A Potentially Possibly Provisionally Great Blog   Friday, March 05, 2010


Back home in San Antonio after ten days on the trail, I have some good stuff for you, including my feature poet, Don Schaeffer.

Don holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from City University of New York (1975) and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his wife, Joyce.

His recent poetry has been published in The Loch Raven Review, The Cartier Street Review, The Writers Publishing, Lilly Lit, Burning Effigy Press, Understanding Magazine, Melange, Tryst, Quills, and others. His first book of poetry, Almost Full was published by Owl Oak Press early in the summer of 2006. His work has appeared a number of times in "Here and Now" but this the first time as our featured poet.

Before starting, I note in passing that I surely would enjoy featuring artists and photographers in upcoming "Here and Now" issues. All I need is 20-25 jpegs and a short bio sent to me at allen.itz@gmail.

In addition to the pleasure enjoyed by all "Here and Now" readers from such a display of art, I would get a break from having to dig around in my increasingly dusty and spider-webbed vault for old photos of my own that I can make look new.

Although it's hard to say for sure until they are actually on-line, I think I do like how this week's photo experiments turned out.

Pictures aside, here are our poets and poetry for this week.

from the Manykoshu
14 short verses

Don Schaeffer

Arizona sunrise
El Paso at an early hour, again
even old dogs dream the hunt

David St. John
Chapter Forever
An Essay on Liberation


Don Schaeffer
A Wish For My Dreamer

Catherine Tufariello
Keeping My Name
Chemist's Daughter

Don Schaeffer

a potentially possibly provisionally great poem

Robert Pinsky
The Forgetting

what a great day, they say

Don Schaeffer
The Arrival

Sheila Ortiz Taylor
Mid-Life Love
Star Trek


Anna Akhmatova
Instead of a Preface
Epilogue I
Epilogue II

Don Schaeffer
The First Inkling of Need

from In the Trail of the Wind
Native American poems and ritual orations

characteristics of snow
before time ends

Catherine Bowman
Obituary For a South Texas Politician

fellow travelers

I start this week with poems from Ten Thousand Leaves - Poems from the Manyoshu.

The Manyoshu, which can be translated as "A Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves," was compiled in its final form in the eighth century. Containing 4,516 poems, the collection has been honored as the purest expression of the early Japanese spirit.

This book includes 136 poems from the collection, selected and translated by Harold Wright.


Let us not cease
    to enjoy ourselves in drink
        since the plants and trees
Which burst to bud in springtime
    will but wither in the fall


Your favorite flowers
    that are growing near the house
        have bloomed and faded
Yet, the tears that fill my eyes
    have not begun to dry


On the hill near home
    flowers of the fall bush clover
        will soon be scattered
How I wish she'd seen them now
    before they're harmed by the wind


The flowers of the plum
    were covered with fallen snow
        which I wrapped up
But when I tried to have you see
    it was melting in my hands


The sun of spring
    has melted the snow away
        likewise, your heart
Must have melted entirely
    since no message comes from you


When spring arrives
    the frost on the river's moss
        is melted away
In such a way my heart melts
    over longing for your love


Near my loved one's house
    there is now in full bloom
        a flowering plum tree
If it ever gives forth fruit
    then I will know what to do


Instead of suffering
    this longing for my loved one
        I would rather choose
To become a stone or tree
    without feelings or sad thoughts


Although every year
    the plum bursts in bloom again
        I live in a world
Hollow as a locust shell
    where spring does not return


To love someone
    who does not return that love
        is like offering prayers
Back behind a starving god
    within a Buddhist temple


The things you told me
    were said to stave off silence
        and to console me
When I came to know the truth
    oh, the bitterness I felt!


Using fine pillars
    of the highest grade cypress
        does he woodsman
Fabricate in wasted haste
    a mere temporary hut?


