Sunday On the River While the Sun Still Shines   Saturday, January 29, 2011


VI.2.1.




Back again in this very cold week.

The big news this week - well, okay, not the biggest, that Egypt stuff is a pretty heavy - but, anyway, my big news is that I have an Ebook, Pushing Clouds Against the Wind out and available on Ibookstore, the Sony reader, the Barnes&Noble Nook and Amazon Kindle. I checked Amazon and ordered a couple of copies for myself so I know it's up there. Haven't checked the others, though I understand Barnes and Noble is kind of slow getting stuff up.

The publisher is BookBaby, a low cost publisher that creates the Ebook then sends it on to the retailers. It being one of those cases where what you send is what you get, with no chance to review the final product, I was concerned, but it mostly turned out okay except a cover change didn't take so it's published with an old cover, without the title, until the second page. There are also several other errors I made in putting things together, but nothing too intrusive. The layout, one poem per page, is not what I expected, but what I actually prefer.

I had no idea how to price a Ebook, so I stuck $5.99 on it. Probably go cheaper next time, principally based on my own parsimony and reluctance to pay even six dollars for anything sight unseen.

A surprise to me is that a copy of my first book, Seven Beats a Second, is also on Amazon. It was originally supposed to be available on Amazon in Canada, England, and India, but not in the United States. I think it might be a used copy.

The lesser news this week is that I have no featured poet and am, myself, entirely responsible for the pictures.

Here's how it turns out this week:


Lawson Fusao Inada
High-Five for I-5

Me
it’s easier to imagine old then to remember young

Paul Auster
Second Nature
Equality of the Sexes


Me
some kind of pretty damn good spuds

W.S. Merwin
Trail Marker
Dreams of Koa Returning


Me
all brothers of all brothers

Federico Garcia Lorca
Jewish Cemetery

Jane Kenyon
No Steps
Wash
Camp Evergreen


Me
shackin’ up

Renny Golden
Lisiados
The Puma


Me
while the river flows

Anne Sexton
Rowing

Me
bang

Geoffrey O’Brien
The Lake

Michael O’Brien
Poem

Molly Peacock
Breakfast with the Cats

Me
watching the ice imps play

Lorna Dee Cervantes
Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races

Me
turnip balls

Gregory Orr
The Gift
A Father’s Song


Me
astonished by the cold

Wan Kin-Lau
The Lion and Sand

Me
pretty damn cold









I start this week with a piece I've used before, but it's so much fun, I'm doing it again.

It's from The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry, published by Wisdom Publications in 2005.

The poem is by a poet I've used here often, California poet Lawson Fusao Inada, in probably his least serious mood.



A High-Five for I-5

     *

Archeologists have determined
that the I-5 Corridor
was originally the Power Path
with sacred Prayer Places
accessible on the side.

     *

Padre Yo-Cinco
headed forth
with a mission:

Each settlement now
has its own
Taco Bell.

     *

The Chinese
are still blasting
I-5 into Canada.

     *

I-5 is still being
excavated in Mexico.

     *

I-5 is the only structure
to have its traffic
reported from the moon.

     *

At any given moment
there is enough water
in I-5 plastic bottles
to dampen a famine.

     *

At any given moment,
there are more boats
on I-5 than off Cuba.

     *

At any given moment
there is more lifestyle
on I-5 in Seattle
than there ever was in Russia.

     *

At any given moment
there are more Asians
on I-5 than others
may care to imagine,.

     *

At any given moment,
there are more random
acts of kindness on I-5
than in Medieval times.

     *

If you were to chop up I-5
and lay it side by side,
you could easily cover Europe,
not to speak of encountering
unspeakable resentment.

     *

If you were to roll up I-5
you could truthfully promote
the world's largest replica
of a butterfly tongue.

     *

The combined cracks of I-5
are equal to the Grand Canyon.

     *

The depth of I-5
is to be respected.

     *

There are more I-5 reflectors
than stars in the galaxy.

     *

I-5 paint can
readily cover
rain forests.

     *

I-5 dashboards emit
more radiation than
all wars combined

     *

Residents east of I-5
to the Atlantic Ocean
are noticeably different
from those on the other side.

     

Within a 24-hour period,
I-r roadkill could sustain,
for life, Santa's entourage.

     *

The I-5 Litter Patrol
has not chance of parole.

     *

All I-5 homeless
are licensed.

     *

All I-5 music
is approved.

     *

With the advent
of drive-thru schooling,
the Ramp Generation
never has to leave I-5.

     *

The I-5 CEO's RV
is refueled while moving.

     *

A proven fact:
I-5 drivers
via mirrors
read faster
backwards.

     *

If ratified,
I-5 becomes
the world's
narrowest
nation

     *

Otherwise, I-5
remains the most-
traveled Mobius strip.

     *

The I-5 median strip
is a designated reservation.

     *

And, yes, the buffalo
have returned to I-5.

     *

Improved sensors
allow many I-5 trucks,
especially at night,
to be driven by
the visually impaired.

     *

In remote stretches,
beware of I-5 hijackers
and false interchanges.

     *

Coming soon:
The I-5 Channel.

     *

Being tested
in the Gulf:
The I-5 Auto.

     *

Almost extinct:
The I-5 Bronco.

     *

Almost available:
The I-5 Franchise.

     *

Already in effect:
The I-5 Interstate
Date Line.








Here's my first poem for the week, a report on my last visit to the doctor, a regular thing, every three months to see if I'm still breathing.

So far, so good.




it's easier to imagine old than remember young

at 67, I’m
not the oldest person
in the doctor’s office, more
of a sophomore senior, a little older
than the spry and fresh-faced freshman,
younger than the junior seniors,
but not nearly as old as the senior
seniors

like la viejita,
shuffling in from the cold,
a little round dumpling
of a woman
all wrapped in a coat and cloak
and red knit tam,
moving slowly to the receptionist
on fat feet
overflowing pink house shoes

she thinks she remembers
a time
when she was proud of her
slim, dancing feet,
her delicate hands, long proficient
fingers,
her black hair streaming well past her shoulders,
the fire in her eyes
in flickering candle light

she thinks she remembers
this, but she’s not sure -
she might be thinking of the pretty girl
on the novela that comes at 3 o’clock
week day afternoons

Mija,
she says in Spanish
to the receptionist, I can wait.

But tell the doctor not too long,
she says

Porque Dios me espera,
and he will not wait forever.








Next, I have two poems by Paul Auster, from his book, Collected Poems, published by The Overlook Press in 2007.

Born in New Jersey in 1947, Auster has published eleven novels, as well as a number of non-fiction works and two screenplays, including for one movie, Lulu on the Bridge, which he also directed.

This is apparently his first book of poetry, with poems going back nearly 40 years.



Second Nature

In honor of the dumb, the blind, the deaf
To the great black stone upon the shoulders
The world passing away without mystery

But also for the others who know things by their name
the burning of each metamorphosis
The unbroken chain of dawns in the skull
The persistent cries that5 shatter words

Furrowing the mouth, furrowing the eyes
Where maddened colors diffuse the mists of waiting
Popping love against the life the dead dream of
The low-living share the others are slaves
Of love as some are slaves of freedom.


Equality of the Sexes

Your eyes have returned from and arbitrary land
Where nothing ever knew the meaning of eyes
Nor the beauty of eyes, or stones,
Or drops of water, or pearls painted on signs.

Naked stones reft of skeleton, o my statue,
The blinding sun has stolen you place in the mirror
And if it seems to obey the; forces of evening
It is because yo9ur head is sealed, o my statue, beaten

Be my love and savage tricks.
My motionless desire, your last support
Carried off without struggle, o my image,
Broken by my weakness and taken in my chains.








