Travels With Reba   Thursday, April 23, 2009


I'm on the homestretch of about a 3,000 mile drive around begun about a week and half ago. I'm posting from El Paso tonight and will make the last 500-plus miles to San Antonio tomorrow.

Don't you just hate it when someone goes on vacation and expects you to look at all their photos when they get back. Well, I'm worse that that. I have both vacation pictures and vacation poems. (But not that many of either.)

This will be another short issue, including only poems from my library and several of my own. Once again this week, I'm not including anything from our friends. However, a lot of good stuff has been stacking up, so I'll have a good supply of poems from our friends of "Here and Now" next week.

Driving all day, then working on my own daily poems at night hasn't left much time for anyone else.

But I do have some good work to share with you this week:

Song of Chiang-nan
On the Chia-ling River

travels with Reba - 1

Booby Hatch

travels with Reba - 2

Messages from Across the Street on Tobacco and Water Wires

travels with Reba - 3



hair piece

travels with Reba - 4

Throwing Rocks
Faces Like Houses
The Weight of Empty Space

Travels with Reba - 5

from Song of Myself

untitled poems

travels with Reba - 6

Be gentle with my typos. Having no printer available, I'm a paper-dependent person stuck with proofing on-screen.

I start this week with two poems by the poet Wei Yuan from the anthology Waiting for the Unicorn, Poems and Lyrics of China's Last Dynasty, 1644-1911. The book, published in 1990 by the Indiana University Press, includes the work of many poets from that time.

Wei Yaun, a poet from the early nineteenth century, was born in 1794 in Shao-yang, Hunan. The son of a minor official, his relative lack of advancement in the official hierarchy was more than compensated by the high regard of friends and peers for his literary and scholarly activities. Though primarily known for his landscapes, he was not adverse to an occasional rant, as one of the following poems shows. Wei Yuan died in 1857.

These poems were translated by Irving Lo

This anti-opium rant, a section from a longer poem, follows a section that decries the demand for flowers that has led to the cultivation of flowers to the detriment of the cultivation of rice, leaving people in the country with lots of flowers and little rice.

from Song of Chiang-nan

        Ah-fu-jung, ah-fu-jung
        A product of the West,
        Shipped to the eastern lands -
I know not how many countries had smelled it in the wind
Before it came to titillate our men and women like strong liquor.
        At night, they see no moon or stars;
        Nor the bright sun at day -
They make for themselves a perpetual night, a Never-Never Land;
        A kingdom of enduring darkness,
        A lake forever without grief,
In a den of pleasure purchased with gold, the Universe is forgotten:
        Where the Six Directions are merged,
        Where the Nine Districts become one,
        The nobility behind crimson gates,
        The humble in their hovels -
They dull their senses to addiction, what's to be said?
But whose fault that the national wealth is squandered, defenses
Let me say to you: don-t put all the blame on the ah-fu-jung!
Palpable, or vanishing in smoke - addiction leads to the same
Border officials have their addiction: it's called "trafficking in
High ministers have their addiction: it's called the "Golden Mean."
Scholar-officials are parrots who speak clever words by rote;
finance ministers, like Yang the Tiger, steal treasures from the
If only the court could cure the addiction of the great officials,
The smoking of opium would be instantly eradicated.

This next piece is more typical of Wei Yuan's work.

On the Chia-ling River

Evenings, I lodge with the evening mist,
At dawn, I sail with the dawn wind.
The sounds of the scull shatter my dream,
While boatmen talk beneath a waning moon.
Perching fowls fly up from shallow banks;
Last night's fog merges with the hill in front.
Thus a reed mat's width of water is made
To look as distant and faraway as Lake P'eng-Li.
Abruptly turned about by the current in midstream,
I find myself cut off from a solitary island.
Dimly I begin to discern trees on the bank,
And then the sun emerges clearly on the river.
Longing to return home, yet I forget all thoughts of return:
The dawn clouds above the river distress a traveler's heart.

We decided to take a little trip before summer came and made it too hot to go anywhere. Our destination (that point at which we quit going north and turned back south toward home) was Denver. I had been there once, without seeing much of it, and D had never been there at all.

I left on Wednesday in my car. D flew to Denver on Friday. She flew back Tuesday of this week. I, driving, will be home on Friday.

Reba (of the poem's title and lead image) came with me in the car.

This is the first of the six vacation poems in this issue.

travels with Reba - 1

leaving early

500 and a few miles to go
and all day to get there

no hurry


passed Kerrville
then past Junction

i love these
limestone and granite hills,
oak and cedar,
cattle and sheep

this highway
a two lane roller coaster ride
thirty years ago
as it curved over and around the hills

now an interstate
cutting through the hills
like a hot knife
through butter, exposing
millions of years of geological history
on either side,
flashing by at 80 miles per hour

a long, long story
none of the passers-by have time to read


a palomino
with twin colts -
gold dancing
on a green field


a gathering
of buzzards, fifteen, at least,
on a little hill on the side of the road

so unusual
to see them together like this
with no carrion
in sight

a meeting perhaps
to decry
the sharp decrease in dying
this season
as times are unfortunately good

stimulus package is required
but that sort of thing
is not in their nature, they seek
death and they await death, but it is not
their way to initiate it


i saw it

past Junction
past Sonona and Ozona

looking like a natural rock formation
near the top of the hill

i've been watching for it for at least
twenty-five years - since the first time
we saw it by accident, took the short drive
up the hill to look at it,
and from it,
look out on the long valley below
and the next rise of hills
and the valley beyond them

a look-out post
for one of the many forts established in a
long line through here
in the 1870's,
when the fierce warriors of the Comanche
were feared by the anglos and the spanish
and the other native peoples as well

buffalo soldiers, many of those who manned
these hot, dusty outposts, but others too
a long way from home, guarding that frontier

the forts did not stay open long, and little
beyond their natural rock foundations remain,
except for Fort Davis in the Davis Mountains,
a part now
of adjoining national and state parks

high on the hill
the look-out post,
looking like a natural rock formation

i think i saw it finally again


travel with Reba
takes a while,
since she likes to stop and sniff and pee
at every roadside park,
but good companion that she is,
i humor her

this park,
one we stopped at for the first time
twenty years ago

concrete tables
covered by roofs anchored to large wagon wheels,

i have pictures of D and my mother,
who loved to travel with us after my father died,
just as we loved to have her in the back seat
keeping our son, about 6 years old at the time,
amused, or at least quiet

in one of the pictures he has climbed to the top
of one of the wheels, look, grandma, no hands

this is one of the better parks between San Antonio
and El Paso, so we stop whenever we pass, and
every time we stop
i think of those days past
and how much i wish i could live them again


the Iraan/Sheffield exit,
i look south,
toward the Big Bend Park,
and can see the Chisos mountains -
just a smudge on the horizon


wind turbines
their sleek modern design,
curves and angles combined,
clean and white, standing tall
and twirling
atop the mesas all around

beautiful as any art


the mesa,
formed by wind and rain
for thousands of years
to resemble a breast
complete with erect nipple
by the blue West Texas sky


the interstate is left behind
at Fort Stockton,
with a turn more directly north,
the wind still blows strongly
as it has since i left San Antonio,
but now, instead of fighting against me,
it is at my back


the Cavern
and the Grand Canyon,
two American holes in the ground
that should be seen
by anyone who hasn't


is a bigger city that i remember
from my times passing through before

i pass a Starbucks as i search for my hotel -
all is well for tomorrow morning

i notice signs of new scientific method
as i pass through downtown -
the flying saucer museum is now
the flying saucer museum and research center

a shower,
a poem, Reba sleeping behind me,
and dinner -
in that order of priority

The next poems are by D.K. Jones from his new book Next of Kin published in 2008.

I suspect I'm displaying some great ignorance here, but I can't find out anything about D.K. Jones. The name of the publisher is not shown on the book, so i'm assuming it’s self-published, expensive venture since it's a very well put together hard cover book. The only D.K. Jones I could find on the web is a listing on CD Baby of a young singer songwriter from the midwest. The front of the book shows a number of previously published books, none of which i can find reference to on the web. All I can say at this point is, D.K. Jones, whoever you are, I like your poems.


A bully kicks down our sandcastles but relentless
We make tall buildings making them taller still
Then on a roll
Declare we are invincible
Nothing out of reach
No feet
Shall be made of clay

When I was a moppet immeasurable
Refusing gargantuan holy grail
I age persnickety petite-fours in a dollhouse
A thimble for a cup
Shoulders snug against the eaves
Body bent to lessons of time an space
Hubris was for the mighty and the mythic
To whom life and afterlife were the same

Fancy that

Booby Hatch

Scanning a glossy magazine discussing milk maids,
Moms have begun outsourcing breast feeding... it says.
Whose breast is best? I am loath to reflect on cross
nursing, a recluse busy enough pondering collective morals.
Easter Sunday. A city bus carries mi esposa to the
Cathedral de San Juan where inside a marble tomb
Ponce de Leon century after century sleeps in.
Beside her a grandmother says it is tradition for
Puertorriquenas to visit seven churches on this day.

A paranoid mind's eye sets a different scene. A nursing
mother implores my milkless woman to feed her child.
An argument erupts. The bus stops. Police arrive to find
volunteers - busty chicas naked to the waist -
pushing, shoving, arms outstretched, begging to be
handed the starving infant. Milady, fully clothed,
is apprehended for not visiting seven churches, then left
like cattle out in rain, while I palpitate and pace...

The magazine lay open on my knees.
With an unseen flourish I sail the printed words
across the room, briefly in full flight, like a shot bird
they drop to an indifferent floor.

