Ups & Downs   Friday, January 15, 2010


V.1.3.




I want to mention this week that I have "Here and Now" traffic reports for 2009, showing nearly 31,000 visits to the site, and nearly 310,000 hits. I still don't know what all that means, but, as a possibly delusional creature of a culture and time when large numbers are usually prized over small numbers, I am pleased.

As to our poetry this week, I am featuring two of our friends from Australia.

Laurel Lamperd lives within sight of the Southern Ocean on the south coast of Western Australia. She writes novels and short stories as well as poetry. With a friend, she published The Ink Drinkers, a poetry and short story collection of their work.

Sue Clennell, who also lives in Western Australia, has a degree in journalism and has been a librarian and a teacher.

Here's who else I have this week.


Sue Clennell
Escapism

Jimmy Santiago Baca
Book I - As Life Was
   One
   Eleven
   Twenty

Book III - La Guerra
   Eight

Laurel Lamperd
Happy Families

Me
diddlysquat

Robert Bly
Frost Still on the Ground
Late Moon
A Dream of Retarded Children
Black Pony Eating Grass
Fallen Tree


Sue Clennell
Correspondent

Me
bananafanafofana

Brook Bergan
Plate 18: Cover Girl
Plate 20: Venus Leaning on a Dresser


Laurel Lamperd
Borderline

Me
forbidden

Robert Penn Warren
Dawn

Sue Clennell
In black and white

Me
or else

Naomi Shihab Nye
The Words Under the Words
Lunch in Nablus City Park


Laurel Lamperd
Pastures

Me
and all is good this morning

Brother Antoninus
Night Scene
The Citadel


Me
a minor poet explains it all

Anne Sexton
Her Kind

Me
the deer and the pigs and me, again









I start this week with a poem from Sue Clennell, one of our two featured Australian poets. The poem was first published in She's a train and she's dangerous.



Escapism

She bought a packet of budgerigar seed,
thousands of prospective sunflowers
and planted them all over her yard.
What are you going to do with them?
she was asked.
I just want a field of sunflowers
like the margarine advertisement.
Big golden suns shining at me from everywhere,
the lost treasure of the Incas.
And if they come up in their hundreds
so much the better,
to help me forget I am a prisoner of suburbia
to help me forget I can hear
next door shaving her armpits
or shouting at the kids.
Oh hang it all
let's all buy a packet of bird seeds.








In doing this weekly "Here and Now" post I am often disappointed that many of the poems i like the most are too long to be used. This is especially true this week in the poems I am using from Healing Earthquakes, a book by one of my favorite poets, Jimmy Santiago Baca published by Grove Press in 2001.

It is a book filled with great, very long, poems that I had to pass up in favor of some also fine but shorter pieces. If you enjoy deep, rich poetry in a longer form, I recommend this book to you.

Baca was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His awards and honors include the Wallace Stevens Chair at Yale, the National Endowment of Poetry Award, Vogelstein Foundation Award, National Hispanic Heritage Award. Berkeley Regents Award, Pushcart Prize, Southwest Book Award and American Book Award.

The collection is divided into five shorter books. My poems will come from two of those books.”


