Black Holes   Thursday, March 26, 2009


IV.3.4.




Welcome all.

Due to a hitch in my schedule this week, I'm posting a day early.

Here's who I have.


Jimmy Santiago Baca
One

Me
oh well

Robert Bly
Cornpicker Poem
Prophets
Listening to a Cricket in the Wainscoting
Walking and Sitting
A Long Walk Before the Snows Began


Teresa White
A Time to Grieve
Do Not Pass Go
East of the Heart


Charles Entrekin
Women
Hold Me


Me
lab day

R.S. Thomas
Rough
The Moon in Lleyn


Margaret Barrett Mayberry
Dreams

Jack Kerouac
103rd Chorus
105th Chorus


Me
as if

Ai
The Paparazzi
Afterschool Lessons From a Hitman


Joanna M. Weston
Her Habitations
Cold Water
Listening


George Garrett
On Death and December

Carl Sandburg
A Million Young Workmen, 1915

Me
my turn

William Everson, a.k.a. Brother Antoninus
The Dusk
Dead Winter


Me
cash crop

Jim Hutchings
Woman

Me
an old man's game









Jimmy Santiago Baca was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1952 of Apache and Mexican descent. Abandoned by his parents at the age of two, he lived with one of his grandmothers for several years before being placed in an orphanage. He wound up living on the streets, and, at the age of twenty-one, was convicted on charges of drug possession and incarcerated. He served six and a half years in prison, three of them in isolation and spent time on death row before being released.

During this time, Baca taught himself to read and write, and he began to compose poetry. He sold these poems to fellow inmates in exchange for cigarettes. A fellow inmate convinced him to submit some of his poems to the magazine Mother Jones, then edited by Denise Levertov. Levertov printed Baca's poems and began corresponding with him, eventually finding a publisher for his first book.

A self-styled "poet of the people," Baca conducts writing workshops with children and adults at countless elementary, junior high and high schools, colleges, universities, reservations, barrio community centers, white ghettos, housing projects, correctional facilities and prisons from coast to coast.

In 2004 Baca started a nonprofit organization, Cedar Tree, Inc., that supports these workshops through charitable donations. As well as writing workshops Cedar Tree, Inc. has produced two documentary films, Clamor en Chino and Moving the River Back Home. Cedar Tree, Inc. employs ex-offenders as interns.

Baca's awards and honors include the Wallace Stevens Chair at Yale, the National Endowment of Poetry Award, Vogelstein Foundation Award, National Hispanic Heritage Award, Berkeley Regents Award, Pushcart Prize, Southwest Book Award and American Book Award.

The next poem is from his book Healing Earthquakes, published by Grove Press in 2001. It is the first poem in the first section of the book, titled As Life Was.



One

With this letter I received from a young Chicano
doing time in New Boston, Texas,
     I'm reminded of the beauty of bars
     and how my soul squeezed through them
     like blue cornmeal through a sifting screen
     to mix with the heat and moisture of the day
     in each leaf and sun ray
          offering myself
          to life like bread
He tells me he reads a lot of books and wants my advice
and more amazed
     he quotes from my books, honoring my words
     as words that released him from the bars,
     the darkness, the violence of prison.
It makes me wonder,
     getting down on myself as I usually do,
     that maybe I'm not the pain in the butt
          I sometimes think I am.
I used to party a lot, but now I study landscapes
and wonder a lot,
     listen to people and wonder a lot,
     take a sip of good wine and wonder more,
     until my wondering has filled five or six years
     and literary critics and fans
          and fellow writers ask
     why haven't you written anything in six years?
And I wonder about that -
     I don't reveal to them
     that I have boxes of unpublished poems
and that I rise at six-thirty each morning
     and read books, jot down notes,
     compose a poem,
          throwing what I've written or wondered
     on notepads in a stack in a box
                                   in a closet.
filled with wonder at the life I'm living,
distracted by presidential impeachment hearings
          and dick-sucking interns and Iraq bombings,
my attention is caught by the kid
without a T-shirt in winter
on the courts who can shoot threes and never miss,
by a woman who called me the other night
threatening to cut her wrists because she was in love
     and didn't want to be in love,
by the crackhead collecting cans at dawn along the freeway.
     Sore-hearted at the end of each day,
     wondering how to pay bills,
          thinking how I'll write a poem
     to orphans for Christmas
     and tell them that's their present
     and watch them screw up their faces -
     saying, huh,
          wondering what kind of wondering fool
          I've become
     that even during Christmas I'm wondering...
     caught in the magical wonder
     of angels on Christmas trees.
           colored lightbulbs
all of it making me remember the awe and innocence
     of my own childhood
          when Santa came with a red bag
          to the orphanage
               and gave us stockings
               bulging with fruit and nuts.
It was a time of innocence, gods walking around my bunk
               at night,
          divine guardians whispering at my ear
          how they'd take care of me -
and they did, armies of angels have attended me
in rebellious travels,
and the only thing that's changed since then
is instead of me waiting for Santa,
     I'm like an ornery pit bull leased to a neck chain
     aching to bite the ass of an IRS agent
wondering why anyone in their right mind would,
with only one life to live, have a job making people so miserable.
It's something to think about.







I took a little drive last week. Worn out by routine, I decided to checkout the other side of the hill.

I have come to accept for myself an improvisational style, writing straight through, then accepting, with minimal change except for things like spelling and punctuation, the result as the poem I'm going to do that day. It makes the experience of writing more the point than the product of the writing. It is very liberating.

This next poem is an example, written through, beginning to end, in one flow, with no post-editing. Generally, I accept my poems for what they are, the completion of my work. This poem I actually like, though many would call it undisciplined and self-indulgent. Maybe it is. Oh well?



oh well

had to see the lawyer
in San Marcos today -
decided to make
the best of the rest of the day
with a Hill Country ramble

certain
that a person of my
superior
intellect would not require
a map,
i spent most of my time
on little two-lane, ranch-to-market
roads with no clue as to where i was

made a pass down the 15-20 miles
of The Devil's Backbone,
so named because of its winding
twisty path along a high ridge,
deep valleys and
rocky, cedar-covered hills
on either side, ending up
right outside Blanco
where i hadn't expected
to be, avoided further exposure
to the unexpected
by veering to the right
towards Wimberly, known
for its artists and sculptors,
who do great things with
rusty rebar and barbed wire,
and artisans, as well as
crafters of tourist kitsch
of most every type but velvet Elvis
which would just push the envelope a little too far
for the refined tastes of this little arts community;
also in the area, a couple of poets, i'm told, as well as
12-15 singer/songwriters per block, which
isn't quite as impressive as it might seem
since there's only 3-4 blocks in the whole
town - still, not a miserly quota of
singer-songwriters for any such a little
lost-in-the-hills place as this

it being mid-noon, there is no chance
of eating in Wimberly so i continue on,
finding, eventually, a place, where i am able
to prove, once again for the ages,
the value of the advice one gets that one
should never return a steak to the chef
as undercooked, unless one has a taste
for chicken-fried blackened roofing shingle -
i tipped the waitress $3
because she had the grace to look
embarrassed when she brought it back to me,
then took the bovine crispy critter out to Reba,
waiting patiently in the car for such
treats as i might uncover,
who found the blackened hulk quite tasty
(this being a dog who thinks
several-day-dead
roadkill the
epitome
of fine dining)

lotsa sights
on this ramble-day

mansions
1-2 hundred yards off the road,
many,
where before there were none,
as rich folks from Houston, Dallas
and Austin find their own little weekend
hilltop refuge from the pressures
of robbing the crap out of the rest of us,
but why not, a hilltop is a terrible thing
to waste and if they're not robbing us
someone else surely will, one
of the little rules economists tend to gloss
over when explaining their magic
to the lesser wizards assigned
the chump classification
in the hierarchy of foot stools and fools

and so many trucks hauling gravel and caliche,
making me wonder if the day is not near
when the Hill Country has finally lost
all its hills, well, not all, there will be still
a dotting of hills with mansions on top where
we can see a version of what used to be,
complete with swimming pools and palm trees
500 miles from their native soil, but hell
if you do enough robbing you can make
anything grow anywhere - especially
if you smuggle in a couple of Mexican
gardeners from palm-tree-land to
give them the loving care they'll
need to survive in the rocky hills

the Katherine Ann Porter Middle School
in Wimberly,
right across from the nearly finished
new high school, a huge, grand structure
demonstrating that the artists and
singer/songwriters
breeding program is proceeding
well, and the equally huge and grand
new consolidated high school almost finished
at the Hays County/Blanco County line
and across the highway from the Cowboys
for Jesus Fellowship Hall demonstrating
who the hell knows what - mad-cow disease
would be my guess, but that's just the way
i am when it comes to this Jesus stuff,
i mean what the hell is next, Bankers for Jesus,
Safecrackers for Jesus, Very Large People
With Gender Issues for Jesus - once you
start down this path it can go downhill
in a hurry

like all the boomers riding up and down
the hills on their motorcycles, white hair,
white beards, sunburned foreheads,
all trying to be what they didn't have
the balls to be when they were
in business school while the rest
of their cohort was marching
on Washington - it's pretty clear
a wimp at 20 is going to be a wimp
at 60 and no $25,000 motorcycle
is going to do a thing to change that

those people are going to be
running things
the rest of my life

oh well








Next I have several short poems by Robert Bly from his sixth book, This Tree Will Be Here for a Thousand Years, published by Harper & Row in 1979.



Cornpicker Poem

1

Sheds left out in the darkness,
abandoned granaries, cats merging into the night.

There are hubcaps cooling in a dark yard.

The stiff-haired son has slouched in
and gone to bed.
A low wind sweeps over the moony land.

2

Overshoes stiffen in the entry.

The calendar grows rigid on the wall.

He dreams, and his body grows limber.
He is fighting a many-armed woman,
he is a struggler, he will not yield.
He fights her in the crotch of a willow tree.

He wakes up with jaws set,
and a victory.

3

It is dawn. Cornpicking today.
He leans over, hurtling
his old Pontiac down the road.

Somewhere the sullen chilled machine
is waiting, its empty gas cans around it.


Prophets

There are fields of white roses
with prophets asleep in them -
I see their long black feet.


Listening to a Cricket in the Wainscoting

The sound of his is like a boat with black sails.
Or a widow under a redwood tree, warning
passersby that the tree is about to fall.
Or a bell made of black tin in a Mexican village.
Or the hair in the ear of a hundred-year-old man!


Walking and Sitting

That's odd - I am trying to sit still,
trying to hold the mind to one thing.
Outdoors angleworms stretched out thin in the gravel,
while it is thundering.