The old fellows continue to provide me with inspiration.



some kind of pretty damn good spuds

I have a new book
coming out
in a few days…

an E-book
and I’ve never done
an E-book before and never
done any kind of book
with this publisher…

I don’t know
how it’s going to turn out
but I hope it’s not bad
and if it is bad, I hope I learn
something since I have another book
in process and want to be certain
that if I do bad again, it’ll be a whole
different kind of bad than
I did this time
at least…

one of the old fellas at the coffee shop
ask me if I made
any money off my books
- he’s about eighty-something, the kind
of old-timer that’s probably been making money
one way or another since he was about five years old -
and I told him,
well hell, if I expected to make money
I’d be planting potatoes
not writing poems, because
if you consider it carefully it’s clear
there’s lots of different things
to be done with potatoes,
from French fires, to baked, to potato
pancakes, to scalloped, to a ‘gratin
and that French dish of potatoes all baked up
crispy with lots of stuff mixed in like
green onions and who knows what, not
being French, I don’t have clue…

but compare all the great things you can do
with a potato to what you can do with a poem -
limited, as far as I can see, to a bit of insight
into the true workings of the world and women
and men and trees and flowers and hills and dales
and so forth, and that’s only about once every
17,450 poems, which is pretty good if you get it
but doesn’t compare at all to a loaded baked potato
or some of the oven fries down at the German Deli -

they’s some kind of pretty damn good spuds








Back this week to W.S. Merwin, with two of his poems from his book The Shadow of Sirus. The book was published in 2008 by The Copper Canyon Press.



Trail Marker

One white tern sails calling
across the evening sky
under the few high clouds touched
with the first flush of sunset
while the tide keeps going out
going our to the south
all day it has been six months
that you have been gone
and then the tern is gone
and only the clouds are there
and the sounds of the late tide


Dream of Koa Returning

Sitting on the steps of the cabin
that I had always known
with its porch and gray-painted floorboards
I looked out to the river
flowing beyond the big trees
and all at once you
were just behind me
lying watching me
as you did years ago
and not stirring at all
when I reached back slowly
hoping go touch
your long amber fur
and there we stayed without moving,
listening to the river
and I wondered whether
it might be a dream
whether you might be a dream
whether we both were a dream
in which neither of us moved








A little bit of early Saturday morning philosophy, and a little preaching, too.



all brothers of all brothers

yes,
it’s true,
I talk to my animals…

even Reba
who can’t hear me,
but she can see my lips move

and know
she’s on my mind, like the blind cat
knows she is not alone in the dark

when I stroke her head as I pass,
like the friendly nod
I exchange with people

I pass on the street
because we all need to know we are not
alone in the dark -

such an acknowledgment
of our shared passage we should
pass on to the creatures around us -

balm to repair the primordial weld that has bound us all
since creation, the weld that is separating now
as all become remote from the others…

if you believe in God, remember he created us all
as part of his plan and it is not our place
to redraw the blueprints of his creation;

if you do not believe in God,
remember instead
that we are all creatures at base

of common offspring, basic elements
that give us,
as our relatives,

the snake, the bird, the fish in the ocean
the lion in the field, our neighbor
across the fence, the daffodil growing

wild as any creature on the meadow,
the earth beneath our feet
and the stars that shine overhead,

all brothers of all brothers
in our most basic
construction








Here is a longer poem from poet and martyr Federico Garcia Lorca. The poem is from Poet in New York, published in English and Spanish by the Noonday Press in 1988, with English translation by Greg Simon and Steven F. White.

The truth is I can't always follow along with the poet's narrative stream, but with the visions he shows us, who cares about following-along.



Jewish Cemetery

The fevers fled with great joy to the hawsers of moored
    ships
and the Jew chastely pushed against the gate the way
    lettuce grows coldly from its center.

Christ's children slept,
and the water was a dove,
and the wood was a heron,
and the lead was a hummingbird,,
and even the living prisons of fire
were consoled by the locust's leap.

Christ's children rowed and the Jews packed the walls
with a single dove's heart
through which all of them wished to escape.
Christ's little girls sang and the Jewish women looked at
    death
with a pheasant's solitary eye,
glazed by the anguish of a million landscapes

The doctors put their scissors and surgical gloves on the
    chrome table
when the feet of the corpses feel
the terrible brightness of another buried moon.
Tiny unscathed pains approach the hospitals
and the dead take off a suit of blood every day.

The architecture of frost,
the lyres and moans that escape from the small leaves
in autumn, drenching the farthest slopes,
were extinguished in the blackness of their derbies.
The dew retreats in fear from blue, forsaken grass,
and the white marble entrances that lead us to hard air
were showing their silence broken by sleeping
    footprints.

The Jew pushed against the gate;
but the Jew was not a port
and the boats of snow piled up
on the gangways of his heart:
a man of water who can drown them,
the boats of the cemeteries
that sometimes blind the visitors.

Christ's children slept
and the Jew lay down in his berth.
Three thousand Jews wept in the galleries of terror
because it was all they could o to gather half a dove
    among themselves,
because one of them had the wheel from a clock
and another a boot laced with talking caterpillars
and another a nocturnal rain burdened with chains
and because the claw of a nightingale that was still alive;
and because the half-dove moaned,
spilling blood that was not its own.

The fevers danced with great joy on the humid domes,
and the moon inscribed in its marble
ancient names and worn ribbons.
Those who dine behind the rigid columns arrived,
so did the donkeys with their white teeth
and the specialists in the body's joints.

Green sunflowers trembled
on the wastelands of dusk
and the whole cemetery began to complain
with cardboard mouths and dry rags.
Christ's children were going to sleep
when the Jew squeezing his eyes shut,
silently cut off his hands
as he heard the first moans begin.

    New York, January 18, 1930








Here are three poems by poet and translator, Jane Kenyon.

Kenyon was born in 1947 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in the Midwest. She earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1970 and an M.A. in 1972. She won a Hopwood Award at Michigan. Kenyon was New Hampshire's poet laureate when she died in 1995 from leukemia.

The poems are from her book, The Boat of Quiet Hours, published in 1986 by Graywolf Press.



No Steps

The young bull dropped his head and stared.
Only a wispy wire - electrified - kept us
apart. That, and two long rows of asparagus.
An ancient apple tree
blossomed prodigally pink and white.

The muddy path sucked at my shoe,
but I reached the granite step, and knocked
at the rickety porch door.
Deep in the house a dog began to bark.
I had prepared my Heart Fund speech,
and the first word - When - was on my tongue.

I heard no steps - only the breeze
riffling the tender poplar leaves,
and a random, meditative moo
behind me...Relieved, I turned back
to the car, passing once more
under the bull's judicial eye....
Everything was intact: the canister,
still far too light and mute,
the metal-boutonnieres where they began -
in a zip-lock plastic sandwich bag.


Wash

All day the blanket snapped and swelled
on the line, roused by a hot spring wind...
From there it witnessed the first sparrow,
early flies lifting their sticky feet,
and a green haze on the south-sloping hills.
Clouds rode over the mountain...At dusk
I took the blanket in, and we slept,
restless, under its fragrant weight.


Camp Evergreen

The boats like huge bright birds
sail back when someone calls them:
the small campers struggle out
and climb the hill to lunch.
I see the last dawdler
disappear in a ridge of trees.

the whole valley sighs
in the haze and heat of noon. Far out
a fish astonishes the air, falls back
into its element. From the marshy cove
the bullfrog offers thoughts
on the proper limits of ambition.

An hour passes. Piano music
comes floating over the water, falters,
begins again, falters...
Only work will make it right.

Some small thing I can't quite see
clatters down through the leafy dome.
Now is high summer: the solstice:
longed-for, possessed, luxurious, and sad.








Next, another dog and cat poem I wrote this week.

