Morning at Peaceful Valley Ranch
Friday, April 25, 2008
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,
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
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
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
remembering his mountains,
come into a cage
remembering his mate,
O lord white as jasmine
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
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
shake and roll
half life ideas
and take the next
exit (insert here)
is ever free
and this is
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
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
was bright today
and the sky
as an ocean sigh
in a garden
and sly glances
of dark distrust
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
and the shit of a city's worth of human
lays a coat of muck
of once pristine sand,
is this poem,
no heart, no soul...
deadly to the poet
as to the reader
would burn this poem
but just as there are good days
and bad days
there are poems good and bad,
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
four nights a
after an eight hour
it was not a bundle
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
someone else's intellectual
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
what i know
but i'll be damned
if i know
how i know it
higher level education
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
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.
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.
seven and one half years
to our next presidential
i could so now
it was over
i could in so few
come to understand
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.
not three paces
two mule deer
5 feet plus
50-lb. pack creak
liquid brown eyes
large enough to drown in
quickened hearts exchange
hooves prancing closer
gamey smell devours
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.
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
over the clouds
instead i watched
a bird's wing
in the night sky
there was a time
i could sing
dissolve in water
one by one
until only vowels
were left sinking
slowly to the bottom
to mix with sand and stone
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
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.
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.
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
she was waiting in a booth
and the patrons were watching a
she was drinking white
I got the tab: $4.75
and left a
when she saw my 15-year-old car
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
she put her head in my lap
that fucking job is killing
I rubbed her temples, her nose,
her eyebrows. she arched her back
to kiss me. I kissed
the phone rang. I got up and
answered it, came back, sat
that was Vickie, I said, you've got to
shit, she said from flat on her back,
when do you write?
I smiled at her
as she left
and closed the
We'll end this week with this little piece of coffee shop observation I wrote a couple of days ago.
the chess master,
a young physician with
an unfortunate resemblance
to Harpo Marx,
enters the room
and a boy,
races to greet him,
"I have fantastic
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
as if suspended in mid-step
before an invisible
his face hung low,
and walks back slowly
to where his father waits
finds a table
and lays upon it his board
and chess pieces
and turns back
to talk to his friend again
goes to the table and quietly sits,
aching to tell the news stuck
in his throat
until, finally, the master joins him
"I have fantastic
news," the boy tries
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.