False Springs Are Welcome Too   Friday, February 11, 2011


After a week of bitter cold, we now enjoy a week of nights in the 60s and days in the 70s. It won't last long, but while it does no one's complaining.

This week I have more new and previously unpublished poems by friend Alex Stolis. As usual, Alex frames his sequences around a structure, this week, an unusual one.

The photos are mine, from a trip to Big Bend National Park on the border in West Texas. The isolation (no phone, no internet, no TV) is wonderful, for a couple of days. After that, it's time to start sending smoke signals to passing aircraft.

It is one of the largest, maybe the largest, of the national parks. For visitors like me for whom "roughing it" is maid service only every other day, there is a lodge, with restaurant, high in the Chisos Mountain Basin. For the more determined nature-lovers, there are hundreds of miles of trails and primitive camp sights both in the mountains and in the desert, including bears, cougars and several dozen types of poisonous snakes and lizards. That's why I stay in the basin, none of the maids have ever been known to bite visitors.

The last time we were there (when the pictures were taken) was late winter. There was still signs of snow at higher elevations but not in the basin or in the desert. While we were there a winter storm with sleet came through. Watching the storm clouds cover the desert and creep through the canyons was beautiful.

So, that's my featured poet and the pics. Here's the rest.

William Carlos Williams
Pictures from Brueghel

who needs it

Venessa Maria Engel-Fuente

Richard Blanco
Mother Picking Produce

inspired by the silliness of geese

Blaise Cendrars
South American Women

songs of the furthermost seas

Colette Inez
Setting Out From the Lowlands

kooks, crooks, cranks, and creeps

Gary Snyder
Front Lines

Lisa Dart
Garra Rock

the stink

Philip Nikolayev
On the City
A Visceral Year

Alex Stolis
Poem of the Month Club

San Juan de la Cruz
Dark Night of the Soul

not yet done with the night

Kathleen Fraser
Seven Uneasy Songs

for their pleasure

Andrew M. Greeley

notes from slower regions of the universe

I mentioned last week several of my poet-heroes. I start this week with one of those heroes, William Carlos Williams. The poems are from Selected Poems, edited by Charles Tomlinson and published by New Directions in 1985.

Pictures from Brueghel


"....the form of a man's rattle may be in
accordance with instructions received in the
dream by which he obtained his power."
               Frances Densmore
"The Study of Indian Music"


In a red winter hat blue
eyes smiling
just the head and shoulders

crowded on the canvas
arms folded one
big ear the right showing

the face slightly tilted
a heavy wool coat
with broad buttons

gathered at the neck reveals
a bulbous nose
but the eyes red-rimmed

from over-use he must have
driven them hard
but the delicate wrists

show him to have been a
man unuse to
manual labor unshaved his

blond beard half-trimmed
no time for any-
thing but his painting


According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning


The over-all picture is winter
icy mountains
in the background the return

from the hunt is toward evening
from the left
sturdy hunters lead in

their pack the inn-sign
hanging from a
broken hinge is a stag a crucifix

between his antlers the cold
inn yard is
deserted but for a huge bonfire

that flares wind-driven tended by
women who cluster
about it too the right beyond

the hill is a pattern of skaters
Brueghel the painter
concerned with it all has chosen

a winter-struck bush for his
foreground to
complete the picture...


From the Nativity
which I have already celebrated
the Babe in its Mother's arms

the Wise Men in their stolen
and Joseph and the soldiery

with their incredulous faces
make a scene copied we'll say

from the Italian masters
but with a difference
the mastery

of the painting
and the mind of the resourceful mind
that governed the whole

the alert mind dissatisfied with
what it is asked to
and cannot do

accepted the story and painted
it in the brilliant
colors of the chronicler

the downcast eyes of the Virgin
as a work of art
for profound worship


Pour the wine bridegroom
where before you the
bride is enthroned her hair

lose at her temples a head
of ripe wheat is on
the wall beside her the

guest seated at long tables
the bagpipers are ready
there is a hound under

the tale the bearded Mayor
is present women in their
starched headgear are

gabbing all but the bride
hands folded in her
lap s awkwardly silent simple

dishes are being served
clabber and what not
from a trestle made of an

unhinged barn door by two
helpers one in a red
coat a spoon in his hatband


The living quality of
the man's mind
stands out

and its covert assertions
for art, art, art!

that the Renaissance
tried to absorb

it remained a wheat field
over which the
wind played

men with scythes tumbling
the wheat in

the gleaners already busy
it was his own -

the patient horses no one
could take that
from him


the painting is organized
about a young

reaper enjoying his
noonday rest

from his morning labors

in fact sleeping
on his back

the women
have brought him his lunch

a spot of wine
they gather gossiping
under a tree
whose shade
he does not share the

center of
their workaday world


disciplined by the artist
to go round
& round

in holiday gear
a riotously gay rabble of
peasants an their

ample-bottomed oxies
the market square

featured by the women in
their starched
white headgear

they prance or go openly
into the wood's

round and round in
rough shoes and
farm breeches

mouths agape
kicking up their heels


This horrible but superb painting
the parable of the blind
without a red

in the composition shows a group
of beggars leading
each other diagonally downward

across the canvas
from one side
to stumble finally into a bog

where the picture
and the composition ends back
of which no seeing man

is represented the unshaven
features of the des-
titute with their few

pitiful possessions a basin
to wash in a peasant
cottage is seen and a church spire

the faces are raised
as toward the light
there is no detail extraneous

to the composition one
follows the others stick in
hand triumphant to disaster



This is a schoolyard
with children

of all ages near a village
on a small stream
meandering by

where some boys
are swimming

or climbing a tree in leaf
is motion

elder women are looking
after the small

a play wedding a
nearby one leans

an empty hogshead


Little girls
whirling their skirts about
until they stand out flat

tops pinwheels
to run n the win with
or a toy in 3 tiers to spin

with a piece
of twine to make it go
blindman's-buff follow the

leader stilts
high and low tipcat jacks
bowls hanging by the knees

standing on your heads
run the gauntlet
a dozen on their backs

feet together kicking
through which a boy must pass
roll the hoop or a

made of bricks
some mason has abandoned


The desperate toys
of children

imagination equilibrium
and rocks
which are to be

and games to drag

the other down
to make use of

a swinging
with which

at random
to bash in the
heads about

Brueghel saw it all
and with his grim

humor faithfully

As a writer, I'm of the opinion that a little truth is a good thing, but too much of it is like ant's at a picnic. It bites.

