Dan & Kathy Take a Vacation   Thursday, May 26, 2011


Dan & Kathy in San Antonio
(Photo courtesy the Itz (we'll never get lost more than once a day) Touring Service
VI.6.1.




Lots of good poems this week, with two special events. First, I have photos by my poet friend from Baltimore, Dan Cuddy and his wife Kathy. Dan and Kathy took a little trip last month, visiting New Orleans, Austin, and San Antonio, and taking pictures along the way.

And my second special event is more pre-publication excerpts by Alex Stolis, from his book in progress, Stanzas. I appreciate Alex giving us this early look and hope as soon as the book is published to be able to tell "Here and Now" readers how to get a copy.


Here's who you'll get to read this week:

Yosano Akiko
13 Tanka from River of Stars

Me
maybe some duct tape…

Ana Castillo
Saturday
Poem 13
Paco and Rosa


Me
facing change is an integral part of successful living

James Fenton
In a Notebook
Vucceria


Me
I used to wonder about the purpose of life

Alex Stolis
Naked you are as 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


Me
big news
echo
I investigate brevity
small dreams slip past unnoticed
bubble
family jewels
algebra 1


James Gavin
Upslope
January Thaw


Me
unreliable fictions

From Poetry Daily
Linda Pastan
Shadblow
Bei Dao
Landscape Over Zero
Wang Ping
Syntax

Me
a scatter of clouds

Piotr Sommer
Short Version
Sometimes, Yes
Don’t Worry, It Won’t Get Lost


Me
the hefty woman has a hearty breakfast

Gerard Malanga
The Property
Remembering the Berkshires


Me
all my creations

From The Best American Poetry, 2003
Louise Gluck
Landscape
Ishle Yi Park
Queen Min Bi

Me
touring with Dan and Kathy

Ismael Reed
To a Daughter of Isaiah
Al Capone in Alaska
Untitled
Mystery 1st Lady


Me
solving the Puss-n-Boots problem

William Childress
Antelope Child
Apache


Me
Little Darlin’

Nikki Giovanni
Atrocities

Me
random passes at self-knowing

Gabriel Celaya
The Life One Leads

Me
a brief history of cats and the human race


Richard Brautigan
against conformity and averageism
maggots eating my brains
all the cities at once
a memory of life will be frozen in my eyes
phantom kiss
white tiger and enchanted cave
the death of time


Me
road sign

Daniel Donaghy
Fresh Start: Staining the Pool Deck

Me
here come da judge






San Antonio, Downtown
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




I start this week with the poetry of Yosano Akiko, from the collection of her work, River of Stars, published by Shambhala in 1996.

Akiko was the pen-name of a Japanese author, poet, pioneering feminist, pacifist, and social reformer. She was active in the late Meiji period as well as the Taishō and early Showa periods of Japan. Her real name was Yosano Shô. Born in to a rich merchant family in 1878, she is one of the most famous, and most controversial (for her erotic poetry), post-classical woman poets of Japan. She died in 1942. As her death occurred in the middle of the Pacific War, it went largely unnoticed in the press, and after the end of the war, her works were largely forgotten by critics and the general public. However, in recent years, her romantic, sensual style has come back into popularity and she has an ever increasing following.

The poems in the book were translated by Sam Hamill and Kieko Matsui Gibson.

Although the book includes some of her longer work, Akiko was most widely known for her tanka. Those are the poems I will concentrate on this week. I'll look to the longer poems in future weeks.



Immersed in my hot
bath like a lovely lily
growing in a spring
my twenty-year-old body -
so beautiful, so sublime.

~~~

Fresh from my hot bath,
I dressed slowly before
the tall mirror,
a smile for my own body/
Innocent so long ago!

~~~

Wet with spring rain,
my lover finally comes
to my poor house
like a woman in love
under trees of pink blossoms.

~~~

Gently, I open
the door to eternal
mystery, the flowers
of my breasts cupped,
offered with both my hands.

~~~

Following his bath
I gave my handsome lover
my best purple robe
to protect him from the cold.
He blushed, and was beautiful.

~~~

So all alone
beside the temple bell:
I stole away
to secretly meet you here.
But now the fog has cleared.

~~~

By a nameless stream,
small and very beautiful,
last night spent alone -
those broad, desolate fields
in the harsh summer dawn.

~~~

Raindrops continue
to fall on white lotus leaves.
While my lover paints,
I open the umbrella
on his little boat.

~~~

Like a summer flower,
fragile as its slender stem,
love wastes me away.
Yet I shall blossom, crimson
under the bright noonday sun.

~~~

Don't complain tome,
don't hesitate, just hurry
to meet those soft hands
that are patiently waiting
to help you out of your clothes.

~~~

His hand on my neck,
he whispers softly of love.
Dawn. Wisteria.
No way I can detain him,
my one-night-only lover!

~~~

Testing, tempting me
forever, those youthful lips
barely touching the
frosty drops of dew
on a white lotus blossom.

~~~

A handsome oarsman
and an impeccable young
priest aboard - oh,how
I despise the bright moonlight
on our lotus-viewing boat.





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




Every old redneck-hippy-beatnik-cowboy has to come down some time.



maybe some duct tape...

it was about
1:30 in the p.m.
and I’d had my lunch

- tomato soup
and a grilled cheese sandwich
with a side of Fritos -

and I was thinking, jeez,
I can’t think of a damn thing to do
this afternoon,
having watered the
flowers
and taken my daily dose of mid-day sun
and washed the dishes
and swept
and vacuumed
and planned the menu
for dinner tonight

- that
being not a big issue, involving
only a quick
check
on the computer
to find the shortest route
to the nearest Popeye's -

and there I was
in the bathroom, trimming my beard

- having
decided a couple of weeks ago
to cut it down
to bristle level every three
or so days,
it doesn’t involve taking
up a major portion of a dead
afternoon -

and looking at my near-naked face
in the mirror
the thought came to me
that I hadn’t see my head,
that is,
the shape
and curvature of it,
and the various bumps and hollows
usually hidden under my hair,
since the first day of basic training
at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio
a little more than 45 years ago

and the thought occurred to me
that a fella ought to see
his head,
size
and shape
and bumps and so forth,
more than once every 45 years
and
that having done all my chores
with nothing else to do,
it only made sense
to go down and get all my hair cut
off

and I did

and now I can say it’s
positively true
that there’s absolutely nothing especially
interesting
about my head
except for all the skin
showing through
which I don’t remember
from 45 years
ago
and I’m already suspecting
I
really don’t like my head
all that much
at all…

but I figure
what the hell, hats are cheap

- free,
actually,
in many places if you promise
to buy a John Deere
tractor
next time you need a farm implement -

of course,
the hat won’t do anything
about the ears …

maybe
some duct tape…





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




Here are three poems by Ana Castillo from her book My Father Was a Toltec, Selected Poems 1973-1988. The book was published W.W. Norton in 1995.

Born in 1953, Castillo grew up speaking Spanish in a working-class Italian neighborhood in Chicago. Her parents sent her to a secretarial high school, but her lack of interest and poor typing skills led her to pursue higher education at Chicago City College and then Northern Illinois University where she completed a bachelor's degree in liberal arts in 1975. Supporting herself by serving as a college lecturer and a writer-in-residence for the Illinois Arts Council, Castillo then worked toward her master’s degree in Latin American and Caribbean studies at the University of Chicago, where she completed her degree 1979. The years that followed were filled with a variety of short-term college teaching positions, until 1991, when she received a doctorate in American studies from the University of Bremen in Germany.

She has received many awards and honors for her poetry and her novels.



Saturdays
c. 1968

Because she worked all week
away from home, gone from 5 to 5,
Saturdays she did the laundry,
pulled the wringer machine
to the kitchen sink, and hung
the clothes out on the line.
At night, we took it down and ironed.
Mine were his handkerchiefs and
boxer shorts. She did his work
pants (never worn on the street)
and shirts,pressed the collars
and cuffs, just so -
as he bathed,
donned the tailor-made silk suit
bought on her credit, had her
adjust the tie.

"How do I look?"
"Bien," went on ironing.
That's why he married her, a Mexican
woman,, like his mother, not like
they were in Chicago, not like
the one he was going out to meet.


Poem 13

i too
can say
good-bye
effortlessly
silently
remove
myself
from an undesired
space
turn about face
march forward
never
look over
my shoulder
control
memory
erase unnecessary
experience
deromanticize
romance
wind tomorrow
around me
without company
(freeze my womb)
publicize my birth
given name
i too
can be my
mother's child
become my father's
extension
improved upon
gesticulate courage
profess pride
am worth
that much
i too
could live satisfied
with all my acts
content
amidst my ignorance.


Paco and Rosa

"AS SOON AS THE CHILDREN
ARE OUT OF SCHOOL.
I'LL COME," Rosa shouts
over static
from La Barca to Chicago.
"GOOD." says her husband,
hangs up,sighs.

Tonight he won't
shave, slap on Christmas
cologne, press down his hair.
He won't go to the Paraiso Club
with his brother or to the
corner tavern where a man gets
lost in the smell of hairspray
on a woman whose name he'd
rather not know.

Instead, hands behind his head,
he thinks of Rosa
who smells like his children
the meat-packing plant where
she worked between babies,
the summer they met, La Barca
by the sea. Rosa,
who smells like home.





Austin
Photo by Dan Cuddy




It's an old poem, but still I seek the surety I did not find in this instance.



facing change is an integral part of successful living

bought new boots
yesterday,
down at Sears,
high top
lace-ups,
the kind you’d
wear
for some un-
serious
hiking
while trying to look like
you’re just fooling around,
taking
a break after
crossing
the Kilimanjaro
or some deep
African
jungle

they were on sale
which makes them
look pretty good
even though they’re
tight,
stiff and
unyielding
and pinch my toes
like briar-thorn
socks

but
wore
them all day
anyway

breaking them in

cause
that’s what you
gotta
do with change
in all aspects of your life

face it

stare it down

make change your
friend.....

bullshit!

my feet hurt





Austin, South Congress
Photo by Dan Cuddy




My next two poems are by James Fenton. They are from his book, Children in Exile, Poems 1968-1984.The book was published by The Noonday Press in 1994.

Fenton, born in 1949, is an English poet, journalist, literary critic, and former Oxford Professor of Poetry.

His first collection of poems, Terminal Moraine won a Gregory Award in 1972. With the proceeds, he traveled to East Asia, where he wrote of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, and the end of the Lon Nol regime in Cambodia which presaged the rise of Pol Pot. From that experience, he wrote Memory of War, which earned his reputation as a major war poet.

He returned to London in 1976 where he became political correspondent of the New Statesman, where he worked alongside Christopher Hitchens, Julian Barnes and Martin Amis.



In a Notebook

There was a reiver overhung with trees
With wooden houses built along its shallows
From which the morning sun drew up a haze
And the gyrations of the early swallows
Paid no attention to the gentle breeze
Which spoke discreetly from the weeping willows.
There was a jetty by the forest clearing
Where a small boat was tugging at its mooring.

And night still lingered underneath the eaves.
In the dark houseboats families were stirring
And Chinese soup was cooked on charcoal stoves.
Then one by one there came into the clearing
Mothers and daughters bowed beneath their sheaves.
The silent children gathered round me staring
And theshy soldiers setting out for battle
Asked for a cigarette and laughed a little.

