Go, As the River Flows
Friday, January 09, 2009
Seems like time was always getting away from me this week, so, while last week's post ran long, this week's is a little shorter than usual.
Short though it may be, we still have our usual collection of good good poets and good poems.
From friends of "Here and Now"
From my library
Robert M. Petersen
The Monk Noin
The Monk Ryozen
Fugiwara No Sadate
D. K. Jones
Cyra S. Dumitru
So here we go.
I start this week with several poems from ancient China. The poems are taken from The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry, From Ancient to Contemporary.
The book was published by Anchor Books in 2005. Editors and translators are Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping. For those interested in Chinese poetry, I recommend the book, both for the poems and for the book's introductory section titled "Introduction to Chinese Poetic Form (as a Function of Yin-Yang Symmetry."
The first poem is from The Book of Songs, from about 600 BCE, the earliest known anthology of Chinese poetry.
All the Grasslands Are Yellow
All the grasslands are yellow
and all the days we march
and all the men are conscripts
sent off in four directions.
All the grasslands are black
and all the men like widowers.
So much grief! Are soldiers
not men like other men?
We aren't bison! We aren't tigers
crossing the wilderness,
but our shadows
roam from dawn to dusk.
Hairy-tailed foxes slink
through the dark grass
as we ride tall chariots
along the wide-rutted road.
The next verses, from the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE, are from the Dao De Jing, considered the seminal work of Daoism. Laozi, possibly a real, historical person and possibly not, is the legendary author of the Dao De Jing. The collection was originally known as Laozi. Since "Laozi" means "old man" in Chinese and since there is evidence of a body of literature whose titles translate to "old man" or "elder" it is possible the Dao De Jing is the lone survivor of a lost genre.
Thirty spokes join at one hub;
emptiness makes the cart useful.
Cast clay into a pot;
the emptiness inside makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows to make a room;
emptiness makes the room useful.
Thus being is beneficial,
but usefulness comes from the void.
Warp to be whole,
twist to be straight,
hollow out to be full,
fray to be new,
have less and gain more,
have much and be perplexed.
Therefore the sage embraces the One
and is a model for all under heaven.
Not exhibiting himself, he stands out.
Not full of himself, he is acclaimed.
Not boasting, he succeeds.
Not vain, his works maintain. He doesn't strive
and so nothing under heaven strives with him.
The ancients say, "warp to be whole."
These are not empty words.
Return to the source to be whole.
The Bureau of Music was established around 120 BCE by Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty and abolished in 6 BCE by Emperor Ai. Its function was to collect songs by the common people, not as a civic art endeavor, as you might assume, but as a way to gauge the people's reaction to the doings of the imperial government, a kind of musical/poetic Gallup poll.
He Waters His Horse Near a Breach in the Long Wall
Green so green is the river grass,
and I can't stop thinking of that far road,
can't bear thinking of that far road.
Last night I saw him in my dream,
dreamed him standing by my side.
Suddenly I was in another land,
another land and a different country.
I tossed and turned and woke apart.
The gaunt mulberry knows the sky's wind
and waters of the sea know cold heaven.
When travelers return in joy
not one has a word for me.
From a far land a traveler came
and left me two carp.
I asked my children to cook the fish
and inside they found a silk letter.
I knelt long and read the letter.
What did the letter say?
It started, Try to eat..
and ended, I miss you always.
Here is the first poem I wrote in the new year.
When I was a kid, I was always disappointed that nothing changed as the old, worn-out year was passed and tossed in the trash heap. It didn't seem fair, there it was the first day of a new year and I wasn't taller, smarter, more attractive to girls or richer. Why bother with all this new year stuff, I thought.
I guess I still feel that way, at least a little bit.
January 1, 2009
sun came up this
same one as
went out to my car
backed into the street
passed the pile of leaves
beside the driveway
as last year,
same leaves blown
into our yard
by the neighbor's yardman
drove to Jim's
and morning paper
like i'd been there
almost every morning
finished my coffee
almost hit a
that raced across the street
and up a tree
ahhh, change -
the best part of a
Lorenzo Thomas was born in Panama and grew up in New York City. He is a poe, critic, and professor of English at the University of Houston - Downtown. His other books of poetry include Chances are Few, The Bathers, and Sound Science.
