Introducing Coleen Shin, Artist   Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coleen Shin

My featured contributor this week is Dallas artist Coleen Shin. Many “Here and Now” readers already know Coleen, who describes herself as an artist and writer living in North Texas who “works days, creates nights, laughs, often.” Those seeing her work here for the first time have something to look forward to.

She’ll be back next week with some of her poems.

In the meantime, here are our poems and poets for this week.

Ancient Songs of the Women of Fez

somewhere out there

Sidney Wade

new things on top of new things

John Poch
Why I Just Dropped the Nature bouquet


Campbell McGrath
Early July
April 20
Night Thoughts

Fady Joudah
Additional Notes on Tea

how the hell did that happen
assessing the day

C.P. Cavafy
Days of 1896
Two Young Men, 23 to 24 Years Old
A Young Poet in His Twenty-fourth Year

i have no good word for crocodiles

C.N. Bialik
At twilight...

warty-frog fat

Ralph Angel
The Blessed
Shadow Play

the deer still graze

Laura Kasischke

the woman in the avocado blouse

Jimmy Santiago Baca
from Meditations on the South Valley

on the Blanco River

Pierre Martory
Black Diamond

pictures from an american lynching

Norman Stock
The Stone House
The First Time I Robbed Tiffany’s

time was

Sonia Sanchez
tanka and haiku

Leslie Scalapino
Considering how exaggerated music is

when time to cross the last river comes

Coleen Shin

I’m starting this week with one of those interesting things I sometimes run across in the used-book store.

This time it’s Women Poets from Antiquity to Now, published in 1980 by Schocken Books. The book includes poems by Enbeduanna in 2300 B.C. to contemporary American poet Leslie Scalapino. I’m using some of the earliest pieces in the book this week, along with the latest, beginning with these traditional songs collected by Mohammed el Fasi in Fez, Morocco early in this century.

The translation is by Willis Barnstone.

Ancient Songs of the Women of Fez

I want to be in a garden with my love,
empty. Not even a gardner.
I want to be in a bath with my love,
empty, Not even a masseur,
and I’ll bring him all the hot and cold water
he wishes.
Even his sweat I’ll collect and put in flasks
so it will make me alive.
The day I am blind from crying,
I will paint my eyes with tears instead of knol.


I see a man who is dull
and boring like no one else.

He is heavier than massive mountains.
When he laughs he shakes the plains of Gharb ,
when he cries the coastal cities tremble.

To look at an ugly man
gives me a headache.


My passion is like the turbulence at the head
of waters
where oiling rivers sweep away a granite mill.

The sultan of love came to camp in my heart..
I welcomed him
and devised ecstatic nights with him,
but he debated with me and ordered me to satisfy
his every wild quirk..

But he has an untender heart.
I beg him.
He is iron and gives me neither freedom
nor the joy of union.
What causes my passion? Is love a joke?


I want to be with my love in a garden
surrounded by pavilions with lovely cushions.
In its center are fountains and water
jetting up like milk.
The nightingale glorifies the orchard
and its seven-colored pears
with songs.

A young man goes from room to room,

The jasmine drops its branches.

Sitting by my friend,
I will be healed.

Coleen Shin

I’m not a big sports fan. I follow the Spurs when it seems like they’re having one of their semi-regular good years, but, beyond that, I find it hard to get excited about any of it. That’s especially true of soccer, where two points mean it’s a high-scoring game and fans celebrate ties (and don’t do tie-breakers) just like they won.

I do enjoy sports movies, I guess because, the movies seem to me to be the place where they get the dramatics right.

somewhere out there

this is serious business

out there
interstellar star systems
are colliding

out there
an alien race
of whoozidoozits
is dying,
their methane atmosphere
slowly replaced
by metagaterlon oxygen farts

out there
a spaceship full of
is approaching
the water-planet
Abosion XII
for full immersion

out there
Pat Boone is thinking about
a comeback tour

out there
a Republican
is suffering from delusions
of decency

out there
a bunch of foreigners who don’t
even speak English
are bouncing balls off their heads
and calling it

i mean
this is no damn time
for jokes
and silly faces

“Yellow Flower”
Coleen Shin

Next, I have some playful poems by Sidney Wade. They are taken from her book, Stroke, published by Persea Books in 2007.

Wade is the author of four previous poetry collections, and has published poems and translations from the Turkish in numerous periodicals. She lives in Gainesville, where she is a professor of English at the University of Florida.


Pity the Poor Orange


the table



Adam and the Snake Prepare to Recite some Verse


go mesmerize


to mammarize

After the Flood, Frogs


The Spontaneous Combustion of a Shopkeeper from Alcohol

have ignited


Stroke of Genius





“Blue Gertie”
Coleen Shin

Time is a really slippery thing to deal with.

new things on top of new things

the older i get
the faster i get older

time scrunched,
like holiday shopping sales -
one week it’s Christmas
and the next the 4th of July

new things
on top of old things
and newer things on top of that

this morning
at breakfast, three army officers,
one old grunt-looking guy
like i remember from my own time,
and two very pretty young blond women,
the two of them at breakfast more female soldiers
than i saw in my own four years of service

it’s exciting,
this race through the future,
every day i can hardly wait for the next...

i just wish it would slow down
so i’d have more time to enjoy it

Coleen Shin

I have a poem now by John Poch, from his first book Poems, published in 2004 by Orchises Press.

