El Nuevo Camino del Rio de San Antonio   Thursday, October 29, 2009


My photos this week are from a walk I took down the recently extended portion of the San Antnio Riverwalk, which goes north from the original downtown section, past the San Antonio Art Museum and on to the Zoo and the Witte Museum. I haven't done all of the new part yet (it's a very long walk), but will soon, while the weather's cool. Eventually the Riverwalk will also be extended south, presentng a hike-able, bike-able paved path along the rive all the way to Mission Espada, the furhermost of the old Spanish missions.

As to our poetry, here's the cast and crew for this week.

Gregory Orr
Origin of the Marble Forest
A Moment
Dark Night
The Vase
The Hinge
Looking Back

midgetly lurking vulture pigeons

Dana Gioia
The End of the World

Paul Mills

Cornelia DeDona
Dim Sum in Chinatown

W. S. Merwin
Unknown Age
My Hand
What the Bridges Hear
Long Afternoon Light

a great night for football

The Inn at Tamagawa Station

Cornelia DeDona
Golden Tilapia

John Ashbery
Lost Footage
The Red Easel

tough love

Paul Celan

Cornelia DeDona
What Color Do You Breathe

Janice Gould
The Day of the Dead

all together, now

Cornelia DeDona
Boogey Fever


Philip Larkin
Annus Mirabilis
Cut Grass

about the politics of grumpity crapity old men

I start this week with several poems by another poet new to me, Gregory Orr, from his book City of Salt, published in 1995 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Born in 1947 in Albany, New York, Orr grew up in the rural Hudson Valley and, for a year, in a hospital in the hinterlands of Haiti. He received a B.A. degree from Antioch College, and an M.F.A. from Columbia University.

He is the author of nine collections of poetry, including City of Salt, which was a finalist for the L.A. Times Poetry Prize in 1995.

He is also the author of a memoir, The Blessing, which was chosen by Publisher's Weekly as one of the fifty best nonfiction books the year, and three books of essays.

Orr has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and two poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2003, he was presented the Award in Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was a Rockefeller Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Culture and Violence, where he worked on a study of the political and social dimension of the lyric in early Greek poetry.

He teaches at the University of Virginia, where he founded the MFA Program in Writing in 1975, and served from 1978 to 2003 as Poetry Editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review.

I really do like this poet.

Origin of the Marble Forest

Childhood dotted with bodies.

Let them go, let them
be ghosts.

        No, I said,
make them stay, make them stone.

A Moment

The field where my brother died -
I've walked there since
Weeds and grasses, some chicory
stalks; no trace of the scene
I can still see: a father
and his sons bent above
a deer they'd shot,
then screams and shouts.

Always I arrive too late
to take the rifle
from the boy I was,
too late to warn him
of what he can't imagine:
how quickly people vanish;
how one moment you're standing
shoulder to shoulder,
the next you're alone in a field.

A Dark Night

How I long to pull the old man in;
he's thrashing out there in the water,
he's drunk and can't swim.

Then again, maybe it's a dog
and he'll claw and bite me
as I lean from the small boat
to haul him up.

        The splashing
so near and those sounds -
are they growls
or a humans choaked sobs?
How dark it is, how far I am from shore.

The Vase

Boredom and terror, and the older
I get the more terror arrives
dressed as boredom, wearing
the same clothes I wear to work
each day.

        Returning, I empty
my pockets into a large vase
in the hall; bits of lint, scraps
of paper, loose change, a piece of string.

The vase is taller than I am,
blazoned with white chrysanthemums
and green, exotic birds in flight.

The Hinge

On it the whole world turns
if the world is a door,
and if the world is not a door
how to explain the movement
seen in the butterfly's
stiff wings
as it flutters
on a purple bush,
or the arms of lovers
thrown open
on their equally precise

        And the hinge
screams as it yields
though no one's there.,
though it's only the breeze.

Looking Back

Marble pillars
of palace
or temple -
so what?
I've seen them
tumbled by vines

And our beautiful
bodies -
how long
will they last?

Shallow valley
where we
lay down
crushing a circle
in tall grass.

Above it
our ghosts
in rowboats
among low clouds,
letting it down
of sunlight with
tiny golden hooks.

Feeling a little silly a few days ago, and not so deeply inspired when it came time to write my poem of the day.

midgetly lurking vulture pigeons

like midget
city vultures


for an Iowa-farmer
to swoop through
the city streets
in a brilliantly-red
biplane, dropping corn
for midget-vulture-pigeons

or a puffing-steaming
spewing pink popcorn
from its puffy-steamer

or a grimly-grimy
trawler crawling on
little ballooning-tires
from street to street
shaking pinkly-pretty
popcorn shrimp
from its net all for
midgetly-vulting pigeons
lackadaisically ledgly-lurking

or Mr. Theodore Roosevelt-Shrimp
primly passing
in his permanently pressed
plaid shirt and
given to him on his 63rd
birthday by the late Mrs. Shirley
the love of his Shrimply life

all this
those pigeonly midgeted vultureous
lazy ledged lurkers
could be awaiting from their ledgerous lair

or it could be for something else

who knows what they might be
as they lurkishly ledgisly perch

not me

Next, I have two poems from Earth Songs, an anthology of contemporary eco-poetry, published by Green Books in 2002.

The first poem is by Dana Gioia, a poet and critic who retired early from his career as a corporate executive at General Foods to write full-time. From January 29, 2003, until January 22, 2009, he was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, our Federal arts agency, working to revitalize an organization that had suffered bitter controversies about the nature of grants to artists in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gioia sought to encourage jazz, which he calls the only uniquely American form of art, to promote reading and performance of William Shakespeare and to increase the number of Americans reading literature. Before taking the NEA post, Gioia was a resident of Santa Rosa, California, and before that, of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

The End of the World

"We're going," they said, "to the end of the world".
So they stopped the car where the river curled,
And we scrambled down beneath the bridge
On the gravel track of a narrow ridge.

We tramped for miles on a wooded walk
Where dog-hobble grew on its twisted stalk.
Then we stopped to rest on the pine-needle floor
While two ospreys watched from an oak by the shore.

We came to a bend, where the river grew wide
And green mountains rose on the opposite side.
My guides moved back. I stood alone,
As the current streaked over smooth flat stone.

Shelf by shelf the river fell.
The white water goosetailed with eddying swell.
Faster and louder the current dropped
Till it reached a cliff, and the trail stopped.

I stood at the edge where the mist ascended,
My journey done where the world ended.
I looked downstream. There was nothing but sky,
The sound of water, and the water's reply.

The next poem from the book is by Paul Mills, the poet, performance artist, rock journalist, and civil rights lawyers, known, I think, early in his career as "Poez."


Straight out of the Pacific
grooves of rock that peak the clouds with ice
splinter into rivers running East.
Cloud-forests melting in July,
the Amazon at its source,
jungle of island-fringes a horizon
dividing water and sky: two azures,
evolving soft ephemera of trees
through which monkeys crash, birds cry out,
howls liquefy, great white egrets
coil downward into extreme sculpture.
Here is where he river begins to move
headlong at terrible speed
into the earth.

Thrilling with Andes snow
delivering rainclouds, fruit, vines, water,
the vast drainage of Amazon seeks every outlet
inlet and lake, and moves through it
sometimes will not move
sometimes like to drift in a still depth fringed
by insect-floating growth, peacock fish
slothlike green canopies of trees.
But will reach salt water.
Dying into the earth's future,
Amazonas - living with its trees a few million years
together in their best of times secretly.

Alert to floating damage, torn-off roots
the shaman steers crouched,
a human rudder,
then in a liquid wilderness of glints
steering us through needles of black palm,
knowing where the simple secrets grow
trance-inducing vines,
eyes like beetles running among leaves
where trees flower -

So that night we drank his drug of bark
growing in our ears the drumming
of millions of insects, nightjars, frogs,
seemed like a city's steady traffic hum
heard from an open skylight or a street,
all sound vacuumed from the trees
into a jet of planet-circling air,
as over mountains our small plane
broke through the seal of mist
into a wide entrance of green heat,
rivers coiled like empty asphalt tracks.

father and son
- steering words,
moving upstream.
Alligator eyes
caught red in flash-beams in the reeds.
Upstream to the coolness of our camp.
The moment being given to us again -
that we were here and saw the rim of the galaxy,
a shapely arc,
huts on the shores,
after-sunset handling of nets,
all of it blowing through us gusts of elation,
sharp joy -
the Milky Way,
slant of the Southern Cross,
riding in that boat against the wind

I have four poems this week from our friend Cornelia DeDona. They are from her new book, Boogey Fever. You can read more about this book, as well as her previous two books at


Born in Germany and raised in New York. Cornelia, or, Connie, has lived for the past 32 yrs. with her husband in Hawaii. She has traveled extensively both here in the U.S. and abroad. She is a "Friend" to the National League of American Pen Women and the Friends of the Library in Honolulu. She subscribes to Blueline Poetry, an online poetry forum, where she posts a poem a day. She is also a member of the Academy of American Poets.

This is the first of our four poems from Connie. The other three will appear later.

Dim Sum in Chinatown

We met at ten thirty
on a Sunday morning
for Dim Sum - a bit of heart,
in a busy
Chinatown restaurant.
The Yum Cha
(drinking tea)
took me back to China.
To a trip of a lifetime.
To an industrious
dynamic people with
backs bent in two
using simple tools
to rebuild modern cities
reeking of
inadequate plumbing
and garbage strewn
To discern
these proud inhabitants
of decay
from five star hotels
with a hazy blackened view.
Where east encounters west
and rich confronts poor
devoid of
birds and trees
to block out the sun,
face to face.

inside the debris
lies the heart
of these proud
people as
a wrapper
rice flour
with pork

Seems like I'm doing a lot of M. S. Merwin, maybe because he is great to read, especially good at finding the truth of things in very few words. The next several short poems are from his book, The Shadow of Sirius, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2008.