Another dog and cat poem! you say.

and why not, I say. My social circle might be small, but it is a society of the highest quality.



shackin' up

it’s
like the joke
about waking up in the morning

and finding someone
who shouldn’t be there
in the bed next to you - that’s

my old deaf dog
waking up several mornings
in the past couple of weeks to find

blind cat
snuggled up next to her
on her bed - such a shock to all

her canine friends
if they knew
about this feline cohabitation, but

old dog is of an even
disposition,
not likely to demonstrate

a prejudice against any kind, even
the feline kind,
so her response is limited to a deep sigh

a great rolling of her caramel brown eyes
and a quick return
to the early morning dreams of an old dog

with fading memories
of rabbits and squirrels and green pastures
and woods rife with the smell of mystery upon

mystery yet undiscovered -
and blind cat…
unable now, with the frailty of age,

to make the jump to my lap,
but seeking still
warmth on a cold night

and the slow-breathing whisper
of a companion’s sleeping,
settles for such comfort as she can find

in her dark night-wanderings, happy
to settle into the wrap
of a kindred soul, for fur knows fur

and the once wild essence of the furred kind
knows it’s kin
in whatever form it may currently reside…

nature is allowed to find its balance
in my house,
as long as a little corner is left for me,

pleased to be a smooth-skinned
companion
to all the furred or feathered kind

that do not
bite
or poop on the carpet








I have two poems by Renny Golden,activist, poet, and academic.

Golden was born in 1937 and raised in Chicago. She entered the Dominican order of nuns when she was nineteen. She earned Bachelors of Arts degree from Sienna Heights College in 1960, a Masters of Education from Wayne State University in 1968, and a Doctorate of Ministry at Chicago Theological Seminary with a specialization in Liberation Theology and Social Science in 1976.

The civil rights movement and her involvement in helping the poor dramatically changed her life, and she left the convent before taking her final vows.

In 1972, after moving to Chicago, she and another teacher began the adult education program, St. Mary's Adult High School. Adult education would continue to be a passion for Golden, and in 2002 she began another adult high school which served former prisoners. In 2005 she also started a bi-lingual adult education school.

Her introduction to Liberation Theology and the learning of the killings of thousands by the El Salvadorian military in the 1980s radically changed her activism.

She first visited El Salvador in 1985, where she learned about the struggles of women involved in the resistance movement and recorded their stories, which resulted in her book The Hour of the Poor, the Hour of Women, published in 1991. She also became active in the underground railroad that helped El Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees flee to sanctuary churches and synagogues in the United States. From that experience, she co-authored Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad, published in 1986.

Golden also was a college professor, teaching for twenty-seven years at Northeastern Illinois University as well as several years at Harvard Divinity School, Walpole Prison, Columbia College, and most recently as Professor Emeritus at University of New Mexico.

The poems I selected for this week are from her book, The Hour of the Furnaces - the book a witness to her time in El Salvador. It was published by Mid-List Press in 2000.




Lisiados

"Lisiados." The camp nurse
barely moves her lips,
edges us past their barracks.
Candlelight flickers
where they play checkers,
pouring strong guaro down
dark throats, laughing.
A boy without a jaw strokes
a cat, his smile crooked.

In dreams they gather
arms, legs, hands,
missing parts of a puzzle
their bodies cannot remember.
There are screams:
parrots, a man's sob.
Night air opens the muffled voice,
allows sorrow to speak,
touches sleeping senses
with the scent of volcano flowers,their mountain, Guazapa,
where they vaulted from conacaste trees,
acrobats in the trustworthy air.


The Puma

I am the puma walking
through stars on the volcano.
I wear men's clothes, a bandanna,
boots, an M16 on my shoulder.

Starving generations have carried me
to this volcano.
When breathless soldiers reach our camp,
pirouetting left, then right,
trigger fingers throbbing,
they find coals, a cane lean-to,
the murmur of pine boughs,
as we leap through
a green door peasants close.
No jefe, no guerrillas vinieron aqui.

When my baby is born,
I christen him Oscar,
oil his black curls,
kiss his hands, feet.

I give life in this dying revolution.
I am the scripture my companeros
have never read.

Good-bye hijo, I say.
Your grandmother will sing
to you until I return,
or don't.


Now I move through the canefields,
a milky stain on my undershirt.
I grasp my rifle, my other hand
touches the dew-soaked darkness
seeking a cradle to rock.
Fist of flame,sudden as a low torch,
burst behind us.

Six years of carrying a radio
as if it were a zensontle bird
that could fly above mortar,
singing: Danger, danger.
If I fly, sing on, pajarito
in my compas' hands.

Six years of prowling.
Six years of Commandante Villalobos
saying: "See how they fear us."
Six years of corpses.
Six years of peasants dying to protect us.
Six years of mud and bitter coffee.








Everything has its time, we think, hoping soon will be ours.



while the river flows

the sun rises
late in the sky

and the pharaoh fades
as along the Nile

the ibis
hover, fearful for their nests…

here, too,
the sun is a late arrival,

tardy in an over-crowded
sky of clouds roiling in the tumult

of a transitional day,
and on the river tiny ducklings swim,

little feather balls following in mom's wake, huddling
close to the wall

until one pushes through the wall
of mother-security

to break out across the middle
of the flowing currents,

pushing with tiny paddle feet
against the river’s flow to the other side

while mother seems not to notice
her train is shorter by one…

along
the river bank

watchers call, cry, who will save
the baby, as mother and small fry

swim further apart, a generation gap
measured by the green muddy river flowing…

history flowing
down the green muddy river of time,

late sun arriving in its own time
as it always does,

pharaohs fading
as they always do.

offspring
swimming off on their own

as they always do, ibis
in the reeds,

protecting their nest
as they always do, always,

while the river flows,
as it always does








Next, I have this poem by Anne Sexton, from her book The Awful Rowing Toward God. The book was published Houghton Mifflin in 1975.



Rowing

A story, a story!
(Let it go. Let it come.)
I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender
into this world.
First came the crib
with its glacial bars.
Then dolls
and the devotion to their plastic mouths.
Then there was school,
the little straight row of chairs,
blotting my name over and over,
but undersea all the time,
a stranger whose elbows wouldn't work.
Then there was life
with its cruel houses
and people who seldom touched -
though touch is all -
but I grew,
like a pig in a trenchcoat, I grew,
and then there were many strange apparitions,
the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison
and all of that, saws working through my heart,
but I grew, I grew,
and God was there like an island I had not rowed to,
still ignorant of Him, my arms and my legs worked,
and I grew, I grew,
I wore rubies and bought tomatoes
and now, in my middle age,
about nineteen in the head I'd say,
I am rowing. I am rowing
through the oarlocks stick and are rusty
and the sea blinks and rolls
like a worried eyeball,
but I am rowing, I am rowing,
though the wind pushes me back
and I know that that island will not be perfect,
it will have the flaws of life,
the absurdities of the dinner table,
but there will be a door
and I will open it
and I will get rid of the rat inside me,
the gnawing pestilential rat.
God will take it with his two hands
and embrace it.

As the African says:
This is my tale which I have told,
if it be sweet, if it be not sweet,
take somewhere else and let some return to me.
This story ends with me still rowing.








I could have written a poem about the cold blowing in, leaving the trees shaking in their roots, but I had this other thing pinging around in my brain.

Maybe I'll do a "cold" poem tomorrow.



bang

I believe
we are all children

of the big bang
and that nothing truly new

has been added to the mix
since,

and while I don’t know what came before
the bang

I’m guessing we’ll figure it out
before the end…

multiple bangs, maybe;
bangs within bangs;

bangs bouncing off bangs
like a six bank corner pocket

hustle;
perpetual bang,

one bang banging another,
like steel balls hung from strings

banging one after the other
in forever and ever progression;

bangs banging out here, banging in
somewhere else -

that’s one to imagine,
creation in reverse, the Garden of Eden,

returning to unplowed field -

or it could be a single, once-and-only
bang -

that would make us really something,
us and all the universe we know or don’t,

our stars,
the only stars anywhere,

you and me,
the only us anywhere…

somehow,
I just don’t feel that special








Now, here are a couple of poets from The KGB Bar Book of Poems. The book, a collection of poems read at the KGB Bar on New York City's East Side, was published in 2000 by HarperCollins.



The first poem is by Geoffrey O'Brien. Born in New York City in 1948, he has been published and anthologized often. When he read the poem in November, 1997, he had been editor in chief of the Library of American since 1992.


The Lake

1.

The lake
is shaped like wind.

2.