Poch teaches at Texas Tech University and is the editor of 32 Poems magazine. His second collection, Two Men Fighting with a/ Knife, published in 2008, won the 2008 Donald Justice Prize. His third collection, Dolls, was published in the fall of 2009.

Why I Just Dropped the Nature Bouquet

Like a cocoon full of its writhing moth,
at the park’s edge, lying beneath a tree
a couple struggles almost secretly
within the thin white sheet they have brought.
Daylight still and nearly home from my walk
around this summer-baked Lubbock lake
bubbling with methane gas or maybe
catfish gasps. I am close enough to see
she is on top. In the fingers of one hand
I hold what I’ve found: a dove feather,
several sprigs of curly willow. And
a butterfly wing. Nothing in the other.
She must think I’m strange. She sees
I see. Where are the police,
neither of us will say. She softly sighs
something to the man below, but he won’t
look over. He is hardly there, his eyes
must be rolled back so far in his mind
dissolving like pills. In assent,
he only nods he mustn’t, for a moment,
more or breathe. silly me, I want
to comfort her. I am close enough to tell
that two wisps of her hair are falling spent
over them like long dark tassels of a veil.

We are all close to something here.
For a moment, I roll my eyes upward
like him, but not as deep into the sky.
They are waiting for me to disappear.
I am looking away, but I can’t look away.
Who looks away at the end of the world?

Coleen Shin

Here’s where I piss off all my ideologically-besotted right-wing wacko relatives.


i saw this yellow
jeep-like rough tough
ass-hole looking vehicle this morning

had a bumper sticker on the back
“Constitution Party”

if there were a truth in bumper sticker law
and the bumper was longer, would have said,

“I Like the Parts of the Constitution I Like
and You Damn Well Better Like Them Too Party”
which means,

everybody gets a gun
and nigger don’t move into my neighborhood
cause i’ve got mine and i’ll use it

i know these people -
grew up with them -
thought they’d gone away
but they’re back - pestilence
loose in the country

Coleen Shin

Now I have several poems by Campbell McGrath, from his collection Seven Notebooks, published in 2008 by HarperCollins.

McGrath’s teaches in the creative writing program a Florida International University in Miami. Previous collections of his work include Capitalism, American Noise, Spring Comes to Chicago, Road Atlas, Florida Poems, and Pax America. He won the Kingsley Tufts Prize and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations.


5 a.m.: the frogs
ask what is it, what is it?
It is what it is.



I had forgotten what it was like to exist
this way. I am a different person in Chicago,
a little deeper but sadder, melancholic,
less supple within my own skin.
Strange sense of slippage, returning here,
revisiting former lives and past estates,
as if the film had jumped its sprockets and the gears
of the clattering projector spun to no effect.
Exist in the moment, yes, but the past is inescapable,
the past is oxygen to the blast furnace of being,
uranium to the reactor of consciousness.
Should I say human consciousness?
Is it so different from bees, lemurs, longhorn sheep?
Are consciousness and self precise synonyms?
Can we imagine one without the other?
Can we conceive of consciousness outside of time
or is it a projection of time within us,
consciousness my temporal expression as my body
is my expression in three-dimensional space?


Driving from Miami we stopped to watch the manatees
that shelter all winter in the Homossassa River
and happened upon an island inhabited by monkeys.
There was a sign explaining how they had been pets
of a local eccentric but now lived without interference
on their mangoes and Purina monkey chow.
So the myth of a benevolent, all-providing god.
But what was the monkey’s opinion of their captivity
in the midst of that astonishing, spring-fed river?
Were they aware how much their predicament
resembled our own? Could they feel the current of time
swirling past and around them? Did they even exist?
The sign was hand-lettered, the morning silent,
the story preposterous though hardly impossible.
We saw no monkeys, but what does that prove?

Early July

Showering outside
by candle glow: too lazy
to change the lightbulb

Jellyfish season -
climbing back into this world
alive and tingling.

Alone on the beach,
one kite and me, drinking beer.
Sunset, July 1st.

April 20

Talking in class about rhetorical posture.
The students, several of whom are extravagantly
gifted, have been so deeply indoctrinated
with the depersonalizing jargon of critical theory
that they can barely accommodate the notion
of authorial agency,let alone the concept of a speaker.
Where is the speaker situated in this poem?
Not the speaker but the voice. Not the voice
but the self. Not the self but the locus of issuance.
How can I convince them that poems if texts
are human texts, that texts if artifacts
are artifacts forged in the furnace
of the heart, the soul, the psyche, however
you imagine or care to name that machine
we hear idling in the engine room at night.
Springlike today, near seventy, sunny and blue.
Budding trees no longer skeletal as logic.
The particular hickory or maple in the alley
whose sheaves of hairline branches engraved
discrete linear designs upon the iridescent sky
has swollen into generality, a fuzzy abstraction.
Another week should see the bloom-out
of purest whisper-green shoots, darkening
all summer to fall.

