Morning at Peaceful Valley Ranch   Friday, April 25, 2008


III.4.4.




And here we are, now, with another week of poems and other pleasures.







I ended last week with a short poem by A.R. Ammons. This week I'm moving him to the front of the line. Both the poems this week and the poem last week are from Poetry East, Spring 1997 Issue, a journal published twice a year.


Fuel to the Fire, Ice to the Flow

In knee boots men work at the street grills
to plunge flow through the leaves plugging the

storm drains; what I mean is, it rained a lot
and you know when it does autumn leaves wash

down the runoff and get stuck in the drains,
plug up the drains till the water backs up

and elongates lakes along the street or fits
nicely into concrete boundaried corners, but

if the language doesn't caper or diddly, who
cares what the water does or if the men get in

over their boots: I have the same clogging
problems with my gutter spouts (among other

things): this guy put in a sieve to keep the
leaves out of the pipe when the opaque sieve

reduced the flow to zero and the gutters
overspilled: I am a patient man and can -

though just barely - afford some experimentation
but after a while I'd just as soon move somewhere

else, Arizona or the Sahara: I just can't
take it when things do not go right, although

I patiently grit my teeth and persist in calm:
trouble is it all breaks out at night, some

kind of itching or bowel contraction or loose
saliva: anyway, it seemed like a poetic

thing to think of men in their yellow
rain gear and black hip boots looking down

trying to find an open bottom to a pond, with
it still raining, etc., you know.


That was fun, here's another.


How Things Go Wrong

One person shortcuts across the lawn because
a new building is being added to the complex,
changing everything,

and his shoes press the grass over so
another walker sees away already waged, and
pretty soon the root texture, like linen,

loosens on the ground, worn through rain
puddles in a heel print so walkers walk
around, broadening direction's swath: more

rain widens the mud so that given the picky waywardness
of walkers one could soon drive a chariot
right down the middle of recent developments.








The second of Ammon's poems above reminds me of one of my own that I wrote in 2003. It was published that same year in Eclectica and I later included it in my book, Seven Beats a Second.



where things went wrong

life
gets more screwy every day

and I don't like it

I liked it better
when I didn't have to play dodge'em
on the highway
with all the beam-me-up-scotties
with cell phones in their ears

I liked it better
when the crazy person on the sidewalk
talking to the air
really was a crazy person talking to the air
and not a dweeb yuppie
talking to his dweebette girlfriend
on some kind of phone thing too small
for me to even see

I liked it better when men were hard
and women were soft and cars had fins
and the president was smarter than the
average dumbass drunk at the corner bar

I liked it better
when Desi loved Lucy
and Georgeous George was the meanest guy
in TV wrestling

I liked it better
when a microwave
was what your girlfriend did
when she was across the room with her
parents

I liked it better
when I was young

a real up-and-comer

and the pretty girl on the park bench
was waiting for me








It's been a number of months since 've used anything from the huge volume of World Poetry - An Anthology of Verse From Antiquity to Our Time. I'll rectify that this week with a couple of poems from India at about the turn of the first millennium.

The first is written in language of the Kannada spoke in the southern state of Kannada in India. The poet is Mahadeviyakka who lived from 1130 to 1180.

At the age of ten Mahadeviyakka was initiated by an anonymous guru into Shiva worship, an event she considered so significant that she counted the days of her life as beginning only from that act. In her devotion to Shiva, she decided somewhere along the way that, in spite of the endless male attention coming her way because of her beauty, clothes were a needless adornment for one who wanted only the lord, covering her self only with her long tresses from then on.



Like an Elephant

Like an elephant
lost from his heard
suddenly captured,
remembering his mountains,
     his Vindhyas,
          I remember.

A parrot
come into a cage
remembering his mate,
          I remember.

O lord white as jasmine
show me
your ways,
     Call me: Child , come here,
          come this way.

(Translated by A.K. Ramanujan)


The second poem was written in sanskrit by Kshemendra, a poet, satirist and historian who lived about the same time as Mahadeviyakka. The poem is excerpted from Kavikanthabharana, a book on the education of a poet.


A poet should learn with his eyes
the form of leaves
he should know how to make
people laugh when they are together
he should get to see
what they are really like
he should know about oceans and mountain
in themselves
and the sun and the moon and the stars
his mind should enter into the seasons
he should go
among many people
in many places
and learn their languages

(Translated by W.S. Merwin and J. Mousaieff Mason)








This next piece is by Robert McManes, a frequent contributor to several of the workshop forums I post on.


bangs were popular once

twilight never gleams
moon beams shake and shimmer
tumble to the ground
rattle off rocks
bounce off trees
and manmade junk
piles and piles
old tuna fish cans

this is our legacy

we tremble
shake and roll
half life ideas
and take the next
exit (insert here)
knowing nothing
is ever free

and this is
e-z

these are the times
mimes and rhymes
volumes of words
spoken and broken
red and read

the book of books
the dead of dead
page after page
grave after grave
it's all relevant

vagabonds of civilizations
limping into tomorrow
battered but never bettered
a rhapsody unchanged

and one day it ends
with or without
the bang








My next poem is by Henri Coulette from his book The Collected Poems of Henri Coulette published by The University of Arkansas Press in 1990.
Coulette was born in 1927 in Los Angeles, California and died in 1988 of apparent heart failure. After graduating from Los Angeles State College in 1952, he enrolled in the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. His work was included in the New Poets of England and America anthologies in 1957 and 1962. His first book, The War of the Secret Agents and Other Poems, published in 1966, won the Lamont Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets. His second book, The Family Goldschmitt, published in 1971, was almost lost when virtually the entire first printing was accidentally destroyed in the publishers warehouse and never reprinted. He did not publish another book in his lifetime. The Collected Poems that I pulled the poem from was published two years after his death.

Although his background included a Hollywood stint in the publicity department of RKO Studios (where he is said to have saved the publicity stills for Citizen Kane from the same fate as his own book), most of his working life was spent in academia. He taught for many years at California State University, Los Angeles, where he was teaching at the time of his death.



The Academic Poet

My office partner dozes
at his desk, whimpering now
as he dreams his suicide.
The November light kisses
the scar of his last attempt.
I open my mail: a plea
for the starving Indian
children of North Dakota;

a special offer from Time,
Life, and Fortune; a letter
from a 65-year-old
former student, suggesting
a gland transplant that will make
a man of me; it hurts him
to hear what they are saying
about me behind my back.

It hurts me to hear what they
are saying to my face, pal.
I circle two misspelled words
and write, "Help I am being
held captive at Mickey Mouse
State College," across the top,
wondering is this the one,
or the fat woman, perhaps,

with the post-menopause craze
for strict forms. "The sestina -
can you use any six words?"
Well, yes, but they should define
a circle, which is the shape
I describe, chasing my tail
from class to class, the straight line
disguised, degree by degree.








Here's something I wrote just a couple of days ago, something unique, a poem complete with its own critique.



the sun was bright today

the sun
was bright today
and the sky
blue
as an ocean sigh

while
we toiled
in a garden
of dark
obsession,
harvesting shadows
and sly glances
and blossoms
of dark distrust

the sun
was.......
.
.
.
....such painstakingly
constructed
bullshit
this is.
every word dredged
like a lead weight
from some pestilent depth,
like the sludge at the bottom
of a ship channel
where diesel fuel and dead cats
industrial waste
and the shit of a city's worth of human
defecation
lays a coat of muck
of once pristine sand,
a
spew of
toxic
waste,
is this poem,
no heart, no soul...

no balls...

deadly to the poet
as to the reader

i
would burn this poem
but just as there are good days
and bad days
there are poems good and bad,
precious
all
for the tick-tocks of the clock of a lifetime
spent writing them

to throw them away,
to throw away even the worst,
is to throw away time
from an already
too
short life








I always have fun reading Spoon River Anthology. Edgar Lee Masters presents his characters with a wonderful sense of irony and, when appropriate, quiet venom.

Here's one that fits right in for this time at the tail end, we hope, of the Democrats nominating process.



Hiram Scates

I tried to win the nomination
For president of the County-board
And I made speeches all over the County
Denouncing Solomon Purple, my rival,
As an enemy of the people,
In league with the master-foes of man.
Young idealists, broken warriors,
Hobbling on one crutch of hope,
Souls that stake their all on the truth,
Losers of worlds at heaven's bidding,
Flocked about me and followed my voice
As the savior of the county.
But Solomon won the nomination;
And then I faced about,
And rallied my followers to his standard,
And made him victor, made him King
Of the Golden Mountain with the door
which closed on my heels just as I entered,
Flattered by Solomon's invitation,
To be the County-board's secretary.
And out in the cold stood all my followers:
young idealists, broken warriors
Hobbling on one crutch of hope -
Souls that staked their all on the truth,
Losers of worlds at heaven's bidding,
Watching the Devil kick the Millennium
Over the Golden Mountain.







Here's a poem by Sara Zang. Sara is administrator of the workshop forum "The Peaceful Pub."

What a pleasant idea Sara presents here - that the ills of the world could be solved with a twist of our wrist.




Snow Globe

The glass round and smooth
warms to the touch of my hands,
It is the world and I own it...
Shake it, watch the snow
settle over the enclosed planet,

A small universe,
but nevertheless, mine.
Even upside down
the steeple holds
to the church,

The ground stays grounded,
A child frozen in play shows no surprise
at finding his feet above his head,
I hold the globe upside down
until I fear he might be dizzy,

Then with gentle hands
and the ultimate conceit,
with just the twist
of my wrist,
I set the whole world straight.








In the July 27th 2007 issue of "Here and Now" I copied this from the only on-line source of any but the most basic information on Doc Dachtlerr:

"This is as close as I could come to finding biographic information on the web for Doc Dachtler, He has lived and worked in Nevada County for over 35 years. He is as much a social historian as he a poet and storyteller. Dachtler's writing often deals with everyday rural life and the people and events that weave the fabric of community he calls home. He has worked as a one-room schoolteacher at the North Columbia Schoolhouse and currently plies his skills in the trades as a carpenter. He is widely published and is credited with two books of poetry, Drawknife in 1985 and Waiting for Chains at Pearl's in 1990. He is also the founder of Poison Oak Press, specializing in limited edition letterpress poetry broadsides. To listen to Doc Dachtler is to sit in his living room, share a cup of coffee and enjoy the company of a friend. Unless there are several Doc Dachtler, he has also worked as an actor and general contractor."

That"s what I could find out then and there"s nothing new from a Google search now, except the "Here and Now" piece from before.

The poem I've chosen is from his second book.