A Long Walk Before the Snows Began

1

Nearly winter. All day the sky gray. Earth heavy.
The cornfields dead. I walk over the soaked
cornstalks knocked flat in rows,
a few grains of whit sleet on the leaves.

2

White sleet also in the black plowing.
I turn and go west - tracks, pushed deep!
I am walking with an immense deer.
He passed three days ago.

3.

I reach the creek at last, nearly dusk.
New snow on the river ice, under willow branches,
open places like plains of North China,
where the mice have been, just an hour ago.








Here, again, is Teresa White with three short pieces from her recent work.



A Time To Grieve

The dog's stopped barking,
I fight the sheets, crave morning.
There's much to do in a sleeping house
though this means silence, little light,
talking to myself.

Even the cats don't wake
from their mousy dreams; the wind's worn out.
Rain has ceased on the tin roof;
neighbors have stopped their bickering.

I'm not awake enough to care
about the latest news: the floods, or fires
climbing in the dumb fir trees.
I start coffee, wait for the good gurgling,
put on my quiet shoes.

I count the hours dark by dark,
wait for first light
when dawn will open like a wound.
Clocks don't matter. There's time
to be alone in this moonlit room,

time for marking time,
to grieve if I'm going to.


Do Not Pass Go

We all remember Monopoly,
the darling silver shoe, Scottie dog,
thimble. The race around the board

we all took, counting our pink
and yellow money like inveterate
bankers. And we've all spent

some time in jail, done a little
community service. And who hasn't
ridden a railroad halfway 'round the board

past the cold-water flats of Baltic Avenue,
the antiseptic balconies along Park Place
and Boardwalk?

There is no crime along these streets
except the crime of not passing Go. We
all look forward to pocketing that easy

two hundred dollars. In the end,
I'm always bankrupt staring at your
miniature green houses, your red hotels,

intense sentinels to the holy grail
of wealth - proof that our lives turn
on a simple roll of dice.


East of the Heart

Nothing more terrifying than an empty room
full of rockers, uprights, loungers.
Imagine musical chairs with a steadying
shadow from the ceiling light.
Every hour on the hour an infant is born.

I almost remember why I'm here.
Not once or twice or thrice but count
as many as you wish. Your figure
won't be high enough. This must be the
far side of the river, my hair soaked wet.

I'm not asking for anything more than pity.
Pure and simple.
For my hard life,
my brother's hard life,
my sister's hard life.

We bow our heads in unison,
recite the prayers we never can forget.
The ones about the life beyond,
always some other life...
out of reach
out of sight.








Here are two love poems, of a sort, by Charles Entrekin, from his book In This Hour, published by B.P.W.P in 1989.

In addition to his poetry, Entrekin was one of the Bay Area's early computer programmers when the science began to emerge in the early 1970s. Recruited out of a PhD program in philosophy, he was trained initially by PacBell and worked on room-sized mainframe computers. He went on to design early computer systems for Fortune 500 companies. Eventually he became a founder and director of three successful Bay Area computer companies. His latest venture, as founder, director and investor, is a start-up computer company in the Bay Area in the emerging market of Project Portfolio Management.



Women

In the back of a car
since you ask,
the air already stale
and where I first learned
humility. sometimes
    I think the way
of all women is to surround
you with feeling secure.
     Because of the one who holds
a new, other world within her
only waiting to be born:
     because of the young men
and the wars they seem always
willing to die for; because
of the boy on the mountain side
I remember willing to risk everything
for a few moments inside her, and
     I look at you and sign, yes
it is as Aristophanes said,
some jealous God's divided all
the whole beings into halves,
male and female, and
     I cannot do without you.


Hold Me

Out the window the land falls away into gray
bay and boats with furled sails,
a foggy winter's day on the Mendocino Coast.
And then, just flushed from love making,
all red in you plum-like soul,
you ask, still wet and glistening,
if I love you.

Side by side, our bodies still touch.
Kelp beds are bobbing in the surf,
and for a long moment afterwards
I slip back into myself, my historical
self, and remember them,

my first wife in bed
trying a guitar chord
she never quite mastered,

and my second wife,
standing alone in her door,
empty as a silvery abalone shell,

and suddenly I feel the cold
as rain and wind begin to lash
the highway home. Hold me,
I say, watching the waves pound,
and rain drops streaking down
the glass.








I'm diabetic, among other things, resulting in a closer relationship with my doctor and needles than I would like.



lab day

it's seven forty-five
and i'm in line
at my doctor's office
waiting
with all the old people
who wake up at five a.m.
just so they can be
in line in front of me

it's lab
day

the day every three months
when they take my blood
and check it out - make sure
the drugs they give me
for one thing
aren't killing me with
something else

it's been more than
ten years now,
every three months,
and i'm beginning to test
the professional skills
of the phlebotomists
as the veins in my arms
get slipperier
and harder to find

but when they find it
how fast the blood flows,
filling three vials in seconds,
deep red flow,
black shadows in the red,
the essence of life
in a torrent
from arm
to glass vial

how fast the flow...

how fragile
the life it carries








From what I've read, Welsh poet and Anglican clergyman R.S. Thomas was a dour old soul, rejecting his wife's vacuum cleaner, one of the few household amenities his family ever earned, because he thought it was too noisy.

Born in 1913, the Welsh nationalist died in 2000.

The next two poems are from a collection of his work, Poems of R.S. Thomas, published by the University of Arkansas Press in 1985.



Rough

God looked at the eagle that looked at
the wolf that watched the jack-rabbit
cropping the grass, green and curling
as God's beard. He stepped back;
it was perfect, a self-regulating machine
of blood and faeces. One thing was missing;
he skimmed off a faint reflection of himself
in sea-water; breathed air into it,
and set the red corpuscles whirling. It was not long
before the creature had the eagle, the wolf and
the jack-rabbit squealing for mercy. Only the grass
resisted. It used it to warm its imagination
by. God took a handful of small germs,
sowing them in the smooth flesh. It was curious,
the harvest: the limbs modeled an obscene
question, the head swelled, out of the eyes came
tears of pus. There was the sound
of thunder, the loud uncontrollable laughter of
God, and in his side like an incurred stitch, Jesus


The Moon in Lleyn

The last quarter of the moon
of Jesus gives way
to the dark; the serpent
digests the egg. Here
on my knees in this stone
church, that is full only
of the silent congregation
of shadows and the sea's
sound, it is easy to believe
Yeats was right. Just as though
choirs had not sung, shells
have swallowed them: the tide laps
at the Bible; the bell fetches
no people to the brittle miracle
of the bread. The sand is waiting
for the running back of the grains
in the wall into its blond
glass. Religion is over, and
what will emerge from the body
of the new moon, no one
can say.
        But a voice sounds
in my ear: Why so fast,
mortal? These very seas
are baptized. The parish
has a saint's name time cannot
unfrock. In cities that
have outgrown their promise people
are becoming pilgrims
again, if not to this place,
then to the recreation of it
in their own spirits. You must remain
kneeling. Even as the moon
making its way through the earth's
cumbersome shadow, prayer, too,
has its phases.








Here's a piece from our friend here in San Antonio, Margaret Barrett Mayberry.



Dreams

Only the people are the same,
Skimming across my memory,
Silently communicating,
Have I seen those pale walls before,
Those buildings, somehow familiar,
Yet different, with secret places.

A hushed laugh, a rush of joy,
A touch, soft as a morning mist,
Brushes as it drifts away,
Wordless speech, reminding of love,
Reassurance for tomorrow,
An affirmation of memories.

A house once young, now ivy draped,
Crumbles beneath the creep of ghosts,
Echoes with children's laughter,
Walls washed smooth by hidden tears,
Are dried golden by the morning sun,
And made real in sleep and amorphous dreams.








Jack Kerouac and R.S. Thomas so seemingly dissimilar, until you read closer into their poems to find the same searching for reassurance.

Here are two of Kerouac's poems from his book Mexico City Blues - 242 Choruses, published by Grove Press.



103rd Chorus


My father in downtown red
Walked around like a shadow
Of ink black, with hat, nodding,
In the immemorial lights of my drams.
For I have since dreams of Lowell
And the image of my father,
Straw hat, newspaper in pocket,
Liquor on the breath, barber shopshines,
Is the image of Ignorant Man
Hurrying to his destiny which is Death
Even though he knows it.
    'S why they call Cheer,
  a bottle, a glass, a drink,
  A Cup of Courage

Men know the mist is not their friend -
They come out of fields && put coats on
And become businessmen & die stale
The same loathsome stale death
They mighta died in countryside
    Hills of dung.
My remembrance of my father
    in downtown Lowell
    walking like cardboard cut
    across the lost lights
is the same empty material
as my father in the grave.


105th Chorus

Essence is like absence of reality,
Just like absence of non-reality
Is the same essence anyhow.

Essence is what sunlight is
At the same time that moonlight is,
Both have light, both have shape,
Both have darkness, both are late:

Both are late because empty thereof,
Empty is light, empty is dark,
  what's difference between emptiness
  of brightness and dark?

What's the difference between absence
Of reality, joy, or meaning
In middle of bubble, as being same
As middle of man, non-bubble

Man is the same as man,
The same as no-man, the same
As Anyman, Everyman, Asima,
      (asinine man)
Man is nowhere till he knows

    The essence of emptiness
      is essence of gold








This next poem is from a parking lot scene that set me to thinking.



as if

the burly man
with the bouquet
of spring flowers
walks across the
parking lot, his
large arm crooked
at a sharp angle,
bouquet held stiffly
from his body

as if...

too close association
with things like daisies
might compromise
his hard-earned
masculinity,
like carrying
a purse, the way
a man carries a purse
is if it were a foreign
object that had
attached itself
somehow to his
arm,
sticking to his arm
no matter
how hard he tries
to shake it off

as if...

it might be
infested with killer
germs,
flesh eating germs
poised to leap from
the flowers to strip
all the meat from his
body

as if...

the bouquet
is a precious gift
for a love,
an offering,
a chalice
so fragile great care
must always be
taken

as if...

who knows
as if...

all we know
is what we see,
a burly man carrying
a bouquet of spring flowers
across a parking lot








Ai, born Florence Anthony in Albany, Texas, in 1947, has described herself as Japanese, Choctaw-Chickasaw, Black, Irish, Southern Cheyenne, and Comanche. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona as well as in Las Vegas and San Francisco. She majored in Japanese at the University of Arizona and immersed herself in Buddhism. She legally changed her name to Ai, which means "love" in Japanese, during this period. Ai obtained an M.F.A. from the University of California at Irvine and has received many literary awards.