Night Thoughts

3 a.m.: cheep, cheep.
I, too, sing of happiness -
but I still can’t sleep.

Why say happiness?
Ghost clouds sailing past the moon,
sad and immortal.

Whisper of ground mist.
Fine contentment where you can.
Whisper of ground mist.

Coleen Shin

Fady Joudah is a Palestinian-American medical doctor and a field member of Doctors Without Borders since 2001.

Here’s a poem from his book, The Earth in the Attic, winner of the Yale Series of Younger poets competition, published by Yale University Press in 2008.

Additional Notes on Tea

In Cairo a boy’s balcony higher than a man’s deathbed.

The boy is sipping tea,

The view is angular like a fracture.

Surrounding the bed, women in wooden chairs.

They signal mourning with a scream.

Family men on the street run up the stairs and drink raven tea.

On the operating table in Solwezi a doctor watches a woman die.

Tea while the anesthetic wears off,

While the blade is waiting, tea.

The doctor says the woman knows god is sleeping

Outside heaven is a tent.

God is a refugee dreaming of tea.

Once upon a time an ocean married a sea to carry tea around

Land was jealous.

So it turned into desert and gave no wood for ships.

And when ships became steel,

Land turned to ice.

And when everything melted, everything tasted like tea.

Once upon a time there was a tea party in Boston.

Tea, like history is a non sequitur.

I prefer it black. The Chinese drink it green.


The end of the road is a beautiful mirage:

White jeeps with mottos, white
And blue tarps where the dust gnaws
At your nostrils like a locust cloud
On a helicopter thrashing the earth,
Wheat grains peppering the sky.

For now
Let me tell you a fable:

Why the road is lunar
Goes back to the days when strangers
Sealed a bid from the despot to build
The only path that courses through
The desert of the people.

The tyrant secretly sent
His men to mix hand grenades
With asphalt and gravel,
Then hid the button
That would detonate the road.

These are villages and these are trees
A thousand years old,
Or the souls of trees,
Their high branches axed and dangled

Like lynched men flanking the wadis,
closer not to a camel’s neck
And paradoxical chew.

And the Villages:
Children packed in a hut
Then burned or hung on bayonets,
Truck tires

Anchoring acacia limbs as checkpoints.
And only animals return:
The monkeys dash to the road’s edge and back
Into the alleyways.

And by a doorstep a hawk dives
And snatches a serpent - your eyes
Twitch in saccades and staccatos:

This blue crested hoopoe is whizzing ahead of us
From bough to bough,
The hummingbird wings

Like fighter jets
refueling in midair.

If you believe the hoopoe
Is good omen,

The driver says,
Then you are one of us.

Coleen Shin

Considerations of mortality, here’s a couple.

how the hell did that happen

you open the
and see him

a guy you used
to hang with
when you were both
a lot younger

and you don’t see
the dried-up dead guy
in the picture, you see
the guy you knew -
the fun-chasing hell-raiser
and great pal

how can he be dead?

we were live-forever,
forever 25-year-old,
immortals, about
the last people you’d
ever think of as dead

but he is

how the hell did that happen?

assessing the day

it’s a fine day

the sun shines
on all of us, children
of the bright...

it’s a fine day,

three pages
of dead people in the paper -
only five younger than me
and one of those
i think
was lying...

a fine day
three pages of dead people
in the paper

and none of them was

“Red Belly Mannequin Series”
Coleen Shin

Next, I have three poems by Greek poet C.P. Cavafy from Selected Poems, published by Princeton University Press in 1992. The poems were collected and translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrad.

Cavafy was born Konstantínos Pétrou Kaváfis in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1863, the ninth child of Constantinopolitan parents. His father died in 1870, leaving the family poor. Cavafy's mother moved her children to England, where the two eldest sons took over their father's business. Their inexperience caused the ruin of the family fortunes, so they returned to a life of genteel poverty in Alexandria.

After a brief education in London and Alexandria, he moved with his mother to Constantinople, where they stayed with his grandfather and two brothers. Although living in great poverty and discomfort, He wrote his first poems during this period, and had his first love affairs with other men. After briefly working for the Alexandrian newspaper and the Egyptian Stock exchange, at the age of twenty-nine Cavafy took up an appointment as a special clerk in the Irrigation Service of the Ministry of Public Works—an appointment he held for the next thirty years.

Cavafy remained virtually unrecognized in Greece until late in his career. He never offered a volume of his poems for sale during his lifetime, instead distributing privately printed pamphlets to friends and relatives. Fourteen of Cavafy's poems appeared in a pamphlet in 1904; the edition was enlarged in 1910. Several dozens appeared in subsequent years in a number of privately printed booklets and broadsheets. These editions contained mostly the same poems, first arranged thematically, and then chronologically. Close to one-third of his poems were never printed in any form while he lived.

