Black and White and Read All Over
Friday, January 11, 2008
Welcome, again, to "Here and Now."
As suggested by the title, I'm doing something different this week - all my images are black and white.
Color pictures are pretty but they lack the punch and versatility of black and white, which can be presented in a way that is strictly reportorial or they can be suffused with a mystical aura that reduces everything to shapes and shadows only faintly reminiscent of whatever the subjects pictured are objectively.
But maybe I'm just old-fashioned, a product of black and white tv and movies. I can remember when you could tell how serious a movie was by whether it was color or black and white? If it was color, it was probably fluff; if black and white it was serious.
I know people now, who won't go to a movie if it's not in color. They make me think of movies I've seen in the past and how the ones still emotionally alive to me were rarely made in color.
Anyway, all the images this week are black and white.
I had a hard time picking my first poem for this issue. I usually give a lot of thought to that, figuring if I can get people to read through the first poem, they'll probably go on to read the rest.
I went through five different books, looking for something that would pull people along without finding anything that didn't bore the crap out of me. Finally, I remembered Travis Watkins. I had forgotten about him, despite haven given him the longest introduction on his first appearance than was given to any other poet before him.
And so, here he is, number one of the list of poets for this issue. I know he'll pull you on to the second poem and beyond.
I mentioned this the last (first) time I used his work, but it is worth mentioning again. Check out laymanlyric.com to hear Watkins and other
poets in performance. To get there, just click on the link on the right.
Here's the first poem for this week, from Watkins' book My Fear is 4 U.
They say, "it takes a village"
I had my mom.
And mom was a white as burning bright big city night lights
Pierce the black of midnight.
Dad was black as midnight
I'd stay up till midnight
Dad was out past midnight
I must have missed him then...
And I must have missed it when,
Addiction took him in
And he sinned,
He beat down the doors of prison with ill decisions
Them 'bars would let him in
I did not know then
Them 'bars were his old friends
He'd be back again
Let me say again,
I had my mom.
And mom would shield me from those hateful glares
Didn't care how much she loved me
didn't know who much she loved me
Knows how much she loved me
I know how much she loved me
You cannot hide from truth...
And you cannot hide from youth
"Hey Travis, you got a white boy's name"
I thought I was.
"But, hey Travis, you got a black boy's mane"
I thought I was.
Guess I never really thought,
But then came that exam
Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, non-Hispanic
Pick a struggle, pick a burden , pick a race.
All this time I though we were human.
But the white boys called me nigger
The black boys called me nigga.
So I figured that's what I became.
Filled in the "black" bubble by my name
And waited for daddy to come back
I had my mom.
And mom was as wise as ten thousand black men
She could not teach me black...
I needed Du Bois,
I needed Carmichael,
I needed Malcolm, Baraka, and Hughes
She could not teach me that
Dad couldn't teach me that
School wouldn't teach me that
So Who's gonna 'teach me black?
The world would teach me that.
Mom had fine sight to see past all colors
But the world sees all colors,
To the world,
I'm just colored!
And the world's not contrite.
But all was right with the world
When we got that call...
Barriers at all.
He was out for good!
Changed his life for good!!
Left them bars for good!!!
He could not stay for good...
I wish he would...
But I had my mom.
And mom worked like a slave for her sons
We were often left alone.
Faced the world alone!
Grew as men alone!!
Found ourselves alone!!!
But alone does not suit all.
And I can remember how small I felt
Seeing big brother melt down,
And succumb to pent-up pain...
You see had dad remained,
I wouldn't have listened
I was stubborn
Mike needed a dad to govern
His growth into a man
Dad was not a man!
And mom was not a man
By no fault of her own.
It's hard being a white woman
Raising two black men alone!
Working two late shifts alone!!
Earning two incomes alone!!!
Cause 'your so called man, left you alone!!!!
But mom was strong...
And I'm so glad I had my mom,
And mom and dad would finally work things out
couldn't change our past.
couldn't erase our past.
couldn't relive our past.
They Couldn't forget our past...
But no one ask.
You see we all have a village
Every village has dark alleys
We would soon forget
Those same dark alleys
Are where we learned to love
Where we learned to care
Where we learned to hope
Where we learned to dream
Where we learned to fight
And where we learned to stand!
Your village made you human.
