Slim Pickin's   Thursday, July 08, 2010


Slim Pickens, one of my favorite character actors, began life as a real cowboy, went on to comic sidekick parts in a number of western movies, and finally achieved his greatest notice as the B-52 pilot who rode his atomic bomb down to it’s target in Russia in the movie Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Kubrick’s cold war comic masterpiece.

To bad this week’s post isn’t named after good old Slim.

Instead, I’m afraid it describes what I have to offer this week.

I finally made it home from the drive-around I talked about last week at 10:30 Friday night, after 15 hours straight driving. I felt bad when I started Friday morning and felt worse every hour I traveled.

I took a jolt of Nyquil when I got home and slept, all night Friday, all day and night Saturday, most of Sunday and most of Monday. I think I may be still half asleep.

So, starting out on this issue three days behind, I have no art, except for whatever I can come up with and no featured poet. This week, it’s just me and my library poets, and probably not much of either.

Here they/we are.

Zehra Cirak
Sweethearts Feast
Grandmother’s Nods

Bert Papenfuss
into the fuckall face of fate
home visitation

in the way of reassurance upon the onset of dread disease

Georg Trakl
Eastern Front

Kurt Schwitters
It is autumn

crapped out

Barbara Evans Stanush
The Banished Sun
Native Plant
The Discard


Dylan Thomas
The Hunchback in the Park

APO New York

Lorna Dee Cervantes
How Little You Know the Poor
Forgiveness Like a One-Winged Dove
Pure Sunlight Unfiltered, Unviolated
Not Here
I Lead the Night in Their Shadows

a forever day

Cornelius Eady

only standing in the wet will do

I begin the week with poems from two issues of Exchanges, a quarterly publication of The Translation Laboratory of the University of Iowa. I have the Spring and Fall Issues of 1997, picked up at a used book store in Silver City, New Mexico. As the name of the publisher suggests, these are journals of translation. The text is on facing pages, the original on one side and the translation on the other.

First, from the Spring issue, I have two translations by Elizabeth Oehlkers of poems by Zehra Cirak.

Cirak was born in Istanbul in 1961. Currently, she lives and writes in Berlin.

Sweethearts Feast

What’s the matter honeybun
how come you’re so cross
he says and drops
section D of the Daily Sun

it just strikes me sweetie
it’s been more than a few days
and nights since we...
that’s right, it’s the nights
she says and drops
her skirt and panties

Now see here! He shouts,
You think I’ll let
your navel spoil
my eating and reading?

And if all you can see is my navel
she bellows and starts to pack
first her bags
and then a punch
you’ll be out of my navel
and then your mind

This said
and having made her point
painstakingly washed the kitchen knife

Grandmother’s Nods

Is it true?
Can it be that in those years lived long ago
she had lips
that pressed like a hot iron
on Grandfather’s mouth
till he glowed with her love?

Today Grandmother’s face is lipless
since Grandfather’s beatification
she’s drawn them within like her soft words
the folded slip
which once so flattened Grandfather
rarely opens now

Today Grandmother will be 99
and to all our begging and bothering
for her to tell stories from long ago
she nods without a word
sometimes she shakes her head
looks through us and smiles
as if she sees Grandfather
she blinks and still knows despite the distance
his sore lips

And now several short poems from the Fall, 1997 issue.

The poems are by Bert Papenfuss, as translated from their original German by David Perry.

Papenfuss was born in 1956 in Reuterstadt Stavenhagen. He worked as an electrician and sound and lighting technician until he began to devote himself to his writing beginning in 1980 collaborating with painters and musicians. Since 1994 he has been co-publisher of the cultural-political journal Skvalen, which has been renamed several times since. Since 2004 he has been co-editor of the magazine Zonic and, since 2005, editor of the magazine TorTour. He lives in Berlin. Since 1999 co-operator of Tanzwirtschaft KAFFEE BURGER, which sounds to me like a cafe/coffee house.

