Alex Stolis - Back with Part II of “Clean as a Broke-Dick Dog”   Thursday, September 02, 2010


V.5.1




As I mentioned last week, we took a little trip to the coast this past weekend. We stayed in Port Aransas on Mustang Island, so named because of the wild horses that used to roam it. The island is separated from the north end of Padre Island by a couple of cuts you could walk across if you didn’t care too much about getting you feet wet. You can drive along the beach road (maybe 5 miles) from Corpus Christi or you can cross to the island by way of a short ferry ride from Aransas Pass, one of only a couple daily operating ferries in the state.

Except for the last twelve years in San Antonio, I lived most of my life on or very close to the Texas Gulf Coast. I know the coast and the beach have their moments. But a whole weekend has a lot more moments and after two days I’ve done my beach enough to last at least another year. So by the time we headed home, I was more than ready to go. My pictures this week are from a few of those easy-to-forget coastal moments. Actually, that’s only partially true. I didn’t see much inspirational on this trip, so most of the pictures are from a couple of previous visits (when we stayed in Corpus Christi at an actual hotel with maid service and no sand unless you really wanted to chase it down).

Doesn’t really matter though. Since I decided to make this an all-anthology issue (except for me and my featured poet), I didn’t need that much art anyway.

But the big news this week is the return of Alex Stolis with Part II (there are four parts in all) of his book Clean as a Broke-Dick Dog. As I did several weeks ago when I posted the first part of the book, I lay it out as Alex sent it to me, with more than usual blank space between sections, which gives the feel of leafs in a notebook.

I’ve said before how much I like Alex’s work. If you’ve read him, you almost certainly do to. If you haven’t read him, here’s your chance.


Enid Dame
On the Road to Damascus, Maryland

Martin Espada
Niggerlips

Ruben Jackson
Big Chill Variations

Diana Chang
Foreign Ways

Me
daybreak

Pat Windslow
Remote Control

Kate Foley
Not for the Academy

Aleida Rodriguez
Concierto de Aranjuez

Me
like that ugly, one-eyed cat

Matt Brown
leaving the south

Lisa Coffman
The Boy with the Blueberries

Candace W. Reaves
One by One

Me
la mujer de la marea

Princess Uchiko
Recalling a Visit from His Majesty

Ono no Komachi
Six Love Poems

The Lady Ise
Four Poems

Alex Stolis
Part Two: Cheating at Solitaire - from Clean as a Broke-Dick Dog

Gary Soto
The Trees that Changed Our Lives

Molly Peacock
The Surge

Me
i prefer the beach in winter

Anonymous (Aztec)
The Grandeur of Mexico

Anonymous (Makah)
Song

Anonymous (Quiche
The Face of My Mountain

Anonymous (Eskimo)
The Lands Around My Dwelling

Me
when winter finally came

Anonymous (Hawaiian)
Bill the Ice Skater

Anonymous (Hawaiian)
Song of the Workers on Howland Island

Me
things i didn’t see today

McDonald Dash
In the Final Analysis

Edward Baugh
Nigger Sweat

Me
a chance meeting in the rain



Without further ado,here’s the stuff.

(Or does that count as further ado?)









My first poems this week are from an anthology, Unsettling America, subtitled “An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry.” The book was published in 1994 by Penguin Books.



I have several poets from the book the first, Enid Dame, was a poet, fiction writer, teacher, editor, and publisher. She was on the faculty of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where she served as Associate Director of the Writing Program.

Born in Pennsylvania, she died in 2003.


On the Road to Damascus, Maryland

On the road to Damascus, Maryland,
between the trailer camps and rosebushes
I had a vision
in the back seat
of my parents’ car.

Once again,
it was happening.
I felt myself turning
into someone else.
I wasn’t sure who, yet.

My parents were worried.
Next week I’d be 35
and I still didn’t seem
to know who I was.

At other times
I’d already been:
A New York Jew,
a radical teacher,
an Ethical Culturist,
a barefoot breadmaker,
a nice girl
in knee socks.

I was relieved
when they changed the subject
to where we’d eat lunch
in Damascus.

I sat in the back seat
dreamily
making a list
of new names.


The next poem is by Martin Espada. Born in Brooklyn of Puerto Rican and Jewish parentage, he is the author of four books.


Niggerlips

Niggerlips was the high school name
for me.
So called by Douglas
the car mechanic, with green tattoos
on each forearm,
and the choir of round pink faces
that grinned deliciously
from the back row of classrooms,
droned over by teachers
checking attendance too slowly.

Douglas would brag
about cruising his car
near sidewalks of black children
to point an unloaded gun,
to scare niggers
like crows off a tree,
he’d say.

My great-grandfather Luis
was un negrito too,
a shoemaker in the coffee hills
of Puerto Rico, 1900,
The family called him a secret
and kept no photograph.
My father remembers
the childhood of white powder
that failed to bleach
his stubborn copper skin,
and the family says
he is still a fly in the milk.


