Cold Cuts   Friday, February 04, 2011

Photo by Erin Neutzling

It's another cold day in South Texas, freaky weather, 39 degrees when I left home this morning at 6 a.m. for breakfast, 23 degrees barely two hours later when I returned.

Aside from that weather note, I have mostly the regular stuff this week, poetry by me and my library poets. I don't have a featured poet this week, but I do have a photographer, Erin Neutzling. Erin, who is a friend of Chris, my son, has been teaching English in Paraguay for the past year. In previous weeks "Here and Now" featured her photos from Paraguay, as well as from Columbia and Peru. This week, we have pictures she took during a recent trip to Buenas Aires.

Here's who I have this week, along with Erin's photos.

Daisy Zamora
Hand Mirror
Old Shoes
Blanca Arauz

crystal city

Gabriel Gomez
20 Retablos

another consequence of the unexamined life

Samuel Hazo
Welcome to New York

the cross-eyed bulldog

Michael Kuperman
Outside Chang Mai, Thailand

Melody Lacina
After I Die


B.H. Fairchild
The Big Bands: Liberal, Kansas, Summer of 1955

a conversation with Bob Marley

Mairym Cruz-Bernal
Morning Mirror

bringing in the sheaves

Alexander Shurbanov
Dog’s Paradise

in my humble opinion

Michael Ryan
Meeting Cheever

summer school

Janice Gould
The Day of the Dead

the red grill

For many years I ran a public service organization that was not allowed to do paid advertising to promote its services to the public it was supposed to serve. Consequently, I became very good at the art of self-promotion through many often sneaky, but always free, ways.

With that background, it would be very uncharacteristic of me not to remind everyone, again, that I have a new Ebook, Pushing Clouds Against the Wind, published just last week. The book is supposed to be available IBookstore, the Sony Reader, the Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Amazon Kindle. I have found the book most easily accessible on the Kindle for the amazingly,you heard me right, amazingly low price of $5.99. If you don't have a Kindle, Amazon will download to you for free a Kindle for PC ap.

If you buy the book and like it, I wouldn't object some additional reviews on Amazon. If you don't like the book, what can I say, keep it to yourself.

Photo by Erin Neutzling

I start this week with several poems by Daisy Zamora. The poems are from her book Riverbed of Memory,published by City Lights Books in 1988. It is a bilingual book, Spanish and English on facing pages.

Zamora, born in 1950, was program director of clandestine Radio Sandina during the revolution in Nicaragua. After the revolution was won,she served as Vice Minister of Culture in the Sandinista government.

Hand Mirror

After so many years
my grandmother Ilse returns
with her astonished
dark and melancholy eyes,
and glances
   - slender Narcissus -
at her small silver pool,
her magic oval,
her moon of cut glass,
occupying this face
more and more hers
            and less mine.

Old Shoes

In a corner they await you,
connoisseurs of all your life's wanderings,
even though you'd like to get rid of them:
you prefer other shoes
that now look better to you.

But time has made them
a mold of your feet:
the contour of your left heel.
Nothing and no one conforms
to you and your ways more than they.

More faithful than all your women.
more faithful than all your friends,
more faithful than some of your relatives.


This unexpected roundness
this losing my hourglass figure
and turning into a jug,
is to return to clay, sun, rain
and to understand how seed germinates
in m hot, humid earth.


Like a little leaf of willow
         or bamboo

you stick to me
looking for my delicate


All my life bent over a Singer 15-30,
all night dreaming of backstretches,
sleeves,ruffles, zippers.
I never had time for men:
always tired, with an aching back.

I was once a happy young girl,
the oldest daughter, my father's pet.
After your father disgraced me,
I no longer had my youth,
just work and more work.

I gave you life, my son,
but I've not had life,
and I have no idea how it would have been
to have been myself.

Blanca Arauz

I met her at the beginning of the war,
we became close;
drinking coffee and talking all afternoon
and sometimes all night
         until dawn
we realized we thought alike.

