Serendipity   Thursday, July 16, 2009

Photo by Marc San Marco

Nothing special this week but our poets.

And here they are.

Tony Hoagland

dark poetry

Albert Goldbarth
Waking Alone in a Rented Room and Despairing Till the Phone Rings

Kelly Cherry
Going Down On America

Harold Witt
Johnny Walsh, Checkered Cab Co.

'Ilima Kauka Stern
An Absence of Light

Paul Durcan
Notes Towards a Supreme Reality

why i never miss a Clint Eastwood movie

Yorifumi Yaguchi
Praying Mantis
A Woman

Alice Folkart
I Thought I Saw...

Cid Corman
Chinese Painting
No Never
6 untitled poems

Charles Bukowski
Old Man, Dead in a Room
The Priest and the Matador


Jane Hirshfield
See How the Roads Are Strewn
I Have No Use For Virgins
Tonight the Incalculable Stars

Joanna Weston
Hidden Sweeps
From Now to Then

Tina Koyama
Quisan After the Stroke: Three Notes to Himself

Cyn. Zarko
lolo died yesterday

Jessica Hagedorn
Ming the Merciless

asserting my independence

William Meredith
An Account of a Visit to Hawaii

usual suspects

The photos this week, except for the first and last, I took during a little drive-around I did about a month ago in the hills north of San Antonio.

I start this week with a poem by Tony Hoagland from his book Donkey Gospel, recipient of the 1997 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets, published by Graywolf Press in 1997.

I like Hoagland's work, no grand pretensions, just wry humanity.


On two occasions in the past twelve months
I have failed, when someone at a party
spoke of him with a dismissive scorn,
to stand up for D.H. Lawrence,

a man who burned like an acetylene torch
from one end to the other of his life.
These individuals, whose relationship to literature
is approximately that of a tree shredder

to stands of old-growth forest,
these people leaned back in their chairs,
bellies full of dry white wind and the ova of some foreign fish,
and casually dropped his name

the way that pygmies with their little poison spears
strut around the carcass of a fallen elephant.
"O Elephant," they say,
"you are not so big and brave today!"

It's a bad day when people speak of their superiors
with a contempt they haven't earned,
and it's a sorry thing when certain other people

don't defend the great dead ones
who have opened up the world before them.
And though, in the catalogue of my betrayals,
this is a fairly minor entry,
I resolve, if the occasion should recur,
to uncheck my tongue and say, "I love the spectacle
of maggots condescending to a corpse,"
or, "You should be so lucky in your brainy, bloodless life

as to deserve to lift
just one of D.H. Lawrence's urine samples
to your arid psychobiographic
theory-tainted lips."

Or maybe I'll just take the shortcut
between the spirit and the flesh,
and punch someone in the face,
because human beings haven't come that far

in their effort to subdue the body,
and we still walk around like zombies
in our dying, burning world,
able to do little more

than fight, and fuck, and crow:
something Lawrence wrote about
in such a manner
as to make us seem magnificent.

Seems most of what i'm writing today is about not being able to write.

dark poetry

it appears
that Sarah,
our national
icy treat confection
from Alaska has decided
she had a better chance of
becoming president if she
doesn't have a record to run on
and, meanwhile, it's been more than
a week since a republican politician
has admitted to running around
on his/her spouse making this altogether
an exceptionally boring week in the weeds
of politics, but then they've all been on
vacations and we can't expect them
to be doing screwy stuff all the time,
even dingbats need time off...

but enough not about me...

the clock is ticking and the big hand
and the little hand have begun the big
squeeze of time's a'passing right on by
and i don't have a poem or a hint of a poem
or even sense of a poem hanging out there
in the big coming soon to a brain near mine,
like in the movie theaters where they show you
what's coming next week and what's coming sometime
in the future, a time ill-defined
beyond the single word
and i don't even have a poem like that, soon, for me,
being more like a great black hole in the ocean
filled with slippery dark eel-like writhing things, opening
lines to poems stuck in the black with nothing to follow -
soon, much more like that than any promise of a time
and events forthcoming...

oh jeez,
another poem about not having a poem -
could it be that i am the avant garde,
creator of new school of poetry,
dark poetry
like dark matter,
that which makes up most of our poetry universe
even though, to the best of what we can see,
it is not there

Next, I have several poems from Three Rivers - Ten Years, an anthology of poems from Three Rivers Poetry Journal, published by Carnegie-Mellon University Press in 1983.

