Wildflower Patrol   Thursday, March 31, 2011


VI.4.2.




A good post this week with featured poet Jan Napier and springtime wildflower pics.

Read more about Jan when you get to her poems; read more about why the pics are a year old when you get to my first poem.

In the meantime, here's my posse for the week.


Me
Wildflower Patrol


Miklos Radnoti
Postcard (found on his body after he was killed by the Nazis)

Wallace Stevens
Dry Loaf

Thomas McGrath
Ode for the American Dead in Asia

Me
Ursula Andress is an old woman

Alan Napier
Tulum Saw the Coming

Adian C. Louis
Nevada Red Blues

Sharon Olds
When

Me
a little whisper

James Broughton
Memento of an Amorist

Robert Peters
Cousins

Frank O’Hara
Homosexuality

Me
Cats and Dogs

Matsuo Basho
5 Haiku

Yosa Buson
5 Haiku

Kobayashi Issa
Haiku

Me
draft-dodger

Robert Hass
from My Mother’s Nipples

Me
watching my book be read

Charles Baudelaire
The Giantess
Hair
The Snake Dance


Me
takes one to know one

Joan McBreen
Poem for St. Brigid’s Day
The Night


Me
now

Jan Napier
Island
And So I Said…
Cello
Elders
Hot Flashes


Me
there are nights
i dreamed


Demetria Martinez
After a Reading in Arizona, the Author Is Detained by the U.S. Border Patrol in Las Cruces, New Mexico
El milagro


Me
shards

Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Fresh Smell of Limes

Me
liar, liar”

Shulamis Yelin
Fandango
Cornflowers


Me
national report

Kevin Young
The Boss
The Track


Me
the source of my problem








First up, the reason why I have last year's wildflower pics instead of new ones.

I went north this year to find the pictures, into the hill country. Found none. Last year I went to the softer, gentler pastures south and east of the city.



wildflower patrol

          (With thanks to Mia for her help)

a drive
in the hills,

to the beat
of a strong wind
blown hard from the Rockies;
gusts pound
like a frosted hammer,

trees
and pastures blowing,

winter push-back
against over-eager summer...

driving
twisted narrow roads,
watching
for spring colors due
after a hard winter…

but no flowers
on the pastures;
no flowers
in the
hills…

~~~~

hard winter, dry winter -
drought
again
seeps around the corners
of a blue eggshell
sky -

no flowers,
but for the one I see
behind a rock, sheltering
safe
from the wind







My first library poems this week are a poem each from poets in the anthology, The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, originally published in hardcover by HarperCollins in 1992.

It's a kind of coincidence - I work from a kind of rotation system when selecting books for use in "Here and Now" so that I don't get hung up on some poets, while ignoring and never using others. I was talking to another poet about this book just two evenings ago, then when I went to pull books for this week, there it was, first in line.

All three of the poems are from Section 3 of the book, titled "War."



The first poem is by Miklos Radnoti and was translated by Steven Polgar, Stephen Berg, and S.J. Marks.

Radnoti. born in 1909, was a Hungarian poet who died in 1944, a victim of The Holocaust. The poem was written less than two months before his death.


Postcard
(found on his body after he was killed by the Nazis)


I fell next to him. His body rolled over.
It was tight as a string before it snaps.
Shot in the back of the head - "This is how
you'll end. Just lie quietly," I said to myself.
Patience flows into death now.
"Der Springt nock auf."* I heard above me.
Dark filthy blood was drying on my ear.

Szenkiralysabadja
October 31, 1944

* "Der springt nock auf" - He's getting up again.



The next poem is by Wallace Stevens who was born in 1879 and died in 1955. He was a major American Modernist poet who spent most of his life working as a lawyer for the Hartford insurance company in Connecticut.


Dry Loaf

It is equal to living in a tragic land
To live in a tragic time.
Regard now the sloping, mountainous rocks
And the river that batters its way over stones,
Regard the hovels of those that live in this land.

That was what I painted behind the loaf,
The rocks not even touched by snow,
The pines along the river and the dry men blown
Brown as the bread, thinking of birds
Flying from burning countries and brown sand shores,

Birds that came like dirty water in waves
Flowing above the rocks, flowing over the sky,
As if the sky was a current that bore them along,
Spreading them as waves spread flat on the shores,
One after another washing the mountain bare.

It was the battering of drums I heard.
It was hunger, it was the hungry that cried
And the waves, the waves were soldiers moving,
Marching and marching in a tragic time
Below me, on the asphalt, under the trees.

It was soldiers marching over the rocks
And still the birds came, came in watery flocks,
Because it was spring and the birds had to come.
No doubt that soldiers had to be marching
And that the drums had to be rolling, rolling, rolling.


The last poem I've picked from the anthology is by Thomas McGrath.

McGrath, born in 1916 and died 1990, grew up on a farm in Ransom County, North Dakota. He earned a B.A. from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks He served in the Aleutian Islands with the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, at Oxford and also pursued postgraduate studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He taught at Colby College in Maine and at Los Angeles State College, from which he was dismissed in connection with his appearance, as an unfriendly witness, before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1953. Later he taught at North Dakota State University, and Minnesota State University, Moorhead.


Ode for the American Dead in Asia

1

God love you now, if no one else will ever,
Corpse in the paddy,or dead on a high hills
In the fine and ruinous summer of a war
You never wanted. All your false flags were
of bravery and ignorance, like grad school maps:
Colors of countries you would never see -
Until that weekend in eternity
When, laughing, well armed, perfectly ready to kill
The world and your brother, the safe commanders sent
You into your future. Oh, dead on a hill,
Dead in a paddy, leeched and tumbled to
A tomb of footnotes. We mourn a changeling: you;
Handselled to poverty and drummed to war
By distinguished masters whom you never knew

2

The bee that spins his metal from the sun,
The shy mole drifting like a miner ghost
Through midnight earth - all happy creatures run
As strict as trains on rails the circuits of
Blind instinct. Happy in your summer follies,
You mined culture that was mined for war:
That state to mold you, church to bless and always
The elders to confirm you in your ignorance.
No scholar put your thinking hat on nor
Warned that in dead seas fishes died in schools
before inventing legs to walk the land.
The rulers stuck a tennis racket in your hand,
An Ark against the flood. In time of change
Courage is not enough: the blind mole dies,
And you on your hill, who did not know the rules.

3

Wet n the windy countries of the dawn
The lone crow skirts his draggled passage home:
And God (whose sparrows fall aslant his gaze
Like grace or confetti) blinks and he is gone,
And you are gone. Your scarecrow valor grows
And rusts like early lilac while the rose
Blooms in Dakota and the stock exchange
Flowers. Roses, rents, all things conspire
To crown your death with wreaths of living tear
Is cast in the Forum. But,in another year
We will mourn you,whose fossil courage fills
The limestone histories; brave; ignorant; amazed;
Dead in rice patties, dead on nameless hills.








Here's a poem I wrote last week that doesn't suck so bad. But I am concerned, slump-wise, that I seem to have left my sense of humor somewhere and can't remember where I put it.



Ursula Andress is an old woman

read
in the newspaper today
that it’s Warren Beatty’s birthday
today -

he’s 74

which reminds me that I saw a couple of months ago
it was Ursula Andress’ birthday
and she’s 75, or maybe a couple of years older

which leaves me
trying to reconcile in my mind
the words “Ursual Andress”
and “old woman” in the same sentence

and I can’t
because when I think of “old woman”
I think of my grandmother,
all four and a half feet of her, wrinkle-blessed,
in a shapeless old grandma dress

and when I think “Ursula Andress”
I see the goddess in a bikini rising from the sea
in “Dr. No” - the first James Bond movie -

and it comes to me that I’ve reached
a new, previously undiscovered, stage in life
when the old people all around me
are people i knew
when they were young and I was young
as well
and the truth of my own aging is suddenly evident,
laid out clearly before me
in the faded, failing blossoms that surround me,
seeing in others
things I never allowed myself
to see
in myself...

this is why I prefer
the company
of young people,
knowing
I will be long gone to my own end
before their fresh blossoms
fade
and fall to the ground,
unseen by me
and therefore deniable for lack of evidence...

it allows me to believe
that life does not end with the end
of me,
but is carried forward
in another form

someone new
always
to carry the spark
that carried
me








Next I have three poets from the anthology Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age, published by Coffee House Press in 1995.

All of these poets are roughly my age, children of the late forties/fifties, growing up in a time when many felt the question of a nuclear war was not, as one of the poets puts it, whether, but when. I was a time of hysteria for many, but also a time when the threat was real and we practiced in school hiding under our desk in case of atom bomb attack.


The first poem is by Alan Napier.

This is not the Alan Napier (A.K.A. "Batman's Butler) who just died in the last week or so. Though information on the web is limited, I'm pretty sure this is the Alan Napier, born in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has a BA degree from Kent State University and who is a poet, computer artist, and manager of a screen printing company.


Tulum Saw the Coming

You have to believe children of the Olmecs once dreamed too
as they rested thick-lipped stones on
anvils of flattened earth
like planets that promised them eternity for death
But the act of dividing flesh on hard objects
may resist the give and take of reason
The nucleus of faith always splits      Copan whose stone arms
reach out seeking animal obedience
The stepped pyramids of Tikal abandoned to games
of multi-colored birds
and panthers flashing in dark corridors      Uxmal where
hallucinogenic devotion closed in the self-mutilation of time
And Chichen Itza where even now
Quetalcoatl's victims rustle in stiff palms broadening to sky
The Maya had a stone that killed      They fed it
till it screamed and when it ate them they disappeared
But we too are human      We too feed a sacred stone
and it breed its own food
It eats itself and breeds itself to feed us and eat us
You see how the components
disparate and unnatural to life upset the rhythm of the ear and
heartbeat?      and how the heart can be used
to paint the art of gods?
The computer in the stones told them when to seed
when to fall before storms      even when death should be served
But the eagle and the bear
had disgorged their stomachs and the hearts that were left were
all rotten clean through
No treasure on earth was worth another life
But extinction is to blood what fire is to creation
Tulum saw the coming
watched the approaching ships      and saw the coming of the gods


The next poem is by Adrian C. Louis, a member of the Paiute Indian Tribe.


Nevada Red Blues

Where live fire began to inhabit you
- Pablo Neruda

We live under
slot machine
stars
that jackpot
into the black
velvet
backdrop
and
mirror and greed
of the creatures who spoiled our land.

Numa
it was
not
enough
for
Taibo
to make
our sacred land
a living
though
pustulous
whore.

He
had
to drop
hydrogen bombs
where
thousands
of years
of out blood
spirits lie.



The last poem from the anthology is by Sharon Olds, who, at the time of publication, taught at New York University and at Goldwater Hospital (for the severe disabled). At that time, she had published four volumes of poetry. She has published seven more books and has won the National Book Critics Circle Award since.


When

I wonder now only when it will happen,
when the young mother will hear the
noise like somebody's pressure cooker
down the block, going off. She'll go out in the yard
holding her small daughter in her arms,
and there, above the end of the streets, in the
air above the line of the trees,
she will see it rising, lifting up
over our horizon, the upper rim of the
gold ball, large as a giant
planet starting to lift up over ours
She will stand there in the yard holding her daughter,
looking at it rise and glow and blossom and rise,
and the child will open her arms to it,
it will look so beautiful.







I've been told I should quit being so negative about my own poems.

I agreed to try, so next I have a poem I wrote last week, truly a poem for the ages, leaving all the poets in heaven wailing and gnashing their teeth in envy.

You can tell that's bullshit, since no poet ever has or ever will make it past the guard at the pearly gates.

It's just not in the poet-breed.



a little whisper

a little whisper
of winter
as it slips out the door
for another year -

cool days,
cooler nights,
all my long-sleeve shirts
bundled up and put away,
I rush to my car in the very early morning
to get out of the chill wind blowing
its last for the season

unseasonal weather,
but not enough to stall Spring
ongoing - my house on the hillside
exposed all winter through bare trees
like an old maid caught
skinny-dipping,
secure
in her privacy again
as the trees turn full and green,
the curtain brought down
on whatever
entertainment neighbors across the creek
found in her exposure…

wild flowers
wait for me in the hills
undeterred in their budding
by the brief cold,
leaving me to enjoy both
the cold yesterday and today;
the wildflowers
tomorrow








Now, three poets from the anthology A Day for a Lay: A Century of Gay Poetry, published by Barricade Books in 1999.



My first poet from the book is James Broughton.

Born in 1913, Broughton died in 1999, the same year, but apparently before, the anthology was published. He was a poet, and filmmaker, part of the San Francisco Renaissance. He was an early poet of the Radical Faeries, a a loosely affiliated worldwide network of people seeking to "reject hetero-imitation and redefine queer identity through spirituality."


Memento of an Amorist

When the young interviewer wanted to know
how he occupied his time in retirement
the ailing novelist sat up on his couch
to enjoy a guffaw before he spoke.

I haven't a retiring bone in my body.
I will slip out to pay my respects
to the beauties passing across the world.
Bless all mothers of shapely offspring.
I've never met a cock I didn't like.

Oh, said the reporter, may I quote that?

Say that I give compassionate attention
to mankind's need for a taste of bliss.
Don't you appreciate a friendly fondle?
To expect some love in return? Oh no.
I never look for a lover. I am one.

But sir, isn't such behavior risky?

Don't flinch,dear fellow. Learn to adore.
Adoration is life's healthiest behavior.
Wherever you go be a passionate lover
of whatever happens or whoever it is.
You'll grin all the way to your grave.

When he was later assigned the obituary
the journalist read in the suicide note:
I never learned to distinguish between
illusion and miracle.I didn't need to.
I trusted in love's confusing joy.


The next poem is by Robert Peters.

Peters, born in an impoverished rural area if northern Wisconsin in 1924, is a poet, critic, scholar, playwright, editor, and actor. After army service during World War II, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, majoring in English. He received his B.A., in 1948, his M.A. in 1949, and his doctorate in 1952. His teaching career took him to Wayne State University, Boston University, Ohio Wesleyan, University of Idaho in the city of Moscow, University of California at Riverside, and then back to the University of California at Irvine, where he first taught in 1967.

His poetry career began in 1967 with publication of a book, Songs for a Son, commemorating the unexpected death of his son.


Cousins

They slept three to a bed.
Winter and summer they wore
split-seat union suits.
They were in their teens.
I was ten.

A late-spring storm. Severe.
My aunt says to stay over.
"You can sleep with my boys
in the big bed."

I undress in the dark, fear they'll mock
my pubic hairs, my tiny cock.
They doff their clothes, ready to sleep.
Albert is on the outside. Freddy
in the middle, then Jim.
"Jump in."

I lie on my back.
Aromatic breaths.
I turn. Frenchy's rear is bare.
Albert snuggles. My heel touches
his balls. I pretend to sleep.
His penis hardens, snaking
my buttocks. My craving
funnels itself: seat roils,
the sweet stench of ivory and leeek.


Last from the book is this piece by Frank O'Hara, a poet and professional curator and art critic,intensely involved during his life with popular culture, urban gay life, and the New York art world. Born in 1926, he died at a young age (40) in 1966, hit by a dune buggy while walking on Fire Island.


Homosexuality

So we are taking off our masks, are we, and keeping
our mouths shut? as if we'd been pierced by a glance!

The song of an old cow is not more full of judgement
than the vapors which escape one's soul when one is sick;

so I pull the shadows around me like a puff
and crinkle my eyes if at the most exquisite moment

of a very long opera, and we are off!
without reproach and without hope that our delicate feet

will touch the earth again,let alone "very soon."
It is the law of my own voice I shall investigate.

I start like ice, my finger to my ear, my ear
to my heart, that proud cur at the garbage can

in the rain. It's wonderful to admire oneself
with complete candor, tallying up the merits of each

of the latrines. 14th Street is drunken and credulous,
53rd tried to tremble but is too at rest. The good

love a park and the inept a railway station,
and there are the divine ones who drag themselves u

and down the lengthening shadow of an Abyssinian head
in the dust, trailing their long elegant heels of hot air

crying to confuse the brave "It's a summer day,
and I want to be wanted more than anything else in the world."







Here's another of mine from last week, another dog and cat poem.



cats and dogs

she
was supposed to be dead
months ago

now she roams
the house,
bumping her head as she
bounces from wall to wall
like a tipsy princess
after too much champagne
at the ball

determined
in her serene old-cat way
to find her way
to one of the four destinations
that make up the galaxy of her life,
the four centers around which
all else revolves

her food dish;
her water bowl;
her litter box;
and the dog’s bed,
which she has decided is more appropriate
for the reigning queen
than a mere mutt of a deposed queen
like Reba

sometimes
she gets lost,
turns right when she should have turned left,
and ends up
disoriented and in a panic
of queenly indecision - wailing in the dark
of her perpetual night
until one of her loyal subjects
comes to her rescue
and deposits her in each of the four
galactic centers
until she settles in and indicates
this is the place
she was looking for and, of course,
would have found
if she’d just been left alone

she is not a queen
overcome with gratitude

we assumed
when we brought her home
from the vet
after her near-death experience
that she had but just a few weeks left to live
and would die among the clouds of inner peace
if she could finish her life
in the familiar warmth and comfort
of her own home

but it appears now
she will outlast us all
as we keep her alive by
twice a day administration
of her medicine on the end of our finger,
inserted into her mouth

and we will, or course, be sad
if we live to see her die
but though I hate to admit it
our grief will be greater
the sooner she does
it