The next three poems are from his book Dancing on Main Street, published Coffee House Press in 2004.
The mind invents its own inadequacies
But not the power to erase illusion
That schemes and wholesome dreams
Can become actual despite the truth
That thoughts invest themselves in flesh
And direct motion
That you have 30,000 shots at immortality
But only one you dare not miss at being rich
Or at the least escape the nag of destitution
That maybe exercise shows on TV
Are really harmful
That sound bodies just
Amplify empty minds
That platitudes contain a grain of wisdom'
And fortune's a rush hour train that doesn't wait
To really live means needing other people
That whatever that means love
Could conquer hate
Don't know a thing
Except what I know:
I like great big legs
& where they go
I love the colors in the Arkansas sky
When the sun goes down
And I'm lonely as an empty chair
When you're not around.
Watch who ends up in contestant's row
I like it when the colored people win
It always was all women years ago
Once in a while maybe a young Marine
LCpl in dress uniform
Every other word he said was "sir"
Probably a newlywed on top of that
You know he's going to win a car
Or a bedroom suit
Not that the game is fixed but to be fair
I'm sure someone at CBS
Made lots of money figuring this out
Before I did
The way they've got it now
All kinds of people get to come on down
OK by me. But yet and still
I like it when the colored people win
Next I have a poem from Wiltshire an old friend of "Here and Now." She returns with a new poem after a long absence, during which she says she spent far too much time on fiction (a novel and some short stories) and far too little time on her first love...poetry!
She still lives in Anaheim, California and is back to writing daily poems at Blueline's "House of 30".
the hard times,
the dark days
and you're wet and heavy
like unshorn sheep the sheer weight
topples you in your tracks
and it doesn't help to sa-
anything or nothing or everything –
what you knew
what sustained you
hides in the hollow
of your new view
through embered eyes
just as suddenly,
you find a jolt of joy bubbling
from somewhere deep -
you doubt but irrepressibly
floats in your dreams
something simple -
lights in the rain,
crispness in a blue and yellow morning -
and you consider the park, a poem,
find yourself humming,
answering the phone
grabbing hold again
wanting to be among friends
and so you start again...suddenly
The next poem is by Larissa Szporluk from her book Dark Sky Question, published by Beacon Press in 1998.
Szporluk was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan and received her BA from the University of Michigan. She studied at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and received an MA in Literature at the University of California Berkeley, and an MFA from the University of Virginia. She began her full-time teaching career at Bowling Green State University in 2000 and has since become an associate professor of Creative Writing and Literature. In 2005, she was a visiting professor at Cornell University.
Her poems, including the ones in this book, are mysterious to me.
He arrives and looks around,
and doesn't know the word for wind,
and wind is the subject.
He finds a girl on a fence
hurting herself with a nail.
He pulls her away without speaking,
to her surprise, and wipes
the stuff from her hair that smells
like burning-out lights,
and suddenly it's not a burden
to be walking with her
in enemy land. When she tells him
"the best thing here is the moon,"
he feels happier than if he'd seen it
and remembers a parable
about a string that never meets
its ends, and she tells him then
about a warm place at the end
of a grove of horned trees.
If the night steadies, if it controls
their speed, they'll reach it
together, fusing in the meantime,
discarding all the nuance
that betrays them with disease.
I hardly ever dedicate a poem to anyone or anything. On this one, I felt a dedication was appropriate.
deep thoughts to be thunk in 2009
this poem is dedicated to all the right-wing blog, newspaper, magazine, and tv and radio big-think blovators who continued in this past year to demonstrate their inability to think two or more consecutive thoughts coherently and come to a rational conclusion.
as with many people
i like to think deep
about things i know
some might say,
as to why
the world's problems
last year are back on the table
deep-thinkers like to say
the world wasn't paying
i'm just going to have to
Catherine Bowman was born in El Paso, Texas. She received her B.A. from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her M.F.A. from Columbia University. She was awarded a 1990 New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship.
