A Summer's Sun Rising   Friday, May 02, 2008


III.5.1




Summer's sun is rising earlier and earlier now, and setting later.

Summer is not a season I look forward to, expecially in the heat of South Texas. From now until mid-October, I will shun the ouside in favor of anywhere that is air conditioned. Luckily, my little office has a/c, so "Here and Now" will continue, despite the hellish weather outside.

And it will begin to continue right now.








I'm starting this week with a poem by Charles Bukowski from The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain one of the many books of unpublished poems put out since he died. The man must have had 10,000 poems laying around when he left the scene because the books keep coming and coming and coming.

And I like most of them, like this.



nights of vanilla mice

unshaven, yellow-toothed, sweating in my only shorts
and undershirt (full of cigarette holes),
I was sure that I was better than F. Scott or Faulkner or
even my buddy, Turgenev.
ah, not as good as Celine or Li Po
but, man, I hd faith, felt I was more on fire
than
any 3 dozen mortals.
and I typed and lived with women that you
would shrink from, I
brought love back to those faded eyes as vanilla mice
slept below our bed.
I starved and starved and typed and
loved it, I
reached into my mouth and plucked rotten teeth
out of my gums
and laughed
as the rejections came back as fast as I could send my stories
out, I
felt marvelous, I felt like I owned a piece of the
sun, I listened to all the crazy classical music from previous
centuries, I sympathized with those who had suffered
in the past like
Mozart, Verdi, others,
and when things got really bad
I thought of Van Gogh and his ear and even
sometimes
his shotgun, I
jollied myself along as best I could, and Jesus I
got very thin
and still during the sleepless nights I would
tell my ladies about how I was
going to make it as a writer some day
and from all of them (as if with one voice) they would complain:
"shit, are you going to talk about that
again?"
(my voice): "you saw how I punched that guy out in the alley the other night?"
(again, as with one voice): "what has that to do with writing?"
(my voice): "I don't know..."

of course, there were many nights with no voices
there were many nights alone and those were fine
too, of course, but the worst nights were the nights
without a room and that hurt because a writer needed
an address in order to receive those rejection
slips.

but the ladies (bless them!)
always told me, "you're crazy but you're
nice."

being a starving writer is
treacherous
great
fun.








I wrote this one just a couple of days ago, thinking back to a time of some really shameless fun.



expert testimony

i used to be
an expert...

newspaper reporters
would come
with their thirty five cent
spiral notepads
and tv reporters
with their cameraman
even radio reporters
with their little
pocket-sized
cassette recorders

and they'd all ask
questions
and i'd talk to them
until i figured out
what story
they wanted to write
that day
and give it to them

they liked to talk to me
because as one of them said
i "gave good quote"
and that was important
because the editors'
general rule was
two local quotes for every story
and i was a reliable source
who understood the demands
to their profession
and was ready to help them out -
as long as they were around
and ready to help me out
when there was a particular story
i wanted to see run -

the thing is
it really surprised me
at first
but people believed me
even though i made up
most of it
off the top of my head

a reinforcing dynamic
began to develop -
the more questions they ask
the more expert i became
and as i became more expert
more people began
to believe me
and the more people
believed me
the more they came to me
with questions
etcetera
and
etcetera
and so forth
for several years
until it got a little scary
and i began to feel like
chauncy gardner
in that "being there" movie...
the one with Peter Sellers

and that made me
think
maybe i oughta
really know
what
i was talking about
which led to complexity
and more elaborate and extended
explanation and extrapolation
which screwed up my "good quote"
and pretty soon the media faded away
and found someone else to be the
public expert

until now days
nobody asks me questions
so i don't know
hardly
anything at all








The Tao Te Ching, written most probably in the 6th century B.C. by Lao Tsu has been translated more frequently than any other work except the Christian Bible.

Although earlier philosophers first wrote of the "Tao" it is with the sixth century B.C. philosopher Lao Tzu that the philosophy of Taoism really began. Some scholars place Lao as a slightly older contemporary of Confucius while others believe that the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power), is really a compilation of paradoxical poems written by several Taoists using the pen-name, Lao Tzu.

Whatever the truth of the matter, there is a wonderful legend that Lao Tzu was keeper of the archives at the imperial court. When he was eighty years old he set out for the western border of China, toward what is now Tibet, saddened and disillusioned that men were unwilling to follow the path to natural goodness. At the border, a guard asked Lao Tsu to record his teachings before he left. He then composed in 5,000 characters the Tao Te Ching.