He died in 1933 in Alexandria from cancer of the larynx.

Days of 1896

He became completely degraded. His erotic tendency,
condemned and strictly forbidden
(but innate for all that), was the cause of it:
society was totally prudish.
He gradually lost what little money he had,
then his social standing, then his reputation.
Nearly thirty, he had never worked a full year -
at least not at a legitimate job.
Sometimes he earned enough to get by
acting the go-between in deals considered shameful.
He ended up the type likely to compromise you thoroughly
if you were seen around him often.

But this isn’t the whole story - that would not be fair.
The memory of his beauty deserves better.
There is another angle; seen from that
he appears attractive, appears
a simple, genuine child of love,
without hesitation putting,
above his honor and reputation,
the pure sensuality of his pure flesh.

Above his reputation? But society,
prudish and stupid, had it wrong.

Two Young Men, 23 to 24 Years Old

He’d been sitting in the cafe since ten-thirty
expecting him to turn up any minute.
Midnight went by, and he was still waiting for him.
It was now after one-thirty, and the cafe was almost
He’d grown tired of reading newspapers
mechanically. Of his three lonely shillings
only one was left: waiting that long,
he’d spent the others on coffee and brandy.
He’d smoked all his cigarettes.
so much waiting had worn him out. Because
alone like that for many hours,
he’d also begun to have disturbing thoughts
about the immoral life he was living.

But when he saw his friend come in -
weariness, boredom, thoughts vanished at once.

His friend brought unexpected news.
He’d won sixty pounds playing cards.

Their good looks, their exquisite youthfulness,
the sensitive love they shared
were refreshed, livened, invigorated
by the sixty pounds from the card table.

Now all joy and vitality, feeling and charm,
they went - not to the home of their respectable families
(where they were no longer wanted anyway) -
they went to a familiar and very special
house of debauchery, and they asked for a bedroom
and expensive drinks, and they drank again.

And when the expensive drinks were finished
and it was close to four in the morning,
happy, they gave themselves to love.

A Young Poet in His Twenty-Fourth Year

Brain, work now as well as you can.
A one-sided passion is destroying him.
He’s in a maddening situation.
Every day he kisses the face he worships,
his hands are on those exquisite limbs.
He’s never loved before with this degree of passion.
But the beautiful fulfillment of love
is lacking, that fulfillment is lacking
which both of them must want with the same intensity.

(They aren’t equally given to the abnormal form of sensual
only he is completely possessed by it.)

And so he’s wearing himself out, all on edge.
Then - to make things worse - he’s out of work.
He manages somehow to borrow
a little here and there (sometimes
almost begging for it) and he just gets by.
He kisses those adored lips, excites himself
on that exquisite body - though he now feels
it only acquiesces. And then
he drinks and smokes, drinks and smokes;
and he drags himself to the cafes all day long,
drags the weariness consuming his beauty.
Brain, work now as well as you can.

Coleen Shin

It seems like a really serious problem to me, being up to your ass in alligators. Here’s a very simple solution.

i have no good word for crocodiles

i have no good word
for crocodiles,

long scaly creatures
with great sharp teeth

who would eat me
if they could -

i say
save the sweet-eyed bossies
who never ate anyone

and eat a croc

“Fling Mannequin Series”
Coleen Shin

I have a poem now by C.N. Bialik, from the book Selected Poems, published in 2004 by Overlook Duckworth. It is a bilingual book with the original Hebrew text and an English translation by David Aberbach on facing pages.

Bialik was born in the Ukrainian village of Radi in 1873 and lived in Odessa for much of his adult life. In 1924 he moved to Tel Aviv, where he was a scholar, author, and teacher, as well as a business man, and, in his later years, a revered public figure. He died while on a visit to Vienna in 1934. His former home in Tel Aviv has been preserved as the Bialik Museum.

All the poems in the book are both titled and numbered. This is the 8th poem in the book.

At twilight...

At twilight come to the window,
    lean against me,
envelop my neck with your arms,
    press your head against mine -
cleave to me.

And we’ll cleave with silent desire,
    we will look up
to the awful radiance, let fly our fantasies
    like doves
over seas of light

to vanish in silence on the horizon,
    in yearning flight,
come to rest on purple ridges
    of cloud,
islands of splendor.

Coleen Shin

Of course, you don’t want to eat too much of that crocodile, or other problems may ensue.

warty-frog fat

big windows
all around, condensation
makes it like eating
breakfast in a cloud

in a cloud -
too much oatmeal in the cloud -
and i sit in my booth like
a frog full of flies


beyond my natural

it’s not easy

“Mop Water Scum”
Coleen Shin

My next poet is Ralph Angel, with a poem from his book Neither World, published by the Miami University Press and winner of the 1995 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.

