Impressions   Saturday, November 20, 2010


V.12.1.




It is huge pleasure that I present as my featured poet this week, my friend Teresa White.

And what could I say about Teresa that U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins didn't say better in his review of her book Gardenias for a Beast -

More impressive than Teresa White's light touch on the tragic and her way of keeping her reader pleasurably off-balance is the fact that no word is wasted here. Every morsel of her diction counts. And she knows how to cut a line with unerring accuracy. She is a poet who not just deserves but requires our attention.

She is a straight-on, honest and direct with her readers, poet, the kind of poet I prefer.

And for pictures this week, I have more of my own.

Last week we went to an exhibition of impressionist painters, mostly French and American. I love the light and feel of the impressionist, preferring the French, who invented impressionism, while enjoying the Americans, its earliest adopters, as well.

Sometimes I try for the impressionist magic with my photos, as in the photos this week. Every once in a while I succeed; maybe one in twenty achieving he look and feel I was hoping for. As usual, and for better or worse, I did my best with the ones this week.

Here are my poets for the week.


Wang Wei
Farewell to Xin Jian at Hibiscus Pavilion

Du Fu
Moonlit Night

Li Shanglin
To…

Zhang Keqiu
Sadness in Spring

Me
Grapecreek Road – December 1st

Margaret Atwood
A Woman Makes Peace with Her Faulty Heart

Me
the end as we come to know it

Uvavnuk
Moved

Walt Whitman
from Song of Myself

Frances Horovitz
Walking in Autumn

Me
like a coastal morning

Deborah Digges
The Way Into Stone

Me
the night not so encompassing

Nila northSun
they just fade away
Stories from the Res.
barrel-racer cowboy chaser
something about cows
hunter

Me
5 birds

David Meltzer
Notes for Asaph
17:11;82


Teresa White
Grocery Shopping with Anita
Joy Ride
The Price
Dead Zone
History Lesson at 2 a.m.


Michael Van Walleghen
Fishing With Children

Me
and a happy Thanksgiving to you as well

Bernice Zamora
Restless Serpents
Denizens
El Burrito Café
Situation
State Street
41 Trinkets
So Not to be Mottled
Pueblo Winter


Me
a norther blows in

Paul Guest
Elegiac Forecast

Me
Twit About Town

Thomas Crofts
The Workplace a Cruel Taskmaster

Me
I don’t care what Perry Como says, I don’t want no damn figgy pudding

Bobby Byrd
from Hospice Poems, poems written in memory of the poet's friend, Steve Sprague

Me
naked-rolling, parts-rubbing










I start this week with several poems from Chinese Love Poetry, published in 2004 by Barnes & Noble by arrangement with the British Museum Press. It is a beautiful book, slick paper and beautiful art by ancient and modern Chinese artist.

The translator, or translators, of the poems are not credited in the book.


The first poem is by the master, Wang Wei, painter, calligrapher, musician and poet of the early Tang dynasty. Wang was born in the year 699 and died in 759.


Farewell to Xin Jian at Hibiscus Pavilion

A cold rain mingled with the river
    at evening when I entered Wu;
In the clear dawn I bid you farewell,
    lonely as Chu mountain.
My kinsfolk in Luoyang,
    should they ask about me,
Tell them: "My heart is a piece of ice
    in a jade cup!"


The Next poem is by Du Fu who lived from 712 to 770, the period of the Tang dynasty greatest ascendancy.



Moonlit Night

There will be moon tonight
    over Fuzhou.
In the woment's rooms
    she is gazing at it alone.
From afar,
    I pity my little children:
They do not know yet
    about Ch'ang-an.
In the sweet mists
    her cloud-like hair is damp;
In the clear shining
    her jade-white arms are cold.
When shall we two lean beside
    the filmy curtain
With moonlight on us both
    and the tear-stains dry?


Li Shangyin who lived from 813 to 858, was a poet of the later Tang dynasty, known for the ambiguity of his meaning and the beauty of him imagery.


To...

Hard it was to see each other -
    harder still to part!
The east wind has no force.
    the hundred flowers wither.
The silkworm dies in spring
    when her thread is spun;
The candle dries its tears
    only when burnt to the end.

Grief at the morning mirror -
    cloud-like hair must change;
Verses hummed at night,
    feeling the chill of moonlight...
Yet from here to Paradise
    the way is not so far:
Helpful bluebird,
    bring me news of her!


My last poem from the book this week was written by Zhang Keqiu, a poet of the Mongol Yuan dynasty who lived from about 1279 to 1368. He was a native of the Zhejiang province in southeast
China.


Sadness in Spring

Awake from
Morning dreams,
Make-up still caked, I miss my
Young man. Long absent, he brings
To mind, blue
Rivers, ripe
Fruit, green grass.








I went for a drive in the hills, checking out some familiar territory, hoping for some good "fall leaves" pictures. But I was too late. What leaves had been left were blown off the trees by a strong north wind early in the morning. So, instead of autumn pictures, I got some winter pictures - some included among my photos this week.



Grapecreek Road, December 1st

winter
snakes through the hills,
dry creeks,
bare trees,
high pasture grass
waving
in ice-sharpened wind
like golden surf
breaking

~~~

the river
cold and clear,
rocky bottom rippling
with the flow

cypress
line river’s edge
great gray trunks
like Roman columns,
the river,
Caesar’s legions
marching
in mind’s mist

railroad
trestles loom overhead,
three rust-brown iron arcs
across
the river
and the tree studded flood plain

~~~

small pond
ringed by reeds
and lily pods, in the center
shadow reflections
of trees
and a small turtle,
head above water, surveying
its realm,
gauging opportunities
for a sun spot
among the reeds

at the opposite end
a cottonmouth
breaks the surface, long stealth body
a wraith beneath the surface,
head in the cold air,
watching

~~~

between
hanging oak limbs
by the old railroad tunnel
a patch of color
red, yellow, gold,
the only fall color today,
all other blown off
the trees
by fierce north winds this early morning

~~~

heading home,
bare trees,
pastures,
fences
built from rocks
cleared from pasture fields
in years long ago,
many crumbling now but still
marking the bounds
of pioneer
claims

crumbling past -
the rocks,
the hardened hands
that carried them from the fields
then laid them in long and precise quadrangle lines
maintain their grip
on the present,
hang
on
from their time
to ours








Next, I have a poem by Margaret Atwood from her book, Two -Headed Poems, published Simon and Schuster in 1978. It is a book full of wonderful poems, most of them, unfortunately, too long to use here.

Atwood, born in 1939, is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. While best known for her work as a novelist, she is also an award winning poet, having published 15 books of poetry to date.

She is among the most-honored authors of fiction in recent history; she is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award seven times, winning twice.



A Woman Makes Peace With Her Faulty Heart

It wasn't your crippled rhythm
I could not forgive, or your dark red
skinless head of a vulture

but the things you hid:
five words and my lost
gold ring, the fine blue cup
you said was broken,
the stack of faces, gray
and folded, you claimed
we'd both forgotten,
the other hearts you ate,
and all that discarded time you hid
from me, saying it never happened.

There was that, and the way
you would not be captured,
sly featherless bird, fat raptor
singing your raucous punctured song
with your talons and your greedy eye
lurking high in the molten sunset
sky behind my cloth breast
to pounce on strangers.

How many times have I told you:
The civilized world is a zoo,
not a jungle, stay in your cage.
And then the shouts
of blood, the rage as you threw yourself
against my ribs.

As for me, I would have strangled you
gladly with both hands,
squeezed you closed, also
your yelps of joy.
Life goes more smoothly without a heart,
without that shiftless emblem,
that flyblown lion, magpie, cannibal
eagle, scorpion with its metallic tricks
of hate, that vulgar magic,
that organ the size and color
of a scalded rat,
that singed phoenix.

But you've shoved me this far,
old pump, and we've hooked
together like conspirators, which
we are, and just as distrustful.
We know that, barring accidents,
one of us will finally
betray the other, when that happens,
it's me for the urn, you for the jar.
Until then, it's an uneasy truce,
and honor between criminals.








Something about the holidays makes me cranky and morose.



the end as we come to know it

a dark
and gloomy
Sunday morning,
coming down, as Kristopherson said,

just enough rain, mixed
with oil and dirt
gathered on the road
after a month
of no rain, to make the streets
slick
as an ice sheet in the Yukon -

sun barely rising
as I make my way to breakfast,
like it’s anchored in the east
by the weight of the coming day…

my best memories of Sundays
from time spent at Indiana U.
dragged into the morning,
still puff-brained from
drinking
the night before,
by mid-day sun shining
through a window
by my bed –

a walk
through the small forest
on the edge of the campus,
(did it have a name? – I can’t
recall it)
breakfast
at a sidewalk café
on 10th,
coffee
and the Sunday Times
spread
across the table…

comfortable
in my disregard of time,,
this stretching of every day
from dark to dark,
that is a luxury of youth,
surprised
at each new sunset, the daily
revelation
that there was an end
to the day, not thinking
of ends
of anything…

now
it seems I think in not much else
but ends,
each day ending
a count against the future,
a subtraction
from an ever-shrinking sum –

wishing
to have again
the youthful ignorance
that made us all so brave








Next, here are three poems from Poetry for the Earth, described as "a collection of poems from around the world that celebrate nature." It was published Fawcett Columbine in 1991.



