Mil Mascaras   Thursday, June 25, 2009


With a crowded day ahead of me tomorrow, I'm pushing ahead some hours earlier than usual with this week's new "Here and Now." Same stuff as usual, just in the early post.

I was really hard up to find images to use with the blog this week and, in quasi-desperation, decided it might be interesting to mess around a bit with faces. The only face I could mess around with without permission being my own, I'm afraid you are faced this week with a bunch of pictures of me, messed with. Some of the pictures I took myself, some of them were taken by my wife, Dora, others, who knows. All the messing around, however, was done by me.

Also, an editorial note regard this week's title -

"Mil Mascaras" (literally meaning "man of a thousand masks") is a Mexican wrestler, actually a series of Mexican wrestlers. The name, like Cantinflas (less successfully) and the Dread Pirate Robert, is passed on from one person to the next. The original Mil Mascaras is eighty-something years old, maybe even older.

In addition to my messing around, we have our full quota of excellent poets this week. And they are...

Luci Tapahonso
What Danger We Court
These Long Drives

bad night

Charles Bukowski
hot dog

Stacey Dye
Last Call

2 barku

Marilyn Hacker
Letter on June 15th

i can't decide

Very Seldom
In th Evening
Days of 1908

Thane Zander
A Life of Drams and Possibilities

Doc Dachtler
I Want to be at North Columbia
Walking Along the Main Street of Elgin, N.D. After
Being Away from My Old Hometown for 15 Years

and in this corner....

Daniel Donaghy
Laundry Night 1983

Teresa White
People-Watching at Wal-Mart


Lorna Dee Cervantes
Note to David

Robert McManes

country color

I start this week with a couple of poems by Navajo writerLuci Tapahonso, from her book, Saanii Dahataat - The Women are Singing, published by the University of Arizona Press in 1993.

Tapahonso was born, in 1953, and raised at a Navajo reservation near Shiprock, New Mexico. She was raised in a traditional way along with 11 brothers and sisters. English was not spoken on the family farm. Instead she learned it as a second tongue after her native Dinebizaad. Following schooling at Navajo Methodist School in Farmington, New Mexico, and Shiprock High School, she began studies at the University of New Mexico. Tapahonso gained her MA in 1982, then taught, first at New Mexico and later at the University of Kansas and now at the University of Arizona.

What Danger We Court
For Marie

Sister, sister,
what danger we court
without even knowing it.
It's as simple as meeting a handsome man for lunch at midnight.

Last Friday night
at the only stop sign for miles around,
your pickup was hit from behind.
That noise of shattering glass behind your head,
whirl of lights and metal as two cars hit your pickup -
that silent frenzy by tons of metal spinning you
echoes the desert left voiceless

Sister, sister,
what promises they must be for you
when you walk the edges of cliffs -
sheer drops like 400 feet -
vacuums of nothing we know here.
Your turn and step out of the crushed car dazed
and walk to help small crying children from another car
and you come home, sister,
                    your breath intact,
                    heart pounding,
                    and the night is still the same.

Your children cry and cry to see you.
Walking and speaking gently,
                    your voice gathers them in.
                    What danger we court.

It is the thin border of a miracle, sister, that you live.
The desert surrounding your house is witness
to the danger we court and

                    sister, we have so much faith.

These Long Drives

between Cuba or Grants
fall short of the usual comfort.

My younger brother, Shisili,
made a beaded rug for me - yellow daisies with black centers.
He was a rough-and-tumble third grader
and I was in high school: intent on being the best western stomp dancer,
                and maybe snagging a tall Chinle cowboy.

Years later, his interest in mechanical objects
kept my car running well. On trips home from various cities,
he filled the tank, rotated the tires, and changed the oil
as easily as I changed boots. After each visit I left assured
my car would run another 5,000 miles or so. At any hint of car trouble,
I rushed home to my younger brother's while my car could still make it.

                    Hass brother died at 22. One day he was
                    driving his trusty old pickup, laughing
                    and joking. The he turned silent,
                    a thin figure beneath hospital sheets.
                    His slow death entered my blood.
                    I breathe it with every step.

The middle brother is a few years older than I.
He is a father, master mechanic, and stern uncle.

Once when I was home, his little son came inside
and whispered into his shoulder, "Daddy, the rabbit won't talk."
My brother laughed and hugged his son.
"The Volkswagen won't start," he told us.
He held his son a while, then they walked out to fix the stalled car.

His sons will grow up to be good cooks and fine mechanics.
They will care and abide by the wishes of the women
in their lives as my brother does.

    Sometimes he curses the long desert miles between us
    when he senses I may be in danger. This city protects crazed men
    who are freer than I. My brother finds ways to console my anguish
    and fear over distances of telephone wire and urgent visits
    to medicine men. His steady voice calms me on dark evenings.

My older brother: such vivid images I have of him.
He Tarzan-like and I a skinny, dark child swinging on his arms.
He was tall and girls giggled around him. We wondered why
they called him then turned silly at his approach.

    He was killed by a preacher's son, and at 13 years old
    I was stunned to find the world didn't value
    strong, older brothers and that preaching
    the gospel life could be nothing.

I am remembering my brother tonight,
and during a strange spring snowstorm, my mother calls
and tells me about some little thing she remembered from years ago.

Laughing into the phone, I see outside the wonderful snow,
                seemingly endless, warm and cold at once.

                    No one could have predicted this storm.

It is all strange, beautiful, and we will talk of this
for years to come. This storm, and I will think of how

                I missed my brothers just then.

My sleep is always restless because of back problems, but sometimes it's not that, it's because the brain just won't shut down. Those nights seem never ending.

Here's a report from one such night

bad night

a poor night's sleep it was
last night,
my brain refusing
to stand down
scrambling around
instead with the errata
of sixty-five years

old injustices
unresolved, old rages
still smoldering,
lovers dead
and dying
as do they all

foolish preoccupations,
like trying to run on ice,
slipping, skidding,
getting nowhere
with questions like

why do we say "kidnapped?"

nanny's nap kids,
it's kidnabbers who nab them

just stumbling
through the night
and my brain trips
over something like that
and the whole rest of the night
is crap

or this whole
conservative/liberal thing
that has been bugging me for weeks
and now invades my dreams

how someone can define their being
and the being of others
on the basis of some shallow
political gospel -

who could ever possibly be
just one
or the other

i support the death penalty
on the liberal basis
that the money being spent
every year
keeping Charles Manson
could be much better used
educating children,
feeding them,
keeping them healthy

and even though i find it
morally questionable,
i support abortion rights
on the conservative principle
that government should have no claim
of control
over the bodies and moral decisions
of its citizens,
male or female

and what about
this "back and forth" thing
people say

what rip in the space-time continuum
is required before
a person can come back
prior to journeying forth

and what about
this whole handgun thing -
as a pragmatist
i say
if people want to carry handguns
let them
as long as they carry them
in the open
where all can see
who are the potential murders
among us

and my very first dog
when i was just a little child,
she slips into my mind
for the first time in years,
a fat old fox terrier,
mother of many litters,
one day
tired, lying down on her spot
in the corner of the kitchen,
closing her eyes,
what's wrong with Missie,
i asked my mom -
she's dying, mom said,
stay quiet so she can sleep
to her end

all these things
just swirling and whirling
in my brain
when i would much rather
it would just go to sleep
so i can sleep,
so Missie can find her way
in the stillness

Next, a poem from Charles Bukowski, the poet who taught me how to write like myself, from his book, Open All Night - New Poems published by HarperCollins in 2000.

hot dog

almost every time
after we started in
here he would come
this big black hairy
male hound
dripping of mouth
snorting through wet
he stank like a Hollywood motel
wet in the rain

and when I stopped to kick
him off the bed
she'd say:
"oh! please don't hurt Timmy!"

and Timmy would run in neurotic
smelling his
and I'd return to my task
and begin to near completion
when Timmy would bound up on the bed
once again.

being in the missionary position
I was able to rap him
a good one or two
across the snout
but that didn't stop him
and that's the way we'd
finish -
all three of

she had a good job down on
Sunset boulevard
(which was more than I could
and when she left in the
she'd tell me
to go out the back way
because mother had an apartment
up front
and she didn't want her mom
to see me.

then I'd
look at that dog
and his eyes would look up
sadly into mine.
we had no
I knew and he knew
that we were both
her lovers.

and I also knew looking
at him that
he needed her more than
I did.

I left that last morning
driving in the bright
but still
all right.

she phoned me 3 or 4 times
after that.
but I knew it was over.

because when I looked into his brown
that last morning
I knew
he loved her
more than I did.

maybe if Timmy had been
a man
I wouldn't have
given her up.

but then
I never met a man
with eyes as beautiful
as those on that dog.

I'm pleased to have a new friend, Stacey Dye, join us this week for the first time.

Stacey says she has been writing poetry since she was a teenager. She's also been writing radio and television copy since 1979 and does voice overs at a local cable TV station. She says her favorite poetry subjects are the human condition and nature. She is a member of the Internet Writing Workshop and Wild Poetry Forum and she has been previously featured in The Camroc Press Review.

Here are two of her recent poems.


It hop-scotched through neighborhoods
with the randomness

of a child picking at an assortment
of fine chocolates

devouring one
poking holes in another

some untouched
bittersweet remains.

Last Call

Curled up on the porch swing,
my window to all things starlit,
I watch the evening's events unfold
as night swallows day.

Moths wobble drunkenly, drawn
into the halo of the porch light.
Illuminated by a rare terra cotta moon,
intoxicating tea olives saturate the air.

Leaves entertain on the dance
floor of the earth. Performing whirligigs
through the lawn, into the woods -
beckoned by the trill of the night birds.

I watch the show in awe until I am sated
then let the moths know it is last
call as I turn out the light.

Every once in a while I put a little barku together, 10 words on 6 lines, designed as a fit for your standard bar napkin.

Here are two from June. I like to center them, thought that's probably not good form, except I invented the form, so what the hell.

starch stiff
point northeast
today's early winds


coffee shop
of the caffeinated class

My next poet is Marilyn Hacker with a poem from her book Winter Numbers, Poems published in 1994 by W. W. Norton.

Hacker was born, in 1942, and raised in Bronx, New York, the only child of Jewish professionals. A precocious child, Hacker attended the Bronx High School of Science and enrolled at New York University at the age of fifteen. In 1961, with one year left before graduation, Hacker married science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany. They traveled from New York to Detroit, Michigan in order to be married, because, as Delany later explained, Michigan was the closest of the only two states in the United States where, due to age of consent and miscegenation laws, they could legally marry. They settled in New York's East Village. They were divorced in 1980 (after being separated for many years) but remained friends.

In the '60s and '70s, Hacker worked mostly in commercial editing. She returned to NYU, edited the university literary magazine, and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in Romance languages.

Hacker's first publication was in Cornell University's Epoch. She published frequently after that, in both the United States and Great Britain.