On the second day, i still had to drive about 500 miles, traveling from Roswell to Denver. The weather turned bad, then worse as I neared Denver.

travels with Reba - 2

another 500 miles
to do today
and i'm getting started
a little later than i'd like

but there's plenty of time


after about 40 miles
i look behind,
a long straight road,
gradually rising


the wind is blowing hard
again today
and like most of yesterday
it's blowing hard against me

little twisters cross brown fields
on both sides of the highway,
most throwing up clouds of dust
that move with the wind, but one,
a smaller one, forms a perfect funnel,
about five feet across, keeping
it's shape up to a hundred feet or more
above the ground

a tumbleweed the size of a beach ball
blows in front of me,
seems to pace the car for several seconds
then crosses the road


green fields,
perfect circles, planted
to fit path of the irrigation sprinklers
that circle
circle, circle,
spraying their water around and around
like a merry-go-round whose horses
spit as they past

the perfect circles of irrigated green
laid across the landscape
of dry and dusty brown, the part
that lives or dies depending on the rain


passing through the little
derelict towns
that break the tedium
of grey highway
behind and ahead and
brown fields on either side

the fate of small rural towns
in America,
death and decay
as agriculture becomes too big
for little farmers and ranchers
and little towns

i don't remember the name,
had fifteen structures
that could be seen from the highway

all were abandoned, collapsing hulks

nothing left of the town but the sign
on the highway


as i pass through Las Vegas,
still in New Mexico,
i see the first snow-topped mountains
marking the bowl that holds
Santa Fe to the west


further north,
as we cross into Colorado,
the winter grass is almost white
the almost white
of the sand on gulf beaches,
broken here and there
by red barns
like red umbrellas
on a vast beach that has no sea


just past Pueblo,
i turn on the radio
and hear my first news
of the severe winter storm
that's on the way

as i approach
Colorado Springs
i see black storm clouds
pouring over the mountain crests

as i leave Colorado Springs
i enter the front of the storm

rain, sleet, snow and fog
all at once
and in alternating burst

traffic slows
and i fall in line,
an inexperienced driver in snow,
i am pleased with the slow-down
since it means i can slow down without
getting run over by more experienced maniacs

conditions improve slightly
as i begin the long slow crawl through Denver

find my hotel,
walk Reba in the rain,
sit down to write this record of this day

weather's lousy
but will get better in the end, in the meantime,
i have the best shower i have ever had
in a hotel

Victor Hernandez Cruz was born in 1949 in the small mountain town of Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. He moved to the United States in 1954 with his family and attended high school in New York.

In 1966, he published the chapbook Papo Got His Gun, followed by his first full-length collection of poetry, Snaps, published by Random House in 1969 when he was twenty. In the 1970s, Cruz lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he emerged as a distinctive voice in the Nuyorican school of poets.

Cruz is the author of numerous collections of poetry, and is a cofounder of both the East Harlem Gut Theatre in New York and the Before Columbus Foundation and a former editor of Umbra Magazine. He has taught at the University of California at Berkeley and San Diego, San Francisco State College, and the University of Michigan.

His honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was elected as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2008. Cruz divides his time between Morocco and Puerto Rico.

The next poem is from his book, Red Beans, published by Coffee House Press in 1991.

Messages from Across the Street on Tobacco and Water Wires

The ocean turned red
and the land turned blue
Your face became a sensation
Your features were eaten by the

Your tears reentered the breasts
of the mothers of singers
The fado
The bolero
El canto hondo
The sadness
The lament
The lament
The nostalgia
The separation

The rumbling of your heart
The dancing of your feet
Will circulate within the pockets
of the wind
Your hate will make a shadow
That covers the flowers in chill

You will not be forgotten
Plant your seed well
It is the harvest you will pick

It will be beautiful
You will have no mouth to keep shut
Starring will turn into cha-cha-cha
THe craters of the moon will be
full of guayaba jujice

We speak here the word which is the spirit
Those on the other side tell me they speak
in matter

Out of pure air comes objects
vegetable gases minerals can flow
In combination
and you can make a hammock
Between Uranus and Mars
Where a puff of love can swing

The watches and clocks go backwards
It is 13 o'clock out there
Your pain becomes currency
To buy the harmony of Celina

The ocean turns red
The boats are made of fire
Allan Kardec is the Captain
Of one of them

His passengers come for water
on the shore
They marvel at the blue sand they
Will never step on
From your prayers they make
a picture of your face
So with confidence give it to
the worms
Leave your smile on endless loan
In the sensational land you are
going to you can kiss without lips
the history of your life
will be in the fingertips of the drummers
Nothing was wasted
Even the blank moments when we are Morons
Drunks help us get home
The tears are the milk of the drummers
They sing and play
Your laughter
Your joy
Your dancing
The nostalgia
The separation

The weather turned really bad on Friday, bad all day, with rain mixed with soft snow and sleet. Then about a half an hour before D’s plane was due to arrive, it got even worse, heavy snow that continued all night and into Saturday.

travels with Reba - 3

rain in the morning.
mixed with sleet and wet snow

at noon,
it changes to snow,
great large flakes, big and soft
as cotton balls

looking out my window
i can see, about a mile away,
the tall buildings of downtown
fade in and out of view
as rain and snow clouds
rise and fall

it is like this all day,
growing worse in the afternoon

D is due to fly in at 5

untutored in driving in these conditions
and unsure of my abilities,
i think i'll have her take a cab
to the hotel.

both of us safe

The next several poems are from Spillway, the Spring/Summer 1999 issue.

The first poem is by David Kuhr, in 1999, a young poet from Connecticut.


Six a.m.
Fast, furious,
Down the sawdust trail.
Soaring over rocks,
Gliding over roots,
Flag-like bathing suits
To the water's edge....

Night sky blends blue,
Massive mist lifts,
Lucid lake revealed.
No ripples,
No sounds,
Hearts pounding

Alex Richardson received his master's degree in creative writing and Renaissance drama in 1991 from the University of South Carolina. His work has appeared in a variety of journals.


We rest cross-legged on the silver porch
and talk about ourselves:
You say you have a certain feeling
For our future,
That everything we saw we want
Will work its way into our lives.
We fill in the crosswords together:
Four letters for "Indian garment."
Seven letters for "Indefinite time."
And talk some more about what we'll do
Tomorrow or the next day.
Having said everything twice
We look respectfully to the sea,
Receding from where we sit
Sipping tea and whiskey,
Read tide charts and ocean almanacs,
Occasionally lifting our heads
Towards the perfect flight of gulls,
The windy dives of pelicans
Undulating green.

Robert Arroyo Jr. did his undergraduate work as California State University at Northbridge and received an MFA from Vermont college. He continues to publish poems in various journals.

Hair Piece

Blame it on genes, blame it on lifestyle, blame it
on Cain, but every morning I swing
the double-edges scythe over my cheek's
front forty, littering basin with silver
stubble stalks. I see the bald badge pinned
to my head's crown, glittering
like rose quartz, cold and obviously
the mark of some past transgression
committed against the god
of tresses. You could call it

a strategic retreat. The follicles unrooting
themselves, shoring up the rear guard
against the onslaught of flesh. Clearly,
this is a family trait. My father,
like his father, and the one before and before
with his high-tide belly and wedge of hair
like a sand bar sticking out into the pink sea
of his head's pate, can’t be even
philosophical about it. He just says "Blame it
on your mother." Sure.

momma's hair was more
lacework than plush, so fine
you could almost see what she was
thinking. Still, she never raised a finger
to my father's gut and said "Behold,
the shape of things to come."
Oh, the humanity of it all!

In what hothouse do my forebears sweat
out the dreams of full heads of hair.
When I sleep, the sun throws light around
me like a halo as it moves about the north pole
of my blustering brain box. But waking is a living
nightmare where my scalp absorbs
the sun's toxic breath, and the half-life of death
roots deep in my bones. This is stupid.
Somebody give me a hat.

Somebody give me an umbrella
and let it rain so I won't look too much the ass
when moving among my brethren, their hair slick
against their scalps, while water beads
on my head like envy.

Photo by Dora Ramirez-Itz

All the storms cleared on Sunday and it was a beautiful day, perfect for all the tourist things.

travels with Reba - 4

those like me
from warmer climes
don't understand
the transformative power
of snow

today's slush

white fields
brown again
and muddy

limbs hung low
from the weight
of snow fluff gathered,
stark and bare again, skeletons
of their spring and summer self

puddles of cold water
in the parking lot
covered yesterday in white

still it rains

our plans to walk around
for this afternoon

we'll see the capitol
and the museums
and all the other
downtown attractions

for myself,
i found a Starbucks
and a Times

from the coffee shop window
i saw a small boy
climbing into the back seat
of his family's sedan

closed his door

a moment passed -
the car didn't move

the boy's door opened again
and a snowball droped
from the car

that'll have to do

The next poems are by Kenneth W. Brewer, from his book Sum of Accidents, New and Selected Poems, published by City Art in 2003.

Brewer received his doctorate in creative writing at the University of Utah in 1973 and retired from Utah State University after 32 years in their English Department as a teacher of writing. He was Poet Laureate of the State of Utah in 2003.

Throwing Rocks

Theron Richey threw rocks deadlier
than most men could kill
with a Henry rifle.

He ran from the Paiutes once
till they caught him
midstream in a box canyon.
He stoned to death so many
the Paiutes made him a chief.

The story goes, he was half naked
when he got back to town that night.
His wife's sister found him.
A year later, she became his second wife
and moved in with them.

Emmaline, the first wife,
took up throwing rocks
every Tuesday and Friday.
She'd stand outside their log house,
throw rocks on the roof.
Nothing else to do, those days.

Faces Like Houses

            A stand
of barbwire, years ago,
scarred his face below the eyes
balanced like windows
either side of a front door.
Now he watches, seldom speaks -
except at night asleep,
when he moans the long names of ghosts.

            Her face
slopes as if the foundation
slid away on one side years ago
in some flood-burst, some shock
that nature left like glacial melt.
She neither speaks nor watches
during the day.

            At night
after he falls asleep,
she rises from their bed
eyes aflame, and screams
through the open door, out
beyond wheatfields, rivers,
mountains, stars, the scars
of all nine wooden crosses.

The Weight of Empty Space

Cancer took
first one breast
then the other.

Two years later,
she died.