~~~

and
meanwhile
our son has a new puppy,
nine weeks old,
and, as all our pets
over many years have been older
rescues,
it is the first puppy in the family
in a very long time
and I am jealous because
despite
my many offers
to babysit
he continues leave that task
to one or more of his
girl friends

I
am bereft








Next, I have several haiku from each of the three poets featured in the anthology, The Essential Haiku, published by The Ecco Press in 1994.

On a side note, I appreciate that this book says that it is providing "versions" of the poets' original work. I am increasingly peeved by poets who claim to be giving translations of poems in languages they do not read or understand, when, in fact, they rewriting translations by others (usually uncredited) who did the actual translations. "Versions" is a perfect description of what's been done and I appreciate it.

I should say that, as I talk about these poets, I rely heavily on the introductions and observations of Robert Hass, editor of the book and, himself, a very fine and sophisticated poem.



I begin with poems by Matsuo Basho who lived from 1644 to 1694.

Although credited with the "reinvention" of the forms of both the haiku and linked verse, his was mostly in the last nine years of his life (he died relatively young) that he wrote travel journals, mixing verse and prose, that have become classics in Japanes literature and it was during those same years that he remade the haiku form, replacing playful and showy form of Japanese tradition with depth and plainness of Chinese models, which he had studied intensively.



    A bee
staggers out
    of the peony.

~~~

    The old pond -
a frog jumps in,
    sound of water.

~~~

    Harvest moon -
walking around the pond
    all night long.

~~~

    The winter sun -
on the horse's back
    my frozen shadow.

~~~

    The squid seller's call
mingles with the voice
    of the cuckoo.


The next poet is Yosa Buson who, born in 1716, died in 1783. In addition to being a poet, he was also a painter, and in fact, at the time of his death, was primarily known for his painting. He was a much more worldly and objective poet than Basho, as one might expect of a painter.


    Before the white chrysanthemum
the scissors hesitate
a moment.

~~~

    My arm for a pillow
I really like myself
    under the hazy moon.

~~~

    The end of spring
lingers
    in the cherry blossoms.

~~~

    My old man's ears -
summer rain
    gurgling down the drainpipe

~~~

    A tethered horse,
snow
    in both stirrups.


My last poet from the book is Kobayashi Issa.

Issa, who was born in 1763 and died in 1827, has been described as a Whitman or Neruda in miniature because his poems teem with the life of, especially, the smallest creatures. He wrote thousands of poems, many of them bad, but is remembered with the lesser number of very good ones - these poems, unlike other poets' work, are filled with "cosmic laughter" and "the sense of pain intense," as if the accuracy and openness of his observations left him with no defense against the the suffering in the world.


    New Year's Day -
everything is in blossom!
    I feel about average.

~~~

    Don't worry, spiders,
I keep house
    casually.

~~~

    Goes out
comes back -
    the loves of a cat.

~~~

    Climb Mount Fuji,
O snail,
    but slowly, slowly.

~~~

    Naked
on a naked horse
    in pouring rain!







Back to 2008 for this poem, another recollection of a time 40 years earlier.



draft-dodger

i remember
seeing my reflection
in a store window,
long hair,
greasy looking,
thin coat
against the wet
cold,
a refugee-looking
bit of human
marginalia


it was the first week
of January, 1965,
barely a month
from my 22nd birthday,
just off the bus from
Bay City, a small east Texas
town where i was working
for a small, three-day-a-week newspaper
when the “Greetings” letter
from Uncle Sam
set a new course
for my life,
a course i had frantically
avoided
since my 18th birthday

- dumb,
i was, to believe
i could drop out of school
and no one at the draft board
would notice…

it was early days in the war,
though no one knew that
at the time, and i
really didn’t have an opinion
about it,
except that, for damn sure,
i didn’t want any personal
part of it.
it was just, much like
Dick Cheney,
i thought i had better things
to do and was sure smoking
dope, drinking too much,
and thinking deep thoughts
were much more valuable
contributions to the war effort
than anything i could do
with an actual
gun -

but the letter came
and,
Canada aside,
there didn’t seem much
choice
until i went to the pre-
induction physical
and passed a room
where a line of draftees
in their underwear
were being divided into
two groups,
counting off down the line

1, 2, army,
3, marines,
1, 2. army, 3, marines
1,
2,
army,
3,
marines

and i said the hell
with that
and went back to Bay City
and joined the Air Force,
bumping some poor draft dodger
like myself, except
with a lower test score,
into the 1, 2, army, 3, marines
probably,
for which, though i’m sorry,
i’d do it all again

which brought me to this
place, a block and a half
from the induction center
in Houston,
looking at a stranger
i knew was me,
looking back from a store window,
a drifter in life
whose accomplishments
never matched
the opportunities available
to him,
the most alone
i had ever been,
wondering
what came next, knowing
i’d never see this particular
mirror me
again,
wondering
it that was a good thing
or bad








The next poem from my library is by Robert Hass, editor of the haiku collection above. It is from his book, Sun Under Wood, published in 1996 by The Ecco Press.

I hate to post excerpts of poems since it doesn't seem to me to be fair to the poet or the poem. But some poets, most notably Whitman whose poems I never post in full because it is impossible to do so in this form.

This poem, though I wouldn't compare it to Whitman, is just too long to use in full, so I'm excepting a section that seems to me to provide a feel for the whole thing.

I'm thinking maybe it will be enough to encourage readers to find the poem and rad the whole thing.



from My Mother's Nipples

They're where all displacement begins.
They bulldozed the upper meadow at Squaw Valley,
where horses from the stable, two chestnuts, one white,
grazed in the mist and the scent of wet grass on summer mornings
and moonrise threw the owl's shadow on voles and wood rats
crouched in the sage smell the earth gave back after dark
with the day's hat to the night air.
And after the framers began to pound nails
and the electricians and plumbers came around to talk specs
with the general contractor, someone put up the green sign
with alpine daisies on it that said Squaw Valley Meadows.
They had gouged up the deep-rooted bunchgrass
and the wet alkali-scented earth that had been pushed aside
or trucked someplace out of the way, and they poured concrete
and laid road - pleasant sense of tar in the spring sun -

***

"He wanted to get out of his head," she said,
"so I told him to write about his mother's nipples."

***

The cosmopolitan's song on this subject:

Alors! les nipples de ma mere!


The romantic's song

What could be more fair
than les nipples de ma mere?


The utopian's song

I will freely share
les nipples de ma mere.


The philosopher's song

Here was always there
with les nipples de ma mere



The capitalist's song

Fifty cents a share


The saint's song

Lift your eyes in prayer


The misanthrope's song

I can scarcely bear


The melancholic's song

They were never there,
les nipples de ma mere.
They are not anywhere.


The indigenist's song

And the boy they called Loves His Mother's Tits
Went into the mountains and fasted for three days.
On the fourth he saw a red-tailed hawk with broken wings,
On the fifth a gored doe in a ravine, entrails
Spilled onto the rocks, eye looking up at him
From the twisted neck. All the sixth day he was dizzy
And his stomach hurt. On the seventh he made three deep cuts
In the meat of his palm. He entered the pain at noon
And an eagle came to him crying three times like the mewling
A doe makes planting her hooves in the soft duff for mating
And he went home and they called him Eagle Three Times after
    that.


The regionalist's song

Los Pechos.
Rolling oak woodland between Sierra pines
in the simmering valley.

***

Pink, of course, soft; a girl's -
She wore white muslin tennis outfits
in the style Helen Wills made fashionable.
Trim athletic swimsuits.
A small person, compact body. In the photographs
She's on the beach, standing straight,
hands on hips, grinning,
eyes desperate even then.

***

Mother's in the nineteen forties didn't nurse.
I never saw her naked. Oh! yes, I did,
once, but I can't remember. I remember
not wanting to

***

And the poem continues for a number of pages, these flashes, becoming in the end, a story of all the pieces together. I wish I could do it all, but I can't.








Here's another 2008 poem about a special moment.



watching my book be read

for
the first time
ever
i watched someone
read my book today

someone
i don’t know;
someone who
doesn’t know me

someone
on the other side
of the coffee house
who doesn’t know
i’m watching

it’s a young couple
boy and girl
who stopped at the free
reads
table by the door

i was watching
curious
to see what they would do

i could tell
it was my book they picked up
by the colors on the cover
so i paid close attention
as they took the book
to a table
in the far corner of the room

they read together
handing the book back and forth
pointing to a page,
a poem,
talking about it

reading sometimes
very quietly
laughing loudly
at others

it made me feel
great
to see the concentration
to hear the laughter

the book has serious
poems
as well as many meant
to be funny

i’m going to continue
to assume
they were laughing
at the right places

and don’t
try
to tell me different







Here are three, occasional peculiar, love poems by Charles Baudelaire, considered by many to be the finest of French poets, though his output was comparatively small, all written while he was in his twenties, and most coming from his book Les Fleurs du mal. The book, published in 1857, was the subject of a trial for blasphemy and immorality.



