A Gift of Flowers   Friday, August 29, 2008


Getting right to the business at hand, here's what we have this week.

From my library

David Lehman
Pat Mora
Marina Tsvetaeva
Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Charles Entrekin
Howard Moss
Ku Sang
Jimmy Santiago Baca

From friends of "Here and Now"

Thane Zander
Margaret Barret Mayberry
Mary Jo Caffrey
Teresa White

Some from me

And a special photographic feature by friend of "Here and Now" Bruce Swanson

I start this week with three days, picked at random, from The Daily Mirror, A Journal in Poetry, a book of poems by David Lehman, published by Scribner Poetry in 2000.

Lehman, born in New York City in 1948, is a poet and editor for The Best American Poetry series. He has published five other collections of poems When a Woman Loves a Man in 2005, The Evening Sun in 2002, Valentine Place in 1996, Operation Memory in 1990, and An Alternative to Speech in 1986. He has also published books of essays and criticism and has worked extensively as an editor.

Like Lehman, I write a poem every day, usually not as good as his.

January 26

Freedom is wonderful
You can choose not to know
the names of actors and blues bands
or the teams playing in the Super bowl
You can go to bed instead
of going to the movies
and if you're lucky the person
next to you will be you
of the curly locks what a coincidence
how sweet to think of all the routes
we have taken to arrive at this moment
and I wonder whether we were ever
in the same place at the same time
before we knew each other
and now good morrow to waking souls
I am going to commit your scent to memory
and when you aren't here you'll still be here
and the person kissing you will be me

March 26

I just heard a very fine
piano player described as
the General Motors of jazz
now why didn't I think of that
"but what does it mean?" you
ask who the hell knows the
sunlight's streaming though
the frayed yellow curtains
in this flat that has grown
dear to me because I was sick
here and recovered as winter
is huffing and puffing its way
into spring the piano is playing
"Mona Lisa" in honor of the
Academy Awards last night I
stayed up for the whole dopey
thing and here's the light
of midday when the phone rings
I say "poetry headquarters"
making Hamilton laugh it's time.

June 1

The new day (a gray streak
of light) bubbles still in
last night's soda water
in my glass by the bed
I've go to pack pick up
a rental car load it and
drive up to Ithaca it'll be
good to be in the big house
but I don't want to leave
hard as it is to live in
this city I'm still a sucker
for the lights of Amsterdam
Avenue the bright yellow of
taxis in snow I feel like
a runner with a big lead off
first base who slides into second
and when the catcher's throw
skips into center field he hustles
to third his uniform streaked
with dirt he's safe

December 1

Is it time for the woman to turn
to the man and say, "It wasn't
supposed to be like this?" No,
because this isn't a spy movie,
it's just me in my new fedora and
double-breasted navy trench coat
with high winds of up to forth miles
per hour pushing me forward to
East Fourth and Second Avenue,
the KGB Bar with its red walls
and framed posters of Revolutionary
Russians, for poetry reading number nine
of the season. last year anyone got
a free drink who could answer why
the hottest New York nightspots
(e.g. Pravda) were named after defunct
Soviet institutions but no one got
it right and now it's time for the man
to turn to the woman and tell her
that she's the olive in his martini

La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Photo by Bruce Swanson

Before we move on to the rest of the poems for this week, I have five photos (the one above and the four that follow) by a friend, Bruce Swanson. Bruce and I were professional colleagues for many year and both retired from the same state agency, he, several years before me.

Since retirement, he's made good use of his time, traveling, from his home base in a red log-cabin in the mountains of Arizona. through much of the world, poking around, as he says, northern Africa, Europe, Asia or the South Pacific or in either Central or South America where he lives for periods of time of from three to four months yearly.

Bruce says he enjoys hiking, travel, casual photography, and electronics. He is also a private pilot.

Lucky for us Bruce takes his camera with him when he travels.

Lowendenkmal - El monumento del leon que esta llorando - The Crying Lion Memorial, Luzern - Lucerne, Switzerland
Photo by Bruce Swanson

Roman Temple at Evora - Templo Romano de Evora, Portugal
Photo by Bruce Swason

Terraced Farming near Chivay - Colca Canyon, Peru
Photo by Bruce Swanson

Two Babes
Photo by Bruce Swanson

Thanks Bruce for the use of your photos. I hope we see more in weeks to come.

Here's a piece I wrote two weeks ago.

is poetry necessary?

i wrote two
which makes this poem
under my poem a day
is any poem
and i think
at first well
you cannot eat
a poem
you cannot drink
a poem
you cannot hold a poem
over your head
as shelter
a storm
you cannot
from a poem
make a club to beat
back those who would
do you harm
and i think again
poetry -
for what purpose
lizards survive
cockroaches survive
so what is necessary
for us to survive
that goes beyond
of lizards and cockroaches
and i think
of our first poets
the shaman
the witch doctor
the monk the priest
the rabbi the imam
or whatever you choose
to call those poets
of the soul
those poets of memory
and history
and myth
these creators
of humanity
who made us more
than the lizard
or the cockroach
or any of the lesser beasts
who while they have
their own spark
the fire of
and decide
that while this poem
may be

My next poem is by Pat Mora from her book of poetry, Borders published by Arte Publico Press of The University of Houston in 1986.

Mora, a poet and lecturer, was born in 1942 in El Paso, Texas. She is founder of the family literacy initiative, El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day), which is held every year on April 30th.

Withdrawal Symptoms

We were hooked early,
brown-eyed, round-faced girls
licked our lips
tasting sweet pleasures
even in first grade

rushed to school to push
tacks into bulletin boards
until our thumbs were sore
smiles, smiles
pounded erasers, our cymbals
hiding us in white dust,
re-copied grammar drills
until abuelita worried
into our blood-shot eyes

all for gold stars, secret
winks from pale teachers

We still ache
for that taste but now
bitter frowns
in committees and board rooms
push and pound, push and pound
"Why am I the only Mexican American here?"

Our throats sting, fight tears.
Our stomachs cramp
deprived of sticky sweet smiles
out addiction


I have our New Zealand friend, poet Thane Zander, back this week with a powerful piece he posted on The Blueline Poetry Forum just last week.

Moaning at the Moon


The devil wind of economic change
blows hot breath melting pot blackness
in selective hearing schools of husbands
and sons

The Musharif wind blows Pakistan apart
demolishing democracy in the wake
of a Muslim onslaught, the West wrestles
with a war of indifference in Iraq,
a war of restitution in Afghanistan
a war of a muscling up society
crying for peace ever after.

Fuck the retrograde steps to politicize,
screw the matrons in hospitals
letting the mentally ill go outside,
bugger the last of the Mohicans
as society buries the past
and unleashes a hurting future.

In the oven, you bake hash cookies
believing them to be therapeutic
the lime crush cooling a slaking thirst,
by the light of indifference
we throw bombs and suicide
throw fresh meat to the Piranha
so they may thrive in tree less jungles.

God help the hippies and Greenpeace
their voice muted by TV campaigns for drunk driving,
the audacious outlook of the commercially driven,
God help the orphans of Uganda, Rwanda
Heavens know who's going to help sanity,
One parent families the norm rather than the exception.

Ginsberg had it right, maniacal factoids,
the slice of culture lost in the dust of Arizona,
the piled high shit of civilization sinking
under it's own weight - we bite the bullet,
tense when athleticism is more the key,
the last days of a dying mans hopes
buried in the ruination of capitalism
suffering under the labels of Coke and MacDonald's

Too often in the past, we fought the hunger,
we fought for education, a welfare state,
our lot in this Earth measured by stances,
The Mouse That Roared, nuclear ban legislation,
freedom of expression, freedom to vote,
freedom to piss in an alleyway half pissed,
freedom to have a lawyer when arrested for naught.

Life, Liberty, Luxury, all attainable
and more so for countries like India,
the lasting realization that uniforms
will only be worn by Police Officers and Prison Staff,
the realization that Armed conflict is that,
but not on my shores Dear Friend,
leave it for those who want each others land,

Long gone now, the despot, Saddam
Long gone the need to fight, to destabilize,
Long gone the last Great War and Cold Wars,
Long gone the need to reestablish control,
Long gone, the lifeblood of natives
Long gone a lady in my life,
Long gone the need to fight for someone else's rights,
Long gone the urge to defend the indefensible.


In the morning
roses dripped dew
the blood of the sky
pooling in stereotype.

No answers to truth
plenty to lies,
the last days
when notices failed;
no one came.


We cried at the funeral of America
the dollar dropped in the gutter
the nemesis of Power
stolen by the harrowing red vultures,
the smoke from cremation shifts,
great cities awash with burning
the demographics sickly,

Our eyes are towards the stars,
depicting a special carrier
to uplift all the decent folks,
Roger Waters wrote:
"This species has amused itself to death"
and I agree wholeheartedly,
yes, we look skywards
everlasting look into longevity.

Passing the seventh grades art work
remembering when all was so simple,
the juxtaposition of Military and School
one feeds the other feeds the other feeds the other.
in a dying home, where crime escalates
where children smoke P, and do drugs,
in a home where drunks drive and kill
in a society that languishes in crime stats,
in a home that's riddled with right and wrong,
we survive the death monster, through love,
through hard effort,
through the looking glass where Rabbits smile,
through the advent of history
when the future collides with the now.

We made a stance, stand firm,
affirmed our love for each other,
made the place far safer:
for the old and the young
and those in between who cared too.

Tomorrow the weather dictates anxiety,
today it passed by without incident,
who knew why things change?
God apparently knows the answer,
yes I hear the call of the GodBotherers,
chanting at Sunrise festivals and praying
hands outstretched to let the Jesus Man in
yes they too deserve a place in Nirvana.

Yes tomorrow, always tomorrow,
let's see what the sun and moon bring
the bark of the maniacs, wails of besotted witches,
the call of nature, human flesh fair game
to all animals ill treated, song birds
call their tune in raucous laughter, derision,
the sound of talk show hosts breathing new life
into old news, yes we dance to the Dragon,
smile to Toyota and Honda,
spread the news on Dell computers (made in India).

The second hand on my watch comes adrift,
am I destined to stop my time, sit and cry?
The onerous task of reporting the state of the world,
playing over and over the doom and gloom,
apparently a mushroom cloud won't stop it,
yes from ashes to roses, daisies to dirt,
dust remains spread to a west wind intent on change,
puzzlement dictates the road ahead
surprises the best way to keep the faith,
luxury in the form of Playboy mansions,
and the decadence of Hollywood, the porn industry,
the light at the end of the tunnel as black as coal,
despite the ruminations of the Tarot Queen,
and the morning news presenters, only on TV.


The wolf whistle took me by surprise,
her big tits bounced with her admiring eye,
suddenly I knew there was a future, possibilities.

Today I await tomorrow and the days after,
full of optimism and anxiousness .

Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow in 1892. Her father was Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev, a professor of art history at the University of Moscow, who later founded the Alexander III Museum, which is now known as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Tsvetaeva's mother, Maria Alexandrovna Meyn, was Ivan's second wife, a highly literate woman.

In 1902, Tsvetaeva's mother contracted tuberculosis. Because it was believed that a change in climate could help cure the disease, the family traveled abroad until shortly before her death in 1906. In 1908, Tsvetaeva studied literary history at the Sorbonne. Her own first collection of poems, Evening Album, was self-published in 1910. It attracted the attention of the poet and critic Maximilian Voloshin.

