Rocky Mountain High   Friday, February 22, 2008





Welcome Back.

We're going to go a bit longer than usual this week since "Here and Now" will be shutting down for a couple of weeks while we take a break in Durango (our favorite little city in Colorado), Colorado.

Those of you with slow modems, be patient. It may take a little longer than usual to load. In addition to length, we have a good variety of poets this week, everyone from Joyce Carol Oates to Dr. Seuss. (The advantage of this format is, if you don't like something you can just scroll right past it.)

So, let's go.








As the San Antonio and its suburbs grow into the northern hills it encroaches more and more into wildlife habitat. Deer grazing across people's front yards are a common sight. Deer lying dead on a city street after a collision with Volvo station wagons and the like is not common, but neither is it rare.

Joyce Carol Oates describes similar, though more tragic, scenes in this poem from her book The Time Traveler published by E P Dutton in the early nineties.



New Jersey White-Tailed Deer

i
Your sin
is "overbreeding" -
the greed to populate the world
with your kind.

For this -
death by starvation.

ii
Prowling, the January woods -
a skeletal forest, black-on-white,
Japanese in execution - you exhale desire
in tiny spasms
of steam.

In startled sympathy
our souls fly after you:
a fiction that offers comfort.

iii
Morning? - opaque
and dream-muddled.
And outside our windows
the snow is madly churned
as if by heraldic beasts -
not seven or eight starving deer,
all does.

iv
Tonight - last night -
the years before yesterday -
these childhood apparitions
accursed with useless beauty -
Pray for us.

Creatures of legend and perfection -
cloven-hooved,
erect white "flags" for tails
for hunters' gunsights -
great-eyed
doe-eyed -
Pray for us.

v
That doomed fawn about whose neck
Alice slipped a graceful arm -
figures of earthen-furred beauty -
dun-colored,
camouflaged,
the finitude of heartbreak -
Pray for us.

vi
Your crashing flight
through underbrush -
and your souls do fly after.

vii
By January moonlight
deer disturb our sleep -
eating, chewing,
noisy,
ivy-vines-dried leaves-evergreen branches -
browsing,
starving,
outside your window.

Hunger, you teach is promiscuous.
Hunger is dun-colored in beauty.
Hunger requires "camouflage"
but will become reckless, finally,
in the presence of food.

A secret most poetry disavows.

viii
(When I trotted to join them
my hooves, my sudden weight, broke through
the snow's hard crust.
Marvelous the strength
of these new muscles! -
the ease of great moist eyes
in the sockets -

The Eucharist crackles between our teeth.
It is tough, sinewy, dry,
mere briars.
It will not melt but must be chewed.)








Tina Hoffman, of Perrysburg, Ohio, says she 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.

She says she was the first woman to win the InterBoard Poetry Contest taking both first & second place in same month. She has also been published in local newspapers and in a few other publications.

Tina says she enjoys music, gardening, reading, time with her friends and her beloved pets, Willie and Cinders, and also maintains a day job, but only out of sheer necessity and a desire to eat & pay rent.



Spring Cleaning in Winter

Today I decided I would no longer wallow
in the shadows of spring's hibernation.

I surveyed my sullied floors,
counted the collective clatter
and took up a broom to sweep.
Into the dust pan, everything
must go!

Tattered remnants of a photo,
his face now beyond recognition;
mountains of crusty kleenexes
and a stray tube sock, not mine;
the book of numbers of fair-weathered friends
who no longer seem to have phones.

I wiped away the goo, the whole
drippy mess - a pint of Ben & Jerry's,
spoon still resting in its empty place too.
Bagged it all up, tied it up tight,
exchanged my frayed gray flannel
for the brighter cloth of living, renewed

In the light to find ice, sleet
and the dumpster outside quite full.








My next poet is Carl Phillips. He is a Professor of English and of African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

His first book, In The Blood, won the 1992 Morse Poetry Prize and his second, Cortege was nominated for a 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award. He's published his poetry in many journals and is a recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. His Pastoral won the 2001 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry

He was a child of a military family, moving year-by-year until finally settling in his high-school years at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts, Phillips taught high-school Latin for eight years.'
The poem I'm using this week is from the second book Cortege.



Glads

Three, at the most four days later,
they're dying, knuckled
over at whichever flower has bloomed

largest. The way everything beautiful
finally breaks because of, from it,
As if this were necessary. The reason,

maybe, why the loveliest things are always
also the most ruined:
a man's aging breast falling until,

naturally, brassieres come to mind;
or why, given any crumbled wall, nobody
thinks to ask where did they go to,

bring them back, all those
missing pieces.
The difference between a cock at plain

rest, for once longing to put itself
nowhere special,
and one that, just done thirsting,

collapses, curls slowly back in on
itself.
In Renaissance Italy,

when depicting the saints and Christ
in mid-torment was all the rage,
the painters chose for their backdrops

the most unremarkable buildings,
landscapes stranded in neutral, people
doing the dull things they still do -

plowing, bench warming a small hill,
mildly swinging a staff at livestock,
or at nothing, gone fishing.

The idea was to throw up into relief,
in its rawest form, sheer affliction.
The motto was

No distractions from suffering , hence
the skies: in general, clear
or just clearing, washed of everything

like rescue birds hope clouds mercy.








Next, here are a couple of my short poems. I call this kind of poem "observational," the kind of stuff I get by just sitting around watching people.



sunday breakfast at jim's

from the booth
behind me
a voice
with youthful lilt
and a full and jolly
laugh
that turns heads,
including mine

to see
an old man
sharp-nosed
with trembling fingers,
and liver spots
on his bald
shining
head,
wearing a porky pig tie
that matches his laugh,
holding
the pale, still hand
a dead-faced woman
in a wheel chair
beside him



blind date

a lovely couple
out on the evening
it seems

"I'll be right back,"
he says and turns
and leaves
humming
a happy little tune
under his breath

by herself,
she slumps
in the chair
and her smile
falls
like a weight
dropped
from some great height,
rebounding
again
when he returns



the woman who reminds me of Gertrude Stein

the woman who reminds me
of Gertrude Stein
sits across from me
several tables away,
feet heavy on the floor,
wide bottom
planted in her chair
like a bull
in its own private pasture

she's a large woman
with a sharp beak of a nose
centered
with an occasional sniff
of dissatisfaction
on a fleshy face
that hints at sensuality
behind a domineering facade,
a look of secrets
behind
small,
quick
eyes








There are lots of very good reasons to have children. One such is the opportunity it gives you to read Dr. Seuss out loud. This particular Seuss story was one of my favorites to read and one of my son's favorite to hear.

About half way through posting this I began to have second thoughts, first because Seuss without his illustrations is like turkey without cornbread dressing and, also, because it is so long. But then I said, what the heck. As the good doctor himself said "These things are fun and fun is good."

Think about what a revolutionary statement that was/is.



One fish
  two fish
red fish
  blue fish


One fish

  two fish

red fish

  blue fish.

Black fish

  blue fish

old fish

  new fish.

This one has
a little star.

This one has a little car.
Say! what a lot
of fish there are.

Yes. Some are red. And some are blue.
Some are old. And some are new.

Some are sad.

And some are glad.

And some are very, very bad.

Why are they
sad and glad and bad?
I do not know.
Go ask your dad.

Some are thin.

And some are fat.
The fat one has
a yellow hat.

From there to here
from here to there
funny things
are everywhere.

Here are some
who like to run.
They run for fun
in the hot, hot sun.

Oh me! Oh my!
Oh me! Oh my!
What a lot
of funny things go by.

Some have two feet
and some have four.
Some have six feet
and some have more.

Where do they come from? I can't say.
But I bet they have come
a long, long way.

We see them come.
We see them go.

Some are fast.

And some are slow.

Some are high.

And some are low.

Not one of them
is like another.
Don't ask us why.
Go ask your mother.

Say!
Look at his fingers!
One, two, three...
How many fingers do I see

One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven,
eight, nine, ten.
He has eleven!

Eleven!
This is something new.
I wish had
eleven, too.

Bump!
Bump!
Bump!
Did you ever ride a Wump?
We have a Wump
with just one hump.
But we know a man
called Mr. Gump.
Mr. Gump has a seven hump Wump.
SO...
if you like to Bump! Bump!
just jump on the hump of the Wump of Gump.

Who am I?
My name is Ned.
I do not like
my little bed.

This is no good.
This is not right.
My feet stick out
of bed all night.

And when I pull them in,
Oh, dear!
My head sticks out of bed
up here!

We like our bike.
It is made for three.
Our Mike
sits up in back,
you see.

We like our Mike
and this is why:
Mike does all the work
when the hills get high.

Hello there, Ned.
How do you do?
Tell me, tell me
what is new?
How are things
in your little bed?
What is new?
Please tell me, Ned.

I do not like
this bed at all.
A lot of things
have come to call.
A cow, a dog, a cat, a mouse.
Oh! what a bed! Oh! what a house!

Oh, dear! Oh, dear!
I can not hear
Will you please
come over near?
Will you please look in my ear?
There must be something there, I fear.

Say, look!
A bird was in your ear.
But he is out. So have no fear.
Again your ear can hear, my dear.

My hat is old.
My teeth are gold.

I have a bird
I like to hold.

My shoe is off.
My foot is cold.

My shoe is off.
My foot is cold.

I have a bird
I like to hold.

My hat is old.
My teeth are gold.

And now
my story
is all told.

We took a look.
We saw a Nook.
On his head
he had a hook.
On his hook
he had a book.
On his book
was "How to Cook."


We saw him sit
and try to cook.
He took a look
at the book on the hook.

But a Nook can't read,
so a Nook can't cook.
SO...
what good to a Nook
is a hook cook book?

I do not like
this one so well.
All he does
is yell, yell, yell.
I will not have this one about.
When he comes in
I put him out.

This one is
quiet as a mouse.
I like to have him
in the house.

At our house
we open cans.
We have to open
many cans.
And that is why we have a Zans.

A Zans for cans
is very good.
Have you a Zans for cans?
You should.

I like to box.
How I like to box!
So, every day,
I box a Gox.

In yellow socks
I box my Gox.
I box in yellow
Gox box socks.

This one
I think, is called a Yink.

He likes to wink,

he likes to drink.

He likes to drink, and drink, and drink.
The thing he likes to drink
is ink.
The ink he likes to drink is pink.
He likes to wink and drink pink ink.
SO...
if you have a lot of ink
they you should get
a Yink, I think.

Who is this pet?
Say!
He is wet.

You never yet
met a pet
I bet,
as wet as they let
this wet pet get.

Did you ever
fly a kite
in bed?

Did you ever walk
with ten cats
on your head?

Did you ever milk
this kind of cow?
Well, we can do it.
We know how.

If you never did,
you should.
These things are fun
and fun is good.

From near to far
from here to there,
funny things are everywhere.

These yellow pets
are called the Zeds.
They have one hair
up on their heads.
Their hair grows fast...
so fast, they say,
they need a haircut
every day.

Who am I?
My name is Ish.
On my hand I have a dish.

I have this dish
to help me wish.

When I wish to make a wish
I wave my hand with a big swish swish.
Then I say, "I wish for fish!"
And I get a fish right on my dish.

SO...
if you wish to wish a wish,
you may swish for fish
with my Ish wish dish.

At our house
we play out back.
We play a game
called Ring the Gack.

Would you like to play this game?
Come down!
We have the only
Gack in town.

Look what we found
in the park
in the dark.
We will take him home.
We will call him Clark.

