A Small Splash of Summer Color   Thursday, July 15, 2010


V.7.3.





I think I’ve recovered from my meager effort last week, with five poems by friend and feature poet Dan Cuddy, as well as some pictures that I’ve tried to give a little twist, something I have never tried to do before.

And, of course, good stuff from my library, and several poems of my own that I’m more pleased with than some of the other stuff I’ve been doing recently.

Getting right on with it, here’s the week’s line up.

Robert Hass
A Supple Wreath of Myrtle
Bush’s War
Futures in Lilacs


Me
finally, a solution to the too damn many brown people problem

Anna Akhmatova
from Plantain

Me
deciding which kind is which kind

Henry Coulette
The Black Angel
Once
The Sickness of Friends


Me
the end of a summer night

Jane Hirshfield
Mulberries
Mele in Gabbia
Wine Grapes for Breakfast
he Bearded Woman
Lying


Me
another theory may be required

Charles Bukowski
it’s difficult when bananas eat monkeys
old man with a cane


Dan Cuddy
Replacement Poem for the Naked Romantic
A Fat Man’s Confession
What A Mix It Is
A Poem That May or May Not Be About July
Examining


Lu Yu
Leaving the Monastery Early in the Morning
Rain on the River
Evening in the Village


Me
anti-war poems are easy

Nanao Sakaki
Wind Speaks
Forevergreen
A Message


Me
you can’t see the tree until you’ve seen the forest









I start this week with three poems by Robert Hass, a long one bookended by two short ones. The poems are from Time and Materials, Poems 1997-2005. The long poem, probably the best anti-war poem - a genre I’m usually suspicious of - I’ve ever read.

California-born poet Hass teaches at the University of California. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997.



A Supple Wreath of Myrtle

Poor Nietzsche in Turin, eating sausage his mother
Mails to him from Basel. A rented room,
A small square window framing August clouds
Above the mountain. Brooding on the form
Of things: the dangling spur
Of an Alpine columbine, winter-tortured trunks
Of cedar in the summer sun, the warp in the aspen’s trunk
Where it torqued up through the snowpack.

“Everywhere the wasteland grows; woe
To him whose wasteland is within.”

Dying of syphilis. Trimming a luxuriant mustache.
In love with the opera of Bizet.


