On the Road with Erin N.   Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Erin Neutzling

I'm posting very early this week. I'm heading out for the coast tomorrow, Port Aransas, on the northern end of North Padre Island, and have stuff to do today before doing that tomorrow. Thinking about, though doubt I'll make through withdrawal, putting my laptop aside for a couple days.

As I bask, I leave behind two treats for you this week, featured photographer Erin Neutzling, and featured poet Sue Clennell.

Erin is a friend of my son, Chris. A former flying trapeze artist from San Antonio, she currently lives in Paraguay, teaching English under a U.S. government grant. Her photos are from a recent visit to Peru and Columbia.

Sue, an extensively published Australian poet, is well known to regular “Here and Now” readers, having appeared here often. This week she presents with five new poems.

Here’s this week’s list of worthies:

Camille Dungy

Lisa Beskin
Infernal Cakewalk

Michael H. Brownstein
29 Lines and 32 Days

upon seeing an early morning walker with flashlight in hand

Ghazi A. Algosaibi

throw in a hole in the ground

Tony Hoagland
Lie Down with a Man

the goddamn Texas-hill-country-German truth

Robert Bonazzi
Questions of Critical Mass

weep for me for i am a hero

from Strange Juice (or the murder of Latasha Harlins)

Sue Clennell
Her thoughts were of fog and cheese
Mock Turtle Soup
White angel with black cummerbund
Photo Album
The Silkie’s Song

20 haiku

doubt, and the end of innocence

Maxine Kumin
A Morning on the Hill

a poem

Mary Jo Salter
Bee’s Elegy

same as last time next time

Brenda Cardenas
From the Tongues of Brick and Stone

that’ll do, pig

Mary Swander
Amish Phone Booth

the inevitable fate of the bosses’ fair-haired boys

Sylvia Plath

people in small places

Jim Carroll

a meal for lovers

Erin Neutzling

I begin this issue with poems from the Fall 2006 issue of Hotel Amerika, published by Ohio University with funding by the Ohio Arts Council.

The first of the poems is by Camille Dungy, author of What to Eat, What to Drink, and What to Leave for Poison. She has been awarded fellowships from (among other) the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.


What little he brought home wouldn’t buy much
happiness - a chicken to hem trousers
and some eggs to take them in four inches
at the waist. Hell, it wouldn’t even buy
milk. He had time enough to stitch his wife
the only tailored dish towels in town,
so he knew only she could keep the house
around them. A nurse will always find work.

What had he provided since their wedding?
The dream of a trip to the Falls; passports
for Canada; a suitcase; a marriage
certificate; all that useless paper -
five hundred dollars, traveler’s checks (all
his money) drawn on a Friday-failed bank.

The next two poems are by Lisa Beskin. Her collection of poems, My Work Among the Faithful was published in 2004 and was the winner of the Blue Lynx Award.


Storm of blue roses, of eyelids,
of cosmos decanted drop by drop,

my aunt owned the empty coffin
of Emily Dickinson, which I wanted to sell,

but in which she sometimes made love.
Give anything like Heaven enough rope

and it keeps itself up forever.
Emily’s there with her abacus,

totaling the staggered black
between suns: blanket gone to rags,

grandfather filed beneath the palms.
A dream hulks in the shadows,

plankton rushing through its teeth.
I ant permanent life -

not some blowsy hereafter,
but to stand forever at a cool

white basin, lathering both my hands.

Infernal Cakewalk

Ah Bartleby, rub my shoulders some,
I’ve spent so long watching devils in tights
mince across an ocean of coals.
They slobber over gruel and cognac
with the jerky gestures of sorrow run at the wrong speed.
Last night I was dunked in and out
of celluloid. I couldn’t stop thinking

about the damned cherry blossoms,
or remember a time when my brushstrokes
lurched away. all the cadmiums on the planet
couldn’t soothe this little hand,
which is no longer so little, just banged up
and tattooed with a picture of good John Clare.,
who will never consent to visit Me Here.

Still from Hotel Amerika, here’s a kinda strange poem by Michael H. Brownstein.

Brownstein has published eight poetry chapbooks, appears frequently in literary journals both on-line and in print, and won numerous awards and honors.

29 Lines and 32 Days


Do you remember one evening we plugged in three elect ric heaters


and still the shower was so cold it burnt my head?


Yesterday you went to bed depressed,


your head facing the northeast corner of the room.


Tomorrow is the day we will go to my mother’s for Christmas


if indeed tomorrow is the day of Christmas,


hot enough to sweat standing still.


This is not the way we foresaw death,


stuck in the snow, ice inching into us,


wind working as hard as wind is supposed to work.


I thought death would find us a car accident,




a push and cut glass.


I thought heart strong enough


could pull to tractors,


three cars full of men too fat for elevators,


one motorcycle sliding across concrete,


ugly sparks into blue-chromed dusk,.


all of our televisions shorting out.


We do speak paragraph


but no I’m trying to think what I like best -


the color of trees or their color on the ground,


the shape of oil,


the structure of shade.


This is the place a cat is an albatross and hemp is wired to explode.


Stone rivers.


Snow rivers.


Rivers too slow to keep pace with Augusta’s sun.


I must finish the work of the dead.

Erin Neutzling

Sometimes the light that lights our way hides all other possibility of different ways.

upon seeing an early morning walker with flashlight in hand

how you can see better
in the dark

if you turn out
the light -
how the night

turns black
beyond the small
shadow of your lamp;

how the dark tide
turns into an impenetrable wall
around you;

how light becomes
a prison
confining you

to it’s dim little
circle; how all the things
that ever frightened you

come to life
behind the dark curtain
that surrounds you -

turn out your light -

how on even the darkest
most moonless night
the things all around

take on their own inner glow
the burning glow of life
that is in all things,

white stones by the creek
shine like beacons,
step here they invite,

let us carry you across
this water,
singing as it flows

and bubbles, trees,
even cats
as they slink, bellies

brushing the ground
as they hunt
for midnight prey;

all this,
night and all the creatures
and things of night

in their natural state,
no longer
hidden by your light -

the other half of life
no longer hidden
by your light

Erin Neutzling

Next, I have a poem by Ghazi A. Algosaibi from his beautifully bound and illustrated book, From the Orient and the Desert, published in 1994 by Kegan Paul International.

Algosaibi was born in 1940 in Al-Hasa, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He received his LLB from Cairo University, his M.A. in International Relations from the University of California and his Ph.D. in political science at the University of London. He begin as a lecturer in King Suad University in Riyadh in 1965, then became Dean of the Faculty of Commerce in 1971. In 1974 he accepted the position of Director of Railroads, subsequently serving as Minister of Industries and Electricity from 1975 to 1982, In 1984 he became Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Bahrain, serving until 1992, when he was appointed Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He served his country as Minister of Water and Minister of Labor from 2002 until his death earlier this month.

Along with his other careers, he was a well-known author of poetry and prose.


I roamed the world;
A land more barren,
love more pure,
hate more bitter than
your hate, I could not find.

Sahara, I am back;
sea-water in my face,
mirages in my mind,
(conjuring visions,
chasing dreams,
catching whispers of sun-
gold hair); and on my lips,
to lines of verse -
song without echo.

Disenchanted, I am back;
love is words devoid
of love. Defeated, I am back;
in the fight my sword was
forged from feeling.

I am back,
anchor in the sand,
face washed with dew,
I hear you
whisper: “My son! My son!
Are you back?” - Yes, Mother,
back - a child
of endless grief,
bird that lost its nest.

Sahara, I am back -
to woo your night
(its web of mystery);
Your moon my neighbor,
and a poem my friend.

