Where Parallels Meet   Friday, September 26, 2008


Up this week -

From my library

Coleman Barks
Peter Reading
Arlitia Jones
Victor Hernandez Cruz
Joan Salvat-Papasseit
James Hoggard
Nikki Giovanni
Arthur Sze
Frank Yerby
Duane Niatum

From friends of "Here and Now"

Teresa White
Michael Sottak
Jim Fowler
Walter Durk
Jerry Damm
Cliff Keller

and me.

My first poems this week are by Coleman Barks, from his book Gourd Seed published by Maypop Books of Athens, Georgia in 1993.

Barks was born in 1937 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He attended the University of North Carolina and the University of California, Berkeley.

He taught literature at the University of Georgia for three decades and currently lives in Athens, Georgia, where he translates Rumi and composes poetry of his own.

Ornamental Decisions

Where to sit in the sun
is the only true question,
when not going in to teach,
along with how not to feel paranoid
they'll find out and fire me.

Under pear-trees full-white nearly hiding
the red and blue university
postal kiosk, I choose
this bench and this new-heat
on my face, instead of talking
the history of my fear
thus far. Petal-sky overall.

I know who planted these, my friend
in the Law School, Milner's
wife, June. June and Mr. Forsyth's
forsythia, they bolster my floral resolve
to write letters in the sun and become
a man resembling an Asian flower opening
with a curved knife in the center.


We sit here trying to tell or sing
each other something truthful or tinged
with beauty or joy or some other empty,
full word that hasn't been ruined
by being overstamped, the die

blurred, before some fading thirst
we have or have had poisons us through
the water, or the very ground pulling through
good corn on the cob chomped on the back
stoop with sips of red wine, settles

enough bad micro-sediment somewhere,
the brain or the marrow, to make us
not any longer care, or recognize,
what in words or otherwise is
beautiful and/or true.

Here's a piece I did last week, part of my continuing poem-a-day regimen.

even in the fresh orange light of a rising sun

the north breeze
on this first-cold-front-
i step out on the patio
to lay out rations
for the dogs

is about to edge
the corner of night
and across the creek
i see the traffic on
the morning commuters
slowing for the dip
then speeding
up again
toward the traffic light
at the top of the hill

each of the dogs
gets her morning treat,
grabbing hers from my hand
and rushing off to a corner
to eat before i take it back
while Reba
takes hers, drops it in the patio
until i play the game of taking it away
from her,
i'm gonna get it, i'm gonna get it,
i threaten as she pushes it
back and forth with her paws
taking it with her teeth
and throwing it
into the air,
finally lying down,
after i tell her i give up,
to take the biscuit between her front paws
and eat it,
top down

the game lasts
long enough for the sun
to turn the corner
and bring to light the town houses
on the opposite
meaning it's time for me
to go back inside
and put on some clothes

this is not the kind of neighborhood
where views of naked neighbors
are welcome,
even in the fresh orange light
of a rising sun

My next poem is by Peter Reading from his book Marfan published by Bloodaxe Books in 2000.

The book is a series of untitled, seemly disconnected observations of the little town of Marfa in the desolate Big Bend area of Texas, a dead-end little town until about fifteen years ago when it began to develop (successfully) an identity as an arts community.

Reading, born in Liverpool in 1946, spent what he refers to as a year in exile in Marfa, creating, according to the book jacket, "a deeply unflattering but grimly affectionate portrait of the town" and what he sees as its artistic pretensions.

He is a prolific English poet known for poems described by The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry as "strongly anti-romantic, disenchanted and usually satirical."

Here are a few of Readings poems/notes about Marfa and the Big Bend.

A remedy for all that is not good:
Mezcal (also to celebrate good things).

The crumbling tomb of Senora Prieto
piously venerated with a posy
of plastic roses in a Bud Light empty.

On 90 East from Marfa through to Alpine
a section of dense brush, low oaks and thorns
harbor Wild Turkeys. A covey of 15
females flaps heavily against driving rain
over the Chevy, just clearing it by inches.
When I get home I'll fax this to you Johnston,
then drain a 6 of Michelob in their honor

Morning. Above this arid scrubland basin,
three dozen Sandhill Cranes, at about a thousand
feet, circle, bugle-croaking, south. Late fall.

Presidio County Courthouse: on the Green
a disgorged pellet of sylvilagus bones;
above, in a long-established Cottonwood,
the privilege of a Great Horned Owl at roost.

When Cabeza de Vaca crossed Big Bend
in 1535 these mortar-holes
in the Cretaceous limestone riverbank shelves,
cylindrical deep metates used for grinding
grain or mesquite beans, were already ancient.

It is not known what tribe, or if they lived
under these smoke-blacked sheer precipitous cliffs,
but that each time they pestled seed or legumes
their negative memorials deepened some.

Past Boulder Meadow the trail begins to switchback
up the South Wall. Beneath the peak it passes
between a stand of Bigtooth Maples. You drop
into Boot Canyon, residual Arcady,
after the heady crest of Pinnacles,
eroded stacks, and Pinyon, Juniper, Oak,
sheer steeps down near 8,000 feet below.
From Emory you see clear to Davis Mountains,
Marfa and Alpine and a hundred miles
into the smog of hapless Mexico

In Hicksville, real estate is snapped up - arties
architects, carpetbaggers, entrepreneurs,
"gallery owners," leather coat boutiquesters...

The indigenous can fuck off outa here

From Teresa White, the first of our friends of "Here and Now" this week, I have this new poem.

Teresa has twice been nominated 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.

Lemonade and Scotch

My girlfriend and I wore Dad's long white shirts
that skimmed the bottom of our short-shorts.
We were still CEO's in our own business selling
lemonade for three cents a cup. That we were
always in the red didn't matter much
as we sailed into junior high, giddy about boys
and what boys could do. Our mothers never met:
mine a fading chanteuse, hers a heavy-set woman
on her knees or in the kitchen.
All my mother ever made was "goulash."
We never knew what was in it and didn't care
as my friend and I fell into high school,
wearing padded bras to attract the Jims
and Bills. When no one asked me to the prom,
I stayed in my room for days,
stared into the mirror
thinking I'd never be fair enough to sit
in the back seat at a drive-in movie,
let some football star explore my body
like a cartographer drawing America
for the first time. By the time he might
have reached Florida, Mother discovered scotch,
invited policemen to our home.
I might have taken the back way out
but the door was gone
and she was howling from the front room.

Arlitia Jones, a butcher's daughter, is a poet and playwright from Anchorage, Alaska. Her award-winning book of poems, The Bandsaw Riots, was published by Bear Star Press in 2001, and her plays have been produced in Anchorage, New York City, and the United Kingdom.

This next poem is from Bandsaw Riots.


Morning is a black wing flaring
at a window feathered with ice
through which there's nothing
to be seen but Anchorage
hunkered under halogen lamps.
Industry stops. Too cold
even to work inside
at Wholesale Tendermeats where
the butchers move like slow bears
dazed in the chill of the cutting room,
white luggers stretched over
bulk of winter coats and longjohns.
At break the coffee in their cups
turns cold before they drink it.
They pass sections of newspaper -
a well-worn currency between them.
I see they're selling health insurance
for pets now,
says the bookkeeper
behind the counter, who, at forty-eight
and uninsured, could finally pay
cash for her first mammogram.
And the butcher scrabbing
his fingers in the candy dish
set out for paying customers swears
These fucking people drive me nuts,
and tells about the border collie
he had when he was a kid. Smacked
by a car, not bad enough to kill it.
I had to hide him under our porch
or my dad would've shot him.
We never heard of a veterinarian.