From low canoes old men laid out their nets
While on the bank young boys with lines were fishing.
The wicker traps were drawn up by their floats.
The girls stood waist-deep in the river washing
Or tossed the day's rice on enamel plates
And I sat drinking bitter coffee wishing
The tide would turn to bring me to my senses
After the pleasant war and ;t;he evasive answers.



There was a river overhung with trees.
The girls stood-waist deep in the river washing,
The night still lingered underneath the eaves
While on the bank young boys with lines were fishing.
Mothers and daughters bowed beneath their sheaves
While I sat drinking bitter coffee wishing -
And the tide turned and brought me to my senses.
The pleasant war brought the unpleasant answers.

The villages were burnt, the cities void;
The morning light has left the river view;
The distant followers have been dismayed;
And I'm afraid, reading this passage now,
That everything I knew has been destroyed
By those whom I admired but never knew;
The laughing soldiers fought to their defeat
And I'm afraid most of my friends are dead.


Vucceria

Maybe this summer I shall visit Palermo
And see if the Shanghai restaurant is still there
And if you can still buy cartons of contraband
Cigarettes in the triangular square
Beneath. At evening the horses are undressed
From top to toe, in the nude light-bulbs glare.
They leave their skeletons ever so neatly folded
And piled. Look ! there's a pair of socks,
Crimson with two black clocks.
                O no it isn't.
It's a flayed head on a a bedside chair





San Antonio, Riverwalk
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




Big questions - that's what my poetry is about, the big questions.



I used to wonder about the purpose of life

I used to
wonder about
the purpose
of life
and my place in
it…

now
I wonder
why I’m standing in front
of the Frigidaire
at 6:30
in the morning,
door open,
refrigerated light illuminating
all the staples,
ketchup
mustard
Miracle Whip
Stubbs BBQ sauce
liver sausage and
punkmunster cheese
along with a week’s worth of
leftovers
in varying shades of green…

then I see them…

my keys...

and now I wonder
how my keys got into the
refrigerator
and why I knew
to look
for them there
in the first
place

and thus begins
another week
in a life of
mystery,
my purpose in it
clearly
to appreciate the ever-expanding
horizons
of my
confusion





San Antonio
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




Here's another treat, poems by my friend, Alex Stolis, from his book in progress, Stanzas, based on the love poems of Pablo Neruda. As I told Alex at one point, I was not a big fan of Neruda until I read his love poems, some of the finest, I think, ever written. Alex has taken one of Neruda's sonnets, brilliant in its own right, and used it as inspiration for his work.

Each of these poems and each poem in his in-progress book (including both English and Spanish stanzas) is/will be based on a line from Neruda's sonnet, Morning-Sonnet - XXVII.



Naked you are blue as a night in Cuba

Durmiendo a mi lado:
que son de color azul oscuro como el cielo al atardecer
antes de que las estrellas tienen la oportunidad de despertar.
Usted es azul como el mar de verano, cuando
toma una respiración profunda.


Our first date: a park on the corner of Chicago and 34th ,
it was the first real week of spring, the sun barely awake.
You say you like wide open spaces: plenty of room to make
the really big mistakes
. You are leaning against a tree, reading
Veinte poemas de amor. I approach and you tuck your hair
behind your ear, stuff the book in your back pocket, walk
toward me. You wear a pair of faded Levi’s, a threadbare
sweater your grandmother made for you, the top button
missing. I didn’t know then she was dying. Your hair
is loose, just past your shoulders, there is a whisper of gray
among auburn I hadn’t noticed before. Not knowing quite
what to do I give you an awkward hug. In that one second
I notice: your hair has the scent of fresh cut lilacs, there’s
a heart-shaped mole on your hairline, a robin flies overhead,
your hands are delicate, the nail on your right middle finger
bitten down, your skin is a smooth white, your eyes are pale
with thin, long lashes. As my hand slides down your back
two children jump off a swing and run by us, you turn
to watch them as my hand falls away, smile and ask me
a question I forget before you are even finished. We walk
and you tell me how you like to paint: quiet greens for past
sins, gravel roads and unplowed fields; dull yellows for loss,
for your grandmother’s house and the memory of your father;
brilliant blues for a lover you have yet to meet and soft grays,
not the gray of sadness but of a sleeping sky, of a path once
forgotten then rediscovered in spring.


**Sleeping next to me:
you are dark blue as the sky at dusk
before stars have a chance to awake.
You are blue as the sea when summer
takes a deep breath.



You've vines and stars in your hair


Quiero dormir con sus pensamientos, sueños
vivos, persiguen su piel, la caricia de su ronda
pezones con la palma de mi mano, sentir el roce
de los labios sobre mis nudillos.


your hands are of the earth, your hips
round as the moon, your breasts, ripe
and full. But first, let me tell you how
I love you: how you are spring, words

that fill a blank page, you are the branch
of a tree, the beautiful small moment before
a kiss. Let me tell you how I want to share
my skin, my blood with you, every breath.

How I want us to make love gently;
fuck, fiercely as if we are the last two
lovers on earth. I want to be still, aware,

feel the beat of time on your smooth thigh;
know that our future is an origami swan
we unfold again and again.


**I want to sleep with your thoughts, dream
them alive; haunt your skin, caress your round
nipples with the flat of my palm, feel the brush
of lips over my knuckles.



Naked you are spacious and yellow

Si alguna vez me olvide lo que su voz suena como
el cielo se abrió de golpe y me va a envolver el
memoria en su caparazón; sueñan el mismo sueño
una y otra vez.


I wake in the middle of a dream, it’s ten minutes
before the alarm goes off: we’re in Mexico, rock
hounding and beach combing, upsetting buckets
of sand. After one week: lipstick traces on empty
glasses, every cliché in the book seems brand new
and still, we don’t believe it as it happens. You run
your fingertips along my forearm and its all I need
to forget what we came through. We don’t have to
hide because the world will never find us in plain
sight. Doubt evaporates with the dew. On the fringe
of the city is a tavern with vinyl covered bar stools,
rust colored tiles and beer in long neck bottles. Friday
becomes a layer of dust covering the floor, a neon clock
flickers in 4/4 time and cash is king. We wait for last
call, one last chance before night is ready to fall into
bed. Believing becomes simple and we are the last hope
in town. Week two: every night, much of what you say
is unexpected, it is what I want to hear but didn't really
know until it was said out loud. Late turns into too early
and we are armed and ready for anything. There is the
garbage truck alarm clock, the smell of cooking, sounds
of the city morning combined with exhaust. Dirt and grime
mixed with laughter at our pigeon Spanish asking quietly
for the time of the hour or where is the blue of the sea.
Silence opens up doors and you prop open the windows
for good karma; we make love as two weeks folds itself
into three. At four we decide we’ve collected enough luck
to stretch into the next two lifetimes. We’ve shared every
bit of honesty between the sheets Everything is just right,
baby. Morning songs roll into evening songs, then comes
the rain; by the time we’re finished, we’ll have plenty of
time to catch up with ourselves.


**If I ever forget what your voice sounds like
the sky will burst open and I will wrap your
memory in its shell; dream the same dream
over and over.



As summer in a golden church

Imagínese nosotros, junto al mar, en una casa
de los depósitos. Usted podrá degustar la sal
en mi piel, coloque su mano en mi
corazón y escuchar el mar.


When someday becomes today: it will be quiet,
the wind will scoop up our every thought. I will
feel the round of your breasts against my back
as you sleep. The oceans will become silent;

salt water and sand sifts through our fingers.
You will laugh and tell me there is still so
much time but kiss me quickly to save
the moment. Night coughs to an empty

start, the dense breath of summer colors
your cheek. My fingers run through your
hair, trees watch, in silent prayer.

We become still. Wrapped in each other’s
bodies, we create a new language; vowels
and consonants no longer necessary


**Imagine us, by the sea, in a house
of shells. You will taste the salt
on my skin, place your hand on my
heart and listen to the ocean.






San Antonio, Riverwalk
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




Here a few more of my little short poems from 2007.



big news

giant
prehistoric bird
found
no sign yet
of companion
Sylvestesaures


echo

dry well
echoes

with memories

of water
precious and sweet
.
.
.
.
old man
sleeps

dreams echo

with memories
precious and sweet


I investigate brevity

I’ve
been getting
really tired
of my going
on and going
on poems
and think maybe
readers are also
so I decided I
oughta
write a short
one

this is it


small dreams slip past unnoticed

don't
dream
too large
tonight

they know
who
the dreamers
are

and
they are
watching


bubble

dark clouds
all around
while we
in a
sunshine
bubble
bask


family jewels

flames
illuminate
as they
burn
as
secrets
unfold
in the brilliance
of combustion


algebra 1

I remember
my algebra teacher
in 1959
writing equations
on the blackboard
her back to the class

at least 40 years old,
ancient, still,
the most perfectly
beautiful
legs





LBJ Ranch
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




Now I have two short poems by James Gavin, a Colorado native now living in Wyoming, winner of numerous honors and awards for both his poetry and his prose, and a member of the permanent faculty of the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop.

The poems are from his book X: Poems, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2003.



Upslope

To say that you exaggerate would be an understatement.
Cars lick the rainslick street.
Author, authority,
Master, mastery,
If I wear glasses am I more spectacular?
Tweezer-brain causality.
When you left
I woke, and it was my whole life I woke from.
Upslope, geography offers history few options.
We are something's awareness,
Awareness of for, for instance.
God saves us in the sorrow of knowing him.


January Thaw

Winter snowpack is not your jazz.
You can't riff it over and you can't take it back
Once it's out of the horn.
Bright as tears but much more boring,
Your constants without variants
Mewl from the eaves.
That's why the fish is full of the sea.
Just out of curiosity,
How many times did you kiss me
Without meaning it?
Don't be shy, it's out of the horn.
Turn your back on the past
And you're gone.





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




One of my housemates on Bluelines House of 30 wrote a poem which led me to thinking, which led to this.



unreliable fictions

so,
amid
all the unreliable
fictions
we tell ourselves
to define the lives
we live, lived, want to live,
sometimes,
it is a stable platform we seek,
some place to stand
that doesn’t blow in the fictive winds
of illusion, or
disillusion, all the things
we believe one week
and mock the next, as the winds
blow…

where is the center,
we think,
where is the true hub
around which all the elements
flail in contradiction…

we make stories
of our lives
to better endure them,
the days of our lives
unreeling,
as we, creatures of confusion,
creators of clarity
through
constantly re-juggling
of plot
and character,
abide in rewrites and edits
until something makes
sense…

and for a day or two
we know a new self,
until the elements start to stir
and spin again
and we have to re-hem our stories
to fit

until
next time





New Orleans, on the Mississippi
Photo by Dan Cuddy




Next, I have three poets from the anthology Poetry Daily, a collection of 366 poems from different poets taken from the Poetry Daily website, poems.com. I spend my web time at a similar site, "Blueline's House of 30," the difference being, I think, that at the Blueline every housemate is expected to post a poem a day in 30-day cycles. Some poets come for a cycle or two, then leave, never to return. Some come for a cycle, check out to take care of other business, then come back for more. Some of us just kind of hang on. By the time this is posted, I will have completed my 59th 30-day cycle of poems and I'm not the one with the longest string of daily poems. That honor of stick-to-it-tiveness belongs to the Hawaiian (fomerly L.A.) poet Alice Folkart who is indefatigable and a constant amazement every day.

