Remembering A Year When There Was Rain   Friday, May 30, 2008


Nothing to do here but welcome you to this last issue in May of "Here and Now," the little blog that could.

I'm back in the ranks of the retired, so I have a little more time to put things together than I've had for the past couple of months. The result this week is more poets for your reading pleasure (I hope).

My first poem this week is by Tao Lin, a twenty three year old poet from Brooklyn. The poem is from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, his second collection of his poetry. In addition to an earlier poetry collection, he has also published a novel and a short story collection.

a stoic philosophy based on the scientific fact that our thoughts
cause our feelings and behaviors

we have our undesirable situations whether we are upset about them
   or not

if we are upset about our problems we have two problems; the problem
and our being upset about it; with thoughts as the cause of emotions
rather than the outcome the causal order is reversed
the benefit of this is that we can change our thoughts
to feel or act differently regardless of the situation
i need to win a major prize to shove in people's faces
note the similarities with buddhism
a buddhist who has achieved nirvana is not sad
primarily because it does not know the concept
of sad; the sole problem of an undesirable situation
is the absence of a philosophy allowing it to be desirable
the cessation of desire in western civilizations
often coincides with the onset of severe depression
a cessation or increase of suffering in relationships
often effects increased focus on work or art
let's compare the person shot with a rifle
who worries about who manufactured the bullets
rather than staunching the wound
with the person shot with a rifle
who distances himself from the situation
until the focus is on the distance itself
turn to page forty-eight of your workbook and read it aloud in a quiet
focusing intensely on the meaning of each word, phrase, sentence, and
based on the historical fact that after i express anger, frustration, or
you treat me more considerately, then gradually less considerately
until again i am "triggered" to express anger, frustration
or disappointment i think we may have achieved something
like the Buddhist concept of the cycle of birth and rebirth
let me conceive a temporary philosophy to justify
my behavior involving the dissemination of literature
while maintaining and strengthening our identities
we should be aware that identity is a preconception
the purpose of that is yet unknown at this point
i felt a little sad this morning but was able to block it out
and now i feel better, implicitly we trust that once we discover what it
   is we are doing
we will return to let ourselves know; the realization of what we are
   actually achieving
will manifest from an as yet unoccupied perspective, a perspective with
   no metaphysical
temporal, or physical connections to our current situation
with the understanding that thoughts are the cause
of emotions, pain, and the experience of time
and that thoughts can be extinguished
with other thoughts or states of thoughtlessness
we become wholly irrelevant to what already exists in the universe
all of which can be valuable in recovery

I wrote this poem last week. It came about pretty much as described in the poem.

what i did in the war

something happened
to set to floating
in my semiconscious
the novel
"Catch 22"
and one of its
lesser characters,
the inept
Major Major
later in the book
to the rank of Major),
in turn, today
into the open
of spending most of 1967
studying the Russian language
as part of an Air Force detachment
at Indiana University

as is true
throughout the standard
military structure,
we had a grizzled
First Sergeant
who ran the unit
while an officer
held down the top spot
on the organizational chart,
a very
type officer in this particular case,
who spent his days
in his office
tying fishing flies,
in full view,
though i doubt
he ever knew it,
of students
struggling with the
cyrillic alphabet
and verb declensions
and similar mind-benders
in our second floor
in an adjacent building

the officer,
whose name and rank
i don't think i ever knew,
was much like
the airmen in his charge,
most of whom were older,
like me,
and who, like me,
having received draft notices,
chose the Air Force
as a last minute
avenue of escape
from the draft
rather than a messy flight
to Canada and all that entailed -
he didn't seem to want to be there
anymore than we did

whatever his military ineptitude,
he was a dedicated Scoutmaster
as was demonstrated
one day
i, in uniform,
met him on the sidewalk
and he returned my snappiest,
most military hand salute
with a mumble,
downcast eyes
and a perfectly executed
boy scout

it is true
that we did, indeed,
win the cold war,
but nothing in my military
which continued
for another three years
much as it began
at good old IU,
a clue to me
as to

Cornelius Eady, formerly director of the Poetry Center at SUNY/Stony Brook, is currently visiting professor in creative writing at the City College of New York. He is the author of seven books of poetry, including Brutal Imagination, the book I went to for my next poem. He was cofounder of Cave Canem, a source of workshops and retreats for African-American poets.

Stepin Fetchit Reads the Paper

Not the dead actor,
Historically speaking, but the ghost
Of the scripts, the bumbling fake
Of an acrobat, the low-pitched anger
Someone mistook for stupid.

This so-called bruiser rattling the streets,
Heavy with children, I'd like to
Tell him what a thankless job
It is to go along to get along.
All the nuances can and will
Be rubbed smooth and by the time
It's over,

By the time you're dead and the people
You thought you were doing this
On behalf of are long forgotten,

There's only a image left that they
Name you after, toothy, slow,
Worthy of a quick kick in the pants.
I used to have bones, I'd tell him.
It was a story that
Rubbed out my human walk.

I'm returning to Thane Zander again this week. Here's one of his latest poems.

A Mind Surfers Lament Part 1 of 4


Chastised for hereditary recklessness
the clock in your mind always set to 12
your footfalls on soft carpet a perfect 10.

Those fairy lights grandma gave you
drag your mind slipping on all gears
into a past riddled with the Seasons of Decay.


We made papier mache Windmills
not thinking of far off Holland,
more the one in Foxton that spins
and provides milled wheat
to the local bakery.

The bread tastes the same, why so much effort?


Someone stepped on your toe
you don't know who or why
but you are inherently aware
that the bruising is widespread.


There it is I tell you, under the bed,
an errant TV remote sans batteries,
you used them in your vibrator again,
the pillow thrown signifies a Bullseye,
I laugh at the top of my vocal range
the more to infuriate your sensitivity,
we leap for the vibrator, me for the batteries
she because of her embarrassment,
the doorbell rings, she alters tack,
leaves me for the errant mechanical orgasmitiser,
she to go speak with the neighbour's wife.

I wander into the room where they both stand,
waving the deep purple machine in the air.


The window flew open, widows curse
ten elephants flew by, ears flapping,
I looked out the glass door, rhinoceroses,
the chimney echoed a cacophony of monkeys,

I checked the movie on TV, Jumanji
fantasy come to life, dances by my house
I see storks pecking at the roses, pansies
the alligators chew up the vegetable garden,
not doubt looking for mutant ants and slaters,
I switch channels, the music channel,
the serenity of a symphony orchestra in full flight
the chewed roses sing soprano,
the pansies tenor,
the ants and slaters go about their daily business,
forgotten in the melee of jumping channels.

I look out the window again, a string section,
sit down and settle to Beethoven's Fifth,
the horn section of the Flax bush
the woodwinds of the sunflowers,
the piano an errant Dutch Thistle,
yes even weeds share billing with reeds.

The telephone rings in E major, discordant
I answer, without realization the sound is huge,
I flick the remote, nothing happens,
then I see him, The Mad Hatter snorting coke,

I make for the TV, hit the off button,
in time to still hear the phone, the surrealist
passion play stops of a sudden, time flies,
yet still the Mad Hatter invades my mind.

Hello, Thane speaking (I think)

Carol Connolly was born, raised, and educated in the Irish Catholic section of Saint Paul, Minnesota and has seven children. Like me, and a lot of other people I know, she is a second life poet, beginning to write when she was forty years old. She has worked as a newspaper columnist, and a news commentator on television. A number of her works have been performed on stage by herself and others.

She has served as co-chair of the Minnesota Women's Political Caucus, chair of the Saint Paul Human Rights Commission and chair of the affirmative action committee of the Minnesota Racing Commission.

She is a very busy poet.

This next two poems are from her book Payments Due Onstage Offstage. I think they're both a lot of fun.

It's Not Going Well

Five years
of one man's adoration
and undying devotion
is enough for anyone.
When I told him I
wanted to separate,
he leapt like someone
Now the whole house
smells of wounded buffalo,
and he continues
to serve tea
in the best china
at midnight.

Is This a Joke

He invited a student to live in their house,
to work in exchange for lodging.
He began to take brandy to bed,
to cover the glass with a paperback book
to save it from evaporation during the night.
His wife woke him,
shook his shoulder. She asked,
"Do you love the student more than me?"
He resisted, feigned sleep,
rustled the sheets, groaned,
and finally resigned himself
to a true/false answer.
His wife announced
she could now kill herself,
put her head in their oven.
As she turned from their marriage bed,
her elbow tipped the brandy.
It bled into the pages of his soft book.

After some blank time,
with nothing to read or drink,
he ventured into their kitchen.
Curious, he wondered if she knew:
to suicide
you must blow out the pilot light.
"How is it going?"
His wife, her golden hair dull
with carbon and sweat, said,
"It's hot in here."

Sitting at the coffee shop, trying to write a poem. Looking around and finding it. It occurs to me that not much imagination is required to do what I mostly do. Just gotta look around and report what I see, trying to find, somewhere along the way, more to what I see than can be immediately seen.

Or something like that.

just another night in the arena

Friday night is chess night
at the coffee shop
and games are going on
all around me -
the usual cast of characters,
the Harpo Marx look-alike
playing the young girl

(that question
finally settled tonight
after months of wondering
by the outline
of a bra strap beneath
her t-shirt)

a prodigy it seems,
a student first
of Harpo
and now a worthy
sure to make her teacher proud,
and at other tables
groups of middle-aged men
each other game after game,
in the corner
and older man
explaining the finer points
of the game
to a trio of young girls

notable absences tonight,
the tall blond
whose accent
i can never quite nail down
and the bald black guy
who works the game
like pickup basketball,
a lively
likable guy
with a booming voice,
slapping hands,
his favorites,
all that missing
so the night
not so colorful
as usual

Next I have a poem from an anthology published in India, Explorers - A collection of Contemporary Literature. In addition to one of my poems (not one of my best), the book also includes this poem by Jerry Bradley.

Bradley is Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Vice President for Research at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He has published books of both criticism and poetry.

Bad Coffee Is Grounds For Divorce

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other."
          - Mother Teresa

Dancing backward toward the future,
wives evade excuses, sidestep
indiscretions and infidelity,
pretend to remodel the heart of matrimony
in a lively curvet while secretly
harboring homages to Plath.