Letter on June 15

I didn't want a crowd. I didn't want
writers' backbiting in a restaurant.
Last night's leftover duck, some chilled Sancerre
(you've called fresh-tasting) beckoned to me more.
I crossed the Pont Sully, into an eight-
forty sunset, toward home, and whom I'd meet.
In the letter that I didn't write,
I tell you, I was meeting you tonight
You in an envelope; you in the braille
of postmarks footnoting the morning mail.
You, bracketed from life with someone else
though part of every page is what she tells
you; not my morning clarity of bells
to matins, phone links to life with someone else.
I met you here as if geography
were all that separated you from me,
though hand to hand and lovely mouth to mouth
magnetic north and doubly polar south
are on lost maps, the trails are overgrown.
It's warm, it's almost dark, it's half past ten.
"I can't imagine Paris without you"
was the tearjerker on the radio
when I began to cry in Julie's car
under the Nashville skyline where you were
the bottom line. By the time we got
to Phoenix (with bald tires and gluey hot
seat covers) I was already halfway back
to Paris without you. In time, with luck,
anyone could imagine needing less
than all this food, these books, these clothes: excess
upholstery, distraction, dead wood, bloat.

You're what I had to learn to do without.
I did. But here you are, no farther than
the whirring of the small electric fan
we bought that summer when you had night sweats,
then a sore back, then just a cold, then doubts
that you'd blot out with morning lust against
my chest, my cunt, my mouth, as evidence
that you were present. Later, you'd deny
what you'll admit to now: the late July
three-quarter moon on shuttered bars, the meat
and vegetables, the dim glow when you lit
a candle in the chapel after Mass.
An ancient park attendant clears the grass
of kids who were imagined jouissance
when we conceived and miscarried our chance.
We each have whispered, written, other names.
There are more dead for whom to light small flames.
Down on the street, waiters crank up the awning
of the cafe en face. Tomorrow morning
I’ll be no farther and no closer than
your walk down to the post office with Jan
along a storm-pocked tertiary road.
Word-children, we will send each other words
that measure distance we have to keep
defining. When I lay me down to sleep
you stack up your day's work sheets on the porch
table, light up,lean back. Two silver birch
trees form a twilit arch above your head.
It's hours before you're going to bed.

So here I am again, more indecision.

i can't decide

it's Friday morning
and i can't decide if i should
write my poem before i read my Times
or vice versa the other way backwards

the question is complicated
because i don't have any idea
what i would write about
if i chose to write my poem right now
instead of reading the paper

reading my Times first
is a problem because the whole first page
is politics, one way or the other,
and i'm sick of politics and that's mostly
what i'm thinking about this morning
and i'd rather be thinking about something

it's like this whole liberal/conservative thing
is such a drag
and i expect to read any day now
news flashes
from the right wing wacko bloggers
about how all those overdue books
at public libraries
are the result of a vast liberal conspiracy
and we ought to bygod do something
about that
beginning with sending a check
to the favorite right wing wacko organization
of your choice

but that sucks
and i get enough of it living where i do anyway
ostracized by most of my family
because i voted for Obama
but that's ok because i never liked them
that much anyway

i could write a poem about the weather
but what's to say
it's hotter than the devil's rumpus room
at midday
and that's the end of that

uh oh
the brain is slipping into politics again
when i was in high school
and the John Birch Society was everywhere
and even though impeaching Earl Warren
wasn't one of my priorities at the time
i got sucked into going to one of their meetings
and was totally creeped out
by the beady-eyed little anti-everything-that-wasn't-fascists
whose time seems to have come again except this time
they've got their own TV and radio networks
and before anyone gives me a hard time
about calling people fascists let me say
i don't mean the jackbooted black shirts from the '30s
but those who espouse
a radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology
and a corporatist economic ideology
(thank you Wiki)
some of whom would feel quite comfortable
in jackboots and black shirts
but i don't want to push that particular point
because i'm a Uniter
not a Divider

see still talking about politics
and calling people nasty names
when the temperature is 100 degrees
and the humidity 90 percent
what the hell
is there to talk about.....

i'm thinking maybe
i should read my Times first
then write my poem of the day

i'll get back to you
on that

Now another poet new to me, C. P. Cavafy, born in 1863, a Greek poet who lived in relative obscurity in Alexandria until his death in 1933. Regarded now as the most important figure in twentieth-century Greek poetry, a collection of his work was not published until after his death.

The poems are from, C. P. Cavafy, Collected Poems, an extensively revised edition of translations of his poetry by Edmund Keeley and Philip Serrard.

Very Seldom

He's an old man. Used up and bent,
crippled by time and indulgence,
he slowly walks along the narrow street.
But when he goes inside his house to hide
the shambles of his old age, his mind turns
to the share of youth that still belongs to him.

His verse in now recited by young men.
His visions come before their lively eyes.
Their healthy sensual minds,
their shapely taut bodies
stir to his perception of the beautiful.

In the Evening

It wouldn't have lasted long anyway -
the experience of years makes that clear.
Even so, Fate did put an end to it a bit abruptly.
It was soon over, that wonderful life.
Yet how strong the scents were,
what a magnificent bed we lay in,
what pleasures we gave our bodies.

An echo from my days given to sensuality,
an echo from those days came back to me,
something of the fire of the young life we shared:
I picked up a letter again,
and I read it over and over till the light faded away.

Then, sad, I went out on to the balcony,
went out to change my thoughts at least by seeing
something of the city I love,
a little movement in the streets and the shops.

Days of 1908

He was out of work that year,
so he lived off card games,
backgammon, and borrowed money.

He was offered a job at three pounds a month
in a small stationery store,
but he turned it down without the slightest hesitation.
It wasn't suitable. It wasn't the right pay for him,
a reasonably educated young man, twenty-five years old.

He won two, maybe three dollars a day - sometimes.
How much could he expect to make out of cards and
in the cafes of his social level, working-class places,
however cleverly he played, however stupid the opponents he
His borrowing - that was even worse.
He rarely picked up a dollar, usually no more than half that,
and sometimes he had to come down to even less.

For a week or so, sometimes longer,
when he managed to escape those horrible late nights,
he'd cool himself at the baths, and with a morning swim.

His clothes were a terrible mess.
He always wore the same suit,
a very faded cinnamon-brown suit.

O summer days of nineteen hundred and eight,
from your perspective
the cinnamon-brown suit was tastefully excluded.

Your perspective has preserved him
as he was when he took off, threw off,
those unworthy clothes, that mended underwear,
and stood stark naked, impeccably handsome, a miracle -
his limbs a little tanned
from his morning nakedness at the baths and on the beach.

Thane Zander is one of our regulars here on "Here and Now" and also a regular at Blueline's "House of 30" where I spend a lot of my time.

He is a mostly an online poet, appearing frequently on several workshop forum as well as Blueline, and runs his own New Zealand Poets only forums. He has been published in several ezines (Blackmail Press, Windjammer Press, and Loch Raven Review, The Times of London-online) and in local newspapers and an international anthology called A Bouquet of Poetry. Thane was a longtime sailor who hit some rough patches in his life and is very pleased to be expanding his life and interests beyond where he had gone before, including his successful participation in university level Creative Writing programs.

I have been reading Thane's work for a number of years now and one of the things that most impresses me is his fearlessness. He has no fear and will have a go at any subject and any form of poetry that spikes his interest. Things I won't even try, he jumps into and usually does well.

Here's one of his poems from a while ago.

A Life of Dreams and Possibilities

A case study of green versus red
the light through a stained glass window
of the Christ suspended from wooden cross,

The Pew, across the church where bums sit,
except when they slide off for prayer
the priest stammers on Job.

Sanguine Virgins dance
a witches coven with fire blazing high
the devil thrusts his engorged penis in all ways,

Members of the coven all now seated as the chosen
is slain, the baby due in nine months
utterly human appearance.

The Eskimo slay seals
a part of their life for eons now,
the blubber used to purify children and maidens,

Pigmies in deepest Congo dance a love dance,
calling the spirits, many a male loses
his virginity in marriages.

Lay down your condom
you have done your bit for the planet
the growth rate slowed by necessity and commonsense,

the layman on the street with his porno movie,
dances with actresses and admires,
his manhood wasted.

Here are three short poems by poet and storyteller Doc Dachtler from his book ...Waiting for Chains at Pearl's, published by Plain View Press of Austin in 1990.

I Want to be at North Columbia

the day the 25 Wild Turkeys
sighted by Sally Clark this Fall
walking the fence of her and Jack's garden
in "Little Green Valley"
meet the 22 peacocks and peahens
at the Coughlan ranch up the hill.

It will either be total ignoring,
a battle royal,
or a hell of a party with attempts at cross breeding.


May your pictures
from milk cartons
shopping bags
the back gates of eighteen wheelers
and the flat spaces of newspaper racks.
May your abductors
in ditches
with the weeds and the wrappers
shot in the guts
not bleeding much
but dying slowly.

Walking Along the Main Street of Elgin, N.D. After
Being Away from My Old Hometown for 15 Years

An old man comes down the street.
He is looking at me.
He walks abound me looking me over
head to foot
and says jabbing at my chest,
Du! du bist ein Dachtler!
(You! you are a Dachtler!)
I say,
Yah, ich bin ein Dachtler, aber wie wissen Sie das Ich ein
Dachtler ist?

(Yes, I am a Dachtler, but how do you know I am a
Die Nase! he says and points at my face.
Ich wisse die Nase.
(The nose, I know the nose.)

Life is just a bad movie, you know. You don't believe me? Just pay attention.

and in this corner....

it's Sunday afternoon
nothing else
going on
but then i pull up behind
a man and a woman
in a blue Ford pickup
who were stopped at a red light
beating the crap
out of each other,
like windmills
in the limited space
of their truck's cab
until the light turned green
and they move into their respective
corners and drove on,
until the next red light when
they start beating the crap
out of each other again -
for three lights i watch
this slugfest unfold
until they turn and
i need to go on straight
but nearly stay with them anyway
just to see how it all turns out...

i'm thinking the woman
is ahead on points,
whap! whap! whap!
she hits the guy
upside the head
over and over again, while he, hampered
in his mobility by the steering wheel,
misses as often as not - not hardly
a fair fight, but then they rarely
ever are in the field of domestic
relations - especially when he's
a dried up little shrimp of a guy and
she's big as a house

no sympathy for the guy from me

he should have known better
than to start

Next, I have a poem by Daniel Donaghy, from his book Street Fighting Poems published by BkMk Press in 2005.

Laundry Night, 1983

Some nights she'd throw their clothes
into the car's trunk and take off,
hair rollered tight, no not, mother
of two teenagers gone for hours
down Oakdale and Albert Streets,
Frankie Avalon singing "Venus" above
the old Rambler's tapping valves
as it machine-gunned past Griffin's Deli
and Garzone's Funeral Home,
past Visitation Church and School.
her unringed fingers tapping he wheel,
her breathing easier by the time
she made the tricky turn at Kip Street
and swished into her usual spot
outside Soapy Suds, almost forgetting
her husband had left, she couldn't find a job,
almost outrunning the family
she broke from when they said
he was no good, "A Perfect Love,"
"Don't Throw Away All Those Teardrops"
coming back from the kitchen
of their first apartment.