In simplified form (and that is the only form for the "way"), the essence of the philosophy is that to live a good life one must accept what is without wanting it to be different, studying the natural order of things and working with rather than against it.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted several short poems which sought to express my own understanding the way. This week, I've gone to of the most respected sources, the Tao Te Ching as translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English which was first published twenty-five years ago and which has sold more copies than any other English translation.

The lessons of the Tao are presented in eighty one short poems. Here are several of them.



Two

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow one another.

Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.
The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,
Creating, yet not possessing,
Working, yet not taking credit.
Work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.


Seven

Heaven and earth last forever.
Why do heaven and earth last forever?
They are unborn,
So living forever.
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is detached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.


Eight

The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places me reject and so is like the Tao.

In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, ge gentle and kind.
In speech, be rue.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing.

No fight: No blame.


Thirty-Two

The Tao is forever undefined.
Small though it is in the unformed state, it cannot be grasped.
If kings and lords could harness it,
The ten thousand things would naturally obey.
Heaven and earth would come together
And gentle rain fall.
Men would need no instruction
  and all things would take their course.

Once the whole is divided, the parts need names.
There are already enough names.
One must know when to stop.
Knowing when to stop averts trouble.
Tao in the world is like a river glowing home to the sea.


Seventy-One

Knowing ignorance is strength.
Ignoring knowledge is sickness.

If one is sick of sickness, then one is not sick.
The sage is not sick because he is sick of sickness.
Therefore he is not sick.


and, finally,


Seventy-Five

Why are the people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore the people are starving.

Why are the people rebellious?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.

Why do the people think so little of death?
Because the rulers demand too much of life.
Therefore the people take death lightly.

Having little to live on, one knows better than to value life too much.








Here's a new piece from our friend Gary Blankenship.



The Gift of Salt

There is only one reason to go to war...you have a cause
so great that it justifies asking people to sacrifice their children.

- Ann Quindlen

My grandmother sent six sons
and one grandson
into Europe and the Pacific
for the war that followed
the War to End All Wars

All the sons came home
the grandson lies buried
with his medals in the family plot
I was too young for the next war -
to keep godless Commies
from overrunning all of Asia

Do we still call it a police action?

I was too early for my generations
by no more than a couple of months
A cousin was not
but he returned -
after he shot a village water buffalo

My children grew during the long peace
between LBJ's war and the Bushs' -
Their mother did not have to sacrifice them
though she shared the pain of those who did
and watched the torment of those
who returned with shades owning their soul


My children's children will not escape
the long dark that looms ahead

I can only hope I do not live
to see them buried in the family plot








Tupac Amaru Shakur was born in 1971 and died in September 13, 1996 after being shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He was a top-selling recording artist, a successful film actor and a prominent social activist. Shakur's was known through his work for advocating political, economic, social and racial equality, as well as his raw descriptions of violence, drug and alcohol abuse and conflicts with the law. He was initially a roadie and backup dancer for the alternative hip hop group Digital Underground before gaining critical acclaim from his first album, 2Pacalypse, as well as suffering backlash due to his controversial lyrics.

With the book The Rose That Grew From Concrete published after his death, Shakur showed a gentler and more thoughtful side than was usually associated with his public persona. This poem is from that book.



And 2morrow

Today is filled with anger
Fueled with hidden hate
scared of being outcast
Afraid of common fate
Today is built on tragedies
which no one wants 2 face
Nightmares 2 humanities
and morally disgraced
Tonight is filled with rage
Violence in the air
Children bred with ruthlessness
Because no one at home cares
Tonight I lay my head down
But the pressure never stops
gnawing at my sanity
content when I am dropped
But 2morrow I c change
A chance 2 build anew
Built on spirit, intent of heart
and ideals based on truth
And 2morrow I wake with second wind
And strong because of pride
2 know I fought with all my heart 2 keep my dream alive








Enheduanna who lived in the early centuries of the third millennium B.C. was a Sumerian/Akkadian high priestess of the moon god Nanna (Sin) in Ur, who came to honor Inanna above all the other gods of the Sumerian pantheon. She was high born and held high positions in government until dislodged by local priests and is the world's oldest known author whose works were written in cuneiform approximately 4300 years ago.

