Introducing "Alphabet City" - The Latest by Alex Stolis   Thursday, May 27, 2010

“Fingertips on an Inca’s Back”
Vincent Martinez

This week my featured poet is Alex Stolis, with his new poem, Alphabet City.

Alex is very generous with me, often sending me his new work, sometimes before he’s done anything else with it, telling me I can use what I want.

His new poem, Alphabet City is an amazing piece and I knew when I read it that I wanted it all, not just pieces of it. Because of its length, I began to think how I could present it, maybe in sections over two weeks or even three, then decided that for full effect it had to be read as a whole, all at once. So here it is, for the first time ever and all of a piece, available, as it should be, in one reading.

It is my opinion, as I told Alex, this is the best stuff of his I’ve read.

In addition to Alphabet City, i came across a couple off other long pieces this week that I wanted to use. The result, this week’s “Here and Now” is a longer read than usual.

This week I’m also featuring artist Vincent Martinez.

Vince was my collaborator on my book, Seven Beats a Second, providing the art that I used on every page. The art in this issue are some of the paintings I drew from for the book. These paintings and others by Vince from the book can be seen at my 7beats website,, including prices if you’re of a mind to buy (though I suspect they’re already all sold).

Here are the poets I have this week, a smaller list than usual, but with longer poems. I hope you enjoy both the poetry and the art.

James Hoggard
Two Gulls, One Hawk

this poem is not about waxpaper

William Meredith
Thoughts on One’s Head

Reba has another Jedi moment

Michael Lassell
How to be a Hedonist

at loose ends

Andrew Bird
Fake Palendromes

Alex Stolis
Alphabet City

Jane Hirshfield
Of Gravity & Angels

chipping away

Lynn Crosbie
Starvation Diary

don’t bury me on the lone prairieeee: a modest proposal

Joshua Clover
Union Pacific

day break
summer in south texas
true romance
yippi ky yay
looking good
love in the summer
once in mississippi
the smell of sumer ended

“Cloud Exits”
Vincent Martinez

My first poem this week is from Two Gulls, One Hawk by James Hoggard. The book was published by Prickly Pear Press in 1983, It consists of two long poems, the first 30 pages and the second, the title poem for the book, 45 pages.

Hoggard, whose poetry has been praised for its intensity and fine sense of craft, has also won awards and acclaim for his fiction, literary translation, and personal essays. A former NEA fellow and past president of the Texas Institute of Letters,his work has been published throughout the U.S. as well as in Canada, India, England, the Czech Republic, and Cuba. He is the McMurtry Distinguished Professor of English at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Both poems in the book represent quintessential West Texas and the American Southwest sensibilities.

This is the eleventh and final section of the title poem, very long for “Here and Now,” but I don’t think you can read Hoggard deeply unless you read him as complete as possible.

Unfortunately one section of eleven is as complete as I can do here.

from Two Gulls, One Hawk


The sand of the sea shifts under your feet
A gull flies inland toward desert
Its mate waits for it there

     The fruit of the prickly pear’s turned red

The gulls fly together,
their feathers in the colors of clouds

     A hawk sweeps a circle above them

The gulls do not know it’s there
They fly together till twilight comes

     The hawk’s now in a leafless tree,
     but buds on twigs are beginning to form
     The frost in the weather of self is past

And without sound the sun
throws the low clouds into explosion:
red orange yellow violet -
opulence now and radiance too

        The fire the tree the gods

     The gulls come to rest on the sand

All night the flint-eyed hawk
keeps vigil above them

     To protect them or attack them?

Tonight no rattler will strike through their sleep
You and your kind will dream, if you dream,
of green valleys, troughs in the sea,
and the range of mountains liquidly rising above them
The hawk will need no dream
The hawk’s eyes cut through the night
as yours might do

     And in the morning when dew glistens flowers

When dew shines crowns-of-thorns and prickly pear,

     When mica and quartz catch the sun in sandstone

The hawk will not longer be in the tree
but flying away, in the distance now,
he’ll hold in his talons
the power of darkness he’s seized from the land

     And the gulls will leave to look for a lake,
     waves from a thousand mirages glowing below them

        Is phosphorous in the desert’s sea?

And have you heard the clicking yet?

     From grasshoppers or rattlesnakes?
     Or from the bones Ezekiel knew?

        Or the cracking of waves Amos heard
        when justice rolled like a torrent?

You have in your hand a long stick
You won’t need it for a weapon
or for walking today
You’ll throw it as far as you can
but it won’t leave your hand
You’ll throw it again as far as you can
but it won’t leave your hand

     The stick itself is my hand

And the thrust of your arm?

     The animate drive of lyrical form,
     my body extending communicantly

You understand now
the patterns driving will into
breath into will beyond self

     The stick is the weather
     I hold in my hands

Lightning and breezes, sunlight and shade,
the rage to sail clear through mountainous waves

     The sky’s turning red
     The blood of god slain
     spreads through the sky

But the tint comes from dust

     It always has

Where I ask is the miracle?