Unknown Age

For all the features it hoards and displays
age seems to be without substance at any time

whether morning or evening it is a moment of air
held between the hands like a stunned bird

while I stand remembering light in the trees
of another century on a continent long submerged

with no way of telling whether the leaves at that time
felt memory as they were touching the day

and no knowledge of what happened to the reflections
on the pond's surface that were never seen again

the bird lies still while the light goes on flying

My Hand

See how the past is not finished
here in the present
it is awake the whole time
never waiting
it is my hand now but not what I held
it is not my hand but what i held
it is what I remember
but it never seems quite the same
no one else remembers it
a house long one into air
the flutter of tires over a brick road
cool light in a finished bedroom
the flash of the oriole
between one life and another
the river a child watched

What the Bridges Hear

Even the right words if ever
we come to them tell of something
the words never knew
celestial for sunlight
or starlight for starlight
so at this moment there my be words
somewhere among the nebulae
for the two bridges across the wide
rock-strewn river
part way around the bend from each other
in the winter sunlight
late in the afternoon more than half
a century ago with the sound
of the water rushing under them
and passing between them unvarying
and inaudible it is still there
so is the late sunlight
of that winter afternoon
although the winter has vanished
and the bridges are still reaching across
the wide sound of being there

Long Afternoon Light

Small roads written in sleep in the foothills
how long ago and I believed you were lost
with the bronze then deepening in the light
and the shy moss turning to itself holding
its own brightness above the badger's path
while a single crow sailed west without a sound
we trust without giving it a thought
that we will always see it as we see it
once and that what we know is only
a moment of what is ours and will stay
we believe it as the moment slips away
as lengthening shadows merge in the valley
and a window kindles there like a first star
what we see again comes to us in secret

We had four beautiful days in a row last week - the challenge, to think of what to do with them.

a great night for football

another blue-sky
no-cloud day, cool
and calm, third
in a row, traffic on
San Pedro flows
like a rush of white water,
a river of urban escapees
in a hurry to take in
what looks like the best
weekend in the past and probably
future twelve months

is off for several days
of hiking and camping
in the Guadalupe Mountains,
dry and remote, hanging out on the
Texas/New Mexico edge between
high desert and mountains

the promise of a great football
night enticing us, Dee and i just
have to decide who we want to see
crushed tonight - both our preferred teams
in the cellar, fresh meat for the bloody maws
of this year's Goliaths - no Davids in our stable,
no deadly slingshot, no hand of God directing our aim -
it's a win/don't win situation, they win,
our guys don't, serving, instead,
only to be slain, to be smashed,
to be strewn in bloody body parts between
goal posts....

to be examples, in a political/philosophical sense,
of the fate of weakness in this land of tough and ready,
this field of great hits and end runs, this grand
wail of stomp the muthafuckers till they bleed
through their toes

a great day today and a great night ahead,
a great night for sleeping in the desert,
a great night for dinner and drinks
and some nookie under a midnight canvas
of more stars then there is time to count,
a great night for football,
a great night for some good Friday evening's
entertainment watching our children
beat the crap out of each other

Though born in Japan in the eighteenth century, the hermit-monk Ryokan lived and wrote firmly in the tradition of the great Zen eccentrics of China and Japan. The following poem is from a collection of his works, One Robe, One Bowl, published in it's fifteenth printing in 2005 by Weatherhill of Boston and London.

The poems in the book were translated by John Stevens.

The Inn at Tamagawa Station

Mid autumn - the wind and rain are now at their most
A wanderer, my spirit is inseparable from this difficult
During the long night, dreams float from the pillow -
Awake suddenly, I have mistaken the sound of the river
  for the voice of the rain.


Carrying firewood on my shoulder
I walk in the green mountains along the bumpy path.
I stop to rest under a tall pine;
Sitting quietly, I listen to the spring song of the birds.


Early summer - floating down a clear running river in
  a wooden boat,
A lovely girl gently plays with a crimson lotus flower
  held in her white hands.
The day becomes more and more brilliant.
Young men play along the shore
and a horse runs by the willows.
Watching quietly, speaking to no one,
The beautiful girl does not show that her heart is broken.


Since I came to this hermitage
How many years have passed?
If I am tired I stretch out my feet;
If I feel fine I go for a stroll in the mountains.
Following my destiny, for this body I have received
  from my parents
I have only thanks.


Near a Kannon temple, I have a temporary hermitage;
Alone, yet the intimate friend of a thousand green poems
  written on the surrounding foliage.
Sometimes in the morning I put on my priest's mantle
And go down to the village to beg food for this old body.


At night, deep in the mountains I sit in zazen.
The affairs of men never reach here.
In the stillness I sit on a cushion across from the empty
The incense has been swallowed up by the endless night;
Unable to sleep, I walk into the garden;
Suddenly, above the highest peak, the round moon appears.


Day and night the cold wind blows through my robe.
In the forest, only fallen leaves;
Wild chrysanthemums can no longer be seen.
Next to my hermitage there is an ancient bamboo grove;
Never changing, it awaits my return.


Once again, many greedy people appear
No different from the silkworms wrapped in cocoons.
Wealth and riches are all they love,
Never giving their minds or bodies a moment's rest.
Every year their natures deteriorate
While their vanity increases.
One morning death comes before
They can use even half their money.
Others happily receive the estate,
And the deceased's name is soon lost in darkness.
For such people there can only be great pity.


My hut, located in a distant village, is little more than
  four bare walls.
Once I was a mendicant monk, wandering here and there,
  staying nowhere long.
Recalling the first day of my pilgrimage, years ago -
How high my spirits were!


The autumn nights have lengthened
And the cold has begun to penetrate my mattress.
My sixtieth year is near,
Yet there is no one to take pity on this weak old body.
The rain has finally stopped; now just a thin stream
  trickles from the roof.
All night the incessant cry of insects:
Wide awake, unable to sleep.
Leaning on my pillow, I watch the pure bright rays of sunrise.

Now here's the second of our four poems from Cornelia DeDona.

Golden Tilapia

Your muscles are
and lean
Your piercing blue eyes are
and see
It is morning.
The throw net
is draped
your left shoulder.
As you
wait for the
precise moment
to hurl the net.
The first throw
directs the next
and with each pass
more and more
are harvested
and released
onto the dew soaked grass.
In their final struggle
to stay alive
they arch
and flip back and forth
across the void
to escape back
into the cool dark water
beneath the lily pads.

However their fates are set
filleted without delay
resulting in
one last swim
in hot oil.

Here are two poems by John Ashbery from his book Where Shall I Wander, published in 2005 by HarperCollins.

Ashbery is a modern poet about whom much has been written. I don't see a need for me to add to it.

Lost Footage

You said, "Life's a hungry desert."
or something like that. I couldn't hear.

The curving path escorts us
to Armida's pavilion. The enchantress.
She had everything built slightly smaller
than life size, as you'll find
if you sit in the chair at that table.

And clean - everything is terribly clean,
from the crumbs casting long shadows
on the breadboard, to the gnats churning in the open window.

We can't mask the anxiety for long,
but we can produce good and cherishable deed
to be ransacked by those who come after us.
True, no one visits anymore.
I used to think it was because of him, now
I think it's because of him and us.

We grow more fragile at our posts,
interrogating vacant night. "Who goes there?"
And he goes, "Nay, stand and unfurl yourself."

I thought, in the corner, in the canyon,
in the cupboard, was something that seized me
in a terrible but approachable embrace.

All was silent except the pedals
of the loom. from which a tapestry streams
in bits and pieces. "I don’t care how you do it."

I can see the subject, an eagle with Ganymede
in his razor-clam claws, against a sky
of mottled sun and storm clouds.

From that, much vexation.

The Red Easel

Say doc, those swags are of the wrong period
though in harmony with the whole. You shouldn't take it too hard.
Everybody likes it when the casual drift
becomes more insistent, setting in order the house
while writing finis to its three-decker novel. Only when the polaint
of hens pierces dusk like a screen door
does the omnipresent turn top-heavy. Oh really?
I thought they had names for guys like you
and places to take them to. That's true, but
let's not be hasty, shall we, and pronounce your example
a fraud before all the returns are in? These are,
it turns out, passionate and involving, as well as here to stay.

I'm tired of putting up with grumpy people. Might have to get grumpy myself.

tough love

i think i must be an exception
since it seems every person
i see over age 40 is pissed off
about something,

85 percent of my relatives,
republicans, democrats, sinners,
saints, welfare mothers, business
chiefs, main street, back street,
side street, Wall Street, blue collar,
white collar, pink collar, all of them
pissed about one thing or another,
often at each other, about each other

like the guy
in the chair ahead of me at the
barbershop, getting his ears
lowered, pounding Armando,
the barber, with a litany of
sonsabitches screwing him one
way or another, down on
everything and everyone
but his wife, that single exception
probably only because she was
in the chair next to me, within
hearing distance of the verbal
rampage, probably accustomed
to hearing it all, the reason she's
always pissed off at him and
everything that pisses him off
because that's the reason
she has to spend days and nights
listening to his monologue - oh,
would that it would be internal,
crap, crap, crap, always living
with it, all the better things, the
beautiful things of life, pushed
into the shadows by his unending
rush of crap, knee deep
in his drivel all the days and hours
of her

i understand - 15 minutes of listening
to him while i wait my turn in the chair
and i'm ready to go slap the shit out of him
myself - grow up, man,
it's not the world's fault you're a dipshit,
i'd like to tell him, it's because of your
dipshitting ways, so quit complaining
and put on a happy face, a smiley face
like mine, see me smile, that's
the way you ought to be living, don't
let things get to you, follow my lead,
be like me,

pass it on

The next poem by Paul Celan, from the book of poems selected and introduced by Robert Hass from the anthology Poet's Choice - Poems for Everyday Life. The book was published by HarperCollins in 1998. The introductions by Hass are especially well done and helpful.

Celan was a Jewish poet born in 1920 and educated in the traditions of German poetry. He lost both his parents in the concentration camps and barely survived them himself.

He struggled most of his life with the contradiction of writing in a language he loved that was also the language of his family's murderers.

He committed suicide in 1970 when he was 49 years old.

Hass praised the translation of this poem by John Felstiner, particularly the way Felstiner allowed the poem to slip back into German at the end, a symbol of the poet's lifelong struggle with the language.


Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening
we drink it at middday and morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink
we shovel a grave in the air there you you won't lie too cramped
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling
he whistles his hounds to come close
he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the
he commands us ply up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair
Your ashen hair Shulamith we shovel a grave in the air there you
   won't lie too cramped

He shouts jab this earth deeper you lot there you others sing up
   and play
he grabs for the rod in his belt he swings it his eyes are so blue
jab your spades deeper you lot there you other play on for the

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
a man lives in the house your goldenes Harr Margareta
Your aschenes Haar Schulamith he plays with his vipers

He shouts play death more sweetly this Death is a master from
he shouts scrape your strings darker you'll rise then as smoke to
   the sky
you'll have a grave then in the clouds there you won't lie too

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday Death is a master aus Deutschland
we drink you at morning and evening we drink and we drink
this Death is ein Meister aus Deutschland his eye it is blue
he shoot you with shot made of lead shoots you level and true
a man lives in the house hour goldenes Haar Margarete
he looses his hounds on us grants us a grave in the air
he plays with his vipers and daydreams der Tod ist ein Meister
   aus Deutschland

dein goldenes Haar Margarete
deil aschenes Haar Sulamith

Now, here's number three of the four poems by Connie DeDona in this issue.

What Color Do You Breathe

I exhale a blue language
of nouns and verbs.
My syntax
frozen, in the atmosphere
hidden, on a cloud high above
Mauna Kea.
In search of exclusive metaphors
while observing the Nene
as it forages for food, between
the cracks and crevices of black and gold
lava flows, hardened by decades of cooling.
Now joined by violet joy bushes
and a profusion of bright green tree ferns,
still erupting into red phrases
congealing into the deep blue pacific,
crimson orange tongues ablaze.