Bush’s War

I typed the brief phrase, “Bush’s War,”
At the top of a sheet of white paper,
Having some dim intuition of a poem
Made luminous by reason that would,
Though I did not have them at hand,
Set the facts out in an orderly way.
Berlin is a northerly city. In May
At the end of the twentieth century
In the leafy precincts of Dahlem Dorf,
South of the Grunewald, near Krumme Lanke,
The northern spring begins before dawn
In a racket of birdsong, when the amsels,
Black European thrushes, shiver the sun up
As if they were shaking a great tangle
Of golden wire. There are two kinds
Of flowering chestnuts, red and white,
And the wet pavements are speckled
With petals from the incandescent spikes
Of their flowers; the shoes at U-Bahn stops
Are flecked with them. Green of holm oaks,
Birch tassels, the soft green of maples,
And the odor of lilacs is everywhere.
At Oskar-Helene-Heim station a farmer
Sells white asparagus from a heaped table.
In a month he’ll be selling chanterelles;
In the month after that, strawberries
and small, rosy crawfish from the Spree.
The piles of stalks of the asparagus
Are startlingly phallic, phallic and tender
And deathly pale. Their seasonal appearance
Must be the remnant of some fertility ritual
Of the German tribes. Steamed, they are the color
Of old ivory. In May, in restaurants
They are served on heaped white platters
With boiled potatoes and parsley butter,
Or shavings of Parma ham and lemon juice
Or sprigs of sorrel and smoked salmon. And,
Walking home in the slant, widening,
Brilliant norther light that falls
On the new-leaved birches and the elms,
Nightingales singing at the first, subtlest,
Darkening of the dusk, it is a trick of the mind
that the past seems just ahead of us,
As if we were being shunted there
In the surge of a rattling funicular.
Flash forward: firebombing of Hamburg,
Fifty thousand dead in a single night,
“The children’s bodies the next day
Set in the street in rows like a market
In charred children.” Flash forward:
firebombing of Tokyo, a hundred thousand
In a night. Flash forward: forty-five
Thousand Polish officers slaughtered
By the Russian army in the Katyn Woods,
The work of half a day. Flash forward:
Two million Russian prisoners of war
Murdered by the German army all across
The eastern front, supplies low,
Winter of 1943. Flash: Hiroshima.
Flash: Auschwitz, Dachau, Thersienstadt,
The train lurching and the stomach woozy
Past the displays of falls of hair, the piles
Of monogrammed valises, spectacles. Flash:
The gulags, seven million in Byelorussia
and Ukraine. In innocent Europe on a night
In string, among the light-struck birches,
Students holding hands. One of them
Is carrying a novel, the German translation
Of a slim book by Marguerite Duras
About a love affair in old Saigon. (Flash:
Two million Vietnamese, fifty-thousand
Of the American young, whole races
Of tropical birds extinct from Saturation bombing)
The kind of book the young love
To love, about love in time of war.
Forty-five million, all told, in World War II.
In Berlin, pretty Berlin, in the springtime,
You are never not wondering how
It happened, and these Germans, too,
Children then, or unborn, never not
Wondering. Is it that we like the kissing
And bombing together, in prospect
At least, girls in their flowery dresses?
Someone will always want to mobilize
Death on a massive scale for economic
Domination or revenge. And the task, taken
As a task, appeals to the imagination.
The military is an engineering profession.
Look at boys playing: they love
To figure out ways to blow things up.
But the rest of us have to go along.
Why do we do it? Certainly there’s a rage
To injure what’s injured us. Wars
Are always pitched to us that way.
The well-paid news readers read the reasons
On the air. And the us who are injured,
Or have been convinced that we are injured,
Are always identified with virtue. It’s
That - the rage to hurt mixed up
With self-righteousness - that’s murderous.
the young Arab depilated himself as an act
Of purification before he drove the plane
Into the office building. It’s not just
The violence, it’s a taste of power
That amounts to contempt for the body.
The rest of us have to act like we believe
The dead women in the rubble of Baghdad
Who did not cast a vote for their deaths
Or the raw white of the exposed bones
In the bodies of their men or their children
Are being given the gift of freedom
Which is the virtue of the injured us.
It’s hard to say which is worse, the moral
sloth of it or the intellectual disgrace.
And what good is indignation to the dead?
And death the cleanser, Walt Whitman’s
Sweet death, the scourer, the tender
Lover, shutter of eyelids, turns
The heaped bodies into summer fruit,
Magpies eating dark berries in the dusk
And birch pollen staining sidewalks
to the faintest gold. Bald nur - Goethe - no,
Worte nur, bald ruhest du auch. Just wait.
You will be quiet soon enough. In Dahlem,
under the chestnuts, in the leafy spring.


Futures in Lilacs

“Tender little Buddha,” she said
Of my least Buddha-like member.
She was probably quoting Allen Ginsberg,
Who was probably paraphrasing Walt Whitman.
After the Civil War, after the death of Lincoln,
That was a good time to own railroad stocks,
But Whitman was in the Library of Congress,
Researching alternative Americas,
Reading up on the curiosities of Hindoo philosophy,
Studying the etchings of stone carvings
Of strange couplings in a book.

She was taking off a blouse,
Almost transparent, the color of a silky tangerine.
From Capitol Hill Walt Whitman must have been able to see
Willows gathering the river haze
In the cooling and still-humid twilight.
He was in love with a trolley conductor
In the summer of - what was it? - 1867? 1868?








Here it is, next item on the Arizona to-do list.



finally, a solution to the too damn many brown people problem

in the news next week:

the State of Arizona,
continuing to lead the national
battle

against the plague
of too many
brown-tinged people

who are not maids
nannies
yard boys or asparagus

pickers,
has approved a new law
requiring

anyone
with a complexion
darker than

a lighter shade of pale
to carry on their person
a state-issued

certificate
of membership
in an authorized tanning

salon -
thus, putting to an end
the present willy-nilly pollution

of this great land of the
white
and home

of our full-sheeted,
pointy-headed
klansmen -

boooorah, boooorah,
long shall their white sheets
wave

amen








Next, I have poems by Russian poet Anna Akmatova, from the book You Will Hear Thunder, published by Ohio University Press in 1985.

Akmatova, who lived from 1889 to 1966, had the kind of complicated and often dangerous life of most intellectuals and artists who came to maturity before the revolution of 1917 and then had to try to come to terms with life after the revolution, a life of official discouragement and often persecution. But through her life, in good times and bad, she was known and often revered by her fellow poets and by the ordinary people of Russia. Five thousand mourners, mostly young, crowded into her requiem mass in a Leningrad church.

