"Res Judicata" - The S. T. Stearns Issue   Friday, February 25, 2011


This week's "Big Deal" is a 30-poem sequence by S. T. Stearns - details on that when you get to it.

The pictures this week, all but the first and the last, which were taken during earlier visits, are from a trip I took this week to the coast for lunch with a friend. The city is Corpus Christi, on the south Texas gulf coast. A wonderful city with terrific people which we lived in or near for fifteen years before moving to San Antonio in 1993.

Visiting is a little sad sometimes, because when we left, we left behind some of the best, most interesting and productiv years of my life. It's also sad because while the city has always seemed just one step away from becoming one of the crown jewels of the gulf coast, it has never seemed to take that last step without stumbling.

Anyway, here's this week's posse.

Michael Earl Craig
The Plane
At the Acupuncturist's

the Great Oz will notice me and reward me appropriately

Cha Shen-Hsing
The Customs House at Weed Lake

Chao Chih-Hsin
A Mid-Autumn Night
Presented to a Mountain Dweller

Chiang Shih
Crossing Several Mountain Ridges on My Way to P'u-ch'eng from Chian-Shan after a Snowfall
Getting Up Early at Lakeside Pavilion: Two Poems

thirty-four years ago, tomorrow

Czesław Miłosz
A Song on the End of the War


S. T. Stearns
Res Judicata

Wesley K. Mather
On a Driveway


Gary Snyder
For a Fifty-Year-Old Woman in Stockholm

reply to a critic who takes himself and me much too seriously

Lorna Dee Cervantes
In January
From Where We Sit: Corpus Christi

my secret no longer safe in the company of shorter men
whatever the problem, I know the solution

Simon Armitage
Gooseberry Season
Shrove Tuesday

deep thoughts to be thunk in 2009
in the news today

I start this week with poems from Thin Kimono, a collection by Michael Earl Craig published last year by Wave Books.

Craig was born in Ohio in 1970. He earned degrees from the University of Montana and the University of Massachusetts. He has published two previous books and is a certified journeyman farrier, living in Montana where he shoes horses for a living.

The Plane


When someone feels they know you well enough
they might bear your children.
I was thinking about this when the plane took off.


The girl next to me is Russian.
Stewardesses aren't stupid.
It stinks in here like anchovy vinaigrette.


The plane's wing looks like a stage prop,
like a pretend wing, like a child's idea
of a wing.


When stripped to your socks,
all your coins in the tub,
you are moments away from being a terrorist.


The stewardess took from a passenger
a sugared walnut, and ate it.
The passenger had a bread sack full of them.


I'm looking out the window at the wing again.
It's like looking into someone's
girlfriend's ear, as she's sleeping


I'm sound asleep when they come through
with the drinks. Dreaming
I'm have drinks on this plane.


Grown men who carry sugared walnuts.
Grown men who offer walnuts
on airplanes.


The back of the plane smells.
What kind of work does
the word smells do?


The man in 13C says "ballsy"
twice in five minutes. Over
the wing's edge, the snow-dusted mountains.


I do a lot of listening.
I am a good listener.
I am entering a shrinking violet phase.


When people use the word ballsy
it always makes me smile. Far off
blow, the snow-dusted mountains.


Little black ants are invading our bathroom.
They're coming in through a hole in our ti8le.
Tonight I look at one walking all over my floss case.
I have trouble crushing the ants.
But if I inadvertently flick one into the sink
and stare up at a spout on the wall
I seem to have no trouble flipping the faucet on,

full blast, and hosing him down the drain.
Grandma says I should write "it" - should hose "it"
down the drain. "Him," Grandma says,
"is too..." and she pauses...
I'm on the phone with my grandma
She has no idea what the fuck she is saying.

They say one of the hardest things
for the young monks to master is

I close my eyes and see a very large man
with a bright orange vest and hard hat.

When a young monk is battling distraction
they send him down the mountain
to take tennis lessons from the heathens.

The large man is yelling own
into an open manhole in
the middle of 42nd St.
Something about Gustav Mahler.

It's convincing, the young monk in the rain
with his wire basket and new balls.

"Mahler had vision, Douglas!
Hallucinations, Douglas!"

The new balls smell like Magic Markers.

Grandma is still making her point.
This is what I like about her.
Her voice comes somberly through the little grate
of my cell phone.

At the Acupuncturist's

I was laid out like a mummy on the table.
It was my third or fourth time.
What don't you understand about take
you socks off
she mumbled.

Have you been taking your Chinese herbs?
All of them?

A small bird hit the glass window;
it made a sharp sound.

I asked her, what's the most needles
you've ever put in someone?
She wouldn't say.
Fifty? I said.
She wouldn't say.
She pretended to be selecting the next needle.

I I strained I could just make out,
in my peripheral vision,
a wax ear over on the counter.
It was loaded up with needles.

Something I learned many years ago - one must make do with such reward as one is given. Whatever, grand or piddling, none last long in this life anyway.

the Great Oz will notice and reward me appropriately

was supposed
to rain this morning

but it didn’t

was supposed
to wake up this morning
and immensely wealthy,
the material reward
for my work
as a world-famous

didn’t work out

I end up here,
on another dry day
writing another poem
that will not make me rich
nor make the list
of great
twenty-first century literature,
this day
following a long line of days when
did not rain
and I did not write a poem
destined to to place me among
the immortals

it will rain someday,
nourishment to all
as spring approaches, some trees
already ahead of the curve, budding
out little green shoots,
for their wet reward
as another year
seasons cold and dry,
wet and warm,
passing in obedience to the
great planner
for whom all passes, according
to design
and predestination

though I do not expect a day to come
when a great poem
emerges from my fading bowl
of cranial mush,
there is ahead, sometime, I’m sure,
the Gold Watch Award for
and perhaps a certificate
as well
which will hang, proudly, from my

Next, I have three poets from the anthology Waiting for the Unicorn - Poems and Lyrics of China's Last Dynasty, 1644-1911. The book was published in 1990 by Indiana University Press.

One of the things I like most about early Chinese poetry is the way they, like me, report on their life and times through their poems. Reading them is almost like reading a chatty letter from a friend. I like the immediacy of that approach, as well as the look it gives me in the daily life of people long ago who, judging from their work, could be me.

The first of my poets is Cha Shen-Hsing. Born to a respectable but not wealthy family, Cha had to forgo studying for the civil service examines when his father died, taking such work as he could find, serving as secretary to officials, tutoring their children and various scholarly endeavors. He finally took and passed his exams in his mid-fifties, he took a civil service appointment, but, after a few years, retired. He and his brother were sent to prison after his brother picked the wrong side in a political dispute. His brother died in prison, while Cha died shortly after his release in 1727.

The Customs House at Weed Lake

Yesterday, we left Dragon River,
Arrived this morning at Weed Lake.
A following wind filling the sails,
We passed the customs station in a flash.
An officer, duty bound to impose the levy,
Blocked our way, loudly shouted at us.
The boatman, not daring to proceed,
Shifted the rudder, hauled on the windlass.
I smiled and spoke to the customs officer:
"Of rare goods, I have none at all!
For linking verses,only one short short brush,
And, as ballast, one hundred scrolls.
In the prow, there are two chests;
In the stern, a jug of wine.
Beyond this, what more can there be
But my companion, this long-bearded servant?"
Distrusting me, the officer advanced
To overturn chests, topple wicker baskets,
Ignoring not a single article.
Regarding one another je fixed me with his gaze:
"To buy us drinks,the law requires payment."
He turned away as if I was a tax dodger.
If one has goods, officials press for the levy;
If one has none,officers are perversely harsh.
Goods or no, neither can be avoided,
So how can one console one's self on a long journey?

This poem was translated by William Schultz

Here are several short poems by my next poet, Chao Chih-Hsin.

Chao, born in 1662, was a precocious young scholar whose civil service career ended when he was only twenty-eight years old because he went to a play during an official period of mourning for the death of a member of the imperial family. After spending most of his life traveling through southern China and writing about it, he died in 1744.

These three poems were translated by Michael S. Duke.

A Mid-Autumn Night

The autumn air banishes lingering rains,
An empty courtyard invites distant breezes -
One glass of mulberry dew wine,
At midnight in the moon-bright season.
A longtime traveler feels the night is endless,
In early coldness grows drunk too slowly.
Still resigns his bleak and lonely feelings
To a rendezvous with far-off chrysanthemums.


Once more coming through the door with rain,
Suddenly flying over the wall on the wind,
Although they need grass to achieve their nature,
They do not depend on the moon for light.
Understanding he secluded one's feelings,
I briefly invite them to dwell in my gauze bag.
Just look: falling through vast empty space,
How do they differ from the great stars' rays?

Presented to a Mountain Dweller

Looking like wild deer sleeping against the cliffs,
Casually wandering out of the valleys with flowing streams.
Since the travelers asked him about the frosty trees,
They all came to know his face, but do not know his name.

And, finally, two poems by the last of my poets from the anthology, Chiang Shih, about whom almost nothing is none, other then that he appeared to be active as a poet from 1851-1861. He is not remembered for anything other than his poetry (not a bad fate to my mind), apparently never serving in no official capacity, probably making his living as a tutor.

His two poems included here were translated by Irving Lo

Crossing Several Mountain Ridges on My Way to P'u-ch'eng from Chian-Shan after a Snowfall

For nights on end,I've been pursued by rain and sleet;
Now inside a sedan-chair, I long for sunny sky at dusk.
Myriad bamboos are without a sound only when snow is falling;
jumbled hills are like my dream: forever cloud-capped.

Getting Up Early at Lakeside Pavilion: Two Poems


Morning light floods my room overlooking the lake;
Last night's dream, so vivid before, quickly fades as I get up.
I recall only the dawn bells from two temples:
The sound of one bell short and one long.


Vapor rises from water's surface at dawn;
Coldly forbidding: the color of the cliff to the south.
Look, a tiny raft heads for haven on the Western Shore,
It carries three people, two of them are monks.