Angel was born in Seattle in 1951. He is also the author of more recent book, Twice Removed, from Sarabande Books in 2001 and Anxious Latitudes, his first book in 1986, which I have and have used here before. His poems have appeared in many of the top journals and magazines and have been collected in numerous anthologies. His most recent honors include a Pushcart Prize, and awards from the Fulbright Foundation and Poetry magazine.

He lives in Los Angeles and is the Edith R. White Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Redlands, where he teaches creative writing.

The Blessed

There is a place, I swear it,
where sadness fits, but with all this blood on our hands
we choose what to do and make ourselves up.

Ask anyone, and get an answer.
The Salsa’s on aisle five, next to the dust mops.
Cracked vases and damp hallways -

it’s purely private life. The way
taking it easy is absolutely
full time. The sign language

of windows and doorways, of a man watching a woman
who’s watching another man throw down a broom.
Even your faint, familiar voice,

muffled and thirsty,
until its sheer impossibility
moved me over, and I could hear you.

And in this desert of moss, and mountains,
we ear raisins, olives, eggs,
because what is solid

has no opening,
like mourners who have no mouths
and cannot object, and will remember forever.

Shadow Play

She leaves the motor running.
I would too. I would like to marry her,
that face repeated a million times in this town.
In the exhaust next door a man twists
his wooden leg into an impossible position.
He doesn’t even have to say, “I know,
I know, and no body resents me.”
He just grins.

On the vendor’s tin scales, daylight
shifts and splinters. Blood on the black brick,
a shopkeeper sweets glass from his eyelids.
A young man fidgets in a doorway,
cups his hands around a blue
flicker of panic, and leans back
into the shuffling papers and footsteps,
the noise that opens away from him
and is not noise.

Now a cleaning lady stops herself
and looks over her shoulder. And so does
the mailman, a traffic cop, a kid walking his bike.
And the perfect word lodges
deep in the throats of businessmen
talking gibberish, drawing lines around themselves
until obsessed and hailing taxis.
Only our loose clothes

between us, the linen tablecloths, white
as blindness. Only the putter of canal boats,
the vine-covered walls, some cursory
glance that empties our eyes, when they meet,
of options, and won’t let go.
A person who might

grow older. People who will dash their dreams.
People who will come back and
live in the aroma of bread, in the sound of
a thousand doves unfolding he plaza.
I would like a glass of ice water.
It’s the little thing, when I’m lucky
the world comes to me.

Coleen Shin

Some days are just very nice to wake up to.

the deer still graze

the deer
still graze
in morning cool
on the hillside pasture

they will retreat
to the woods by the time
i finish breakfast
as clouds clear and the sun
it’s daily scorching

early summer rain
has greened the woods
and the pastures where just weeks ago
bluebonnets held their ground

until, their tenure
done -
they dropped their seed
and settled in beneath the grass
to wait their turn again
next year

we wait
with them
for those few weeks of color...

it is the green
that is the marvel now,
where brown grass
and dry cracked earth
is the more expected rule -

a premature celebration, perhaps,
for the fires of hell
could still await us just past the gates of July,
but for now,
i taste the green of new life in the air
and sing the green electric

Coleen Shin

Here’s a poet from my library I don’t remember using before, which is kind of curious. Her name is Laura Kasischke and the poem is from her book Lilies Without, published in 2007 by Ausable Press.

Kasischke is the author of six books of poetry and four novels. Her work has received many honors, including the Alice Fay deCastagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Beatrice Hawley Award, a Pushcart Prize and the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award for Emerging Writers.

She teaches at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.


On Tuesday I catch a g glimpse of him
around a corner
drinking his own shadow from a cup.

So this is it, the Future, huh? just

a figure in a thin coat waiting for a bus?

From a passing car
I hear a song.

Rowing, Rowing

Cargo full of screamers
But he keeps going


So why does he drop the cup
and run
when he sees I’ve seen him drinking from it? Why

this secret-agent stuff, this
big hush-hush? I’m
the mortal here, the mother, the one

with a bag of groceries, fumbling
with her keys at her car’s trunk
on an ordinary Tuesday morning, song
on the radio. Boatman, rowing. Just
rowing. Boatman

alone across the ocean.


So suppose you were given small
vial of sea,
and in it everything you needed
to create the world again, from scratch? Or

the First Seed? Or

the Original Plan? Or

the first song, Knowing

knowing, weary of knowing, the boatman
hates his job,
but he keeps rowing


It’s June. That boy
brought up blue
last summer from the bottom of the pool, he’s
chasing a girl
this afternoon
with a black balloon. The earth

trembles beneath his tennis shoes. His mother

in the kitchen hums
a familiar tune, Boatman
rowing. Rowing. Boatman

full of plans, but he keeps going


And if you were given a list of the names
of those who would die within the year - ?

and coins
falling from the sky. A loaf
of bread that bled when it was cut with a knife.)