No way I can publish on the day before Halloween without a poem for the occasion. This one was written by Janice Gould and it is also taken from Poet's Choice.

Gould is a poet from California of European and Koykangk'auwsi Maidu ancestry. She lives in Santa Fe and has taught American Indian literature at the University of Santa Fe in Albuquerque.

The Day of the Dead

I wish it were like this:
el dia de los muertos comes
and we fill our baskets with bread,
apples,chicken, and beer,
and go out to the graveyard.

We bring flowers with significant colors -
yellow, crimson, and gold -
the strong, hungry colors of life,
full of saliva and blood.

We sit on the sandy mounds
and I play my accordion.
It groans like the gates of hell.
The flames of the votives
flicker in the wind.

My music makes everything sway,
all the visible and invisible -
friends, candles, ants, the wind.
Because for me life ripens,
and for now it's on my side
though it's true I am often afraid.

I wear my boots when I play the old squeeze-box,
and stomp hard rhythms
till the headstones dance on their graves.

Here's some thoughts I came up while not sleeping one night.

all together, now

i lack
the imagination
to convince myself
of the existence of any kind of god,
but i am willing to consider there might be
more than one realm of being -
an earthly dimension where we, as
moral, thinking flesh-creatures, are
for all the outcomes of our life, entities
of blood and bone accountable
to the moral and civil standards of our time,
for how we treat ourselves and others - no one
to blame or praise but ourselves
for the course of our

however we imagine the dream of it,
this first dimension could be
only a temporary flesh-life,
just a phase we go through, both
product and precursor of
some communal existence,
a collective consciousness of all living things,
from stones in the field who grow and diminish
through the passage of time, to the sizzle
of lightning in a thunderstorm at night,
to tiny creatures whose flesh-life is limited to minutes,
to all the creatures of the forests and fields and
jungles and seas, and, finally, to you and me

the life most know, maybe
only a small portion of the life-eternal
unknown to all but the very few
of our blood and gristle kind,
the great masters, the root-finders, who
follow the path that puts them
in the flow of time
and life

Here's my final piece by Cornelia DeDona for this week, the title from her new book Boogey Fever.

Boogey Fever

I feel brash like a samoan crab
my limbs splayed,
tan skin pelted by fine sand.
The air warm and humid, as I
prepare for the adventure.
Lavender Oakley's perched
lizard like on the bridge
of my nose,
starting at the Mokulua;
I race into the crush.

I manage to escape
where the eager jellyfish
wait - to cling to ankles and thighs.
Quickly now
up to my chest,
I press forward and sideways
to watch for the swell.
I listen
to the pulse and pummel
against the shoreline.
Riding a locomotive
over the crest of a wave
thrust back to shore
over and over again.
Occasionally caught in a tunnel of water,
I somersault with the board
in a turbulent washer - spinning through past lives.
It releases me plunging and bobbing into the present
with sand dredged pores - old cavities filled.

I take a deep breath and roll onto my stomach
and paddle back out to savor another set.
Until finally I return,
eyes shining, wrinkled and blue,
to collapse
on that hot sand
and straw mat.

I wrote this one in a moment of utter desperation last week.


i have seen the
and it looks like the past



on cars

on houses

fins on animals

puppy dogs
with ears trimmed
like fins
then starched to stand up
like little puppy-sharks
lurking in gray waters

on kitties
with pointy ears
and tails sticking straight out back
like a '57 Plymouth

fins on squirrels
chattering in trees

fins on opossums
that sneak over your fence at night
to eat your pomegranates

fins on birds,
sparrows and pigeons and buzzards
and hawks and eagles
with little fin-tufts
on their heads like jays and cardinals

fins on horses and moose and bison,
elephant, lizard, penguin and emu

furry fins, feathered fins, scaly fins,
fins of angora wool,
and even peach fuzz fins

even babies
genetically modified
to have pointy ears like Spock
laid the side of their heads

like werewolf ears
not so hairy

all animals have fins
but fish
who adopt a more streamlined
'62 Porsche look

all of it,
world government
and the patterns of nature
by Finns from Finland

the only music allowed
on the radio from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. -
by Finnish composer
the new patron saint of all music
as dictated by the world government
in Helsinki,
capitol now not just of Finland,
but everywhere...

the final
on everything

i have seen the future
and it is not good

i have seen the future
and it is too much like the past

i have seen the future
but that's all i have to say
about it
so now i'm


Next I have a couple of poems by Philip Larkin from his delightful little chapbook, High Windows, first published by faber and faber in 1974.

Larkin was born in 1922 and grew up in Coventry. In 1955, he became Librarian of the Brymor Jones Library at the University of Hull, a position he held until his death in 1985. He received numerous awards for his poetry, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and the W. H. Smith Award.

Annus Mirabilis

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(Which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

Up till then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining.
A wrangle for a ring.
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.

Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

So life was never better than
in nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

Cut Grass

Cut grass lies frail:
Brief is the breath
Mown stalks exhale.
Long, long the death

It dies in the white hours
Of young-leafed June
With Chestnut flowers,
With hedges snowlike strewn,

White lilac bowed,
Lost lane os Queen Anne's lace,
And that high-builded cloud
Moving at summer's pace.

Here's a little closing essay i wrote just a couple of days ago on the politics of politics.

about the politics of grumpity crapity old men

was exchanging
some political contentions
this morning
with a very conservative
young woman
who prefaced her remarks
by saying she was part
of the Reagan youth movement
of the 1980s, a matter of evident
pride with her though i find it strange
that people might show such
pride in not learning anything since
they were children - as for myself,
when i was the age she was in the
1980s i loudly and passionately
proclaimed the truth of some really
stupid ideas, but not just stupid ideas,
a few pretty good ones as well, and
at least my ideas, good and bad, were
the ideas of my generation, not the
preoccupations of a bunch of
grumpity crapity old men who claimed
to solve the world's problems over coffee
every morning without ever demonstrating
any personal knowledge
of the difference between shit and shinola
and now that i, myself, am among the
legion of grumpity, crapity old men
saving the world over coffee in the
morning i at least have, despite
a few remaining shit and shinola issues,
the comfort of knowing i have lived now
for 66 years in the wild and wicked
gales that are the real world, the gales
that over the years blew away most
of my stupid ideas and reinforced
my confidence in the good ones
and i'm sorry my dear but the idea
that i might be as clueless now
as i was 40 years ago is not an
outcome i would wish
or boast about

So much for the Halloween. No big plans, may go to a costume party, dress up like a Republican, scare the crap out of everyone. But whatever happens on that dark night, we will be back next week.

In the meantime - usual disclaimer: all the material in the blog remains the property of its creators, the exception being anything created exclusively by me which you can do with whatever you want as long as you spell my name right...allen itz.

As producer and owner of this blog I so decree it.


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Street-Side   Thursday, October 22, 2009


Busy week - no time for chitchat.

Here's this week's crew.

Lorna Dee Cervantes
Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway

reading Li Po

Federico Garcia Lorca
New York (Office and Denunciation)

Thane Zander
Welcome Back

W. S. Merwin

fat man dancing
who knows
old times to come

Adrian Castro
Hoodoo Whisper

Thane Zander

Samuel Hazo
Tortoise Time
For Which It Stands

885th poem on the 885th day

Renny Golden
Ad Sum

Thane Zander
Mother Reprise

Amiri Baraka
When We'll Worship Jesus


Thane Zander
The Thumping

old pals

I begin this week with a longish poem by Lorna Dee Cervantes, from her first book Emplumada, winner of the 1982 American Book Award published by the University of Pittsburg Press. I have several of Cervantes' books and use her work frequently.

Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway


Across the street - the freeway,
blind worm, wrapping the valley up
from Los altos to Sal Si Puedes.
I watched it from my porch
unwinding. Every day at dusk
as Grandma watered geraniums
the shadow of the freeway lengthened.


We were a woman family:
Grandma, our innocent Queen;
Mama, the Swift Knight, Fearless Warrior.
Mama wanted to be Princess instead.
I know that. Even now she dreams of taffeta
and foot-high tiaras.

Myself: I could never decide.
So I turned to books, those staunch, upright men,
interpreting letters from the government, notices
of dissolved marriages and Welfare stipulations.
I paid the bills, did light man-work, fixed faucets,
insured everything
against all leaks.


Before rain I notice seagulls.
They walk in flocks,
cautious across lawns; splayed toes,
indecisive beaks. Grandma says
seagulls mean storm.

In California in the summer,
mockingbirds sing all night.
Grandma says they are singing for their nesting wives.
"they don't leave their families

She likes the ways of birds,
respects how they show themselves
for toast and a whistle.

She believes in myths and birds.
She trusts only what she builds
with her own hands.


She built her house,
cocky, disheveled carpentry,
after living twenty-five years
with a man who tried to kill her.

Grandma, from the hills of Santa Barbara,
I would open my eyes to see her stir mush
in the morning, her hair in loose braids,
tucked close around her head
with a yellow scarf.

Mama said, "It's her own fault,
getting screwed by a man for that long.
Sure as shit wasn"t hard."
soft she was soft


in the night I would hear it
glass bottles shattering the street
words cracked not shrill screams
inside my throat     a cold fear
as it entered the house in hard
unsteady steps     stopping at my door
my name     bathrobe
slippers outside at 3 A.M. mist heavy
as a breath full of whiskey
stop it     go home     come inside
mama if he comes here again
I'll call the police

a gray kitten     a touchstone
purring beneath the quilts
grandma stitched
from his suits
the patchwork singing
of mockingbirds


"You're too soft...always were.
You'll get nothing but shit.
Baby, don't count on nobody."

- a mother's wisdom.
Soft. I haven't changed,
maybe grown more silent, cynical
on the outside.

"O Mama, with what's inside of me
I could wash that all away. I could."

"But Mama, if you're good to them
they'll be good to you back."

Back. The freeway is across the street.
It's summer now. Every night I sleep with a gentle man
to the hymn of mockingbirds,

and in time, I plant geraniums.
I tie up my hair into loose braids,
and trust only what I have built
with my own hands.

Reading Li Po to make a selection to include in "Here and Now" last week led me to thinking about why I like him, and many of the other poets from long ago as well.

That led to this.

reading Li Po

each poem
that we haven't
changed so much
over the past thousand
years; that
there is a common thread
stretched through the past
that will continue to stretch with us
into the future - this string
of yous and mes extending
through our collective existence,
providing sustenance
to this spirit not directed
to supernatural
though created
by the same long line
of accidents
that created all
the other creatures of our planet,
something happened to us,
some special accident that
could have happened to the
elephant or the sand shark
or the mosquito or the toad
or to any of the other creatures
who live or have shared
this earthly space with us,
but happened to us instead

and made us special

not because we were the special
creation of some higher power,
not because it was within us alone
to rise from the ooze
and separate from all the others
who did not

but only because some primitive
happened to be at the right place
at the right time

leaving us to find, like Li Po,
a humble celebration
in the joy
of being human

The next poem is by Federico Garcia Lorca, from the book, Poet in New York, published by The Noonday Press in 1988. It is a bilingual edition, with Spanish and English, translated by Greg Simon and Steven F.White, on facing pages.