Dee and I celebrated our anniversary last week.

thirty-four years ago tomorrow

years ago tomorrow,

in a small church
in the small South Texas town

of San Benito,
the play began…

I was thirty-three,
approaching my expiration date

for such events
as this,

my bride,
ten years younger,

a flower
fresh picked from the field…

my father,
stubborn German Lutheran,

still fighting Reformation battles
500 years after the fact,

had never been in a Catholic Church before
and never was again,

but he was there for this day,
a surprise when I saw him

in a back pew
as we made our recessional

walk back down the aisle,
a thumbs up

he gave me
as we passed,

the strongest expression of approval
to be expected

from this non-demonstrative

then a reception and a dance,
very Mexican

and traditional, with the Noe Pro

salsa, pop, and a slow and uncomplicated
tune for the mother-in-law -dance,

and the next day,
a sleep-in Sunday,

then Monday,
both of us back to work

in new jobs
in a new city, new responsibilities

new life…

in the years since,
a son, several moves,

ups, downs,
going rounds, to this end,

no, not end
but intermission,

a stretching before the third act
when all questions are answered,

before the final curtain

to applause
and a gathering of coats

and cars from the auto-park,
our story the end to a day

of someone else’s

and as this poem

to its interminable

as this between the acts

threatens to forever delay
the third act,

I step through the third wall
and tell my bride

how the story will end

as it began,
everything said then

true today, every promise
made then,

still binding
today -

today, tomorrow,
and all the days after -

is what we called it then,

about the only thing in this world


Next, I have two poems by Czesław Miłosz, a Polish poet, prose writer and translator, born of Lithuanian origin and subsequent American citizenship. He defected to the West in 1951 and his non-fiction book The Captive Mind (1953) is one of the classics of anti-Stalinism. From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1980, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The two poems are from his collection, Selected Poems, 1931-2004, published by HarperCollins in 2006.

Milosz, born in 1911, died in 2004. Both these poems were written the year I was born, 1944, which, somehow, gives them special meaning to me. So much was happening then, and I knew nothing about it then and can barely imagine it now.

A Song on the End of the World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women Walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn.
Vegetable peddlers shout 8ih the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island.
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expects signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a silver-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's too busy,
Repeats while he bins his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

    Warsaw, 1944


When we were fleeing the burning city
And looked back in the first field path,
I said: "Let the grass grow over out footprints.
Let the harsh prophets fall silent in the fire.
Let the dead explain to the dead what happened.
We are fated to beget a new and violent tribe
From from the evil and the happiness that drowsed there.
Let us go" - and the earth was opened for us by a sword of flames.

    Goszyce, 1944

I wrote the next poem this week. I doubt that Milosz would have thought much of it, but I'm sure, he who lived the better part of his life under one oppressor or another, when words both weapons and a great danger to their users, he would have appreciated the thought behind it.


a word I used in a post

on Facebook,
earning chastisement

from one of the many people
in the world

who see language
as a box of certain approved words

from which one
may not stray - excrement,

for example
is an approved word

but imagine driving peacefully
down a city street

and having some dingbat
in a Lexus SUV

run a stop sign
right in front of you

do you say, in response,
“oh, excrement!” -

not me, I say, “oh, shit,”
along with some other words

also not in the box of proper

because all the approved, ever so properly boxed

are not
the appropriate words to use in context...

every word
has it’s own particular and distinct meaning

and appropriate usage,
and while the words “shit” and “excrement”

are very close to meaning the same thing,
they are from different worlds in terms of context

and context is an essential element
in determining word usage,

“fuck” for example is an old word
with a long and distinguished history

(as are most of the “improper” words, words
from a rougher and more impolite past

we would like to deny, as in proper Victorian

when legs became limbs) but really
I have to cringe

when I hear some twenty-something talk about
taking his fucking car down to the fucking gas station

to get some fucking gas if somefuckingbody
will just give him some fucking money…

a linguistic travesty, this kind of talk,
not because it’s dirty or improper, but because

it denigrates
a great, centuries old word -

a word embodying
salty, steamy, sweaty, mind-blowing lust

unleashed, stolen from context and
turned into reflexive babble…

I just don’t think we ought to put up with
that kind of disrespectful


Next, I have a stunning 30-poem sequence by S. T. Stearns.

Stearns lives and writes in snowy Central New York. He has been married for 27 years, has two grown sons, and is the former managing editor of a nationally respected poetry publication.

He is a housemate on the Blueline's Poem-a-Day forum and says he is ever grateful to the forum for the opportunity it provides to stretch himself artistically. He swoops in on the "House" ever several months like a comic book superhero and leaves behind after thirty days of daily poems the most amazing collection of poetry. Unlike the rest of us in the House, his thirty poems form a complete narrative, in this case a narrative of lose and pain and grief and the ripples that spread through time and space after tragedy interrupts the normal flow of normal, ordinary lives.

In this case, it is a tragedy you will probably recognize as you read.

Res Judicata



Beneath your rings of heaven,
beneath the corporate structure
of your angels,
I take my stride among the miscreants,
the blamed and damned, among
those named in books
that no one reads
or even cares
to think about:

That directory of strangers
from which you thumb a random number
when you need someone to curse at
for making you late for coffee
on the clock.


Hold these Hands

We are holding these hands
at the table: Mother, Father,
Daughter and done;
not spoken, words,
but we trace
these harbored prayers
along our neural networks,
pulling back a single moment
from all our hours of squander
and misdeed.

The day is long
but dinner steams invitingly.
White potatoes, salt and butter;
scallions. A round
of blunt red apples,
sectioned thin
to share.



Since you were very small, since the days
you tucked, as neat as an egg, into
the lap of laundried cotton,
you liked the windows open,
blue windows, black windows
I like the way the sun falls down
you said,
one evening
in your early summer clothes,
I like the way the sun falls down
my window.

I remember the dark
and how it creased the sky
and how easily back when
we let things go.


Ronnie Buys a Browning

One loves the bite of the hammer spur
between one’s thumb and finger
the short recoil
the throaty oil
single action pull
cases spent, ejected
as expected
one might laugh
might pull on the cold
like a Kevlar jacket
walk these urban furrows
until it means something
or something enough—

until the job gets done.


Zoetrope, Last

If you could frame for me existence,
could place your clearest, thickest
window glass—
glazing points like railyard spikes—
there, preserving
the last,
where last
it hurts the most
the way she turns
her blameless face,
the pop
the punch of glass
how impossibly
she snaps her head
my way
and falls
without kilter
as if thrust

where the world runs out of my shoes
while I scream her very first name
for the last


Ronnie Buys an El Camino

Buddies are for suckers:
Your two hundred bucks
isn’t getting you shit,
you dumb pinhead fuck, standing
in the rain
with your wife’s red umbrella,
waiting for that sweet white, for that
little extra push
so you can stand
to put your dick in her
Thanks to you

I curl this town
from out my rearview window
like some sticker
from a place I never visited;
a couch in back, my mattress box,
my Rubbermaid keepers
and china.
If this run-down old bitch
will get me to Tampa
my Uncle will rent me
some room. Just

give me three packs
of Newport, a Crush
with sweat on its lip,
and beneath this seat
let there be one’s Hammer,
its exclamatory voice
held locked
in a chamber of fire.


Mrs. Jenkins Who Has No Coat

Mrs. Jenkins who has no coat
picks up something for her throat
turns toward the candy rack
when by the counter in the back
the clerk yells thick and foreign
in alarm.
There will be harm
she thinks,
the youth in the pea-coat is danger.

She curses her life among strangers.
The boy fires three shots
at the man in the store
and then he just turns

and he keeps firing more.


Ronnie Buys Some Cigarettes

There was something about him,
you know, something about him
looked like very much trouble.
He wore a large coat, he shuffled his boots,
he smelled like stuff gone bad
from far across the store,
like cigarettes and give-a-fuck;
I work alone, he comes in here, his car,
his car is very loud, his car has muscles
and he scares me, nearby the fat lady
turns her head, she sees,
she is feeling something, a man
crossing the window,
holding his daughter’s hand,
a man outside in a car
with a paper;
everything stops. There is a button,
I am reaching, there is a button,
the manager says
help will come
there is something
there is a shot
there is not believing
there is not


The Dead Girl by the Window

Fer chrissake
I said I remember
throwing down the paper
fer chrissake Lyla’s in there
and all I could think
was that I had her coat
and someone was shooting
how cold it was
a boy
in green pac boots
ran out
in a loaded down
I heard then
Lyla screaming
and a man
who yelled a name

there was a dead girl

by the window
and he held his face
like a round of clay
he was trying to reshape
for grief

I had her coat
fer chrissake
it was cold

don’t stand a chance

some things
there just ain’t no escaping.


Home Any Minute

Ketchup isn’t everything,
but that’s the way he is with her,
always spoiling, always laughing,
everything she wants, she gets,
he fills her cones with ice cream,
rolls her pastel socks up neatly
in a dresser drawer.
I never thought

for a moment

it would be like this,
the way she mirrors in his glass,
the way he holds
the light
that fires her candle.

And off again,
and they are off again,
French fries going cold,
sweating on the paper plates
while the puppy prowls
beneath the kitchen chairs
for little bits
and favors.

isn’t everything, and
if they don’t walk in the door
this very minute , I swear,
all this food may just as well
be gone.


There is a Moment Before Everyone Knows

There is a moment, after the child
has been discovered missing, after
the house combines with oxygen
and they begin to count the bodies,
after the ineluctable bullet comes
and leaves its rudimentary path
in the fine and delicate tissue
of the human brain,
a moment where no one knows,
or only one of us knows
and that one must carry
the burden.

Every such death, we must shoulder.
Only asking why it should be so.

We lift,
therefore we are.


