Serendipity   Thursday, April 07, 2011


VI.4.3.




No featured poet this week, just me and my library.

As to the pictures, I could say that, by uploading from my picture file at random, I was testing the effect of serendipity on humanity's traditions of artistic and literary exploration; or, I could just admit I didn't feel like messing with pictures this week so I just grabbed whatever came up next.

So that's what you got and this is what you get.


Paul Quest
My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

Me
dire straits

Thom Gunn
Lines for My 55th Birthday
Outside the Diner
The Man with Night Sweats


Me
the great wall

Bernice Zamora
When We Are Able
Pueblo, 1950
Bearded Lady
On Living in Aztlan


Me
the stick that was a snake

Donald Hall
The Young Watch Us
Gold
Water
Stones
Adultery at Forty


Me
Sheila

Naomi Shihab Nye
Famous
The Shopper
West Side
The Trashpickers, Madison Street


Me
things to watch out for as you monitor your quality of life

Ricardo Pau-Llosa
Orchids
Charles V, Honeymoon in Seville


Me
stuff about stuff

Richard Howard
disclaimers

Me
Adam, before Eve

Ruth Stone
The Eye within the Eye
Always on the Train


Me
weather today

Lorna Dee Cervantes
My Dinner with Your Memory
Raisins


Me
the very proper lady in the black Sunday dress

Stanley Kunitz
Three Small Parables For My Poet Friends

Me
six months without rain

Bill Shield
Back to the Wall

Me
in a writerly mooooooooment

William Meredith
For Guillaume Apollinaire

Me
the thin lady









I begin this week with a poem by Paul Quest. The poem is from his book My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, published by Ecco in 2008.

Quest, winner of the Whiting Award in 2007 whose first book, The Resurrection of the Body and the Ruin of the World, won the 2002 New Issues Prize in Poetry and whose second book, Notes for My Body Double, won the 2006 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, is a visiting professor of English at the University of West Georgia.

I had intended to use a couple of poems from the book, but then read the title poem and couldn't pass it up, even though it's kind of long.



My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

Masturbation interrupted at Normandy
by strangers who fled sobbing to the surf.
Or by your mother, arrived early from Little Rock,
her muumuu throwing floral light at the wall.
Or by janitors at the Chinese Consulate.
By members of the Team Arthritis Tumbling Squat,
flush with the swagger of artificial hips.
By Richard Nixon, That Time He Came to Town
for Reasons Nobody Can Remember
but It's Commonly Agreed He slept Over There.
By the Priest and that other priest
wearing a clever disguise. By Charles Nelson Reilly,
who seemed only vaguely offended
or disinclined to join in
or just bored, as one feels in the airport
of a connecting flight in a town everyone is leaving,
everyone knows it, and no one wants to be
the last one turning off all the lights,
one by one by one a part of the world turning to dust,
and anyway, he died the other day
after long illness, which is another horror.
As is realizing encyclopedic fervor isn't a virtue.
Moving on.
Metaphysical constructs like Texas
and mayonnaise and cole slaw and vegan water parks
and The Bob Dylan Naked Network
and the strain of pernicious insanity
suffered by the curious. The id detonating
like an improvised explosive device.
The toxic spill of puberty.
That time. That time after that. The one before.
The encrypted slush of hotel pornography.
Snow covering the state. Facts about clouds.
Their immensity,the exact tonnage
of the crushing vapor sailing past like a camel.
Or a castle. That the hair and nails
of the dead only seem to grow
as the body recedes from itself like a flood.
The time she said no. The time she said yes.
The time she did not choose.
Her tired face in the morning. The mirror's interrogation
The crafted answer. How you hate it.
Remedial rage. Nature all up in your grill.
The dolphin's prehensile penis,
fifteen inches in length and adroit
in the act of mating but not at dealing cards.
Or passing salt or reaching
for the remote or that out of the way itch.
The monstrous seven feet
the blue whale lugs beneath the rolling waves
with disturbing extravagance
and the bifurcated penis of the marsupial
and the swan's feathered member
Zeus once took for his own
before falling like a cloud into Leda's lap.
The animals presumed by science to be extinct
only to be dragged dead into boats.
The brute coelacanth like a frayed epoch.
the Laotian rock rat coaxed from the caves of our guilt.
the ivory-billed woodpecker
flitting about the ancient ruins of Arkansas.
Bigfoot. Depending on who is asked
and whether his tenure status is certain.
Plesiosaurs. Because Polaroids of rotting flesh
weighing several hundred pounds
snagged by the crew of the Zuiyo-maru
off the coast of New Zealand in 1977
are really all you need to welcome them back to the party.
Weapons of mass destruction
or aluminum tubes of yellow cake
or the half-life of sweet, sweet Crisco
coursing the byways of my broken heart.
Decency and its granite headstone
for which Science designed
something based upon good taste and accurate data
and no funding. American
women who are able to belch
on command: 42 percent.
The Anti-Christ commanding them.
The rest of us trying to choose
between continue sentience
and celibacy so serious it borders on asexual fascism.
The stupor of powerlessness,
often confused with summer.
That guy with the shitbox van
with Valhalla crudely airbrushed on each side,
blissfully unaware
Ragnarok when down in the seventies.
Vain attempts at negotiating
with Kim Jong Il
who won't stop calling.
Kung fu masters who fill me
with existential dread
instead of broken bones.
But not the master of the ice-cream truck
who fills me with sugared variations on the theme of winter.
Memories of the woman I loved
through three pulverizing years
through the miseries of her marriage.
When she left me,
time's heatless crawl.
The librarian in the deathless stacks of orthodontic history.
My teeth aching like a beacon
in the darkness of my voice.
The butterfly threading its strange proboscis
through the flower's throat
for whatever it finds that to it is food.
A word like dacrylphilia,
which is to aroused by the sight of tears.
The hook-handed man
who lifts my garbage with weird grace
and never a word to me.
The postman I nominate for prosthetic conscience,
The man next door shooting cats
from the shade of his porch safari.
Who paints his house in Crimson Tide.
The town in which I once worked
and tried my best to live.
That town an August blister.
That town beside the black river.
That town with roads tarred to much.
Strangers who left the sweat of their hands on me
after asking or not asking
to petition the Lord and his angels
for my healing. Amen.
Strangers who stopped me in the street
or paid for my lunch
or wept over their dead son
or asked how many miles
in my wheelchair could I go.
the twenty-five miles in five miles
that would take me nowhere
except the car plant or pet food factory
the wind at night
would bring to everyone.
Crickets singing exact heat to the night.
Possums wild-eyed
and newborn pink all their mean lives.
Confederate flags limp in the windless past.
Abysmal roads leading everywhere.
The temptation of 1-800-CALL-JESUS signs.
The temptation of eighteen thousand Cracker Barrels.
The Ten Commandments like lunch menus everywhere.
The six and counting I'd ploughed through
with a kind of drunken force
though I never drank, leaving me memory like a septic sidekick.
Vestigial Klu Klux Klanism.
Vestigial seasons.
Defining vestigial.
Fried Corn.
Governor Fob.
The child I babysat against my will
who would climb me like monkey bars
or claim he could use his penis as a bookmark.
That nightmare.
Pet store fish we bought
thinking it possible to release them in a spring pond
rife with thick reeds
and naive exhilaration
for a few seconds only
until a wave, bluegill or pumpkinseed or what I don't know,
swallowed them.
That nightmare.
All of us meandering away from suicide.
Whistling past the graveyard. Stepping on the duck's humble grave.
Women who consider me
in their minds like an exotic equation.
The answer arrived at.
One kiss I could not follow down the steps she took.
And the virgin who loved me.
Whose love II reciprocated like politeness.
Whose meals I brought to her
where she was lost in work.
In accuracy. In data. In numbing repetition.
The microscopic souls she ferried
from dish to slide to blinding oblivion
and back again. The hours I watched
in drained solidarity. The elevator's escape.
The sky I wanted her to want
and not Sunday's corpse
and not Monday morning beside me,
ever untouched. Not Lazarus with the first light.
Not hurried into her clothes.
On in them intransigent.
Not absent. Not in my arms like a fraction.
So it went.
But there were nights
when she would strip to nothing
in the bathroom's cheap fluorescence
and meekly meet me
in the fall of shower water
to soap the day from my skin
and in her hand make me come,
laughing as though this were magic new to a dying world.