                              And now
it turned out her family was right,
a scar on her cheek the proof,
and the stack of bills, the nightmares
of police coming to take her children
her house, her dog, leaving her nothing -
and so the fears flowed
while she sorted the brights and darks,
knowing there was no getting clean
after months of crying herself
to sleep, no point in scrubbing
the stains ground into their lives,
grass stains, blood stains
so much a part of her they might
as well have been skin, no way
to make her children look presentable
on what he sent every other week,
her own clothes stretched like
her sagging arms and breasts,
her shoes so holy they could be saints,
little joke she told the washer
when she dripped in a load of whites,
"Bobby Socks to Stockings"
coming back after twenty years
when she measured the powdered soap,
the fabric softener, the bleach,
always the bleach, which still stung
her nose after the cycle was done,
when she pulled out the clothes
and held them overflowing in her arms.

I always feel poetry-rich when I have a few poems by Teresa White in my poetry bank.

Here's one I got from Teresa several weeks ago.

People-Watching at Wal-Mart

We go for the cheap coffee and cat food,
the five dollar T's, CD's on sale.

There she is, in front of us,
three-hundred pounds if she's anything,
her cellulite on display through her
flimsy pull-on pants, her elephantine
buttocks high and round and cumbersome.

And further down the aisle, her opposite:
a twenty-something thin as a stick
with jeans down to there so all can see
the garland tattoo above the crack
of her ass.

We maneuver past old women in their
motorized carts, the look on their faces
determined as they wheel through kitchen
accessories, bath towels, lotions and potions
and laxatives.

Chubby children with sticky hands
wheedle at their mothers: buy me this,
buy me that. Fathers, if they have fathers,
are no where to be seen.

Tiny Japanese exchange students walk
in twos and threes, hover by the school
supplies: another spiral notebook, a packet
of Bic pens.

At the check-out a stunning Ukrainian,
pushing forty, high maintenance with
her false eyelashes and skimpy shoes.
You search for her every time we come.
She's looking for a sugar daddy, you say,
and one day she isn't there

and we both wonder if she's found the man
of her dreams: perhaps as she rang up
his paper towels and dog food. I think
there must be worst places to work

as we trundle off into the jammed
parking lot, forgetting for a moment
where we parked and then we see it,
our little red truck and we load our purchases
into the bed and head home,
feeling very good about ourselves.

I took one of my little day-trip drives last week, up around the hill country, every thing green and lush from all the rain that missed us in San Antonio and fell on them.


heading north from San Marcos,
on Ranch Road 12
i leave behind the glut of the I-35
San Antonio-Austin corridor
fairly quickly, moving into a more rural
hill country
where modest homes are built
between the hills, not on high
sculpted flats
that used to be hill tops -

i had thought i might drive
to Abilene today, spend the night
and drive back tomorrow, but
when i woke up this morning
it seemed like it might be
more work than fun, so i decided
to go just as far as Lampasas
and return today, but even that
didn't work out as i slowed down
for little towns like Dripping Springs
and Bee Cave and took off
on some of the little lane and a half
roads that wind through the hills

so that by the time i reached Marble Falls
for a late lunch i was already 2 hours
behind schedule and knew
if i went on as planned i wouldn't get home
until well after dark, which, if you're driving
for the pleasure of seeing, doesn't
make any sense

so i drove around Lake LBJ
headed out toward Llano instead,
Llano, where the granite that lies
not too far beneath the meadows and hills,
surfaces in the form of large boulders
and great rock slabs, and, most magnificently,
as Enchanted Rock, a huge, pink granite boulder
that rises 425 feet above ground
and covers 640 acres, named by early settlers
after the native legend of a princess,
a chieftain's daughter,
killed as she met with her lover in a grove of trees
at the base of the rock
then thrown, dead for love, into cave at its very top

if you climb to the top, it is said, and sit
by the dark entrance to the cave, you can still hear
the quiet crying of the princess, calling for her lover

some have heard that cry, i am told,
though i have been to the top many times
and never did - it is a tough climb
and i'd like to do it one more time while
i still can, but not today, it is late and i am still
a hundred miles from home - the princess
will have to wait to call for me next time

My last library piece this week is by Lorna Dee Cervantes from her book Drive, The First Quartet, published by Wings Press of San Antonio in 2000. The book is a collection of poems from five early collections.

I like Cervantes' poems very much, but I'm using one of her poems this time. Instead, I'm using her introduction to the fifth and final collection in this book, Letters to David - An Elegiac Mass in the Form of a Train. The poems, thin lines centered on the page (in the form of a train) are excellent, but introduction moved me as another kind of art, equal in all respects to the poems. So, I'll get the poems some other time. This week, it's the introduction.

Note to David

from Journal Entry - April 25, 1984

     Today, goddamned David Kennedy drank himself to death. After holing up in a Palm Beach hotel suite he was found on the floor of his room between two king-sized waterbeds.
     Two beds! It rang through my head like a mantra. Two beds. $250 a day he paid for that room & most of the time he stayed in the downstairs bar. Cops couldn't find evidence of any hard drugs, only the vodkas and grapefruit juice the bellhops said he drank steadily from 8 in the morning until 12 at night every day.
     I picked the paper off the kitchen table which is mostly littered with my books from the night before: Prescott's Conquest of Mexico & Conquest of Peru, The Fall by Albert Camus, and aesthetics anthology, Portrait of the Artist as a young Dog by the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, A Handbook of Style, The MLA Guidelines for submitting papers, Nathaniel West's Day of the Locust, Marcuse's One Dimensional Man. I start reading the accompanying articles about the trials & tribulations of life as a Kennedy as I pick up my, by now, lukewarm coffee and head back to the room, over-stepping the fish-hooked shards of glass from a broken lightbulb.
     "When he was only 12 years old, young David stayed up in his hotel room late at night and watched his father on television. A family friend found him sitting in front of the set switching the channels to different broadcasts to watch the tape play over and over. The friend recalled that there was no tears, only a look of stunned horror."
     "The day before on a family outing, the senator had saved David's life when the boy was being swept away in an undertow."
     I remember the day Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I remember it better than when the President was shot. I felt it more. I was in the seventh grade, and that was the first year I was ever truly aware of politics or the wars of the world. That was the day the next door neighbor poisoned my pet cat to keep it off her lawn. I remember the sweet smell, like bitter almonds some say, but to me it smelled like she was vomiting rock candy. When I found her I could tell by the way she looked at me that it was too late to save her. I didn't ever bother to call anyone. Just held her stiff, wretching body & I remember I didn't cry. I felt solid, smooth, like ice but dry, warm. I remember the sun that June morning. It burned the hairs on my arms & I remember how strange the feat felt, like needles of radiation entering in through the pores in my skin. It was numbing me. I held her on the ground. She was too convulsive to hold in my arms and I tried to tell her that. The ants around us were swarming as if excited by the smell of her cooling flesh. I stopped watching her die and smashed ants. Sick. There were so many frantic kamikazes. I wonder if it was a sin. So much minute life snuffed out could leave a blotch on my soul like murder.
     I put the paper down and go to the desk by the window. Under it is a cardboard box where I keep a lot of old stuff. In case there's ever a fire, I plan to heave it out & then jump out after it. I don't even have to look for the diary. I know exactly where it is. I reach in between the notebooks and pull it out. I turn the leaves to the page as I lie back in my bed. June 1, 1968. Today,Robert Kennedy was shot! Kitty died.
     That was the day I learned the word: apocalyptic.

Here's a piece by our friend Robert McManes. Mac has appeared here with us many times. This is his latest.


up in the sky
another rainbow ranger
floats with a flock
of well endowed
pink is in
and in is pink

on the ground
a yellow skinned squirrel
hurtles the sweet myrtle
a mouthful of nuts
furry bounce
by the ounce

in the water
a purple tuna
is fin humped
by the red dragon
wearing plaid socks
and a nose ring

who am i to question

if it weren't for color
i would be blind

I finish up this week with another poem from the drive-around I did last week. More colors to follow Mac's colors.

country color

late spring rains
have covered the pastures
and hills
with new growth
like green felt,
by color-islands
of leftover wild flowers,
mostly patches of red
Indian Paintbrush, but also
small gatherings of bluebonnet
blue, small yellow sunflowers,
a scattering of white flags
among the other colors, and
purple somethings i recognize
but don't know the name of

and the blond cowgirl filling her black
Dodge Ram 1500 4X4
at the Gas & Eats
across from Po Po's Restaurant
in Welfare - pretty girl
in a straw hat and flip flops,
pink toes and flaming red toenails
pointed in, pigeon-
toed, penguin-walking
across the parking lot to pay
the cashier for her gas,
a bag of M&Ms, a diet
Dr Pepper, and a lottery
scratch-off card
for luck

And that's it for this week.

For next week, I'm working on some Japanese death poems, as well as poets including John Engles, Allen Ginsberg, Jimmy Carter, Pierre Martory, Sonia Sanchez and others. Come back then and take in the whole show.

Also, if you are a photographer or an artist and would like to see your work in "Here and Now," send me a couple of jpg samples. Normally, I use in the neighborhood of 15 to 16 images per issue. I'm open to just about anything you might produce, as long as it doesn't get me arrested.

As you can see from the images in this issue, I really need some help.

As I breathlessly await your response, I remind everyone that all of the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself is produced by and is the property of meallen itz.

at 11:02 AM Blogger emily plath said...


Your dedication to poetry
is amazing. Thank you for all your hard work.

Post a Comment

Introducing Francina Hartstra   Friday, June 19, 2009

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Francina Hartstra has been with us on "Here and Now" as a poet several times, but this is the first appearance as a photographer. All of the images in this issue are hers.

Francina was born in 1947 and spent the first thirteen years of her life on river cargo vessels visiting Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. Since then she lived in many different places, including the United States for 12 years, and has traveled widely in Europe, North Africa, The Caribbean and Asia. She moved back to The Netherlands some 10 years ago and continues to live there today.

In addition to Farncina's images, we have these fine poets with us this week as well as a closing tribute to Rosalie "Connie" Walker who passed away earlier this month. Connie was a poet known and enjoyed by a number of us who became her friend via the internet.

Susan Griffin
Two Thousand Years

garage sale

Barbara Moore
The Model Child

Frank O'Hara
Romanze, or The Music Students

Christopher T. George
Zero Hour
All Hail, Miss Dash
Union Station, D.C., 3:48 P.M.

a ride in the Intestinal Falcon

Nikki Giovanni
A Poem for Carol
A Fishy Poem
The World is not a Pleasant Place to Be

Dan Cuddy
Myth of Venus


Margo LaGattuta
Drawing Dirty Pictures

Polly Opsahl
Dreaming Postal

Fances Downing Hunter
Early Morning Music


Norman Stock
Buying Breakfast for My Kamikaze Pilot
My White Wife

take this woman, please

Kathryn Stripling Byer
from Mountain Time

Roland Flint
Early Cutting

Walter Durk
Requiscat in Pace

first step

Tributes to Connie by Her "Blueline" Friends

Thane Zander
Connie's Tribute

Alice Folkart
Connie on a Camel

Helen V. Lundt
Connie's Journey

Gary Blankenship
For Connie

Dear Connie

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Susan Griffin describes herself as an eco-feminist author. She sees her work as "drawing connections between the destruction of nature, the diminishment of women and racism, and tracing the causes of war to denial in both private and public life." She received a MacArthur grant for Peace and International Cooperation, an NEA Fellowship, and an Emmy Award for the play Voices.