Tsvetaeva began spending time at Voloshin's home in the Black Sea resort of Koktebel, a well-known haven for writers, poets and artists. While in Koktebel, she met and married a cadet in the Officers' Academy. She was 19, he was 18. Despite the marriage, she continued to have affairs with other literary notables of both sexes.

Tsvetaeva and her husband, Efron, spent summers in the Crimea until the revolution, until 1914 when he volunteered to go to the front. By 1917 he was an officer stationed in Moscow where Tsetsaeva was to witness the Russian Revolution first hand. After the Revolution, Efron joined the White Army, and Marina returned to Moscow and was trapped there for five years, a time when there was a terrible famine. During the course of the famine, Tsvetaeva placed her eldest daughter in a state orphanage, believing she would be better fed there. Instead, the child died of starvation in 1920.

In May 1922, Tsvetaeva and her remaining daughter left the Soviet Union and were reunited with with her husband in Berlin. In 1925, the family settled in Paris, where they would live for the next 14 years. At about this time her husband contracted tuberculosis, adding to the family's difficulties. Tsvetaeva received a meager stipend from the Czechoslovak government, which gave financial support to artists and writers who had lived in Czechoslovakia. In addition, she tried to make whatever she could from readings and sales of her work. She turned more and more to writing prose because she found it made more money than poetry.

Although she had written passionately pro-White poems during the Revolution, her fellow emigres thought that she was insufficiently anti-Soviet, and that her criticism of the Soviet regime was insufficient . She was particularly criticized for writing an admiring letter to the Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. In the wake of this letter, the emigre paper The Latest News, to which Tsvetaeva had been a frequent contributor, refused point blank to publish any more of her work. She found solace in her correspondence with other writers, including Boris Pasternak, Rainer Maria Rilke, the Czech poet Anna Teskova, and the critics D. S. Mirsky and Aleksandr Bakhrakh.

Meanwhile, Tsvetaeva's husband was rapidly developing Soviet sympathies and was homesick for Russia. He was, however, afraid because of his past as a White soldier. Eventually, either out of idealism or to garner acceptance from the Communists, he began spying for the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. He daughter shared his views, and increasingly turned against her mother. In 1937, she returned to the Soviet Union.

Although, she was held responsible for his actions and was ostracized in Paris because of the implication that he was involved with the NKVD. World War II had made Europe as unsafe and hostile as Russia. Tsvetaeva felt that she no longer had a choice and returned to the Soviet Union in 1939.

She did not foresee that, In Stalin's Russia, anyone who had lived abroad was suspect, as was anyone who had been among the intelligentsia before the Revolution. All doors had closed to her. She got bits of work translating poetry, but otherwise the established Soviet writers refused to help her, and chose to ignore her plight.

Her husband and daughter were arrested for espionage. Her husband was shot in 1941 and her daughter served over eight years in prison. Tsvetaeva and her son were evacuated to Yelabuga, where, with no way to support herself and no place to live, she hung herself in 1941, though some maintain that she did not commit suicide but was actually murdered by the state security service.

The poem I have from Tsvetaeva is from the book, Poem of the End; Selected Narrative and Lyrical poems, published in 2004 by Ardis Publishers. It is a bilingual edition, in the original Russian with English translation by Nina Kossman.

The Poem of the End was originally published by Tsvetaeva in 1923.

The fatal volume
Holds no temptation for
A woman: For a woman
Ars Amandi is all of Earth.

The heart is the most faithful
Of all love potions.
From her cradle, a woman
Is someone's deadly sin.

As the sky is too distant!
Lips are closer in the dark.
Do not judge, God! You
Were never a woman on earth.

19 September 1915


Something whistled in the pine.
In my dream I saw a baby
With midnight-colored eyes.

Still, hot resin keeps dripping
From the little scarlet pine.
Sawed apart, my heart is ripping
In this splendid night all mine.

8 August 1916


Black as your eye's pupil, sucking up the
Light - I love you, sharp-sighted night.

Let me sing you and celebrate you, O ancient mother
Of songs, who bridles the earth's four winds.

Calling you,glorifying you - I am nothing but a
Shell in which the ocean is not yet silent.

Night! I have looked too long into human pupils!
Reduce me to ashes, blackest of suns - night!

9 August 1916


Imprisoned in the winter rooms
Or in the sleepy Kremlin -
I'll remember, I'll remember
The wide fields.

The light village air,
The afternoon, and the peace,
And the tribute to my feminine pride -
Your masculine tears.

27 July 1917


From your arrogant Poland
You brought me flattering words,
And a sable hat,
And your hand with long fingers,
And bows, and endearments,
And a princely coat-of-arms with a crown.

- But I brought you
Two silver wings.

20 August 1917


I remember the first day,the infantile brutality,
The languor and the divine dregs of a swallow.
The carelessness of the hands, the heartlessness of the heart
Falling like a stone - and like a hawk - onto my chest.

And now - trembling from heat and pity, what's left
Is this: to howl like a wolf, this: to fall at your feet,
To lower my eyes, knowing the penalty for pleasure -
A convict's passion and a cruel love.

4 September 1917

For 60 years or so after World War II, there were two great powers in the world in conflict with each other on just about every issue, economics, politics, morality, ambitions, territories, but, despite all those conflicts, there was no direct war between them, an event unprecedented in history. The reason - the bomb. It scared the crap out everyone, including, on both side, those with the power to use it.

I worry now that we no longer have something that sufficiently scares the crap out of us, which led me to this poem.

calling Dr. Strangelove

the past week
has taken me back
to October, 1962,
missiles in Cuba,
American warships
Russian ships
carrying more
missiles, turning
them back, threats
and counter threats,
nuclear forces
on both sides on edge,
at the ready, war talk

18 years old, my first
semester of college,
afraid, but, somehow
not, the nuclear threats
somehow reassuring,
the madness of the mutual
assured destruction
somehow reassuring,
the certainty that the
would be contained
in the end
by the realization
on both sides that
there is no winning side
to a nuclear war

the problem
that worries me
now is that,
without the rattling
of nuclear sabers,
war might come
to seem to some
in a way it never
would in 1962,
that nationalistic ambitions
might lead to new calculations
of risk and reward, that
without the threat of annihilation
of hundreds of millions,
the death of hundreds
of thousands might become
an acceptable cost
for fulfillment of the ancient
dreams of the czars

most of my youth
was lived
in the shadow of the
a horror
whose absence
is not reassuring
in a day when ambition
is testing new and dangerous

Brigit Pegeen Kelly was born in Palo Alto, California, in 1951. She is the author of The Orchard, published in 2004, Song, which was the 1994 Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets, and To The Place of Trumpets in 1987, which was selected by James Merrill for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Her poems have appeared in many periodicals, including The Gettysburg Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Yale Review. Also, her work was chosen for the 1993 and 1994 volumes of The Best American Poetry.

A recipient of many awards and honors, Kelly is a professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

This poem is from her second book, Song.

The Witnesses

The Witnesses come gain. They come to my mind
Before they come to the door. The young man wears a red scarf.
And the old woman is soft in the head. We sit on the porch
And she fans the waves painted on the Watchtower's cover.

The waves are blue as rebellion. "The ocean," she says,
"See here...the ocean...the ocean is full of dirt...
And it is going..." And she is gone. Stares blindly
At the spot where two drab deer made the baby laugh

By eating dead bushes. He thought they were cows. "Moo,"
He said, "Moooo." He names things by their sounds.
The young Witness picks up the dropped conversation .
He plies a soft black book. Is pledged to persuasion.

Once he was a Papist, but now is not. He frowns
At the statue of Mary covered with bird lime. "The signs
Will come," he says. "The signs, and then the End.
Only the chosen will stand." My mind lies quiet

I hear the crows barking. The ocean is going
And the trees in good faith are drinking in our poison.
How dark the night is and high up. Starless
With ignorance. There through the low branches

The turning river shines gold as a prize ribbon,
Gold and proud as a seal of approval. But the water
Has no fish in it. And the watchtower has no beacon.
Or the beacon is broken. The beacon limps over the ocean

Like the mind of an old person coming to thought
And receding...Or like the flight of a damaged bird...
My sister had a bird once and my cousin got it. He
Pulled its feathers out. He stood under the street lamp

And pulled its feathers out. The he pitched it
Into the air again and again, whistling as it plummeted
Like a falling star...O kill the bird! Kill it!
Be done with it!...O do...not kill...the bird...

"Don't let the Witnesses in," says my husband. "They
Pollute the place. Talk to them on the porch," he says.
"Or better, at the bottom of the hill." Posted with signs
The fence row there guards the game preserve the hunters

Flush deer from. They shot the deer dead on the road
And then strap the bodies upside down to the tailgates
Of their trucks, so that the deer's neck arch back as ours do
In sex, but with soft, soft...The Witnesses come again.

Next, I have a poem from friend and fellow San Antonio poet Margaret Barrett Mayberry.

Margaret was born 1932 in London, England. She married a British medical student and is now widowed. She lived in various countries before and after marriage, but has lived in San Antonio for over 35 very busy years.

Margaret has an MA in Clinical Psychology from St. Mary's University and an MA in Environmental. Management (Urban Studies) from University of Texas, San Antonio. For 20 years, she has served on the city council of Hill Country Village, one of a number of small incorporated towns within the geographic limits of San Antonio, and has remained active in community activities in San Antonio for all those years and more.

She says she has done a variety of things, including raising two sons and helping with four grandchildren, but nothing related to poetry until recently when she began to write.

She says she was moved to write this poem after watching a program on CNN on the plight of children and mothers in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, 2008

Only two years old,
His huge brown eyes, unseeing,
Sweep the inside,
Of the hospital tent,
The weary mother,
Strain showing in every line,
Hasn't the energy,
To brush away the flies,
That crawl,
Across the hollows of his face,
Flies, impatient,
Too certain of death to wait.

Sick and dying children,
Lie on cots nearby,
Tended by volunteer doctors,
White clad nurses,
Who cannot allow themselves,
To cry, to grieve,
Matter of fact,
In order to do their work,
Where is the rest of the world,
That it can turn away,
And let this happen.

The sheet is drawn,
Over the child's sightless eyes,
The mother rises,
Collects her scant belongings,
Never looking back,
Begins a walk of many miles,
Passing others,
Going in both directions,
Passes a camel,
Just bones, sinking in the sand,
What hope is there,
When even the camels are dying.

Charles Entrekin was born in 1941 in Birmingham, Alabama. He took his BA in English from Birmingham Southern College, in 1964. He left Birmingham in 1965 and lived in various states while pursuing advanced degrees in philosophy and creative writing. Arriving in California in 1969, he stayed and now lives in Berkeley.

Entrekin has taught at almost every educational level. He taught preschool language skills to six-year-olds with he Head Start program in Birmingham, Alabama; taught introduction to set theory to disadvantaged high school graduates with the Upward Bound Program in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; taught composition, English literature, creative writing, philosophy at the college level, and was the founder of the Creative Writing Program at John F. Kennedy University's Orinda, California campus.

For 24 years, he was the managing editor of The Berkeley Poets Cooperative and The Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press.

The Managing Editor of Hip Pocket Press, Entrekin is also the author of In This Hour, a collection of poems published by Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press in 1990 Casting For The Cutthroat & Other Poems also published by BPW&P in 1986, Casting For The Cutthroat published by Thunder City Press in 1978, and Birmingham, Alabama; All Pieces Of A Legacy, again by BPW&P in 1975.