The first two poems are from Book I - As Life Was


One

With this letter I received from a young Chicano
doing time in New Boston, Texas,
      I'm reminded of the beauty of bars
      and how my soul squeezed through them
      like blue cornmeal through a sifting screen
      to mix with the heat and moisture of the day
      in each leaf and sun ray
            offering myself
            to life like bread.
He tells me he reads a lot of books and wants my advice
and more amazed
      he quotes from my books, honoring my words
      as words that released him from the bars,
      the darkness, the violence of prison.
It makes me wonder,
      getting down on myself as I usually do
      that maybe I'm not the pain in the butt
            I sometimes think I am.
I used to party a lot, but now I study landscapes
and wonder a lot,
      listen to people and wonder a lot
      take a sip of good wine and wonder more,
      until my wondering has filled five or six years
      and literary critics and fans
            and fellow writers ask
      why haven't you written anything in six years?
And I wonder about that -
      I don't reveal to them
      that I have boxes of unpublished poems
and that I rise at six-thirty each morning
      and read books, jot down notes,
      compose a poem,
            throwing what I've written or wondered
            on notepads in a stack in a box
                        in a closet.
Filled with wonder at the life I'm living,
distracted by presidential impeachment hearings
      and dick-sucking interns, and Iraq bombings,
my attention is caught by the kid
without a T-shirt in winter
on the courts who can shoot threes and never miss,
by a woman who called me the other night
threatening to cut her wrists because she was in love
      and didn't want to be in love,
by the crackhead collecting cans at dawn along the freeway.
      Sore-hearted at the end of each day,
      wondering how to pay bills,
                  thinking how I'll write a poem
      to orphans for Christmas
      and tell them that's their present
      and watch them screw up their faces -
      saying, huh,
            wondering what kind of wondering fool
            I've become
      that even during Christmas I'm wondering...
      caught in the magical wonder
      of angels on Christmas trees
            colored lightbulbs
all of it making me remember the awe and innocence
      of my own childhood,
            when Santa came with a red bag
            to the orphanage
                        and gave us stockings
                        bulging with fruit and nuts.
It was a time of innocence, gods walking around my bunk
                        at night,
            divine guardians whispering at my ear
            how they'd take care of me -
and they did, armies of angels have attended me
in rebellious travels,
and the only thing that's changed since then
is instead of me writing to Santa,
      I'm like the ornery pit bull leashed to a neck chain
      aching to bite the ass of an IRS agent
wondering why anyone in their right mind would,
with only one life to live, have a job making people so miserable.
It's something to wonder about.


Eleven

Graffiti on walls. Large tablets of stone Moses Sedillo
scribbles on about freedom. Our Berlin walls
our Juarez border. Agents in helicopters, others
in green jeeps, insomniacs with yellow faces lit
by monitor screens, check buses, cars, trucks and pedestrians -

and Moses Sedillo scribbles on about freedom.

In October the freedom of leaves changing colors, burying
      themselves in the
ground. Small golden coffins floating down the ditches.
      And then the
wiry, haggard branches become old men tottering behind
      the coffins,
fallen in the dirt road, leaning against fences. Moses
      throws himself
on the park grass and smells the green grass, the black earth, the
fine, thin coldness of the atmosphere.

He scribbles about freedom on walls.
No one knows what he means. the cops label him a vandal.
      The upper-middle-
class folks of the Heights are filled with fear, and the people
      in Santa Fe are angry
when they see his black letters on white adobe walls. Moses gives a
nondescript shrug of indifference and walks about the
      mountains and arroyos,
in the midst of aspens, thinking of beauty

***

But Viviano from Nicaragua knows what Moses is saying.
Karina from El Salvador reads the words to her children after she buys
                                    tortillas from the store.
Perfecto Flores, elo viejo del barrio who goes to visit his
                        brothers in Durango, understands
                        the graffiti.

When the wall is painted over, the words push through the paint
      like prisoners' hands
                                    through prison bars
                                    at strangers passing on the streets.


Twenty


And when they come, as they have,
          Grandma,
I seek strength in your humble memory.
As contrary and far-fetched as my metaphors
and images may seem
          to a woman
in the hot, dry prairie,
      when you walked I knew somewhere
in the world a great pianist was playing
to your steps,
      when you looked at beans, corn, squash,
a simple glass of water,
your gaze had a melody of a hundred choirs
singing in harmony, all in unison,
thanking the Great Creator for your many blessings.

O dear sweet ancient woman who never
uttered a word of pain on her behalf,
who was sometimes mean or cross with me,
who chased and shooed me from the house on wash day
or made me scrub my face with freezing-cold water,
your faults were cliff-edge fingerholds;
anyone brave enough to climb to the summit
would be awarded with a sight only angels were given.
And I climbed there many times
      and as many you called me your angel.

Today, when I'm besieged by enemies from all sides,
when the easy way out haunts me,
when I would prefer to sit in a cantina and drink
with my friends,
when doing drugs with acquaintances to forget
the pain of living seems easier than to live with dignity,
when I promise to try harder,
when all those vows of conviction
weakly drain blood from my lips,
      I kiss your face again in my memory
and tell you to watch me, just watch -

I will not surrender to the worst part of myself
but be a man you can be proud of,
who has learned well from you, sweet Grandma.
And as they come, as they do, I wade out in the field,
briskly parting the tall weeds and ignoring the briars,
I move forward to meet them,
to show them that all their flags and hollering
and weapons mean nothing to me
when I have you in my heart.

