It's a Zoo Out There   Friday, April 15, 2011


This being an opportunity for self-promotion, I here and now let all know that my second Ebook, Goes Around, Comes Around, is in final proofing and should be published sometime in May. My third book, Always to the Light, is in editing and I aiming for a late summer publication. Both book will join the first book, Pushing Clouds Against the Wind, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Sony Reader, and the IPad. With the arrival of the two new books, Amazon will have all three Ebooks and my print book Seven Beats a Second.

My jams and jellies pitch now presented for you consideration, I have to say the big deal to me for this issue is some preliminary work by my friend Alex Stolis. This is an opportunity to read a chapbook in the making, the beginning four draft poems of a series based on a poem by Neruda. You can read more about Alex's new project when you get to it in the issue.

As to the photos,what can I say, desperation does what desperation does. If I don't get anything (paintings or photos) from someone else by next week, I'm going to post a whole blog of 50-60-year old family photos. See me at 15 with my tuba, that'll put your heart a-racing.

Meanwhile, here's the crew this week:

Paul Kane
A Portent
To Make a Desert
On Earth

the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning or just another damn day in a life of beginnings-endings

Osip Mandelstam
The Casino
An American Girl


Diane Wakoski
The Duchess Potato

squashed armadillos and other mythic creatures of the Texas plain

Charles Bukowski
In a Lady’s Bedroom
Buddha Chinaski Says
Dear Mr. Chinaski

wisdom, alas, overpowered by sex again

Alice Walker
Expect Nothing
Be Nobody’s Darling

a good way to spend a Sunday

Gilbert Sorrentino
In a fantastic light
Now the night is here. Blood
People in Hell are clothed
Nothing grimmer than dawn at noon

chalk up another day lost to literature

Alex Stolis
after Neruda:
Naked you are simple as one of your hands
Smooth, earthy, small, transparent, round
You've moon-lines, apple pathways
Naked you are slender as a naked grain of wheat

can you hear me now?

Edgar Lee Masters
E.C. Culbertson
Jonathan Houghton

the good pediatrician

Bruce Weigl
Her Life Runs Like a Red Silk Flag
What Saves Us

expert testimony

Jean-Paul Pecqueur
How to Make the Case Against Happiness


Gary Snyder
Mariano Vallejo’s Library

the sun was bright today

James Ashbery
The Decline of the West

walk right in

From Mitochondria:
Mike Topp
Basho’s Milk Dud
Darry Larson
Little Owl Poet
summer reruns

the secret to long-term marriage and other revelations

after various artists:
children’s crusade
wormbunnies…goddamn wormbunnies
she pretends
black hole boogy
first kiss
gone fishing
it’s better to sleep, they say

More of me than usual this week. Had some holes and ran out of time. So I stuffed them with things I could just copy and past.

It's the damn pictures.

I start the week with several poems by Paul Kane. The poems are from his book Work Life, published by Turtle Point Press in 2007.

Kane is the author of three collections of poems, as well as a critical study of Australian poetry, an edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson's poems, a collaboration with the photographer William Clift, and several anthologies. He is a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Guggenheim Foundation and has also been awarded Fulbright and Mellon grants. He teaches at Vassar College.

A Portent

That cry in the woods, like none I ever heard,
sent up a racket of crows, a fury of wings
by the edge of the stream. That sound - as if

non-human anguish deeper than deep woods
lay at the heart of things - was fingernails
on chalkboard to the nerves, but a nervousness

every creature shared, bordering on fear.
I went into the woods and saw, without seeing -
feeling and hearing instead - a wind like wings,

a brown embodiment swift, and all but silent.
The next day it came again, announcing itself
amid its tumult on a high dead branch

overlooking us: a Great Horned Owl in daylight
shrieking that calamitous cry - and I cannot
bear to tell you the sorrows that followed.

To Make a Desert
They make a desert and call it peace
    Calgacus, on the Romans, AD 85

How will they remember us, the dead?
As a cause - a just cause - or simply an end?

And when we, like traces of sooting
stars, have visited our stripes around the world

and in our turn are gone, how will we
be remembered by those who follow, those who

will have overcome us? The victors
who write also read the history of their

conquests. Will they read this: that we who
began with the word liberty in our mouths

ended with blood on our hands? That we
who surrendered freedom for security

lost both? That we fell into line with
history, and like others before turned brutal

with wealth and power and self-interest?
There are those alive now who will die of us,

each canceling out a sacrifice
by one who fought to save us from empires.

Who will save us from ourselves?


There on the stoop alone
when all along we thought
he'd be the first to go.

So much said in that wave:
the hand languid - as though
moving through water.

I nod and walk by - words
are clumsier than gesture.
the body knows its own.

On Earth

How did you spend your time?

In spring, I heard birds
ing out in voices
larger then themselves

And then how did you spend your time?

In the evenings in summer
fireflies brought stars
down from the sky.

How did you spend your time?

In autumn a maple tree
swayed in the wind, its branches
flickering an orange fire.

Then how did you spend your time?

In winter, I watched
snow put the land to sleep -
then woke to your voice.

I begin this week with a poem I wrote last week.

the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning or just another damn day in a life of beginnings-endings

I was going to write a poem
about how miserable everything is

how the lunatics
have taken over the asylum

how good things everywhere
are hightailing it for the low hills and high

how bad guys
have stolen all the white hats
and posture and preen and pretend
they are the good guys
while the real good guys are all off somewhere
eating crackerjacks
and drinking lattes and smoking rose-tipped cigarettes
mute and blind
to the ravages of their absence
content in their philosophy of okeydokey
pass the smokeys
while the world burns with the riders of the
going eeehaw through the great divide
of hip and hop and spit and spot
and drip and drop and pip
and pop and duck
and fuck
and clickety cluck
and eeehaw
we ride
they say
our grim teeth
and you run
your white ass
in the light of a dying moon

you had your chance
they say
now it’s our time to ride

in the light of a dying moon
we are the riders
of you inconsequential doom


and I've gone old
and my damn coffee’s gone
and my left foot’s gone sleepy
twitching like jello in a junk-jar from jimjam jarheads
and don’tknowjack spratt

and that’s just the beginning
of it…

but nobody wants to hear all that
so I’ll just start over
junk this jerky poem and write a new one
about blue birds and puff-fluffy clouds
and shit like that

Next, I have several short poems by Osip Mandwelstam, from his book Stone. The original book, with twenty-three poems, was published in 1913. Several expanded editions were published, the last in 1928, which had grown to 81 poems, some titled, some not. My paperback edition was published in 1997 by the Harvill Press.

Mandelstam was a Jew, born in Russian-ruled Warsaw in 1891 and died in a transit camp near Vladivostok toward the end of 1938. He was poor most of his life, seldom owning more than his clothes and a few books.


A tentative hollow note
As a pod falls from a tree
In the constant melody
Of the wood's deep quiet...

33. The Casino

I don't enjoy a pleasure planned in advance,
Nature is a smear of grayness now and then.
When I feel a bit euphoric, I'm condemned
To know the colors of a quiet existence.

