55 days without rain   Monday, June 20, 2011


VI.6.5.




Welcome back to me and to you.

I will move on quickly to the poetry this week, not pausing here to duplicate the shameless plug for my new book which I have thoughtfully include at the end of this post.

Here's the goods for this week:


Meg Kearney
Gin
A Therapist Invites Me to Visit My Inner Child
Encounter
Sculpture of Gulls


Me
what do the fleeing blackbirds know

D. A. Powell
[19 lines]

Me
android days and flypaper nights

Raul Salinas
To My Woman
A Glimpse of Lore (ca)


Me
summer in the city

From Japanese Death Poems
13 poems

Me
I felt challenged to write a wiener poem

Marcos McPeek Villatoro
Final Hope
While Voting
To Miguel Angel Asturias


Me
just don’t have time for meditation

Carl Sandburg
Masses
Lost
Sketch


Me
this is the poem I was going to write today

From Poetry East
Albert Goldbarth
Packing for a Difficult Trip,
Molly Hunter Giles
Photograph
Jack Heflin
Domestic

Me
the door we will someday open

Arthur Munoz
Love
El Sapo
Mary’s Place


Me
how it works

Stephen Dobyns
The Malditos Make a Racket

Me
a fan of little things

Gu Cheng
Parting Thoughts
Feeling
Legal Case
One of My Springs
Old Man (1)
Grave Bed
The God Says


Me
the universal application of old men and old cars

From Against Forgetting
Ariel Dorfman
I Just Missed the Bus and I’ll Be Late For Work
Stanislaw Baranczak
If China
Duoduo
from Thoughts and Recollections

Me
in the way of reassurance upon the onset of dread disease

Thomas R. Smith
The Soprano

Me
frankly, my dear








I begin this week with several poems by Meg Kearney from her first book of poems, An Unkindness of Ravens published in 2001 by BOA Edtions, Ltd.

Recipient of an Artist's Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2001, Kearney also received a New York Times Fellowship and the Alice M. Sellers Academy of American Poets Award in 1998. She is currently Director of the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College, as well as Director of Pine Manor's Solstice Summer Writers Conference. For 11 years prior to joining Pine Manor, she was Associate Director of the National Book Foundation, sponsor of the National Book Awards, in New York City. She also taught poetry at the New School University.



Gin

She came to sex as she'd come to gin. Five
years in the convent, what did she know
about gin? Sister Emmanuiel said the Devil
himself was suckled on it, and after her
third drink in the Red Kilt she knew he was
inside her like a crazed Wizard of Oz,
pushing and pumping her leavers and gears.
Each time she brought the glass to her lips,
Sister's voice whispered, You couldn't
lift one finger, jnot one pinky of one hand
if not for the love of God. But she was
twenty-five and didn't know anything about
love. She knew she wasn't holy, or chaste, or
even sorry. And she knew she was alone when
the man called her beautiiful, when the gin
said, Baby, relax, enjoy it while you can.


A Therapist Invites Me to Visit My Inner Child

I dread going back to see that girl
after her first day of kindergarten.
She is sitting on the front porch
of teh green house on the hill
in her braids, freckles, and new plaid
dress. What should I not say?
The living-room drapes are drawn;
front door is closed against the afternoon
sun. The girl's socks are muddy.Her
pockets sag with diamonds sh discovered
in the creek bed on trhe way home.
When Mother wakes from her nap,
the girl plans to give them to her.
She will stand by the couch
and pour into her mother's hands
diamonds that sparkle like ice in a glass.
Then her mother might be happy.
The girl is singing "Three Little Angels,"
waiting for those curtains to open.
I want to explain that once they dry,
the diamonds will be dull and gray.
I wnat her to stop singing that song.
I want to say her pockets are full of stones.


Encounter

What is the sound of a raven burning?
The position of the sun
is your only clue. At dusk
the air darkens with each breath.
You cock your head to one side;
essence of raven fills your body.

You move closer, you hear fire
taking wing. What
does it sound like?
A gust of sighs the color of a bruise.
Closer still, this unkindness
singes your eyelashes, the back

of your throat. Black eyes
pierce your hands. You hear
your own flesh burning as you drop
and roll with the bird,
desperate to douse the flames -
but your attempt is foolish;

you are suddenly more alone
than you ever expected. There is
nothing under your body but
the absence of light. The sun is
rising now over your shoulder
and you stare at your filthy

hands. Your stigmata have
disappeared, leaving only
two small scars
in the shape of a bird.
A shadow flies behind you
and hides itself in your shoes.


Sculpture of Gulls

They are riding the crest of a wave that never quite
breaks. One gull flies just above the other
and slightly behind, as if he could protect his
mate from the past or a possibly fury
overhead, disguised now as a cloud, white as sea.
She worries more about what lies ahead, the beach
and it dependable shifting, the huge blue
swell beneath her, the depth of its insatiable
thirst. What they know about the wind holds them.
What they are learning about each other
makes them cry out, startled.







This is my first poem for the week, written sometime during the past days off.



what do the fleeing blackbirds know

blackbirds
frantically flee,
flapping dark wings
against that fraudulent grey sky
that promises every early morning
a cool day of shadow and wet,
the promising sky
that fades when the sun fully risen
incinerates from a cloudless sky…

but
more interesting,
why did the blackbirds so frantically
flee,
was it one of those amazing
but true animals sensing natural disaster
things, for example, like the fires in the near north,
does it mean they are on the move, burning
south towards us, do the birds smell
the smoke drifting this way
against the wind

what do the birds know,
that’s the interesting thing

~~~

I used to know a lot
of things when I was a child,
my dear companions
a full set of “Book of Knowledge” encyclopedias
to read and I did every day
and knew all the emperors of Rome,
all the Kings and Queens of England,
all the players in the French Revolution,
those who lost their head and the few who didn’t,
knew the names of all of Napoleon’s major battles,
knew the names of the books
of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus
Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth,
1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd somebody else
and so on, knew all that stuff, like
how many years it would take you to fly
a DC-7 from earth to the moon - which
was a whole lot of time in child-years and which
I don’t know anymore, just like I don’t know
any of that stuff anymore, just like all the stuff
you learn as a child gets buried in your later years
by more important things like who was last year’s
American Idol and who took my cheese and who
put the bop in the bopsheebopsheebop
and while all that old stuff is interesting
and while I it all might come back to mind
in my dotage when I’m seeing imaginary
rabbits in imaginary cabbage patches, the
more important thing right now
is all these frantically fleeing birds
and what they know that I don’t know…

I think we humans
should know those things too
so we could know
when we see the birds frantically fleeing
whether should we be stocking up on
toilet paper and batteries
and bottled water
before whatever's going to happen
happens or
what








Here's a poem by D. A. Powell who lives in the Bay Area where he teaches at the University of San Francisco. The poem is from Powell's fourth book of poems, Cocktails, published in 2004 by Graywolf Press funded in part by grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota and the National Endowment for the Arts, and others.



[19 lines]

     Looking for Mr. G    Bar (1977, Richard Brooks, dir)

shapes repeat themselves.    and messages rewind
it's the answering machine you don't want to hear from

"I could never be kept," he says.    the fear of sobriety
wets his tongue; slips it into my ear with his number

sitting in prospect park bar: conveniently contained
by the lack fo scenery.    his shorts creep up his leg

hand: too causal.    considering his inner thigh
parts of the same bodies arouse each other: kissing cousins

we all sleep with men who are not our lovers: economically
the barter is proposed: more drinks on the mastercard

the pitch and roll of a bed crosses my mind. how to end
this groping beneath the formica table: nobody walks away

I used to wake beside the same body for years
its contour familiar:    until it no longer suited

who knows where desire goes when it leaves the bed
a stranger comes to sit with me:     both light up

he's had a lover test positive.    his lips find my neck
his hand,his ass:    I consider the risk of each part I want

there is a covert exit.    a cab waiting.    I sign for us both








I'm off the grid, mostly, and try hard to say that way. I have a revolutionary cell phone - it takes calls and makes calls and that's all. And that's they way I like it. I'm sure there are 27 thousand things I could be doing with my laptop that I'm not doing, stuff that I don't intend to do because of the requirement that I would have to learn to do it.

Keeping it simple, the thing that I work at every day.



android days and flypaper nights

cars
moving
along the freeway,
east and west, Saturday-style
moving, not in the purposeful frenzy
of a weekday,
but a Saturday going, Saturday doing,
chores to do
that didn’t get done all week,
so no need to hurry today, except...

that's the Saturday mornings
I remember and sometimes imagine
in the morning fog
of sleep-stuccoed eyes,
setting from my mind
today's Saturday mornings of
constant whirly-whiz ,
constant doing and undoing
of ever-tightening knots
of needless complexity,
a time when
only a few of us enjoy
the luxuries of Saturday morning...

the rest
couldn’t slow down
if you wrapped them in a molasses
cocoon, they’d just go on, sticky-dripping,
down the fast-lane trail…

I believe in pacing

even when I ran things back in the real life
thirteen years past on, I set a pace
that allowed for a life
for myself
and for those who worked
at my direction -

easier then,
the tyranny of electronics
not yet grown strong enough to grab and bury
our days - incommunicado
whenever we wanted to be,
easier then to be off the grid
because there was no grid yet,
easier to be human then
because the android days and flypaper nights
of today
were still the tech-dream
of efficiency experts and science fiction…

none of that these days, I watch the young ones
scurry, racing off for promised-riches,
15 hour days, six-seven days a week just to stay
in place, never getting foot and a half
past go in a life that is gone
before they know it…

I’m glad that I’m old
and got out of the game before
the game became
a death march...

playing
my own games now,
like this one
and if I feel like it
a new one tomorrow








Next, I have two poems by Raul Salinas. The poems are from his book Un Trip through the Mind Jail y Otras Excursions, published in 1999 by Arte Publico Press of Houston.

The book was originally published in 1980 and, long out of print, was brought back by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Found and The Cultural Arts Council of Houston & Harris County. It covers twenty years of poetry reflecting the political and cultural upheavals of the 1960s and 70s, much of which time Salinas spent in Prison.

Salinas currently runs the Resistancia bookstore in Austin. His subsequent writings include East of the Freeway: Reflections de Mi Pueblo



To My Woman

Tonight:
i know you are lonely
though you are not within my view;
for loneliness is that suffering
which you've been subjected to.

Lonely nights of burning thirst
your ravaged soul must bear,
and its sole consolation
will come from one lone tear.

But do now weep, O' lonely woman,
for surely you have known
that in my darkest hour,
i too, am alone.

Soledad 7/13/59


A Glimpse of Lore (ca)

Upon gazing at these plastered walls
they do not seem white-washed to me.
Instead
they are yellow and dirty
crumbling with time.

Silently i listen to the winds.

Sounds of Gypsy Guitars
possessed by the clouds overhead
convey in the form of sunbeams
natural folk-songs to cling to my ears.

Yes,Federico;
'your presence is near me this day.
So near that i can see
your glowing eyes and radiant face;
unlike that puzzled youth of old,
who endlessly wandered 'til he got lost
in a sickening jungle of concrete and steel.

It is no different today, my friend.
The scenes are the same as you felt them.
Nothing has changed, Garcia Lorca. Oh, yes!
     they are more revolting.
The skins of the tigress now come in two shades:
     purple and green
with contrasting stripes of blue and brown.
i vomit at the sight of the tigers in pink.

The rivers are told when to flow
the blue skies have now turned grey...
they burn the eyes.
You are better off dead.
Flash!
piston shots ring in the humid & still afternoon,
dying Lorca
the jungle once before us floods in pools of blood,
jackal jackboots crush
     tender poetic countenance
Federico Garcia Lorcca;
and it is late in my afternoon.

Soledad 7-(18-19)59








But keeping it simple sometimes has the effect of making one simple. Every once in a while everyone needs to go off on a tear, let loose one's locked down urge for chaos. A wild hare, or a wild hair, not sure which of those is correct, but not interested enough in knowing to look it up.



summer in the city

I need
a wild hare,
something to get me
past this steaming pile
of summer doldrums
that has become life as I know
it, something to take my mind off
the inevitability of becoming pot roast
in some cartoon god’s Stanley
Steamer - 106 degrees
yesterday at 5 p.m.
according to the temperature gauge
in my car, hard to find any jollity,
joie de vivre,
or any similar such whoop-de-do
in that
I’m saying
as I, despite it all,
heroically, faithfully, laboringly
do my one hour a day
outside
working in the Hades swamp
of my back yard tending plants
long since given up,
dead stalks of themselves,
laying bricks to form little retaining walls
around my bustle of brush
and dead stalks,
certain that it is for the common good
that I not surrender,
“nuts,” I say to the Devil
as he commences to retake his garden
“damn the sautéed blisters,” I say, “full stroke ahead,”
no summer-wuss here,
I am large, in charge, sweating
like a barge in the Panama Canal
and it all boils down, yes boils as the whites of my eyes
bubble and misty red steam whistles
from each ear, it all boils down
to this,
I need a wild hare,
frosty mint variety, before
I do my self in…

or an icy cold Carte Blanca
to drink, to rub its icy cold
brown bottle
on my bald head - a couple of two or 15
of them could also work as well as
a wild hare, frosty mint
or regular
or
a couple of dozen
sun-maidens
in bikinis,
playing volleyball in a patch of sand,
bouncing,
bo
un
-----
ci
ng
that might take my mind
off it
as well








Here are several poems in the Japanese "Death Poem" tradition. The mirror out own cuture's interest in "famous last words." The poems are meant to be the poet's summing up as death approaches.

I have death poems from two schools of poets, poets best known for their haiku and poem by Zen Monks.



Cuckoo,
let's go - how bright
the western skies!

by Jakua, died in 1801

