Summer Passed On Last Night   Thursday, September 23, 2010


Photo by Arunansu Banerjee
V.10.1




I don't have a featured poet this week, but I do have a photographer, Arunansu Banerjee. An avid reader since childhood, he enjoys both reading and writing poetry and says his favourite poets are Rabindranath Tagore, Matsuo Basho, Li Po, Mary Oliver, John Keats, Robert Frost, Charles Bukowski.. He says he just recently became interested in photography and feels a strong kinship between of imagery of a photograph and a poem.

His photographs are street scenes from his hometown, Kolkata, in and around Gariahat crossing, which is in the southern part of the city, located in the State of West Bengal, India.

And with the photographs, my library poets and I.


Maura O’Connor
Testimony

Bill Shields
a chipped black hole

Me
ding-a-ling

Robert Bly
November Fog
Ant Heaps by the Door
Pulling a Rowboat Up Among Lake Reeds
Moving Books to a New Study
After a Day of Work


Me
notes from slower regions of the universe

Lucille Lang Day
Aunt Gert Says at Ninety-Three
Pandora in Berkeley


Me
Ignacio V. - rest in peace

Dennis Tourbin
In Cities

Me
Sunday soiree

Frank O’Hara
The Day Lady Died

Louise Gluck
Messengers

Me
songs at the end of the sea
hymnal


Charles Harper Webb
Mastery
Holiday Inn
The Temptations of Pinocchio


Me
the word is the word

Ramon Lopez Velarde
Newton’s Disc

Me
good morning

Rita Dove
Singsong
The First Book


Me
the science of light and color






Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




I start this week with two poems from The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, a longer poem and a short one.

The long poem is by Maura O'Connor and the short on is by Bill Shields.



First, the poem by Maura O'Connor, author of The Hummingbird Graveyard. The notes at the back of the book about her say she "is the youngest member of the notorious poetry gang knows and the Barbarians. She lives in San Francisco's seedy Tenderloin District, in a run-down hotel straight from the pages of Tennessee Williams."

I suppose I could google her for more, but I kind of like what I've got.


Testimony

These days
I cover my face with bottled skin
and scented creams
stain my lips the color of rose juice
were black
my eyes deepen

The man who once called me
that girl in the whit shirt
is my lover

He carried me home in a magician's casket
cut me in two
I came out whole

I'm a kindness to climb into
a Dresden doll found in the basement
of a burnt house

These days
I buy the book with the ugliest cover
comb the thick orange hair
of the innocent child
I never was

While my heroes are knocked down
like pinatas
while we wear surgical gloves
to the laying on of hands

I've folded suicide in four
laid it on a bare white shelf
someday it may gather dust
I might toss it away like an old dishrag
I'm young
green as bread mold

I'm seeking witness

I want the testimony of
Hitler
Stalin
the shadows on the bricks
of Nagasaki

These days
the newspapers serve a menu of clay pigeons
bring you own bullets

I want to ban the colors of the television
the perfect thighs
and plastic wishes
I want to put my next breath
in my lover's mouth
I want to burn Jesus leaflets
and wear his sandals

I'm taking it all off
in the bars of my ribcage

While the politicians find work
for each idle child
while two terminal patients
place bets on the existence of God

These days
I show the years when I didn't want to live
in the gray spokes of my iris
I'm coming apart like a ten-cent toy

I carry my head under my arm
like a rag doll

I want to sleep in the ruin
of last night's makeup
I want ancient recipes over instant rice

I want to find the hummingbird graveyard
I want to fill my mouth with black beetles
and walk the edge of Eden

I need a new commandment

I will collect single bars of old songs
I will weep a page of black ink
I will be an unprotected witness

My country serves three-day notice
to the starving
my country's hands are tattooed
on the belly of the battered child
my country sleeps in the snow of television
after its anthem is played

Let's burn the country
and keep the flag

This night is falling in pieces
this moon is cream on a raisin sky

I will evolve thick skin and filter
I will plan my next breath

I will watch the four riders
foam their horses to glue

It isn't over yet


The next poem, the short one, is by Bill Shields. He served as a Navy Seal in the Vietnam War for three years. He now lives in Pennsylvania.

"I put my life in the books," he says in his note at the end of the book. "Four titles available from 2.13.61 Publications - Human Shrapnel, The Southeast Asian Book of the Dead, Lifetaker, and Rosey the Babykiller," plus, new at the time, Cordite. "Everything else," he says, "is pretty meaningless."


a chipped black hole

her smile
was the grave

& her eyes
the elevator to Hell

I put out my hand

she knew what I was





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




This was my first poem of last week. It describes itself quite well, I think.



ding-a-ling

the bell rings,
and it’s poetry time,
ding-a-ling ding-a-ling -

nothing monumental
you understand, it’s Thursday,
after all, and nothing

monumental
ever happens on Thursday,
just a little something -

something
not too brave, not too
deep, for it’s Thursday, after all

and name me one thing
brave or deep
that ever happened on Thursday,

nothing,
nada,
nichyvo -

that’s the best part of Thursday,
the bar’s so low,
i can do this in my sleep on

Thursday -
and nothing insightful,
insightful being just not a Thursday

kind of thing, insightful
is for Sundays and alternate
Wednesdays -

and nothing romantic,
my god, man, you want to talk

Romance

on Thursday, it’s just not
done,

unless it’s our anniversary
or Valentine’’s Day,
and even then, our anniversary

or Valentine’s day on Thursday
is gonna be kind of dorky,
so i try to avoid years that have

our anniversary
or Valentine’s Day
on Thursday - best when

those kind of poems come up
on Saturday
so we can stay up late

and have sex
after reading, then a glass of wine
and a piece of lemon pie -

and, needless to say, Thursday
is no day for epics,
being a small and inconsequential

day,
only small and inconsequential
poems

are called for,
which makes Thursdays my favorite
poetry-writing days,

small and
inconsequential
being my speciality

ding-a-ling ding-a-ling





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Here are several short poems by Robert Bly from his book This Tree Will Be Here For A Thousand Years, originally published by Harper and Row in 1979. I've used Bly's work often here, both as a poet and as a translator/reinterpreter, including an extensive biography each time. This week, I think I'll just leave that part to your own googleish wizardry.


November Fog

This private misty day
with the lake so utterly cast down, like
a child
The long anxious wheels
churning in sand,
the pale willow leaves shedding light
around the "pale bride and groom."


Ant Heaps by the Path

I love to stare at old wooden doors after working,
the cough the ant family makes in ground,
the blackish stain around screwheads.

How much labor is needed to live out four lives!
Something turns its shoulders. When we do work
holes appear in the mountainside, no labor at all.


Pulling a Rowboat Up Among Lake Reeds

In the Ashby reeds it is already night,
though it is still day out on the lake.
Darkness has soaked into the shaded sand.
And how many other darknesses it reminds me of!
the darkness the moment after a child is born,
blood pouring from the animal's neck,
the slender metal climbing toward the moon.


Moving Books to a New Study

First snow yesterday, and now more falling.
Each blade has its own snow balanced on it.
One mousetrack in the snow ahead,
the tail mark wavering in
between the footprints. Dusk i half an hour.

Looking up I see my parents' grove.
Somehow neither the Norwegian culture
nor the American could keep them warm.
I walk around the barn the long way
carrying the heavy green book I love through the snow.


After a Day of Work

How lightly the legs walk over he snow-whitened fields!
I wander far off, like a daddy-longlegs blown over the
    water
All day I worked alone, hour after hour.
It is January, easy walking, the big snows still to come.