Says his father worked swing
at the railroad, coupling, un-
coupling the cars. In his house
nothing went to the animals.
Hardly anything to the kids.
In the office black and white
floor tiles tell the lie: wrong and right
remain distinct, one for the other.
It's the cold platform they stand on
every day. Their break
stretches to half hour and still
they're reluctant to hit it.
With four hours and twenty-six
minutes of light, dark rules
the beginning of every year
and appetite sets the price
for red meat. Out of Nebraska
beef tenders run twelve bucks a pound
when you can get them. For months
Americans have been stockpiling
New Yorks and Tenderloins
to prepare for the barrenness
of a new century. They pay dearly
to avoid hunger, to avoid chicken.
One of the butchers worries
about pipes on the outside wall
of his house. In weather like this
something always bursts. Every-
thing shuts down. In her reflection
in the window glass the meat-
wrapper watches herself trying
to breath warmth into her hands.
You never think it'll come to this.
The kid who once believed
she would fly,vowed
to throw herself to the wind,
is hunched in a chair, conserving
body heat, cold and grouchy
at the thought of getting up.

Now, another one of my poem-a-days from last week.

come, Lord Jesus, be our guest

we said a prayer
every night
before dinner
when i was a kid,
just dinner,
breakfast and lunch
were apparently not qualified
for Jesus' blessing

when we stopped
and why
i don't remember

a strict German morality
ordered the family -
one did not lie
one did not curse
honored and obeyed
their parents
and wives
honored and obeyed
their husband,
one did not wear
loafer shoes
because loafer shoes
was loafing
and one must always
work hard
and never surrender
to laziness and loafing
and, as i became
a teen,
one must not
allow his hair to form
a ducktail
because ducktails
were the preferred style
of the queers and drug addicts
and petty thieves
and pachucos
one saw in the courthouse
while doing one's duty
as a juryman.

and religion
like all these rules of morality
was mostly rooted in the basics -
there is a God
and He keeps track of what you've done
and not done
and if He doesn't like what you've done,
He'll send you to hell -
all else was details, which,
if you stuck with the essentials,
wouldn't matter
just your basic
conservative Lutheran dogma
and rules of proper
no shouting
no dancing in the aisles
no holy rolling
no testifying from the floor
no fancy singing, just
your basic hymns
sung slow
and not too loud,
and no amens while the preacher
is doing his preaching,
amening at the end
is his job
and not something
for people to do willy-nilly -
God likes decorum,
you know,
so that's what we need
to give Him

and as for the prayers
before dinner
it could be everybody
just got tired
of fooling with it -
plus,that kind of stuff
was for the kids
and not for grown-ups
who had a hard day
and wanted
to get to eating

The next piece is from Kabir - Ecstatic Poems, versions by Robert Bly. It's a new book published by Beacon Press.

The word "versions" is an important qualification. Bly has been taking some heat for calling himself translator of other poets whose work is in languages he does not speak or read. What he does is take the work of other translators and rewrite the translated poems in his own poetic voice. So it is important that in this book he claims, not translations, but his version of the poems.

That doesn't seem to me to be a problem, as long as the practice is labeled correctly. I note though that I heard Bly read a couple of poems from this book on NPR and I'm almost certain he was identified by the NPR host as the poems' translator.

Oh well, being naught but a small timer, it is not for me to opine on matters relating to poets in the big time.

Whatever the heck is going on the product in the end are some very nice poems. I just don't know for sure who to credit.

There's a moon in my body, but I can't see it!
A moon and a sun.
A drum never touched by hands, beating, and I can't
    hear it!

As long as a human beings worries about when he will
    die, and what he has that is his,
all of his works are zero.
When affection for the I-creature and what it owns is
then the work of the Teacher is over.

The purpose of labor is to learn;
when you know it, the labor is over.
the apple blossom exists to create fruit; when that
    comes, the petals fall.

The musk is inside the deer, but the deer does not
    look for it:
it wanders around looking for grass.


Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine
    rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding
    around your neck, nor in eating nothing but
When you really look for me, you will see me
    instantly -
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.

Michael Sottak, a good friend of "Here and Now," is a natural storyteller, in his poems and even in his introduction. Here's what he sent when I ask for a short bio I could use to introduce him to you.

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

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

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

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

How great is that.

Here are three more of his stories.

Freshwater Locks

the raccoons have straggled back
after Hurricane Rita, don't really know
how they survived that onslaught
nothing did for twelve miles inland
houses businesses shrimp boats mud bug farms
not a goddamn thing, even the oil fields
and the ditch itself were disrupted
but an apple at midnight
the crisp bite of a buck knife into red skin
the squelching at once thirst and surfeit
came running sideways under a crescent moon
and halogen wash industry on the edge
of a burning bayou wild fire from oil squeeze

unwhispered sheen on water

the whores twenty miles away
in Abbeyville fein chastity
the border is the double pay
of give and spill

the coons, the wise men of the boats,
grant passage

                        Gulf Currents

                         ....to the port of indecision
                         I return... (Jimmy Buffet)

                        I left my Irish friends
                        at the airport bar in Dubai
                        after a handful of stouts
                        and a goodbye to the war

                        Heathrow was a welcome door home
                        I had the barmaid giggling
                        and she slipped me a few...hell,
                        the Persian Gulf seemed a lifetime away
                        and I swore, once again, I'd never go back

                        In Philly they watched the weather
                        "Florida's about to get socked!"
                        I just laughed and bought another round

                        "You're flying right into the eye!"
                        the bartender said in Atlanta

                        ""I don't care, my man,
                        it's just good to be home!"

                        I was on the last flight in
                        before they closed the Melbourne Airport

                        Everyone I knew
                        had evacuated

                        Welcome home

                        I grab the last cab running
                        to the Hilton across the street
                        before Hurricane Frances hit

                        Call my daughters
                        two hours to the south
                        tell them I'll be late...

                        they call in hysterics
                        at three a.m., the front doors
                        had blown out of their house
                        and the wind roared

                        the line went dead...

In the rearview mirror...

the sun explodes
into magenta, pink and purple,
under a cerulean sky
as the pines whirl past
lining a swath of asphalt
to nowheres and tomorrows

where there will never be
a real Christmas again
and the marketing jingle-jangling
will begin on the first of January
...for NEXT Christmas...

they take five of those magic
lottery balls out of the popping pot
every holiday season, numbers between
one and thirty-one, the birthday numbers,
so nobody will ever win, just to jack-up sales.
And the religious are murdering pedestrians
in Mall parking lots, swearing they never saw
the muthafucka, in their race to get a Giggling
Elmo. Meanwhile, Disney has offered a discount
to all Florida residents for a Holiday pass
because they expect a drop in sales from Europe
and need more money for the Board of Directors
going to Bali on their New Years Conference
so they don't have to pay outta pocket for Thai
and Phillipina whores...HOWEVER...there is
some consternation over the rising price of fuel -
serious whispers are circulating in boardrooms
around the US as to how to cover THIS expense.
A few phone calls to Texas and it's all settled.

contrails wisp from New Orleans,
Pensacola, Mobile: an orange shock of sky...
then a champagne slipper of drunken moon,
in the rearview mirror

Victor Hernandez Cruz was born in 1949 in the small mountain town of Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. He moved to the United States in 1954 with his family and attended high school in New York.

Cruz began writing at the age of fifteen and published his first chapbook Papo Got His Gun in 1966, followed by his first full-length collection of poetry, Snaps, in 1969 when he was twenty.

In the 1970s, Cruz lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he emerged as a distinctive voice in the Nuyorican school of poets.