Here are two of her hymns honoring the god Inanna, taken from the anthology Voices of Light described as a book of "spiritual and visionary poems by women from ancient Sumeria to now."



Inanna and the Holy Light

You with your voices of light,
Lady of all the essences
whom heaven and earth love,
temple friend of An,
you wear immense ornaments,
you desire the tiara of the high priestess
whose hand holds the seven essences.
O my lady, guardian of all the great essences,
you have picked them up and hang them
tightly on your breasts.



Moon Goddess Inanna and An

Like a dragon you fill the land with venom.
Like thunder when you roar over the earth,
trees and plants fall before you.
You are a flood descending from a mountain,
O first one
moon goddess Inanna of heaven and earth!
Your fire blows about and drops on our nation.
Lady mounted on a beast,
An gives you qualities, hold commands,
and you decide.
You are in all great rites.
Who can understand you








Here's another one I wrote last week.



juiced

just
a little bitty
poem
is what I need
today
'cause
my battery's
low
and all the tables
by electric
plugs
are taken
by med students
who
probably aren't
doing anything
as important as
me
but that's
life
you know -
oh
what
a pretty girl
just
walked in
dark eyes
big smile
dumb ass
looking
boyfriend
oh well -
but
as i was saying
not a lot of juice
so gotta
hang kinda
loose
and hope
a poem
appears
pretty
soon before
my battery
and your patience
gives out

uh oh
too
late








Mark White is a young poet about whom I could find little information. His poem is from Poetry East and in their very short bio, it only says that he intended to enter the MFA program at the University of Wisconsin in 2007.

This is a longish piece, but it's fun to read.



Of Seven Defenses at Having Thrown Hayden
Carruth Out of My Second Floor Window


    It is something for young artists to bear in mind.
    Voluntary poverty is not such a bad idea.

       - H.C. in "Fragments of Autobiography"

1.
Oh, Master, the skunk-cabbage is blooming along the edges if the
   clear-cuts again here in Long Beach, Washington,
but oh you have deceived me so.

2.
I've tried to study the flora and fauna
out here, but the bristly textured weeds
rising in profusion around my previously abandoned
dark and dank farmhouse look like practically every
bristly textured weed in the color plates
of the field books I bought.
The wood I cut and split - ash? cedar? hemlock? -
only sits and weeps in my Earth Stove,
barely keeping me warm
and not nearly hot enough
to keep away the mold.

3.
I asked my neighbor Bubba
to take a look at my Stihl chainsaw
which has been broken down
since the day a good friend
(though I, too, have enemies
couldn't have done me no worse)
gave it to me. I pulled the condenser,
cleaned the rotor and replaced the plug.
The damn thing still wouldn't spark.
Bubba, who tears apart and rebuilds
his '72 Scout whenever he gets bored
of reruns, said I had completely fiddled it
out of commission. I told him of Old Stan
and the yellow McCulloch you gave him,
but Bubba said burying the Stihl at this point
would only get me a twenty dollar fine if I got caught.

4.
Actually, I have learned the name of one thing out here:
the junco, junco hyemalis, the Executioner Bird,
so named for the black cap
that appears as a hood
over the male's head.
Like street urchins out of Dickens,
they sweep out of the shadows
of their hiding to steal what seed
the wind has blown into the streets.
Bubba says they hoard their food
for the winter, but in the coldest months
their metabolism slows them
to a crawl, their brain stems
begin to die, and they forget
where they've hid the food.
By spring, a new brain has grown back,
and with it the genetic material of the old one,
thus allowing tome to find their stashes again.
Bubba sees the life of the junco
as a metaphor for abused children.

5.
We have out idiots, too, though
they tend to leave the bears alone.
Instead, they drive their new Integras
along the long stretches of peninsula beaches
considered by the state to be a line item
of the Highway Department.
I occasionally meet these people
at the Depot Tavern, a hole-in-the-wall near the beach,
where they down pints of microbrews and complain
about the depth of beach sand while they wait
for Gas'N'Grub to respond to their calls for a tow.
Idiots they may be with their twenty thousand dollar cars
immobile in a few inches of sand,
but at least they have cars that run
and they can afford good beer.