The first poem from the anthology is by Albert Goldbarth.

Born in 1948 in Chicago, Illinois, Goldbarth received his B.A. from the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle campus, in 1969 and his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1971. He lives in Wichita, Kansas and is Adele Davis Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Wichita State University, where he has taught since 1987.

Waking Alone in a Rented Room and Despairing Till the Phone Rings

the ceiling collects
in a single bulb. It burns
like a monk that hasn't heard
peace declared. Everything it touches
is martyred.

Often it's quiet, but never
silent. The wind
at the window, a hum in the walls...
this must be what it's like
to be a heart.

A clock is so round
it's misleading. Time
is long; you shoes would wear out.

The brain is gray like a cloud,
and shaped like a cloud, and some days
as heavy.

And there the resemblance ends.

The next poet from the anthology is by Kelly Cherry.

Cherry has published eleven poetry collections, eight books of fiction, five of nonfiction, and two dramatic translations.

Going Down On America

Turned on to the transcendent, he holds her
in his arms, strokes her sunny hair.
Such sweet skin is coming into view
as the clothes of Straight are shed
over New Jersey & kicked aside
into the wide Missouri River -

He pledges allegiance to lightfilled breasts,
to the drops of shine spilled
on Shenandoah's applerich harvest.

In this union of smoke & suck he enters a state just west
of grace where Wyoming is what cowboys do
on Saturday night when the boss has paid them up
& the smells of Montana carried downstream,
clean but unmistakable.

O Mount Rushmore,
move him to your eye of stone!
In wheat fields he may dream
of stalks of sun,

discover blue shadows
in the shingles of the fallen pinecone!

The seventh day dawns somewhere above the fabulous Sierras,
so high he can scarcely see it,
& in a whirlwind of contradiction funnels itself south
into the dusk of his throat,
enlightens his heart,
& sets the flesh to dancing upon bare bones
across known borders
into a land lost
to reality.

And my last poem from the anthology is by Harold Witt.

Witt has been published in a wide variety of periodicals, anthologies, texts, and books of his own. He is the winner of the Hopwood Award for Poetry, the James D. Phelan Award for narrative poetry, a San Francisco Poetry Center Award for poetic drama, and The Poetry Society of America's Emily Dickinson Award.

This poem especially amuses me because I drove a cab in a town not a lot bigger than this one when I was young. I know from whence the poet comes.

Johnny Walsh, Checkered Cab Co.

Not too much going on
in this two-taxi town -
I never delivered a baby
and nobody like in the movies
ever yelled "follow that cab!"

But it isn't all nice old ladies
either, I'll tell you that -
one time Zelda Keith
gave me a twenty to take her
up to Citrus Heights.

Before I could open the door
there she was on the seat
putting her hand on my thigh
and saying she thought I was cute
and what a husband she had.

Jesus, what could I do
with two kids needing to eat -
and how do you say no,
for half what you make all week,
to anything easy as this.

My next two poems are by 'Ilima Kauka Stern, a new friend from The House of 30 and an even newer friend here at "Here and Now." 'Ilma, a retired educator, has taught creative writing at a women's prison on O'ahu for five years. Through a prison writing project, she has helped inmates publish five editions of their work in Hulihia, a literary publication of women inmates funded by the Women's Fund of Hawaii. Her own work has appeared in Rain Bird. She divides the rest of her time between writing, teaching hula, and the study and practice of Hawaiian spiritual traditions.

'Ilima lives in Kailua with her family.

The first of the two poems is a Kyrielle, a poetic form that originated in troubadour poetry and which appears in many Christian liturgies

An Absence of Light

Outside the day was sunny, bright
No clouds, light winds, a day for kites
Would seem ideal to gazers, but
From within an absence of light.

Transgressions healed, errors made right
Yet still a heart, sealed, locked up tight
The world without - boundless, blue, but
From within an absence of light.

To view the world from space and height
Might solve this poet's inner plight
Lend hope where gloom and murk reign, and
From within an absence of light.


Always a sunburn


That summer with the house
By the mouth of a stream
Me and my sand-sliding board
Standing with the board in my hands
Waiting for that perfect moment
When the ocean waves
Would meet the water
At the mouth of the stream
There it is!
Throw the board and step on
Ride the splash of water above the sand

At night after showering
My burning back
Gran, applying Noxema to cool the burn
Saying, "Silly girl,
What were you thinking?
You should have come in earlier.
You see."