~~~

This year I want
to see the lotus
on the other side.

by Jakura, died in 1906 at the age of fifty-nine

~~~

Family whispers
with the doctor - winter showers
pass through their sleeves.

by Jikko, died in 1791 at the age of sixty-nine

~~~

Leaves of words:
autumn colors
a still mountain

by Jomei, died in 1766 at the age of sixty-one

~~~

A back-yard chrysanthemum
looked at the setting sun
and faded.

by Kaen, died in 1772 at the age of seventy-five

~~~

If I must die
then let me die before
the winter comes.

by Kafu, died 1784 at the age of thirty-six

~~~

Barren branches:
the autumn left behind
a cicada's hollow cry.

by Kagai, died 1778

~~~

The foam on the last water
has dissolved
my mind is clear.

by Mitoku died in 1669 at the age of eighty-two


Now here a few death poems by Zen Monks.


You must play
The tune of non-being yourself -
Nine summits collapse
Eight oceans go dry.

by Zosan Junku, died in 1308 at the age of seventy-six

~~~

Adrift between the earth and sky
I call to tre east and change it to west.
I flourish my staff and return once again
To my source
Katsu!

by Shun'oku Soen died in 1611 at the age of eighty-seven

~~~

No single bone of my body is holy -
It is but and ash heap of stinking bones,
Dig a deep hole and there bury the remains
Thus, not a grain of dust will stain
The green mountains.