The first poem is by Uvavnuk, identified as an Iglulik Eskimo woman.

The poem was translated by Tom Lowenstein.


Moved

The great sea stirs me.
The great sea sets me adrift,
it sways me like the weed
on river-stone.

The sky's height stirs me.
The strong wind blows through my mind.
It carries me with it,
so I shake with joy.


Next, Song of Myself, one of America's great gifts to the world, Walt Whitman.


I believe a leaf of grass is no less that the journey-work of
   the stars,
And the prismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the
   egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of
   heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all
   machinery,

And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any
   statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of
   infidels.
I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits,
   grains, esculent roots,
And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over,
and have distance what is behind me for good reasons,
But call any thing back again when I desire it.

In vain the speeding or shyness,
In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my
   approach,
In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder'd
   bones,
In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes,
In vain the ocean setting in hollows and the great monsters
   lying low,
In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky,
In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,
In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Labrador,
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the
   cliff.


And last from the book, this poem by Frances Horovitz.

Horowitz, who was born in 1938 and died in 1983, was an English actress, broadcaster and poet. She worked as a schoolteacher as well as on radio and on the stage.


Walking in Autumn

      (for Diana Lodge

We have overshot the wood.
The track has led us beyond trees
to the tarmac edge. Too late now
at dusk to return a different way,
hazarding barbed wire or an unknown bull.
We turn back onto the darkening path.
Pale under-leaves of whitebeam, alder
gleam at our feet like stranded fish
or Hansel's stones.
A wren, unseen, churrs alarm:
each tree drains to blackness.
Halfway now, we know
by the leaning crab-apple;
feet crunching into mud
the hard slippery yellow moons.
We hurry without reason
stumbling over roots and stones.

A night creature lurches, cries out,
crashes through brambles.
Skin shrinks inside our clothes;
almost we run
falling through darkness to the wood's end,
the gate into the sloping field.
Home is lights and woodsmoke, voices -
and, our breath caught, not trembling now,
a strange reluctance to enter within doors.







I'm not a big holiday guy, mostly like regular days better.



like a coastal morning

sun sneaking
up
on a damp day -

like a coastal
morning,
birds flying like pasted-on
cut-outs
against the wet sky, low fog,
warm
from a southerly breeze
blown across the coastal plains
from the rolling gulf,
streets
glistening with morning dew -

a thousand thousand
mornings
like this from 50 years
living on the coast,
my escape 16 years ago
to dry winter hills
of cactus, oak and mesquite,
yellow-blossomed huisache
grown stubborn between granite rocks,
bluebonnets, cardinals, jays
woodpeckers and coyotes,
cedar on the hillsides, and
Indian paintbrush fields and
clear-running creeks

stymied
by this pre-Thanksgiving
blanket
of coastal miasma,
preparing me, maybe,
to the trip back to the coast
later in the
week,
a fast in-and-out, fade-away
dodge’m drive,
5 hours down, kiss the babies,
eat the turkey,
8 hours sleep, then 5 hours
back
pushing all the way
against the arctic front
that will meet me at the door -

30 degrees
crisp and clear,
ice in the birdbath,
time to sleep
under a warm blanket
in a flickering orange
fireplace glow,
dog by my side, cat in my lap…








The next poem, by Deborah Digges, is from her book Rough Music, published by Knopf in 1996.

Digges, born in Jefferson, Missouri in 1950, received degrees from the University of California and the University of Missouri, as well as an M.F.A from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation. She taught in the graduate writing divisions of New York, Boston, and Columbia Universities. She lived in Massachusetts, where she was a professor of English at Tufts University. She died in 2009.



The Way Into Stone

I hate to think how long I must lie here
face down, kissing myself
into the stone, or into the wood
becoming stone buried in water.
I hate to think how long it's going to take
for my dream silos to empty,
wind inside the bright theaters,
all that I am translating into stone -
my love for the taste of semen and the smell of my hair -
I for whom waiting does not come easily.
Nothing in my experience will say
what terrors last, which wear smoother than sea glass,
which love, which bitterness survives the frieze.
I have no gift for this waiting.
And yet I would be stone.
I would be stone by Philistia's gates
regathered for another execution, stone
which the builders refused
become the headstone of the corner.
I would learn to wait
the better to be stone, the many fallen into one,
cycloptic, deaf to the bells sounding that the soul has birthed
the last of her three children.
What do I know?
I am loose matter, sense and approbation,
the spirits of a house with six doors
slamming, merely the imprint of the autumn
and the dragonfly.
But it seems to me, when called upon to sing,
a stone is something to be listened to.
And that the coming of its song
sees all the words in books blackening
against their origins,
and the meanings rushing backwards as light
climbing the eight octaves.
And the roaring ceases in the ears of the drowned
at a stone's first heralding,
and cell by cell,the prisoners
make love to themselves in the asylums.
Oh yes, a stone's a mockingbird.
And midway through the aria
most of the angels flee the earth holding their ears,
and the beloved weeds are envious, and the trees,
summer or winter are longing to be stone,
and the walls would crumble to be stone again,
and the lilacs give up their color to be stone.








What a strange thing it is to be dropped back in time.



the night not so encompassing

I had lunch
yesterday
with a woman I hadn’t seen

in 48, almost 49, years,
not since our high school graduation
on a sweltering South Texas

night
in May, 1962 –
an all-American pretty girl at 18,

a strong, handsome looking woman now,
looking 25 years younger
than her age,

my age, as well -
how I asked, did you do that?
“clean living,”

she jokes,
and I’m thinking, jeez,
wish I’d have thought of that -

but it’s too late for me now
and that’s all I’m going to say
about my friend from long ago

because when she agreed to lunch
with me I’m sure
she just wanted lunch,

neither expecting nor desiring
to become a part of the poetic legend
that I sometimes imagine myself

to sometime be…

but our time talking
and reminiscing reminded me
of those days,

olden days
- and who knew my days
of hot rods and rock and roll

would become
the new generations’ (generations, as in
the plural of way more than one )

olden days,
just like my parent’s days
of Glen Miller and Benny Goodman

and jitterbug, eight to the bar, skittering feet,
flouncy skirt flying high,
and war bonds and ration coupons and
nylon stocking were olden days

in my day, and sad to say,
still are, my brain having jumped
the maturation track

sometime in the late sixties,
early seventies, and I’m still 25, just
a little bunged up from excessive joy

and jubilation (T. Cornpone – Lil’ Abner,
my days, day before yesterday,
and Daisy Mae, now there was a woman to lust after,

like Marilyn singing happy birthday
Mr. President
to the smiling Irish face

soon
to be blown out the back
of Mr. President’s head and she dead soon too)

and how it was before air conditioning,
everyone sitting out in the yard evenings,
under a mesquite tree,

drinking ice tea and waiting for the sun
to come down, lightning bugs
lighting and mosquitoes biting

and katydids singing the moon up
from the trees, swaying in the evening’s
brush of fresh gulf breeze, blowing back the heat

of the day, damp but cool and worth the damp,
days and nights and a life
that seemed bound, unchanging, in plastic,

but assassinations, jungle wars,
Tricky Dick and Kent State,
who could imagine such, drinking ice tea

under mesquite trees, trapping lightning bugs
in glass bottles and swatting mosquitoes,
in a lost and never found little town

on the precipice of future shock,
on the dull blunt edge of change

~~

drinking Singapore slings

in night clubs
where young girls danced naked
under red neon lights

where children starved
in alleys
where beggars fought for pennies

and toothless whores
gave blowjobs
50 cents a pop -

these
our neighbors
on the other side of an ankle-deep river

and we found nothing strange in our lives
and theirs
so close, yet three worlds away,

and we satisfied ourselves
by seeing only
what we wanted to see,

trips to the market
of glitter-glued sombreros
and rawhide bullwhips and

cow skulls to hang on our fences
and called it all foreign aid…

if we had among us
in our little town
the greatest writer of our day

he would never imagine
any of that,
and if he did and he wrote it

we wouldn’t have believed any of it
because we thought
the world was the way it was

because the way it was
was
the way it was supposed to be

and I think of how it was 48 years ago
and what blind and happy fools
we were

and how we would be again
if the light was less
bright

and the day was
less long
and the night not so encompassing








Next, I have several poems by Nila north-Sun, from her book a snake in her mouth - poem 1974-1996. The book was published by West End Press of Albuquerque in 1997.

northSun is a Native American poet and tribal historian, one of the best-known figures in the Native American Renaissance.

She was born in 1951 in Schurz, Nevada to a Shoshone mother and a Chippewa father, legendary Native American activist Adam Fortunate Eagle. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a graduate of the University of Montana-Missoula.

In 2000 the "Friends of the Library" group at the University of Nevada, Reno honored her with the Silver Pen Award for outstanding literary achievement. That same year, she was appointed her to the Nevada State Arts Council. In 2004, she received the "Indigenous Heritage Award in Literature" from ATAYL, an international agency.

