Black (and white) Friday   Sunday, November 29, 2009


IV.12.1.




Stuck, now, in that trough between Thanksgiving and Christmas when everyone around me seems manic-depressive, Christmas-frantic one moment, Christmas-gloomster the next. I'm doing my best to ignore it.

Here's the line-up. Hope you enjoy.


David Lehman
May 27
June 1
June 5
June 6
June 8


Me
watcing Reba sniff the grass

Marina Tsvetaeva
From Poem of the End, Sections 1-4, 14

Sue Clennell
Angry young girls

Juan Felipe Herrera
Giraffe on fire

Me
my front porch cat is a ham

e. e. cummings
Several sections from Part III of etcetera - the unpublished poems

Jan Napier
Looted

Gary Soto
A Simple Plan

Me
clocking in

Dan Gioia
Los Angles After the Rain

Jan Napier
Harsh White Light

Wendy Cope
Advertisement
On Finding An Old Photograph


Me
Cave Men

Sue Clennell
Hades in the suburbs

Me
a soldier in the cause

Jan Napier
Country Communion

Me
redhead clowns

Ku Sang
Springtime Dances
Spring Washing


Me
i might just do it









I'm starting this week with poems by David Lehman from his book, The Daily Mirror, A Journal in Poetry, published by Schribner Poetry in 2000.

I've been accused of relying to much on "diary poems," telling people through my poems way more than anyone wants to hear about the experience of being me. Poet and editor Lehman, currently on the core faculty of the graduate writing programs at Bennington College and The New School, goes me one further with a book that is literally a day to day diary in verse. He also has a much more interesting life than mine, providing himself more of an excuse for the diary than me.

Here are several poems, starting on May 27th of his life and moving forward for a couple of days.



May 27

Movies are meant to be seen
when you're alone especially
when you're living in England
and wishing you were in France
so you go to Le Bonheur and
memorize the dialogue then you go
to France and see American films
and study the French subtitles
which teach you how to behave
it's enjoyable to make
global generalizations on
the basis of haphazard observations
the English value gardening over cooking
ergo their idea of wickedness is
bad manners while the French
idea of wickedness is bad taste
and in the movies the man kissing the woman
says "don’t believe me though
I never lie" I've always wanted to say
that to a girl if I tell you
I love you don't believe me


June 1

The new day (a gray streak
of light) begins with
the bubbles still in
last night's soda water
in my glass by the bed
I've got to pack pick up
a rental car load it and
drive up to Ithaca it'll be
good to be in the big house
but I don't want to leave
hard as it is to live in
this city I'm still a sucker
for the lights of Amsterdam
Avenue the bright yellow of
taxis in snow I feel like
a runner with a big lead off
first base who slides into second
and when the catcher's throw
skips into center field he hustles
to third his uniform streaked
with dirt he's safe


June 5

If I write another
poem about Ithaca
let it be called
"Chance of a Shower"
no Korean restaurant
dispenses cherry
lime rickeys here
but if you bring
the white creme de
menthe I'll meet you
halfway with brandy
and make us stingers
you saw an osprey
a kingfisher two
red-tailed hawks
and four blue herons
in the Dryden wetlands
Renee you've become
quite a birdwatcher
and if a friend calls
and says "we've got
to talk" it can mean
one thing only you
haven't won the lottery


June 6

No two are identical though
they begin from the same
point in time the same point in
the dream when the radio shuts
itself off in the middle of
"Just in Time" (Sinatra version)
the curtains are blowing in
and the driver of the hearse
outside looks up and says "Room
for one more" and now you
know what kind of hospital you're in
and you must escape from it
by acting "normal" pretending there isn't
a conspiracy against you as Dead of Night
shifts into Shock Corridor
there are a dozen versions of this dream
I keep thinking of what Ashbery said
about escapism he said we need
all the escapism we can get
and even that isn't going to be enough


June 8

It's three days from my birthday
I think I'll rent Doctor Zhivago
tonight (Hilton Obenzinger said
he liked the music) and read the novel
today and write a poem tomorrow about
the Russian Revolution as performed
by the students of Columbia College
in 1967 Michael Steinlauf had a beard
David Shapiro a mustache Les Gottesman
went to Poland for the summer
and Hilton Obenzinger bought a pound
of ground chuck and walked to Hamillton Hall
where a class on Plato was in progress
he threw the meat into the room
yelled "Meat" and ran away








I got into a kind of pet-centric mood last week and wrote several poems that began with one or more of the animals that share my life.

This is the first one



watching Reba sniff the grass

a clear cool day,
too good not to be out in,
so Reba and i took a little longer
with our walk
than usual

usually Reba slows down a bit
after her initial excitement,
but today, this beautiful day,
she was frisky
and eager from start
to finish,
her nose buried
deep
in the grass,
her nostrils twitching,
delicate
little shivers,
as she makes minute
adjustments,
pushing the grass
this way and that,
searching
for the clearest scent

like a jeweler
bent over a fine gem,
loop
to unblinking eye,
studying each facet,
looking for a purity
that will make him
draw back his breath
in wonder

i watch and wonder, too,
how it must be
to be
so open to sensation,
to be so filled in the
morning
with such joy of
discovery

ahh,
success,
a tiny bit of something
dead,
or, in her lexicon,
food








One should not look for humor from Russian poets; even the cyrillic alphabet looks harsh and foreboding. But then the last hundred years of Russian history is not likely to produce much humor, except of the blackest kind.

Marina Tsvetaeva, born in Moscow in 1892, is not an exception to the rule. She wrote her long narrative poems while in and out of exile most of her life, eventually committing suicide in 1941, at the onset of World War II.

Poem of the End is her most acclaimed work. Consisting of 14 sections, some quite long, it is not a poem I can include in its entirety here. Instead, I'm presenting several sections from the beginning and the final, ending section of the poem. You'll have to find the poem yourself to find out what happens in between.

The poems in the book, published by Ardis Publishing, were translated by Nina Kossman.



Poem of the End

    1

In the sky, rustier than tin,
Is a lamppost like a finger.
He rose at the appointed place,
Like fate.

"Quarter to. Have I kept you...?"
"Death cannot wait."
Exaggerately smooth,
The doffing of his hat.

In every eyelash, a challenge.
The mouth, contorted.
Exaggeratedly low,
His bow.

'Quarter to." "On the dot?"
His voice lied.
My heart - fell. (What's with him?)
My brain: a signal.

    __________

Sky of bad omens.
Rust and tin.He waited at the usual spot.
Six o'clock.

This soundless kiss:
The stupor of the lips.
Thus - empresses' hands are kissed
Thus - dead men's hands...

A hurrying laborer
Elbows my side.
Exaggeratedly dull,
The train-whistle howled.

Howled - yelped like a dog,
On and on, angrily.
(The exaggeration of life,
In the final hour.)

What yesterday was waist-high
Suddenly reaches the stars.
(Exaggerated, that is:
To its full height.)

Thinking: darling, darling.
"The time?" "Seven."
"To the movies, or?"
(Exclaiming) "Home!"

    2

Gypsy brotherhood -
This is where it led!
Like thunder on the head,
Or a naked blade,

All the terror
Of anticipated words,
Of a house collapsing,
That word: home

    __________

A lost spoiled child
Wailing: Home!
A one-year-old:
"Give me! Mine!"

My brother in sin,
My fever and fervor.
The dream of running away
The way you dream of home.

    _________

Like a horse jerking at its tether -
Up! - and the rope in shreds.
"But we have no home!"
"Ah, but we do. Ten paces away.

The house on the mountain." "Not higher up?"
"The house at he top of the mountain,
The window under the roof."
"Burning not only with the light

Of dawn?" "So we start over again?"
"The simplicity of poems!"
Home means: out of the house
And into the night.
    (Oh, whom shall I tell

My sorrow, my grief,
Horror, greener than ice?...)
"you've been thinking too much."
Pensively: "Yes."

    3

The embankment. I keep to the water -
A dense thickness.
The hanging gardens of Semiramis,
There they are!

The water - a steely strip of it,
Deathly pale.
I stay with it like a singer
Sticks to the score; like a blind-man

Sticks to the edge of a wall...You won't turn me back?
If I bend down, will you hear?
I stay with it, the quencher of all thirsts,
Like a sleepwalker sticks to the edge

Of a roof...
   Oh, but it's not the water
That makes me shiver - I was born a naiad.
To hold onto the river, like holding hands
When your lover's here

and faithful.
   The dead are faithful.
Yes, but not all in the same casket...
On my left side, death; on my right -
You. My right side seems dead.

A vivid sheaf of light
Laughter, like a toy tambourine.
"We need to have a ..."
    (shivering).
"Will we be brave?"

    4

A wave of blond fog
Like a gauzy flounce.
Too much beathing, too much smoking,
But mainly too much conversation!
What's that smell? the smell of haste,
Of connivance and petty sins,
Of business secrets
And ballroom powder.

Family men who play the field,
Beringed, respectable boys...
Too much joking, too much laughing,
But mainly - too much calculation!
big notes and small ones,
Keeping their noses clean.
...The smell of business deals
And ballroom powder.

(Aside - is this our house?
I'm not mistress here!...
One bent over his checkbook,
Another over a kid-gloved hand,
And that one working over
A cute foot in patent-leather.
...The smell of business marriages
And ballroom powder.

A silver notch in the window -
The Star of Malta!
Too much stroking, too much groping
But mainly - too much squeezing.
(Yesterday's left-overs,
But who minds the smell?)
...The smell of business swindles,
And ballroom powder.

The chain's too short?
At least it's platinum, not steel!
Their triple chins shaking,
Like calves they eat their
Veal. Over a sweet neck -
The devil, a gaslight.
...The smell of business failures
And of a certain powder -
Manufactured by Bertold Schwartz,
    a man of many gifts,
And a benefactor of mankind.
"We need to have a talk."
Will we be brave?

    14

the descent like a sheep -
Path. City noise.
Three tarts come towards us.
Laughing. at your tears.

They laugh, their wombs like ripe noon,
Their swelling crests of waves ,
They laugh at your unseemly,
Disgraceful, male -

At your tears, visible
Through the rain like welts;
Like pearls, shameful
On a warrior's bronze.

At your first and last
Tears - Let them flow!
At your tears, the pearls
In my crown!

I won't lower my eyes.
I stare through the downpour.
Stare, puppets of Venus,
Stare! This bond

Is closer than
Luring and laying.
Even the Song of Songs
Yields to our speech.

To us, obscure little birds,
Even Solomon bows,
For our weeping together
Surpasses a dream.