who needs it!

the truth is
I’m 67 years old,
eyes and feet
on the road to ruin
at about the same
as the gray cells of remaining
keep on popping like

the truth is
I’m an increasingly creaky
in an unimportant machine,
long past warranty,
soon to recycling
by some eight-year-old
radiation mutated
in some poor slum in

the truth is
sooner rather than later
I will die,
probably a lingering
given the miracles
of modern medicine,
tubes sprouting,
plugs plugging, intricate
machines of terminal torture
night and day by my bed

the truth is
if I’m right about the absence
of God
in this universe
I will, once the machines are silenced,
dissolve into the realm
of atomic particles
too small to be seen with anything
but the strongest microscope;
and if I’m wrong
and there is a God out there,
who, if his literature is to be believed,
is a bloody, vengeful cat with hostility
issues regarding those who did not believe
in his ever-powerful, ever-present
I’ll be whole and intact, heading
head over heels
to the fiery boundaries of hell
where I will burn and burn and burn

the truth is
I could write a better story than that
any day before the sun rises
with five and dime crayon

the truth is
who the fuck needs the truth
when the truth
offers no good ending to

the truth is
I’ll take the all the lies
I can live with and mostly can’t
live without

you tell me yours
I’ll tell you mine

Next up I have a couple of poets from The Wind Shifts, an anthology of new Latino poetry published by The University of Arizona Press in 2007.

The first of the poets is Venessa Maria Engel-Fuentes, recipient of a 2003 SASE/Jerome grant. She holds a BA from Macalester College in Women's and Gender Studies. At the time of publication, she was coordinator of Youth Programs at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.


Mi abuelita dice que cuando
la cebolla
te hace llovar, is porque es
macho. Cebolla hombre.

The men bring
tears to the eyes, she says. And, from
what I understand,
from the way certain wrinkles
lie on her face when she is sa and
full of her Bolivia,
I do not doubt this.
But we are different women.
Onions to me are not the same thing.
Our shared names
do not fit the
same way in our mouths. No importa - we still know what
the other means.
I wonder
how many onions
has by abuela chopped in her life? How many
paper shells peeled away to make the
fingers and palms so smooth.
She has no more fingerprints. They've worked
themselves inside out and now
face her blood rather than the blade.
She is my mother tongue,where I come from.
I breathe deep enough to
touch the bottoms of my lungs
when I know she's been cooking.
Check her eyes to see if she's been crying
Tear stain on a napkin
Abuela's history
adds another shell to mine.

I am looking forward to the day when
my wrinkly hands can be so calm.

Richard Blanco came to the United States from Cuba by way of Spain as a child. Blanco has both an BS in civil engineering and an MFA in creative writing. He has taught at Georgetown University and American University. At the time of publication, he lived in Miami, where he worked as writer and a consultant engineer. His poetry has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies. He has also published several books of poetry.

Mother Picking Produce

She scratches the oranges then smells the peel,
presses an avocado just enough to judge its ripeness,
polishes the Mackintoshes searching for bruises.

She select with hands that have thickened, fingers
that have swollen with history around the white gold
of a wedding ring she now wears as a widow.

Unlike the archived photos of young, slender digits
captive around black and white orange blossoms,
her spotted hands now reaching into the colors.

I see all the folklore of her childhood, the fields,
the fruit she once picked from the very tree,
the wiry roots she pulled out of the very ground.

And now, among the collapsed boxes of yucca,
through crumbling pyramids of golden mango0s,
she moves with the same instinct and skill.

This is how she survives death and her son,
on these humble duties that will never change,
on those habits of living which keep a life a life.

She holds up red grapes to ask me what I think,
and what I think is this, a new poem about her -
the grapes look like dusty rubies in her hands,

what I say is this: They look sweet, very sweet.

Thought I might try to be funny on purpose.

Turns out I'm better at doing that by accident.

inspired by the silliness of geese

I am inspired
by the silliness of geese
and the hibernating habits
of bears -

are fun, nights on the town truly

and elephants,
the great brute dears, are just too darn nosy,
no secrets left unearthed in an
elephant herd

(best not roller skate
around them, either, especially Spanish elephants
who love to dance

camels are ugly
and giraffes would be too
if not for their necks
that keep them above the fray

(but don’t hang around with them
in winter
because if they come down with a sore throat
you’ll never hear the end of it)

lions are too
and leopards too attached
to their spots

(just try
to get them to change
even one -
you’ll see what I mean)

I don’t like
because they slither and spit when they talk
and do rude things with their tongues

(slinky devious devils,
coiled on the ground or hanging from a tree,
you can’t believe anything
they say)

and what can I say
about spiders
just like my great-aunt Priscilla,


Here's Blaise Cendrars, another of my poet heroes I mentioned last week.

A real hero (he lost his right arm in the first world war), Cendrars was born Frederic Louis Sauser, in Switzerland in 1987 and died a proud Frenchman in 1961. A writer of considerable influence in the modernist movement, he seems to have spent most of his time after his war injury traveling all around the world, writing little poems all along the way. He was the perfect traveler, seeing everything and everyone with fresh eyes and an open heart.

The poem is from the collection of his work, Blaise Cendrars, Complete Poems, published in 1993 by the University of California Press. The books includes both the original French and English Translations of the poems, the first half of the book English, the second half French. The poems were translated by Ron Padgett. This is one of my most favorite books in my library.

This next sequence of poems most likely came from his travels in South America. I should also mention Cendrars, ever true to his adopted French heritage, never seemed to suffer from lack of female companionship.

