I Am the Postman   Friday, February 26, 2010


I'm posting this week from Phoenix, Arizona, our second day in the home direction from Lake Tahoe. I've been on the road a full week now; Dee joined me in Reno Monday afternoon. I expect we'll be home by Sunday. It's been a great week for me, good pictures and a chance at some good poems. All of which are here in this post today. I hope you enjoy my little get-away as much as I did.

In addition to my stuff and our regular roster of good poems, my featured poet this week is Derek Richards.

Derek says that, after failing miserably as a rock star, he began submitting his poetry. As a result, over 130 of his poems have appeared in over seventy publications, including Lung, Breadcrumb Scabs, MediaVirus, Calliope Nerve, tinfoildresses, Opium 2.0, Dew on the Kudzu, Sex and Murder, Splash of Red and fourpaperletters. He adds that he has also been told to keep his day job by Quills and Parchment.

Nothing annoys him more, he says, than poetry written solely to make someone feel stupid. His ferret, cat and puppy couldn't agree more, he says. Here! Here! I say.

Happily engaged, he resides in Gloucester, MA.,cleaning windows for a living, he says.

Creating the blog and posting it from hotel rooms after 400 to 500 miles of driving is a challenge. So, I'm simplifying things this week by leaving out the listing of contents. You'll just have to read this thing to know who I've got.

Ah, hell, I hate half-assed.

Here's what I have this week.

Conrad Kent Rivers
Four Sheets to the Wind and a One-Way Ticket to 1933

Amiri Baraka
The End of Man Is His Beauty

Bob Kaufman
Cocoa Morning

Derek Richards
confession of wayward reason

El Paso at an early hour

Chao Chih-Hsin
A Mid-Autumn Night
Presented to a Mountain Dweller

just passing through

Derek Richards
praising chaos

Tao Lin
that was bad; i shouldn't have done that
are you ok?
hamster heads with little characteristics on the head, part three

Derek Richards
blood drips into gravy

sleeping with Andy Devine

four short verses

i am the postman

Derek Richards
on the day Robert Parker died

Philip Nikolayev
Hello to Gorbachev
Bohemina Blues

a storm crosses Lake Tahoe

Joyce Carol Oates
Dream After Bergen-Belsen
I Don't Want to Alarm You

Derek Edwards
decomposition: telling secrets

around the lake

Gary Snyder
True Night

adios, Nevada

I start this week with three poets from the anthology, American Negro Poetry, published originally in 1963 and in an updated edition in 1974 by Hill and Wang.

The first of the three poets is Conrad Kent Rivers.

Rivers, a poet, fiction writer and dramatist, was born in Atlantic City in 1933. He died in 1968, publishing three volumes of poetry during the course of his short life, and a fourth days after his death.

Four Sheets to the Wind and a One-Way Ticket to France, 1933

As a Black Child I was a dreamer
I bought a red scarf and women told me how
Beautiful it looked.
Wandering through the heart of France
As France wandered through me.

In the evenings,
I would watch the funny people make love,
My youth allowed me the opportunity to hear
All those strange
Verbs conjugated in erotic affirmations,
I knew love at twelve.

When Selassie went before his peers and
Africa gained dignity
I read in two languages, not really caring
Which one belonged to me.
My mother lit a candle for King George,
My father went broke, we died.
When I felt blue, the champs understood
And when it was crowded, the alley
Behind Harry's New York bar soothed my
Restless spirit.

I liked to watch the Bohemians gaze at the
Paintings along Gauguins bewildered paradise.

Bracque once passed me in front of the Cafe Musique
I used to watch those sneaky professors examine
The populace,
Americans never quite fitted in, but they
Tried, so we smiled.

I guess the money was too much for my folks,
Hitler was such a prig and a scare, they caught
The last boat.
   I stayed.

Main street was never the same, I read Gide
And tried to
Translate Proust. (Now nothing is real except
French wine.)
For absurdity is reality, my loneliness unreal,

And I shall die an old Parisian, with much honor.

My next poet from the anthology is Amiri Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones, a writer of poetry, drama, essays, and music criticism. There is a lot of story to Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, not easily summarized. I'll let you look it up yourself.

The End of Man Is His Beauty

And silence
which proves but
a referent
to my disorder.
         Your world shakes

cities die
beneath your shape.
         The single shadow

at noon
like a live tree
whose leaves
are like clouds

weightless soul
at whose love faith moves
as a dark and
withered day.

They speak of singing who
have never heard song; of living
whose deaths are legends
for their kind.

         A scream
gathered in wet fingers
at the top of its stalk.
- They have passed
and gone
whom you thought your lovers

In this perfect quiet, my friend,
their shapes
are not unlike

My last poet from the anthology is Bob Kaufman, born 1925 in New Orleans, he died in 1986. He was a Beat poet and surrealist inspired by jazz music. In France, where his poetry had a large following, he was known as the "American Rimbaud."

Cocoa Morning

Variations on a theme by morning,
Two lady birds move in the distance.
Gray jail looming, bathed in sunlight.
Violin tongues whispering.

Drummer, hummer, on the floor,
Dreaming of wild beats, softer still,
Yet free of violent city noise.
Please, sweet morning,
Stay here forever.

Here's this week's first poem from our featured poet of the week, Derek Richards.

The poem first appeared in Splash of Red.

confessions of wayward reason

liquor stores sell cigarettes and that sells me.
after the last valium overdose,
i decided to stop attending meetings
and focus on my lungs.

the rose garden across the street
is cursed with beauty and honey bees.
a place i want to stomp, rumble,
a pleasant haven for procrastination.

graveyards have never been quiet places for me.
there are songs i hear, love notes torn,
repeated phrases about pain, profit and purgatory.
and so i reason, i cry mercy, i wilt and stumble
all the while, pretending to hallucinate genius.

This is my first poem for the week. It's from the first night of my recent drive-around.

El Paso at an early hour

the air is desert
chill -

a pink thread
on the east horizon
suggests the coming
of a rising sun -

stench of low-grade diesel carried
by low morning
crosses the border
from Cuidad Juarez,
its people,
a million strong
waking in the dark,
their yellow lights
like stars flung
the mountainside -

the pink thread
widens -
a shadowing light
spreads -

from the north foothills
a coyote

Next, I have three short poems by Chao Chih-Hsin, from the anthology Waiting for the Unicorn - Poems and Lyrics of China's Last Dynasty, 1644-1911, published by Indiana University Press in 1990.

Chao was a poet early in the period covered by the book. Born in 1662, he died in 1744. A precocious scholar, he received his first degree at the age of 14 and was 18 when he received his second.

Through a network of friends and his own abilities, he advanced quickly through the ranks of Imperial administration, until committing the social error of attending a play too soon after the death of an important member of the Imperial family. At the age of 28, his official career came to an end and he never held another office.

Instead, he traveled widely in southern China, made many friends, and devoted himself to the writing of poetry and literary criticism.

All three of these poems were translated by Michael S. Duke.

A Mid-Autumn Night

The autumn air banishes lingering rains.
An empty courtyard invites distant breezes -
One glass of mulberry dew wine,
At midnight in the moon-bright season.
A longtime traveler feels the night is endless,
In early coldness grows drunk too slowly.
Still resigns his bleak and lonely feelings
To a rendezvous with far-off chrysanthemums.


Once more coming through the door with rain,
Suddenly flying over the wall on the wind,
Although they need the grass to achieve their nature,
The do not depend on the moon for light.
Understanding the secluded one's feelings,
I briefly invite them to dwell in my gauze bag.
Just look: falling through vast empty space,
How do they differ from the great star's rays?

Presented to a Mountain Dweller

Looking like a wild deer sleeping against the cliffs,
Casually wandering out of the valleys with the flowing streams.
Since the travelers asked him about the frosty trees,
They all come to know his face, but do not know his name.

Another poem from my trip, this one the second day.

just passing through

passing through
just north of the state line

the rich manure stink
of dairy farms
one after the other,
black and white cows
like flies
on a steaming pile
of fresh horse turds

in each lot
a hill
and on each hill
a cow,
sometimes two


why do they seek
these hills, this elevated outlook -
do even dairy cows
carry the instinct of high places,
places to see prey
and predator before they see you?

and how?

among hundreds of placid
dairy cows
is the one chosen that is allowed
this high place?


a little past Radium Springs
on I-25 -
on the left,
foothills of sand and rock
and desert bushes, beyond them


on the right
a Rio Grande river delta valley,
green and cultivated
pecan orchards,
church steeples
yellow school buses
red lights
on two-lane

hanging over all this



just as i leave Hatch,
hanging with red Hatch
chili peppers,
rounding a curve
in the highway

first snow


a lake
on the right,

a little community
of small houses and mobile homes

and in each driveway
a boat


a hawk,
dead in the middle of the road,
a casualty
of flying too low,
flying too slow

a single wing
like a flag stands
above the mess
of bloody
mangled meat and bone -

brown and white feathers
in the wind


i stop
for a burger
at a little town
on I-20
named after a
TV game show
from the early fifties
that mostly everyone who might remember
is dead

the menu says
"best cheeseburger in southern New Mexico" -

that might not have been
the entire and unvarnished truth

and i'm suffering the

i wonder if Bob Barker
ever ate here


the GPS lady
gets insistent,
angry -

she wants me to take
Route 6
from Los Lunas
to I-40,
passing west
of Albuquerque

but i want to go through
for dinner at a favorite
in Old Town

make a u-turn
in 300 feet, she says to me
when i skip the exit
she wanted me to take

make a u-turn
at your first opportunity,
she says
after i ignore her

make a u-turn
she says,
make a u-turn
make a u-turn
make a u-turn

until she quits,
has a drink

picks me up again in Albuquerque

i am not forgiven,
but i will continue to be


about halfway
between Albuquerque and Gallup,
a lava field,
curiously, on only one side of the road

black lava rock scattered all across the desert
and on up the side of the foothills

that's on one side -
on the other,
just plain old desert sand and gravel

how many million years ago,

two million?
three million?

a New Mexico Dept. of Transportation
civil engineer
stands where the road will be

no lava past here,
he says

The Great To-Be State of New Mexico
claims it
now and in perpetuity,
he vows,
we'll have no volcano mess
on our right-of-way


nearing Gallup,
i reach the snow level,
patches first,
mostly in shadowed areas
where the day's sun
could not reach

then more and more,
until the desert is covered in white,
a thin layer,
little individual sprigs
of desert grass poke through
here and there,
like Kilroy,
with a really bad haircut.


my hotel
is too new for GPS,
but i find it
after a couple miles driving in the wrong
and a quick pass through downtown,
one pawn shop
and quick loan emporium
after another,
giving hard evidence
to the widely promised economic
development and prosperity
following legalization of
casino gambling,

after Reba gets her walk,
we settle in,
our home for the night
on Route 66

Here's featured poet Derek Richards again, with his second poem for the week.

praising chaos

chronic deflation arrested by upheaval,
further indisputable proof
the chaos theory
is crucial for my healing.

when has the violent gust of broken glass
sunk me into melancholy
instead of wild-iris?
a halo of angst
as prodigal colors reversed.

whimsical glimpses of peace and rest
are as deadly as rush hour mirages.
it is by their glow my pulse expands,
sipping on adrenaline
until decades
play out
between thumps.

i'm going out.
call me when the world tilts angry,
when the zagging hum of disheveled place
crashes into honest brutal time.
and then i will hurry home,

gasping for breath, out of tune,

The next two poems are by Tao Lin, from his book, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, published Melville House in 2008.