When my heart rims with bubbling waterfalls cracking past
obstacles that have tried to prevent
my jaguar howling,
      my veins swell with fiery colt-jumps
in hefty alfalfa fields, and I must compose my songs
solemn as monks changing in a medieval monastery,
dark stone and polished rock hallways echo my wailing
of sorrow and loneliness,
and at other times the maddened conga drums of my heart
are beaten by black hands, white hands, red hands, brown hands,
every race calling me to celebrate their humanity, their laughter, their
sadness,
and when all of this incredible emotion spews
from my whale's blowhole heart
as I rise from my deep blue sleep of everyday life,
I break water surface and Grandma, Grandma
how I think of you sitting
at the table cleaning pinto beans for supper that evening,
how you worried, how you smiled, how you grimaced
and how you went blind, your bones gnarled and crudely
twisted with age, and you gradually
rolled into a ball of ancient root-branch GOD-TREE
for someone like me to hid under during storms,
and I still do, Grandma -
          and this poem
          is my joy-song to you, sweet Grandma,
you vitalize my tongue to lick the minerals
of each day and become part of the earth as you were,
you prick my heels to encourage me to take the toughest path,
you whisper me to dream of love,
to believe in myself,
sitting there at the table in a small village on a summer afternoon,
cleaning pinto beans,
in every instance where I needed hope, love, help,
this image of you keeps me strong, keeps me moving on.


Book III - La Guerra


Eight

Breaking up
      is not like a Hollywood film, no rainy
dark streets, no winds gusting at trees or leaves
booming branches against wooden picket fences.
      There's the city in its awesome
warring metal and rock and glass, so
structured that weak are stepped on,
drive to live in despair and labor.
      But to love in such a city? To reach out
to another person and love that person through a crisis,
wade knee-deep through doubt and fear,
through your own cracked segments of life,
your life falling about you in grand upheaval,
to crunch your own cataclysmic epoch
                                          and reach,
      reach for someone to love,
      be loyal through the parading debris
      flung up at you in gay illusions,
      to find yourself among crowds and confusion,
      locate that strand and fiery fiber
      that shocks your sense, rusty and coiled,
      in to fierce and raging locomotion,
spewing fire out your heart
for the one you love, you love.

      Our passions are the fiery altars
      where we sacrifice the sweet gold of Reason,
      altars where we learn to believe
      in superior beings above,
for when in love, one can look around and see no longer
the straight line, instead all is crooked and craned
and stressing to burst out like spring flowers
where soldiers fall in bloody wounds and cannon roar
and church bells mourn and sing their lonely dirges,
      when in love
      words carry that death, charge glowing
      in our breast, words burn their light
      through dark halls in our soul,
      words spoken by our lover
      puff at our dusty story of life,
      like an old book slapped open by wind
      from the window, and ruffling through yellow pages
      reading stories of our life.

A man and a woman create a circle when they are in love,
breaking the circle, one leaves out to utter black space,
the other slowly watching the energy dim,
crumbling, and the circle like a disc
swirls maddeningly through space, an outer-space craft
that will, when it lands, leave gaping craters smoldering
in green grass. Those craters are the footsteps
                                          of lovers apart.








Now here's a poem from Laurel Lamperd, the second of our featured poets this week from Australia.

Her poem was first published in Pixel Papers.



Happy Families

When I was twelve
my father left.

"He'll send for us
when he's ready,"
my mother said
who believed in him
as we all did.

Except for postcards
in the first year
I was forty
when next I heard
of him.

My mother was dead.

He had died
of a heart attack
in some little town
in Queensland
I'd never heard of.