Griffin was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1943 and has resided in California since then.

We begin this week with one of her poems, this, from her bookLike the Iris of an Eye, published in 1976 by Harper and Row/

Two Thousand Years


There you are at the stove again
a woman too intelligent for absolute
paranoia, stirring the cereal
again, is there something that draws you
back and back to this
the light, the plant you must
water, the bacon, the eggs in the pan
you consider five years in this
place, two lunches made in the
ice box, your daughter with
one big tooth crowding the babies
makes blue snakes in the next room,
the cereal is poured in blue
bowls with the blue rims,
you have chosen the color
chosen you daughter
chosen the number on the house


You say the
entire world can exist
in one imagination
And you tell the story
of the sisters over
in your mind
how they longed for the city
how they died in the country
and that not in the city
but somewhere
behind them
not in the country
but behind them, as a shadow, a glimpse, a thought
lying under speech


Always one step ahead of despair
I dreamed last night
the men made plans for the future
your husband and mine
with the correct explosions
underground, they said, we locate caves
and stay there while the holocaust
rages on the surface, then
according to the laws of probability
we will find our way out
in two thousand years


No, I woke up screaming
I would rather die
in the fires.


And you wake
to a quick silence
like disaster, like the
moment the pot falling
seems to rest in air
before it
splits in two
and you wonder
is the fire


You remind yourself how easily you forget
the mind thinking itself quick recites outlines
and leaves out all the textures,
invents a reason
and is irritated by the wrong details.
The body goes on defending itself
every movement, the boiling of water on
the stove, the pouring of salt in a shaker
a proof of theorems, when suddenly
I remember every moment.


Self-preservation in the making of breakfast.
Self-preservation in the cry on waking.
Self-preservation in reason.
Self-preservation in memory.
I remember every moment, I am shocked
at the daily loss.

Photo by Francina Hartstra

My mother-in-law had a garage sale a couple of weekends ago. My wife, Dora, went down to help. I contributed to the effort by writing the following poem about it.

garage sale

it is the day
garage sale weekend
and D is off, heading south
to help with her mother's
semiannual get rid of junk sale,
her little red Camry,
loaded to the windows
with a dozen varieties
of crap that, with luck
will be sold
for the grand amount
of maybe
three dollars and forty cents

assuming 28 miles per gallon
over the 517 miles
here and there and back, i anticipate
our weekend losses to be at least
50, but surely no more than 75
dollars, buy high,
sell low
fit for the day

having scheduled myself for a
early Monday morning,
i was given a pass on the trip

a desperate measure, perhaps,
but the procedure only lasts a couple of hours,
and given a free weekend besides,
it seems like a bargain
than anything likely to be sold
at the garage

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Here's a poem from our friend Barbara Moore.

Barbara was born in Danville, Virginia in 1948, but has lived in New York long enough to consider herself an almost native. She earned a B.A. from Hofstra University, majoring in English, and an M.S.W. from Fordham University. She has been a research assistant at Reader's Digest as well as a substance abuse counselor at Long Island College

The Model Child

I'm handicapped by etiquette
Hog-tied to the falseness
Of its swollen barren belly.
From time of understanding words,
Drilled into my head were these
"Mind your manners, child."

My playmates were spontaneous
In the moment, whole
I was to the side of things
Punctuating pauses with
"Please" and "thank you"

And like Red Riding Hood
"What a nice house you have"
"What a delicious dinner that was"
To the point where I never fully saw
I never completely savored

Editorializing, summing up
I was the last to leave
With the most words said
And the fewest feelings expressed

I'm handicapped by etiquette
Thank you for listening.

Photo by Francina Hartstra

My next poem is by Frank O'Hara from the book Meditations in an Emergency. The book was published by Grove Press in 1967.

O'Hara was born in Baltimore in 1926 and grew up in Massachusetts. He served in the South Pacific and Japan as a sonarman in the Navy during World War II and with the funding made available to veterans he attended Harvard University. Although he majored in music and did some composing, his attendance was irregular and his interests disparate. He regularly attended classes in philosophy and theology, while writing impulsively in his spare time. O'Hara was heavily influenced by visual art, and by contemporary music, which was his first love (he remained a fine piano player all his life and would often shock new partners by suddenly playing swathes of Rachmaninoff when visiting them). While at Harvard, HE began publishing poems in the Harvard Advocate. Despite his love of music, he changed his major and graduated from Harvard in 1950 with a degree in English.

He then attended graduate school at the University of Michigan and received his M.A. in English literature 1951. That autumn O'Hara moved into an apartment in New York City and soon after became employed at the front desk of the Museum of Modern Art and began to write seriously. Over the years he was active in the art world, working as a reviewer for Art News, and in 1960 was Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art.

He was injured in 1966 in an accident on Fire Island in which he was struck by a man speeding in a beach vehicle He died the next day of a ruptured liver at the age of 40.

Romanze, or The Music Students


The rain, its tiny pressure
on you scalp, like ants
passing the door of a tobacconist.
"Hello!" they cry, their noses
glistening. They are humming
a scherzo by Tchyerepnin.
They are carrying violin cases.
With their feelers knitting
over their heads the blue air,
they appear at the door of
the Conservatory and cry "Ah!"
at the honey of its outpourings.
They stand in the street and hear
the curds drifting on the top
of the milk of the Conservatory doors.


the had though themselves
in Hawaii when suddenly the pines,
trembling with nightfulness,
shook them out of their sibilance.
The surf was full of outriggers
racing like slits in the eye of
the sun, yet the surf was full
of great black logs plunging, and
then the surf was full of needles.
The surf was bland and white,
as pine trees are white when,
in Paradise, no wind is blowing.


In Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon
at four-thirty they went to an organ
recital: Messiaen, Hindemith, Czerny.
And in their ears a great voice said
"To have great music we must commission
it. To commission great music
we must have great commissioners."
There was a blast! and summer was over.


Rienzi! A rabbit is sitting in the hedge!
it is a brown stone! it is the month
of October! it is an orange bassoon!
They've been standing on the mountain
for forty-eight hours without flinching.
Well, they are soldiers, I guess,
and it is all marching magnificently by.

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Next I have three short poems from our friend and frequent contributor, Christopher T. George.

Chris was born in Liverpool, England in 1948 and first emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1955. He went back to Liverpool for, he says, a refresher on his Scouse accent, living with his grandparents while attending Rose Lane and Quarry Bank Schools. Chris returned to the U.S.A. in 1968 and has lived there ever since. He now lives in Baltimore, Maryland, near Johns Hopkins University with his wife Donna and two cats.

He is a frequently published poet, as well as the lyricist for Jack - The Musical, written with French composer Erik Sitbon, Chris is also an editor at Ripperologist magazine published in the UK,

Zero Hour

Were passengers
on Titanic munching
iceberg lettuce when
disaster struck?

Was anyone at
Hiroshima or Nagasaki
or Ground Zero thinking
of Zero Hour when the fiery
javelin pierced their hearts?

All Hail, Miss Dash!

To Emily Dickinson

Ah, right here in the very middle
of Garrison Keillor's Good Poems,
I meet you once again, Miss Dash,
your lovely "We grow accustomed--"
I'm waiting in the air-conditioned
quiet of the Marc train to pull
off--watch a Sleeping Beauty doze
with his Blackberry. And I'm here
writing this on the ripped-open
white of a money envelope! Ha!
All hail, Miss Dash--Godhead!
Keep conversing with our souls.

Union Station, D.C., 3:48 P.M.

Congressman Bluetooth berates
an intern, hands flapping,
guarding Samsonite luggage
like a mother barracuda.

Homeless man with ebony skin
touches each granite block.
Pencil-thin-moustache guy with
Stars and Striped tie pulls

a screwed-up ball of dollars
from deep within a pocket
of his baggy pants, scrutinizes
each bill, Marlboro on lip.

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Here's a follow-up on my garage sale poem, one I'm very proud of it since it isn't often someone figures out how to write a poem about a colonoscopy.

a ride on the Intestinal Falcon

they let me watch
the procedure on TV
as they were doing it,
kinda cool...
reminded me of that part
of the first Star Wars
when Hans Solo hid himself
and his ship
the Millennium Falcon
and the Princess and the rest
from the Imperial evildoer whosits
who were chasing them
in those little bug looking ships
and of course it wasn't a cave
but a gigantic worm's
gigantic worm hole
and whooooosh
they barely made it
and since it was the first of the series
we weren't sure they would

even though there weren't,
thank goodness,
any gigantic, hungry-for-a-space-ship
worms in my case, that part of the movie
came to mind as i watched the procedure

in the recovery bay
i was next to an old man singing
western ballads
in a creamy smooth Ray Price kind of voice

that was the best part
of the

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1943, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1960, she entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she worked with the school's Writer's Workshop and edited the literary magazine. After receiving her bachelor of arts degree in 1967, she organized the Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati before entering graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.

Her honors include three NAACP Image Awards for Literature in 1998, the Langston Hughes award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters in 1996, as well as more than twenty honorary degrees from national colleges and universities. She has been given keys to more than a dozen cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, and New Orleans.

Several magazines have named Giovanni Woman of the Year, including Essence, Mademoiselle, Ebony, and Ladies Home Journal. She was the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award. She has served as poetry judge for the National Book Awards and was a finalist for a Grammy Award in the category of Spoken Word.

She is currently Professor of English and Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 1987.

This next poem is from her book My House, published by Quill in 1972.

A Poem for Carol

(May She Always Wear Red Ribbons)

when i was very little
though it's still true today
there were no sidewalks in lincoln heights
and the home we had on jackson street
was right next to a bus stop and a sewer
which didn't really ever become offensive
but one day from the sewer a little kitten
with one eye gone
came crawling out
though she never really came into our yard but just
sort of hung by to watch the folk
my sister who was always softhearted but able
to act effectively started taking milk
out to here while our father would only say
don't bring him home and everyday
after school i would rush home to see if she was still
there and if gary had fed her but i could never
bring myself to go near her
she was so loving
and so hurt and singularly beautiful and i knew
i had nothing to give that would
replace her one gone eye

and if i had named her which i didn't i'm sure
i would have called her Carol

[20 dec 71]

A Fishy Poem

i have nine guppies
there were ten but the mother died shortly
after the birth
the father runs up and down the aquarium

at first i thought i wasn't feeding
them enough
so i increased and increased
until the aquarium was very very dirty
then i realized he was just a guppy
whose father was a goldfish
and he was only following
his nature

[11 jan 72]

The Wold Is Not a Pleasant Place to Be

the world is not a pleasant place
to be without
someone to hold and be held by

a river would stop
its flow if only
a stream were there
to receive it

an ocean would never laugh
if clouds weren't there
to kiss her tears

the world is not
a pleasant place to be without

[17 feb 72]

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Nothing can lead a man to day dreams faster than the passage of a beautiful woman (especially when she's optional on a clothing optional beach).

Here's our friend Dan Cuddy to tell us about it.