by Shumpo Soki, died in 1496 at the age of eighty-eight

~~~

My six and seventy years are through.
I was not born. I am not dead.
Clouds floating on the high wide skies
The moon curves through its million-mile course.

by Yakuo Tokuken, died in 1320 at the age of seventy-six.









Popular culture offers many opportunities for poetic examination, though most don't give you more than 15 minutes. This, for example, already stale and, in modern society, already in the fifty ring of forgotten history.



I felt challenged to write a wiener poem

I feel challenged
to write a wiener poem
today

well
I can do that,
without, maybe,
going either pornographic
or excessively
gastronomic

just don’t expect
one of those
specialty brands
advertised
to “plump when you cook’em”
or anything
of the footlong
variety

cause
I’m afraid
this
little weenie
is the best I can do








Next, I have three poems by Marcos McPeek Villatoro, from his book They Say that Am Two, published by Arte Publico Press of Houston in 1997.

Villatoro is the son of a Salvadoran mother and an Appalachian father. In the 80s and early 90s, he lived in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Alabama, doing grassroots community work in Central America and with migrant farm workers. After graduating from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1998, he and his family moved to California, where he holds the Fletcher Jones Endowed Chair in Writing at Mount St. Mary's College. He's also a regular commentator for NPR and the local PBS affiliate KCET of Los Angeles, the latter for which he won the Emmy.



Final Hope

We walk
between marimbas and M-16s,
between ink pens and pyramids and
coffee and beans and borders.

Wind scatters them,
flings their story apart
in the spray of dying vortex.
We come around,
collect the debris of the
disassembled body.
Now together, its dark mouth
filled with dust and blood cakes,
opens and screams.

The wail runs
like a rabid gunshot,
splitting open heaven
gorged with forgotten rain.


While Voiding

The young man who grew old with whiskey
went outside.
He watched the stares that laughed
in a silent sky.
He thought, "I'm alive. At least I'm
alive."
He soaked the same ground
from yesterday and the day before.
He breathed crisp air
and made himself a drunken promise:
To breathe, sometimes slowly,
other moments panting
but to breathe with
lungs that longed to fill themselves
with the laughter of stars.


To Miguel Angel Asturias

Scratched on the back page of my copy of Hombres de Maiz

Here I am, don Miguel,
in an international airport
far from the dark women who
wqalk on leather feet
and who slap tortillas so that
the sun falls into the frying pan.

Here, where there is not earth,
only borders, stamps, passports
valued more than bodies.
The gringos stands around me.
and I detest them, as they speak
about Guatemalan colors, how cheap they are
to buy,
and those simple little Indians,
and the development of our western civilization.
("Pass me a coffee in a styrofoam cup, please.")
I hate them, while I walk with them.

I was in your land for a short while,
getting to know the corn man's life,
touching a few people,
risking friendships,
leaving a few tears and the hollow
vibration of echoes
under my ribs.








Unfortunately, as much as I might like, I'd never make it as a Zen Monk. Inner peace as a product of a serene and quite mind is something I'll never find. My brain won't shut up long enough.



I just don't have time for meditation

you’ll
have to excuse me
if I seem distracted, but
I’m doing some overdue maintenance
on Arizona

it is a problem
of being the creator
of all the universe around me

things keep breaking down,
needing maintenance

like Arizona…

haven’t
paid any attention
to it in a while
and it’s gone to hell in a
handbasket,
to quote a phrase
I created
when I was creating everything else -
needs work, this
Arizona, probably going
to take all day
to get it back in shape -

it’s the price i pay
because I wasn’t satisfied
with rocks and huge canyons and cactus
and trees and snakes and lizards and desert
varmits, stuff that doesn’t hardly need
any maintenance at all…

but people, big
mistake,
always screwing up,
always getting bent out of shape,
always
slip-sliding away from the rational path I laid out
for them -

I wonder if God has these problems, probably,
almost certainly does, considering the shape
things are in -

I created him specifically to take care
of my stuff, instead, where did I find him last Thursday?
riding around with Sarah Palin in her stupid bus, job dereliction
is what it is and I’m thinking about maybe
it’s time set him straight,
un-create him for a while, maybe
give him a sex-change operation - wonder how
he’d like that -
maybe move him to a lesser cloud,
one of those clouds over on the other side
of the tracks,
deny him food stamps,
increase his Medicare premiums…

maybe
that’d bring him back down
to earth,
back to doing the job
I created him for
so I could get out of the maintenance
business
and back to creating..

it is so hard…

but wait a minute,
you’re fading on me…

jeez,
now I have to fix you
too








Here are several poems by Carl Sandburg, a poet of his day with whom I have much more sympathy than with the modern radical movementnistas. Sandburg seemed to me to speak to real people about real people from a real person perspective, unlike our current crop of radicals who seem to write as an elite to the elite and for the elite.

Though not the poet Whitman was, he seemed to write with the same sense of solidarity with all his fellows.



Masses

Among the mountains I wandered and saw blue haze and
    red crag and was amazed:
On the beach where the long push under the endless tide
    manueveuvers, I stood silent;
Under the stars on the prairie watching the Dipper slant
    over the horizon's grass, I was full of thoughts.
Great men, pageants of war and labor, soldiers and work-
    ers, mothers lifting their children - these all I
    touched, and felt the solemn thrill of them.
And then one day I got a true look at the Poor, millions
    of the Poor, patient and toiling; more patient than
    crags, tides, and stars; innumerable, patient as the
    darkness of night - and all broken,humble ruins of
    nations.


Lost

Desolate and lone
All night long on the lake
Where fog trails and mist creeps,
The whistle of a boat
Calls and cries unendingly,
Like some lost child
In tears and trouble
Hunting the harbor's breast
And the harbor's eyes.


Sketch

The shadow of the ships
Rock on the crest
In the low blue luster
Of the tardy and the soft inrolling tide.

Along brown bar at the dip of the sky
Puts an arm of and in the span of salt.

The lucid and endless wrinkles
Draw in, lapse and withdraw.
Wavelets crumble and white spent bubbles
Wash on the floor of the beach.

    Rocking on the crest
    In the low blue luster
    Are the shadows of the ships.








A day is rescued in mid-poem.



this is the poem I was going to write today

this
is the poem
I was going to write today…

facing
the new day
feeling crusty and stale
like day-old bread

that’s the way
it’s been every morning
for weeks now

the heat
and the getting old
and the never-ending day
and the stomach-churning muck
of this second decade
of the 21st century…

lord
I will relish
a change in the seasons,
the day when a north wind blows
and the air is clear and bright
and light, not heavy
like a summer day, not borne down
like summer, as if with the sins
of all mankind,
a day of daydreams and night songs
of welcome to the season
of our better natures

summer comes
and brings the bitter taste of dust
devils
swirling
on white caliche fields,
of sweat
and burn and fire
in the air
and soot-smelling nights
and grumbles
of cracking earth
opening
like a fish with mouth agape
gasping
for the air of its water home...

and so on and
so on, a too-long poem
of too-common
misery,
a poem of desperation,
facing another long day of another
long
summer,
a plea of desperation
that only could be writ by someone
who has walked barefoot
across the cinder blocks of hell…

that’s the poem
I meant to write today…

but then,
I was awaken at 4 a.m.
by the sound of rain against
the window by my bed,
and then the sun came up
to a dark day, black clouds dropping
a steady hum of rain,
puddles,
long -dry creeks running wet,
the interstate a parking lot as commuters
struggle to survive rain-slick streets,
their lights
reflected like yellow diamonds
on the wet asphalt,
rain, after forty days without -
soon to pass
it will be,
not a drought-buster,
the heavy summer to return
soon in all its dry misery,
but today,
evidence that, at least for today,
the forces arrayed against the devil
have won, forcing,
at least for a day, the demon back
to his fiery basement…

but we take our victory
in measured
doses
for we know a knockdown is not
a knockout
and a day without summer
does not mean the onset of spring

a new round,
we know,
will start tomorrow,
but today
we will sing in the rain,
dance in puddles
before they slip away,
lay on our backs
in a rejuvenated creek
even as its flow starts
to slow -
we will take the day
and for the day
stop thinking about
tomorrow








I have three poets now from Poetry East, the spring 1997 issue published by DePaul University.



The first poet is Albert Goldbarth.

Born in 1948 in Chicago, Goldbarth received his BA from the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle campus, in 1969 and his MFA from the University of Iowa in 1971. He taught at the Elgin Community College in Chicago until 1972 and as a coordinator for the Traveling Writers Workshop for public schools in the Chicago area.

In 1974, after completing a year of study at the University of Utah while working toward his PhD in creative writing and publishing a chapbook and two full-length poetry collections, hee left Utah early to begin a teaching career, working briefly at Cornell and Syracuse Universities before moving to the University of Texas, Austin, where he taught from 1977 to 1987.

He is currently Adele Davis Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Wichita State University, where he has taught since 1987.


Packing for a Difficult Trip,

I take my sci-fi paperback adventure
- I can lose myself agreeably
inside its brawling cosmos; and,
to balance that, a pedantically serious treatise
on the measurement of time in preliterate cultures;
and a book of verse...trying to anticipate
varieties of reading need
- "intended for use on occasions
yet to arise," so says the treatise,
of early shaped stone stored in caves.
If she's in pain, I'll divert here with stories.
If she dies, I'll be strong for my sister's sake.
Preparing preparing preparing. Now getting
onto the flight to Chicago.


The next poet from the anthology is Molly Hunter Giles, who has published short fiction for children and adults. She trains "special sitters" in the care of children with development disabilities.


Photograph

I remember that vacation:
Mother standing on the beach
contorted behind a camera
as we waded in,
Uncle Chuck's giant arm
towing my baby frame
over jagged stones and broken shells
into the blinding sun.

I squinted, stumbled,
winced with each administrative yank
as all the grownup voices shouted,
"Smile!"

And then I smiled
just to show them.


My last poet from the book is Jack Heflin, co-director of the creative writing program at Northeast Louisiana University. His first collection of poetry won the Montana First Book Award.


Domestic

Not long after you first walked
you danced, a crazy kind of penguin hop,
feet stuck to the floor, arms at your side,
as if holding weightless pails of ice,
flightless antarctic joke, and how we laughed.
Ginger Baker, bluegrass, Sonny Rollins,
you even found the beat to Mahler's Ninth.
We slapped our butts and sang along,
capable, however compromised, of joy,
as in a Brueghel print, or so we thought.
It won't last long. Your style is about to change:
you've started picking up your feet,
and just today, you whirled a dizzy windmill.
On your back, you stared for us to pick you up
and we came stumbling to your need.








I don't really like this poem so much, too much writing, to little instinct, too little spontaneity. But, it's mine, can't hardly leave it out in the dark and wet.



the door we will someday open

an inch of rain
and the everything is greened
overnight

demonstration
that everything that lives
wants the life promised to it

every acorn
fights to be the grand
and towering tree it holds
so tightly
within the warm prison of its shell

every seed
waits to flower
with its fellows on some wind-stirred
meadow

you and me,
a little different,
we believe in life
even as we scorn the death seeker,
the aberrant
and misshapen piece of self
unique to our sentient kind,
buried deep
by our forced expulsion from the womb
of nothing,
our heritage
the gloom of creation,
the trauma
that never entirely leaves us,
recognizing
ever day of life another step
to the nothing
from where we came

like the acorn
and the seed and all the other
living,
we know life

but only we know life ends

so that even
as we seek our life potential,
we know
the end that waits for us
behind
the door we will someday
open,
leaving this green world
behind








Next, I have three poems from a book I was very happy to run across in my used book store. The book is From a Cop's Journal & Other Poems,by former San Antonio homicide detective Arthur Munoz. The book was published by Corona Publishing of San Antonio in 1984.