My first poem this week is this next heroically titled piece written a couple of weeks ago at a time when i really felt like a rant but couldn't think of anything new to rant about.



diddlysquat

i already wrote
a poem
this morning
but it's another
rant
and it's too nice
a day and too early
in this new year
for a rant

but
goddammit
i want to rant

and so i will

i'll rant about
all the birds singing
and the sun shining
and the blue sky
and the clear clean air
and the good night's sleep
that left me refreshed
and reenergized
and my nice house
and my pets
who follow me around
with great brown eyes
dripping with love and
adoration
and my wife
who seems to like me ok
and the fine dinner
she made for me last night
and my good prospects
for a long and productive life
and my computer
and my fingers and my toes
and my social security check
and the tree i sit under
when i feel my nature-boy self
pining for the smell of squirrels
and fragrant flowers
and tickling blades of grass
on my bare feet
and my hair that hasn't
fallen out yet
and the dried beef sausage
in the fridge and and the
false teeth that make it
possible for me
to eat the dried beef sausage
in the fridge
and levis that fit tight
and keep my butt
from sagging
and....well....

i could just go on and on
and on some more
with all the things i have
to rant about,
i could rant about
the cows coming home
and the cow farmers
waiting for them at home
and i could rant about the cows
and their moon jumping
milkshake making
shenanigans
and i could rant about words
like shenanigans
that i have to look up in the
dictionary
cause i can't spell diddlysquat
and i could rant about diddlysquat...
and often do...

i could even rant about
you, and and if i can, i do,
so i do,
i rant about you
who
got sucked into reading this
on the false assumption
i had something
to say








Next, I have several short poems by Robert Bly. The poems are from Bly's book This Tree Will Be Here For A Thousand Years, published by Harper & Row in 1979.



Frost Still on the Ground

I walk out in the fields; the frost is still in the ground.
It's like someone just beginning to write, and nothing has
    been said!

The shadows that come from another life
gather in folds around his head.

So I am, all at once. What I have
to say I have not said.

The snow water glances up at the moon. It is
its own pond. In its lake the serpent is asleep.


Late Moon

The third week moon reaches its light over my father's
    farm,
half if it dark now, in the west that eats it away.
The earth has rocks in that hum at early dawn.
As I turn to go in, I see my shadow reach for the latch


A Dream of Retarded Children

This afternoon I had been fishing alone,
strong wind, some water slopping in the back of the boat.
I was far from home.
Later I woke several times hearing geese.
I dreamt I saw retarded children playing,
    and one came near.
And her teacher, the face open, hair light.
For the first time I forgot my distance,
I took her in my arms and held her.

Waking up, I felt how alone I was.
I walked on the dock.
Fishing alone in the far north.


Black Pony Eating Grass

Near me a black and shaggy pony is eating grass,
that crunching is night being ripped away from day,
a crystal's sound when it regains its twelve sides.

Our life is a house between two hills.
Flowers stand open on the altar,
the moonlight hugs the sides of poppies.

In a few years we will die,
yet the grass continues to lift itself into the horse's teeth,
sharp harsh lines run though our bodies.
A star is also a stubborn man -
the Great Bear is seven old men walking.


The Fallen Tree

After a long walk I come down to the shore.
A cottonwood tree lies stretched out in the grass.
This tree knocked down by lightning -
and a hollow the owls made open now with rain.
Disasters are all right, if they teach
    men and women
to turn their hollow places up.

The tree lies stretched out
    where it fell in the grass.
It is so mysterious, waters below, waters above,
so little of it we can never know.








Back now for the second poem by Sue Clennell for this week. The poem was first published by The Western Australian.



Correspondent

The day your letter came
a rainbow spilled
on the front porch.
The black ink spidering
across the envelope
shouted my name then
whispered it was for me,
and unemployment and recession
fell off a flat earth.








Going to finally, for the first time in my life, get a passport. Except for border trips to Mexico and Canada, I haven't traveled out of the United States in more than 40 years and that travel was on military orders, so no passport was needed.



bananafanafofana

i had
a passport picture
taken today

a good double-duty
deal -
after the border agents
take a look at the picture
and arrest me as
a terrorist
the very same picture
can be used
again
when they book me into
that Cuba place,
Guacamole
or what ever

Dee took me down
to Walmart
and set me down on
the passport picture taking
stool and i don't even know
why i need a passport
but i guess she'll tell me
when we get wherever we're going

and i don't much care -
as long as it's a civilized country
with coffee houses and
internet and dependable WIFI
being there won't interrupt
my life, which i enjoy,
by the way, too much
to be running off to weird
places like Upper Slobania
or Botswanna or some
bananafanafofana
republic in South America,
and i don't care how tasty their
bananas are cause
i don't even like bananas
except with Corn Flakes
and i expect nobody in those
bananafanafofana countries
has Corn Flakes
except maybe the president
and most of those guys
would probably rather shoot you
than share their Corn Flakes,
so where would that leave me, well,
with bananas and no Corn Flakes,
that's where

and the dude just cannot abide
such a tilt-a-whirl
existence as
that








The next two poems are by Brooke Bergan, from her book, Storyville published by Asphodel Press in 1994.