A single body. The same ideas.
         we were like two lamps
- beside the Coleman lantern
that lit up the whitewashed planks of the telegraph office -
even though we weren't together,
even though we spent five years apart,
she in San Rafael, I in these mountains

Tow lights seeking each other, sending signals,
         calling out
across the marshes, through night and trees
   to illuminate one another.

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Yep, it's true. It snowed in San Antonio.

crystal city

in San Antonio last night...

sunshine this morning
through the prism of crystal ice

brightens the day
with cold intensity of light...

across the way
three deer graze in a meadow,

the morning so quiet
I imagine

I can hear the crunch
of their hooves

virgin snow

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Next I have a sequence of poems, titled "20 Retablos," by Gabriel Gomez, from his book The Outer Bands. The book was published by University of Notre Dame Press in 2007.

The Spanish word, "Retablos, can be taken to refer to either a "tableau" or an "altarpiece"- either meaning seems very appropriate for the piece.

The title of the book is taken from the title of another sequence, "The Outer Bands," a twenty-eight-day chronicle on the days between Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which, together, decimated the Gulf Coast in 2005. That sequence is much too long to use here,but I mention it because it is a tour de force depiction of destruction and response, and is, all by itself, more than worth the price of the book.

Gomez is a poet, playwright, and music journalist born and raised in El Paso. He received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the College of Santa Fe and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from St. Mary's College of California. He has taught English at the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, the College of Santa Fe, and the Institute of American Indian Arts.

20 Retablos

The red scene begins with a swift sketch
A still life motivated from the instant flashing

Her hands warming in her pockets, re-balling tissue in a hard
rhythm. Circling a name for her sun disturbed shadow of conch
simplicity to an animated form spilling a ribbon of paths to the
spearing sorghum. A final dust lifting under and after the weight
of dew whispering the act of skin. Her name, I once recalled,
meant unraveling in Spanish.

As with all parables there are four basic colors

I learned there is always food at the reckoning of a tragedy.
Paint eagerly represents a woman as still life, diffused through
hundreds of movements by her painter. Put trees through a
window behind her; offer a texture of blue shadow stir-
ring in pools of tea colored sand. Her name will come in a lipped
octave slope saying the impulse to point at what you mean
you'll want to say.

the hands were once attached to the arms
the face and legs have dropped to the imagination
the legs became deeper with marble
when rising toward the pinched waist

I learned to smoke behind the San Fernando church. We smoked
faros that looked like joints, so we imagined that too. The church
was named after a saint that had suffered patiently through a com-
plicated and unreasonable death.

crops of lavender, shin height, plump with aroma
smeared the village with a tidy summary
the soil re-occurred for miles under the fashioned horizon
losing its light to the opposite page

people surface towards the page
creatures pilot through a highway
their language is untranslatable
the road they carry is shaped
with a foreign math

the sunrise is a small child
the metaphor became easy to denounce
once it was known that there are no small
children depicted in heaven
the sun became an anterior math
an inconceivable exegesis

the objects clamor towards the specter

a woman squinting thought the double sided mirror
a woman walking separately

as a child i was fascinated with powdered cement
diffused with so much water then hardened into form

the series returned deep swallow of sound and saliva

brown cardigan holding balls of tissue in their pockets
lifting and dropping

a pattern of gauzy shadows spilled from the giant red trees

the fragrant moment of thirst

a curious and particular hunger
you mean for me to stay here
enter willingly

dew huddled on the stems of lilacs

like rock candy

a murder of crows dance like behemoth electrons

Humidity advanced thrillingly to her skin. The sharp gray sheets
of rain dissipating slowly over the walkways and the cloistered
verandas. Then an eventual puddle found your skin and lifted
small dimples on your arms and neck. Over the mass of earth is
the river, which all this traffic is under with an insoluble thirst

your back was neatly paragraphed by your blouse
I came around you like the movements of a flood

Doldrums jerked with fog
memory kept re-occurring
even from that place, where I had never been,
seemed natural to transplant every pace
I'll call it media luna

my father kept semi precious rooks from Mexico in a lit cabinet

resurrected artifacts of other peoples lives

there was another American who had married a Mestiza woman

he raised an indefinite number of pigs with his wife

his truck was dolphin blue

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Think of all the things you wonder about that you never take the time to find out about, choosing to maintain willful ignorance instead.