Face it: nuclear families are for electrons
and morons. A man with street cred
doesn't stand a chance. He is like
the spider that makes you shriek,
unfit for indoor life. He burns
unevenly like a Tibetan monk.

Watch the heart of Hamlet. No matter
how well he dances, he is a greenhead,
a filchman, a lightfooted bandog, no hero.
Wedlock is an anomic pasquil; marriage,
a hero's grave adorned with plastic flowers.

Clever poetry has depths not immediately apparent on the service. This is not a clever poem and it contains no depths that I'm aware of. Of course, if you find some great depth, I'll be glad to take credit for it.

My guess, though is that it is about just what it says it's about - a good way to spend a Sunday when you're a kid.

a good way to spend a Sunday

at Red Lobster
with family -
i don't like the place
but everyone else does
so i went along -

wasn't too bad,
prices outrageous
as usual,
but i had some kind
of fried thing
that wasn't disgusting,
unlike the mushy things
i've had
the past several times
that were

the worse thing about eating
at the big Red L
is that when i do i can't help
but remember
the really good seafood
i've had in other places,.
like Galveston,
where anywhere along the seawall
you could get creole seafood
that was the best, and,
for a while, back when
we lived in Corpus Christi,
there was a big paddle-wheeler
docked at one of the t-heads
where the blackened redfish
was like a spicy bit of heaven,
and then,
on the other side of the bridge,
right on the water
at Ingleside-By-The Bay
where you could get
the best stuffed crab
on the planet, or at least
any portion of the planet
i'm familiar with,
but the all-time best
was a place in Brownsville
we drove to when i was a kid,
Sunday mornings
every couple of months
after church,
hours fresh
from the shrimp boats
at Port Isabel,
the boats all lined up
along the dock,
nets lifted high
to dry in the sun,
selling their catch
right off the boat,
big shrimp,
big ones from before
all the big ones were caught,
big ones,
palm sized
and still twitching

were the best
when i was a kid,
down to Brownsville
for lunch, then to Boca Chica
to walk the sand and hunt shells
or, later,
when the bridge was built,
to Port Isabel
and across to Padre Island
where the dunes
and the surf were higher,
walking the jetties
all the way to the end,
talking to fisherman, watching
rays, some as big as a raft,
swim up and down the channel,
then home,
salty and sandy
and asleep
in the backseat
before we finished crossing
the long bridge

a good way to spend Sunday
when i was
a kid

Next, I have two poems of grief from the book One Hundred Poems From The Chinese, collected and translated by Kenneth Rexroth.

The poet is Mei Yao Ch'en. He was born in the year 1002 and died in 1060. He was an official scholar of the early Song dynasty whose poems helped initiate a new realism in the poetry of his age. He did not pass the Imperial Examinations until he was forty nine, and his career was marked by assignments in the provinces, alternating with periods in the capital.

He was a distinctly personal poet, who wrote about the loss of his first wife and baby son in 1044 and about the death of a baby daughter a few years later.

Twenty eight hundred of his poems survive.


Heaven took my wife. Now it
Has also taken my son.
My eyes are not allowed a
Dry season. It is too much
For my heart. I long for death.
When the rain falls and enters
The earth, when a pearl drops into
The depth of the sea, you can
Dive in the sea and find the
Pearl, you can dig in the earth
And find the water. But no one
Has ever come back from the
Underground Springs. Once gone, life
Is over for good. My chest
Tightens against me. I have
No one to turn to. Nothing,
Not even a shadow in a mirror.

A Dream At Night

In broad daylight I dream I
Am with her. At night I dream
She is still at my side. She
Carries her kit of colored
Threads. I see her image bent
Over her bag of silks. She
Mends and alters my clothes and
Worries for fear I might look
Worn and ragged. Dead, she watches
Over my life. Her constant
Memory draws me towards death.

My next poem is from a book just released by one of our regulars, James Lineberger. The title of the book is Dollhouse.

James is a retired screenwriter, sometime playwright, and full-time poet. he has eight volumes of poems and a full-length play available from
lulu. For information on Dollhouse, his newest book, and all of his other published work, copy this url and paste it to you browser:

Here's the poem.

now in my old man dreams

now in my old man dreams
it's not the friends
and loved ones who once were my only concern
but strangers and mere
acquaintances i met along the way
people whom i gave short shrift
in places and times i can barely remember
and i'm beginning
to think perhaps there's still so much
left to learn
so many things to tend
looks like i'll be at it from now on
until what's over with and what must be
can make amends

Diane Wakoski was born in Whittier, California and studied at the University of California, Berkeley.

She has published over forty books of poetry, including The Rings of Saturn, from which our poem was taken. She won the prestigious William Carlos Williams award for her book Emerald Ice.

Wakoski teaches creative writing at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

The Tree

outside the north window
has moss growing around its total
circumference. Does this mean
there is only a north? No
south or east or west?
I know about trees, even few names,
though flowers have always yielded
information like little pellets falling out of their petals,
to me.

Possessions rigidify a man or woman.
Even the people you love,
making you stiffen yourself
in a discipline against your annoyance
at the way they eat, or blow their noses.
You know
you love them, yet petty
observations irritate you so much you
not think of them. When
no one
is listening, you say,
"I hate (blank)," thinking the forbidden
loved-one's name. They
you tell yourself how bad you are
and try to think of flowers,
or Mozart, or losing yourself in books about
violent death. Where is Beethoven,
surely a man whose habits would have made any
lover hate him? Bukowski too
has discovered he'd rather live alone, as Pound
discovered he'd prefer
most of the time
not to speak.

The couple in the Nebraska steak restaurant last night,
who sent back their steak,
were embarrassed, but no so much they didn't do it.
No thanks from the waitress.
Adjustment of price
from the management. A tree
with moss growing
on all sides must be a modern
product, like all
of us, not willing to declare boldly
he'll grow his moss on the North side, or
not at all. Usually doesn't send back his steak,
no matter how bad. He covers
as they say,
all the bases. No good
if you're lost and they need direction, the moss
on all sides saying they're all
like the love which is no good
if you want romance
or sex instead,
but much better if you want a calm
and peaceful
everyday life, on where you can assume
you'll never
be lost in a forest.

Memorial Day was a nice quiet day for us, a little drive and a nice lunch.

time today
for "D" and i to take
a quick drive to Austin

lunch with "C" and "E"
in a little place
on South Congress,
very good,
very expensive

the whole area greatly changed
since the time one night
twenty years ago,
i stopped about three blocks
away from were the restaurant
is now to make a u-turn, and,
before i could start again
i was propositioned
by three of the working girls
who claimed that block
as their own - but that's
back in the day,
the girls are long gone
since the area's redevelopment
(officially, the area is now called
SOCO, for South Congress,
but is more commonly
by jokesters as
NOHONOMO to commemorate
the midnight labor force
pushed out
to less trendy neighborhoods)

it's a fine dining area now,
where one can, as we did today,
pay $70
for two sandwiches and
two small pizzas,
as well as little sidewalk cafes
and espresso bars
all within walking distance
of the music and raucous nightlife
of 5th and 6th streets,
a place to start a night on the town
with a fine meal
and a place to return in the morning
for migas and menudo and other fine cures
for the headaches and sour stomachs
left over from the night before

it's nice to visit
the city
especially for someone like me
with more than fifty years
of associated memories,
or even just a drive down for lunch
with the two of them,
to notice
as we eat and talk
how very pleased they seem to be
in each other's company

that pleases me
as well

We haven't read anything from Diane Glancy in several months.

Glancy was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother of English and German descent and to a father of Cherokee descent. She has written numerous works across a wide range of genres, including poetry, one and two act plays, and series of vignettes. She has received many awards and honors, including the American Book Award and the Native American Prose Award for her first collection of essays, Claiming Breath.

Glancy received her Master's Degree from Central State University in Edmond, Oklahoma and her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. She is currently Assistant Professor in the English Department at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches courses in creative writing and Native American literature.

This week, we're back to her with another piece from her book Lone Dog's Winter Count.

Sandstone Rock In Your Hand

Was it rain that left a hole,
not clear through, but deep at one end?
A cockpit when you flew the rock
looking for a place to land
just before sleep closed its gate,
& you had to find a field or runway
in the first strip of light?
Or the vacancy in the porous rock
was the open trunk of the car
when you unloaded packages?
A saguaro with a bird's nest in its arm
where you went for the holidays?
No, it was more like the space
between you & your brother
in the backseat when the gray road
went by. You try to wipe the windshield
because instrument flight
fights against instinct.
You reach back for the land you left
in sleep, but turnpike tickets spit
at you, the wipers frantic
& you don't know
if you're in the road or air.
Maybe you are the hole
rain has washed out. Your porous surface
didn't hold against the torrents
& torments of this low flight,
the hopelessness, the tunnel
not broken through.

In this next poem, our friend Christopher George applies an historical metaphor to our current situation.

Chris, a regular contributor to "Here and Now," was born in Liverpool, England in 1948 and first emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1955. He went back to Liverpool for a refresher on his Scouse accent, living with his grandparents while attending Rose Lane and Quarry Bank Schools. Chris returned to the U.S.A. in 1968 and has lived there ever since. He now lives in Baltimore, Maryland, near Johns Hopkins University with his wife Donna and two cats.

The War of Jenkins' Ear

It's the sixth year of the war: six years of bodybags.
A train slides toward Baltimore, passes the derelict

Atlas Storage Company and Acme Merchandising Center,
a quarry where the City of Baltimore pounds big stones into

little stones. And we know why this war's being fought:
to battle terrorists in their backyard, for oil, to protect

our assets: blood in the sand. It is an unending war - but
the latest surge is working, as are the gas pump counters,

as does Procede and Hair Club for Men (the poet removes
his cap to show his audience). The magnolias are in bloom

again. Soon the petals will fall and decay like brown tongues.

My next poem is from an anthology I picked up at Half-Priced Books just this week. I is Breaking Silence, An Anthology Of Contemporary Asian American Poets, published by the Greenville Review Press in 1983. The poem I selected from the book is by Gail N. Harada

Harada was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and spent part of her childhood in Japan. After graduating from Stanford University, she earned an M.F.A. in English from the University of Iowa. Her poems have appeared in various journals. She also does work for television and teaches occasionally in the Poets-In-Schools program.

