Catch Of The Day   Friday, June 27, 2008


it's not the fish we catch
that count
or the fish that get away

the catch of the day
is the time we stay
and the walking home

This week we have, in addition to that little poem above, the following:

From my library -

Pamela Uschuk
Mary Jo Salter
Marge Pierce
Federico Garcia Lorca
Larissa Szporluk
Cyra S. Dumitru
Ai Qing
John Oughton
Leroy V. Quintana

From the Web -

Dave Ruslander
David Anthony
Dan Cuddy
Cliff Keller

And several from me, new and old.

So here we go.

My first poem this week is by Pamela Uschuk from her book One-Legged Dancer published by Wings Press of San Antonio in 2002.

Uschuk was raised on a farm in Michigan. She holds a M.F.A. from the University of Montana. Prior to this book, she had published an earlier book, several chapbooks and had appeared in numerous literary journals. She previously taught poetry workshops and Native American literature at the University of Arizona's Writing Works Center and to Native students through ArtReach.

She is currently director of the Salem College Center for Women Writers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

A Donde Vas?

Like bullets, cockroaches crack
underfoot as we descend from the last train,
joining camposinos who gather
to sleep in the fruit-sweet dusk.
We imagine ourselves refugees
exiled, leaning against backpacks
whose contents could feed these people for weeks.

How conspicuous our blue jeans
and pale skin. Around us
banana palms darken and birds give
their final screechings to jungle air,
warm as broth. The one word
we understand is gringo.

Like moths who fly into bare bulbs overhead
these men wear unnerving white.
Their sleeves flutter, disturbing us
even before we close our eyes and imagine
everything that shines might be
a hidden knife.

At first when Federalse come,
we believe the whine of jeeps a dream
spinning gravel and midnight onto us.
Laughing behind the bruised mouths of machine guns
they raise clouds of camposinos
who stumble into
a single spotlight's fevered glare.

Federales need no joke
to laugh at this easy prey.
Their bandoleros growl commands.
Bullets furrow the dust near bare feet
that comply like good wives
to entertain, circling the steaming dark.

     Andale, amigos!
          Why hurry when there's nowhere to run?
     Donde estan los papeles de trabajar?
          Who needs papers when there is no work?
     A donde vas?
          A man goes no further than this leash of light.

We are shadows paler than our skins
as we watch rifle butts slam
kidneys, cheekbones,
white-shirted chests,
our words broken as stone
in the indecipherable night.

It's over quickly, the departing jeeps
and drunk laughter silenced by vines,
the thick dreaming leaves of palms
as we look into shadowy faces
whose eyes must deny the nightmare
and refuse to meet our own.
Heads bent like larvae,
those accustomed to insult
no longer resent the darkness
that spits fists and impossible commands.

Their averted eyes tell us
we are all homeless
in a world whose untranslatable rules
are tides we are lost to,
vulnerable ss the moon
whose white eye rises blind against us.
There is nothing we can say,
no comfort in the food we share
with these men who take it
as if it were finally being returned.

I continue to work around in my mind the idea of aging and the inevitabilities that come with that, as well as those things that we keep under out control. It's a process of defining perimeters that shift with the passing of each year, a process that goes on throughout our lives but seems to pass at a double-time march in our first and last years.

Anyway, this is a piece I wrote last week.


the horizon
as the dark
closes in

marking the hour
to sort out
the truth
of the time remaining

to free myself
of the baggage

of goals


time to set a course
that recognizes
the reality
of time

to downsize
to fit the days

the horizon
and the final dark

Mary Jo Salter was born in 1954 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

She received her Bachelors Degree from Harvard University and a Masters Degree from Cambridge University and is the recipient of numerous poetry prizes and awards.

She is coeditor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry and a professor in the Writing Seminars program at Johns Hopkins University. In addition, she has been an editor at the Atlantic Monthly and at The New Republic.

She has taught at Mount Holyoke College since 1984 and has been vice president of the Poetry Society of America since 1995.

She has published a number of books of poetry. I selected this poem from her first collection, Henry Purcell in Japan, published in 1985 by Alfred A Knopf.

First Snow In Cambridge, England

I bring us a steaming pot
of tea on a tray
(your favorite: Earl Grey).
Happier than
I can explain, I play

Jeeves to you Wooster willingly.
Wodehouse seems
to us the proper thing
on a morning
that extends all day;

young though we are, we take
for a god
this man who produced one book
a year for each
of his ninety-odd.

No such hero is Bertie.
Sipping tea,
you read aloud his bedded
breakfast: "I tucked
into the eggs and b..."

How does the snow induce
such indolence?
So clear a cold in this year
mere mist and chill,
snow falls as if it means to -

lies like the crust of sun
that whitened the tops
of leaves last summer, a green
so bright it was gone.
Why does it seem

that today we must begin
and begin again?
Hot cereal for breakfast,
a lunch of eggs,
pancakes and milk for dinner.

As if it's not our first
day snowbound here,
but the last of this dark year
in which "one can pretend
one needn't care

what one shall ever do,"
we take a cue
that white is what we're after:
thin-skinned, we lie
awake and under cover.

I received an email this week from Dave Ruslander, a friend whose work has appeared here frequently. Dave is suffering from some medical problems at the moment and I know I, along with all his other webpoet friends, wish him the best.

In the meantime, he sent along a couple of poems, including this one, a leap of imagination into another life in another dimension.

The 11th Dimension*

I'm writing this from the past, or maybe from the future.

I was born with a hole in my heart not a blue baby, rather one with no sense of well being
before I was aware I was an entity.
My parents told me I turned blue when I was pissed off
strange that I would try suicide before I could talk.

I can never turn off my mind, can you?
And I'm never sure what's real and isn't.
If I draw a picture of a cowgirl
is the picture real?
What about the cowgirl?

Twenty years have past, and my mind still whirs. I slow it down while
eating my coco puffs with large quantities of Valium floating in milk.
I hear, Tony Bennett all morning, but I don't think it's real.

By midnight Benny's gone
and DJrap is in the house after I swallow
ecstasy, me feel yummy.
I'm quivering putting on my silver serpent dress,
platinum wig and day-glow lipstick.

I am now, techno-vamp, just as real as the floating
Valium induced but now I feel the rush
I feel alive!

Love surrounds the rave.
It's palpable, it's real
so long as I keep letting ecstasy slide down my throat.

Lasers beam from all angles in sync to the music.
Globes dance over head; the DJrap mashes techno beats.
The crowd bounces as one. We are one fluorescent entity
moving to machine time.

Guys take turns rubbing their dicks against my ass - it turns them on.
Sometimes I fuck them for amusement,
they mean nothing to me.
Hell, on ecstasy it might only be a fantasy anyway.

*Cosmologists have discovered parallel universes at the eleventh dimension.

My next poem is by Marge Piercy, taken from her book The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1980.

Piercy, born in Detroit, Michigan in 1936, is a poet, novelist and social activist. She was the first in her family to attend college, studying at the University of Michigan. Winning a Hopwood Award for Poetry and Fiction enabled her to finish college and spend some time in France. Her formal schooling ended with an M.A. from Northwestern University. Her first book of poems, Breaking Camp, was published in 1968.

As of 2004 she is author of seventeen volumes of poems, among them The Moon is Always Female , considered a feminist classic, and The Art of Blessing the Day, as well as fifteen novels, one play, one collection of essays, one nonfiction book, and one memoir.

Her novels and poetry often focus on feminist or social concerns, although her settings vary. While Body of Glass is a science fiction novel that won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, City of Darkness, City of Light is set during the French Revolution. Other of her novels are set during the modern day. All of her books share a focus on women's lives.

Piercy's poetry often addresses the same concern with feminist and social issues in her poetry as in her novels.

the window of the woman burning

Woman dancing with hair
on fire, woman writhing in the
cone of orange snakes, flowering
into crackling lithe vines:
you are not the bound witch
at the stake, whole broiled alive
agonized screams
thrust from charred flesh
darkened Europe in the nine millions.
you are not the madonna impaled
whose sacrifice of self leaves her
empty and mad as wind,
or whore crucified
studded with nails.

you are the demon of a fountain of energy
rushing up from the coal hard
memories in the ancient spine,
flickering lights from the furnace in the solar
plexus, the winds up the hypothalamus
with its fibroids of pleasure and pain
twisted and braided like rope,
like the days of our living,
firing the lanterns of the forebrain
till they glow blood red.

You are the fire sprite
that charges leaping thighs,
that whips the supple back on its arc
as deer leap through the ankles:
dance of a woman strong
in beauty that crouches
inside like a cougar in the belly
not in the eyes of others measuring.

You are the icon of woman sexual
in herself like a great forest tree
in flower, liriondendron bearing sweet tulips,
cups of joy and drunkenness.
You drink strength from your dark fierce roots
and you hang at the sun's own fiery breast
and with the green cities of your boughs
you shelter and celebrate
woman, with the cauldrons of your energies
burning red, burning green.

Here's something brought to mind by a story in the New York Times Tuesday science section, a source of frequent inspiration for me.


when in heat
a female chimp

try to mate
with as many males
as possible

for the purpose
of improving survival

for her baby
since male chimps

are less likely
to kill
a baby they suspect

they might have
such is male pride
specie to specie

to attract males when in heat
a female chimp will



a kind of copulation cry
while being serviced

by one male
to attract other males
to the party

a come-and-get-it call,
a neon lights
and tight dress
split up to there


here's the part
that gets

miss hot-to-trot

only makes this
shout out
if other, higher ranking

are nowhere
in earshot of the call

this is because
higher ranking females

don't like poachers
in their part of the

and messing around
with higher-ranking females'
sugar daddies can be

to the lower ranked

who messes
with the natural order
of things

is the way things work
in the jungle
and the prevailing
social dynamic
of much adolescent
around the world

My next poem is by Federico Garcia Lorca, from his collection Poet in New York. It was translated into English by Greg Simon and Steven F. White.

Garcia Lorca's life and times were so interesting that I'm including just about the entire Wikipedia entry, with minimal editing by me.

He was born in 1898 into a family of minor, but wealthy, landowners in the small village of Fuente Vaqueros, Granada, He was a precocious child, although he did not excel at school. In 1909, his father moved the family to the city of Granada, Andalusia where in time he became deeply involved in local artistic circles. His first collection of prose pieces, Impresiones y paisajes, was published in 1918 to local acclaim but little commercial success.

Associations made at Granada's Arts Club were to stand him in good stead when he moved in 1919 to the famous Residencia de estudiantes in Madrid, where he would befriend Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, among many others who were or would become influential artists in Spain. In Madrid he met Gregorio Martinez Sierra, the Director of Madrid's Teatro Eslava, at whose invitation he wrote and staged his first play, El maleficio de la mariposa, in 1919-20. A verse play dramatizing the impossible love between a cockroach and a butterfly, with a supporting cast of other insects, it was laughed off stage by an unappreciative public after only four performances and influenced Garcia Lorca's attitude to the theatre-going public for the rest of his career; he would later claim that 1927's Mariana Pineda was his first play.

Over the next few years Garcia Lorca became increasingly involved in his art and Spain's avant-garde. He published three further collections of poems including Canciones (Songs) and Primer romancero gitano, translated as "Gypsy Ballads," his best known book of poetry. His second play Mariana Pineda, with stage settings by Dali, opened to great acclaim in Barcelona in 1927.

