloomed
happened so fast.

I made my bed and lay in it. I see this morning the dye has gone, replaced with a new golden look. The first thought was that street in Matamata where the removal truck stopped at 19 Rawiri Street, my neighbourhood. I walked up to her and kissed her cheek, muscled my way into a packed bathroom (school clothes strewn), sought the solace of the Wahl Sheers, and gave the mullet it's final rites. The beard I was asked to keep, my badge of office.

Time catches up with all
pregnancy speeds life up
driving children around
to get them asleep
the ladies in Plaid Dresses
marveling at earth science
the secret of Uncle Albert
kept in the family until news time
in a century when descendants
dance Maypole Dances
to a pagan ritual
"Who did he tell?"

Some time ago, I was using little poems here by my favorite French turn-of-the-century traveler, Blaise Cendrars. I think I left him in Japan.

In my haste to get to Japan, I think I may have skipped these from around the area of the South China Sea. They are from a series he called Islands.

The translation from French was by Ron Padgett

IV. Japanese House

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

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 jellyfish
The fish darting pink yellow lilac
And beneath the waving seaweed the azure sea cucumbers and the
   green and violet sea urchins

X. Hatuara

She doesn't know anything about European styles
Her frizzy blue-black hair is swept up Japanese-style and held in place
   by coral pins
She is naked under her silk kimono
Naked to her elbows
Strong lips
Drowsy eyes
Straight nose
Skin like light copper
Small breasts
Opulent hips

The way she moves is alive and direct
The young look of a charming animal

Her specialty: the grammar of walking

She swims the way you write a 400-page novel
Beautiful sustained prose
She catches tiny fish which she holds in her mouth
Then she dives straight down
Gliding between the corals and multicolored seaweed
Soon to reappear
Holding two big sea bream with silver bellies

So proud of her brand-new blue silk dress her houseshoes with gold
   embroidery her pretty coral necklace given to her just this morning
She brings me a bucket of Spiny and weird crabs and some of those
   tropical jumbo shrimp known as carrack that are as long as your hand

I went through one of my periodic episodes of employment last week, a two week project that I was able to finish up in a week. (Since I don't like gainful employment, I get it over with as quickly as possible so as to return to my ungainful employment here.) Without going into details, I'll just say that the work sometimes involves long periods of waiting for some one else to do something so you can do what you're supposed to.

I get bored easily and don't do nothing well, so I amused myself during one period of extended inactivity by writing these little pieces, a rare occasion when I was actually getting paid to write a poem.

bits and pieces from a tuesday morning that feels like monday

green lichen
on bare
over brown
grass gathered
in the cold forest
like boy scouts
at camp

on a foggy day

seen from my
high place
tree tops
in cotton swirl

the hive
with low voices,
all eyes tight
on computer screens

every now and then
loud laughter
at something seen
in a child's writing
the room

a thermos top
and brown coffee
open like

green winter rain
anticipates spring

too soon

work done
wandering halls
for approval

will write a poem


Here's a little piece by William Carlos Williams, the kind of clear, direct observational piece that is the WCW essence.

Proletarian Portrait

A big young bareheaded woman
in an apron

Her hair slicked back standing
on the street

One stockinged foot toeing
the sidewalk

Her shoe in her hand, looking
intently into it

She pulls out the paper insole
to find the nail

That has been hurting her

Now, here's a piece by our webpoet friend, Cliff Keller


I am
drawn to circles:
in sand, brushstrokes,
or doodling mischievously as I
toss a lasso around the margins
in someone else's book.
I nest in its

Of course,
my life proceeds
as yours does: nearly lost
on a walk with a strident gait.
This thought seems familiar,
perhaps that’s why I'm
here on this page

This poem is from a book I just picked up today. The book is Florida Poems and the poet is Campbell McGrath.

McGrath is an American poet, author of six full-length collections of poetry, including his most recent, Pax Atomica. This book was published by HarperCollins in 2002.

He received his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his MFA from Columbia University's creative writing program. He currently teaches creative writing at Florida International University.

McGrath has been recognized by some of the most prestigious American poetry awards, including the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Academy of American Poets Prize, a Ploughshares Cohen Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Witter-Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, and a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award."