The next poems are from her book Vice, New and Selected Poems, published W.W. Norton in 1999. The book includes poems from her earlier books, Cruelty (1973), Killing Floor (1979), Sin (1986), Fate (1991), and Greed (1993). The book also includes a selection of new poems.

This week, I'm using two of the new poems.



The Paparazzi

I'm on the ledge
outside your hotel bedroom,
when I glimpse your current lover,
as he bends over you on the bed
and deposits a cherry
he holds between his teeth
atop the mound of your very dark brown hair.
You're blonde to your adoring fans,
but I know where you're not.
For a second, I feel hot,
as I watch him, but I should be cold,
get the shot,
and go trespass on some other private property.
Come on, baby, come.
I've got to pursue another asshole,
who thinks a TV role
makes him too good to be exposed warts and all
to those insatiable public coconspirators,
who want to know
all his dirty little secrets,
or just his brand of soap.
The alcohol, miscarriages, divorces
marriages, face-lifts, coke binges,
homosexual, hetero and lesbian affairs.
I've been through it all
and I am here for you,
a friend, not an enemy,
stalkerazzi, or a tabloid Nazi,
storm-trooping onto your yacht
to photograph you
in your latest embarrassing situation.
Think of me as a station of your cross
and the camera as your confessor,
who absolves you,
as you admit to lesser crimes
than I know you are guilty of.
You media whore, I didn't ask you for excuses,
I asked you for more
and I know you'll give it to me
before the public moves on
to the next shooting star,
but even the, occasionally I'll still
ambush you in rehab
and send the message
from the land of the fading career
that you are tumbling
through the stratosphere
just like you used to,
but now the only sound you hear
as you hit bottom once again
is the click of the shutter
and not applause and cheers.
I don't want the truth,
I want the lies,
so look this way,
say something nasty.
Don't be shy.


Afterschool Lessons From a Hitman

What I do is
our secret.
Sh-h-h-h.
You gotta tell
I gotta bury it deep
deeper than that.
Everything is fine.
Everything is copacetic
as long as you keep
it all to yourself.
Don't let it -
Open your mouth.
Open it wider.

If you're gonna cry -

Your mother can't help.
Your father can't either.

A man is a man.
Sometimes he's neither.

You'll learn as you go.
You'll learn just like I did.

You know what you know.
You know kid?

That time in Jersey,
I put away my piece calmly
and eased past the customers,
looked straight ahead,
made it to the sidewalk,
got into the car
I left running.

You with me
so far?

U-m-m.

Now pull up your pants
and get outta my sight.

If I gotta dance
I gotta dance solo
all right?

One more thing
There's always a chance,
a chance that the hit might -
No, don't think about it.
Just go.

Wait. Take this calzone
my mother made
to your mother.

Hey, how's your brother?
Bring him next time.

You're never too young to
learn things.

I promise.
You'll know what I know.

I always say
it ain't a shame;
it's crime
and thank God somebody else
is paying.
This time.








Our friend Joanna M. Weston, poet, critic and short story writer, is back with us this week with three short poems.



Her Habitation

the witch's hair hangs from a cedar branch
caught by a dusk-smooth wind
her eyes blink in a secrecy of fern

her steps lean the grass sideways
her laughter starlings in flight
and she lives... she lives
on the rock at my door


Cold Water

inching step by step
I feel my way
from one pebble to the next
hoping for sand
at 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


Listening

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"








Next I have two poems from Garrison Keillor's anthology Good Poems for Hard Times, published by Penguin Books in 2005.

The first poem is by George Garrett. Born in Florida in 1929, in addition to his work as a poet Garrett is author of the historical trilogy Death of the Fox, The Succession, and Entered from the Sun. He also co-wrote the movie Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster.



Or Death and December

The Roman Catholic bells of Princeton, New Jersey,
wake me from rousing dreams into a resounding hangover.
Sweet Jesus, my life is hateful to me.
Seven a.m. and time to walk my dog on a leash.

Ice on the sidewalk and in the gutters,
and the wind comes down our one-way street
like a deuce-and-a-half, a six-by, a semi,
huge with a cold load of growls.

There's not one leaf left to bear witness,
with twitch and scuttle, rattle and rasp,
against the blatant roaring of the wrongway wind.
Only my nose running and my face frozen

into a kind of a grin which has nothing to do
with the ice and the wind or death and December,
but joy pure and simple, when my black and tan puppy,
for the first time ever, lifts his hind leg to pee.


Also from Keillor's book, this antiwar piece by Carl Sandburg at his most fierce.


A Million Young Workmen, 1915

A million young workmen straight and strong lay stiff on the
    grass and roads,
Ad the million are now under soil and their rottening flesh will
    in the years feed roots of blood-red roses.
Yes, this million of young workmen slaughtered one another and
    never saw their red hands.
And oh, it would have been a great job of killing and a new and
    beautiful thing under the sun if the million knew why they
    hacked and tore each other to death.
The kings are grinning, the kaiser and the czar - they are alive
    riding in leather-seated motor cars, and they have their
    women and roses for ease, and they eat fresh poached eggs
    for breakfast, new butter on toast, sitting in tall water-tight
    houses reading the news of war.
I dreamed a million ghosts of the young workmen rose in their
    shirts all soaked in crimson...and yelled:
God damn the grinning kings, God damn the kaiser and the czar.








When it comes to winter, I can be pretty possessive.



my turn

it is a cold
sloppy wet day

a glorious
day

a touch
of winter

finally
in mid-March

evidence

you'll get
what you want

if you'll just
wait long enough

meanwhile

on South Padre
beaches

all the little
bunny-bumps

are freezing
their little cherry butts

not what they wanted
but i don't care

they're young
and haven't waited

long
enough








Born in 1912 and died in 1994, William Everson, also known as Brother Antoninus, was a poet of the Beat generation and was also an author, literary critic and small press printer. He was born in California to Christian Scientist parents, both of whom were printers He was raised on a farm outside the small fruit-growing town of Selma where he played football at Selma High School and attended Fresno State College (later California State University, Fresno).

Everson was an influential member of the San Francisco Renaissance in poetry, Throughout his life, he was a devotee of the work and lifestyle of poet Robinson Jeffers. Much of his work as a critic was done on Jeffers's poetry.

Everson registered as an anarchist and a pacifist with his draft board, in compliance with the 1940 draft bill and was sent to a Civilian Public Service (CPS) work camp for conscientious objectors in Oregon. With other poets, artists and actors in the camp, he founded a fine-arts program, in which the CPS men staged plays and poetry-readings and learned the craft of fine printing. During his time as a conscientious objector, Everson completed The Residual Years, a volume of poems that launched him to national fame.

Everson joined the Catholic Church in 1948 and soon became involved with the Catholic Worker Movement in Oakland, California. He took the name "Brother Antoninus" when he joined the Dominican Order in 1951 in Oakland. As a colorful literary and counterculture figure, he was subsequently nicknamed the "Beat Friar." He left the Dominicans in 1969 to embrace a growing sexual awakening, and married a woman many years his junior.

Everson spent most of his years living near the central California coast a few miles north of Santa Cruz in a cabin he dubbed "Kingfisher Flat." He was poet-in-residence at the University of California, Santa Cruz during the 1970s and 1980s. There he founded the Lime Kiln Press, a small press through which he printed highly sought-after fine-art editions of his own poetry, as well as of the works of other poets, including Robinson Jeffers and Walt Whitman.

The next two poems are from The Residual Years, first published by New Directions in 1948. My copy is a 1968 edition.



The Dusk

The light goes: that once powerful sun,
That held all steeples in its grasp,
Smokes on the western sea.
Under the fruit tree summer's vanishing residuum,
The long accumulation of leaf,
Rots in the odor of orchards.
Suddenly the dark descends,
As on the tule ponds at home the wintering blackbirds,
Flock upon flock, the thousand-membered,
In for the night from the outlying ploughlands,
Sweep over the willows,
Whirled like a net on the shadowy reeds,
All wings open.
It is late. And any boy who lingers on to watch them come in
Will go hungry to bed.
But the leaf-sunken years,
And the casual dusk, over the roofs in a clear October,
Will verify the nameless impulse that kept him out
When the roosting birds and the ringing dark
Dropped down together


Dead Winter

This is the death the wintering year foretold.
And the encroaching cold
Clamps on those hills the light knew;
And the frost-discolored pastures,
So naked and inert that suddenly the rank heart
Throttles on deprivation and goes blind,
Shuts down the long dream,
Caught there, beneath that rib,
Where all that was willing to let it go
Sinks and dispels.

This is the death.

But the human future,
Gathered upon the upsurgent stroke,
Breaks the year's declension,
Refuses to deflect.

Berkeley,California








When it gets as dry as it has been around here for the last year and a half, a little rain can create many grand illusions.



cash crop

i see a row
of townhouses
across the street,
smothered in green,
spring-looks exploding
all over after just three days
of rain - even the desert that is
my yard i refused to water through
the drought is showing little green sprigs
poking through the dust - but it won't
last, three days is three days and
there's a whole dry spring and
summer ahead, so while the
folks across the way will
suck water from the
falling aquifer, my
yard will return
to the natural
semiarid
state

and i will make
a virtue of it,
xeroscap-
ing they
might
call
it
but
i know
surrender
to the inevitable
is what it is
like who
needs
trees,
we
grow
rocks
here better than
anything else,
surely
it must
be a
ma-
jor
cash
crop jud-
ging by the
quarries all around

i'm putting a new crop
in myself, as soon
as the rain
stops

if
they
don't grow
i'll apply for a
subs-
idy








Our friend Jim Hutchings is a 58 year old truck driver who has been writing poetry since his days in garage bands while still in high school.



Woman

she came from the bathroom
her bathrobe hanging open
I saw it all
she didn't yell
just told me to go outside
the moment stayed with me
I carry it today
other scenes appear
time to time
like playing monopoly
when she returned
working as a waitress
on her feet all day
me lying in bed all day
her friend there
me wet from urine
embarrassed and ashamed
the day my sister died
her little face red
mom asleep next to her
me an innocent
a baby myself
the day I stuck
the icepick in my uncles arm
all due some pondering
in this the life I live.....








I don't think any of us every get over wondering about what might have been. And the older we get, the more we seem to do it.



an old man's game

things
are different now

i grew up mostly
with kids
as poor as me

always broke,
always making do
with barely adequate

a night
out
a walk down the hill
to the chili-dog shack
and a fifty-cent movie

the wonderful things
others had
too remote from my prospects
to even be envied

i had thought once
i might be a
writer
but the path to that end
seemed much too
difficult
and the possibility of success
as unlikely
as any great achievement
for a small-town boy

fearing more to overreach
than
the what-if disappointments
of small dreams

i found another path
and a different life
that brought me great
satisfaction

even so,
i sometimes can't help
but wonder
at the choices i made

it is an old man's
game








And that's all for now.