New Year

This is the old way,
the whole clan gathered,
the rice steaming over the charcoal,
the women in the room , talking,
a layer of potato starch on the table.

This is the old way,
the father watching his son lift the mallet,
pound the rice, pound mochi,
the children watching or playing,
the run of the dough to the women,
the rolling of the round cakes.

This is the old way,
eating ozoni, new year's soup;
mochi for longevity,
daikon, long white radish
rooted firmly like families;
eating burdock, also deeply rooted,
fish for general good luck
and lotus root, wheel of life.

This is the old way,
setting off firecrackers
to drive away evil sprits,
leaving the driveways red for good fortune.

The new year arrives,
deaf, smelling of gunpowder.

I wrote this piece a couple of weeks ago after a bomb threat where I was working at the time. At least it as a bomb threat according to the rumors. Nobody ever actually told us why we had to leave the building and stand out in the sun for an hour.

For purpose of this poem, it was a bomb threat.

evil is

there were seven hundred,
maybe a thousand of us
standing in the parking lot,
and, after and hour,
grateful, at least,
that the bomb threat
had come in May
and not in August
when the sun and heat
might have put some of us,
the older ones,
in greater danger from
heat stroke
than from a would-be

i've had bomb threats
a couple, in fact,
one i took seriously
to call the police
and evacuate our building
and another, years earlier
from a client i knew
and was not worried about,
mainly because i knew
even if he'd had a bomb
under his bed
he wasn't smart enough
to make to make it explode

he was a really sad case

build like a pear
with a pockmarked face
and greasy hair

and if his looks
and his borderline retarded
mental capacity
and a complete lack
of any kind of moral sense
weren't bad enough,
he suffered
from a younger brother
and sister,
both stunningly, amazingly beautiful,
both of the very highest intelligence,
and both with even less of a moral sense
than his - had they not been born
dirt poor
on the wrong side of town,
some might have been tempted
to place that evil genius label on them

as it was,
they were just white trash evil

they beat
their older brother regularly,
just for the fun of it,
and had
since they were old enough
to make a fist,
taking turns,
the younger brother
one day,
the younger sister
the next,
both together,
a day of peace

one day
they beat him to death
and they were gone,
him dead
and them life
without parole

i've sometimes thought
i must owe them
some form of payment,
for it was from their lessons
i learned
the reality of evil in this world

My next poem is by Allen Ginsberg from the collection Death & Fame, Final Poems, published after his death. All of the poems were written while he was in the hospital, knowing he was near the end of his life. The poem I selected was written less that two weeks from the end.

Thirty State Bummers

Take a pee pee take a Bum
Take your choice for number one

Old man more or someone new
Take you choice someone new

President Clinton, President Dole
Number three you're in a hole

Anchor two or anchor four
One's a liar one's a bore

Richard Helms Angleton live
We were lucky to survive

Jesse Helms & dirty pix
Dance your fate with his party mix

Idi Amine General Mobutu
were paid by me & you

They were bought by me & mine
Albania, number 9

Mr. Allende was number 10
Pinochet Dictator then

Death squads in El Salvador
We paid D'Aubisson to score
Guatemalas by the dozen
Pat Robertson was country cousin

Rios-Montt the Indian Killer
Born-again General Bible pillar

Nicaragua squeezed between
Col. North & cocaine queen

Drug Czar Bush gave Company moolah
to Noriega Panama's ruler

Venezuela's Drug War Chief
Turned around to be a thief

Mexico's general drug-war head
pumped informers full of lead

State Department's favorite bloke
In Haiti he sold tons of coke

Till Aristide unhex'd the curse
CIA filled Cedras' Purse

White Peru's its Indian shame
Gave "Shining Path" worldwide fame

Then dictator Fujimori
Paid the World Bank hunky dory

With Indian Class the majority
Peru got respectable with poverty

Made a deal with English banks
To pay back the USA with thanks

The price of rubber tin went down
Cocaine syndicates come to town

Now the money's in cocaine crops
U.S. Hellies do their dope air drops

We got rid of the President of Coasta Rica
He had no army he didn't kill people

Lots began in '53
Guatemala couldn't break free

United Fruits annulled the vote
as Alan & Foster Dulles gloat

Then unseated Mosaddeq
& left Iran a police-state wreck

Then we sold the guy in Iraq
Money to bomb Iranians back

Central America Middle East
Preyed on by "Great Satan" beast

Worst of all, & hell be dammed!
Think what happened in Vietnam

Laos, victim of the war
Nobody really knew what for

Cambodia, caught by the tail
When we blew up Mekong's Ho Chi Ming Trail,

Descended into Anarchy
Pol Pot's Maoist Butchery

Shihanook's book before that day
Was called "My War with the CIA"

Who's to blame, Who's to blame
Anybody share America's shame

But there's more! Count the score!
So far we got twenty-four

25 is Afghanistan
Fundamentalists armed by The Man

Tribal Drug Lord Mountain gangs
Veiling up their own sex thangs

Looking around for number 26
Indochina was the Colonial sticks

France introduced the opium crop
France would sell the Chinese hop

Britain, U.S. got in on the deal
Opium war made the Emperor kneel

China opened to our own junk men
Shanghai famous for the opium den

Strung out on junk we took their silk
The yellow peril drank Christian milk

We're doing exactly the same thing again
In Indochina with Marlboro men

Smoke our dope to be Favored Nation
Nicotine cancer next generation

Who's pushing this new dope ring?
Senator Jesse Helms the Moralist King

Peaches Prunes & company goons
For the next two-hundred eighty eight moons

NAFTA NAFTA what comes after?
Toxic waste - Industrial laughter

Industrial smog, Industrial sneers
Industrial women weeping tears

Wages low no CIO
No medical plan oh no! no! no!

No toilet time, human say

No overtime no other way
Yankee work for a dollar a day

No jobs today No jobless pay
No future life but turn to clay

Work hard for a little bit of honey
But USA takes all the money

March 24, 1997. 10:40 P.M.

My next poem is by the poet known by the nom de plume DC Vision.

There, you now know everything about DC Vision that I know. But I do enjoy the poems.

Left Behind

I am alive in this hunger
you are hungry to be alive
faith is not to be testified
no freedom leading or following
how can there be understanding
walking in another's shoes
but perceiving through your own eyes

you are on a journey
with uncomfortable traction
spouting a language
pretending a liberty
liable to be a liability
when the shoes and the beliefs
are returned to their owner

Alone I dance this mystery
the music of love unrehearsed
what do you hold in your hands
you jumped into it with nothing
and you leave just as blessed
if all you find
is what you found
left behind

Dennis Camire is a graduate of Wichita State University and teh University of Maine at Farmington. He works as a bartender as he writes his poems.

I also have a poem in this anthology, one of my good ones, if I do say so myself (and I do).

Teaching Simile At A Midwestern University

I said "you need to see a feather
as a tree from the forest of pheasant."

I tried fusing the two brains with
"a watch is like a moon with a mind."

A few went off to write
"a purse is like money's mouth"

and "a crow flying to roadkill
is like the Grim Reaper's directional."

But most feared simile disguising
those magnum Opus emotions

in those essays about being
"the one lesbian in Midland, Kansas"

or "wanting to fail senior History
because they hadn't a parent

to snap the photo when th diploma
was batoned into their sweated palms."

My graduate student challenge:
to convince them simile isn't like

a berka placed over a wife's face
to mute the indignity that might

stamen her gaze. Oh, frustrated
with their frustration,

I felt like the soccer team's trainer
making players follow through

on all those strange yoga poses
moments before the championship game;

I felt like the Zen Master
stressing breathing

to the novice seeking
to see the Buddha in the

next lotus he walks over.
But gracefully that "open-

admission university classroom"
allowed for my own improvement

and future lessons found me
beginning with: "the heart

is lie an accordion
too few of us make sing

though the left and right brains press
so many buttons and squeeze

a sleuth of keys." and gleaming
the possibility of simile

filleting those salmon-pink feelings,
one imagined "desire like the

scarlet runner bean blindly clinging
to pole, chicken wire, and cornstalk

next row over." Another saw "the heart
as an Allstar's catcher's mitt

in the Fast-pitch League
of adult relationships."

But it's how most slowly came to trust
how truth might be beauty and beauty

might be truth; it's how one or two
always secrets you poem and essays

where the exact simile begins releasing
the pain of their mother's suicide

or guilt from the eighth grade rape,
that has me saying to you:

you really do learn so much
from your students; just like

I was saying the other day
to my teacher-friend Marita:

"sometimes there's just nothing to
compare these students' beauty to...."

War is an abstraction to everyone but those who fight it. That’s certainly the story of our current war. Begun and directed by those at the very top to whom it was but an abstraction, an exercise in desert sand, blown away by desert winds, a shifting pseudo-reality in a world where the real thing never shifts.

memorial day

i knew
two guys
who were killed
in Viet Nam

they were both
younger than me
so i didn't know either
very well

was a short pudgy
guy with thick glasses -
we almost got into a fight once,
i remember that
but don't remember why

became a marine

the other
i hardly knew at all

it happened
that i was home on leave
between duty stations
when i ran into the guy at a bar

he was due to ship out the next day
so i bought him a beer
and another
and so on until
i dropped him off at the bus station
the next morning

the last i saw of him
was his face
through a dirty bus window

i guess i must of wished
him good luck,
it turned out
he didn't have any of

i knew two guys
who were killed in Viet Nam

but don't remember
of their names

Yes, there was a summer when it rained, here. I remember it well. And while I soak in a nostalgia of wet, you should remember that all the work presented on this blog remains the property of its creators; the blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

at 11:10 AM Anonymous Burqa Not Berka said...

"Berka" covering a wife's face?

BERKA is a surname of Slovakian origin. A "burka" or "burkah" or the classically spelled "burqa" (sometimes with an H at the end) is the thing that covers a wife's face in Afghanistan. In Iraq, it's a chaderi, and in Iran, a chador. All of these coverings fall under the collective definition of "hijab," Muslim dress for women which they insist preserves modesty and decreases lust.

It's not a small matter--I hope you will make the correction.

Your "visual verification" fails to show a picture. I had to rely on the Handicapped auditory cues.

