Zulabula Land   Friday, October 15, 2010


V.10.4.




My featured poet this week is Doug Knowlton. Doug, who is from Florida, describes himself this way:

"...formerly four or five different personas, most recently a bookstore owner in Bradenton, Florida’s Village of the Arts. The store is in a short sale process with the bank, we hope to see an approval and closing in November, and get out still wearing clothing. At this stage, I would gladly stay home, garden and landscape, read and write --- but one must hold up their end, so I spend way too many hours a week in the fluorescent glare of a Wal-Mart Electronics Dept."

I have a lot of sympathy for Doug, having last year got rid of an investment property at a significant loss, though getting rid of it all seemed like a win to me.

Doug's poems this week are from a book project he's calling 80/40. The idea of the book was to collect a couple poems he'd stashed away from every year since 1969. The book is now in final edit and almost ready to go to print. His previous chapbooks, In The Bag, Thirteen Spiral Stairs, Anything Else Ever, and Ash Scattering, are now combined in The Native Hue of Resolution and can be accessed at http://tvbpoetree.blogspot.com.

I made up way more pictures last week then needed, so, since i like them, even the ones i didn't use, I'm using them this week.


From the T’ang Dynasty
10 T’ang poems

Me
leading indicators

Pat Califia
Bring Me Out
Domestic Bliss
For the Young Men


Me
wrong-doing

Richard Wilbur
To a Comedian

Andrei Voznesensky
An Arrow in the Wall
Dead Still


Me
roadside attractions - mid-october

Carl Phillips
A Mathematics of Breathing

Doug Knowlton
Bar Crawl Epiphanies
Pit Voice
Bar Crawl Epiphanies, Slight Return


Claire Kageykama-Ramakrishnan
Butterwort
Dying


Me
bless these peas

Wang Wei
A White Turtle Under a Waterfall

Al Zolynas
Zen of Housework

Walt Whitman
By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame

Po Chu-I
The Philosophers - Lao-Tzu

Bronislaw Maj
A Leaf

Me
the american way

Frank Pool
Depth of Field

Me
moo

James Laughlin
The Voyeur
Passport Size Will Do
At the Post Office
Heart Island
Carrots
The Happy Poets
The Gift
In Scandinavia
You’re Trouble
Waiting
I Suppose
Death Lurches Toward Me


Me
zulabula land









I start this week with a few poems from the anthology 300 T'ang Poems, the poems so named because they come from the period of the T'ang dynasty in China. The T'ang period, running nearly 300 years from 618 to 907, is considered the golden age of Chinese poetry. The book, published by The Far East Book Co. in 1973, includes the poems presented in both English and Chinese text on the same page and 40 black and white illustrations by Chiang Yee. Though many of the poems have been previously translated, some many times, all the poems were newly translated for the anthology by Innes Herdan.

I include at the end of each poem the name of its author. Because there are many, you should google the poets for more information if you wish to know more about them.



The Coat With the Gold Threads

I warn you - cherish not your gold-threaded coat;
I warn you - cherish rather the days of your youth!
When the flower blooms, ready for picking,
            pick it you must:
Don't wait till the flower fails
            and pick a bare twig!

    Tu Ch'iu-niang


Passing the Frontier

In the far distance the Yellow river
        climbs to the white clouds;
A lone town is perched in the mountains,
        many thousand feet high.
Why should a Tartar pipe
        mourn for willow trees?
Spring wind seldom crosses
        Yu-men pass.

Wang Chih-huan


Complaint in the Palace of Loyalty

She takes her broom at dawn to await
    the openintg of the Golden Palace;
To pass the time she strolls about
    dandling a round fan.
A jade-like face is not so fortunate
    as a wintry crow's
That can catch the sunlight
    in the Court of the Bright sun!

Wang Ch'ang-ling


Autumn Night

The moon's org just rising, a sprinkling of autumn dew,
The light silk dress too thin, but he will not change it.
All night long she plays diligently
            on her silver-chased harpischord:
Afraid of the empty room, she cannot bear to go in.

Wang Wei


Song of Wei City

In the Wei city morning rain
    has drenched the light dust;
Green, green the young leaves of the willows
    beside the inn.
Let me persuade you - empty one more wine cup:
There are no friends where you are going
    west of Yang pass!

Wang Wei


For Someone

Parted, but my dream still lingers
    at the House of Hsieh,
On a little porch
    bordered with zig-zag railings.
Only the spring moon on that courtyard
    is full of passion,
Still shining on the fallen petals
    when I am gone.