Erin Neutzling

Here it is, a true example of “throwing in the kitchen sink.”

throw in a hole in the ground

thinking about all the people
who don’t know their ass from a hole

in the ground and thinking how i’d like
to write a poem that wasn’t about

that and thinking about
how i don’t know how

to do that, don’t know how to write
a brain-free poem...

maybe start with random phrases
and images

throw in the kitchen sink;
throw in a cat in the kitchen

sink; throw in a wet cat
in the kitchen sink,

throw in
a pissed-off wet cat

fully extended claws

scratching at the porcelain;
throw in a porcelain

(why the hell not - gets

me away from the
pissed-off cat);

throw in a porcelain

in a bus station restroom;
throw in a bus station lobby,

people sleeping, people talking,
babies crying, old men coughing,

spitting, farting in plastic chairs,
pinball machines clattering

and whistling and clanging
and pin-balling

kathunka kathunka kathunka
pin-balls bouncing off the rubbers

thacka thacka thacka
pin-balls scoring

whanga whanga whanga
thunk - free game

off concrete walls

echos echos echos...
stone wall echos

throw in a rock band
guitars and drums echoing

in a tiny room
of sweaty people jumping,

saturday night
on 5th street; throw in sweaty people

on the 4th of July, walking

dancing, jumping,
a little drunk some, mostly

drunk others, having a
good time mostly not remembered

but why the hell not

there’ll be another tomorrow
after tomorrow

for most of us,
odds are for you and me

me anyway maybe who knows -

throw in a box;
throw me in the box

throw in a hole in the ground;
throw in people who don’t know

their ass
from my hole in the ground

and i’m back where i

Erin Neutzling

Here’s a poem by Tony Hoagland, a favorite from my library I use often. The poem is from his book Donkey Gospel, published by Graywolf Press in 1998 and winner of the 1997 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.

Hoagland was born Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His father was an Army doctor, and Hoagland grew up on various military bases throughout the South. He was educated at Williams College, the University of Iowa, where earned his B.A., and the University of Arizona, where he received an M.F.A.. According to the novelist Don Lee, Hoagland "attended and dropped out of several colleges, picked apples and cherries in the Northwest, lived in communes, and followed the Grateful Dead . . ." He currently teaches in the University of Houston creative writing program. He is also on the faculty of the Warren Wilson College low-residency MFA program.

Lie Down with a Man

In those days I thought I had to
do everything I was afraid of,
so I lay down with a man.

It was one item on a list -
sleeping in the graveyard, under the full moon,
not looking away from the burned girl’s stricken face,
strapping myself into the catapault
of some electric blue pill.

It was the seventies, a whole generation of us
was more than willing to chainsaw through
the branch that we were sitting on
to see what falling felt like - bump bump bump.

Knowing the worst about yourself
seemed like self-improvement then,
and suffering as adventure.

So I lay down with a man,
which I really don’t remember
except that it as humorless.

Curtains fluttered in the breeze
from the radio’s black grill, Van Morrison
filled up the room like astral aftershave.

I lay my mass of delusions
next to his mass of delusions
in a dark room where I struggled
with the old adversary, myself

- in the form, this time, of a body -
someplace between heaven and earth,
two things I was afraid of.

Erin Neutzling

It’s August; it’s hot. Nuff said.

the goddamn Texas-hill-country-German truth

was the name
of a Roman emperor

in his time,
and also the name

of my grandfather,
an honest, decent and
gentle man -

though the month
as named after one
and the other was named

after the month,
had a good word

to say
about it - though the possibility exists that

being as they are, Augustus
might have sung
a different tune had he known

the month would carry his name
but Granddad
wouldn’t have changed his opinion

for anything
(stubborn hill-country Germans
being as they are)

and i wouldn’t either
even if they renamed the month
after me,

truly nasty month that it is around here,
sunburned snakes

down hot-rock hills,
cactus drooping in the heat,
little needles shriveled

and crisp
like pan-fried critters
caught hopping

to the frying pot
soaked in mescal

and sweet
when they crunch
and it’s a hell of a note

when the best thing
you can say
about a month

is that it fries up

that which can fry
the critters

can also fry
you ass
if you leave it hanging out too long

and Granddad, having
grown up here on the back of a horse,
knew about frying your ass

in the mid-afternoon heat
while that fancy Italian emperor
didn’t know beans about it

and could be expected to be wish-washy
on the issue, while Granddad
was not

and neither am i -
August in Central Texas

big time
and that’s the goddamn
Texas-hill-country-German truth

Erin Neutzling

The next poem is by Robert Bonazzi from his book Maestro of Solitude, published by Wings Press of San Antonio in 2007.

Born in New York City, Bonazzi has lived in Mexico City and San Francisco. Presently, he lives in San Antonio and writes a column on poetry for the San Antonio-Express News.

In addition to his own books, from 1966 until 2000, Bonazzi edited and published over 100 titles under his independent literary imprint, Latitudes Press.

Questions of Critical Mass


Charm once the weapon of choice -

Ego now dons a primal disguise, sticking
its little prick outside columns and boxes
as the last cell of survival in a society
bent on destruction never expects
individuals of consumption
to choose austerity.

Does fundamentalism speak
the last word of avenging gods
or were all these deities
poorly translated?

No way to enlightenment with
plunder plotting the path.


Weapons of mass destruction shaped
by contractors on a victory hotline
to demand all embraced their theory
of trickle-don equality.

A teenage suicide bomber explodes her life
in the service of whom or what?

And where to hide all those pesky
collateral bodies?


Inclusion attempted to remove
the Other from academia and art -
never from reality.

How do we forget those unwashed hordes
scaling the Great Wall or those blood-
thirsty barbarians at the gates of Rome?

Have the Philistines moved
from the Middle East to the Mid-West?

Please may e have fresh stereotypes next time?
Zero tolerance means no tolerance at all.

Fear created prejudice but prejudice got bored
without Others to torture.


Slip under the radar of this extinct
whitewashed species killing a colorful world
making all accomplices in apocalypse.

I pray for a critical Mass to serve
by waking up in time
not eternity!

Without these stereotypes
we can begin to live.

Erin Neutzling

It boils down to this - I’m sick of this whole 9/11 thing and the indecent political uses to which it is being put.

weep for me for i am a hero

it was a terrible
evil thing
done to us

by terrible

this world is full
of terrible evil mother-

doing terrible evil things
everywhere that people live

and the fact that
they did it to us doesn’t
make us, them, or the thing

they did
special or unique - it’s just another

of the human race
to its own destruction...

now it’s true
we need to kill every one
of the terrible evil

who had anything to do
with the thing they did to us

(but it would be nice
if we could kill more of the evil
motherfucker and fewer

shepherds and
shopkeeper and women
and children and babes-in-arms)

- i take that last as a given,
one that i would think we could
all share

but i’m know we don’t
for there are those who say
kill them all

and let God, theirs or ours
or who cares,
sort out the innocent from the

evil motherfuckers -
it is the psychology of victimhood
that makes a person

feel they are a special case,
that regular rules don’t apply
to me because

after all
i am the victim here
poor me poor me kill them all

burn their church
(or don’t let them build one at all)
mock their god

for i am a victim
pray for me, weep for me,
send me money

for i am a victim and victims
are heros now
and we all know how we love

our heros,
weep for me, a hero,
daughter of the first cousin

of a neighbor’s aunt's dog
groomer killed in that terrible evil
think done by those terrible


weep for me weep for me
for i am a victim
and a hero

and how
i am

and how i love in return
my victim’s

in this ticker-tape land
of victim-

and how i fear
the day
when my country

puts aside it’s passion
for victimhood
for how will i ever be special


Erin Neutzling

Now here’s a poem by Sapphire, from her book American Dreams, published in 1996 by Vintage Books.

Though not of the streets herself, many of her poems and books are written from hard-road, down-and -dirty perspective. Most recently, her book Push was adapted for the screen as Precious, last year’s hard-edged, well-received movie.

I know many of my regular readers and for some of them, I always feel I need to include a warning before Sapphire’s poems - if you don’t like your poetry very hard and very straight, pass this one by and go on to the next one.

This poem is from a piece about the death of a young woman, killed by a Korean shopkeeper during an altercation following an attempted shoplifting by the young woman. There is a prose introduction (which i have just summarized) to the poem, but together it is very long and since the poem is the heart and center of the story that’s all I’m using this week.

from Strange Juice (or the murder of Latasha Harlins)


I don’t hear the blast till I’m dead
I don’t feel nothin’ either
as I split in half
a dog yelps
and every sound I ever heard
flies out my mouth on green wings.
Crimson waterfalls open in my skull
and my bones come aloose,
the dog is screaming
like a siren now
and i the distance a bucket of water
spills over a dusty red dirt road
and my heart quits
falls face first in
shattered glass on a
concrete floor.
The camera keeps
My left leg twitches.
I don’t cry.
Green as greens
passing from sight
under broken bottles of light.