He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently: The Mountain in the Sea in 2006. My poem this week is from one of his earlier books, Red Beans published by Coffee House Press in 1991.

Cruz is a cofounder of both the East Harlem Gut Theatre in New York and the Before Columbus Foundation and a former editor of Umbra Magazine. He has taught at the University of California at Berkeley and San Diego, San Francisco State College, and the University of Michigan.

Messages from Across the Street
on Tobacco and Water Wires

The ocean turned red
And the land turned blue
Your face became a sensation
Your features were eaten by the
Your tears reentered the breasts
of the mothers of singers
the fado
The bolero
El canto hondo
The sadness
the lament
The nostalgia
The separation

The rumbling of your heart
The dancing of your feet
Will circulate within the pockets
of the wind
Your hate will make a shadow
That covers the flowers in chill

You will not be forgotten
Plant your seed well
It is the harvest you will pick

It will be beautiful
You will have no mouth to keep shut
Starring will turn into cha-cha-cha
The craters of the moon will be
full of guayaba juice

We speak her the word which is spirit
Those on the other side tell me they speak
in matter

Out of pure air comes objects
Vegetable gases minerals can flow
In combination
and you can make a hammock
Between Uranus and Mars
Where a puff of love can swing

The watches and clocks go backwards
It is 13 o'clock out there
Your pain becomes currency
To buy the harmony of Celina

The ocean turns red
The boats are made of fire
Allan Kardec is the
Of one of them

His passengers come for water
on the shore
They marvel at the blue sand they
Will never step on
From your prayers they make
a picture of your face
So with confidence give it to
the worms
Leave your smile on endless loan
In the sensation land you are
going to you can kiss without lips
The history of your life
will be in the fingertips of the drummers
Nothing was wasted
Even the blank moments when we are
Drunks help us get home
the tears are the milk of the drummers
They sing and play
Your laughter
Your joy
Your dancing
The nostalgia
The separation

Dogs and cats and squirrels and uppity birds that crap on my car, there's always some kind of animal mayhem around here. Here's the latest on the squirrel front, written last week.

the squirrel ate my homework

she comes slowly
in a fur coat
to the flower pot
on the edge of the patio
flicks her tail
up down
left right
and all points
of the compass

then stops

so wildly thrashing
held high and still
in mid-flick

she as seen me
watching her
through the french doors

she waits

judges the threat level
decides to wait me out

we stare at each other
little black eyes
to my green eyes
by my glasses

eventually i give up
turn back
to my chores

a few minutes later
i see
she has made it
to the bowl of dog food
by the door
watch her again
as she grabs one of the
dry nuggets
and scurries back to the

feigning sleep
Peanut, The Greedy,
has been watching
the dance
with one eye open

enough is enough
and she jumps off her chair
but the squirrel-sense of danger
is intact
and she is off the patio
and up a tree
before Peanut can get
even close

from the tree
she swishes her tail
and calls to the dog
hack hack hack hack
it sounds like

arboreal laughter
of the fast
mocking the not fast

Peanut returns
to his chair
and sleeps again

one eye open

My next poem is from the book Modern Catalan Poetry: An Anthology published by New Rivers Press in 1979. The poems in the book were selected and translated from the Catalan by David H. Rosenthal.

In addition to the poems in the book, there are also numerous pen and ink drawings/illustrations by artist of Catalan, including several by Pablo Picasso.

The poet I chose to feature is the first poet in the book, Joan Salvat-Papasseit.

Papasseit, born in 1894, was one of the few Catala poets with a working class background. His father, a steamship stoker, died when Papasseit was seven years old, causing him to spend most of his childhood in a charity home.

In 1914 he began publishing revolutionary political essays in Castilian-language magazines. In 1917 he switched his writing language to Catalan and founded a political-cultural journal called An Enemy of the People: Cultural Subversion Sheet. The first of his six volumes of poetry appeared in 1919. A year later he developed tuberculosis and died in 1924.

La Femme Aux Oranges

               (Reflex No. 2)

The metro's song at the old Cite, which bathes its belly
in the Seine, oozes through all the roofs and says:

          - Today I'm perfumed
          with a printed grease.
          I wear a blue bracelet,
          another of scarlet
          and my hips quite naked

          My sandals bright with diamonds.

          And so my beloved
          comes unspeakable sought-after
          and descends to Rennes
          leaving her girdle at Saint-Michel
          and lies down in my bath of purple.

          Bath of the NORTH-SOUTH line!

The song ended when la femme aux oranges, going towards
Chateau d'Eau, opened her blouse and showed her nipples
               which were like smoking oil-lamps

                    Paris, March 12 1920

Here's a piece by our friend Jim Fowler.

Jim lives in Massachusetts, has eight grand kids and wants to retire, write poetry, garden, play tennis, cook and write some more poetry.

Beelzebub's Journey

In the Midwestern town of West Fargo,
the winter winds shook a dark cargo,
Beelzebub and his red wagon.
It was headed East with the Devil's beast,
a green komodo dragon.

It wasn't the only strange thing
the Devil did bring
on this trip to a far-away coven.
A medusa so big, it's arms wrapped the rig.
It was the dark king's terrible omen.

The coven cheered and clapped,
for the dragon had napped,
after eating the medusa from Hades.
And didn't bite, with all of his might,

the coven's tender Goth ladies.

James Hoggard is a poet, translator, essayist and novelist. The author of twelve books, he has published two collections of his translations of poems by Oscar Hahn: The Art of Dying and Love Breaks. His most recent books are Alone Against The Sea: Poems From Cuba By Raul Mesa and the novel Trotter Ross. He is the McMurtry Distinguished Professor of English Chair at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

The next poem is from his book Breaking An Indelicate Statue published by Latitudes Press in 1986.

Song of Rebecca Calcutta

          We did not know her.

My country is a myth and a swamp.
Men are paddling their canoes tonight
in the moonlight dance of lilypad bulbs
sleeping over quicksand.

I love these men rowing in my swamp,
these handsome shadows of he will-o-
the-wisp, eternal like my candles
and vague, vague like my heart.

My country's grown rich with water and plants
whose roots have never pierced rock.
It thrives, heavy with many years decay,
is wild with shivering fish.

but many feet down I know there are rocks
where the bones of snakes have lain,
where the caverns of wind are too dark
to see the rocks that have killed.

The murder of light makes dusk of day.
Songs of the swamp are too old
to be sung by the trees' agony,
and the myth that devours it is mine.

My land is a raft nailed by birdbeaks
and lashed with petrified ferns, and I
am large like the cypress trees, humble
like the sun that has gone.

And I am large like the cypress trees
and humble like the sun that has gone.
I am bitter like the taste of snakeskin
and long like the years

pulled toward the light by the power of doom.

We had a couple of beautiful days in a row. Maybe there's more coming with October around the corner. This poem came from one particular day, walking the dog in the morning.

we pay or dues

we pay our dues
here in South Texas
of misery,
heat and humidity
that brings each day down
the minute you step out
your front door

all those months
for a morning like this,
moon still high
in a soft blue sky

it is a
new life morning
a rejuvenation day
a new-hope day
a make-plans-for-

we pay our dues here

making these rare
even sweeter

Nikki Giovanni was born in 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee. She grew up in Lincoln Heights, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, and in 1960 began her studies at Fisk University in Nashville. She graduated in 1967 with honors, receiving a B.A. in history. Afterwards she went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. In 1969 Giovanni began teaching at Livingston College of Rutgers University.

