In Your Own Back Yard   Friday, September 25, 2009


IV.9.4.




Here we are for another week, this time going right to the point.

The point being these fine poets appearing this week:


Phillippe Jaccottet
1956 - October
1958 - November
1958 - December
1959 - February
1960 - August
1961 - March


Me
the thin thin woman

Bonnie Lyons
Rehab's Scarlet Cord
Walking Out


Alex Stolis
Song #1 Rain Dogs
Song "2 Ninth & Hennepin


Maxine Kumin
Taking the Lambs to Market
The Succession


Me
Study Butte to Candelaria

Rengetsu
Spring Moon
Tender Buds
Change of Garments
Early Summer Breezes
Evening by the Sea
Moonflowers
Autumn Retreat
Living Near the Great Buddah
Seashore Moon
Frost
Cold Rain at the Seashor
Winter Dreams


Jane Roken
Summer Song
Blood (a molar adventure)
Life in the Wilderness


James Welch
There is a Right Way
Toward Dawn
Crystal


Me
"Attack of the 50-Foot Woman"

James Fenton
from Exempla

Charles Levenstein
Walker

Leroy V. Quintana
Poem for Uncle Rudy
Poem for Marilyn Monroe
Poem for Rod Serling


Me
window shopping

Michael Gottlieb
Untroubled by Rest
The Tableland


Kevin McCann
in a stone arena
And don't you know...
They say...


Natasha Trethewey
Graveyard Blues
What the Body Can Say


Me
the girl in the middle

Anonymous poet from Old Babylonia (1500 B.C.)
Prayer to the Gods of the Night

Anonymous Akkadian poet (2000 B.C.)
from The Cycle of Inanna - The Courtship of Inanna and Dumazi

Me
a night at the races









Philippe Jaccottet, poet and translator, was born in 1925. Swiss by birth, Jaccottet lived in Paris for several years, then, in 1953 settled in a French village in the Drome, a region of wooded hills and mountainous prospect from which he derived his poetic inspiration. He is author of numerous books of his own poetry, plus many volumes of translation.

The next poems are from Jaccottet's book, Seedtime, Extracts From the Notebook, 1954-1967, first published in French in 1971. This first English-language edition was published by New Directions in 1977, with poems translated by Michael Hamburger and prose pieces by Andre Lefevere.



1956

October

     The reeds: how their velvety ears burst, allow the slow escape of a stream of seeds, a crop, in the most absolute silence. A woman giving birth: moans of pain, blood. In absolute silence, sweet, irresistibly slow, the plant bursts and scatters itself on the mercy of the wind.


1958

November

Trails of fire in the grass before snow
like the flaring in the western sky before night
the soul's leap to attention before death,
a fighter who dresses up in his wounds

                    *

Above the chasm of that desperate zeal,
those efforts, those smiles, those labors,
the slow raising of monuments, of pavilions
above the chasm those battles, those wounds,
so much effort, violence passion,
those minute calculations, those monstrous army trucks,
those explosions and crumblings
a whirlwind of leaves more or less gilded
above the bottomless depth
and yet...
     of that battle between the chasm and its prey,
however condemned the prey, however triumphant the chasm,
I cannot say yet who will be the winner,
if winner there is, if one can speak of victory,
if that imperious image is not false,
if my glance in picking it up has not already
gone too far, if saying battle I have not
predicted peace, prepared its coming...
O secret of battle, visible in a flight of leaves,
visible in the abyss but never deciphered,
O black I give my fist as a torch,
as a woman's hair and dark falcon in the blackness

                    *

Stars veiled by trees, by mist,
winter's face


December

     Just before eight, when the sky is completely overcast, the world is brown only, a table of earth. a lamp lit in the street
here, yellow like a sun without rays, there a gilded door opens, a shadow looks, long, at the weather that will come to the garden.

               *

     The mobile, translucid constellations of rain on the windows, they are only veils on the march, seen from afar, curtains closing. the panting, irregular wind from the south; the wind from the north mechanical.


1959

February

     Frozen snow in the morning.
     At night, after a day of uninterrupted snow, a landscape white, brown and black, seldom seen here. That weight on the trees, so light as we looked at them through gauze. A joy of childhood over the whole village: old men throw snowballs.


1960

August

Even in the brightest daylight the way averts its face,
So what can frighten it ashamed?

                    *


1961

March

Heart more dark than the violet
(eyes soon closed again by the chasm)
learn to exhale that fragrance
which opens so gentle a way
across the impassable.








I have seen these women, and they frighten me.



the thin thin woman

the thin-thin
woman
passes with
the hungry look
of a wolf on the prowl

the timid animals
of the forest
tremble
at her passage

as do i

for her muscled shoulders
and torso
suggest she could
take
me
if she wanted

and a man
of peace-love-and-gentle-disposition
such as i
is not
one
to take chances
with wolf-looking
women

so pass on
i say
to this fierce-hungry
beauty

may the predator gods
of your forest
bless you in your
hunt








The next two poems are by Bonnie Lyons. They are from the anthology, Risk, Courage, and Women - Contemporary Voices in Prose and Poetry, published by the University of North Texas Press in 2007.

Lyons is a professor of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She received her BA from Nerwcomb College and her MA and PhD from Tulane University. She previously taught at Newcomb College, Boston University, and, as a Fulbright Visiting Professor, at the Institute for American Studies in Rome, the University of Florence, the University of Haifa, the University of Athens, and the University of Tel Aviv.

Both of these poems first appeared in Lyon's book Other Words, published by Pecan Grove Press in 2004.



Rehab's Scarlet Cord

The stench of despair
oozed from the bodies
of every customer.
Everyone in Jericho
- man, woman, and child -
knew that the Israelites' victory was decreed,
that we were doomed.

I recognized those two men
I let stay in my house
were Joshua's spies.
I brought them up on my roof
and hid them with stalks of flax.
When the King's messenger ordered me
to turn them over,
I told him the spies had slipped out
and urged him to pursue our enemies.

After the spies promised
to repay kindness with kindness,
to spare me, my father, mother,
brothers, and sisters,
I let them lower themselves
with a scarlet cord
through my window
on to the town wall.
The same scarlet cord
was the sign which protected my house
during he annihilation.

I could not have saved the kingdom;
it was already doomed.
I saved what I could.
The same logic that allowed me
to survive as a harlot.

Was this betrayal?
Was that dishonor?
You tell me:
is something
always better than nothing?

In Josh. 2 and Josh. 6, following the death of Moses, God instructed Joshua to claim the land of Israel for the children of Israel. Joshua sent two spies into Jericho, who lodged at the house of Rahab, a harlot. Rahab had to decide how to respond.


Walking Out

I know what you think:
weak and disobedient
vulnerable - duped
by the wily serpent.
Think again.

Our life in Eden was an idyl -
no work, no struggle,
and unbroken expanse
of pleasure,
a garden
of perpetual plenty.
We were protected children,
and I was bored.

When the serpent told me
eating the fruit of the tree
would make me wise
I hesitated
like any child
about to walk out
of her parent's domain.

Had I foreseen
that my first son
would kill his brother -
but who knows the future?

Biting into the sweet fruit
meant entering he world
of time and death
adventure, change, possibility
including the possibility
of murder.

I chose life.
I would again. Do you wish
you were never born?
Do you wish to be
a child forever?

Then celebrate my wisdom.








Here are two poems by our friend Alex Stolis. These poems are a preview of his new chapbook, Fourteen songs of despair & an unwritten love poem, scheduled for release in October.

I really like the grit of Alex's work. I've closed a lot of bars before (long ago) and remember the sense of emptiness and desperation that comes at 2 a.m. when you've got no place else to go. To me, his poems reflect that dark time.

It's a darkness I no longer have.



Song #1 Rain Dogs

I'm one of those guys at the bar
that fall in love with you-the girl
who woke up after twenty years
of sleeping. Unsure of myself,
I wouldn't try to buy you a drink
but instead scrawl directions
on a bar napkin, call it a poem.
Last call is one more unheard cry
yelled into the wind; drunken door
slams and breaking glass remind
the orphans time is running fast.
So I tear apart all intentions, hide
them with my cigarettes, go home
with the first woman who'll get me
there because I'm willing to take
any chance but rejection. Later,
wide awake and dreaming - I see
you sleepless, writing stories
for stray dogs caught in the rain.


Song #2 Ninth & Hennepin

The pawn shop clock strikes the quarter hour
and the last drink turns into the first kiss
she gives you.
Secrets mingle and you become unafraid
of corners, able to hear the soft hum
of tomorrow,
answers get washed away in the rain
and when you find the right questions
to ask, morning will be easier to swallow.








Next, I have two poems by Maxine Kumin from her book Looking for Luck, published by W. W. Norton in 1992.

Kumin, Poet Laureate for New Hampshire, has published nine volumes of poetry, as well as novels, short stories and essays on country living. She has been poetry consultant for the Library of Congress and was awarded the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.



Taking the Lambs to Market

All due respect to the blood on his bandsaw,
table, hands and smock, Amos is an artist.

We bring him something living, breathed, furred
meet it next in a bloodless sagittal section.

No matter how we may deplore his profession
all of us are eating, even Keats

who said, If a sparrow come before my Window
I take part in its existence and pick
about the gravel
, but dined on mutton.

Amos, who custom cuts and double wraps
in white butcher paper whatever we named,
fed, scratched behind the ear, deserves our praise:

a decent man who blurs the line of sight
between our conscience and our appetite.


The Succession

The old dog, who can no longer breast
the steps to claim his musky nest
at the foot of the bed, wherefrom his growls
long warned the puppy not to trespass

now at the foot of the staircase howls
a wolfcry wrung from loneliness,
denying himself the solace of
the sheepskin rug by the woodstove.

the young dog, whose athletic leap
has usurped the favored space,
starts up, trots down to his grounded chief
and licks both sides of his face.

They lie like littermates on the black
ram's curly dead broad back.








I take a lot of pleasure now and then in just taking off for a couple of days, driving around and looking at stuff. Some of my favorite stuff is the mountains and deserts of west Texas and the Big Bend. One drive I've enjoyed very much is Highway 170 right on the Rio Grande River that begins in Study Butte just outside the Big Bend National Park the follows the river through Big Bend State Park then through Presidio and on to the road's end in Candelaria. It's a chance to see and learn many things. For instance, I learned on my last trip that farming began in Presidio, right on the river basin/desert line, in 1500 B.C., making it the longest continually farmed area in the United States.

Great stuff, all in the form of little barkus.



Study Butte to Candelaria

thin
black map line
following
river green
twists -
hwy. 170

~~

beautiful
wasteland -
killer of men
and their
dreams -
hell's backyard

~~

Study Butte -
horse trails
through
sandy draws
and dusty
mesas

~~

white sand
at the canyon's
mouth -
shimmers
by emerald
water

~~

Terlingua -
a bar
and a cafe -
thirsty
ghosts
all around

~~

cabins -
stone on failing
stone
abandoned
to heat
and time

~~

Lajitas -
hideout with
desert greens
for the
very rich -
busted

~~

cactus
and creosote -
crushed caliche grit -
rattlesnakes
wherever
shade survives

~~

the river
in the canyon
below -
like a
ribbon
unwinding

~~

Shafter
gunfight,
now just
legend - snakes
sunning on
crumbling brick

~~

limestone
bluffs -
crevices
where live
the panther
and the bear

~~

Presidio -
desert
farming since
1500 B.C. -
4,000 people,
citywide WIFI

~~

the trail
tunnels through
dense
bamboo -
i watch for
snakes

~~

horned toad
on white
sandy rise -
asleep
under winter
sun

~~

Candelaria -
desert
dead end
no place
to go
but back








At the age of 33, after a series of personal tragedies, including the deaths of two husbands and three infant children, Otagaki Nobu renounced the world and, taking the name Rengetsu (meaning Lotus Moon), was ordained a Buddhist nun. To support herself, she began to make pottery, which she inscribed with her own waka (31-syllable classic poetry) which she sold. Her inscribed pottery was highly valued in her own time and today.