The next two poems are from her first collection of poems, 1-800-Hot-Ribs, published by Gibbs-Smith Publishers in 1993 and reissued in 2000 by Carnegie-Mellon University Press as part of its contemporary classics series. At the time the book was published, she lived in New York City and taught writing in the public schools there. She is now the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Indiana University. She is also editor of Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPR's "All Things Considered", an anthology of poems by poets she has reviewed and featured on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."
Her poems are pllayful and hugely fun to read.
Fernando and the Tomato Salad
And this is what happens every afternoon.
The tired sea lifts itself out
of the water and crawls over the beach,
while the water recedes into a flat
glass eye or a body emptied o dreams.
The huge sea ambles over the beach,
over the man sleeping on his Italian
sports coat. His hands clasp. His knees
pray. His tie dances in the wind as he
dreams about sex. The sea swells over two
children digging in the sand, conjuring ideas
they will never remember. Their teeth spark
like geniuses in the pale blue air
as they stroke a starfish. Slides
over the topless bodies of three fat women,
their nipples are so pleased, over four
college boys, over five nuns whose gowns
whip in the wind like pirate flags,
over a family of six, the mother garnished
in a seaweed wig sweeps the marl with a branch,
over seven bikinied Germans in lotus position.
And over eight - there aren't eight, or nine, or ten.
The beach is nearly deserted. The sea rolls
beyond the shore, over the ovine dunes, over
the grassy marsh where the fishermen net the eel,
over the hills, over the plum orchard, spreading
into the dim stone house, into the hallway
filled with the oiled portraits of craggy saints
and uncles. A thick, dusty mirror holds Fernando's
sister's stockinged legs and half-slip.
She sleeps with the door open. The sea spills
into the kitchen where he stands
holding each tomato against the light.
He says: This is a fine tomato, or
this is a bad tomato. Spain is ruined.
Then he mixes the tomatoes, onions, oil,
garlic, and salt. Pours the black red wine.
Then everything stops, and we eat.
And this is what happens every afternoon.
Mita refused to dance with Pancho Villa and spoke of it.
She died,vanishing in to a rosary of jackrabbit holes
this side of El Paso.
Granny after returning from Cuba couldn't touch doorknobs
for fear a tarantula would be on every one of them. She melted
into the throats of mailmen who sang her the old songs
in the evening. All she left was her red hennaed hair
on a fireplace made into an altar.
and my mother makes sculptures of ice, red eyes that scream.
They do not make a sound.
Granny says - Until I'm old, so I can grab waiters in the crotch?
We pray. And have forgotten how.
The maids refused to wake them when they sleepwalk through
There were black cats named Pico.
Me and my cousin used to run through the desert
yelling Pico, Pico, Pico, Pico, Pico, Pico.
Teresa White 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.
Teresa is a friend of "Here and Now" and i'm very pleased to have this piece from her.
Beet soup fills the air with an odor
of blood. I've never tasted blood
except when sucking a nicked finger.
Roses of garlic are crushed
with the flat of a knife onto
a well-seasoned breadboard.
Peppercorns sting the nostrils
as the action of mortar
and pestle quickens.
Onions are chopped
inevitable tears fall.
And out back, in the splintered
shed, is a wooden box where the
ice does its cold dance all day.
Here, we keep our precious
sour cream. Sour cream and borscht,
caviar and blini. And who thought
borscht was made of one thing:
this unforgiving vegetable
all that will grow in the stubborn ground
since Stalin took our goats and men.
But providence was on our side;
he left our beets and pluck.
Born in 1959, Carl Phillips is Professor of English and of African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also teaches in the Creative Writing Program. He is author of a number of collections of poetry, including The Rest of Love which won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Prize and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. He also won the 1992 Morse Poetry Prize for his collection In the Blood.