Our poem this week is from In This Hour.

For a Girl I Once Knew

Who made all A's
until chemistry.
She flunked it one summer,
the first black mark, ever,
on her record, whose dad
had died before she was born.
I';ll do better this winter,
she said, and flunked again,
and laughingly strangely
failed it again in the spring.
    The campus joke, all A's
and three F's, who finally
took Geology: claimed she'd
best discover the lay of the land.
    I remember her thin, long
limbed, and all those sudden smiles
the day she ran off with a man
not right in his head, and
the quality of her answers
no matter what was asked of her.

A couple of years ago I was trying to write some poems at a coffee shop. I didn't have anything to write on but some bar napkins so I wrote several short poems to fit on the bar napkins. In the process, I formalized what I was doing, invented some simple rules and invented a new poetry form which I called, in honor of the source of inspiration, barku. The rules are simple - ten words on six lines, the perfect size to fit on a bar napkin, and you've written a barku.

It was a little game all in fun, except now I'm beginning to see barkus, following the rules I set, show up in different places on the web.


Here are three I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

3 barku

at night
brings reflected light
to silver


with three kitten
for food
on doorstep


wind blows
wet feet
leave trail
on tile

My next poem is by Howard Moss, from his book Notes from the Castle published by Atheneum in 1979.

Moss, a poet, dramatist and critic, was born in New York City in 1922. He attended the University of Michigan, where he won a Hopwood Award.

He was poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine from 1948 until his death in 1987. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1971 and the National Book Award in 1972 for Selected Poems.

As New Yorker editor, he is credited with discovering a number of major American poets.

I Sit by the Window

I said fate plays a game without a score,
And who needs fish if you've got caviar?
The triumph of the Gothic style would come to pass
And turn you on - no need for coke or grass.
    I sit by the window. Outside, an aspen
    When I loved, I loved deeply. It wasn't often.

I said the forest's only part of a tree.
Who needs the whole girl if you've got her knee?
sick of the dust raised by the modern era,
The Russian eye would rest on an Estonian spire.
    I sit by the window. The dishes are done.
    I was happy here. But I won't be again.

I wrote: The bulb looks at the floor in fear,
And love, as an act, lacks a verb; the zer-
o Euclid thought the vanishing point became
Wasn't math - it was the nothingness of Time.
    I sit by the window. And while I sit
    My youth comes back. Sometimes I'd smile. Or spit.

I said that the leaf may destroy the bud;
What's fertile falls in fallow soil - a dud;
That on the flat field, the unshadowed plain
Nature spills the seeds of trees in vain.
    I sit by the window. Hands lock my knees.
My heavy shadow's my squat company.

My song was out of tune, my voice was cracked,
But at least no chorus can ever sing it back.
That talk like this reaps no reward bewilders
No one - no one's legs rest on my shoulders
    I sit by the window in the dark. Like an express,
    the waves behind the wavelike curtain crash.

A loyal subject of these second-rate years,
I proudly admit that my finest ideas
Are second-rate, and may the future take them
As trophies of my struggle against suffocation.
    I sit in the dark. And it would be hard to figure out
    Which is worse: The dark inside, or the darkness out.

My next poem is by "Here and Now" friend Mary Jo Caffrey.

Mary is a retired Air Force member living in Gretna, Nebraska. She enjoys writing poetry for children and adults. she is a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild and Nebraska Writers Workshop.

Here's her poem.

Posthumously Given

Somewhere all seasons, even Spring in highest bloom
fails its charge to quicken hope and renewal.
Gone forever lives blessed by quickening light -
banished from sight every bright soul
traded for a ribboned medal,
soldiers' recompense for life are these
and stone-marked battlefields.

Cherished for the loss of a soldier's fight
and grasped tightly in a mother's hand,
this bit of bronze and silk commends
the survivor's right
to grieve every season
and especially, Spring.

Ku Sang was born in Seoul in 1919 and died there in 2004. When he was a small child his family moved to the northeastern city of Wonsan, where he grew up. His parents were Catholics, his elder brother became a priest. After years of study in Japan, he returned to the northern part of Korea and began work as a writer and journalist. He was forced to flee to the south after the Liberation of 1945 because of his refusal to conform to the ideological standards of the Communists when he tried to publish his first volume of poems.

He was for many years an editorialist for the Kyonghyang Newspaper in Seoul. His first poems were written while he was a student in Japan and he steadily wrote and published volumes of poetry, as well as essays on social, literary, and spiritual topics. He has also written a number of plays, and edited literary anthologies.

The apparent simplicity of Ku Sang's work originally garnered him little attention as a major poet. Recently, critical opinion shifted and his work is now recognized a major religious poet of great originality and utter personal integrity. As his reputation has spread, his work as been been translated and published in French, English, German, Italian and Japanese.

The next poems are taken from his book Wastelands of Fire and were translated by Anthony Teague.

Old Age

Here we are in no desert land.

It is rather a fresh field, nurturing, mysterious buds
that will only blossom in Eternity's land.

In youth we tended to wield our bodies
but now we must use strength of mind,
and as we rouse up our sleepy souls
we must apply our attention to metaphysical things.

Above all, let us not be slaves to spectres of loneliness,
not experience cares and concerns as distractions.

Loneliness and insecurity are graces
announcing the birth of a new dimension;
using now the body's ageing, and the lack of energy,
as stimuli offered to the mind,
let us advance towards life's true renewal.

The less the joys of the flesh become,
the clearer we see both life and self;
so, as the flames of faith, hope, and love burn brighter,
let us listen more closely to Eternity's voice.

Now let us awake from this illusory dream
where, like the leaves and blossoms of Nature,
everything blooms to vanish with the seasons,

and cherishing a glorious, undying dream
that will bloom beyond death, on another shore,
let us live and old age as radiant as silver.


In the zoo,
peering between bars and netting,
I search for an animal
that knows what shame is.

I say, keeper!
Might there just possibly be
in those monkey's red posteriors
at least some trace of it?

What of the bear's paw, perpetually licked?
Or the seals' whiskers,
or maybe the parrot's beak?
Is there really no trace of it there?

Since shame has vanished
from the people of the city,
I've come to the zoo to look for it.

As a manager of people and processes for many years, I learned a lot of lessons that apply not just in business, but in daily and family life as well.

This was one of the hardest lesson to learn.

a hard duty to fulfill

it is
a time now
for my

no matter the
i feel to
to express concern
to counsel

it is time
to back off

to let the thing
with my

a firm handshake
a hearty
on the back

it is time
to let
fortune's path


a hard hard
to fulfill

Jimmy Santiago Baca was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1952. He was abandoned by his parents when he was two years old. He lived with one of his grandmothers for several years before being placed in an orphanage, eventually living on the streets. When he was twenty-one he was convicted on charges of drug possession and incarcerated, serving six years in prison, four of them in isolation. During this time, Baca taught himself to read and write, then began to compose poetry. A fellow inmate convinced him to submit some of his poems to Mother Jones magazine, then edited by Denise Levertov. Levertov printed Baca's poems and began corresponding with him, eventually finding a publisher for his first book.

Immigrants in Our Own Land, Baca's first major collection, was highly praised. In 1987, his semi-autobiographical novel in verse, Martin and Meditations on the South Valley, received the American Book Award for poetry. A self-styled "poet of the people," Baca conducts writing workshops with children and adults at countless elementary, junior high and high schools, colleges, universities, reservations, barrio community centers, white ghettos, housing projects, correctional facilities and prisons from coast to coast.

My poem for this week is from Baca's book Healing Earthquakes, a Love Story in Poems, published by Grove Press in 2001. The poem is one of eighteen love poems that he calls Meeting My Love, True to My Heart and Loyal to My Soul.


Lisana, this morning you walk to school
in the fruit-fragrant morning, the misty
humid air,
the forest's luxurious leafage,
the sparkling dew on stones and steel
    encircle you
    as if you were a dark emerald on a ring.
There are ghosts that reside
in the eyes of dogs,
and each leaf is a tongue chattering with wind
about whose wife is loving another woman's husband,
here at one in the afternoon it pours
love songs to you from me,
    I touch you
    I see you
    I kiss and hold and hear your sweet voice
    I pray for rain each day at one
        to convey my passion to you
        to douse you in my passion
        to sop you in my joy of having you
and with the millions of eyes of rain
I see you through the open-air windows sitting in a classroom
watching me, thinking of me,
    the far undulating fields bloom
    blossoms of white fog
    and your mind and heart lose themselves
    in the constant humming of rain and mist and fog,
    walking with me, seeing my face, kissing my lips,
    my land, my love, is creating in you
    our story, our life together,
    the rain is telling you
        the folklore of our journey together,
        the roof dripping in rain whispers
        how we walk streets in New York,
        the dripping from leaves
    converses with you in hushed intimacy
    how we sit before a fire in a cabin
    here in my land of Nuevo Mejico
        and how we laugh, cry, quarrel
            but always love,
    people here believe in folklore,
    believe in myth
    believe in the dreams that are the language of our ancestors
speaking to us, sometimes warning us,
other times celebrating a child's birth,
and when you hear thunder and lightning
in the distant sky, it is
just and afterthought of mine, my love,
something I forgot to tell you.
that I love you, it thunders that I love you
            in the lightning flashes.

For just the second time, we have a poem from our friend Teresa White.

Teresa has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and has been published in numerous online and print journals. Her latest full-length collection of poems, Gardenias for a Beast received a favorable endorsement from Billy Collins.

Here's her poem.

An Orexic is Not the Name of a Prehistoric Bird

Flowers may be five calories the bouquet,
but how thin is thin enough and when
will you take off that black cape?

You tantalize the boys already.
Why reduce your curves to stalk and pole?
I know. I remember the one-egg breakfast

pan-fried in Teflon, three honey and lemon
cough drops, at two p.m. How I leaned
my head against a coconut palm,

eyes closed, and rolled those drops
one by one 'till the sweet liquid became a banquet
and dinner whatever Grandma made

I took by the square inch, spread 'round my plate
so she never knew I wasn't eating.
Dad kept saying how good I looked.

The olympics allowed us to learn a lot about modern-day China, including some things they probably wished we hadn't learned.

I'll finish up the week with this one.

get your okeydokey certificates while they last

be a whole new
in political science

"The Chinese Rule
of Okeydokey Dissent"

good title
i think of a lesson
for the education all future tyrants
on how to have your cake
and eat it too

you must establish
and publicize the availability
of okeydokey protest areas
so that persons with grievance
can have an approved
where they can
address their government
for redress

these should be beautiful sites
landscaped and pleasing to the
eyes of pushy foreign media
who will headline to the world
the news of new tolerance
taking shape
in your previously despotic

pose for pictures
hand out all day suckers
be a warm and generous host

pushy foreign media
unable to sustain a thought
for more than two days running
will never notice that the official
government office assigned
the honor of awarding
of okeydokeyness
allowing citizens to demonstrate
their concerns
at the designated okeydokey citizen-
input space
of their choice
is almost impossible to find

nor will there be much note
when it turns our that every
citizen applying for certificates
of okeydokeyness
gets arrested and hauled away
for reeducation
on the exact meaning of
in the new tolerant society
bearing no resemblance to the
old despotic regime
for whom the whole concept
of okeydokeyness
would be a threat

enforce this new modern
okeydokey tolerance rule
by recruiting two
70-year old women
to apply for permission
to complain about getting
screwed by the government
in the purchase of their land
for the purpose
of building an olympic
venue certain to impress
pushy foreign media
with your new tolerance
and dedication to the capitalist
concept of
stealing as much money
as possible
from your docilized citizenry
and bamboozled foreigners

and, immediately upon their arrival
at the official party office for
issuance of okeydokey certificates,
arrest the two 70-year-old ladies
and ship them off for

if this doesn't work
invade your smallest
and everyone will forget
the whole okeydokey toleration

And that's it for this week.