The Giantess

If I had lived in that wild early world
When each day saw new monstrosities,
I would have fawned upon a giantess, curled
Voluptuous as a cat around her knees.

I would have watched her soul and body both
Take form from her perverse, athletic joys,
Guessed at the somber flames that lurked beneath.
Watching the wet mists swimming in her eyes.

I would have scrambled up her sloping thighs,
Explored her limbs - and, when, some languid June,
She stretched beneath a hypochondriac sun
Along the fields, I would have slept as well
Casually shadowed by her drooping breasts
- a peaceful village underneath the hill.


Hair

The bedroom fills with memories as you shake
Your head and curls come rippling down you neck:
O golden mane, O perfumed nonchalance,
What passions waken as I stroke that fleece!

Another world lives in those depths: wild , far,
Fiery and languid: Asia or Africa.
Imp4isoned in that aromatic tent,
I swim upon the music of your scent.

I gulp the scents, the colors and the sound
Of a great port: the sea is a golden ground,
The ships with open arms, the trembling air,
Eternal sunlight pouring everywhere.

An ocean lurks within the ocean of
Your tresses, and I dive, drunken with love,
In search of sloth and its fecundity.
Darkness encloses and caresses me,

A dark blue tent of hair that, nonetheless
Reveals the sky, and twisting, tress by tress,
Intoxicate with odors, - musk and tar
And coco oil, the perfumes of your hair.

I shall sow rubies, sapphires, diamonds, pearls
- How long? For ever! - in your heavy curls.
Never be deaf to my desires, but be
My dreams’ oasis, a distillery
From which I drink long sips of memory.


The Snake Dance

Stretch those indolent limbs, my dear;
   Breathe slowly iin;
Perfect I love to watch
   The shimmer of your skin.

The sharp perfume of your hair
   As it tumbles down
Is a restless ocean: its waves
   Blue and fragrant brown.

My soul is a boat; at dawn
   Dreams are laid by
It feels the breeze; sets off
   For a distant sky.

Those secretive eyes; nothing
   Bitter or sweet is told -
Jewels of ice in which
   Iron mingles with gold.

The rhythm of your walk
   Sways and entrances,
Suggest a wand round which
   A serpent dances.

Your childish head grows heavy,
   Sleepy, indolent;
Sways with the easy grace of
   A young elephant.

I watch your lovely body lean
   Sideways and dip
Its yardarms in the water:
   A delicate ship.

Waters fill your mouth,
   Wash over your teeth.
Glaciers aremelting,filling
   It from far beneath.

I seem to drink Tokay
   Powerful and tart.
A liquid sky which scatters
   Stars across my heart.









I'm often accused of rambling through poem without the kind of narrative discipline a good poet should have. I guess that's true, but I don't see why my poems should necessarily be any more narratively disciplined than my life.



takes one to know one

i wrote a poem
once
about looking out
on the people
walking by here at
Soledad and Martin

good idea,
lousy poem

that sits
still
in a far dark
corner
of my “notes” file
never yet
to see the day
but kept
for the possibility
that
one day
the poem
will be equal
to the idea

today,
looking out
that same window
there’s not much
to see

it’s early August
and damn hot
and nobody is on
the sidewalk
unless
they have absolutely
no place to go
that’s airconditioned

like
the two kids that just passed
a
tall
skinny
black
kid
and a short round latin guy
a multiethnic
Mutt & Jeff

(Jesse Jackson would be proud)

rainbow coalition
juvies

and how do i know they’re
delinquents?
you ask

well
that should be obvious,
i’m an old white guy

and anybody under thirty
all decked out in a
gimme hat headed
south
while the wearer’s headed
east,
sneakers,
baggy shorts
hung butt crack
to ankles
is sure to be
a delinquent
of some kind or other

plus
the styles
may change
but the walk is the walk
same as it was
fifty years ago when
i walked it,
representing,
as they say now
looking for trouble
where no one was looking
to catch me

takes one to know one
you know








I have two poems by Irish poet, Joan McBreen, from her book The Wind Beyond the Wall. The book was published by Story Line Press in 1990.

McBreen is from Sligo, Ireland and lived, at the time of publication, in Tuam, County Galway with her husband and six children. She trained as a Primary Teacher in Dublin and taught for many years.

At the time of publication, she had been published in every poetry journal in Ireland and she had recently started reading her work on Radio Eireann.



Poem for St. Brigid’s Day

I

Children gather rushes,
wind whistles through their fingers,
rain blurs their vision;
all evening they will weave
and interweave crosses,
the history of Brigid’s love.

II

It is early morning. A chieftain
slowly lifts his head, sees a woman enter
bearing armfuls of green spokes.
Her face floats
all day about him, her body’s outline
vague.

He woke twice that night,
wandered to the window
tired with darkness
unaware what had bound them
together; spring, perhaps,
the green stems,

her breath warm
on his face or their two shadows
caught in branches outside
like fish in a net.


The Night

When the light
filtered
through

and the half slept
night was
over

my silence
survived
you.

The day had
its usual
order.

Downstairs
the door banged hard
after you

and I lifted
my pile of clothes
from the floor.







Some people should not be allowed to read the "Times" weekly Science Section. It set us off on all sorts of thinking of matters of which we are not qualified to think of.



now

there
is no difference
einstein said
between past
present
and future

they are all
the same

i think
of a deck of cards

i pull a king
off the top
and lay it down

i pull a queen
and place it on top
of the king

the king
is not gone

it is still
there

and a nine of diamonds
atop the queen
does not eliminate
either the queen
or the king

they are not gone

the are still part
of the deck

as are all the cards
i have not uncovered yet

they are there
though
i have not seen them yet

it is not my seeing
that makes them exist

they are not the future
just
as the cards already seen
are not the past

they are all now

the deck is now

the past
the present
and the future
do not exist in the real world

they are just constructs
of my human mind
built
to make sense
of a quantum
universe









Next, I have five poems from my featured poet this week, Jan Napier.

Jan’s poetry has been showcased in Poetry New Zealand, (NZ), The World According To Goldfish (USA), Dotdotdash, Speedpoets, Tamba, The Mozzie, Valley Micropress (NZ), and other vaguely reputable publications. She also writes book reviews for the on line magazine Antipodean SF.

Not to mention,of course, her frequent appearance here in "Here and Now."


Island

Mizzled as winter
I moon bay and bell
where eyebrows of beach arch
saltfrosted      supriseed

scuff shinglecrunch millions
of mollusc romances
shatter fine seabones
crab    bubbled   tide washed

flout surf    gulls scream
mute bicker of breeze
mazed    voyage deeps
plotted but by you.

Reefbitten as sea wrack
I turtle    to curl
salt    derelict
on an unlit coast.


And So I Said...

And so I said to him
a word is like some
woman I used to play in
when I was still red
and hadn’t found my time
or harvested my feelings.
A word is like her lips
even if they are blue
and death sits on them.


Cello

He plays the old    coats the room in bronze.
Tells of vellum   quill   candle shadow
with a sepia drip of notes    wanders from grief to summer
a quiver of catsteps   a resonance of honey.
As quavery as a beggar in winter   as brittle as crackle glaze
all red brown splintery edges   the strings bridge tears
become meditative   almost zen.
The cello speaks of worlds long gone
worlds unborn   worlds as warped as wood unloved.
No sap rises.


Elders

They are alien    slip in and out of now as easily as the Tardis
skims between dimensions     worship at altars of wolferin
worry with blood as thin as their enthusiasms gods of their own devising
mumble liturgies of ointment and locum    act out the ritual
haphazard of dress and kettle    are tugged down to a centre
stumbled with the snares of signatures and notwithstanding.
Elders sup minced maybes    fricassees of can’t
spoon the gruel of yesterdays musty and yellowed with urine
disordered glories that wriggle slippery as fish
unattracted by the lure of removable smiles or prompts of plaque
and knickknack      freefall into the reek of kitchens stale with leftovers
set to fester on sinks cropped by cockroach and ant
the all too hards muted by the morning talkback.
Spidery strands of obligation stretch families    brittle twig fingers
twisted as cruelty plead promises from unpleased lips compressed
and lemony with work    children    weekend friends     love loses elasticity
snaps under the strain of trial by budget shopping trips
outings sprinkled with rest stops and treats too sugary
eyes roll at tales told    retold    the ‘eh eh’ of ears not in.
Some nomads jolt back into the orbit of every day
see soft centred heirs now adamantine   sigh    steer for the void
and     deliberately or not   who knows fail to enter return co ordinates.



Hot Flashes

Summer is:
Winter’s wrecking ball
toffee suck sunsets
Etna neighbours
mango nights
tinskin seas
beer and crab backyards
goldfish boys baiting girls.

Summer is:
ash and numb
tomato chutney
slideshow tattoos
mulberry fingers
spruiker’s spiel
scoops of moon on hot tongues
Horse Latitudes.








It doesn't make any difference what year this was written, since August in these parts is the same every year - a miserable foretaste of hell.



there are nights

there are nights
here
when there is not

the slightest breeze
and the heat at midnight
is a beast on your back

stale wet breath
enveloping you
like a marsh fog

we call
these nights
August


And, while I'm at it, another kind of August


i dreamed

i dreamed
i could not dream

and made insane
by a
never-dream world

i huddled
in a dark, dreamless
corner

the sound of logic
pounding
like hailstones

on my roofless
dream-starved
head









Now I have two poems by Demetria Martinez. The poem are from her book, The Devil's Workshop, published in 2002 by the University of Arizona Press in Tuscon.

Martinez, who has published both a novel and a book of poetry, writes a national monthly column for the National Catholic Reporter and is involved in the Arizona Border Rights Project which documents abuses by the U.S. Border Patrol. I assume she's been quite busy lately as the Arizona governor and legislature continue their dirty work of attempted ethnic cleansing.



After a Reading in Arizona,the Author Is Detained by the U.S. Border Patrol in Las Cruces, New Mexico

for Roberto Rodriguez

they are doing exploratory surgery
On your car again - hubcaps

Gouged out again, canines
Sniff at empty sockets.

Oh, but the trunk - books
Lined in boxes like bullets,

Pages of Chicano history
To roll and smoke,

Ballpoint pens to shot
Up with, red and black

Ink ruining our youth.
Handcuffed, you ask for water

But the Big Dipper has run dry.
Even Orion has drawn

Shut his curtain of clouds.
Only Night, with her

Badge of a moon, weeps,
Helpless to hide midnight's children.


El milagro

Sometimes when
I can't recall
An English word,
La palabra llega
En espanol.

It flies from
the crests of the
Sangre de Cristos,
Falls like roses
In winter from
Guadalupe's tilma.
I mean,how else
To explain
The miracle
When you've
Outgrown
The story
Of the stork?








Seems you can't ever get old enough to learn all you need to know or to unlearn all the things you don't.



shards

damn,
i really felt skinny
this morning,
then i put my
quarter
in the weight
fortune
and lucky lotto number
machine
and...

oh well...

it’s like the
cool breeze
early in the morning
when Reba and i
do our sniff and hustle
around Huebner Oaks,
not a hint
of the furnace to come
so i’m always surprised
a half hour later
when the sun fries
the breeze
and the humidity
steams
like a forgotten
teapot
on the stove...

seems
i should be
too old
to be suckered
this way, but still,
i find myself
at the end of every day
surrounded
by shards of
illusions
crushed in
head-on smash-ups
with unforgiving
reality

even age
does not seem
a reliable cure
for
unreliable
hope








Here's a poem now by Russian poetYevgeny Yevtushenko. Those old enough to remember the early sixties, will remember Yevtushenko as the poster poet for the Kruschev thaw in the Soviet Union that loosened the intellectual bindings on writers and artists. From that and because of his youth and vigor (it was a time for "vigor" you will recall), he became a poet-rock star in the United States, filling stadiums for his readings.

His best known poem is Babi Yar, a poem about the massacre of Jews by the Nazis in a ravine near the Ukrainian capital of Kiev near the end of World War II. The poem was an artistic statement of conscience, supporting a call for the creation of a monument at the sight. The poem's publication was taken as a sign of a thaw in repression, because the soviet government, fearing memorializing such a slaughter by the Nazis, might bring investigation of soviet army's massacre at the end of the war of others, specifically Polish military officers, had not wanted the memorial or any other discussion of the event.

But Kruschev didn't last forever and neither did the thaw, and Yevtushenko and the other poets of the thaw were smart enough to draw in their horns as the time for freedom of expression to a back to cold war politics.

The book I've taken the poem from, The Face Behind the Face,published in Great Britain by Marion Boyars Publisher in 1979. The free and easy days had passed and Yevtushenko, still a great poet, was more circumspect.

The poems in the book were translated by Arthur Boyars and Simon Franklin. My fragile grip on the Russian language is long lost, but forty-five years ago, I might have been able to translate part of this poem myself.