This is a poet I really like, though I don't always understand wonderfully dizzying connections he makes. He is a young poet, born in 1983, living in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of a novel Eeeee Eee Eeee, a collection of short stories, Bed, and earlier book of poetry, You Are A Little Bit Happier Than I Am.

that was bad; i shouldn't have done that

to prevent you from entering a catatonic state
i am going to maintain a calm facial expression
with crinkly eyes and an overall friendly demeanor
i believe in a human being that is not upset
i believe if your are working i should not be insane
or upset - why am i ever insane or upset and not working?
i vacuumed the entire house this morning
i cleaned the kitchen and the computer room
and i made you a meat helmet with computer paper
the opportunity for change exists in each moment, all moments are
and separate from other moments, and there are a limited number of
and the idea of change is a delusion of positive or negative thinking
your hands are covering your face
and your body moves like a statue
when i try to manipulate an appendage
if i could just get you to cry tears of joy one more time

are you okay

i don't think telling someone "don't feel sad" will console them

you need to do whatever you can to make them feel better

whenever your actions make them feel sad

and not stop until they feel better

read my text message and think about it

you just never seem happy with me anymore

even if i make you laugh

i think the damage i've done has become irreversible

i'm surrounded by endless shit

i can't move

where are you

i just had a dream where i came to nyc but i didn't tell you and i took
    the subway

to your apartment and waited for your roommate to come out so i
    could sneak in

then i went into your room and crawled under your sheets from the
    end of your bed

and crawled to your face and kissed you and pet and hugged you

and we fell asleep

happy birthday

i drew you and ugly fish comic

will you visit me today?

i want to hold you

and kiss your face

i miss walking with you at night

I really do like this guy - so here's a bonus, a short poem from his hamster series.

hamsters are heads with little characteristics on the head, part three

in the evening the hamster sits at the computer
watermelon juice and coffee sit by the computer
the hamster drinks all the coffee
after a few minutes the hamster drinks all of the watermelon juice

the hamster lays its paw atop a neatly folded to-do list; there is
   resourceful hamster
with a strong will, a sincere and loving hamster friend, and a confident
we do not need to spend any more time or empathy on this hamster

And it's back to Derek Richards and poem number 3.

blood drips into gravy

when cut-wrist-blood adds flavor to the salisbury steak television dinner
gravy swaying gently on your thighs
maybe the once-a-week therapy sessions are nothing more than
quick-slip-fucks to your insurance company
and the heroin eyes sneaking up on you each morning
are more stone culprit than actual existence

to move a blue-heavy arm away like it's a twenty-pound fly
aggravating your routine is something worth examining without
a clipboard-bearded professional providing multiple options
jenny-jane wants you to go back to deep-sea fishing
because at least then you were only drinking straight-gut-whiskey
heroin just makes you think smart and fuck dumb
hours and hours of limp-intellect-laziness

at least when you were drunk, you'd bring me flowers
of course she never mentions your ability to watch endless hours
of daytime soap-opera television, your soft-kind-manners
early-on in the relationship she confided that she liked you better
when you smelled dirty, sweaty, that it made her growl
hangovers make you want to shower, hot water, cold towels
this is like a baked oven creating blanket-thick layers

it certainly wasn't any fun calling 911 and reporting on noah,
cops and medics all circling in vulture loops, licking like lizards
but somewhere the brain-garage knew it was all a performance
and soon silence would return if she could just stop talking
how could you promise me stability being nothing but a junkie?
i do know there is another television dinner in the freezer,
chicken nuggets with macaroni and cheese, a blueberry muffin
noah and his dripping-blood-wrist-distraction, gone just as today
slides on up to midnight, vacant and silent, after-dead

This poem now, is from my third day on the road.

sleeping with Andy Devine

cold and wet
leaving Gallup,
and wetter
passing into Arizona

40 miles in, i pass
a billboard

"God Bless America"

the rain stops
clouds part
& sun streams
from the heavens

i'm still not convinced

and it started
raining again twenty miles
further down the road


under a pile of dirty clothes
in the handicap restroom stall
at the first rest stop
in Arizona

a cold man
a little warmth, but
if i was a bum,
i sure as hell wouldn't
be here

that's what god made
california for -
so bums
could sleep in the park


through the high desert,
as far as you can see

then mountains
on the horizons, north and west

snow capped


pass the homes
of poor rural people
on either side

several dogs
in front,
a horse
and two or three goats
in the back

a '49 chevy
and a '52 dodge pick-up -
one on rotting rubber,
one on blocks

way the hell away
from everything

i know these people,
or their cousins
from further south

grew up with them

this is Navajo country,
so i guess the folks are Indian
or Native American
or First Peoples

as a German-Irish-Scot-
Arab-white-boy-mutt, true product
of the war, famine, pestilence,
flood, volcano, earthquake,
romance and lust of history's
melting pot,
i sometimes don't know
the nomenclature
by those of a less complicated


strong winds pushing across me,
fight me,
steady pressure
pushing me toward
the shoulder

whip across the road
in front of me,
chasing the wind,
never catching it

i've known people like this,
blown always
by capricious
never finding


i see a buffalo
in it's shaggy brown
eating green sprouts
between giant red boulders

that's buffalo,
not bison
Bison Bill is too ludicrous
to consider


the turn off
to the petrified forest

i had seen it before
when i was a kid,
through my 3-D circular
slide thing
that i got one year for Christmas, but
was still
when seen directly
by the immensity of time
as measured by living thing
turned rock

my son,
seven at the time,
was less so,
but he's studying geology now
so maybe some connection
was made


dense white clouds
cover the horizon ahead -

or dust storm,
not what i'd like to see


sleet -
the strong winds
even stronger -
ice pellets
like bb shot


approaching Flagstaff
i realize i have been here before,
20 years ago,
the same year we stopped at
the petrified forest,
a trip to the Grand Canyon,
Dee and i, my son, and
my mother
who always looked forward
to traveling with us, so anxious
to see the Grand Canyon, but
upon arriving, so overcome by acrophobia,
one of the early signs of her decline,
that I couldn't talk her out of the car


lunch in Flagstaff

light snow

moving on
through the national forest
and between the mountains
the snow gets much worse,
hard across the road,
the sky closes in,
and the temperature
drops to near freezing

after ten miles of steep
i'm back near desert level

the clouds clear,
the temperature goes back up,
and fat driving snowflakes
hitting my windshield
turn to fat splashing raindrops

as the weather clears,
to her bed in the back
sensing sub-tropic boy's
on this freezing icy highway,
she had moved up to lay at
my elbow


as the weather clears,
i begin to think of coffee
as the little town of Winslow

and on a roadside sign,
"Mojo's Gourmet Coffee"

just in time

i find Mojo's
and a skinny barista with more tattoos
than lots of folks have skin,
and in the corner
a little group of old cowboys
sitting a round table,
some just listening,
two singing
and picking their guitars -
country ballads, Marty Robbins
and the like, and some of their own

"I once loved a girl in
Albuquerque," sang one

"I wanted to be a cowboy,"
sang the other
as i was leaving,
"but I was always afraid of cows"


the end of a long day
and my stop for the night
in Kingman,
getting close now to Nevada

my hotel is on
Andy Devine Trail

(Andy Deaven, stress on the "Dea"
the GPS lady
pronounces it - god save us
from such modern

but i'm happy anyway,
cause fat old Andy was
one of my heroes when i was
a kid
and i am pleased and proud
to spend a night
on his street

makes me want to go outside
and pluck
my magic twanger

Now I have four short poems by Kabir, as interpreted by Robert Bly. They are from the book Kabir, Ecstatic Poems.

A weaver by trade but a poet-singer by calling, Kabir lived in fifteenth-century India. His philosophy incorporated various beliefs of both Muslims and Hindus and later became one of the major inspirations behind Sikhism.

The verses are not titled.


I don't know what sort of a God we have been
    talking about.

The caller calls in a loud voice to the Holy One at
Why? Surely the Holy One is not deaf.
He hears the delicate anklets that ring on the feet of
    an insect as it walks.

Go over and over your beads, paint weird designs on
wear your hair matted, long and ostentatious,
but when the deep inside you there is a loaded gun, how
    can you have God?


I have been thinking of the difference
    between water
and the waves on it. Rising,
water's still water, falling back,
it is water, will you give me a hint
how to tell them apart?

Because someone has made up a word
"wave," do I have to distinguish it
from water?

There is a Secret One inside us;
the planets in all the galaxies
pass through his hands like beads.

That is a string of beads on should look at with
    luminous eyes.


Inside this clay jug there are canyons and pine mountains,
    and the maker of canyons and pine mountains!
All seven oceans are inside, and hundreds of millions
    of stars.
The acid that tests gold is there, and the one who
    judges jewels.
And the music from the strings no one touches, and
    the source of all water.

If you want the truth, I will tell you the truth:
Friend, listen: the God whom I love is inside.


The Holy One disguised as an old person
    in a cheap hotel
Goes out to ask for carfare.
But I never seem to catch sight of him.
If I did, what would I ask him for?
He has already experienced what is missing in my
Kabir says: I belong to this old person.
Now let the events about to come, come!

