Kind of Blue   Friday, May 29, 2009


IV.5.5.




My title and images this week are meant as my own humble homage to Miles Davis, whose birth date was celebrated last week - May 26, 1926. Davis died in September 1991, arguably the most influential American musical figure of, at least, the 20th century.

A life worth noting.

Also worth noting this week, though with perhaps less fanfare, are our poets for this issue.


Mary Swander
Scheherazade

Me
death of a friend and patron
just like you and me
six white-haired men


Simon Armitage
Kid
Song
The Catch


Dan Flore
dream of me

Jim Carroll
My Father's Last Words
Poem
Sick Bird


me
the draft board

Gene Fehler
The Marksman
Coloring Outside the Lines
In the Back Seat


Dan Cuddy
Getting a Haircut

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Bury Me in a Free Land

Me
Memorial Day

Sapphire
Rabbit Man

Arunsansu Banerjee
Divine

Jose Emilio Pacheco
Eye Witness

Me
mondo weirdo

Kevin McCann
Yet Another Fractal

Me
Star Trek can wait









My first poem this week is by Mary Swander. It is from her bookHeaven-and-Earth House, published by Knopf in 1994,

Swander was born in Iowa in 1950 and grew up in small towns in Iowa.

She began college at Georgetown University, but finished an English degree at the University of Iowa, coming back because her mother was dying of cancer. She earned her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. She was involved in a variety of pursuits for several years, including becoming a certified and licensed practitioner of therapeutic massage. She began teaching English at Iowa State University, Ames, in 1986.

She has published several books - nonfiction, memoir, poetry - and has had a number of poems, essays, short stories, and articles in several national magazines and journals.

She continues to live in Iowa and still teaches at Iowa State. She was named this year as Iowa's poet laureate.



Scheherazade

Batteries and blanket, this spring
I've made a little place here
down in the cellar to listen
to the radio crackle the weather:
TORNADO WATCH, high winds and hail,
take cover. In this furnace room,
I'm alone with the centipedes and
cinder blocks, the mouse scurrying
to squeeze in from the rain.
I'm away from all windows and
flying glass, the silver maple
that might crash through the roof.
Overturned bucket, my chair, I see
by an oil lamp on loan from a neighbor.
How dumb to depend on lines from
the world. In these storms, it's no use
to think phone or pump, or switch.
In the draft, only the dust churns
in the old ducts, their arms
branching up, the octopus.
Outside, the anemones swim along
the grove floor and bend in the inky dark.
Once I knew a man who drove a friend
here from the East, she belted in,
terrified the whole time of a funnel cloud.
Just as they crossed the state line,
the sky clear and cool, he pulled his
VW bug to the side, and ordered her down.
"This is it, quick. The only safe place
underneath." She dove past the
exhaust pipe, crawled and scrunched,
scraping her back, her butt, on the pan.
He stood on the highway and laughed.
Once I lived above a garage, and when
I heard the horns, ran to the owners'
basement, their ninety-year-old mother,
senile, but still strong, nailing shut
the door, crying, "Sinbad, Sinbad
we're all ruined, lost in the wreck!"
Once I was yanked from my sleep, my mother's
hand flying me down the three flights
of steps. That time, the coal room,
and prayers, Hail, Mary, while
a twister wound its fury past the house,
ripping up everything in its path.
Our clothesline and poles were found
a mile from town where a barn collapsed
on a man milking cows. Holy, Mary,
I answered and pressed my legs together,
trying to stop the pee from wetting
my pants. Upstairs, my father, the engineer,
moved from one window to another,
opening, closing, each a crack, trying
to assure the proper flow of air.
But this year the blows have become
routine - they howl through the attic vents,
feed sacks tumbling across the field
smack into the fence. Two a.m.,
and I'm chewing gum, recounting
other times - the snakebite, car wreck,
doctor goof, the bolt of lightning
so close it fanned the hairs on my arms.
Suddenly, I recall the dryer blowing up,
the bang, the smoke, the flames in the air,
then at age four, the fall from the elm tree,
and at thirty, the drunk who broke in,
and how, from the second story window,
I jumped to safety. Now I sit up
and tell these tales to the mouse.
His black eyes glare back at me.
The two of us know the game.
Where on night ends, another begins
until all is forgiven, and the sky relents.








I attended a funeral this past week for a longtime friend and patron. These three short poems came from that.



death of a friend and patron

a man
in constant
motion

hard
to think of him as
still


just like you and me

traveling south
to bury a friend
in a crypt
beside the sea

like the restless, roiling waves
he came -
and then he went

just like you and me


six white-haired men

six
white-haired men
stand around the pit

watch the box
as it is lowered into the hole

think of their friend
and wonder

whose box is next








The next poems are by Simon Armitage from his book Kid, published in 1992 by faber and faber, another of their little poetry books that have been showing up at my local half price bookstores for $1.98. They have become the first thing I look for whenever I go in shopping.

Armitage was born in West Yorkshire in 1963, and in 1993 was the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. He works as a freelance writer, broadcaster, and playwright, and has written extensively for radio and television.

I start with the book's title poem.



Kid

Batman, big shot, when you gave the order
grow up, then let me loose to wander
leeward, freely through the wild blue yonder
as you like to say, or ditched me, rather,
in the gutter...well, I turned the corner.
Now I've scotched that "he was like a father
to me" rumour, sacked it, blown the cover
on that "he was like an elder brother"
story, let the cat out on the caper
with the married woman, how you took her
downtown on expenses in the motor.
Holy robin-redbreast-nest-egg-shocker!
Holy roll-me-over-in-the-clover,
I'm not playing ball boy any longer
Batman, now I've doffed that off-the-shoulder
Sherwood-Forest-green and scarlet number
for a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper;
now I'm taller, harder, stronger, older.
Batman, it makes a marvelous picture:
you without a shadow, stewing over
chicken giblets in the pressure cooker,
next to nothing in the walk-in larder,
punching the palm of your hand all winter,
you baby, now I'm the real boy wonder.


Song

The bridle-path, the river bank,
and where they crossed I took a length
of hazel bark, and carved a boat
no bigger than a fish, a trout,
and set it down and saw it float,
then sink. And where it sank
and inch of silver flesh declared itself
against the sun. Then it was gone.

and further south, beyond the bridge,
I took a nest of cotton grass
and flint to make a fire. Then watched
a thread of smoke unhook a pair
of seed propellers from a sycamore
which turned together and became
a dragon fly that drew the smoke
downstream. But the fire would not light.

Then at night, the house at the mouth
of the river. Inside, a fish,
a trout, the ounces of its soft
smoked meat prepared and on a plate.
I sat down there and ate it. It is
the way of things, the taking shape
of things, beginning with their names;
secrets told in acts of sunlight,
promises kept by gifts of rain.


The Catch

Forget
the long, smouldering
afternoon. It is

this moment
when the ball scoots
off the edge

of the bat; upwards,
backwards, falling
seemingly

beyond him
yet he reaches
and picks it

out
of its loop
like

an apple
from a branch,
the first of the season.








Here's a poem from our Pennsylvania friend Dan Flore Dan is 30 years old and has led many poetry therapy groups for people with serious mental illness. He also hosts a writer's circle.



dream of me

dream of me
as I crawl across sidewalks
drink the past with me
we'll flatten out the sun
and crawl across it
till we realize we're on fire

remember me
embracing you from behind
where you never saw the blood
in taking the hill
we lost the mountain

the world is stone
can you feel it chipping away?
we came from places
between stars
come back to our old bed
we are voids again

I have caught the avalanche
smelled my own decay
the seance died
but we saw many ghosts
in each other

sing to me tonight
and I will dream of you
with sterling kingdom
and oceans where miracles are born
pray for me
I am a swinging spider
eating it's own web








Born in 1950, Jim Carroll is an author, poet, autobiographer, and punk musician, best known for his 1978 autobiographical work The Basketball Diaries, which was made into the a film of the same name in 1995.

Born and raised in New York City, Carroll attended Roman Catholic grammar schools from 1955 to 1963. In fall 1963, he entered public school, but in 1964 was awarded a scholarship to the elite Trinity School.

Apart from being interested in writing, Carroll was an all-star basketball player throughout his grade school and high school career. He entered the "Biddy League" at age 13 and participated in the National High School All Star Game in 1966. During this time, Carroll was living a double life as a heroin addict who prostituted himself to afford his habit. By age 13, Carroll was using heroin, but was also writing poems.

Carroll attracted the attention of the local literati, and published his first book, Organic Trains, at age 17. In 1970, his second collection of poems, 4 Ups and 1 Down was published, and he started working for Andy Warhol. At first, he was writing film dialogue and inventing character names, then, later on, worked as the co-manager of Warhol's Theater. Carroll's first aboveground publication, the collection Living At The Movies, was published in 1973.

In 1978, Carroll authored The Basketball Diaries, an autobiographical book concerning his life as a teenager in New York City's hard drug culture. It is an edited collection of the diaries he kept between the ages of twelve and sixteen, detailing his sexual experiences, high school basketball career, and his addiction to heroin.

Also in 1978, Carroll formed The Jim Carroll Band, a New Wave/punk rock group, with encouragement from Patti Smith.

In the mid-1980s, Carroll returned to writing full time and began to appear regularly on the spoken word circuit. Since 1991, Carroll has performed readings from his unfinished first novel, tentatively titled The Petting Zoo.

I have three poems from Carroll's book Void of Course.



My Father's Last Words

On his death bed

He reached up and grabbed my wrist
Pulling me close so I could hear he said,

"Promise me that you'll never eat
Any of that Japanese food. Promise."

That may sound racist and perhaps it is
but keep in mind my father spent all
of World War Two fighting in the Pacific
Mainly, the island of Saipan.

I myself admire the Japanese, but
As they themselves would well appreciate,
I must honor my father's last wish.

The irony is I've never like Japanese food.

The irony is that
At his funeral,
The Priest that said
Mass was Japanese.


Poem

The wide Mojave sky dark
And vain as my heart tonight
Walking back by the feel
Of the blacktop under foot

What's that desert fragrance
That lights the 4 A.M. sky
With a shampoo green glow?

Is that a coyote eye

Or a tail reflector that bumped loose
From and old English racer?

Which are popular on the reservation
But never last long

They weren't made for this landscape


Sick Bird

The positions we use when making love
Determine the next day's weather

Tomorrow it will rain
the heat lightning by evening

Every time the telephone rings
A green sea turtle dies
And a phlegmatic guilt chants across your day

The side of your head
Where you part your hair
Dictates the direction
The trees lean
Left or right
In the yard out back

A poor Mexican teenager in the Texas panhandle
Is suffering from a venereal disease
And as he urinates in his bathroom the pain
Is too much to bear, so he smashes his closed fist into the plaster
Leaving a hole there and discovers a shelf within the wall
Filled with stacks of fifty-dollar bills left behind by a drug dealer perhaps
Who departed in haste and so he is rich for a lifetime
Because of pain and urine

A blond woman with a silver tongue stud and gold rings
Above her left eye lights a cigarette with a candle
In the VIP lounge of a club in Minneapolis
And the candle drips wax to the red carpet, somehow causing
A lone fisherman on an upstate lake
To slip on some odd substance, falling overboard and drowned
Eventually eaten by his own propeller
While a child from a lake tribe
Kneeling in his canoe
Watches in distance and mist
Unable to do a thing for him
He mutters, "That poor man,"
And paddles through the reeds
Skimming the surface with a plank,
Continuing to harvest wild rice form the surface of Glacier Lake

A popular character actress removes her Emerald brooch
After a banquet to raise money
For the twin benefit of Los angeles runaways
And the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet.