The poem I've chosen to use this week is the second in a series titled A City in the Clouds.

2. The Clouds

Times the clouds were like riven badlands, foils and arroyos and
   alluvial fans, rough country best traversed with safety ropes as if
   crossing polar seas over plates of tilting ice.


Times the clouds were umbels
or whale spouts,
fields of coreopsis, a vast mushroom farm.


Times the clouds lay smooth as a tabletop and children dangled their
   feet as if to fish from an old trestle bridge;
here too one might try his luck, over coastal waters of aquamarine or
   some green, bomb-sighted lake below,
though it took a great hoard of spooled line and a keen eye for
   trajectory and wind shear and then there was

the small matter of a fish
to be hauled into the sky!


Times the clouds were gongs and temples, a rapture in pewter, grand
   passions, coffers of incense and precious woods.


Times the clouds were battalions of tired oxen, cavalries of manta
   rays, schooled dolphins carving a wake in blue glass,

an army of animals or
a wide plain of chairs and pillows,
a soft-focused Serengeti,
a wilderness of distant billows.

A new land, a new sea.
A new world.

A city.

Something got me to thinking about short poems and short forms, which let to this little thing.

the shortest poem

the shortest

in a lover's

San Pedro Springs Park, on the edge of downtown San Antonio and right across San Pedro Avenue from San Antonio College, was established by grant of King Philip of Spain in 1729 and is the second oldest municipal park in the United States. The oldest, Boston Commons, was established 99 years earlier in 1630.

San Pedro Springs, as the name suggests, are a central feature of the park. The springs are among the those that are the source of the San Antonio River. The cool clear waters of the springs have drawn both passersby and more permanent residents to the park area for thousands of years.

Why am I telling you this - because I visited the park last week, took pictures, and read up on it's history and now that I know stuff I want to pass it on.

Before I forget, Gary Blankenship has had his series based on Whitman's Song of Myself published in the online journal Transparent Words. You can check it out, the whole thing instead of a little piece at a time, at the url below. You'll have to copy and paste the address to your browser.

Quite a fine piece of work Gary did and a fitting use of the American master.

Until next week, remember, all the work presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me....allen itz.


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In The Primary Colors of Dark   Saturday, January 19, 2008


I was so pleased with my black and white pictures last issue, that I decided to do it again.

This time, I'm mostly using pictures I took over the course of two days in downtown San Antonio. I had my car in for service those days, and with about four hours to kill each day, I took my camera and did some walking around downtown, which I do often during the cooler part of the year.

San Antonio is as spread out as you would expect a city of nearly 1.3 million, from the edge of the Texas hill country on the north side to the beginnings of the coastal plains on the south, but, unlike many other cities, it has managed to maintain its discrete downtown area. This is primarily due to tourist attractions like the Alamo and the Riverwalk, which attract hundreds of thousands of visitors a year from all over the world to the downtown area.

It is a great city for walking, both at street level and on the river.

Don't expect any kind of connection this week between the pictures and the poems that follow. Instead, you'll just come along with me on my walk, with stops along the way for poems.

OK, just humor me

Another trip to the used book store this week brought a couple of good books, including this one, Richard Wilbur, Collected Poems 1943-2004, with enough poems to take care of "Here and Now" for twenty years. The collection was published by Harcourt in 2004.

The poet, Richard Wilbur, has served as poet laureate of the United States. He has also received many other honors, including, a National Book Award, two Pulitzer Prizes, and the Bollingen Translation Prize. At the time the book was published, Wilbur lived in Massachusetts and Florida.