He will live at our house.
He will grow and grow.
Will our mother like this?
We don’t know.

And now
good night.
It is time to sleep
with our pet Zeep.

Today is gone. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
Every day,
from here to there
funny things are everywhere.








I'm back now with New Zealand poet, Thane Zander.

Thane's poems mix elements of his time living on the streets and his many years as sailor and his family life before his troubles began, all stirred together with disparate elements picked from the culture soup that we all live in to make these wonderful poems that jump and hop about and only as you continue to read do you realize that somehow he's brought all this together to a meaningful, often moving, piece.

Here's one such.



The Life of A Poor Man in Armistice Avenue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








I've used poems by Simon J. Ortiz several times, taken from different anthologies, including Th Outlaw Bible of American Poetry and Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poets. I enjoyed what I read from those sources and was pleased to find a used copy of his own book Woven Stone, an omnibus collection of three previous books, Going for the Rain, A Good Journey, and Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, For the Sake of the Land.

This poem from the collection first appeared in Going for the Rain.

The "Deetseyamah" in the poem's title is the village where Ortiz came from and where his family still lives. On an official map, it is called McCarty.



Four Deetseyamah Poems

I wake this morning to snow,
snow everywhere
and a heavy dry mist
which begins to clear
around 8:30.
Outside is a bitter
windless bite
on cars and cheeks,
and the snow is powdery dry,
drifted where the wind
has blown it.
"It snowed on Saturday,"
my mother and father tell me
and describe their stay
last week at Aacqu
helping with the Winterprayers.
My mother says, "We got cold
the other night because
the door had opened
during the night.
I had felt cold
and put wood in the stove
and went back to bed.
Later, I was cold again
and getting up to build the fire
I saw light coming in
through the door.
It was already getting morning.
Looking over at your father
who was sleeping by the west wall,
I called to him
but he didn't answer.
Checking his bed, I found him
all rolled up in his blankets,
and I told him that the door
must have opened and there was snow
drifted inside the house.
No wonder we were so cold"
she says, and we all laugh.

It's good in the morning
to eat breakfast
with my mother and my father,
drink hot coffee,
see the morning life.
My nephews and my nieces
are going to school;
they run through the snow,
puffs of snow kicking off their shoes,
running for the school bus.
On this cold morning,
Louise's husband starts cars,
first Louise's, then Myrna's,
and then Aunt Katie's.
After a while, they all leave.
The sky is very clear winter blue.

Looking north and seeing
Kaweshtima, the strong mountain
is a prayer.
On cold winter days, the mountain
seems taller and bigger,
the distinctions made by the contrast
of light and dark, the differences
made sharper and clearer,
the clarity of space.
It occurs to me again
that wherever I have been,
I have never seen a Mountain
that has stood so clearly
in my mind; when I have needed
to envision my home, when loneliness
for myself has overcome me,
the Mountain has occurred.
Now, I see it sharing its being
with me, praying.

On Friday, Joy and I talked
about a sense of presence.
What is it? How does it come about?
I think it has to do
with a sense of worth, dignity,
and how you fit with occasion, place,
people, and time.
It's also a physical thing,
carriage of body,
hand and head movements,
eyes fixed upon specific points.
And then it is an ability
which is instinctive and spiritual
to convey what you see
to those around you.
Essentially, it is how you fit
into that space which is yourself,
how well and appropriately.








This is a piece I wrote last week about the strange weather that seems to come up on us every year about this time.



an uncertain time

cold nights,
warm days,
the trees
are in a state
of arboreal confusion,
little green baby buds
on some, others,
holding back
any hint of green

it's an uncertain
time
in February,
seasons
seemingly at war,
struggling
for primacy

I'm pulling for winter

spring here
always loses out
to soon
to summer








Here's a poet new to me, G.E. Patterson. I picked up his book, Tug, at the Half Priced Book Store on Broadway. (Wonderful place - they have my book in stock so how could they be otherwise.) Reading through it since, I've found things I really like.

Patterson is a young poet. He grew up in the middle of the country along the Mississippi River and was educated in the mid-South, the Midwest, The Northeast and the western United States. His awards include fellowships from the McDowell Colony and the Minnisota State Arts Board.

Tug is his first book.



Providence

Splinters of light like the bones of small birds
Drop from the trees onto this courtyard
Of bluestone and plum-colored bricks, pieced and laid
In a kind of flattened basketweave.

This is desire at the start of winter:
Brown dartings of sparrows in swoop attacks,
Thin sunshine catching on the soft, black leather
Of your shoes as you cross and uncross you legs.

A reflex of discomfort and rebellion,
Tuned to the discordant scratch of curled leaves
On stone, hastening somewhere
More suitable.

Each vestigial flutter is the body
Remembering movement
And acting out dissatisfactions.
The gentle gestures of ambivalence
Come to include everything around.
The desire for change outlasting death,
Outlasting life, outlasting love. Routine
And mysterious.

A man and a woman
Sitting together for the thousandth time
After sex and tea:
You, reading the back of the newspaper;
Me, watching the light fall all around you.








And now, once again, our friend Dan Cuddy with a new poem.



Angels

In church Sunday
Things are being said,
Knees on kneelers,
Foam giving in to weighty bodies,
But I look at the shadows
That the stone angels make
In their solid still prayer
On a wall behind the altar.

I look at the reflection of the stained glass
On the polished marble floor,
Another revelation of a world removed,
While a well-trained choir tenors the reed of a voice
So like that light.

What has it all to do with the sirens,
The gunfire from passing cars,
The cockiness of politicians,
The fallen angels?








Here's a treat, E.E. Cummings from his book Etcetera, The Unpublished Poems. This particular poem is dated from the 1920's when Cummings was working on the poems that later appeared in Is 5 and on his play Him.



2

now two old ladies sit peacefully knitting,
and their names are sometimes and always

"i can't understand what life could have seen in him" stitch
- counting always severely remarks; and her sister (supress-
ing a yawn)counters "o i don't know; death's rather attractive"
- "attractive!why how can you say such a thing?when i think
of my poor dear husband" - "now don't be absurd:what i said was
'rather attractive',my dear;and you know very well that
never was very much more than attractive,never was

stunning"(a crash.   Both jump)"good
heavens!"always exclaims "what
was that? - "well here comes your daughter"
soothes sometimes;at which

death's pretty young wife enters;wringing her hands,and wailing
"that terrible child!: - ":what"(sometimes and always together
cry)"now” - "my doll:my beautiful doll;they very
first doll you gave me mother(when i could scarcely
walk)with the eyes that opened and shut(you remember:
don't you,auntie;we called her love)and i've treasured
her all these years,and today i went through a closet
looking for something;and opened up a box,and there she
lay:and when he saw her,he begged me to let him
hold her;just once:and i told him 'mankind,be careful;
she's terrible fragile:don't break her,or mother'll be angry'"

and then(except for
the clicking of needles)there was silence








I'm not entirely sure anymore what I was thinking of when I wrote this next poem. I think I had read about low frequency sounds coming at us from all directions from throughout the universe. I think I put that little tidbit of science with the thought of the whales singing and hearing each others' songs from an ocean away and imagined conversation going on right under out nose between whales and some universal "other" more like the whales than us, the two of them singing some universal song to each other with no place in the music for us.

Anyway, here's the poem. Make of it what you will. It's included in my book "Seven Beats a Second."



hymnal

from somewhere in the very deep
a great blue sang today, a song
of salty tides and bright mornings
fresh with sun and ocean air

a love song
among the giants

from somewhere in the other deep,
a growing choir responds, sings
of star-blinks and novas flashing,
songs of creation, songs of despair,
songs of spinning little worlds
that come and go and leave behind
the poetry of their time in passing

each,
another song
recorded for time never-ending



While we're in a science/science fictionish mood, here's another poem. I only thought of it because it's also in my book, on the facing page to hymnal.


how it all comes about

out there sometime
is the mother of all,
the prime,
the matriverse,
defying all vocabularies
of science and faith,
existing
in some indefinable dimension
of simultaneous is and is not,
mother-of-all-gods,
creator-of-all-creators,
spewing from her womb
all that is that is not her,
creating a cosmos
of time and space and energy
and matter such as you and I,
multiplied a million billion fold,
always creating, brewing elements
for newborn stars,
grains of sand in a desert ever growing,
from the essences of nothing
making all








My next poet, R.G. Vliet, wrote three collections of poetry and three novels, completing his third shortly before his death in 1984. He won the Texas Institute of Letters Award three times, twice for poetry collections and once for a novel.

The poem I have is from his third collection of poetry, Water Stone, published Random House in 1980



Oneonta, New York

The scraped sidewalks, the glazed
hardened snow. Someone
has flung a dime into the sky.
The college girls hurry
to classes, their skin smoking
inside their slips, dresses, sweaters,
coats. Cold tears
are at the edges of our eyes. Our hair
crackles with electric cold.
The naked, iron-torsoed
elms' roots go under
the sidewalks - how can they live
in those vaults? Our hands are deep
in the bear caves of our pockets.
They think of straw and dry
leaves. Our cheeks are rigid.
To move our jaws might make
them crack. We could be crushed
so easily by stone buildings.
To go into hot rooms
where there is coffee is not to go
into a true world. Our lenses
mist. We are strange
without our constricted hearts,
our overcoats. Here outside, the frame
houses are like Viking boats
caught in the floes, their lapstrakes
sheeted with ice. Our blood
huddles in our stomachs. Our pale
shadows die at four
o'clock.

          Right now I am in Mexico:

the Sun
hammers and brightens the leaves,
kindles the bituminous black
feathers of the ani, fattens
the mongoes, heats them to the seed.








I have Alan Addotto back again with us this week, with another of his "Kwan Yin" poems which I like very much.



Dancing at Kwan Yin's Birthday.

I would dance for you, my sweet love,
but unfortunately for the present I am lame
and halt of step
using my crutches to get around at best.

But that I could show how I feel
with some fantastic dervish turns and reels,
and highland flings
some almost lighter than air stepping
where my now poor feet barely touch the ground,.
I would
leave this sad boundary behind
with joyous leaps and bounds
that fill the ballet masters dreams.

I would celebrate you thusly,,,,,,,riotously
and completely unrestrained
by gravity and circumstance
and dance dance dance
until exhaustion overtook me.

Until you came to understanding
Until I did.

Until then this petty offering.








Now I have a poem by Charles Bukowski, picked at random from the collection The Pleasures of the Damned - Poems 1951-1993. He is maybe the only poet whose books I can pick up, turn to a page and pick a poem without looking, and not be disappointed.



in a neighborhood of murder

the roaches spit out
paper clips
and the helicopter circles and circles
smelling for blood
searchlights leering down into our
bedroom

5 guys in this court have pistols
another a
machete
we are all murderers and
alcoholics
but there are worse in the hotel
across the street
they sit in the green and white doorway
banal and depraved
waiting to be institutionalized

here we each have a small green plant
in the window
and when we fight with our women at 3 a.m.
we speak
softly
and on each porch
is a small dish of food
always eaten by morning
we presume
by the
cats.








It's not what you would call drought conditions, but only because a wet summer and fall left the aquifer about as full as it can get. But it is a drought in the sense that day after day of sunshine and blue skies gets boring after a while. I want thunder and lightening and creeks rising and wet dogs and wet feet and all such things associated with a change in the weather.