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




I was in a really mellow mood when I came up with this quiet little poem.



notes from slower regions of the universe

the first time
we made love
i carried you like

a leaf on the tide
to my bed

~~~

sunday afternoon
in the apartment on Santa Fe,

lying in bed,
watching it rain
through a damp
window screen

watching the rain
in soft sheets
advance
across the gray waters
of the bay

~~~

the house
on G Street

open ceiling

rain on the roof
pattering

banana plant by the window
weaving
green patterns
in the wind

like sleeping in the rain
dry

~~~

the first night home
from the agency

crib at the foot
of our bed

we sleep lightly

listen in our sleep
for his
breathing

~~~

we slip into sleep
flesh to flesh,
spooned
skin on soft skin

my rough hands cupping
your small breasts

~~~

i
sleep
my leg between yours,
your arm across my chest

the fire banked
the embers still glow





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Next, I have two poems from The Curvature of Blue, the fifth collection of poems by Lucille Lang Day, published by Cervena Barva Press in 2009. In addition to her poetry collections, Day had published three chapbooks and a children's book when this book appeared.

She has, in addition to her M.A. in English and Ph.D in creative writing, an M.A. in zoology and Ph.D. in science and mathematics education. The founder and director of a small press, Scarlet Tanager Books, she is also the director of the Hall of Health, an interactive children's museum in Berkeley.

An interesting sidenote - I bought her book at a secondhand bookstore last weekend. Inside the book I found a check for $10 from the poet to someone else, apparently in payment for a chapbook. I'm going to mail the check back to her, assuming she hasn't moved since 2009, tell her that I bought her book, and let her know I'm using a couple of her poems in "Here and Now."

Maybe she'll take a look and be pleased, or, maybe, I'll hear from her lawyers.



Aunt Gert Says at Ninety-Three

All the ladies in Florida wore
white, sleeveless dresses
and carried large umbrellas
that said "Sunshine or were covered
with oranges. They gathered
in the hotel lobby every morning
and walked to a hardware store,
where each one bought a different
kind of nut or bolt while I dove
into the azure pool. I didn't
want to move to Florida because
everyone there appeared to be
at least eighty. so I went back
to New York with my husband,
King David. During the Depression
I almost left him because
he played craps while I worked,
but I got my brother-in-law
to hire him as a furrier. He took
out a loan to buy monkey furs
from China, went into business
for himself, and all the ladies
wore monkey jackets to the opera.
No one else sold them. The men
would have sold their souls to be
first in the monkey business, but
David beat them. they called him
the Monkey King of Seventh Avenue.
Now he's gone, and I wear wool
for warmth, prefer coffee to tea.


Pandora in Berkeley

We should never have opened the box
from J&R Music World, Maspeth, New York.
The digital camera was missing,
but out flew our unpublished manuscripts,
everyone who'd ever insulted us, a video
of all our worst fights. Close behind
surged welfare mothers, families
without health insurance, and children
stuck in second-rate schools.

The newspaper confirms
we should have sent it back unopened:
logging will now be allowed
in previously protected national forests,
and the Feds are distributing
antidotes to cyanide and nerve gas
for expected terrorist attacks.

The radio says stocks are falling,
a high school student was shot
after taking his principal hostage,
and traffic is indefinitely delayed
on all East Bay freeways. I'm already
late for work. I have no time
to fiddle with this box.





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Here's the story of Iggy Vidal, as I barely knew him, or, as is most usually the case, the story of me with Iggy.



Ignacio V. - rest in peace

i met Iggy
a couple of months ago -

didn’t know him well,
but we had some good coffee
shop discussions about writing...

a novelist,
very happy that,
at 70,000 words,
he was nearing the end
of his latest,

but mostly he wanted to talk
about poetry - wanting to
try something different, some-
thing that called for a new
set of skills unlike those he had
practiced as a novelist...

he asked me to critique
some of his efforts
and i said i would..

his weakness as a poet
was that of a novelist,
double, triple modifiers,
the kind of thing you might
expect of someone who writes
70,000 words without finishing,

and a tendency to explain
things in twice as many words
as he could have used to show them
to more immediate effect,

but each new poem he brought me
was better, trimmer, more direct
and visual, imagery
encapsulated
rather than exposition expanded
like sentences drug along by a chain

~~~

i read iggy’s obituary yesterday,
dead at 60, seven years
younger
than me, and i feel a little guilty,
as we all do when someone dies
who we had come to avoid,
as i began to avoid
him in the end, his demand for
tutoring, his presentation
of a new poem for me to read
every time we met, becoming tiresome,
like homework arriving at a time
when you’d rather read the paper
or write your own poem...

and i felt bad that i have never,
and probably will never,
read any of his books, and i feel bad
thinking of that last novel, 70,000 words
and no ending, 70,000 words
hung forever incomplete...

and i felt bad about how pleased i was
to write poetry, knowing that, though
i don’t expect to ever write an opus,
whatever i do write will be done
when i’m done...

and i feel bad
that Iggy would hate this poem,
violating, as it does, all the rules
i told him about - all but the rule
we never got around
to talking about - the rule that no rule
should ever stand in way of what
a poet sees or how he wants to
express it,

the rule of no rule, the most important
rule of
all...

i wish i had mentioned that one





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




I have a poem now by Dennis Tourbin, from his book, In Hitler's Window, published by The Tellem Press of Ottawa in 1991.

Tourbin, according to the book's end note, is a poet, painter and performance artist who lives in Ottawa. His visual poems and painted plays have been exhibited throughout Canada, in the US, and in Europe. He says he intends to create multi-media installations which explore the area between painting and literature.



In Cities

In books
the mystery
of stars, the mysterious
world of stars
is there
in books.

Not people stars
like you-know-who
but real big stars
like way-out-there.

In cities
where there is
traffic and noise
and bit steel
buildings,
sometimes
only small pieces
of sky exist
and very few birds,
in cities.

In cities
at night I
want to take
water and lightning
and re-discover
electricity.

Take rope,
make storms,
follow jetstreams
downtown right
to the edge of
the universe.

In cities
my imagination explodes, sends
pictures, small
pieces, fragments
of colour in
every direction.

In cities
I discover
new worlds
in faces,
watch birds
crash into
mirrors,
see lightning
crease the sky.





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Another Sunday coming down, as the songwriter said. Here's how mine came down, so far.



Sunday soriee

a child,
a girl, no more than
6 years old

apologizing

saying
i’m sorry

saying
it fourteen different
ways

how
does a child,
a girl, no more than
6 years old

know how to say
i’m sorry
fourteen different
ways

why
does a child
know that many different
ways to say
i’m sorry

~~~

they come in
together
but i don’t notice them
until they sit,
back to me, in the booth
in front of me

he is,
i’d say, in his early 40s,
early convert to the
club of gray-haired gentlemen

his companion
small,
thin,
bird-shouldered,
short hair,
his son,
9-10 years old,
i thought,
until they began to cuddle

what a
s
m
all
sm
all
wo
man!

~~~

i saw
Lizbeth Salander
this morning
at the kolache
shop

another
small small
woman

matchstick
arms
tattooed
long dark hair
ponytailed
tight jeans
defining tight
kick-ass butt
defiant
determined chin
intense eyes

everything
i had imagined her
to be

~~~

my
short story writer
friend
has a new book of stories
out

great review
in today’s paper

and i remember
him telling me about how
Twain and Dickens
used to write glowing reviews
of their own books
under made-up names

and i wonder

about my next
book