     There wasn’t one

        Jacklegged jokes chased it away

There was. A miracle did occur

     No, It didn’t
     unless you conjure back the moment
     you in your whimsy invented
     when tree became truth:

     The tubular stick in St. Teresa’s hand

        a concentration on
        a contraction in the groin
        when she squeezed it -
        I heard a fine moan

and love transformed the lust to prayer

     and prayer became erotic desire

The gasp of sunset leaving

     She leaned upon her broom

Be still now, still

     The moon will sweep the night away

The darkest part of night remains, be still

     In memory it stays
     though moon’s light shines:
     a frozen fire

        burning the self-clotted pall of clouds away

And the tree’s fingers reach

     For what?

The floor of the heavens

     hair and flesh of god-the-gods

And the arms of the other you complete yourself with

     But the wind -
     It’s rising again

The wind is your breath and her breath joined
and, freed, the breath returns then slides
between your bellies, up your thighs
and moisture sprays from ocean waves
rising and troughing

        in our undulant
        and shrimp-scented hair

     The gulls and the hawk -
     They’re flying now

Your arms will sail on past them

     My wife was with me there in the garden
     A throbbing in my loins,
     a fluttering through our flesh

As wind begins dying
love’s shudder retrieves it

     But where is the flame
     that colored the clouds?

In the throbbing you touch and redeem yourselves with:
the embracement that’s vaster than self,

     the joy transcending rage and spite,
     the gladness of pleasure
     and freedom from self

        Self’s the pissantedness of our time,
        a waste of flesh
        a muddlement of mind
        Spit into the wind
        and the wind spits back

But you were right
There was no miracle
not today, no miracles came

     But in her eyes a radiance shone

That was then
St. Teresa’s now alone

     She’s not, and besides
     she’s not the one I meant

In the form of a breeze god-
the-gods winnowed her hair
We all were there
She was our Other

     She’s not the one I meant

Yet she kept on sweeping around you
You had left the naked sun,
the scorcht place in your grove
You had left the breezeless dark
pressing heavily upon you

     We watched her,
     uncovered head bowed,
     blessing the floor

As night came sleep came with it

     And with sleep dreams

Of what?

     We were lying below her high window
     in the long moist grass

And a miracle, you think, occurred?

     The hawk disappeared
     The gulls were gone too
     A light came over the land
     As I opened my eyes I remembered -

Say it

     I can’t
     The taste of blood and salt is on my tongue

The mark of god slain

     Wine-redness at dawn

Then a shaft of a shadow came down
from the high thin window where no glass was
A breeze passed over you

     Its coolness covered us
     The grass beneath us
     became again green
     was no longer straw

A miracle did occur
There were others embraced by that shadow
They knew it though you were unmindful of them
For a moment a miracle did light upon you
and it touched them too

        But they’ll forget
        They always do

     Our arms around our backs,
     we pressed together
     Our arms for a moment curled
     all around the whirl-drunk world,
     and the heat of our touching
     is still fast upon us

Love does that, and wine,
the blessings of her
tending cloister for you

     We rose through distractions,
     past confusions of fatigue
     Redemption came

It comes from pushing your dust
into form

     Our sweat dripped upon it
     and the dirt took shape

It was her sweat as much as yours
and tears as much as sweat

They come from the trouble children bring,
from the shafts of the shadows
we imagine they cast between us -

        The distractions of their irreverent force

     Children lie within us all
     In darkness a memory of light
     shines wanly in our eyes

Why wanly?

     The world read St. Teresa’s story wrong,
     and we when we’re harried
     do the same with our own
     The grief of the inner, self-locked wind

The hawk near the gulls again

     The world lying moistly,
     its matting our bed

     And the dawn rose into noon
     that descended to dusk
     whose sunset gasped into night

But lightning brought the twilight heaving back

     Then darkness caved in upon us
     yet dawn, like a wedge, stirred again up through it

        The slow undulation of time
        moving around you
        and waving through your flesh
        You took up her broom

Blest by the burden you felt
your arms going light
such happens in memory more than flight

     And by it we measure the rhythms of time

That’s surely your mistake, not hers
She took her broom back, and sweeping
she accepted the visions when they came
She did not demand a new one each day
She said she preferred -

     Her preference is not mine
     She had no child and loved no mate
     Though Christ in her profound flesh

But you can’t reject her

     I’m not
     Her knowledge begins the past
     of what our lyrical miracle is
     A shining tone rings
     beyond the noise
     coming from the lungs
     but barely reaching tongue -

        Except in rage or praise,
        except in whimsies of speech

But what about the volcanic pit
you called the howling bowels of self?

     Battered, I measured words by it
     But when our arms curl now
     around the whirl-drunk world
     we are lying together
     beyond that world,
     we are standing together
     within that world
     and my son is seeing it with us

Two gulls, lone hawk
soaring through the vagrant light

        and a stillness shines beyond you
        over the earth and down into soil

deeply into the fragrant earth
and out through a radiance of distant stars

     Their huge spread of light
     touches this place where we are.