The body of it
persistent

as in the space
where a play was done
the arrangements of light.

3.

The rigged blooms
tied to their trellis,
the coils and racks of filters.

Empty frame
where it happens.

4.

From the lake window
the wood noises came in
to say they went down
near the water
to gather the shapes of things.

5.

Gestures printed on air.

A spider-thread spiral
no longer inhabited by the gestures.

6.

Like Chinese writing

it stoops down
where the breath starts

to stand in for grass.

7.

Five stalks
hesitant
in the black garden's
stubble carpet.

8.

To waver,
to be plucked,

to be twisted
pliable and grassy
out of rigor.

9.

Empty frame
where it happens

The shadow players bent
one toward other
under suspended gauze.

As movement
as of stopped water.

10.

The lake
is shaped by wind.

11.

It uncurls in the cold.
All morning furrows
repeat nothing.

12.

The tips of furrows
seem to nestle
against what pushes them.


Next, here's a poem by Michael O'Brien. Born in 1939, his book, Sleeping and Waking was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Critics Circle award.

He read his poem at KGB in March, 1998.


Poem

Little bones of
the ear, house built

of air, cloud-wraiths
cross hillside, wind

lays shadow on
water, leaf-shape

on wall, day bears
down, seamless, last

bird's slow song, a
pipe reversed, con-

stellation of
four tones, shifting


Last from the book, this piece by Molly Peacock, read at KGB by the poet in April, 1997.

I like pet people; they understand life at a deeper level of existence than others.


Breakfast with Cats

the advent of the new habit
occurred the day the cats
were ignoring us.
Falling in love
with my new electric frother,
I made cafe au lait
in lion size cups
as my perused "The Science Times."
Thus it was a Tuesday.
On Monday we had ignored them.
Deadlines to meet, of course.
Preclusive of petting;
nor had we made love.
Nor do we ever eat breakfast at a proper table.
We eat in the living room by the big window
so we can hear every decibel
of the buses' brakes' bellows' breath below
where the East village spreads out in blocks & streets
like the wheat field squares & apple orchard rows
our cats would roam in - if not
for that word "like."
In my enthusiasm for the slender white frother,
I overfrothed.

Feeling the deep silence of our cats
in their berths beneath the tablecloth
I put the extra froth in two
blue and whi8te bowls
which had reproached us
with their tiny emptiness
since we had purchased them in Chinatown
never thinking of a single thing that could go into them
because we had only solid thoughts.
The milk was liquid thought.

When the room's reds reddened as in a Flemish painting,
richer because the sun went in
as it began to rain lightly and gently on the East Village
the buses' moist breaks breathing
more deeply as they came to their sensible safe stops,
I placed the tiny bowls
by my footstool.
My lounging husband looked up in alertness
too feral merely to hold a cup.
After the two cats heads appeared delicately
around the sides of the wing backed chair,
they lowered their triangle chins into their bowls
at the left
and at the right
and had their fill
circled the carpet medallion
then lay in the lower ocean of the room,
their habit became a habit
in a right instance.
And every morning since they have each sat
in the original positions of the bowls
waiting for their froth.
It is froth for which gods live.








For some reason, I'm finding extra time and, having the time, getting to a project I've been putting off and putting off - transferring about five years of poems from poetry forums to a scan disc for storage. I started with December last year and am not working on November, 2009. (A poem-a-day, 365 poems a year for five years takes some transcribing. Still have a ways to go.)


One of the poems I found is this next one, a short piece written on a day like today two years ago.



watching the ice imps play

north winds again
today -
blowing strong and cold
straight down
from Montana and the Rockies,
picking up leaves
finally fallen from their trees
and sending them swirling
down the street like little
ice imps at play

if i was a longhorn
i’d be huddled now
against a south-facing
fence

instead
i’ll be staying inside
at my window,
watching
the ice imps play








Next, I have a poem by Lorna Dee Cervantes, from her book, winner of the 1982 American Book Award, Emplumada. The book was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Born in 1954 in California, Cervantes grew up in San Jose, speaking English at home, as required by her parents.

She was an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder until 2007. She describes herself as "a Chicana writer, a feminist writer, a political writer" (Cervantes). In addition to Emplumada, she has two other collections of her work, From the Cable of Genocide, and Drive: The First Quartet.



Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, a n Intelligent,Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races

In my land there are no distinctions.
The barbed wire politics of oppression
have been torn down long ago.The only reminder
of past babbles, lost or won, is a slight
rutting in the fertile fields.

In my land
people write poems about love,
full of nothing but contented childlike syllables.
Everyone reads Russian short stories and weeps.
There are not boundaries.
There is no hunger, no
complicated famine or greed.

I am not a revolutionary.
I don't even like political poems.
Do you think I can believe in a war between races?
I can deny it. I can forget about it
when I'm safe,
living on my own continent of harmony
and home, but I am not
there.

I believe in revolution
because everywhere the crosses are burning,
sharp-shooting goose-steppers round every corner,
there are snipers in the schools...
(I know you don't believe this.
You think this is nothing
but faddish exaggeration. But they
are not shooting at you.)

I'm marked by the color of my skin.
The bullets are discrete and designed to kill slowly.
They are aiming at my children.
These are facts.
Let me show you my wounds, my stumbling mind, my
"excuse me" tongue, and this
nagging preoccupation
with the feeling of not being good enough.

These bullets bury deeper than logic.
Racism is not intellectual.
I can not reason these scars away.

Outside my door
there is a real enemy
who hates me.

I am a poet
who yearns to dance on rooftops,
to whisper delicate lines about joy
and the blessings of human understanding.
I try. I go to my land, my tower of words and
bolt the door, but the typewriter doesn't fade out
the sounds of blasting and muffled outrage.
My own days bring me slaps on the face.
Every day I am deluged with reminders
that this is not
my land.

and this is my land.
I do not believe in the war between races
but in this country
there is war.








Here's my poem-writing theory/practice.

If you write a lousy poem, don't waste a bunch of time trying to fix it because if the best you can do in the midst of a burst of divinely inspired inspiration is lousy, there's nothing you can do to it to make it anything but maybe a little less lousy. You'll never make a lousy poem good by obsessing over it.

Best to just toss it; write another one. If the next one's not better than the last one, fold up your laptop and take the day off. It's just not a poem-writing day for you.

This poem is another re-tread from 2009.



turnip balls

so
say you go to this
fancy feast

and you see the table
beautifully laid
with flowers
and fine china
and gleaming
silverware,
straining under great
mounds of delicious
looking food

and you sit down
and take your first bite
and your first bite
is from a turnip ball
or something
equally
disgusting

do you throw your fork
down and leave
the table,
leave behind all that
other great looking food?

no ma’am
you do not,
you move on to the next dish
and just eat around that
disgusting
turnip ball

that’s what you
do

well
that’s what i’m doing
right now,
going around the
disgusting
turnip ball of a poem
i wrote
earlier this morning
and threw away

i’m sure
it’s gonna get much better
from here

a great poem
right around the corner,
just waiting for me to catch it
and write it down

starting
any minute now








From the book City of Salt by Gregory Orr, here are two poems.

The book was published in 1995 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Orr, born in 1947 in Albany, New York, grew up in the rural Hudson Valley, and for a year, in a hospital in the hinterlands of Haiti. He received a B.A. degree from Antioch College, and an M.F.A. from Columbia University. He teaches at the University of Virginia, where he founded the MFA Program in Writing in 1975, and served from 1978 to 2003 as Poetry Editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review.



The Gift

     - for my daughter

Scissors, glue, clumsy
fingers - crude tools
I've used to make
this cardboard bird
I've painted bright
unlikely colors
and hung by a string
above your crib

     *

In last night's dream
you were grown
and I was old
and in the backyard
digging a deep hole.
You stood above me
shining a light
where I shoveled down
through all my life.

     *

In an ancient book,
Bede wrote
how a sparrow flew
from dark through
a lighted meadhall
into dark again.

     *

Tiny wings of your lungs -
each bear a breath.