Chang Pi


Song of Lung-Hsi

They vowed to crush the Hsiung-nu,
        holding their lives light:
Five thousand in sable battle-dress
        died in the foreign dust.
How pitiful that the bones lying
        byu Wu-ting riverside
Are still the lovers of
        many a woman's dream!

Ch'en T'ao


Impressions of Chin-Ling

The Six Dynasties are gone like a dream
        leaving birds vainly crying;
Rain falls drizzling on the river
        and on the level sledges.
Most heartless are the willows
        by Chin-ling palace walls -
A green veil as of old
        along the three-mile dyke.

Wei Chuang


Complaint of a Jade Lute

On the cool bamboo mat of a silver bed
    the dreams won't come...
The deep green of the sky is like water
    afloat with night mist.
The honking of geese fades into the distance
    as they make for the Hsiao and Hsiang;
the moon shines full
    on the twelve-story pagoda.

Wen T'ing-yun


Ch'ang-O

Candles burn low behind a mother-of-pearl screen,
The Milky Way is sinking, the morning stars drown.
Ch'ang-O must regret having stolen the mystic drug
As she broods night after night
        beneath the emerald sea and the blue sky.








I love this time of the year, so it doesn't take much to get me excited about the new day.



leading indicators

the morning’s
leading indicators

lead me to believe
it’s gona be

a pretty darn
good day...

bird poop
on my car

minimal;

dead skunks
in my driveway

zero,
with futures down;

my coffee
had no bugs in it

and breakfast,
though i haven’t had it

yet,
is promising;

and i have this great
poem idea

even now
forming in the further

caverns
of my subconscious,

ready
any time now

to complete its formulations
and leap to the outer regions

of my laguuna maglattata
where poetically auspicious

smoke
forms into words in the sky

exposed
for transcription...

a pretty darn good
smiley face in the sky

day coming -
i can feel it just waiting to

pop








I have a book, Diesel Fuel - Passionate Poetry by Pat Califia that I like but that I have to be careful of when using its poems on "Here and Now" because, knowing many of my readers, I know Califia, in all her direct, profane, sexually explicit glory, goes well past where they're willing to go. So it's always a highly calibrated decision between what I like and what is "safe" for use here.

One of these days, i'll forget safe, In the meantime, these poems meet both criteria.



Bring Me Out

This is not a rehearsal, and
I don't know what to do next.

You were there
Before I touched you.
I am not painting you.
This is not a painting.

Put you hand on me
Wherever it suits you.
I am not a violin.


Domestic Bliss

A love affair is something to survive.
This is a relationship -
Something to keep tidy.

So my love for you reveals itself
In my exceptionally thorough grocery lists
And I know how much you love me when
You scrub out the shower
Two weeks in a row.

I am a romantic janitor,
Performing constant maintenance
Upon my happiness.

Give me a kiss.
I just took our the trash
And swept the sidewalk.


For the Young Men

Lusty young men
Who ascend to your whitebread
Father.

He will wring you out
In a cloud-colored bowl
Riddled with holes
The size of rain.

This bowl is above the ocean.
You will make liquor for fish.

The Woman who made that bowl,
She with yellow hair
Rippling like corn
(It has blinded the wind
and the wind will hide nowhere else) -

She would have killed you
By wrapping you around
Her little finger.

The fish are already
Drunk in Her name.








A comment by another poet regarding one of my poems led me to this piece.



wrong-doing

i am told
buddhists have no sense

of sin
and i wonder how a person can be human

if unable to recognize
the wrong-doing to which

we are, by our nature,
inclined,

unless they are saying
that a true buddhist surpasses

the human
and is no longer prone to human failure...

christians have such
a person

and they call him
christ

and i don't believe
either the christians or the buddhists

because i know that though
i am not the best of all there is

i am as good as most
and i have wrong-done in my life

and will no doubt wrong-do
again

and it is my sorrow at this sad
certainty

that makes me a better human
than either the true buddhist or christ

and unlike christ
or the true buddhist

a true and better human
is all i hope someday to be







Next, I have several poems from Collected Poems 1943 - 2004 published by Harcourt. The book is a collection of original poems and translations by Richard Wilbur.

Wilbur, who lives in Massachusetts and Florida, depending on the season, has won many honors for both his original work and his translations. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States. Other honors include a National Book Award, two Pulitzer Prizes and the Bollingen Translation Prize.

First, this short poem by Wilbur.


To a Comedian

You stand up for the interests of folk
Who need a bedroom or a bathroom joke,
Told with a drumfire of such words as shit,
To jog their jaded spirits for a bit.
It pays, you find, to give them what they're after.
You are the clown who put the ugh in laughter.