She now lives on the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Reservation in Fallon, Nevada and works as a grantswriter for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.



they just fade away

old man
dead in the alley
leaning against trashcans
ruby port dripping
from pocketed bottle
ruby dripping
from cracked lips
his crumbled body
remaining like
a crumbled leaf
in somebody's wind
like a forgotten
shopping list
in somebody's pocket


stories from the res.

getting a loan from the bank
they ask
do you have collateral?
old mose says
what's that?
they say
do you own a car?
no
a home you own?
no
furniture
yea yea
got a whole houseful
tables chairs bookcases
nightstands dressers
everything
they say
very fine
old mose gets loan
defaults
they come to get furniture
houseful of fish crates

somebody broke into
his house one night
they took his t.v.
radio rifle &
scope

they even took
his mouthwash?

laughter on the res.


barrel-racer cowboy-chaser

small farm town girl
never left nevada
reads "glamour" magazine
so she won't get bypassed
when it comes to the
latest style
trouble is she only sees
the old one left in the
laundermat
she thinks the heavy black
eyeliner & bleached hair
makes her look best
it probably does
thick pancake makeup tries
to hide her acne & scars
looks like a guy in drag
no offense to guys in drag
cruises the strip
her mother's pickup truck
bumper sticker says
cowgirls are kiss-a-bull
whistles & shouts to the
same old gang
a baby at 14 years
3 miscarriages since
reads "true confessions" &
can identify with every story
19 years old
she'll never wiggle her hot pants
for anybody but the local cowboys


something about cows

in the night
if you hit one with your car
they make a big dent
&
they might not
even fall over

if you're going fairly fast
in a big old beat-up truck
&
hit one
the dent blends with
the others
&
you might have
fresh meat
that's slightly tenderized


hunter

he shoots things
he's a hunter
he's proud of it
he says he eats
whatever he shoots
& he does
unfortunately
he'll eat anything








There's a time and place in life for nonsense, I think, as I usually about the time when nonsense is all I have.



5 birds

5 birds
on a wire
tire
and fall
kerplunk
to the ground
and
I know this
is a dream
because never
in my life
have
ever heard
anything at all
go
kerplunk
and somewhat
disappointed
to find it is a dream
because
I thought for a minute
I
had my first
ker
plunk
and that’s
actually
the way it should be
written
ker
plunk
on descending lines
ker
the sound
as the bird
approaches
the ground
and the countervailing
gravities
of the falling bird
and the earth
and the
moon
and the sun
and the galaxy
and the tiny piece
of microscopic debris
that will someday
be our sun
and our moon
and the bird
and
even
the creatures
called
you&me
floating
in black space
14 seconds
after creation
create the grating
sound
we call “ker”
then
plunk
on a separate line
as the bird
hits
the ground
with a thud
sometimes called a
plunk
and the elasticity
of the eternal strings
snap back
readjusting
the gravitational disharmony
previously
described as “ker”
and that’s the story
of 5 birds
on a wire
as I heard it
2 falling
separately
and 3 falling
in harmonic
precision
making one think
of a high school
dance team
at football halftime
except
there’d be maybe
25 of the dance team
while
it’s only 3 birds
possibly
better described
as a dance team
at football half-time
from a very small school
but still 3 birds
falling
at the same time
triples
the gravitational
effects
leading not to just
a small
ker
plunk
as would be
the case
of 1 falling
bird
but a major
KER
PLUNK
that might shake
nearby trees
and possibly even
create a herd of
milkshakes
if cows are in a
nearby field
and it’s cold enough
when the
KER
PLUNK

!!PLUNKS!!

and it would be
that kind of plunk for sure
big
and bold with
exclamatories
front and back

all
reminding me
of Bristol Palin
dancing
with the stars
cause
that’s just the way
I think








Here are two poems by David Meltzer, from the collection David's Copy - The Selected Poems of David Meltzer, published Penguin Books in 2005.

Born in 1937, Meltzer is a poet and musician of the Beat Generation and San Francisco Renaissance.



Notes for Asaph

Asaph (or Asaf or Asof) was
David's chief musician.
A cymbal player.
    Play the symbols, David.
each breath a chance,
a pulse-born change.
        "There are no closed systems in nature."
    wrote Bleibtrau, no
    sure thing in music, the poem,
    constantly shifts.
We intone notes, black dots
on paper guide throat open.
"I am making you a spirit,"
sings a Chippewa on earth
in harmony with chance
the changes, chants.

    Asaph
fronts the Jerusalem Percussion Band
his brass cymbal clash in desert air
light off rims flash code to devout
who transcribe it from tower to tower
relay dance across the plains.
"Praise HIM upon well-tuneed cymbals"
praise HER upon the harp.

    Glide down Nile in green harps
brushing bamboo fiddles
counterpoint of outstretched ibis wings
Mo's basket snagged in bracken, braked by weeds.
Black Queen hears a nest of birds
cooing for mamma and with her ladies
alert to signals goes to music's source.
Clothe him as we close systems.
Play cymbals, sign time,
mark lines with dots, do
service with devotion.

    Struggle as cricket
against cricket hind
a music made, let through.
We need only open our ears
our throats.
It passes through
like light as song.


17:11:82

Thelonius Monk dies
my 45th birthday
years ago
a Seattle dj
told me this story:

    Thelonius was playing here
with the Giants of Jazz group
dodged all requests for interviews
but I got through somehow & found him
in his hotel room lying down
his silence unhinged me
but I kept talking
& after a while
he'd say something
nothing really
a grunt
& I asked him
what it was that he did
I mean
what he thought when he played
some dumb thing like that
like what he thought his music did
Monk didn't answer
he kept looking at the second-hand
circle in the electric clockface
on the dresser
looked at me & said
"I put it down.
You got to pick it up."








Next, here, by popular demand, are poems by this week's feature poet, Teresa White, my friend and friend of many in the poetry-reading biz.

Teresa is a poet I would read even if she sent me nothing but a grocery list, because, as I said elsewhere, I know it'd be the best damn grocery list ever written.

One of the poems, The Price was previously published in The Muse Apprentice Guild, which, several years ago, used a number of my poems.




Grocery Shopping With Anita

She came on Saturdays.
I’d watch her mince up the walk
in ridiculous shoes.
Right away she’d start talking
to my cats while I pulled on my coat.

A Green Card husband married
her long enough for the authorities
to let him stay. She told me
she still spent nights at his apartment
but I didn’t believe her.

She bought her clothes in teen departments,
bragged how young she looked
for her age; poor woman, homely
as a new-hatched duck,
I always told her she was beautiful.

Fifty going on sixteen,
there was never anything I could say
to keep her from falling for younger men.
Her heart was always broken,
Kleenex underlined on her shopping list.



Joy Ride

Breasts and hips, she looked old for her age.
Her boyfriends had tattoos before every fourteen year-old
girl had a fleur-de-lis above the crack of her ass.

Their arms wore anchors, their muscles bulged in tight T-shirts.
Always, a pack of Lucky’s folded into the short shirtsleeve.
She loved their cars, Chevys and Pontiacs and tail fins galore,
more than them, I swear.

I was slim as a bolt of calico and as plain. Sitting
in the background of her life
asking myself “Is this the way it is?”

Preening and mating mother called it and looked
the other way. I envied her easy way
of tumbling with men.
Was it ever red as a Valentine?
Did any of them love her?

Did they really kiss like at the movies between
popcorn and gum on your shoe?
I didn’t know for decades how often they tried
to kill her. Why is it the pretty ones suffer so?

Five, she said. And when they were done
the car door opened and she went flying
off over the crumbling shoulder,
stopped by a barbed-wire fence.
Not just anyone, but my sister.



The Price

Death, take me unaware
as light's first hand
upon the dumb mountains.

Do not tower me
with my imagination
in some bleak house,

ticking off days
with match stubs
on the broken floor.

I am not saying
'Do not come'. I am not saying
'I don't expect you'

but how high the cost of sentience?
how cruel the knowing.




Dead Zone

His flashlight illuminated
the crawl spaces. Everyone wanted
something killed.

Before the termites, or after
the carpenter ants, he’d
make his discoveries:

blue bottle glass embossed with
Owl Pharmacy, stood next to amber
jars forecasting skull and crossbones.

Windowsills overflowed,
tabletops an audience of beakers and jars.
Now he collects English bone china

dancing with roses and lilies
to help him forget that daily burial,
his back pinned to the wall

his face wrapped with the gauze
of spiders.


History Lesson at 2 a.m.

Now I know why
Hadrian built his wall,
rugged stones set in place
from the River Tyne to the shore
of Solway Firth.

Those Picts gave the Romans
a reason to fall
and what nasty fighters they were:
wearing blue-painted faces

they lunged into the tightly knit
forces, accustomed to win
in their heavy armor.
I can almost see those logs

big as telephone poles
hurl through the air
massacring men left, right, and center.
But now I tire of learning war

in all its permutations.
It is past my bedtime.
Give me one good story
without the resolution

spilled in blood—
without bodies strewn
over the green fields.








