Road Work - Mid-March   Friday, March 11, 2011


Vi.3.3




No feature poet this week, just me and my library posse.

The pictures this week are from a little three-day drive around I did early in the week, reported on extensively in this week's last poem.

Not much color in the mountains and deserts this time of year. I might use the same photos next week, in what seems to me a more seasonal appropriate black and white.


W;Li Po
O-mei Mountain Moon
At Ching-men Ferry, a Farewell
Gazing at the Mountain Waterfall
Visiting a Ch'an Master Among Mountains and Lakes
Night Thoughts at Tung-Lin Monastery on Lu Mountain
Written on a Wall at Summit-Top Temple
On Yellow-Crane Tower, Farewell to Meng Hao-jan Who's Leaving for Yang-chou
A Spur of the Moment


Me
some days, you know, you just have to settle for a good hamburger

Robert Pinsky
Poem of Disconnected Parts
Louie Louie


Me
cat, like a big old Buick

Alice Walker
Mysteries
Gift
Clutter-up People


Me
nothing planned

Marina Tsvetaeva
Poems for Akhmatova

Me
nuts in the neighborhood not all hoarded by squirrels

Keith Waldrop
Part 4 of “Transcendental Studies - A Trilogy"

Me
it came in the mail

Lesley Clark
American Copper Man

Me
same bull, different chute

Ginny Wiehardt
Mourning

Me
three days, two nights

An note of excuse - spellcheck still not working right so weirdly spelled words are not my fault, unless, of course, you hold the old-fashioned expectation that people ought to be able to spell without spellcheck.





I'm starting this week with Li Po, from the collection, The Selected Poems of Li Po, a New Directions Book, published in 1996, with translation by David Hinton.

Li, who was born in 702 and died in 762, lived in T'ang Dynasty China and he, and his friend Tu Fr are consider the two greatest of all the Chinese poets, ancient and modern.



O-mei Mountain Moon

O-mei Mountain moon half-full in autumn. Tonight,
its light filling the P'ing-chhing River current.

I leave Ch'ing-ch'i for Three Gorges. Thinking of you
without seeing you, I pass downstream of Yui-chou.


At Ching-men Ferry, a Farewell

Crossing into distance beyond Ching-men,
I set out through ancient southlands. Here,

mountains fall away into wide-open plains,
an the river flows into boundless space.

The moon setting, heaven's mirror in flight,
clouds build, spreading to seascape towers.

Poor waters of home. I know how it feels:
ten thousand miles of farewell on this boat.


Gazing at the Mountain Waterfall

1

climbing west toward Incense-Burner Peak,
I look south and see a falls of water, a cascade

hanging there, three thousand feet high,
then seething dozens of miles down canyons.

Sudden as lightning breaking into flight,
its white rainbow of mystery appears. Afraid

at first the celestial Star River is falling,
splitting and dissolving into cloud heavens,

I look up into force churning in strength,
all power,the very workings of Creation.

It keeps ocean winds blowing ceaselessly,
shines a mountain moon back into empty space,

empty space it tumbles and sprays through,
rinsing green cliffs clean on both sides,

sending pearls in flight scattering into mist
and whitewater seething down towering rock.

Here, after wandering among those renowned
mountains, the heart grows rich with repose.

Why talk of cleansing elixirs of immortality?
Here, the world's dust rinsed from my face,

I'll stay close to what I've always loved,
content to leave that peopled world forever.


2

Sunlight on Incense-Burner kindles violet smoke.
Watching the distant falls hang there, river

headwaters plummeting three thousand feet in flight,
I see Star River falling through nine heavens.


Visiting a Ch'an Master Among Mountains and Lakes

Like Hui-yuan fostering Ling-yun,
you open the gates of Cha'an for me:

here beneath rock and pine, serene,
it's no different than Glacier Peak.

Blossoms pure, no dye of illusion,
min and water both pure idleness,

I sit once an plumb whole kalpas,
see through heaven an earth empty.


Night Thoughts at Tung-Lin Monastery on Lu Mountain

Alone, searching for blue-lotus roofs,
I set out from city gates. Soon, frost

clear, Tung-ln temple bells call out,
Hu Creek's moon bright in pale water.

Heaven's fragrance everywhere pure
emptiness, heaven's music endless,
I sit silent. It's still,the entire Buddha-
realm in a hair's breath, mind-depths

all bottomless clarity, in which vast
kalpas begin an end out of nowhere.


Written on a Wall at Summit-Top Temple

Staying the night at Summit-Top Temple,
you can reach out and touch the stars.

I venture no more than a whisper,
afraid I'll wake the people of heaven.