Here's an old political poem that, like all old political poems and despite some good lines, just doesn' mean anything anymore.

It might good, though, as a reminder for those with short memories.



dire straits

i have coffee
in the morning
with several old men

well, not really
with,
but next to,

at an adjacent table,
we joke around
and everything

but when it comes
right down to
sitting

i prefer
to read my New York Times
without conversation

especially their conversation,
which,
when not talking about the market

and how their stocks are doing,
which bores me,
they’re talking politics

that,
listening to them
from my table,

is enough to make me
squirm
under the pressure

of shouts not shouted
because, you know,
these are old men, older
then me by ten to twenty

years,
all suffering
from the whispery paranoia

of old age,
men
who think the recent New Yorker

Obama cover
is an overdue expose,
not liberal,

in the bubble, New York
mocking
of people like them

so it’s best
i sit where i sit
and they sit where they sit

because
if i was at the table
with them

i’d be throwing things,
like
the other morning

i heard one of them
say
you just wait

until when Obama
is elected
and you see

how bad things
can get
and i’m thinking

jesuschristonabicycle
the economy’s in the crapper,
people are losing their homes,

driving cars they can’t afford
to put gas in
and can’t sell because they owe

to much,
businesses are closing,
workers are losing jobs,
the dollar’s not worth the tick

on a milk cow’s butt,
we’re running out of water
and running over with carbon

in the atmosphere
all across the world,
the glaciers are melting

and polar bears are drowning,
and the only people in the world
who don’t hate us

are either laughing
at us
or feeding us the financial

rope we’ll eventually
use
to hang ourselves,

and 90 percent
of families are
one paycheck

or one medical emergency
away from streetlife
and the soup kitchen

and we’re killing people
left and right
in Iraq

and not killing the people
we ought to be killing
in Afghanistan

and our president
for eight years
is a moron

and his vice
is a war criminal,
and short of an alien

invasion
from the planet Venus
how the fuck

I ask you
can it ever get worse
than all that -

so we joke around
me and these old guys
but

i never
never ever ever
sit at their table








Now I have three poems by Thom Gunn from his book, The Man with Night Sweats, published by The Noonday Press in 1992.

Born in Gravesend, Kent, England in 1929, Gunn earned great success with his early poems, then slipped in the estimation of critics and readers through his middle years, becoming more and more specific about his homosexuality and drug use. It was this book,a collection memorializing his friends and loved ones who had fallen victim of the AIDS pandemic, that brought him back to high favor.



Lines for My 55th Birthday

The love of an old man is not worth a lot,
Desperate and dry even when it is hot.
You cannot tell what is enthusiasm
And what involuntary clawing spasm.


Outside the Diner

Off garbage outside the diner
he licks the different flavours
of greasy paper like a dog
and then unlike a dog
eats the paper too.

