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...
What Danger We Court
These Long Drives
Letter on June 15th
i can't decide
In th Evening
Days of 1908
A Life of Drams and Possibilities
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....
Laundry Night 1983
People-Watching at Wal-Mart
Lorna Dee Cervantes
Note to David
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
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
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,
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
a poor night's sleep it was
my brain refusing
to stand down
instead with the errata
of sixty-five years
unresolved, old rages
as do they all
like trying to run on ice,
with questions like
why do we say "kidnapped?"
nanny's nap kids,
it's kidnabbers who nab them
through the night
and my brain trips
over something like that
and the whole rest of the night
or this whole
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
or the other
i support the death penalty
on the liberal basis
that the money being spent
keeping Charles Manson
could be much better used
keeping them healthy
and even though i find it
i support abortion rights
on the conservative principle
that government should have no claim
over the bodies and moral decisions
of its citizens,
male or female
and what about
this "back and forth" thing
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
if people want to carry handguns
as long as they carry them
in the open
where all can see
who are the potential murders
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,
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.
almost every time
after we started in
here he would come
this big black hairy
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
"oh! please don't hurt Timmy!"
and Timmy would run in neurotic
and I'd return to my task
and begin to near completion
when Timmy would bound up on the bed
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
all three of
she had a good job down on
(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
and she didn't want her mom
to see me.
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
and I also knew looking
at him that
he needed her more than
I left that last morning
driving in the bright
she phoned me 3 or 4 times
but I knew it was over.
because when I looked into his brown
that last morning
he loved her
more than I did.
maybe if Timmy had been
I wouldn't have
given her up.
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
poking holes in another
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.
today's early winds
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
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
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
and that's the end of that
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
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.
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
the back gates of eighteen wheelers
and the flat spaces of newspaper racks.
May your abductors
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!)
Yah, ich bin ein Dachtler, aber wie wissen Sie das Ich ein
(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
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,
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.
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
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
where modest homes are built
between the hills, not on high
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
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.
late spring rains
have covered the pastures
with new growth
like green felt,
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-
across the parking lot to pay
the cashier for her gas,
a bag of M&Ms, a diet
Dr Pepper, and a lottery
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.