Someone Made the Call

for me. You were there—
your mask of terror—and
I recall there was

some terrible mistake
had been made
and I wondered

why you wore mascara
if all you were going to do
was cry.



we’re, like hardly out of school
and you got yourself shot, I saw
on the news, dude, I know
you didn’t mean to shoot that girl,
but I knew, someday,
you would be packing
and someone would piss you off,
but the El Camino
it was hot
looked good on TV
and I remembered that night
that you and Leah Curtis
picked me up
and we drove into the Adirondacks
in the dark.
Everything flew by
and by,
and when you clicked off
the headlights,
it was like
you were dead, like
we were dead

with the stars
all swallowed in blue
our destination.


Coming Home Without You

There will never, there will
be again that moment, be
opening that red front door
long after the ambulances, after the
doctors, after what is, beyond all,
the proclamation of your loss
and heralded in this land
my land where you are
after what is, beyond all,
the place I can no longer deny
my abdication
of responsibility
for you.
Behind this door,
an empty chamber,
a table for parties
and tea
just then put aside
by a girl who was tiring
of little pots and handles,
a girl who was growing
to love pencils
and paints,
who could already
a landscape,
green like heaven’s window,

only closer, only



That first night we cried
together, long after the last
answered phone, the final question,
the last dish left, then left alone,
we tried all the arts of comfort
we could spare, all the craft
and care that we still had strength
to weave.

and of what
we held for you,
the measure we made
of tomorrow.
No inch to beg,
no inch to borrow.


Hello this Other World

Hello this other world; hello dinner.
I’ve avoided you (gotten thinner).
Last time we ate I thought I saw…
my nerves, he mentions, getting raw—
If I starve myself, no one’s a winner.

Shell inside a shell: the inner,
thin as the excuse of any sinner
facing hell. Its steel and ceaseless jaw.
Hello this other world, hello dinner:

Her wings are useless when I pin her
to some donkey of despair. Begin her,
somehow, I must. Again. To win her,
reclaim some piece from the final law,
from the fire, the dark, the ugly maw.
Hello my other world. Hello dinner.


She Checks the Windows

Poor thing, she checks the windows
every night at nine, she set the locks
and slips the chains, double-bolts
the doors.
Her child remains a restless ghost,
my mother would have said: Poor thing,
she been through hell’s own mill,
outside in her dirty house-shoes
at all hours of day,
She shuffles
like a dust-mop,
dragging her fringe
through the market,
while her azaleas wither unwatered,
seething with ants,
bright waxy petals
left brown on the lawn.
Later and later,
her husband comes home;
the automatic door opening,

Every light,
burning until morning.


Courier (Dear Teresa)

She is home with her blame
and her television,

and poised at the edge of the couch
as if something were about to happen,
a call, a knock at the door,
a telegram
to say her loved one never died,
to say
Dear Teresa,
it was all a mistake.


There are a million miles of pavement
between death and the bearable world.
I am driving them.
Over your still, your
tended Avenues;
your Parkways, Drives and Circles.
On every street, small children;
in every single window
a family, a candle,
dinner on linen
and china.
If I watch over, everyone wins.
I suddenly have a need
for someone to protect,
and how urgent
your need for protection.
I was like you once,

denying the things that can come:
In the dark in the day.

She is home with her reality shows
and all her well-meant medicine.

How the prescribing finger writes,
and having writ moves on,
and how she walks
the bright unleavened morning,
lost in the machinery of grief,
electric with calm by the window.

I have no answer
to discharge the current
of her anger.
I am the man whose shirts she has laundered.
It is I who came home, stained
with the blood of her daughter.

long miles,
the length of these miles;
this exile. I am gray with it.
I have wintered.
See me

standing in the checkout line.
See me pay the cashier
before pumping.

See me pay.

Dear Teresa.




I could tell you how death comes through windows,
but there is no use in explaining it to you, explaining
to my useless husband, explaining to the world
how horrid bright he is, unmasked;
I see him now, since the night she died:
There are no secrets between us.
We are almost lovers,
except we always speak the truth.
I hate his putrescent face,
his cheap mask, and tell him so.

He hates my mortal clothes,
the still-warm meat of me;
my thrum and nervous tenor.
He hates my world,
its liquid foundation
and shadow.
He hates the costume jewelry of life.


The Fight

He came home late, I threw a shoe,
called him a name, he
called me two,
he’d had a drink,
I saw the flush, his words,
the rush;
his hands would reach,
then pull away,
there was nothing
he could teach, nothing
he could say;
his pale imagination, his
crosses and his stations,
his dirty, wimpled shirt,
and tired brown shoes;
all his don’ts and dues.
Men and their blues,
old news, old news.

How sad he was—his sex
(the smell of Aggie’s blood)
—the implications of his text,
what’s next,
what’s next

he has to ask me—
to task me with
a future
that no one ever gets to.
All we do is make do,
all we do is wake to wake
to wake again
pencil-dull with words.
In the morning there are birds.
I wonder why.
Is it the sky needs them,
or is it they



So. Here, beneath your rings
of angels: Named,
Lost, Blamed, another
lost-luck number
among the numbered luckless;
set out in the wind,
in the where of things
where things are barely promised—
not delivered— not.

Were I to tear these bleached-gray linens,
were I to rip the putrid print
from the panels of this room,
were I to rend
the rust and fabric
of the world as it remains,
would I find you back
and back again?
Would I find my way home
to a brighter room,
to a dripping candle
full of light; the sound,
the sound of you laughing,
I’d think, the sound of your Mom
by the doorway
in the very next room?

I hate the way the sun falls down my window.


Buddy Film

He shows up drunk, collects a beer,
turns the music up to here,
and man, he doesn’t look so well,
for weeks, he’s flopped in some Motel
out on Route 5, The Milton Ranch,
two miles down from that First Trust Branch
that gets robbed like every week—
it’s just like doing business,
but no one dares to speak.

It’s not like I avoided him, I made
the normal calls,
I attended sad and private hours,
leaned against the walls
and talked with strangers that I barely knew
and would never know again, their names
now tagged with grief they too
will tag with mine;
with when.

I heard that he had left his wife,
I heard the muttered tones,
bereft, at home, her broken life;
how she unhooked her phone. I called him then,
out there alone, awkward with a friendship
so long known, so little tested—
so much weight,
such interest vested.
He never returned my call.
Not once, then not
at all.

So he shows up drunk,
he grabs a beer,
I ask him what he’s doing here.
Getting drunk
he screams
above the pulse of sound
and then he starts to laugh
and then he’s falling down.

Like some goddamn buddy movie
at the multiplex downtown:
I’m the foil, and damn it,
he’s the goddamn clown.


Heal to be Home

Come late the summer all down your street.
Green has deeped to black; deeped to blue
the sky, my negative space, her stars.

There is a single lamp in an upstairs window,
a nightlight in the vestibule. I see
you turn more lights out now, the ghost
that you’ve imagined having gone,
or having garnered your acceptance
and hung its tattered wardrobe
in your closet.

A casement window open
in the upper hallway.

Parked out here,
a half-block down,
I think about the summer night
when Aggie was five,
and she slipped out through the gate
to chase the cat.
It only took a second;
she was only gone around the corner,
picking twigs of chicory
on the blind side of the fence.
Even then
you said it:
I thought something
horrible had happened, that
someone up and took her,
that she was gone
forever and for good.

You made me swear I wouldn’t tell.

You were afraid.
Of what people would think.


Notice Him

It is not that no one sees him,
parked out there,
blurred soft music
in the thinning dusk,
now and then a light,
some smoke,
a nervous cough.

They watch for me,
these friends that I once owned
—like crystal eggs inside
a dish—
until I struck them
with the leather of my sorrow,
the flagellant end,
the flail. (There was nothing
they could know.)
And yet they watch.

They turn
their carts my way
in the supermarket,
ply me gently
between rows of local produce,
extending gracious invitations
over frozen chicken
and microwave pizzas.
And they watch.

Notice him,
I want to say,
the way he never
checks his watch,
the way he tips his chin.
The way his shadow
has a smile, his smile
a shadow. That
was what did it for me,
that very first time,
the way he tipped
his chin; the
lean persistence/the sunburned neck
above his shoulders.

No one told me love
was like your mother’s icebox:
in the end it swallows
so much energy;
in the end
it costs so much to throw away.


You Call Sometimes

You call sometimes
to ask me things. This,
all this
is new.
You call sometimes
to ask me things
and yet
you never do.

You tell me I can come
in the morning,
pick up my gray unlaundered suit
if I give you two hours warning,
if I am sure to take the garbage out
and lock the back porch door.

But there is something more.
There is a catch behind the air
inside your throat. A note.
All those things
you never wrote
that burn black
in the back of your brain.
Why did you take her
why did she die
must every future be a lie

why did you leave me here
with her ghost

and nothing
would be the most I could say.
She slept
with your ghost every night.

I lived with your death
every day.


Breakfast At

People think we don’t know them; they see
the changing faces at the counter—
every day a new girl takes your order,
every day some earnest, befuzzled
young man bags up your groceries,
keeps your eggs and precious chips
above the crush of your carrot-mango juice.
There is always a pretty girl at the bank,
her professional hands counting out money,
a twinkle of rings
on her fingers.

Take those two having coffee
over there, at a table
in the corner by the window.
They started coming in
the day that we opened,
always dressed for business—
zippered bags and driving gloves,
Visa Gold and folded tips
beneath the sugar.
He would embarrass her
with love and stupid jokes,
she’d hide her face, flutter
her pretty lashes behind the menu
as if she wished he’d stop.

And then,
for a time,
they came alone.

He would come late,
later than normal,
dressed down in untied duck boots—
on vacation, I thought—
he would slide his paper on the table,
sit down and order coffee,
watch the traffic stop
and go.
And go.

She would rarely come at all,
maybe once or twice
the past six months or longer.
Her glamor, it
was rumpled.
Her hair, it shone,
but did not bounce.
She mumbled, she stirred,
she stared in her coffee.

lay between them.