He remembers
how he missed them,
their weight in his hands,

the hard nipples
between his thumb and forefinger,
or against his tongue.

He was afraid to touch her,
and she would not
open her body to him.

Finally, one morning
she stepped into the shower,
pressed her flat body to his back.

Some mornings now
the hot water
scalds his back, still,

and he thinks to turn,
see her there
wet and smiling,

lovely in the last
year of her life.

Monday, another beautiful day, good for more time downtown at the museums and strolling the 16th street mall, as well as a drive in the country for some mountain-gazing.

travels with Reba - 5

the sun rises

awakens a blue
crystal sky

the rockies,
covered in snow
from foothills
to peaks,
in their white

we make the tourist
rounds, the capitol
with its golden dome,
the art museum,
with its
psychedelic poster art
for those who didn't live
the sixties,
as well as those who did
but don't remember as much
as they might
had they not lived it so well

a stroll down
the 16th street mall
where i find
a sidewalk table
to sit and drink my coffee
in the sun and watch
the people

i meet a poet
and photographer
who might share
their work

like me,
working even
as i enjoy the parade,
the parade
the work -
the work the parade

confusing even me
sometimes -
but it's what i do

Time again for the greatest of all American poets, Walt Whitman.

This week, opening Walt Whitman, Selected Poems at random...

from Song of Myself


And as to you, Death, and you bitter hug of mortality
  it is idle to try to alarm me.

To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes,
I see the elder-hand pressing receiving supporting,
I recline by he stills of the exquisite doors,
And mark the outlet, and mark the relief and escape.

And as to you Corpse I think you are good manure,
  but that does not offend me,
I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing,
I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polish'd breasts
  of melons.
And as to you, Life I reckon you are the leavings of
  many deaths,
(No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times

I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven,
O suns - O grass of graves - O perpetual transfers and
If you do not say any thing how can I say any thing?

Of the turbid pool that lies in the autumn forest,
Of the moon that descends the steeps of the soughing
Toss, sparkles of day and dusk - toss the black
  stems that decay in the muck,
Toss to the moaning gibberish of the dry limbs.
I ascend from the moon, I ascend from the night,
I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday
  sunbeams reflected,
And debouch to the steady and central form the
  offspring great and small.


There is that in me - I do not know what it is - but I
  know it is in me.

Wrench'd and sweaty - calm and cool then my body
I sleep - I sleep long.

I do not know it - it is without name - it is a word
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.

Something it swings on more than the earth I swing
To it the creation is the friend whose embracing
  awakes me.

Perhaps I might tell more. Outlines! I plead for my
  brothers and sisters.

do you see O my brothers and sisters?
It is not chaos or death - it is form, union, plan - it is
  eternal life - it is Happiness.


The past and present wilt - I have fill'd them, emptied
and proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only
  a minute longer.)

do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are neigh, I wait on the
Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be
  through with is supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove
  already too late?


The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he
  complains of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed. I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on
  the shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I
If you want me again look for me under your boot-

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
but I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
and filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you

The next poems are from Kabir, Ecstatic Poems, poems by the fifteenth-century Indian poet, Kabir, as re-envisioned by present-day American poet Robert Bly.

The book was published in 2008 by Beacon Press.


I have been thinking of the difference
    between water
and the waves on it. Rising,
water's still water, falling back,
it is water, will you give me a hint
how to tell them apart?

Because someone has made up the word
"wave" do I have to distinguish it
from water?

There is a Secret One inside us,
and planets in all the galaxies
pass through his hands like beads.

That is a string of beads one should look at with
    luminous eyes.


A certain bird sits in this tree. The delight of life is where
    it dances.
Nobody knows where the bird is, nor what all this music
It makes a nest where the branches make the most dark-
It appears at dust and disappears at dawn, and it never
    gives one hint of what all this means.

Nobody talks to me about this singing bird.
It has no color, nor is it free of color. It has no shape,
    no form, no boundaries.
It sits in the shadow thrown by love.
It lives in what cannot be reached, where time doesn't
    end, where dying things don't exist. And no one
    pays any attention to its coming or going.

Kabir says: You brother, you seeker, this whole thing is a
    great mystery.

Tell all wise men it would be a good thing to
    know where this bird spends the night.


Have you heard the music that no fingers
    enter into?
Far inside the house
entangled music -
What is the sense of leaving your house?

Suppose you scrub your ethical skin until it shines,
but inside there is no music,
then what?

Mohammed's son pores over words, and points out
and that,
but if his chest is not soaked dark with love,
then what?

The Yogi comes along in his famous orange.
But if inside he is colorless,then what?

Kabir says: Every instant that the sun is risen,
    if I stand in the temple, or on a balcony,
in the hot field, or in a walled garden,
my own Lord is making love to me.


The Guest is inside you, and also inside me;
    you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

The blue sky opens out farther and farther,
the daily sense of failure goes away,
the damage I have done to myself fades,
a million suns come forward with light,
when I sit firmly in that world.

I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken,
inside "love" there is more joy than we know of,
rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds,
there are whole rivers of light.
The universe is shot through in all parts by a single
    sort of love.
How hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!

Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.
The arrogance of reason has separated us from that
With the word "reason" you already feel miles away.

How lucky Kabir is, that surrounded by all this joy
he sings inside his own little boat.
His poems amount to one soul meeting another.
These songs are about forgetting dying and loss.
They rise above both coming in and going out.

Tuesday, D caught an early flight back to San Antonio and I continued on to my next destination, Durango.

After Durango it was a day to Albuquerque, then another to El Paso, and, finally tomorrow, the last 500 miles to home. It will be a week and a half of travel, mostly behind the wheel of my car. With nearly more than 500 left to go, I'm worn out and ready to get back to my old routine.

travels with Reba - 6

it's the kind of day
everyone loves
about Colorado

on the ground
and on the mountains
but under clear skies -
postcard beauty
without the hassle
of actual falling snowing

and from
the mile-high city,
i take a westerly course,
gradually ascending
to the two-mile-high
Vail Pass, then
descending for over
a hundred miles to Grand Junction -
a turn south,
and a faraway view of the Rockies,
like billowy white clouds,
white like fresh laundry
hung in the sun to dry,hugging
the horizon instead,
growing taller into the sky
as we approach for one last passage


twelve bison
in a line across
a snowy slope,
each following the tail
of the other -
at the head of this
strung-out regiment,
the leader,
knows where to go
and when to go there

and two or three miles
down the road
elk scatter among
a stand of pines,
pushing aside the snow
and pine needles
to graze


canyon wall
reaching high above me,

the Colorado River
fast and muddy from snow melt

at ten thousand feet
the melt
sloshes down the rocky
mountain side
in a torrent

at eleven thousand,
thick icicles, long,
long as a tall man
is long,
hang from overhangs
on the canyon walls,


an hour of driving
takes me twenty miles
up and over the first summit

passing through Silverton,
a town i know,
i begin the next up and over
to Durango

at the crest
a big horn sheep
stands by the road
and watches me pass

his territory,
these rugged mountains,
and not my own


Reba has had her
and i have had my

time to finish this
sleep for tomorrow

this journey is over -
all that's left is the getting home

Photo by Mike Radatus

And as we enjoy our last lattes on the 16th Street Mall, we finish up our second and last, for the year, traveling editions. The photo of us and our lattes was taken by a young fella we met at Starbucks on the mall, Mike Radatus. A student, Mike is a writer and he has a friend, also a student, who is a photographer. I'm hoping I'll begetting material from both of them for future issues.

Until then, remember that 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.


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Introducing Thomas Costales   Friday, April 17, 2009

Photo by Thomas Costales

A couple of things are different this issue.

First, I've been on the road a couple of days and I'm posting from Denver, right in the middle of a major winter snow storm. D will fly in this evening, if they let her, and we'll be here a couple of days, checking out what there is to check out. D will hop a plane back to San Antonio on Monday, while I take several more days to drive back. My kind of sanity break is usually found like this, behind the wheel of a car.

Because of all that, I'm cutting back on this week's issue. The usual format for "Here and Now" has been to combine poets from my library, some of my own poems, and poems from people I think of as friends of the blog. This week, I'm leaving our all of our friends, except for one.

Thomas Costales is that friend, a young, mostly self-taught photographer from San Antonio whose eye and whose images I admire very much. Though I've titled this issue as an introduction to his work, regular readers have seen his work here before. I'm just going a little farther this week and turning all the images in the issue over to him.

Every image in this issue, including the self-portrait that leads the issue, is by Thomas. You can see more of his work by visiting his website. I'm going to include the url among my links on the right of the page. In case I don't get that done in the rush of this week, I include it below for you to copy and paste:

In addition to Thomas's photos, we have something else a little special, seven poets from elementary and middle schools who participated in The Poetry Center of Chicago,s 2003-2004 Hands on Stanzas project

Our more regular fare for this issue includes:

it's a whole different thing

Jessie Mitchell's Mother

oh, just forget about it

The Farewell
Claire de lune

zits and zats

Listening to a Broken Radio


The Dead
Crossing Guard
A Suicide

happy confederate heroes day

Lamentation for Hand Williams
Mongol Mutt

listening to Mussorgsky

Photo by Thomas Costales

I begin this week with the poets from the anthology created by the Hands on Stanzas project described above. Through the project, more than 3,000 students throughout Chicago read, discussed, wrote and presented poetry in weekly classes during the course of the 2003-2004 school year.

Following are some of those students and their poems.

Amber Fields is a student at the Joseph Kellman Corporate Community School studying poetry with Poet-in-Residence, Jennifer Karmin.

A Good Day

My good day
smells like a
pot of roses
sitting in
a world of

My good day
tastes like a
pan of noodles
on a stove.

My good day
feels like a
cushion under your
head while you're
sick in bed.

My good day
sounds like a
blue jay waking
you up in
the morning.

Braquel Scott attends the Young Woman's Leadership Charter School where her Poet-in-Residence is Emily Calvo.