So, into the hollow waves
Of darkness - hunched over -
Without a sound, without a trace,
As a ship sinks.

    Prague, 1 February 1924 - Ilovisci, 8 June 1924









We have several poem this week from two more of our Australian friends, both, in this case, from Western Australia.

The first of the two is Sue Clennell. She has two poems; this is the first. Its initial publication was in Speedpoets.



Angry young girls

Angry young girls
come out at night
to bury the bogey man,
buy houses     bite necks
gatecrash glass ceilings
with back lane ladders
write graffiti on boys' hearts.
Chic to the bone     they
taste of ginger    salt    and sand,
wind snakes around wrists
dip their toes in stock markets and
keep love letters in kitchen drawers
next to the corkscrew.








My next piece is by Juan Felipe Herrera, from his book Giraffe On Fire, published by The University of Arizona Press in Tuscon in 2001.

Luckily, I don't believe in labeling things because, if I had to label what Herrera does, I wouldn't have a clue what to call it. And, the truth is, I also only have a vague idea of what Herrera is talking about most of the time, but his images are so bright and unexpected and vivid that knowing what he's saying seems unimportant.

The title piece of the book is a long, multi-part narrative, much too long to use in its entirety here. Instead, here's the first section.



Giraffe on Fire

1

I sit on a gold vestibule. It isn't me.

This wavy swan to my naked left comes up to my bad eye. My dead eye.
Catalonia, in its sacred and tiny voyage under the tectonic plates of Dali's
edible sea. Swan's talons. Cobalt blue and geometric. Gold pearls and an
inverted eggshell. My childhood, my little red daily missal, my edge of
Plexiglas water. My breasts and my shoulders are sculpted and small. I raise
my leg as I hold an invisible oblong figure in front of me. It is my gaze.
Naked as Gala, Dali's lover: I know nothing. Nothing of Spain or its green-
mantled skies. I live in a split sky. Yellowish without a sun, yet the sun
envelops the firmament. The bottom is blue, then convex with a woman at
the center. Mexico, Cortez, Malinche. East Los Angeles. San Francisco. El
Paso, yes, the gate of all Mexican dreams - this soft animal, jagged with
ragged dots behind its back that leads to a holy shrine. A wax cross always
before me. I sit upright. Floating, my head tilted to the left. This is the
proper stance in America, an adequate sexual crust that I eat as I ascend
into the sky. It is not necessary to understand what is below me.

You must open your legs. You must figure that the hard orange colors from
your bill, then the black protrusion. This is innocence. I was born there. A
fortune was discovered on my skin. My mother took me away one night.
An egg was delivered, then tossed over a bridge. It cut into the waters, a
shape of a man with tinted skin and a jelly heart. What could he do? He was
alone inside the small canoe. What did he have? He had paints and a loaf of
pumpernickel. He wanted to reach down into the water. The belly below
him, floating up. Gala in white, in seaweed, in parables from Ezekiel and
Port Ligat. Gala was elsewhere. Above him, as always. In front of him. As
always. In a shrunken room dug into the bowels of a West Coast barrio.
The barrio was insignificant. The fragrance was central to his existence.
This is my language. There are no codes. she sits there. That is all. In
eclips. In fission. Hiroshima, Iraq. The San Joaquin Valley. In leather rubies
and grape pesticides. Alive and willing, still. She is traveling sideways, onto
Desolation and Desire. Avenues, voyages ripped from Cadiz and Cadaquez.
Moors and Jews come to her.

This was my beginning. In the fields,
lost in the deserts of California. Many years ago.








Here's another of the pet poems, this one about the young cat that guards my front door.



my front porch cat is a ham

front-porch kitty,
named Billy Goat
because of a little black patch
under her chin that looks like
a goatee, always runs out
to meet me every time
i drive up, not, it seems,
because she wants to be petted,
but only because she
wants me to watch as she eats

now
it's not that she wants me
to give her food, since, because
she doesn't seem to want to eat
without an audience, some of the food
i put out in the morning is usually
still there in the evening

i'm worried that
if we decide to go away
for a week or two and i'm not there
to watch her eat several times a day,
she'll starve to death

and,
speaking of watching others eat,
i'm having lunch today
with a long-absent friend
and since we haven't seen each other
in thirty years and since just about
everybody we ever both knew
is dead, it's likely we're not going to have
a lot to talk about and i'm thinking lunch
is mostly going to be about watching
each other eat
though i'm not expecting to enjoy it
as much as Billy Goat appears to,
not being nearly the ham she is








Next, I have e. e. cummings, from the collection Etcetera - the Unpublished Poems, two poems from section III of the book.



III

    8

look
my fingers,which
touched you
and your warmth and crisp
littleness
-see?do not resemble my
fingers.    My wrists hands
which held carefully the soft silence
of you(and your body
smile eyes feet hands)
are different
from what they were.    My arms
in which all of you lay folded
quietly, like a
leaf or some flower
newly made by Spring
Herself,are not my
arms.    I do not recognise
as myself this which i find before
me in a morror.    I do
not believe
i have ever seen these things;
someone whom you love
and who is slenderer
taller than
myself has entered and become such
lips as i use to talk with
a new person is alive and
gestures with my
or it is perhaps you who
with my voice
are
playing.


    9

when of your eyes one smile entirely brings down
the night in rain over the shy town of my mind
when upon my heart lives the loud alive darkness
and in my blood beating and beating with love
the chuckling big night puzzles asquirm with sound
when all my reaching towers and roofs are drenched with love
my streets whispering bulge my trembling houses yearn
my walls throb and writhe my spires curl with darkness

then in me hands light lamps against this darkness(hands here
and there hands go thither and hither in my town)

carefully close windows shut doors








Now here's Jan Napier, our second poet from Western Australia this month.

Jan travelled the length and breadth of Western Australia for 20 years, working in Side Show Alley (the Oz term for Midway). Her experiences are summed up in her book All The Fun Of The Fair, and now she has turned her attention to poetry.

Her poem was first published in Speedpoets.



Looted

Dreams of elsewhere and blue fires
clove hitched to bad mirrors
reflect pickled images of a far off hearth
and his swell bellied welcome.
Bars shriek to the sailor
seagull the dock    lamp the deeps
follow the tobacco and fish gutted stars.
Cross pendulum oceans of cat's eye and sin
singed with a language unsullied by mercy.
Map a port hyphenated by umbral arrivals
upon a tide poppied with cutlass and crimson.
Hiss the bone burn of a door ajar.
Kitchen and cot have southerly swung
flies hymn and church the cold worm curl.
Its seams untacked    tomorrow yaws








I'm back this week with another piece by National Book Award finalist Gary Soto from his book a simple plan. The piece is the book's title poem.



A Simple Plan

To get rid of
A dog, you put on
Your brother's shoes,
Slip into a shirt
Hanging on a nail
In the garage,
Smack dad's hair oil
Into your dirty locks,
The scent of confusion.
You call, Let's go, boy,
And with the
Dog's neck in
A clothesline noose,
You follow your skinny shadow
Down the street
And cut through
A vacant lot,
Same place
Where you stepped
On a board with a nail
and whimpered home,
The board stuck
like a ski to your shoe.
You walk past
The onion field,
Little shrunken heads
Hiding hot, unshed tears,
And stop at the canal.
The dog laps water,
Nibbles a thorn from his paw,
And barks at a toad
In the oiled weeds.
The sun's razor
Is shining at your throat,
and wind ruffles
Your splayed hair,
Where a hatchet
Would fit nicely -
You feel the sharpened
edge of guilt.
Come on, boy
You say and leap
On slippery rocks
Set in the canal.
You stop to
Look inside an abandoned
Car with a pleated grill -
Three bullets holes in the door
On the driver's side.
You think, Someone
Drove this car
Here and killed it.

You brave another mile.
When you arrive
The dog prances with
Joy. What is it?
A jackrabbit in
The brush? Feral cat
Or stink birds? You pick up
A board, one just a little
Smarter than the one
That nailed you with pain.
With all your strength,
You hurl it end over
End. The dog knows
What to do. He runs
After it. Time for you to spin
On your heels and, arms
Kicked up at your side,
Lungs two bushes
Of burning fire,
Get back home.
That night it's steaks
On a grill, a celebration
Because someone
In the family won
A two-hundred-dollar lottery.
You eat to the bone
And then nearly
Choke on the gristle.
You drag your full
Belly to the front
Yard, and stake
Yourself on the lawn.
The neighbor's porch light
Bursts on, and a shooting
Star cuts across the sky -
You touch your throat
and think, something just died.
You lay with hands
Laced behind
Your closed eyes
You see him, a nail
In his bloody paw,
A board in his mouth,
And shooting stars
Passing over the curves
Of his wet pupils.
If you were a better person,
You would stab
Your own foot
And let him pick up a scent
Back home.








Now it's back to Reba for this one.



clocking in

in the little town
where i grew up
we had Sheriff Jake Kane,
well-oiled 45 on his hip,
tall, broad-shouldered, craggy-faced
under a wide-brimmed stetson,
who slept through the night
just like all the rest of us,
except for the town's night watchman,
an 88-year-old guy who made his rounds
downtown, clocking-in at his check points,
seeing to the security of the city
through the dark hours, unless
there was some kind of shooting
or knife fight
at one of the bars out by the tracks
that required waking the sheriff
to go out and knock some heads together

i think of those days
and that old watchman as i walk Reba
in the morning, taking our normal route
where she has her clock-in points all along the way,
places where, everyday, she stops and sniffs,
checking out whatever it is she checks out
when she stops and sniffs (i imagine a kind of
telegraph offices where messages are sent
and received day to day) and like the watchman
there is no lollygagging between points, as, with
her gaze intently directed ahead and her step quick
and precise,
we advance the tour according to her own schedule

our route never varies, except for one time
i took the tour backward, beginning where we
usually finish, ending where we usually start,
and she kept looking up at me the whole way,
her expression clearly showing her disgust
with the way
i was screwing up the whole thing

like the watchman she is intent and loyal
to her route, unless, like the watchman
she sees something out of place along the way,
a piece of paper, lets say, that wasn't there yesterday,
because,
like the watchman, all things of a suspicious nature
was be investigated

it's part of the job








The next poem by Dana Gioia, from his book The Gods of Winter, published by Graywolf Press in 1991.

Gioia was born in Los angeles in 1950. He received his B.A. and M.B.A. degrees from Stanford University. He also has an M.A. Comparative Literature from Harvard University. At the time he published this book, he was a business executive in New York. He has since set aside his business career, devoting his full time to writing and the arts, and just this past year, completed a full, and successful, term as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.