It is a cramped little state with no foreign policy,
Save to be thought inoffensive. The grammar of the language
Has never been fathomed, owing to the national habit
Of allowing each sentence to trail off in confusion.
Those who have visited Scusi, the capital city,
Report that the railway route from Schuldig passes
Through country best described as unrelieved.
Sheep are the national product. The faint inscription
Over the city gates may perhaps be rendered,
"I'm afraid you won't find much of interest here."
Census-reports which give the population
As zero are, of course, not to be trusted,
Save as reflecting the natives' flustered insistence
That they do not count, as well as their modest horror
Of letting one's sex be known in so many words.
The uniform gray of the nondescript buildings, the absence
Of churches or comfort stations have give observers
An odd impression of ostentatious meanness,
And it must be said of the citizens (muttering by
In their ratty sheepskins, shying at cracks in the sidewalk)
That they lack the peace of mind of the truly humble.
The tenor of life is careful, even in the stiff
Unsmiling carelessness of the border guards
and douaniers, who admit, whenever they can,
Not merely the usual carloads of deodorant
But gypsies, g-strings, hasheesh, and contraband pigments.
Their complete negligence is reserved, however,
For the hoped-for invasion, at which time the happy people
(Sniggering, ruddily naked, and shamelessly drunk)
Will stun the foe by their overwhelming submission,
Corrupt the generals, infiltrate the staff,
Usurp the throne, proclaim themselves to be sun-gods,
And bring collapse of the whole empire.

Here's a quiet piece from Alan Addotto. We haven't seen Alan in a while. This is a good poem to return on.

the missings

This morning it rained.
I tried to watch nothing but it.
No easy thing to do
attending to only one thing and nothing else.

Distractions come so easily,
so seductively,
........I am so weak.

So many things...
the tiny speak speak speak
........of raindrops on the concrete,
the livewater perfume
and endless tales of its transformations.

Would that you were here
to clear my meditation
of my meditation
of my meditation and concentration.

Thanks for the gift of the rain.

Another new book this week is Heaven-and-Earth House by Mary Swander, published by Alfred A. KnopF in 1994.

Swander is a lifelong Iowan and, when this book was published, was an associate professor at Iowa State University. She is the author of two earlier books, Succession, in 1979, and Driving he Body Back in 1986. She received an MFA degree from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop and has received a number of grants and awards, including one from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Literary Arts Award from the Chicago Public Library, and the Nation-Discovery Award. Gardeners might know her from her pieces in the National Gardening Magazine, or her book of interviews with midwestern gardeners, Parsnips in the Snow, published in 1990.

This is the first poem from her book.


No, it's lying in a field in Iowa
staring at the heavens, stars streaking
the sky, their auras pulsing out, in.
Night of the meteor shower,
night of mosquito netting and pitched tent,
the flap open to the eastern horizon.
Hot, damp, August night when the rooster's crow
folds into its perch and the cricket's song
dives into the same pool as the whippoorwill.
Night of August Caesar and St. Augustine,
Amish date night when the buggies race
home late, their wheels spinning up hill,
lanterns blinking, horses' manes flying.
Pegasus of the tall corn, Pegasus of the fat bean,
under my sleeping bag is the richest earth
on earth, and this is the night of
the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
the blessed virgin prairie, the nightcrawlers
floating up through layers of black dirt.
What awaits? A choir of angels,
a chorus of sheep bleating out how good
is the grass, how good is the flesh.

How good were the stars to lead me here,
the year of the blue goat, brown duck,
the year of the squawk and coo, the loyal
dog who barked at strange me and storms.
O little town of Kalona, Hannakolona,
Kahlua Kalona, bull town, where the gardens
are ringed in cockscombs and cannas,
and down the road little girls sing hymns
outside the window of the dying man
propped with pillows near the screen.
Their voices hover above me, and are gone,
a flock escaped from the barn.
I chase them one way across the ditch
over the hill, through the neighbor's
orchard and field. I chase them
back toward the house, corner the ram
against the fence, then Aries, Aries
is free and off through the grove
with the ewes and lambs close behind.
So bleat for the ones who never return,
the ones who last just this long,
the empty manger and stall, bleat
for the ones who come again, who ascend
in the clear air, dark night, holy night,
when sounds carry and trails of light
flit over our heads, and bleat for the moon,
the sun, the golden day when we will all lie
down in a field, nothing more to be done.

Another poem from me about writing a poem.

when the gate opens

the hardest part
is the sitting
and waiting -
for the moment
the image
the word
the stray
that opens the gate
to the poem,
like a riled bull
waiting to be rode,
to dance
to your command...

if you're poet

The next poem is from another of my new books for the week. The book is Horse of Earth published in 1994 by Holy Cow! Press of Duluth, Minnesota. The poet is Thomas R. Smith.