into the fuckall face of fate

nevertheless I stand by
beside the fact that sex & death
must give way to something else
& if it’s just sex or death
through sexperience we’ve got to make it through
some swallow, others spit it out
i can explain your undead being to you
but you’ve got to feed yourself


i shout a lot of shit
when the sun is short
& the days nights long while
nothing passes nowhere by
those who will be saved, pass away
the newspapers are uncertain
the calculations don’t sit well
at night the moon brewed
the early morn’s cool beer

home visitation

i hiss forth from abysses
into upstanding misery
and what i overflew
seemed to me shallow surface
i need a sight
that will beat my down
in pieces i loved being left out
mad & now i crave admission

Here’s my first poem of the week - a saga of doubt and reassurance.

in the way of reassurance upon the onset of dread disease

feeling bad

after two days
in bed,
signs of life,
but still need
that the end
is not nigh

time to take
so before the mirror
i stand

liberally patched
with white fur

- a apparition
in the dark of a
half-moon night -

like the prow
of a sailing ship
pushing fearlessly
into the highest seas

arms, chest
shoulders still bearing evidence
of a blacksmith’s genes,
but even there,
ample signs
that gravity is in the game,
and winning

internals not so good
but all in all not
so bad
for a body
in its 67th year

the creature
as the doctor cried

it lives! it lives!

Having begun this week with poems by a couple of modern German poets, I continue with German poets from an earlier time.

The poets are from The Faber Book of 20th-Century Poems, published in 2005. The book includes contemporary poets, but for my purpose this week, I stick to the beginning of the book.

The first poet is Georg Trakl, born in Salzburg, Austria, in 1887, he died by suicide in 1914.

Trakl attended a Catholic elementary school, although his parents were Protestants. He matriculated in 1897 at the Salzburg Staatsgymnasium, where he studied Latin, Greek, and mathematics. At age 13, Trakl began to write poetry. In high school, he began visiting brothels, where he enjoyed giving rambling monologues to the aging prostitutes. At 15, he began drinking, and using opium, chloroform, and other drugs. By the time he was forced to drop out of school in 1905, he was a full-blown drug addict. Georg graduated from his moody adolescence to become a deeply disturbed and clearly mentally ill adult. Many critics think that Trakl suffered from undiagnosed schizophrenia.

On the outbreak of World War I, Trakl was sent as a medical official to attend to soldiers in Galicia. He suffered frequent bouts of depression, exacerbated by the horror of caring for severely wounded soldiers and tried to shoot himself from the strain, but his comrades prevented him. Hospitalized in Kraków and placed under close observation. Despite the care he received, he committed suicide from an overdose of cocaine.

The poem was translated by Christopher Middleton

Eastern Front

The wrath of the people is dark,
Like the wild organ notes of winter storm.
The battle’s crimson wave, a naked
Forest of stars.

With ravaged brows, with silver arms
To dying soldiers night comes beckoning.
In the shade of the autumn ash
ghosts of the fallen are sighing.

Thorny wilderness girdles the town about.
Chases terrified women.
Wild wolves have poured through the gates.

The second of my German poets from and earlier time is Kurt Schwitters.

Schwitters was a German painter who was born in Hanover, Germany. He worked in several genres and media, including Dada, Constructivism, Surrealism, poetry, sound, painting, sculpture, graphic design, typography and what came to be known as installation art. He is most famous for his collages, called Merz Pictures.

As the political situation in Germany under the Nazis continued to deteriorate throughout the 1930s, examples of his work in German museums were confiscated and publicly ridiculed in 1935. Early in 1937 Schwitters, wanted for an 'interview' with the Gestapo, fled Germany to join his son in Norway.His wife decided to remain in Hanover, to manage their four properties. She visited for a few months each year up to the outbreak of World War II. Her visit with her husband in 1939, would be the last time the two met.

The poem was translated by Harriet Watts

It is autumn

It is autumn. Swans devour the bread of their masters held
   together by tears. A few feeble expressionists cry out for
   wine, for there’s still enough wine, but no more
Long live the Kaiser, for there’s no more Kaiser! Clocks clock
   the hours 25 thousand times.
I glide.
Glided noose.
clangs a machine.
Cats hang from the wall.
A Jew is fiddling the beast on out the window.
All the way out.
It is autumn, and the swans autumn also.