“Chicken Wings & Pretty Things”
Vincent Martinez

The nice thing about my life is, at least until I die, I can always start over.

this poem is not about waxpaper

every morning
i have my breakfast,
drink my coffee,
read my newspaper,

then open my laptop
and out pops the word
that will lead me to the day’s
poem -

this morning, the word is

this is poetry
and not real life,
i close my laptop

order another pot
of coffee
and sit back
to start over, “slips”

is what i remember
we called it
when i was a kid playing

and the marble slipped
off your cocked finger
or your cocked finger slipped
and your marble went all


and poetry
being a lot more like marbles
than real life,
i’m calling “slips” on “waxpaper”

until i think of something better,
like maybe,
“real life” and how the game
of marbles

is good preparation
for young boys
not yet required to engage
in “real life”

for the “slips” part,
which might be good preparation
for young boys

to engage in the game of “poetry”
at some point
in the the later portions of their life -

whether the game is "holes" or "circles,"
the whole game
is about getting ahead of your opponents

by knocking their marbles
out of the way, a situation,
as in real life

where advantage
lies always
with the boy
with the biggest


“Lime Grape”
Vincent Martinez

I have two poems now by William Meredith from his book, Effort at Speech, published in 1997 by Triquarterly Books.

Born in New York City in 1919, Meredith’s first book of poetry, Love Letter from an Impossible Land, was written while he was in the US Navy during World War II. The book won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 1943. His many books since have won many honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1988 and the National Book Award for Poetry for this book.

Meredith died in New London, Connecticut, near his home in Montville, where he lived with his partner of 36 years.


The girl lies down on the hill
In the grass in the sun in June.
Love calls for the breaking of will,
The young man knows that soon

His will to be free must break,
And his ego, dear as a wife;
His hand is a brown mistake
Lacing him into life

As blank as a flower, her face
Is full of the meadow’s musk
and the shadow of grass like lace
On the hill where she wills the dusk.

Thoughts on One’s Head

(In Plaster, with a Bronze Wash)

A person is very self conscious about is head
It makes one nervous just to know it is cast
In enduring materials, and that when the real one is dead
The cast one, if nobody drops it or melts it down, will last.

We pay more attention to the front end, where the face is
Than to the interesting and involute interior:
The Fissure of Rolando and such queer places
Are parks for the passions and fears and mild hysteria.

The things that go on there! Erotic movies are shown
to anyone not accompanied by an adult.
The marquee out front maintains a superior tone;
Documentaries on Sharks and The Japanese Tea Cult.

The fronts of some heads are extravagantly pretty.
These are females. Men sometimes blow their tops
About them, launch triremes, sack a whole city.
The female head is mounted on rococo props.

Judgement is in the head somewhere; it keeps sums
Of pleasure and pain and gives belated warning;
This is the first place everybody comes
With bills, complaints, writs, summons, in the morning.

This particular head, to my certain knowledge
Has been taught to read and write, to make love and money,
Operate cars and airplanes, teach in college,
And tell involved jokes, some few extremely funny.

It was further taught to know and to eschew
Error and sin. which it does erratically.
This is the place the soul calls home just now.
One dislikes it of course: it is the seat of Me.

“Myth Melt”
Vincent Martinez

Old Reba, she’s just full of surprises.

Reba has another Jedi moment

she does this sort
of thing


comes to my bedroom
where i’m napping
and wakes me, and i ask her
what she wants, but she
just returns to her bed
and goes back to sleep

a minute later
my son

stuck in traffic

where do i want
to meet him
for dinner?

between where he’s stuck
and where i am

he was driving in
from Austin
and i had been waiting
for him to call
but fell asleep in my chair

wanted to make sure
i didn’t miss
the call, so she woke me
just before -

she’s the alarm clock
that sounds just before
the appointed hour

the smoke detector
that smells
the future of smoke -

she has these Jedi
we’re almost used
to them


“Predictable Patterns”
Vincent Martinez

The next poem is by Michael Lassell, taken from the anthology, A Day for a Lay - A Century of Gay Poetry, published by Barricade Books in 1999. It’s a long poem - this seems to be the week for long poems - but clever and fun from first word to last.

Lassell, born in 1947, lives in New York City and is an editor and writer of poetry, stories, essays and travel articles.

How to be a Hedonist
     for Gavin Dillard

Know that it isn’t easy.
Give yourself permission
to fail. Most do. It is no
disgrace. Many begin by
finding a lover to
lose themselves in, a body that quivers as
bodies should and
deeper than you’ve ever
imagined. If you cannot live
for pleasure, live for love or
for the moment. Trace the curves of your
lover’s back with cool lips and
hot intentions. Failing that,
live whatever way you can.
Nobody is perfect. Nobody is
keeping track.

Little you have learned will aid you
“All good things must come to an end”
is not a hedonist credo. Neither is:
“A stitch in time saves nine.”
Neither is:
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Generally speaking, if
your mother learned a thing from
her mother, it will not
help you.
It is better to say:
“I’d give up everything for you.”
but it is not best
to believe it.

Reading is irrelevant.
What you need to know is not
in books. You must learn from
trial and error. If you must read books,
do not read anything written by an American
prior to Tropic of Cancer.
Do not read poetry by T.S. Eliot or by
Ezra Pound. Do not read
Dante or Goethe or
anything by a Scandinavian, a Lutheran, or
a computer programmer.
Do not read Greek tragedy unless
you think it’s funnier than
Roman comedy. read instead the moods
of your lover’s eyes. Try to
outguess them.