~~~

two very large
guys
sit in front of me

the one furtherest
from me
orders first

four eggs over easy
bacon
grits
waffle
sausage
milk
juice
&,
from his diet,
wheat toast,
dry

the other guy
just oatmeal and
sourdough toast

a pale shadow
of his former self
coming soon

~~

sick old man
and grouchy old woman

at the table next to me
on Sundays

oxygen pack
by his side tubed
to his nose

eats his scrambled eggs
while
grump-grump
woman
has toast and coffee

emphysema -

i know the signs of it

my father died of it
30 years ago

prisoner of his house
and later
his bed in the last years

unable to go out
without a 75 lb. oxygen bottle

i think
of how different
his last years would have
been if there had been
little oxygen packs
with tubes to his nose
in those days

and how glad i am
my mother
wasn’t a grump-grump
woman

~~~

Dee Dee

happy
friendly Dee Dee

fell
and hurt her leg

after
two weeks off
came back limping

pained and limping
for another two weeks

rocket-girl
now,
rocketing from table
to table,

trays balanced
on both hands

watch out!

incoming!

Dee Dee

happy
friendly
Rocket-Girl Dee Dee





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Next, two poets from The Harvard Book of Contemporary American Poetry, the first by Frank O'Hara and the second by Louise Gluck.



Born in 1926, Frank O'Hara died in 1966 after being struck by a car on Fire Island. He attended Harvard after his two year service in the navy and graduated in 1950. He received an M.A. from the University of Michigan, where he received the Hopwood Award for Poetry in 1951. After receiving his degree, he went to New York where he worked as a curator for the Museum of Modern Art. In his poetry, he wrote candidly about his homosexuality as well as popular culture.


The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
It is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don't know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly New World Writing to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
 p;   p;   p;  I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (her first name Linda I once heard)
doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richard Lattimore or
Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Negres
of Genet, but I don't, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I cam from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picyunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing


The second poem is by Louise Gluck.

Glück, born in New York City in 1943, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993. She is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award), the Academy of American Poet's Prize, as well as numerous Guggenheim fellowships. She was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 2003, after serving as a Special Bicentennial Consultant three years prior in 2000.

Previously a Senior Lecturer in English at Williams College, Glück currently teaches at Yale University, where she is the Rosencranz Writer in Residence, and in the Creative Writing Program of Boston University. She has also been a member of the faculty of the University of Iowa and taught at Goddard College in Vermont.


Messengers

You have only to wait, they will find you.
The geese flying low over the marsh,
glittering, in black water.
They find you.

And the deer -
how beautiful they are,
as though their bodies did not impede them.
slowly they drift into the open
through bronze panels of sunlight.

Why would they stand so still
if they were not waiting?
Almost motionless, until their cages rust,
the shrubs shiver into the wind,
squat and leafless.

You have only to let it happen:
that cru - release, release - like the moon
wrenched out of earth and rising
full in its circle of arrows

until they come before you
like dead things saddled with flesh,
and you above them, wounded and dominant.





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




I have two poems here, one I wrote last week, and another, i wrote years ago. In the older poem I imagine a time when aliens from far-away stars discover intelligence on the earth, and it isn't ours, leaving unsaid imagined consequences. I included the poem in my book, but never published it anywhere else.

I think the poem predates the star trek movie, but can't swear to it. I've had the experience before, writing a short story completely laying out the premise for "Planet of the Apes" five years before the movie came out. If the story had ever been anywhere outside my closet, I'd have sued someone.



songs of the furtherest seas

a song
sung over and over

sometimes
a lone singer

sometimes
all of his kind
singing the same
song across a wide
ocean, sometimes
singing the same song
together

leviathans
singing leviathan songs

just,
it seems,
for the joy
of the singing

yet,
the slaughter
continues

~~~

but, christ, the
hunters say

what the hell good
is an animal
if you can’t have the
the pleasure
of killing
it?


hymnal

from somewhere in the very deep
a great blue sang today, a song
of salty tides and bright mornings
fresh with sun and ocean air

a love song
among the giants

from somewhere in the other deep,
a growing choir responds, sings
of star-blinks and novas flashing,
songs of creation, songs of despair,
songs of spinning little worlds
that come and go and leave behind
the poetry of their time in passing

each,
another song
recorded for time never-ending





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Here are three poems by Charles Harper Webb, from his book Reading the Water, the 1997 Morse Poetry Prize published in by Northeastern University Press.

Webb, a poet, professor, psychotherapist and former singer and guitarist, was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Houston. He earned his B.A. in English from Rice University, an M.A. in English from the University of Washington,and an M.F.A. in Professional Writing and his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California. He teaches at California State University,

I think I probably say this too often about too many poets, but he is one of my favorites.



Mastery

While fourth of July hordes crowd Crowley Lake
in motorboats and cabin cruisers, dredging
bottom with their Power Baits and grappling-
hooks and strings of flashers long as freight
trains, yelling, "Any luck?" "Hell, there's no
damn fish in this hole!" -cursing the sales guy
at Sports Chalet, swearing they'll never buy
another Field and Stream or Spin'n'Glo,
and old man wades ashore, stiff legs hoisting
him up onto the sand. Mobs of the skunked,
like shoppers nothing fits, hurl their array
of gear down in their vans, and sneer, "Catch anything?"
He smiles and says, in a soft voice - full of bunk,
they know - "I got a few. I guess I did okay."


Holiday Inn

It stalks the city's outskirts like some wonder
on Wild Kingdom. Green-and-gold signs lure
bright-colored cars out of their schools to blunder
into its wide jaws where, uninjured,
the disgorge their laughing guts. Inside
are heated pools, sauna, Jacuzzi, cocktail
lounge, plush rooms with king-sized beds, wide-
screen TV offering "Hot Male and Female
Action." Your personal phone connects you
to the world through computers which, because
they care, provide meals, massages, new
clothes, even typed notes from Santa Claus,
   and only mention payment if you're declasse
   enough to scorn their offer please to stay.


The Temptations of Pinocchio

We see Satan in Foulfellow the fox,
seducing Pinocchio from school, then shipping him
]to Pleasure Island, where he smokes and loafs
and nearly makes a jackass of himself.

But behind Geppetto's smile, the beauty
of the Blue Fairy, the cuteness of Figaro the cat,
Cleo the fish, the singing conscience
Jiminy Cricket, Old Scratch is cackling too.

Skipping to school that first day of his wooden life,
Pinocchio is skidding toward a land
where boys are named Percy or Fauntleroy,
and always mind their moms, and never cuss

or fight or get their clothes dirty or talk
with their mouths full, and then one day -
reading their Bibles, dabbing specks of crumpet
off their little vests - their faces flatten,

bodies shrink, eyes bulge, noses turn black.
They drop down on all fours, long, silky hair
sprouting everywhere except the thin shafts
of their paintbrush tails. When pudgy, perfumed

demons flounce in and drag them off to sell
to fat ladies who hug and slobber, feed them
chockies, then spank them when they poo-poo
on the rug, they don't fight back; but for some reason

their dog brains can't comprehend - even as Pinocchio
homers through a stained-glass window,
slides a dead rat under a girl's chair - they dream
of wolf packs tracking deer through snow woods,
pulling one down, tasting its hot, panicked blood.
This excites them so much that, on their puffy
pillow beds, their legs twitch, their jaws snap;
they try to howl, and wake up hearing yap, yap, yap!





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Catching the religiosos babosos on one of their interesting days always leads me into the brush. At least I have fun.



the word is the word

the interesting thing
about
listening to the religosos

barbosos
talk among themselves
is that in their deeper, less

guarded discussions
they say things,
complicated things,

to each other
they would never say
from their pulpits

~

like yesterday,
before drifting off into
football chatter,

they talked about
the central premise
of christianity,

the proposition that christ
died for our sins,
and how that didn’t become

a part of church doctrine
until the eleventh
century

and how, up to that time,
hundreds of different
versions of the christ story

had percolated through
the remains
of the old roman empire,

different both in detail and in the
most basic elements,
who was jesus - what was jesus

and how the rulers of what would
become
the new holy roman empire

said, finally, enough is enough,
this is the story
and if you don’t buy the line

we have plenty of burning stakes
for heretics who dispute
the word

~

but don’t expect any of that
to come up at sunday services
for the word is the word

and that’s for certain
and certainty is their business,
the business

of all religion, whether it comes
with a bone through its nose
or in a pinstriped suit,

whether it comes in a jungle hut
or a suburban garage
of a grand, tax-exempt, glass palace

because it is not truly eternal salvation
we all want, being unable to truly
imagine such a thing,

but certainty
that somewhere,
sometime,

someone is on our side,
for we are fearful creatures,
brave in our first leap

from aboreal security to the open
savannahs where great beasts
roamed wild and hungry,

but, amidst all that blind courage,
fearful still, always searching
a rock to anchor us in the heaviest

storm,
a reassuring presence
in the cold-dark,howling night

~

and thus, adam
was born,
and from his essence,

eve





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Now here's a poem by Mexican poetRamon Lopez Velarde, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, from the collection of his work, Song of the Heart. The book was published by The University of Texas Press in 1995. The book includes wonderful illustrations by Juan Soriano.