Still, it remains certain that all material presented in this blog continues to be the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz

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Black Hats & White Nights   Friday, March 20, 2009


IV.3.3.



So here's who we get to share a ride with this week.

Ku Sang
"Addition to Exodus"
"Homeward journey"
"Eros III"
"Eros IV"

Me
"i watch as the hills are leveled"

Brigit Pegeen Kelly
"Song"

Barbara Moore
"Bukowski"

Marvin Bell
"A Lesson from the Corps"

Me
"a fog over the Capitol"

Pat Mora
"Mango Juice"

Dan Flore
"the ocean's name"
"observation at Sun Chins"
"the conscious scalpels"

Wendy Cope
"On Finding an Old Photograph"
"Tich Miller"
"At 3 a.m."

Me
"those whip-thin guys"

Greg Nagan
from "The Illiad" (for readers with a short attention span)

Dan Cuddy
"Rhino Virus Poem (Wear a Mask if You Enter)"

Me
"smile for me"

Charles Bukowski
"Bruckner"
"smiling, shining, singing"

Cliff Keller
"Scuttle"

Me
"swing batter batter swing"









I start this week with poems from Korean poet, journalist, essayist and playwright, Ku Sang, from his book Wastelands of Fire published by Forest Books in 1989.

Ku Sang was born in Seoul in 1919 but grew up in what is now North Korea. After studying in Japan, he returned to Korea to work as a journalist. He fled to South Korea during the Korean War and worked there for many years as a journalist for one of the major Korean newspapers. Persecuted by both North and South Korea during the course of his life, he was imprisoned in the 1950's in South Korea for essays on the Corruption of Power. Ku Sang died in 2004.

The poems in Wastelands of Fire were translated by Anthony Teague.



Addition to Exodus

You know, in those days too they made
a golden calf and worshipped it.

Trust, sincerity of love,
such basic necessities of existence,
thrown aside like old sticks or worn-out boots,
they became beasts,
fighting one another, simply wearing human masks.

The world, with Aaron's hoards in charge,
became a place of submissiveness.

But even then there were people
trusting, waiting for Moses to come down from Sinai,
simply, in solitude.

Ah, Canaan,
flowing with milk and honey!
Ah, far off and how hard to reach.


Homeward journey

On board Gemini 6,
the rendezvous completed,
on the way back down,
just as in the evening
farmers return homeward
riding an oxen
and playing willow flutes,

eating one mouthful less of steak
(to reduce his weight)
then pulling out the harmonica
hidden in an arm pocket
and making music, oomp-pa-pa,
eager to be home with wife and kids,
he sailed back down earthwards


(I've used the first two poems in his "Eros" series some time ago. Here are the third and fourth poems in the series.


Eros III

I draw in empty space.

That face,
that voice,
that smile,
those thighs,
but that love
cannot be drawn.

Things drawn in the heart
may not be given form.


Eros IV

With the same hand
that caressed her naked body
I stroke my grey beard.

Passion faded into pale silver...

That loving, riding the bucket,
has been drawn up to the heavens.
Henceforth, all those times and places
are one with Eternity.








I'm shocked by what I see sometimes when I forget to not pay attention to what's going on in the hills around my city. Brings out the little eco-nerd in me.



i watch as the hills are leveled

i watch
as the hills are leveled,
the earth ripped
and torn,
trees pulled from the ground
and burned,
deer and skunk and raccoon
and all the birds
and other woodland creatures
driven
to lands that cannot
sustain them

all that remains
covered
in black-tar asphalt
that blocks
rain from its underground
reservoirs,
runs it off instead
to desalinate
the bays and estuaries
that give home and life
to denizens
of the salty marsh
lagunas -
all the balances
unbalanced
by the excess
of our clumsy hands

i see
and i am left only
with sadness
too deep
for any words
i can find








Brigit Pegeen Kelly was born in Palo Alto, California, in 1951.

Her first collection of poems, To The Place of Trumpets, was selected by James Merrill for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Song, which followed in 1995, was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Her third collection, The Orchard, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry, and the National Book Circle Critics Award in Poetry.

She has taught at the University of California at Irvine, Purdue University, and Warren Wilson College, as well as numerous writers' conferences in the United States and Ireland. In 2002 the University of Illinois awarded her both humanities and campus-wide awards for excellence in teaching. She is currently a professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The next poem is the title poem from her book Song.



Song

Listen: there was a goat's head hanging by ropes in a tree.
All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it
Felt a hurt in their ears and thought they were hearing
The song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and then
They lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat's head
Swayed back and forth , and from far off it shone faintly
The way the moonlight shone on the train track miles away
Beside which the goat's headless body lay. Some boys
Had hacked its head off. It was harder work than they had imagined.
The goat cried like a man and struggled hard. But they
Finished the job. They hung the bleeding head by the school
And then ran off into the darkness that seems to hide everything.
The head hung in the tree. The body lay by the tracks.
The head called the body. The body to the head.
they missed each other. The missing grew large between them.
Until it pulled the heart right out of the body, until
The drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird flies
Back to its cage and the familiar perch from which it trills.
Then the heart sang in the head, softly at first and then louder,
Sang long and low until the morning light came up over
The school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped...
The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named
The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after
The night's bush of stars, because the goat's silky hair
Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit.
The girl lived near a high railroad track. At night
She heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train's horn
Pouring softly over her bed, and each morning she woke
To give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk. She sang
Him songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats.
She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed daily
That he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreaming
Made it so. But one night the girl didn't hear the train's horn,
And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat
Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm
Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain
Stripping he branches of fruit. She knew that someone
Had stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She called
To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called
And called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feeling
Like the feeling of the stones gouging the soft undersides
Of her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat's body
By the high tracks, the files already filling their soft bottles
At the goat's torn neck. Then somebody found the head
Hanging in a tree by the school. They hurried to take
These things away so that the girl would not see them.
They hurried to raise money to buy the girl another goat.
The hurried to find the boys who had done this, to hear
Them say it was a joke, a joke, it was nothing, but a joke...
But listen: here is the point. The boys thought to have
Their fun and be done with it. It was harder work than they
Had imagined, the silly sacrifice, but they finished the job,
Whistling as they washed their large hands in the dark.
What they didn't know was that the goat's head was already
Singing behind them in the tree. What they didn't know
Was that the goat's head would go on singing, just for them,
Long after the ropes were down, and that they would learn to listen,
Pail after pail, stroke after patient stroke. They would
Wake in the night thinking they heard the wind in the trees
Or a night bird, but their hearts beating harder. There
Would be a whistle, a hum, a high murmur, and, at last a song,
The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother's call.
Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song,
It is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.








This week we have a new friend of "Here and Now," Barbara Moore, making her first appearance. She, like me, is a big fan of Charles Bukowski and it was her poem on Facebook that caused me to contact her.

Barbara, born in Danville Virginia in 1948, describes herself as an almost native New Yorker. She earned a B.A. from Hofstra University., majoring in English, and an M.S.W. from Fordham. She has been a research assistant at Reader's Digest as well as a substance abuse counselor at Long Island College
Hospital. Now writing full-time, Barbara is awaiting publication in a
Goldfish Press anthology.

Here's Barbara’s poem.



Bukowski

I see Bukowski everywhere
Pissing against the wall
In the alleyway
Pissing off the vegetable vendor
Lifting fresh parsley to his nose
With dirty finger-nailed hands
Inhaling deeply; never buying

Weaving his way down the avenue
Cursing the bicycle riders
Whistling at the one-legged woman
In the sexy red dress
Sprawled on the sidewalk
Beside an orange cat
On a rhinestone leash

I see him in the post office
In mock-like slow motion
Saluting the clock at noon
Leaving a customer open-mouthed
Transaction incomplete
Hurrying to the lukewarm beer
Stashed in his third-hand car

I see Bukowski at the bar
Sometimes Jane is with him
But mostly he's alone
Observing his reflection
In the mirrored glass
Looking for a fight
Or a temporary friend

I see him at the track
White-knuckling his losses
Anesthetizing his sorrow
With baby sips of beer
As he finds the words
And the lines flow
And a poem is born.








Marvin Bell is a 65 year old veteran of service in the United States Army. He is now a professor at the University of Iowa and Poet Laureate of the State of Iowa.

His poem is from the anthology, Poets Against the War, published by Thunder Mouth Press in 2003. Poems in the book were selected from the "Poets Against the War" website, which included several of my poems. None of them are in the book.

In my own mind, I emphasize the "the" in Poets Against the War, being not against all war as a matter of the pratical business of survival in a world of aggressive evil and ambition, but specifically against one of the two wars our men and women are currently fighting. I'm pleased that the one I'm against is winding down, while, at the same time, concerned that the one in Afghanistan I consider just and necessary may be lost due to lack of attention and support by the previous American administration, distracted as they were by the other war, the foolish war, they began on their own.

But whatever the political consideration, it is good to be reminded by poets like Bell of the awful, awful things we do to each other and ourselves in every war, whether just or unjust, necessary or the blunder of foolish leaders. It all bleeds the same.



A Lesson from the Corps

When you find the body, it has cauliflower ears.
It stinks of dead worms, the blood crumbles
    between your fingers.
When you find the body, the sleeves of the combat
    fatigues are in shreds.
Its face is puce, its torso black and blue, its
    guts purple, but the teeth still gleam, and
    the bones will shine when cleaned.
Your saliva congeals, you taste dried paste.
Later you may feel shame for noticing the colors
    or hating the smell.
You were schooled to do this.
To yank the dog tag of with a snap.
You were trained not to answer back to the
    silence.
There is a hiss as you compel the metal tag
    between the teeth.

This day may become a whiteout, a glare, a deficit
    in memory.
A place too barren even for a shriek.
A picture that didn't develop, just a clear
    negative.
For nothing recorded the thump of the bullet as it
    hit, nor the webbing wet inside his helmet
    liner, nor the echoing within the helmet
    itself.
But you may think you remember the shudder you
    didn't see when he died.
You may imagine the last word, the mouth before
    the lingering stare.
The machinery of his broken chest may appear in
    dreams.
You may see the eyes, and hear the last expulsion
    of air.
He is the vault now for your questions to God.
Only the dead can tell you the distance from here
    to there.