Next, I have a poem by Michael Van Walleghen from his book Blue Tango, published in 1989 by the University of Illinois Press.

Van Walleghen, born 1938, has published six books of poetry; his second, More Trouble With the Obvious, published in 1981, was the winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize of the Academy of American Poets. He has also received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, first prize in the Borestone Mountain Poetry Awards, a Pushcart Prize, and several grants from the Illinois Arts Council. Before retirement he was a Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was the first director of the MFA in Creative Writing program created there in 2003.



Fishing with Children

Beyond the few clear stumps
and furry sticks, the bottom
drops off quickly, quickly...

But it's easy enough to guess
the broken glass and junk
down there, the lost shoes

the stolen bike. Easier
to imagine trash like this
in the gray municipal lagoon

than fish, in fact. The four
and five year olds however
keep seeing Northern Pike -

monster catfish. Even
the worms excite them.
What acrobats they are

especially cut in half!
Urged to bait their own hooks
they stand around staring

at the life in their hands
like so many self-involved
dumbstruck fortune-tellers.

They they stab themselves
or tangle in the bushes...
the whole chaotic business

looking fairly Dionysian -
a manic kind of dance almost
or magic-stone age ritual

demanding blood. But later
cast out upon the dark water
our fateful bobbers drift

as over the face of the void
like stars. So we study them
of course, astrologers now

hoping for the smallest sign
or signal of good fortune -
a bluegill, or anything at all

from the deep dead calm
where stars and even children
disappear. None of them

for the moment disappearing
though some look tremulous
and on the brink...








So this is my Thanksgiving, pretty much like the ones before.



and a happy Thanksgiving to you as well

sunshine
morning Thanksgiving day

breakfast at a place
down the road

cause the place down
the road

is the only place
open

no WIFI, so writing
to myself

this morning,
killing time before

medicating the critters
at home, a pill for Reba

and potassium jell
for the cat, then

heading out,
300 miles south

to mother-in-law’s,
plastic Christmas tree

in the front seat,
Reba in the back, sleeping,

planned arrival
about 3 p.m. just in time

for the turkey carving
and the pecan pie and pumpkin

pie and a cigar
in the backyard, while

everyone else
watches the Cowboys

lose, I hope,
quietly, very quietly,

in the company of Cowboy
fanatics,

in-laws
large and small…

will eat too much
this afternoon,

sleep not enough
tonight

because of eating
too much this afternoon -

up early
Friday morning, drive home

300 miles
north, Dora in the front,

Reba in the back,
home in time to cover the plants

before the freeze
tomorrow night, and

what's there to say
at this point of the poem

but a happy Thanksgiving
to you, as well…

~~~~

Christmas next
and all I want is some peace

and quiet,
but I’ll get none of that today or tomorrow








I picked up a couple of books at the used book store over the weekend. One is actually a double book of poems by two poets, the books of each poet upside down in relation to the other. A lot of pocket book used to be published like this, back in the day of 35 cent pocket books. The good old days, as we oldsters might say.

The book, titled restless serpents, was published in 1976 by Disenos Literarios of Menlo Park, California. The book is a first edition of 2,000 copies.

The one poet's poems are mostly in Spanish, so I'm turning this week to the other poet, Bernice Zamora.

Zamora is from south central Colorado at the foot of the East Spanish Peak, volcanic conduits she refers to in her poetry. Zamora attended primarily parochial schools in Denver and Pueblo, Colorado. She spoke Spanish with grandparents and older relatives, but the language at home and school was English.

At the age of 28, with a husband and two children to care for, Zamora made the decision to enroll in college studying English at Southern Colorado State College. After earning a B.A. in three years, Zamora began her graduate studies at Stanford while simultaneously writing literary criticisms, poems and stories for an assortment of Chicano journals and teaching part-time at the University of California, Berkley. It wasn't until the publication of Restless Serpents, published jointly with José Antonio Burciaga, that her writing began to "arouse widespread interest. " Since then, Zamora has been the guest editor of the Chicano literary journal El Fuego de Aztlán, editor of the Chicano journal De Colores, and co-editor of an anthology of short stories, oral histories and poetry from the 1970s Chicano Flor y Canto literature festivals. In 1986, Zamora received her PhD from Stanford University and began her position in the English Department of Santa Clara University in 1990, where she remains today.

I have several of short poems this week, beginning with the books title poem.



Restless Serpents

The duty of a cobra's master
is fraught with fettered chores.


Spite strikes the
humbling stroke of
neglect - coiling,
recoiling, pricking
the master's veins
of lapse, draining
a bounded resurrection
to numb the drumming
pain. Lyrics,
lyrics alone soothe
restless serpents.

From all corners
precision humming
and rhythmic sounds
fill the mindful
master who laps
about the droppings
of disregard. Lyrics,
lyrics alone soother
restless serpents, strokes
more devastating than
devastation arrived.


Denizens

at the crossroads
a guitarist winks
to the sun
through trees
    then
asks a squatted
beggar
what colors ae morning reflections?
    aside
each calls the other
    fool


El Burrito Cafe

Through the swinging doors
That lead to your kitchen
I watch you taste
The menudo you
Prepare for drunks.
Somehow, Augustina
Godinea, the title
Chef does not suit
Your position.


Situation

I accept your proposal
And it doesn't matter
That you are an undertaker.
Do you mind that I am
A midwife?


State Street

It is morning
that cradles the
waning Mexican
and his black young bride;
opium and age
gauze his vision from
twisted legs and
fallen arches
of her stumped feet.

Tottering arm-in-arm
the mortalovers move
toward Mitzey's Bar.


41 Trinkets

The Navajo Indian
knows our god;
he sells giant pine cones
painted silver, turquois-
studded rocks and bright
synthetic feathers.
The silent river near his
shop carves such a bend
the Navajo relocates
after each rainfall.




You insult me
When you say I'm
Schizophrenic.
My divisions are
Infinite.


Pueblo Winter

Sparrows in Pueblo perch on empty
elm branches cocking their heads
at each other or at each shadow
under the warming winter sun.

They watch each other watch
each other and seem, at times,
more passive than their shadows
under the warming winter sun

until a robin flights by to break
their bobbing trance. Another robin
joins the first. Both alight
on a chokeberry bush

scattering the flapping
sparrows to the pole lines above.
From the lines they watch
the robins on the cherry bush.

One robin pecks at a drying cherry
while the silent other lays witness
to the act;so,too,the sparrows
under the warming sun








The weather changes to winter, and even though I like, it's still a little shock to the system at six a.m. deprived of both sleep and coffee.



a norther blows in

a norther blows in
right before dawn,
throwing ice knives
at the sun,
cold, cutting,
aching
for the warm

I walk Reba,
face burning
from the wind

a quick walk
and a hurry-pee
on the grass in front
of the hotel

haven’t had my coffee

want to go home








Next I have a poem by Paul Guest from his book, My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, published in 2008 by HarperCollins.

Guest is a poet and memoirist. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a quadriplegic as the result of a bicycle accident when he was 12 years old. I'm not sure why that's relevant to his poetry, but it's included in his Google entry, so apparently someone though so.

He graduated from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and from Southern Illinois University with an M.F.A. Recently, he taught at the University of West Georgia and will teach creative writing part-time at Agnes Scott College in the fall of 2010. His poems appear in The Paris Review, Tin House,The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, Slate and elsewhere.



Elegiac Forecast

May God bless and keep the last man
struggling with galoshes, which means
French shoes in old French and who knew
the French had ever been fond
of their feet sheathed in onomatopoeic
footwear or that their tongues
had in the dead past divagated and dithered
whole ages and dialects and Europes
away. The thought is enough
to wave away the generic sorrow of rain
and set fire to the umbrellas
of passing strangers and be soaked past bone's last cell.
A good thought, made of sadness
easily found in the body, residue
of one disaster or another -
sex collapsed like an old shed
and weariness pled
and tomorrow night maybe
the pulmonary half apologies caught in the mouth
of sleep. Her gone in time
or you gone, your eyes gone,
your feet on and endless carpet of old razors.
Something lost somewhere
inside you, untraceable, sinking
and even at her heart's request
you'd never pluck a single shining coin
from behind her ear, the warm shell of sound,
in which you heard the ocean
rolling away in bracing violence.
In which more of you began to sink and be lost.
In which and in which
and this was enough
to put your lips to the door and not know why.
Not really. Not while rain
hled its court in the world
and even in the noon darkness
the day gleamed wit water on its face.








Tired of hearing about the weather. Me too. There are more important things to think about.



Twit About Town

30 degrees
bright
sun
squirrels
shivering in the trees

and that’s the weather report
for this morning…

but I have more important
things on my mind –

the whole naming thing,
my insistence on assigning
naming rights
to creators

so
for example
I drive a RAV4, so-named
by the Toyota automobile
company, so-named, I’m guessing
by the creator of the company,
Charlie Toyota…

this principle
is the source of my right
to name these little things
I write “poems” and
I don’t care what anyone else
thinks or wants to call them
just like Charlie Toyota
doesn’t care that many others
think he should have named
his company
Oldsmobile or Tinkerpot or
Bristlebull or Upyourass
or anything else

I drive a Toyota cause
Charlie says so

I write poems cause
I say so…

and it raises the question
of how a lion came to be called
a lion and a snail a snail
and a jackrabbit a jackrabbit
and me a man and you
a woman
if you are and if you’re not
I’m not saying anything
about the depths of your
masculinity
just saying that for example
if you’re a woman
how did you come to be called
that –

assuming I’m correct
in my insistence that the
creator gets to name his creation
then God the creator must of
named me Man and you Woman,
if you.. etcetera etcetera, but, no!
wait, Genesis says God delegated
naming rights to Adam, who he,
presumably, named himself, and,
face it, Adam doesn’t seem to have been
the smartest dude in the garden
even though, presumable, he was,
disregarding Eve’s sometimes bossy
tendencies,
the only dude in the garden…
he’s basically dumb as the thing he sits on
and later called “rock”
which is probably a good thing,
since if Adam had any brains he might
also have had a sense of humor, a frequent
affliction of those with brains, and the whole
naming thing could have turned into a big
joke like the Abbott and Costello
who’s on first bit and who knows, I might now
be known as the Twit of the Hour, the Twit
about Town, or, in some cases, da Twit
and who knows, my gosh, what you would be
today it Adam had had a sense of
humor








Now, a poem by Thomas Crofts,from his book,
Omnibus Horribilis - Poems 1987-2007. The book was published in 2007, by, possibly, the Poet since no publisher is credit.

I also can't find anything reliable about the poet. Google says there are 10 Thomas Crofts in their data base, three look possible as the poet, but nothing I could find is definite. I think he might be the editor of the three, so it might be that some “Here and Now” readers know him or, at least, of him.



The Workplace a Cruel Taskmaster

Though I agree that the lowest form of
     humanity
is the disgruntled worker, that spiteful
     worm,
I am doing nothing at the office today.
At my desk, I am reading the poems of
     Gunter Grass
- and fine poems they are.
I am eating organic peanut butter;
it is chunky, oily and stale-tasting,
but I smear it on a cracker
and devour it expressively.

     No one dares speak to me,
my chewing is so repulsive.

The clock's hands, terrified for my sake,
are waving at me;
my timecard trembles in its slot.
     They should relax.
Am I not merely a smudge? An already-
     fading impression
on this gummy-surfaced editorial desk?
I refuse to watch my back!

This worthless poem?
I'll drag it out to an epic length
at the slightest nudge of inspiration -
however dubious.









There are several plagues associated with this time of the year. This is about one of them, possibly the worst of them.



I don't care what Perry Como sways, I don't want no damn figgy pudding

the good news
is
that my breakfast
hangout
didn’t start with the
Christmas carols
until
the day after Thanksgiving

the bad news
is
that my breakfast
hangout
started with the
Christmas Carols
the day after Thanksgiving
which means I’ll be having
Christmas carols
with my biscuit and gravy
from now to nearly month
from now –

it’s enough to curdle
my gravy…

considering
there are only five Christmas carols
that aren’t a hostile act
against ears, true sentiment
and benevolent
spirits,
how was it decided we ought to
listen to this stuff beginning
the day after Halloween –

and who decided it –
someone relocated, I’m just guessing,
by some federal protection agency,
hidden in a little cabin
behind the only two trees
on the Kansas plains – guarded
on every side by very large, armed-
to-the-teeth federal
agents, ever alert
against the likelihood of a mass
crazed attack
by some pour souls
like me, pounding on the door
tearing at the shutters
with our bare hands, zombified
by the fourteenth consecutive in a row
rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
by previously-on-tv but otherwise
forgotten grossly toupeed
over-the-hill singers…

