Rain in a Dry Season   Friday, May 13, 2011


VI.5.3.




This week's post is shorter then usual and I'm posting it early to keep it that way. The longer it sits in my computer complete, but not posted the more I want to add to it. And I don't want to add to it because I've developed a carpel tunnel issue with my wrist and the more I type, the more it hurts. So I decided, after barely being able to complete the long D.H. Lawrence piece, that I'll minimize typing and give my wrist a rest this week. Meaning, as you read on, expect mostly short poems and stuff of my own I could just copy and paste.

In the meantime, after three and a half months with a combined rain total of four tenths of an inch, we finally had a decent bit of rain one day last week. Though I understand folks in parts of the South may not want to join in, I celebrate the rain with this week's post.

We may be short this week, but it'll be good, anyway. Pretty good. Better than grits left out in the sun at mid-day, for sure. Probably.

Here's what I got.


Mary Oliver
Ravens
The Measure
Truro, the Blueberry Fields


Me
I was going to write about the rain

Susan Holahan
Sister Betty Reads the Whole You
What Fire Has to Do with Sorrow


Me
waiting for rain

D.H. Lawrence
Snake

Me
watching rain

Frances Trevino
This House is Mine

Me
bright sunshine

From One Hundred More Poems From the Chinese
Liu Ch'ang Ch'ing
Snow on Lotus Mountain
Liu Yu His
Drinking with Friends Amongst the Blooming Peonies
Li Shang Yin
I Wake Up Alone
Kao Chi
The Old Cowboy

Me
reminder
Southtown - First Friday art walk
study hall
story time
shift change
October sunset
game


Cleatus Rattan
Burning

Me
evolution sucks

Georg Trakl
Eastern Front

Me
went to a reunion









I start this week with three poems by Mary Oliver. The poems are from her book New and Selected Poems, Volume Two, published by Beacon Press in 2005.

Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry is author of eight poetry collections and five books of prose. She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, with Molly Malone Cook.



Ravens

I don't know what the ravens are saying this
    morning of green tenderness and
rain but,my,what a collection of
    squalling and cracklings and whistles made

with the ruffling of throat feathers and the
    stretching of wings, nor is it any single speech
one to rhe rest but, clearly, an octet, since
    they are eight coal-black birds with
dark-brown eyes. I have been in this world just
    just long enough to learn (not always easily) to love

my neighbors and to allow them every
    possibility. Maybe the ravens are talking
for some ultimate vicious but useful purpose, or
    mabe it's only directions to the next mountain, or maybe
it's simple, silly joy. "Hello, ravens," I say,under
    their dark tree and, as if courtesy were of

great importance, they turn, they clack and spill their
    delicious glottals, of no consequence but
friendly and without the least judgement, down and
    over me.


The Measure

I stopped the car and ran back and across the road
and picked up the box turtle, who only
hissed an withdrew herself into her pretty shell.
Well, goodness,it was early in the morning, not too much
    traffic.
Rather and adventure than a risk, and anyway
who wouldn't give aid to such a shy citizen?
Who wouldn't complete the journey for it, taking it of course
in the direction of it's desire: a pinewoods
where, as I learned, the blueberries ripen early.
Probably she had thought, in the middle of the night -
    Ah, it's time.
Sometimes I think our own lives are watched over like that.
Out of the mystery of the hours and days
something says - Let's give this one a little trial.
Let's, say, put a turtle in the road she's traveling on, and
    in a hurry.
Let's see ow here life is measuring up, that lucky girl.
So much happiness, so much good fortune. Ah, it's time


Truro, the Blueberry Fields

Not far from where I start to gather the ripened berries
I begin, as usual, to slow down. Then, pretty soon, I am
doing nothing I am just sitting there in the little bundles
of leaves.

In the distance a sparrow is singing over and over his
serene and very simple song. Oh, to hear him within the
enclosure of nothing else!

Friend, I am becoming desperate. What shall I do? How
quickly, if I only knew by what remedy, I would turn
from the commotion of my own life.

While on and on and on, the sparrow sings.








This is the first part of what I guess I could call a rain trilogy, written over three days, the day rain seemed like it would never come again, the day it looked like rain for the first time in months, and, finally, the day it rained.

This is from the day it seemed like it would never rain again.