Giovanni has been teaching writing and literature at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA since 1987, and is a Distinguished Professor of English. Giovanni taught the Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho in a poetry class. She described him as downright "mean" and, when she approached the department chair to have Cho taken out of her class, said she was willing to resign rather than continue teaching him.

Giovanni returned to her alma mater as a distinguished visiting professor at Fisk University, as well as teaching a writers workshop for about thirty students one day a week, while maintaining her position at Virginia Tech.

This next poem is from her book My House, published by William Morrow & Company in 1972.


the last time i was home
to see my mother we kissed
exchanged pleasantries
and unpleasantries pulled a warm
comforting silence around
us and read separate books

i remember the first time
i consciously saw her
we were living in a three room
apartment on burns avenue

mommy always sat in the dark
i don't know how i knew that but she did

that night i stumbled into the kitchen
maybe because i've always been
a night person or perhaps because i had wet
the bed
she was sitting on a chair
the room was bathed in moonlight diffused through
those thousands of panes landlords who rented
to people with children were prone to put in windows

she may have been smoking but maybe not
her hair was three-quarters her height
which made me a strong believer in the samson myth
and very black

i'm sure i just hung there by the door
i remember thinking: what a beautiful lady

she was very deliberately waiting
perhaps for my father to come home
from his night job or maybe for a dream
that had promised to come by
"come here" she said "i'll teach you
a poem: i see the moon
        the moon sees me
        god bless the moon
        and god bless me
i taught it to my son
who recited it for her
just to say we must learn
to bear the pleasures
as we have borne the pain

        [10 mar 72]

Here are two poems from our friend, Walter Durk. Walter was born in New York City and has lived in numerous other places in the United States as well as in Asia.

Broken people

I know them from an old photograph -
my father sits on a stump in knickers
a stern father by his side,
a mother in black and white
scattering chicken feed.

I remember my father drove us to the island
where he is buried, and parked
in front of an institution
that reminded me of a prison.
A woman in white brought Ann to us.

We saw her in a hallway,
a woman with a placid face.
She was somewhere, nowhere.
He spoke to his mother in calm tones,
she looked beyond
we never met.

Later she died. And later
he passed away but not
without consternation.

Love and absence

Years have passed,
now memories remain.
A smell of cherry tobacco
in the air,
swirls of smoke
rising from your pipe,
The smile on your face
as you opened my gift
one night.

Sheets snapped
as they catched the wind,
clothes dried on the line
like small sculptures
in the sun.

The dog at my feet
finished his bowl of food.
the cat
nursed her litter in the shed,
to avoid prying eyes.

But experiences
have passed
and people.
Vanished into breezes
slapping sheets.

Arthur Sze has taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts for more than a decade.

Born in New York City in 1950, Sze is a second-generation Chinese-American. He is the author of seven volumes of poetry, including The Red Shifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 published by Copper Canyon Press in 1998, and from which the poem below was taken.

His poems have also appeared in numerous magazines and he has won numerous awards from the Lannan Foundation and, the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.


The men hiked on a loop trail
passed the humpbacked flute player and
a creation spiral petroglyph,
then up a ladder to the top of the mesa
and met the women there.

A flock of wild geese wheeled
in shifting formation over the mesa,
then flew south climbing higher and higher
and disappearing in clear sunlight.
The ceremony was simple: a blessing
of rings by "water which knows no
boundaries," and then a sprinkling of baskets
with blue cornmeal.

I write this a week later
and think of Marie, who, at San Ildefonso,
opened the door of her house to us.
And were deeply moved.
I hear these lines from the wedding:
"In our country, wind blows, willows live,
you live, I live, we live."

I don't usually eat breakfast and have to be careful when I do since, when I do, I almost always eat too much and feel bad all morning. I have be especially have be careful in the autumn because there's just something about a cool fall morning that turns on my breakfast cravings.

another beautiful morning

another beautiful
and i'm thinking
about breakfast
on the porch at

huevos mejicana
maybe just a
with some

i don't know -
there's just something
about a morning like this
that makes me
for fresh air
and anything derived
chicken embryos
pig parts

Wisdom should be shared, so here are a few gems passed on to me by web-miner, as well as friend and personal guru, Jerry Damm of Midland,Texas

Birds of a feather flock together and crap on your car.

A penny saved is a government oversight.

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends.

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.

He who hesitates is probably right.

Did you ever notice: The Roman Numerals for forty (40) are "XL."

If you think there is good in everybody, you haven't met everybody.

If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.

The sole purpose of a child's middle name is so he can tell when he's really in trouble.

There's always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt .

Did you ever notice: When you put the 2 words "The" and "IRS" together it spells "Theirs."

Aging: Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know why I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.

When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.

You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.

First you forget names, then you forget faces. Then you forget to pull up your zipper. It's worse when you forget to pull it down.

Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today, it's called golf.

When I was thirteen years old or so, I read every book of historical fiction by Frank Yerby I could find. He was one of the popular writers of the 1950s. In all, he wrote 33 novels and, in 1946, became the first African-American to published a best seller. The novel was Foxes of Harrow which ultimately also became a 1947 Oscar-nominated film starring Rex Harrison and Maureen O'Hara.

Yerby was bon in 1916 in Augusta, Georgia but, beginning in the 1950s, made his home in Spain. He died in Madrid in 1991.

I took this poem by Yerby from American Negro Poetry first published in 1963, revised in 1973 to include new writers, then reissued by Hill and Wang in 1996.

Calm After Storm

Deep in my soul there roared the crashing thunder,
And unseen rain slashed furrows in my face;
The lightning's flame with tendrils fine as lace,
Etched intricate designs, too keen for wonder
Upon my dull-eyed soul. And that rich plunder
Of stolen joys, snatched in the little space,
Between the dawn and dark, had caught the pace,
This rip-tide of the heart, and was drawn under.

But this slow calm, this torpid lack of caring,
Creeping along, a drugged dream of content,
Kills no less surely than the storm's duress;
Better the winds, like thin whip-lashes sparing
No proud young heart until their force is spent,
Than this vague peace, akin to nothingness.

Here are two poems by "Here and Now" friend Cliff Keller. Cliff is a musician /songwriter and poet. He lives in California.

Lorelei in Her Garden

Her songs are soft now
intended only for the coriander and sage
no sailors can hear, though they pass within stone's throw
on barges and pleasure boats

Two worlds that once collided
now slip past each other like cats on a pier
peaceful and circumspect, seemingly unaware
the river flows, the past is out at sea

She leans forward to inspect a leaf, turning it
over in her gentle hands to crush an aphid
thinks of her time in America painting portraits
of submerged rocks in the moments before impact

Calm blue reflects the green and brown
she lifts her wrist to brush back her damp shorn hair
looks downstream where a song had run its course
"You hold a heart there in your hands, you probably don't know..."

Cut and Dried

Flowers from last month's harvest
hang upside down from a rusted hook.
Scaly petals blow into corners,
settle and decay. No more
swaying lightly as the breeze gathers
or soaking feet in supple water.

Brittleness and faded hues now claim
their own stake on beauty.

I'm unconvinced

Now, here's a piece by Duane Niatum, from Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry published by Harper Collins in 1988. In addition to contributing his own work, Niatum edited the anthology.

A poet, author, editor, and playwright, Niatum was born in Seattle under the name McGinniss. After his parent's divorce, his Klallam grandfather became his surrogate father. After serving in the Navy, he attended the University of Washington where he received his B.A. in 1970, then his M.A. in 1972 at Johns Hopkins University. His career includes time as an instructor at Johns Hopkins University, editor of the Native American Authors Program, Harper & Row Publishers, and various other teaching jobs and librarian positions. He earned his Ph.D. in 1997 at the University of Michigan.