So I wrote this poem.



just a little bit of rain

what we have out there
right now
is a beautiful
sun-shining
day
which is terrible
cause we don't need
a beautiful sun-shining
day
we need a dark, ugly
rain-thumping
day
and if i hear
one more radio
disc jockey
talk about what a
beautiful sun-shinning
day it is i'm going
to find him and do
violence
on him
from here
all the way up his
philco
and back

jessusss,
guys!

just a little bit of rain,
is that too much
to ask for?








Margaret Atwood, born in 1939, is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, feminist and activist, she is a winner of the Booker Prize and Arthur C. Clarke Award, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award seven times, winning twice.

From her book Two-Headed Poems, published in 1978 by Simon and Schuster, I'm taking sections of the title poem. It is too long to use in it's entirety.



Two-Headed Poems

ii

Those south of us are lavish
with their syllables. They scatter, we
hoard. Birds
eat their words, we eat
each other's, words, hearts, what's
the difference? In hock

up to eyebrows, we're still
polite, god knows, to the tourists.
We make tea properly and hold the knife
the right way.

Sneering is good for you
when someone else has cornered
the tree market.

Who was it told us
so indelibly,
those who take risks
have accidents?


iii

We think of you as one
big happy family, sitting around
an old pine table, trading
in-jokes, hospitable to strangers
who come from far enough away.

As for us, we're neighbors,
we're the folks whose taste
in fences and pink iron lawn flamingoes
you don't admire.

(All neighbors are barbarians,
that goes without saying,
though you too have a trashcan.)

We make too much noise,
you know nothing about us,
you would like us to move away.

Come to our backyard, we say,
friendly and envious,
but you don't come.

Instead you quarrel
among yourselves, discussing
genealogies and the mortgage,
while the smoke from our tireless barbecues
blackens the roses.








Nancy Williams Lazar has been with us several times.

Retired from eighteen years as a wood worker in her own business, she found work as a stringer for a local branch of Morning Call, Allentown. She left that position to concentrate creative writing; for several years laboring in the dark, but eventually she found her way to the online world of poets. She is a frequent visitor of Wild Poetry Forum and has had several of her poems published in e-zines.

I read this stream-of-conscious explosion on the Wild Poetry Forum and immediately e-mailed Nancy for permission to use it here. She sent me the final version along with a sound clip of her father's Search For Tomorrow commercial break from 1963. I wish I could have included the clip here, but I still don't have sound capability. It's really amazing the things that get imprinted on our brains that we don't know is there. I listened to her dad's voice and immediately recognized it as a voice it seems I've heard a thousand time.



Kabooom!

Now it's time for Search for Tomorrow! Brought to you by Oxidol
with the new green crystals, brought to you by Pepsodent,
brought to you by Maxwell House Coffee, Good to the Last Drop.

Who's that? That's Daddy. Yes, that's your daddy.

Ralph! If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times.
Go wash up. Ice tinkles in the glass, the hum of adults, an occasional burst of laughs.
And awa-a-aay we go!
Naaaancy, Naaaancy, come in here. Time for a bath. No, you can't stay up late.
s'awright Meesta. It's gonna be a really big shoe, a really big shoe.
Lemme just stay up for Topo!
Senor, Senor Wences! Where are you? I'm right here Meester, where are you?
(in the box, he's in the box.) S'awright. S'awright? S'awright
Can I have a glass of water? Please? OK but that's all. Now go to bed!

She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah,
she loves you yeah yeah yeah.

1 2 2 3 4 5 7...6 5 4 3 2 1 kabooooom

When I grow up I'm never gonna to smoke.
And now, the Beatles number one song four weeks in a row.

Everybody likes the Beatles.
I don't like the Beatles because everyone likes the Beatles.

I won't grow up,
(I won't grow up)
I don't want to go to school.
(I don't want to go to school)
Just to learn to be a parrot,
(Just to learn to be a parrot)
And recite a silly rule.

No! We weren't smoking. That's not mine I'm just holding
it for some one. No I'm not going to tell you who. My mother?
You want to talk to her? OK here, MAAAAM! Mom. It's Laura's mom.
She has something to tell you. Listen we were smoking. Laura and I.
It wasn't a lot. Behind her place.

OK just don't do it again.
I won't. I didn't like it anyway.
Do you have any left? No we threw them away.
Good.

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

What are you going to cut it with? How much? Get me a dime.
I'll take two hits. Are you experienced have you ever been experienced????
All we are sayyyying is give peace a chan...
That was four way???

Look outside there's a halo around the moon.
This is the sacred path. Look I'll show you, close your eyes
trust me, feel in there - it's water but it feels like velvet
the sun is coming up and the sky is full of swimming bugs.

nowhere...nowhere...nowhere
You look so innocent in the mirror.

Your beautiful... (to her)
and I love you (to me).

I'm coming down, I remember. This is real now. This is a new day. I can do this.
I am the Walrus, Ku ku ka choo.

Hey Lazar, where you headed? Need a ride? Hop in. Yeah, I know you.
I know your brother too. Hey I know where you live. Want a ride home?
Sure I can take you. Seeya round!

Grasshopper, only when you can walk across the paper without tearing it
will you be ready.

Kay-de dids, the hum of the ceiling fan, the basement door slams...ker pow.
And that's the way it is. What's for dinner? CHAMP! Here Champ! Here Kitty Kitty!

Tick TICk...tick TICK screech, click, the arm goes up, silence.








My next poet is Rikki Ducornet with a really, seriously weird book of poems called The Cult of Seizure, published in 1989 by The Porcupine's Quill, Inc.

The book of poems tells a story of an Hungarian countess in the 16th century who murdered ove 600 young women because her attendants convince her that she could keep her youth through regular baths in fresh blood.

Ducornet, born in 1949 in New York, is an American postmodernist, writer, poet, and artist. She grew up on the campus of Bard College in New York, earning a B.A. in Fine Arts from the same institution in 1964. In 1972 she moved to the Loire Valley in France the back to the United States in 1989 upon accepting a teaching position in the English Department at The University of Denver.

Here's the first two poems in the book, setting the stage for the story it will tell.



Prologue

Havoc accelerates
And Time a sigh
Blowing through a hollow bone.
In the sky, the zodiac impaled
Petrifies.

This is not a celebration.
It is the sound the door makes when
The monkeywind of seizure
Shuts us in.



A Wheel of Eels

She slides from the womb
dragging cyclones, thrumb-screws and sparks.
She snuggles beneath the cauldron with a rattlesnake
and snarling, barks.

The midwife sees the stellar eel
traced upon the infant's skull.
The thirteen puncture marks are peculiar.
The knotted cord tenses to strike her.

The midwife breaks ut in hives
as wasps slam against the glass.
Cloaks and daggers!
She kisses a crucifix worried by weasels.

An archon - the first of seven -
holds the smoking candle.
The turquoise flame hisses and reels.

The midwife is drowned in a sack of stones.
Her bones agitate with eels.








Here's a story I picked up in the newspaper today.



of mice and men

strolling
through the "Times"
today
I saw a story
about how
researchers using stem cells
were able to control diabetes in
mice

great news for the mice
about which
I am sure there must be
high jubilation
in mouse holes throughout
the country

fortunate mice, these,
who, unlike their cousins,
didn't catch cancer
from smoking
or diet pills
or excessive sun-tanning
or eating too much fat
or sweetening too much with Sweet-n-Low
or any of those other
godawful things
mice catch
when hanging around too much
with humans in white coats

truly
a banner day for the creme de la creme of
mousedom








One good mouse poem leads to another, I suppose, though this one, by Pamela Kircher, is much more serious and not nearly as good natured as mine.

Kircher holds a bachelor's degree from Ohio University, a Master of Library Science from Kent State University, and a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals, including Best American Poetry, 1993. She is a recipient of three Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships and has been a resident fellow at the MacDowell Colony.

Her book, Whole Sky, was published by Four Way Books in 1996.



Desperate Angel

At night they must be walking
on the knives and spoons,
pissing and sniffing the spatula's thin edge
not knowing I sleep in another room,
having undressed once more, having lain down again
with the thought tomorrow. Between that
and the day's false start of simple light
is nothing but the furnace's senseless chunk
and hum. Open the drawer. Again
the trap is flung on its back,
the mouse wedged in beneath the wire
like a desperate angel squeezing into heaven.
The tail lays straight;
a last oval shit clings
to the white fur that ripples
beneath a breath.
Turn the head just right
and its eyes glint
as if some thought were caught
beneath its skull,familiar,
having nagged for days and days
and only given time
might make all the difference.








Do you drive at 8 in the morning or 5 in the evening, listening to the radio and the traffic reports about accidents here and accidents there, wrecks happening around the city like popcorn popping?

Our friend Jim Comer is back with a poem about that very thing.



A Question for the Shaman

In the Valley of the Sun
I snooze before the blast
of orange sheds its particles
over the eastern sky. I eavesdrop
the count of crashes
on freeways and streets.

Fatalities are announced
in a throwaway style;
casualties never mentioned
are lost somewhere in cyber
files or on a tablet with rings
on the top

to be flipped over
as the morning slips into noon.
My Miata makes its way
over loop 202 to Old Sixty
then west to Country Club
as sweat fills my palms

and deep breaths fog
the windshield. Is it age
that increases one's fear
to take the next step
or is it wisdom sending
a presage of reckoning?








Leslie Ullman is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Natural Histories and Dreams by No One’s Daughter. She directs the creative writing program at the University of Texas-El Paso and is also on the faculty of the MFA program at Vermont College.

This poem is from her book Slow Work through Sand, published by University of Iowa Press in 1997 and winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize.



The Way Animals Are

Sometimes I'm startled to find myself
in this white skin, this blankness,
time's drawings erased
the way highways have leveled
the land's natural drift.
I'm distracted by the history of rain
in a single cactus. I wonder
how heavy the mountain is.
Sometimes I feel the earth tilt
on a great magnet while I sleep
and a man with a history of his own
leaves his wife's body parts in boxes
all over town, while a building is blown up
in another state and 20 children die,
now 30, now 95, not just children, some
still missing, and the numbers
flash across the world in slender cables.

Yesterday I walked the border bridge
into Juarez, where time had stopped - women,
children, begging or selling candy,
their bare feet tough as roots
and their skin streaked with weather.
Such patience in their faces -
the shadow of the Andes,
broad cheek and burnished braid,
rain over terraced slopes,
the breath of childbirth and sorrow
keening through bamboo. Across the river
the windows of my city gleamed.

I stepped into a cathedral
where matrons one by one knelt
by the altar, their privacy
a brief and deepening well,
to speak with someone I wish
I could love. Or fear. Then they rose
and returned to their used bodies,
vessels shaped to gentle fullness,
broken and mended again and again.

Across the blowing litter
of Avenida Juarez, an old man
sat on a curb playing a violin -
a tuneless song that fed
on its own exhaustion.
Once he stopped and put his head
in his hands. Traffic rushed
between us. My eyes touched him
but I didn't cross the street.
This morning he is slow rain
passing through me, waking in the same
grey clothes, tightening his bow
and I still try to sing
in any language I can,
sing to you one at a time
which is all I can do;
there's a slow tongue that some days
runs through me unbidden,
in rhythms I am part of
the way animals are, even when
they're standing still.








I was looking through some of my old stuff, trying to find a poem to end this extended issue, and came up with this.

I wrote in in 2004 and it was published that same year in an anthology out of India titled Taj Mahal Review.