And you don't always have to love your village
It will always be,
I have our friend Alice Folkart back this week with a new year's poem.
Hope it Fits
The old year,
full of moth holes,
like all there is,
begins, one strand,
all past, past, past,
but all future too.
We unravel the past
to get the
yarn for the future,
and so it goes,
faded bits and all,
the old year
into the New year.
Hope it fits.
What would the new year be without some good old-fashioned German expressionism. So, how about Hugo Ball, from the anthology Music while drowning, German Expressionist Poems.
Ball studied sociology and philosophy at the universities of Munich and Heidelberg. In 1910, he moved to Berlin and became an actor and collaborated with Max Reinhardt. He was one of the leading Dada artists, creating the Dada Manifesto in 1916. The same year as the Manifesto, in 1916, Ball wrote his poem Karawane,, a German poem consisting of meaningless, nonsensical words, reflecting the chief principle behind Dadaism.
As confounder of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, he led the Dada movement there, and is one of the people credited with naming the movement "Dada," by allegedly choosing the word at random from a dictionary. He was married to Emmy Hennings, another member of Dada.
His involvement with the Dada movement lasted approximately two years. He then worked for a short period as a journalist and eventually retired to the canton of Ticino where he lived a religious and relatively poor life. He died in Sant'Abbondio, Switzerland in 1927.
His poem Gadji beri bimba was later adapted to the song entitled I Zimbra on the 1979 Talking Heads album Fear of Music.
His poem was translated for the book by Anselm Hollo.
with the crash of cymbals
the blare of trumpets
he broke the mute circle of demons
lit up the night
grown dim and grey with their breath
a woman we saw by his side
swaying forward receding swaying
eyes like a mummy
the white peahen from Sheba
and the King himself in his tent
its entrance fringed with flames
stretched out his arms
and the walls rose
the cedar-trunks fused
and countless beasts and devils saw
dancing down dancing down
Writing a "poem-a-day" is a tough regimen, possible sometimes only through excuse-making.
As I did here...
set out to write a poem
i set out
to write a poem
for the new year,
it's a bright
and beautiful day
and i'm as sleepy
as a dog
in a patch of winter sun
so literary ambitions
must be set aside
and a mistress
not to be
My next poem is by Danielle Legos Georges from the anthology bum rush the page, published by Three Rivers Press in 2001.
Georges is a Boston based poet. She is book review editor for Obsidian III. Her own work has appeared in The Beacon Best of 1999, The Butterfly's Way and Step into a World.
I turn my head and say, Ah, grasshopper.
I turn my head and say, Ah, grasshopper,
in imitation of the master who teaches
David Carradine that life is a series
of mountains to be destroyed
or resurrected in the imagination, or
a blade of grass atop which titters
a water drop that sticks
to the hind legs
of an insect
across grass as if across water.
Water-crawler, with legs so light,
body so weightless that it
lifts water to it, does not sit
on the oily surface,
like a balloon
is lighter than the air
around it. Translated it goes
in and through and out; in and through
and up in a cloth bubble that takes us
around the world in a fraction of eighty days;
the Himalayas, the hemispheres below us
like a chain of glass beads; the Indies East and West
in the seismic tremor of lifting a hand to the breeze; in the
ease with which a world is glossed. The huge wave of
an arm across a distant horizon; the gesture here is
where it all begins.
But the fortieth days finds our man Jesus
in the desert, darkness settling him
the light around him glowing,
refracting to show
the great wings beating still,
the land spread before him, a new
world panorama. Yours
if you'll love me, the light
We know the story: He eventually returns
on a donkey to the city that will kill him.
Martyrs always get it in the end,
but do grasshoppers?
I turn my head and say,
I turn my head
and say, Ah,
Next I have young San Antonio poet, just months returned from military service in Afghanistan, Rob Soto.
I take his poem from the little pocketbook of his work produced by LeArt Works, Atheist in a Foxhole
near life experience
Silent signals reach me in my sleep. They take th silk road past empty desert
outposts to my inner ear and vibrate my spine which has become accustomed to
their frequency. The bombardment of megahertz of metaphors leaves radiation
burns on my dreams until I can count every single star in the unobstructed sky
again. The wind pauses only long enough to cock back like a fist and rip through
the particulate energy of life itself. And as awful as it sounds, I imagine the
footprints of conquers impressed into the blood stained ground before me only to
be swept up in another dust storm and filling my naked lungs. Suddenly North
Dakota doesn't seem so bad.