~~~

but wait,
all thee who cringe
with cotton-stuffed ears
for the entire month of December,
there is hope
in the form of a young female singer
I heard on an interview program
on the radio yesterday, singing two Christmas songs,
making them, with her voice and
her interpretation,
truly beautiful music –

I was entranced…

now if I only knew her name
I could put figgy pudding
behind me
and never think of it,
whatever it is,
forever
again








For the last of my library poems this week, I have these few by Bobby Byrd, from his book White Panties, Dead Friends, published in 2006 by Cinco Puntos Press. The poems are from a section in the book titled The Hospice Poems, written in memory of the poet's friend, Steve Sprague.

Byrd, a poet, essayist and publisher, grew up in Memphis, the moved in 1963 to Tuscon where he attended the university. Since then he has lived in the Southwest, including El Paso on the Texas/Mexican border, where he and his family moved in 1978.



Steve,

It's nice to watch all these women
dancing around you, taking care of you
like lovers at a Dionysian feast.

You are the King, the summer is hot.

I don't know if you understand
what is happening at you house.
We are all there to wait for your death.


Steve,

I'm in El Paso and I can't sleep.
Since December sleep is all you do.
You are not in paradise.
You are not inside Plato's cave.
At least you are at home again,
No more machines blinking and beeping -
Beelzebub's electric angels
sweeping away our stories and myths
like so much garbage.
I want to cry but I can't cry.
I want to find the Buddha on the road and kill him.
Likewise Jesus Christ.
That can be my gift to you
in your dying,
a pile of dead and rotting gods
littering the Albuquerque morning
like so much white noise.
Outside my window the blue dawn
is training the black sky. Soon
the moon will disappear
into the daylight. I will go to work
and forget all about you for a while.
I pray that Jane has slept
a good night's sleep.


Steve,

Outside your window is sunshine,
humming birds, a family of roadrunners
going back and forth, house sparrows
and finche3s.I also spotted some kind
of yellow bellied warbler in the tree.
Tomorrow the caregivers quit feeding you.
Jane has said it's time to say goodbye.


Steve

Your body is a bag of bones.
Your flesh is not warmed by desire.
These damn biofeedback devices
record the last few days
of your life, an oxygen tube leads
to the hole some nameless doctor
sliced into you trachea,
a feeding hose sticks out of your belly
so the caregivers can pour
water and liquid food
directly into your intestines.
The food never has to pass GO.
You are GO,Steve, you are IT.
I pray everyday that you are
somewhere inside riding
the raft of your body
into the sea of formlessness
and some complete moment
of enlightenment.

Are you there, Steve?
Steve, are you there?


Seve,

I bought a bottle of delicious red wine,
but it's been untouched.
Your dying is our drunkenness.


Steve,

The bearded guy who replenished
your supply of oxygen
had the radio in his big truck
tuned to the Rush Limbaugh Show.
That fat asshole was bitching about
white guy romantic liberals
like me and you.But other than that
the bearded guy seemed okay -
a wife and three kids at home,
he did his job professionally,
and he wore and old style
Pittsburg Pirates baseball cap.


Steve,

Your mother stands by your bed.
Ninety-three years old,
she looks at you
her youngest son
and weeps.
She is an ancient white crane
standing deep in the cold river
that rushes by toward the sea.
The white crane that your mother
has become no longer fishes.
She is not hungry for food.
Nor is she thirsty.
Her true desire
is to flap her wings
one last time - she wants
your and her
to soar away to another shore.








Sundays can be slow and tedious days for those without engaging hobbies.



naked rolling, parts-rubbing

a slow Sunday
afternoon
and we were trying
to decide what to do

and I suggested we get
naked
and roll around on the grass
in the backyard,
rubbing
body parts together
fiercely

but there’s a bit of a chill
in the air,
probably to much chill
to be rolling around outside
naked
no matter how fiercely we
rubbed together

so
I was thinking
well we could go down to
the art museum
and take a look at the
impressionist
exhibition,
settle down naked
in front of the Monet
and give him an impression -
rolling around
on the carpet rubbing
body parts together
impressionistically -
that might make the old guy forget
all about water
lilies...

but they have these guards
down there,
that follow us around from room
to room
and I don’t know why
except
maybe they can read minds
and don’t abide
with
people rubbing naked parts
together
in front of the Monet -

maybe
if we moved over
in front of the
Duchamp,
he did a lot of his own
naked parts-rubbing, as I
understand it, and what’s
that nude going to do after
descending the staircase
but some parts-rubbing, cause
why else go downstairs
naked as a jaybird
if there weren’t some parts-
rubbing
intentions…

but the guards
are so guardedly attentive
the museum is out
and I was thinking we might take a drive
in the hill country - the way the leaves are changing
in our backyard, there must be piles
of red and orange and yellow and gold
leaves laying on the ground
under some of those big hill country
oak trees, ripe for some good old rustic naked parts-
rubbing rolling around, but it is even
colder in the hills than it is here
so there’s the chill factor to consider,
plus all those rattlesnakes
who love to hid in leaf piles
on these chilly days, or maybe
up in the trees - they do like to climb
oak trees to sleep through the winter -
and I think they might not welcome
people waking them up, rolling around
naked in the leaves, rubbing parts
together with sylvan abandon, despite
the fact it was a snake in a tree
that started all this naked rolling about
and parts-rubbing in the first place…

or, we might just do what we always
do
on lazy Sunday afternoons, could
just take a Sunday afternoon
nap
you in the easy chair
and me on the
couch

just
like we always
do








The End. All the usual stuff.