Velarde was born in 1888 and died in 1921. His work is generally considered to be postmodern, but is unique for its attention to the countryside and culture of the rural peoples of his country, to the point that he was known at the time as the "poet of the provinces." He achieved great fame in his native land, to the point of being considered Mexico's national poet.



Newton's Disk

Omnichromy of a perfect evening...
The soul, a muted horn,
and he light, sublime,
and fortune, replete,
and Life, a fairy spirit
set free from her prison to love.

Leaden sky.
In the west, a curl
of saffron.
and angel's overturned inkwell.
The breee, a doleful
refrain.
On the golden rapture of the hill,
green vapor, like a dragon's
breath.
And the bewitched valley
strains toward a kiss filtering
through the transoms of the horizon
through the transoms of the horizon.

A time of secrets,
like those known to the thimbles
of despairing seamstresses
who entangle their mortal monologues
in the skein of empty hours.

As secret as you were
in yesterday's hand,
rosy lode,
canary grass,
and d'Orsay perfume.

Evening, like a rehearsal of
happiness amid May's petals;
evening, Newton's disk, a time when
spring was omnichromy
and Life a spirit
set free in passive love...





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Just another morning poem. Beautiful mornings this time of year.



good morning

the moon
a silver disc
in the blue blue sky

it’s canyons
shaded
from the morning sun
and blue,
like the sky

~~

the grass
deep green
and thick,
grown high again
by the rain

itching
my ankles

~~

leaves
have begun to drop

cover the ground

fertilizer for next year

the pine trees
murmur
in the wind

keep their secrets

keep their
leaves

~~

chill mornings

i put aside
my summer bright
patterns

can’t
find my faded blue
over-shirt

my october shirt
for chill october mornings

~~

visions
of pumpkins

orange orange orange

sunrise globes
in a just tilled
field

orange islands
on a moist brown sea

~~

we walk

draw deep breaths

together
sniff the cool
untouched air

together
in the still morning

together
still





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Next, two short poems by Rita Dove, from her book On the Bus with Rosa Parks, published by W.W. Norton in 1999.

I've used Dove's work many times here, including a full biography each time. This time, it's late in the afternoon and I'm tired and my fingers are behaving like digital deliquents so I'll let you do your own googlating.



Singsong

When I was young, the moon spoke in riddles
and the stars rhymed. I was a new toy
waiting for my owner to pick me up.

When I was young, I ran the day to its knees.
There were trees to swing on, crickets for capture.

I was narrowly sweet, infinitely cruel,
tongued in honey and coddled in milk,
sunburned and silvery and scabbed like a colt.

And the world was already old.
And I was older than I am today.


The First Book

Open it.

Go ahead, it won't bite.
Well...maybe a little.

More a nip, like. A tingle.
It's pleasurable, really.

You see, it keeps on opening.
You may fall in.

Sure, it's hard to get started;
remember learning to use

knife and fork? Dig in:
You'll never reach the bottom.

It's not like it's the end of the world -
just the world as you think

you know it.





Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




I get up early, every day, move right on into breakfast and my poem of the day - usually done with that by 7:30-8:00, I love the freshness of the early morning, just as the sun begins to come up.



the science of light and color

dawn
takes it own time
this morning -

from midnight-dark
to still dark enough
that the lights on I-10

are like a light strip
on a dim wall,
parking lot on this side

of the wall, green pasture
on the other, deer
visible at their morning feed,

grass so green
from rain last month,
as to seem, like the cloudless blue

of the sky for the past week,
cartoon art inked by an artist
giddy with possibilities of color


in a black & white world -
art, music, poetry, we think
coloring a black & white world

finding today
the greater artist bringing pale rose
then brilliant orange to the sun’s arising,

green to the trees and pastures where
deer, white tail flagging, graze,
crystal blue to the sky, burnt umber

at the dusky edge night, echoing
from tree to tree as the darker dark
descends, opening the sky

to the wonders of
light
unseen by day

~~

i know of the science
of light and color
and am content in my belief

in the creative power
of random molecules mixing
through the natural lens of prisms,

content that the great artist from whom
we learn all our concepts
of beauty and grace is an impersonal
and accidental
creator...

but sometimes it is more wonderful
to believe it is all a purposeful
creation,
intended for my eyes,
and, yes, yours as well

~~

and now
the sun is fully up
bright, and, as promised,

in a sky
of cartoonist
blue




Photo by Arunansu Banerjee




Okay, we're done.

As is always the case, all the material present in this blog remains the property of it's creators. You can have my stuff if you want it, just properly credit both "Here and Now" and me.

I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog and the first new episode of Dexter and the first Lizbeth Salander movie are both on my TV's on-demand channels so leave me alone don't bother me for a couple of hours.

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Mild Kingdom   Thursday, September 16, 2010


VI.9.4.




I'm having to do my own "art" again this week, but on the poetry side I have help from featured poet Joanna M. Weston who presents us with four of her recent short poems. Joanna, who has lent her work to me often, has had poetry, reviews, and short stories published in anthologies and journals for twenty five years. Her middle-reader, ‘Those Blue Shoes', published by Clarity House Press; and poetry, ‘A Summer Father’, published by Frontenac House of Calgary.

Here's the week's lineup.


Rabindranath Tagore
Highest Price

Me
finding the current again

Charles Bukowski
Nana
Poor Mimi


Me
impinging

Jimmy Santiago Baca
Two from A Love Story in Poems

Me
pot roast chronicles

Arlitia Jones
Butcher’s Daughter

Joanna M. Weston
In Tom’s Shopping Cart
Mad North - North - West
Waiting
The Textures of March


Robert Penn Warren
cycle

Me
continuity

From the Manyoshu
Two poems

Me
this old bed

Naomi Shibab Nye
19 Varieties of Gazelle
A Definite Shore


Me
anita eckberg, dancing

Anne Sexton
Her Kind
The Exorcists


Me
walking with a friend








A somewhat eccentric selection, I suppose, but I begin this week with a poem by Rabindranath Tagore from the book Selected Poems, first published in 1985 and reprinted by Penguin books in 1994 with some revisions to the introductory text.

Tagore was born in 1861 and died in 1941. He was a Bengali poet, novelist, musician, painter and playwright who reshaped Bengali literature and the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. His poetry in translation was viewed as spiritual, and this together with his mesmerizing persona gave him a prophet-like aura in the west.

He modernized Bengali art by spurning rigid classical forms with poetry, novels, stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays that spoke to political and personal topics and was, perhaps, the only poet/composer who wrote anthems of two countries: India and Bangladesh.

I can't pass up this picture from Wikipedia. Tagore is the one on the right.





All the poems in the book were translated by William Radice.



Highest Price

"Who will buy me, who will buy me, rid me of my cares?"
Thus I shout and thus I wander through my nights and days;
    And with each day that passes
    My basket presses
    Upon my head more heavily.
People come and go: some laugh; some watch me tearfully.

At noon I make my way along the king's great stone-paved road,
And soon he comes in his chariot, sword in hand, crown on his head,
    "I'll buy by force," he says
    And grabs me, tries
    to drag me off. I wriggle free
With ease; the king climbs into his golden chariot and rides away.

In small back lanes I wander past bolted and shuttered doors.
A door opens; an old man with a money-bag appears.
    He examines what I have
    And says, "I'll give
    You gold." He returns again and again,
Empties his purse. With far-off thoughts I carry my basket on.

At evening over the richly blossoming forest moonbeams fall.
Near to the base of a bakul-tree I meet a beautiful girl.
    She edges close: "My smile
    Will make you sell,"
    She says. Her smile soon turns to weeping.
Softly, softly she moves away into the woodland gloaming.

Along the sea-shore the sun shines, he sea breaks and rolls.
A child is on the sandy beach: he sits playing with shells.
    He seems to know me; he says,
    "I'll buy your cares
    For nothing." Suddenly I am released
From my heavy load; his playful face has won me free of cost.








