Blue   Thursday, January 28, 2010


V.1.5.




My featured poet this week is our friend, Kevin McCann, here with four poems. Kevin says he has been a full-time writer for 16 years now. He's published six limited edition pamphlets in England. He also writes for children.

And, along with Kevin, I have these other fine poets.


Me
weather note: blue

Jia Jia
Women of the Red Plain

Mei Shaoling
Three Leaves
The Greens


Tang Yaping
Mirror
Tree
Coral
Song of a Small Creek


Me
poets on every street corner

Kevin McCann
Photo-opportunity

Gabriel Gomez
Retablos

Me
never been to Chile

KathleenFraser
Seven Uneasy Songs

Kevin McCann
We do it...

Me
fog

Ai
Interview With a Policeman

Kevin McCann
She...

Me
the luxury of seasons

Ted Hughes
Crow's Elephant Totem Song

Me
one true thing

Kevin McCann
Yet Another Fractal

Charles Simic
Mirrors at 4 A.M.
Cameo Appearance
Slaughterhouse Flies


Me
an unfocused eye

Sarah Patton
Late February
Trebled Spine
I See Grass in All Its Complexity


Me
when he was a rich man

R. G. Vliet
Poetry (If It Must Come)
Jet Plane
An Old Man in the Orchard


Me
dark again








After making a point last week of noting how I seldom start a post with one of my own poems, here I am, doing it again.

But it's a tiny little thing, so it doesn't hardly count.



weather note: blue

a norther,
blue
they call'em

blue cold
wind

under
cold blue sky








I begin this week with several poems from Women of the Red Plain, an anthology of Contemporary Chinese Women's Poetry. The poems were selected and translated by Julia C. Lin. Born in Shanghai, Lin received her BA degree from Smith College and her MA and PhD from the University of Washington. She is Professor of English at Ohio University. The book was first published in China by Chinese Literature Press in 1992. My edition was published by Penguin Books also in 1992.



The first poem is by Jia Jia. Born in 1954 in Sichuan Province, she worked in Yunnan Province after graduating from junior middle school in 1971. In 1979, she was transferred to the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles of Sichuan Province. She started writing poems in 1980 and has published one collection of poems, River of Female.

This is the title poem for the book.


Women of the Red Plain

Know
That waiting is your fate
Having waited through the season of summer
You begin to wait through the autumn days
The nomad's trail is turning browner day by day
But the men still have not returned.
Those unable to bear the loneliness
Married again
Married men who hate a nomad's life.

Know
That men never feel guilty for what they've done
  to women
Born to roam on the grassland
They come and go as they please
He drinks (often gets into fights)
He dances (often till daybreak)
Married for seven days he leaves
Telling
the bride to give him a son
So she gives him a son
But still stiffening his face
As if she had given him a girl
He won't allow her to step into the house

Doesn't know
The waiting is longer than the grassplain
Doesn't know if she should give birth to another
  nomad son
To cause some other woman
Grief.


The next poet from the anthology is Mei Shaojing. She was born in Chongqing in 1948 and worked in the Shaanxi Province upon her graduation from the middle school that is affiliated with the Beijing University. In 1978 she enrolled in Teacher's College, but had to drop out due to illness. She returned to her former job doing promotion work in a radio factory until 1981 when, after publishing her long narrative poem Lan Zhen Zi, she was transferred to work for the Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

Since 1984 she has attended the Lu Xun Academy in Beijing as well as the Chinese Department of the Beijing University. She has published several addition collections of poetry since then.

Here are two of her short poems.


Three Leaves

Three snips of tender leaves like three green birds
Proudly stand on the tree trunk

The trunk sends forth only one green twig,
Where three birds perch.

What lovable little creatures they are!
They're still singing for this felled tree.

Though only three small leaves, they still shout to
  to the world
Reminding people of the tree's full glory of spring
  now ravished.


The Greens

On this poor, bony land
As fire flares in the black night,
The greens also flare up the day.

When will the greens
Forever sheathe this yellow earth?
Ah, in those days when even the sky was yellow,
I've fancied
A fabulous green sun.


Finally, from the anthology, I have several short poems by Tang Yaping. Tang was born in Sichuan Province in 1962. In 1983, she graduated from the Philosophy Department of Sichuan University. In 1984 she was transferred to the Television Station of Guizhou Province where she works as an editor. She has published one book of poems, The Wild Moon.


Mirror

A precious mirror is shattered
Please don't grieve, there'll be as many honest
  eyes
As there are shattered pieces.


Tree

One felled tree.
Its remaining life
Desolate and solitary
Is half anguish, half anger.

A tree forgotten by men,
In spring on its bleeding bosom
Yet struggles to put forth
A new patch of green.

green boughs; green leaves
Now smile, smiling at the axe's sharp blade...


Coral

Whatever the season
You've never dreamed of flowering, bearing fruit.
You are a root for eternity:
Orange-red color of the sea's blood veins...
You lie in the sea's depths,
Knowing only to offer your grandeur,
Oblivious to your own beauty.


Song of a Small Creek

I'm a duckling's cradle,
I'm a young girl's looking glass,
And I'm fond of calves
Drinking my sparkling water.
The wind whispers to me:
"The ocean is beautiful, won't you come play
  with me?"
I reply: I won't, for
I'm fond of calves
Drinking my sparkling water.








Guess I've been watching too much TV again. Making me think somebody ought to be able to do something about the mess this world is in, and maybe it's me.

Maybe not.



poets on every street corner

i was going
to write a poem

about what i would do
if i could run the world

but
sitting here now

i realize
i don't know what to do

either

except
i'd like to see rain

every Thursday
and sunshine and blue skies

the rest of the week
except

in the winter
when there should be snow

and blue skies
and children skating

on iced over ponds
and cows in the fields

blowing clouds
through their noses

and palm trees on beaches
for those who don't like

shade
and big waves for the surfers

and clear clean streams
slow moving

between tall green trees
for us who prefer to float

and people learning to shake off
bad times

like dogs shaking off wet
a big shake

beginning with flapping ears
passing on down to big

shimmy shakes
of their rear

butts like a mixmaster
in overdrive

and no icky things
in dark corners

no snakes
and no spiders and no

poison lizards
or animals who like to eat

people

and no fatherless children
or old people

rotting in isolation
and inattention

and no one dying
of diseases they couldn't afford to

cure
and no backaches or migraines

or rashes
in hide-away places

and no people who eat too much
or people who never get to eat

as much as they need
and no drunkards or drug addicts

or gangsters
who shoot children from their cars

and no priests, preachers, ayatollahs,
rabbis or other parasites on the human soul

instead
poets on every street corner

proclaiming truth and love and silly songs
for all who will listen

and people who will listen to all the poets
on all the street corners

and return their love
and maybe throw money

and no republicans -
that should be at the top of my list

instead of here
at the

bottom








Here's my first poem this week from featured poet Kevin McCann.

Holy Redcoats Batman, I just realized, with Kevin, that's Brits two weeks in a row.



Photo-opportunity

As the sea-lion hauls himself up
Onto this platform where he'll cavort
For Two Shows Daily and a bucket of fish -
Clever dick similes
Swim through my mind:
He's a Slick grey piping bag
With Eyes like sultanas,
Bewhiskered as A Victorian toff
Who swings round like Some loose gantry...
While I pose with my new book
He closes the distance between us hot breath
Scouring my throat bares teeth that could pare
Flesh from bone and in eyes brown as kelp:

I float.








I have an interesting piece now by Gabriel Gomez, form his book, The Outer Bands, published by the University of Notre Dame Press in 2007.

Gomez is a poet, playwright and music journalist born and raised in El Paso. He received a BA in Creative Writing from the College of Santa Fe and an MFA in Creative Writing from St. Mary's College of California. He has taught English at the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, the College of Santa Fe, and the Institute of American Indian Arts. He lives in Santa Fe.

The poem I'm using is from Section II of the book, titled 20 Retablos. In fact, the poem is the entirety of Section II, 20 pages of short poems, none longer than a page, some as short as one line. As I transcribe the poem, I will designate page separations by use of a series of dashes. Blank space on the page seems to me an important element of this poem. I will try to duplicate that effect here.

It is helpful to know that the Spanish word "Retablos" refers to Latin American devotional paintings.