I'm black as a television set turned off.
As clear as a blank picture.
No inner feelings
About nothing.
My day has been as bad as my pictures look
Black, blank, and confused
Wishing, hoping, and praying
Someday someone will turn me on to a channel of light colors.

That reminds me of the first day of summer.
Happy and energetic as a yellow flower blooming.
Innocent as a white fluffy rabbit.
I wait until the day that someone turns me on.
I'm off
Black, blank, and confused.

Brittany is also a student at the Young Woman's Leadership Charter School.

I am creamy vanilla peach
Calm as the sky
Sweet as candy
Quiet as an owl
Yet swift as a tiger
And swift as the wind.

Taylor J. attends Beasley Academic Magnet School where he is taught by Poet-in-Residence Mario.

Black Queen

She is a queen,
African to be exact.
She has braids
with gold on her neck.
They wait on her hand and foot
but she does have kids.
She gave birth to a nation.
Her favorite perfume is Opium.
She has gray hair
and black skin,
but wisdom is what she owns,
pride is all she needs.

Iliana Molina attends Luther Burbank Elementary School and studies with Poet-in-Residence Daniel Godston.


I am snow. I am
white, and fluffy like cotton.

In spring up on a mountain
I look shiny, and bright.

In winter you play with
me. You have snowfights

And make snowangels, and snow
men out of me.

I come twirling down from
the sky.

Sekesia Lord studies with Poet-in-Residence Marvin Tate at Thomas Chalmers Elementary School.

Aunt Honey

In the back smoking
with the house clean
eating fried chicken
watching wrestling
with the dog sniffing
her perfume the sweet
smell of chicken in the kitchen

It's a big book. I'll be back to it in future issues, but, for this week, our last young poet for this week is Jasmine Halls, taught at the Jane Addams Elementary School by Poet-in-Residence, Adam Novy.

Long in the Future I Dreamed

Long long in the future I met
a little girl...with long
black hair and a dress that
was nice. I dreamed this
dream long long ago. I thought
it was real...but it really
wasn't. Long long ago I met
a girl in the future of
my dream. She was so so
so...nice with her long
long hair and her pretty
black curls. I know I
know this girl. But who
is she? Is she me in the future
or is she not? Who is this
girl with her long black
hair? Sweet sweet

Photo by Thomas Costales

After all those terrific kid's poems, i'm going to bring some old and cranky into the mix.

it's a whole different thing

many years ago
i worked for a newspaper,
not a big deal paper, just a little
community thrice-weekly

this was in 1964, yet
even today,
i get angry when i see someone
grab a paper from the rack,
read it,
then put it back,
is what their doing,
flat-out stealing of
all the work of the reporters
and editors and photographers
and copy proofers and printers
and circulation people
who did the work to make the paper
and who make their living
out of the newspaper's sales

at the same time,
i feel no guilt or shame
for the two or three magazines
i read each day that i never pay for

i tell myself
that a newspaper
is like the first kiss in the morning,
a welcome and a wake-up to the day

reading a newspaper
someone else has already read,
that's just sloppy seconds,
the bloom gone from the rose,
the fresh welcome
smeared like ink too often fingered -
just not the same thing
at all

are different

made to be fondled by many hands,
they are the ones that play around,
their slick covers
impervious to fingerprints and rough handling,
long ago deflowered
and none the worst for it,
stacked and bundled,
fodder for barbershops and VA hospitals
scattered around over-full waiting rooms
providing relief from the boredom
of the mostly disinterested

they are the whores of literature -
made to be used and reused, passing
from hand to hand

not like a fresh
at all

Photo by Thomas Costales

Gwendolyn Brooks, recipient of, among many other honors, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, published at least 20 volumes of poetry, as well as novels and autobiographies.

This next poem in from her book Selected Poems, first published in hardcover in 1963, my paperback edition published by Harper Perennial Classics in 1999.

Jessie Mitchell's Mother

Into her mother's bedroom to wash the ballooning body,
"My mother is jelly-hearted and she has a brain of jelly:
Sweet, quiver-soft, irrelevant. Not essential.
Only a habit would cry if she should die.
A pleasant sort of fool without the least iron...
Are you better, Mother, do you think it will come today?"

The stretched yellow rag that was Jessie Mitchell's mother
Reviewed her. Young, and so thin, and so straight.
So straight! as if nothing could ever bend her.
But poor men would bend her, and doing things with poor
Being much in bed, and babies would bend her over,
And the rest of things in life that were for poor women,
Coming to them grinning and pretty with intent to bend and to
Comparisons shattered her heart, ate at her bulwarks:
The shabby and the bright: she, almost hating her daughter,
Crept into an old sly refuge: "Jessie's black
And her way will be black, and jerkier even than mine.
Mine, in fact, because I was lovely, had flowers
Tucked in the jerks, flowers were here and there..."
She revived for the moment settled and dried-up triumphs,
Forced perfume into old petals, pulled up the droop,
Triumphant long-exhaled breaths.
Her exquisite yellow youth...

Photo by Thomas Costales

Reading the newspapers these days it seems there's story after story that has the power to both thrill and horrify you.

oh, just forget about it

word is
brain scientists
are on the edge of knowing
how to erase memories,
insuring us all a happy happy
joy joy life of sweet memories
of all our days gone by, all
our unsweet memories zapped
right out of our head once and for all

i think i'd start the zapping
with that first date i had
when i was 13 with the prettiest
girl in the school, a movie date,
she went in with me and left with
her regular boyfriend
while i walked home alone

in fact we could probably start
zapping right there on that day in 1957
and keep on zapping right on up through 1962,
eliminating just about all of my adolescence,
a period when, though good memories
there may be, the totality of the file
something i could do without
in these later

though i do hope there will be some way
to keep the music
cause it's
the best
there ever was

but now i
with the music
so tied up with everything else
in my life at the time,
so essential to my understanding
of myself at the time,
so necessary to my standing up
against the time
and my understanding of myself,
so much a part
of my struggle to remake myself -
to become a member of the tribe
of cool people who used to be
just like me,

i wonder
could the music,
so much a marker of all the rest,
survive without out the rest
and i decide it's loss isn't worth the risk

the good times
and the bad times,
i decide,
both indispensable parts
of the one time
that is our lifetime

one of those all or nothing things
that make life so damn hard
some times

Photo by Thomas Costales

Now, a couple of poems from one of my favorites, Guillaume Apollinaire. The poems are from the book Alcools, Poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, translated by Donald Revell.

Apollinaire, born Wilhelm Albert Wodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki in Rome to a Polish mother in 1880, was a French poet, writer and art critic.

Regarded as among the foremost poets of the early 20th century, he is credited with coining the word "surrealism" and writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play Les Mamelles de Tiresias in 1917, later used as the basis for a 1947 opera.

Two years after being wounded in World War I, he died at age 38, a victim of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.


In the sky angels angels
One is an officer
One is a poulterer
The rest sing

Handsome sky-blue officer
A long time after Christmas spring
Awards the Legion of the Handsome Sun
    The Handsome Sun

The poulterer plucks geese
     Ah snow fall
     Fall I have
No beloved in my arms

The Farewell

I picked this sprig of heather
Autumn has died you must remember
We shall not see each other ever
I'm waiting and you must remember
Time's perfume is a sprig of heather


A long while on the steps
My fingers blew kisses
To the front door of the lady
I'd followed over two
Good hours in Amsterdam

the canal was deserted
The embankment also and none
Saw the way my kisses found
The lady I gave my life
One day over two good hours

I christened her Rosemonde
Wishing to remember
Her mouth a Holland flower
Then slowly went away
Seeking the worldrose

Claire de Lune

The moon is honey on the mouths of madmen
The orchards and the towns are gluttons
Honeybees allegorize the constellations
Every moonbeam is a honey beam now
Falling slowly an ooze from heaven
Incandescent honey drenches the trellises
And I am hiding I am pregnant with intrigue
In terror of the stinger of the great North Star
Who poured deceitful lights into my hands
Who stole the nectar from the compass rose

I've used the next poem before. I use it again because, to me, it encapsulates all the matter-of-fact playfulness I like so much in Apollinaire.


On the coast of Texas
Between Mobile and Galveston there is
A big garden filled with roses
There is also a mansion
It is one big rose

A woman walks there often
Alone in the garden
When I cross the lime-tree road
We are face to face

Because she is Mennonite
Her roses and her clothing have no buttons
My jacket is missing two buttons
The lady and I are almost one religion

Photo by Thomas Costales

Concentrate on something hard enough and it can become a whole different thing.

zits and zats

staring out the window

the cars
on the interstate
like the electronic
zits and zats
on bedside
on TV doctor shows

zag zag zag

they cross the monitor screen

discrete phenomena,
though each like the other,

life continues

story ends

Dr. House has left the building

mundane -
even for a Sunday morning

Photo by Thomas Costales

Born in New York City in 1950, Arthur Sze is a second-generation Chinese American. Educated at the University of California, Berkeley, He is the author of eight books of poetry.

He is the recipient of a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Book Award, a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowships, a George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship, three grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, and a Western States Book Award for Translation.

He was a Visiting Hurst Professor at Washington University, a Doenges Visiting Artist at Mary Baldwin College and has conducted residencies at Brown University, Bard College, and Naropa University. He is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts and is the first poet laureate of Santa Fe.

The next poem is from his book The Redshifting Web, Poems 1970-1998 published by Copper Canyon Press in 1998.

Listening to a Broken Radio

    The night is
    a black diamond.
    I get up at 5:30 to drive to Jemez pueblo,
    and pass the sign at the bank
    at 6:04, temperature 37.
    and brood: a canyon wren, awake, in its nest kin the black pines,
    and in the snow

    America likes
    the TV news that shows you the
    great winning catch in a football game.
    I turn left
    at the Kiska store.
    And think of the peripatetic woman
    who lives with all her possessions in a shopping cart,
    who lives on Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street,
    and who prizes and listens to her
    broken radio.