South American Women


The road rises in hairpins
The car climbs rough an powerful
We climb in a roar like an airplane approaching its greatest height
Each turn throws her against my shoulder and when we swerve in the
     void she unconsciously clutches my arm an leans over the precipice
At the serra's top we skid to a stop before the gigantic fault
A monstrous close-up moon is rising behind us
"Lua, lua!" she murmurs
In the name of the moon, tell me, how does God authorize these
     gigantic constructions that allow us to get across?
It's not the moon, sweetheart, but the sun, precipitating the fog, that
     made the enormous gash
Look at the water down there rushing through the fallen rocks and into
     the generator pipes
That station sends electricity as far as Rio


Libertines of both sexes
Now we can admit
There are few of us around the world
Perfect health
We also have the most beautiful women in the world
We have also taught them how to be free
The children grow up with dogs horses birds among pretty maids all
     round and mobile like sunflowers


There is no more jealousy fear or shyness
Our girlfriends are strong and healthy
They are beautiful and simple an tall
And they all know how to dress
They are not intelligent women but they are very shrewd
They have no fear of loving
They are not afraid of taking
They also know how to give
Each of them has had to fight against family social position other
     people or something else
They have simplified their lives and are filled with childishness
No more furniture no more trinkets they love animals big cars and their
     own smiles
They travel
They hate music but every one of them brings a record player


There are three of them I like especially
The first
An old woman sensitive beautiful and kind
Lovably chatty and of a sovereign elegance
A socialite but so gluttonous that she liberate herself from social rules
The second one is the wild child of the Hotel Meurice
All day she combs her long hair and nibbles at her Guerlain lipstick
Banana trees black wet nurse hummingbirds
Her country is so far away you travel six weeks on a river covered with
     flowers and moss with mushrooms as big as ostrich eggs
She is so beautiful in the evening in the hotel lobby that men are all
     crazy about her
Her sharpest smile is for me because I know how laugh like the wild
     bees of her village
The last on is too rich to be happy
But she has already made great progress
It's not right away that you find your balance and the simplicity of life
     among all the complications of wealth
It takes stubbornness
She knows this well she who rides so divinely she who becomes a part
     of her big Argentine stallion
May your will be like your riding crop
But don't use it


There is yet one more who is still like a very little girl
Despite her horrible husband this terrible divorce and confinement in a
She is as wild as day and night
She is more beautiful than an egg
More beautiful than a circle
But she is always too naked her beauty spills over she still doesn't know
     how to dress
Also she eats too much and her belly swells out as though she were two
     little months pregnant
She has such an appetite and such a taste for life
We are going to teach her all that and teach her how to dress
And tell her the best places to go


There is still one more
One I love more than anything in the world
I give my whole self to her like a pepsin because she needs a tonic
Because she is too soft
Because she is sill a little fearful

Because happiness is a very heavy thing to bear
Because beauty needs a nice quarter-hour's exercise every morning


We don't want to be sad
It's too easy
It's too stupid
It's too convenient
It comes up all the time
It isn't smart
Everyone is sad
We don't want to be sad anymore


I slipped into Star Trek mood last week long enough to write the next one.


like starbursts,
and blazing clear...

dark and cold,
the sky
on a field
of razzle-dazzle…

another creature of nights and days
looks to the dark
above his indeterminate head
and sees the brilliant mark of mine
among the billions
in the canvas
of his sky,
just as I see above me
the fire that warms
his night
and lights his day…

we imagine
other -
star-gazing brothers
the universal
the further-most reaches
of nights and

alone, still,
but no longer lonely

For some reason, the above poem and this one I wrote last year seem to me to go together. Maybe I'm just hung up on that Star Trek movie with the last surviving whale.

songs of the furthermost seas

a song
sung over and over

a lone singer

all of his kind
singing the same
song across a wide
ocean, sometimes
singing the same song

singing leviathan songs

it seems,
for the joy
of the singing

the slaughter


but, Christ, the
hunters say

what the hell good
is an animal
if you can’t have the
the pleasure
of killing

Next I have a poem by Colette Inez, from her book, Family Life, published in 1992 by Story Line Press.

Inez, born in 1931, is a poet and composer, and a faculty member at Columbia University’s Undergraduate Writing Program. She has published over nine books of poetry and has won the Guggenheim Fellowship, Rockefeller Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and two Pushcart Prizes.

Her father was a priest and her mother a scholar. After spending early childhood in a Catholic orphanage in Brussels, she was moved to America and placed in a foster home. Her first foster mother died an alcoholic and her second was abusive.

This book is more directly the story of a poet's life than any other I recall ever reading.

Setting Out From the Lowlands

Do buildings in America grow taller
than Saint Julian's?
What will you eat when you drown?
The questions swirled
as the gate unlocked,
and hungry to be noticed
in my new, red dress,
embroidered flowers at the gathered neck,
I left them in the afternoon
a child singled out for departure
at 5the start of the war,
before tanks
bulldoze the Do Not Trespass signs
in the capital.

Nuns in black and white,
children in weekday grown
waved me goodbye. Birdsong Street,
Brussels, Belgium, farewell.
"Come see us when you're a fine lady,"
a child blew a kiss
that flew over paths
straight as the rule of nuns
who kept us in line for the Liturgy
of the Eucharist, Midday Prayer,
the daily chanting at Evensong.

Who would eat my morning gruel,
sing my praise to God at Lauds?
What kept the ship afloat?
A great fish? I expect no less
than such miracles.

In American I have made the sign
of the cross in buildings
taller than Saint Julian's
and sailed into years
beyond that child's imagining
of a fine lady come back to gloat
in the Children's Home
whose corridors caught echoes
from small, red mouths
that set whispers afloat
calling, "pray for us, pray for us."

Here's a poem that was lots of fun, even though it'll have a shelf-life of maybe two weeks.

kooks, crooks, cranks and creeps

I was going
to write a poem
about the convention
of right-wing republicans
that’s just wrapping up, where
all the presidential-aspirant-dwarfs
came in to pretend they aren’t 3 feet tall
and ugly

but then,
I thought, why
look for a fight on this
bright Sunday morning, better
to write a poem about the sun reflecting
off that window across the way, brilliant orange
flash, like an exploding Florida navel orange, pulpy splinters
spewing wetly
into the

I must tell you
that that reference to Florida
navel oranges was difficult for me
having grown up in a part of Texas famous
for our deeply orange navel oranges and ruby red grape-
fruit not to mention, tangerines, giant lemons, limes, avocados,
not forgetting, grain, cotton and
sugar cane…
and tourist travel trailer camps, the last refuge of bankrupted farmers
when no one wants to buy their assorted fruits and nuts

it was a most magnificently orange sun reflecting brightly
is all I’m saying before I wandered off again onto a subject not remotely
connected to lunatic republican right-wingers or sun bright explosions of orangely
like an explosion in the Sunkist galaxy

is all I’m saying

Earth Songs is described on the cover as "a resurgence anthology of contemporary eco-poetry." Published in 2002 by Green Books in association with Resurgence magazine, it includes a number of poets I enjoy very much...