another consequence of the unexamined life

I have often wondered about it
but never bothered to look up

an answer, it thereby being another

of my purposefully unexamined life
that I don’t know the difference between

a chipmunk and a squirrel - I don’t even know
if there is a difference -

is a chipmunk a different kind of beast
from a squirrel?

or is it all PR, the appellation “chipmunk”
created as a more endearing

than squirrel, just as squirrel was created

as a more compelling name than, bushy-
tailed, pouchy-cheeked rats…

I mean,
can you imagine Alvin’s manager

trying to sell his new boy band,
“Alvin and the Bushy -Tailed, Pouchy-Cheeked

Rats,” to a record producer for a Christmas album?
I don’t think so…

without bothering to obtain the facts of the matter

(how uber-19the century that would be)
I have come to believe

there is no difference between chipmunks and squirrels,
none at all -

like the deep-think
on Fox,

it’s all just

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Next, a poem by Samuel Hazo, from his book, A Flight to Elsewhere, published in 2005 by Autumn House Press.

Hazo is the author of books of poetry, fiction, essays, and plays. He is the Founder and Director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh where he is also McAnulty Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Duquesne University.

Welcome to New York


My sparrow preens in a fountain
   pool that mirrors the World
   Trade Center upside down.
She fluffs and shudders dry
   like a dog after a dousing.
   a sparrow or its fall to world trade?
On a scale of one to ten
   she fails to quantify.
                  Like all
   the Lilliputians of this world
   she struts her two cents' worth
   off insignificance and wants no more
   than to be seen
                  Since no one
notices what's small unless it turns
into a threat. Gullivers stroll by
and overlook my sparrow.
                  She pecks
   a battered apple scattered
   near a bench I've commandeered.
I've come out here smoke
   my pipe.
                  Since smoking is forbidden
   in New York except in "designated
   areas," I greet my fellow outcast
   in the tree and unforbidden air.
                  And there
   we stay,undesignated as we are.
Banished from Eden to a concrete
park, we're seen as two
   of a dangerous type - Eve
   on a spree with her little Big Apple,
   Adam at peace with his pipe.

                  June 24, 2001


In just one year we've traveled
   from the flying snow of faxes,
   memoranda, jiffy notes -
   clouds of spume the color
   of gun-metal and swirled
   to the sun in volleys of smoke -
   cartwheeling bodies flailing
   by sealed or shattered windows
   to battering, smattering rest -
   a mayor masked on scene
   but busily a mayor - firefighters
   by the hundreds shouldering
   flattened hoses coiled
   like bandoleers - policemen
   with sooted lips and foreheads -
   funerals for thousands crushed
   to sift - re-runs of tons
   of aircraft penetrating steel
   and glass until the targets
   buckled slowly to their knees
   like bison gutshot as they stood -
   to something excavated
   like an open grave, then "Patriotic
   Travel Mugs" and "God-Bless-
   America Hotel Discounts"
   and "NYPD Authentic Caps"
   and "lapel Flags Priced
   from $9.99 to $99.99
   with Genuine Diamond Settings"

                  September 11, 2002

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Some days there is no sense to be made and only nonsense will suffice.

the cross-eyed bulldog

the cross-eyed

can see both sides
of every question,

while the tongue-tied

prevails in a contest of wit

(though she is a very smart cat

the obese garden snake
is too fat to slither

and must slother

becoming a subject of ridicule
in the garden

- though in her dreams she imagines
herself as sexy, svelte, a pin-

up beauty
to all the boys curled in the grass

(if only they had fingers to
pin up her pin-up )…

meanwhile, I’m told, there’s a cow in the field
who looks mighty bossy, though

others tell me
she is really quite self-effacing,

and a rabbit in the brush,
long absent from Hare-Asbberry

where she left behind her hippy-hop
to become just another long-eared

hippy on the psychedelic streets and airports
of hari krishna…

and in the barnyard I’ve heard of a chicken,
little known for her prognostications,

though still commanding respect as technical
expert on the Aztec calendar,

thus explaining why all the chickens
are broody

and disinclined
to lay eggs before the apocalypse…

now note the possum over there
feigning sleep

- as the often do
when fearing for their safety -

fearing, this time, only
that this monologue will go on and on and on

forever and forever and forever
(about two weeks in possum-years)

it won’t

cause, awake or asleep,
I love my possums

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Here are two poets from the Summer 2001 issue of the journal Rattle published quarterly by the Frieda C. Fox Foundation.