The next poem is by Reuben Jackson, an archivist with the Smithsonian Institution’s Duke Ellington Collection. He has been published in numerous journals. His first book, fingering the keys, won the 1992 Columbia Book Award.


Big Chill Variations

he gives me a handshake
more complicated than logarithms,

tells me my black english
has fallen on hard times,

and how he was serving molotov cocktails
in white america
while i was chasing its daughters in vermont.

a disgrace
he calls me,
a disgrace,

but still somehow
worth dinner,

a ride in his bmw,

which he swears is an acronym for
“black male warrior.”

“you are the first poet
ever to dine in this club, reuben,”

“that fork is for the watercress salad.”

his treat -

paid with an american express card.

gold,
but with black trim.


And, finally, a short poem by Diana Chang, author of five novels and three poetry chapbooks. She has taught creative writing at Barnard College and edited The American Pen, a quarterly once published by American Center of PEN.


Foreign Ways

If I were in China this minute
and running after a friend
spied across from the hotel
I was staying at

waving to him, say
calling his name in Mandarin

Still they’d know me -
the body giving the person away
betrays a mind
of its own -

my voice from Duluth
my lope with its prairie air









Here’s one of those moments when the beach has one of it’s moments.



daybreak

daybreak
on a southern shore

tropic winds
stir

the irregular music
of wind chimes

against
the clockwork rhythm
of the tides

the sun rises
over
the Gulf of Mexico

red sky
rippled by soft waves

a falling
tide

tiny sand crabs
scutter
from their holes









My next anthology is Not for the Academy: Lesbian Poets, published by Onlywomen Press. Ltd. in 1999.



The first poet from the book is Pat Windslow, an actress for 12 years in England, Ireland and Scotland who left the theater in 1987 to take up writing. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in my many journals.


Remote Control

Don’t go near him, she said.
My father, the myth-man
with the afternoon behind his head,
the white sunshine
reticuled in nylon curtains,
trapped like breath,
like summer air.

The spider-climbing day
spun itself around us.
We were held fast in its spitted silk,
hiding behind doors,
hiding behind walls.
His whiskey-glower
had the look of a twister about it,
the sort of colour you get
when leaves turn inside out
and the sky boils up for something big.

Don’t, she said.
The ceiling got lower.
The smoke from his Camels
yellowed everything.
The TV brayed.
I was not afraid, only curious.
He was two-skinned.
He could turn himself inside out.
One night he would show me strides of lightning,
teach me where to look,
how to guess the next attack.
Another, he would make me sit
with one hand tied
until I used my fork.
He could mark each glass
of Jameson precisely.
His eye was a spirit level
Horizontal is best.

That’s the way he was that day,
when my mother wouldn’t go near him,
when no one could,
just the TV,
and even that was in its place.


The next poem, the title poem for the collection, is by Kate Foley. Born and brought up in NW London, Foley published her first collection of poetry, Soft Engineering, in 1994 after varied careers as a nurse, midwife, teacher, archaeological scientist and conservator.


Not for the Academy

Not a good drying day.
Factory chimneys on the plain’s edge
send up skittish plumes loaded with smuts
that may veer.

Smalls and sheets
translucent with soap and soda
hang limp as discarded skins
on the gap toothed comb of a fence.

From here you can’t smell
the pug-nosed wrinkle of sewage,
but you guess their feet
are planted muck deep.

Thick armed women,
bodies branching to the taut snap
of a line, bending like a community
of trees from a more elegant picture.
Faces smeared with a sweat of paint
break through, blossoming pink suns.

Their lives are laid out in squares
framed from an upstairs window.
Not the golden vee
of a measured landscape,
but the faint yellow disappearance
of stained crotch and armpit
getting ready to fly in flags of plain white.


For my last selection from this anthology I have this poem by Aleida Rodriguez, inspired by the composition by Joaquin Rodrigo, probably best know to jazz fans from Miles Davis’ interpretation of it in his album “Sketches of Spain.”

Rodriguez is a Cuban-born poet whose work has been published in many journals, textbooks, and anthologies since 1973,


Concierto de Aranjuez

Vast yellow plain, heat and the meander of memory, incandescent
edge wavering between shadow and light

opens into bright space, the long hot distance vibrating
between us and desire like an empty yellow house

where we’ll never live, the unrequited sun reaching for us
so far below, spendthrifts of its attention

even as it flatters us, aimless on this yellow
plain, interminable as a sermon, but-suddenly-olive trees,

grey-green in the distance, hint at moisture,
the mouth of the beloved parting in the shade.

Our pace quickens and a slight swagger loosens our gait,
foreplay originating in embodiment, our own delight

seeking its twin in the beloved,
our mouths small mountain lakes remembering rain,

we are wit with ourselves, and a melodic curve enters
our bloodstream the way the sky releases its blue snake

into water, breaking the hot surface with such deep wetness,
astonishingly blue to the taste,

its edge cold on our parched
tongues, our sweaty necks, our salty faces,

and where time had seemed childhood’s summer,
it now rushes with water’s

impatience not to preserve narrative but to squander
the moment, an always that seems to bubble from us,

its language loose, emphatic in its surrender,
possession itself a gift,

now, at the oasis, replacing the plain burning in our eyes
with water, water gazing at the sky.