The creators of the work own the work, including mine. But mine is free to borrow for publication elsewhere if proper credit is included.

I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, this issue following a one week break in posting, only the second time in five years of such a break.

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Hermione Gingold Could Be Somewhere Singing Still   Friday, November 12, 2010


Photo by Erin Neutzling
V.11.3.




I'm thinking "Here and Now" might take next week off, but, in the meantime I have great stuff for you this week,including both a featured poet and a featured photographer.

My photographer is young San Antonio teacher Erin Neutzling, with photos of Asuncion, Paraguay, where she has spent the last year teaching, as I understand it, English and English teaching methods to English teachers. From these pictures, and from some earlier ones, it seems Asuncion, the capital and largest city of Paraguay, is a beautiful mix of modern and colonial influences.

The full name of Asuncion, translated into English is "The Very Noble and Loyal City of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Assumption," referring to the Assumption of Mary into heaven, which is kind of hard to get on a postcard.

As featured poet, I have another friend who has appeared here before. Jan Napier. Jan travelled the length and breadth of Western Australia for 20 years, working in Side Show Alley (the Oz term for Midway). Her experiences are summed up in her book All The Fun Of The Fair. I don't know the publisher of the book but I did discover it is available for $20, (includes postage), at PO Box 1127, Nedlands. Western Australia, 6909.


Here's the crew:

Elizabeth Wallace
Party Line
Separating
Land Signs


Me
chapter 67

Alfonsina Storni
You Would Have Me Immaculate

Gloria Fuentes
The Birds Nest in My Arms

Me
old folks day at the rodeo

Ryokan
Poem for a Distant Friend
Empty Bowl: Two Poems
To a Friend


Me
some people

Cyra S. Dumitru
The Perfect Stones
Under the Full Moon


Jan Napier
A Dream of Fire
Cartwheels
Cocoon
Daddy’s Girl
Fish and Tongue


David St. John
I know

Me
I wanted to write something outrageous today

Dana Gioia
Veteran’s Cemetery

Me
sic transit…

Pat Mora
Love Like Champagne
Akumal,1983
Danger: New Ma
n

Me
why not?

Wilfred Owen
A Soldier’s Dream
The Last Laugh
Asleep


Me
getting there from here

Juan Felipe Herrera
Beneath Your Skin

Me
a good way to start the day is what i'm saying






Photo by Erin Neutzling




I start this week with three poems from the anthology Five Inprint Poets. "Inprint" refers to a literary arts organization that sponsors, readings, workshops and, occasionally, the publication of an anthology, such as this one, featuring some of their members. Out of the five poets feature in the book, I have chosen one to use this week, Elizabeth Wallace.

Wallace is a Canadian psychiatrist who has practiced in Toronto and Hong Kong. Educated at the university of Calgary and the University of Toronto, she has received national awards for her published work in the areas of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, with a special interest in psychoanalysis and film.

Her long latent interest in creative writing came to blossom after moving to Houston in 1998 and becoming involved in Inprint workshops.



Party Line

Each house had its ring -
ours was two longs, and a
short. (I still answer it
in dreams.)

Line busy?

my dad would boom
in his big farmer voice into
the black wall box,
alerting the neighbors,
thirteen on this string.

But even my father learned
to wait, to hesitate
a few breaths before
talk, letting midair
words drop
like rain into eaves,

catching hints
of arguments, price
of cream, who went to town
with whom, whose
hand was lopped off
by a machine.

as sentences swept
downstream swelling electric
flooding modes
homes and wetting
curiosity before the soaps
were ever invented.


Separating

I watched my father
sit on the three-legged stool,
his head pressed into rounded underbelly,
sending streams of warm milk pinging
into aluminum buckets, brimming,
squirted steaming onto pink cat tongues,
sometimes he even let give the rubbery teats a try.

I watched my father
carry sloshing silvery pails
with swooshing rubber boot steps
across a muddy yard, overalls fraying,
clinking onto the cement steps with a flourish
as the screen door creaked open for flies,
and my grandfather polishing up the separator.

I watched my father
heft and pour fragrant speckled white
into the huge bowl atop the shiny machine,
pug it in and what a clanging racket
as thick cream spurted from on spout
and bluish skim from the other,
cooling side by side on the mild house floor.

I watched my father
pull apart the contraction,
pour boiling kettle water on every piece,
(they still smelled like grass to me)
and lay them out to dry on clean white
tea towels, like sterile surgical instruments
for the milk I would never drink.


Land Signs

My father's plow churned up
not just black dirt and accursed stones -
the kind that bent blades -
but arrowheads, hammerheads,
even a shriveled penmican.

I loved those fields prizes he spied
glinting and toted home to me - booty bagged
and displayed,reminders of pierced bodies
felled at the point of a hunter.
I reveled in warm, bloody hides,
past erupting through the skin
of the land in shards, like memory rent
by a flinty word or gutting gaze.

I pressed my flesh against
each chipped edge, felt the trace
of leathered hands stashing meat,
chiseling missiles that seeded
soil not fully my father's, nor my own.

So often I tilled his words
for clues to his mind - so few
to find. Looked for glint of eye,
searched his furrowed skin,
weathered and impenetrable,for telling signs.

But I felt the heaviness
of scarred rock, petrified
clots of blueberries saved
for winters long before
in wordless bits and pieces.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




The mornings are beautiful this time of year and I can't help celebrating it.



chapter 67

it’s a great time
of year

when fog slips in early,
liquefying
light;

when party-favor
leaves
are blown
by north winds
crispy-chatter
down the street;

when the air,
fresh in the morning,
is mountain smelling
and sweet;

when my skin
puckers,
all goosebumped
as I stroll my backyard
at midnight;

when the moon
is orange,
slipping
in a watermelon
crescent
between sweet cream clouds;

when dogs howl
at the chocolate shadows
of vanilla-light
night

``

it’s a great
time of year
when the old year
falls
and all the mistakes
and sins of its passage
are finally laid to
rest -
buried,
with all the desiccated leaves
of the season,
as fodder
for another new beginning

a time
to turn the page
and find another,
clean and white, ready
for the writing
of a new chapter
in the story of our lives

~~

chapter 67
for me, such a longer
story
than I had imagined
it would be





Photo by Erin Neutzling>




Next,I have two poems from the book The Defiant Muse, an anthology of "Hispanic Feminist Poems From the Middle Ages to the Present." The book was published by The Feminist Press in 1986. It's a bilingual book, Spanish and English on facing pages.

Both of the poems I'm using this week were translated by Kate Flores.



The first poem is by Alfonsina Storni, an Argentine poet who lived from 1892 to 1938.


You would have me Immaculate

  You would have me immaculate,
you would have me seaspray,
you would have me pearl,
that I be of lilies
the chastest of all,
my perfume subdued,
corolla enclosed,

  Not a ray of moonlight
must filter to me,
nor may a daisy
be said to be my sister;
unsullied you would have me;
you would have me snow;
you would have me chaste.

  You whose hands
have held all the goblets,
whose lips are purple
with honey and fruits,
you who at banquets
covered with vine leaves
passed over the meat
to feast with Bacchus,
you who in gardens
dark with deceit,
clad in scarlet,
caroused to ruin.

  You whose skeleton
you keep intact
by what miracles
I still do not know
(may God forgive you),
expect me to be chaste
(may God forgive you)
expect me to be pure.
Be off to the woods;
get away to the mountain;
clean out your mouth;
live in a shack;
touch with your hands
the humid earth;
feed your body
with bitter roots;
drink from the rocks;
sleep on the frost;restore your tissue
with saltpeter and water;
converse with the birds
and arise with the dawn.
And when your flesh
has returned to your bones,
and you have given it back
the soul you left
entangled in bedrooms,
then, good man,
expect me to be immaculate,
expect me to be snow-white,
expect me to be chaste.


The second poem is by Spanish poet Gloria Fuentes, who was born in 1918 and died in 1998. Fuentes said she began to write before she could read, reciting her first poems to the kids in her neighborhood.


The Birds Nest in my Arms

The birds nest in my arms,
on my shoulders, behind my knees,
between my breasts I have quails,
the birds think I'm a tree.
The swans think I'm a fountain,
they call come down and drink when I talk.
The sheep nudge me going by,
and the sparrows eat from my fingers;
the ants think I'm the earth
and men think I am nothing.






Photo by Erin Neutzling




Things I never noticed come painfully clear.



old folks day at the rodeo

looking at pictures
from a 50-year high school
reunion
I didn’t get to go to,
recognizing hardly
anyone,
and the ones I did know,
mostly men
who looked liked their fathers
looked like 50 years ago

left me thinking how,
after 50 years
of looking at myself in the mirror
every day, I never really
saw the person I was becoming,
until referenced
by the sight of others,
worn through years unseen
by the eroding winds of time
and circumstance, sharply contrasted
to the fresh and shinning
faces
holding fast among my memory’s
comfortably assuring
lies -

it’s not about them,
of course,
but about me - it’s old folks day
at the rodeo
and I’m surprised
to see I have a place
in line





photo by Erin Neutzling




Next, I have several poems from One Robe, One Bowl - The Zen Poetry of Ryokan, published by Weatherhill in 1977. The poems in the book were translated by John Stevens.