It's a kind of reflection on endings.



ending time

I never had a plan in life,
just lived it as I found it
and trusted,
in an uncluttered way,
that as I did my best each day
I made the next day better

simple as this system sounds,
it worked for me, mostly,
but now I feel the pressure
of time and heft descending

I think of that
and how poorly I am using
whatever that remainder,
and, worse,
how unlikely it is
I'll learn to use it better,
leaving me to end this life
in the haphazard way I lived it,
beginning things with never a thought
of how they might be ending
and ending things
incomplete
and sooner than I expected

meanwhile
the sky is full of stars tonight,
each little star a multiple
of the one we call our own
and somewhere there,
it has been my faith,
another light is dimming,
someone who counts with me
the ending time
and the details of its passage








So this is it for a couple of weeks. We'll be staying just a block from downtown Durango, within walking distance of several good coffee shops. Who knows, maybe I'll come back with a mountain masterpiece or two. Or, maybe not.

In the meantime remember, as always, all the work presented in this blog remains the property of those who created it; the blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

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A Winter Creek Flowing   Friday, February 15, 2008





I never write this front section of "Here and Now" until the rest is finished because I never know what I'm going to do until it's done.

This week, it seems I sampled fewer poets than usual. That's because several of the poems used are longer than usual. Several readers have told me that the issues are running too long, so I'm trying to stay within a 6,000 word limit. With this last sentence, this issue goes to 6,112 words.

Still, I finish with a feeling of incompleteness.









My first poet this week is Marge Piercy, from her book The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing, published in 1978 by Alfred A. Knopf.

Piercy was born in Michigan. First in her family to attend college, she attended the University of Michigan. She won a Hopwood Award for Poetry and Fiction in 1957 which helped finish college and spend some time in France. She later obtained an M.A. from Northwestern University.

By 2004 she had authored seventeen volumes of poems and fifteen novels, as well as a play, a collection of essays, a nonfiction book and a memoir.



The poet dreams of a
nice warm motel


Of course the plane is late
two hours twisting bumpily
over Chicago in a droning grey funk
with the seatbelt sign on.
Either you are met by seven
young Marxists who want to know
at once What Is To Be Done
or one professor who says, What?
You have luggage. But I
parked in the no
parking zone.

Oh, we wouldn't want to put you
up at a motel, we here at
Southwestern Orthodontic Methodist,
we want you to feel homey:
drafty rooms where icicles
drip on your forehead, dorm cubicles
under the belltower where
the bells boom all night
on each quarter hour, rooms in faculty attics
you share with seven crying
babies with measles, rooms two
miles from a bathroom.

                The bed
is a quarter inch mattress
flung upon springs of upended
razor blades: the mattress
is stuffed with fingernails
clippings and the feathers of buzzards.
If you roll over or cough it
sounds like a five car collision.

The mattress is shaped that way
because our pet hippo Sweetie
likes to nap there. It's homey
isn't it, meaning we're going to keep
you up with instant coffee
until 2 a.m. discussing why
we at Middle Fork State Teachers College
don't think you are truly great.

You'll love our dog Ogre,
she adores sleeping with guests
especially when she's in heat.
Don't worry, the children
will wake you. (They do.)
In the morning while all
fourteen children (the ones
with the flue and whooping cough
and, oh, you haven't had
the mumps - I mean, yet?) assault
you with tomahawks and strawberry
jam, you are asked, oh,
would you like breakfast?
Naturally we never eat
breakfast ourselves, we believe
fasting purifies the system.

Have some cold tofu,
don't mind the mold.

No, we didn't order
your books, that's rampant
commercialism. We will call you
Miz Percy and make a joke about
women's libbers. The mike was run
over by a snowplow.
If we were too busy to put
up posters, we've obtained the
outdoor Greek Amphitheater
where you'll read to me me and my wife.
If we blanketed five states
with announcements, we will be astounded
when five hundred cram into
the women's restroom we reserved.

Oh yes, the check will be four
months late. The next hungry poet
will be told, you'll be real comfortable
here, What's-her-name, she wrote that book
The Flying Dyke, she was through last year
and she found it real homey
in the Athens of the West.








Next, I have this cool piece of beach fantasy from friend and frequent contributor, Alice Folkart.



Fish Wish

I walked into the waves
warm and welcoming
wishing to be a fish
but happy to kick my feet
flip over in the water
float, look up at the stars.

The shrimp crickets
crickled and crackled
beneath me among
the algae-covered rocks,
making up poems
about people with masks and fins.

I swam far
dove, fluttered, rolled
like a dolphin,
wishing for fins and flippers
and a smooth streamlined body
ocean my element

Up on the beach
everyone was leaving
I wondered if my towel
would still be there,
and started swimming,
kicking my fins and going fast.

I had to dip my face
into the water to
get some air,
had to arch my back
to slap my tail down
and push ahead.

I wasn't worried about my towel any more.
Wouldn't need it, didn't want it,
never would again.








Here's a poem by Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca from his book Poet in New York. The work in the book was written in 1929-30 while the poet was a student at Columbia University. It is a long piece, from the section of the book titled Streets and Dreams, and very dense with allusions and vivid, often fantastic imagery. It wasn't published until after the poet's death in 1936, in his 38th year.

It is a bilingual edition published in 1988 by The Noonday Press, translated from Spanish to English by Greg Simon and Stephen F. White.



Dance of Death

The mask. Look how the mask
comes from Africa to New York.


They are gone, the pepper trees,
the tiny buds of phosphorus.
They are gone, the camels with torn flesh,
and the valleys of light the swan lifted in its beak.

It was the time of parched things,
the wheat spear in the eye, the laminated cat,
the time of tremendous, rusting bridges
and the deathly silence of cork.

It was the great gathering of dead animals
pierced by the swords of light.
The endless joy of the hippopotamus with cloven feet of
   ash
and of the gazelle with an immortelle in the throat.

In the withered, waveless solitude,
the dented mask was dancing.
Half the world was sand,
the other half mercury and dormant sunlight.

The mask. Look at the mask!
Sand, crocodile, and fear in New York.


Canyons of lime imprisoned an empty sky,
where the voices of those who die under the guano were
   heard.
A pure and manicured sky, identical with itself,
with the down and the keen-edged iris of its invisible
   mountains -

it finished off the slender stems of song
and was swept away toward the channels of sap,
through the stillness of the last profiles,
lifting pieces of mirror with its tail.

While the Chinaman wept on the roof
without finding the naked body of his wife,
and the bank director examined the manometer
that measures the cruel silence of money,
the mask arrived on Wall Street.

It isn't a strange place for the dance,
these cemetery niches that turn the eyes yellow.
Between the sphinx and the bank vault, there is a taut
   thread
that pierces the heart of all poor children.
The primitive impetus dances with the mechanical
   impetus,
unaware, in their frenzy, of the original light.
Because if the wheel forgets its formula,
it will sing naked with herds of horses;
and if a flame burns the frozen blueprints,
the sky will have to flee before the tumult of windows.

This isn't a strange place for the dance, I tell you.
The mask will dance among the columns of blood and
   numbers,
among hurricanes of gold and groans of the
   unemployed,
who will howl, in the dead of night, for your dark time.
Oh, savage, shameless North America!
Stretched out on the frontier of snow.

The mask. Look at the mask!
Such a wave of mire and fireflies above New York!


I was on the terrace, wrestling with the moon.
Swarms of windows riddled one of the night's thighs.
Placid sky-cattle drank from my eyes
and the breezes on long oars
struck the ashen store windows on Broadway.

The drop of blood looked for light in the star's yolk
so as to seem a dead apple seed.
The prairie air, driven by the shepherds,
trembled in fear like a mollusk without its shell.

But I'm sure there are no dancers
among the dead
The dead are engrossed n devouring their own hands.
It's the others who dance with the mask and its vihuela.
Others, drunk on silver, cold men,
who sleep where thighs and hard flames intersect,
who seek the earthworm in the landscape of fire escapes,
who drink a dead girl's tears at the bank
or eat pyramids of dawn on tiny street corners.

But don't let the Pope dance!
No, don't let the Pope dance!
Nor the King,
nor the millionaires with blue teeth,
nor the barren dancers of the cathedrals,
nor builders, nor emeralds, nor madmen, nor
   sodomites.
Only this mask.
This mask of ancient scarlet fever.
Only this mask!

Cobras shall hiss on the top floors.
Nettles shall shake courtyards and terraces.
The Stock Exchange shall become a pyramid of moss.
Jungle vines shall come in behind the rifles
and all so quickly, so very, very quickly.
Ay, Wall Street!

The mask. Look at the mask!
And how it sits its forest poison
through New York's imperfect anguish!

                        December 1929









After Garcia Lorca I think we might all be ready for something simple, and, since simple, is my game, here are several barku.

As you probably don't recall, a barku is a form I invented one day while sitting in coffee shop with nothing to write on but a bar napkin. So, a barku is a poem with ten words on six lines, optimum size poem for a bar napkin.

A "barku" by itself doesn't amount to much, so I decided to expand the definition by naming sets of barku. This is what I came up with.

A set of six barku is a "barket."

A set of six barkuet is a "barkuda."

A set of six barkuda is a "barkissimo."

I'm working now on what to call a set of six barkuissimo. In the mean time, here's the world's first barket.



The World's First Barket

i
lonely whistle
in the dark
lost
little bird
calls
home


ii
grizzled
elders grieve
pale women
dance
under dim
diminished stars


iii
dogs at
midnight
smell wild
intruder
bark until
first light


iv
no rain
for garden's
growing
faith may
yet
bring rain

v
watch
the robin
danger ranger
calls her
mate
to eat


vi
whale song
ripples
the deep
navy sonar
roils
the tide








I had a real problem with Maggie Estep, my next poet. She has two funny poems in The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry and I couldn't decide which to use. Being a decisive type of guy, I decided to use both. (Yes, it's true, I am the Decider!)

Estep was born in 1962 in New Jersey and emerged in the early 1990s when grunge was the height of fashion and her aggressive political and gender-themed rant poetry was highly accessible. Her closest brush with megastardom was with the track Hey Baby, with an accompanying video that received moderate rotation on MTV. The video was highlighted on Beavis & Butt-head.

She released two albums: Love is a Dog From Hell and No More Mr. Nice Girl and later contributed vocals to two songs on Recoil's 1997 album Unsound Methods, including the single Control Freak.

Estep went on to write several novels including the mystery novels featuring Ruby Murphy, Gargantuan and Hex.

Here are her poems. Both made me laugh.



I'm an Emotional Idiot

I'm an Emotional Idiot
so get away from me.
I mean,
COME HERE.

Wait, no,
that's too close,
give me some space
it's a big country,
there's plenty of room,
don't sit so close to me.

Hey, where are you?
I haven't seen you in days.
Whadya, having an affair?
Who is she?
Come on,
aren't I enough for you?

God,
You're so cold.
I never know what you're thinking.
You're not very affectionate.

I mean,
you're clinging to me,
DON'T TOUCH ME,
what am I, your fucking cat?
Don't rub me like that.

Don't you have anything better to do
than sit there fawning over me?

Don't you have any interests?
Hobbies?
Sailing Fly fishing
Archeology?

There's an archeology expedition leaving tomorrow
why don't you go?
I'll loan you the money,
my money is your money,
my life is your life
my soul is yours
without you I'm nothing.

Move in with me
we'll get a studio apartment together, save on rent,
well, wait, I mean, a one bedroom,
so we don't get in each other's way or anything
or, well,
maybe a two bedroom
I'll have my own bedroom,
it's nothing personal
just need to be alone sometimes,
you do understand,
don't you?