The next day
Out by the mouth of the stream
This time with a shirt on
Over my swimsuit

Always a sunburn


Irish poet Paul Durcan published his first book in 1967. Since then he has published 15 others. The next poem is from his book Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil, published the Harvill Press of London in 1999.

Notes Towards a Supreme Reality


Because the supreme reality in life is fiction
It is vital not to meet the writer in person.
There is no necessary linkage between the egotist who is
     overweight and vain
And the magic connections, dreams, constructions, of his brain.


Life's supreme reality is reading fiction
In poetry or prose, most likely prose,
(Fiction is scarce as water in poetry):
Afterwards telephoning Niall MacMonaagle in Rathmines,
Conversing nonstop for three hours,
Putting on aerial displays for our sleeping daughters,
Flying low, fast, looping the loop;
Or taking a Super Low Floor
Green Engine Kneeling Suspension
Dublin Bus into the city center
To Cormac Kinsella in the Dublin Waterstone's,
Stealingn half-hour with Cormac behind the bookshelves.

Thanks to Cormac Kinsella
I have spent the last five years
Reading Richard Ford and Don DeLillo.
Oh yes! Behind the bookshelves!
Like two haymakers siesta-ing
Behind a haycock in Provence
Cormac and I -
We repose vertically in a Ford sun
Cooled by a DeLillo breeze
Analyzing the Universals of light,
The particulars of power.


The evening is as long as life is short.
Reading Independence Day or Underworld
I am a tern detecting Dublin Bay
At a cruising altitude of thirteen feet;
Or a flock of swallows on a warm June evening
Trawling to and fro the mown lawn
Netting succulent midges, snaring thousands of 'em.
The evening is as long as life is short.

Lots of notables died a couple of weeks ago, in a very short span of time. This poem is about one of them, representative to many of us of many other deaths.

why i never miss a Clint Eastwood movie

Karl Malden died,
not so much noticed
in comparison to the
Michael Jackson
and he was 97 so maybe
he was ready
to take a last curtain call
but not me, for there is security
in knowing the icons you grew up
with are still around

when you're young
the old guys die and you wonder,
what's the fuss, just as younger readers
of this might be saying, Karl Who?
but as you get older,
the dead guys get younger, relative,
at least to yourself, and then one morning
you wake up old and realize
they're all gone, all your flicker-dream heroes
have faded to dark and you look at the new guys
and try to find another Karl Malden or Jimmy Stewart
or David Niven or Gregory Peck or Henry Fonda
and they all, all the new guys, seem so....incomplete,
though i'm sure the kids don't think so,
think they're just fine, thank you, and who the hell
are the rest of those guys you're talking about
and i can't argue because, truth is,
the old and the young live
on separate planes of existence that rarely cross,
and when they do
it's like studying a foreign language and learning
some things can't be said because there are no words
to say it, like an old guy trying to get the latest punk yowlers,
or trying to explain Perry Como
or Andy Williams
to the crowd at
a Slipknot

we can think we know things we cannot feel,
but without the feeling the knowing is always incomplete

Michael Jackson is dead, and while millions know
what that means, i do not and cannot and never will

Karl Malden is my loss, another in a long line of losses
known only to fading number of us for whom each new loss
is another partial loss of self - the young, so fortunate,
do not yet see
that end

Here are several short poems by Japanese poet Yorifumi Yaguchi, from the anthology Three Mennonite Poets, published by Good Books of Intercourse, Pennsylvania in 1986.
Yaguchi was born in 1932 in Ishinomati, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. He graduated from Tohoku Gakuin University with a B.A. in English, from International Christian University with an M.A. in Education, and from Goshen Biblical Seminary with a B.D. in theology.

He spent a year as American Council of Learned Societies Visiting Scholar at the State University of New York, Buffalo and recently taught a semester at Shenyang, China. He is presently professor of American poetry in the literature department of Hokusei Gakuen College.
Yaguchi has published two collections of English poetry and five volumes of Japanese poetry, some of which have been translated. His work has also appeared in poetry magazines in England, Australia, India, the United States and Japan.

Praying Mantis

This morning I saw a male
praying mantis being
eaten by his female.

I could almost hear his
wild shout of ecstasy
as his wife ate him

and his joy seemed to increase
the more as his body was
violently bitten along.

The complete trance of
self-oblivion came at the moment
when his last part was bitten.