I don’t remember what I did wrong.
Somebody hit you, you hit ‘em back.
She didn’t have to shoot me.
I was born here
and someone can shoot me and go home
and eat turkey on Thanksgiving -
what kinda shit is that?
Videotape the bitch killing me,
the hoe’s own videotape
the end of my days
reeling obscenely
for tv cameras -
my blood
sweet Jesus
Rolling 20s
Bounty Hunters
Imperial Courts
South Central
18th Street Diamond Riders
Easy Riders
it’s a brown thing
it’s a black thing
Bloods, Mexicans together forever gonight.
I don’t remember...
I jus’ anted some juice
and now I’m dead.
Killed by some model minority
success story.
Listen, is anybody gonna
say anything?
I was gonna get an orange leather jacket
to match my Reeboks.
I was passing math and
doing good in English.
Fuck history, I’m tired of hearing
‘bout George Washington
and Columbus.
I told that cracker, “Shit, mutherfucker
what about us>”
No, I wasn’t pregnant,
but I was gonna have a baby,
definitely, one day.
I like Luther Vandross, Tone-Loc
and Queen Latifah.
Listen, is anybody gonna
say anything?
Community service!
A white bitch
with a pink slit
between her legs
like mine,
drips red.
A white girl that probably got
into law school on the
affirmative action birthed
by black people’s struggle,
sitting on a seat
that was opened up
for by Rosa Parks and
Fannie Lou Hamer,
nig - no, black people, African
Americans, like me, marching
under fire, hoses, broken glass
gasolined bodies
testicles sliced off,
strange fruit, tossed to dogs.
Swinging from trees.

this white judge woman
hooded in mahogany-walled
chamber decides my life
is not worth nothing.
A fifteen-year-old black girl
equals zero in this white bitch’s book.
She sentences this yellow gunslinger
to community service and probation.
What are the terms of her probation,
that she don’t kill nobody white?
Does anybody hear me?
without my tongue.
Fifteen and out of time.

Listen to the gasoline on the wind.
Listen to my blood rhyme -
drip drop on the sidewalk.
Hear me children -
and BURN.

Erin Neutzling

Time for five poems by this week’s featured poet, my Aussie friend Sue Clennell.

Her thoughts were of fog and cheese

Her thoughts were of fog and cheese,
what to drink with it,
how to taste it      roll it in the mouth.
Her thoughts were of fog and what he thought,
was she wrong to believe he thought of her
in the dark times of the soul?
Her thoughts were of fog and the cats
which inch their way down lanes and
hum old songs when you touch them.
Her thoughts were of fog and stairs
that go down to the dark,
the dark parts of the soul
and her man
down there.

First published by "Unusual Work<"

Mock Turtle Soup

Nobody loves the poor mock turtles
trapped in a willow plate pattern
on an island of their own devising,
where they weep into the water
while birds purr like cats.
They should smile like the men
in sideshow alley,
whose heads turn from side to side
to catch the balls life throws them.
Ask the mouse and dodo,
nobody likes to swim in a sea of tears.

First published by “The World According To Goldfish”

White angel with black cummerbund

White angel with black cummerbund,
you masquerade as a bridesmaid,
your bare back hanging
out of a Cottesloe Beach Hotel window
but I know
you have come down with
a tuning fork to pick up our whims.
We all have our worries
like puffballs      earthstars
waiting to pop,
explode into little universes.
Condemned instead to be earthbound,
jagged hopscotch tors      broken tiles,
crocks for mosaics,
we are graffitied together with sand and spit.
Your task, every few years, is
to test the grout sealed with tears
wipe away excess moisture,
thumb press the cracks.

First published by “Poetry NZ”

Photo Album

I flit through the moons of faces
grocer      milliner      tailor,
guests of last century,
study them as they are fobwatched into a steady position,
their background lined with the wallpaper
of waterfalls and church windows.
For them the moon was still a silver virgin,
and death haphazardly zoned in
on the young, shuffled and
dealt Jessie the ace of spades
at thirty-five years was euchred
by cardsharp Frank who lasted another seventy.
Wool was pulled over teetotaller Thomas
’s eyes
as he was led around Williamstown,
musing at ship horns and motor vehicles,
tasting the fruit of new industry,
swishing it from side to side
of his mouth to consider,
worried for his heirs.
And of Thomas
just the chair and the chest of drawers,
and of Jessie
a pair of candlesticks and a gold bangle,
and of Frank
another shopkeeper and two scribes.
And when we are all gone,
there will still be moons and virgin worlds.

First published by “Unusual Work”

The Silkie’s Song

I sing of the past      hum      vibrate
boom.          I sing of the future,
above an orchestra of sounds
tries to reach me with crescendos.
I tell of a time before time
when I walked on land to give birth,
but now I have cold feet and look for sailors
tossed from fickle ships.
Woo dying men so I can come back to shore.
Wed them with my wintry feet and deep eyes,
slough my skins roll sounds on my tongue.
Once I belonged to the earth,
did the wrong thing by the gods,
or perhaps I just evolved
was cast into the waters, but this I know,
I am coming home to warm my body
on a man more lost than I.

First published by “Windmills”

Erin Neutzling

Time now for a few haiku, these by Chiyo-m, from the collection of her work, Chiyo-m - woman Haiku Master. issued in first edition by Tuttle Publishing in 1998. This is the first book in English of her work and includes both her poems, in Japanese and English translation by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi, and her artwork.

Chiyo-m, a poet, painter and Buddhist nun who lived from 1703 to 1775, was a student of two of Basho’s disciples and wrote in a time when haiku was largely a male domain.

She is now said by many to be Japan’s most celebrated female haiku poet.

new year

flying of cranes
as high as the clouds -
first sunrise


one mountain after another
unveiled -
the first mists


New Year’s sake -
until the next,
this first delight


first dream -
even after awakening
the flower’s heart the same


the moon’s shadow
also pauses -
cherry-blossom dawn


the butterfly
is standing on tiptoes
at the ebb tide


to tangle or untangle
the willow -
it’s up to the wind


galloping horses
smell their legs -
the wild violets


the fishing line -
the summer moon


keeping cool -
in the deep night
strangers on the bridge


moonflowers -
the beauty
of hidden things


only in the river
darkness flows:



at the crescent moon
the silence
enters the heart


is left
in the maple leaves


first wild geese -
the nights are becoming long,
becoming long


over the flowing water
chasing its shadow -
the dragonfly


sleeping alone
by the frosty night...


green leaves or fallen leaves
become one -
in the flowering snow


the passing year -
irritating things
are only water


sewing things -
I fold in dreams
on a December night


winter rain -
in one room
yesterday, today passes

Erin Neutzling

It’s a cat poem, ok, a cat poem.

doubt, and the end of innocence

the young female
is the most faithful
of the three cats

that live on my front
porch - the young male
is too busy hiding behind

the planter pot to notice me
and old mama gave up all
pretensions of fidelity

after her fifteenth
litter -
but Billy Goat, the young

always runs out to greet me
whenever i drive up

and is waiting at the door
without fail in the mornings
and evenings when i distribute

cat food, watching carefully
as i allocate
portions -

one pile of Friskies
per feline -
then leaps eagerly

on the portion reserved
for her....

i am her God of Food and Plenty,
making sure she has
plenty of food morning and night,

and she shows her obeisance
by rubbing her head
against my hand as i feed her...

though i have tried not to abuse my position,
i fear my reign
as God of the cats is nearing its end,

beginning this morning
when i fed the cats early
and they were not in position

when i did it
and they did not see me
do it

so later,
when i left and they were there,

i could see the beginning
of doubt
in Billy Goat’s eyes

as she integrated
into her fur-ball brain
the presence of food

despite the absence of me,
meaning maybe i wasn’t the God
of Food and Plenty after all,

but just another large
creature, another
big-footed, slow-moving

with tendencies toward

who had nothing at all to do
with food

on the porch mornings and nights,
and maybe mama
knew best

after all,
generational doubt
and despair

the magical times
of kitten


Erin Neutzling

Next, I have a poem by Maxine Kumin, from her book, Looking for Luck, published in 1992 by W. W. Norton.