The green is starting to make sense to me now, even if it is all blue. Moonlight
falls apart in the palm of your hand and even though you hate the cold it makes so
much sense to you now. Chopper blades and low yield explosions sound like
sadness bouncing off the walls of mountains which curtain the sky. Jackals are
the only ones to find any of this funny. So they laugh somewhere out in the
darkness choosing not to fill us in on the joke.
You can taste morning there. The metallic caress of a canteen cup against your
tongue. The soft quake of sunrise meets bloodshot eyes. Tracer rounds fill you
thoughts, fire fills your dreams, longing fills your heart. Humanity doesn't seem
existent from the valley floor. The view from the air isn't much better, but at least
you can cover more ground.
Words can fall apart over and ocean and for a while or so you're actually foolish
enough to think you left it all behind. After that every three dollar pitcher of beer
at O'Corley's is a surrender. You're not really happy if the only people you hang out
with are just as miserable as you. These are the sort of things your mind will fool
you into believing are perfectly normal until you figure out where you want to go.
My next poem is by Sapphire, from her book American Dreams.
The is the last section of a poem too long to post here completely. It is about the murder of a 15-year old girl.
from Strange Juice (or the murder of Latasha Harlins)
I don't remember what I did wrong.
Somebody hit you, you hit 'em back.
She didn't have to shoot me.
I was born here
and someone can shoot me and go home
and eat turkey on Thanksgiving -
what kinda shit is that?
Videotape the bitch killing me,
the hoe's own videotape
the end of my days
for tv cameras -
18th Street Diamond Riders
it's a brown thing
it's a black thing
Bloods, Mexicans together forever tonight.
I don't remember...
I jus' wanted some juice
and now I'm dead.
Killed by a model minority
Listen, is anybody gonna
I was gonna get a new orange leather jacket
to match my Reeboks.
I was passing math and
doing good in English.
Fuck history, I'm tired of hearing
'bout George Washington
I told the cracker, "Shit, mutherfucker
what about us?"
No, I wasn't pregnant,
but I was gonna have a baby,
definitely, one day
I like Luther Vandross, Tone-Loc
and Queen Latifa.
Listen, is anybody gonna
A white bitch
with a pink slit
between her legs
A white girl that probably got
into law school on the
affirmative action birthed
by black people's struggle,
sitting on a seat
that was opened up
for her by Rosa Parks and
Fannie Lou Hamer,
nig - no, black people, African
Americans, like me marching
under fire, hoses, broken glass
testicles sliced off,
strange fruit, tossed to dogs.
Swinging from trees.
This white Judge woman
hooded in mahogany-walled
chambers decides my life
is not worth nothing.
A fifteen-year-old black girl
equals zero in this white bitch's book.
She sentences this yellow gunslinger
to community service and probation.
What are the terms of her probation,
that she don't kill nobody white?
Does anybody hear me?
Without my tongue.
Fifteen and out of time.
Listen to the gasoline on the wind.
Listen to my blood rhyme -
drip drop on the sidewalk.
Hear me children -
I can be an angry poet, too.
Just watch me here.
some days are lost
from the start
I began at 8 am to work
on my printer
but it does not
it is now
and it still
the new one I bought
this afternoon at 3 pm
I said (not really,
but this is a PG rated
poem so that'll have to do)
this can wait until tomorrow
I promised Reba
I'd be right back for our walk
(already overdue at 9 pm)
then went to Borders
for a latte and a nice quiet read
of today's funnies
I always save the comics
for later in the day
when I'm hard up
for a laugh, but not funny this,
the newspaper has disappeared
from my car and Borders is sold out
of everything but the Times and it
doesn't have comics
(and whattheheck is it with them,
anyway, dadburn New York liberals
think they're too good for Dagwood
and Pickles and Zits and Ruthie
and Mutts and the rest)
so I'm stuck here
with a nice latte and no comics,
expressing my frustration
on this little napkin that keeps
tearing into shreds as I write
and I realize
this is kind of therapeutic
in itself, tearing these little
napkins into shreds
and throwing them up over my
head and everyone's
looking at me kind of funny
so now I have to leave
As you may have noticed, I'm paying special attention this week to younger, unknown or lesser known poets. The youngest of this group is probably Brigid Milligan, who published her first book while a senior at a San Antonio high school.