And now, two of his translations of Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky.

Voznesensky, who lived from 1933 to early this summer, was one of the "Children of the '60s," a new wave of iconic Russian intellectuals who found new, and often temporary, artistic freedom during Nikita Khrushchev's later rule.

Voznesensky was considered "one of the most daring writers of the Soviet era" but his style often led to regular criticism from his contemporaries and he was once threatened with expulsion He performed poetry readings in front of sold-out stadiums around the world. His long-serving mentor and muse was Boris Pasternak.


An Arrow in the Wall

You'd look right with a wolf from Tambov
For sidekick and friend,
As you tear my Punjabi bow
Down from the wall, and bend it.

Your hand pulls back from the shoulder
As if measuring cloth by the yard;
The arrow pants, and is eager,
Like a nipple extended and hard.

And now, with what feminine fury,
Into the wall it goes -
All the walls of the snug and secure.
There's a woman in that, God knows!

In towers of skeletal steel, - an arrow!
In pomposities one and all.
Who says it's the electronic era?
There's an arrow in the wall!

Burn, privilege and power!
There's an arrow in the wall.
Soon, in a drained and lonely hour,
Your tears will all.

But dark now, double dark,
Over rich embrasures which crawl
With elaborate moldings, your stark
Arrow is in the wall.

All right, you cheeky blonde,
Checkmate me, and I'll say
"Oh, you Olympian!," thinking fondly
Of how your belly-dimples play.

"You Scythian," I shall add, "you shrew..."
And you'll say, "To hell with you..."

*****

Release, O rawhide bowstring,
The stillest arrow, a dart
So incredibly hushed, one might suppose
And angel was departing.

In public, we're barely friends,
But for ears it's been going on:
Ben ath my high-rise window
Dark waters run.

A deep stream of love,
A bright rapids of sorrow.
A high wall of forgiveness.
And pain's clean, piercing arrow.


Dead Still

Now, with your palms on the blades of my shoulders,
Let us embrace:
Let there be only your lips' breath on my face,
Only, behind ou backs, the plunge of rollers.

Our backs, which like two shells in moonlight shine,
Are shut behind us now:
We lie here huddled, listening brow to brow,
Like life's twin formula or double sign

In folly's world-wide wind
Our shoulders shield from the weather
The calm we now beget together,
Like a flame held between hand and hand.

Does each cell have a soul within it?
If so, fling open all your little doors,
And all your souls shall flutter like the linnet
In the cages of my pores.

Nothing is hidden that shall not be known.
Yet by no storm of scorn shall we
Be pried from this embrace, and left alone
Like muted shells forgetful of the sea.

Meanwhile, O load of stress and bother,
Lie on the shells of our backs in a great heap!
It will but press us closer, one to the other.

We are asleep.








A Monday morning poem, a kick-start to the week. And I usually need a kick Monday morning.



roadside attractions - mid-october

7 pretty young
women

in skimpy halloween
costume

at the restaurant
door

at 6 a.m.
leaning on one another,

laughing, flashing shapely parts,
ready for post-festivities breakfast -

pretty witches
after an all-night prowl,

reminding me

i never get invited
to the good parties

anymore

~~

i take a look
at People magazine

every couple of weeks,
proud to stay up-to-date on

the whip and whirl
of popular culture, feeling

an obligation
as a poet and commentator

to be in-the-know
on the world all about,

finding, instead,
this morning

that i don’t have a clue
and the only names i recognize

are dead
or on the way there

~~

I heard the guy
order,

big guy, tough
looking,

like a let’s go out
toss the old pigskin

around guy,
maybe run some patterns

guy -
white chocolate

something
he says,

quad something,
no foam,

70 degrees -

i’ve bought houses
with less stringent requirements

than that...

what’s wrong with
a good old cup a’ joe -

worked for me for
66 years now

and i don’t ever
even want to throw

the old pigskin
around

~~

religiosos barbosos
arrive,

late,
i’m already ready to go,

can’t stay to listen in,
but it might be good since

the tall one, the one who looks like
an episcopalian bishop

is back, been gone all summer,
probably off in an african jungle

looking for livingston
or something else equally episcopalian -

their regular table next to mine
is taken

so they’re sitting all the way across
the room

so i wouldn’t be able to hear them
even if i stayed -

too bad,
but someone needs to tell them

when the shepherds stay slug-a-bed
the sheep go their own way and

late with the word
is the same as no word at all

~~

first red shadows of sunrise
bath the soft green hill across the way -

the day
part of the day beginning

the night part
winding down - as i become

more and more
a habitué of the dark

i feel my day slipping away
even as it begins

for everyone else








Next, I have a poem by Carl Phillips, from his book Cortege published in 1995 by Graywolf Press.