Times are
there's a lethargic
conviviality, as they sit around
a waste lot passing the muscatel
which warms each in his sour sheath
worn so long that the smell
is complex, reminiscent
of food cooking and feces.

Times are
there's the Detox Clinic, times are
he sleeps it off across the back seat
of an auto with four flat tires,
blackened sole and heel
jammed against the side windows,
bearded face blinded by sleep
turned toward the light.
Another lies on the front seat.


The Man with Night Sweats

I wake up cold, I who
Prospered through dreams of heat
Wake to their residue,.
Sweat, and a clinging sheet.

My flesh was its own shield:
When it was gashed, it healed.

I grew as I explored
the body I could trust
Even while I adored
The risk that made roust,

A world of wonders in
Each challenge to the skin.

I cannot but be sorry
The given shield was cracked,
My mind reduced to hurry,
My flesh reduced and wrecked.

I have to change the bed,
But catch myself instead

Stopped upright where I am
Hugging my body to me
As if to shield it from
The pains that will go through me,
As if hands were enough
To hold an avalanche off.








Why do we do these things, write a poem or a song, build a piece of quality furniture, paint a picture, plant a tree. Because we all want to cheat death by leaving something of our selves behind.



the great wall

i’ve kept
almost everything
i’ve ever written,
not out of some
over-indulgent
estimation
of it’s value,
but from faint hope
that i may,
through it, some day
touch the future

someday,
i hope,
i’ll have grandchildren
who will have
grandchildren and so on
through all the ever-shifting
high and low
tides
of time
and i’m hoping
that through some
surviving
scrap of paper
a glimpse
of my humanity
may be seen by those
who might
trace
their own time
and life
back to me;
and if they should chance
to know me
i will be to them
not some musty,
antique long-forgotten
photo
in a forgotten box
in a dark corner
of some dusty attic,
but a person,
blood and bone
and flesh
like their own,
exposed
as only a poem
can expose,
a teller of stories
that can only
be told
in a poem,
loved
in my ancient past
and lover,
intellect
and heart,
striving
to make some small mark
on the great wall
of human
kind








For the first time in "Here and Now," I have several short poems by Bernice Zamora.The poems are from her book, Releasing Serpents,published by Bilingual Press/
Editorial Bilingue of Tempe, Arizona, in 1994.

The poems are from a section of the book titled "On Living in Aztlan."

Zamora was born and raised in Colorado. She holds a Ph.D in English and American literature from Stanford University and, at the time of publication, taught at Santa Clara University.



When We Are Able

When we move from this colony
of charred huts that surround
our grey,wooden, one-room house,
we will marry, querido,
we will marry.

When the stranger ceases to
come in the night to sleep in
our bed and ravish what is yours,
we will marry, querido.

When you are able to walk
without trembling, smile
without crying,and eat without fear,
we will marry, querido,
we will marry.


Pueblo, 1950

I remember you, Fred Montoya.
You were the first vato to ever kiss me.
I was twelve years old.
My mother said shame on you.
My teacher said shame on you, and
I said shame on me, and nobody
    said a word to you.


Bearded Lady

I wanted to know about love
and was told to see the bearded lady.

As she stroked her treasure,she
told me of the melding wells of Julia,

Of the kissing stones shaped
like camels,

Of the hair like linen
found among the cloistered.

And she stroked, and stroked, and stroked


On Living in Aztlan

    - para la familia Arias

We come and we go
But within limits,
Fixed by law
Which is not ours;

We have in common
the experience of love

        after Guillevec








Here's another story from aout three years ago.



the stick that was a snake

i’m
thinking of the old joke
about
the stick
that was a snake
as i stick my hand
into the brush and dead
branches
pilled up around
the willow tree

when we bought
this place
eight years ago
we cleaned up a whole
section
of mesquite brush
and turned it
into a pleasant
little
grove of mesquite trees

we tried to do the same
with the willow
in the back corner
but it was just too
wild
and nothing we could do
could tame it

in the years since
our tenants
kept up with the mesquite
but let the willow
grow
even wilder

looking
to sell the place
sooner
the better,
i’m determined
to bring that willow to heel
before that happens
and have been working on it
all afternoon
with hand clippers
and an extension tree trimmer

what i really need
is a chain saw
but she
who presides over all creatures
that walk
or slither or swim
or fly
or ooze in an
amebic
state, my helpmate
for 31 years,
has ruled
that i will not use a chain saw
unless someone else is present
who is licensed and otherwise
qualified
to drive me to a hospital
so that whatever
arm or leg
i might have sawed off
can be re-attached

so
all i can do is look up
at the offending branches
hanging there
prime
for chain saw
resolution,
yet inviolate
on this day as i labor
without required backup

in the meantime,
“i saw a snake!”
“that’s bad!”
“not so bad, it turned out to be a stick.”
“that’s good!”
“not so good, the stick i picked up to hit it with turned out to be a snake!”

damn,
i wish i had a
chain
saw








Next, I have several poems by Donald Hall from his book White Apples and the Taste of Stone - selected poems, 1946-2006. The book was published in 2006 by Houghton Mifflin. It is a very nice, expensively bound book, complete with a CD with the poet reading selection from the book.

Hall, born in 1928, was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (commonly known as the Poet Laureate of the United States) in 2006.



The Young Watch Us

the young girls look up
as we walk past the line at the movie,
and go back to examining their fingernails.

Their boyfriends are combing their hair,
and chew gum
as if they meant to insult us.

Today we made love all day.
I look at you. You are smiling at the sidewalk,
dear wrinkled face.