By her simple action, undoing the clasp of the brooch
The Dalai Lama stubs his left foot on a cabinet in his room
At the San Francisco Zen Center's guest house, 800 miles up the coastline
Causing alarm among the Roshi and initiates, and a marlin-blue swelling
On the big toe of the gentle Lama, who meditates the pain to Maya

While in a cluttered shop in the thin streets of Milan, Italy,
Its floor filled with rosewood shavings
The air cramped with oak dust,
The man who built the cabinet
On which the Dalai Lama's foot was stubbed
Slumps over his workbench with a cerebral hemorrhage.
He is dead
It has been growing a long while in his mind.
It was simply a matter of time.

And a young Norwegian film student thoughtlessly
Decides to title his short film
It was simply a Matter of Time.
It has nothing to do
With time, however, nor the dead
Italian cabinet maker.

A mosquito sucks the blood of a post-Soviet Baltic girl
And she falls in love with a balding Armenian
Who assures her that only girls with strong sexual drives are chosen by
     these insects
The mosquito dies and provides a small meal to a starving bird.

That bird's song awakes me at 5 A.M.
I shiver with a sudden sense of dread because the mosquito
Which it ate was poisoned by the blood of the girl which it bit
Because she was imbibed with lies and designer drugs and so the bird
     sings off-key
As it jars me from sleep, and the room is folding over
Darker as I rise and I know a change is coming & bad & soon writing this
     poem








Even now, the funeral last week still has me thinking.



the draft board

life,
such a serious game,
no matter how carefully you play it,
it kills you every time

a random thought,
and even
i don't know what to do with it

just know that
that kind of stuff has been on my mind
since a funeral i went to last week,
not so much the funeral itself
affecting me

- a nice affair, loose and unassuming,
perfectly capturing the man
who had left us -

but the new evidence of mortality -
as if additional evidence
is needed in the middle of one's 66th year -

like a chapel full of mostly old people
who know their own time is coming,
an exclusive club of those whose time
is running out - exclusive, only in the sense
of selective membership and the years of waiting
to get on the list, whether you want to or not

Groucho said he didn't want to belong
to any club
whose standards were so low
as to accept him

that's how i feel about this club
of the not yet dead but daily dying -

i would like to think i'm
overqualified,
despite all evidence
to the contrary

but it's like the draft board
on my eighteenth birthday,
there was not a lot of concern
with my preferences
on the matter








I have three poems now by poet Gene Fehler from Golden Jubilee Anthology, 1949-1999 published by the Austin Poetry Society in 2000.

Formerly of Austin, Fehler teaches poetry in elementary and middle schools in South Carolina. He is a frequently published poet and author, concentrating mostly on sports books for young readers.



The Marksman

Of all the things
I loved about my granddad

the best was not the fact
that he let me sit next to him
on the front seat of the township truck

when he drove to the quarry
for a load of gravel

but the way his spray
of sweet-smelling chewing tobacco
sailed over my lap

while we bounced over country roads
at forty miles an hour

and pinged dead center
in the coffee can

every time.


Coloring Outside the Lines

got me kept after school
in first grade,
especially when Mrs. Dobbish
found I was
doing it on purpose, running
the orange
crayon all the way across
my page
and onto my desk, where
I drew a
flat nose, big eyes, smiling
mouth on a
bright round sun that Mrs.
Dobbish, in spite
of the smile, thought looked
like her.


In the Back Seat

In the back seat
of my '54 Ford
on my ninth date
with pretty Julie Mae
on Potter's Road
down where the leaves
danced
under a romantic May moon
nothing much happened

again.








Now here's a poem from another one of our Dan-friends, this one Dan Cuddy from Baltimore.



Getting A Haircut

i sit with my mouth shut
a barber shop
you need to keep your mouth shut
they play with razors
like people pic guitars
Oh, no reenactment of Sweeney Todd
the music is John Philip Sousa
the talk is pure Ronald Reagan
the barber doesn't use deodorant
a rank place
but ya gotta get the wild hairs cut
ya gotta look like ya belong someplace
besides the island in the middle of the street
with a cardboard sign
"will harass for money"
ya aren't like that
ya gotta a credit card
and the trumpets play
"Charge"
every time you become a part
of this Greatest Little Economy on Earth
okay, the talc,
the aftershave
your neck feeling red
your heart beating red, white and blue
you will vote Republican
because you do
and you like money
you put up with a cheap apartment
because you like to spend on electronics
you like to be wired into the world
ah, the barber slides your plastic
numbers are changing microscopically
in the macro world








Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, born a free black woman in Baltimore, Maryland in 1824 earned financial independence and nationwide acclaim with her poetry, essays, fiction and public readings on behalf of racial equality, women's and children's rights, Christian morality and temperance. She died in 1911,

The poem by Harper is from African American Poetry, an Anthology, 1773-1927, published in 1977 by Dover Publications.



Bury Me in a Free Land

Make me a grave where'er you will,
In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill,
Make it among earth's humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves.

I could not rest if around my grave
I heard the steps of a trembling slave:
His shadow above my silent tomb
Would make it a place of fearful gloom.

I could not rest if I heard the tread
Of a coffle gang to the shambles led,
And the mother's shriek of wild despair
Rise like a curse on the trembling air.

I could not sleep if I saw the lash
Drinking her blood at each fearful gash,
And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
Like trembling doves from their parent nest.

I'd shudder and start if I heard the bay
Of blood-hounds seizing their human prey,
And I heard the captive plead in vain
As the bound afresh his galling chain.

If I saw young girls from their mother's arms
Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
My eye would flash with a mournful flame
My death-paled cheeks grow red with shame.

I would sleep, dear friends , where bloated might
Can rob no man of his dearest right;
My rest shall be calm in any grave
Where none can call his brother a slave.

I ask no monument, proud and high
To arrest the gaze of the passer-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.








I wrote a Memorial Day poem for the occasion last Monday.



Memorial Day

i served
but did not fight

i did my time,
instead,
bent over a radio
seeking out the secrets
of those
who we thought to be
our enemies

and since the secrets
i found
did not seem very interesting
to me or to anyone else, it never occurred to me
my contribution to the security of my country
amounted to much

another cog
in the military-industrial machine,
that's all i ever was -
the outcome of choice for me

but
while i did what i did, there were others
who did fight during those same years -
1967 through 1969 - and, among them,
thousands who died

gave their lives for their country,
is the way we
describe it

what a conceit that is

the idea that the lives of
those who did not fight or die
were of such value -

"had better things to do" in the words
of one former vice-president
who enjoyed his five deferments -

that men and women would
give up
lives and future for those who had "better things to do"

give up education never completed

give up marriages never consummated; the midnight kiss;
making love with the new sun rising

give up the joy of watching their son or daughter
bat or catch a fly in little league play; the crack of the bat;
the slap of a hard thrown ball as it hits
the catcher's mitt

give up future careers and professional accomplishment

give up all -

give up, everything that could ever be, everything that
those
who did not serve and fight
would come to accept as their due in life

for my limited service
i got two years of college
and a government backed loan
for my first house

but
what can you give a soldier dead for weeks or years?

nothing,
i'm afraid,
but honor and respect for the time they gave us

the lives of these good men and women
was a loan,
given to us in good faith,
that must be repaid
with the honors that are the best we can do

and today
is one of the 365 days this year
to do it








Sapphire does not write "nice" poems; she does not write "soft" poems. Sapphire writes hard, nasty poems that take your breath away.



Rabbit Man

1.

he's the night
chasing rabbits,
a pot of dust
under the asphalt sky
cracked with stars.
athlete,
"colored boy from Houston makes good."
standing straight as a razor
he cuts my vagina open
stretches it like bleeding lights thru dark air
his rabbit teeth drag my tongue
over sabers hidden in salt,
from the slit tip
red roses drip
screaming: daddy don't.

I'm not supposed to be
your dinner nigger.
your semen forms fingers
in my throat,
furry fingers,
i cough all the time
rabbit man
colored boy
run
jump
hurdle after hurdle -
higher

till your penis melts
like a marshmallow in fire
and your fear is a desert with no flowers
except two daughters,
American Beauties,
tight rosebuds you hew open,
petals of pink light left bleeding
under a broken moon.
pine needles spring up in the sand
but you don't ask what they're for
surrounded like you are by infant daughters,
little dog fish drowning in diapers.
you did this rabbit dick,
rabbit dick
rabbit dick
hopping coprophagous freak
blind eyes opening
like terminal disease
in mouth after mouth -
paralyzing light.

2.

I slide between cold polyester rooms,
into your bed -
everything is so cheap and falling apart.
I recoil from the blond skin and
bleeding blue eyes of Jesus.
most nights you slept
in the obituary of light -
alone.
the picture is positioned
so when you head hit the pillow
you saw Jesus.
the what?

3.

you saw death like the black legs of your mother
like the bent teeth of your retarded sister
like the wet smell of light in a fish's eye.
you saw death riding without a car or credit cards.
you saw death creeping waddling like the fat women
   you hated.
you saw Jesus could not save you.

god's hand is creased with the smell of burnt hair and
   hot grease,
she hears you tell your sons don't get no
   black nappy-head woman.
her titties sag down sad snakes that crawl up your legs
till your penis talks and with blind sight you see
the two daughters you left in the desert without water.
oh death knows you and invites you to dinner,
rolls out the driveway like a coupe de ville,
is a snake-tongued daughter who turns on you,
is a thirsty rabbit choking on a lonely road.
death is an ax in an elevator rising to the sun.
death is god's egg.
death is a daughter who eats.
you are the table now the wet black earth lays upon -
you are dinner for dirt,
a cadillac spinning back to a one-room shack.
you are the rabbit released from fear,
the circle broken by sun
the handle of a buried ax,
head rolling thru desert
like a tumble weed -
back to Neptune.

4.

now I am the queen of sand,
wind wrapping like wire around the rabbit's neck,
the end of a cycle.
my children refuse to believe your penis is a lollipop.
my children are the desert in bloom;
cactus flowers opening to forgiveness,
millions of rabbits hopping -
hopping over you.








Next I have a short piece (a Tanka) from our friend Arunansu Banerjee, from from Calcutta, West Bengal, India. Since childhood, Arunsansu says, he has been a prolific painter and a "bookworm." He is a teacher by profession, with a degree in physics and specialized expertise in softwares. His primary love is listening to Indian Classical music. His favorite poets are Emily Dickinson and Rabindranath Tagore.

Arunsansu explains that this poem is about the painting of the Goddess Durga. He says that the greatest appeal of the Goddess "lies in her eyes. The artist's rendition of her eyes are thus almost at par with drawing forth her soul, so an auspicious moment is chosen for the painting of the Goddesses eyes."



Divine

A brush paints
the three brightest eyes
over cold clay.
Light watches darkness,
folded hands cling to prayers.








Now I have a poem by Jose Emilio Pacheco, from his book The Ark of the Next Millennium, published by the University of Texas Press in 1993.