Here’s a more jaundiced view of the beach, from another observer, my dog, Reba.



like that ugly, one-eyed cat

reba
hates the ocean

but,
wait, that's both too broad
and too narrow -
it's not really just the ocean

but any body of water
large enough
to generate waves

but,
wait,
that's confusing cause
and effect

actually
it’s just the waves
she doesn’t like

the wisdom
of her dog sense
telling her
that anything that keeps
coming back
over and over again
after you keep
chasing it away
over and over again
is not natural

it's
like that ugly
one-eyed cat she
chased over the back fence
ever morning for months

supernaturally
dumb
with no sense enough
to not come
back









My next anthology is All Around Us: Poems from the Valley, produced by the Knoxville Writer’s Guild and published by Blue Ridge Publishing in 1996.



My first poet from the anthology is Matt Brown.

A 1994 graduate in architecture from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Brown is a native of Huntington, West Virginia. I could google no more detailed biographical information on Brown, but plenty of evidence that he has continued to write poetry.


leaving the south

this damn car never seems to work
he thinks
the man questions the vehicle’s circulatory system
how such an intricate mesh of heated pipes
could become so familiar
to his calloused hands.

he slides out from under the thing
sweating
and wipes his brow
with an oily rag.

another man walks across the rooftops
leaving his black bootprints
in the melting tar
wearing a blue shirt and cap
a blue-collar santa of sorts

he has come to check
the ventilation fans
as the kitchen was getting hot.
the fans are frozen.
the rust is their aging
their motors never seem to work
he wipes them down
wit an oily rag.

hearing noises in the kitchen
the woman hoists herself up
off the couch, the left cushion
much flatter than the others
the fried chicken seems to burn
itself off in the southern heat
but compensated by this evening’s meal
having fried both legs and both wings
she wipes off the stove
with an oily rag.

this morning
as the fog burns itself off
in the southern heat
my body stretches its borders a little
my mind stretches its borders a little

my blue shirt no longer seems to fit
the southern heat.
I wipe off my brow
with my blue-collar rag
and walk away.


Next from the book, a poem by Lisa Coffman.

Coffman received the 1995 Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University, as well as a Pew Fellowship in the Arts and a Pennsylvania Council Grant for Poetry. She served as resident poet at Bucknell University and studied at UT Knoxville and New York University. She lives and works in Pennsylvania.


The Boy with the Blueberries

Conceding the city hurt his simple head,
he goes home, into the blue mountains
that secure the horizon, and roll on,
side to side, touching, like a herd.

And he becomes cheap labor timbering
where woods lock darker onto what was town.
“That over there was the big garden” and so forth,
foundation showing like some lunar rim.

Beach slipped from knife still smells like fish;
the mottled trail betrays the limping stag.
House close on the road in apparent watchfulness:
the clever ones plead to leave, then leave,

sometimes come back. Approaching them, he says,
failing to despise what would not have him,
“If you are here tomorrow I can bring berries.
I can find you all the berries you’d want.”

“Thank you - we go today” As though they’d turned
after - what? some whistle, snatch of color
and stared and could not find it,
he leaves them wanting where they were not wanting.


And last from the anthology, I have a poem by Candace W. Reaves, an assistant professor of English at Pellissippi State Technical Community College where she teaches creative writing and other English courses.


One by One

Like Scheherazade
he tells his stories one by one,
of wonders like wildflowers
and waterfalls in distant gorges,
gemlike trout in deep blue pools
appearing like djinn
and gone in a whisper,
of copper beeches and silverbells,
revealing them slowly
as if he dares not reach
the climax
for fear I’ll disappear
by morning.

Like Othello
he weaves the round unvarnished tale
of close escapes
and scraps and bruises,
broken spirits
and forgiveness -
but only bits so not to frighten or appall
or fall from grace
or see my face show
pity, no.

Like himself
he tells the tales so well
that no one,
not one
could tell them in his place.








I started this poem, got about half way through and didn't have any idea where to take it next, then thought of the legends of the Lorelei who lured sailors to their deaths.


la mujer de la marea

gulf winds
push strong and stubborn
from the southeast

and the sound of their
blowing
and the sound of surf

chasing down the
barnacle-spiked
sea wall

is a low moan
like an old woman
crying in her sleep...

and old woman
far from home, remembering
when she sang of lost love

and drew sailors to their death
on the jagged rocks
of her unrequited desire

"the woman of the tide" - my limited spanish, not necessarily a language anyone else would recognize









Can hardly do a whole post of anthologies without turning to the mother of all anthologies, World Poetry - An Anthology of Verse From Antiquity to Our Time, 1,238 pages of poetry from just about everywhere and everywhen.