Los Angeles After the Rain

Back home again on one of those bright mornings
when the city wakes to find itself reborn.
The smog gone, the thundering storm
blown out to sea, birds
frantic in their joyous cacophony, and the mountains,
so long invisible in haze,
newly risen with the sun.

It is morning snatched from Paradise,
a vision of the desert brought to flower -
of Eve standing in her nakedness,
immortal Adam drunk with all
the gaudy colors of the world,
and each taste and touch, each
astounding pleasure still waiting to be named.

The city stirs and stretches
like a young man waking after love.
Sunlight stroking the skin and the
promiscuous wind whispering
"Seize the moment. Surrender to the air"s
irrefutable embrace. Trust me that today
even seduction leads to love."

Too many voices overhead. Too many scents
commingle in the stark perfume
of green winter freshened by the rain.
This is not morning for decisions.
A day to ditch responsibility, look up
old friends, and dream
of quiet love, impossible resolutions.








Here's a second poem for this week from our Western Australia friend Jan Napier, first published in Tamba.



Harsh White Light

Out in this harsh white light
secrets sear    shrivel     scatter
like kangaroos before the rifle.
Shadows sharp as scalpels
cut out the indefinite article
define edges    separate the infinite
from matter subject to laws corporeal
excise or expose imperfection
in a paranoia of normality
the way hot blood sucks into sand.
Radiation insists on revelation.
Transition slices the instant
each detail etched in high relief
like the sirrush and rimi
incised upon Babylon's Ishtar Gate.
There are on grey areas
out in this harsh white lite.








Next I have two short poems by Wendy Cope, from her book Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, a tiny book published by faber and faber in 1986.

Cope was born in Kent. After university she was for fifteen years a primary school teacher in London. In 1987, after publishing this, her first book, she received a Cholmondeley Award for poetry and in 1995 the American Academy of Arts and Letters Michael Braude Award for light verse.



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The lady takes The Times and Vogue.
Wears Dior dresses. Gucci shoes.
Puts fresh-cut flowers round her room
And lots of carrots in her stews.

A moss-green Volvo, morning walks,
and holidays in guadeloupe;
Long winter evenings by the fire
With Proust and cream of carrot soup.

Raw carrots on a summer lawn.
Champagne, a Gioconda smile;
Glazed carrots in a silver dish
For Sunday lunch. They call it style.


On Finding An Old Photograph

Yalding, 1912. My father
in an apple orchard, sunlight
patching his stylish bags;

three women dressed in soft,
white blouses, skirts that brush the grass;
a child with curly hair.

If they were strangers
it would calm me - half-drugged
by the atmosphere - but it does more -

eases a burden
made of all his sadness
and the things I didn't give him.

There he is, happy, and I am unborn.








And then, there's Kitty Pride, who showed up at our back door years ago and stayed since. She is now a retired cat and does only retired-cat things. Mostly that means she sleeps all day on my recliner. It doesn't bother her if I'm already in the chair - she just sleeps on top of me.



cave men

Kitty Pride,
my old, going on
ancient,
Calico, being like
all cats
of French heritage
with a C'est la vie attitude
about all the things
that drive dogs crazy
with worry, didn't do much
when she was young
and does next to nothing
now that she's old, getting up
twice a day from the little cave
i make out of pillows for her
in the morning, waddling, with
hanging belly flaps wagging
side to side, once a day
to the food dish and once a day
to the litter box, the rest of the time
a happy little feline asleep
in the dark and quiet of her cave

safe, she knows, from all the
ills and interruptions that might
otherwise plague an old cat's life

like those people so frightened
by the threat from evil terrorists
if we try and execute the creatures
responsible for flying into the towers
on that day in September
right there in New York where
they committed their crime
against us - so much safer they say
if we hide this all away in that cave
we have on that faraway island
run by those people we don't like
so who cares about them, anyway

fearful people, like Kitty Pride,
hiding in the dark of their
cave

cowardly people,
eager to fight any war
as long as it's at least 3,000 miles
from their cave
and they don't have to go there








And now, my second poem this week from our friend Sue Clennell.



Hades in the suburbs

In the background Santana plays Smooth.
It's hot and people are bursting like grapes.
There's blood on the bus stop
for lack of cigarettes,
for fury flares like a match
in this eye of a cyclone waiting to happen.
Thirty eight, thirty nine, forty,
and still counting.
When a city is hot the snakes come out.
In a city without guns,
cricket and baseball bats, knives and broken bottles,
king hits predominate.
Shoppers pick up half-price Christmas cards
with scenes of snowmen and robins.
Fish and chips, vinegar or salt, sour cream or tomato
                              sauce,
sticky date pudding, and on such nights you see
that the stars really do glitter.
People walk by the smell of the sea
listen for thunder.








Of course, no week can go by without a good rant.



a soldier in the cause

i never had
any belief in god
deeper
than those sweet years
when the conviction
that Santa was coming
sustained me
through the dry
South Texas summer

i maintained
all the forms of belief,
going to church every Sunday
like i had to,
closing my eyes tight
while everyone prayed,
wondering
what the big deal was

growing up,
non-belief was not a thing
to talk about - i didn't meet
a professed non-believer
until i was a teenager -
and for years my own views
were not something i
talked about - first,
when i was young, out
of fear of being different
when different
wasn't a good thing
to be

later,
expressing my disbelief
seemed impolite, a challenge
to the most basic elements
of another person's
most enduring beliefs, a feeling
that, while my own disbelief was
no more important to me than
my disbelief
in elves and Tinkerbell,
there were people
whose faith was essential
to their lives, people who
were sustained by their faith
and who, without the faith, would
have been hollow at their core

so for years i avoided talking
about religion, not out of fear
of losing an argument, but
afraid i might win - until one day
it came to me that by my reticence
i was effectively apologizing
for being sane and rational,
enabling this culture of
delusion that spreads so much
of the evil in our lives

believers now complain
there is a war against religion -
if there truly such a war, you can call me,
in my own quiet and politely
civilized way, a soldier in the cause
of peace and reason and true brotherhood
of the human kind - anti-religion at its
most intense








Once more, here's Jan Napier, with her third poem this week. The poem first appeared in The Mozzie



Country Communion

Easy in snaffles
the horses amble

barebacked
flyfretted.

Country coloured
ears flick back
to our voices

hymned
with heat.

Past eucalypts
like unlit candles

and clouds of cockatoos
incensed
by our advance,

they carry us
down to the river.

Cattle
devilhorned

pew the banks.

The sea of red
parts.

We relinquish altitude
gather leathersweat reins

kneel
upstream of muzzle slurp and suck

cup hands
bow heads

Akubra'd yet humble

crow choired
make our communion.








Well, someone has to bring in the clowns.



redhead clowns

burger
and fries
a cinnamon
shake
and a dog with
a bone
a cat on the
phone
and redhead
clowns
giggling in
the diner

welcome home
Mr. Saturday
Night








Here are two poems by Korean poet Ku Sang from the collection Wasteland of Fire, published by Forest Books in 1989. The book's poems were translated from Korean by Anthony Teague.

Ku Sang was born in Seoul in a Catholic family. He grew up in North Korea and fled to South Korea before the Korean War. He has the distinction of having been oppressed as a poet and intellectual both by the communists in the north and the early corrupt dictatorship in the south.



Springtime dances

The old plum tree stump,
wimpled in white,
is dancing the dance of the crane.

the towering pine trees,
extending green parasols in either hand,
are performing a waltz.

Weeping willows sway in rhythms free,
bony acacias
rock leafless shoulders,
while bamboos rubbing arms and legs
step it out together.

Along rthe wayside where snow meets the sun
tiny blades of grass, already sprouting,
gently sway.

Seeds,roots, insects,frogs,
that had only been peeping from underground windows
now put on their springtime best,
like actors in backstage dressing rooms.
Now the breath of spring in the breeze
comes gently brushing the naked flesh.


Spring Washing

Along the edge of a barley field
weeping willow trees
dip their tresses in stream.

sunbeams beneath the water,
turned to golden grains of sand, dance
then pause, then flow again.

Hunched like toads
new crawled from the ground,
the village women and girls
attack the springtime washing.

Slip-slop, slip-slop
tacka-tacka-tacka, slosh-slosh,
they beat away
as if pounding out the rice-cake paste.

chick-check, chick-chock,
yick-yeck, yick-yock,
hey-hey, hee-hee! The tongues wag away:

Here's a baby girl born in the year of the horse!
The father-in-law's not too pleased about that!
and here's a mother-in-law too strict by half,
or a cheeky student for a sister-in-law,
but there a husband's gone back after leave,
and as for the gangsters of a certain political party...

In this pleasant scene
there still remain shadows of personal pain
like stains in the embroideries
made by young widows.








What a great experience I had this afternoon! It will hang on a mental magnet on my mental refrigerator door for some time to come.

The young man could not have picked two names that would please me more.

I'll let the poem tell the story.



i might just do it

working
on next week's blog
at my current favorite
coffee house
i was interrupted
by a fuzzy-bearded
young student from
the college down the
road -

had just read my book
he said
and thought it was great,
a combination of Whitman
and Bukowski, he said

and i could have kissed
him
peach-fuzzy beard
and all

in fact
if he comes back by
i might just do it








Until next time, remember, all the material in this blog remains the property of those who created it. All the stuff I created is avaible to anyone who wants it. As owner and producer of this blog, I say, make it so. Just get my name right...that's allen itz if you don't mind.

1 Comments:
at 2:13 AM Anonymous Les Gottesman said...

Les Gottesman here. For a complete and fabulously entertaining account of the 1967 events and personalities sketched in David Lehman's "June 8," go directly to Hilton Obenzinger's "Busy Dying" (Chax 2008).

Post a Comment



Back to Work   Sunday, November 22, 2009


"Peruvian Landscape"
by Vincent Martinez
IV.11.4.




I'm back from break with this slightly scaled back version of "Here and Now."

I spent a good part of the past couple of weeks sick with a cold, which is still hanging on, but I did get most of what I wanted to do done. Everything is done on the two books I had in the pipe line. The first of the two, pushing clouds against the wind is a small book of mostly light poems and I expect to get it sent off by the end of November. The second book, a little larger book with mostly darker pieces, is also ready to go, probably in March or April. And I have an idea now for a third book as well, a poetry/photography book with the working title, night eyes. For that book I'm aiming at the end of next year, proiding it works and i can actually write the poems when i actually sit down to the doing of it. An ambitious schedule, with the hope that, somewhere along the way, I'll sell a book or two.