This poem is from that book, Mija, Never Lend Your Mop....
the greatest insult is to be rejected
in a poetry contest
you won the year before
sunk between the sagittal sutures within her
consciousness is a ballroom
where all good poets win poetry contests
everyone writes with pencil
those who quote cliches are dragged out
into the street
plagiarism is an art form
and honesty is mass produced abstract art
hung over every piano
crawling out of her rhythmic sonnets
she awakens, notices her mirror
too short for her head
too tall for her feet
never quite seeing
the whole picture
writing for critics and reviewers
something is lost in the translation
she is found verbose and vague
running out of breath and words and stories
she sits with sharpened pencils
on an overstuffed sofa
forming adjectives from nouns
making up for lost time
praying no one notices her absence of thought
small handwriting that further complicates
of her meaning
the greatest insult is to be rejected
in a poetry contest
you won the year before
and everyone forgetting
Now another San Antonio poet, our erudite eminence, Dr. Waldazo
Suppository Poem 6.3.06 1:42 AM
The pharmacist hurt my feelings today.
I merely asked a question...
Let me explain what he had to say.
I didn't care for the direction or the destination
In his reply response
When I ask for instruction
On the proper use of suppositories.
Being a neophyte
Not a medical whiz, not well-read,
I want to get all procedures just right.
I take literally every word that is said.
Surely he could understand my initial reaction.
I was taken aback.
But, now I see the obvious,
The fundamental nature of his exclamation.
After a detailed explanation
I understand what he meant
About where they went.
I just think he could have said something with more class
Than simply, "Stick it up your ass."
Bush has a suppository presidency.
Every plan that he's got
Is shoved up my ass.
There's no consultation about his approach.
Whether it's about medicine, schooling for kids,
Gay marriage, abortion, the Bill of Rights,
Or if it's okay to toke on a roach.
The War in Iraq
Is a great example of the same shit.
'I'm the President, so get over it."
"It's my way or the highway."
He is a hard pill to swallow
Not any easier to take
When it's shoved up my sphincter
By a self-righteous decider
Who is dumber than what his approach
Is trying to eliminate...
Namely, that I might give him some shit.
Here's another poem from bum rush the page, this one by Jacqueline Jones LaMon, a member of the faculty at Antelope Valley College in California.
Sammy Davis Jr.
who can make the sun rise?
sprinkle it with dew...
she awakened me with tears
get up baby / get up & pack
martin luther king, jr. has been shot & killed
you & I baby / we're going to
mom & i flew there to pay
say goodbye to a man & hello
to his dream
I have a dream
that one day...
we crashed a hotel segregated
high rise tower on peachtree street
with white valets
& nervous executives
eager to appease they sorta
welcomed our presence kinda
treated us proper like
tellin us 'bout all the amenities this four star
had to offer
so many things but i only heard
the pool / the pool
we have such a lovely pool
so first things first
i went to swim
lap after lap
back 'n' forth
like ester mae williams come down outta da hood
to the scavengers & piranha
angry white men pointing / disgusted
flustered white woman in high heels / appalled
there's a NEGRO in our pool
a COLORED girl, I tell you
mommy, will she hurt the water
we can't go in til she comes out
I executed my backstroke
eyes climbin higher towards heaven
& fixed upon a hip black man stridin balcony tough
jumpin / projectin
you stay in that water, girl
you swim & swim some more
doncha pay no mind to those circlin sharks
look up / see God / & swim girl swim
sammy took us out to lunch
said what I had done was no different
than martin or rosa or harriet even
cuz that is how we swim this meet
just livin life as we choose to live
one backstroke at a time
Here's another of my dog-walk poems. I have a lot of these during the cool part of the year; not so many in the summer.
a fair wind
a fair wind
bare tree limbs
on a wooden table,
and the rustling
of leaves blown
down the street
and behind it all,
playing their different
all up and down
a quiet night
with a fair wind
I have to take back what I said about Brigid Milligan being our youngest poet. I just found Tennessee Reed, born in 1977, who began writing poetry when she was five and published her first poetry collection,Circus in the Sky when she was eleven. This was followed by several more two collections, Electric Chocolate in 1990 and Airborne in 1996. She then published another collection in 2003 and then another City Beautiful in 2006.
She has read her work across the United States and abroad and has had her poems set to music by two different composers.
This poem gives us a modern update on an old story, with a funny statement on the fine art of product placement along the way.
She would wake up every morning
to an evil stepmother and jealous stepsisters
She was treated like a slave, doing the cooking and cleaning
Her stepmother always complained about her food:
"Cinderella, the pasta is too sticky, and the salad has ice burn"
or "Cinderella, potatoes are too hard."
Then Cinderella had to make her dinner again
One of the stepsisters accused her of stealing
her dark blue boot-cut jeans and white cotton blouse by Guess?
The other stepsister accused her of driving her Chevy Cavalier
without asking her when she went to pick up Ivory soap at
(It turns out that her stepsister's ugly boyfriend
had borrowed it)
Her punishment was to go upstairs to her stepmother's room
to hear a long list of new chores
like changing her new baby stepsister's Pampers
Baby Dry disposable diaper, cleaning the kitchen with
Clorox wipes and wiping down the bathroom
with Windex and Pine-Sol
Despite all this, Cinderella was an upbeat young woman,
she did what she was told, and she was very pleasant.
There were times when Cinderella would give up,
like when her animal friends had made
her a dress for a ball
that was superior to Versace and Miyake
and it was ripped apart by her stepsisters
There were other times when she would
lose her temper or her patience
like when her name was called every two seconds
"Cinderella, it’s Tuesday night, take out the garbage,"
or "Cinderella, the hamper is full"
She had people/animals in her corner
like her mice, her dog, horses and birds
as well as her Fairy God Mother
Because of the Fairy God Mother's storied enchantment
Cinderella was able to attend the ball
which was RSVP only
It was held at the Pierre Hoel
and Peter Duchin's band performed
The prince had his eye on her
even though there were hundreds of others in the room
including her stepsisters who had crashed the gate
One was eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts
even though she was diabetic
The other was eating a big bag of
Cool Ranch Dorito chips
She licked the remainders off of her fingers
The Blue Book Crowd was thinking,
The prince was stunned by Cinderella's beauty
and disappointed that she vanished
all except for her slippers
He arrived at her house in his shiny, gold Lexus
and slipped a shoe on her, which was more fancy
than the latest shoe by Giuseppe Zanotti
They flew off in his private jet
to honeymoon in Walt Disney World
and Disney's private island in the Bahamas
The angry stepsisters and mother showed up at the gate
but it was too late
His plane was taxiing out to the runway
Next, a little musing by my favorite poet from New Zealand, Thane Zander, on some of his travels, complete with a couple of footnotes to help us through any language difficulties.
Pacific Island Reverie
This happened, I tell you
so privileged to serve in the Navy
and every year when New Zealand wintered
a Pacific tan would beckon and away we went.
We'd spend three months surveying
ten days working, 4 days playing,
in such environs as Western and American Samoa,
Tonga, Fiji, Funafuti, Tokelau and Niue.
Can't forget the Cooks neither
each island group with it's own microcosm
of Island Life and language, music too
dancing the night away in many places
I remember Apia for instance, for a kilikiti game,
on a cricket ground hastily prepared
near the President's place, up the hill from Apia,
afterwards relaxing at either Aggie Greys
or perhaps the sunken bar called Otto's Reef
or perhaps even the Tusitala itself, talofa palangi(*1),
then when the evening drew on, up the hill
to the nightclub, Mount Vaea Club for a cooling rum,
or perhaps Tonga, Nukualofa to be precise,
Joe's Hotel or the Dateline, keep your shirts on
the locals have strict codes of conduct, obeisance,
the pool at the Dateline a fresh taste of relaxation.
Niue is different, so hard to get on there, but rugby shared,
a look around the island, no beer I seem to remember,
still an Island of utter beauty and remoteness.
We'd stay more often around Fiji, so much work there
enough to keep us coming back for four years,
yes four years straight I had an all round tan,
mainly based out of Lautoka, many fine nights
the Lautoka Hotel one of our homes, another
a long forgotten nightclub of dubious report,
the bottle store and a nearby park a hang out
with locals, share a beer, woman, guitars going
then the next morning off to Treasure Island
a trip out on the Tui Tai to the island,
rum punches the order of the day, sizzled
the rapport with other foreigners, Canadians
and many Australians, plus some Kiwis,
a day on a deserted island with just a small bure (*2)
sun baking, swimming, wind surfing, Bula vanaka,(*3)
The other main island Vanua Levu, sugar cane country
Labasa, not many bars, the one that was open
a call back to western times, grills everywhere,
across the bar, across the stereo speakers,
across the door if you're fool enough to enter,
already stoked of Frigate Rum and Kava
we all enter and have a great time, as sailors do,
the dance music calls some to dance, the local
girls a treat for sore eyes, and some leave with one,
I never tasted the ladies, their lives mapped for them.
The underlying key to being welcomed as kiwi's
was our own Polynesian history, we're all islanders
we know the taste of salt, the bright of sun,
the language of companionship, touche
I used to know a lot of the languages where I had been,
made it a point to at least converse in the local dialect,
now my addled brain barely recognizes basic commands,
I sit here and replay beaches, coral reefs, singing
The Last of the Robert Louis Stevensons, a writer now
eager to get things to paper, for me, and my girls,
they need to know that there is another world,
one that revolves around peace and harmony.
*1 Talofa Palagi - Samoan for Hello stranger
*2 Bure - Fijian for small house without walls
*3 Bula Vanaka - Fijian for Hello or welcome
Since I started "Here and Now" two year ago, I've read a lot of poets I had never read before. Some bore me, some confound me, and some have become permanent new additions to my favorites list.
Young Korean-American poet Ishle Yi Park is one of those who jumped immediately to my good list the first time I read her. Most of her poems are firmly rooted in a specific place and time, almost sociological in their examination of people and events. A few are more personal, like this one, taken from her book The Temperature of This Water.
A Simple Bridge
These days I feel out of touch with lightning,
fire, even the loneliness of wind.
My soul sings to itself
because it is alone.
And then, I think lightning,
fire, wind are all solitary forces:
they can't help but touch
things in their path. It is the reaching -
the space between the paper's edge,
the blue fingers of flame,
between the wind
and sharp, breathless leaves,
between the whiteblue jolt,
the one bare tree,
branches open to light
and burning -
it is a simultaneous distance
and longingly my body recognizes.
A simple bridge inside me
waits to be crossed by lovers
in both directions - who meet
in the middle of the arc at four hours:
the pink hour, the pitch hour,
the starless hour, the soft waking hour.
Here's a little shortie from me.
while walking in the neighborhood, late
the few leaves
still clinging to the trees
rustle in the breeze
like water over rocks
the cold north wind
from a mountain stream
Now, I'd like to go back to Walt Whitman, which is kind of like trying to breath up the sky - you just can't ever get finished with it.
from Song of Myself
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good as belongs to
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from the
soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same,
and their parents the same.
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance.
retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every
Nature without check with original energy.
Houses and rooms ae full of perfumes, the shelves are
crowded with perfumes.
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall
not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the
distillating, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become
undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz'd whispers, love-root, silk thread,
crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart,
the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the
shore and dark-color'd sea-rocks, and of hay in the
The sound of the belch'd words of my voice loos'd to
the eddies of the wind.
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along
the fields and hillsides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of
me rising from bed and meeting the sun.
Have you reacon'd a thousand acres much? have you
recon'd the earth much?
Have you practis'd so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess
the origin of all poems.
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there
are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third
hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor
feed on the specters in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take
things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from our
As always with Whitman, I read ahead and want to continue typing, but must stop, lest this too-long issue get even longer.
Next, we have a friend we haven't seen in a while, Arlene Ang, with a poem from her book, The Desecration of Doves.
Arlene lives in Italy and has published her poetry in a number of journals. She was for a time, and might still be, editor of the Italian edition of Poems Niederngasse, a very fine bimonthly journal you can access by clicking on the link on the right.
Confessions of a Ballpoint Thief
I cast fingers into public offices,
private libraries, even
my boss' stationery disk.
I pull close elbows
before a nonchalant face
that hides my hands
disappears pens into pockets.
Passion for the sea,
they say, can drive men
to surreptitiously wear
wide sleeves, stitch
extra pockets on clothes
in order to make room
for the daily catch.