It is fortunate
    for any man who an
        live so long to hear
The sound of his wife's voice
    till his black hair turns to white


If from your mouth
    there hung a hundred-year-old tongue
        and you would babble
I still would not cease to care
    but indeed my love would grow

Here is my first piece from Don Schaeffer, featured poet for this week. Don presents us with some interesting ideas as is usually the case with Don's poems.


When Charles Darwin
is doing his thing
the world is gears
clothed in brass with
leather seats
handles of ivory and wood.

Survival is the final
and fierce machine
of judgment. And we all
stand in the light of mechanics
and count our virtues
with a one, two, three.
If we need help
in testing our degeneracy
there are plenty of
carnival performers with tests

For a penny you know
how you stack up. You enter
the great competiton-of-life
dance and get your rank, then
turn rank into index
and carry the evolution
quotient in your heart.

Now I have four short poems - the "coming home" poems I wrote as we returned from the trip I told you about last week.


white-robed mountains,
the virgin-brides
of western California,

San Bernardino,
and the car-choked
of Los Angeles

to the dry brown
hills of north Arizona

bright yellow
brushy and thick,
climb the hills like
the rising drab and dreary

Arizona sunrise

rising sun
cotton ball clouds

a pattern
like red and pink and black
on dimpled

it is Phoenix
through a shower of morning

El Paso at an early hour, again

deep desert
through the black
night sky
even before
the first peach of sunrise
shows behind
the mountains

a quiet Sunday morning

just like in the

even old dogs dream the hunt

home is the hound
from his run
in the hills

to nap by the fire
and dream
of the chase

even old dogs,
of runs to come
when sleep is done

The next poems are by David St. John from his book Study of the World's Body, published by Harper in 1994.

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

I just bought the book this morning. Scanning through it to select the two poems I'm going to use, I think now that I already have a copy of the book. Sadly, I think my poetry library has grown to the point that I need to do periodic inventories before buying anything new.

Well, forget that, just way to much trouble. For the limited cost of a used book, I think i'd rather just buy duplicates.

Chapter Forever

I remember I was 9 or 10     so the year I guess
Was 1959     my aunt was showing me the city
Of Sausalito     & the houseboats
Where some of her friends had once lived

On a patch of grass by the sidewalk
A girl sat with her legs crossed     holding
In her left hand a perfectly blank tablet
The size of a transistor radio     & in her right
An unused pen     she was staring right out
Into the Pacific     & as we walked by
My aunt shrugged & said Too bad     No inspiration

We passed a coffee shop
& in its doorway a couple stood just talking
He was on the top step & she was looking up at him
From the step below     he rubbed his beard     & as
We passed he winked at us     That's Lenny Bruce
My aunt said & though we kept on walking
After a block or so     I turned around to see

He was still joking with the woman
Palms upturned he was slowly drawing both arms up
Into a full cross     his head fell limply to one side
& the woman started laughing even harder     I remember
She was laughing so hard pretty soon she was almost
Bent over     almost crying     I think     crying

An Essay on Liberation

He stood naked at one of the two windows
She kept open in all weathers in her
Corner room at the back of the old building
As the sun rose     he watched a man
Dragging a handcart along the narrow alley below
& across the court a young boy was turning
His face from side to side in a freckled mirror
From the temples in the old section of the city
He could hear the first sequence
Of morning prayers     & to the west he could see
The dulled bronze domes of The Church of the Orthodox
Where at any moment the bells would begin to chime
& in the streets crisscrossing the city
From the old section to the sea
The tanks & personnel trucks began moving quietly
Into position in their orderly & routine way
& the bells began sounding from their tower
They were answered by the echoing concussion of mortars
As the daily shelling of the hills began
& she was slicing small pieces of bread the size of coins
To fry in goat butter & chives     she was naked
Kneeling on one of the worn rugs thrown at angles across
The scarred floor     she glanced up at him & smiled
Nodding for no reason in particular     & in spite of
The fact the one phrase he'd taught her perfectly
Began with the word for free     though it ended
With nothing