The book includes no biographical information on the various poets. Considering that there are 366 of them, I guess I can understand that. But, if the poets agreed to appear there with no bio, I'm guessing the same is acceptable here.

So, for those who feel you must know, I'm turning you over to Wikipedia. I'm interested and will do a Google search myself; I'm just not going to share the information here.



The first poet from the anthology is Linda Pastan.


Shadblow

Because the shad
are swimming
in our waters now,

breaching the skin
of the river with their
tarnished silvery fins,

heading upstream
straight for out tables
where already

knives and forks gleam
in anticipation, these trees

into flower - small, white
flags surrendering
to the season.


The second poem is by Bei Dao.


Landscape Over Zero

it's hawk teaching song to swim
it's song tracing back to the first wind

we trade scraps of joy
enter family from different directions

it's a father confirming darkness
it's darkness leading to that lightning of the classics

a door of weeping slams shut
echoes chasing its cry

it's a pen blossoming in lost hope
it's a blossom resisting the inevitable route

it's love's gleam waking to
light up landscape over zero


And now, my last poem from the anthology is by Wang Ping.


Syntax

She walks to a table
She walk to table

She is walking to a table
She walk to table now

What difference does it make
What difference it make

In Nature, no completeness
No sentence really complete thought

Language, like woman
Look best when free, undressed.





Austin, South Congress
Photo by Dan Cuddy




It was a particularly nice day, and I remember the clouds.



a scatter of clouds

a scatter of
small white clouds
on the horizon,
white,
the whitest clouds
I’ve ever seen,
white,
like little flags
against the blue
sky,
white flags,
like the sky
is surrendering
to the earth,
the eternal war
of earth against sky,
heaven against earth,
concluded,
won by the base
elements
of earth,
the grass
and trees,
oceans
and rivers,
animals
large and small,
earthworms
burrowing in the dirt
and humankind,
self-proclaimed
master
of all that won
and the birds,
with their split
loyalties
circling
in confusion





San Antonio Riverwalk
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




I picked up two very interesting books at the half-priced bookstore today. I'll use poems from both this week, beginning with Continued, a book of poems by Polish poet Piotr Sommer.

Born in 1948, Sommer grew up in Otwock, a small town outside o Warsaw. He studied English at the University of Warsaw, and now edits Literatura na Swiecie (World Literature), a Polish magazine of international writing.

He is a poet, translator, anthology editor and essayist. He regularly gives lectures at American universities and has gained various awards. As well as eight collections of poetry in his own language, he has had two collections published in translation.

He also translates from British, Irish and American literature, including works by Allen Ginsberg and Seamus Heaney.

His anthology of work by the American poet Frank O’Hara is seen by many as one of the most important of his translations. This publication appeared in 1987 and led to a small poetical war between the young experimental group of poets influenced by O’Hara, known as “The Barbarians”, and their opponents “The Neo-Classicists”, who defended more traditional Polish poetry.



Short Version

I couldn't be with you when you died.
Sorry, I was toiling day and night
on the title of a poem I didn't have time to show you.
You really would have liked it.

Even if the poem itself
wasn't the strongest, I was counting on the title
to prop it up from above,
to set it right even, and to sanction it

as sometimes happens, I don't know
if the muse ever had time
to give you the news

because when I called it was
already late, through finally
she took the whole message.


Sometimes, Yes

After reading certain young authors
I too would like to be an author
and turn out works.
Right now I'm thinking of J.G.-
his happy rhymes, cinematic sentences and
the heroes in his poems, the real ones
and those made up. Because of course
poems have their heroes as well.
some not even all that
likable. Of the real ones
for instance, I recall
Ezra Pound, whose name
appears in one of the titles,
or that Mid-November Show
which, before it melted, the akurhor thinks
had blanketed all the evil.
Of the unreal ones Kirillow, a suicide
and yet a builder, or that
professor, what's his name,
a scholar of seventy now.

And I, what would I write poems about?
I'd have to think,
because in fact I'm fed up with them.
I ask my wife but she just repeats
"What about?" a if she weren't there.
And a moment later adds, "But if
I tell you what about, you'll say
we both wrote it, all right?"
I muse - she says - remind her
about it in the future, since a person
may sometimes really get hold of an idea,
but most of the time it flies off.


Don't Worry, It Won't Get Lost

How could I fail to understand how you feel
even if personally I never lost
a PKO bankbook with my life
saving in it. Yet meanwhile
the radio's on, and glancing through the window
I see, on the empty street,
a forty-year-old with whom yesterday
I sat for a few years
on the same school bench, the knocking of the mangle
is heard under the floor, and even
on the balcony clothesline
a brown-and-white butterfly has landed.I have
some shopping to do, a train to catch,
there's only a few dozen zlotys
in my pocket, but the keys
jingle when I brush them,
the street is getting peopled, pockets
are filling up.





San Antonio, Riverwalk
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




Ranging now between 235 and 240 pounds I feel much better than I did at my peak 280. But that doesn't mean I eat whatever I want whenever I want. I remember how easy it was to go up and how hard to come down. So, being always aware of my own intake, I'm also conscious of what others eat, often what I'd like to eat, but don't.



the hefty woman has a hearty breakfast

she’s
kind of hefty,
well north of stout,
I’m saying,
but judging from the three eggs,
scrambled,
and stack of buttermilk pancakes
she's packing in for
breakfast,
it doesn’t seem to bother her

meanwhile,
being no lightweight
myself,
I stick to my more
responsible
nature
with porridge
in skimmed milk
and a single piece
of dry toast

and
feel quite
at peace with myself
for it,
judging not
the stout woman
for her pleasure in the morning,
finding it admirable
in fact
to see her fortitude
in the face
of such tribulation
as her continued absence
of a view of her feet,
jealous, a little,
of her full and hearty breakfast
in comparison
to my prisoner-of-war
ration

and though she seems
such a healthy happy person,
despite
her disregard for her own well-being
and the feelings
of all the stoutish people
around her
sticking to their
dank dungeon swill
while she engages breakfast
like a skinny person,
it seems she mocks our own efforts
at adipose reduction,
which is why
we all
hate
that fat woman and
her three eggs, scrambled,
and full stack of buttermilk pancakes

damn
fat woman!

and
on top of everything else
she will probably
outlive us
all





San Antonio, Mission Concepcion
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




The second of the books I mentioned earlier is No Respect - New and Selected Poems, 1964-2000 by Gerard Malanga.

Malanga, born in 1943 in the Bronx, is an poet, photographer, filmmaker, curator and archivist. He graduated from the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan and attended Wagner College on Staten Island.

In addition to his many books of poetry, Malanga was Andy Warhol's assistant from 1963 to 1970 and as an actor, had lead parts in many of his early films. He danced with the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Warhol's multimedia presentation of the Velvet Underground and claims to have created some of the works attributed to Warhol. In 1970, he left Warhol's studio to work on his own.

He is also known for his photography of 60's celebrities, including poets, rock stars, and actors.



The Property

What happened to the frost on the pipes?
the windows of the cottage darken
In another reality children's voices enter and then disappear
for a moment it is morning in late summer
Benno is pulling up weeds
Don waiting for the water to boil for a cup of coffee to start the day
Irene walks across the lawn to the Stone House or she doesn't
an occasional car pulls up to the driveway

the scene changes
there is snow on the ground almost blue in the moonlight
the end of the driveway touches darkness
the kitchen is an absence
What happened to the children's voices
What happened that I should see the changes
I think I become invisible
I am mistaken. I am correct.


Remembering the Berkshires

I think of the third day snow had fallen
it was still falling at night when I returned

the snowbound tracks and bridges are a dream
the embankment is black
the log of a fir tree uprooted

though only oe year has gone by
a stream has emerged from the thicket at night

in a house on a mountain someone is turning out the light
some one is going to sleep at last

now the moon is in Capricorn
shadows fade toward morning
the days move on like a diary
everything is still
the same but something is different
and it is myself

and the pressure of the wind increases.





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




A lesson from me to me for me.



all my creations

I am
sometimes
one of those
who sees the world
and all that’s in it
as mere constructs
of my own ego,
creations
that ebb and flow
according
to my attention -
all the bloody
bright
and banal things
of this world,
a spring breeze
a summer sneeze
autumn leaves
that fall
to winter freeze -
all products
of my needs
and predilections,
and all of you,
shadows
cast
to populate
my shadow land,
formed
by my need
for structure,
solidity,
reality
as defined
by me,
all ending
at my end,
a world crashing
as I begin to fade

I saw today,
as I was stopped
at a traffic light,
a young man
at a bus stop
get up from his
bench
to kneel and pull
stray weeds
from cracks in
the sidewalk
cement,
creating a new
world
in a small,
but true way

and I was shamed





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




Next I have two poets from The Best American Poetry - 2003, publised by Scribner Poetry.



The first of the poets is Louise Gluck.

Born in New York City in 1943, is the author of ten books of poetry. Her collection of essays, Proofs and Theories, won the PEN-Martha Albrand Award. She has also received the Pulitzer Prize, the Bobbit National Poetry Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Bollingen Prize. She teaches at Williams College. She was one of the anthology's guest editors.


Landscape

Time passed, turning everything to ice.
Under the ice, the future stirred.
If you fell into it you died.

It was a time
of waiting of suspended action.

I lived in the present which was
that part of the future you could see.
The past floated above my head,
like the sun and moon, visible but never reachable.

It was a time
governed by contradictions as in
I felt nothing and
I was afraid.

Winter emptied the trees, filled them again with snow.
Because I couldn't feel, snow fell, the lake froze over.
Because i was afraid, I didn't ' move;
my breath was white, a description of silence.

Time passed and some of it became this.
And some of it simply evaporated;
you could see it float above the white trees
forming particles of ice.

All you lie, you wait for the propitious time.
Then the propitious time
reveals itself as action taken.

I watched the past move, a line of clouds moving
from left to right or right to left,
depending on the wind. Some days

there was no wind. The clouds seemed
to stay where they were,
like a painting of the sea, more still than real.

Some days the lake was a sheet of glass.
Under the glass, the future made
demure, inviting sounds;
you had to tense yourself so as not to listen.

Time passed, you got to see a piece of it.
The years it took with it were years of winter;
they would not e missed. Some days

there were no clouds, as though
the sources of the past had vanished. The world

was bleached, like a negative; the light passed
directly through it. Then
the image faded.

Above the world
there was only blue, blue everywhere.


The second poem from the "best of" anthology is by Ishle Yi Park, a young Korean-American poet featured often in "Here and Now" with poems from her own book.


Queen Min Bi

Queen Min was the bomb. Smooth forehead, perfectly
parted thick hair, and plum lips at fourteen
enough to make any pedophile happy.
So the King handpicked her,

orphan Korean girl born in Yulju, stringless,
to ba a royal marionette - who would hav guessed
she owned a wooden heart to match any politician's?