The poems in the book were translated from Russian by D.M. Thomas.



from Plantain

Now farewell, capital,
Farewell, my spring,
Already I can hear
Karelia yearning.

Fields and kitchen-gardens
Are green and peaceful,
The waters are still deep,
And the skies still pale.

and the marsh rusalka,
Mistress of those parts,
Gazes, sighing, up at
The bell-tower cross.

And the oriole, friend
Of my innocent days,
Has flown back from the south
And cries among the branches

That it’s shameful to stay
Until May in the cities,
To stifle in theaters,
Grow bored on the islands.

But the oriole doesn’t know,
Rusalka won’t understand,
How lovely it is
Kissing him!

All the same, right now,
On the day’s quiet slope,
I’m gong. God’s land,
Take me to you!

1917


I hear the oriole’s always grieving voice,
and the rich summer’s welcome loss I hear
In the sickle’s serpentine hiss
Cutting the corn’s ear tightly press to ear.

And the short skirts of the slim reapers
Fly in the wind like holiday pennants,
The clash of joyful cymbals, and creeping
From under dusty lashes, the long glance.

I don’t expect love’s tender flatteries,
In premonition of some dark event,
But come, come and see this paradise
Where together we were blessed and innocent.

1917, Summer


Now no-one will be listening to songs.
The days long prophesied have come to pass.
The world has no more miracles. Don’t break
My heart, song, but be still: you are the last.

Not long ago you took your morning flight
With all a swallow’s free accomplishment.
Now that you are a hungry beggar-woman,
Don’t go knocking at the stranger’s gate.

1917


The cuckoo I asked
How many years I would live...The
Pine tops shivered,
A yellow shaft fell to the grass.
In the fresh forest depths, no sound...
I am going
Home, and the cool wind
Caresses my hot brow.

1919, 1 June


Why is our century worse than any other?
Is it that in the stupor of fear and grief
It has plunged its fingers in the blackest ulcer,
Yet cannot bring relief?

Westward the sun is dropping,
And the roofs of towns are shinning in its light.
Already death is chalking doors with crosses
And calling the ravens and the ravens are in flight.

1919


from Anno Domini

Everything is looted, spoiled, despoiled,
Death flickering his black wig,
Anguish, hunger - then why this
Lightness overlaying everything?

By day, cherry-scent from an unknown
Wood near the town. July
Holding new constellations, deep
At night in the transparent sky -

Nearer to filthy ruined houses
Flies the miraculous...
Nobody has ever known it,
This, always so dear to us.

1921


They wiped your slate
With snow, you’re not alive.
Bayonets twenty-eight
And bullet-holes five.
It’s a bitter present,
Love, but I’ve sewed it.
Russia, an old peasant
Killing his meat.

1921








This poem came from something I overheard in a bookstore.



deciding which kind is which kind

so i was
in the bookstore

and i saw this little boy
run up to his mom

with a book,
“mommy, i want this book”

he said,
“you can’t have that book”

she said,
“but i want it”

he said,
“you can’t have it”

she said,
“it’s a girl’s book”

so he says,
“okay, mommy”

and heads back
to the children’s book section

to find
a boy’s book

and i’m left
with questions

like
whose job is it to decide

which kind of book
is which kind of book

is it the librarian,
after she returns all the returns

to their proper shelves
and straightens the magazine racks

and makes a list
of the overdue books

not returned today,
does she go to the children’s

book section
and search every book

page by page
cataloguing the little boy penises

and the little girl vaginas
that distinguish the one kind of book

from the other kind of book
and mark it with the appropriate stamp

so no mistakes of identification
can lead a little boy to reading

a little girl book
and vice-versa

and does she keep a list
of which kind of book each kind of book

is








The next poems are by Henry Coulette, from the book The Collected Poems of Henri Coulette, published in 1990 by The University of Arkansas Press.

Coulette’s story as a poet is very interesting. I’ve told many times now of how his second book was accidentally shredded by his publisher and his decision to remain silent for years after. I’ll leave it to you to google the rest of it.



The Black Angel

Where are the people as beautiful as poems,
As calm as mirrors,
With their oceanic longings -
The idler whom reflection loved,
The woman with the iridescent brow?
For I would bring them flowers.

I think of a friend too much moved by music
Who turned to games
And made a game of boredom,
Of that one too much moved by faces
Who turned his face to the wall, of of that marvelous liar
Who turned at last to truth.