Myth Of Venus

a poem comes out of the language
like Venus
riding a seashell
the zephyrs
pushing the very naked
naturally curvaceous
Botticelli babe
onto a 21st century beach
a nudist beach
and i
am wrapped in a towel
too much fat to fry in the sun
and a little old
none of my bathing suits fit
I just want to be incognito
catch a peak at the women au naturelle
feel free
unencumbered with clothes
that show I have no taste in clothes
Venus has a dimple on two cheeks
one on the face
one in another place
and she is so tan
she wasn't born yesterday
her skin is so smooth
a mole here or there
like an exclamation point
the woman is real
just out of Penthouse's pool
dripping wet
brown eyes wonderfully smiling
and I would jump up
and say "hi"
if I knew her
and the lifeguard
with big muscles
wasn't guarding her life
her telephone number
her email address
I turn seaweed green with envy
watch them
kiss furiously
as violins come from somewhere
and a voice
a smoker's voice
With intermittent coughs
"this is my daughter
watch it"
I watched her
the goddess
of Black's Beach, California
and I said
"gawd, what a woman"
a disembodied voice said
"that's right fatso.
Only In your dreams."

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Several of my fellow poets on the Blueline Forum poem-a-day forum have begun writing alphabet poems.

I am enjoying reading their poems, but don't get much fun out of writing them myself. I did decide to try to do one though, and, being contrary as I often am, began at the ass-end of the alphabet rather than at the beginning.


cried the commizzar
of zucchinis,
zebras, zephyrs
and zinnias
known for their
when plucked like a

who is it, the rascal,
who zipped off with my
zinckenite zippers,
truly zonked they must be

the zig zag papers a clue,
and the Zapata-mustache
and the double-chocolate brownie
surely signs
of a zeitgeist
surfer -
no zen needed
to know
the trees have fallen
in that forest

no fear,
the zeppelin is here,
so round up the
and my favorite zero gravity zoot suit
and the zulus
and the zunies
and all the zaftig cuties
who zone out on zirkons

and don't forget,
whatever you do,
my zydeco cd's for without them
i'm zilch,
a zoophyte or zooplankton at best

off we can go, bring me my zarf
and my snazzi zither
and i'll settle in for a traveling

leave this forsaken zek
to Zorro
and the his

i don't want to be
the zorille at the party,
but i think it's time
to move on

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Here are three poems from the anthology Everywhere is Someplace Else, published by Plain View Press of Austin in 1998.

The first poem is by Margo LaGattuta an editor at Plain View Press at the time the anthology was published. She had published four books of her own and has appeared in numerous journals had won several national poetry awards.

LaGattuta received and MFA from Vermont College and, in 1998, was teaching writing at the University of Michigan (Flint).

Drawing Dirty Pictures

I knew it was something
really bad. Me and Douglas
Payea played on Sunday
morning while my parents
slept in. He lived five square
houses down, five little brick
houses, each with its own row
of round azalea bushes in front.

We hid in my yard, drawing people
and their private parts with ballpoint
pens on a yellow scratch pad from
my father's desk. I was the detail
person. He would draw the figures
and I would fill in the fancy parts,
like curly hair and round, red nipples.

There was the thrill of outlining
and filling in with parts we weren't
supposed to mention. There they
were - real naked bodies right
on paper. He'd scrunch up the sheet
and hide it in the bushes, chase me
around squealing, till we'd both fall.
Then I'd run back to take a look.

Taking a forbidden look at a piece
of wrinkled paper in the bushes
gave me a rush. Every car that drove
by was a threat. I'd duck down
in case it was the dirty picture cops.

I never wanted to look
at Douglas Payea after that.
I'd roller-skate past his house,
my eyes looking straight ahead.
I'd pretend not to even know him,
That all those lines and curls were
never real at all, and none of us
had any secret body parts
hidden underneath our clothes.

The next poem, is by Polly Opsahl, a postal worker and union activist when the anthology was published, writing regularly for the union newsletter. At the time, she was active in a number of poetry societies in Michigan.

Dreaming Postal

I dream of work again.
This time
we try to make a movie
of life in the P.O.
It features cave people,
The ones with the clubs are the bosses.

On a break from filming,
we visit the workroom floor.
A carrier approaches me
with the latest directive
issued by management.
Highlight in yellow,
it reads, French fries
may only be eaten

The carrier asks me
what it means. I admit
I am not sure.

The postmaster and I
review a portion of video
to make corrections before
shooting resumes.
Fluffy clouds shot
at time-lapse speed roll
across a slate blue sky.
George C. Scott,
dressed as General Patton,
drives a mail truck
up to a curbside box.
The address reads,
One Heaven Place,
with the name God
above. The general announces,
The Post Office -
where everyone receives
the same service
at the same price.

The postmaster shuts off the tape.
I remind her we need to view it all
so we know what recommendations
to make. No time, she says
and calls the carriers together.
We have a video to show you.
There will be no time for questions,
no time for answers, and no time
for popcorn. Just watch it
and get back to work.

She puts the tape in the VCR.
Snow crackles on the screen.
It's broken, she announces.
I'll just tell you what was in it.
She starts speaking in Latin.
I pull the tape from the machine,
examine it to see what's wrong.
The postmaster keeps talking,
doesn't notice that no one
can understand her.

I open the plastic cassette.
Someone has tied the tape in knots.

My last poem from the anthology is by Frances Downing Hunter. Hunter received her Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi and, at the time the anthology was published, taught English at Arkansas State University. She was a finalist in the 1997 Atlantic Review Poetry Competition and received an International Merit Award in Poetry in 1997.

Early Morning Music

That precious hour before the alarm's
assault, a crosstown train wails
like a late night jazz horn
riffing slowly toward morning.
Closer now, the staccatoed
rumbling of wheels on tracks
drums the back beat as a bird
closer still, picks up a high note,
holds it, then scats home.
Slow rain thumbs the bass.

Inside our wooden cocoon
the black dog stretches,
retracts, as the man slumbers.
Wishboned around me, both
breathe in rhythmic counterpoint
to melody, as i search
for a space, an opening to stretch,
an unbound leg to tap.

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Sitting in a coffee shop looking for interesting people, someone who suggests a story, and you look and there they are - that's what I do.


a very tall man
walks in,
a very old man
very slowly, his shorts
reveal knees crisscrossed
with scars

and above it all,
a large, rectangular head,
like an Easter Island
head, but with a rockhard grace
to his his face,
a "visage" one might better say
to describe a continence
of such strength
and character

a white thatch of hair
combed back,
white eyebrows
above deep-set eyes,
and a neat, white mustache
covering a broad upper lip

a face from Bergman,
the face of Death playing chess

a face from Fellini,
the face of Quinn's strongman

a face from Scorsese,
el capo de tutti capi, boss
of all the bosses

such a face
to face
in a bookstore
at 10 in the morning

i look around for the cameras
and, finding none,
think i might have seen the face
of a fallen angel,
an aged Gabriel, stripped
of his youth and light,
humanity showing through
the bones
of his former glory

from nowhere,
another face, a mother enters
with her young son, blond
with deep-set eyes, the saddest eyes
i have ever seen

Gabriel, again,
returned to childhood, though still with
the memories
of all the sadness he has ever seen

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Poet Norman Stock is the author of Buying Breakfast for My Kamikaze Pilot, published by Gibbs Smith in 1994 as winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Contest.

Since 1984 he has received several awards for his poetry, including the Writer's Voice New Voice Award, Poets and Writers New York to the Heartland Award, and the Poetry Prize of the Bennington Writing Workshops. He has been a National Arts Club Scholar and Alan Collins Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.

Stock's poetry has been published in a number of journals and anthologies. He lives in New York City and works as a librarian at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

I have two poems from his book, the first, the title poem.

Buying Breakfast for My Kamikaze Pilot

she always takes us down for a crash landing
I don't know whey she does it
am I the enemy is she
it's hard to tell on this particular morning
but I buy her breakfast anyway I give her all I have
and she gives me all she is whether in anger or love
as we go crashing through the breakfast plates upsetting
     the orange juice and eggs
and the coffee shop becomes our battleground where we
     both die together holding on to each other for dear
     sweet fucking life

My White Wife

my white wife
looks at me funny, and says, when will you change
I can't help it, I say, I have always been like this
although I never noticed it, until I met you
I am not white, she says, and you are not black
as usual, you have exaggerated the situation till it is
     impossible for us to talk
but we are married, I say, you and I and all the others
the others? she says, there you go again
oh, you know what I mean, I say with a cunning smile
get lost, she says, please get out of my life
so soon? I say, out! she says, away! I am not married to
then I will take my blackness, I say, taking my blackness
and I will go with it to another, and I will never come back
good riddance! she says happily, and you can take my
     whiteness with you, since only you can see it
thank you, I say, but I will need another white wife, the
     the embodiment, not just the quality
you and your fantasies! she says contemptuously, go already,
     go, please go
all right, I say, all right, I'm going, but you will be sorry
there was something in it for you, too, you know
but already she has forgotten me, has turned away so
     completely, I can barely see her standing there
and suddenly I am not longer black and she is no longer
     white and nothing exists except the space we stand in
this is worse than I thought it would be, I say, but it is also
     better, considering what could have happened, I
     guess it's time to move on

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Sometimes it's just too damn hard to be gracious about other people's failings. Like this.

take this woman, please

she's driving me
crazy today,
swing from the trees
and pound my chest

i come here in the morning
because it's quiet
and i can read my Times
and write my poem -
not in a cone of silence,
that's too quiet - but
in the soft sonic swell
of people
in quiet conversation,
or at least interesting
looking people,
subjects of many a poem

but not when she's working
behind the counter,
she and her loud
of a voice
that never gets beyond
in its intelligent reference
to anything
beyond the mundane,
beyond her own bloated ego,
like living in a haze
of the mindless
of 13 year olds

and so damn loud
she can't be ignored

better an hour
of fingernail scratching
on a blackboard
than another minute of this

i'm going to a movie

Photo by Francine Hartstra

Next I have two poems from the anthology Across State Lines, a free publication ot The American Poetry & Literacy Project, free that is unless you get it at a used-books store where you pay $3.98.

The book collects poems about the fifty states from different poets, some very well known and some you never heard of before. The poems I selected for this issue are for the two "north" states, North Carolina and North Dakota.

The first poem is by Kathryn Stripling Byer.


From Mountain Time

Up here in the mountains
we know what extinct means. We've seen
how our breath on a bitter night
fades like a ghost from the window glass.
We know the wolf's game.
The panther. We've heard the old stories
run down, stutter out
into silence. Who knows where we're heading?
All roads seem to lead
to Millennium, dark roads with drop-offs
we can't plumb. It's time to be brought up short
now with the tale-tellers' Listen: There once lived
a woman named Delphia
who walked through these hills teaching children
to read. She was known as a quilter
whose hand never wearied, a mother
who raised up two daughters to pass on
her words like a strong chain of stitches.
Imagine her sitting among us,
her quick thimble moving along these lines
as if to hear every word striking true
as the stab of her needle through calico.
While prophets discourse about endings,
don't you think she'll tell us the world as we know it
keeps calling us back to beginnings?
This labor to make our words matter
is what any good quilter teaches.
A stitch in time, let's say.
a blind stitch
that clings to the edges
of what's left, the ripped
scraps and remnants. whatever
won't stop taking shape even though the whole
crazy quilt's falling to pieces

The second poem from Across State Lines is by Roland Flint.