Ryokan was a Japanese Buddhist monk born some time around 1758 and died in 1831. From a well-off family where art and literature was revered, he lived through begging, giving away anything he received that wasn't needed in the simple life he fashioned for himself.He never preached or exhorted but was known through his life as "a living sermon," always smiling and radiating purity and joy, calling himself in his poetry, "The Great Fool."



Poem for a Distant Friend

Spring - late at night I go for a walk.
A trace of snow lingers on the pines and mountains.
I think of you, many rivers and mountains away;
Countless thoughts, but the brush does not move.

~~

The long summer days at Entsu-ji temple!
Everything is fresh and pure, and
Worldly emotions never come here.
I sit in the cool shade, reading poems.
Beauty all around: I endure the heat, listening to
The sound of the water wheel.

~~

Silver-white snow envelops the mountains.
Far from the village, my gate is hidden by thick woods.
Midnight: a piece of wood burns slowly in the hearth.
An old man with a long, white, twisted beard -
My thoughts keep returning to the days of my youth.


Empty Bowl: Two Poems

In the blue sky a winter goose cried.
The mountains are bare; nothing but falling leaves.
Twilight: returning along the lonely village path
Alone, carrying an empty bowl.

Foolish and stubborn - what day can I rest?
Lonely and poor, this life.
Twilight: I return from the village
Again carrying an empty bowl.


To a Friend

The bright moon emerges over the eastern mountains.
Walking by your former house -
You are gone, yet I think of you always.
Now no one brings the koto and sake.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Sometimes I write my poems to entertain. Sometimes I write them to help me think something through. And sometimes I write just to remind myself of things often too easy to forget. This poem is of the last kind.



some people

some people
end up
where they’re supposed
to be,
and I’ve always thought
of myself
as one of those,
finding
to my complete surprise
that I had stumbled into the niche
meant for me -

one of the
lucky ones,
who find their place
by accident,
then spend the rest of their lives
walking in comfortable
shoes

~~

thinking of that
on this quiet Sunday
morning,
I think of the guys
I worked with
when I was driving
a cab, sitting
at our dispatch center,
reading western paperbacks
passed from hand to hand
for months of reading
and re-reading
waiting
for a call
to send us out –

(our dispatcher, another story,
a dentist from back east
caught gay
at a time when such was
cause for loss of profession,
loss of wife and family,
exile
to deep south Texas -
a quiet, gentle, educated man
with a 20-year-old greasy-haired pachuco, drop-out
boyfriend
who abused him –

a man who had lost his place
and lived on the only edges
of life
left for him)

but the drivers all, except for me,
old, worn-down,small-town cabbies
locked in place, in a lousy job,
with lousy hours and lousy pay,
and impossible to imagine
anywhere else, and even though
just passing through, I could feel,
like concrete setting,
the same thing happening to me –

sometimes,
finding place means knowing
when to leave other places,
other people,
behind,
like I left
the newspaper behind,
like I left the military
behind,
comfortable places,
but with no spark to ignite me

~~

thinking of that
on this quiet Sunday morning,
I realize I have not written a poem today
(though I will call it that)
but a note I might someday
read again
and remember all the favorable days
of my life
and how fortunate I was
to live them,
remembering how
so many people float through life
and how lucky I was in mine
to fly





Photo by Erin Neutzling




I am particularly fond of the Adam and Eve poems by Crya S. Dumitru from her book, Listening to Light. I like very much the way she brings to modern life the characters of Genesis and have used the poems often.

Here are two poems from that series.



The Perfect Stones

I can't say I yearned to taste that fruit,
sought the cold adventure waiting beyond.
At times regret wraps long fingers
around my neck, presses
nails into my throat.

I had never seen Eve so alive,
a faraway light dawning in her eyes
pulling her elsewhere.
I knew I couldn't lose her,
sensed the Gently One understood.

The hardest part was watching
birth engulf her, ride through her,
horses pounding a thawing meadow.
I didn't know how to help,
what would happen next.

All I could do was feed the fire, rub
her back as she squatted upon a clean hide.
Then I remembered a song from the garden
and sang our son into the twilight.
Eve lifted Cain triumphant.

After I washed and wrapped him
I bathed her as I would a star.
As she slept beside him
I found the whitest, most perfect stones,
built a circle to hold my family.


Under the Full Moon

Are you naming again, Adam,
so fresh in your new knowing?
Is Eden quite overgrown?

Without you to talk to
I have spent more time listening to the voice.
The One speaks from within now.

I can remember
verses to lost songs,
moments I feared lost.

The time when Cain began to speak
no longer just grunting or whining.
You circled outside the cave, pointing

to the fire, kindling, peaches ripening,
naming them and Cain echoed you.
Then he grabbed your hand and shouted, "Daddy!"

A wave rippled through the back of my head
down my spine, out through my toes.
I felt thrilled to be alive,

like when you first called me "Eve."
I guess those early days together, before more
children came, were out childhood too.

I have collected small white stones worn smooth
from riverbeds. Tonight, when the moon is full,
I will place a circle upon your grave,

sleep within it, listening
as the garden pulses with me.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Here are six poems from my featured poet and friend Jan Napier.

Jan’s poetry has been showcased in The World According To Goldfish, from the USA), and Dotdotdash, Speedpoets, Tamba, The Mozzie, Valley Micropress, all of New Zealand. She also writes book reviews for the on line magazine Antipodean SF.



A Dream of Fire


It bushfires the eyes,
sucks at them like a Saharan summer,
chars them to catblack.

This SV6 ignites the air,
bleeds flames as sleek as love’s promise,
slick as a card sharp,
carmine as a conscience
still fretted by falsehoods.

The beast itself
is a crisis of red, a birthday of red,
an adventure of red.
The ruby of November bonfires,
of true hearts,     of Mars.

Abyssed within panels of ferric gloss,
a bust of sky rockets,     a snap of Tabasco,
a shout of poppies,     a bang of balloons,
an incandescence of chillies,
all ferris wheel within unfingered duco.

Bright as innocence,     as star melt,     as a shriek,


Cartwheels

Radiant she spins
connects     progresses
turns her world upon its head.
Watchers track the changes
anticipate already
the tumble and tumbrel
of a new revolution.


Cocoon

The green and soft
of her thoughts
tolls in her eyes
as she folds herself
around the nimbus
of her unborn son
nurses already
an aversion
to his transformation.


Daddy's Girl

I believe in fairy tale monsters.
I’ve got an ogre of my own.
He grims my night
sneaks to my room when I’m asleep
replaces my dreams with his pink
and hurtful reality
seeds my promise with his sickness
leaves me to taste his stink
sob up the sun.
At breakfast he eats his egg
kisses me     calls me his princess.
Mum smiles and turns away
to fill her cup.
I top my toast with vegemite
spread it black and thick.
Bruise the bread.


Fish and Tongue


I fish and tongue the long smooth slopes

serpentine     perpendicular

muscular     dark moist crevices

cache the flick of scorpion

a nest     a twist of warmth

inquiry of asp probes

unassuaged returns to test hesitant air.

Offshore but within legal limits

slick wet lures complete

with kohl eyed players

peel kabuki costumes.

Shadows suck at the curved perfection

of flank     relish the saucy junction

hook the pink     say no to those endangered.

I always thought that one day they’d raise

their secret heads     loom curious

afflict the wounds with salty affirmations

admit identity.

Don’t step into the wild air

and find it feels too right

don’t wait to see what Kraken calls.

Skin always has its aberrations.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Now here's a short poem by David St. John, from his collection Study for the World's Body, published in 1994 by HarperCollins.



I Know

    The definition of beauty is easy;
it is what leads to desperation

        - Valery

I know the moon is troubling:

Its pale eloquence is always such a meddling,
Intrusive lie. I know the pearl sheen of the sheets
Remains the screen I'll draw back against the night;

I know all of those silences invented for me approximate
Those real silences I cannot lose to daylight...
I know the orchid smell of your skin


The way I know the blackened path to the marina,
When gathering clouds obscure the summer moon -
Just as I know the chambered heart when I begin.

I know too the lacquered jewel box, its obsidian patina;
The sexual trumpeting of the diving, sweeping loons...
I know the slow combinations of the night, & the glow

Of fireflies, deepening the shadows of all I do not know.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




I've been writing mostly stogy, boring poems lately and was hoping to shake something loose with this.



I wanted to write something outrageous today

I wanted
to write something
outrageous
today

but it’s still too close
to the election
and my outrage
gauge
is hung on empty

so I thought it’d write
something serious instead,
a serious consideration
of the nation and the world’s
condition,
but that only ignites
panic
attacks
and howling hysterical
laughter

then I was thinking
I’d write about
sex,
but I’m getting kind of
old
and my memory isn’t
as good as it used to be,
not so stiffly resistant to the lassitude
of time

so maybe I could write
about love,
no one’s ever too old
for love they say, but that’s
the problem,
poets young and old
have been writing about love
for ten thousand years, longer
than that if you believe the drawings
on the walls in the caves of Poontanghia,
so how could I possibly
compete,
what new is there to be said
about love
except that I caught it and unlike
a three-day cold, it has stayed
with me, fevers morning and night,
for 30-plus years,
resistant through the liquid
flow of time
to all natural or supernatural events
that might deny and
discourage
it

or
I could write about my lover’s legs
and the amazing way
they join at the
hip
but I don’t want to get too graphic
this morning,
because that would be outrageous
in this august company
and I’m completely out of outrage
since the last
election





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Now I have this piece by Dana Gioia,from his book, The God of Winter, published by Graywolf Press in 1991.