They are the past of what was always future.
The speak in tongues,
Silently, about nothing.
They are like old streetcars buried at sea,
In the wrong element, and with no place to go....
I will not meet her eye,

Although I shall, but here’s a butterfly,
And a white flower,
And the moon rising on my nail.
This is the presence of things present,
Where flying woefully is like closing sweetly,
And there is nothing else.


Once

Remember those gently kooks
who would stand at the crossroads,
directing traffic, Sundays?

And Grandfather Patterson
in his rocker, whistling down
the beagle in the painting?

And the blind Negress who talked
to herself in a language
all her own, at the corner?

They have disappeared, stealing
the ice cards out of windows,
the cloth fronts f radios.

We tolerated much, once.
Grass grew through our cracked sidewalks,
and the rag man cried and cried.


The Sickness of Friends

Do I give off in the wee,
small hours a phosphorescent
glow, perhaps, like rotting wood?

Am I in the Yellow Pages?
I am sick of the sickness
within me that so lures them

to their phones when the night stops
in a dead calm: “H’llo.” It’s dick,
who can’t bear to be alone;

or Jane, who needs a father;
or Spot, who leads a dog’s life.
Even the operator

has twin raw scars on her wrists,
but I’m fine, unmarked, floating
in the bath of their self-love.








Early mornings in San Antonio have been nice, a few moments in the early light before the heat of the day settles in.



the end of a summer night

up at 5:30,
then a half hour doze
on the patio

as daylight
begins to creep
between the trees

across the creek
people wake
and stir

signs of life
like the birds
that sing -

not doves this morning,
their soft sighs
as the sun begins to begin

its morning rise
missing,
more insistent cries instead

wake up wake up
the birds call
and the dogs oblige

first on the left
then on the right
then on the other side of the creek

then our own dogs,
Peanut, sitting beside me,
our not-so-smart dog

and finally,
Reba,
inside, awakened

from her sleep by the bed,
now at the door
wanting out, her job to do

whatever the threat
being signaled by all the rest,
the aged sentry’s sentries -

6:00 o’clock now,
and the dogs
and the traffic thumping

over the bridge
signal
the end of a summer night

and the beginning of my
day








Here are several short poems by Jane Hirshfield. The poems are from her book, The Lives of the Heart, published by HarperCollins in 1997.



Mulberries

By the time
the low branches
ripen the pigeons are fat,
and can be generous.
Just so, let
the gods take what they want
of this wold and its high nectars -
Know they will leave
the stews and the nipple’s erectness,
the unguarded, late-sweetening
pleasures.


Mele in Gabbia

The pastry
is dusted with sugar.
The slices of apple inside,
just sour enough.

The name,
“apples in a cage.”

I hear them
in this good place -
the pastry warm,
a little bit chewy,
the linen
impeccably white -
and consider.


Wine Grapes for Breakfast

Sweet
at first
on the tongue,
hours later
the red grapes
still sting,
as if trying
to tell me something -
what the hook
tells the fish
perhaps,
of the wand
or stick hears
before the conductor
or mule driver
brings it down.


The Bearded Woman

Each time she noticed,
she had meant
to pluck the three black hairs,
but the days were short;
her fingers touched her chin
then forgot.
Thus fatigue grew curling into wisdom.


Lying

He puts his brush to the canvas,
with one quick stroke
unfolds a bird from the sky.
Steps back, considers.
Takes pity.
Unfolds another.








I hate to oversleep. Seems when I do I’m behind all day and never catch up.

Not the way I’d run things.



another theory may be required

big family dinner
last night

a table-full and more

brisket, bar-b-cued
Texas style, beans, rice
potato salad, cream corn,
pico de gallo, and guacamole

and a large fruit salad for desert

lots of talking, laughing -
a couple of generations worth

stayed up late,
slept well, but too
long this morning by an hour

the sun came up anyway

a disappointment,
since i have been convincing myself

that i made the rooster crow
who makes the sun rise
that makes the birds sing
who makes the day begin...

now,
obviously,
another theory may be required

explaining
how planetary orbits
and the circumference of the sun
are affected by surfeits of brisket,
bar-b-cued Texas style,
loosing, through the resulting
gravitational shifts,
forces that are,
in Einstein’s words, as yet
unexplained

thus,
starting things without me








Here are two poems by Charles Bukowski, from Open All Night, one of the seemingly endless supply of books of previously unpublished poems that have come out since his death.