On Yellow-Crane Tower, Farewell to Meng Hao-jan Who's Leaving for Yang-chou

From Yellow-Crane Tower, my old friend leaves the west.
Downstream to Yan-chou, late spring in a haze of blossoms,

distant glints of lone sail vanish into emerald-green air:
nothing left but a river flowing on the boarders of heaven.


A Spur of the Moment

Facing wine,I missed night coming on
and falling blossoms filling my robes.

Drunk, I rise and wade the midstream moon,
birds soon gone, an people scarcer still.







Like the poem says, some days you just have to settle.



some days, you know, you just have to settle for a good hamburger

for the first time in
jeez
I don’t know how long

I didn’t
write a poem
this morning;

couldn’t find a hook
that didn’t lead to stuff
even more mundane and boring

than usual…
so, saying to myself
fella,

being
free, white, and twenty-one
(we used to say that kind of stuff

not just to ourselves
but right out loud, but not anymore
except maybe in Wisconsin,

which seems to be in a race with Arizona
for the title of state with the looniest
politicians - not counting Texas

which holds the worlds
all-time record
for loony politicians

for about as long as there’s been
politicians
in the state - no change now

except they used to be
kind of lovable
not so malevolent

as these days)

but that’s another story
and this story is about me thinking

I should, being free, white and twenty-one
hie myself
off to Austin, to see my son, also
f
w
& 21

and possibly
by taking the long way to get there -

-northwest
through
Spring
Blanco, and Johnson City
then East to North Austin -

i might
find among the trees and bushes
and nature-stuff

some hook
upon which to hang a poem
neither dull nor mundane…

but
the problem
is getting to the trees & bushes & nature-stuff

which involves
first
getting out of the city

- over million and a half
people
according to the last census -

which
those of use who live in the old city
have a hard time believing

until we try to get
past the city and into the
trees & bushes & nature stuff

passing
an hour on the road
before we can see past the

Wal-Marts and Seven-Elevens and
Dollar Stores and Valero gas stations
to the t’s, b’s and n-s

out back
and when I finally see it today
it is immediately apparent

that after an unusually hard winter
there’s not much to see
but hills and hills of ugly dead stuff

and macmansions
like white throbbing pustules on hilltops
surrounded by ugly dead stuff

broken by a white gravel road
that leads
to a locked gate that I’m neither dead

enough nor ugly enough, and certainly
not rich enough
to know the secret password

that unlocks the locks
a precursor experience to my eventual reception
at the Pearly Gates I fear

but that’s a subject for another day
and in the meantime
I still don’t have a poem except

for this
whose only value
is that it gave me an excuse

for lunch with my son
and with both of us being
f, w, &21

it was pretty darn good,
a hamburger with chipotle mayonnese,
no pickles, no mustard

and a glass of iced tea
pretty darn good
as well







Here are a couple of poems by Robert Pinsky from his book Gulf Music. The book was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2007.



Poem of Disconnected Parts

At Robben Island the political prisoners studied.
They coined the motto Each one Teach one.

In Argentina the torturers demanded the prisoners
Address them always as "Profesor."

Many of my friends are moved by guilt, but I
Am a creature of shame, I am ashamed to say.

Culture the lock, culture the key. Imagination
That calls the boiled sheep heads in the market "Smileys."

The first year at Guantanqamo, Abdul Rahim Dost
Incised his Pashto poems into styrofoam cups.

"The Sangomo says in our Zulu culture we do not
Worship our ancestors; we consult them"


Becky is abandoned in 1902 and Rose dies giving
Birth in 1924 and Sylvia falls in 1951.

Still falling still dying still abandoned in 2006
Still nothing finished among the descendants.

I support the War, says the comic, it's just the Troops
I'm against: can't stand those Young People.

Proud of the fallen, proud of son the bomber.
Ashamed of the government. Skeptical.

After the Klansman was found Not Guilty one juror
Said she just couldn't vote to convict a pastor.

Who do you write for? I write for dead people:
For Emily Dickinson, for my grandfather.

"The Ancestors say the problem with your Knees
Began in your Feet. It could move up to your Back.


But later the Americans gave Dost not only paper
And pen but books. Hemingway, Dickens.

Old Aegyptius said, Whoever has called this Assembly,
For whatever reason - that is a good in itself.

O thirsty shades who regard the offering, O stained earth.
There are many fake Sangomas. This one is real.

Colored prisoners got different meals and could wear
Long pants and underwear. Blacks go only shorts.

No he says he cannot regret the three years in prison:
Otherwise he would not have written those poems.

I have a small-town mind. Like the Greeks and Trojans.
Shame. Pride. Importance of looking bad or good.

Did he see anything like the prisoner on a leash. Yes,
In Afghanistan. In Guantanamo he was isolated.