Hey, why are you acting so distant?

Where you goin',
was it something I said?
What
What did I do?

I'm an emotional idiot
so get away from me
I mean,
MARRY ME.


Scab Maids on Speed

My first job was when I was about fifteen. I'd met a girl named Hope
   who became my best friend. Hope and I were flunking math so we
   became speed freaks. This honed our algebra skills and we quickly
   became whiz kids. For about five minutes. Then, our brains started to
   fry and we were just teenage speed freaks.

So we decided to seek gainful employment.

We got hired on as part time maids at the Holiday Inn while a maid
   strike was happening. We were scab maids on speed and we were
   coming to clean your room.

We were subsequently fired for pilfering a Holiday Inn Guest's quaalude
   stash which we did only because we never thought someone would
   have the nerve to call the front desk and say THE MAIDS STOLE
   MY LUUDES MAN. But someone did - or so we surmised - because
   we were fired.

I suppose maybe we were fired because we never actually CLEANED but
   rather just turned on the vacuum so it SOUNDED like we were
   cleaning as we picked the pubic hairs off the sheets and out of the
   tub then passed out on the bed and caught up on the sleep we'd
   missed from being up all night speeding.

When we got fired, we became waitresses at an International House of
   Pancakes.

We were much happier there.








My next poem is by Joanna M. Weston, making her first appearance here.

Joanna has had poetry, reviews, and short stories published in anthologies and journals for twenty years. She also has two middle-readers, The Willow Tree Girl and Those Blue Shoes, in print, as well as A Summer Father, poetry, published by Frontenac House of Calgary.



Stopping Time

that moment between here and nothing
between taking the last step
to reach the marsh
where mallards arrow for shelter
under salmonberry and leaning aspen
the step that takes me
to see a sentinel heron

this particular place
where I stand
hand on cedar trunk
listening to growth
absorbing marsh and birds
into my day

this moment
when a single raindrop
darkens my sleeve

the heron's head darts
and a fish is caught

ripples moves out
stillness slides back
into a remembered moment
held under my hand

only the growing of the tree
unchanged








Wesley K. Mather is a poet from Denver, Colorado. He was educated at Metropolitan State College and has written for a number of publications.

This poem is from his first book Into Pieces published in 2002 by iUniverse.



Ra Contented (I)

Our star is always pumping out
the energy we covet so dearly.
It takes ( we know)
only a matter of simple minutes
for the rays of light
to journey through space
from out star to our planet.
It takes
only a matter of complicated seconds
for the prism of our atmosphere
to interpret the rays
and communicate them
in all the colors we know.

It has taken
hundreds piled upon hundreds
of years for our prayers and
sacrifices and
words of praise to
reach our star.
Generations of humans are
swept under the rug,
like the mounds of dust they are,
while the star has not yet heard
the praises of the first
of its worshippers.
Just now in fact
the great sun god
(as it has come to think of itself)
has heard of its own wonderful deeds.

We humans have already
stopped caring for the sun as a god.
Our star won't know this for quite a while.
It is funny that
just as we have come to regard the sun
as an impersonal force,
useful but not of its own accord,
our star itself is hearing our long dead
worshippers holding it high
and respecting its power.

For the time Ra is contented and
he continues to send us wonderful light.








Next, from me, more on a subject I've covered before.



no more honking at little old ladies

i live
in a state
where otherwise normal people
(we hope)
carry guns hidden
somewhere
on their person

now
i'm not talking about
gangbangers
bank robbers
kidnappers
professional killers
paramilitary fruitcakes
or others of the more
relaxed interpretations
of the law persuasion

no, i'm talking about
mrs. gardenclub-suburbia
at the grocery store
picking melons
and rice krispies
for the kiddos,
the banker
in his pinstriped suit
the baldheaded school super-
intendent with the bow tie
and madras sports jacket,
the guy in the gimme cap
driving his pickumup truck
with the riding lawn mower
in the back, the clerk
at the five and dime store
(now referred to as the $ store),
the librarian reading proust
and the orange-haired woman
at the hair dressers
reading people magazine

all these people

packing heat

and you can't be sure
who is today and who isn't

i don't know what it's done
for the good of the state
but it's turned me
into one hell'uv a polite driver

no more honking
at the little old lady
slow to move
when the light changes

she's likely as not
to step out of her
1988 chevy vega
and pop a cap
on your
ass








Frederick Seidel was born in St. Louis in 1936 and attended Harvard College. The poem I selected is from Poems 1959-1979 which brings together poems from his first two collections, Final Solutions published in 1963 and Sunrise, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1980. His third book of poems, These Days was published simultaneously with this collection of poems from his first two books.

This poem, about a day remembered by all of us of an age at the time to be conscious of the larger world, matches my recollection, which is mostly black and white from watching black and white tv for a week. I have a hard time imagining this day in anything but black and white. Color would have been out of place.



November 24, 1963

The trees breathe in like show dogs, stiffening
Under the silver leashes of light rain
To spines. A Cyclone fence that guards the moire
Embankment of the shrunken reservoir
bristles with rain barbs, each a milk tooth, sting
Of stings, where fall began. The park's a strain,
The black paths shimmer under cellophane.

It is so real. Shy ghosts of taxis sniff
And worry in the empty park streets, lost
And misted lights, and down fifth Avenue;
The flags soak at half-staff, bloodshed and blue;
Bloodletting stripes repeating their mute riff;
Gray stars, wet Union sky of stars, crisscrossed
With petrifying folds and sparks of frost.

The rain points prick the lake and touch the drought,
The dusk blue of sterile needle tip.
The brightness and the light has been drawn down.








RD McManes has appeared with us before, but again it's been a while. I'm pleased to present this new poem from Mac.



rocket ride

into the night we fly
astride twin rockets' thunder
nothing between us
into the dark sky
unafraid

this moment set aside
earmarked for greatness
before greatness
has a chance
to arrive

fear and fate can wait
break away
from this earthly weight
free, fulfilled, and satisfied
one more time
before it gets too late
let's ride








Here's a piece by the last of the big-time beats, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.



Highway Patrol

When we zoomed off Freeway 80 other side of Sacramento
and fell into the Old West Motel Coffee Shoppe with the
horseshoe entrance I was wearing my studded cowboy boots
and Stetson hat and my big solid silver deputy star and I
zapped down at the counter and ordered a big ole ranch
breakfast like I could eat a horse and my side-kick he hollered
for soup and fell back to the funky john where I left him in
the stall hoping everything would come out alright heh-heh
and bopped back to the counter past three old dingbats in a
booth talking in some fuckin foreign accent about local real
estate and I got my see-through coffee and the teenybop wait-
ress served up the lukewarm soup and the ranch eggs and
when my buddy escaped from the john he spooned up some
of the lukewarm soup and po-litely noted how it tasted "real
weird" it fact it was burnt real bad which I pointed out to
the half-ass fry-cook since the waitress had fled and this here
cook comes worryin outa his hole in the wall and mumbles
"Sure as hell is burned, ye can smell it" and I says "you sure
as hell can, you ole fucker!" as I lit up a Marlboro with a
wood match which I lit with my thumbnail and then we
just whirled around on our stools and took out our po-lice
magnums which we's supposed to carry even off-duty and let
go with a few lil ole blasts right through the ceiling and like
really woke that dump up and everybody got under the tables
and started praying in Swedish or some other goddanged lingo
and my buddy he sauntered up to the jukebox and punched
in a couple selector buttons and gave the machine a big jolt
as I punched-in the fry-cook for good measure and the juke
shakes all over then blasts out so fuckin loud that the
windows blew out and we got blasted right out the door and
everybody come falling out after us and the box just keeps
blasting and the holes in the ceiling we'd shot out is still
smoking and sure as hell they catch fire and the juke itself
catches fire with the Country Western singer still wailing
away like as if his balls done got caught in the meatgrinder
and it's Kell Robertson singing "I Shot a Faggot in the Bath-
room" and local volunteer fire department comes sireening
down the highway with antlers on the hood and busts right
in with hard-on hoses and let the whole place have it with
a bath of deer-blood spurting outa their big-ass hose but the
fire kept blazing away in the jumping juke like a redhot
potbelly stove about to blow up and the goddamn roof catches
fire and everybody in sight freaks out and runs off down the
road and over the hill outa sight Man we sure as hell lit that
joint up if you know what I mean All good clean fun and we
died laughin' Just like in the movies








Disappointed yesterday that promised rain went elsewhere, I wrote this.



doodlebug dust

we started the day
with a promise
of rain,
squalls
blown in off
the gulf
as tropic currents
blew northwest,
but west texas winds
pushed back
and rain that
should have been ours
hugged the coast,
going northeast
instead, soaking
Corpus Christi Bay,
Mustang Island
and all the little
shrimping towns,
all the boats
secured against the weather
in little harbor coves,
then swinging along
the coastal arc
past Port Lavaca
to Galveston
where the pirate Lafitte
took his winter rest,
spreading
a few miles inland
to clean rinse
the stink
of Houston smog
and beyond,
all the way
to Louisiana
and, finally,
sometime tonight
to dampen some
fallow cotton field
in Mississippi

after a wet
summer and fall
that turned
our brown hills
green, letting us
forget for a while
the truth of where
we live, there has been
no rain beyond the
early mists
that soften some
mornings, sometimes
till mid-day

with no real rain,
the ground hardens
like the caliche
only inches below
the surface, then
breaks down
into a fine dust,
doodlebug dust,
where you can see
the inverted cones
the little insects
made in their
burrowing, for
what purpose
I have never known
for sure but suspect
it has something to do
with finding relief from
heat in the arms
of cool dark earth
below the surface

instead of rain,
the sun was out
this afternoon
and warm
and like the doodlebugs
I've burrowed into
my little air conditioned
nest to wait it out








Now, here's poem by April Bernard from her book Psalms.

Bernard is an author from Bennington, VT, where she teaches at Bennington College. She is the author of three poetry collections: Swan Electric, the book I have, Psalms, and Blackbird Bye Bye, and one novel, Pirate Jenny. Her work has appeared in many literary journals and more general interest periodicals such a The New Yorker. Her work is also included in The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English and By Herself: Women Reclaim Poetry. She is also recipient of a Guggenheim Award.



Psalm of the Explanation - Dwellers

"See, here's how it is, there's two different ways we look at the world.
Man sees a woman, he thinks, Could I do it to her?, and it doesn't
seem mysterious, he knows already pretty well
what he can and can't do, so it's a matter of aesthetics;
Like, do I like a big ass? the man will say.
Like, do I prefer the dark meat near the bone?
And then it's a matter of finesse and luck, but all along
he knew what he was going to do and how it was going to feel.
Now, with women, see. A woman sees a man, she might think,
Ah, finest of profiles. She might wonder, What lurks?
But experience has taught her that none of this
looking, comparing, examining labels will ever tell her
what he can do.
And what he can do tells her what she can do.
So it's a mystery always,
and also makes her more charitable. Because maybe the guy
with the sled-dog eyes and the cauliflower nose, maybe he's
got a long sweet one that won't quit, maybe he can make her
sing the Ave Maria, who knows?

No, no. I have another explanation. Please, listen. There is
only so much love in the world, and it got used up
    by our ancestors.
So it's like recirculated air in a sick building, see?
Filled with the disease and the sadness and the lust that went on
before, all this petrific honey thick with dirt,
sap from ancient hives, legs and wings and striped abdomens
that once throbbed but now are stilled in amber hard and golden
and unlikely to melt n the damp of your mouth."