But here they are again, as if
the accident will.
His bagel’s gone cold,
her coffee
He pokes with his fork
at a napkin.

It reminds me exactly
of that particular moment
when a someone drops a tray of dishes
and, for one split second,
everybody wonders

who the hell
is going to clean this up?



I see him in town now and then,
picking up a sandwich at Mozzel's,
getting a number
and waiting in line,
an emotionless consumer,
neither cursing the wait
nor getting anxious at the cusp
of his appointed moment:
Pushed along by happenstance
and the wrapping of pastrami.

A terrible thing, a terrible thing.
My wife remembers to this day
how happy they looked,
running through the parking lot
just before their world exploded.

In her dreams, she is calling out to them.
In her dreams they are impaled
with shards of glass
like icicles,
long and perfectly cold.



I walk my gown from room to room, I fade and wither, I wilt, my skin,
its leather, this husk, this moon, this room-to-room. I breathe like
wind, my skin, this shape I'm in. You win. And where will be
my recompense? There is no sense to this: I die, you live,
if I should now forgive, what value there? (So much to spare:
When the cold hand comes, you find forgiveness everywhere.)
In the very air. And so little air left. The heft of things unsung :
My girl, my little one, so small and so undone.
And will I meet her there? What will we share?
I am an old woman who carries a cancer.
And she still a girl.
Full of questions to answer.


Her Daughter’s Eyes

The last time that she left me
she left from out our bed,
all the hum and clutter
put to rest, all the plumbing
and electric,
all things done
that could be done.

Wrapped in Mother's afghan,
her daughter's favorite blanket,
pulling down the generations
in her wake:

She always had her mother's face.

She has her daughter's eyes.


Res Judicata

Down on the beach
there is a man
with his feet in the surf.
He holds a shell,
studies the whorls
of color,
the detailed sketch
of its making.

They told him every shell
contains the sea.

He holds it to the creases
of his ear,
tips its mouth
to drain its lung
of sound.
He hears
the drowning heart;
how it thrums,
even under water.

Here's a poem by Wesley K. Mather, from his book, Into Pieces, published by iUniverse Inc. in 2003.

Although Mather had written for a number of publications, this was his first book.

On a Driveway

After a long stupid day
of dealing with too many personalities,
I finally got to sit.

It is a mild summer around seven in the evening.
I sit in a lawn chair in the middle of the driveway.
I drink a glass of red wine and read a book.
All of my neighbors take walks.
Some walk their dogs, some walk just to walk.
Some say hello; most don't.

It is a very calm and peaceful evening,
the kind of evening you wait for.

There are four insects:
two horseflies, one bumblebee, and one big yellow jacket.
The horseflies buzz around my head like worries.
The bumblebee minds his own business,
tiredly amusing himself with my neighbor's flowers.
The yellow jacket swirls around
making no clear indication of the direction he will choose next.
Then the yellow jacket makes a kamikaze drive for me.

I am just about to lose it.
Next time that bastard attacks he had better hope
that I don't see him coming.
I'll put down my pen and smash his fuzzy thorax
with my brand new copy of Factotum.
I wouldn't mind getting his guts all over the cover,
then I'd go after the flies,
but I'd leave the bee alone.

So, to sum it up,
I dislike horseflies because they annoy me on purpose,
I respect bees for staying away from me,
and I hate yellow jackets because I haven't yet been able to
smash them.

It's strange how I pay more attention to insects than to my

Here's one of my old poems, written in 2008 and included in my latest book, Pushing Clouds Against the Wind, available at an E-reader near you.


i’m getting
really really
bored with myself

thought about
getting rid of the beard
and shaving my head
but then i’d be
just another
bald beardless boring guy

not much of an improvement

thought about
joining the Marines
but think they might not want me now
and back when i was of marine age
i did every thing i could to avoid
all Marinish ways
except for the drinking
and carousing
and i’m too old for that now

thought about
driving down to the coast
to take sailing lessons
but i get seasick
if i fill the bathtub too full
so my guess is
that won’t work either

could have a deep romantic affair
with a beautiful
dark haired
but already did that once
and after 32 years, though
it is
the joy
and comfort of my life,
it is not the
shoot the moon adventure
that by the blandness
of my nature
i would most certainly

the beautiful
dark haired
and i
could have a romantic interlude
on a mountaintop

i climbed a mountain
and it wasn’t boring
but it scared the crap out of me
and scared crapless
is even worse

i could write
a truly great poem
i suppose
but it has come to me
as i edit poems
for the new books i plan
that they are
about me,
like transcripts from inside my head,
which, sad to say,
is much like
being in inside the head
of the guy ahead of you in the grocery line,
preoccupied with what it is he’s forgetting, thinking
jeez, i should’a made a list


Next, I have a poem by Gary Snyder from his collection, Axe Handles. The book was published in 2005 by Shoemaker and Hoard.

When I've used Snyder's work before, I've concentrated on his longer nature pieces. This poem is shorter and a bit different.

For a Fifty-Year-Old Woman in Stockholm

Your firm chin
    straight brow
        tilt of the head

Knees up in an easy squat
    your body shows how
You gave birth nine times;
The dent in the bones
        in the back of your pelvis
    mother of us all,
        four thousand years dead.

            X, '83, The Backaskog woman, Stockholm
                Historic Museum

Here's another of my poems from 2008, my own anthem, self-serving, no doubt. But then what anthem isn't.

reply to a critic who takes himself and me much to seriously

there are no babies
being fed here,
no tyrants being brought
to heel,
no visit
to the home-bound,
no rehab
of housing for the homeless,
no justice
for the poor and downtrodden

are no cures here
for diseases
that maim and kill

to light the way
to personal fulfillment,
no formula
for turning water to wine,
lead to gold,
scrap bobby pins,
electric toasters,
and old video games
to a clean, inexhaustible
energy source

there is none of that
serious stuff

just a damn poem,
an old man’s game,
an alternative to daytime TV,
a reminder that there is still life
in this husk and thought
in this drying

if you read it
if you don’t
will have no impact
on the reality
in our struggling
needy world

i can live with that

Next, I have four short poems by Lorna Dee Cervantes , from her book Emplumada, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press and winner of the 1983 American Book Award.

A fifth generation Californian of Mexican and Native American (Chumash) heritage, Cervantes was born in 1954, in San Francisco, and raised in San Jose.

She is the author of several collections of poetry and appears frequently in poetry journals and anthologies.

She is also co-editor of Red Dirt, a cross-cultural poetry journal, and her work has been included in many anthologies, and has received many honors, including a
Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award in 1995.

She was an associate professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder until 2007 and continues to live in that city.

From the poems I've selected it appears she may also have spent some time in a city on the Texas coast where I was pleased to live for fifteen years.


They were lovely in the quartz and jasper sand
As if they had created terrariums with their bodies
On purpose, adding sprigs of seaweed, seashells,
White feathers, eel bones, miniature
Mussels, a fish jaw. Hundreds; no -
Thousands of baby stars. We touched them,
Surprised to find them soft, pliant, almost
Living in their attitudes. We would dry them, arrange them,
Form seascapes, geodesics...We gathered what we could
In the approaching darkness. Then we left hundreds of
Thousands of flawless five-fingered specimens sprawled
Along the beach as far as we could see, all massed
together,little martyrs, soldiers, artless suicides
In lifelong liberation from the sea. So many
Splayed hands, the tide shoveled in.

In January

The old man at the corner
keeps casting his rod.
What can he possibly snag
in this invisible season?
He reels it in.
He is all smile and bulging pockets.
His gray eyes are glazed
with the iridescence of s age.
His cheeks hold the last ash.
And though his daughter
is bringing him pillows and tea
an the handsome son-in-law
bends the line, a slow thing
stirs in the shadows of the bougainvillea.


Above the calm exterior of roses,spiders bloom
fat with the afternoon buzzings.
They are harmless.
They are keeping the flies
off my back porch.
They have beautiful women
drawn on their bodies.
Their legs are ugly
but useful;
look what they leave
in the dew. Look.

From Where We Sit: Corpus Christi

We watch seabirds flock the tour boat.
They feed from the tourist hand.

We who have learned the language
they speak as they beg,

understand what they really say
as they lower and bite.

I had a birthday last week. There were a couple of things I noticed in the days immediately after.

my secret no longer safe in the company of shorter men

another year

at least in
the annals
where such records

are kept,
one day a spring youth,
the next,

just an old rooster
cackling alone
in the hen house…

a few things
since a year ago,

saggy places
got saggier, wrinkle-

further along
to wrinkle-canyons,

all this
according to the plan
known to all who have seen

a plump purple grape
turn to raisin
in the course of a sunny day…


the hair thing
I did not expect -

early gray
fading to white
from my mother’s gene side

forever full,
I thought, from my father’s genetic

forgetting that my father’s life
ended when he was two years younger

than I am
meaning, perhaps

I am in new

and though
I do not know what that might mean
in years still to come,

I do know this,
last year
an observer had to be six foot four

or better
to spy my bald spot -

is about all it takes

whatever the problem, i know the solution

the hair thing
wasn’t enough,

the bald spot
on the top of my head
going from pending

to pronounced,
that wasn’t enough
for one birthday,

accidentally catching a glimpse
in the mirror last night

of my backside,
I discover that I now have
a wrinkled butt,

don’t know,
how does a butt get wrinkled?

stress, worry, emotional
upheaval are known as causative factors
for the development of

I’m told, so is my butt
having an emotional upheaval?

do I suffer from worried or over-stressed

that all sounds pretty
to me

I don’t care -
whatever the cause

I know what’s needed -
a butt-lift
is the only solution

Here are two poems by Simon Armitage from his book, Kidd, published in 1992 by Faber and Faber.

Armitage was born in West Yorkshire in 1963. He works as a freelance writer, broadcaster and playwright, and has written extensively for radio and television.

