Totems   Friday, August 07, 2009


I had to transcribe several very long poems for this week's post. That, and the passage of the 31 days of July of which only 9 had temperatures of less than three digits and only one of those nine with temperatures of less than 98 degrees, just plain wore me out and made me lazy.

Summer has be beat and i'm ready to give up the fight.

So I'm taking the easy way out this week of not using any of our friends' poems. Instead, what I have this week are just the library poems I have already transcribed and my own stuff, which require only that I cut and paste.

As we struggle against the hellish heat of August (actually, for the first couple of days, anyway, less hellish than the hellish heat of May, June, and July), here's what we have.

Jose Angel Valente

Antonio Machado
And He Was the Evil Spirit of My Dreams

Claudio Rodriguez
Petty Time

at day's end

Bill Shields
Son of a Bitch

soup of the day

from Song of Songs
The Shulamite

the way it was before it was the way it was

Robert Bly
Uneasiness in Fall
Solitude Late at Night in the Woods

learning to be straight

Richard Howard
My Last Hustler

a good reason for summer

Demetria Martinez
Discovering America

losing all the good stories

I start this week with poets from the anthology Roots & Wings, Poetry From Spain 1900-1975. Originally published in 1976 by Harper & Row, my edition was published in 2005 by White Pines Press of Buffalo, New York.

It is a bilingual book, original Spanish and English translation on facing pages.

The first poem from the book is by Jose Angel Valente who was born in 1929 and died in 2000. Much of his work attacks the dishonesty, hypocrisy, and indifference of his country's government after the Spanish Civil War. He studied at Santiago de Compostela in his native Galicia and graduated from Madrid university. He taught at Oxford from 1955 to 1958.

The poem was translated by Hardie St. Martin.


For Jose Augustine Goytisolo

Naked morning, the day's transparent
          Better shake off sleep.

Caravans of merchants,
fish sliding back into the sea.
I watch the poor in spirit
going past
in such long carts, covered with desires,
the poor in bread,
the poor in words
the poor in formalities.

But the morning is blue, the mountains
soak up its clean light.

Who is calling me, who
in the cradle's wail of hunger - the sun is riding high -
has dared to cry?
Goodbyes and homecomings
with the same handkerchiefs, the taste of salt
bitter like love.
People shouldn't cry.

Naked morning: trees, birds far overhead,
winter, fall...Peace.
Peasants bite into the seed
that will have to multiply.
They pull their homes tight
around the terror they share.

Oh, no one, no one
should cry.

The tall, open light takes in everything that breathes.

And out of the past
its loveliness,
farther of, what's there?

I give my children names,
I build friendship.
But my house is made of time.
                    Everything is so clear this morning.

The next poem from the anthology was written by Antonio Machado who was born in Seville in 1875 and died in 1939 one month after crossing the French border with thousands of other refugees from the Spanish Civil War. During the course of many travels he was a translator, actor, poet, high school French teacher.

This poem was translated by Robert Bly.

And He Was the Evil Spirit of My Dreams

And he was the evil spirit of my dreams, the most handsome
of all angels. His victorious eyes
shot fire like pieces of steel,
and the flames that fell
from his touch like blood
lit up the deep dungeon of the soul.

"Would you like to come with me?" "No, never! Tombs
and dead bodies frighten me."
But his iron hand
gripped my right hand.

"You will come with me...." And in my dream I walked
blinded by his red torch.
And in the dungeon I heard the sound of chains
and of beasts stirring in their cages.

My last poem this week from the Spanish anthology is by Claudio Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was born in 1934 and died in 1999. His poetry was less centered around the poet themes common than much of Spanish poetry during and after the civil war. He was a lecturer in Spanish at Nottingham University from 1958 to 1969 and at Cambridge from 1960 to 1964.