The wind is playing with a shaggy cloud,
The anchor sinks to the bottom of the sea,
My soul is hung above the damned abyss
As when a canvas sail hangs lifelessly.

But I love to be out on the dunes at the casino,
The wide views that the murky window shows,
And thin on the crumpled tablecloth the light;

Green water all around on every side;
When wine shows red in the crystal, like a rose -
I love to follow a seagul soaring in flight.


Yardmen wiht shovels are working
In quiet suburbs of snow;
Among bearded muzhiks I go,
A man passing by, out walking.

Shawled women flit to and fro,
Mongrels yap in a silly way
And houses and bars display
The samovar's rose and glow.

52. An American Girl

An American girl, aged twenty,
She has to go to Egkypt,
Ignoring Titanic's warning
Asleep on the bottom, darker than a crypt.

In America, factory whistles hoot
And red skyscraper stacks
Offer cold clouds a salute
With lips that are smoked black.

And in the Louvre Ocean's daughter
Is standing, fair as a poplar;
She runs squirrel-like up Acropolis to loiter
Over marble that looks like shgar.

Understanding nothing at all
She reads Faust on the train
And it saddens her to recall
That King Louis no longer reigns.

Back to the archives for this poem, little pieces I wrote a couple of years ago.


for the mercy
of your smile


the night
is long
and ever darker


in the desert
on the sand


short conversation
better days


the tides
pushed forward
sucked back by the moon


rose opens
morning dew


protects her nest
me down


seven days
too little time
to fill a week
with love


children grow....
bright shades
of memory


to find the
that is my due


I lied...
she knows...
no truth can repair
the breach

Here's a poem by Diane Wakoski from her book Emerald Ice, Selected Poems 1962-1987, published by Black Sparrow in 1996.

Wakoski, a very prolific poet, was born in 1937 and currently teaches creative writing at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

The Duchess Potatoes

my people grew potatoes,
my hair is lanky and split edged and dishwater
My teeth are strong but yellowish
I have little eyes
I am fleshy without muscles
my energy is thin and sharp like gravy
but I crawl into bed as if I were pulling a counter of rubies
over me,
dream past all my lower class barbed wire
walk down the street in a silk glove
try to scrub myself of an aristocratic bone,
and always come back to the faded colors,
lumpy shape;
you wonder why I refuse to type well like my mother,
or iron and mend clothes like my grandmother,
am offended by your boorish father
whose only virtue is that he tended a machine faithfully
for 35 years and
your beautiful mother
her strange children

he is a ghost of the peasant in me
of ugly linoleum floors
and a starchy diet. And I,
have no compassion for the lumps,
the lumpy mashed potatoes
that weren't beaten with enough butter and milk,
and made so fine
so fine
they were called "Duchess"

c. 1965

Seems the world is divided into two angry camps these day, neither side interested in talking to the other.

squashed armadillos and other mythic creatures of the Texas plain

I know people
who are so far out
on the right fringe of ideology
they make Genghis Khan
look like a daisy-smoking, fire-spitting,
girly-walking socialist liberal anarchist freak;
people who are like black holes,
every circling
rightward into another dimension
where the rules of everything from gravity
to the basic laws of mechanics
and motion
are altered; where sunshine shines up
from the earth to the sun;
where dry rain falls
from arid skies;
where Glen Beck makes sense and
Sarah Palin
is a rocket scientist ;
a place where
tennis balls
and clouds never break to the left -

that kind of people,
people for whom I am a kind of token lefty
among their circle of other true

on the other hand,
I know other people so reflexively left wing
they take forever to get to the supermarket because
they won’t make right turns
and can only go places they can get to
by making a series of left-turn boxes,
moving squared block by squared block
closer to their goal…

from their perch
high in the clouds of gooey-gooey
they bemoan my troglodyte tendencies,
my insistence on evolutionary theories of
gradual things-getting-betterism;
my understanding that government is a creature of the people,
including people
who care more about their next paycheck
than they do about
academic theories of the casual effects
of meat-eating on
interpersonal relationships between
prairie grasses and endangered insects,
people who want things to work
and don’t care
if a few cockroaches get stepped on
in the process…

who my left-winger friends
care about
only after they’re a hundred years dead
and can be re-configured
as working class heroes
instead of just-plain folks living
just-plain lives
they found rewarding in their own bourgeois way…

my left-winger friends
for whom
I am a kind of token rightist,
good at parties
for the amusing of their ivory-tower friends
who luxuriate in the dirty words
they were too prissy to use
before - like
I’m a mean motherfucker
they say,
now pass the brie
and hold the ammunition…

I often feel like the squashed armadillo
a former Texas politician
was the only thing ever in the center of the road -

white stripe
ahead, white
stripe behind, it’s a uncomfortable
way to live in these times

I'm thinking I'm overdue for visit with Charles Bukowski. Here are two poems from New Poems, Book 2. The book was published by Virgin Books in 2003, one the early book of previously unpublished poems after his death.

I am just one of many who have tried without success to write poetry like Bukowski. Until I discovered that the secret to writing like Bukowski was not to imitate his style but to imbibe his spirit of clear, honest, unselfconscious anarchy.

In a Lady's Bedroom

trying to write a poem
in a lady's bedroom
(onions on my breath)
while she cuts a dress
out of freshly bought

I suppose, as material,
I'm not so fresh,
especially with onions
on my breath.

well, let's see -
there's a lady in Echo Park,.
one in Pasadena, one
in Sacramento, one on
Harvard Ave.
perhaps one of them would be more interested
in me
than in a dress (for a while,

meanwhile I sit in this
lady's bedroom
by a hot window
while she sits at her
sewing machine.

here, she said, here's a
paper and pen,
write something

all right, I'll be kind:
some ladies fuck like mink
and dance like nymphs
and some create
nice dresses and lonely poets
on hot July

Buddha Chinaski Says

you have to take
a step or

a month

do anything
want to
do anything

peace is
pace is

you want
you aren't going to
it by
trying too

ten years

be stronger

twenty years

be much

there's nothing to

and remember
the second best thiing in
the world
a good night's

the best:
a gentle

pay your gas
if you can
and stay out of
arguments with the

"Dear Mr. Chinaski"

I have tried your publisher with my
they didn't understand my poems
and they say their schedule is
filled for now.
so I thought maybe you should read
my manuscript
and then talk to them.
I've also enclosed an envelope for you
I've long been an admirer of your
and I don't want to kiss your ass,
but I consider you one of our
greatest living writers,
so if you would just look over the poems
enclosed, I'll be forever in
your debt.

one of the greatest living writers
read them,
trashed them, including the stamped
and addressed
return envelope.

what a helpless soft son of a bitch!

the way he wrote he

Sex! 'Nuff said. It's always happens to me, great ideas diverted.

wisdom, alas, overpowered by sex again

all day,
hard work
in the heat and sun
took me close to my limit;
i just can’t handle it
like I used to,
went to bed at eight last night
up at 8 this morning
still tired -

time was
i could do that all day
day after day
and stay out all night
on weekends
with my girlfriend,
who, tall and lean,
looked just like
Paula Prentiss,
my long time
late night fantasy friend ,
who often played
best friend in stuff
like the beach blanket
movies, moved on to
in “What’s New Pussycat'
and after that got naked
and decapitated
by an propeller
on a crashing bomber
in“Catch 22” then married
whatshisname and went legit)

but that was fifty years ago
so i expect some loss
in physical capacity
could be assumed,
but i expected
there would be
some compensation
for that in the form of
and i got none of that,
no flashes of deep though,
no insight into a new moral code
that might bring peace
and understanding to the world,
here i am
writing a poem
that could use some of that
some of that wisdom
some of that insight
some good old deep think
and all i get is the hots for
Paula Prentiss all over again

I don't know how many poetry books I have by Alice Walker, but it must be a bunch because it seems every other time I pull down some books for "Here and Now" an Alice Walker book is somewhere in the mix.