Gooseberry Season

Which reminds me. He appeared
at noon, asking for water. He' walked from town
after losing his job, leaving a note for his wife and his
 &nsp;  brother
and locking his dog in the coal bunker.
We made him a bed

and he slept till Monday.
A week went by and he hung up his coat.
Then a month, and not a stroke of work, a word of thanks,
a farthing of rent or a sign of him leaving.
One evening he mentioned a recipe

for smooth, seedless gooseberry sorbet
but by then I was tired of him: taking pocket money
from my boy at cards, sucking up to my wife and on his
 &nsp;  last night
sizing up my daughter. He was smoking my pipe
as we stirred his supper.

Where does the hand become the wrist?
Where does the neck become the shoulder? The
 &nsp;  watershed
and then the weight, whatever turns up and tips us over
 &nsp;  that razor's edge
between something and nothing, between
one and the other.

Shove Tuesday

That evening over pancakes, when you told me
it was not for love, not even for money
but just for the children.
then ran through all those other women.

I must have looked for all the world
like that lost, knocked-sideways, bowled-over girl

who, at odds of more than
a hundred-thousand-million

to one
had come

so far but never dropped across
the word or the idea of snow. Then there it was

one morning, acid-white and waiting
as she reeled back the bedroom curtain,

the lawn and the street,
the whole picture ankle-deep

and crisp and even and still snowing.
Incredibly she was twenty-something.

This has turned out to be a pretty long issue, so I think I'll stop now and close with two old poems. The first is from January, 2009, and could apply as well for today; the second is a just-for-the-hell-of-it from later in that year.

deep thoughts to be thunk in 2009

dedicated to all the deep thinkers at "National Review," "Weekly Standard" and the like as well as all those deep thinkers formerly occupying high levels of government and currently seeking to hock their GWB magic decoder rings

as with many people
i like to think deep
about things i know

an explanation,
some might say,
as to why
the world’s problems
i solved
last year are back on the table

as we
deep-thinkers like to say

the world wasn’t paying
adequate attention

i’m just going to have to
in 2009

in the news today

we break
from our Hallmark Hall of Fame
"Lucy & Ethel's Secret Adventure"
for this headline news update

shuttle launch postponed again

NASA head
goes house-to-house
for parking meter change

suspect in slayings of 2 cops kills self

potential suicides
to be given marksman training
so they might better get it right the first time

Chicago shooting kills 3 teenagers

for acne not yet

drought to halt water for farms

saved for priority uses -
spokesman says,
no water for swimming pools,
no starlets
in tiny bikinis -
mental health of Hollywood
producers on the line

Clintons’ cat Socks dies at 18

last surviving
eye-witness to Monicagate
is laid to rest -
tell-all memoir due next year

holocaust-denier bishop to depart

denies it

some convicts to get amnesty

human rights advocates
terms of amnesty -
kissing the robe of
the Great Oz
just goes too far

boat cuts ice, rescues dolphins

boats crew
fired by their employer
Starkist tuna
for missing the dolphins
and hitting the ice instead

Done. Insert all the normal stuff here.

I'm allen itz, and it's mine, all mine, I tell you.

Except for the stuff that isn't - that stuff belongs to whom so ever created it.


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Goes Around - Comes Around   Friday, February 18, 2011

Photo by Thomas Costales

I don't have a feature poet this week, just me and my library compadres.

But I do have new work by photographer Thomas Costales. Thomas is a night person, wandering the city at night taking photos, showing us how things so ordinary in the light become new and mysterious at night. I like his photos very much, both his night scenes and his portraits, featured here before. I like his stuff so much I have asked him to let me use the photo above for the cover of my next book, tentatively titled, "goes around - comes around," which I hope to have out in several months. Something about this photo leads me to think, every time I look at it, about what strange things might be lurking just around the corner of the building. Mystery, I love it.

A funny thing this week - checking out my listing on Amazon I discovered that both the new book on Kindle and my first book (a paperback) is available there, something like eight new copies, four used and one labeled, "collectible", priced a few cents more than the new because, apparently, it is signed.

Two things occur to me. First, this must make me a collector of collectibles, since about twenty percent of the several hundred poetry books I've bought at the secondhand store are signed. Perhaps I should buy insurance.

The other thing that comes to me is, I have a closet full of unsold books. I think maybe I should start signing them and salting the market with them.

Probably have to be dead, though, to make it really pay off.

As I consider my options, I present to you our line-up for the week.

Jeannette Lozano
The House
Fall the Wounded Leaves
Image of a Canvas of Winter

a lousy miserable nasty ugly morning

Bogdan Czaykowski
Like a Child

Sheryl St. Germain
Promise of Snow

so horny the crack of dawn ain’t safe

Sylvia Plath
Poppies in October

a good way to start is all I’m saying

Pamela Kircher
We Love the Moon So It Shines

naked rolling, parts rubbing



Alberto Rios
Teodoro Luna’s Two Kisses
Teodoro Luna’s Old Joke

on the death of a patron and friend
just like you and me
six white-haired men

April Bernard
Psalm of the Sleeping
Psalm of the Disarranged

the NRA is ascared of me

Debbie Kirk
I Had the Best Aim in Kindergarten

Iris Berry
Ode to Sammy Glick

Cynthia Ruth Lewis
The Makings of a Serial Killer

Misti Rainwater-Lites
First Time

Jude Lynn
All the World Wants Anal

last week

Tree of Life Vision

another Sunday Morning
a is for apple

Photo by Thomas Costales

My first poems this week are by Jeannette Lozano, from her book The Movements of Water/Los momentos del agua. It's a beautiful, hard-bound bilingual book, published in 2006 by Ediciones Poligrafa of Barcelona, Spain. Spanish to English translation is by Rod Hudson.

The book includes beautiful paintings by Victor Ramirez.

In addition to being a poet and translator, Lozano has spent many years teaching and writing about the ancient philosophy and religion of Pre-Hispanic cultures.

Her work, including her own work and translations, ii extensive, as are her honors and rewards. Her poetry collections have been published in English, French, Italian and Romanian.

The House

The house, that uncertain place: The girl-child
without a lamp, white
the beginning, the revelation
burns in silence.
All beginning is white,
the composition
of the form, silent
the fog, the tree. The girl-child
silent,the height, the
air. All beginning
is white, the unfor5seen disaster. The silent
fog, whose
music is silence, dispersed

Fall the Wounded Leaves

Dead shadow
the heart
submerging itself with the first sign.

As if they bring the dead,
barges dissolve. I recall them
in the (transparent)hands
that (still) seek themselves

Brilliance on ruins
in the landscape of white stones.
before vacuous altars.
The spilled absence, the footsteps in the fog
or forest
that we come to be

Around the wind raises
a few leaves, dresses
the bird's song
in the (broken branch), abandons the rush
of the poplar.

The name invents the form.
The water
flows by in its knowledge
of scattered syllables:
silence, detached.

Against the sky the clouds bleed

The reflection of the tree
cedes completely. In the fountain
if in the chant
it rises
to a higher sky

The light of the river
bares the footstep;
in me bursts
its blind seed

Fall (wounded)the leaves,their red
is the word
being born. More
than eyes,
Crack or fissure
in God's wind

Image of a Canvas of Winter

The trill of the angelus scatters its snow
on the wings of the herons
and the ice skaters are not yet here.

Perhaps tomorrow the nightingale will return.
The muddy fountain without birds. Where will they drink?

The rumor of the chisel in the stairwell,
the dust
in the laurel leaves.

Hands of tenderness pall with the hours.

Beneath the peach-flame sky the flight of the gull,
the path covered by thorny limbs

cannot be crossed.

Photo by Thomas Costales

I wrote this last week, early in a morning much as described.

a lousy miserable nasty ugly morning

a lousy
ugly morning!

fog and
misty rain
and I’m not talking
romantic fog
or London Jack the Ripper
scary or mysterious fog
but the plain old
generic kind -

“Condensed water vapor
in cloud-like masses
lying close to the ground
and limiting visibility.”

that kind…

and the mist,
the thing about mist
is, while wet,
it isn’t rain, doesn’t
sound like rain falling,
no plops
no drops
just silent inundation
with every light breeze;
doesn’t smell like rain;
doesn’t taste like rain;
doesn’t do anything like rain
but get you wet, which is
the least enjoyable
about rain,
unless you happen to be running
across a soft
field of fresh grass
with a honey-haired meadow goddess
along side you,
almost guaranteed -

mist doesn’t promise
any of that,
wet and day-dream

that’s mainly why
it’s a
a lousy
ugly morning…

I could ‘a done better
staying in

Photo by Thomas Costales

Next, I have two poets from the Winter/Spring 2007 issue of The Spoon River Poetry Review, published by the Spoon River Poetry Association with funding from the Illinois Arts Council.

The first poet is Bogdan Czaykowski, a Polish Canadian poet essayist, literary translator and critic born in 1932 in Poland. He was professor emeritus and former Dean at the University of British Columbia at the time of his death in 2007.

His poem was translated by Adam Czeniawski.

Like a Child

Like a child,
Which in dread curiosity
Tightly grips his old nanny's sleeve
And pulls her to the wood,
So do I lead myself
Dipping my feet
In fathomless waters of a silent stream,
Whose banks rustle in the darkest depths
With leafy shadows that have shed their shade.

Sheryl St. Germain, born 1954 in New Orleans, Louisiana, is a poet, essayist, and professor.

Of Cajun and Creole descent, she was born and raised in south Louisiana. Currently she directs the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. She has also taught at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, 1991-94; Knox College, 1994-98; and Iowa State University, 1998-2005.

She studied at Southeastern Louisiana University (B.A.) and University of Texas at Dallas, (M.A. and Ph.D.).