Beginning with Gary Snyder. I've used his work often on "Here and Now." If you are unfamiliar with him, I invite you to learn more via Google. (pretty much the source of all I know about everything.)

I have heard the growl of the bulldozer, out of sight on the other side of the forested hill, and smelled the stink of it's diesel exhaust and seen it rise black in the sky. It sickens you as every day, the stink and the smoke and the sound draws closer.

Front Lines

The edge of the cancer
Swells against the hill - we feel
     a foul breeze -
And it sinks back down.
The deer winter here
A chainsaw growls in the gorge.

Ten wet days and the log trucks stop,
The trees breathe.
Sunday the 4-wheel jeep of the
Realty Company brings in
Landseekers, lookers, they say
To the land,
Spread your legs.

The jets crack sound overhead, it's OK here;
Every pulse off the rot at the heart
In the sick fat veins of Amerika
Pushes the edge up closer -

A bulldozer grinding and slobbering
Sideslipping and belching on top of
The skinned-up bodies of still-live bushes
In the pay of a man
From town.

Behind is a forest that goes to the Arctic
And a desert that still belongs to the Piute
And here we must draw
Our line.

And another poet, less-known to me, Lisa Dart.

Dart was born in Cornwall, but grew up in Orpington, Kent in England. After working for both the Open University and the University of Sussex for many years, she combines writing poetry with her commitment to gifted children as Head of Curriculum Enhancement at St Bede’s School. Her chapbook was published by Tall Lighthouse in 2005 and she was one of the four winners for the USA Grolier Prize 2004. Many of her poems have appeared in British poetry magazines. She has recently completed a doctorate in poetry and philosophy at the University of Sussex.

Garra Rock

And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
               T.S. Elliot

We must remember: All is always now.
So, today I'm at Garra Rock - the steep jag of descent,
Us clambering down.
I hear your Look! Look! Wind-slung to the horizon;
See the gannets' perfect plumb-line drop -
Perpendicular flight programmed for their constant dive.

Generation after generations genes goon
Repeating themselves. Coded chromosomes,
Nucleic acids, proteins, enzymes, ribosomes
Generation after generation...go on...go on...

Here now...always now:
the boy paddling with his father.
How alike they seem:
Same shoulder droop, squat stance, pallid flesh,
Life to come fixed a million years before any one life has begun.

Quick now, here -
Now your son, only four then, cautions, skirting the water's edge.
You, cross-armed, longing to plunge like gannets headfirst in.
Generation after generation -
Me, exultant (my parents taught me how to swim),
Leaping in the toss an drag
Of that day's sea-wind convulsion.

Generation after generation genes go on
Repeating themselves. Coded chromosomes.
Nucleic acis, proteins, enzymes, rivosomes
Go on...go on...

And can you see the frenzy -
Drenched towels, a soaked sandal, our book being flung,
When an errant tidal tongue, as it has always done,
Hurls the blueprint of the future in?
Yet though that dear years ago has gone,
The salt stain on our lives then -
Here, now, quick - immediate.

If you have the feeling you've read this next poem before, you have, two poems up. It just wasn't a poem yet.

Snyder's poem moved me, because I have heard the sound of progress, smelled the stink, watched a densely wooded area turn, day by day, into a gated suburb where no other animal larger than a rat can find a home.

the stink

(after the poem, “Front Lines” by Gary Snyder)

I have heard
the growl
of the bulldozer -
of sight
on the other side
of a wooded ridge -
and smelled
the stink of it's diesel
seen its dirty breath
black in the sky

I have seen
bolt from the brush
in panic,
seeking quiet

there will be no quiet

as every day
the stink
and the smoke
and the sound draws

Now I have four poems by Philip Nikolayev from his book Monkey Time, published by Verse Press in 2003.

Nikolayev was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1966 and grew up fully bilingual in Russian and English thanks to his father, a linguist. He started out as a Russian poet, but came to the United States in 1990 to attend Harvard University, and has since been writing primarily in English. His poems have appeared in many of the most prestigious journals and is the author of two previous collections of poetry.


as a parrot
in a bush
to another
parrot said
man things
are not bad
what more
could we wish
and how
they'll come
then go
red feathers so
eat a mango
for now
the key
is to be

On the City

White chains of snow over the city's limbs
distract the crows. Black slush is full of fire.
Impervious to the wind, a Volga climbs
uphill with taut tenacity of tire,
slowing at icy places. In twilight
a few scattered pedestrians stomp and steam,
rubbing their ears red in a sprinted flight
to the Metro from a capitalist canteen.
The parks begin to yawn,where statues still
stand half-emphatically, as if leaning
toward the vacuum of a lost empire.
Large are the workings of the general will,
but in the early February evening
s true stars are menacingly clear.


I never tried it with a whore
(tho one sick shit with
a cooperating partner
and seen whorenography and hornography)
but here I am
at 36 on the Singel Canal
in Amsterdam,
undertheinfluencing on foot
down the straat -
and you will excuse me,
but I am intoxicated.
Beautiful & exposed
she is seventeen y.o.
or so, equivalent in Euros. I
am looking for a bathroom,
have nothing to say to her
except sorry.

A Visceral Yes

Think of all the things a noncom can do to a private.
But that still leaves room for purity.
I took a test of English as a fourteenth language.
Charity begins at home,
what's the subject of my poem!
Wild cows work my engine.
Wild daydreams arise,
surprisingly ablaze with Paris.
You wanna find yourself a moister oyster?
Yes, what's up, priceless!
Nutcracker my ass.
I want to be a wooden peg
I want to be a wooden peg
in thee Woodberry Poetry Room.

I'm back this week with another great selection of poems by my friend, Alex Stolis.

I of the things I really like about how Alex works is the way he builds a structure and theme, then fills it with wonderful poems. I don't have the discipline to write that way.