The next poem is from his book Cortege, published in 1995 by Greywolf Press and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
A Mathematics of Breathing
Think of any of several arched
colonnades to a cathedral,
how the arches
like fountains, say,
or certain limits in calculus,
when put to the graph paper's crosstrees,
never quite meet any promised heaven,
instead at their vaulted heights
falling down to the abruptly ending
base of the next column,
smaller, the one smaller
past that, at last
dying, what is called perspective.
This is the way buildings do it.
you have seen them, surely, busy paring
the world down to what it is mostly,
proverb: so many birds in a bush.
Suddenly they take off, and at first
it seem your particular itself
has sighed deeply.,
that the birds are what come,
though of course it is just the birds
leaving one space for others.
After they've gone, put your ear to the brush,'
listen. There are three sides: the leaves'
releasing of something, your ear where it
finds it, and the air in between, to say
equals. There is maybe a fourth side,
In One Thousand and One Nights,
there are only a thousand,
Scheherazade herself is the last one,
for the moment held back,
for a moment all the odds hang even.
The stories she tells she tells mostly
to win another night of watching the prince
drift into a deep sleeping beside her,
the chance to touch one more time
his limbs, going,
gone soft already with dreaming.
When she tells her own story.
is how it starts.
OK, I admit it. I stole about a third of this poem off an drink promotion posted on the at Borders. Satisfied?
Vanilla Red Tea Latte
Vanilla Red Tea Latte
is naturally caffeine-free
Rooibus tea and
velvety steamed milk
deliciously rich and smooth
with a hint (just a hint)
the sign says
of caramelized sugar
and a source of
antioxidants as well
all well and good
it's eight in the morning
and i need my caffeine
even if only a hint
is probably bad for me
born and raised
and find tea without ice
when the tea is from
some place like Rooibus
i never heard of
i don't know enough about
to know if i'm fer or agin'um
what the hell ever happened
to plain old Folgers -
if it was good
enough for that
by the international
in the mountains
with his donkey, ought
to be good enough
Here's something different from The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. The book was published by Free Press in 2005. Annotations are by David Dodd.
This music for the song was written by band member Phil Lesh and the lyrics by his friend and poet Robert M. Petersen.
If you're into the Dead, I recommend the book. In addition to the compilation of lyrics, the annotations are excellent.
Pride of Cucamonga
Out on the edge of the empty highway
Howling at the blood on the moon
A diesel Mack come rolling down my way
Can't hit the border too soon
Running hard out of Muskrat Flats
It was sixty days or double life
Hail at my back like a shotgun blast
High wind chimes in the night
Oh, oh, pride of Cucamonga
Oh, oh, bitter olives in the sun
Oh, oh, I had me some loving
And I done some time
Since I came down from Oregon
There's a lesson or two I've learned
By standing on the road alone
Standing watching the fires burn
The northern sky it stinks with greed
You can smell it heavy for miles around
Good old boys in the Graystone Hotel
Sitting doing that git-on-down
Oh, oh, pride of Cucamonga
Oh, oh, silver apples in the sun
Oh, oh, I had me some loving
And I done some time
I see you silver shinning town
But I know I can't go there
Your streets run deep with poisoned wine
Your doorways crawl with fear
So I think I'll drift for old where it's at
Where the weed grows green and fine
And wrap myself around a bush
Of that bright whoa, oh, Oaxaca vine
Yes it's me, I'm the pride of Cucamonga
I can see golden forests in the sun
Oh, oh, I had me some loving
and I done some time
And I done some time
and I done some time
Mick Moss is another friend of "Here and Now." He is a 54 year old poet living in Liverpool, England. I present here his very reassuring poem, it being some comfort to think that whoever we are, great or small, our days start pretty much the same.
Yeurghh! Who's that?
Splash of cold
To wash away the muzzy headed cobwebs
And clear the mucous membranes
Run the hot
Wipe the steam from the mirror
Scrape off the stubble
Rinse the razor
(always in the middle)
Up down side to side
Rinse, gargle, spit
Final splash of cold
(it's good for the skin apparently)
Grab the towel
Fingers through the hair
(what's left of it)
Another apprehensive look
Right, come on then
Coffee, ciggie, newspaper.....