Your father had gangrene and
had his right leg amputated, and now has diabetes
and lives in a house overlooking the
uranium mines.
the wife of the clown at Moenkopi
the windows of a car with an ax,
and threatens to shoot her husband
for running around with another woman.

A child with broken bones
is in the oxygen tent for the second time;
and the parents are concerned he
has not yet learned how to walk.
People mention these incidents
as if they were points on a chart depicting
uranium disintegration. It is all
accepted, all disclaimed.

We fly a kite over the electrical
lines as the streetlights go on:
the night is silver, and the night
desert is a sea. We walk back
to find your grandfather working in the dark,
putting a post to protect peaches,
watering tomatoes, corn, beans - making them grow
out of sand, barren sand.

Photo by Thomas Costales

Sometimes it's not such a good idea to think to much about all the people you used to know, particularly when you get a bit older and most of them are dead.


thinking back
to all the people
I've known in my life
i realize that, at age 65,
the living people of my
are vastly outnumbered
by the dead, a disproportion
that will grow larger
as i grow older - reason enough
to try to hang out with younger people
to the greatest degree
people of advancing years
are allowed
to become a part of that circle
of youth who still enjoy the advantage
of mostly knowing people with a pulse

all this explaining at last
why you can't go home again,
"home" being a designator of a time and place
unlike all other times and places
because of the people who inhabit it,
a time and place that ceases to exist
when those same people cease to exist

even as we grow older in this now
and future nows,
pasts are disappearing
into a cosmos of was-now isn't as
all those acquaintance no long alive
take with them into their graves
the times and places you once shared

and at this very minute
in this new time and place,
philosophical reflections
interrupted by realities of loss -

"Wolverton Mountain"
playing in the speaker right over my head,
an old song, Claude King, 1962,
resurrecting memories
of times and places dead and gone,
their passing mourned now
nearly fifty years later
just as i remember now and mourn
all the people from there and then
who made that time and place
and left this life before me

such a jerky little song
to have such meaning and power
for me

Photo by Thomas Costales

Zbigniew Herbert was born in 1924, in Lvov (then in eastern Poland, it is now a part of the Ukraine). His formal education began in Lvov and continued under German occupation in the form of clandestine study at the underground King John Casimir University, where he majored in Polish literature. He was a member of the underground resistance movement. In 1944, he moved to Krakow, and three years later he graduated from the University of Krakow with a master's degree in economics. He also received a law degree from Nicholas Copernicus University in Torun and studied philosophy at the University of Warsaw.

During the 1950s he worked at many low-paying jobs because he refused to write within the framework of official Communist guidelines. After widespread riots against Soviet control in 1956 brought about a temporary political "thaw," Herbert became an administrator at the Union of Polish Composers and published his first collection, The Chord of Light in 1956. The book put him immediately among the most prominent representatives of the "Contemporaries" (young poets and writers associated with the weekly Contemporary Times).

By the 1060's, translations of his poems appeared in many countries, and he traveled throughout Western Europe and North America, giving lectures and poetry readings and participating in writers' congresses. He has also written plays which have been broadcast in Poland and abroad. He served as coeditor of a poetry journal, Poezja, from 1965 to 1968 but resigned in protest of anti-Semitic policies. He traveled widely through the West and lived in Paris, Berlin and the United States, where he taught briefly at the University of California at Los Angeles. He died in 1998, in Warsaw, Poland.

I have several short pieces from his book Elergy for the Departure and other poems, published by the Ecco Press in 1999. The poems in the book were translated by Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter. Many of these pieces are allegories, written during the time of communist control of Poland. They are fun to read, even though you "really had to be there" to understand the full meaning of some.


    A procession of steel roosters. Boys painted with whitewash.
Filings of aluminum destroy houses. they throw deafening balls
into the air, completely red. No one will fly away into the sky.
The earth attracts bodies and lead

The Dead

    Because they were closed in the dark, airless chambers, their
faces have become completely recast. They would like to speak,
but sand has eaten away their lips. Only from time to time do
they clench the air in the fist, and try clumsily to raise the head,
like infants. Nothing makes them happy, neither chrysanthe-
mums nor candles. They can't reconcile themselves to this state,
the state of things.


    A path runs barefoot to the forest. Inside are many trees, a
cuckoo, Hansel and Gretel, and other small animals. But there
are no dwarfs, because they have left. When it gets dark an owl
closes the forest with a big key, for if a cat sneaked in it would
really do a lot of harm.

Crossing Guard

    His name is 176 and he lives in a big brick with a single win-
dow. He walks out, a small altar boy of traffic, and with hands
heavy as dough salutes the trains rushing by.
    For many miles around: nothing. A plain with a single
hump, in the middle a group of lonely trees. It isn't necessary to
live here for thirty years to calculate there are seven of them.

A Suicide

    He was so theatrical. He stood in front of the mirror in a
black suit, a flower in his buttonhole. He put the instrument in
his mouth, waited for the barrel to become warm, and smiling
distractedly at his reflection - fired.
    He fell like a coat thrown from the shoulders. But his soul
stood for a while, shaking its head that became lighter and
lighter, then reluctantly entered the body, bloody on top, at the
moment when it's temperature was reaching he temperature of
objects. This - as is well known - foretells longevity.


    In appearance it is the peaceful face of a miller, full, shiny as
an apple. Only a single dark hair moves on it. But when one
looks inside: a nest of worms, the inside of an anthill. And this is
supposed to lead us to eternity.

Photo by Thomas Costales

There are lots of problems with being a nonbeliever in a believing world. This is one of them.

happy confederate heroes day

the biggest problem
with being a nonbeliever
is i miss all the best holidays

and everybody
over town and i'm in a funk
because everyplace i like to go
is overcome with manic
christmas fanatics
driving me crazy with their lousy
christmas spirit
and i know after six months of this
the day will finally come
and everything i like to do
will be impossible
for twenty-four hours
because everything will be closed
so people can go tra-la-la-laling
at home with their tra-la-la kids

right before all that
there is thanksgiving
which requires me to eat turkey
for three weeks
and i don't even like turkey

and next,
just as that dumbass angel
finally gets his wings,
we jump into easter
and the whole cascarones
breaking confetti filled eggs
on my head thing
leaving me with a headache
for two days and a week and a half
of pulling paper bits out of my hair

those are the big ones,
except for the 4th of July
which would be great
if it was the 4th of October
or something like that
instead of right in the middle
of the hottest part of summer
when i'm supposed
to eat bar-b-que in the park
and watch fireworks outside
and listen to the symphony
play the 1812 overture
everything outside
and who the hell wants to be
outside when it's 114 degrees
in the shade

that doesn't leave me
with anything but
confederate heroes day
which causes family issues -
with one great grandpappy
on one side
and the other great grandpappy
of the other
and the minute we start talking about
it we have to fight the whole frigging
war all over again.

who needs it

Photo by Thomas Costales

The next two poems are by David Meltzer from his book, David's Copy, The Selected Poems of David Meltzer, published by Penguin Books in 2005.

Meltzer, born in 1937 in Rochester, New York, the son of a cellist and a harpist is a poet and musician of the Beat Generation and San Francisco Renaissance. He came to prominence with inclusion of his work in the anthology The New American Poetry 1945-1960.

Lamentation for Hank Williams

- If I can't finish writing a song in 10 minutes
then it ain't worth the finishing,

            said Hank to a reporter.
A camera was busy taking pictures for Life magazine.

- I'll never get out of this world alive.
            wrote Hank in a song
published by Acuff-rose Sales Inc.
sung for millions at the Grand Ole Opry
recorded by MGM Records

flat-picking in his D-28
backed-up by the Drifting Cowboys
night after night & during the days
playing at picnics, rallies
supermarket gala openings

- There's no dreams but bad ones,
            Hank told Audrey
who told her lover who told the doctor
who could not heal him

places no longer places
velocity of faces
& he burned down, died at 29 of an overdose
kindly rocked to sleep in the backseat of his Cadillac
driven to a concert
New Year’s Day 1953

Mongol Mutt

And who cares?
    a turn of the wooden hand.
Enter trumpets across sage plains,
    eye-act over level lines,
black ink in blue notebooks, done.
    Active words dog-eared
editions, ripe type bulk tombed
    bends wood shelves.
Parchment crotch exposed
    with silk ribbons
hold old leather together
    as if again a golem
could be circled and recycled
    back into being. Yellow
vellum shadows: hill-folk
    hand candles back and forth.
Snapped line-snakes spark
    out. Speak up
on Ellis Island. Pedigree:
    Mongol Salv Lit Pole. Uncle
Jess in Minneapolis writes,
    "Meltzer's not the real
family name, but that's another
    story." Meltzer
a bankteller told me means
    "waiter" in Hebrew.


D. Mutt, Mongol mongrel, zipped-up
stabbed apart by occult stars. Eyes
at everything spare nothing.
Tongue rugs in its catch.
Not Marcel's R. Mutt or Nutt
but D. Mutt
doghead catch of the day,
his master's voice, de-briefed
who bogtrots kennel odes
with deft con's paws
shades sawdust into bibles
into biscuits for the trickster.
Lineage, alas, lost.
Angel name erased in space.
Mongolian clods, shamans and tailors
hump and bump all over the world
and each mutt not Jeff's Mutt but
D. Mutt looking up
into barking sparks of doglight
looking for a home.
Snap! snap! Haifa cafe.
Hey waiter, bring em another
anisette, and yet I saw "waiter"
as Buddha nistar,
breathing in slow circles,
opening clouds of inwardness.
Ah, so

Photo by Thomas Costales

It's important for pretenders like me to remember our place.

listening to Mussorgsky

listening to
Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition"
from the speaker overhead
just as i start to write my poem,
wondering how my little hiccup of a poem
can imagine a place for itself
in the same world as the
great gates of Kiev, having
second thoughts, in fact,
about writing anything today

deciding, in the end,
to be true to my philosophy
that the value of art is in it's doing
not in its product, that product
being merely an artist's
footprint, sign to the tracker
the artist was there,
valuable to collectors of fine footprints
but as irrelevant to the artist's nature
as the remains of a grand banquet laid
out on a cluttered table, evidence
of a feast but not the feast itself

so hear me, dear reader,
i am afraid this poem
will never
mean as much to you
as it did to me in its making

it was a great pleasure for me
and i'm sorry
i can leave only the bones
for you

photo by Thomas Costales

That's it for this week. I'll be back next week, perhaps with some tales of my Rocky Mountain drive-around, along with more of our friends.