Born in 1959, Phillips has published numerous books of poetry and won many awards for his work, including the 2006 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Pushcart Prize, the Academy of American Poets Prize, induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Library of Congress. He is Professor of English and of African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also teaches in the Creative Writing Program.



A Mathematics of Breathing

    I
Think of any of several arched
colonnades to a cathedral,

how the arches
like fountains, say,

or certain limits in calculus,
when put to the graph paper's crosstrees,

never meet any promised heaven,
instead at their vaulted heights

falling down to the abruptly ending
base of the next column,

smaller, the one smaller
past that, at last

dying, what is
called perspective.

This the way buildings do it.

    II
You have seen them, surely, busy paring
th world down to what it is mostly,

proverb: so many birds in a bush.
Suddenly they take off, and at first

it seems you particular hedge itself
has sighed deeply,

that the birds are what come,
though of course it is just the birds

leaving one space for others.
After they've gone, put your ear to the bush,

listen, there are three sides: the leaves'
releasing of something, your ear where it

finds it, and the air in between, to say
equals. There is maybe a fourth side,

not breathing.

    III
In One Thousand and One Nights,
there are only a thousand,

Scheherazade herself is the last one,
for the moment held back,

for a moment all the odds hang even.
The stories she tells she tells mostly

to win another night of watching the prince
drift into a deep sleeping beside her,

the chance to touch one more time
his limbs, going,

gone soft already with dreaming.
When she tells her own story,

Breathe in,
breathe out


is how it starts.








Here are three poems from this week's featured poet, Doug Knowlton.



Bar Crawl Epiphanies

Paying attention.
Bar sounds.
Shrill voice, low voice,
some above human range
others below a whisper.
There are crystals of chocolate
sugar around the edge
of a coffee glass, no one is thinking hard
or planning for the future
or looking for work
it seems we're all about
finding something on the edge
of life. There are times
the surety of homing
creates a yearning. Conversation
soars, drifts, deepens
pauses
leaps to laughter
and this pen has its own
space. Unencumbered,
serene. Singular as an island. Then,
Robin, Ed, Vinny, and Geoff are all instant friends.
What are you writing there? asks Robin.
Oh yeah, you’re the writer, the
teacher, that’s right, a teacher,
disillusioned with something, yeah---she slurs
into a third glass of wine, remembering
her own version of a conversation on these same stools
last holiday. Up on the monitor
the three leaders of the Tour de France
thread the lead through the curves
like pelicans on patrol
tires skinning the surface of asphalt
in a countryside on the other side
of the planet. Detachment
is a beautiful
hell. Such affordable distractions
arrive like fortés in the symphonic litanies
found here, beyond the borders
of this neighborhood out at the edge of Eola Heights,
paradise of quasi-ancient houses
someone’s named: historic.
All day long – confined,
as the refractory disease with unnameable etiology
progresses to the physical:
succumbing, surrendering
all those methods of maintaining Calm Mind,
subside. One's safety-belt unhooks, jettisons
reason into a mire of madness
so historic, so end-of-century,
so millennial.


Pit Voice

Everyday there is a poem
begging for limbs
calling from some unscalable,
undescendable, unsoundable pit
in the bedrock of the mine
worn out by the companies
requiring one wear
tie and suit while wielding shovel
and pulling cars of refuse, to dump –
and cover the hole from whence
pit-voice emanates and the soft-moving
sounds of subterreanean streams
which will never be stilled. Everyday,
pit-voice rumbles throw down a rope
from the abyss-with-no-bottom
and a tongue of fire ravages up
through the body, from that
unimaginably spacious hole
within, and speaks. Its residence
a space far from sight
where deeper means larger
where passageways open
to caverns and caverns to
cathedrals and cathedrals
to the true size of inner space.
What you might have if Jules Verne
wrote Journey to the Center of the Soul.


Bar Crawl Epiphanies, Slight Return

Back at the rail,
once chowder
and baked potato
settle solidly
into the emaciated frame
housing the trap-door
soul-hole temporarily enflamed
by well-spirit’s voice, peace,
like a damp torch, sinks deep
enough, spreads
and sits a spell.








Next, from Four Way Books, a not-for-profit publisher from New York, I have two poems by Clqaire Kageykama-Ramakrishnan from her book, Shadow Mountain.