6.
Bubba's full of shit most of the time.

7.
The only god New England ever produced,
and then only sort of, was Larry Bird.
(Maybe JFK, but he was before my time.)
Hayden Carruth, you old displaced Yankee bastard,
I name you here in front of a small but knowing
jury of my peers for what you are: Two stories
above your broken-spined and molding book,
I name you : I name you to my cat
and to the souls of the dozens of sacrificial mice,
virgin and otherwise, he has offered me this winter:
I name you with three dollars of food stamps left
to my name : I name you to the trees
I can't name, and to my meadow whose changes
I've been unable to detect "Later tonight, beneath
the omnipresent and, I suspect, omniscient, cloud-cover
of this sun-forsaken peninsula, three thousand miles away
from my own New England birthplace and home, I'll name you
to the same darkness through which I've often sung
your praises and sung your songs : And I'll name you thusly"
Hayden Carruth, you're a poet, that's all, just a poet.








Here's another of the meditations by Thane Zander that I like so much.



Reflections on Life in Bold Type

In my childhood, I'd go to the river, and skip stones. I'd stand on one bank too, and try and throw a stone across the river. I tried this until one day I succeeded. I didn't need to throw any more, but still had to skip to see if I could break my Father's family record. One day he died and I had no need to chase his record. I have daughters now, and neither have been to the river to skip stones.

Legacy is endearment
the chance to pass down
a recall of ancestry
a play with real life
to counter negative things,
the pace of life
dictated by
the things we do daily.

My brother's in love with his wife
she's a veritable witch
does that make him
Dragon master?
or just a lucky soul,
that's happy with his life,
does it make him greater than I
greater than the cosmos?

I took my family for a short bush walk. The place was a motel/camp called Sapphire Springs. It had to be lucky, my wife's birthstone was Sapphire. We walked for about two hours and crossed little streams (I didn't skip stones) and climbed small hills. We all enjoyed the twitter of wild birds, the patter of feet on undergrowth, the splash of dirty shoes in puddles, the aroma of old forest and trees meant to impress.

I made my bed every night
the same way as I made it I the morning
an attempt to engender order
and regularity,
the sheets crumpled
pillow puffed out
the dust mites crawling.

Sadly I was divorced
I found this enchanting
Me - divorced
ever the careful Father
ever the happy husband
Happy Ever After
shot to pieces by a mental disorder,
I was happy with my life
now I'm sad
and happy
and joyful
but by heck I miss my family.

We made it to the five mile bridge, Sally and I. She a consummate walker, me a doodler, just making the distance. In my youth I would have run that distance in the blink of an eye, but now my youth has deserted me, left me for the decay of oldish age. My running is now in my fingertips, the need to write poetry and short fiction to sate my existence. I made a palindrome up the other day.

O - on
L - last
D - days

and realized if I put any letter at the beginning I change the effect of the words. I liked BOLD – Bloody Oranges Lack Desire. I thought again about going down to the river and to see if I could throw a stone across it. If not, then I'm a kid again, regressing. I'd also be so bold enough to skip stones again, to try and break Dad's record (in my dreams).








From The Outlaw Bible of American poetry, I have this little hard-to-get information by New York avant-garde poet and special editor of the The Evergreen Review Reader, Mike Topp



Rejected Mafia Nicknames

Vanilla
Kitty
Jughead
Senor Wences
Marcel Duchamp
Archilochus
Tony the Logical Positivist
X-15
Gideon
Achilles Fang



Also from The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry I have this piece of daydream by New York poet and novelist John Farris.



Imago

This is what I get: two minutes with you in an elevator. Going
   up was never
so fast - so dizzying - but going down. Imagine if we had gotten
stuck together
between the twenty-third & twenty fourth floors

just once, & we'd
have had to share our lunches while the maintenance men
were called
to unstick us, & after hours, our
emergences from our metal chrysalis like twins - it would have been
difficult to separate, so I would have hoped to join
   you
for another bite of something. This time
I would have your ear. You'd

have needed a hand
getting out
of the elevator. I'd have gladly
given you mine, except the

ride could not have gone more smoothly, gliding without so much
   as
a whisper, down to the lobby,
where you disgorged yourself, indication nothing - not
a scent, not a smile; nothing.





Photo by Rose Cosme




A couple of weeks ago, I met two wonderful photographer. One of the two is Rose Cosme, who I'm very happy to present for the first time on "Here and Now."

Rose, a mid-life bloomer, obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Houston, in May 2006. During her 3 year art program, she says she finally came to realize how she viewed herself and why she got that way. She adds that art has given her the language to verbalize the feelings that she has about herself.