First, Princess Uchiko, born 807 and died 847. The Princess, a daughter of Emperor Saga, was the first of thirty-five saiin, or priestess.

The saiin were unmarried royal princesses who served at the Kamo Shrines in Kyoto. The tradition began when the Emperor, his rule threatened, petitioned at the Kamo Shrines for victory over the rebels. When he subdued the rebellion, he dedicated his daughter Uchiko to the shrines in order to express his thanks to the deities.

Though Japanese, the Princess wrote this poem in Chinese. This poem was translated by Burton Watson


Recalling a Visit from His Majesty

Silent was my lonely abode among the mountain trees
When to this far lake your fairy carriage came.
The lone forest bird tasted the dew of spring;
Cold flowers of the dark valley saw the sun’s brightness.
Springs sound close by like the echo of early thunder;
High hills shine clear and green above the evening rain.
Should I once more know the warmth of his fair face,
All my life will I give thanks to the azure skies.


Ono no Komachi, who lived from about 825 to about 900, was a Japanese waka poet and one of the Rokkasen—the Six best Waka poets of the early Heian period. She was noted as a rare beauty; Komachi is a symbol of a beautiful woman in Japan. She also figures among the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals.

The first three poems were translated by Helen Craig McCullough.


Six Love Poems

I
Autumn nights, it seems
are long by repute alone:
scarcely had we met
    when morning’s first light appeared,
leaving everything unsaid.

2
Yielding to a love
    that recognizes no bounds,
I will go by night -
for the world will not censure
    one who treads the path of dreams.

3
Though I go to you
    ceaselessly along dream paths
the sum of those trysts
    is less than a single glimpse
        granted in the waking world.

4
Thinking about him
I slept, only to have him
Appear before me -
Had I known it was a dream
I should never have wakened.

Translated by Donald Keene

5
Doesn’t he realize
that I am not
like the swaying kelp
in the surf,
where the seaweed gatherer
can come and go as he wants.

Translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Alskumi

6
A diver does not abandon
a seaweed-filled bay...
Will you turn away
from this floating, sea-foam body
that waits for your gathering hands?

Translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani


Lady Ise lived about the same time as the previous two poets - from about the last quarter of the 9th century to about the first quarter of the 10th.

She was also a poet in the Imperial court's waka tradition. Her grandfather was an important waka poet as well. She eventually became the lover of the Prince Atsuyoshi and a concubine to Emperor Uda.

These four poems were translated by Esuuko Terasaki with Irma Brandeis.


Four Poems

1
Lightly forsaking
the Spring mist as it rises,
the wild geese are setting off.
Have they learned to live
in a flowerless country?

2
Because we suspected
the pillow would say “I know,”
we slept without it.
Nevertheless my name
is being bandied like dust.

3
A flower of waves
blossoms in the distance
and ripples shoreward
as though a breeze had quickened
the sea and set it blooming.

4
If it is you, there
in the light boar on the pond,
I long to beg you
“Do not go: linger a while
among us here in this place.”









As promised, Alex Stolis, with Part II of Clean as a Broke-Dick Dog



from Clean as a Broke-Dick Dog

Part II: Cheating at Solitaire


Soundtrack:


Time Has Told Me Nick Drake

It's Raining Irma Thomas

Who Drove the Red Sports Car Van Morrison
Everything You Can Think Tom Waits

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction Cat Power

It’s a Man's Man’s Man’s World James Brown

Wait Andrew Bird

I Dig You Boss Hog

I Made A Lover’s Prayer Gillian Welch




























this one is for you


it is winter. there are closed windows. it is cold.

maps are drawn. the past is lost and destinations

are found. there is a box of matches by the bed.

an unread book. empty vase. a dog-eared novel.

the lights are on. crumpled bed sheets, the click

of a CD changer. a still life. all the answers lie

on the tip of our tongues. silence tumbles over

conversation. we are lost and found. it’s five

pm. the sunset is not visible. the skyline breaks

a match is lit. sparks. sulphur. a fleck of orange

is caught; everything burns.


































a tale of twin cities


When I dream, it’s black and white. Flashes of green. A spot of orange. It is spring

and the sun is a blistering grey. There are no words. No soundtrack. Your hair

is undone, your mouth barely awake. The windows are naked, we are a sculpture

half completed. I am thirsty, dry mouth. Your hand is warm in the small

of my back. We are still. We are confident. We are unafraid of color.






































choices, preferences, options

right time and right place. now. and eventually.

          i dig you

                             stardust

right place and right time. eventually. and now.


































postcard exchange



Dear L,

What I like about living here is that there is a smell in the morning of cooking

and the sounds of the city morning combined with exhaust that reminds me

of being in India and Ethiopia with you.

wish you were here

all my love

truly

J







Dear J,


urban haiku



the rumble of garbage trucks,

i wake with a creaking smile;

a song plays

i am there

with you

always

L










at the bar i write you a poem

from memory, promise

whatever words we utter

will be kept strictly between

the two of us.








































we are an equation without a proof


I have all of these thoughts that make sense

about this but still a voice comes back

and when that happens i want to refrain

from alluding to the future; want to crawl

inside the beauty of these moments with you.