This week the book is Revolutionary Petunias, published by Harcourt Brace in 1972.

I have two advice-poems from the book. Not sure I agree with all her advice, especially in the first poem, but figure if I want to give my advice I ought to do it in my own poem.

Expect Nothing

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
Become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater that a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
so tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.

Be Nobody's Darling

for Julius Lester

Be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.

Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.

Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
river beds
With other impetuous
Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

Be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

Another old poem, about an even older time.

a good way to spend a Sunday

at Red Lobster
with family -
i don’t like the place
but everyone else does
so i went along -

wasn’t too bad,
prices outrageous
as usual,
but i had some kind
of fried thing
that wasn’t disgusting,
unlike the mushy things
i’ve had
the past several times
that were

the worse thing about eating
at the big Red L
is that when i do i can’t help
but remember
the really good seafood
i’ve had in other places,.
like Galveston,
where anywhere along the seawall
you could get Creole seafood
that was the best, and,
for a while, back when
we lived in Corpus Christi,
there was a big paddle-wheeler
docked at one of the t-heads
where the blackened redfish
was like a spicy bit of heaven,
and then,
on the other side of the bridge,
right on the water
at Ingleside-By-The Bay
where you could get
the best stuffed crab
on the planet, or at least
any portion of the planet
i’m familiar with,
but the all-time best
was a place in Brownsville
we drove to when i was a kid,
Sunday mornings
every couple of months
after church,
hours fresh
from the shrimp boats
at Port Isabel,
the boats all lined up
along the dock,
nets lifted high
to dry in the sun,
selling their catch
right off the boat,
big shrimp,
big ones from before
all the big ones were caught,
big ones,
palm sized
and still twitching

were the best
when i was a kid,
down to Brownsville
for lunch, then to Boca Chica
to walk the sand and hunt shells
or, later,
when the bridge was built,
to Port Isabel
and across to Padre Island
where the dunes
and the surf were higher,
walking the jetties
all the way to the end,
talking to fisherman, watching
rays, some as big as a raft,
swim up and down the channel,
then home,
salty and sandy
and asleep
in the backseat
before we finished crossing
the long bridge

a good way to spend Sunday
when i was
a kid

Next, I have several poems by Gilbert Sorrentino, from his book, Selected Poems, 1958-1980, published by Black Sparrow Press in 1981.

Sorrentino was an American novelist, short story writer, poet, literary critic, and editor who published over twenty-five works of his own fiction and poetry.

Born in 1929, he died in 2006.

In a fantastic light

In a fantastic light:
blue of hydrangeas, white
and pink. That light

before the evening starts
to come fast. The sweet smell
of rye and grasses, the

sounds of animals from
the barns, red, of course,
the hand up against

light touching the blossom.
Blue it must be blue, the
other hand falling

away in casual gesture.
Innocent. That fantastic light.
Caught. Stiff. Concrete.

Now the night is here. Blood

Now the night is here. Blood
will stain us, will sustain
us. Nobody's windows have

nothing nowhere behind them
anymore. A stupid face
is part of the pane - don't tell me!

Simple, and simply cold, dogs
are barking at the wind. the
lamp shows dirt ground into

the grain of the wood. Wherever
they have corpses, they have maggots:
maggots are only worms, most

of them love rotting lobster
and will feed on men. What wind
is blowing, an old woman who maybe

was kind to her cats is dying
of loneliness. Hers is that face
in the window, how impossibly

remote, how sad to consider it
as part of a pane of window
glass. The part of me I

think of as strength is
black, it is hollow: one goes on,
as one goes on, there is no

explanation. Any stupid bastard
laughs, some can ever speak.
that can be part of happiness.

I own the words I write, the
things I love are mortgaged, my
payments are all partial and erratic.

People in Hell are clothed

People in Hell are clothed
in coats and dresses, some of
the women wear lace, some

are richer than others, own
a face that possesses white
smiles. In the fashion of that

place, they all say hello
to each other. Such is Hell
in its democracy. Without

the clothes they moan and weep,
that is their fashion, too. This
takes place on Saturdays, after

the parties are through. Over
all, and through the smoke
and flames of the posters

(hung for prospective guests)
absolute horror persists. One
might think it is the earth,

but that evil insists
on being recognized. dandy
Satan has his choice of pain.

Nothing grimmer than dawn at noon

Nothing grimmer than dawn at noon.
It is grey and not awake.
the people are all dead.

All of them too, are dead.
All the people at noon.
These streets with dull sounds.

It is itself. There: and there.
One strikes a foot against the concrete.
One's own foot.

My foot: some of the dead peer at me.
The sun shines beyond this area.
Shining on dead planets.

We do not see it.
Baudelaire was absolutely right.
All dead in this macabre geography.

Photo by Dora Ramirez

Here's another new poem.

I would do some really great literature if it weren't always for these damn interruptions.

chalk up another day lost to literature

I should write
something deep and important today

something grand with meaning
in this helter-skelter world, war and peace

in a page and a half,
that’s what I should be doing today…

but I can’t get my brain
passed the woman in the booth facing me

early old or late middle age,
tiny face almost lost under a big puffy hair-do,

white strips streaming back
from both temples,

her little eyes wide beneath hair like a coonskin cap
with a bobbed tail…

I’m thinking this is a humorous image, then I notice
when she and her white-bearded companion

get up to leave that she is wearing
very tight pants, wearing them very well, in fact

and considering the factor of her rear
as I would the rings of a tree,

I adjust my age estimate sharply down…

and therein lies the problem -
how does one write war and peace

in a page and a half
when in the midst of tight-panted women in coonskin caps?

I’ll bet Tolstoy didn’t have to deal with such as this
and if he did he’d probably just clear his mind

by writing a hot sex scene
which I can’t do

since there’s no room for a hot sex scene
in a page and a half poem…

so I decide I’ll have to write that
meaningful poem tomorrow as my brain

follows the coonskin cap and tight pants

right out the door

I'm very pleased, always, to be on the email list of my friend Alex Stolis, in that he periodically presents me with a treat. The treat in the email from Alex this week was the first four poems of a new chapbook he's working on.

Part of the pleasure of reading his work is the imaginative and unique way Alex always frames his poems and chapbooks. This new book is no exception.

I'll let Alex explain in his own way.