Gold

Pale gold of the walls, gold
of the centers of daisies, yellow roses
pressing from a clear bowl. All day
we lay on the bed, my hand
stroking the deep
gold of your thighs and your back.
We slept and woke
entering the golden room together,
lay down in it breathing
quickly, then
slowly again,
caressing and dozing, your hand sleepily
touching my hair now.

We made in those days
tiny identical rooms inside our bodies
which the men who uncover our graves
will find in a thousand years
shining and whole.


Waters

A rock drops in a bucket,
quick fierce
waves exhaust themselves
against the tin circle.

A rock in a pool;
a fast

splash and ripples move out
interrupted by weeds.

the lake enormous and calm;
a stone falls;
for an hour the surface
moves holding to itself the frail

shudders of its skin. Stones
on the dark bottom
make the lake calm,
the life worth living




Now it is gone, all of it.
No, it is there,
a rock island twelve miles offshore
in the Atlantic. Straight cliffs,
salt grass on top,
rabbits, snipe.

A lowered tide,
a scrap of sand, maybe once a year
the sea is so calm
that an island man beaches his coracle,
wedges the anchor in a stone,
and rock-climbs to the top.

He traps small game,
listening to the wind, fearful
of skull island.
Monks in the Middle Ages
lived in a stone house her
whole lives.


Adultery at Forty

At the shower's head, high over the porcelain moonscape,
a water drop gathers itself darkly, hangs, shakes, trembles,
and hesitates, uncertain in which direction to hurl itself.








What a story, love lost but never forgotten.

I wrote this one a couple of years ago.



Sheila

her name is
Sheila,
but she’s black,
not white,
and at least
40 years
too young
to be
my
Sheila
who lived
down the road
past the irrigation
canal, my first
girlfriend-
would-have-been
if i had stopped
kicking
clods
in front of her
house
and knocked
on her door,
but i don’t care,
black or white
old or young,
her name
is Sheila,
the magic
magic
Sheila
Sheeeeee
la
the exact
same
name as my
lost-to-kicking-
clods-first-
love
Sheeeee...
Sheeeee....
Sheeeee...
la
and that’s
enough
for me

i would
tell
her
i love her
but she’d
probably
have
me
arrested








Next, I have two poems by San Antonio poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, from her book, Words Under the Words. The book was published by The Eighth Mountain Press of Portland, Oregon, in 1995.

With a foot in both the Western and the Arab world, Nye has a closely observing eye, with the ability to see both sides of her heritage at the same time, both as each side sees itself and as it sees the other.

I enjoy her work, both as a poet and as a editor of anthologies of poets from the Arab world very much.

In these two poems, she speaks for hersef.



Famous

The river is famous for the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idear you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosum.

The boot is to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at aff famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile when crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a bottonhole, not because it did anyting spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.


The first time I read the poem above was as I transcribed it. What a wonderful poem this is, I thought, as I finished.


The Shopper

I visit the grocery store
like an Indian woman of Cuzco
attends teh cathedral.
Repeating words:
butter, bread, apples, butte bread apples.

I nod the grandmothers
muttering among roots.
Their carts tell stories:
they eat little, the live alone,
Last week two women compared their cancrs
matter-of-factly as I compare soups.
How do you reach that point of acceptance?
Yes and no lshoved in the same basket
and you with a calm face waiting at the check-out stand.

We must bless ourselves with peaches.
Pray to the eggplant, silent among her sisters,
that the seeds will not be bitter on the tongue.
Confess our fears to the flesh of tomato:
we too go forward only halfway ripened
dreaming of the deeper red.


Here are two bonus poems, just cause I like them, both poems abour San Antonio, the city I live in and have come to believe wonderful.


West Side

In certain neighborhoods
the air is paved with names
Domingo, Monico, Francisco.
shining rivulets of sound.
Names opening wet circles
inside the mouth,
sprinkling bigh vowels
across the desert of
Bill, Bob, John.

The names are worn
on silver linked chains.
Maria lives in Pablo Alley,
Esperanza rides the Santa Rosa bus!
They click together like charms.
O save us from the boarded-up windows,
the pistol crack in the backyard,
save us from the leaky roof,
the rattled textbook withich never smiles.
Let the names be verses
in a city that sings.


The Trashpickers, Madison Street

On the edge of dawn's pale eye,
the trashpickers are lifting the lid of every can,
poking inside with bent hammr and stick.
They murmur in a language as soft as rags.
What have we here?
Their colorless overcoats drift and grow wings.

The pull a creaking wagon, tinfoil wads, knotted string,
to the cave where sacraments of usefulness are performed.
Kneel to the triple weddngs of an old nail.
Rejoice in the rebirh of envelopes.
The crooked skillet finds its first kingdom
on a shelf where nothing is new.

They dream small dreams, furry ones,
A swatch of velvet passed hand-to-hand.
Their hearts are compasses fixed to the ground
and their love, more like moss than a fire.








Consider this blog a form of self-help therapy, a place for good life advice.

Like this...



things to watch out for as you monitor your quality of life

this is what
i’ve
learned today:

when your dog
starts
yawning
in the middle
of your
morn
ing
walk
you
‘re
pro
bab
ly
in
a
r
u
t









Here are two poems by Ricardo Pau-Llosa. The poems are from his book, published in 1992 by Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingue, Bread of the Imagined.

Pau-Llosa was born in 1954 in Havana and immigrated with his family to the United States since 1960, presumably refugees from the revolution. He is a poet, pioneer art critic of Latin American art in the US and Europe, and author of short fiction.



Orchids

    For Luisa Richter

I overlook Caracas through gates of vine
braided with orchids. Like first snow,
in lumps their petals tilt in the hill-cleansed air.
They are dropped from heaven and fallen anywhere,
at our very feet if we could float
up the lianas or dance
upon the stream's moonlit glass.