Dakota Same

I see much that is the same there.
Much that is the same
slow, round way
of most things and events in the universe.
Watch a fish circle round the bait
and make itself an arc of the same round
and later in the pan if it is cooked fresh enough
it will make itself into the same arc.
I have seen it again.
I have caught it again on an arched pole
for the arched hunger
in my arched stomach.

The turn of the swather wheel
lays the tangled clover hay down
in a round window.
The arc of a well thrown horseshoe
resembles the wheel coming up and going around and
down
and the arm of the thrower does the same.
The wheels of the side delivery rake
mound the hay into slightly curving rows
like the prairie of Dakota
which is slow to round but does it all around
and whatever isn't is called a Butte.

The speech of the people there has a slowness;
the inflection of a question comes into many statements
that circle a point
with the same beauty and grace
that my Uncle Shorty displays when he rubs
his huge belly in a big circle with his right hand
to show he is thinking something over.








I wrote this next thing a couple of weeks ago and apparently never used it here. Well, here's to fixing that.



ok, so you're telling me this so-called malthusian theory
of population growth and the inevitability of catastrophic
overpopulation wasn't, strictly speaking, my idea


i decided several years ago
that, being involved
in nothing else of consequence,
i should further my education

so i went to the university
in the city where i lived at the time
and signed up for a Masters Degree
program centered around
English Literature and Interdisciplinary Studies

I took my first class -
The Rhetorical Tradition -
basically a philosophy survey course
(seems the Greeks identified
Philosophy and Rhetoric as
basically the same thing) -
three hours a
night
four nights a
week
after an eight hour
day job,
it was not a bundle
of laughs,
but I did well,
as well as it was possible to do,
in fact, which reassured me
that, even in a class
with a bunch of kids
who could have been the kids
of my kids,
I could do better than hold my own

i did not go back the next semester
because it didn't seem my mind fit
the kind of mind
that higher level of education was aimed at,
minds directed toward classifying
and cataloguing
someone else's intellectual
output
rather than the kind of creative
intellectual adventure i was looking for

i'm an assimilator of facts and ideas,
every thing i know and think,
the entirety of the contents of my mind,
is the result of interaction with other minds,
but i could no more tell you
how those interactions occurred
or with whom
than I could tell you the chemical composition
of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich

i know
what i know
but i'll be damned
if i know
how i know it

not
higher level education
material
at all








My next poem is by Rita Dove from her book On The Bus With Rosa Parks published in 1999 by W.W. Norton and Company.

Born in 1952, Dove was Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1987 as well as a long list of recognitions and honors for her work. She is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.



I Cut My Finger Once On Purpose

I'm no baby. There's no grizzly man
wheezing in the back of the closet.
When I was the only one,
they asked me if I wanted a night-light
and I said yes -
but then came the shadows.

I know they make the noises at night.

My toy monkey Giselle, I put her
in a red dress they said was mine
once - but if it was mine, why did they yell
when Giselle clambered up the porch maple
and tore it? Why would Mother say
When you grow up, I hope you have
a daughter just like you


if it weren't true, that I have a daughter
hidden in the closet - someone
they were ashamed of and locked away
when I was too small to cry.

I watch them all the time now:
Mother burned herself at the stove
without wincing. Father
smashed a thumb in the Ford,
then stuck it in his mouth for show.
They bought my brother a just-for-boys
train, so I grabbed the caboose
and crowned him - but he toppled
from his rocker without a bleat;
he didn't even bleed.

That's when I knew they were
robots. But I'm no idiot:
I eat everything they give me,
I let them put my monkey away.
When I'm big enough
I'll go in, past the boa
and the ginger fox biting its tail
to where my girl lies, waiting...
and we'll stay there, quiet,
until daylight finds us.








Shawn Nacona Stroud has appeared several times on "Here and Now." His poetry has also appeared in the Crescent Moon Journal, Mississippi Crow Magazine, Loch Raven Review, and The Poetry Worm. His work has appeared in the poetry anthologies Poetry Pages Vol IV and Poetry From The Darkside Vol 2. He was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for 2008.

This poem was previously published in The Poetry Worm.



1:00 am on Lake Harney

The night sky is scratch art,
a trillion glinting specks
stylus sketched
on a black plane,
carbon copied into rippling water.

I manipulate grains of sand
with my toes. The dark blusters
with sonance. A chorus
of horny frogs blare
over squeals of cicadas,
drowning the cricket's frail rings.

A warm Florida breeze gentles my face,
Spanish moss sways as the moon jumps
in a flicker of yellow
back and forth in the lake.

Behind me the house is dark,
concealing its conked-out contents,
eluded in a Sominex sleep -
they cannot discern what they lack,
I've shed them like a skin
discarded at my back.

I disown mortality -
that flesh cocoon has ensnared me
ten years too long and it knows it, it's ready
to give as I step onto the tide-slapped pier
and fishy-air taints my nostrils.

Brittle boards stretch out before me -
a plank that destiny blades my back to walk,
stupid pirate, I creak those slats willingly.

As I step forward a heron bursts
into the sky from the water,
white feathers spread
wide like an angel's.

If only such beauty could change me.








My next poem is by Anne Silver from her book Bare Root.

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

Silver was an internationally recognized author of three books. A political and environmental activist, she also provided expert witness testimony on matters of handwriting analysts.

A cancer patient at the time this book was written, she described her poetry as the bridge that kept her connected to life. Born in 1951, Silver succumbed to her cancer in 2005.



Limitless

Could I love the starlit sky
if I did not also love the sun
the reflection of the meadow in a horse's eye
the curve of my nose
even the sound of my own voice
though I have spoken with the spirit of Esau
and wept because I had asked for too much?

How can I not love and thank
the Host of this entire universe?
I can't imagine not begging to stay
no matter when it's my time,
but when I must,
I want to leave
blowing kisses off my fingertips
and using my last breath to say
I have loved it all.








I'm putting this issue together on what I ardently hope is the last of the Democratic primaries, this one in Pennsylvania. Usually, I know from the beginning who I'm for and who I'm against. I think this might be the first time in my 44 years of voting when my mind has been changed by what I saw and heard during the campaign.



Strange


strange

after
seven and one half years
looking forward
to our next presidential
election
i could so now
wish
it was over

strange

after
all those
years
i could in so few
months
come to understand
why
the Clintons
are so despised
by so many








Aaron Silverberg has been writing since graduating in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1978.

He is an improvisational flutist, ecstatic dancer, organic gardner and personal life coach. This poem is from his book Thoreau's Chair published in 2001 by Off the Map Enterprises of Seattle.



Wild Skins

dead ahead
not three paces
two mule deer
female
5 feet plus

50-lb. pack creak
twitching noses
furrythick ears
liquid brown eyes
large enough to drown in

no possessions
quickened hearts exchange

hooves prancing closer
gamey smell devours
our knowing

shutters click
and they're gone

soon at the trailhead
we lean our packs against the car
and shed our wild skins.








Alex Stolis, a prolific poet both on the web and in print, lives in Minneapolis. Alex has recently published a series of poems based on the Tarot deck. Some of those have appeared here, including the very first poem in the series. This week we close the circle with the two poems that end the series.

I can't immediately get my hands on information about where details regarding the published series can be found. If I get that information later, I'll pass it on.



Card XIX

The Sun feels responsible for the death of the Moon

if only i had listened
closer to the wind
as it chimed its way
up the mountain
like an ink stain
spreading slowly
over the clouds

instead i watched
a bird's wing
score lines
in the night sky
and remembered

there was a time
i could sing
and words
would float
down stream
dissolve in water
one by one

until only vowels
were left sinking
slowly to the bottom
to mix with sand and stone


Card XX

The Last Judgment

will start on a dead end street at that just right time before the sun dies








After reluctantly concluding that our 18-mile-per-gallon Cadillac no longer made sense in a three to five dollar a gallon world, we bought a new car, a small SUV, not as great in the mileage area than we could have done, but it's high off the ground and easy for an old folk to get into, it's red and easy to find in a parking lot, and it beats the old car by about 10 mpg and I like it.

After it's first night parked under a tree, our shiny, red new car was customized in a variety of runny looking colors by bird poop...reminding me of this poem written in about 2001, first published in Poems Neiderngasse in 2002 and later included in my book Seven Beats a Second



Did You Ever Watched a Pigeon Walk?

notice the way its head thrusts
forward then back with each step

validation
I think at first
of the advice often given that to get ahead
you have to stick your neck out

then a closer look reveals
that though they walk with such purpose
they don't really go anywhere but in circles
which makes we wonder
about the whole concept of risk and reward

perhaps better to be the jay who sits
without moving, in a tree and shits on my car,

making his mark on the world
without the pigeon's phony hustle-bustle









My next poem is from Across State Lines, an anthology of poems about the fifty states by a variety of poets, some well known and some not.



This poem is by Michael Pettit.

Born in West Texas and raised in New Orleans, Pettit graduated from Princeton University, then ran a family ranch in Pearl River County, Mississippi. For the past thirty years, he has written award-winning prose and poetry published in numerous anthologies and journals. He has been a professor of English and also directed the Mount Holyoke Writers Conference, the Santa Fe Writers Conference, and was cofounder of the National Association of Writing Conferences. A National Endowment for the Arts fellowship winner, Pettit's books include The Writing Path, American Light, and Cardinal Points, which received the Iowa Poetry Prize. He now lives in New Mexico.



Virginia Evening

Just past dusk I passed Christiansburg,
cluster of lights sharpening
as the violet backdrop of the Blue Ridge
darkened. Not stars
but blue-black mountains rose
before me, rose like sleep
after hours of driving, hundreds of miles
blurred behind me. My eyelids
were so heavy but I could see
far ahead a summer thunderstorm flashing,
lightning sparking from cloud
to mountaintop. I drove toward it,
into the pass at Ironto, the dark
now deeper in the long steep grades,
heavy in the shadow of mountains weighted
with evergreens, with spruce, pine,
and cedar. How I wished to sleep
in that sweet air, which filled -
suddenly over a rise - with the small
lights of countless fireflies. Everywhere
they drifted, sweeping from the trees
down to the highway my headlights lit.
Fireflies blinked in the distance
and before my eyes, just before
the windshield struck them and they died.
Cold phosphorescent green, on the glass
their bodies clung like buds bursting
the clean line of a branch in spring.
How long it lasted, how many struck
and bloomed as I drove on, hypnotic
stare fixed on the road ahead, I can't say.
Beyond them, beyond their swarming
bright deaths came the rain, a shower
which fell like some dark blessing.
Imagine when I flicked he windshield wipers on
what an eerie glowing beauty faced me.
In that smeared, streaked light
diminished sweep by sweep you could have seen
my face. It was weary, shocked awakened,
alive with wonder far after the blades and rain
swept clean the light of those lives
passed, like stars rolling over
the earth, now into other lives.