Post a Comment

Don't Fence Me In   Saturday, May 24, 2008

The picture above was taken from the side of a the little highway that runs goes Presidio to Lajitas on the Texas border with Mexico. The Rio Grande River runs right alongside the road for most of the way. In fact, the river is below the bluff I'm taking the picture from.

I grew up on the border and have the same view of the silly, racist fence Homeland Security wants to build as just about all the people I know from that part of the state.

Homeland Security has taken the legal position that no existing state or federal law can divert them from doing what they want to do, that they are in fact, exempt from all law other than their own.

The fence, if built in this area, would likely make it impossible to get to this road, much less drive along it, just as in extreme South Texas the fence as proposed cuts through people's yards, ranches and farms, through lands long set aside for protection of endangered flora and fauna, and, actually, cutting across the campus of Texas A&M University, Brownsville. The fence would make every thing south of it difficult to get too, in not completely inaccessible, becoming in effect the new national border, de facto ceding everything south of the fence to Mexico.

In Texas, there is a growing coalition of mayors, county judges, state legislators, business interests and environmental interest fighting the fence. I'm with them. I don't think we ought to allow racist or any other kinds of hysterics in Arizona, Iowa and Washington build a Berlin Wall around our country.

That said, on with the show.

I start this week with a poem by Paula Gunn Allen, from Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry, published by Harper Collins in 1988.

Allen was born in 1939 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She grew up in Cubero, New Mexico, a Spanish-Mexican land grant village bordering the Laguna Pueblo reservation. Of mixed Laguna, Sioux, Scottish, and Lebanese-American descent, she has always most closely identified with the people among whom she spent her childhood and upbringing.

Allen obtained a BA and MFA from the University of Oregon and her PhD at the University of New Mexico, where she taught and where she began her research into various tribal religions.

Kopis'taya, A Gathering of Spirits

Because we live in the browning season
the heavy air blocking our breath,
and in this time when living
is only survival, we doubt the voices
that come shadowed on the air,
that weave within our brains
certain thoughts, a motion that is soft,
imperceptible, a twilight rain,
soft feather's fall, a small body dropping
into its next, rustling, murmuring, settling
in for the night.

Because we live in the hardedged season,
where plastic brittle and gleaming shine,
and in this space that is cornered and angled,
we do not notice wet, moist, the significant
drops falling in perfect spheres
that are the certain measures of our minds;
almost invisible, those tears,
soft as dew, fragile, that cling to leaves,
petals, roots, gentle and sure,
every morning.

We are the women of the daylight, of clocks
and steel foundries, of drugstores
and streetlights, of superhighways
that slice our days in two. Wrapped around
in plastic and steel we ride our lives;
behind dark glasses we hide our eyes;
our thoughts, shaded, seem obscure.
Smoke fills our minds, whisky husks our songs,
polyester cuts our bodies from our breath,
our feet from the welcoming stones of earth.
Our dreams are pale memories of themselves
ad nagging doubt is the false measure
of our days.

Even so, the spirit voices are singing,
their thoughts are dancing in the dirty air.
Their feet touch the cement, the asphalt
delighting, still they weave dreams upon our
shadowed skulls, if we could listen.
If we could hear.

Let's go then. Let's find them.
Let's listen for the water, the careful
gleaming drops that glisten on the leaves,
the flowers. Let's ride
the midnight, the early dawn.
Feel the wind striding through our hair.
Let's dance the dance of feathers,
the dance of birds.

For many years I was one of the suits, responsible for the work of hundreds of employees and systems spending hundreds of millions of dollars. I was a media personality, seen and quoted often in newspaper, radio and tv. I advised business men and politicians on matters of significance. I projected an image of competence, maturity, reliability, and expertise in matters large and small.

A medium-sized frog in a medium-sized pond ... and a fake.

There are a lot of us among the suits, I think.

at the grown-up's table

i often forget
i'm a grown-up,
when dealing
with peers
of my own age
or younger,
like a child
by some accident
at the grown-up's table,
exchanging banalities,
I could go outside
and play

David Budbill was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1940 to a streetcar driver and a minister's daughter. He is the author of six books of poems, eight plays, a novel, a collection of short stories, a picture book for children, dozens of essays, introductions, speeches and book reviews, and the libretto for an opera. He is also a performance poet on two CDs. He was, for a time, a commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

This poem is from the anthology I've used for the past two weeks, The Rag And Bond Shop Of The Heart.

This poem, with its everyday brutality, turns my stomach.

What I Heard At The Discount Department Store

Don't touch that. and stop your whining too.
Stop it. I mean it. You know I do.
If you don't stop, I'll give you fucking something
to cry about right here
and don't you think I won't either.

So she did. She slapped him across the face.
And you could hear the snap of flesh against the flesh
halfway across the store. Then he wasn't whining anymore.
Instead, he wept. His little body heaved and shivered and
He was seven or eight. She was maybe thirty.
Above her left breast, the pin said: Nurse's Aide.

Now they walk hand in hand down the aisle
between the tables piled with tennis shoes
and underpants and plastic bag of socks.

I told you I would. You knew I would.
You can't get away with shit like that with me,
you know you can't.
You're not in school anymore.
You're with your mother now.
You can get away with fucking murder there,
but you can't get away with shit like that with me.

Stop that crying now I say
or I'll give you another little something
like I did before.
Stop that now. You'd better stop.

That's better. That's a whole lot better.
You know you can't do that with me.
You're with your mother now.

My next poem is by Michael Sottak.

I don't know what to say about Michael except that it seems he's been around. I ask him for a short bit of bio information and he sent the following, which, I guess, explains it better than anything I could conjure up.

We'd been to Iraq, Kuwait .... my brother shows up on my sister's doorstep after hurricane Ivan destroyed Pensacola .... we are both broke from fixing up the homes of people we loved and he says "Dude, I'm fucken broke, let's go jump a ship in the Gulf of Mexico"...

"Alright, let me pack my bag." We were in Aransas, Texas by three a.m. the next morning, swatting misquitos and drinking beer. He points down the dock, gravel and mud puddles .... "This is the Oil Fields."

I start laughing, because all I can see is a fat engineer and a broken down pick up truck.

"Alright asshole! Did I ever tell you that I never loved you?"

Here's Michael's poem. Later on in this issue we'll have some of his photos from his "oil patch."

gulf of mexicali blues

Sea Fogg is pacing the points
of the compass around the bridge wing,
steps back into the wheelhouse staring
at the reception bars on his cell phone.
the gravity of frustration pulling his eyes
and cheeks toward his jaw.

i'm reclined in his captain's chair sipping
coffee. he knows i've been watching him
and senses i can't digest my grin:
"Fuck you, muthafucka! Three weeks out here now!
I need to talk to my woman!"

The bow tugs at the mooring line, Elsa Leigh rolls gently to starboard, water wringing from her three hundred foot leash, continues her lazy figure-of-eight waltz south by west.

"Don't worry, Man. I'm sure someone's taking good care of her!"

"Why don't you get your ass out on deck and paint something ... better yet, break something that will send us to the yards!"

i start whistling "hi ho" down the ladder and catch his haki-sak ball on the back of my head.

Phil is a new hire, just flown down from Alaska last night. We talk about king crab fishing in the Bering. Know some of same skalliwags and start laughing. He leans forward, confidentially:
"Are all these guys crazy?"

"Whadda you mean, Phil?"

"I asked that guy Weazel what i should be doing.

He said,"Climb the mast, cinch your balls in a noose, hang upside-down singing 'Camptown Racetrack'".

"oh ... you caught him in a good mood."

"really man, i don't know where i'm supposed to be working."

"you're with me. did you smuggle any beer past the helo-port?"

"No! Are you fucking kidding me? They have all these signs up forbidding alcohol."

"Well, Amigo, a sign is just a sign isn't it?"

It's time to get a little wild with this piece by Richard Brautigan from the anthology The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.

Brautigan was an writer, best known for the novel Trout Fishing in America. He wrote ten novels and over 500 poems. Most of his novels dealt with satire, black comedy, and Zen Buddhism. Born in 1935, he ended his own life by gunshot to his head in 1984. His suicide followed years of depression and heavy alcoholism.

This longish poem seem pretty representative of his work.

The Galilee Hitch-Hiker

The Galilee Hitch-Hiker
Part 1

Baudelaire was
driving a Model A
across Galilee.
He picked up a
hitch-hiker named
Jesus who had
been standing among
a school of fish,
feeding them
pieces of bread.
"Where are you
going?" asked
Jesus, getting
into the front
"Anywhere, anywhere
out of this world!"
"I'll go with you
as far as
said Jesus.
"I have a
at the carnival
there, and I
must not be

The American Hotel
Part 2

Baudelaire was sitting
in a doorway with a wino
on San Francisco's skid row.
The wino was a million
years old and could remember
Baudelaire and the wino
were drinking Petri Muscatel.
"One must always be drunk,"
   said Baudelaire.
"I live in the American Hotel,"
said the wino. "And I can
   remember dinosaurs."
"Be you drunken ceaselessly,"
   said Baudelaire.

Part 3

Baudelaire used to come
to our house ad watch
me grind coffee.
That was in 1939
and we lived in the slums
of Tacoma.
My mother would put
the coffee beans in the grinder.
I was a child
and would turn the handle,
pretending that it was
   a hurdy-gurdy,
and Baudelaire would pretend
that he was a monkey,
hopping up and down
and holding out
a tin cup.

The Flowerburgers
Part 4

Baudelaire opened
up a hamburger stand
in San Francisco,
but he put flowers
between the buns.
People would come in
and say, "Give me a
hamburger with plenty
of onions on it."
Baudelaire would give
them a flowerburger
instead and the people
would say, "What kind
of a hamburger stand
is this?"

The Hour of Eternity
Part 5

"The Chinese
read the time
in the eyes
of cats,"
said Baudelaire
and went into
a jewelry store
on Market Street.
He came out
a few moments
later carrying
a twenty-one
jewel Siamese
cat that he
wore on the
end of a
golden chain.

Salvador Dali
Part 6

"Are you
or aren't you
going to eat
your soup,
you bloody old
cloud merchant?"
Jeanne Dual
hitting Baudelaire
on the back
as he sat
out the window.
Baudelaire was
Then he laughed
like hell,
waving his spoon
in the air
like a wand
changing the room
into a painting
by Salvador
Dali, changing
the room
into a painting
by Van Gogh.