Born in a Los Angeles barrio in 1924, Munoz moved to Texas with his family , completed high school down the coast in Corpus Christi, attended nearby Texas A & I University and St Mary's Law School here in San Antonio. He worked in the San Antonio Police Department for more than 20 years, working his way up in the department from patrol officer. He published one book before this one and, after retiring from his law enforcement career became Poet in Schools with the San Antonio ISD.



Love

In the center of the project
an old lady works her garden;
for years she has done the same.
Now a piece of green with flowers
exists in the concrete pile.

Children never walk by
without smiling;
drunks cross the street to piss,
and teens, running from the cops
or fighting,
wouldn't think
of cutting through her garden.

All this
with never a word
spoken to the old lady
except from a distance -
and then only to each other,
"She's crazy."


El Sapo

He was a fighter
and leader of his gang
The Red Devils.

In the county jail
there were notches on the bars
counting his time,
and his name burned on the walls
giving him honor in the street.

At his mother's side
he did no wrong
and his father who cared
never understood him.

"El Sapo" was born too late.
He should have been here
when the Aztecs ruled
to have been their chief,
or with Columbus
sailing his ships -
perhaps with Cortez,
conquering new lands.

Instead,
he fights in the barrio
"to clear his name"
gunning his low-rider
through the projects on Sunday -
one against the world,
fighting windmills.


Mary's Place

The door opened
and all eyes turned to see
the stranger who dared to enter
the neighborhood bar
in the dead-end alley.

In the corner
the box continued to play
another version
of the same story
about a son-of-a-bitch
who never gives women
a second chance,
always the macho
ready to fight.

The brew had knitted their brains
and the song primed them to stand
and challenge...
They were just waiting
for someone else to go first.








I'll admit that the weather during the last half of June made this schedule very hard to maintain. With sequential days of triple-digit heat and high humidity, going outside to do my work is a challenge every day. Staying out for a full hour is even harder.



how it works

here’s
how it works:

I get up before six,
have breakfast,
write my this and my that
until about noonish
when I go home
and do my hour in the yard
before lunch, tomato
soup and a ham sandwich
if I’m being good,
then proceed on to writing my afternoon
something else…

in the past years
my hour working outside
has become very important
to me, especially during the summer
when good sense and a weak inner core
of discipline would see me outside
no more than the time it takes to walk
from one air-conditioned haven
to another

so,
I insist
I must persist,
giving me a sense of time
and place
as it does, and a sense of history
as I work under the sun,
like the first settlers of this area
worked, the various tribes
of the Coahuiltecan,
laboring dawn to dust,
almost certainly alongside
this very creek,
to survive in a harsh land,
forever
in fear of the warrior Apache
and Comanche -

with each spade of earth turned
I feel more a part of
a living past…

but what to do?

most every thing
I’ve tried to grow, runs,
after a couple of inches, into
the caliche and rock that lies below
the thin layer of soil
and dies, the only survivors
of my efforts, the weeds I’ve tried
summer after summer
to kill,
beautiful weeds,
I’ve come to believe, survivors,
growing through the this inhospitable
environment
for ten thousand years…

who am I to try to interfere
with this natural expression of life affirmed?

so,
giving up my horticultural conceits,
I turn to geologic issues

my back yard
falls
in a severe decline
from my patio
to the creek on the other side
of the fence -
loss of what little soil remaining,
a continuing challenge,
some parts of the yard
already eroded to a bare limestone shelf…

and so, my project
of many summers, building
retaining walls,
not one big, long wall across
the back yard, but a series of semi-circular
borders around trees and plots of the persistent
weeds I could never kill
and have come to accept as God’s gift
to the inattentive gardener who accepts that green
is green, after all, and who cares what category
of green some may call it…

in previous summers
I have laid curbstones around in the semi-circular
pattern as described
never affixing them in any way permanent…

the project this summer is to attend
to such affixing

mixing a bit of redi-mix concrete
every day and building little concreted
retaining walls where I had previously laid
the curbstone…
yesterday
I completed a particularly challenging
part of this affixing, needing
to build a higher wall at a place
around a tree where the drop from one level
was particularly severe

four curbstones
high,
each level cemented to the level below…

i completed the challenge about 1:30,
pulled a beer from the fridge,
squirted myself top to bottom
with the water hose
and set back to admire my masonry,
a mighty-damn-fine
piece of work
is what I call it,
as maybe would you, after I explain that
my artistic and architectural inspiration
was the world-renown Leaning Tower of
Pisa…

I’m considering the income possibilities
of the tourism trade at this very moment,
possibly a place
on the standard tour right after the Alamo
and before the stop at the Spanish Governor’s Mansion -
us poor but committed artistic types
never being in a position
to ignore any possibility of cash
in our pockets








Here's a poem by Stephen Dobyns, from his book Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides, published by Penguin in 1999.

The book is hard to explain, except to say that the principal character in all the poems is, Heart, who, in addition to being a character with wants and desires and dreams, as well as it is with all characters, adventures and every day life, is also the blood pumping organ we all rely on to keep ourselves alive.

If you can't buy into that premise, you're going to have a problem with this poem.



The Malditos Make a Racket

The banditos of memory gallop their sorry nags
around the yard of Heart's hacienda. They smack
their horses' butts with their dusty sombreros.
Caramba, they shout, and Yip, yip, yip. Heart
watches from the window with his head poked
over the sill. Yesterday his Federales had vowed
that these chingadas would torment him no longer.
They had been corralled,imprisoned,driven back
to the jungle. Now they show up wilder than ever.
the fat one with a greasy mustache who signifies
Heart's defeats - debts unpaid, projects unfinished.
The cross-eyed one, his chest crossed with X-like
cartucheras who brings to mind Heart's lost loves.
The skinny one with a scar on his cheek depicting
for Heart the betrayed friends, the help not given,
the letters not written. Others can be imagined:
work bungled, deadlines unmet, simple ruination.
They gallop in front of Heart's windows, shooting
off their pistols. Such a nuisance. This was the day
Heart had set aside for meditation,when he meant
to critique his defects and turn over a new leaf.
No chance for that now. The malditos are making
too big a racket. Instead, he will sip some whiskey
and study his catalogue of beautiful women. He will
limp forward making mistakes and accumulating
regrets, just like yesterday and the day before. Now
there is a hammering at the door. It's the fat one
with a printed invitation. Come ride with us, it asks.
They are eager for Heart to be their chief. They flatter
the brilliance of his failings and cheer his capacity
to be bad. Heart is touched. Maybe later, he mumbles.
The banditos crowd through the door. In no time,
the entire gang is lounging in Heart's living room,
sprawling on his bed, swiping snacks from the fridge.
How can he endure it? you ask. But don't you see
it's like this every day. Heart is their boss already.
The way they dress, the wave they wave their guns,
it's all under his direction. And if they disappeared,
Heart would be crestfallen. He'd lose his credibility
as a vital sinner, on officer in the army of the bad,
and be like you or me or anyone - just a civilian.








We're always told we need to see the "big picture." I think the little pictures are much more worthy of notice.



a fan of little things

just finished
breakfast, thinking,
best damn super-extra-crispy bacon
of my whole doggone life
on this planet, which I thank
for creating the corn or whatever
that fed the pig
that became the best damn
super-extra-crispy bacon
of my whole existence on this planet
not counting the times
I might have been the corn
or the pig
or whatever else was involved
in creation
of the best damn super-extra-crispy
bacon ever, thank you, God,
if you exist and if you had anything
to do with it
and I’m thinking, damn
I wish I could wake up again
and come in here again and order
my breakfast again
and eat my best damn super-extra-crispy
bacon
all over again,
enjoy the super-extra-crispy
crunchy pleasure
all over again as if it had never ever happened
before and the super-etcetera pleasure
was completely new to me,
experienced
for the very first time

but
that’s the way I am,
a fan of little things,
the little atomic thingies
that come together to make up bigger
and bigger things, like stars, that in turn
come together
to make galaxies and constellations
and ultimately a whole damn universe,
laid out before me as I lie in the grass at night, looking up
at it all, thinking of all the teensy-tiny things that came together
to make wondrous things like stars
shining against a universal backdrop of dark somewhere/nowhere
and pleasurable things
like cool breezes in summer, cold water splashing
on my droopy-morning face, little girls
who giggle
when I wink at them
and, as you might guess by now,
super-extra-crispy-crunchy
bacon, the best I ever had, just this
morning








Next, I have several poems by modern Chinese poet, Gu Cheng, from his book Nameless Flowers. This is a book I apparently bought on one of my used book forays and never got around to looking at. It is a beautiful book, with pictures by Hai Bo, an internationally known freelance artist living in Beijing an extended self-introduction by the poet and a remembrance by his father, also a poet.

The book was published in 2005 by George Braziller, Inc. with translations by Aaron Crippen.

Born in 1956, the poet began life in privilege as the son of a prominent party member. His father was the army poet Gu Gong. At the age of twelve, his family was sent down to rural Shandong during the Cultural Revolution for re-education. They bred pigs.

In the late 1970s, Cheng became associated with the journal "Today" (Jintian) which began a movement in poetry known as "menglong" meaning "hazy, "obscure". He became an international celebrity and travelled around the world accompanied by his wife, Xie Ye. The two settled in Auckland, New Zealand in 1987 where Cheng taught Chinese at the University of Auckland.

In October 1993, Gu Cheng attacked his wife before hanging himself. She died later in a hospital.



Parting Thoughts

I will die
become a shifting riddle
the future scholar's gaze
will fill with suspicion

leave hovering fingerprints
leave staggered footprints
shatter the language
skew the music

this is no child's sleep talk
or geriatric game
this is to bring one period of history
to a permanent end

1980.7


Feeling

the sky is gray
the road is gray
the buildings are gray
the rain is gray

through an expanse of dead gray
two children pass
one bright red
one pale green

1780.7


Legal Case

the nights
are like crowds
of blurry-faced people
stealing up to me
then leaving

I've lost my dreams
there are only some coins in my pockets
"I've been robbed"
I say to the sun
the sun goes chasing the nights
and by another crowd of lights
is chased

1981.11


One of My Springs

outside the wood window
lie my furrows
my yak
my plow

a squadron of suns
comes shining through the fence slats
sky-blue flower petals
begin to curl

the frightened dew
wets a field of memories
startled sparrows
look to the heavenly pole

I will to work
choose seeds from in dreams
let them glint in my hand
and cast them on water

1982.2


Old Man (1)

the old man
sits by the fire
forehead flaming

he is watching
the muddled smoke
sucked by draughts into slender threads
that lightly rub hands
then snap

quick glowing embers
need no mor language

just sitting
not moving
not recollecting
letting time flutter at his back
those immaculate ashes
are almost untouchable

thus
no crying
no opening the ink-green window
there are no boys outside
standing on health's asphalt road
toes spread wide
waiting for a miracle

182.5


Grave Bed

I know death approaches      it's not tragic
my hopes are at peace in a forest of pines
overlooking the ocean from a distance      like a pond
afternoon sunlight keeping me mottled company

a man's time is       and man's world goes on
I must rest in the middle
passersby say the branches droop
passersby say the branches are growing

1988.1


The God Says

ashes too
have lives
they float in the wind
go courting in smoke
caress on warm airs
in quite a few places they
seek me








I found this news item very interesting and had to do a poem to investigate the ramifications.



the universal application of old men and old cars

heard
on the radio
about this new research
that found
the disease rates
and death rates of old people
go down
after they reach a certain age

it’s like
when you reach that age