But first, a word about last night.

I watched the finale to the Democratic Convention and the amazing speech by Barack Obama. I haven't been this hopeful about the future of my counry since the 1964 election when the realization of two generations of progressive dreams for the country was at hand. The days soon turned dark, of course, with the continuing expansion of the VietNam war and much that was gained was put at rixk.

It doesn't have to turn out that way this time.

Defy the past and vote for the future.

Obama/Biden - The Future

Until next week, remember that all 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.


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Though The Way Goes Steep and Narrow, It Does Not End   Friday, August 22, 2008


Verse 46 of my copy of the Tao Te Ching says:

When the Great Integrity permeated out lives,
freely galloping horses fertilized the fields.

When the Great Integrity was lost,
war horses were bred in the country side.

There is no greater calamity
than acquisitiveness racing out of control.

Only those who know when enough is enough
can ever have enough.

The leadership of our country lost the Great Integrity in recent years and has frittered away our resorces and our will on meaningless bravado and harebrained expeditions.

Now faced with Russian war horses we lack the will and the resources to do anything but bluster. The consequences of the past eight years of rule by fool are already coming due.

In this matter, having nothing to offer but bluster myself, I'll put it aside and move on to this week's agenda.

From my library

Lorenzo Thomas
Eugenio de Andrade
Pablo Neruda
Emma Lazarus
Michael Gottlieb
R.S. Thomas
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

From the books in my library by friends of "Here and Now"

Gary Blankenship
Joanna M. Weston
Arlene Ang
S. Thomas Summers

And, of course, the usual pieces by me

Lorenzo Thomas was born in the Republic of Panama in 1944 and grew up in New York City, where his family immigrated in 1948.

Thomas was a graduate of Queens College in New York and a professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown for more than 20 years.

The next poem is from his book Dancing on Main Street, published by Coffee House Press in 2004. It is one of several books Thomas wrote, including both poetry collections and criticism.

Thomas died in 2005.

Spirits You All

     The Charles Gayle Trio at the Houston Jazz Festival,
     September 16, 1992
     - For Charles Gayle

All it is


If you hear it


Concerthall flame breath
To sidewalk
Through a saxophone
To deep pulsing tunnels
The People
Whipped by money changers
Beat down my money
Hang wearily
Awaiting darkness

He church
Speaking no words
Their souls are not silent
Makes audible
The sonar of thousands
The horn coaxes measured Jesus
Vattel Cherry dances
Bells like the click of cowries
Flash like sparks
Around his instrument
Edwards reaches
For a distant drumbeat
Snaring it, then lets
It go
To fly around this space

Inside his saxophone
Are all the voices
Spirits you all
The shrieks of Daddy Grace
and grandmaw's moan

Young girls
All that is truly precious of the earth
Loud and laughing
Who do not know
The troubles of this world
With bells in their ears
Fluttering bird-iike
In girl conspiracies

From concerthall under red lights
To sidewalk exiled from neon

If you can hear it
Spirits you all
Dance from this saxophone

Cold light in falling darkness

Under the shudder of Suburbans
Fuming on the overpass
A woman in a carton
She might have asked a husband
To break down
And stack beside the drive for heavy trash
Busies her hands
Folding rags with gracious care
Into a plastic bag

Her heart just idles
And her mind curls up
Around a picture of a small white clapboard
Missionary Baptist Church
Nestled in hope beside a country road
Where the choir voice
Was all th sound of life
To laughing girls
And soft brown faces
Some of them softened only
When they sang

Church don't mean religion
May even be a verb

Sleeping in fits
A man ten feet away
Wrapped in a sheet of cardboard
Does not dream;
That lobe was leached
In floods of liquid flame
That made 1,000 nights like this
Instant forgettings
And survivable
He does not see himself
In marcelled hair
Long gleaming Stacy Adams cordovans
As dangerous as German U-boats
On the dreamland floor
As the orchestra
High trumpet, hoarse trombones
Slides into "Cherry Pink
And Apple Blossom White"

You think these cracked feet
Have no mambo memory?
Well, no they don't
He never did that
But he saw it in a movie once
A century ago

Church in trembles


And struggle?

Joy and struggle

When night's a cloak
Of heavy hopelessness
And day a flash of puzzled patterns
Lining it
A fashion
Such ill-fitting materiality
That even those who grab the most
See themselves scrambling
To barely cover their behinds

And now the brazen shofar of a horn
As the commuter bats
Unfold themselves into
The evening
And step along the sidewalk
And do not look around or down
And if they do don't see
What you can hear
Spiraling out of Charles Gayle's saxophone
Spirits you all

Know where it comes from

Church if you feel it

I wrote this one last week while trying out a new hide-out downtown.

takes one to know one

i wrote a poem
about looking out
on the people
walking by here at
Soledad and Martin

good idea,
lousy poem

that sits
in a far dark
of my "notes" file
never yet
to see the day
but kept
for the possibility
one day
the poem
will be equal
to the idea

looking out
that same window
there's not much
to see

it's early August
and damn hot
and nobody is on
the sidewalk
they have absolutely
no place to go
that's air-conditioned

the two kids that just passed
and a short round latin guy
a multiethnic
Mutt & Jeff

(Jesse Jackson would be proud)

rainbow coalition

and how do i know they're
you ask

that should be obvious,
i'm an old white guy

and anybody under thirty
all decked out in a
gimme hat headed
while the wearer is headed
baggy shorts
hung butt crack
to ankles
is sure to be
a delinquent
of some kind or other

the styles
may change
but the walk is the walk
same as it was
fifty years ago when
i walked it,
as they say now
looking for trouble
where no one was looking
to catch me

takes one to know one
you know

Next, I have several short poems by Portuguese poet Eugenio De Andrade from his book Forbidden Words, published by New Directions in 2003. It is a bilingual book, with English translations by Alexis Levitin.

Eugenio de Andrade, pseudonym of Jose Fontinhas. Born in 1923, he is revered in Portugal as one of the leading names in contemporary Portuguese poetry.

de Andrade died in 2005.


Side by side and separate we'll go,
and bite our words, as one by one they come,
taciturn and brilliantly aglow
- of, love, my constellation of pure mist,
shoulder of my hesitating arms.
Forgotten, remembered, then named again
in mouths of lovers now who kiss
high upon the decks of passing ships;
both of us undone, scattered deep on shale,
floating whole in realms of radiant fish,
and drowned in seamen's voices as they sail

Vegetal and Alone

It is autumn, let go of me.

Let my hair go free, like wild ponies,
no gloominess,
no engagements,
no letters to be answered.

Leave me my right arm,
the one more ardent,
the one more blue,
the one made more for flight.

Give me back the face of a summer
without the fever of all those lips,
without the lightest sound of tears
on my burning lids.

Leave me alone, vegetal and alone,
flowing like a river of leaves
toward a night where the most beautiful adventure
is recorded perfectly, without a single letter.

Post Scriptum

Now I return to your clear body's light.
I recognize and architecture formed
of burning earth and simple, untouched moon,
that floats beyond all limits in a night
already thick and fragrant with the dawn.

You wake at break of day, your mouth alight
with lilies, clamoring confused desire;
an open rose in breeze or in the sand,
a rose both tall and white, and only white,
behind you sea, that sets my veins afire.

You stand there at the border of my verse,
still warm from all those kisses I gave you;
so young and more than young, unstained by grief,
- as at that time when fear was at its worst,
my fear you'd trip upon a drop of dew.

To Waken

Is it a bird, is it a rose,
is it the sea that wakens me?
Bird or rose or sea,
all is fire, all desire.
To awake is to be rose of the rose,
song of the bird, water of the sea.

Gary Blankenship has been a friend of "Here and Now" almost since we started. His poems have appeared here frequently, including early on poems from his book A River Transformed: Wang Wei's River Wang.

Gary's book came out about the same time as mine. While mine is pretty much a scramble, Gary's is focused on the poems of 8th century Chinese master Wang Wei, creating modern free verse poems inspired by Wang Wei's poems and in the spirit of that great poet and his times.

Gary was a good candidate to make this project work because his work has the kind of quiet strength typical of Chinese poetry of this period, what I referred to in a foreword to the book as Gary's "calm and contemplative center" as a poet.

It is a beautiful book, beautifully written and beautifully framed. I don't know if copies of the book are still available. You can check into that by clicking on Gary's link in the link section on the right side of this page.

XVIII: After Wang Wei's North Hill (16) - Adrift on the River

There is no color; the mountains white;
the valley thick with fog and cry of geese
Once scarlet flowed across the green,
and green faded to yellow, gold and brown.

The forest black against winter's sky,
the river dark with the shade of naked trees,
every gray and masked bird as silent
as clouds heavy with the seasons cold crop.

Pale as quiet nights, you tremble
as the last petal falls to an early frost.
Worry not, there will be other springs,
there will be other journey after this.

I have lost our oars and whittle new
from oak leaves drifting past red hills.

XVII: After Wang Wei's Waves of Willow Trees (12) - What Isn't, Is Forgotten

There are no castles on our horizons;
no ramparts to fly banners and warn
seabirds we have fled and do not follow!

Footsteps lead towards smoke and home.
We look back to the sea s if to recall
who was left behind unharvested.

Your hair floats unlike kelp at low tide,
fingers grasp un like roots in soft sand,
your limbs as white as split driftwood.

I cannot see what you are, only what your aren't.
You are flesh, blood and bone, but I see
shell, beach and surf as the moon turns orange.

Around and around, a toy boat floats;
an old man argues its sail was ever blue.

XIII: After Wang Wei's Fine Apricot Lodge (3) - After the Market

Each perfect globe placed with care
until the basket filled beyond the brim,
no room for the final, blemished fruit.
I split it with my thumbs, half for me,
half for you, the bitter center
discarded as if almonds, valueless.

Unrolled, the scroll fills a wall.
With soiled fingers, we trace their journey.,
a bit of pulp left wherever they stopped,
juice where they slept, ate, wrote.
Do not worry. The scroll is not his creation,
but only a copy of a fake, valueless.

Plant a seed wet with flesh,
a thousand years later, a dead tree falls.

The next poem is from The Yellow Heart written by Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda as he prepared for his death by cancer and the imminent U.S.-backed military coup in Chili in 1973.

Born in 1904, Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean writer and politician Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. During his lifetime, Neruda occupied many diplomatic posts and served a stint as senator for the Chilean Communist Party. When Conservative Chilean President Gonzales Videla outlawed communism in Chile, a warrant was issued for Neruda's arrest. Friends hid him for months in a basement of a home in the Chilean port of Valparaiso. Neruda then escaped into exile through a mountain pass near Maihue Lake into Argentina. Years later, Neruda was a close collaborator to socialist President Salvador Allende.

Hospitalized with cancer at the time of the Chilean coup d'etat led by Augusto Pinochet, Neruda died of heart failure twelve days later. Already a legend in life, Neruda's death became charged with an intense symbolism that reverberated around the world. Pinochet had denied permission to transform Neruda's funeral into a public event, but thousands of grieving Chileans disobeyed the curfew, flooding the streets in tribute. Neruda's funeral became the first public protest against the Chilean military dictatorship.