Our enemies "disassemble" says the President.
Not that anyone at all couldn't mis-speak

The profesores created nicknames for torture devices:
The Airplane. The Frog. Burping the Baby.

Not that those who behead the helpless in the name
Of God or tradition don't write poetry.

Guilts, metaphors, traditions. Hunger strikes.
Culture the penalty. Culture the escape.

What could you children boast about you? What
Will your father say, down among the shades?

The Sangomo told Marvin, "You are crushed by some
Weight. Only your own Ancestors can help you"



Louie Louie

I have heard of Black Irish but I never
Heard of White Catholic or White Jew.
I have heard of "Is Poetry Popular?" but I
Never heard of Lawrence Welk Drove
Sid Caesar Off Television.

I have heard of Kwanzaa but I have
Never heard of Bert Williams.
I have never heard of Will
Rogers or Roger Williams
Or Buck Rogers or Pearl Buck
Or Frank Buck or Frank
Merriwell At Yale.

I have heard of Yale but I never
Heard of George W. Bush.
I have heard of Harvard but I
Never heard of Numerus Clausus
Which sounds to me like
Some kind of Pig Latin.

I have heard of the Pig Boy.

I have never heard of the Beastie
Boys or the Scottsboro Boys but I
Have heard singing Boys, what
They were called I forget.

I have never heard America
singing but I have heard of I
Hear America singing. I think
It must have been a book
We had in school, I forget.







Okay, so here's another cat story.



cat, like a big old Buick

the cat
woke me this morning

the blind cat,
I mean,

mewing
in the hallway

outside my bedroom,
having given up

as she sometimes does
on finding her way…

she tries
going from room to room

feeling her way,
using her head like some big old Buick

with curb finders,
antenna like things

that stick out from the front
and back of the cars

to alert drivers,
usually old and stiff-necked

like me,
when they are about to bump into the curb

while trying
to parallel park,

and so the cat bumps along,
wall to wall,

until she finally gets to where
she wants to go,

which is
at this point in her life

one
of only four places -

her food bowl, her water dish,
her litter box or her bed

and depending on how long she’s been looking
almost anything soft will suffice

as her bed,
though lately she’s been putting extra effort

into finding Reba’s bed,
but that’s a whole different

family
dynamics thing

not at issue here

but sometimes,
and this is what happened this morning,

she just gets tired
or roaming and bumping

and
stops

where ever she is
and wails,

such a lost and lonely cry,
like a child in a dark and threateneing wilderness,

one cannot help but respond,
like me,

this morning
at 5 a.m. brought up from my bed

to find her in the hall,
stymied and mystified

as to how something like this
could happen to such a proud, self-sufficient cat

as herself,
but, still, she welcomes my touch

as I pick her up
and hold her close before laying her down

in her bed
where she promptly goes back to sleep







Now I have three poems by Alice Walker from her book Her Blue Body Everything We Know. The book was published by Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich, Publishers in 1991.



Mysteries

Your eyes are widely open flowers.
Only their centers are darkly clenched
To conceal Mysteries
That lure me to a keener blooming
Than I know,
And promise a secret
I must hav.


i
the gift he gave unknowing
she already had
though feebly
lost
a planted thing
within herself
scarcely green
nearly severed

till he came

a magic root
sleeping beneath
branches
long gone wild.


ii
and when she thought of him
seated in the dentist's chair
she thought she understood
the hole she
discovered through
her tongue
as mysteries in
separate boxes
the space between them
charged
waiting till the feeling
should return.


iii
but she was known to be
unwise
and lovesick lover of motionless
things
wood and bits of clever
stone
a tree she cared for swayed overhead
in swoon
but would not follow
her.


iv
and his fingers peeled
the coolness off
her mind
his flower eyes crushed her
till she bled.


Gift

You intend no doubt
to give me nothing,
and are not aware
the gift has already been
received.
Curse me then,
and take away
the spell. For I am rich
no cheap and ragged
beggar
but a queen,
to rouse the king
I need in you.


Clutter-Up People

The odd stillness of your body
excites a madness
in me.
I burn to know what it is like
awake.
Arching,rolling
across
my sky.
Your quiet litheness
as you move across the room is
a drug
that pulls me
under;
your leaving slays me.
Clutter-up people
casually track
the immaculate
corridor/passion
of my death
and blacken the empty air
with talk of war,
and other too comprehensible
things.