Just as I finished up posting the Pettit poem above I realized it was not the poem I had planned on using. The one I wanted was the poem before the Pettit poem, this one by Hayden Carruth celebrating Vermont. They're both lovely poems, so I'll just use both.

Born in 1921, Carruth has been writing for more than 50 years and is the author of more than 30 books of poetry, criticism, essays, a novel and two anthologies. The recipient of many awards and honors, he is professor emeritus at Syracuse University where he taught for many years.

Here is his poem, celebrating, once again, the state of Vermont.



The Cows at Night

The moon was like a full cup tonight,
too heavy, and sank in the mist
soon after dark,leaving for light

faint stars and the silver leaves
of milkweed beside the road,
gleaming before my car.

Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out wheel I saw

the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.

I stopped, taking my flashlight
to the pasture fence. They turned
to me where they lay, sad

and beautiful faces in the dark,
and I counted them - forty
near and far in the pasture,

turning to me, sad and beautiful
like girls very long ago
who were innocent, and sad
because they were innocent,
and beautiful because they were
sad. I switched off my light.

But I did not want to go,
not yet, nor knew what to do
if I should stay, for how

in that great darkness could I explain
anything, anything at all.
I stood by the fence. And then

very gently it began to rain.








Mary S. Clemons lives in Florida. Her poems have been published in Loch Raven Review, Amaze: The Cinquain Journal, and soon to be in Strong Verse.

Mary is active in several on-line workshops such as Wild Poetry Forum, where I first saw and liked this poem, Penshells, and The Critical Poet as well as a local group, The Poet's Corner.



Rural Highway

When the neon of Dad's Bar and Grill
wanes from your rear view, the last
of the street lamp's

buttered dots melt into pavement.
The woods shrivel to comatose,
high beams glimpse consciousness,

then flat line. Imbedded line markers glow
like runway guidelines, merge
at the point of lost perception.

The radio blurs, a web of sound
wrapped in the road's silky rhythm.
Awareness buckles, lost

in familiarity. A lone car
is a lighthouse beacon,
cutting the night in slices.

You're a ship in the dark sea.
A gated fence, an estate's silent
lions assure the turn lies ahead.

The blinker ignites
shoulder grass, the heart grinds -

freedom lies where lines converge.








Now, here's another few minutes in the life of my main man, Charles Bukowski.



like a movie

it was like a movie.
I got the phone call and picked her up
at a bar off of
Vine St.
she was waiting in a booth
and the patrons were watching a
baseball game.
Friday evening.
she was drinking white
wine.
I got the tab: $4.75
and left a
quarter tip

when she saw my 15-year-old car
she said,
Shit.

I said, do you want to get in or not?

she got in.

at my place I rolled her a joint
and poured 2 scotch and
sodas.

she put her head in my lap
and said,
that fucking job is killing
me.

I rubbed her temples, her nose,
her eyebrows. she arched her back
to kiss me. I kissed
her.

the phone rang. I got up and
answered it, came back, sat
down.

that was Vickie, I said, you've got to
go.

shit, she said from flat on her back,
when do you write?

I smiled at her
as she left
and closed the
door.








We'll end this week with this little piece of coffee shop observation I wrote a couple of days ago.



fantastic news!

the chess master,
a young physician with
an unfortunate resemblance
to Harpo Marx,
enters the room
and a boy,
his pupil,
races to greet him,
"I have fantastic
news,"
he says,
pride-full, excited
to be telling the master
of his own mastery of something,
but his teacher
sees an acquaintance
and stops to talk
and doesn't notice the boy
who stops
as if suspended in mid-step
before an invisible
barrier,
then turns,
his face hung low,
and walks back slowly
to where his father waits

the teacher
finds a table
and lays upon it his board
and chess pieces
and turns back
to talk to his friend again

the boy
goes to the table and quietly sits,
aching to tell the news stuck
still
in his throat
waiting
until, finally, the master joins him

"I have fantastic
news," the boy tries
again

"Tell me
this fantastic news,"
says the master,
"before we begin our lesson."








No bull, it's time to go.

Fold your chairs and put them against the wall until next week. Until then, remember, all of the material presented on this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself is produced by and the property of me....allen itz.

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Alla En El Rancho Grande   Friday, April 18, 2008


III.4.3.




Welcome to "Here and Now."

This issue is a little longer than usual this week, even though I don't have as many poets as I normally present, The difference is a couple of longish and one very long poem. I won't speak to the longish ones, since they are mostly mine, but I will say the very long poem is a masterwork I know you will enjoy.

Now, with things to do, things to do, no preamble this week, I'm just moving right to it.







I mentioned in closing out last week's issue that it seemed tamer than usual, so I'm trying to start off this week with a little more fire.

I'm afraid the best I can do is this poem by Michele Serros from the anthology bum rush the page - a def poetry jam. Maybe it's not so fiery, but it is funny.

Serros is from California and is the author of Chicana Falsea: And Other Stories of Death, Identity & Oxnard, and How to Be a Chicana Role Model.



Mr. BOOM BOOM Man

Here he comes!
Distorted bass
nearly three blocks away
I wait
at the mercy of the traffic light
waitin
n waitin
for it to change
from red to green
so I won't have to deal
with him......
Mr. BOOM BOOM Man.

But in my rearview mirror
it doesn't lie
n pumping his system
from my behind
I see his calling card
baby lavender twinkle lights
hugging a chrome-plated license plate
five-digit proclamation:
Double O Bad
coming at me!

A fifty-pound medallion
heaving a hickey-stained neck
closer
to the center of his manhood:
his beeper.
He pulls up slowly...
lowered Nissan mini truck
fills the vacancy on my left
n the automatic tinted window
makes it slow way down,
I start to wonder
Why,
why can't I be like the cool girls
and like the cars that go:
BOOM BA BOOM...?

Dig the way quarters
bounce off vinyl roofs?
Funky, fresh and stoopid
they say.

But then a flash
of gold gilded teeth
blinds my thoughts
n Mr. BOOM BOOM
shouts ut:
Hey!
Sen-yo-reeeeta!
mamacita!
You speak English?
Hey...YOU
I'm talkin to you...
aaah, you deaf bitch!


And then
I remember.

I wanna yell out,
Yeah, I speak English,
Pig Latin too
so Uckfay Offay
Mr. BOOM BOOM
Take your fade
n f-f-fade away
!

But the light has turned green
n I don't have the time
(or the balls, really)
I take off
FAST
leaving behind
Mr. BOOM BOOM
Bu-foon








Trying to stay light and funny, I have this piece I wrote a couple of months ago. I don't think I've used it here yet.



the night I got chased out of Mexico

this
is a story
about the time
I got chased out of
Mexico
by a posse
of Mexican taxi cabs

I was a young guy
just old enough
to get a taxi license
and I was driving
cab
on the Texas side
of the border

I picked up a fare
outside
one of the hotels
who wanted
to go to Mexico
and I said
hell yes
cause it was about
35 miles
and at 35 cents
for the first mile
and 10 cents a mile
thereafter
it was a pretty good
payoff
of which I'd get
a third
which never was
a hell'uv a lot
most nights
but better for a
trip
like this

so we headed out
down 281
for Matamoros
through Brownsville
and across the bridge
from where I knew
how to go two places
boys town
about which we
will speak no more
and the central plaza
which was close
to the mercado
and lots of good
nightclubs
good food
music
and floor shows
with sometimes
naked women
and that's where
the fella I was
carrying
wanted to go
so we went there
and I dropped
him off at the plaza
and while he paid me
I noticed all
the Mexican cabbies
giving me the eye
and I noticed
when I left
some of those
Mexican cabs
started following
behind
and then I noticed
I had ten to fifteen
Mexican cabs
riding my back
bumper
and I said to myself
oh shit
I screwed up
and the way
they were following
close and honking
it looked pretty clear
that they were
pissed
about whatever
it was I did
so I took off
for the bridge
as fast as I could
trying to remember
as I flew
which of the many
one way streets
in Matamoros
were going my way
and which were going
to either get me lost
of back to the plaza
where more trouble
was sure to be
waiting
and when I reached
the bridge
I tossed my 8 cents
to cross
to the Mexican
border guard
without
hardly stopping

when I got back
my dispatcher
told me the rules -
cabs don't cross
borders
fares are dropped
at the bridge
where they can
walk across
and get a local
cab
so
I really felt dumb
and never did that
again
though one time
I did pick up a guy
at the bridge
who had been in
jail
in Matamoros
for three days
and was beat
all to shit
and bleeding and
barely conscious

I took him home
and dropped him off
at the hospital
and his friend
who had gone
to Matamoros
to get him out
of jail
and had ridden
back with him
gave me a $3
tip
which was pretty
good
for the time








My next poem is by Daniel Donaghy from his book Street Fighting Poems, published by BkMk Press in 2005.

Donaghy holds a B.A. from Kutztown University, an M.A. from Hollins College, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Cornell University. At the time the book was published he was working on a Ph.D. in English at the University of Rochester.



Ann's Corner Store

Ann Russell worked the nigh shift,
listened to Phils' games with the sound low
so her husband wouldn't hear it upstairs,
so her son wouldn't wake into the pain
he'd become from cancer, skin sliding from bone,
teeth gone, gauze hiding the scalp
once crusty from a slicked-back wave.
The boy's mitt waited by the register
while Ann bagged my candy ad gum,
her chapped lips a line of worry
while Kalas called the play-by-play,
whispering into the radio
for a sign that the Phils would pull it out,
get by the Dodgers into the Series,
that the store wouldn't get robbed again
or her daughter pregnant by a corner boy,
that her son would get better
and back onto Lighthouse Field,
owning short and third, hitting cleanup,
or else die soon and get it over with,
Ann gone those tight minutes
before she came back with my change,
flipping coins into the air,
pulling one from behind her ear
before she slid them into my cupped hands.








And now, the latest from our friend, Alice Folkart, caught in mid-loll on the beaches of Hawaii.



Sometime in July with Jude

"Hey Jude, don't be afraid,
take a sad song and make it better...."
That was the sound track of my own backpack-Europe Movie
the summer of '69, and I was the star.
It seemed to be playing in every the sidewalk cafe
and youth hostel dormitory
from Oslo to Ostia, Vienna to Varrenes.

It penetrated
through the hashish haze,
the wine wonderment,
the pot ponderings,
the ale addledness ,
because it was in English,
the blessed, beloved English
that I yearned for.

I didn't hear much English that summer,
never read a paper, except laboriously in my crumpled French.
No TV, no radio, just the sound track on the train, in the cafe.
The greater world off the trail meant nothing to me.
Only my world was real, only experience mattered.