Took a little drive today, just for the driving, a break from the things i've been doing the same every day.



finding the current again

headlights
heading west,

a string of them
one after the other

each pulling their section
of the string

at 75 miles an hour,
on I10, then left or right

on Loop 1604,
off to their appointed hive,

worker bees
as daylight slips

across the hills, buzzing
until dark edges back...

i will join them on the road
as soon as they get

where they’re going and
out of my way -

but no hive for me, a drive
in the hills instead,

Reba and i needy for a different
day from yesterday

new trees to see, green
from late summer storms,

new rocks and grass
to sniff

new and exotic smells
to take an old dog’s mind

off idle,
this old dog, as well, too

many days like too many
days before,

an ever shrinking circle
of here then here then here

and the sun goes down
and a whole goddamn day

forgotten by weekend, more time
lost as time runs short, the same things

undone as were left undone
the day before

and the day before
and the day before

and the day before
and time runs short for doing

things undone - time to clean
the slate, wipe the board,

blackboard, green board,
white board and dry erase,

and time goes on
and everything

changes
but the things undone...

time to break the circle,
see new trees,

sniff new rocks and grass,
pee in a creek

and watch the currents of life
take me;

join the flow of life again,
from hills to plains to sea,

the unique salt of me
joining the wide salty sea,

life joining life
before time is too short

and all the things undone
are forever never done








Trying to think, who can I come up with most opposite to Tagore. How about Charles Bukowski, especially when the subject is women.

So here are two Bukowski poems, from one of the numerous collections published after his death, what matters most is how well you walk through the fire, published by HarperCollins in 2002.



Nana

she has fucked 200 men in ten
states.
5 have committed suicide
3 have gone entirely mad.
every time she moves to a new city
10 men follow her.
now she sits on my couch
in a short blue dress
and she seems
quite healthy and chipper
even looks innocent.
"I lose interest in a man,"
she says,
"as soon as he begins to care for
me."
I refill her drink
as she pulls her dress up,
shows me her black panties.
"don't these look sexy," she asks.
I tell her that they do look sexy.
she gets up, walks across the room
through my bedroom and into the bathroom.
soon I hear the toilet flush.
her name is Nana and she has been living on
earth for the past
5,000 years.


poor Mimi

poor Mimi Trochi
she is probably the most beautiful woman I know
and young too, still young, but
she keeps running into trouble,
twice in the madhouse,
shacked up and deserted
beyond counting
but she knows I am one of those rare old-fashioned men
and she comes to me for strength
but all I can give her are hot kisses,
and we are always interrupted by lightning or chance
or bad luck
and poor Trochi and I never seem to get beyond the
hot kisses,
and I am usually luckier hat way,
and she certainly must be - if you want to call it luck -
with her several children to prove it.

for one of the handsomest women on earth
this could all be a puzzle
especially since she has a mind and a soul, but
Trochi simply chooses wrong,
she chooses indifference to begin with,
she believes indifference is a strength, and
I have suffered right along with Mimi Trochi and
her indifferent men and
although I have never stuck it into her
she keeps coming back
with stories and sobs
looking more handsome than ever,
we don't even kiss anymore,
all those hot kisses gone forever,
I am just not indifferent enough.
"you had your chance," she tells me,
showing me her newest baby.

I don't know what to do about it
so I phone my girlfriend and say,
"do come over. Mimi is here with her baby
and we are celebrating."
my girlfriend comes over, picks up the baby and
tortures it in her loving way
just as she does me.

and then I tell Mimi that we must leave for dinner,
my girlfriend and I,
and Mimi says, well, all the traffic
now, it's 5 in the afternoon, could I stay a while?
and so we leave handsome Mimi Trochi
there and drive off,
and I don't worry too much
because I feel that Mimi does love me in her own
way,
and coming back the next morning
I find nothing missing,
only a small phone bill later,
a call to Van Nuys and a call to Pasadena,
hardly anything for a woman in her state,
you know how it usually is:
a call to New York or Philadelphia
or London or Paris or worse.

I have her phone number written down
and I am going to invite her to my New Year's party
if she's still in town
then.
that day we left her at my place
she said she was going to try to get a job
as a belly dancer
at the Red Fez, a Turk, she said, owned the Red
Fez and he was giving her some real
trouble
but might offer her the job
anyway.

having known Mimi Trochi this long
I was afraid to ask her
what the trouble was.








Dark clouds seem to be gathering around me. Maybe I should start laying off the bean and cheese taquitos.



impinge

dark tides
impinge
on the brightest day

(impinge -
that’s what my neighbor said
my mesquite tree was doing to her yard and

i was thinking she was going to call the law,
such activity possibly
against the laws of Texas

not to mention Moses’ missive
from the mount,
“thou shalt not impinge upon thy neighbor” -

“chop it off,”
she said,
jeez, that seems excessive,

“you can borrow my chainsaw,”
she added,
and i thought, double-jeez)

but then i found out what
“impinge” means
and decided it’s a perfect word

to describe
what i’ve been feeling lately -
a free-floating existential apprehension

that many of the basic assumptions
around which
i have constructed my life

are called into question
by the times, sanity, for example,
and good will, the lubricants

that oil the machinery of daily life,
called into question
as i see insanity and ill-will and assumptions

of both screaming at me
from newspaper pages every day,
the only questions at question -

who among us is more aberrant
or more lost in the malevolence of
cultural and personal spite...

your tree is impinging
on my yard
the woman says...

good lord, woman, don’t you know
haven’t you noticed,
the sky is

falling...

or
will
be
s
o
o
n








Next, I have a longish poem from another of my favorites Jimmy Santiago Baca, from his book Healing Earthquakes, published by Grove Press in 2001.

I've used Baca's poetry many times and have included a lengthy biography each time. This week, I'll keep it short. He was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His awards and honors include the Wallace Stevens Chair at Yale, the National Endowment of Poetry Award, Vogelstein foundation Award, National Hispanic Heritage Award, Berkeley Regents Award, Pushcart Prize, Southwest Book Award, American Book Award Award, and others.

The book is sub-titled "A Love Story in Poems" and the poem I've chosen is the second from a series titled "Meeting My Love, True to My Heart and Loyal to My Soul."

It's one heck'uv a love poem, one of 18 in the series, all just as good and all, unfortunately, too long to use here.



Two

Lisana, your eyes, slanted up a little
with black eyeliner,
make you look like a majestic jaguar
prowling in thick jungle leaf and vine growth -
hanging out in Panhandle Park,
on a pier at Fisherman's Wharf,
in the misty dawn, staring at the indifferent sea
and gazing at Alcatraz,
feeling like a prisoner myself,
I dreamed of a woman
like you, Lisana,
with gold loop earrings, Mayan-princess face,
elegant eyebrows and brown eyes -
your power exceeds the charm necklace
made of blessed herbs and precious stones
I wore to ward off evil, made for my by a Healer Woman
in Bernalillo, and you at my side
made marked cards and crooked dice in my pocket worthless,
when you narrowed your eyes and looked into mine,
when you stroked and caressed my face
made me smile and frown,
going from kissing to arguing in minutes -
sadness in my soul when I made you look down,
holding your tears in, your lips slightly open,
your eyelashes sweeping out from your eyelids,
made me reach over and comfort you,
made me say it doesn't matter, though it was September,
you smiled and Christmas lights went on in the air,
and your smile and your white teeth
exposed an innocence in you,
like a baby jaguar gnawing at a piece of bone,
throwing your head back with your long black hair ponytailed
and it bouncing around as you laughed
sent a howl through my blood to touch and feel you,
to get nearer to you in heart and soul -
believe in me baby, believe in me baby,
people like me are as real as the holes in a fugitive's shoes
in ice-cold water
running from the dogs -
we both close our eyes,
breathing a lover's sigh and quivering a lust-thigh groan,
breathing your body scent in, the smell of tears on your cheeks -
and then your quick-flash anger, nostrils flared,
give you the appearance of a calm priestess, looking down,
older than your sweet young years.
Then, as I open my eyes, you give me that
little-girl glance, hair falling to one side, let loose from
ponytail and hanging off to one side of your face,
makes me want to tap-dance, clap my hands, baby,
to a song and tell you with trembling raging love-knotted
lonely words that I'll never break your heart.