I was going to write about the rain

I was going
to write about the rain
we might see today,
the dark, cloudy day already containing
all the characteristics
of rain but
wet -

twenty percent chance
last night,
the weather man said, rising to thirty percent
at sunrise,
or, in San Antonio lingo,
“when hell freezes over” at night
rising to
“when pigs fly” at sunrise

so dry,
so dry it’s been
the purple sage is turning brown
and the horned toads are heading
for wetter climes
and wet we crave, mud twixt our toes,
floppy wet hair, soaked shirts and pants
stuck to our bodies, so dry
our bodies,
they will drink of the rain
through arid pores…

but -
my weather lamentations
interrupted
by two fellows who walked in
to join
another fellow in the booth
in front of me,
two fellows, one
a little bit older, a little gray
in his hair and beard
and another, younger, guy
with the most amazing smiling-eyes
and I’m thinking,
he could be the devil
with those eyes,
luring people in to the deepest
deprecations of sin,
his long red tail
like an electric lash
scouring while his abused congregations
crave his company still,
that kind of smiling-eyes,
intense, inviting,
to good to be true; too true
to be good…

compare and contrast

the young black man who came in
earlier,
dress pants, white shirt, tie,
shiny black shoes,
smiling, big white-toothed grin,
bobbing his head
like Betsy Blue meeting the Queen,
all but curtsying
to the two white men
he was meeting, laughing
loud,
like a false note on an off-tuned piano,
at every joke, something
out of Gone with the Wind,
“I don’t know nothing ‘bout birthing
no babies,”
and I’m thinking
holy, Christ, man, a black man
is President of the United States,
what the hell are you doing
and then I chastise myself, reminding myself
that it is not my place
to judge people and how they deal
with the difficulties of their lives, and I know,
in fact, that I can be an asshole sometimes
and I really hope those times
pass and are forgotten by those who witness
my lesser moments, as I must set aside
my own judgmental
arrogance
if I wish not to be judged myself

***

but
now it starts to rain,
a San Antonio kind of rain, wet as it falls
but drying before it hits
the ground,
the peculiar kind of rain that mocks
drought-soured places,
the kind of rain that requires one
to stand on a ten-foot ladder
to feel its drip

well,
I will get my ladder now
and take
whatever I can get








Here are two poems by Susan Holahan, from her book Sister Betty Reads the Whole You, published in 1998 by Gibbs-Smith, Publisher.

Holahan was born in New York and now lives in Vermont. She received her Ph.D. in English and her law degree from Yale University. Her collection of poems, Sister Betty Reads the Whole You, was winner of the 1997 Peregrine Smith Poetry Competition. Her poetry has appeared in many journals. She also writes fiction and practices law in Connecticut. She taught writing at Yale and the University of Rochester and has worked as an editor at Newsday and the Yale University Press.



Sister Betty Reads the Whole You

Some people are too nervous to have hands on their head.
Some people don't like you inspecting them, so I keep my
eves down. I look at hands.

A picture of you now: tops of trees against a gray sky. A
bird flying. Wind blowing. The bird looks like a hawk. You
were in a deep well. The only way to be free was to look up.

I begin to see you in a house of worship. With a long
pole you're reaching up, opening stained-glass windows,
letting in the light. In that life your were a sexton. Windows
were your job. You listened to the choir practice. You drank
but you were forgiven. You were kept on - housed,clothed,
fed. In that lifetime you brought you feet to the church.

I see a child on a swing, the kind that boxes you in. Up or
down, you can't fall out. This is a mood swing; nowhere to
fall except into your own being. That's why you chose the
mother you did. Who could give you more distrust?

Give up the illusion that they distraught, angry mother
is God. No longer tell yourself you must be perfect to be
loved.


What Fire Has to Do with Sorrow

Widowed, waiting in a chair to die, she traced on the table
before her, on the chair arm, on her thigh, shapes like letters
with her thick-nailed

index finger, her crabbed hand looping around, back,over
calligraphically. I lick the word, I make the flourishes myself.
I can't read my messages.

Desire - aslant, each word placed far from the last, And one
project after another she begins then stores; squares cut for
a quilt she'll never piece.

When he left her again l;ast night, cold as he leaves her
only in dreams, she stumbled in his slippers, struggling
to parse a sentence

he would never utter for signs of his return. In joy words
flash upward, not like flames but like the graphic images
of flames.