Kumin was born in Philadelphia in 1925. She has published numerous books of poetry, including Up Country: Poems of New England in 1972, for which she received the Pulitzer Prize.

She has served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and Poet Laureate of New Hampshire, and is a former Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. She lives in New Hampshire.

A Morning on the Hill

High summer. A fat man with a skidder
is driving across our farthest pasture
gouging the green sweetness that is home.
My heart is black with hate for him
and at the point where the hill sharply ascends
I hope out loud the bastard will roll over.

With a roar the ponderous apparatus wavers,
tilts, slithers and ultimately upends
but here the dream stutters and falls flat:
merely opening a window he crawls out
the fattest man in town, unscathed
except just now panic attacks his chest

and he goes down in my sight like a shot steer.
I am running in place on thick and gluey feet
toward his emergency, this great
bear of a man I have met many times before.
Behind me, the earth gashed black by his cleats.
Ahead, shrilling toward us down city streets

the tearing sounds of the rescue wagon.
Waking, I remember the way a friend’s
husband died beside her in his sleep.
Her voice on the phone was calm but taut as rope
that morning: Joe is dead. Do me a favor?
Call 911 for me. I’ve forgotten the number.
Of course I’ll call them. I’ll come too.

Nobody dead up here this morning, though
the fat man tried. Now a relentless sun
licks the far hill alight. Its red balloon
lifts over lush pastures as if nothing new
has happened. Indeed enough comes true.

Erin Neutzling

Some poems just walk right on to the page, almost unassisted. Others are a fight for every word. This poem was a fighter and, though I like it now better than I did when I was writing it, it’s still a bit of a small prize for such a fight.

a poem

a poem,
a beginning
looking for an end,

false starts and mis-

steep and barren
hills, words

like heavy stones
rolling toward you,
crushing all sweet thought

before you,
or falling
into wordless voids,

or marathon running,
foot finding it’s next step

as your body
along effortlessly,

false trails
to be avoided,
leading nowhere,

yellow-shadowed alleys
where you must wisely

not to go,
dim pages of past times,

un -
drifting away

as winds
of aging memory

all in search of
that will bring a natural end

so that another poem
can begin...
a poem

a life,
a beginning
looking for its natural end

Erin Neutzling

And now, a poem by Mary Jo Salter, from her book Henry Purcell in Japan, published by Knopf in 1985, This is one of the earliest books I bought when beginning my poetry library and I’ve used it here many times.

Salter, born in mid-August in 1954, is a poet, a coeditor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry and a professor in the Writing Seminars program at Johns Hopkins University.

Bee’s Elegy

Smashing a bee
with a book,
I shuddered; then
shuddered again -
to think murder
occurred in tis small
ball of fur.

I’d tried to save
the damn thing;
flung open windows
to let it go -
as open as my heart,
I wanted it
to know.

But a bug this size
has no eyes for
metaphor; nor
could it seize
on the current
of thought in the room’s
new breeze.

Bumbling about,
it would have traced
one spot of wall
all afternoon.
Like the lemon
whose fragrance once
so stung my nose

it wrung
from me all sense
but smell,
the yellow buzz
of life beneath
my swoop crushed me
enough to tell.

Erin Neutzling

Rain after a month of dry, and I won’t be here to see it.

same as last time next time

a clear morning
yellow button

rolling across
dark and unclouded

sky -
very hot day

another in a row
but chances for rain
the rest of the

the first here-bound moisture
in over 30 days,
ground cracked, grass

curled and brown, each
like a furnace vacuum,

drying the air
and everything it touches,
sucking life

like a final fatal
dry bones remain

like rhino horns
ground to powder
to give old men

a lift...

i will go to the coast this week,
100 miles and a ferry ride,
then three days

on the island
while the long-sought sound
of rain drip

off my back porch roof
will echo
through my empty house

without me, the ground plumped
with rain water
will sift again and expand

and cracks will close
and the grass will green

and I will miss it
and all my flowers will bloom
and i will miss it -

tides i will see instead,
surf, doing what it does,

and going
again and again

as last time
until next time -
the lesser joy of constancy,

the timeless sea,
and sand each one a crystal
like the other,

carnival-lit change
most welcome

Erin Neutzling

The next poem, from her book, From the Tongues of Brick and Stone, was written by Brenda Cardenas. The book was published in 2005 by Momotombo Press.

A professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cardenas is a native of that city and state. She has published two books of poetry, including this one, and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals.

Her book is one of the newer ones in my library and I don’t think I’ve used anything from it before. So I’ll start with the title poem.

From the Tongues of Brick and Stone

At Taos, Estevan guides my hands
to the pueblo’s clay walls.
I receive their heat, their amber dust.
He recalls his grandmother
teaching him to slide
his palms across the adobe,
so he would remember
the texture of their stories.
So you will know, he says.

All day, I listen to the stone -
Camel rock, lava rock,
las montanas Sandia, Jemez, y Sangre de Cristos,
a lump in the holy dirt I draw
from the well at Chimayo,
headstones strung with red and yellow petals
behind la iglesia San Geronimo
where Indios and Mexicanos revolted,
took refuge and huddled together
against yet another U.S. invasion.
Inside adobe, they listened
to one another’s last breaths.

All night beneath stout beams
in a tiny room of candlelight,
I listen to the ocean of wind
that washes the Santa Fe hills,
its Anasazi tongue as comforting
and unforgiving as Ojo Caliente -
the hot springs with their eyes wise
to what wakens, what replenishes.
Estevan, who is learning to swim,
knows it’s a tricky balance
to let go, rest in the hands of others,
trust our own breath
to keep our bodies buoyant,
our faces floating like blossoms
on a pillow of water.

Back in Chicago, I listen above
the horns and wounded mufflers,
the sirens and shrill faces,

the swish and whistle of highways,
above the shudder of the el train,
the clang and clatter of factories,
the boom in the bass that rattles the whole block,
above the noise that calls itself news.

Each winter, I listen to stones
along Lake Michigan, to voices
never removed, who wrap
Pontiac’s Rebellion in Algonquian syllables
sent of the skin of the wind. Its chill
still surprises the hollows
between my sapling ribs, then settles
beneath my bones like the arctic
quilt of snow to which I surrender,
arms swishing against the frozen ground
to form a eagle’s wings,
flushed cheeks floating on a white feather bed.

Here, I press my palms to limestone
and wonder what I will remember.

Erin Neutzling

Thinking of fixing dinner...

that’ll do, pig

i like
my pork chops
and don’t eat them

as much as i’d
but when i do,

by god,
i eat the hell
out to them -

pork chops
fried in crispy batter,
pork chops

in mushroom gravy,
cordon blue,

two kinds of pig
with a swiss cheese

i like that, too -
with sweet potatoes

and sauerkraut
or red cabbage

soaked in beet
or german rice,

sweet with cinnamon
and topped
with gravy, buttered

peas and corn
on the side
to give it some color...

gimme some of that
and i’ll eat it to a bellyful,
smiling all the time.

Erin Neutzling

Mary Swander is a Distinguished Professor of English at Iowa State University and lives in Ames and Kalona, Iowa, where she raises ducks and geese and a large organic vegetable garden. In 2009, she was appointed Poet Laureate of Iowa.

Her most recent work is a book of poetry, The Girls on the Roof, published in 2009. The next poem is from an earlier book, Heaven-and-Earth House, published by Knopf in 1994.

Amish Phone Booth

The letter of the law is: no lines from
the outside world. But this phone in a garage
down the road is fine, and a trip across
the field on foot enough to make you think twice
before a call. Above the receiver - chiropractor,

vet, weather report, all numbers penciled
on the wall. Below - a doodle of a stallion
with the caption STUD. Bareback and buckboard,
they gallop in at night for help with a fire
in Chester Yoder’s barn, the hay put up too wet,

or aid with a stuck calf who must be sawed
in half to get out. Doc, I’m not sure what to do.
This little room holds all the pain for miles,
and the joy that doesn’t travel by buggy or bonnets
nodding together after church. The Bontragers

had another. After thirteen boys, a girl!

After thirteen years, the thin line that runs out
to the transformer still ices, sways ini the winter wind,
goes down with any little spring storm.
A person could depend on that thing too much.