I’m not very good at doing sick, even when its not serious. I hate the interruption.

crapped out

the spirit
is willing, but
the flesh is


and no damn
blue skies
and green trees
and chirping birds
are going to change
any damn thing

i have hit the wall
crapped out
in a sea
of puny prospects
reached the end
of my earthly string

just fucked


and ready to call
the repo-man

and tar balls
rolling in on Texas

could be worse
but damned
if i know

Barbara Evans Stanush spent her first 30 years on the East Coast, and the next 30 in South Texas where she worked as an educational consultant, a poet-in-the-schools, a newspaper columnist and writer. Her first book Texan: A Story of Texan Cultures for Young People was published by the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio.

The next poems are from her first book of poems, Stone Garden, published by Pecan Press in 1992.

To The Banished Sun

The sky is ocean today,
a grey, surly sea.
Bare trees reach
to touch the surge.
their tracery startles me.

Native Plant

The dusty cenizo explodes
into lavender after good rains.

Grey leaves keep their softness. I
want our wooden steps to match them.

The paint store manager scans
a sprig wryly, and obliges.

With what is left I paint
the tub room floor.

Twenty years have passed
There are oleanders where

the cenizos were, newer steps
gleam a standard green.

A cenizo bush blooms along some summer road. Returning

to this altered house, I scratch
the fresh pink floor beneath

our proud old tub, keen for
a trace of cenizo grey.

The Discard

The cicada has only one thing to do.

Its brown body totters across a patio brick
and turns upward onto the crossed table leg

catching at each grain of wood. The ghost
tread starts and stops, starts and

the phone rings. I go inside to listen
on shadowless lines that spill

words back and forth, back and forth.
The dark strings out and talk dwindles,

stale air trails endings.
I drink water and find a flashlight.

The cicada has hooked feathery feet into rough wood
and pulses on, legs little more than strung

dust. Pulses, pulses almost imperceptibly
into the night.

Morning, first thoughts fresh and close to cool.
I check the table underneath, to find a green cicada

side by side and parallel to its old skin.
Soon the cicada flies, leaving behind

a brown husk of indifference.

Something about an illness makes a person very body conscious. At least it does to me.

And, as to this, I’m not sure if it turned out to be an homage or a parody - with Whitman it is such a slippery slope between the two. But Whitman is the poet I admire above all others. I consider him the father of modern American poetry and I wish, deeply, I could write as true and honestly and close to the bone as he did.


i lie
with Whitman
in the grass
under afternoon sun

and with him
find glory in the sun
and in the grass
and in the body that lies
in glorious sun and grass

and celebrate
the sun and grass
and the body,
in all its blood and bone
and intricate mysteries of flesh
from manly parts
to beating heart,
my shelter,
standing for me,
my conveyance through
all my life
and, even now
as it falters, my representative
in the natural world
of biology and physics,
chemistry and mechanics

and i find it
appropriately celebratory
in all its aspects
and no matter what
some might say, i see no shame
in its sight
or its shape
or its natural functions
or conditions

for it is me
and i am not

Here’s a poem by Dylan Thomas, from Collected Poems, 1934-1952, published by New Directions, probably in the mid-fifties. I can tell because the price when new was only $2.75, roughly half what I paid for it used.

The Hunchback in the Park

The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark

Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.

Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound

Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.

And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors

Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains

All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Hd followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.

Looking back on my early poetry, it’s clear I wrote a lot of really unexceptional poems, including many that are flat-out crap.

(I do hope I’m doing better now, though I guess I won’t know until ten years of so from now when I can read them without getting caught up in the fun of writing them.)

Some do occupy a special place in my mind though, for, if no other reason, they bring back to me a lot of memories. Like this one, first written in the late sixties after my return from military service, then reworked when i returned to writing in the late nineties. Eventually, it was published in 1999 in The Horsethief’s Journal.

APO New York

So, I’m sitting here
at the absolute and eternal center
of all that is lost and lonely,
cataloging my sins, thinking,
which one was it, or Lord,
that caused you to leave me here,
forsaken and abandoned
when there is so much goodness and beauty
still to be tasted in my life...