Father's Song

Yesterday, against admonishment
my daughter balanced on the couch back,
fell,and cut her mouth.

Because I saw it happen I knew
she was not hurt, and yet
a child's blood's so red
it stops a father's heart.

My daughter cried her tears;
I held some ice
against her lip.
That was the end of it.

round and round; bow and kiss.
I try to teach her caution;
she tries to teach me risk.








Here's another poem from a cold day in 2009.



astonished by the cold

those of us
born and raised
in lands were days are hot
and nights are warm
are always
astonished
by the year's first winter cold,
stepping out our front door
into the dark
of an early winter morning,
stepping into a cold
that seems universal,
cold that stretches from the dirt
beneath our feet
to the furthermost star
we can see -

a transformed
universe we see,
cold as the
meat locker
at the grocery store
where we earned
our first wages -
it just doesn’t seem
reasonable
that the world all around
could ever be as cold
as that locker,
with beef quarters
hanging from hooks
in the ceiling, chicken
frozen in boxes
on icy shelves

growing up
in a world of
air conditioning
where
cold has a cost per
kilowatt hour, we
can’t help wondering,
who’s paying the bill
for all this cold








For my last poem from my library this week, I have Wan Kin-Lau from the May, 1972 issue of Poetry, a great secondhand bookstore find.

According to notes at the back of the journal, Wan was from China, attending the Iowa International Writing Program, making his first, and, as far I can tell, his only appearance in the journal. I could find nothing on the web beyond confirmation of the little I already knew.



Lion and Sand

     1

I crouch on the high steps. Memory comes back from the
     wilderness to look for my eyes, my breath. Under the
     moon, silence,like ants, gathers at my feet. The pedestal
     frozen with frost is a dying young stag wrapped in
     white reeds. The fresh taste of blood, the tender feeling
     of flesh, are still in my canines and claws. The wounded
     leaves in the valley should still be whirling with my
     roar in the autumn air. Ah, wilderness has been the only
     virtue

Slightly raising my forehead which has been smoothed by
     the caressing hands of young girls, I remember am a
     lion confined in stone.

     2

Sliding,soft and slow, on the smooth skin, I do not have
     the illusion of a martyr any more. When I got closer to
     the slender waist, a feeling of indifference grows in me.
     The thought of struggle, the desire to resist, the anger
     toward fate, are gradually replaced by the anticipation
     of being soon released, of not having to rub on this
     skin to which I can't hold on. The quiet surface of the
     lowest layer intrigues me like a mirror abstracting
     flowers. Down there, it would be tranquil. Yet, repeating
     this gliding action, I am a grain of sand on the verge of
     falling from the edge of the hole in an hourglass about
     to be turned over.








Finally, from the cold this year, the poem I wrote today.



petty damn cold

cold-morning
count down to sunrise…

zero degrees wind-chill
they say -

wuss
I hear you say

you should be where I
be

right now, you say,
zero degrees like a balmy walk

along a sandy-beach boulevard,
palm trees a-flutter

in a tropic breeze
and high-breasted girls

in teeny bikinis
dancing,

red-painted toes
pushing little sandy ridges

like doodlebugs
on a dry dusty plain, doodlebug

doodlebug
from whom do you hide

in your doodlebug home,
like little red toes

dancing
on sun-shiny beaches,

that’s what your zero degree
wind-chill

seems like to us
here in the really cold cold, you say

like an ice furnace
burning frigid bright in the devil’s

winter parlor, you say,
we can tell you about cold

you say…
and I say, yeah, but zero degrees wind chill

is still pretty damn cold
for state of San Antonio, Texas





Dat's it - "Here and Now" is in from the cold ready to huddle around the fireplace.

As always I thank those poets whose work I borrowed and remind all that their work continues to be their own. I'll lend out my stuff, if anyone wants it, for proper credit to me and to "Here and Now" - it's only polite.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this book and now proud author of my second book.

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Short, But Not Too Big Around   Friday, January 21, 2011


VI.1.4.




"Here and Now" is in an abbreviated state this week. I was sick a couple of days and was not so diligent in my work.

Short, but still good, most pleasurable to me, more poems by Alex Stolis, in this case a ten-poem sequence.

Pics are by me, except the last one which is by my son, Chris. I messed around with the images, trying for some kind of sky/sea/desolation/loneliness thing. No indication from the pictures that it worked.

Here's who I have for you this week:


Naomi Guttman
Sudden Death
Median with Weeds
Leave


Me
part of the secret to successful poeming

Eugenio de Andrade
Crystallizations
Eros Passing
Still Life with Fruit


Me
not expecting much

Langston Hughes
Comment on the Curb

Dennis Levertov
The Jacob’s Ladder

George Oppen
from Some San Francisco Poems

Me
the healing

John N. Morris
Dry
Bluebeard
Fatness
Coclayne


Me
jealousy beyond reason

Robert A. Fink
The Need for Order
Consider
Ripley’s Wouldn’t Touch This


Me
illusions

Yung Hung-Tao
Hsin-An River
Watching the Boat Races at the dragon Boat Festival,
    The Year Shen-Ch'em (1604)
Songs of the Bamboo Branches


Alex Stolis
Everything adds up lonely - a ten-poem sequence

Pamela Uschuk
Beggar

Me
it is hard









I start this week with several poems by Naomi Guttman, a poet I did not know until I picked up a copy of her book, Reasons for Winter at a second-hand book store last week. The book was published in 1991 by Brick Books, with support from The Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council.

According to the book jacket, Guttman was born in Montreal in 1960, graduated from Concordia University, and received her M.F.A. from Program for Writers at Warren Wilson college in North Carolina. Recipient of grants from the Ministere des Affaires Culturelles and the Canada Council, she lived in Los Angeles at the time the book was published.



Sudden Death

Back from the funeral,
my parents work the garden.
They stake peas, squatting, the
rake weeds, speak
in savage sighs
of the man, the friend - why
and how it is hardly believable.

Only dance the dance of crouch
and bend, shells of their backs
against the summer breeze
down, up, unfolding again
and again the earth beneath them.


Median with Weeds

The dandelions' pointillism fires
without mercy. Their yellow sway is just
the yellow of a child's pure rendition,
waking mu the rarely green divide
between the thoroughfares. But I know the grass
has grown too long and tomorrow
city mowing crews will make heads roll.

Wild herb springing
unwanted:
the definition of a weed.
I want to rip the chaos from my life,
pull u the unruly with my hoe
but then there's the glamor of three-year-olds
in love with yellow flowers -
whose passion is to pick those gone to seed and blow.


Leave

A war in my dreams. You
surprise me, though I've
been waiting.

In my mouth your tongue
is pointed, long,
urgently muscular -

We have only a few minutes,
you must go back,

back to the front.
You may not return.

You turn, in uniform,
leaving a hole in my mouth.








Here's my first poem of the week.