More reliable, the fence wire, that runs from
Swander to Yoder to Miller, is never busy,
charges nothing extra, leaves no gap in between.
Better to walk out and tap a message that will
hum from post to post, a party line for everyone
to overhear. Better to ring your alarms out there
in the pasture where the cattle, the sheep,
the nanny goat, their cries bleating across
the grass, will listen, and pass the word.
Please come, and bring the others this time.

Erin Neutzling

Every once in a while I like to dabble in science stuff.

the inevitable fate of the bosses’ fair-haired boys

that the reason

our hair goes gray
then white as
we age

is that our color cooties

(footnote in the middle of a poem:
“cooties” is what i call anything
i don’t understand, unless
the unknown is very very large,
in which case
i call them “bosoms” - there
are no bosoms in this poem)

anyway, these so-called cooties

abandon our hair
to rush to our brain
as back-up

to the clear and advanced
thinking that comes
with age -

while not yet reported
in the science section
of the New York Times,

it is a nearly-proven or highly-
opined fact
that our body is made up

of billions and billions
of cooties
each with its own function,

heart cooties, skin
cooties, blood cooties, bone
cooties, liver cooties, toe cooties

and eye and ear cooties,
along with color

unlike many other cooties
can have multiple

functions -

you may notice,
when thinking of your friends
that the darker their hair

the less likely
they will have reduced vision
or hearing loss -

the darker your hair

the more color cooties
you have at your

enough in fact
to back-up your eye
and ear cooties

as well as those
of your brain,
while those of us

more fair-haired have fewer
at out disposal

and, though doing
what we can
with what we’ve got,

often have to chose
between poor

less acute
hearing, or insufficient brains
to pour piss out of a boot -

a down-side
to being the boss’s fair-haired boy
earlier in life

Erin Neutzling

Next, a short piece by Sylvia Plath. Born in 1932, a suicide at the age of 31. The poem was written in 1960, three years before her death. I took the poem from Vintage Verse, one of the “Pocketful Series” published by Thompson-Wadsworth.


I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

Erin Neutzling

A sociological observation, proved by its exceptions.

people who live in small places

who live in small places

often grow their minds

to match,
hardly imagining lives

different from their own,
easy prey

for lies about lands
where they have never been,

where every thing they’ve ever said

about a stranger
is said about them

Erin Neutzling

The next poem is by Jim Carroll, from his book void of course, published by Penguin in 1998.

Carroll, born in 1949, was an author, poet, autobiographer, and punk musician best known for his 1978 autobiographical work The Basketball Diaries, which was made into the 1995 film of the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll.

He attended Roman Catholic grammar schools from 1955 to 1963. In fall 1963, he entered public school, but was soon awarded a scholarship to the elite Trinity School. He attended Trinity from 1964-1968.

Apart from being interested in writing, Carroll was an all-star basketball player throughout his grade school and high school career. He entered the "Biddy League" at age 13 and participated in the National High School All Star Game in 1966. During this time, Carroll was living a double life as a heroin addict who prostituted himself to afford his habit,while also writing poems and attending poetry workshops at St. Mark's Poetry Project.

He lived a complicated and difficult life, achieved success early, and died after a heart attack almost a year ago at age 60.


Cat that I had in the country you were
A strange one, strange beyond moon staring,
Egypt eyes, felony claws

Old, overweight, yet agile, always on
The highest shelves, aloof to the dogs,
Jo-Mama and Brucie.

You once puked on me as I passed by
Then after I washed,
You did it again.
Those acts spoke volumes to me
You were the emblem of my reclusion,

Grey and white, prone to serious abscesses.
You had no name, didn’t need one.

When I was finished making love you’d leap
Onto the bed and lick the woman’s right nipple
One of the few times you sought to touch.

And you loved the taste of semen.
That was strange. When I’d cum you feasted
I’d masturbate standing over linoleum so as
It landed you could lap it up with ease.

Late night you’d disappear
Come back at daybreak, nonchalant
And face bloodied. You were doing fierce
Battle with the black tom
From the chicken ranch across the road.
The paved road that lead into town, trafficked
By buzzed cowboys in rusting pickups.

It was a surprising aspect, you were
a warrior in the darkness. Then one evening

A sweet, yellow plum fell
From the high branches
Of the tree you were sleeping beneath
Landing right on your head

And you ran inside and up to the highest shelf
Aside the elbow of pipe from the wood stove
Stayed there curled for days as if disheartened
By a realization of the nature of chance randomness.

                                Chaos    cat

I wish you were here to paw me now paw me
Now paw me now paw me now paw me now retract
Your claws and paw me now.

Erin Neutzling

It seems I write a lot about food - but some things are just good, no argument allowed.

a meal for lovers

is like a fine rib-eye steak

medium rare
when best, too often

or over done,

spilled too close to the surface

or dry
and burned away -

product of soft morning grasses

and bright-flamed fire
to tease the heart -

a meal for lovers,
each succulent bite

a reminder
of blood and life

Erin Neutzling

Nap time hardy readers. Until next week, remember as always, the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. My stuff, such as it is, is available if you give proper credit to me and to “Here and Now.”

I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and i’m off to the beach for a couple of days.


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August, Almost Done   Thursday, August 19, 2010

Francina Hartstra

My featured poet this week, Francina Hartstra, also provided the photographs for the week.

Although Francina lived in the United States for twelve years, she says she “was born and reared for the first thirteen years on river plying cargo vessels visiting Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.”

Later she studied accounting, French, English and German. She says she has called home many different places over the years, until se moved backed to The Netherlands 10 years ago. She has traveled to North Africa, Thailand, Caribbean as well most countries of Europe. Sh says her interest in poetry started in 1990 when she became a member of the Wallace Steven Society and developed a fondness for Japanese and Chinese poetry.

Her photos are from recent travels though The Netherlands and other countries of Central Europe.

Our crew this week:

Thomas R. Smith
Bride’s Moon
Eating the Coal

waiting for my heart

Adrienne Rich
Sunset, December 1993
And Now

sparrows on a sidewalk

Consider the Source
To Aphrodite, Dionysys, and the Muses

Two Blessings



is, now was

Cynthia Zarin
Bus Ride on Sunday, New York

Francina Hartstra
8 Haiku

John Ashbery
Posture of Unease
Becalmed on Strange Waters

i prefer eating my eggs yolk only

Lowell Jaeger
At the Vietnam Memorial
An Open Letter to My Draft Counselor


Alamgir Hashm
A Gift Horse

Naida Tueni
In the Lebanese Mountains

modern days

Jose Emilio Pacheco
The Owl
Baboon Babble
Equation to the First Degree with Unknown Quantity

this poem

Francina Hartstra

Thomas R. Smith is a poet new to me, as are many other poets. I think I’ve used his poems once before in “Here and Now” but I don’t remember which ones they were.

Smith was born in 1948 and grew up in Cornell, Wisconsin. He majored in English at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. He began writing poetry in the 1970s and in the 1980s directed Artspeople, a rural-based arts organization serving farm communities in western Wisconsin. A poet, essayist and editor, his work has appeared in numerous journals in the United States, Canada and abroad.

I have several poems this week from his book Horse of Earth, published in 1994 by Holy Cow! Press of Duluth, Minnesota.

Bride’s Moon

Reed beds stretch out like a tawny animal on the water.
Pale rose petals band slowly across the lake at dusk.
The woman newly married twines red willow withies from her basket.
The rising moon knows the white fish feeding near shore.

In a Canoe on clearwater Lake

Each stroke of the paddle raises the coolness of autumn.
Reeds brush the sides and bottom of the canoe -
even those stiff and brown with age bend as we pass.

You and I, married only these days, float
above so much we do not see! Our small craft
drifts negligently when we do not stir the water.

Eating the Coal

    Spain, 1986
    On the 50th anniversary of Federico Garcia Lorca’s murder

We cannot remain only where we love.
We must enter the neglected places
where care has been neither given
nor taken. We must go down
in the mine and eat the coal

traveling that winter in a country not my own,
I dreamt of men who loved the good dark
kneeling around a hole in the basement floor.
Alone, each man climbed down a ladder,
disappeared, and returned.
I saw the streaked brow and
forearm of a man I felt close to
who offered me a sacrament if I would
go down in the mine and eat the coal.