He says:

"new project:

taking neruda's sonnet XXVII
and writing a chapbook

using the poem as table of contents
and lines from the poem as titles of the poems

after that idea for something completly different"

We can all look forward to the "something different" coming some time. In the meantime, here's what he's up to now.

First, Neruda's poem:

Morning (Love Sonnet XXVII)
(WS Merwin translation)

Naked you are simple as one of your hands;
Smooth, earthy, small, transparent, round.
You've moon-lines, apple pathways
Naked you are slender as a naked grain of wheat.

Naked you are blue as a night in Cuba;
You've vines and stars in your hair.
Naked you are spacious and yellow
As summer in a golden church.

Naked you are tiny as one of your nails;
Curved, subtle, rosy, till the day is born
And you withdraw to the underground world.

As if down a long tunnel of clothing and of chores;
Your clear light dims, gets dressed, drops its leaves,
And becomes a naked hand again.

Alex adds this note, reminding us that this is a draft, which is part of what I find so exciting, the opportunity to watch a excellent poet at work, seeing an excellent work of art in it's becomings. Also,I should add that his note acknowledges his debt to two of my favorite poets.

At some point the chapbook will be completed and I think I can it might be likely you'll read it here.

Alex says:

"(...this is a draft of the "first stanza" (special thanks to M and teresa white for their invaluable input)"

And, finally the poems.

Naked you are simple as one of your hands

esta es la verdad: ¿cómo la mano
encaja en la mía, que mi piel se quema
de su tacto, la forma en que se pierden
en el otro y es el hogar.

We are in bed. You are asleep. Your hair covers your face.
The sheet wrapped around your leg. I watch you breathe,
your breast moves with every inhale, the stars blink with
every exhale. It is beautiful; it is what you and I call truth.
I remember the day we met. It was winter. February seventh,
snow was falling one flake at a time. The last table is taken.
You nod when asked if I can join you. No glance. No words.
You are engrossed in a book of poems. Neruda: Veinte poemas
de amor
. I am thinking of summer, blonde fields, a young
woman in a sundress waiting for the bus, a brown suitcase
against a telephone pole; the sun a burning ember in a deep
blue sky. I fold my newspaper in quarter unable to concentrate.
My eyes glimpse up when you turn the page. I count one, two,
three times when the page is turned back to re-read. I imagine
you are sad. Sad in a weary it is time to wait again way. My mind
drifts to snatches of poetry memorized in school. Lines designed
to impress nice girls out of their knickers. There’s a couple at
the next table, in their sixties, dressed like they are coming from
church. In love yet, they share their space in comfort. She lightly
touches his hand when he says her name. Smiles at me and I know
they believe we are together. I want to wish it true. Your sleeves
are pushed up, lips a thin brushstroke of red. I ask you the time;
an inane question. I am not going anywhere. Don’t need to be any
where. Don’t want to be anywhere but here. All my destinations
are unplanned, bent. The road unmapped, filled with potholes,
every turn is crooked and sharp. We listen to the impatient shuffle
of feet from customers lined up, barely aware of the low murmur
of conversation. The background music is Cohen. I know what
I want the answer to be: You tell me how to catch fire, how to hold
the spark in the palm of my hand. You tell me how to live with ashes
and dust. How you want to teach me to rub the stain from a crucible,
polish it, hold it to flame until my breath turns to smoke. You tell me
everything I am thinking is true. That aqua blue is the color of sincerity.
That shyness is a refuge, desolation a virtue. The café is empty. Street
lamps flicker, the city struggles to stay awake. We are unnoticed. I study
the curve of your mouth, want you to feel the weight of loss; consider
the heft of grief, its every angle and bend. I want to know how it feels
to get lost in the motion of you moving within me; that feeling of being

**this is truth: how your hand
fits in mine, how my skin burns
from your touch, how we get lost
in each other and it is home.

Smooth, earthy, small, transparent, round

Estamos todas las cosas movido por el color;
obligado por las cenizas y el polvo, a la izquierda
transición a la competencia, junto

You are asleep. I study you. Your hands smooth,
your lips slightly parted, the earthy scent of sex
lingers. I can not imagine night without your body.
I want the future to wait and wander back to fall
then winter to spring to summer and back again.
Back when there was the not so accidental brush
of hands, a kiss in the backseat. Coffee growing
cold, the nervous drum of fingers on the table.
The sun drops its head we both wonder aloud
thoughts better left alone but we’re together now.
Five more minutes becomes five more minutes.
There is a slow dance with low music. Bare feet
shuffling on carpet The bang of a radiator and quiet
tap tap of rain. You write your number on a coffee
shop business card. Smile then tell me to call, pick
up your book and leave. I hope you glance back.
Tell myself I will play it cool if you do, pretend
not to notice. The CD changer shifts from Sara
Vaughn to Etta James; Imagination. Lights dim,
you become a shadow, transparent in the hollow
of my memory. That card is still in my wallet;
stuffed between my driver’s license and an over
drawn check. I know the number by heart,
ink faded to gray, almost unintelligible.

**We are all things moved by color;
bound by ashes and dust, left
stranded together

You've moon-lines, apple pathways

Realizamos movimientos debajo de las sábanas
blancas como la nieve. No es el toque de una mano
a la cadera, se desliza entre los muslos de la pierna,
para esta noche somos los amantes.

breasts that fit perfectly in my hand, hips curve
into mine. Your body lithe and tawny, you are
like the sea; forever, vast and open, a sanctuary,
my home. The bed is unmade, we are undone,

you break silence with a breath and become
the sky; dark blue and even, smooth against
rough clouds. The bedspread is forgotten on
the floor, leg shifts over leg and every new

shadow is another touch, another prayer.
We feel the weight of knowing, we are
gravity, we are complete, deliberate.

Palm against palm, no need for words.
We are together, we are one; tomorrow
does not matter. Sleep overtakes us.

**We move under snow white sheets.
There is the touch of a hand to hip,
a leg slides between thighs; for tonight
we are the lovers.

Naked you are slender as a naked grain of wheat

Todo lo que quieres es leer a usted; poemas
de amor y pérdida, de piernas bronceadas
y la simple belleza de tus manos.

I want to hear every story you have ever lived,
again and again, until I am filled with nothing
but stories. Tell me about scabbed knees, braids,
winter mornings that cooled the sun to a dull ochre.
I want to hear about flannel pajamas and bare feet
padding to the window to draw your name in frost.
Tell me your first wish, made on a hot June night
as a meteor burned through a cloud. I no longer
believe in legends, myths, fables of winged gods
or heroes that hide in the belly of a wooden horse.
I no longer believe that a shot glass is large enough
to hold the future or an empty bottle the only witness
to our pain. I have forgotten everything I know about
loss. Every truth we whisper becomes spring and when
snow melts and the air smells of wet leaves, we will
create a new summer. We will walk along the shore
of Lake Ontario , find the smoothest stone, skip it across
water, feel ourselves in each ripple and wave. You’re in
your favorite sundress, the one you wear when time does
not matter; look at me from the corner of your eye as if
you know exactly what I’m thinking. Lying together on
the sand you tell me about passages made of rock, tucked
in the slope of a hill. Trees lined up by a stream like toy
soldiers, red orchards filled with ripe apples. How bees
lose themselves inside purple orchids; how we are found.
You tell me how the sky will protect us, how every story
has been told. Then later, lost in white sheets, our bodies
become home as the moon dims over the water.