Neruda's pen name was derived from Czech writer and poet Jan Neruda; it later became his legal name.

All the poems in the book were translated from Spanish to English by William O'Daly who has made Neruda's late poetry the focus of his artistic life, publishing a total five books of translation of Neruda's poetry. This book was published by Copper Canyon Press in 1990.


The truth of the green tree
in spring and of Earth's crust
is proven beyond a doubt:
the planets nourish us
despite eruptions
and the sea offers us fish
despite her quaking:
we are slaves of the earth
that is also governess of air.

Walking around an orange
I spent more than one life
echoing the earth's sphere:
geography and ambrosia:
juices the color of hyacinth
and the white scent of woman
like blossoms of flour.

Nothing is gained by flying
to escape this globe
that trapped you at birth.
And we need to confess our hope
that understanding and love
come from below, climb
and grow inside us
like onions, like oak trees,
like tortoises or flowers,
like countries,like races,
like roads and destinations.

Here's a self-explanatory poem. Woe is me, a work ambush.

$13 and hour and air conditioning

got the call
project coming up
starting next week -
a month
in August
and September -
not a project
I particularly look
forward to
and the money
ain't great,
but anyone who'll
pay me
to sit in free air conditioning
in August
and September
has a leg up
on my attention

Emma Lazarus, born in New York City in 1849 is best known for writing The New Colossus, a sonnet written in 1883; its final lines were engraved on a bronze plaque in the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1912. The sonnet was solicited by William Maxwell Evarts as a donation to an auction, conducted by the "Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty" to raise funds to build the pedestal.

Lazarus was the fourth of seven children of Moses Lazarus and Esther Nathan, Portuguese Sephardic Jews whose families had been settled in New York since the colonial period. She was related through her mother to Benjamin N. Cardozo, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Knows as an important forerunner of the Zionist movement, she traveled twice to Europe, first in May 1885 after the death of her father in March and again in September 1887. She returned to New York City seriously ill after her second trip and died two months later in 1887, most likely from Hodgkin's disease.

Lazarus is buried in Beth-Olom Cemetery in Brooklyn.

This poem is from the book Emma Lazarus: Poet of the Jewish People, published by Arthur James in 1997 as part of a series on "Visionary Women."

In Exile

"Since that day till now our life is one unbroken paradise.
We live a true brotherly life. Every evening after supper we
take a seat under the mighty oak and sing our songs."
- Extract from a letter of a Russian refugee in Texas.

Twilight is here, soft breezes bow the grass,
   Day's sounds of various toil break slowly off,
The yoke-freed oxen low, the patient ass
   Dips his nostril in the cool, deep trough.
Up from the prairie the tanned herdsmen pass
   with frothy pails, guiding with voices rough
Their udder-lightened kine. Fresh smells of earth,
The rich, black furrows of the glebe send forth.

After the Southern day of heavy toil,
   How good to lie, with limbs relaxed, brows bare
To evening's fan, and watch the smoke-wreaths coil
   from one's pipe-stem through the rayless air.
So deem these unused tillers of the soil,
   Who stretched beneath the shadowing oak-tree, stare
Peacefully on the star-unfolding skies,
And name their life unbroken paradise.

The hounded stag that has escaped the pack,
   And pants at ease within a thick-leaved dell;
The unimprisoned bird that finds the track
   Through sun-bathed space, to where his fellows dwell;
The martyr, granted respite from the rack,
   The death-doomed victim pardoned from his cell, -
Such only know the joy these exiles gain, -
Life's sharpest rapture is surcease of pain.

Strange faces theirs, where through the Orient sun
   Gleams from the eyes and glows athwart the skin
Grave lines of studious thought and purpose run
   From curl-crowned forehead to dark-bearded chin.
And over all the seal is stamped thereon
   Of anguish branded by a world of sin,
Their seal of glory and Gentiles shame.

Freedom to love the law that Moses brought,
   To sing the songs of David, and to think
The thoughts of Gabriol to Spinoza taught,
   Freedom to dig the common earth, to drink
The universal air - for this they sought
   Refuge o'er wave and continent, to link
Egypt with Texas in their mystic chain,
And truth's perpetual lamp forbid to wane.

Hark! through the quiet evening air, their song
   Floats forth with wild sweet rhythm and glad refrain.
They sing the conquest of the spirit strong,
   The soul that wrests the victory from pain;
The noble joys of manhood that belong
   To comrades and to brothers. In their strain
Rustle of palms and Eastern streams one hears,
And the broad prairie melts in mist of tears.

I introduced Joanna M. Weston to "Here and Now" readers a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I got my hands on a copy of her book, A Summer Father, published by Frontenac House of Calgary, Alberta, in 2006.

Joanna's book is dedicated to her father, Major John William Fletcher Jarmain, who died on June 26, 1944 in Normandy, France.

Shortly after Major Jamain died in the Normandy Invasion, a book of his poetry was published. Joanna was only six years old when her father died and, in the years since, has read her father's poetry over and over, seeking to know more about the man he was.

Her book continues that search, including at the beginning of many of her poems, quotations from her father's book of poems.

You can find out more about Joanna and her book by clicking on her link under the link section of the page.

October, 1942

    And there our dead will keep their holy ground.

El Alamein -
the place
where poetry
became need
beyond want

a way to put gunfire
bombs   minefields
sand drilling flesh
into order

a way to find respite
in a glimpse of magnolias -
moonlight on a sandbag wall

it was
the place of knowing
that only me who fought
at Alamein
would mark the map
with sand and yellow moon

we who come later
find lilies
and buried poems


    He sang for company as he shoveled the sand,
    Digging himself a shelter for the night.

the desert gave him
hard sky over moving sand
instead of peacetime's
vineyards and summer sun

under the artillery of El Alamein
he found himself leached
by dunes and guns
alive by grace
from Tel-el-Eisa

here he viewed life
in small pictures -

a soldier
sang of orchids

wire twisted
a telephone pole
to crucifixion

a broken wall
for shelter -

poetry a luxury of time
when words slipped out
gritty and thin
sand and shrapnel
to portray
the inexplicable
to his daughter

My next poem is by Michael Gottlieb from his book The Likes of Us, published by Harry Tankoos in 2007.

I found a lot of references to Gottlieb in Google files, but nothing in the way of an organized biography. So, all I know of him is what I read in his poems.

Like this one.

Inconvenient Affects

                  for Drew

that which doesn't kill you, almost kills you

what is just not available any longer, irrespective of price

lying seething at the edge of the frame, close to the boil, empurpled

the unfit - prevailing, the abjurate

understandable. Spot on. A festering that denotes little apparent prog-
ress. An eschaton, bedeviled. Narrowing in on

at the tertiary depot where we attempted to to present all this as a color-
able benefit: repatriating the unwilling, now nearly attired in their ob-
jections, each encircled by a slick of not-unnatural premonition. Amidst
them a frank perisher, like a symptom of thrush

the awkward bits, ultimately papered over by a condominium between
the two parties. Dividing it all up, like a former coaling station

a veritable adventurism, antic
deeply troubling, a protestation fed by reckless rescheduling, too-close-

a fully let-out disinclination to join the frolic. Risible, jeering, revving,

as it flags, the squall fading into the arms of the distracted

the better and the much better, leading to a retreat into "base articula-
tion," no more than another hollowed-out mountain

a former favorite

insisting, caning, treed, floored, hap, ail, unassailable

patronymics scattering like alibis along with rubbishly exhortations and
debased collations, heaped upon the cold table - all we ever hear from
that quarter

in the hermit borough, home to certain long-thought-lost-species, a
city-state of dissimulation rises up as if overnight, teeming with suspect

chapels of collision-partners

- like aids to mariners. Triangulating by means of eyesores

the crushing overhead, the flat file appearing at the bar, the bulleted
notation with one's name inscribed. The express instruction. That one

rationing what used to be apportioned

in this for-noon, this darkened chamber

what the hosts of the becalmed have decided to set before us

I wrote this late last week. Don't know what brought it to mind, most likely the situation in Georgia.

draft dodging

i remember
seeing my reflection
in a store window,
long hair,
greasy looking,
thin coat
against the wet
a refugee-looking
bit of human

it was the first week
of January, 1966,
barely a month
from my 22nd birthday,
just off the bus from
Bay City, a small nondescript
town where i was working
for a small, nondescript newspaper,
when the "Greetings" letter
from Uncle Sam
set a new course
for my life,
a course i had frantically
since my 18th birthday

- dumb,
i was, to believe
i could skip out on school
and no one at the draft board
would notice -

it was early days in the war,
though no one knew that
at the time, and i
really didn't have an opinion
about it,
except that, for damn sure,
i didn't want any personal
part of it.
it was just, much like
Dick Cheney
at about the same time,
i though i had better things
to do and was sure smoking
dope, drinking too much,
and thinking deep thoughts
were much more valuable
contributions to the war effort
than anything i could do
with an actual

but the letter came
Canada aside,
there didn't seem much
until i went to the pre-
induction physical
and passed a room
where a line of draftees
in their underwear
were being divided into
two groups,
counting off down the line

1, 2, army,
3, marines,
1, 2. army, 3, marines

and i said the hell
with that
and went back to Bay City
and joined the Air Force,
bumping some poor draft dodger
like myself, except
with lesser test-taking skills,
into the 1, 2, army, 3, marines
for which, though i'm sorry,
i'd do it all again

which brought me to this
place, a block and a half
from the induction center
in Houston,
looking at a stranger
i knew was me,
looking back from a store window,
a drifter in life
whose accomplishments
never matched
the opportunities available
to him,
the most alone
i had ever been,
what came next, knowing
i'd never see this particular
it that was a good thing
or bad

My next poem is by R.S. Thomas from his book Poems by R.S.Thomas published by The University of Arkansas Press in 1985.

Thomas, a Welsh poet and Anglican clergyman, was born in 1913. Beginning in 1932 he studied at he University College of North Wales, Bangor, where he read Classics. He was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church in Wales after completing his theological training at St. Michael's College. He and his wife and son lived a very simple life with a tiny income earned from his various religious assignments. One of the few household amenities the family ever owned, a vacuum cleaner, was rejected because Thomas decided it was too noisy.

He retired from the church in 1978, and he and his wife relocated to a tiny cottage in one of the most beautiful parts of Wales. Free from the constraints of the church he was able to become more political and active in campaigns that were important to him, becoming, among causes, a fierce advocate of Welsh nationalism.

Thomas died in 2000.

That Place

I served on a dozen committees;
talked hard, said little, shared the applause
at the end. Picking over
the remains later, we agreed power
was not ours, launched our invective
at others, the anonymous wielders
of such. Life became small, grey,
the smell of interiors. Occasions
on which a clean air entered our nostrils
offswept seas were instances
we sought to recapture. One particular
time after a harsh morning
of rain, the clouds lifted, the wind
fell; there was an resurrection
of nature, and we there to emerge
with it into the anointed
air. I wanted to say to you: "We
will remember this." But tenses
were out of place on that green
island, ringed with the rain's
bow, that we had found and would spend
the rest of our lives looking for.

Thomas had a reputation as a dour, bad-tempered man. Possibly the
reason can be seen in this poem which speaks to a very dark religious
view indeed.