Pacheco was born in 1939, in Mexico City. He studied at Autonomous National University of Mexico. After graduating Pacheco worked as the Assistant Editor for Revista de la Universidad de Mexico from 1959 until 1960, then as Associate Editor to La Cultura en Mexico, and then went on to teach literature at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. Pacheco's first book of poetry, Los elementos de la noche (The Elements of Night), was published in 1963, when he was barely twenty. .

Pacheco is a well-known translator of works by Samuel Beckett, Yevgeny Yevtuschenko, and Albert Einstein, among others. He was awarded with the Mexican National Poetry Prize in 1969 for his collection No me preguntas como pasa el tiempo (Don't Ask Me How the Time Goes By). His collection El silencio de la luna (The Silence of the Moon) was awarded the Premio Jose Asuncion Silva for the best book in Spanish to appear in any country between 1990 and 1995. Pacheco is considered the most important Mexican poet of the generation following Octavio Paz and Alfonso Reyes. He currently lives and teaches in Mexico City.

The poems in the book were translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.



Eye Witness

At the edge of the sea, curving sand
and a line of dead fish

Like shields abandoned after battle

No sign of suffocation or visible
putrefaction

Jewels polished by the sea
sarcophagi
enclosing their own deaths

Those fish shared
a ghostly
peculiarity

None had eyes

Twin cavities in each head

As if something said
the land might claim their bodies

But their eyes belong to the sea
the sea sees through them

So when a fish dies on the sand
its eyes evaporate
and with the tide

the sea recovers what is hers








Like the poem says, I don't know where this came from, but here it is.



mondo weirdo

don't know why i thought of this
but i remember
reading in Believe It or Not
about this businessman, an
owner of a big company back East
who had himself stuffed or embalmed
or whatever when he died
back in 1837 or something like that,
a long time ago, anyway, who
put a clause in his will that
his body be wheeled out
and sat at the head of the table
at every board of directors meeting

this had been going on since he died
back in whenever up to 1955 or 1956
when i read about him in my
Believe It or Not book

i was 11 or 12 years old at the time
and i loved that book, full as it was
of great stuff like that

and several years later,
the Italian movie
Mondo Cane

a cinematic
Believe It or Not
with a few naked people
and a theme song More
remembered today,
while its source is forgotten
by most, as are the many
mondo-movie rip-offs, usually
with even stranger stuff than the original
and increasing numbers, with
each new version, of naked people,
and, eventually naked people
simulating sex. naked people
having sex and, finally, naked
people having weird sex

and their still making them,
you know,
except they're on TV now,
shows that don't go off
to some far-away exotic land
to find the strange and twisted,
but right next door, instead,
to our neighbors, those staid
upright looking people who,
it seems,
will do anything to be on
television,
to be famous,
to be famous for doing things
not discussed in the world i grew up in
back in 1955 and 1956

i saw all those mondo-movies,
loved them
from my young perch in the
world of the mid-50's -
loved them for the shock
of their strangeness

shock and strangeness
was not in big supply
where i came from
and finding it in a movie
theater was a gift
to that young inquiring mind

this new stuff -

i don't watch it

living right in the middle
of all that weirdness
is a little unsettling
for an older guy like me -
long past
any young fascination
with shock and awe








Here's a short piece by our friend Kevin McCann. Kevin has been a full-time writer for 16 years now. He's published six limited edition pamphlets in England, including I Killed George Formby, which includes this poem.



Yet Another Fractal

After being adored by ants
For the honeydew
Excreted from her back,
She's cocooned inside their nest
Until, silk shell splitting
And resurrected as a butterfly
She totters outside,
Her new wings unfurled,
They curve on the air,
Spinning each breeze
To a twister
That'll wring trees leafless,
Rip off rooftops,
Stampede waves crag height

While Fundamentalists explain :

Our God is angry ! Our God's in pain !

                (Yet again.)








Mostly dark and/or weird poems from me this week. Here's something a little brighter to close on.



Star Trek can wait

rain blew in
from the north yesterday
and while the rain's gone
today,
the north wind continues to blow,
cleaning the air,
leaving it crystal sharp,
the humidity
that usually leaves an soft damp film
over everything, like looking at the world
through a glass of water,
has been pushed back to the coast

it's like waking up from a long sleep,
colors bright as fresh paint,
green especially,
leaves and grass sagging
from heat and humidity yesterday
erect after the rain, like
green flags
waving at a spring parade

we had meant to go to a movie
this afternoon
but it is a beautiful day
and we decided not to waste it
in a dark theater

Star Trek can wait until
summer returns
tomorrow







So we're on the road again to next week, when our party favors will include poems by Cornelius Eady, Tu Fu, John Ashbery, Jane Hirshfield, Henri Coulette and another one of those dark German expressionists.

Until they show up, remember all of the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

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Introducing Lawrence Trujillo   Thursday, May 21, 2009


Tribute to Barnette Newmann
by Lawrence Trujillo
IV.5.4.




All the images in this issue are by friend , former coworker, and San Antonio artist, Lawrence Trujillo.

Lawrence was born in 1971, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After studying art at New Mexico State University, he traveled extensively throughout the Western and Midwestern U.S. to promote his experimental visions. Using his numerous sketchbooks as source material, his paintings evolve arbitrarily, and tend toward the geometric. In addition to galleries, he has exhibited in a deli, a library, a liquor store, at home, and portably, using lightweight displays and easels. His work is in a growing number of collections, including those of The University of Texas at San Antonio and the New Mexico Department of Transportation, and various private supporters. In 2009, Lawrence has upcoming shows in New Orleans, Louisiana and Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as well as several ongoing exhibits in San Antonio.

A visit to his San Antonio studio is chronicled in the online literary magazine, invasivethoughts.com: From Event to Studio. More art can be found at Lawrence Trujillo's Artsite, now listed in YourArt.com, and also in myspace, at www.myspace.com/lawrence_trujillo.

In talking about his vision as an artist, Lawrence says "I combine colors, lines, and shapes at will to achieve vibrant, layered, and highly contrasting oil and acrylic paintings. Though the subject matter may sometimes vary, a common thread of all artworks is my outright refusal to use rulers or straightedges; I believe that the sanctity of the drawn line is paramount."

.....

I'm going a bit longer than usual with this issue, mainly because it got done in bits and pieces, right in the middle of a bunch of other stuff, and it just kind of grew while I wasn't watching.

So, in addition to Lawrence's art, here's the list of our poets for the week:

Chiyo-ni
Selections from the book Chiyo-ni, Woman Haiku Master

Me
as the cookie crumbles

Rose Becallo Raney
Fresh

Marilyn Kallet
Fireflies

Joan Shroyer-Keno
Knowing

Susan B. McDonough
Flower Bits

Federico Garcia Lorca
from Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias

Me
apology

Arlita Jones
January
Meatwrapper's Lyric


Alice Folkart
Pure Trash
Chinatown Sunset
Last Night in Chinatown


Rose Romano
So I Lost My Temper

Laura Boss
At the Nuclear Rally

Alan Chong Lau
The Upside Down Basket

Me
stirring in the mist

Edwin Arlington Robinson
Mr. Flood's Party

William Shakespeare
When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes

Percy Shelley
Ozymandias

Barbara Moore
Dares go first, diana rigg

Me
the NRA is ascared of me

Thomas R. Smith
Com in From the Rain

Me
on this Mother's Day
start with biography






Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




I begin this week with a little gathering of haiku from the book Chiyo-ni, Woman Haiku Master, published by Tuttle Publishing in 1998.

This is the first book in English on a woman haiku poet. Chiyo-ni, the poet was born in 1703 and died in 1775. She is Japan's most celebrated female haiku poet. A student of two of Basho's disciples, she worked in an age when haiku was largely a male domain. She was a poet, painter, and Buddhist nun.

All the poems in the book were translated by Patricia Donegan andYoshie Ishibashi.

The book's poems are divided into seasons.



New Year

flying of cranes
as high as the clouds -
first sunrise


one mountain after another
unveiled -
the first mists


Under New Year's sky
holding Mount Fuji's
smile


New Year's sake -
until the next,
this first delight


first dream
even after awakening
the flower's heart the same


Spring


wrapped around
this world's flower -
hazy moon


green grass -
between, between the blades
the color of the water


to be in a world
eating white rice
amid plum fragrance


butterfly -
what's it dreaming
fanning its wings?


morning and evening
the dew swells
on the buds


Summer


the moon's coolness -
on that leaf, this leaf
not only light


keeping cool -
in the deep night
strangers on the bridge


the coolness -
of the bottom of her kimono
in the bamboo grove


change of kimono:
showing only her back
to the blossom's fragrance


moonflowers -
the beauty
of hidden things


autumn


at the crescent moon
the silence
enters the heart


twilight
is left
in the maple leaves


moon viewing -
after coming home
nothing to say


first wild geese -
the nights are becoming long,
becoming long


moonlit night -
a cricket sings
out on a stone


winter


snowy night -
only the well-bucket's
falling sound


sleeping alone
awakened
by the frosty night...


sewing things -
I fold in dreams
on a December night


the passing year -
irritating things
are only water


anyway
leave it to the wind -
dry pampas grass






Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




You know how it is, sometimes you just have to kick loose all the traces chase down some excitement.



as the cookie crumbles

having a chocolate-chip
cookie
with my latte this morning,
leaving me
aquiver with the excitement
at such a foray
into the world
of wild and crazy guyhood

it's a sign,
these palpitations are,
of my normally serene
and laid-back heart, that

i'm on a tear for sure,
set to become again the
adventurer
of my youth when
a bottle of Lone Star
for breakfast,
followed by pancakes
three eggs, sausage
and a gallon of coffee,
was the start of many a day

(i knew it was breakfast
because the light hurt my eyes)

i'm ready

this getting old and creaky
crap
has run it's course

it's time to fight back
against the deprecations
of excessive birthdaying,
smoke inhalation
from all those candles
a major source of deterioration
of elders' respiratory functions

..........

the cookie's finished,
every last crumb,
and, though dizzy now from the
big chocolate chunks,
i'm still up to the fight

but i'm going home first
to take a nap

after that,
those mattress tags
better beware

cause i'm on a
crazy
desperado
law-busting
tear





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




The next several poems are from All Around Us: Poems from the Valley published in 1996 for the Knoxville Writer's Guild by Blue Ridge Publishing. This the second anthology of poems from their region by the Guild, the first being titled Voices from the Valley. The new anthology includes the work of 72 poets.

The first of the poems I'm using this week is by Rose Becallo Raney, a senior technical writer and editor for a scientific and engineering management firm in Oak Ridge. She completed her MA in English with emphasis in creative writing in 1992 at the University of Tennessee in 1992 and was one of two first-place winners in the 1994 Tennessee Writers Alliance poetry competition.

It is getting close to dinner time as I write this and I was very hungry, even before I read this poem.



Fresh

He stands by the wheelbarrow full of sweet potatoes.
"Big as your arm," he says, turning
tubers over in their dust and soft clods.

Fuzzy root hairs hang down from them - fresh, ripe,
snapping with harsh orange in brown dirt skins.
He scrubs them down, sloughs off warm mud,

gnarled fingers knuckling in the knots of his work
as he dreams the steaming baked potatoes
mashed across with butter, yellow running

with some of the white corn and those beefsteak
tomatoes: wavering rinds, sliced-through sleeves.
The smile wrinkles as his shirt billows soft.