**All I want is to read to you; poems
of love and loss, of tanned legs
and the simple beauty of your hands.


It's Fiesta Week in San Antonio, so there's lots of it. I usually stay away, there being several million more people in one place at one time than I want to be in the middle of.

can you hear me now?

another poet
of the constant drone
of a radio in faraway room,
an intruder
in the night, a cross-dimensional
from a place you are not and don’t
want to be

it is modern life -
the life we live in a world
with too many people,
too much other people’s
and sorrows
always bubbling
in the periphery
of our lives,
turning us into a community
of hermits,
bound and forever never
with thoughts
never entirely our own


the fellow
over there is trying to sell something
to another fellow over there
and some piece of that mostly unheard conversation
will be with me
the rest of the day…

and over there
a man reads the newspaper,
talking to his wife
about something he’s reading
while she works on her computer,
uhhu, uhhu, she says
as he talks, marital static,
every married person knows
that three-quarters of what we say to each other
is just static, in and out, ear to ear,
except not all that goes in goes out,
some just hangs there, something
like a dog barking at night
is remembered as a dream
in the morning


uhhu uhhu
it’s the way we live,
acknowledging the buzz
without ever seeing the bee
that flits from blossom to blossom
collecting nectar,

but it is the job I take as a poet
to be different,
to listen to the murmurs of my fellow hermits,
to find the bee,
to follow the bee
as it collects the makings of its honey -
it is what I tried to do this
morning, it is what I try to do
every day…

I pretend to know someone
amid the noisy confusion
of this day’s living

Time for an old-fashioned poet with some very modern poems about what the dead might say if they could speak from the grave. I'm talking about Edgar Lee Masters and poems from his book, Spoon River Anthology.

The first of the two poems reminds me of a very conservative Republican former-Senator from Texas who voted against everything but was always first in line when it was time to show up and take credit for the very things he voted against.

Given that knowledge of history, I must dedicate this first poem to former-Senator Phil Graham, may his feet burn in hell for all the harm he did.

And as to the second, many of us live with this every day, as pastures are cleared and hills are leveled for the application of asphalt. The only difference is now we don't need to wait to see the desecration - thirty days is about all the time it takes.

E.C. Culberson

It is true, Spoon River,
That in the hall-way of the New Court House
There is a tablet of bronze
Containing the embossed faces
of Editor Whedon and Thomas Rhodes?
And is it true that my successful labors
In the County Board, without which
Not one stone would have been placed on another,
And the contributions out of my own pocket
To build the temple, are but memories among the
  *  people,
Gradually fading away, and soon to descend
With them into this oblivion where I lie?
In truth, I can so believe.
For it is a law of the Kingdom of Heaven
that whoso enters the vineyard at the eleventh hour
Shall receive a full day's pay.
And it is a law of the Kingdom of this World
That those who first oppose a good work
Seize it and make it their own,
When the corner-stone is laid,
And memorial tablets are erected.

Jonathan Houghton

There is the caw of a crow,
And the hesitant song of a thrush.
and there is the tinkle of a cowbell from far away,
And the voice of the plowman on Shipley's hill.
The forest beyond the orchard is still
With midsummer stillness;
And along the road a wagon chuckles,
Loaded with corn, going to Atterbury.
And an old man sits under a tree asleep,
And an old woman crosses the road,
Coming from the orchard with a bucket of black-
  *  berries.
And a boy lies in the grass
Near the feet of the old man,
And looks up at the sailing clouds,
And longs, and longs, and longs
for what, he knows not:
For manhood, for life, for the unknown world!
Then thirty years past,
And the boy returned worn out by life
And found the orchard vanished,
And the forest gone,
And the house made over,
And the roadway filled with dust from automobiles -
And himself desiring The Hill!

Paying respects here, to one of my heros.

the good pediatrician

William Carlos Williams,
that good pediatrician,
drops his little
of reality
into this fog-infected world
and clarity
has its short moment
in the sun

and in that brief light
we, his children,

Here are two poems by Bruce Weigl, from his book, What Saves Us. The book was published in 1992 by Triquarterly Press.

Weigl, born in 1949 in Ohio, is a poet and teacher at Lorain County Community College. He enlisted in the United States Army shortly after his 18th birthday and spent three years in the service. He served a one year tour in Vietnam, from 1967 to 1968 and received the Bronze Star for his service. When he returned to the United States, Weigl obtained a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College,[1] and a Master of Arts Degree in Writing/American and British Literature from the University of New Hampshire.

Weigl is the author of six collections of poetry. He has been published widely in various magazines and journals and has been awarded the Pushcart Prize, fellowships
at Breadloaf and YADDO, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He previously taught in the writing program at the Pennsylvania State University and is past president of the Associated Writing Program.

Her Life Runs Like a Red Silk Flag

Because this evening Miss Hoang Yen
sat down with me in the small
tiled room of her family house
I am unable to sleep.
We shared a glass of cold and sweet water.
On a blue plate her mother brought us
cake and smiled her betel black teeth at me
but I did not feel strange in the house
my country had tried to bomb into dust.
In English thick and dazed as blood
she told me how she watched out planes
cross her childhood's sky,
all the children of Hanoi
carried in darkness to mountain hamlets. Nixon's
Christmas bombing. She let me hold her hand,
her shy unmoving fingers, and told me
how afraid she was those days and how this fear
had dug inside her like a worm and lives
inside her still, won't die or go away.
And because she's stronger, she comforted me,
said I'm not to blame,
the million sorrows alive in her gaze.
With the dead we share no common rooms.
With the frightened we can't think straight;
no words can bring the burning city back.
Outside on Hung Dao Street
I tried to say goodbye and held her hand
too long so she looked back through traffic
towards her house and with her eyes
she told me I should leave.
All night I ached for her and for myself
and nothing I could think or pray
would make it stop. Some birds sang morning
home across the leak. In small reed boats
the lotus gatherers sailed out
among their resuming white blossoms.

Hanoi, 1990

The Loop

Blue unwelcome jays barge through trees in the flyway,
God of the great nothing hovering over us.
So long I've wanted the woman of the green year,
in my thighs and in my gut, evening sheen of sweat

on her body on the borrowed bed, summer tearing
apart from the inside, I rolled her nipple
between my lips like a bullet and from a bad
and green dream I was delivered to her forgiving hips.

But certain spirits still inhabit me.
Certain strangers have in their eyes a river on which
you may sail back to the killing ground. I fell back
into her eyes, her body like smoke, and the cords of light

that connect us to the world pulsing and
cracking. Some boys fell before me in heaps, their arms
and legs flailing ridiculously through the smoke
and flash. I remember that. I remember

the smell of the Vietnamese woman's hair
on the crowded train as we slowed for the last curve
before home. I remember a necklace of human ears,
everything, in sunlight, I can't stop seeing.