Born in 1791, Rengetsu died in 1875.

The next several short poems are from the collection Lotus Moon, The Poetry of Rengetsu. The poems are divided by seasons.



from Spring

Spring Moon

In the moon light
Of early spring
Lingering snow
Bids farewell to a village
Yearning for its first flower


Tender Buds

A thousand grasses
Run rampant in autumn
But to discover a
Single sprout with two leaves:
The joy of spring!


Change of Garments

I'll be changing into
My summer robes today
But my heart is
Still stained with
The color of spring blossoms.


Summer

Early Summer Breezes

Abundant clouds,
A few lingering blossoms,
Fresh summer mountains,
Fragrant green leaves,
And gentle cool breezes.


Evening Cool By The Sea

Cooling off in a boat
That sways as if drunk -
In the bay breeze
The moon on the waves
Seems a bit tipsy too!


Moonflowers

The silver crescent
Shines dimly
But the night is
Brightened up by
The moonflowers.


Autumn

Autumn Retreat

Deep in the mountains
A single branch of maple
Near the eaves of my hut
Marks the beginning
Of the days of autumn.


Living Near The Great Buddha

My night: autumn chill,
A steady drizzle
Of cold rain, and
The flicker of
Lonely shadows


Seashore Moon

I walk along Akashi Bay
This moonlit autumn evening
Trying to pick up
Words beautiful enough
To capture the scene.


Winter

Frost

As the moon ascends,
Plovers cry along
The Kamo River -
Night deepens, first frost
Settles on my sleeves


Cold Rain At The Seashore

Looking out over the bay,
I see clouds of cold rain
Summoning winter,
And hear the wind in the pines
Whisper its name.


Winter Dreams

To forget the chill of
The frozen hearth
I spend the night
Dreaming of gathering
Violets in a lush field.








Next we have Jane Roken, a friend we haven't seen in a while. (That's my fault - I had these next poems all formated to post several months ago but somehow they got derailed from the process.)

Jane is Norwegian, living in Denmark, on the interface between the hedgerows and the barley fields. She has been writing poetry, on and off, since she was five, starting under the combined inspiration of the Salvation Army and Calypso music. Now sixty, she has been working in many different trades, but says she has not yet decided what she wants to be when she grows up.



Summering Song

The moon is a flower
today and out of the soil
hands will be shooting
with fingers like slender stamens.
The sun is a flower
and thousands of windows
all over the earth radiate
threads of red and silver.
Arcane animals leap forth
from the trees and we
shall ditch our roots
and flower free.


Blood (a molar adventure)

You can bury a dead cow in it,
the great bloody crater in my jaw.

The round-headed dentist's hands
were enormous, they held a mouthful
of shiny tools, my whole head in pawn.

Mouth, where are you?
Gone. Zapped. Buzzy......Bereft.

Let me thee it, I implored.
Gotta clean it first, he said, washed it
and held it up, reverently.

Bye, bye, good old theven-pluth,
troublemaker. I'm gonna mith you.

No you won't, he said.
O yeth I will, my mouth hissed,
filling with blood, spilling over.

The rest of the day had that taste,
metallic spicy-sweet, not at all bad.

Next morning I still missed seven-plus.
Mouth full of blood. Poppy-patterns
on my pillow, red blooms on the sheet.

It's one of the conditions of life:
sometimes you bleed.


Life in the Wilderness

The grounds are a jungly mess. Sometimes
I try to trim. A bit. As far as I can go.
These last weeks I've made way into zones
where no human being has set foot for years.

Before the beginning, I had wanted
to remedy the world's scarcity of arbors.
Since then, alders and roses have run
fairground-rampant, armlocked
with hawthorn and shady brambles.

That's where I met the pheasant pullet.

She eyed me, curious-like. She wanted
to talk to me. She wanted to tell me
about herself, her life in the jungle,
about her mum, who was bigger than me
and meaner-looking too, and the silly
copper-colored cock who was a bit scary
and whose face was so red; all these things -

I was ready to listen to her pleasantries,
to learn what life in the shrubs was like.
I wanted to feed her amber seeds, currants
and pickled lotus roots -

- suddenly her neck grew so long,
and she made off, in that headless
zigzag-skedaddling way pheasants do.

We had not been alone. I smelt him
before I saw him, the fox. He eyed me
skeptically, then his discerning gaze traced
the pheasant maiden's path, like an engineer
calculating a simple trajectory.

He wanted to tell me an alien spaceship
had crashed in the moat.








The next three short poems are by James Welch, from his book Riding the Earthboy - 40, published by Confluence Press of Lewiston, Idaho in 1971,

Welch was born in Browning, Montana, just east of Glacier National Park. He attended schools on the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap reservations and graduated from the University of Montana where he studied writing. He published his first poem in 1967 and two years later received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry. In addition to his poetry, he has published several novels, including Fool's Crow which received an American Book Award, a Pacific Northwest Brooksellers Award, and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Welch previously held the Theodore Roethke Chair at the University of Washington and, for a period, served on the Montana State Board of Pardons.



There is a Right Way

The justice of the prairie hawk
moved me; his wings tipped
the wind just right and the mouse
was any mouse. I came away,
broken from my standing spot,
dizzy with the sense of a world
trying to be right, and the mouse
a part of a wind that stirs the plains


Toward Dawn

Today I search for a name.
Not too long, they said,
nor short. A deer crashes
in the wood. a skunk
swaggers to the distant creek.
There is a moment, I think,
when the eyes speak
and speak of a world too much.
Such a moment, a life.


Crystal

Near Canada, between patches
of spring wheat and tumbleweed,
the horses begin to sing.
Why should I, drunk
as I am, try to understand?
Here, there, the moon blooms,
draws a bead on coyotes
abroad, afraid to lie down,
golden in Crystal's gray dawn.








I loved these old sci-fi movies when I was a kid. I remember this one especially for what it didn't do.



"Attack of the 50-Foot Woman"

enjoyed
the movie
and, being 14 years old,
the idea
of the scarily magical girls
i knew
growing to 50 feet
wasn't something i could
rule out -
but the idea that their clothes
would grow with them
did not seem
reasonable to me,
imagining,
in my festering
little mind,
how it would be
such a much better,
more realistic, movie
if they did not








The next poem is by James Fenton, from his book Children in Exile, Poems 1966-1984. The book was published by The Noonday Press in 1994. The poem is the first part of a 12-part piece titled Exempla.

Fenton was born in England in 1949. He was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigatre Prize for Poetry. He has worked as a political and literary journalist on the New Statesman, was a freelance reporter in Indochina, and spent a year in Germany working for the Guardian. He is now a theater critic for the London Sunday Times. He is the author of several collections of poetry.



from Exempla

1.

A frog hunts on land by vision. He escapes
Enemies mainly by seeing them. His eyes
Do not move, as do ours, to follow prey,
Attend suspicious events, or search
For things of interest. If his body changes
Its position with respect to gravity or the whole
Visual world is rotated around him,
Then he shows compensatory eye-movements. These

Movements enter his hunting and evading
Habits only, e.g. as he sits
On a rocking lily pad. Thus his eyes
Are actively stabilized. The frog does not seem
To see, or at any rate is not concerned with
The detail of the stationary world around him.
He will starve to death surrounded by food
If it is not moving. His choice of food

Is determined only by size and movement.
He will leap to capture any object the size
Of an insect or worm provided it moves
Like one. He can be fooled easily not only
By a piece of dangled meat but by any
Small moving object. His sex life
is conducted by sound and touch. His choice
Of paths in escaping enemies does not
Seem to be governed by anything more devious
Than leaping to where it is darker. Since
He is equally at home on water and on land,
Why should it matter where he lights
After jumping, or what particular direction
He takes? He does remember a living
Thing provided it stays within
His field of vision and he is not distracted.








The next poem is by our friend Charles Levenstein.

Chuck is a retired professor and author of three collections of poems - Lost Baggage, published by Loom Press, Poems of World War III, Lulu press; and Animal Vegetable, also published by Lulu. He was a contributing editor at Niederngasse, a Zurich-based ezine and his work has been published widely in electronic poetry journals. Some of his most recent poetry can be found in Loch Raven Review.

The following poem was first published in Boston Literary Magazine, September, 2009



Walker

Starts his day in a usual way.
Barred from salt, measures calories,
surreptitiously jiggles his belly
to check

the progress of a new
diet regime, no discernible effect
although an already sour
disposition is getting worse.

He throws out the heavy cream;
in the refrigerator so long,
won't pour down the drain.
No bagels left, so toasts German
pumpernickel. Maybe he'll have
a pickle for the strength he'll need
to circumnavigate the reservoir
on a cold shiny morning.

Suppose I live forever, he thinks,
without the taste of chocolate,
the delight of opening a pie,
melting vanilla ice cream on a cobbler,
suppose I never look a potato
in the face again.

Pulls on ragged sweat pants,
itchy socks and sneakers,
dons polar fleece over an old peace t-shirt,
decides to wear the woolen watch cap
that makes him look like a thug,
or a fat old slug with delusions.

Walks along the muddy path,
he's passed by sturdy youth of the rugby team,
golden girls of track zip by,
only the ancient Vietnamese pushing
the stolen supermarket cart moves more slowly
than he who pursues immortality.








Here are three poems from one of my favorites, Leroy V. Quintana. The poems are from his book The Great Whirl of Exile, published by Curbstone Press in 1999.

At the time this book was published, Quintana had published five previous books of poetry and was twice winner of the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award.

He was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1944 and served in Vietnam during 1967-1968, where he kept a notebook that became the source of many of his poems. When this book was published, he was Professor of English at San Diego Mesa College.



Poem for Uncle Rudy

What Uncle Rudy hates most is the thought
of turning a dollar bill loose, of allowing
a penny a breath of fresh air. Nickels
and dimes grow so sick and tired of each
other living in his pockets for decades.

So it's not surprising he came up
with his own cure for back pain
instead of going to see the chiropractor.

He had one of his sons hang him from his feet,
like a shark down on his luck, but the rope
slipped and Uncle Rudy landed on his head.

He got up smiling, however, dusted himself
off, said he was feeling better already.


Poem for Marilyn Monroe

Proof is what mathematicians' wives contend with.
The more proof you require the better the whiskey.

Therefore, if there is a storm, or say
your minimum wage pays for three weeks and a couple of days
out of the month and electricity turns its back on you,
you need only pull three socks out of five
from your dresser drawer to find a match.

The owner agrees; he posed the question,
but no matter what brand of truth you offer,
the chap next in line for the best fish and chips
in Albuquerque, or New Mexico, in other words, the world,
is harder to convinced than an enraged tax collector.

It's an easy world; all that needs to be done to be considered
an adult is to lift that plastic sheet over that picture
of hers on the calendar, and her clothes come off. Easy.
Nobody has to worry about what thirteen-year-olds
have to say or what miracles they pray for.