Promise of Snow

Thanksgiving break, and the city quiets,
seems half-full. Most have gone somewhere
else for the holidays. The cornfields
are empty, too, cleaned of corn,
and I've cleaned up too. The mirror
shattered when he threw my son
against it, and I've swept up the arrowheads
of glass, the ice picks, the toothpicks,
the thorns of glass, slivers so small
you don't notice them until they're inside you.
I've righted the furniture too,
and scrubbed the floor of kitchen and living room,
the smudges like blurred roses on the doorway
where he rested, like God before the seventh day,
and even the ragged pool of it on the bed.
I soaked and washed and bleached the sheets,
and all is white now, clean like the new snow,
what the weatherman promises for nest week,
and sometimes I think that's why I live here:
because of snow, and the way it whitens and covers
everything: you don't even have to scrub. Slivers
and their sinister knowledge are buried under its crust.
You can believe, for a time, in emptiness,holiday.

Photo by Thomas Costales

I've been writing mostly crap this week and, worst of all, having no fun at it at all. So here's a poem from last year; one of the ones I'm considering for my previously mentioned next book.

so horny the crack of dawn ain't safe

that’s a line
from a book i’m reading,
of the benefit that accrues
to those of us who avoid high-
class literature

cause, for sure,
you won’t find that line
in Shelley or Keats,
nor in Longfellow, Tennyson, or Donne -

Twain, maybe
but only in one of those books
he wouldn’t publish
until after his death or 1962,
which ever came first -

probably - imagine the line
as read by Olivier or Burton -
if he had thought of it
and if he would read it now,
he’d probably say,
darn, why didn’t i think of that -

and the ancient roman poets,
for sure - those guys were always
hornied-up in their baths - we just
haven’t dug the lines out of the ruins yet -

and Li Po, certainly,
if he’d looked up from the bubbles
of his beer long enough to think of it,
in fact there’s a rumor, that he did,
the night he drowned
after toasting the reflection of the moon
in the lake, he just never had a chance
to write it down


I never had time for the classics, spent
my reading time with pirates
and sword fights and cannon balls
blowing off heads,
and cowboys and gunslingers,
fast-draws at high noon,
and space adventures in far-away
galaxies and shapely green
from the planet Holy Cow!!,
and hard-boiled dicks
and their molls built like...
well, built pretty darn good

and lets face it, i read Silas Marner
and Tess of the d'Rubbervilles
and all that and
they were pretty good, but
not nearly as much fun as blond-haired
molls built like...well, you know

because, as everyone knows
I’ve been fifteen years old
since the year i was fifteen years old
and have no desire, all these years later,
to turn sixteen and get serious

Photo by Thomas Costales

Here are two poems by Sylvia Plath, from her book Ariel.

I bought the book at my secondhand book store for 98 cents, much less than I would have expected, considering the poet. Maybe the price was low because it is old, the last published edition in 1965 by Harper & Row. But then I notice the original price was just $2.25.


Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.

God's lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees! - The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to
The brown are
Of the neck I cannot catch,

Berries cast dark
Hooks -

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Something else

Hauls me through air -
Thighs, hair;
Flakes from my heels.

Godiva, I unpeel -
Dead hands,dead stringencies.

And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas,
The child's cry

Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow,

The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.

Poppies in October

Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly -

A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky

Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.

O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers

Photo by Thomas Costales

I was having a lot of fun late last year. Here's another poem from then, another candidate for the next book.

a good way to start is all I’m saying

it’s chill
that’s what I’m saying -

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


but the sun’s

an old man’s hoosit

when memories strike
with tentpole-city

dreams of that pretty girl
from 1954 all bobby-

socked and whooshy skirted
rising all the way to her holymoses

she twirled

to the beat
of her rocker-roll feet

like Hermione Gingold
peddling her pettifogs

through the roses of the
Sangre de Chevalier…

I was saying

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

an all-together encouraging

I’m saying
to kick-off the day

Photo by Thomas Costales

Now I have a poem by Pamela Kircher, from her book, Whole Sky, published by Four Way Books in 1996.

Kirchner holds a Bachelor's Degree from Ohio University, a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers. I couldn't Google up any more biographical information, but I did find a new poem she published in September, last year.

We Love the Moon So It Shines

There are things seen only
when the lights are off.
Like night shifting its ashes
through the house almost soundlessly
except for a sudden crack then later
a soft thud for all the world
like a shovel breaking a root and a clump of dirt
dropped into a hole. Being buried alive.
How simple. She touches the floor
with one foot, the edge of the bed
with on hand. There she is
in the mirror, hardly a woman at all:
crooked at the waist,one arm long,
one bent. She picks up her dress
from the floor and lays it over the man
in the bed. Let him wake
in the hours that come and find
what his lies have done. The body
of the blue dress as empty
as the lover she has become.
All the rest of her ugly and dumb
as the moon's far face waiting night
after night to turn to the earth
and shine.

Photo by Thomas Costales

Here's another poem I wrote last year during a time when I woke up every morning looking forward to the poem I was going to write that day.

It is also a candidate for the next book.

naked rolling, parts rubbing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

like we always

Photo by Thomas Costales

Next I have a poem by Ai, from her book, Vice. The book was published by W.W. Norton in 1999.

The poet, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry in 1999 for this book, also the Lamont Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets in 1978 for Killing Floor and the American Book Award in 1987 for Sin.

Ai, born Florence Anthony in 1947, died last year.


     for James Wright

Last night, I dreamed of America.
It was prom night.
She lay down under the spinning globes
at the makeshift bandstand
in her worn-out dress
and too-high heels,
the gardenia
pinned at her waist
was brown and crumbling into itself.
What'[s it worth, she cried,
This land of Pilgrims' pride?
As much as love, I answered. More.
The globes spun.
I never won anything, I said,
I lost time and lovers, years,
but you, purple mountains,
you amber waves of grain, belong to me
as much as I do to you.
She sighed,
the band played,
the skin fell from her bones.
The the room went black
and I woke.
I want my life back,
the days of too much clarity,
the nights smelling of rage,
but it's gone.
If I could shift my body
that is too weak now,
I'd lie face down on this hospital bed,
this icy water called Ohio River.
I'd float past all the sad towns,
past all the dreamers onshore
with their hands out.
I'd hold on. I'd hold,
till the weight,
till the awful heaviness
tore from me,
sank to the bottom and stayed.
Then I'd stand up
like Lazarus
and walk home across the water.

Photo by Thomas Costales

Working with old stuff today, I ran across this piece written in 2009. I found it a timely reminder, that, despite the far-right whiners, losers, and ne'er-do-wells who aspire turn our country into a right-wing version of East Germany, there is still reason to be hopeful.


i’m hearing
from the right-wing circle
jerks that people like me
who are not at all like them
are Obama-worshipers,
if not Obama-lovers, a milder
version of an epithet heard on occasion
from right-wing racists
where i grew up when i grew up

forcing me to write a political poem,
even though i hate it
when i do that sort of thing

so anti-poetic
such poems are


let me be clear,
being a skeptic of all things,
it is not within me to worship
anyone or anything, least of all
politicians, worthy as some of them are,
as they are more likely to be heart-breakers
and, like the sweetest milk
from the most contented cow,
they all have an expiration date
and limited shelf life

that said,
i do enjoy having a leader
who is intelligent, someone
who does not believe the world
is run on frat-boy rules

one who does not surround
with lunatics

one who looks to the future,
not to the past

one who sees the problems
of the next half century
and seeks to solve them before
they overcome us

one who seeks out
dissenting opinion, one
whose self-confidence allows them
to face unfavorable facts
without flinching

one who understands
the humanity
of both friend and foe

but who will take the most extreme actions
when a foe makes it necessary,
without lies and bluster

a leader, in short,
who does not regularly insult
my intelligence
and moral standards

is it necessary that i love such a leader,
but it makes me damn happy
when one appears in
our time of need

Photo by Thomas Costales

Here are two poems by Alberto Rios, a poet new to me and maybe to "Here and Now" readers as well. The poems are from his book Teodoro Luna's Two Kisses, published in 1990 by W.W. Norton.

Ríos was born 1952 in Nogales, Arizona. He is author of nine books and chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories, and a memoir. He is a Regents' professor of English at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. His work is regularly taught and translated, and has been adapted to dance to both classical and popular music.

Teodoro Luna's Two Kisses

Mr. Teodoro Luna in his later years had taken to kissing
His wife
Not so much with his lips as with his brow.
This is not to say he put his forehead
Against her mouth -
Rather, he would life his eyebrows, once, quickly:
No so vigorously he might be confused with the villain
Famous-in the theaters, but not so little as to be thought
A slight movement, one of accident. This way
he kissed her
Often and quietly, across tables and through doorways,
Sometimes in photographs, and so through the years themselves.
This was his passion, that only she might see. The chance
He might see some movement on her lips
Toward laughter.

Teodoro Luna's Old Joke

               -for Lupita

Teodoro Luna met a woman for whom he cared instantly,
She loved him back.
An together two weeks later they stepped into a marriage
Eighty-three miles long.
It was their little joke, this calling of the years miles,
And she would feign anger
At this man who through the years had earned the right
To call them by any words,
Her man with his one ear now because of war, her Teodoro
With his one arm
The other worn away from milking the many lines of filled cows
and pumping the water.
She could see how her man in his eyes the second white parts
Of what he was becoming.
First his hair, and his eyes, sometimes his flatfish tongue.
She kept looking
How he had begun to wither, the wisps of his brows, the white
Lines of saliva,
The white arcs of his nails, his scars, his teeth and his legs,
The foldings of his face.
He was she saw making of himself in time the moth's cocoon,
that he might break from it,
A strong push and strong unfolding first of one new shoulder,
Then the other.
She would be there to the end, to the minute exactly, dressed
In the red dress ready,
That he would be young enough again for the both of them,
That he might lift her,
The way he had lifted her the first time with his many eyes.