It's well past Valentine's day now, but I did write a Valentine Day's poem, just haven't had a chance to post it. I really put some credit in the bank with this one, as well as keeping a couple of dollars from Mr. Hallmark's greedy hands.


was a slight little girl,

and i was a quietly
in my thirties

we met through
our work

a veteran myself,
my assignment
was to find jobs
or job training for veterans
especially those
just returning from VietNam

fresh from college,
was a counselor
for a federal
job training program

and before long
i was finding a reason
to visit her office
just about every day

and by the time
we were married
a year later
our little county
had more veterans
in federal job training
than any other county
in the state

it will be,
two weeks from now,
34 years since the day
i arrived in her office
with my first hand full
of veterans’ training

and the shy little girl
has become a fiercely
advocate for children
in trouble
and the quietly satisfied
is still quietly satisfied,
but hardly remembering
how it was to be alone

34 Valentine's Days
that first day
and even with all the
during the course
of those years,
one thing is
as it always has been -

she is still
and will always be
and true

Now, our second poem from featured poet Don Schaeffer

A Wish For My Dreamer

Watching yourself
in the early morning
adding plots to your dreams.
Like time was a set of tinker-toy blocks,
set your dreams in motion.

Make up good dreams,
I say to her
as we are wishing good night.
Please don't frighten yourself, my dear.
Make dreams that give you joy.

The next poem is by Catherine Tufariello, from her book, Keeping My Name, published in 2004 by Texas Tech University Press.

Tufariello has taught literature and writing courses at Cornell, The College of Charleston, and the University of Miami. Her poems and translations have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry and The Hudson Review.

Keeping My Name

"T as in Tom...U...F as in Frank,"
I tell the voice at the bookstore or the bank,
Knowing the chances of its being right
On form or package are extremely slight
Unless the clerk repeats (and most won't bother)
This catechism I learned from my father -
T as in Tom, U, F as in Frank.
For this ritual I have myself to thank -
Twice I've had and forfeited the chance
To trade the burden and extravagance
Of five syllables for one or two.
I couldn't do it when I said "I do,"
Not even after three years in the south,
Where voweled names are angled in the mouth.
What's in a name? Why, a family line,
Identity, tradition, but in mine
I had the gallop of the Latin dactyle;
Tufa, crumbly stuff, so rich tactile,
So unlike Grandpa's monumental granite;
And, from the intrepid who could scan it,
I had the liquid lilting of iello
(One teacher sang it sweetly as a cello);
And those plump vowels, juicy and alive -
At one per syllable, I had all five.
In school, through endless dreamy afternoons,
I brooded like a druid casting runes
Over the page to see how many words
My name would make, releasing them like birds
From the magician's cloak I always wore.
Every year they multiplied, to more
Than I'd thought possible, as rat and tale,
Tall and tell gave way to trill and flail,
If and far to float, aloft and lift.
One day a rill might bubble from a rift,
The next an elf warble a silver lute,
A leering troll swig ale or proffer fruit,
One taste of which might lead to fault and fall.
They scattered and I catalogued them all:
Found fore and after, leaping fire and air
(With sandstone, all the elements were there),
Caught Uriel, Milton's angel of the sun,
Bright Ariel, Will Shakespeare's airy sprite,
Hidden in the middle, in plain sight -
Caught him in my net, then let him go,
Happy in his charms as Prospero.

Chemist's Daughter

Thumping the dinner table, Dad would say
it too was atoms - massed in galaxies
made mainly of empty space. At night, the bees'
drone of electrons woke me - a Milky Way
was whirling on the tip of my fingernail,
ten thousand planets dancing on its pale
half moon. Would bed, desk, dresser lose their grip
on the braided rug? Outside was empty space -
dark deserts stretched between the yellow face
of the moon and our backyard, where I would slip
through the glittering snowcrust, playing astronaut.
The world looked solid. It was wild as thought.

Here's another fine piece from featured poet, Don Schaeffer.


When I think of Joyce tonight,
I'm subject to the justice of the void.
I can wish like a child
but it will not come true.