Next, I have five poems from the collection One Hundred Poems From the Japanese.
The first two poems were composed by The Monk Noin from the 11th century. His secular name was Tachibgana no Nagayasu.
The third poem was written by The Monk Ryozen. Also from the eleventh century, he was a monk of the Gion Temple near Kyoto.
The fourth and last are by Fujiwara No Sadate who lived from 1162 to 1242. He was an Imperial Vice-Councillor and compiler of Single Poems by a Hundred Poets from which half of the poems in this book were taken. He also assisted in other compilations for two Emperors and left a diary.
After the storm
On Mount Mimuro,
The colored leaves
Float like brocade
On the River Tatsuta
As I approach
The mountain village
Through the spring twilight
I hear the sunset bell
Ring through drifting petals.
When I am lonely
and go for a walk, I see
Everywhere he same
You do not come, and I wait
On Matsuo beach,
In the calm of evening.
And like the blazing
Water, I too am burning.
As the mists rise in the dawn
From Uji River, one by one,
The stakes of the nets appear,
Stretching far into the shallows.
Here's a tableau from the Olmos Perk last Saturday morning.
no days off
time to take the family
our for a walk before the chores
of the day begin
for coffee and fresh apple juice
i see them out front
at an outside table, mom
and dad and three little girls
and their terrier pup
who watches each
coming and going, ever alert -
no days off
in the family-protection biz
Now I have a poem by Wendell Berry, from his book Entries published in 1997 by Counterpoint of Washington, D.C.
Berry lives and works on his farm in Kentucky. An essayist, novelist, and poet, he is the author of more than 30 books and has received numerous prizes for his work, most recently the T.S. Ellion Award.
I have two poems from the book. If you're so fortunate as to still have a living mother, save this poem for Mother's Day.
To My Mother
I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.
So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, as I erred,
safe found, within your love,
prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,
and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst
compared to your forgiveness of it
already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,
where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.
A Third Possibility
I fired the brush pile by the creek
and leaping gargoyles of flame
fled over it, fed on it, roaring,
and made one flame that stood
tall in its own wind, snapping off
points of itself that raved and vanished.
The creek kept coming down, filling
above the rocks, folding
over them, its blank face dividing
in gargles and going on, mum
under the ice, for the day was cold,
the wind stinging as the flame stung.
Unable to live either life, I stood
between the two, and liked them both.
Now I have a piece from sailor, world-traveler, and friend of "Here and Now," Michael Sottak
windows open to summer
the fog crawls from the bay
across the cow fields
into my room
the horns chant
i leap to the smell of brine
press my nose to the screen
see only glistening stone walls
in ghost dancing white
i know Dad's ship is hunkered-in
off Brenton's reef, try to imagine
which horn or bell is his
it's been six months
i know every sound of the bay
the tramp steamers and the troubled
watch the white roll in
what will it be
ivory tusks from Africa?
brass tables from Istanbul?
it doesn't matter
i feel you
Next, two poems by D. K.. Jones from his book Next of Kin, published by The Geryon Press in 2008.
Jones' books include a memoir, a novella, a series of fables mixed with recollection essays and five poetry collections. His book outrider was a finalist for the Carl Sandburg Award. He lives in Minnesota and Arizona.
The Blue Angel
It's time - my eldest daughter said.
Well past time is what she meant.
The nearly painful blinding glare in my eyes.
Trying to lift the scruffy old dog thin but
Still a load off the cold,
Leaf-mold snow, neither of yet god or ghost,
Bend and kiss her warm before I kiss her cold.
Take her to the vet so he can make of her
Keepsake ashes. Ashes, ashes all fall down...
Thinking back to when she was raring to go,
Had the heart,
But no longer the legs.
A man lost without his dog
Never quite finds his way.
Now the collie visits in monastic dreams
Where she lays only staring -
I did not bury her like the others
A Small Rebellion
When I was young, adults spoke in riddles
and the stars, so far away, shed no light.
I was a puppy waiting for a owner. Me.
I ran the days to its knees.
There were trees to swing on, schools
outside the school, like tar trucks and fire stations.
