Rocks & Hard Places   Friday, May 21, 2010


I have lots of good poets this week, some of my favorites, in fact, including my featured poet for week, Don Schaeffer.

Don's 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. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from City University of New York (1975) and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The poems he is letting me use this week will be in his next book, A Wish for My Dreamer, due to be released in late Summer.

Unfortunately, don’t have much in the way of art this week, especially compared to Katie Sottak’s work last week, just some re-rendered photos from a hike my son and I took up Enchanted Rock several months ago. As I’ve said a number of times, I’m always looking for artists or photographers who can send me twenty five images to feature in an issue. That’s much simpler for me than trying to figure out something new to do, again and again, to old photos.

And, with that, here’s our grand band of poetically adept poeticos for this week.

Naomi Shihab Nye
Even at War
Grieving Ring
For the 500th Dead Palestinian, Itisam Bozieh

Don Schaeffer
A Wish for my Dreamer

imagine you are almost one of a kind

Carol Connolly
Without a Hat
Man’s Best Friend
The Index

how reporters helped me write better poems

Don Schaeffer

Tony Barnstone
The 167th Psalm of Elvis

with Basho in his garden

Don Schaeffer
The Arrival

Belle Waring
Back to Catfish
What Hurts

Don Schaeffer
The First Inkling of Need

Guest Speaker

Gary Soto
Career Counseling
Pagan Life

Reba for Congress

Don Schaeffer

Blaise Cendrars
Bijou Concert
White Suit
The Equator
Crossing the Line
Rio de Janeiro
Sao Paulo


John Bandi
6 haiku

Margaret Chula
4 haiku

Cid Corman
4 haiku

Patricia Donegan
4 haiku

Diane DiPrima
Death Poems in April

notes from a grounded witchdoctor

I start this week with several poems by Naomi Sihab Nye, from her book, Red Suitcase, published by BOA Editions in 1994.

Born in 1952, Nye is an award-winning is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. Of mixed heritage, her father is Palestinian and her mother American. Although she regards herself as a "wandering poet", frequently traveling abroad on USIA-sponsored Arts American speaking tours through the Middle East and Asia, she refers to San Antonio as her home.

Even at War

Loose in his lap, the hands.
And always a necktie,
as some worlds are made complete
by single things.
Graveled voice,
bucket raised on old ropes.
You know how a man can get up,
get dressed, and think
the world is waiting for him?
At night darkness knits
a giant cap to hold the dreams in.
A wardrobe of neckties with slanted stripes.
Outside oranges are sleeping, eggplants,
fields of wild sage. An order
from the government said,
You will no longer pick this sage
that flavors your whole life.
And all the hands smiled.
Tonight the breathing air carries
headlines that will cross the ocean
by tomorrow. Bar the door.

The Grieving Ring

When word of his death arrived
we sat in a circle for days
crying or not crying

long ago in the other country
girls balanced buckets
on their heads

now the old sweet water
rose from the spring
to swallow us

brothers shrank
children grew old
it felt fine to say nothing
about him
or something small

the way he carried
oranges and falafel
in his pockets

the way he was always
slightly mad

what he said to each
the last time
we saw him
hurt the worst

those unwritten letters
banging each head
till it felt bruised

now he would stand at the mirror
knotting his tie
for the rest of so many lives

I think I’ve used this next poem before, but bears re-reading - maybe once a week or so until the little deaths are ended forever.

For the 500th Dead Palestinian, Itisam Bozieh

Little sister Ibtisam,
our sleep flounders, our sleep tugs
the cord of your name.
Dead at 13, for staring through
the window into a gun barrel
which did not know you wanted to be
a doctor.

I would smooth your life in my hands,
pull you back. Had I stayed in your land,
I might have been dead too,
for something simple like staring
or shouting what was true
and getting kicked out of school.
I wandered stony afternoons
owning al their vastness.

Now I would give them to you,
guiltily, you, not me.
Throwing this ragged grief into the street,
scissoring news stories free from the page
but they live on my desk with letters, not cries.

How do we carry the endless surprise
of all our deaths? Becoming doctors
for one another. Arab, Jew,
instead of guarding tumors of pain
as the they hold us upright?