Maybe she abused her handservants.
Maybe she pumped into her husband
doggy style with an early bamboo Korean
strap-on and that's why she never had children.

Maybe that made Hwang so happy even after
she died, throat sliced open by invading Japanese,
he carved her name into a slab of man-sized marble
by hand, honoring a woman who snatched his kingdom

without a glance back at history,
what those scrolls dictated for female behavior.
I want to be like her befriending pale-
skinned foreigners and infuriating her father-in-law

enough for him to conspire toward her death
while commoners rested head to stone pillow
and dreamt of her brow-raising power;
16 when she married, 32 when she died -

before Japanese flags cloaked our country,
before Korean housewives lay beaten
without domestic violence laws to halfway shield
their swollen faces. Half a world away

nisei Korean children flinch at the smack of skin
on skin, memorize the hiss of curses like bullets,
and I wish she were more than dust and legend,
more than a sold-out opera at Lincoln Center

or part of a wistful poem; I want to inherit
that tiger part of her, the part that got her killed,
the part that inflamed my eyes and had me tracing the
clay walls of her birthplace with fingers in the rain, wanting

to collect and construct a woman out of myth.
So by Chinese calendar she's a rabbit, her favorite
drink was macculi, the moonshine of Korea,her
left breast slightly heavier than her right

and maybe she kissed her husband Kwang
on the forehead before overtaking his kingdom,
Queen Min Bi, so loved by all they called her Mama.





LBJ Ranch
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




And another lesson.



touring with Dan and Kathy

lunch
with a Housemate
and his spouse,
and dinner
and a city tour
in
between -

art museum
and missions and favorite
coffeehouse
along the way

a city seen
for the first time
for them;
seen anew by me

all the places
I knew yesterday, known
better to me to
day…

as I celebrate
my
home
through its showing





San Antonio, Mission Concepcion
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




Here's a couple of short poems by Ismael Reed, from his News and Collected Poems published in 1989 by Atheneum.



To a Daughter of Isaiah

I saw your drumming lover
On the tube last night
His wrists had been riveted
He made faces, like Jazz
Was a dentist
His gutbucket was
Straight from the Academy
That is, you couldn't
Grind to it
(Matthew Arnold, blowing
His nose)

He drummed, I summed
You up while helping white
Wine get better:
Your juicy Ethiopian art
Lips (my, my)
Your moans. What moans!
Even the ceiling over the bed
Got hard

This happened way back in a book
You were my daughter of Isaiah
I was your flail and crook


Al Capone in Alaska

or
hoodoo ecology vs the judeo-
christian tendency to let em
have it!

The Eskimo hunts
the whale & each year
the whale flowers for the
Eskimo.
This must be love baby!
One receiving with respect
from a Giver who has
plenty.
There is no hatred here
There is One Big Happy
Family here.

American & Canadian Christians
submachine gun the whales.
They gallantly sail out &
shoot them as if the Pacific
were a Chicago garage on
St. Valentine's day


Untitled

law isn't all
The driver's test
Says nothing about
dogs, but people
stop anyway


Mystery 1st Lady

franklin pierce's wife never
came downstairs.       she never
came upstairs either.





San Antonio, Garden, McNay Art Museum
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




It's the little mysteries of life that make it so interesting.



solving the Puss-n-Boots problem

I’ve seen
the little
Puss-n-Boots
action figure
on the counter
for several days,
always
lying on its side
or back
and I tried
several times
to set it upright
but it is
top-heavy
and always falls
down
and I finally
admitted defeat
and don’t
bother
with it anymore

so
I am surprised
when I come in
this morning
and see it standing
on its feet,
leaning against
the tip jar

I am curious
so I look
closely,
and finally
see it is taped
with nearly
invisible
scotch tape
to the jar
itself

the young
oriental
barista
sees me looking
and knowing
what I’m looking
for, whispers,
“Asian engineering,”
as he handed me
my change
and he laughs
and I laugh
and consider
that had it been
American engineering
that solved the problem,
ol’ Puss-n-Boots
would have been
wrapped
in duct tape
from his puss
to his boots

but that’s about
economics
and everyone
knows
economics
is boring
and not for
poetic
examination





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




I have two poems by William Childress from Burning the Years/Lobo, a re-publication in 1986 by Essai Seay Publications of two of Childress' previous books in one volume.

Childress was born Oklahoma in 1933, the oldest son of a poor family of migrant sharecroppers. An accomplished writer, author, poet, and photojournalist, he joined the Army at age 18, serving in the Korean War as a demolitions specialist in 1952. After the war he reenlisted as a paratrooper, making 33 jumps. Three honorable discharges later, Childress attended Fresno State College in California, studying English and Journalism, and set a record as the only undergraduate to publish poetry, fiction and photojournalism in national magazines. This helped him get two fellowships to the University of Iowa Writers Workshop and a Master of Fine Arts degree. His thesis later became his first book of poems, Lobo.

The two poems I'm using this week are from his second book, Burning the Years. The inspiration for the poems come from a time, as a ten-year-old, he lived with his family in Arizona near and Apache Indian Reservation where he spent most of his time, learning and loving the culture and the stories. "Many years later," he says in introducing the poems, "I romanticized what was, as I look back, a bleak and poverty-stricken way of life" that,nevertheless, continued to fire his imagination for many years after, to the point that, some years later, he began to imagine himself as an "Indian poet."



Antelope Child

Hell is the southwestern
desert in August;
the crack of wind
against hot rocks,
the birds who won't light
for fear their feet
will remain.
It is tdhe lime-green
of Spanish daggers
peeled and split
by the sun; air that
burns the lungs like smoke,
and hollow rocks
where stagnant water simmers.

It was here in such summers
that I ran,
a brown child
mocking the desert
antelope, nor was I part
of the white and pampered
world,
for I was wild.
In a hut of dry withes,
my fat mother
and somber father
fed me stewed coyote,
and I grew.
Nothing more need be said.


Apache

Mescalero I am,
Athapascan I speak,
a language as dead
as my people are dying.
I ran as a youth
past the Reservation bounds,
only finding again
as a man. For garden,
the desert, the walls,
the hills, and beyond,
horizons as wide as the sun.
A nomad for decades,
I saw many things,
but the red, severed gorges
still bled in my dreams
and the serrated ridges
near the hut I was born in
were the clouds
of each moonrise,
the flesh
of each sunrise.
So I went back one time,
but the hut had decayed,
and the hard earth grew
only jade prickly-pear.
And I ate the sweet buds
of that green plant,
and the walls fell again
and again I was gone.





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




I am, truly, a lover of children, I promise. Usually.

I posted this poem somewhere and got an very angry response from a mother who had just lost a child. Made me feel terrible, but, you know, it's just a poem and it really was a very bratty kid.



little darlin’

there’s this kid
who has started
to come in with
her mother
every afternoon
about two o’clock
who,
within her skinny
little five year old body,
harbors the loudest,
sharpest, most
fingernail-on-the
blackboard voice
to ever assault
the tender parts
of my ears

I’m not normally
one
to contemplate
violence
against children
but this kid pushes
me to the brink,
the very edge of
my tolerance,
to that point where
the nice
kindly
peaceful
cherub cheeked
animal-loving
child-doting
man
I by nature
am
could easily
explode
in a moment
of bloody
slavering
murder and mayhem

basically
after a minute
and a half of
what has become
a daily ritual
of curly haired
doe eyed
cacophonic
squawking
like a myna bird
with a heavy metal
amp
I want to strangle
the child
or the mother.
either one
really,
I don’t care,
as long
as the kid shuts up

now I realize
this little monster
is someone’s
beloved
daughter
and granddaughter,
the apple,
likely,
of many eyes,
somebody’s sun
on cloudy days,
another’s moon
on a starless night,
a new little
life
placed on this world
to someday take
the place of old folks
like me and maybe
you,
a new life
sent here maybe
to save the world
from the careless
hands
of the likes of you
and I

I understand
all this
and in recognition
of it
I will not chase
the kid down
and apply
to her skinny
little neck
the
boa con-
strictor trick
I learned while trekking
alone
through the steamy
jungles
of Borneo

no,
I will not do that,
at least not
as long as
she remains
on the other side
of the room

but
if the little ogre
ever comes within
arm’s length
she will experience
the epiphany of
her young life
as the fearsome wrath
of an old man
disturbed
in his afternoon
nap
becomes plain to
her





San Antonio, Garden, McNay Art Museum
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




An old book is like a time capsule. Here's one from the capsule by Nikki Giovanni. The book, My House, was published by Quill in 1983.

The poem, written in 1971, is from a darker, more dangerous time, when conspiracy and counter-conspiracy ruled the day. The problem with that kind of environment is that, just as paranoids sometimes have real enemies, conspiracies are sometimes real conspiracy. Unfortunately, it takes forty years to begin to figure out which were which.



Atrocities

in an age of napalmed children
with words like the enemy is whatever moves
as an excuse for killing vietnamese infants

at a time when one president one noble prize winner
one president's brother four to six white students
dozen of Black students and various hippies
could be corralled maimed and killed

in a day when the c.i.a. could hire Black hands to pull
the trigger on malcolm

during a decade that saw eight nurses in chicago
sixteen people at the university of texas along with
the boson strangler do a fantastic death
dance matched only by the murders of john coltrane
sonny liston jimi hendrixs and janis joplin

in a technological structure where featherstone
and che would be old-fashioned bombed

at a moment when agnew could define hard and soft
drugs on the basis of his daughter's involvement
with them

in a nation where eugene robinson could testify
against his own panther recruits and eldrridge cleaver
could expel a martyr from the martyr's creation
where the president who at least knows
the law would say manson who at least tried
is guilty

it is only natural that joe frazier
would emerge

      [8 mar 71]





San Antonio, Garden, McNay Art Museum
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




This poem was the source of the title I chose for my recent Ebook, "Pushing Clouds Against the Wind." I remembered the line when thinking of a title for the book, but couldn't remember the poem and couldn't find it when I looked for it. If I'd found I suppose I'd included it in the book.



random passes at self-knowing

1
I'm not one
to look far
for adventure

not anymore

I like closer
to home
things

familiar things
prized
for their
knownness

I like
the people
I know,
people
who know
me
and calibrate
their expectations
accordingly

2
I have been the
center
of attention,
a familiar
face
to many
whose faces
I did not know

the cheap seats
are for me, now,
the ones in the
shadows
where all faces
blend to gray
and indivisibility

3
I want
to be a cloud
that passes
through the sky,
impressed
no more
by the appearance
of my shadow
below

I want
to feel the truth
of my insubstantiality,
that I only am
what the winds
make of me

I would have fought
that knowledge
in days past, but
there's another truth
I know now -

no one
can push a cloud
against the wind





San Antonio, Mission San Jose
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




The next poem is by Spanish poet Gabriel Celaya, taken from the anthology Roots & Wings, Spanish Poetry 1900-1975. The book was published by White Pine Press in 1976. It is a bi-lingual book, Spanish and English on facing pages. The poem I selected was translated by Robert Mezey and Hardie St. Martin (who also edited the anthology).