20 Retablos





The red scene begins with a swift sketch
A still life motivated from the instant flashing




Her hands warming in her pockets, re-balling tissue in a hard
rhythm. Circling a name for her sun disturbed shadow of conch
simplicity to an animated form spilling a ribbon of paths to the
spearing sorghum. A final dust lifting under and after the weigh
of dew whispering the act of skin. Her name, I once recalled,
meant unraveling in Spanish.




--------------------




As with all parables there are four base colors




I learned that there is always food at the reckoning of tragedy.
Paint eagerly represents a woman as still life, diffused through
hundreds of movements by her painter. Put trees through a
window behind her, offer a texture circling of blue shadow stir-
ring in pools of tea colored sand. Her name will come in a lipped
octave slope saying the impulse to point at what you mean
you'll want to say.




--------------------




the hands were once attached to the arms
the face and legs have dropped to the imagination
the legs became deeper with marble
when rising toward the pinched waist




I learned to smoke behind the San Fernando church. We smoked
faros that looked like joints, so we imagined that too. The church
was named after a saint that had suffered patiently through a com-
plicated and unreasonable death.




--------------------




crops of lavender, shin height, plump with aroma
smeared the tillage with tidy summary
the soil re-occurred for miles under the fashioned horizon
losing its light to the opposite page









--------------------




there is distance in the drowning color
similitude to the shifty ochre light marching heavily upon us
the ocean kept re-occurring on the beach in the form of a wave




There were several interesting horizons.




--------------------




because as children we have thought of the sun as an onion
we now remember its cells lifting from the rosy sepulcher
spilling in a wave, a repetitive signal
announcing it coming to pummel the ground




The ground re-occurred through everything.





--------------------




people surface towards the page
creatures pilot through a highway
their language is untranslatable
the road they carry is shaped
with a foreign math









--------------------




the sunrise is a small child
the metaphor became easy to denounce
once it was known that there are no small
children depicted in heaven
the sun became an anterior math
an inconceivable exegesis









--------------------




two objects clamor towards the specter




a woman squinting through the double sided mirror
a woman walking separately




--------------------





as a child I was fascinated with powdered cement
diffused with so much water then hardened into form









--------------------





the series returned deep swallow of sound and saliva








--------------------




brown cardigan holding balls of tissue in their pockets
lifting and dropping









--------------------




a pattern of gauzy shadows spilled from the giant red trees









--------------------




the fragrant moment of thirst









--------------------




a curious and particular hunger
you mean for me to stay here
enter willing










--------------------




dew huddled on the stems of lilacs




like rock candy




--------------------




a murder of crows dance like behemoth electrons








--------------------



Humidity advanced thrillingly to her skin. The sharp gray sheets
of rain dissipating slowly over the walkways and the cloistered
verandahs. Then an eventual puddle found your skin and lifted
small dimples on your arms and neck. Over the mass of earth is
the river, which all the traffic is under with an insoluble thirst



you back was neatly paragraphed by your blouse
I came around you like the movements of a flood





--------------------




Doldrums jerked with fog
memory kept re-occurring
even from that place, where I had never been,
seemed natural in transplant every place
I'll call it media luna



my father kept semi precious rocks from Mexico in a cabinet






--------------------





resurrected artifacts of other peoples lives

here was another American who had married a Mestiza woman

he raised and indefinite number of pigs with his wife




his truck was dolphin blue









I was taking a new world map up on the wall by my computer and, for some reason, Chile caught my eye. What a strange looking company, I was thinking, skinny and long, like an anorexic California.



never been to Chile

never
been
to
C
h
i
l
e
but
would
love
to

go

some
day
to that
s
t
r
i
n
g
b
e
a
n
country
s   t   r   e   t   c   h   i    n   g
all
the way

d

o

w

n

the
P
a
c
i
f
i
c
co
ast
of
Southamerica
to
near
Ant
arcti
ca -
down there
to
Tierra
Del
Fuego
which means
Land
of
the
Fuego
in
Spanish

and i'd
surely
like
to

go

there someday








Here's a poem by Kathleen Fraser, from her book il cuore: The Heart, Selected Poems 1970-1995, published in 1997 by Wesleyan Press. Fraser, born in 1937, grew up in Oklahoma, Colorado and California. She was Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University for 20 years, and, with fourteen books of poetry published, was Director of the Poetry Center, founder of American Poetry Archives, and editor of the feminist/experimentalist poetry journal HOW(ever). She lives part of each year in Italy.



Seven Uneasy Songs

1. What I Want

Because you are constantly coming to begin,
I suggest solutions and
am full of holes. See through me
when my back is turned.

A hotel is the notion of entrance
by thought. Your love is

constantly a solution,
criminally full
of no difference
when my back is turned.

I read your thoughts because
you are constantly changing and
coming through me
when my back is turned. And

I want something
for something, constantly.
Coming.


2. To Start

At a tremendous speed my throat makes its door slide.
Open. Pure guesswork...I have lost the other

side of me. You'll see. In teeth dreams there are only three
wrong guesses. A surprise doesn't exist.

Just a guess against the door.
To think is simultaneous. I'll take another network.

of teeth (by pairs) as my answer. Stars, Anymore.


3. Amid Mouths

More and more
rushes out at night
high on the still pooled joyful "do not"

Blood cells
desert for signs inside me.
A narrow ledge.

The buoyant
with furry necks,
more and more

*

We are what is
that the rare elegant necks
(more of them)
look attentively at
a baby us.

They peer over the wooden boat
but it is shore
starts
    to roll. Flapping
seaward, the heron ascends

each wing rained thin.

*

That I snap
(but watch the little light)
just open
up
the dark see.

A wonderful move
these very gently whites
amid mouths.


<4>Growing Up

In a box I marry
and grow firm.
I fly to complacency
where hair runs by the ankle

I pull Mother's dress: "Come down
out of each other's knees!"...and and
"fresh lines"     (linen).

Is nothing the strength
of my wings' chain?

*

The grass learned again
how often the body leans
in a clearing

(and another one breaks in on
the pleasure of her stare)

        but it seemed

the time.

*

I just wanted a soft green family.

Remember your family?

My family sadly grow less.

It's more difficult with maps

zipped inside. Show my face

in pink silk. A simple box.


5. Going

Through his giant photo body.
heaven's blue sea.

I am leaving and will close my tongue

*

To and fro men
(particularly)
grow

windows.
Horizon. In.

*

Trees open in the neck &

his mother's thumb appears in
the lentil heart
flood.


6. If

Suppose we are a fragment,

a perfect night of immediacy
in vital places.

Up here I am the disguised flower
and you are where it came from.

To allow the hidden.
So slowly, my body.

And wouldn't you

begin
to make friends with it?

I can wait.


7. That Didn't

That didn't come down
      but quietly (to touch)
      as wheat grown. And shoes
in water. Here. A curving brown light
didn't drop down all around.
      No center.
      No field where that touch seemed
firm, almost.

                        
San francisco, 1972)








And now, our second poem from featured poet Kevin McCann. The piece was first published in a short pamphlet called I Killed George Formby (erbacce-press).



     We do it...

A writer or, at least a poet, is always being asked by people who should know better :
"Whom do you write for ?" - W.H. Auden


                  We do it
                 For that broken child,
                 Eyes still brimming reflected pain,
                 We do it
                 For all the mad ones
                 And for those who are caged and sane,
                 We do it
                 To unravel the nightmares
                 And the laughter that lullabies pain,
                 We do it
                 For all the first times
                 Words made our pulses beat,
                 We do it
                 For desperate drunkards
                 Trawling for love through the streets,
                 We do it
                 For the flotsam
                 Washed up on the shore,
                 We do it
                 For the clumsy
                 And the over chatty bore,
                 We do it
                 To leave a hand print
                 On the dark cave wall,
                  We do it
                 Because we're high-wire dancers
                 Always about to fall...








Here's a short, early-morning piece I wrote last week,



fog

fog

shy
curtain mist

disperses light
in crystal halos

souls alight

souls aloft
rising
to meet
low-searching
clouds








My next poem by Ai is taken from her book Vice - New and Selected Poems, the winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Poetry published by W. W. Norton.

Born as Florence Anthony in Albany, Texas, in 1947, Ai, who describes herself as Japanese, Choctaw-Chickasaw, Black, Irish, Southern Cheyenne, and Comanche, was born in Albany, Texas in 1947, and grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Raised also in Las Vegas and San Francisco, she majored in Japanese at the University of Arizona and immersed herself in Buddhism. Among her previous collections of poetry, Killing Floor won the 1978 Lamont Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets and Sin was selected for an American Book Award in 1987.