Kageyama-Ramakrishnan was born in Santa Monica and raised in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from Loyola Marymouint University and earned and M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in literature at the University of California at Berkeley. She then earned a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing at the University of Houston. She is a full time instructor at Houston Community College.



Butterwort

Your name lacks eloquence.

Maybe that's why
you, half-human flower,
lure that bee: even the wasp smells
your perfume-like fungus.

Jealous of you,
wisteria climbs the chape['s
nautilus curves and iron bars.
Fierce shrub. Her cone of flowers

tilts with filigree:
lavender, pearl-sized petals.
Scotch broom makes you ugly.
Her slender, yellow pods,

April mop like someone's
tangled dreds.
In this cemetery garden,
a midge lands to nibble

pollen, and you,
wedged between limestone,
snap your sticky rosette
and drink its blood.


Dying

I'll die decades from now,
in the century Two Thousand.

Will people say,
You look terrible?

What will I look like?
A white pumpkin? A ginger pickle?

Where will I be -
in the light of a spider chandelier?

Will I recognize the usual voices?
What will contain me? The air

clouds, possibly the moon?
Will my bones turn blue underground,

or will there be men and women
picking them out of ashes?

I think about it all the time.








Sometimes it's fun to cut through all the fences and filters that things have go through to get from brain to fingers on a keyboard and just let things flow unimpeded instead. Of course, sometimes that can be a really big mistake. Don't know if this is a mistake or not, but it is what it is. Which is kind of the way I deal with most stuff.



bless these peas

bright bubbles
in a dark stream

white
on this side

going somewhere -
red

on the other
going back, even

this early,
bubble after bubble

coming, going,
starionary-me watching

going somenowhere,
only not so fast,

only here,
at this keyboard,

typing, typing, looking
at the sights,

looking for the sights,
a to z, small finger, left

the universal limit
to the universe of morning

a to z,
small finger, left hand,

pumping, pedaling
in stationary passing

feets
don’t fail me now

pedaling
for the word

always a half-length
ahead,

the word
the word

shall bring us joy

shall make us free

shall -
i don’t know

it’s all a faith thing
to me -

i will find the
words

amen

amen

finito

amen

now i lay me down
to weep

finito-amen

the WORD, man,
that’s the

thing,
the motherfuckin’

buckin’
truckin’

WORD

and though mute
portals

the sun rises

bless these peas

finito
amen







Earlier this week I picked up an anthology, A Book of Luminous Things - An International Anthology of Poetry, put together and edited by Czeslaw Milosz. It must be a couple of hundred poems, ancient to modern, from all over the world, big names and poets I've never heard of.

I've picked several of the poems to use this week. I like very much everything I've read in the book and expect I'll be coming back to it often.



The first poet from the book this week is Chinese master poet Wang Wei, who lived from 701 to 761.

The poem was translated by Tony and Willis Barnstone and Xu Haixin.


A White Turtle Under a Waterfall

The waterfall on South Mountain hits the rocks,
tosses back its foam with terrifying thunder,
blotting out even face-to-face talk.
Collapsing water and bouncing foam soak blue moss,
old moss so thick
it drowns the spring grass.
Animals are hushed.
Birds fly but don't sing
yet a white turtle plays on the pool's sand floor
    under riotous spray,
sliding about with the torrents.
The people of the land are benevolent.
No angling or net fishing.
The white turtle lives out its life, naturally.


The next poem is by Al Zolynas. Born in 1945, Zolynas is a California poet.


Zen of Housework

I look over my own shoulder
down my arms
to where they disappear under water
into hands inside pink rubber gloves
moiling among dinner plates.

My hands lift a wine glass,
holding it by the stem and under the bowl.
It breaks the surface
like a chalice
rising from a medieval lake.

full of the grey wine
of domesticity, the glass floats
to the level of my eyes.
Behind it, through the window
above the sink, the sun, among
a ceremony of sparrows and bare branches
is setting in Western America.

I can see thousands of droplets
of steam - each a tiny spectrum - rising
from my goblet of grey wine.
They sway, changing directions
constantly - like a school of playful fish,
or like the sheer curtain
on the window to another world.
Ah, grey sacrament of the mundane!


Next a short poem by Walt Whitman, America's greatest, if not the world's greatest, poet.


By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame

By the bivouac's fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and
slow - but first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods' dim outline,
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be
stealthily watching me.)
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and wondrous
   thoughts,
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of
those that are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground,
By the bivouac's fitful flame.