We’ll choose to leave out parts so they belong

only to us. The parts no one else can ever know

or see. What will remain is an image that even

at its purest can only, merely imitate the two

of us. Yet that will be enough. Because we get

to be here. We get to believe, and all the while

we also get to go.






























The Boilerman

It’s like the time we first met, all rough around the edges

and I told you we didn’t need details or veiled requests.

We’ll just take a turn towards what else might come to be,

write to each other: about seduction, distractions, risks

to take and back stories to give. I tell you I was a janitor,

a bartender, cook, a criminal, a has-been and a never-was.

And you say: it's just the real me









Me: its like getting to know each other

          from the inside out




She: i can tell you've had so much loneliness

          in your life, so much reaching

          but not quite getting.















an unwritten love poem



i

i mouth the words to your favorite song

wait for my thoughts to be discarded,

each one a leaf that brushes your arm



ii

what i see when I sleep:

the wind changes color as clouds disappear

into a familiar voice, shy and insistent



iii

I want to lay with you, quiet and still;

our lives, a murmur and hush

in a foreign land



iv

what i see when I sleep:

an island forged from the heat of us

where days are stretched into song



v


you are the color of spring

and i am winter

without your body next to mine









out of meaning and into context


no breath. know what to say and know

exactly how to say it. they are the same

they are different. look how late it gets

when we are unafraid. two sleepy people

by dawn's early light, too much in love

to say goodnight. out of cigarettes but

just enough time. just enough.

































patient haiku


patience is a blunt instrument, a crude

tool and a coping mechanism, not a virtue


light falls from the tree

into your hand;

a bird sings


it quite often produces empty pockets

and heavy hearts. we don't want


caterpillar bakes in the sun,

one drop of rain falls;

a cock crows


to believe that it is not going to pay off.

now. and eventually. and with you




















Love song at 78 RPM’s

the whirr
of a turntable,
the scratch,
pop and click
as needle
hits groove;
the hushed
snap
of a bra,
a not quite
stolen kiss,
the end
of side one.
impatient
palms, sweaty
on black edges,
side two;
the wet shhh
of a beer, shallow
breaths in time
with the music.
a smile, traced
with a finger,
lips brush
against the curve
of a shoulder.





















we are dancing, there is no music

we’re fireproof, armed and ready

for anything







































bedtime story


When she was five her mother told her

a tale of an angel who fell to earth, landed

in a quarry and fell in love with a mortal.

She asked him to bind her wings tight against

her back, tried unsuccessfully to fit into his

world. When he died she found herself unable

to fly back to heaven so she threw herself into

a slab of marble and waits for god to split it

in two to be reunited with him.




…keep feeling like I want to slow down but that is a tinny recording

in my mind, a worn out cassette tape of a default recording

because I don't feel overwhelmed anymore.

It is just easy and brilliant

and right

to keep rolling with everything…























indecision, distractions & escape hatches

side one


for us the other shoe dropping is just another step

along the way. it will happen. i'm not afraid of it.

i got mad skills when the other shoe drops,

been through it enough times

and can usually navigate through it.




side two


here we are, out of time,
holding hands & yawning,
look how late it gets

when no one is looking





bonus track



right now, time.


place, eventually.












Ex Po Nen Tial

Growth { You2 x me2 = us2 }



Words that come to my mind:

equals and opposites, ciphers,

process, code, both/and, either/or,

closed loop, iteration, tandem,

momentum, reactions.

It is for this moment

and

lifetimes in the making,

there is me here and you there

and yet

we are here now; together.

There is what we want, yet can't always have,

but still want. There is desire and patience

that does not fulfill it but helps to endure it.

There is discipline, its rewards,

a feeling of being yours, and you

are mine, and yet nothing

could be farther from the truth.

We enjoy it, we want each other

and we know wanting is conditional

upon what actions are possible;

and what is known so far.












on words inexpressible



I need to tell you this

not just leave it unsaid,

even though it cannot really be said: I can feel myself expanding

to include you and wasn't sure what to do

with all of that extra space;

thank you for being the answer to that question,

and for bringing your own space with you.



…we learn the plural of “I” can be twice as lonely but not as likely to forget

how to calculate the circumference of fidelity.





























an unwritten love poem



vi

if you should ever leave our bed

i would forget how to dream

my heart would be air mixed with dust




vii

it’s fall; when sunsets

are measured in bare limbs

and the names of ones we’ve lost



viii

your lips are enough, your breath

on my neck is enough; the sky is held

hostage by the wind



ix

a bird flies a straight line

to the horizon; my fingers touch

the perfect round of your breast



x

the stars are aloof, unapologetic;

you take me inside you, at last

night is quiet and still








our favorite morning songs


Begin slow. Begin with you. Begin with us,

they sound orange, sound like the green

of your eyes. They build. They remember

questions we have yet to ask. They flow one

into two and back to one. They are the ever so

faint, familiar movements under clean white

sheets. Our songs end slow. End with you

end with us.
























OK, better lock grandpa up in his closet for a while so he doesn’t go getting any ideas while we’re reading a couple of poets from the next anthology, Passionate Hearts: The Poetry of Sexual Love. The book was published in 1996 by New World Library.

Be sure and let me out when you finish reading.



The first poem is by Gary Soto, one of my favorites, used here often.

Soto was born in California, in 1952, to working-class Mexican-American parents. At a young age, he worked in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley and was not academically motivated. Later, he became interested in poetry during his high school years.

He attended Fresno City college and California State University at Fresno while working toward an undergraduate degree, and later studied poetry at the University of California, Irvine, where he earned his MFA in 1976.

In addition to his poetry, he has written three novels, Amnesia in a Republican County in 2003, Poetry Lover in 2001, and Nickel and Dime in 2000; a memoir Living Up the Street in 1985, for which he received the Before Columbus 1985 American Book Award; numerous young adult and children's books; and edited three anthologies.


The Trees That Change Our Lives

When I was twenty I walked past
The lady I would marry -
Cross-legged on the porch,
She was cracking walnuts
with a hammer, a jar
At her side. I had come
From the store, swinging
A carton of cold beers,
And when I looked she smiled.
And that was all, until
I came back, flushed,
Glowing like a lantern
Against a backdrop
Of silly one-liners -
Cute-face, peaches, baby-lips -

We talked rain, cats,
About rain on cats,
And later went inside
For a sandwich, a glass
of milk, sweets.
Still later, a month later,
We were going at one
Another on the couch, bed,
In the bathtub
And its backwash of bubbles,
Snapping. So it went,
And how strangely: the walnut
Tree had dropped its hard
Fruit, and they, in turn,
Were dropped into a paper
Bag, a jar, then into
the dough that was twisted
Into bread for the love
Of my mouth, so
It might keep talking.


Next, a poem by Molly Peacock, an American-Canadian poet, essayist and creative nonfiction. Born in 1947, She has published six collections of poetry and is widely anthologized. Her work is included in The Best of the Best American Poetry and The Oxford Book of American Poetry, as well as in leading literary journals such as the Times Literary Supplement, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review.


The Surge

Maybe it is the shyness of the pride
he has when he puts my hand down to feel
the hardness of his cock I hadn’t tried

by any conscious gesture to raise,
yet it rose for my soft presence in the bed:
there was nothing I did to earn its praise

but be alive next to it. Maybe it is
the softness of want beneath his delight
at his body going on without his...

his will, really, his instructions...that
surge inside me as a sort of surrender
to the fact that I am, that I was made, that

there is nothing I need do to please but be.
To do nothing but be, and thus be wanted:
so, this is love. Look what is happening, he says as he

watches my hand draw out what it did not raise,
purpled in sleep. The surge inside me must
come from inside me, where the world lies,

just as the prick stiffened to amaze us
came from a rising inside him. the blessing
we feel is knowing that out there is nothing.
The world inside us has come to praise us.









It seems most people see the beach as a bright, fun-filled place, with girls in bikinis and children building sandcastles.

Not me. To me, a beach is a dark and foreboding place, seen in truth on a cold, wet winter day.



i prefer a beach in winter

i prefer a beach
in winter

when there is
a gray
desolation to it

that fits
the loneliness
of the sea...

i used to spend
cold nights
on the beach

listening to the
basso rumble of
the tide,

cast ashore
then pulled back,
prisoner

to the deep
darkness of souls
lost

for millennia,
lost
beneath the waves,

mourned
then forgot
forever

lost...

not a sailorman, i -
i swim
in more shallow seas

but i know i too
will someday be lost
beneath the waves

of life passing by -
mourned
then forgot









Here are several short pieces from In the Trail of the Wind - American Indian Poems and Ritual Orations. The book was published originally in 1971 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. My copy is from the third printing in 1990. Various translators were used, many from years ago. Most are not credited.

My selections this week are from the section of the book on the subject of “Home.”



The first poem is from the Aztec.


Grandeur of Mexico

Extended lies the city, lies Mexico, spreading circles of emerald
    light, radiating splendor like a quetzal plume.
Beside her the boats of the war chiefs come and go. A flower-
    mist spreads out above the people.
O author of life, your house is here! Our father, here you reign!
    Your song is heard on earth; it spreads among the people.
Behold Mexico, palace of the white willows, palace of the white
    sedges!
And you, like a blue heron, above her you open your wings; you
    come to her flying. Beautifully you open your wings and
    your fantail.
These are your subjects, they who rule throughout the land,
    everywhere!


The next is from the Makah people. I’ve used it before but I like it so much, here it is again. What a fine thing to say about yourself and your people.


Song

Mine is a proud village, such as it is.
We are at our best when dancing.


This piece is from the Quiche.