People in other countries speak easily
of being early, late.
Some will live to be eighty.
Some who never saw it
will not forget your face.


A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

Here’s my first poem from this week’s 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.

Here’s my first poem of the week as well.

This came to mind as I read that proof, in the form of intermingled DNA, had been found that at some point during the ten to twenty thousand years that modern humans and Neanderthals had lived together some interbreeding had occurred.

For understandable reasons, the idea that I most likely carried a trace of a Neanderthal ancestor made me see them in a whole new light, and, for the first time I considered their ending days, the extinction (perhaps the only one) of a self-conscious species.

This poem was the result of that thinking.

imagine you are almost one of a kind

you are almost one of a kind

of just a few of your kind

the other kind
calls you,
but you have dreams

and you can see your dreams
and all the dreams
of your kind
until there is no more like you
to dream them -
no more like you
to fear your gods, no more like
you to hold a loved one close
to hold a blood fresh child,
no more like you to dance as new day
breaks the sky

no more like

but you have planted your seed
so that some part like you
can carry on

you have planted your seed
among the other kind,
the ones almost like your kind,
the ones who hunt you, kill you,
break your bones to suck the marrow,
to suck from your bones the sustenance
of your life, to leave your bones
to be covered with tens of millennia
of dust, until you are forgotten

your are he,
the last of the circle,
all others gone like rocks
on a hillside,

lying naked
in summer grass,
a pale shadow
under the full bright eye
of the moon - listening
to the sounds of a flowing creek,
the water,
the mating frogs,
sounds of the trees
and the wind

a time
when these are the
only sounds of
night -
the water, the trees,
the wind, the call of a predator,
howling in
the hills

the only sounds of life
around you

and you are otherwise

imagine all this

the final nights of another kind of man -
a kind of man with dreams and inner life
much like our own, another kind of man
who knows time is

a man who lives now
only in stories
of trolls
and other ogres

and in some tiny part
of ourselves

most of us, of the keeper
beneath the

I have several poems by Carol Connolly from her book, Payments Due - Onstage Offstage, published by Midwest villages & Voices in 1995.

Connolly, an ardent feminist, was born, raised and educated in he Irish Catholic section of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Mother of seven children, she began to write poetry at the age of forty. She has worked as a columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul magazine and Minnesota’s Journal of Law and Politics, as well as a commentator for the local NBC affiliate. She has served as co-chair of the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus, chair of the Saint Paul Human Rights Commission, and chair of the affirmative-action committee of the Minnesota Racing Commission.

She was appointed Saint Paul’s first Poet Laureate in 2009. Payments Due, apparently her only book of poetry, was adapted as a stage production and presented in Los Angeles in 1n 1993.

Without a Hat

If you are
not a blessed virgin
but an ordinary woman
full of ordinary dreams
on an ordinary night,
full of wine and expectation
when the moon is high,
you might find a handsome athlete
and dance slow with him,
sway a little to his song,
and go with him
for just a little while.
But should he gather others,
make an all-American trio
who lock you with their
music in a plain room,
taunt you
and ridicule you
as they abuse you,
take their turns
all night, all night,
at hurting you so bad,
so bad,
all that will remain in you is
on scream
and you will cry

for help.

They you will be required
in extraordinary ways,
again and yet again,
to explain
why you
are just an ordinary woman
and not a blessed virgin.


If my breasts were
as sharp and pointed
as the pyramids,
I would use them
to cut
red x’s
in his face.

Man’s Best Friend

In the center
of the Empire
men dress in fine ensembles
and walk the dog.
They bend beneath curbs,
gather warm dog excrement
in clear bags pulled
from fine silk pockets.
Only the finest.
This is the center
of the Empire,
where money
and dogs are walked
on Gucci leashes
and dog dirt
is collected.
E is for Empire.
Its excellence
is elegant
but excrement
In piles.

The Index

If you shake your finger at me again,
I will bit it off and hold the tip
in my teeth until I die.
People with
police power
will find it.
Trace you.
You will be
In Duluth.