About her unusual subject and source of inspiration, she has this to say:


"I have been obsessively photographing prosthetic pieces for the last four years. My reasons for doing so are interwoven with childhood experiences and the consequences of those experiences. If my images transform what is "ugly" into something of beauty, and I hope they do, it might well be a consequence of having my own sense of wholeness comprised as a child.

"I would like the viewer to look at prosthetics in a new way, one they would not normally have considered. It's not a matter of creating some sort of sympathy or pity for those who have lost limbs. Rather, I would like the viewer to consider issues of otherness, definitions of beauty and all those internalized concepts that are responsible for allowing us to feel whole and complete."

With that, here are a few more of her photographs.




Photo by Rose Cosme




Photo by Rose Cosme




Photo by Rose Cosme




Photo by Rose Cosme



Rose will be joining us here again in future issues with more of her work.








Desperate to write my poem for the day, I came up with this just a couple of days ago after listening to the NPR program, The Infinite Mind.



biological imperatives

the biological
purpose
of a man
is to seek,
find
and
impregnate
available women

male
brains
are configured
to encourage and
support this purpose

women
by contrast
are biologically directed
to attract
men,
employing
whatever wiles
are culturally appropriate
so that they might
produce
and rear offspring

civilization
is the product of
sublimation
of these biological
imperatives
through alternate
modes
of creation

we owe,
in other words,
all we have made
of ourselves, all
our great cities,
all our great inventions
and scientific discoveries,
all our great art and literature
and music
to the inability
of the weak and
undesirable
to
get
lucky
on saturday
night








Jimmy Carter has had an active life since leaving the presidency, doing good works, advocating for peace and justice and publishing a number of books on almost everything, including a couple of books of poetry. This next poem is from Always a Reckoning one of those poetry books. It's a little love poem.



Rosalynn

She'd smile, and birds would feel that they no longer
had to sing, or it may be I failed
to hear their song.

Within a crowd, I'd hope her glance might be
for me, but knew that she was shy, and wished
to be alone.

I'd pay to sit behind her, blind to what
was on the screen, and watch the image flicker
upon her hair.

I'd glow when her diminished voice would clear
my muddled thoughts, like lightning flashing in
a gloomy sky.

The nothing in my soul with her aloof
was changed to foolish fullness when she came
to be with me.

With shyness gone and hair caressed with gray,
her smile still makes the birds forget to sing
and me to hear their song.








It's great to have Marie Gail Stratford back with me this week.

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

This week, we have this series of short poems from her on a common theme.



Pastels


Heather Gray

wispy clouds
of a gathering storm
reflect ground cover

Petal Pink

tea roses tinkle
against porcelain saucers
as the hostess
serves refreshments

Peach

the sun, a globe reminiscent
of Georgian fruit, approaches
the evening horizon, spreads
a hint of watercolor orange
across the sky

Lemon Yellow

sweet tangy pudding
hides beneath mounds
of meringue

Sea-Foam Green

behind relaxing guests
the pool house tiles sweat
over the jet stream
in the whirlpool

Robin's Egg Blue

the sky drops a tear
onto the pavement
where it chips to reveal
the yolk of a broken promise

Lilac

he halts the borrowed Model A
at the bottom of the lane
to whittle down several
blossom-laden twigs -
a gift for his bride-to-be

Lavender

the legend breathes across time:
flowered stalks that color a corner
of St. Hildegarde's garden
are remembered by guests inhaling
the fragrance sprinkled over their pillows

Snow White

grown out of youth's gray garb
a swan graces
the pond of a city park








Jane Hirshfield, born in 1953 in New York City has received many awards for her work and has published frequently in the best publications featuring poetry. She received her bachelor's degree from Princeton University in the school's first graduating class to include women. She later studied at the San Francisco Zen Center.

Hirshfield has worked as a freelance writer and translator. She has also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, and as the Elliston Visiting Poet at the University of Cincinnati. She is currently on the faculty of the Bennington Master of Fine Arts Writing Seminars.

The poem I'm using this week is from her book Of Gravity & Angels, published by the Wesleyan University Press in 1988.



A Different Rising

I reflect, in the bath,
on your penis -
how it floats, lotuslike,
loose-stemmed, a different rising.
And as it hardens, dips:
a long-billed bird, curving for fish.