Although not shown for the first time until the early 1930s, Lorca wrote the play The Shoemake's Prodigious Wife in 1926, which was a farce about fantasy, based on the relationship between a flirtatious, petulant wife and a henpecked shoemaker.

However, towards the end of the 1920s, Garcia Lorca fell victim to increasing depression, a situation exacerbated by his anguish over his homosexuality. In this he was deeply affected by the success of his Romancero gitano, which increased - through the celebrity it brought him - the painful dichotomy of his life: he was trapped between the persona of the successful author, which he was forced to maintain in public, and the tortured self, which he could only acknowledge in private.

Growing estrangement between Garcia Lorca and his closest friends reached its climax when surrealists Dali and Bunuel collaborated on their 1929 film Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog), which Garcia Lorca interpreted, perhaps erroneously, as a vicious attack on him. The film ended his affair with Dali, along with Dal' meeting his future wife Gala. At the same time, his intensely passionate but fatally one-sided affair with the sculptor Emilio Aladren was collapsing as the latter became involved with his future wife. Aware of these problems (though not perhaps of their causes), Garcia Lorca's family arranged for him to take a lengthy visit to the United States in 1929-30.

While in America, Garcia Lorca stayed in particular in New York City, where he studied briefly at Columbia University School of General Studies. His collection of poems Poeta en Nueva York explores his alienation and isolation through some graphically experimental poetic techniques, and the two plays Asi que pasen cinco anos and El publico were far ahead of their time - indeed, El publico was not published until the late 1970s and has never been published in its entirety (the manuscript is lost.)

His return to Spain in 1930 coincided with the fall of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the reestablishment of the Spanish Republic. In 1931, Garcia Lorca was appointed as director of a university student theater company, Teatro Universitario la Barraca ("The Shack"). This was funded by the Second Republic's Ministry of Education, and it was charged with touring Spain's remotest rural areas in order to introduce audiences to radically modern interpretations of classic Spanish theater. As well as directing, Lorca also acted. While touring with La Barraca, García Lorca wrote his best-known plays, the "rural trilogy" of Bodas de sangre, Yerma and La casa de Bernarda Alba. He distilled his theories on artistic creation and performance in a famous lecture entitled "Play and Theory of the Duende", first given in Buenos Aires in 1933, in which he argued that great art depends upon a vivid awareness of death, connection with a nation's soil, and an acknowledgment of the limitations of reason. The group's subsidy was cut in half by the new government in 1934, and la Barraca's last performance was in April 1936.

Garcia Lorca left Madrid for Granada only three days before the Civil War broke out, when the Spanish political and social climate, just after José Calvo Sotelo's murder, became unbreathable. He was aware that he was certainly heading towards a city reputed to have the most conservative oligarchy in Andalucía. After the war broke out, Garcia Lorca and his brother-in-law, the socialist mayor of Granada, were soon arrested. He was killed, shot by Nationalist militia on August 19, 1936 and was thrown into an unmarked grave somewhere between Viznar and Alfacar, near Granada. Significant controversy remains about the motives and details of his death. Personal nonpolitical motives have also been suggested. Lorca's biographer, Stainton, states that Lorca's killers had made remarks about Lorca's sexuality, suggesting that it played a role.

The dossier compiled at Franco's request has yet to surface.

Waltz in the Branches

One leaf fell,
a second
and a third.
A fish swam on the moon.
The water sleeps for only an hour,
but the white sea sleeps for a hundred.
There is a dead lady
in the branch of the tree.
The nun in her habit
sang inside the pomegranate.
This girl of mine
reached the pine cone from the pine.
And the pin went along
too look for the tiny feather's song.
But the wounded nightingale cried
though out the countryside.
And I did too,
because the first leaf fell,
a second
and a third.
And a head of crystal
and a paper fiddle.
And the snow could make its way in the world,
if the snow slept for a month,
and the branches wrestled with the world,
one by one
two by two
and three by three.
Oh, the hard ivory of invisible flesh
Oh, the dawn's abyss with no ants!
With the swish of the trees,
with the sighs of the ladies,
with the croaking frogs
and honey's yellow glub.
A shadow's torso will arrive,
wearing a laurel crown.
For the wind, the sky will
be as hard as a wall
and all the downed branches
will leave as they dance.
One by one
around the moon,
two by two
around the sun,
and three by three
let the pieces of ivory sleep.

Now, a poem from one of our British friends, David Anthony.

David describes himself as a British businessman, born in North Wales and living near London in Stoke Poges close to the church where Gray wrote his 'Elegy', a source, David says, of much inspiration.

David has published two poetry collections: Words to Say in 2002 and Talking to Lord Newborough in 2004.

A selection of his poems visit his website at:

Summer's End

stealing from the sun,
lit the shaded path
briefly. Now they're gone.

Hurry through
faded meadows, while
light still holds.
Days grow shorter; how
quickly evening comes.

Stirred to rise
by a falling foot,
feathered seeds,
graceful on the breeze,
drift towards the dawn.

Larissa Szporluk was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan and received her BA from the University of Michigan. She studied at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and received an MA in Literature at the University of California Berkeley, and an MFA from the University of Virginia. She began her full-time teaching career at Bowling Green State University in 2000 and has since become an associate professor of Creative Writing and Literature. In 2005, she was a visiting professor at Cornell University.

The poem I chose is from Dark Sky Question, published by Beacon Press in 1999, was winner of the Bernard Poetry Prize. She has published two other books of poetry and has been featured in many literary journals and anthologies. She was a recipient of an NEA in Poetry award for 2003-2004, and received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Award for Poetry, 2003-2004.


He arrives and looks around,
and doesn't know the word for wind,
and wind is the subject.

He finds a girl on a fence
hurting herself with a nail.
He pulls her away without speaking,

to her surprise, and wipes
the stuff from her hair that smells
like burning-out lights,

and suddenly it's not a burden
to be walking with her
in enemy land. When she tells him

"the best thing here is the moon,"
he feels happier that if he'd seen it
and remembers a parable

about a string that never meets
its ends, and she tells him then
about a warm place at the end

of a grove of horned trees.
If the night steadies, if it controls
their speed, they'll reach it

together, fusing in the meantime,
discarding all the nuance
that betrays them with disease.

I went back in the files for this next piece, a short thing I wrote in summer of 2003. It was included in the December issue of The Muse Apprentice that same year.

dreams strewn like spring flowers

we live
in the context
of our dreams

like spring flowers
on a mountain meadow

in each story
the hero
is the dreamer

Cyra S. Dumitru was born in The Hague, Holland and raised in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cincinnati, Ohio. She received degrees in English from Indiana University in Bllomington, Indiana, in 1979 and the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1995. Her professional life includes residencies as a Poet-in-the-Schools as well as years of medical writing in Norfolk, Virginia, and San Antonio, Texas. A passionate swimmer, she currently works as a poet, author of memoir, and meditative essay. She ives in San Antonio.

Dumitru has published several books. This poem is from Listening to Light, published by River Lily Press of San Antonio in 2003. In the book she writes of religious figures from the past, not as holy icons, but as if they were regular people, next door neighbors.

Mary's Midwife

You might like to think
the birth was spotless as the conception.
It was a baptism of water and blood.

Instead of crowning,
the baby tried to come feet first.
I reached far inside Mary

and turned him around.
On that cold night, we had no fire,
just the warmth radiating from cows and sheep.

While outside a great star filled the heavens
we had no windows either,
just cracks in the barn wall where light trickled in.

Gusts of wind blew out our lanterns.
Joseph plugged the biggest crack with his own woolen cloak
then returned to rubbing Mary's neck, back.

Her eyes shone like two moons
burning with a sad knowing.
But most of all, I remember,

how cushioned only by clean straw
Mary rode the hours of waves with hardly a moan.
How she reached for that child when he landed

squalling, skin patchy with her blood.
The moment she held him he stopped crying,
looked straight at her, opened his huge hands.

Photo by Dora Ramirez-Itz

My next poem is by frequent "Here and Now" contributor, Dan Cuddy.

Dan is a graduate of Loyola College of Baltimore. He was a contributing editor for Maryland Poetry Review and contributing editor to Lite Baltimore's Literary Newspaper. His work has been published in many magazines and journals, including the Loch Raven Review, and a book Handprint On The Window published by Three Conditions Press.

A Plate of Rainwater

When there's nothing
A plate of rainwater is easy to get

Yes, you could go for days
A dog with a tongue like a tail
Wagging and lapping up
The condensing steam off somebody else's coffee
Your eyes could get that far, far away look
A car with luggage piled in the back seat
The one white shirt, loosely draped tie
On a wire hanger holding on to the hook
Above a back window
Bumper stickers might say OBX
Or Yellowstone or Disney World
But your life is no vacation
Just a grubbing around for food, drink, shelter
Purpose? Staying alive
You hope your jive sells
You hope to sell your life
To the first corporation

What have you done?
Worked a forklift?
Oh, you live on the street
Just one white shirt shirt, faded jeans
Bushy eyebrows, beard like a carwash brush
Attitude like a trash-talking adolescent
Looking for a first date
Employers are just clean preppy girls
That hold you by forefinger and thumb
An oily rag
Oooh, drop it in the can
And there you are
Now wearing that soiled tie and shirt
Showing up at the Franciscans' doorstep
One of those needy ones
Your dressed up dignity an unwiped backside
A plate of rainwater

Ai Qing is the pen name of Jiang Zheghan, born in 1910 and died in 1996. He was a revolutionary free verse poet from Jinhua, Zhejiang Province. At the age of nineteen he went to France to study painting. Inspired by Western poetry, he shifted from painting to poetry. He returned to China in 1932 and, after joining the League of Left-Wing Artists in Shanghai, was arrested for sedition. Later, he was active in the resistance to the Japanese invasion.

In 1941 he taught in the Yenan Lu Xun Art Academy and became a communist. Though initially accepted in China's post-revolutionary society (he was dean of the College of Literature at the North China Associated University and editor of a nationally distributed journal), he was purged in the 1957 Anti-Rightist Campaign and sent to work in state farms in the provinces for eighteen years. After Mao's death in 1976, Ai Qing was able to return to writing and in 1979 became vice chairman of the China Writer's Association.

Despite his own experience with oppression, he participated in government attacks on the Misty Poets of 1980.

In addition to his poetry, he also published several books of criticism.

This poem and bio are from The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry , From Ancient to Contemporary, The Full 3000-year Tradition, published by AnchorBooks.

You can get more information on the Misty Poets at:

The poem was translated by Michelle Yeh

Gambling Men

At the shady bottom of the city wall,
In the dark corner by the houses,
Gamblers squat in the middle of a crowd,
Anxiously awaiting the outcome of a throw.

Filthy, ragged, stupid - yet inflamed -
Their bodies tremble, their heads squirm.
Cheers and curses
Accompany the clink of coins.

Women and children with disheveled hair
Googgle at them;
A hungry child kicks and wails,
But the mother is entranced by her husband's game.

They squat, stand up,
Slap their thighs and cry out in surprise.
Their faces are flushed, their mouths open,
As they try to reverse their fate in one throw.

They lose, then win, win, then lose again;
What stay the same are filth, poverty and stupidity.
At nightfall they scatter, disappointed,
Returning to their dingy houses one by one.

