Country Light   Friday, February 27, 2009


Feedback from "Here and Now" readers is that load time is becoming an increasing problem. We're going to try to fix that.

Currently, when your computer loads "Here and Now" the load-package includes the current issue and the two previous issues. Sometimes next week, we'll change that to just the current issue and the most recent previous issue. I don't know how any of this works, but logically, that shuld cut load time by about a third. I hope this works to help those folks who have been having a problem.

Meanwhile, all previous issues, from the first one in 2006 to the most recent, are avaiable in the archives that can be accessed on the right side of the page.

So, that's what we're going to do with that.

This week we have, as usual, a good mix of poets.

From friends of "Here and Now"

Susan McDonough
Teresa White
Walter Durk
Dan Cuddy

From my library

S.A. Griffin
Doug Knott
Bonny Finberg
Ron Kolm
Naomi Shihab Nye
Brooke Bergan
Dennis Tourbin
Charles Harper Webb
G.E. Pattterson
E.E. Cummings
Ursula K. Le Guin

and me.

Here we go.

I'm starting this week with several pieces from The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, a huge anthology edited by Alan Kaufman and S.A. Griffin and published by Thunder's Mouth Press in 1999.

The first poem is by S.A. Griffin, one of the book's editors.

Griffin, author of Heaven Is One Long Naked Dance and A One-Legged Man Standing Casually on Hollywood Blvd. Smoking a Cigarette, has been published in many poetry ezines and anthologies. Along with partner Rafael F. J. Alvarado, he publishes and edits (Sic)Vice & Verse.

There is a River

there is a cheerful ignorance
of chance meeting and
luck like gold that cannot be
mined or

a common atom

a dance

and stars that trick the
water with their

do not wash your wars in it
take your holy rituals to the
precious fountains built by your
agencies of fear

press your
wine from the fallout
and drink your
bitter victory

for yes

there is a river
a giving river that will
sing you safely

a river of


where you can
and leave your casual sadness
walking sideways at the

meet me there
whoever your are
and we will agree to
swim it

The next poem is by Doug Knott, a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School who found himself happily sidetracked into the world of written and spoken word in underground clubs and who has been at the forefront of performance poetry since 1984. His work appears in many anthologies and he is an award-winning poetry video director.

Sunset Strip Self Improvement Affirmations

There is always the feeling of wind
even when there is no wind
the coat wants to turn up
young women in tight black clothes
project cold blond sex
slip out in gum-chewing 3's and 4's
from dark fertility-cars

There are fires waiting to jump
fire lanes, to enter the music smog
in the club owned by the famous movie actor
in front of which the famous kid movie star
died of too much good will
and cheap thrills from his good friends;
on the sidewalk stood altars from his fans
like kaleidoscopic stoneware Mexican gods
with flowers in their hair

The take off their shirts
and show their tattoos at closing time
in front of the tattoo store
the girls look at them with
smiles like eclipsing planets
all the way down in their bellies
their faces turn up to the stars

The religious coffee house has folded, of course -
people drive more wildly on this street
holding phones to their ears in their cars,
feet jammed down tight close together
figures on big billboards peer down
like row of giants on a drawbridge
who appear intimate but are
secretly filing for divorce

And the Whisky and the Roxy clubs
feature rock bands that are named after toilets,
boomerangs, and kitchenware;
And I want a motorcycle
I have never had a motorcycle

And everybody here is a little bit behind or in front
of the cameras: in the bookstore, I stood in line
beside Donald Sutherland, one of my favorite actors
and I almost vaulted the aisle to grab his arm
and tell him how much I admired his work, particularly
in Nicholas Roeg's dark Venetian drama
But I held back my racing heart
to give him space to breathe alone
in the illusory world where he is not recognized

In the gas station I pump gas
next to the famous male model
with the blond hair-extensions and big pectorals

I knew it was him when a girl with huge sweater breasts
approached and pulled his autograph while we pumped
and I said, "It's you, right, you're the movie guy?"
and he said, "No, not him," and I said "OK,"
because it was funny enough to me that he denied it,
but then he stood behind me to pay at the cashier
and I turned and said again, "C'mon, you're the guy,
aren't you?" And he said, "'s me, it's me,
it's me" and we were both gratified

And the Mesopotamians behind the payment grill
also brandished their mustaches at the big-star action;
I had just seen this male model
as a life-sized comic cardboard cut-out
in the greeting card store window up the street

This is the city of movies, not films -
of package, persuasion and negative pickups
in the financing of all life, including executives
who seek preference in restaurant seatings
like packs of militant seals
and this is the city that serves up
its own name as part of the deal

The High Holy Hype of litmus audience test
Sunset Boulevard in the dog breath night:
the long cars line up at the lacy brocade
outside the restaurants to be loaded
with people who generate international states of mind
and dubious cultural symbols

And it's time for the hit men, the pitch men
the agents and the one-line guys
and to roll the big cameras like dice
and no one forgets to be seen leaving a big tip
or to throw themselves with a big round of applause
and chopped liver under the wheels

Which roll down the street
walking distance from the health club
ragged with the dregs of rock and roll
The traffic lights blink and car shadows
move across me like a movie that kicks in
when I close my eyes -
it's the movie where I'm always the star
waiting for the the light to change
city of stars
neighborhood of strangers

it will happen for me
it will happen for me
it will happen for me

Here's a short piece from the book by Bonny Finberg, a member of The Unbearables. (Looks interesting, but I'll let you look it up.)


Young sexy women, an eternal fount of
sleek skin, alabaster and onyx,
honeyed eyes, yielding mouths.
But I prefer the avatars of elemental things.
Jill, baby faced irony and iron ass to boot.
Dangerous Diane, ineluctable eyes
that pierce the crust of bullshit.
Alice, in the wedding night blizzard of '93,
short moonfaced rascal in mink coat
and plastic rain hat, likes her vodka.
Suzie the floozy, tripper turned chef,
kept the neighborhood kids full of
jello and homemade pizza.
Linda, weighted down with cheap pearls and
expensive taste, in paint smeared jeans,
a fallen arches history of pick up porn.
I will gladly lounge with them when poachers
come to pick our bones and steal the tusks
we brandished in our cool resolve.

And an ever shorter piece by Ron Kolm, another member of The Unbearables.

Factory Still Life

Eduardo, my night shift partner,
Shovels another load
Into the blazing furnace.

He cups his nuts
As the flames spew out
And circle around his face.

His eyes glow
As he tells me a dirty joke
That goes on approximately forever.

I had a birthday last week, one of the big ones. Here's my poem for that day.

on my 65th birthday

it's a pretty good
to have a birthday

with soft breezes

a little damp in the air

is in evidence,
all the trees we planted
three years ago
along Apache Creek
are showing their green buds,
except for the red oaks
who lose their leaves last
in the fall
and sprout them back
after all the other trees
have greened in the spring

we didn't have much of a winter
this year
and i'm not ready for what we had
to end,
just like i don't think i'm ready yet
to be 65 years old

but no one asked me
about either the greening of spring
of the graying of my own life-string,
so i suppose
my only choice is going along with the program,
the real life alternatives,
continuous winter and dead in the ground,
being cures
worse than the disease


i don't care what they say,
no one's every ready
for these inevitabilities of wound down and worn out,
the approaching day
when the yo yo goes down and doesn't come back up

there was a golf tournament
where i lived when i was a kid,
"Life Begins at 40," they called it
and i thought it was hilarious,
this idea of a bunch of
hitting golf balls
under the delusion
they weren't about dead

that was the time i thought
i might make it all the way to 40
before i keeled over
in crickity old age,
curdled up
like expired milk,
bound only to slip away
down death's unforgiving drain

not much going on after that,
i thought

the ignorance
of crass and arrogant
never even suspecting
the golfers were
that most of the best
of my life
would come in those years
after i had assumed
i would almost
certainly be committed to ashes strewn across some
irrigation canal
alongside a field of winter beets
not so far from home

Born in 1952, Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter and a novelist. She was born to a Palestinian father and American mother. Although she regards herself as a "wandering poet," she refers to San Antonio as her home. Here are two of her poems from her book19 Varieties of Gazelle, Poems of the Middle East, published by HarperCollins in 2002.

Holy Land

Over beds wearing thick homespun cotton
   Sitti the Ageless floated
poking straight pins into sheets
   to line our fevered forms
"the magic," we called it,
   her crumpling of syllables,
pitching them up and out,
   petals parched by sun,
the names of grace, hope,
   in her graveled grandmother tongue.
She stretched a single sound
   till it became two -
perhaps she could have said
the word for peanuts,
   or waterfalls,
and made a prayer.

After telling the doctor "Go home,"
   she rubbed our legs,
pressing into my hand
   someone's lost basketball medal,
"Look at this man reaching for God."
   She who could not leave town
while her lemon tree held fruit,
   nor while it dreamed of fruit.
In a land of priests,
   patriarchs, muezzines,
a woman who couldn't read
   drew lines between our pain
and earth,
   stroked our skins
to make them cool,
   our limbs which had already
traveled far beyond her world,
   carrying the click of distances
in the smooth, untroubled soles
   of their shoes.


You can't be, says a Palestinian Christian
on the first feast day after Ramadan.
So, half-and-half and half-and-half.
He sells glass. He knows about broken bits,
chips. If you love Jesus you can't love
anyone else. Says he.

At his stall of blue pitchers on the Via Dolorosa,
he's sweeping. The rubbed stones
feel holy. Dusting of powdered sugar
across faces of date-stuffed mamool.

This morning we lit the slim white candles
which bend over at the waist by noon.
For once the priests weren't fighting
in the church for the best spots to stand.
As a boy, my father listened to them fight.
This is partly why he prays in no language
but his own. Why I press my lips
to every exception.

A woman opens a window - here and here
   and here -
placing a vase of blue flowers
on an orange cloth. I follow her.
She is making a soup from what she had left
in the bowl, the shriveled garlic and bent bean.
She is leaving nothing out.

The next poem is by Susan B. McDonough who creates gardens for a living and enjoys the journey of transplanting words into poetry. She has one foot in Arizona and the other in Maine. Her poems can be found both on-line and in print.

Susan is one of my house mates on the Blueline's poem-a-day forum, "House of 30." The poem is a great response to anyone who might think that the poem-a-day discipline might lead to lower quality poetry.

The Irony of Faces

A forest spirit whispers
in capital letters his mouth
making the "C" with lips
pulled back and jaw held
as tight as a doubled-up
rubber band. The native
wears many masks.
Today its the Nuhlimkilaka:
bringer of confusion

But it only reminds me of
armies of white men who crossed
oceans, then plains with their own
set of rules. Untied to the land
and its values. neglectful
of the notion that a spirit life
weaves land to people.
I see them as Nuhlimkilaka:
wearing the skin of conquerors
to hide behind the word freedom.

The next poem is by Brooke Bergan from her book Storyville, A Hidden Mirror published i n1994 by Asphodel Press.

I've told the story about Storyville and Bergan's poems about Storyville and E.J. Bellocq, an everyday commercial photographer who inadvertantly became the photographer of record for Storyville's whores, several times in past issues and won't repeat it this week. It is an interesting story which, at one point, was turned into "Pretty Baby," a good movie and easily googled.

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

Her publications include three critically acclaimed books of poetry as well as fiction, reviews, essays, translations and a play.

Plate 1: Girl Wearing A Shawl

It is casual nudity that
surprises, too guileless
not to trust the dark shape
shouldering into the corner
is not an intimation of chaos
or the spreading stain of evil, but
only a dream of tomorrow

Nipples tilt left and right, bright
wildflowers tipping into a breeze -
a body made not for pleasure
but for forgetting, a dream
without clefts or the stain of memory.

Plate 2: Girl In A Picture Hat

Door, walls, and dress
moired by flaws in the plate
itself, as the sweetness
of a smile by the memory
of touch, the toes of her
white kid shoes by summer
rain, she stands, hands curled
just so.

At the edge of the plate,
the other one sleeps
in an iron bed draped with
netting, hands drawn up, self-contained,
two nightshirts on the closed door,
in escape.

Plate 3: Girl With A Dog

Feet splayed out n pantaloons
preposterous as the tissue
panties of a lamb chop, the dog
wants to be lifted to the ground,
waits with the man from the cool
tips of beans snapped
into her apron to fall
onto damp brick.

They will talk softly
of this and that,
stirring the heavy air
with their laughter.

Now here's my story about a very pleasant evening out.

Sunday night before a Monday holiday

downtown Austin,
a little bistro
on the corner of 3rd and Lavaca,
crowded inside for a Sunday night
because of the marathon,
but quiet
on the sidewalk
under an overhead heater
to dull the edge of the chill

a fine dinner,
a bottle of wine
for the three of them
and iced tea for me,
quiet conversation
with our son and his girl,

both quite grown now,
but hard for mom
to accept
even though she

for me
each conversation
a gathering of

Next, I have two poems by Dennis Tourbin, from his book In Hitler's Window, published by The Tellem Press of Ottawa in 1991. Born in 1946, Tourbin was a Canadian poet, painter, performance artist, novelist and art and poetry magazine editor. He died in 1998l

In Cities

In books
the mystery
of stars,
the mysterious
world of stars
is there
in books.

Not people stars
like you-know-who
but real big stars
like way-out-there.

In cities
where there is
traffic and noise
and big steel buildings,
only small pieces
of sky exist
and very few birds
in cities.

In cities
at night I
want to take
water and lightening
and re-discover

Take rope,
make storms,
follow jetstreams
downtown right
to the edge of
the universe.

In cities
my imagination
explodes, sends
pictures, small
pieces, fragments
of colour in
every direction.

In cities
I discover
new worlds
in faces,
watch birds
crash into
see lightning
crease the sky.

In Hitler's Window
(Close to Midnight)

In his room
a small party
has gathered,
a quiet party
of people
and soldiers
and dogs.

Outside, the
darkness descends;
the windows become

The people move
through the room
exchanging glances.
Hardly a word
is spoken.

A fierce wind
gathers outside,
moving through
mountains and
trees, sweeping
the landscape.

The dogs huddle
near the door,
sniffing; a strange
odour penetrates
the room.

In distant fields
prisoners shovel
white lime into
open graves.

Time seems suspended.

And a slow train
moves through
the countryside.

It is close to midnight.
The guests are preparing
to leave. The walls
begin to close in.

He opens the door.
The dogs race out
into the heart of
a blazing fire,
stars exploding.

He stops,
looks at his watch,
the hands revolving
faster than the
speed of light.

Time disappearing now.

In his cold heart
he longs for a
sudden rain,
the smell of
wet fur,

the comfort of
crawling deep
into the damp
earth, his
only escape.

I've pleased to have our good friend Teresa White with us again with two poems.

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

I've added a link to Teresa's website under "Links" on the right of the page where you can go for more information about her work, including her new book.

A Night at the Opera

Dreams are the soul's libretto,
a fancy script for a play
we pantomime for no one.

I dream I've perished
like Mimi in LaBoheme,
feel the pain and kick

past purgatory
in a beeline to hell.
There is no easy portal

for you to follow.
Separation comes to all, dear.
In my waking, I bring nothing

back from this land
of the unfortunate.
I saw the deformed

and beautiful prance
up 8th Avenue -
heard them scream.

I Want a Wife

I would insist
her waistline
be larger than mine

her lips thin and unexpressive,
a smile that rarely blooms
from its tight bud.

Dishes. Of course
she'd do dishes. No dishwasher
here: she'll plunge her worried

hands into the bubbles of Joy.
She will gaze out the window
at the maple proliferating

so quickly, we're afraid
it will buckle
the patio.

I would insist
her laughter be crude
and unmodulated,

her sorrow true
and forgivable. I watch
as she french-corners our bed.

One of the pleasures of doing "Here and Now" is finding poets I really like that I didn't know about before.

One such poet is Charles Harper Webb, a wiseacre, stand-up comic, visionary and often very funny poet. He was educated at Rice University of Washington and the University of Southern California. A rock singer and guitarist early on, he is now a licensed psychotherapist and professor of English at California State University Long Beach. The author of a novel and poetry which has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, he is also the author of Reading the Water, winner of the 1997 Morse Poetry Prize published by Northeastern University Press in 1997.

The next three poems are from that book.

The Temptations of Pinocchio

We see Satan in Foulfellow the fox,
seducing Pinocchio from school, then shipping him
to Pleasure Island, where he smokes and loafs
and nearly makes a jackass of himself.

But behind Geppetto's smile, the beauty
of the Blue Fairy, the cuteness of Figaro the cat,
Cleo the fish, the singing conscience
Jiminy Crickey, Old Scratch himself is cackling too.

Skipping to school that first day of his wooden life,
Pinocchio is skidding toward a land
where boys are named Percy or Fauntleroy,
and always mind their moms and never cuss

or fight or get their clothes dirty or talk
with their mouths full, and then one day -
reading their Bibles, dabbing specks of crumpet
off their little vests - their faces flatten,

bodies shrink, eyes bulge, noses turn black.
They drop down on all fours, long silky hair
sprouting everywhere except the shin shafts
of their paintbrush tails. When pudgy, perfumed

demons flounce and drag them off to sell
to fat ladies who hug and slobber, feed them
chockies, then spank them when they poo-poo
on the rug, they don't fight back; but for some reason

their dog brains can't comprehend - even as Pinocchio
homers through a stained-glass window,
slides a dead rat under a girl's chair - they dream
of wolf packs tracking deer through snowy woods,

pulling one down, tasting its hot, panicked blood.
This excites them so much that, on their puffy
pillow beds, their legs twitch, their jaws snap;
they try to howl, and wake up hearing yap, yap, yap!

Evil Genius

I love it when one finally breaks, and blubbers,
begging for his life. Watching demented
Dr. K - who slaughtered millions - scream
when tap water is flung in his face
(he thought it was his killer germs), I laugh.
Take that Mr. Pritchard, who ran World History
like a Gulag Death Camp. take that, Ms. Simpson,
who read my essay to the class, then said,
"This is exactly what I can't abide."

                        Die, Mr. K:
No, wait. I want to be like you:
each sentence laced with lethal irony,
my longish hair and low, voice seductive
as a snake. I want to be a prodigy
playing chess with human pawns, laughing
because the fools will never understand.
I want to be so smart no prison can hold me,
no one contradict me with impunity.

Strap me into double straitjackets,
lock me in a cage, wearing a hockey mask -
I'll still suck out your eyes and get away.
Recaptured, composure restored, I'll let you
launch me, frozen, out into deep space.
In a few centuries, or weeks or days,
millions will be dying of boredom, needing me
to spark some drama, make external their self-hate.
I don't even have to tell you, "I'll be back."

How Lizzie Died

I saw your amber slash by the trashcan
and had to have you. Stripping off my sweater
and way you shed skin, I dropped it on you,
snuck you inside past my mother,
and unwrapped you like a gift. "Just for a week,"
I told myself, awed by your daring slingshot-
tongue, thin, tyrannosaurus forelegs,
wand-like toes, legs in a catcher's squat.

Two weeks later, I found you in your shoebox,
crawled on by the crickets you wouldn't eat,
your body - stiff as a stuffed alligator -
curved like a fishhook, a jai alai cesta,
a comma, half a heart, an Alpine horn
that groaned across Houston, Texas, so loud
and long I can still hear it in L.A.:
Shame on Charlie Webb. Sorrow and Shame.

Another story, this one about how easy it is to get me to forgive just about anything.

scary Unitarians

i see them
just about every Saturday morning

a couple
both tall and thin,
he, bald,
she with short, very blond hair

look so straight...
so white...
so clean...
you know they have to be
torture chamber
in the cellar
and not a mattress tag untorn
anywhere in their house,
perfect portraits
of the people the neighbors always describe as
sooooo nice, such good neighbors,
who could have guessed they could have
...insert the atrocity of your choice here...

those kind of people,
bad seeds
no one suspects
until the bloody harvest comes

several years
i read for a group
of Unitarians -
a room-full of people who looked just like
these two,
nice folks, as it turned out,
they liked my poems,
which excuses
a lot

Here are two poems by G.E. Patterson from his book Tug, published in Graywolf Press in 1999.

Patterson, a young poet, critic, and translator, grew up along the Mississippi River and was educated in the mid-South, the Midwest, the Northeast, and the western United States.

Tug, his second book, won the Minnesota Book Award.

His work has also appeared in a number of magazines and journals. His awards include fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Cave Canem, the Djerassi Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

After living in the Northeast and on the West Coast for a number of years, he now makes his home in Minnesota, where he teaches.

I Used to Go to Church

When my doctors thought
I was dying
I saw my father
slumped over
in a painted chair
in 6 A.M. sunlight
wearing faded paisley
boxer shorts

Before I was sure
if I should call
out to him
he got up
& moved through the room
looking at everything
picking up photographs
of my friends
cupping the mug
I'd sued for tea

His hands ran
along the edge
of the dining table
as if objects
he touched
could tell him
the few things
he wanted to know
about my life

My old man
opened a window
& the wind rushed in
bringing birds
Pigeons perched
on his outstretched arms
& on his head

Each one cooed
a single note
but the sounds mingled
like a chorale
of bell ringers
& my father
he did nothing

to stop it

Holiday Sapphics: Philadelphia

Christmas, New Year's, even the Fourth of July -
Dining table's crowded with conversation.
Holidays are wild at my house. We talk loud.
        Shouting at people.

Shouting loud enough that the neighbors, listening
Quietly to albums, are forced to ask us,
"Would you try to speak, uhhmm, a little less loud."
        Bourgeoisiest Negroes

Imaginable. But in this city, quiet
Bourgeois negroes can't be denied. The quiet
Lasts a minute. Shouting resounds like singing,
        Tuneful and rhythmic.

Yes, we're back to shouting. It's love that makes us
Loud. The food helps, adds to the holiday cheer.
There's no way my people are going to sit down,
        Chattering softly.

Plain and simple fact is that times together
Come to mean a lot to the people gathered.
Seldom see this: Three generations making
        Family Noises.

Now here's a poem by our friend Walter Durk. Born in New York City, Walter has lived in Asia and in various cities in the United States.

Like a homing pigeon

Today is today and
all its yesterdays.
There is this quiet place
with nothing but sky and
trees, a few people with dogs
sometimes; but my nervous
basket is crowded with yesterdays
reflected like mirrored images
repeating themselves.
A silent film rolls.
Frame by flickering frame
the past relives, coming into
being once again and I
like a cormorant devour
one frame after another
to seek the next. Like
a homing pigeon that flies
great distances to return to
the coop.

I read this little "wtf" texting short form in a story in The New Republic. I don't text (stuck at the email stage and feeling pretty proud of myself to have become even that advanced in communications technology ) but knew immediately what it meant from context and even quicker imagined it out of the mouth of one of George Carlin's hipster characters. I decided I needed to to use it in a poet, then figured, wtf, i'll just use it for a title.

What a handy little three letters it is.


it's beginning
to look like winter
might be over and
that's too bad
around here
it's not winter
and it seems like
we just had one of those

it is the bane
of where i live, having
during the course of the year
no more than 1.46 seasons,
8 or 9 months of summer
a couple of months of winter
2 and a half days of spring
and 45 minutes of fall

all the fun
out of calendar-watching

living someplace
with 4 seasons sounds
wonderful to me, including even
a glorious, though short, summer,
but i know the chance
of me ever living someplace like that
is nil when even a move across town is unlikely

i yam
where i yam
and that's where i yam always going to be
it seems and no truckload of spinach
or any other form of propulsion
is going to change it

maybe instead of railing against the forces
of domestic immobility
i should look for the bright side -
living about 8 blocks from one of the
largest concentration of medical services
in the state, or, about a 3 minute ambulance ride
from professional resuscitation
at any one of a number of hospitals
after my first heart attack
is certainly a factor
on the plus side
for someone
the day

i mean,
who needs great weather
when timely resuscitation is at hand

How about a little poetry fun with, who better, E. E. Cummings, from the book Etcetera - The Unpublished Poems, published by Liveright in 1983.


mary green
cheerful & generous
flew to america
(just like a dream)

fearless & loyal
(honest & strong)
utterly irish
& realer than sunlight

it's lucky the man is
herself will make happy
(though poor he'll be rich &
if old he'll grow young)


out of bigg

est the knownun
on tiptoe darkne


into a s

ld 2 to

be blessed by
shadows of ove

r us-you-me a



And, here once again, we have a new poem by our friend Dan Cuddy

Winter Morning

the blood-orange sun rises
smoke like flags wave from chimneys
it was cold getting the morning paper

beneath gray roofs
mothers help reluctant children into jackets
men, fathers or not, hurry their coffee
TV sets do their small talk
or frown last night's murders
or blab on about macaroni

a head presents itself to a mirror
comb wetted
rough hairs of sleep smoothed out
tie, if there is a tie, straightened
thoughts shoved into pockets for later

scrapers shave windshield frost into flakes
the glass at last like an uncovered walk
metal grumbles
tails of exhaust wag

one by one lives leave their beds, homes, control

the sun yellows
keeps its size for awhile
but shrinks in importance
frost invisibly rolled up
newspapers curled or stacked
or squinched into a bag or can
news becomes history
most of it forgotten

Next I have five short poems by Ursula K. Le Guin who I knew well as a science fiction writer, but never, until I started "Here and Now," as a poet.

The poems are from her sixth book of poetry, Incredible Good Fortune, published by Shambhala Publications in 2006.


Tonight to be entire: the East and West,
wind-driven spar and entered air,
rough hollow hand and full soft breast,
mouth, teeth, tongue, and juicy pear.

Song Sparrow Song

Hear him so sweetly
start to repeat it,
pause and complete it
   freely, freely, freely!

On Hemlock Street

I see broad shoulders,
a silver head,
and I think: John!
And I think: dead.

A Valentine for Krakie

   In the house of the sunrise
hangs a lamp of white shell.
   In the houses of dust and darkness
a woman wearing turquoise laughs.

An Afternoon in England in Winter

At a quarter to Edward, the late post
slides out of the opening, undulant.
"When are you doing?" the clock asks.
"Tenzing," I answer, nervously expectorant,
spitting rain across the shingle beach.
A trawler on the murky sea just east
of yesterday drags the dark hours in
along with a few octopus, and Moira.

I do a daily poem for the Blueline's "House of 30" as an exercise of making myself look into myself to find poems. I don't expect great poetry, but see, many times more very good poems than I would ever imagine, a few from me and many from my house mates. It’s "no drama" poetry, no pulling of hair in frustration, no howling at the moon, but just sitting-down-and-doing-it poetry. Inspiration comes, if it comes, not as some bolt from the blue, but down a well-tended path, worn from days of trudging it's length.

Having done it now for nearly two years (I'm on my 21st 30 days), I really don't understand why writers aren't lined up six deep to post their latest daily piece at the "House of 30" as a challenge and as a daily chance to grow as a poet. And it is fun, after all.

my mark

some 20 months ago
when i stated this daily exercise,
i've come now
to look forward to it

the blank screen
for the idea
that will lead to the words

that will lead to the
that opens the day for me,
that wakes the brain

and sets me up
for the rest of the day
which i know
will be not nearly the fun

but necessary
before the night that leads
to another day and another
blank screen

i welcome it like i welcome the sun,
for there is fun in the creating,
even when the creation is as weak,
uninspiring, and blandly ugly as this

my mark on the day

And that's it.

Here's hoping our speed-loading efforts are successful. In the meantime, as is always the case, all material included in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was created by and is the property of me...allen itz.


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City Light   Friday, February 20, 2009


Here we are, back again with more poems and art.

This week's treats are -

From friends of "Here and Now"

Michael Sottak
Don Schaeffer
Coleen Shin
Dan cuddy

From my library

David St. John
Rabindranath Tagor
T.S. Eliot
Elizabeth Seydel Morgan
Ted Hughes
Pamela Kircher
Deborah Garrison
Tito Lespier
Gaving Moss
Alvin Eng

And, as always, me.

My first poems this week are by David St. John, from his book Study For the World's Body published by HarperCollins in 1994.

St. John taught creative writing at Oberlin College and John Hopkins University. At the time the book was published, he was teaching at the University of Southern California and had been editor of The Antioch Review for twelve years. He had won a number of significant poetry prizes, appeared in numerous literary journals and had published several books of poetry to excellent reviews.

Song Without Forgiveness

You should have known. The moon
Is very slender in that city. If those
Letters I sent,
Later, filled with details of place
Or weather, specific friends, lies, hotels -
It is because I took the attitudes of
Shadow for solitude. It is because you swore
Faith stands upon a black or white square,
That the next move
Is both logical and fixed. Now, no shade
Of memory wakes where the hand upon a breast
Describes the arc of a song without forgiveness.
Everything is left for you. After the bitter
Fields you walk grow deep with sweet weeds, as
Everything you love loves nothing yet,
You will remember, days, you should have known.

The Avenues

Some nights when you're off
Painting in your studio above the laundromat,
I get bored about two or three A.M.
And go out walking down one of the avenues
Until I can see along some desolate side street
The glare of an all-night cafeteria.
I sit at the counter,
In front of those glass racks with the long,
Narrow mirrors tilted above them like every
French bedroom you've ever read
About. I stare at all those lonely pies,
Homely wedges lifted
From their moons. The charred crusts and limp
Meringues reflected so shamelessly -
Their shapely fruits and creams all spilling
From the flat pyramids, the isosceles spokes
Of dough. This late at night,
So few souls left
In the pace, even the cheesecake
Looks a little blue. With my sour coffee,
I wander back out, past a sullen boy
In leather beneath the whining neon,
Along those streets we used to walk at night,
Those endless shops of spells: the love philters
And lotions, 20th century voodoo. Once,
Over your bath, I poured one called Mystery of the Spies,
Orange powders sizzling all around your hips.

Tonight, I'll drink alone as these streets haze
To a pale grey. I know you're out there somewhere -
Walking the avenues, shadowboxing the rising
Smoke as the trucks leave their alleys and loading
Chutes - looking for breakfast, or a little peace.

This piece is from my ramble around west of San Antonio a couple of weeks ago.

on the river

two eggs,
one pancake,
and four sausage links

4:30 in the very early morning

breakfast in
Del Rio,Texas,
County Seat
of Val Verde County,
on the river
150 miles west of
San Antonio, and 400
southeast of El Paso, with a population
of about 45,000,
the largest collection
of Texas bodies and souls
between the two,
not counting Cuidad Acuna
on the Mexican side
of the Rio Grande
where the lights in boystown
make cigarettes glow
a sparkly, shimmering gold
and a slender young whore dances
naked in a dim-lit courtyard, through scattered tables
with 16 year old boys, college carousers,
oil-tattooed roughnecks, whip-thin cowboys and fat businessmen
belching beer and three for a dollar cigar smoke watching every slow,
sweat-oiled move, every one of them, man and boy,
looking for something at a place where they're sure to never find it

but don't touch
for touching costs more
than the price of a bottle of Mexican beer...

not a lot more

Here's a treat, someone I never heard of, Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali mystic, Brahma poet, visual artist, playwright, novelist, and composer who became Asia's first Nobel laureate in 1913 when he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Born in 1861, Tagore first wrote poems at the age of eight. At the age of sixteen, he published his first substantial poetry under the pseudonym Bhanushingho ("Sun Lion") and wrote his first short stories and dramas in 1877. In later life he protested strongly against the British Raj and gave his support to the Indian Independence Movement.

Tagore wrote novels, short stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays on political and personal topics. Two of his songs are now the national anthems of Bangladesh and India.

This poem is from the book Rabindranath Tagore, Selected Poems, published in its fifth reprinting by Penguin Books in 1994.

The poems were translated by William Radice.


The sinking sun extends its late afternoon glow.
      The wind has dozed away.
  An oxcart laden with paddy-straw bound
For far-off Nadiya market crawls across the empty open land,
    Calf following, tied on behind.

Over towards the Rajbarpsi quarter Banamali Pandit's
    Eldest son sits
  On the edge of a tank, fishing all day.
    From overhead comes the cry
      Of wild duck making their way
    From the dried-up river's
  Sandbanks towards the Black Lake in search of snails.

    Along the side of newly-cut sugar cane
  Fields, in the fresh air of trees washed by rain,
      Through the wet grass,
        Two friends pass
      Slowly, serenely -
    They came on a holiday,
  Suddenly bumped into each other in the village.
    One of them is newly married - the delight
Of their conversation seems to have no limit.
    All around, in the maze
Of winding paths in the wood, bhaji-flowers
    Have come into bloom,
  Their scent dispensing the balm
    Of Caitra. From the jarul-trees nearby
A koel-bird strains its voice in dull, demented melody.

        A telegram comes:
    "Finland pounded by Soviet bombs."

Here's a character piece from friend and frequent contributor, Michael Sottak.

anna mae

colonel greene was a fly boy
anna mae his wife
to understand this
you must follow the path
of arrogance
the military smartness
and demands upon military wives
the husbands gone for months
the wives left alone
to carry on the business of family
meals school church
refinement and character
all built from the wife
and colonel greene expected
his 1964 MGB in perfect running condition
when he came home
anna mae needed three phone books
to get her high enough to see over the dash
of her Cadillac
and the colonel would come home
wrap a white scarf around his neck
and drive off in his MGB
when he died my mother became her best friend
she also a military wife
they had that commonality
the aloneness of running a family
her children were grown
then my mother was gone too
so i gave her my number
kept my sailboat in the canal
behind her house...
she liked the antics
the giggling women at four a.m.
the moon on the water
and she'd call me
"Mike i just had new carpet installed,
my doors won't shut."
"Anna Mae, i'm going to have to trim
a half inch off the bottom of these."
"Oh, Michael, do you know how to do that?"
"Yes, Anna Mae."
"May an old lady offer you a drink?"
"Of course you may."
"Here, sit down and watch Emeril with me.
Don't mind Boo Chee, he's glad to have company."
and the scottie jumps into my lap

my answering machine says
i recognize her voice
walk across the street
knock on her door
Boo Chee is barking
at the front door
around to the back door
i just walk in
"Anna Mae?"

"Oh, Michael, I've fallen down.
Can you help me up? ...Thank you.
Have a wine cooler with me. Emeril
is coming on in a minute."

Boo Chee jumps in my lap...
"Oh, don't mind him.
He just loves company...
I want you to have the MGB
it was the colonel's favorite thing."

"Thank you, Anna Mae, but I can't accept."
"Why not?"

"Because only an Air Force Colonel
can drive that machine!"

and she sits back
sips her wine cooler
and smiles

That poet before Michael, Rabindranath Tagore, might be as obscure to most people as he is to me, but here's a poet obscure to no one, T.S. Eliot, with a poem from his equally non-obscure Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

The Naming of Cats

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
  It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
  such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Baily -
  All of them sensible everyday names.
there are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
  Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Pluto, Admetus, Electa, Demeter -
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
  A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
  Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give a quorum,
  Such as Munkunstrap, Ouaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum -
  Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
  And that is the name that you never will guess;
the name that no human research can discover -
  But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation
  The reason, I tell you is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
  Of the thought of the thought, of the thought of his
  His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

It's a different river for this poem than the earlier one i posted. This one, the San Marcos River, flows out in the country about a mile or so from the property we've been trying to sell. (And maybe finally have!)

the river flows

and winter freeze
have stripped the trees and brush
and i can see the river below the bluff
on either side off the low-water crossing

although i've taken this road many times,
i can see features i haven't seen before,
like the jag right
about a quarter mile past the bridge
and the flow from there
through open fields
closing in again
a little further down
through hackberry and pecan

the river begins
clear and cold even in hottest summer
with springs at the base of the escarpment
separating the Edwards Plateau
and the hill country
from the coastal plains
that slope for a hundred miles
to gulf beaches

- what a day
it must have been in prehistory,
when the earth parted,
part rising
and part falling to the sea,
perhaps even then
creating these springs
that have watered
red, brown, and white
civilizations for a thousand years -

the springs feed the river
that flows
through the university
and the town
and finally here in the country
where i am now,
still clear, still cold

how constant
and consistent are the forces
of earth and water,
finding their way, always,
from high to low,
from wet to dry, always,
that is, until they face the greed
of man,
the exploiter and despoiler,
turner of purity to filth,
clarity to the sludge waste
of our ever-growing,

i lived by these waters
40 years ago, swam in them,
as did my son in his own time

now i stop at this bridge
every time i cross it
just to look,
just to remember
for the future
the better world i lived in
than the world i left behind

The next two poems are by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan from her book Without a Philosophy, published by Louisiana State University Press in 2007. She has three previous books of poetry from Louisiana State University Press: Parties, which I've used on "Here and Now" before, The Governor of Desire, and On Long Mountain.

Cow Bone Clearing

From down in the hollow all afternoon
cows moan and bellow. How
could I know. On Long Mountain
I've heard their voices, the lowing,
the call and response of one cow
to another, a calf to a mother,
a mother to a calf. But still from below
into the gold of the walnut's falling,
evening of first month of fall, still
the chorus of bellowing rises
like earth turning dark behind me
and now
in an hour before dawn I sit at the window
and look down the unceasing
sound in the dark and I know
the ache of a mother.
The loss like no other.
We allow even cows our pity for hours,
for the gorging milk, the unsuckled bloat,
the absence below,
in a meadow of shadows.

Not long ago I followed
a trail off the old Bough Road
down through thick laurel and cedar
and discovered a clearing where
flickers of sunlight fell on white bones -
cow skulls staring, a score of white skulls,
a row of curved ribs,
pearled pelvic rounds -
and though not a bird or a cricket called
it seemed that the sound I hear now from the hollow
rose from that bone ground, long and low.

Everybody's Coming in for the Winter

The slick furred mouse scratches and stumbles
somewhere between the walls of my bedroom
and the sheathing of this old house. Between
the ceiling and shingles a squirrel gallops.
Damn them, noises in the dark, invisible squatters
it's taken me years to identify -
it's the groundhog under the flooring
who bumps and grinds to deepen his burrow.
But why so early, gnawing around in my inner mazes,
when summer's long season has not let go?
I'm listening, sleepless alone in our bed,
to the sounds of aliveness moving in:
How do they know
in the summery southern middle of night
that it's time to leave the kudzu caves,
the grassy banks, the fields and trees?
How do the creatures clambering around me
know it's time, know it's time, know it's time
to come in .

Here's a poem now from our friend in Winnipeg, Don Schaeffer.


Every day in Zellers,
I watch where they sit
and move to a place
out of ear shot.
The poor girl
talks a blue streak
about her mother and her health
and all her theories about crime.
She is a viewer of American
television and loves

I know her
from shopping in the mall.
She is a cleaner of tables.
At 35 years old,
She lives under the cobwebs
somewhere in the house of her mother
who doesn't let her go out.

They enter the cafe together
the unadorned blond
and the small balding man
whose english is broken by
a european tongue. He buys her
breakfast every day.
They sit opposite and he
listens to her stories.

And as she talks,
crashing through the silence,
she straightens her hair and
elaborates on her split ends.
I can see the heat of her womanhood
redden under her skin. She
moves with bright eyes
like a star.

Here are two pieces by Ted Hughes from the book Crow, From the Life and Songs of the Crow, a very small book first published in 1972 by Faber and Faber.

Crow's Fall

When Crow was white he decided the sun was too white.
He decided it glared much too whitely.
He decided to attack it and defeat it.

He got his strength flush and in full glitter.
He clawed and fluffed his rage up.
He aimed his beak direct at the sun's center.

He laughed himself to the center of himself

And attacked.

At his battle cry trees grew suddenly old,
Shadows flattened.

But the sun brightened -
It brightened, and Crow returned charred black.

He opened his mouth but what came out was charred

"Up there," he managed,
"Where white is black and black is white, I won."

Crow on the Breach

Hearing shingle explode, seeing it skip,
Crow sucked his tongue.
Seeing sea-grey marsh a mountain of itself
Feeling spray from the sea's root nothing on his crest
Crow's toe gripped the wet pebbles.
When the smell of the whale's den, the gulfing of the
crab's last prayer,
Gimletted in his nostril
He grasped he was on earth.
                        He knew he grasped
Something fleeting
Of the sea's ogreish outcry and convulsion.,
He knew he was the wrong listener unwanted
To understand or help -

His utmost gaping of brain in his tiny skull
Was just enough to wonder, about the sea.

What could be hurting so much?

The damn weather has been weird around here, one day 30 degrees, the next 75 or 80. Never know what weather to dress for in the morning until you're right out in it.

situational awareness

i fed the dogs
this morning, out on the patio

what a nice day
i thought

the patio is sheltered from the wind

"situational awareness,"
i read that phrase in a story about combat training

it's a kind of hyperawareness
of place and time

that allows soldiers
to protect themselves against surprise

i near froze my winnabageos off this morning
taking Reba for a walk

it was the wind that surprised me,
the lack of situational awareness on the patio

causing me to go for a walk
without my coat

damn good thing
it was just wind blowing and not someone

at me

Pamela Kircher lives in rural Ohio, and holds a MFA degree from Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals including Best American Poetry, 1993. Her awards include three Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships and a resident fellowship at the MacDowell Colony.

The next two poem are from her book, Whole Sky, published by Four Way Books in 1996.

Perfect in Its Purpose

Only two sounds: wind chimes
trembling at the ends of strings like fingers
searching he skin of something new
and across the street a chain
swings inside the graveyard.
Not scary for once,

for once the night has nothing
to hide. Slick obelisks
and small arched stones stand
in a street light's diaphanous light.
The stones glow softly,
just enough to show

they have no words
for the dead who want nothing
from this world anyway
since the body is gone
and with it the chance
of picking up a crow's dropped feather
and giving it back to the wind.

Such a little loss
because with tongue and teeth you can't say anything
to make the iron dog leave
the grave it's lying on.

perfect in its purpose

like sorrow, to be there
long after the moon has washed the streets
and left them drifting
in other people's forgetful sleep.

Dream of the Rest of My Life

Last night
I dreamed I had been alone
all of my life:
it was evening by railroad tracks,
a brick building, a window I looked in
at myself. The woman I saw there was not happy
but used to the empty white room

where nothing was ever given
or taken away. I could tell
this was a woman who never woke in the night,
went to the window and looked up the road
for the person who should have been home
hours before. Since I have chosen you

I stand at the window and watch a turn in the road
until it becomes a blur, a wish for headlights
pushing the night aside.
For the rest of my life
I will wake in the morning and wonder
as the sun lays a ribbon across the floor,

what can I use it for
quick before it goes
and why do I want it so much
when it means your shadow and mine
will be less like ourselves
as the days pass on, will be longer,

mare like a cloth to step into
and draw about our shoulders, faces, heads,
when we each, alone, are tired.

"Red River Girl"
by Coleen Shin

Next, here are six paintings (one above, five that follow) by Coleen Shin, a poet, artist, and new friend of "Here and Now."

Coleen lives near Dallas with, she says, her husband and a house full of unruly free range pugs. Coleen enjoys nature up close, the city, from a distance and has bonded in a truly spiritual way with the hammock swing under the pine trees in her backyard.

I know that part of the state and can confirm it is a world leader in pine and hammock swing bonding.

"The Fence"
by Coleen Shin

"Coleen's Digital Art 002"
by Coleen Shin

"Losing My Religion"
by Coleen Shin

by Coleen Shin

by Coleen Shin

Deborah Garrison worked on the editorial staff of The New Yorker for fifteen years and is now the poetry editor af Alfred A. Knopf and a senior editor at Pantheon Books. The next poem is from her first book, A Working Girl Can't Win, published by The Modern Library in 2000.

You Prune Your List in Summer

Where I am the sky has been trying
to clear all morning.
At noon the sea is sparking
green, a giant coin flipped and

falling, and there are warnings:
a plane towing and ad for cigarettes
(pleasures are dangerous),
the sun's fuzzy mouth sucking the day back

in through the haze.
I am in search for the perfect stone
for you - as if it would help!
What good are stones to you

now, rose or black,
pointed, smooth?
Why remind you? Why be
heavy in your hand?

Where you are -
the truth is I don't know
where you are.
Maybe the city:
lunch dates with a noisy woman,
rainstorm, the umbrella forgotten.
And more phone messages!
All afternoon you prune your list,

and I can see you crossing us off,
peeling back layers, working
down to the ribbed, worn
pit of your self, then

setting out, tons lighter,
like the prow of a boat without
it's boat behind, and ladyless
in front, no more breasts to the wind,

no more long, carved hair.
Don't worry. Already it's weeks
I lie in bed mourning your loss,
already I remember this summer

like a summer gone, and myself
like a woman who rented here years ago -
her radio and sunscreen, her stack
of paperbacks. It was she
paddling the warm wave of getting away,
she slender, on a diet from love,
who was free. Free!
Best self, lost sister, I start

to forget her, wondering
if at the corner of your day
my colors don't still go up,
a small disturbance, a tat of flag,

nicking the morning at the edge of your view.

I was listening to a thing on NPR about random music, that is, when writing music start with a series of random notes or phrases, then build from that to a composition. It sounded interesting and I was thinking I might try something like that with a poem. I had my chance the next morning when i woke up with this stupid phrase - mechanical warrior chickens - stuck in my head.

I decided to try the random music thing but couldn't come up with a poem about mechanical warrior chickens It turned out it was a little bit too random for me to find a connection, but I was able to structure the poem around the phrase, writing what I think is called an acrostic.

mechanical warrior chickens

many folks believe
end times are near,
churchly people mainly,
heaven their aim,
annihilation of the rest of us
necessary and of little importance
in the overall scheme of things -
crazy people some might say
angels say others
leading all who wish to follow to heaven's gate

argue with me as they might,
rationalize as they must,
redefine rationality as mere evasions of the devil
incarnate as they will
only the most misguided would seek to
reduce the beauty of all that is to ash

camouflaging their self-interest in an imagined
heavenly reward, wrapping
it the robes of a
celestial choir just waiting, they claim to
know, to welcome us to that place where
eternity waits and
never will we ever know
sin again

Aloud, Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe is an anthology published by Henry Holt and Company in 1994 and edited by Miguel Algarin and Bob Holman. This week, I have three of the book's poets.

The first is Tito Lespier, a poet from Louisiana.

I Heard the Bird

It came to me
In a mellow tone, in a softly hued vibration
Almost mysterious to the human ear.
I wasn't sure...not certain if I should
Respond to such an emotional cadence.
Yeah! As abrupt as that might have sounded
Man it was okay, I mean, how was I supposed to
Understand what Sassy Sarah was saying?
I wasn't old enough for romance the way she
Sang it. Oh! But I heard...then Ella came to me
Fast, without warning, in tiskets & taskets with
Scatfilled baskets...intelligible syllables
Made me smile as a child and I haven't stopped
Since. What more do you need to appreciate
A jazz singer's deed? Listen to Anita baking emotions
Or Bobby McFerrin with his 501-don't-worry-be-happy self.
I'll never forget Bird, and so glad that I heard
The rainbowfilled magic of the jazz singer's word.

It came to me
In a series of rapid salt, peanuts, salt, peanuts
Rhythm go 'round and 'round
Honk, trap drum cymbal bass line
Straight from the kitchen to the table
Fusion, bebop willin' and able to
Withstand MUZAK...
Let's go back, dip into that link that
Led to the words, "THE BLUES HAD A BABY
AND NAMED IT ROCK & ROLL," and Jelly told
you so, but you still misbehavin'. If you're
Hip and you hop remember what gets
You to the top. Look back and check it out.
Don't bury the wings that brought us
This far. Let a yardbird fly high
I'll never forget Bird
So glad that I heard...

My next poet from Aloud is Gavin Moses, a former reporter for People magazine. At the time the book was published he was a student at Harvard Divinity School.


Walking down 9th ave.
depress bout a love
gone one hour past despair,
a six-foot-three nappy-headed
prostitute, in broken-down brown heels
approaches, "Need a date?"
No, but thanks, I said, waiting
for the light to flash its
emerald eye.
"Where you going?"
"Can I come?"
Well -
What you need, she said, is to
be good to you and treat yourself.

She meant to her. I understood it
to mean spend more time with me.
Love you, I retorted. Catching her
reflection offguard in my eyes
she smiled like a kid comin' out the
circus holdin' a balloon in one hand,
cotton candy in the other, thinkin' bout
eatin' some ice cream. The light winked.
She turned the corner on cue. We both needed
to hear what we said to each other. What we said
to each other, we needed someone to say to us.

My last poem from Aloud is by poet, screen writer, dramatist, actor, and teacher Alvin Eng. He was born in Flushing, Queens, NYC. The fifth of five children. His parents emigrated from Toisan, Guangzhou Province, China, and ran a Chinese Hand Laundry. He says he was named after the Chipmunk cartoon character.

Twas the Night Before Chinese New Year's
for Vincent Chin

Twas the night before Chinese New Year's
& all throughout Chinatown the word was out:
The old man was being hunted down
like the other from another planet.
His believers at the Pagan Pagoda knew he was gone
but they hung out all night anyway,
with hopes that he would return.

Twas the night before Chinese New Year's
& a dirty kind of quiet ripped up East Broadway in search of a storm,
but found only the old sewing woman
taking the moon out for its nightly walk.
The birdman of the Bowery
left his cages wide open but the birds would not fly
for they knew the tedium of surviving on the inside
was much easier than trying to get their wings out
there in the sweet and sour sky.
But how would the old man survive?

Twas the night before Chinese New Year's
& the red noise of the new year had not yet begin
but in a sense had already ended.
Nobody could fall asleep but no one could wake up
as visions of the old man danced in and out of the broken neon
shadows hovering over everybody's bed.
Twas the night before Chinese New Year's
and all thought chinatown all the traffic lights stayed yellow
but all the people saw red.

Now here's something by Dan Cuddy a friend who poems appear here frequently.

Special Effects


so much depends
on shattered windows
tumbled cars
slo-mo bullets
sculpting punctures through
simulated flesh
the rain of red droplets
the flash of vast incendiaries

so much of our imagination
is filled with killing

not being killed
but killing


are we psychological types
to be manipulated

are we Pavlovian dogs

are we putty to mold

our morals
our memories
our abstractions


earth revolves around the sun
sun around the galaxy
galaxy dances within the "local group"
"the local group" within the star-breeding thread
the thread within ?

the eyes of God or nothing
look on the special effects

do they ooh and ah
at the inhuman drama
scripted by a human tongue
lashing its own flame
out into the


is God above all
this built-in mayhem
this zany script
where coincidences rule
and clues are arbitrary inkspots

is Nothing
a person
like the Three

though there is only
Being and Non-being
nothing in-between

does Nothing
in chaos

and how can something that isn't

Here's my Darwin's birthday poem.

happy birthday Mr. Darwin

happy birthday,
Mr. Darwin

of fatherless creation

strongly object

to accepting
a monkey in their line

not to mention
a sea slug and amoeba

with neither mind nor soul
nor cellular differentiation

it is a creator they claim to worship
but it is themselves that they enshrine

as the be-all end-all
of all creation

such a false pride is theirs
to refuse

a humbler origination

Time for a little break for ten poems by Kobayashi Issa, one of Japan's most prolific poets, leaving in his journals over twenty thousand "one-breath poems." He was born in the little village of Kashiwabara in the mountains of Japan's Shinano Province in 1763 and died in the same village in 1828.

These poems were translated by Sam Hamill.

Just beyond the gate,
a neat yellow hole -
someone pissed in the snow

In the midst of this world
we stroll along the roof of hell
gawking at flowers

Give me a homeland,
and a passionate woman,
and winter alone

A world of trials,
and if the cherry blossoms,
it simply blossoms

As the great old trees
are marked for felling, the birds
build their new spring nests

A faint yellow rose
almost hidden in the deep grass -
and then it moves

The old dog listens
intently, as if to the
worksongs of the worms

My spring is just this:
a single bamboo shoot,
a willow branch

A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

My noontime nap
disrupted by voices singing
rice-planting songs

And, having done Darwin's birthday, here's something for Valentine's Day

happy Valentine's Day

the day before Valentine's day
and i'm trying to work up
a huff
about holidays invented by greeting card companies
but the more i think about it the more
i recognize that most of our holidays were invented
by greeting card companies
and most of them
that should be encouraged anyway
you know
saying i love you once a year
to your significant other
or thanks a lot mom and dad for putting up with me
during the most obnoxious phases
of my life
and sucking up to your boss or your secretary
once a year
is worth doing even if you don't buy some ridiculously
to do it with

however we may get impatient
with these greeting card company holidays
it is at least true
that they are usually a lot cheaper
than most of the holidays invented by the
priests and magicians particular
to your faith

Time to march on off into another week.

As we tramp, tramp, tramp along, remember, all of the work in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

at 10:18 PM Blogger Barbara said...

What a wonderful collection of work. I'm a first-time reader here, and I very much enjoyed my visit.

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February Ramble   Friday, February 13, 2009


Time for another ramble with "Here and Now." Here are our co-ramblers for the week.

Friends of "Here and Now"

Alice Folkart
Christopher George
Cliff Keller
Joanna M. Weston

From my library

Joyce Carol Oates
Ghazia A. Algosaibi
Gerald Barrax
Kevin Young
Anna Akhmatova
Daisy Zamora

And me.

First this week, I have three poems by Joyce Carol Oates from her book The Time Traveler published E.P. Dutton in 1989.

Oates is best known for her novels and short stories, but she is a also a highly regarded essayist, critic, playwright and poet.

Undefeated Heavyweight, 20 Years Old

Never been hurt! never
knocked down! or staggered or
stunned or made to know there's a blow
to kill not his own! - therefore the soul
glittering like jewels worn
on the outside of the body.

A boy with a death's-head mask dealing hurt
in an arc of six short inches. Unlike ours
his flesh recalls its godhead, if dimly. Unlike
us he knows he will live forever.

The walloping sounds of his body blows are iron
striking bone.
the joy he promises is of a fist breaking bone.
For whose soul is so bright, so burnished,
so naked in display?

All insult, says this death's-head - ancient, tribal,
last week's on the street - is redeemed in the taste
of another's blood.

You don't know. But you know.

How Delicately...

How delicately the fish's
    backbone is being
lifted out of its
    cooked flesh -
the sinewy spine, near-

translucent bones
    gently detached from
the pink flesh -
    how delicately, with
what love, there can be no hurt.


Late afternoon. Distant shouts...
Young raw voices, male, floating
in the heat. Are they angry, or
bored, or is it the heat shout-
ing through them? You forget where
you've started from.

Dull grinding of machines, grind-
ing to a climax in red clayed earth
beyond the woods. This is the season
of small black inchworms that, when
touched, curl at once into balls
cunning as punctuation marks
or the stone walks, but
that won't save them.

Here's some more of my coffee shop rambling.

where i go depends on where i start

my poems
are creatures
of whatever i'm looking at
when i start them

that's why
my Cafe Chiapas
South Town poems
are different form my
Ruta Maya
Riverwalk poems
from my Olmos Perk
parkside poems
from my suburban
La Taza poems
from my corporate
Borders poems

it'0s all about environment
and in past weeks
the environment
has changed

and Ruta Maya are closed,
bleeding broken
of economic stress
and coffee-culture decline

the Perk
is always crowded
and claustrophobic
and La Taza is all the way
on the other side of the city

Borders, but only
for the few hours in the morning
before the medical students
pile in with their latinate study
of pestilence and bloody viscera

to make the best of the situation
i find myself in,
i decide to try an experiment -

accustomed to sit at my table
i circumnavigate
the table several time,
seeking inspiration,
then decide to move to the other side
of the table,

i find no great inspiration
just a Tanfastic storefront
advertising spray tans,
buy 2
get 2 free,
and the side of a Pier 1 store,
50% off everything

having grown up mostly outside
at work and at play
under a South Texas sun
that burned a lifetime tan
three or four layers deep,
a tan that,
even after all these years
of office work washed daily in neon shadow,
has not faded even one shade,
the idea of spraying on a tan is something
i might be able to work with

as well as price cutting of 50%
by a store
that begins its pricing at 300%
above reasonable - i might be able
to work with that also

but neither one moves me today

i'm thinking of what i can't see,
Mitch and Lena
sitting behind me
at the high table they take
every Saturday and Sunday,
both in their thirties,
he a financial adviser
stock analyst,
she a fourth grade
and mother of three,
who somehow hooked up
three years ago

Mitch is something
of a ladies' man i think
coming here on weekends
with a string of different

Lena the first to last this long
and far superior
(D and I both agree)
to the ditzy blond
with a look of presumed
who came with him
for about six months,
impatient from the first step
in the door
to leave for a more interesting
like maybe someplace
where she could read People magazine
and get her nails

D and I are pleased
that he seems
to have come to his

Next I have several pieces from an interesting book I picked up at the used book store last week. the book is In the Trail of the Wind, American Indian Poems and Ritual Orations, Edited by John Bierhorst and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1971. Bierhost notes that the term "Indian poetry," while primarily referring to song-texts, also includes prayers, incantations, as well as passages from myths, legends and chronicles and speeches used in ritual, all transmitted orally from generation to generation.

Original authorship of most of these pieces is lost in historical antiquity. I could not find credit for translations.

The Wind Blows From the Sea


By the sandy water I breathe in the odor of the sea,
From there the wind comes and blows over the world,
By the sandy water I breathe in the odor of the sea,
From there the clouds come and rain falls over the world

I Cannot Forget You


No matter how hard I try to forget you, you always come back
    to my thoughts.
When you hear me singing I am really crying for you.

I Pass the Pipe


Friend of Wakinyan,
I pass the pipe to you first.
Circling I pass to you who dwell with the Father.
Circling pass to beginning day.
Circling pass to the beautiful one.
Circling I complete the four quarters and the time.
I pass the pipe to the Father with the Sky.
I smoke with the Great Spirit.
Let us have a blue day.

War Songs



From the place of the south
They come,
The birds,
Hear the sound of their passing screams.


I cast it away,
My body.


On the front part of the earth,
First strikes the light.
Your power,
Give it to me.

Song of Reproach


you fled
even the eagle dies

The Surrender Speech of Chief Joseph

    Nez Perce

   I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohulhulsote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young me who say yes or no. He who led the young men is freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are - perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

Here's a piece by our friend from Hawaii, Alice Folkart.

This strikes me as a very sad poem, beautiful in its deep minimalism, a gem of a poem.

The Cat and I

The cat and I
lie on our backs
on the floor,
paws raised.

See how cute we are?

We watch you.

Hope you'll notice us.
But you change the channel.

We don't know
any other tricks.

My next poem is Sapphire from her book Black Wings & Blind Angels, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1999. I've previously used poems from one of her other book American Dreams.


There are thirteen windows in this room.
I see the tops of trees and sky, my parents
run thru my mind; my father
scurrying like a mouse. My mother is sitting. Why have I come
here, and what do their ghosts
want with me. I know I'm not writing poetry

but trying to build a bridge back to poetry.
I will go home to a hot stuffy room.
I have lived with their ghosts.
The black haired mother, her parents
on her back. We had, all but one, come
to bury her twelve years ago. My father

died at seventy-five, a stroke, my father
myself? Or me, myself - where is poetry,
the feeling I used to have, will it come
in the middle of exercises? Finally I have a room
with windows. finally my parents
are dead, are ghosts.

How they beat me, left me, laughed at me, are ghosts.
I see him frozen, hurrying, in a picture, my father.
I seldom saw my parents
together. My mother never mentioned my father's poetry.
I found it after he died. I was in his room
before his funeral. I had come

from New York to bury this father, come
to throw dirt on the recovered ghosts
of memory, willing to believe as I lay down in his room
I was a liar. Then my sister says, my father
got her while she was in diapers. In his poetry
he talks of sunsets and doesn't mention his parents.

My mother said he was ashamed of his parents.
When it is my time who will come?
I have no children except this poetry that isn't poetry.
Our father's penis is the ghost
we suck in our dreams. Still I miss that father,
raise him from photographs to come sit in my room.

Here at the writers' colony I attempt poetry in a room.
I see my mother and father at the top of the sky. My parents
have come here, home, to help me, ghosts.

Here's evidence that things do work out in the end.

Mitch and Lena are getting married

they told us this morning
when we saw them at Borders

in December,
in Las Vegas, halfway
between her folks here
and his family in Oregon

his was the traditional approach,
getting her parents' permission before
he asked her, surprising her
with yeses all around before she even
knew there was a question to consider

i was just thinking about the two of them yesterday,
how Mitch used to come in
Saturday and Sunday mornings
with a different woman every couple of months
and how, since he and Lena got together
they seem to have stuck
and how Mitch seemed happier with this consistency
than he had ever been with the revolving door

i was talking to them after they gave us the news,
congratulating Mitch, offering the bride-to-be
my best wishes, warning Mitch that,
a December wedding meant that by no later than February 15th
he could expect Lena to start trying to change
all the things about him he thought she liked
during all the time they had gone together
and he might as well not fight it
because i knew from experience she would win
in the end
and if she was really good
he wouldn't notice until it was all over and

that's when D punched me in the ribs
and told me to go back to our table which i did
without further comment,
showing as i did what an excellent student i am after 32 years
obedience training

i hope Mitch was paying attention
so he could see how it's done

save himself a lot of trouble

Here are two short poems from a short book, From the Orient and the Desert, of only 15 poems. The poet is Ghazia A. Algosaibi, Saudi Arabia's former Ambassador to Bahrain and the United Kingdom. Born in Al-Hasa, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, he received his LL.B from Cairo University, his M.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California and his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of London. He joined King Saud University as a Lecturer in 1965 and became Dean of the Faculty of Commerce in 1971, In 1974, he was appointed Director of Railroads, and later, as Minister of Industries and Electricity from 1975 to 1982.

The book, one of a number he wrote, was published by Kegan Paul International in 1994.

Your Eyes

I play in your eyes -
walk child-like in beach sand
collecting sea shells,
take refuge in my treasure cave
amid the gleam of antique gold,
soar and sail with seagulls,
rest at the lighthouse,
and follow dolphins
to unseen shores.

A Man Dies

So suddenly -
in an instant which begins and ends
before we grasp that it has been -
a world is gone. Death beckons:
Yearnings are ice. Life a wind-
blown ruin. Love, legends of a bygone time,
The voyage seems a route to nothing.
A man dies. Earth revolves
as usual. People gossip -
   God bless his soul.
We read obituaries and we walk
on our own

Here's a short piece from our friend Christopher George.

Chris' commuter poem.

Sleeping Beauties on the Early Marc Train

As the car rocks southward,
commuters' heads nod, it's
ink-black outside, no sun
to light the brown down of
thistles, no bright
flit of goldfinches
to gorge on the bounty.

I feel I am the sleepers'
shepherd, and they are
lambs slumbering
in my care. I return to
my novel as we rumble
over the yawning
Patapsco, a glint of
moonlight in the stream.

The next several poems are from Making Callaloo, 25 Years of Black Literature, published by St. Martin's Press in 2002. The book's publication was in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Callaloo, a journal of African American literature in the United States, founded by Charles Henry Rowell, a professor at Texas A&M University - College Station. Rowell continues to oversee the journal he began and was editor of this collection.

My first poem from the collection is by Gerald Barrax, retired in 2002, but formerly Professor of English, Poet-in-Residence, and Editor of Obsidian at North Carolina State University at Raleigh. He is author of five volumes of poems.

All My Live Ones

Penny accepted the Alabama neighbor's green meat,
Died in our swept-dirt back yard
Near the black wash pot, her brown spot penny-
Side up. My mother's dog, but like
All pets, with no sense of justice:
After forty years she still haunts
Me, innocent of her death, with
These images. My mother en-
trusted to me the folly of love,
The daily fare of caring for them,
And the rest were all mine to lose,
Mockery in their dying
And more than fear in running away.
Rex, ears clipped, tail bobbed, escaped
Into Pennsylvania nowhere
In a cloud of flea powder for no reason
That a twelve-year old could know.
Mickey Midnight, the stray gift to me,
Sick in bed from school, black
As only cats can be, stuck it our
Only long enough for the perfect name
And took it with him.
Fulton (after Sheen the bishop
For his round skull cap), my one canary,
Died so soon after he'd learned to sing,
Finally, that I wondered if song
Were worth the cost. And last: Sinbad.
One morning before Pharmaceutical Latin
In nineteen fifty-two I watched him die
My nearest death between my absent brother's
Bed and mine,stretched out, rasping, so closely
Watched I knew and remember which half-second
Distemper tore the last breath out.
But the people how different.
Since nineteen thirty-three
I've been the key to immortality:
All it takes is loving me:
Both parents, who had me
When they were young: the brother
Who left me there that morning
Alone when the dog died;
A wife who let me go
With her life, our three sons;
Another wife bringing
Her hostages to fortune,
Two daughters; all the lovers.
What will I do?
They are all here. At my age what will I do
With only a bird and a dog long ago?
I cried for days. For days and days.

The next poem from Callaloo is by Kevin Young, Ruth Lily Professor of Poetry at Indiana University. He is author of To Repel Ghosts and, earlier, the prize-winning collection Most Way Home.

Cassius Clay by Basquiat

1982, acrylic & oil paintstick on canvas

I'm pretty!
I shook up

the world!
Clay shouts
to the announcer

after trouncing
Sonny Liston -

the next day he
will turn Ali.

bee - none stung

or swole carpet-red
as the paint B covered

this canvas, drawing
blood - not even Cassius

called out his name
Refusing to recognize

Allah - like Terrell
or fool Floyd Patterson -

will get you a new haircut
whether you want one

or not. How
he hounds

Liston, waving
his prize belt -

a noose for Sonny's ex-
con neck. Petty crook

Ali just bout serves
time himself

- title stripped
like paint

- Army taking away
his right to fight

when he won't fight
them Viet Cong

who've done him
nothing wrong.

Houston, we gots
a problem - will not

bow or stand
when his no-longer

name the Draft
Board calls. Lords

over Liston
- Get up, you bum!

- who will fall to a phantom
punch 1st rd, forget

to get up. (Died,
Liston did, five

years later, in Vegas,
the needle in

his arm, the neon.)
Ali, now he could hit you

into next year -
but apart from the flogging,

his flaunting, were the taunts
challengers heard ringing

Uncle Tom! Come on
Come on White America!

even above the ten count
& crowd - his undented smile -

that smarts still.

Had a couple of bad nights lately. Guess I have to lay off the pizza before i go to bed.

two long nights

bad nights
in a row

long nights,
like sleep
was hard labor
and i was
at it, pushing
hard on the pillow,
a bucking bed

about people
i haven't seen
in years, the
internal consistency
of dreams
pushing me down

unfinished business,
i don't know,
that was it -
some tie we have,
these people
and me
that hasn't broken
some tie
pulling me back
to fix whatever
broke between us

and i remember
of the details
of these dreams,
only a sense of
like recurring
death memory,
a trail remembered
through rocks
and bright
and sun
and thirst
and heat like
a spoiled glass,
all lines and shimmers

of anticipation

it is bed time
and i am
not looking forward
to the night

Next I have a longish poem, actually three poems, from the book Anna Akhmatova - Selected Poems, published by Zephyr Press in 2000. This is a bilingual book, Russian and English translations by Judith Hemschemeyer on facing pages.

Born in 1889, Akhmatova achieved her first fame as an icon of pre-Revolutionary Russian literature. After the revolution she became a voice for those persecuted under Stalin. She was rehabilitated during WWII because of her patriotism, but then suffered repression that was not lifted until a few years before her death in 1966.

Northern Elegies

      Everything is a sacrifice to your memory....



      I no longer live there....

Dostoevsky's Russia. The moon,
Almost a quarter hidden by the bell tower.
Pubs are bustling, droshkies flying,
In Gorokhovaya, near Znameniya and Smolny,
Huge, five-storied monstrosities are growing,
dance classes everywhere, money changers' signs,
A line of shops: "Henriette," "Basile," "Andre"
And magnificent coffins: "Shumilov Senior."
But still, the city hasn't changed much.
Not only I, but others as well,
Have noticed that sometimes it could
Resemble an old lithograph,
Not first class, but fairly decent,
From the Seventies, I'd guess.
      Especially in winter, before dawn,
      Or at twilight - then behind the gates
      Liteiny boulevard darkens, rigid, straight,
      Not yet disgraced by the Moderne,
      And opposite me lie - Nekrosov
Anbd Saltikov....Each on his memorial plaque.
      Oh, how horrified they would be
      To see those plaques! I move on

And the splendid ditches of old Russia,
And the rotting arbors in the little gardens,
And a windowpane as black as a hole in the ice,
And it seems that such things happened here
That we'd better not look in. Let's leave.
Not every place agrees
To render up its secrets
(And I won't be in Optima anymore....)

The rustle of skirts, the pattern of plaids,
The walnut frames of the mirrors
Amazed by Karenina's beauty,
And in the narrow hall the wallpaper
We feasted our eyes on in childhood
By the yellow light of the kerosene lamp,
And the same plush on the armchairs....
      Everything out of order, rushed, somehow....
      Fathers and grandfathers incomprehensible.
      Lands mortgaged. And in Baden - roulette.

And a woman with translucent eyes
(Of such deep blue that to gaze into them
And not think of the sea was impossible),
With the rarest of names and white hands,
And a kindness that as an inheritance
I have from her, it seems -
Useless gift for my harsh life....

The country shivers and the convict from Omsk
Understood everything and made the sign of the cross, over it all.
Now he shuffles everything around
And, over this primordial chaos,
Like some kind of spirit, he rises. Midnight sounds.
His pen squeaks, and page after page
Stinks of Semyonov Square.

This is when we decided to be born,
And timing it perfectly
So as not to miss any of those pageants
Yet to come, we bid farewell to non-existance.

September 3, 1940
October 1943


So here it is - that autumn landscape
Of which I've been so frightened all my life:
And the sky - like a flaming abyss
And the sounds of the city - heard as if
From another world, forever strange:
It's as if everything I've struggled with inside myself
All my life received its own life
And bodied forth in these
Blind walls, in this black garden....
And right now, over my shoulder,
My old house still spies on me
With it squinting, disapproving eye,
That omnipresent window.
Fifteen years - pretending to be
Fifteen granite centuries,
But I myself was like granite:
Now beg, suffer, summon
The queen of the sea. It doesn't matter. No need to....
But I should have convinced myself
That all this has happened many times,
And not to me alone - to others too.
And even worse. No, not worse - better.
And my voice - and this, really,
Was the most frightened - uttered from the darkness:
"Fifteen years ago, with what rejoicing
You greeted this day, you begged the heavens
And the choirs of stars and the choirs of oceans
To salute the glorious meeting
With the one you left today....

So this is your silver anniversary:
Summon the guests, stand in splendor, celebrate!"

March 1942, Tashkent


      Blessed is he who visits this world
      At his appointed hour.



      I, like a river,
Was rechanneled by this stern age.
They gave me a substitute life. It began to flow
In a different course, passing the other one,
And I do not recognize my banks.
Oh, how many spectacles I've missed,
And the curtain rose without me
And then fell. How many of my friends
I've never met once in my life,
And how many cities' skylines
Could have drawn tears from my eyes;
But I only know one city in the world
And I could find my way around it in my sleep.
And how many poems I didn't write,
And their mysterious chorus prowls around me,
And, perhaps, may yet somehow
Strangle me....
I am aware of beginnings and endings,
And life after the end, and something
That I don't have to remember just now.
And some other woman occupied
The special place reserved for me
And bears my legal name,
Leaving me the nickname, with which
I did, probably, everything that could be done.
I will not lie, alas, in my own grave.
But sometimes the playful spring wind
Or the combination of words in some book,
Or somebody's smile suddenly drags
Me into the life that never took place.
In this year, such and such would have happened,
In that year - that: traveling, seeing, thinking
And remembering. and entering into a new love
As into a mirror, with dim awareness
Of betrayal and of the wrinkle
That wasn't there the day before.


But I had observed from there
The life I am living today,
I would finally discover envy....

September 2, 1945

Now, a piece by Cliff Keller, our musician friend from California.

Mountain Passage

Head down, ascending,
avian shadows flicker on the trail,

morning sun refracts

through new blades of grass,
the cochlear hum underscores the birdsong.

I stop at the ridge top
below, progress looks up and salutes.

The opposing valley face hangs
like a tapestry on a wall,
verdant pointillism of spring aspen,

heavy pine, and forest shadow.
I reach out to brush the frayed top
of the ridgeline and notice

Birds and insects surround me now,

stillness is the attraction,
but stillness is not what brought me here.
I drop

Into a glen,

stream's white noise courses

through a tuft of shivering leaves.

I march through the still parade
and watch to the right

the shuffling alignment of

tarnished white aspens,
the myriad of silver eyes that stare
where waving limbs once gestured.

I do this so often:

turn to track the cadence

of my own passing

as in this poem.

You think war is hell - try getting old.

the baby-docs are back

the baby-docs
are back

tables together
around their professor
for their Monday morning
seminar on
body parts and
and other stuff
that scares the crap out of me

they are so remarkably
young looking,
though there is one
who looks like she might be older,
nineteen, twenty,

no matter
how closely i watch,
sneaks right past,
leaves me behind
in a dust of events and names
that mean nothing to me

most days i read
the birthday feature
in our local newspaper
that gives the age of celebrities
on their birthday
and find that i recognize
none of the names of those
under 55
and am shocked at the age
of those i know -
Hayley Mills,
for crying out loud,
little, blond, pigtailed
Hayley Mills,
63 years old a couple of months ago

the bad news is that
Tommy Smothers
is 72

the other end of the list
bothers me
as well

Marissa Jaret Winokur is 36
and Lori Beth Denberg is 33

(who the hell
Marissa Jaret Winokur
and Lori Beth Denberg)

modern -
i always think of myself
as a modern kind of guy,
but then i see this kind of stuff
and begin to think
i ought to go back to my cave,
start a fire,
study my etchings on the wall,
and try to figure out
what happened
between my now
and the now the rest of
the world

Next, I have three poems by Daisy Zamora from her book Riverbed of Memory, published by City Lights in 1988. It's a bilingual book, Spanish and English on facing pages, with translation by Barbara Paschke

Zamora was program director of clandestine Radio Sandino during the Nicaguran revolution and later served as Minister of Culture in the Sandinista government.


From an airtight office window
I gaze out at the downpour.
Yellow flowers
from an acacia shaken by the wind
roll along a rusty tin roof.

A fish in a fishbowl
I recall with envy the young girl who was
drenched and happy, jumping
mud puddles and ignoring calls
because later
    my go-between great aunt
hidden from my grandfather
would dry my hair,
change my clothes,
clean the mud off my shoes.
And wrapped up in a bedspread
warm as love
        I slept

An old downpour that succeeds in soaking me
              only within
is now beating the tin roof,
flooding the canals and levies
and the riverbed of memory!

Old Shoes

In a corner they await you,
connoisseurs of all your life's wanderings,
even though you'd like to get rid of them:
you prefer other shoes
that now look better to you.

But time has made them
a mold of your feet:
the contour of you left heel.
Nothing and no one conforms
to you and your ways more than they.

More faithful than all your women,
more faithful than all your friends,
more faithful than some of your relatives.

Lullaby For A Dead Newborn

What would your smile have looked like?
What would your first word have been?
So much hoping for nothing!
My expectant breasts had to dry up.

A hasty photo
suggests your clear profile,
your tiny mouth.
But I can't recall how you were,
how you would have been.

I felt you so alive, moving around,
safe in my belly.
Now I wake up shivering
in the middle of the night
- my womb hollow -
and cling to that indistinct
first cry I heard, anesthetized,
in the operating room.

This poem is a little untruthful.

The fact is, though the rodeo and all associated tomfoolery sounds like it would have been fun with i was sixteen years old, I've reached the age now where if I can't turn in a circle with both arms outstretched and not hit another person I'm in a crowd too crowded for me.

I have wanted to be downtown to take pictures of the longhorn drive, but have missed it every year because it's over before I know about it.

But I can still write about it.

rodeo days

coming home
from Del Rio yesterday
i passed a group of trail riders
about half way between D'hanis and Hondo,
about thirty of them on their horses
with a chuck wagon
and the whole trail ride business

that's happening now,
from 200 miles all around
coming in for the annual rodeo,
riding their horses
and sleeping outside
and probably doing a little drinking
around the campfire at night

for two weeks in January
the rodeo is a big deal,
kicked off with longhorns
herded through downtown on Commerce Street
from the stockyards
to the arena
followed the next day
with the cowboy breakfast
when thousands of men and women
in boots and cowboy hats gather at 4:30 in the morning
of what is usually the coldest day of the year
for coffee, chorizo and egg tacos and early morning eeehaaas
and hot'damns and howthahellareyous
and shitspilledmycoffeeallovermybrandnewcowboyshirts

once the preliminary longhorn cattle driving and breakfasting are done
there are big shows every night
with a lineup of music from Little Joe and La Familia
to George Strait and Tony Bennett
and rodeo action with calf roping
and bucking horse riding
and barrel-racing and bull riding
and all the other rodeo competitions
ranging from displays of true cowboy skills
to flat-out drunk-wrangling, double-dare, crazy stuff

and finally for all the 4H'ers, a chance
for all every cow and pig and goat and chicken
to have its chance in the spotlight of blue-ribbon
glory, followed by a parting filled with tears from
the boys and girls who raised and pampered them
as their fifteen minutes of celebrity and fame are over
and they're bought and sold and usually eaten

country living is truly not for the weak and mewley

Now I have two pieces by our friend Joanna M. Weston.

Cold Water

inching step by step
I feel my way
from one pebble to the next
hoping for sand
at the each tentative toe-down

cold edges past ankles, calves
knees, and I stretch tall
anticipating the moment
when my groin freezes
and stomach chills

then I will stand
flurry the water
with hands full of intent
watch a child in the shallows
sunlight on waves
a canoe far out

I procrastinate
warmth on my shoulders
but the moment comes
when I prayer hands
      dive in
      swim hard


heard a train

felt its thunder
thrum my length of bone
and knew the message:

"don't stay in one place
move on, change
day to hour

"when dawn rattles on the window
open and let her in

"when death knocks at the door
go out to meet him

"there's no vision as stale
as the track not taken
so listen and hold the sound
in your blood"

Although when i wrote the next poem I wasn't really sure I was going anywhere, in the end I did and had a nice little trip - made a loop up into some towns west of San Antonio I used to visit on business but never really had a chance to take a closer look.

And finally got a look at the Popeye statue.

February ramble

i had been thinking
about taking a trip today

set in my mind

on Highway 90
to a bunch of little towns
where i used to have offices
i visited often, always without time
to see the sights

beginning in
then through
and a quick stop in Uvalde,
at John Nance Garner's
for no reason except
i've driven past it five hundred times
and never stopped

from there
through Carrizo Springs
to Crystal City, Spinach
Capital of Texas, for a look
at their Popeye statue on Main Street
i never took the time to see before

to Eagle Pass
and the stink of low grade diesel
from the buses in Piedras Negras
across the border

follow the river west
to little Quemada, a fertile little river basin
of pecan and peach trees
and vineyards
surrounded by desert

and finally Del Rio
and a good nights sleep
before continuing west
to the Indian wall paintings
in the canyons
a few miles east of Langtry
and the Jersey Lily and the little
island in the middle of the Rio Grande
where Roy Bean engineered
the Fitzsimmons-Maher Prizefight in 1896

might be a nice two days
a break
from the normal day-to-day

gone today
back tomorrow

except it's almost 10:30
in the morning
and i haven't left yet
so i might just
stay home

So the ramble ends, leaving us done until next week. Until then -

All of the work included in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.


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Habits of Mercy
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The Last
Thoughts At the End of Another Long Summer, 2020
Slow Day at the Flapjack Emporium
Lunatics - a Short Morning Inventory
The Downside of Easy Pickings
My Literary Evolution
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Loch Raven Review
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Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
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Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
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Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
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Beau Blue
Downside up
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David Anthony
Layman Lyric
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Christopher George
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