Drawings of the Song Animals


Treefrog winks without springing
from its elderberry hideway.
Before the day is buried in dusk
I will trust the crumbling earth.


Foghorns, the bleached absence
of the Cascade and Olympic mountains.
The bay sleeps in a shell of haze.
Anchorless is the night,
the blue-winged teal dredges for the moon.


Thistle plumed,
a raccoon pillages my garbage.
When did we plug its nose with concrete?
Whose eyes lie embedded in chemicals.


Dams abridge the Colubia Basin.
On the rim of a rotting barrel,
a crow. The imperishable remains
of a cedar man's salmon trap.


Deer crossing the freeway -
don't graze near us, don't trust our signs.
We hold your ears in our teeth,
your hoofs on our dashboards.


Shells, gravel musings from the deep,
dwellings from the labyrinth of worms.
Crabs crawl sideways into another layer of dark.


a husk of winter and the wind.
I will dance in your field
if the void is in bloom.


A lizard appears, startled by my basket
of blackberries. In the white
of the afternoon we are lost to the stream.
Forty years to unmask the soul!

I finish off the week with another little piece of breakfast musing.

breakfast of champions

from H & H Meats
in Mercedes
two eggs from HEB
laid out
on a warm
freshly made

a chorizo and egg
a great way to start the day

nothing kills my appetite
for breakfast
than having to cook it

i think i'll just
pick up
a mollete
from Los Pasteles
on Soledad

That's it for now.

Until next week, remember, all 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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Power to the Purple   Friday, September 19, 2008


Here's who I have for you this week.

From my library:

Guillaume Apollinaire
Kenneth W. Brewer
Lyn Lifshin
Jane Taylor
Robin Britton
Jill Wiggins
Jennifer Cardenas
Chip Dameron
Walt Whitman
Robert Wrigley

From our friends:

Mick Moss
Robert McManes
Alice Folkart

And me.

Two of my favorite discoveries since I started "Here and Now" are Blaize Cendrars and Guillaume Apollinaire. Both were French by choice, both suffered serious injury during World War I, both were avant garde poets of the very early twentieth century, both were world travelers and both wrote a very easy-going and naturalistic, observational poetry that I like to read and try to write.

Born in 1880 as Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris Kostrowitzky and raised speaking French, among other languages, he emigrated to France and adopted the name Guillaume Apollinaire. His mother was a Polish noblewoman and his father, though never official identified, is thought to have been a Swiss Italian aristocrat who disappeared early from Apollinaire's life. He was partly educated in Monaco.

Apollinaire was one of the most popular members of the artistic community in Paris. His friends and collaborators during that period included Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Max Jacob, Andre Salmon, Marie Laurencin, Andre Breton, Andre Derain, Faik Konica, Blaise Cendrars, Pierre Reverdy, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Ossip Zadkine, Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp. In 1911, he joined the Puteaux Group, a branch of the cubist movement and coined the word surrealism.

In in 1916, while fighting in the war, he received a serious shrapnel wound to the head. He died two years later at the age of 38 of the Spanish flu during the pandemic.

Here are several of his shorter poems from the collection Poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, published by Wesleyan University Press in 1995. The poems are translated from the original French by Donald Revell.


On the coast of Texas
Between Mobile and Galveston there is
A big garden filled with roses
There is also a mansion
It is one big rose

A woman walks there often
Alone in the garden
When I cross the lime-tree road
We are face to face

Because she is Mennonite
Her roses and her clothing have no buttons
My jacket is missing two buttons
The lady and I are almost one religion


Anemone and columbine
Where gloom has lain
Opened in gardens
Between love and disdain

Made somber by the sun
Our shadows meet
Until the sun
Is squandered by night

Gods of living water
Let down their hair
and now you must follow
A craving for shadows


On high street in Cologne
She came and went all night
Whoring her tiny her pretty
Bored in streetlight
Drunk in cellars

Rescued in shanghai
En route from formosa
Apprenticed to poverty
For love of a pimp
Who stank of garlic

I've known all kinds of people
Unequal to their fates
Uncertain as the fallen leaves
Eyes like dampened fires
Hearts like gaping doors


      Little girl you danced there
      Will you dance there old
      The hop and the skip there
      All the bells will be ringing
      Marie but when do you come home

      The masks are silent
      And the music is far
      Almost far as the sky
I want to love you but only scarcely
      the pain is wonderful

      The sheep are gone into the snow
      Flakes of wool and tufts of money
      Soldiers go by and if only I
      Had a changing heart of my own
      Changing, but I know nothing

      Do I know where you hair absconds
      Frizzy as the foaming sea
      Or the fallen leaves of your hands
      In autumn strewn with vows

      I used to walk by the river
      An old book under my arm
      The river is the same as pain
      It elapses mindlessly
      And when will be week be over

Woke up last Sunday morning feeling really lousy, which led to this.

the future came at 6:30 this morning

woke up this
feeling like
i had the kind
of zombie-maker
hangover that led me
to quit drinking
30 years ago

stomach blocked
from too much
chile con queso
and bean and cheese
nachos two nights
in a row
and i didn't take
the muscle relaxers
(hate relying on those things)
last night before bed
so my back hurts
and my hips
and my knees
and i'm shuffling
around, taking tiny
little steps
ouwi, ouwi, ouwi
with every one
of them,
promising myself
that whatever i did
to feel this way
i'm never going
to do again

so i limped
over to Jim's
for morning coffee
and a few minutes
alone with the Express-News
and i read the front section,
about the hurricane
about the latest dirt
on that Palin woman
and the three hundred year-old
the developer bulldozed
city could get a cease
and desist order
and the two cops
who got shot
to a domestic disturbance
then i went to the metro section
and got the local news and the paper's
regular cockamamie right-wing
columnists and finally, before
the comics, to two pages of
all the pictures looking back
at me of smiling people who didn't know
they're dead yet,
and i do my normal score
all those born
before 1944 on one side
and all those born
in or after 1944
on the other side
and jeeezus
it's another of those days
when the 1944 and later stack
is larger than the pre-1944 stack,
and, not just a a little larger, but hugely
larger, the stack of gone-and-soon-forgottens
my age or younger twice as tall
as the old farts who'd done their time
and moved on
and i'm thinking, holy cow,
maybe today isn't an exception
at all
but the way old people
feel every day
and the way i'm going to feel
every morning
starting now and
until the end of time or
until i die, which,
if you get right down to it
is the same thing
as far as i'm concerned.

My next poem is by Kenneth W. Brewer from his book sum of accidents published by City Art of Salt Lake City in 2003.

Brewer, Poet Laureate of the State of Utah, received his doctorate of creative writing at the University of Utah in 1973. He retired from Utah State University after 32 years as a teacher of writing.

Brewer died in 2006, three years after publication of this book.

Hunter's Vision

Teal and mallard
spiraled through snow
to his call, some
splashing dead in the Bear.

They simply appeared,
green heads or green-
feathered wings suddenly
in his sights.

He watched his son
shoot a teal - their
first hunt together.

And the lost years

flew at him like
a feathered sorrow
suddenly vividly, suddenly
green with wings

beating his heart.
Then he shot a mallard
and watched his son
walk through the shallow Bear,

splashing water
like beads of time.
He noticed flakes of snow
dissolve in the river.

Half a century old, he
wished to go back,
to untie the knots
of all his decisions.

He wished to call
his son's life back
to live that childhood
together, buddies

as they are now.
But nothing can go back.
He calls his son
disappearing in the heavy snow.

He calls,
and calls,
and calls,
and calls.