Actually, it's been nearly eight months since we've had any appreciable rain here in the hill country, with a total rainfall so far this year of less than four inches. For example, as we near the end of June, total rain for the month is one tenth of one inch. Luckily, the Edwards Aquifer, sole source of water for this entire area was full after a good rainy year last year. Had it not been full, we would have been in water rationing a month ago. As it is, rationing started this week.

How dry is it? This piece I wrote last week explains.

six months with no rain

so dry
it crackles
as i walk on it,
as if walking
on the dry husks
of dead crickets

iron blue sky
of the softness
of even a single cloud
another day the only wet
a farmer's tears

long gone
now dry gritty
in the slightest

born for the
dry heat
of south texas
branches hanging
to the ground
like weeping willow

Next I have a fun poem by John Oughton from his book Counting Out the Millennium, published in 1996 by Pecan Grove Press of San Antonio.

Oughton is Canadian, born in Ontario, where he spent his formative years, except for two years in Egypt and Iraq. He has since lived in Japan and Nova Scotia, as well as Toronto. Oughton studied literature at York University in Toronto and the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado where he worked closely with Ginsberg, Burroughs, and others.

He published three books of poetry before this one as well as numerous works of criticism and review. He is active with literary groups on the internet and currently teaches English at Centennial College in Toronto, and runs a micro-mini press, Sixth Floor, which produces chapbooks.

Notes From The Travel Journal Of Dr. Syntax

1. Signals
To be mad all that's required
is to stand in one place and
understand all signals passing through your head
radio TV radar microwaves shortwave DB RF
X-band K-band satellite voices data ghosts
cops pilots and lonely hearts
talk shows hot picks newsbits and traffic watches
static all the cellular and stellar babble
that one voice talking alone denies
even this voice

2. Saints
To name the habitations of Quebec
explorers ran through the whole canon of saints
and then some
to avoid yet another St Marie or Joseph
they revived some forgotten even by the Pope -
St. Zotique
roasted by a lightning bolt while praying
in his penitential iron underwear
St. Telesphore
poisoned by a mushroom he thought
would allow divines to communicate over a distance
St. Louis du - Ha! Ha!
who finally understood what it all meant
and died laughing
St. Eusebe
who swore he'd sit on a stalactite for 32 years
and pray
and did so until one day a voice mortified him
by informing him it was a stalagmite.
So many saints protect the landscape here
that they collide overhead
in the fog of prayers for intercession and release

3. National Unity
tis nation is a fiction
held together only by stamps and money
that proclaim it exists and confer value
the lobster fisherman in Souris
and the lumberjack in Fort St. John
understand totally different Canadas
from the stockbroker in Montreal
and the professor of advanced studies in
Winnipeg. They use the same name
for different nations
only I know my Canada
but I'll lend it to you in these words

Next, I have a poem from Californian Cliff Keller.

Cliff reports that, with two bands going, both playing all original music, he hasn't had much time for poetry lately. But he did pass this poem along to me, together with several other earlier writes. We'll see those others in future issues.

Milano in 1925

Nothing is as fast as
the darting swallow at sunset
above the duomo
chasing the invisible.

And the blue haze
that veils the olive trees across the valley
is the clock that tells you
it's time to walk home for lunch

One's life is undefined
by self help magazines,
time steps to the pace
of love and aging bones

Never as fast as the swallow's quest
but certainly as graceful
as the falling leaf
on the slow walk home

Now I have several short pieces by Leroy V. Quintana from his book The Great Whirl of Exile, published by Curbstone Press in 1999.

Quintana was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1944. He never knew his father and spent his early years moving between small northern New Mexico towns such as Raton and Questa, where the old cuentos (tales) had not yet been displaced by Anglo influence.

He served in Vietnam in the Army Airborne and a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol unit in 1967-1968.

His work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and has published several other books. Quintana has taught literature at several colleges and universities, and, at the time this book was published, was on the English faculty at Mesa College in San Diego.

I really do like the stuff he does.

Drunk in English

Whenever don Andres got drunk with an Anglo
he'd tie the reins to the saddle horn,
let his old horse lead himself home,
and, slowly rocking in the saddle,
nod to everybody along the way,
mutter he was borracho en Ingles.

Tires So Thin You Could See the Air
& a Wedding ring Cheap as a Lugnut

Filemon says he was so poor
when he was first married
he was driving around on tires
so thin que se podia ver el aire.

As for Senaida, she can look back now and laugh,
as if amazed her wedding ring was so cheap,
and, oh, so dreadfully plain, no other way for her
to describe it than to call it her wedding tuerca.

With the Lights On All Night

In English, to say that somebody slept with the lights on
all night can be trusted to mean nothing else, but so much
is lost in Spanish when you say that Alfredo slept all night
con la luz prendida unless you know that his wife's name
is Luz which means light, and that prendida can mean the light
was left on, or that Luz was clinging to him, toda la noche.

The Corner of the Fish Market on
Broadway and Coal

Filemon says he had a hand in constructing
our culture, directly responsible for
some of the architecture. You see,
he was an ambulance driver and one time
he was going so fast, oh, ochenta maybe,
two wheels, turned and demolished the
corner of the Fish Market on Broadway
and Coal, the east end of the viaduct.

It's true. Drive by there, he says, and
you'll see how they didn't even bother
to build it back up at a right angle.

Poem for U-Haul

The highway was made for a morning like this.
A woman with two sad blackeyes. Never
again, never, never, again. Last night
was the last time, the last time, the last.

The Rockets' Red Glare

The Super Bowl had come to San Diego; the rich
rub elbows with Bob Hope.
We get fireworks.

The woman behind me asks her son
how so many rockets can be set off in succession.

You just hire a bunch of Mexicans to run around
with a lot of matches.

Isn't it great, she sighs, bombs bursting in air,
to be an American?

I'll finish up this week with a very old poem, something I wrote in 1969 under the tutelage of Doctor Norm Petersen of Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University).

Dr. Petersen, retired airline pilot and short story writer, was my creative writing professor, a hugely entertaining teacher and a great influence on me, primarily in the sense that he convinced me I could write.

In the meantime, I wrote this short piece while finishing college on the GI Bill. (Actually, it was written in a cabin on Lake Travis near Austin when I was supposed to be studying for a final exam. I remember the evening well.) I quit writing upon graduation only to begin again thirty years later. And it was thirty years after it was written that the piece appeared in the July, 1999 issue of The Green Tricycle.

That's a lot of introduction, maybe more than this scant little piece can bear.


the midsummer lake
heaves and rustles
like some great animal
in the gathering dark

under pins of
white and yellow light
crickets chip
the soft stone of night

smoke and scents
of campfires rise

falls with the sun


That's it for this week. I picked some more books this week from Half-Priced Books, including some stuff I really like, so come on back next week and I'll share it with you.

In the meantime, remember, all of the material presented on this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself is produced by and is the property of me....allen itz.

at 4:56 PM Blogger Pamela Uschuk said...

Thank you for posting my poem, "A Donde Vas?". It was a wonderful surprise to see it there.

I am living and teaching creative writing (at Fort Lewis College) now in the Durango, Colorado area. And, I have a new book of poems, CRAZY LOVE, due out in 2009 from Wings Press in San Antonio, Texas.

Thanks again! I appreciate!

Pamela Uschuk

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Summer, Just Another Bad Idea   Friday, June 20, 2008


Here's our round-up for this week.

From my library:

Serbian poet Vasco Popa
Texas Poet Lauraet and 35-year mailman William Barney
Chicago poet James Galvin
Hungarian poet Agi Mishol
Brooklyn poet William Heyen
Seattle poet Shirley Kaufman
California poet Dana Gioia
California poet Charles Bukowski
Brooklyn poet Gilbert Sorrentino

From "Here and Now's" circle of friends

Alice Folkart on baby sharks
Thane Zander on the laws of nature
Robert McManes on total absolution
Joanna Weston on saying farewell
Jim Comer on commuting hell

and a few poems from me.

And here they are....

My first poem for this week is by Serbian poet Vasco Popa.

Of Romanian descent, Popa was born in 1922 and died in 1991. During the course of his life, his poems were translated into almost every European Language.

The poem I chose is from the anthology The Same Sky, A Collection of Poems from Around the World selected by Naomi Shihab Nye.

The poem was translated by Charles Simic.


Under the linden in Sands
My great grandfather
Found two wolf-cubs

Sat them both
Between a donkey's ears
And brought them to the farm

He fed them sheep's milk
And taught them to play
With lambs their own age

Then he took them back
to the same spot under the lindens
Kissed them
And made the sign of the cross over them

Since earliest childhood
I've been waiting
For my years to equal
My great-grandfather's

Just to ask him
Which of those wolf-cubs
I was

As demonstrated by the following act of desperation I wrote this week, the life of a poet is not always serene and without challenge.

writerly moooooooommmmmmments

i have read
everything i have to read

the entire sunday Times,
including the magazine

and book review
and four days

of funnies
i didn't have time

to read
during the week

and though i know
the new Rolling Stone

and a new collection
of "Zits" comics

are in the racks
i'm pretending they're not

trying to convince myself
that there's nothing

to read and if
i really want to read

i'm going to have to write it

but there's this problem

el problemo
you might say

the rub
the obstacle

to such writing
is that i'm stuck

for something
to say

while i try to slip into
something more creative
while i study this white page
while i modulate my brain waves
into non-concentration so that the
of creativity will open and engulf
in wonderful ideas
or even just
of an idea
lets us make a deal
come up

with something terrific

and we'll pretend this never


When William Barney called himself a "man of letters," he was joking about the 35 years he worked with the U.S. Postal Service, a period covering a good part of the 50 years he was a recognized Texas poet.

Barney, born in 1916, died in 2000.

I took this poem from Barney's book A Cowtown Chronicle, published by Browder Springs Books Books of Dallas in 1999. It would have been an appropriate Father's Day poem last week, if I had found it in time.

A Rock of the Alleghenies

     I remember him among forges,
the snarl of flames, the crunch of the bull press,
folding pink steel. Alive in pine woods,
emperor among the pumping jacks.
The sound of him, eating an apple
with quick bites; cracking a mittened hand
with a fast ball, intoning ancient verses.
I think I liked him best
singing those earthy Irish ditties
learned in the Allegheny hills.

I can remember sleeping on his thigh
in church and how he followed Bernard McFadden
Ed "Strangler" Lewis, strong men everywhere.
Couldn't he turn up a full-length sledge
with one fist at the handle-end? He was always
making outlandish love (my mother protesting
but loving back. I threw away the bat
he gave me - he called it a "pump handle" -
I wanted to forget the place I flung it
but couldn't when he told me that was what
real players called it. He had crooked thumbs
foul tips in Holyoke, Terre Haute, and Tulsa
made authentic.

     He was cheated once,
more times disappointed than we guessed.
And thinking he could kill infection
by working up a sweat, he died too early.
I used to see him every day in sons,
and lately in granddaughters catch him still.
They do not know the words but the Scotch-Irish lilt
and the wild tenderness rise. Sometimes my own bones
brew up a tempest in them, and the throat
wants to let go mad syllables of delight.