Photo by Thomas Costales

This is a series of poems I wrote over a period of three days following the death of a long-time patron and friend last year.

on the death of a patron and friend

a man
in constant

to think of him as

just like you and me

traveling south
to bury a friend
in a crypt
beside the sea

like the restless, roiling waves
he came -
and then he went

just like you and me

six white-haired men

white-haired men
stand around the pit

watch the box
as it is lowered into the hole

think of their friend
and wonder

whose box is next

Photo by Thomas Costales

Now I have two poems by April Bernard, a poet whose work I've use often, from her book Psalms, published in 1993 by W.W. Norton.

Born in 1956 and raised in New England, Bernard graduated from Harvard University. She has worked as a senior editor at Vanity Fair, Premiere, and Manhattan, inc. In the early 1990s, she taught at Amherst College. In Fall 2003, she was Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College. She currently teaches at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. Her work appears frequently in top journals.

Psalm of the Sleeping

It is not only that the waves roll in
as they do, roll in

It is what they bring with them, foaming in the waist-deep wash:
George, and Joan, and someone named Sophia, a party on a raft -

Was it their house set to sea in the flood?

Here catastrophes of grey, high ceiling of grey, the sky flying away
on great wings of grey, receding

As still the low, muffled mist of water trundles in

Once there was a woman who just kept walking, head down,
though she lifted it long enough to tilt Minoan eyes
and we moved, suddenly, as if to follow

Where the moving speck of her figure slid behind the wall
where sand and water and air join to one straight grey rope

Someone kept rattling the shark's teeth and jingle shells,
tossing them in a circle drawn on the sand,
to read our wretched fortunes

How warm the salt waves, how warm the bath
filling the nostrils, delicately greeting the ears, the mouth,
the lungs and stomach, bathing the liver, the bones,
in a finer blood than blood

Psalm of the Disarranged

Low at the ground, swiping the machete, then
the match, the low yellow water of fire eddying
through grey stalks, hissing white, then the stalks go black

They said it was right only in supplication
but they were mistaken: white smoke gathers
around my waist like a scarf; blue fire edges shin and knees
Voluptuaries of the burning lie in the field and smolder, wicks

Prefer the cool shadow of acacia through clouded glass,
the cool and haughty toss of green leaves before the storm?
The relief of a cool hand: hold it smooth to my throat;
we are wondering at the silver light in which we shimmer

Fact is, we do not know
We do not know the fire that might as well be water -
It does not rid the plain of forms
but fills it, everywhere, with tall, tall trees of fire

Photo by Thomas Costales

Having dipped my toe in politics earlier, I might go all the way in up to my neck, with the next poem, also written in 2009.

the NRA is ascared of me

been reading
the NRA people
are scared that i’m gonna
take away
their pistols
and their hunting rifles
and their AK47’s
and their machine guns
and their grenade launchers
and their anti-tank mines
and their bunker buster missiles
and whatever, if it makes
a bang they want it -
makes their dicks grow,
you know, and they’re sure
i’m going to take it all away
and leave them alone with their
and i would of course, if i could,
but i can’t, and the the lily-liveried,
chicken-gizzard politicians in Washington
sure as hell aren't going to risk their weekly
pay-offs by doing it, so that’s the way it is,
at some point, you or me or both of us
are going to be blown away by some
NRA card-carrying pencil-dick wacko
with mother issues and a NRA certified
50 caliber machine gun

all because his mother dressed him
in little girlie-panties and didn’t
quit breast-feeding
him until he was twenty-six years old

Photo by Thomas Costales

Next I have five poems, one each by the five poets featured in the book Sirens: Five Femme Fatale Poets. The book was published in 2008 by Sisyphus Press.

The first of the five is Debbie Kirk.

Kirk has been publishing in the small press for ten years, including four chapbooks. She Pink Anarckitty Press which has published three collections, including one of her own.

I Had the Best Aim in Kindergarten

In my invisible straight-jacket I saw it all.

My mother's frail body laying on the floor...
and my dad's fist covered in more blood and hair each time
they raised up

I was 5.
I was paralyzed.

I knew my mother was still conscious.
But she had stopped crying and screaming.

Truth is, she stopped crying and screaming years ago.
And I was only 5, but as I watched this
I remember so vividly wanting to kill my father.

I had my first homicidal urge at age 5.

That particular day is long long gone.
Everyone's all healed up nicely on the outside.
My dad's a fucking lawyer somewhere.

Back in the days of my early childhood II had a gun held
against my head
my father so mny times that I lost count.
"You do so and so, or your baby girl dies."
Every time it happened I thought..."This is going to be the
day when
she's just gonna say,
"go ahead and do it..."

No apples, no bells...
Just the huge presence of my dad, squashing the spirit of my
mother and me
into the sizes of
the bullet in a gun.

Again, those days are long gone now.
And I know a lot of things now that I could not have known

My father raped my mother so many times that she convinced
herself it was
no longer
I don't even have to spend two seconds thinking about it.
I know I am a product of rape..
I was created by evil, given a gun, and handed a torch .

So, you don't think I'm capable?
Stay close.

The next of the five poets from the book is Iris Berry.

Called by one critic "A punk rock James Ellroy in fishnets," Berry is one of the true and original progenitors of the Los Angeles punk scene. In addition to writing her poetry, she toured with various rock groups, writing and singing her own songs, strutting around a Mexican wrestling ring in showgirl feathers, authoring the sex column Forbidden Fruit, starring in numerous independent films, and producing a series of burlesque and comedy variety shows with Margaret Cho.

She has been recognized by the City of Los Angeles for her writing and the volunteer work she has done producing large scale fund-raising events for various charities.

Ode to Sammy Glick

I see you sitting
sitting in the glow of your computer
burnt spoon and needle
at one side
and a loaded gun
at the other side
there's only one bullet in the chamber
and it's reserved for you
you're attempting to write the next great American novel
and I believe you will
providing you don't kill yourself
before it's finished
It's a race
Isn't it?
your conscience and your ego
are at a dead heat
while your phone is ringing off the hook
with calls from your agent
in London and New York
all wanting to buy movie rights
you were the first guy
to ever buy me diamonds
I'm just wondering
where the hell you got the money
was it an insurance scam?
phony credit cards?
or your usual
selling phony stocks
to old people for their life savings
well all I can say is
it's only a matter of time
for you sweetheart]but if it's true that nice guys and gals
finish last
than you can bet I'll be sitting
In the last seat
In the last row of the house
that I more than likely bought
at 100% mark-up
trapped between a noisy bathroom
and a rank alleyway
but at least while i'm sitting on the lap of time
checking my watch
I know you'll be mixing another shot
of liquid comfort
while running from that
god awful mirror
called your conscience
there aren't enough opiates
In the city of LA
to make that reflection go away
but I know you
you're not a quitter
you'll die trying.

Next from the book is poet Cynthia Ruth Lewis.

Quoting Lewis, "Cynthia Ruth Lewis is 42 and hails from Chicago. She finds great comfort in her bitterness and rage and doesn't hesitate to let it all out on paper. She does have a soft side, however and unfailingly rubs lotion on it several times daily to balance things out.

Each poet includes a self-portrait at the beginning of their section in the book. For Lewis, it is a nude. While very nice in this instance, I'm hoping it does not become a new trend in poetry publishing or I'll never succeed in selling another book.

The book also includes a section of full-color art by several of the poets, a marriage of image and word that was a central idea to my first book which included art by Vincent Martinez along with my poems on every page. (I'm considering re-publishing that book, Seven Beats a Second as an Ebook sometime in the next year or so. Already have other ones in process that will come first.

The Makings of a Serial Killer

I read somewhere that the majority
of cold-blooded killers tend to come
from dysfunctional families,
the ignored or beaten ones, the quiet,
friendless kids who end up being the
joke of the neighborhood, awkward
children who never fit in - they grow
up with all that rage buried inside of
them. just waiting to be released,
looking for an outlet.

I'm not trying to fall back on any
excuses here, but a psychiatrist once
ventured a guess where all my sudden
violent fits of anger might possibly
stem from...
I can't remember much of my childhood.
I obviously blocked a lot of stuff out,
but it must have been pretty bad to
warrant fury like mine...

all I know is this switch inside my head
that gets flipped where all of a sudden
white-hot rage engulfs me, uncontrollable
fury surges,rising up from nowhere like
a hot flash, consuming me to the point
where the only thing I can mentally grasp
is destruction and blood-red murder

but what scares me most is not the fear
that I might take a life;
the joy, the anonymity of slicing flesh,
stopping a heart, erasing a body from
the face of the earth, but the fear of
eventually being caught an discovered,
my reign of mayhem finally being corralled
into a cubicle of maximum security, where
the echoes of other madmen would ricochet
off my brain, sparking the hot wires in my
head to a dangerous flame, and all I would
have to absorb the brunt of my red-hot
anger would be a pillow to shred, a
notepad of insufficient pages, and a pencil
too dull to embody the clarity of my dark
an intricate thoughts

on the other hand,
if I was never caught...

Well, that was fun. Now that we've checked the locks on the front and back doors and all the windows, the next of the five poets is Misti Rainwater-Lites.

Rainwater-Lites won the Gates-Thomas Excellence in English Award from Southwest Texas State University (my Alma mater, among others, and the place where I published my first poems forty years ago). Her poems have been published intensively online an in print journals. She has published several chapbooks, a novel and other poetry collections. For a period of time, she published and edited a print poetry zine called Instant Pussy and is currently poetry editor of decomP, an online poetry zine.