The book was signed by the poet in 1997 and given to someone named Cynthia. I'm surprised at how many of the used books I buy have the poet's signature and dedication.

Smith was born in 1948 in Wisconsin in a paper mill town on the banks of the Chippewa River. He graduated with a major in English from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, beginning to write as a poet while there. In the '80s, he directed a rural-based arts organization serving farm communities in western Wisconsin. His work as a poet, essayist and editor has appeared in numerous journals in the U.S. and abroad.

The Breasts

I lie with my hand pressed
between your breasts' divided fall,
the flat of my thumb on your rippled breastbone,
and remembered that mild November afternoon
we climbed the bluff at Rocky Branch.
In the late, unasked-for
warmth, we stripped to our waists
and basked above the shadows slowly pooling
the autumn dusk in the coulees.
You were n you late twenties, chest
nearly shallow as my own. The nipples'
brown roses opened thirstily to my touch
as if the loneliness in my body were enough
to call your womanhood budding outward
to meet me. Thus a slender girl in you
followed love into her fullness, while I,
who had hovered above my body for years,
fell into he blood and bones of a man.
Sometimes in dreams or in a mirror,
I'll glimpse that lost boy, hear his voice
of glass, in moments of panic feel his thinness.
And you, slowly breathe so calmly beside me,
as if you were always and only this one
clasping in her doubled embrace of woman's
tenderest flesh my hand grown familiar
from thousands of nights - Is there still
in your dreaming a girl who waits uncertainly
for springtime at the edge of an unblossoming field?

It's great to have Khadija Anderson back with us for this issue.

Khadija is a poet and Butoh dancer. She lives in Seattle and will soon move back to her birthplace in Pasadena, California. She is a mother to four children, and collaborates closely with her eldest son in her dance company, Tanden Butoh.

In another life

in another life you would have loved me
for the way I bent down to gather
the eggs

you would have loved the way
my long skirt swayed side to side
as I walked towards the house
hands clasped at my breast

you would surely had loved
the way my thumb and forefinger
held the wool
as I spun the yarn
the rise and fall of my leg
at the treadle

you would love the light
on my breast
as I nursed our child
by the fire
you would love the fire
that I kept to warm you
in the chill night

you would love
the wetness of my arms
as I washed in the basin
my neck
curved downward

you would love my arm
resting across your chest
as we lay together
at night

and my long hair
across our pillow
and the sun on my face
in the morning light

under the clouds
we turn our eyes upward
and reminisce blue sky

My last used book purchase for this week was Bare Root - A Poet's Journey With Breast Cancer by Anne Silver.

Silver earned a M.A. in Poetry from San Miguel de Allende in 1972 and a M.S. in psychology from California University Los Angeles in 1982.

She was an internationally recognized author of three books, a cancer patient in treatment, a political and environmental activist, provided expert witness testimony on matters of handwriting analysis and co-host of Moonday at Village Books Poetry Series with Alice Pero.

Featured on numerous television and radio programs and often requested as a reader, workshop leader, and guest speaker, Silver engaged audiences of all kinds, from corporations to classrooms and hospitals to local Barnes and Noble readings and the annual Idyllwild Earth Day Fair.

Recent publication credits include The Atlanta Review, English Journal, Nimrod, Red Wheelbarrow, Minnesota Review and MacGuffin. Bare Root: A Poets Journey with Breast Cancer was her first book of poetry. Ark For One was last.

Where it's At

I toss the wig,
go bald to the courthouse
in my stunning scalp
and Nordstrom suit.
I bald it to the mall, beach,
movies, poetry readings
where I'm the reader,
to holiday parties.
When people ask
what happened,
I say I'm taking a break from hair.
Because if everyone
has to be somewhere
and I'm here bald,
why, then,
bald is where it's at.