Here's the latest, as yet unpublished.

Poem of the Month Club

Dear Reader,

A unique service has been organized
which will deliver to you every month,
without effort or trouble on your part,

It’s probably a story you’ve heard a million times; dingy hotel,
sad man, dive bar. A search for redemption while the world takes

the best poems of that month. They will be
chosen from a number of poems written
over the course a thirty day period.

tiny bites of his pride. Completed in two acts: it is in scene three
where the woman is introduced. She doesn’t need a gun, dangerous

If, at any time, you are dissatisfied,
you may choose to suspend this service.
There will be no extra charge and you

enough without one. She is loaded with sin, locked and ready to roll
him over into the next chapter. It always ends the same; quiet, alone.

will not be asked to return these poems.
They are yours to keep, enjoy or give
away as you see fit.

Dear Reader,

February is the second month of the Gregorian calendar

Origin of FEBRUARY
Middle English Februarie, from Old English Februarius,
from Latin, from Februa, plural, feast of purification

First Known Use: before 12th century

He deals from the bottom
of the deck, she stands
behind him

a diamond on a honey
wood floor.

The last card hits the table,
she squeezes his shoulder
empties her drink;

lights out baby
time to cash in.

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, Telling tales out of school.

Telling tales out of school

We’ll call it February second, just to give it a name. It can be the pretend
beginning. Before everything that should have happened: before the ice
storms and before the Triple Rock shuttered its windows for the last time.
Before last call when I whispered a joke in your ear and the waitress
with the bankrupt look steered us outside. We laughed at our arrogance,
decided right then and there to fall in love. But let’s not mention the future
yet: right now it feels like we’re close to spring, a cunning wind cuts through
your hair. It’s midday and traffic drowns out my nervousness, we are scarcely
together and for a moment I forget your name. It slips into one of the clouds,
watching and waiting for your hand to slide into mine. You are a suicide note,
a final breath, a quiet implausibility standing in front of me. The Number Five
glides by and deposits a mob of children on the corner, their shouts fade down
the sidewalk. You take my hand, say you will tell me stories. That is what you do;
take bits and pieces of here and there, then weave them into the present: stories
to recite in a bar, stories that are damp and taste of earth, stories whose words
are weightless. I want to see them, touch every syllable. True stories are broken,
they have no beginning and often times the middle stretches flat over time.
There are no real endings, only memories: scars, sprinkled into ordinary
conversation and common courtesy. Some are supple, full; others will cut
your bones to a sharp point.

Dear Reader,

March is the third month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar,
and one of the seven months which are 31 days long.

Origin of MARCH
Middle English marche, from Anglo-French, of Germanic origin;
akin to Old High German marha boundary — more at mark

First Known Use: 14th century

You stop breathing, freeze
the moment
but in the time it takes
to exhale
it will be over
and she’s gone.

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, It ends in a riot of perfume.

It ends in a riot of perfume

We live our life in moments: a first meeting in a coffee shop,
a kiss in the back seat, the not so accidental brush of hands.
We wait for the future, hustle away the past and need a road
map for the present. We wait for the sun to drop its head,
wonder aloud, thoughts better left alone but we’re together.
Five minutes here, one hotel there. The bang of a radiator,
bare feet shuffling on carpet; a slow dance with no music.
We forget the worst and try our best, we colour outside the
experiences worth keeping. Fall to winter to spring to summer
and back again. There is a lost wallet, car keys dropped on
a hardwood floor, missed phone calls and mumbled voicemail.
We both know our last words will be the first ones we swallow,
so let’s save them for later. Promise each other there will be no
way out. When one of us is ready to go the exits will be lit
a dull shade of red. Lights will dim, you will become a shadow,
transparent in the hollow of a memory. My sins are all mine;
solid, reliable and never far from reach. I’ll give you my word,
the one thing I’m not willing to keep.

Dear Reader,

April is the fourth month in the Gregorian calendar

Origin of APRIL
Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin;
Anglo-French avrill, from Latin Aprilis

First Known Use: before 12th century

It’s a short story, a love letter with typos included but I already know how it ends:
one rough edge, an unsent postcard, a lost cell number and the odd forgot-to-erase
voicemail- hey babe, it’s me- dial tone, short beeps- my batteries dead I’ll wait ‘til
it’s warmer; Mailer-Daemon failure notice. Once upon a not so long time ago,
my words were her skin. Now, I’m just a spot of orange, a push pin on a map.

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, The circumference of fidelity.

The circumference of fidelity

He'd never been in her bathroom before. He turns on
the hot water to wash his hands. The mirror, prone
to fogging, fogs up. And he sees what was written
there. He thinks of the past few hours, still fresh:
a half full bottle of wine on the table, the low shift
of the cd changer, an unanswered phone and a hand
laid lightly on a forearm just long enough to matter.
He’s a coward, the last man standing, a prophet with
out a flock. He turns off the spigot, slips back in bed.
Listens to the steady hum of snow, the drip drip drip
of melting ice and falls asleep beside her. He dreams
an ordinary dream, an ocean dream. The waves become
a staircase, light becomes silver, a banister smooth
with a sense of loss. His eyes sting from salt and spray.
He can’t make out the blurred sun but hears it falter,
stalled by the pull of the tide. He feels time run away
as water covers his feet, then ankles, then calves;
when everything goes black, he pretends he knew
all along how to swim.

Dear Reader,

May is the fifth month of the Gregorian calendar

Origin of MAY
Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French mai,
from Latin Maius, from Maia, Roman goddess

First Known Use: 12th century

She’s shambolic; a calculated wreck, all legs and long hair
waiting for the bottom to drop out and the top to level off.
Remember what we used to say- the last one to learn
is the first one to lose.

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, We won’t last another year.