you’ve suffered and survived
every disease there is to suffer
and you’re body just goes on and on
until it finally just wears out, quits
producing
the biological elements
that sustain the juice of life

and your life is done
not because of disease, but
because it’s just done, reached the limit
of it’s capacity to live…

the gerontologists continue
to try to figure this out, to learn
what the factors are
that allow longevity to produce longevity…

but there’s a hint
in an associated study
that suggests it’s a bigger question
than one limited to biology

that study learned
that the same effect of longevity
producing longevity
also applies to automobiles, that
just as people reach that certain age
when their chances of continued survival
begin to improve,
the same effect is evident in old cars,
that a car, if still running after some number of years,
will continue to run and run and run, like the million-mile
cars you read about that just don’t stop
until some seminal moment
when everything stops at once, that moment
of termination when all the elements say
“that’s enough”

this makes me consider
the possibility that it is in the nature
of all things to have a cease and desist
directive, the time when an old man or an old car
stops, the time when a stone crumbles
to dust, the time a star blazes in nova, the time
the universe folds back into itself, the inevitable result
of the big bang a big whimper, the death of all things
coming in its time, our own cycle of birth
and death, not unique, but part
of the whole scheme of things, the inevitability
of birth, the inevitability death, the purpose of birth
it’s inevitable end…

but while the cosmic questions
abide,
I am a single element in that cosmos,
an element with self-knowledge, an element
that wonders of self more than it wonders of the whole -

like me,
considering for myself
that if I can make it to 75, my chances improve for 80,
and that for every five years completed thereafter
chances to see the next five are brighter -

quite a personal comfort
to me
as the universe races toward inevitable death
all around me








Here are three poets from the anthology Against Forgetting, Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness, published by W.W. Norton in 1993.



The first poet is Ariel Dorfman. Although born in Argentina in 1942, Dorfman is a Chilean. A strong supporter of socialist president Salvador Allende, he was forced into exile in the United States and Europe until 1983 after the coup d'etat of 1973. He went back to Chile in 1983, but was arrested and deported in 1987. He is now allowed to return and divides his time between teaching at Duke University and visits to Chile.


I Just Missed the Bus and I'll Be Late for Work

I'd have to piss through my eyes to cry for you
salivate,sweat, sigh through my eyes,
I'd have to waterfall
I'd have to wine
I'd have to die like crushed grapes
through my eyes,
cough up vultures spit green silence
and shed a dried-up skin
no good to animals
no good for a trophy
I'd have cry these wounds
this war
to mourn for us.

(Translation by the poet and Edith Grossman


The next poet is Stanislaw Baranczak.

Born in 1946, Baranczak was, by 1975, a professor at Adam Mickiewicz University in Pozan with several books to his credit. But then he was blacklisted because of his activity in the Polish human rights movement as cofounder of KOR (Committee for the Defense of Worker's Rights) and as editor of underground journals. Fired from his teaching post in 1977, he was refused an exit visa eight times and was not able to leave Poland until 1981. His passport was revoked in 1984 and he has lived in trhe United States since.


If China

If china, then only the kind
you wouldn't miss under the movers' shoes or the treads of a tank;
if a chai, then one that's not too comfortable, or
you'll regret getting up and leaving;
if clothes, then only what will fit in one suitcase;
if books, then only those you know by heart;
if plans, then the ones you can give up
when it comes time for the next move,
to another street, another continent or epoch
or world:

who told you you could settle in?
who told you this or that would be forever?
didn't anyone tell you ou'llnever
in the world
feel at home here?

Translated by Magnus J. Krynski


And my last poet from the book this week is Duoduo.

Born Li Shizheng in Beijing in 1951, Duoduo trained as an opera singer. He began writing poetry during the Cultural Revolution in the early 1970s and became prominent in the liberalization of Chinese politics at the end of that decade. He has worked as a journalist in Beijing.


from Thoughts and Recollections

When the People Stand Up out of the Hard Cheese

The sound of gunfire - dilutes the bloody terror of revolution.
August is stretched like a cruel bow.
The poisonous man-child walks out of a peasant hovel
with tobacco and a parched throat.
The cattle have been brutally blinkered
and remains hang in the hair from their haunches, likeswollen
    clappers.
Now even the sacrifice behind the bamboo fence is obscured:
far off, the troops keep coming through the cloud.

1972

Translated by Gregory Lee and John Cayley








Here's an old poem to fill a hole in the schedule.



in the way of reassurance upon the onset of dread disease

feeling bad

after two days
in bed,
signs of life,
but still need
assurance
that the end
is not nigh

time to take
inventory,
so before the mirror
i stand

good-sized
human,
liberally patched
with white fur

- a apparition
in the dark of a
half-moon night -

belly
like the prow
of a sailing ship
pushing fearlessly
into the highest seas

arms, chest
shoulders still bearing evidence
of a blacksmith’s genes,
but even there,
ample signs
that gravity is in the game,
and winning

internals not so good
but all in all not
so bad
for a body
in its 68th year

the creature
lives!
as the doctor cried

it lives! it lives!








For my last piece from my library, I have this prose poem by Thomas R. Smith, from his book Horse of Earth published in 1994 by Holy Cow! Press of Duluth, Minnesota.

Smith was born in 1948 and grew up in Wisconsin. He majored in English at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. Inspired by the work of Rimbaud and Baucelaire during a year's travel in Europe, found his preferred poetry expression through prose poems.

In the early 1980s, Smith directed Artspeople, a rural-based arts organization. As a poet, essayist and editor, his work has appeared frequently in the Canada, the United States and abroad.



The Soprano

     The conductor brings up violins behind the heavy-breasted woman. Tonight she is singing Four Last Songsby Strauss. Her knees bend, she lists to one side like a boat on the Rhine.
     Notes stream upward, almost inaudible, the stirring of a breeze among oak leaves or the sounds river ice makes in early spring. Suddenly what was listened for so carefully is loose in air, a passion declared after years of concealment, a storm arriving on a clear day. In a valley, sunlight flees the ripened cluster of grapes. So many not tasted, paintings never seen, cities that waited for us and we did not come...
     The audience feels fear beneath the intoxicating melody. In the voice's distillation is a summing up, a precise accounting of its existence, a rose fully opened in this room. The hearer glimpses not only the strength and subtlety of the soul, but its dark seams also, niches of character, dislocations and failings. How difficult it is to be a woman, the grief of the new life turning in her earthen body. And then - how difficult it is to be human. The man is inside the woman and the woman inside the man, and they have never met.








Another old poem; many holes this week, not writing a lot that I like.



frankly, my dear

I spent a good part
of a day last week
trimming
the hedge in front
of my front porch

it was about chin
high
and I cut it back
to about knee high
with the idea
that we could sit
out there in front
and watch life go by

so far
life going by
amounts to cars
going by too fast
for a nice Andy
Taylor/Aunt Bee
wave and howdy,
several dog walkers
mostly
with ugly dogs
who I suspect are
the producers of the
dog poop
I always find in the yard
- the dogs
not the walkers -
and the very large lady
in the very tight shorts
who jogs by
twice a day huffing
and puffing
and I guess there’d
be a story there,
a real slice of life
story, but frankly
my dear
I don’t give a hoot
- I stole that line,
but cleaned
it up for general audience -

so that, as they say,
is life
on Clearview Street
in San Antonio
Texas,
not much
to spend a whole day
trimming hedges for

well
there was the young
girl
who missed the turn
at Callaghan & Clearview
and drove her Ranger
pickup
through my neighbor’s
fence this afternoon
but that doesn’t
count
because I wasn’t there
and didn’t see it,
though I did hear about it,
making it a part of someone else’s
life and only secondarily my own,
which is not enough to count
as a full-measure part of my life
on this slow Texas
afternoon
and certainly not justification
for trimming the hedge








Dat's dat, but not without a reminder.

My second EBook, Goes Around, Comes Around is scheduled for release between now and the first. The book includes 85 poems and will sell for $5.99 or less. If previous experience is a guide, it will be available first on the Amazon Kindle, to be followed in the next week or so in the Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony's EReader and in IBooks. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, that I know of, will download an application for PCs and Macs at no charge with purchase of the book for customers who don't have an EReader.





As to future publishing plans, I expect to have at least one, maybe two, additional EBooks published by the end of the year.


In the meantime, back to "Here and Now" business.

All material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, wishing to leave you with this last word...

Bless you and all you children and pets, even those who roam at night and pee on the carpet, and buy my book.

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This is Me   Friday, June 17, 2011





Taking a Week Off.

Come back for more poetry in a week.

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Summer Recess   Friday, June 10, 2011


VI.6.2.




It's hot as hell in Texas, and it's going to get hotter and I don't want to work much so "Here and Now" is taking a semi-summer recess with this short post.

But short does not mean not good. I have good stuff this week, just less of it than usual. Among the special treats, I have several poems by a new friend, Mira Desai, from India. Mira is a new housemate on Blueline's poem-a-day forum and I've been enjoying her daily poems for more than a month now. so here she is for more to enjoy.

Also a busy week with other activities. I sent my next EBook Goes Around, Comes Around to BookBaby this week. It should be on all the "shelves" of the EBook retailers by July 1st. I also began final edit on the book to follow that one, Always to the Light and made a decision on my fourth EBook of the year Road Poems that gives me direction on how to go forward with it.

A busy week, but still, "Here and Now" - smaller,but not, as I said, lesser.


David Rivard
Against Gravity

Me
muffin baking and other activities of the long night

Luis J. Rodriguez
The Bull’s Eye Inn

Me
Marshall Dillion is dead

Mira Desai
Bandra Set
Medley
Lights
Number Lesson
Of Rescues and Hunger


Me
night winds

Kevin A. Gonzalez
Cultural Scope

Me
how to make a German comedy

From Unwritten Literature of Hawaii - the Sacred Song of the Hula
Song

Me
understanding the business of art

From Three Rivers, Ten Years
Ted Kooser
The Afterlife
Elizabeth Libby
Forcing the End
Mary Oliver
An Old Whorehouse
Linda Pastan
At Home

Me
retirement living

Jacinto Jesus Cardona
The Old Dream Oven
La Coste, Texas
Tongue-Tied


Me
sustained by the memory

Lester Paldy
Space
Nearing Spring


Me
waiting breakfast for Dee









My first poem this week is by David Rivard. It's from his book, Wise Poison, published in 1996 by Graywolf Press. The book was winner of the 1996 James Laughlin Award of The Academy of American Poets.



Against Gravity

Blue sky, ungated clouds, & on a sand-pitted
highway sign the number 10 stands out -
a minor footnote in a monograph on drugs,

a reference instructing the reader to study
my nap on the floor of a Ford Econoline
summer after high school. As if rest, & only rest,

were what we found ourselves made of, sometimes.
Through rest is only one trait, actually, when
you've been hitching between Tuscon & El Paso

and gotten picked up by a van. The equally ingenious
others look like tie-dye & restlessness, like
rest stops & silver heather, maybe jimson,

and a little lantana raising it's nippled red speckles
into the scent of sagebrush rained on & drying.
They got me high, three men & a woman costumed

estimably in the style of out-of-work jesters,
jovial people of 1971, wearing the standard issue -
fusty cloches, velveteen pants, embroidered emblems,

with shiny balls like car bells dangling
off one or two ears. For one a self-etched tattoo,
it's motto the equation ACID=BLISS framed

by a multiplying finger or exploding chloroplast.
For another, a Fu Manchu & fedora. A synaptic Apache
snake cinching the woman's frayed macramé belt.

Mirror sunglasses for all. And small mirrors,
like tiny ponds, frozen pools, had been sewn
on the woman's India print blouse by some