Good sign, I'm having way more fun than I did last week.



part of the secret to successful poeming

part
of the secret of successful poeming

is patience, lying
in wait,

taking the time you need
to contemplate the universal sureties;

scratching
where you itch

(but only as long as no reaching
under the table is required),

considering the flow of traffic
on the interstate,

the traverse
of orange morning clouds from eastern light

to western dark,
the price of gas, the dietary effects

of burgers and fries
and pecan pies and vanilla crunch

surprise,

the politics of remorse
and partisan recrimination,

the increasing globe
of your belly

like the planetary explosion
in Star Wars,
in slow motion,

the fat cats on your front porch
who seem to think every time you drive into your

driveway
you’re doing it just so you can feed them,

again,
the same over-fed cats

who won’t come within six yards of you
if you don’t have their food bucket

in your hand,
the neighbor across the creek

who brings her dog out for a walk
along the fence every time you want to take some sun,

(dirty-minded old woman -
nice looking dog)

…but what you must never do
is think about writing a poem

for thinking about writing a poem
is the worst preparation ever

for writing a poem
because your mind will twist

into all sorts poetic poo-poo
shapes

and the essence of you, which
is about regular real, boring things

and not about all sorts
of poetic poo-poo

will be submerged
and any poem of the essence of you

will be submerged
as well

and all that’s left will be some
high-faulting poo-poo

and by that I mean
the shit

your sixth teacher tried to stuff down your throat
back when you were still learning to read

~~~

of course a poem that is the essence of the essence
of you

might end up to be shit as well,
but the original, authentic shit of the essence

of your essence
is better, always, than a pale copy

of the high-faulting shit
of some English dude who probably

played
with himself

while eating his morning
kidney pie and Cheerios








Next, here are two poems by Portuguese poet, Eugenio De Andrade, from the collection Forbidden Words, published in 2003 by New Directions.

The book is a bilingual edition, with the original Portuguese text and an English translation by Alexis Levitin on facing pages.

De Andrade, born in 1923 in a small village close to the Spanish border, published his first poem at 16 and his first book three years later. He has won every literary prize his country offe3rs, as well as a number of international honors.



Crystallizations

1.
Love with words.

2.
Like the rose, bend
only when the wind blows.

3.Disrobe
like the dew
in the curved shell of the morning.

4.
Love
as the river climbs the last steps
to find its bed.

5.
How can we blossom
under the weight of so much light?

6.
I am passing through:
I love the ephemeral.

7.
Where I hope to die
will it still be morning?


Eros Passing

1.
Call of morning lost in flower:
it would be bird if it weren't ardor.

2.
In the taste of the water I recognize
the tenderness and loins of summer.

3.
A body glistens naked so desire
may dance in the light, straight upon the sands.

4.
In the murmuring waters of memory
just now, with you, I have been born.

5.
The wind bends the stems under a hard light:
the earth is very close and ripe.


Still Life With Fruit

1.
The morning blood of raspberries
chooses the whiteness of linen to love.

2.
Morning filled with sparklings and sweetness
settles its purest face upon the apple

3.
In the orange, the sun and moon
are sleeping hand in hand.

4.
Each grape knows by heart
the names of all of summer's days.

5.
In pomegranates, this I love -
the stillness at the center of the flame.







Here's another of my poems from this week's writing, one of several this week based on long-ago memories. The nostalgic mood, triggered by, of all things, the death this week of Sargent Shriver, Director, in the very earlier years, of the Peace Corps, the same early years when I spent the winter, 1964, as a Peace Corps trainee in New Mexico. Under-age, under-educated and outclassed by my fellow trainees, I completed training, but did not go further. Even so, it was the formative experience of my young life, teaching me that I was capable of much more than I had ever imagined before.




not expecting much

I remember waking up
humid wet
hanging half out my bedroom window

to catch the coastal breeze
blowing in from the gulf,
chilled by the wind

across my sweat-damp sheets...

beginning
another fifteen-year-old's day
in the mid-1950s - a poor boy

as I remember it now,
but in fact not much poorer
than most of the people I knew

a circle that included
only a few people I thought rich,
those who filled a good portion of my restless

before-sleep cloud-floating rambles
about being
them…

a boy of mostly secret,
mostly imagined pleasures
lacking confidence,

long on brains but
failing to see anything good
coming from it, wishing I could wish

away my brains for a car,
for a girlfriend, for a fight I could win,
willing to be dumb if dumb

would improve my position
in the small-town pecking order, move me up
a rank or two, enable sex with another person,

lead me to a twenty dollar bill blown onto a mesquite
thorn, hanging, waiting for me to find it in the bushy lot
where I made I den, where I could smoke Parliament

cigarettes, look at naked girl pictures, and dream, not always
of sordid things, ennobling dreams sometimes,
big -plans dreams, the great things I would do someday…
could do someday if I were someone else, someone

who had big plans, someone who did great things,
someone who was not me…

but mostly coupling dreams,
imagining how the flesh
of someone else would feel pressed

against mine, dreams of bodies entangled,
my body en-wrapped by pale arms with tiny blond hairs
like gold in the afternoon sun, and…and…then

things happening that I could only vaguely
imagine, lacking the experience of specificity,
but knowing it was good and stiffly exciting

what ever it was …

a small town boy,
not expecting much, not sure
what there was to expect,

surprised
always in later years
at how things turned out








Next, I have several poets from American Poetry Since 1959, Innovators & Outsiders. The anthology, edited by Eliot Weinberger, was published in 1993 by Marsilio Publishers.


First, I have this very short moment by Langston Hughes. Hughes wrote this in 1951.


Comment on the Curb

You talk like
they don't kick
dreams around
downtown.

    I expect they do -
    but I'm talking about
    Harlem to you!


Next, I have this piece by Dennis Levertov, written in 1961.


The Jacob's Ladder

The stairway is not
a thing of gleaming strands
a radiant evanescence
for angels' feet that only glance in their tread, and need no
touch the stone.

It is of stone.
A rosy stone that takes
a glowing tone of softness
only because behind it the sky is a doubtful, a doubting
night gray.

A stairway of sharp
angles, solidly built.
One sees that the angels must spring
down from one step to the next, giving a little
lift of the winds:

and a man climbing
must scrape his knees, and bring
the grip of his hands into play. The cut stone
consoles his groping feet. Wings brush past him.
the poem ascends.


Unfortunately, the anthology's editor seems to have a strong preference for very long poems, leaving me little for "Here and Now" so this is my last poem from the book. It is a piece of a very long piece, Some San Francisco Poems, written by George Oppen
in 1972.


2.

A Morality Play: Preface

Lying full length
On the bed in the white room

Turns her eyes to me

Again,

Naked...

Never to forget her naked eyes

Beautiful and brave
Her naked eyes

turn inward

Feminine light

The unimagined
Feminine light

Feminine ardor

Pierced and touched

Tho all say
Huddled among each other

'Love'

The play begins with the world

A city street
Leads to the bay

Tamalpais in cloud

Mist over farmlands

Local knowledge
In the heavy hills

The green loose waves move landward
Heavysided in the wind

Grass and trees bent
Along the length of the coast in the continual wind

The ocean pounds in her mind
Not the harbor leading inward
To the back bay and the slow river
Recalling flimsy Western ranches
The beautiful hills shine outward

Sunrise      the raw fierce fire
Coming up past the sharp edge

And the hoof marks on the mountain


Shines in the white room

Provincial city
Not alien enough

To the naked eyes

The city died young

You too will be shown this

You will see the young couples

Leaving again in rags








Here's another of the reminiscences I mentioned.



the healing

my first car
was a 1949 Plymouth

a two-door,
gray -

gray
not in the sense of morning dove egg

gray,
but gray in the sense of absence of color,

the color of the void
wherein colors cannot survive the doldrums

of no-thing triumphant…

I don’t know where my dad
got this car,

what particular junkyard he got it from
I mean,

but he and I worked on it for a month
and got it running,

running, that is,
like an old man puffing along

behind his walker -
the car’s max speed a stately 45 mph…

except for one afternoon,
driving at my usual 45 down Highway 83

between La Feria and Mercedes,
a three lane highway, center lane, which

I never had occasion to use with this car,
for passing,

a cool, sunny spring afternoon,
the kind of brilliant day when talk

of miracles
seems not so outrageous,

when, all of a sudden, such a miraculous event
seemed to occur as my car began to speed up,

50 miles per hour…55…60 miles per hour,
a great healing seemed to have occurred, like

my radio, unbeknown to me, had settled in
on the faith-healing preacher

who came on every Saturday afternoon from
the radio station in Nuevo Progresso

across the border
in Mexico

and hands had been laid
radiophonically on the old and ailing

six cylinders chugging faithfully
beneath my void-gray hood

rejoice I did,
and praised the Lord, until

I looked behind and say two of my friends
in their ’57 Chevrolet

pushing...

~~~

those few moments before looking behind,
the closest I’ve ever come to

believing in a transcendent
faith of my fathers

a moment soon lost
when my friends quit pushing








John N. Morris is a poet I don't remember using on "Here and Now" before. Remedying that, here are several poems from his book, Green Business, published by Antheneum in 1970.