I'm kind of excited that I'm going to break routine next week. But not too much.



nothing planned

Saturday

morning, nothing planned,
write a poem,
work on the blog,
work on the book after the next book,
just like yesterday, but
since it’s the weekend I’ll do it all
slower

Sunday,

tomorrow, nothing planned,
write a poem,
work on the blog,
work on the book after the next book,
just like
today, but since it’s Sunday
I’ll do it with great
reverence, a bow to the Goddess
of Poetry
and Nothing Planned

Monday!

something different,
a birthday gift,
three days in West Texas,
a little scoot-around
the Big Bend, taking pictures
maybe a drive
on that great little road I found last year
between the mountains,
a little two-lane
that follows
the Rio Grande
to Presidio, maybe all the way to Candelario,
maybe a night in Study Butte
or even at the lodge up in the Chisos Basin
where I might see some javelinas at play or even,
I hope not, a bear or a cougar, and probably some lizards
or snakes if I drive through the desert,
but I think not,
having no place in my heart
for snakes or lizards, except for horned toads,
which I haven’t seen for years,
those fiercely
prehistoric-looking critters
that went to sleep if you scratched them
between their horns,
but that’s from the old times, not likely
on this little trip…

then a nice hotel where
I can write a poem,
work on my blog, work on the book
after the next book







My next poem is by Marina Tsvetaeva, admired contemporary of Rilke, Akhmatova and Mandelstram and an eloquent witness to the political turmoil and social devastation of the Russian Revolution.

The book is Selected Poems published by Penguin Books in 1994. The poems were translated by Elaine Feinstein.

A bit impassioned we might find these poems in our more stoic time, but she is a Russian poet and it was impassioned days.



Poems for Akhmatova


1

Muse of lament, you are the most beautiful of
   all muses, a crazy emanation of white night:
and you have sent a lack snow storm over all Russia.
    are pierced with the arrows of your cries

so that we shy like horses at the muffled
    times uttered pledge - Ah! Anna
Akhmatova - the name is a vast sigh
and it falls into depths without name

and we wear crowns only through stamping
    same earth as you, with the same sky over us.
Whoever shares the pain of your deathly power will
    down immortal - upon his death bed.

In my melodious town the domes are burning
    the blind wanderer praises our shining Lord.
I give you my town of many bells,
   Akhmatova,and with the gift: my heart

2

I stand     head in my hands     thinking how
    are the traps we set for one another
I hold my head in my hands     as I sing
    this late hour, in the late dawn.

Ah how violent is the wave which has
    me up on to its crest: I sing
one     that is unique among us
    the moon is     alone in the sky,

    has flown into my heart like a raven,
has speared into the clouds
hook-nosed, with deathly anger: even
    favor is     dangerous,

for you have spread out your night
    the pure gold of my Kremlin itself
and have tightened my throat with the pleasure
    singing     as if with a strap.

Yes, I am happy, the dawn never
    with more purity, I am
happy to give everything to you
    to go away     like a beggar,

for I was the first to give you -
    voice     deep darkness!     has
constricted the movement of my breathing -
    name of the Tsarskoselsky Muse.


3

I am a convict. You won't fall behind.
You are my guard. Our fate is therefore one.
And in that emptiness that we both share
the same command to ride away is given.

And now my demeanor is calm.
And now    my eyes are without guile.
Won't you set me free, my guard, and
let me walk now, towards that pine-tree?


4

You block out everything, even the sun
    its highest, hold all the stars in your hand!
If only through - some wide open door, I
    blow like the wind to where you are.

and starting to stammer,suddenly blushing,
    lower my eyes before you
and fall quiet, in tears, as
a   child sobs to receive forgiveness.







Speaking of impassioned times, I wrote this next poem in 2008 shortly before the election, a time when we learned more than we liked about the many twisted people in our country, and, even, in our neighborhoods.




nuts in the neighborhood not all hoarded by the squirrels

received
mail yesterday
addressed to
“my neighbor”

the letter inside
two pages
of elaborate obscenities
carefully

written
in large block print
almost impossibly neat
and precise

response
to the two
Obama-Biden
campaign signs

in my front yard

but here’s the curious thing

despite
the obscene letter
the campaign signs
are untouched

does this mean
we have a fruitcake
in the neighborhood
who respects

the first amendment
and my right to exercise
my political
opinion

truly a positive attestation
to his patriotism and respect
for American political traditions
or does it just mean

the fruitcake
hasn’t taken the signs
because he’s afraid
i’ll catch him in the act

and kick his ass







Here are a series of poem by Keith Waldrop, from his book Transcendental Studies - A Trilogy, published in 2009 by the University of California Press.

Waldrop, a Brooke Russell Astor Professor of Humanities at Brown University, has published more than a dozen works of original poetry and translation.



Part 4


1

Fate is clever than the king
of Babylon. Shadows of yew
fall through windows onto

the floor of the nave and
touch the pillars with tattered
shade. You claim the dearest wish of your

life is to sink into a soul-freezing
situation of horror. The music of a crash
caught in the hollow of a wooded hillside.