Here's a little something from back in the day when I knew stuff.

expert testimony

i used to be
an expert...

newspaper reporters
would come
with their thirty five cent
spiral notepads
and tv reporters
with their cameraman
even radio reporters
with their little
cassette recorders

and they’d all ask
and i’d talk to them
until i figured out
what story
they wanted to write
that day
and give it to them

they liked to talk to me
because as one of them said
i “gave good quote”
and that was important
because the editors’
general rule was
two local quotes for every story
and i was a reliable source
who understood the demands
to their profession
and was ready to help them out -
as long as they were around
and ready to help me out
when there was a particular story
i wanted to see run -

the thing is
it really surprised me
at first
but people believed me
even though i made up
most of it
off the top of my head

a reinforcing dynamic
began to develop -
the more questions they ask
the more expert i became
and as i became more expert
more people began
to believe me
and the more people
believed me
the more they came to me
with questions
and so forth
for several years
until it got a little scary
and i began to feel like
Chauncey Gardner
in that Peter Sellers movie...
“Being There”

and that made me
maybe i oughta
really know
i was talking about
which led to complexity
and more elaborate and extended
explanation and extrapolation
which screwed up my “good quote”
and pretty soon the media faded away
and found someone else to be the
public expert

until now days
nobody asks me questions
so i don’t know
anything at all

Okay, here's an interesting poem from an interesting poet, Jean-Paul Pecqueur. The poem is from his book, The Case Against Happiness, published by Allen James Books in 2006.

Pecqueur is a graduate of the University of Washington's creative writing program where he was the winner of the American Academy of Poets Harold Taylor Prize. At the time of publication, he lived in Brooklyn, where he taught Literary and Critical Studies at the Pratt Institute and English at the City University of New York.

How to Make the Case Against Happiness

Offer it a bribe. Say, Happiness
why don't we take the chill ease
of this spring day and make something special,
you and I, some demiurgic cocktail
to sip as the sirens plunge
over the edge of our private peso opera.

The future adores its hometown parades,
the donkeys on bikes trailing flies.
Biting flies. Fireflies. Suggest fireflies.

Say, Happiness, I sure like you more
now that you're no longer a bio-
morphic reserve
in the developmental leagues - nice cut,
but no turd in the parlor.

The enthusiast's dream in a rapt idol,
an escape module fashioned like a second head
from government surplus neoprene,

Describe the one bird you have never seen.
Show it to Happiness. Say, Happiness
these balloons are seized by razor wire
while yonder bugles a mortgaged wind.
We'll give you one chance to make it swing.

History repeats. As in the 2008 poem, it is Fiesta week in San Antonio, downtown is crazy with crowds and the first NBA championship playoff game is tomorrow, Spurs (go Spurs) versus Memphis Grizzlies.


it’s a great downtown
for walking
almost any day
but this week is special,
with ten days
of Fiesta
meaning crowds and kings
and princesses
and cascarones
cracked with a flurry
of confetti
and river parades,
one time among
several during the year
when floats and flowers
take over the Riverwalk
and even better this year,
the first two games
of the NBA semi-finals,
Phoenix against San Antonio,
rivals for the big prize,
the Championship,
every year, but this year
a grudge match because
of the way Phoenix lost
last year, a prize they thought
was theirs taken away
in rough and tumble play,
so the Riverwalk,
always a multi-national
of visitors, this year
especially so, many accents,
many languages as usual,
now with a crowd
of strollers six to eight
inches taller than usual,
basketball players,
basketball fans
basketball used-to-be’s
and basketball want-to-be’s
and wants-to-be-seen’s
and in the middle of all that
of sights-to-be-seen...

a snow white
under the Navarro Street bridge
and lands on the river
by a gathering of ducks
and a pale, pale white girl
standing perfectly still
eyes closed
arms out-reached,
in a crowd that barely
notices her
and on the balcony
where i sit
three brown sparrows
land on my table
and wait
looking at me
but i have nothing
and they fly away
to wait somewhere
with the snow-white egret
and the pale, pale girl,
and the Suns and the Spurs
and all who cheer them on
and all who are indifferent
to their striving and their fate
and, i guess, me as well,
all waiting, but
in this crowd, who knows
for what

My next poet is Gary Snyder, with a poem from his book danger on peaks. The book was published by Shoemaker Hoard and was a 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist.

Mariano Vallejo's Library

Mariano Vallejo's library
was the best in the Eastern Pacific
he was reading Rousseau, Voltaire
(some brought from the ship Leonor)
The Yankees arrived and he welcomed them
though they drove off his horses and cattle
then one year the Casa, books and all, burned to the ground.

The old adobe east of the Petaluma River still stands.
Silvery sheds in the pastures once were chicken-coops
the new box mansions march up the slope.
At my sister's Empty Shell book party some retired
chicken growers walked in cuddling favorite birds.
Vallejo taught vine-growing tricks to Charles Krug
and Agostin Haraszthy - the vineyards everywhere
but the anarchist egg growers gone.

The bed of the Bay all shallowed by mining
pre-ice age Sierra dry riverbeds
upturned for gold and the stream gravel washed off by hoses
swept to the valley in floods.
Farmers lost patience, the miners are now gone too.
New people live in the foothills.
pine-pitch and dust, poison oak.

The barnyard fence shades jimson weed,
datura,toloache, white trumpet flower, dark leaf.
The old ones from the world before taught care:
whoever's here, whatever language -
race, century, be aware
that plant can scour your mind,

put all your books behind.

In a a kind of backdoor way, this poem is about one of my theories (I have many to fit most any ocassion)of writing poetry.

the sun was bright today

the sun
was bright today
and the sky
as an ocean sigh

we toiled
in a garden
of dark
harvesting shadows
and sly glances
and blossoms
of dark distrust

the sun
....such painstakingly
this is.
every word dredged
like a lead weight
from some toxic depth,
like the sludge at the bottom
of a ship channel
where diesel fuel and dead cats
industrial waste
and the shit of a city’s worth of human
lays a coat of muck
of once pristine sand,
spew of
is this poem,
no heart, no soul...

no balls....

deadly to the poet
as to the reader

would burn this poem
but just as there are good days
and bad days
there are poems good and bad,
for the tick-tocks of a clock of a lifetime
spent writing them

to throw them away,
to throw away even the worst,
is to throw away time
from an already
short life

Next, a poem by John Ashbery from his book And the Stars Were Shining, published by the Noonday Press in 1995.

Kind of startling that I was able to by an Ashbery book for only $2.98.

The Decline of the West

O Oswald, O Spengler,this is very sad to find!
My attic, my children
ignore me for the violet-banded sky.
There are no clean platters in the cupboard
and the milkman's horse tiptoes by, as though
afraid to wake us.

What! Our culture in its dotage!
Yet this very poem refutes it,
springing out of the collective unconscious
like a weasel through a grating.
I could point to other extremities, both on land
and at sea, where the waves will gnash your stark theories
like a person eating a peanut. Say, though,
that we are not exceptional,
that, like the curve of a breast above a bodice,
our parabolas seek and find the light, returning
from not too far away. Ditto the hours
we've squandered: daisies, coins of light.