It was all arranged:
the virgin with child, the birth
in Bethlehem, the arid journey uphill
to Jerusalem. The prophets foretold
it, the scriptures conditioned him
to accept it. Judas went to his work
with his sour kiss; what else
could he do?

               a wise old age,
the honors awarded for lasting,
are not for a savior. He had
to be killed; salvation acquired
by an increased guilt. The tree,
with its roots in the mind's dark,
was divinely planted, the original fork
in existence. There is no meaning in life,
unless men can be found to reject
love. God needs his martyrdom.
The mild eyes stare from the Cross
in perverse triumph. What does care
that the people's offerings are so small?

A four-time Pushcart nominee, Arlene Ang lives in Venice, Italy where she edits the Italian edition of Poems Niederngasse, an excellent journal that has been kind enough to publish my work on occasion (English edition).

Arlene is a friend of "Here and Now" and has appeared with us a number of times. Her work has also been published in a number of major literary journals, including Envoi, Mississippi River Online, The Pedestal magazine, Poetry Midwest, Rattle, and Smiths Knoll.

Our poems this week are from Arlene's book, The Desecration of Doves published by iUniverse, Inc. in 2005.

To find out more about Arlene and her book, click on her link in the link section on the right.

Siamese Women

Like cats sleeked with fluff,
they wait behind windows
for the activity of rabbits
to feed their daily curiosity.

Their indoor purrs act as radar,
detect each housekeeping
weakness in the neighborhood.

My mother-in-law warned me,
but I refuse to hang curtains,
punish Nero for digging holes
in our unweeded garden.

Grime on screen and glass
camouflages homelife. No doubt
they do not approve of my cooking.

There is cruelty almost
in their incessant scratching,
the kneading to find fault
the way alcoholics crave cheap gin.

Experience with a stray that clawed out
the entrails of our divan has taught me
contempt for everything feline.

In pure sunlight, I pad out
in my bunny slippers,
their ears sloshing into autumnal mud,
to retrieve the morning mail.

The calmly, under horrified gazes,
I walk back to our unmatted front door,
the trail of dirt my own version of up yours.


Motor cycles grumble blackly
from the street like giant bees;
morning rolls away on two wheels.

Leaning on the bathroom sink,
I count white minutes that skip
two months before every second.

As the salmon-bricked church tower
clangs its electronic bell, I face
the mirror and try a hesitant smile.

It is a beautiful day, after all.
The sky spills postcard-blue
oil paint through the open window.

Light heat grey-sweats buildings
and grease the branches of trees.
I wonder if I should call Mom.

On my left hand, sunstreaks capture
the pregnancy test kit as it flutters
parallel lines of shocking pink.

My next poem is by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from his second book,
a coney island of the mind, published by New Directions in
1958. I bought the book when it was new and over the years since lost
it. I bought a copy (a very tattered and raggedy copy) at Half-Priced
Books last year for $3.98, not a whole lot less than I paid for the
new paperback fifty years ago. Come to think of it, it probably cost
less fifty years ago.

The Long Street

The long street
which is the street of the world
passes around the world
filled with all the people of the world
not to mention all the voices
of all the people
that ever existed
Lovers and weepers
virgins and sleepers
spaghetti salesmen and sandwichmen
milkmen and orators
boneless bankers
brittle housewives
sheathed in nylon snobberies
deserts of advertising men
herds of high school fillies
crowds of collegians
all talking and talking
and walking around
or hanging out windows
to see what's doing
out in the world
where everything happens
sooner or later
if it happens at all
And the long street
which is the longest street
in all the world
but which isn't as long
as it seems
passes on
thru all the cities and all the scenes
down every alley
up every boulevard
thru every crossroads
thru red lights and green lights
cities in sunlight
continents in rain
hungry Hong Kongs
untillable Tuscaloosas
Oaklands of the soul
Dublins of the imagination
And the long street
rolls on around
like an enormous choochoo train
chugging around the world
with its bawling passengers
and babies and picnic baskets
and cats and dogs
and all of them wondering
just who is up
in the cab ahead
driving the train
if anybody
the train which runs around the world
like a world going round
all of them wondering
just what is up
if anything
and some of them leaning out
and peering ahead
and trying to catch
a look at the driver
in his one-eye cab
trying to see him
to glimpse his face
to catch his eye
as they whir around a bend
but they never do
although once in a while
it looks as if
they're going to
and the street goes rocking on
the train goes bowling on
with its windows reaching up
its windows the windows
of all the buildings
in all the streets of the world
bowling along
thru the light of the world
thru the night of the world
with lanterns at crossings
lost lights flashing
crowds at carnivals
nightwood circuses
whorehouses and parliaments
forgotten fountains
cellar doors and unfound doors
figures in lamplight
pale idols dancing
as the world rocks on
But now we come
to the lonely part of the street
the part of the street
that goes around
the lonely part of the world
And this is not the place
that you change trains
for the Brighton Beach Express
This is not the place
that you do anything
This is the part of the world
where nothing's doing
where no one's doing
where nobody's anywhere
nobody nowhere
except yourself
not even a mirror
to make you two
not a soul
except your own
and even that
not there
or not yours
because you're what's called
you've reached your station


You'll see a lot of different people, if you pay attention. Some of them will just grab your heart.

no wrong

drove down the street
a bit
to Popeye's
to pick up lunch,
3-piece dinner, dark meat,
spicy and fries,
and the young girl
at the counter,
with an I,
brown eyes,
brown hair pinned up
in the back,
i suppose,
trying so hard
to do everything right
she had me

could do
for me today

I have two books by "Here and Now" friend S. Thomas Summers, Death settled well, published by Shadows Ink Publications in 2006 and Rather, It Should Shine from the Pudding House Chapbook Series in 2007.

Scott is a high school English teacher in New Jersey. In addition to his chapbooks, his work has appeared in a number of print and on-line journals, Loch Raven Review, The Pedestal Magazine, The English Journal, The Orange Room Review, and 3rd Muse.

For more information about Scott and his books, click on his link in the link section on the right.

The first two poems below are from Death settled well and the last is from Rather, It should Shine.


After a night's
rain, pine

needles bow
to the hills,

railroad tracks
shimmer in morning

sun, stretch
across earth

like tinsel.
I'll follow the tracks,

toss stones
at wrinkled beer

cans, watch
a squirrel
burden the shade
of a dying ash.

Moment at a Jersey Diner

At the counter, me hunch
over sandwiches and fries,
pan their coffee for gold.
A young waitress flits from table
to table like a hummingbird.
She sups at each flower,
vanishes in a fog of voices.


This was the poem I meant
to whisper in your ear,
but rain dances on the dark

road, popcorn sparking
on a skillet, and the air
beneath this cluster of pines

has been painted a blacker
shade of nigh. You'll never
breathe this moment as deeply

as I do so please forgive me -
I'll sleep alone tonight, lost
in the hammock of this secret.

Here's something I wrote several weeks ago, a closer for this week.

liar, liar

i lied
to my dog today

when it came time
to put her in the car
so we could drive
to our morning walk
i said,

i can't take you
with me
because i have
a bunch of errands
and you'd be stuck
in the hot car
and you'd get hot
and sweaty and
you'd hate it."

pants on

the truth is
i don't have any errands,
don't plan on doing anything
from what i usually do,
i just didn't want the hassle
of taking her home like i usually do
before i go off to all the places
i usually go off to

i knew
as i scratched behind her ears
and looked into her soft brown eyes
that, weeping
though she might be on the inside,
she believed me

just as she always
believes me

Though the way may continue, the road for this week's ends right here and right now.

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


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The Past Struggles Never To Let Go   Friday, August 15, 2008


I'm starting this week off with some exciting (to me, at least) news.

Some of my photos, originally from "Here and Now," are up at a local Starbucks, for show and for sale. I understand a couple have already sold.

Do I think that's pretty darn ok?

You betcha.

The store is one of the six hundred Starbucks locations due to close soon, probably by the end of the month. My photos had nothing to do with it.

Meantime, here's the lineup for this week.

From my library:

Michael Van Walleghen
Brooke Bergan
Naomi Shihab Nye
William Matthews
Gary Soto
Tino Villanueva
Sudeep Sen
Elizabeth Seydel Morgan

From Friends of "Here and Now"

Susan B. McDonough
Arunansu Banerjee
Jim Comer

Several poems by me

And photographs by San Antonio artist Rose Cosme.

I start this week with a poem by Michael Van Walleghen from his third book, Blue Tango, published by The University of Illinois Press in 1989.

Born in 1938, Van Walleghen has published five other books of poetry, The Wichita Poems, More Trouble With the Obvious, Tall Birds Stalking, The Last Neanderthal, and In the Black Window. He also published translations of Russian poet Dmitri Bobyshev in the anthology In the Grip of Strange Thoughts: Russian Poetry in the New Era.

Before retirement he was a Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was the first director of the MFA in Creative Writing program created there in 2003.


Someone doesn't like cats -
he thinks they're "sneaky"

so cats start disappearing
all over the neighborhood.

Even our own cat disappears
and then, some weeks later

her mutilated body turns up
in an abandoned farmhouse -

because that's what she gets.
Someone doesn't like cats

so he stabs their eyes out
and cuts them into little pieces.

Maniacs behind every tree.
Maniacs, child molesters...

But Emily, my five-year-old
has different notions entirely.

She thinks her cat's in Florida
on vacation - because it's winter

and "that's where the birds go."
It's winter, it's after supper

and a small moon, a cat's eye
follows us down our dark street

all the way to the liquor store -
then dimly, dimly back again...

Nevertheless, because she's eaten
so many raw carrots lately

my daughter informs me
she can see in the dark now

like the animals - whereupon
she leaps unerringly, catlike

over and ice-filled gutter -
at which, even the trees

seem stirred, clattering
their sudden applause

all round us for a moment -
then falling still as trees

near a house without windows
in the middle of winter.

There I was, just sipping my latte and writing a poem in the most poetic of moods and in a manner most genteelish, and, zap, they came along and started closing my coffee shops.

This'll show’em.

culture clash

i'm an early
who doesn't
like to face any
new day
without coffee
and the New York Times

so i always look
for the familiar
green sign
when i travel -

even going
on the interstate
i can spot them
and if i don't
spot'em directly,
i can spot
the kinds of place
they usually are

i'm seldom

out of the thousands,
will be closed
and one of those 600
is right here in San Antonio

one of the originals,
to be more than a place
to shove $4 coffee drinks
out a drive-thru window

it's a larger place
where people can sit,
to be a place
where community can be
a place to make friends
and talk to neighbors,
a place to read and,
have a mind to,
a place to write a poem,

the kind of place that
the coffee culture
it's corporate culture
seems ready
to deny

I've used poems from Storyville; A Hidden Mirror by Brooke Bergan a number of times, so if you read "Here and Now" with any frequency you're probably familiar with the book and the approach Bergan takes to the story of Storyville and its whores and Ernest Bellocq, an otherwise run-of-the-mill commercial photographer with an obsession who, almost inadvertently, saved it all for history.

In brief, Bergan uses Bellocq's photos as a departure point for her poems, sometimes even writing in the imagined voice of Bellocq, bringing the place and time to life again. As to the details of Storyville and Bellocq, a google search will give you the whole interesting story of how government sanction red light district became a fascinating piece of New Orleans history.

Bergan has an MA and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has taught writing classes and workshops for nearly twenty years in grade schools, high schools, libraries, colleges and universities to widely diverse audiences around the country.

