Thursday, March 31, 2011
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.
Postcard (found on his body after he was killed by the Nazis)
Ode for the American Dead in Asia
Ursula Andress is an old woman
Tulum Saw the Coming
Adian C. Louis
Nevada Red Blues
a little whisper
Memento of an Amorist
Cats and Dogs
from My Mother’s Nipples
watching my book be read
The Snake Dance
takes one to know one
Poem for St. Brigid’s Day
And So I Said…
there are nights
After a Reading in Arizona, the Author Is Detained by the U.S. Border Patrol in Las Cruces, New Mexico
Fresh Smell of Limes
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.
(With thanks to Mia for her help)
in the hills,
to the beat
of a strong wind
blown hard from the Rockies;
like a frosted hammer,
and pastures blowing,
against over-eager summer...
twisted narrow roads,
for spring colors due
after a hard winter…
but no flowers
on the pastures;
hard winter, dry winter -
seeps around the corners
of a blue eggshell
but for the one I see
behind a rock, sheltering
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.
(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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
in the newspaper today
that it’s Warren Beatty’s birthday
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
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
this is why I prefer
of young people,
I will be long gone to my own end
before their fresh blossoms
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
but is carried forward
in another form
to carry the spark
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
into the black
mirror and greed
of the creatures who spoiled our land.
our sacred land
of out blood
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.
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
as it slips out the door
for another year -
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
but not enough to stall Spring
ongoing - my house on the hillside
exposed all winter through bare trees
like an old maid caught
in her privacy again
as the trees turn full and green,
the curtain brought down
entertainment neighbors across the creek
found in her exposure…
wait for me in the hills
undeterred in their budding
by the brief cold,
leaving me to enjoy both
the cold yesterday and today;
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.
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.
I lie on my back.
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.
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
was supposed to be dead
now she roams
bumping her head as she
bounces from wall to wall
like a tipsy princess
after too much champagne
at the ball
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
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
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
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
our son has a new puppy,
nine weeks old,
and, as all our pets
over many years have been older
it is the first puppy in the family
in a very long time
and I am jealous because
my many offers
he continues leave that task
to one or more of his
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.
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
My arm for a pillow
I really like myself
under the hazy moon.
The end of spring
in the cherry blossoms.
My old man's ears -
gurgling down the drainpipe
A tethered horse,
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
comes back -
the loves of a cat.
Climb Mount Fuji,
but slowly, slowly.
on a naked horse
in pouring rain!
Back to 2008 for this poem, another recollection of a time 40 years earlier.
seeing my reflection
in a store window,
against the wet
bit of human
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
since my 18th birthday
i was, to believe
i could drop out of school
and no one at the draft board
it was early days in the war,
though no one knew that
at the time, and i
really didn’t have an opinion
except that, for damn sure,
i didn’t want any personal
part of it.
it was just, much like
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
but the letter came
there didn’t seem much
until i went to the pre-
and passed a room
where a line of draftees
in their underwear
were being divided into
counting off down the line
1, 2, army,
1, 2. army, 3, marines
and i said the hell
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
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
looking at a stranger
i knew was me,
looking back from a store window,
a drifter in life
the opportunities available
the most alone
i had ever been,
what came next, knowing
i’d never see this particular
it that was a good thing
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
The regionalist's song
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
the first time
i watched someone
read my book today
i don’t know;
doesn’t know me
on the other side
of the coffee house
who doesn’t know
it’s a young couple
boy and girl
who stopped at the free
table by the door
i was watching
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,
talking about it
it made me feel
to see the concentration
to hear the laughter
the book has serious
as well as many meant
to be funny
i’m going to continue
they were laughing
at the right places
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
about looking out
on the people
walking by here at
Soledad and Martin
in a far dark
of my “notes” file
to see the day
for the possibility
will be equal
to the idea
that same window
there’s not much
it’s early August
and damn hot
and nobody is on
they have absolutely
no place to go
the two kids that just passed
and a short round latin guy
Mutt & Jeff
(Jesse Jackson would be proud)
and how do i know they’re
that should be obvious,
i’m an old white guy
and anybody under thirty
all decked out in a
gimme hat headed
while the wearer’s headed
hung butt crack
is sure to be
of some kind or other
but the walk is the walk
same as it was
fifty years ago when
i walked it,
as they say now
looking for trouble
where no one was looking
to catch me
takes one to know one
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
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.
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
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.
When the light
and the half slept
The day had
the door banged hard
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.
is no difference
they are all
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
is not gone
it is still
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
i have not seen them yet
it is not my seeing
that makes them exist
they are not the future
as the cards already seen
are not the past
they are all now
the deck is now
and the future
do not exist in the real world
they are just constructs
of my human mind
to make sense
of a quantum
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."
Mizzled as winter
I moon bay and bell
where eyebrows of beach arch
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
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.
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.
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.
Winter’s wrecking ball
toffee suck sunsets
beer and crab backyards
goldfish boys baiting girls.
ash and numb
scoops of moon on hot tongues
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
when there is not
the slightest breeze
and the heat at midnight
is a beast on your back
stale wet breath
like a marsh fog
And, while I'm at it, another kind of August
i could not dream
and made insane
in a dark, dreamless
the sound of logic
on my roofless
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.
I can't recall
An English word,
La palabra llega
It flies from
the crests of the
Sangre de Cristos,
Falls like roses
In winter from
I mean,how else
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.
i really felt skinny
then i put my
in the weight
and lucky lotto number
it’s like the
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
and the humidity
like a forgotten
on the stove...
i should be
to be suckered
this way, but still,
i find myself
at the end of every day
by shards of
does not seem
a reliable cure
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,
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,
The pet shop
Offers fish in jars.
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,
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
* 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.
to my dog today
when it came time
to put her in the car
so we could drive
to our morning walk
i can’t take you
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...”
the truth is
i don’t have any errands,
don’t plan on doing anything
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
as i scratched behind her ears
and looked into her soft brown eyes
though she might be on the inside,
she believed me
just as she always
i ask you,
can a man
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.
What do they know of love
who have not stood
in ripe cornfield of their blood
in blazing sunlit field -
What do they know of joy
who have not, at sunset,
on threshing floor,
when all was threshed,
bagged and numbered,
sold to market,
a precious handful, scant,
but richly whole and sweet
and crushed it eagerly
long unaccustomed to its taste
play your triple-tempoed tune,
and see my feet
the delicate fandango
in my blood.
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
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.
storms carve swath
of death, destruction
God is blamed,
along with newly elected
and Greek sailors
on leave -
God makes no
comment one word,
after lengthy discussion
in a foreign language
which a panel of experts
said, when consulted,
might be Greek
shooting injures 3
incident blamed on
and newly elected members
of the Arizona House of
and Albanian parachutists -
all refused comment
except the ghost of Barry
who, when consulted, said
bear attack leaves
woman in bad shape
close associates report
bent in at least three
places, also suffering
bad case of
District of Columbia
US Airways fires pilot
whose gun discharged
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
and forty-seven cents
District of Columbia
foreign AIDS aid
former Senator Jesse
Helms signals approval
from his grave, as long
as, the recently deceased
none of the money goes to
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
Elsewhere in the Universe
President George W. Bush
assured by the
and Karl Rove
that his swing would
with just a little more practice,
returned to his game
of golf, handing off
in the interim
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.
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,
to toothpicks. Slick -
he taught me
to kiss, & silence,
how to tell tons
just from the eyes.
His were ice
or ice bergs tearing
into the berth
of some Titanic.
Watch em sink.
He was never in between -
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
He treated me
like his money - took me
when he needed something
Even his toupee -
human hair - was one-sided
above his head like a lightbulb
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
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
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
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
that’s my problem,
too much of it
I haven’t seen
an Albania gypsy
or heard the plaintive
of a river flattapotumus
the acrid stench
of burning filagabbit
around me in this restaurant
not a single Grenadian pirate
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
just another Sunday
how is one
to find a poem in a life