In the end he hammered out
what it was not wanted we should know.
For that we should be grateful,
and for the patch of a red ridinghood
caught in brambles against the snow.

His book, I saw it somewhere and bought it.
I never read it for it seemed too long.
His theory though, I fought it
though it spritzes my song,
and now the skateboard stops
impeccably. We are where we exchanged
positions. O who could taste the crust of this love?

Here is another reminiscence, this one from nearly 50 years ago. This one is a "haibun," a Japanese form that combines prose and verse. At the time I wrote this a couple of years ago, I was writing with, among a number of people, an ex-sailor in New Zealand who was a master of the form. Observing his work, I decided to try one. I did, this one, and decided it didn't work for my undisciplined style and so it turned out the first, last and only haibun for me.

walk right in

in the spring of 1963,
John Kennedy
was in the last few months
of his life
and i was 19
nearing completion
of my first year
at Southwest Texas State University...

(just a few months after the Cuban missle crisis had me wondering for seveal days if my first semester in college would be my last and, also, unknown to me, several months away from life changes of my own that would begin the process of making me the me i am today...

...on a particular evening
that was no special particular
evening, four of us
were at Carson’s Restaurant
about 7 in the evening,
drinking coffee
and exchanging bullshit,
as we often did,
when someone brought up
a story in the newspaper
about a group of Marines
who had walked fifty miles
in response to something
President Kennedy had said
about the importance of fitness
and the benefits of long distance

...none of us knowing at the time that Kennedy’s health was such that he could barely walk across a room unless popped full of pills and poked full of injections...

...and someone said...

...and we never absolutely identified which of the four of us it was...

...he said hell,
if a bunch of pussy marines
can walk fifty miles then surely
Air Force ROTC warriors
can do just as well...

...actually i had quit ROTC the first day when the commander yelled at me and i said, fuck this, and turned in my uniform, but what the heck, this fifty mile walk think sounded like fun so i was game... Carson’s Restaurant...

...still a year away from being desegregated, along with the University, when someone from Washington indicated to powers who were that such a state of affairs was highly embarrassing to it’s most famous alumni, the new President of the United States, who was working overtime to enact a most historic piece of civil rights legislation second only to the Emancipation Proclamation in importance in the nations history - I was an innocent in the spring of 1963 and just assumed black people and brown people didn’t eat there because they didn’t like the white food... Carson’s Restaurant
was located right on Interstate 35
which went right straight on
to San Antonio, fifty miles away
and home town of one of us, a place
where a welcome and breakfast... well as a ride back to our dorm...

...would surely be available

it seemed like a hell’uv
a great thing to do so at 7 in the evening
we headed out walking on I-35, which,
though it is an eight-lane parking lot
from Laredo to Dallas these days,
it was, in 1963, brand new and lightly traveled

the first twenty miles to New Braunfels was easy,
taking us about four hours, a good walking pace

the last thirty miles to San Antonio took twice
that long, as each rest stop became longer
until we finally quit taking rest stops
out of fear that if we stopped
we’d never start again

until after twelve hours exactly
we arrived,
blistered, with leg cramps, but exhilarated,
we arrived at the front door of our destination...

...a popular song, played over and over during those twelve hours of walking was a song by the Serendipity Singers a group never heard from again, though several members became well-known as part of other groups like the Mommas and the Poppas and The Loving Spoonful

“Walk right in,
Sit yourself down,
Let your mind roll on”

and we rolled on and ever since that song has been a part of the soundtrack of my life, playing softly in the back of my mind whenever the road gets rough and the row gets tough to hoe... our destination
where a breakfast of bacon and eggs
and pancakes
and a hot bath to uncramp the cramps
because once we got there and sat down
one big cramp is what we were

and a lot of miles stretch out behind me now
but I still think of those fifty miles
in the spring of 1963
reminding me
that there is no reverse gear in life,
that the truest thing is
once you start, you have to finish,
and the deeper the water
the harder you have to swim

Next, a couple of poems from the anthology Mitochondria's First Anthology of Rarities & Loose Ends, a collection of unusual, mostly funny poems (including a couple of mine from when I was still doing submissions) from the webzine "Mitochondria." The zine appears to be no longer on the web, which is too bad because it was a lot of fun. The anthology was published by Bullfight Media in 2005.

The first poem is by Mike Topp

Basho's Milk Dud

Basho's Milk Dud

     Basho said to his disciple: "When you have a Milk Dud,I will give
it to you. If you have no Milk Dud, I will take it away from you."


     A handsome young Zen monk came to Bankei and complained:
"Master, I have an uncontrollable boner. How can I master it?"
     You have something strange," replied Bankei. "Let me see
what you have."
     "Just now I cannot show it to you," replied the other.
     "When can you show it to me?" asked Bankei.
     "It rises unexpectedly," replied the student.
     "Then," concluded Bankei, "it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born, you
did not have it, and your parents did not give it too you. Think that

How to Write a Haiku

     A well-known American poet was asked hot to compose a haiku.
     The usual method is three lines," Ron explained. "The first line
contains five syllables; the second line, seven syllables; the third line
five syllables. On of my poems illustrates this:
     First: five syllables
     Second: seven syllables
     Third: five syllables

Just Go Fuck Yourself

     Gasan was sitting at the bedside of Teksui three days before his
teacher's passing. Tekisui had already chosen Gasan as his successor.
     A temple had recently burned down and Gasan was rebuilding it.
Tekisui asked him: "What are you going to do when the temple is requilt?"
     "When you're better we want to speak there," said Gasan.
     "Suppose I die before then?"
     "Then we'll find somebody else," replied Gasan.
     "Suppose you can't get anybody," said Tekisui.
     Gasan answered loudly: "Don't ask such stupid questions. Just go
fuck yourself."

Pull My Finger

     A monk told Joshu: "I have just entered the monastery. Please
teach me."
     "Joshu said: "Pull my finger."
     At that moment the monk was enlightened.

Scooby Doo

     A monk asked Ummon: "What is Buddha?"
     Ummon answered him: "Scooby Doo."

Schuzan's Fat Stomach

     Shuzan took off his T-shirt and said: "If you call this a fat stomach,
you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a fat stomach you ignore the
fact. Now what do you want to call this?"

The Mind is Buddha

     Two monks were arguing about whether their train was moving.
One said: "Our train is moving."
     The other said: "The train on the track next to us is moving"
     The sixth patriarch happened to be walking down the aisle. He
asked them: "Would I look good in shorts?"

Tazan's Pretzels

     A monk asked Tozan when he was eating some pretzels: "What is
     Tozan said: "These pretzels are making me thirsty."

We Have Chocolate Pudding

     When Banzan was walking through the Union Square greenmar-
ket he overheard a conversation between a vendor and his customer.
     "Do you have chocolate mousse?" asked the customer.
     "We have chocolate pudding," replied the vendor.
     At these words Banzan became enlightened.

