Rocky Mountain High
Friday, February 22, 2008
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
is "overbreeding" -
the greed to populate the world
with your kind.
For this -
death by starvation.
Prowling, the January woods -
a skeletal forest, black-on-white,
Japanese in execution - you exhale desire
in tiny spasms
In startled sympathy
our souls fly after you:
a fiction that offers comfort.
Morning? - opaque
And outside our windows
the snow is madly churned
as if by heraldic beasts -
not seven or eight starving deer,
Tonight - last night -
the years before yesterday -
these childhood apparitions
accursed with useless beauty -
Pray for us.
Creatures of legend and perfection -
erect white "flags" for tails
for hunters' gunsights -
Pray for us.
That doomed fawn about whose neck
Alice slipped a graceful arm -
figures of earthen-furred beauty -
the finitude of heartbreak -
Pray for us.
Your crashing flight
through underbrush -
and your souls do fly after.
By January moonlight
deer disturb our sleep -
ivy-vines-dried leaves-evergreen branches -
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.
(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,
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
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.
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
The difference between a cock at plain
rest, for once longing to put itself
and one that, just done thirsting,
collapses, curls slowly back in on
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
with youthful lilt
and a full and jolly
that turns heads,
an old man
with trembling fingers,
and liver spots
on his bald
wearing a porky pig tie
that matches his laugh,
the pale, still hand
a dead-faced woman
in a wheel chair
a lovely couple
out on the evening
"I'll be right back,"
he says and turns
a happy little tune
under his breath
in the chair
and her smile
like a weight
from some great height,
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,
planted in her chair
like a bull
in its own private pasture
she's a large woman
with a sharp beak of a nose
with an occasional sniff
on a fleshy face
that hints at sensuality
behind a domineering facade,
a look of secrets
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.
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
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.
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!
This is something new.
I wish had
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.
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,
My head sticks out of bed
We like our bike.
It is made for three.
sits up in back,
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.
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.
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.
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
And that is why we have a Zans.
A Zans for cans
is very good.
Have you a Zans for cans?
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.
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
The ink he likes to drink is pink.
He likes to wink and drink pink ink.
if you have a lot of ink
they you should get
a Yink, I think.
Who is this pet?
He is wet.
You never yet
met a pet
as wet as they let
this wet pet get.
Did you ever
fly a kite
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,
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
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.
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?
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.
It is time to sleep
with our pet Zeep.
Today is gone. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
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,
and a heavy dry mist
which begins to clear
Outside is a bitter
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
are in a state
of arboreal confusion,
little green baby buds
on some, others,
any hint of green
it's an uncertain
seemingly at war,
I'm pulling for winter
always loses out
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.
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
Each vestigial flutter is the body
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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,
defying all vocabularies
of science and faith,
in some indefinable dimension
of simultaneous is and is not,
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
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
Right now I am in Mexico:
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,.
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
and the helicopter circles and circles
smelling for blood
searchlights leering down into our
5 guys in this court have pistols
we are all murderers and
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.
and on each porch
is a small dish of food
always eaten by morning
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
is a beautiful
which is terrible
cause we don't need
a beautiful sun-shining
we need a dark, ugly
and if i hear
one more radio
talk about what a
day it is i'm going
to find him and do
all the way up his
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.
Those south of us are lavish
with their syllables. They scatter, we
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
those who take risks
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.
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.
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.
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.
And Time a sigh
Blowing through a hollow bone.
In the sky, the zodiac impaled
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
through the "Times"
I saw a story
researchers using stem cells
were able to control diabetes in
great news for the mice
I am sure there must be
in mouse holes throughout
fortunate mice, these,
who, unlike their cousins,
didn't catch cancer
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
when hanging around too much
with humans in white coats
a banner day for the creme de la creme of
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.
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.
I never had a plan in life,
just lived it as I found it
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,
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
and sooner than I expected
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.