Back home in winter I will see orchids at shows
wearing ribbons. Others will be drafted
to fight vulgarity's cause on a sequined breast.
Or in some residence I will happen on an orchid
posing in front of art like a museum guide
pointing at a painted cheek.
They will not signify their keeper's wish.
I will dream that the hummingbird
has brought the monkey to nibble
on the mangos left on the terrace. He jolts
when I step from the curtain and races up the vines
tearing a hundred orchids in his panic to heaven.
Their petals glide to the forest floor like manna.

But here his terror is no catastrophe
for everywhere the orchid lives in naive abundance,
and what are a hundred losses to innocence?
They live as love should among us, their canopy
filtering the sun into a speckled light
that rhymes our flesh with the orchids'.
I stand in the terrace and the roots of clouds
dangle into my open hand
from which the monkey takes a ripe mango.
I cannot see myself in his eyes, only the world.


Charles V, Honeymoon in Seville

It would be years before the emperor would remember,
astride the corpses of Turks in Vienna,
to think it strange how on the first
twilight of his marriage he would gaze upon a street
of nippled oranges and feel like a bird
on a branch in vast paradise.

Naked on his balcony, he watched a hundred gypsies,
getting ready for the night. Not one
orange had been plundered, a miracle,
he thought, until his bride
propped herself on a pillow and spat
into the silver tray, "Acid!" These oranges
are only good for marmalade." She gaped
at her fingers as if they were dripping blood.

His sudden turn toward her startled
the birds in what had been the ablution fountain
in the mosque courtyard, el Patio de los Naranjos.
It was a perfect square grided with orange trees,
infinite pillars. Allah's echo. In its center
the fountain bloomed, the lotus genesis of a sphere.
The emperor would recall it when his architect raised
the round courtyard of his palace next to the Alhambra
like a host. He had planned to live with Isabel
above Granada. When she died he planned to just endure
there, from the bloods and maps of faith,
beside a hushed labyrinth of African pleasures.

How unlike he was now to the king Titian painted
on his steed advancing like the sun
onto victory and horizons.
From the monk's table he takes a bitter orange,
and it is no longer the planet resting
on his fingertips. Nor is it
the circle entwined in a square
that reconciles heaven and earth.

It is the fruit which love must leave unconquered.
On bundled rags the gypsies dream
the oranges split like wine skins
and wash them in gold.








It being the cusp of tax time, I had an old income tax poem here, thought it might be funny, but, nothing about the I.R.S. is funny so I took the poem out and added this next one instead. It's about something that irritates me even more than tax time. It's about all the commentators, pundits, self-appointed experts, etc. who don't know shit from Shinola about anything trying to explain the world and how it works to me.

I wrote it last week.



stuff about stuff

I got people
trying to tell me stuff
about stuff
they don’t know no stuff
about

regular stuff, like
revealed religion and secret rites of Masons
domestic and international politics
Siberian cookware
the birth and death of stars
tax laws regarding home office deductions
the circulatory system of the human being and other mammalians
the secret socialist agenda of Barack Obama
the sex life of the Cantonese termite
and weight loss
made cheap and easy
amidst a bevy of buxom blonds in
bikinis

stuff like that

and I don’t believe
people ought to be telling me stuff
about stuff
they don’t know stuff about

having an opinion,
it seems to me, ought to be predicated
on knowing stuff about the stuff
one is opinionating about

so
though I don’t like to be rude
from now on
instead of politely listening to people
pontificating
about stuff they don’t know stuff about
I’m just going to tell them
that if they don’t have the right stuff
they should just

stuff it!








Here's a poem by Richard Howard, from his book Trappings. The book was pulished by Turtle Point Press in 1999.

Howard was born in 1929 in Cleveland. A poet, literary critic, essayist, teacher, and translator, he is a graduate of Columbia University, where he now teaches.

I think I used this piece before, but it's funny and worth a second look just for the humor of it.



Disclaimers

The text of Bach's St. John Passion, performed tonight unabridged,
is largely derived from the Gopels, portions of which are alleged
(by some)to e anti-Semitic. Such passages may well disclose
historical attitudes fastened (by Bach himself) to the Jews,
but must not be taken as having (for that very reason) expressed
convicions or even opinions of the Management or of the cast.

****

The Rape of the Sabine Women, which the atist painted in Rome,
articulates Ruben's treatment of a favorite classical theme.
Proud as we are to display this example of Flemish finesse,
the policy of the Museum is not to be taken amiss:
we oppoee all forms of harassment, and just because we have
    shown
this canvas in no way endorses the acctions committed therein.

****

Ensconced in the Upper rotunda alongside a fossil musk-ox,
the giant Tyrannosaurus (which the public has nicknamed "Rex"),
thougy shown in the act of devouring its still-living prey implies
no favor by public officials to zoopagous public displays;
carniorous Lie-Styes are clearly inappropriagte to a State
which has aleady outlawed tobacco and may soon prohibit meat.







Now for something completely different - a new poem.

I wrote it last week.



