Black Holes   Thursday, March 26, 2009


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

oh well

Robert Bly
Cornpicker Poem
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
Hold Me

lab day

R.S. Thomas
The Moon in Lleyn

Margaret Barrett Mayberry

Jack Kerouac
103rd Chorus
105th Chorus

as if

The Paparazzi
Afterschool Lessons From a Hitman

Joanna M. Weston
Her Habitations
Cold Water

George Garrett
On Death and December

Carl Sandburg
A Million Young Workmen, 1915

my turn

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

cash crop

Jim Hutchings

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.


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

that a person of my
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
roadkill the
of fine dining)

lotsa sights
on this ramble-day

1-2 hundred yards off the road,
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
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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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
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

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.


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.


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
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
sticking to his arm
no matter
how hard he tries
to shake it off

as if...

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

as if...

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

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.
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?


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


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

a touch
of winter

in mid-March


you'll get
what you want

if you'll just
wait long enough


on South Padre

all the little

are freezing
their little cherry butts

not what they wanted
but i don't care

they're young
and haven't waited


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.


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

and i will make
a virtue of it,
ing they
i know
to the inevitable
is what it is
like who
here better than
anything else,
it must
be a
crop jud-
ging by the
quarries all around

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

don't grow
i'll apply for a

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.


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

are different now

i grew up mostly
with kids
as poor as me

always broke,
always making do
with barely adequate

a night
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
but the path to that end
seemed much too
and the possibility of success
as unlikely
as any great achievement
for a small-town boy

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

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

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

it is an old man's

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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