Sunday On the River While the Sun Still Shines
Saturday, January 29, 2011
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
it’s easier to imagine old then to remember young
Equality of the Sexes
some kind of pretty damn good spuds
Dreams of Koa Returning
all brothers of all brothers
Federico Garcia Lorca
while the river flows
Breakfast with the Cats
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
A Father’s Song
astonished by the cold
The Lion and Sand
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.
with a mission:
Each settlement now
has its own
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
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
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
All I-5 music
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:
remains the most-
traveled Mobius strip.
The I-5 median strip
is a designated reservation.
And, yes, the buffalo
have returned to I-5.
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.
The I-5 Channel.
in the Gulf:
The I-5 Auto.
The I-5 Bronco.
The I-5 Franchise.
Already in effect:
The I-5 Interstate
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
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
when she was proud of her
slim, dancing feet,
her delicate hands, long proficient
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
she says in Spanish
to the receptionist, I can wait.
But tell the doctor not too long,
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.
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
in a few days…
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
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.
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
I talk to my animals…
who can’t hear me,
but she can see my lips move
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,
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
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.
The fevers fled with great joy to the hawsers of moored
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
with a pheasant's solitary eye,
glazed by the anguish of a million landscapes
The doctors put their scissors and surgical gloves on the
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
to all the furred or feathered kind
that do not
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." The camp nurse
barely moves her lips,
edges us past their barracks.
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.
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,
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
hover, fearful for their nests…
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
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…
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…
down the green muddy river of time,
late sun arriving in its own time
as it always does,
as they always do.
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.
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.
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.
we are all children
of the big bang
and that nothing truly new
has been added to the mix
and while I don’t know what came before
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
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
that would make us really something,
us and all the universe we know or don’t,
the only stars anywhere,
you and me,
the only us anywhere…
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.
is shaped like wind.
The body of it
as in the space
where a play was done
the arrangements of light.
The rigged blooms
tied to their trellis,
the coils and racks of filters.
where it happens.
From the lake window
the wood noises came in
to say they went down
near the water
to gather the shapes of things.
Gestures printed on air.
A spider-thread spiral
no longer inhabited by the gestures.
Like Chinese writing
it stoops down
where the breath starts
to stand in for grass.
in the black garden's
to be plucked,
to be twisted
pliable and grassy
out of rigor.
where it happens
The shadow players bent
one toward other
under suspended gauze.
as of stopped water.
is shaped by wind.
It uncurls in the cold.
All morning furrows
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.
Little bones of
the ear, house built
of air, cloud-wraiths
cross hillside, wind
lays shadow on
on wall, day bears
down, seamless, last
bird's slow song, a
pipe reversed, con-
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,
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
blowing strong and cold
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
i’ll be staying inside
at my window,
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
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
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
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.
say you go to this
and you see the table
and fine china
straining under great
mounds of delicious
and you sit down
and take your first bite
and your first bite
is from a turnip ball
do you throw your fork
down and leave
leave behind all that
other great looking food?
you do not,
you move on to the next dish
and just eat around that
that’s what you
that’s what i’m doing
going around the
turnip ball of a poem
earlier this morning
and threw away
it’s gonna get much better
a great poem
right around the corner,
just waiting for me to catch it
and write it down
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.
- for my daughter
Scissors, glue, clumsy
fingers - crude tools
I've used to make
this cardboard bird
I've painted bright
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,
how a sparrow flew
from dark through
a lighted meadhall
into dark again.
Tiny wings of your lungs -
each bear a breath.
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
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 -
universe we see,
cold as the
at the grocery store
where we earned
our first wages -
it just doesn’t seem
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
in a world of
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
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
Slightly raising my forehead which has been smoothed by
the caressing hands of young girls, I remember am a
lion confined in stone.
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
count down to sunrise…
zero degrees wind-chill
they say -
I hear you say
you should be where I
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
pushing little sandy ridges
on a dry dusty plain, doodlebug
from whom do you hide
in your doodlebug home,
like little red toes
on sun-shiny beaches,
that’s what your zero degree
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
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.