Now, here is a new poem from friend Alice Folkart

Alice says her desire for immediate gratification is satisfied when she writes poetry. You write it and there it is, the whole thing, all on one page, beginning to end. Seeing that makes her happy. She lives and writes poetry and short fiction in Hawaii.

The Nursery

Pudgy girl in a thong bikini
the same shade of dusty rose
as her oily, dimpled flesh
lobsters herself on a red towel,

the sacred parts of her body
covered with scraps of cloth,
nothing left to the imagination.
She has a cell phone instead of a book.

"Yeah," she says, "They think
it's colon cancer, he's having tests, chemo.
Funeral arrangements...Oh, yeah, yeah,
sure, talk to you later."

She punches in another number, "Hey, what's up?
Kailua, on the beach. Real warm.
No! You know I don't go in the water.
Bernie? Haven't seen him. Why?"

When no one answers, she fiddles with a boom box,
turning up the acid rock, heavy metal, and finally,
the lady's choice, Gangsta Rap,
thump, thump-a, thump, thump.

Out beyond the surf, it's quiet,
I'm yards off shore when a man yells,
"I never seen one here before. No worry. It's only a baby!"
I swim in to check it out. A baby? Yes, a baby shark.

James Galvin was born in Chicago in 1951. He received a B.A., from Antioch College in 1974 and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1977. He has published six books of poetry and one novel. This poem is from his most recent collection titled simply Poems, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2003.

Winter Solstice Full Moon At Perigee

Being in love isn't about being happy.
Here's a good idea: let's live some more.

After bad things happen we always live
A little bit more. Good timing, bad timing.

The people against me were probably right:
You can't step in front of the same bus twice.

From here on out, honesty's its own
Intelligence, which may or may not involve

Philosophy. Try to understand
The world, and leave the mind to darkness where

It thrives. Werner Herzog, for example, says
The mind is a room, better dimly lit

For livable ambiance, some lively music
For habitability - than floodlit, mute

For self-knowledge - a bogus notion anyway,
According to the quarter back from Cedar

Rapids, Iowa, Jesus is a
Football fan, without whose intervention

The Rams could not have won the Super Bowl.
Aren't you ashamed at refusing love.

Next, here's a new piece from Thane Zander.

Thane is a 49 year old web poet, closely aligned with three poetry forums, a director of two fora at Blueline Poetry and regular contributor in the House, an Admin/owner of an endemic New Zealand Poetry forum Whiti Ataahua - New Zealand Poetry, and is currently participating in a brainiacs poetry forum called Babilu. He is a Bipolar sufferer and lives in semi retirement which allows time for all things poetry. His hometown is Feilding, New Zealand and he has two daughters.

Laws of Nature

I remember sitting in a cafe in Dannevirke. The clock on the wall playfully elicited 3.37pm, a time I was used to. Late afternoon in a hell hole was often tinged with mirth and good tidings, from me mainly, the locals were locked into a 1940's time warp. I paid for my sausage roll and pie and went back to my seat. The time was now 3.41pm, also a time I was suited to.

The yellow skinned girls in the brothels
always willing for good money
always compliant to clients demands
the dollar held sway when sex was concerned.

Margaret, my personal assistant
emailed me to say the doctor was due,
said he had unfinished business,
I only hoped it was to say I was HIV negative.

I watched the clock some more, no one really entered the cafeteria, except some High School boys after a pie or two before Rugby practice. I finished the food, supped from an over hot coffee cup, and checked the messages, if any, on my cellphone. As first thought, nil.

He said I had high blood pressure
needs another look at my heart,
I wrote a memo to myself
run another five miles tonight.

The dance at Tiffany's was always a favourite,
seven thirty on the dot, Pacific time,
I chose one filly to do the rumba
She was good, but not a looker you hear.

The clock ticked over to 4.00pm, time to go. I checked the satchel, loaded it with the cell phone. Mrs. McGinty would not tolerate me being five minutes late. Today I needed to do her last will and testament, amongst other lawyer type things. I wasn't much of a lawyer, but I charged fairly. Yes she'd be waiting, 4.07pm she said. I got into the 1963 Jaguar E type (yes it pays well) and busted a ring getting to her place on time.

Sadly the rumba ended in tears,
I called her bluff, her lips pouting
me ready to drop her mid stride
I think one of the girls at Macy's would have been better.

The doctor laughed, as he does with me,
said seven miles would not be enough
to turn around years of pies and sausage rolls
you'll need a new diet and exercise regime, boy.

Mrs. McGinty was dead! Poor old cow, never knew it was coming apparently. They asked who I was, family or something (they'd seen the car there recently) I just shook my head, checked my wrist watch, 4.07pm. Yes I'd made it on time. Customers are too few to lose this way. I got into my car, dialed the office, no work, and took off to go play with yellow skinned girls.

My next poem is by Agi Mishol from the 2000 issue of Poetry International.

Mishol, born in 1947, is a Hungarian-born Israeli poet, the only daughter of Holocaust survivors.

The family immigrated to Israel when she was four. Her parents ran a grocery store in Gedera and spoke mainly Hungarian at home. Mishol holds a BA in literature from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and an MA in Hebrew literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Mishol runs poetry workshops at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Alma College in Tel Aviv. She has won the Tel Aviv Foundation Award (1991), the Yehuda Amichai Poetry Prize (2002), the Prime Minister's Prize, and the Dolitzky Prize for Poetry (2007).

The poem was translated from Hebrew by Lisa Katz.

Papua New Guinea

I love to say Papua New Guinea.
Otherwise I wouldn't have come here.

My husband Antonio hugs me from behind, and whispers
before he falls asleep:
love more than I love you.

I stroke his face and love him more
than he loves me.
I couldn't care less if for a week
I love him more, after all
the Portuguese ambassador has a hard life:
the superpowers threaten
and his restless sleep wanders toward
the golden age of colonialism;
words like Angola, Macau, Cochin, and Nampula
sail past like ancient wooden boats in his blood,
turn his snores into a lament and more than once
he chokes, anxious, beaten;
he deserves more love.

I am generous and fill
the new arms holding me
while a strange heart pleads at my back
because the birds in Papua New Guinea are colorful
their voices sweet and seductive behind the curtain
when the moon sheds light on my former life too.

What a talented chameleon I am.
When I crawl over Papua New Guinea
I change my colors to its colors,
when I crawl over Antonio's body
I change my colors to his because you have to
take from life everything it gives
and I take.
That is I give.

My husband is extremely neat.
Even the pope hung on our wall
smiles in satisfaction at such ideal order:
shoes lined up,
shirt and pants folded,
wristwatch on the dresser.

My husband hates when I sleep with a watch.
But at night I love the orchestrated pulse
of heartbeats and the digital tick tock,
and the ironic space stretched between them.

Now I snuggle against his nice body,
the gold Jesus hanging from his neck
tickling me faintly.

I'm a Jewish woman and we are naked.
What does Pope John, robed
and wearing a turban, a scepter in his hand, think about us.

One, two, three, four,
I'm the wife of the ambassador.

I continue to work, trying to get the rental property in shape to sell - as they say, if it's not one damn thing, it's another.

real estate blues

the air conditioner is busted -
add that to the list
of the plumber and the tile guy -

making it too hot
and stuffy inside
so i'm outside

on a folding chair
in the spotty

of the mesquite grove
we cleaned up

when we bought
the place
eight years ago

reaching out for every
little wisp
of breeze that passes

for the sears guy
who's supposed to fix

the tractor
again -
it's the rocks,

this whole area
south of the edwards

is rolling hills
with a thin layer
of topsoil

fist-sized and smaller

and when it rains
that layer of topsoil
washes off
the rocks

there's a little

an exposed bed
of rocks

ripe for picking
by my mower blade
causing no damage

to the rocks
but you can hear
the grind and clatter

as the mower
tries to digest the rocks
but strips its gears instead

the wait
on this most heinous

of hot days -
lacking else to do
i dug up rocks

to get to
the root of the

but three hours
digging in the sun

was my limit
so i just settled
into this chair

for the coming
of the sears man

in the devil's
own furnace


William Heyen was born in 1940 in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Suffolk County. He received a BA from the State University of New York at Brockport; he earned a doctorate in English from Ohio University in 1967.

He taught American literature and creative writing at his undergraduate alma mater for over 30 years before retiring in 2000.

Heyen's work has been published in numerous literary journals and periodicals. His work has also been published in 200 anthologies, in dozens of limited-edition chapbooks and broadsides, and on audio.

He has been awarded NEA, Guggenheim, American Academy & Institute of Arts & Letters, and other prizes.

He has published a number of books of his poetry, including Lord Dragonfly, Five Sequences, published by Vanguard Press in 1981, from which I chose this poem.

The term "sequences" used in the title refers to a group of connected, interrelated poems, which makes it difficult to pull one poem out of the sequence and have it's full sense retained. It might help if I tell you that the title of the sequence from which I pulled the poem is titled "Ash."

The Eternal Ash

By early August, the mountain ash's each limb
hangs heavy, it's berry clusters
already tinged orange and bending its body
almost to breaking. The ash bears,

and will, this light, this weight.
Even at night under the frost stars, each berry
deepens into the ripe flame
autumn means for it to be,

yes, but to know one thing, but know it:
the lord of the whole tree, in time,
unchanged, its changes mine, delusion;
knowing, no, the mystical winter blossom...

Which August is this, anyway? - this windless
poise of clusters that never fall, but will,
within the living tree that withers, while
ashlight drifts to the earth, petal by petal.

Next, I have poem from friend Robert McManes.

total absolution

the old adding machine
rests in a dusty corner
and dreams of tabulations
where cybernetic meadows
grow wires while high-speed computers
live together in programming harmony
with less fortunate technology
like pure rain water
falling from a clear sky

it likes to think
of great electronic forests
full of plastic based pines
and sophisticated semiconductors
where analog machines roll peacefully
past third generation super computers
that hums in deep caged meditation
as if they were sleeping lions
in a far flung metropolitan zoo

and the little machine dreams
its big dreams unaware
that being obsolete
is the final tenement
of absolute absolution

in plug we believe

Here's a new poet for "Here and Now," Shirley Kaufman with a poem from her book Rivers of Salt, published by Copper Canyon Press in 1993.

Kaufman, a 79-year-old native of Seattle, has been a resident of Jerusalem since 1973. She is winner of two NEA fellowships, many other awards. She has published eight books of poetry, as well as several books of translation from Hebrew. She continues to be active in progressive causes. To read one of her poems from the Poets Against the War website, go to

(I also have several poems there - to find them you have to find the place to do a name search of all poets, of which there are many.)

At the Station

My aunts who sit side by side
in their wheelchairs at the Seattle Home
for the Aged never wanted to be aged
in Seattle. Never wanted to be always
together, last of the sisters
and nobody left to blame.

They behave like ex-lovers, bitter
but civil when they meet in a room
full of old friends who know better.
They are not certain who we are
or why they have to go
with us to America.

Marion is strapped to her chair
and plucks at the binding around her waist.
Fan begs to to stop. Little bird bones,
they are so brittle, shrunk back almost
to what they were in the beginning.
The trunks are already in the cart.

We are trying to make them smile.
We put small squares of chocolate
between their fingers and swallow hard.
They drink the sweet milk of reproach
and the sour milk of gratitude.
It runs down their chins.