A Baseball Game
Part 7

Baudelaire went
to a baseball game
and bought a hot dog
and lit up a pipe
of opium.
The New York Yankees
were playing
the Detroit Tigers.
In the fourth inning
an angel committed
suicide by jumping
off a low cloud.
The angel landed
on second base,
causing the whole infield
to crack like
a huge mirror.
The game was
called on
account of

Insane Asylum
Part 8

Baudelaire went
to the insane asylum
disguised as a
He stayed there
for two months
and when he left,
the insane asylum
loved him so much
that it followed
him all over California,
and Baudelaire
laughed when the
insane asylum
rubbed itself
up against his
leg like a
strange cat

My Insect Funeral
Part 9

When I was a child
I had a graveyard
where I buried insects
and dead birds under
a rose tree.
I would bury the insects
in tin foil and watch boxes.
I would bury the birds
in pieces of red cloth.
It was all very sad
and I would cry
as I scooped the dirt
into the small graves
with a spoon.
Baudelaire would come
and join in
my insect funerals,
saying little prayers
the size of
dead birds.

San Francisco
February 1958

Michael Sottak's mention above of swatting mosquitos in Aransas, Texas reminded me of this poem I wrote several years ago. (The picture above is of sunrise from the Bayfront, downtown Corpus Christi. The tiny lights you can barely see are in the area of Aransas Pass/Port Aransas as mentioned in Michael's introduction of himself.)

I was on North Beach in Corpus Christi, checking out an apartment. We lived in Corpus Christi for 15 years before moving to San Antonio. I retired five years after that move and after about 4 years of not doing much decided to go back to work, which I did, for the local United Way organization.

It was my intention to find a cheap apartment in Corpus Christi where I could live during the week, then commute back and forth San Antonio on weekends to be with family.

I did find a nice efficiency on the bay, but not on this particular morning. I did get a poem out of it though. The poem was eventually published in The Horsethief's Journal, a poetry venue I miss greatly, in 2003.

And that's more introduction than I intended for this little piece of occasional humor.

(I guess I should add, just to finish the story, that, although Corpus Christi is a great little city and my earlier years there were some of the best of my life, the weekly commute on this second go-round got to me after a year and a half and I retired for a second time.)

Welcome Home

it's early morning and i'm looking for this
apartment that was listed in the classifieds

(on the beach, the ad said,
half a block from the Sea Shell Motel,
lovely view of the bay at sunrise)

through fog so thick I could run over
a dozen geezers reading their free
USA Today in the lobby of the Sea Shell
Motel and not know it until my insurance
premiums went up in the next quarter

but with the humidity so high
all my car windows are so smeared
with condensation inside and out
that i can't see the fog and i figure
what the hell and don't worry about it

i'm looking for Bushnick Street
and all the street signs are lost somewhere
in that thick fog that i can't see anyway
because of the goddamn humidity

until i finally give up and
turn off my air conditioner
and open all the car windows
thinking that if i get the smeared
windows out of the way maybe
i can see through the fog enough
to at least figure out where i am

but that doesn't work either
and all i do is let in a black
cloud of starving mosquitos
that settle on my face and arms
like a cactus blanket, greedy little
vampire bugs nipping a hundred
little nips, sucking my blood, leaving
wet red splotches as i flail my hands
around, slapping myself silly at seven
o'clock in the gulf coast morning
and i'm reminded of all the things
about this place i haven't missed

After all the modern stuff so far, how about a little bit of he ultra-conventional - from the anthology 101 Famous Poems, this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with probably the best known first line in American poetry.

(Speaking of that, who else remembers this from when you were 10 or 12 years old.

"You're a poet,
but don't know it,
but your feet show it
'cause they're Longfellow's."

What do kids say now instead of that, I wonder.)

Hiawatha's Childhood

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the fir with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.
   There the wrinkled old Nokomis
Nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rocked him in his linden cradle,
Bedded soft in moss and rushes,
Safely bound with raindeer sinews;
Stilled his fretful wail by saying,
"Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!"
Lulled him into slumber, singing,
"Ewa-yea! my little owlet!
Who is this, that lights the wigwam?
With his great eyes lights the wigwam?
Ewa-yea! my little owlet!"
   Many things Nokomis taught him
Of the stars that shine in heaven;
Showed him Ishkoodah, the comet,
Ishkoodah, with fiery tresses;
Showed the Death-Dance of the spirits,
Warriors with their plumes and war-clubs,
Flaring far away to northward
In the frosty nights of winter;
Showed the broad white road in heaven,
Pathway of the ghosts, the shadows,
Running straight across the heavens,
Crowded with the ghosts, the shadows.
   At the door on summer evenings,
Sat the little Hiawatha;
Heard the whispering of the pine-trees,
Heard the lapping of the waters,
Sounds of music, words of wonder;
"Minne-wawa!" said the pine-trees,
"Mudway-ashka!" said the water.
   Saw the fire-fly Wah-wah-taysee,
Flitting through the dusk of evening,
With the twinkle of its candle
Lighting up the breaks and bushes,
And he sang the song of children,
Sang the song Nokomis taught him:
"Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly,
Little flitting, white-fire insect,
Little, dancing, white-fire creature,
Light me with your little candle,
Ere upon my bed I lay me,
Ere in sleep I close my eyelids!"
   Saw the moon rise from the water,
Rippling, rounding from the water,
Saw the flecks and shadows on it,
Whispered, "What is that, Nokomis?"
And the good Nokomis answered:
"Once a warrior, very angry,
Seized his grandmother, and threw her
Up into the sky at midnight;
Right against the moon he threw her;
Tis her body that you see there."
   Saw the rainbow in the heaven,
In the eastern sky the rainbow,
And the good Nokomis answered;
"Tis the heaven of flowers you see there;
All the wild-flowers of the forest,
All the lilies of the prairie,
When on earth they fade and perish,
Blossom in that heaven above us.”
   When he heard the owls at midnight,
Hooting, laughing in the forest,
"What is that?" he cried in terror;
"What is that," he said, "Nokomis?"
And the good Nokomis answered;
"That is but the owl and owlet,
Talking in their native language,
Talking, scolding at each other."
   Then the little Hiawatha
Learned of every bird its language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How they built their nests in summer,
Where they hid themselves in winter,
Called them "Hiawatha's Chickens."
   Of all the beasts he learned the language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How the beavers built their lodges,
Where the squirrels hid their acorns,
How the raindeer ran so swiftly,
Why the rabbit was so timid,
Talked with them whene'er he met them,
Called them "Hiawatha's Brothers."

Longfellow's poem reminded me of San Antonio poet Margaret Mayberry who writes in the difficult, for me, impossible, style of rhyme and form.

Born in London in 1932, Margaret, as the wife of a British doctor, lived in many countries around the world before coming to San Antonio 35 years ago and staying. She has an MA in Clinical Psychology from St. Mary's University as well as an MA in Environmental Management (Urban Studies) from the University of Texas at San Antonio. in addition to a full slate of volunteer and charitable work, for twenty years, she's been on the City Council of Hill Country Village a small incorporated city within the general geographic limits of San Antonio, 20 years. For those same years she's served on the Board of directors of the local Animal Defense League organization. A widow, Margaret says she always wanted to write poetry, but never got around to it until recently.

I've had this poem from her for several months, intending to save it for the issue that included Mothers' Day, but in the rush of not enough time, forgot about it.

Margaret has a lovely accent and listening to her read her poems is a great treat.

The Nature of Mothers

Temperature flaring, no hope of sleeping,
In the shadowy night, a figure creeping,
With pills and syrup, thirst quenching drinks too,
The ministering angel looks after you.

The little child falls, it's only a scrape,
She'll murmur soft words, in her arms will take,
Like mothers the world over that is her role,
It's the nature of mothers from north to south pole.

When false promises tarnish love's first glow,
There's understanding, not "I told you so."
When the pain's so bad that you want to die,
She's ready and waiting, your tears to dry.

And when you call on God in anguished prayer,
She's still there with you and your grief will share,
All her life's been spent in loving and giving,
It's for you not herself that she's been living.

And when things go wrong, wherever you are,
You look to your mother, that shining star
Who loves you, comforts and eases your strife,
Who's been there herself, knows the sorrows of life.

Then one day she's gone, life has just slipped by,
Perhaps not even a chance to say goodbye,
A life serving others, showing they care,
That's the nature of mothers, everywhere.

My next poem is by David Lehman from Poet's Choice, Poems for Everyday Life, an anthology of poems selected and introduced by poet Robert Hass.

Lehman, born in New York City in 1948 is a poet and the series editor for The Best American Poetry series, as well as editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry.

He has written six collections of poems and collaborated with James Cummins to produce a book of sestinas entitled Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man. His books of criticism include The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets, which was named a "Book to Remember 1999" by the New York Public Library and several others. His study of detective novels, The Perfect Murder, was nominated for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

Lehman is on the permanent faculty of The New School and teaches a freshman honors class at New York University and divides his time between Ithaca, and New York City.

Toward a Definition of Love


Another time they were making love. "It's even better
When you help," she said. That was the second thing
He liked about her: she had memorized hours
Of movie dialogue, as if their life together
In the close apartment, with the street noise,
The crank calls, and the sinister next-door neighbor,
Consisted of roles to be played with panache,
If possible, and with a song in her heart. Was she lying
When she told him she loved him? Or was she
The nude in his bed with her back to him
As if he were a painter in Paris in 1870
And she were a model in Brooklyn in 1992,
and what separated them was a painted ocean
Representing the unbridgeable distance between them,
As between age and youth, Europe and America?
A condition of their romance was impossibility -
She would have panicked if he had proposed,
Because love was passion consuming itself
Like a flickering cigarette, an ember in an ashtray.


When she went back to sleep, he thought about her
Some more, and what they had done the night before:
Something holy, but with awful consequences,
Like a revolution about to enter its reign of terror.
In the movie, he was the jilted soldier ("don't you still
Love me?") or the Scandinavian philosopher ("he wondered
Why he had to give her up"). But their lines so truly parallel
Through infinite could never meet, and there was no use
Arguing against the despair that had wakened his longing
For her, now that she was gone. There was no way
To make it last, to prolong a moment of such pleasure,
Sweet and intense, that Faust would have bargained away
His soul for it. In public they acted married. One day
She left. She phoned from the road. A morning of tears
In honor of the first morning he had woken up beside her
With the shades rattling in the window, and the rays
Of light seeping weakly into the room, and the noise
Of the kids playing with a ball in the gutter.