We won’t last another year

I no longer believe in myths. Fables to take the edge off.
No winged horses cutting a path through the sky, no simple
answers found in ashes or bones, no blond fields with a burial
ground for our sins. Every day there will be less and less.
The space between now and then will fill with your voice
that is no longer mine. I want to hear every story you have
lived, again and again, until I am filled with nothing but you.
Tell me about scabbed elbows and braids, morning and bare
feet padding to the window to trace frost with your finger.
Tell me about your first wish, the smoothest stone skipped
across water and how you felt yourself in each ripple
and wave. Tell of passageways made of rock, tucked on
the slope of a hill. That is the place I’ll fall to my knees,
forget everything I know about loss. I no longer believe
in legends, doors that lead to open roads. I believe a shot
glass is large enough to hold the future, that there are no
beginnings, only an empty sky to witness our pain. Every
untruth we whisper becomes winter and when the snow
melts and the air smells of wet leaves, the gallows will be
high; polished wood with desolated space to break my fall.

Dear Reader,

June is the sixth month of the Gregorian calendar

Origin of JUNE

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin;
Anglo-French Juin, from Latin Junius

First Known Use: 14th century

It’s the end of the line. Light is muffled and not a goddamn
cop in sight when you really need one. But we are not afraid
of trouble. We are rolling thunder. We are the chosen
ones baptized in the wet dew of morning.

onetwothree- sinning is for sinners
get ready to pull the trigger and walk away
before the body hits the ground- fourfivesix

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, One more cup of coffee.

One more cup of coffee

The last table is taken. You nod when asked if I can join you.
Pass me the cream. No glance. No words. Your sleeves pushed
up, lips thin, a brushstroke of red. I ask you the time. You tell
me how to catch fire. How to hold the spark, the correct way;
how to live with ashes and dust. You want to teach me to rub
the stain from a crucible, polish it, hold it to flame until my
breath turns to smoke. You tell me everything I am thinking
is true. That aqua blue is the color of sincerity. That shyness
is a refuge, desolation a virtue. The café empties. Streetlamps
flicker, the city struggles to stay awake. We are unnoticed.
The final stop. I study the curve of your mouth, want you
to feel the weight of loss in the palm of your hand; consider
the heft of grief, its angles and curves. Share the heaviness
that comes with remembering.

Dear Reader,

July is the seventh month of the Gregorian calendar

Origin of JULY

Middle English Julie, from Old English Julius,
from Latin, from Gaius Julius Caesar

First Known Use: 13th century

She is free speech and ready to fight anyone
who will listen. there is closing time, after party
burnout time, love, hate and muscle, over played
hands and underhanded plays. She takes a slow
sip of her drink, meditates on a tear in her stocking;
he feels the cool burn of metal against his forehead.

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, Confession.


Here we are, two stories written in the same book.
Neither one of us are where we think we should be.
You: unaware of your innocence, lips moist, lashes
that quiver when you smile. Me: I get drunk, look
down at the stars from rooftops-break our memories
into easy to slice pieces. Pretend not to remember
colors: the light red of rain as it falls through your hair,
the dark blue of regret for things unsaid. Piece by piece
you reinvent me; wish to make love in Paris, travel by
train to the coast and drink champagne, eat fish stew
and toast to beginnings. I have imagined it all more
than once. We will end up by the ocean. It will be
the first time I see you naked; arms tanned, brown
hair that barely scrapes your shoulder. Your calf
is a poem and every time I look away you give me
a glance, that wicked half grin that tells me you know
where my mind just wandered. There will be an open
air café, umbrella-ed tables, arrogant waiters in waist
coats and black shined shoes. There will be the clink
clink of glass against stone. I’ll scratch your name into
a napkin, two children build a lopsided castle at the edge
of the water. It tilts to one side and slides into the surf,
their laughs drowned out by the shrill cry of seagulls.
Back in our room, I threaten to throw away everything
I’ve written about you. There will be a wash of words
between us but no need to speak. You close the blinds,
lips barely move; I’ll love you, one sliver at a time
until eventually we are whole.

Dear Reader,

August is the eighth month of the Gregorian calendar

Origin of AUGUST

Middle English, from Old English,
from Latin Augustus,from Augustus Caesar

First Known Use: before 12th century

It’s a Holy Roller show and he’s the Jesus of cool
- mirrored shades, black buckle boots and a thick
roll of scratch. She’s always had the right of way,
believes talk is cheap when you pay in advance
for all the answers. Togetherness is the last refuge
of the lonesome but this night is already in ruins
and no amount of dying will bring it back to life.

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, Paper-Thin Hotel.

Paper-Thin Hotel

The evening street sounds filter up to our room, taxis
honk at the short staccato whistle of a traffic cop. Our
bed is turned down. There is a desk against the wall,
inside the ashtray is the button from my shirt, the one
you promised to mend after a weekend in Montreal.
Unsent letters sit in unopened drawers. You tell me
stories of how it was before we met. How the sky
was two shades of orange, how the last clouds slid
down the mountain. How perhaps we knew each other
in another life or perhaps we’d meet in a future one
and our need to connect was so great we would recognize
each other our next time through. Right now, it feels
like rain, the air tastes of ginger and cinnamon. We live
the inevitability of two of a kind. You wear a favorite
camisole; hair pulled back, unmade mouth, a flash
of white from a tear in the shade lands on your thigh.
It’s time to see the future. You check tea leaves, ask
to read my palm. Take my hand in yours, smile at my
disbelief. I close my eyes and feel the brush of your
lips in the middle of my hand. The clock ticks slower,
you don’t say a word, go out, under the stars, calculate
how our maps cross. Perhaps we are at our intersection
but let’s journey together for a while; let’s stay undone,
stay bare, unfinished and unalone.

Dear Reader,

September is the ninth month of the Gregorian calendar
Middle English Septembre, from Anglo-French
& Old English, both from Latin September
(seventh month), from septem seven

First Known Use: before 12th century

She’s an outright unbeliever straining to break the pull of gravity,
likes to live dangerously close to the fire. She’s kept up by visions.
Ashes. Grey bones. Brittle winds, broken trees. One day she’ll bust
out and make her way across the desert, no good riddance, no good
byes, no looking back.

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, Rain in the furnace.

Rain in the furnace

She never believed when I told her she was beautiful,
turned her head, laughed it off and changed the subject:
the weather in Rome, the cut of my clothes, the right time
of day to have tea. There were acts and scenes and replays.
There were flashbacks and fast forwards and rewinds.
The only things left: the soft crush of her breasts against
my back, hands over my eyes, the brush of her fingertips
down my forearm on her way to holding my hand. I picture
her on a farm, in a field walking slowly, the wind along
for the ride. She wears a muslin skirt, the one she mended
again and again, an everyday sweater, its color faded
a pale blue to match her eyes. There are black birds
sitting in a crooked tree, startled away by the dust kicked
up by a speeding pick up. I whisper her name to an empty
room. I feel the curve of her shoulder as she takes another
step, pauses, pauses onetwothree. And in that moment we
are in Paris, on the banks of the Seine. We kiss behind
a column in Sacre Coeur. She sticks her tongue out at
the disapproving look of an old woman. There are lazy
mornings and café nights, room service and do-not-disturb;
we are all expectation and ruination. We are two people
in two different places at the same time. The lights dim
and the stars fade to black, my eyes close, it is spring
and there we are: nothing but gravel roads, slow dances,
unmade mouths and silence.

Dear Reader,

October is the tenth month in the Gregorian calendar

Origin of OCTOBER
Middle English Octobre, from Old English
& Anglo-French; Old English October, from Latin,
8th month of the early Roman calendar,
from octo; Anglo-French, from Latin October

First Known Use: before 12th century

She tells everyone a different story about the scar: it was a fall
when she was five years old, she let go of father’s hand, walked
into an accident, realized too late; it happened at birth, a gift
from god, an unpaid bill, a reminder of how things twist away
from the center. Small crimes of the flesh are better committed
together and in silence; she paints a landscape created by two
bodies as they sleep, careful to brush over the indifference
that breaks with morning.

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, How to fall without breaking.

How to fall without breaking

An oil painting on the wall, a woman with a guitar, watches us.
You tell me how you drove twenty miles out of your way to sit
with her. Tell me how it feels like you are dating art, how you want
to take her home, play Moonlight Sonata for her. We agreed it was
only coffee, a quick-stop hello, a meet and greet. You lower your eyes,
your voice gets soft, sounds slightly embarrassed, as if you have given
me a secret and now might regret it. I am captured, open and willing,
a hollow man with words that slip and stammer. I look out and see
the sun fracture in the sky, catch a glimpse as you brush a wisp
of hair from your eyes. I want it to be tomorrow. I want to break
every promise I made, make all prior agreements and arrangements
null and void. Start over from the middle, linger forever with you
in a quiet storm. You tilt your head and one glance leads to another
and leads to fingers entwined and still softer voices then small laughs
at inside jokes. The easy hello becomes a lingering kiss, becomes one
image after another; your hair smells of lavender, your skin, roses,
roses with dew still clinging to the petals. The sheets are a white tangle,
my hand on your hip, a kiss, right there: that one spot on your clavicle.
We move through time and each other, we are friends, allies, lost doves
flying under marble clouds. I touch the freckles on the curve of your
breast. One song fades into another, Arcade Fire to Leonard Cohen
to Velvet Underground. The coffee is cold, there is nowhere to go
and no one else to be with. The end of the story is in sight and we are
simply us. No ropes and no net, no jealousies; and in the time it takes
to exhale, we find we are made of the same dirt and fire.

Dear Reader,

We are sorry to hear your decision
to discontinue your membership in
the Poem of the Month Club. It is our

hope that you will reconsider. We are
sending you this month’s selection
at no additional charge. If you choose

to continue, keep this poem and your
subscription will be uninterrupted.
However, if after reading this poem

you decide that you would still like to end
the membership simply return the poem
and your membership will be canceled.

We sincerely thank you and hope
you enjoy this month’s selection.

November is the 11th month of the Gregorian calendar

Origin of NOVEMBER

Middle English Novembre, from Anglo-French,
from Latin November, ninth month of the early Roman
calendar, from novem nine

First Known Use: 13th century

one bullet left
but that’s all we need
to fix everything

We hope you will enjoy this month’s selection, Undone.


Do you remember the last time we met: February Seventh,
snowing, the temperature below zero. Your hair wet-just
out of the shower you said, no time to dry it and you didn’t
want to miss me. It’s a ten minute walk to the train station.
I offer you my hat but you decline, we duck in the stairwell
for a quick kiss, cross against the light so I won’t be late.
If I had known this was the last time, I would have asked
you about the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.
You would tell me it is an orchid, white and purple;
yellow at it’s lip. Tell me you imagine yourself a bee
drawn in by its scent, drinking deeply, limbs painted
yellow. You would tell me you want to know how a star
feels as it burns, fills the sky with light. I tell you how I am
at once whole and completely stranded, my original sin;
to be with you, in your skin and in your bones. How I will
find you in the smallest corners and dream about the pale
slip of your voice. Together, we are one small and fragile
moon; fleeting, luminous, born of a bright summer sun.
In the shelter at the station, you kiss me good bye, lips cold;
you say you will call me later. I rub my hands together, try
to stay warm. The train whistle drowns out your good bye.

Here is a poem from the anthology Introduction to Spanish Poetry, edited by Eugeno Florit and published in 1965 by Dover Publications. It is a bilingual book, the original Spanish and English translation on facing pages. There are no translation credits so I assume the poems were translated by different people at different times.

The poet is San Juan de la Cruz. Born in 1542 in a small town in the province of Avila, in Castile, de la Cruz (secular name Juan de Yepes) entered the religious order of the Carmelites, then went to study in the University of Salamanca. As a supporter of the reformation, he spent eight months in prison, then went on to serve in important positions in the Carmelite Order until his death after a brief illness in 1591.

Dark Night of the Soul

    On a dark night,
burning with love's desire,
or, happy adventure!
I went out, unnoticed,
my house being already calm.

    In the darkness and safe,
by the secret stair, in disguise
in the darkness and concealed,
my house being already calm.

    Oh that happy night,
in secret, since no one could see me,
nor I see anything
with no other light or guide
than that which burned in my heart.

    The light guided me
more surely than the noonday sun,
to where He was waiting
Whom I knew so well,
in a place where no one was.

    Oh night that led me!
Oh night more loving than the dawn!
Oh night that brought together
the Lover and the loved,
the loved one transformed into the Lover!

    Oh my flowering breast,
that kept itself entirely for Him alone,
He fell into deep slumber,
and I caressed Him,
cooled by the breeze from the cedars.

    The air from the battlement,
as I loosened his hair,
wounded my neck
with its calm hand,
and suspended all my senses.

    I remained and I lost myself,
my face I rested against my Lover;
all ceased, and I was left,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

I get up early every morning, usually between 5 and 6, not because I have any particular need to be up at that hour, but solely as an exercise in discipline in a life that otherwise doesn't require much in the way it. Not so difficult most of the year, but in the winter, when it's dark and cold outside, there is a mighty desire to stay snug abed.

not yet done with the night

light rises
as dark recedes

birds chatter
in trees, dark shadows

against the rising

day begins
and all the accoutrements of day

arrange themselves
in proper order…

and I’m not ready
for any of it

my warm bed
embraces me

with a lover’s
tender grasp, stay

it pleads
in the quiet murmur

of a lover
in the dim of emerging light

burrow yourself again
into my soft, dark

for, surely, we are not yet

with the night

Next, I a series of poems by Kathleen Fraser, from her book il cuore: the heart, Selected Poems 1970-1995. The book was published in 1997 by Wesleyan University Press.

Born in 1937, Fraser is author of fourteen books of poetry. She was Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University from 1972 to 1992, Director of the Poetry Center, founder of American Poetry Archives and editor of the feminist/experimentalist poetry journal HOW(ever). She lives part of each year in Italy.

This series of poems first appeared in her book What I Want, published in 1974.

Seven Uneasy Songs

1. What I Want

Because you are constantly coming to begin,
I suggest solutions and
am full of holes. See through me
when my back is turned.

A hotel is the notion of entrance
by thought. Your love is

constantly a solution,
criminally full
of no difference
when my back is turned.

I read your thoughts because
you are constantly changing and
coming through me
when my back is turned. And

I want something
for something, constantly.

2. To Start

At a tremendous speed my throat makes its door slide.
Open. Pure guesswork...I have lost the other

side of me. You'll see. In teeth dreams there are only three
wrong guesses. A surprise doesn't exist.

Just a guess against the door.
To think is simultaneous. I'll take another network

of teeth (by pairs) as my answer. Stars. Anymore.

3. Amid Mouths

More and more
rushes out at night
high on the still pooled joyful "do not."

Blood cells
desert for signs inside me.
A narrow ledge.

The buoyant
with furry necks,
more and more


We are what is
that the rare elegant necks
(more of them)
look attentively at
a baby us.

They peer over the wooden boat
but it is ashore
      to roll. Flapping
seaward, the heron ascends

each wing rained thin


That I snap
(but watch the little light)
just open
the dark see.

A wonderful move
these very gentle whites
amid mouths.

4. Growing Up

In a box I marry
and grow firm.
I fly to complacency
where hair runs by the ankle.

I pull Mother's dress: "Come down
our of each other's knees!"...and and
"fresh lines"       (linen)

Is nothing the strength
of my wings' chain?


The grass learned again
how often the body leans
in a clearing

(and another one breaks in on
the pleasure of her stare)

            but it seemed
the time.


I just wanted a soft green family.

Remember your family?

My family sadly grow less.

It's more difficult with maps

zipped inside. Show my face

in pink silk. A simple box.

5. Going

Through his giant photo body,
heaven's blue sea.

I am leaving and will close my tongue.


To and fro men

Horizon. In.


Trees open in the neck &

his mother's thumb appears in
the lentil heart

6. If

Suppose we are a fragment,

a perfect night of immediacy
in vital places.

Up here I am the disguised flower
and you are where it came from.

To allow the hidden.
So slowly, my body.

And wouldn't you

to make friends with it?

I can wait.

7. That Didn't

That didn't come down
      but quietly (to touch)
      as wheat grows. And shoes

in water. Here. A curving brown light
didn't drop down all around.
      No center.
      No field where that touch seemed
firm, almost.

                  [San Francisco, 1972]

This is was going to be my last poem for the week, but I changed my mind. I don't know where the poem came from for sure, but I think it was a conversation I over heard, a young woman so surprised that the world had not laid itself out for her just as she thought it should.

for their pleasure

I would like to write
a poem
about the way things used to be

when I was a kid
and the world was safe
and simple and accessible

to the dreams
of those like me who were not
of the favored brand…

but my intellect

reminds me
there never were such times
and that it is my memory

of a child
that sees as a child
the imaginary world of a child…

is it good
that a child sees
a world better than the world that is?

I know there are children
who never see that better

where the reality
of abiding despair can never

how lucky they are,
I’m tempted to believe,
though I know the obscenity of such

fat, full-bellied thinking,
to know the world
as it is

from their earliest days, to never
the arrogance of ignorance

and illusion,
to never assume
the world was made


This is a poem by Andrew M. Greeley, from his book, The Sense of Love, published by the Ashland Poetry Press of Ashland College, Ohio, in 1992.

Greeley, born in 1928 in Oak Park, Illinois, is an Irish-American Roman Catholic priest, sociologist, journalist and best selling author. He is Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and is a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. He writes a weekly column for the Chicago Sun-Times and contributes regularly to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America, and Commonweal.

This poem is from a section of the book titled "Eros."


On the screen of black and white
A living-color face

Liquid spinning movement
Within a frozen frame

Quadraphonic laughter
After a single channel day

In a right-angled world
Your tri-dimensional shape

For my tundra mood
Your tropic hug

Despite my hopeless life
Your loving kiss.

I had decided to end this week a couple of poems back, but ran across this piece I wrote last year and decided was a better way to wrap things up than what I had earlier planned.

notes from the slower regions of the universe

the first time
we made love
i carried you like

a leaf on the tide
to my bed


Sunday afternoon
in the apartment on Santa Fe,

lying in bed,
watching it rain
through a damp
window screen

watching the rain
in soft sheets
across the gray waters
of the bay


the house
on G Street

open ceiling

rain on the roof

banana plant by the window
green patterns
in the wind

like sleeping in the rain


the first night home
from the agency

crib at the foot
of our bed

we sleep lightly

listen in our sleep
for his


we slip into sleep
flesh to flesh,
skin on soft skin

my rough hands cupping
your small breasts


my leg between yours,
your arm across my chest

the fire banked
the embers still glow

That's it. Everything belongs to who did it. My stuff available borrow for proper credit.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, going out now for some sun while it's shining.


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