Winter is
the best time to think of it
when my coat is not enough
to keep out the truth of the cold.

I can plead
that I had no choice but I merely watch
another tightening of the vice
and listen to the alarm drawing blood in my ear.

My denials
are like a child's eager wishes.
The elders, faces darkened,
shake their heads.

He knows,
they all say,
deep inside he knows,
as I pound my fists on the bed.

I've been told it's important to start any new endeavor with confidence and high hopes. So here's my first daily poem of the week a couple of weeks ago.

a potentially possibly provisionally great poem

i don't know
what this poem
is going to be about

but i'm pretty sure it's gonna
turn out great

cause last night,
in my den, watching
Wheel of Fortune

i had this great

and i said,
wow! that'd be a great

i'll write it
tomorrow morning, i said

and Reba was all excited
about it
wagging her tail and whatnot

so i'm thinking she thought
it was a good idea

since she went deaf
she's come to believe
that any time she sees
my lips move
i must be saying

"let's go for a walk"

and she gets all excited
wagging her tail and whatnot

so i wouldn't regard
her first reaction that this was
gonna be

a great poem
as proof-positive
that it is actually

going to be a great

we'll see
i guess, but the proof
is in the pudding
as they say

(and i don't know why
they say because
i have no idea what
the heck
that means, proof,
what exactly does
one have to do with
the other)

questionably coherent
old saying

i'm going to have to finish
this poem to see
whether it really is a good poem
or if Reba
just though i was saying

"let's go for a walk"


and i'm really looking forward
to finding out about whether this
is really a good poem
or just a poop
in the dark

we're going to have to wait
until tomorrow
because i have run out of time
this morning

so i'll just have to finish
this potentially
provisionally great poem
and i need the extra time

to remember
what the great idea was
that caused Reba to get excited,
setting her to wagging her tail and whatnot

or not

Despite the fact that he's a great poet, I've never used a poem by Robert Pinsky in "Here and Now." That's not because I don't like his poems, but, because he's a great poet, his books cost more, even used, than my "Here and Now" budget usually allows. Well, at $5.98, I finally got this one, Gulf Music, published in 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The Forgetting

The forgetting I notice most as I get older is really a form of memory:
the undergrowth of things unknown to you young, that I have forgotten.

Memory of so much crap, jumbled with so much that seems to matter.
Lieutenant Calley. Captain Easy. Mayling Soong. Sibby Sisti.

And all the forgettings that preceded my own: Baghdad, Egypt,Greece,
The Plains, centuries of lootings of antiquities. Obscure atrocities.

Imagine! - a big tent filled with mostly kids, yelling for poetry. In fact
It happened, I was there in New Jersey at the famous poetry show.

I used to wonder, what if the Baseball Hall of Fame overflowed
With too many thousands of greats all in time unremembered?

Hardly anybody can name all eight of their great-grandparents.
Can you? Will your children's grandchildren remember your name?

You'll see, you little young jerks: your favorite music and your political
Furors, too, will need to get sorted in dusty electronic corridors.

In 1972, Chou En-lai was asked the lasting effects of the French
Revolution: "Too soon to tell." Remember? - or was it Mao Tse-tung?

Poetry made of air strains to reach back to Begats and suspiring
Forward into air, grunting to beget the hungry or overfed Future.

Ezra Pound praises the Emperor who appointed a committee of scholars
to pick the bets 450 Noh plays and destroy all the rest, the fascist.

The stand-up master Steven Wright says he thinks he suffers from
Both amnesia and deja vu: "I feel like I have forgotten this before."

Who remembers the arguments when jurors gave Pound the only prize
For poetry awarded by the United States Government? Until then.

I was in the big tent when the guy read his poem about how the Jews
Were warned to get out of the Twin Towers before the planes hit.

The crowd was applauding and screaming, they were happy - it isn't
That they were anti-Semitic, or anything. They just weren't listening. Or

No, they were listening, but that certain way. In it comes, you hear it, and
That selfsame second you swallow it or expel it: an ecstasy of forgetting.