Their eyes are wide open, looking
at someone behind the mirror.
He clicks his heels. He is Polish,
with a riding crop. He's at the station
where they left him in 1912,
waiting to kiss their hands.

I wrote this piece last week, thinking about the future and about how the future becomes harder and harder to believe in as you grow older.

everything that will be must be

just a few months
shy of 65,
i think often of time
and the nature of its passing -

thinking of that again today
led me to realize
that for the first time in my life
the future
is dark to me

always been able
to look ahead five years, ten years even
that i understood where i was going
and what i needed to do
to get there

so this is new,
this blindness,
this knowing
that everything that will be
must be
very different from what i know today

with luck
the path ahead will be a long one,
but it could also be a path
measured in inches
not miles,
like the famous journalist
who died this week,
planning lunch
one minute,
the next

a wickedly twisted
this winding down is;
getting it right
the hardest
we'll ever do

Dana Gioia, born in 1950, retired early from his career as a corporate executive at General Foods to write full time. Since January 29, 2003, he has been chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, the United States government's arts agency, where he sought to encourage jazz, which he calls the only uniquely American form of art, promote reading and performance of William Shakespeare,, and increase the number of Americans reading literature.

Gioia was born in California, son of a Sicilian immigrant and a native born Californian of Mexican descent and grew up amid a richness of languages, including English, Italian, Spanish, and the Latin of the Catholic church.

He received his B.A. from Stanford University in 1973, an M.A. from Harvard University in 1975, and an M.B.A. from Stanford Business School in 1977. After college, he joined General Foods Corporation and served as vice-president of marketing from 1977 to 1992.

Although he didn't quit General Foods to write full-time until 1992, he was writing and producing several books of poetry even as he worked in the corporate culture, winning the Frederick Bock Award for poetry in 1986, and his 1991 poetry collection The Gods of Winter won the 1992 Poets' Prize.

From 1971 to 1973, Gioia was editor of Sequoia Magazine and then its poetry editor from 1975 to 1977. From 1977 to 1979, he was literary editor of Inquiry Magazine and served as its poetry editor from 1979 to 1983.

The poem I selected for this week is from The God of Winter.

Veterans' Cemetery

The ceremonies of the day have ceased,
Abandoned to the ragged crow's parade.
The flags unravel in the caterpillar's feast.
The wreaths collapse onto the stones they shade.

How quietly droves gather by the gate
Like souls who have no heaven and no hell.
The patient grass reclaims its lost estate
Where one stone angel stands as sentinel.

The voices whispering in the burning leaves,
Faint and inhuman, what can they desire
When every season feeds upon the past,
And summer's green ignites the autumn's fire?

The afternoon's single thread of light
Sewn through the tatters of a leafless willow,
As one by one the branches fade from sight,
And time curls up like paper turning yellow.

Next, I have two short poems from Joanna M. Weston M.A.

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

City Goodbye

a forgotten smile
red-lipped on the gyroscope of time
spinning on revved feet
between gas-station pumps

I'm wordless on tarmac
amidst the rush of traffic
watching you catch a bus
beyond honking taxis

then you're lost to sight
under the old year's
last ravaged day

Those Far Away.....

I walk down the driveway
head back to catch stars in my mouth
listening for the clash of planets
the stride of Greek gods
hearing only hushed fabric
gravel tumbling underfoot
and "goodbye" whispered
on the curve of the road

I wrote the first version of this poem nearly 40 years ago, I never could get it right to my satisfaction, so set it away. Eventually, when I returned to writing nine years ago, it was one of my old derelicts I pulled out and began to work on again. I ended up with this version in 2001, which I expect will be its final incarnation.

dreams of flight

birds fly up
from wet fields
in helter-skelter formations

and then away
with the certitude
of a thousand migrations
that have left behind this dismal place
to follow the sun to warmer days and nights

would that we could so easily leave behind
the cold disregard that freezes us in place
that there were sunnier latitudes
for us to find

that there were other lands
where wait such warmth
as when our love was fresh-born

that we were such as these who never know
the pain of winters unrelenting

My next poem is by Charles Bukowski, not from one of the many collections of his work that have sprung up since his death, but from the 1994 issue of The Best American Poetry anthology. The poem first appeared in the journal Urbanus.

But, Bukowski is Bukowski, wherever you find him.

me against the world

when I was a kid
one of the questions asked was,
would you rather eat a bucket of shit
or drink a bucket of piss?
I thought that was easy.
"that's easy," I said, "I'll take the
"maybe we'll make you do both,"
they told me.
I was the new kid in the
"oh yeah," I said.
"yeah!" they said.
there were 4 of them.
"yeah," I said, "you and whose
"we don't need no army," the
biggest one said.
I slammed my fist into his
then all 5 of us were down on
the ground fighting.
they got in each other's way
but there were still too many
of them.
I broke free and started
"sissy! sissy!" they yelled
"going home to mama?"
I kept running
they were right.
I ran all the way to my house,
up the driveway and onto the
porch and into the
where my father was beating
up my mother.
she was screaming.
things were broken on the floor.
I charged my father and started swinging.
I reached up but he was too tall,
all I could hit were his
then there was a flash of red and
purple and green
and I was on the floor.
"you little prick!" my father said.
"you stay out of this!"
"don't you hit my boy!" my mother
but I felt good because my father was no longer hitting my
to make sure, I got up and charged
him again, swinging.
there was another flash of colors
and I was on the floor
when I got up again
my father was sitting in one chair
and my mother was sitting in
another chair
and they both just sat there
looking at me.
I walked down the hall and into
my bedroom and sat on the
I listened to make sure there
weren't any more sounds of
beating and screaming
out there.
there weren't.
then I didn't know what to
it wasn't any good outside
and it wasn't any good
so I just sat there.
then I saw a spider making a web
across a window.
I found a match, walked over,
lit it and burned the spider to
then I felt better.
much better.

Now we have a piece from our webpoet friend Jim Comer.

A Question for the Shaman

In the Valley of the Sun
I snooze before the blast
of orange sheds its particles
over the eastern sky. I eavesdrop
the count of crashes
on freeways and streets.

Fatalities are announced
in a throwaway style;
casualties never mentioned
are lost somewhere in cyber
files or on a tablet with rings
on the top

to be flipped over
as the morning slips into noon.
My Miata makes its way
over loop 202 to Old Sixty
then west to Country Club
as sweat fills my palms

and deep breaths fog
the windshield. Is it age
that increases one's fear
to take the next step
or is it wisdom sending
a presage of reckoning?

My next poem is by Gilbert Sorrentino from the collection of his work Selected Poems, 1958-1980.

Sorrentino was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1929. In 1956, he founded the literary magazine Neon with friends from Brooklyn College. He edited Neon from 1956 to 1960, then served as editor for Kulchur from 1961 to 1963. After working closely with Hubert Selby, Jr on the manuscript of Last Exit to Brooklyn, Sorrentino became an editor at Grove Press from 1965 to 1970, where one of his editorial projects was The Autobiography of Malcolm X. His own writing included poetry, novels, and short stories.

He eventually took up positions at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University, the University of Scranton and the New School for Social Research in New York before being hired as a professor of English at Stanford University, where he served from 1982 to 1999.

Sorrentino died in 2006.

The piece present below includes parts three and four of a four-part piece too long to include here in full.

The Meeting


He said he could give up everything
except he could not give up anything
when the test was made of him. He
is a quiet man, I used to mistake

that for strength
when I was younger..
I mistook it for solidity
and thought all stronger

men were silent. I have always
talked too much, and hated
it in myself. But what is speech
but the release of strength

that threatens to destroy us?
What is speech but
the incantation that can make
men out of mud and mountains

out of slime and nothingness?
"Still waters run deep," is a lie,
bring me the talkers, the windbags,
confessors and liars, the

men who talk all night and all day
who do nothing but talk, who
won't stop even when they have no more
to say, silence

is no more than the lid
of the garbagecan.


I touched you, it was as it
I had never touched anything. you

were water, there was a smell of water
in your hair, your hands
were quick and nervous

fragile to hold and there was water
on them

I want to shatter the winds
that prey on us I reach

through years for your hand.

One last poem from me to end the week. I'm out busting rocks again and not liking it.

rock on

rocks again -

a clash of crows
on the neighbor's

chain link fence
cackle at me,


a dozen speed

at the bottom
of a well

i ignore them
afraid they might know something

i don't -

waiting today
for the AC man

and a plumber
more money spent

close to spending more

then we'll ever recover,
but i don't care

i just want to
get rid of the place

before it kills me -

time to return

to the rock farm -

the two buzzards
that circle overhead

every time i abandon
my shade tree

are not reassuring

Time to cross on over.

Until next week, remember, all of the material included in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

at 2:51 PM Blogger Alice Folkart said...

All wonderful, Allen - I'd have to list everything to tell you what I liked best, although I was very glad to make the acquaintance of James Galvin - he had a line that made my day, a paraphrase of Heraclitus: You can't step in front of the same bus twice. See? Truth marches on.

And, I liked the power-plant photo - McManes' Total Absolution - the whole thing full of wonderful images.

Photography wonderful, moving, interesting - what is that last one, the red bridge or raised walkway - over a swamp? Fascinating.

Thanks for using my work, and making a place for all of us to shine.

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Fish Are Jumpin' And The Beer's Ice Cold   Friday, June 13, 2008


Continuing the practice begun last issue, here's the rundown on what I have for you to read this week.

First, from my library, I have:

California poet Diane Wakoski
Another California poet, Joshua Clover
Ancient Tamil poet Ammuvanar
The ever so fun E. E. Cummings
From Ohio 30 years ago, George Peffer
Chicago poet Campbell McGrath
World traveler Blaise Cendrars
Cowboy poet Kay Keller
Poet J.B. White
Poet, Editor & Professor Richard Howard
No further introduction necessary, Robert Penn Warren
Courtesy of the Knowville Writer's Guild, Edward Francisco

Also I have my webpoet-friends:

From the Bronx, Brenda Morisse
From Maine & Arizona, Susan B. McDonough
From Internet Land, Shawn Nocona Stroud
From the Peaceful Pub poetry forum, Sara Zang
From the coast of Western Australia, Laurel Lamperd

And some from me, both old and new.

Diane Wakoski was born in Whittier, California in 1937 and educated at the University of California, Berkeley. My first poem this week is from Wakoski's collection,Emerald Ice, Selected Poems 1962-1987,published in 1996 by Black Sparrow Press of Santa Rosa, California. It was her twentieth full-length collection of poetry. She has also published numerous shorter collections.

She is Writer in Residence at Michigan State University.

Placing a $2 Bet for a Man who Will Never Go
to the Races Any More

There is some beauty in sorrow
and the sorrowing,
perhaps not beauty
perhaps dignity
would be a better word
which communicates
beyond just what the body dictates
It is nothing that lasts.
It quickly turns into gloom, hate, resentment,
a burdening apathy
sometimes severity towards others;
but like a scarlet bird
from the tropics
suddenly seen flying in a New York City park,
so unexpected
so unexplainable,
different from its surroundings.

the poor man's race track,
in Tijuana, Mexico,
where I met my real father,
an old retired sailor,
after 14 years separation
and learned that the real pleasures of gambling
are knowing how
to lose.