In the dream, I weighed the chunk
in hand before biting in.
Bitter taste of cinders, failure,
black honeycomb of generations’
striving and falling back
between the black, beaten leaves of earth:
then the honey, a sun rising,
boys running in springtime,
old buildings settled on stone foundations...

In America, soft monsters expire daily.
Bare windows rattle, a thunder
of dissolution rips the industrial plain.
Shouting men push a broken-down Lincoln
on a freeway where nothing is free
but an unattached darkness of sifting down.

But I woke from my dream in a country
still crossed by the sun and moon
and by their four kinds of shadow,
where one morning before sunrise
Lorca went down with his poems
in the mine between two olive trees
and became the coal.

Francina Hartstra

A bump in the night; inevitably, a poem.

waiting for my heart

i heard
my heart
beating last night

so loud
and clear
it was like i could see

the muscle
clenching - releasing
clenching - releasing

awed at first
by this machine
that has so faithfully

pumped life
without skip or fail,
then a moment

of terrifying mortality
as i try not to wait
for the beat that doesn’t

thinking of the circle of life
and the two circles of friends

that surround me, the outer circle
of friends gone
and the smaller, closer circle

of those still alive,
the one growing larger
and the other smaller each day

as more friends
than come

we think too little
of those passed, those

to where we all will go
in time

too soon
the things that made them real,

forget too soon
except in quiet moments
when waiting for our heart

to take it’s next beat

Francina Hartstra

The next couple of poems are by Adrienne Rich, from her book, Dark Fields of the Republic, Poems 1991-1995, published in 1995 by W. W. Norton.

Rich was born in 1929 in Baltimore, Maryland. She attended Radcliffe College, graduating in 1951, and was selected by W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize for A Change of World that same year.

Since then she has published numerous books of poetry and prose, winning many honors and awards, including refusing, in 1997, the National Medal of Arts due to strong political differences with President Clinton , stating that "[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage."

Sunset, December 1993

Dangerous of course to draw
parallels     Yet more dangerous to write

as if there were a steady course, we and our poems
protected;     the individual life, protected

poems, ideas, gliding
in mid-air, innocent

I walked out on the deck and every board
was luminous with cold     It could freeze tonight

Each board is different of course but each does gleam
wet, under a complicated sky:     mounds of swollen ink

heavy gray unfolding up the coast
a rainbow suddenly and casually

unfolding its span
Dangerous not to think

how the earth still was     in places
while the chimneys shuddered with the first dischargements


And Now

And now as you read these poems
- you whose eyes and hands I love
- you whose mouth and eyes I love
- you whose words and minds I love -
don’t think I was trying to state a case
or construct a scenery:
I tried to listen to
the public voice of our time
tried to survey our public space
as best I could
- tried to remember and stay
faithful to details, note
precisely how the air moved
and where the clock’s hands stood
and who was in charge of definitions
and who stood by receiving them
when the name of compassion
was changed to the name of guilt
when to feel with a human stranger
was declared obsolete.


Francina Hartstra

Sometimes the smallest things can offer big questions.

sparrows on a sidewalk

on a sidewalk

tiny birds
hip-hoping on scrawny
little legs

bits of something
to eat

in the cracks,
morsels too small
for my non-sparrow eyes

to see -
i see sharing,

the one foraging,
from place to place

like a marionette
on a spastic

finding a tiny
and bouncing back

to friend, mate,
she who waits to be fed,
and beak to beak

the treasure -
over and over

hop hop
hop hop

beaks brushing
until a third joins in,

and it’s three beaks
sharing each

bit of bounty
from the sidewalk

and i’m not sure what i’m seeing
freeloader? competitor?
menage a trois?

this bird’s life -

more complicated
than you might

Francina Hartstra

Time for a little side-trip to the classics. The next couple of things (what would you call them) are from Dances for Flute and Thunder - Praises, Prayers, and Insults - Poems from the Ancient Greek, published by Penguin in 1999. And here’s an interesting side-note, the book was printed in Reynosa, Mexico, one of the border towns right across the Rio Grande from where I grew up. I didn’t know they had a printing business there.

The poems and fragments in the book were compiled and translated by Brooks Haxton.

The first several pieces are by Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet, Solon, born around 638 BC and died 558 BC. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic and moral decline in Athens. His reforms failed in the short term yet he is often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy.

Consider the Source

Out of a cloud comes squalling snow and hailstones.
   Think. Blind thunder comes out of the lightning.
Out of the city, meanwhile, great men come to nothing,
   and the people, misled, follow the rule of despots,.
Shipmasters less fearful of the storm are not, for that,
   the braver. Out of thought comes courage.

To Aphrodite, Dionysus, and the Muses

Dear to me as works of love
   are wine and feasting,
and the arts that make the mind
   more cheerful.

Next, a short piece from Mimnermos, a Greek poet of the 6th century BC.

Two Blessings

Be quick, my soul, for joy, as others later will be
so, when I, with everyone I love, am senseless earth.


May truth be spoken between you and me
and may all we do seek justice.

Next, another short piece, this one by Zonas, a Greek poet of the 1st century BC, sometimes called Diodorus.


   Let me drink, my sweetness,
from the clay cup, I who come forth
   out of the same clay,
under the same clay soon to be forgotten

Finally, a slightly longer poem by Anakreonteia, about whom I can tell you nothing since all his references in Wikipedia, in several languages, with translation. The best I can do is that he’s an old dude, probably from about the 1st century BC.


People like to think of you, cicada,
when you sing down from the treetop,
having sipped the clear dew,
happy, high, and full of music
as a king, that you speak praise
of everything you see, the farms,
the woods, and under you the farmer,
grateful that you damage nothing,
holds this prophecy in honor,
portent of the summer fruit.
Even the Muses love your voice,
vibrating, as if out of the sun itself.
And old age never comes to you,
but only the earthborn wisdom
of your song, no hint of suffering,
or of the blood of passion, spirit,
we say, almost equal to the gods’.

Francina Hartstra

A bit of deep-think, suitably murky for 6 a.m.

is, now was

uncountable stars
the edge
of our expanding universe

bodies circling
in near or far orbits
around them,
and our own planet

our own star,
turning, open
to both the dark and light

in daily cycles,
and on atomic levels
electrons and protons orbiting
a stable center

at smaller levels even further beyond
our imagination
circles within circles always moving

and in the middle
of all this constant bustle
we imagine

as if it were something
we could ever do,
as if in the midst

of all this movement
we would not
could not

a supermarket
at 5 a.m. -
watch the movement

of daily commerce,
being stocked,
boxes of peas and corn

and doggie treats
brought in from
the secrets back of the store,
boxes razored open

shelves filled,
empty boxes taken
and broken down
for re-cycling...

traffic move in the morning,
starting the day’s circle

from home to work;
from work to home,
the family orbit,

the stable center
that anchors
the atomic movement
of our lives -

we speak of still
as if still could ever be
in this grand sea of universal
tides moving

when every minute
we live
is a minute removed from
the minute before -

everything that is
now was,
a another spoke

on an ever-
moving, ever-turning

Francina Hartstra

The next two poems are by Cynthia Zarin, from her book The Swordfish Tooth, published in 1989 by Knopf.

Zarin, born in 1959, is a poet, and Magazine editor. She graduated from Harvard University magna cum laude, and Columbia University with an M.F.A. and currently teaches at Yale University.


Head smaller than my fist, pin teeth,
the frightened chipmunk clutching the porch screen
frightens me - quick movement not my own
jarring a rainy, eerie afternoon, in a week
of enforced solitude, as though my heart leapt out.

Time inchoate, meaningless. Two birds,
trapped all night inside the porch, arch, and din
against the grid. A day equals
a black year-motor of the blood a drill gone mad.
At dawn we found them, wooed them out.

And then, last night, a mole: a visitant friar
at the garbage can. alone, I stamp my foot,
but, bold in company, one guest terrified, become
benign protector of dim habits, earthly
or unearthly scrounging, in or out.