When you get a really great day in South Texas, you just have to talk about it.

what a great day, they say

it's the kind of day
that makes people
who don't know about

think they've found
a little corner or heaven
right here
in south central Texas -

55 degrees
under clear skies
with bright winter sun

the sidewalks are
with people
driven to the outdoors

by the call
of the best day of the year
and the Riverwalk
is awash

in a hundred languages
all saying
in their own idiom,
"wow! what a day."

along the way
all have their doors
propped wide open
to let in the fresh air

to purge from all their
crowded retail corners
several years
of stale, greedy air

i am walking
through the day
sucking all the wonder of it
in, relishing it,

savoring it, storing it
so that i might remember it
in the days of August
i know are coming

Now, poem number four from Don Schaeffer

The Arrival

A human being
is a heavy weight.
You can't expect one
to arrive lightly.

Not like a feather,
not on tippy toes,
body behemoth
making great waves in its wake
A human being blasts everything.

The big guns
in the harbor sound.
The weakest run.

If you will have me
I will change your life.
And I will join you
but only if you laugh.

Here are two poems by Sheila Ortiz Taylor, from her book Slow Dancing at Miss Polly's, published by The Naiad Press in 1989.

Taylor, born to a large Mexican-American family in Los Angeles in 1939 has published six novels, a memoir and this book of poetry.

After completing her Ph.D. at UCLA, Florida State University hired her to teach 18th century British literature. Gradually she drifted toward teaching in the creative writing program and helping to found a women's studies program. In time she was awarded an endowed professorship and served as associate chair of the English department.

She is now retired as professor emerita.

Mid-Life Love

Do you remember
when you learned to paint
in Mrs. Beardsley's kindergarten class?

Do you remember
in your father's old shirt
the arms cut off
leaning over orange juice cans of
fragrant calcimine?

Do you remember when she split
your world
with news that
were not pink
that skies
instead of floating
touched the ground?

Tonight, love, I tell you
the skies float purple
and the green calcimine tiger
eats alive
our Mrs. Beardsley

We lie in one another's arms
belly to scarred belly
pink again
loving ourselves alive -
artists once more

Star Trek

Sometimes there is a quiet in you
like the quiet in space
where stars breathe

Sometime there is a rhythm in you
unsyncopated as starfall
on an accidental night

Sometimes there is a space in you
galaxies could not hold,
if you know what I mean

I have seen you launch,
rockets on fire,
the countdown of heart
and splitting sound -
me on the ground0
growing smaller

It was a big storm, came up out of nowhere, catching me completely by surprise.


i was stretched out
in my recliner
LBJ style
(if you don't take your pants off
it ain't a real nap, he said)
and snoring in mellow nap
when all the ticketytockers
and clingadeclangers
and tingalalingers
on the patio
began to dust up a storm
of tickeyytocks
and clingadeclangs
and tigalalingers
from a hard north wind
blowing in
whipping the trees,
tossing garbage can lids
like Frisbees
sailing through the air
(Pluto Platters
the inventor called them;
he died last week,
the ultimate nap
by any wind from any

waking me up
among other thing

blue northers
we used to call these things,
coming up
from the north
out of a coal-black sky
like the devil on a cloud
hopping Harley


"head for cover"
the mamas
would say to us kids
playing in the dirt patch
under the chinaberry tree
out front

the devils coming
and he's ablowing

Next, I have a couple of short poems by Anna Akhmatova from Selected Poems of Anna Akhmatova.

Akhmatova was born in 1889 and died in 1966. In her youth she was an icon of pre-Revolutionary Russian literary society. In her later years she became unofficial spokesman for all those who suffered through Stalinist repression. During WWII she was briefly rehabilitated by authorities because of her patriotism, but was soon repressed again and continued under official sanction until near the end of her life when her international reputation couldn't be ignored any longer.

The two poems are epilogues to her longer series of poems, Requiem. Akhmatova introduces the series of poems with this:

Instead of a Preface

    In the terrible years of the Yezhov terror, I spent seventeen months in the prison lines of Leningrad. Once, someone "recognized" me. Then a woman with bluish lips standing behind me, who, of course had never heard me called by name before, woke up from the stupor to which everyone had succumbed and whispered in my ear (everyone spoke in whispers there):
    "Can you describe this?"
    And I answered: "Yes, I can."
    Then something that looked like a smile passed over what had once been her face.

April 1, 1957

Epilogue I

I learned how faces fall,
How terror darts from under eyelids,
How suffering traces lines
Of stiff cuneiform on cheeks,
How locks of ashen-blond or black
Turn silver suddenly
Smiles fade on submissive lips
And fear trembles in a dry laugh.
And I pray not for myself alone,
But for all those who stood there with me
In cruel cold, and in July's heat,
At that blind, red wall.

Epilogue II

Once more the day of remembrance draws near,
I see, I hear, I feel you:

The on they almost had to drag at the end,
And the one who tramps her native land no more,

And the one who, tossing her beautiful head,
Said: "Coming here's like coming home."

I'd like to name them all by name,
But the list has been confiscated and is nowhere to be found.

I have woven a wide mantel for them
From their meager, overheard words.

I will remember them always and everywhere,
I will never forget them no matter what comes.

And if they gag my exhausted mouth
Through which a hundred million scream,

Then may the people remember me
On the eve of my remembrance day.

And if ever in this country
They decide to erect a monument to me,

I consent to that honor
Under these conditions - that it stand

Neither by the sea, where I was born:
My last tie with the sea is broken,

Nor in the Tsar's garden near the cherished pine stump,
Where an inconsolable shade looks for me,

But here, where I stood for three hundred hours,
And where they never unbolted the door for me.

This, lest in blissful death
I forget the rumbling of the Black Marias,

Forgot how that detested door slammed shut
And an old woman howled like a wounded animal.

And may the melting snow like tears
From my motionless lids of bronze,

And a prison dove coo in the distance,
And the ships of the Neva sail calmly on.

March 1940

Here's the last poem for the week from featured poet, Don Schaeffer. Thank you, Don, for making your work available to us.

The First Inkling of Need

The gesture
is what amuses us
as it says
I am playing
I am not in time out
I have
not yet quit.

Watching the well washed
little boys in the table near the door
I see how they practice
gestures making sure for each other
they are vivid,
saying, I am playing

play with me.
Some day we will
be real members and this will count.

Don't leave me.

Here are several very short pieces from In the Trail of the Wind, with the descriptive subtitle, American Indian Poems and Ritual Orations. The collection was published in 1971 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The book is divided into subsections by subject. I've picked poems from several of these sections, beginning with:

The Beginning

This is a poem from the Maya.

Then He Descended

Then he descended
while the heavens rubbed against the earth,
They moved among the four lights,
among the four layers of the stars.
The world was not lighted;
there was neither day nor night nor moon.
Then they perceived that the world was being created.
Then creation dawned upon the world.

In the Trail of the Wind

This piece is from the Kiowa.

That Wind

That wind, that wind
Shakes my tepee, shakes my tepee,
And sings a song for me
And sings a song for me.

Give Us Many Good Roads

This prayer is from the Sioux.

    Grandfather, the flowering stick you gave me and the nation's
sacred hoop I have given to the people. Hear me, you who have
the power to make it grow! Guide the people that they may be as
blossoms on your holy tree, and make it flourish deep in Mother
Earth and make it full of leaves and singing birds.


From the Makah -


Mine is a proud village, such as it is,
We are at our best when dancing.

The Deer

This short poem is from the Pima. I notice several poems from the Pima in this section - all seem to be from the deer's point of view as the hunted. I don't know that has any cultural meaning - maybe it says something about the people, maybe not - but it was interesting to me.

Black-Tailed Deer song

Down from the houses of magic,
    Down from the houses of magic
Blow the winds, and from my antlers
    And my ears they stronger gather.

Over there I ran trembling,
    Over there I ran trembling,
For bows and arrows pursued me.
    Many bows were on my trail.

The Words of War

Here are two from the Sioux.

War Song

clear the way
in a sacred manner
I come
the earth
is mine

Song of Reproach

your fled
even the eagle dies

Among the Flowers That Enclose Us

An Otomi love poem -

To a Woman Loved

In the sky, a moon;
on your face a mouth.
In the sky, many stars;
On your face, only two eyes.

On Death

Here two short pieces on "death." The first from the Iroquois and the second, a more subdued and accepting view from the Maya.

The Being Without a Face

    Our Grandfathers, now dead, and in whom our minds
rested in trust, decreed, because they did not know its face, the
face indeed, of that Being that abuses us every day, every night,
that Being of Darkness, lying hard by the lodges where it is
black night, yea, that Being which here at the very tops of our
heads, goes abut menacing with its couched weapon - with its
uplifted hatchet - eagerly muttering its fell purpose, "I, I will
destroy the Work - the Commonwealth," they decreed, I say,
that therefore they would call it the Great Destroyer, the Being
without a face, the Being Malefic in Itself, that is Death.

The Moon and the Year

The moon and a year
travel and pass away:
also the day, also the wind.
Also the flesh passes away
to the place of its quietness.

Of Rain and Birth

From the Aztecs, this welcome of rain.

Songs of Birds

In time of rain I come:
I can sing among the flowers
I utter my song; my heart is glad.

Water of flowers foams over the earth:
My heart was intoxicated.


This one, from the Chippewa, I can identify with right now, as I watch our short winter/spring here in South Texas begin to slip away.

Dream Song

as my eyes
the prairie
I feel the summer
in the spring

Skipping several sections, here is a last poem from the last section of the book.

We Shall Live Again

Two pieces, the first from the Papago and the second from the Aztec.

Come All

Come all! Stand up!
Just over there the dawn is coming.
Now I hear
Soft laughter.

They Shall Not Wither

They shall not wither, my flowers,
They shall not cease, my songs.
I, the singer, lift them up.
They are scattered, they spread about.
Even though on earth my flowers
may wither and yellow,
they will be carried there,
to the innermost house
of the bird with the golden feathers.

Here are a couple of short poems, the last to come out of my recent travels.

characteristics of snow

as goose down
as it drifts to earth,
brittle and crisp
in the night, crunching
as you walk in the morning,
under the noonday sun
to a brown, soupy slush
as night falls again

i think
i could find
and analogy
to life in that, if
i were a poet desperate
for a poem in the morning

before time ends

ten days -

five states,
snow in four of them

back home
where the edge
of spring
arrives too soon
and will pass too quickly
to summer,
too hot
and too long

trying to get back into
the zone

where days
are measured
not by calendars
and dates
and miles passed
and to-dos done
but by the passing of the sun
east to west,
and cycles of the moon,
full to dark,
and by poems written
and quiet moments
when a contemplative life
not a waste of time
but a harvesting
of the fruits of time

a slower heart beat,
before time ends

My next poem is by Catherine Bowman, from her book 1-800-Hot-Ribs. The book was published in 1993 by Gibbs-Smith Publisher. It was the poet's first book and winner of the 1992 Peregine Smith Poetry Contest.

Bowman was born in El Paso. She received her bachelors degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a M.F.A. from Columbia University. After teaching in New York City public schools, she is currently Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University.

Obituary For a South Texas Politician

Dropped smack dab from a hole
in the bucket, into the piney
backwoods of the swampy Big Thicket.
Oldest of eight human beanpoles.
Son of a son of diamondback

rattlesnake-handling gospelites
and holy Moses hot rodders. Behold
I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin
did my mother conceive.
A studded
Moabite gone south in a lame Chevrolet.

He treated the land like a blond
bombshell. made her wear neon red
lipstick, lift live chickens with
her cunt, whisper the secrets of oil.
He crawled across her breasts like tequila.

Last night our sons sank down to dig up
his three-day-old grave and anchor the man
to the earth. Not that we thought he could
fly, but the dead often rise to the surface.
All they found were two pinched feet.

His liver was too big for death.
It heaved up into the sky,
a five-lobed and livid rain cloud
that spewed out unclean water
into the open mouth of our cattle.

The cows turned listless and strange.
From the cow shit vegetables grew
in the shape of his tuberous face.
Our children ate them for dinner
and their tongues turned yellow and thin.

His widow poisons us with his blood
preserved in pretty-pretty French perfume
bottles. She bastes it over potted goose,
eye of rib, roast pig. His pig hairs
tickle our dreams into stuffed jellymares.

His fat chop knuckles stir up Storms,
Floods, Tornadoes, Worms, Lice, Lockjaw,
Night. His tongue licks a our backs
at night when we are in bed. Toenail
forks, nostril spoons, ankle knives.

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. It seems a miracle to me that, every morning, I sit down to write a poem without a thing in my head. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, there comes a first line dragging along behind it a poem that becomes, like a parade, as it passes.

It's a little scary sometimes, as I write that first line with no thought of what comes next, and it comes anyway, usually leading me down trails I had never thought of before.

fellow travelers

it's like opening the gate
in the morning
and letting your brain
out for a run,
keeping up as best you can,
trying to keep it out of the rose bushes
and other places
you prefer undiscovered
on any given day

like this,
having just completed my daily read
of the morning newspaper,
this could become a melancholy poem
if i let it
because i am a patriot
and what i see in the papers
is my country
in decline, the greed
and shallowness
of its people, my people,
taking it down,
nowhere showing either will or capacity
to change

but it is a bright
and beautiful morning
and i will not let this
a melancholy poem,
will set aside
the decline of my country
until the next morning's paper
and speak
of how like a lonely man
i am, though i am not -

like a lonely man
i speak to my animals
as the lost and bereft sometimes do,
not because i expect them
to understand
or respond
but because creatures grow
when they hear
the voice of others,
develop affinities and
that could never grow in silence

so i talk to my cats in the morning,
address them by name,
good morning, George, i say,
and you're looking dapper this morning, Billy Goat,
i say,
and, Mama, dark and yellow-eyed Mama,
how cantankerous you are today,
always in such a foul mood,
can you not be pleasant even one morning a week,
and when they meow and talk back to me
i meow back,
my best effort at the accents of their feline lingo,
meow, i say, meow, meow, meow,
in various tones and pitches
and we spend a few minutes in each other's company

and poor old battered Kitty Pride,
i speak to her every night
as she settles in beside me
and i scratch her head
and ask her, please don't snore so loud tonight, Kitty,
i say, i need my sleep
for i have poems to write tomorrow
and she curls her head under her leg
and begins to snore
as i would expect, since it was the sound
of my voice
that soothed her, not any particular words
or requests

and Reba, my beautiful deaf Reba,
do i not stroke her head and whisper to her
when she whimpers in her sleep
and does she not, knowing, if not my voice,
the breath of my voice
and my touch,
settle from her dreams into quiet sleep-breathing

my walk today could lead me
to melancholy and fearful places,
but i have my friends
and i'd rather walk with them,
setting aside such distractions as melancholy and despair
for the deeper bonds
between us,
we unlike-creatures
sharing the voice and sounds of life

That concludes this weeks sermon.

Next week, I will feature Washington poet, Gary Blankenship, with some of his recent work in a form I'm guessing many of us have never heard of, the "Cherita." I'll have more details on that form, along with Gary's poems, next week.

In the meantime, recall the ancient lesson - all work presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. My stuff just floats about and you can grab a piece if you want it. Just remember to tell where it came from.

I am allen itz, and while I may not be the boss of you, I am the boss of myself and this blog.

Cause I made it, that's why.


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