I've been really fatigued lately, working for the "man" during the week and working on the San Marcos money pit on the weekend while trying to keep up with my writing - going to bed too late and getting up too early. I wrote this last week, mainly to express my deep feelings of self pity.

Of course, the poem didn't work out that way. But then my poems seldom work out the way I planned when I started them. Seems I'm always getting sidetracked.

wisdom, alas, overpowered by sex again

all day,
hard work
in the heat and sun
took me close to my limit;
i just can't handle it
like I used to,
went to bed at 8 last night
up at 8 this morning
still tired -

time was
i could do that all day
day after day
and stay out all night
on weekends
with my girlfriend,
who, tall and lean,
looked just like
Paula Prentiss,
my long time
late night fantasy friend ,
who often played
best friend in stuff
like the beach blanket
movies, moved on to
in "What's New Pussycat"
and after that got naked
and decapitated
by an propeller
on a crashing bomber
in "Catch 22" then married
whatshisname and went legit)

but that was fifty years ago
so i expect some loss
in physical capacity
could be assumed,
but i expected
there would be
some compensation
for that in the form of
and i got none of that,
no flashes of deep though,
no insight into a new moral code
that might bring peace
and understanding
to this troubled world,
here i am
writing a poem
that could use some of that
some of that wisdom
some of that insight
some good old deep think
and all i get is the hots for
Paula Prentiss all over again

The Defiant Muse is a bilingual anthology of "Hebrew Feminist Poems From Antiquity to the Present." Lea Goldberg is one of those poets.

Born in 1911, Goldberg was the first woman poet to be admitted into the canon of modern Hebrew poetry and is still one of the most widely read and admired Israeli poets.

She grew up in Kovno, Lithuania and won a scholarship to study in Germany in 1930. She completed her doctoral dissertation on the Samarian translation of their Bible at the University of Bonn. In 1935, when the British were preventing Jewish immigration to Palestine, she received, with the help of poet Avraham Sholonsky, a certificate allowing her to enter Mandatory Palestine. Her mother soon managed to join her and they lived together until Goldberg's death in 1970.

During the course of her life, she formed a modernist poets' group, worked for socialist daily newspapers as a drama and literature critic, taught in the department of comparative literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and wrote and published continuously, beginning with her first published in 1928. By the time of her death, she had published nine volumes of poetry in all, three works of prose, three plays and a number of translations. Among her best known translations into Hebrew include War and Peace, Petrarch's sonnets, Ibsen's Peer Gynt and Shakespeare's As You Like It. She was also a recognized artist and her drawings often illustrated her books.

This is one of several of her poems included in the anthology. It is translated from Hebrew by Robert Friend.

A Look At A Bee

On a lit-up window square,
on the pane, outside
the silhouette of a bee -
you can hardly see her wings.

Narrow body.
Six thin legs.
Her nakedness exposed,
her ugliness menacing,
she crawls.

How can we crown her
with the words of a poem?
What can we sing?
A small child will come and say:
The Queen is naked.

In sunlight she was a falling leaf of gold,
a drop of dark honey in a flower;
she was a dew drop in a swarm of stars,
but only a shadow here.

A word of a poem in a humming swarm,
in a scorching wind a message of keen will,
a flash of light in the ashes of dusk,
but only a shadow here.

Your honey? Who remembers your honey?
It's there, not here, there in the hive.
Here, on the lit-up window pane, your head, your body,
all of you sting and hatred -
miserable, blind, helpless hatred.
Fear kills.
          Watch out.

Photo by Michael Sottak

Earlier in this issue I presented a poem by Michael Sottak and promised his photos would be presented also. Well, here they are, the one above and the five that follow.

Photo by Michael Sottak

Photo by Michael Sottak

Photo by Michael Sottak

Photo by Michael Sottak

Photo by Michael Sottak

My next poem is from The Longman Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, a college textbook. The poet is Shirley Kaufman.

Kaufman, the daughter of Eastern European immigrants, grew up in Seattle and lived in San Francisco for many years before settling in Israel in 1973. She is winner of two NEA fellowships and many other awards. She has produced eight books of poetry and several books of translations from Hebrew.

The Dream of Completion

When asked for a sample of his work
Giotto took a red pencil,
drew a perfect circle
free hand
and sent it to the Pope.

What does it mean
to be that sure of anything?
The dream of completion.
We cross the field
with the small stones biting our sandals,
picking up shards.

Sometimes you finish
what I think I've said.

We take the clay fragments,
skin-colored, bits of them worn
or crumbling between our fingers,
and piece them together.
Something is always missing.

I continue to try to keep up with the poem a day routine. Sometimes, the best I can do is make my excuses, like this.

dry well


no inspiration

if I


And sometimes my excuses are even good ones.

attention must be paid

game seven
in the
voodoo dome

the passing
of everyday life
must be put
aside -

war and peace
religious discussions
of the greatest
leaving a million souls
in limbo
domestic disturbance
even poetry -

is basketball night

game seven,
spurs vs hornets

i'm sorry
to leave you

but ...

attention must be paid

One more look, above, from the same area as the first picture of this issue, ripe for Homeland Security fencing. The little brown strip through the patch of green in the middle of the picture is the Rio Grande.

Enough of that, late with issue already.

So, as I rush off, remember, all work featured on this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me ... allen itz.


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Leaving Bush Country   Friday, May 16, 2008


Here we are again.

Counting the weeks now until the right side of history is ours again.

Might as well read some poetry while we're waiting

My first poem this week is from Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides, a collection of poems by Stephen Dobyns.

Dobyns born on February 19, 1941 in Orange, New Jersey. He was raised in New Jersey, as well as in Michigan, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and graduated from Wayne State University. He also received an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1967. He worked as a reporter for the Detroit News.

Dobyns taught at various academic institutions, including Sarah Lawrence College, the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, the University of Iowa, Syracuse University, and Boston University.

His many books include collections of his poetry, novels and a book of essays on writing poetry.

In this book, Dobyns looks at the world through the eyes of Heart, a blood-pumping organ, lover, poet and skeptical philosopher of the everyday life.

It is from this poem that the book gets its name.

Thus He Endured

Heart's friend Greasy gets nixed by a stroke.
His pals give him a wake; they drink all night.
The next day they cart the coffin to the church.
In life, Greasy waxed cars; now he's defunct.
The priest says how Greasy's in a better place.
Heart takes exception. What could beat this?
Some mourners weep; others scratch their butts.
In life, Greasy was a practical joker. Even salt
in the sugar bowl wasn't too childish for him.
When the service is over, Heart and five friends
have the coffin on top of their shoulders.
Outside it's raining. They wait for the hearse.
Maybe it's late, maybe it showed up and left.
The priest locks the church. The last cars depart.
Let's carry the coffin, it's just a few blocks.
As they set off, Heart hears a whistle. Show some
respect, he complains to a buddy in back.
In life, Greasy often asked, What's the point
and What comes next? Heart thought his jokes
helped keep the dark at arm's length. Rain drips
down the pallbearers' necks. Because of the fog
they can't see beyond their noses. Right or left?
If their hands weren't full, they would flip a coin.
Someone plays the harmonica, then starts to sing.
The pallbearers look at each other, it's none of them.
In life, Greasy reached reached three score and ten.
He had a wife, four sons, and five Great Danes,
but not all at once. He always drove a Chevrolet.
Did we take a wrong turn? asks Heart. The rain
turns to sleet; it's getting dark. Someone starts
playing the trombone. A tune both melancholy
and upbeat. Where could this be coming from?
In life, Greasy felt a lack. He worked to hard,
the holidays were short. His wife kept asking
why didn't he do better? Then his sons left home.
Greasy suck rubber dog messes on the hoods
of his friends' cars. This is what life's all about,
he'd think. Thus he endured. It begins to snow.
Heart shoulders his load. The sun goes down.
Will Greasy get planted today? It looks unlikely.
Heart watches the road. He can't see that the coffin lid
is tilted up and Greasy perches on top, just a shadow
of his former self. With both hands he flings wads
of confetti. He's a skeleton already. Heart would
scratch his head but he'd hate to let his corner drop,
his pals ditto: pall bearers envying the one who rides.

I played the tuba in my high school band. While, as a tuba player, I was never better than just barely adequate, the band was very good. The best thing about being a tuba player in that situation was, first, I never had much to do in any performance and, second, where tuba players sit way back in the back of the band is a great place to hear the music. So, while never contributing much to it, I heard a lot of very good music.

That was all running through my mind last week when it occurred to me that I hardly ever have time to sit down and really enjoy the good music that's all around us. From there to this poem was just a minor jump.

i wish i had more time for music

i wish
i had more time
for music -

to dress up
for the Symphony;
for an evening out
in a little jazz club
where people sit in close
and listen;
time to find the dark bars
where the new music
is being made;
time to sit in an easy chair
for an afternoon
and listen to favorites,
Cash, Haggard, the lovely,
lost Susannah McCorkle,
the wit of John Prine,
all the old '50s rockers,
the doowoppers, the soulmen,
all those,
to just sit and listen to them,
to hear them,
not as some soon-forgotten
to whatever it is that occupies
me at the time,
not as sound-haze,
but as the purpose,
the sole purpose of the sitting...

i wish i had more time
for music...

i wish i had more

The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart is a poetry anthology edited by poets Robert Bly, James Hillman, and Michael Meade. It's another of the books I picked up last week.

David Ignatow is one of the poets in the book. He was born in Brooklyn in 1914 and spent most of his life in the New York City area. He died in 1997 at his home in East Hampton, New York.

Ignatow began his professional career as a businessman. After committing wholly to poetry, he worked as an editor of American Poetry Review, Analytic, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Chelsea Magazine, and as poetry editor of The Nation.

Winner of many poetry prizes, he also taught at the New School for Social Research, the University of Kentucky, the University of Kansas, Vassar College, York College of the City University of New York, New York University, and Columbia University.

Here are two of his hyper-realistic poems.