Early Cutting
For Ed Elderman

When they take the winter wheat at home
all the other crops are green.
In granaries and tight truck boxes
farm boys are slow scoop-shovel metronomes
singing harvest deep in the grain.

The old men come out to watch, squat in the stubble,
break a lump of dirt and look at it on their hands,
and mumbling kernels of the sweet hard durum,
they think how it survived the frozen ground
unwinding at last to this perfect bread
of their mouths.

Where they call it the Red River Valley of the North
there are no mountains,
the floor is wide as a glacial lake - Agassiz,
the fields go steady to the horizon,
sunflower, potato, summerfallow, corn,
and so flat that a shallow ditch
can make the tractor drivers think of Columbus
and the edge.

Photo by Francina Hartstra

Our friend Walter Durk was born in New York City, lived in Asia and numerous places in the United States. His work has appeared in "Here and Now" a number of times. Here's his latest.

Requiescat in Pace

In the holy hush of ceremonial air
suffused in smoke of wandering souls
sits a woman in a forward pew,
(the mother of the boy who's here today.)
She kneels in homage to his passing soul,
freed from his body where it now lay.

Hush, hush.
Let Dies Irae play.
Let myrrh thicken turbid air,
and thuribles sound their tinkling sounds
while aspergillums spray their holy spray.
And let the mother pray:

Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning
man for judgment must prepare him;
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!

Photo by Francina Hartstra

This next poem was the first poem in my 25th 30-day poem a day cycle at Blueline's "House of 30". That might seem like a lot of poems, but only if you don't know that one of my fellow poets on this poem-a-day exercise is in her 50th cycle - that's like 1,500 hundred poems in 1,500 days. That's Alice Folkart, our perpetual poetry machine, the Energizer Bunny of poets, who appears in "Here and Now" often.

Anyway, here's my first in my paltry 25th.

first step

so now
it's the beginning
of a new chapter and i don't know
what i'm going to do with it first

but that's the way
it has always been with me

i've always set my goals
twenty or thirty steps ahead,
not worrying too much about each new step
as long it goes in a direction
taking me closer to the last step

like maybe
the first step today
would be to note the fresh breeze
that cools the beginning of what will be
a very hot day in June

and the way the nature of the day changes
as Reba and i walk from cloud cover
to sun and back again, the way
our whole walk is done in splotches
of hot and cool, dark and dazzling light

every well remembered marker along the way
noted by each of us for our own reasons,
the shaded alcove
where there are always squirrels,
the shaded alcove
where Reba always wants to stop,
hoping, i'm sure,
that some day the squirrels will get too close
as they mock her,
close enough that she can reach them
and mete out her revenge for their disrespect

or the Gap for Kids,
with the headless dummies
in the window, a display of finely dressed
gruesome and grotesque,
thinking how i, as a child, could only
have been dragged screaming into a store
where they might chop off my head,
too much like the Brothers Grimm
to ever be entered without trepidation

and thus it is, our morning walk,
each of us, as we pass our familiar way,
finding our own fascinations -
routine, broken this morning by birds
in aerial combat, a larger bird, a blackbird,
maybe, chased through the morning sky
by three smaller birds, attacking, dive bombing,
nipping with beak and talons as they pass

the small birds, attacking in flurries of fury,
like hawks,
but too small

a mystery for the morning

Photo by Francina Hartstra

I end this week's issue on a sad note.

Those of us who post our poetry regularly on the Blueline Forum's "House of 30" were saddened this past week to learn of the passing of fellow House mate Rosalie "Connie" J. Walker.

Connie, in her 71st year, had lived a full and active life. A graduate of West High School in Columbus, Ohio, and Grant Hospital School of Nursing, Connie was a nurse in the U.S. Navy, also serving as a nurse at King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and at Grant and Mt. Carmel Hospitals mainly in the ICCU. She was a resident of Bremerton, Wa for 18 years before returning to Columbus.

Connie had a passion for writing and teaching poetry, and enjoyed knitting, reading, solving crossword puzzles and traveling the world. Restricted due to poor health to staying close to home during her late years, she wrote beautiful nature poems from her memory of all the places she had been and all the beautiful things she had seen.

I close this issue this week with several tribute poems from her "House of 30" colleagues.

Beginning with Thane Zander, a New Zealand poet and frequent contributor to “Here and Now."

Connie's TributeI

In the winter of your life dear friend
you would bring summer to my eyes,
your spring would bubble eternal
and when the fall approached,
ever cheerful.

In the trees that surround you we find
birdsong, and leaves of colour,
in the plants of your house, a poem.

Now you are at rest, your poetry a lingering flavour,
your words spread across a tableau of the universal,
you remain in our hearts, in our minds, in time,
a special person who touched all with her grace.

I learnt from you Connie
and that's the biggest grace you had to offer,
may you rise and star in your new life
as surely you must.

And next, our Hawaiian poet, Alice Folkart.

Connie on a Camel

I always think of you
riding a camel
across a dry desert,
entering the black tent
of a nomad chief,
fearless, adventurous,
observing all with
an open mind
and a loving heart.

I always think of you
making music
out of everything,
out of the heat and dust,
our of the dangers,
out of the sand storms,
and the questionable food,
because that's what
you were there for,
to live and to love it.

In the years we knew you,
you sat in your cozy home,
watching the seasons change,
the birds leave and return,
the trees explode in color,
go naked, and reclothe in green,
the snows come and go,
crafting it all into
graceful poems that put us by your side.

You may not be able
to tell us what you're seeing
where you are now,
although if anyone could,
it would be you,
but we hope that it's beautiful,
and are sure that even there,
your poetry and kind heart
will be treasured.

And we have this poem from Connie's friend from New York, Helen V. Lundt.

Connie's Journey

If thoughts and love of nature
were to make their way around the world
as seeds fly from flower to fertile soil
implanting themselves for next season,

If nimble fingers were to soar over computer keys
in spite of physical discomfort - ignoring pain
to surpass it with written sights of the world
so others may view her love of life,

If the sands of time in her world changed
as she changed, one would not have known.
For Connie kept it to herself, the seeds
of her arts renewal continuing their journey.

Her journey will keep on growing, keep on going
and her love of a new life will continue each season,
especially as new flowers blossom and bloom.
For she is remembered as a nature lover by so many.

And this poem from our friend from the Pacific Northwest, Gary Blankenship

For Connie

Through your eyes, I saw the hickory turn
along the frosted banks of the Ohio,
climbed the mounds and heard the tribes pray,
saw the geese wind South as winter drew near.

Now, I hear the loons cry in their mourning,
the last wolf howl his despair you've passed,
the moose bow, the whitetail, beaver, rabbit,
the northern lakes freeze in their sorrow.

We will plant a buckeye along the far shore,
and morning read your poems to the North star.

And finally, one from me.

Dear Connie

Dear Connie,
I walked with you
Through the fields and forests
And streams and quiet meadows
Of your memory

I walk with you still,
But in my memory, now,
And every shaded grove
That offers me respite
From the heat of summer's sun;
Every broad field of wildflower color
That brings pleasure to my day:
Every gold leaf that falls
In Autumn's transition;
All these natural glories
Passed unseen before,
I will see them now with your eyes
And be reminded of you,

Photo by Francina Hartstra

And so ends this week's post of "Here and Now."

I'll back in a week with more poetry and pretty pictures. I haven't done that much work on the next issue yet, but so far it looks like I'll have poems by Luci Tapahonso, Charles Bukowski, Marilyn Hacker, and at least one poet new to me, the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy. Who knows what else might slip in.

Until we get there, remember, all of the work presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property of me...allen itz.


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Rocky Mountain Gold   Friday, June 12, 2009


Several things different this week.

First, almost entirely by accident none of the poets this week (except me, of course) are Americans and several are from periods before there was an America to be American in.

Second, again almost entirely by accident, my poems this week form a kind of poem series, series being something I almost never do when not traveling.

And, finally, I sent out a solicitation last week to poets who have appeared here before, asking for new material. I received a good response and have a good poem bank now for future weeks. (Can always use more, though, getting them is the hardest part of doing this every week.)

Despite that, I'm not using any of the "friends" poems this week. Two reasons for that, one I simply got lazy and the other, it's too complicated to get into on a very hot summer afternoon.

But, this is what I do have for you. Not too shabby at all.

Lu Yu
The Wild Flower Man
Phoenix Hairpins
Leaving the Monastery Early in the Morning
Rain on the River

a saturday poem

Arthur Rimbaud
Morning of Drunken Ecstasy

a sunday drive

Hair Yellower Than Torch Flames
Time of Youth
Song to Groom and Bride
To Eros
To a Friend Gone, Remember
Old Age

another dread monday

Nanao Sakaki
After the First Snow
Winter Flower Trails


Anna Akhmatova
from Requiem

worst day

Dylan thomas
And Earth Shall Have No Dominion

last day

George Grosz
Hymn to the World


First, here are several poems by Lu Yu from the book One Hundred Poems From the Chinese, a New Directions book published in 1971.

Lu Yu, who lived from 733–804, is respected as the "Sage of Tea" for his contribution to Chinese tea culture. He is best known for his book on the subject The Classic of Tea, the first definitive work on cultivating, making and drinking tea. The remainder of the Wikipedia entry on Lu Yu appears like it might have been poorly translated into English from original Chinese and I could get nothing from it.

The poems were translated by Kenneth Rexroth who also assembled and edited the book.

The Wild Flower Man

Do you know the old man who
Sells flowers by the South Gate?
He lives on flowers like a bee.
In the morning he sells mallows,
In the evening he has poppies.
His shanty roof lets in the
Blue sky. His rice bin is
Always empty. When he has
Made enough money from his
Flowers, he heads for a teahouse.
When his money is gone, he
Gathers some more flowers.
All the spring weather, while the
Flowers are in bloom, he is
In bloom, too. Every day he
is drunk all day long. What does
He care if new laws are posted
At the Emperor's palace?
What doe it matter to him
If the government is built
On sand? If you try to talk
To him, he won't answer but
Only give you a drunken
Smile from under his tousled hair.

Phoenix Hairpins

Pink and white hands like roses and rice cake!
Cups full of golden pools of wine!
Today the willows are blooming
By the palace wall. the Spring wind
Brings me no pleasure and I
Hate it. My bowels are knotted
With bitterness. I cannot
Loosen the cord of the years
Which has bound us together.
The Spring is still the Spring
Of other days, but I am
Empty, withered with pain.
My rouge is streaked with tears, my
Dress is stained with tear drops.
The peach trees are in blossom
Over my room, here by the
Still lake that mirrors the hills.
I no longer have the strength
To finish this letter and
Wrap it in a cloth of gold. When
You receive it, everything
Will be over forever.

Leaving the Monastery Early In the Morning

In bed, asleep, I dream
I am a butterfly.
A crowing cock wakes me
Like a blow. The sun rises
Between foggy mountains.
Mist hides the distant crags.
My long retreat is over.
My worries begin again.
Laughing monks are gathering
Branches of peach blossoms
For a farewell present.
But no stirrup cup will sustain
Me on my journey back
Into a world of troubles.