The next poem from the anthology is by Marilyn Kallet, a professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. A poet, translator, essayist, and editor, Kallet is widely published, including six books of her own, and winner, in 1988, of the Tennessee Arts Commission's Literary Fellowship in Poetry.


Fireflies

In the dry summer field at nightfall,
fireflies rise like sparks.
Imagine the presence of ghosts
flickering, the ghosts of young friends,
your father nearest in the distance.
This time they carry no sorrow,
no remorse, their presence is so light.
Childhood comes to you,
memories of your street in lamplight,
holding those last moments before bed,
capturing lightning bugs,
with a blossom of the hand
letting them go. Lightness returns,
an airy motion over the ground
you remember from ring-around-the-rosie.
If you stay, the fireflies become fireflies
again, not part of your stories,
as unaware of you as sleep, being
beautiful and quiet all around you.


My last poem this week from the Knoxville Writer's Guild anthology is by Joan Shroyer-Keno who published frequently in area literary journals.


Knowing

Crickets, feather pillow,
old soft sheets against my cheek.
My mother, does she sleep
or turn and bend fourteen
hours on the night shift?
My grandmother curled
on her side, snoring. My great
grandmother flat on her
back. Stomach rising, falling.
Like her mother and her mother
before her: rising, blooming,
enduring, falling back to earth.
I see them in their fields, kitchens,
factories. Under their moon-white
sheets darned and bleached
their eyes in darkness, blinking.
Each seeing the lives of their mothers
longed for, but never had.





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




Here's a series of little poems about flowers by our friend Susan B. McDonough. Sue is a master gardner who creates gardens for a living and enjoys the journey of transplanting words into poetry. She has one foot in Arizona and the other in Maine. Her poems can be found both on-line and in print.

If I have my timing right, she has just left Arizona and is busy preparing her gardens in Maine now. What a great life that must be, except for all the hard work.



Flower Bits

1

Bachelor buttons
lust for Evening Primrose
her soft pink petals
exposed to twilight


2

The clover that refused
to grow: lays lush covering paths
in a thick abundant emerald
carpet now that the plan
has been scrapped.


3

I wonder where tiny
grains of pollen land
(besides in our nostrils)
I envy imagined voyages
adrift on the whim
a late morning's wind.


4

I pretend I am
from another
planet, It is May
and I have discovered
bright yellow flowers;
something called
Dandelions. I find
them exquisite.


5

My woods were someone else's
once. The first fresh air camp
for kids with juvenile diabetes.
Each spring I find their flower
memories greening again;
day lilies from beneath dry oak leaves
and I know that their giggles
and summer shrieks rest here too.


6

I watch African Daisies
react to light. They
blink through wind blown
dappled. They telegraph
sun to shade, sun to shade
I watch for a few minutes
while they open a bit and close
and wonder how it is they know.





Painting by Lawence Trujillo




I have a poem now, actually a part of a poem, by Federico Garcia Lorca from the book In Search of Duende, published by New Directions in 1998. I'll leave it anyone unfamiliar with Garcia Lorca do their own google search.

The following are two sections from a long poem lamenting the death of a matador. The poem was translated by Stephen Spender and J. I. Gili.



from Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias

2. The Spilled Blood

I will not see it.

Tell the moon to come
for I do not want to see the blood
of Ignacio on the sand.

I will not see it!

The moon wide open.
Horse of still clouds,
and the grey bullring of dreams
with willows in the barreras.

I will not see it!

Let my memory kindle!
Warn the jasmines
of such minute whiteness!

I will not see it!

the cow of the ancient world
passed her sad tongue
over a snout of blood
spilled on the sand,
and the bulls of Guisando,
partly death and partly stone,
bellowed like two centuries
sated with treading the earth.
No.
I do not want to see it!
I will not see it!

Ignacio goes up the tiers
with all his death on his shoulders.
He sought for the dawn
but the dawn was no more.
He seeks for his confident profile
and the dream bewilders him.
He sought for his beautiful body
and encountered his opened blood.
I will not see it!
I do not want to hear it spurt
each time with less strength:
that spurt that illuminates
the ties of seats and spills
over the corduroy and the leather
of a thirsty multitude.
Who shouts that I should come near!
Do not ask me to see it!

His eyes did not close
when he saw the horns near,
but the terrible mothers
lifted their heads.
And across the ranches,
and air of secret voices rose,
shouting to celestial bulls,
herdsmen of pale mist.
There was no prince in Seville
who could compare with him,
nor sword like his sword
nor heart so true.
Like a river of lions
was his marvelous strength,
and like a marble torso
his firm drawn moderation
The air of Andalusian Rome
gilded his head
where his smile was a spikenard
of wit and intelligence.
What a great torero in the ring!
What a good peasant in the sierra!
How gentle with the sheaves!
How hard with the spurs!
How tender with the dew!
How dazzling in the fiesta!
How tremendous with the final
banderillas of darkness!

But now he sleeps without end.
Now the moss and the grass
open with sure fingers
the flower of his skull.
and now his blood comes out singing;
singing along marshes and meadows,
sliding on frozen horns,
faltering soulless in the mist,
stumbling over a thousand hoofs
to form a pool of agony
close to the starry Guadalquivir.

Oh, white wall of Spain!
Oh, black bull of sorrow!
Oh, hard blood of Ignacio!
Oh, nightingale of his veins!

No.
I will not see it!
No chalice can contain it,
no swallows can drink it,
no frost of light can cool it,
nor song nor deluge of white lilies,
no class can cover it with silver.
No.
I will not see it!


(This next, and final section of the poem follows part 3, The Laid-Out Body


4. Absent Soul

The bull does not know you, nor the fig tree,
nor the horses, nor the ants in your own house.
The child and the afternoon do not know you
because you have died for ever.

The back of the stone does not know you,
nor the black satin in which you crumble.
Your silent memory does not know you
because you have died for ever.

The autumn will come with small white snails,
misty grapes and with clustered hills,
but no on will look into your eyes
because you have died for ever.

Because you have died for ever,
like all the dead of he Earth,
like all the dead who are forgotten
in a heap of lifeless dogs.

Nobody knows you. No. But I sing of you.
for posterity I sing of your profile and grace.
Of the signal maturity of your understanding.
Of you appetite for death and the taste of its mouth.
Of the sadness of your once valiant gaiety.

It will be a long time, if ever, before there is born
an Andalusian so true, so rich in adventure.
I sing of his elegance with words that groan,
and I remember a sad breeze through olive trees.





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




Every once in a while a newspaper headline hits close to home, even when home is a little bitty place few others have ever heard of.



apology

the first swine flu death
of an American
in the US
was a 33-year-old
woman from Harlingen, Texas
who taught school in Mercedes, Texas,
both cities very familiar to me
as the bracket my old home town
on Highway 83, one the west
and the other to the east,
7 miles in either direction

both important to me in their
proximity as places
we could go to do the things
we didn't dare do
in our little home town
where everyone knew us
and our parents
and where we lived
and we couldn't get away
with nothing without hearing
about it at home

Mercedes
is a little town
about the same size as
La Feria,
where i grew up, famous
for it's annual live stock show
and rodeo, bringing in "big names"
in the country-field for it’s midweek
musical performances,
the old singing cowboy, Gene Autry,
one year, and most notoriously,
Dan Blocker, the big guy who played
Hoss on the tv show Bonanza, who
got drunk in Mexico before the show
and had to be tied to his horse
to keep him from falling off during
the his ride around the arena

(some cowboy skills were required
of all performers, singing cowboy
or tv actor, as well as rodeo riders)

we didn't have much else to do
with Mercedes except for a couple
of fights with Mercedes kids over
a swimming hole about halfway
between the two towns

(a great swimming hole, right beside
a field of watermelon
which we stole until the farmer finally
wised up after three summers
and planted cotton instead -

what i
wouldn't give
for a watermelon
that tasted that good again)

Harlingen was where we
most hung out, a larger city
of 30-35 thousand, with
several movie theaters,
English and Spanish, and
two drive in movies, for when
you had better things to do
that watch a movie; two
drive in restaurants about
fifteen blocks apart, good
for 60-70 miles a night
cruising
back and forth, to see,
to be seen, important in
equal measure

(hard as it is to believe
as i look at the pictures,
but i looked a little older
than my friends and was usually
the one to supply the alcohol
that helped fuel the cruising -
bought it in a little town called
Bluetown,
a few miles south of home,
almost right on the Rio Grande
neither blue nor much of a town,
but with at least one little cantina
with a healthy disrespect
for gringo law
and Constable Pinky who preferred to stay
well north of Bluetown
where he might have to prove the existence
of several personal characteristics
like toughness and personal grit he'd
prefer to have just assumed by one and all)

other times,
we crossed the river to buy
hard liquor, a hassle, since,
being underage we couldn't
declare it and had to smuggle
it across - our greatest coup
when we smuggled 25 pints
of rum across the river inside
the front seat
of a friend's '61 Ford station
wagon, becoming famous
among our rum drinking friends)

the city also hosted an Air Force
base, closed after the 1960 election,
bringing hardship to many families,
including some of my friends',
leaving a ghost town of grass-grown
streets and derelict barracks
that i helped dismantle several
years later while on a summer job,
tearing apart the skin and bones
of the former lifeblood of many
workers and their families

..........

all this remembering
from the death of one person
unknown to me and unborn
for many years
after these memories
were created

would she care about any of this -
very unlikely,
few will i would suppose, making this
a poem to myself

(as most are)

a poem extended to myself
even more blatantly that usual,
with apologies
for dragging you along
but, you know,
it's what i do and if i didn't do
what i do, well,
i'd hardly be doing anything
at
all





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




Alaskan butcher's daughter, meatwrapper, and poet, Arlitia Jones, won the 2001 Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize with her first collection of poems, The Bandsaw Riots, published by Bear Star Press.

Here are two poems from that book.



January

Morning is a black wing flaring
at a window feathered with ice
through which there's nothing
to be seen but Anchorage
hunkered under halogen limps.
Industry stops. Too cold
even to work inside
at Wholesale Tendermeats where
the butchers move like slow bears
dazed in the chill of the cutting room,
white luggers stretched over
bulk of winter coats and longjohns.
At break the coffee in their cups
turns cold before they drink it.
They pass sections of newspaper -
a well-worn currency between them.
I see they're selling health insurance
for pets now,
says the bookkeeper
behind the counter who, at age forty-eight
and uninsured, could finally pay
cash for her first mammogram.
And the butcher scrabbling
his fingers in the candy dish
set out for paying customers swears
These fucking people drive me nuts,
and tells about the border collie
he had when he was a kid. Smacked
by a car, not bad enough to kill it.
I had to hide him under our porch
or my dad would've shot him.
we never heard of a veterinarian.

Says his father worked swing
at he railroad, coupling, un
coupling the cars, In his house
nothing went to the animals.
Hardly anything to the kids.
In the office black and white
floor tiles tell the lie: wrong and right
remain distinct, one from the other.
It's the cold platform they stand on
every day. Their break
stretches to a half hour and still
they're reluctant to hit it.
With four hours and twenty-six
minutes of light, dark rules
the beginning to every year
and appetite sets the price
for red meat. Out of Nebraska
beef tenders run twelve bucks pound
when you can get them. For months
Americans have been stockpiling
New Yorks and Tenderloins
to prepare for the barrenness
of a new century. They pay dearly
to avoid hunger, to avoid chicken.
One of the butchers worries
about pipes on the outside wall
of his house. In weather like this
something always bursts. Every
thing shuts down. In her reflection
in the window glass the meat-
wrapper watches her self trying
to breath warmth into her hands.
You never think it'll come to this.
The kid who once believed
she would fly, vowed
to throw herself to the wind,
is hunched in a chair, conserving
body heat, cold and grouchy
as the thought of getting up.


Meatwrapper's Lyric

Out of the corner of my eye I peg her
to be the pretty wife of an important man.
Always, it's ones like her who ask, "How can you
stand the sight of blood?" She watches me
weigh out the three pounds of extra lean ground round
and wipe my hands on my apron to keep
from spoiling the clean white butcher paper
I wrap it in. "You get used to it," I shrug
and think of the blood's aged color -
not that hot red shock of a life leaked out -

more brown and watery as old coffee,
blood dull as engine oil on the cutting floor
where we've tracked through with our heavy boots.
Thursday night must be her night to cook
for husband and two kids. Her recipe, from a magazine,
will clutter her kitchen with forty-eight separate ingredients,
an electric chopper and, I'd bet money, a double broiler.
I smile. Count back change. "It's no big thing.
I wash my hands a lot and when I get home
the kides dog goes apeshit licking my feet."





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




Here's a kind of a series of poems by our friend from Hawaii, Alice Folkart.

Alice was involved in a spoken word project that had its rehearsals in Chinatown. From her observations and impressions, came these poems.

I'm hoping to see more because I really like these and the sense of time and place that makes them so real.



Pure Trash

Pure trash,
that's one thing
you can count on
in Chinatown.

Nothing
with any life
left in it
is ever thrown away.

Unsmiling old women
in black cloth shoes
eye even banana peels -
they must be good for something!

Piled high on lava curbstones,
yellow, pink, blue and white,
plastic bags bulging with nail parings and
dead rats, wait for Monday pick up.

Even the orange striped cat
walks past without sniffing.


Chinatown Sunset

Orange striped cat
sniffing in the drain pipe
in a Chinatown gutter.
Are you someone's idea of a meal,
cat meat with lobster sauce,
in this haven of the poor?
Is that why you won't look
when I call, "Pretty cat!"

Woman on a blue-plastic stool,
gold front tooth glinting in
the setting sun that
a mile away, on Waikiki Beach
sends tourists ohhhing and ahhhhing.
Seated on the dirty sidewalk,
tossing grain to filthy pigeons
to entertain just-learned-to-walk son.


Last Night in Chinatown

Crooked little man
in a boy's striped tee shirt
orange and brown,
sitting on a produce box
in a dirty doorway in
the bad part of Chinatown,
peel the rotten leaves
off yesterday's Brussels Sprouts
to make them new for tomorrow.
What were your dreams?





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




My next couple of poems come from a book I just picked up at Half-Price Books.

The book, Unsettling America, An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry, was published by Penguin Books in 1994. A great buy, this book, at $3.48.


My first poem from the book is by Rose Romano, poet, editor and publisher. The granddaughter of Neapolitan and Sicilian immigrants, she was born and raised in Brooklyn.


So I Lost My Temper

Another one was coming toward me
yelling and wagging his finger
in my face. So I lost my temper.
I yelled louder than he could.
I backed him into a corner. His wife
tried to console him. It's an Italian
trait, she explained. I went out
and bought a votive candle and
a little glass cup to put it in. Then
I went home and made a big pot
of spaghetti.

Another on said he didn't believe
I could be that way, that Italian women
are much to sexual to be like
that, that he was sure I knew
how to make a man feel appreciated.
I went out and bought some tomato
seeds and a small clay pot. Then I
went home and lit the votive candle,
planted the tomato seeds, and made
a big pot os spaghetti.

Another one assured me that all women's
bars are owned and operated by the
Mafia, that the women who signed
the papers, redecorated the place,
stand behind the bar every night,
serve the drinks, sweep up at
closing time, and count the money,
are just a front. I went out and bought
a statue of the Sacred Heart of Mary.
Then I went home and put her on my
dresser, lit the votive candle in front
of her, watered the tomatoes, and made
a big pot of spaghetti.

I'm walking down the street
and I hear the words - garlic eater.
I tuck holy cards into the corners
of the mirror over my dresser.
I hear the word - greaseball.
I staple a tiny palm cross on
the door frame in my bedroom.
Dago - I put a red and white
checked tablecloth on the little
round table in my kitchen.
Guinea - I redo my bathroom in
green, white and red.
Wop - I stop shaving the little
black hairs growing out of my chin

If this trend continues,
when I'm eighty years old
I'll wear black shapeless dresses,
black stockings, black chunky shoes.
and my hair in a bun at the back
of my neck.

Now I'm thinking maybe
this is how Italian women
become grandmothers.

Now I'm thinking maybe
this is how Italian grandmothers
last long enough to become
boss of the family:
they lose their temper.


The next poem from the anthology is by Laura Boss. Her books of poetry include Stripping and the Alta Award-winning On the Edge of the Hudson.


At the Nuclear Rally

thinking of my father
who died of cancer of the pancreas
now linked to radiation

thinking of my father
who worked for the Atomic Energy Commission
that ran security checks on him
questioning our neighbors in Woodbridge

thinking of my father
with a pen in his pocket
who could add four columns of figures
in his head but stayed poor
working for the OPA
while colleagues took
expensive presents

thinking of my father
who embarrassed me, singing in the car
with the radio on as I now do
who returned from government trips
with marzipan strawberries, bananas, grapes
who cooke Sunday breakfast of chocolate
French toast (his special recipe)
and let my mother sleep late

thinking of my father
who was born Jewish
but never went to temple
never was Bar Mitzvahed

thinking of my father
who smelled of Chesterfields
who never hit, never spanked me
told me he was glad I walked home
with the only black woman
in my high school class

thinking of my father
who would have been at this rally
next to me tonight.


My last poem from Unsettling America is by Alan Chong Lau, whose books include a collection of poetry entitled Songs from Jadina.


The Upside Down Basket

      For Connie Young Yu,
      Chinese American Scholar

"the chinese came to california for gold, they worked on the railroad and wore
hats that looked like upside down baskets."

         - from a california state history textbook now in use


my grandmother
rakes up chicken shit
mixed with mud
to feed her roses

head protected
by and upside down basket
dares the sun to get closer

her shirt ablaze
with hawaiian pineapples
she imitates the cackle of hens
as they run merry off nests
wings flapping dust

an egg
still warm
cuddles the round
of my chin

a tickle unbearable
so i laugh
and she does too
so hard

the upside down
basket trembles
as though shaking
a fist
at the heat

we walk home
the musk of rotten apples everywhere
incense curling into skin

on the porch the upside down basket
sits rightside up

we drink gallons
of lemonade





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




Strange things afoot. If you don't believe me, look at this.



stirring in the mist

heavy haze
weights down the air

thick and gray
days
for the past week,
the buildings downtown
like tall-walking ghosts
at midday

a time for sussing out
mysteries, opportunities
to discover new delights
abounding -

pledge week
on public radio, a chance
to investigate the rest of the dial,
alternating between NPR, the all-jazz
format of KRTU at Trinity University until late at night,
the eccentric, eclectic mix of KSYM at San Antonio College,
and, every once in a while, the "golden oldies"
at 101.1, where the good old days are now starting
in 1980; that's the reason i don't stop in there often,
i'm looking for Jerry Lee and Chuck Berry and Little Richard
and they're giving me early Madonna, no different from late Madonna,
except not as buff and stringy and that's the way it is about getting old,
all the good stuff either dies or gets stringy, it's all about change,
mostly bad, but sometimes good, sometimes even amazing,
like Kumar,
going from "White Castle" and "House" to the White House,
and Harold,
now new helmsman on the SS Enterprise,
boldly going anew where no one has gone before

that's the way it is
on these dim and hazy days, strange things
stirring in the mist





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




Next, I have a couple of poets from another book I found at the used book store, A Pocketful of Poems, Vintage Verse, Volume. one in a series of anthologies directed at students. This first volume was published by Thompson Advantage Books.


My first poet from the book is Edwin Arlington Robinson.

Born in 1869, Robinson grew up in Maine, describing his childhood later as "stark and unhappy." His parents, having wanted a girl, did not name him until he was six months old, when they visited a holiday resort and other vacationers, deciding that he should have a name, selected a man from Arlington, Massachusetts to draw a name out of a hat. Although he endured a slow start to his literary career, he eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for the years 1922, 1925 and 1928. During the last twenty years of his life he became a regular summer resident at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, where he maintained a solitary life. He died in 1935.


Mr. Flood's Party

Old Eban Flood, climbing alone one night
Over the hill between the town below
And the forsaken upland hermitage
That held as much as he should ever know
On earth again of home, paused warily.
The road was his with not a native near;
and Eban, having leisure, said aloud,
For no man else in Tilbury Town to hear:

"Well, Mr. Flood, we have the harvest moon
Again, and we may not have many more;
The bird is on the wing, the poet says,
And you and I have said it here before.
Drink to the bird." He raised up to the light
The jug that had had gone so far to fill,
And answered huskily: "Well, Mr. Flood,
Since you propose it, I believe I will."

Alone, as if enduring to the end
A valiant Armor of scarred hopes outworn,
He stood there in the middle of the road
Like Roland's ghost winding a silent horn.
Below him, in the town among the trees.
Where friends of another day had honored him,
A phantom salutation of the dead
Rang thinly till old Eben's eyes were dim.

Then, as a mother lays her sleeping child
down tenderly, fearing it may awake,
He set the jug down slowly at his feed
with trembling care, knowing that most things break:
And only when assured that on firm earth
It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
Assuredly did not, he paced away,
and with his had extended paused again:

"Well, Mr. Flood, we have not met like this
In a long time; and many a change has come
To both of us, I fear, since last it was
We had a drop together. Welcome home!"
Convivially returning with himself,
Again he raised the jug up to the light;
And with an acquiescent quaver said:
"Well, Mr. Flood, if you insist, I might.

"Only a very little, Mr. Flood -
For auld lang syne. No more sir; that will do."
So, for the time, apparently, it did.
And Eben evidently thought so too;
For soon amid the silver loneliness
Of night he lifted up his voice and sang,
Secure, with only two moons listening,
Until the whole harmonious landscape rang -


"For auld lang syne." The weary throat gave out,
The last word wavered; and the song being done,
He raised again the jug regretfully
And shook his head, and was again alone.
There was not much that was ahead of him,
And there was nothing in the town below -
Where strangers would have shut the many doors
That many friends had opened long ago.


I don't I've ever featured this particular poet before, but here he is, from A Pocketful of Verse,, William Shakespeare.

When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes

When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless' cries,
and look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and this man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet, in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think of thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate.
    For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


Having done Shakespeare, why not Percy Shelley, also from the anthology and also a poem we learned to recite in high school. I wonder if they still do that.


Ozymandias

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




Here's a poem by our friend from New York, Barbara Moore.