I don’t suppose this next thing is much of a poem, but i wrote it and found it kind of interesting as I did, and what the heck else am I going to do with it if I don’t put it right here.

how reporters help me write poems

for many years i was
the go-to
for area media wanting
a local slant
on business and economic
news that was rarely good

TV, newspaper
and radio interviews
several times a month,
usually covering
the same story, breaking news
mostly, sometimes a reporter,
either on assignment
or on their own initiative,
looking to do a more
far-reaching story

and radio were usually done
from my offices, relaxed
conversations, mostly, with
reporters i knew and had worked with

TV was different and more varied,
taped and live

i did a few minutes
on a local morning news and talk show
two or three days a week,
and several times, when news broke
too late for reporters to get down
to my office for tape, i did live interviews
with the anchor, behind the anchor
desk - 3 to 5 on-air minutes
to respond to 4 to 5 questions
from the anchor

i learned how to do those
without embarrassing myself
by doing taped interviews
a couple of times a month -
just a reporter,
a cameraman, and me, getting
the interview done in three basic
set-ups, a wide shot of the reporter
and me talking, a close-up of me,
talking, and a medium shot of the reporter
talking, usually taken from behind me

- all sound was dubbed later -

two lessons i learned - the first,
and most basic - never piss off a reporter
because, in the end, they will define you
and a happy reporter is much nicer
than an angry one

many reporters, especially the new ones,
came into the interview
already set on the story they will write
and there was no sense in arguing with them
about what the story ought to be

the better course
was to find a way to tell the story
i wanted told within the context
of the story they wanted to write

and the secret to doing that
is part of the second important thing
i learned -

i knew that even a ten minute interview
with me would end up
with no more than 45 seconds
of me talking, so what i had to do
was toss in, throughout the 10 minutes,
little bits and pieces so good i knew
they weren't going to be able to them leave out
of my 45 seconds

it’s the power and art of the quote

all reporters are expected
by their editors to find the quotes
they need for the story - a story
without quotes, to many editors,
is an editorial, not a news story -
i learned to see that my job,
as someone with a story to tell,
was to give reporters the quote they needed,
even if wasn't the quote they wanted -

and what’s a poem?

a memorable, logically connected, imagistic
construct of words and phrases -

in reporting terms, a good quote

and that’s how doing news interviews
showed me the way to become a better poet

(except in the case of this poem,
which is more like
an instruction booklet
- in four languages -
of how to build and repair a
diesel engine)

Here’s my second poem from featured poetDon Schaeffer, a piece, as I read it, to a lost past and a difficult future.


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.

The next poem is by Tony Barnstone from Signals, the 2005 Winter Solstice issue of Runes, A Review of Poetry.

Barnstone is Professor of English at Whittier College. Born in Middletown, Connecticut, and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, he lived for years in Greece, Spain, Kenya and China before taking his Masters in English and Creative Writing and Ph.D. in English Literature at U.C. Berkeley. His poetry, translations, essays on poetics, and fiction have appeared in dozens of American literary journals and he has won numerous fellowships and poetry awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the Pushcart Prize, the Paumanok Poetry Award, the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, The Sow's Ear Poetry Contest, the Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize, the National Poetry Competition (Chester H. Jones Foundation), the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry, the Cecil Hemley Award, and the Poetry Society of America. In 2006 he won the Benjamin Saltman Award in Poetry for his manuscript The Golem of Los Angeles, which was published by Red Hen Press in 2007. He won the John Ciardi Prize in Poetry in 2008 for Tongue of War and won the grand prize in the Strokestown International Poetry Festival, in Strokestown, Ireland, in 2008.