Adam, before Eve

up late last night,
enjoying the night air
blowing tender and cool -

goosebump breeze
of a mild sort,
not like the ice-shard winds

of a couple of weeks ago,
winter wind
clawing mean from the north…

spring
has brought foliage again
to the trees between me and the condominiums

on the other side of the creek; our locations
on opposing hillsides
baring the trees and me to the scrutiny

of people who, during leafless winter,
learn more about me
then I ever want to know about them…

but not tonight,
as I luxuriate in the full-leafed cocoon
of my backyard,

the night overcast, low clouds
reflecting back to the ground all the city lights,
making it bright as day in my midnight nest -

trees
dark shadows
against the bright sky, limbs shifting slow

against the sky
as the night winds blow, until
now and then the sky breaks open

to show a star,
a sliver moon, a nighthawk
flying from tree to tree…

I pee on the back fence,
a moment of nature in the night,
Adam, before Eve,

alone still after a busy day,
enjoying now, a peaceful prelude
to a well-slept night







I have two poems by Ruth Stone,from her book In the Next Galaxy, published in 2002 by Copper Canyon Press.

Stone, born in Virginia in 1915, taught creative writing for many years in universities around the United States, including the University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, University of California Davis, Brandeis, and finally settling at State University of New York Binghamton. Today, Stone lives in Vermont. She has published in many literary journals and anthologies and has written and published many books of poetry.

This poet illustrates what's great about the poetry biz - in her late nineties and all the references to her speak in terms of "is" - is teaching, is writing, not a "was" anywhere.



The Eye within the Eye

I am intimate with the black square
eye sockets of two computers.
I know,but they do not, that
I am not the Abyssinian crouched
on the windowsill.
But time by battery rules here.
It flashes in the history of violence,
this wiring of the world.
As yet, it does not compute the fabulous gnat,
or squid, all brain, brilliant and tactile.
And out there under the cement,
the nematodes are rising from the dead.


Always on the Train

Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.

But consider the railroad's edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.

Trash is so cheerful, flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of plastic - windows on a house of air.

Below the weedy edge in last year's mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.








Another new poem from last week.



weather today

weather today:
hot and dry…

tomorrow:
hot and dry…

the day after:
hot and dry…

the weekend:
hotter and
dryer…

next week:
hotter and dryer,
with an
illusion of
rain…

the week after:
hotter and dryer
with disillusions of rain,
clouds of angst
converging from every
direction…

summer:
gates of hell open
with a thunderous howl
of demons
blowing fire through
through brimstone muzzles -

people
writhe in the flames
and swear to move to Alaska
before they presume to endure
another
summer in South Texas...

but the roads melt
and there is no escape,
only to endure,
imagine you are the Titanic
welcoming
the next ice berg
to come
along...

October:
wet
night
& cool
day
and lemony
fresh
skies,
springs bubble up with
clear water
streams babble and run
as melted asphalt
hardens,

people think,
what a GREAT place to live…

people have very short memories
when it comes to
their summer passages through hell -

selective memory -
a trick
of the Chamber of Commerce
who all
spend their summers
on a mountaintop
in Colorado








The next two poems are by Lorna Dee Cervantes, from her book From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger. The book was published by Arte Publico Press of the University of Houston in 1991.

Cervantes is a favorite poet of mine and I've used her work often, along with extended biographical information. I'm going to skip that this time and let you look it up for yourselves.



My Dinner with Your Memory

A woman's scent is nothing
like bread, although sometimes I steam
when the moon slivers my heart
into poverty's portions. This one's
for you, though you lie, though you deserve
none of this butter. On the table between
us: a slab of meat that once tasted
cud the size of my breast, a cunning
wire to slip off some cheese, a plum
brandy that dissolves into nothing, silver
on the tongue as that talk we devour.
Who would hunger at the brink of this
feast? Who would go, uninvited,
but you and your ghost of a dog.


Raisins

Raisins are my currency
to date - slightly seedy,
prickled as my nipples,
black as pubic, colored
as my opened eyelids.
I tongue you
fricatives into vowels.
I suck you
to the scabs
you were, forbidden
fruit. Reminders.
Never mind
the way I found you
deserted in the depot
stall. No matter
how this small red box
was once a child's.
Lost wonder, you're
the gift of grace
swept up off
the bathroom floor.
You're my only food
today, the day I left
you, paper husband,
widowed name.
Our final meal
was sweet, you
hovered over me,
and empty package,
beating blades
to froth, teething
me the way I like it,
both lips bit and shriveled
as our last fuck you.
You are black with rust
and will restore my blood.
You're my prize of faith,
stave against starve.
I eat it. Grateful
for the brief exchange.
Twenty eight tips
of fate. Three good sweats
they soaked in sun
as you now soak
my spit, sweet as acid, damp as rot.
This hunger, as your
memory, feeds
by chance.








Have you ever had one of those "Twilight Zone" moments when you look up from concentrating of something and it's like the veil has been lifted and the world is exposed to you as it really is?

I wrote this one lastd week.



the very proper lady in black Sunday dress

the very proper
lady
in the black Sunday dress
and jeweled necklace and dangly earrings
blows her nose
into a tiny lace handkerchief

and her eyes
bulge
like a bug’s or maybe like
a big spotted frog caught wide awake
on her lily pad
at midnight
thinking silverfish thoughts

and
her ears
I swear they’re flapping
and I’m thinking
holy shit
her head’s gonna explode
like the bad guy’s
at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie

and I don’t know
if I should watch
or shield my eyes from the sight
so I compromise
and peek through my fingers
and watch
as the pressure slowly eases
and her head shrinks
back to regular size and her ears
lie again supine at rest against her head
and her eyes slink back
into mean little slits like when she came
in
but I didn’t notice then
like I do now

that this is one evil woman
in her proper black dress and jewelry
and hanging earrings
and by gosh
I’m glad she didn’t blow up
or I’d probably have evil debris
gunk dripping all over me

a pretty scary experience
for this early in the morning
but it is one of the reasons
I like to have breakfast here -
you meet the most interesting
people
and other creatures
one
can’t always be entirely
sure
about








Next, I have a poem from National Book Award winner Passing Through - The Laer Poems, New and Selected by Stanley Kunitz. The book was published by W.W. Norton in 1995

Kunitz was born in Massachusetts, in 1906. He attended Harvard College, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1926 and a master's degree in 1927. He served in the Army in World War II, after a request for conscientious objector status was denied. Following the war, he began teaching, first at Bennington College in Vermont, and later at universities including Columbia, Yale, Princeton, Rutgers, and the University of Washington.

The poet died in 2006 at the age of 100.



Three Small Parables For My Poet friends

1

Certain saurian species, notably the skink, are capable of
shedding their tals in self-defense when thratened. The
detached appendage diverts attention to itself by taking on
a life of its own and thrashing furiously about. As soon as
the stalking wildcat pounces on the wiggler, snatching it
up from the sand to bite and maul it, the free lizard scampers
off. A new tail begins to grow in place of the one that has
been sacrificed.

2

The larva of the tortoise beetle has the neat habit of collecting
its droppings and exfoliated skin into a little packet that it
carries over its back when it is out in the open. If it were
not for this fecal shield, it would lie naked before its enemies.

3

Among the Bedouins, the beggar poets of the desert are held
in contempt because of their greed, their thievery and ve-
nality. Everyone in the scattered encampments knows that
poems of praise can be bought, even by the worst of scoun-
drels, for food or money. urthermore, these wandering mins-
strels are notorious for stealing the ideas, lines, and even
whole songs of others. Often the recitation is interrpted by
the shouts of teh squatters around the campfire: "Thou liest.
Thou stolest it from So-and-so!" When the poet tries to de-
fend himself, calling for witnesses to vouch for his probity
ore, in extremity, appealing to Allah, his hearers hoot him
down, cring, "Kassad, kaddab! A poet is a liar."








Another thunder storm passed us last night, hooking north and east of us, leaving us dry again at what feels like the beginning of another drought.

This series of short bits is from the last drought, only broken in 2009 after two years of extreme dry.



six months without rain

-1-
hard blue sky
devoid
of the softness
of even a single cloud
threatens
another day the only wet
a farmer’s tears

-2-
grass
so dry
it crackles
as i walk on it,
as if walking
on the dry husks
of dead crickets

-3-
grass
long gone
now dry gritty
powder
rising
in the slightest
wind

-4-
mesquites
born for the
dry heat
of south Texas
wilt
branches hanging
to the ground
like weeping willow









The next poem by by Bill Shields, from his book, Life Taker. The book was published in 1995 by 2.13.61 Publications.

Shields served in NAVY seal in Viet Nam for three years. This book is the third in a series of three inspired by his experiences, and the experience of other Viet Nam combat vets, both in and after the war. The first two books in the series were Human Shrapnel and The Southeast Asian Book of the Dead.

His poems are not pretty.



Back to the Wall


American Hero
The man stepped right up, feet on top of a case of bottled
beer. He placed his neck into a rope noose that was strung
from the light fixture. He pulled it tight and leaped to the
floor.

He hung for less than a minute, thinking nothing but the
pain as he spun slowly in a circle; the spots in his eyes were
bright red when he took a palmed razor blade and cut the
rope, falling chest-first into the kitchen sink.

The he packed his lunch for work.


Vietnam Veteran #9
No more, he screamed to himself under the shower. Not
one more minute of this shit. He turned the water off,
toweled his hair, dressed, checked the mirror for a person,
then walked into the kitchen and ate a raisin bagel.

Searched his pocket for change to make a phone call.

Forget 'em, he said to the tv and the walls and the roaches.
They're dead.


sights along hell's highway
He stood 6'4" and weighed around 240.

He hadn't meant to hit her above her left eye. There were
so many reasons not to...but there it was and no one can
take back a bruise.

"I never meant to hit you," he said from the other side of the
living room. She said nothing when he walked back to the
bedroom and packed his clothes.
And left her life.

His wife never heard this story.


an impressionistic mystery story of the Vietnam war
a small rooster ate the white worms as they fell; the child
finished, ,pulled up her black pants and grabbed her mother by
the leg.

And old woman spat betel nut juice between her squatted
knees.

Two fires. Twelve grass huts. Old crippled people,young
mothers, younger kids - a full cemetery.

I know who killed them all.


as spiders stare back in the mirror
He's left pieces of himself hanging from the sky and dangling
from the floors of Hell.

A finger severed in a rice paddy marked only by an artillery
coordinate; a chunk of his chin dropped into a swamp seven
weeks and two miles from his finger; teeth fell in bars from
Florida to Colorado; a motorcycle tore an ounce of his skin
and fed it to a car; one toe is buried behind his ex-wife's
trailer; a hospital in Maine burned a chunk of his guts in their
incinerator.

His eye will never blink as he shakes your hand.

Stranger.


D.O.A.
She had a career. He had a job.

Evenings were quiet together. They finished each other's
sentences. No kids, but a phone. Housework was ripped
up the middle of the apartment.

She was stable, working for the same job for years. Paying
bills on time and actually had an IRA; her parents visited
regularly. His history was too quiet and his family was
dead before his eyes.

Three days before every stinking payday she would help
him out with gas and a few folding dollars.

It wasn't perfect, but it worked for a lot of years.

The bedroom wall is still dented from the bouncing of
tennis balls against the plaster. Her hair is in the cracks.


the truest story
Nobody found him.
He was lost where a man leaves no footprints.

The room had sandbags pilled on the windowsill, a wire
screen in front of the glass fo deflect a grenade. He rolled
the sleeping bag up in the morning and placed it on the
foot of the bed. There was a loaded gun within an arm's
reach from anywhere in that pit.