But mostly we are made
of a heavier stuff,
the slow descent of breast,
foot-arches flattening towards earth,
the hundred ways the body longs for home.
Even those red worlds,
the hybrid dahlias -
despite the bamboo stakes,
the wire,
leaning further groundward with every flower -
with what love or greed or vast indifference
gravity pulls them down.

While n the water bird's throat,
the white, visible pulse of a fish.
Between being and becoming,
turning wildly
as it falls.








Here's another one I wrote this week.



what next

i got my first car
when i was 16 years old,
a 1949 Plymouth coupe
that never went over
45 miles per hour
except once
when i got it
all the way up
to 55 on the highway,
thinking
it was a miracle,
that Oral Roberts
or someone like him
musta heard about me
musta laid hands
on my car when
i wasn't looking
and healed the heap,
just like that,
and i was ready
for the next
tent revival
to come to town,
ready to stand up
and shout
Jesus saves!!
old Plymouths anyway,
which,
for years,
coulda used some
divine
intervention,
but then i looked
in my rearview mirror
and saw
that one of my friends
had snuck up
behind me in his car
and was pushing me

in the almost fifty years
since then
i've owned
(that i can remember)
three more Plymouths
including a '62
with a mother jumping
speed monster of an engine and
a push button transmission
on the dash,
four Chevrolets,
including a '49 fastback
and a pickup,
two Fords,
a Mustang
and a Thunderbird,
oh, love of my life,
a Nash Rambler station wagon,
a Volvo, the first
Honda Civic imported
to the United States,
a '56 Olds 98, three
Cadillacs, including a '52,
three Lincoln Town Cars,
a Mitsubitsi pickup,
an '86 Pointiac station wagon,
which had been in a fire
i didn't know about until
after i bought it (from my brother),
a Datsun station wagon,
a Pontiac Le Mans,
and, among others
i can't remember
right now,
four Toyotas, including
the mini SUV i just bought
which has one entirely
unique feature not possessed
by any of the other cars
i ever owned, a lack
of something, actually,
that i didn't notice
until i was driving home
this afternoon

it is a 2008
Toyota
Rav4
and it doesn't have
an ashtray in it

anywhere

as a 40-year smoker
who started at 12
and quit 12 years ago,
an automobile
without an ashtray
is a concept
that grows and grows
in mind-boggleisity
the more i think
about it

what's next?

a black president?

a female president?

i'm beginning to think
it might happen








Tony Hoagland, who I had never heard of when I started "Here and Now," has become one of my favorite poets. I picked up his book donkey gospel blind during one of my Half-Priced Books sweeps. I don't remember what else I bought that day, but Hoagland's has been the most fun.

His first book, Sweet Ruin won the Brittingham Prize if Poetry and the Zacharis Award from Ploughshares at Emerson College. This book, donkey gospel won the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets in 1997. He currently teaches at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.



Memory As a Hearing Aid

Somewhere, someone is asking a question,
and I stand squinting at the classroom
with one hand cupped behind my ear,
trying to figure out where that voice is coming from.

I might be already an old man,
attempting to recall the night
his hearing got misplaced,
front-row-center at a battle of the bands,

where a lot of leather-clad, second -rate musicians,
amped up to dinosaur proportions,
test drove their equipment through our ears.
Each time the drummer threw a tantrum,

the guitarist whirled and sprayed us with machine-gun riffs,
as if they wished that the could knock us
quite literally dead.
We called that fun in 1970,

when we weren't sure our lives were worth surviving.
I'm here to tell you that they were,
and many of us did, despite ourselves,
though the road from there to here

is paved with dead brain cells,
parents shocked to silence,
and squad cars painting the whole neighborhood
the quaking tint and texture of red jelly.

Friends, we should have postmarks on our foreheads
to show where we have been;
we should have pointed ears, or polka-dotted skin
to show what we were thinking

when we hot-rodded over God's front lawn,
and Death kept blinking.
But here I stand, an average-looking man
staring at a room

where someone blond in braids
with a beautiful belief in answers
is still asking questions.

Through the silence in my dead ear,
I can almost the the future whisper
to the past; it says that this is not a test
and everyone passes.








It's always great to see what our friend Alice Folkart is doing. Here, Alice, has gone minimalist on us with a series of terrific mini-poems.

I love this stuff.