I've used poems from this book many times and have outlined the story of Storyville and the photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, a run-of-the-mill commercial photographer who, on his own, documented through his photographs the Storyville of his time and the prostitutes who lived and worked in it.

The poems in the book are Bergan's reactions to the time and the place and Bellocq's photos of the whores.

The "plate" numbers in the poem titles refer to Bellocq's photograph plate of the picture that inspired the poem.



Plate 18: Cover Girl

the breasts are familiar

the wide hips
flat stomach, a contemporary
body, angles and bones
and its own strange
beauty held rigid
sideways on a settee

a false position

beneath:
light pubic hair, skin
of the photo, smell familiar
as my own, etched
flaw, breasts,
shoulder and hair gleam
against pillow too many heads
rested upon left hand
curls instinctively
fastidious touching

as little as possible

unknown hair trapped
in the weave she lies left
nipple trailing dangerously
close to that rough
darkness perhaps
only another flaw
the large, pale eyes
accuse, resigned
and unforgiving.


Plate 20: Venus Leaning on a Dresser

rises from a sea
of silver foam (insect
or fungus destroyed
gelatin's bright dust

beneath bare feet)
back arched as
wave from shore,
floats

    (floats -
motes in your eye,
beauty not perfection
stilled movement).

Arched above itself
a wave seems
to hesitate, curls
back into itself

    breaks
into bright light flakes
curls, and breaks
again.

reluctant goddess, wait
for no one in your
faded boudoir
eyes averted

from your visage
in the mirror behind you
the mirror you face, Cyprianna
riding the wave some

accident made after
the fact, real now
as the surgical scar
curved on your stomach

while we conspire
photographer and poet
through silence or speech
to tease out beauty

from you ravished stillness.








Next, another poem from out friend Laurel Lamperd, her second poem for this week.



Borderline

He said get rid of it
and went up north
shearing

She couldn't remember their names
There were two years between some
less between others.
Her eldest girl always
had one on her hip.

She escaped to the river
to the moss covered rocks
and wind driven trees
to write a poem.

The poem was for her friend
dead from a backyard abortionist
The last word she wrote was
Freedom.

The children who survived
the homes and foster parents
returned to search for her.
The eldest girl looked under the moss
seeing the word








Not a rant this next one, but more of a personal manifesto, a statement of the rules of language by which I write.



forbidden

i resist
the idea of "forbidden" words
because
i think words are words
and as a writer
if i find that a particular
word is the right word
then i want to use it
gloriously
because, as writers know,
finding the truly right word
is a glorious thing
in a world
where the word is most often
the nearly right word
or maybe the wrong word
altogether

i
think,
once found,
the right word
should be used fearlessly
but that doesn't mean
all words
are equal in their suitability

i
for example
almost never
use words like cunt
or motherfucker
or spic
or nigger-lover
or any such
because i almost never
write poems
where those words
are the right words, though
some do write such poems
that are good poems
that use these words perfectly
and i applaud
both the excellence of the poems
and the fierceness of the poets
who commit to the requirements
of the truth of their art

for i believe
truth
is the first obligation
of the artist
and a word,
if used as it should be used,
is a form of truth
and
truth
should never be
denied
or rendered
forbidden








Next, I have a poem by Robert Penn Warren. The poem is from his book Rumor Verified, Poems 1979-1980, published by Random House.



Dawn

Dawnward, I wake. In darkness, wait.
Wait for first light to seep in as sluggish and gray
As tidewater fingering timbers in a long-abandoned hulk.
In darkness I try to make out accustomed objects.