No, you would ask
for the list of those who’d fall

in love, instead, those

who would be born, get rich. You

would ask to be a child
at Disney World again - a frantic
child, still,
an abandoned child,
yes, but

a child nonetheless,

lost, happily, in a land of dreamy kitsch, and a chorus
of cartoon animals singing
a song your mother used to sing
in the car as you wept:

Rowing. Whiners. But I keep going...
If you two back there won’t be quiet...


all night in the dark
a man kept calling to his dog. (The earth’s

tides, the motion
of the planets, everything
nudging everything
else.) So,

when the phone rings in the morning
I already know
it will be that recording. Rowing



And out the window, there it is,
the neighbor’s dog, pawing

frantically at a rabbit hole - a hole
which whispers, We

are gone, all of us,
like so many Mondays,

but the dog keeps pawing.

“Potato Roots”
Coleen Shin

I have a couple of reminiscence-type poems this week. Here’s the first one.

the woman in the avocado blouse

the woman
in the avocado-colored blouse
is studying her menu
like it was Russian novel

and her dress reminds me
of the small avocado orchard
down from the house
where i grew up - a quarter mile,
maybe, down the canal bank
from our house, the canal bank
built to form the irrigation canal
where i spent a good part of my time
growing up, where i learned to swim -
the old jump in and figure out
the next step when the water starts
getting in your nose method - our jungle river,
this dirty old canal, water pumped from the
Rio Grande a few miles away to irrigate
citrus orchards and fields of winter vegetables - and us
naked kids, swimming in the thick water, along
with the snakes and alligator gar and catfish
god-only-knows what diseases
picked up along the
long flow from Colorado mountains, to, a ways further,
the Gulf of Mexico

and trees along the canal, hackberry mostly, vines
thick as our wrists, good for swinging
from tree to tree
and smaller vines crisp and porous,
good for smoking, a toxic habit of forty years,
begun as a twelve-year-old by a dirty canal,
beat, finally, at fifty two...

the woman in the avocado blouse,
a pretty, friendly face screwed-up
in perplexity, trying to pick her breakfast fare,
right in the middle, it seems, of a new-day argument
with her husband sitting across from her

french toast
Denver omelet
the Wisconsin scramble

or a good cry

four good choices -
pick one, i’m thinking,
just jump in and figure it all out
when the consequences
reach your nose

we’ve all survived

“God’s Move”
Coleen Shin

Now I have a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca. Actually it’s part of one of the two poems that are the book, Martin & Meditations on the South Valley, published in 1987 by New Directions.

from Meditations on the South Valley


Barrio Southside
used to be called
Los Ranchos de Atrisco
eighty years ago. Before that,
rio Abajo. Names change.

Dawn arrives,
shimmering like a hammered tin santito,
dangling from a viga portal, tic-tic,
clicking in the breeze against stucco & adobe.

I study the faces of boys
playing in dirt yards,
and see Cuauhtemoc - images
that reflect gold-cuts
engraved on medallions
in Spanish museums.

eyes sleek with dreams,
lounge n porches
reading he flight of geese
above the Rio Grande,
look like Netzahualcoyotl.

And thrashing out from the bosque’s
wall of trees ad wild bushes,
see a man in threadbare clothing,
work-worn muscles,
eyes weathered as war-drum skins,
his skin glowing with sweat
like rain on old rocks,
and here, you see
a distant relative
of Aztec warriors.

Coleen Shin

The other reminiscence.

on the Blanco River

i lived
on the banks
of the Blanco River
back in the late-sixties

me, with
several hippy-cowboy
and my dog Sam -

dead broke,
living on beans and cornbread
and meatless beef stew
and Lone Star beer...

after four years
of military service,
learning to be free

up all night
to see the sunrise
on the river,
chopping trees

on the island
in the middle of the river
for a free month’s

me and Sam
crossing to the island
in a tin rowboat,
more laying under the trees

then chopping them down,
the two of us - old Sam and me -
lying in the grass
watching the clouds and the sun

passing through the branches,
writing short stories
that never got any better
and poetry that did, a bit...

i remember watching Sam
run through a pasture
of high grass,

a rabbit, running through
the grass, jumping high
over the grass every few yards
to track the rabbit’s path

the poetry of Sam
running in such wild chase,
the speed of her running,
the grace of her slow jumps

like a French film i saw once
of horses in slow stampede,
better than any poem i would
write that day or since...

Coleen Shin

Now here’s a poem from French poet Pierre Martory, from his book The Landscape is Behind the Door, published in 1994 by The Sheep Meadow Press. The poems in the book were translated by John Ashbery who is also credited with discovering Martory’s poetry in the first place.

Martory was born in Bayonne in southwest France and spent most of his life in Morocco. After escaping from Paris in 1940, just as the German arrived, he joined the French army in tunisia and spent the years after the war working at odd jobs and writing, novels and theater and music reviews. His poetry was his own secret. He never tried to have it published and never showed to anyone who might have been interested. As a consequence, his poetry was entirely unknown in France until this publication in the United States for American readers.