Old man,
I place a bet for you
now that you're dead
and I am still living.
It is on a horse called "The Man I Love."
Gamblers are sentimental
so you will forgive me
living now
and giving away my love.
Win or lose
you played the races every day.
A certain spirit
I hope
you've passed on to me.

c. 1971

This is another one of my coffee shop observationals.

attending to his lessons

he talks
like his teeth
are too big for his mouth,
like his teeth
crowd his tongue
when he talks
making for a carefully
i can't place

he's about my age,
maybe a little older,
like late sixties,
with a younger woman
and he can't sit still -
his head nodding,
his arms and hands waving,
his shoulders lifting front then back,
his legs and his feet fidgeting in his flipflops,
his toes flexing

he is being tutored
in Spanish
by the young woman
and he's trying very hard,
but his thick tongue
falls like a lead weight
on the delicate, filigree
of the lithe and darting language

he is a mystery

is it the music of Spanish
that draws him,
the music that he seems incapable
of reproducing,
or the chance to spend two evenings a week
with a young woman
who listens
to his every word

either way,
i admire him for the effort

Photo by Chris Itz

My new book for the week is Poems, Madonna anno domini by Joshua Clover.

Clover, born in 1962 in Berkeley, California, is a poet, critic, journalist and author. He has appeared in three editions of Best American Poetry, is a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, and recipient of an individual grant from the NEA. Madonna anno domini, published by the Louisiana State University Press in 1997, was his first book of poetry. it received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. He has published two additional collections since.

A graduate of Boston University and the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Clover is an Associate Professor of English Literature and Critical Theory at the University of California, Davis, and was the distinguished Holloway poet-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley in 1999-2000.

Under the pseudonym "Jane Dark", Clover has also written a number of film and music reviews for The Village Voice.

Radiant City

First it was one thing then it was
one thing after another. We
tend to think of fused flowers

as igniting outward from a
central place as in sex as in
Haussmann's Radiant City. I

saw it live on TV,
From overhead it's possible
to speak of the whole thing. First day

of the riots but before that
I was near home when S - this is
just a personal incident -

passed by in an old red shirt. They
weren't letting people out of
the stations as of the early

rumors of lootings. This after
Eastern Europe. Buildings burning
to the south as in parables

as in what punk rock promised. I
found this exciting. "He was
in control of the whole thing."

The word is S doesn't do men
anyway. A few shopping bags
came into the City via

the last trains before the curfew.
We saw the 81 seconds
on TV maybe a thousand

times. Enough house-burning for night
visions in Los Angeles but
still the helicopters busy

not really looking just humming
overhead. A car rocked side
to side as in a carnival

ride then rolled it ignited in
and excellent carnival ride. No
clear argument - the whole thing was

interruption. She was naked
the onetime we met she was in
a friend's bed to be delicate

in a state of somedeshabille.
Radiant as for example
1700 infrared

poppies blooming in the over-
head footage of south central. The
second night of riots. As in

Berlin years back - we have all seen
this footage - when the Wall came down
the main thing was chocolate also

blue jeans. "He kept trying to get
back up." We would not be allowed
to leave the station the police would

put us right back on the train. We
would not be allowed to leave...the
stations lacquered sanitary

eggshell tones. Architecture as in
a floral pattern of faint veins
radiating from her pubic

cup across her hips & down her
thighs. We like to think we would get
on our knees only for love. An

older woman beating her purse
into the City 60 feet
below the broken glass bolted

across the platform from our
train to the opposite track. Hours
passed after S until I loved

the looters. In homes we watched
the ether as in shopkeepers
shooting into a crowd. To the

opposite track - hours where the
walled city of I wanted
was hidden by the bright city

of had need as in being blown
away from that place in fractures
of reflective rubble. I had

planned to practiced the compliance
position with my hands on my
head not trying to rise but was

interrupted - as in fantasies
of S in riot gear. This was
the poppy vision. I admit

I found the whole thing exciting.
We have all seen this footage.

My next poem is by Brenda Morisse.

Brenda lives in the Bronx. Although this is the first time she's appeared in "Here and Now," Brenda has featured at numerous poetry venues in New York City.

don't spit on the spit until the pig roast is over

For the family reunion at the old house upstate, I had just gotten my period and was grudgingly mature at nine, so I lied and said the blood on the towel wasn't mine. Aunt Lily turned white and thought it was Linda's blood even more shocking because Linda was only six. Well, the catastrophe was cleared up when mamita whispered to her sister. The knowing look blushed on my cheeks. I wasn't a vegetarian yet but roly-poly piggy spiked on a spit biting an apple seemed no more bizarre than the hula theme of the get-together. I didn't know they had apple orchards in Hawaii. All my girl cousins were costumed in green plastic hula skirts. I alreaady had mine from the church play when I starred as Loki. Mamita threatened to pull the plug if I didn't keep my grades up. When I realized I had to kiss the boy and taste his spit after we sang the finale, I begged to drop out. But my mother wouldn't hear of it. She just wanted to nag and yell, and be a cop on Hawaii Five 0. Practice! Do your homework! Memorize your lines! Where's your homework?. Third grade was cursed and, now, to top it off, Shake a leg. We're going to a luau!.

For my next poem I'm going back that massive volume of poems (1,238 pages, not counting notes), World Poetry, An Anthology of Verse From Antiquity to Our Time, for a poem from the Tamil people of nearly two thousand years ago.
Tamils are from the Indian subcontinent with a recorded history going back more than two millennia. The oldest Tamil communities are those of southern India and northeastern Sri Lanka. There are also a number of Tamil emigrant communities scattered around the world, especially in central Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, Pakistan and Mauritius with more recent emigrants found in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, and Europe. There are an estimated 77 million Tamils around the world.

The art and architecture of the Tamil people includes some of India's greatest contributions to the art world. The music, the temple architecture and the stylized sculptures favored by the Tamil people are still being learned and practiced. The classical language of Tamil, one of the oldest languages in India, has the oldest literature still in existence among other Dravidian languages.

Unlike many ethnic groups, Tamils were not governed by a single political entity during most of their history; Tamilakam, the traditional name for the Tamil lands, was politically united for only a brief period, between the 9th and 12th centuries.

The poem I've chosen is by Ammuvanar, a Tamil poet from 50-300 AD. From the little I've been able to learn of him, it appears he is somewhat known for his erotic poetry. The translation is by George L. Hart III.

These ancient poems fascinate me for the way they let us into times so far from out own, yet so like our own in all the most important ways.

They Shout Out The Price of Salt

They shout out the price of salt harvested from salt flats:
they travel for distance on dusty roads
as they go in their caravans over long trails
carrying thick staffs.
The life of these salt merchants seem a good one to me.
Her curly hair tossing,
the dress of shoots she wears to ornament her wide, soft loins
swaying with each step,
"People of the town! Salt is cheap as paddy!
Will you buy some?"
"Listen, you with your belly curved and arms supple as bamboo,
you did not tell us the price of the salt of your body,"
I said, standing a little away.
Her anger showing in her large, red-lined eyes blackened with collyrium,
she said, "You, over there, who are you?"
And innocent,
very lovely,
she moved off a little,
her few rows of whit bangles flashing,
taking my heart with her.

I was looking through some of my old stuff to use this week, since it seems my new stuff has begun to bore even me, not a good sign.

This old one might be just as bad, but at least I haven’t read it in a while.

a poem about Sacagawea, sorta

i'm a good guy,
i said,
but not that good.

after I dropped
one of those new, gold
dollar coins into the tip jar.

can i reach in and take
that dollar back? i asked,
i thought it was a quarter.

with a long sigh that sounded like

the girl at the counter said,
i'll get it,

and reached her hand into the jar and
jangled coins around, sounding like
the holdup alarm at the PR Puffnsnort
even-it-they- were-good-for-something shop,

until she finally found the coin,
pulled it out, looked at ever so closely,
studying it like she was going to have
to describe it when the swat team
came busting trough the door, then

here it is, she said as she handed
it to me, have a nice day (dimwit)

the last part she didn't say out loud,
but i heard her anyway.

you too, chickie,

is what I thought, but what i said was
thanks, you have a real good day, too,

and took my coffee to my table, sat
down, pulled out my notebook and
faced the great white, blank space
in my mind that always starts and
sometimes ends my daily poem.

Now, here's E. E. Cummings from his collection is 5 a little family history.


nobody loses all the time

i had an uncle named
Sol who was a born failure and
nearly everybody said he should have gone
into vaudeville perhaps because my Uncle So could
sing McCann He Was A Diver on Xmas Eve like Hell Itself which
may or not account for the fact that my Uncle

Sol indulged in that possibly most inexcusable
of all to use a highfalootin phrase
luxuries that is or to
wit farming and be
it needlessly

my Uncle Sol's farm
failed because the chickens
ate the vegetables so
my Uncle Sol had a
chicken farm till the
skunks ate the chickens when

my Uncle Sol
had a skunk farm but
the skunks caught cold and
died and so
my Uncle Sol imitated the
skunks in a subtle manner

or by drowning himself in the watertank
but somebody who'd given my Uncle Sol a Victor
Victrola and records while he lived presented to
him upon the auspicious occasion of his decease a
scrumptious not to mention splendiferous funeral with
tall boys in black gloves and flowers and everything and
I remember we all cried like the Missouri
when my Uncle Sol's coffin lurched because
somebody pressed a button
and down went
my Uncle

and started a worm farm)

Susan B. McDonough hasn't been with us for a while, but here she is now with a new piece.

Susan creates gardens for a living and enjoys the journey of transplanting words into poetry. She lives a near bi-coastal life, one foot in the Arizona desert and the other on the rocky coast of Maine, two places that seem to me as different as any two places could be. The idea of living in two such different places appeals very much to me.

Her poems can be found both on-line and in print.

June 1, Ogunquit

I feel the sun
on my skin it
is not quite
eight a.m.
The beach,
it wants me.
It has sent me
an invitation with
a slight shift
of a sea breeze.
I'll take my sister
with me, but only
in my thoughts.
She'd like that.

This next piece is from Orphan Trees, a book of poetry by "two young Ohio poets," George Peffer and Terry Murcko. The book was published by Pig Iron Press Poetry in 1980.

The poems I'm using are by Peffer. I googled him, hoping to find out what happened since these early poems were published 28 years ago but did not find any references I could be sure referred to him.

Ennui Poem

Once I had choice
Mercy totally abandoned
My restlessness is all that's left:
Purgatories souls inhabit me
With interminable lease.
I'm pushed about on elegant sticks -
I'm the gorilla's fat heart
Or in mud a noble trend:
We inherit our euphemisms -
Bored or Drunk.


These walls are painted the rumor
Of blue. I can't get out of bed.
I can't catalogue my old inertias or the new,
I pay homage through and sleep instead.

Ennui Phobias

Afraid to leave the house.
Afraid it'll burn down,
I check all the ashtrays
Twice. This year it's fire.
Last year it was water,
Or cars, or nuclear war,
Or women. All disasters
Are eventually personal -
The world is a transplanted
Heart that either takes
Or doesn't.

Ennui 2

All morning at metaphysical
Calisthenics flat on my back
I dispatch my aura to the existential
Camp, but it's empty
Everyone is out walking their options,
Washing & waxing their portfolios
Or having polite brunch with capitalism -
In ennui everything is literal:
A life of compounding ironies
Is taking its toll. We stay down
Spread eagle and summon

Assassinating angels.