2

Grave,questioning sweep - chiefly the weird
that arouses our keenest hopes. The garden of
dreams contains a summerhouse, hazy

period of my growth. There are bodies,
not greatly extended, called seas nevertheless,
because of their depth and

violence. I've some little
doubt about this ceremony entirely
embedded in a cup of grassy hills.


3

Pardon me for loitering. I was sleeping
soundly when I was roused by the loud
clang of what turned out to be

a large brass candlestick, flung
against the banister. Unprotected,
destitute of the means of self-defense, you

hug to yourself the consciousness of
vanished beauty. The sea s un-
certain, on the main and also the coast.


4

Strange rooms. Through These experimental
years, who can describe the beauty
of the dead of night? Complain of

frivolity or of portraits exactly
like ghosts. The waters of the great
surrounding sea will completely

evaporate when the sun opens the fifth
of its seven eyes. Oh yes, I take
pleasure in backgrounds, bringing them forward.


5

These are only a few of many
legendary details, called from the distant
future where each thing has its

end, including sea, sun, the eyes.
You live in another season - even now I
feel acrobatic instincts. Large strange

rooms. A silver cup from his household
plate, a sky of the same
gray tones, a great wilderness of books


6

When the sea subsides into utter
calm, changing clouds caught in its
clarity, then fishermen say the sea

is thinking about itself. A dark back
room, looking down upon a narrow
courtyard - waking out of some

dream of specters, bellowing the most
frightful shrieks, forgetting only
at the sound of somebody's voice.


7

You light me to bed with your light, and
never a night but I m
prey to ghostly visions - a tenderness

not usual in my family. the lion
pauses a certain space of time, amid
a sea of divers thoughts chopped half

desires, memoranda of search
and hunger, very peculiar
ideas of the world.







Thinking of the passions of the 2008 election reminded me of a time when passions were high, passions for good things finally achieved without craziness, and, of course it reminded me of a poem. This one also written in 2008.



it came in the mail

it
came in the mail
three weeks ago

i opened
the envelope
and snuck a peek inside

yep

just what i was afraid of -
a Medicare enrollment form

i stuck it in a box
and haven’t looked at it since,
though i know i’ll have to,
soon

i remember
the great joy and satisfaction
i felt
when it passed Congress
and the emotional moment
pictured
when LBJ signed it into law
with a frail and aged Harry Truman
at his side

i just never imagined
it
would some day apply
to me







This poem is by Lesley Clark, from her book, the absence of color, published by Orchard Press in 2000.

Clark was born in Big Spring, Texas and raised in Aldeburgh, England. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Psychology and, at the time the book was published, was working on a Masters Degree.

She describes herself as, "a writer, painter, adjunct professor and observationist." I like the "observationist" thing, because that's pretty much what I'm doing with my life these days and for many, many days previous.



American Copper Man

american copper man
standing
gigolo

fumbling through the wild night jungles
harvesting the meager rays
that illuminate the dark

cultivating the go-go chulas
that move flamenco on the patio

mining
oeing
plowing
steering
vulnerable chulitas and their madres

they pass
grocery man
holding huevos and compuestas
for the early evening delivery

american dollar,
more than the average peso
value delivers more than
madre Benevides
chulita Benevides
and all the barrio chulas
that continue to move

to survive copper
in the refined sky







Continuing to work on looking at poems from 2009, thinking about a book after the next book. Here's one possibility.



same bull different chute

same bull, different chute

i was
just finishing up
my sausage gravy
and biscuits
when two Leon Valley
police officers walked in,
both kind of pear-shaped,
as Leon Valley, being
a small suburb of a city,
had not nearly the pay scale or
physical job requirements
of the city within which it was subsumed

they sat at the table to the right of me,
all jingly with all the tools of their trade
hung up on their utility belt

from a table to the left of me,
a tall, granite-faced fella
with a sweat-stained cowboy hat
and a basso-profondo voice
that seemed to come from some
deep, dark cavern beneath his shoes,
said, “Howdy, boys.”

the officers said howdy back
and asked, “What’s up,”
and the tall man said, in
his voice from the center of the earth,
“Same bull, different chute”

and i was thinking, first,
goddamn how cool is that,
and, then, by god, there must be
twenty people tops
in the great state of Texas
who can say that and not sound stupid
and here i am sitting next to one of them

i started listening then
to the tall man and the two others fellas
at his table, wanting to hear more
of that great voice saying cool things,
but mostly he talked about the goddamn newspaper
and stupid reporters and how he called them
and threatened to cancel his subscription
if they didn’t quit all their commie reporting
and talk such as that

seems he only had the one good line

how disappointing!

but then, later,
we stopped at the supermarket
on our way to our Sunday-morning
newspaper reading marathon
and i noticed a fat-assed man
and a fat-assed woman walking in
ahead of me, noticing the tender way
the man put his hand on the woman’s butt
stroking it and patting it as they walked

and i was thinking, damn
ain’t it great when people get what they want
in life...
and appreciate it







Next I have a poem, from Hotel Amerika, Volume 5, No. 1, published by Ohio State University with support from the Ohio Arts Council.