Morris was an American author and educator who joined the faculty of the English Department at Washington University in 1967. He was born in Oxford, England, received his A.B. from Hamilton College and his MA and PhD from Columbia University, the last in 1964. A specialist in 18th-century literature, Morris taught at several other universities, including Columbia University and the University of Delaware. He wrote three collections of poems, and produced two works of non-fiction.

Born in 1931, Morris died in 1997.



Dry

He read her Blake by a bad light,
Fire on the mad page.
Art was a fact
Like any other tiger.

Now she is gone
He mopes and is absent.
He knows nothing
Is about to happen.

Nights, in a globe of quiet,
He reads pages
And pages of propositions
Naked o illustration.


Blubeard

The entry into darkness
Was dangerously free.
Still at my waist there dangles
The red, accusing key.

Impossibly, salvation
Though with immortal force,
Perpetually thunders
At the remotest doors.

But far within, forever
I issue strict commands
And do my execution
With blunt, accustomed hands.


Fatness

It is not merely the joggling, tropical plenitude
Of her that repels, but how her fond hands
Frequent her like tourists, and rummage
As if for some treasure, and pluck at bundles.

Kindness could easily dispel the zoological
Image of her bath: the heave, the tumbling
Breasts, the wet tremor, Still,
Those pleasuring hands, glad of herself!
They know her thickness.

Lord! how she bustles toward her objects.


Coclayne

We had power then. We double-dared
The clouds that moved like the slow hours to rain.
Imaginings grew like weeds in the sweet fields,
And we were kings in carts, princesses upon ponies.
Once upon a green distance Pegasus grazed,
Minutely beautiful.

Knowing as blindmen know the smell and feel
And sound of things, we knew what vision is:
Besides a green and upright arrowhead,
A pinetree was the weighty smell of balm;
Our hands clung round it and we dreamed of ships;
It whispered of waters in the nuzzling wind.
High in its branches was the terror of cliffs.







Beginning now the experience of old men, I begin to understand why they are so cranky.



jealousy beyond reason

she’s
the short, bubbly one

great personality,
smile as broad as the West Texas sky

and a memory like a sieve,
filtering out memory

of most things
not immediately before her eyes…

unlike all the other servers at the restaurant,
who leave your check for services

on your table in a little
wallet-like binder,

she leaves it for you
on a folded register tape…

other that I tend to spill coffee
on the paper tape,

making an ugly, sticky mess,
I don’t know why this bothers me so much…

but I do know that as I grow older
my patience, once one of my most sterling qualities,

grows shorter and shorter
and more and more I prefer precision around me,

things done as they’re supposed to be done,
on time, especially on time,

tardiness of others,
as my projected life span grows shorter,

seen by me more and more
as a kind of theft, stealing from me

that which I have increasingly less
of…

the messiness of others
increasingly annoys me, the slackness

of people, who, unlike me,
have better things to do than

cross a
tee
or dot an
eye…

the world is full of such people
and they piss me off now -

jealousy
beyond reason

souring my
day







Next I have three poems from The Ghostly Hitchhiker...and other poems by Robert A. Fink. The book was published in 1989 by Corona Publishing of San Antonio.

Lots of Robert Finks on Google, but couldn't find any thing of this Robert Fink. According to the book jacket, this Robert Fink was born in North Texas, was a former Marine Corps lieutenant in Vietnam and in 1989 was Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing Workshops at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene.

After living most of my life with the carelessness of a college sophomore, I have reached the stage in life where I identify completely with the poet's first poem.



The Need for Order

Comes upon me in my middle years
like the settling of a house,
the cracks so gradual
I can't recall the ceiling smooth,
the corners square.

No one cares but me
the furniture's sneaking from its spot
like children playing Red Light Green Light
on the lawn I mow twice a week.
Everything is slipping from its place:

The travel posters in their frame.
The philodendrons always turning toward the light.
Blue jeans my sons drop careless on the floor
to shrink a little every day.
At least I have my study.

No one but me reshelves a book.
The plants stay silk..
The sharpened pencils on my desk wait
straight as pickets,
dominoes in a row.


Consider

You have chanced upon a wreck
in the smoldering dusk
just over a hill
minutes from a cookout in the country,
a going-away party for a friend.

Your car hums sleek and fast enough
to escape this time, break through
this warp of memory
fading in the rearview mirror.

But you stop, back up, first to arrive,
no one to pinch you back to sleep
relieved the melt4d shapes
indistinguishable as cars,
no need to venture deeper in this dream
to what might be windows to other dreams
darker than imagination.

Nothing moves but the wind
and you between the cars
a hundred feet apart, spun off the road
like errors in an arcade game.

No time for contemplation
but the drivers are not going anywhere,
their passengers asleep for now
and you're no Boy Scout,
so look hard into this mangled face
before the T.V. crews arrive
to pry the easy questions.


Ripley's Wouldn't Touch This

but the assistant religion editor
happens upon a front-page situation
to save him from his cubicle
of Sunday School attendance records,
announcements for bingo parties.
Maybe now he'll rate a phone,
access to the computer.

A man has fallen twenty-one stories
and lived - a slight concussion,
a rope burn scarring both palms
and a new appreciation of heights,
hotels under renovation,
doors markedDo Not Enter
opening onto missing balconies,
free fall, the construction crew's
rope, carelessly forgotten, swaying
imperceptibly like the building.

His headline will begin with Angels,
a man walking on air and failing
until God said: Reach out.
Behold the rope!

The miracle is he didn't let go.
Like the prophet with a living coal upon his tongue.
Moses lifting high the serpent.








As much as I hate summer, I think I'm ready for a little of it. The problem is, when it comes, it won't be a little.



Illusions

running
late in the mornings
these days,

helping my blind cat
when she gets up from
her night’s sleeping

find
all the necessaries,
food, water, litter box,

so that I can put her back
in the chair
for her day’s sleeping -

a great temptation
at that point
to put myself back in bed

because
getting up in the winter
in the dark-dark

an hour before sunrise
does not energize me like
getting up in the soon-light

of summer,
there being something about the dark
makes the cold morning colder

while the dim of an early summer
morning
makes the promise of a cooler day

and lie
that it is,
I enjoy that illusion -

for illusion
is the soft wrap
that consoles us on sharp-edged

and prickly days
when goodness and mercy
do not follow us through the winter/summer

days
and nights of our lives -
and that fellow three booths down

look exactly like a fellow I knew
forty years ago,
the suicide obsessed fellow,

the fellow
I talked into holding out for another
day twice on a rooftop -

skunk-drunk he was
and I was too
but we both came down -

and I am enjoying the illusion
that he looks exactly like he did
forty years ago

and that I must as well
and that forty years past
he made it

and I made it, but mostly
he made it through the mummy-wrap mist of
his fearful nights

and that’s a nice illusion to have at six thirty
in the dark dark side
of
morning








Here are several poems from Pilgrim of the Clouds: Poems and Essays from Ming Dynasty China, published by white Pine Press in 2005. The book includes poems by Yung Hung-Tao and his two brothers, Yuan Tsung-Tao and Yuan Chung-Tao. For this week's "Here and Now" I have chosen to concentrate on the elder brother, Yung Hung.

The translation to English is by Jonathan Chaves .



Hsin-An River

The wavers here are bad,
     the head winds are terrible;
the folige, all green - even the rocks are green.
From dark cliffs we hear
     the murmuring of ghosts,
wild fires wake dragons with their heat.
The trees are old - From T'ang-dynasty stock;
the steles, toppled over
     bear Sund-dynasty inscriptions.
Stepping ashore, we meet an old farmer
who claims that ape men inhabit these woods,

     (This poem is one from a group of ten)


Watching the Boat Races at the dragon Boat Festival,
The Year Shen-Ch'em (1604)


     1.

The lake,newly swelled, is slippery as oil:
red banners, a hundred feet long,flutter past the trees.
I have two or three pieces of old, coarse silk:
I'll tear them into strips to te at the prow of my boat.

     2.