But cannot. It is as though
Their constituent atoms had gone to sleep and forgotten
Their duty of identity. But at first
Inward leakage of light they will stir

To the mathematical dance of existence. Bookcase,
Chest, chairs - they will dimly loom, yearn
Toward reality. Are you
Real when asleep? Or only when,

Feet walking, lips talking, or
Your member making its penetration, you
Enact, in a well-designed set, that ectoplasmic
Drama of laughter and tears, the climax of which always

Strikes with surprise - though the script is tattered and torn?
I think how ground mist is thinning, think
How , distantly eastward, the line of dark woods can now
Be distinguished from sky. Many

Distinctions will grow, and some
Will, the heart knows, be found
Painful. On the far highway,
A diesel grinds, groans on the grade.

Can the driver see the color above the far woods yet?
Or will dawn come today only as gray light through
Clouds downward soaking, as from a dirty dishrag?
I think of a single tree in a wide field.

I wonder if, in this grayness, the tree will cast a shadow.
I hold up my hand. I can vaguely see it. The hand.
Far, far, a crow calls. In gray light
I see my hand against he white ceiling. I move

Fingers. I want to be real. Dear God,
To Whom, in my triviality,
I have given only trivial thought,
Will I find it worthwhile to pray that You let

The crow, as least once more, call?








Here's our friend Sue Clennell, with her third poem for this week. The poem first appeared in The Perfect Diary.



In black and white

Where my father
wheeled me around,
I now wheel him.
Where my father fed me,
I now feed him.
Together we watch Buster Keaton,
who sits on the handlebars
and maneuvers through traffic,
not realizing the cyclist
has fallen off.
Who sails a car in the water,
slips on banana skins,
and can only afford a dollar box of candy
for his sweetheart.
I always cry at sad movies.








I'm not one who likes to deliver ultimatums, but some times the nature in a situation requires it.



or else

the old coot
in the booth down
a-ways
from me is being
way
more obnoxious
than any old coot
has a right to be, not
to mention more obnox-
ious than it's safe to be
given the frail grip
old coots
have on the slippery
slope of life

not to mention
my personal irritation
at his behavior
and the way
it puts all us old coots
in a bad light

i think
if we had a vote
right here
right now
the old coot
would be locked
away
in a nursing home
in a new york minute
not to mention
i don't have a clue
how long a new york
minute is
but i'm guessing it's fast
since all the pictures
i've ever seen
of new york shows
people rushing rushing
rushing, not to mention
i've never been in new york,
not even for a new york minute,
so i don't know for sure
about any of this
and like i said
it's all guesswork

oh, hell,
now the spouse
of coot
has jumped into
the fray, acting
very cootish
herself, complaining
about something,
gripe, gripe, gripe
in her quivering
coottie
voice about the
hollandaise sauce
and i'm thinking
holy cripes lady
this is texas
where complaining
about the bar-b-que
sauce is a god-given
right but when it comes
to hollandaise
you should just be
happy
old jake the cook
in the back knows
what it is and if he
thinks it needs a touch
of jalopena well old
jake is the cook
and he gets to do it
the way he wants

so quit all your old
coot complaining
unless you want to
brace old jake
in the kitchen by his
cook pot yourself

and it's too dang
hot in here -
i don't know why
people here have to
turn their heaters
up to 85 inside
the minute it goes
down to 55 outside

not to mention
i think i'm about
a new york minute
away from a heat stroke
here and think i'll have to
complain
since i'm being driven out
by the heat
before i've even finished
my second pot of coffee
not to mention
my butt's gone to sleep
sitting here
and it's going to look like
i have a flat-as-a-pancake-butt
when i walk out of here

not to mention
i've had 'bout eighteen
cups of coffee
since i got here
and will need to go pee
in a new york minute
or else








I have two poems now by Naomi Shihab Nye from her book 19 Varieties of Gazelle - Poems of the Middle East. Nye, who currently lives in San Antonio, has received, among many other honors, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, the I.B. Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets and four Pushcart Prizes.

Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother in St. Louis in 1952, Nye has been writing about Jerusalem, the West Bank, and her family almost all of her life, while, at the same time, gathering and editing a number of anthologies of poetry from the Middle East.



The Words Under the Words

      for Sitti Khadra, north of Jerusalem

My grandmother's hands recognize grapes,
the damp shine of a goat's new skin.
When I was sick they followed me,
I work from the long fever to find them
covering my head like cool prayers.