On a mid-July evening in Amsterdam,
or San Sebastian, or Venice,
I heard that there were men dying,
our men, their men, women and children,
all for what someone thought
was a good enough reason - Vietnam.


But the Beatles told me what I could do:

"....don't be afraid,
take a sad song and make it better."

I tried.
I'm still trying.








I mentioned in the last issue that I was going to try to begin a new, occasional music review and commentary feature. We begin that feature this week with suggestions from Big G on getting out of a musical rut to cultivate an appreciation of different kinds of music than you're accustomed to.

Two things I can tell you about Gary - first, he really is big and, second, after years of listening closely to all kinds of music, he has developed an ear and a taste worth paying attention to.

Here's what he's got to say about broadening your musical horizon.



Music Seen

Hello my name is Gary and I live in San Antonio, Texas. I'm a somewhat obsessive music fan who has been collecting CDs for nearly three decades. During that time I have seen many genres of music come and go as well found great respect for music done well. However, a couple of years ago I wondered if I was becoming too locked in to a specific type of music. This often leads to a musical experience that wakes nostalgic or awaits the new arrival of some movement that will repeat that experience. I decided to explore other types of music I had not paid attention to. The rise of metal particularly in Europe caught my attention.

I had been exposed to this area somewhat by my friend John through bands like Helloween, Gamma Ray, and SymphonyX. The influence of classical music on the complexity of the music and the thought provoking lyrics was intriguing. How far down that road toward more extreme metal could I go? It was time for a journey.

I began with three albums - Natural Born Chaos by Soilwork, ReRoute to Remain by In Flames, and Blackwater Panic by Opeth. I tapped into a stream of music that forced me to listen not just hear. The lyrics provoked thought and perspective. The voices ranged from powerfully melodic to visceral growling that drew me in. I was listening instead of hearing or anticipating what I had heard before. Sometimes I felt the need to interpret what was going on. The more I expanded my view the more I realized so many great bands I had missed by restricting my taste.

The albums I mentioned are the examples I used but others may suit your taste as well. Even if the journey only goes a short way it is worth every minute. You may not go as far as the bombastic brilliance of Dimmi Borgir or the guttural musings of Six Feet Under but at least you may expand the territory you have seen.

       You Can't Hear What You Have Not Seen
            Big G








And speaking of music, I wrote the next piece seven or eight years ago after witnessing an event at a performance by a ska band my son was in at the time. Guitar, bass guitar, drums and three trombones, they brought the house down whatever kind of house they played, whether a bar on West Street, a raggae dive in the hood, a summer punk festival, or a downtown New Year's Eve street party.

On this particular night, they were playing a converted railroad depot near the Alamodome.

The poem is included in my book, Seven Beats a Second, available at select book stores or on-line by clicking on the "back to 7beats" link on the top of the page.



gotta dance

shirt off
chest glistening
sweat-wet hair long
swinging as he dances
atop the amp rack
twenty feet in the air
arms pumping feet pumping
skanking
lost in the island beat
oblivious
to the bouncers
sweeping across the room
like an ebony tide
converging on him
when he jumps down
and breaks for the door
smothering him
like a black cloud
on a sunny day

it's the music
he says
can't you hear it

gotta dance
man
gotta dance








I had intended to start this issue with this poem by Rudolfo Anaya from the anthology The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. But, it's very long and I didn't want to lose readers before they even got started.

Rodolfo Anaya was born in 1937, in a rural village in New Mexico, the fifth of seven children. He graduated from the University of New Mexico and worked as a public school teacher in Albuquerque from 1963 to 1970. He worked as the director of counseling for the University of Albuquerque for two years before accepting a position as an associate professor at the University of New Mexico.

His first and best-known work is a novel, Bless Me, Ultima. The novel was rejected by numerous East Coast publishing houses, until finally, in 1972, a group of Chicano publishers accepted his book which went on to win the prestigious Premio Quinto Sol award and is now considered a classic Chicano work.

As I said about this poem, it's a very long piece, much longer than I usually use on "Here and Now." But, in addition to being long, it is also mind-blowingly excellent. I cannot imagine that a finer appreciation of Whitman has ever been written and certainly not another such as this written with a passion to equal to Whitman himself.



Walt Whitman Strides the Llano of New Mexico

I met Walt, kind old father, on the llano,
     that expanse of land of eagle and cactus
Where the Mexicano met the Indio, and both
     met the tejano, along the Rio Pecos, our
     River of blood, River of Billy the Kid,
     River of Fort Sumner where the dine suffered,
     River of the golden Carp, god of my gods.

He came striding across the open plain,
     There where the owl calls me to
          the shrine of my birth,
     There where Ultima buried my soul-cord, the
          blood, the afterbirth, my destiny.

His beard, coarse, scraggly, warm, filled with sunlight,
     like llano grass filled with grasshoppers, grillos,
     protection for lizards and jackrabbits,
     rattlesnakes, coyotes, and childhood fears.

"Buenos dias, don Walt!" I called. "I have been
     waiting for you. I knew you would one day leap
          across the mississippi!
     Lap from Manhattas! Leap over Brooklyn Bridge!
               Leap over slavery!
     Leap over the technocrats!
          Leap over atomic waste!
     Leap over the violence! Madonna!
          Dead end rappers!
               Peter Jennings and ungodly nightly news!
     Leap over your own sex! Leap to embrace la gente
          de Nuevo Mexico! Leap to miracles!”

I also knew that. I dreamed that.

I knew you would one day find the Mexicanos of my land,
     the Nuevo Mexicanos who kicked ass with our
     Indian ancestors, kicked ass with the tejanos,
     And finally got their ass kicked by politicians!
     I knew you would find us Chicanos, en la pobreza,
     Always needing change for a ride or a pint,
     Pero ricos en el alma! Ricos en nuestra cultura!
     Ricos con suenos y memoria!

I kept the faith, don Walt, because I always knew
     you could leap continents! Leap over the squalor!
     Leap over pain and suffering, and the ash heap we
     Make of our earth! Leap into my arms.

Let me nestle in your bigote, don Walt, as I once
     nestled in my abuelo's bigote, don Liborio,
     Patriarch of the Mares clan, padre de mi mama,
     Farmer from Puerto de Luna, mestizo de Espana y
     Mexico, Catolico y Judio, Moro y indio, frances
     y mountain man, hombre de la tierra!

Let me nestle in your bigote, don Walt, like I once
     nestled in the grass of the llano, on summer days,
     a child lost in the wide expanse, brother to lagarto,
     jackrabbit, rattlesnake, vulture and hawk.
     I lay sleeping in the grama grass, feeling
     the groan of the earth beneath me, tierra sagrada!
     Around me, grasshoppers chuffing, mockingbird calling ,
     meadowlark singing, owl warning, rabbit humping,
     flies buzzing, worms turning, vulture and hawk
     riding air currents, brujo spirits moving across
     my back and raising the hair of my neck,
     golden fish of my ponds tempting me to believe
     in the gods of the earth, water air and fire.
     Oriente, poniente, norte, sur, y yo!
     Dark earth groaning beneath me, sperm flowing
     sky turning orange and red, nighthawks dart, bats
     flitter, the mourning call of La Llorona filling the
     night wind as the presence of the river stirred, called my
     name: "Hijo!Hiiiii-jo!"

And I fled, fled for the safety of my mother's arms.

You know the locura of childhood, don Walt -
     That's why I welcome you to the llano, my llano,
     My Nuevo Mexico! Tierra sagrada! Tierra sangrada

Hold me in the safety of your arms, wise poet, old poet,
     Abuelo de todos, Your fingers stir my memory.

The high school teachers didn’t believe in the magic
     ot the Chicano heart. They fed me palabras sin sabor
     when it was your flesh I yearned for. Your soul.
     They teased us with "Oh, Capitan, My Capitan"
     Read silently so as to arouse no passion, no tears,
     no erections, no bubbling love for poetry.

Que desgracia! What a disgrace! To give my soul only
     one poem in four years when you were a universe!

Que desgracia! To give us only your name, when you were
     Cosmos, and our brown faces yearned for
     the safety of your bigote, your arms!

Que desgracia! That you have to leap from your grave,
     Now in this begetting time, to kick ass with
     this country which is so slow to learn that
     we are the magic in the soul! We are the dream
     of Aztlan!

Que desgracia! That my parents didn't even know your name!
     Didn't know that in your Leaves of Grass there was
     salvation for the child.
     I hear my mother’s lament: "They gave me no education!"
     I understand my father's stupor: "They took mi honor, mi
     orlgullo, me palabra
."

Pobreza de mi gente! I strike back now! I bring you
     don Walt to help gird our loins!
     Este viejo es guerrillero por la gente!
     Guerrillero por los pobres! Los de abajo!

Save our children now! I shout. Put Leaves of Grass in their
     lunch boxes! In the tacos and tamales!
     Let them call him Abuelo! As I call him Abuelo!

Chicano poets of the revolution! Let him fly with you
     As your squadrons of words fill the air over
     Aztlan! Mujeres chicanas! Pull his bigote as you
     Would tug at friendly abuelo! His manhood is ours!
     Together we are one!

Pobreza! Child wandering the streets of Alburque! Broken
     by the splash of water, elm seed ghost, lost and by winds
          of spring mourned, by La Llorona of the Rio Grande
mourned, outcast, soul-seed, blasted by the wind
          of the universe, soul-wind, scorched by the
     Grandfather Sun, Lady Luna, insanity, grubs scratching
          at broken limbs, fragmented soul.

I died and was buried and years later I awoke from
     the dead and limped up the hill where your
          Leaves of Grass lay buried in library stacks.

"Chicano Child Enters University" the papers cried.
     Miracle child! Strange child! Dark child!
          Speaks Spanish Child! Has Accent Child!
     Needs Lots of Help Child! Has No Money Child!
          Needs a Job Child! Barrio Child!
     Poor People Child! Gente Child! Drop Out Child!
"I’ll show you," I sobbed, entering the labyrinth of loneliness,
     dark shadows of library, cold white classrooms.

You saved me don Walt, you and my familia which held
     me up, like a crutch holding the one-leg man,
          Like armor holding the lover,
               Like kiss holding the flame of Love.

You spoke to me of your Manhattas, working men and women,

     miracle of democracy, freedom of the soul, the suffering
     of the great war, the death of Lincoln, the lilacs' last
     bloom, the pantheism of the Cosmos, the miracle of Word.

Your words caressed my soul, soul meeting soul,
     You opened my mouth and forced me to speak!
     Like a cricket placed on dumb tongue,
     Like the curandera's healing herbs and
     Touch which taught me to see beauty,
     Your fingers poked and found my words!
     You drew my stories out.
     You believed in the Child of the Llano.