I am especially pleased to introduce a new poet, Margaret Mayberry, new, not only in the sense she's never appeared in "Here and Now" before, but also new in the literal sense that she's only been writing poetry for six months. I think after you read her poem you will be as amazed as I am at the poet she's become in such a brief time. It reinforces the idea that some people are born poets, just waiting to break out of their non-poet shells.

I met Margaret several weeks ago at our regular Monday poetry round at La Taza Coffee Shop. She was born in London in 1932. She married a British medical student and is now widowed. She lived in various countries before and after marriage and has two adult sons and four grandchildren. She says she's lived in San Antonio for over 35 very busy years and has done a variety of things but none related to poetry until recently. She has an MA in Clinical Psychology from St. Mary's University and an MA in Environmental Management (Urban Studies) from the University of Texas, San Antonio. For twenty years she has been on the City Council of Hill Country Village (one of a number of small incorporated cities within the geographic limits of the City of San Antonio) and has been involved with numerous charities and volunteer board for most of those years, with special mention of the Animal Defense League. She says that being a wife and mother was always more important to her than a career. She says she's wanted to write poetry since she was a child but never seemed to have time until now.



For Naught

By an inexperienced President planned,
With a noble heart but too hasty a hand,
Violence to end violence in a Muslim land,
In a new Millennium fresh blood soaked the sand.

They told our youth that if bravely they fought,
They could not lose and the war would be short,
And we've been there for years and the war's not won,
And likely we'll be there for years to come.

They took the children straight out of the schools,
They were used to following those adult rules,
So they didn't question, for glory bound,
And they fired their bullets, round after round.

For friend or foe it's a needless slaughter,
Each one of them someone's son or daughter,
And all are told if they're hurt or they've died,
They've done their duty, with God on their side.

If a recruit objects for any reason,
He will be punished and they'll call it treason,
And when the day comes and we have departed,
We'll still not have finished what we have started.








Here's Cyra S. Dumitru who gives life to biblical figures from her book Listening to Light.

In this poem, Adam and Eve are adjusting to the harshness of life outside of Eden.



First Flesh

What struck me when we were first
beyond Eden was the carrion.
The way a body looked when dead,
innards trailing like thick vines
torn flesh like fading hyacinths.

And the great birds that rose up
flooded the air black with wings
lumbered until they gained a current.
Once we had passed
they descended, picked again.

It was Eve who noticed how the eyes
of fallen animals were often open
staring at something so remote
that vision was useless.
Such stillness.

All we had lived was movement -
the doe twitching her tail before leaping,
the panther rippling like black water,
lizards quick as raindrops through leaves.
When we found the python swallowing a rabbit

hind legs twitching,
Ever clutched my hands and finally wept.
"We will eat only berries, fruit.
We will learn the uses of plants,"
I said and held her until she slept.

The light began to change as we foraged.
It skimmed our skin, rather than warmed us.
At night we shivered when pressed together
beneath blankets of grass woven by Eve,
her ribs rubbing too close to mine

despite her growing belly.
One cool morning I rose before dawn.
Found the stag's leg bone picked clean,
rinsed the dirt and dried blood in the stream.
Felt its weight as another way.

I knew where the burrow was hidden
where the rabbits ventured out.
I crouched in tall grass, practiced stillness.
The three hopped above ground, sniffed the air.
The smallest, always behind, hobbled a bit.

I inched forward as it settled
in a bed of clover, nose quivering
ears up and listening.
I bounded forward, pounced,
clutched the rabbit near its tail

pressed my length upon his
clubbed again and again while
its legs thumped against my chest.
The small skull cracked.
Blood oozed sticky in white fur.

As the rabbit went limp
a sharp breeze rose.
Something shifted inside me,
that terrible stillness.
I sat listening as my heart

nearly burst from pounding.
My right hand, the one which in Eden
had stroked the offspring of fox,
squirrel, cougar blistered
from the grip of battering bone.

Using a jagged rock,
Eve skinned the creature slowly
rubbed the soft fur against her cheek
traced the curve of muscle
the delicate thrust of young bone.

"How shiny is the flesh.
How rounded the muscles."
Finally she tore an opening
in the belly and the entrails
spilled out, gleaming.

Eve saved the tendons
cooked the meat which
we found almost tender.
Later she caressed the bruises,
dark stains against my chest.








Well, we're approaching the end for this week. Here's a last piece from me to send us on our way.


this, that...whatever

let's be clear
about this -
i'm just
a casual poet
with no illusions
about the head scratching
I put to paper

there's nothing
all that deep,
no great message,
no plumbing the depths
of this, that...whatever,
just a casual poet,
a journal
poet
trying to account
for the days
of my life
in ways
that please me

i welcome you
as my reader,
but if you have
something
more important
to do -

well,
i'll understand








Time for me to paddle on down the river. I'll be back next week and hope you'll be here with me.

In the meantime, remember. all of the work presented on this blog remains the property of its creator. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me....allen itz.

1 Comments:
at 9:21 PM Blogger Alice Folkart said...

Thanks for the Lorca - I've always had trouble with his poetry, too dark, too heavy, too political, too male maybe, but this one was accessible. Maybe I've just grown up: but wow! - things that really struck me in his poem: laminated cat; savage, shameless North America (in 1929 - nothing has changed); hurricanes of gold (didn't realize how brilliant this was until I got past the image of gold swirling around in the air - hurricanes are dangerous, vicious, unpredictable, destructive - what a metaphor!); wrestling with the moon; 'others drunk on silver drink a dead girl's tears (which we presume that caused by grinding her up as low-wage labor - from which they got their silver). And, finally, the mask of ancient scarlet fever - it's slightly off the image of a small-pox mask from Africa. I have a friend who is a mask collector, and the smallpox mask is the most frightening and repulsive, a smooth, oval face covered with pustules - all a sort of cocoa brown. Terrifying.

And, of course, it's lovely to see Joanna there, and to read doodlebugs and honking at old ladies again.

AND MOST OF ALL thanks for the images of to 'my' California - Union Station - isn't it a wonder?

And, Margaret Mayberry - please let her know that she has a fan in Hawaii - she might send this poem to Poets Against the War, if she has a mind to use it. What I liked so much about it, besides that it expresses many of my own insights and feelings, is that she is both raising the rabble and simply quietly comment at the same time. However, she does cut our fearless leader much more slack than I ever would!

An excellent issue, Allen. Thanks.

Alice

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Cactus Flower Soup   Friday, February 08, 2008


II.2.1.




First this.

I heard this somewhere, maybe NPR, truth of the story unknown. Seems to me I've heard it before.

Hemingway is challenged to write a story using only six words.

Hemingway writes:

for sale
baby shoes
never used


True or not, that's pretty good. Don't know if we can do as well this week, but here we are.

Let's get on with it.









We start again this week with performance poet Travis Watkins from his book My Fear is 4 U.

I remind you that you can watch Watkins read, along with a number of other performance poets, by clicking on the laymanlyric.com link on the right.



The Tyrone Doe Blues

I reach deep into my pocket
Wish I could spend lint.
I wish nickels could buy time,
Wish dimes would pay rent.
I vent, to the walls
Windows go they' own pain.
Funny how I do crazy shit to stay sane.
Funny how know my bill collector's first name.
Spent half a check on debt
But the balance ain't changed.
In the balance hangs my fate.
Hope's on a diet
Despair gains weight.
I hope in despair to make gains but wait...
I'm caught in this trap called Section 8.
So if I make one increase in income
In comes eviction,
It's a fucked up contradiction.
I got a part time position with a full time condition.
I can afford an addiction but can't fill my prescription.
My position is beyond transition
So my mission is to just make it.
And I ain't make it,
So I just take it.
But I just can't take it...

Fuck a 9 to 5
I got 2 kids, 9 and 5.
And they can't survive on $5.95 an hour.
But,
I can't provide more than $5.95 and hour.
If I could just turn back the hours,
Days, weeks, months and years
To the day week, month and year I was conceived
I'd tell mom to leave.
I'd say a strong mom is dad enough for me
Caus' all dad sees is greed, he won't raise his seed
He'll get you strung out on that coc' leaf and leave
And we'll be in need,
Please mom I plead.
I'll watch you O.D. before I see my teens
And I'll bounce between,
Steel bars and fiends.
I won't graduate or earn no degrees
I'll roll with G's,
And when I'm 23.
I'll be the rotten muthafucka' dad would want me to be.
So please mom I plead
Please hear my plea!
Stop!!!

That's just make-believe.
And my reality won't afford me a dream,
For Tyrone Doe...

Things are exactly how they seem.

          
Spring '05









I did this little doodle a week or so ago on a particularly cool evening.



chill night

chill night
wind
blows
icy slivers
nose
r
 u
   n
     s
        ears burn
                       chill
                       night
        w  i  n  d   b  l o  w  s








From the anthology American Negro Poetry, complied by Arna Bontemps and originally published in 1963, revised for a second printing in 1974 by Hill and Wang, I have a piece by poet Bob Kaufman.

Kaufman was born in 1925 and died in 1986. He was an American Beat poet and surrealist inspired by jazz music. In France, where his poetry had a large following, he was known as the "American Rimbaud."



Battle Report

One thousand saxophones infiltrate the city,
Each with a man inside,
Hidden in ordinary cases,
Labeled FRAGILE.

A fleet of trumpets drops their hooks,
Inside at the outside.

Ten waves of trombones approach the city
Under blue cover
Of late autunm's neoclassical clouds.


Five hundred bassmen, all string feet tall,
Beating it back to the bass.

One hundred drummers, each a stick in each hand,
The delicate rumble of pianos, moving in.

The secret agent, an innocent bystander,
Drops a note in the wail box.

Five generals, gathered in the gallery,
Blowing plans.

At last, the secret code is flashed;
Now is the time, now is the time.

Attack: The sound of jazz.

The city falls.








Alex Stolis is back this week. Over the past months, we've been reading different poems from his Tarot series. Although we've see only pieces of it, the series is complete now and being prepared for publication.

So this week, we turn to a new poem, this one a bit of a "fractured fairy tale." (Anybody besides me remember those little fractured fairy tale bits on the radio. Can't think of the guy's name who did them.)



snow white asks prince charming for a divorce

you ask me
to make
the sign
of the cross
tell me every
thing is black
and white

you recount tales
of pilgrimages
filled with martyrs
demons and redemption

you tell me
about your father
son and holy ghost
how they walk
in at last call
to rescue
the dead
and dying

once upon
a time
gone past
i needed
to believe
but now

there is much
for me to do
letters to be
rewritten
words to be
exed out
and crimes
to plan








My next poem is by Harold Norse and it's from The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.

Norse was in New York City in 1916 in New York City and has lived in the Mission District of San Francisco for the past 35 years. One of the expatriate artists of the Beat generation, he has been widely published and anthologized.

Norse became a part of W. H. Auden's "inner circle" at the age of 22, but soon found himself allied with William Carlos Williams, who rated Norse the "best poet of [his] generation." From 1954-59 he lived in Italy. He penned the experimental cut-up novel Beat Hotel in 1960 while living in Paris with William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. He returned to live in the U.S. in 1969.

Memoirs of a Bastard Angel traces Norse's life and literary career with just about every poet of note of the first two-thirds of the 20th century. With Carnivorous Saint: Gay Poems 1941-1976, he became a leading gay liberation poet. His collected poems, In the Hub of the Fiery Force appeared in 2003.