My grandmother's days are made of bread,
a round pat-pat and the slow baking.
She waits by the oven watching a strange car
circle the streets. Maybe it holds her son,
lost to America. More often, tourists,
who kneel and weep at mysterious shrines.
She knows how often mail arrives,
how rarely there is a letter.
When one comes, she announces it, a miracle,
listening to read again and again
in the dim evening light.

My grandmother's voice says
nothing can surprise her.
Take her the shotgun wound and the crippled baby.
She knows the spaces we travel through,
the messages we cannot send - our voices are short
and would get lost on the journey.
Farewell to the husband's coat,
the ones she has loved and nourished,
who fly from her like seeds into a deep sky.
They will plant themselves. We will all die.

My grandmother's eyes say Allah is everywhere,
   even in death.
When she speaks of the orchard
and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha
and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of is
   His name.

"Answer if you hear the words under the words -
otherwise it is just a world
with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets
full of stones."


Lunch in Nablus City Park

When you lunch in a town
which has recently known war
under a calm slate sky mirroring none of it,
certain words feel impossible in the mouth.
Casualty: too casual, it must be changed.
A short man stacks mounds of pita bread
on each end of the table, muttering
something about more to come.
Plump birds landing on park benches
surely had their eyes closed recently,
must have seen nothing of weapons or blockades.
When the woman across from you whispers
I don't think we can take ti anymore
and you say there are people praying for her
in the mountains of Himalaya and she says
Lady, it is not enough, then what?








And now, the last poem for the week by our friend Laurel Lamperd. The poem first appeared in Small Packages, then won 1st prize in Biosphere.



Pastures

Green and lush
were the pastures
that spring
when it rained and rained
and the washing wouldn't dry
and the children squabbled
and fought in the house.

This year the country
is bare earth.
Wind erodes
sending dust storms
eddying drunkenly across paddocks.

The children want to
dance inside them.

The dust comes on a face today
the day the trucks took
the last of the sheep.








It's nice, early in the morning, to be superfluous to the goings and doings of the rest of the world.



and all is good this morning

still a half hour
before sunrise, i pass
a 7-car fender-bender
on the loop, all cars safely
moved to the shoulder,
about a dozen people
standing around, about
half on their cell phones,
all victims of rush-hour
auto acrobatics, all pissed
that their morning rush
to wherever they have
to be has been interrupted
by that stupid whoever
who jigged when he should
have jagged leaving all
these people upon
whom the whole world
depends for proper
memo distribution, proper
grocery shelf stocking,
proper computer computing,
proper nail hammering, proper frozen
chicken delivering, proper real
estate selling, proper ad-writing,
all these rush-people essential to the daily
turning of the earth and maintenance
or gravity for us all, stranded now
for who knows how long by that
stupid whoever and his improperly
timed jigging and jagging

all these people with someplace
to be, stuck where they are,
as i pass by, slowly
reveling
in the torpitude of my
don't-have-to-be-anywhere
morning

knowing
all
is good
in my world
this morning








The next two poems are by William Everson from his book The Residual Years, Poems 1934 - 1948, first published by New Directions in 1935. Early editions of the book included only mimeographed copies of poems written by Everson while in a work camp for conscientious objectors. When the 1949 edition was published, new poems from 1946, 1947, and 1948. My copy of the book, a 1968 edition, includes all those poems, plus earlier work and offered, for the first time in print, the complete poetic works of Everson prior to his becoming a Catholic and entering into the Dominican Order. For the remainder of his life he lived, wrote, and published as Brother Antoninus. Born in 1912, Brother Antoninus died in 1994, having become a leading figure in the San Francisco Beat movement of the 50s and 60s.



Night Scene

"After the war," he thought, "after the war - "
And crossing, traveled the street at a long angle,
So late it being and no traffic now,
Blotched stars,
Laid its mark on the moon:
A halo's hoop.
Pursed he his lips for a thick whistle,
But felt the naked unutterable desolation of the sleeping city
Breathing behind the shuttered shops;
And saw the weak sign,
The horse-turd ripe in the raw street;
And mounting the curb
Saw with that sudden cold constriction
Soldier and girl,
In their surd tussle,
Sprawled in a jeweler's door.