Quintet

silver light
sun is gone
meatloaf next door


Sunday
afternoon
emptiness


From
under the bed
cat rules


It may be
cool enough
to walk to the beach


Broccoli tonight
why can't we have
ice cream instead?








I visited Kabul in 1969 on a three day pass from my duty station on the frontier of Pakistan, with in sight of the Hindu Kush. While there, I bought two books, a copy of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book and The Afghans, a small book by professor Mohammed Ali first published in 1958, an effort, according to the professor, to introduce the "customs nd manners" of the 5,000 year old Afghan culture, "a culture as old as the Assyrians."

One of the subjects covered was Afghan literature, including it's traditional poetry. This is a love poem from the book.



O the flowers are lined in thy hair,
And they eyes, O my beloved,
Are like the flowers of narcissus.
O my priceless rare treasure,
O my life, O my soul,
O my little mountain poppy,
Thy art my morning star,
Thy laughter is the waterfall:
Thy whispers the evening breeze.
O my branch of apple-blossom,
Who spilt moonlight in thine eyes?
O my little butterfly,
Come and rest in my affectionate heart.


My great fear right now is that, as a result of our Glorious Leader's Iraq obsessions we may, for the second time, desert the good people of Afghanistan after raising their hopes. It was a beautiful country in 1969 and has been through ten kinds of hell since. After promising much, again, (see Charlie Wilson's War if you haven't - instructional as well as hilarious) I am very afraid they will see our backs before we have finished what we started.








I wrote this on Earth Day, as you might guess.

I usually like to end on a light note, but there's nothing light about matricide.



on the day after Earth Day our heritage is reviewed

every acre of land
on the planet
has been stolen
and stolen
and stolen again
many times stolen
over the hundred thousand
years or so
we the people
have pushed to dominate
the wild given to us
by the mother -
stolen by someone
from someone
then lost it to someone else,
back to that original theft,
the garden razed
for our pleasure and profit

we are all beneficiaries
of someone else's loss and pain
even as we continue
to impose loss and pain today,
all victims
of the nature of our beast,
our insatiable appetite
that defines us
will one day devour us, too

the time of our accounting
will come
and the payment found due
most severe








The sun rises; the sun sets, a time for beginning and a time to end. And time now to be ending for this week.

Until next issue, enjoy this first full week of May before it gets too hot to drive with the top down, and, as the wind blows through your hair, please remember, all the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog, itself, was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

2 Comments:
at 1:18 PM Blogger Alice Folkart said...

Super issue, Allen. Thanks for introducing us to so many poets we might never have seen without you, especially Mark White - I now want to find out what he's up to now, that 7 Defenses is spectacular. But then, the Carter love poem, and I generally don't like love poetry at all, touched my soul, revealed to me the man that I thought he was. Opened the relationship, showed me how a little distance can be the closest closeness. Rose Cosme's photos are astonishing. I cover my eyes, and then peek through my fingers. And, that photo of a city downtown-no signs - except for one small one on a light-colored building lower right center, no signs on top of buildings. No signs painted on the sides of buildings. Amazing. And the city, tall buildings, busy streets, fading off into trees - all flat. Where is this? Loved the Hoagland hearing aid poem-what a true and quirky voice he has. Poem made me feel as if I were in his head, lodged right behind his ear - his good ear. Laughed over the rejected Mafia nicknames and wanted to make my own list - a good poem always spurs poets who read it to want to 'carry on the work.' Of course, I loved Juiced and the Car poem deeply, those deserve a wider audience. And of course, enjoyed Thane Zander and Marie Gail's offerings, and Jane Hirshfield - if I could, I'd go and study with her. After reading this issue I said to myself, but I don't really like poetry, do I?' And, I had to answer, "Oh yes, yes, I do!" If I were a teacher, I'd use this stuff in my classes - it's all so real, even the Tao, maybe, most especially the Tao. And, by the way, the Tao excerpts following your poem, were just right. Seemed to amplify what you seemed to be feeling - especially that since no one asks any questions anymore, you don't know much of anything - that is an interesting conundrum - philosophy to be masticated!

Thanks for including my work. I am honored.

Alice

at 5:14 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all,
I just want to say that I like poetry and specially M. Whites. I think poems are based on our real life stories.Poems can touch our soul and I can read and write poems. Thank you so much for sharing.
Stella
Drug Intervention Oklahoma

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