The poet is Ginny Wiehardt whose work has appeared in numerous literary journal and whose 2005 collection of poetry, Compulsion of the Unlocked Thing was a finalist for the 2005 Ohio State University/The Journal Poetry Contest. She was a Michener Fellow at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas Austin from 1998 to 2001.



Mourning


"If white is the color of mourning in Andalusia,
it is the proper custom."

   - Abu l-Hasan al-Husri


*

If I could take dawn
in my hands,
as tangible as breakfast

I could cease
the practice of despair,
throw off my white cloak,
a house opened for summer.


*

I have burned my suppers,
made a desert of my garden,
pigeons of my feet.


*

The first sign of redemption:
hunger for birdsong.


*

Comfortless alphabet.
Not even a sign
in a lock of my lover's hair
as he turns to go.







I did a little drive around this week, hoping to break routine that seemed on the edge of deadly and, I hoping, some pictures.



three days, two nights


travel day

it’s a travel day
today

550 miles to El Paso,
every hill, every cactus,

every fence post
known to me from all the times

I’ve passed them…

tomorrow
a loop into New Mexico,

up
and then around,

heading south again
through forests and mountains

and back into west Texas
desert

on the way home…

three days on the road,
the second the best,

the first and third
only for the purpose of getting

to
and from the second…

meanwhile,
I sit drinking coffee,

thinking
of the first leg,

the 550 miles,
procrastinating,

because
once the first mile is done

the commitment is made
to the next 499 -

499 miles
of poems written in my head,

only to be forgotten in the end,
lost along the way,

blown away
in the desert wind...

a million square miles there

of open sky, far horizons,
grit and quiet

that encourages the creation of poems
only to toss them away,

a land of lost
poems,

ghost poems
blowing with the sand


mountain time

I stop,
short of my destination
because,
in this lonely land of forever-
wandering, never-written poems,

I do not trust
my memory to find
all the words that have piled up
over these long
miles

that began under an overcast, drizzling sky
that then cleared
to deep ocean blue
when the sun first appeared -
and now the palest of skies

under the sun’s full desert-blazing…

stops along the way,
the last before this, in Ozona,
small town, nothing else within
75 miles
in either direction

the restaurant I wanted,
“closed for vacation,” so I drove
into the little town
for alternatives - but there were few,
just boarded-up windows, a county courthouse
in the grand Texas classical condition,

and a young girl
leading her horse across main street,
a young girl who dreams, I’m sure as
all young girls and boys dream,
for no town is too small for dreams -

not even this one…

who knows what dreams carry this girl forward,
dreams of being a poet, a painter,
a banker, a lawyer
or farmer
or with her horse, a rodeo rider

queen of the calf -roping circuit…

and I had my dreams, as well,
none of them involving the Hunger Buster
I got from Dairy Queen,
the only place not gone bust
or off on vacation,
on this day -

from that mustard and catchup dripping burger,
another 250 miles still to go,
through Fort Stockton and Van Horn, with no more stops
but this one, within a hundred miles now
of my destination -

stopped,
to write this poem in the desert,
nothing to see but pale sand and gravel broken by scrub brush,
spiked and sharp, like the tuft on the back
of a javelina’s neck

and the far mountains,
like a mirage
on the south horizon,
a measure of the distance traveled;
a measure of the distance yet to go


over the rivers and through the woods

El Paso
to Alamogordo
to Cloudcroft

lunch
at the Front Porch Café;
corn chowder, best ever,

cardon bleu sub,
not
the best idea I’ve had in a while…

~~~

at near 9,000 feet
this is where
I start the mountain drive

~~~

green pine
tall against the blue
morning sky

aspen
still bare and bone white
Spring not their Spring yet

~~~

snow
still on the ground
in the denser parts of the forest

where gathering trees
shelter
it from the sun