Both these poems left me laughing at the end.



it’s difficult when bananas eat monkeys

it’s partly the burning and it’s partly the muddy
water and partly the voices -
(the faces i’ve adjusted to; the years have given
me something)
but when the faces
speak
it makes no pleasure to linger in the crowd.

maybe the truly original man doesn’t exist. I
have never met him.

sometimes I think it will be the parking lot attendant. he
walks toward me. he smiles, ah, here it comes, I
think.

then he says, “hi sport,” or something else equally flat and
dumb.

I reply with a sentence that sails over his
left shoulder and flames out
on a green balcony across the
street.

I give him my keys
I give him my car

he drives off and I walk into the
place.

the hostess walks
up. “yes?” she
says.

yes, what? I’ve got to eat so I can
live. I follow her buttocks
(they have a certain minor charm) but I keep
thinking
I’ve to to tip that son-of-a-bitch out there
when he should be
guillotined.


old man with a cane

I was walking to
the betting window when I heard loud voices coming
from the stairwell near the bar.
a young man was screaming at an old guy with a
cane who had just passed where he sat
on the stairway.

“you farted in my face, you old fuck!”

the old man turned around, pointed his cane
at the young man.

“up your ass!”

I stopped and watched, a whole row of drinkers
at the bar and the bartender watched too.

“you old fuck!” screamed the young man, “I’ll
kick your ass!”

“looks to me,” said the old man, “like you’re
afraid to stand up on your feet and try.”

“I’ll kick your ass!” screamed the young man,
“you think I won’t kick your ass?”

“bullshit,” said the old man.
then he turned and slowly walked off.

I watched him leave.
then as I passed the bar
one of the patrons smiled at me:

“that old man either was drunk or he’s pretty brave!”

“yeah,” said another patron, “that old man
was a tough old bird!”

“I wouldn’t want to mess with him!”
said a third.

as I moved off I looked at the row of men
sitting at the bar where they had remained
without moving during the argument.
and the young man still sat on the
steps thinking about the fart and maybe a few
other things.

some days are much more interesting
than others.








Maryland poet Dan Cuddy is one of my Poem-a-Day housemates on the Blueline forum. He is unusual in that he never dogs it.

I’ll admit I do, and so, I think do most of us - some days, the well is dry and the best we can do is come up with some trifle, just for the count, so we can say we didn’t skip a day.

Dan never does that. Every day for him, is a full-bore, guts-to-the-wall shot at a classic. And he most often succeeds.

Here are five of the poems he’s written so far this month.



Replacement Poem for the Naked Romantic

Ambushed
the computer ambushed my latest rant and rave
shot in the back
no hint that I couldn't change the screen
without loss

the title of that lost poem?
"The Naked Romantic On The Elevator".
More interesting than this ode to electronic betrayal.

I gnash teeth.
Gnashing hurts the heart.

Lost is my justification
for being a romantic
and the big scene as the thought police
carry me way
my arms and legs moving
like a captured insect
to be squashed.

Maybe that striking out of existence
of that previous poem
the naked emotion
hopping on and off the elevator
at various floors of the social strata
is the revenge
of the Super Ego.

Oh, freuded again.
The trash-talking poet,
the figment in his own imagination,
the idiot who didn't make it a rule
to copy
even the most inglorious of texts

and so
this too long poem
just like the lost too long poem
proceeds
to be little more
than a three year old
kicking off his shoes.


A Fat Man’s Confession

you
(I-you-he-she-it)
should never write a poem about
the mass of fat in your own stomach
the beach ball stays too inflated
you can't tell if you are pigeon-toed
knock-knee'd
toothpick-legged or what

and fat is ugly
UGLY
UGH-LY
never do you see a fat leading man or lady
on stage, screen, television
unless a comedy

and so I have become a comedian
bouncing out on stage
arms and legs like eyes in a potato

the vigorous, rigorous, dedicated thin ones say
walk-run-lift-push away from the maHOGaknee table
but you are a chocolate ice-cream loving fool
your one pleasure in life is eating
you can't find your sex on the bottom of your beach ball
you can't run fast or long enough to enjoy a sprinter's breeze
you can't be romantic beneath the full moon
without thinking of your plump lumpy derriere
no
eating is the only pleasure
your taste of life
you slurp soup like a snake does in a mouse
you chew like a pepper grater
your taste buds tingle with Dijon mustard
your sweet tooth dons a cape of sugar
and with all that hydrocarbon energy
you are superman
big S written with magic marker on your chest
until the sugar high dives to a sugar low
and S stands for Sap
you sit with a napkin on your lap
your head tilted back
a short enervating snoring after lunch nap