* * *

Late we walk
San Francisco streets
    stopping for coffee and cake
    taking a seat by the window.
I tell you I am from the hill country of New Mexico
    communal mail box
    stony paths walked by grandparents and grandchildren
    for centuries
where silence pieces together the stories of lives
    like embroidered colorful squares
    into one quilt
each life overlapping and bordering the other.
    You tell me you dance, you write poetry.
    I rub my words together like a thumb against guitar strings
    my words seeking the passion and truth
    of my soul to share with you,
as lust simmers from my loins when I look into your beautiful face
the way a ruddy seaman's face on a pier simmers
    when he looks up and sees the sea storming -
like him, my heart is grub-lumber of a dying ship
    that rots in dry dock without your love.
    How small my life really is
    how little I have done
how small my heart pounds thump/poom
                        thump/poom
    thinning itself to a papery end
    of dust in the grave dogs sniff
    and leaves and grass cover, without you.

I have never known how to love.
    I have been indifferent as the cattle-car hobo
    when it comes to my emotions,
    my attention on grasshoppers, suns, moons,
    on the deep sadness in people settled down
    in suburbs
    who have drawn back their lives.
That is why I love you -
    you remind me of those who let go of what they treasured most
    and instead teach their hands to reel in dark seasons from
         the heart
    having lived it in the white fire of the wind and sail
    half naked, their words ripple over
    and brim the beach.

    I am earth and you are water.
    We have come to San Francisco to talk of love,
    where houses lean
    on the downside of a hill and the exterior woodwork is
    steeped in another time
    of crossbones and skulls.
    I am a poet and the sea molts
    the lost maps in the darkness of m being
    that would tell you the story of my love for you,
    that would tell you the story of what happened to in
         another lifetime
    when we loved each other, when we knew each other,
    when we flew to the edge of the sea
              and our spirits freed themselves
              as gifts to each other.








Eating breakfast peacefully at my restaurant, and in the door walk two people from my distant past, great influences on me from a very young age.



pot roast chronicles


i was about 5
and it was one of my favorite

little golden books -
about a couple,

a mr. & mrs. flibbertigibbet,
or something like that,

and a pot roast -
mr.flibbertigibbet, a great lover

of pot roast, wanting pot
roast at every meal

and mrs. flibbertigibbet,
the greatest pot roast cooker

in the whole world, until
one day, she burned the pot

roast and mr. flibbertigibbet
didn’t get his pot roast...

and i don’t remember
what happened, but i think

they went for a drive
in the country or something,

the story’s dramatic arc
fading at that point, but i was

only 5 and didn’t care
and probably wouldn’t remember

anyway, the whole pot roast
thing is what interests me now, the

the metaphor of desire
gone stale, sublimation purposely

sabotaged by mrs. flibbertigibbet,
sick and tired

of daily submission
to her husband’s pot roast fetish,

a long and successful marriage
gone sour because of failure

of imagination, mr. flibbertigibbet
never “getting it,” never noticing

that his wife was going over the
edge over his pot roast proclivity,

trying, day after day, to save her
marriage, dressing up in a sexy french

maid costume when serving his
pot roast, him never noticing, eating

his pot roast and mashed potatoes
and peas and corn, oblivious...

and beyond that fable on the dangers
of a stale marriage,

an allegory for out time, this little
pot roast story, driving

our suv’s day after day, wasting
precious resources, befouling our

precious natural fluids, rivers afire,
seas clogged with garbage and crude

never noticing the storm rising in mother’s
eyes, the pain disfiguring her face,

oblivious...

but then maybe it’s not that complicated,
maybe it’s just what it seems, a story

about pot roast, never to be thought of
again if mr. and mrs. flibbertigibbet hadn’t

just walked in and sat in the booth
in front of me, both tall and thin, just

like in the book, prim and proper,
dressed for summer-sunday, eyeglasses

and bow ties and i am transported
back 60-plus years, to the opening page

of the little golden book, with the two
of them standing, stepping out of the book

now and having breakfast, a waffle
for the mister and cold corn flakes for

his wife - and that’s what settled it for me,
going to a restaurant at 7 am for cold corn

flakes, if that’s not a flibbertigibbet little golden
book breakfast i don’t know what it is...

so what next....
the little engine that could puffing

right on
by

and what in the world would we make
of that








Next, a poem from another of the first books I bought when I started "Here and Now," The Bandshaw Riots, a first collection by Alaskan poet Arlitia Jones. The book was published by Bear Star Press in 2001.

Jones was born in Washington, but moved to Anchorage, Alaska when she was seven. Her parents opened a wholesale butcher shop, teaching the trade to Jones and her brothers as soon as they were old enough to help out. Jones worked full time with her parents as a meat wrapper and bookkeeper. She received an MFA in poetry from the University of Alaska, Anchorage in 1995 and teaches creative writing at the university now, part-time. Recipient of many honors and awards, she lives with her husband in Anchorage, spending as much time as they can at a cabin they built by hand in Ninilchik.



Butcher's Daughter

Taped to the cooler, the day's cutting
list includes: T-bones and chucks,
short ribs and sirloin tips, then
pork chops and pork steak,
ham hocks and shanks. He spends
hours standing in one spot
running primals across the blade
while the bandsaw riots in his ear
like a wasp gone berserk in a jar.
One nick and his fingers would flip
like dice tossed on the stainless tray.
It's a matter of pride and luck
his hands are whole, even so,
scarred as two dogs
that fight for their living.
He's worked this shop twenty-five years,
taught my brother to run the saw,
hired me to wrap meat and
two nights a week sent me
to state university where one day
in class a history professor
came up with this; Children live the lives
their parents only dreamed of

and all I could think was
What the hell was it
my dad was dreaming back then?
Back when he was the age
I am now
            A daughter
is not rare in her desire
to be something more than she is
and change the course of a history made
from the deeds of an obscure man

Neither of us picked this
as a life's work and yet we're here
most our lives and the goddamned
saw runs all day, every day,
whines through bone
like it's a piece of balsa, divides
profit from loss, drowns out
the oldies radio and the delivery kid's
blow-by-blow of last night's Cowboys game.
When the body moves by rote
the auxiliary mind freewheels.
He figures it'll take twelve 2x6s,
five pounds of nails to add
the deck on the back of the house.
He wonders if the steelhead are running
in the creeks about now and thinks how
in fall the woods begin to look
like a famous painting, maybe
something by Van Gogh who,
he once read in a book I gave him,
lost his faith preaching
to Belgian coal miners, and
at eh same time found his art.
Something is always
            given up.
Is this where the kid comes in
to recover what a parent lost?
On the other side of the cutting room
I'm Saraqn-ing hamburger, 700 pounds,
one pound at a time (holy fuck!
I'm gonna be here the rest of my life!)
and thinking up the lines of a poem
I'll be too tired to write
by the time I get home.
Out the window I can see a magpie,
in its beak a hunk of fat
it probably found in the dumpster.
I watch as the crazy bird
pecks a hole in the dirt
and slips the fat in
like a gardener planting a bulb.
What if my dad had been a gardener?
I'd be growing flowers all day,
my hands black with dirt - and then
I laugh because now the bird
is tamping the ground, rocking
back and forth on its scrawny feet
like a tap dancer - maybe
we were supposed to be dancers, and
I'd be running taps across the concrete
floors. I'd ricochet off walls,
stomp on the table tops - then
the bird flies and I think
no, I'd rather fly, Definitely
rather fly.








Now here are four short poems from my frequent guest and featuared poet, Joanna M. Weston.