In the meantime, as always, all of the work appearing 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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Wild Kingdom   Friday, April 10, 2009


No prelims this week - right to it.

Here's who we have:

INNOKENTY ANNENSKY (as reintepreted by Stephen Berg)
My Anxiety
The Flame
One Second

does he still dream?

Have You Forgotten
Listening to Jazz on a Summer Terrace

Five Observations

The Little Boy Lost
The Little Boy Found

old made new again

Small Apotheosis
Poem With Black Background
A Spy Wanders Through the Streets of Washington

Spontaneous Healing of a Casio EX-8.1

henry david throeau junior high school
lungs, nougat, nothing

morning storm

Star Bright
Game Catch

Please don't blow up my poem

One Hand in the River

You Can't Go Home Again

Hopalong will show you the way

Iowa From an Airplane

ended up here

Angelicised Beefcakes and Chinese Proverbs

i want a donut

The next three poems are from the book by Stephen Berg, The Steel Cricket, Versions 1958-1997, published by Copper Canyon Press in 1997. The book includes both Berg's own poems, as well as his reimagining of poems translated into English by others.

This week, I'm concentrating on Berg's work with one poet in particular, Innokenty Annensky, a Russian poet, critic and translator, born in 1855 and died in 1909.

I find some of his images and metaphors really strange, but as a successful translator of Baudelaire and Verlaine into Russian (the language perhaps least likely for such translation), such strangeness might be required.

My Anxiety

Let the grass turn brown on top of my crazy skull.
Let my wax hand in the box disappear.
I'm convinced my confusion and pain
will continue to live in you, and my anxiety.

But not in those who love me and think I'm special
though I don't deserve their jealous, wild praise.
Ah the strength of people who love - gentle even in pain.
their girlish tenderness heals invisibly.

Why should anyone be confused?
Love shines forever like the infinite depths of crystal.
But my love isn't love - it blows apart like a horse in the sky.
To her it's poison mean, something unreal.

Decorated with a wreath of withered azaleas,
love wants to sing but before the first line slips out
her children are captured and tied up.
Their hands have been broken. Their eyes are blind.

The Flame

I thought my heart was empty and hard
like a stone,
I said it didn't matter if the fire's tongue
scorched it.

So I wasn't hurt at all,
or only a little,
but I know it's better if I
kill it while there's still time.

My heart's ripe with a darkness
like the grave's, the fire out.
Now fumes from the black wick
choke me.

One Second

The designs on your blouse are flickering, so wildly,
the boiling dust is so white
we don't need smiles or words.
Stay like this,

almost invisible, sullen,
chalkier than the dusk in autumn
under this steaming willow.
The distance swells with shadow,

one second and the wind jumps past,
spilling the leaves
one second and my heart wakes up
and feels that it isn't you.

Stay like this, not speaking,
or smiling, a ghost.
Shadows meet, their edges quiver,
the dust listens. It's as soft as your hands.

This next piece is an old poem I wrote five or six years ago and included in my book Seven Beats a Second. I heard a discussion on "end of life" issues on one of the National Public Radio programs and was reminded of the poem.

At the time i wrote the poem, more than 20 years after my father's death, I was still going over in my mind the decision we had to make about how and when his life would end. There is no avoiding second thoughts about such a decision, even years later, no matter how certain you are the proper decision was made. That's why this poem ends without a conclusion, because there will never be a end that won't be reconsidered again and again.

does he still dream?

his body survives, dependent
for every beat and breath
on the machines that surround him

his conscious mind is blank -

but what of dreams?

we never forget our dreams,
from the very earliest sloshing
in the universe of our mother's belly
to the very last, as we die, riffling
one last time through the book of dreams
we made page by page over our lifetime

so, if this derelict can dream, if this scrap
of man who used to laugh and love,
this shrunken giant who would carry me,

enfold me in his arms, hold me close
in the worst of storms, this declining

remnant of a son and lover who slept
at the breast of both his mother and mine

this fallen hero leaving the world as he
entered it, head reaching for his knees

the frail ghost of my father

if he has yet the final gift of dreams,
if, in some part of his mind we can
neither see nor measure, he still drifts
through dreams fading, like the shadows
of a fire banked and growing colder...

Howard Moss, born in 1922 in New York City and educated at the University of Michigan, was a poet, dramatist and critic, who was poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine from 1948 until his death in 1987. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1971 and the National Book Award in 1972 for Selected Poems.

The next three poems are from his book, Notes from the Castle, published Antheneum in 1979.

Have You Forgotten

Have you forgotten the sweetness of women,
Their treble cries, the underworld of milk?
How in the fleshy inside of an elbow
The warm hollow trembles with blue silk -
All luscious opaque roundness in a blur
Of bedroom coverlet, of rind and mound,
Those supple thighs I nested in at twelve
Whose milk-white forms melted in the horizon's
Aggregate of birds into empty distances.

To walk by heavy mirrors of a myth
With the greedy mouth everyone begins with
And feed on nothing but the self reflected
Is to know how pleasure ceases, does away with
Savor, and the attributes of Eden
End up in a darkroom of details,
Or a day of too much light whose sun erases
Privacies gone flat, communication
A letter bomb arriving the mails.


Long after the liner has been put in drydock
The wish still steers the rudder of its will.
They are carting away the remains of a novel
Two people worked on for years. In a park,
Old-timers watch the spring leaves re-hanging
Their bits and pieces. Someone else, far away,
Through vertical skyscraper windows sees
The street being swept of its autumn leaves.

Listening to Jazz on a Summer Terrace

The stars come out. They might be made of snow,
Below, a subtle drumbeat slips and snares
Its honey and sandpaper into nerves
That pull long shadows out of paper bags
Or shift like gears behind the window shades:
Ozone-sweat of chromium, green felt
Saliva stops, the shifty seeds of drums,
That flimsy shimmy, that old rat-a-tat!
Ampules of musk and dust geraniums!

Here's a short piece by our friend Alice Folkart. I really like this piece a lot, especially the sharp, brief expression of the universal fear of death right in the middle, between the more mundane of everyday life on either side.

I was just yesterday transcribing some of the work of Kabir, the mystic Indian poet of the sixteenth century, and immediately thought of him as I read this. It is much the kind of piece he often did.

Five Observations

Maximum goose
dirty white,
full of opinions

Blue-green Rooster
how do you die?
Beauty evaporates?

I fear death
almost as much
as the stream fears the ocean.

Three black forest pigs
working at eating
to fulfill their destiny.

Skinny-legged brown hens
crowded by gray chick-balls
make their rooster look good.

Now have two short poems by William Blake from Penguin Classics William Blake, Selected Poems.

The Little Boy Lost

"Father, father, where are you going?
O do not walk so fast.
Speak, father, speak to your little boy
Or else I shall be lost."

The night was dark, no father was there;
The child was set with dew.
The mire was deep, & the child did weep
And away the vapor flew.

The Little Boy Found

The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the the wand'ring light,
Began to cry, but God ever nigh,
Appeared like his father in white.

He kissed the child & by the hand led
And to his mother brought,
Who in sorrow pale thro' the lonely dale
Her little boy weeping sought.

The reason old people like antiques is because the sight of something old that is still useful and beautiful offers reassurance that the aged can still find a place.

old made new again

sitting here at MadHattters,
having breakfast
at my window table,
watching dark clouds gather
in the north,
i find i'm comfortable here,
at home
in this part of the city,
full, as it is,
of old buildings
and neighborhoods
put to new use -

the restaurant itself,
two old houses cobbled together,
Alamo Street Market
on the corner, now
Tito's Cocina,
and, right across the street,
a beautiful old house,
its age seen only
in the weathered brick
of it's fireplace chimney,
two stories, grand porticos
with porch swings
swaying in the morning breeze
on both levels,
and the bougainvillea
by the driveway, tall as a tree,
red as a drop of blood
on the deepest petal
of the reddest ripest rose

i like
this part of this very old city,
where beauty is found
in old things made new
for extended life and new purpose

Next, I have several poems by Joan Brossa from Modern Catalan Poetry: An Anthology, published by New Rivers Press in 1979. The poems in the book were selected and translated by David H. Rosenthal.

Brossa, a poet, playwright, graphic designer and plastic artist, was born in Barcelona in 1919 and died in 1998. He was one of the founders in 1948 of both the group and the publication known as Dau-al-Set and one of the leading early proponents of visual poetry in Catalan literature. His creative work embraced every aspect of the arts: cinema, theater, music, cabaret, the para-theatrical arts, magic and the circus.

This is poetry as play.

Small Apotheosis

The night
The day

We split the poem half
and half.

A mailman carrying the village correspondence
was surprised in the woods by
one of his neighbors who, brandishing a knife,
insisted that he give him a certain letter, or that he let him have
the mailbag so he could look for it himself. The mailman
resisted as best he could and promised,
as was proper, that he'd bring the letter to his neighbor's house.
But the other refused, knocked the mailman
down, and started ransacking the mailbag when
a pair of policemen appeared on the scent
who, when they realized there was a fight going on, ran towards the men.
The neighbor fled and, chased by the policemen,
jumped over some rocks with so little
skill and luck that he broke his leg
fell on his back and hit his head on the ground.

Moments later a carriage pulled up.


None, because the ones he didn't kill
flew away.

A shepherd fired into a tree
full of birds and killed some of them.
How many are left?

There still are flowers
and clumps of trees,
and a fountain to help
the trees and flowers grow.