The next short piece is by Darby Larson

Little Owl Poet

My owl wrote a poem.
He sits on my shoulder.
I've attached a miniature keyboard to his torso and he
pecks at it.

Here's his poem:

He's my little poet.

What the heck, here's one of mine in the book

summer reruns

let me tell you straight
lily belle

you're sweeter'n honey
on a cinnamon stick

hotter'n peppers
in a cast iron skillet

juicer'n a dewmelon
cut fresh in the field

your sex drive
is 'bout to drive me to drinkin'

can't we just watch some Hee Haw
reruns or something

I think I'm getting a rash

A new poem, again, from this week.

the secret to long-term marriage and other revelations

he’s the kind of
likable guy
if arrested for lighting
his grandmother afire, would
get elected to congress
with a campaign slogan something like,
“reduce your heating bills and keep grandma warm
at the same time”


he’s a likable,
energetic guy,
a friendly guy -
a real meet-and-great, shake every hand,
kiss the babies, sweet-talk the mommas kind of fellow -

and given the choices available
in this tea-party state,
I’d probably vote for him…

but I’d be sure
to keep grandma hid away inside
whenever he’s in the neighborhood

not that I’m suggesting
he might relapse…

but him being an orphan
and all
a little extra effort at understanding
is not out of


of grandmas,
the whole restaurant
this Sunday morning is full
of people older than me,

and grandpas all around,
enjoying their soft-boiled eggs
and wheat toast
with extra marmalade
on the side…

for their Smucker’s)

I’m a strawberry man
I like that strawberry jam
thick as hot tar roofing on my
toast, except sometimes
I like my grape,
mixing it with my ham
and sunny-side-up eggs,
turning everything green, a great
Saint Pat’s day breakfast
or good on any day
you feel like creating an appropriate homage
to the great Dr. Seuss,
which I used to do when having breakfast
with my nieces and nephews
when they were young, before they grew up enough
to recognize an older coot whose slipped his tether when
they saw one…


back to the old people,
about half of them in booths,
sitting together on the same side,
in my opinion
the secret to a sixty-year marriage,
it being impossible
to talk to someone sitting next to you
in a booth, sharply restricting
the possibility
of having to have any kind of discussion
that might lead to each
the shortcomings and unreasonable levels
of irrationality
in the other…

it’s about 87%,
of marriage failures, in my opinion
that are the result
of couples sitting on opposite sides
of a booth,
leading to unwelcome revelatory discovery
of factors
that make it impossible
for each to live with
the other…


this place is full of old people,
I mean,
really old people…

time for me to get out of here,
just in case, you know,
it’s catching…


what a successful and wonderful poem this is,
as measured
by my usual standard
of how little
I can remember of the poem’s beginning
when I finally get to the end

I hope it wasn’t about

This next thing is kind of long, so it'll be the last thing for this post.

It is a series of poems based on paintings from an art magazine.

I'll introduce the series here as I introduced it a couple of years ago when I began it.

Quoting myself at the time - "My poems often seem to me to be too much in my life and in my moment, so that if i trip over a crack in the sidewalk on the corner of 43rd and Hardy, my next poem will be "tripping over a crack in the sidewalk etc.". So, seeking a way to center my poems on something other than myself, i seek alternate inspiration. possibly a mistake."

Of course the series didn't, in the end, end my habit of writing mostly about myself, it did provide a diversion for several days.

I've posted the URL where you can go to see the painting I wrote about where I could find them. Sorry, I can't do links in the body of "Here and Now" so you'll have to copy and past if you want to see the painting.

children’s crusade
(After Claudia Alvarez’ series “Machine Gun,” “Choking,” and “Boygun” - watercolor on paper)

even as Abraham
sought to buy
his god's
by the
of his son...

so still
children are sent to fight
to suffer
to die
for the ambition
of new false gods,
of empire
on the bones of slaughter,
blood suckers
drinking the essence
of innocence

at war,
sacrificed still
they should be playing
going to school

they kill and they die

if there is a hell
we will all
be meeting

I could not find on the web the specific painting I was responding to with the poem, but you can see a sample of Alvarez' work here:

wormbunnies...goddamn wormbunnies!
(after Ria Brodell’s “A Wormbunny Carries Away the Submarine” - pencil, colored pencil, acrylic on paper)
they come

from the deep,
pull me to the ice,
and wrap me
of their fuzzy embrace,
their rank fur,
examining me
with the cool and jaded gaze
of one
who has seen bigger and better
prey than me,
who has dined
on bigger and better prey than me

i struggle
to present my most unappertizing
and pray
for rejection

heed me now,
for from the gleam
is this wormbunny’s eye
i think my time is here

should you come this way,
for here
do the hungry wormbunnies

the birdmen, too,
for they will sell you out every time) ... es&Album=5

erector set
(after Abraham Brewster’s “Interstate” - oil on canvas)

of skin
and body parts
like girders
in a construct
of pale

rendered into their parts,
to bear the weight of

Top row, second from the left:

(after Jean-Pierre Roy’s “The Defeat of Anthropy” - oil on canvas)

are the fruits
of our labor;
our ambitions

we are a
on a passing sunbeam
in the crowded
corridors of time

our grandest monuments
will weaken
and collapse of their
inherent fragility
as will

and then we rot

that is our story

she pretends
(after K.K. Kozik's "Late" - oil on linen she pretends)

been waiting

to be fascinated
by the Times
and it’s reports
on the hows
and wherefors
of Hill and Barry
and Britney
as well

as she looks
over her shoulder
at me
I know better

the flowers
were a good idea

Third from the left:

black hole boogy
(after Lisa Sanditz’ “Pearl Farm Underwater” - acrylic with pearl on canvas)

on the ceiling
in a vortex
of star-
black hole
soul train moment
of disintegration
to universal


in clouds of

Unfortunately, some of the places I found these paintings on the web no longer exist. In this case, I didn't find the painting I responded to with the poem, but I did find a second version of the same idea, "Pearl Farm Underwater II," at this URL.

first kiss
(after Bettina Sellmann’s “Dance” - watercolor on canvas)

first kiss
shyly offered
with eyes cast


like clouds

gone fishing
(after Anna Conway’s “A Pound of Cure” - oil on panel)

line the silvershining pond
in reflection

in the far woods
as i clost the gate
and begin
the drive home

i caught
no fish today
but i did hear the soft rush
of a poem pass by

perhaps i’ll catch it

(Seventh painting down:

it’s better to sleep, they say
(after K. K. Kozik’s “ Cat’s Eye”, oil on linen)

all around me
seventeen shelves high
on all four walls

a mountain of knowledge,
an Everest of facts and figures
and sustained thought
put to paper, page after page
stitched and bound,
all those books
pushing in all around me
smothering me
with theory, thesis, argument,
the comfortable ignorance,
the blindness
of a made-up mind,
that sustains

i lean back
in my lazyboy,
rest my head
on my favorite red pillow
and seek the dumb
of sleep

it’s better that way


Standard disclaimers here: Everything here belongs to those who creator; I only borrowed it. My stuff can be borrowed if you want to, just give proper credit to "Here and Now" and me.

I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog - and don't forget, new book next month.


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Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
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