Bus Ride on Sunday, New York

“I say to her, if you don’t need it, what’s
the bargain?” Mirabile dictu,
the zaftig woman with big mouton sleeves,
fratoozled (her word) up with a corsage,
plays mother on gemutlich T.V. ads
for V.C.R.s. “I can’t go out that I’m
not stopped - if truth be told, they think I’m real.”
On Forty-Eighth, the blond in white gets off;
amazed, the three-card-monte players box
to Venus, softly risen from their dreams.
“Adorable, the mail I get - a blessing
from God to have such sons.”
Then without pause,
Mouton persuades her friend to get a dog:
“You’ll thank me, sweetheart, for the joy it brings.”

Francina Hartstra

Next, I have haiku by our featured poet, as well as featured photographer, Francina Hartstra. You’ve seen Francina here before, both as a poet and as a photographer. This is the first time to see both in the same post.

on the grey side-walk
a little snail's green house -
he is moving too


here in the sunlight
the wings of a dragonfly
carry a rainbow


on broken tree-branch
a coot arrays her feathers
together downstream


at fisherman's feet
a red cat stares in clear creek -
she too waits for catch


steps on stone lead up
crystal clear coolness runs down -
I climb waterfall


on sultry evening
curtains balloon in soft breeze
whispering voices


fallen from heaven
moonbeams slowly slide over
the frozen river


cool crisp mountain air
spider's web in a bare tree
traps only dew drops

Francina Hartstra

Here are two poems by John Ashbery, described by The New York Times, as “one of his generation’s most gifted and eloquent poets.”

The poems are from his book< April Galleons, published by Penguin Books in 1987.

Posture of Unease

It all seems like dirt now.
There is a film of dust on the lucid morning
Of an autumn landscape, that must be worse
Where it’s tightening up,
Where not everything has its own two feet to stand on.

It gets more and more simplistic:
Good and bad, evil and bad; what else do we know?
Flavors that keep us from caring too long.

But there was that train of thought
That satisfied on nicely: how one was going to climb down
Out of here, hopefully
To arrive on a perfectly flat spit of sand
Level with the water.

And everything would look new and worn again.
Suddenly, a shout a convincing one.
People in tows and threes turn up, and
There’s more to it than that.

But for all you I
Have neglected, ignored,
Left to stew in your own juices
Not been that friend that is approaching,
I ask forgiveness, a song new like rain.
Please sing it to me.

Becalmed on Strange Waters

In the presence of both, each mistook
The other’s sincerity for an elaborate plot.
And perhaps something like that did occur - who knows?
There was some hostility, hostility
In the way they talked together
As the drops of warm liquor went down.

In the sky’s sensual pout, the crazy kindness
Of statues, the scraps of leaves still blowing around
Self-importantly after winter was well under way;
In the closed greeting, the firm handclasp,
Was matter enough for one or more dreams,
Even bad ones, but certainly some getting grim
Around the edges. We smile at these,

Thinking them matter for a child’s euphuistic
Tale of what goes on in the morning,
After everyone but the cat has left. But can you
See otherwise? O ecstatic
Receiver of what’s there to be received,
How we belabor thee, how much better
To wait and prepare our waiting
For the grand rush, the mass of detail
Still compacted in the excitement that lies ahead,
Like a Japanese paper flower.

Francina Hartstra

Waste - too much of it - that’s the story of our kind.

i’d prefer eating my eggs yolk only

i’d prefer
eating my eggs

yolk only,
tossing the egg white

and concentrating
on the rich yellow

center, but i don’t
because it would be

a violation of nature,
the yellow and white

being parts of a single thing -
tasty yellow food source

for the aborted

and the cytoplasm
in which it floats -

and eating the tasteless
and inert white

is the price we pay for taking
the rich protein-suffused

from the tiny bird

that will never be
and using it for our own

over-easy purposes...

the cost of our pleasures -

like paying
for our groceries

at the supermarket,
every decision we make

as we push our cart
down the aisles

creating a debt
we must pay before we leave -

that like our groceries,

everything we consume
has a cost, a debt to be paid,

a debt
to the air

as we despoil it
with our automobile exhausts;

a debt
to the forest

as we strip it bare
for the table

we pile high with food
grown with the nutrients

of the rich soil
we pollute with our wastes;

a debt
to the earth

as we crack it open
for the hydrocarbons

we use to befoul
the air;

a debt to the sea
we kill

with floating islands
of our garbage -

all like the chicken
and the egg,

the yellow
and the white

and the debt
we owe to the lost embryo

if we eat the yoke
and not the albumen,

a part of the cradle

we denied
it’s natural place in creation

Francina Hartstra

The next poems are by Lowell Jaeger from his book War on War, published in 1988 by Utah State University Press.

An M.F.A. graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, Jaeger taught at the University of Iowa for several years before going to Montana to teach at Flathead Valley Community College.

These are the book’s two closing poems.

At the Vietnam Memorial
    (Washington D.C. 1983)

Some wounds need be
re-opened before they heal.
Here, where the earth was cut
the architect, that woman, condemned
our unforgiving memories of war.
She has re-opened the grave and made us
look inside.
        I walk the walk and read
the stone-cold Henrys and Johns and
Davids and Pauls. I uncover
that afternoon a dead relative
‘s name. But these are his brothers, buried
so near they are my brothers
too. I shudder to remember how
we are all of one mother
and to our mother, all return.
How easily
I forget and now look: these stones
divide the living and the dead. Look:
these men, these boys, inside the walls
and when I press my palms
to touch them I feel only the black
marble hallways of the underworld
we build with our bombs.

Nearby banners still fly
half-mast. The Viet-Vets
are unshaven and beneath berets
I see their hair, like min,
grown long. From their small display
these men remember, day by day,
the POW, the MIA, the maybe-dead
who maybe wish they were,
whose footsteps may never mark our thresholds
again and nowhere is their name
cut in stone.
        Thank you, Mr. Jones
I say, accepting his handbill,
reading the name chiseled on his fatigues
and the fatigue etched inside his face
above the name. I want
to shake this man’s gentle hand.
I want his eyes to lock with mine
and I want him to say slow and nodding,
Some wounds need to be re-opened before they heal.
But no. No. Our bodies stand intact
while our eyes peer across the battlefield
from opposite sides. He fought the way
I fought against it. No, we have nothing
to say. I walk away. I read the handbill.
I walk away.

I retreat into the womb, the tomb,
the blackness, the trench. Some wounds
need be
before they heal and where the living
will not speak, the dead cannot
keep still.
        I am long standing, listening
how generations upon generations struggle
to bust through these walls, till I feel the sun
set, and in that proper light
on the one slate my shadow walks
through the shadow world,
walks with the shadows; on the other side
reflecting hard my face and beyond that
his face
and beyond that,

An Open Letter to My Draft Counselor

Each of us under the just eyes of God, you said,
should quake in fear. Hence the name.
Where ten men lived under the same roof,
even behind closed doors each of them
whispered so as not to rob the others
of their private right to confront themselves.
The American Friends Society; balding, chewing
you pipe as you mumbled and squinted
through page after page of my adolescent
scrawl. Read this to me, you said, pointing at my words
which opened unsuspectingly: All living things
are created by God, our Father, and therefore...
therefore I blushed bright enough to glow in the shadows
beside the lamp. I choked on the easy syllables
as your bifocals dropped to your lap and with palms open
you buffed your scrupulous eyes. Therefore, you continued
for me, with no enemies you have no reason for war.

Which is what I wanted to believer and you wanted
to believe in me. My draft board, six pale
and wrinkled patrons in a smoky room of walnut veneer
above the old post office voted in perfect time
with the government machinery pounding all around,
vote more for legal bounds and procedures
than out of truth in their hearts and therefore
I won. I should have told you afterwards. I won,
though under your brief charge I lost
what it takes to smile at my lying face in the mirror.
I got married, had children, moved away.
And under your veracious gaze some nights,
as the blameless trees whisper beyond my door,
I still confront that sleepless darkness inside.

No enemies? After the war and antiwar collapsed
like two piss-drunk brothers in a local saloon,
brawling over grudges twenty years old,
I just wanted to leave the old neighborhood behind.
I burned books and records and letters I didn’t
need, withdrew to one of those empty horizons
so far from anywhere out mailbox
was more than a mile hike to the road.
On long walks I parted the seas of hip-deep
sedges, stumbled over rocks and into gullies
confident the miracles of crocus and fleabane
grew closer and closer at hand. I had a secret plan
to uncover the same amazing surprise in me.
Friend, under the just eyes of God I needed documentation.
I wanted to read in the soft language of prairie grasses
some small vindication of all living things;
but in the fine print on the loam, of hooks and talons,
in the armored spoor of claws I could not ignore
how the owl preyed on the otter and beetles bivouacked
whole generations against the aggressions of wrens.