The poem was translated by Robert Mezey

Petty Time

Today with the north wind
that story came back to me.
Things went badly for me in those days
and my mouth worse,
in that city with its
thinning herd, its poverty
and its good name.
What with the old traditions
of fawning and stealing you blind,
the bored interview
and the cheap rummage sale, my youth
went on one leg. And for what?

I am ashamed of my mouth
not for its words
but for the mouth that
it kissed. How long ago
was that? And who blames me?
All I have left is a taste
of bitter almond, a taste of gall,
of treachery, the body
sold out, the spoiled caress.

I wish to God that time
were merely what we love. We hate
and that's time too. And poems.
I hated you then and today I have to
remember you, I have to have you
in front of me, with no one to help us out,
and love you once more and hate you
once more. I kiss you now
and I betray you now, on top of
your body. Everyone does business
as best he can with the little he has.
If yesterday was selling, today is buying;
tomorrow, repentance.
Dawn isn't the only time of day.

Sometimes it is so damn easy; and sometimes it isn't. This poem, from a day it wasn't.

at day's end

i was going to do
a stream of conscious
but discovered my conscious
has no stream
just a little puddle
in a shadow,
reflecting only the
of my mind

I am no shirker

in my life
because i was willing
to work harder
and longer
than anyone else,
willing to face the hardest tasks
head on,
those hard, uncomfortable
things many others
sought to avoid

bad none of that counts for much
in the poetic realms

what counts
is inspiration and that particular
seems bare today

i can think
of no time in my life
when i've felt
like writing a poem
than right this
in this place

it is crowded,
and it's noisy,
and it's hot,
and i look at all
the faces and see
not one
with the power
to make me forget
that it's crowded and noisy
and hot

i found
a cool spot yesterday,
my recliner
under a ceiling fan
with the air conditioner
turned down to 65 -
i slept
for 16 hours
and am greatly
to do it again today
and am looking very hard,
even now,
for some reason
not to do
just that

but i'm not the type
to give in to the same

so it could be
this poem
will be a day-
long project,
into something worthwhile
as the day

that which has been lost
will be found
before the day's

i will see you then


and then,
as is so often the case,
is now

an enchilada dinner
for fifteen
to mark my brother-in-law's
twenty-ninth birthday is

are put up,
the tablecloth
and dishes are in their respective
the kitchen floor
is swept and mopped,
the garbage bags are in
the dumpsters
ready for pickup tomorrow,
the blue one
for recycling and the gray one
for regular trash

and the end of the day
upon which time
i pledged to have
my daily poem is near
upon us

is this a poem
i see before me, no,
not even close,
an epic of procrastination

it is the way of life,
encompassed in this not-a-poem,
the great and wonderful things
that lie within all of us,
to the inertia of a
lazy, uninspired nature

all could be
so much better, so much
than we are,
except for the lucky few among us
on a day or two in their lives, maybe
just a moment or two in their lives,
are the exceptional creature
we all
have the capacity to be

the rest of us settle
for a few highs,
high relative mostly to
our more frequent lows

will not be marked
as one of my highs, but, neither
was it a particular low -
is more like it,
another muddled day
in a usually muddled life

and this collection of words
and phrases, muddled
like my day, but not
as bad as it could have been
had it not been done
at all

day's end
wraps it all in a cloak
of dark
and dreams

The next poem is by Bill Shields from his book Lifetaker, the third book in a trilogy including Human Shrapnel and The Southeast Asian Book of the Dead. I couldn't find any kind of comprehensive bio on him, beyond a brief note on the back cover of the book which says that he was a Navy Seal for three years during the Vietnam War and currently lives in Pennsylvania. I was hoping to discover if these very, very tough poems were based on his experiences or were his experiences.

Either way, this poem will shake you. I am uncertain how to post this book, which is a kind of narrative of years past the events of his life in Vietnam. The last section of the is a long poem which sets up the rest of the book. I've decided to use this concluding section because, even though it is at the end of the book, it is the beginning of the story.