Poem With Black Background

     To David and Roser Mackay

To the right of the poem, a brown
sofa, In the middle of the poem,
Pierrot stretched out on the lines:
Harlequin crosses the poem, with
a black dove in his hand.
Colombine enters the poem
and from the sofa pulls dozens
of knitting needles.

She leaves


This line is the present.

The line you've read is now past
-it fell behind after being read -.
the rest of the poem is the future,
which exists outside you

The words
are here, whether you read them
or not. And nothing on earth
can change that.



There's a fountain beside the house
The wind roars


Two words
A description
An image


I'll call the moon and the sun
and the men and the trees

I stare at the fire...

I see myself walking past the end of the street,
all my money shot to hell.
She, I keep thinking, is with those clowns
who end up biting bullets
between the sea and the mountains. She's with those clowns
who end up biting bullets
between the sea and the mountains.

Terrible sea and impetuous! You
hold heaven's key
and lock up the waters underground.
Father of rain and storms,
you who are equal to the earth's own blood:
we adore you and invoke you.

A Spy Wanders Through the Streets of Washington

A man wears an overcoat and grey boots.
A woman crosses, very pretty in mourning.
A boy with glasses, near-sighted, explains with profuse
how it's he who's taken his place.
A man with a scar on his hand hurriedly leaves
     a building
with a briefcase under his arm.
A by-passer complains that it's disgusting how they abuse the
populace in the street.
A boy passes with an old bent-over man.
A soldier, grim-faced, gets in a car which starts.
A woman walks into an optician's shop.
A man enters a phone booth.
Groups of young people pass.
A man with a mustache takes out his glasses.


The rudder
gives direction to the ship.
The mountain is the ruin of a
country turned upside-down; the buildings
are underneath and their foundations
stick up.

     In the ruins
lies a buried people. If you listen
carefully you can hear
inside the mountain
a deep and
muffled voice
asking, always

You get up. Your silhouette
hides the stars' reflection
for a moment.

The prodigious silence of the sleeping

But decisions must ripen
within people, not fall
from the sky.

Susan McDonough, our friend who lives in Arizona and Maine, reveals in this poem the healing power of her hands.

I'm sending her our toaster that's been on the fritz for the past 12 years. It's a kind of last chance, last hope thing for crispy, toastie bread.

Spontaneous Healing of a Casio Ex-8.1

No prayer beads
or sage burning.
No chants or
anointment oils.
The camera on
a recharge had
lost its reason
for living. No zoom,
no date, no extra
function. Just point,
just shoot. No video,
no Best Shot.
No face detection?
I mean for God's sake
It could have been
a Kodak disposable wannabe.
Just ten months old such a pity.
I'd no idea something that celebrated
so much life could succumb to disrepair
without a whimper.
For three weeks,
I'd coddled it,
sung sweet lullabies,
fondled it (in a
maternal way).
Charged, recharged,
battery in, battery out.
Nothing. No change.
Hope had pulled
the plug for good.
I found a box and
packing stuff. Oh
the pain, the pain
of finding that
original receipt.
I held this little
treasure lovingly
in my hands one
last time. It had
been there for me:
Graduation pictures,
landscapes I'd designed,
Red Sox games, Christmas,
a cactus or two (or two hundred -
whose writing this anyway)
I switched it on one last
time for a look through
the view finder and then
it happened. It zoomed,
it zipped, it zoned in!
A healing right within
my two hands.
Thank you sweet Jesus.

Steve Healey earned his B.A. and the University of Virginia and an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is Associate Editor of Conduit Magazine. His poems have appeared in numerous journals.

He currently teaches creative writing at Macalester College.

I have two poems this week from his book, Earthling, published by Coffee House Press in 2004.

henry david thoreau junior high school

You can blend with air.
You can bend around the pond
or math teacher's mouth.
The scar on your arm can whisper
the answer, yes be the answer,
and all the girls named Dawn
(with the Lord still in your good ear).
Like a pine grove, you can hear
fingers be counted, let lunchtime
come forever with its baloney
and noonlight sandwich. But the bell
doesn't ring, it's quiet here
on Earth, and taste, only
the carameled valleys of your molars,
and smell, a house the size
of your smell. Call me lost teeth
and years find a dime in there
to buy an afternoon, I was
brought by a trembling: my eyeball
waterbugs across bright windows,
a janitor pushes moist sawdust
down the hall. Because slowness
gets there, only a matter of when,
and had I give more me
to the homework of my lungs,
maybe just breathing could be
a note to Marvin Alsip. Sorry
you have to sit in the first desk
because of the alphabet, Marvin,
but you can be first to step off
this ark, you can begin
the locker combination song.
The new yearbook is coming out
today, we can say I'm in there
I'm wearing clothes, that's what
I learned today: pants plus shirt
equals me. That's how to please.
In America, you can please anything
you want to be, you can be a robot
leading a platoon of sticks
around the shoreline, see the fish flash,
the cannibal clouds. A lightning bolt
may have created the first amino acid,
then what? Then there was a pond
named Walden, and a girl named Dawn,
a stone to skip the silver,
and a skinny ass to rise out
of her gym shorts by the power
of her own hands. You can be
frightened by the signals you receive.
American birds can sound
like millionaires turning up
the volume: they don't care if gravy
kills them, and you can kill me
if you want. The question is
truth or dare, and can you keep
a secret. Can you be a solitary lover,
hoeing beans by the starlight
those branches are willing
to let through.

lungs, nougat, nothing

My last idea appeared
like an archipelago of clouds.

It gathered amphibian flames
and lasted until just now.

then a tiny storm arrived
without reason or charm,
asking only to be invited inside.

When I came to, the lesson ended.

I learned that membranes
wear many textures, all meant
to hide: lungs, nougat, nothing.

What is fire? A billowy husk.

The more familiar the storm the less
distinguishable from these walls,
the less I lived here. I loved

the smell of a snuffed match,
for example. Where steam went,
I went. A jungle out there
snored like a machine. In here

the jade plant lived for itself,
fanning out soft green earlobes.

It listened to the window bend
as north wind blew, and the room
percolated with ocean sound.

Tiptoe gravity: lifeboat,
wingspan. Song that drank
a cocktail in the dark. No waves,
no particles to speak of.

Curtains, doors. In the next room
a universe beckoned like
a 9000-year-old bird-bone flute,

and the way grew clear:
come here before this avian tune

dawns on you how far from home
waking happens.

You can overhear the hairs
in your ear worshipping a nebula.

If you turn the ocean upside down

it sounds like an animal
bringing its face to the glass.

When the firefighters arrived
the attic was bleeding upward.

The road walked away.

My heels began to murmur:

moonlight, ice.

I love it when the big storms rage in from the north. I was disappointed I slept through this one.

morning storm

just a little
on the local radar map,
across the city,
not visible at all
on the state map,
but within that little red
rain cascading from the dark
sky and powerful wind
blowing tree limbs
like a drunk
stuck in post-binge sleep,
shaken wildly awake
by the impatient hands
of a spouse
with things on her mind

such rain such wind
frightening the dogs so
that Reba woke me by leaping up
and crashing
against my bedroom window

then, when let in, following me
one step behind for a full 30 minutes

so small, yet so powerful,
passing so quickly from rain crush
to blue skies and sunshine
that it seemed 2 different days
had passed in the course of
just a few minutes

a storm from the north,
leaving in its wake, cool
clear air, fresh
as the highest reaches of the sky

so much better
than storms coming off the southern coast
with their oppressive heat and humidity
like the whole weight of the sun
and all its fierce magma
lay crushing on your chest

the last storm from the north
we'll see for at least 6 months
and i am sorry for its passing -
but it's still dry enough here
i will welcome any storm we get
from any direction it might come -
even those from the salty

Hook & Bloodline is a book of poetry, published by Wings Press of San Antonio in 2000, by Chip Dameron.

Born and raised in Dallas, Dameron taught writing and literature at the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College. He has published several books of poetry, both before and after publication of this book. As editor of Thicket, an Austin-based literary magazine, he was an important figure in the early years of the Texas small press movement.

Star Bright

      One year later,
you still seem to remember
those balmy nights when,
after the evening meal
on the wide verandah, flush
with wine and idle talk,
I carried you down the lawn
to the beach and sang you
to sleep, rocking sideways,
stunned by the Milky Way's
splatter against the black sky,
letting the sound of the sea
scrub my thoughts of their
stock preoccupations, drawing
you deep into my lightening

     Now, half a world
away, you stand on our drive
and say, "Look, Daddy - the moon!
Hold me and sing the song."
As we sway on the pavement,
your arms squeezing my neck,
I close my eyes and sing
softly, Caffrey, an improvisation
on the things that hold us
close, that stretch beyond
this moment, binding sky
and sea and earth, stars
and blooded beings, pulling
us toward some dying flickers
of light.

Game Catch

      The closest thing
to a lie is a moment's
deepest yes: the perfect
dive for a ball off a bat,
the gloved and echoed sting
verifying every hidden wish,
the shift and fling as true
as summer.

      The hum we hear
is just the buzzing of the day's
doings, wind across an infield,
electric lights that click on
and carve out a lifetime,
where line drives up the alleys
can tear holes in the air
that can't be fixed.

Here's a fun poem by our friend from the Bronx, Brenda Morisse. Brenda has been featured at a number poetry venues in New York City.

Please don't blow up my poem

Please don't blow up my poem
don't dynamite its tail
or pull out its teeth.
Don't shove a stick into its eye
don't cut off its legs
don't crop its ears
don't spank the poem.
Please don't decapitate my poem
don't shoot my poem in the heart or the gut
with a bullet or a flaming arrow
don't pull out its fingernails
Please don't shave the legs of my poem
don't tweeze its eyebrows
don't exfoliate
don't take it to the beauty parlor
Please don't break the knees of my poem
don't billy club my poem or arrest it
Don't move it
don't send it to hell
don't send it to heaven
don't send it to Vegas
leave it alone
buy it a hershey bar
give it a massage
but keep the front door locked
Don't take a walk with the poem
don't treat it to a chocolate ice cream soda
don't adopt it and change its last name
Don't steal the eyeglasses of my poem or it will go blind
don't smoke its cigarettes
buy your own
Don't skin my poem
leave the skin alone
If you see it in the middle of the Sahara
Water it. But don't move it to Tahiti.
We like the desert.
if it asks you for a token to go to a museum, don't give in.
Bring it a book. Show it the pictures.