Black Diamond

The peaceful harmony of a Sunday morning
Filled with the colors of an apparent silence,
The landscape outside green and blue, the sun
Hidden behind the occasional chiming from a church
and in the bedroom a presence that is leaving,
A goodbye floating in the air like
The last ribbon of cigarette smoke...

Once the door has shut one is back before the sea
Mirror that reflects neither the window nor the world
Brutally impenetrable where one can nonetheless paint
The dark the flashing and the two infinities
the musics the words the unreal and the true
The breath of life fleeting vapor
the burning heart burnt in the sparkle of a black diamond.

There is a bed in all our days
A sudden fall, a difficult descent
Always as many days as we live
In the hour when we leave day to begin the never finished
Apprenticeship of night.

Stagnating in this leisure of our vigil other
Pictures that lose us, broken landscapes, forgotten
Faces and the monsters of our previous meetings
With the images the bedroom wall beams back to us
Facing the window of which it is not the reflection.

The enclosed garden of iris and roses of sharon
the water in the birdbath where the fat robin fusses
The train whistle, the country down to the river
The full moon and its eddies of blue cloud
All the earth and only we to know that we sleep
Always alone, once our eyelids are shut,
And the nothingness which will leave off lasting...

Coleen Shin

This is an old poem, written several years ago after reading about an exhibition of photos taken at American lynchings in the 1920s and 1930s, mostly. The pictures, one in particular, affected me deeply, but not for the reason you might think.

I wrote the poem in 2000; it was published in Hawkwind in 2002 as part of a collection of my stuff I called Random Acts of Middle-Aged Reflection.

pictures from an american lynching

it’s not the hanging black bodies
that chill me,
it’s the smiling white faces below.

so familiar, those faces,
the white man standing
under the swinging body
of the young black girl,
beer in his hand, hat cocked to one side
like he was a movie star,

the two pretty girls
arm in arm beneath the carnage,
posing for the camera
like for a picture at the county fair,

the child
in dusty overalls
standing at his mother’s side,
holding on to her dress
with one hand
with the other
to the bare feet of the black man
dangling over his head.

so familiar, these faces,

like from the family albums
I looked at as a child,
seeking among the pictures there
the story of how I came to be...

Coleen Shin

Next, I have a poem by Norman Stock, from Buying Breakfast for my Kamikaze Pilot, published by Gibbs-Smith Publishing in 1994.

Stock, born in Brooklyn, received a B.A. from Brooklyn College, and M.L.S. from Rutgers University, and an M.A. in english from Hunter College. He has won numerous literary awards and, at the time the book was published, was a librarian at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

The Stone House

two men walk by me
one carries a rope
the other one holds an axe
they say nothing to me they only walk by
but I am curious I follow them
they go to a stone house in my old neighborhood
they walk up a back stairway I follow them
at he top of the stairs they turn and see me walking up
    the stairs toward them
he is coming, one of them says
we meet in a small room they tie me up
the axe is not to be used, I am told, only the rope
then what is the axe for, I say, I am told, so we would
    have you here
what is to become of me, I say, and there is an odd
    confidence in my voice
you will remain as you are, I am told, your life will
    not be any different than before
I know, I say, I have always known that, and I have
    always been like this, but never here
you are wrong, I am told, this is where you have always
in this stone house, the only difference is that we are
    here with you know

The First Time I Robbed Tiffany’s

    The first time I robbed Tiffany’s it was raining. And
it was dark, and the wind was blowing. It was like the first
time I had sex. The same kind of weather, the same kind
of feeling. Me and the girl in the car. Just like me and the
cop in the car, after he arrested me outside the store in the
rain. I promised myself I would do better next time. Just
like I promised the girl. Just like I promised the cop. It felt
like it always felt, me and the cop, me and the girl, me and
the rain, and the wind and the darkness, and the robbery
I never committed, the sex I never had, the girl I never
knew, the feel I never copped, and the rain the rain the
rain was ll I knew and all I will ever know.

Coleen Shin

Here’s another old poem, written in 2000, and published that same year in Niederngasse, which over the course of several years, published a number of my poems. A very fine journal, publishing in English, German and Italian, it has, I believe, gone inactive.

time was

time was
i was a racing car,
not one of those fancy european jobs,
but an all-american thunder road muscle car
like mitchum used to outrun the revenuers,
fast, sure,
quick on the hills
and tight in the corners,
with a low rumble at rest
that shook the ground,
the impatient rumble of a beast
held back, poised to spring

now I dream
of empty rooms, of time
and power flowing away,
of grace and essence draining away,
leaving a void, an empty shoebox
in the corner of a dark closet
in a house, vacant, smelling of loneliness
and neglect, the odor of redundancy,
the closeness of stale air and suspended lives

Coleen Shin

Next I have some tanka and haiku by Sonia Sanchez. The poems are from her book, Like the Singing Coming off the Drums, published by Beacon Press in 1998.


you ask me to run
naked in the streets with you
i am holding your pulse.