Rain on the River

In the fog we drift thither
and yon over the dark waves.
At last our little boat finds
Shelter under a willow bank.
At midnight I am awake,
Heavy with wine. The smoky
Lamp is still burning. The rain
Is still sighing in the bamboo
thatch of the cabin of the boat.

What "Lost & Found" do you go to when you find you've lost your sense of Saturday?

a saturday poem

i've been trying
to remember when
i lost saturday, the saturdays
i remember from when i was a kid,
when there was no school
and when, after a couple of hours of work
in the morning,
the day was mine,
for bike riding,
for exploration of the canals and resacas
within biking distance of our house,
for saturday afternoon movies,
for a trip to our little small-town library
to get books for the week,
for an afternoon of swimming,
for an afternoon that was mine,
all mine,
only mine

it might have been
when i was fourteen or fifteen
and i began a series of jobs in grocery stores,
working saturdays from opening at 7 a.m.
to closing at 9 in the evening, $10 for the day,
seven for me, three for the college fund

then college,
weekends mostly dim days
of hangovers and sleep

military -
working rotating shifts,
about days and nights,
which days, which nights

career -
thirty years of saturdays
alone in my office
where i could work without
catching up,
getting ahead

now -
i have made writing my work,
what i do,
what i do most of every day
what i do most every day
in a way based on work habits
over the thirty years that came before

like now,
writing this...

worth the time i've spent on it -
some might know,
i don't

but i'm too old
to go swimming in the resaca,
to fat to ride a bicycle,
too impatient
to spend an afternoon in a movie theater
filled with a bunch of kids
having the kind of saturday i'd like to have

but can't

Next I have some pieces by Arthur Rimbaud from the book A Season in Hell and Illuminations, published by J.M. Dent in 1998. As the book's title suggests, it consists of translations by Mark Treharne of two of Rimbaud's best know works, A Season in Hell and Illuminations.

Rimbaud was born 1854 . As part of the decadent movement, his influence on modern literature, music and art has been enduring and pervasive. He produced his best known works while still in his late teens - Victor Hugo described him at the time as "an infant Shakespeare" - and gave up creative writing altogether before he reached 21. He was known to have been a restless soul, traveling extensively on three continents before his premature death from cancer in 1898, less than a month after his 37th birthday.

All of the work I'm using this week comes from Illuminations.

Morning of Drunken Ecstasy

     Oh my good! My Beauty! Hideous fanfare in which I do not falter! magical easel of torture! Hurrah for the unheard-of work and the wondrous body, for the first time! It began amid children's laughter, it will end there. This poison will remain in all our veins even when the fanfare sours and returns us to former disharmony. But let us now, we so deserving of this torture, fervently muster the superhuman promise made to our created bodies and souls: that promise, that insanity. Refinement, knowledge, violence! We have been promised that the proprieties shall be exiled so that we can usher in the uncontaminated perfection of our love. It began with a certain disgust and it ended, - since we are unable to seize hold of this eternity here and now, - it ended in a riot of perfumes.
     Children's laughter, discreet attention of slaves, austerity of virgins, horror of the faces and objects in this place, may you be hallowed by the memory of this vigil. It began in utter crudity, and now it ends in angels of fire and ice.
     Little drunken vigil, holy! if only the mask with which
you have honored us. Method, we assert you! We do not forget that yesterday your glorified every state of our lives. We have faith in the poison. We know how to give our whole life each day.
     This is the time of the Assassins..


     When the world has been scaled down to one single dark wood for our four astonished eyes, - to a beach for two inseparable children, - to a musical house for our untroubled sympathy, - I shall find you.
     Let there be a single old man left on earth, calm and handsome, surrounded by "untold wealth", - and I shall be at your feet.
     Let me have realized all your memories, - let me be the woman who can bind you hand and foot, - I shall suffocate you.


     When we are very strong, - who draws back? very gay, who collapses in ridicule? When we are very evil, what would they do to us?
     Adorn yourself, dance, laugh, - I shall never be able to send Love out of the window.


     My companion, beggar-girl, monster child! how little you care about these unhappy women and these maneuvers, and my difficulties. Attach yourself to us with your impossible voice, your voice! the sole redeeming feature of this vile despair.


     An overcast morning, in July. A taste of ashes floats through the air; - a smell of wood sweltering in the fireplace, - the retted flowers - the devastated walks - the drizzle of canals across the fields - why not toys and incense this early?


     I have hung ropes from steeple to steeple; garlands from window to window; golden chains from star to star, and I am dancing.


     The upland pond is always steaming. What witch is going to loom up against the white sunset? what violet foliage is going to fall?


While public money is being poured out in celebrations of brotherhood, a bell of rose-colored fire rings in the clouds.


     Heightening a pleasant flor of Indian ink, a black powder falls like gentle rain on my vigil, - I turn down the gas lamp, throw myself on the bed, and as I turn towards the shadow, I can see you, my young girls! my queens!


     This is mindful repose, not fever, not languor, on the bed or on the grass.
     This is the friend, neither pressing nor undemanding. The friend.
     This is the beloved, neither a tormentor nor tormented. The beloved.
     Air and the world unsought. Life
     - So this is what it was?
     - And the dream grows cold.


     The light returns to the roof-beam. From the two ends of the room, nondescript scenes, harmonic elevations meet up together. The wall facing the watcher is a psychological sequence of cross-sections of friezes, atmospheric layers and geological strata. - A vivid, rapid dream of sentimental groups with beings of all kinds in every conceivable setting


     The lamps and the rugs of the vigil sound like waves, at night, along the hull and around the entrepont.
     The sea of the vigil, like Amelie's breasts.
     The wall-hangings, up to half the way, thickets of lace, dyed emerald, where the doves of the vigil dart about


     The fireback of the blackened hearth, real suns on seashores: ah! wells of magics; the only glimpse of dawn, this time.

I always like to catch the quick flash of not-what-you-expect in an every day regular day.

a sunday drive

a sunday drive
to Austin
on an errand
that couldn't wait
for Monday

thinking about going on
for a drive
in the hill country, maybe
spend the night in Blanco or Mason
or Johnson City
before heading home tomorrow

take a step outside
and decide it's too damn hot
so i'll just do the do i'm supposed to do
and head for home in San Antonio -
save the hotel night for a trip
later in the month to Presidio
or maybe to the coast

let Reba run on the beach

a pretty normal
i'm thinking,
then i see the guy
with the scars all over his head,
like three quarters of his skull
had been lifted
in pieces
then put back together

a big story there,
i think,
Iraq, maybe -
motorcycle -
something like that involved,
something, probably, he doesn't like to talk about

my life -
no big scars
but i'm happy to talk about it
do it all the time,
even though not that interesting

not like the guy
with the jigsaw skull
who probably doesn't want to talk about it

Here are several poems and fragments of poems from the book Sweetbitter Love, poems of Sappho, with new translations by Willis Barnstone. The book was published by Shambhala in 2006.

Sappho was an Ancient Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the canonical list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost, but her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments.

The only contemporaneous source which refers to Sappho's life is her own body of poetry, and scholars are skeptical of biographical readings of it.

Hair Yellower Than Torch Flames

My mother used to say

in her youth
it was a great ornament to wear
a purple ribbon

looped in her hair. But a girl
with hair yellower than torch flame
need wear just

a wreath of blooming
flowers, or lately maybe
a colorful headband

from Sardis
or some Ionian city

Time of Youth

You will
we did these things
in our youth

many and beautiful things.

In the city
for us the harsh

We live

a daring

stone foundation

Song to Groom and Bride

Happy groom, your marriage you prayed for
has happened. You have the virgin bride
of your prayers.

You the bride are a form of grace,
your eyes honey.
Desire rains on your exquisite face.

Aphrodite has honored you exceedingly

To Eros

You burn us

To a Friend Gone, Remember

Honestly I wish I were dead.
When she left me she wept

profusely and told me,
"Oh how we've suffered in all this.
Sappho, I swear I go unwillingly."

And I answered her,
"Be happy, go and remember me,
you know how we worshiped you.

But if not, I want
to remind you
of beautiful days we shared,

how you took wreaths of violets,
roses and crocuses,
and at my side

tied them in garlands
made of flowers
round your tender throat,

and with sweet myrrh oil
worthy of a queen
you anointed your limbs

and on a soft bed
gently you would satisfy
your longing

and how there was no
holy shrine
where we were absent,

no grove
no dance
no sound"

Old Age

In pity

old age now
covers my flesh.
Yet there is chasing and floating

after a young woman.
Pick up your lyre
and sing to us

of one with violets
on her robe, especially

How long the attitudes of a lifetime hang over us.

Like this.

another dread monday

it's another dread
and everyone drags
moans, groans, pisses at the wind

including me

even though i don't do anything
on monday
that i don't do every other day of the week,
except on Sunday
we sometimes go to a movie
and i haven't been to a movie on monday
in decades

(a thought for this afternoon)

and even when i worked
i usually looked forward to monday
because i loved the work
and saw each new week as an opportunity
to do even more it

goes all the way back to childhood
(doesn't everything)
when i did not love school
and did not look forward to going back to it,
even though half of sunday
was eaten up
churchifying, which was actually worse
than going to school
so you'd think i'd be happy to get sunday over with
and get to school where, at least, there wasn't anyone
yelling at me, telling me i was going to hell
because of those pesky nocturnal dreams
about Gina Lollabrigida and the things we could do
if she would teach me Italian, maybe some French, too

but there it was, monday, with first period English
and Mrs. Buck (arrivederci Gina) who was sure
i couldn't be writing as well as i did and spent four years
trying to catch me copying my themes and book reports
from someone else, who else was always the big question,
because of the dearth of likely candidates, and i was selling
book reports rather than buying them, anyway, a prospect
she never even casually entertained

so that must have been the beginning
of dread monday
for me
Mrs. Buck and first period English
which is ironic
here i am
beginning monday and all the rest of the days
with my poem
of the day,
just like first period

Mrs. Buck
would never believe

Next, I have a poet new to me, Nanao Sakaki, from his book Break the Mirror, the Poems of Nanao Sakaki, published by North Point Press in 1987.

Sakaki was a Japanese poet, born in 1923 to a large family in the Kagoshima Prefecture and raised by parents who ran an indigo dye-house.

After completing compulsory education to age twelve, he worked as an office boy in Kagoshima. He was a draftee radar specialist stationed in Kyushu in the Japanese Air Force or Navy, and surreptitiously read Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kropotkin, Marx, and Engels as time allowed. After the war, he went to Tokyo, living in an underpass near Ueno Station, working in various low skill jobs.

Around 1952 he moved to the San'ya district and lived off the generosity of his neighbors, spending all his time studying English and reading. After two years there, he moved to Shinjuku, became interested in primitive art, and collaborated with a wood sculptor. They visited forests all over Japan for some three years. During this time, Sakaki began to write poems expressing a deep relationship with the forests. This led to exhibitions combining poetry and sculpture in Kagoshima in 1955 and in Ikebukuro in 1959.

Sakaki and the sculptor then went separate ways, Sakaki returning to Shinkuju and becoming friends with Neale Hunter. They co-translated some of his poems into English and published them in Tokyo 1961 as the book Bellyfulls.