I wrote this while on an overnight visit to Austin last week.



fog over the Capitol

from my hotel balcony
i can see the haze settling
in over downtown,
the Capitol dome already
lost to it's gray cloud

fog
over the Capitol,
what a metaphor
for this time that is -

the Legislature
is in session, a threat
to the wealth and security
of the state that comes up
every two years - reading
the morning paper, it is tempting
to think of how much better we'd be
if they went into session
only every four or six years
instead of the constitution's current
requirement for biannual meetings

i knew a lot of these people
during my professional career
and it always puzzled me
how intelligent, competent, well-meaning
people could turn into a blithering mob
the minute they walked through the doors
of the Capitol's legislative chambers, like
victims of some kind of mind-scramble-death-ray
that zapped them
as they passed the Austin city limit sign

D is here on business
with these same woolyknobs,
and i just tagged along for the ride
and a chance to have dinner
with Chris last night
and maybe a drive around the city today,
revisiting old haunts from when i lived here

traffic
on I-35
down below my balcony
is roaring past,
a good thing, since most often
traffic this time of morning
is at a dead stop,
40,000 UT students
and about the same number
of state bureaucrats
all headed downtown,
the center of all things that are
as seen by the ants in the ant pile

and the usual other visitors,
lobbyist,
for sure, with the lege in session
you can hardly swing a stick in a circle
without hitting a dozen lobbyist
and assorted other pleaders of some
very special, just ask, they'll tell you, interest,
and the regular old tourist
come to watch the circus under the golden dome,
and kids from all over the state
getting their, god help us, civics lessons,
here in the sweaty fist of our hit and run governance
and others,
like the thousands of high school kids
in town today
for some kind of future business professionals
type event,
most of them lodging,
from the sound of it last night,
right down the hall from me
here on the fourteenth floor

the city is full of people trying
to do good things,
most without a clue how to do it,
and more succeed than you would think likely,
despite their own best efforts
and the efforts of everyone around them








The next poem is by El Paso native Pat Mora from her book Borders published by Arte Publico Press of the University of Houston in 1986 and winner of the Southwest Book Award.

Born in 1942, Mora received a BA from Texas Western College in 1963 and an MA from the University of Texas, El Paso in 1967. In addition to writing poetry, nonfiction, and children's books, She taught at the University of New Mexico where she held the position of Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Mora currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Cincinnati, Ohio.



Mango Juice

Eating mangoes
on a stick
is laughing
as gold juice
slides down
your chin
melting manners,
as mangoes slip
through your lips
sweet but biting

is hitting pinatas
blindfolded and spinning
away from the blues
and grays

is tossing
fragile cascarones
on your lover's hair,
confetti teasing him
to remove his tie
coat and shoes
his mouth open
and laughing
as you glide
more mango in,
cool rich flesh
of Mejico
music teasing
you to strew streamers on trees
and cactus

teasing the wind
to stream through
your hair blooming
with confetti
and butterflies

your toes warm
in the sand








Next, I have three poems from our friend Dan Flore.

Dan lives in Pennsylvania where he leads poetry groups for people with mental illness. He is presently working on a poetry book to hopefully get published.



the ocean's name

I remember
the sun
dancing in an ocean
I can't recall
what we named
that swishing magical tide
with currents that only
washed to shore
when birds with mighty talons
would mate
I remember you naked
on the milky way like sandbar
and me by the coastline
feeding you apricots
with a song
I clothed you
in the cosmic rain
we hid in a sand igloo
wish I could remember
that oceans name
all I can call it is
the waters of memory


observation at Sun Chins

callused hands
red working man's knit hat
deep
lost virgin brown eyes
from long ago
rough muddy voice
says "I ain't haulin' all that shit to Spatston"
on her way out of the restaurant
she fluffs her hair in the mirror
and for that one moment
she sees herself in a flowing gown


the conscious scalpels

the conscious scalpels
doctors that cut viciously in the street
believing their moisture is glue
to stick themselves with washable options
places to cleanse their embattled drama once winter love
charisma exudes from their motion
but it itches their fast treading sun glare on skin
the knives get broken
by the pouring hail
the doctors drift into asylums of wonder
their winter love turns into fall
than finally a burst of paths, purples and mornings without nights
there on a wooden road
everything grows








Born in Erith, Kent, in 1945, Wendy Cope is a new poet for me. After completing her degree at St. Hilda's College, Cope spent fifteen years as a primary-school teacher. In 1981, she became Arts and Reviews editor for the Inner London Education Authority magazine, Contact. Five years later she became a freelance writer and was a television critic for The Spectator magazine until 1990.

The next three short poems are from her first book of poems, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, published by faber and faber in 1986.



On Finding an Old Photograph

Yalding, 1912. My father
in an apple orchard, sunlight
patching his stylish bags;

three women dressed in soft,
white blouses, skirts that brush the grass;
a child with curly hair.

If they were strangers
it would calm me - half-drugged
by the atmosphere - but it does not move -

eases a burden
made of all his sadness
and the things I didn't give him.

There he is, happy, and I am unborn.


Tich Miller

Tich Miller wore glasses
with elastoplast-pink frames
and had one foot three sizes larger than the other.

When they picked teams for outdoor games
she and I were always the last two
left standing, by the wire-mesh fence.

We avoided one another's eyes,
stooping, perhaps, to re-tie a shoelace,
or affecting interest in the flight

of some fortunate bird, and pretended
not to hear the urgent conference:
"Have Tubby!" "No, no, have Tich!"

Usually they chose me, the lesser dud,
and she lolloped, unselected,
to the back of the other team.

At eleven we went to different schools.
In time i learned to get my own back,
sneering at hockey-players who couldn't spell.

Tich died when she was twelve.


At 3 a.m.

the room contains no sound
except the ticking of the clock
which has begun to panic
like an insect, trapped
in an enormous box.

Books lie open on the carpet.

Somewhere else
you're sleeping
and beside you there's a woman
who is crying quietly
so you won't wake.








I'm not sure where this poem came from, maybe i was thinking of my older brother, passed on about ten years now. Or maybe I was just thinking how i'm always a beat behind in most situations, especially the kind described here.



those whip-thin guys

i've always
admired
those whip-thin guys
who run their life
on instinct

who
when disrespected
lays the offender
out on the floor,
lights a cigarette,
walks to the bar and
orders another beer

while
i'm still lost
in internal dialogue...

"what did that guy say?"

'did that guy just call me a punk-ass motherfucker?"

"he did, he did just call me a punk-ass motherfucker!"

"why would he do that?"

"i'm a nice guy!"

"i never did anything to him!"

"well, i don't care, i can't let anyone call me a punk-ass motherfucker!"

"i'm gonna have to take him down!"

"where'd he go?"

of course by this time, he's probably move on to his next stop, laughing with his friends,
probably forgot he called anyone a punk-ass motherfucker, and everyone else in the bar,
disappointed that there wasn't gonna be no fighting after all, has turned back to their beer

and
i'm standing
in the middle of the room
by
myself
prepared to fight a shadow
already out the door

one of those whip-thin
instinct guys
would have swung first
and thought about it later
and you can see from the scars
that sometimes they've
swung first
when they should have thought
about
it
maybe just a little bit
longer








Here's some fun I ran across at Half-Price Books, The 5-Minute Iliad and Other Instant Classics - Great Books for the Short Attention Span by Greg Nagan.

Nagan, a writer for Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion was cofounder of both the Chicago theater group, igLoo, and the award-winning Studio 108 and creator of the Web site JustMorons.com. He lives in New York, but claims to remain nostalgic for Central Time.

Here are a few lines from the opening of Nagan's Illiad, including his introduction to the poet Homer and his works.



Homer (no relation) was a blind poet who lived in Greece around the ninth or eighth century B.C., and, as a result of the curious Greek dating system, was apparently born about eighty years after he died. It is believed the Illiad and Odyssey , his two surviving works, were both originally oral rather than written works, which goes a long way toward explaining how a blind guy could have written them thousands of years before the introduction of Braille. The Illiad is a vital piece of literature for all readers, because all the greatest writers of Western Civilization have been alluding to it for eons ("alluding to" being Greek for "stealing from"). This is an abridged translation, meaning I have skipped all those parts of the epic that might have been troublesome to translate and have made up the rest. Also, it does not rhyme and has no meter. I assure the reader that in all other regards this is almost a faithful presentation of the Iliad.

Ancient Greek civilization flowered around 500 B.C., at which point it became classic . Its eventual decline was the result of ouzo and philosophy, which might have been survived separately, but taken together proved too much.



(from Nagan's Iliad

Rage - Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles!
If you don't know it I can hum a few bars.
Murderous, doomed, he cost the Achaeans countless losses
(or the Argives, or the Greeks, same difference),
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls
that they opened an Achilles wing. And gave a discount.
Begin, Muse, when the two got n each other's faces,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.

What god drove them to fight with such fury?
Apollo the son of Zeus and Leto. Why? Who knows.
The gods have reasons, and see things unseen by us,
and also, they can be pissy.

And so Apollo, god of the sun,
Golden-faced Apollo, did drive a wedge between them.
Agamemnon and Achilles, general and warrior, friend and
   friend.
And so the warrior Achilles, great Achilles, was moved to
   anger
and would not lead his men to fight beside Agamemnon
unless Agamemnon said he was sorry, and begged forgiveness,
and didn't just say it, burt really meant it.
But that lord of men, that Agamemnon, was proud,
and would not say he was sorry, because he wasn't,
and why should he apologize anyway? Wasn't he general?
Didn't anyone know how hard it was to be general?
Didn't anyone care about his feelings?

And so while the Greeks, or Achaeans, or Argives,
or some combination thereof, but not necessarily limited
   thereto,
laid siege to Troy, or Ilium, that impenetrable city,
whose walls rose from the plain like something really tall
   and flat
rising out of something really broad and flat,
as they laid siege, Achilles and his men hung back, got drunk,
and played quarters. and without them
Agamemnon's force was weak, and Troy beheld this,
and Hector, noble Hector, valiant Hector, son of Priam,
saw this too, and thought, "Woo-hoo!"

Out came the Trojans! Led by mighty Hector
out of their walled city, out against Agamemnon,
and they started to kick some fanny.

How many Greeks fell at that time. How many stout heroes
did the valiant Trojan arms dispatch?

Lots.








Been poking around Facebook this past week and came up with two poems, the Bukowski poem by Barbara Moore and this next one by our friend, Dan Cuddy.

Living as I do in the universal center of Cedar Fever, this poem seems a very familiar state 0f affairs to me.