This one is from the fourth day of travel.

i am the Postman

in my mind
was another West Texas,
further north
and colder in the winter,
but basically just another flat
of cactus, sand and rock
from one horizon to the next

i know

Nevada has mountains!



crossing Hoover Dam

stopping at an overlook
to view the view
and let Reba do some business

just as we arrive
three busloads of foreign tourists

probably Japanese

of the from India kind

and Latinos,
probably Mexican, but
of a further south origination

Reba basks
in all the international attention

but forgets to do her


the dam
itself is most impressive
for the parts
you cannot see

the stories and songs
of its building
American classics

like the transcontinental railroad

i think of the railroad
every time i pass through the mountains,
thinking of what it took
to build a railroad across these great heights
and divides

blood, sweat, tears,
and along with that, corruption
at every level
that greased the process to completion

why cannot we do these great things

is it that we hoard
the blood,
avoid the sweat,
use up our ration of tears
on Dr. Phil? -

or is it the corruption?

the problem -

is it that our politicians
are not corrupt enough
to do great things, or,

is it that our corrupt politicians
are not daring enough, small-time
and penny-ante even in their greed?


snow clouds
over mountain peaks
on both side of me

like buttermilk
over hot cornbread


light snow
dusts desert stones
and plants
with points of silvery

the snow falls
and soon they all
sport white

all disappears
under the white sea


a herd of horses,
twenty or thirty of them,
chase and play
in a field of snow


past Hawthorn
my route begins
to take me into new mountains

i am high above
what seems to be
a very large lake

heavy snow obscures
all details


i crest
the last of this latest section
of mountains
and laid out before me
a vast valley,
a basin surrounded
by peaks,
covered white
like a fresh tablecloth
at a New York


no problems
with ice on the road
until three miles from my destination,
the freeway
like a skating rink,
three four five cars
in each,
one after another

and so i end
nearly 600 miles of driving today

very slowly


across Nevada
east to west,

bright sunlight
and heavily falling snow

but i am not deterred
from my rounds

no longer the Walrus -

I am the Postman

Here's poem number four from featured poet Derek Richards. It was first published in Opium 2.0.

on the day Robert Parker died

we were at the local Market Basket
immersed in two-for-one deals,
stocking up on frozen dinners
and juices that sip
well with vodka
when the annoying buzz of an incoming text message
caught me staring at three
different brands of sliced pepperoni.
just heard robert parker died. oh no.

when i was 13 i would roam the streets
of tiny Essex, Massachusetts,
a liter of Wild Rose wine
in my jacket pocket.
I was thinking badly glorious thoughts
of big cities and publishing contracts,
record deals and pretty blonde women
willing to learn to love me.

Spenser For Hire was not a favorite.
i knew nothing of Hawk, Susan Silverman
or the true nuances of alcoholism.
it was just ache or want
to think that a famous author would one day
describe these very streets.

of course, i'm older now,
but i still dream about walking dead-town
streets with a cheap bottle of wine
inside my jacket.
on the day Robert Parker died,
it might have been a good idea.

i'm lost
like Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall,
and sometimes tough,
like Spenser himself or Hawk.
i look my best when wrapped
in bad-ass consequence,
solid knuckles and the vice
of saving the day.

when Parker wrote about Jesse struggling
with the idea of never having another drink,
i chewed on the same ice cubes.
when Susan involved herself
with another dangerous man,
i almost allowed myself to weep
because i knew what he really wanted to say.

Hawk will still stand guard, Mr. Parker,
and Susan will still lead Pearl-the-wonder-dog
from the bedroom once the dialogue
gets too frisky. Jesse Stone will always wonder
about Jennifer, and Sunny will never go a day
without trying to live up
to her father's reputation.

on the day Robert Parker died
i decided on pizza rolls,
salisbury steak dinners
and a pack of cigarettes.
i'll mix the vodka later,
sip the wine like Jesse would sip
Scotch and soda.

and when Pearl-the-wonder-Dog comes
scratching at the door,
i'll tell my sweetheart to have patience.
she's just another important character
in an imperfect life.

Philip Nikolayev was born in Moscow in 1966 and grew up fully bilingual in Russian and English thanks to his father, a linguist. He started out as a Russian poet, but came to the United States in 1990 to attend Harvard University, and has since been writing primarily in English. His poems have appeared in such journals as The Paris Review, Grand Street, Verse, Stand, Jacket, Salt, overland. He is also author of three collections of poems,

Philip Nikolayev is the author of two collections of poems, Artery Lumen, in 1996, Dusk Raga in 1998, and Monkey Time, winner of the 2001 Verse Prize. I have three short poems this week from that third poem, Monkey Time.

Hello to Gorbachev

Anent, ex-president, your cracking down
big time on drunkenness in Russia where
your reverie bloomed in and on the air
in 85; dissent in every town
was mounting fast. Many in silent wrath
turned out fierce moonshine in domestic stills,
while those without the high-tech rig and skills
reached satisfaction by a simple path.
Water, yeast, sugar, fruit, a glass jar and
a latex glove held by a rubber band
over the jar's round mouth: just when the brew
was ripe, thee flaccid glove filled out anew,
rising on vapors - a saluting hand.
We joked that this was our hello to you.


as a parrot
in a bush
to another
parrot said
man things
are not bad
what more
could we wish
and how
they'll come
then go
red feathers so
eat a mango
for now
the key
is to be

Bohemian Blues

The cold March afternoon waxed languid
with its late hours. The cinders sang
their lowpitched ancient fireplace ditty
with an insufferable hang.

I wasn't sleepy. On the table
there sat potato chips galore
with Morellino de Scansano,
vintage of 1994.

Fingers of shadow played obscurely
behind he weakened flames. Blase,
the Christmas cactus nodded mildly
like an art dealer from LA.

And I, with no premeditation,
returned Shelley to the shelf,
unwound sublimely on the sofa
lit up a cig and shot myself.

I left San Antonio on Thursday; finally reached Lake Tahoe last night, Monday. Lots of chasing around in the snow today.

The next poem is from Lake Tahoe.

a storm crosses Lake Tahoe

fifteen inches of snow in Reno
none here at Lake Tahoe

until now

the day,
bright and clear in the morning
and we drive some number of miles
around the lake, taking pictures
along the way

a change begins now

from my tenth floor window,
i watch snow clouds
cross the north mountains,
then begin a slow
drift across the water
toward us

the "little cat feet"
over cold water

the wind below
picks up,
stirs up little storms
of dust
as the larger storm
draws near

first flurries
past my window

I have two poems by novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, playwright and poet Joyce Carol Oates. The poems are from her book, The Time Traveler, published by E. P. Dutton in the early 90s.

Dream After Bergen-Belsen

Did you know
the brain is glass
and glass can shatter,
and sift, and shift

and give such hurt
beyond imagining
so consonants draw out
to Ooooooooo’s

like mouths, or eyes
popped from sockets
of pain and push,
a band tourniqueted

around the head
to bring the blood
to boil, and past,
as in the Nazi doctors'

experiments for
"science" and - well,
for fun:
did you know?

"I Don't Want to Alarm You"

I don't want to alarm you.
I know how hard a time you've had of it lately.
I know how, your back being broken, it's painful
for you to walk here with me
as if we were equals.

I know you try not to think about it.
And to forgive, where the forgetting has failed.
It's the wisest strategy, I think for you to assume
that air of subtly modulated hurt, a bit of dignity
in which no one much believes. Yet
saving face is courteous
and we thank you.

And if, these days, you are happiest,
in that sea-green haze between sleep and wakefulness
where the body floats placid, paralyzed,
and blessed, I think too that is the wisest strategy
for you, for now.

Here's our last poem for the week from Derek Edwards. I really like Derek's stuff and hope to see more of it here in the future.

decomposition: telling secrets

no one ever wanted
to be a poet
more than Jasmine
a thesaurus stole her virginity
long before Carlos

synonyms offered more orgasm
the pale skin of unhealthy rhyme

into soul
luxury into destitute

daydreams consisted of suburban ovens
choking black her head
like Sylvia
like dull green five-subject notebooks

suddenly aflame
an entire history of adjectives
written between her thumbs

she couldn't quite figure how John fit in
the silent-punk-rock-star
always read her words like they were foreplay

and then he would come

leave nothing but
you're too honest,
no one likes you because you divulge everything

Jasmine will stare a blank page
into oblivion
waiting for a pause to excuse static

she excels at English Lit
has even learned the nuances of Latin,
breathes easy the lazy nouns
of Spanish,

wishing Carlos still came around

Another day, another poem - truth is, I've lost track - not sure what day, what poem.

around the lake

slush puddles
on streets
and sidewalks

on the other side
of the lake
as well as those
hanging above us
by the clouds
that settle over us

in our south Texas home,
a city-wide emergency
would have been declared
hours ago, but here,
people walk on the side walks,
cars drive on the streets,
skiers line to take a lift to
a mountain top
whose existence must,
under these conditions,
be taken on faith

yellow school buses
snow chains clanking

Reba i go for a walk
at lakeside
in a park i found yesterday

we are not the first
to break the snow, little
duck tracks, triangles
divided by a line
from point to base,
and tracks of some bird
of a larger sort, tridents
in the snow

a white sailboat sits
half hidden in the

there yesterday
as well

home, home
on the

the carp
and the pelicans

The next poem is from my second book of poems by Gary Snyder, Ax Handles. It is Snyder's sixth book of poems.

Born in San Francisco in 1930, he and his family live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. His poems, like this one, reflect his close identification and communion with the natural world.

True Night

Sheath of sleep in the black of the bed:
From outside this dream womb
Comes a clatter
Comes a clatter
And finally the mind rises up to a fact
Like a fish to a hook
A raccoon at the kitchen!
A falling of metal bowls,
    the clashing of jars,
    the avalanche of plates
I snap alive to the ritual
Rise unsteady, find my feet,
Grab the stick, dash in the dark -
I'm a huge pounding demon
That roars at raccoons -
They whip around the corner,
A scratching sound tells me
    they’ve gone up a tree.

I stand at the base
Two young ones that perch on
Two dead stub limbs and
Peer down from both sides of the trunk:

    Roar, roar, I roar
    you awful raccoons, you wake me
    up nights, you ravage
    our kitchen

As I stay there then silent
The chill of the air on my nakedness
Starts off the skin
I am all alive to the night.
Bare foot shaping on gravel
Stick in the hand, forever.

Long streak of cloud giving way
To a milky thin light
Back of black pine bough,
The moon is still full,
Hillsides of Pine trees all
Whispering; crickets still cricketting
Faint in cold coves in the dark

I turn and walk back slow
Back the path to the beds
With goosebumps and lose waving hair
In the night of milk-moonlit thin cloud glow
And black rustling pines
I feel like a dandelion head
Gone to seed
About to be blown away
Or a sea anemone open and waving in
cool pearly water.

Fifty years old.
I still spend my time
Screwing nuts down on bolts.

At the shadow pool,
Children are sleeping,
And a lover I've lived with for years,
True night.
One cannot stay too long awake
In this dark

Dusty feet, hair tangling,
I stoop and slip back to the
Sheath, for the sleep I still need,
For the waking that comes
Every day

With the dawn.