My next piece is a present-meets-the past type from "Here and Now" friend Mick Moss. Mick is a 54 year old poet from Liverpool England whose poems have appeared here several times.


Crossing the old border for the first time
without Charlie checking my points
or the Stasi giving the once over, at least twice
I walked through the Brandenburg gate
and felt the weight of history
that wore these flagstones smooth
the ebb and flow of shiny boots
marching along Unter den Linden
from Paris to Moscow
and back
the only army now
a rag tag band of displaced persons
scraping a living, from misplaced Russian gear
in reclaimed no man's land

Dollars? - he asked
Deutschmarks - I said handing them over
and waited for change that never came
the hat didn't fit
but I considered it a bargain


My next several poems are from Spillway, the Spring/Summer 1999 edition published by Tebot Bach of Huntington Beach, California.

The first of the several poems is by Lyn Lifshin, a widely published teacher of poetry and prose. The series from which this poem was written was based on a National Geographic exhibit of the Peruvian Ice Mummy..

Lifshin was born in 1942 and is a Vermont native. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in English from Syracuse University and a Master's Degree in English from the University of Vermont. She also studied at Brandeis University.

Lifshin is a very prolific write with over a 120 books and chapbooks published. She has also edited four anthologies and was the subject of the award winning documentary film, Not Made of Glass. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines and cultural publications, including The American Scholar, Christian Science Monitor, Ploughshares, and Rolling Stone Magazine.

The Ice Maiden Mummy's 24th S.O.S.

Some small girls write
me notes, shove them
under the base of this
glass case. I'm caught
in. The gifts of a
barrette, a ribbon
from their own hair,
still warm. They say
they love my long black
hair, could imagine me
as a ballerina. These
are the gifts I still
adore, their smiles
and sweet breath, as
innocent as I was. As
for jewelry, fine
clothes, please, leave
them for others. I
was given many gifts
I couldn't use, gold -
they pretended I'd need
them for my "journey,"
as much a lie as the
words exchanged by
lovers they might think
they mean, kneeling
under a canopy as if
planting a garden they
will still be together
to see bloom

The Ice Maiden Mummy's 77th S.O.S.

it's not the sun that
I missed, or wanted
to bathe me when I
left what I thought
would be my last room
in the earth. That
heat pleated what was
exposed, turned what
the dark held so well
leathery. No, it was
the moon I wanted to
wash over me, silver
and pale, camouflaging
my scars and wrinkles
cool and like an opal,
mysterious enough to
make of what shimmers
whatever I need.

The next poem from Stillway is by Jane Taylor.

There is a poet by the name of Jane Taylor from the 19th century, but I can't find anything on this Jane Taylor.

I suspect an error in the book. The poem is credited to Jane Taylor, but there is no one by that name included in the poets' biographies included in the book. Included in the biographies is one for June Vincent Taylor, who, so far as I can tell, doesn't have a poem in the book.

So maybe this poem is by June Vincent Taylor and the poet's name is wrong on the poem or maybe the poem is by Jane Taylor and they neglected to include a bio.

Whichever is the case, one thing is certain - someone, maybe June, maybe Jane, maybe both, wrote a fine poem.

(Makes me feel better about the typos in my own book. At least I got my name right.)

Chimney Rock

The way three women stand
beyond the canyon
in the dark morning
and decide to climb

boot on pediment
shale & siltstone,

the way the valley rises
under the sun's own

and breathing
beats low
the drumskin lungs

three ways.
One path.

Walking sticks
click on clay.
At the mesa top

Chinle lightens
yellow & orange.

Below, adobe,
the famous painter's house
still holds

the cool night
in its windows.
Abiquiu's wanter makes a mirror.

the way three women
quiet under whistle
of finch and magpie
call. the way we carry
water, apple, bread
and the way descent
comes easier,

is the way I want to live.

Hurricanes are a strange kind of disaster. You can see them coming for days, but you can't know for sure where they're going until the last couple of hours.

I wrote this piece a week and a half ago, when it looked like hurricane Ike had drawn a bead on Corpus Christi on the coast, with a course that went inland and directly over San Antonio. In the end, of course, it didn't do that, picking Galveston, Houston and the surrounding area as its target.

trying not to think about politics

not to think
about politics -
end up thinking
about hurricanes

this time,
just off Cuba,
with a track now
that looks like landfall
Riviera Beach
just south of Corpus Christi
and Fulton Beach
just north,
the coastline minimally protected
from this point
all the way south
by Padre Island, a
barrier island
way more developed
than seems reasonable
for a long sandbar
barely above sea level
even at low tide

and from the coast itself,
the coastal plains,
not much higher, old timers
still telling stories
of people washed 30 miles
inland by the tidal surge
during the last "big one"
early in the last century

this one looks
likely to cross the coast
about 8 o'clock Saturday morning
so the race now will have begun
to get the plywood
for boarding up
before it all gets bought up

my house in Corpus Christi
had removable shutters
but i never
figured out how to put them up
so through two storms
i nailed plywood
along with everyone else

so while part of the family
is out chasing plywood
the other part is at the store
buying up batteries, gas for
the car, kerosene for storm lamps
and a fresh bottle of propane
for the grill, as well as sacks
of groceries, non-perishables
that won't spoil when here's no
and it's 100 degrees
inside and out
and 90 percent humidity

for those planning to leave,
many who can
are taking off early, before
all the roads out of the coast
turn into parking lots
creeping north and west
at 5 miles per hour,
city to city trips that normally
take two hours
turning into all-day marathons

if the current course is kept,
the storm will pass over San Antonio
sometime Saturday night,
just as it is weakening from a
category 1 hurricane
to a stronger than usual
tropical storm,
and heavy rain
sweeping across the hill country,
those on top of the hills
for tornados
while those down slope
prepare for flash flooding
as little dry creeks
take on torrents of water
rushing down stream
with incredible speed and power,
pushing everything aside,
rising 8 to 10 feet over
low water crossings faster
than you can ever believe possible

that's how people die
in rainstorms here, driving
on streets just blocks from their
homes, trying to drive over
a dry creek crossing
they've crossed a thousand times,
a crossing that becomes
in the rain
a river of mud and debris
before they can get
from one side to the other,
passing through and leaving
as quickly as it came,
draining from the hills
into the river systems
that flow east, into flatter land
where water does not drain
so fast, where it flows over
river banks and onto farms
and into towns
and where it stays

My next several poems are from Feeding the Crow, and anthology edited by Susan Bright and published by Plain View Press of Austin, Texas in 1998.

The first of the poems is by Robin Britton.

Britton works for a child care center for teenage parents who attend an alternate, charter school. Her poetry has been published in a series of small hand-made books titled Wake Up Calls and in Poetography I&II, and Diverse City.

Full Moon Ceremony

We ditched our suits.
Slid into the icy water.
Melted Ice.

Howling like wolves,
gliding like otters
down stream to catch the
      light of the moon
      imprinted upon the water
Swimming circles in this reflection.
Splashing upon black velvet
      adorned with gold.
I'm fifty-five.
She's sixty-five.
Harriet's seventy-five.
We are too old to be
      having this much fun.

The next poem in the book is by Jill Wiggins.

Wiggins has a degree in art from St. Edward's University in Austin and works as a writer and graphic designer. Her poetry has appeared in Poetography, Diverse City, and Patchwork. She also has a chapbook titled Lemon Curd and Other Poems.

The Light in Our House

I love the way
      the sun rises in our kitchen window
      catches in a crystal prism
      scatters rainbows on the floor,
      the stove and counters
      even sometimes in the freezer.