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



Dares go first, diana rigg

We were in bed
as we usually were
back then,
a regular yoko and john
without a cause,
in your boyhood bedroom
in your parents' house
(independent were we)
watching and half watching
emma peel and john steed
avenge with a vengeance
of elegance and grace
you said something
or failed to say something

Feeling ignored, discounted
and jealous of diana rigg
i pouted; you kidded
with your usual
"got your goat, barbs
got another one
here's another
look at all these goats, barbs
you're losing all your goats
you're not smiling. barbs"
and I wasn't smiling
i was not amused this time

Throwing back the bedcovers
all high drama now
i walked with dignity
toward the bathroom
tossing in my wake
"you don't care about me
i'm going to off myself."
closing the bathroom door
i pushed in the flimsy lock
and began my search
through the medicine cabinet

Q-tips, craig martin toothpaste
the one without fluoride
you insisted on using,
(as our teeth cried for mercy)
because it had pepto bismol,
cheap seconal chaser,
that soothed your stomach.
you wouldn't buy a bottle
of pepto. That was for people
with more serious problems
not for junkies-in-training

Your parents kept the cabinet childproof
murine, guest soap, stool softener
vicks vaporub, emory boards
but on the top shelf
behind the lavoris
lurked bayer aspirin
bottle of 100, nearly full
mindlessly, i began to swallow pills
a few at a time with water
my attention span waned
this would take forever

In a light bulb moment
i emptied the bottle
into the waste paper basket
coverng the pills with tissue.
i unlocked the door
and called for you
before stretching out
on the cold bathroom floor
feigning a death pose
worthy of ms. rigg

Forced to leave daring dianna
you approached with annoyance
that swiftly turned to fear
enough to awaken your parents.
you and your dad
carried me back to bed
shook me and talked at me
while your mom mixed together
some concoction in the kitchen
something to swallow
dry mustard was in it
i remember that much

I was supposed to vomit
but I never did
your mom got suspicious
she looked for and found
the unswallowed pills
in the trash
she was not pleased
you defended me though
took all the blame
said you'd double dared me
they believed you
because they needed to
because they wanted to
go back to sleep





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




Sometimes, after a triple dose of classical, it just feels great to bust loose. Like this.

(Thin-skined gunowners with heart conditions and no sense of humor should avoid this next poem at all cost - save yourself a lot of heartburn and just skip on to the next poem.)



the NRA is ascared of me

been reading
the NRA people
are scared that i'm gonna
take away
their pistols
and their hunting rifles
and their AK47's
and their machine guns
and their grenade launchers
and their anti-tank mines
and their bunker buster missiles
and whatever, if it makes
a bang they want it -
makes their dicks grow,
you know, and they're sure
i'm going to take it all away
and leave them alone with their
inadequacies,
and i would of course, if i could,
but i can't, and the the lily-livered,
chicken-gizzard politicians in Washington
sure as hell aren't going to risk their weekly
pay-offs by doing it, so that's the way it is,
at some point, you or me or both of us
are going to be blown away by some
NRA card-carrying pencil-dick wacko
with mother issues and a NRA certified
shoot-all-the-motherfuckers-with-one-trigger-pull
50 calibre machine gun

all because his mother dressed him
in little girlie-panties and didn't
quit breast-feeding
him until he was twenty-six years old





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




The next poem is by Thomas R. Smith, from his book Horse of Earth, published by Holy Cow! Press of Duluth, Minnesota in 1994.

Smith is the author of three books of poems, most recently The Dark Indigo Current . He writes criticism for Ruminator Review and teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.



Come In From the Rain

Many remain mute. This one kneels
on a folded blanket sodden with rain
and sways toward the wall, his face
floating in the long bay of his hands.

He is one of the sad beggars of Barcelona
who kneel on sidewalks barefoot, hold out
cigar boxes, display some deformity or wound.
Some grip signs saying merely, "I am hungry."

Coins dropped on his laboriously printed plea
glisten, kings' faces drowning. He seems
oblivious of the winter wind on the alley,
the great stains devouring his shoes.

Such men turn up without explanation
or history on the streets of every city
of the world, delivered in our path
as if ejected by some shabby womb

to be rained on or frozen drunk
under a viaduct, without dry clothes
or honor. For God's sake, man,
it's time to come in from the rain!


But I do not say it. Beneath my
umbrella, I'm unsure whether I'm addressing
this Gypsy - master of cruel discipline -
or my father, my brother, men of my country.





Painting by Lawrence Trujillo




Every year I try to write a Mother's Day poem and am never satisfied. This year I tried two, one light, one not, and neither worthy of their subjects.

Another year of failure...



on this Mother's Day

early start
on this Mother's Day

at the supermarket
to buy flowers,
chocolate
and a card preprinted
with sincere
and humorous sentiments

the crowds
and long checkout lines
demonstrating
the demographic fact
that there are, indeed, one heckuv
a bunch
of mothers and
procrastinators
in the world today

rushed my hard-won sentiments
home
and presented them to
a mother of my long acquaintance
along with a kiss
that truly did Hallmark proud,
then treated
the same mother of my long acquaintance
to her favorite breakfast,
that being my specialty, world-famous
french toast
and extra crispy call-the-fire-department-honey
bacon

- truth in poetical reporting
requires me
at this point to admit that the fire department
has never actually been called
on behalf of my bacon
and, while it might be a stretch
to call my french toast world famous,
many who have experienced it might declare
it should be so -

following breakfast
we continued with our regular Sunday morning
routine of caffein-enhanced
newspaper wallowing

the news of the day digested
- best done, as usual, on an
empty stomach -
we hopped into my little red truck
and hied ourselves off to Austin
for a mid-afternoon brunch
with our first-born
at a little Mexican cafe not to far
from his house, blackened fish tacos
for the mother-of-my-long-acquaintance
and our more gastronomically sophisticated
first born, while i enjoyed my standard
enchiladas, rice, and beans

the meal complete, the after dinner conversation
about all those things that never quite get said
on the telephone duly explored,
we dropped F.B. off at his house and,
after hugs and proper motherly nagging,
made out way back to San Antonio
where we noticed, driving in from the heights,
that the haze downtown had lifted, a result,
it could be, of a day of rest taken
by those in Mexico burning their fields,
or a gift, it could even be, from Mother Nature
on this, her special day


start with biography

start with biography

youngest child,
mother dead at her birth

father
an independent produce man,
he bought fruits and vegetables
in the fields and orchards
of South Texas,
hauled his produce
to city markets in San Antonio
and Houston
and sold his truckload
for what the market allowed

a hard
day to day
hand to mouth way to support
five children with few good years
and many poor as crops failed
or abundance caused prices to fall
so that a truck load this year
might be worth only as much as a half load
last year, the years few
when supply and demand balanced
and better times left money
for a pair of winter shoes
to be proudly worn and shown
on the buckboard ride to school

widowed
with a young son
while still in her teens,
years struggling to feed the child,
marriage finally to the man, my father,
with whom two more sons were born

more years of struggle, working at home
to supplement a blue collar income, making
prom corsages out of discarded hosiery,
dyed the color of leaves and roses,
baking, wedding cake, birthday cakes,
skillfully decorated with her sure hand,
always better and cheaper than the
professional competition - she worked
at such a bakery during the years of struggle
with her first son, and, as always, never
let a day pass without learning something new -

living through the decline and death
of another husband, nursing him, caring
for him like the nurse she'd learned to be
raising three sons, holding his hand
as he died - finding new life then

days spent as a hospital volunteer, learning
to paint, supporting the hospital gift shop
with her flower arrangements, then managing
the gift shop as a volunteer, taking music lessons,
learning the basics of auto repair, carpentry
and plumbing, learning the joys travel, sometimes
on her own, or with her friends, or with her sons,

always on the move, until the Thanksgiving Day
in her 81st year when she finally lay down to rest
and did not rise
again

and beyond
this biography, what
do i know of this woman

i know that, though poorly educated
herself, she taught me to read and write
before i attended my first day of school

i know that, though often hungry, her
children were always well fed

i know that, though stern when discipline
was required, she was gentle in her comforting

i know that, though a simple country woman
at heart, she could always calm
the most complex storms of the heart

i know that there were four deep
and abiding loves
in her life, and one of them was me

i know
that, once again
on this mother's day
as on the last,
i have failed
to write the poem she deserves







When I introduced Lawrence Trujillo at the beginning of this issue, I neglected to mention that, in addition of his primary work as an artist, he is also a poet. For a period of time, he and I were meeting for weekly poetry sessions at a local restaurant. Eventually, when we were unable to gather a consistant crowd, we gave it up. I thought I might close this issue with a picture showing another side of Lawrence's talent as he reads at one of our gatherings.

And with that, once again, "Here and Now" is done for the week.

One last thing though

As I was finishing up on the issue, I got word that a very old friend and patron passed away, which means I'll be going back to the coast for his funeral on Friday, which means, in turn, that I'll be posting this either early, like Thursday, or very late, like Sunday or Monday.

So, this will be posted when it gets posted. When it does, let it remind you that all of the work presented in "Here and Now" remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

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Green Shadows of Spring   Friday, May 15, 2009


IV.5.3.




I'm going to cut the chatter to a minimum this week and just tell you who's up.


Gary Blankenship
Generations

James Hoggard
Luneros
The Riverside Down
Reason for Reserve


Me
not fooled by their broad and desperate smiles

Wendy Barker
Disappearing Acts

Robert McManes
beginnings
commercial break


Diane Wakoski
Some Pumpkins
Seeing Robert in the Crystal Ball
The Tree


Me
a good week

James Laughlin
The Love Puddle

Joanna Weston
Seasons at the River Bend
Local Cafe
The Bowl


Campbell McGrath
Trouble with Miami

Me
seeking common ground

Brenda Cardenas
Poem for the Tin -tun-teros

Me
quickly and surely i sidestep the rant

Andrey Voznesensky
Notes on architecture and poetry

Me
changing the subject









I begin this week with a two-part poem by our friend from the great Northwest, Gary Blankenship.

This poem has special meaning to me as I watch the rocky hills and wooded pastures all around me clear-cut acre by acre, month after month, by developers who always know where to find the loopholes left in our conservation laws by their bought-and-paid-for cronies in the state legislature.

As in Gary's poem, it all began so well, with hard, backbreaking work by proud and fearless men and women, only to go to asphalt and baby-shit diapers by the greed of their lesser descendants.

It is a shameful crime what we are doing with our natural inheritance.



Generations

1. "sweat of the sun"

an unpainted shotgun cabin
surrounded by empty fields
surrounded by scrub oak and pine

shirtless boys and barefoot girls
gather rocks to clear land tired
before their kin trekked over the peaks

stones enough built a barn
stones enough to hid clear jars
stones enough to never finish

clearing a farm meant to grow rock


2. "tears of the moon"

cinder block buildings line the road
in a corner of cracked parking lots
tweekers pace their connection late

empty store fronts gather debris
the pawnshop, dollar store, bondsman
hang on to their place in the strip mall

behind the shops a bulldozer piles
scrub oak and pine, clap board and stone
with the promise of low income housing

in a woodland meant for turtles and possum








Next I have three poems by James Hoggard, from his book Breaking an Indelicate Statue, published in 1986 by Latitude Press.

Hoggard is a poet, translator, essayist, novelist and previous Poet Laureate of the State of Texas. The author of twelve books, he has published two collections of his translations of poems by Oscar Hahn, The Art of Dying and Love Breaks. His most recent books are Alone Against The Sea: Poems From Cuba By Raul Mesa in 1998 and the novel Trotter Ross in 1999). He is the McMurtry Distinguished Professor of English Chair at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.



Luneros

Their bodies moved
with the minds of their touch
andd sang an epic breath
that swam
their waving sheets.

They left themselves,
going through drowning land
beyond the mystic moon
whose light
flared on their backs

becoming hard
wetness growing, heaving
into their long loins' strokes
diving
through lunar lanes

mirroring them
rising, falling: shining
mountainranges inflamed:
blind force
of mooncast world

whose honeyed musk stung
acridly in against
their breathcooled membranous throats.
Moist air
swept chill down them,

it's moonskin taste
piquantly salted, sweet
and smooth as liquid hair
blowing
subtly on them.

Their motions, slowed,
brought undulant forms
back in them. Easing to two,
they lay
hushed like their world

whose bodies move
hard against the hard walls
the moon breathes on.


By The Riverside Down

A woman remembered was
my babysitter at twelve is the one
who scratched her blue percale ass

and sang me Down
By the Riverside and told me while brushing
her unbunned gray frazzle-hair

that I was like a boy she knew
when she was young who...stopped,
asked me to check her singing heart

when my brother was asleep,
but it was soft and dry until
she took me singing with her down

by her riverside
where the waves were weak
and the feather-reeds long

and the air was full of powderspice
when I was twelve and saved from dream-need
by her river-rolling moistened heart.


Reason for Reserve

This is the godmillionth damn time
I've scissored myself up to you,
and I'm bitter and rattled, mad and smashed
and now ice-skinglued-cold
streaking on the brittlebrink of collapse.

I've curled behind you everywhere
I knew you would not look
and, silent, I've stared at the shadows
spreading here before us
like bruises. Diminished, I've balked at rage

and so have you. We've been bravely
deceitful, our gestures jerked toward
intimacy to gentle each other,
but I have no notion
we're more than another mere rhythm

that passes: I remember too well
being scorched with fever or shrunk
to a short strung line in the cold
and hearing you cry I
just lacked the courage to sail out the door.

So this time I give you my back:
I can't curl with hope into nothing,
and there's no point now in trying
to make a moment's spasm
dance despair away just for an hour.








I wrote this last week, after catching premonitions of a future we all dread.



not fooled by their broad and desperate smiles

he was pushed
through the door
in his wheelchair

his daughter
struggling with the door
and winning
before i could get up to help

she,
in her early to mid fifties
i estimate,
he,
so bent and crippled
the question of age irrelevant

old,
just say old
and let the question rest

a stroke victim,
it seems obvious,
reduced to a thin bent reed
curled in his chair,
his head hung down
and to the right,
his face strong,
his eyes bright and clear,
smiling,
still finding pleasure
in his life
and his morning coffee
beyond
anything i can imagine in myself

i'm reminded
of the old man struggling
to get into his car,
his frail wife in the driver's seat
while he is stuck
half in
half out
can't back out
can't lift himself the rest of the way in

a passerby,
my brother-in-law in fact,
sees the old man's difficulty
and helps him the rest of the way in,
physically lifts him in, actually,
though he is a very large man,
and arranges his feet out of the way
of the closing door, the old man leaving
with a smile and a thumbs up
through the window
as the wife drives away

and i remember stumbling
on the scene
of my grandmother bathing
my stricken grandfather,
he lying naked on the bed
his face turned to me,
humiliation
like a quiet storm
across his gentle features,
as she lifted his limp cock
and vigorously scrubbed his balls,
that memory from when i was young
and the later memory
of my father,
in his final weeks,
shitting himself as my mother and i
struggled to get him on the toilet

twice in this past week
i have been reminded of the past
and have been given a foretaste
of the future

not fooled
by the broad and desperate
smiles
of these old men,
the truth of that
which awaits
scares the
bejeezus out of me








My next poem is by Wendy Barker, from her book Winter Chickens and Other Poems, published by Corona Publishing of San Antonio in 1990.

Born in New Jersey, Barker spent many years in the southwest, earning her BA in English from Arizona State University in 1966 and teaching at the High School level in Phoenix. Having received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Davis, she is now Professor and Poet in Residence at the University of Texas in San Antonio.

Winter Chickens was her first book and has been followed by many more.



Disappearing Acts

We are so tired
there is no
cooking dinner.
In bed we share slices
of cheese and red apples.
We try
not to fall asleep.

When our boy comes home
from the magic show
he raves: the woman
in the shower
vanished
        Just like that!
The thrill of such power,
the negative of creation -
to disappear someone.

Before he'd walked in
you had been saying
how upset you'd been
by the story in the paper
of the girl they'd found dead,
months had gone by,
no one had claimed her.
Who could disappear like that?
And no one know?

In Chicago last month
with five friends
after ten meetings all day
we joked so loudly
we began to drown out
the yelling of the Greek waiters.
Maybe there is no Self at all,
we laughed, maybe it's you
all the time who's the one
brushing my teeth in the morning.

We laughed and laughed while eating
moussake, spanakopita,
and I forget what else,
joking about the non-existence
of the Self

Under the blankets
I begin to blur.
Is it me these bread crumbs
are scratching?
If I could be like the dolmas.
Wrapped like that,
in a soft, green leaf.

If I were less tired
I might know who I'd be
when we wake,
when the bright lights
of morning shine on the shower,
show the magician's assistant
somehow back again, bowing
and smiling, moist and supple
as pink spring lamb.








Here are two poems by our friend Robert McManes. Mac has appeared here with his poems a number of times.



beginnings

A flower opens, speculating
          on a morning sunrise. A place un-named,
                    the river empties into an ocean.
Dark shapes suggest themselves,
                    rise and fall, dissolve
          into delineating horizons.

Sand and shell, a blend
                    of life and death
earth, wind, and water,
less than an Eden, the vision
          of sin before Adam and Eve
created the name and
whatever it might symbolize.

          In this eerie landscape -
                    the water
writes and rewrites shorelines,
          the world is a perception
                    with all that it is not
and all that might be.

          A point and counter-point,
one chance
to start all over
                    again.


Commercial break

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The next several poems are by Diane Wakoski, from her book The Rings of Saturn, published by Black Sparrow Press in 1986.

Wakoski was born in Whittier, California, in 1937. She received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Berkeley. She has published more than forty collections of poems, including the four books that constitute her series The Archaeology of Movies and Books, in 1998, The Emerald City of Las Vegas, in 1995, Jason the Sailor, in 1993, and Medea the Sorceress, in 1991. Emerald Ice: Selected Poems 1962-1987, in 1988, won the Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award. Her honors include a Fulbright fellowship, a Michigan Arts Foundation award, and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Michigan Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. Diane Wakoski lives in Michigan, where, since 1976, she has taught at Michigan State University.



Some Pumpkins

lie
on our patio brick

Robert says
no
I can read
each autumn morning
by pumpkin light


Seeing Robert in the Crystal Ball

He's in the corner,
a figure like a crow
with on long shoe, like a tree reaching over
water.
An upsidedown lighted lamp
floats on the other side of the room,
like a cow grazing in a field.
There are three other people
in this room,
but none in the ball. Only crow-Robert,
on his cottonwood shoe, with his
lighted-cow
that once was a room.


The Tree

outside the north window
has moss growing around its total
circumference. does this mean
there is only a north? No
south or east or west? How little
I know about trees, even few names,
though flowers have always yielded
information like little pellets falling out of their petals,
to me

Possessions rigidify a man or woman.
Even the people you love,
making you stiffen yourself
in a discipline against your annoyance
at the way they eat, or blow their noses.
You know
you love them, yet petty
observations irritate you so much you
dare
not think of them. When
no one
is listening, you say
"I hate (blank)," thinking the forbidden
loved-one's name. Then
you tell yourself how bad you are
and try to think of flowers,
or Mozart, or losing yourself in books about
violent death. Where is Beethoven,
surely a man whose habits would have made any
lover hate him? Bukowski too
has discovered he'd rather live alone, as Pound
discovered he'd prefer
most of the time
not to speak.

The couple in the Nebraska steak restaurant last night,
who sent back their,
were embarrassed, but no so much they didn't do it.
No thanks from the waitress.
Adjustment of price
from the management. A tree
with moss growing
on all sides must be a modern
product, like all
of us, not willing to declare boldly
he'll grown his moss on the North side, or
not at all. Usually doesn't send back his steak,
no matter how bad. He covers,
as they say,
all the bases. No good
if you're lost and need direction, the moss
on all sides saying they're all
north,
like the love which is not good
if you want romance
or sex instead,
how much better if you want a calm
and peaceful
everyday life, one where you assume
you'll never
be lost in a forest.








This is my May 1st poem that I didn't get around to writing until May 2nd, requiring some modifications to it.



a good week

yesterday
was May 1st,
the transition day
from weather
better than the fiery pits
of hell to the fiery pits of hill,
also May Day,
not so good these days
since most of the communists
fell into the trap of robber baron
capitalism, retiring their May Day
parades with columns and columns
of high-stepping soldiers
and tanks and guided missiles,
except for North Korea
whose missiles fall into the sea
and whose tanks are cardboard,
carried underneath on sticks like
the dragons in Chinese New Year parades,
and whose soldiers, having not eaten
in a week, are not so high-stepping

but that was yesterday, as they say,
history come and gone, and today
is May 2nd, starting well enough
as a brisk breeze blew in
from the southeast while I was crossing
the supermarket parking lot, a cool
breeze, but damp, with the passing smell
of salty sea and shrimp i remember
from when i was a kid and we'd drive
the 30 miles to Port Brownsville to buy
big gulf shrimp right off the boat

i'm a lot further then 30 miles from
the coast nowadays, and how that smell
gets all the way across the coastal plains
to treat my nose and my morning is a
mystery, but not one i feel inclined to solve,
accepting, instead, however it came to me

today is Saturday, tomorrow Sunday,
either the end or the beginning of the week,
depending how you look at it - either way
the days ahead clear of the issues
that have cluttered up the last weeks,
good days to stay inside,
hide from the weather,
write poems,
nap in the afternoon

a good week








James Laughlin was born in 1914 and died 1997. He was an American poet and literary book publisher who founded New Directions Publishers. He was born in 1914 to a wealthy family in Pennsylvania.

While a student at Harvard University, he took a leave of absence and traveled to France and then to Italy where he met and studied with Ezra Pound, who advised him, "You're never going to be any good as a poet. Why don't you take up something useful?". Pound suggested publishing, and when Laughlin returned to Harvard, he used money from his father to found New Directions in a barn on his Aunt Leila's estate in Norfolk, Connecticut.

He died of complications related to a stroke in Norfolk, Connecticut in 1997, at age 83.

The next poem is from The Secret Room, Poems by James Laughlin published by New Directions in 1997.



The Love Puddle

is not deep but it's
usually muddy. If you

stray into it you won't
drown but you may come

out of it looking like
a tramp and with your

feelings more dishevel-
led than your trousers.

You may feel guilty or
feel betrayed or even

disgusted, you'll wonder
why you walked through

the love puddle instead
of going around. But

you know you'll do it
again - that's for sure.








Now here are three poems from our friend Joanna M. Weston.

Joanna has had poetry, reviews, and short stories published in anthologies and journals for twenty years. She has two middle-readers, The Willow Tree Girl and Those Blue Shoes; also A Summer Father, poetry, published by Frontenac House of Calgary, all in print.