The 167th Psalm of Elvis

Blessed are the marble breasts of Venus,
those ancient miracles, for they are upright and milk white
and they point above the heads of the crowd in the casino.
Blessed are the crowds that lay, and whose reflections
sway in the polish of her eggshell eyes.
from they move shimmers and flights of birds
as they circle the games
and they are beautiful and helpless.
Bless the fast glances that handle the waitress,
bless her miniskirt toga and the flame-gold scotch,
and bless the gamblers who gaze at the stage.
Remember also the dancer and remember her dance,
her long neck arched like a wild white goose,
the tassels on her nipples that shoot like sparks,
and bless the legs and bless the breasts
for they are fruit and honey
and they are generous to the eyes.
Have mercy on my wallet, for the dollars I punch into the slot,
and grace the wheels swapping clubs and hearts.
Mercy on me too, as I stumble as if in a hashish haze
watching the reels spin away, for I am a blown fuse
and I need someone to bless me before it’s too late.
Honor the chance in a million, the slot machine jolting,
the yellow light flashing, honor the voice that calls jackpot,
and the coins that crush into the brushed steel tray,
for there is a time for winning and a time for losing
and if you cast your bread upon the waters
you will find it again after many days.
Pity the crowd around the blessed winner
all patting his back as if it rubs off,
this juice, this force, this whatever
that might save them from their own cursed luck.
And pit the poor winner whose hand claws back
into his bucket of coins and who cannot walk away,
because he’d do anything for the feeling
he had when the great patter rose from the chaos
of cherries and lemons and diamonds and stars
and he knew for the moment he was blessed.

I woke up later than usual and was feeling very rushed and harassed, entirely a matter of a habit of many years not yet broken even after years of retirement. I had no place to go, but it seemed I was still impatient to get there on time.

A mental slowdown was needed.

with Basho in his garden

on I-10
at 7:45 a.m.
is like attending
a linear convention
of type-A personalities,
every one of them
the kind that sees every
little trip to the grocery as
a competition with everyone
else on the road between
home and the supermarket

sometimes i begin to feel
like that, the onset of an insanity
too common in our lives,
and i try to treat it with imaginings
of more peaceful times
and places,
like the little bamboo hut
students built
for the haiku master Basho
where he sometimes found peace
between his travels -

i join him in my mind,
kneeling with him in his garden
of high weeds, flowers
no one else wanted
until he, in his peace, found
their beauty - beauty not of color
or spread of stems, or grand blossoms,
but of their perverse
indifference to the gardner,
their tenacity and will to survive
and spread, their willingness to struggle
for place all others would deny them

useful traits, all,
for poets and philosophers
so like weeds we are
in the Queen’s formal gardens,
as Basho
might well have known
and treasured

And now another poem by featured poet Don Schaeffer. I particularly like this one, if you let me into your life, I will shake your world.

I like that

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.

I have two poems now by Belle Waring, from her book Refuge, winner of the 1989 Associated Writing Programs’ award in poetry, published in 1990 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Waring was bon in Virginia in 1951. She holds degrees in nursing and English. In 1988, she received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Vermont College. She is now on the Field Faculty of the Vermont College M.F.A. Program and also works as a registered nurse.

This is my first time to read her, and I do like her a lot.

Back to Catfish

The cafe with the hotwire
boys is where you are and me
I’m back to cooking catfish
with banana, disguised
as a Guadeloupan delicacy,
but it’s still its old ugly-snout
self. Now when you bon temps roulez,
you booze in a fancy French joint
where the ladies get menus
with no price list. My little sun
king, who knows when you’ll blow
in. A woman like me
with a fine arts degree
could have been a master
engraver. Counterfeiter.
Not the counterfeiter’s moll.

Sure. I’m back to cooking
catfish, a creature with purpose
in life, to sweep the creek bottom
clean as the moon.
I’m waiting for thee,
wearing this swamp green
shirt you left. I could never
just throw it away,
the color of a hangover. A bruise.

But I could start without you.
Scarf up bananafish by myself.
Clean this kitchen with your keepsake
shirt, scrub every bad business
I can reach. Go out for some middlebrow
cappuccino. Swing by the Tastee Diner
for some brawl-proof pie. I’ll smile
when I’m ready and feel
complete. Who knows who I might meet?

I could swim the night in my cherry Nova
and sweep down the state road
crossing the river
on its long goddamn way home.

What Hurts

is waking up flung cold across
the bed, right where I left myself, these eyes
spooked, like my father’s after a binge.
Just what the hell is he doing in my face?
I don’t booze. I’m not like him.
But that scared and blowzy stare
I recognize after this stark dream of looking
for Max, my hopeless ex, world without end.
Some nights my father spent in a cell
to sober up. I learned to sleep in my clothes.
Sentry. Night watch. Mother by a sickbed.
Doctor on call. No surprise. Ready for
a shit storm. Praying for a cool sunrise.