The Citadel

The janitor knew;
High priest of the wastebasket,
Bridging the outer and inner worlds,
The janitor knew -
As did also the staff,
The auditors and the higher clerks;
Even the salesmen,
Those casuals of the corridors -
All knew, all knew but Norstrem,
Who, blithe in his function,
Worked on unaware.

Resourceful, diligent,
Abler no doubt than the men who survived him,
Neither his special brilliance nor his general worth
Would at last avail.
For in the upper office,
The citadel,
The shrouded vault in the maze of rooms,
The fabulous center he had not seen
Nor could ever aspire to -
There in that sanctum his fate was decreed.

He worked for weeks,
Absorbed and unknowing,
Serene in his ignorance,
Constructing his proper place in that world;
Until the sharp morning,
Cryptic with frost,
His manager blandly summoned him in,
And told him what all knew but he.








Next, here's the last poem for the week by Sue Clennell. The poem was first published in Quadrant.



The Ink Drinker

Jimmie Stewart once talked of an actor
who always upstaged      but this time
this time
he was told to just write a letter,
while the other actor
his big chance
talked.
He drank the ink, didn't he?

Well I knew a woman the same.
Couldn't take her anywhere,
the spotlight shone on her
in every scene.
I taciturned at such functions,
the rule had been carved
and grained into me
like an old school desk,
you can't beat an ink drinker.








I'll have my normal breakfast this morning - eggs over easy and philosophy, all the usual.



a minor poet explains it all

i'm eating
breakfast north-faced
today,
unusual,
because normally
i sit at the booth
at the other end, the one
next to the electric plug,
where i face south
as i eat

this morning
that booth was taken
by another south-faced,
keyboard clicking
diner,
leaving me
at this end, in the
only other booth next
to an electric plug
where i now face breakfast
facing north

i'm not sure
what effect this will have
on the gastro-dynamics
of my egg over easy
and extra-crispy bacon
but it does
present a subtly different
view which, could have far-reaching
psychological effects

those, like me,
who normally eat breakfast
facing toward the south
face the oncoming traffic on the
interstate,
while those, like me today,
who eat breakfast
facing north
face interstate traffic
going away

a reason,
i believe, why
south-facing diners
are usually
highly motivated people
with the supreme confidence
required
to write meaningless, totally
trivial, poetry
while
north-facing diners
often suffer from abandonment issues
and are frequent victims
of depression








I have a poem now by Anne Sexton from her book To Bedlam and Part Way Back, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1960.

Anne Sexton, born in Massachusetts in 1928, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967. A sufferer of deep depressions, she took her own life in 1974, after many pprevious attempts.



Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at the villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where you flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where you wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.








It has occurred to me that the more I write, the more restricted becomes the range of my subject matter



the deer and the pigs and me, again

i used
to write about

lots of different
things

but,
lately,

i seem to be
writing mostly about

myself
which would be OK

if i was a more interesting
guy

but
i'm not

and i know
the tolerance level

to me
is declining

even
to me

so how to get out
of this me-rut -

think of things
that are interesting

or beautiful
to me

but not about me,
like the herd

of deer
i saw yesterday evening

on the hillside pasture
across the interstate -

the tranquility
of the deer grazing

in early dusk
a contrast to the

moving necklace
of headlights, fast-moving

lights,
workers on their way home

to family and dinner
and Tuesday-night television -

the deer placidly and fully
fed and entertained

by their dinner
on the hill

and i'm reminded of the evening
about this time

coming home
from Kerrville on this same interstate

cresting a hill
as i rounded a curve

coming face to wet brown nose
with another herd

of deer
in the middle of the highway -

probably the most skillful driving
and i've ever done,

getting safely through and around the
herd, first frozen in my headlights,

then in panic, scattering
with great leaps

in every direction,
mindless in their fear -

the best driving
i've ever done except

one time, maybe a dream,
maybe for real,

when i had the same experience
with a group of pigs

on a farm-to-market road,
waddling porkers instead of fleet-footed deer -

but here we are again,
back to where we started,

talking about me
again

and my dreams








And, so we're finished for the week.As usual, all of the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. And, also as usual, all of my stuff is availaable should anyone want it, with the sole proviso that the source be identified.

I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and I say so.

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