~~~

had to turn back,
against my nature, but
the map said the road was unpaved -

unpaved not a problem for me,
growing up in South Texas, I could get more places
on unpaved road than on asphalt -

unpaved
to me just meant unfinished, I knew that someday
my roads would be paved and finished

just like the rich folk’s roads…
but this road was not unfinished,
it was unstarted,

a lane a car-width wide
between the trees
rocks and boulders and stuff

that would tear out the bottom of a car
still strewn about just like god
left them

back when he was doing
his creation-mischief
in these parts


~~~

another road,
an alternate road
over the mountain, unpaved too,

but passable,
except I should have been back on pavement
at least 15 miles ago,
and I’m not and I haven’t been,
which means, like the Startrek boys,

I know
I’m going
but I don’t know where

~~~

in desperation
I turn on my GPS lady -
I didn’t use her this morning

because for at least half the day
I’ m going opposite of the way to
where I plan to spend the night

and I didn’t
want to spend all that time
with the GPS lady, telling me to

“make a u-turn if possible” -
but desperate situations call for
desperate actions,

so I turned her own,
hope bubbling in my heart,
quickly quashed

when she tells me,, “in 1.7 miles
veer left on Aqua Chikita Road,"
quashed, because I’ve been on Aqua Chikita

for the last hour,
but sure enough, 1.7 miles later,
there is a fork in the road

and just as directed
I veer left
to stay on Aqua Chikita Road…

still concerned that I don’t personally
know where I am or where I’m going, I’m relieved
to know that the GPS lady seems to

~~~


I follow a creek
from near the top of the mountain,
starting, first, as snow melt

glistening
on the road, then later gathered
into a creek,

small in places, only inches wide,
then wider, slow at first, then faster,
becoming a running rapid as it washes over

stones and fallen logs, becoming a blue pond for a while,
reflecting the blue sky
above, clouds moving across the pond

as they move across the sky,
but still the creek follows it’s mandate,
of downhill rush, becomes a small marsh

in places, flatter places, where cattle
graze and drink
and walk the spread out wet into a mud hole,

but still it flows,
first on one side of me
then the other -

I forded it twice
while still in the heights,
now, grown and fast from its journey,

if I have to cross it
again, there’ll be no fording,
I’ll need a bridge

~~~

I think of the creek and its passage
from the mountain
losing it’s own identity as it joins a river in Texas

perhaps
a river I know, a river flowing into the Gulf
through a bay, perhaps a bay I know

~~~


disappointed
i have not see any wildlife,
except for the hawk

that flew out of a tree directly over my head
big as a turkey
it's wingspan almost as wide as I can reach,

it's unexpected passage
enough to ignite the prehistoric prey
that still lies somewhere in the back of our brains -

the pre-historic prey instinct
that says flee,
now!

~~~

passing through Hope, New Mexico,
I see men, running across main street
to the volunteer fire station
and in the east I see the smoke…

a grassfire, a big one moving fast,
flaming up against the highway, but still
held on one side, men are parked by the road

and gathered around, volunteer firemen, my guess
coming from all around,
waiting for the pumper, I stop with them

to see if I might help, decide I could do nothing
but push against the fire with my foot -
I travel on…

a few miles down the road
two fire trucks from Artesia pass
toward the fire, then another, then another,

then two more trucks
and another and another, sirens screaming
lights flashing,

but they seem in no great hurry not driving fast at all;
someone should tell them they’re going to a fire,
not to a Thanksgiving Day parade

~~~

in Artesia, I see a young girl
sitting cross-legged under a tree,
in some distress, looks like, I don’t know

and I don’t ask, a 67 year-old-man asking such a question
of a 15 year-old-girl
would do good to get our of town unfeathered and untarred

___

heading directly east
across rolling prairie in mid-afternoon
I head directly toward the moon

white and scarred,
almost full, in the deep blue sky,
more real, more solid seen like this in the bright of day

than in its night appearance
as a yellow lantern
hanging over our heads

I am moved by this afternoon sight,
as our kind has been moved for millennia
by its waning and waxing move across the night -

no wonder we went to it the moment we were able;
I’m glad I was alive to see it happen; sad
that I’ll not live to see it happen again

~~~

time and the sun defeats me
as I cross back into Texas, losing the hour I gained
in El Paso due to the time zone change

while approaching the Guadalupe Mountains,
seeing of them only the sun falling behind them,
beautiful pastels, peach and yellow and green and a hint

of orange in the sunset, changing then to fiery red
in the mist rising from foothills
on the other side -

the mountains now dark craggy
shadows
against a still faintly-lit horizon

~~~

it is dark in Texas,
the darkest dark , and I want to stop
and sniff a taste of this starless night, but

it is a narrow road, with no shoulder
and no place to pull over, finally, “fuck it” I say

and stop in the middle of the road
and sniff and taste
and pee on the yellow center strip, my contribution

to political discourse in today’s Texas