I wrote this last week. I don't know what made me think of it except maybe the sight of people standing outside a nice warm coffee shop to smoke a cigarette in 30 degree weather, knowing that twelve years ago I would have been one of those fools standing out there with the rest them.

smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette

hooked me
when I was twelve years old

a friend and I
were hanging out
over at the football field
behind my house and
somewhere or other he
had come up with a pack of
little oval shaped
mexican cigarettes
with wrapping paper
soaked in a sugar solution
at the factory - they were
real kid-snatchers, it was like
smoking a peppermint stick

never saw this particular brand
before that night
or after that night,
but that night was enough
to start me on forty years of smoking,
two packs a day in the end,
before I finally found the
whatever it was that let me quit

now the friend of mine
who gave me that first sweet taste
of tobacco
and I didn't hang around much
as we went on into high school
and I didn't see him at all
for twenty or twenty five years
after high school, until one day
I was visiting my old home town
and ran into him at a little soda parlor
where I had gone in for coffee

he was all chubby-faced and pink-cheeked
and healthy looking, a nonsmoker
for about half as long as I had smoked
and he was proud of it

and I looked like death dragged
over a rocky road,
shallow-skinned and hard breathing
and puking every morning
to clear the stuff that pooled
in my lungs at night while I slept
and I wanted to reach down his throat
and pull out his lungs,
one at a time

Now it's time to go back to earlier days in little Spoon River, the story told to us by Edgar Lee Masters.

Fiddler Jones

The earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddler you must be, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind's in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drought;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to "Toor-a-Loor."
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill - only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle -
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.

James Lineberger is back with us again after a long absence.

Jim is a retired screenwriter, sometime playwright, and full-time poet. He has eight volumes of poems and a full-length play available from lulu. To take a look, copy and past url this to your browser:

guy i used to buy tomatoes from

guy i used to buy tomatoes from
took me out back one time
to reveal
where he had fashioned a dirt basement
from the crawl-space
beneath his house just got under there
first with a gi trenching tool
locked down to a hoe
and later on when he had room enough
to where he could stand up part way
took to using his garden shovel which finally broke on him and then
on to one equipped with
the new 'miracle space age' plastic handle
that was just
coming into use at the time
and kept on digging
the thing nigh on to a year and a half
until finally
on their fiftieth anniversary two months before his wife died
he decided it was done with
a hand-hewn hole
that went back as far as the kitchen-side
of the living room
and extended crossways from the perimeter wall
of the bathroom to the shady part
of the opposite bedroom
taking up about half the square footage beneath the joists
except after all that work only things
he had stored down there was row upon row of canned peaches
his wife put up before
she left and he took out his bandana and dusted
the jars like they
were pieces of furniture but aint it something he said what a person
can do when he sets his mind to it
and he brought out
a couple of those aluminum lawn chairs
and unfolded them for us to
sit in and he said
here i want you to take some of these peaches
no charge
because you always been one of my regulars and the truth is...
and he looked around him then
at all the wide space
he had created and the tears welled up
in his eyes
...truth is there is so much around here crowding in on me
now that she's gone
and toward the end when she was so crippled up
she couldn't hardly walk i said to her how come you're doing this
how come all this damn canning
all of a sudden
and she said well ask yourself sometime why don't you
what good is it to dig a hole
unless you got something to put in it

Next, I have a poem by Lorenzo Thomas from his book Dancing on Main Street.

Thomas was born in Panama and grew up in New York City. He is a poet, a critic and a professor of English at University of Houston-Downtown. His books of poetry, in addition to this one, include Chances are Few, The Bathers, and Sound Science.

Lifelong Learning

One day my Dad
Whatever else we were in life
We should be rich

I don't like being poor
He said, I don't like
Getting up at 4 o'clock dark
Day after day
2 subways to somebody's job
To put 3 dollars every week
Into a Christmas Club
And after scrimp and save and all

What come
The end of the month
The same rob Peter
To pay Paul

There's got to be a better way

The scheme he fell for was a scam
"Direct Mail"
Was the road we chose
To riches

We sent away for
Mailing lists, ordered a crate of doohickeys
Printed 1,000 flashy ads
Return address embossed
The name we picked
H. Hamilton Richard & Sons
Would sound to suckers like we'd been
In business for a century

"Purveyors of fine doohickeys"

We didn't do well
Of course
A small fortune in stamps was lost
By Christmas
No cash left to shop
We did the best
With what we'd got
Doohickeys went to all our friends.

What never broken never mends

I was a writer for many years, even during all those years when I wasn't writing anything. I had a kind of writer's consciousness, which, by the way doesn't offer promise of being a good or even mediocre writer.

What it does, though, is sometimes leave you confused as to whether a particular incident you recall really happened or just something you invented either consciously or unconsciously in your dreams.

That's the case for me, anyway. I have vivid memories of things I know never happened.

Which led me to write this poem.


i say
i never remember
my dreams
and mostly I don't,
even though I know
some of the things
i remember best
are dreams
from years ago,
a house, complete
in every detail,
where no house
has ever been,
a house of many rooms,
a maze of rooms
that take me, always,
to where i began,
with wood,
lots of wood,
floors of polished
that gleams
in a kind of yellow light,
one wooden chair
in a corner,
and arms,
old fashioned lamps
in an old fashioned house
with high ceilings
and polished wooden beams
and everything is brown,
a house, i have been inside,
walked on its polished floors
through every room that
all lead back
back to the first room,
a room always one door
away from every other room,
i know this place
even though
i know
it does not exist

My next poem is by Korean poetKu Sang, reportedly a humble man, who holds the distinction of having been oppressed in both North and South Korea for his love of truth and aversion to tyranny.

The poem is from his book Wastelands of Fire. Translations in the book are by Anthony Teague.

Rehearsal for a death-bed scene

Lying under a white sheet,
I am carried off in an ambulance.

The evening sky hangs upside-down beneath my feet,
forming a terrible quagmire of death.

I picture my corpse like this, rigid, stretched out,
my skeleton, decomposed, reduced to bones.

Behind me, a lifetime lies smothered in error,
I have not even managed to bear buds of sweat and tears,
let alone the love that can blossom in Eternity.

No point in getting flustered now...

"Father, into your hands
I commend my spirit."

Instinctively repeating the last words of Him
whom I have only aped, not truly served.
I sever the link with all concepts.

And my breath becomes rasping.

Jessica Van Driesen is an American math teacher living Poland. Jessica says she continues to write. hoping to find a poetic voice to reach behind the surface of "normal" life.

We had one of her poems some months ago. It's a pleasure to have her back.


You have a tattoo
and now, so do I.

Yours can be seen -
although only
when you strip.
Mine remains hidden -

as long as I
keep my armor on.
Yours is of a gun,
mine, a bullet.

I found yours the day we met -
roaming your body
with eyes, hands
and lips.
I discovered mine later -
probing my heart
like a tongue
exploring the socket
of a missing tooth.
Yours is in ink,
mine, blood.

There are lasers
if you change your mind -
and can stand the burn.
But, no amount of fire, acid
or pain
will wash away the indelible mark
of a man
I want
and cannot have.

Arthur Sze is a recent discovery for me, a poet I had never heard of before that I like very much. He is a second generation Chinese-American, born in New York City in 1950. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California at Berkley and is the author of six books of poetry, including the anthology I took this poem from, The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998.

At the time the book was published (1998) he lived in Pojoaque, New Mexico and was a Professor of Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

The Rehearsal

Xylophone, triangle, marimba, soprano, violin -
the musicians use stopwatches, map out
in sound the convergence of three rivers at a farm,

but it sounds like the jungle at midnight.
Caught in a blizzard and surrounded by wolves
circling closer and closer, you might

remember the smell of huisache on a warm spring night.
You might remember three deer startled and stopped
at the edge of a road in a black canyon.

A child wants to act crazy, acts crazy,
is thereby sane. If you ache with longing
or are terrified: ache, be terrified, be hysterical,

walk into a redwood forest and listen:
hear a pine cone drop into a pool of water.
And what is your life then? In the time

it takes to make a fist or open your hand,
the musicians have stopped. But a life only stops
when what you want is no longer possible.