This week I've gone to my first book, Seven Beats a Second, to feature some of its art. The paintings are by my collaborator in the book, artist Vincent Martinez of Austin. A senior art student when we did the book in 2005, Vince has continued to work on his art and is showing frequently and selling well. Would that we could translate some of that to the book.

In addition to Vince's art, this is what we have of poets and poetry this week in this hurry-up before Thanksgiving edition of "Here and Now."


Yehuda Amichai
Number 32 from Time

Me
i am a Chinese buffet

From Chinese Love Poems
From The Book of Songs
From The Nineteen Old Poems
Gazint at Spring, II & II by Xue Tao
The Coat with the Golden Threads by Du Qiuniang

Laurel Lamperd
Stroke

Nila Northsun
kids

Me
i just don't see how this is going to work

Anne Sexton
The Wall

Lauel Lamped
Tampa Legacy

Me
a day for deeds

Andrew M. Greeley
The Fifth of May - 1954

Me
13 squared

Pablo Neruda
The Night at Isla Negra

Tomas Transtomer
From March - '54

Elizabeth Coatsworth
Whale at Twilight

Laurel Lamperd
On Dark Afternoons

Margaret Atwood
Five Poems for Dolls

Me
behind bars

Michael Van Wallenghen
Fishing with Children

Me
an atheist's prayer



On we go.





"Lime Grape"
by Vincent Martinez




My first poem this week is by Israeli poetYehuda Amichai, from the collection Yehuda Amichai: A Life of Poetry, 1948-1994. The poems in the book were translated from Hebrew by Benjamin and Barbara Harshay.

Amichai, born Ludwig Pleuffer in 1924 in Wuzburg, Germany, was considered by many both in Israel and internationally as Israel's greatest modern poet. He was also the first to write in colloquial Hebrew. He died in Israel in 2000.

The poem I'm using this week is number 32 from a series called Time, first published in 1978.



When I was young, the country was young too. My father
Was everybody's father. When I was happy, the country was happy, when I
   jumped
Upon her, she jumped under me. The grass that covered her in spring
Softened me too. He soil in summer pained me
As parched skin in my soles. When I loved
Immensely, her independence was announced, when my hair
Waved, her banners waved. When I fought,
She fought. When I rose, she rose too, and when I declined
She began declining with me.

Now I part from all that.
Like a thing glued on something when the glue dries up,
I separate and roll into myself.

Recently I saw a clarinet player
In the Police Orchestra playing in David's Tower.
His hair white and his face calm: a face
From 1946, that sole year
Between famous and terrible years
When nothing happened but a great hope and his playing
And me lying with a girl in a quiet room in Jerusalem nights.
I haven't seen him since then, but the hope
For a better world hasn't left his face, till now.

Later, I sought some nonkosher sausage
And two rolls and went home.
I heard the evening news,
Ate and went to bed,
And the memory of first love came to me
Like a feeling of falling before you fall asleep.

Oh my old, venerable teacher, life
Is not deep as you said. History
And the love of Buber and Marx are just
A crust of paved road on the great earth.

Oh, my teacher, the boundary of toys is so close;
When a rifle shoots and kills, and father really died.

And the boundary of camouflage, which is also the boundary
Of love: instead of a cannon, a real tree
Grows. And she will be I, and I - her.





"Finger Tips On An Inca's Back"
by Vincent Martinez




I guess being a lightweight is better than being no weight at all.



i am a Chinese buffet

i would
like to be
a poet of deep
insight and emotion,
but the closest i've ever come
is deeply embarrassing

my most fiercely wrought thoughts
aren't original
and my original thoughts
are shallow
as Matagorda mud flats
at low tide

i'm a light poet
if a poet at all, not
an illuminating light,
only feather weight instead,
talking about all
the funny things that happen
during the course of a lightweight life

the poet as a Chinese buffet -
take a bite and move on,
there's another one coming
and you won't remember it either
past the initial tasting





"Orange Grey"
by Vincent Martinez




From a Chinese buffet to the beautifully illustrated anthology Chinese Love Poems, published in 2004 by Barnes & Noble Books, editor Jane Portal, Assistant Keeper in the Department of Asia in the British Museum.



The first poem from the book is from The Book of Songs.


By the banks of that marsh, there are sweet flags and lotus
There is a handsome man, I am smitten, what should I do?
Asleep or awake I do nothing, my tears flow like rain.

By the banks of the marsh, there are sweet flags and lotus
And just one handsome man, stately and tall.
Asleep or awake I do nothing, in my heart I am grieved.

By the banks of that marsh, there are sweet flags and lotus
There is a handsome man, very tall and grave.
Asleep or awake I do nothing, tossing and burying my face in the pillow.


The next poem is from The Nineteen Old Poems.

Green, green the river-side grass,
Dense, dense the garden willows,
Fair, fair the girl upstairs,
Bright, bright she faces the casement,
Gay, gay her red-powdered face,
Slender, slender the white hand she extends.

Sometime a singing-girl,
Now she is a traveler's wife;
The traveler has departed and returns not,
And a mateless bed is hard to keep alone.


The next poem is by Xue Tao, who lived from 768 to 832.


Gazing at Spring, II & III

I gather herbs
and tie
a lover's knot

to send to one
who understands my songs.

So now I've cut
that springtime sorrow off.
and now the spring-struck birds
renew their cries.

~~~~~

Windblown flowers
grow older day by day.

and our best season
dwindles in the past.

Without someone
to tie the knot
of love,

no use to tie up
all those love-knot herbs.


The last poem from this anthology is by Du Qiuniang from the Tang dynasty.


The Coat with the Golden Threads

I warn you - cherish not your gold-threaded coat;
I warn you - cherish rather the days of your youth!
When the flower blooms, ready for picking,
     pick it you must:
Don't wait till the flower falls
     and pick a bare twig!





"Abuelo"
by Vincent Martinez




I have four poems this week from Laurel Lamperd, one of our poet friend from far-off (from here anyway) Australia.



Stoke

Hello there, old mother.
What are you thinking
with your tongue lolling
and your eyes gazing
beyond me.

The bustle of the nurses
amid the noises from the patients
visitors tiptoeing through the door.
Can you hear or are
your thoughts of other things.

Horses pounding through the surf
The shouts of my brother and me.
You, turning to laugh
And the wave crashing against
Bellerophon's legs.

I wait beside you
a dish of pap in my hand.
Is this then to be my fate?
My daughter sitting
where I sit as I feed you
and me in your chair.





"Rooftop"
by Vincent Martinez




Now I have a poem by Nila Northsun, from her book a snake in her mouth, published by West End Press of Albuquerque in 1997.

Northsun was born of Chippewa-Shoshone descent in Nevada in 1951. A graduate of the University of Montana, at the time her book was published, she still lived on the Stillwater Indian reservation in Nevada, where she was director of a teen crisis center.

Another new poet for me. I like her.



kids

and you think
oh no not one of those
cutesy kid poems
well hell yes
only people who have kids
know
they are
goddamn cute at times
hilariously funny sometimes
the biggest nags & whiners
the uncontrollable headache &
worry causes
sometimes they can make you
so proud
your eyes water & you swear
your heart feels as big as
a bull's liver
when you have your first baby
you wonder what else could have
filled your conversations
but how one diaper compares with
another
how the kids look like aunt sue
or how they're more fun than
the best dog you ever had
still there are times
you almost understand child abuse
& "shut that fucker up"
& other times you're horrified
to read of children locked away
in a room for years
or scalded or burnt or slammed
against walls
broken baby bones
raped 4 months old
tender young flesh black & blue
how incredibly sad
but wait wait
i really didn't want to get into that
i wanted to write about my kids
the 2 year old dropped his
m & m on the sidewalk
then stepped on it
he said "i killed it"
i thought that was funny
the 6 year old is learning to skate
he's so proud & i'm so proud
as he gets around the skating rink
only falling a couple of times
but it's so slapstick
he hops along with his feet
his arms flailing
i laugh & laugh
i think i'd split my gut
if i had a dozen out there doing that





"Breath Felt"
by Vincent Martinez




At the time I wrote this next piece, I had just found this coffee shop. I have since found another place a bit more comfortably funky.



i just don't see how this is going to work

this place
is so clean-cut
it makes me want to shave
before i sit down to work
and it's Saturday
and i don't shave on Saturday,
i just don't -
it's like Lois Lane
dating
Clark Kent, Kent so square
and all-American clean
and Lois
so hot, so randy and ready
for a super-fling,
it's just hard to see how it's
gonna work

me trying
to write a poem in this place,
is like trying to read one of those
decadent French poets
to my old high school English teacher
who didn't even put up with contractions,
much less people fucking and pissing
and all that other stuff
on the page

serious editing
would be required or
she'd have a heart attack

just like i'd have to clean up my language
before trying to write here; hell, i'd have
to clean up my mind and it's that
black and twisty thing that keeps me going

it's just hard to see how it's gonna work





"Cloud Exits"
by Vincent Martinez




The next poem is by Anne Sexton, from her book, The Awful Rowing Toward God, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1975. Sexton had published eight books of poetry before this one, her last book published after her death by suicide in 1974.



The Wall

Nature is full of teeth
that come in one by one, then
decay,
fall out.
In nature nothing is stable,
all is change, bears, dogs, peas, the willow,
all disappear. Only to be reborn.
Rocks crumble, make new forms,
oceans move the continents
mountains rise up and down like ghosts
yet all is natural, all is change.

As I write this sentence
about one hundred and four generations
since Christ, nothing has changed
except knowledge, the test tube.
Man still falls into the dirt
and is covered.
As I write this sentence one thousand are going
and one thousand are coming.
It is like the well that never dries up.
It is like the sea which is the kitchen of God.

We are all earthworms,
digging into our wrinkles.
We live beneath ground
and if Christ should come in the form of a plow
and dig a furrow and push us up into the day
we earthworms would be blinded by the sudden light
and writhe in our distress.
As I write this sentence I too writhe.

For all you who are going,
and there are many who are climbing their pain,
many who will be painted out with a black ink
suddenly and before it is time,
for those many I say,
awkwardly, clumsily,
take off you life like trousers,
you shoes, your underwear,
then take off you flesh,
unpick the lock of you bones.
In other words
take off the wall
that separates you from God.





"Chente's Hente"
by Vincent Martinez




Here's my second poem from our friend Laurel Lamperd



Tampa Legacy

She made a banner
to carry to Parliament House
in the march for the asylum seekers.

You're too old, gran,
her family chided,
those golden children
born in the sun.

Chased across Lithuanian snows
by German SS men
and Russian soldiers,
she remembers the camps
the smell beaten into her skin
rising above cities
farmlands and deserts
all the way
to the Timor Sea.





"Chicken Wings & Pretty Things"
by Vincent Martinez




This next little piece is a pep-talk I wrote to myself about a week ago, when, after a time of feeling really lousy, it began to seem I was getting better.



a day for deeds

a day begun
with a gloom
of fog

radiant now
with sunshine
and possibility

a day for deeds
not necessarily
great

but welcome
anyway
after days

vacant
in a fog of
gloom





"Float"
by Vincent Martinez




Andrew M. Greeley, a priest ordained in the diocese of Chicago forty years ago, is a professor of social science at the University of Chicago and a noted scholar, author of many books on sociology. He is also a best-selling fiction writer, beginning with his first novel, The Cardinal and a series of detective stories, featuring his character, Father Blacky.

This next poem is from Greeley's first collection of poetry, The Sense of Love, published by the Ashland Poetry Press in 1992.



The Fifth of May - 1954
Ordination

The expected day was bitter cold,
Warning us perhaps
Of what we'd have to face -
But no hint of John
Or the unchanging changed
And the rock that came apart.

Would that our hearts were warm,
Ready for the frantic fray,
Light and quick, dancing in youthful glee -
But they gave us not the slightest hint;
Unprepared, we came standing docile there
When the roof came tumbling in.

A few escaped never to return,
Others ran for safe and quiet holes,
Still others stood mute, the end accepting.
Some sensing fun, said let's begin to dance -
A blind leap long ago in the deeper dark.
Do it again? I already told you so.





"Kristi"
by Vincent Martinez




This piece was written in response to the Fort Hood massacre, trying to find some way to write about the event without descending into the bullshit that such events so often bring forth.



13 squared

thirteen
in honor lie
beneath
the Texas sun


that's
the poem i started today
and it went on from there
becoming more banal and
inadequate with each new line

proving again
i am a poet of light things,
of little quirks and serendipitous
conjunctions of people
and circumstances, not a poet
of tragedy, not a poet of serious
things like death, except on a
self-indulgent
pseudo-philosophical level
where clever aphorisms
and bombast
can cover lack of an emotionally
rooted sense of loss, an understanding
that death is about death's survivors
not those who actually die

so today i think of those not dead,
those left behind instead,
mothers, fathers, children, husbands, wives
all the loved ones and friends
and all of us who had no direct connection
but who might someday in the normal passage
of a full life have met, have loved those
for whom no full life was allowed, us,
the survivors whose lives now have a hole
the dead once filled, a hole that will fade
but never will be filled as every death
leaves an empty space, a blank passage
where once our lives conjoined, traveled
together down the long road of living

i knew none of these thirteen,
still
i feel a loss
beyond my expression





"Machupichu"
by Vincent Martinez




Next I have several poems from Poetry for the Earth, a collection of poems that celebrate nature published Fawcett Columbine in 1991.



The first of the poems is by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, translated by Alastair Reid.


The Night in Isla Negra

The ancient night and the unruly salt
beat at the walls of my house;
lonely is the shadow, the sky
by now is a beat of the ocean,
and sky and shadow explode
in the fray and unequal combat;
all night long they struggle,
nobody knows the weight
of the harsh clarity that will go on opening
like a languid fruit;
thus is born on the coast,
out of turbulent shadow, the hard dawn,
nibbled by the salt in movement,
swept up by the weight of night,
bloodstained in its marine crater.


The second poem from the anthology is by Swedish writer, poet and translator Tomas Transtomer, translated by John F. Deane.


From March '79

Tired of all who come with words, words but no language
I went to the snow-covered island.
The wild does not have words.
The unwritten pages spread themselves out in all
          directions!
I come across the marks of roe-deer's hooves in the
          snow.
Language but no words.


The final poem from the anthology this week is by Elizabeth Coatsworth, an American author of children's fiction and poetry. Her novel The Cat Who Went to Heaven won the 1931 Newbery Medal.

Born in 1893, in Buffalo, New York, Coatsworth attended Buffalo Seminary for High School, then graduated from Vassar College in 1915 and received a Master of Arts from Columbia University in 1916. Her first publications were poems in magazines, and her first book published was Fox Footprints in 1923. In 1929, she married writer Henry Beston, with whom she had two children. She died at her home in Nobleboro, Maine, August 31, 1986.


Whale at Twilight

The sea is enormous, but calm with evening
  and sunset,
rearranging its islands for the night,
  changing its own blues,
smoothing itself against the rocks, without
  playfulness, without thought.
No stars are out, only sea birds flying to
  distant reefs.
No vessels intrude, no lobstermen haul their
  pots.
Only somewhere out toward the horizon a thin
  column of water appears
and disappears again, and then rises once more,
tranquil as a fountain in a garden where no
  wind blows.





"Vieja"
by Vincent Martinez




Now here's my third and last piece from our Australian friend Laurel Lamperd.



On Dark Afternoons

I read about a woman
wandering along grassy banks
on dark afternoons
seeking her past.

In my mind, I see them.
My grandparents in that house
of bush timber.
He smoked a pipe
while she kneaded bread
and set it
wrapped in a blanket
by the fire to rise.

The dusk sweeps
gently at my window
as in my mind
I travel from town
to farm and back again.
And the night grows darkly
by my door.





"Words Like Birds"
by Vincent Martinez




The next poem is by Margaret Atwood, Canadian author, poet, critic, essayist, feminist and social campaigner. She is among the most-honoured authors of fiction in recent history; she is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award seven times, winning twice. While she may be best known for her work as a novelist, she is also an award winning poet, having published 15 books of poetry. Atwood has also published many short stories.

The poem I chose for this week is from Atwood's book, Two-Headed Poems, published by Simon and Schuster in 1978.



Five Poems for Dolls

i

Behind glass in Mexico
this clay doll draws
its lips back in a snarl;
despite its beautiful dusty shawl,
it wishes to be dangerous.

ii

See how the dolls resent us,
with their bulging foreheads
and minimal chins, their flat bodies
never allowed to bulb and swell,
their faces of little thugs.

This is not a smile,
this glossy mouth, two stunted teeth;
the dolls gaze at us
with the filmed eyes of killers.

iii

There have always been dolls
as long as there have been people,
In the trash heaps and abandoned temples
the dolls pile up;
the sea is filling with them.

What causes them?
Or are they gods, causeless,
something to talk to
when you have to talk,
something to throw against the wall?

A doll is a witness
who cannot die,
with a doll you are never alone.

On the long journey under the earth,
in the boat with two prows,
there were always dolls.

iv

Or did we make them
because we needed to love someone
and could not love each other?

It was love, after all,
that rubbed the skins from their gray cheeks,
crippled their fingers,
snarled their hair, brown or dull gold.
Hate would merely have smashed them.

You change, but the doll
I made of you lives on,
a white body leaning
in a sunlit window, the features
wearing away with time,
frozen in the gaunt pose
of a single day,
holding in its plaster hand
your doll of me

v

Or: all dolls come
from the land of the unborn,
the almost-born; each
doll is a future
dead at the roots,
a voice heard only
on breathless nights,
a desolate white memento.

Or: these are the lost children,
those who have died or thickened
to full growth and gone away.

The dolls are their souls or cast skins
which line the shelves of our bedrooms
and museums, disguised as outmoded toys,
images of our sorrow,
shedding around themselves
five inches of limbo.





"Jazz Splice"
by Vincent Martinez




Sometimes, you're in just the right mood and you see something and a poem almost writes itself.



behind bars

sunlight
heavy with early dew
rushes
through the window,
horizontal blinds
throwing shadow bars
across the floor

a prisoner
of morning light,
i bask
in my confinement





"Predictable Patterns"
by Vincent Martinez




Next, I have a poem by Michael Van Wallenghen from his book Blue Tango, published the University of Illinois Press in 1989.

Van Wallenghen, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has won many awards and fellowships.



Fishing with Children

Beyond the few clear stumps
and furry sticks, the bottom
drops off quickly, quickly...

But it's easy enough to guess
the broken glass and junk
down there, the lost shoes

the stolen bike. Easier
to imagine trash like this
in the gray municipal lagoon

than fish in fact. The four
and five year olds however
keep seeing Northern Pike -

monster catfish. Even
the worms excite them.
What acrobats they are

especially cut in half!
Urged to bait their own hooks
they stand around staring

at the life in their hands
like so many self-involved
dumbstruck fortune-tellers.

then they stab themselves
or tangle in the bushes...
the whole chaotic business

looking faintly Dionysian -
a manic kind of dance almost
‘or magic stone-age ritual

demanding blood. But later
cast out upon the dark water
our fateful bobbers drift

as over the face of the void
like stars. So we study them
of course, astrologers now

hoping for the smallest sign
or signal of good fortune -
a bluegill, anything at all

from the deep dead calm
where stars and even children
disappear. None of them

for the moment disappearing
though some look tremulous
and on the brink...





"Myth Melt"
by Vincent Martinez




This next poem is a combination of scientific fact and hope. The poem does factually describe how things really work. Everything that is today is everything there ever was. The base elements of the big bang recombining time and time again to create everything from moon rocks to the soft underside of a baby's chin. The hope is - actually, hope is too strong a word - better, the desire is that somewhere in all the destruction and re-creation there is consciousness of some form. As well as, underneath it all, an understanding that what a man desires has nothing to do with it at all.



an atheist's prayer

send me to the fire
naked
as the day i came

sear
from me this corrupting flesh

release me
into the sky, pale smoke of me
drifting
where the winds
might blow, letting me fall
on some rocky field
where i might become a part
of something new,
bits of me
and someday you
and all creation that comes,
then goes, the cycle of me and you
and all the rest
repeated
again and again and again
unto the end
amen





The Ray-Guhn Show Choir, detail from "Jazz Splice"
by Vincent Martinez




That's it for this "back to work issue." Catch us again next week for more good stuff. In the meantime and as usual, all of the material presented in this blog remains the property of it's creators.

As owner and producer of the blog, I exempt myself from that injunction. You are welcome to use any of may own material any way you want, properly credited, of course, to me...allen itz.

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Hi-Lo   Friday, November 06, 2009


IV.11.1




Before we get to the business at hand, I want to let "Here and Now" readers know that the blog will be taking a break for a week or two.

I've had manuscripts for two new books completed, edited, and proofed for six months and have been using the several hours a day I spend on "Here and Now" as an excuse for not taking the next step and doing something with the books. So, that's what I'll be doing the next week or two. I should be back on my weekly "Here and Now" schedule before the end of the month.

Now, as to this week, the goodies start with pictures by my son, Chris Itz.

Chris is shown in the photo above and in the last photo in this issue, both taken by his friends. He is an avid backcountry hiker and cammper, partial to deserts and/or mountains. A couple of weeks ago, he and a friend, treked for several days in the Guadalupe Mountains, right on the Texas-New Mexico border. They stopped at Carlsbad Caverns on their way home, where Chris became fascinated by the way light and shadows played on the cavern's formations. What we have from Chris this week are a couple of his pictures from the trail, several sun up/sundown pictures (the different cloud formations against the rising/falling sun - another fascination we share) and a bunch of images from inside the cavern.

I hope you enjoy the tour.

On the poetry end of the stick, here's out lineup this week.


Issa
18 Haiku

Me
time traveler

Elizabeth Seydel Morgan
Ways We Come Apart
The Settlement


Dan Cuddy
Vampire Wine

Sharon Olds
The Elder Sister

Marge Piercy
The woman in ordinary

Me
one chance

Jane Kenyon
February: Thinking of Flowers
Mud Season


Dan Cuddy
An Abstract Poem On the Vanishing

Herman Asarnow
curves

Jose Hernando Chaves
Politics
Doris Day Died


Steve Conway
The Song About Astro Man Flying Higher Than That Ole Superman

Me
it was an emergency, officer

Deborah Digges
Tombs of the Muses

Dan Cuddy
Lyrics to the Atonal Naturelle Anthem Said Not Stirred

Wilfred Owen
The Last Laugh
SIW


Me
having been told to mind my own business, i desist

Dan Cuddy
Drizzle

Me
the cheatin' kind

David St. John
Last Night, With Rafaella

Me
six by six by ten






Photo by Chris Itz




I begin this week with haiku from The Sound of Water, published by Shambhala in 1995. The book includes a number of the classic poets, all translated by Sam Hamill. I chose this week to use poems by Issa.

Issa was born in 1762. His mother died when he was an infant and he lived in conflict with his stepmother until he left home at fourteen. He lived in poverty for twenty years until returning upon his father's death in 1801. Though named principal heir in his father's will, his stepmother and half brother were able to keep his property from him for another thirteen years. Even then, his troubles weren't over. He married a young village woman, who later died after the death of all five of his children. And then his house burned down.

Finally, four years before he died, he married again and eventually had a baby daughter, born shortly before his death in 1826.



~~~~~

After a long nap,
the cat yawns, rises, and goes out
looking for love

~~~~~

The new year arrived
in utter simplicity -
and a deep blue sky

~~~~~

The blossoming plum!
Today all the fires of hell
remain empty

~~~~~

In the midst of this world
we stroll along the roof of hell
gawking at flowers

~~~~~

Give me a homeland,
and a passionate woman,
and winter alone

~~~~~

A world of dew
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

~~~~~

Under this bright moon
I sit like an old buddha
knees spread wide

~~~~~

From that woman
on the beach, dusk pours out
across the evening waves

~~~~~

The old dog listens
intently, as if to the
worksongs of the worms

~~~~~

I wish she were here
to listen to my bitching
and enjoy this moon

~~~~~

What's the lord's vast wealth
to my, his millions and more?
Dew on trembling grass

~~~~~

Here in Shinano
are famous moons, and buddhas,
and our good noodles

~~~~~

My old village lies
far beyond what we can see,
but there the lark is singing

~~~~

My dear old village,
every memory of home
pierces like a thorn

~~~~~

A faint yellow rose
almost hidden in deep grass -
and then it moves

~~~~~

People working fields,
from my deepest heart, I bow.
Now a little nap.

~~~~~

Just beyond the gate,
a neat yellow hole -
someone pissed in the snow

~~~~~

Mother, I weep
for you as I watch the sea
each time I watch the sea





Photo by Chris Itz




Struggling with daylight savings time again, going on it or going off it, whichever usually happens in October.



time traveler

went into Jim's Diner
this morning
for breakfast, two eggs
over easy, 3 pieces extra crispy
bacon, two slices wheat toast
dry, uncut, and six cups of coffee,
while reading the Sunday paper,
then left ten minutes before
i had arrived

for one exhilarating moment
i thought i had achieved the dream
of every sifi-addicted adolescent

the dream second only to the one
about finding the secret
of invisibility
after which no girls' dressing room
would be closed to me

the dream of...

time-travel!!!!!

but then i remembered
that damn daylight
savings
time

nothing
to do now but
wait
for the world to catch up
with me





Photo by Chris Itz




Here are two poems by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, from her book Parties published in 1988 by the Louisiana State University Press.

Morgan, born in 1939 was the 2007 Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Writer-in-Residence in the Hollins University MFA Creative Writing program. She is the author of four books of poetry, including On Long Mountain, a finalist for the Library of Virginia Poetry Prize in 1998. Recently awarded the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, Morgan also won the Emily Clark Balch Award from The Virginia Quarterly Review for her fiction, and the Governor's Award for Screenwriting at the Virginia Film Festival.



Ways We Come Apart

"At the seams" suggests a remedy:
a stitch in time might save us.

Growing apart is sadder, so slow,
so gradual it can slip your attention
the way the Earth never jerks itself out
from under your feet, yet moves,
is moving right now, away from where
you think it stands.

Falling apart can appear to be
a pair of skydivers
waving across the air.
Or you can hear it: the clunk of parts
and bolts shearing off a junkyard car.

But that's not true enough
to what I know you mean.

It's not just in your head
where your thoughts skip and drop
like rocks in a slide. But the satellite's
fragments are due in our streets.
Your mother fell and cracked her hip.
Your husband's dark eyes split
into glittering shards.

As you tell me why,
you knock my glass off the table,
stand there crying like a girl
over pieces at your feet.


The Settlement

It was so silent
after my raucous children
had scrambled into their father's car
and his tires ground out the gravel drive,
I leaned for a moment
against the screen door, waiting
for small breaking sounds
like those that crack the quiet
of winter woods.

Nothing snapped. A warm breeze
carried the call of mourning doves
across the yard, the rising notes
of someone calling Celia in to dinner.

I walked out over the new grass
to the white azaleas tall as I am,
plunged my hands through the blossoms
into the woody interior, grasped
two branches brittle as old wrists
and broke them.

Walking back to the house I held
the hundred flowers against my breast.





Photo by Chris Itz




Next, I have the first of four poems this week by our friend Dan Cuddy.

Dan, a frequent contributor to "Here and Now," is an editor at the Loch Raven Review. His book of poems, Handprint On The Window, was published in 2003 by Three Conditions Press. He has had poems published in many magazines and small journals over the years, most recently in Manorborn and the online journal Praxilla. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.



Vampire Wine

the label read "Vampire"
a merlot as sweet as blood
but blood is not sweet
it's just the heart's thing to pump
and if it is sucked out
the heart is low and dry
a boat on Bay of Fundy mud

love drinks wine
gets intoxicated
chit-chats
bits of bric-a-brac
and cool conversation
masking the heat
beneath the clothes
that want to come off
and lie like a heart
body sucked out

love toasts itself
two vampires
in the bite of night
screeching like bats
howling like wolves
moaning like two people
without a mind

love has such drama

the "ever after"
an empty bottle
with just a label

romantics are monsters





Photo by Chris Itz





My next two poems are from a textbook, Literature and It's Writers, third edition, published by Bedford/St. Martin's in 2004.


The first of the poems is by Sharon Olds. Olds was born in 1942 in San Francisco. She grew up in Berkeley and studied in Massachusetts before returning to California for her university studies at Sanford. She later moved to New York and studied for her Ph.D. at Columbia University. She taught creative writing at New York University beginning in the mid-1980s and, from 1989 to 1991, was director of the Graduate Creative Writing Program. During this same period, she started a creative writing program for the severely disabled at New York's Goldwater Hospital, as well as serving as New York State Poet.


The Elder Sister

When I look at my elder sister now
I think how she had to go first, down through the
birth canal, to force her way
head-first through the tiny channel,
the pressure of Mother's muscles on her brain,
the tight walls scraping her skin.
Her face is still narrow from it, the long
hollow cheeks of a Crusader on a tomb,
and her inky eyes have the look of someone who has
been in prison a long time and
knows they can send her back. I look at her
body and think how her breasts were the first to
rise, slowly, like swans on a pond.
By the time mine came along, they were just
two more birds in the flock, and when the hair
rose on the white mound of her flesh, like
threads of water out of the ground, it was the
first time, but when mine came
they knew about it. I used to think
only in terms of her harshness, sitting and
pissing on me in bed, but now I
see I had her before me always
like a shield. I look at her wrinkles, her clenched
jaws, her frown lines - I see they are
the dents on my shield, the blows that did not reach me.
She protected me, not as a mother
protects a child, with love, but as a
hostage protects the one who makes her
escape as I made my escape, with my sister's
body held in front of me.


The second poem from Literature and Its Writers is by Marge Piercy. Born in 1936 in Detroit, where her father was employed as an installation worker by Westinghouse and her mother was the daughter of a union activist murdered for his efforts at organizing workers, Piercy had a difficult adolescence, including a severe attack of rheumatic fever which left her physically weakened. She began writing as a teenager and, with the help of scholarships and prizes, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1957, then obtaining an M.A. a year later. In the 1960s, she married for the second time and she and her husband became committed to a communal lifestyle and the protest movement against the Vietnam War and U.S. involvement in Latin American.


The woman in the ordinary

The woman in the ordinary pudgy downcast girl
is crouching with eyes and muscles clenched.
Round and pebble smooth she effaces herself
under ripples of conversation and debate.
The woman in the block of ivory soap
has massive thighs that neigh,
great breasts that blare and strong arms that trumpet.
The woman of the golden fleece
laughs uproariously from the belly
in the girl who imitates
a Christmas card virgin with glued hands,
who fishes for herself in other's eyes,
who stoops and creeps to make herself smaller.
In her bottled up is a woman peppery as curry,
a yam of a woman of butter and brass,
compounded of acid and sweet like a pineapple,
like a hand gernade set to explode,
like goldenrod ready to bloom.





Photo by Chris Itz




Unlike many people, I have the means and opportunity to imagine alternate futures. But in the end, like Popeye, I yam what I yam and all the alternatives seem unlikely.



one chance

i'm lucky enough
to have the luxury of
thinking
about other lives i might
someday lead

thinking about
different places
and different lives
and the different person
i would certainly be with
such lives in such
different places

day dreaming

even as i know
i am what i will ever be
in this place
that will ever be my home

even as i know
one chance is all we get
in the limited days of our lives

and i have made my choices





Photo by Chris Itz




As we edge into winter on my half of the world, here are two poems about the edging out by Jane Kenyon, from her book The Boat of Quiet Hours, published by Graywolf Press in 1986.

Kenyon was born in 1947 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in the Midwest. She earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1970 and an M.A. in 1972. She won a Hopwood Award at Michigan. Also, while a student at the University of Michigan, Kenyon met and married the poet Donald Hall, moving with him to Eagle Pond Farm, his ancestral home in New Hampshire, where she was later named New Hampshire's poet laureate. She served in that position until she died from leukemia in April 1995.



February: Thinking of Flowers

Now wind torments the field,
turning the white surface back
on itself, back and back on itself,
like an animal licking a wound.

Nothing but white - the air, the light;
only one brown milkweed pod
bobbing in the gully, smallest
brown boat on the immense tide.

A single green sprouting thing
would restore me....

Then think of the tall delphinium,
swaying, or the bee when it comes
to the tongue of the burgundy lily.



Mud Season

Here in purgatory bare ground
is visible, except in shady places
where snow prevails.

Still, each day sees
the restoration of another animal:
a sparrow, just now a sleepy wasp;
and, at twilight, the skunk
pokes out of the den,
anxious for mates and meals...

On the floor of the woodshed
the coldest imaginable ooze,
and soon the first shoots
of asparagus will rise,
the fingers of lazarus...

Earth's open wounds - where the plow
gouged the ground last November -
must be smoothed; some sown
with seed, and all forgotten.

Now the nuthatch spurns the suet,
resuming its diet of flies, and the mesh
bag, limp and greasy, might be taken
down.

Beside the porch step
the crocus prepares an exaltation
of purple, for the moment
holds its tongue....





Photo by Chris Itz




Here's our second poem for this week by Dan Cuddy.



An Abstract Poem On the Vanishing

After the ooze, the stink
The crumble
Of pleasure and thought
Absence
Is the truth of it

It
That neutered pronoun
Without a subject
To personify
The verb
To be

Though
Even it
Is not
Except as a dust
Of molecules
Simplified
And returned
In dumb form
to air, water, earth

And the life
Of history
The real life
Flesh, blood
Orgasm, agony
Is the proverbial dust
That the mystics
And magicians
Eschew
Absence
Now and forever

The realm of angels
Is the imagination
The hopes and fears
Of the vulnerable
Solidity
That moves through space
Humiliated
In the triumph
Of naked
Faith





Photo by Chris Itz




Here are several poems from the Summer 2001 issue of Rattle.



The first of the poems is by Herman Asarnow.

Arsanow earned his bachelors degree in English at Trinity College in 1972; his masters degree in English with emphasis in Creative Writing at the University of Denver in 1974; and his Ph.D. in English, with emphasis in Eighteenth-Century British literature, also at the University of Denver in 1981.

He has published one book, Glass Bottom Boat and appears frequently in literary journals and anthologies. He also writes scholarly papers on the works and career of Alexander Pope, and translations of the poetry of Spanish/Argentine poet Noni Benegas. He began teaching at the University of Portland in 1979 and is currently Chair of the English Department.


Curves

I - Around the Curve, 1968

Before I knew anything
about women, I lay in the grass
on top of a cliff
thinking - if only I could
summon her
simply by wishing!

Afternoon almost passed
when I stood, peered
over the edge, saw her
walking to me up the road,
around the curve.

I was Aladdin
the first time caressing
the lamp, thinking
like never before or since
- So this is what it is
to be a man!


II - Her Curves, 1999

Even now I wouldn't know
whether just to marvel at it -
as it spread wide and back
with the slight downward turn
in the corners that's inexplicably
rare and beautiful - or do
whatever I could to kiss it,
take it into me somehow,
beauty white yet also warm,
joyful extra openness,
those curves at the corners
of her smile!

III - Time's Curves, 1946

Pierre Bonnard painted his wife's
curves the same for forty years.
What first took his breath
made memory, bent time.
What changed was not what he saw

but craft: pose, light, color, balance
of brush as he laid pigment on canvas,
and the angle - no, the point
of the ever-arcing curve
-
from which he looked.


The next poem from Rattle is by Jose Hernando Chaves, who was living in Bogota, Columbia when his poem was published, on a Fulbright, putting together an anthology of Latin American prose poems.


Politics

What did I do to deserve a day full of clouds,
threatening to drown me under their oppressive
gray beards? A day when even the traffic
encroaches like a murder of crows, as you
take shelter in a small cafe, unaware the coffee
has conspired with the cup to overthrow gravity
and take refuge in the embassy of your lap.
A waitress tries to quell the flames of revolution
with a wet towel, but crushes you nether region
in a painful coup that will last for days.

As you sit and think, how you've always hated
politics, but knew one day they'd find you.


The next poem from the Summer 01 issue of Rattle is by David Hovan Check. I haven't been able to find any biography of Check online.


Doris Day Died

She didn't really die
It was just a dream
A firm release of apprehension
That would blast itself
Onto all the major networks
On a 24-hour basis
and never let me stop sobbing
"Que Sera, Sera"
Till every last tear let go
Of the memory of a purity, an image,
A life that can never be.
Rock Hudson could tell ya.


And for my last piece from Rattle, I have this piece by Steve Conway. Originally from Providence Rhode Island, had been a law clerk for 42 years at the time his poem was published and, after just completing a motorcycle trip all around the U.S., was returning to Providence to work as a paralegal.


That Song About Astro Man Flying Higher Than That Ole Superman

inspired many a sixties & seventies freak
to be a rip-roaring high-flyer w. no cape
ah yeah you gave em wings
the generation that flew higher than birds w. out feathers
floating on the freest wind a guitar string could cut
into the diamond mine of a human being
so far into psychedelic sky you were
to many people w. in earshot of your songs
the greatest mother pluckin finger pickin genius
whoever evolved from the primordial ooze of the blues
a warrior w. a whammy bar & wha wha pedal
who put a fresh twist on an old anthem for a generation
determined to change the world by marching
for peace attempting to correct injustice a powerful statement
the rockets red glare & bombs bursting thru your fender
heads & marshall amps stacked up over that ocean
of mud & trash left behind causing me to think
it may have been an omen in retrospect it
brings my heart floating up into my throat
choking on a sea of forgotten teardrops
it makes my lips quiver & eyes glaze over filling
everyone w. pride when they hear that
loose rendition of purple haze leading
into the frances scott key song that played
for over one hundred yrs. before it
cut into the very soul of America





Photos by Chris Itz




Try explaining this to your local highway patrol trooper.



it was an emergency, officer

so i'm heading
home
from my afternoon
coffee den,
turning on Hildebrand
from San Pedro,
when Dee calls, just home
from a couple of days in Houston
on business, and says Reba's
going nuts, talk to her,
so i say prrrrrreeeety Reba,
goooooood girl, preeeety baby,
goooood puppy, and she runs
to the door looking for me, calm
now, sure i'm right outside and
will be walking though the door soon,
and Dee says, thanks, get yourself
something to eat on the way home,
i'm too tired to eat, and i say OK
and head for Popeye's to pick up
a couple pieces, dark meat, spicy,
and i'm thinking as i load my drumsticks
into the car, thinking what i would say
to the police officer after he pulled
me over, i know, officer, i would say,
i know i shouldn't be talking on my cell
while i'm driving, but it was an emergency,
officer,

i needed to talk to my dog





Photo by Chris Itz




Here's a poem by Deborah Digges from her book, Rough Music, published by Alfred A Knopf in 1996.

Digges was born in Missouri in 1950. She received degrees from the University of California and the University of Missouri, as well as an M.F.A from the Iowa Writer's Workshop.

She is the author of four books of poetry including Rough Music, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Prize, and most recently Trapeze in 2005. Her first book, Vesper Sparrows, won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize from New York University. She has also written two memoirs, Fugitive Spring and The Stardust Lounge.

Digges received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation and taught in the graduate writing divisions of New York, Boston, and Columbia Universities. She lived in Massachusetts, where she was a professor of English at Tufts University until she died in 2009.



Tombs of the Muses

fucking up the world's the least of it -
I'd say they're fourteen or fifteen
who take their time preparing the underpass's south wall,
the whole a mildew-black rotunda
seeping the spray of a million tires.
From the harbor drifts in fish-stink that bleeds green
from the dome, and a protein smell like old books,
and the smell of the river thawing.
Beyond us Boston's abandoned train cars junk the sunrise,
all the windows dark tongues spilling asbestos,
the space inside noxious
even the cops steer clear, even the dealers.
But not the boys,
enough of the child in their truant voices I could weep -
the way you see them sometimes
scaling a playground's chain-links -
enough of the man I keep a distance.
They're mixing something like a fresco plaster,
sand, some kitchen flour into a latex base they stole,
they brag to me, from a church basement.
Now over the obscenities, over the characters
of wild dogs, gangsters, over the names,
a thousand signatures, at least -
over my own son's maybe -
they balance on a car door riding rat-chewed coach seats,
they roller-spread a sky.
One of them walks it off ten feet, ten paces,
as the shaman must have at a sacred cave's entrance.
So they begin their elegy for a friend dead of an overdose.
I ask of what.
One throws a bottle at the wall.
They laugh, man, everything...
Through the rush hour traffic like the gods roaring above us
and the dice throws of commuters thinning on the Pike,
such a thing takes shape by their own hands,
spray-painted, many colored.
An epitaph of sweeps and angles builds a face
whose blue black rasta braided hair's bandanaed,
so many earrings in his ears they can't remember.
Yet one of them knows where to make a moon in each dark eye,
and then the real moon behind him
above a skyline bowered in red and yellow garlands,
maybe marigolds, geraniums, chrysanthemums
and roses - city flowers.
Why not put it on canvas? I call from the other world,
from a locked car, my windows half-way up,
key in the ignition.
By the hissing, by the first flaring of their igniting cans,
I can see how the boys grant me the dignity of their contempt,
the tracks between us, however shattered,
still begging a deliverance,
littered as they are with home-made bongs
and free base lids, rolling papers, bent syringes.
They'd grant us all, in fact, our own colliding destinies
for what they're worth, for all they mean,
for what they will and won't reveal beyond this April morning -
now another difficult birthing, snow in the streets,
and a childhood blow by blow.
Now the prayer that on another day
seemed actually to bring a loved one home
like a fist through the door by the only light of earth.
Now the hammer smashing window after window.
And then the boys are done, they stop, no dates.
Just a looping line they say was his best rap,
and light a cigarette, one for the next.
At last they sign the dead one's tag for him
and then, below, their own:
Chek, Alert, Sparo, Abuze, Atone -
each name a tomb in which their spirit rots,
transmigrates, disappears, but not
before their cans explode like pistol shots, rain fire.





Photo by Chris Itz




And now, the third piece by our friend Dan Cuddy.



Lyrics to the Atonal Naturelle Anthem Said Not Stirred

the declaration of dependence
dawns in the lights early tweet
and the end
or save my own butt
justifies the means
and mean politicians are what we need
no more heart-wringing liberales
doing the taco mama on polite society
so sez Rrrrush the gush
and Boris Passthewick
as he smokes loco weed
on the Siberian steppes
all covered with ice
melting
like the wicked witch of the west
a melting bank account to go with
her seasick sea serpent green
constitutional
amendment to let fetuses unionize
and scream
at Herr Doctor
Who?
you you idiot
reading the obituaries
and surprised not to find
your own name squashed among
so many
like a Congressional Record
printed
ad infinitum
oh, the out of control
only exclamations embody
the just and proper reaction
oh
or the palindrome
oh ho
said 39 times
and salt thrown over the left shoulder
to season one's rear view
with the deteriorating
sidewalk
and monkey shoe
the alligators seeing each other later
the shoes tied
and the light trembling on the polished toes





Photo by Chris Itz




And now, here are a couple of war-poems by Wilfred Owen, battlefield poet and, in the end, victim of the First World War, killed in the fighting a week before the war's end in November 1918.



The Last Laugh

"O Jesus Christ! I'm hit," he said; and died.
Whether he vainly cursed, or prayed indeed.
The Bullets chirped - In vain! vain! vain!
Machine-guns chuckled - Tut-tut! Tut-tut!
And the Big Guns guffawed.

Another sighed - "O Mother, mother! Dad!"
Then smiled, at nothing, childlike, being dead.
    And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud
    Leisurely gestures - Fool!
    And the falling splinters tittered

"My love" one moaned, Love-languid seemed his mood.
till, slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud.
    and the Bayonets' long teeth grinned;
    Rabbles of Shells hooted and groaned;
    And the Gas hissed.


(The title of this next poem was, maybe still is, military abbreviation for "Self Inflicted Wound.")


S.I.W.

I The Prologue

Patting goodbye, doubtless they told the lad
He'd always show the Hun a brave man's face;
Father would sooner him dead than in disgrace -
Was proud to see him going, ay, and glad.
Perhaps his mother whimpered; how she'd fret
Until he got a nice safe wound to nurse.
Sisters would wish girls too could shoot, charge, curse;
Brothers - would send his favorite cigarette.
Each week, month after month, they wrote the same,
Thinking him sheltered in some Y.M. Hut,
Because he said so, writing on his butt
Where once an hour a bulled missed its aim
And misses teased the hunger of his brain.
His eyes grew old with wincing, and his hand
Reckless with ague. Courage leaked, as sand
From the best sandbags after years of rain.
But never leave, would, fever, trench-foot, shock,
Untrapped the wretch. And death seemed still withheld
For torture of lying machinall shelled,
At the pleasure of this world's Powers who'd run amok,

He'd seen men shoot their hands, on night patrol.
Their people never knew. Yet they were vile.

"Death sooner than dishonor, that's the style!"
So Father said.

II The Action

    One dawn, our wire patrol
Carried him. This time, Death had not missed.
We could do nothing but wipe his bleeding cough.
Could it be accident? - Rifles go off...
Not sniped? No. (Later they found the English ball.)

III The Poem

It was the reasoned crisis of his soul
Against more days of inescapable thrall.
Against infrangibly wired and blind trench wall
Curtained with fire, roofed with creeping fire.
Slow grazing fire, that could not burn him whole
But kept him for death's promises and scoff
And life's half-promising, and both their riling.

IV The Epilogue

With him they buried the muzzle his teeth had kissed,
And truthfully wrote the Mother, "Tim died smiling."





Photo by Chris Itz




There are several bosses in my house, of whom I am not one.



having been told to mind my own business, i desist

i was speaking
to our calico yesterday
about her exercise habits -
seems she does nothing
but sleep on my bed
and eat these days -

and i notice
in the course of our discussion
that she has developed
a rather large
butt,
suitable i'm sure
for a dignified lady
of her age and station
well past
the mousing stage

so it's all OK
i suppose
and maybe i should
not expect
her
to be moving her creaky
old bones
so much
any
more

that's her opinion,
at any rate,
communicated to me
through the icy stare of her
one good
eye





Photo by Chris Itz




And here's our last poem for the week by Dan Cuddy.



Drizzle

pervading drizzle

not news really
not anything to make a note about

certainly nothing to rhapsodize

nothing to idle away the minutes
postpone the getting ready to leave

nothing to soak in
even if metaphorically

the type of morning
when one wants to resign

the type of welcoming
one dreams about masochistically

but here I am
typing inanities
about the morning's drizzle

it must be psychological pressure
that releases this
just like the barometric pressure releases
that fine sprinkle of a day dampening

always that drizzle of introspective
inertia
oozing its entropy

that sounds too dramatic

inertia leaks out into my idle frenzy

I drizzle my soliloquy
like Hamlet thunders his

the difference between being the "star"
tragic though he is
and an extra

at least Rosencrantz and what's his name
had lines

I drizzle
a force of nature
introspecting
a point of view
leaking





Photo by Chris Itz




Change is not always easy for me.



the cheatin' kind

i've been skipping out
on my old place where, for years,
i went for my first morning coffee,
where day after day, everyday,
between 6 and 7 am i'd show up
and they'd already have my coffee
set up on my regular table
and everyone would be greeting
me with a smile and a good morning

instead, for a couple of weeks now,
i've been going to a new place
for my first morning coffee, a place
where they bring my coffee to my
regular table as soon as they see me
walking in the door, and they greet me
with a smile and a good morning...

and the coffee is much better there,
and they have much better lighting
and a nice view and WIFI and
i get a 10% discount
on breakfast
because i'm old and...

i went back to my old regular place
yesterday morning
where i was treated like a hero
back from the wars

i'm at my new regular place
this morning

and it feels the same as if
i was cheating
on my
wife





Photo by Chris Itz




The next poem is by David St. John, from his book Study for the World's Body, published by HarperCollins in 1994.

St. John was born in Fresno, California, in 1949, and educated at California State University, Fresno, where he received his B.A. In 1974, he received an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He is the author of six books of poetry. His awards include the Discover/The Nation prize, the James D. Phelan Prize, and the prix de Rome fellowship in literature. He has also received several National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. St. John previously taught at Oberlin College and The John Hopkins University and currently teaches in the English Department at University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He served for many years as poetry editor of The Antioch Review.



Last Night, With Rafaella

Last night, with Rafaella,

I sat at one of the outside tables
At Rosati watching the ragazzi on Vespas
Scream through the Piazza del Popolo

And talked again about changing my life,

Doing something meaningful - perhaps
Exploring a continent or discovering a vaccine,
Falling in love or over the white falls
Of a dramatic South American river! -
And Rafaella

Stroked the back of my wrist as I talked,

Smoothing the hairs until they lay as quietly
As wheat before the old authoritarian wind.

Rafaella had just returned from Milano
Where she'd supervised the Spring collection
Of a famous, even notorious, young designer -

A man whose name brought tears to the eyes
Of contessas, movie stars, and diplomats' wives
Along the Via Condotti or the Rue
Du Faubourg-St-Honore.

So I felt comfortable there, with Rafaella,
Discussing these many important things, I mean
The spiritual life, and my own
Long disenchantment with the ordinary world.

Comfortable because I knew she was a sophisticated,
Well-traveled woman, so impossible
To shock. A friend who'd
Often rub the opal on her finger so slowly

It made your mouth water,

The whole while telling you what it would be like
To feel her tongue addressing your ear.

And how could I not trust the advice
of a woman who, with the ball of her exquisite thumb,
Carefully flared rouge along the white cheekbones
Of the most beautiful women of the world?

Last night, as we lay in the dark,
The windows of her bedroom open to the cypress,
To the stars, to the wind knocking at those stiff
Umbrella pines along her garden's edge,
I noticed as she turned slowly in the moonlight

A small tattoo just above her hip bone -

It was a dove in flight or an angel with its
Head tucked beneath its wing,

I couldn't tell in the shadows...

And as I kissed this new illumination of her body
Rafaella said, Do you know how to tell a model?
In fashion, they wear tattoos like singular beads
Along their hips,
                  but artists' models
Wear them like badges against the daily nakedness,
The way Celestine has above one nipple that
Minute yellow bee and above
The other an elaborate, cupped poppy...


I thought about this,
Pouring myself a little wine and listening
To the owls marking the distances, the geometries
Of the dark.
        Rafaella's skin was
Slightly damp as I ran my fingertip
Along each delicate winged ridge of her
Collarbone, running the harp length of ribs
Before circling the shy angel...

And slowly, as the stars
Shifted in their rack of black complexities above,

Along my shoulder, Rafaella's hair fell in coils,

Like the frayed silk of some ancient tapestry,
Like the spun cocoons of the Orient -
Like a fragile ladder

To some whole level of the breath.

Rome





Photo by Chris Itz




I finish off the week with six little barkus, a form I invented and I love, not least because they're a surefire cure for writer's block.



6 by 6 by 10

thin girl
sweeps
dark hair
curls
across shy
brown shoulders

~~~~~~

dreams lost
remembered
as a dread
feel
lurking
in shadows

~~~~~~

soft
slope
of the singer's
ass
rises
above
her jeans

~~~~~~

old lady -
small grocery
bag
held tight -
crosses the
street

~~~~~~

blue sky
sliced
into electric
corridors
by crackling wires
overhead

~~~~~~

my red car
soaks in
autumn
sun
a transitory
fireball








As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, "Here and Now" will be absent for the next couple of weeks, but we will be back.

Until we are, remember the "Here and Now" mantra - all the material included in this blog remains the property of its creators. The material produced exclusively by me is available to anyone who might want it, though I do expect to be credited and will hold my breath until my face turns blue if I'm not.

I am allen itz, producer and owner of this blog, and that's just the way it is.

1 Comments:
at 12:05 PM Blogger Alice Folkart said...

Allen, a great issue. Congratulations to Dan. And especially to Chris, those sunset/sunrise photos are fabulous. And that last one, with Chris on the balancing rock - how'd he get up there?

I liked everything in this issue and had forgotten about Wilfred Owen - I remember in Jr High reading the 'war poets' (WWI) and crying over them, why did they have to die. Apparently being sensitive, talented, intelligent didn't protect one from bullets.

Lots of inspiration here. Thanks.
Alice

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