Gabriel Celaya, pen name of Rafael Mugica, was born in 1911 and died in 1991. He was a novelist, essayist and translator, as well as a poet. He received numerous awards for his poetry, even though his simple and direct language was disdained by his generation of poets in Spain.



The Life One Leads

The cabin gives off the odor
of scrubbed wood and strong kitchen soap.
Outside, the sun buzzes
like a dense swarm of mad mosquitoes.
Te door carves out a blinding square of light
and lays it down as proof on a Euclidean pine table
where it burns orange and glazes an edge of porcelain,
leaving the rest of the shack
in a blackness of greens and violets.

On a narrow mattress, warm in its stench,
someone named Pedro is snoring monotonously.
His sour idiot spittle broods sadly over the world
with toothless gums and stale wheezes,
with tattered blasphemies and a long slow tongue.

At six in the evening
when the Express goes by, waking nostalgia
(bright steel, flashes,
burning road that mounts the emptiness),
the man Pedro gets to his feet,
hitches his suspenders, splashes some water on his face
and stares into his rough hand with its short clumsy fingers
at ten small coins, ten glasses of cheap wine.

Down at the ruined house, when he comes back drunk,
Adela may be waiting for others who have more money
(you understand, a little more).
And Adela's a good chick.
Adela will come to Pedro's shack if he wants her to,
and he's sure to, if he's been drinking.

Beautiful slow moon,
night like a river seen from its bed,
the soft heavy breeze,
Adela's hips and thighs when she starts to tremble,
and th ice inside him that no one has ever thawed,
and the cheap wine,
and Adela who wordlessly fixes breakfast.

One day he finally says, "Adela,let's get married"
(Adela is frightened, but she always says okay.)
And the man Pedro listens to the Express roar by
(bright steel, flashes,
burning road that mounts the emptiness),
and he feels a tenderness,
and the immense chill deep inside,
and vague longings, and disgust.
And he thinks that's Adela, white, sweet, in her slip.





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




They're smarter than we are, so what can we do about it?



a brief history of cats and the human race

there are 600
million
housecats in the
world
spread
from pole to pole
from all the way
east
to all the way
west
and they all
descend
from one of five
female
wildcats who
in the barely
historical
mid-east
noticed
that filthy-
living human-kind
were vermin
magnets
and that living
off the vermin
who lived
wherever
humans lived
was a hell’uv
a lot easier
than trying
to chase down
prey
in the wild

and
thus did
the cat
domesticate
itself
on its own
terms
&
conditions
and thus
did little
pussy-
puss
assume her
smart-ass
air of feline
superiority
and
if you know
the whole story
it’s hard
to argue
with
them





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




Here are several short poems by Richard Brautigan from The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1999.

Brautigan, who was born in 1935 and died in 1984, was author of ten novels, including his best known Trout Fishing in Amerrica and nine books of poetry.

The poems in this book were given by the young Brautigan to Edna Webster, the mother of his best friend and first girlfriend as he left Eugene, Oregon for literary success in San Francisco. He told Webster that the gift would be her "social security."



against conformity and averageism

I hate,

because
they are evil
as habitual hunger
in a child's stomach,

people
who try
to change man
the hunter for truth
into
a castrated cow
grazing
in the peace
of mental death.


maggots eating my brains

The maggots
will eat
the brains
that felt
and wondered
and wrote
these poems.

Let the maggots
have their fun.

They
only
live once.


all the cities at once

Pretend
is
a city
bigger
than New York.
bigger
than
all the cities
at once.


a memory of life will be frozen in my eyes

The heads
of white chickens
lie in the mud and rain.

A memory
of life
is frozen in their eyes.

I wonder
what their last thought
was
as their heads
were chopped off.


phantom kiss

There
is no worse
hell
than
to remember
vividly
a kiss
that
never occurred.


white tiger and enchanted cave

I am
a white tiger
made out of peppermint.

There is an enchanted cave
in your body
that I must enter,
so
that chills
will travel
in new buses
up
and
down our spines
as
we stare
at our
very own baby


the death of time

Someday
time
will die,
and
Love
will
bury it.





San Antonio, Mission Espada
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




Here's another road poem, a short one this time. It looks like I was probably on the road somewhere in West Texas.



road sign

1
driving due east
directly into the early sun
on a flaming sea of
orange glare
and haloed silhouettes

2
vulture circles
overhead
rising with desert
heat
falling between
shadowed
canyon walls

3
snake
crosses ahead of me
head swaying
left and right, pulling
its long body
behind,
slowly slithers
behind a boulder
beside the road





New Orleans
Photo by Dan Cuddy




The next poem is by Daniel Donaghy, from his book, Street Fighting Poems, published in 2005 by BkMk Press of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Donaghy's poems have appeared in numerous journals and he has received a number of honors and awards, including from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Cornell Council for the Arts, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. He received a B.A. fromn Kutztown university, an M.A. from Hollins College, and an M.F.A. in creative writing (poetry) at the University of Rochester. At the time his book was published, he completing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Rochester.



Fresh Start: Staining the Pool Deck

Again I set aside half the day
to put another coat on the pool deck,
again the gloves, again the stain can
and the beer can, fingers only half
an ache because I passed the brush
between hands each twenty strokes,
one useful thing my father taught me
while I whitewashed the hall steps
in the rowhouse I left half my life ago,
house of nicotine and dog hair,
house he left us alone in
on a street of houses rotting
against each other like teeth,
house so far from this half-acre
I have to squeeze my eyes to see it -
ripped linoleum, cracked walls,
dirt cellar of rats and mold,
nights of yelling behind doors...

Hal a life later I'm trying to get
to the next day, after the deck dried,
when we swam in the finally blue water.
I'm trying; to work the float into this,
and th;e inner tubes, the handstands,
the red and yellow beachball.
Enough about my long-dead father,
food stamps, government cheese.
What about my wife asleep
cross-legged in the Adirondack chair,
my daughter's brilliant pink suit,
the gray fox panting at the wood's edge?
And what about how cold the beer was,
how bright the sun over the crab apple tree
when I sank to the soundless bottom.





San Antonio, King William District
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




I close this week with thoughts of a kind of friendship.



here come da judge

turns out
I was thinking of the judge
on my way here
and when I get here
there he
is

haven’t seen him
or his lady-friend here
in a couple of months, and
was wondering what happened to them

turns out the lady-friend
got converted to the Weight Watchers
creed
and goes to meeting every morning
and the kind of breakfast
she used to have every morning
is a kind of blasphemy
to the svelte and hungry congregations
and she’s trying to be true
to her oath
of constant craving
and restricts herself in the morning
to tiny portions of scrambled tofu
and carrot juice
and the judge, believing still
in the wolf theory of dietary
responsibility - eat all you can
whenever you can,
bloody, if possible - has been stopping
by her place for coffee
every morning, and, today
after watching her
tofu-torture as long as he could
stomach it, returned here
to his good-old-days feed lot
for three fresh eggs and several varieties
of pig on a platter
and I’m happy to see him
cause, you know,
I’ve missed the competition
of who could get here first in the
morning,
as well as the four or five words
we said to each other
every morning
when we got here
because he’s a friend,
on the friendship scale, somewhere
slightly above or slightly below
your Facebook friend who is
the friend of a friend of a friend
who you never heard of
before
you got his “be my friend” message
and so he’s got 7,000, working on 10,000,
other Facebook friends
but a friend is a friend, and you can
never
have too many
friends
so I went over to the judge
and said howdy-do
and heard the story of his
gradually diminishing
girl-friend





San Antonio, Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo)
Photo by Kathy Cuddy




That's all. Everything belongs to them who made it.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog since Issue 1, May, 2006. (Funny, I could have sworn it was May, 2005.)

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What the Women Have to Say About It   Friday, May 20, 2011


VI.5.4.
Photo by Erin Neutzling





It's an all-female post this week, except me (some things I will not give up for my art). All my poets are women, as is my guest photographer, Erin Neutzling, a young friend who has been teaching English in Paraguay for the past year and a half. I have some of her pictures from Asuncion, Paraguay's capitol and commercial and arts center, where she lives and works, along with some thirty percent of the country's 6 million population. I also have pictures from her visits to Columbia and Peru.

Along with Erin's photos, here is my crew of poets for the week.


Sandra M. Gilbert
Against Poetry
After Long Rain
Omen


Me
the night I got chased out of Mexico

Marge Piercy
Your eyes where I float
Expecting


Me
business breakfast

Natasha Tretheway
Letter
After Your Death


Me
colors

From the anthology New European Poets
Kristin Dimitrova
A Visit to the Clockmaker
Ruxandra Cesereanu
The Killer
Evelyn Schlag
Lesson

Me
night lays in

Anita Scott Coleman
Black Baby

Me
watching the fat man sleep

From the anthology Risk, Courage, and Women
Bonnie Lyons
walking out
Valerie Bridgeman Davis
free

Me
Listening to Johnny Cash
Little Richard at the supermarket


Kay Kelley
A What??!!

Me
another day

Wistawa Szymborska
A Large Number

Me
Austin, 6th Street, 1 a.m.

Laurie Lico Albanese
I Hid

Me
what if I’m my evil twin

Mahadevi
Several verses (From Women Poets from Antiquity to Now)

Me
a gift of love
post-it note romance


From Breaking Silence, an Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Poets
Tina Koyama
Grape Daiquiri
Cyn. Zarco
What the Rooster Does Before Mounting

Me
my comic era

Barbara Evans Stanish
The Clearing
Inside Outside


Me
if I don’t see you tomorrow...






Photo by Erin Neutzling




I start this week with three poems by Sandra M. Gilbert.The poems are from her book Kissing the Bread, New and Selected Poems, 1969-1999. The book was published by W.W. Norton in 2000.

Gilbert was born in New York City in 1936. Currently, Professor Emerita of English at the University of California, Davis, she is an influential literary critic and poet who has published widely in the fields of feminist literary criticism, feminist theory, and psychoanalytic criticism.


Against Poetry

Suddenly I too see
why everybody hates it -
the manifestos of metaphor, the mad
voice that mumbles all night in the dark: this is like that, that
is this
, the phosphorescent
flares of vision, the busyness
of words sweeping up
after all that sputter...

When the princess spoke toads
everybody loathed her,
but when her mouth spouted jewels
it was hardly better:

Not much difference,muttered the courtiers,
between a slide of slime, of jumpy
lumps on the table,
and a spurt of little glittering pellets
hitting you in the eye!

It would be better all around
if that lady kept her shapely
lips
tightened on nothing.



After Long Rain,

when I walk through the wind break
I feel words rising from the ground

as if in this sudden hush some mild heat
trembled from the buried center,

or as the earth around old roots
had washed away to let odd colonies -

rings of fungus,circles of iris -
scramble up from soil and stone...

I have to hold out my hands, spread
my fingers like divining rods.

Even the skin of my palms
hears the new growth humming.

Is this what it means to be
the one who has to speak,

the one they sent alone into the forest
to find the wild mushrooms?


Omens

A sky electric with geese.
My sudden pulse.

You're coming. Back.
The rumor of your return

bearing down like the great wheels
of a jet descending.

You to whom a glittering
splash of sparrow,

a shriek of jay,
are minor portents.

You who have never entirely gone away.
You who have never been completely here.