Here's a piece I wrote last week.

the time of our lives

still pushing
even though
i don't have to

i tried to slow
down today

even took a nap
this afternoon,
hard for me to do

always on my mind
the things i want to do

poems to write,
a book to finish,
flower beds full

of weeds
even drought
cannot kill

and i want
to keep myself
from falling into

the trap
of believing
i have lots of time

that's not true,
none of us have lots

of time -
the time we have
is the time we have

and whether
it is measured
in days or years

i am
loath to
to sleep through

any of it,
in the end

no one
is through with living
before their life

is finished, knowing
in the end
we will all come up


Campbell McGrath, born in 1962, is the author of six full-length collections of poetry, including his most recent, Pax Atomica. I have chosen a poem from one of his earlier books, Florida Poems published by HarperCollins in 2002.

McGrath was born in Chicago, and grew up in Washington, D.C., where he attended Sidwell Friends School. He received his B.A. from the University of Chicago in 1984 and his MFA from Columbia University's creative writing program in 1988. He currently lives in Miami, Florida, and teaches creative writing at Florida International University.

McGrath has received numerous American poetry awards, including the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Academy of American Poets Prize, a Ploughshares Cohen Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Witter-Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, and a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award."

This poem interests me for many reasons, one being I grew in south Texas only a tiny bit further north latitude than Miami in a physical environment very much like the one described in the poem, including especially the weather and the semitropical flora.

Late February, Miami Beach

All morning the woodpecker drills holes in the oranges
left to rot upon the highest limbs;
barbarous jays gather twigs to build a nest
in the barren live oak,
in the wishbone branches of the royal poinciana,
in the pollen-spiked sponge of a blossoming mango tree.

Already the days bear within them the seed
of what is to come - flowers
born at dawn to perish in the furnace of mid-afternoon.

Thus the gardenia hoards its fragrance for nightfall.
Thus jasmine husbands it pearls until dusk.

After dinner I see the face of my father
looking back at me from the kitchen window,
secretive, aquiline, ferreting out one chocolate cookie,
one swig of milk from the carton as the baby is put to bed,
this small hunger nurtured like an orchid,
indulged precisely, in a prism of refractive solitude.

Beyond the grass the moon in its reflected glory
shepherds clouds off the Atlantic on a trade wind
scented by blossoms of excruciating beauty.

Next up, a poem by Shawn Nacona Stroud

Shawn's poetry has appeared in the Crescent Moon Journal, Mississippi Crow Magazine, Loch Raven Review, The Poetry Worm, and, of course, Here and Now. His work has also appeared in the poetry anthologies Poetry Pages Volume IV and Poetry From The Darkside Volume 2 and was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for 2008.

Here's his poem.

Hardcastle Crags

(For Sylvia Plath)

Heptonstall chalks soot -
blackened stone cottages on the Hebden river
as he passes, sidewalk art
on a sheen of rain sopped black top -
people, factory stacks, and the cobbled bridge
bleeds to a smear

along the bankside; only boat bobs
betray a current. Passersby do not scuttle
from his path, he wipes fury blank as an eraser
swiped slate on his face, screeches
the proper details onto the board,
mimics each smile and nod,

weaving past them along the bridleway. Stamping
sparks like a steel U shoe, his anger
blends with the herd's tread:
heel rapped echoes dwindle at his back -
a vessel of sound sails a seethe of green moor
and is lost on a sea

of heath and peat bogs. He hears
nothing of their demise. Ahead crowds thin,
odors of earth rise. Millstone crags

peek out from the tree tops,
stacked as the bracken fungus
that clings to those sycamores and oaks. Moss slicks

rocks that clutter the riven world, veils
stone features like her skin envelops him.
She battles to conquer her flesh again, watches
approaching grasses quill air in the distance, moiling
their defensive greens through a break in the trees.
Walking out of the woodland

at Walshaw. Stoodley Pike looms
on a distant moor as she snaps
into her human husk, emerges
from the leaf-strained gloom.
Her body is his cocoon;
he'll rip free once it's used.

Frederic Louis Sauser, better known as Blaise Cendrars, was born in Switzerland in 1887 and died in Paris in 1961. Beginning when he was 15 years old and for the rest of his life, he was a world traveler, visiting places such as China, Mongolia, Siberia, Persia, the Caucasus, Russia and and the Americas, all becoming gist for his writings. Beginning in 1916 when he was naturalized French, Paris was his base.

After first moving to Paris in 1910, Cendrars met the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, mutually influencing each other's work. His writing career was interrupted by World War I when he fought in the French Foreign Legion on the front lines in Europe. During the bloody attacks in Champagne in September of 1915, he lost his right arm and was discharged from the army.

Returning to Paris where he became an important part of the era of artistic creativity going on in Montparnasse at the time. He was friends with Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller plus many of the writers, painters, and sculptors living in Paris.

After the war, he became involved in the movie industry in Italy, France, and the United States. Needing to generate sufficient income, after 1925 he stopped publishing poetry and focused on novels or short stories.

In 1961, he was awarded the Paris Grand Prix for literature. He died in Paris later that year.

Cendrars is another poet I had never heard of before beginning to look for material for "Here and Now." Since my first reading of him, he has been one of my favorites. I especially admire the little travel poems he did for their freshness and the way they bring us into the moment he is describing. Reading Cendrars on his travel is like being there with him, the best of traveling companions.

The poem I'm using today is more serious, but still in a sense, a travel poem as he visits his past. It is one of a series of fragments from "To the Heart of the World'" included in the book Blaise Cendrars, Complete Poems published by the University of California Press in 1992.

The translation is by Ron Padgett.

Suddenly the sirens wail and I run to my window.
Already the cannons are thundering over toward Aubervilliers.
The sky is starred with Jerry planes, shells, crisscrosses, rockets,
Cries, whistles, and meismas that melt and moan beneath the bridges.

The Seine is darker than an abyss, with its heavy barges that are
Long like the coffins of the tall Merovingian kings
Bedizened with stars that drown - in the depths - in the depths.
I turn and blow out the lamp and light a big cigar.

The people running for it in the street, thundering, still half-asleep
Will take refuge in the basement of police headquarters that smells like
   powder and saltpeter.
The police commissioner's purple car meets the firechief's red car,
Magical and supple, wild caressing, tigresses like shooting stars.

The sirens miaow and fall silent. The shindig is going full blast. Up
   there. It's insane.
At bay. Cracking and heavy silence. Then a shrill falling and dull
   vehemence of the bombs.
The crashing down of millions of tons. Flashes. Fire. Smoke. Flame.
Accordion of the 75s. Fits. Cries. Fall. Stridencies. Coughing.
   Collapses and cave-ins.

The sky is jumping with imperceptible winking
Pupils, multicolored streaks, that cut, that divide, that revive the
   melodious propellers.
A searchlight suddenly hits the billboard of Baby Cadum
Then leaps into the sky and bores a milky hole in it like a baby bottle.

I get my hat and now I go down into the dark streets.
Here are the portly old houses that lean against each other like old men,
The chimneys and weathervanes all point to the sky with their fingers.
I walk up the rue Saint-Jacques, shoulders jammed into my pockets.

Here's the Sorbonne and its tower, the church, the Lycee Louis-le-
A little further up I go in and ask a butcher for a light.
I light up a new cigar and we exchange a smile.
He has a nice tattoo, a name, a rose, and a heart with a dagger through it.

It's a name I know well: it's my mother's.
I rush out into the street. I'm facing the building.
Stabbed heart - first point of impact -
And more beautiful than your naked torso, handsome butcher -
The building where I was born.

This is an old piece I wrote in 2002. It appeared in that same year in Retrozine, one of several little journals from Cayuse Press that I still miss.

by the light of the silvery moon

i can see it clearly in the cloudless night,
the dark areas of its seas visible,
not dried seabed, as we thought, but scars
from the early days when it and our own earth
were freshly born, fragile in the beginning,
when debris from creation's chaos
fell through airless skies, punched through
the crust of lunar surface, released ts molten core
to blow black in the reflected light of the sun,
our sun, old in the scale of its captive off-spring,
but still young in the cycle of its own kind,
the cycle of stars that light the night
into our own time, as even into our own time
the black scars remain, reminders of the time
when fire ruled all and all of time and space
bubbled in the furnace of conception

and as this bright survivor rises, i think of the night
nearly forty years ago when Cronkite and Schirra
wept for us all to see, when our finite realm
stretched to include on small piece of that battered
surface, the surface where we stirred dust
undisturbed since the turmoil that spread it,
that surface where we left footprints to outlast
all our grandest ambitions, footprints to say,
past even our own slow but certain slide
to extinction, we were, and while we were,
we were here, and i think of my youth, watching
the first Russian satellite pass overhead, a new moon,
man-made sister to the old, the tiny moving dot of it
reflecting sunlight from the other side of the world
right back to us, lying on our backs in a South Texas field,
and beyond that tiny moving light, as always, the moon,
lantern to our night, beacon to our dreams for as long
as we have been able to lift our heads and wonder

we were so naive then, believing we had reached
beyond our shallow natures, believing all was possible,
believing with Armstrong that one small step
could finally release the better angels of our kind,
better angels imprisoned so long by our history,
subjugated by the brutal demands of survival

but the wars went on and hate and cruelty one to the other
went on and we grew old and tired of believing, except
for nights like this when the great lantern shines over us
undiminished and we remember when the universe seemed
spread before us, waiting for us to recognize our destiny, our
place among the great league of far-travelers that surround us

then, for a while we remember and believe again

Cowboy poetry doesn't get a lot of respect from the "serious" folk, which is one of its attractions to me. It can be read just for the fun of it's lines and language, without any obligation to waste a lot of time on "deep-think."

The next poem is from an anthology of cowboy poetry, New Cowboy Poetry, A Contemporary Gathering published by Gibbs-Smith Publisher in 1990.

The poet is Kay Kelley who first came into contact with cowboy poetry by way of her first husband's poetry writing about the experiences of a horse trainer and cowboy in the Southwest. After is death, Kelley took up the subject in her own writing.

She remarried in 2007 to the manager of a ranch south of Alpine, Texas, where she helps her husband with his own registered Gelbvieh and commercial herds. She is is said to be easing out of the horse business but keeps some good ones around to play with.

Playing With Foxy's Nose

I have a bay cutting filly
That can sure scowl at a cow.
You'd be impressed by her classy moves
if you saw her sweep and bow.
But when we're not working cattle,
Where she has to be quick on her toes,
A quiet pleasure we both enjoy
Is playing with Foxy's nose.

As I stroke her fluttering nostrils
And our breaths we do exchange,
She smells of sweet alfalfa
And the grasses of the range.
And looking up into big, brown eyes,
Her concentration shows
Just how intent she is on our game,
While I'm playing with Foxy's nose.

Her strip flows down along her face
And puddles in a snip.
As I hold her velvet muzzle,
She never tries to nip.
So we share these peaceful moments,
While my filly snorts and blows.
Each breathing in contentment,
While we're playing with Foxy's nose.

Here's a nice piece from Sara Zang, administrator of "The Peaceful Pub" poetry forum.