Kashmiri laborer, who, if he could have looked into
them, might have seen me dozing off, stoned
on pan hash, bits of myself reflecting back,

scattered, a tired grin from the woman's
right sleeve, the puffed wrist, pale ear at the tip
of a breast, nose on her stomach. And haven't I

always loved being broken up & abrogated by sleep?
But when I woke we had pulled off the road
into a ranch. From the tape deck "Brain Salad Surgery"

blared, a form of premature senility disguised
as endless synthesizer riffs. For a second, in the nazz
and compression of noise, still stoned, I thought

they intended to kill me. An intuition
so melodramatic & dumb the sight of two of the men
kissing in the front seat had to wipe it away.

I had never seen two men kiss & the surprise,
which in another setting might have shocked,
seen disgusted, my sheltered murmurous little self,

somehow reassured me. The kiss implying
not so much gentility as distraction.
Then, out of the eddies of shades, the woman

ran, having tossed off her incongruous imitation
alligator heels, naked now except for
purple tights, she ran & turned cartwheels

three times across the yard. Gravity.
Gravity. the had wanted to visit a friend
who, they claimed, was connected to anti-

gravity research being conducted there.
Merely a windbreak occupied by
an adobe shed and barn, it seemed abandoned,

as if during the night the hard rains,
the lightning, had chased away the enemy
of gravity, & now we were to take his place.








Much you can gather about people from parts usually unseen.



muffin baking and other activities of the long night

it’s a bright and sunny
Sunday morning
and I’m thinking about sex

now
I can tell
some off you
are surprised that I’m thinking about sex
on such a bright and sunny
Sunday morning,
but I don’t know why...

I’m an old gent
after all,
a getting-on gent,
a heading-for-the-last-round-up gent,
a drawing-near-to-that-last-hillrise-cowboy

and men
in my particular chronological condition
think about a lot of things,
the weather,
dumb-ass politicians,
uncomplicated bowel movements,
occasionally a poem,
and sex…

mostly sex

cause even though we may not be getting
much of it anymore ,
sex is still the prime concern,
at least of those whose
wilty
whiskariser
has yet to fall off,
and since my whiskariser still
abides
I spend a lot of my thinking time
thinking about sex

that’s just the way it is,
just ask any whiskariser-intact
old man
and he will confirm
if he’s even the least bit honest
sex beats weather
and dumb-assed politicians
to think about
any old
day…

in particular,
this bright and sunny
Sunday morning,
I’m thinking about a particular
girl I once knew
a long time back,
in the old days when Ike
was still hitting par
with Mamie,

a particular girl
I’m remembering
whose nipples
were in constant confrontation

the one always hard
like a marble,
proudly erect like a sweet
dark cherry
on a cream-puff pie

the other lazy
always lying back,
holding back, small and
unobtrusive…

her conflicted nipples like
her conflicted nature,
the one ever-erect
showing
the wild part of her, the
part always ready
for the next adventure,
the next sensation -

touch me, kiss me, play
me lightly with your teeth, she’d say
lick me like a triple-dip ice cream
cone
-

(and other such things
she’d say
I’m much to shy
to repeat
in a public forum
such as this)

but there was, still,
the other side
of her,
the Betty Crocker-in-a-white-
frill-apron-muffin-
baker
side,
the nipple so slow to rise
like reluctant muffins,
so hard to arouse, the nipple
of modesty,
of consequence and restraint,
of look twice before your leap,
the nipple of probably shouldn’t leap at all,
the nipple of banked fires
and still nights and clouds slow moving
against dark and starless skies…

but the fire was not out, just laid low,
waiting for the breeze of soft whispers
to flame again, to re-ignite the stars,
to push the clouds and clear the sky,
the fire when it came
as hot and bright as any other,
only slower to rise…

and it was in the
conflagration
that the two sides of her
joined in the end

confusing to me,
sometimes,
leaving me never knowing
which of her two sides
would come with me
through the long night
till dawn…

but the truth is,
while possibilities varied,
there were no bad nights
when sooner or later
her secret identity was
revealed








My next poem is by Luis J. Rodriguez and it's from his book The Concrete River. The book was published by Curbstone Press in 1991.



The Bull's Eye Inn

    (Apologies to T. S. Eliot for the first two lines

Let us go then,
you and I
to the Bull's Eye Inn,
through the rusted iron gates
into the dark and damp, stepping on saw-dusted
floors gushing with ether, where my ex-wife
once waited tables on weekends grinning with death.
Come to where the blood, beer, and barf
flowed with the bourbon washes.

My ex-wife often invited me to watch over her.
My job on those weekends, she explained,
was to sit in a dark corner, by myslef,
and keep the out-of-work mechanics,
the foundrymen
and sow-talking cholos
from going too far -
which was like blowing a balloon
and trying to stop just before it burst!

Dudes would buy her drinks
and she brought the drinks over to me.
Laid back against a plush seat,
I silently toasted
their generosity.

I did a toast to her too, to our babies,
to the blood-shot eyes of East LA nights
and the midnight romps we once had,
near naked, in the park.

Many times in the candle -lit haze,
as a disc jockey played tunes
behind a chain-link barrier,
the bullets came flying and beer bottles
crashed on the wall behind my head.

Once on the dance floor some dude
smacked his old lady to the ground.
Later that night she returned,
firing a .22 into the bar
- and missing everybody -
as Little Willie G. crooned, "Sad Girl"
from a turntable.

Con artists congregated here,
including the Earl of Lincoln Heights
who once sold a house he didn't own.

And boys with tattoos and scars crisscrossing skin,
prowled the pool tables, passing bills,
while trying to out-hustle each other
as disco beats and cumbias pulled people
onto the lopsided dance floor.

My ex-wife danced too.
I watched dudes hold her, kiss her neck,
eye her behind
and look down
her sweaty breasts.

But I also knew this was the closest
I would ever get to her anymore,
in that dark corner,
with beer bottles rising from a table -
when she needed me.

Outside the Bull's Eye Inn
the hurting never stopped.
Outside the Bull's Eye Inn
we locked into hate
shrouded in the lips of love.

Outside the Bull's Eye Inn
we had two children
who witnessed our drunken brawls -
my boy once entered our room,
and danced and laughed with tears in his eyes
to get us to stop.

But inside,beside the blaze of bar lights,
she was the one who stole into my sleep,
the one who fondled my fears,
the one who inspired
the lust of honeyed remembrance.

She was the song of regret behind a sudden smile.








"Gunsmoke" was the TV event every week that wasn't to be missed. Matt Dillion was the center of the show, the center of Dodge City, and the center of TV westerns.

James Arness died last week, at 88 years old. Strange to think of him as someone other than the Marshall who didn't always get his man, but who, when he failed never did it any way but honorable and manly.



Marshall Dillion is dead

Marshall Dillon
is dead, Matt, as those of us
at the Long Branch
knew him...

Miss Kitty
crying,
and as usual,
never showing tears

Doc, silent, lost
for words
as he never was before

Chester and Festus
in the corner
drinking,
facing their sorrows
with
beer suds on their lip

all of them,
gone before Matt,
all of them,
waiting so long to welcome him
to the shadows

their wait over now,
all of them
drifting with Matt
in the sweet fog
of righteous gun smoke -
bad guys asleep forever
under
the dry sand of Boot Hill,
good people
all moved along, past the prairies,
past the Rockies,
waiting of the cusp of the Pacific
for the next hero

no one
left alive
to mourn on the dusty streets
of Dodge City,
Kansas








Next I have a couple of poems by, Mira Desai, a new housemate at Blueline's poem-a-day-forum "House of 30" and already a friend.

Mira writes in Bombay and works in pharmaceuticals. Her translations have been
featured in Words without Borders, Massachusetts Review, 91st Meridian, and elsewhere. She is a short story writer primarily, but also writes poet (and does it well in my opinion), and has contributed fiction to Reading Hour, Birmingham Arts Journal, Six Sentences, Celebrate Bandra, In focus, and others. She is a member of the IWW, the Internet WritingWworkshop.

I have enjoyed Mira's poems on the Blueline for their artistry, as well as the opportunity they have given me to learn more about her country and its culture.

I'm hoping in some future longer post to use one of Mria's short stories.



Bandra Set

Frangipani, cloud in blue sky
The sea beneath - a glittering carpet
One could get used to this lifestyle
indolent
#

Chilled room
Incisive suits, sharp questions
The ocean generous, past the French windows
I better sit with my back to the view

#
Old ruin of a mansion, but what a mansion
Curving staircase, vast porch, balustrades
What a grand place this must have been
The nameplate, faded,
whispers a tale
#

Lady of the mount
I trudge uphill
Long shadows under the scorching sun
I genuflect
my wishlist disappears


Medley

The amaltas are a shade paler now
Waiting, still
Staring intent at a cloud or two
The sun burns deep
humidity plasters the air
monsoon, soon

#
all the hours at my desk
addicted to air conditioning
when I walk back home
star pinpoints and neon lights
pin up the humidity smog-haze
a line races down my back
#

disappointment is acrid
supposedly
I shrug
mark, attach, move elsewhere
rejection veteran
I whistle
#

Just keep moving
They breathe down your back
Cut in, push,
Glare
Fight for every inch
Grunt and edge you off asphalt
Genuflect to the big green one,
But just keep moving


Lights

Special prayer day at the temple yesterday, consecration anniversary
Marigold festooned
Incense spiraling, lights bright in lamps, the rustle of silk
Chants and intonations as voices blend, rise skywards
Despite the humid, sultry day and noon
Peace, an undefined contentment, a sense of place in the scheme of things
A connect to hazy lifetimes
The deity in jade in some memory corner
Distant, but definite
Or perhaps I saw this in a magazine somewhere
Or not
Recognition, fragmented statue in the museum
Known, genuflected at
I can be so strange sometimes
a sense of place in the scheme of things


Number Lesson

Lakshmi.
(Goddess of wealth, the consort of Lord Vishnu)
That’s what she said her name was
As we walked on, round and about
Three perambulations of the colony
Forced post-dinner repast
A brisk march at ten
Watching the lights in other people’s windows,
Snatches of commercials, television shows

Lakshmi.
Short, polyester saree-clad
Wrinkled forehead
As she rushed to match step
presented
In South- modified Hindi
Non linear, of course,
A summary of her life

Lakshmi.
The Goddess’s name could also mean prudence, I learn
A decade ago-
Two young sons.
Stay-at-home husband,
after computer business, once robust,
crashed.
Stock market investments, sadly
plunged.

Lakshmi.
She narrated her action plan
(if one could call it that)
In short breaths
After kids protested at return-to-the-roots,
They stayed put in the metropolis;
Transplanted to a decent-enough local school
Tiny apartment bought, rented out
Farmland back home in the Deccan streamlined
Supervised, visited, fussed over
regular income, cash flow

4 of them folded into a one room apartment
TV switched off
in the crucial years, class 10 and 12
and all the intervening years
No pocket money for Coffee Day,
only a train/ bus pass
And home-made tiffin for lunch hour
But money enough for classes they’d require.

Now that’s done;
one son enroute computer engineering
another medical college, only question is where
In that half hour
I learned more about finance
Than in decades.


Of Rescues and Hunger

This morning my friend mailed me a link to a NYT story
A child rescued from a Calcutta brothel
A team of investigators swooped down
Bells, whistles and all, boots thudding up the staircase
Which was all very fine.
Noble even.
One among the many many
In this land of the deprived
And vast numbers of the hungry
gaping chasms divide the haves and have-nots
(and so we have karma)
life stories push them back again and again to the brink
except on the surface
nothing changes
so I wonder what fate awaits these little girls
education, good homes?
Or back again, if not now, later.
A vast array of exploitation choices in this historical land
So it makes sense that the first lump of clay for the image
of the Mother Goddess
Every radiant and reverberating puja time
Is from the courtyard of a slut
We all have our life stories
And not all shoes fit to walk a mile in.








I enjoy sitting on my back patio at night before going to bed. Even after these triple digit days, the night winds blow in at eight or nine and cool down the night. For now, that is. In a month or so, the night winds will stop and it'll still be in the high eighties at midnight.

So we enjoy while we can.



night winds

night-winds
blow in about eight
and if it’s going to be a good night
they stay,
cool the air with fresh breeze
and clean smells
that blow away city-stale stink

if not
the wind will pass on through, leaving us
in a hour or so with dead
air, hot and humid,
a blanket across fresh island dreams