You're coming.
Your enormous baggage of light and clouds

littering the mountains,
your shadowy ladders

unscrolling sentences
step after step

Even the least shiver of my breathing
seized and used

in the shrill wind of your arrival.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Here's my first piece of the week, a story-poems; the poem from 2007, the story from 1965.



the night I got chased out of Mexico

this
is a story
about the time
I got chased out of
Mexico
by a posse
of Mexican taxi cabs

I was a young guy
just old enough
to get a taxi license
and I was driving
cab
on the Texas side
of the border

I picked up a fare
outside
one of the hotels
who wanted
to go to Mexico
and I said
hell yes
cause it was about
35 miles,
and at 35 cents
for the first mile
and 10 cents a mile
thereafter
it was a pretty good
pay-off
of which I’d get
a third
which never was
a hell’uv a lot
most nights
but better for a
trip
like this

so we headed out
down 281
for Matamoros
through Brownsville
and across the bridge,
from where I knew
how to go two places
Boys Town
about which, me being
a respectable elder fellow, we
will speak no more
and the central plaza
which was close
to the Mercado
and lots of good
nightclubs
good food
music
and floorshows
with sometimes
naked women
and that’s where
the fella I was
carrying
wanted to go
so we went there
and I dropped
him off at the main plaza
and while he paid me
I noticed all
the Mexican cabbies
giving me the eye
and I noticed
when I left
some of those
Mexican cabs
started following
behind
and then I noticed
I had ten to fifteen
Mexican cabs
riding my back
bumper
and I said to myself
oh shit
I fucked up
and the way
they were following
close and honking
it looked pretty clear
that they were
pissed
about whatever
it was I did,
so I took off
for the bridge
as fast as I could
trying to remember
as I flew
which of the many
one way streets
in Matamoros
were going my way
and which were going
to either get me lost
of back to the plaza
where more trouble
was sure to be
waiting
and when I reached
the bridge
I tossed my 8 cents
bridge fee
to the Mexican
border guard
without
hardly stopping

when I got back
my dispatcher
told me the rules -
cabs don’t cross
borders,
fares are dropped
at the bridge
where they can
walk across
and get a local
cab
so
I really felt dumb
and never did that
again,
though one time
I did pick up a guy
at the bridge
who had been in
jail
in Matamoros
for three days
and was beat
all to shit
and bleeding and
barely conscious

I took him home
and dropped him off
at the hospital
and his friend
who had gone
to Matamoros
to get him out
of jail
and had ridden
back with him
gave me a $2
tip
which was pretty
good
for the time





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Next, here are two poems by Marge Piercy, from her book The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing, published in 1980 by Alfred A. Knopf.

Piercy, born in Detroit in 1936, Detroit, was the first in her family to attend college. She studied at the University of Michigan. Winning a Hopwood Award for Poetry and Fiction in 1957 made it possible for her to complete her bachelor's degree, then spend some time in France, Afterward, she obtained an M.A. from Northwestern University.

She is the author of a number of novels and poetry collections.


Your eyes where I float

Fetched from the airport with my hair unraveled,
the eyes of strangers sticking to my fancy
best coat like dying oysters, self after self
trapped, abandoned in the magician's camera cave
saying fast and slow the responses
shaken form my bones' dice and rambling out
random as teeth on the green baize table
of the media, I am thin
onion skin that shreds in the hand.
The airport wind rattles my slats
where all the words have died
like seedlings deprived of water.
I am glass nobody. Shame steams up my windows.

Then on a mattress on a Cambridge floor
while the snow comes down lie all those
hasty words I spoke, inside drawn blinds
you fingerpaint me. And eye, a nose,
a mouth, two thighs,red, plum, pale
blue, ivory, puce, black,you layer me,
you build me stroke by stroke.
An embryo I float in your eyes.
Slowly my body swells, the frozen
surface breaks and runs down in sweat.
Our laughter clambers to the ceiling
rampant as a grapevine. How was your trip
you ask, and I say, okay
and stop your mouth so you do not
ask me anything, anything at all
in words.


Expecting

It is a birthday present
that comes in the mail
with no sender you can guess,
only the opaque
company name, that could sell
jewels or long underwear.

It is a dream you almost
remember on waking, and then
in midday it crosses,
a bird flushed from cover
streaking through a clearing
too fast to see the color
but yes,you know it.
It cries now, deep
in the woods.

It is a sunrise flush
warming my breasts
under the shirt, and the constant
effort not to jump up and down
and splatter questions
when your name is said

It is knowing I do
not know you but I will.






Photo by Erin Neutzling




Stepping back from the old days for a minute, here's a poem from last week.



business breakfast

there is a large crowd,
ten diners,
on several tables pushed
together

a breakfast business
meeting
it seems, for a congregation
of insurance agents, (my guess,
they look like insurance people) mostly
men
in dress shirts and ties
and a couple of women
frantically
over-compensating
for lack of male genitalia

at the end of the table
a very large
red-faced man
who appears to be the boss,
pontificating
with the assurance of a person
genetically in the dark
most off the time,
telling sleep-deprived staff
all about the Shinola
he don’t know
shit
from, and beside him
a mid-thirties blond, well-put-together,
who has a 17-year old daughter
at home
who’s driving her nuts
with skimpy dresses and good-for-nothing
boyfriends,
all this exposed to the world
before the meeting started, and now that it
has, reveals herself to be
the boss’s carry-on brain, taking over
his Shinola punditry
to put the meeting to order,
providing such business as there
was scheduled to be
at this early morning business meeting

apparently
the other eight at the table
know
who knows
what needs to be known
because their droopy-eyed attention
to the boss’s Shinola
is immediately replaced by edge-
of-their-chair attention
when she starts talking, chewing
reduced to a roar,
petite and silent little chomp chomps
as eggs and bacon and toast
slide quietly and respectfully down
alert and thoughtful gullets

I have been
to -
convened even -
many such meetings, sat
at the head of many such tables
spouting my own Shinola,
killing time
until
my nearby brain finishes
her poached egg and fat-free milk
and sets herself
to take care of business -

my job done for
the day





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Two poems by Natasha Trethewey, from her 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning book Native Guard. The book was published by Houghton Mifflin.

Trethewey was born in 1966 in Gulfport, Mississippi. She earned the B.A. in English from the University of Georgia, an M.A. in poetry from Hollins University (Virginia), and an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She currently holds the Phyllis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University.



Letter

At the post office, I dash a note to a friend,
tell her I've just moved in, gotten settled, that

I''m now rushing off on an errand - except
that I write errant, a slip between letters,

each with an upright backbone anchoring it
to the page. One has with it the fullness

of possibility, a shape almost like the O
my friend's mouth will make when she sees

my letter in her box; the other, a mark that crosses
like the flat line of your death, the symbol

over the church door, the ashes on your forehead
some Wednesday I barely remember.

What was I saying? I had to cross the word out,
start again, explain what I know best

because of the way you left me: how suddenly
a simple errand, a letter - everything - can go wrong.


After Your Death

First, I emptied the closets of your clothes,
threw out the bowl of fruit, bruised
from your touch,left empty the jars

you brought for preserves. The next morning,
birds rustled the fruit trees, and later
when I twisted a ripe fig loose from its stem,

I found it half eaten, the other side
already rotting, or - like another I picked
and split open, being taken from the inside:

a swarm of insects hollowing it. I'm too late,
again, another space emptied by loss.
Tomorrow, the bowl I have yet to fill.






Photo by Erin Neutzling




Not always stuck in long stories, here's a series of short poems I wrote in 2007, a "color" series.



colors

red

blood
on white paper,
bright red,
like an apple
on a bed of
snow


yellow

lemons overflow
a pewter
bowl,
roll across the floor,
crying
caution....caution


blue

blue eyes
under clear
skies
ice
on crystal


green

salt water
and concrete
collide
froth bubbles green -
dragon scales
in the gulf


black

black
was the life
that drove
the knife
that pierced
the heart
of my
darling
mad
a
line





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Here are three poets from the anthology, New European Poets, published in 2008 by Graywolf Press.



The first poem is by Bulgarian poet Kristan Dimitrova. Born in 1963, Dimitrova is a professor of foreign languages at the University of Sofia. She has published eight books of poetry and two prose books and has received many honors for her work, including the 2003 Association of Bulgarian Writers Poetry of the Year Award.

Her poem was translated by Gregory O'Donoghue.


A Visit to the Clockmaker

I crossed the street
to enter a secret shop
where hundreds of hands grind time.
Charted small faces leave aside their arguments
about missing moments & start
ticking reproachfully, peep
out of three walls with shelves. Two alarm clocks
ponderously hurdle the minutes.
A grandfather clock with a pendulum necktie
shows me the way.
A sunbeam
inscribes on the counter
its own vision of accuracy.
Down there, the clockmaker
is tinkering with the open intestines
of a disbatteried body.
His door rang its bell.
"A new timepiece?"
I dislike giving false hope
so I said, "A new chain, please."
Then thought, One who will manage to slice
      time into amazingly thin straps
      and thus make good use of his life
      will be the happiest of us all.
The clockmaker raised his gaze
& would not agree.


The next poem from the anthology is by Romanian poet Ruxandra Cesereanui. She was born in 1963 in Cluj-Napoca, the cultural center of Transylvania and published her first book, a "micro-novel" the same year Romanian communism fell. She has published several collections of poetry since.

Her poem was translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Claudia Litvinchievici, with the poet's participation.


The Killer

She can't. The woman. Can't.
The fish of her heart no longer breaths.
Its scales seep red, stain the moonlight.
She kills her machinery of birth,
her frenzied thighs rising as high as the sky,
her nights and days ripped to rags.
Sinful but alive,
light camouflaged under her skin like ground glass,
she stays in the tunnel.
A girl sleeps an arsenic sleep
in the emergency room.
Killer, I lick the oily heart's honeycomb from my lips!
Your face strobed by sleep's flicker,
you flee through the garden, smeared with rain,
and strike against the buoy.
Old tigress, you who kill behind bars, you've fled.
You know He can see you from aloft -
God the Plush, God the Slasher.
Like a mad nun, you wander,
your head pungent with blood,
deposits of blood you can smell
all the way from the kingdom of heaven.
The believers adore you with their eyes, tongues lolling,
drooling Pavlovian dogs.
Devoid of grace, you yourself are a topsy-turvy chapel.
You descend upon them like a spider at sunset.
On your bosom, black lilies.
Your teeth, white as tombstones,
purify altars and famed steeples.
The hooves of the murdered stampede over my body,
dripping musk, crippling me.
Killer, from your throat a dying city rattles its death rattle.
The silence grinds out luminescence in lambent silence.
I should sip champagne. Cross myself.


My last poem from the book is by Evelyn Schlag. The Austrian poet was born in 1952 and has received many honors and awards for her work.

Her poem was translated by Karen Leeder.