The second day of the trilogy, the day it looked like rain.



waiting for rain

still
today,
and quiet,
like you can almost hear
the birds breathing,
not like the hard-blowing
gusty winds
of the past several days,
like yesterday,
when strong storms
skirted the northern edge
of the city, heading east, bringing
us a trace of rain
while others got the deluge,
as is likely again today,
despite the stillness, heavy rain
to the north and heading our way,
probably to turn again when it gets close,
on to East Texas where they’ve already had
so much of what we would settle for just a little…

another hot and dry summer day,
I anticipate,
reminded of the pool hall across the tracks
where the soda machine was a square
refrigerated box with strips of metal where
bottles of Grapette and Orange Crush
hung by their necks until you put your quarter in
and slide them down their metal strip
to where you could pull them out through a trap door
opened by your quarter,
cold, sweaty wet, cool going down,
cool against your forehead or cheek,
ceiling fans slowly turning,
the realm, this place, of the short Mexican man
on a high stool in the corner of the room,
fedora low over his eyes, little cigar
hanging
from the corner of his mouth,
neither, mouth or cigar,
ever moving,
never a word said
to us Anglo kids, coming in after school to
play pool and smoke,
learning the rules of eight-ball and rotation,
and the unspoken rule,
enforced by the short, silent man
with a snort and tightening of his eyes
under his hat - no wet soda bottles, ever,
ever,
on the felt…

a real pool hall, I’ve been in a couple
over the years, no
beer, just sodas, no neon, no
foul language, no
hard women
seeking the solace of another beer
or a ten dollar bill for blowjob in the back,
just two rows of eight pool tables,
cue racks
against the wall,
chalk, and big powder cones
by each rack…

disappeared all, replaced
by titty bars in the seventies,
back when everything went topless,
from bars, to pizza parlors to car washes,
how strange it seems now, drinks
served under the sway of heavy breasts
bared to the neon and smoke, and the titty bars
replaced in turn by family recreation centers,
and red felt tables in the corners of bowling alleys,
and roadside bars
where once-a-week hustlers
are separated from their paycheck
by sharks sitting quietly in wait for the proper mix
of beer and bravado to expose their mark…

and as the world cheapens itself,
I don’t participate - don’t drink anymore,
more embarrassed than aroused by
the bare breasts of strangers,
can’t keep up with the cowboys and the
pool sharks, still missing that dark
pool hall, the lazy summer afternoons, the clackity-clack
of striped and solid balls hit with more enthusiasm
than skill, ceiling fans slowly turning,
a wet, frosty bottle of Orange Crush
on the back of my neck - fifty years ago
when I had better things to do
than wait for rain
and that dark, side-street
pool hall
was where I did many of
them








Here's a longish (by "Here and Now" standards) poem by D.H. Lawrence, from Selected Poetry, originally published by Penguin in 1972 and in this revised edition in 1986.



Snake

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pajamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the
    trough before me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down,
    over the edge of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small
    clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums,into his slack long
    body,
Silently.

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer,waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
and looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused
    a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of
    the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.

The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are
    venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at
    my water-trough
And depart peacefully, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honored?
I felt so honored.

And yet those voices?
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly, I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honored still more
That he should accept my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air,so
    black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing,into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice a dream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and
    entered further,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into
    that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing
    himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round,I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in
    undignified haste,
Writhed like lightning , and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accused human
    human education.

And I thought of the albatross,
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness








And part three of the trilogy, the day it actually rained. As you'll probably notice, this is really the only poem of the rain trilogy that actually has mostly to do with rain.



watching rain

the rain starts
dry
with a mighty gust
of northwest wind;
then the rain,
sheets of cold, mountain-born wet…

on the patio,
I shiver, step bare-fleshed
out to the grass, stand
flat-footed
against the blowing
rain, arms out-stretched,
soaking,
listening to our no-name creek,
roar
in a roiling flow
to Apache Creek and,
some days hence,
the Gulf of Mexico…

I watch the puddles
form, the grass turn
brown
to green even as the rain
falls








Here's a poem by Frances Trevino from her book, Cayetana. The book was published by Wings Press of San Antonio in 2007.

Trevino was first published in 1999 in a chapbook, Mama and Other Tragedies. That same year, she was a fellow for the National Endowment for the Humanities for integrating U.S.Latino Literature in the secondary classroom. In 2000, she was the recipient of the 2000 Primio Poesia Tejana Award for The Laughter of Doves. In 2001, she received a grant from the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation. From 1999 to 2002 she was a member of "Women of Ill-Repute Refute!" - a performance group.

When this book was published she was teaching British Literature for the San Antonio Independent School District.



This House is Mine

This house.

This house is mine.
Mine on a street with
no side walk,
crooked curbs.

I closed on a hot summer day in July:
the leaky roof, the leaky fridge,
cable television, computer station,
out-of-tune piano, hard wood floors,
built from a 1940s Sears catalogue.
Sears fence, Sears pipes, Sears doors.

Trash pick up is on Mondays and Thursdays.
Mike, Rosie, and their three
kids live across from me.
The streets have bad drainage.

I've painted my walls
the colors of Nuevo Laredo -
coral pink, tangerine,
lime green popsicle flavors,
Guatemalan textiles,
yellows of roasted corn.

I read in a folktale
or a history book,
that the Chinese paint
their doors red for good luck.

I've planted aloe, agrave,
build a grotto dedicated
to the Virgin Mary
in honor of my grandmother,
I pick pecans from the yard,
sit on my stoop in the back.

This house.

This house is mine.
Red door. Aloe. Agave.
And all.








Three days in a row of preoccupation with rain - time now for some sunshine.



bright sunshine

bright sunshine
at 7 am,
60 degrees,
and a fat lady
walking
an ugly dog

all
but the fat lady
and the ugly
dog
a highly unusual
combination
for the middle of May

I luxuriate
in the moment -
might even run out
and pet the
ugly
dog…

that’s how great
I feel
today








Next, I have several poems from One Hundred More Poems From the Chinese - Love and the Turning Year. The book was edited and with translations by Kenneth Rexroth.

The book was first published by New Directions in 1970. My copy is the eighth printing.


The first poem is by Liu Ch'ang Ch'ing, who lived in the eighth century.


Snow on Lotus Mountain

Sunset. Blue peaks vanish in dusk.
Under the Winter stars
My lonely cabin is covered with snow.
I can hear the dogs barking
At the rustic gate.
Through snow and wind
Someone is coming home.


Next, this short poem by Liu Yu Hsi. Liu lived from 772 to 842.


Drinking with Friends Amongst the Blooming Peonies

We had a drinking party
To admire the peonies.
I drank cup after cup till
I was drunk. Then to my shame
I heard the flowers whisper,
"What are we doing, blooming
For these old alcoholics?"


And this poem is by Li Shang Yin. Li, who lived from 813 to 859 was under-estimated in the West until recently. He is now widely considered one of the greatest of the Tang dynasty poets.


I Wake Up Alone

Gentle breeze, morning dew,
Behind my bed curtains,
I wake up alone.
Orioles sing.Flowers bloom.
Who cares if Spring has come?


And, finally, a slightly longer poem by Kao Chi.A more recent poet, Kao lived from 1336 to 1374. Though he was eventually executed, he was the most popular poet of the early Ming dynasty.


The Old Cowboy

Other oxen have long curly horns.
My ox has a long bare tail.
I tag along behind,
Holding it like a flute or a whip.
We wander from the Southern hill
To the Eastern cliffs.
When he is tired or hungry,
I always know what to do.
Sunset, my ox ambles slowly home.
As he walks along,
I sing a song.
When he lies down,
I do too.
At night in the barn
I sleep by his side.
I am old. I take care of my ox.
I have nothing else to do.
I only worry that some day
They will sell my ox
To pay their taxes.








Here's a little mix of shorties and observationals.



reminder

today
I made
an excellent fire

today
I had charcoal
lighter fluid

reminding me
the secret
to making an excellent life
lies
in having the wherewithal
to start it
properly


Southtown - First Friday artwalk

it’s an art
fair
so there is much
to feed the soul

but
with funnel cake
turkey legs
bar b que
and
roasted corn
the more substantial
elements
of an art lovers
needs
are not ignored


study hall

she
has brown,
secret-keeping eyes
and perfect teeth
that flash white
when she
smiles

studying
with three fellow students,
all boys
competing for her attention,
with one well-arched brow,
she controls the
agenda


story time

the girl
with the ruined
face,
eyes dancing
as she tells
a story

too low
for me to hear
but her
companion
leans forward
almost touching
listening
intently

I envy his
proximity
and the
air
he shares
with her
smile


shift change

the change is here

dark
in the morning
cooler
a hint of damp
in the air

leaves
yellowing
but not yet
fallen

still warm
in the afternoon

when deep
like an ocean
is the blue
overhead


October sunset

clouds
trimmed in pink
like the center
of a peach

tangerine
on the horizon


game

her chin
barely topping
the table
a serious
little girl
with hiccups
looks
with big brown
eyes
through her bangs
at her chess
instructor

listens

moves and
takes a bishop

smiles








Here's a poem from another Texas poet, Cleatus Rattan, from his book The Border, published by Texas Review Press of Huntsville in 2002.

A former Marine, Rattan ranches a hundred miles west of Fort Worth, near Cisco, a small town of about 3,000 citizens. His work has appeared in many journals and he is a several-time winner of the Texas Review Poetry Prize, including in 2002 for the book. He recently retired from the English Department at Cisco Community College.

I just bought this book this week. The poet is a storyteller. I like it and will be going to it often in weeks to come.



Burning

Your neighbors never know
you're a poet. Your parents worry,
your children count their toes,embarrassed.

At the family reunion, Uncle Orville,
the rich one with the young, pretty wife,
laughs at your parents, ignores your children,
talks, brags about his deals not too slyly.

When the conversation turns
from him in white hot sun he proclaims:
"A poe! by God, how's he make a living?"

Mother pales, Father reddens, stammers, "Teaching."
Miriam,the pretty young wife, smiles,
with her thighs, bends, brushes a fly off her narrow ankle,
offers me a breast.

Her eyes are a picnic. She asks me for something to read,
says she loves what I do. She doesn't understand much,
but Uncle Orville, turning from pale to red, does.








Science, such an evil master, killing all our illusions (and delusions).



evolution sucks

some years ago
I was having some internal
maintenance
done, and the doc and I
decided that, as he
was passing though the
neighborhood
he would pick up my
appendix
along the way

everything went fine
except after it was over
the doctor said he
didn't take my appendix
because he couldn’t find it

well,
since word was the appendix
didn't do anything anyway, a
“vestigial organ” they called it,
I wasn't too upset, in fact
my apparent lack of appendix
supported the theory I had
long espoused
that I was of a higher
evolutionary
order than most of the people
I ran into in South Texas,
having evolved past the need
for an organ that was supposed
to be in place so that ancient
man could digest tree bark
and I was surely past that

alas,
I learned today on NPR
that scientists now think
they have discovered a
reason for the existence
of this little sac glued
to the top of your stomach

(it retains a cache of good bacteria,
the scientists say,
to be pumped into the system
if some event depletes
your gut’s
normal supply of the
good bacteria
needed to maintain a
healthy
happy stomach)

such a fall from grace

one minute
an evolutionary marvel,
homo sapiens of the future,
and the next
a bacterially challenged
loser
missing essential
parts








For my last library poem for this short week, I have this small sample of early-twentieth century German expressionism.

This poem is from the book Music while drowning - German Expressionist Poems, published Tate Publishing in 2003. The poet is Georg Trakl. Born in 1887 in Salzburg, Austria, Trakl died in Krakow in 1914. He is considered one of the most important of the Expressionists.

His poem was translated by Christopher Middleton>



Eastern Front

The wrath of the people is dark,
Like the wild organ notes of winter storm,
The battle's crimson wave, a naked
Forest of stars.

With ravaged brows, with silver arms
To dying soldiers night comes beckoning.
In the shade of the autumn ash
Ghosts of the fallen are sighing.

Thorny wilderness girdles the town about.
From bloody doorsteps the moon
Chases terrified women.
Wild wolves have poured through the gates.








Here's my last piece, a short poem to close out a short post.



went to a reunion

went
to a reunion
last week
of friends and
colleagues
from an earlier
and more
interesting
life -

but none
of them came…

sent
a bunch
of old people
in their
place








Standard stuff here: All the material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. My stuff is mine, but you can borrow it if you want, just insure proper credit to me and to "Here and Now."

I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and, with my wrist this week, truly a martyr for poetry. Ouch...ouch...ouch!

1 Comments:
at 3:07 PM Blogger Alice Folkart said...

Rain in a dry season - nicely done and thanks for the intros to some poets that I will read more of, especially Susan Holahan and Rattan. I'll definitely look more carefully at the Tang Dynasty poets, but really liked the Old Cowboy - never heard of any of these guys. And Trevino - I'll read more of her, too. The DH Lawrence poem touches me deeply - I have felt all that.

And your rain series and Evolution poem - enjoyed. Oh, and fire - yes, what a metaphor for life/art you have to have the right materials in the right quantity to start that fire.

Thanks for a lovely read - and I LOVE all the photos, but especially the opening one.

Alice

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Loch Raven Review
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