~~~

good times
come like spring winds
that lift the gloom of summer’s
hot, still nights

stay with us
as long as our luck holds
then, blow away again,
bringing relief
to some others’ dark night,
teaching us the futility of high
expectations; teaching us
the humility due those who think
fresh winds blow only
for them, for the deserving,
a pleasure earned,
not randomly dealt
with fate’s dark humor

~~~

midnight
symphony, chimes
and wood block percussion
mark the passage of brisk night-wind,
the outside dog,
asleep on his patio bed,
dreams of running into the wind,
stirs,
yelps a soft dream-bark
and returns to the
chase

~~~

I stand
in the dark
under trees rustling
with sweet night breezes,
under a silver dollar moon,
its soft reflected light
faintly shadowing
on the ground the weaving
pattern of branches
dancing
in the wind
and were I not large and clumsy
and unfit for the purity
of this pristine night I would
dance in my own ungainly way
with the wind

~~~

the sun rises
with it’s own bright day-warm winds…

morning…

summer day begins...

cool night
another dream
denied








Here's a poem by Kevin A. Gonzalez, from Hotel America, Volume 5, Issue 1, Fall 2006, a periodical of the Department of English at Ohio State University, with funding from the Ohio Arts Council.

At the time of publication, Gonzalez was a graduate fellow at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. His poems and stories had appeared in numerous magazines and journals, as well as in the anthologies Best New Poets 2005 and Best New American Voices 2006.



Cultural Scope

After her grandmother said you were portable
& you replied, No, I'm Puerto Rican,
your girlfriend kicked you under the table.
You have this tendency to mishear old people
because they're often right & remind you
of desquamation. She was right. You wre born
in a nasty little stripmall. You've come from a place
where it's prohibited to discuss politics at bars
to a placde where it is legal to shoot cats on the street.
On the way, you stopped in Pittsburgh.
You've studied the anatomy of exit signs
in the largest & most prestigious lecture halls.
You've waited at Greyhound terminals
where voices emptied into each other
like tiny rivers, straying a delta of accents.
Always, as currents merged & co0unterposed,
you thought, Now this is the true voice of a nation.
Once you answered a payphone at Dulles
& a woman asked what you knew about Jesus.
This is how quick the mood can change
when you're portable. The only thing
about which every doctrine seems to agree
is that existence is a type or another of thunder.
Theoretically, all children are born with a piece
of cloth on their hands. In some countries
they use them as gags, & in the rest of the world
they wear them as blindfolds, Puerto Rico
is so proud of its gift shops, it makes you sick.
Even the grains of sand the sea throws up
have flags pinned on their chests. Commonwealth
implies something valuable exists to be shared,
but when spoken out loud, the word is nothing more
than a plea: Come on wealth! Come on,
wealth!
There really is no polite way to say
you do not wish to subscribe. Wisconsin
is like the all-you-can-eat buffet of your drams
where you're allergic to everything. This is
the type of place where you'll always end up
when it is a million red suitcases
what streams through your veins. O how quick
the tone can change when you're portable!
In high school, you lied about having read Dante
to impress literature girls from the UPR
& now you lie about having read Dante
because you fear for the life of your fellowship,
& later, it is possible your girlfriend might leave you
when she finds out you lied about Dante -
that is,if she doesn't leave you
for ripping on her grandmother's squamus.
She was right. You're as portable as the Energizer Bunny,
the pink Buddha of Youth, whom you follow
into any circle of hell. As for Jesus,
you know his life was shaped like a dumbbell
because all the weight in the middle is missing.
As a schoolboy, his arm was full of helium.
Then, his hair grew long & pure, like the sponges
that slither up the windshields at the Octopus Car Wash
here in Wisconsin.Always,there has been a backpack
stropped to your heart, & asking, Where are you from?
has not been unlike asking, What is this poem about?
No matter where you are, a nail clipping of light
will laze in the sky & the full moon will glow
somewhere else. In Puerto Rico, someone
bites his tongue off at a bat. In Wisconsin,
someone polishes the barrel of a nine
before going out to hunt tabbies. Fuck the moon.
Sometimes the world is one giant bathyscaphe.
So what. If every night of your life
you hop in a cab, you're bound to see
ever flag ever made
                           hung from a mirror.








Stayed up late. Since I get up early, I suffer until the afternoon when there is time for a nap.





how to make a German comedy

groggy
this morning...

stayed up late
last night -

watched a German movie
on the International Movie

pay-per-view
channel

talk-talk
sex- sex

that’s the way
it went

long intervals
of talk (dubbed)

then long intervals
of sex (explicit)

talksextalksextalksex
and more talksex

pretty boring
after a while, but

I paid $3.99 for the movie
and wanted to get my money’s

worth,
wanted to see the whole thing,

wanted to find out whatever it was about
was about,

so watched it on triple-speed,
made the talk-parts

tolerable,
made the sex-parts funny,

people like rabbits,
hippity hop, bumptity bump, flickity fuck…

look,

I thought to myself,
I made a German

comedy









Poetry in it first roots was not something to be read quietly in a library, but performed as a song or chant, often with musical accompaniment of some sort and sometimes with dance.

The closer you get to the root of a particular cultures poetry the more you see continuation of the first traditions.

I have a very interesting book that explores the roots of Hawaian literature. The book is Unwritten Literature of Hawaii - the Sacred Songs of the Hula. The material in the book, published in 1909 by the Smithsonian Institution as "Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethonology, no. 38," was collected and translated by Nathaniel B. Emerson. His notes and historical and cultural influences are included in the book.

The piece I've selected from the book is a mele, or song, usually a love song. Its hula was perform by two rows of dancers, the author reports, "ranged in parallel rows, moving forward with accompaniment of gestures until the head of each row had reached the limit in that direction, and then, turning outward to right and left, countermarched in the same manner to the point of starting and so continued. They kept step and timed their gestures and movements to the music of the bamboo nose-flute,the ohe.

One observer claimed that the player of the nose-flute both played and chanted the words of the song at the same time. Though the nose-flute is a very simple instrument very simply played, the author express doubts that to do both of these things at the same time was possible. Whatever - here's the song.

But, before the song, I should express my gratitude to 'Ilima Stern a fellow poet and friend from Hawaii who recommended the book to me and who is active in working to preserve Hawaii's ancient dance and literary traditions, and who performs hula herself.



Song

Come up to the wildwood, come;

Let us visit Wal-kini,
And gaze on Pihana-ka-lani,

Its birds of plumage so fine;
Be comrade to Hale-lehua,
Soul-mateto Kau'Kahi-alil.
O, Kaili, Kaili!
Kaili, leaf of the koa,
Graceful as leaf of the koa,
Granddaughter of goddess,
whose name is he breath of love,
Darling of blooming Lehua
My lady rides with the gray foam,
On the surge that enthralls the desire
I pine for the sylph robed in gauze,
Who rides on the surf Maka-iwa -
Aye, cynosure thou of all hearts,
in all of sacred Wailua.
Forlorn and soul-empty the house;
You pleasure on the beach Ali-o;
Your love is there in the wildwood.








I struggle with my illusions sometimes, and sometimes I just give up and go with it.



understanding the business of art

final draft read-through
of the next eBook
today

off to the publisher
by
Friday

up
and available to buy
by July 1st…

then
the next book, edit complete
this weekend

then to Paraguay
for final
proof

on the retailers’
shelves
by October 1st…

next up
the last book of the year -
the road poems

issue:
how do you make a book
out of three good poems, long poems,

but still, do you pad the book
with lesser poems just to publish
the good ones?

ePublishing revelation!

cost of publication cheap
whether three poems
or three hundred

solution:
apply the Wal-Mart volume theory
of retail merchandising -

publish a three-poem book
sell it for a buck ninety-eight
hire street-corner

sign-wavers
to work the streets of America
Poetry sale today! Almost-free poetry today!

remembering
to beef-up security for
crowd control

as poetry-readers gather on opening day, large
women in sweatpants stampeding
in a crush

to the cheap-poetry bin ,
crashing
the gates of eCommerce …

forward! forward!
poets -
the business of art is now explained