This is longer than what I normally do here, but if you can stop before you're finished you're better than me.

Son of a Bitch

I only hit my mother in the face once; it was a beginning.
My right hand dripped the blood from her nose. She just
stood there, eyes too stunned to blink, then the tears and
wails began.

My father ran down the steps and I caught his ear with
my left hand. He took his mind off my mother's pain.

The family's dog barked.

It was the day after my high school graduation.

I started living in my car, a Plymouth Valiant with a slant
six motor and torn upholstery that you could've found
parked two doors down the street from my parents.

No girlfriend - I was an ugly bastard, but there were
groceries in the front seat, garbage thrown in the back. I
spent the days looking for a job, any job, and there
weren't any - or they weren't having me.

I walked into the recruiter's office and signed the papers
in fifteen minutes. He took four years of my life; I took


Almost 19 years old and wrapped into a VA hospital bed,
shitting blood & worms. My face was wrapped in a
hospital towel - part of a cheekbone still oozed pus & rice
paddy slime.

An old alcoholic thrashed in the bed next to me.

The night nurse caught him drinking piss out of a
handheld urinal.

My mother visited; the old man sent a card.

I plopped a joint into the trach hole and hit on it hard -
nobody shared it. The badly crippled men, quads and
paras, had their own ward...and bygod they knew how to
suicide like champions; I was with the run-of-the-mill
gimps - burns, dead eyes, cancer and all those guys with
the wicked shakes and stares.

Turn the channel.
Flick an ash.
Time got time.

My mother was visiting when the nurse soaked my
bandages off for the first time. She puked; I was fascinated
with my grotesqueness. The other guys in the ward
barely noticed.

- there were uglier things.

Shots came and shots came. Young recent graduates of
medical schools learned paychecks on our bodies. I itched
and a shot came; I touched the hole that had been my
mouth and cried. A shot slid under my skin.

I loved those shots.

The alcoholic died.

I saw them wrap him up tight in plastic and move him off
the ward. A young orderly, no more than a kid, wiped
down the bed in disinfectant and put his personal stuff in
another bag for the relatives.

Hell, there were no relatives.

I woke up with a bag of Seconal tied around my eyes.

The nurses and orderlies fed me a bag of food through a
tube stuck through my hole, then washed it down with
milk and Maalox. Breakfast, lunch and dinner - a bag of

My beard had began to stick through the bandages and
curled around them like crabgrass cracking concrete.

I couldn't feel my ears. They weren't attached anymore.

Red Cross ladies came to the floor Thursdays with a
cookie and juice cart; they were more pathetic than us,
trying desperately to come to grips with their frail hu-
manity and failing.

A young one offered me juice but not her eyes.
It took her a full ten seconds to realize I couldn't drink it.
She never came back.

I smelled the pus running down the side of my face...I
was in my grave, hating every ripped inch of my body as
skin fell like the very snow on my bed.

If they hadn't restrained my hands, I would've dug them
straight through my face and pulled out what was left.


After two months in a hospital bed...

I wanted to masturbate. Badly. What was beneath the
gauze of my face wasn't going to be changed in a lifetime
but a full prostate gland and swollen balls could be
drained in a matter of eye blinks. No privacy, too much

Turn the tv back on.

Forget the nuts.

Mother visited me again, sick, paler than most of the patients.
She brought a year's worth of Reader's Digests and
flannel slippers.

I walked her off the ward

her hands and upper arms shaking badly.

As patients, we were strangers to each other - maybe
Vietnam did that, maybe our beaten bodies did it - it
didn't matter; we slept within and arm's reach of another
man's sickness.

Men died in their beds quietly after a long sigh or a
scream, then nothing...shaming us to let ourselves live.

Surgery. 49 more facial scars.

Maybe a mouth.

Days passed without much pain, or thought. Chow and
doctors arrived on time; a nurse turned the lights off at 10
p.m. A window with metal grating to stare out of when
the tv ran dry.

The VA was paying me a 100% disability check each
month for a holiday in the sun. My old man was cashing
the checks and drank them down. A car was involved.

An old cretin with warts for hands did the final surgery on
my face. I looked about human, with a grin that tilted
towards my right shoulder.

The left ear prosthetic was attached; the right was rebuilt
with skin from my ass.

I took me a few weeks to learn how to eat, the muscles
gone in my lower jaw - food spilled like an open sack
from my mouth. The trach was closed; I remembered
how to talk

and hate my stupid voice.

Three months later, I moved back into the family's home,
right down into the basement. My bed was right next to
the gas dryer. Clothes still in cardboard boxes.

I only went out at night, when the scars became shadows.

And I masturbated every day


I paid for my first woman - a young brunette blonde in
bright white boots and a yellow raincoat. I came once on
her belly, once in her twat.

She reached into my pants that were laying on the floor
and dug out my wallet.

I dug out her teeth.

Back home, the old man left me alone and the old lady
drank; it felt like the VA except the family dog stayed in
the basement with me.

Victims of the vampire.

I met her through my brother (she was his dealer). She
lived in a trailer parked behind her family's house; just her
and her half-black baby, alone in the worst sense. She had
great pot.

We didn't talk much, just a little tv and maybe some
cards. Got high. I always left before sunrise.

She killed herself before that baby's first birthday.

A nasty habit, this carving small pieces of skin off my
body and licking the wound with my tongue. This is
fucking sick, I would say to myself as I pulled the blade
out from under the bed.

Maybe I couldn't believe I was human.

Maybe I liked it.

Just touch them, put your finger on their back, leg, or
face, anywhere on their body but never let them feel it. I
did it to hundreds of people, strangers and friends alike,
and whispered to each and every one of them: doom on

One night I touched the clerk at the convenience store
three times right on his face and neck; he looked so hard
at my scars he never saw the finger.

My dying grandfather never felt my index finger on his
arm nor did he hear my words

I'm doomed too.

I worked on my voice. I worked on my car. But mainly, I
did nothing. Passed time in the basement. there were no
expectations, or much thought about the future; I waited.
People and situations would show up and stand in front of
my body.

I waited.

I carved a little more.

Uh-oh, a statement of philosophy approaching. Duck and cover.

soup of the day

i believe
people believe
what is convenient
to believe,
fungible things
easily replaceable
with other facts when
needed, truth
a river that
from port to port,
as it makes its way
out to sea
by the pull of tides
and current
along the way

we are each
an illusion,
a spinning eddy
of minute forces
to small to see
except as we
agree to describe
them, a common
myth of being
that substitutes
for reality

how could
be otherwise

The next poem is from the anthology The Defiant Muse - Hebrew Feminist Poems from Antiquity to the Present, published by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York in 1999.

When I've taken from this book before, I used more modern poets. This week I'm going back to the beginning, ancient Israel.

The poem is The Shulamite. I spent a considerable time trying to find out who or what a Shulamite was. It was unexpectedly hard to find the answer. The best I could do is that the word means "princess" with a hint that the sense of the usage is that it's not necessarily complimentary. The word that comes to mind, reading between the lines is "diva."

What I really found interesting on this is that I could find no Wikipedia entry on the word.

Here's the poem, taken from sections of Song of Songs. This is a bilingual book, Hebrew and translation to English on facing pages. These verses were translated by Ariel Bloch and Chana Bloch.

The Shulamite

Song of Songs


Kiss me, make my drunk with your kisses!
You sweet loving
is better than wine

You are fragrant,
you are myrrh and aloes.
All the young women want you.

Take my by the hand, let us run together!

My lover, my king, has brought me into his chambers.
We will laugh, you and I, and count
each kiss
better than wine.

Every one of them wants you.

I am dark, daughters of Jerusalem,
and I am beautiful!
Dark as the tents of Kedar, lavish
as Solomon's tapestries.

Do not see me only as dark;
the sun has stared at me.

My brothers were angry with me,
they made me guard the vineyards.
I have not guarded my own.


I am the rose of Sharon,
the wild lily of the valleys.
Like a lily in a field
of thistles,
such is my love
among the young women.

And my beloved among the young men
is a branching apricot tree in the wood.
In that shade I have often lingered,
tasting the fruit.

Now he has brought me to the house of wine
and his flag over me is love.

Let me lie among vine blossoms,
in a bed of apricot!
I am in the fever of love.

His left hand beneath my head,
his right arm
holding me close.

Daughters of Jerusalem, swear to me
by the gazelles, by the deer in the field,
that you will never awaken love
until it is ripe.


At night in my bed I longed
for my only love.
I sought him, but did find him.

I must rise and go about the city,
the narrow streets and squares, till I find
my only love.
I sought him everywhere
but I could not find him.

Then the watchmen found me
as the went about the city.
"Have you seen him? Have you seen
the one I love"

I had just passed them when I found
my only love.
I held him. I would not let him go
until I brought him to my mother's house,
into my mother's room.

Daughters of Jerusalem, swear to me
by the gazelles, by the deer in the field,
that you will never awaken love
until it is ripe.


I was asleep but my heart stayed awake.
my lover knocking:

"Open, my sister, my friend,
my dove, my perfect one!
My hair is wet, drenched
with the dew of night.”

"But I have taken off my clothes,
how can I dress again?
I have bathed my feet,
must I dirty them?"

My love reached in for the latch
and my heart
went wild.

I rose to open to my love,
my fingers wet with myrrh,
sweet flowing myrrh
on the doorbolt.

I opened to my love
but he had slipped away.
How I wanted him when he spoke!

I sought him everywhere
but could not find him.
I called his name
but he did not answer.

Then the watchmen found me
as they went about the city.
They beat me, they bruised me,
they tore the shawl from my shoulders,
those watchmen of the walls.

Swear to me, daughters of Jerusalem!
If you find him now
you must tell him
I am in a fever of love.

How is your lover different
from any other, O beautiful woman?
Who is your lover
that we must swear to you?

My beloved is milk and wine,
he towers
above ten thousand.

His head is burnished gold,
the mane of his hair
black as the raven.

His eyes like doves
by the rivers
of milk and plenty.

His cheeks a bed of spices,
a treasure
of precious scents, his lips
red lilies wet with myrrh

His arm a golden scepter with gems of topaz,
his loins the ivory of thrones
inlaid with sapphire,
his thighs like marble pillars
on pedestals of gold.

Tall as Mount Lebanon,
a man like a cedar!

His mouth is sweet wine, he is all delight.

This is my beloved
and this is my friend
O daughters of Jerusalem.


If only you were a brother
who nursed at my mother's beast!
I would kiss you in the streets
and no one would scorn me.

I would bring you to the house of my mother
and she would teach me.
I would give you spice wine to drink,
my pomegranate wine.

His left hand beneath my head,
his right arm
holding me close.

Daughters of Jerusalem, swear to me
that you will never awaken love
until it is ripe.

Who is that
rising from the desert,
her head on her lover's shoulder!

There, beneath the apricot tree,
you mother conceived you,
there you were born.
In that very place I awakened you.

Bind me as a seal upon your heart,
a sign upon your arm

for love is as fierce as death,
its jealousy bitter as the grave.
Even its sparks are a raging fire,
a devouring flame.

Great seas cannot extinguish love,
no river can sweep it away.

If a man tried to buy love
with all the wealth of his house,
he would be despised...


Hurry, my love! Run away,
my gazelle, my wild stag
on the hills of cinnamon.

As everyone knows, even though half those who know don't know who he was, Walter Cronkite died a couple of weeks ago. This led me to thinking, not just about him, but the other players as well, arriving at this.

the way it was before it was the way it was

i ran into
Chet Huntley
in the library at
Indiana University
in 1966 - 20 years later
i met David Brinkley at a
chamber of commerce dinner
in Corpus Christi, Texas

i had been trying to write
a short story
that kept getting longer
and longer and was walking
in a fog of too few ideas
and too many words
when i bumped right into
the man, fresh from his ranch
in Big Sky Country, retired from
the news business, making a little
extra money on the i used-to-be-famous
college speech circuit

just as tall and twice as craggy-looking
as on TV, said pardon me
and i said whoops, the difference being
his voice saying pardon me
was the same voice i had heard for years
reporting all the crucial news
of the 1950s while my voice was more of a
squeak of surprise - that's why, i suppose,
he got to report all the crucial events of the
1950s while i was left studying Russian
for the United States Air Force, writing
a never-ending short story
on the side

the short story
is in my closet somewhere, forty pages
with purpose, not to mention
denouement, not yet in sight

Brinkley, on or about 1985, was also
out on the speech circuit, making as much money
for 15 minutes of humorous recollections as
Huntley made the last year he reported all the
crucial news of the 1950s - Brinkley looked good
and, from what i could hear from the back
of the room, was his same old sardonic self
as he had been when he and Chet
had been reporting on all the crucial news
of the 1950s, the main difference being
when Chet warned that the world was ending
on Thursday, David was telling you, well,
it's about time and here are five places where
you can get a good martini before then

they were a good team
until Chet couldn't take the city life
and left to punch cows and whatever else
he did on his ranch in Big Sky Country while
Brinkley tried to make it on his own
but the world wasn't ready yet for Jon Stewart,
a belief in intelligent, meaningful politics
and other fantasies still holding some sway
at middle-american dinner tables in middle-
american suburbs across the only recently
50 middle-american states from sea to shining
sea etc.

many of us switched to Uncle Walter then, inviting
him to join us at the dinner table while we
ate our chicken a la king casserole and luxuriated
in the certitude that, the news, by god, just wasn't
meant to be

i can tell you this...

Chet smelled like fine saddle leather
and David laughed
all the way
to the

Here are two poems by Robert Bly from the book Selected Poems, published by HarperCollins in 1986. The poems in the book were selected from a number of Bly's previously published books, to many to list here. The two poems used are in Section 3 of the book which includes poems from Silence in the Snowy Fields and This Tree Well Be Here for a Thousand Years.

Uneasiness In Fall

The fall has come, clear as the eyes of chickens.
Awkward sounds come from the sea,
Sounds of muffled oarlocks
And swampings in lonely bays,
Surf crashing on unchristened shores,
And the wash of tiny snail shells in the wandering gravel.

My body also is lost or wandering: I know it,
As I cradle a pen, or walk down a stair
Holding a cup in my hand,
Not breaking into the pastures that lie in the sunlight.
This sloth is far inside the body,
The sloth of the body lost among the wandering stones of

Something homeless is looking on the long roads,
A dog lost since midnight, a box-elder
Bug who doesn't know
Its walls are gone, its house
Burnt. Even the young sun is lost,
Wandering over earth as the October night comes down.

Solitude Late at Night in the Woods

The body like a November birch facing the full moon
And reaching into the cold heavens.
In these trees there is no ambition, no sodden body, no
Nothing but bare trunks climbing like cold fire!

My last walk in the trees has come. At dawn
I must return to the trapped field,
to the obedient earth.
The trees shall be reaching all winter.

It is joy to walk in the bare woods.
The moonlight is not broken by the heavy leaves.
The leaves are down, and toughing the soaked earth,
Giving off the odor that partridges love.

I've learned you should be careful when eavesdropping. You may hear things that take you where you might rather not go.

learning to be straight

the poet
taking the form
of a bump on a log
& sits some more
finally listening in on
the conversation
of the two women
at the next table

about men
and the foolish women
who let men
run their lives
needy women
who allow their life
to drain away
waiting for men
to say the "l" word

and yesterday
same bump another log
sitting next to several men
talking about women
and the games you had to play
just for a quick feel and a blow job -
needy women
sucking the manly right out
of their men

listening to the two sexes
talk among themselves
about the other,
how the heck overpopulation
ever became a problem,
thinking about how
seven and eight year old
girls are both sure
the other kind
has cooties and how
hard biology must work
to get us past that point
or at least teach most us
how to at least appear to
have grown past that point

how hard biology must
have to work to keep us

Richard Howard was born in 1929 in Cleveland and studied at Columbia and the Sorbonne. After working for several years as lexicographer, he became a translator from French and has published over 150 translations. In 1983 he received the American Book Award for his translation of Baudelaire's Fleurs du mal. In 1970 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his third book of poems, Untitled Subjects, and later received the Academy of Arts and Letters Literary Award for his several books of poems.

My Last Hustler

   ...all smiles stopped

When "Brad" is lying naked, or rather naked is lying
in wait for whatever those he refers to as clients require
by way of what they refer to as satisfaction, denying
himself the distraction of alcohol or amyl, there appears
in his eyes no flicker of shame, no flare of shameless desire,
and what tribute he is paid finds him neither tender nor fierce.

On a bed above suspicion, creases in obviously fresh
linen still mapping a surface only a little creamier than
the creaseless hills and hollows of his compliant flesh,
Brad will extend himself (as the graphic saying goes)
and the upper hand - always his - will push into places the man
who happens to be there
till happening comes to blows

(another saying you now more full grasp): full-blown,
Brad will prepare himself , though not precipitately,
for the grateful-kisses stage; he offers cheek and chin
but objects to undergoing your accolade on his mouth:
he has endured such homage to early,too often, too lately,
and for all his boyish ways, Brad is not wholly a youth.

Routines on some arduous rigging, however, can restore
him to himself in mirrors, every which way surrounded
by no more than what he seems and mercifully by no more.
Booked by a merciless Service for a thousand afternoons,
Brad will become the needs of his "regulars" confounded
by his indifferent regard, by his regardless expense...

Take him - young faithful! - there and then. Marvel! praise!
Fond though your touch may be and truly feeling your tact,
yet a mocking echo returns - remote, vague, blase -
of Every Future Caress, so very like your own!
However entranced the scene you make (the two you act
as one to all appearance, but one is always alone),

derision will come to mind, or to matter over mind:
the folly, in carnal collusion, of mere presented skill.
Undone, played out, discharged, one insight you will have gained
which cannot for all these ardent lapses be gainsaid
- even his murmured subsidence an exercise of will -
is the sudden absolute knowledge Brad would rather be dead.

Not a fan of summer, actually I hate summer and wonder at the mental competence of those who don't. There is, even so, one thing I do like about the season.

a good reason for summer

some i know
are offended by
young women in in
low cut summer blouses
and tight short shorts
that flex in passing

churchly folks
of the tight-assed
followers of
St. Paul
who preached
against any
suggestion that
sex was
anything but
a base animal function,
necessary, though it was
to propagate
the brotherhood of
Christ the Holy
certainly never to be
and feminists
of the more flaming-
eyed variety
sharing more with
Paul than they usually
care to admit
and those who,
because of the squirming
of their souls,
all beauty, like
the Taliban who
the statues of the

but not

i like it -
searching every year
for a purpose to summer,
the pleasure of such
around me
at the supermarket
is the best reason
i've come up
for the season

In 1994, Demetria Martinez won a Western States Book Award with her first novel, Mother Tongue. With this collection Breathing Between the Lines, published by the University of Arizona Press in 1997, she returned to her first love, poetry.

I have two poems from the book.


The questions catch us off guard,
a dust storm we drive through

Although headlights are powerless
against beating grit

You wonder if you want
me in the passenger seat

If the fights about stopping
and asking directions

Say something larger,
meaner about our journey.

a fog of newspapers between us,
horizons of headlines

Not even the obligatory remarks
about Rwanda, the weather

One day, who knows when,
our star died

Is the dark light now visible
to our disbelieving eyes?

I offered you rosary beads
for the rearview mirror,
tear gas on a key ring

She would give you
an aerial view of your life,
a hammock of stars

Can love be reset
like a bone?

Is the will a strong
enough splint?

Can we put in
another well?

When water tables
drop, is it forever?

Do we have the courage
to let the questions hang
on a wire like carbe seca

until the sun speaks
to us in the savory dryness?
Do we have the courage

to raise questions like children,
let them grow into
their own answers?

Lightning breaks
the locks on our hearts

Thunder breaks into
the safe of night

Seed spills from bruised fruit,
as we wait for the sun

to reweave itself
across the loom of sky

Discovering America

      for P., 1992

Santo Nino on a
bedroom desk,
holy water in a
mouthwash bottle
Grandma had the
priest bless,
this house,
a medieval city
you visited,
what you sought
was not here.

Not in wrists
oiled with sage,
chimayo earth
sprinkled on sheets,
nor San Felipe bells
that pecked away
the dark,
cordova blanket
we hatched
awake in.

To prove love
I shed still
more centuries
rung by rung
into a pueblo
kiva where
you touched
the sipapu,
canal the universe
emerged from
brown baby glazed
in birth muds.

You thought
was on a map,
couldn't see it
in a woman,
olive skin,
silver loops
in lobes,
one for each
endured on this
husk of red earth,
this nuevo mejico.

Last night
I dreamed
a map of the
the train
that took you
from me whipped
across tracks
like a needle
on a seam
near Canada.

It took me
four years
to heal.
Have you?
Have you
or at least
a woman grew
maiz here
long before
you named it

I decided I'd end this week with a little history lesson.

losing all the good stories

San Antonio,
one of the oldest cities
in the United States,
was, for the greater part
of its existence, capital of, first
the Spanish and later the Mexican,
province of Tejas, encompassing most
of what is now known as the
American Southwest

it is now county seat
of Bexar County, Texas

that's pronounced "bear,"
as in the grizzly animal who
does a thing in the woods that
need not be discussed here, though
it is true, the bear does do it in the woods
just as it is true that the Pope is Catholic
and the earth is not flat like a pancake but
round like a tennis ball, though less fuzzy

for most of my life
i was taught and believed
the county was named after
a hero of the Texas revolution
by the name of Bear who could not write
and signed his name with a "X" so that when
he was designated the namesake of the
county the name was written with an "x" in the middle
so as to be true to him and to eliminate
any suggestion the county was named after
any other Bear but him

that's the story
and it was only recently i learned
it is not true

in fact,
the county was named after
the presidio (fort) established
in the early Spanish settlement
by the Spanish Governor Martin de Alacorn,
and named San Antonio de Bejar
in honor of the Duke of Bejar,
the viceroy's brother,
who died a hero's death defending Budapest
from the Ottoman Empire in 1686

one hero
is as good as another, i guess,
but i really liked the story of the "X"
and am sorry to lose it

it is but one of the consequences
of growing old -
all the best stories turn out to be

i just have to learn to find some
shared sense of identity with
the guy who saved Budapest
in 1686

That's all for this week. May cool winds soothe us before we return next week. Until then, it is still true that all material presented on this blog remains the property of its creators. The blog itself was produced by and is the property (unless someone else wants it) of me...allen itz.

at 12:48 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. You say it's the property of the creators, but you thumb your nose at them by preempting them from giving you permission to use their work. I'm sure you think you are doing these poets a favor, paying them an homage, but in reality you are showing them great disrespect.

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