Lorca, a Spanish poet, dramatist, theater director and patriot, was born in 1898 and murdered in 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War by persons affiliated with the Nationalist cause.

New York
(Office and Denunciation)
To Fernando Vela

Under the multiplications,
a drop of duck's blood;
under the divisions,
a drop of sailor's blood;
under the additions, a river of tender blood.
A river that sings and flows
past bedrooms in the boroughs -
and it's money, cement, or wind
in New York's counterfeit dawn.
I know the mountains exist.
And wisdom's eyeglasses,
too. But I didn't come to see the sky.
I'm here to see the clouded blood,
the blood that sweeps machines over waterfalls
and the soul toward the cobra's tongue.
Every day in New York, they slaughter
four million ducks,
five million hogs,
two thousand pigeons to accommodate the tastes of the
one million cows,
one million lambs,
and two million roosters
that smash the skies to pieces.

It's better to sob while honing the blade
or kill dogs on the delirious hunts
than to resist at dawn
the endless milk trains,
the endless blood trains
and the trains of roses, manacled
by the dealers in perfume.
The ducks and the pigeons,
and the hogs and the lambs
lay their drops of blood
under multiplications,
and the terrified bellowing of the cows wrung dry
fills the valley with sorrow
where the Hudson gets drunk on oil.

I denounce everyone
who ignores the other half,
the half that can't be redeemed,
who lift their mountains of cement
where the hearts beat
inside forgotten little animals
and where all of us will fall
in the feast of pneumatic drills.
I spit in all your faces.
I the other half hears me,
devouring, pissing, flying in their purity,
like the supers' children in lobbies
who carry fragile twigs
to the emptied spaces where
the insect antennae are rusting.
This is not hell, but the street.
Not death, but the fruit stand.
There is a world of tamed rivers and distances just
    beyond our grasp
in the cat's paw smashed by a car,
and I hear the earthworm's song
in the hears of many girls.
Rust, fermentation, earth tremor.

You yourself are the earth as you drift in office
What shall I do now? Set the landscapes in order?
Order the loves that soon become photographs,
that soon become pieces of wood and mouthfuls of
No, no: I denounce it all.
I denounce the conspiracy
of these deserted offices
that radiate no agony,
that erase the forest's plans,
and I offer myself as food for the cows wrung dry
when her bellowing fills the valley
where the Hudson gets drunk on oil.

Our friend Thane Zander had been out of contact for a while before returning recently to rejoin us at the Blueline poem-a-day forum, writing as well as ever. After reading his new stuff, I decided I'd feature his new work on "Here and Now."

The next poem is the first of four i include in this week's post.

Thane, for those who haven't read him here before, is a New Zealander. He says he is a latecomer to writing, poetry, short stories and novels, having served 27 years in the Royal New Zealand Navy as a surveyor's assistant before being invalided out with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. He turned, he says, to writing as a means to come to terms with his disability and to express years of built up knowledge and feelings. He now has eight volumes of poetry awaiting publication, has written over twenty short stories and is 1/3 of a way through writing his first novel. In the last two years he has been doing Creative Writing papers at University working towards a BA in English. He has been published (both poetry and short stories) in Loch Raven Review, Blackmail Press, Windjammer Press, Times Online, and, of course, Here and Now. He has also been featured in a poetry book called the Bouquet of Poetry. Thane is separated and has, he says proudly, "two darling girls, Amy and Ashleigh."

Welcome Back

Winds blow
open portals
masking the scent of murder
the taste of Thyme
in a Shepherds Pie
asking to be devoured.

The lactose intolerant
don't cry
over the spilt variety,
buskers with hickory
splash ballads,
mimic Chuck Berry,
receive money
as if the heavens were their domain.

Her bus was red today
(blue yesterday and the day before)
it didn't stop her
in the window seat
third row back
from the smelly driver,
she applied mascara.

Today the World Time Clock
(the atomic one)
lost a second of sleep,
most blinked
not missing a beat,
no disregard for wife beaters,
scant regard for egg beaters,
the memory stick
now full
now empty
now filling
now deleting,

Here's a relic, a piece by W. S. Merwin from the May, 1972 issue of Poetry, purchased at my favorite used-book store for $1.98. The original price was $1.25, which doesn't seem like much, but then, thinking back, in May, 1972, I was in the early stages of the work that became my professional career, earning a grand salary of $500 a month (more money than I had ever earned before), so maybe a buck twenty-five was more than it seems today.

I makes me think about how great it would be if I could write a poem someone would be interested in reading in 2046, thirty seven years from now. Just one would be enough.


First forget what time it is
for an hour
do it regularly every day

then forget what day of the week it is
do this regularly for a week
then forget what country you are in
and practice doing it in company
for a week
then do them together
for a week
with as few breaks as possible

follow these by forgetting how to add
or to subtract
if makes no difference
you can change them around
after a week
both will help you later
to forget how to count

forget how to count
starting with your own age
starting with how to count backwards
starting with even numbers
starting with Roman numerals
starting with fractions of Roman numerals
starting with the old calendar
going on to the old alphabet
going on to the alphabet
until everything is continuous again
go on to forgetting elements
starting with water
proceeding to earth
rising in fire

forget fire

Here are several shortish poems I wrote over the course of several days a couple of weeks ago.

fat man dancing

fat man
dancing throwing
his arms to the
sky -

the kind
of bright autumn
that sort of thing

who knows

i know
what this poem means
and so do you

but it would be
so great
if we could get together
some rainy afternoon
in a coffee house
on a tree-lined boulevard
in a quiet neighborhood
and talk
until you understood
what i wrote
and i knew what
you read

old times to come

last night of

days filled

and free
of bed-churning

young people
don't know of old times
having had them

The next poem is from the book bum rush the page a collection of work from the new performance poets. The book was published by Three Rivers Press in 2001.

The poem I selected from the book is by Miami performance poet Adrian Castro.

Hoodoo Whisper
    for Quiney Troupe

Say it in sheets of sound
power of language with big fists of teeth
singing secrets from the crossroads
saying secrets from the hoodoo
way up in East St. Louis soil
the groove of alphabets
in the blues of a new atlas
way up in a silent way
like the sho enuf shaman man you am

Say it because
the pact was sealed in the other world
There are some
who could claim the word for hisself
who would wrap it red cloth
could caress it along fire
like the marriage between flame & light
who dip it in a repique of thunder
make yr head flicker with the spirit of rhythm rhythm of spirit
as if Shango hisself
had weaved you a red kufi

And there are some
who trap the odu way up in them bones
who spill the past & therefore future
between blood & honey
divine what ain't nobody seen
And this here is an oriki
in praise of the possibility of
ka-ka-ki-tak turn of tongue
in praise of those
claiming their language
tonal y todo
with a hoodoo whisper
like Miles Dewey Davis III
like the sho enuf shaman man you am
sho enuf shaman man you am

Here's the second of my three poems this week by our friend Thane Zander.


On a beach,
you dip your toes
in the milky white of existence.

You married young,
divorced many times since,
the liquidity of your life left empty.

There is a space,
where children and love flowed,
but a space is a space taken to honor.

In the challenge,
your widowness aches aplenty,
the bath spills over and floods your carpeted shoes.

The angels call,
you look at the mirror in horror,
you were once twenty a mere lifetime ago.

Here's a couple of poems by Samuel Hazo from his book A Flight to Elsewhere, published by Autumn House Press in 2005.

Hazo is the author of books of poetry, fiction, essays, and plays. He is the Founder of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, where he is also McAnulty Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Duquesne University. He was chosen the first State Poet of Pennsylvania in 1993 and has been awarded many other honors.

Tortoise Time

So small, so matched with turf
 he can be taken for a stone
 until he stirs.
 in his hull like pain, he plods
 on toes of slow-motion feet
Robins can flock to the tropics
 swallows return to Capistrano,
 grizzlies snooze in the Yukon,
 and wild rabbits hanker
 for their holes.
             At peace in place
 he comes from where he was
 to where he'll be like afterthought's
             What's the distance
 or weather to one whose there
 and here seem always the same?
While rabbits flee, he mimes
 Diogenes beneath his hood
 and sidles forward slower
 than the time of day.
                   If home
 is where he's at, he's home
 to start with since he never goes away
             Aesop understood.

For Which It Stands

Crosswinds have slashed the flag
 so that the thirteenth ribbon
 dangles free or coils around
 the flagpole like a strip.
                   What's left
 keeps fluttering in red-and-white
       Somehow the tattering
 seems apropos.
             The President
 proclaims we'll be at war forever -
 not war for peace but war
 upon war, though hopefully not here.
Believers in eternal reelection
 hear his pitch and pay.
                   In Washington
 God's lawyer warns we stand
 at Armageddon, and we battle
 for the Lord.
       Elsewhere, California's
 governor believes in California's
 governor, and football bowls
 are named for Mastercard, Pacific
 Life, ConAgra and Tostitos.
Out west a plan to gerrymander
 Colorado (Texas-style) falls,
 but barely.
       Asked why no flag
 is studded in his coat lapel
 or decorates his aerial, a veteran
 responds, "I wear my flag
 on my heart - I don't wear
 my heart on my sleeve."
 for once we're spared the names
 of Occupying soldiers shot
 or rocketed to fragments in Iraq.
Collateral damage?
             Two boys,
 their mother and both grandparents.
No names for them...
                 Just Arabs.

Sometimes, you just take an idea and let run on it's own, like a housebound dog unleashed. And sometimes it goes where you don't expect or even want.

But there it is, like this one i did last week.

885th poem on the 885th day

what should
i write about in this
885th poem
on the 885th day
of the poem-a-day ritual

nearly two and a half years,
that's what it comes down to,
and i feel i must have accomplished
something in all those months and days,
i must have grown -
for gods' sake, it's expected that
as human beings
we will grow into better
more complete persons as time passes

but i don't feel any different,
any wiser,
any more complete
than i remember being 885 days ago,
if anything i feel more unsure
about most of the certainties i would
have sworn to back then - a devolution
of truth into questions, a process
making the world more mysterious
with every day i live

and there's the key,
the one thing i know for sure,
the one thing i can apply to the known
column, at this point, 885 days
into the poem-a-day process,
it is clear only that i am 885 days
closer to dead than i was
when i started - but that's no big
news, everybody knows that, every
day you live brings you a day closer
to death - it's only when you start adding
those days together that it turns into
something different, a kind of countdown

such as this

on January 10th, 1966,
the first day of my military basic training,
i was issued the raincoat
i wore today in our seventh-straight day of
rain, seven days closer to dead
than i was when the rain started -
15,710 days closer to death
when the raincoat was issued to me
than i was the day before, when
i was still a fresh-faced civilian -
my whole life a countdown, it seems,
beginning 23,090 days closer to death
the day after i was born

such futility,
this whole business of living
when all it does is take you closer
to dying

there would be some compensation
for all this extended dying
if along the way we did something
that amounted to something, made something
a little better than it was, like, i'm thinking
if this poem, number 885 on the 885th day
of writing was even just a little better than
the first poem on day one

i have no idea what poem i wrote
on that first day,
making the whole process
of believing there has been progress
in my life

Renny Golden grew up on Chicago's south side. In the 1980's, she co-founded the Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America. She is a professor in the department of Criminology and Sociology at Northeastern Illinois University.

Next a poem is from her book The Hour of the Furnaces, published by Mid-List Press of Minneapolis in 2000. It is a long poem that must be told in its full length - it is history, though still not history in some places.

Ad Sum

   for six Jesuits and their housekeepers assassinated in El Salvador, November 16, 1989

Three a.m. Night unclenches
the day's fist of heat,
cools the campus lawn.
Colonel Benavides orders thirty-five men
through the university gate.
They crush carnations, tear
ground ivy. Dew glistens
on their black boots.
A brush of pine colognes
their wrists, their ankles.
The Atlacatl brigade runs
toward the priests' compound,
shadows in the moonfall

Inside, a thread of breath
pulls the sleepers' muscles.
Colonel Benavides turns away
Nothing could have been done,
he says, stroking his jaw.

      Lucia Barrera de Cerna
Lucia wakes to drillos of gunfire jack-
hammering the air, slamming
into adobe walls, poles, sheds,
the barrio itself a body, shattering .
She knows this ending,
already imagines each convulsive
jolt of the priests' bodies.
She must witness, be pulled
to the furnace's open door.
Oh, Padres, this I can do.

      President Alfredo Cristiani
The president twists under
damp white sheets, wrestling
a presence that pins
each move. The winner speaks:
"Expect no witnesses."
The moon will not tell.
If it does, there are solutions.
If the moon were a lily,
it could be trampled in the dark earth;
or, if, say, a horse prancing
the starry fields,
it could be brought down,
hit clean between the eyes,
its huge flanks pumping.
Sleeper, dream on.

      Celina Ramos (Notes from the Dead)
Mama prays in the dark.
Monsignor stares from the photo
into her black eyes like a mirror
or some angel
who knows her
better than we do.
Monsignor this, Monsignor that.
Me, I watch her hands,
roll the dough,
pinch the crust
as if it were wafer.
Padre Amando Lopez teases: "Professor."
But I don't know books.
What I know
is an intelligence of hands.

      The Jesuits
Lt. Espinosa calls each name,
orders them to lie face down.
Some are dragged;
others walk forward, answering
a call that has reached them
across years, oceans, the heave
of grave upon grave.
The answer: Ad Sum, spoken
on ordination day so many years before
as young deacons lying prostrate
on a church marble floor
drenched with incense, rose lupine,
young men who answered a God
who would escape their adulation
ingenious as Houdini handcuffed
in a trunk of water -
A God who reappears as a campesina,
hungry and exhausted,
with a child on her hip,
a God of the despised,
of peasants, of women.

Prostrate again, the Jesuits lie against an earth,
heavy with mulch of seeds and crushed flowers.
"Bishop, Lieutenant, my people,
Ad sum. I am here."
Faithful despite betrayal
by Christian nations
that watched stranglers' hands
at the throats of children,
heard their screams for
ten years and did nothing.

Oh, how demanding the light
has been, knifing its cold shaft
into the heart's dumb secrets,
touching the dark floor where
El Mosote, Rio Lempa, and Sumpul
lie torn open.

The executioners - Sergeant Avalos,
(nicknamed "Satan") and
Private Oscar Amaya - step forward,
lift AK 47s into firing position.
One last voice is heard.
It is "Nacho" Martin-Baro.
He does not beg. Shouts
last judgment: This is barbaric!
Nothing more.
Close range AK47s split craniums
fragile as porcelain.
As if ideas were muscle,
gristle, bone, meat,
as if an eternity of desire will end with this.

In the morning soldiers march
past the Bishop's residence, shouting:
"We'll go on killing communists.
Ella curia and Martin-Baro have already fallen."
A fifteen-year-old cups his hands to mouth,
checks for a running path, then shouts back:
"Risen! Ella curia and Martin-Baro have already risen!"

Joaquin Lopez y Lopez
      Ad Sum.

Ignacio Ella curia
      Ad Sum.

Amando Lopez
      Ad Sum.

Elba Ramos
      Ad Sum.

Celina Ramos
      Ad Sum.

Segundo Montes
      Ad Sum.

Juan Ramon Moreno
      Ad Sum.

Ignacio Martin-Baro
      Ad Sum.

And here's Thane Zander's third poem for this week, maybe the best tribute to a mother I've ever read.

Take special note of these so sad lines:

I didn't call
surely a piece of me in you was dying.

That line calls to me as it must call to all guilty sons who let their mothers sit at home, alone, far to often and far to long, until it was too late.

Mother Reprise

Your womb was a room with no view,
the company of your heartbeat
and the steady breathing of your copious lungs
soothed a soul building.

Through the gates of hell we struggled
my cry music to your worn out ears,
my nurturing proof it was worth it.

We fed each other at the breast,
my suckling mouth,
your soothing strokes,
a team for eternity.

You helped me walk, stumble, succeed,
Dad was there too, but your hand
was always the one that steadied,
that nudged me in the right direction.

You drove me to run, to play, to laugh,
even when I started to rebel,
your soothing touch, words, love
drove me to do the right things.

I grew, left home, succeeded on my own,
we missed each other, I didn't call
surely a piece of me in you was dying.

Then it was your turn, cancer,
and I soothed you, calmed you, loved you,
helped you to handle the coming door,
the portal you pushed me through
was now opening to take you back.

We laughed, we cried, we felt the pain together,
and when your eyes closed,
I was the last to kiss you alive.

I didn't throw anything on your coffin,
my womb carried your seed, your love,
and that is what I passed on
to all my children,

Next, I have a poem by Amiri Baraka, from the anthology American Poetry Since 1950, Innovators & Outsiders, published by Masilio Publishing in 1993.

Baraka, formerly known as Leroi Jones, is a controversial American writer of poetry, drama, essays, and music criticism. He was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1934. His father worked as a postal supervisor and lift operator, and his mother was a social worker. In 1967 He adopted his new African name Imamu Amear Baraka, later changed to Amiri Baraka, in 1967.

Baraka studied philosophy and religious studies at Rutgers University, Columbia University and Howard University without obtaining a degree. In 1954 he joined the US Air Force, reaching the rank of sergeant but was dishonorably discharged when an anonymous letter accusing him of being a communist led to the discovery of Soviet writings in his quarters.

In 1984 he became a full professor at Rutgers University, but was subsequently denied tenure. In 1989 he won an American Book Award for his works as well as a Langston Hughes Award. In 1990 he co-authored the autobiography of Quincy Jones, and 1998 was a supporting actor in Warren Beatty's film Bulworth.

Baraka collaborated with hip hop group, The Roots, on the song "Something in the Way of Things (In Town)" on their 2002 album Phrenology.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Amiri Baraka on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

For good reason he was, and continues to be, highly controversial.

When We'll Worship Jesus

We'll worship Jesus
When Jesus do
When jesus blow up
the white house
or blast nixon down
when jesus turn out congress
or bust general motors to
yard bird motors
jesus we'll worship jesus
when jesus get down
when jesus get out his yellow lincoln
w/the built in cross stain glass
window & box w/black peoples
enemies we'll worship jesus when
he get bad enough to at least scare
somebody - cops not afraid
of jesus
pushers not afraid
of jesus, capitalist racists
imperialists not afraid
of jesus shit them making money
off jesus
we'll worship jesus when mao
do, when toure does
when the cross replaces Nkrumah's
jesus need to hurt some a our
enemies, they we'll check him
out, all that screaming and hollering
& wallering and moaning talkin bout
jesus, jesus, in a red
check velvet vine + 8 in. heels
jesus pinky finger
got a goose egg ruby
which acutely bleeds
jesus at the apollo
doing splits and helpin
nixon split niggers
jesus w/his one eyed self
tongue kissing johnny carson
up the behind
jesus need to be busted
jesus need to be thrown down and whipped
till something better happen
jesus ain't did nothin for us
but kept us turned toward the
sky (him and his boy allah
too, need to be checkd
we'll worship jesus
when he get a boatload of ak-47s
and some dynamite
and blow up abernathy robotin
for gulf
jesus need to be busted
we ain't gonna worship nobody
but niggers gettin up off
the ground
not gon worship jesus
unless he just a tricked up
nigger somebody named
outside his race
need to worship yo self fo
you worship jesus
need to bust jesus (+ check
out his spooky brother
allah while you heavy
on the case
cause we ain' gon worship jesus
we aint gon worship
we aint gon worship
not till he do somethin
not till he help us
not till the world get changed
and he ain, jesus ain, he cant change the world
we can change the world
we can struggle against the forces of backwardness, we can change the world
we can struggle against our selves, our slowness, our connection with the
  oppressor, the very cultural aggression which binds us to our enemies as
  their slaves.
we can chang the world
we ain't gonna worship jesus cause jesus don't exist
xcept in song and story except in ritual and dance, except in slum stained
tears or trillion dollar opulence stretching back in history, the history
of the oppression of the human mind
we worship the strength in us
we worship ourselves
we worship the light in us
we worship the warmth in us
we worship the world
we worship the love in us
we worship our selves
we worship nature
we worship ourselves
we worship the life in us, and science, and knowledge, and transformation
of the visible world
but we aint gonna worship no jesus
we aint gonna legitimize the witches and devils and spooks and hobgoblins
the sensuous lies of the rulers to keep us chained to fantasy and illusion
sing about life, not jesus
sing about revolution, not no jesus,
stop singing about jesus,
sing about, creation, our creation, the life of the world and fantastic
nature how we struggle to transform it, but don't victimize our selves by
distorting the world
stop moaning about jesus, stop sweating and crying and stompin and dyin for jesus
unless thats the name of the army we building to force the land finally to
change hands. And lest not call that jesus, get a quick consensus, on that
lets damn sure not call that black fire muscle no invisible psychic dungeon
no gentle vision strait jacket, lets call that peoples army, or wapenduzi or simba
wachanga, but not gon call it jesus, and gon worship jesus, throw
jesus out yr mind. Build the new world out of reality, and new vision
we come to find out where there is of the world
to understand what there is here in the world!
to visualize change, and force it.
we worship revolution.

Is there any day of the week more useless and no-count than Thursdays?

I don't think so.


damp and thick;
like the curtains
at movie theaters
they used to close
then open as the film
began, credits like ghosts
on the curtain

like the cars on I-10,
outrunning their headlights
in the white fog - ghost fish
in a fast, dark current

the day before
the day of the week's

too far
from the week's beginning
to remember why it matters -
the day when nothing
just more dead hours

Now, here's a final poem from Thane Zander.

The Thumping

Thump, thump, thump,
the incessant rhetoric
of a girl high on Crystal Meth,
low on self esteem,
riding the White Lightning
into a room dark green in texture,
and black in outlook,
she pours her life story
onto a radio station that drips envy,
commonsense long lost in a haze of losing oneself.

Thump, thump, thump,
the sound of a maul busting hinges,
the hurried shouts of Policemen and women,
guns pointed in fear, calm fear,
steady fear, the junkies in the rooms
all shot to pieces, too poor to carry,
except maybe Marge and her 3 month old hump,
hump, hump, hump,
the sound of wasted life creating wasted life.

Thump, thump, thump,
the finality of the gavel, as a judge sentences
a boy who no longer knows himself
to a secure unit at Porirua Hospital,
the mind switched to supermania,
climbing walls, doing the burgs, escaping
the trick cyclists, the mercy wagons,
playing life to the very edge
and back again,
17 now, fuck, the mind went when his Dad beat him,
trust issues they said, screw trust,
what about the right to life?

Thump, thump, thump,
the resonance of a head bashing a table,
the onset of guilt, the realization
that abuse comes from the Animal within,
the reality check that comes with disbelief,
the mind long gone and wasted, diseased, crooked,
the PDocs will fix it, no one left in an empty house to help.


And, now, a final poem from me for the week. I wrote a bunch of really dark poems the last week or so. Didn't want to end the issue dark, so I have this, kind of grayish.

old pals

old cat,
blind in one eye
and hardly seeing
out of the other,
sleeps just about
all day, curled
up on her pillow,
head hidden
under her front feet,
snoring like thunder
on the near horizon,
rising from her lap
of luxury several times
a day to go stand by
her food dish, confident
someone will notice
and if we don't, reminding
us with a scream at a pitch and
volume possible for only
the oldest and wisest
of old cats, taking her
exercise on her way back
to bed, boxing with the
shadows on the wall
as she passes

old dog,
with her creaky rheumatoid hips
and cataract-dusty
eyes, sleeps most of the day
as well, as near to us as she can,
beside me on the floor in my office,
on the couch with us as we watch TV,
or, when we're not there, in her little
bed at the foot of our bed - old
and slow but still treasuring her morning walks,
a chance to sniff out the latest news
of the day, impatient to start, beginning
to bark when we turn on the road that leads
to the road that leads to our walking

it's a slow and leisurely walk we do, no rush,
no hurry, bush to bush, tree to tree,
old cat, old dog, and me, old pals,
wearing out together, seeing no reason
to race ever faster
to the end of our trail

That's it for this week. A nice week, in fact, with our first sustained cool weather. Come back next week and see if it holds.

In the meantime, all the material presented in this blog remains the property of those who created it. As producer and owner of the blog, I release any of the work in the blog created exclusively by me to whoever wants it - just spell my name right...allen itz.


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Gardens Where Nothing Grows   Thursday, October 15, 2009


I have lots of good stuff for you again this week. Here's the line-up.

gardens where nothing grows

Kermel Ozer
At the Beach

Ali al-Mak
The Gatherer

Vasko Popa

Roberto Sosa
The Indians

Alex Stolis
Shannon Charles Thomas #999213 November 15, 2005

Pat Califia
Class Differences
Domestic Bliss

peas in our time

Adrienne Rich
Sending Love

Alex Stolis
The P******** Review recently published your Prize-winning collection, E**** on M***S***** How did you decide upon the Title?

Paul Auser
Memory of Myself

justice among the reptiles

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
A Buddah in the Woodpile

Jane Hirshfield
After Long Silence
Recalling a Sung Dynasty Landscape
A Cedary Fragrance
Against Certainty

Alex Stolis
Lex Luthor writes a farewell letter to Superman


Cynthia Zarin
Looking for the Great Spotted Owl in Truro Woods

change we can believe in

Emma Lazarus
The New Colussus
The World's Justice

how i came to dream of gnawing bloody Bambi bones

Here we go!

I start with the poem that gave this week's post its title. The poem grew from an article about lysosomes I read in the New York Times Science Section.

gardens where no thing grows

like Attila's hordes
racing their ponies
across the steppes,
rage through our bodies
destroying old and damaged
cells, eating them up and
spitting out all the various elements
that created them, a process
of destruction, then regeneration,
as all those elements recombine
to create new and healthy cells

it is a process of life continuing,
without the destruction cycle
there could be no regeneration
to continue through all the years
of our life, until the time
destruction stops
and regeneration stops
and our damaged, dying
cells take us down with them

and then another cycle starts
as the corpse that was us begins
to degrade and all the elements
that were the parts that made us
are released to make something new
something not damaged by the rasp
of time, to make an offspring of us
as we were the offspring of some other
decayed someone or something

the cycle of life begins with death
and decay
and there can be no life without it

think of this
the next time you pass a cemetery
and think of all the pristine bodies,
victims of the mortician's science,
as they lie in their stone gardens,
unrotted and robbed
of all their creative potential -
gardens where nothing grows,
truely cities of the dead,
dead now and for many years
to come

Next, I have several poems from the anthology The Same Sky, A Collection of Poems from Around the World, published by Aladdin Paperbacks 1996. Though primarily aimed at children, it includes many fine poems selected by poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

The first poem was written by Kemal Ozer of Turkey and was translated by O. Yalim, W. Fielder, and Dionis Riggs. Ozer, born in 1935, lives in Istanbul and is one of the most prolific and active figures of the contemporary Turkish literary scene.

At the Beach

The waves are erasing the footprints
Of those who are walking the beach.

The wind is carrying away the words
Two people are saying to each other.

But still they are walking the beach
Their feet making new footprints

Still the two are talking together
Finding new words.

This poem is by Ali al-Mak from the Sudan. It was translated by al-Faith Mahjoub and Constance E. Berkley. Born in the Sudan in 1937, Ali al-Mak is a professor at the Universityi of Khartoum and President of the Sudanese Writers' Union. He published his first story at the age of sixteen and continues to write and publish today.

As in this poem, he writes frequently of his hometown, Omdurman.

The Gatherer

Blooming gardens are my words
My words are dusky gardens...
Gather them O bamboo pen...
And drink to inebriation from an ink pot...
My words are like flowers...
Exuding fragrance,
When pressed by the scorching summer...
Gather them O bamboo pen.
For tonight I want to write about Sid Ahmed -
A milkman was he.
The milk drowned in water.
O Sid Ahmed!
And we are liars...
I, the chief of the quarter and the mayor.
Gather my words O bamboo pen,
For I intend to talk about a silk cap
Glowing on a bridegroom's head...
And about Aisha the Taamia vendor
And about Gebran the Yemeni
And abouit a bean pot on fa dry wood fire
And about the kids in the local school -
Chanting "ja, ha, kha, la, ka, wa'l"
...let us remember Musa, the chatterbox,
And Ibrahim the tattletale,
And Eissa, dry as wood,
And do not forget laughing Ishaq
And our teacher Sheikh Al-Bushra...
Sheikh Al-Bushra was...
Honor the teacher... ...

Next, I have this poem by Vasko Popa. Born in Yugoslavia in 1922, his poems have been translated into almost every European language. Popa died in 1991.

This poem was translated by Charles Simic.


Under the linden in Sands
My great grandfather
Found two wolf-cubs

Sat them both
Between a donkey's ears
And brought them to the farm

He fed them sheep's milk
and taught them to play
With lambs their own age

Then he took them back
To the same spot under the lindens
Kissed them
And made the sign of the cross over them

Since earliest childhood
I've been waiting
For my years to equal
My great grandfather's

Just to ask him
Which of those wolf-cubs
I was

My last poem from this book is by Roberto Sosa of Honduras. The poem was translated by Jim Lindsey.

Sosa, born in 1930, writes often of poverty and oppression and has been both banned and highly honored as a poet in his country.

The Indians

The Indians
maze after maze
with their emptiness on their backs

In the past
they were warriors over all things.
They put up monuments to fire
and to the rains whose black fists
put the fruit in the earth.

In the theaters of their cities of colors
shone vestments
and crowns
and golden masks
bought from faraway enemy empires.

They marked time
with numerical precision.
They gave their conquerors
liquid gold to drink
and grasped the heavens
like a tiny flower.

In our day
they plow and seed the ground
the same as in primitive times.
Their women shape clay
and the stones of the field, or weave
while the wind
disorders their long, coarse hair,
     like that of goddesses.

I've seen them barefoot and almost nude,
in groups,
guarded by voices poised like whips,
or drunk and wavering with the pools of the setting sun
on the way back to their shacks
in the last block of the forgotten.

I've talked with them up in their refuges
there in the mountains watched over by idols
where they are happy as deer
but quiet and deep
as prisoners.

I've felt their faces
beat my eyes until the dying light
and so have discovered
my strength is neither
sound nor strong.

Next to their feet
that all the roads destroyed
I leave my own blood
written on an obscure bough.

I have three pieces this week from our friend Alex Stolis, posted through the course of this issue.

The thing that's fun and interesting about Alex is that he's always has something in progress, always has something new in the fire. He says he currently has several projects working, including his Replacements chapbook that we've seen previews of several times in "Here and Now." In addition to that, and a series of unrelated poems, he is also working on a project based on an interview and a project based on the last words of death row inmates. We see previews of all those projects in the three poems that begin with the first one below.

This first one is from his last words project.

Shannon Charles Thomas #999213 November 16, 2005

I am nervous and it is hard to put my thoughts together. Sometimes
you don't know what to say.

this time of year
the fields are brown,
unplowed and lonely
a bird sings to no one,
an armless scarecrow
sways, its dance watched
closely by a stray dog.
did you know that fallen
angels can still dance
on the head of a pin
and sadness is the same
color as dried blood.

My next poems are from the book Diesel Fuel - Passionate Poetry, a first collection by Pat Califia, published by Masquerade Books in 1997. Although this is her first book of poetry, Califia has published several fiction and nonfiction books addressing the politics of sex, gender and pleasure. She is a controversial author, a long time SM community activist and a prominent anti-censorship feminist.

Called, at one point, the "author most often banned by Canadian Customs" she writes with the bark off, more so, almost certainly than a number of regular "Here and Now" readers would be comfortable with. I am very strongly against censorship among adults, presenting a problem as to how I can go about presenting her work, which I like very much, without sending some of my readers running in the streets, pitchforks in hands. For this week, I've selected a milder version of her work. In the future, I guess I might post some of her stronger poems with a caution to readers.

This is a longer poem, giving, I think, a good sense of the poet.

Class Differences

It has become
Indecently clear
That in this relationship,
I am the trick.

Let us go beyond such
Obvious and banal distinctions as
The fact that you pay twice as much rent
As I do. -
In fact, your are somebody else's landlord -
And you live on a fellowship
While I feel as if I live
In the office that employs me
To type and answer phones.

Let us ignore the fact that you fuss continually
Over the finish of your brand-new car
While I feel rich if my bus arrives on time
And I get a seat that hasn't been slashed open.

Being a trick is more than
The money your lover has
That you don't
Or the fact that her father is a doctor
While yours has lived through
Halrf-a-dozen cave-ins
Deep in dirty coal mines.

It's a matter of
When she spends her daddy's money on you
Or (even more important)
When she won't.
And it's a question of your time
Being worth five dollars an hour
When hers has never been
Paid for by the hour.

I will remember as long as I live
The look on your friends faces
When I finally meet them
Over a light lunch that costs
About as much as my groceries for the week.
They asked me what my father did
For a living,
And I told them.

I will always remember
The look of pique you shot me
For allowing that depressing information
To intrude upon your party.

I will never forgive you for
Being annoyed with me when my alarm goes off,
For letting me bring you coffee in bed
Which you drink with a wrinkled nose
Because there's no cream, only milk.
Despite the coffee, you roll over and
Go back to sleep
The second that I leave for work
And call me around lunch time to complain
That you just can't seem to get anything done today.

I will never forgive you for
Giving me a choice between this
Morning ritual and putting up with your pouting
If we don't make love and I get to sleep
At a decent hour.

Do you remember the week when I was
Working at my ex-lover's dungeon
To see if I could stand to
Do what you called
"Whoring for a living"?

I didn't make much money
The first few days
Because you kept tying up the phone
Bewailing your lost career
Teaching women's studies and anthropology
Because your politics on pornography
Are known to be incorrect
Since you sleep with me.

Yes, you did inform me that
"There's nothing Intrinsically wrong with
Being a whore,"
And you explained simply and rationally
Why I shouldn't be angry with
A good Marxist like you for
Using that word.

Working-class people are
So bad at economics.
That's probably why I couldn't afford
To see a doctor when I had strep throat.
I think it was the same day your bought
A new couch, a dozen records, and
Replenished your rainbow of dining-room candles.

It seems I must resign myself to
The fact that when we go out,
People will talk to you
And flirt with me.
I will worry about the tab we run up
And the time
While you worry about who
Has seen us together
And my table manners.

Even when we split things down the middle,
I can't help noticing that
You pay your half with American Express
And I pay my half with dirty dollar bills
And a rattle of change.

This poem is for the last half of the month
When I can't make dates with you
Because I can't afford to go to the movies.
This poem is for the clothes you've given me
Because they don't fit you any more
And aren't in style.
This poem is for the cab rides,
The dinners you pay for with a sigh,
Your disappointment because I don't want
Season tickets to the ballet,
My pronunciation which improves because
You correct it,
The French idioms you don't use out of courtesy
Because I wouldn't understand them,
The toilets you assume
I will be able to unclog,
The shelves you save for me to assemble.

I want to remind you
The next time you complain about
The fact that I seem cold and distant
That women like your mother
Have tried to seduce me
When their husbands were out of town
Ever since I was 16,
And your hands on me
Often don't feel any cleaner.
Men like your father
Pay me by the hour
For abuse and humiliation
And I won't even condescend
To piss on them
Unless they pay quite a bit extra.

so far,
You've got it all for free.
How much longer, I wonder,
How much longer can this go on?

There is a gentler side to the poet, as in this short poem.

Domestic Bliss

A love affair is something to survive.
This is a relationship -
Something to keep tidy.

So my love for you reveals itself
In my exceptionally thorough grocery lists
and I know how much you love me when
You scrub out the shower
Two weekends in a row.

I am a romantic janitor,
Performing constant maintenance
Upon my happiness

Give me a kiss.
I just took out the trash
And swept the sidewalk.

I showed this poem to some of my older friends. Apparently, it is only the younger folk who are unaware of the wonders of the simple pea.

peas in our time

last night
at Ginises',

penne pasta
with some kind
of orangish sauce

tiny pieces of ham,

the peas
did it for me
since peas are
my second favorite
vegetable -
peas & corn
being my favorite

someone mentioned
that it was strange, my
liking peas so much,
since no one was

that's hardly
a surprise to me
since the world slips
into decline
with every passing day

The next poem is by Adrienne Rich from her book, Dark Fields of the Republic, Poems 1991-1995, published W. W. Norton in 1995.

Rich was born in 1929 in Baltimore, Maryland. She attended Radcliffe College, graduating in 1951, and was selected by W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize for that same year.

After having three sons before the age of thirty, Rich gradually changed both her life and her poetry. The content of her work became increasingly confrontational - exploring such themes as women's role in society, racism, and the Vietnam war. The style of these poems also revealed a shift from careful metric patterns to free verse.

In 1973, in the midst of the feminist and civil rights movements, the Vietnam War, and her own personal distress, Rich wrote Diving into the Wreck, a collection of exploratory and often angry poems, which garnered her the National Book Award in 1974. Rich accepted the award on behalf of all women and shared it with her fellow nominees, Alice Walker and Audre Lorde.

Rich has received the Bollingen Prize, the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the National Book Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship; she is also a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

In 1997, she refused the National Medal of Arts over disagreements with President Clinton and his administration The same year, Rich was awarded the Academy's Wallace Stevens Award for outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.

Sending Love

from the grain

of the forest bought
and condemned

sketched bond
in the rockmass

the earthquake sought
and threw


Sending love: Molly sends it
Ivan sends it, Kaori

sends it to Biran, Irina sends it
on pale green aerograms Abena sends it

to Charlie and to Josephine
Arturo sends it, Naomi sends it

Lourdes sends it to Naoula
Walter sends it to Arlene

Habib sends it, Vashti
floats it to Eqbal in a paper plane

Bored in the meeting, on a postcard
Yoel scribbles it to Gerhard

Rezon on his e-mail
finds it waiting from Patrician

Mario and Elsie
send it to Francisco

Karolina sends it monthly
home with a money order

June sends it with a kiss to Dahlia
Mai sends it, Montserrat

scrawls it to Faiz on a memo
Lennky wires it with roses

to Lew who takes it on his
whispery breath. Julia sends it

loud and clear, Dagmar brailles it
to Maureen, Maria Christina

sends it, Meena and Moshe send it
Patrick and Max are always

sending it back and forth
and even Shirley, even George

are found late after closing
sending it, sending it


Sending love is harmless
doesn't bind you    can't make you sick

sending love's expected
precipitous     and wary

sending love can be carefree
Joaquin knew it, Eira knows it

sending love without heart
- well, people do that daily


Terrence years ago
closed the window, wordless

Grace who always laughed is leaning
her cheek against the bullet-proof glass

her tears enlarged
like scars on a planet

Vivian hangs her raincoat
on a hook, turns to the classroom

her love entirely
there, supreme

Victor fixes his lens
on disappearing faces

- caught now or who will ever
see them again?


Here's the second of our three poems this week by Alex Stolis. This one is from his interview project.

The P******** Review recently published your Prize-winning
collection, E**** on M*** S*****. How did you decide upon the title?

a woman primps while waiting for the next train. her cigarette shakes, smoke
wisps itself around unfinished business. lip gloss gets applied then reapplied
to an unafraid mouth. there is nowhere for us to go so we keep to ourselves.
she smoothes her skirt with the palm of her hand. an overheard conversation
burns. the rhythm of this world doesn't match up with the subtext. a warm
rush of wind. her breasts, pale white; an unfulfilled promise. she brushes
a strand of hair behind her ear. bone turns to ash. a crumpled ticket is blown
off the platform and onto the track. the sky is dead and nobody knows it.

Next, I have three short poems by Paul Auster from his book, Collected Poems, published by Overlook Press in 2004.

Auster was born in 1947 in New Jersey to Jewish middle class parents of Polish descent. After graduating from Columbia University in 1970, he moved to Paris where he earned a living translating French literature. Since returning to the U.S. in 1974, he has published poems, essays, novels of his own as well as translations of French writers.

In Memory of Myself

Simply to have stopped.

As if I could begin
where my voice has stopped, myself
the sound of a word

I cannot speak.

So much silence to be brought to life
in this pensive flesh, the berating
drum of words
within, so many words

lost in the wide would
within me, and thereby to have know
that in spite of myslef

I am here.

As if this were the world.


Dawn as an image
of dawn, and the very sky collapsing
into itself. Irreducible

of pure water, the pores of earth
exuding light: such yield

as only light will bring, and the very stones

in the image of themselves.

The consolation of color.


The infinite

tiny things. For once merely to breathe
in the light of the infinite

tiny things
that surround us. Or nothing
can escape

the lure of this darkness, the eye
will discover that we are
only what has made us less
than we are. To say nothing. To say:
our very lives

depend on it.

I have a very clear conviction of what a person is. That conviction does not include the likes of GMC, IBM and AIC, as many consevatives would claim. But then what do you expect from these people who can't tell the difference between a person and a brick building.

justice among the reptiles

(New Court Term May Give Hints
To Views on Regulating Business -
(New York Times)

so is anyone
really expecting
any surprise
this court
of conservative zealots
who look out
from their high bench
to see
a predatory
the function
of people
like you and me
is to be its

The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry, published by Wisdom Publications in 2005, includes the work of twenty-nine contemporary poets. I'm going to limit myself this week to just a couple of them.

First, here's a longish piece by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. You know, I have to admit that, as much as I enjoy the poetry of the Beats in general and Ferlinghetti in particular and no matter how much I appreciate what they did to free American poetry from the cobwebs of the past and no matter how much i owe them for the freedom I personally assume as a poet, their usual certainty of their own moral superiority and the general brain-fuzz in so much of what they wrote is often very off-putting to me.

A Buddha in the Woodpile

If there had been only
one Buddha in the woodpile
in Waco Texas
to teach us how to sit still
one saffron Buddhist in the back rooms
just one Tibetan lama
just one Taoist
just one Zen
just one Thomas Merton Trappist
just one saint in the wilderness
of Waco Texas
If there had been only one
calm little Gandhi
in a white sheet or suit
one not-so-silent partner
who at the last moment shouted Wait
If there had been just one
majority of one
in the lotus position
in the inner sanctum
who bowed his shaved head to the
Chief of All Police
and raised his hands in a mudra
and chanted the Great Paramita Sutra
the Diamond Sutra
the Lotus Sutra
If there had somehow been
just one Gandhian spinner
with Brian Willson at the gates of the White House
at the Gates of Eden
then it wouldn't have been
Vietnam once again
and its "One two three four
What're we waitin' for?"
If one single ray of the light
of the Dalai Lama
when he visited this land
had penetrated somehow
the Land of the Brave
lies down with the lamb -
But not a glimmer got through
The Security screened it out
screened out the Buddha
and his not-so-crazy wisdom
If only in the land of Sam Houston
if only in the land of the Alamo
if only in Wacoland USA
if only in Reno
if only on CNN CBS NBC
one had comprehended
one single syllable
of the Gautama Buddha
of the young Siddhartha
one single whisper of
Gandhi's spinning wheel
one lost syllable
of Martin Luther King
or the Early Christians
or of Mother Teresa
or Thoreau or Whitman or Allen Ginsberg
or of the millions in America tuned to them
If the inner ears of the of the inner sanctums
had only been half open
to any vibrations except
those of the national security state
and had only been attuned
to the sound of one hand clapping
and not one hand punching
Then the sick cult and its children
might still be breathing
the free American air
of the first Amendment

Next, I have several short poems by Jane Hirshfield, who you can read often here from her various bookis.

After Long Silence

Politeness fades,

a small anchovy gleam
leaving the upturned pot in the dishrack
after the moon has wandered out of the window.

One of the late freedoms, there in the dark.
The left-over soup put away as well.

Distinctions matter. Whether a goat's
quiet face should be called noble
or indifferent. The difference between a right rigor and pride.

The untranslatable thought must be the most precise.

Yet words are not the end of thought, they are where it begins.

Recalling a Sung Dynasty Landscape

Palest wash of stone-rubbed ink
leaves open the moon: unpainted circle,
how does it raise so much light?
Below, the mountains
lose themselves in dreaming
a single, thatch-roofed hut.
Not that the hut lends meaning
to the mountains or the moon -
it is a place to rest the eye after much traveling,
is all.
And the heart, unscrolled,
is comforted by such small things:
a cup of green tea rescues us, grows deep and large,
a lake.

A Cedary Fragrance

Even now,
decades after,
I wash my face with cold water -

Not for discipline,
nor memory,
nor the icy, awakening slap,

but to practice
to make the unwanted wanted.


Most lights are made to see by,
this to be seen.
Its vision sweeps its one path
like an aged monk raking a garden,
his question long ago answered or moved o.
Far off, night grazing horses,
breath scented with oatgrass and fennel,
step through it, disappear, step through it, disappear.

Against Certainty

There is something out in the dark that wants to correct us.
Each time I think, "this," it answers "that."
Answers hard, in the heart-grammar's strictness.

If I then say "that," it too is taken away.

Between certainty and the real, an ancient enmity.
When the cat waits in its path-hedge,
no cell of her body is not waiting.
This is how she is able so completely to disappear.

I would like to enter the silence portion as she does.

To live amid the great vanishing as a cat must live,
one shadow fully at ease inside another.

And, finally, here's the third of our triple play by Alex Stolis this week.

Lex Luthor writes a farewell letter to Superman

This, I know: our relationship is based
on shared respect. I'm not your nemesis
but your twin, an opposite side of the same
story. We come from a different world,
a simple time when black and white never
traded places. Now, consequences are too
fast for us, the streets too thick to wrap
our arms around. Let's leave this jagged
future to the unforgiven and remember
the answer for our differences was nothing
more than mutual admiration. I am hollowed
out and vague, used up, stranded
in self pity and no longer willing
so don't expect any regret or recrimination
for what has passed or what may transpire.
One day the sky will crackle and hum
with memories of flight but your flesh,
humbled from years of Sisyphean labors
won't be up to the task. No, the final straw
isn't always the heaviest but when it breaks
you will be weary and uncertain; unable to shrug
off the gray flannel life created by your alter ego

We had a great smasher-crasher of a thunderstorm last week. It began about 2 a.m. and lasted until 7 in the morning, by which time we had had nearly 7 inches of rain. It was glorious


for more than
an hour
right over my house,
the zzzzzzttt of ozone
frying, thunder like cannon fire,
not metaphoric cannon fire,
but the real thing,
window rattling, like
London during the blitz,
a few seconds of quiet, no sound
but the rain pelting the roof,
and the thunder starts again,
one great crash of elements
after another,
buckets of ball-peen hammers
thrown down a deep echoing well,

rain -
a year's worth
all at once and the dogs
cower and whine and the creek
roars down the hill.

Cyntian Zarin was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. She was educated at Harvard College and Columbia.

She joined The New Yorker in 1982, as an assistant to William Shawn. She was a staff writer from 1984 to 1994, and returned to the magazine as a staff writer in 2004. Her early work included pieces in "On and Off the Avenue" and "The Talk of the Town," and Profiles of the actress Linda Hunt and the publisher James Laughlin. All the while, she continued to write poetry, publishing several collections.

The next two poems are from her first book, The Swordfish Tooth, published by Knopf in 1989.

Looking for the Great Horned Owl in Truro Woods

The three of us went out
to look for owls,
and one of us knew how

to cup his hands and make
an inquiring sound,
and, coaxed from behind the dunes,

there came an answering round.
There were two of them
that we could hear,

a muted mating croon
that seemed to pulse
and find its echo

on the pond's curved lip.
And then, what was more mysterious
than us, crashing through the woods

to see a sound?


In the breeze from the propped-open green door
I lay my head against your leg
and tasted salt.

And in last light I felt myself
close kin to the snail you found.
Amber, primordial,

loosed from the lettuce tongues
it crawled across your palm,
its searching head a sure

iambic bob, then quivering -
shining beast wheel
turned pull-toy, dragooned

by a lucid, creeping milky
All week, my mind interior,

I watched the snail
lit by its whorl
traveling along your sun-tanned hand;

cartographer of the mysterious
male life,
its loping upward arching line.

I was in the men's room at the bookstore the other day and noticed the baby changing station which set off a whole afternoon of pondering - and this.

change we can believe in

a black man
is President of the United States,
a big thing,
though mostly symbolic

i prefer to measure
the changes in my life
by the little things

like baby-changing stations
in men's rooms
where men,
in the presence of other men,
can change their babies
poo-poo diapers

fifty years ago
it was hard to get a man
to recognize the existence of diapers,
much less a poo-poo diaper,
and even less then that to do something
about it

there is a lesson in that,
suitable for a chapter
in the history of the United States of America -
circa 1950-2009

or this -

traveling through deepest
Mississippi, formerly white-sheeted Capitol
of the Klan States of America,
stopping at a roadside restaurant
for breakfast, sitting,
with my Hispanic wife,
at a table next to a larger table
where sat six deputy sheriffs,
all black

a black president
gives hope to all Americans
worthy of hope, but few
of those Americans will ever have
any relationship with that president
beyond waving at his limousine as it passes,
and most will never come even that close,
but those deputies in that small rural county
will be known to everyone in the county,
helping some when they are in distress,
confronting others from a position of authority,
everyone, from those who in years past
would never imagine a black person
in a position of such power
over their daily lives
to those who, in their young life,
have never know anything different

all the hate words will still be spoken
in that county,
but only in private,
only in whispers that acknowledge,
by the whispering, the change

little changes
like these that rub against our expectations,
that change our expectations,
every day or our life

while the big events acknowledge
the changes; it's the daily differences
between what we used to know
and what we know now
that make the changes happen

The next poems are by Emma Lazarus, taken from the book Emma Lazarus, Poet of the Jewish People, published in 1997 by Arthur James LTD as part of their Visionary Women series.

Lazarus was born in 1887 in New York City, the fourth of seven children of Portuguese Sephardic Jews whose families had been settled in New York since the colonial period.

From an early age, she studied American and European literature, as well as several languages, including German, French, and Italian. Her writings attracted the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He corresponded with her up until his death. She both wrote her own poems and edited many adaptations of German poems, notably those of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich Heine. She also wrote a novel and two plays.

She began to be more interested in her Jewish ancestry as she heard of the Russian pogroms in the early 1880s. She began translating the works of Jewish poets into English. Expelled in great numbers from the Russian Pale of Settlement, eastern European Ashkenazi Jews immigrated in destitute multitudes to New York in the winter of 1882. Lazarus taught technical education to help them become self-supporting.

She traveled twice to Europe, first in May 1885 after the death of her father in March and again in September 1887. She returned to New York City seriously ill after her second trip and died two months later on 19 November 1887, most likely from Hodgkin's disease.

She is known as an important forerunner of the Zionist movement, arguing for the creation of a Jewish homeland thirteen years before the term "Zionism" came into use.

The first of the two poems I'm presenting here is her most famous, its final lines becoming an important element in American history and mythology after they found their place at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The World's Justice

If the sudden tidings came
    That on some far, foreign coast,
Buried ages long from fame,
    Had been found a remnant lost
Of that hoary race who dwelt
    By the golden Nile divine,
Spoke the Pharaoh's tongue and knelt
    At the moon-crowned Isis' shrine -
How at reverend Egypt's feet,
Pilgrims from all lands would meet!

If the sudden news were known,
    That anigh the desert-place
Where once blossomed Babylon,
    Scions of a mighty race
Still survived, of giant build,
    Huntsmen, warriors, priest and sage,
Whose ancestral fame had filled,
    Trumpet-tongued, the earlier age,
How at old Assyria's feet
Pilgrims from qall the lands would meet

Yet when Egypt's self was young,
    And Assyria's bloom unworn,
Ere the mystic Homer sung;
    Ere the gods of Greece were born,
Lived the nation of one God,
    Priests of freedom, sons of Shem,
Never quelled by yoke or rod,
    founders of Jerusalem -
Is there one abides to-day,
Seeker of dead cities, say!

Answer now as then, they are;
    Scattered broadcast o'er the lands,
Knit in spirit nigh and far,
    With indissoluble bands.
Half the world adores their God,
    They the living law proclaim,
And their guerdon is - the rod,
    Stripe and scourgings, death and shame.
Still on Israel's head forlorn,
Every nation heaps its scorn.

I was diagnosed diabetic about 10-12 years ago. It was not a gift - I earned it through a lifetime of self-indulgent eating habits and an addiction to sugar.


how i came to dream of gnawing bloody Bambi bones

does a number
of unhelpful things
to the body,
one such,
a reduction of testosterone
levels in men

some results
of this insufficiency are
mental fogginess,
weakness due to loss
of muscle mass,
and an overpowering desire
to crochet coffee table

of more serious
long-term concern is that
one of testosterone's functions
is lubrication of the brain
and when testosterone levels
so does this brain lubrication
allowing the brain to dry up,
becoming all crumbly and cracky
like play dough
left out too long in the sun

the simple solution, a little steroid juice
applied daily
returns one to a state of vim and vigor,
reverses muscle deterioration,
and produces the important wet brain condition
as all the gray cells are bathed on a regular basis,
thus avoiding the otherwise certain state of
brain-crumble and crack

aside from developing the hairiest back
and knuckles
within twenty seven square blocks
and the daily urge to go into the woods
and shoot Bambi,
negative side-effects are minimal,

I am,
left with a number of carefully crafted
coffee table
i'm thinking of putting on

but that's another problem

Thank you, readers, for being with me this week. As producer and owner of this blog I ask you to remember that all the material presented here remains the property of its creator. The exception is material created by me alone, which, though remaining my property, is available to anyone who wants use it for purposes of their own. Any use of my material must include proper credit to me as its creator. That's me...allen itz.

at 11:02 AM Anonymous Marie Gail Stratford said...

Wish I had more time at a computer to absorb these gems, Alan. A good read on my first day back from a long weekend.

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