From Pi-han Tower, the water fills the valley.
At Cho-tsu Pond, the sun sinks in the west.
On the bridge, below the bridge - people like ants;
I only hope Duke Meng Embankment does not collapse
     under the weight.


Songs of the Bamboo Branches

     1

At the mouth of the Lung-chou River
     the water looks like sky:
here the women of Lung-chou operate the great boats.
Waves splashing her face, one of them asks the traveler,
"Are you scared? Watch my boat list
     under eight feet of wind!"

     2

The boatwoman has painted eyebrows.
Her boat is like a leaf, following the waves of the river.
Her left hand steadies a little girl,
     her right works the rudder,
and her dark hair, piled high as a mountain,
     stays perfectly in place.

Please note: This is a description of what I actually saw.








Once again, from my friend one of my favorite poets, Alex Stolis, a new poem sequence.



Everything adds up lonely

- for Cate Whiteley


singular matrix

Collect the smoothest stones you can find
each a seed that contains the moon’s pallor

carefully sift dirt, plant them, feed them, water them
faithfully and wait

for the constellation
to bloom.

You will learn the plural of “I”
is twice as lonely

but not as likely to forget
how to calculate

the circumference
of fidelity.


periodic motion

If I could change the shape
of my thoughts into triangles,

their hard edges and sharp corners
could make my eyes believe again.

There is nothing left but circles,
our final confession is broken,

a window. Redemption is flat, an end
less highway blurred by the sun.


adjacent angles

The only dreams left are empty
bottles, worn out
excuses and every
time I run away the sun is more resistant
words become weaker.

For once, poverty leads the way:
rusting bicycle spokes
knee socks
and poems that rhyme
a green dress hemmed
again
and again.


probability

You find yourself reliving
a dream
that was once real life:

red plaid skirts
dust from spring cleaning that swirls and floats
like a new universe
the smell of wet dogs and boys who pretend
not to be frightened of girls.

Cigarette ash curves like the beak of a bird, you fall
in love with the idea of permanence.
Embrace its roughness
Want to learn its language.

You imagine every word is a new lover,
believe every story can be captured
in black and white.


spherical trigonometry

small crimes
of the flesh
are best
committed
within
the landscape
created
by two bodies


zero matrix

With every word spoken
another opportunity is swallowed
by the past and the future

looks like an under developed
Weegee or Arbus; exposed

to light and hung
out to dry.

In the end there is nothing
to do
but shed bits
of bone, bleed

devotion until expectations
become brittle and white.


dependent variable

I ask your permission to draw a map of your body,
to finger-trace every curve, circle every scar.
Allow me to read your palm, decipher the secrets

hidden beneath the lines. Let me hold every word
you have written for me. Wash each syllable clean
then place them on your lips, watch them blossom

into new stories. Imagine us, by the sea, in a house
of shells. You will taste the salt on my skin, place
your hand on my heart and listen to the ocean.


cosine

Take the last road
traveled by the first person
you fell in love with,
watch the dust
settle
behind you

and someone,
somewhere
will light a candle in your name
and recite a prayer
to st jude.

The irony will get lost
long before you run
out of gas looking for an exit ramp.


compatible matrices

Say, for the sake of argument, you had never
fallen in love before. Never saw that woman,
the one with amazing legs, never noticed how
she walked into a room, lit it up like a firecracker.

Say, for the sake of argument, you never asked her
friend if she was seeing someone, didn’t try to steal
a glance, only watched from a distance. Fantasized
about her hair, her perfume, the lace about her bra.

Say, for the sake of argument, you never learned
to say consumed, compelling, outré --never dared
give a knowing look from across the room or a nod
and whisper to signal the perfect moment to leave.

Say, for the sake of argument, you never learned
to catch random bits of conversation, never
learned to feel the weight of a wordless kiss.
You might have become a liar instead; incomplete
and unknowing, a foreign man in a familiar land.


(linear system of equations)

If I could make you a number


it might be a 6
so you could curl
yourself next to me
as I count
how many breaths
it takes to say
your name
or maybe
a secretive 7
so when luck runs
loose I can hang
my head
on the soft curve
of your shoulder
4 is sturdy and even
but doesn’t know
how to brush the hair
from your face
can’t understand
how you make
loneliness disappear
how there is no
longer a need
for constellations
since I found you.








The next poem is by Pamela Uschuk from her book, published in 2002 by Wings Press, One Legged Dancer. The poems, some dire, many not, chronicle the poet's journeys through to frontiers of Mexico.

Uschuk was born on a farm in Michigan. She holds and M.F.A. from the University of Montana. She has taught poetry workshops and Native American literature at the university of Arizona's Writing Works Center and to Native students through ArtsReach.

At the time the book was published, the poet was director of the Salem College Center for Women Writers in Winston-Salem N.C.

After I used one of her poems in an earlier issue, Ms. Uschuk very kindly commented on that issue, thanked me for using her poem and mentioned that she is presently teaching at Fort Lewis College in Durango,Colorado (beautiful city, beautiful campus). She also mentioned that she has a new book out, Crazy Love, from Wings Press.

I grew up on the US/Mexico border, visiting the border cities of Matamoros and Reynosa often with family and grew accustomed at an early age to the beggars crowding every corner. I remember, also, an old woman with a cup on a sidewalk in Madrid and men squatting cross-legged in Karachi and Kabul.

It never remotely occurred to me that I would someday see the same thing in my own city, in my own country. It is the kind of thing you wish to didn't get accustomed to.



Beggar

You are a child leading a gang
of children whose faces are the random
predation of genes. With your back crooked
as an Iguana twisting, you beg
pesos from us as we detrain.

From your whole body, an arm flies
to the missing fingers
that club the wrist into a knot
tied by the blue ends of scars.
You do not smile at the money
you demand from our perfect hands.

     The chosen one.

a fat man whispers, his gold teeth
obscene stars breaking
stark dusk in this desert depot,



     Hoy muchos pobbres, senorita.
     You can't help staring. This is for you.


With a hand that isn't a hand
but a flap of skin that charges my eyes,
you collect coins, butting aside
the other children with your thin hip.


     Dame dinero. PsstPsst.
     Gringa, entiende?


Little extortionist, I understand
how you rule this station
with the tyranny of your terrible wound.
Cocksure and hissing
through teeth black as datura seeds,
your face curses my hands blind,
but how could I ever name you the villain
when you are the rock
that freezes my womb?

I leave all my change on your palmless hand

knowing you hate each of my fingers.
The fat man says deformities
like yours are often planned.
Poverty is a razor that cuts its own skin.

Tonight in the Vista Car, I listen
to Brahms First Symphony, each
resolution powerless to soothe land
that turns sleepless while the train
begs passage over its dark arms.


     - West of Cuidad de Chihauhau -








Now, my last poem for the week.



it is hard

sick
slept all day
dreams of when
I made things happen
sweet
it was in my
dreams

~~

watching
the blind cat
bounce
like a pin ball
from wall to wall
until she finds her way;
soft bounces,
her pink nose against the wall,
then turn

sometimes
a turn into a bedroom
that goes nowhere,
marooned
in the dark
beyond her personal dark
until I find her
sitting,
waiting for the world
to make sense again, then
I take her
where I think she wants to go

~~

doctor appointment today,
five and a half minutes, she will give me
new pills
and four and a half minutes
of advice -

I will take the first
ignore
the second…

young and pretty,
what does she know
about being old?

~~

I
find comfort
in my regular place
around my regular people

why
do I ever think
I need more

~~

I
find comfort
in thinking of other places,
other people,
where I can be
the mysterious stranger
in the back of the
room

things
I might not ever see before
or since

people
who know even less about me
then I know about
them

~~

it is
hard
to be happy

young
or old, it is hard
to know
the true nature
of happiness
from temporary
desire

~~

it is
hard
to live in a world
where nothing happens
unless you make it





Photo by Chris Itz




dat's all folks.

I allen itz, owner and producer of this blog and too sleepy to put all the regular stuff here. You have my permission to imagine its presence and abide accordingly.

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