Do not think.
No matter what.
No matter how much you are moved or
tempted to do so. Unless you are one of the few -
one of the rare few - for whom ideas
are sensual, for whom
concepts slide like heavy cream
around the white porcelain bowl of your brain,
unless abstractions
tickle the inside of your thighs
like a ride downhill taken
as a child. If you must think,
invent new ways to make love
without accouterments.

If you must think, in spite of all advice
to the contrary, if you must think of
other things than love,
do not
express your thoughts. Thoughts given tongue
can kill. There is no
antidote for an aphrodisiac
more effective than a thought
spoken aloud.

If you must think your thoughts aloud
speak softly and
in metaphor.
Do not say:
“The trade embargo imposed against the
legitimate government of Nicaragua by the
right-wing faction of the Republican Party
causes me as much anxiety as the threat of
nuclear annihilation.”
Say rather:
“The flavor of your skin
gives me reason to live.”

No matter what happens, do not
despair. Five senses are not many,
but they are sufficient. One alone is
sufficient if
properly handled. Start
with one. Practice. Become
a gourmet. An aficionado. A
connoisseur. When you have
mastered one, try another. Try them
in concert.
It is not impossible to enjoy all five senses
at once, but it is impudent and
inadvisable. Indulging more than three senses
at any one time is
superfluous. Any fool can see that,
even and old fool with
new tricks.

Do not live in a cold place.
Do not live under martial law
or inhabit any nation ruled by
a zealot.
Do not live in a country at war with
itself or in any territory occupied by
the Soviet Union, and do not dwell in
Israel, Jordan, or Lebanon - even if your are
a journalist (and it is not wise to be
a journalist: fact is anathema to hedonism).
There are lamentably few places left
to live. Do not live
in most of the United States. Do not live
near a factory or a retirement
village. Try to live in a Catholic country,
but do not live in the vicinity
of a church, unless it is very old and beautiful
and named for a saint with a past.

Live on a tree-lined street in a city with
parks, views, broad boulevards, and
excellent native cuisine.
Live there a long time in love until you take
everything for granted.
Then move, leaving your lover behind because
his skin is beginning to taste

Take up an occupation that requires little
regimen. Move to a small apartment
by yourself. Drink large quantities of
alcoholic beverages. Lose control. Speak to
strangers in strange bars. Follow them home
by taxi or on foot whether or not you’re
invited. Taste their skin.
Lie to them.
Lie to yourself. Dream.
forget your dreams. Live
for the moment. Think that
the scent of the spring air reminds you of
someone you left behind.

Turn suddenly without warning, in public at a
voice like his voice. Eat. Drink. Be merry,
for tomorrow you die, and the next day too.
Receive a telegram.
Follow its directions to a graveyard.
Do not ask questions. Ever.
Read the inscription on the headstone.
Say the name aloud without
moving your lips. Listen to
the granite. touch it with
your tongue. smell the dead
flowers. Say:
“The taste of your skin
gives me reason to live.”
See if you mean it.
Leave in tears.
Develop an irrational appetite for
Have neurotic dreams. Remember your

Vincent Martinez

The longest days in the world are those when you have to wait for someone who hasn’t told you exactly when they’re coming.

at loose ends

the morning
is damp and warm

winds blowing

against the Balcones

that is our border
with the hill country,

beginning its rise

seen from here on the first slopes
as a green valley

high-rise offices and hotels jutting
from the forest

and, somewhere,
under the trees

the spanish governor’s

and six blocks from there
the Alamo,

all this to set the scene
of a city between

two geologies
and two environments -

to the south
low oak-covered hills

rolling softly
to the flat coastal plains,

treeless but for mesquite,
imported in the dung

of longhorns brought
by Captain King from Mexico

- along with the vaqueros
who over generations became, Kineros,

bred, born, raised, educated, employed
married and buried

within the vast coastal expanse
of the ranch -

in the summer gulf winds
sweep across these plains

and rolling hills
to bring us warm, humid mornings

and hot, wet days and nights
before they bump against

the rougher hills north of the city
and stall on top of us

dead, hot, smothering
days under a fierce western sun...

and in the winter,
gulf winds blown back

by strong, frigid air
pushed across the Rockies

from Canada
and further north,

sweeping down from the hills
laying on the city

weeks of blue crystal skies,
cool days and cold nights -

from the rugged rock-covered hills

for those of us who hate the heat


the reader might ask,

all this meteorological,
geological and historical instruction

at a time
when poetry is the order of the day

the poet responds,

i am bored, at loose ends, waiting,
possibly all day

for the city inspectors
to come

and approve the work
on my new central air system -

feeling like one of those lonely and bored old people
who sit at home all day

fixated on the weather
or, like an old aunt of mine

sitting in her easy chair
listening all day to a police scanner,

probably knowing more
in the end

about crime in the city
than the police chief


9:19 a.m.
maybe hours to go before i can escape...

i guess i’ll go
switch on the Weather Channel

too late
to buy a police scanner

“Breath Felt”
Vincent Martinez

Next, I have something a little different, song lyrics by Andrew Bird for one of the songs on his latest CD release, The Mysterious Production of Eggs.(I've been corrected - it's not his latest album, but three albums back - still good)

Bird, born in 1973, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. He was born in Chicago and currently spends his time between there and a farm near the town of Elizabeth in northwest Illinois. He has mastered several instruments and is musically proficient on others, including violin, guitar, mandolin, whistling, and glockenspiel, which allows him to record his music mostly on his own.

His lyrics, which I like very much, just skip along, taking the listener along for the ride, until all of a sudden he finds himself in a place he never intended to be, such as, in these lyrics, finding himself self listening to a song about some kind of might-be serial killer.

Fake Palendromes

my dewy-eyed disney bride, what has tried
swapping your blood with formaldehyde?
whiskey-plied voices cried fratricide!
jesus don't you know that you could've died
(you should've died)
with the monsters that talk, monsters that walk the earth
and she's got red lipstick and a bright pair of shoes
and she's got knee high socks, what to cover a bruise
she's got an old death kit she's been meaning to use
she's got blood in her eyes, in her eyes for you
she's got blood in her eyes for you
certain fads, stripes and plaids, singles ads
they run you hot and cold like a rheostat, i mean a thermostat
so you bite on a towel
hope it won't hurt too bad
my dewy-eyed disney bride, what has tried
swapping your blood with formaldehyde?
what monsters that talk, monsters that walk the earth
and she says i like long walks and sci-fi movies
if you're six foot tall and east coast bred
some lonely night we can get together
and i'm gonna tie your wrists with leather
and drill a tiny hole into your head

“Words Like Birds”
Vincent Martinez

As promised, here is Alphabet City, a new poem by Alex Stolis, beginning, as you might have guessed, with “Aa.”

Alphabet City

        For J


without your voice, the moon
is a pale version of the truth


let me draw a map of your body
trace every curve and circle every scar


let’s break the day
in two and watch our shadows
drape the horizon


when the sun is too tired to sink
you can sing her to sleep


She’s shambolic; a calculated wreck, all legs and long hair
waiting for the bottom to drop out and the top to level off.
Remember what we used to say- the last one to learn
is the first one to lose.


one touch and the dreams
we had are forgotten


clouds steal the sun, we’re left
with small change and no way out


you are a bird with a broken wing
who sings outside my window


our words are swept into the river
past remorse and beyond grief


It’s the end of the line. Light is muffled and not a goddamn
cop in sight when you really need one. But we are not afraid
of trouble. We are rolling thunder. We are the chosen
ones baptized in the wet dew of morning.

onetwothree- sinning is for sinners
get ready to pull the trigger and walk away
before the body hits the ground- fourfivesix


One day the earth will slow, I’ll lay
a row of sticks on the ground; one
for each day you’ve been gone


In the time it takes for a match to burn
my fingertips, a bird arcs over the sun


All the lovely girls are lined up in stereo,
the pavement shimmers and even with our backs
to the wall we can see where we’ve been


One mistake and one promise adds up to every star
in a slate gray sky; you cross your fingers
behind your back as you kiss me good-bye


The all night girls dress up for the all night boys
and the all night boys they got it bad.

she is free speech and ready to fight anyone
who will listen. there is closing time, after party
burnout time, love, hate and muscle, over played
hands and underhanded plays. she takes a slow
sip of her drink, meditates on a tear in her stocking;
he feels the cool burn of metal against his forehead.


Our voices do not change
fast enough for the wind; I love
the taste of your hair when it rains


Two doors down the music is just loud enough
to feel. I wake up alone, the shadow of your face
fades from the pillow


You are the wind, the rain that falls
into my open door


The tree holds its breath for spring; we begin
and begin again, never forgetting how we end.


It’s a Holy Roller show and he’s the Jesus of cool
- mirrored shades, black buckle boots and a thick
roll of scratch. She’s always had the right of way,
believes talk is cheap when you pay in advance
for all the answers. Togetherness is the last refuge
of the lonesome but this night is already in ruins
and no amount of dying will bring it back to life.


between the slow ticks
of an engine cooling
a kiss is stolen


when light hits your hair,
it breaks into silence


the familiar taste of clouds
to a hungry sky


when the stars are ready to fall
we catch each other
in the smallest lies


Wasp Nest

She’s an outright unbeliever straining to break the pull of gravity,
likes to live dangerously close to the fire. She’s kept up by visions.
Ashes. Grey bones. Brittle winds, broken trees. One day she’ll bust
out and make her way across the desert, no good riddance, no good
byes, no looking back.


a swirl of dust, a calliope of sound, everything
becomes clear in a storm


your hand brushes mine, ragged
clouds leave us empty


one, two, three
and we are


fear is a caged bird


Temporary like Achilles

She was a kaleidoscope. She loved the song Amazing Grace.
We sang it together on the afternoon we thought it was too late,
too late to go back, too late to turn around. The room is empty.
I can hear her walk, can hear the ice crackle on the window.
She told me I could be her temporary lover, her very last one
and only. Told her she could be my ghost.


the sound of summer
as it tilts
and brushes against your skin


a rusted Chevy, two warm beers
forgotten in the shade; sunburned
shoulder against my face


I watch your hips sway
as you walk to your car, one more
dream to remember when I sleep


the wind changes color as clouds disappear
into a familiar voice, shy and insistent


She tells everyone a different story about the scar: it was a fall
when she was five years old, she let go of father’s hand, walked
into an accident, realized too late; it happened at birth, a gift
from god, an unpaid bill, a reminder of how things twist away
from the center. Small crimes of the flesh are better committed
together and in silence; she paints a landscape created by two
bodies as they sleep, careful to brush over the indifference
that breaks with morning.


with every breath inhaled
another chance is swallowed
by the past


a neon light stutters, a cherry sparks on the side
walk. he reaches for her hand, wishes for dry
earth, a blank sun and green grass


he can’t remember the sound
of her voice, the streetlamp stands guard;
a scarecrow, straw-brained and helpless


a paper airplane floats from the fourth floor
and hits the curb as she flags a cab; another lost
suicide note


sangre de stephanie

valium, vicoden, benzedrine, whiskey glass,
judgment land. hips square, backed up against
reasonable doubt. she’s a victim, she’s a martyr,

                                             told her i was blind.
took me along for the ride anyway. white cross,
percoset, vodka. she tells me the best crucifixions
take place after midnight.


He tells her each scar comes with a story:
its own beginning, a ragged middle
but you get to make up the ending


memory, recollection,
a dress, remembrance, reminiscence,
memorize, perfume, memento, memorial,
rain, reminder, souvenir, token


we are all things moved by color
bound by ashes and dust, left
stranded together all alone


original sin is a secret best kept
from the sun and earth


She wants to burn one or two bridges but doesn’t want to take
the blame. Tells me about unused stars scattered over
a ploughed field, God’s own orphans, she says. Back then
her name was Sunny. She liked the night, T’s and Blues and men
who talked in their sleep. Insists she doesn’t two-time anymore,
believes making love is another form of adoption. I swear,
next time I won’t be the one to re-create her misery.


she has become a shadow, a shell
upturned on the beach, waiting
for a wave to set her free


once, when i was young, the streets were full
of absolution and my fist could split
the future wide open


there is no magic in dying


i watch her undress in the light
cast from the street, she smiles
when I put out my cigarette


The sunset is not pretty. In another lifetime I would have argued
but she looks so radiant, I can forgive the way she manipulated
the past to her favor. The sky is a color that defies sadness.
She puts away the cigarettes, tears up the picture, traces my scar
with the tip of her finger. She’s right. The sunset is ugly, dawn
tastes like burnt rubber and the ocean will never repay its debt.
She tells me all my plans will go up in a pillar of memories.
Those pale women will never believe your story. She wraps
her leg around mine and I know the future rides in the color
of her hair, the tiny crack in her lower lip holds my fortune.


a bee flits from flower to flower, i walk back
to my car, wonder what happened to the gun


I see her silhouette through frosted glass,
legs crossed high ready to start a revolution


he knows where he can find her
but doesn’t always know the way there


she knows the gravity of innocence,
the impermanence of flesh and bone


She slips from her strapless
dress, the tangled mess of hair
is smoke from a filter-less cigarette.

Mistakes are not made, they are crafted origami
swans; small white wings, a blank stare from blind eyes.


Wish you were here. Wish I was too. Windows rolled all the way down
Johnny Cash on the radio, open road and clean skies, endless possibilities,


whatthefuck just happened: two seconds ago
now the door’s busted down and you’re


she carries a leaf in her pocket, the one
he gave her; said its shape reminded her
of two hearts


Yeah. Right.


The last two dreams she had drifts in & out
of focus: a red wagon overturned in the yard
one wheel laughing at an oak; a bullet glints
seductively on linoleum. Moonlight cuts
a halo over her. Two strikes on a match
and I can see the outline of her lips.


a pale gold circle is left
where her doubt
used to be


when it’s the end of the line
you can’t go wrong
with sayin’ you ain’t seen nuthin’


let my words be your skin


but not at all


For a little while we’re in another
world. Not afraid of the dark, unfazed
by what lurks at the bottom of the well.
A handful of dirt. Two more drinks.
There are words
and there is flight and she believes
she can make the world start turning
in the other direction until the wheels
come flying off one by one. One more
chance, baby, that’s all she needs. One.
Her hair is painted a pale shade of blue,
her eyes a cried out red.
She loves me.
She cured me.
She’s a haiku that courses through my veins.

“Chente’s Hente”
Vincent Martinez

Now I have the title poem by Jane Hirshfield, from her book Of Gravity & Angels, published in 1988 by Wesleyan University Press.

Hirshfield was born in New York City and received her bachelor's degree from Princeton University in the school's first graduating class to include women. She later studied at the San Francisco Zen Center, including three years of monastic practice at Tassaiara Zen Mountain Center.
Hirshfield has worked as a freelance writer, editor, and translator. She has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, and as the Elliston Visiting Poet at the University of Cincinnati. She has also taught at many writers conferences and served as both core and associate faculty in the Bennington Master of Fine Arts Writing Seminars.
Of Gravity & Angels was her second book. She has published many more since.

Of Gravity & Angels

And suddenly, again,
I want the long road of your thigh
under my hand, your well-traveled thigh,
you salt-slicked & and come-slicked thigh,
and I want the taste of you, slaking,
under my tongue (that place of riding desire,
my tongue) and I want
all the unnameable, soft, and yielding places,
belly & neck & the place wings would rise from
if we were angels,
and we are, and I want the rising regions of you
shoulder & cock & tongue & breathing &
suddenness of you
all fontanel, all desire, the whole thing beginning
for the first time again, the first,
until I wonder then how is it
we even know which part we are,
even know the ground that lifts us, raucous,
out of ourselves,
as the rising sound of a summer dawn
when all of it joins in.

She is a very sensuous poet. Here’s one more.

I Have No Use for Virgins

I have no use for virgins -
give me the cup
with a chipped lip,
whose handle is glued back on
and whose glaze is dark from use.
Let many men and women
drink from us before
we drink -
I taste their breasts on your breast,
you cover their blaze between my legs.

“Peruvian Landscape #2”
Vincent Martinez

Nine out of ten household injuries are the result of bored old men trying to do something they should have left alone.

chipping away

i have a five-foot stump
in my back yard -
reminder of a tree
i had cut down six months

saved the stump

who knows when i might need
a good stump

this morning
i began the process
of trying to sculpt something
out of it

i know nothing
about sculpting, have
no idea what i'm trying
to sculpt

i just chip away,
thinking i might find something
inside the stump
not obvious
from the outside

it's possible
i might find the sculptor
within me

but more likely
i'll find only the most difficult way
to remove a five-foot stump
from your backyard

either way
chipping wood
is a most uninteresting thing
to do, leaving
lots of time for the mind to roam

what my mind might find
in its roaming

there's a poem in
that stump

Vincent Martinez

My next poem is by Lynn Crosbie, from her book, Miss Pamela’s Mercy, published in 1992 by Coach House Press.

Crosbie is a Canadian poet, novelist and teacher at the Ontario College of Art and Design University. This was her first book and has published eight additional books since, the most recent, in 2006, Liar.

Starvation Diary


the last thing I ate was bananas smashed
with brown sugar. it does not seem
like a significant last meal, and
I imagine prisoners considering this.
that food was last Tuesday. I am
not hungry. it is like a suicide
dressing herself beforehand.
the care of buttoning a woolen sweater,
the difficult clasp of a bracelet.
only to be crushed under the metal
of a subway car and find an eye that’s
become a brooch and matted sleeves
and shoes adrift with tendons and
toes. does the man think of an omelette
he once ate with the sun in the window.
does she choose a craving, like death,
something cool on a hot day.


I feel my stomach shrinking into the
size of an embryo I had an abortion
once. and imagined somehow slinking
through the hospital and removing
it. from the formaldehyde jar and
breathing into its cellular lungs.
the girl grows in spirit, and slips
her hand in mine, she wears make-up
that looks starry and clear. my stomach
would never near my womb, which had
evaporated and I heard, I swear to it
God, the placenta dissolve and
shower through my pores. she
knows me and my pain. she knows
my body is mine. you are too
thin, my daughter. in your
cloudy nightdress and your moon
above me,


he always said, why are you
eating this, or that, popcorn,
celery, mushrooms, he would enter
me like a sightless bandit, shooting
me with foam and rubber. he
drew black lines along my stretch-
marks when I slept, and ground
his fist under my ribs. does
this hurt? there are a hundred
women on the walls whose hair
sprouted in leafy gardens. whose
thighs were needles, in me he
left a scar. I said Charlotte,
you are not alive. I called
you Ruby, a jewel, a flame-coloured
dress I burned.


eating keeps you alive. I was
a cow grazing in milkweed. I
was a pigeon with its beak in
the garden. I am flying to the


I bless the women who live alone.
in their rippling wattled frames
and choose to ascend beyond.
who skirt the banquets and decline
the lemons and zucchinis, sweet
genitals to the mouths open shiny
on magazines I’ve seen. I’ve
seen that sickness of living
through. when we once held each
other on the linoleum floor and
I saw a horizon in his collarbone
and a prayer in every beauty.
she is splayed to the door watching
my skin fall from my bones.
she has seen my hair descend
to the ground in a grey wave.
I bless the women who have borne
the thoughts, like cameos of
nausea, and lived. I have begun
to sleep. locked in a cat’s
circle, spine a metal awning.


sugar tea and triangles of cheese

these are the things that my
hollow rib s would stick to.
these are the things that would
fill my bloodless veins.


we are infants, skeletal and
barely conscious. the wind,
the smell of wood and a moving
curtain. this poem is the last
in my life. a life that moved
in a circle. when he swung me
around. when my legs opened
and creaked. when i last wished
we had lived forever - in a flesh
castle and amniotic moat. and
felt he sure, diurnal movements,
of the immaculate earth.

Vincent Martinez

Doesn’t seem to me like too much to ask for.

don’t bury me on the lone prairieeee: a modest proposal

they keep finding
these ancient
over the world

the latest in Mexico,
2,700 years old,
the oldest,
by several centuries
in all of Mesoamerica

at the apex of a pyramid
a tomb,
four skeletons
in all -
a Mesoamerican
big shot of some kind
inside the tomb,
coated in red pigment
and adorned with hundreds
of jade ornaments and
accompanied in his tomb
by two slaves,
adult and child,
sacrificed to watch over
the big shot, a personage apparently
too important to be setting off
on a journey into the dreadworlds
on his own

right outside the tomb
another skeleton,
a woman most likely,
also highly adorned like the big shot,
maybe mrs. big shot, wedding vows at the time
perhaps a little more lasting
than today

all this well and good,
i suppose,
if you’re the type
that prefers your final rot
atop a pyramid

nothing so grand as all that -

i will be cremated,
my image
on a platinum plate,
along with some very obscure poem
i will write before i die,
the plate
then dropped from an airplane
on some transcontinental

so that post-American remnants
multi-generations hence
will find it
as they trudge on their burros across
the sandy
coastal deserts
of Iowa

my benediction to the

could be even
they will worship me

Vincent Martinez

Here’s a poem by Joshua Clover, from his first book Poems - Madonna anno domini, published in 1997 by the Louisiana State University Press and winner of the 1996 Walt Whitman Award of The Academy of American Poets.

Clover, a poet, critic, author and journalist born in 1962, is a graduate of Boston University and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He is an Associate Professor of English Literature and Critical Theory at the University of California, Davis and was Holloway poet-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley in 1999-2000.

Union Pacific

That about which the Buddhists teach
That the certain life belongs to the uncertain,
That life in which nothing belongs to us for even
The length of a century, which is nothing: Om.
The life in which all streets are named for thieves,,
Trees and thieves, the life in which the thief-and-tree
Is the sign of the West, the life in which there are
Seven spheres extending out to heaven from the Union
Pacific switching yard in Wyoming near midsummer,
The heaven we are not allowed to see in this life: Om.
The life which spent a third of a century maneuvering me,
Solitary, rouged in the fine dust of the Chimney Rock Ranch,
To the end of Ivinson Street in Laramie near the
Continental Divide where the railroad companies planted
Their feet in a bracework of steel and cracked open
The West the way a bear, a holy animal (first thought
Only thought) might crack open a Buddhist,
By skull and by ribcage, the white containments: Om.
From the Buddhists we learn that a holy man may own
Half a wooden bowl and replace it every seven years,
About seven bowls a century, about how long the life
Of the great railroads lasted, the Life of Seven bowls
In which you couldn’t see the forest for the thieves: Om.
Yesterday, I watched a pair of children taking off
The red Chimney Rock dust in a stone bowl
Rifted by a petty cataract of water, one basin
for the two of them, just the right amount, they were flying
From rock to rock, they were almost oblivious
To the story of the West, it was the Fourth of July,
It seemed possible they could be damaged,
The parents were watching too, through a camera,
From the corner of an eye, view within a view,
The second thought which cradles the first thought
Like a bowl inside a owl, four times more
Than I am allowed even here, in the other life

“Orange Grey”
Vincent Martinez

After this week of long poems, I’m finishing with several short poem i wrote some years ago, a demonstration to those who doubt that there was a time when I could tell a story in less that three pages. All the poems were written in the late nineties or early naughts and all were published in one place or another.

The exception is the third piece, true romance, which, though published in the late nineties, was written in the late sixties.

day break

clear skies
and early dew
make the pastures glisten
under the pale falling moon of
day break

summer in south texas

in south texas,
horned toads and rattlesnakes
negotiate for every piece
of shade

true romance


cricking love songs
to a crotchety moon


yippi ky yay

i know ride the
range in helicopters
but they still wear boots and are still

looking good

you come into the room
with your new lover
like Ken and Barbie,
a perfect matched set
of glowing grace and beauty,
so self-confidently
that all the light in the room
seems to gather in your presence

did I look that good
with you on my arm,
and if I did,
how did you ever leave me...

love in the summer

love in the summer
is a sweaty, sloshy thing

not like winter
when chill winds bite
parts uncovered

once in mississippi

once, in
I saw a cotton field,
pretty, I thought, till I had to
pick it

the smell of summer ended

the first
cold front of fall,
and all the stores are packed
with bundled shoppers smelling of
moth balls

“Peruvian Landscape”
Vincent Martinez

And that, again, is it for the week.

As usual, remember that all of the work presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. My stuff is available if you want, just give proper credit if you do.

I am allen itz, producer and owner of this blog and it does tricks for me in the middle of the night.

at 6:08 PM Blogger enthalpypress said...

This is really a high impact gallery. Thanks Allen

Post a Comment

May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017
January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
July 2018
August 2018
September 2018
October 2018
November 2018
December 2018
January 2019
February 2019
March 2019
April 2019
May 2019
June 2019
July 2019
August 2019
September 2019
October 2019
November 2019
December 2019
January 2020
February 2020
March 2020
April 2020
May 2020
June 2020
July 2020
August 2020
September 2020
Loch Raven Review
Mindfire Renewed
Holy Groove Records
Poems Niederngasse
Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
The Blogging Poet
Wild Poetry Forum
Blueline Poetry Forum
The Writer's Block Poetry Forum
The Word Distillery Poetry Forum
Gary Blankenship
The Hiss Quarterly
Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
Vienna's Gallery
Shawn Nacona Stroud
Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet