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
Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Jimmy Santiago Baca
From friends of "Here and Now"
Margaret Barret Mayberry
Mary Jo Caffrey
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
you cannot drink
you cannot hold a poem
over your head
from a poem
make a club to beat
back those who would
do you harm
and i think again
for what purpose
so what is necessary
for us to survive
that goes beyond
of lizards and cockroaches
and i think
of our first poets
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
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
that while this poem
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
them back, threats
and counter threats,
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
the madness of the mutual
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
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
in the shadow of the
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 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.
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,
Across the hollows of his face,
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,
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
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.
brings reflected light
with three kitten
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.
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.
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
a time now
no matter the
i feel to
to express concern
it is time
to back off
to let the thing
a firm handshake
on the back
it is time
a hard hard
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
the forest's luxurious leafage,
the sparkling dew on stones and steel
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"
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
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
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
allowing citizens to demonstrate
at the designated okeydokey citizen-
of their choice
is almost impossible to find
nor will there be much note
when it turns our that every
citizen applying for certificates
gets arrested and hauled away
on the exact meaning of
in the new tolerant society
bearing no resemblance to the
old despotic regime
for whom the whole concept
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
stealing as much money
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.