Next a poem by Po Chu-I, another Chinese poets from the T'ang period. Although considered to be a Taoist himself, he allowed himself a little malicious fun at the expense of the legendary sage and creator of Taoism, Lao=tzu.

The poem was translated by Arthur Waley


The Philosophers: Lao-Tzu

"Those who speak know nothing:
Those who know are silent."
Those words, I am told,
Were spoken by Lao-tzu,
If we are to believe that Lao-tzu,
    Was himself one who knew.
How comes it that he wrote a book
    Of five thousand words?


My last poem this week from the anthology is by Polish poet Bronislaw Maj. The poem was translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass.


A Leaf

A leaf, one of the last, parts from a maple branch:
it is spinning in the transparent air of October, falls
on a heap of others, stops, fades. No one
admired its entrancing struggle with the wind,
followed its flight, no one will distinguish it now
as it lies among other leaves, no one saw
what I did, I am
the only one.








It's election time, probably not a good one for me and my guys. It almost never is, but you have to keep the faith.



the american way

voted
yesteday -

grapped
all those scuffy

scoundrels
by the scruff of their

necks
and gave’em a good
shaking -

they’re all
gonna win anyway

but they’ll know
they‘ve been shook

and maybe
i’ll get’em next time...

it’s the american way
of politics

and the secret guarantee
of democracy -

knowing how to lose,

knowing that even if you
can’t beat the bastards this time

you can maybe at least give’em
a good
scare...

knowing
you have to
keep the faith,
citizen








Here's a poem from another of my recently acquired books, Depth of Field, by Frank Pool. The book was published by Plainview Press in 2001.

Pool was born in 1953 in Wyoming and grew up in Texas. He graduated from Stephen f. Austin University in 1975. He earned a masters degree in philosophy from the University of Texas in 1982. He began publishing poetry in 1995 including three chapbooks. Since 1998 he has been chairman of the Austin International Poetry Festival and currently teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement English in Austin.



Continental Divide

Sited in the prairie near Folsom, New Mexico,
sixty-thousand-year-old volcanic cone
A national monument, Capulin Volcano,
Te cold summer clouds scudded south
and east, from the continental divide,
Our from Raton Pass, onto the jutting
angle of repose, the mountain, the
Corkscrew road in the blinding gray fog
Locked in against all the time and loss
Of sight. No vision here today.
Whipped gusts into the crater,
amphitheater of unknown gods and thorny
Desert plants. No vision here, dim
Looming presences down the path,
Blown steady, blown water, blown summer
Of the wettest year in memory, blown,
We attacked the summit trail.
A mile, I told you, though one that starts
At eighty-two-hundred feet, and rises
And falls two-hundred more in the loop
Around the rim, and I said, and I said
Again, "let's run, let's run the rim."

        II.

Sometimes it seems
That seeking extremes
Elevates the contours
Of our trails and dreams;
Sun beats, rain pours
From ponchos, in streams
Through unsealed seams
That leave no recourse
But endure, stay the course.
Laugh or curse; there seems
Something that is worse.

        III.

The highest trails and passes on the continent
Give rise to charity. The climber who has measured
Ascent by counting breaths and sips and pauses,
Sits atop Buckskin Pass, and the hiss of the stove
Between his hands sings a duet with the whipping wind.,
The last backpacker lumbers up, unseeing, blinded
With sweat and pain and thumping heart, letting the path
Rule his feet, having to be directed to the summit
and not up some wrong way. The stove and the cup
Of hot tea waited, and the hot metal touched a thumb
and left a tiny, permanent scar, friendship's white flag.
The scarred on and the exhausted one both knew
What was drunk and what was in the brew.

        IV.

Walking the trail whose very name was "Continental Divide,"
going to a window of opportunity in the rain, the rainiest
summer in decades, I saw that if we risked a climb,
Five hundred feet above rose the low end of a ridge
Overlooking the headwaters of the Rio Grande, and camp
We'd labored uphill all of yesterday to find. A trail, shallow
In the scree, and labored breaths, and we zigged and zagged
Up the ridge, where looking out and down at the San Juans,
Took our zigzag break in a crabby brushy brake in the wind,
And gathered wind, for it is nothing but muscle and wind now.
Nothing but will and wind
Nothing but will and wind
Nothing but energy to spend
Nothing but you and your friend
How much land does a man need?
How much land does a man need?
When legs and lungs are his whole creed?
How much land does a man need?
The oxygen I'd like to blow,
I left it in a town, below.