- Tonight when I am exhausted
after our long and
violent intercourse,

I think of the male mantis,
wondering if his swallowed body
was digested or is still praying in her.


Grandpa suddenly gets up at midnight and
shouts, "It's time!" and
throws off our futon and makes us get up and
sit in line in the living room.

After calling our names, he sits
before his desk with the blackboard behind and
begins giving a lecture he had repeated
for thirty years at a university.

We have to take notes on whatever he tells us,
because during his lecture
he checks our notes carefully and
scolds us if they are not satisfactory.

His clouded eyes glitter,
his bent back straightens and
his mustache trembles like a float.
But the lecture finishes too soon.

He collapses and starts snoring, pissing
in his pants, his snot forming a bubble
on the end of his nose, and repeating in his sleep,
"The Kamikaze are coming!"


I love peace
but when I wear a soldier's uniform,
I begin to wish a war would happen
and to feel like killing
as many enemies as possible
by raiding them, if so ordered,
and dying willingly
for the sake of the emperor
and our country.


withered leaf
hanging on a twig
heavy as the earth

A Woman

is lying
in the grass
on a mountain
with the red
between her

Next, here's a neat little piece by another of our Hawaiian friend, the transplanted Californian Alice Folkart.

I Thought I saw . . .

I thought I saw
the milkman delivering a pizza,
a sheep's-milk smile upon his face,
as he kissed the lady next door
who is married to the
car salesman
who I saw making out
with the lady cop
in the black and white and I don't mean cow.

I thought I saw
a little lavender woman
step out of a silver craft
behind the barn,
sprout antennae, roll her eyes,
wink, snap her fingers,
and become my Auntie Meg,
a woman from elsewhere,
an alien who'd dare.

I thought I saw
mama and papa wrapping up
a case of canned spinach
for me, for Christmas,
when all I wanted was a bike,
and not green and not canned.
But, I know they have
my best interests at heart,
damn them.

and then, I thought I saw myself free,
but now I know that cannot be.

Next I have a couple of poets from the quarterly Poetry East, Number 44, Spring 1997 issue.

I'll start with several short poems by Cid Corman.

Corman was born and grew up in Boston. His parents were both from the Ukraine. He attended Boston Latin School and in 1941 he entered Tufts University, where he achieved Phi Beta Kappa honors and wrote his first poems. He was excused from service in World War II for medical reasons and graduated in 1945.

Corman studied for his Master's degree at the University of Michigan, where he won the Hopwood poetry award, but dropped out two credits short of completion. After a brief stint at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he spent some time traveling around the United States, returning to Boston in 1948.

Here he ran poetry events in public libraries and, with the help of his high-school friend Nat Hentoff, he started the country's first poetry radio program. A prolific poet from an early age, he was born in 1924 and died in 1984.

Chinese Painting

What's left

to let
in on.

No Never

As my brother says -
Mother - bless her -
used to say: Bring me

the roses now.
Here I am only
a lifetime late


In the hills
for a few days -
couldn't write

Gone further found
less - maybe
you know the place


I have come far to have found nothing
or to have found that what was found was
only to be lost, lost finally
in that absence whose trace is silence.


If poetry has
any meaning it
has to be this - it

has to be yours and
you it. Every
word finally fits


The cow
to the good
green grass

crops close
but doesn't
bruise or


Sometimes it feels
as though we had
never come. Stop

for a moment.
Ask yourself if
you are present

or even if
this is. Is it
a matter of

come and go? Who
is it asking?
What wants to know?


Sooner or later
it comes out of your
own pocket - the hole.

Also from the book, two poem by Charles Bukowski, a more thoughtful Bukowski than we often see.

Old Man, Dead in a Room

this thing upon me is not death
but it's as real,
and as landlords full of maggots
pound for rent
I eat walnuts in the sheath
of my privacy
and listen for more important
it's as real, it's as real
as the broken-boned sparrow
cat-mouthed to utter
more than mere
and miserable argument;
between my toes I stare
at clouds, at seas of gaunt
and scratch my back
and form a vowel
as all my lovely women
(wives and lovers)
break like engines
into some steam of sorrow
to be blown into eclipse;
bone is bone
but this thing upon me
as I tear the window shades
and walk caged rugs,
this thing upon me
like a flower and a feast,
believe me
is not death and is not
and like Quixote's windmills
make a foe
turned by the heavens
against one man;
...this thing upon me
crawling like a snake
terrifying me love of commonness,
some call Art
some call poetry;
it's not death
but dying will solve its power
and as my grey hands
drop a last desperate pen
in some cheap room
they will find me there
and never know
my name
my meaning
nor the treasure
of my escape.