Sunday at the State Hospital

I am sitting across the table
eating my visit sandwich.
The one I brought him stays suspended
near his mouth; his eyes focus
on the table and seem to think,
his shoulders hunched forward.
I chew methodically,
pretending to take him
as a matter of course.
The sandwich tastes mad
and I keep chewing.
My past is sitting in front of me
filled with itself
nd trying with almost no success
to bring the present to its mouth.

No Theory

No theory will stand up to a chicken's guts
being cleaned out, a hand rammed up
to pull out the wiggling entrails,
the green bile and the bloody liver;
no theory that does not grow sick
at the odor escaping.

Robert McManes is back with us this week with a new poem.

Mac is one of the many fine poets I share poems with on the web. He's been with us several times and I'm glad to have him back again.

a block with shaved corners

i drank shots with a priest
discussed politics with a senator
counted stars with an astronomer
sang karaoke with the eagles
wore bell-bottom blue jeans
and later a three piece suit

i sipped tea in england
sniffed brandy in france
smelled the tulips in holland
danced in a german disco
tasted the air in the swiss alps
felt the ground tremor in croatia
and touched holy water in macedonia

every block has a corner
and lord, I've rounded a few
even looked cancer in the eye
and have since survived
but how I ended up in rural Kansas
is still a mystery to me

My next poet is David Rivard with a poem from his book Wise Poison, winner of the 1996 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.

Rivard was born in Massachusetts, in 1953. His other books include Bewitched Playground and Torque, which won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and was published by the Pitt Poetry Series. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous literary magazines.

He has received many literary awards and is now Poetry Editor at the Harvard Review. He teaches at Tufts University and the Vermont College M.F.A. in Writing Program.

Change My Evil Ways

Some days it is my one wish to live
alone, nameless, unfathomable,
a drifter or unemployed alien.
But that day the movie was over.
I found myself walking
in Cambridge, & on the Common
here were some conga players, as well as the guys
with xylophones, with fingerpianos & tambourines.
Have you ever seen minnows flopping
from shallow to shallow, doing somersaults?
The drummers' hands were pale fish,
like guppies thrashing light in a clear plastic bag,
as blurred as children careening around
lawn sprinklers in the careening mercuric blue dusk of August.
Dulse wavering! Hair shook out while somebody dances.
Some days it isn't a life alone I need
but one that supplies the luxury
of forgiveness. It was a day like that,
luckily. Past the tobacconist,
a kid sang his song about changing
my evil ways, & strummed
a three-chord blues, plugged into a boom box
And I put my ear close to his snout,
and - a little
cautious at first - I began to listen.

I wrote this last week, near the end of a very hot day.


about 5'10" -
"built" as they say
and you can tell
from the way she walks
she knows every man
within 50 yards
is watching every little
of her hips
and you know
she's right,
and you know
she's used to it,
has fun with it...
...and speaking of that
it was 101 degrees
here today,
that is 101
as measured by the good
Doctor Fahrenheit,
not that wuss,
who squushed
everything together
to a base 100
'cause he thought it was neater
or something,

101 degrees,
75 percent humidity,
it'll be this way until

101 degrees,
101 reasons why
i ought to be

Alice Walker won her Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Color Purple, but she is also a fine poet.

This next poem is from Once, her first poetry collection. In this book she writes of her experiences as a black American in Africa.



A dark stranger
My heart searches
Him out


An old man in white
Calls me "mama"
It does not take much
To know
He wants me for
His wife -
He has no teeth
but is kind.


The American from
Speaks Harvardly
of Revolution - Men of the Mau Mau
Their fists holding
Bits of
Kenya earth.


A tall Ethiopian
Grins at me
The grass burns
My bare feet


Drums outside
My window
Morning whirls
I have danced all


The bearded Briton
Wears a shirt of
Kenya flags
I am at home
He says.


Down the hill
A rove of trees
And on this spot
The magic tree


The Kenya air!
Miles of hills
And holding both
My hands
A Mau Mau leader.


And in the hut
The only picture -
Of Jesus


Explain to the
In the village
That you are
And belong -
To no one.

James Hutchings is a 58-year-old truck driver and poet, among other things. He says he started writing poetry when he was in school, where he played in garage bands and wrote songs. "A sort of natural progression to poetry," he says.

This poem outlines that progression for us.

Three Chord Progression

when I was fifteen
I learned to play guitar

I joined a band
two brothers a girl on keyboards
a drummer and me

they replaced the girl
with a concert pianist
but the sound wasn't right
they got a country guitarist
that's when I quit

started my own band
a friend played bass O.J.T.
another on drums
my best friend backup singer
an older guy on lead guitar
The Thirteenth Degree was born

walked around hair slicked back
black sports coats
black corduroy pants t-shirts
and black velvet Beatle boots
floated on a reefer cloud

we played school dances
churches the Moose Club
and a little place
called The Etc. Club
a hippie coffee house
across from the fairgrounds
and the battle of the bands

made some money
had a little fun
played Beatle songs
and the stuff I wrote

it was good for a couple years
and then came the blues
I grew bored with them
I joined a group that
tampered with Willie Dixon
Sam Cook and Wilson Picket
did music with soul

played two gigs got drafted
so the story goes
I have two guitars in the closet
and haven't looked at them in six months.....

Wistawa Szymborska was born in 1923 in Poland, where she lives today. She has worked as a poet, poetry editor, columnist and translator. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.

This poem is from a book of her work Poems: New and Collected 1957-1997 published by Harcourt Inc. in 1998.

The poem was translated by Stanislaqw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.

Notes From A Nonexistent
Himalayan Expedition

So these are the Himalayas.
Mountains racing to the moon.
The moment of their start recorded
on the startling, ripped canvas of the sky.
Holes punched in a desert of clouds.
Thrust into nothing.
Echo - a white mute.

Yet, down there we've got Wednesday,
bread and alphabets.
Two times two is four.
Roses are red there,
and violets are blue.

Yeti, crime is not all
we're up to down there.
Yeti, not every sentence there
means death.

We've inherited hope -
the gift of forgetting.
You'll see how we give
birth among the ruins.

Yeti, we've got Shakespeare there.
Yeti, we play solitaire
and violin. At night fall,
we turn lights on, Yeti.

Up here it's neither moon nor earth,
Tears freeze.
Oh Yeti, semi-moonman,
turn back, think again!

I called this to the Yeti
inside four walls of avalanche,
stomping my feet for warmth
on the everlasting

Well, it's true, work is not all toil and trouble. I wrote this last week.

secrets revealed

for some days now
i have been reading
essays by 8th graders
from a state that shall
remain unnamed

on the subject
of "Freedom,
And Why It Is Important
To Americans"
many grand and noble
have been writ,
with great and refreshing
as well as, sadly,
evidence that for some
will always be a mighty

there is excitement
like a burst of fresh air
sweeping the crowded room
from the pen of a 12-year-old
powerful prose

and, for the readers,
as well when hidden knowledge
is revealed,
as when a student tells us
among the reasons
America's founders fought
the British
was the promise in the
Declaration of Independence
of "Life,
Liberty, and
the Prostitute of Happiness"
when a student reminds us
to support our soldiers fighting
for our freedom in
letting slip the mystery
that has puzzled scholars
for ten thousand years -
i.e. the hitherto secret location
of the homeland
of the Elves...

Here's another poem from the anthology The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart.

This one is by Pablo Neruda in a translation by Robert Bly.

The United Fruit Co.

When the trumpet sounded, it was
all prepared on the earth,
and Jehovah parceled out the earth
to Coca-Cola, Ind., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other entities:
The Fruit Company, Inc.
reserved for itself the most succulent,
the central coast of my own land,
the delicate waist of America.
It rechristened its territories
as the "Banana Republics"
and over the restless heroes
who brought about the greatness,
the liberty and the flags,
it established a comic opera:
abolished the independencies,
presented crowns of Caesar,
unsheathed envy, attracted
the dictatorship of the flies,
Turjillo flies, Tacho flies,
Carias flies, Martinez flies,
Ubico flies, damp flies
of modest blood and marmalade,
drunken flies who zoom
over the ordinary graves,
circus flies, wise flies
well trained in tyranny.
Among the bloodthirsty flies
the Fruit Company lands its ships,
taking off the coffee and the fruit;
the treasure of our submerged
territories flows as though
on plates into the ships,
Meanwile Indians are falling
into the sugared chasms
of the harbors, wrapped
for burial in the mist of the dawn:
a body rolls, a thing
that has no name, a fallen cipher,
a cluster of dead fruit
thrown down on the dump.

And now a treat. Alice Folkart, friend and frequent contributor to "Here and Now," has turned back to work on her first love, the short story.

So, here's a short story by our friend Alice.

The Same River

"You could not step twice into the same river, for other waters are ever flowing on to you." Heraclitus

I been a bad girl sometimes, but my momma, she worsen me. She run off to Chicago with that fancy man to become a poor, that's what my gramma say. She say I'm gonna go the same way if I'm not careful. I gotta be twice as good as other girls 'cause I gotta stickma. I don't know what a poor is, but I know she gotta stand on the street corner and make eyes at men to get money. Don't sound so bad to me, but gramma always talking 'bout an honest day's work and the laborer being worth his fire or something like that which I take to mean we all gotta take in laundry and clean white people's houses if we want Jesus to love us and don't want to burn in Hell and Damnation, and no pretty clothes neither, and no lipstick, and no fun, all of which momma really liked 'cause she was so pretty.

So, I gotta live with my gramma.

I know she love me even when she whupp'n me. She fixed for me to get baptized in the river next Sunday, for my own good. Wash my sins away, They'll just float away, like dry leaves on the river.

Momma used to take me down to the river, into the reeds, away from the road, and we'd get naked and splash play and she'd float me and I'd scrub her back with wet leaves. Then we'd lie in the sun on our clothes and dry. Momma said this was the river of life like in a poem, the waters of life we was bathing in, just like the Pharaoh's daughter and the little baby Moses.

So, on Sunday, I'm gonna shut my eyes real tight and hold my breath when Rev. Therman tips me back and dunks me. I'm gonna remember that my momma has been in the same river with me, the river of life, and that wherever she is, she'll know that I'm saved 'cause she'll probly look out her window and see my little brown sins floating by and she'll be comforted

William Carlos Williams was born in 1883 and died in 1963.