One of my favorite movies of all time and, with no doubt in my mind, the most beautiful looking movie ever made is Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The experience of seeing that movie four or five times, as well as the similar, though lesser, movies from China that followed in Lee's wake represent the full extent of my knowledge of the Mandarin language. But I did notice a particular sound in the language that appeals to me. So that's what this poem is about. I wrote it last week.

china silk

there is a feathery sound
in the mandarin language
that holds for me
a little piece
of the mysteries
of the orient

it's a musical sound,
something like


that purses
the lips in a way
that to me
is most delightful

the cyrillic alphabet
has a similar sound


but it's harsher
and harder
with something
of the russian winter
in it,

while the mandarin


seems soft and intimate
as china silk

My next poem is by Nuyorican jazz poet Americo Casiano Jr.

Casiano has been editor of a literary magazine called Sombra. His work has appeared in Nuyorican Poetry, The Next World, Aloud, and New Rain.

I took the poem from the anthology of performance poets, bum rush the page.

     for Tito Puente

Let's not talk of subway series
Or dead birds or mosquitoes or robust crops of pollen

Let's not talk of air raids and naval assaults eroding Viques
We both know the fish will not return to feed the young curb of hungry

The stalking barracuda is oblivious to our pain

So let's not frown or slip into moods when the empty spotlight appears on
   the bandstand
Where he stood      face brimming with that enigmatic grin
Navigating him through the business

The cosmos welcomes him
As we file past his coffin

it is my understanding      according to the flute player*
That all he sought out of life was a standing ovation

*A reference to Mr. David Valentine, flutist and musical director of the Tito Puente Latin Jazz All

We haven't seen Tina Hoffman in a while; now she's back.

Tina lives in Perrysburg, Ohio where she enjoys music, gardening, reading, time with her friends and her pets, Willie and Cinders. She also maintains a day job, but only out of sheer necessity, she says, and a desire to eat/pay rent.

Tina has been participating in online writing workshops (primarily poetry workshops) since the late 90's and is currently most active on the Wild Poetry Forum and poets4peace. She was the first woman to win the InterBoard Poetry Contest (IBPC) (first/second place in same month) in its second year of inception (Feb., 2001.) She has also been published in hard copy in local newspapers and a few other publications.

Here's her poem

Rose and her lover on New Year Eve's Day

His lover sleeps, her sight is his heart's comfort.
Alabaster skin exposed on pale pink sheets
in morning light brings a smile, a memory
of a blue peignoir and the stroke of midnight.

A kiss on her parted ruby lips, tea with honey
and lemon on a tray is his way to wake her
gently from her dream repose. She shifts, sighs,
flutters her eyes, kisses there bring her smiles too.

Together they sip their constant companion,
laugh and talk of things like love,
peace, a future; determine the day's agenda
far too busy, decide not to leave their bed.

I used some of the "Aztec Songs" Stephen Berg presents in his book The Steel Cricket several weeks ago. Here are some more bits from the same source.

drink honey
your heart opens with each drop
it is a flower!


I am here! I am here!
I come from the sea from the middle of the waters
there the water darkens itself
its colors


many pictures my heart
many songs
I come to give pleasure I come
to relive what gives life
here over the strewn mat
red-throated flowers open


a piece of fallen jade
a flower shoots up
it is your song


Oh nothing will cut down the flower of war
there it is on the edges of the rive
here it is opening its petals
flower of the tiger flower of the shield
dust rises over the bells


my soul fills to the brim with what I say
Oh friends
I am going to let my heart roam the earth
looking for peace
looking for good luck
no one is born twice


now my friends
the dream I am singing
each spring life
in the corn
put on a collar of rare stones


flowers of red and blue
mix with flowers of fiery red
it is your word your heart
Oh my king
for a little while I can see earth
I cry because death kills
everything I did
everything I sang
for a little while I can see the earth

Ana Ramon is currently a freshmen at the University of Texas-San Antonio, majoring in history and minoring in Political Science. She lives in a family of six, with two younger sisters and a younger brother. She says she writes whenever she's not busy trying to pay off her student loans. Can't start that too soon, she says

She is becoming a regular member of our weekly poetry sessions at La Taza coffee shop.

This poem is her first appearance with us in "Here and Now."