The Priest and the Matador

in the slow Mexican air I watched the bull die
and they cut off his ear, and his great head held
no more terror than a rock.

driving back the next day we stopped at the Mission
and watched the golden red and blue flowers pulling
like tigers against the wind.

set this to metric: the bull, and the fort of Christ:
the matador on his knees, the dead bull his baby;
and the priest staring from the window
like a caged bear.

you may argue in the market place and pull at your
doubts with silken strings; I will only tell you
this: I have lived in both their temples,
believing all and nothing - perhaps, now, they will
die in mine.

I had thought I might get past the worldwide mania following the death of Michael Jackson without writing a poem about it.

But, I didn't.


i was going
to write a poem
of hype and glitter
and gold-plated
coffin, grown
man with
maybe not
and some
within all that
father and
millions come
out to mourn
the friend
the father
or the
the child
life brought
the poor
lost child
of him the
his fantasy
made real
in death

death poem
what i

Next, I have three poems by one of my favorites, Jane Hirshfield. The poems are from her book Of Gravity & Angles, published by Wesleyan University Press in 1988.

Hirshfield was born in 1953 in New York City and received her bachelor's degree from Princeton University in the school's first graduating class to include women. She later studied at the San Francisco Zen Center.

She has worked as a freelance writer and translator. She has also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, and as the Elliston Visiting Poet at the University of Cincinnati. She is currently on the faculty of the Bennington Master of Fine Arts Writing Seminars.

See How the Roads Are Strewn

See how the roads are strewn
as if your hand, traveling my body,
came to be that flock of blossoms,
sent of February in the dark.
See how my hips eclipse your hips,
how the moon, huge as a grain-barge, passes by.
And promises do not hold,
certainties do hold hold,
the risen cries fall and fail to hold,
but my body, confusion of crossings, I give you
broadcast, to move with your hand,
where nothing is saved but breaks out in a thousand directions,
armful of wild plum weeds.

I Have No Use For Virgins

I have no use for virgins -
give me the cup
with a chipped lip,
whose handle is glued back on
and whose glaze is dark from use.
Let many men and women
drink from us before
we drink -
I taste their breasts on your breast,
you cover their blaze between my legs.

Tonight the Incalculable Stars

tonight the incalculable stars
have me thinking of
Catullus and his Lesbia,
who began counting once
and could not stop
until every schoolchild's tongue
pronounced their kisses
stumbling through memorized passion
past ancient, jealous crones -
the old arithmetic of love,
got down by heart,
the hard way
in a foreign tongue, too young.

Now, I have four short pieces from our friend and frequent contributor Joanna Weston

Hidden Sweeps

red palaces
against blue silk

cut my eyes
and inward

to scale
the brittle ladders
of history

into chimneys
that hide
small boys crying

A Poem of Birds

laugh the bird into a poem
sing it into a reading of poets
round the table with coffee

let the song laugh into rhythm
that lilts a sonnet into speech

then let the bird fly up
and out on wings of rhyme
undone by the past
sung into the present
with poems feathered
and spread to the wind

From Now to Then

I touch moss
   earth is
as it was
small, friable
in an immensity

I rub the bark of an arbutus
   nothing has changed since
your hand held mine

I walk on rock overlooking ocean
   it is what it was
before you and me

The Student

camera in hand
she paused to study
cherry blossom

I waited
at the stop light
until she raised
the lens

the light
I drove away
and I don't know
if she took
the photo

but she turned
smiled at me

I have a couple of poets now from the anthology Breaking Silence, An Anthology of Contemporary Asian-American Poets, published in 1983 by the Greenfield Review Press.

The first two poems from the book are by Tina Koyama, who seems to be a poet and a jewelry maker. I can't find any details beyond that.

Ojisan After the Stroke: Three Notes to Himself
        for my uncle

Early morning.
Small birds drop from the plum tree
to the yard. Every day, their patterns
in my window the same: my window
always the same.

Voices from the kitchen buzz in
and out of the room. I catch my name
in the corners like too much light.
Wasted on my left side.

The moon is half empty,
but I can't remember
if it's growing or shrinking. It creeps out
of my window
and into the rest of darkness.


Probing my mouth as if searching for gold,
eyeing the lower left molar, his raw, unpolished jewel,
the man with snaps on his shoulder leans into me, so
eager I'm surprised he doesn't jump
right in, take a dip in cool pools of saliva.

"Keep it open, please," he smiles, then asks about my dog,
undergraduate education, the muffler on my car,
smiling, always smiling, his kind moon eyes expecting
answers. He knows my life can be answered with a nod,
knows the stoney surface of my tooth
and the narrow parabola of my jaw
better than his own hand. He fears
extraction will be necessary, taps with his mirror

deep cracks that even promises won't fill. Here
decisions come in the shape of pliers. I nod,
swallowing old questions with a numbing tongue.

The next poet is Cyn. Zarco, native of Manila and a poet-journalist-photographer.

lolo died yesterday
    they called him bill
    short for villamor
    i called him lolo
    lolo doming
    even though he was my mother's uncle
    even though he wasn't my real
    i called him lolo
    star barber at the star barber shoppe
    on 6th & mission
    he talked about the navy
    the american navy
    he showed me the calligraphy
    on his silver lighter
    he showed me his diploma
    from cosmetology school
    lolo doming
    hung out with the boys
    at the mabuhay gardens
    gambled in reno
    got drunk with the pinoys
    kumpadres mga kassamahan
    died dancing
    on treasure island

The last poet from the anthology is Jessica Hagedorn. In 1983, she lived in New York city were she wrote and performed in the theater and led her band, The Gangster Choir. Her first book Dangerous Music was in it's third printing and her latest book Pet Food & Tropical Apparitions was the recipient of an American Book Award for that year.

Ming the Merciless

  dancing on the edge / of a razor blade
  ming / king of the lionmen
  sing / bring us to the planet
  of no return...

king of the lionmen
come dancing in my tube
sing, ming, sing...
blink, sloe-eyed fantasy
and touch me where
there's always hot water
in this house

o flying angel
o pterodactyl
your rocket glides
like a bullet

you are the asian nightmare
the yellow peril
the domino theory
the current fashion trend

ming, merciless ming
come dancing in my tube
the silver edges of your cloak
slice through my skin
and king vulgar's cardboard wings
flap-flap in death
(for you)

o ming, merciless ming,
the silver edges of your cloak
cut hearts in two
the blood red dimensions
that trace american galaxies

your are the asian nightmare
the yellow peril
the domino theory
the current fashion trend

sing, ming sing...
whistle the final notes
of your serialized abuse
cinema life
cinema death
cinema of the ethnic prurient interest

o flying angel
o pterodactyl
your rocket glides
like a bullet
and touches me where
there's always hot water
in this house

I wrote this next poem on July the 4th, not quite an independence day poem, but kinda.

asserting my independence

it being the day for it,
i'd like to write a sizzily
whizzily yankee doodle dandy
put on your star-spangled spats
4th of july poem, but it's more complicated
than that

to start with, i'm worried

despite the wars that have to be finished well
and economic crises and environmental crises
and health care crises and all the rest of the crises
known and not that lurk around the corner,
i'm reminded today of the early 1960s
when there was a feeling in the air that
whatever lay ahead, we had leaders
with the brains and courage and competence
to deal with it - many people feel that way now,
a return of confidence in our leaders
and our institutions and in our country

but also like the early '60s,
there is an undercurrent of fanaticism
fed by paranoia and contempt
for all those things that reassure the rest of us -
this disquiet emanating not from the neighborhoods
of the poor and dispossessed, but from plush suburbs
where, among the most pampered people
ever to live in this world,
a great sense of grievance flourishes, where "tea parties"
are organized by people who can't tell the difference
between those who don't want to pay taxes
without representation
and those who just don't want to pay taxes at all,
a class of disillusioned and delusional people,
enamored of their own imagined
finding corruption and malfeasance
behind ever idea not their own

i know where these dark roots led us in 1963
and i worry where they will take us today...

dark subjects, these,
and deep,
and my wrestling with them accomplishes nothing

making it time to put aside such thoughts on this day
we celebration our country's independence

and attend instead to my own independence,
my freedom to leave this unproductive
pondering and concentrate instead
on the fine beauty of the young Asian girl
who sits at the table
across from mine,

My next poem is by William Meredith, from his book Effort at Speech, published in 1997 by Northwestern University Press.

I picked this poem as especially appropriate for this week because our two Hawaiian friends, 'Ilima Stern and Alice Folkart, whose poems appear here this week.

An Account of a Visit to Hawaii

Snow through the fronds, fire flowing into the sea
At a goddess' will who does not ask belief -
It is hard to reconcile extremities
Of any size, or to find their centers out,
As paradoxes demonstrate, and griefs,
And this old kingdom running sweetly out.
You would not think to say of a custom here
"This is the place itself," as you might elsewhere.

There are no snakes and very little lust;
Many decorums have made life decorous.
Fish stands for food and hospitality,
And the innocence of symbols generally
Is surprising, now that we think absurd
The Noble Savage. Midmercy - one word -
Is perhaps the closest European concept
To name the culture, surely to name the climate

Which has the ocean's powers of deception
When unrippled. The women stringing flowers
To keep the shade describe a slow ellipse
From June to June, like sundials at their hours.
And people have mistaken toy ships
For the ship to take them back across the ocean
And later stayed too long. The practical
Chinese put ripples in the year with Catherine wheels.

Mildness can enervate as well as heat.
The soul must labor to reach paradise.
Many are her detained in partial grace
Or partial penalty, for want of force.
The canefields burn in fire that does no harm,
The cataracts blow upward in the Trades,
For all the world as if there were no rules.
It is no easy place to save the soul.

And there is danger to the native pride
Of a land where dreams make the economy
Like tourists, dreams distort the things they buy
And float an easy currency, until
There is no talking to the native heart.
Nightly descending through the baroque cloud
That decorates these hills, riding on air,
Thousands arrive by dream at their desire.

One of the last kings sold the Sandalwood
To buy a fleet. For every ship, they filled
An excavation dug to match the hull.
You can see these to this day - volcanic holds.
It rains at night. The trees the old king sold
Do not grow back. The islands have their perils
Which if you do not feel, no one can tell you.

There is another meaning for aloha,
A greeting as ambiguous as the place:
Not a promiscuous welcome to all strangers,
But what is more hospital than that,
Warning of taboos and a hundred dangers -
Whether to you, you must decide alone.
And it is not safe to come here yet,
One of the things aloha means is: wait.

A place to live when you are reconciled
to beauty and unafraid of time.
(They languish, abstract, when no more opposed.)
A placed to earn in more chastising climates
Which teach us that our destinies are mild
Rather than fierce as he had once supposed,
And how to recognize the peril of calm,
Menaced only by surf and flowers and palms.

I had a whole bunch of weird, disjointed days in a row for a week or two, then, finally, a regular old everyday day and my old familiar haunts with all the old familiar faces.

usual suspects

the old guys
are here
and the tattooed
fat lady is here
and the always neat
and clean homeless guy
with his tightly wrapped
foam bedroll, heavy looking backpack
and professorial look
behind little half-lens glasses
as he spends the day reading
in the air conditioned
and the mama
with her little blond girl trailing behind,
baby-doll in one arm and pink little purse
in the other, and little plastic dangly
bracelets on both wrists
that she shakes as she passes, and
the young mother with two little girls,
heading for the bathroom, double-time,
passing a new guy, a long, white haired
Sam Elliott looking guy in short pants
reading "Guns & Ammo" magazine,
and a couple of the medical student
regulars, and the short-haired cowboy guy
with the bad arm, and the two gay guys
that show up a couple of times a week
(and, ok, maybe they're not gay, but
they sure are sharp dressers),
and the middle-aged woman, a mid-life
student, who always looks like she's mad
at me because i always get here first
and take the table by the door
next to an electric plug where she'd like to be,
and the dorky looking guy and his dorky looking wife
who come in and stare at each other and never
say a word the whole time they're here, and
the old guy with the thick glasses and magnifying
glass who writes tiny numbers in tiny columns
in a spiral notebook, eyes inches from the
magnifying glass inches from the paper,
and the table of law students, arguing
with each other like it was a Supreme Court
appearance, and and the oriental guy reading
Shopenheimer haiku and the girl with the long auburn
hair and acne scared cheeks, a cheeky girl
with a constant air of amused observation
and i'm thinking if she was 50 years older
she might share the joke with me, assuming
it's not me that's the joke, of course,
a possibility i do not discount....

all the familiar faces in all the familiar
places on a mostly typical Thursday

Photo by Marc San Marco

Nothing of further interest to report this week, so, until next week, remember all of the material included 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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