Not even Poseidon
would deprive men
of running wet tongue along
the scales of small fish
I net so discretely
with my own hands.
Every night I position
every pen I've ever
disappeared on white floor.
Each ballpoint, like a lighthouse,
sheds its own colored beam.
I lie on my back surrounded
by a myriad of unspilled ink
like a sated crocodile
in a pond of freshly dead fish.
Here's a poem by Sonia Sanchez from the anthology Making Callaloo, 25 Years of Black Literature.
In 2002, when the anthology was published, Sanchez was Laura Cantrell Professor of English at Temple University, where she also served as Director of Women's Studies. She has published 13 books, most recently Like the Singing Coming Off the Drum, Shake Loose My Skin, and Does Your House Have Lions, which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998.
today I am
tired of sabbaths.
I seek a river of sticks
scratching the spine.
O I have laughed the clown's air
and now my breath dries in paint.
what is this profusion?
the sun does not burn
a cure, but hoards
while I stretch upward.
I hear, turning
in my shrug
a blaze of horns.
O I had forgotten parades
belabored with dreams.
in my father's time
I fished in ponds
arching my throat,
I gargled amid nerves
and sang of redeemers.
(o where have you been sweet
redeemer, sharp redeemer,
(o where have you been baroque
i have been in coventry
where ghosts danced in my veins
i have heard you in all refrains.)
ah the lull of
a yellow voice
that does not whine
I have touched breasts
and buildings unanswered.
I have breathed
(once upon an afternoon
i became still-life
i carried a balloon
and a long black knife.)
love comes with pink eyes
with movements that run
green the blue again.
my thighs burn in crystal.
This poem was a kind of assignment.
There is a small group (lots of room for growth) that meets on Monday every week to read poetry to each other, our own or someone else's. The meeting is at La Taza Coffee Shop in the retail center on the corner of Crown Meadow and Hwy. 281 (watch for the easy to see HEB sign). This is a very informal little gathering - no orating from behind a podium, just sitting in a friendly circle reading poems and listening to others read.
There's plenty of room at the inn and San Antonio area readers of "Here and Now" are more than welcome. We start at 8 in the evening and usually shut down by 9.
Anyway, normally we just read whatever we brought with us. But, last Monday a challenge was issued. We each picked an object and agreed to write a poem about that object at our meeting next Monday.
My object is a clock or a watch or some equivalent something having to do with time. I wrote this piece this afternoon and, unless I come up with something better in the meantime, will read it next Monday.
i'm never without
but, if, on some dark day,
goes into a skid
on icy rails
am without my watch
and ask the time
of some impertubable soul,
i dont want to hear
or "a little past six"
or "almost noon,"
i want to know what
time it is...
or when D calls
and wants me to meet her
downtown for dinner
and I ask when
I don't want her to say
which is not a time at all
but an anti-time,
I want to know
is that seven, seven-fifteen,
six-forty eight or quarter to eight,
cause I don't want to be late
and I hate to wait when I'm early
but i am
is more attuned
to ancient spirits
who understood time, if at all,
only in terms of dark times
and light, moons, seasons,
events, heroic feats that mark
a particular memorable period
as in - oh, yes that was when
killed the grizzly bear
which was before
stole fourteen horses
from the kikapoos,
in the snow
up to their
you have to ask
how did those guys
get to dinner
And, speaking of time, it is time now to end this production for week 2 of month 1 of year 3 of "Here and Now."
Over the past two years I have used poems here that left me without as clue as to what the poet was trying to say, as well as poems that damn near put me to sleep as I typed them.
But I figured well, different people like different things. No taste is universal, especially not mine.
But this week I put that aside and tried especially hard to find the kind of poetry I like.
I'm just too damn old to have much patience with artificial mysteries offering no clues for solution, poems where you would have had to have been in fifth grade with the poet to know what the hell he or she is talking about. I equally lack patience with those who confuse obscurity with depth or malice with wit. What I like is poetry that is natural and direct, with nothing in it that requires academic elaboration or obfuscation. That's what I like to read and that's what I try to write - poetry for people who don't read poetry, as well as for people who do.
I hope you also like what I found this week.
Remember as you file quietly out the door, all work presented in this blog remains the property of it creators. The blog itself is produced by and the property of me...allen itz.