Fat-stomachs must avoid mirrors
the starch-vampires
they are always biting into breads, cakes, cheese
drinking swills of swell high calorie beers
they can not bear mirrors or cameras
or any self-imaging apparatus
like reflective thought

Fat people are like bugs
society wants to squash them
wash them down the drain
disapprove their life insurance
not carry their caskets
let the lards lie by the side of the road
they didn't carry their own weight
dead or alive they are parasites
appetites without redemption
sinners like singed meat
dripping globs of fat

oh how ignoble it is to be fat
to put on a bathing suit
and someone
a boatswain or adolescent yells
"WHALE"
and the fat guy or gal
feels harpooned, marooned, doomed
the beach an itch of sand
and he(she) wouldn't dare wade in
displace the water from the chic, the thin,
the bronzed bodies of the Caribbean

and so I write what should never
be written, a self-inflicting hate
of the physical gone to excess
I'm so stressed with my own imperfections
I stretch the fatty skin
and chew on my own heart


What A Mix It Is

i know 3 people
awash in the tides of emotion
3 friends
i am happy, overjoyed for two
who are fuel for each other's eye
she smiles
a full shine of dawn
and he nuzzles her neck
moistens with his soul
her wondrous body
that she will give to him
and he will pour himself into her
and the winds in the trees
will not shake this earth
with more pleasure
and innocence
oh happy the word "yes"
happy the kiss that is the flower of desire
oh nothing is like that erotic continent of love
where one says "yes"
and vows "forever"

the other
the ex-boyfriend
a good man too
but he walks beaches alone
looking for footprints
all has been washed away
the constant roar of waves
it was always there
but it said something different before
today it lashes his heart
a whip
memory is a whip
what can the sand do
but run away with the tide
but he is that sand washed back
by wave after wave after wave
that pull and push back
that beating heart
so drummed by memories
oh the hollowness of echoes

and i
a bystander to the drama
i understand all the emotions
but how does one stay happy for two
and sympathetic to he who has lost
how do i burn with heat and with cold
how do i not feel the lift of joy
and the drop of heavy sorrow
how do i put everything in perspective
remain true friends to all 3

oh it isn't my life
but being a man with some emotion
i know both the joy and the sorrow
being a friend i want to celebrate
and to console

my role is that of a bit player
or an audience
but one who has been brought to catharsis
by the human condition


A Poem That May or May Not Be About July

july is like juicy fruit gum
sweet but the taste leaves early
the more you chew, ruminate, contemplate

it is like a woman who can't bask in love
but must get up, make breakfast
clean up the crumbs, wash the bedlinen
open the windows to let in fresh air
but the hot sun too

july is a parade of bands
wedding, brigand, radio wavelength

july is a bunch of unruly words
like bananas
and we are monkeys
peeling the skin off our chatter
swinging on the vines
chomping on the South American fruit
like someone possessed by the sweetness
of the New World
all exotic flower and anaconda
and odd monkeys like us but talking
another language
and so our scratching under armpits
curling the upper lip
distorting their language
with our own wild cheep jeer
and whooo and squeal
is a true july in the jungle
a knot of cultural vegetation
expressed in fits and starts

july is a litany of saints
hanging out in the sauna
sweating their holy pounds off
weight loss a miracle for the ages
especially middle and old

july is a piece of mind
left out in the sun melting
the logic and passion raspberry colored goo
oh, don't step in july's philosophy
it is all about taking one's clothes off
and taking a cold shower

july nights come in hot, hotter, hottest
but the AC hums its breath of frigid sanity
one dreams in july with coverings of symbols
allusions, autumn sale images
pulled up to the chin
as the controlled air is condensing, freezing
the vapor of one's desires
but, oh, open those windows
and a hot blast of social inconvenience
vaporizes any and all dreams

july is such a middle of the year month
a year declining now
lengthening its shadow
wiping its brow
singing Christmas carols
under its hot-to-trot breath
and the blind keyboard player
twings and twangs old jukebox tunes
and everyone
who can carry a tune and the memory of the lyrics
gathers round, boogies or woogies
or just hangs out in the Hotel California

july is a parade of such days, daze, dais
a homonym of hymns to the republic
banana or not

ah, july, baby
let us sip mint juleps
a little swig of brandy on the side
to chase our overheated sensibilities away
let us drink our drunks
like in the arms of sexy decadence
all hanging of shampooed hair
leis or Spanish moss
oh kiss life
let her lipstick collar you
july only happens once a year
and surf is up


Examining

yesterday had my first MRI
the hum, burp, bip
most of me in the little tube
hands crossed on chest
corpse-like
I tried not to do a claustrophobic panic
or jerk
that would earn me more minutes immobile

the magnetic imaging is poetic
to the imagination
that likes to contemplate
the pianissimo shimmer of electrons
but the human thing
oh poetic in a way
is too personal

amazing how fast, how slow
a half-hour can go

next week the doctor may want
another image
and I will suffer my insides on film
though the thoughts
which I will try to keep to a minimum
will do a Buddhist hum
I hope

Tuesday
I hope malignant words are avoided
but they can't be forever
things and people fall apart
grow distant from themselves
create little monsters
that take the physical to new nightmares

but
hopefully
please
I will be reprieved for the moment
not have to face
the emptiness of the universe






From the book One Hundred Poems from the Chinese, I have three poems by Lu Yu, a very early Chinese poet respected even today as the Sage of Tea and best known for his book The Classic of Tea, the first definitive work on cultivating, making and drinking tea.

Born in the year 733, Lu died in 804.

All poems in book were translated by its editor and Kenneth Rexroth.



Leaving the Monastery Early in the Morning

In bed, asleep, I dream
I am a butterfly.
A crowing cock wakes me
Like a blow. the sun rises
Between foggy mountains.
Mist hides the distant crags.
My long retreat is over.
My worries begin again.
Laughing monks are gathering
Branches of peach blossoms
For a farewell present.
But no stirrup cup will sustain
Me on my journey back
Into a world of troubles.


Rain on the River

In the fog we drift hither
And yon over the dark waves.
At last our little boat finds
Shelter under a willow bank.
At midnight I am awake,
Heavy with wine. the smoky
Lamp is still burning. Te rain
Is still sighing in the bamboo
Thatch of the cabin of the boat.


Evening in the Village

Here in the mountain village
Evening falls peacefully.
Half tipsy, I lounge in the
Doorway. the moon shines in the
Twilit sky. the breeze is so
Gentle the water is hardly
Ruffled. I have escaped from
Lies and trouble. I no longer
Have any importance. I
do not miss my horses and
chariots. Here at home I
Have plenty of pigs and chickens.








It seems we have too many people who can’t get their minds around any problem or issue that can’t be resolved on a bumper sticker.

The same was true in 2005, when I wrote this next poem.

But the problem does seem more malignant today, and more dangerous, with more guns in the hands of more angry people than five years ago. And it comes from all directions, far-right, far-left, and the tea party people who seem far-everything, one minute neo-marxists, the next, quasi-fascists, the next libertarian and the next anarchist, whichever is to their particular benefit and any given time. Given all their me-first complaints, I have a hard time identifying them as anything but congregations of whiny white people unable to adjust to the idea that they’re not the center of the universe anymore.

Anyway, here is my oldie for the week. It’s one of the poems included in my book, Seven Beats a Second.



anti-war poems are easy

the heart of the matter is that
the heart of the matter
sometimes doesn’t matter much

anti-war poems are easy
since, in our hearts,
we all know that the logic of war
that says i will kill strangers
until a stranger kills me
is insane.

and who can deny that in our hearts
we all know a human fetus
no matter how small
and misshapen and incomplete
is a human-in-waiting,
holding within its tiny bounds
all the capacity for love
and laughter as any of us

and who,
even among the most aggrieved of us,
could, without a tremor
of hand and heart, push the button
that drops the cyanide pellet
that ends the life
of even the bloodiest
of our murdering kind

yet we kill strangers
who might someday
have been our friend

we erase from the future
the love and laughter of those
we decide will never be

and we murder the murderers
with appropriate
writ and ceremony

all these terrible things we do
because our heart cannot guide us
in choosing the lesser of evils

it our lizard brain we must turn to
when the heart of the matter
doesn’t matter enough








I have several poems now by Nanao Sakaki, from Break the Mirror, published in 1987 by North Point Press.

Sakaki, born in 1923 was a Japanese poet, author of Bellyfulls..He was born to a large family in the Kagoshima Prefecture, and raised by parents who ran an indigo dye-house.

After completing compulsory education to age twelve, he worked various jobs until drafted, serving as a radar specialist stationed in Kyushu in the Japanese Navy, surreptitiously reading Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kropotkin, Marx, and Engels as time allowed. After the war, he went to Tokyo, living in an underpass, working for a short time at a foundry in Amagasaki, then as a turner, and then for some two and a half years running errands.

Around 1952 he moved to the San'ya district and lived off the generosity of his neighbors, spending all his time studying English and reading. After two years there, he moved to Shinjuku where he became interested in primitive art, collaborating with a wood sculptor. They visited forests all over Japan for some three years. During this time, Sakaki began to write poems expressing a deep relationship with the forests. This led to exhibitions combining poetry and sculpture in 1956 and 1959.

Becoming friends with Neale Hunter. The two of them made a practice of never sleeping in the same place twice. They co-translated some of his poems into English and published them in Tokyo 1961 as the book Bellyfulls.

It was also around this time that Sakaki helped create and lead "the Tribe", which led to the building the Banyan Ashram.[9]

Bellyfulls was reprinted in the US in 1966, and starting in 1969, Sakaki made several trips to the United States, exploring the wilderness, writing, and reading poetry. He spent about ten years in the United States, primarily in San Francisco and Taos, New Mexico, but also walking widely.

At the time of his death in 2008, he was living with friends in the mountains of Japan.



When Speaks

When in doubt
Tell the truth - Mark Twain

When in pain
Listen to the wind.

These black oaks
As Paul Cezanne draws
Stand Slanting in morning wind.

It’s the day of Hiroshima, August .

I hear my Neanderthal man’s bone
Rattling with wind.

August 1979, Sierra foothill


Forevergreen

In a new town outside tokyo
Housewives wanted seriously
To have green stuff in their yard.
But trees shed leaves - much trouble.
So they planted evergreen plastic trees.

On an autumn morning in Kyoto
Four hundred years ago
Rikyu, the first tea master, asked his son
To clean the tea garden.
After the son swept and reswept all fallen leaves,
The master shook a maple tree.

In a Jurassic valley
One hundred fifty million years ago
A dinosaur drowned in a bog.
Time transformed him into fossil oil.
Then, God metamorphosed him into plastic.
In Tokyo he now stands, a tree,
Never shedding leaves.

A hot, dry, windy summer day
I climbed White Mountain, east of Sierra Nevada,
To chant for a Bristlecone Pine,
Four thousand six hundred yeas old.

A warm rainy spring night in south Japan
I slept under shelter of a Yakusugi tree,
Seven thousand six hundred years old.

        From a sunspot
        A young tree starts growing today.

For Issa, August 1980


A Message

The crescent moon sets
    Star light
    Wind light
    Lightning

From the Galactic center in Sagittarius
    A mosquito
    On my nose.

July 1980








I finish this week with this little bit of thoughtfully thunk thinking.



you can’t see the tree until you’ve seen the forest

the dark
was unusually dark
this morning

and the dogs didn’t bark
and, with the birds also unwilling
to commit,

the only sound
was a large diesel engine
idling several blocks

away,
and a chilled wind
down my spine

like icy fingers on a piano,
Mussorgsky, his
melancholy chords

cold and foreboding
as the great gate opens slowly
and very softly...

but
this is not what i had meant
to do this morning

i had meant
to write this morning
about a thought i had last night

about trees

about you can never imagine
the fullness
of a single tree

until you have seen
a forest
and understand

that a single tree
can never be a single tree
like a man or woman

can never be a single
man or woman,
like all of us, tree or man

or woman
are always a part of
of the greater collection

of our kind,
that each of us,
woman or man or tree
alone in our solitude is but

an approximation of the perfection
for which
the universe strives...

but this morning,
with dark too dark
and quiet too quiet
and chill winds at the beginning
of summer day

has sidetracked me

led me back
to the closed loop
of me

and the aloneness of me
in a discombobulated
universe

like an embattled tree
facing stiff winds
on a flat and lonely plain

a tree
without the comfort
of knowing

every tree
is a forest, interrupted,
but pending








As usual, all of the material presented in this blog remains the property of those who created it. Also as usual, my stuff is available to anyone who wants it, as long as is properly credited and I get a cut on any sale to Hollywood for the blockbuster movie.

I’m allen itz and I own and produce this blog.

And enough’s enough.

1 Comments:
at 8:02 AM Anonymous Judith said...

thank you for this site! I just stumbled into it, looking for Nanao Sakaki's poem about finding his friend's shadow burned into the pavement after the bombing of Hiroshima. today is the 65th anniversary of that most astounding of technological horrors applied. I too feel Neanderthal trembling in my bones.

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