      I love the way
      leaves of the ash tree in front
      break up the light
      that falls dappled
      on our bed
      in the afternoon.

I love the way
      the hillside behind the back bedroom
      glows golden-green
      in evening light
      an occasional cardinal flashing in the warming sun.

I love the way
      sunset fills the living room window
      with peaches, purples, pinks
      before we close the blinds
      to shut out the night

Next, from the book, I have this poem by Jennifer Cardenas.

Cardenas is the third of six children and a graduate of Edgewood, ISD in San Antonio, subject of the Edgewood v. Kirby, 1989 Texas Supreme Court case which led to improvement in the equitable funding of rich and poor school districts across the state.

At the time of this publication, she was a member of Yoniverse, an all-woman performance poetry ensemble, living and working in Austin while attending the University of Texas.

"Popular Science," Nov. 1996

You sneeze without covering your mouth,
shooting some five thousand moisture droplets
on my arm.

I blink in astonishment,
upset that your mocos are still landing
some twelve feet away,
and that I have surpassed the scientific amount
of one blink per five seconds.

You smile, using only seventeen muscles.

I'm pissed off.
You sneezed,
caused me to blink,
and now I must use forty-three muscles to show my disgust.

The only thing preventing me
from smacking you on the head is pity,
pity that you only have ninety thousand hairs on your head
while I have one hundred-fifteen thousand on mine.

Now I have two poem from Robert McManes, a friend of "Here and Now" readers here have seen often.

obscene phone call

The heavy breather called again;
he wants a poem.
I recite Frost's "The Road Not Taken".
The breathing grows louder.
Next, a few lines from Poe's "The Raven".
The breathing becomes faster.
I read a poem from Collins' "Nine Horses" book.
He sounds like a freight train
barreling down the tracks,
chug-a-chug-a, toot-toot.
I thought,
the timing is right
start on a poem of mine
and "click" he's gone.
Everybody's a critic.

a street named desire

the headlines read
bearded man dies of clap
he didn't know
street sex could kill

red light, green light

meanwhile on the corner
the brightly painted lady
reels in her nightly fish
while others swim by
pretending not to notice

twenty bucks a throw

down the street
a bus screeches to a stop
Brando falls on his knees
and shouts to the stars

all in a row

the streets can't hear
no matter how loud
the fish schools swims by
desire is a short ride

cash only
no credit cards

The next poem is by Chip Dameron, from his book Hook & Bloodline published by Wings Press of San Antonio in 2000.

Dameron is the author of two other previously published poetry collections In the magnetic Arena and Night Spiders, Morning Milk, Definition of Hours and one subsequent collection, also from Wings Press, Tropical Green.

As editor of Thicket, an Austin-based literary magazine, he was an important figure in the early years of Texas small-press development. He lives in Brownsville, Texas, where he teaches writing and literature at the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College.

This is the title poem of the book.

Hook and Bloodline

            Knee deep
in south Bay, spinning out
an artificial shrimp
to hook a speckled trout
or drum, you watch the gulls,
fixed on fish, dive
like newsreel Zeros at dusk,
smacking the air with their
wallops, each white bird
rising from the froth
of an airplane's fatal
plunge, another sea
and forty years away,
still potent.
            All night long
the ships rolled to port
and starboard, the men
banked into bunks, dreaming
of women and death,
no convoy safe in the zone
of paranoia, the deep
as cunning as the sky.
On watch, the loudspeaker's
squawk as close as humid air,
the men calmed their coffee
with whispers and waited out
the worst.
a city bloomed and withered
in a moment, the sky as bold
as love, the wind more violent
than any lust. Flesh fell off.
Things writhed in their wombs.
Days later, another dose
of the same.
            When the sailors
came back, fit and unfearful
their salty tongues as quick
to snatch at sweetness
as a snake's, the cries
in the darkness were most
of what hammered, some nights
never long enough. By day,
life became suburban,
televised, circumnavigated
by kids.
            Now, far from home
and childhood, flounder gig
at ready in the hissing
lantern light, you slog
along the shallows, looking
for the dark shapes that hover
by the bottom, stunning them
by spear, taking the firm
white flesh for yourself,
the heat of the fire
searing in a truth
that you taste each time
you chew with the teeth
of your faceless godparents,
whose vapors still hang
in the air.

This next thing is a long piece I did last week, telling a long story that finishes in the end with a point that bothers me more and more.


many years ago
i served
for a year
in Pakistan,
on the northwestern
that part of the
that nowadays
is mostly thought of
as Osamaland

part of a little
military enclave
on the desert edge
Peshawar and
tribal lands,
the Hindu Kush
shimmering like smoke
in the distance

the folks on either side
didn't like us then
but they were still
more interested
in killing each other
than killing us

for an American
with even a little money,
which described
most of us posted
beautiful brass work
could be bought
as well as wood work,
and tailored suits
of the finest silk
brought directly
from China
through the Kyber Pass
in the mountains
we could see in the

you could buy
several thousand dollars
worth of silk suits
for a hundred, two hundred dollars,
to fit from pictures
you brought to the tailor
from magazines

take your
Seville Row ad from
to the tailor and two
weeks later
you'd have a perfect fit
Seville Row

there was a warning
coming back
from the States
and those who had
purchased their
several thousand dollars
worth of suits
before shipping home

as fine as the silk
was, the cotton thread
that sewed it all together
was poor grade, tending
to rot and break
and the only solution
was to dismantle the suit
and have it completely re-
sewn, making the suits
not quite as good a deal
as they had first appeared

i was thinking about this
this morning, thinking
about the threads that
hold together the shinning
surface of our national life,
the threads of honor and
and respect
that give us purpose
and confidence,
and how those threads
seem under strain today
from the rot of lies
and double-dealing
and casual, conscience-free
in every aspect of our life,
from commerce
to religion
to politics and culture -

we must believe
in ourselves
and our neighbors
and countrymen
in times like this and
the threads
that stitch together
that belief
seem less and less

From American Poetry's own Father, Godfather and Saint, Walt Whitman, here is a selection from Song of Myself.

Song of Myself


Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and
No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women
   or apart from them,
No more modest than immodest.
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
Whoever degrades another degrades me.
And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.

Through me the afflatus surging and surging, through
   me the current and index.

I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have
   their counterpart of on the same terms.

Through me many long dumb voices,
Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and
Voices of the diseas'd and despairing and thieves
   and dwarfs,
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
And of the threads that connect the stars, and of
   wombs and of the father-stuff,
And of the rights of them the others are down upon,
Of the deform'd, trivial, flat, foolish, despised,
Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.

Through me forbidden voices,
Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I remove
   the veil,
Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur'd.

I do not press my fingers across my mouth.
I keep as delicate around the bowels as through the
   head and heart,
Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.

I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and
   tag of me is a miracle.
Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever
   I touch and am touch'd from,
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,
This head more than churches, bibles and all the

If I worship one thing more than another it shall be
   the spread of my own body, or any part of it,
Translucent mould of me it shall be you!
Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you!
Firm masculine colter it shall be you
Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you!
You my rich blood! your milky stream pale strippings
   of my life!
Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you!
My brain it shall be your occult convolutions!
Root of wash'ed sweet-flag! timorous pond-snipe! nest
   of guarded duplicate eggs! it shall be you!
Mix'd tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be
Trickling sap of maple, fiber of manly wheat, it shall
   be you!

Sun so generous it shall be you!
Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you!
You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you!
Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it
   shall be you!
Broad muscular fields, branches of live oak, loving
   lounger in my winding paths, it shall be you!
Hands I have taken, face I have kiss'd, mortal I have
   ever touch'd, it shall be you.

I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so
Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with
I cannot tell how my ankles bend, not whence the
   cause of my faintest wish,
Not the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause
   of the friendships I take again.

That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it
   really be,
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than
   the metaphysics of books.

To behold the day-break!
The little light fades the immense and diaphanous
The air tastes good to my palate.

Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols silently
   rising, freshly exuding,
Scooting obliquely high and low.

Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs,
Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven.
The earth by sky staid with, the daily close of their
The heav'd challenge from the east that moment over
   my head,
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be


Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would
   kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.

We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun,
We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of
   the daybreak

My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and
   volumes of worlds.

Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to
   measure itself,
It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically,
Walt you contain enough, why don't you let it out then

Come now I will not be tantalized, you conceive too
   much of articulation,
Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you
   are folded?
Waiting in gloom, protected by frost,
The dirt receding before my prophetical screams,
I underlying causes to balance them at last,
My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the
   meaning of all things,
Happiness (which whoever hears me let him or her
   set out in search of this day.)

My final merit I refuse you, I refuse putting from me
   what I really am,
Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me,
I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking
   toward you.

Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the

(It's happened again - I start out to do a little piece of Whitman and end up doing twice as much as I planned. Once rolling with Walt, it's very hard to stop.)

Thursday a week ago was the seventh annual commemoration of the 9/11 attack on the United States of America.

Both our very good friend Alice Folkart and I wrote poems that day, commenting, not so much on the attack itself, but on the way we continue to mourn it seven years after the event.

We took different approaches and I thought it might be interesting to read the two poems together.

First, this is Alice's poem.

It Has All Happened Before

I should write about those people
falling through the flames,
talking on their cell phones,
trying to sprout wings or at least
get their feet ready to walk on water,
but I don't want to. I don't want to remember.

I should be able to write without crying,
keep the keyboard dry and wonder why
I am here and they are gone,
they, the living, then the dying,
and the world goes on and on and on,
all unimaginable, no flying to the sun on wings of wax.

It seems self-centered to start a poem like this
with "I," who should at least be part ghost by now,
"my" feelings, the wheelings and dealings
that have spun away from that terrible day,
flaming tower, falling souls not yet taken up by heaven,
the leaven of the bread of life.

There is power in the past.
It has all happened before.

And, now, here is mine, likely to raise some hackles.


with due respect
to those who actually
it is time to end all this
wallowing in self-pity
and victimhood
every September 11th

no more
of that, i say, until
we can put Bin Laden's
on a stick
in the middle of ground

until then,
let's turn our national
days of mourning
to those millions of
including our own,
on the other side
of the ocean
killed, maimed, displaced,
and terrorized
in the name of 9/11
and mis-directed

our sin
does not nearly equal
the sins
of those who attacked us,
but it is our sin
and like all our sins,
should be recognized
and mourned
for the sake of the sinned-upon
and the sinners as well

Do dogs have nightmares, I wonder. If so, this might be one of their regulars.

The poem is from 180 More Extraordinary Poems For Every Day, selected by Billy Collins and published by Random House in 2005.

The poet is Robert Wrigley.

According to an excellent paper (from which I quote extensively) on the web by Kevin Schmall, a student in Advanced English III at Emmett High School in Idaho, Wrigley was born in Illinois in 1951. He served briefly in the US Army until honorably discharged as a conscientious objector.

He went to college at Southern Illinois University and graduated in 1974 with a Bachelors degree in English Language and Literature. In 1976, he earned a MFA in Poetry at the University of Montana

He began his career as a teacher in 1977 at Lewis and Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. As Professor of English. Wrigley taught at Boise State University's Summer Writers Workshop in 1988. In 1989 and 1990, he went east to Swannonoa, North Carolina, to teach in the poetry-enriched MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. In 1990 and 1991, he was the Acting Director and Visiting Professor of the MFA Program at the University of Oregon. At Montana University, Wrigley has twice held the distinguished Richard Hugo Chair in Poetry as the Richard Hugo Distinguished Poet-in-Residence. He is the only writer to hold it twice and the first former student to hold the chair, which he held in the years of 1990 and 1995. For the years 1993 through 1999, Wrigley has appeared at the Idaho Readers' and Writers' Rendezvous. In 1993, he was the visiting professor of the Grace Nixon Summer Seminars at the University of Idaho. Wrigley joined the University of Idaho Graduate English Department staff in 1999, after spending twenty-two years as a professor at Lewis and Clark State College. At the University of Idaho, he currently teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing.

Do You Love Me?

She's twelve and she's asking the dog,
who does, but who speaks
in tongues, whose feints and gyrations
are themselves parts of speech.

They're on the back porch
and I don't really mean to be taking this in
but once I've heard I can't stop listening. Again
and again she asks, and the good dog

sits and wiggles, leaps and licks.
Imagine never asking. Imagine why:
so sure you wouldn't dare, or couldn't care
less. I wonder if the dog's guileless brown eyes

can lie, if the perfect canine lack of abstractions
might not be a bit like the picture books
she "read" as a child, before her parents' lips
shaped the daily miracle of speech

and kisses, and the words were not lead
and weighted by air, and did not mean
so meanly. "Do you love me?" she says
and says, until the dog, sensing perhaps
its own awful speechlessness, tries to bolt,
but she holds it by the collar and will not
let go, until, having come closer,
I hear the rest of it. I hear it all.

She's got the dog's furry jowls in her hands,
she's speaking precisely
into its laid-back quivering ears:
"Say it," she hisses, "say it to me."

And, speaking of dogs, there's this I did this week.

moral lessons

two dogs
at my house
and a calico cat
who watches us all
with casual condescension

one of the dogs is large
and furry;
the other small, with
short hair

the small one was
an off-the-streets rescue
who must have spent many
hungry days
and cannot forget them -
the minute
you put food in front of her
she tries to gobble it all up
at once,
before anyone can take it away,
stuffing food into her mouth
until there is no more room for even
the tiniest portion of Purina chow,
then she runs off with
chipmunk cheeks
to some secret corner where
she spits it all out and eats it bit by bit

the large dog
watches all this with grand motherly
until she decides enough is enough
and picks up the plate
with her teeth
and carries it off

of course,
when she does that,
the plate tips to one side
and all the food falls off,
but she doesn't seem to care,
licking the empty plate
clean and
leaving the fallen food
for the small dog

i think she thinks it's
the principle
of the thing, trying
to teach a moral lesson
on the limits of greed
to the small dog
who really doesn't care crap
about moral lessons
as long as she gets to eat

i also think,
moral lessons aside,
that the large dog,
knows i'm going
let her into the house,
where the small dog is not
allowed to go,
and give her a plate
of her own food
that she'll be able to eat
in the privacy
of her own kitchen

Before I close out the day, I want to leave you with the latest in history, reported by high school and college students throughout the United States in class essays and brought to a wider appreciation by the book Ignorance Is Blitz. I had lost the book, then found it again this week after cleaning of the paper piles off my very messy desk.

The historical period we study today is the Renaissance.

"Machiavelli, who was often unemployed, wrote The Prince to get a job with Richard Nixon."

"This was the beginning of Empire when Europeans felt the need to reach out and smack someone."

"Ferdinand and Isabella conquered Granola, a part of Spain now known as Mexico and the Gulf States."

"Dick Cavett was the first European to visit Newfoundland."

"The angry Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theocrats to a church door."

"John Huss refused to decant his ideas about the church and was therefore burned as a steak."

Ain't historical perspective grand? I guess we all just do the best we can.

And now, as you ponder thesee latest historical insights, remember that all 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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