The first poet is Michael Kuperman.

Kuperman had been living in Taiwan for three years at the time of publication;, working as a lecturer at Kao Yuan College for two of the years. I was unable to find any current information on the poet on the web, though there was evidence his is still producing poetry.

Outside Chang Mai, Thailand

Rice steppes represent rice,
Mountains are harnessed
and utilized, like the yak
or the elephant.Bamboo
bridges connect farms
of soybean,tobacco,peanut,
divided into neat squares,
crossed via crumbly walls.
A woman beats and stacks hay.
A man carries two water cans
across his shoulders on bamboo.
Inside a wooden shack
raised on wobbly stilts
an old woman in bright clothes
smokes fresh tobacco, smiles
through rotted teeth.
They understand:
water trickles down,
paddies fend for themselves,
brow to green to brown.

Also from the journal, here is a poem by Melody Lacina.

At the time her poem appeared, she worked as a copy editor/proofreader. Her work has appeared in a number of journals and she has published one collection of her poems, Private Hunger.

After I Die

Sell everything.Promise me
an auction, an old guy hollering
prices in a broken yodel,
his voice so rough you'd swear
he used to shuck corn
with his throat. Better yet
a yard sale. Strangers can finger
bowls and coats and wonder
why I ever bought them and whether
they would like them any better
marked a couple of dollars down.
Don't let the quilt go cheap -
Amish ladies in Iowa went blind
stitching it.The bedframe still folds
reluctantly into a sofa,
and anyone who wants a hard
mattress will not mind
how stiff the futon has grown.
Be sure the labels
on the sweaters from Venice
are showing. You know how
people will buy anything
Italian. Give away the books.

Burn the body. Keep the ashes
in a mayonnaise jar,
the way we used to hoard
lightning bugs until they stopped
glowing. When no one is watching,
tap our a handful of the ashes
on the beach at Limantour.
A slow crooked line
behind the tide, as if I were dragging
my toes, complaining how cold
the water leaves the sand.
Then buy plane tickets
with the yard sale money.
Pack the mayonnaise jar
carefully. Unwrap it in the what was
my parents' backyard to scatter
bone shards beneath the lilac bushes.
After that go to Spain, and don't forget
the jar. Open it on the first
stone street above the cathedral
in Granada, where an old woman
fierce with her broom will not
look up. Drop what you have
left of me in front of her.
Ashes to dust. and always
someone sweeping.

Photo by Erin Neutzling

There are times when some people truly do light up a room.


tall girl
with very white teeth
comes in

and, on this sun-shining
blue-sky day,
her smile is a beacon

of reflected light,
like crystals tossed into the air,
like diamonds

a cloudless, winter

the sun
rising high and bright

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Here's a poem by B.H. Fairchild, from his book, Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest. The book was published in 2003 by W.W. Norton and Company.

The poet, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award and the William Carlos Williams Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award, lives in California. Born in Houston, he grew up in small towns in the oil fields of Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, He taught English and Creative Writing at California State University, San Bernardino and Claremont Graduate University.

The Big Bands: Liberal, Kansas, Summer of 1955


They were supposed to be dead, but they kept coming,
shunned by the cities bu lunging into the gloom
of the outer counties, they kept moving along
two-lane highway on huge Greyhounds or night trains
destined for small towns without airports:Elk City,
Medicine Lodge, La Grange, Minneola, Meade, Cimarron.
After the year of troubles - the family business drowning
in red, the broken plates, black words, slammed doors,
my mother and father in separate rooms, the terrible silence
that grew like a clutch of weeds choking he little house -
after this, the summer came, the white skies, long evenings
unfolding like dark scarves tumbling to earth, mimosa blooms
floating from branches pummeled by baseballs in the side yard,
and they kept coming, the swing bands, the big bands,
those soft oceans of trombones and saxophones, of Les Brown,
Harry James, Kay Kaiser, Dorsey and other priests
of music bound for Liberal, Kansas in the summer of 1955.


The green Packard I have just washed dries by the curb,
and the evening sun makes a bronze plunder
of brick streets. Cottonwood branches grown too low
loom and whisper. Cicadas begin to pulse,raucous
miracles, a chorus of things destine, of things
promise and given, while I wait on the front step
watching the sun melt and ooze over the car hood
until the bumper's chrome turns gold and the whole show
suggests Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers gliding
through the front door to a dreamy trumpet fanfare.
They walk out smiling and awkward, my father
stiff in his brown suit, hand at my mother's elbow
as she, a woman I have never seen , leans
against him. As they step shyly toward the car,
a thick warm sadness lifts from the grass, lifts
and pours over them in a kind of silver haze until
they seem luminous. El Greco-like. The street lamps
make shadows like black roses on the pavement.
My parents wave. The Packard rumbles and pulls away.


I peek through the window of the Five-State Fair
Exhibition Hall and smile at the obsolete dance steps,
the surprise of elegance, kind of embarrassed elan
an quaint formality from this man normally bent
over a machine lathe knee-deep in iron shavings,
this woman whose place was an ironing boar or sink,
her hair pasted to neck and cheek. But now her hand
is delicate an light upon his shoulders, their modest
steps hardly visible, and behind them, a 16-piece
orchestra of boutonnieres and white dinner jackets
innocent as choral robes gleams in brass an silver,
and the blond singer in what seems a gesture
of worship embraces the air. This, in a building where
gigantic squash an cucumbers had been displayed
and where no my parents ease among a gathering
of farmers and roustabouts swathed in a gauze
of music, memorable as statues, in love again
with "Cherokee" an "Stardust" and "Mood Indigo."


It must have been this way before the war.
I think of my Uncle Harry dancing soft she while
holding a gin-an-tonic in one hand and quoting lines
from Double Indemnity, my mother and her sisters
doing their Andrews Sisters imitation, my father
and uncles passing around a bottle of Southern Comfort
and swapping lies. It all comes back to me at midnight
as couples spill from the hall, clutching their
signed photographs of Sammy Kaye an Chris Connor,
their empty bottles of champagne saved as souvenirs.
And there, among the last to leave, are my parents
moving slowly, seeming lithe and moon-laden under
the field lights like celebrities stepping from flash bulbs
and limousines. I follow them along the gravel path
where the tree branches are loosening the starlight
and letting the lamps from the adjoining fairground
splash and litter the hoods of departing cars.
                            The last
to emerge are he musicians. They are much older
than I imagined. They are weary, lugging their horns
an flipping their last cigarettes like shooting stars
through the enveloping shadows. Their talk has a slow,
easy familiarity, the talk of old men on a long journey
accustomed to the ritual graces, the beginnings and endings,
of their trade, and they give themselves finally,
in single file, to the big bus rumbling at the edge of the lot,
then groaning into gear and slipping through the starlit night.

Photo by Erin Neutzling

As mentioned last week, I'm busy retrieving my poems from the last five years from poetry forums and transferring them to more permanent storage.

Here's one from the middle of the summer, last year, that I liked enough to give it a second go here.

a conversation with Bob Marley

"If you know your history
Then you would know where you coming from"
from Buffalo Soldiers

men so old
each year
is like another
in the leather
of a well-worn shoe -

nothing more...

they do not acknowledge
and time does not

as they live on
and on


blood relics...

they will die

but it will not be in
my time

"Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!"
from Get Up: Stand Up

a bowl
of tomato soup,
saltine crackers,
and a glass of water

the rights of a man,
they say
do not extend
to a bowl
of tomato soup,
saltine crackers,
and a glass of water...

not at this counter

not now,
not today...

until today!

"They say what we know
Is just what they teach us"
from Ambush in the Night

i know
what my daddy
what his daddy
and what his daddy’s
daddy knew

the 12th generation

that’s all i need
to know

"Sun is shining, the weather is sweet
Make you want to move your dancing feet"
from The Sun Is Shining

a baby

walking now
on grass


tickling his feet

a baby

"Can't tell the woman from the man, no I say you can't
Cause they're dressed in the same pollution
Their mind is confused with confusion
With their problems since there's no solution"
from Midnight Ravers

juvenile hall

of hot nights
and cold lights


then fades


next time

"We gonna chase those crazy
Baldheads out of town"
from Baldheads

old men

old women

death grip
on life

to long ago

"Misty morning, don't see no sun
I know you're out there somewhere, having fun"
from Misty Morning

day’s light

into indefinite

we see
what we want
to see

we see
what we fear
to see

we see
ghosts of our
worst nights


"Long time we no have no nice time,
Think about that."
from Nice Time

is joy
leaping on
prepared to carry
the load

yourself for joy

have a
nice time
while you can...

no deposit -
no return...

if you don’t use it
someone else will

Photo by Erin Neutzling

The next poem is by Mairym Cruz-Bernal, from her book, On Her Face the Light of La Luna. The book was published by Provincetown Arts Press in 1997.

Cruz-Bernal is a young Puerto Rican poet and translator who writes in English and Spanish.

Morning Mirror

Let me begin by saying how dependent I am
on your voice while making love.
Often I feel I am dying, I touch my body
and again I touch it.
My outer skin is of pink marble
on the bathroom floor.
Its coolness wakes me to the mirror.
I see the face of a woman aging.
I see my eyes and inside my eyes
me again. Everything seems to me
in this morning mirror.
I open my mouth, see my teeth.
How hard I can be.

My skin feels soft
but I am dying of not feeling.
Every morning I am late to wake up.
I am entering a tunnel
without a rope around my waist.
I can fall deeply in my own mind
incarcerating those outside of me.
Killing myself makes me afraid.
In what ways would I not do it. Why crown
my body with a head if I have lost it?
I don't care about what shoes or jewelry to wear.
I want my dolls to surround me, my books
to stay open in my bedroom
my walls to be pink when they are blue.
I want to stay in this room with this mirror
to feel the veins of the marble tiles,
to feel your veins, worms through my body.
I want to urinate and listen to the sound.
To bite you and feel it on my tongue.

Photo by Erin Neutzling

I guess I was feeling kind of scruffy the morning I wrote this one. But then, there are those prone to say I look kind of scruffy just about every morning.

bringing in the sheaves

I wore
my checkedy jacket

and a brown
military style shirt
and jeans,

faded blue-white
and soft
like kitten whiskers…

a Goodwill
ensemble like the homeless

pick up
at the shelter
after morning prayers,

only if you want breakfast,
the freedom of an empty belly

to all who might want to skip
God’s early message,

scrambled Christ
and eggs
with a pop of oatmeal on the side…

“bringing in the sheaves,”
“we will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves”

scrambled Christ and eggs,
bringing in the sheaves

Photo by Erin Neutzling

I'm a dog an cat man myself, pleased to find a kindred soul in these poems by Bulgarian poet, literary critic, translator and teacher, Alexander Shurbanov. The poems are from his book, Frost-Flowers, published in this bilingual edition (Bulgarian-English) by Ivy Press, or Princeton, in 2002. The translations are by Ludmilla G. Popova-Wightman.

Born 1941, Shurbanov is Chairman of the English Department at Sofia University. He has published five volumes of poetry and three books of essays as well as critical studies on Marlowe, John Donne, and George Herbert. He has translated The Canterbury Tales and Paradise Lost into Bulgarian as well as contemporary poetry, and has compiled and translated anthologies of English Renaissance poetry and plays.

Dog's Paradise

He lies on his back
on the soft grass.
Under the soft sun.
His legs spread in four directions
Like flower petals.
His teeth - forgotten
His prick -
on show.
He doesn't open his eyes
to see who passes by -
friend or enemy.
He doesn't remember his enemies.
The universe licks his belly7
with the tongue of a bitch.


With her paws,
            her tail,
the cat draws arabesques
on the floor,
the windowsill,
between the books on the shelves,
on the blank pages spread on the table...
She doesn't leave a trace -
she has licked herself so clean,
the whole invisible painting
is inside her -
that's why it is alive
and has no master.

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Here's a not-so-old poem I had fun with. Since I take neither myself nor my poetry all that seriously, fun is the essential element to the enterprise.

in my humble opinion

i could write
a poem
about politics

but whenever i do that
gets mad at me

or i could write
a poem
about religion

but that would leave
all my relatives
staying up nights praying

for my

or i could write
about my amazing sports
career, except

i never had one,
or otherwise

i could write
about all the beautiful women
who have lined up

to take me
in their arms
with seriously perverse

but lying like that
would send me to hell

almost as fast
as my poems about

i could write
a poem about what i did
last summer

though it is almost exactly
the same
as what i did this summer

and i write about all that
kind of boring stuff
all the time anyway

i could write
a poem about the weather
but everyone writes

about the weather
and not a one of them

a damn thing about it
so what’s the point of being

just another
mealy-mouthed ineffectual poet
who never does a damn thing about

the weather
or anything else
for that matter...i’m thinking

i could write a poem
about all the reasons not

to write a poem
but then i do that a lot, too

so maybe i should just
not write a poem

and tell everyone, instead,
that i had to go to the hospital
for finger transplants

after using up
my initial set of digits
pounding out an epic poem

on my keyboard
which flared up from the intensity
of my effort and burned

like a nova
in a far galaxy
destroying in the conflagration

both my laptop
and the epic poem in it
which is now, unfortunately,

lost forever,
but what do you expect
from a nova in a far galaxy -

it’s pretty big deal
after all,
with universal impact

of which
loss of my epic poem
is not the worst or grandest

though it is
pretty close to the top
in my humble opinion

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Now I have a poem by Michael Ryan. The poem is from his book New and Selected Poems, published in 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Born in St. Louis in 1946, Ryan received a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, an M.A. from Claremont Graduate University, and both an M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He has published three previous volumes of poetry, each a winner of various awards and prizes.

Meeting Cheever

               Iowa City

Above a half a pizza and a double gin,
his proffered hand tremble in the dark
as if, polished and slapped with cologne,
he had ridden a jackhammer from New York

that broke up everything inside
but politesse,which dangled like a hook:
informed that you had just won a prize,
he said, "Ah yes. I loved your book."

And you, inconsolable bell-bottomed cliche
of wounded by the world, angry young poet
who became me as strangely as years become today,
replied, "The book's not published yet."

In a booth for four were mashed five
whose egos would have cramped the Astrodome.
One, thriving now, who still tries
to disguise his voice answering the phone

from decades of throwing bill collectors off,
whose wife told everyone her life was hell,
whose children had it rough,
was living by the week in a seedy motel.

He had killed a quart by noon
with a mountainous hard-boiled novelist
who thought "Chandler could write circles around anyone
with a piece of chalk in his ass."

Ungoaded, Cheever smiled at the figure
and said he'd love to see that manuscript.
Pinned between them, ankle to shoulder,
he looked like a sandwiched Siamese triplet

twice their age and half their size
but sharing one bloodstream - alcohol -
and one passion beyond themselves: stories
wild, precise, and beautiful.

My counterpart in the art of verse
was burbling his soda through a straw.
"Consciousness is a curse"
and "Coke-farts evoke sacred awe"

were his night's remarks, not addressed to us.
His poems were tiny nests of pain.
That Christmas he went to Panama in a VW bus
and no one ever saw him again.

And the hard-boiled novelist's new baby and wife,
then unconceived and not-yet-met,
that were said to have filled his life
with happiness and made him considerate,

died together in a crash.
Where was the future with its bloody claws?
Brilliant John Cheever is a handful of ash.
I would be done with what I was.

Photo by Erin Neutzling

This is a poem about learning how to dig a hole.

It is also about coming to understand that, no matter how smart you think you are, there are always things to learn and people to learn them from.

As a decidedly amateur second-life poet with great cause to be humble, I try to learn from those poets I most admire, not so much in terms of styles or language or such, but more as exemplars of certain things I like in poetry.

For example, In Whitman, it is the his grandness of spirit I love, his embrace of all things that make up the fabric of life. Has anyone very better stated the universality of life than this.

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belong to me as good belongs to you.

Whitman is to me the greatest poet. The largeness of his essence is what I always hope to find for myself, as a poet and as a person.

I also admire other poets: Bukowski for the honest way he approaches his own life and failures, for most of his life, he was not a "good" man and he doesn't flinch from the details of it; William Carlos Williams I would like to emulate for the precision of his vision (do we ever see a red wheelbarrow and not think of the mystery of his); the French poet and perfect traveler, Blaise Cendrars, and his fresh, observant eyes as he travels to new places and sees new sights and new faces, the Haiku masters whose tiny capsules of words introduce me to the brilliance of the world around us, and, of course, many others. But these few I would take as my primary teachers. They wrote the poems I would like to write again.

For all of that, I am a plain and simple writer of plain and simple things, and not much more.

summer school

in 1962,
during my first summer
after high school,

I learned how to use
a shovel -
it took a while,

working as a laborer
on a power line construction crew,
I relied

for the first month
on youth
and muscle power,

observing in July
that while I had developed

an impressive array of muscles
over the long, hot days of June,
men 40 years older than me

were still
getting more done than me, digging
post and anchor holes

deeper and faster than me
and ending the day not nearly so

I decided
to take some lessons
from these men, experts with a lifetime

of experience in the profession
of hard labor, with the result
that, even today, with that first summer’s

long gone, I am still the best hole digger
on my block -

it is a skill I hold in reserve
in case Social Security

and I’m forced
to go back
to work

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Next I have a Halloween poem (don't ask me why)by Janice Gould, a California poet. At the time of publication, Gould lived in Santa Fe and taught American Indian Literature at the University of Santa Fe in Albuquerque.

The poem is from an anthology, Poet's Choice, Poems for Everyday Life, published in 1998 by HarperCollns. The poems in the book were selected by Robert Hass.

The Day of the Dead

I wish I were like this:
el dia de los muertos comes
and we fill our baskets with bread,
apples, chicken, and beer,
and go out to the graveyard.

We bring flowers with significant colors -
yellow, crimson, and gold -
the strong hungry colors of life,
full of saliva an blood.

We sit on the sandy mounds
and play my accordion.
It groans like the gates of hell.
The flames of the votives
flicker in the wind.

My music makes everything sway,
all the visible and invisible -
friends, candles, ants, the wind.
Because for me life ripens,
and for now it's on my side
though it's true I'm often afraid.

I wear my boots when I play the old squeeze-box,
and stomp hard rhythms
till the headstones dance on their graves.

Photo by Erin Neutzling

I mentioned earlier poets who I look to as models for the way I would like to write. Cendras, for example, is always on my mind when I travel, remembering the sharp-eyed way he saw everything as he traveled, and trying to achieve that same sharpness of vision myself.

Although I'll never be as tough as Bukowski, I do try to remember his honesty as I write, even when I know I'm lying, hoping to keep at the heart of the lies some larger truth.

And, though I doubt I'll ever achieve the greatness of spirit of Whitman, I do wish and sometimes try for it.

And Williams - I see Williams in the clean, sleek lines of every modern thing. I saw a painting of a red bar-b-cue grill in a journal of modern art that made me think, immediately, of his red wheelbarrow. That's where this last poem for the week came from, after the painting, doing my best to come up with a decent homage to Williams and his precise vision and his wheelbarrow.

It's an older poem, included in the Ebook, Pushing Clouds Against the Wind, I just released by way of Kindle and other electronic readers.

red grill

red grill
on a field
of brown leaves
autumn come
and almost gone with summer
the long wait
for spring

Photo by Erin Neutzling

Another fine week bites the dust. I'll be back for more next week; hope you will too.

In the meantime, all material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. If it's my stuff, you can use it, just credit me and "Here and Now."

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, watching the rattlesnakes freeze here in South Texas and not a bit sorry about it.


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