In Tom's Shopping Cart

a sweater from the ditch
four mismatched socks found outside the
       health spa
a pair of jeans flown off a washing line
half a packet of hot-dogs out of a garbage can
an almost-empty bottle of rot-gut wine
flattened cardboard for shelter
a worn sleeping bag, found at the campsite
      outside town
and eighty-five cents in his pocket
under a thin blanket




Mad North - North -West

Abe lost his shoes
when he slid off
his motor bike

left them in the gutter
with three dimes
and a lemon drop

thought them washed
out to sea
with the “Nina”

went barefoot
for a week or five
until winter came

when he bought boots
from the second-hand store
and wore them on his hands



Waiting

set signatures
in amber

weave harmonies
with rose petals

while I sing
shrouds of appeal

listening for welcome
and farewell




The Textures of March

rain-beaded branches
fold against pearl-grey velvet
smoothed by a forgotten sun
scarved with ashen silk
behind piercing trees

birds fling
lines of flight
leaving no mark
      on earth’s fabric









Here's a poem by Robert Penn Warren from his collection Rumor Verified - Poems, 1979-1980, published by Random House in 1981. Best known for his novel (and play> All the King's Men, Warren was a constant writer in all genre's, novels, short stories, non-fiction, poetry, and the book, whose name I do not recall, which was made into one of the best, most affecting movies I've ever seen, A Death in the Family sometime in the mid to early 1960s.

This is a beautiful poem, discovered, my normal way, by opening the book at random.



Cycle

Perhaps I have had enough of summer's
Swelling complacency, and the endless complex
And self-indulgent daubs and washes of the palette of green.
If only birch, maple, or high poplar leaf would stir

Even in its sun-glittering green! - but this air
Is paralyzed, and the fat porcupine stops, does not even waddle
Across the lost clearing, where only a chimney now crumbles,
To the log backhouse that by his tooth, long back, is scored.

He, in characteristic passionlessness, now sands, and
Spine-tips gleam white n sunlight. He waits,
In self-sufficient, armed idleness, memento
Of another age. Birds, in virid heat of shade,

At this hour, motionless, gasp. The beak
Droops open, silent. The sun
Is pasted to the sky, cut crude as a child's collage.
Birds have no instruction in

Cycles of nature, or astronomy. They do not know
That a time for song will, again, come, or time to zigzag
After insects at sunset. They know only the gasping present,
Like an empire unwittingly headed for the dump-heap

Of history. Green hides rock-slide, cliff, ledge. On the mountain,
On one ledge visible, with glasses I see propped, leaning
Back like a fat banker in his club window,
A bear, scratching his belly, in infinite ease, sun or not.

I hear the faint ripple of water
By stones, of which the tops are hot as stove-lids.
I want to lie in water, black, deep, under a bank of shade,
Like a trout. I want to breath through Gills.

But I know that snow, like history, will come. I know that ice-crust
On it will creak and crackle to snowshoes, and that
Breath will be white in air, under sky bluer than
God's Nordic eye. My hearth-wood will be stacked in an
 &nbps;  :admirable row.

In the dark I will wake, on the hearth see last coals glow.








Thinking about the disconnect from each other and from our own history so many of us live in:



continuity

i sleep
at night
in the bed

my father
was born in -
not because it’s

the softest or most restful,
but because i am comforted
by a sense of continuity,

the feeling
that i can dream
in the bed where my father

was conceived,
where he first cried
his bloody wail of release,

where he first nursed
and was comforted
in his earliest hours

~~~

i enjoy going back
to where i lived
when young

walking the halls
of my elementary school
and the paths where,

beneath the concrete
might still be
the tracks my bicycle

made on a muddy
summer day

~~~

i drive along a highway,
and remember, as it was being
built, being on the crew that strung

the first electrical power
lines that still run alongside it
for nearly 100 miles

i remember the heat and the sweat
and the empty miles ahead
and the line of new poles and wire

behind us, our work,
my pride of creation and effort
manifested

~~~

i felt a loss this week, a new hole
in the universe that has been my life,
visiting a small town in the hill country

and seeing the drive-in theater,
my refuge on many hot summer nights,
laughing with the bowery boys and bud and lou,

and though all of them dead,
the theater, closed
for many years, still standing,

until now, flagship relic
of happy summer nights
finally torn down now,

nothing standing
but three tall poles
that had framed the screen

~~~

it is easy in our world of haste
and imprecision
to live lives of isolation,

not just from each other,
but from our past
and all the times and people

who made us - i fight that,
maybe because i’m old,
living with more past than future

or maybe just because
i know i will some day soon become,
like my memories, just

another dusty page in another
dusty book on a back shelf
of a library rarely visited, trying,

perhaps, to make friends in that
mysterious realm of forever gone
where a new bed awaits me








Now I have two poems from the anthology Japanese Love Poems - Selections from the Manyoshu published by Dover Publications in 2005.

The Manyoshu is Japan's oldest poetry anthology and is considered the most significant document in its early literary culture. It includes more than 4,000 separate poems.

An oddity in many of the poems is that they include additional stanzas, called "envoys" in this book, appearing at the end of the poem, generally to restate one or more of its themes. The only way I can understand this is to think of the "envoys" as a kind of chorus to the poem.

No translator is credited.



Sent with orange blossoms to Lady Otomo of Sakanoe's Elder Daughter

While I waited and wondered,
    The orange-tree that grows in my garden,
Spreading out a hundred branches,
Has burst into bloom, as the fifth month
For garland-making draws near.
Every morning and every day I go out
To see the flowers and keep close guard,
Lest they should fall off
Before you, whom I love as the breath of life,
Have seen them once on a night when the moon
Is clear as a shining mirror.
But the wicked cuckoo,
through i chase him again and again,
Come crying in the sad hours of dawn
And wantonly scatters the blooms on the ground.
Knowing not what to do,
I have reached and broken off these with my hand,
Pray, see them, my lady!

Envoys

these are the orange-blossoms of my garden
I had intended you to see
some time after mid-month
On a clear moonlight night.

The cuckoo has scattered
My orange-blooms on the ground.
Oh, had he only come
After you had seen the flowers!


To Lady Otomo of Sakanoe's Elder Daughter

Thinking sad thoughts over and over,
    I know not what to say.
I know not what to do.

You and I went out hand in hand
Into the garden in the morning,
While in the evening we brushed our bed
And lay together, our white sleeves overlapped.
Those nights - did they last forever?
Though the copper-pheasant woos his mate,
They say, from an opposite mountain peak,
I, man that I am, if separated
Even for a single day or a single night,
Must long for you and grieve - ah, why?
I dwell on it, and my heart aches.

So, for healing I go forth
to Takamado and wander over hill and dale;
But there I find only the fair-blooming flowers
That remind me ever the more of you.
What can I do to forget this thing called Love?

Envoy

Ah, I cannot forget you -
In the kao-bana that blooms
In the fields of Takamado
I see your phantom face.








The earlier poem, continuity, that I wrote several days ago reminded me of this next poem that I wrote several years ago.




this old bed

i sleep
on the bed
where my father
was born
ninety five years ago,
second child of Celeste
and August
amid rocky hills
and pecan and oak and
flowing streams
in the little
Texas-German town
of Fredricksburg

i sleep
on the bed
that has slept my family
through two world wars
a cold war
and multiple wars of lesser scope,
through twenty-one Presidents
of the United States,
some wise,
some not,
some equal
to the needs of their time,
some not,
through musical genres
from ragtime
to hip-hop,
through prohibition
and bathtub gin,
through the gilded age
the jazz age,
normalcy,
fire bombing,
atom bombing,
getting bombed
in the suburbs
and getting sober
with AA,
through seven presidential
assassination attempts,
death
in Dallas,
death
on the launch pad,
death
in near earth orbit,
Kitty Hawk
to men on the moon,
the cries of the dead
from famine,
from genocide,
from indifference
of the ruling class,
through Bull Connor
and his police dogs,
through King
and his dreams
and his death on
motel balcony,
to Barack Obama
and the triumph
of dreams,
through the triumph
of good
and the reemergence
of evil,
the cycle played out
over and over again
in the days of yellow
journalism, through
Murrow and Cronkite
and Brinkley and Huntley
on radio and TV
and on the web,
Wikipedia fact
and Wikipedia fancy,
truth swaying
on a tumbling pedestal,
lies flying in the wind,
opinionators,
blowhards,
conspiracists,
plain racists,
and everyday bloody
fools
through it all,
all the times of reaping
and sowing,
the bed has calmed the nights
through three generations
of sleep and passion
and midnight dreams,
waiting now
for the final sleep
of this generation
and the lying down
to rest of the next









I have two poems now, including the title poem, by Naomi Shibab Nye, from her book, 19 Varieties of Gazelle - Poems of the Middle East. The book was published in 2002 by Greenwillow Books.