Interview With a Policeman

You say you want this story
in my own words,
but you won't tell it my wan.
Reporters never do.
If everybody's racist,
that means you too.
I grab your finger
as you jab it at my chest.
So what, the minicam caught that?
You want to know all about it, right? -
the liquor store, the black kid
who pulled his gun
at the wrong time.
You saw the dollars he fell on and bloodied.
Remember how cold it was that night,
but I was sweating.
I'd worked hard, I was through
for twenty-four hours,
and I wanted some brew.
When I heard a shout,
I turned and saw the clerk
with his hands in the air,
saws the kid drop his gun
as I yelled and ran from the back.
I only fired when he bent down,
picked up the gun, and again dropped it.
I saw he was terrified,
saw his shoulder and head jerk to the side
as the next bullet hit.
When I dove down, he got his gun once more
and fired wildly.
Liquor poured onto the counter, the floor
onto which he fell back finally,
still firing now toward the door,
when his arm flung itself behind him.
As I crawled toward him,
I could hear dance music
over the sound of the liquor spilling and spilling,
and when I balanced on my hands
and stared at him, a cough or spasm
sent a stream of blood out of his mouth
that hit me in the face.

Later, I felt as if I'd left part of myself
stranded on that other side,
where anyplace you turn is down,
is out for money, for drugs,
or juste for something new like shoes
or sunglasses,
where your own rage
destroys everything in its wake,
including you.
Especially you.
Go on, set your pad and pencil down,
turn off the camera, the tape.
The ape in the gilded cage
looks too familiar, doesn't he,
and underneath it all,
like me, you just want to forget him.
Tonight, though, for a while you'll lie awake.
You'll hear the sound of gunshots
in someone else's neighborhood,
then, comforted, turn over in your bed
and close your eyes,
but the boy like a shark redeemed at last
yet unrepentant
will reenter your life
by the unlocked door of sleep
to take everything but his fury back.








Here's the third piece this week by Kevin McCann. Kevin is our feature poet this week.



She...

Took photographs

                                                   (guard towers)

Made notes

(barbed wire)

                                                   But finally

(gallows site)

Just stood

(medical block)

                                                   Fading

Into row

                                                   Upon row

Of nissen huts

                                                   And rising up

In front of her

                                                   This butterfly,

                                                   A tongue of fire,

                                                   Wings beating back

The silence,

Rhythmic whispers

Urgent,

A final prayer

Rises up

To be caught

In a web

In a gap

In the wire.








I grew up on the Texas-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, a river delta usually lush and green due to the irrigation from the Rio Grande River. It is just a few miles short of being the southernmost point of the U.S. mainland. Florida is the state just a hair further south. The climate of the two places is very much alike - except for occasional blips in weather patterns, there are two seasons, hot and dry and hot and wet. Even no living 300 miles north, it's not much different except that it rarely wet does more often get cold. There are seasons here, but one, summer is very long and the other three are very short, so short some years as to be easily missed.

The next poem is and expression of my dissatisfaction with that state of affairs.



the luxury of seasons

the morning
is damp and dark,
with a smell of smoke
and sweet cedar -

we will drive north
today
into the hills
where rain has filled

the creeks
and stock ponds
and where soon
as Spring arrives

the hills and valleys
between
will be green
and alive with the slow

and steady grazing
of sheep
and spring lambs -
new life in a new season

---

we will not see
any of that today
for the days
of freeze last week

have left dead and withered
pastures that will be
carpeted in all the bright colors

of wild flowers in March,
and we will go into the hills
to see that as well
when that time comes

for it is a luxury for us,
people of the far south,
to see the continuing change

of seasons - to know
through our own eyes, that
the drab shroud of winter
will be followed by the bright

and color of spring,
to know that spring, however
beautiful,
is, in its time,

prelude to winter -
death and resurrection
and death again, cycles,
the way it is for all that lives,

knowledge easily lost
in the tropics
when every day is twin
to the day before








Now I have a poem from Crow - From the Life and Songs of the Crow, a very small book of poems by Ted Hughes.



Crow's Elephant Totem Song

Once upon a time
god made this Elephant.
Then it was delicate and small
It was not freakish at all
Or melancholy

The Hyenas sang in the scrub: You are beautiful -
they showed their scorched heads and grinning
  expressions
Like the half-rotted stumps of amputations -
We envy your grace
Waltzing through the thorny growth
O take us with you to the Land of Peaceful
O ageless eyes of innocence and kindliness
Lift us from the furnaces
and furies of our blackened faces
Within these hells we writhe
Shut in behind the bars of our teeth
In hourly battle with a death
The size of the earth
Having the strength of the earth.

So the Hyenas ran under the elephant's tail
As like a lithe and rubber oval
He strolled gladly around inside his ease
But he was not God no it was not his
to correct the damned
In rage in madness they they lit their mouths
They tore out his entrails
they divided him among their several hells
To cry all his separate pieces
Swallowed and inflamed
Amidst paradings of infernal laughter
At the Resurrection
The Elephant got himself together with correction
Deadfall feet and toothproof body and bulldozing bones
And completely altered brains
Behind aged eyes, that were wicked and wise.

So through the orange blaze and blue shadow
Of the afterlife, effortless and immense,
The Elephant goes his own way, a walking sixth sense,
And opposite and parallel
The sleepless Hyenas go
Along a leafless skyline trembling like an oven roof
With a whipped run
Their shame-flags tucked hard down
Over the gutsacks
Crammed with putrefying laughter
Blotched black with the leakage and seepings
And they sing: "Ours is the land
Of loveliness and beautiful
Is the putrid mouth of the leopard
And the graves of fever
Because it is all we have - "
And they vomit their laughter.

And the elephant sings deep in the forest-maze
About a star of deathless and painless peace
But no astronomer can find where it is.








Next, a little meditation on how much less we usually know than we think we know.



one true thing

growing up
in a bi-cultural milieu
i learned a lot of dirty words
that i never really knew
the literal meaning of

that's why
as i've grown older
and more cautious, i've
restricted by cussing
to English

fairly certain
that when i call someone
a double-duped-willy-whacker,
i know what i'm saying
and mean it

it is the way of many things
in modern life,
superficial knowledge hiding
greater ignorance
of the deeper truths of living

it is a truth, i think,
that truth has many levels,
and try as i might, it seems
i never get much past
the basement

and sometimes
despair
that i'll ever learn
the real
of anything

but i keep trying,
part of what this exercise is about,
writing day after day, thinking as i write,
hoping, someday, i'll reach
the mezzanine and know at least

one true thing








And now here's our last poem from featured poet, Kevin McCann.



Yet Another Fractal

                            
After being adored by ants
                            
For the honeydew
                            
Excreted from her back,
                            
She's cocooned inside their nest
                             Until, silk shell splitting
                             And resurrected as a butterfly
                             She totters outside,
                             Her new wings unfurled,
                             They curve on the air,
                             Spinning each breeze
                             To a twister
                             That'll wring trees leafless,
                             Rip off rooftops,
                             Stampede waves crag height

                             While Fundamentalists explain :

                             Our God is angry! Our God's in pain!

                                                   (Yet again.)








Appointed Poet Laureate of the United States in 2007, Charles Simic was born in Yugoslavia in 1938 and immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1954 at the age of sixteen. Retired from the University of New Hampshire, where he taught American literature and creative writing, Simic won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 and held a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant from 1984 to 1989. He is also a winner of the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.

Here are three of his poems from his book, Sixty Poems, published by Harcourt in 2007.



Mirrors at 4 A. M.

You must come to them sideways
In rooms webbed in shadow,
Sneak a view of their emptiness
Without them catching
A glimpse of you in return.

The secret is,
Even the empty bed is a burden to them,
A pretense.
They are more themselves keeping
The company of a blank wall,
The company of time and eternity

Which, begging your pardon,
Cast no image
As they admire themselves in the mirror,
While you stand to the side
Pulling a hanky out
To wipe your brow surreptitiously.


Cameo Appearance

I had a small, nonspeaking part
In a bloody epic. I was one of the
bombed and fleeing humanity.
In the distance our great leader
Crowed like a rooster from a balcony,
Or was it a great actor
Impersonating our great leader?