First Time

i was22
freshly discharged from the army
living with my mom
in kerrville, texas
i was burning up
listening to hole/nirvana/the sex pistols
carving astrology into fat colored candies
dying to be found
love would be a bonus

with short hair i bleached myself
red lipstick
and a short dress that showed off
my cleavage and long legs
i walked into the local joke of a dance club
ready to sacrifice myself
on any man's altar

and there he was
drunk and lanky
33 years old
recently divorced
he bought me a bunch of drinks
and leered with jubilation
as he watched me shake my ass
on the dance floor
oh, yeah! he knew he had hit
the jackpot of sweet cunt
that night

back at his place
we drank some more
and shared a joint
he played his guitar for me
told me he wanted to take me
to his parents' ranch in hondo
they had horse and a hot tub
an idiot angel bellowed
HALLEFUCKINLUJAH inside my giddy head

then we were on his futon
my hymen still very much intact
all the beer, wine,tequila and wee
did not numb the pain
i kept saying no
over and over again
he apologize
told me he couldn't stop
it felt too goo
suddenly he was a too serious skull
suddenly he was satan
and i was rosemary
and it was not a dream
it was really really real

but somewhere in the thrusting
in the midst of the excruciating pain
i turned wild
i said fuck it
i said all the dirty words
i'd been aching to say to a man
any man at all

i took the pain
and turned into a party
hedonism 101
i screamed FUCK ME!
and he did, he did
thoroughly, thoroughly
it was the kama sutra come true
and i hated him
and i loved him
and i did not whimper
and i did not hold back
i was auditioning
i thought if i was good enough
he'd take me to hondo to heaven to happily ever after

as it turned out
i got him for one more night
took me a while to learn
a woman cannot fuck claw scream her way
into a man's heart
and fairy tales are inside jokes
written by gay men
who are laughing their asses off
in their graves

And the last poet from the book (which I will revisit often) is Jude Lynn.

Lynn, who for a while was living under bridges, writes one act plays, short stories, and poetry, though prose is her specialty. She publishes frequently online and in print and has three chapbooks out.

I guess I should have suggested to readers that they lock up the kids before I started this group of poems from Sirens.

Oh well, too late now.

All the World Wants Anal

get any guy drunk enough
she said
and they'll let you stick'em
in the behind
with cock, with celery stalk, with three
thick fingers rings and all
she said
and they might hate you for it
in the morning
but they'll hate themselves
even more
not enough to prevent them
from ever letting it happen again
oh, they'll let it happen again
she said
once you loosen up
back there
you won't be able to stop them
from inserting this or that and
they'll get damn creative about it too
she said
like the guy she knew in college
who would insert M&Ms inside his asshole
and let his dog
lick them out
and i said
that's cruel
a dog's digestive system
cannot handle chocolate!
that she said
that's the least
of that dog's

Photo by Thomas Costales

Still working in 2009. Seems to have been a good time for political poems. Here's another one.

last week

the lady says
the CIA lied to her
and people who claim
say they find that idea
very hard to believe

the Dungeon Keeper -
former Vice-President
goes on TV to complain
that the new guys
are messing up
all the good work he did

his former boss
cuts his brush
and keeps his mouth shut

the bishops
want to boycott the president,
suffering as he does
from the anti-Catholic vice
of intelligence
and the anti-Christian
of seeking to exercise it

a university in the great
white state of Arizona
to honor that same president
because he hasn’t picked
his quota of cotton yet

in the great armed state
of Texas
time runs out
on the legislation
that would have allowed
every student at a
state university
to come to school
in the morning with gun
in hand - validation
of the foresight of the
writers of the Texas
Constitution, who
trusting politicians
ever less
than we do now,
restricted their opportunities
for mischief
to just 180 days every
2 years

state employees
who must make sense of
the results of these biannual
sessions think half the 180
would be time enough
and even less would be better

such a week

now a weekend to prepare
for another just
like it

Photo by Thomas Costales

My last poem from my library is by raulrsalinas (Autumn Sun), The poem is from his book Indio Trails - a Xicano Odyssey Though Indian Country, published by Wings Press in 2007.

Raúl Salinas (aka raúlrsalinas) was one of the early pioneers of contemporary Chicano and Chicana pinto poetry.

In trouble with drugs as a young man, he served 11 years of prison time from 1958 to 1972 at such tough institutions as Huntsville and Leavenworth. Prison ignited both his social outrage and his literary ambitions. The jazz he heard growing up in a neighborhood northeast of downtown San Antonio would inform his prison poems and writings. Taking from his experience, he, along with other notables, helped to make Chicano and Chicana poetry and prisoner rights an integral part of the agenda of the Chicano movement.

Born in 1934, Salinas died in 2008.

The poem I've selected is one of the more difficult to transcribe, but I think it represents the poet's fire and life's work better than anything else in the book.

Probably not remembered or even noticed by any but those like me of a certain age and place, the poem concerns some of the epic battles between the farm workers union and certain growers in South Texas.

Tree of Life Vision

Silver salmon
         bronze medallions
southwardly sojourn
   to the indian territory
         & flutes of bamboo.
Tierra Amarilla
   ("yellow earth")
remember (never forgetting)
         spanish (?) land grants
               (never quite regaining)
maintain militant discussions
         in secret
of strategies & measures
         now deemed necessary to survive.
San Antonio
Westside tar(paper) shack
         plastic Holiday Inn
               cradle contradictions.
Where poetic umbilical cord
         lies buried
South Alamo Street
since he dwindling
         days of Depression:
& still
         (at will)
wicked webs
         of WAR(mongers)
continue to be woven/spun
running risks
predominant populace
         (of color)
gestures, hand signs
         spirit gongues.
South Texas
w/ resistance of
         grapefruit/melon pickers
to rightwing redneck
posse comitatus
         nomadic mestizos
eagerly respond
earlier purging
of evil spirits
in Upper valley
popeye lands.
Magic valley of
         tragic life-death
migrant existence;
uniting as ONE.
         for the
Pisces of Peralta:
Sandino lives
in Mercerdes
as in the Mission
Cesar Augusto Chacon
hits hot.

                           Indio-Chicano Unity Caravan
                           Sept. 16, '75

Photo by Thomas Costales

Well, finally wrote one this week worth a second look, a lyricish little thing, that isn't so bad and boring.

another Sunday morning

falling toward the west
slips behind a lacy morning cloud,
the shadows of its ancient


on cue
fly from their nighttime
cover the sky,
dark cape
of the Phantom of the Morning

strong winds,
warm and wet,
smells of the
the southern sea
the stark remains
of northern


from a pinched
eastern horizon,
the sky not ready to open
to any new day


moon shadows
as sun shadows
toward the retreating


does her morning
stretch -
her length
front to back,
legs reaching in both
belly on the ground,
tail straight in the air,
little red anus
like lantern light
at the end of a train


in her bed,
too old for morning
calisthenics -
eyelid lift, up, then
enough for now

Noticing I only have two poem this week that were written this week, here's a third. Just to keep the flag flying.

a is for apple

sun’s approaching up,
day has almost started

lacking only
my daily poem to complete

the sun’s rising -

prevails across the land

all the elements of the day
holding their breath

for just those few words from me

to begin their day-ness
to escape their night-ness…

the pressure
is getting to me, this responsibility

more than I bargained for
way back

when I began the process
of reading and writing by memorizing

the alphabet,
a to z all the way through,

a is for apple,
b is for boy, c is for cat

and d is for dog
but I don’t remember what x, y, and z

are for
and I think that might be the source

of my poetic impotency
this morning,

for how can one be expected
to write a poem

to start the day
when one can’t remember

the most basic lessons
of what is for what from a to z


what is for

what is for

and what is
for z

the fate of this new day
depends on you

Oh, heck. Why not one more?


are creatures of the word

and are often stymied
by social convention that sets

certain words
off-limits, you know, the words

that made us snicker
in fifth grade,

usually having to do
with bodily functions and/or body parts

best not shown in public -
for example,

there is what Whitman called
the "man-root" -

the polite word to use in mixed

assuming, of course,

you have need to refer to the body part
in mixed company at all,

is penis,
but I tell you, that is such a

limp dangly
little word - no man really wants

to claim it
for his, you know, his whachamacallit,

(see the problem, right there
it is, trying to talk around the whole thing

when some simple little word
could make it clear we’re not talking about

a man’s ear, or his nose
or his left elbow¬


some might call it
prick -

though I, personally,
don’t like that, sounds too aggressive

for a passive kind of guy like me,
and besides, it’s developed all sorts of negative

connotations. like, for example,
no one wants to hang around with a prick

and neither does anyone want to get pricked
no matter how tiny the prick is that does the pricking


if we were Irish,
I suppose we could all have our individual names

for it,
like Lady Chatterley's gardener, John Thomas,

I believe,
was his preference, but it does seem to me

it wouldn’t solve the problem
since we couldn't be sure what anyone was talking about,

assuming, perhaps,
the conversation was about another person

of whom
we had not had the pleasure of acquaintance,

and, possibly more destructive to social tranquility,
there could be endless argument

between man and spouse (or other interested party)
as to whether it would more appropriately be named

Big Willy
or Wee Willy Wilkins -

a discussion
which would do no good for anyone


many nowadays
seem to prefer cock, that, at least,

is what I see and hear most often,
and I have to say

I kinda like cock myself,
such a proud, manly word,

cock of the walk, cock-sure, cock-a-doodle-do,
wake up and smell roses, or something,

and, of course, no man ever wants
to go off half-cocked…


so, setting aside such obviously
unacceptable proposals

as trouser lizard
and one-eyed snake that ate Milwaukee,

and, while always, certainly, being available
to other suggestions, for the time being

perhaps we can just put a cork
in the discussion and leave it at cock…

in the meantime, possibly tomorrow,
someone will address the similar conundrum

regarding those attributes
most usually attributed to the ladies

Photo by Thomas Costales

That's it for another week. Every thing here belongs to them who created it.

I'm allen itz, owner an producer of this blog and I don't care if you use my stuff as long as give me and "Here and Now" proper credit.


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The Last
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Slow Day at the Flapjack Emporium
Lunatics - a Short Morning Inventory
The Downside of Easy Pickings
My Literary Evolution
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Loch Raven Review
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Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
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Gary Blankenship
The Hiss Quarterly
Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
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Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
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Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
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Desert Moon Review
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Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
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