Feeding the Crow is an anthology of the work of eight Texas poets who got together to produce it. The book was published by Plain View Press of Austin in 1998.

I'm featuring the work of two of the poets this week.

The first of the two is Jill Wiggins, born in England, moved to Ohio as a child, then to Austin in 1982. She has a degree in Art from St.Edward's University in Austin and works as writer and graphic designer. She has two daughters and is married to an actor, with whom she occasionally performs in participatory murder mysteries. Her poetry has appeared in a number of journals.

One Hand in the River

The richest man in the country
doesn't go to church
because religion,
he says,
is not efficient time management -
there are better uses
to his sunday mornings.

Well! Now I know
why I'm not rich:
I don't practice
efficient time management -
I spend Sunday mornings in church.

Not only that,
I sometimes spend
a Sunday afternoon
lying lizard-like
on a warm rock
next to a deep green river,
a hand
dangling in the icy current.

The next poem from Feeding the Crow is by Phillip T. Stephens. Of himself, Stephens says he "hasn't published a best-selling novel since 1954. Easily suggestible, but suffering from nearsightedness, he practices random acts of irony and senseless metaphor. One of the first reporters to blow the whistle over the Martian Pathfinder cover-up, he performs daily with partner Hep Cat at"

Of course, he said all of that about himself ten years ago and none of it may be true anymore.

You Can't Go Home Again

By the time Christ returned,
they had covered his grave
with a short-order grill
which didn't bother him
nearly so much as all that grease
they grilled his grits with.

Heroes and villains, they're the ones who show us how to live.

Hopalong will show you the way

a beautiful morning,
being Saturday,
and being unwound
under a sun bright
as a blessing
in a cold blue sky

was always my favorite,
even though there was
always work for me to do
in the morning, wash
windows, pull weeds, jobs
that never ended
as i would circumnavigate
the house, starting in the back,
windows one day, weeds the next,
until i was back were i started
and the weeds had grown again
and the windows were dirty again,
an important lesson
for a ten-year-old about life
as a journey, destinations
even such simple ones
as weedless flower-beds
or streakless windows, rare
and always temporary, life as flux,
the only end, the stillness of death

a lot for a youngster to live with,
but for every Saturday morning
there was a Saturday afternoon movie
bringing heroes back into the
process, showing there were different
ways to make the journey, some
for the black hats,
and some the hero's way as well,
bringing light and purpose
through the miles of time -

on a white horse
showing how to make the
getting-there worth
the price of the end

I found this 1974 Pocket Book edition of Seasons in the Sun in a little used book store next to La Taza where I had spent the afternoon writing. It was one of three poetry books in the store, between the Keats I didn't want and the Ted Hughes I already have, and, at $1.35 looked like a book worth having.

On top of the other reasons to buy was just plain curiosity. Rod McKuen, with 65 million copies of his work sold, must be the best known, most commercially successful poet of all time. Then he seemed to just drop out of sight.

I don't think I've heard or read his name in 30 years. This, the guy with a the poem, Seasons in the Sun, everyone knows how to hum.

But he is still around, mainly writing songs and music, with his songs (some 1500 of them with total sales of over 150 million records) being recorded by such artists as Frank Sinatra (who in 1969 recorded A Man Alone, an album of McKuen's songs), Johnny Cash who (just before his death) recorded McKuen's Love's Been Good To Me, Waylon Jennings, The London Philharmonic, Greta Keller, Perry Como, and Madonna. Perhaps his most well-known song is "Jean", recorded by Oliver in 1969 for the soundtrack to the film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. He has collaborated with a variety of internationally renowned composers, including Henry Mancini and John Williams, and a highly successful series of albums with Anita Kerr. His symphonies, concertos, and other classical works have been performed by orchestras around the globe. His work as a composer in the film industry has garnered him two Academy Award nominations.

So, what happened to Rod McKuen - a bunch of good things. I guess I just haven't been paying attention, knowing about all this stuff, but never associating McKuen's name with any of it.

Here are two of his poems.


I am
and I am not
a kind man
when it comes to loving.

Help me up
if I fall down
and prop my head
against the sink
if need be.

I am sick of sunshine
when you lie
in bed
beside me.
But when you venture
through the door
I need the daylight

Iowa from an Airplane

Above Iowa and looking down
the patchwork quilt of farms
unfolding through the oval window.
Now short green squares,
now broad gray triangles
and oblong stretches
of fresh-urned chocolate earth
that surveyors would find hard
        to pace off.
Plots and pleats of land
orphaned from a quilting bee.

Though mid April
with the middle earth
bare trees still
        stand bare.
Airports are the only

as silos dot
and red barns dash
    the land,
and God plays bridge
with unseen friends
and shows the world
          his hand.


The kind of writing I do is usually near spontaneous, following from one word or phrase to the next without a lot of conscioius editing, which means I frequently don't know where I'm going with a poem until it gets there.

This is a for-example.

ended up here

looking out
on the bright morning square

having my breakfast
of migas and refried beans
in a busy little restaurant
that was a boot and hat store
when i came here
nearly fifty years ago
to go to the university

around the square the trees are heavy
with fat leaves of spring
and in the middle, right
across the street from me,
the county courthouse,
one of those big old stone
the state of Texas is famous for,
grand and imposing
cathedrals of law and civil development
in a wooded square in the county seat
of even the poorest of counties,
places where the interests of wealth and power
and occasional justice are protected

this courthouse was used in the movie
"The Getaway" - the original 1972 version
with Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw,
the young actress McQueen had either
just married or was about to marry
and would divorce in a while either way

it was a long time ago, but
i think i remember the movie sheriff
running out of the courthouse
just as McQueen and girlfriend
had finished robbing the bank
on the northwest corner
of the square - a restaurant now
and not a very good one, but
interesting, because they kept
the bank look inside so it's
kind of strange eating there,
like some fat old banker's
going to come out from the vault
and chase you away
right in the middle of your eating.

sixty miles west
and five hours later
i'm back in San Antonio

the meeting in San Marcos
with the lawyer
not a happy event

if lawyers are paid
to give us the bad news
we don't want to hear,
my lawyer is earning every damn
he's getting from me,
the sale of property i so want
to be finished, done, irrevocably
complete continues awash in complexity
and i'm beginning to think, my god, when i
finally cross that river to the fiery domains of hades,
i'll be dragging this goddamn real estate sinkhole right along
behind me, forever plagued
by its insatiable demand for more and more of my time,
more and more of my attention, eating more and more of my poetry

when i started writing about the nostalgia
of a beautiful spring day
and ended up

Here's a poem by our New Zealander friend, Thane Zander, described by one fellow poet as "the Salvador Dali of poetry."

Works for me.

Anglicized Beefcakes and Chinese Proverbs

Those nickels on a footpath plated with gold
are the bearer of poverty
unable to enrich vagrant lives.

The table legs are wobbly Friday nights,
when passionfruit and ducks legs
collide in a miasma of chinese defloration.

A mark on the tall clock tower bearing the sign of Jesus
calls time to a standstill,
ladies in pink lycra dance,
men in rowing suits
place kisses on ginger babies
as their mothers stroll by.

Midnight whores and Summer Dolls commingle
in an Irish bar full of Anglicized Beefcakes,
the Irish at home in their roman catholic beds
dreaming of the Blarney Stone
and a Colleen with bit tits and a warm oven.

Confucius say dog with missing legs
really a sausage roll,
man with misguided womanly attempts
a farmer rolling in his own hay.

Today, Matrixical the neighborhood Magician
showed kids how bunnies appeared,
armed with this knowledge
they hounded their parents for a hutch,
too bad their parents are omnivores.

Sometimes, by God, I just want what I want.

i want a donut

i said, i want
a donut,

not a carrot
or a celery

not a bowl of
munch in
goat's milk

no cold little
cauliflower bud

not even a fat-free
and certainly not
a sugar-free

i want a good ol' suicide-
Dixie Cream capital D
with sprinkles

you gotta fight back
or the older
you get
the less you get in

get me
my damn

No post-lims either this time. Planning a trip next week, so the next issue will probably be posted from somewhere in New Mexico or Colorado, depending on what kind of headwind I hit in my little red Rav4.

Just a reminder that all the material presented on this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

at 1:49 PM Blogger Alice Folkart said...

Beautiful issue, Allen. What I love about 7beats is that you introduce me to poets. I'd never heard of Moss, nor Brossa, nor Healy, nor Wiggins - and I'm so very glad to meet them. And it's wonderful to see Zander, and McDonough and Brenda here too, not to mention the maestro of the 'near-spontaneous' form himself - you. The photos are, as usual great. Is that Reba at the end? Oh, and I couldn't help reflecting on that wonderful poem about your father when I read the Blake little boy lost and found poem. And, you're right, in your poem about the old part of the city- there is reassurance for us in seeing old things made new, or at least useful. Loved the photo of the steers in the scrub and the GOAT - really like goats. And, thank you for using my work and making it look sooo good. Very kind words too.

Alice Folkart

at 2:19 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for your information dk jones is impossible to find on the Internet and the man was not nearly wealthy enough to publish his books on a very large scale, I should know I lived with the man for 7 Years. If u find yourself interested in knowing anything about him you can e-mail me at

at 12:19 PM Anonymous P. Legendre said...

Donald Keith Jones (D.K., Don, Pablo, Papa...) Age 77, Eagan MN Don passed away in Scottsdale AZ on April 15th, 2011.
P. Legendre, friend

at 4:11 PM Anonymous allen itz said...

I received an email from D.K. Jones' step-son (Anonymous above) with background on Mr. Jones and his recent passing, but hadn't a chance to post the information here.

My condolences to his family and friends.

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