Welcome back, Sara. Haven't seen you in a while.

we can be

We can be the tulip reborn in Spring,
That cold brown bulb,
nurturing through winter
the warmth around its roots,
that tiny spark
hidden beneath the rot
of dusky leaves from seasons past,
the single greening spike
that spurs its way through February's ice
to taste the gentler promises of Spring,
free from fear of March's fickle wind.

We can be
 the first loden leaf budding,
the straight, strong stem,
the pistil and the stamen,
We can be the satin petals blooming.
Let's look to April,
raise our voice and sing,
we can be most anything,
We can be the tulip reborn in Spring.

My next piece if from the October, 2007 issue of Poetry.

The poet is J.P. White, who has published three books of poetry, In Pursuit of Wings in 1978, The Pomegranate Tree Speaks from the Dictator's Garden in 1988 and The Salt Hour in 2001.

Southern Comfort

Three turkey vultures talk shop on a sand dune.
A slow scorch inches toward the tideline.
No one knows if the hurricane will come in time
to drown the flames leaping out of the swamp.

The ancients believe the oceans remember
the shape of every hull that plies the waters.
I feel that too, sitting with you, some powers
in us may not die even after our life

slips through its wake. How else to explain
the comfort of watching you half asleep,
half drifting between this life and the deep -
your body a lens through which I see

all the boats between us, lost forever -
lost except in the ocean of memory
which is everywhere looking in the lee
for where we've gone. No one knows,

what happens after the body lays down
its sorrows, not even those three vultures,
more patient than priests hunched at the altar,
each red head glistening like a peach.

I wonder if anyone else remembers the "Thin Man" movie series. Well, this is a poem about a thin woman, having nothing at all to do with the "Thin Man."


the thin lady

the incredibly
sits a c r o s s
the room
and a
does the
thin lady
stay so
just plain
if it wasn't for her big fat feet and oversized tennies
lord a'mighty

Here's a funny piece by Richard Howard from his book Trappings, New Poems published by Turtle Point Press in 1999.

Born in Cleveland in 1929, Howard studied at Columbia University and the
Sorbonne. After working for several years as a lexicographer, he became a translator of French and published over 150 translations. In 1983 he received the American Book Award for his translation of Baudelaire's
fleurs du mal

Even as he translated he continued his own original writing and, in 1970, received a Pulitzer Prize for his third book of poems, Untitled Subjects and later received the Academy of Arts and Letters Award for his various books of poetry.

He was a longtime poetry editor of The Paris Review and is currently poetry editor of The Western Humanities Review. A former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, he is Professor of Practice in the writing program at Columbia's School of the Arts.

It seems to me he must have been having some fun with this one.


The text of Bach's St. John Passion, performed tonight unabridged,
is largely derived from the Gospels, portions of which are alleged
(by some) to be antisemitic. Such passages may well disclose
historical attitudes fastened (by Bach himself) to the Jews,
but must not be taken as having (for that very reason) expressed
convictions or even opinions of the Management or the cast.


The Rape of the Sabine Women, which the artist painted in Rome,
articulates Ruben's treatment of a favorite classical theme.
Proud as we are to display this example of Flemish finesse,
the policy of the Museum is not to be taken amiss:
we oppose all forms of harassment, and just because we have
this canvas in no way endorses the actions committed there in


Ensconced in the Upper Rotunda alongside a fossil musk-ox,
the giant Tyrannosaurus (which the public has nicknamed "Rex"),
though shown in the act of devouring its still-living prey implies
no favor by the public officials to zoophagous public displays
carnivorous Life-Styles are clearly inappropriate to a State
which has already outlawed tobacco and may soon prohibit meat.

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

With this poem, Laurel introduces me to a new use for jellyfish. I don't think I can claim at this point that I am convinced.


There's millions out there
in warm coastal waters
propelled by the currents
   into bays and rivers
     annoying hapless swimmers
with their stings.

Boys had jelly fish fights
tossing them like hand grenades.
Diving under
   coming up
     to begin another attack.

Girls squealed
when touching one.
They stood
The genders were clearly defined then.

We're eating Medusae now
packed in bags.
used in favourite Asian dishes.

Next, we'll check in with one of the masters, remembered more as a novelist than a poet.

Robert Penn Warren was born in Kentucky in 1905. After graduating summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1925, he received a master's degree from the University of California in 1927 and did graduate work at Yale University and at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1930.

Warren published many books, including ten novels, fourteen volumes of poetry, a volume of short stories, a play, a collection of critical essays, a biography, three historical essays, a critical book on Drieser, a study of Melville and two studies of race relations in America. All of this work was published over a period of 51 years during which he maintained an active career as a professor of English.

His best known work is All the Kings Men, published in 1946 and for which he won the first of his several Pulitzer Prizes. I so enjoyed this book when I read it while I was in High School and later when I saw the first movie version that I purposefully avoided seeing the lastest version for fear of what it would do to all my memories of the pleasure the book brought me. This book and the book The Last Hurrah by, I think, O'Hara, are the definitive political books for me.

Warren died in 1989.

The poem I have for this issue is from his collection Rumor Verified, Poems 1979-1980.

Summer Rain in Mountains

A dark curtain of rain sweeps slowly over the sunlit mountain.
It moves with steady dignity, like the curtain over the
Great window of a stately drawing room, or across a proscenium.

The edge of the drawn curtain of rain is decisive
Like a knife-edge. Soon it will slice the reddening sun across
   with delicate
Precision. On the yet sunlit half of the mountain miles of
   massed trees,

Glittering in green as they forever climb toward gray ledges,
Renounce their ambition, they shudder and twist, and
The undersides of leaves are grayly exposed to crave mercy.

The sun disappears. Chairs are withdrawn from the sun-deck.
A whisper is moving through the wide air. The whole event
Is reminding you of something. Your breathing becomes
   irregular, and

Your pulse flutters. Conversation dies. In silence, you piquantly
Spy on faces that were once familiar. They seem
To huddle together. One has a false face. What,

In God's name, are you trying to remember? Is it
Grief, loss of love long back, loss of confidence in your mission? Or
A guilt you can't face? Or a nameless apprehension

That dog like, at night, in darkness, may lie at the foot of your bed,
Its tail now and then thumping the floor, with a sound that
Wakes you up? Your palms may then sweat. The wild

Thought seizes you that this may be a code. It may be a secret
A friend addressing you now. You miss the words. You
Apologize, smile. The rain hammers the roof,

Quite normally. The little group is quite normal too, some
With highballs in hand. One laughs. He is a philosopher.
You know that fact because a philosopher can laugh at

Anything. Suddenly, rain stops. The sun
Emerges like God's calm blessedness that spills
On the refurbished glitter of mountain. Chairs

Are taken again out to the sun-deck.
Conversation becomes unusually animated as all await the glory
Of sunset. You pull yourself together. A drink helps.

After all, it's the sort of thing that may happen to anybody.
And does.

I wrote this poem in 2001 when one of the best views of San Antonio was ripped up and paved over.

The poem is more than a little rantish, but this was not the first hill to be paved over here, nor was it the last. Maybe, if the high price of gas does nothing else good, it might, at least, save a few hills, and trees and meadows by pushing people back toward already settled areas because of the high and higher cost of commuting.

don't shop at lowe's home improvement warehouse

high meadow

gently sloped hill
with grass
at the very top
oak trees
the largest
as wide around as two
long-armed me could stretch

an old tree
tall and sturdy
when the mission
in the valley below
fell to the army
of santa ana
bloody cries
of patriots
drifting in the wind
with the smoke
of musket
and cannon fire

a sapling
when golden galleons sunk
in salty gulf waters to the east
sailors dying
on hot island sand
killed by a summer storm
that swept
across the tidal bays
pushed inland
dropping rain
to feed the grass and wildflowers
to make the sapling grow

earlier still
a seedling
when comanche
roamed the hills around
and white men
first claimed
the green shores
for god and king
casting the first long shadows
over the old life
of earth and sky and spirits
making all one with the other
fate shifted
changes unforeseen
but maybe for an old wise man
who might have set upon this hill
and smelled the stench
of death approaching

the same stench now
but no tree
shade five centuries
grown gone
scars in the earth
where old roots
were pulled from the ground
paved over
with the grass and wildflowers

covered in asphalt
a graveyard
so we might park
our pickups
and suvs

My next poem is from All Around Us: Poems from the Valley, a poetry anthology put together by the Knoxville Writer's Guild, published by Blue Ridge Publishing in 1996.

The poem I've chosen is by Edward Francisco, Poet/Scholar for the Voices and Visions Poetry Project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. His own work includes L(ie)fe Boat, winner of the 1994 chapbook competition from Bluestone Press in Massachusetts.

On Being Photographed in Middle Age

By no means now the boy in the striped shirt
I was at ten - he
hangs on the upstairs wall, object
of passing curiosity but more of derision
by this laughing house of children
who wonder why he never smiles.
I don't tell them he had no reason

or that he'd probably just been beaten
by a tense mother never agreeing
with the way he tucked his shirt in
(worse than an orphan, she said)
or combed his hair back off his head.
Same boy tried for years to locate just
the right crease in his clothes, the right
style to satisfy the unsatisfiable requirements
of one not pictured.

Not even the slender likeness taken
in college when he dressed the part
of a protester without a protest, without
a word of his own, could conceal
the borrowed texts under his arm
enabling him to quote someone else's
pain by proxy, using up the voices
around him.

That boy was snapped in a glare
once that made both eyes
wink like asterisks, adding to the
growing list of the parts of me
that hid from the cameras. No doubt
I joked or the photographer's sake
about the risk of overexposure.

Now twenty years forward I no longer
hold my breath for the perfect pose
or worry about the wrinkles in the trousers
I failed to take to the cleaners. The eyes
seem to be in focus too. And I like
the way I grin without knowing why
when my wife asks me to hold still
and say cheese. It is compensation
for having to pose in difficult light.

Who, after all, could have detected
the half of me that couldn't wait
to be developed, the dazzle in every
snapshot that couldn't be explained?
Now molecules scramble to take
a familiar shape at my side. In
the form I know best as my son
he crowds before the camera, refusing
to be left out of the one picture
where all of him can stand in
stripes, smiling.

Now, one last poem from me before we close shop for the week.

I wrote the poem in 2001 about my usual tormentor, summer. It's not as bad this year as it was in 2001, but, then, the summer here has barely started.

dreams of early frost

after a long, cool flight from Charleston
i remember stepping onto the tarmac in Dhahran
into dry Saudi heat that seemed alive
with purpose and premeditation,
like a animal, a desert predator
with sandy breath blowing red hot
from furnace innards and a coal-fed soul

it's been like that here this summer

first the dust storms,
blown in from Africa by high winds aloft,
leaving a coat of Kalahari grit over everything
stationary, from mission walls to mall parking lots
to the restaurant umbrellas lining the Riverwalk

then the wind stopped and the skies cleared
and central Texas heat flared down like fire
from above, like th brimstone of prophecy,
and there is no relief, even at night,
when the parched hills and brown meadows
radiate back into the black open night
heat stored through the fifteen hour day and just
as it begins to cool, the sun rises again

As I struggle to find my way out of these woods (moss on the north side? or the south?), remember, all the work presented in this blog remains the property of its creators.; the blog itself is produced by and is the property of me....allen itz


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