I fell asleep on Leaves of Grass, covering myself with
     your bigote, dreaming my ancestors, my healers,
     the cuentos of their past, dreams and memories.

I fell asleep in your love, and woke to my mother's
     tortillas on the comal, my father's cough, my
     familia's way to work, the vast love which was
     an ocean in a small house.

I woke to write my Leaves of Llano Grass, the cuentos
     of the llano, tierra sagrada! I thank the wise
     teacher who said, "Dark Child, read this book!
     You are grass and to grass you shall return."

"Gracias don Walt! Enjoy your stay. Come again. Come
     Every day. Our ninos need you, as they need
     Our own poets. Maybe you'll write a book in Spanish,
     I'll write one in Chinese. All of poetry is One."








Next, I have a poem by Joanna M. Weston.

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



Wind In Branches

the curve and loop of wind
when doors are closed drapes drawn
sound of beating wings
the dip and rise of them

gusts move fabric
pluck leaves by the fistful
frittering their colour

sparrows cling to the feeder
impervious to the thrust
and force against them

wind finds its word
in microscopic throats
with seeds of meaning
blown down channels of song
releasing music
into the rush of air








For baseball fans we have a treat this week, from O Holy Cow!, the recently discovered poetry of Phil Rizzuto, the Hall of Fame shortstop and Yankee game broadcaster for years and years and even more years.

What I have actually are short, live, impromptu snippets from Rizzuto's many years of announcing Yankee games, arranged and formatted by editors Tom Peyer and Hard Seely.

Rizzuto died in 2007, eighty years from his birth.



Reversal of Opinion

And he hits one in the hole
They're gona have to hurry.
THEY'LL NEVER GET HIM!
They got him.
How do you like that,
Hold cow.
I changed my mind before he got there
So that doesn't count as an error.

July 10, 1992
Seattle at New York



Dickie Poem Number One

Dickie Thon the batter.
Now way way back when he first came
Into the big leagues,
I mention the fact that I used to play
With his grandfather.
Baseball.
Sandlot baseball.
He went away to the minor leagues.
And during the service time,
He was in Puerto Rico.
And he was a very
Astute young man.
Don't forget,
This was way back
In the Second World War.
Grounder to short,
And Velarde just flips
To Stankiewicz for the force.
And that'll do it.
And I'll finish my story later.

April 27, 1992
Texas at New York









I wrote these little pieces a couple of years ago after reading from the Tao Te Ching and freely admit there are no new thoughts or ideas here. My aim was to try to rewrite what I had read in language closer to my own, aiming, in the process, to get a better understanding behind the deceptively simple text.



along the way

i

listen to silence
and know a true mystery

whose answer is seen only
in darkness complete

ii

beauty is not known
in the stars

and water not found
in the seas

wet is a thing
of deserts searing and dry

and beauty
a diamond in the mud

iii

with this mark
i rend the universe

with this voice
i cry the apocalypse

together,
we will defy all eternity

iv

from birth comes death
our birthright to die

leaving the unborn to live
forever, stay forever, be forever

while we pass in and out
of the eternal wake

v

sing softly
and let the song
become your voice

be at one
with the one
that encircles all

become the center
by letting the center
find the one that is you

vi

look at me
and see a construct
of belief

for i am not
until we agree
i am

vii

find the value
of that which is not

the hole in a cup
that makes a bowl

the cut in the wall
that opens a door

the empty corner of a heart
that awaits the embrace
of a love other-than-self

that which is not
is the nurture
for that
which may someday be

viii

the gifts of old
can only be seen
by those with a gift
for seeing anew

the blur of familiarity
blinds us

eyes tight shut
restores our deeper vision

ix

water flows
as it will go

bringing life
with the indifference
of a pure force true
only to its own measure

we can ride its tides
but never change them

x

listen

if i say nothing
you will hear the truth
of all i know

if you hear me speak
you hear a lie
for the truth cannot be told








James Laughlin is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He founded the publishing house of New Directions in 1936, while still an undergraduate at Harvard. His own first book of poems, Some Named Things, appeared nine years later. He published his Collected Poems in 1994, then published The Country Road in 1995 and The Secret Room in 1997.

This poem is from The Secret Room.



The Truth Teller

As I was walking along the sidewalk
Of 14th Street I encountered a mad-
Woman who, without pause, was talking
To herself in a loud voice, making
Wild gestures as she went along. I
Turned around to follow her, thinking
She might have a message from, some-
Thing I ought to know about. Perhaps
She was in her fifties, a dumpy
Little person, her hair all in
Unkempt tangles. She was wearing
A bright red dress which must have
Been given her by the Salvation
Army. Her high sneakers were filthy.

Although I got close to her, she
Was hard to understand. At times
Her voice rose to a shout. Was it
Yiddish, Polish, Italian she was
Speaking? None of those that I
Could recognize. Was she echolalic?
Probably she had been let out of
A mental hospital as harmless.
Then I got it: she was cursing
God in very rough language. "You've
Made a fucking mess out of this
Fucking world. No place for us
Poor people to live, nothing to
Eat unless we beg for it. Only
The fucking rich people have
Anything and they don't give a
Shit about us. And the fucking
Police rousting us out of the
Good begging streets, fucking
Bastards the lot of them."

That was the message, and it
It was the truth, a true message.
When we stopped for the lights
At Eight Avenue I reached for
My wallet and gave her all the
Bills I had. She didn't thank
Me, didn't even look at me. She
Just stuffed the money into the
Neck of her dress and ran across
The avenue, still shouting and
Swearing. "Fucking world you've
Made, all shit, fucking shit."








The next poem is by Laurel Lamperd.

Laurel says she lives within sight of the Southern Ocean on the south coast of Western Australia. She writes novels and short stories as well as poetry. With a friend, she published The Ink Drinkers, a poetry and short story anthology of their work.



Apricots

       Confucius taught his disciples
       under an apricot tree.
       They ate the juicy fruit
       and listened to his words of wisdom.


She whispered
Confucian tenets to her lover
caressed his brow
his mouth.

Thumbnail bits of white
of the apricot flower
drifted down
settled on her lips.

He kissed them away
gave her ripe apricots
made promises.

The knot faces in the tree
reminders of the ancient sage
did not tell her
the fruit would be
the tart bitter feelings of regret.








The next poem is by Paula Rankin from her book Augers published by the Carnegie-Mellon University Press in 1981.

I couldn't find much of a biography on Rankin, other than that she was born in Virginia in 1944, lived in Tennessee when the book Augers was published and has written at least one more book since.



Poem for Miners

Does everyone wake up one day
to find his vocation is looping
Texas interstate,odd country where,
no matter what pre-Neanderthal cell
his family began in, there is a counterpart,
- ocean, forest, rock, tumbleweed,
boom towns still on the map
of everyone's desert,

as if, with luck, a man might accidentally
veer down a ramp and stake a claim
on a family plot passed down to him
in a will burned before America?

Does everyone sooner or later wake
as I do now, inside so man other bodies,
sifting genes like a prospector panning for gold?

All I have of my Texas father
is a snapshot staring through credit cards,
through the cracked seam in my wallet
towards anything I pretend
is the object of his attention.
Father, I am low on luck, so forgive me
if I walk you up and down the tracks
of the Santa Fe, as if it will help you
lose weight, improve your circulation,
stoke coals into the failed furnace
of your heart. Is there anything here
I can hammer like a spike into railroad ties,
something so true I can finish
the unfinishable novel
about me who walk off
and keep walking
and never look back
except through eyes flattened
to fit inside wallets?

If I say I stand in Sweetwater, Texas,
asking this, I man it as any town
where no Alamo overshadows other defeats -
one man going down at a time
one descendant mining for the least
geiger count transmitted
in the unreasoning hope
he will know how to pass it down








Several years ago, I had a long disagreement with my son, a musician, who maintained that improvisation was the truest and most pure form of music. I disagreed then, but now, as I try to write, I have begun to see some truth to that idea and have tried to incorporate an improvisational spirit into the way I write. The result is that often I don't have any idea what I'm going to write about when I start a piece and usually, when I think I know, I turn out to be wrong.

Sometimes, for me, at least, it's best to just start riffing, going where the movement of words takes me. But, in doing that I have accept ownership up front for whatever the process produces, for just as a musician can't withdraw his improvisation once it's done, neither can I. I can only hope that somewhere in the process of improvising it has taken me to a poem.

That's what I did here - maybe there's something to it, maybe not. Either way, the result is mine and I'm stuck with it.



just walking

in the spring of 1963,
John Kennedy
was in the last few months
of his life
and i was 19
nearing completion
of my first year
at Southwest Texas State University...

...just a few months after the Cuban missile crisis had me wondering for several days if my first semester in college would be my last, wondering if in the next few days there would even be a university to go to, a scary time, the scare forgotten by the time this story unfolds...

...on a particular evening
that was no special particular
evening, four of us
were at Carson's Restaurant
about 7 in the evening,
drinking coffee
and exchanging bullshit,
as we often did,
when someone brought up
a story in the newspaper
about a group of Marines
who had walked fifty miles
in response to something
President Kennedy had said
about the importance of fitness
and the benefits of long distance
hiking...

...none of us knowing at the time that Kennedy's health was such that he could barely walk across a room unless popped full of pills and poked full of injections...

...and someone said...

...and we never absolutely identified which of the four of us it was...

...he said hell,
if a bunch of pussy marines
can walk fifty miles then surely
Air Force ROTC warriors
in training
can do just as well...

...actually i had quit ROTC the first day when the commander yelled at me and i said, fuck this, and turned in my uniform, but what the heck, this fifty mile walk thing sounded like fun so i was game...

...now Carson's Restaurant...

...still a year away from being desegregated, along with the University, when someone from Washington indicated to powers who were that such a state of affairs was highly embarrassing to it's most famous alumni, the new President of the United States, who was working overtime to enact a most historic piece of civil rights legislation second only to the Emancipation Proclamation in importance in the nations history - I was an innocent in the spring of 1963 and just assumed black people and brown people didn't eat there because they didn't like the food...

...now Carson's Restaurant
was located right on Interstate 35
which went right straight on
to San Antonio, fifty miles away
and home town of one of us, a place
where a welcome and breakfast...

...as well as a ride back to our dorm...