I’m thinking of mountains,
maybe the Sandias or Manzanas,
and the way they look from the desert floor in early winter,
with snow clouds slowly spilling over the crest,
like a dime’s worth of ice cream in a five cent cone.
Or, waking on a mountain top,
making coffee with water come from snow
melted in a pot over a juniper fire,
smelling the air, fresh made for the morning,
never breathed before, never close to anything
that wasn’t clean and bright and wholesome.
Or, the back roads and fields
and lakes and thick wooded hills
of south central Missouri,
the golden, October shimmer of an aspen grove
amid a stand of deep green pine,
the cool and ageless presence
of Anasazi ghosts in the canyons of Mesa Verde,
the boulevards of Paris glistening in early April rain,
the splash and rumble of Soluth Padre surf at midnight.
Or, the essences of home,
the slam of the back screen door
with it’s too short spring,
the creak in the kitchen floor,
the bite of cold cactus jelly on hot cornbread,
the luminescent green of the lightning-split mesauite
shading the backyard in earlyk spring.
And, the best things,
the peace and love and heart-full joy
of you in my life,
the taste of you lips,
the satin softness of your skin,
your warm breath on my chest
as you curl against me sleeping,
the sweet smell of your hair,
long, delicate as china silk,
framing your face,
falling across your shoulders,
the sound of your morning laughter,
your sweet, secret whispers sin the still of winter night.
Those are my comforts tonight, my love,
as I try to sleep in this place
so far from my life’s essentials.
You are the sum and substance of my dreams,
my love,
my breath,
my life, my evermore...

And I am missing you tonight

Now I have several short poems from one of my favorite poets, Lorna Dee Cervantes. The poems are from The First Quartet - New Poems, 1980-2005, published by Wings Press of San Antonio in 2006.
Cervantes is a fifth generation Californian of Mexican and Native American (Chumash) heritage. Originally from San Jose, she lives in Boulder, Colorado where she is an associate professor at the University of Colorado.

How Little You Know the Poor

How little you know the poor.
Wrenched away in your enclave of hypnopompic
cleanliness, the vagrant heart doesn’t
stand a chance at the button of past servitude
on a dime. Dimele the idea of a dive
of saliva, the worm of ramification issuing
out your pores at the prod of a policeman’s baton. Here,
in America, in the US of AA, you, at the hoist of a hoax.

Forgiveness Like a One-Winged Dove

scrambles in the sand. At her peace,
the Pacific rubbing at the ruts and gouged
out eyes of shell; at her feet, torn feathers
drifting in the sea breeze like the dollar
bills he crumpled and threw at her leaving.
On her face, two ripe plums the size
of the ones she picked at ten. One
has split its skin; she wishes she were
a butterfly coming into being, and not this
lumpy moth, too many and muddy to be
admired or collected. “Forgive me,” he recites,
and she washes her feet in the brine.
“Forgive me,” he repeats and his
stuck record sticks in her craw as he strikes

Pure Sunlight, Unfiltered, Unviolated

penetrate the lacy curtains,
insinuating across the mussed
up bed and warming her thighs
like a hand. She had just
showered for the sixth time
that day and she held out
her hand to the offering, the
reminder, the possibility
of something else - another
way of loving.

Not Here

“Not here,” she says, and diverts
the stream. “Not here,” she whispers
and converts the lunar waves. “Not
here,” she sings and prevents
the clots of summer from settling
on her skin. “Not here,” she murmurs,
and currents desire into tidepools.
“Not here,” she startles in the thicket
and looks away. “Not here,” she confronts
my gaze like a deer in the bristling meadow,
and returns to feed.

I Lead the Night in Their Shadows

and follow the killing floor where leaves
let go like suicidal children and
let flow all around like dancing figures
in the final act. To say it isn’t true
but not say it. To pray it isn’t true
but not pay it; the coffin man with
the silver lining, the obituaries copy.
I open the door and look out to sea
and think of expanses of an element
with the taste for tears.

Having gotten away, apparently, with Whitman, I decided to give Hemmingway a try. Unfortunately, if this is Hemmingway, it is Hemmingway about 15 minutes before he went to his gun cabinet to get his shotgun.