Lesson

I wanted to list
What I have learned
How I hold a cool
Name in my hand when
I touch the doorknob how
I turn the road sign around
Kill the fish by striking'
Their heads on the stone
I have practiced till I have
The knack and how I change
Dresses while the splashes of
Gill-blood are drying
from red to black

The cat which was sitting
On my lap laid his paw
On the back of my hand
And I did not know whether
It was too calm me or because
He so believed in the dead fish





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Returning to the present again, I wrote this one last week, celebrating a wonderful early summer night.



night lays in

night
lays in
with a sigh
like an old woman
pulling bed covers up to her chin

breeze
rustles trees
like featherdusters
brushing the stars, frogs
come alive in the creek, nighthawks hunt…

on my patio
I strip down, lay back in my chair,
and join the frog-symphony, imagine
the fresh, cool mud
between a catalogue of reeds
on the rain-freshened creek-side,
imagine the blood-tasty mosquito caught
on my long green tongue,
settle,
squish into the
singing
night





Photo by Erin Neutzling




My next poem is from another anthology, Shadowed Dreams, Women's Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance. The book was published in 1989 by the Rutgers University Press.

The poem is by Anita Scott Coleman about whom little is know other than that she was born in Mexico and worked as a school teacher.



Black Baby

The baby I hold in my arms is a black baby.
      Today I set him in the sun and
      Sunbeams danced on his head.
The baby I hold in my arms is a black baby.
      I toil and cannot always cuddle him.
      I place him on the ground at my feet.
      He presses the warm earth with his hands,
      He lifts the sand and laughs to see
      It flow through his chubby fingers.
      I watch to discern which are his hands,
      Which is the sand...
Lo...the rich loam is black like his hands.

The baby I hold in my arms if a black baby.
      Today the coal-man brought his coal.
      Sixteen dollars a ton is the price I pay for coal. -
      Costly fuel...though they say: -
      Men must sweat and toil to dig it from the ground.
      Costly fuel...Tis said: -
      If it is buried deep enough and lies hidden long enough
      "Twill be no longer coal but diamonds...
      My black baby looks at me.
      His eyes are like coals,
      They shine like diamonds.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Here's another old poem, a kind of a story, I guess, with, at least, some of the elements of a story.



watching the fat man sleep

several years older
then me,
five or so inches
shorter
and 100-150 pounds
heavier,
he’s sitting at a table
in the coffee shop,
across the room
from me,
catty-corner
to the chair,
legs wide apart
belly
hanging between
them,
a little white slice
of skin
showing
between his t-shirt
and his pants

waiting
for his wife
would be my guess,
he has that look,
eyelids droopy
until finally they close
and his breathing
settles and
slowly
so slowly
he begins to tilt
to the side
until finally he’s
very close
to that point
where gravity
will exercise its full
force,
but
just then
he wakes, blinks,
straightens in his chair
and just as quickly
his eyes begin to droop
again
and we’re in a race
between
his wife’s need to shop
and that old devil
gravity

I wait
for him to hit the floor
(and noticed I am not the only one)
but he gets the breaks
this time
and his wife shows up just as
gravity prepares to announce itself,
and she shakes him
impatiently
until his eyes
clear, stuck wide open
like eyes do
when surprised or
when working very hard
not to close
and
together
they walk out the door





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Next, I have two poets from the anthology Risk, Courage, and Women, published by the University of North Texas Press in 2007.



The first poem is by Bonnie Lyons, a professor of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Lyons received her BA from Newcomb College and her MA and PhD from Tulane University. She has taught at Newcomb College, Boston University, as a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Institute for American Studies in Rome, the University of Florence, the University of Haifa, the University of Athens, and the University of Tel Aviv, as well as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer at Aristotorelain University and Central and Autonoma Universities in Barcelona.


walking out

I know what you think:
weak and disobedient
vulnerable - duped
by the wily serpent.
Think again.

Our life in Eden was an idyl -
no work, no struggle,
an unbroken expanse
of pleasure,
a garden
of perpetual plenty.
We were protected children,
and I was bored.

When the serpent told me
eating the fruit of that tree
would make me wise
I hesitated
like any child
about to walk out
of her parent's domain.

Had I foreseen
that my first son
would kill his brother -
but who knows the future?

Biting into the sweet fruit
meant entering the world
of time and death
adventure, change, possibility
including the possibility
of murder.

I chose life.
I would again.
Do you wish
you were never born?
Do you wish to be
a child forever?

Then celebrate my wisdom.


The second poem is by Valerie Bridgeman Davis, a native of the American South. She teaches at a seminary where she directs the arts and theology institute.


Free

Don't go
his words
whispers of chance and change
dangle on her lobes
like heirloom earrings
from her grandmother's
jewelry box

His words
promise and chains
to the life she
has come
to long
to leave
and now,
his words are charms,
narcotic antidote
to her first attempts
at freedom -
if she does not go
this time,
she will never
leave

I must
her words
echoes of resolute and resistance
hang in the air
like perfume
from his mother's
chest of drawers

Her words
promise and release
from the life he
has come
to leave
in longing
and now,
her words are spells,
herbal remedy
to his last attempts
at repentance -
if he does not succeed
this time
he will never win

The risk
too grat to stay
too daunting to let go

she leaves
he longs
they are both free
to try again.






Photo by Erin Neutzling




From 2007, two poems about two of my favorites from American popular music. Part of why I like them so much, in addition to their songs, is the way they are both so unique and so much alike, twin souls from opposite ends of the universe, meeting.



Listening to Johnny Cash

listening to Johnny Cash
makes me believe,
not in God -
I am too much
a rationalist
for that -
but in the possibility
of an alternate
universe,
seen through
his eyes
created through
his faith,
where God is present
and accounted for
in the lives
of people
like you and me

cause
if I was picking
gods
I’d want the one Johnny Cash
talked to
in his songs


Little Richard at the supermarket

one thing everybody
wondered about
in 1955

was Little Richard
queer
or just a fancy dresser

one thing
they all knew

he was the devil’s spawn
singing
the devil’s music

that’s why
we loved him
and everyone
with any vestige of authority
hated him and all the rest

we burned up
our tinny little 45 record players
with his music, along with
Jerry Lee Lewis
and Chuck Berry
and all the other
colored
guys,
dangerous guys,
not from our part of
town

we loved these guys
because their music made us move
like Doris Day never did,
because we were sure
every crazy, wild-assed thing
we were afraid to do
they had already done,
because they scared
the crap
out of our parents
and anything that scared
the crap
out of our parents
must be the goddamn
greatest thing
we could ever do

and while we bopped
and hopped in the gym
churches were having
devil burning parties,
tossing records into the fire
just like they had tossed
our comic books in the fire
a couple of years earlier

now the comics are collectibles
and Little Richard rocks and rolls
through the sound system
in supermarket aisles,
right over the denture cream
support hose
and little liver pills

Good Golly, Miss Molly

sometimes
we forget we won





Photo by Erin Neutzling




I said that the beginning that this was an all woman issue. And so it is, including even this cowboy poet, Kay Kelley from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She began to write cowboy poetry after her husband, a poet who wrote about his experiences as a horse trainer and cowboy, died.

Her poem is from the anthology, New Cowboy Poetry, a Contemporary Gathering, published in 1990 by Gibbs-Smith Publisher.

American cowboy poets have had their annual "gatherings" since 1985. The next one is scheduled to be in Texas, February, 2012.



The What??!!

The honeymoon was in full swing.
We settled in in Santa Fe.
The cowgirl starting a brand new life
After our wedding day.

I'd been picked up in the pasture
By my handsome "Man of the West."
One early morn, I questioned him
While cuddled in our love nest.

"You had told me you're a big ranchowner
Back when you were courting me.
Well, now that the wedding's over
Those ranches I'd like to see."

"Why sure," he said, "I'll be right back."
As he leaped out of the bed.
"This here's my 36-inch wrench.
The 24's are in the shed."

"A wrench owner is what you meant?"
I choked in disbelief.
"Yes, I'm a Master Plumber."
His pride added to my grief.

Now, my heroes had all been cowboys
That stirred my romantic soul.
And I had never seen John Wayne
Playing a plumber's role.

Trying to restore my faith in hm
This revelation began to destroy,
I asked him about Joe Lemon's ranch
Where he'd worked summers as a boy.

"How many cows did Joe Lemon run?"
"Two - two milking Holsteins."
"No, how many cows out on the range
Where you cowboyed in your teens?"

"Oh, it was a sheep ranch," he replied.
My heart went numb in shock.
"I married a sheep-herding plumber!"
The shriek could be heard for blocks.

Too late to run, the vow was made,
I tried to carry on.
When friends would ask, "How's married life?"
My answer was, "I was conned."

"The Sting" wasn't in it with my guy.
He'd employed every trick and ruse.
His morals and scruples were shiny clean,
They never had been used.

Through the years I've come to know him well,
As we lope through life together.
I've ridden many a mile with him
In both good and stormy weather.

The honeymoon's still in full swing
He's my partner and best friend.
I'm thankful now that I got conned
Things worked out best in the end.

So I'll stick with my sheep-herding plumber
Right into eternity.
For "he'll do to ride the river with"
And he sure is special to me.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Earlier I wrote of a wonderful mid-summer evening. Now here's the next wonderful mid-summer morning.



another day

the dim light
of a thinly overcast
dawn
filters yellow
light
into the air and across
the trees and pastures and
commuter-rush…

looking out
from my breakfast perch
the day seems
a Chinese brocade, raised
golden thread
embroidered on thick fabric,
gilded scenes
of morning life wakened
to the silvered calls
of mourning doves softly
sweetly
singing songs of daylight’s
resurrection…

another day, they sing,
another sunrise,
another chance for me
and you





Photo by Erin Neutzling




My next poem is by Polish poet Wistawa Szymborska, 1996 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was born in Poland in 1923 and has lived there all her life, working as a poetry editor,columnist, and translator.

The poem is from Poems - New and Collected, 1957-1997, published by Harcourt in 1998. It was translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.



A Large Number

Four billion people on this earth,
but my imagination is still the same.
It's bad with large numbers.
It's still taken by particularity.
It flits in the dark like a flashlight,
illuminating only random faces
while the rest go blindly by,
never coming to mind and never really missed.
But even a Dante couldn't get it right.
Let alone someone who is not.
Even with all the muses behind me.

Non omnis moriar - a premature worry.
But am I entirely alive and is that enough.
It never was, and now less than ever.
My choices are rejections, since there is no other way,
but what I reject is more numerous,
denser, more demanding than before.
A little poem, a sign, at the cost of indescribable losses.
I whisper my reply to my stentorian calling.
I can't tell you how much I passover in silence.
A mouse at the foot of the maternal mountain.
Life lasts as long as a few signs scratched by a claw in the sand.

An echo's annexes overgrow the empty house.
I run from the doorstep into a valley
that is quiet, as if no one owned it,already an anachronism.

Why there's all this space inside me
I don't know.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




From 2007, remembering earlier days.