...would surely be available

it seemed like a hell'uv
a great thing to do so at 7 in the evening
we headed out walking on I-35, which,
though it is an eight-lane parking lot
from Laredo to Dallas these days,
it was, in 1963, brand new and lightly traveled

the first twenty miles to New Braunfels were easy,
taking us about four hours, a good walking pace

the last thirty miles to San Antonio took twice
that long, as each rest stop became longer
until we finally quit taking rest stops
out of fear that if we stopped
we'd never start again

until after twelve hours exactly
we arrived,
blistered, with leg cramps, but exhilarated,
we arrived at the front door of our destination...

...a popular song, played over and over during those twelve hours of walking was a song by the Serendipity Singers a group never heard from again, though several members became well-known as part of other groups like the Mommas and the Poppas and The Loving Spoonful


"Walk right in,
Sit yourself down,
Baby,
Let your mind roll on"

or something like that

and we rolled on and ever since that song has been a part of the soundtrack of my life, playing softly in the back of my mind whenever the road gets rough and the row gets tough to hoe...

...at our destination
where a breakfast of bacon and eggs
and pancakes
and a hot bath to uncramp the cramps
because once we got there and sat down
one big cramp is what we were

and a lot of miles stretch out behind me now
but I still think of those fifty miles
in the spring of 1963
reminding me
that there is no reverse gear in life,
that the truest thing is
once you start, you have to finish,
and the deeper the water
the harder you have to swim








I end this week with some words of wisdom of A.R. Ammons from the Spring 1997 issue of Poetry East, a poetry journal published twice a year by DePaul University.

Ammons, who died in 2001 at the age pf 75, was a well know poet and translator. He wrote his first poems while serving on a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he returned to civilian life where he majored in science at Wake Forest University and later did graduate work in English at the University of California at Berkeley. For a year he served as an elementary school principal on Cape Hatteras, then, for the better part of a decade, he worked at Fedrich & Dimmock as a sales executive in his father-in-law's biological glass company in New Jersey. Later, he became poet in residence at Cornell University, writing his own poetry all the while.

Old Geezer

The quickest
way
to change

the world is
to

like it
the
way it

is.









Time to tie it all down and move on. Tomorrow will be another day pushing paint brushes and other instruments of sweat and sore muscles at our little money and labor pit in the country, so I'll be trying to get this posted this evening. I hope to hell we get the damn place sold before it kills me.

So, as you struggle with whatever it is that occupies your life, thanks for coming to our little blog and, remember, all of the material contained herein remains the property of its creators. The blog itself is produced by and the property of me...allen itz

2 Comments:
at 10:22 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful poems this week. Enjoyed it all the way through.

Marie Gail

at 8:38 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allen,

Just want to commend you on a fine effort you do with all these H & N. This one no exception, have read a few, will get around to the rest tonight.

Thane

Post a Comment



Commuter Sunrise   Sunday, April 13, 2008


III.4.2.




My lead picture this week is of sunrise at about 7:30 a.m. on the corner of Blanco Road and Loop 1604 in San Antonio.

As I mentioned last week I'm back in the ranks of the reluctant employed, maybe through June, which will present me with many more opportunities than I really want to view this scene at this time of the morning.

I think as long as I continue to think of each day as one tenth of a day of our next vacation, among the red and golden leaves of New England autumn, maybe, or basking on the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean, maybe, or even that west to east train ride across continental Canada that I've been wanting to do, I'll be able to suck it up.

Enough complaining.

But before we move on to the good stuff, I want to note that, after not sending anything out in quite a while, I finally made time in the last couple of weeks to submit some of my work to a couple of journals, with good results so far. Six of my poems were accepted by Blaze Vox and are included in their new issue online now. If you want to take a look, you can use the link on the right or just cut and past this url to your browser:

http://www.blazevox.org/index.htm








I begin this week with four poems from Korean poet, Ku Sang. The poems are from his book Wastelands of Fire, with translations by Anthony Teague.



Eros I

A torso like a ripe peach.

A butterfly fallen
drunk in ecstasy on a flowery tomb.

A tongue with the perfume of melons.

A seagull plunging
into blue waves that flash white teeth.

In a gaze fixed on the distant horizon.

A roe deer
drinking at a secret spring in a virgin forest

Abyss of Eros,
beauty of original sin.


Eros II

The purring cat's
deceitful, mysterious face.

Venus' neck
spun about with hempen locks.

On breasts of velvet
the imprint of a hawk's claws.

An hour-glass navel.

Buttocks the smooth bottom of a wooden bowl,
secret flesh of tree-trunk thighs.

The narrowing rapids of a rendez-vous,
a grassy bank aflame on a spring day.

In primitive darkness,
beneath an azalea-cliff blanket
a naked woman
on a foaming, lapping wave-white sheet
joins her arms
like cords
that criminals are bound with

.....

The cooing of doves.

Breath-taking moment, oh, mystic ritual!


Eros III

I draw in empty space.

That face,
that voice,
that smile,
those thighs,
but that love
cannot be drawn.

Things drawn in the heart
may not be given form.


Eros IV

With that same hand
that caressed her naked body
I stroke my grey beard.

Passion faded into pale silver...

That loving, riding the bucket,
has been drawn up to the heavens.
Henceforth, all those places times and places
are one with Eternity.








As I was typing Ku Sang's "eros" poems, it came to me that I have used them before. Well, never mind. They're good enough for many readings.

In the meantime, though it's risky to set oneself up in comparison to a master, they did remind me of one of my own poems. It's included in my book Seven Beats a Second (which you can buy, by the way, by clicking on the "return to 7beats" link on the top right hand of this page - sorry, I need to try to sell a book now and then, it's a tax thing).



cinnamon dreams

in the dim light
at end of day
I watch you sleep
   still damp
   from the shower
curled on your side
   tangled
in white linen
   pink
   like the center
of a fresh-sliced peach
   floating
in a bowl of sweet cream

your foot moves
   slowly
brushes softly against mine

with a quiet rush
   of warm air
   you sigh
the sweet breath
of cinnamon dreams








Richard Wilbur is known as an excellent translator of poems by other poets as well as a creator of his own fine poetry. So, I'm going to use two poems from his book Collected Poems, 1943-2004.

This first poem is Wilbur's translation of a poem by Andre Voznesensky, a Russian poet born in 1933 and still writing. He is a rare poet who has a minor planet in another solar system named after him. Such was his fame in the USSR.



Foggy Street

The air is grey-white as a pigeon-feather.
   Police bob up like corks on a fishing-net.
Foggy weather.
What century is it? What era? I forgot.

As in a nightmare, everything is crumbling;
   people have come unsoldered; nothing's intact.
I plod on, stumbling,
Or flounder in cotton wool, to be more exact.

Noses. Parking-lights. Badges flash and blur.
   All's vague, as in a magic-lantern show.
Your hat check, Sir?
Mustn't walk off with the wrong head, you know.

It's as if a woman who's scarcely left your lips
   Should blur in the mind, yet trouble it with recall -
Bereft now, widowed by your love's eclipse -
Still yours, yet suddenly not yours at all...

Can that be Venus? No - an ice-cram vendor!
   I bump into curbstones, bump into passersby.
Are they friends, I wonder?
Home-bred Iagos, how covert you are, how sly!

Why it's you, my darling, shivering there alone!
   Your overcoat's too big for you, my dear.
But why have your grown
That moustache? Why is there frost in your hairy ear?

I trip, I stagger, I persist.
   Murk, murk...there's nothing visible anywhere.
Whose is the cheek you brush now in the mist?
Ahoy there!
One's voice won't carry in this heavy air.

When the fog lifts, how brilliant it is, how rare!



Now, here's one of Wilbur's own poems.



Cottage Street, 1953

Framed in her phoenix fire-screen, Edna Ward
Bends to the tray of Canton, pouring tea
For frightened Mrs. Plath; then, turning toward
The pale, slumped daughter, and my wife, and me,

Asks if we would prefer it weak or strong.
Will we have milk or lemon, she inquires?
The visit seems already strained and long.
Each in turn, we tell her out desires.

It is my office to exemplify
The published poet in his happiness,
Thus cheering Sylvia, who has wished to die;
But half-ashamed, and impotent to bless,

I am a stupid life-guard who has found,
Swept to his shallows by the tide, a girl
Who, far from the shore, has been immensely drowned,
And stares through water now with eyes of pearl.

How large is her refusal; and how slight
The genteel chat whereby we recommend
Life, of a summer afternoon, despite
The brewing dusk which hints that it may end.

And Edna Ward shall die in fifteen years,
After her eight-and-eighty summers of
Such grace and courage as permit no tears,
The thin hand reaching out, the last word love,

Outliving Sylvia who, condemned to live,
Shall study for a decade, as she must,
To state at last her brilliant negative
In poems free and helpless and unjust.









Next, we have the return of Francina.

Born in 1947, Francina says she was "reared for the first thirteen years on river plying cargo vessels visiting Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.'

Later she studied accounting, French, English and German. "I have called home many different places over the years," she says, including the United States 12 years, moving back to The Netherlands 10 years ago. She says she has traveled to North Africa, Thailand, Caribbean as well most countries of Europe. Her interest in poetry began, she says, in 1990 when she became a member of the Wallace Steven Society. She says she has also developed a fondness for Japanese and Chinese poetry since then.



Upon Returning

The wooden plank
forms a bridge between
the landlocked life

with daily strife
that hushed the longing
deep inside my soul,

and this,
a world of bliss,
silvery,

the wind and sea,
pulling me
back to where

I do belong,
out on the deck
when sails are set.








Next. I have a poem I like very much. It's from the book Horse of Earth by Thomas R. Smith.

Smith, born in 1948, grew up in Wisconsin in a paper mill town on the banks of the Chippewa River. After majoring in English at the University of Wisconsin- River Falls, he traveled for a year in Europe, becoming inspired by the work of Rimbaud and Baudelaire. In the early 80s, he directed Artspeople, a rural-based arts organization serving farm communities in western Wisconsin. As a poet, essayist and editor, his work has appeared in numerous journals in the U.S., Canada and abroad.

The book was published in 1994 by the Holy Cow! Press of Duluth, Minnesota.

Now, the poem.



Contempt

We don't understand our grandparent's
satisfaction in not being famous - the hours spent
practicing the piano because one longed
to hear Chopin, the prairie light so calm
on weathered boards of the shed.

The scripture pages the old ones ponder
as death approaches are a walled garden
no longer noticed by the television watchers
admiring ingenious explosions
in the dawn sky over Mesopotamia.

What does it mean that we are bombing
the Garden? Contempt for simple
aspirations, for ordinary and peaceful
needs, shrieking down from dark cockpits
as the passive nation looks on.

Unable to play an instrument or dance,
we bomb the Bagdad of our human joy.
In the four-gated city, our grandfathers
and grandmothers become the children
Christ asked to "come unto Him."