He was a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine who, according to his biographer, "worked harder at being a writer than he did at being a physician." All with good effect. He was hero and mentor to the modernists and the beats and all the poetry outlaws that followed his insistence that American writers ought to write of American things in the idioms and cadences of the American language and was, in his own writing, the closest thing to a perfect poet American literature has produced.

Here is one of the brief poems he is most famous for.


As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right

then the hind
stepped down

into the pit of
the empty

I used the William Carlos Williams poem above because I think it's a masterpiece in stark modernity. But, as well, I used it to set up this next poem, a Williams tribute piece of my own.

the good pediatrician

that good pediatrician,
drops his little
of reality
into this fog-infected world
and clarity
has its short moment
in the sun

and in that brief light
we, his children,

Born in 1919, William Meredith died in 2007 after 45 years at the center of the poetry world. His first collection of poetry, Love Letter from an Impossible Land, written while he was serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 1943. Many volumes of poetry followed. This poem is from his collection Effort At Speech published by Northwestern University Press in 1997.

Walter Jenks' Bath

   For Rollin Williams

These are my legs. I don't have to tell them, legs,
Move up and down or which leg. They are black.
They are made of atoms like everything else,
Miss Berman says. That's the green ceiling
Which on top is the Robinson's brown floor.
This is Beloit, this is my family's bathroom on the world.
The ceiling is atoms, too, little parts running
Too fast to see. But through them running fast,
Through Audrey Robinson's floor and tub
And the roof and air, if I lived on an atom
Instead of on the world, I would see space.
Through all the little parts, I would see into space.

Outside the air it is all black.
The far-apart stars run and shine, no on has to tell them ,
Stars, run and shine, or the same who tells my atoms
Run and knock so Wealter Jenks, me, will stay hard and real.
And when I stop the atoms go on knocking,
Even if I died the parts would go on spinning,
Alone like the far stars, not knowing it,
Now knowing they are far apart, or running,
Or minding the black distances between.
This is me knowing, this is what I know.

I said earlier that friend Alice Folkart had returned to her first love, short stories. I didn't say Alice had quit writing poetry. Here's one of her latest poems, a little short story in poetic form.

I Don't Think We're Going to Chinatown

Mama's boy friend
said he'd take us to Chinatown.
But, he fell asleep.
So did mama.
I played jacks
on the front steps.

When it got dark,
I turned the porch light on.
Mama and her boyfriend
were still asleep in our room,
so I told the cat to sit still
and dressed her up like a princess.
She ran away with Mama's handkerchief.

The only Chinese Food I know
is fortune cookies - folded fortunes,
Mama reads them for me.
I was hoping to get a good fortune for us,
but Mama's boyfriend is still asleep.
I don't think we're going to Chinatown.

Zbigniew Herbert was born in 1924 and died in 1998.

He was a spiritual leader of the anticommunist movement in Poland. His work has been translated into almost every European language. This poem is from the collectionElegy For The Departed. The poems in the book were translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter.

The Adventures of Mr. Cogito With Music

long ago
actually since the dawn of his life
Mr. Cogito surrendered
to the tantalizing spell of music

he was carried through the forest of infancy
by his mother’s melodious voice

Ukrainian nurses
hummed him to sleep
a lullaby spread wide as the Dnieper

he grew
as if urged on by sounds
in chords
vertiginous crescendos

he was given a basic
musical education
not completed to be sure
a First Piano Book
(part one)

he remembers hunger as a student
more intense than then hunger for food
when he waited before a concert
for the gift of a free ticket

it is difficult to say when
he began to be tormented
by doubts
the reproach of conscience

he listened to music rarely
not voraciously as before
with a growing feeling of shame

the spring of joy had dried up

it was not the fault
of the masters
of the motet
the sonata
the fugue

the revolutions of things
fields of gravitation
had changed
and together with them
the inner axis
of Mr. Cogito

he could not
enter the river
of earlier rapture

Mr. Cogito
began to collect
arguments against music

as if he intended to write
a treatise on disappointed love

to drown harmony
with angry rhetoric

to cast his own burden
onto the frail shoulders of the violin

the hood of anathema
over a clear face

but let us think about it impartially
is not without fault

it's inglorious beginning -
sounds in intervals
drove workers on
wrung out sweat

the Etruscans flogged slaves
to the accompaniment of pipes and flutes

and therefore
morally indifferent
like the sides of a triangle
the spiral of Archimedes
the anatomy of a bee

it abandons the three dimensions
flirts with infinity
places ephemeral ornament
over the abyss of time

its obvious and hidden power
caused anxiety among philosophers

the godlike Plato warned
changes in musical style
provoke social upheavals
the abolition of laws

gentle Leibniz consoled
that nevertheless it provides order
and is a hidden
of the soul

but what is it
what is it really

- a metronome of the universe
- exaltation of air
- celestial medicine
- a steam whistle of emotion

Mr. Cogito
suspends without answer
reflections on the essence of music

but the tyrannical power of this are
does not leave him in peace

the momentum with which it forces
its way ito our interior

it makes us sad without reason
it gives us joy with no cause

it fills harelike hearts
of recruits with the blood of heroes

it absolves too easily
it purifies free of charge

- and who gave it the right
to wrench us by the hair
to wring tears from the eyes
to provoke us to attack

Mr. Cogito
who is condemned to stony speech
grating syllables
secretly adores
volatile light-mindedness

the carnival of an island and groves
beyond good and evil

the true cause of the separation
is incompatibility of character

different symmetry of the body
different orbits of conscience

Mr. Cogito
always defended himself
against the smoke of time

he valued concrete objects
standing quietly in space

he worshipped things that are permanent
almost immortal

dreams of the speech of cherubs
he left in the garden of dreams

he chose
what depends
on earthly measure and judgment

so when the hour comes
he can consent without a murmur

to the trial of truth and falsehood
to the trial of fire and water

Here's one of my stream of consciousness things. I wrote it last night.


about days past
and days to come,
there are many more
of the first
than there will be
of the second,
that when my
generation was young,
the age i'll be
on my next birthday
was seen as no more
that two or three doors
down from dead,
i think a lot
about that sort of thing,
the whole age thing,
not out of
obsession, but just
plain curiosity, how
we are at one time
young and most
of the world around us
old until years pass
and we seem to be
old while the world
grows younger and
and if we are lucky
there is that little spark
of inner essence
that doesn't age
as our body sags
and droops
and withers,
that keeps us
in our mind young
as the world
until the fever
or the stroke or the fall
that lays out the stark reality
of our condition
beyond even our most
frantic effort to dispute it

i wonder at how wrong
we always are about ourselves,
old and young, and how our
ignorance protects us,
keeps us every ready
to fill the sky with kites
in the first favorable wind

The next poem is by Charles Bukowski from what matters most is how well you walk through the fire, one of the eight thousand three hundred forty-six (a rough estimate) collections that have come out since he died. Couldn't have happened to a better poet, not the dying, but the eight thousand and whatever part. As long as they keep coming out, I'll keep reading. Though not to everyone's taste, he's one of my favorites.


it was during a reading at the University of Utah.
the poets ran out of drinks
and while one was reading
2 or 3 of the others
got into a car
to drive to a liquor store
but we were blocked on the road
by the cars coming to the football stadium.
we were the only car that wanted to go the other way,
they had us: 38,000-to-one.
we sat in our lane and honked.
400 cars honked back.
the cop came over.
"look, officer," I said, "we're poets and we need a drink."
"turn around and go to the stadium," said
the officer.
"look, we need a drink. we don't want to see the
football game. we don't care who wind. we're poets, we're
reading at the Underwater Poetry Festival
at the University of Utah!"
"traffic can only move one way," said the cop,
"turn your car around and go to the stadium."
"look, I'm reading in 15 minutes. I'm Henry Chinaski!
you've heard of me haven't you?"
"turn your car around and go to the stadium!" said the cop.
"shit," said Betsy who was at the wheel,
and she ran the car up over the curb
and we drove across the campus lawn
leaving tire marks an inch deep.
I was a bit tipsy and I don't know how long we drove
or how we got there
but suddenly we were all standing in a liquor store
and we bought wine, vodka, beer, scotch, got it and left.
we drove back,
got back there, read the ass right off that audience,
picked up our checks and left to applause.
UCLA won the football game
something to something

Cliff Keller says that, with two bands going now that play all original music, he's been concentrating on song lyrics, rather than standard poetry. But he did send me a couple of poems written within the past year, including the one below.

I'm still hoping to have music on the blog at some point. Maybe if I get that done, we'll get to hear some of Cliff's music.

Mountain Passage

Head down, ascending,
avian shadows flicker on the trail,

morning sun refracts

through new blades of grass,
the cochlear hum underscores the birdsong.

I stop at the ridge top
below, progress looks up and salutes.

The opposing valley face hangs
like a tapestry on a wall,
verdant pointillism of spring aspen,

heavy pine, and forest shadow.
I reach out to brush the frayed top
of the ridgeline and notice

Birds and insects surround me now,

stillness is the attraction,
but stillness is not what brought me here.
I drop

Into a glen,

stream's white noise courses

through a tuft of shivering leaves.

I march through the still parade
and watch to the right

the shuffling alignment of

tarnished white aspens,
the myriad of silver eyes that stare
where waving limbs once gestured.

I do this so often:

turn to track the cadence

of my own passing

as in this poem.

One more poem, and then I'll fold the tent for the week.

In the last issue, I mentioned that I had written successful poems about my father, but nothing very good at all about my mother.

Well, on Mothers' Day I took another shot at it and came up with this next poem, the best I've done so far on the subject and pretty OK in its own right.

what i remember now

as the end approached
she was often
obsessive over things
and times
no one else could remember,
and suspicious,
sure people
were stealing from her

i was impatient

i think of that now,
add it
to my ever-growing list
of sorrows,
things i would change
if the past
once set
could be reshaped
to correct
of inattention
and selfish

but when i think of her
i don't think
of those last months,
but of all the months
and years before
and from all that
passing time,
it is another picture
that comes to
mind -
it is her smile,
at the backdoor
arms outstretched
to welcome me
when i visit

that's what i remember
on this day

That's it.

Come back next week.

Until you do, remember all the work presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.


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My Literary Evolution
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Loch Raven Review
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Poems Niederngasse
Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
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Gary Blankenship
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Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
Vienna's Gallery
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Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
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Desert Moon Review
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Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
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