~~~

as the dark deepens, I slow down, keep my bright lights on
as much as I can, for it is the time of early night
when the animals graze and hunt

deer I expected, and rabbits
and even a family of javalinas, but
it was a bear I saw

~~~

driving in the wild during those hours
requires vigilance, a watch for shadows
not just on the road, but especially along the side

of the road,
where the animals often linger before crossing,
it is true, often it is not the car

running into the deer, but the deer
running into the car,
like tonight,

the casualties of the last 75 miles
of the journey today,
a bat and two rabbits, running into me

so quickly I could not avoid them, demonstrating again
that no matter how hard we try, our kind
will always mean death to the wild and animal kind


this way, or that

start
the day with a debate -
take the fast and furious way home on I-10

or the more scenic route through
the Davis Mountains
Alpine, Marathon, Del Rio,

and points along the way -
I decide
on fast and furious,

as I have also decided I’m
too old now
for another day of 500 miles or 13 hours

of driving -
I-10 with an 80 mile an hour speed limit
can get me home in six or seven hours…

but
when I get to the turn off
for the Davis Mountains, I take the exit anyway

and add two hours, at least,
to my driving day…

~~~

the topography of the area
is much like southern New Mexico,
except a little harsher,

craggier crags,
sharper peaks, and mountain roads,
though paved,

more narrow and
twisty with more and bigger inclines -
as you cross the mountains

and head into the first sands
of the Chihuahua Desert
it gets more than ungenerous

~~~

wildlife along the way,
a family of three javelinas
cross the road in front of me…

I stop and two scurry into the brush,
one, the largest,
stands his ground, gives me the squint-eye,

stares me down,
I get the message, promise to him I won’t follow
his little family

~~~

later
two deer, several miles apart,
the first tiptoes

across the road on dainty little dancer’s feet,
the other lunges down the hillside
as I come upon it, blind, around a sharp curve

~~~

a runned-over skunk,
blood and twisted flesh
and bone

dead for sure,
but his odoriferous gift
to nature still hangs In the air

~~~

the domes
of the McDonald Observatory
face each other across w wide valley

on two peaks,
star-searching igloos
white and pitted against the sky

~~~

many bicyclist
as I approach Alpine,
all in bright green bulky coats,

required garb
I suppose for those who seek
to tempt fate

bicycling
on narrow, twisty, steep
mountain roads

~~~

Alpine,
a small town
but not like the other small towns

I’ve passed through -
a small state university small town,
three wifi coffeehouses on main street

and a third
that serves breakfast,
two eggs over easy, toast,

and fire-department-coming-any-time-
crispy-fried
bacon

~~~

driving due east
again,
the largest mountains

now to the south of me,
on the border, some on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande,
some on mine

~~~

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited
passes me going west,
on it’s way to Los Angeles -

I’ve taken that train,
if it were possible, I park my car
and jump aboard again,

right now

~~~

passing through the cuts
made in the hills
to level the road, a map of history

flashes by, history
so long ago I cannot not fully
imagine it -

at the level of the road,
layers of white sandstone, evidence
of the time when everything here lay deep beneath

a sea,
and above those, tier after tier
of limestone,

each tier,
a thousand years?
ten thousand years?

I don’t know,
can’t lay my mind around it,
know only

I look out my car window and see beyond the history
of my kind, beyond the time
the tiny organism that held the capacity to become

me,
crawled from the sea
that covers me now in my mind

~~~

I pass Langtry
without stopping, old Roy Bean
long dead, will not judge me harshly...

but i stop at the Pecos River look-out
a little further down the road,
high above the bridge I crossed on

and it high above the river, the river wide and full,
60 miles to the south
it empties into the Rio Grande;

1200 miles north,
it's only a trickle over
muddy rocks

~~~

on to the high
prairie,
through Seminole, Hondo,

and D’Hanis,
where all the red d’hanis bricks were produced -
not much left today,

brick business
gone under, but every building
that looks to be more than 30-years -old

is built
of red d’hanis bricks,
like a fringe benefit for workers,

a couple of truck-loads of brick
to build yourself a house
or a school or a church, or city hall,

or a general mercantile store, one of the few
commercial establishment still open
but for the feed store and the gas-an-go

old d’hanis brick company long gone
it’s bricks
and it’s buildings still around

~~~

finally home,
pulling into the driveway, fat old
Billy Goat cat comes off the porch to greet me

even in just three days,
looking kind of slim, glad to see the old over-feeder
back to where he belongs








So once again, I'm done until next week.

Until then remember all the material presented in this blog remains the property of those who created it. My stuff is available if you give proper credit to me and to "Here and Now."

I'm allen itz, owner and producer "Here and Now," just home from the hills today and ready for a long nap.

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