i don’t know the rules
anymore i don’t know if
you this or not.
i wake up in the nite
tasting you on my breath.


i count the morning
stars the air so sweet i turn
riverdark with sound.


i have caught fire from
your mouth now you want me to
swallow the ocean.


love between us is
speech and breath, loving you is
a long river running.


when we say good-bye
i want your tongue inside my
mouth dancing hello.


hunger comes on morning
sails, . where twilight passes me
wide is the river.


what i need is traveling
minds talktouch kisses spittouch
you swimming upstream.


it is i who have
awakened in nakedness
o cold the morning cock.


this man has sucked too
many nipples been inside
too many holes grid
locked to many skins to
navigate a blackwomansail.


i am watersnake
crossing your long body
hear me turn in blood


have you ever crossed
the ocean alone seen the
morning cough yellow?

“Oil Abstract”
Coleen Shin

Before I finish up this week with my own last poem, I want to go back to the beginning of the issue and the book Women Poets from Antiquity to the Present, only this time I’m leaving antiquity behind and going to one of the contemporary poets in the book.

The poet is Leslie Scalapino, the last poet in the book.

Scalapino was raised in Berkeley and was educated at Reed College and he University of California at Berkeley. At the time this anthology was published, she taught at the New College in San Francisco and at San Francisco State University.

She was my age, born in 1944, and just passed away about three weeks ago. I just learned that from Wikipedia and am glad I had already decided to use her poem this week.

From Considering how exaggerated music is

How can I help myself,      as one woman said to me about wanting

to have intercourse with strange men,      from thinking of a man

How can I help myself,      as one woman said to me about wanting
to have intercourse with strange men,      from thinking of a man
(someone whom I don’t know) as being like a seal. I mean I see a
a man would, say, be in bed with someone, kissing and barking,
which is the way a seal will bark and leap on his partly-fused hind
Yes. Am I not bound, I guess, (I say o myself) to regard him ten-
to concentrate on the man’s trunk instead of his face, which in this
is so impassive.      Seriously,      I am fascinated by the ways seal

[EPILOGUE: anemone]

“About the night on which a man said he would spend a 100
on me,”      a woman described,      (and he did use up most of it
simply on taxi fares),      I was able to describe my feelings:

“About the night on which a man said he would spend a 100
on me,” a woman described      (and he did use up most of it
simply on taxi fares),      I was able to describe my feelings:
by saying it was like being an insect who puts its feelers
out into the flowers of a plant,      and sucks from them,      as we were
(sucking)      from the restaurants and bars of the city
to which the taxi took us. All night we were surrounded by lights.
As I lay back inside the taxi, just waiting for he man to make
arrangements for me      (in regard to that part of my feeling,
I would describe the taxi as being more like a buoy),      I had the
feeling (thru-out it) of rising slowly,      and of floating along side
particular spots in the city. By morning,      naturally,     I was sated.”

Coleen Shin

So now here’s my last piece for the week.

when time to cross the last river comes

the religiosos babosos
were back
for their Monday breakfast

and i’m sorry
to say i'm becoming
less and less interested
in their conversation
as they become more baboso
and less religioso

when they first began to meet
for Monday breakfast
they had good conversations
about interesting things
worthy of thought
and discussion -

maybe because
they've come to see themselves
as off-the-clock
on Monday morning,
their conversation has become
like you would expect
from four mechanics
or four farmers
sitting around a cafe table
for breakfast, except that
the mechanics and farmers
(especially the farmers)
would talk more about their trade
and livelihood
than these guys do...

mostly now
it's all about sports,
basketball, during the NBA finals,
soccer now during the world cup. and,
yesterday, golf, specifically,
Tiger Woods, and, true to form, they
talked a lot his swing and next to nothing
about his swinging ways

you’d think
a table-full of preachers
would have more interest in the subject of sin
and it’s consequences
when time to cross the last river comes

maybe we don’t need
the religiosos to think about it,
maybe all we need is for them to do
their little Sunday dance,
their pulpit pounding
shuck and jive,
before they hie themselves off
to the links,
leaving us to get on with our own
low-key deep-think,
as we do

all of us,
in the dark dark night,
waiting for the sleep-bugs’ bite,
both the converted
and the unconvinced,
like me,
human beings
who struggle
to be better than their nature,
sometimes winning,
sometimes a lose,
sometimes calling the game on account
of rain

if it turns out
there is a heaven,
there will be a place for us there,
i’m sure,
even the philanderers
and whoremongers and preachers
and non-believers like me,
just a little further down the high table,
as virtue,
even if only of intent,
finds it’s place...

Coleen Shin

That’s it for the end of the beginning of summer. The end of the end cannot come too soon.

As you may have heard, all material borrowed for use in this blog remains the property of its creators. My own stuff is available if you want (astounding to me, the places i find my poems that i didn’t know about until I google myself), just be nice and credit me and “Here and Now” because I am, you know, allen itz, owner, producer, and captain of this good ship Lollypop.


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