Former corporate executive with General Foods and recent Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Gioia is an often honored poet, as well as translator and anthologist of Italian poetry.

This is a poem I wish I had found for Veteran's Day.



Veteran's Cemetery

The ceremonies of the day have ceased,
Abandoned to the ragged crow's parade.
The flags unravel in the caterpillar's feast.
The wreaths collapse upon the stones they shade.

How quietly doves gather by the gate
Like souls who have no heaven and no hell.
The patient grass reclaims its lost estate
Where one stone angel stands as sentinel.

The voices whispering in the burning leaves,
Faint and inhuman, what can they desire
When every season feeds upon the past,
And summer's green ignites the autumn's fire?

The afternoon's a single thread of light
Sewn through the tatters of a leafless willow,
As one by one the branches fade from sight,
And time curls up like paper turning yellow.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Mid-November, cool days, cool enough to spend an afternoon by the fire in my chimenea. A place to think, quietly.



sic transit...

i use
a stick
to poke the fire
in my chiminea,

to spread the flame
and even the coal bed -

finally,
with nothing left
of the fire but
red-orange glow,
i consign the blackened stick
to its end -

and with a sizzle
like last breath
passing,
an instrument
of the fire
becomes the fire –


sic
transit
elvis
michael
kurt
janis
hank
jimi
marley…
and the list
ever so long
goes on and on,
ashes
upon ashes






Photo by Erin Neutzling




Pat Mora won the Southwest Book Award for Borders and her earlier book of desert incantations, Chants.

The next three short poems are from the later book Borders, published by Arte Publico Press in 1986.



Love Like Champagne

My fingertips slide down
the cool, green bottle
never feel the fizz
capped inside, playful bubbles
push against the glass
bump, roll, pop
in carefree delight, pressurized
pleasure, like my joy
bubbling, bubbling against my skin.


Akumal, 1983

Curious about the roar
and the crystal spray in the moonlight,
you pulled me from safe lights.
I lifted my long dress
and my unsure feet slipped and slid
on black, sea-shined rocks
until without a word
you pulled me up on your back
carried me where water wild
leaped through dark boulders.
I watched the glint of the cold
splash warm you who love
to taste the salty edge.


Danger: New Man

Stumbling into your blue eyes
some women might linger,
try to tend to you.
            I tiptoe
            over your used socks,
            sit hard
            on my
cookbooks
            when you
come to call,
            fear you might move in,
            eat my life away.
At night I soften,
plot to fill your rooms
with orchids, roses - more
with blossoming flame
trees, jacarandas, flamboyans,
hide in the shadows
silently lift the roof
watch you and the moonlight
stroke the blooms.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




I don't think this was what Bobby had in mind,but...



why not?

I painted
one thumbnail black
as a kind of Halloween joke

but then,
after Halloween,
I decided
the Great Thumb of Blackness,
GTOB, as I have named it,
both looks kind of cool
and serves a community purpose -
an existential
manifestation of the universal
desire to explode
in cosmic swells and gravity wells,
a kind of tattoo, a totem
for all those who wish to be
adorned
with the latest in skin art,
those who ride wild
in their daydreaming
day-slog
but hesitant
when the moment comes
for fear of needles

that’s my socially acceptable reason
for having a black thumbnail, my duty
to serve
as surrogate
for the multitudes
pining to be painted but
hobbled
by fear
of sharp objects

less socially acceptable,
but in accordance
with my new credo - first expressed
by Bobby Kennedy who said we should
quit asking “why”
and ask instead, “why not?” -
the truth is
I have a black thumbnail
simply
for the reason
that I couldn’t think of any reason
not to have a black thumbnail
and so now
I do





Photo by Erin Neutzling



Again a little late Veteran's Day, but next I have three poems by World War I soldier/poet Wilfred Owen, who wrote of war and soldiers as he experienced them on the front lines. All of his important poems were written in the space of just over a year. Only four of his poems were published in his lifetime.

Owen, who was killed in action a week before the Armistice began in November, 1918, said of his poems, "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity."

The poems are from The Poems of Wilfred Owen, Wordsworth Classics in 1994.



Soldier's Dream

I dreamed kind Jesus fouled the big-gun gears;
And caused a permanent stoppage in all bolts
And buckled with a smile Mausers and Colts;
And rusted every bayonet with His tears.

And there were no more bombs, of ours or Theirs,
Not even an old flintlock, nor even a pikel.
But God was vexed, and gave all power to Michael;
And when I woke he'd seen to our repairs.



The Last Laugh

"O Jesus Christ! I'm hit," he said; and died.
Whether he vainly cursed, or prayed indeed,
The Bullets chirped - In vain! vain! vain!
Machine guns chuckled - Tut-tut! Tut-tut!
And the Big Guns guffawed.

Another sighed - "O Mother, Mother! Dad!"
Then smiled, at nothing, childlike, being dead.
   And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud
   Leisurely gestures - Fool!
   And the falling splinters tittered.

"My love!" one moaned. Love-languid seemed his mood,
Till,slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud.
   And the Bayonets' long teeth grinned;
   Rabbles of Shells hoted and groaned;
   And the gas hissed.


Asleep

Under his helmet, up against his pack,
After the many days of work and waking,
Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.
And in the happy no-time of sleeping,
Death took him by the heart. There was a quaking
Of the aborted life within him leaping...
Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.
And soon the slow, stray blood came creeping
From the intrusive lead, like ants on a track.

****

Whether his deeper sleep lie shaded by the shaking
Of great wings, and the thoughts that hung the stars,
High-pillowed on calm pillows of God's making
Above these clouds, these rains, these sheets of lead,
And these winds' scimitars;
- Or whether yet his thin and sodden head
Confuses more and more the low mold.
His hair being one with the grey grass
And finished fields of autumns that are old...
Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass!
He sleeps. He sleeps less tremulous, less cold,
Than we who must awake, and waking, say Alas!





Photo by Erin Neutzling




After I retired the first time,I took on several new jobs. For a while, for example, I worked for a local United Way, a job I enjoyed very much. For another while, I took on the job of Planner for a public entity, a job for which I was not a fit by nature or by 30-years experience mostly running my own show.



getting there from here


after the first time
I retired
I went to work for a while
as a planner -

though not a very successful one,
because,
to the professional planner,
the planning process
is the drawing of a road map

while I, by nature
and experience,
see planning as a compass,
a tool used to select,
out of the 360 options
always available, the one
that leads me past every change
of circumstance and contingency,
across every unforeseeable river ford
and mountain crossing,
always
taking the direction
most likely
to get me to the place
that is the goal of my
passage

that’s the difference
between
the professional
planner
and real life,
where it rarely ever matters
where you are,
as long as you know
where you’re going






Photo by Erin Neutzling




Giraffe On Fire, by Juan Felipe Herrera, is an amazing book by an amazing poet. Unfortunately much of it is too long to use here, and the smaller parts that make up the longer narratives don't work in isolation.

But I did find, near the end of the book, a short poem that catches the flavor of the book.

Herrera is Professor of Chicano and Latin American Studies at California State University in Fresno. The book was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2001.



Beneath Your Skin

A strange sharp whitish black - you whisper to me
something like centimeters continents, the waning night
is smoke. it is a whip that swings in your arms, stone.
No one really re-cognizes you. Your skin, for
example, is a clasp of nuns on fire or earthquakes
ships lamps open covers from sexual honey,
an invisible (as always) heat. A reddish
summer sheet. Every number on your throat.
Whirlwinds
Velvet
An arrow coming at you
We sweat and we bathe in our mid-flight
Oval hair Everything that will never
be said on the Mount
since it is so evident divine me.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Not much to say about this piece, except bonus points to anyone who knows who Hermione Gingold was. It also means you're old.



a good way to start is what i'm saying

it’s chill
that’s what I’m saying -

went out to feed the critters
and froze my jelly-belly

near
fa-telly

but the sun’s
arising

like
an old man’s hoosit

when memories strike
with tentpole-city

dreams of that pretty girl
from 1954 all bobby-

socked and whooshy skirted
rising all the way to her holymoses

when
she twirled

to the beat
of her rocker-roll feet

like Hermione Gingold
peddling her pettifogs

through the roses of the
Sangre de Chevalier…

but
I was saying

it’s a chill-bill day
but the sun’s arising

an all-together encouraging
way

I’m saying
to kick-off the day




Photo by Erin Neutzling




That's it for the week before Thanksgiving. "Here and Now" will likely not be back for two weeks. In the meantime, remember all the usual stuff about the work here being the property of those who created it.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog and designated turkey carver for next week.

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