On the Road With Dan Cuddy   Thursday, August 27, 2009


Photo by Dan Cuddy
IV.8.4.




Dan Cuddy, our friend and frequent poetry contributor to "Here and Now," is finishing up with a family vacation along the west coast. I ask and he agreed to let us tag along with him by way of a poem and his vacation pictures. All the pictures in this issue are from Dan and were taken on his journey.

Dora and I made this trip a couple of years ago, the most beautiful and diverse scenery I've ever seen in any of my travel. I'm wondering, as I think about it, why we haven't gone back at least once since the first trip.

I'm traveling, also, but not as much as Dan, posting tonight from North Beach on Corpus Christi Bay, just across the Harbor Bridge from the Corpus Christi, a friendly little city of about 300,000 on the Texas Gulf Coast. Tomorrow we'll be doing a little loop, up the coast to Rockport and Fulton Beach, then back to Aransas Pass and a ferryboat ride to Port Aransas. After lunch in Port Aransas, we'll follow Mustang and North Padre Island south to loop around again and back to Corpus Christi. A nice little day-excursuion. Maybe I'll get some poems out of it for next week.

Anyway, thank you Dan, for letting us come along.

And along with Dan's pictures, we have these folks, the rest of the cast.


Dan Cuddy
Journey to the Outer World

John Bandi
Haiku from The Unswept Path, Contemporary American Haiku

Me
watermelon man

Laura Kasischke
Manna

Stacy Dye
The Love Letter

Aleda Shirley
Spliced Solo

Me
the god of obedient service

Gary Snyder
Hanging Out by Putah Creek with Younger Poets
Yet Older Matters
Flowers in the Night Sky
A Dent in a Bucket
Baby Jackrabbit
Work Day
Asian Pear
Cool Clay
Give Up
How
Whack
Yowl
April Calls and Colors
Stand-Up Comics


Walter Durk
My Shirt

Gilbert Sorrentino
You Are My Heart's Bouquet
3 Quatrains


Me
deep summer
slipping into fall


Naomi Shihab Nye
Streets
Telling the Story


Cornelia DeDona
Hormon Flux - Get Me Some Estrogen

Lorna Dee Cervantes
To We Who Were Saved by the Stars

Me
high achiever

Ralph Angel
The Privilege of Silence

Heidi Kenyon
Hindsight is 20/20
Recession for the Entrepreneur
These Fourteen Years


Jean-Paul Pecqueur
The Only Justice is Love

Me
about the crazy cat lady action figure

e.e. cummings
from 50 poems

Me
reading Osip Mandelstam





Photo by Dan Cuddy




I love road poems. I like to write them and I like to read them.

Here's our road poem by Dan Cuddy



Journey to the Outer World

Taking time off
From the obsessive daily introspection

That mirror-watching
Certainly not pulling hairs from my arm
With tweezers like Proust

No more Bukowski-like
But without the hangovers
To give each day that peculiar aroma
Of pissoir decadence

The mirror-watching
An occupational hazard
For a certain kind of poet
The Irish Catholic mea culpa bloke
Always staring into his figurative beers
Not transubstantiated into anything
But perpetual confession

Well, taking time off
From that b-o-r-i-n-g routine
I and wife
Baggage in hand
Flew west
Two birds a-flutter with a sense of adventure

Hit the sister-in-law's running
Though not fast up her twenty steps
To the door of her San Francisco house

Not her fault my legs were quaking
After lugging bags and self up

Next morning off to Oregon
After a little purse of adventure
That restored one's Faith in Mankind
(man, woman and child kind)

Said purse plopped out
By mistake at service station
A gentle flip, then a flop
Onto the asphalt
So infinitesimal the sound
What with the whiz of traffic
Trying to find its own rest stop
Preferably with a big "vedka"
After all the Russian River wasn't
THAT far away
Northern Cal and all that jazz

Well after much ado
The grinding of teeth
The sweating of afternoon dew
90 proof
Well, if we had it
The bag was found
The Deliverance lady behind the counter asked
"What color?"
"Green" (like money
Or a giant dinosaur)
"Green"
And lo and behold
The errant plip was plopped on the counter

Now this was after a twenty mile journey back
Tracking the recent stops
Of where the thing could have been
Our only sin a vista stop
With a thousand trucks
And Mount Shasta beveraging
In the distance
The snow cap still sleeping
On the peeping peak

Harrowing the tip of the trip
Sister-in-law's identity
And cards and passport
House key
Well-being
Would have been flayed
A fillet of soul

Anyway we returned to
Where we should have begun
And the day was won
By an honest soul(s)
That returned the hot purse
(it had been exposed to the sun
For a couple of minutes
And it was 96 degrees
Out in that separation)

Well, all's well
And up to Klamath Falls
Meth capital of da woild?
Hopefully not
Though some have tied the knot
With that drug
In that wocus floating
Part of this big pond
Called earth

We stayed at my wife's distant cousins
A cabin on the lake
Walden West
A self-reliant couple
Cooking and booking
And living the pioneer's dream
Without all the hullabaloo
Of big city honky tonk
And people up the gazoo

A green land
Mountains and marsh
Moon, hummingbirds
Fish jumping kamikaze out of the water
Into the boat
And we dined
Red salmon to perfection

After two days
Goremayed
And five pounds fatter
We took off for Crater Lake
Where the sky kisses the water
And blushes it blue

Oh, every vista
Reflected the still of time
Where once a catastrophe
Flammed
The land of Oregon to be
And put a little hell
Into a dinosaur's life
(or maybe it was the time of
Marsupials....I'm not
A paleontologist!!)
But now only an errant stone
A speck of hard dirt
Dislodged by a daring foot,
A foolish damn foot,
Flims into the lake,
Less than a plop in the deep

Anyway, after photos, oohs and aaahs
And the quiet
Except for other tourists
And their fossil fuel cars
That are heating up the bio-mix
We took off
Around the bend to Bend

And then
A bike race
A pleasant stay at friends
A town with art
Instead of the Sarah Palin dead

Ethnic restaurants
To expand the waist
And I wasted no food
Nothing left on the plate
I'm an East Coast American
Full of self-indulgence
And love every chocoholic
Minute

And then
To Portland
107 degrees outside the AC
Oh
How pies and potatoes
Baked in the shade
But we rode the light rails
The flick-flick of trolley stick on the wire

Ah, Portland
How human the height of the buildings
How neat Powell's bookstore
Big, Big, Big
Could have been there for daze
And the art museum
And the rose garden and the Asian garden
And the French restaurant
Duck confit
Oh, I swallowed the quack of it

And then
To Seattle
The northwest passage to the east
But it was hot, hot, hot
On the spot where the rain
Had indented the sidewalk

It was hot

We peeked into Pike's Market
Did Pioneer Square and the Underground
This all before the 50's and the 60's
And any twanging or acoustic guitar
The underground city
That was up and above board
When the bucks hooped and hollered
Through town
And were not arrested
And the seamstresses did their thing
Singing without a thread
Just a-sewing and a-sewing
At a 19th century mission
Yes, often that was the position
Of a woman in the west
A seamstress
Or so it was said

And then
After a little Wild Ginger
A little beer or mimosa
On the 28th floor
After mucho museums
I'm an art nut
I love to paint the town
See what has been hashed and dashed
And sparkles in sublime theory

After all of the above
We went to Victoria
And I fell in love
With the European way of life
Pub and flower
And public music
Free
Free
Free

I got quarried in the Butchart gardens
Dazzled, spackled, freckled with color
Heaven is a garden
Where all is in order
And the sun shines benignly down
Like the strings in a violin concerto

I know there are other heavens too
The frolic in the mud
And the dance of guitars
And Grace Slick in the 60's
As beautiful as the chrome
Of a Harley in the sun
And all you want to do
Is RIDE

This was the quiet version of heaven
Tranquil riot of color
Blooming
Like virtue in a sensuous mind

Next day
We went from heaven
To Eugene
Down past Portland
On ugly I-five
A rip of paving through
The promised land
Lewis & Clark's last stand
Before a wade in the Pacific

Down I-5
Until the diversion
Through Willamette Valley
plump with grape
oh how we yearned to burn calories
tipping a glass or two or three
of wine

you can't dine without wine

we came in on the rough side of town
lumberyard, twisted tin
the loiterers tattooed
the college town summer deserted
but
we had a pleasant stay
ate Italian
walked away wanting to explore
but we were off the next day

This is a short story gone long
So quickly we went
Around and around the coastal mountains
Up and down
Luckily stayed on the road
And not atumble in the forest primeval
Or off the ghost coast with the most mist

We then did the Benbow Inn,
Then Sea Ranch,
Then Frisco,
Then Napa, Sonoma

I feel the pain of a cane on my neck

The poem is too long
Like an American Idol
Cranking out song
With an amateur voice
That Simon and Garfunkel
Want to go home

So like a self-infected poet
Or a reeling, dealing vacation film host
I turn on the lights
Or off the lights
And take this light poem
home.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




I love the sharp, clarit of a good haiku. Here are few haiku by John Brandi from the anthology The Unswept Path, Contemporary American Haiku, published by White Pine Press in 2005.

Bandi is a poet, writer, artist, and traveler. His is the author of more than thirty six books of poetry, essays, and haiku. His journeys have taken him to Southeast Asia, India, the Himalayas, Indonesia, Mexico, and Cuba. He has made his home in New Mexico since 1971.



~~

daybreak
pollen rising
from the unswept path

~~

around the bell
blue sky
ringing

~~

in the rain
before dawn
sails migrating

~~

last night's dream
wrote it with the wrong end
of the pencil

~~

so broke
size up the porch
for firewood

~~

after the storm
a dragonfly
pinned to the cactus

~~

about to kill an ant
but no it's carrying
a corpse

~~

a party
where everyone says goodbye
then stays

~~

without clothes
it's a different
conversation

~~

morning chill
every haystack leans
to the sun

~~

guests for breakfast
two peonies
and a poppy

~~

not knowing what to say
he mails
only the envelope

~~

wake in a new land
water music
from swaying bamboo

~~

fallen leaves
the abbot sweeps
around them

~~

old monk
pruning plums
my father's thin arms

~~

instead of friends
he visits
another mountain

~~

one man     one fire
snow falling
all day





Photo by Dan Cuddy




It happens to all of us, but I never expected it to happen to me.



Watermelon Man

at 6 feet even,
72 inches
head to toe,
and 245 pounds
as of 7:30 this morning,
i'm six inches rounder
at the middle
than my legs, hip to heel
are long

giving me the appearance
in profile
of a shoplifter trying
to steal
a watermelon from the grocer
by hiding it under his shirt

60 pounds heavier
than when i first reached
my full height
in or about 1960,
my goal at this point
is to minimize further damage
by not changing anything,
knowing
that just about every chance
since 1960
has been for the worse, knowing
that, though i may be smarter
now, everything else about me has
deteriorated
since my sixteenth birthday
and i'm not the boy
i used to be

recognizing
that at a certain point in our lives
prospects dwindle
and the good old days of
stealing watermelon from the field
are over and we have to settle
for just looking like a watermelon thief
at the A&P checkout line

has something to do with
things
going around
and coming around





Photo by Dan Cuddy




My next poem is by Laura Kasischke from her book Lilies Without, published by Ausable Press in 2007.

Kasischke is the author of six books of poetry and four novels. Her work has received many honors, including the Alice Fay diCastagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Beatrice Hawley Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award for Emerging Writers. She teaches at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.



Manna

And what might it taste like? Think

clotted oxygen. Permanent snow. So

many spongy stones, each
containing at its center
the last earthly word of a ghost.

Think of the flesh on an angel's hips, pinched
into morsels. Candied soap. Small
lozenges of condensed foam.
Six seconds of bliss, rolled
in powdered sugar, deep-
fried, rolled again in the white
blood cells of a child,

then left in the shade to multiply.

Yes.
Solid fluff.
Weighted hopes.
Pale
lumps of fresh
heaven, like
some type of old-fashioned candy
your grandmother always remembered
from childhood, and then
searched for all her life,
never found again, but never
ceased to desire: You

find one of those in your pocked
a few days after she dies.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




My next piece is by our friend Stacy Dye.

Stacey 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. 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.



The Love Letter

It fluttered through the air
like a parchment butterfly.
The back seal a kiss in
crystalline coral.
Definitely not my color.

Landing face down
next to the bookcase.
The orange hue
of the lips taunted me.
The shade, too familiar.

I bent down, cupped
it gently in my hands
careful not to smudge
the identifying mark.
This one I feared

would be easily classified.
In mere moments I knew -
it was the Lepidoptera Maliciosa.
There would be no lifesaving
visit to the garden today.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




And, next, I have a poem by Aleda Shirley from her book Dark Familiar, published by Sarabande Books of Louisville, Kentucky in 2006.

In addition to this book, Shirley is the author of Long Distance, published in 1996, and Chinese Architecture, from 1986, which won the Poetry Society of America's Norma Faber First Book Award. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Mississippi Arts Commission. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi.



Spliced Solo

One usable track from four all-night sessions
& the solo in that cobbled together from bits & pieces.
But when you hear it the beauty's unbroken;
you don't perceive juncture. For a long time
I didn't understand the point in denying it,

insisting that the fucked-up valedictories of our lives,
the chromatic fiascos of the heart careening on
like weather, for years, are somehow consecutive,
but he did, & vehemently, right up to the noir rebus
of his death. For a long time I didn't understand sin,

its bells of arsenic & snow, though I recognized a jones
for moving on, the seasonal orison to flight
as rhododendron leaves rattle their shredded gold,
or all that he squandered, wading up his looks,
black & white glamour shots left behind

in fleabag hotels for some stranger to toss out
or keep & sell, a lifetime later, on the internet.
As violet's full spectrum appears at dusk,
I hear in the retroactive blunted affect
of his phrasing a voice whispering I mean you,
but he doesn't, he's chain-smoking & talking
long distance to an old flame. Caught in that tine of a tree,
the moon - & in that lunar clamor, a horn or a vocal,
keen enough to metabolize the protein of an angel,
but ending, instead & by mistake, in a minor key.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




Understanding religious hierarchy is very important to proper religious practice. As here.



the god of obedient service

i like the way
my cat comes
and stares at me
when her food or water
bowl is empty

silent,
no sound,
just the sharp
intensity
of her yellow
eyes

such
confidence
she shows in
a god
of obedient service
who will sense
her need
and respond -
a little late, perhaps,
but still,
no prayers
required

a lesser god,
this god of excellent
customer service,
among
those on the mount,
greater,
no doubt, than
the god of dog show
triumph,
but not so strong
as the god of don't
burn the pot roast,
but,
still,
welcome, like service dogs,
where many of the greatest
gods,
those nosey,
pushy ones
who always want it their way,
are not

even
us atheists
will welcome into our household
a god
who will find our lost car keys
without
us ever having to admit
our weakness
by asking





Photo by Dan Cuddy




Here are several short poems by Gary Snyder from his book danger on the peaks, a 2004 national Book Critics Circle Award finalist. My paperback edition was published by Shoemaker Hoard in 2005.

Snyder is th author of sixteen collections of poetry and prose. Since 1970 he has lived in the watershed of the South Yuba River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and a two-time National Book Award finalist, he has been the recipient of the Bollingen Poetry Prize and the Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award.

These several poems are from a section of the book titled Brief Years.



Hanging Out by Putah Creek with Younger Poets

Sitting on the dusty
dry-leaf crackly ground,
freeway rumble south,
black walnut shade,
crosslegged, hot,
      exchanging little poems



Yet Older Matters

A rain of black rocks      out of space
onto deep blue ice      in Antarctica
nine thousand feet high   scattered for miles.

Crunched inside      yet older matter
from times before our very sun

      (from a conversation with Eldridge Moores
         & Kim Stanley Robinson)



Flowers in the Night Sky

I thought, forest fires burning to the north!
yellow nomex jacket thrown in the cab, hard-hat, boots,
I gunned the truck up the dirt-road scrambling,
and came out on a flat stretch with a view:
shimmering blue-green streamers and a a red glow down the sky -
Stop. Storms on the sun. Solar winds going by.

         (The night of the red aurora borealis:
      seen as far south as northern California, April 2001)



A Dent in a Bucket

Hammering a dent out of a bucket
      a woodpecker
            answers from the woods


Baby Jackrabbit

Baby jackrabbit on the ground
thick furry brindled coat
little black tailtip
back of the neck ate out,
life for an owl.


Work Day

They want -
Short lengths of 1" schedule 40 PVC
A 10' chimney sweeping brush
someone to grind the mower blades
a log chain
my neighbors' Spring work.

   Chainsaw dust
   clay-clod stuck spade
   answers from the woods


Asian Pear

the slender tender Asian pear
unpruned, skinny, by the zendo
never watered, ragged,
still puts out fruit
      fence broken
trunk scored with curls of bark,
bent-off branches, high-up scratches -
pears for a bear


Cool Clay

In a swarm of yellowjackets
a squirrel drinks water
feet in the cool clay, head way down


Give Up

Walking back from the Dharma-Talk
summer dry madrone
leaves rattle down

"Give up! give up!
 Oh sure!" they say


How

small birds      flit
from bough
to bough to bough

to bough to bough to bough


Whack

Green pinecone flakes
pulled, gnawed clean around,
wobbling, slowly falling
scattering on the ground,
      whack the roof.
Tree-top squirrel feasts
- twitchy pine boughs.


Yowl

Out of he underbrush
a bobcat bursts chasing a housecat.
Crash - yowl - silence.
Pine pollen settles again.


April Calls and Colors

Green steel waste bins
flapping black plastic lids
gobbling flattened cardboard,
far off, a backup beeper


Standup Comics

A parking meter that won't take coins
a giant sprinkler valve wheel chained and locked
a red and white fire hydrant
a young dandelion at the edge of the pavement





Photo by Dan Cuddy




The next poem is by our friend Walter Durk.

Walter says he had Neruda in mind as he wrote the piece.



My Shirt

This morning I dress and notice your fabric,
my shirt, before I button you, before you
cover my chest, my arms,
my vulnerabilities.

the threads - how interwoven they are -
red with a hint of gold, supporting each other
as if they were you and I, love
as if they knew our lives.
but you shirt, are old.
washed and ironed too many times.
your seams are still intact, but your
fabric is thinning. I will wear you still
and make you last, so long as I am able.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




Here are two poems by Gilbert Sorrentino from his book, Selected Poems, 1958-1980 published in 1981 by Black Sparrow Press.

Sorrentino was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1929 and lived there and in Manhattan all his life. His published work includes six volumes of poetry, five novels and many critical essays and reviews.



You Are My Heart's Bouquet

Nobody dies of love
or of a broken heart thus
are old songs proved.

They can cause death many ways
howevere. Recall the blues
in which the blues in which.

Ah the silences that grow
out of exact revelations
of contempt. I have heard them.

Only love can cause them
and other instances
of the maladroit.

Prescriptions: adultery,
art, hobbies, tears and sugar
mixed with turpentine.

"Sweet as the showers of rain"
lifts the lyric. Love lives
forever any way you see it.

Showers of rain. It is memory
puts that old foot in front of
that other old foot. Selah.


3 Quatrains

When I say, love, it has
a meaning to it, not

a thing, that is an untruth, a
state, certainly,

"it was hot fishing,"
proclaimed in December

is next to nothing to the
hearer, how can he comprehend

July? yet certainly it
was July, and was hot, as

much as love is when I say
it, hot, that is, but no thing.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




It still summer, and will be for a while yet. Routine and boring - still there are moments.

Two short poem noticing those moments.



deep summer

sunlight
cracks the window

falls across
the tile floor in bright
shards
of deep summer

blue sky
promises
another day of
cinders


slipping into fall

fresh
breeze
in the morning
speculates
on change just
beyond
the horizon

summer
slipping so slowly
into fall





Photo by Dan Cuddy




Now I have two poems by widely published San Antonio Poet Naomi Shihab Nye from her book, Words Under the Words, published in 1995 by The Eighth Mountain Press of Portland, Oregon.

Nye, a Palestinian-American, is a poet, teacher, essayist and anthologist. In addition to her own collections of poetry, she has also edited several anthologies of poetry from the Mid-East.



Streets

A man leaves the world
and the streets he lives on
grow a little shorter.

One more window dark
in this city, figs on his branches
will soften for the birds.

If we stand quietly enough evenings
there grows a whole company of us
standing quietly together.
Overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees
and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing,
drops her purple hem.
Each thing in its time, in its place,
it would be nice to think the same about people.

Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.


Telling the Story

In America, what's real
juggles with what isn't:
a woman I know props fabulous tulips
in her flowerbed, in snow.

Streets aren't gold, but they could be.
Once a traveler mailed letters
in a trashcan for a week.
He thought they were going somewhere.
In America everything is going somewhere.

I answered a telephone
on a California street.
Hello? It was possible.
A voice said, "There is no scientific proof
that God is a man."
"Thank you." I was standing there.
Was this meant for me?
It was not exactly the question
I had been asking, but it kept me busy awhile,
telling the story.

Some start out
with a big story
that shrinks.

Some stories accumulate power
like a sky gathering clouds,
quietly, quietly,
till the story rains around you.

Some get tired of the same story
and quit speaking;
a farmer leaning into
his row of potatoes,
a mother walking the same child
to school.
What will we learn today?
There should be an answer,
and it should
change.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




Here's a poem from one of our three amigos from Hawaii, Cornelia DeDona.

Connie, who has published two books, Meadow Pause and Boogey Fever, lives on an estate nestled beneath the Koolau Mountains.

You can preview them at: http://www.corneliadedona.blogspot.com.



Hormone Flux-Get Me Some Estrogen

A pin ball machine of
metal balls
zigzagging
crashing
colliding
trying to break records
achieve recognition
win contests
plan a murder.
So much to do
meals to plan
guests to invite
classes to attend
volunteer for this
volunteer for that
There are ways
to clean a blood stain
using simple things like
peroxide.
I have to schedule
my day
but I can't remember
where I left my notepad and pen
on the way to preparing breakfast
Did I take my medicine?
Where are the vitamins?
Don't forget to drink lots of water
It's time for the workout
Cut the grass
Write that poem
Coffee, where my coffee?
I look into the mirror.
My reflection
is altered, I don't recognize
the old woman that stares back.
Quick - apply some makeup
before you scare the dogs.
The course re-plotted
over and over again.

My victim
reminds me of
a note that needs writing.
Tumbling forward
avoiding those flippers
up and down
back and forth
through
these days of
detours
and
uncharted
territory.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




I have a couple of collections by Lorna Dee Cervantes. This next poem is from one of them, From the Cables of Genocide, Poems on Love and Hunger, published by Arte Publico Press at the University of Houston in 1991.

Cervantes, born in 1954, lives in Boulder, Colorado. Her first book, Emplumada, published in 1981, won an American Book Award. In 1995 she received a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award.



To We Who Were Saved by the Stars

      Education lifts man's sorrows to a higher plane of regard.
      A man's whole life can be a metaphor.


                        - Robert Frost

Nothing has to be ugly. Luck of the dumb
is a casual thing. It gathers its beauty in plain
regard. Animus, not inspiration, lets us go
among the flocks and crows crowded around
the railroad ties. Interchanges of far away
places, tokens of our deep faux pas, our interface
of neither/nor, when we mutter moist goodbye and ice
among the silent stars, it frosts our hearts on
the skids and corners, piles of the dust upon our grids
as grimaces pardon us, our indecision, our monuments
to presidents, dead, or drafted boys who might have
married us, Mexican poor, or worse. Our lives could be
a casual thing, a reed among the charlatan drones,
a rooted blade, a compass that wields a clubfoot
round and round, drawing fairy circles in clumps
of sand. Irritate a simple sky and stars fill up
the hemisphere. One by one, the procession
of their birth is a surer song than change
jingling in a rich man's pocket. So knit, you
lint-faced mothers, tat our black holes
into paradise. Gag the grin that forms
along the nap. Pull hard, row slow, a white
boat to your destiny. A man's whole life
may be a metaphor - but a woman's lot
is symbol.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




I was thinking about how time passes by so fast and you look back, like at the end of a year, and the whole year is a blur, nothing standing out as a moment of clarity. That led to this.



high achiever

i have a compulsion
to achieve
but
just as motion
doesn't equate to
progress
my achievements
rarely rise to the level
of accomplishment

they are passing things

like driving along Interstate 10
at eighty miles an hour
and throwing out a
fruitcake

nothing
anyone wants in the first place
its lose
unremarked and unremarkable

a gain only to a few birds
or maybe
a coyote or armadillo
who will wonder what strange thing
this is
that has dropped out of the sky

i experience the moment
and i move on -
my achievement
the continued moving

i will write this poem this morning
and move on

i will transcribe three poems
for my blog this afternoon
and move on

i will sweep and mop the kitchen
empty the trash under the sink
wash and dry a load of laundry
and move
on

if you ask me
about my favorite movie
or book
or author
or song or composer
i will not be able to answer
though i have favorites
in all those categories

to some
a sign of possible dementia
as i grow older,
but no,
it's just
i moved on
never pausing to remember
their names

details

finding no achievement
in remembering
details

finding more
in the experience of
experiencing
the work

unlike some
who dig deep to find their
gold

i am a strip-miner

a seeker of surface
riches
found and tossed
aside

each day
a day of "achievements,"
all of such little weight
as to be known
to none
but
me

forgotten by me
as i move
on





Photo by Dan Cuddy




Next, I have a poem by Ralph Angel from Neither World, 1995 winner of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.

Angel has published in a number of journals and published one book, Anxious Latitudes, previous to this one. His awards, in addition the award for this book, include a Fulbright Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and Poetry Magazine's Bess Hokin Prize. He teaches in the writing program at the University of Redlands in California.



The Privilege of Silence

No threats. Not the teaser
this time. finally there is a random God.
And all the filthy laundry we've hung out to dry,
all the fingers we've grown used to pointing,
sneer, backbite, everything that worked
yesterday, nothing a little
breeze won't knock down.

Even wisdom, the pure heart, the woman
who for six days among impatient nurses
choked on water, who knew a full
life when she saw one, who never asked of anybody,
begged for air, was made
to beg for something
she knew she was en route to.

Only the living take things for granted.
The dead don't leave; some part of us
is missing. And we sense
the echo, the wind in our
veins, faces like thin
curtains that let in the light
and let loose our shadows.

Even asleep, in the ancient dance,
we are turning away.
Turning toward the ruckus
of jacarandas. A face in the crowd
that offers itself like early morning,
unknowingly, as we are drawn to it.
More strangely than that.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




Here are three short poems from a new friend, Heidi Kenyon.

Heidi is a member of the Internet Writers' Workshop. The mother of three, she lives on Vashon Island in Washington State. Her work has appeared in Gloom Cupboard, Camroc Press Review, cc&d magazine, Poet's Ink Review, and Four and Twenty. She is the editor of Eat Your Words: A Journal of Food Literature.



Hindsight is 20/20

Pretend it's not retinas
you're juggling
sitting on the back of the dammed
electricity of the sea,
grounded
and speaking of nothing in straight lines.
A bird would make a good snack.
It looks like rain.
Out of the shrimp-curl of the tail, staring
at the eye in the mirror, staring back at
you had better be careful
from the tissue of old books
the eye of God is watching, high and
low, in and out, it's found a
part you didn't know was there, black pupils
of the eyes you scratched out and buried beneath a
pine in your mother's forest.


Recession for the Entrepreneur

Iron jaws of the vise
inexorable
Broad expanse of sky
mirror-hard
Payroll looms like
Doomsday
Closing up shop
bitter as bile.


These Fourteen Years

What are you doing in this room?
Just        smelling
What are you doing here?
Just     sitting, just smoothing the quilt,
just pretending, just            forgetting


What's wrong with the mirror?
It's dusty. I should dust it.
Perhaps tomorrow.

What's wrong with the mirror?
It's reflecting wrong, there's something
wrong with it. It's wrinkly.

The quilt in the mirror looks smooth enough.
I just made the bed.
The quilt looks smooth enough.
I didn't have to make it. No one
slept here last night.


He didn't come home?
He never comes home any more.
He didn't come home?
I slept in the guest room.
Are you a guest?
No, I live here.
Are you a guest?
No. I am not yet welcome
where he has gone.

Where has he gone?
We met during the war.
Where has he gone?
No. But I will be following soon.
The quilt looks smooth.
The guest room. I'm not ready.
The quilt.
Perhaps tomorrow night.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




The poems and critical reviews of Jean-Paul Pecqueur have appeared widely in many of the best journals. He is a graduate of the University of Washington's creative writing program where he was the winner of the Academy of American Poets Harold Taylor Prize.

The next poem is from his book The Case Against Happiness, published in 2006 by Alice James Books of Farmington Maine. At the time the book was published, Pecqueur lived in Brooklyn, where he taught Literary and Critical Studies at the Pratt Institute and English at the City University of New York.



The Only Justice is Love

This morning, driving
through dense waves of sterile
bone-bleaching desert air,
aimless as a repeated mistake,

I swear I felt the globe revolving,
throwing its dying weight around
like a sperm whale in a tidal pool,
spawning some unfathomable suffering.

What was it I had expected?
a sudden reversal?
To shed my skin and emerge radiant,
all gain with no remainder?

On the radio, a blonde voice
was methodically enumerating
the most recent tragedies
to befall some representative village -

more nightmare than paradise -
first drought, then typhoon
bringing down mountains of mud
with a new strain of flesh-eating virus.

Gathering fresh fuel for my daily outrage,
I listen with dreadful glee. Then,
in a rare neural burst, a thought:

Though I'm not ready to love myself,
the only real justice is love.

Just the one burst of some chemical
not quite eternal. And that was it.





Photo by Dan Cuddy




Did you ever have an idea and think to yourself, geez, what a great idea, then do it, and when you're finished, think, geez, what a lousy idea.

I had one of those days.



about that crazy cat lady action figure

i wrote
a really lousy poem
this morning

it was about
something i saw

it was about
a Crazy Cat Lady
action figure
i saw for sale at the
bookstore - the package
includes the Crazy Cat Lady
action figure
and half a dozen action-figure cats
that, so far as i can tell,
don't do anything

it was a
boring
boring
boring
poem i wrote and i mean
boring
like eating dry
corn flakes
while watching Brady Bunch
reruns
which stands pretty high
on my boring meter

i printed the poem
just so i could burn it

my feeling about this
is
if the best you can do
when writing about something
as weird
and surreal
as a Crazy Cat Lady action figure
is
boring
boring
boring
you should hang up the old laptop
and go read
National Geographic
or something

so that's
what
i'm going to do
this
very
minute

right now





Photo by Dan Cuddy




Time for some fun with e.e. cummings from 50 poems, published originally in 1939, my paperback in 1970 by Grosset & Dunlap.

Here's something you don't see with many poets - the original price when published in 1970, $1.25, my price at the used bookstore yesterday, $3.98.

No titles, of course, on any of the fifty poems. In fact, though the book defines this as fifty poems, my own reading is that it could as easily, even more easily, be read a one poem fifty pages long.

Since I can't do fifty pages here, I'll accept the books definition. I should add that these pieces are not taken in order from the book so the reading of the whole book as one poem is not evident here.



~~~~

as freedom is a breakfastfood
or truth can live with right and wrong
or molehills are from mountains made
- long enough and just so long
will being pay the rent of seem
and genius please the talentgang
and water most encourage flame

as hatracks into peachtrees grow
or hopes dance best on bald men's hair
and every finger is a toe
and any courage is a fear
- long enough and just so long
will the impure think al things pure
and hornets wail by children stung

or as the seeing are the blind
and robins never welcome spring
nor flatfolk prove their world is round
nor dingsters die at break of dong
and common's rare and millstones float
- long enough and just so long
tomorrow will not be too late

worms are the words but joy's the voice
down shall go which and up come who
breasts will be breasts thighs will be thighs
deeds cannot dream what dreams can do
- time is a tree (this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you
just so long and long enough

~~~~

moon's whis
per
in sunset

or thrushes toward dusk among whippoorwills or
tree field rock hollyhock forest brook chickadee
mountain. Mountain)
whycoloured worlds of because do

not stand against yes which is built by
forever & sunsmell
(sometimes a wonder
of wild roses

sometimes)
with north
over
the barn

~~~~

the way to hump a cow is not
to get yourself a stool
but draw a line around the spot
and call it beautifool

to multiply because and why
dividing thens by nows
and adding and (i understand)
is how to hump a cows

the way to hump a cow is not
to elevate your tool
but drop a penny in the slot
and bellow like a bool

to lay a wreath from ancient breath
or insulated brows
(while tossing boms at uncle toms)
is how to hump a cows

the way to hump a cow is not
to push and then to pull
but practicing he art of swot
to preach the golden rull

to vote for me )all decent mem
an wonens will allows
which if they don't to hell with them)
is how to hump a cows

~~~~

!blac
k
agains
t

(whi)

te sky
?t
rees whic
h fr

om droppe
d
,
le
af

a:;go

e
s wh
IrlI
n

-g





Photo by Dan Cuddy




I used excerpts from a major work by Russian poet Osip Mandelstam in last week's "Here and Now." Reading about the poet made me think.



Reading Osip Mandelstam

Only in Russia is poetry respected - it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?
...Osip Mandelstam

So
strange
it seems to me
and poets like me

to know there was
a time and place where
writer's block
was a poet's best friend
and key to his
survival


and
still there is
today


Mandelstam died in 1938 in transit to a Soviet labor camp.






Photo by Dan Cuddy




Thanks again to Dan Cuddy for his photos and his poems and thanks to all the other poets as well (I don't do that often enough).

Until next week, remember all the work in this blog remains the property of its creators, except for such as was personally created by me. The blog itself is owned and produced by me. I release any part of that part personally created by me to anyone who might want it.

Just spell my name right when you credit me...allen itz.

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Gaia Says - Enough!   Thursday, August 20, 2009


IV.8.3.




I have to take a drive to Austin tomorrow, so I'm posting early - earlier than my usual early becaue I don't want to miss my NCIS reruns tonigh. I allow myself one television program at a time. Right now it's six years of NCIS reruns. In a couple of weeks, it'll be bye-bye NCIS and hello Dexter.

That important piece of information out of the way, there'll be no more fanfare or prelims this week - straight to the business at hand instead.

I have for you this week a couple of old favorites of mine, as well as a couple of poets new to my library that I'm reading for the first time.

Here's the mix.


Blais Cendrars
Tampa
Bungalow
Vomito Negro
Spanish Ruin
Golden Gate
Oyster Bay


Joseph Milford
shards the light threw off

Osip Mandelstam
from Stone

Me
it's hot

Paul Kane
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Two Liners


'Ilima Stern
Adding a Little Excitement To My Day

Charles Bukowski
In Search of a Hero

Me
crackpots of the world unite

Joanna Weston
The Leap
Tuscany


Me
dimensional strife

Walter McDonald
Faraway Places

Kevin McCann
The Medicine Man Explains...
The Firekeeper's Tale


Me
apathy









I start this week with poetic notes from my favorite traveling companion, Blais Cendrars, who apparently spent several years of his life just traveling the world, seeing all, appreciating all, enjoying all.

Cendrars, born Frederic Louis Sauser in 1887, lived until 1961. He was a Swiss novelist and poet naturalized French in 1916 and a writer of considerable influence in the modernist movement.

His writing career was interrupted by World War I. When it began, he and Italian writer Ricciotto Canudo appealed to other foreign artists to join the French army in battle. He himself joined the French Foreign Legion. He was sent to the front line in the Somme where he was in the fight from mid-December 1914 until February 1915. It was during the bloody attacks in Champagne in September 1915 that he lost his right arm and was discharged from the army. He described his military experience in the books La Main Coupee ("The Severed Hand") and J'ai Tue ("I Have Killed"). After the war, he became involved in the movie industry in Italy, France, and the United States. Needing to generate sufficient income, after 1925 he stopped publishing poetry and focused on novels and short stories.

During World War II, his youngest son was killed in an accident while escorting American planes in Morocco. In occupied France, the Gestapo listed Cendrars as a Jewish writer of "French expression."

In 1950, he ended his life of travel by settling down on the rue Jean-Dolent in Paris, across from the La Sante Prison. There he collaborated frequently with Radiodiffusion Francaise. He finally published again in 1956. The novel, Emmene-moi au bout du monde!..., was his last work before suffering a stroke in 1957.

In 1960, Andre Malraux bestowed upon him the title of Commander of the Legion d'honneur for his wartime service. A year later, he also received the Paris Grand Prix for literature. He died soon after.

The next five poems were written during Cendrars' travels in the American South. They are from the book Blaise Cendrars -Complete Poems, published by the University of California Press - Berkeley in 1992. The poems were translated by Rod Padgett.



I. Tampa

The train has just stopped
Just two passengers get off on this broiling end-of-summer morning
Both are dressed in Khaki suits and pith helmets
Both are followed by a black servant who carries the baggage
Both glance absentmindedly at the distant houses that are too white at
  the sky that is too blue
You see the wind raising swirls of dust and flies pestering the two mules
  harnessed to the only coach
The driver is asleep his mouth open


II. Bungalow

It's small but quite comfortable
The flooring is held up by bamboo posts
Vanilla plants climbing all over
Angola peas
Jasmine
Above which bursts magnolia and poinciana flowers

The dining room is designed with the sense of luxury characteristic of
  Carolina Creoles
Big chunks of ice in yellow marble vases keep the room deliciously cool
The plates and crystal sparkle
And behind each guest stands a black servant

The diners take it slow and easy
Stretched out in rocking chairs they surrender to the softening climate
At a signal from his master old Jupiter brings out a little lacquered stand
A bottle of sherry
an ice bucket
Some lemons
And a box of Havana cigars

No one spoke
The sweat was steaming down their faces
It was absolutely still
In the distance the loud croaking laughter of the bullfrog which
  abounds here


III. Vomito Negro

The pretty gardens and woods are all behind us
It's a bare and dismal plain with an occasional
Stand of bamboo
A stunted willow
A windblown eucalyptus
Then marshland
You see the yellowish smoke
This gray fog along the ground continually quivering
With thousands of mosquitoes and the yellow breath of rotting muck
  There are some places where even the blacks can't live

On this side the bank is lined with big mangroves
Their tangled roots plunge into the sludge and are covered with clusters
  of poisonous oysters

The mosquitos and poisonous insect form a thick cloud over the
  stagnant water
Beside harmless bullfrogs you see incredibly fat toads
And the famous hoop snake which chases its victims as friskily as a dog
There are stagnant pools teeming with slate-colored leeches
Hideous scarlet crabs playing around sleeping caymens
In the spots where the ground is hardest you meet gigantic ants
Thousands of them all voracious

On these stinking waters in the poisonous muck
Flowers bloom with a stunning scent a heady and persistent smell
Bursts of blue and purple
Chrome leaves
Everywhere
The black water is carpeted with flowers next to which will protrude the
  flat head of a snake

I walked through a thicket of big mimosas
They parted in front of me as I went
Their branches moved aside with a small swish
Because these trees have a sensitivity almost a nervous system
Among the jalap vines full of talking blossoms
Big pink and gray birds on long thin legs feasting on crusty lizards fly off
  with a great beating of wings as we approach
Then giant butterflies the color of sulfur of gentian of heavy-duty oil
And really big caterpillars


IV. Spanish Ruin

The nave is in the 18th-century Spanish style
It is all cracked
The damp vault is white with saltpeter and still bears some traces of gold
  leaf
The lantern beams fall on a mildewed painting in the corner
It is a Black Madonna
Thick moss and poisonous stripe dotted beaded mushrooms cover the
  stone floor of the sanctuary
There is also a bell with some Latin inscriptions


V. Golden Gate

The old grillwork provided a name for the establishment
Iron bars thick as a wrist which separate the drinkers from the counter
  where bottles of every kind of alcohol are lined up
Back when gold fever was at its height
When women from Chile or Mexico were auctioned off right and left
  by slave traders
All the bars had grillwork like this
And the bartenders came with a drink in one hand and a pistol in the
  other
It was not uncommon to see a man killed because of a drink
It's true the grillwork has been left there for show
Just the same the Chinese come in for drinks
Germans and Mexicans
And also a few Kanaks of little steamboats loaded with mother-of-pearl
  copra tortoise shell
Chanteuses
Atrocious makeup bank tellers outlaws sailors with huge hands


VI. Oyster Bay

Canvas tent and bamboo chairs
Now and then on these deserted beaches you see a hut with a palm roof
  or the skiff of a Black pearl driver

Now the country is completely different
As far as the eye can see
The beaches are covered with shining sand
Two or three sharks are sporting in the wake of the yacht
Florida slips below the horizon

You take a golden Regalia from the ebony end table
You break it off with your fingernail
You light it voluptuously
Smoke smoker smoke smoke spirals away


Cendrars is another poet, like Whitman, who is very hard for me to put away once I begin.








I have a first-time friend of "Here and Now" this week, Joseph Victor Milford, who I hope we'll see much more of in the future.

Joseph says he was born in Alabama by the banks of the Chatahoochee River. After growing up in the south, he attended The University of West Georgia where he studied with poet Donald Platt while receiving his degree in English and Philosophy. He then was accepted at The Iowa Writers' Workshop where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Poetry. He currently resides in rural Georgia, teaching full-time at Georgia Military College. His collected works, Cracked Altimeter, Volumes I, II, and III: Collected and Selected Poems, 1990 - 2005 have recently been published by BlazeVox Press.

Here's his poem.



shards the light threw off

i have three classes
to teach tomorrow
and two of them
are tests

*

it's broken about us
most good things trickle away
or wash ashore
we use the remnants
of ancient vessels and vehicles
to collect the words and fossils
we make equations to quicken time
i am bored with most of my colleagues
i wait for my first real teacher
as i learn to listen
so i will be ready to be found
i hope you do too with your awesome skills
temper your missiles with grace
that in itself will turn the arrows to swans
landing on water with ripples
and not in flesh with bloodsport

*

i will learn
what i knew
one day
again
and forget
the anger that taught me
to look

*

i am more satisfied than cardboard in a landfill
i am more full than all worms
i am now a viola in the universe's hands
it tickled with trial and tribulations at first
i laughed at being a mortal fizzle
while shitting myself and rose from dung
with mortar and pestle
found the thing to grind
syncopated it
in good time

*

my wife sleeps from being overwhelmed by herself.
i see it at times.
i usually sleep from being overwhelmed by other things.
i am jealous of her.
my child sleeps because she sleeps when she does.
we need to learn as much as possible from her.
it's funny, around my daughter, i never feel jealous.
i feel joy. what i saw in my wife's face through pain
while my hand shook cutting the cord. purity i and we tend to forget.

*

i broke my finger on your bone under your
flesh and can't play my guitar but can type this

*
i never spun so hard while sitting still
until i met your strong steel eye

*

flesh
is hilarious
considering
what we do
inside
of it

*

the drums only signal
the stories of first and last
at times you forget these
you only listen to the strings and pipes
remember the taut skins
and you will know
how to come home

*

wait for sitars
for you hear them an instance
before all becomes one

*

bones...my bones
you sing with metals and crystals

please old boys sing louder to me








Next, I have several selections from the book Stone, a collection of poems by Osip Mandelstam. The first of the 81 poems in the book was written in 1908 and the last in 1915. The book was first published in 1913, then published in a greatly expanded second edition in 1916. My paperback copy was published in 1997 by Harvill Press. It is a bilingual book, the original Russian and the English translation, by Robert Tracy, on facing pages.

Mandelstam was born in Warsaw in 1891 to a wealthy Jewish family. Soon after Osip's birth, they moved to Saint Petersburg. In 1900, Mandelstam entered the prestigious Tenishevsky school, which also counts Vladimir Nabokov and other significant figures of Russian (and Soviet) culture among its alumni. His first poems were printed in the school's almanac in 1907.

In 1911 after two years at the University of Heidelberg, he went on to study at the University of Saint Peterburg. After moving to Moscow in 1922, Mandelstam's nonconformist, antiestablishment tendencies were not heavily disguised, and in the autumn of 1933, they broke through in form of the famous "Stalin Epigram." Described by many as a "sixteen line death sentence," the poem, sharply criticizing the "Kremlin highlander." Six months later, Mandelstam was arrested.

He received an unusually light sentence of internal exile and in the years following this first arrest, he would (as was expected of him) write several poems which seemed to glorify Stalin.

But in 1937, at the outset of the Great Purge, the literary establishment began a systematic assault on him in print - first locally, and soon after that from Moscow - accusing him of harboring anti-Soviet views.

Early the following year, Mandelstam and his wife received a government voucher for a vacation not far from Moscow and upon their arrival in May 1938, he was promptly arrested again and charged with "counterrevolutionary activities." Four months later, Mandelstam was sentenced to five years in correction camps. He died in a transit camp that same year of an unspecified illness.

A quote from Mandelstam might stand for many Russian poets during the years of oppression. "Only in Russia is poetry respected," he said, "it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?"



Here are several short entries from Stone.


1.

A tentative hollow note
As a pod falls from a tree
In the constant melody
Of the wood's deep quiet...
1908


5.

More delicate than delicacy
Your face,
Whiter than purity
Your hand;
living as distantly
From the world as you can
And everything about you
As it must be.

It must all be like this:
Your sorrow
And your touch
Never cooling,
And the quiet catch
Of not complaining
In the things you say,
And your eyes
Looking far away.
1909


13.

The snowy hive more slow,
The window
a crystal more clear,
A turquoise veil lies on a chair
Carelessly thrown.

The gauze dazzling itself so much,
Caressed by its own soft glow
It lives in summer, as though
It never felt winter's touch;

And though ice diamonds glide
In the eternally frozen stream,
Here flickering dragonflies gleam,
Alive but an hour, blue-eyed
1910


27.

Oh sky, sky, I'm going to dream about you!
It can't be that you've gone completely blind,
That the day, like a sheet of blank paper, has burnt through
Leaving only a little smoke and ash behind!
1911


29.

I hate the light that shines
From the monotonous stars.
Welcome back, old obsession of mine -
Tower that thins to an arrow of spire!

Stone, become a web,
A lace fragility:
Let your thin needle stab
The empty breast of sky.

My turn will come yet -
I feel the wings spreading.
So be it - but where is the target
Where living thought's arrow is heading?

Perhaps I will come back here
When my path and my time both fade:
I could not love there
And here I am afraid...
1912


45.

...The courage of midnight girls
And meteors in reckless flight;
A tramp clutches my coat - do I have
The price of a bed for the night?

Tell me who will deaden
My consciousness with wine,
If reality is Peter's creation:
The granite, the Bronze Horseman?

I hear the salute from the fort
And I notice how warm it grows;
They could probably hear the report
There in the cellars below.

And beneath the incoherence
of my feverish brain
Are stars and talk that makes sense,
The wind west off the Neva again.
1913


62.

Orioles in the woods, and the only measure
In tonic verse is to know short vowels from long.
There's a brimming over once in each year, when nature
Slowly draws itself out, like the meter in Homer's song.

This is a day that yawns like a caesura:
Quiet since dawn, and wearily drawn out;
Oxen at pasture, golden indolence to draw
From a pipe of reeds the richness of one full note.
1914


73.

The fire tongues
My dry life away;
No more stone songs,
I sing wood today.

It is light and rough,
From one piece, no more;
Both the heart of the oak
And the fisherman's oar.

Drive piles more firmly in,
Hammers, pound tight,
O wooden heaven
Where all things are light
1915








Have I mentioned this before? The weather has really been lousy this summer.



it's hot

i remember
stepping off a cold C-140
Air Force transport
in Saudi Arabia in May, 1968,
to a hot blast of desert
wind like the Devil's breath
at the gates of hell

it's been
like that here this summer,
just as hot and just as dry

as we inch toward mid-August,
normally the hottest part of the year,
we are actually cooling just a little,
like,
a nice breeze last night, not
a cool breeze, but at least a stirring
of the air that has been dead
in its stillness for months

there is hope
for summer's ending

~~~~

i always have trouble with heat

born with a higher than normal
metabolism my body temperature
is always a little higher than normal

i sweat
when others are reaching
for their sweaters

i have no idea
why i live where i do,
where summers seem endless
and winters are lost in an eye-blink

except it's where i've always lived

and maybe i'm too old to live
anywhere else

~~~~

i've always envied old people
who always have a chill

it's been a bright spot for me -
something to look forward to amid
the infirmities of age

i always think
at every birthday
that their affliction will soon be mine

but,
so far,
i seem immune

~~~~

i've been thinking, lately,
that my problem may not be
with heat, per se, but with my
aversion to change

if this place makes me miserable
most of the year,
why don't i just leave?

it's not a fear of the uncertainties
that keeps me here,
but the absolute certainty
that change cannot be an isolated event,
but the beginning of a chain of events,
one leading to another, and the further down
the chain of events you go, the more
likely disaster waits

for example,
i went to my normal, my safe and normal,
breakfast place this morning, seeing when
i walked in that my normal table was available
but allowing myself to be convinced
by the hostess that i should be daring
and go for a different table
which led to the next daring decision
to try, for the first time, their Greek Fritada,
two eggs in omelet form
with sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus,
artichoke hearts and Greek goat cheese,
and, going for broke,
having strayed so far from my normal
gustatory habits, orange marmalade jam
for my sourdough toast

the outcome was a string of disasters,
like falling dominoes, beginning
with my decision to change tables -
the new table was in a hot spot in the room,
the fritada was excessively green, not a good color
for eggs, and the orange marmalade was just as
disgusting as i had always assumed it was

so, move and start a chain of events
that would, i know, inevitably move me
to a place even worse than where i am?

not a chance

i know how these things work,
and the misery
i know is better than the misery
i don't

meanwhile,
things are looking better here,
temperatures only at 101 yesterday

i'll just continue to hope
these positive trends will continue
and things will get better here
before i die
and fry
in the desert desolation
of what used to be
my back yard








Next, I have a wry piece of remembrance by Paul Kane from his book Work Life, published by Turtle Point Press in 2007.

Kane is the author of three collections of poetry The Farther Shore, Drowned Lands, and this one. His other publications include a critical study of Australian poetry, an edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson's poems, a collaboration with the photographer William Clift, and several anthologies. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Guggenheim Foundation, he has also been awarded Fulbright and Mellon grants. He teaches at Vassar College.



A Whiter Shade of Pale

"...although my eyes were open"

In '68 I sported a Panic Button on my blazer -
pushed, it read, "Things will get worse before
they get worse." After the assassinations, I threw
it away. On edge, we were now living on the edge.
Across the hall, Drexler, the quiet kid from Belgium,
played Procol Harum full blast whenever
he left the room, the door wide open.
Conformity consisted of learning "how to think
for ourselves," but we knew one another by our
oddities, while the teachers knew us for out failings.
That year, falling love sent me stumbling backwards -
the real fall came later, when Signe took up with Ramseur,
the handsome hockey star who insisted we arm wrestle
because I could hit a ball farther than he.
My roommate, Leep, the math genius from Menlo Park,
was California cool; Arader, a Main Line Mensa
miles gloriosus; Schiffer was pure New York.
I tried making a virtue of my virtues
but when I puzzled things out, the pieces never fit.
Prep school prepares you to succeed, but no one
prepared us for success - that was a blank
we would have to fill out on our own, or not,
like Drexler's empty room blaring "A Whiter Shade of Pale."

Not long ago, I heard that song again by chance
on the radio, and these memories welled up
quick - a pool in a clearing, spring-fed
and coruscating. Those pieces of the past
coalesced suddenly into a whole -
beyond the pain of nostalgia or wistfulness
for lost youth: a presence, instead, and intensity
so tensile the insight stretches out past
the instant of its moment - as when you
are perfectly happy or in complete despair.
And in the midst of it, I thought of Drexler
and wondered about the song haunting the radio,
about why he did what he did and why it affected
me so much then and now decades after.
"Whatever happened to Drexler?" we ask, as if
we could say what it was that had happened to us
from a point of view outside ourselves.
Two days later - no, thirty-six years later - I got
an email from Drexler reading, "Remember me?"


Two-Liners

My Father's Neuropathy

I staggered out of a lot of bars, he says,
but never into one before.

Poetic License

"Live Free or Die!" cries New Hampshire;
"First in Flight," North Carolina demurs.

Sign on an Upstate Jail in Winter

Any prisoner not back by six o'clock
will be locked up.

Sign on an Upstate Farm

Anyone found here at night
will be found here in the morning.

National Pastime

Football will supplant baseball when we
start wearing helmets on the street.

Cliched

Give him enough rope
and he'll hang you.








I used a couple of short poems by our friend from Hawaii, 'Ilima Kauka Stern, last week. Now here's another one.

'Ilima, 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. 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. Ms. Stern lives in Kailua with her family



Adding a Little Excitement To My Day

Ascending Lanihuli, approaching the pali tunnels,
the wipers are on, keeping up with the rain,
which is not a downpour, more like a steady heartbeat,
the remnants from tropical storm, Felicia.
I'm on my way to visit a friend in Honolulu, as I've done
in days past, but today the weather is a bit of a
challenge. Just before the first tunnel, I realize
I'm driving through low-lying clouds. I'm thinking,
it's almost like fog, wow, fog in Hawai'i. Into the tunnel,
into the gray mist, and out in between tunnels, the
entrance to the second tunnel is completely obscured.
My heart skips a beat. The mist is fine, though, so
I slow down and find my way through. Outside the
second tunnel, in the grandeur of Nu'uanu, a curtain
of misty rain sweeps across my vision from left to right.
I'm entranced and enthralled. Thank you, Felicia, for
adding a little excitement to my day.








Charles Bukowski is many things, mostly things I like, but he is rarely really funny. This poem, from the collection, New Poems, Book 2, published by Virgin Books of London in 2003, is really funny, though I suspect not everyong will enjoy the humor of the self-parody and his casting a satiric look at his own image. But, I did.



In Search of a Hero

as far as literature is concerned,
for a while it was Hemingway, then I noticed that his writing was imitating itself, he was
not really writing anymore.

as far as sex is concerned,
I began quite late and being fully rested
I gave it a roaring start, learning more from each
  woman
and applying it in all its fulsome aspects to the next,
  awakening
in strange bed after strange bed (and then back in
  some old
beds) looking out the window in the morning to
  check
on my car parked outside - and remembering that
  there was
another woman for later that day and maybe even
  another one that
night.
dinners, lunches, walks in the park,
walks by the sea, sometimes unexpectedly a brother,
a son, an ex-husband and, once, a current husband.
I knew of nobody with as many girlfriends as I had
who was drinking as hard at the same time.
I was penniless and stupid
and almost without reason.
I'd return now and then to my tiny dirty room
to find wild notes under
my door in an the mailbox from
anxious females.
I had no time to respond and some then became
enraged,
trashing my automobile, breaking into my
room, destroying everything in sight, female
hurricanes from hell,
and the phone rang without pause throughout
all this carnage, curses, wails, hang-ups, callbacks,
threats of love, threats of death, and if I took
the phone off the hook for a bit, soon the sound of
a racing motor, the screeching of brakes
and then a rock thrown through the window.
3 times there was an attempted murder
despite the fact that
I was old and ugly, worse than poor,
often without even toilet paper in
the bathroom. but somehow
in my demented state
I became my own hero.

I'd go into Black bars,
I'd go into biker bars,
I'd go drunk into Mexican bars,
I'd go anywhere,
I'd spit into the eye of God and
even into the face of the devil.
then I'd wake up somewhere
with someone new
in the morning
and the sun would be
shining
as if for me alone.

I bought the cheapest junk cars
off the lots
and drove them to Caliente, to
Mexico,
the woman saying
"Jesus, you're driving this thing
like a maniac!"
I'd squander my meager dollars at the race
track
with bravado
as if all the gods were
on my side.

it all ended
some place, somewhere
in a small
room in downtown L.A.
I was there with this beautiful
girl with long hair, so
young, such a fine body, such
long long hair, it was almost all
too much. I think it began
in a bar downstairs or around
the corner and it was
arranged that i was to have
sex with this child of
unbelievable beauty
but there
was also a large heavy Mexican
woman there, even
uglier than I and I turned to her
and said, "you can leave the
room now."

"I stay," she said. "I make sure
you not hurt her."

Christ, she was ugly.
the cheap flowers on
the wallpaper bloomed and
blossomed at me.
I wanted the obvious to be
obvious.

I looked at the ugly woman.
"I don't want her," I heard myself say,
"I want you."

"huh?"

"I'm going to fuck you!"

i rushed at her,
noticing at the same
time that the beautiful girl on
the bed was not moving, was not interested,
was not saying anything.

the big woman was
stronger than I,
she fought me off,
it was a
battle, I reached for her
breast,
I tried to kiss her
wretched
mouth
but she was full of
refried beans and
good
old-fashioned strength,
we banged against the
dresser,
spun around,
she shoved me away,
I crashed against the wall,
she rushed at me
and swung a heavy arm at
the end of which was attached
a metal claw I
had not noticed,
no hand, just this gleaming,
metallic, dangerous
claw.
I ducked under the claw
and she swung again.
I leaped aside and
ran to the door to find
it shut tight.
I ducked under the swinging
claw once more.
you have no idea how it
glinted, glinted in the
cheap light that
illuminated that heartless
room.
I flung open the door and
ran own the stairway
and she chased me down
and I ran out into the street,
I ran and I ran
and when I looked around
she was gone.
and then luckily for me,
unlike so many other nights,
elsewhere and everywhere,
I remembered
exactly where I had parked
my car.

the albatross is a fake,
the universe is a shoe,
there are no heroes,
there is only a mouse
in the corner
blinking its eyes,
there is only a corner
with a blinking mouse,
two toads embrace
what's left of the sun
as the monkey
manages a tired
smile.








Everyone should have a retirement plan. Here's mine.



if you don't hear from me again

stopped
at the supermarket this morning,
cashed in my jar of pennies -
twenty dollars and ninety one cents,
i spent the ninety one cents
all at one place
and put the twenty dollar bill
in a envelope
that will rest at the bottom
of the penny jar, waiting to be joined
in six months or so
by another twenty dollar bill

dollar a day
they say
a million days - a million dollars

it's what you might call
a long term savings
plan
which i will stick to
unless
i win the lottery

~~~~

checking my email
as i drink my latte at Borders,
i discover
notice that due to my dedicated
and diligence service
as a customer
i am awarded a forty percent
off purchase price of any book
in the store
coupon

since i am on the last fifty
pages
of my current book,
this is a timely return
on investment

deciding
when i turned sixty-five
that i no longer had time
to wait for the paperback
editions
of books i wanted to read,
and reading
as i do
a couple of books a week,
my monthly literary bill
has skyrocketed
leaving me to consider
a forty percent off coupon
a major coup

another sign
that, even though
it's not even noon yet,
my fiscal and monetary condition
is on the rise

~~~~

i bought a lottery scratch-off card
when i sold my pennies

i haven't checked it yet to see
if i'm a winner

i'm putting it off
cause
this could be the one
that puts me over the top
and i don't want to become rich
before i have a chance
to prepare myself
for a life of wealth and leisure

if you don't hear from me again
you should know
it's because i've passed on
to a better
place -
a little villa
on the coast of Spain
perhaps








The next poem is by Mark Doty, from the anthology, A Day for a Lay, a Century of Gay Poetry, published by Barricade Books of New York City in 1999.

Doty was born in 1953 in Tennessee. He is a National Book Award winning poet and memoirist. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, then received his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Goddard College in Vermont. He has written twelve books of poetry and three memoirs.

He lives in New York City, and Fire Island New York. He was the John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the graduate program at The University of Houston Creative Writing Program. He has also participated in The Juniper Summer Writing Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst's MFA Program for Poets & Writers and was on the faculty of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in August 2006. He is the inaugural judge of the White Crane/James White Poetry Prize for Excellence in Gay Men's Poetry.

He now teaches at Rutgers University.



63rd Street Y

All night steam heat pours
from radiators and up the stairwells
to the thirteenth floor,
and I can't sleep because I know
all the windows are thrown wide open,

a voyeur's advent calendar.
If i lean out the screenlesss frame
the building's twin flanks yield
banks of lit rectangles above a black courtyard
where a few papers lie completely still

this warm December. Thirteen dizzying stories
show tonight and any night some blank shades
or black glass, and dozens of interiors -
men all right, mostly not young
or strikingly Christian, though certainly associated.

The nude black man two windows over
is lying in bed, Melchior halfway
through his journey, writing a letter home.
And on the twelfth floor, in my favorite window,
only a little corner holding

a foot of the bed visible,
a pair of strong arms are smoothing
a thin red coverlet so carefully
he must be expecting someone. The scene's
too fragmentary to construct a convincing story,

but he smoothes the cloth until
I imagine there's not a single wrinkle
on the scarlet spread blushing
the lamplight so that his arms glow
with the color of intimacy. Even

after I'm tired of watching
there's something all night to wake me:
a pigeon flapping toward the still
like an awkward annunciation, someone singing
in the alley thirteen floors down

- the Ode to Joy? - curiosity
about the red room a floor below, empty now.
In the park, the lamps' circle shrink
along distant paths beneath intricate trees,
Fifth Avenue luminous in its roman,

floodlit splendor, and there the hulk
of the Metropolitan, where the Neapolitan angels
must be suspended in darkness now,
their glazed silks dim,
through their tempera skin's so polished

even an exit sign would set them blazing.
I'm sleeping a little then thinking
of the single male angel, lithe and radiant,
wrapped only a a Baroque scrap
sculpted by impossible wind. Because

he's slightly built - real, somehow -
there's something shocking
in his nakedness, the svelte hips
barely brushed by drapery;
he's no sexless bearer of God's thoughts.

Divinity includes desire
- why else create a world
like this one, dawn fogging
the park in gold, the Moorish arches
of the Y one grand Italian Bethlehem

in which the minor figures wake
in anticipation of some unforeseen beginning.
Even the pigeons seem glazed
and expectant, fired to iridescence.
And on the twelfth floor

just the perfect feet and ankles
of the boy in the red-flushed room
are visible. I think he must be disappointed,
stirring a little, alone, and then
two other legs enter the rectangle of view,

moving toward his and twining with them,
one instep bending to stroke
the other's calf. They make me happy,
these four limbs in effortless conversation
on the snowy ground, the sheet

curling into the billows sculptors used once
to make the suspension of gravity
visible. It doesn't matter
that it isn't silk. I haven't much evidence
to construct what binds them,

but the narrative windows
will offer all morning the glad tidings
of union, comfort and joy,
though I will not stay to watch them.








It's a strange world we live in - at least the part where I am.



crackpots of the world unite

it so happens
that i live in a section
of these great Discombobulated
States of America
where
common sense
is seen as a disturbing
sign
of rampant
left-wingism
and the principle
Republican
recruiting slogan
appears to be
"Crackpots of the World Unite"

some of these attitudes
may be the result of pride
in our frontier
heritage
though most of the
yahoos
so afflicted
are prosperous,
but mortgaged to their eyeballs
by the 21st century,
suburbanites
who wouldn't know a frontier
if it bit them on the ankle

some of it comes
from religious fundamentalists
who confuse speaking in tongues
with thinking in circles,
god-folk
principled concerned with enumerating
the sins of everyone who doesn't
believe
exactly as they do,
confident, as they make their lists,
that these people
are really gonna be fucked
when Jesus
finds out what they've been thinking

but mostly i think
it's the weather, the heat
and lack of rain, little jumping
neurons
frying like an automobile
engine running without oil

if it'd just rain around here,
and maybe cool off a bit, i think
most of these people
would come to their
senses








Here are two short poems by our friend Joanna Weston.

Joanna has been publishing poetry, reviews, and short stories in anthologies and journals for twenty years. She has two middle-readers, The Willow Tree Girl and Those Blue Shoes, as well as a book of poetry, A Summer Father, available through her publisher Frontenac House of Calgary.



The Leap

did any     down
this steep of rock
fast and flying
arms out-flung
cry echo dying?

did any leap
their scream back-held
by moss and stone?

did a stag pause
to glimpse
the fleeting
over-tumbling

and recognize
a death in flight?


In Tuscany

The hills lean back to blue on blue,
smell of horses and of leather
rolling on the windless weather,
the near sound of a pigeon's coo,
Siena central to the view.

And in my study here today
I can recall each dappled spray
of spring-held buds on oak and beech,
the scents and sights beyond my reach,
and wish I were on holiday.








It's respect for the little differences that make long-term relationships work.



dimensional strife

her first instinct
is to go
small

mine
is to go large

our fridge
is full of styrofoam
take-home containers,
overfilled tiny ones
from her
and large ones
with a tiny lump of leftovers
from me

32 years
of dimensional strife
has not resolve the
difference

two people
who live together for many years
frequently develop
these kinds of issues,
but
they never get out of hand
with us

because her heart
is much larger
than mine

while my willingness
to put our relationship
at risk is
tiny








From the anthology, Unaccustomed Mercy - Soldier-Poets of the Vietnam War, published in 1989 by Texas Tech University Press, I have this poem by Walter McDonald.

McDonald was born in 1934 in Lubbock, Texas. A pilot in the United States Air Force, 1957 -1971, he served briefly in a ground assignment in Vietnam, 1969-1970. He holds a BA and an MA from Texas Tech College and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Juniper Prize, the George Ellison Poetry Prize, and three Poetry Prizes from the Texas Institute of Letters. When this book was published in 1989, he was Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Texas Tech.

McDonald has published 13 books, including 11 volumes of poetry.



Faraway Places

This daughter watching ducks knows
nothing of Vietnam,
this pond her only Pacific, separation to her
only the gulf between herself
and ducks that others feed.
"They will come," he calms her, "soon,"
and touches her. Her hair blows
golden in the wind. Strange prospect
to leave such gold, he thinks.

There is no gold for him
in Asia.

The ducks parade unsatisfied,
now gliding to her hand, her bead,
her tenderness. Possession
turns on him like swimming ducks,
forcing his touch again.

She does not feel his claim
upon her gold
that swirls upon her face but cannot blink
her eyes
so full of ducks








Next, I have two really interesting pieces by our friend Kevin McCann.

Kevin has been a full-time writer for 16 years. He's published six limited edition pamphlets in England. He also writes for children.




The Medicine Man explains...

                   How many are there ?
                   More than the stars
                   But most only take.

                   How do they live ?
                   Like netted eels.

                   What do they kill ?
                   Anything they can,
                   Even each other.

                   How do they eat ?
                   Some : Too much, quickly.
                   Others : Too little slowly.
                   So they all die.

                   How are they happy ?
                   They're not.
                   They're civilized.


The Firekeeper's Tale

                   They got every tribe there is,
                   Skulls mainly,
                   Stacked floor to ceiling
                   And all neatly labeled,
                   That's what those scientists
                   Are measuring.

                   Want to prove
                   That smarter than dogs,
                   But dumber than them,
                   Is what we'll always be.

                   So for every head,
                   Man, woman, child,
                   Even baby

                   They'll pay handsomely.







And sometimes the envelope is just pushed to far.



apathy

cartoon
in the paper today -
guy at a bar, talking
to the bartender, i used
to get really upset with the news,
he's saying,
until i discovered the wonders of apathy

so i'm looking
to sip, myself, at the chalice
of apathy's wonders - too much
of my brain has been cornered by two
subjects - unmitigated heat
and the politics of gullibility

i'd write a poem about it,
but i just don't give a shit
anymore








Well, it's been a long day and the crew at NCIS is waiting for me.

Until next week, remember all of the material in this blog remains the property of its creators. I produced the blog and any part of it that is entirely my creation is available to whoever wants it. If you use any of my work, credit me for it or I'll haunt you in your dreams. That's me...allen itz.

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