A broken eight track tape the spiders found...

His mother cashed the VA checks each month and
brought him cigarettes, chow, and the tv guide; his
picture was framed in the living room.

Before Vietnam.


in love with the grotesque and the self-mutilated
1. an old man's fingers pull a government check out of
the box.

2. The coroner had to rip the skin off his wrists to pull off
the montagnard bracelets a village chief welded on him in
'70.

3.. The day Eddie Skomer was born, Aug. 12 1951, his
father left for Korea.

4. He had been a boy scout, a football player, pulled a
little guitar, had the usual acne and high-water pants
through highschool.

5. His old man never worked a day after the war.

6. There were faceless brothers and sisters. A mohter
beaten by life.

7. Eddie left town the day after graduation and joined the
Army.

8. Three years later he came home. Halfway whole.

9. His car stayed drunk for a year.

10. A marriage lasted long enough for the skin to turn
white under the ring.

11. The kids were adopted by her new husband.

12. The first spot was found in his right lung, the second
on the liver. He had five chins from the anti-inflamma-
tory drugs that caused his body to swell.

13. A hearse brought him from the VA hospital.

14. His kids got the money.

15. I got the bracelets.


my prayer as a Vietnamese gesture of food
We were all just stupid jokes. the jackals that ran amuck
steaming violent nightmares to four bare walls that only
our demons could spot with blood. We died stuck full of
self-agony. Men are cartoons - the slow drip of vomit
running down a filter-tipped Lucky Strike.

But what few of us that are left
can eat your bloody tomb flowers.

Amen.








Ahh, the struggle.

This another moment of desperation from 2008.



in a writerly mooooooooment

i have read
everything i have to read

the entire Sunday Times,
including the magazine

and book review
and four days

of funnies
i didn’t have time

to read
during the week

and though i know
the new Rolling Stone

and a new collection
of “Zits” comics

are in the racks
i’m pretending they’re not

trying to convince myself
that there’s nothing

to read and if
i really want to read

anything
i’m going to have to write it

myself
but there’s this problem

el problemo
you might say

the rub
the obstacle

to such writing
is that i’m stuck

for something
to say



excuse
me
while i try to slip into
something more creative
while i study this white page
while i modulate my brain waves
into non-concentration so that the
floodgates
of creativity will open and engulf
me
in wonderful ideas
or even just
a
trickle
of an idea
.
.
.
.
.
ooooooooommmmmmmmmmm
oooooooooommmmmmmmmm
oooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmm
ooooooshitnothingthereeither …

look
lets us make a deal
i’ll
just
come up

with something terrific
later

tonight
and we’ll pretend this never

happened
o
o
o
o
o
ooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmm









For my last library poem this week I have a poem by a poet I like, William Meredith, about a poet I like even more, Guillaume Apollinair. He was translating Apollinair for a book at the time. The poem is from Effort at Speech, New and Selected Poems, published in 1997 by Triquarterly Books.

Meredith was born in 1919 in New York City. He began writing while a college student at Princeton University where with his first volume of poetry was selected by Archibald MacLeish for publication as part of Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton in 1940 , writing a senior thesis on Robert Frost.

He worked briefly for the New York Times before joining the United States Navy as a flier. Meredith re-enlisted in the Korean War, receiving two Air Medals.

In 1988 Meredith was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and a Los Angeles Times Book Award.

From 1964 to 1987 Meredith served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

From 1978 to 1980, Meredith was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the position which in 1985 became the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. He has the distinction of being the first gay poet to receive this honor.

Meredith taught at Princeton University, the University of Hawaii and at Connecticut College from 1955 to 1983. In 1983, he suffered a stroke and was immobilized for two years. As a result of the stroke he suffered with expressive aphasia, which affected his ability to produce language. Meredith ended his teaching career and could not write poetry during this period. He regained many of his language skills after intensive therapy and traveling to Britain for treatment.



For Guillaume Apollinaire

The day is colorless like Swiss characters in a novel
And I sit at a desk in the old house left to the arts
Teaching your poems English.
I have read the French words inthe dictionary starting with "W."
There are borrowings, too: wesleyen, wigwam, wisigoth
and wattman, an archaic electrical-tram driver.
If you were alive this summer you'd be 82.


The fourth floor of the mansion, just less than an acre,
Is servants country. For years it was settled -
Chambermaids, kitchenmaids, footmen, a butler, a cook.
Somewhere there must be almost an acre of them now
Laid out in the Romanesque floor plan under the sod,
And the lady who rang for them.
The house is a good place to work. But these poems -
How quickly the strangeness would pass from things if it were
    not for them.








I'll finish off my contribution to this week's post with this portrait of a very peculiar person.



the thin lady

the thin lady -

the incredibly
thin
thin
la
d
y
sits a c r o s s
the room
eating
straw
b
e
r
r
y
pie
with
whipped
cream
and a
d
o
l
l
o
p
of
choc
o
lot
sy
r
up
my
good
ness
how
does the
everso
thin lady
stay so
t
h
i
n
just plain
s
k
i
n
n
y
she’d
blow

>a
>>>>>>w
>>>>>>>>>>>a
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>y

if it wasn’t for her big fat feet and oversized tennies
lord a’mighty
that's
one
l
e
a
n
wo
m
an






Photo by Dora Ramirez




Since I forgot to do the disclaimers last week, I have to be sure and get them right this time.

First: All of the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. I only borrowed it.

Second: My stuff is my stuff, but you can use it if you properly credit "Here and Now" and me.

Third: And in case there is any confusion, I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog. I also sweep up and do the dishes in the evening.

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