So, here's more in my continuing landlord saga.



cleaning the mess

another weekend
of landlording
cleaning up all the mess
left behind
by the last tenant,
some of it to trash
and some to Goodwill,
then plastering over the fist-sized
holes in all the walls...

(i mean, hell, dude,
what's
a man to do
when his woman leaves him,
he's just nacherly
got to find
something else
to
punch)

...painting,
going blue
inside and out,
inside
finished and looking good
but Lowe's switched
my paint order
so instead of light blue
with dark blue trim,
outside's going to be
the opposite,
light on dark instead
of dark on light,
a strange look, an
"miami vice avant garde"
appearance we decided,
and named the look as such,
and by so naming
established a rationale to it
so that we we can say
we meant to do it that way
all along

we both painted today,
but yesterday D did most of the painting
while i mowed the grass - three quarters of an acre,
high as it was, took most of the afternoon
even with our big tractor mower,
especially going slow
as i was, carefully mowing around
little patches of wildflowers

i'm thinking
it'll take us a good three months
to sell the place, which, with a wet spring,
means ill be back mowing
at least six weekends,
giving time for the flowers
to spread their seeds before they die,
so whoever buys the place
will wake up some morning
next spring
and find themselves
with almost an acre of color,
bluebonnets,
indian paintbrushes
and those pink things
whose name i can never remember

i like
the thought of that
and
almost wish i could be here
to see it too








To paraphrase the play, I rely on the creativity of strangers, as well as friends, to publish this blog every week. I use a few of my own poems, but mostly I count on poems I beg from friends and poems I get from the used books I buy at places like Half-Priced Books. (I think I now have a larger poetry library than any bookstore in town, new or used.)



It's really convenient to find good used anthologies that have a large number of poems from a wide variety of poets, like for example, The Outlaw's Bible of American Poetry and the Native American anthology I have, as well as several others, Such anthologies provide material enough to do "Here and Now" probably longer than I'll be around to do it. One stop shopping, so to speak.

But it's also nice to find a book by an individual poet that provides a deep well of the kind of poems I can go to for material over and over again. One such book is Red Beans, a collection by Puerto Rican poet Victor Hernandez Cruz. I've gone to this book many times in the two plus years I've been doing "Here and Now" and I expect to go many more times as well.

There's lots of talk about immigration right now, a lot of it racist, in my opinion. So, here, on the subject of immigration, is the latest from Red Beans by Victor Cruz.




Snaps of Immigration

1
I remember the fragrance of
the Caribbean
A scent that anchors into the ports of technology.

2
I dream with suitcases
full of illegal fruits
Interned between white
guayaberas that dissolved
Into snowflaked polyester.

3
When we saw the tenements
our eyes turned backwards
to the miracle of scenery
At the supermarket
My mother caressed the
Parsley.

4
We came in the middle of winter
from another time
We took a trip into the future
A fragment of another planet
To a place where time flew
As if clocks had coconut oil
put on them.

5
Rural mountain dirt walk
Had to be adjusted to cement
pavement
The new city finished the
concrete supply of the world
Even the sky was cement
The streets were made of shit.

6
The past was dissolving like
sugar at the bottom of a coffee cup
That small piece of earth that
we habitated
Was somewhere in a television
Waving in space.

7
From beneath the ice
From beneath the cement
From beneath the tar
From beneath the pipes and wires
Came the cucurucu of the roosters.

8
People wrote letters as if they
were writing the scriptures
Penmanship of woman who made
tapestry with their hands
Cooked criollo pots
Fashioned words of hope and longing
Men made ink out of love
And saw their sweethearts
Wearing yellow dresses
Reaching from the balcony
To the hands of the mailman.

9
At first English was nothing
but sound
Like trumpets doing yakity yak
As we found meanings for the words
We noticed that many times the
Letters deceived the sound
What could we do
It was the language of a
foreign land.








I was paying for my latte at a Barnes & Noble coffee bar last week and say this little book on counter and bought it.

The title of the book is Ignorance is Blitz and it is selections from history essays by college students. As someone who occasionally reads student essays, I can tell you that nothing in the book seems to me to be unlikely.

Here are few essay snippets.



"Bible legend states that the trouble started after Eve ate the Golden Apple of Discord. This was the forbidding fruit. An angry God sent his wrath. Man fell from the space of grace. It was mostly downhill skiing from there."


"There was Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Lower Egypt was actually farther up than Upper Egypt, which was, of course, lower down than the upper part."


"Babylon was similar to Egypt because of the differences they had apart from each other. Egypt, for example, had only Egyptians, but Babylon had Summarians, Acadians, and Canadians, to name just a few."

"Zorroastrologism was founded by Zorro. This was a duelist religion."

"The three gods were 'Good,' 'Bad,' and 'Indifferent.' These beliefs later resurfaced among the Manatees."

"The history of the Jewish people begins with Abraham, Issac, and their twelve children. Judyhism was the first monlithic religion. It had one big God named 'Yahoo.'"

"Moses was told by Jesus Christ to lead the people out of Egypt into the Sahaira Desert. The Book of Exodus describes this trip and the amazing things that happened on it, including the Ten Commandments, various special effects, and the building of the Suez Canal."

"Rome was founded sometime by Uncle Remus and Wolf."

"Eventually Christian started the new religion with sayings like, 'The mice shall inherit the earth.' Later Christians fortunately abandoned this idea."

"Cesar was assassinated on the Yikes of March."

"It is unfortunate that we do have a medivel European laid out on a table before us, ready for dissection. Society was arranged like a tree,with our nobels in the upper twigs and your pesants grubbing around the roots. This was knows as the manurial system where land was passed through fathers to sons by primogenuflecture. To some degree rulers diluted people into thinking that this was a religious opperation."

"Monks were assigned to monkeries, where they were supposed to live as nuns. Many, however, simply preyed by day and played by night. Fryers were required to take a vow of pottery."

"Medieval builders gave God his usual chair in the church roof. In a Romanesue church the stone roof is held up by a system of peers. The usual design was a long knave split by a crosshair. Without the discovery of the flying buttock it would have been and impossible job to build the Gothic cathedral."

And this goes on through the centuries until we're dealing with last night's news, such as "we are glad that the Persian war ended with victory to the cotillion. Current cause for concern is the creeping of fomentalism among the people. This spells out the whole thing in a nuthouse."

We will do some more of these in future issues. They break me up.








My next poem is by our friend, James Fowler.

Jim lives in Massachusetts, has eight grand kids and wants to retire, write poetry, garden, play tennis, cook and write some more poetry.

I haven't eaten any of his cooking, but he does just fine in the poetry department.



Dark Stonee

Gunmetal day, green knoll
slashed brown for burial.
Gladiolas and roses
rest near the hidden hole.

Shallow shovels dig the pit.
Workers peer at the edge,
measure its depth while he waits,
condensed in ashes.

I want to smooth the granite,
speckled like the back of his hands,
transfer tears and love, gifts
for his passage in dark stone.








The next poem from a collection of work by Arthur Sze titled The Redshifting Web Poems 1970-1998 published in 1998 by Copper Canyon Press of Port Townsend, Washington.

I was poetry illiterate when I started "Here and Now" two and a half years ago, knowing mainly what had not escaped my head since college literature classes, and not much more. One of the reasons I enjoy doing the blog every week is the chance it's given me to discover so many poets new to me whose work excites me. The poet Arthur Sze is one of those I'm particularly glad to have discovered. Since nobody can know everybody, one of the purposes of "Here and Now" is to share my own sense of discovery.

Sze is a second generation Chinese American born in New York City in 1950. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California at Berkeley and is the author of six books of poetry. He has taught at Brown University, Bard College and the Naropa Institute. He is currently a Professor of Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico.



The Silence

We walk through a yellow-ocher adobe house:
the windows are smeared with grease,
the doors are missing. Rain leaks
through the ceilings of all the rooms,
and the ribs of saguaro thrown across vigas
are dark, wet, and smell. The view outside
of red-faded and turquoise-faded adobes
could be Chihuahua, but it isn't.
I stop and look through an open doorway,
see wet newspapers rotting in mud
in the small center patio.
I suddenly see red bougainvillea blooming
against a fresh whitewashed wall,
smell yellow wisteria through an open
window on a warm summer night;
but, no, a shot of cortisone is no cure
for a detaching retina. I might just
as well see a smashed dog in the street,
a boojumree pushing its way up
through asphalt. And as we turn
and arrive where we began, I notice
the construction of the house is
simply room after room forming a square.
We step outside, and the silence is as
water is, taking the shape of the container.








Here's another of my poems inspired by a painting. Strictly speaking, these "art" poems ought to stand on their own, and not as commentary on the painting, but as a poetic expression of the my reaction to the painting.

That said, I think this poem is really better if you look at the painting. As I've posted these painting-inspired poems in the past, I've include a url that you could go to to view the painting. (I'm sorry you have to cut and paste these url's to your browser, but I don't have link capability here in the body of the blog.) In this case, the poem is supposed to be funny and it doesn't work so well without the painting. I guess that makes this more of a cartoon caption than a poem, but I'm willing:

http://www.artnet.com/artwork/425215698/116956/hannah-barrett-little-signund.html



fashionista
(after Hana Barrett's "Little Sigmund" - oil on canvas)

he's
a scrawny
unimpressive
looking fella,
but a real fancy dan
when it comes to clothes,
silks
and ribbons
and lace
and bows,
a real fashionista

but here's the
deal

somebody
really needs
to talk to him,
tell him right straight
out to his face...

"Mortimer,
you can wear
the hat
or you can wear
the dress,
but
you just can't
wear both"

it'd
be for his own good








My next poem is by Langston Hughes from Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, a collection of his poetry personally selected by Hughes shortly before his death in 1967.



The South

The lazy, laughing South
With blood on its mouth.
The sunny-faced South,
   Beast-strong,
   Idiot-brained.
The child-minded South
Scratching in the dead fire's ashes
For a Negro's bones.
   Cotton and the moon,
   Warmth, earth, warmth,
   The sky, the sun, the stars,
   The magnolia-scented South.
Beautiful, like a woman,
Seductive as a dark-eyed whore,
   Passionate, cruel,
   Honey-lipped, syphilitic -
   That is the South.
And I, who am black, would lover her
But she spits in my face.
And I, who am black,
Would give her many rare gifts
But she turns her back upon me.
   so now I seek the North -
   The cold-faced North,
   For she, they say,
   Is a kinder mistress,
And in her house my children
May escape the spell of the South.








Marie Gail Stratford is a freelance writer and dance instructor from Kansas City, Missouri, where she also works for a small computer retailer. Her work has appeared in several online periodicals, including The Loch Raven Review, Blue House, and Poems Niederngasse.