Her publications include three critically acclaimed books of poetry as well as fiction, reviews, essays, translations and a play. She has given numerous readings and performances; appeared on radio, television and video programs about literature; and made presentations at national conferences. She has also served as a literary editor for several journals, is the founding editor of Persiflage Press and was the director of publications at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has won awards for both her scholarship and her poetry.

Here are two poems from the book, imagining Bellocq speaking to one of his favorite models as he prepares her photo.

Plate 21: Adele In An Evening Gown

Adele, Adele
of the violent
violet eyes, you
are my favorite.
Only for you do I
hang the black scrim
so that there is nothing but you
pale against it
as a pearl on black velvet.

Someone else gave you
the silk gown hung with
pearls, the marabou
shawl, you feather out
against the black scrim,
the lavaliere at you neck,
the pinching sadness
of your eyes.

But I give you this:
A universe that is only

My Adele.

Plate 28: Adele Wearing A Locket

Adele, you are so real
without clothes, the lens
falters at the soft
curve of stomach,
soiled feet, ribbons
of hair you've let fall
down your back, like my
locket, a kiss between
your breasts.

If I put you against
the filigreed wall, let
your hand rest
on the carved back
of this chair,
will the world
see what I do?

It's been a while since we've heard from our friend Susan B. McDonough, but here she is, back again, with a wonderful poem of the great American Southwest.

Susan creates gardens for a living and says she enjoys the journey of transplanting words into poetry. She has one foot in Arizona and the other in Maine, living some months of the year in both places.

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

Just West of Black Mountain

It isn't the breath of dry air carried
on the ambiguity of a tumbleweed
or that Cactus Wren perched on the edge
of the screen door propped open to the patio,
her mouth comically brimmed in blue-gray bits
of the neighbor's dryer lint
that makes this desert feel like home.
It's not the luminance of a million stars
tumbled on the spurs of a sultry desert night
floating above a thousand silent
armed and unarmed saguaros.
No it's none of that.
It's the way the land is so hard,
so endlessly unforgiving,
what it might take from you and the way
a single tiny seed can find its way
to be a wildflower.

My next poem is by Naomi Shihab Nye, from her book 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, published by Greenwillow Books in 2002.

Nye, born in 1952 to a Palestinian father and American mother, is a poet, songwriter and novelist. A graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio, she continues to call that city home.

This is the first poem in the book.

Different Ways to Pray

There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
Women dreamed wistfully of
hidden corners, where knee fit rock.
Their prayers, weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence
as if this shredding of syllables could
fuse them to the sky.

There were men who had been shepherds so long
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms -
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!

But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men are heartily, flat bread
   and white cheese,
and were happy in spite of the pain,
because there was also happiness.

Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen
to ride buses cross miles of sand.
When they arrived in Mecca
they would circle the holy places,
on foot, many times,
they would kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.

While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occurred daily,
lugging water from the spring
or balancing baskets of grapes.

These were the one present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into
   children's dresses,
forgetting how easily children soil clothes.

There were those who didn't care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had
   been to America.
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
   Time? The old ones prayed for the young ones.
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

And occasionally there would be one
who did none of his,
the old man Fowzi, for example,
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,
and was famous for his laugh.

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, a short piece brought to mind by a line from another poet and a feature on NPR about dreaming. I was also struck by the idea of a nightmare about not being able to dream.

i dreamed

i dreamed
i could not dream

and made insane
by a
never-dream world

i huddled
in a dark, dreamless

like hailstones

on my roofless

Born in Ohio in 1942, William Matthews earned a bachelors degree from Yale University and a masters from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to serving as a Writer-in-Residence at Boston's Emerson College, he held various academic positions at institutions including Cornell University, the University of Washington - Seattle, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Iowa. At the time of his death in 1997, he was a professor of English and director of the creative writing program at City College of New York.

Matthews published 11 books of poetry, including Time & Money which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1996 Blues If You Want, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1989, and from which the next poem was taken.

What A Little Moonlight Can Do

It's spring. Lilacs and ginger the humid air.
Next thing you know it's summer - hollyhocks
and fireflies in a pickle jar (seven running down
their dusty batteries and two are already dead).

A rash of lichen chafes across the lakeside
rocks he loves to sprawl on after swimming.
What animals, those shadowy siblings,
will he not see this year? The moose. The loon.

The fox, for whose insouciant gait a dance
was named that swept this lovelorn parents
like a wave about break across dance floors
they still dream of, disguised as bay and meadows.

The boy not quite asleep on the third floor
of a strange house looks out over the undulations
of the golf course, its pockets of shadow,
its moon-washed mounds. He can smell

people dancing. Perfumes and shampoos rise,
shoe polish, and the creamy purr the saxophones
lavishly emit, and many a remark.
A woman laughs from low in her throat.

She's not on he porch and not in the car.
The stars and tolerant moon let down
their tarnished light and we send back,
like a constant exclamation of balloons,
our sounds and fervent odors. We'd be aloft
if our bodies didn't hold us down,
and everything that memory can get
its clumsy hands on. The boy watches a dog

skulk out of the rough and dark to lift
its moon-silvered leg - that's not a dog,
it's a fox! and its fur is not silver but gray -
and pee distractedly into a sand trap. and then

it's gone. Soon the band and summer will disperse.
The lake rocks mildly in its bowl. It's late,
it's almost dawn. But what the sun elicits
from the lake, the rain will surely return.

Arunansu Banerjee, from Calcutta, West Bengal, India. He says he has been writing poetry only a few years but the art and craft were rooted in him long before he started posting poems on different web forums and having his work published on some web journals. Arunansu says that, since childhood, he has been a prolific painter and a bookworm.

Arunansu is a teacher by profession, with a degree in physics and specialized expertise in softwares. He says his primary love is listening to Indian Classical music. His favorite poets are Emily Dickinson and Rabindranath Tagore.

This is his second appearance in "Here and Now."


"On the eastern side it will be!"
pointed a middle-aged person.

"Papa, will they burst like crackers?"
"No Dodo, comet showers are mere streaks
flying across the sky."

"Sir, what's the expected time, 2 am?"
"One-thirty! Only an hour left!"

Kolkata maiden looked a strange graveyard
with the street lamps. Groups of people nestled
in their woolens, tea sellers did brisk business.

An old beggar, bent as her wooden
stick, moved in a snail's pace. One gentleman
seated on the grass, scribbled in the light
of a lantern.

I sat beside him.

Night progressed amid words and laughter.
Stars disappeared into the brume.
So did the people.

Morning awoke with hostile crows
and stray dogs, nibbling litter.
My companion had finished his write.

He recited lines from his poem

Gary Soto was born to working-class Mexican-American parents in 1952 in Fresno, California. He had very low grades throughout school, but became interested in poetry in high school and began writing poetry while he attended Fresno City College. Soto moved on to California State University, Fresno for his undergraduate degree, and then to the University of California, Irvine, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1976

His work earned recognition in the late 70's, when he won an Academy of American Poets Prize. His first book of poems, The Elements of San Joaquin, which contains grim pictures of Mexican American life in California's Central Valley, was published in 1987.

In 1985, he joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught in both the English department and Chicano Studies department. He stopped teaching in 1994 to write full-time, but returned to teaching in 2003 with a post at University of California-Riverside.

The next poem is from Soto's recent book, a simple plan, a National Book Award Finalist published by Chronicle Books in 2007.

I had intended to use another poem from the book, but I'll get to it in some future issue. I'm a dog lover and, for this issue, couldn't pass up this poem about a dog a lot like my own.

Nelson, My Dog

Like the cat he scratches the flea camping in fur.
Unlike the cat he delights in water up to his ears.
He frolics. He catches a crooked stick -
On his back he naps with legs straight up in the air.
Nelson shutters awake. He responds to love
From head to tail. In happiness
His front legs march in place
and his back legs spark when they push off.
On a leash he knows his geography.
For your sake he looks both ways before crossing,
He sniffs at the sight of a poodle trimmed like a hedge,
And he trots the street with you second in command.
In the park, he ponders a squirrel attached to a tree
And he shovels a paper cup on his nose.
He sweeps after himself with his tail,
And there is no hand that doesnt deserve a lick.
Note this now, my friends:
Nelson can account the heritage of heroic dogs:
One, canines lead the blind,
Two, they enter fire to rescue the child and the child's toy,
Three, they swim for the drowning,
Four, they spring at the thief,
Five, they paddle ponds for the ball that got away,
Six, for the elderly they walk side by side to the very end,
Seven, they search for bones but stop when called,
Eight, they bring mud to all parties,
Nine, they poke among the ruins of a burnt house,
Ten, they forgive what you dish out on a plate.

Nelson is a companion, this much we know,
And if he were a movie star, he would do his own stunts -
O, how he would fly, climb the pant legs of a scoundrel
And stand tall rafting on white-water rivers!
He has befriended the kingdom of animals:
He once ran with wolves but admittedly not very far,
He stepped two paces into a cave and peeked at the bear,
He sheltered a kitten,
He righted a turtle pedaling its stumps on its back,
Under the wheeling stars he caravanned with the mule,
He steered sheep over a hill,
He wisely let the skunk pass,
He growled at the long-bearded miser,
He joined ducks quacking with laughter,
Once he leaped at a pheasant but later whined from guilt.

Nelson's black nose is a compass in the wilds.
He knows nature. He has spied spires of summer smoke,
He circled cold campfires,
He howled at a gopher and scratched at the moon,
He doctored his wounds with his tongue,
He has pawed a star of blood left in snow.
He regards the fireplace, the embers like blinking cats,
This too we know about Nelson.
True, he is sometimes tied to parking meters
And sometimes wears the cone of shame from the vet's office.
But again, he is happiness.
He presents his belly for a friendly scratch.
If you call him, he will drop his tennis ball,
Look up, and come running,
This muddy friend for life. When you bring your nose
To his nose for something like a kiss,
You can find yourself in his eyes.

We drove up to Lubbock, Texas last Friday for the graduation of a nephew at Texas Tech. (Congratulations Alfredo M Ramirez II.)