Nothing else to it, but run the ridge, talking rockets and radars
On ridgetops, landing pads and resupply stops,
And holding off the hordes through ballistics and air drops,
Packing the heat to save whatever it would b, that thing
We knew would make us fight.
        But not between ourselves,
Not this day, would make a fight, for we had a slow rising
Ascent to a little peak, the highest we would get that summer.
We walked, and stopped, and drank some water, and you
Talked of conserving strength, and I knew I had to go up
To the top, up a climb of maybe sixty feet. A year before
The path not taken had confined us to sightless valleys.
We had the view now, but there was a rock above to climb.
I could have angled right, for the land was easier here,
But I surveyed the rocks ahead, they looked just right,
Large and sturdy, with enough gaps and handholds in sight.
And put aside my walking stick, canteen, and slowly, testing,
made the climb. You went up the left, the most vertical
Face, I later learned, until you could go no more, no higher.
Cut off by impossible aspirations from the summit. It seemed
To fit, I later thought, the ways the world opens itself to each
Of us. But for now. I climbed cautiously, for nothing was left
But the summit, and right before pulling myself over the top
Shelf, I saws predator scat on the step, a little furry turd,
And somehow it put me in my place. Atop my own mountain,
Avoiding the shit. I found a cairn, took off a stone , and threw
It all the way off the mountain, plunging down and down
A vertical fall. And put two stones back in its place. And found
Something deeper than contentment. And found you, and we
Headed together down to the well-marked trail.

        V.

We talk of battles
We have not fought
Around the campfires.
We have taught
Each other the ways
Of war and peace,
Domestic strife,
And our release,
Of homes afire
A faithless wife,
Or losses that prey
On souls at lay
and scars that show
To friends who know
Rigors of the trails
and sorrows of tales.

        VI.

It is the losses that accumulate in advance of our party,
Losses of money, of women, of loves astray from lawful
Places, or furtive in chastity, or of adultery, or of all
The chafing fires that mark the spots we sit and cook,
And tend the stoves, and pump clean water into pots
That hold something more than food. Each of us has had
Summers of simmering loss, lidded in the low places,
Open briefly to the ultraviolet mountain sunlight.
Standing by a high mountain lake, watching friends
On the boulder talus slope, smoking cigars, thinking
How much easier this year was than last year, how
The heat beats easier with time and altitude, and
How snowcaps evaporate the toxins you have brought
With you this year. A time will come when all is lost,
Scattered, dispersed among the elements in ignorant
Incoherence. By the high waters, loses are loosed
To the brisk and peremptory morning winds.

        VII.

Beyond the limits of the telephone and car
Lie the paths, marked as some kind of metaphor
Made dust, to dust we must return
Once or twice a year, with snowmass looming,
Or the arid Mexican mountains on the horizon
Like an angry gray old god who never comes
Except unbidden and awesome, bringer of dry
Groves by the creekside, with water and wood
Without limit, a mosaic of paradise at the end
of a very hard hump, at the limit of strength
And what friends can be. It is not in the wilderness
That words turn vicious, it is not on the paths
Where civility breaks and buzzes hornets
Stinging tender and protected skin. It is when words
Hurl themselves in column array against the idea,
Against the massless movements of concepts,
Not men walking in single file, but shadows, spirits
Of the times of the age's plights and complaints, and
Utopian nowhere man discontent - these are the
Ugly idols of the cities and the marketplaces.
We march to death in single file. But improbably,
Together. The company compels consideration.

        VIII.

Th ram goes down to the valley
Down the lake far below.
To graze at the edge of snow.
The ram measures the distances
And angles of separation.
The ram shakes his horned head
In arrogant demonstration.

Far from the cities of men
The tents of the walkers arise,
Far from the calls of the kids
And the use and custom of wives.
The ram goes down to the valley;
The men glance up at the sky.
The men come up to the mountains
To measure the heights of their lives.








This next thing started as one poem and ended up another. With luck, there's some kind of transition between the two somewhere in the middle.



moo

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,” the poet howled.

actually,
the best minds of my
generation,
are mostly
dead
or co-opted
old bankers teaching
young bankers
how to rob banks
or like me put out
to graze
in irrelevant pastures...
fading
mothers 
and fathers of revolution
whose children
don't give a flaming
farm-fresh
shit
about the things
we prized
and if it's not
electronic
it's not the tonic
that moves their
hearts and souls,
knowing
more than we suspected
or imagined
but still
lost,
heads
buried in 
tweetable 
versions of
history,
the story of the world
and all mankind
in 140 character
bites,
temptation, too,
to our own
fatigue-fogged spirits,
suckers all of our lives
for some bullshit
or other
(we are where
our children learned
it all after all)
we call the number
on the screen
knowing it will come
direct
now
for a low monthly
slice
of our mind,
consumers all of our lives
to some bullshit
or other
we pay up
and bow to the
intwitterate
forces of the time,
knowing
even as we suck
on the tits
of the goddess
of ends that
it’s aqua buddha
time now, and for us
and our round
queer
buddha
from the ticky-tacky days
time is
past due,
return to sender
days,
do not pass go
do not collect $100
surrender your die
to the person
youngest to you...