My tongue had already begun to sharpen
to the dismay of others, but I tried to compromise,
all sunbrowned and scabbed like a colt.
The world already showing wear
was long in the tooth.
And I was older than I am today.
Maybe I'm a little obsessive about some things, but I think, when considering options, one should always consider the odds.
i stop in
at my local newspaper's
obituary page daily
as i start what might be
my last day
i like to see
if my acquaintances
among the legions of the dead
have increased overnight,
thinking it will be good to know
who new might be greeting me
should it be my time
to make that dark passage
i like to begin the day
by calculating the odds
of the ages of the most recent
i figure (optimistically) that at my age
at least half of those most recently
taking the big step to the great black nowhere
should be older than me
i keep those odds in mind
as i peruse the page,
feeling a great surge of rejuvenated life
if those older are greater than 50 percent
of the total
and the dread of all deep shadows
if those younger
are the greater percentage
on those days when the younger
i am especially cautious
in matters of diet and driving habits,
so in some sense
a surge of death among the young
is probably good for me, thankyouverymuch
by they way,
have you noticed
(being a regular visitor to the page i noticed)
most of all these former people are smiling
why in the world are they smiling -
don't they know they're dead?
i have chosen my picture for when
the time comes
you can be sure
I've read many accounts of man's fall from the Garden, but none of them has moved me as this one does. The poem is by Cyra S. Dumitru from her book Listening to Light, published by River Lily Press of San Antonio in 2001.
What struck me when were first
beyond Eden was the carrion.
The way a body looked when dead,
innards trailing like thick vines
tory flesh like fading hyacinths.
And the great birds that rose up
flooded the air black with wings
lumbered until they gained a current.
Once we had passed,
they descended, picked again.
It was Eve who noticed how the eyes
of fallen animals were often open
staring at something so remote
that vision was useless.
All we had lived was movement -
the doe twitching her tail before leaping,
the panther rippling like black water,
lizards quick as raindrops through leaves.
When we found the python swallowing a rabbit
hind legs twitching,
Eve clutched my hands and finally wept.
"We will eat only berries, fruit.
We will learn the uses of plants,"
I said and held her until she slept.
The light began to change as we foraged.
It skimmed our skin, rather than warmed us.
At night we shivered when pressed together
beneath blankets of grass woven by Eve,
her ribs rubbing too close to mine
despite her growing belly.
One cool morning I rose before dawn.
Found the stag's leg bone picked clean,
rinsed the dirt and dried blood in the stream.
Felt its weight in another way.
I knew where the burrow was hidden
when the rabbits ventured out.
I crouched in tall grass, practiced stillness.
The three hopped above ground, sniffed the air.
The smallest, always behind, hobbled a bit.
I inched forward as it settled
in a bed of clover, nose quivering,
ears up and listening.
I bounded forward, pounced,
clutched the rabbit by its tail
pressed my strength upon his
clubbed again and again while
its legs thumped against my chest.
the small skull cracked.
Blood oozed sticky in white fur.
As the rabbit went limp
a sharp breeze rose.
Something shifted inside me,
that terrible stillness.
I sat listening as my heart
nearly burst from pounding.
My right hand, the one which in Eden
had stroked the offspring of fox,
squirrel, cougar blistered
from the grip of battering bone.
Using a jagged rock,
Eve skinned the creature slowly
rubbed the soft fur against her cheek
traced the curve of muscle
the delicate thrust of young bone.
"How shinny is the flesh.
How rounded the muscles."
Finally she tore an opening
in the belly, and the entrails
spilled out, gleaming.
Eve saved the tendons
cooked the meat which
we found almost tender.
Later she caressed the bruises,
dark stains against my chest.
Here we are in dry, dry, dry San Antonio, on the cusp of rain.
a man of faith
is like the
"Free Beer Tomorrow"
at the corner pub -
in the offing
two or three days out
but never poured
today is the day
that might be tomorrow
it is cold
with a little bit of drizzle
to become rain any instant
for i am well-known
as a man of faith
All of the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz