In Light of Another Sun   Friday, February 06, 2009


IV.2.1.




Everything's back to normal this week, and here's who I have for you.

From friends of "Here and Now"

Thane Zander
Gary Blankenship
Marie Gail Stratford
Dave Ruslander

From my library

Leslie Clark
Wesley K. Mather
Langston Hughes
Albert Belisle Davis
Sarah Patton
Judith Viorst
George Grosz
Bertold Brecht
Volker Sielaff
Philip Nikolayev

and me.

Here we are.








My first two poems are by Lesley Clark from her book the absence of colour, published by Orchard Press of San Antonio in 2000. Clark was born in Big Spring, Texas, and raised in Aldeburgh, England. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Psychology and is working toward a master's degree. Her work has appeared in literary magazines and journals and in three anthologies.



The Dream

Last night I dreamt
your mother was young
she invited me into your home
showed me sepia stained portraits
of a little boy I never knew

I sat on the saltillo floor
fondled the same tiles
you little feet wobbled on

I looked into the copper mirror
imagined your face reflecting
before me

In the kitchen
I looked at the table
and wondered which chair
you liked to sit in

wondered which foods you
liked to eat

your mother knew me
from the moment I walked
in the door

the moment
I saw you
a little on I never knew
my eyes filled with tears

I want to know you
when you're awake
I want to know you
when you sleep
and become restless

your mother offered
me chocolate
the same chocolate you asked
for when you visited my house

you mother
was so simple
wearing a hint of rouge
upon her cheeks
carry the sweet smell
of vanilla


Brown

I am brown, he tells me, brown
it is my brown skin that covers me
from rampant waters,
it is my skin that defines me
carries me to you
and I tell him, I, too, am brown
but he does not agree
he tells me I am between colours
between black and white
between negative space
& shades of gray
I am the absence of colour
no term to define me
my spectrum is wide
from two distant ends
papa on one
mama on the other
I am blended
a colour to be measured and mixed
I am both black and white
becoming brown
I tell him that it is my skin
that protects me from the sun
that carries me across the sand
and to the sea
the colour that blends
the land to the sea,
the earth to the sky,
the sun to the moon
I surface in my perfect shade of blended brown
through rain, weather and sunlight
through murk and flower gardens
he and I are one in the same
varying shades of thick, brown, blended skin.








I've been writing my daily poems at Borders in the morning, triggered by what ever catches my eye as i look around me.

This poem is about one of the men in a group of old men who meet every morning at Borders to drink morning coffee and talk about the stock market, and, of course, politics and politicians. (They don't like'em.)

I've written about them before.



Old John's looking kinda worn these days

Old John's
looking kinda worn these days

at 82, he's looking
not a day under 70

a good 5 years
older than he looked

a year ago

it might be the hat
or the relaxed fit jeans

old men
should not wear

relaxed fit jeans

makes'em look like
they forgot their ass at home

when they left out
in the morning

producing strong perception
of two symptoms of aging in men

asslessness and
memory
loss








The next piece is by Wesley K. Mather from his book Into Pieces published by iUniverse Inc. in 2003.

Although Mather has written for a number of publications, this was his first book.



A Short Description of Blue

It can be pasty
And it can be rich

The texture of milk curds
Can seem very blue
To the open hands
With no eye to guide them

Sometimes the feeling of print on paper
Though it cannot be felt in any conventional way
Can penetrate the pores
You know blue in relation to the other colors
Because of its soothing aspect
It is somehow on smoother on the paper
Still it mustn't be trusted
It is as sticky and as clever as they come
It can cause lower back pain or kidney problems

When you
The blind and lucky
Reach up the leg of a smooth being
Searching for a center to focus on
You will encounter perhaps
A slight ruffle of lace
And you will know is is blue

When despite your blindness
You become convinced a room is dark
You may feel a slight radiation on your shoulders
Drying out your skin a little like the sun
That will prove to you blue in its palest sense
It is very much like menthol
Entering the raw nerves of the sinuses

The medium shade are easy to find
Press hard with a finger
Into the tender flesh
Just beneath the nail on the large toe

The deepest form it can present
Will be in the thickest textures
Blue is very convenient that way
Taking a pair of razor-sharp scissors
And slicing with a tremendous force
Through rock and iron
The forearms will begin to burn from effort
The material will tear away slowly
That is the deepest shade of blue








Here's a very funny piece by our friend from New Zealand, Thane Zander.



Dere's a hole in me pocket

I felt in my wet pocket,
the one opposite the left
so it must be right,
which means
my right hand is getting wet.

Einstein I hear you say!
Huh, I'm no genius
just a poor fool
that has an urgent demand
to change apparel.

Then it got me thinking,
yup, redneck,
how on earth did my pocket get wet?
At first glance the sky is clear,
the street is dry
there is no container in said pocket,
so where oh bloody where
did this god-awful mess come from?

Yes I know - I'm a man
and could have had a senior moment,
but I swing to the left. Hmmph!!

I know, I'll stand over the tube exhaust,
instant dry.
Ok so I'm not Marilyn
but I have needs,
and mysteries ain't one.








I've used poems by Langston Hughes many times on "Here and Now," from a number of different sources. The next several poems are from The Dream Keeper and other poems published in 1994 by Alfred K. Knopf.



Irish Wake

In the dark they fell a-crying
For the dead who'd gone away.
And you could hear the drowsy wailing,
Of those compelled to stay -
But when the sun rose making
All the dooryard bright and clear
The mourners got up smiling,
Happy they were there.


Beggar Boy

What is there within this beggar lad
That I can neither hear nor feel nor see,
That I can neither know nor understand
And still it calls to me?

Is not he but a shadow in the sun -
A bit of clay, brown, ugly, given life?
And yet he plays upon his flute a wild free tune
As if Fate had not bled him with her knife!


Parisian Beggar Woman

Once you were young.
Now, hunched in the cold,
Nobody cares
That you are old.

Once you were beautiful.
Now, in the street,
no one remembers
Your lips were sweet.

Oh, withered old woman
Of rue Fontaine
Nobody but death
will kiss you again.


Mexican Market Woman

This ancient hag
Who sits upon the ground
Selling her scanty wares
Day in, day round,
Has known high wind-swept mountains,
And the sun has made
Her skin so brown.


Sea Calm

How still,
How strangely still
The water is today.
It is not good
For water
To be so still that way.








Sometimes, looking around from my table at Borders in the morning, I run a bit dry on inspiration, a situation that calls for theft when nothing else helps.



resorting to drastic measures

there
it is again -
that damn blank
screen
i'm supposed
to fill with...

insight?

not likely

grace?

even less likely

passion?

occasionally -
usually
when i'm really pissed
about something
no one else
cares that much about,
which makes me
look

foolish?

often

humor?

sometimes, like

a man
walks into a bar
asks the bartender
if he could get a free drink
if he showed him something special

bartender
says, sure

man
pulls a mouse
out of one pocket
and a tiny piano
out of the other

the mouse
stretches, cracks his knuckles,
sits down
and plays the blues

wow!
the bartender says
and gives the man a drink

would you give me free drinks
for the rest of my life
if i showed you something
really, really, really special
the man asks

the bartender says,
sure,
if you can top that last trick

ok
the man says

pulling
the mouse out of his pocket
again
and the tiny piano
out of another pocket
and a bullfrog
out of a third pocket

the little mouse
stretches, cracks his knuckles,
sits down
at the piano and plays the blues
while the bullfrog sings along
with the music

another customer in the bar
rushes over
says
that's terrific,
tell you what, i'll give you
$5,000 for the frog

ok
the man says
gives up the frog
and takes the money

the other customer
leaves
with the frog

the bartender
says
$5,000, are you crazy
you could have made millions
with that frog

oh
the frog's not so great
the man
said
it's
just...
the mouse is a
ventriloquist

commit
silly joke theft -

yeah,
that too








The next poem is by Albert Berlisle Davis from his book What They Wrote on the Bathhouse Walls, Yen's Marina, Chinese Bayou, Louisiana.

Davis received a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Colorado State University in 1974. His poetry has been published in numerous journals and his novel, Leechtime won the 1984 Deep South Writers Conference novel competition. This book of poetry won the Deep South Writers Conference poetry competition the next year.

Davis teaches at Nicholls State University and lives and writes on Bayou Terrebonne in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.



Cypremont Point

Place names are often backdrops for deception.
Here, the Point is called the Cypremont
but do you see any trees alive or dead?
and the bay, the beach - everything is blunt.

Last year the man in that car took his student as a lover.

Tonight he takes her again, to the edge of the water.
He plans to make an end where they began
at the beach where he found her walking the Gulf
before dawn the first night they were together.

They have driven all night, have talked of his daughters
and of her father aging away in Paris.
They have spoken too of how they are able to do so.
With both of them, age is not the point.

They have just stopped. To make him laugh, she asks
"Who was it on another shore, who?
Who was it also watched the French on the coast,
the gleam that went, the ages of the sea

while his mistress waited, moonblanched by Dover?"

You see, he does not answer. Both know the answer.
That knowledge and more is the gift he has given her.
That gift is the teacher's only certitude.
Tonight, he is sure, he will watch a different woman

and seeing this change is all he needs to recover.

Look. It is she who runs first, into the wind.
Now he is also running, far behind
yet ahead of his thoughts, until a thought catches up.
That is why he stops, in the sand. He is thinking.

Perhaps about the notion we considered.
About the place names, you remember, about deception.
But that is not important. What is important
is that he decides to give the gift again.

He turns his head to where he hears her calling.
He begins to speak, but stops. He is angry, look,
flinging sand into the wind with his shoe.
Right now he is facing the teacher's ageless deception.

Everything is the same, around her, about her.
The waves reach, recede, just as before.
She wades, as before, parallel to the horizon.
Ignoring the chill the night leaves, she smiles.

""Have you found what you've come to discover?"

Let us agree with them. Age is no point.
But this man is old enough to catch the point:
Who gives the girl knowledge alone gives nothing.
Is he old enough to blunt anger at the bay?
Again, this time in French, she calls him over.

Look. He flings again. No, not sand.
He shouts to the wind, "It was Matthew Arnold
on another shore who watched the French and thought
and continued to think while his mistress waited

moonblanched, patient as chalkwhite Dover."

does he think she is too young to catch his point?
Look. Around her, the Gulf is calm this morning.
You can see her now, wiping the spray from her face.
She shivers. Behind her, the sun, half-risen, rages.

There, behind him. The black marsh loses cover.








Next, I have five short poems by our friend Gary Blankenship that, together, make up his series inspired by the legends of the five suns of the Aztecs.

Gary includes with the poems reference to this brief explanation from "The Legend of the Five Suns" by Alan J. Seeger.

They say the sun that exists today was born in 13 Reed [751], and it was then that light came, and it dawned. Movement Sun, which exists today, has the day sign 4 Movement, and this sun is the fifth sun that there is. In its time there will be earthquakes, famine.

This vision of doom belongs to the Aztec legend of the Five Suns. In the Aztec tradition, the universe was not permanent or everlasting. Like all living things it would someday have to come to an end. But the Aztec cosmos doesn't have a single destruction. They pictured time as a cycle of births, destruction, and rebirths. But this cycle couldn't continue for ever; there would only be five ages or "Suns." Each of these ages had its own name, sign, and ruling divinity. Much of the mythology and ritual revolving around this legend took root in Aztec society and thought.


More information on the five suns of the Aztecs is available at:
http://www.spiritpathways.com/5suns.html


Here are Gary's five poems.



The Five Suns of the Aztecs

I

Sun of Water

Three rivers
      converge below the passes,
one flows west to sweep away farm village

A Holstein and calf graze encircled by flood
A dented blue Buick
         floats by, all traction lost
From a roof, a family waves for rescue
delayed to pull a truck out of a sinkhole

As the torrent recedes through levee breaks
we return by broken debris laden roads
to throw out soaked throw rugs
            couch and instant oats
milk the herd
      gather eggs and soggy mail

Three rivers
   converge below bare ski slopes
one meanders west past crows and otter dens


II

Sun of Jaguar

The avenues alive with the city's sounds -
snicker of high heels, screech of brakes, horn on horn.
The streets busy with a neighborhood's noise -
bells, laughter, gossip
         "shud''p" from the fourth floor

Down alleys home to rats of every size,
cigarette butts
      sizzle in greasy puddles,
a dying junkie sleeps behind a dumpster
vaguely aware of footpads that silent pass him

Creatures of the dark and dank wait with relish
for the tang of blood and offal that transpires
when the hunter strikes
         his cornered quarry
certain giants no longer work the avenues


III

Sun of Earth

He speaks to the team to turn brace and plow,
acres to cover before this day's work done
and the ground can be seeded to coax
life from the earth while still damp with spring

   vole tunnels ruined
      shrew homes upended
   worms left to lie naked in the sun

He listens for the sound of distant thunder
   his wife's call to supper
and hears the yells of town folk -
   barber
      doctor
         bartender and town idiot

of a farmer who is almost a neighbor
who should be behind a plow and brace
astride his workhorse
            instead of behind it

He hears their cry
         lays down the reins
and follows the mob to the lure of yellow
in the ripples of a far-away river


IV

Sun of Wind

I listen for gales to raise surf and tide,
to bend pines like old men rising from dreams.
Gray gulls may complain
            but their squawks are lost
in the pepper of sand against my coat.

I listen for gusts to rush from the mountains,
to drop maples like young men too long at war.
Ravens may protest
         but their caws are lost
in the scuttle of leaves to find their lost hold.

I listen for the winds
         to loosen shingles
   scatter garbage can lids
      release the screen door
for rain to recover carpet and couch

         my voice mute.


V

Sun of Movement

a piano concerto in D-flat in 3C
newlyweds in the flat next door
furniture and crates from 2B
   loaded into a rental van
      only one set of dishes broken
         a raggedy ann left on the bare floor

a taxi stuck in traffic at 3rd and Main
a bus sliding past double parked vans
bike messengers' dance
   through gridlocked commuters
      timely delivery the difference
         between indictment and release

clouds disappear over the horizon
winds die in the summer heat
the van devours sun fueled miles
   on its way across wheatland
clearcut and reservoir
         to harvest a thin crop of change

letters march like ants across soiled glass
   war-painted indians line ridge tops








The next two poems are by Sarah Patton, taken from her book The Joy of Old Horses, published in 1999 by Scopcraeft Press of Portales, New Mexico. The book includes no information about the poet and neither could I find much of anything on the web. It does appear she was originally from Texas, she published frequently in well known poetry journals, and this is her first book. I could find no information on what has happened to her since the book was published in 1999.

I do enjoy her poems, though, so hope there are other books out there I just haven't found yet.



The Joy of Old Horses

The moon is for horses
that cannot sleep

I've seen them
on October nights
gathering that light.

I've seen the joy
of old horses,

the sudden flare
of eyes like matches
in the dark.

seen them take
from these dying leaves
the weight of autumn
without protest

as if to have
reflected the full face
of the moon were not enough.

I've seen unbridled hair
the color of roan horses
in rain.


The Humility of Old Horses in Snow

In October
the old trees weep
at night.

They've waited so long
they can't remember
what for,

waited with the humility
of old horses in snow.

I remember
how a norther shrieks
through branches

like a woman
crazed with war
and gathering her dead,

remember
how cold stills
white moths

folded
like snow
against a wall

glazes sunlight
on red geraniums
and cobalt butterflies,

how autumn
rocks the light so deeply
roots can't plumb it.








I wrote this next poem the day after I wrote the poem I used last week, from where i sit, about people traveling east and west on Interstate-10.

Again, it is so dry here, with no relief predicted for the foreseeable future, rain and thoughts of rain make it hard to enjoy the beautiful weather we've been having for weeks.



an unsunny day

yesterday
i could see past
the red oak grove
to a steady stream
of east-west traffic

today,
cocooned
in mist
and thick winter fog,
i can't even see the trees

after weeks
of bright sun and cloudless
clear blue skies,
a damp overcast day
is welcomed,
reminding
us that though we haven't see it
in months
there is a chance of rain
in the world
some of it, possibly,
falling on us

two days of rain
would be nice, as,
with aquifer refreshed
and prospect of green
somewhere in our environment
returned,
we could open our arms
and hearts
to more cloudless,
sun-bright days,
fear of fires
and desertification
set aside
for another couple of weeks
at least








The next three poems are from a book I almost didn't buy because of the dorky illustrations on the cover and inside. I'm glad I ignored the irritation of the art long enough to read a couple of the poems.

The book is When Did I Stop Being 20 and Other Injustices and the poet is Judith Viorst. The book was published in 1987 by Simon and Schuster; Viorst, it turns out, is very well known and considered very hip. Being neither in the know nor hip, I had to find her the hard way.

Viorst was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1931. She is the author of several works of fiction and nonfiction, for children as well as adults. Her most recent work of nonfiction, Imperfect Control, was published by Simon and Schuster in 1998. She is also the author of Murdering Mr. Monti (1994) and Necessary Losses (1986) which appeared on The New York Times bestseller list in hardcover and paperback for almost two years. Her children's books include The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (1971), The Alphabet From Z to A (1994), and the "Alexander" stories: Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday (1978); Alexander, Who's Not (Do Your Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move (1995); and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972). A graduate of the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, she is the recipient of various awards for her journalism and psychological writings. she lives in Washington, DC.

Seems strange that, as much as I like her book of poetry (the word here is "fun"), there's no mention of poetry in the bio from Poetry.org. Maybe they're too much fun.



Henry

I have fallen in love.
His name is Henry and he is against all my principles.

He is not an older man.
He does not have a beard.
He likes his family.
He eats his meat well done.

He thinks the country is better than the city.
He thinks ice hockey is better than poetry readings.
He doesn't believe one must fight to the death against all bourgeois
    values.
He doesn't even smoke.

Henry says I'm a nice girl even though I live in the Village.
He says I will make a fine mother.
He says I will adore skiing.

This is not the image I intended to project

But I have fallen in love.
And I will have to choose between Sheridan Square and Henry,
Between paella a la Valenciana and Henry,
Between buying books and records and a quarter's worth of daffodils at
    two in the morning and Henry.

I never dreamed I'd end up marrying a man
My parents would approve of.


Marriage and the Families

My mother was grateful
He wasn't barefoot.
His mother was grateful
I wasn't pregnant.

My father was grateful
He wasn't a different race, color, or creed.
His father was grateful
I wasn't tubercular or divorced.

My sister was grateful
Her husband was richer and taller.
His sister was grateful
She had a master's degree and a better nose.

My cousin in luggage was grateful
He didn't expect a discount.
His cousin the dentist was grateful
I didn't need a root canal.

My aunts and uncles were grateful
He came from a nice family in New Jersey even though he wore
    sunglasses in the living room which is usually a sign of depravity.
His aunts and uncles were grateful
I came from a nice family in New Jersey even though I lived in
    Greenwich village which is usually a sign of depravity also.

I should be pleased.

But when I think of the catered wedding in Upper Montclair,
With the roast Sirloin of beef dinner,
The souvenir photo album,
And the matches with the raised gold letters,
And when I think of the savings bonds, the china, the cut glass,
    and the sugars and creamers both sterling and silver plate,
Then I wish
That they weren't
So grateful.


The Honeymoon Is Over

The honeymoon is over
And he has left for work
Whistling something obvious from La Boheme
and carrying a brown calfskin attache case
I never dreamed he was capable of owning,
Having started the day
with ten push-ups and a cold shower
Followed by a hearty breakfast.

(What do we have in common?)

The honeymoon is over
and I am dry-mopping the floor
In a green Dacron dry-mopping outfit from Saks,
Wondering why I'm not dancing in the dark
Or rejecting princes,
Or hearing people gasp at my one-man show.
My god, so beautiful and so gifted!

(The trouble is, I never knew a prince.)

The honeymoon is over
And we find that dining by candlelight makes us squint,
And that all the time
I was letting him borrow my comb and hang up his wet raincoat
    in my closet,
I was really waiting
To stop letting him.
And all the time
He was saying how he loved my chicken pot pie,
He was really waiting
To stop eating it.

(I guess they call that getting to know each other.)








Marie Gail Stratford, one of my poem-a-day friends, has one of those calendars that have all the special designations for each day. She has begun a series of poems based on the special designation of the day she's writing. It's a fun prompt.

Here are several of my favorites.



January 23rd

Measure Your Feet Day

For me, a twelve-inch ruler would do.
My sister needs to use the yardstick.
We'll wait 'til after dinner for the ceremony.
First the children will take off their shoes.
We will joke about how smelly they are.
The youngest will stand very still while Mommy
slides the traditional yardstick along the inside of her left foot.
"How much have I grown?"
Mommy will make a fresh black mark next to this year's measurement.
The older children will follow, then the adults
(who won't make new marks -
our feet are out of the habit of growing).
Ooohs and ahhs will follow the laughter -
amazement as to how much the little feet have grown.
The yardstick will take a place of honor,
on display for a week or so before being stored
for next year's observations.


January 24th (Beer served in a can for the first time January 24, 1935

Beer Can Appreciation Day

Nothing is on tap today.
Chug from a can instead.
Smash that can on your forehead.
Down another.
Later in the evening
the bartender will set up bowling lanes.
Come away from your darts and pool.
Try to knock down ten cans of lager.
When you're drunk enough,
someone will suggest building pyramids
with the unsmashed cans from the recycle bin.
You will think it's a good idea.
A stop watch will emerge.
The contests will begin.
Two a.m. will come too soon.
Be sure to take a taxi home.


4th Monday of January

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day

Today is a good day to send cookies to the troops.
Chocolate chip, peanut butter, and even sugar cookies
will hold together through customs, across the Atlantic,
back through customs yet again, and even along
the pothole-pocked road to some off-the-map village
where your soldier is stationed,
so long as each cookie
is carefully cushioned in bubble wrap.

For fun, order colored bubble wrap -
it has patriotic potential to which
clear wrap alone will never aspire.

Wrap those cookies in red, white and blue.
In their spare time those Marines
can use the bubble wrap to make voodoo dolls
of Hussein or Bush or Bin Laden
or the Jihad militant of the week.

Save some of the bubble wrap
for your own voodoo pleasure.
Form the head and body of your boss
(or your ex) - a little packing tape
will help hold the form together.
Go ahead, paint on a grimace with your Sharpie.
Then pull out a straight pin
and pop the shit out of those bubbles!


January 30th

Answering Message Day - Waiting for the Beep

dial

hear the succession
of buzzes
that indicate ringing
in a remote location

a mechanical click
indicates you've been transferred
to voicemail

a staccato
automated voice
tells you the name
of whom you've reached

you knew this already
but wait patiently

if you wish to page this person...
the voice continues

a menu of non-vocal options
is listed

you just want to talk

finally
the automated voice
says...
just wait for the beep

you have been waiting
you will wait longer

when the beep comes
spend fifteen seconds
leaving a brief message
telling the other party
to call you back

hang up

the timer on your phone
indicates the call
took two minutes
and thirty-three seconds.


January 31st

International Seed Swap Day - Sharing Petunias

Last night, in the heart of winter,
I dreamed of a pot of petunias
hanging on my sister's deck,
just outside the kitchen window
where they winked at me
while I did the dishes.

I want a pot of petunias, hanging
in the corner of my little apartment,
close enough to the window to get sunlight;
so I asked her for a slip,
and she agreed.
I woke before I learned
if it would grow for me.








Here's something interesting, three poems from The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems. The book was published by faber and faber in 2005.


My first poem from the book was written by poet George Grosz who lived from 1893 to 1959. Grosz was a German artist known especially for his savagely caricatural drawings of Berlin life in the 1920s. He was a prominent member of the Berlin Dada and New Objectivity group during the Weimar Republic before he emigrated to the United States in 1932.

The poem was translated by Michael Hofmann.



Hymn to the World

I

O whizzbang world, you luna park,
You delicious cabinet of horrors.
Watch out! Here comes Grosz.
The saddest man in Europe,
"A phenomenon of sadness."
Hard hat pushed back,
By no means a softie!!!
A skull full of black blues.
Bright as fields of hyacinths
Or rushing express trains
Clattering over bridges -
Ragtime dancer,
Waiting with the crowds by the picket fence
For Robert E. Lee.

Horido!
By the beard of headmaster Wotan -
Afternoons of prettified sewers,
Painted over putrition,
Perfumed stench -
Grosz can smell it.
Parbleu! I smell roast babies.

II

Get yourselves together, lads!
Crank up the Benz - 150 km
Down the ribboning roads!
You too are disgusted by the cold sweat
On your flaccid features!

Turbulence of the world!
My dear friends! Ahoy!
Greetings, y'all, boys over the water!
I.W. Hurban, Lewis, Abraham.
Theo F. Morse,
Lillian Elmore.
You converted the jungle into notes
With your New World banjo music.
Stiff standing skyscrapers.
The grey eye at liberty.
Cleanshaven and broad.

The houseboat glides down the Hudson -
With dark nights
And Negroes in black hats!


The next poem, is by Bertolt Brecht who lived from 1898 to 1956. Brecht was a poet, as well as a hugely influential avant garde playwright, and theatre director. A committed Marxist most of his life, he is most famously known for his plays Mother Courage and A Threepenny Opera.

The poem was translated by John Willett


Apfelbock, or the Lily of the Field

1
Mild was the light as Jakob Apfelbock
Struck both his father and his mother down
And shut their bodies in the linen press
And hung about the house all on his own.

2
The clouds went floating past beneath the sky
Around his house the summer winds blew mild
Inside the house he passed the time away
Who just a week before was still a child.

3
The days went by, the nights went by as well
and nothing changed except a thing or two.
Beside his parents Jakob Apfelbock
Waited to see what time would do.

4
The woman still delivers milk each day
Sweet thick cool skim milk, left behind the door.
What Jakob doesn't drink he pours away
For Jakob's hardly drinking any more.

5
The paper man still brings the paper round
He steps up to the house with heavy tread
And stuffs the paper in the letter box
But Jakob Apfelbock leaves it unread.

6
And when the smell of corpses filled the house
Jakob felt queasy and began to cry.
Tearfully, Jakob Apfelbock moved out
and slept henceforth on the balcony.

7
Up spoke the paper man then on his round:
What is that smell? Something gone off. I'd say.
The light was mild as Jakob Apfelbock
Said: Just some dirty clothes I shut away.

8
Up spoke the milk woman then on her round:
What is that smell? I'd say that something's died.
The light was mild as Jakob Apfelbock
Said: Just some meat my mother put aside.

9
and when they came to open the press door
Jakob stood by, the light was mild and clear
and when they asked him what he did it for
Said Jakob Apfelbock: I've no idea.

10
A few days later the milk woman said
She wondered what would happen by and by:
Would Jakob Apfelbock, the child, perhaps
Visit the grave where his poor parents lie?


The last of this series of German poets is a contemporary, Volker Sielaff born in 1966. Sielaff works as a writer and freelance cultural journalist in Dresden. Since 1990 he has been publishing poems, essays and criticism in various German literary magazines and in anthologies and newspapers . His poems have already been translated into several languages. His collection of poetry Postkarte für Nofretete was published in 2003.

The poem was translated by Michael Hofmann.


Sleepless

The racket of the birds
in the trees at a quarter
past three.

Cioran
complained of sleeplessness
all his life.

I
throw myself blindly
into the arms of the morning.

No experience
is communicable.








Bad economic news all around, hard times right behind.

I used to be in the hard times business. I know what it looks like.



hard times

i read
in the papers this morning
about the guy
who killed his wife
and all five of his kids,
the oldest,
a girl,
just 10, a two sets of twins,
the youngest 2

lost his job...

desperate...

hard times...

i've seen hard times and
stories like this
before

the oil bust
of 1986
when a whole industry
disappeared, unemployment rates
in some South Texas counties
up to 30 percent or more

Houston
high-fliers
selling all their toys,
their sports cars and limos,
their boats, their million dollar houses,
their Rolexes,
their $5000 cowboy boots,
their custom shot guns and hunting leases
in the brush and cactus chaparral

(he who dies with the most toys
wins - that had been the life for many)

suddenly,
rich
now poor,
all the toys gone,
living in a one bedroom apartment
on the wrong side
of the wrong place,
driving
a 73 Ford Fairlane,
engine
missing every third stroke,
bumper in the rear near dragging,
rear windows permanently up
or down,
stuck in what ever position
last passed,
side mirror
dangling on the passenger side,
living on Big Macs, hold the fries,
wife gone, kids gone,
adios loser, they might as well
have said,
looking for any kind of job,
willing to flip those Big Mac
patties if nothing else,
but all the burger flipper jobs
taken by kids and old people,
no one wants to hire a ex-rich man
who might still have dreams

and the others
never rich, but always steady,
working the same job since they
dropped out of high school, taken to the job
by their father or their uncle
or a neighbor who vouched for them,
got them hired on,
never done anything else,
never thought of doing anything else,
fifty years old, never out of work,
never had to look for a job,
never understood the gut-
paralyzing desperation
of true desperation,
of no prospects,
no options,
no chance,
no way
Jose

hard times...

back again








Here's a poem by Philip Nikolayev from his book, Monkey Time, published in 2001 by Verse Press of Amherst, Massachusetts.

Nikolayev was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1966 and grew up fully bilingual in Russian and English thanks to his father, a linguist. He started out as a Russian poet, but came to the United States in 1990 to attend Harvard University, and has since been writing primarily in English. His poems have appeared in number of literary journals across the English-speaking world. He is the author of three collections of poems, Artery Lumen, in 1996, Dusk Raga, in 1998, and this, his third, Monkey Time, winner of the 2001 Verse Prize.

Nikolayev lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This is the title poem from the collection.



Monkey Time

      for Diana Eck

There's a Durga temple in Benares they call
Monkey temple, because of the monkeys who inhabit it
cheek by jowl with the human race.
The monkeys occupy the upper-tier gallery
on top of the thick wall enclosing the temple and engineer
dazzlingly brilliant sorties into the human world. They
wait for prasad to be laid out in front of the ten-handed,
multiweaponed goddess, flower-festooned
slayer of demons, but not of monkeys. Then they wait
for the priest to commence the circling of the lamp
and the ringing of the brass handbell, and then
with what may have long become a Pavlovian reflex
the sly critters descend into the courtyard,
forming themselves into two groups. Members of one
fling themselves acrobatically upon the temple bells,
raising a tremendous racket, inducing
considerable annoyance in the humans. The humans,
except for the Brahmin at work, act as one herd.
They turn and try to shoo the beasts away
with harmless stones, while the other monkey platoon
overruns the sacramental food, makes tracks
with it, sharing with kinsmen bananas and tangerines
back at their architecturally attractive, impregnable
superior station. When provoked, they are capable
of anything, the tricksters. The temple administration
tolerates them for theological reasons, but is powerless
to impose significant constraint, and the diarchy
of hanuman and human stands unshakable.

Today I decided to brave the outer gallery and walk
all the way around, so as to examine the courtyard
from above, armed myself with a thick stick,negotiated
the man-betrayed stairs and stepped
on monkey turf. All hell broke loose as I took
the first few strides into their dominions. There were
monkeys screaming from all sides, baring white
obnoxious fangs and leaping green indignation. Even the tiny
cubs yammered their guts out and came on
closer to where I had stopped. I unpocket
a breakfast apple and put it down on the floor. How long ago
did man walk here last? Ten years? Fifty years? Is this
where Kipling found the bandarlog? One must admit he knew
his stuff, old Rudyard. On a second's reflection I bail out
in self-preservation, my evolutionary brothers ululant in pursuit.
Propelled to safety, I then smile and catch my breath,
shaking the sweat from my brow. I gaze
into the laughing stare of the awesome wife of Shiva,
her benevolence permitting me to pass without harm.
Leaving 2 rupees for the servants of her house, I bow
out. With my right hand I touch the temple step,
then touching my forehead. I put on my shoes.
Continuing all the way down to the river ghats,
I keep on conversing in my head with the monkeys.


My intention had been to just use one of Nikolayev's poems, but decide now to add this second, so different from the first, an indicator of the poet's range, as well as his humor.


Talking Dirty

My dick swells up like a silver spoon in heaven.
the angels and archangels will easily recognize my dick.
the elegant utensil reaching for its sugar basin,
where it belongs. My love will pardon me talking dirty!
It's just that I am convinced that poetry can exist
at any level because it is absolute and pure.
Swear words are perpetually Elizabethan. Forsooth,
they hang in mellow clusters. Have I or have I not
this welcome transgression made into your pussy,
my soulful boner communicating fertility? Naturally,
I have. and now, I, doting on your skin and moaning
and beloving your tits, know I'm soon to squirt
and like to hold off a while with metaphors, as I'm not
technically even talking dirty, just telling it like it is.








My next poem is by one of the original friends of "Here and Now," Dave Ruslander. The poem is from Dave's Book, Voices in My Head.



Sweetboy

I saw him, bright red chestnut
with two white feet,
seventeen hands and a tapered
white blaze.

He burst from the barn dancing,
flying lead changes around the ring
on springs, nostrils flared, snorting steam.
His bronze coat reflected the early light.

He was a watch spring wound tight
about to burst from his coat.
His thick neck bowed,
chin drawn up beneath its mass,
shoulders shifting and wide eyes darting,
knees pumping like pistons as he trotted,
coat radiating the sheen of a new copper
penny.

Seized by impulse, I was going
to greet this thousand pound
lightening bolt.

Slowly, I approached, spoke in soft tones,
Easy Big Red, I'm coming in now;
you behave big boy. Come on down now


As though greeting an old friend, he
walked up with a poised and playful nature
and sniffed my outstretched hand.
His wild musk lay in the saddle of my palm;
he was inside me.

I embraced him, whispering

I love you big boy.

He let loose a massive sigh
from somewhere deep inside.

I'll take him, I said, looking over my
shoulder at the owner.








I said a while ago that i looked forward to not having to write a political poem for four years. Well, I made it nine days.



the sad, sad story of Johnny McBee

Johnny McBee
worked as a first-shift dishwasher
at the Bump and Thump
gentlemen's club
on Cherry Berry Street
for three years
until a two weeks ago
last Monday
when he was laid off

not the brightest
brick
in the brickyard,
Johnny
is a hard worker
and attentive to his
duties

and though a minor
contributor
to the nation's GNP,
he does his part
and

above all else,
he is
honest

unlike
those New York
bankers
in their pin-stripped boots
and alligator suits
who steal
with a smile
and a stab in the back

and
the big-talking, broad-
smiling,
cap-toothed
trickle-down
let-them-eat-cake
political sharks
in the G.O.P. back alleys
of Washington D.C.
who
assure him
all his problems will be solved
as soon as they can find a way
to steal more money
from regular folks
to give to underprivileged
rich gentlemen
who will surely rush
back
to the Bump & Thump
once they get their
Bentleys
out of hock
and on the road again








Well, time to make tracks until next week when I'll be back with more poems and other stuff as strikes my fancy.

In the meantime...

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

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