Although she frequently travels far and wide, Nye says she considers San Antonio her home. She has received many awards and honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Wittter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, the I.B. Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, and four Pushcart Prizes as well as numerous additional awards for her books for younger readers.

Born in 1952 in St. Louis, Missouri, of mixed Palestinian and American heritage, she writes frequently of the Middle East, its people, its geography, and the often tragic events that so often occur there.



19 Varieties of Gazelle

A gash of movement,
a spring of flight.

She saw them then
she did not see them.

The elegance of the gazelle
caught in her breath.

The next thing could have been weeping.

Rustic brown, a subtle spotted hue.

For years the Arab poets used "gazelle"
to signify grace,
but when faced with a meadow of leaping gazelle
there were no words.

Does on gazelle prefer another
of her kind?

They soared like history
above an empty page.

Nearby giant tortoises
were kissing.

What else had we seen in our lives?
Nothing better than 19 varieties of gazelle
running free at the wildlife sanctuary...

"Don't bother to go there,"
said a man at our hotel.
"It's too far."

But we were on a small sandy island,
nothing was far!

We had hiked among the stony ruins
to the Tree of Life.
We had photographed a sign that said
KEEP TO THIS PATH in English and Arabic.

Where is the path?
Please tell me.
Does a gazelle have a path?
Is the whole air the path of the gazelle?

The sun was a hot hand on our heads.

Human beings have voices -
what have they done for us?

There is no gazelle
in today's headline.

The next thing could have been weeping...
Since when is a gazelle
wiser than people?

Gentle gazelle
dipping her head
into a pool of silver grass.

Bahrain


A Definite Shore

     "What is it that is wrecking our lives?"
          - Daud Kamal


The boy who are poisoned fish in Sri Lanka
covers his eyes.
Each time the plane shudders, his knuckles whiten,
He wants to be home.

Below us the hungry Atlantic pushes and pulls
its waves across the earth.
All we want is to land safely again,

we who calculate our luckiness, who worry
that the pocket must be growing a hole.
the bread seller of aleppo
wanted only to sell his bread. and the Saudi women

who said, "Tell them we are oppressed, but not stupid,"
had just that message in mind.
We signed each others' notebooks as if
those addresses were a definite shore.
Once on a bus out of Nepal
I prayed for nothing but flat land.

I seemed so easy, being reduced
to a single wish! In those moments
I think our lives are laughing at us.

They know the moment a wish is answered
our hearts will open like sievers
and everything fall through again.

They know that women and men have been
wanting so much for so long
a flat highway will only remind us of heat,

of sleeping, the deliberate stones
crossing this season, the arrogant river
tumbling beneath.








For a little while yesterday morning, the old religiosos barbosos were back. But it didn't last.



anita eckberg, dancing

yesterday
was monday

and the religiosos
babosos

were back at their
normal monday table

almost like the old days,
almost slipping into an interesting

discussion,
before reverting to more animated

strumming and dranging
about the early season crash

of the dallas cowboys
(may their souls rot in last place forever)

but before that
they tossed the ball back and forth

for a couple of minutes
on the subject of the nature

and characteristics of god,
coming to the conclusion

that god is a mystery unsolved
and insolvable

and because of that
everyone’s

god-concept
is as good as anybody else's

and there is no basis for one believer
to question the faith of another

~~~

and thinking of that i think of
how everything in life is a mystery

unsolved
and insolvable, our knowledge

of everything
based on how and how much

of it one has seen
or heard secondhand -

what is our standard for accepting
the existence and characteristics of things?

personal experience?
i have experienced a fried egg

but my fried egg is over easy
which could make my conception of the thing

entirely different
from one who prefers eggs fried hard,

so which of these egg concepts
reflects the reality of an egg, maybe both,

maybe neither,
as envisioned by someone who doesn’t like

eggs, whose egg concept
is a shelled ovoid, white and fragile,

or maybe all of these concepted eggs are
real, or maybe none, maybe

there is no egg in reality,
only the varying concepts, shadows

on the wall, as plato opined, real
on the wall but nowhere else

~~~

i have been to paris
so i know it exists,

but it’s reality to me
limited to a three day visits,

monuments seen from a tour
bus, the metro,

and walks in the rain
on the champs-elysees,

a different paris, surely
from the one people live in -

and, while i haven’t been to rome,
i did see “la dolce vida” twice, so i place

my trust in in the evidence of others,
believing that it does exist

because felinni said so and i believe in felinni
and anita eckberg, dancing

in every fountain, and maybe
you think you know better but i know better

what i know, regardless of how i know it
and it is like the face of god

you see in your dreams, unlike the void
i see in mine, but indelible to you

and indubitably true
in every way important to you








Next, I have two poems by Anne Sexton, from her book To Bedlam and Part Way Back, published in 1960 by Houghton Mifflin.

Sexton, who died by suicide in 1974, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1928. She suffered from mental illness for most of her life, turning to poetry upon the advice of her therapist after a major mental breakdown in 1955. She achieved success quickly, publishing in many of the most prestigious literary journals and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1967.

In the end, married with two children, she was unable to resolve the challenges of her illness.



Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.


The Exorcists

And I solemnly swear
on the chill of secrecy
that I know you not, this room never,
the swollen dress I wear,
nor the anonymous spoons that free me,
nor this calendar nor the pulse we pare and cover.

For all these present,
before that wandering ghost,
that yellow mouth of my summer bed,
I say: this small event
is not. So I prepare, am dosed
in ether and will not cry what stays unsaid.

I was brown with August,
the clapping waves at my thighs
and a storm riding into the cove. We swam
while the others beached and burst
from their boarded huts, their hale cries
shouting back to us and the hollow slam

of the dory against the float.
Black arms of thunder strapped
upon us; squalled out, we breathed in rain
and stroked past the boat.
We thrashed for shore as if we were trapped
in green and that suddenly inadequate stain

of lightning belling around
our skin. Bodies in air
we raced for the empty lobsterman-shack.
It was yellow inside, the sound
of the underwing of the sun. I swear,
I most solemnly swear, on all the brick-a-brac

of summer loves, I know
you not.








I finish this week with a sentimental poem about a friend I know I will someday soon be missing.



walking with a friend

she is worn
and worn out,

half blind,
stone deaf,

and arthritic,
but still smart,

amazing smart
and empathetic

and i feel guilty
when i don't take her out

to experience the world -
take her out of the boredom

of a life every captive day
just like the life of the day before...

for an intelligent and aware dog,
it is a canine version of the old song,

the sniff bone, tra la,
connected to the brain bone,

meaning a day without
new smells

is a day
when synapses don't snap,

a day when webs of lassitude grow
where tiny electrical

impulses should flare, lighting up
pleasure centers

like a fresh butcher bone
on a golden cloud of delight...

nothing is required of me
when we walk,

she picks the way her nose
leads her,

while i am there
only to hold the leash

as she explores,
and, for that little effort,

the pleasure to me
of seeing her anticipation

when i take her leash
from the hook by the door,

stretches
the small sun-dried raisin

that is my soul
and makes complete

the wholeness
of my day








That's enough for this week. Until next week, i must, as usual, remind you that all the work in this blog remains the property of its creators. My stuff you can have, just credit as one expects.

I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog and I think it's going to rain today.

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