Rhino Virus Poem (Wear A Mask If You Enter)

the rhino virus seems unsuitable for a poem
but
the coughs, sneezes, wheezes
certainly make caricatures of people
and rhino means nose
schnozz
and a poet will try to joke through
God's little curse

what redeeming social quality
such a virus
or any virus
no
always good under the Divine sun
or the pagan moon
or the Christian Science
or other religious apologies for
biologies bersek

okay
so I am Job
sniffling
hacking with a sledgehammer cough
I want to off
this monstrous group of mucus-bound molecules
atomized in the air
like so much fog
and attaching
with fish hooks
to vulnerable lungs

oh how I would like to praise creation
but I'm sneezing all over it

what a poem!!!

even the rhythm is an irregular breath
oh Charles Olson
did you ever have a cold?








i was having lunch the other day, feeling like I'd been dropped into the middle of a tornado.



smile for me

it's the lunch side
of Sunday
brunch

& the place
is packed
a mixed crowd

of church folk
in their Sunday
best

& the just-
crawled-
out-of-bed

in shorts &
flip-flops
bed-head

hair
flat on one side
sticking out

on the other
like a
porcupine

in heat,
& the golfers,
from the Quarry

clip-clop
clip-clop-clip
in their golf shoes

& the grandmas & pregnant
moms
with last year's

babies
in high chairs
dads in khakis

& hard starched
checkered shirts
thinking

how simple
life
is at work

& that baby
again
looking at

me
from across
the room

talking
talking
talking

hyper-alert,
smiling
a big toothless

smile
for
me

this swirl of sound
& color
is like i'm alone

unmoving
in the center
of a whirlpool

of sensation
all moving sound & color
streaming

like paint
flung
in a circle

except the baby
talking
talking

talking
smiling a big
toothless

smile
for
me








Here are two poems by Charles Bukowski from what matters most is how well you walk through the fire., one of the many collections put out after his death from the thousands of unpublished poems he left behind.

I include these this week as a special welcome to first time friend of "Here and Now" and fellow Bukowski fan, Barbara Moore, whose homage to the man is included earlier in this issue.



Bruckner

listening to Bruckner now,
I relate very much to him.
he just misses
by so little,
I ache for his dead
guts.

if we all could only move it
up one notch
when necessary,
but we can't.
I remember my fight in the
rain
that Satuday night in the
alley with
Harry Tabor.
his eyes were rolling in
that great dumb
head,
one more punch
and he was mine -
I missed.

or the beautiful woman
who visited me on
night,
who sat on my couch
and told me that she was
"yours, a gift..."
but I poured whiskey,
pranced about
bragged about
myself
and finally
after returning from the
kitchen
I found her
gone.

so many near misses.
so many other near misses.

oh, Bruckner, I know!

I am listening to Bruckner
now and
I ache for his dead
guts
and for my living
soul.

we all need
something we can do well,
you know,
like scuba diving or
opening the morning
mail.


smiling, shining, singing

my daughter looked like a young Katharine Hepburn
at the grammar school Christmas presentation.
she stood there with them
smiling, shining, singing,
in the long dress I had bought for her.

she looks like Katharine Hepburn, I told her mother
who sat on my left.
she looks like Katharine Hepburn, I told my girlfriend
who sat on my right.
my daughter's grandmother was another seat away;
I didn't tell her anything.

I never did like Katharine Hepburn's acting,
but I liked the way she looked,
class, you know,
somebody you could talk to in bed for
an hour or two before going to
sleep.

I can see that my daughter is going to be a
beautiful woman.
someday when I'm old
she'll probably bring the bedpan with a
kindly smile.
and she'll probably marry truck driver with a
heavy tread
who bowls every Thursday night
with the boys.

well, all that doesn't matter.
what matters is now.

her grandmother is a hawk of a woman.
her mother is a psychotic liberal and lover of life.
her father is an asshole.
my daughter looked like a young Katharine Hepburn.

after the Christmas presentation
we went to McDonald's and ate, and fed the sparrows.
Christmas was a week away.
we were less concerned about that than the nine-tenths of the
    town.
that's class, we both have class.
to ignore Christmas takes a special wisdom
but Happy New Year to
you all.








Before we shut down for the week, here's a poem by Cliff Keller, our songwriter-poet friend from California.



Scuttle

Your salvo of flares
is too late for his ship,
Andrea Dorea shifts,
hear the glasses shatter.

Dinner jacket, oiled hair, tan
scheming his slow descent to the bottom,
icy cocktail in hand
offered to the tilting blond at the bar.

All you've learned to loathe and love
you gathered like olives on papa's blanket.
Madonna suffered the stones
to serve her martyr








When you set yourself out to write a poem a day, you have accept that there will be bad days as well as good, and sometimes the best you can do really sucks.

And you have to accept those that suck just as you accept the better ones. They are all part of the stories you are telling about yourself through your writing.

But you do get to hope you'll do better the next day.



swing batter batter swing

i slept last night
to the sound
of thunder
and rain

feeling
kinship
with all the humans
in my line

who on dark & stormy
nights
slept peacefully
in their caves

to the concerto grosso
accompaniment
of
elementals

wind
rain
thunder
lightening

throwing shadows
such as
Plato saw
in his philosophies

all this
while i sleep
in a most primitive
comfort

safe and snug
while nature's most
powerful forces
clash outside my door


.......


blah blah blah
doubleblah

what a
c r a p p y c r a p p y c r a p p y c r a p p y
poem
this is

a
duty-poem

a good idea
gone
way the f-word
(see how hesitant i am today - afraid of truth and true language)
over the cliff
fit only
as Caesar might say
for
the
nearest
bullshitorium

i
will post this
because it is my poem today
or at least
the closest semblance
to one

fervently
hoping
as i do that
i will find my balls
before i have to write another one
tomorrow








So off we go, thinking about all the big questions that make up a day in our modern life, hoping for some big answers next week.

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

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Night Visions   Friday, March 13, 2009


IV.3.2.




If I'm on time, it's March 13th, time for a new "Here and Now."

Here's what I have in this Friday the 13th issue.

Juan Felipe Herrera
"Ofelia in Manhattan, Circa 1943"

Me
"Tootsie Roll Pops & Deathstars"

Travis Watkins
"For Claude"
"My Voice"

Shirley J. Walker
"Papa and Pine"

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"I am Waiting"

Me
"that i cannot abide"

Sudeep Sen
"Remembering Hiroshima Tonight"

Robert McManes
"bangs were popular once"
"total absolution"

Richard Wilbur
"Piccola Commedia"

Me
"mysterious"

Elizabeth Seydel Morgan
"Safeway"
"May Tenth"

Mick Moss
"Nature"

David Lehman
"April 26"
"April 27 or 28"
"April 29"

Me
"a thief's confession"

Marina Tsvetaeva
from "On a Red Steed"

Michael Sottak
"By Water"

Me
"scattered in the wide night sky"









Juan Felipe Herrera is a very exciting poet, but his book Giraffe On Fire is a difficult source to use in "Here and Now." Individual pieces are usually long, and if they're short, they're connected to other short pieces, so it's hard to pull out a brief 200 or 300 words that are both coherent and reflective of the genius of his writing.

I do what I can, without going too long.

The book was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2001.



Ofelia in Manhattan, Circa 1943

Girl, you couldn't sport finer gabardine jacket
with Ofelia Robles going up to the sunrise service
on Easter Sunday at the Radio City Music Hall.
You see, everything was in the shape of a fancy guitar -
even the question mark by her telephone number
in my pocket calendar or the last note scribbled
on a napkin full of your philosophy.
It was all personality, black coffee, and music.
You were there, sister. Drinking post prohibition.
Even the most fancy accountant loved gospels
and occasionally visited the Methodist Broadway Temple.
I can just see it. I never forgot the staging
with that elegance and romance and rosewood:
so many notes curled in there, kind of velvety,
bows ties that you couldn't see, but
they were there, fluttering with a mysterious
sweetness at the center. That's when cousin
Tito played string bass; small, plump, hot-tempered,
polka-dot vest and Saturdays nothing
but congas with Ralph Gomez, the No. 2 man
because he always stuttered.

In the middle of Central Park,
I as the girl with the baggy corduroys doing a tango.
Me and Ofelia and her Portuguese accent.
She was the only real dancer at 40 degrees
north latitude, baby.

I wanted the war to end. Japan had to lose, right?
The Queen Mary was serving cocktails
and you had ten in small paper cups while
we were waiting in line. Look at the sea, you sang.
It was spitting up pure imagination and ambition.
Flashes as far as the eye could see. Take the Rockefeller Center
beyond ol' Sixth Avenue, for example.
Who lived there anyway?

I just wanted to love Ofelia on the rooftops.
Rum-colored bandannas. Our open shirt.
You could hear all the busboys gripes from up there.
Bad tips, the boss that didn't like you using the phone
in the back room. A few bashful tenor voices by the jukebox.

You were reading the New York Times in those days.
Pretty good English.

Going like this:
Oye, que tu, esto cosa estu caraja
and Mr. Pickett won't pay me as much because
I don't belong to the golf club; you know, like Wilfredo?
Everyone should live in an oyster bar, right?
that's my philosophy, sister. You used to say
that it was about purpose not just Wall Street.
That's when subways had class. And mink too.
All the women were wearing it. Ofelia looked like a doll
until Jorge, the janitor at the new Woolworth Building
told her the fur was a mutation. She gave me
some binoculars she had gotten at an auction.

Move your fingers and just like that
you could see everything. A thousand miles away, easy.
You could count all the electric peanuts in the sky.
Jesus, that's when I was still trying to get a job
working at the night cleaners. Girl,
you could even eat those sizzling candies
hanging over the park.

What about Sammy Hill,
the guy we used to box when we were kids?
He was pure muscle. Then, a fat badge.
One evening I saw him twirling his nightstick.
The guys used to grunt that he was the only black cop.
You had to be German or Polish, maybe Italian,
if you wanted to be a policeman. And that was it.
Sammy didn't like me teasing him about his floppy cap.
Man, it was just me and Ofelia. "Dizzy legs,"
I called her one night at the Rooster
listening to a little bit of Harlem royalty.
You went there, right? We were "dracula,"
the two of us, in a class by ourselves.
Girl, the clubs were hot. But, I had to move.

It happened so fast. One day I just couldn't
sell anymore of my bullfighter paintings on the street.
Nobody was buying them anymore.
Maybe something was going to happen.
All of a sudden nobody wanted bulls
and gallant lean men in shimmering bronze suits
on their walls. People started talking about
abstract portraits, squares and upside-down eyes.
How could you eat with that stuff over your head?

Things were changing, I guess. So,
I left. Just like that. It was always about leaving paintings
and some clothes and taking paintings and some clothes.
This time, I didn't know what to take. I am telling you.

I never saw Ofelia again.
Maybe she's still dancing out there.

She had a gift, you know. We said
we wouldn't write letters.
It couldn't work that way with us. It had to be pure chance.
A bird-of-paradise in a vase over a piano top, the way
Ella sang or Uncle Vince roughing you up
with his famous question: how's misery?

You said you could handle it. Just wait -
things were going to get a little better after the war.
You said someday you'd get in touch
and we'd joke about that saxophone
we put five dollars down on at the pawnshop.

I can still see the open case from here,
against the glass, a miniature city of mad sparkles,
so alive, I could step in there, dance to the music,
look sharp forever. It was our island, girl.








Here's a piece from a week or so ago, bemoaning (and possibly even explaining) the lack of profundity in my work.



Tootsie Roll Pops & Deathstars

i might be profound today
except
let's face it
i am to profound
as a Tootsie Roll Pop
is to a Star Wars Deathstar

while both round
we may be it is in different circles
we travel

the above, exactly the problem -
even when bemoaning my lack of profundity,
i can't resist throwing a little Yoda
into the mix

a helium balloon
should celebrate it lightness,
not seek
the weighty heft
of a Kant or Nietzsche
or even poor-old obscure
Johann Georg Rosenzweig
who no one ever heard of
but his mother,
several cousins, and the
boyfriend
nobody ever talks about

so
no profundity from me today

instead
i'll just go with the float,
satisfied
the only heights i'll achieve
will be strictly
at
mos
pheric








Here are two poems by performance poet Travis Watkins. The poems are from his book, My Fear is 4 U, published in 2006 by Layman Lyric Productions of Houston.



For Claude

I sing.
I sing for the un-named and chained.
And I sing for the un-brained who remain restrained.
It's strange how progress equates so less change
It's plain, some chains remain
I sing.
I sing for the uneducated, degraded and confiscated.
And I sing for those related to the hated who procreated
And created a people so created and elated
That hate has been deflated
I sing.
I sing for the jail-cell black as an oil-well
And I'll sing un-til, black men re-bel, and black men leave hell
And black men ring bells, of liberty and justice for all!
And it's not jus-us after all.
I sing.
I sing for the crack slanger and gang-banger
And I sing just to mask my anger for those strangers
That murder and endanger then point their fuckin' fingers
At society...that's just a cop-out to me
I sing.
I sing for the senseless odds stacked against us
And I sing for the cent-less who will stand relentless
"Though far outnumbered count us brave."
I sing this song for Claude McKay.
I sing.

Spring '04


My Voice

My fifth grade teacher said my voice carries.
My voice carries
My voice carries
My voice...
Carries

The prayers of my father, the love of my mother,
The strength of my people, the hope of my brother.
the hurt of the past, the dreams of the slaves,
The blood of their wounds, the tears of their graves.

My voice carries
My voice carries
My voice carries

The burden of truth, the threshold of pain,
The product of hate, the sting that remains.
The pursuit of many, the triumph of few.
The bullshit endured, the struggle they knew.

My voice carries
My voice carries
My voice carries
My voice...
Carries.

And my voice strains.

Fall '03








Shirley J. Walker describes herself as a native California Pisces who enjoys writing a diverse array of short stories and poems while eating banana pudding. Her work has appeared in several online and print literary journals. "My busy inner child keeps me young, and my creative juice drips on occasion," she says.

I found Shirley's poem on the Wild Poetry Forum and emailed her for permission to use it on "Here and Now."

Permission granted, so here it is, inspired, Shirley says, by a story from William Henry Lewis



Papa and Pine

Papa paused in the lumberyard
and sniffed. His rheumy eyes lit
like twin stars on a darkening sky.

Pine's down there, son.

Years back, Papa and me would sit
on the porch and sip lemonade
while he spoke of pine.

When rain pounds the ground,
you can smell those roots deep
in the earth, son. That wood has a way
with air and rich, black soil.

Papa had begun to look like that soil; as if
he was getting ready for it. Weathered
earth skin, wrapped in a faded plaid shirt.

I need eleven planks, son. Six for sides and bottom.
Two for ends. Two for the cover. One for bracing.

The buzz-saw pass of years had left sawdust
memories of when Papa stood like a cedar.
His hands, dark against the white wood, caressed
the grain with a practiced plane of wisdom.

Can't spend eternity smelling like a lunch box.
Pine smells better, son. Got finer grain, too.








Here is more performance poetry, this from a much earlier source, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from his book A Coney Island of the Mind, first published in 1958 by New Directions. The poem is one of seven in the book conceived, according to Ferlinghetti in a foreword, "specifically for jazz accompaniment and as such should be considered as spontaneously spoken 'oral message' rather than as poems written for the printed page. As a result of continued experimental reading with jazz, they are still in a state of change."

Well, that was then and this is now and what we have now is the printed page. And what we have on the printed page with Ferlinghetti is often very long (like this poem) or very eccentrically organized on the page. I like that, myself, but it is really a pain to transcribe for "Here and Now," which, unfortunately means there's lots of his stuff I really like but don't have time (as well as patience) to deal with here.



I Am Waiting

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am seriously waiting
for Billy Graham and Elvis Presley
to exchange roles seriously
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the living end
and I am waiting
for dad to come home
his pockets full
of irradiated silver dollars
and I am waiting
for the atomic tests to end
and I am waiting happily
for things to get much worse
before they improve
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the human crowd
to wander off a cliff somewhere
clutching its atomic umbrella
and I am waiting
for Ike to act
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and save me forever from certain death
and I am waiting
for life to begin
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am waiting
for Ole Man River
to just stop rolling along
past the country clubs
and I am waiting
for the deepest South
to stop Reconstructing itself
in its own image
and I am waiting
for a sweet desegregated chariot
to swing low
and carry me back to Ole Virginie
and I am waiting
Ole Virginie to discover
just why Darkies are born
and I am waiting
for God to lookout
from Lookout Mountain
and see the Ode to the Confederate Dead
as a real farce
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for Tom Swift to grow up
and I am waiting
for the American Boy
to takeoff Beauty's clothes
and get on top of her
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth's dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace and I am waiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder








I'm a tough guy; I can put up with a lot. But one thing just goes too far.



that i cannot abide

cut
all my hair off
about a month ago
and now, when i glance at a mirror
as i pass
and take in the short gray hair,
i see
just another old man passing

a most respectable looking old man

old is ok -
it is a biological fact
i am happy to live with,
with luck, for
many many
years to
come

but
respectable?

that i just
cannot
abide








My next poems are by Indian poet Sudeep Sen, from his book Postmarked India, published by HarperCollins in 1997. Actually, calling him an "Indian poet" is unduly restrictive. While it is true he is from India, he is truly a world poet, at home and writing just about anywhere.

The book, signed by the poet with personal note, illustrates something I've noticed over the past several years as I've been buying poetry books from used book stores. The thing I've noticed is the large number of poetry books signed by their authors. This reflects two things, I suspect. First, it's a demonstration of the limited press runs of most books of poetry, as well as the works poets have to do to sell their book once it's written and published.



Remembering Hiroshima Tonight

It is full moon in August
the origami garlands surrounding the park

glitter as the stars, plutonium-twinkle,
remember the fall-out of that sky.

Tonight everyone walks around the solemn arcades
where lovers were once supposed to be.

In the distance the crown of Mount Fuji sits, clear
on the icy clouds, frozen in time with wisdom.

Suddenly the clouds detonate, and all the petals,
translucent, wet, coalesce: a blossoming mushroom,

peeling softly in a huge slow motion.
But that's only a dream.

Tonight, real flowers are blooming
in the ancient Japanese moonlight.


One Moonlight December Night

you came knocking at my door,
I took my time to open.
When I did,
there was just a silk scarf,
frayed, half-stuck in the latch.








Next I have a couple of pieces by our friend from Kansas, Robert McManes.



bangs were popular once

twilight never gleams
moon beams shake and shimmer
tumble to the ground
rattle off rocks
bounce off trees
and manmade junk
piles and piles
old tuna fish cans

this is our legacy

we tremble
shake and roll
half life ideas
and take the next
exit (insert here)
knowing nothing
is ever free

and this is
e-z

these are the times
mimes and rhymes
volumes of words
spoken and broken
red and read

the book of books
the dead of dead
page after page
grave after grave
it's all relevant

vagabonds of civilizations
limping into tomorrow
battered but never bettered
a rhapsody unchanged

and one day it ends
with or without
the bang


total absolution

the old adding machine
rests in a dusty corner
and dreams of tabulations
where cybernetic meadows
grow wires while high-speed computers
live together in programming harmony
with less fortunate technology
like pure rain water
falling from a clear sky

it likes to think
of great electronic forests
full of plastic based pines
and sophisticated semiconductors
where analog machines roll peacefully
past third generation super computers
that hums in deep caged meditation
as if they were sleeping lions
in a far flung metropolitan zoo

and the little machine dreams
its big dreams unaware
that being obsolete
is the final tenement
of absolute absolution

in plug we believe








Born in 1921 in New York City, Richard Wilbur was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry twice, in 1957 and in 1989.

The following poem is from his book Collected Poems, 1943-2004, published by Harcourt, Inc. in 2004.



Piccola Commedia

He is no one I really know,
The sun-charred, gaunt young man
By the highway's edge in Kansas
Thirty-odd years ago.

On a tourist-cabin verandah
Two middle-aged women sat;
One, in a white dress, fat,
With a rattling glass in her hand,

Called "Son, don't you feel the heat?
Get up here into the shade."
Like a good boy, I obeyed,
And was given a crate for a seat

And an Orange Crush and gin.
"This state," she said, "is hell."
Her thin friend crackled, "Well, dear,
You've gotta fight sin with sin."

"No harm in a drink; my stars!"
Said the fat one, jerking her head.
"And I'll take no lip from Ed,
Him with his damn cigars."

Laughter. A combine whined
On past, and dry grass bent
In the backwash; liquor went
Like an ice-pick in my mind.

Beneath her skirt I spied
Two sea sea-cows on a floe.
"Go talk to Mary Jo, son,
She's reading a book inside."

As I gangled in at the door
A pink girl, curled in a chair,
Looked up with an ingenue stare.
Screenland lay on the floor.

Amazed by her starlet's pout
And the way her eyebrows arched,
I felt both drowned and parched.
Desire leapt up like a trout.

"Hello," she said, and her gum
Gave a calculating crack.
At once from the lightless back
Of the room came the grumble

Of someone heaving from bed,
A Zippo's click and flare,
Then, more and more apparent,
The shuffling form of ED,

Who neither looked nor spoke
But moved in profile by,
Blinking one gelid eye
In his elected smoke.