Seasons at the River Bend

the river curls my hand
takes rock from the bank
places it under ice
lays snow on ledges
and freezes people
along its shore

remnants of winter
hold the confluence
while spring bends
and breaks the ice
in the first stir
of surface current

children lift branches
raise hands
paddle their feet
in brown waters
dive to deep sand
finding ripe pebbles

blown leaves settle
surf high rapids
flood-waters rising
the first fall storm
when frost-bite
silences land and river
along my horizon


Local Cafe

the waitress recommended
them, not steamed, but
fried in bubbling butter
to bring out the flavour

      souvenirs for sale
      six tables
      one other couple

the aroma rioted
in my nostrils
and led my willing hand

to fork in
one by one
five fat scallops


The Bowl

a child's small hands
poked and moulded
face scrunched in absorption
at the making
and the shaping
until he held it up
eyes alight
   "it's a bowl" he said

for years it held oddments
paperclips buttons
old pennies
a broken clay mouse

until it came
to be what it was -
the poem of a child








Campbell McGrathis a modern American poet, author of six full-length collections of poetry, including his most recent, Seven Notebooks. He was born in Chicago in 1962, and grew up in Washington, D.C., where he attended Sidwell Friends School. He received his B.A. from the University of Chicago in 1984 and his MFA from Columbia University's creative writing program in 1988.

McGrath currently lives in Miami, Florida, and teaches creative writing at Florida International University.

The next poem is from his book Florida Poems, published by HarperCollins in 2002.



Trouble with Miami

is the lack of significant galleries & serious theater,
the absence of museums, operas, ballets, symphonies,
a dearth of cultural infrastructure so profound

that the only institution worth its salt is the ocean,

that watching beautiful women on the beach
with bodies cast from bronze & soft lobed chrome
may be our best shot at real enlightenment

their formal aspects comprise our artistic endowment,
their lubricity constitutes our esthetic nourishment,

hard candy loaves & fishes.

a sculpture garden of erotic possibility
displayed in postures of wicked amusement
like wild palms abandoned to wind and solar decay,

and I am a happily married man
who sunburns easily.








There is a part of all of us, often the most important part, that no one else knows. Hard as we may try there's always something in us that can surprise even those closest to us. The struggle to find that part in another, so that we can feel we truly know the other, is an ongoing motif if every relationship.



seeking common ground

i wrote a long poem
about my father this morning,
and scrapped it, something i
hardly every do - recognizing
as i read though it
that all my bad habits
as a writer
had taken over and produced
a self-indulgence beyond
even my own generous norm

the thing is,
it's thirty years after he's dead
and we continue our discussions,
no closer to conclusion
than the day we laid him
in the ground

and every time i try
to wrap it up in a nice little bow
of a poem, i am forced to admit
that i cannot wrap that
which is not yet finished

i struggle still to know him,
knowing he never knew me,
disappointed
in the failure of both of us

i know i will never resolve this
until i can look through his eyes
and see the me he saw, which
is another way of saying i cannot
know him until i know myself
better than i do now

meaning that as i continue
my own self-examination,
admitting that i am not nearly
as simple and easy as i claim
to be, nor as unique,
admitting my own
complexity
and recognizing in it the complexity
we all share, i can only come closer
to the truth of all of us, recognizing
the commonality of our breed,
like the commonality
of the panther and the wolf who must
stalk and prey, our commonality,
the need to know the world
and the universe of ourselves
and each other

to understand

to see the humanity
in others of our kind;
and the greater challenge,
to see the me
in those others
as well








The next poem is by Brenda Cardenas.

Cardenas holds an M..F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and is coeditor of Between the Heart and the Land/Entre el corazon y la tierra: Latina Poets in the Midwest.

The poem that follows is from her first chapbook, From the Tongues of Brick and Stone, published in 2005 by Momotombo Press, Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame.

She has had poems published in many literary journals and received a 2000 Illinois Arts Council Finalist Award in Poetry and a 2002 Award from Chicago Women in Publishing for editing Between the Heart and the Land.

At the time this book was published, Cardenas was moving from Chicago back to her home town of Milwaukee to teach English at a two-year college during the 2005-06 school year. She has also taught US Latino and Latin American Literature, Contemporary American Literature and writing courses at the Wright College in Chicago, University of Michigan, Wayne State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.



Poem for the Tin-tun-teros

This is for teh timbaleros, percussionists, tin-tun-teros,
those who tap with spoons on their stoves
with pencils on their desks
with nails and knuckles on tables, beds, their own heads
with fists against walls
and fingers on the spines and curves of their lovers, dances.

This for the congueros, drummers, bongoseros,
those who never rest
with their staccato heels always hammering the skin of the floor
stomping in their dreams filled with maracas, guiros and claves,
these dancers with steps so smooth
and hips that move like their high hats and snares.

This is for the timbaleros, percussionists, tin-tun-teros.
They are bad asses with their cymbal storms
their games of sticks that flay like wings. How scampish
their tricks that won't let us work or sleep
only dance and sing, sing and dance
and sometimes move the earth a little.








quickly and surely i sidestep the rant

i was thinking
i might write a poem
about the abortion clinic
i pass every day after morning coffee,
usually surrounded by antiabortion protesters,
rarely if ever women of child-bearing age,
waving signs with pictures of dismembered babies
and other such deeply intellectual arguments
and ever though i'm kind of antiabortion, myself,
i do suffer from an inability
to consider only one side of a question,
making me no friend of these little bands
of papal hustlers determined to insure
a steady supply of poor babies
who can be put to the service of maintaining
a steady flow of golden tribute to the pope's palaces

but i decided that,
despising equally the soul-suckers of all sects,
i would almost certainly slip into rant mode
should i attempt that particular poem - it
is a slippery slope for sure

so
rather than get myself in deep shit
with god-screamers,
everywhere -
you know the ones,
ready to lay down and spread their legs
for any hocus-pocus merchant
with a steeple up his ass
who'll tell them
what they want to hear -
but i'm not going to talk about that,
instead i'm just going to take note
of something i saw while walking Reba
yesterday

she was just riding along with me,
on our way to a place were we often
do a morning walk and, all of a sudden,
she stated crying and moaning and i
was thinking she's really got to do some
business so maybe we ought to just stop
right here and take a little walk and poop
and pee or whatever it is that is causing
her such deep and vocal distress

so we stopped

and it was a little upscale shopping center
but Reba was not intimidated by the
uppercrusty
ritz
of the place
(she is, after all, queen of all she surveys)

but when i saw the little store
dedicated exclusively
to the sale of gourmet doggie treats,
i quickly hustled her back into the truck
before she saw the sign
and developed a whole new set of life-
expectations, demanding
only the finest
gourmet roadkill as her due

you have to watch
these things
you know
or you'll end up with a furry,
four-footed queen of the nile
instead of the old fish-breath dog
whose queenly assumptions
are mostly a matter of a $-store
dog bone in the morning,
a favorite smelly pillow at night,
and a little bit of personal attention
whenever she's feeling down
(as even the humbler queens
sometimes do)

..........


so the anti-religion rant
is avoided today,
replaced by a good dog story
instead, and the poet
is left to thinking, if god was
more like a good dog,
welcoming in the morning
and satisfied with a good ear-scratch
before going to bed,
there wouldn't be any reason to be
anti-religious
at all








Next I have the Russian poet Andrey Voznesensky from his book Selected Poems, published in 1966 by Hill and Wang Publishers.

Described by Robert Lowell as "one of the greatest living poets," Voznesensky was born in 1933 in Moscow. Early in his life, he was fascinated with painting and architecture, graduating in 1957 from the Moscow Architectural Institute. But, while still a teenager, he sent his poems to Boris Pasternak, beginning a friendship between the two that had a strong influence on the young poet.

His first poems were published in 1958 and, during the Cold War thaw in the 1960, he traveled abroad in Europe and the United States, becoming one of several Russian poets achieving near "rock star" status.

In 1978 Voznesensky was awarded the USSR State Prize. He is an honorable member of ten academies, including the Russian academy of learning, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Parisian Academia Goncourt and others.

A minor planet 3723 Voznesenskij, discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1976 is named after him.

He continues to live and work in Moscow.



Voznesensky, throwing words all over the page as he does, is very hard to transcribe. So, rather than fight that battle late on an afternoon when I'm both hungry and tired, I'm going to use here, rather than a poem, notes he made on architecture and poetry. Very interesting they are - at least to me.

    "Architecture is a discussion with posterity. The new Kremlin Palace is linked with the Kremlin Towers by its youth, by its contrast, by its sheer downpour of glass and pylons. It is a symbol.
    "The best tradition is novelty. Mayakovsky and our new poets are nearer to Pushkin than the hundreds who still lisp iambics. Picasso is the continuation of Titian and Rublyov.
    "It seems to me that every artist should be tested by this light-permeated structure as if by an X-ray apparatus.
    "Pictures? Here you couldn't Laktionov and merchant-style ornamental gilded frames.
    "Poems? will every poem ring true in these merciless aluminum interiors?"

    "What is important in poetry for me? To look deep into the spirit of man, into oneself, into the interior of consciousness. It isn’t a question of from.
    "Form must be clear, unfathomably exciting, filled with the highest thoughts, like the sky, in which only radar can determine the presence of airplanes."

. . . . . . . . . .

"A Settlement in Bratsk,
(referring to a painting) This settlement of building workers consists of typical little houses made with slag-filled walls. They are built like this: On the left a wall of bricks, on the right plasterboards, and the space between them is filled with slag, with building rubbish......That's how certain poets build their poems: to the left a wall of initial letters; to the right, rhymes; and between them God knows what is chucked in! And at the same time they forget that which is good for architecture, the qualities of cheapness and standardization, are not at all a plus for poetry.":









Sometimes, when you get to the end of a thing and you think of how many people you might have pissed off, it may be time to start thinking about....



changing the subject

it was 100 degrees
yesterday afternoon,
in this first full week
of May, a certain sign
we will see hellfire
and brimstone before
mid-July

(is it too late,
God,
to apologize
for that little poem i wrote
last week - all in good fun,
you know, hee hee)

the end of life
as we know it
a more immediate
prospect
than usual,
i try to belay
thoughts of my future
incineration
in the devil's own
furnace
of self-recrimination
by changing the
subject

like...

did you read in the paper
about the discovery on a
faraway Pacific island
of the final resting place
of a Hobbit, such identity
proven by examination of
the tiny creature's bones -
calcified architecture
of a huminoid about three
feet tall with tiny shoulders
and head and feet seven-
teen inches long

working out to roughly
one inch of feet for
every two inches of height, a
disparity greater even
than that of my cousin,
a little guy
everyone called Big Cletus,
naturally,
known by many as the
"Bigfoot of Joaqanaka County"
before his death last year
at the hand of his preacher's
wife's cousin's husband,
Festaidious, known locally as
"Shotgun Fever Festus"

but that's another story

maybe i'll tell it someday,
if we all don't end up
in mid-July as crispy-
critter-reminders of life as
we used to know it

see,
there i go again

once i get my mind set
on the great flaming fireball
of the apocalypse
it's hard
to get back to
regular thinking








Time to head back to la casita verde. Until next week, remember, all material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators; the blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.

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