It was supposed to be an overnighter, but when we got ready to head back Saturday afternoon, we decided, what the heck, let's go back the long way. So we looped up through New Mexico, about a thousand extra miles, and got back Tuesday. I wrote this poem along the way, a little travelogue of parts of Texas and New Mexico.

four days on the road

Fredericksburg, Texas 78624

dad's home town,
every summer
until my seventeenth year

from a world
where Spanish flowed
around me
to a world where
it was German

all around -
the only place
in the world where
the telephone book

includes a page and a half
of people
with my same short
last name

cousins all
to one degree or another,
but the only ones i know
are mostly dead

so i don't stop anymore
when passing through
except at Opa's
Meat Market

for a few week's supply
of koch kasse,
liver sausage,
and hill country peaches

Mason, Texas 76856

little Mason, Texas,
barely 2,000 German
Irish and Mexican souls,
county seat of Mason


a town with a busy
functioning businesses
on every side

a historic stone
in the center
surrounded by

oak and pecan green

little towns all around
and die
from the rot

of modern times

this one grows
more gracious and serene
like a woman

whose youthful beauty

is defined
and deepened
by age

Brady, Texas, 76825

on the way to Brady,
between Dry Shunt Draw
and Cannibal Creek
the geology changes

gone are red rocks
and rich red earth

as the hill country
begins to flatten
to high caliche plains

of cactus
and low brush
and rocky fields

with dust devils,
two or three at a time
pacing us,

twirling caliche dust
on either side

a casualty
of the dusty

is passed through
and left behind
with no regrets

Eden, Texas 76837

tiny Eden

don't go there
you'll surely be

but if you must

don't pick the

Lamesa, Texas 79331

high plains,
a town dried up,
old buildings'
former glory
brick dingy,
windows blank,
empty eyes
like old men
in decline
wanting just
a quiet place in an
to die in peace

wanting just
to be left

Lubbock, Texas, 79401

Bush country

red-voting rednecks
with money,
sons of Birchers
when they were
still fighting the communist
with Impeach Earl Warren
and Rotary Club

in appearance,
the kind of town
old Sam Walton
would have built
if he'd been into

Fort Sumner, New Mexico, 88119

going west
on US 84, you
crest a hill
and see
the village of Fort Sumner,
population 1,100, give or take
a dozen, nestled
in a green and wooded
on the Pecos River

a true Eden
in the desert,
a garden not yet
spoiled -

at least, not
as seen from this

Santa Rosa, New Mexico 88435

the desert is green this year

like a New England pasture
between even greener

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87101

i remember
a night
camping on a trail
near the crest of Sandia
looking out under
a cloudless moon-soaked
to the desert
like an ocean
city lights
all the ships at sea


i will never see
anything this beautiful

and looking back

over all the years
that night

and all the sights i've seen,
i think i might have been

i rode this area
on horseback
many years ago

through its rough
its dusty flats

the asphalt tide
that engulfed it twenty-five
years ago
has shifted as the city
moves in new directions

leaving behind the derelicts
of an ebbing civic tide,
vacant buildings,
empty lots,
as all starts the slow fall
back to nature
one weedy tuft at a time

long past my time
someone else
will ride this desert prairie,
leaving hoof prints
beside these ruins

Capitan, New Mexico 88316

just inside
the National Forest,
about six miles east of
and the scrambled strew
of black volcanic rock
called the Valley of Fires,
is Capitan, a one-street village

its single street
shaded the full length
by large cottonwoods,
bounded on either side
by art shops,
a grocery market-gas station,
Amy's Coffee House
and antiques,
new adobe homes,
and hundred-and-fifty-year-old
adobe ruins


in the summer
and quiet

an old man
on a horse
checks his mail,
as i pass

Roswell, New Mexico 88201

intergalactic way station

green men everywhere

stopping over,
like me,
for a plate of green

before leaving out
for home

Using a poem from Scene From the Movie Giant, by Tino Villanueva, like using a poem from Storyville, requires a lot of setup.

I have told the story several times now. This time I'll try to cut it to a minimum.

It begins with Villanueva as a 14-year-old boy watching the movie Giant in a darkened theater and seeing a scene of such bleak racism that it stays in his mind until, as an adult, he wrote this book of poems around that single scene not more than a couple of minutes in duration.

Villanueva was born in 1941 in San Marcos, Texas to a family of migrant workers. Because of the demands of traveling to harvest crops, Villanueva was never able to attend school regularly. Despite that he managed to graduate from San Marcos High in 1960 and began working on an assembly-line at a local furniture factory. In 1963, he was drafted into the United States Army in 1963 and spent two years in the Panama Canal Zone. Upon returning to San Marcos, he took advantage of the GI Bill to study English and Spanish at Texas State University-San Marcos. He completed his B.A. in three years and then moved to Buffalo, New York to attend the State University of New York. He finished his M.A. in 1971 and moved to Boston University, where he began his doctoral studies.

Villanueva has published several books of poetry since earning his Ph.D. He continues to teach, lecture, and research, and to develop his interest in painting. Villanueva currently serves as Preceptor in Spanish, Modern Foreign Languages and Literature in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University.

The Serving of the Water

Tell the portly waitress to stay overtime and
She will do it. Dressed in white, she is a
Version of Sarge...Who follows orders well
...Who may have it in her mind she is "The

Sweetest little rosebud that Texas ever knew."
Her whole embodiment is whatever she is doing -

At a booth, here, on the warm sketchy plain
Of day, it is water she sets out for the
Benedicts: the measurement of water is ritual
That isolates a race from the many colors of the

Day, and she does so with her eyes aimed at
Anyone she has give a harsh name to - like Juana,

And her child, half-Anglo, who in Juana's womb
Became all Mexican just the same. The waitress,
Entirely conscious of her act, whose eyes, quick,
Flee back to Sarge and now call out in silence,

Brings this moment to the edge of something tense
That spreads to everything. Her sudden look of
Outward regard - then Sarge, stirring dense cloud
Gathering (entering left), standing over everyone
In tallness almighty. Ice-cream is what Rock Hudson
Wishes for his grandson: "Ice-cream is what it shall be,"
His words a revelation of delight: "Give the
Little fella some ice-cream"...Summer is one long

Afternoon when Sarge, moved by deep familiar
Wrath, talks down: "Ice-cream - thought that kid'd
Want a tamale." An angry mass of time travels
Back and forth the distance between Sarge and

Rock Hudson, as I sit, shy of speech, in a stammer
Of light, and breathe a breath not fully breathed...

The next piece comes from our friend and frequent contributor, Jim Comer.

Legs of Summer

Our stride is courageous
on two black corded seats
of an aging, but audacious
red sports car.

The weary distance shimmers
its distorted desert images
on the hood - shapes our dreams
of destinations - the meter
of the four cylinders remind us
of the stretching eras.

In and out of overdrive, the valleys
and peaks demand a burly foot
on the pedal - the brake.

In a high valley, a window opens
between two crests - exposes
ranges beyond the naked eye,
layer after stratum of magenta,
faded orange and violet -
in our hearts we've arrived.

Javelinas, bears and pumas
guard a natural treasure -
we favor scarlet summer tanagers,
vermillion flycatchers, gray hawks
in the cottonwood trees.

In the grassy hill country off Texas,
our youngest daughter awaits -
we spin our memories and dreams.

The Ozarks wind us through Arkansas
and southern Missouri. Mom's ashes
rest among white pink petunias -
two brothers step away
with her blessings.

Sudeep Sen was born in New Delhi in 1964 and studied literature there and in the USA. As an Inlakes Scholar he completed an MS from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York. His writings have appeared widely in leading publications, including: Times Literary Supplement, Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Evening Standard, Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, London Magazine, Poetry Review, Washington Post, Boulevard, Harvard Review, Poetry , Times of India, Indian Review of Books, Telegraph, and Statesman.

Sen has been an International poet-in-residence at The Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh and a visiting scholar at Harvard University. He lives and works in London and New Delhi.

The next poem is from his most recent book, Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems published by HarperCollins in 1997. The book was awarded the Hawthorne Fellowship and nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

The Lovers and the Moon


some lovers, obscure lovers
sat in a lonely park

on a secluded old marble bench
where the moon made love

to this white stone,
flooding it with milky luminescence

until it grew
hard and cold, beautiful and serene.

clear, so clear that it reflected
the moon,

so when the obscure lovers sat,
sat in the lonely park

on the secluded marble bench,
they knew they weren't alone.

they knew they weren't alone.
a large myth was looming all around.


the lovers were engaged
some years later - a moonstone ring.
they never spoke
through all their lives.

even as they loved
they were aware of the orb,
its intense radiance
that bound them together.

some years later they had a child.
it was full moon night,
through just before its conception
there was a great storm.

amidst all the clamour and diffusion,
the lovers perceived a strange
through familiar apparition
that approached them from the sky.

a mirage - the marble bench,
solitary, but glowing.
all was dead still,
stark, the earth was cold.

on the same bench now appeared
a fresh green sapling, its roots
emerging from the lifeless stone,
life from an inanimate womb.

when this new voice screamed
amidst the stillness
it echoed a shudder
whose force disengaged two leaves

from a Banyan tree over the bench
weakened in the recent storm.
they glided, fluttered downwards,
softly perching on the earth.


the lovers,
the father and mother of the child


near the marble bench
was a grave, a tombstone,

and the Banyan tree above it.

as an offering was placed:
two leaves, the moonstone ring, and

an epitaph

containing the lyrics
of the whole song.

Photo by Rose Cosme

I introduced San Antonio artist/photographer Rose Cosme to "Here and Now" readers several months ago. I'm glad to have her back this month with some additional photos, the one above and the ones below.

Rose choose protheses as her subject for her M.F.A. portfolio and has continued to work with them as the focus of her work since, producing strange, sometimes unsettling, images that are, at the same time, quite beautiful. That is the challenge, she says, to using that subject.

Photo by Rose Cosme

Photo by Rose Cosme

Photo by Rose Cosme

Photo by Rose Cosme

Thanks, Rose, for the use of your photos.

A science fiction geek in my youth, it doesn't take much to get me thinking about science things that intrigue me that I don't understand.

This time I think it was an NPR piece that got me started.


is no difference
einstein said
between past
and future

they are all
the same

i think
of a deck of cards

i pull a king
off the top
and lay it down

i pull a queen
and place it on top
of the king

the king
is not gone

it is still

and a nine of diamonds
atop the queen
does not eliminate
either the queen
or the king

they are not gone

the are still part
of the deck

as are all the cards
i have not uncovered yet

they are there
i have not seen them yet

it is not my seeing
that makes them exist

they are not the future
as the cards already seen
are not the past

they are all now

the deck is now

the past
the present
and the future
do not exist in the real world

they are just constructs
of my human mind
to make sense
of a quantum

Here's a mother's poem by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan from her book Parties published by Louisiana State University Press in 1988.

Morgan is the author of three books of poetry in addition to Parties. They are, Language, The Governor of Desire On Long Mountain, a finalist for the Library of Virginia Poetry Prize. Morgan is a graduate of Hollins College and received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.

May Tenth

Ten on May tenth,
you think it's fine:
two numbers in your age
till you're a hundred

You've learned to flip
your silky hair in such a way
your unsure eyes don't show.
Your unruly arms and legs
most often seem askew,
but you can still curl up
like a touched caterpillar
and suck your thumb.

Ten years ago this hour
you uncurled from me.
Weak and silly from ether and relief,
I took you
into the cook of my arm,
felt the rush of blood
that cleared the blurring gas.

I kissed the spot on your bare head
that throbbed.

Now, from me, one last poem for this week, a poem about something that happened to me for the very first time. And a wonderfully grand experience it was.

watching my book be read

the first time
i'm watching someone
read my book today

i don't know;
someone who
doesn't know me

on the other side
of the coffee house
who doesn't know
i'm watching

it's a young couple
boy and girl
who stopped at the free
table by the door

i was watching
idly curious
to see what they would do

i could tell
it was my book they picked up
by the colors on the cover
so i paid close attention
as they took the book
to a table
in the far corner of the room

they read together
handing the book back and forth
pointing to a page,
a poem,
talking about it

reading sometimes
very quietly
laughing loudly
at others

watching their concentration,
hearing their laughter

it was like the first time
i saw my son
hit a homerun over the fence
or the first time i heard him
ace a solo with the city youth

(except i can't stand up and cheer)

my book has serious
poems in it,
as well as many meant
to be funny

though there may
in some peoples' minds
a question,
i'm choosing to
they were laughing
at the right places

and don't
to tell me different

As the past struggles to hold on, the future awaits. There will be a chance to choose one or the other in barely more than two months. Don't miss the chance to make your choice known.

Until then, remember that 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.


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