Poem for Rod Serling

You make a wrong turn one day;
you think you know why.
It's the same town, nothing's
changed though you were last
here eighteen years ago,


the same
town you were raised in,
the same town even though you're lost.

You've seen the great cities of the world,
but never these groomed avenues, two-story
houses; you've stepped into
one of the Currier and Ives prints
that came inside those fabulous boxes
of Raisin Bran you collected years ago
when you lived in that green house
by the unpaved road, on the opposite
edge of the universe.








The weather has begun to cool so I'm back to my morning walks.



window shopping

morning walk
around the square

noticed the sign
in the Gap store window

40% off everything
it said,

and i'm thinking
40% off

everything
i ought to go in

and buy something
but remembered

where I was,
remembering

the Gap store
doesn't sell anything

that doesn't make
fat old men

look
even more foolish

then we,
by nature, are








Michael Gottlieb is, for me, a poet I have to work at. There is a darkness and mystery to his poems to his poems that appeals to me, but, to tell the truth, I haven't decided for sure yet if, in working at his poems, I'm getting my effort's worth, recognizing, as I say that, that often what is obscure to me is plain as day to others.

The two poems I'm using are from his book The Likes of Us, published in 2007 by Harry Tankoos of New York.



Untroubled By Rest

the local deity, in light of, the day-part

his distinctive chop, shriven and disarticulated

body english, a kind of disapprobation in the way she pulled back her
hair, which no one else could have noticed

a diffuser, a mock-appeal, a lot to swallow, heaving up upon the pins,
strengthening apparently, uncoiling the objections, counting for little,
this far into the argument, subsiding, as if the great blow had passed
over them

a take of recognition as one checks the field

the branching reveries, the headwaters


The Tableland

what was once seriously referred to as moral rearmament

to go of it, uttering, irretrievable, cast-down, draughts

first-drawing rights

In the land of steady habits, a suspect call-back

a back-of-an-envelope hazarding, a certain catspaw, a self-sowing
rejoinder

a crazed finish, like crackling, seeps across the flats before our very eyes,
like the effect of some terrible reagent. When we can see again we behold
an utterly altered world. In the distance, the towering profile of the
front wheeling over a newly arisen horizon

a placer, a bounden trace, search parties








The next three poems are by our friend Kevin McCann. Kevin says he has been a full-time writer for 16 years now and has published six limited edition pamphlets in England. He also writes for children.



In a stone arena
                Two men stalk one another :
                The Evil Bandit's a Da Vinci Jesus,
                All sharp blue eyes and perfect curls

                              Facing him

                Is the Bounty Hunting Vengeful Brother,
                A Gentleman reduced to this.

                Their boots creak like rope
                That's neck stretching,
                Their spurs chime
                Like communion bells.

                In the nearby arroyo
                Geronimo watches

                A small herd of deer

                That echoing gunfire
                Will suddenly scatter
                And the old one he prayed for

                Is soon out of range.


And don't you know...
                That Voodoo's
Just another name for God
                And the devil's
Just a man in disguise
                And don't you know that evil's
Just a point of view :
It all depends who's looking
Through your eyes.


They say...
                                that when Leonardo
Was a baby, an eagle perched
On his crib's rim, peering in.

They say that when Leonardo
Was a young man, he would stop
Every morning at the local market,
Buy a caged bird, then set it free
And that he did this in thanks
To the Holy Virgin for guiding
His hands each day.

They say that when Leonardo
Watched water swirling in a pool
He could deduce the workings
Of every heart and when he died,
Penniless, exiled,
Content with a French King's charity,
He left notebooks
Detailing the next five centuries.

They say he despised nothing
Except passive ignorance
And cold vanity.








Born in 1966 in Gulfport, Mississippi, Natasha Trethewey earned a B.A. in English from the University of Georgia, an M.A. in poetry from Hollins University and an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University.

The next poems are from her Pulitzer Prize winning collection of poems, Native Guard, published in 2007 by Houghton Mifflin.

Poetic illiterate that I am, I don't know the name of the form of the first poem, but there is a very nice melody and rhythm to it.



Graveyard Blues

It rained the whole time we were laying her down;
Rained from church to grave when we put her down.
The suck of mud at our feet was a hollow sound.

When the preacher called out I held up my hand;
When he called for a witness I raised my hand -
Death stops the body's work, the soul's journeyman.

The sun came out when I turned to walk away,
Glared down on me as I turned and walked away -
My back to my mother, leaving her where she lay.

The road going home was pocked with holes,
The home-going road's always full of holes;
Though we slow down, time's wheel still rolls.

     I wander now among names of the dead:
     My mother's name, stone pillow for my head.


What the Body Can Say

Even in stone, the gesture is unmistakable -
the man upright, through on his knees, spine

arched, head flung back, and covering his eyes,
his fingers spread across his face. I think

grief, and since he's here, in the courtyard
of the divinity school, what might he ask of God.

How easy it is to read this body's language,
or those gestures we've come to know - the raised thumb

that is both a symbol of agreement and the request
for a ride, the two fingers held up that once meant

victory, then peace. But what was my mother saying
that day not long before her death - her face tilted up

at me, her mouth falling open, wordless, just as
we open our mouths in church to take in the wafer,

meaning communion? What matters is context -
the side of the road, or that my mother wanted

something I still can't name: what, kneeling,
my face behind my hands, I might ask of God.








We've seen several losses this past couple of weeks of people who have made our current culture. Mary Travers was one especially meaningful to me. I loved rock and roll in the late fifties, as well as the folk music that for a little while made it's way to Top-40 radio. Lots of good people and groups, but the one that defined the time for me was Peter, Paul and Mary.

I was very sorry to read of her death, one of many now that begin to draw a curtain on my time.



the girl in the middle

it is a beautiful
morning,
bright sun,
light like the thin edge
of a blade
cutting through yesterday's
humidity, every detail
of the world sharp
and clear
under a blue sky
stretching from horizon
to horizon, a cool
north wind like a drug
enhancing all senses

i thought of this morning
when i read of the death
of Mary Travers,
remembering her
straight blond hair
like sunshine in
an open sky, her voice
lifting, like a cool north
wind blowing

i saw them once
in concert, decades
after their peak,
the three of them, she, the girl
in the middle, bringing,
memories of a time
when good things seemed
possible and optimism
appeared as right and rational
as the all-covering clouds of
despair are
today








Speaking of "golden oldies," here's a piece from an anonymous poet in Old Babylonia in 1500 B.C. (about the same time farming was beginning in Presidio, Texas, come to think of it).

This is from World Poetry - An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time, a trifle of a book of over 1,300 pages published by the Quality Paperback Book Club of New York and edited by Kaharine Washburn, John S. Major, and Clifton Fadiman.

The poem was translated by David Ferry.



Prayer to the Gods of the Night

The gates of the town are closed. The princes
Have gone to sleep. The chatter of voices

Has quieted down. Doorbolts are fastened.
Not until morning will they be opened.

The gods of the place, and the goddess,
Ishtar, Sin, Adad, and Shamash,

Have gone into the quiet of the sky,
Making no judgments. Only

The voice of the lone wayfarer
Calls out the name of Shamash or Ishtar.

Now house and field are entirely silent.
The night is veiled. A sleepless client

In the still night waits for the morning.
Great Shamash has gone into the sleeping.

Heaven; the father of the poor,
The judge, has gone into his chamber.

May the gods of the night come forth - the Hunter,
The Bow, the Wagon, the Yoke, the Viper,

Irra the valiant, the goat, the Bison,
Girra the shinning, the Seven, the Dragon -

May the stars come forth in the high heaven

Establish the truth in the ritual omen;
In the offered lamb establish the truth.



Even older than the piece from Old Babylonian is this next piece from 2000 B.C. by an anonymous Akkadian poet, translated by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer.



from The Cycle of Inanna: The Courtship of Inanna and Dumazi

Inanna spoke:
    I bathed for the wild bull,
    I bathed for the shepherd Dumazi,
    I perfumed my sides with ointment,
    I coated my mouth with sweet-smelling amber,
    I painted my eyes with kohl.

    He shaped my loins with his fair hands,
    The shepherd Dumazi filled my lap with cream and milk,
    He stoked my pubic hair,
    He watered my womb.
    He laid his hands on my holy vulva,
    He smoothed my black boat with cream,
    He quickened my narrow boat with milk,
    He caressed me on the bed.

Now I will caress my high priest on the bed,
I will caress the faithful shepherd Dumazi,
I will caress his loins, the shepherdship of the land,
I will decree a sweet fait for him

....................................................................................................................................................

Ninshubur, the faithful servant of the holy shrine of Urek,
Led Dumazi to the sweet thighs of Inanna and spoke:
    My queen, here is the choice of your heart,
    The king, your beloved bridegroom.
    May he spend long days in the sweetness of your holy loins.
    Give him a favorable and glorious reign.
    Grant him the shepherd's staff of judgment.
    Grant him the enduring crown with the radiant and noble diadem.

From where the sun rises to where the sun sets,
From south to north,
From the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea,
From the land of the buluppu-tree to the land of the cedar,
Let his shepherd's staff protect all of sumar and Akkad.
As the farmer, let him make the fields fertile,
As the shepherd, let him make the sheepfold multiply.
Under his reign let there be vegetation.
Under his reign let there be rich grain.

In the marshland may the fish and birds chatter.
In the canebreak may the young and old reeds grow high,
In the steppe may the masbugr-trees grow high,
In the forests may the deer and wild goats multiply,
In the orchards may there be honey and wine,
In the gardens may the lettuce and cress grow high,
In the palace may there be long life.
May there be floodwater in the Tigris and Euphrates,
May the plants grow high on their banks and fill meadows,
May the Lady of Vegetation pile the grain in heaps and mounds.

O my Queen of Heaven and Earth,
Queen of all the universe,
May he enjoy long days in the sweetness of your holy loins.








We had visitors last weekend who hadn't ever been to the horse races, so we took them to our local track, Retama Downs, Saturday night. We all left at the end of the night with less money than we came in with, but it was still a great time.



a night at the races

fourth race,
Chocolate Delight,
the horse of my dreams,
tall black horse,
coat gleaming like a boot camp
spit-shine,
great broad Hulk Hogan
shoulders
on the delicate forelegs
of a midnight
flyer

seventh horse
in a seven-horse race
at the first turn,
fourth at the last,
then a rocket-powered
blast
through the homestretch,
finishing
a nose ahead of the
also-rans

a three-dollar win
on a two-dollar bet
and the evening is made

and the other eight races
that night -

enough to say it'd been better
if my Chocolate Delight
had been running in
all of them







And that's all folks.

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Mission Walls   Friday, September 18, 2009


IV.9.3.




We're back to regular form this week, with library poems, a few poems from me, and poems from our friends out in poetry land.

Here's the program for the week.


Luci Tapahonso
Little Pet Stories
Light a Candle


Cornelia DeDona
September Nights in Kahaluu

William D. Barney
Imploded

Me
lost again

William Heyen
Evening Dawning

Gary Blankenship
Stay in School

Eugenio De Andrade
Song
To Waken
At the Mouth of the Well


Me
ironing 3 shirts on Sunday

Pablo Neruda
Integrations

Robert McManes
above average

Gunter Kunert
Forgetfulness
Encounter


Me
scant skits

'Ilima Stern
Wedding

Kay Kelly
Playing With Foxy's Nose

Me
the poem i should have written for September 11th

Jerry Ratch & Sherry Karver
from Homeowner Haiku

Teresa White
Bear Shoot, New Jersey
IQ Test


John Oughton
The Perceivability of Poetry

Me
eleven little rain dances









I start this week with a story and a poem by Luci Tapahonso, from her book, Saanii Dahataat: The Women Are Singing, published in 1993 by the University of Arizona Press.