Marie Gail was with us just a couple of weeks ago. She's back this week with this intriguing piece that I saw on the Blueline Forum.



Tempid Whatnot

What happened to doing
what you do because you love
what it is,
what it draws from you,
what it becomes outside of you?

What perversion led so many to believe that
what is worthwhile is measured only by
what others say, by
what success comes from
whatever television network or webpage or
whatever celebrity decides that
what you do is worth saying
what she thinks or spending
what he will on
whatever prime time special on
whatever night brings him
what he wishes in return?

What will we become when
what pleases everyone is
what we produce because
what offends anyone is
what we are afraid to become rather than
what we are? We will become bland and repetitive, so that

what everybody wants becomes
what no one really likes.








I have a poem now from the anthology From Totems to Hip-Hop edited by Ismael Reed. The book is subtitled "A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900-2002."

The poem I'm using from the book is by Lawson Inada.

Inada, born in Fresno, California in 1938, is a third-generation sansei Japanese-American. During World War II he was incarcerated at the Fresno County Fairground, and later was interned in a Japanese-American concentration camps in Arkansas and Colorado. His first published collection of poetry, Before the War: Poems As They Happened, was the first poetry collection by an Asian-American writer to be published by a major United States-based publishing house. At the time the book was published, he was a professor in the English department at Southern Oregon College in Ashland, Oregon.



Filling the Gap

When Bird died, I didn't mind:
I had things to do -

polish some shoes, practice
a high school cha-cha-cha

I didn't even know
Clifford was dead:

I must have been
lobbing an oblong ball
beside the gymnasium.

I saw the Lady
right before she died -

dried, brittle
as last year's gardenia.

I let her scratch an autograph.

But not Pres.

Too bugged to boo, I left
as Basie's brass
booted him off the stand
in a sick reunion -

tottering, saxophone
dragging him like a stage-hook.

When I read Dr. Williams
poem, "Stormy,"
I wrote a letter of love and praise

and didn't mail it.

After he died, it burned my desk
like a delinquent prescription...

I don't like to mourn the dead:
what didn't, never will,

And I sometimes feel foolish
staying up late,
trying to squeeze some life
out of books and records,
filling the gaps
between words and notes.

That is wy]
I rush into our room to find you
mumbling and moaning
in your incoherent performance

That is why
I rub and squeeze you
and love to hear your
live, alterable cry against my breast.








More from me on the domestic side of life.



settling in

Reba
is not sitting behind me
on her carpet
as she usually does
and i wonder why...
until i notice
that the ironing board
i set out so i could
iron a shirt
for work
tomorrow
is sitting right on top
of her carpet

well,
no wonder

since
i set up the ironing board
i made one last turn
through
my nearly depleted closet
and found,
way over in the corner,
a blue shirt
i can wear with my new tan pants
so there is no need for the ironing board
at all,
at least not tonight

happy happy
joy joy,
as Ren and Stimpy
used to sing...
what happened to them
anyway,
the company that owned the rights
fired the artist
who created the series
is what i heard
which sounds dumbass enough
to be true...

but the point is,
there being no need
for the ironing board tonight,
i moved it,
thereby
liberating Reba's carpet
which she occupied immediately
as it was cleared for her use

there was a look in her eye
as she settled in with her normal
old-dog
set-
tling
in
groan
which seem clearly to me to be saying
"thanks, pal"

and i say
"nothing to it girl, anytime
at all"








My next poem is from a fine poet I've only used once or twice since I bought her book. The poet is Mary Swander and the book is Heaven-and-Earth House published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1994.

Swander was born in 1950 in Iowa where she was raised.

She began college at Georgetown University, but finished an English degree at the University of Iowa. She earned her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. She was involved in a variety of pursuits for several years, including becoming a certified and licensed practitioner of therapeutic massage. She began teaching English at Iowa State University, Ames, in 1986 and continues to live in Ames and Kalona.



Jackpot

We're all here in Vegas - the look-alike Elvis,
Ringo Starr, Sammy Davis Jr....
I shuffle into the clinic with the other
arthritic for one more quack cure, drop
my money in the slot. Oh, it's hot!
The handle too warm to touch, the desert sun,
outside bleaching the lizard's skull.
I bet on reptiles, on the scaly-skinned,
the spaderfoot toad who burrows backward
and sleeps seven feet down in the sand.
I go with the insects who breed and feed at night,
with the single-celled protozoan protected
from the heat by its own cyst.
I bet on the woman on the couch with
a growth on her cheek, the seven-year-old
in cowboy boots with eczema head to toe.
I roll for the shaky hand, spastic muscle, drooling lip.
I roll for the palsied girl that she may walk,
the diapered man that he may no longer drip.
For I have faith in the communion of waiting rooms
and know the inside secret of wheelchairs,
IV poles, crutches and canes.
I know the woman weeping on the examining table.
She raises the ante and bets on Death Valley.
I bet on the shuttle bus back to the motel near the casino,
the ice machine, the clean plop into the bucket,
the fresh towels and Gideon Bible in the desk drawer.
I bet on the Book of Mormon next to the fish tank,
the Newsweek with Oliver North on the cover.
Yes, I roll for the silver dollar, the neon,
salamander and tadpole, the quickie marriage of the
kissing gouramis behind the glass. I wait for the
cloudburst, the once-or-twice-a-year puddle,
the underground tests to explode.








Here's another poem from Thane Zander, frequent contributor and our reporter on all things New Zealand.

Thane is a 49 year old ex Navy veteran (27 years) and currently an 8 year poetry veteran. The poetry came after leaving the Navy due to suffering Bipolar disorder. Thane considers himself a Web Poet, a place he has frequented since 1999. He says he found the Blueline Poetry in 2003 and is now a director of the Challenges and Workshop forums at Blueline. He also participates in the Poem a Day forum on Blueline, which has allowed his repertoire in seven short years to grow over 700 poems.

He says he also "at one stage busked his poetry on the streets (during a down time) and as a result made the local newspaper as a quaint oddity." His latest endeavour is to tackle a Creative Writing course at the local university, which he hopes he will do well. In short, he says, he eats and breathes poetry.

I am a very large fan of his work.



The Errant Life of an Ant and Anteater

Little ant, you are mine
I watch you with avid interest
as you scuttle to and fro
watch you carry your burdens
back to a nest
dominated by an Errant Queen

Little earwig, you are mine
I espy your daily carriage
of objects heavier
than 10 times your weight
see you carry your prizes
to a place I can't yet discern.

Little Ladybird, you are mine
flittering and fluttering
the day of the week
means nothing to your insect life
you just do what you have to do
and then fly away happy.

Fantail, you are not mine
you playfully dart and dash
your tail feathers fanned
to attract a mate, for life
your fanciful dance through the air
followed by a stint in a tree.

Welcome Swallow, you are not mine
you fly fitfully in rapid motions
your movement to catch a mate to,
with grace and high speed
you plunder the airwaves
ready for a long trip home.

Tui, you are not mine
you are a bird of extreme beauty
your evening song heart wrenching
your call for a mate mellow
I hear your longing in every tone
marvel at your persistence.

Kotuku, you are nobody's
your white plumage and dress
make for a pleasant thing to see
your elegant movement
your passive manipulation
of dance sublime.

And there endeth the poem. I'm a nature beast, I live for nature, I love nature, I hate to see natural things end just because we want to build bigger cities and towns. The Government has in place a department called The Department of Conservation, to safeguard nature as it was before men arrived, to stop the clear felling of native forests and as a consequence, natures wonderful birds and insects here. My father was a local member of the Society, and he worked hard to stop the incorrect use of rivers and forests by people with agenda towards not caring.

I wasted years of my life stuck in a steel encased tomb at sea, but did have the pleasure of seeing life's creatures in their natural environment. When I see Beer Wrappers thrown away and washed out to see I feel for the Penguins and dolphins that are caught up in that mess. Yes real issues for me. I used to admonish people for chucking rubbish overboard without a moments thought. Food scraps, yes, but not stuff that could be stored until a suitable landfill was reached.

Sadly today I have almost lost touch with reality, but if not for the creatures I mention in the poem I would only have the flies and moths to tell me how Nature is going these days, and they tell nothing. Thankfully, I smoke, and I have to do it outside and every time I do go for a smoke, Nature smiles.








I've used this poem before, but it makes me think of a happy time and I like it so I'm using it again.

It's by Texas poet and underground film maker W. Joe Hoppe and it's from his book Galvanized.



Hombres Solitarios

Seven Mexicans on the stereo
sing of loneliness
together in fine harmony

Two kinds of accordions
three kinds of guitars
and a pair of fiddles
believable lonely in the same key

Certain that this
is the way a man
truly exists








Finally, one last poem from me before we call it a week.



old men in jeans

you see old men in blue jeans
all the time these days.
hell,
i am an old man
and i don't wear hardly anything
but jeans...

thinking back
to my father and the khaki work pants
he wore every day of his
adult life
except for four hours on Sunday
morning
when he wore a blue double breasted suit
he bought
when he and my mother
got married

trying
to imagine
him in jeans and i can't -
jeans were for kids
and not for grown men,
unless they were
cowboys,
real ones, not the
phony ones
you'd see at the dance
on Saturday night
when Adolph Hoffner
and his Texas swing band
would be playing at the
Brown Bottle out on Highway 83

- you could always tell the difference
between them
and the real cowboys
whose cotton shirts
were homesewn
from flowerdy flour sack material
and whose boots under their jeans
were a little scuffed
and shiny on the outside instep
from rubbing against a stirrup -

except for them,
the real mccoys, grown men
didn't wear bluejeans,
just like they didn't do other things,
like cuss in front of women
or drink whiskey with little umbrellas
or cry
or wear perfume
or get their nails done
or talk too much about their feelings
except maybe sometimes when
they were really really drunk
which grown up men didn't hardly do
anyway, things like that,
it just wasn't done

but that's the way it goes

i wear jeans all the time,
and couldn't ever
live in my father's world, just like
he wouldn't want
to have anything to do
with mine








I guess that's enough for this bright and golden day. But before I live I want to mention that I'm expecting to start a new semi-regular feature next week, music review and commentary. I think most everyone's going to like it, especially since it's going to be presented by someone who lknows what he's talking about and not by me.

Also just noticed that this is a particularly tame issue. Nothing to raise a single hackle anywhere. I'll try to do better next time.

In the meantime, time to go out and recreate.

And as you recreate, remember, all the material presented on this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz

1 Comments:
at 9:02 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see pics of the famous Reba and the infamous rental house. I enjoy your visual formats a lot. Thanks for including me. Always an honor.

Kindest regards,
Marie Gail

Post a Comment



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