That's me there, I said to the kiddies.
I'm squeezed between the man
With two bandaged hands raised
And the old woman with her mouth open
As if she were showing us a tooth

That hurts badly. The hundred times
I rewound the tape, not once
Could they catch sight of me
In that huge gray crowd,
That was like any other gray crowd.

Trot off to bed, I said finally.
I know I was there. One take
Is all they had time for.
We ran, and the planes grazed our hair,
And then they were no more
As we stood dazed in the burning city,
But, of course, they didn't film that.


Slaughterhouse Flies

Evenings, they ran their bloody feet
Over the pages of my schoolbooks.
With eyes closed, I can still hear
The trees on our street
Saying their mood farewell to summer,

And someone at home recalling
The weary old cows, hesitating,
At long last growing suspicious
Just as the blade drops down on them.








Decided I'd start making plans for my 107th birthday.



an unfocused eye

been thinking
about my birthday
coming up next month,

reading
all the medical news,
thinking,

with everything going on,
if i can make it another
ten years

i can probably hold on
for another thirty
or forty,

and what would that
be like,
sitting here at 6:30 am

at a hundred and seven,
having my breakfast,
eggs, burnt bacon, dry toast,

wondering
if i would be bored enough
by then to call the game

on my own,
blow out the candle
and light the fire -

i
don't think so
cause it seems the older

i get
the less bored i become,
not that i was bored before,

as intent on the world then
as i am now,
but less driven now

to be an actor in every play,
more content now
to watch

or
not
as the feeling moves me

and it is wonderful how much more
there is to be seen
through the unfocused eye

so here's my advice
if you,
like me,

live to one hundred and seven -
ignore the forest
and find see trees in all their multiplicity

take your eye
off
the ball

and enjoy the game
as it
so widely passes








My next poems are by Sarah Patton, from her book The Joy of Old Horses, published in by Scopcraeft Press of Portales, New Mexico.

Patton has had poems published in Open Places, The Little Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Slant, Atlanta Review, Defined Providence, and other journals and has won several awards.


Late February

The sparrows
don't know what
they're watching,

a purse of bones,
a bag of feathers,
terrible windows
trembling with tears
and roses,

you all stone
and singing roots,
I slow in my savvy bones,

the way the chairs
won't move,

and your eyes reflect me
as if sending me away.

The trees
have lived it all
and will stay
to live it again

as will forsythia
already bearing yellow stars
on its arms.

Gaunt fingers
probe the iron sky
for a fissure

through which
to thrust
a root.


Trebled Spine

Sparrows, like grass,
have won the world
without resorting
to gunfire,

common leaves
orchestrate light's score.

That the dog
cannot bear
to be alone

is what we've done
to her,

and what we've stolen
from the dead
is a tribal gathering
in my wilderness.

Speak to me
of the little deaths,
trebled spine
of the whipping fish,

of the little murders
that go unpunished,

and stippled spine
of the thrusting trout,

of sorrow
rocking grief
against the dark
in a cold season.

Tell me
how the bones sing
and the fever
will not break.


I See Grass in All Its Complexity

I think
of butterflies
stealing salt
from a crocodile's eye,

of violets intact
in wind but broken
by the wild light,

I see grass
in all its complexity,
desire's long pilgrimage
back to dust.

Fly with me,
beautiful long-boned bird
unfolding from salt marshes
of fire and snow,

I've seen it all,
finches and flowers,
blood-red tulips

soaking a bandage
of white wall,

night wound
into its depth
like a sleeping cat,

caught in my eye,
the scales of light
balancing roses

until every rose
was weighed for glory
and new measures found.








I came to know this fellow in the mid-80's, during the oil bust that is probably forgotten now by just about everyone but those of us who happened to live in the oil patch at the time.

I thought of him after hearing the song.



when he was a rich man

the only difference
between the men and the boys
is the size of their feet
and the price of their toys

    Guy Clark - "Men Will Be Boys"


heard that song
last night

reminded me
of a fella named Sonny
i knew back in the 80s

a west texas
roughneck/cowboy -
for a while, the right place,

right time
kind of fella
all of us would like to be -

got rich
in the oil boom,
then lost it all in the bust -

it was about the toys
he told me,
he who dies with the most

wins,
and he had had the most,
fancy car,

fancy boat,
big house,
and a Dallas cheerleader girlfriend -

he'd lost it all
by the time i knew him,
first the boat,

then the house,
then the car,
then the girlfriend,

and he was left, alone, looking
for a job,
living in a $40 a week motel

driving a rattletrap car
looking for any kind of job
he could find -

ended up
working the overnight shift
at a 7-11 convenience store -

turned out
he had one talent
one thing he could do

better than almost anyone else -
finding oil
and putting together deals

to drill for it -
kinda tough on that kind of fella
when it costs more

to drill for the oil
he can find
than anyone wants to

pay for it








Here are three short poems by poet, novelist, short story writer and playwright R. G. Vliet, from his book Water & Stone, published in 1980 by Random House.

Born in Chicago in 1929, Vliet lived much of his early life in Texas, eventually obtaining his masters degree from Southwest Texas State College, now Texas State University. He taught school in several small school districts in Texas for some years, then went directly from teaching in 1955 to Yale University School of Drama. Although much of his work centered around Texas themes, he did not live again in the state until six months before his death in 1983.

After a year and a half at Yale, he left to begin his own writing career with a string of award-winning plays. He published his first book of poetry in 1966 and his first novel in 1974. Writing while ill with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, he completed his last novel, Scorpio Rising, just days before his death.



Poetry (If It Must Come)

must come never kept,
but unkempt and dragging weed
up from the sea, must be
bulbous-eyed from old
astonishments: a crank
species meant not actually
to be seen. Yet sweaty fishermen
hauling continually from need
sometimes fetch it up: it flops,
thumping the decks,
croaks - the fishermen
think they hear it speak.
More certainly it squeaks,
being slung in insubstantial air
and with all a dizzy ache
behind its gills. Its claws,
which must drip antique
moss, gesticulate: it knows
a city that is only deep below.


Jet Plane

Tail tailing like a ghostly pheasant's,
or
Phoibos charioteer:
smoke streaking off the axle.


An Old Man in the Orchard

at midmorning, knowledgeable,
a use of pruning shears.
the uncut grasses touch
his knees. His strawbrimmed
hat: an ordinary quietness.
Why am I so joyful?
Of course I think of bees,
fruit trees and bees
and sun on leaves. It is
the earth's fruitfulness. A bent
old man, and the limbs
sagging with globed oranges.








Some might see this as an unusually dark poem for to end on, but I don't think so. What could be more illuminating than beginning to see the universe as it really is.



dark again

it was dark
last night, and, so far,

this morning
as well

and commuters
flow past on the interstate

like bright bubbles
in a predawn stream

of moonless, starless
water

coursing
through shadowed hills,

high to low, caught
in the tide of gravity

that pulls the wet
ever down

from hilltop
to salted sea,

like the commuters
pulled from their beds

to skim the river and rapids
of this new dark day,

ever down,
from timeless dreams to

the ceaseless grind
of rush and restless

ruin,
life passing

dark to light
then, always,

dark again








That's it.

Until next week remember all of the material present on this blog remains the property of its creators. My stuff is free for you to borrow if you'll just say where you got it.

I'm allen itz, da boss of dis bidness.

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Winter on the South Frontier   Friday, January 22, 2010


V.1.4.




My special featured poet this week is Christopher T. George.

Chris, born in Liverpool, England in 1948, emigrated with his parents to the United States in 1955 and now lives with his wife, Donna, and two cats in Baltimore, Maryland, near John Hopkins University. He is the Editor of Desert Moon Review (http://www.thedesertmoonreview.com) and coeditor, with Jim Doss and Dan Cuddy, of the electronic and print magazine Loch Raven Review at http://www.lochravenreview.net. His poetry has been published in print publications worldwide, including in Poet Lore, Lite, Maryland Poetry Review, Smoke, and Bogg, and, online at Crescent Moon Journal, Electric Acorn, Melic Review, Painted Moon Review, Pierian Springs, the poetry (WORM), and Web Del Sol Review.

Chris's work is also featured in Poets Gone Wild: An Internet Anthology from Wild Poetry Press (2005) and he was, as well, the lyricist for Jack - The Musical, written with French composer Erik Sitbon, http://www.jack-themusical.com/, and he is an editor at Ripperologist magazine published in the UK, http://www.ripperologist.info.

His work has, also appeared often in "Here and Now."

Here's the rest of this week's posse.


Me
the truth of stuff

T. S. Eliot
The Ad-dressing of Cats
Cat Morgan Introduces Himself


Christopher T. George
Dear Old Guy

Me
it's my story and i'm sticking to it

Ursula K. Le Guin
Seventy
Taking Courage
A Request


Christopher T. George
At the Fly in the Loaf, Liverpool, Saturday, 17 October 2009

Me
high and mysterious grasses

Charles Bukowski
fast track
the hookers, the madmen, and the doomed


Christopher T. George
A Rube in the House of Lords

Me
going home someday

e. e. cummings
3-III
3-IV


Christopher T. George
My Belated Confession

Me
ambushed

Christopher Goodrich
Assuming I Die With My Eyes Closed

Erica Goss
Dust of an Ordinary Star

Christopher T. George
Cheesy Little Artsy Spy Buddy Movie

Me
when will the monkeys speak and what will they have to say?

Rabindranath Tagore
Freedom Bound

Christopher T. George
On Turning Sixty-two, January 10, 2010

Me
there are rules about this sort of thing

Wistawa Szymborska
A Large Number
Psalm


Me
trying to outrun the rain









I don't usually start out with one of my own poems, but in this case, I think I will, laying out the parameters of our relationship, so to speak.



the truth of stuff

as a poet

i'm a prose
writer
with a very short
attention
span

and
little commitment
to the whole truth
and nothing
but the truth

though
i do claim
to be seeking
a higher
truth

ha!

so
i tell
these little
1-page
50-word stories
that are at least
partially
if not wholly
lies
exaggerations
and evasions

if
you
are by nature
someone who must
believe in the
truth
of stuff
because,
after
all,
there it is,
written
out
on
paper -
just believe
this -
all the good stuff
i tell about my
self
is true;
all the bad stuff
is flat-out
lies








Here's a good way to begin a week, two poems by T.S. Eliot from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.



The Ad-dressing of Cats

You've read of several kinds of Cat,
And my opinion now is that
You should need no interpreter
To understand their character.
You now have learned enough to see
That Cats are much like you and me
And other people whom we find
Possessed of various types of mind.
For some are sane and some are mad
And some are good and some are bad
And some are better, some are worse -
But all may be descried in verse.
You've seen them both at work and games,
And learnt about their proper names,
Their habits and their habitat:
But
   How would you ad-dress a Cat?

So first, your memory I'll jog,
And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.

Now Dogs pretend they like to fight;
They often bark, more seldom bite;
And yet a Dog is, on the whole,
What you would call a simple soul.
Of course, I'm not including Pekes,
And such fantastic canine freaks.
The usual Dog about the Town
Is much inclined to play the clown,
And far from showing too much pride
Is frequently undignified.
He's very easily taken in -
Just chuck him underneath the chin
Or slap his back or shake his paw,
And he will gambol and guffaw.
He's such an easy-going lout,
He'll answer any hail or shout.

Again I must remind you that
A Dog's a Dog - A CAT'S A CAT.

With Cats, some say, one rule is true:
Don't speak until you are spoken to.
Myself, I do not hold with that -
I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.
But always keep in mind that he
Resents familiarity.
I bow, and taking off my hat.
Ad-dress him in this form: O CAT!
But if he is the Cat next door,
Whom I have often met before
(He comes to see me in my flat)
I greet him with an OOPSA CAT!
I've heard them call him James Buz-James -
But we've not got so far as names.
Before a Cat will condescend
To treat you like a trusted friend,
Some little token of esteem
Is needed, like a dish of cream;
And you might now and then supply
Some caviare, or Strassburg Pie,
Some potted grouse, or salmon paste -
He's sure to have his personal taste.
(I know a Cat who makes a habit
Of eating nothing else but rabbit,
And when he's finished, licks his paws
So's not to waste the onion sauce.)
A Cat's entitled to expect
These evidences of respect.
And so in time you reach you aim.
And finally call him by his NAME.

So this is this, and that is that:
And there's how you AD-DRESS A CAT.


Cat Morgan Introduces Himself

I once was a Pirate what sailed the 'igh seas -
  But now I've retired as a com-misson-aire:
And that's how you find me a-taking my ease
  And keepin' the door in a Bloomsbury Square.

I'm partial to partridges, likewise to grouse,
  And I favour that Devonshire cream in bowl;
But I'm allus content with a drink on the 'house
  And a bit of cold fish when I done me patrol.

I ain't got much polish, me manners is gruff,
  But I've got a good coat, and I keep meself smart;
And everyone says, and I guess that's enough:
  "You can't but like Morgan, 'e's got a kind 'art."

I got knocked about on the Barbary Coast,
  And me voice it ain't no sich melliferous horgan;
But yet I can state, and I'm not one to boast,
  That some of the gals is dead keen on old Morgan.

So if you 'ave business with Faber - or Faber -
  I'll give you this tip, and it's worth a lot more:
You'll save yourself time, and you'll spare yourself labour
  If jist you make friends with the Cat at the door.

                                        MORGAN








Now, for our first poem from featured poet Christopher T. George.

All I know about Guy Fawkes and Guy Fawkes Day is what I learn from Chris's poem and, by extrapolation, that movie of a year or so ago - can't remember the name - but it sounds like a cross between Halloween and Hell Night in Detroit. I know it had something to do with blowing up Parliament, which we have to be careful about talking about - don't want to give those Tea Party people any ideas.

Here's Chris’s poem. (He also sent an illustration for the poem, but it turned out to be too small to use here.)



Dear Old Guy

A bit of childhood fun,
to dress up a dear old Guy
and burn him on a bonfire
amid bangers and skyrockets:

a yearly whoop-up - whoopie! -
born of religious intolerance,
innocuous really, whether today
with trilby or a mock mitre

though with a barbwire kiss
thugs might drag a Guy
from his doorway swill
and set him alight. Poor Guy.








Like I've said, said, sometimes I lie, which is a lie in itself because i'm more prone to lie often, not sometimes.



it's my story and i'm sticking to it

15 degrees
outside
and i'm snug and warm
inside,
sitting by the window,
eating my bacon and eggs
watching all the freezing
children
walk to school through
twelve-foot snowdrifts
as slavering snow beasts slink
from the dark
forest,
howling,
appetite raging
for the delicate taste
of freezing school children...

but
wait...
that's someone else's
life,
in fact,
not a life at all,
but one of those legends
we all build around ourselves,
legends we use,
as in this case, a story
to convince my son that walking
four blocks to school
under South Texas sunshine
wasn't the worst thing that could happen

or,
legends
we build to convince ourselves
we are stronger, smarter, more heroic
than we are,
like,
boy,
if i'd been on that plane
when that stinking terrorist
tried to light his underwear
i would have got him good,
gone over the seat at him
before anyone else noticed
what he was doing, then
a three-punch combination,
nose, gut, haymaker to the jaw
and it'd have been all over,
except for my picture
on the cover of Time
Magazine

legends
to sooth that nagging
suspicion of
inadequacy the world
daily
reminds us is the
modern state
of man or woman,
when little is expected
beyond ardent
consumption
of the retail legends
of others

legends,
as, in our recliner,
we pat our little round
bellies
and squint through
failing eyes
at the Time Magazine
upon which cover
we will
never
be








Now I have a couple of short poems by the great science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin. The poems are from Le Guin's sixth volume of poetry, published by Shambhala in 2006.



Seventy

I've lived the life of man,
the span, the seven ages.

Now my life is out of bounds
and doesn't keep the time.

I'd make sense only to myself,
but wear the old habit.

I'd take my rage unsweetened,
but see: I fall to rhyme.

Oh, how am I metered?


Taking Courage

I will build a hardiness
   of counted syllables,
asylum for the coward heart
   that stammers out my hours,

and armature of resonance,
   a scaffolding of spell,
where it can learn to keep the time
   and bid what comes come well.


A Request

Should my tongue be tied by stroke
listen to me as if I spoke

and said to you, "My dear, my friend,
stay here a while and take my hand;

my voice is hindered by this clot,
but silence says what I cannot,

and you can answer as you please
such undemanding words as these.

Or let our conversation be
a mute and patient amity,

sitting, all the words bygone,
like a stone beside a stone.

It takes a while to learn to talk
the long language of the rock."








Here's a second poem from our friend Christopher T. George, describing a trip back "home."



At the Fly in the Loaf, Liverpool, Saturday, 17 October 2009

Nervous, you cross the fancy mosaic threshold of an ex-baker's shop,
nudge past garrulous and muscular young guzzlers, ascend
to the upstairs quiet hushed aerie where the poets gather.

No, it's no longer your city, though the street sign "Baltimore"
hard by the Fly in the Loaf at Hardman and Baltimore Streets
recalls your "other city" all those three thousand miles away. . .

"The Liverpool of America's East Coast" and how Adrian intro'ed
you as "a poet from Philadelphia" ha! and he told of streets
near his Mount Street home: Baltimore and Maryland,

testimony to Liverpool's slavery past. It's no longer Ade's
Liverpool or the slaver's Liverpool. Discursive as ever! Wrap
your mind round that. . .wrap your words round that, Poet!

Muscular words to tell of that evening, arc lamps burning,
sweating, drops of perspiration dot the paper. Now!
Squeeze the words out. Let the people hear. You're here.








It is a fact, I do enjoy the company of my animal buddies.



high and mysterious grasses

i promised
Reba
last night
before i put her

to bed
that i'd take her
for a walk
this morning

and i know
she's sits by the door
at home
now

waiting
and i'll be there
to get her
as soon as i finish

this
because the joy to me
of watching her joy
when i reach for the

leash
feeds the new day
like a shot of sunshine
on the cold shoulders

of a sleeping cat
shivering
in the morning chill -
bringing back

the morning dream
of slow and stupid
mice
and warm milk

waiting in a bowl
by the fire
and the safe lap of he
who makes the sun to shine

so bright
on this winter morning
begun by a walk
through high and mysterious

grasses








I have two poems now by Charles Bukowski, from his book what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

There are those old rascals of myth and legend beloved by all. Bukowski was certainly a n old rascal, seems like almost from the day he was born, but, self-loving ego-manic that it seems he must have been, it's hard to ever see him as beloved. (Though it's also true there were those, men and women, who called him the best friend ever.)

But none of that means he isn't still only one step below Whitman in my pantheon of favorites.



fast track

jesus christ
the horses again
I mean I said I'd never bet the horses
again
what am I doing standing out here
betting the horses?
anybody can to to the racetrack but
not everybody can
write a sonnet...

the racetrack crowd is the lowest of the breed
thinking their brains can outfox the
15 percent take.

what am I doing here?
if my publisher knew I was blowing my royalties,
if those guys in San Diego
and the one in Detroit who send me money
(a couple of fives and a ten)
or the collector in Jerome, Arizona
who paid me for some paintings,
if they knew
what would
they think?

jesus christ, I'm playing the starving poet who is
creating great Art.

I walk up to the bar with my girlfriend,
she's a handsome creature in hotpants
with long dark hair,
I order a scotch and water,
she orders a screwdriver
jesus christ
I don't have a chance
did Vallejo,Lorca and
Shelley have to do thought
this?
I drink some of the scotch and
water and think,
the proper mix of the woman and the poem
is infinite Art.

then I sit down with my
Racing Form
and get back
to work.


the hookers, the madmen and the doomed

today at the track
2 or 3 days after
the death of the
jock
came this voice
over the speaker
asking us all to stand
and observe
a few moments
of silence. well,
that's a tired
formula and
I don't like it
but I do like
silence. so we
all stood: the
hookers and the
madmen and the
doomed. I was
set to be dis-
pleased but then
I looked up at the
TV screen
and there
standing silently
in the paddock
waiting to mount
up
stood the other jocks
along with
the officials and
the trainers:
quiet and thinking
of death and the
one gone,
they stood
in a semi-circle
the brave little
men in boots and
silks,
the legions of death
appeared and
vanished, the sun
blinked once
I though of love
with its head ripped
off
still trying to
sing and
then the announcer
said, thank you
and we all went on about
our business.








Here's a fun piece, number three for this week, from our friend Christopher T. George.



A Rube in the House of Lords

I'm introduced around the room by Lord Strawberry.
I gladhand Lords Raspberry, Cherry, and Pomegranate,
I think to myself, Jeez, all these guys is fruits!

Then I gets to meet Lady Quince and I'm telling myself,
she's no Lord, she's a Dame! Ain't nuthin like a Dame,
whether it's at the Limey House of Lords or anyplace!

I'm movin' in on her, nice and sweet, smooching her
ladyness with my Western adventures, Rube in buckskin,
when, with a whiff of death, Lord Wolfbane horns in.

Then its duelling time, his place or mine, pistols or
rapiers, popguns or pigstickers, rotten tomatoes,
grapes or cherries, pigs in blankets, cornhusker pie.








I write in public and not at home because, at home, there's no one to write about but me.



going home someday

angels
are dancing
on the head of a pin
down at the south-facing booth
where, on most days,
i rest my breakfast bones,
a trio of religiosos,
wise men in their field,
perhaps,
arguing out, it sounds like,
the proposed
text of some religious
book or pamphlet

they were at it las week
as well, occupying, then too, my
booth

the three,
one, older, hawk-nosed
and bald, another younger,
rotund to the butterball degree,
and bald, and a third, young
with hair,
argue this week
as to what is the most significent
tenet of the Christian religion, virgin birth
or the resurrection

not being of the faith
myself
it's perhaps not kosher
for me to weigh in on this discussion
but i know lots of Christians
and they, almost all but the Paulists,
think highly of sex
and would most certainly
vote thumbs down on the idea
propagation with
out sex -
most, i'm sure, would find the idea
of putting up with teenagers
without
the precedent pleasure
of sex
to be not worth the trouble

are these guys really that wise?

i ask
because it seems obvious to me
the one central element of Christianity
that sustains the belief of all its
practitioners
is the resurrection of Christ
and his promise
of everlasting life for all
who put their faith in him

everlasting life - that's
a hard sell to beat - even i,
the non-believer's nonbeliever
am attracted to that, though my
version of such everlastingness
is not predicated on a ride through
the clouds
in a golden chariot,
but a simple, more base rebirth
as the atoms
that temporarily gathered to make me
disperse to a new purpose

and the soul?

i don't know about the soul,
a slippery concept,
at best,
but i am finding it enticing to believe
that the essence of me
that animates the gathering
of atoms that is my physical self
is just a small part
of a larger essence of us
to which that part which was me
will return in the end, then dissolve
like smoke
into the everything,
the whole
from which i have been
for these few years of human life
distant and distraught

a return home








The next two poems are by e .e. cummings,poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. Born in 1894, he died in 1962, his body of work encompassing approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings. This week's poems are from the collection, is 5, published in 1985 by Liveright Paperback.

I am struck by the thought that cummings, born in the 19th century, is still, in the early years of the 21st, one of our most modern poets.



from Three

III

it is winter a moon in the afternoon
and warm air turning into January darkness up
through which sprouting gently,the cathedral
leans its dreamy spine against the thick sunset

i perceive in front of out lady a ring of people
a brittle swoon of centrifugally expecting
faces clumsily which devours a man,three cats,
five white mice,and a baboon.

O a monkey with a sharp face waddling carefully
the length of this padded pole;a monkey attached
by a chain securely to this always talking
individual,mysterious witty hatless.

Cats which move smoothly from neck to neck of bottles,cats
smoothly willowing out and in between bottles,who step smoothly
mice;or leap through hoops of fire,creating smoothness.

People stare,the drunker applaud
while twilight takes the sting out of the vermilion
jacket of nodding hairy Jacqueline who is given a mouse
to hold lovingly,

our lady what do you think of this? Do your proud fingers and
your arms tremble remembering something squirming fragile
and which had been presented unto you by a mystery?
...the cathedral recedes into weather without answering


VI

candles and

Here Comes a glass box
which the exhumed
hand of Saint Ignatz miraculously
inhabits. (people tumble
down. people crumble to their
knees. people
begin crossing people)and

hErE cOmEs a glass box;
surrounded by priests
moving in fifty colours
,sensuously

(the crowd
howls faintly
blubbering pointing

see
yes)
It
here
comes

A Glass
Box and incense with

and o sunlight-
the crash of the colours(of the oh
silently
striding)priests-and-
slowly,al,ways; processional:and

Enters

this
     church.

toward which The
Expectant stutter(upon artificial limbs,
with faces like defunct geraniums)








And now, another poem by Christopher T. George, our friend Chris.



My Belated Confession

I admit it - I cheated: I took steroids
- they helped me to win all those awards,
the Pushcart, the Pulitzer, and the Nobel
- even if it's ignoble of me to admit it.

Although I claimed that I took no stimulants
(here, I dab my eye) I've let down my family,
all my fans and all aspiring poets who believe
they can reach the pinnacle without a fix.

I confess, I juiced myself up real fine , , ,
I deserve to be stripped of everything.
For my success, anonymity I would trade.

My megalomaniac malice was incontestable,
my artful duplicity all too contemptible:
I fully deserve the world's tirade.








I did something stupid last week, for which i have been amply rewarded with a very sore back. The bonus, set me to thinking about a poem.



ambushed

i
have a hitch
in my get-a-long
this morning,
a vintage mid-fifties
phrase, probably planted
in my young brain by
Tennessee Ernie Ford
or some such,
meaning i'm limping around
like an old man
because of a pain in my hip,
the result of my cheapness
in refusing to pay $200
to have someone remove
a fallen tree from my
backyard resulting in
$400 worth of personal
pain and suffering after
trying to do it myself,
plus paying $300 to someone
to do the job i couldn't finish

but that's another story

it's the phrase
i'm interested in this morning,
the phrase that slipped
directly from my brain
like a quarter
passing, unhindered, through
guts and gears of a malfunctioning
vending machine

in what secret fold of our brain
do things like this abide, a homely phrase,
a word you forgot you knew, an ugliness,
deep buried, you think, never to see again
the light of day - and suddenly there
they are again, the good and the bad
and the merely embarrassing, jumping
right out, throwing themselves
at the world like a giggle at your mother's
funeral, a subversive fart
while having tea with
the queen,
yourself revealed,
not really yourself, you explain,
but little pieces of your earlier self
you though long left behind
long banished or
forgotten

my mother
would sometimes call window shades
window lights,
an embarrassment to her
because she thought it revealed
her country-poor upbringing

my father
stuttered when excited,
like all of us
sometimes ambushed
by the
past








Next, I have two poems from from the Fall 2006 issue of Hotel Amerika, a literary publication of Ohio University. This was the last issue published by the University. The journal was reborn at Columbia University in 2007.



The first poem from the journal is by Christopher Goodrich, a poet and stage director living in New York City. He has an MFA from New England College.


Assuming I Die With My Eyes Closed

supine on a Serta, and assuming your are sitting next to me,
your head resting on my chest, your hand
reaching for your forehead, I ask
that you force my eyelids open
and position my eyebrows two or so inches
above their normal setting and urge my mouth,
if you don't mind, from its parched post
into the shape of an O,
three fingers long, two fingers wide.

That way, once you are through grieving
and have alerted the children,
it will appear as if I'm on the verge of song,
a rendition of "Walking my Baby Back Home" -
not the traditional 1952 sing-a-long,
more like James Taylor's fevered acoustic cry
to a woman since departed

And if you would then move my left leg
so it's nearly touching the floor,
and budge the right with bended knee
so it might easily follow the left,
I could fool you into believing I am rising
for one final embrace, and who knows,
we might dance a two step
up the skinny hall and down again,
my lips fixed to sing the song whose steady rise and fall
will keep the rhythm as we sway left to right, right to left.


The second poem I have this week from Hotel Amerika is by Erica Goss, a graduate student in the MFA program at San Jose State University, specializing in poetry and nonfiction. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her family.


Dust of an Ordinary Star

I walk the dog, we two alpha females hike the hills and imagine ourselves trotting over
the tundra with the pack following, bringin home a caribou for the whole tribe to share.

When the phone rings I am the older sister; I research the family diseases: I am supposed
to keep secrets so I try not to remember what I am not supposed to know.

Sometimes my thoughts spiral over and over and the sight of a kitchen knife fills me with
despair. When this happens my eyes feel peeled open.

I sink my hands into my garden soil and feel it collect under my fingernails; I pull up
great handfuls of earth and smell them when no one is looking; sometimes I have dirt
ringing my nostrils for hours but no one says anything.

The dog and I are getting older, looking more alike: sagging jaws and weird little tufts of
hair. This bothers me more than her. Neither one of us is interested in chasing after men
on motorcycles anymore.

I am a mother; twice I gave birth to healthy, perfect sons; once I had a daughter but she
was not perfect so I cast her body from mine; when she was gone my spine made a great
lurch and I stopped sleeping.

I plant seeds; I collect leaves, eggs and stones; I once found a jawbone with all its teeth
still attached.

I lie awake at night and stare out the window; I see lights out in the forest and wonder if
they are flashlights or just the sweep of distant headlights; I wonder where people go at
three in the morning while I am trapped here in my bed.

I send letters: they enter the secret house of the mailbox, deposits that can never be
withdrawn, they settle into rectangular drifts awaiting the great paw of the mail carrier.

When the sky is too loud I head for the woods; a silent redwood pulls the sunlight down;
I place my ear against her trunk and hear the settling dust of an ordinary star.








Now, another one from our friend and featured poet of the week, Christopher T. George.



I have seen this movie many times, and loved it every time.



Cheesy Little Artsy Spy Buddy Movie

As Pettigrew, the English butler,
I'd served the Edwards family
faithfully for two decades.

They saw me for what I was:
the perfect English servant
in classic stereotypical mold.

I found young Bart Edwards drunk
and stoned out of his skull
in the closet, once again,

sprawled in his own vomit.
"Ah there you are Pettigrew,"
he slurred as I cleaned him up.

Unfortunately, I was pressed
for time and had to take him
with me on my latest assignment

to clandestinely enter Russia
through frozen Lake Ladoga;
we arrived in Moscow in time

to rendezvous with Natasha
just as she was to dance
the Black Swan at the Bolshoi;

she gave me the microchip
from inside her black bra:
I put it in my black eyepatch

- the plans to the secret Arctic
facility, which Bart and I reached
by scaling the Slemskya glacier:

I, Lefty Pettigrew, 006, and Black Bart
blasted the cave with Semtex,
guided by landsat technology.

So we foiled the Ruskies' infernal
plot to dominate the world. Then
we enjoyed a night of debauchery

with Natasha and the White Swan,
Martina, smooches goodbye and we
crippled the North Koreans and Iranians.

Unfortunately, we shot up the set
so badly the movie went way over
budget and we landed home penniless.

Once again, I found young
Bart Edwards drunk and stoned
out of his skull in the closet,

sprawled in his own vomit.
"Ah there you are Pettigrew,"
he slurred as I cleaned him up.








This next piece came out of, as often happens, a story in the Science Section of the New York Times.



when will the monkeys speak and what will they have to say?

every morning
i think

is this the morning
it stops? -

is this the morning
i cast my net

and it comes back
empty

but for an old black boot,
three empty bottles

of Jax beer, and the rubber floormat
for a '49 Hudson Hornet?

every morning i cast the net
sometimes near and sometimes

far, like this morning
very far

pulling out from the soupy
sea

the story in the New York Times,
last week

about research demonstrating
monkeys could talk -

that is they have the physical
equipment required to vocalize -

but don't
and i wonder why

is it disinterest in speaking
or is it just disinterest in speaking

to us
as secretly they jabber away

with each other
in a whisper under their bed covers

at night
and it all reminds me

of a science fiction story i wrote
45 years ago -

before, i stroke my ego by adding, Planet
of the Apes and Koko and her offspring -

about apes who lacked the ability
to talk (as was the belief at that time)

but could learn American Sign
and were taught to Sign by a zoologist

and, once learning this skill,
they taught it to their offspring

and soon there was a flourishing civilization
of apes and their kind

in competition with the human race,
a competition resolved

without violence
because the greatest of all the apes

made an impassioned speech in Sign
at the United Nations

proving that all species could live together
and that any species,

given a chance,
could produce its own Gandhi or Christ

~~~~~~~~~

or i could write about
what i just read today, that

the human Y chromosome has been evolving
very rapidly, much more rapidly

than any other part of the human body,
leaving us all wondering now

just exactly what it means that
the chromosome for macho stupidity

is quickly taking over
the human race

but
that's a dead end for sure

~~~~~~~~~

so i think again
of the monkeys and

it reminds me of the story
of the boy

who never said a word until a day
during his eight year

when he finally spoke up
at the family dinner table,

saying, "these peas suck"
causing amazement all around

as all had thought he was physically
unable to speak

and they ask him why, for heavens sake,
have you never talked before

and he said,
"the peas never sucked before"

and maybe that's why
we haven't heard anything

from the monkeys
yet








The next poem is by Rabindranath Tagore, from the collection of his work, Selected Poems, first published by Penguin Books in 1985.

Tagore, born in 1861, was the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore, a leader of the Brahmo Samai, a new religious sect in nineteenth-century Bengal. Though he was sent to England to study when he was seventeen years old, he obtained most of his education at home. As an adult he managed his family estates, in addition to his literary activities. He and Gandhi were very close friends and, occasionally involved himself in the Indian nationalist movement. Knighted by the ruling British Government in 1915, he resigned the honor a few years later in protest of British policies in India.

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, he was a success in all literary genres, he was first and foremost a poet. He wrote two autobiographies, one in his middle years and one shortly before his death in 1941.



Freedom Bound

Frown and bolt the door and glare
    With disapproving eyes,
Behold my outcaste love, the scourge
    Of all proprieties.
To sit where orthodoxy rules
    Is not her wish at all -
Maybe I shall seat her on
    A grubby patchwork shawl,
The upright villagers, who like
    To buy and sell all day,
Do not notice one whose dress
    Is drab and dusty-grey.
So keen on outward show, the form
    Beneath can pass them by -
Come my darling, let there be
    None but you and I,
When suddenly you left your house
    To love along the way,
You brought form somewhere lotus honey
    In your pot of clay.
You came because you heard I like
    Love simple, unadorned -
an earthen jar is not a thing
    My hands have ever scorned.
No bells upon your ankles, so
    No purpose in a dance -
Your blood has all the rhythms
    That are needed to entrance.
You are ashamed to be ashamed
    By lack of ornament -
No amount of dust can spoil
    You plain habiliment,
Herd-boys crowd around you, street-dogs
    Follow by your side -
Gipsy-like upon your pony
    Easily you ride.
You cross the stream with dripping sari
    Tucked up to your knees -
My duty to the straight and narrow
    Flies at sights like these.
You take your basket to the fields
    For herbs on market-day -
You fill your hem with peas for donkeys
    Loose beside the way,
Rainy days do not deter you -
    Mud caked to your toes
And kacu-leaf upon your head,
    On your journey goes.
I find you when and where I choose,
    Whenever it pleases me -
No fuss or preparation: tell me,
    Who will know but we?
Throwing caution to the winds,
    Spurned by all around,
Come, my outcaste love, O let us
    Travel, freedom-bound.








And finally, one last poem, a birthday poem, in fact, from our featured poet, Christopher T. George, complete with a photo of the birthday boy himself, taken by his father Gordon B. George.



Good work, Mr. George, and happy birthday, Chris, pretty well preserved, considering.



On Turning Sixty-Two, January 10, 2010

I'm thirteen years younger than Elvis
- and he's very much dead. Instead,

I'm still alive, savoring each minute, got
my ticket to ride, not prepared to rot.

I know I have enemies who deride,
Mateys, take a firebrand up yer nose.
Why d'you suppose I would give it up?








We had some unusually cold weather a week ago, thee nights in a row of temps in the low twenties and high teens, making all sorts of changes in what we normally see as we look around the countryside.



there are rules about this sort of thing

it's a drab
and dreary place now

after three nights
in a row

of hard freeze -
dry grass, bare trees and shrubs -

all the color gone,
lying in brown wilt on the ground,

meaning
booming business

for the plant nurseries
in a couple of weeks

as folks try to replace
all that they lost

but that's not my way -
i look for what's still green,

the native growth
that does not wilt and die

when assaulted
by the native climate -

so most of my plant shopping
isn't done at the nurseries

but out in the hills,
hiking through the limestone and granite

with a small shovel and transplant pot,
figuring,

if it can grow and survive
out here through drought and freeze,

my backyard will be a cakewalk,
a garden of ease for the weary plant -

it's about
listening to Mother Nature,

letting Her tell us how
we should fit into the scheme of things -

it's a good rule,
recognizing the supremacy of the natural order -

course, round here
the green and lovely Matriarch

of us all, maker and keeper of all the rules,
doesn't always speak English,

leaving me, often, to fall back
on simpler rules from simpler sources

like, don't buy your bar-b-que
where you can't smell the smoke








Wistawa Szymborska is a Polish poet, born in 1923. Winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, she is a poet, essayist and translator. Though her poetry is widely read in Poland and cherished by her fellow Polish poets, she has a relatively small body of published work, only 230 poems to date. Though her published work may be small, it is widely known, having been published in most European languages, as well as Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese.

I have this week, two poems from her book View With a Grain of Sand, published by Harcourt Brace in 1995. The poems were translated to English by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, winners of the 1996 PEN Translation Prize.



A Large Number

Four billion people on this earth,
but my imagination is still the same.
It's bad with large numbers.
It's still taken by particularity
It flits in the dark like a flashlight,
illuminating only random faces
while the rest go blindly by,
never coming to mind and never really missed.
But even a Dante couldn't get it right.
Let alone someone who is not
Even with all the muses behind me.

Non omnis moriar - a premature worry.
But am I entirely alive and is that enough.
It never was, and now less than ever.
My choices are rejections, since there is no other way,
but what I reject is more numerous,
denser, more demanding than before.
A little poem, a sigh, at the cost of indescribable losses.
I whisper my reply to my stentorian calling.
I can't tell you how much I pass over in silence.
A mouse at the foot of the maternal mountain.
Life lasts as long as a few signs scratched by a claw in
   the sand.
My dreams - even they're not as populous as they should be.
they hold more solitude than noisy crowds.
Sometimes a long-dead friend stops by awhile.
A single hand turns the knob.

An echo's annexes overgrow the empty house.
I run from the doorstep into a valley
that is quiet, as if no one owned it, already an anachronism.

Why there's still all this space inside me
I don't know.


Psalm

Oh, the leaky boundaries of man-made states!
How many clouds float past them with impunity;
how much desert sand shifts from one land to another;
how many mountain pebbles tumble onto foreign soil
in provocative hops!

Need I mention every single bird that flies in the face
   of frontiers
or alights on the roadblock at the border?
A humble robin - still its tail resides abroad
while its beak stays home. If that weren't enough, it won't
   stop bobbing!

Among innumerable insects, I'll single out only the ant
between the border guard's left and right boots
blithely ignoring the question "Where from?" and
   "Where to?"

Oh, to register in detail, at a glance the chaos
prevailing on every continent!
Isn't that a privet on the far bank
smuggling its hundred-thousandth leaf across the river?
And who but the octopus, with impudent long arms,
would disrupt the sacred bounds of territorial waters?
And how can we talk of order overall
when the very placement of the stars
leaves us doubting just what shines for whom?

Not to speak of the fog's reprehensible drifting!
And dust blowing all over the steppes
as if they hadn't been partitioned!
And the voices coasting on obliging airwaves,
that conspiratorial squeaking, those indecipherable mutters!

Only what is human can truly be foreign.
The rest is mixed vegetation, subversive moles, and wind.








I've come to realize as I've grown older, that life is never so complicated that you can't grab hold of it and hold it down for a moment or two while you catch your breath.



trying to outrun the rain

drivers
on the interstate
are racing by, as if
trying to outrun
the rain, even though
the steady mix of rain and fog
has been out there
for three days
so i'm thinking, what's
the rush, that which was
chasing you is now being
chased by you

such is life -
the demons that drive us
are never outrun,
always waiting for us
at the finish line

~~~~

i'm listening to the
three guys sitting in front
of me, medical instrument sales
it sounds like, the one furthest
from me, a young manager
i think, some kind of regional VIP
down to motivate the troops,
never stops talking, the other
two listen, and at the end
he talks about his young daughter
and the man behind the demon-chaser
shows through and he and i both
wish he was back with her because
i know him, having been him
through many of the early years
of my son's life, chasing the demon,
seeking always those few moments
when i could be out of my life
for a while and into his, finding never
enough of those moments
as a parent until it came to me
that the demon i raced
was not behind me, but in me
and winning the race was not about
running faster because in the end
he would always win
and the way to beat him
was to let him go, let him
finish ahead
and wait
for me while i walk
a slower path - knowing
i will lose in the end
anyway,
my choice being in how i
choose to get to that end place
where demon
waits

~~~~

too many mornings
i tried to outrun
the rain

now
i just try
to enjoy the
wet








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