It was also around this time that Sakaki helped create and lead "the Tribe", and led these friends to Suwanosejima to build the Banyan Ashram.[9]

Bellyfulls was reprinted in the US in 1966, and starting in 1969, Sakaki made several trips to the United States, exploring the wilderness, writing, and reading poetry. He spent about ten years in the US, primarily in San Francisco and Taos, New Mexico, but also walking widely.

Sakaki was married twice and had two sons and a daughter, At the time of his death in 2008, he was living with friends in the mountains of Nagano prefecture.

Here are several of his shorter poems.

After the First Snow

From the ground
    snow comes.

To heaven
    sap goes back.

At the end of the universe
    life starts.

In the wind
    time walks.


Hi Fred!
You don't want to have
Vegetable garden this summer, do you?

        ........No, Too many grasshoppers.

Why don't you eat them.

            ........Prairie Shrimp........

Catch them with butterfly net
Take off legs
Saute in butter
Eat with garlic and soy sauce

Next morning
Give your shit back to the garden;
Now with numberless grasshoppers

        Sing songs


Sing a song
or Cry
Go away.


With vinegar
I clean up windows.
I clean up mind's windows.
I clean up green forest
        blue sky
        white clouds
I clean up great universe.

    ......not true......

Now transparent windows....

Against the glass
Chickadees, robins, jays
        hit their heads
        and lose their lives

In charity
I pick them up
    eat them up
    with friends.

Winter Flower Trails

        After two days snowing
        A rosy evening glow.

You remember suddenly
The star shining in daytime
And flowers blooming here in summer.

        Star light
        Snow light
        an icy thistle field.

Staggering with heavy boots
You break dry flowers
Into small pieces of the sun.

        Start here
        Your footprints
        Animal tracks
        Flower trails


A gray shadow
Crosses over snow field.
A white cloud
Floats in blue sky.
Between heaven and earth
Between you and me
Light dancing

History is very important; it is a tool that helps us plan for the future. That's why I like to do what I can to keep the historical record straight.

Like the whole, hidden truth about Tuesday.


we begin
the second day of the work week,
named, during the first Gregorian period,
after the goddess Tuesday Weld, followed
in ancient times by Weldsday,
during that remote, romantic period
to the Gregorian bacchanal
spanning Tuesday night
and Weldsday morn,
called Tuesday Weldsday,
followed by Thirstday,
or, the day of the great thirst that follows
the night of the great drink,
from which arose that peculiar Gregorian sight
of close-shaven dogs,
for the production of the hair
of the dog that bit them,
followed by Friarsday which all the Gregorian friars
spent coughing up hair balls,
not to be confused with
the solstice holiday
when large buckets of fryers
were consumed during the Gregorian friars'
Kentucky fairs - original or extra-crispy - normally held
on Thirstday when great great quantities of tequila sunrises were consumed,
followed by hung-over Friarsday, spent mostly
consuming large casks of bloody marys, made by the witch
and purveyor of potent potions,
Mary Steenbergen

It was a wonderful time, a simple time,
spoiled by invasions
of the Goths and Semi-Goths
which led to the Gregorian II era
when days' names were changed to honor
Germanic peoples
like the infamous Red Baron
and his dog
Markey Mark

The next poem is by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova from the collection of her work, You Will Hear Thunder, published by Ohio University Press in 1985.

Akhmatova was the pen name of Anna Andreevna Gorenko, the pen name taken because her father did not want the family name associated with the disreputable world of poetry. Born in 1889, she is credited with a large influence on Russian poetry.

After decades of falling in and out of favor by the communist government of the Soviet Union, Akmatova died in 1966.

A minor planet, 3067 Akhmatova, discovered by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina in 1982 is named after her.

What follows is the introduction and epilogue to her poem Requiem, written in the late 1930s, circulated in samizdat form and by work of mouth until it was finally officially published in Russia well after her death.

All the poems in the book, including the sections below, were translated by D.M. Thomas.

from Requiem

In the fearful years of the Yezhov terror I spend seventeen months in prison queues in Leningrad. One day someone "identified" me. Beside me, in the queue, there was a woman with blue lips. She had, of course, never heard of me; but she suddenly came out of that trance so common to us all and whispered in my ear (everybody spoke in whispers there): "Can you describe this?" And I said, "Yes, I can." And then something like the shadow of a smile crossed what had once been her face.



There I learned how faces fall apart,
How fear looks out from under the eyelids,
How deep are the hieroglyphics
Cut by suffering on people's cheeks.
There I learned how silver can inherit
The black, the ash-blond, overnight,
The smiles that faded from the poor in spirit,
Terror's dry coughing sound.
And I pray not only for myself,
But also for all those who stood there
In bitter cold, or in the July heat,
Under that red blind prison-wall.


Again the hands of the clock are nearing
The unforgettable hour. I see, hear, touch

All of you: the cripple they had to support
Painfully to the end of the line; the moribund;

And the girl who would shake her beautiful head and
Say: "I come here as if it were home."

I should like to call you all by name,
But they have lost the lists...

I have woven for them a great shroud
Out of the poor words I overheard them speak.

I remember them always and everywhere,
And if they shut my tormented mouth,

Through which a hundred million of my people cry,
Let them remember me also...

And if ever in this country they should want
To build me a monument

I consent to that honor,
But only on the condition that they

Erect it not on the sea-shore where I was born:
My last links to them were broken long ago,

Nor by the stump by the Royal Gardens,
Where an inconsolable young shade is seeking me,

But here, where I stood for three hundred hours
And where they never, never opened the doors for me.

Lest in blessed death I should forget
The grinding scream of the Black Marias,

The hideous clanging gate, the old
Woman wailing like a bounded beast.

And may the melting snow drop like tears
From my motionless bronze eyelids,

And the prison pigeons coo above me
And the ship sails down the Neva

For most of us, even our worst day is not really so bad, not compared to others'. This poem arose from my reading of a poem i used in "Here and Now" last week.

worst day

i just read a poem
by a guy
telling about the night
during the Viet Nam war
when he was eighteen years old
and skipping the country
to avoid the draft

i suspect it's supposed to be
a sad story
as he tells about getting on the bus
in his hometown,
podunk, wherever,
leaving behind his family, his mother,
his father, his little brother, etc. etc.

but he doesn't get much sympathy
from me

i honor both those who served their
country by going to war and those
who served by going to jail

those who dodged the question
by running away to foreign shores
where they could smoke dope
and more safely agitate against
their country strike me as types
we seem to see a lot of
these days, losers, whiners, victims
of their own overblown self-image,
irrelevancies who find no question
so large or so serious
that they cannot mock as they scurry
to find a safe place
to hid from it

i chose a third way, not a way
of any particular honor or courage,
but, when my draft notice came,
at least i hung around, joining
the air force, an option offering
equal loss of personal freedom
to those shipping off
to army or marine boot camp
but a lesser likelihood of
having my guts and brain matter
strewn across a bug-infested jungle floor

the bus i got on in little Victoria, Texas,
took me to the processing center
in Houston and another bus
that took me to San Antonio, where,
very early in the morning at Lackland
Air Force Base, I began to learn
the basics of responding to
incomprehensible language screamed
in my ear - usually in a southern, hillbilly
accent, learning that even when not understanding
what you were being told to do, doing
something was better doing nothing,
which left you a sitting duck for more
abuse and the simulated rage
from the drill instructor appointed
by the President of the United States
to scare the civilian crap
out of slick-sleeved rookies
so that more survival-directed
military crap could be embedded
in every bone and essence
of their pussy civilian bodies

it was the worst day
of my entire service of nearly
four years,

others, less fortunate than me,
would have much worse days
than that, and many would find
one of those worse days
to also be their last

Now, I think for the first time, I have a poem by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. I found the poem, one of his best known, in The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, 1934-1952, published by New Directions in 1971.

Thomas was born in 1914. In addition to poetry, he wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself. His public readings, particularly in America, won him great acclaim; his sonorous voice with a subtle Welsh lilt became almost as famous as his works.

He died in New York in 1953. The first rumors were of a brain hemorrhage, followed by reports that he had been mugged. Soon came the stories about alcohol, that he had drunk himself to death. Later, there were speculations about drugs and diabetes.

And Earth Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
though they sink through he sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer though daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

All kinds of days in our lives, weekdays, holidays, birthdays; and then there is the last day.

last day

when you reach
a certain age
you begin to think about
an end to things

you think about last days,
or, for me,
a last day and what i would like
to be doing on that final day before
the end of things

and i've thought about it
and decided
i'd like it to be a lot like today

maybe in Autumn
instead of Summer, sitting
on the Riverwalk
under an October blue sky,
a color blue
i've never seen anywhere but here
this time of the year,
drinking coffee,
the last coffee,
writing a poem, the last poem,
the last chance to get it right

alone on the river,
watching the water flow past me,
passing like time passes,
there, then gone,
never again to be right there,
me, an observer as it passes
never again to see its passage,
never to know
where it goes when it leaves me

alone would be best,
i think, though, in whatever state of
atomic dispersion follows
my own brief time of elemental gathering,
i will miss many

still, alone, i think,
for only an alone mind can find itself
to clarity

alone, i think,
being so much easier that way
to forget no other day follows

For my next poem I went to the anthology, The Fader book of 20th Century German Poems, published by Faber and Faber Limited in 2005.

The poem I selected is by George Grosz. Born in 1893, he was a German artist known especially for his savagely caricatural drawings of Berlin life in the 1920s. He was a prominent member of the Berlin Dada and New Objectivity group during the Weimar Republic before he emigrated to the United States in 1932.

In 1914 Grosz volunteered for military service during the first World War. Like many other artists, he embraced the first world war as "the war to end all wars", but was quickly disillusioned and was given a discharge after hospitalization in 1915. In January 1917 he was drafted for service, but in May he was discharged as permanently unfit.

He was arrested during the Spartakus uprising in January 1919, but escaped using fake identification documents. He joined the Communist Party of Germany in the same year. In 1921 Grosz was accused of insulting the army, which resulted in a 300 German Mark fine and the destruction of the collection Gott mit uns ("God with us"), a satire on German society. Grosz left the Communists in 1922 after having spent five months in Russia and meeting Lenin and Trotsky, because of his antagonism to any form of dictatorial authority.

Bitterly anti-Nazi, Grosz left Germany in 1932, a year before Hitler came to power, and was invited to teach at the Art Students League of New York in 1933, where he would teach intermittently until 1955. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1938.

Grosz died in Berlin in 1959 from the effects of falling down a flight of stairs after a night of drinking.

The poem was translated by Michael Hofmann.

Hymn to the World


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

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


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

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

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

Here's a short poem I wrote about a very good day.


thunder and lightning
all night
but little rain

this morning
the sun -
in a clear-sky patch
surrounded by
black clouds -

is shining on me
like a spotlight at the grand ballet

the star of the show,
that's me,
it's my day to

That's it for this week.

Next week, we'll have our friends back. I'm still working on poets from my library. So far, it looks like I'll have Frank O'Hara, Susan Griffin, Nikki Giovanni, and Norman Stock with a couple of poems from his fun collection Buying Breakfast For My Kamikaze Pilot, plus some more I haven't come up with yet.

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


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