Fresh Smell of Limes

Fresh smell of limes,
A stream of bitterness,
And so for some reason
I have not succumbed.
Fresh smell of limes
All around me, hovering,
A new leaf full of resin
Stuck to my tongue,
Now a child’s moan -
A ball bounced into the water.
Fresh smell of limes
Says: “Don’t cry!”
And oldish chap weeps
By the beer-stall.
Take pity on him,
Fresh smell of limes!
The leaves have grown large.
With them you have saved
Me from disaster,
Chistiye Prudy.
And I’ll pluck up the nerve
To be wiser than disaster
And I’ll paint myself
In the benches’ fresh color.
A chess tournament
Between baldies and beards
Will make the world new:
“Your move comrade!”
What to move, where to?
Hardly any pieces,
Read the right move
On the pond’s surface,
The wind sails through
With the heat of pasties.
The wide-angle camera
Seduces on to be snapped.
Green, gold, blue,
Brightly clamorous,
The pet shop
Offers fish in jars.
Perhaps Moscow
As a Baba Yaga
Can be cuddly
Like nobody else.
God protect me,
If I have grown weak,
From not fighting back
The feeling that I’m finished.
Better to bite,
Banishing melancholy,
The taxi’s bright light
Like an Antonovka apple!
Kiss in the shadow
The white arc of elbow
And draw into yourself
The fresh smell of limes.
How grudging is May -
It gives pleasure shamefully:
Don’t leave it to destiny
Rather than thirst after life!
However sweet the seduction
Of living any old way may appear,
The fresh smell of limes
Can deceive!


* a little help, Chistiye Prudy, literally meaning "the pond," was, maybe still is, the name of the subway station in the neighborhood of the old administrative center in Moscow.









Do you lie to your pets? I have, and,if I were catholic, I would do whatever penance prescribed by the laws of the tribe.



liar,liar

i lied
to my dog today

when it came time
to put her in the car
so we could drive
to our morning walk
i said,

“Reba,
i can’t take you
with me
today
because i have
a bunch of errands
and you’d be stuck
in the hot car
and you’d get hot
and sweaty and
you’d hate it...”

liar
liar
pants on
fire

the truth is
i don’t have any errands,
don’t plan on doing anything
different
from what i usually do,
i just didn’t want the hassle
of taking her home like i usually do
before i go off to all the places
i usually go off to

but
i knew
as i scratched behind her ears
and looked into her soft brown eyes
that, weeping
though she might be on the inside,
she believed me

just as she always
believes me

i ask you,
can a man
sink
any
lower
than this?








Next, I have two poems by Canadian poetShulamis Yelin. The poems are from the poet's first book, Seeded in Sinai. The book was published by Reconstructionist Press of New York in 1975.

A teacher in Montreal for many years, Yelin died in 2002 at the age of 89 after writing several subsequent volumes of poetry.

I have to admit, these poems, especially the second, are not what I expected to find when I bought the book and read the poet's bio. Happily, a pleasant surprise.



Fandango

What do they know of love
who have not stood
in ripe cornfield of their blood
in blazing sunlit field -
and hungered?

What do they know of joy
who have not, at sunset,
on threshing floor,
when all was threshed,
bagged and numbered,
sold to market,
found
a precious handful, scant,
but richly whole and sweet
ofr grain,
and crushed it eagerly
between teeth
long unaccustomed to its taste

Mad musician,
play your triple-tempoed tune,
and see my feet
dance out
the delicate fandango
in my blood.


Cornflowers

I put fresh sheets on my bed -
the sheets with cornflowers bordered blue,
the pillows cased in cut embroidery
from sunny shore
as if to memorize before
in skin and bone and flesh
and eye and nostril
that your coming would be
but a short springtime
in my winter's night.

I decked myself with lavender
to mask the thawing scent of hunger
for your clever manness in my arms.

And dew from both our bodies
watered cornflowers,
the the bouquet of our blending,
born of labor vanquished,
filled the air.

Tenderness tarries in the new-mown me,
your gift to my forgetting flesh and limb,
and teeth, spring, young sharp teeth,
where tooth had never sprung before
to nibble gently at your eagerness
to make me strong and whole
in sunshine in the dark.








All headlines are from my local newspaper, except the last, a product of the passions of the time.

About as obsolete and irrelevant as in poem could be, that last one little bit, victim of passing times. That's why I've been trying avoid political poems, despite a strong internal need to write a rant every single day these brownshirt tea party crackerheads maintain their grip on my country's balls.

But I am strong, except every once in a while, alone in a closet, I let the rant fly.



national report


July 25,2008


New Hampshire

storms carve swath
of death, destruction

God is blamed,
along with newly elected
politicians
and Greek sailors
on leave -
God makes no
comment,
newly elected
politicians
unleash swath
of meaningless
politigoop,
Greek sailors'
comment one word,
"what?"
after lengthy discussion
among themselves
in a foreign language
which a panel of experts
said, when consulted,
might be Greek


Arizona

community college
shooting injures 3

incident blamed on
God
and newly elected members
of the Arizona House of
Prevaricators
and Albanian parachutists -
all refused comment
except the ghost of Barry
Goldwater
who, when consulted, said
bullshit!


Alaska

bear attack leaves
woman in bad shape

close associates report
woman
bent in at least three
places, also suffering
bad case of
bear
breath
hangover


District of Columbia

US Airways fires pilot
whose gun discharged

pilot
fires back


Louisiana

river oil spill cleanup
could take weeks

if not months,
or possibly years -
former governor Edwin
Edwards reports from his cell
that he could fix it in hours
if everyone in Louisiana
would send him three
dollars
and forty-seven cents


District of Columbia

foreign AIDS aid
legislation approved

former Senator Jesse
Helms signals approval
from his grave, as long
as, the recently deceased
Senator
adds,
none of the money goes to
queers.


California

Charges against Marine dismissed

after court martial panel determined
that the killing of the two Syrians,
was provoked by their wearing
of long beards, open toed sandals,
and otherwise appearing
Arabic


Elsewhere in the Universe

President George W. Bush

assured by the
Vice-President
and Karl Rove
that his swing would
improve
with just a little more practice,
returned to his game
of golf, handing off
the nuclear
"football"
to Jenna
in the interim
so she'd
have something to play with
while on honeymoon









Next, I have two poems from Black Maria, the title slang for a police wagon or a hearse. The book is a series of vignettes, written like short scenes from an old fashioned gangster movie, featuring all the required characters, the detective, the boss, the boss's moll, the henchmen (killer, gunsel, snitch,etc.) - all what you'd expect walking into the movie.

It was published in 2005 by Knopf.

The poet (poems produced and directed by, the cover says) is Kevin Young.

Young is an editor and author of three previous collections of poetry. His most recent book before this one, Jelly Roll: A Blues, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Paterson Poetry Prize. A recent Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, he is currently Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University.


The two pieces I've chosen for this week begin section 2 of the book, "Stone Angels," which is introduced with a quote from Carl Sandburg - I am a hoodlum, you are a hoodlum, we and all of us are a world of hoodlums - maybe so. . This first is in the voice of the Boss's Moll; the second, the Detective.

This is some fun stuff.



The Boss

Even his walking
stick was crooked.

He didn't need it,
or me, He'd say - let me

know he kept us both
for show. His hands

clean as a cop''s whistle,
nails filed

to toothpicks. Slick -
he taught me

to kiss, & silence,
how to tell tons

just from the eyes.
His were ice

picks, raised,

or ice bergs tearing
into the berth

of some Titanic.
Watch em sink.

He was never in between -
eithr gargantuan

or thin
as a lie. He sharpened

knives on other men's spines.
He hated losing

even a dime, would bet
the farm, then steal

from the till. Weed em
& reap.

He treated me
like his money - took me

out only
when he needed something

& fast.
Even his toupee -

imported, real
human hair - was one-sided

& levitated
above his head like a lightbulb

burned dim.
No wonder when

that detective stumbled in -

smelling of cathasis
& cheap ennui,

beggng to be
given an extra week

with his knees -
I wanted him like nobody's

business. His
blown kiss

Never laundered
like money. that dick's suit

stayed rumpled like the pages
of a paperback dropped

in the tub, drowned, thee end
you read first to find out

whodunit, never
mind why.


The Races

I regret the day

she ever darkened
my doorway, scented

of rosemary & eau
de bourbon
-

Now it's all over
town how she treated me

like some Christmas toy
come New Year's - ignored

or broken, left in
a corner. Donate me

to charity, or least
my body - though science can't use me

the way she did, cutting
my insides on out.

Should have followed
my gut & not

this stammering heart. It
sent me straight

to the track, cursing
my luck - there. Ghost

of a Chance beat out
Farmer's Dance

by a nose & I saw
my escape-hatch cash

turn to ash.
And on the last stretch, too -

I knew soon I'd e took
out back, legs broke,

& shot - my shoes
boiled to glue -

while she sat in the stands
beneath a bright hat, using

hundreds, once mine,
like a church fan - cooling

both her faces.









Figuring I ought to at least go out this week on a new poem, here's one from earlier in the week, adrift in a leaky canoe, paddling desperately in search a poem that will float my boat.



the source of my problem

routine,
that’s my problem,
too much of it

I haven’t seen
an Albania gypsy
in years

or heard the plaintive
cry
of a river flattapotumus

or smelled
the acrid stench
of burning filagabbit
feathers

looking
around me in this restaurant
I see
not a single Grenadian pirate
or Singhalese
soul-snatcher, just
plain old moms and dads
and grandmas and grandpas
and little kids
with chocolate milk mustaches
and the old guy
in the corner
typing on his computer,
dripping grits in his beard,
muttering to himself
about things conspicuously
unhinged…

just another Sunday
morning…

how is one
to find a poem in a life
so unadventurously
confined






the end

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Introducing Doreen Peri   Tuesday, March 22, 2011


VI.4.1.




This is one of my longest posts in a long time, but before that I want to mention Kevin McCann, my poet friend from across the sea has just published a new book, I Killed George Formby.

For more information about Kevin's book, go to:

http://www.erbacce-press.com/#/kevin-mccann/4529477342


As to this week's post, I very pleased to introduce artist/poet Doreen Peri, who is both my featured poet and featured artist this week. You'll find more information about Doreen later, when you get to her poems. In the meantime, and throughout this post, enjoy her very varied talents as a photographer, painter and graphic artist.

Here's the poet-posse for this week.


Rodney Jones -
Small Lower-Middle-Class White Southern Male
Bofus
First Fraudulent Muse


Me
winner in the end

Ani DeFranco
tiptoe
subdivision


Me
too late

Coleman Barks
Easter Morning, 1992
An Up To Now Uncelebrated Joy
Light, Many Footed Sound in the Leaves


Me
I dreamed last night

Jack Cooper
The Turtles of La Escobilla

Laura Horn
Parting

Me
watching a squirrel hide his nut

Doreen Peri
Infinite. One
Maslow’s Slave
I Misunderstood My Shrink


Me
the squirrel ate my homework

Jane Hirshfield
Ukiyo-e
Recalling a Sung Dynasty Landscape


Me
not a poem, or maybe its - I’m still thinking about it

Marge Piercy
The miracle
The simplification


Me
come, Lord Jesus, be our guest

Belle Waring
Gringos

Me
what we do until we can think about sex again

Gary Soto
Some History
Notes for Sociology
The Skeptics


Me
scant skits

Naomi Shihab Nye
Living Where We Do

Me
you have a really good day

Alberto Rios
A Simple Thing to Know

Me
and this is why

G.E. Patterson
Remembrance

Me
I’m sure you’ll think of something

Diane Glancy
Kemo Sabe
Portrait of the Artist as Indian


Me
morning

Joshua Clover
The Autumn Alphabets (3)

Me
back then

Yorifumi Yaguchi
A
Words
A Military Song
Many Winds
A Woman
In the Wods


Me
avoiding the void




Photo by Doreen Peri



First this week, I have poems by Rodney Jones, a native of Alabama who, at the time of publication, was a professor of English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Among other honors, Jones was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and has won a National Book Critics Circle Award, a Southeast Booksellers Association Award, and a Harper Lee Award.

The poems are from Salvation Blues - One Hundred Poems, 1985-2005, the poet's eighth book, published in 2006 by Houghton Mifflin



Small Lower-Middle-Class White Southern Male

Missing consonant, silent vowel in everyone,
pale cipher omitted from the misery census,
eclipsed by lynchings before you were born,
it cannot even be said now that you exist

except as a spittoon exists in an antique store
or a tedious example fogs a lucid speech.
Your words precede you like cumulus
above melodrama's favorite caricatures.

In novels, you're misfit and Hogganbeck;
in recent cinema, inbreeding bigotry
or evolving to mindless greed: a rancher
of rainforests, and alchemist of genocide.

You're dirt that dulls the guitar's twang,
blood-soaked Bible, and burning cross.
You cotton to the execution of retards,
revile the blues, and secretly assume

Lindbergh's underground American that sided
with the Germans in World War II.
Other types demand more probity;
you may be Bubbaed with impunity.

This makes some feel prematurely good.
They hear your voice and see Jim Crow.
But the brothers wait. Any brother knows
that there are no honorary negroes.