Born in 1953 on the Navajo reservation,Tapahonso was raised in a traditional way along with 11 siblings. English was not spoken on the family farm, and Tapahonso learned it as a second tongue after her native Dine bizaad. Following schooling at Navajo Methodist School in Farmington, New Mexico, and Shiprock High School, she began studies at the University of New Mexico. In 1982, she gained her MA, and went on to teach, first at New Mexico and later at the University of Kansas and now at the University of Arizona.

Her first collection of poetry, assembled when she was still an undergraduate, was published in 1981, but did not make much impact. The collection I've taken the following work from was the first to gain for her an international reputation.

An interesting fact about how she writes is, she writes her first draft in her native language, then translates the work to English for publication.



Little Pet Stories

Some years back, we had a dog named "Sando-wool" after old man
Sandoval, who lived about a mile south of us. My father pronounced
his name "Sando-wool" because that was what he called his old friend.
Old man Sandoval would ride by our house on his horse, with five or
six dogs running alongside. He wore a tall black had and exchanged
silent waves with us. He died long ago. We remember him each time
we talk about the pets we have had over the years.

Once my father was at the post office, leaning against the pickup and
talking to his buddies, when a little straggly kitten crept around the
corner. He picked it up and examined it. He put it in the pickup like it
was his, then brought it home to us. We fed it, bathed it, and named
it "Polly." Polly stayed with us for years, and had many kittens. She was
a pretty calico, and for a long time, we were able to trace her offspring
through the many relatives and families who took kittens of hers.

Once my father and brothers were digging postholes for a chaha'oh,
a summer shade house. Then my brother stopped suddenly because
there was an open hole underground where he was digging. He called
us and we looked inside and there were several tiny baby rabbits. My
mother's pet, Anna, had babies earlier that day. We were amazed at
how small and pink the babies were. Their fur was thin and transpar
ent. Carefully, my brother lifted them out and we wrapped them in
handkerchiefs in Anna's hutch. We watched them until Anna came
hopping back and immediately, they nuzzled into her long fur, sensing
warmth and safety. The men decided to move the chaha'oh over a few
yards, in case there were other homes they couldn't see.


Light a Candle

For Hector Torres

The other night thunder shook the house
and lightning slashed brilliant blue across the bed.
I slept in bits, my heart raced with each explosion of noise and rain.
And though he held me, my breathing was ragged and exhausted.
I may never sleep through these storms.

Hector, light a candle for me.

Last week we returned to our birth place,
and as we drove through southern Colorado,
we were stunned by the beauty of autumn leaves,
the deep cool mountain canyons,
and twice, deer stood beside the road.
They watched as we passed through their land.
Their eyes glistened black softness.
Misty said, "Isn't it neat that we saw them on our way home?"

Hector, light a candle for her.

In a small reservation town, a little boy shakes his mother.
She has passed out on the floor and he is hungry.
"Mama," he says, "can you make some potatoes?"
She stirs, "Leave me alone, damn it!"
He climbs up on the counter, takes down a box of cheerios
and sits back down to watch TV.
The noise he makes eating dry cereal is steady and quiet.

Hector, light a candle for him.

Some evenings Leona just wants to sit with her sister and mother
around the kitchen table and talk of everything and nothing.
Instead, she sits in the quiet kitchen, and outside
leaves blow against the window - the wind is cold and damp.
In front of Leona, the table stretches out clean and shiny.

Hector, light a candle for her.

North of here, the Kaw rushes westward, a wide muted roar.
The trees alongside sway and brush against each other,
dry, thin leaves swirl in the cold wind.
The river smell and the heavy wind settle in my hair,
absorbing the dull thundering water,
            the rolling waves of prairie wind.

This time I have walked among the holy people:
the river, the wind, the air swirling down from the hills,
the exhilaration of the biggest catch,
the smooth grace of eagles as they snatch their prey,
the silent pleas of those who drowned here.

Hector, light a candle for me.
        Light a candle for me.








Here's a piece of a quiet Hawaii evening from our friend from the islands, Cornelia DeDona



September Nights in Kahaluu

Fountain water splashes
echoes
across the koi pond.
Clever
Great Danes
bark their hello,
jump into the air
to chase
after chew bones
anxious for a moment
of attention.
Sultry trades
shift
Alexander palm branches
nod their approval.
Plovers march across manicured lawns
searching for tiny morsels,
recently
back
from
Alaska.
It is late afternoon -
Pau Hana time.
Pretty soon,
the air
will be redolent with
beef stew,
fresh baked bread
grilled Mahimahi
and rice.
Voices will fill the
peaceful valley and become paler
as night falls.
Chickens will roost in invasive
octopus trees.
Bullfrogs will sing love songs
attracting mates
and life will go on.
Wrapping up
another steamy day
meditating
by the Mango tree
while gazing at
pink clouds and
orange
parrots beak
heliconia.








The next poem is by William D. Barney from his book, A Cowtown Chronicle, published in 1999 by Browder Springs Books of Dallas.

Barney, born in Oklahoma in 1916, simultaneously managed two very diverse careers for over 35 years, being both a recognized, widely published poet and a postal worker with the US Postal Service. He died in 2001.



Imploded
       Medical Arts Building

Nothing in Nature dies like this:
a redwood toppled swings an arc
full ninety degrees and stretches
its ruin out. A coarse-stemmed gourd
gnawed by the borer wilts away,
collapses into a yellow shrivel.
Glaciers let go huge lump by lump,
great dribbles of themselves into sea.
This artifact of air, glass, stone,
its roots being pulverized
in an instant, almost dreamily
quivers and begins to faint,
to wrinkle in upon itself
into a pitiable mound of rubble.

Do men and women meet downfall
so? Slain men on battlefields -
that Spanish soldier, caught in mid-death,
the bullet spurting into his head;
some ballerina turned a swan,
neatly depositing her flesh
into a huddled remnant; a child
fantasizing an old fable,
a mimic to catastrophe?

How fitting here, this thing of stone
and glass and air, made by Man's hand,
should fail like him - strength sapped away,
alien element storming in
from all sides, earth with ineluctable pull
reaching, and all coming down, coming slowly
down, with a sort of puzzled look,
knowing it was not made to last
but not having thought at all of this,
to be so suddenly dust and bones.








Things are just so darn complicated these days. Not at all what I expected it to be when I got older.



lost again

feeling
like an old woman
without her Buick inherited
from her husband five years ago
when the smoking and the drinking
caught up with
him
and the shiny '01 Park Avenue
was her reward
for putting up with the old
grouch
for 57 years

lost,
that's how i feel

lost in the complexities
of life that i thought
would be,
in my 66th year,
someone else's
to deal with

like the cats on the front porch,
mama cat and two kittens -

i don't mind them being
there,
in fact i kind of like them
being there in that they discourage
other cats from pooping
on my doorstep,
i just don't want any more of them
being there,
so i figure spay and neuter
would be the answer,
but before i get them spayed
and/or neutered (as appropriate)
i have to catch them
and since they are as wild as if
they and all their feline ancestry
were native to the jungles of
Borneo
a trap is required
and to get a trap i have to spend
4 hours in training at the Kiss Your Cat
Foundation, learning,
from a very nice cat-lady
with a delicious British accent,
the art and science
involved in the proper capture, fixing,
and releasing of your cat, which involves
first,
getting an appointment at the Cut Your Cat
Foundation, then securing a trap, then trapping
your cats, then driving them to their
appointment then
taking them home and making them
nice and snuggly and then closely
observing
them for twenty-four hours
to make sure they do not suffer,
inordinately,
from the effects of the anesthesia
used during the course of their
surgery

a three-day process, it looks like

i would have thought that, after
all these years they would have made
this process simpler rather than more
complicated, on-line castration, maybe
strap your cat spread-eagle to the
monitor screen
and press enter or some computeristic
variation there of -
doing it on-line like everything else is on-line

but even that doesn't guarantee
simpler

like last Sunday,
trying to find movie show times,
searching "movie show times in San Antonio"
and getting about 12,000 hits, one
giving me show times for all the movies
starting with the letter K
at the Cosmo theater on the north corner
of Fifth and Phumfph and another showing
show times for all the movies starting
with the letter P
at the Ozmoo theater
on the south corner of Fifth and Phumfph
and you can see where it goes from there,
including, no where, a listing of show times
for all the theaters in San Antonio

i ended up
not going to a movie last Sunday,
just as it's beginning to look
as if i'm going to have 27 cats
on my front porch before i get through
the process of spaying or neutering
the first one

it's just too damn complicated
and i thought for sure things
would be
simpler
by now, i mean, all my old grandpa
did was sit on his porch
and rock in his rocking chair
and whittle and spit
and fart when he felt like

don't talk to me about
progress








Next, I have a longish poem by William Heyen from his book, Lord Dragonfly - Five Sequences, published in 1981 by Vanguard Press.

This is one of those sequences; this one titled, Evening Dawning.



i.

A crow's black squawk -
my white field lost again.

ii.

All bone,
feet numb
rhythm gone
I clod across the field.

iii.

From the outer world,
a siren, and a dog's
painsong

iv.

In high snow,
which way the root,
which way the tip
of the bramble arch?

v.

Sparrow hearts
criss-crossing
the frozen field.

vi.

In the long, lowest needles
of white pine,
a message,
frozen in urine.

vii.

White moon shell,
and a single gull
flying toward me
from shore.

viii.

Upswirl, sudden
white-out.
My cabin within,
I close my eyes to find it.

ix.

My footprints already
in front of me,
I walk toward the other world.

x.
Bowing,
I address the door,
pray, once more,
for that opening
to everywhere,
and enter.

xi.

Pine chair cold,
hands cold
mind clod
and ready.

xii.

World, mind, words -
wax, wick, matches.

xiii.

Under my cabin,
field mice,
and China.

xiv.

To see the white sea,
I and my old pen knife
scrape a porthole
in the frosted window.

xv.

Rabbit tracks,
rabbit pellets,
my own footsteps
drifting with snow.

xvi.

What kind of blood
in the red-twig dogwood?

xvii.

They disappear,
St. Francis now a spruce
receiving sparrows
into his dark boughs.

xviii.

Logic, logic -
trillions of intricate hexagons.

xix.

From anther time
at fields edge
the first ash
veiled in a dream
in falling snow.

xx.

Cardinal,
mote of male blood
in the winter ash.

xxi.

Under the snow,
infinitesimal pearls,
insects speeding
to summer.

xxii.

Already ferns
frost my window.

xxiii.

I am thirty-eight.
Evening is dawning.

xxiv.

Lord, winter,
I place this cabin
in your begging bowl.

xxv.

Dying, the brain
sheds cells.
In the end,
perfect numbers,
the mind
the Milky Way's stars.

xxvi.

Candlebeam and dust,
river and fish,
as long as they last.

xxvii.

Blue stars in the blue snow
over the elm stump

xxviii.

In the window,
holding out their pale arms,
my mother and father,
above, within, beyond the field.

xxix.