Austin, 6th Street, 1 a.m.

still
a good crowd out,
mostly
twenty-somethings
from the University,
enough business
to keep the bars
open
and the bands
playing

I came down
to listen to one
particular band
and enjoyed
their first set
but it’s awful
damn late
for an old
guy
so I’m heading
back
to my hotel
to hit the sack

can’t help
as I walk back
to my car
thinking back
40 years
when 6th street
after dark
was a good place
to get VD
or stabbed in the back
and not much else

it’s all changed
now

6th street
means
neon lights
and music
and lets face it
some weird looking
kids
and cops
on horses
keeping it
mostly quiet
and clean
for several
blocks around
the actual street
itself
and this late
with the tourists
gone to bed
and the state
people and the
business people
in town for meetings
gone to their rooms
to drink, it’s a quiet
scene, mellow,
and young -
the only people
I see my age
are begging
quarters
and cigarettes,
left-over
vague-eyed
burned-out
hippies
who took a
trip
in 1965
and never
made it back

it’s a trip
for me too
being here
watching
the scene

remembering

things change
but they always
stay
the same, more
or less...

that’s been my
experience





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Now I have a poem from Blue Suburbia, Almost a Memoir, a book of poems by Laurie Lico Albanese. The book was published HarperCollins in 2004.


Albanese is both a poet and fiction writer. She teaches creative writing to children in the Montclair, New Jersey school system and was awarded a 1997-98 New Jersey State Council in the Arts Fellowship in fiction.



I Hid

Nobody found me for years
they were too busy bowling,
bickering, hanging wallpaper

watching Jeopardy!
drinking pink wine
waiting for Christmas
and a new set of Corelle.

I hid in my closet
with the shoes,
in a snow fort
dug into the blizzard of '69

in the shadow of the jailhouse
for a whole summer
with Holden, Phoebe
and a bottle of calamine

I hid, no one saw me
until you came along
and we huddled under blankets
reading the unbearable lightness

you body bare on top of mine,
another place to hide
except you exhaled
and I sucked in your unused oxygen

your heart beat one deep gong
for every two notes of my own,
you pulled me naked
in front of the mirror

took my chin in your hands
and said, look,
look


and I saw something
altogether new -
I saw my center
filling.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Just a thought.



what if I’m my evil twin

there’s a kind of
Jeckle/Hyde theory
that suggests
we are all twined
in the world, the good
in us and the bad
of our potential
separated into two
beings who live
in contradiction
to each other

if this is true,
it is in our nature
to assume
we must be the
good twin,
but I’m thinking
maybe that’s wrong,
what if I’m the evil
twin who for years
has been fucking up
all the good done
through some other
guy’s good deeds,
undermining his life
by being the him
he doesn’t want
anyone to see

Holy Moley,
as Jimmy Durante
might say,
the possibilities is
flabbergasting






Photo by Erin Neutzling




Women poets weren't just born yesterday, you know. Like this 12th century poet, Mahadevi.

Born in Udutadi, India, Mahadevi was initiated into Siva worship at the age of ten, which she considered the real moment of her birth. She was apparently married at some point to the local King. Conflicted by the contrary pulls of divine and earthly love, she left her husband to live the life of a saint. Seeing her clothing as a concession to the male world, she threw it all away in a gesture of social defiance and wandered, her body covered only by her long hair. According to legend, she died when she was still in her twenties, described contemporaneously as a bright light briefly burning.

The verses I chose are from the anthology Women Poets From Antiquity to Now, published by Shocken Books in 1980. They were translated by A.K. Ramanujan.



Riding the blue sapphire mountains
wearing moonstone for slippers
blowing long horns
O Siva
when shall I
crush you on my pitcher breasts?

O lord white as jasmine
when do I join you
stripped of body's shame
and heart's modesty?

~~~

Other men are thorn
under the smooth leaf.
I cannot touch them,
go near them, nor trust them,
nor speak to them confidences.

Mother,
because they all have thorns
in their chest
     I cannot take
any man in my arms but my lord

  white as jasmine.

~~~

Would a circling surface vulture
  know such depths of sky
  as the moon would know?

would a weed on the riverbank
  know such depths of water
  as the lotus would know?

would a fly darting nearby
  know the smell of flowers
  as the bee would know?

O lord white as jasmine
  only you would know
  the way of your devotees:
  how would these,

these
  mosquitoes
  on the buffalo's hide?

~~~

People,
male and female,
blush when a cloth covering their shame
comes loose.
     When the lord of lives
lives drowned without a face
in the world, how can you be modest?

When all the world is the eye of the lord,
onlooking everywhere, what can you
cover and conceal?





Photo by Erin Neutzling




A couple of little-bitties to slip in sideways.



a gift of love

beautiful
flower
in a tall glass vase
dying


post-it note romance

U R
my
sunshine
N winter
& rain
on ev
ry
dry & dust
blown
day

'nuff said





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Next, I have two poets from Breaking Silence, an Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Poets, published in 1983 by the Greenville Review Press.



The first poet is Tina Koyama. I could find nothing of a biography, other than she does jewelery and enjoys baking bread.


Grape Daiquiri

Your cousin tells you it's like fruit juice,
what she always orders, and you let
the cool sweetness deceive your thirst,
placate your grumbling stomach.
At first you hardly notice the faces
moving in and out of focus,
the room lights dimming. Three sips more
and a waiter's white sleeve dissolves like sugar.
Beside you, your husband speaks from the far end
of a tunnel, repeating another fish-story
between gulps of his third V.O. and water.

You want to warn them - these smiling,
bobbing heads around the table -
warn them of the dangers, that the walls
melt and fall like icing on a cake,
but you know they won't hear you
for the droning of bees between your ears.
You try to shake them free, but the floor
sifts like four beneath your feet.
A chair fools you into thinking it's steady.
Bees pour honey down you eyes,
pull the color from your cheeks
and let it pool in the pockets of your knees.

Trying to remember when you've felt this way
before, you recall the thick sweetness of ether
smelled once for each daughter and son.
Curious, the things you think of last:
you children in another city, eating

ice cream or reading novels; a photo
of your mother framed above your desk;
the purple of the carpet as it rises
to soften your fall.


The second poet from the anthology is Cyn. Zarco, a poet-journalist based in New York City.


What the Rooster Does Before Mounting

Gustavo said,
"Your poems are like samba,
some even tango with the page
as if part of some strange ritual -
what the rooster does before mounting."

Gustavo said,
"In Argentina, I was in love
with Che. Even my father,
the old prick, gave him money."

Then said Gustavo,
"You did not choose me; I chose you."
and made me sit down while he took over
my kitchen.

I sat in a yellow chair
and watched him chop vegetables -
carrots     bell pepper     onions





Photo by Erin Neutzling




This is a poem pretty much like my life, where I ramble around from one thing to another until I finally get back to where I started.



my comic era

I feel today
like the advertisements
that used to be on the back
of comic books,
sloppily inked
and highly improbable…

and
speaking of inked,
I saw a very pretty young woman
yesterday,
small,
dark hair, short,
dark eyes, wide, finally arched brows,
lips
plump and, I’m sure,
luscious,
both arms
inked
from wrist to shoulder
and I thought -

what a shame…

I love the look of skin
as nature made it, the feel of it,
the smell of it
fresh from a shower,
the taste of it
salty with sweat from an afternoon
in the sun, I love
young skin, taut with the fullness of youth,
and old skin as well, wrinkles
like waves
in an open sea
teeming…

believing
no tattoo artist
can improve on the canvas
he paints…

and speaking of art,
I visited a museum last week,
dedicated to the visual arts of ink
and watercolor and oils and paper shapes
and glass and ceramic and tiny and monumental
sculpture and, taking more time than usual
for me, I studied the pieces and drew close to them
and searched for each little technicality of creation
then stepped back and
from across the room, saw, finally, the creation,
the before unrealized reality
the artist must have seen in his mind
before he took his first brush stroke or first struck
hammer to stone or first put scissor
or ink to paper

and I saw the truth
in its wholeness,
a product of its parts but greater
than the accumulation of its parts,
a new thing
born
from another’s mind to take my eye
and hold it…

and I think of how I
as a poet
often worship the parts,
the words
carefully chosen, the organics
of a body that I cannot
see until it’s complete
and how the reverse of artists
I am, never knowing the end
until I find it…

and I think of the advertisements
that used to be on the pack pages of
comic books,
haphazardly drawn and improbable,
yet still,
I think of the medicated salve
I tried to sell,
door to door, to my neighbors
when I was ten years old, a convert
to the cause of riches, seduced by the
advertisements there used to be
in the back pages of comic books
and their promises
and the instructions that I, as a poet,
followed in every detail,
instructions
that led, in the end, not
to the promised canvas of wealth
and success,
but to two dozen tins
of medicated salve left moldering
in my closet, along with my baseball glove
and model airplanes and other
dream factories of my
comic era





Photo by Erin Neutzling




For my last pieces this week from my library, I have two poems by Barbara Evans Stanush, from her book, Stone Garden, published in 1992 by Pecan Grove Press of St. Mary's University in San Antonio.

Stanush says she spent her first thirty years on the East Coast and the next thirty in South Texas where she worked as an educational consultant, a poet-in-the-schools, a newspaper columnist and writer.



The Clearing

Thin white cat circles me
without touching, enters
holes in the brush.
Muscles ride beneath fur.

As the sun draws up its weight
a bee veers by the sheet drying
on the line. Cars drone beyond.

In t5he clearing, clicks and
ticks. A bit of leaf shivers,
twirls on invisible threads,
turns to catch the darker
whisper of a stem. I smell the
underthrust of Spring, the must
of moldering leaves. It takes
more of me than I may have
to meet the underbrush.

The white cat widens spaces
where it stalks on silent
pads, keen to flashes
of lizard, of bird.

Leaving the clothesline to follow
I wonder whose world this is.


Inside Outside

A lizard slips in
through a crack
in the window.
A bat came in once too,
we don't know how.
The children woke at night
and screamed, "A moth,
a giant moth is in our room."

It sailed wide
around the light bulb,
I chased it
with a broom.
It shrilled an unreal note
and kept its orbit neat,
while the children screamed.
Then I broomed it out the door.





Photo by Erin Neutzling




Well, according to the preacher, as I write this, we're down to what they call on the ranch, the cutting day. So, if it turns out he's wrong, here's another poem.



in case i don't see you tomorrow...

so
it’s 6:43 in the a.m.
leaving us only eleven hours
and some odd minutes
to contemplate the beauties
of the late great university before
it all ends in big un-bang

or not

but I guess we’ll know
by the time the
Heat v. Bulls finals game
comes on tonight, or doesn’t,
and we’ll know for certain tomorrow
if we don’t see each other
which of us has punched their
rapture ticket
and which of us has started down
that steaming rocky road to hell, singing
with the Sex Pistols all the way…

as for myself,
informed on good authority
that in heaven there is no beer,
I’m kind of pulling for hell
where I expect the frosty mugs still
will flow, and where,
most probably, all my best friends
will be as well, and, if the choice
is to spend an eternity with them and
my favorite poets rather than with a bunch of goody
two-shoed candy cane crackers, I’m all for the hell option -

though I have to admit,
eternity with some of those romantic traditionalists
and a bunch of German expressionists
is somewhat daunting,
but I expect there’ll be a corner
somewhere
where I can huddle up with Whitman
and Ginsburg when
the roar of the “thee’s” and “thou’s”
becomes more than my stomach
can process…

and if all else fails,
I do expect Byron will be there
and i'm thinking he probably knows
where all most adventuresome floosies live
and I think I might enjoy
an extended
period
engaged with him in his idea of fun





Photo by Erin Neutzling




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Working Man Blues
The Long Lost Sultan of Salamarkand
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