Now another piece by featured poet Don Schaeffer.

Very romantic this week is Don Schaeffer.

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 I am again, with more echos from a previous life.

guest speaker

i've been
a guest speaker
many times,
service club meetings,
business development seminars,
convention banquets, every such event where
all the speakers and other notables
sit at a long head table on top of a riser, while
attendees are spread out across the room
in tables of six or eight, watching
as those at the head table
are fed first,
watching every
bite bit, every chew
chewed, every sip slurped, every
slurp dripped, every
sliver of food dropped,
every flash of white
teeth in mouth-open chewing

always made me self-conscious

this noon,
eating my Popeye's drumsticks
at the kitchen table, two hungry dogs,
outside on the patio,
watching though the window, every bite
bit, every chew chewed

at least i won't have to give a speech

Here is another of my favorite poets, Gary Soto, with a poem from his book Junior College, published by Chronicle Books in 1997.

I’ve done Soto’s bio so often I’m just going to let you look it up yourself this time.

Career Counseling

The mortuary students, those vampires with cool fingers,
Would get good jobs, for the world was filled
With the dying - grandmothers needling
Their last doilies and workers with their caps
Feeding into industrial rollers.
The criminology students gathered
near the bike racks, their compound eyes
Behind sunglasses. They searched for trouble,
Their hands at their sides where, in three months,
Cold 45s would snuggle in oily holsters.
In college, I stayed away
From these future cops. In World Religions,
I considered the priesthood.
In geology, I considered lighting up the world,
The bang of two rocks.
I took speed reading,
The equivalent of 19 cups of coffee,
And enrolled in biology - Mendel crosswiring peas in pods.
The nursing students hurried with clipboards,
And one day I followed them,
Like a dog, like an insomniatic patient.

In junior college, I painted numbers on curbs,
The houses themselves as cold as tombstones.
I worked on my knees, right above the busy traffic
Of straight-ahead, no-bullshit ants.
I went from house to house, At the level
Of each porch I could reason this -
There was work for both mortuary and criminology students,
And somewhere in between the nurses were involved -
Their stethoscopes counting down the heartbeats.
I painted curbs and kept to myself.
One day, my counselor asked, What do yo want to be?
He asked this on
A day when student nurses eyed my crippled walk,
When a mortuary student asked if I could play dead
And let him count my teeth and broken bones.
The newly graduated cops were meaner
Than thugs. They scolded those
Who walked on our reseeded lawns,
Scolded those in wheelchairs and on crutches.
I should leave town, I told myself,
And would have given
Some of my teeth to travel to Ireland to Scotland,
Somewhere cool. Or like a ghost,
I would have lived inside a tree
And come out only when it was dark, thus safe,
Untouchable as smoke. But I left his office
And returned to the curbs. With both knees wet
And sunlight bright as scissors,
I lowered my eyes and thought of the divisions of labor -
Me with house numbers, the vocational students
With good job, and, in my shadow, ants
With our human plunder descending into creaturely holes.

Can’t resist; here’s another one.

Pagan Life

In history of religion,
I read that three-foot pagans carried five-foot spears,
Worshiped trees and hundred-pound pumpkins,
And after week-long hunts returned to their village
To throw their women in the dirt
And get some under the sun.
I licked my fingers and turned the page,
Looking for pictures. I found none,
Only more words. The bell rang,
and I left the class, 5’8”, with no spear, no woman,
No tree to stand under and chant, “O, blessed Tree.”
I was nineteen. I dragged my loneliness like a dead cat
To the levee. The water rushed black.
The wind whipped the eucalyptus,
That giraffe of trees.
I bent my head over the water
And shook buddha-shaped ears into that ancient current.
Tires floated by,
The dead carcass of a suitcase,
And overturned kitchen tables with spindly legs
Jutting above the surface. I cried for the fish,
And the fish’s cousin, a one-eyed toad in the reeds.
Then I picked up a stick, me the pagan,
And chased a gopher into a hole.
I grew small and powerful.
As I walked, I became deliriously wild
From carrying my ten-foot spear.
My footprints left dents in the sandy ground,
Footprints that slowly shortened
Until they were only inches apart. By then,
Ants followed my march, beetles and termites,
And one armadillo, a lock-jawed disciple.
By the time I reached town,
I was trouble for married and unmarried women.
I was no bigger than a thumb,
And my spear, Jesus Christ, tottered n my arms
And stirred the populace from their houses -
Wondrous girls climbing onto each other’s shoulders
For a glimpse of the thing that sanctified the air.

Speaking of Reba a which I often do, here she is again.

Reba for Congress

i woke
this morning
to heavy rain, thunder
and lightning across
the horizon

and a wet dog
in panic-frenzy because
of the thunder

stupid dog

she stands in the rain
and yowls,
instead of hiding
in her safe little house
on the patio

it’s like watching
the news from
Washington, where
politicians in constant
stand in shitstorms
of tough times
and yowl,
like my stupid dog


my smart dog,
knows better

she wakes up,
ready for her morning outside
business, stands at patio door,
takes measured note of the weather,
and if it is as it is today,
returns to her bed and to sleep,
legs crossed, until better weather

i wonder if those crazy
tea party people
would be open to electing
a dog to Congress

(better than the dogs
we’ve got now,
i’d tell them)

if i took her
to a couple of their

Here’s my last piece from featured poet Don Schaeffer. Thanks, Don. I look forward to reading your new book.


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 regeneracy
there are plenty of
carnival performers with tests

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

This week’s “Here and Now” is chock full of poets I like very much, none more than the next one, one of my all-time favorites, Blaise Cendrars, from a collection of his poems, Complete Poems, published in 1992 by the University of California Press.

Born Frédéric Louis Sauser in 1887, Cendrars led an active and interesting life until his death in 1961. He was a Swiss novelist and poet naturalized French in 1916 and a writer of considerable influence in the modernist movement.

Severely wounded (he lost an arm) in the first World War, he spent much of his life traveling in the years after. An observant, energetic and empathic traveler, you read his travel poems and regret you never had an opportunity to be his traveling companion.

Here are some of those travel poems, snippets of observation, that he recorded in his notebook as he traveled. These poems, as well as all the others in the book, were translated from French to English by Ron Padgett.


Never again
I’ll never drag my ass into another one of these colonial dives
I want to be this poor black man I want to be this poor black who stands
   in the doorway
Because the beautiful black girls would be my sisters
And not
And not
These stinking French Spanish Serbian German bitches who furnish
   the leisures of gloomy functionaries dying to be stationed in Paris and
   who don’t know how to kill time
I want to be that poor black man and fritter my time away


Everyone talks about sunsets
All travelers are happy to talk about the sunsets in these waters
There are hundreds of books that do nothing but describe sunsets
The tropical sunsets
Yes it’s true they’re wonderful
But I really prefer the sunrises
I wouldn’t miss one for the world
I’m always on deck
In the buff
And I’m always the only one there admiring them
But I’m not going to describe them the dawns
I’m going to keep them for me alone

White Suit

I stroll on deck in the white suit I bought in Dakar
On my feet the espadrilles bought in Villa Garcia
I hold in my hand the Basque beret I brought from Biarritz
My pockets are filled with Caporal Ordinaires
From time to time I sniff my wooden cigarette case from Russia
I jingle he coins in my pocket and a pound sterling in gold
I have my big Calabrian handkerchief and some wax matches the big
   kind you find only in London
I’m clean washed scrubbed more than the deck
Happy as a king
Rich as a multimillionaire
Free as a man


It’s my star
It’s in the form of a hand
It’s my hand gone up into the sky
During the entire war I saw Orion through a lookout slit
When the zeppelins came to bomb Paris they always came from Orion
I have it above my head today
The main mast pierces the palm of that hand which must hurt
as my amputated hand hurts me pierced as it is by a continual stabbing

The Equator

The ocean is dark blue the blue sky is pale next to it
The sea swells all around the horizon
It’s as if the Atlantic were going to spill over into the sky
All around the steamer it’s a vat of pure ultramarine

Crossing the Line

Of course I have been baptized
It’s my eleventh baptism of the line
I got dressed up like a woman and we had a great time
Then we drank


It is Sunday on the water
It’s hot
I’m in my cabin as if trapped in melting butter


The coast of Brazil is strewn with round bare little islands we’ve been
   sailing through for two days
They’re like speckled eggs laid by some gigantic bird
Or like volcanic dung
Or like vulture sphincteroids


It’s odd
For two days now that we’ve been in sight o land not a single bird has
   met us or followed in our wake
On the other hand
At dawn
As we were entering the Bay of Rio
A butterfly as big as your hand came fluttering all around the steamer
It was black and yellow with big streaks of faded blue

Rio de Janeiro

Everyone is on deck
We’re in among the mountains
A lighthouse goes dark
They’re looking everywhere for the Sugarloaf and ten people find it in a
   hundred different directions so much do these mountains look alike
   in their pyroformity
Mr. Lopart shows me a mountain with its profile against the sky like a
   a cadaver stretched out with its silhouette looking like Napoleon on his
I think it looks more like Wagner a Richard Wagner puffed up with
   pride or overwhelmed with fat
Rio is now quite near and you can make out houses on the beach
The officers compare this panorama to that of the Golden Horn
Others talk about the revolt of the forts
Other unanimously deplore the construction of a big tall square
   modern hotel that disfigures the bay (the hotel is very beautiful)
Still others vehemently protest the leveling of a mountain
Leaning over the starboard rail I look at
The tropical vegetation of a deserted little island
the huge sun that cuts through the huge vegetation
A little boat with three fishermen
These men moving slowly and methodically
Who work
Who fish
Who catch the fish
Who do not even look at us
Absorbed in their craft


The mictorio is the station toilet
I’m always curious to see it when I arrive in a new country
The john in the station in Santos is a little nook where and immense
   earthenware pot which reminds me of the big jars among the vines
   in Provence where and immense earthenware pot is buried up to
   the neck
A big thick dark wooden sausage sits like a crown on the edge and serves
   as a seat
It must be rather uncomfortable and too low
The exact opposite of the tanks of the Bastille which are too high

Sao Paulo

Finally here are some factories a suburb a nice little trolley
Electric lines
A street crowded with people doing their evening shopping
A natural gas tank
Finally we pull into the station
Sao Paulo
I feel like I’m in the station in Nice
Or getting off a Charing Cross in London
I find all my friends
It’s me

Another couple of days of good rain. I love it.


great wet

thunder crashing
lightning flashing

rain by the
wash tub

and it looks like
more today

and i’m in a

to squat down in the mud

and let the rain run off
my green warty skin

happy -
croaking like the frog-king

on saturday night
and content in my bumpy frog-self...

just don’t bother me
or i’ll pee in your hand

on those who disturb the rain

Last week in included some haiku from the original Japanese masters of the form. This week I have poems from several of the modern American masters of haiku.

The poems are take from the anthology The Unswept Path - Contemporary American Haiku, published in 2005 by White Pine Press.

The first of the new masters is John Brandi.

Brandi is a native of southern California, born in 1943, a poet and artist associated with the Beat Generation.

pollen rising
from the unswept path


around the bell
blue sky


after the storm
a dragonfly
pinned to the cactus


morning chill
every haystack leans
to the sun


not knowing what to say
he mails
only the envelope


without clothes
it’s a different

Next, I have haiku from Margaret Chula. Chula lived in Japan for twelve years , where she taught creative writing and studied woodblock printing and ikbana. Author of a number of volumes of poetry, she now lives in Oregon.

cushion, incense, bowl
so much preparation to do nothing


late into the night
we talk of revelations
moon through the pines


silk sheets
gardenia on the bed stand
unfolds its petals


waking this morning
from troubled dreams
foxprints on new snow

The next poems are by Cid Corman. He was an editor, poet, land translator. He lived abroad most of his life, first in Europe, then in Japan.

Corman died in 2004.

There is no end and
never was a beginning - so
here we are - amidst


Only a bunch of
swallows over and over
the darkening stream


Nothing ends with you -
every leaf on the ground
remembering root


Alive or dead
I’m in it for
the poetry

Patricia Donegan is an author, poet, translator, and teacher in Tokyo, Japan.

summer twilight -
a woman’s song
mingles with the bath water


winter afternoon
not one branch moves - I listen to my bones


Pampas grass bends


spring wind -
I too
am dust

And, finally, this series by Diane DiPrima, another import
ant poet from the beat generation.

Death Poems In April


even the Buddha lay down
to breathe his last,
why am I struggling?


easy to disappear
into this fog


pour this water and ash
on the roots
of some old tree

Continuing my long tradition (it’s my blog, if I saw two weeks is a long tradition, two weeks is a long tradition) of closing out every “Here and Now” issue with one of my old poems. This one was written in 1968 or thereabouts and published thirty years later in January 2000 in Avant Garde Times, another fun zine gone before its time.

The poem, an example of what happens when you mix excessive Whitman hero-worship with a psychedelic time, is not much to brag about on paper, but, I’ve been told by one who heard it, a dynamite read if read by a good dramatic reader.

Our work is like our children, we claim what we can for it.

notes from a grounded witchdoctor

rosy glow
   rosy glow
breaks the light
into silken clouds
of floating pink
into the expanding
corners of my pulsating room
to big
   too much
falling back falling back
afraid of reaching

give me room

      no longer afraid
jumping for the clouds
into the ever expanding
corners of my pulsating room

clouds of taffy
         pulling me to the floor
phosphorescent walls quake and tilt

throwing off slippery shadows
that pool at the floor
eat at the floor
      and leap at me
   with the deliberate
      slow pace
of the unconquered tide
   then turn golden
   then red
   at my feet

the angry lobster redness
   the infectious angry redness
colors my feet
   and crawls up my leg
pulling at my body
pulling me to a high place

i stand atop a hill
      in the shade of a tree
      a wide spreading tree

birds sing from the tree
   and i understand the song
      and try to sing along
but the birds stop
and leave me singing
until a bird lunges from the tree
to stand on the ground
to become a shadow figure
      a man in black
   a man with no face

black space where a face should be
the thing
      the shadow faceless thing
      begins to cry
and the birds come from the trees
   and land on his shoulders
      as crows
great black crows
   evil black crows
that sit on phantasmal shoulders
   and cry

the ground collapses beneath me
the hill flattens beneath me
and i’m in a valley
and the hill is behind me
      and the figure
      and the crows
stand on the hill and cry
   so far above me
as the hill shimmers
through the heat of the valley

i’m alone in the valley
   in the dust of the valley
         in the hot hot dust of the valley

hotter and hotter
   in the valley
and i’m lying naked
   in the boiling mud
   of the valley

people stand around me
men and women without faces
   black spaces where faces
      ought to be
men and women
      in long black skirts
   that drag
      in the mud

they laugh at me

great ghastly specters
from a tribal past
      they laugh at me
i press my cracked lips
into the mud and try to suck
for water and burn
my face and my lips and tongue
         not mud
            wet grass
            dew-wet grass
            cool dew-wet grass
i run my tongue over the grass
         bite into the grass
      chew on its coolness
i lie on my back
under the cool fresh sky
      and stretch out my arms
      and pull handfuls of grass
      and throw them at the sun
      and let the grass
   rain back on me
and i catch it with my body

i crawl beneath
the grass and meadow flowers
and roots and working earthworms
      and look up to watch
      the sun in its forever agony
of circling
      ever circling

i watch the sun
through the roots
and grass and crawling insects
      from behind the petals
      of meadow flowers
clawing at my eyes
      burning at my eyes
searing my eyes and cheeks
and lips
and screaming tongue

i close my eyes

and i’m in a room
   a small room
   a dark room
   a black room
a room without light
      but for a small dot
pulsating off and on
off and on
off and on
   off and on
in one corner of the room

the dot grows
      bigger and bigger
   off and on
      bigger and bigger
   it crashes toward me

washes over me

leaves me in a lonely light

alone now


alone now
      lying on my floor
linoleum cold against my cheek

i turn on my back
alone of the floor

                        and sleep


All material borrowed for this blog remains the property of those who created it. If it’s mine, you can use it, just give proper credit to me and to “Here and Now.”

I’m allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and I’m done.

at 3:24 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for Andrew Bird.
Absolutely amazing.

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