The last ten years I’ve tried not to think
much beyond how the clothes dryer breathes on its own
in the basement, when to paint the garage,
and I admit the decade slipped by like Sunday afternoon.
Three of us at first, then four, five mouths to feed.
Lord knows just before the money ran out
I bought a double-barrel and set my sights
on a winter’s supply of pheasant, cottontail and coon.
Mostly I want to explain, now that even the squirrels
are gone, the strange gray mood mushrooming
over me. ONe day when I missed my shot
at the only cock i’d seen. I drew a bead
on a goldfinch singing from the old phone wires
and blew him away from maybe sixty yards.
Imagine how my whole arm was quaking
when I beheld the clotted, useless remains
there twisting in my good hands, my little Vietnam.

Francina Hartstra

Every culture and institution needs the on-going revival it gets from constantly attracting new citizens. Mostly, this poem is about the Blueline Forum where my poems begin and which has suffered from some time from the atrophy of new blood denied.

But then, maybe it’s about something bigger, maybe something the good people of Arizona might think about.


a poem for those who might join us

new blood

new ideas
and you who carry

new days,
brightly lit,
winds blowing
from places new
and unknown

of new night,
new dark
after bright-burned

friends yet
awaiting discovery

new love like
blossoms in a
like seas alive
with swelling tides,
like mountains
against sun-risen

and each new day,

every one a

Francina Hartstra

Here are two poems from the This Same Sky, an anthology of poems and poets from all around the world. Mostly, though not exclusively, a middle-reader for children, it was published by Simon & Schuster in

The first poem is by Pakistani poet Alamgir Hashmi, a Professor of English and Comparative Literature from Islamabad. He has published ten collection of his poetry and several volumes of literary criticism, as well as translated works from the Urdu and Punjabi language. In 1989, he recorded a reading of his poems for the archives of the Library of Congress.

A Gift Horse

Somebody must have
given it to someone,
only gifts and toys
can suffer

such love, such neglect,
in the wetness
of this lawn.

Cloth, or perhaps wood,
it is only that.
The hard and the soft,
it’s all the same.

It’s owner,
the child, must be
asleep or have
found something else.

I am unable
to make out
its beginnings
or end exactly:

the eyes are a bleary
the mouth seem sealed

as if to lock out
a couple of proverbs.
I do not think
it will speak.

Also from the book, I have a poem by Naida Tueni, a poet from Lebanon.

Tueni, who died in 1983, was married to the ambassador of Lebanon to the United Nations. Her book Lebanon, Twenty Poems for On Love, told of her love for the Lebanon she knew prior to its tragic ravaging.

This poem, translated by Samuel Hazo, is eloquent in its sense of loss.

In the Lebanese Mountains

Remember - the noise of moonlight
when the summer night collides with a peak
and traps the wind
in the rocky caves of the mountains of Lebanon.

Remember - a town on a sheer cliff
set like a tear on the rim of an eyelid,
one discovers there a pomegranate tree
and rivers more sonorous
than a piano.

Remember - the grapevine under the fig tree,
the cracked oak that September waters,
fountains and muleteers,
the sun dissolving in the river currents.

Remember - basil and apple tree,
mulberry syrup and almond groves.
Each girl was a swallow then
whose eyes moved like a gondola
swung from a hazel branch.

Remember - the hermit and goatherd,
paths that rise to the edge of a cloud,
the chant of Islam, crusaders’ castles,
and wild bells ringing through July.

Remember - each one, everyone,
storyteller, prophet and baker,
the words of the feast and the words of the storm,
the sea shining like a medal in the landscape.

Remember - the child’s collection
of a secret kingdom just our age.
We did not know who to read the omens
in those dead birds in the bottoms of their cages,
in the mountains of Lebanon.

Francina Hartstra

An expression of solidarity with those who still must do the daily grind.

modern days

how to turn it off

many men never
know, never have a
chance to learn

thinking always
they must be
like sharks

ever eating

ever moving
they drown

in the 24/7
just in time world
where everything

is now
right now
demanded today

captive to machines

that never
they too try

to never sleep
catch up
stay up stay

ahead of the
the goddamn curve

of instant access
instant communication
instant failure

instant humiliation
instant death
at the hands of the ones

who didn’t sleep
the cause of it all

in stationary orbits
miles high

but hanging
over our heads

who never rest

have taken all time
past present future

and turned
it into now now now -

i remember watching
the first one
high overhead

lying on my back
in our high school football

watching it pass over-
head, marveling

that the end of my world
had begun

not understanding
what the end
would bring behind

i am out of it now
a spectator
as it rushes past

but i know others
who are of that

in that world
chasing the next sun

never seeing the shadows
better off
i think they might be

in loincloths
chasing prehistoric

with bone knives
flint spears

Francina Hartstra

My last library poems for this week are by Jose Emilio Pacheco, taken from his book An Ark for the Next Millennium. The book was published in 1993 by The University of Texas Press. It’s a bilingual book with the Spanish original text and translations by Margaret Sayers Peden on facing pages.

Pacheco, born in Mexico City in 1939, is an essayist, novelist and short story writer. Regarded as one of the major Mexican poets of the second half of the 20th century, he has taught at UNAM, as well as the University of Maryland, College Park, the University of Essex, and many others in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Among his many other awards and honors, he was elected by unanimous acclaim to the Mexican Academy (Academia Mexicana de la Lengua) in 2006. He has been a member of The National College (El Colegio Nacional) since 1986.

The Owl

Unblinking eye,
fish of terra firma
radiating steadfastness through the night
Grasp released from flight
Claws that did into living flesh
Hooked beak for dismembering the prize

What wisdom can it symbolize?
Plunder, crime, contempt?
All that constitutes the venerated glory
of the West?

Baboon Babble

Born here in this cage, the first lesson
I, the baboon, learned was that
in every direction I look this world is
    bars and more bars.
Everything I see is striped
like the bars of a tiger’s pelt.
They say somewhere there are free monkeys.
    I have seen nothing
but an infinity of kindred prisoners,
    always behind bars.
    All night I dream
of a jungle bristling with bars.
I live only to be stared at.
The throng they call people come here.
The like to tease me. They enjoy it
when my rage rattles the bars.
    My freedom is my cage.
    Only dead
will I be carried outside these brutal bars.

Equation to the First Degree with Unknown Quantity

In the city’s last river, through error
or spectral incongruity, suddenly
I saw a dying fish. It was gasping,
poisoned by filthy water as lethal as
the air we breathe. What frenzy in
    the ring of its lips
    the gasping zero of its mouth.
    Nothingness perhaps,
    word beyond expression
    the last voice
    of nature in the valley.
The fish’s only recourse was
a choice between asphyxias.
That double agony haunts me,
the dying water and its habitant:
    its doleful eyes on me,
    its will to be heard,
    its irrevocable sentence.
I will never know what it tried to tell me,
that voiceless fish that spoke only the
omnipotent language of our mother, death.

Francina Hartstra

Sometimes you have to just do what you do and not worry about what you don’t.

this poem

most any
half-assed poet

could probably
re-write this poem

and make it better;

i could rewrite
this poem

and make it

then it wouldn't be

this poem -
it'd be another

and it's this poem

i'm interested in
right now

not some

that might be written

by me
or any other half-assed


it's all about the moment
and dedication

to what you're

for better or worse

it's this poem
i'm doing

right here-right

and the right-
here-right now rush

of writing it
is greater to me

than a prospective rush
of imagining

someone else



if it'll make

the re-write and edit police

i’ll look
to writing

the poem
this poem might have been


Francina Hartstra

That’s it.

Until next week, when I’ll have the second part of Alex Stolis’ new book, “Clean as a Broke Dick Dog.”

As usual, everything here belongs to its creators. If you should want to use any of my stuff, you can, just credit me and “Here and Now.

I’m allen itz, owner and producer of “Here and Now” and a peach of a guy besides.


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