The Ex-Nun and the Gay Poet

They talked about meditation
and extra-sensory perception
as her eyes kept straying
to the black hair on his chest
where his shirt was open
and he talked of his new poems
as his eyes kept straying
to the slit in her crotch
where her slacks were tight.

The smoked Lebanese hash,
her first turn-on,
and she slumped a little
and said, "Nothing is happening,"
and he laughed, watching her
and she said, "I feel as our bodies
are moving towards each other
like 2 sticks in a bathtub
of their own volition,"
and he reached over
cradling her neck in his arm
and said, "They are,"
and didn't wait
to remove his pants.

That night they drifted
in a twilight zone
with Adam and Eve
fish and amoeba
sperm and egg.

She spoke of the convent in Boston
where the nuns were in love
with the body of Christ
spreadeagled on the crucifix
and very naked.
The nuns did strange things
as they passed each other
silently in the hall
like flicking the habit
against each other's breasts
which made them horny
and quite crazy.
So she quit.

She dropped the habit
and went in search of a real man.
She worked at the US Army Base
in Libya, but had troubled dreams
of the Boston Strangler
and woke up screaming
because she dreamed of a man
under the bed.

On night he was in the bed
but it wasn't the Strangler,
it was a G.I. Then a cameldriver.
Then a string of cameldrivers.
Then a camel. Or was it a dream?

She felt the need of something
"more spiritual"
and having read Lawrence Durrell
she fled to Athens to find herself
but the Greeks had nothing
to say except "I love you,
50 drachmas please!"

So she drowned her dreams
in bottles of ouzo
with male hustlers in tourist tavernas
where they got money from other men
for services rendered
and gave it to her
for services rendered.
It wasn't very spiritual,
and she was losing her mind
trying to find a way
of giving and receiving
that wasn't physical.

It looked like curtains
for the ex-nun from Boston.
And then it happened.
"I met you," she said,
"I hit the jackpot."
She found her bliss
with a Gay American poet
from Brooklyn

         Porto Santo Stefano, Summer, 1970








Here's a little more on the whole identity question. I wrote this one earlier this week.



identity issues

now let me see
if i have this right

everyone from any part
of the "new world"
settled by
Spain
are Hispanic-Americans

unless they are someone
bought to the "new world"
from Africa
as either freemen or slaves
which makes
them
African-Americans

and if from any place
in Asia
they are Asian-Americans

or if they're someone
from Arabia
they're Arabic-Americans

which leaves out anyone
from Iran who,
not being Arab, might
be called Persian-Americans

and then, of course,
from the Indian subcontinent
we would have
Indian-Americans,
not to be confused
with Native American-Americans

all of which makes it seem
I should be expressing solidarity
right now with all my
European-American
brothers
and sisters
in Canada and the United States

except
at this point I'm
five generations from
any kind of European
connection
so I guess,
having a claim
on no other identity,
you could just call me
a Texas-Hill-Country-
Beatnik-Redneck-Hippie-
Peckerwood-Well-Passed-Middle-
Age-Keeping-On-Keeping-On-
American

yeah,
that'll do
till something better
comes along








This poem is by Carol Ann Duffy from her book, The World's Wife. It's been a while since I've used one of Duffy's poems, so, as a reminder, Duffy writes the poems in the character of wives of famous and infamous men. So, for example, I've used here Mrs. Aesop, Mrs. Darwin, Mrs. Lazarus, Mrs. Icarus, Frau Freu” and others. This poem is from a series in the book titled "The Devil's Wife."

As to the poet, Duffy was born in Scotland in 1955. She grew up in England and attended the University of Liverpool, where she received an honors degree in philosophy in 1977. She continues to write and teach in England.



The Devil's Wife

2. Medusa


I flew in my chains over the wood where we'd buried
the door. I know it was me who was there.
I know I carried the spade. I know I was covered in mud.
But I cannot remember how or when or precisely where.

Nobody liked my hair. Nobody liked how I spoke.
He held my heart in his fist and he squeezed it dry.
I gave the cameras my Medusa stare.
I heard the judge summing up. I didn't care.

I was left to rot. I was locked up, double-locked.
I know they chucked the key. It was not to me.
I wrote him every day in our private code.
I through in twelve, fifteen, we'd be out on the open road.

But life, they said, means life. Dying inside.
The Devil was evil, mad, but I was the Devil's wife
which made me worse. I howled in my cell.
If the Devil was gone then how could this be hell?








Next, I have a couple of cinquains from Beau Blue.

For those who might not be familiar with the form, a "cinquain" is a French poetry form having five lines. The first line as two syllables, the second four, the third six, the fourth eight and the fifth or last line goes back to two.

I remind you of Beau's terrific website which you can access by clicking on the link on the right.



         Tits
         ______________

         scrumptious
         bumptious bimbo
         with a tight slight silk skirt,
         little else on but slinky,
         it's Kate!


         And Ass
         ______________

         caring
         for Uncle Huck
         was a task out of hell
         he was such a rumphy grumpy
         ol' coot!








Now I have two short poems from Carl Sandburg, a poet less honored today than he should be.



A Coin

Your western heads here cast on money,
You are the two that fade away together,
Partners in the mist.

Lunging buffalo shoulder,
Lean Indian face,
We who come after where you are gone
Salute your forms on the new nickel.

You are
To us:
The Past.

Runners
On the prairie:
Good-bye.



Dynamiter

I sat with a dynamiter at supper in a German saloon
     eating steak and onions.
And he laughed and told stories of his wife and children
     and of the cause of labor and the working class.
It was laughter of an unshakable man knowing life to be
     a rich and red-blooded thing.
Yes, his laugh rang like the call of gray birds filled with
     a glory of joy ramming their winged flight through a
     rainstorm.
His name was in many newspapers as an enemy of the
     nation and few keepers of churches or schools would
     open their doors to him.
Over the steak and onions not a word was said of his deep
     days and nights as a dynamiter.
Only I always remember him as a lover of life, a lover of
     children, a lover of all free, reckless laughter every-
     where - lover of red hearts and red blood the world
     over.








I wrote this poem several years ago, right after the Mars Rovers landed and began their trucking across the red deserts of Mars. I really don't understand why more people don't get as excited about this space stuff as I do.



red planet rebirth

oxidized remains of cathedrals and commerce
brought to dust by the savage rub of time

red dust so fine it spreads like a cloud
across the plains and hills all around

virgin bride again

ready for life again after millennia
alone in the cold, black crypt of space









I've used poems by Ramon Lopez Velarde from the book Song of the Heart - Selected Poems several times. Velarde, born in 1888 and died in 1921, was Mexico's most popular poet from many years and was known as "Poet of the Provinces" for his love of the slow changing rural areas of his country. This poem is an example of that.

The poems were translated by Margaret Sayers Peden



Hometown

Ingenuous provincial girls, when I find
my hope has been erased, I'll come back home
to streets where you stroll twittering like birds
and slip a brotherly arm around your waist.

At the hour of the Angelus, you promenade,
white shawls knotted tight across your breasts,
our faces - ah, those picture-perfect faces -
caressed by the valley's finest evening light.

Bosoms pressed against work wood balconies,
you chatter in the warm spring evening air
- Virginia will wed; Rose's suitor is here -

and when poets hear the saneness of your words
they are forever cured of city woes....
and in the village, life contentedly flows on.








Dan Cuddy has been with us here a number of times. Here he is again, with a new poem.



Mauled

Night cracks open
In shopping center lights
Cars circle hit parade tunes
Plopping out mattresses of memory
Blue sirens wail off in the distance
The day can never find itself
A child inside the food court
In the always lit halls
Of no comment but "more"
The lone guard walks past the cages
Where stores growl merchandise








My next poem is from Garrison Keillor's collection, Good Poems for Hard Times. The poem is by the English poet William Blake who was born in London in 1757 and who died in 1827, poor and unknown, and buried in an unmarked grave.



Proverbs of Hell

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measured by the clock,
  but of wisdom no clock can measure.
All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
What is now proved was once only imagined.
The rat, the mouse, the fox the rabbit, watch the roots. The lion,
  the tiger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains, the fountain overflows.
One thought fills immensity.
Think in the morning; act in the noon; eat in the evening;
  sleep in the night.
You never know what is enough unless you know
  what is more than enough.
Listen to the fool's reproach! It is a kingly title!
The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water,
  the beard of earth.
The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.
If others had not been foolish, we should be so.
The soul of sweet delight can never be defiled.
When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius,
  lift up thy head!
Exuberance is beauty.
If the lion was advised by the fox, he would be cunning.
Improvement makes straight roads, but the crooked roads
  without improvement are roads of genius.
    Enough! Or too much!
The ancient poets animated all sensible objects with gods or
  geniuses, calling them by the names, and adorning them with
  the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lades, cities, nations,
  and whatever their enlarged and numerous senses could per-
  ceive.
And particularly they studied the genius of each city and country,
  placing it under mental deity.
Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of and
  enslaved the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the
  mental deities from their objects. Thus began priesthood:
  choosing forms of worship from poetic tales.
And at length they pronounced that the gods had ordered such
  things.
Thus men forgot that all deities reside in the human beast.





Photo by Dora Ramirez-Itz




I've been in a bit of a melancholy mood for the past while or two, resulting in some very bad poetry. This one is better than most.



too much thinking of the future

i wish
i had paid more attention
to those days i think of now
with such sweet affection

too much thinking
of the future
then,
leaving me in these later years
with only a half-
remembered
past

it's why old photos
leave me deep in blank despair

i swear to god
if i could do it again
i'd need no photos
to remind me
now
of those
my better days








I have a poem now from Selected Poems of Anna Akhmatova translated by <Judith Hemschemeyer.

Anna Akhmatova was born in 1889 and achieved her first fame as part of pre-Revolutionary Russian literary society. Though briefly rehabilitated for her patriotism during World War II, she lived with repression both before the war and after, until the last years of her life when her literary achievement and international recognition allowed her a short time out of the shadows of official disapproval.
I think the story of Lot's wife, turned to a pillar of salt as the result of the most human of emotions, curiosity and love of hearth and home, is key to understanding the kind of god you're dealing with there in the Old Testament of the Christian bible. Not a nice fellow at all.

Given her own experience with despots, I suspect Akhmatova might have a special understanding of the fate of Lot's wife, the woman who is never even given a name of her own.



Lot's Wife

                    Lot's wife looked back from behind
                    him and became a pillar of salt.
                          Book of Genesis


And the righteous man followed the envoy of God,
Huge and bright, over the black mountain.
But anguish spoke loudly to his wife;
It is not too late, you can still gaze

At the red towers of your native Sodom,
At the square where you sang, at the courtyard where you spun,
At the empty windows of the tall house
Where you bore children to your beloved husband.

She glanced, and, paralyzed by deadly pain,
Her eyes no longer saw anything;
And her body became transparent salt
And her quick feet were rooted to the spot.

Who will weep for this woman?
Isn't her death the least significant?
But my heart will never forget the one
Who gave her life for a single glance.

February 24, 1924








Here's a funny little piece from Mick Moss who is returning to us after a considerable absence.

Mick had this to say for himself:

"Mick Moss is a 54 year old poet of considerable renown. (it says here).
He lives in Liverpool England. Which is European Capitol of Culture for 2008 (it says here).

That's enough biog I think. (he says)."

So, with great pleasure I present this poet of considerable renown, with as good an explanation as I've ever heard of a particular turn of phrase.



Apeshit

as in "he went apeshit"
where does that come from?

I imagine a bunch of African porters
escorting Livingstone
through the jungle

he treads in some apeshit
and gets angry
the porters smile at each other
"foolish whiteman"

it probably has nothing to do with that
at all
but the image stays with me

I rarely "go apeshit."








Now, from one of my favorite poets, Charles Harper Webb, something from his 1997 Morse Poetry Prize winning book Reading the Water.

Webb was educated at Rice University, the University of Washington and the University of Southern California. He worked for fifteen years as a professional rock singer and guitarist. At the time the book was published by Northeastern University Press in 1997, he was a licensed psychotherapist and professor of English at California State University, Long Beach.



Twenty Years Late to See
The Rocky Horror Picture Show


Brad and Janet, the square couple, are a hoot -
and the line "Didn't we pass a castle down the road?"
and Riff-Raff the hunchback, and his sister Magenta,
and of course the mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter:
a monument to camp, strutting and mincing the black corset
and fishnets, thick crimson lipstick, pearl necklace, purple
goggles of eye shadow and a tattoo of a heart skewered by a knife
as he sings "I'm Just a Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual
  Transylvania."

But what made the movie such a hit, and dates it so completely
as the 21st century closes in, is its atmosphere of pure
  permission -
"If it feels good, do it," from the days of Androgynous Rock:
Elton John in rhinestones and windshield-wiper specs,
David Bowie with his orange hair and Spiders from Mars,
Freddie Mercury and Queen, and my band, The Restauranteurs.
(We were thumbing through a dictionary, trying names
like Brunnhilde and Nepenthe, when someone read restaurateur
and we all roared.)

          The first time I wore lipstick
and green eye shadow, and stuffed a rolled-up washcloth
in my pants, I barely dared to step on stage. But people thought
we were rock stars, and pretty soon I thought so too, certain
we'd go platinum, reviling disco and Saturday Night Fever,
hot-tubbing with a blonde, brunette, and redhead all at once -
sweet, slutty innocents - years before Freddie got AIDS
and "We Are the Champions" became "The Show Must Go On."

That is why watching Rocky Horror in my living room
on my VCR (a thing unknown when the movie appeared),
I listen, rapt, as Karen explains how the audience threw rice
in the wedding scene, covered their heads with newspapers
in the rain scene, flicked on their cigarette lighters
when Brad said, "There's a light over at the Frankenstein place."
That is why I grab my turtle, Excremento, in one hand,
and Karen's hand in the other, and dance with them
around my living room, and why all night the record-
changer in my brain plays and replays the sad hit single,
old as humankind: "Let's Do the Time Warp Again."








I wrote this piece during the early summer of 2000. I guess I can say I've made some progress toward what I wanted then, but simplicity is a very complicated thing and I haven't gotten there yet.



"Life Origins Get Murkier and Messier"
   Headline: New York Times - 6/13/2000

Things keep getting
   so damned complicated,
   a frayed string of knots and tangles
at a time when, in my heart and mind,
   I begin each morning
   with a cry for simplicity,
   clarity, surety,
   simple lucidity.

I don't need any more intricate
   swirls of color and abstract design
   in my life right now.
I want some plain old
   black and white,
   straight lines,
   clean choices,
   clear horizons.

I keep trying to simplify life
and life keeps fighting back.








Next I have some short pieces from Portuguese poet Eugenio de Andrade, translated by Alexis Levitin. The pieces are from Andrade's book Forbidden Words published by New Directions PaperBook.

I may have used some of these pieces before, but, if I did, well, they're worth reading again. They're from a series titled Earth's Script written in 1974.



Kerkira

Like the smell of linen
that only shoulders gently touched possess
the earth is white


Rome

It was late on a summer afternoon that,
like Hadrian or Virgil or Marcus Aurelius,
I entered Rome along the Via Appia
and by Autinous and all the lover on earth
I swear I saw light turn to stone.


Lisbon

This fog upon the city, the river,
seagulls of another day, boats, people
in a rush or with all the time in the world,
this fog where the light of Lisbon begins,
rose and lemon upon the Tagus, the light of water,
I wish for nothing else as I climb from street to street.


Mediterranean

As in the Whitman poem, a little boy
came up to me and asked: What is the grass?
Between his look and mine the air arched.
In the shade of other afternoons I spoke to him
of bees and thistles close to the ground


House in the Rain

Rain, once again the rain upon the olive trees.
I do not know whey it has returned this afternoon
since my mother has already gone away,
no longer comes out on the balcony to watch it fall,
no longer lifts her eyes from sewing
to ask: Do you hear it?
I hear it, mother, once again the rain,
the rain upon your face.


Paestum, With New Moon

In the sky of Paestum
columns
rise to the
pitiless height
of the new moon and the soul.
To the hoarse, abandoned
music of the cicadas,
To the unexpected fragrance
of a rose..


Cacela

It's on the side of summer
where in the early morning
boats pass by, surrounded by whitewashed walls.

It has the perfection of deserted dunes,
in murmur of pigeons,
the difficulty transparency of light
and all its rigor.


At the Airport in New York

A quick glance, an invitation
I did not accept, the promise of pleasure
now would fall to less exhausted eyes,,
but for a moment I had caught a glimpse
of a morning field of clover covered in dew.








Next I have this very nice poem by poet Nancy Dinan. I guess I ought to save it until a more seasonally appropriate moment, but I like it too much to hold on to it.



The End of the Season

In St. Augustine grass
In sea water
In ceiling fans
And citronella candles

In brown sugar barbecue sauce
In canned beer from ice chests
In bruised heels
And sunburnt backs

In windows opened
In curtains floating
In bleachy chlorinated
Bathing suits

In lake water
Colder and darker
The deeper I go
On rocking chairs
And inner tubes
In the creaking, humming night circling our campfire

You are in these summer places
And now a frost has come








From that great 1,301 page hulk of a book, World Poetry, here's an 18th century anonymous Irish Gaelic piece, translated by the not so anonymous George Gordon, Lord Byron.



So, We'll Go No More A-Roving

So, we'll go no more a-roving
    So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
    And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
    And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
    and love itself have rest.

Through the night was made for loving,
    And the day returns too soon,
Yet, we'll go no more a-roving
    By the light of the moon.








I wrote this a couple of days ago after reading in the newspaper that a sixty-something year old battlefield photo of Ernie Pyle's body had been discovered in someone's archive.

Pyle was the prototype war correspondence, advancing with the troops through some of the deadliest killing fields in World War II. His intimate reportage, more like letters to friends, was followed by the "folks at home" in more than 300 newspapers. Instead of the movements of armies or the activities of generals, Pyle generally wrote from the perspective of the common soldier, an approach that won him not only further popularity but also the Pulitzer Prize in 1944. His wartime writings are preserved in three books: Brave Men, Here is Your War, and Ernie Pyle in England.

In 1944, he wrote a column urging that soldiers in combat get "fight pay" just as airmen were paid "flight pay". Congress passed a law giving soldiers 50 percent extra pay for combat service. The legislation was called "the Ernie Pyle bill."

He was killed April 18, 1945 on Ie Shima, an island off Okinawa Honto, as the result of machine gun fire from an enemy machine gun nest. Until this recent finding, there were no known photos of his body. As a correspondent, Pyle insisted on trying to report war as it really was, not as some grand adventure but as a cauldron of fire and death. Those familiar with his work believe he would have wanted this picture published as his final piece of reporting on the price of war.



ernie pyle's last story

telling stories
in the midst of war
about war
about the warriors
who fought it

becoming
part of the story
on a small unpacific
island
when a japanese bullet
lay down the final
sentence
to his last byline

quietly lying
on a dirt path
near the top
of a small sand hill
hands
folded in front
as if asleep
but for the trickle
of blood
from the corner
of his mouth

-30-








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

David has published published two poetry collections: Words to Say in 2002 and Talking to Lord Newborough in 2004. A selection of his poems is available on his website, which you can reach by clicking on the link on the right.



Flotsam on a Winter Tide

Round again on the full tide, churning
close to the quiet foreshore, then
caught by the undertow and turning
round again -

slowing now: as far-travelled men,
turning back with regret or yearning,
drift for a while near a journey's end.

Knowing all and beyond all knowing,
Nature speaks in the tide's turn when
all that drifts is gathered going
round again.








I've been writing such dreary, drudgy stuff lately that it's nice to go back to silly piece I wrote in 2002. It was published in The Green Tricycle in 2003. I also included it in my book, Seven Beats a Second.

I think when I wrote the piece I was flashing back to the novelty song "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" by Napoleon XIV (real name: Jerry Samuels) in the mid-sixties.

For some fun follow this url to a version of the song with animation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o7bMdAyPes


(You will have to copy the url and paste it to your browser since I don't have an automatic link.)

It's a pretty impressive first effort by a youtube subscriber. The video is credited to Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and the audio to Dr. Demento



buggin' out

I can hear them
walking in my head
soft little footsteps

   shushh
   shushh

like they're wearing
little velvet slippers
on their little buggy
feet...

   shushh....
   shushhhhhhhh

I can hear them
sneaking
through my brain

   shushh
   shushh

on little buggy
tippietoes....








Well, that's it for this week. Time to head for the hills.

Here's a little something before we do that.

I didn't want to interfere with Alex Stolis' sleeping beauty poem, but the "fractured fairy tales" connection that jumped to my mind got me thinking. I had decided that they were done by Stan Freberg, but when I checked his entry on Wikipedia, I couldn't find any reference to it, so maybe not. What I did find was the stuff that follows, word for word from the great wiki. These were two Freberg bits I remember that had me rolling in the aisles, which was dangerous because they were on the radio and the only place I listened to the radio was in the car. Anyway, these are two from among his many funny bits.

"The lack of sponsorship was not the only issue. Freberg frequently complained of radio network interference. Another sketch from the CBS show, "Elderly Man River," anticipated the Political Correctness movement by decades. Daws Butler plays "Mr. Tweedly," a representative of a fictional citizens' radio review board, who constantly interrupts Freberg with a loud buzzer as Freberg attempts to sing "Old Man River." Tweedly objects first to the word "old," "which some of our more elderly citizens find distasteful." As a result, the song's lyrics are progressively and painfully distorted, as Freberg struggles to turn the classic song into a form which Tweedly will find acceptable "to the tiny tots" listening at home: "He don't, er, doesn't plant 'taters, er, potatoes....he doesn't pick cotton, er, cotting....and them-these-those that plants them are soon forgotting," a lyric of which Freberg is particularly proud. Even when the censor finds Freberg's machinations acceptable, the constant interruption ultimately brings the song to a grinding halt (just before Freberg would have had to edit the line "You gets a little drunk and you lands in jail"), furnishing the moral and the punch line of the sketch at once. The performance skewered political correctness about 30 years before the term even existed. But all of these factors forced the cancellation of the show after a run of only 15 episodes.

After the radio show, he created an album which was supposed to be similar to his radio show. This album is most famous for a bit in which, through the magic of sound effects, Freberg drained Lake Michigan and refilled it with hot chocolate, whipped cream, and a cherry, saying, "Let's see them do that on television!" That bit became a commercial for advertising on radio."

Anyway, so much for remembering Stan Freberg. I think I may have read of his death recently. Hope not. This planet can't afford to lose any of its funny people.

Until next week when we'll have more poems, poets, and miscellaneous palaver, remember, all of the work presented on 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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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