Bofus


We have founded anew kind of frog:
three-legged, one-eyed; or one-legged with three
eyes. Hops backward. Spongiform
tentacles creep its spine. Odd
to describe, like tubing around the heart,
an off la in the elemental rag.

Is Earth already whacked? How
address a prayer: "God Junior"? "Ms. God"?
The iron heats, the waffles pop.
But grace stings the meat. What a strange
duffel Brother Esophagus unpacks.
Taste quick. It's sewage down the pipe.

void once meant filth. Frogs hopped
what grew from it. Now the jig's up.
Elimination spawns a myth.
Frogs lollygag under a rainbow
scrim of antifreeze and PCPs
or leap to prophets in songs.

Cinema sci-fi loves anthro-frogs,
orange planets of tight clothing
where cyber-sleuths glibly concoct
the quantum physics of a hop.
Ideal frogs are rainforest cancer cures.
The default frog's a caricature.

The default human's real, but how
weird to live in a body-looking out
but always staying in, not
knowing what's there and not,
and all the while beating against
the limits of perception like a moth.

I'm happiest, frog-like, is in a tub,
ballooning a wash of ticklish bubbles.
Money swallows men and excretes cartoons,
the central dodge. Everything
shed comes back as drinking water.


First Fraudulent Muse

Not seventeen, she dumped me.
No one has to tell me
A thing about the sorrows,
Aches, indiscretions,
And calamities of young poets
Of the United States
In the late twentieth century.
The poem I wrote then,
The one that would make her
Want me, either for my wry
Sensitivity or the scholarly erudition
Of my heart, is not this one.

It made some obscure reference
To the goddess Diana
while drizzling bad terza rima
About some poor decrepit wino
Eviscerating a garbage can.
My good friend looked at it
And made me know what
Kind of damn idiot I sure was.
His maxims come back - read
Evereything, love language, revises,
Abide in the transforming fire
-
And hers, mutated by distance.

While I was attaching syllables
Of a certain mulberry tree
To an adjective I loved,
She went and married an electrician.
Still I had to make a living,
Mindful of the preserving
Potential of the art,
And language clattering
Onto the platen like the small
Dark horse of the embalmer's table.

Always it is the same night
I called her lily of the valley
And named her in many songs.
She keeps turning
Her cold beautiful shoulder
Into someone else's words.





Painting by Doreen Peri



I'm really writing crap these days, so here's another poem from 2008, another story from something that happened more than 40 years ago. This poem highlights just about the most conflict to ever appear in any of my "war stories."



winner in the end

it was January
1966
when through some
military blunder

i was made squad
leader
for about two
and one half weeks

this was at Lackland
Air Force Base
during the short time
between
the end of
basic training
and the beginning
of our first training
assignment -
in my case
nine months at Indiana University,
an assignment
i wished to do nothing
to jeopardize
in a way
that might cause me to
to be sent to cook or military police
school instead

men
know
that in every group
of several or more men
there will be at least one who
is determined
to be king
of every hill,
at least one who will declare
war
on anyone who might have
authority over him,
certain as he is that he is the only
deserving leader
and that anyone who denies him
that position
has stolen from him that which
is rightfully his

i had
one of those in my squad,
an ROTC dropout
who could never understand
how someone so
blatantly
civilian
as I
could
end up his superior,
no matter how short that period
of superiority might be

what he never figured out
was that i
didn’t give a shit,
that all i wanted to do
was get through the next
two and a half weeks
without screwing up
my training assignment
and beyond that, the next
four years after which my blatant
civilianism
would again be fact
and not just theory

so he baited
and i ignored
and the more i ignored
the more he baited
and so on
until
he finally developed
migraine headaches and
signs of personality disorder
and was sent home as medically unfit
to serve
making him, i guess,
winner
in the end





Painting by Doreen Peri


Next, I have two poems by Grammy Award-winning singer, guitarist, poet and songwriter, Ani Difranco. Born in 1970, she is considered a feminist icon by many.

The poems are from her book Verses, published in 2007 by Seven Stories Press, in cooperation with DiFranco's production company Righteous Babe

It is a beautiful hardcover book with with numerous water color and pen and ink illustrations. The art is not credited, so I assume that means it is DiFranco's work.



tiptoe

tiptoeing through the used condoms
strewn on the piers
off the west side highway
sunset behind
the skyline of jersey
walking toward the water
with a fetus holding court in my gut
my body hijacked
my tits swollen and sore
the river has more colors at sunset
than my sock drawer ever dreamed of
i could wake up screaming sometimes
but i don't

i could step off the end of this pier but i got
shit to do and an appointment on tuesday
to shed uninvited blood and tissue
i'll miss you,i say
to the river to the water
to the son or daughter
i thought better of

i could fall in love with jersey
at sunset
but i leave the view to the rats
and tiptoe back


subdivision

white people are so scared of black people
they bulldoze out to the country
and put up houses on little loop-dee-loop streets
and while america gets its hart cut right out of its chest
the berlin wall still runs down main street
separating east side from west
and nothing is stirring, not even a mouse
in the boarded-up stores and the broken-down houses
so they hang colorful banners off all the street lamps
just to prove they got no manners
no mercy and no sense

and i'm wondering what it will take
for my city to rise
first we admit our mistakes
then we open our eyes
the ghosts of old buildings are haunting parking lots
in the city of good neighbors that history forgot

i remember the first time i saw someone
lying on the cold street
i thought: i can't just walk past here
this can't just be true
but i learned by example
to just keep moving my feet
it's amazing the things we learn to do

so we're led like lambs to the slaughter
serving empires of style and carbonated sugar water
and the old farm road's four-lane that leads to the mall
and our dreams are all guillotines waiting to fall

i'm wondering what it will take
for my country to rise
fires we admit our mistakes
and then we open our eyes
or nature succumbs to one last dumb decision
and american the beautiful
is just one big subdivision





Painting by Doreen Peri



I originally had here a very strong political poem (it was written in 2008, remember) that included, among other things, expression of a desire to see a righteous and most well-deserved lynching of a right-wing sleaze-ball by the name of Todd Zirkle, but decided at that last minute that it was much too fierce for a friendly little blog like this one. If you see Mr. Zirkle, impress upon him how narrow his escape, as I delete that poem and replace it with this much gentler piece about some old fellows, the youngest in his early eighties and the oldest somewhere in the mid-nineties, I used to see at coffee every morning.



too late

the geezer table
is one short today

Robert,
of the long white
sideburns
who can quote
from memory everything
Rush has said
for the past 15 years,

is absent

which is a worry,
given the average age
at the table
is at least 15 years older
than me,
all subject
to the miseries
and unexpected calamities
of old age

it is not good
when one
does not appear
where and when
on always appears

is he wandering
in his car
lost on I-10,
heading for El Paso
when all he wanted to do
was make his regular short trip
to the coffee shop

or is he stroke-afflicted,
lying
on the cold tile
in his bathroom,
unable to get up, unable
to call

or is he dead

telephone calls
are made,
tracking begins

should they do more?

would he be embarrassed
if they went to his house
and he came to his front door
in his pinstripe Hugh Hefner pajamas, awakened from
a long-overdue late-sleep?

but what if the worst has occurred,
should they risk their own
and his embarrassment?

men,
decisive
in their youth,
cannot decide what to do

but
then,
Robert comes in and takes his seat

howdy, fellas,
what’s up, he says
as he sits

you’re late, they say,
we were going to buy your coffee today


but
you’re too late


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Being well ahead of my blog production schedule, almost all done except for pictures, feeling quite pleased with myself until about three minutes ago, when I deleted every thing from here to the end. The deletion accidently, saved permanently by the automatic save before I could undo.

Now behind schedule rather than ahead, I'm going to someplace private and say many bad words very loudly for a while, then will come come back and redo.



!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




    
Digital art by Doreen Perry




Here,for the second time, three poems by Coleman Barks, from his book Gourd Seed, published by Maypop Books in 1993.

The book is a collection of Barks' poems written over the previous fifteen years. Though best known for his work as a translator of Rumi and other Persian mystics, Barks published his first book of his own poetry in 1972.



Easter Morning, 1992

A bright copper and brown striped lizard,
big for this area, seven inches long,
has taken over my mop
drying on the back fence.
Here four hours, bent over
like some clearly crazed old man
humping the back of the head of his goddess,
his goddess, who has only the back of a head all round.
Not that there's pelvic motion,
but he looks tranced, the perfect five-fingered
hands spread for pleasure and grip.
He neverminds my face so near, nor I his.
It may not look like love but it is
that that keeps us in this head
over head over head,eons.


An Up Till Now Uncelebrated Joy

There's one book, a 1988 volume,
and it's here, never been checked out,
and flipping through, I sniff the carefulness,
the guarded assertions this Oxford guy
spent twelve years considering, so that now
I can have the rest of the Spring afternoon
finding out what's been known, and what
will remain secret a while longer
about the Sixth Dalai Lama.

Good scholarship gives me such delight that I kiss
the book alone in the stacks, and I almost kiss
the checkout girl, and I savor the length
of the Bibliography walking through
the self-opening double doors, and I skip
going back to my truck,because Miichael Aris
has sustained his interest in Tibetan mystics,
and I want to kiss the bald pate of research
like a n'er-do-well daughter going out on a date,
who before leaving, thoughtfully brings
some green tea for a little break.


Light, Many-Footed Sound in the Leaves

This is what Benjamin heard in the pre-dawn,
studying at his dining table with the windows open,
of the graduate student triplex he shares
with his wife and new child, as he was
mine, as I was, and she, theirs,
a rain of water oak acorns
in no even slightest breeze, overflow
gratitude so early, an elegance,
harpiscordy, to string necklaces of,
and say these are tiny toboggan people,
much loved and touched, and always losing their hats.
Hello little darling smooth face, forming close
to the mother's throat and the forehead of the father.





Painting by Doreen Peri



Here's a three-year-old poem going back fifty-two years.



i dreamed last night

i dreamed last night
i was a kid
again
fifteen
tolerating school
sacking groceries
on saturdays
mowing yards
during the week
making a little money
where i could
working hardest
at containing
my inner dork
sure
the rest of my life
stretched
before me each
day just like
the one i was trying
so hard to get through
with some sense
of self
struggling
to break through
mostly losing
to the here’s-your-life
rules
of the time and place
i lived in
bravado
substituting for the
real person
i wasn’t and
wouldn’t be
for some years
yet
bittersweet years
in retrospect only
in real time
mostly
years of scared
shitless
day
to day
hunkering behind
self
delusion





Painting by Doreen Peri



Next, I have two poets from the anthology Runes, a Review of Poetry -Signals published in 2005.

The book includes no information on its poets. I found the first poet on the web, but could find nothing on the second.


The first poet is Jack Cooper. Since this is my second time through this, I'll leave it to you to do your own Google search.


The Turtles of La Escobilla

With machetes, the men hack
at the green sea turtles.
They shoot them with long rifles.
They take them away on their horses
whole and squirming in the moonlight.
They did their eggs out of the sand.
They laugh and drink tequila.

Still, the turtles come back,
ciphers of the earth,
tsunamis of creation,
for 200 million years
a pattern in the void,
raw wet shoulders rising
from the broken shells.

Rising as each man stumbles
in the house to hang up his belt,
rising like the fires of flesh,
crates of carapace,
rising bright and willing because,
like the moon, for most of time
the earth has been theirs.


The second poet is Laura Horn. I could find nothing on her. Possibly, you'll have better luck. If you do, use "Reader Comments" to tell me what you found.


Parting

The bear returned to her dreams after years of absence.
It begins the same: the tug of his desire and her longing for danger

hold them fast. As Always, she escapes in a twist
of wrists and hips. This time a spear of rib bone grows from her hand

and she kills the bear, fearing for her mind. He smells grass
and crushed olives. Daily bathing in underground pool of minerals and coal

has made him sleek as an otter. She reaches to touch him,
only to be hurled into space, wheeling through a future

bound by dunes and sea water. Here she revives the bear
with pomegranate seeds and hovering moths. He wails at the water's edge

and slips in. She wakes in an astonished looseness, walks
as a foreigner through her day. From the hills she views the bay through breaks

in the branches of pines and redwoods. Below, cranes lifting
containers of tankers ae tender and beautiful, the pulleys oiled and silent.





Digital art by Doreen Peri



Here's another from 2008.



watching a squirrel hide his nut

it’s 9:30
still cool and breezy
on the porch at Casa Chiapas

i was thinking about my morning poem
something about Dave Brubeck
who i saw last week at Travis Park

when a squirrel
walked by with a very large
pecan in his mouth

he stopped very quickly
as squirrels do
looked at me then went on

again
very quickly
as squirrels do

to a little patch of grass
by the sidewalk
did some sniffing

a little tentative
digging
then on to more sniffing

and more tentative digging
looking
obviously

for a suitable place
to hide his
nut

on his fifth try
he stood up straight
watching out for spies

who might raid his cache
if they see
where he digs it

then bends back down
and places his nut
gently

into the little hole
he had scratched in the dirt
stood up straight again

checked once more
for spies
then scampered across the street

as squirrels scamper
looking very disjointed
legs going every which a way

but moving very fast
never the less
jumping

on the picket fence
in front of the bright red roses
in the garden

of the little limestone house
across the
street

perhaps
there is something of Brubeck
in this poem after all

the unique scamper
of the squirrel
like the unique way Brubeck

played
with time signatures
5/4 6/4 7/4

even 9/8
in Blue Rondo a la Turk
stuff

that like the scampering squirrel
seems like it ought not work
but does

and the whole experimentation
of jazz
like the squirrel

sniffing and digging
sniffing and digging
until just the right elements

come together
for new sounds in
unexplored territory

and that is why...
oh,wait,
the squirrel is back

with another nut
two nuts one squirrel
a very successful squirrel

indeed





Digital art by Doreen Peri



Next, I have three poems by Doreen Peri, who is, as I said in the beginning, both featured artist and featured poet this week. You have been enjoying her art, now here's your chance with her poetry.