What a downer.

a forever day

the sunrise
was not red and orange
and glorious on the horizon

it is not
that kind of day

the sky
is not blue and deep
and reminiscent of days
of childhood’s

it is not
that kind of day

the clouds
hang heavy and gray
like rotten fruit
on a dying tree

it is that kind of day

a day of hot blood
and cold cold regret

a day
when lost friendships
are remembered
and new love

it is not a red and orange
and glorious
and blue sky day

because those days
are used up

and the rest of life
sinks into
dark and heavy

it is a forever day
for the forever

and me
but mostly me

living a long

This last poem from my library for this abbreviated post is by Cornelius Eady, from his book, Brutal Imagination, published by G.P. Putman’s Sons in 2001. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Eady was born and raised in Rochester, New York, in 1954. He attended Monroe Community College and Empire State College. Winner of numerous awards and honors, he has served as director of the Poetry Center at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, and has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, City College of New York, The Writer's Voice, The College of William and Mary, and Sweet Briar College.

A section of the book deals with Susan Smith, the young mother who drowned her children by driving her car, with the children strapped in their car seats, into a local river. The poems are written in the voice of the mysterious Black Man, Smith invented as the kidnapper of her children.

This piece, which I may have used before, describes the drowning of the children in Smith’s actual words from her eventual confession, with observations from the Black Man as a presence watching the event. It is a powerful piece of horror.

The italicized language is from Smith’s handwritten confession


When I left my home on Tuesday, October, 25, I
was very emotionally distraught

I have yet
To breathe.

I am in the back of her mind,
Not even a notion.

A scrap of cloth, the way
A man lopes down a street.

Later a black woman will say:
“We knew exactly who she was describing.”

At this point, I have no language,
No tongue, no mouth.

I am not me, yet.
I am just an understanding.


As I rode and rode and rode, I felt
Even more anxiety.

Susan parks on a bridge,
And stares over the rail.
Below her feet, a dark blanket of river
She wants to pull over herself.
Children and all.

I am not the call of the current.

She is heartbroken.
She gazes down,
And imagines heaven.


I felt I couldn’t be a good mom anymore, but I didn’t want
my children to grown p without a mom.

I am not me yet.
At the bridge,
One of Susan’s kids cries,
So she drives to the lake
To the boat dock.

I am not yet opportunity.


I had never felt so lonely
And so sad.

Who shall be a witness?
Bullfrogs, water fowl.


When I was at John D. Long Lake
I had never felt so sad
and unsure.

I have yet to be called.
Who will notice?
Moths, dragonflies,
Field Mice.


I wanted to end my life so bad
And was in my car ready to
Go down the ramp into
The water.

My hand isn’t her hand
Panicked on the
Emergency brake.


And I did go part way,
But I stopped.

I am not Gravity,
The water lapping against
the gravel.


I went again then stopped.
I then got out of the car.

Susan stares at the sinking.
My muscles aren’t her muscles,
Burned from pushing.
The lake has no appetite,
But it takes the car slowly,
Swallow by swallow, like a snake.


Why was I feeling this way?
Why was everything so bad
In my life?

Susan stares at the taillights
As they slide from her
To hidden.


I have no answers
To these questions.

She only has me,
After she removes our hands
From our ears.

There have been predictions of storms the past couple of days, but none have appeared. Anticlimactic. And I’m disappointed.

only standing in the wet will do

further south,
along the Rio Grande

but nothing here,
predictions of great storms

yesterday and today,
the closest we’ve come
are gray skies this morning

there is a rainbow to the west

so somewhere near
rain could be
falling -

but a rainbow
is only a rumor of rain,
not good

for those of us
who’ve lived through extended drought

for us
only standing in the wet
will do

That’s it this week. Short, but occasionally sweet.

I’ll be back next week, and, need I say it again, all the work presented here remains the property of its creators. My stuff is available, as long as you properly credit.

I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and I’m still feeling puny.

at 11:02 PM Blogger Arunansu said...

Thanks for the poems of Lu Yu. They are such a treasure! And you look terrific in that fiery orange shirt. Yo!

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