chew your cud,
we’re told,
and moo
to the bright morning
moon

we’ll drop by again
when it’s time
to bury
you








For my last library poet this week I have some wonderful short poems by James Laughlin from his book The Secret Room published by New Directions in 1997.

Laughlin, poet and literary book publisher, founded New Directions Publishers. Born in 1914, he died in 1997. Most of the poems in the book were written near the end of his life.

These poems of an old man are so honest and, a word I don't often use outside the realm of chocolate, sweet.



The Voyeur

Pull up your skirt
just an inch or two

above your knees
sit quietly where

I may watch you
from across the room     I am old
and impotent but such

small pleasures can
still give me delight


Passport Size Will Do

I beg you send me your picture
For my album of imaginary conquests
You will be in excellent company
I am not (even in my imagination)
Promiscuous and invite only the best.


At the Post Office

It makes his day when
by happy chance he en-

counters her on his morn-
ing visit to the post office

it's as if a rose had
opened to greet him.


Heart Island

Stop searching stop weeping
she has gone o Heart Island

where the Truth People live
eating fern-shoots and berries

where there is no fighting
no sin no greed no sorrow


Carrots

Little girls in France, even
in the best families, are told
that if they eat carrots
they'll grow up with pink thighs.


The Happy Poets

What's happiness?
It's to lie side
By side in bed
Helping each other
Improve our poems.


The Gift

In the parking
lot pressure of

your body against
mine      iteration of

the dream of love


In Scandinavia

at country dances the
girls tuck he boys'

handkerchiefs in their
armpits and give them

back to be sniffed.


You're Trouble

aren't you asked the pretty
lady with whom I'd been con-

versing at the dinner party
I was trouble when

I was young lots of trouble
but now I'm old and harmless.


Waiting

Patiently Im waiting
For the day when you'll discover
That it was always me
You were waiting for.


I Suppose

the rhetoricians might call this
a variety of the pathetic fallacy

but when we talk on the telephone
I imagine I hear cunt in your voice

the soft swish of honey on silk as
Henry Miller used to describe it.


Death Lurches Toward Me

but the gods do have
some pity     in these

last months the verses
seem a bit less paltry

not quite so garrulous
touches of truth in them.








Crazy people all around. Scares me sometimes.



Zulabula Land

9 a.m.
and i’m heading

for my new coffee
shop

hangout/hidout/den
of occasional creations

of a poetic nature,
one of those presbotarianist

places
where you get a blessing

with each cup of coffee
and an invitation

to donate
to their mission

in zulabula land,
and nice art on the walls

and old furniture
and chairs

upon which a person
of my substantial substance

can find adventure
in intermittent

creaks
and groans -

and
i was driving

to this place of occasional
poetic creation

when two yuppie-puppie
vans

raced right through
a red light

right in front of me
and if i hadn’t slowed down

two blocks earlier
to get a better look at a house

i’m going to buy
after i win the lottery tonight

they’d have creamed me,
as we used to say,

having nothing to do with
cows or milking machines

or haystacks
of sylvan pastures of green,

just plain old run right into me,
left me in a bloody twist

of metal
and flesh formerly known

as me,
pretty bad for the flesh

formerly known as
me

but not so bad
for the wife of the flesh

known as me,
said flesh, worth more

in such mangled and dead
condition

than unmangled
and alive

making it possible
she can move into that house

i was looking at without
counting on lottery winnings,

such are the economics
of life and death

~~

another sign
of the craziness

all about,
these yuppie-puppie

moms
in their yuppie-puppie vans

driving like bonnie and clyde
running from the

pooooolice
after a bank job

i’m telling you
there is no safe place

for us sane people
when yuppie-puppie moms

are driving their yuppie-puppie vans
through a yuppie-puppie neighborhood

like steve mcqueen
chasing bad guys

though the hills
of san francisco

to damn many people
seeing too many movies

they’re not psychologically
prepared for

is what i think
is going on








The poems all belong to the people who created them. You can have mine - just tell where you got them.

i'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog.

The end. Finito, Amen.

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