Doreen is a graphic designer, marketing copywriter, poet, visual artist and pianist. She lives in Virginia with her daughter. Her poetry has been published in multiple literary journals as well as all over the web. She is a self-taught painter and founder of the website Studio8, a site for poets, story writers, visual artists, musicians and spoken word artists to showcase their work. Doreen is a spoken word poet herself, often performing at various venues in the Washington DC area, sometimes accompanying herself on the piano keyboard. She has also performed in NYC. Doreen is the organizer and host of a variety show called Cabaradio which includes live music, spoken word poetry, stand-up comedy, dance, and skits. The show was performed several times in the DC area including at the Capital Fringe Festival, the Warehouse Theater, and the Arlington Independent Media TV station.

She is the founder of Studio8 - Uniting the Arts at http://studioeight.tv.

You can visit the Studio8 forums at http://studioeight.tv/phpbb and you can view more of her artwork and commercial at http://dperi.mosaicglobe.com.

Doreen also hosts an online radio show at called Radio8 @ http://studioeight.tv/radio8/radio8.html and, coming soon www.radio8.org


Infinite. One.

1.

Infinity divided by zero,
infinity divided by one...
these are concepts I often explore.
I love the mathematical metaphors.

2.

I've used infinite numbers
to round off equations
into a finite figures so I could
better get a grasp of them,
scribbled my heart in notes
on multiple napkins,
the backs of paper bags,
tossed out rags found in the trash,
stashed them away in boxes
piled as high as the sky is high...
infinite poems asking infinite whys,
fluent seemingly never ending tries
to determine the distance of love,
the length of it, the breadth of it,
the circumference, the illumination
of its permanent tail, sailed from one
galaxy to the next, each heart connecting
like an investment, a gamble, a bet
it wouldn't end, the sending of my spirit
past the vast universe into the wherefore
art thous, the seeking of paths, each starshine
vast and almost impossible to comprehend
and i often send myself messages again
and again, as if when i receive them, i could
begin for just one tiny moment to spend
my entire finite inhales and exhales,
lifting veils of doubt, my shouts running
out of time, my music to the beat of a lost
rhyme seeping through wormholes into einstein
theories, always nearly getting there, but not
quite nearly, never quite reaching the destination
because there is none, really, and so I feel my way
around, a blind woman with a cane too short to reach
the infinite space I attempt to track and trace between
one heartbeat and the next, tapping out text on the
infinite surface of the back of my mind's eye and i
cannot see, i'm masked, i'm crashing into the center
of the atom, the sun being a vast expansion of a nuclei,
and oh god how i wish i could touch the surface of the moon,
place my fingers on saturn's rings, dream the infinite dream
of awakening.... take the vacant stares and turn them into light,
invite the purpose of it all into connecting starlit constellations,
until orion's belt envelopes me and i can see again all the possibilities
in plain view, all love encompassed, all trust surfacing on a mobius strip
plane, the tip of my vanity raining down until it disappears entirely to become
a grain of sand won by the beach, so hand-in-hand we could reach
the infinite wonder of dreams,
beams of light so tight inside our irises,
wise to the connection between beings,
enlightened with the orbit of each of our
individual solar systems, each being the
center of theirs surrounded by loved ones,
each being being infinitely humanly connected,
each being being one because we all are all one,
you know, we all are all one, infinitely one,
and so i thank you for the inspiration, take my place
here at the station, awed by the creation of it all,
awed by the evolution of spirits combined,
entwined in unity, free to be complete,
infinitely sweet like a nectarine, succulent
as a peach.... please tell me please how
i can teach infinity? how i can learn its methods,
its ways? please tell me how i can succumb
to the oneness of infinite purpose! please tell me
where to turn when the infinite path is spurned onto
another unexpected route! I turn my shout into a whisper
now... hushhhhhhh.... hushhhhh.... I feel the infinite
rush of such truths begin to soar and more than that
i am sure i am meant to be saying every word i say
while daylight plays on the horizon like a paintingmade by the hand of the universe itself, watercolor
dreams, infinitely dripped and seamed together
just as they're supposed to be.
just as they're supposed to be.
infinitely.
infinitely.
One.
.
.


Maslow's Slave

I pour coins from the jar, count
them up, put them in a plastic bag.
I walk to buy a jug of milk. I spill
the coins on the counter. The clerk
is seated, then rises at my insistence.
I am thirsty. I buy milk with coins.
My skin is dry, overheated.

I breathe with the assistance of an inhaler
almost depleted. I sleep sporadically.
My dreams are cinematic. There are empty
houses with brightly colored rooms, pets
which demand my attention, cars without
steering wheels, tents and floods, people
with vacant stares, people I do not know.

I grow tired of the dream.
I awaken. I lock the deadbolt.
I return to bed. I drink a glass of milk
to wash down aspirin. I want to sleep.
I wrestle with the sheets.
My legs are wrapped tight.
I am cocooned.

The dreams come again.
I am at the bottom of a pyramid.
I try to tip the pyramid on it's side.
It is heavy but I push it until it topples.

I push again to stand it
on its tip but it is unsteady.
The pyramid teeters.
It turns inside out and inverts
itself. I am Maslow's slave.
I lie in a shallow grave,
inhaling dirt.

I awaken, thirsty.
I drink a gallon of water then piss
out my waste. I chase myself in and around
equilibrium.

It is summer. I get dressed and go outside.
I lie prone on a sun-heated rock.
I am a reptile. I blend into the earth,
my ecological niche.

It is not Maslow's fault. Do not blame
the illustrator. I have ceased to be the
creator of will. I want to but I cannot.
I am deficient – a paralyzed
low- level dweller.

The philosopher wants a woman to teach.
I am Maslow's lover. He hates me.


I Misunderstood My Shrink


My shrink told me
to concentrate on my diary ...
He was suggesting relieving stress
through the written word.
But I misunderstood
and thought he said
to concentrate my dairy!

And because I didn't hear him right
I stay up all night
(I know this may sound absurd)
drinking Borden's condensed milk,
eating super thick yogurt
and sharp cheddar cheese.

My bad cholesterol's gone up,
my temper's turned fiery,
but my hair feels like silk
and I'm feeling alert –
plus I've ample yummy choices
to enjoy for dessert.

I haven't written one word
like the wise man suggested
but the edam and goats milk
are fully digested.

I've got havarti on the brain
which keeps me quite sane,
and the calcium in the cheese
is great for my knees.

Though I suffer from agoraphobia
I imagine myself dining at the Waldorf Astoria.
I rarely see the sun but I'm having a lotta fun
and get plenty of vitamin D!

He also said,
"A little culture would be good for you"
implying I should take in a concert or two,
but I get my culture from the yogurt
plus it wards off the stomach flu.

I misunderstood my shrink.
But it turned out much better than you might think.





Painting by Doreen Peri



One good squirrel deserves another - that's what I always say.



the squirrel ate my homework

she comes slowly
quietly
stealth
in a fur coat
jumps
to the flower pot
on the edge of the patio
flicks her tail
flick
flick
flick
wildly
up down
left right
and all points
of the compass
between

then stops

tail
so wildly thrashing
held high and still
in mid-flick

she as seen me
standing
inside
watching her
through the french doors

she waits

judges the threat level
decides to wait me out

frozen
together
we stare at each other
little black eyes
to my green eyes
magnified
by my glasses

eventually i give up
turn back
to my chores

returning
a few minutes later
i see
she has made it
to the bowl of dog food
by the door
watch her again
as she grabs one of the
dry nuggets
and scurries back to the
flowerpot

meanwhile
feigning sleep
Peanut, The Greedy
has been watching
the dance
with one eye open

now
enough is enough
and she jumps off her chair
but the squirrel-sense of danger
is intact
and she is off the patio
and up a tree
before Peanut can get
even close

from the tree
she swishes her tail
and calls to the dog
hack hack hack hack
it sounds like

treetop
arboreal laughter
of the fast
mocking the not fast
enough

Peanut returns
to his chair
and sleeps again

one eye open
still





Painting by Doreen Peri



Here are two poems by Jane Hirshfield, from her book, published in 1988 by Wesleyan University Press, Of Gravity & Angels.

Hirshfield was born in New York City in 1953. After receiving her B.A. from Princeton University in their first graduating class to include women, she went on to study at the San Francisco Zen Center. Work as a freelance writer, editor, and translator, she has published eight books of poetry, including this one, her seventh. She has also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, and as the Elliston Visiting Poet at the University of Cincinnati, as well as at many writers conferences, including Bread Loaf and The Napa Valley Writers Conference and has served as both core and associate faculty in the Bennington Master of Fine Arts Writing Seminars.



Ukiyo-e

The blues' plunge
the oranges edging towards dun
catch the eye - a certain perspective,
singular,
a certain weathering of inks.

I think of the Floating World
as the prints themselves,
not the district where they sold:
landscapes, actors, and geisha unmoored,
the paper flimsy and cheap,
be trying the subjects' own quickness
to change:
the sumo wrestler's fierce eye will grow mild
his black hair grey,
while passing from hand hand for a hundred years
the sky of Edo deepens,
readies itself for the first pale stares
that will not come.


Recalling a Sung Dynasty Landscape

Palest wash of stone-rub bed ink
leaves open the moon: unpainted circle,
how does it raise so much light?
Below,the mountains
lose themselves in dreaming
a single, thatch-roofed hut.
Not that the hut lends meaning
to the mountains or the moon -
it is a place to rest the eye after much traveling,
is all.
And the heart,unscrolled,
is comforted by such small things:
a cup of green tea rescues us, grows deep and large,
a lake.




Painting by Doreen Peri



Still thinking about this one.



not a poem, or maybe it is - I’m thinking about it

anybody have any idea when we're going to get past this debug hassle. also, when we're going to get email notification back, when i'm going to get back to 180 lbs and the 32 inch waist i had when 18, and when the bald spot on the back of my head is going to be reforested, and when john mccain is going to realize he's too old and quit and when the irs is going to forget about the money i own it and when the gang at the house is going to pull together a book, sell 17 millions copies and make us all rich and other stuff?

that's what i'd like to know!






Painting by Doreen Peri



Next, two poems by Marge Piercy, from her book Breaking Camp, another book from the Wesleyan University Press, first published in 1968, my copy from its fourth printing in 1979.

Piercy was born in Detroit to a family deeply affected by the Great Depression. She was the first in her family to attend college, studying at the University of Michigan. Winning a Hopwood Award for Poetry and Fiction (1957) enabled her to finish college and spend some time in France. Her formal schooling ended with an M.A. from Northwestern University.

Seems I remember using a couple of Piecy' poems from another book just a couple of weeks ago. But since she has published seventeen books of poetry, it doesn't seem unlikely for me to have more than one of them.



The miracle

Your ghost last night
wiped from my sleep
as clean as chalk.
I woke. Moon ribbed the floor.
A hand wrote, Quit this mourning.
Driftwood of dreamspar
message torn from
the screams of gulls
told me you
had been born again.

A wasp stands in
heat soggy air
above beige glasses
dry as woodash.
I have lain here so long
my chest
is numb from the earth.

Somewhere hair of gauze
eyes of a frightened jay
you are kicking
your shrill new hunters
and sucking watered milk.
Somewhere they are just starting
to tease your arms
with pins.


The simplification

A rolling tank of man, ramparts of flesh,
a capitalist, a federal reserve of food,
a consumptive disease fed with crane and bucket,
he trundled in a gnatswarm of obscene joke
with his wife slim and grave as a nursing doe
with children ripe at every stage in his globe of home.
Truly a happy fat man is loved and not envied.
Then his luck fell in. A mushroom minded doctor;
sweeping undertow; a clash of warlords after
a game and broken bottle uneyed his daughter.
His wife died slowest, an organ at a time.
He burrowed into work and having no god,
cursed no one. His labors flourished as the light
drained star by star from his world, and the cold settled:
complex useful works like steel limbs.
And he like an ancient wooden trunk is becoming agate.
His face is burnished and dark, eclipsed sun
whose eerie silver mane of corona shimmers.
He is perhaps fatter. His cold touch burns,
and he is reluctant to touch and gentle with words.
Rooms revolve around him into silence.





Digital Art by Doreen Peri



Another 2008 poem remembering the old days.



come, Lord Jesus, and be our guest

we said a prayer
every night
before dinner
when i was a kid,
just dinner,
breakfast and lunch
were apparently not qualified
for Jesus’ blessing

when we stopped
and why
i don’t remember

a strict German morality
ordered the family -
one did not lie
one did not curse
children
honored and obeyed
their parents
and wives
honored and obeyed
their husband,
one did not wear
loafer shoes
because loafer shoes
implied
someone
was loafing
and one must always
work hard
and never surrender
to laziness and loafing
around
and as i became
a teen
one must not
allow his hair to grow
in the form of
a duck’s tail
because duck’s tails
were the preferred style
of the queers and drug addicts
and petty thieves
and pachucos
one saw in the courthouse
while doing one’s duty
as a juryman.

and religion
like all these rules of morality
was mostly rooted in the basics -
there is a God
and He keeps track of what you’ve done
and not done
and if He doesn’t like what you’ve done,
He’ll send you to hell -
all else was details, which,
if you stuck with the essentials,
wouldn’t matter
much -
just your basic
conservative Lutheran dogma
and rules of proper
worship,
no shouting
no dancing in the aisles
no holy rolling
no testifying from the floor
no fancy singing, just
your basic hymns
sung slow
and not too loud
and no amens while the preacher
is doing his preaching,
amening at the end
is his job
and not something
for people to do willy-nilly -
God likes decorum,
you know,
so that’s what we need
to give Him

and a for the prayers
before dinner
it could be everybody
just got tired
of fooling with it -
plus, that kind of stuff
was for the kids
anyway
and not for grown-ups
who had a hard day
and wanted
to get to eating





Painting by Doreen Peri



Now I have a poem by Belle Waring, from her book Refuge, published in 1990 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

I don't remember using any Waring's work before, but as I looked through her book, I liked what I saw. She was born in Virginia in 1951 and holds degrees in nursing and English. In 1988 she received her MFA in Creative Writing at Vermont College. At the time of publication, she was on the Field Faculty of the Vermont College MFA Program, while also working as a Registered Nurse.

I think I like her because she writes like a blue-collar poet, which is how I would describe myself and most of the poets I like best, from Whitman to Williams to Bukowsky.



Gringos

What gives - this morning the sun ceases to please
with its waltz over the sash and you
hear organ music (not a good
prognostic sign) by a player very heavy
on his feet. Your sweetheart's gushing
how the sun's angle slices
the dish drain to a postmodern are object,
aquamarine. Sue you love her but you'd like her
to shove it. A little morning light has
blown her mind so she suddenly sees
da Vinci in some stainless steel
ladle on a book.
            But you my friend
wish the sun would take a skydive in the hillside.
Memory is the wrong word for the vision that slaps you
crack across the chops like a mean drunk and you're
back on the bus in a hilltown
across the border where the precisely right
moment makes you turn
to see the sun smack its lips over a rude rose
coffin about two feet long. Your own
sister is dead at q similar age, and although
political circumstances differ, your heart
curls up like a fist.
            Your sweet sweetheart
smells of fine English talc and offers you a good
cup of gunpowder tea, but your eyes peel
back like a panicky cold. You can't help
it. You start to holler. You want coffee! Coffee!
Coffee! No cream! No, goddammit. No sugar.





Photo by Doreen Peri



Here's a more recent poem; this one from 2009, mid-year.



what we do until we can think about sex again

i was working
away
at my poem
of the day
when
she walked
in, about five-
four, long dark
hair, long, long
hair hanging
almost to the
beginning curve
of her butt -
and a very nice
butt it is i notice
as she passes -
tight white dress,
short, about mid-
thigh, and did i
mention
tight
so tight
i can see
indentations
of the freckles
on her rear,
yes, that same
rear end, the
very same
slightly above
which
hangs her dark
straight hair

i know
it is a moment
in her life
when every man
she passes
has to stop
and breathe
deep, lost
temporarily in the
momentary
fantasies that
male nature
produces
at even the
slightest
provocation,
the natural
horniness
of the human
male firing
on all eight
cylinders, the
secret of our
rise from the
brutishness
from which
we came, the
lingering imp
of that brut
that hides behind
all our best
intentions
and will not
leave us
until the day
we die

i don’t think
women
get this about
us, rational
beings that
they are, they
view life
as an entirety,
sex a part
of that whole
thing called
life and living -
men see life
as what
you do to
kill time
until you can
think about sex
again

like me
this morning -
i could have
written a poem
deep in meaning
and purpose,
in fact i really
meant to do
just that -
but
one young woman
in a tight dress
with a well-shaped
rear twitching
when she walked
and long hair
and legs
up to, well,
you know where
walks past me
and i end up with
this





Photo by Doreen Peri



Here are three poems from one of my favorites, Gary Soto. The poems are from his book,Junior College, published by Chronicle Books in 1997.



Some History

Sumerians carried really long swords,
And Aztecs handled clubs with glassy rocks
Serrating the tips. Pygmies hid
In the savage grass
With blow darts as tall as they.
Bad-ass Genghis Khan had no second thoughts
About fitting your head onto a stick -
You the missionary,
Now the bloody head looking westward,
Lids half-closed and in view of the praying Pope,
His thoughts something like, "Mama mia!"
I swallowed some of this history
And turned the page. Incas threw
Really good-looking nymphs from temples,
And the gentle Chinese poet with incense curling
Around his beard was dangerous - bamboo worked
Under your fingernails
While he talked about the long life
Of oxen. I knew Germans stomped through Europe
And the Japanese could push a bayonet
In the left breast
Of the woman tattooed on your back.
(You the corporal from Missouri caught by surprise,
Your tin can of spook-eyed sardines
Spilling into the Asian earth.)
Where is it same? I thought. The Eskimos
Harpooned huge whales,
And the Moors brought down swords on the necks
Of stubborn camels. The French priests
Skipped over rivers of blood,
And in Nagasaki
The shadows of children were blown onto walls.
This scared me, too - disease in pitted molars.
I turned the page and began to worry.
My best friend was a boy in an iron lung
And two girls in leg braces
Devouring pamphlets about presidents
We never heard about. My arms failed to respond
To push-ups. I coughed a lot at night.
I knew God let people die when it was
The best thing to do. I knew
The river people
Flowed west on the Tigris
And that little beauty existed in our yard,
Not even in the apple tree, where blossoms
Were torn by the greedy hunger of bees.


Notes for Sociology

These boys own the sun-bleached grass,
Spiked with bees and mosquitos.

These old men own a strip of sand
Where horseshoes are tossed.
They stand with hands on hips,
Faces pleated, heads square as loves of bread.
These are working men with sand at their feet.

I'm in the bleachers blistered from the heat,
Thinking of the shoe I stupidly lost
In a wave at Pismo Beach.
(The moon had gone crazy the night before,
And when we woke, the waves were huge,
White-tipped like teeth.
My shoe floated off without my foot
And was sucked down like all we'll ever know.)
I peel green paint from the bench,
Grit under my fingernails. I watch the skirts
Of the eucalyptus rattle in wind
And chrome wink from the fender of a passing car.
I watch a dog hurry across the lawn,
Something like a shoe in its mouth.
It hurries away, and we can't keep up.

Grass or sand or even sea.
The playing slows as the body thickens.
Lead pits our teeth, dirt clots our hearing.
We spit into white handkerchiefs.
A horseshoe is tossed,
Not unlike our bones. But when we come down,
We come down on the iron spike.



The Skeptics

Pyrrho of Elis and Sextus Empiricus were Skeptics,
Two big-shot thinkers who argued
Over figs, wine, and the loveliness of their sex.
I crowed to my brothers about them,
and one evening,
With Fig Newton crumbs in our mouths,
Iwas Pyrrho and rick was Sextus,
Both of us skeptical about getting good jobs.
I said, "Brother Sextus,
What will you render on the canvas
When you're all grown up?" He chewed
On his Fig Newton and answered "Pyrrho,
My young flame, I will draw the reality
Of dead dogs with their feet in the air."
I crowed, "Wow, Rick - I mean Sextus - that's awesome!"
In sandals, we went down to the liquor store,
Each of us in our imaginary Greek robes,
And stole a quart of beer. Neither of us
Was a skeptic when we swigged on that quart
And walked past the house
Where a woman hammered on walnuts,
the rise and fall of her buttery hand quivering
The two hair on my chest. We had figs and wine,
And what we Skeptics needed
Was three strokes of that hammering,
I flowed over in my robe
And said, "We're Brother Skeptics
Ruled by cautious truths." She smiled,
Hammer raised, and said, "Sure you are."
Right away we got along, a womanly skeptic
With a nice swing. I sat on the steps,
A young man with his figs, his wine,
And, with my Greek name shed,
Reverent believer in a woman with hammer in hand.





Painting by Doreen Peri




Here's some little short takes from 2009, a morning when I could only write in hiccups.



scant skits

the back door
is the front door
to those
who dawdle in
kitchens

~~

politics
is the art
of what can i
get away with
today

~~

superheros
never have to take
a whiz - part
of what makes them
super

~~

the short man
has a tall hat, which
are you going to believe

~~

the girls all look better
at closing time -
silly ideas
all seem wiser
in a panic

~~

that woman
has crooked toes
pointing in all different
directions
no matter which way
she goes

~~

the girl with the sly smile
crosses
her tanned legs
repeatedly - she
knows i am
watching and
likes it

glad
to be of service
i think

~~

three old men
read their newspapers

hah,
they think,
could’a told'em so

~~

sex
can light up
both night and day

as i remember
it

~~

enough of this

time to write a real
poem

tomorrow






Painting by Dooren Peri



Next I have a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, from her book, Red Suitcase, published in 1994 by BOA Editions, Ltd.

Nye is an internationally known poet who moved to San Antonio with her photographer husband and took it, among all her travels. as home.



Living Where We Do

I like to think of the man under the house
who failed to place a post beneath one corner,

perhaps so he could pass by 20 years later
waving a rag and humming,
to see if the house had fallen in.

When it hadn't, when he found it sitting firm
in the glaze of the western light,
I think he reconsidered all that time
on his knees, with jacks and hammers,
the bubble of the level leaning tipsy left,
the undersides of boards.

*

Julia said - Never live
in a place that's new.
She said it could shrink you.

Find a roof and walls that sang
of joining and cracking
before you were born.

Each time something topples,
each time you send out the small cry with
no home, no healing,
an echo will help pick it up.

*

Evenings the houses inhale,
let go. Each one emitting
a different little cloud;
today they started school again,
today the woman with wings
and crooked hip came home.

*

Consider the smells
absorbed by walls,
garlic, eggplant,
Molly's pork chops next door
drifting into plaster,
the sweet slow cooking of beans.

Each old house with a baby in it
has a secret.

The hundred year old house we slept in
the first year we were married
pretends not to know us.

I don't mind.
I've seen what vines do
to railings.
Even the telephone wire
we talk over
wreathed in floral pink,
and leaves.

The ex-owner left he wedding gifts
sealed in boxes, stuffed
in a shed. Fifty years - the platter,
the rusted juicer, each card
crumbling inside its envelope

In a creaky trunk, her husband's clothes.

So many good wishes so late -
then we heard he died in the bathroom
by his own hand.

His white woolen socks
rolled into balls.

*

Go away, the house will wait.
All it ever did was wait,
while crisper villages rose and fell.

Strangers drive our neighborhood
on weekends, waving.

"That doesn't look so bad.
Think what you could do to fix it up."

What i could do to fix you up.

Cold floors,
the little seam around windows
letting in weather -
a vine that snaked inside at night
and wrapped around a pillow -
your head, stem of brief blossoms,
its root lodged deep in the ground.




Painting by Doreen Peri



Here's something from 2008.



and you have a really good day

think
of this...

you’re driving
down
a country road
one day,
a little two-lane
blacktop,
and you come
to this field,
this calm
pastoral
scene
of clean
green
grass waving
gently
in the breeze
and a herd of cattle
just standing around
munching away
and you stop
and walk
to the fence
and all the cows
come running
cause they know
that when the rancher
comes and stands
by the fence
he’s probably going
to have something for
them, maybe some
nice dry crispy hay,
something good
they’re thinking
so they come running,
great sad brown eyes,
innocent eyes,
like the eyes
of a fallen angel
watching,
cud chewing, tail swishing,
waiting
for you, and you say,
hello, cows,
i just thought i'd mention
that one of these days
i’m going to eat you,
a few minutes
over a hot grill with
a little salt and pepper
and maybe some A-1
if i leave you on the fire
to long and all your
juices
dry up and you’re
going to taste
really great

until then,
you all have a really
good
day






Painting by Doreen Peri


Next, I have a poem by Alberto Rios, a poet I'm just beginning to read. The poem comes from Rios' book The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2002.

Rios, born in Nogales, Arizona, is the author of eight books and chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories, and a memoir. A recipient of many awards and honors, His work has appeared in over 175 national and international literary anthologies and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music. When the book was published, he was Regents' Professor of English at Arizona State University.



A Simple Thing to Know

The whole thing is not much: A man
On the border between Douglas and Agua Prieta,

This man, on instructions from his wife -
For the family and because she couldn't,

He went shopping.
He crossed from Mexico to the United States,

Walking past the officials, who looked busy.
He didn't want to bother them

And he didn't want to wait.
He walked past them, just a little.

But a little is enough.
They caught him and put him in jail.

It was a nice jail, he said later.
He thought they fed you better, though.

He thought they gave you food.
The man had come shopping for some tuna.

He thought of it now.
They put him in jail on a Thursday,

Then they forgot.
Nobody checked, nobody brought food.

He was so quiet
Nobody knew he was there.

It's a small jail.
The arresting officer forgot to tell the next shift.

On Saturday the janitor found the man
Sitting on his bench.

Why didn't you say something?
The man shrugged his shoulders.

The shrug said he was a good guest.
It said he knew how to behave.

It said the question was a trick.
The man would not be fooled.

The man had manners.
He knew going in what was right.

Speak only when spoken to.
And in jail, in jail especially.

It was a simple thing to know.





Photo by Doreen Peri



So many poets are way to serious. That's not me.



and this is why

when i woke up
at 5:55 this morning,
i...

wait,
this story requires
a little bit of
set up

important
it is
first
to know
that i am a head-west
feet-east
sleeper, that is, i sleep
better if my head
is oriented to the west
and my feet are oriented
to the east

that explains
why i was sleeping at
the foot of my bed

important
also
it is to know
that, at a hair
over six feet tall
i used to be tall, though
no longer, because
people younger than me
got fed better than me
so they got taller
than me,
(my brother, for example
is six three and his son is
six five - all fed better
than me
and i try not to resent it)

anyway,
i sleep on an old bed, the bed
my father was born on
it’s probably 110-120 years old,
an important fact
since it was built back when
i was still tall or would have been
had i been around
in 1880 or 1890

that explains why
i sleep on a pillow half
hung over the end
of the bed

finally
also important
it is to know that my cat
often sleeps with me,
actually, more on top of me
than with me

and that explains why,
when i woke up at 5:55 this morning
with a cat hat, the cat, that is,
sleeping on the top half
of the pillow
on top of my head which she had pushed
to the bottom half of the pillow,
i was not surprised

but i was a bit surprised,
though not as much as the cat,
when i lifted my head
from the bottom half of the pillow
causing the cat on the top half of the pillow
and the pillow itself
to fall off the bed
and drop to the floor

and that’s what happened
at 5:55 this morning
and it’s also the reason
my cat
has ignored me all day

not a big story, perhaps,
but a funny start to what has been
a very tough day otherwise





Painting by Doreen Peri



Here's a poem by G.E. Patterson, from his first book, Tug, published in 1999 by Graywolf Press.

A poet, critic, and translator, Patterson grew up along the Mississippi River and was educated in the mid-South, the Midwest, the Northeast, and the western United States. He currently lives and teaches in Minnesota.



Remembrance

My parents, being race people, taught me
by example: stand tall, speak up & look
straight in a man's eyes; there is real honor
in keeping the back of your head well-combed,
in old shoes you've polished to a hard shine,
in knowing your history and not telling your business.
My parents, being race people, saw that
things Black were put forward - pushing me on
to copy out the lives of Black heroes:
Benjamin Banneker, Ida B. Wells,
James Forton and Charlotte Forton, John Jasper,
Fannie Lou Hamer, Mary Church Terrell;
Marian Anderson, Henry O. flipper,
Roy Wilkins. W.E.B. Du Bois;
Jackie Robinson, John C.Robinson,
Paul Roberson, Mary McLeod ethune;
Major Taylor, Matthew Henson,Ralph Bunche.

My parents, being race people, knew things,
in this world, would be changed only by work. Hard work,
they told and told me, was the rock of faith.
Hard work, the whipstich that kept cloth from fraying.

My parents, being race people, believed that
whatever I need to know I'd learn
best from those who looked like, and looked out for, me.
There was no good reason to outside
the neighborhood. Our one hope for salvation -
as a race, as a people - was ourselves.
Men and women fighting for more respect
lived up and down the block in well-kept homes
and low-rent apartments near the new Center
for Black Power. They worked long days and nights
at jobs I knew almost nothing about,
except for their lawfulness. They were black
in every imaginable way - yellow,
brown, redbone, blue-black (which we called inky),
oatmeal - colors lumped together like light,
a spectrum of miscegenation, broken
and united by love, like a family.

My parents, being race people, told me,
Everything good in them is good and Black,
I would do well if I learned to be like them.
I would do well to call them Sir and Ma'am.





Digital art by Doreen Peri



Holy Cow!

A new poem that doesn't suck so much.



i'm sure you'll think of something

in a time of flux
and uncertainty
I wrap myself
in my daily routine

thinking,
like a turtle
crouched in his shell,
to escape notice

by doing nothing
of any interest, like
the ugliest moose on the
tundra

that no one wants
to eat
or display as a mounted head
on their wall,

to escape the attentions
of fate
and misfortune
by appearing already their victim…

that’s the plan -
so if anyone asks, just
say you haven’t seen me
in a week or two or that the last

you saw of me
I was standing out on I-10
hitchhiking
to Fargo, North Dakota

or, maybe
Whatsaloosa, Alabama
or maybe, you saw me down at
the Army recruiting office

signing up to join the fight against
Gdaffy’s forces before they pillage
Palm Beach, California on the way to
Los Miassnmore, Nevada
where they plan to take over
the roulette concession from Howard
Hughes and his Mormon henchmen or maybe
you heard I was joining a band

of traveling Saint Benardadine monks
seeking wider horizons, grander airports
when we can commune with ancient sky spirits
and don Lady Gaga g-strings and glitter-crusted pasties,

beg quarters and demonstrate hip hop
dances
to soothing stains of Snoop Dog
chants,

although
it might be that no one will believe that
since every one knows
I can’t dance…

but I’m sure you’ll think of something





Painting by Doreen Peri



I have two pieces now by Diane Glancy, from her book Lone Dog's Winter Count. The book was published by West End Press in 1991.

A Cherokee poet, author and playwright, Glancy was born in 1941 in Kansas City, Missouri. She earned a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in English literature, from the University of Missouri in 1964, then continued her education at the University of Central Oklahoma, where she obtained a Masters degree in English. She followed that with a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa. Glancy is now an English professor and teacher of Native American literature and creative writing.



Kemo Sabe

In my dream I take
the white man
slap him
til he loves me.
I tie him to the house
take his land
& buffalo.
I put other words
into his mouth
words he doesn't understand
like spoonfuls
of smashed lima beans
until his cheeks
bulge.
Chew now, dear
I say.
I flick his throat
until he swallows.
He works all day
never leaves the house.
the floors shine
the sheets are starched.
He wipes grime
from the windows
until clouds dance
across the glass.
He feeds me
when I'm hungry.
I can leave whenever
I want.
Let him struggle
for his dignity
this time
let him remember
my name.


Portrait of the Artist as Indian

She severs the buffalo hide down the backbone
pulls the skin to the belly.
She separates the muscles, knifes along the grain.

She lifts the white flower-patches of fat to her nose
licks the blood from the wound in the hide.
She slices into the hot belly
loosens the pouches, vessels, the stomach,
bladder, the bands that hold them.

Now she scrapes the skull, pulls the teeth,
stretches the meat on sticks to hang on the drying line.

The ribs like rungs of a rocker the wagons carry
across the land.
She dismantles the carcass
the way old stories are carried into the heart.

The entrails washed at the creek,
the hide tanned.

Finally a medicine pouch sewn from 2 little tufts
of the ears.





Painting by Doreen Peri



Back to 2008 again, with these short morning portraits.



Morning

morning

birds call
in the still-
dark

announce
the day

claim the
sun

*****

morning breeze
rustles trees

the tender
passing
of leaf
on
leaf

*****

alarm sounds

Debussy
whispers

awake awake

Mussorgsky
up
next

*****

cat
asleep on my arm
purrs

a gentle feline
snore






Digital art by Doreen Peri



Here's a poem by Joshua Clover, from his book, Madonna anno domini, The book, winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, was published by Louisiana State University Press in 1997.



The Autumn Alphabets (3)

When they put him to work
    he wrote that fatigue is holy.
When they wouldn't let him sleep
    he wrote that insomnia is a kind of love,
an unwilled attention to the world.
    When they took away his city he fell
he fell in love with his wife. When they
    took away his wife he fell in love
with his overcoat, and every dawn
    before the guards whose work it was
to wake the Jew awoke he danced
    through the papery stalag with his cheek
in the cheek of the overcoat's collar
    He named the overcoat Janine
after his wife and in October
    when his lungs began to fill with a nebulous joy
he wrote and alef in the margin
    of a postage stamp meaning "Janine.
Janine, I will die without you."





Painting by Doreen Peri



This one I also wrote in 2008, about a time fifty years earlier.



back then

back then

27 years old
in 1971,
i finally graduated
from college
9 years from when
i started

after
using my last
GI Bill check
to pay off
the friendly grocer
who had been holding
my hot checks,
i enjoyed
total assets of
one Bachelor of Arts degree
(Sociology & English),
a tank
of cheap gas,
and 35 cents,
36 if you count
the lucky penny
i found in the parking lot
while walking back
to my car

i went
where one goes
with 36 cents,
a tank of cheap gas,
and a Bachelors Degree
of limited
immediate
applicability
to any employment likely
to greatly increase
my fortune -

- i went home
to the only place
i knew
where i was likely
to eat free
for at least a couple
of weeks

i had misunderstood
the benevolence
of my father
and within three days
of arriving to the
welcoming arms
of family
i had a temporary job
delivering frozen chickens
for a company
owned by the parents
of an old girlfriend
i wanted
very much never
to see again

and within
two days of
that job’s ending
i was back
to driving a taxi,
2 am to 2 pm
7 days a week
for a 33 % commission
which, more than once,
amounted to
$3 in earnings
for a 12-hour day

i had a few more
jobs like that,
offering little pay
but a lot of material
for a couple of good poems,
until, eventually,
rescued from literary
exploration
i found
a temporary job
lasting 30 years
and 10,000 neckties

......

this personal history
came to mind
two weeks ago
when i attended a
college graduation
featuring graduates
who will probably, by
the time i finish this poem,
be employed and earning
3 times what i made
in the best of those 30 years

so it was
and so it is
for this pre-boomer
born to early
or born to late





Painting by Doreen Peri



For my last piece from my library this week, I have several poems by Yorifumi Yaguchi, from the anthology, Three Mennonite Poets, published in 1986 by Good Books.

Yaguchi, who writes poetry in both English and Japanese, was born in 1932 in Ishinomaki, Japan. He has a B.A. in English from Toboku Gakuin University, an M.A. in Education from International Christian University, and a B.D. in theology from Goshen Biblical Seminry. He is a widely known poet and has taught in the United States, Japan, and China.



A

withered leaf
hanging on a twig
heavy as the earth.


Words

Leave them there
in the darkness
as they have been
from the beginning.
It's their silences
that speak to us
and not
the combined sounds


A Military Song

When I am alone in a quiet place,
I find myself humming
to myself a military song
learned when I was a child.
I think I am a Pacifist
but in spite of my intention,
the song springs up
naturally out of my depth...
whenever I am unguarded or absent-minded


Many Winds

Many winds
swarm to
a wounded word,
picking at it
like vultures
until it becomes
a white bone,
half buried in the
sand, and sharpens
into a razor.


A Woman

naked
is lying
deep
in the grass
on a mountain
with the red
full
moon
between her
thighs


In the Wood

Leaves piling up at their feet,
the trees stand naked. There is no
wind shaking the branches, no birds chirping.
Standing there, I hear a streamlet
creeping quietly like a snake,
a sound I never noticed during green times.





Photo by Doreen Peri




Well, how about this, a new, not so bad poem to close out the week.



Avoiding the Void

thinking
about going there
and getting there
and being there

thinking
about how empty
being there is
without the experiences
of going there
and the joy of arriving there,
travel done,
the going done, the rituals of arrival,
stretching, reaching high for clouds as they pass,
the clouds, always going,
forming, passing,
fading,
the rituals of arrival,
hugs, kisses, or just a hot shower
and an easy chair,
a cup of hot black coffee,
a different newspaper, the latest from a different place,
the being there
earned
by the rigors of the road,
the being there meaningful
because of all the pieces of life
seen, absorbed along the
way,
pieces of other lives
joining you
on

the way,
the tao, the good life,
the passages
that make us human
and humanly aware of the life
within
and outside self

it’s
why
I don’t fly -

because
there is no passage
just a being here
followed by a being there,
separated only by
void

and I am not made
for void

~~~

the squirrel
outside my window
chasing a leaf across the parking lot

the squirrel
outside my window
in constant-going-always-in-the-moment
of going

the squirrel
outside my window -

living the good
life
not knowing
where he goes, just going,

not knowing what he sees,
just seeing

the unexamined life
just living





Doreen Peri, From her sketch pad




That's it for this week. One of my better posts, I think. I hope you enjoyed it.

As usual, all the material in this blog remains the property of those who created it. My stuff is available to anyone who might want to use it. Just properly credit me and "Here and Now."

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, sitting by a wiindow, enjoying the last breath of winter.

1 Comments:
at 2:02 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love it. Beautiful pictures and poetry. Thanks for posting this :D

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