The Face of My Mountains

My voice speaks out
to your lips,
to your face:
give me thirteen times twenty days,
thirteen times twenty nights,
to bid farewell
to the face of my mountains,
the face of my valleys,
where once I roamed
to the four world-ends,
the four world-quarters,
seeking and finding
to feed me
and live.


And finally, this one from the Eskimo.


The Lands Around My Dwelling

The lands around my dwelling
Are more beautiful
From the day
When it is given me to see
Faces I have never seen before.
All is more beautiful,
All is more beautiful,
And life is thankfulness.
These guests of mine
Make my house grand.









It’s not always cold on the coast. Some days, a hard norther might blow in across the plains and and give you a few lessons about what cold is.



when winter finally came

when winter finally came
that year,
it came hard,
like a great white bear
from the furtherest northern night

sweeping
with cold ferocity
across the Leguna Madre,
swirling arctic mists
over fishing camps

and salt flats
and shallow inlets
that run along the coast
from Matagorda Island
to Mansfield Bay,

bringing snow
to deep South Texas
dusting cactus
set to bloom, covering
mesquite and yellow huisache,
covering coastal prairie grasses...

cattle
turned their back to the wind
and huddled close
for the warmth of their own
steaming breath while

snakes curled tighter in their dens
and hawks circled
in the frigid air, circling,
watching for prey
slowed by unaccustomed cold...

in the city,
salty foam froze
on seawall steps,
a treacherous glaze of ice
green in the muted light

people,
thin-blooded summer people,
huddled together like the cattle,
seeking warm companionship
on such a cold, unusual day

already
talking about the day
the tide froze
in Corpus Christi Bay









I have a number of anthologies of Native American poetry, modern and traditional. Never mentioned in any of them are Hawaiian-American poets and poetry. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.

I was lucky to meet, via the Blueline’s House of 30, ‘Ilima Stern, a Hawaiian-American living, still, in Hawaii. ‘Ilima teaches and performs both traditional Hula and chants, as well as creating her own pieces to honor or celebrate events in her life.

Learning more from her than I ever knew about Hula and accompanying chant (not so hard, since I knew nothing) , she recommended a couple of books, including the one I’m using this week, The Echo of Our Song, Chants & Poems of the Hawaiians, published in 1973 by the University Press of Hawaii.

The book includes both modern and traditional pieces in Hawaiian and in translation by Mark K. Pukui and Alfons L. Korn.

If no author of the poem/chant is not shown it is because the poet was not named in the book.


Bill the Ice Skater

Bill’s home again.
Now he’s an ice skater.
Back from his seafaring,
when Bill opens his mouth
the words come a-tumbling -
you never heard such jargon!

“Mi no hao!” says Bill.

everything jibber-jabber,
jabber-jibber,
pell mell!

This is my song about
Bill the ice skater


The next poem needs some background.

In the mid-1850s, during the reign of Kamehameha Iv and Queen Emma, many Hawaiians laborers were taken to various tiny islands of Micronesia to dig guano for sea captains and traders operating out of Honolulu. This chant, dedicated to Queen Emma, was composed by one of the poet-laborers among the guano-digging crews.


Song of the Workers on Howland Island

There is beauty here on Pua-ka-’ilima,
island-flower of the western sea

but the Kona wind blowing inland
strips every leaf and tree.

Along the ridge a sea eagle soars
calling, “come, come back to Hawai’i and me.”

Now let me walk with my love
in quiet contentment, alone with my diamond ring.

I go to her soon.

Here’s a song for my Queen,
Emalani is her name.









Sometimes we get caught up in nostalgia, imaging things were better in the past.

Sometimes things were better in the past.



things i did not see today

the beach
on Mustang Island

is dirty
until swept in the morning,

sea weed
and some kind of yellow

plastic cord brought in
and left by high tide...

remembering
cleaner beaches when

i was a child,
when South Padre

was still wild, before
the causeway,

when we went to
Boca Chica Beach instead,

a few miles east
of Brownsville

at the sandy, slow-chewing mouth
of the Rio Grande,

where shells
glittered like diamonds on the beach

in moonlight
and giant conch shells

pushed in by waves
up and down the beach,

and rough fishing camps
built on the sand

by vacation-bearded men,
canvas on bamboo poles

stiff canvas stretched over cooking pots
and bed rolls on army cots,

flaps snapping and popping
in the wind-

and on the other side of the river’s
flow to the Gulf,

Washington Beach
in Mexico

where we matched a fisherman
pull a six foot shark

out of the surf,
the shark lying, gasping,

it’s long gray bulk
dying on the beach,

sea monster brought low
by four strong arms and a cane pole...

the sun seemed brighter then,
the surf higher,

the sand cleaner
and whiter than now -

a sign, perhaps,
of a fortunate life

when days past
seem so much more

alive to us
than days present,

good memories
of a fortunate life...

clean white beaches, tiny
shells like diamonds in the surf...

things i did not see today









As my last anthology for the week, I picked Crossing Water - Contemporary Poetry of the English-Speaking Caribbean. The book was published by the Greenfield Review Press in 1992.



I have two poets from the anthology. The first is McDonald Dash, a journalist in his native Guyana for thirty-five years before migrating to the United States in 1988. Living in New York, he is a regular contributor to the Guyanese literary magazine, Kyk-Over-Al, a watercolorist and designer.


In the Final Analysis

In the final analysis
When the chill
clutches your bones
in an almost everlasting lock
you want to come home
More than badly
to the sundrenched streets

Wind
Hard wind
cutting through
the wintry armaments
and the thought tortures you
Of a pleasant promenade on the
old dutch wall

Cold
Forever cold
counting the calendar days
to blushing spring
And memories return of the fire
In the hibiscus
On your hedge of dreams

White days    white nights
On the boulevards
Of winter infinite
And musing of sunset’s
scarlet splash
Beyond the lowering river

Rains
Leadheavy with
interminable stones
of depression
Straying back to a pleasant
picnic in the deep woods of Kayuka

I am Tropic’s child
lost and away in an
iceberg cloister
slipping betimes on the icy
underfoot; looking at the
bag ladies select their ration
From a breadheap on the sidewalk
And then, sequester themselves in
some nook, subterranean

And then I think
of the freedom the sun has
offered me
to stand polestraight
And use my handkerchief

In the final analysis
When the chill clutches your bones
The sun
Always gets in your eyes

There are still so many days
to gushing spring
with its promise of greens and
blues
Yellows and rainbows

I am Tropic’s child
In the final analysis
It is time
to go home
to my sundrenched streets


Next, I have poet Edward Baugh. Born in Jamaica in 1936, he is a professor of English at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. His first collection of poems, A Tale from the Rainforest, was published in 1988.


Nigger Sweat

    ”Please have your passport and all documents out
    and ready for your interview. Kindly keep them dry.”
    - (Notice in waiting-room, U.S.Embassy, Visa Section,
    Kingston, 1983)


No disrespect, mi boss,
just honest nigger sweat;
well almost, for is true
some of we trying to fool you
so we can lose weself
on the Big R ranch
to find a little life;
but, boss, is hard times
make it, and not because
black people born wutliss:
so, boss, because this nigger sweat.
And I know that you know it
as well as me,
this river running through history
this historical fact, this sweat
that put the aroma
in your choice Virginia
that sweeten the cane
and make the cotton shine;
and sometimes I dream a nightmare dream
that the river rising, rising
and swelling the sea and I see
you choking and drowning
in a sea of black man sweat
and I wake up shaking
with shame and remorse
for my mother did teach me,
Child, don’t study revenge.
Don’t think we not grateful, boss,
how you cool down the place for we comfort,
but the line shuffle forward
one step at a time
and Big Fraid hold we,
and the cool-cut, crew-cut Marine boy
wid him ice-blue eye and him walkie-talkie
dissa walk through the place and pretend
him no see we.
But a bring me handkerchief,
mi mother did bring me up right,
and,God willing, I keeping things cool
till we meet face to face,
and a promise you, boss,
if I get through I gone,
gone from this bruk-spirit, kiss-me-arse place.









Enough of all this beach stuff. This poem is about little rain on a sunny day, not a bad thing.



a chance meeting in the rain

i have taken this
summer

to taking
a few minutes of sun

every day in a private
corner of my backyard,

an attempt to resolve
the old man’s lily-white-ass

syndrome which has afflicted
me for some time now,

making me look
in light of the dark

tanliness
of the rest of my body

like a one-striped zebra
in a freak show zoo -

and, even though
this condition, i expect, will remain

a secret
between me and my wife and the three or four

people who read my poems,
it is unpleasant in my own mind

to think of myself
as a one-striped zebra

in a freak show zoo -
all of this by of explanation

for why, yesterday,
i was lying naked in the grass

when my sun-time
was interrupted by a dark cloud

from which began to issue
large and persistent rain

d
ro
ps

which
under, under normal circumstances,

would have sent me
high-tailing it, or, in my case,

lily-white-tailing it for cover,
but i did not do that, having

read just that very morning
two of my favorite poets

singing in praise of rain
and it’s natural power of renewal -

so,
instead of lily-white-tailing it

i stayed on my little blanket
on the grass

getting gloriously wet
and meeting, as i soaked,

a hummingbird,
perched on a blossom

mere inches from my nose,
wings at rest,

long thin bill held up to the rain,
enjoying, like me, nature's cleansing -

hello,
tiny bird, i thought,

we must keep meeting
like this









Enough. I have to go finish getting the sand out of my shorts.

Until that task is done and “Here and Now” returns next week, consider that everything here belongs to it’s creators. As is always the case, my stuff is available if you promise to properly credit to “Here and Now” and me.

I am allen itz and I am owner and producer of this blog as well as a dedicated oil tar scraper when the need arises.

1 Comments:
at 3:41 PM Anonymous Nancy Lazar said...

Allen- Really enjoyed your photographs of the shore. You have a great eye for foreboding calm, something the ocean always shows me too.

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