I have come to have
everything, but now
the miserable
weep in chapels
under the spruce boughs.

xxx.

Even winter evenings
spores of black knot, killer
of cherry, plum, and apple.

xxxi.

Mindless,invisible,
drift over the field,
but will anchor.

xxxii.

Verdun, Belsen, Jonestown - still,
from indwellings darkness, human
music, a summons
to praise.

xxxiii.

A boy, I killed these sparrows
whose tweet, tweet now
enters my cabin,
forgiving everything.

xxxiv.

I still hear
the summer woodpecker, red
godhead hammering holes
into my heartwood

xxxv.

How long have I been here,
scent of pinesap
flowing through my chair?

xxxvi.

Snow clouds,
Milky Way nowhere in sight,
moon hidden, all
earth gone -
there is a life, this one,
beyond the body.








The next poem is by our friend from the state of Washington, Gary Blankenship. Gary and I have much in common, being both old retired guys seeking a second life in poetry after completion of our first life in business.

And like me, he's not sure whether we should laugh at the silly rantings of the current right-wing contingent as they follow the lead of the thugs on right-wing radio or whether we should, to use an old-fashioned phrase, "fear for the republic."

Having lived in close proximity to the John Birch malignancy of the 1950s, I see nothing new in all the current stupidity, though it still makes me very angry and a little worried.

Gary chose to laugh.



Stay in School

Work hard.
Study.
Get good grades.
Be all you can be.
Respect your parents,
teachers,
America.

But there must be
a hidden agenda,
some message
we can't hear.

He is too popular,
charismatic,
the kid will follow him,
blindly.

Wait until the next speech.

If we hadn't complained,
he would have,
could have...

You said bad things
about Bush.

Politics don't belong
in the classroom.

There is better things
to do with their precious
classroom time

And on and on,
it goes,
the babble goes on because
in reality,
they don't like the president

and it wouldn't have mattered
if he had executed Bin Ladin
during the speech

he is not legitimate,
he is different,
Hawaiian -
he is not a true American


The speech is over,
but the birthers
and deathers
and haters
still trumble on

only their delivery medium
different than those who spewed
in 1840,
in 1905
in 1950
in 1965

though I do wonder
how so many of them
hear alien voices
without a tinfoil cap
and paperclip antenna?








The next three poems are by Portuguese poet Eugenio De Andrade, from his book Forbidden Words, published by New Directions in 2003. It is a bilingual book, Portuguese and English, translated by Alexis Levitin, on facing pages.



Song

You were snow.
Cherished snow, caressed and white.
Tear and jasmine,
threshold of first light.

You were water.
Water of the salty sea when I
kissed you. Tall tower, soul, ship,
no beginning or end to this good-bye

You were the fruit within
my fingers, trembling.
We could have sung
or flown, we could have died.

But of the name
that May had memorized,
neither the color
nor the taste remain.


To Waken

Is it a bird, is it a rose,
is it the sea that wakens me?

Bird or rose or sea,
all is fire, all desire.
To awake is to be rose of the rose;
song of the bird, water of the sea.


At the Mouth of the Well

Sometimes even death can
acquiesce: at the mouth of the well
he stops his horse, doesn't quite dismount,
but allows you to linger,
contemplating the black waters,
th flock of distant clanging bells,
the nearby apple trees,
their fruit so curiously aglow.








Sometimes, by cracky, you just have to make a stand.



ironing 3 shirts on Sunday

it's Sunday morning
and i'm
celebrating
the beginning of a new week
in which i am
alive
by shaving
and ironing 3 shirts

which
means 3 days without pressure
to conform
to social norms of ironed shirts
and shaved faces

so
i'm good until wednesday
morning
when i will have to decide again
whether to conform
or go wild,
and proceed on my own un-predetermined
way

what would Jesus do?
i think

(it is important to consider historical
precedents like these
when making decisions about choosing
among alternate life paths)

and what about Abraham Lincoln
or Truman Capote?

and Cabeza
DeVaca - what would he do?

Jesus didn't shave
and hardly ever ironed his robes

Lincoln hardly ever shaved
and wore starched and crisply ironed
white shirts
except when splitting
rails

Capote
shaved and had someone else
iron his shirts

and Mr. Cabeza De Vaca Head of Cow
spent a large part of his life being chased
by cannibal indians in south texas
and had limited time
for shaving or shirt ironing

such things just weren't high on his daily
to-do lists -

so it seems
the best conclusion i can come up with
is
it's too hot for robes
and i have ugly feet which could be
considered a public nuisance if bared in
flip-flops or sandals,
and, rail-splitting
sounds like too much work
for a dedicated idler like me, and,
being not a rich and renown author,
i cannot afford
to hire someone to iron my
shirts,
leaving
only old Mr. Cow's Head,

who,
setting aside the issue of the
cannibal indians, which can best
be seen
as a symptom
of a condition not a
base condition
in and of its own self, said base con-
dition being the living of a full
and interesting life
with better things to do than
face-shaving and shirt-ironing

and
having a similar life of challenge and
adventure (despite the obvious lack of
cannibal
indians
in my life), i will observe the example
of my homeboy Mr. Head de Vaca and
not shave
or iron a shirt Wednesday

i will wait until
Friday
instead








The next poem is from Chilean poet, politician, and diplomat Pablo Neruda. The poem is from The Yellow Heart, published in 1990 by Copper Canyon Press. It is a bilingual book with Spanish and English, translated by William O'Daly, on facing pages. The book is one of Neruda's last, written as he prepared for his death by cancer and the imminent military coup in Chile of 1973 that, with a wink and a nod from the US, replaced a democratically elected president with a military dictatorship.


Neruda was born in 1904 and died in 1973. Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto.



Integrations

After everything, I will love you
as if it were always before,
as if after so much waiting,
not seeing you and you not coming,
you were breathing
close to me forever.

Close to me with your habits
with your color and your guitar
just as countries unite
in schoolroom lectures
and two regions become blurred
and there is a river near a river
and two volcanoes grow together.

Close to you is close to me
and your absence is far from everything
and the moon is the color of clay
in the night of quaking earth
when, in terror of the earth,
all the roots join together
and silence is heard ringing
with the music of fright.
Fear is also a street.
And among its terrifying stones
tenderness somehow is able to march
with four feet and four lips.

Since, without leaving the present
that is a fragile ring,
we touch the sand of yesterday
and on the sea, love reveals
a repeated fury.








Now here's a poem by our friend Robert McManes. Mac lives near Scranton, Kansas and conducts poetry workshops and related writing presentations for the Kansas Author's Club.



above average

I will not write words
twisted or turned,
will not ask others to read
nor pretend
to comprehend tinted skies and
drive by drinking establishments
with honk and serve attitudes.

I shall write the happiest lines,
            with above average enthusiasm,
            nothing about the wicked
            nothing about the sad
nothing about death.

no martyrs in the making
I'll wipe the pity
from my eyes
from my mouth
on a silken poetic sleeve

I might write of love
or something less difficult
to get the good feel
for an above average read.








Gunter Kunert is often described as one of the grand old men of contemporary German-language poets. Born in Berlin in 1929, Kunert, prior to reunification, made himself unwelcome in his native East Germany and immigrated to West Germany in 1979 and has live in Hamburg since. He has published nearly three dozen books of poetry.

These two poems, which originally appeared in his book Late Show, were taken from Issue Four of Poetry International, published by San Diego State University Press in 2000.

The poems were translated by Gerald Chapple.



Forgetfulness

Time blots out names in
the brain. What's his name,
the last Byzantine emperor? And
the first secretary-general?
Mnemosyne, my faithless woman,
you've up and left me. And
taken our dowry with you.
Who do I ask for help if I
don't know a soul?
Nicholas, Wendelin, Blasius -
docking of receptors unsuccessful,

Allow me to introduce
myself to you? I am
who I was and already
a has-been.


Encounter

Chaotic still life
around the metal sarcophagi
of our civilized culture. The rotten smell
from the box of clothes. Battered tin cans
exude a mixtum compositum of
indeterminate nature. And
an unmatched rubber boot goes walking
through the world alone. The chips off the
toilet bowl remind
us of the way of all flesh.
Broken glass. Relics of packaging.
Tattered carpets, counterfeit Orient.
Bottle tops, mindlessly scattered
coupons. Here
I stand and can do nothing else -
what do I do with the discarded results of
my existence?
Out from behind the dumpsters
an old man appears zipping
up his fly. Muttering
I rue the day
that I created man

And steals away, stooped over,
shouldering the invisible burden.
And has never since been sighted.








Some might call this next "doodling." I wrote it and I guess I would probably have to call it that myself. But I don't care, it is what it is.



scant skits

the back door
is the front door
to those
who dawdle in
kitchens

~~

politics
is the art
of what can i
get away with
today

~~

superheros
never have to take
a whiz - part
of what makes them
super

~~

the short man
has a tall hat, which
are you going to believe

~~

the girls all look better
at closing time -
silly ideas
all seem wiser
in a panic

~~

that woman
has crooked toes
pointing in all different
directions
no matter which way
she goes

~~

the girl with the sly smile
and long tanned legs
knows i am
watching and
likes it

glad
to be of service
i think

~~

three old men
read their newspapers

hah,
they think,
could'a told'em so

~~

sex
can light up
both night and day

as i remember
it

~~

enough of this

time to write a real
poem

tomorrow








The next poem, by 'Ilima Stern, is written first in Hawaiian, then translated to English. I know nothing about Hawaiian except that it is, I'm told, a phonetic language. I try to read the poem applying that rule, and am left thinking how wonderfully musical it must be when read aloud by someone fluent in the language.

'Ilima includes a few introductory notes about the poem, as follows:

"I'm going to attend a wedding later today. My cousin is marrying her very good friend whose wife died recently after a long illness. Thinking about them made me remember this poem I wrote for the wedding of a hula student. Several things to note about this poem in Hawaiian with its English translation:

1) My student's name is Kawai, so that's why there are lots of words with wai used in the poem. I did that deliberately.

2) I used the device called linked assonance - the last word in one line becomes the first word(or almost) in the following line, all the way up to the line that ends with wailana.

3) The first line: he punawai kahe wale ke aloha is an 'olelo no'eau, Hawaiian wise saying. I used that as the inspiration for my poem and also ended with it."



Wedding

He punawai kahe wale ke aloha.
E aloha 'olua me ka pu'uwai piha pono,
Pono e waiolono kekahi i kekahi,
I kekahi waimaka, e wai nui 'ia ka 'aka'aka me ka wai kahe
A kahe ka waioha me ka wai welawela.
Wela ke aloha no ka wai 'apo,
E 'apo me ka waihona 'ike i ka wainohia me ka wailana.
Eia ka'u waipa no 'olua -
He punawai kahe wale ke aloha.
Aloha e, aloha e, aloha e.


Love is a spring that flows freely.
Love with your whole heart,
Be careful speaking to one another,
Should there be tears, have laughter flow in great quantities, like a stream
Until joy flows like a warm spring.
Keep the love for your spouse constant,
Maintain a life of peace and contentment.
Here is my prayer for you two -
Love is a spring that flows freely.
Love, love, love.








Cowboy poems are fun and here's one, by Kay Kelley, to prove it.

Kelley is from Santa Fe, New Mexico, married to one cowboy, widowed, and now married to another, a Texas cowboy raised on a ranch in Val Verde County, County Seat, Del Rio, a pleasant little town across the Rio Grande from Cuidad Acuna, Mexico.

The poem is from New Cowboy Poetry, A Contemporary Gathering, published by Gibbs-Smith Publisher in 1990.



Playing With Foxy's Nose

I have a bay cutting filly
That can sure scowl at a cow.
You'd be impressed by her classy moves
If you saw her sweep and bow.
But when we're not working cattle,
Where she has to be quick on her toes,
A quiet pleasure we both enjoy
Is playing with Foxy's nose.

As I stoke her fluttering nostrils
And our breaths we do exchange,
She smells of sweet alfalfa
And the grasses of the range.
And looking up into big, brown eyes,
Her concentration shows
Just how intent she is on our game,
While I'm playing with Foxy's nose/

Her strip flows down along her face
And puddles in a snip.
As I hold her velvet muzzle,
She never tries to nip.
So we share these peaceful moments,
While my filly snorts and blows.
Each breathing in contentment,
While we're playing with Foxy's nose.









I said in the last issue that I had written only one 9-11 poem. Well, I wrote a second this week. Here it is.



the poem i should have written for September 11th

2,979 people were murdered on
September 11, 2001,
by evil men
in an evil, unprovoked
attack

a tragedy
great in itself
and even greater in the excuse
it gave stupid, vengeful men
to initiate tragedies of their own

as many as one hundred thousand
to one million dead since,
depending on whose numbers
you count
an obscene number of men, women
and children killed,
whichever of the numbers you believe -
noncombatants
no less innocent than those
of our own
who died
on American soil

giving lie
to the vain hope
that good can come from evil

laying bare the truth -
evil's offspring
is always and only
more evil

leaving one hundred thousand
to one million
names waiting to be read
along with our
own








The next poems are from Homeowner Haiku, a fun little book of short poems by husband and wife team Jerry Ratch, a Realtor with eleven books of poetry and one novel to his credit, and Sherry Karver, an artist who exhibit nationally and whose work is in many private and corporate collections. They live in Oakland,California.



~~

Hanging one painting,
twenty-three holes in the wall -
what's a stud finder?

~~

Buddhist, Realtor, and
Designer meet at open house -
Feng shui fight erupts

~~

Om, om on the range -
Close your eyes, breathe deep, don't sweat
the mortgage payment

~~

The leaves turn brilliant
yellow, before they clog up
our rain gutters

~~

Autumn - fallen leaves
do a lazy backstroke a-
cross the swimming pool

~~

An icy patch waits
beneath fresh snow on the porch -
the mailman cometh

~~

Maybe good fences
make good neighbors _ tall fences
make them disappear

~~

Sink clogged, tub over-
flows, toilet backs up - two
PhD's, no plunger

~~

Starry starry night -
that's not a Van Gogh, it's a
pinhole in the roof








The next two poems are by our friend Teresa White.



Bear Shoot, New Jersey

Ursa Major, Ursa Minor,
your brothers wander through
back yard barbecues,
filch donuts from garbage cans.

They padded here before
the first board was nailed to a crossbeam.
Large and slow in winter coats,
there was nothing to fear.

Now, Boy Scouts flee the safety of fire,
mothers leash waddling toddlers,
dogs yaloo in crazy circles,
yet no one's been killed.

They would eat salmonberries
and paw for trout if they could.
I imagine a low growl,

cry with their ursine kind when
the rifles come,

whimper
for their rightful place
in the overarching sky.


IQ Test

You, dear, have always been smarter than me.
I can't tell what comes after the circle
in a square

or what time it will be when those two trains pass
each other - one chugging west out of Baltimore,
one streaming east from Seattle.

And I think I know which animal is out of place:
"donkey, horse, whale, kangaroo"

but don't ask me how many Bills like milk when Bill
likes it more than Jack.

I can usually tell which is most like "format:
system, shape, size, configuration"

but don't ask me to define "subsume;"
I only get lost under it.

Then there are shapes
like butter cartons spread out - don't ask
me to choose - I always get them wrong.

I persist in reading dictionaries,
the broad planes of my encyclopedias -
all I'm supposed to know.








The next poem is by John Oughton, taken from his book Counting Out the Millennium, published by Pecan Grove Press in 1996.

Oughton was born in Guelph, Ontario, and spent his formative years there, except for two years in Egypt and Iraq. He has since lived in Japan and Nova Scotia as well as Toronto. He studied literature at York University in Toronto and the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Active as a literary journalist and reviewer, he published three previous books of poetry. When this book was published, he was completing a doctorate in education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and teaching at a community college.



The Perceivability of Poetry

"The Native Hollander wears wooden shoes."
"Nebraska has no seacoast."
"The daisy is a common wildflower."
     As these syllables, words and sentences come in over the telephones, stand-ins for millions of Bell System subscribers rate them for clarity of reception


          - Bell Tel ad in 1959 Scientific American

True, few will listen when poetry calls:
they think they've got the wrong line
a harangue in some exotic tongue
a satellite call from Mars
a subscription offer to eternity

but I'm here to tell you
Nebraska has no sequels
the daisy has come in wildfire
Nate, in the collander wears, wouldn't choose

and this news has the clarity of any you receive
poetry's in the curve from mouth to ear
even as we talk we agitate carbon grains
that squeeze our words into a spiral cord
and boil them out the other end
and you still say poetry isn't clear.
Well, the word is a wildly common weed
but I seek no hose nor will Ned ask her
and the days you see are wood
shooting into a seacoast

what has more clarity than a daisy?
and yet I mean by "daisy": time, change,
pollen on the flying legs of bees
the sun surrounded by our white faces
the shaded meaning of any word
the petals that burst from the ear
when I sing

now tell me what you heard in what I said
and I'll let you go








I finish this week with a series of barku (my small contribution to poetry - ten words on six lines, a perfect size when you're having a drink and don't have anything to write on but a bar napkin and, of course, written with haiku sensibility - thus the name I gave the form - "barku").

These particular barkus celebrate the, at last, arrival of rain, nearly 5 inches so far in 3 days, more rain than the area had previously received in the past year and a half.



eleven little rain dances

black clouds
on blue
sky
may rain
today
may not

~~~~

great oaks
reach
for fat clouds
thirsty
dry seeking
wet

~~~~

farmer
kicks dust
needs
second job
to pay for
seed

~~~~

flags shift
flail north
gulf winds
wet
smell of
fish

~~~~

sky
pregnant
with promise
of rain
while we
stay dry

~~~~

dark
makes
it seem a
winter scene
don't be
fooled

~~~~

birds silent
dogs whimper
cat
stretches
doesn't believe
in thunder

~~~~

water rushes
curb to curb
leaves
like toy
boats
bob

~~~~


three days
rain -
we swim
in a
miracle
of green

~~~~

droopy
banana plant
straightens
its spine
stands stiff at
attention

~~~~

walking
in summer rain
wet
chilled
but in no
hurry








That's a wrap for this week.

Until next week, as usual, all the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. I produced the blog and am its owner. Any of the material in the blog created exclusively by me is available to whoever might want it, with proper credit....allen itz.

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Disconnect   Thursday, September 10, 2009


IV.9.2.




As well as being short of time this week, I'm feeling particularly lazy (perhaps it's the signs of autumn approaching that have so mellowed me) and have not gone out looking for "friends poems" as I usually do. Accordingly there will be no poem from our friends this week, only poems from my library and those I wrote myself.

A complication to this plan is, though I continued my poem-a-day routine last week, all the poems suck. Rather than posting the sucky poems I wrote last week, I'm going to the archives to find some of my older poems, mostly from my book Seven Beats a Second, still available for sale, by the way, at my primary website, www.7beats.com. Or, if you are interested, you can email me (allen.itz@gmail.com) and I'll give you a better price than on-line. The book is 154 pages of poetry, with color art by Vincent Martinez on every page. A CD of improvisational music by the Ray-Guhn Show Choir is included with every book.Thus ends my annual sales pitch.

So this is what you get for your investment of time this week, a bunch of me and some good stuff as well. All together, this:


Me
eyes of Sister Jude
the cruelty of cats at play
while a bald man burns
life is


Yuan Hung-Tao
Leaving Po-hisiang at Dawn
On Receiving My Letter of Termination


Yuan Tsung-Tao
Things Seen on the road to Hsin-Yang

Yuan Chung-Tao
Snow at the River Pavilion of Wang Lung-Hsi

Me
before you were flesh

Julia Alvarez
from Homecoming

Me
lying in the sun with susan

Czeslaw Milosz
Far Away

Me
my kind of people

Lawson Fusao Inada
Charlie Parker
Bud Powell
Listening Images


Me
about sex

Shirley Kaufman
Snow in Jerusalem

Me
burning

Paul Monette
Here

Me
outtakes from the first day of the war









Here are several short pieces from my book Seven Beats a Second, which continues to take up far too much space in my closet.



eyes of Sister Jude

sharp eyes
like tempered blades
that cut clean through when angry

guarded eyes
that weigh and judge
and stand ever alert for betrayal

dark eyes, deep,
softened once for love,
then moistened by a long night's weeping

but only once
and it was long ago


the cruelty of cats at play

her black smile
cuts like a dagger through the dark
      unseen
      slicing cleanly to the heart
"I have something to tell you,"
      she whispers


while a bald man burns

three gulls circle
while
a bald man burns
in the fierce island sun
while
i trace gargoyles
in the sand
with my toe
while
you pretend to study
the book in your hand
while
three gulls circle
in the fierce island sun


life is

life
is like a duck hunt

every time
your really start to fly

some
asshole in the weeds

shoots
your feathered butt

right out of the sky









I start my library delving this week with several poems from Pilgrim of the Clouds - Poems and Essays from Ming Dynasty China. The anthology was published in 2005 by White Pine Press. All translations are by Jonathan Chaves.

The Ming Dynasty ruled China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the earlier Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty.


The poems in the book are by the brothers Yuan. The first below are by Yuan Hung-Tao, a poet of the late-Ming period. Born in 1568, he was the eldest brother, one of the major poets and essayists of the Ming Dynasty, and the most influential of the three. He died 1611, in the ending stages of Mind dynasty rule.

All three brothers take a common, open-eyed approach to their poetry, giving us, through their eyes, a compelling look at the China of their time, not Imperial China, but the China of villages and towns and common people.


Leaving Po-hisiang at Dawn

I get out of bed before sunrise
and, half asleep, climb into my carriage.
These official journeys are like food stuck in the teeth,
homesickness as unpalatable as spoiled water chestnuts!
A girl stands in front of an inn, her hair uncombed
a Buddhist monk boils water in a little hut.
Not intoxicated, but not sober either,
I listen as the morning drum sounds through the dust.


On Receiving My Letter of Termination

The time has come to devote myself to my hiker's stick;
I must have been a Buddhist monk in a former life!
Sick, I see returning home as a kind of pardon.
A stranger here - being fired is like being promoted.
In my cup, thick wind; I get crazy-drunk,
eat my fill, then stagger up the green mountain.
The southern sect, the northern sect, I've tried them all:
this hermit has his own school of Zen philosophy.


Next, from the book, I have a poem by Yuan Tsung-Tao, first brother of Yuan Hung-Tao.


Things Seen on the Road to Hsin-Yang

      1.

Sheer cliffs surround the rice paddies.
A little path lets through carriage and horse.
This, this is Peach blossom Spring;
why keep trying to find the way?

      2.

I look all around me - no road at all!
Driver, where are we going?
Suddenly I hear the whinny of a horse
that seems to come from empty sky.

      3.

Below the mountain, no signs of people.
On the mountain, no bird calls.
This leaves only the single wisp of cloud
to watch me ride through this place.


      4.

From the clouds unexpected barking and crowing?
Could it be the home of the immortal Liu An?
Looking more closely - blue smoke from the kitchens!
There is a village ahead on a mountain ridge.

      5.

The driver looks back, frightened:
"There's a tiger howling in the woods!"
but no, at the foot of the cliff
a mountain torrent roars against the rock.

      6.

Beyond the bridge, mountains piled high.
Along the bridge, rocks like bristling teeth.
They serve to gladden the traveler's heart,
But also to hurt the horses feet.


And, finally, a poem by the second brother, Yuan Chung-Tao.


Snow at the River Pavilion of Wang Lung-Hsi

      1.

The little building rests on rock,
roof tiles splashed by spray from the waves.
Traveler, don't lean against the railing:
that's the Yangtze River down below!

      2.

Biting cold - I stop arranging my books.
My face is still flushed from the morning wine.
I lean on the table, but can't fall asleep,
listening to the battle between water and rock.

      3.

Brilliant white, covering the whole bank,
and along the bank, a thousand masts.
I see no on in the boats,
only snow, on the boats.

      4.

The guests here - really happy.
The water and rocks - really mad.
At sunset, no boats on the river,
only a pair of white egrets.

      5.

Stick out your hand - a handful of river water!
Use it to wash the inkstone.
But move the wind jar away from the window:
the passing sailboats may knock it down.

      6.

The river is white in itself;
now brilliant snow fills sky and earth.
The river has a sound of its own;
now add the roar of a furious wind.








before you were flesh

before you were flesh
you were a spring blossom,
an amalgam of sun
and nurturing rain come softly
in the grace of night

before you were a blossom,
you were a fascination,
a free-floating design
in the all-reaching universe
of god's creative passion

before you were real
you were eternal

before you were one
you were all








Next, I have several of the diary-like poems by Julia Alvarez from her book, Homecoming, published by Grove Press in 1984, early in her career as a poet.

Alvarez was born in 1950 in New York City. When she was only three months old, her family moved to the Dominican Republic, where they would live for the next ten years. She grew up with her extended family in comfortable circumstances until 1960 when the family was forced to flee to the United States after her father participated in a failed plot to overthrow the island's military dictator, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

Her life in the Dominican Republic and her exile, as she saw it, back to the United States were the basis for one of the two novels for which she is most known, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. The other of her best known works is the novel, In the Time of the Butterflies.

The last third of her book of poems, Homecoming is made up of short poems written as daily diary entrees. I like these little poems for their honest and personal look at a young woman finding her way.



~~~~

Sometimes I'll fall in love with the wrong man
because I want the valentine movie
so much I'll play it with whoever leads,
I don't care who since I never see him
anyhow for all my projections on
his John Doe face. A couple of times I've
wondered if he's all there is to love,
and love's hard work is turning visions off,
adjusting my sights to a real person,
who's in turn trying to be genuine
in spite of romance programs he was taught...
both of us waiting, till the movie stops,
to learn to love. Between reels, I listen
to someone so close by...I could touch him.

~~~~

I'm watching a romantic movie play
in Plato's cave; half of the time I don't
believe in it and put the management
down for its taste: Take that crap off! I say.
Other times I get so addicted, I'm
one of the mainliners, high on romance,
hallucinating that in truth a man's
body is one of the Absolute Forms.
I look around when the houselights come on
and see...no one! I wonder if they're gone
out in the sunlight for enlightenment,
each half with its matched other, holding hands,
while punished for my doubts, I'm tantalized
with movies of what's going on outside.

~~~~

Why do we love one man, not another?
Seems like the heart is a child who ignores
an expensive gift so as to explore
the box it came in...We fall for trifles.
For Bruce because when his marriage broke up,
he counted all the steps to his new house
with his daughter and felt relieved it was
a number he could count to without help.
For Jamie because the week he visited,
he carved me a whole set of Plato's forms
in wood: a square, globe, cube, pyramid, cone.
His last night we picked favorites, then he used
the globe to prop my bedroom window open
because it was the one I had chosen.

~~~~

For Gordon because he wasn't ashamed
to say he loved his wife, unlike husbands
who tell their mistresses they stay married
with the mothers because of the children.
For Clive because that morning at the Tate
those luminous canvases of ships moored
to keep me in London, and suddenly,
before I could say love, my heart flooded
with light. I saw on Clive's face all
losses past and to come, Julian, Jamie,
Gordon, Steven, Bruce, John. I embraced Clive
because it was too late to stop myself.

~~~~

There we were at the Tate before Turner's
Ships of Sea in hot embrace. Tourists passed
smiling, even the guards grinned, no one asked
us to move apart so they could see Turner's
Ships at Sea. I thought, if there was thinking
going on inside my head, Clive, let's get
out or we're going to be on the carpet
in a minute. The ships at sea sailed on.
The tourists boarded the buses, London
traffic cymbaled and clanged as we clung on
to what there was of Other that wasn't
Us, waves of lust rocked us, the honeyed sun
fell in sweet streams through the seablue skylights....
We spent a week in love, promised to write
as I boarded. The plane climbed into light.

~~~~

Clive, who are you with these days? The mailograms
tied with a rubber band are in a box
in my parent's garage. Or Julian
has your new true love bothered you with lots
of questions about how we were? Tell her
everything. Don't spare her with softened truths
the hard loving we did. Tell her lovers
always bring their ghostly crew of past loves,
they feel like arks in which all those we've loved
are set adrift with us. We lay our heads
where another forehead lay....It touches me
to touch so many persons in one...
which is why love does for religion.








Here's another from Seven Beats a Second.



lying in the sun with susan

quiet bay

no sound but the light rustle
of marsh grass in the gulf breeze

she
lies on the deck, legs spread,
as if to thrust herself
at the summer sun

sweat glistens
on the inside of her thigh
and my tongue aches
for the taste of her








Czeslaw Milosz, born in 1911 in central Lithuania (then part of Russian empire), was a Polish poet, prose writer and translator. From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is widely considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.

The next poem is from the four-part poem Far Away. The poem is from the book Provinces, Poems 1987-1991, published by The Ecco Press in 1991. I originally intended to use only the first and last parts of the poem, but once I had done that, I went back and added the two middle parts. It's a long poem, but breaking it up just didn't seem right.

Milosz died in 2004 at his Krakow home.

The poems in the book were translated by the poet in cooperation with Robert Hass.



Far Away

Great love makes a great grief.
Skarga

I

The chronicler is breathing, his heart is beating.
This is rare among chroniclers, for they are usually dead.
He tries to describe the earth as he remembers it
I.e., to describe on that earth his first love,
A girl bearing some ordinary name
From whom he will never again receive a letter
And who astonishes him by her strong existence
So that she seems to dictate whet he writes.

It happened a long, long time ago.
In a city which was like an oratorio
Shooting with its ornate towers up to the sky
Into he white clouds, from among green hills.
We were growing there next to each other, unaware of it,
In the same legend: about a subterranean river
Nobody has ever seen, about a basilisk
Under a medieval tower, about a secret passage
Which led from the city to a remote island
With the ruins of a castle in the middle of the lake.
Every spring we took the same delight in the river:
Ice is breaking, it flows, and look, ferry boats
Painted in blue and green stripes,
And majestic raft trains drift to the sawmills.

In the sun of April we were walking in the crowd.
Expectation was timid, nameless.
And only now, when every "he loves me, loves me not"
is fulfilled, when ridicule and grief
Are alike and I am at one
With these girls and boys, saying farewell,
I realize how strong their love was for their city.
Though they were unaware, it was to last them a lifetime.
They were destined to live through the loss of their country,
To search for a souvenir, a sign, something that does not perish.
And had I to offer a gift to her, I would have choose this:
I would place her among the dreams of architecture,
There, where St. Ann and the Bernadins,
St. John and the Missionaries meet the sky.

2

In the scent of savory, there where the path
Winds down towards the alders and the rushes
Of a small lake, in the sun, beehives.
The unchanging bees of our forest country
Work, as always, on the day we perish.

She was quick. She shouted: "Now!
No time to lose!" - and they grabbed the children,
They ran that path, from the house, by the alders, into the
  swamp.
the soldiers came out of the birch grove, were surrounding
  the house,
They had left their truck in the woods, so as not to scare
  people away.
"They did not think to let the dog loose,
It would have certainly led them to us."
Thus our country was ending, still generously
Protective with its osiers, mosses, wild rosemaries.
Long trains were moving eastward, towards Asia,
With the laments of those who knew they would not return.

Bees fly, heavy, to their mead breweries,
White clouds drift slowly, reflected in the lake.
Our heritage will be handed to unknown people.
Will they respect the hives, nasturtiums by the porch,
Carefully weeded patches, the slanting apple trees?

3

But yes, the restaurant's name was "A Cozy Nook."
How could I have forgotten! does it mean
I did not want to remember? And the city was falling
Into its sleepy molting, into a long season
Of people I could not imagine. It hardly, hardly
Returns. Why in my poems is there so little
Autobiography? Where did it come from, the idea
To hide what is my own as if it were sick?
Then, in the "Cozy Nook" I was still one
Of the gentlemen students, and officers, before whom
Little Matthew's waiters would put a carafe
Of vodka straight from the ice, misty with dew,
And to be adult made you proud,
Just as you felt proud coming of good stock.
This took place in a Europe of swamps and pine forests,
Of horse carts creaking on sandy highways.
Little Matthew, obliging, circulated among the tables.
Was he to become an informer? Or has he gone
To a gulag on one of the Siberian rivers?

4

How stupid is the business of the State.
I should not write about it and yet, I do.
For, after all, one pities people.

Here where I live they buy and sell
Every hour of the day and night.
In halls sprinkled with bluish light they heap
Fruits brought from five continents,
Fish and meats from the East and West,
Snails and oysters summoned against the clock,
Liquors fermented in sultry valleys.
I have nothing against the Polynesias in shop windows,
Against a virgin nature at a modest price,
And if I object, I keep it to myself, it's simpler.

I am not from here. From a remote province,
from a remote continent
Where I had learned the nature of the State.

By a river in the evening, our choral singing.
We were living beyond marshes, beyond woods,
thirty kilometers from the nearest railway station,
In manors, yeomen's lodges, farmhouses, hamlets.
Our singing was about division: this here
Is ours, that over there is alien, here poverty, there wealth,
Here ploughing, there trading, here virtue, there sin,
Here faithfulness to the ancestors, there treason,
And the worst of all, if one should sell his forest.
The oaks stood there for ages, now they were falling
With thunderous echoes, so that the earth trembled.
And then the road to our parish church
Led no more through shade with songs of birds
But through empty and silent clearings,
And that was like a presage of every kind of loss.
We implored the protection of the Miraculous Virgin,
We accompanied organ music with Latin chants.
Generation after generation we lived against the State
Which would not overcome us either with threat or punishment.
Till a perfect State appeared on the earth.

The state is perfect if it takes away
From every man his name, sex, dress, and manner,
And carries them at dawn, insane with fear,
Where, no one knows, to steppes, deserts,
So that its power is revealed
And, wallowing in their filth,
Hungry, humiliated, men renounced their right.
What did we know of this? Nothing at all.
And later on there were none among us
Who would be able to tell the world about this new knowledge.
The age passes, memory passes. Nobody will find
Letters begging for help, graves without crosses.








And another one from my book.



my kind of people

fat girls
need not apply

no skinny
bucktoothed boys
who masturbate
while reading historical
romance novels

no crinkly, wrinkly
old people
drooly-chinned
babies
with foul smelling
diapers
no bankers
who count their money
in a dark little room
at midnight

no judges, no fire chiefs,
no social workers,
no grocery store clerks,
barbers, bakers,
or used car salesmen

also, no candlestick makers
if they're still around

none of them either

no blonds
with dimples
and no swarthy skinned
men with mustaches

no baldheaded men
with beards
nor women
with brittle hair
piled higher than
six and one half inches

none too short
none too tall
none too big
none too small

and none too
in between

no men in tangerine
bermuda shorts
and no women
in pedal pushers
(any color)

no arabs, no blacks
no wops or jews

no russians, maldavians,
limes, frogs, krauts
poles, czechs, hunkies
greeks, swedes
irish sots
nor tightfisted scots

they just need no apply

and no chinamen, either,
and none of their oriental
cousins

no africans,
no egyptians,
and damn sure no syrians,

no mexicans
peruvians, chileans,
panamanians,
pomeranians,
argentinians,
and canadians, too

and kansans, californians,
new yorkers, iowa
porkers, nevadans,
or any of the rest

all of them
just need not apply,
all the riffraff
just need not apply
cause now we're
getting down to
the right kind of people

my kind of people

me

and, maybe

you









Lawson Fusao Inada, born 1938 in California, has been Oregon poet laureate since 1966.

Inada is a third-generation Japanese American and at the age of 4, he and his family were interned for the duration of World War II at camps in Fresno, Arkansas, and Colorado.

Following the war, Inada became a bass jazz musician, following the work of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Billie Holiday, to whom he would later write tributes in his works. He studied writing at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Oregon, and the University of Iowa and has taught poetry at Southern Oregon University since 1966.

The next three poems are from his book Legends from Camp, winner of the 1994 American Book Award, published by Coffee House Press. He has received several poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and also won the 1997 Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry.

Jazz, he has said, and his time in the camp have always been the greatest influences on his poetry. Here we see the jazz portion of that influence.



Charlie Parker

Yardbird. Bird. Yard.
Whatever he was called, whenever he played,
wherever we heard him wherever we are now,
Yardbird never left home.

On this corner, of 12 Street and Vine,
Pres and the Basie have just finished a set,
with the accomplished embellishments
of Mr. Pete Johnson.

This is Bird's place, and we hear it all.
Why leave this kind of yard?

People are downhome here, and in the know.
Sure, times may be tough,
but that don't excuse the music.
We're serious about it.
Go ahead, Bird, and blow!
If we can't follow you, we ain't worth it.

So there goes Bird deep down in the gutter,
passing the bottle around, taking it back.
So there goes Bird back in the alley
talking that trash, trashing the sack.

Go ahead, bird! We can dance to it.
If we can't dance, we can't use it.
We've cut off the sides of our shoes for you.

So there goes Bird all around the corner.
Mr. Preacherman Bird, going into a storefront
and coming out with a sanctified sermon.
Now here comes the whole congregation -
looking happy, feeling fancy, dancing!

Go ahead, Bird, Yardbird, Charlie!
Whomever he are, comes transportation:

come a taxi, come 52nd Street,
come Harlem, come New York city,
come Bud rubbing a glass piano,
come Monk meandering in the dark,
come Dizzy blowing the roof off,
come Klookamop, come Max making wax,
come Miles and miles of open sky,

come bebop and everybody else,
come the enhancement of anybody's life.

Come Yardbird right into your home.
Come Charlie beside you at the station.
Come Bird sneaking up with the blues.
Come Yard surprising from inside of you.

If you have blood, and pulse,
if you have heart - then there you are,
Welcome to the corner. You never left home.


Bud Powell

   "Parisian Thoroughfare"

Shops gleaming wares,
windows streaming with the streets of commerce as fragrance
from a nearby bakery fills and gilds the air
burgeoned to the brim with birds, butterflies, blossoms,
rising and falling
calls of children quickening the courtyards,
women whisking walks in the sunlit
briskness of rhythm
propelling, pulsing the entire populace, the entire
thoroughfare into action after the night's refreshing rain
promising spring thick with brilliance,
the surprising
turn of events where everything turns out happy...


("Hey, cut it, man!")



Listening Images

Lester Young

Yes, clouds do have
The smoothest sound.

Billie Holiday

Hold a microphone
Close to the moon.

Charlie Parker

Rapids to baptism
In one blue river.

Coleman Hawkins

A hawk for certain,
But as big as a man.

Ben Webster

Such fragile moss
In a massive tree.

Louis Armstrong

Just dip your years
And taste the sauce.

Roy Eldridge

Get in the car.
Start the engine.

Dizzy Gillespie

Gusts of gusto
Sweep the desert.

Miles Davis
3 valves, tubing...
How many feelings?

Clifford Brown

A fine congregation
This spring morning.

Art Tatum

Innumerable dew,
A splendid web.

Bud Powell

The eye, and then
the hurricane.

Thelonius Monk

Always old, always new,
Always deja vu.

Count Basie

Acorns on the roof -
Syncopated oakestra.

Duke Ellington

Stars, stripes, united
States of Ellington.

Gene Ammons
Chu Berry
Don Byas
Eddie Davis
Herschel Evans
Paul Gonsalves
Dexter Gordon
Wardell Gray
Rahsaan Kirk
Hank Mobley
Charlie Rouse
Sonny Stitt


Mountain mist,
Monumental totem.

John Coltrane

Sunrise golden
At the throat

Eric Dolphy

Coming across quick
Deer in the forest.

Delta blues

They broke bottles
Just to get the neck.

Son House

A lone man plucking
bolts of lightning.

Kansas City Shouters

Your baby leaves you on the train.
You stand and bring it back again.

Big Joe Turner

Big as laughter, big as rain,
Big as the big public domain.








And another one from my book, Seven Beats a Second.



about sex

sex
is about the heat
of rubbing parts together
passion
a function of finely calibrated
friction

some will say
it makes a big difference
which parts do what to who

bullshit
i say

it's a lot
like chicken nuggets

in the dark
parts is parts

you rub mine
and i'll rub yours
and we'll sort it out
in the morning








Born in 1923, Shirley Kaufman grew up in Seattle and lived in San Francisco for many years. She now makes her home in Jerusalem, where she has lived for a number of years. She has published four collections of her own poetry as well as a number of books of translation of Hebrew poetry. She also collaborated on a book of translation of poems by Dutch poet, Judith Herzbeg, which won a Columbia University translation prize.

The next poems is from her book Rivers of Salt, published by Copper Canyon Press in 1993.



Snow in Jerusalem

After it stops the air is still
whirling around our house and the pine trees
shake out their iced wings the way
dogs shed the sea from their bodies
after a swim, a white crust slides
like shingles down the backs of the branches,
soft clumps loosen themselves from
sills and ledges, fall past our window
with the swoosh of small birds
or of moths at night that beat themselves
senseless against the lamp until
we switch it off and reach for each other,
warm and slightly unraveled under
the worn nap, under the flannel
of the snow sky, under the overhanging
sorrow of the city listening to the
plop, plop, it's all coming clean now,
starting to thaw a little from the inside.








And, another one from my book.



burning

though
hot
i'm not

you truly set me burning
when you walked out those
swinging doors
in your skimpy white short-shorts

tight cheeks flexing against
the soft cotton
like two little monkeys
in a velvet bag

waving goodbye

seismic
is the word that comes to mind








The next poem is by Paul Monette from his book West of Yesterday, East of Summer, New and Selected Poems, 1973-1993, published by St. Martin's Press in 1994.

The poem is from a series of poems in the book titled Love Alone, 18 Elegies for Rog, elegies for his friend and life-partner Roger Horwitz who died of AIDS. Monette died, also of AIDS, in 1995.

In addition to his poetry and reviews, Monette wrote novelizations of films, including 1988 film Midnight Run, the 1979 film Nosferatu the Vampyre, the 1987 film Predator and 1983 film Scarface.



Here

everything extraneous has burned away
this is how burning feels in the fall
of the final year not like leaves in a blue
October but as if the skin were a paper lantern
full of tapped moths beating their fired wings
and yet I can lie on the hill just above you
a foot beside where I will lie myself
soon soon and for all the wrack and blubber
feel how we were warriors when the
merest morning sun in the garden was a
kingdom after Room 1010 war is not all
death it turns out war is what little
thing you hold on to refugeed and far from home
oh sweetie will you please forgive me this
that every time I opened a box of anytHing
Glad Bags One-A-Day KINGSIZE was
the worst I'd think will you still be here
when the box is empty Rog Rog who will
play boy with me now that I bucket with tears
through it all when I'd cling beside you sobbing
you'd shrug it off with the quietest I'm still
here
I have your watch in the top drawer
which I don't dare wear yet help me please
the boxes grocery home day after day
the junk that keeps men spotless but it doesn't
matter now how long they last or I
the day has taken you with it and all
there is now is burning dark the only green
is up by the grave and this little thing
of telling the hill I'm here oh I'm here








Now an old poem that was not in my book.

The posting date for this issue being September 11th, I take note of the event on that date in 2001 by posting the next poem. It is the only poem I wrote about the event, which, in fact, is not really so much about the event, but an attempt put into words and form the event as we saw on TV that day and played over and over again on the days that followed.

The poem was eventually published in 2004 in The Muse Apprentice, an on-line journal that was publishing a number of my poems at the time.

I've never used it anywhere else because the HTML is such a pain to deal with.



outtakes from the first day of the war

                                   nothing

leads to anything

                                                                      short bursts
                                                                    of thought

                                     smoke

                                billows grey

                                    
  down
                                        city
                                  streets

no          connections

broken

                                 gray streets awash
                                  in a gray tide

            dreams
            bro
               ken

smaller
smaller

      p     i
      e     c      s
               e

                                    graypeopleghosts
                                        gray ghosts

                                          running

            mind bro
            ken

smaller
smaller

p   i
e     c
   e   s

     crashing down
in silence
     flowing
         like water
         down

riverwide
 riverlong
  riverdeep
   riverstrong
    riverflows
     riverlives
      rivertakes
       rivergives

                              puddling gray
                            in concrete and steel

      t
      h
      r
      e
      a
      d

thread

         l
         i
         m
         p

          lick it
          so it stays
          straight

                                   lick it

so it doesn't
flop down
like and old man's

     d
      i
      c
      k

make it straight

                            s t r a i g h t

through
the eye

     pull     tight


in    and   out

                                                            push in

                                                                      push out

                                                                        push in

                                        push out

          through the weaving
                                   patterns
                                                                      of our lives

     bring the pieces
     together

                              smoke

                               ash

                              ghosts surfing
                              gray tide
                             eyes wide

eyes wide
red-rimmed
in a gray mask

eyes wide
          in

     dis
con     nect









And that's the end of that.

Come back new week for bunches more of poetry. In the meantime, please recall that all material in this blog remains the property of its creators

I produced the blog and I own the blog and any material in the blog created exclusively by me is available to anyone who might want to use it.

Credit is proper and appropriate in such usage. Just spell my name right...allen itz.

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