La Nina es Morena

Means you're

Your skin is not
You are Moreno
You are a brown stick in between
Dance a cumbia
By yourself
Learn to dance on your own
Your Familia
Will dance with you
A little brown stick
Came from a tree
And they will always be
There for

The nicest thing about our weekly poetry gathering at La Taza is the informality of it. We sit in a circle and talk and discuss and bs and read poetry, usually with as much talking, discussing and bsing as poetry reading. People can join the circle and read, or if they want, just listen in, commenting if they want, or not if they don't. Someone will say something that leads someone else to a poem that leads someone else to say something else and so on.

Anyway, that's the process that led me to reading this poem last Monday. It's in my book, Seven Beats a Second, but I hadn't read it, or even thought about it, until I read it again and discovered I liked it more than I remembered liking it.

Here it is.

when nighthawks fly in memories dark

nighthawks glide through the dark,
shadows against the starlit sky,
soaring between trees,
picking insects from the air
like outfielders
shagging high, easy flies

nothing to it, with a shrug
as they toss the ball in

the birds flit through the air
and I think of old heroes
jumping from their planes,
uniforms glistening black,
Blackhawk, the leader,
Chop Chop, the Chinaman,
Andre, the Frenchman
with glossy black hair
and a pointy little mustache,
and Olaf, the squarehead German

that's what they called my father,
third generation in the country,
first generation to leave
his central Texas enclave
of squareheads and krauts,
always careful through two wars
not to draw attention to themselves
and their German ways, quietly
keeping to themselves,
raising their sheep and cattle
on the rocky hill country pastures,
facing good times and bad
with squarehead persistence

and before Blackhawk, Smiling Jack
with his movie star looks, and his friend,
Fatstuff, with a belly so large buttons
flew off his shirt like popcorn in a pan

dad had a belly like that,
from his emphysema
ballooning his lungs,
making them heavy with spit,
swelling, degenerating tissue
dragging his lungs down,
collapsing his chest,
displacing his stomach,
pushing his belly out
like he was pregnant with
the fruit of his own death

those popping buttons are on my mind
as I gasp for air after a flight of stairs
and I think of my own belly pushing
ahead of me and wonder
what it felt like to die in pieces

And did you really think I was going to end a walk through downtown San Antonio without a picture of the Alamo somewhere?

Well there it is and here we are all finished up for another week.

Hope you saw something you liked.

Remember, in addition to the Alamo, that all of the work presented on this blog remains the property of its creators and that the blog itself is produced by and the property of me...allen itz.

at 7:33 AM Blogger t rasa said...

I hate statements that state "best" or "Fave". they usually seem so shallow. After reading this issue, my first thought was that this is the best one yet since I've been reading 7beats. If it comes accross as shallow... serves me right.


at 10:14 AM Blogger Alice Folkart said...

Thank you, and DOUBLE THANK YOU for publishing Julia Vinograd - I knew her on the streets of Berkeley - Telegraph Avenue to be exactin the late '60's. She was known as the bubble lady, because she always had a bottle of bubble stuff and one of those little wands with a loop at the end of it that you dip in the bubble stuff and then wave through the air to make bubbles.

I used to talk with her. Buy her lunch - well, I was almost as poor as she was, so it wasn't much, and she wouldn't go into any shops or restaurants with me, so I had to bring something out to her. She was always very delicate about it. At first I didn't know that she was a poet, but then I found out. I loved her poetry - so immediate, so truthful. I'd never read anything like her poems. I bought copies of all that she had - I still have them. Even when I moved and was winnowing my library, those came with me.

I'm so glad to see her here. Do you know if she's alive? In 1969 she was about 45 and she was living on the streets, although I knew people who had taken her in for a bath and a meal and when it was raining.

I wasn't writing poetry then. I wasn't writing anything then, just trying to keep myself and my son alive, but I knew that if I ever did write poetry, she would inspire me.


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Loch Raven Review
Mindfire Renewed
Holy Groove Records
Poems Niederngasse
Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
The Blogging Poet
Wild Poetry Forum
Blueline Poetry Forum
The Writer's Block Poetry Forum
The Word Distillery Poetry Forum
Gary Blankenship
The Hiss Quarterly
Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
Vienna's Gallery
Shawn Nacona Stroud
Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet