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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