This is something I've never told,
And some of it I forget.
But the heat! I can feel it yet,
And that conniving cold.




?



I lie.

It comes with the territory, part of the writerly lot.

And, sometimes I tell the truth, doing the best I can to make it so you can't tell the difference.



mysterious

we are mysteries
to us

you're a mystery
to me

and i'm just as mysterious
to you

and that's the way
it's best for us to be

how much of the stories i tell
is true

and how much
is false

made up for my amusement
and maybe yours

you'll never know
and i'll never tell

cause ofttimes
i don't even know myself








Elizabeth Seydel Morgan is currently The Louis D. Rubin Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University for 2007, Morgan lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is author of four books of poetry.

The next two poems are from her earliest book Parties, published by Louisiana State University Press in 1988. I have also used poems in "Here and Now" from a later book, The Governor of Desire, also by Louisiana State University Press.



Safeway

This world is category. Raw meat
In slick clear film does not insinuate
Its bloody fresh into meringue-topped sweet
Potato pie. Dark been and mild don't mate
In this geometry. The Safeway's grid
Defines my need: aisle B the bread, white wine
On C, detergent stacked to pyramid.
The orange and onion never cross the line.
So how come this crippled child bisects my path?
Careens his wheelchair, jerks his body. Why
Does he cock his heavy head at me and laugh
With such strange glee? I can't meet his eye.
I came to this sane place to be alone,
To choose my food, to buy it, to go home.


May Tenth

Ten on May tenth,
you think it's fine:
two numbers in your age
till you're a hundred.

You've learned to flip
your silky hair in such a way
your unsure eyes don't show.
Your unruly arms and legs
most often seem askew,
but you can still curl up
like a touched caterpillar
and suck your thumb.

Ten years ago this hour
you uncurled from me.
Weak and silly from ether and relief,
I took you
into the crook of my arm,
felt the rush of blood
that cleared the blurring gas.

Satisfied,
I kissed the spot on your bare head
that throbbed.








Next, a poem from our friend Mick Moss. Mick is a 54-year-old poet from Liverpool, England.



Nature

The young male sits and watches
learning from the older males
how best to make a kill
the group lies in wait
sometimes for hours
in the shade
hidden from the harsh sun
and their prey
in silence
saving up adrenaline
for when the time comes
nerves tense
eyes focused
waiting.......

NOW

An echo ricochets around the square
and another Palestinian stone thrower
bites the dust.

Human nature.








The next three poems are by David Lehman, from his book The Daily Mirror, A Journal in Poetry, published by Simon & Schuster's Scribner Poetry imprint in 2000.

Lehman is on the core faculty of the graduate writing programs at Bennington College and The New School. His editor of the Best American Poetry series and published numerous collections of his own work.

His "journal in poetry" approach in this book gives me great encouragement for my own poem-a-day efforts.

For this week, I just picked three days at random from the middle of the book.



April 26

When my father
said mein Fehler
I thought it meant
"I'm a failure"
which was my error
which is what
mein Fehler means
in German which
is what my parents
spoke at home


April 27 Or 28

As Hamlet would have said
if he had lived through
the russian revolution and
his author had written in Russian,
"To live a life is not to cross
a field." I think I see what he
means, or would have meant,
by that line so hard to translate,
yet I wouldn't underestimate
the difficulty of crossing a field,
a snow-covered expanse, say,
wide as the Steppes, that no
footprints have defaced, so that,
staring at it, you feel like
a writer facing a blank page,
and the trees may be full of rifles,
and the whole reason for crossing
the field escapes you now that
you have reached its edge,
and the rumor of a castle
on a high hill in the distance
is almost certain to turn out false.


April 29

God bless Wellbutrin
I see the market's down
a hundred and forty points
but I don't care I know
it will go up again tomorrow
thanks to the Dead Cat Bounce
as "the Street" terms it
still I refuse to invest in El Nino
by buying soybean futures
on the Chicago Options Exchange
I'd rather phone Joe who answers,
"You have reached WJOE,
all Joe Lehman, all the time,"
as for the guy who reviewed Jim
Tate's book and called it "almost
Victorian in its piety," I got news
for you, buddy, not even the Victorians
were Victorian in their piety have you
ever read "In Memoriam" or "Dover Beach"
well, have you, punk?








Here's a little story on where guilt can take you.



a thief's confession

Borders,
deciding there aren't
enough of us early birds
to justify lights and payroll,
has changed its opening time
from 9 to 10 a.m.
making me, again,
the wandering poet, looking
for a perch to begin the day

i found this place
this morning,
a pastry shop and cafe,
lots of room,
free wifi,
and accessible electric plugs
and i'd be pretty happy with it
except it's way the hell out on
what last year
would have been called the far-northside,
now, the way the city keeps growing north
into the hills, i guess you'd call it the not-so-far
northside, soon to be next year the north southside

so i probably won't be back, even though,
i like the place, first, because it's so damn far,
and second, because i can remember not so long ago
when this was wooded hills
and pastures so i sit here with my latte
and my little laptop feeling a tad guilty,
because, like,
somewhere, there is a homeless cow
whose ancestral grazing land
i have subsumed
for a poem i doubt the cow
would consider worth the loss

best
i return downtown
where cow's memories of grazing
by the flowing green river
are lost in the dusty annals of time
and the harm i do
is erased
because theft is no long thievery
when the time of stealing is
forgotten








Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow in 1892. Her first volume of poetry was published when she was only 18 years old and it attracted notice from some of the most important critics and poets in Russia. Twelve years late, she went into exile in Paris because of the Revolution and became one of the leading writers of the emigre community. She returned to the Soviet Union in 1939. Her husband was arrested and executed shortly thereafter. She committed suicide in 1941 in a small town to which she had been evacuated at the beginning of World War II.

The next poem is from Poem of the End a collection of her work translated by Nina Kossman and published in 2004 by Ardis Publishers. It is a bilingual book with the original Russian and the English translation on facing pages.

Following are concluding passages from On a Red Steed, a poem too long to use here in its entirety. I don't know that sense can be made of such a partial transcript, but it does give a good indication of the fierceness of Tsvetaeva's writing.



I spur on; behind me -
the whole horde of winds.
In the choir-loft the thunder of hooves
Has not yet died down.

Like the rumble of Requiem,
The snowstorm revives.
the altar's upended. - Empty!
Vanished into the earth.

Weep, wail, wail!
Snowstorm, rage on!
The horse's foam dims
the radiance of chasubles.

The dome is trembling. Fall,
Hosts of might and glory.
And the body falls, its arms
Spread-eagled, like cross.

_____

The rays of the icon-lamps
Scatter like great rainbows.
- Receive me, thou pure and sweet,
Crucified for us.

This - your feast, o jealous palm:
Receive this flame.
But who is that horseman from on high,
And what is that steed?

His armor is like the sun...
His flight, steep...
Onto my chest he places
His horse's hoof.

_____

Is that thunder in the cranium - or
A crowbar to the skull! - People! - People!
Grinding the dry pillow with my brow,
To say, for the first time. He loves me not!

Loves me not! - I need no woman's tresses!
Loves me not! - I need no red beads!
Loves me not! - I will mount my steed!
Loves me not! - And rise up to - the sky!

Ancestral spirit, shake off your chains!
Rattle the primeval pines!
Ancestral spirit, Aeolus!
Tousle my golden mane.

Leading my regiments, on a white steed,
With a silvery thunder of hooves - forward!
We shall see how he does in battle,
That braggart on the red steed.

The sky has broken. A good sign:
Dawn bloodies my helmet!
soldiers! It is one step from here to heaven:
By the law of the grain you go - into the ground!

Forward! - Over the trench! - Fallen?
Next row - Over the trench! - Fallen?
Again - Over the trench! - Is that
Dawn on the snow-white armor? Blood?

Soldiers! What enemy are we fighting?
A burning chill invades my breasts.
And piercing, piercing my heart like a lance,
A ray of light

_____

He whispers: "I wanted you like this."
and rumbles: "I chose you like this,
Child of my passion - sister - brother -
My bride in armor of ice.

Mine and no other's - forever."
I, rising my arms: "Light."
"You shall be no other's. You swear this?"
I, stanching my wound: "Yes."

_____

No muse, no Muse - not the frail ties
Of kinship - No, not your bonds,
O friendship! That was no woman's hand - a fierce one
Drew this knot tight
Around me.

A terrifying union, I lie
In the trench's darkness - while the dawn rises
Oh, who suspended these
Two weightless wings
On my shoulders?

A silent spy
Of living storms
I lie - and I watch
Shadows.

Until I'm whirled
Off into the blue
On the red steed
Be my genius!

Moscow, 1921








Here's a poem our friend Michael Sottak. Michael tells it about as straight as you're ever going to get it.



By Water

we slip then
you and i...
to places unseen
periwinkle death...
in pools left by tide
rocks of the Sakonnet
burned into wind

you'll grow stronger
with this breath
like wind might measure
circumstance...

Elephant Rock withstood it all
chiseled like i might understand

out there where all
lives or dies

your panties left
in crushed oysters...

i went back
for the scent








I was born and will always be a science fiction nerd, even though I rarely read it anymore.

Which reminds me that I should note in passing that Philip Jose Farmer, one of the great science writers, died recently. His was one of the names I look for and, unfortunately, one of too many names that can't be found on the bookstore shelves anymore.



scattered in the wide night sky

scattered
in the wide night sky
are pinpoints of light
bringing star-heat
to worlds like our own

biological stews
pining the universal spark
on some
and on others
life at its most simple
is cradled,
protected from the cosmic storms,
and on a relative few
creatures who strive
and dream,
like you and
i

i
know this
like some people
know God, such knowledge
a product of longing
in the lonely bright
for a companion
worthy
of our best nature








That's it, folks. See you next week.

In the meantime, remember, all of the material in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

2 Comments:
at 2:51 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allen,
As someone who used to serve you coffee at Borders several years ago, let me tell you how much I enjoyed your poem "The Thief's Confession," particularly the part about the cow not appreciating the poem... Also enjoyed the David Lehman journal in poetry, especially April 27 or 28.
Nancy, formerly of Borders

at 10:33 PM Blogger Ms.M said...

I particularly enjoyed "That I Cannot Abide", because I so identified with it, and "A Thief's Confession" -- with its knock-out ending.

As for Juan Felipe Herrera's "Ofelia in Manhattan Circa 1943", I was completely caught up in the rhythm, the tone, the style, the history, the story. It left me wanting to read more.

Wonderful selections all in this issue.

Barbara Moore

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