Here's my last poem for the week. Not the end of my drive around - still have to get home. Maybe I'll have something on the return trip next week.

adios, Nevada

it is the last day
before we start home,
for me,
it's been
a week on the road
and i am ready
for my own front door
and my own back yard

the day
started really bad
but has cleared up since noon
to bright sunshine
and drying streets,
so it's almost like i'm sorry to go

but truth is
i'm not

i don't ski and i don't gamble
so the question rises,
what the hell am i doing here

the answer to that
is like the joke about the man
who comes home after
a business trip
to find his wife, naked,
in the bedroom - when
he opens the door to the closet
to hang up his coat
and finds another man, equally
what the hell are you doing here.
he shouts,
well, everybody gots to be somewhere,
the man answers

and i guess that's why i'm here

everybody gots to be somewhere

i don't think i'll be back

pulls a Puritan side out of me
i didn't know was there

where ever i do in the state
i catch a stench
of corruption

casinos everywhere;
slots everywhere;
losers everywhere -

Las Vegas -

a city built out of the desert
for suckers
by east coast gangsters
looking for a place to run their rackets
without having to worry too much
about honest cops
and honest judges and it all worked so well
the stench
crossed the state like a plague of iniquity

the mountains
are a majestic spectacle that lifts the heart,
but it's over 1,700 miles
from home

i can get bigger and better mountains
in 500 miles closer

that's the wonder of travel
without expectation,

finding the places, large and small
that feed you soul and imagination

and the other places
that show you why you value
all the elsewheres you've ever been

so tomorrow
we leave, through California,
which turns out to be the fastest way
back to San Antonio, Texas

another surpriser
to end the

That's it for this week. Still traveling, but will be back at home for next week's. Come back to us then, good stuff on tap, including poems by next week's featured poet, Canadian poet, Don Schaeffer.

As usual all material posted remains the property of its creators. My stuff is available to anyone who wants it, just credit the source if you use it.

And, also as usual, I'm allen itz, head of the "Here and Now" junta, honcho, even, you might say.


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On the Road With My Pal, Reba   Friday, February 19, 2010

On the Road With My Pal Reba


I did most of this issue, including this part, ahead of time, so I don't really know where I am as I post this. Somewhere in Arizona, if I'm on schedule. As I write this, I don't have any pictures, except the one above, to post, and I'm hoping that when the magic post time comes, I will have pictures from my travels to that point. I will have pictures of something, for sure, it just remains to be seen what.

Setting all that present and future confusion aside, I am pleased to present Amna Tariq Shah as my featured poet for the week.

Amna says she was born in 1984, to a Muslim family in Peshawar, Pakistan. She is a writer and a poet. She writes short stories, prose and poems.

She received her early education from Beaconhouse School Systems, Peshawar. Later, she passed her B.A from F.G. Degree College, Peshawar with English Literature and Psychology as her majors. In 2007, she received her M.A degree in English Literature and applied linguistics from Dept. of English and Applied Linguistics, University of Peshawar, Peshawar.

After completing her masters degree, she worked as a lecturer in English, in Peshawar Model Degree College for girls in Peshawar, for a time period of two years.
She is currently working as a freelance writer for an Australian writing company "Write On."

Having Urdu and Pashto as her mother tongues, she has chosen English as her medium of writing so that her work can be read by a wider sphere of people.

I spent nearly a year in Peshawar 42 years ago. It was a time of trouble for that country and I didn't get to see very much of it, sometimes feeling that, although I was there, I wasn't ever really there at all. So now, here is this young poet, born in this city nearly 20 years after I left it.

Time and distance is nothing, it turns out, nothing, at least, that is beyond the boundaries of life's flows and cycles.

Here's the rest of this week’s agenda.

on the road with my pal Reba

Lesley Clark
you, son of man

Amna Tariq Shah
The Beauty and the Bee

and a good morning to you, too, buckaroo

Czeslaw Milosz
Ars Poetica?
The Song On the End of the World

original sin

Amna Tariq Shah
The Real Love of a Mother and a Child

Langston Hughes
The Dream Keeper
Negro Dancers
Reasons Why
Night and Morn

Amna Tariq Shah

they come from beyond

Duane Niatum
Drawings of the Song Animals

Louis (Little Coon) Oliver
Empty kettle

Lance Henson
near twelve point

walking with my dog on a new-bright day

Amna Tariq Shah
The Midnight Lamp

Coleman Barks
Easter Morning, 1992
An Up Till Now Uncelebrated Joy
Fixing the Door

Amna tariq Shah
An Outcast

pure as the driven snow, again

Lorna Dee Cervantes
Uncle's First Rabbit

stupid is

I start this week with one of my own, the title poem in fact. I'll have more poems next week about my little drive-around. This is the one that starts it off.

on the road with my pal Reba

the car is packed,
and Reba in the back

a box of CD's in the

the drive for today,
556 miles,
San Antonio to El Paso

(you know you're in Texas
when your GPS lady
tells you,
"drive straight, 375 miles,
then turn left")

a long drive
from rocky hills
to desert sands

boring after the first
several hundred miles
and you get into the desert
where cactus
passing at 80 miles an hour
begins to look
pretty much the same

i've done this many times -
it's what you have to do
from here
to get anywhere
where you can start
getting somewhere -

this trip,
getting somewhere means
Lake Tahoe
four days from now
and i'm anxious to get moving

the sun's up
the car's packed and loaded
breakfast's finished
this poem is about running down
to, for better or worse,
its conclusion

and Reba waits

I start this week with three poems by Lesley Clark, from her book An Absence of Color, published in 2000 by Orchard Press of St. Mary's University, San Antonio.

Clark was born in Big Spring, Texas, and raised in Aldeburgh, England. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Social Psychology and, at the time the book was published, was working towards a master's degree. Her poetry has been published in literary magazines and journals and has appeared in several anthologies. This was her first book.


I am brown, he tells me, brown
it is my brown skin that covers me
from rampant waters,
it is my skin that defines me
carries me to you,
and I tell him, I, too, am brown
but he does not agree
he tells me I am between colours
between black and white
between negative space
& shades of gray
I am the absence of colour
no term to define me
my spectrum is wide
from two distant ends
papa on one
mama on the other
I am blended
a colour to be measured and mixed
I am both black and white
becoming brown
I tell him that it is my skin
that protects me from the sun
that carries me across the sand
and to the sea
it is my colour that blends
the land to the sea,
the earth to the sky,
the sun to the moon
I surface in my perfect shade of blended brown
through rain weather and sunlight
through murk and flower gardens
he and I are one in the same
varying shades of thick, brown, blended skin.


like the fiesta
flamenco dancers
dancing cumbias
by mariachis
warmth of the bottom side worm
swallowed whole
without regret

you, son of man

you, son of man
whose father claimed
your dying breathless body after birth

small infant in doctor's care
under the hands of God
and mother who weeps wildly in the night

her prayers mix with tears and stronghold
not to let go
to let live
to breathe in life

you have no pulse
your breathing is no longer rhythmic
your chest is collapsed

a last breath before mama carries you
with a knitted blanket
from the steel bed in which you lay

she carries you out of the cold room
through the slick streets

baptizing you with her trail of tears
breathing you life
inflating breaths
filling your body
your small balloon belly

she runs faster and further
not letting go
not giving up

her son, her small son
gift from the giver of life and a man
who claimed you as half his flesh

she runs, runs, runs

the wind whispering
big breaths into your belly

allowing you to live


I saw the peacock dance
it was raining
he tried to run
feathers bundled behind
he slipped
then started to dance

I grabbed my harmonica
and he mooned me
bare butt

without feathers

Here's the first of our poems by our featured poet of the week, Amna Tariq Shah.

The Beauty and the Bee

Beauty, was as if caged in it,
its grace and fragrance like the towered
pride of the garden.
Sick Rose,
Fell in love with the bee!
How cruel can love be lets see.

The beauty awaited long for its return,
the bee, being late as too much absorbed in its fun.

Whole night the bee would wait in the hope,
just for an instant the bee would appear to go.

That moment of oneness was enough,
as the beauty lived only for that alone.

Then one day when Eros was being kind,
the bee realized how unkind it had been;
too lost in the fake world of others,
lost completely in the charming world of hemlock drinkers...
What it had done!

Ah! The beauty that waited long for its return,
no more waited now,
not because the beauty changed its love,
but the nature had been unkind again all and above.

And this time the beauty was dead,
The bee was late and the beauty was dead.

And here's what started out as my first poem of the week but was bumped for Reba, written on a morning I was feeling particularly feisty.

and a good morning to you, too, buckaroo

the Spurs
lost to the Lakers last night

i just noticed my vehicle inspection sticker
expired a month ago

and Sarah Palin
is still gettin' away with it -

on the other hand
the sun is shining

bright and fresh
and yellow as fresh cream

and a chilled north breeze
blows a hint of far mountains

across our modest
little hills

and i haven't had a hangover
in more than 30 years

so good morning
to you, too,

buckaroo -

i'm feeling pretty damn good
this morning...


Czeslaw Milosz was born in 1911 in Lithuania. He survived World War II in Warsaw, publishing in the underground press. After the war, he was stationed in New York, Washington D.C. and Paris as cultural attache from Poland. He defected to France in 1951, and, in 1960, accepted a position at the University of California at Berkeley. Even as his work was still banned in Poland, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980.

Milosz died in Krakow in 2004.

I have two poems this week from the collection of his work, Selected Poems, 1931-2004, published by HarperCollins in 2004.

Ars Poetica?

I have always aspired to a more spacious form
that would be free from the claims of poetry or prose
and would let us understand each other without exposing
the author or reader to sublime agonies.

In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent:
a thing is brought forth which we didn't know we had in us,
so we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung out
and stood in the light, lashing his tail.

That's why poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a diamonion,
though it is an exaggeration to maintain that he must be an angel.
It's hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from,
when so often they're put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty.

What reasonable man would like to be a city of demons,
who behave as if they were at home, speak in many tongues,
and who, not satisfied with stealing, his lips or hand,
work at changing his destiny for their convenience?

It's true that what is morbid is highly valued today,
and so you may think that I am only joking
or that I've devised just one more means
of praising Art with the help of irony.

There was a time when only wise books were read,
helping us to bear our pain and misery.
This, after all, is not quite the same
as leafing through a thousand works fresh from psychiatric clinics.

And yet the world is different from what if seems to be
and we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.
People therefore preserve silent integrity,
thus earning the respect of their relatives and neighbors.

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

What I'm saying here is not, I agree, poetry,
as poems should be written rarely and reluctantly,
under unbearable duress and only with the hope
that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.

Berkley, 1968

The Song On the End of the World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

Warsaw, 1944

There the feisty mornings and others, sometimes a little darker.

original sin

at the table next to me

a different
than usually have their discussions

in the morning
and i'm overhearing -

life is a closed arc
one says,
or did he say

life is a closed heart,
either way,
there is a poem in both

but i can't write it today
because today
i'm more concerned

about the false spring
that's about to burst in on us,
little buds

poking their little green heads
from the trees

poor little babies
born too soon
& soon to die as winter

later this week
poor little babies

born to die
in the seasonal mysteries

and lies of life
as are we all in our day
and time

and one of the preachers -
the tall
white haired one

who looks so much like a Lutheran preacher
that there is no way in his life
he could be anything else -

he says,
men and women
are not born evil, the fall

from the garden,
he suggests,
was not due to some original sin

but development
of a knowledge of self,
this naked, hairless

human creature
who had never known
either self or other

suddenly knowing both,
and from self-consciousness,

and ego
and positioning of self
above all else,

the fall
not from some mythical garden
but from the universal soul,

becoming one alone
and distinct
and lonely in its divorce

from the greater all,
like the buds, aborning and dying,
all part of a greater truth,

while we,
the fallen, birth
and death on our own,

having done our penance
of life as ourselves

return from exile
to the garden
of all undivided

Here, from Amna Tariq Shah, this week's featured poet, a second poem.

The Real Love of a Mother and a Child

That in arms of her slumbers,
is no one but a shade of her and all that she remembers.
Pangs and pains she saw;
for this moment to be in awe.
Life has been bestowed by HIM, no wonder;
but why is that HE chose her for this can be no blunder.
Wrapping her arms around;
exhibiting the warmth that heavens bound.
The little one smiles to adore
O angel figure! who sent you to me bore?

Once again arms in arms they lie,
difference being who carries and who sighs.
You gave me life, so how is it you say byes?
Questioning his tearful eyes.
Years and years of his cuddle, now in his lap lies!

Next, I have four short poems by Langston Hughes, from the book, The Dream Keeper and other Poems, published by Knopf in 1994.

I begin with the book's title poem.

The Dream Keeper

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamers,
Bring me all of your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

Negro Dancers

"Me an' ma baby's
Got two mo' ways,
Two mo' ways to do de Charleston!
   Da, da,
   Da, da, da!
Two mo' ways to do de Charleston!"

Soft light on the tables,
Music gay,
Brown-skin steppers
In a cabaret.

White folks, laugh!
White folks, pray!

"Me an' ma baby's
Got two mo' ways,
Two mo' ways to do de Charleston!"

Reasons Why

Just because I loves you -
That's de reason why
Ma soul is full of color
Like de wings of a butterfly.

Just because I loves you
That's de reason why
Ma heart's a fluttering aspen leaf
When you pass by.

Night and Morn

Sun's a settin',
This is what I'm gonna sing.
Sun's a settin',
This is what I'm gonna sing:
I feels de blues a comin',
Wonder what de blues'll bring?

Sun's a risin',
This is gonna be my song.
Sun's a risin',
This is gonna be ma song:
I could be blue but
I been blue all night long.

Now for another poem from Anma Tariq Shah, our featured poet of the week.


The sunshine that does birth in the blossoms,
the light that hath ever shone in the human breast.
A reason, it has been to breathe and live,
For old years and new, it gloweth the senses.
Without, thee, has all in despair
and darkness;
Thy shall liveth as HOPE.....ALWAYS!

I have some "Here and Now" changes from blogger.com, threatening because I don't know what the hell to do about them. I don't understand the problem and surely don't understand the solution.

I'm hoping to get it fixed before we go down some time in March.

In the meantime, I'm frustrated.

they come from beyond

one of the things
i liked
about growing up in the 50's

was the fact that things
didn't change
all that much

once you learned
to be a respectably competent
citizen of the universe

little retraining was required;
if you knew how to do something on Tuesday
chances were good that you'd still know how to do it

on Thursday -

it is conspiracy i think -
advance scouts from the planet

come to earth
to screw it all up
by making everything so complicated

that they became irreplaceable,
while slowly making the rest of us
irrelevant and obsolete -

and worst of all
it is hard to keep up
with these agents of confusion

and catastrophe
and today
as usual, it find myself

losing -

so if it happens
you know

please transmit via
how i might intrude

upon his fortress of solitude
with an urgent

to fix my computer
which has fallen and
i don't know how

to get it up

Next, I have several poets from Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poets, published in 1988 by HarperCollins.

The first of the poets is Duane Niatum, a member of the Klallam tribe, was born in 1938 in Seattle. His early life was spent in the Northwest and at seventeen he enlisted in the Navy. After spending two years in Japan, he returned to complete his undergraduate studies in english at the University of Washington and later received him M.A. from John Hopkins University. He is known for his short stories and essays in addition to his poetry.

Drawings of the Song Animals


Treefrog winks without springing
from its elderberry hideaway.
Before the day is buried in dusk
I will trust the crumbling earth.


Foghorns, the bleached absence
of the Cascade and Olympic mountains.
The bay sleeps in a shell of haze.
Anchorless as the night,
the blue-winged teal dredges for the moon.


thistle plumed,
a raccoon pillages my garbage.
When did we plug its nose with concrete?
Whose eyes lie embedded in chemicals?


Dams abridge the Columbia Basin.
On the rim of a rotting barrel,
a crow. The imperishable remains
of a cedar man's salmon trap.


Deer crossing the freeway -
don't graze near us, don't trust our signs.
We hold your ears in our teeth,
your hoofs on our dashboards.


Shells, gravel musings from the deep,
dwellings from the labyrinth of worms.
Crabs crawl sideways into another layer of dark.


a husk of winter and the wind.
I will dance in your field
if the void is in bloom.


A lizard appears, startled by my basket
of blackberries. In the white
of the afternoon we are lost to the stream.
Forty years to unmask the soul!

The next poem is by Louis (Little Coon) Oliver.

Oliver is a Creek Indian born in 1904 in Oklahoma and, a descendant of the Golden Raccoon Clan, can trace her lineage to Indian Clans who lived along the Chattahoche river in Alabama. She died in 1991.

Empty Kettle

I do not waste what is wild
I only take what my cup
    can hold.
When the black kettle gapes
and children eat roasted acorns
it is time to rise-up early
    take no drink - eat no food
    sing the song of the hunter.
I see the Buck - I chant:
My arrow, no woman has ever touched,
    finds its mark.
I open the way for the blood to pour
    back to Mother Earth
      the debt I owe.
My soul rises - rapturous
    and I sing a different song,
      I sing,
      I sing.

And finally, from Harper's Native American anthology, I have this poem by Lance Henson.

Henson, a Cheyenne, was born in 1944 and raised in Oklahoma and is currently the poet-in-residence for more than 300 schools in several states. Author of six books of poetry, he was the first Native American to translate a major collection from Cheyenne to English.

near twelve mile point

for my grandparents

at times the heart looks toward open fields
and sees itself returning

orange pall of sun
the low hymn of trees

in the garden
a north wind blows over dry stalks of corn
birds gather there
scratching over the echoing footsteps

your names
have become the dark feather

to whom the stars sing

The Midnight Lamp

The midnight lamp kept burning silently
its quiet fire narrated some tales

Unattended, were some of them...still
thus ignored went this burning sacrifice to them

The lamp held in it thousands of stories
and it kept talking to only a few

Then came the gush of wind from nowhere
And there it stood all burnt

The midnight lamp was no more
but the brightness was more than it ever bore

Here's another report from another well-started day.

walking with my dog on a new-bright day

with my dog
in a new-bright day

that's the way
to start a morning -
pushing back

the night storms
and all the pickle-sour clouds

of the day before -

and that be me
walking with Reba
in my coat and gloves

sucking up the cool
and the sunshine
and the fresh air never

been shined on before

and i'm rounding the corner
and see Old John
driving up

in his wife's Lexus
and I know it be his wife's
cause he's driving real slow

and cautious

like he never drives his own
old Jeep, like a 15-year-old
that's how he drives

his own old Jeep
and i can hear his wife saying
you don't be driving my Lexus

like you be driving your own old Jeep

or else -
that's probably what she said
but Old John won't admit it

says he always drives that way
but i know better
having observed from anear and afar

all his automotive
like he wasn't paying for the insurance

and speaking

of beautiful days
i think i might be calling

about using this beautiful day
for a country drive
to Fred-town -

maybe stop off and steal some rocks

at the quarry along the way -
she be working hard at her office
this Saturday morning

making the money to keep me
and she could probably use a break

just like mine

Here again, featured poet Amna Tariq Shah.

The Midnight Lamp

The midnight lamp kept burning silently
its quiet fire narrated some tales

Unattended, were some of them...still
thus ignored went this burning sacrifice to them

The lamp held in it thousands of stories
and it kept talking to only a few

Then came the gush of wind from nowhere
And there it stood all burnt

The midnight lamp was no more
but the brightness was more than it ever bore

Next I have three poems from Coleman Barks, one of my favorite poets. The poems are from his book, Gourd Seed, published by Maypop Books in 1993.

Barks published his first book in 1972. Though he has continued to publish his own work, from the late seventies to the present he has been primarily known for his interpretations of the 13th century mystic, Jelauddin Rumi.

Easter Morning, 1992

A bright copper and brown striped lizard,
big for this area, seven inches long,
has taken over my mop
drying on the back fence.
Here four hours, bent over
like some clearly crazed old man
humping the back of the head of his goddess,
his goddess who has only the back of a head all round.
Not that there's pelvic motion,
but he looks tranced, the perfect five-fingered
hands spread for pleasure and grip.
He neverminds my face so near, nor I his.
It may not look like love but it is
that that keeps us in this head
over head over head, eons.

An Up Till Now Uncelebrated Joy

There's one book, a 1988 volume,
and it's here, never been checked out,
and flipping through, I sniff the carefulness,
the guarded assertions this Oxford guy
spent twelve years considering, so that now
I can have the rest of a Spring afternoon
finding out what's been known and what
will remain secret a while longer
about the Sixth Dalai Lama.

Good scholarship gives me such delight that I kiss
the book alone in the stacks, and I almost kiss
the checkout girl, and I savor the length
of the Bibliography walking through
the self-opening double doors, and I skip
going back to my truck, because Michael Aris
has sustained his interest in Tibetan mystics,
and I want to kiss the bald pate of research
like a n'er-do-well daughter going out on a date,
who before leaving, thoughtfully brings
some green tea for a little break.

Fixing the Door

Fixing the bathroom door would require
taking it off and planing two sides
the floodwater has swollen so that
it will close only with a definite
effort and sometimes springs open
to reveal a sweetheart shitting
or myself to whoever's standing
by the refrigerator looking in the way
we will when we're not hungry for anything,
just checking as we do when any door
opens of its own volition...First,
I'd have to buy a plane.

And now, our last poem from featured poet, Amna Tariq Shah.

Thank you Aman. With best wishes for your continue success as a writer. We hope we might hear from you again.

An Outcast

From tree to tree the eagle flies,
In quest of warmth, to stay by.
The fire flickers a distance away,
But it is nothing when the bird comes array.
Swooping high, it holds its breath;
Thinking twice, when it just once had to think.
Not in proximity to life;
It wonders to see a better day ahead.
The bird breaks its wings;
This was the only hope to keep it within the ring.
Sensing joys and sorrows are a part of existence,
It continues now by search through walk in the smooth ocean.

OK, so this next poem is not so nice. But it's true for most of us - kinda.

pure as the driven snow, again

a good thing
about getting old

you survive it

is that
as the years pass

more and more
of the people you wronged

die off,
allowing remorse

for past sins
with no requirement for restitution -

and how our virtue increases
as each new death and new year's passing

makes it easier and easier
to be the example

of rectitude
old folks

are supposed to be -
meanwhile, my birthday

next week
takes me to number 66

and i'm thinking
4 or 5 more

and i'll be pure
as the driven snow,


Now I have a poem by Lorna Dee Cervantes, another of my favorites. The poems are from her book Emplumada, which, as you might guess from the root "pluma," means "feathered." The book was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press and was winner of the 1982 American Book Award.

Born in San Francisco in 1954, Cervantes is of Hispanic-Native American heritage. She grew up in San Jose, speaking English exclusively because of her parents who had a strictly enforced English-only rule at home. Currently a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, she has been described as "probably the best Chicana poet active today."

Uncle's First Rabbit

He was a good boy
making his way through
the Santa Barbara pines,
sighting the blast of fluff
as he leveled the rifle,
and the terrible singing began.
He was ten years old,
hunting my grandpa's supper.
He had dreamed of running,
shouldering the rifle to town,
selling it, and taking the next
train out.
          Fifty years
have passed and he still hears
that rabbit "just like a baby."
He remembers how the rabbit
stopped keening under the butt
of his rifle, how he brought
it home with tears streaming
down his blood soaked jacket.
"That bastard. That bastard."
He cried all night and the week
after, remembering that voice
like his dead baby sister's,
remember his father's drunken
kicking that had pushed her
into birth. She had a voice
like that, growing faint
at its end; his mother rocking,
softly, keening. He dreamed
of running, running
the bastard out of his life.
He would forget them, run down
the hill, leave his mother's
silent waters, and the sounds
of beating night after night.
          When war came
he took the man's vow. He was
finally leaving and taking
the bastard's last bloodline
with him. At war's end he could
still hear her, her soft
body stiffening under water
like a shark's. The color
of rthe water, darkening, soaking,
as he clung to what was left
of a ship's gun. Ten long hours
off the coast of Okinawa, he sang
so he wouldn't hear them.
He pounded their voices out
of his head, and awakened
to find himself slugging the bloodied
face of his wife.
          Fifty years
have passed and he has not run
the way he dreamed. The Paradise
pines shadow the bleak hills
to his home. His hunting hounds,
dead now. His father, long dead.
His wife, dying, hacking in the bed
she has not let him enter for the last
thirty years. He stands looking,
he mouths the words, "Die you bitch.
I'll live to watch you die." He turns,
entering their moss-soft livingroom.
He watches the picture window
and remembers running: how he'll
take the new pickup to town, sell it,
and get the next train out.

Here's a little exploration of stupidity, my own and others' as well.

stupid is

i've done some stupid things
in my life and

even knowing they were stupid
i did them anyway

i didn't know how to stop -

that leaves me
with, perhaps, more compassion

for adulterers and drunks
and chiselers

and all the standard

that populate our lives
and the morning newspapers -

it's just a bunch of stupid
things they did

cause they didn't know
how to stop,

is the way i think about it,
though i lose my patience pretty quick

when, after
getting away with stupid for a while

they begin to thinking
they don't need to stop,

thinking all their adultering
and stealing and whatnot was

just fine cause they were so special
and the rules

don't apply to them
and if they did it

it couldn't be stupid

and at that point
we're past stupid and into

requiring intervention

which they never see coming,
the stupidest part

of the stupid things they do
cause they should'a known

everyone always gets caught
in the end

So, from where ever I am, that's it for the week. I'll be back next week, though from where is even more confusing than the same question next week. I can narrow it down to California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas, one of those places, or, maybe some place else, like, maybe, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, or Utah. From what ever local that turns out to be I’ll have all sorts of stuff, including a new featured poet, Derek Richards, with some of his great poems for you.

In the meantime, all is as before. The material presented here remains the property of those who created it. Such stuff of mine as someone might want is available to whoever wants it, all for the very reasonable cost of telling people where you got it.

I remain, in any of those places mentioned earlier, allen itz, owner and producer of this blog.

(It turns out I am behind schedule - I had intended to be somewhere in Arizona by tonight, but ended up instead in Gallup, New Mexico. I'll tell you about it next week in my travel poem issue of "Here and Now.")


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May I Show You My Etchings, M'Dear   Thursday, February 11, 2010


I'm posting a little early this week because it's raining and sleeting and dark and cold and I'm bored and if I don't do this I have to do something else that I don't want to do, that being loading IWord on my MacMini which I need to do because my next book has been ready for months and I can't get it published until I have it in Word and I'll probably screw it up, which is a kind of tradition with me and computers, so I'm doing this, which I know how to do for another week or two until they change every thing again. Damn I hate/love computers.

So, getting right to it, I begin by introducing my featured poet for the week, Nancy Calhoun.

Like many others of us, Nancy is a second life poet. After several decades as a business owner, corporate manager, executive coach, part-time concert/opera singer, Nancy Calhoun recently retired to devote herself to writing full time. Poetry has come late in life, but with a passion, she says, that blossomed into her first book, a collection entitled Sip Wine, Drink Stars. She lives in southeast Arizona's wine country, and writes beside a panoramic view of mountains, grasslands and wildlife. Her work has appeared in CamrocPressReview and Persimmontree. New work will be published in the 2010 Spring issue of Poetry Magazine. Her blog can be seen at http://nancyinsonoita.blogspot.com.

In addition to Nancy and her five poems, here's our line-up of unusual suspects for this week.

Bogdan Czaykowski
Like a Child

Kathleen Spivack
Tipping Point

Barbara Buckman Strasko
Avenue of eh Poplars

Nancy Calhoun
Autopsy Song


Walt Whitman
I Sing The Body Electric

random acts of beauty

Nancy Calhoun

Dael Orlandersmith
Poem II For Anne Sexton

Sekou Sundiata
Philosophy of the Kool

Nancy Calhoun
Cardiac Unrest

she'd probably have me arrested

Charles Bukowski
the American Flag Shirt
now she's free

saggy baggy creaky crickity

Nancy Calhoun

Juan Ramon Jimenez
Yellow Spring

Rafael Alberti
The Good Angel

Nancy Calhoun

some people complain

Westley K. Mather
Tower Work
An Ocean Death


I'm going to pick up today where I left off last week, with several more poems from the Winter/Spring 2007 issue of The Spoon River Poetry Review.

The first poem is by Bogdan Czaykowski, translated by Adam Czerniawski.

Czaykowski was a Polish Canadian poet, essayist, literary translator and literary critic, professor emeritus and former Dean at the University of British Columbia. He was born in Poland in 1932 and died in Canada in 2007. He wrote numerous articles in academic journals and literary magazines.

Like a Child

Like a child,
Which in dread curiosity
Tightly grips his old nanny's sleeve
An pulls her to the wood,
So do I lead myself
Dipping my feet
In fathomless waters of silent stream,
Whose banks rustles in darkest depths
With leafy shadows that have shed their shade.

My second poem from the Spoon River Review is by Kathleen Spivack.

In an Amazon biography, Spivack describes herself as the author of five books of poetry and prose, with work published in over 300 magazines, and anthologies, and winner of numerous prizes/awards, including nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. She says she is a trainer of top writers from all over the world and all genres, both in the Boston area, and in France, holding a post from 1991 as a one semester Visiting Professor of Creative Writing/American Literature in the French University system.

Tipping Point

How this soft green garden strokes
and soothes as we walk among her:
the brush tips of grasses feathering paint me paint me;
translucent mauve fingers of children
shifting sun's shadow, the certainty of light.

You know the descending moment, day's end,
dark ending I'm speaking of
when the green glimmer inhales its fragrance, holds
an exact calibration, deliberate & slant-wise, the
breath-angle - you've seen it too -
making everything perfect and therefore unbearable.

That moment before the over-spilling pitcher is poured from,
when the sheen of droplets still shivers on its oval surface,
before liquid, brimming, melds with the Great River Thirst
and we, silver winged, lunar, are emptied and earthen -
I could love anyone right now: you, for instance.

And, finally, from the Spoon River review, this next poem by Barbara Buckman Strasko.

Strasko is the Poet Laureate of Lancaster County, appointed by The Lancaster Literary Guild. In 2009, she was named Teacher of the Year by River of Words, an International Environmental Poetry & Art Contest for Youth. For many years, she has been a teacher, counselor and literacy coach in the School District of Lancaster. Many of her students have been winners in the River of Words Contest and received their awards at the Library of Congress. She was chosen as one of "The Best New Poets of 2006." Her chapbook On the Edge of a Delicate Day was published by Pudding House Press in 2007.

Avenue of the Poplars

Whey did he paint her walking away
from the house? The door is ajar,
she could still turn around. What good
are trees that line the road
if she can't find her way back?
The small bridge she walks over
could be a sign, a sliver of hope the way the light
shines there, but he has spared her no
shadows. Even if she returns this time,
eventually she will be out here sharing
this autumn bench with me.

Here's our first poem from this week's featured poet, Nancy Calhoun. A kind of quirky idea you might think up front, wondering where it's going to take you, but in the end, you find a beautiful poem, a kind of love poem, even. it was previously published in her book Sip Wine, Drink Stars and at CamrocPressReview

Autopsy Song

When I die
and they cut the "Y"
to determine why
they will clearly see
in the deep cavity
that used to be me
nothing but music.

Where organs belong
there is only song.
The notes will spill out,
bounce and roll about
the sterile floor.


The music pumped
my rhythmic blood
and filled my tuneful veins
melody washing like a flood
sang to me in the night.
the songs will survive me
and remain in flight
in lyrical convergence
with all I ever loved

my death will have loosed
my opus for all time
and I will be known

at last.

A lot of my poems recently have had to do with weather one way or another, for the very good reason that we're actually having weather around here. I'm enjoying it.


patchy fog
the radiofella said
which from here

looks like it might mean
fog as if
wearing a patch over both eyes

cause i can't see
diddly on the interstate
except for slipstreams

in the murk
signaling passage
of automobiles

which makes me kinda
for earlier days

living in Corpus Christi
going down Ocean Drive
in the morning

on my way to work
stopping on Shoreline Drive

if i was really early

out on one of the t-heads
to soak up some
morning mist atmosphere

hearing the small sounds
that seem to echo

in the grey -
the lisp of small bay waves
quietly rubbing on concrete

one morning
a gull so close

like calling at my shoulder
so close
we are both surprised

when the fog shifts for a moment
and we see each other
near nose to beak

and other fog
i remember as well
the fog of monday mornings

during my drinking years
dead man walking
like the movie was about me -

how i remember all the mornings
while the nights remain
as the radiofella says

I'm going to try to do a little piece of Walt Whitman this week and if I succeed it will be for the first time. Usually, when I try to do a short piece of Whitman, I get lost in it and end up going long. I was determined not to let that happen again.

But then old temptations overcame me.

My original intention was to use several sections from I Sing the Body Electric, but, reading through the poem, looking for a place to start and a place to finish, it became clear to me that the only place to start was at the beginning and the only place to finish was at the end.

But who could be better to go long with than him, the definitive American poet in my mind. It's his love of words, all words, that defines him in my mind. (Who else could take a page from an anatomy textbook, as in this poem, and make it poetry.)

I've had no other pleasure in poetry greater than the pleasure of reading Whitman aloud. I suggest you oil up your vocal cords as you read this.

from Leaves of Grass

I Sing the Body Electric


I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal them-
And if those who defile the living are as bad a they who defile the
And if the body does not fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?


The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself
     balks account,
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.

The expression of the face balks account,
But he express of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips
     and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and
     knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broad-
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-

The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the
     folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the con-
     tour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through
     the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls
     silently to and fro in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the
     horseman in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner
     kettles and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter in the garden or
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses
     through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty,
     good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown
     after work.
the coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding
     the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine
     muscle through clean-setting trousers and waist-straps
the slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes sud-
     denly again, and the listening on the alert,
the natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv'd neck
     and the counting;
Such-like I love - I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's
     breast with the child,
Swim with the swimmers,wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with
     the firemen, and pause, listen, count.


I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons,
And in them the fathers of sons, and in them the fathers of sons.
This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person,
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and
     beard, the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes, the rich-
     ness and breath of his manners,
These I used to go and visit him to see, he was wise also
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old, his sons were mas-
     sive, clean, bearded, tan-faced and handsome,
They and his daughters loved him, all who saw him loved him,
They did not love my by allowance, they love him with personal
He drank water only, the blood show'd like scarlet through the clear-
     brown skin of his face,
He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sail'd his boat himself, he had
     a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner, he had flowling-
     pieces presented to him by men that loved him,
When he went with and five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish,
     you could pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of
     the gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit
     by him in the boat that you and he might touch each other.


I have preceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly
     around his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask for any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.

There is something in staying close to men and woman, and looking
     upon them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the
     soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the world well.


This is the female form,
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce and undeniable attraction,
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor,
     all falls aside but myself and it,
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what was
     expected of heaven or fear'd of hell, and now consumed,
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response like-
     wise ungovernable,
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all diffused,
     mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling
     and deliciously aching,
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of
     love, white-blow and delirious juice,
Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the prostrate
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day.

This the nucleus - after the child is born of woman, man is born of
This the bath of birth, this the merge of small and large, and the
     outlet again.

Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the
     exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.

The female contains all qualities and empowers them,
She is in her place and moves with perfect balance,
She is all things duly veil'd , she is both passive and active,
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as

As I see my soul reflected in Nature,
As I see through the mist, One with inexpressible completeness, sanity,
See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female I see.


The male is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his place,
He too is all qualities, he is action and power,
The flush of the known universe is in him,
Scorn becomes him well and appetite and defiance become him well,
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is utmost
     become him well, pride is for him,
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul,
Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he brings every thing to
     the test of himself,
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes sound-
     ings at last only here,
(Where else does he strike soundings except here?)

The man's body is sacred and the woman's body is sacred,
No matter who it is, it is sacred - is it the meanest one in the laborers'
Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as
Each has his or her place in the procession,

(All is a procession,
The universe is a procession with measured and perfect motion.)

Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has
     no right to a sight?
do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, and
     the soil is on the surface, and waterruns and vegetation
For you only, and not for him or her?


A man's body at auction,
(for before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the sale,)
I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business.

Gentlemen look at this wonder,
Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it,
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one ani-
     mal or plant,
for it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd.

In this head the all-baffling brain,
In it and below it the makings of heroes.

Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in tendon
     and nerve,
They shall be script that you may see them.

Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast - muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not flabby,
     good-sized arms and legs,
and wonders within there yet.

Within there runs blood,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heard, there all passions, desires, reachings,
(Do you think they are not there because they are not exprss'd in
     parlors and lecture-rooms?)

This is not only one man, this the father of these who shall be fathers
     in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him the countless immortal lives with the countless embodiments and en-

How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring
     through the centuries?
(Who might you find you have come to yourself, if you could
     trace back through the centuries?)


A woman's body at auction,
She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers.

Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?
do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and
     times all over the earth?

If anything is sacred the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweat of a man is the token of manhood un-
and in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibered body, is more
     beautiful than the most beautiful face.

Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool
     that corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.


O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and
     and women, nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the
     all, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you, shall stand or fall with my poems, and that
     they are my poems,
Man's, woman's, child's, youth's, wife's, husband's, father's,
     young man's, young woman'0s poems,
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,0
eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or sleep-
     ing of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth,jaws, and the jaw
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the
     ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger,
     finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibers, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your
     body or of any one's body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palet-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, ears, laughter, weeping,
     love-looks, love-perturbations and rising,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the
     naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
the beauty of the waist, and thence the hips, and thence down-
     ward toward the knees,
the thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
     marrow of the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of
     the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!

There is much beauty in the world, though it may sometimes be hard to find. Other times it just falls, like a gift, right out in front of you.

random acts of beauty

the sun set last night
through a veil of fog

that had persisted
throughout the day

casting a red-gold

over everything -
a beauty

not subject to the
photographer's art

like a plain girl's

never to find it's way
to the cover of Vogue

still bringing

to the hearts and days
of everyone who sees

her -
how we should treasure

such fleeting beauties,
these moments of grace

in the drabness
of humdrum life,

random acts of

to reassure us all that there is still

even amid the spit and stench

humans leave behind
their excremental advance

like the slime trail of a snail
as it struggles

in its slow and patient way
to reach that place

where it too
will find beauty

And now, our second poem from featured poet, Nancy Calhoun, a winter poem.


having let go
her brittle autumn glitter
the sycamore shivers
in a winter dress
white bones bleak
as a ribcage
waiting in the void
for the turned-in earth
to waken and dress itself
once more.

I have two poets this week from the book, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, published ii 1994 by Henry Holt and Company. Founded in or around 1973, the Nuyorican Poets Café began operating in the East Village apartment of writer, poet and Rutgers University professor, Miguel Algarin. It continues to operate now as a nonprofit organization in Alphabet City, Manhattan. It is known as a bastion of the Nuyorican art movement in New York City and has become a forum for poetry, music, hip hop, video, visual arts, comedy and theater.

The first of my two poets from the book is Dael Orlandersmith, poet and actor. She was born in 1959 and raised in Harlem and the South Bronx. She was the winner of the 1994 Fresh Poetry Prize.

Poem II For Anne Sexton

The curve of my Pluto sister's back
is crooked
as are her smiles
which are interwoven w/cigarette smoke &
glitter dust powder
Her perfume is the bathwater
of faded party girls
w/broken heels & hearts to match
& their once seductive dances are now
Comic poses
& and toothless smiles lie underneath
cheap, loose lipsticked mouths
& their once glittering gowns are
shabby dresses

The curve of my Pluto
sister's back is due to
benzedrine and young boys
that holler obscenities & the
alcohol content in a glass
of gin & the
voices in her head that
Scream, "Kill yourself!"
& my sister
She heeds this call &
w/broken cocktail glass in hand
rather like a shattered, painted
baby doll

My second poet this week from the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe is Sekou Sundiata, poet, performer, with the Black Rock Coalition and Nu Yo Records, leader of the band, "dadahdoodadah", poet in residence at the New School, and creator of The Circle Unbroken Is a Hard Bop at the Cafe.

Philosophy of the Kool

a blues for poets

I been swimming since water,
learning to sing like the songs.
The oldest one I know goes like this:
Some people came from the trees,
I remember coming out of the undertow: the ocean
of seas: the electricity the explosions
billions of us crashing with the waves,
then blown away into memory.
You can still hear us in the piece of a beat
or in the music made from scratch.
The first word still had roots,
like a James Brown syllable.
It was a single cell one minute, a slam dunk the next.
Speed was our need.

I remember salt and air, water slime and mud,
upright and thumb, fire and iron.
and most of all, the poetry we had then.
It was open verse, later called Africa.
I remember human life beginning female.
Gamete that I was when I knew it, zygote
that I was when I recalled it.
The earth was yet negative space, a canvas
stretched from the hymen to foreskin to drumskin.
And sleep told us in those days,
to stay awake: the blackness begins
the blackness ends.
Whoever said there was a light at the end
never lived at the end, never had to run
up ahead to see what it's going to be: womb
to tomb to womb.

Whoso knows, I mean I seen
Buddha and Krishna on the D train.
And you wouldn't know the river gods, the prophets
or the turn of the century
if you couldn't read the latest fashion
like proverbs on tee shirts:
the best things in life are toll free
I don't like the questions I don't like the answers, I just like to dance
I don't have to drive. I'm already driven
What you got is what you love
Good things come to those who wait, better things come to those who don't
Some people look down and find money, some people look down and lose their socks
Shit happens and it floats

I recall the first ships
that appeared like shadows on the horizon.
And we ran out to greet them with our sweet palm wine and guaguanco
thinking their books and harmolodies could tell us something
about love and beauty.
But it was more than a notion
in the middle of that frigid Atlantic: the vomit
the shards the babies with umbilical cords around their necks
the earthless rhythm of the water pitching to and fro.
I witnessed the birth of rock n roll.
My mama name Lucy, her real name Lucille.
Without the blues, we go under.

Here's Nancy's next poem, our featured poet Nancy Calhoun, a love poem from a moment of panic.

This poem was also previously published in Sip Wine, Drink Stars and at CamrocPressReview.

Cardiac Unrest

I wait alone

in a crowd of the worried and afraid
while they probe your hesitating heart
my own beating a fearful tattoo
willing the panicky taste to leave my mouth

closing my eyes I see you on the table
in my crazed mind an ethereal glow surrounds
a swarm of wizards in masks and tall hats
waving wands of mystery over your draped body
snaking a tiny battleship through your veins

I wait, feeling chilled, dreamlike
for the head wizard to emerge to pronounce
the exorcism successful, the war won,
and imagine you leaping from the table
in cape and tights,

your heart able to beat in my chest again.

And, speaking of beauty, as i was earlier...

she'd probably have me arrested

i know a couple
of pretty young girls

who have
little rings hanging

from the center
of their pretty pierced

and i wish i knew someway

to tell them
how those nose rings

hanging down
look like boogers

from a runny nose

and that
pretty as they are

they'd be so much prettier
without the droopy booger effect

but i'm no good
at that sort of thing at all

like the last time i tried to tell
a woman

that she possessed
a timeless beauty it came out

sounding like i was telling her
her face could stop a

so i don't try anymore

just observe
and remain silent instead

like not trying to convince
all the young tattooed girls that

is in and of itself

a beautiful thing
and covering it with paint

does not make it better
no matter

how pretty the picture
painted on a young girl's

a rosy pink ass unadorned

is still better
but then if i tried to tell a young girl that

as it concerned her own particular rosy pink ass
she'd probably have me


Next, poems from The Pleasures of the Damned, Poems 1951-1993, one of my many collections by Charles Bukowski. This one is a little different, being a collection of poems from his first to his last. I've picked a three poems from his middle years.

the American Flag Shirt

now more and more
all these people running around
wearing the American Flag Shirt
and it was more or less once assumed
(I think but I'm not sure)
that wearing an A.F.S. meant to
say you were pissing on
but now
they keep making them
and everybody keeps buying them
and wearing them
and the faces are just like
the American Flag Shirt -
this one has this face and that shirt
that one has that shirt and this face -
and somebody's spending money
and somebody's making money
and as the patriots become
more and more fashionable
it'll be nice
when everybody looks around
and finds that they are all patriots now
and therefore
who is left to
except their


sleepy now
at 4 a.m.
I hear the siren
of a white
then a dog
in this tough-boy

now she's free

Cleo's going to make it now
she's got her shit together
she split with Barney
Barney wasn't good for her
she got a bigger apartment
furnished it beautifully
and bought a new silver Camaro
she works afternoons in a dance joint
drives 30 miles to the job from
Redondo Beach
goes to night school
helps out at the AIDS clinic
reads the I Ching
does Yoga
is living with a 20-year-old boy
eats health food
Barney wasn't good for her
she's got her shit together now
she's into T.M.
but she's the same old fun-loving Cleo
she's painted her nails green
got a butterfly tattoo
I saw her yesterday
in her silver Camaro
her long blond hair blowing
in the wind.
poor Barney.
he just doesn't know what he's

I caught myself looking like someone else the other day.

saggy baggy creaky crickity

i look
in the mirror
in the morning
and the face i see

is not the face
i grew up with and
even after months
of this happening

it's still always
a big surprise
and i guess that's
the one thing

about growing
that we never
expect -

the surprise
of it all,
discovering it
right out of the blue

some regular morning
of some regular day
going our regular way
and the truth of it

just flops right on
the bathroom tile,
looking at us,
telling us -

remember you
it says to us,
that old reliable you,
remember the tight body -

the tanned face
fine brown
hair -

the running
and walking
with nary a muscle
twitch after -

the climbing stairs
two at time
with neither a huff
or a puff -

the sharp eyes
and quick mind
and muscular
frame -

that you ain't you
no more -
time has passed and

you is me and you might
as well get used to it -
pick me up off this floor,

slip into the new
saggy baggy
creaky crickity you
and live with it


When I finally graduated from college, later than most of my contemporaries because of military service and time wasted both before the military and after, I had an opportunity for a writing fellowship in a well known writers' program, but I did not follow up on it, feeling very old, very poor, and very tired and sick to death of academic life. I have never second-guessed myself on that decision, first because I like the way my life turned out otherwise and, as well, a feeling now that nothing I would have written then would be worth reading now.

This is a point, in a way, that featured poetNancy Calhoun makes in her next poem (previously published in Sip Wine, Drink Stars and at CamrocPressReview), which she begins with this quotation.

...Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines. - Rainer Maria Rilke


never mind the aging of my face
or thickening of my waist
I have finally lived long enough
to be young

I dream I am willowy,
graceful, with wings to fly
singing an aria, laughing
at the color-riot I fling before me

no regrets remain, nothing taken back
every day a buoyant sunrise
the night a rich cabernet in a crystal stem
chaos silenced by proof of lingering love

waiting for nothing, as it all exists
now, peeling vaporous layers
of expectation and desire, loved enough
to release the craving, exalt in the warmth

the birds, the mountains, my songs and my poems
gifts bestowed perhaps because I waited
the wind lifts, clouds thread the sky
I write, becoming young.

I have two poets this week from the book Introduction to Spanish Poetry, published in 1965 by Dover Publications.

The first of the two poets is Juan Ramon Jimenez, born in 1881 and winner of the 1956 Nobel Prize for literature. An Andalusian, Jimenez moved to Madrid in 1900, where he lived for many years. When the Ciil War began, he moved to the United States, then lived for a couple of years in Puerto Rico and Cuba, returning then to live for a number of years in New York, Washington D.C. and Florida. He returned to Puerto Rico, where he died in 1958.

Yellow Spring

   April was coming, full
of yellow flowers;
the brook was yellow,
the fence, the hill were yellow,
the children's cemetery,
that orchard where love used to live.

   The sun anointed the world iin yellow
with its fallen light;
ah, among the golden lilies,
the warm, the golden water;
the yellow butterflies
over yellow roses!

   Yellow garlands were climbing
the trees; the day
was a gold-incensed blessing,
in a golden awakening of life.
Among the bones of the dead,
God opened His yellow hands.

My next Spanish poet from the book is Rafael Alberti. Born in 1903, Alberti moved to Madrid in 1917 where he gained notice as a poet and a painter. He was involved in both the arts and politics, becoming a member of the Communist Party, leaving Spain in exile after the leftists lost the Civil War. He lived in Argentina and traveled extensively in Europe and South America. He died in 1999 at the age of 96, winning during his life both the Lenin Peace Prize in 1964 and the Premio Cervantes, Spain's highest literary honor, in 1983.

The Good Angel

   The one I wanted came,
the one I called.

   Not the sweeper of defenseless skies,
stars without huts,
moons without a country,
Those snows that fell from a hand,
a name,
a dream,
a brow.

   Not the one that tied death
to his hair.

   The one I wanted.

   Without scratching the air,
or wounding leaves or shaking windows.

   The one that tied silence
to his hair.

   So as, without hurting me,
to dig a bank of soft light in my breast
and make my soul navigable.

We say goodbye now to our feature poet Nancy Calhoun, with this, her last poem for the week.


Here, a gathering of familiar strangers pass
through the mirrors of their own disparate
expectations of family.

Their faces you could trace
with your fingers in the air, their laughter
like chords of a remembered song,

their tears never quite revealing the discordant
notes they hear, only that it is not the song
their hearts require.

We read into each other's hieroglyphs
stories of our own deficiencies,
bridges not quite meeting a faraway shore

where the bitter and the benevolent live together
in nominal peace, the truth and its absence
seeming equally credible.

Here is where the book falls open to the place
we always return as a reminder of what binds us
and what draws us apart.

As I said, lots of weather poems lately. I did this one last week.

some people complain

more rain today

more rain
in the fast five weeks
of this year
than in the first ten months
of the last

and some have begun
to complain
about the rain,
and fuss about the wet

about frogs
and webbed feet
nobody laughs at much

but no complaints
no grumbling
no fussing
no jokes from me

for i see green grass
and wildflowers covering
and hills, the reds and blues
and purples and yellows
of spring
unfolding along roadside,
colors of spring

for the first time in three years
i see green coming,
the glorious colors of spring

i do not complain
about the

Next, two poems by Colorado poet Westley K. Mather from his first book, Into Pieces,
published by iUniverse Inc. in 2003.

Tower Work

Way up there
on a galvanized steel tower
that overlooks
not very much

A slum of an alcoholic neighborhood
a field ready again for the plow

And up there
so much bird shit everywhere
bright green and purple varieties
because these birds are pranksters
Your hands become coated with the stuff
Why so much shit?

Because the birds of prey
Have all gone away
And left the little ones to flourish

An Ocean Death

waves of salty sea
like mercury
lap at the abandoned sailor's
sun-chapped lips

Caught in a net of
circling hungry sharks
the sailor in a forgotten place
combs his hair with baited dreams

Long he waits
watching for the gritty beach
which never comes over the horizon
He remembers the smell
of a perfumed neck
that his fingers never got to touch

He lives in a time lottery
decorated with
golden mountain mirages

He wonders,
"Why did I choose the sea
when some little woman
might have me this very day
in the grip of her purple painted grin?"

Long minutes
disguised as days
pass by
intolerable and static

At long last the sailor
begins to sink
allowing the cotton strands
of his lungs to soak

"It is not a shame," he asserts,
"to die in the clammy embrace
of the bloated and lovely ocean."

I finish this week with a poem about a very special moment, possibly the most beautifully surreal moment I've experienced in many years. For a few moments, I was a pigeon.


a cold mean

rain blown
like bullets
by a hard
north wind

on the road
i enter
an underpass
and pigeons

a flock of ten
or twelve

drop down
from the girders

and fly in front of me -
even with me -
fifteen feet ahead
of me

for a moment
i am in the cold
rainy sky

flying with them

That's all for this week. By this time next week I expect I'll be somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona, on my way to Lake Tahoe. I've given myself four days to get there (lots of time for side-raod stops. Then three days at Lake Tahoe and three days back to San Antonio. I have a post planned for next week and the week after, but will just have to see how the driving is going. I expect to be here, hope you are too.

Remember, as always, all the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. My stuff is available if you want to use any of it, just say where it came from if you do.

I'm allen itz - owner, producer of this blog and done for the week.


Well, not exactly done. Instead, I have this bonus, a picture that comes with a poem. It doesn't fit with anything else I've done in this post and it won't fit with anything I have planned for next week.

So here it is, in a little space all of its own.

I took the picture last week in front of a Borders bookstore. The dog reminded me of some old gent, waiting outside his club for his driver.

So I wrote poem to go with it.

3 vodk tonics

vodka tonics

vodka tonics
and they won't
let me drive

if ever it was needed
that this world
has truely
gone to the

Now, that's all.

at 12:57 PM Anonymous Judi Brannan Armbruster said...

I followed Derek here and enjoyed the travelogue because I am from Arizona. But, because I am from AZ I noticed that Kingman you spelled Kingsman needed a fix.

thanks for the pleasure of your magazine


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Loch Raven Review
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Holy Groove Records
Poems Niederngasse
Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
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Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
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Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
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Clif Keller's Music
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Downside up
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Layman Lyric
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Desert Moon Review
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Poetry and Poets in Rags
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