~~~

now explain to your wife
why losing money
for the Muse

seemed
such a good idea at the
time

or
charge it off to coffee price increases at Starbucks -
she'll never know the difference








Next, I have four poets from Three Rivers, Ten Years, a collection of poems from the Three Rivers Poetry Journel, edited by Gerald Costanzo, founding editor of the journal and later editor of the Carnegie-Mellon University Press Poetry Series. The collection was published by the Carnegie-Mellon University Press in 1983.



The first poet is Ted Kooser.

Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa in 1939. He received his B.A. from Iowa State and his M.A. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is the author of ten collections of poetry, as well as fiction and non-fiction. His honors include two NEA fellowships in poetry, a Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Prize from Columbia, and a Merit Award from the Nebraska Arts Council. He was the 13th Poet Laureate of the United States. He is a visiting professor in the English department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


The Afterlife

It will be February there,
a foreign-language newspaper
rolling along the dock
in an icy wind, a few
old winos wiping their eyes
over a barrel of fire;
down the new streets, mad women
shaking rats from their mops
on each stoop, and odd,
twisted children
playing with matches and knives.
Then, behind us, trombones:
the horns of the tugs
turning our great gray ship
back into the mist.


The next poem from the anthology is Elizabeth Libbey .


Libby is author of three books of poetry, all published by the Carnegie-Mellon University Press, and has taught at Trinity College since 1987.


Forcing the End

The story has been going on so long,
I want now
to turn the page until

I'm a girl in her swing.
pushed higher, swung out, tucked
at the knees, forcing
the rafters of her house to collapse.

On her fact the lips
don't move: some things are told
by breathing. While you sleep, she just
keeps swinging. There's no
star, no deep water
she's welcome to


The third poem is by Mary Oliver.

Oliver was born in 1935 in Maple Heights, Ohio. As a teenager, she lived briefly in the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay, where she helped Millay's family sort through the papers the poet left behind.

In the mid-1950s, Oliver attended both Ohio State University and Vassar College, though she did not receive a degree.

Her honors include an American Academy of Arts & Letters Award, a Lannan Literary Award, the Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Prize and Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Oliver held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College until 2001. She currently lives in Massachusetts.


An Old Whorehouse

We climbed through a broken window,
walked through every room.

Out of business for years,
the mattresses held only

rainwater, and one
woman's black shoe. Downstairs

spiders had wrapped up
the crystal chandelier.

A cracked cup lay in the sink.
But we were fourteen,

and no way dust could hide
the expected glamour from us,

or teach us anything.
We whispered, we imagined.

It would be years before
we'd learn how effortlessly

sin blooms, then softens,
like any bed of flowers.


And finally, from the anthology, this last poem by Linda Pastan.

Born in 1932, Pastan was raised in New York City but has lived for most of her life in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. In her senior year at Radcliffe College, Pastan won the Mademoiselle poetry prize (Sylvia Plath was the runner-up). Immediately following graduation, however, she decided to give up writing poetry in order to concentrate on raising her family. In the 19709's, after ten years at home, her husband urged her to return to poetry. Her many awards and honors include the Dylan Thomas award, a Pushcart Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize, in 2003. Pastan served as Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991 to 1995 and was on the staff of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for 20 years. She is the author of over twelve books of poetry and essays.


At Home

The secret strangers
in my house
help with the dishes,
smile for the camera.
When the pictures are developed
there is no one there.
They nod vaguely when I question
turning my sound down low.
At the table they break,
break my bread.
I never guess
it is the loaf of exile.








My house is like a retirement home for tired and senile animals, a deaf dog, a blind cat, and another dog that's just plain stupid. That's the one we don't usually talk about.



retirement living

Kitty Pride,
old as the hills,
five and a half months dead

according
to what the Vet said
six months ago

(if you’re going to bury
her at home,
he said,

you
should start digging
soon…)

but she abides
still
sleeps mostly

visits here litter box
when the need
arises

cries
when she wants
to be fed

cries
when she can’t find
her water

cries
when she wanders into a corner
and can’t find her way out

cries
when she wants someone
to hold and stroke her

cries
in her sleep, mouse dreams
tormenting

~~~

Reba
world’s oldest dog
arthritis in her hips and deaf

as the proverbial post
responds to a high whistle
and gesture

come…stay…
outside…
and I’ll back

follows
me around, trying
to gather with her eyes

all the secret things
she used to hear
watches me

intent on
every movement every
expression

talking to her as I work
so that
even though she cannot hear

she will see my lips move
and know
I still think of her

know
she is still
my best pal forever








I've always had special pleasure in reading poetry by Jacinto Jesus Cardona, poems about people and places I knew growing up and living most of my life in South Texas.

Born in Palacios, Texas, Cardona grew up in Alice, the "Hub of South Texas" according to its Chamber of Commerce literature. For sure, it was hub of the South Texas oil business, until the oil bust of the late 1980's from which it is only now recovering.

At the time of publication, Cardona taught English at Palo Alto College and at the Trinity University Upward Bound Program in San Antonio. More recently he taught English at a San Antonio high school attended by one of my nieces.

The poems I selected for this week are from his book, Pan Dulce, published in 1998 by Chile Verde Press.



The Old Dream Oven

Father is the number one small town fry cook,
walking home from the late shift
at the Palace Grill on Highway 281,
escorted by a line of cats, stray cats,
smelling the salmon croquettes,
the jumbo shrimp that slept in the Gulf
just last night.

Father is the number one
small town fry cook,
coming home on callused feet,
lugging a bucket full of day old doughnuts.

But on cold December mornings,
he rises early,rolls up a newspaper,
strikes a match and lights
the old dream oven.

He's going to make pancakes,
he is going to make the perfect pancake,
he is going after the big one,
the one that always gets away,
the ultimate pancake.

Without a mixer
he whips up the batter.
Just like a hall of fame kitchen jock,
he cannot stop.

He makes stacks and stacks of pancakes.
Despierten! ya 'stan listos los pancakes!
Come and get'em.
They're going like hotcakes.


La Coste, Texas

        for Don Hurd

Deep in La Coste, Texas,
two poets looking for lost love
close the bar with two Lone Stars
and cross the street
over to the lyrical ooze
of a Tex-Mex squeeze box,
witnessing la raza cosmica
wiping dust devil dust,
swaying hard labor hips
to classic conjunto hits,
polkas, boleros,y huapangos
on the VFW concrete floor
while the proverbial young girl
in the romantic red dress
marvels at the cumbia poetics
of the local crazy
who seldom speaks
but keeps on dancing
like waves of summer heat.


Tongue-Tied

The fry cook takes a day off
to entice his tongue-tied child
with a ride through a booming downtown.
The silent son imbibes sights and sounds,
but like a leafless mesquite afraid of a late frost,
he refuses to speak.
A waitress at the Five Cent Seat tries to bribe
the tongue-tied child with LifeSavers,
but nothing provokes his stubborn vocal cords.
The fry cook's compadre jokes that it must be
the hum of indio blood.
Maybe the tickle of a buzzing chicharra
on the child's lips will do the trick.
The fry cook shakes his head
and drives away like a raindrop in a drought.








It's helpful sometimes to look back to your roots.



sustained by the memory

I was a tree
before

and before that
a flower

wide-reaching
and blue

shifting
ever in the wind

and before that
a wind-born weevil

in a loaf of bread
at the day-old bread store

on the corner of Madison
and Monroe

and before that
a grain of wheat

that made the flour
that made the bread

that my weevil-self
dined on

and before that tiny gem
of wheat

I was the rich
soil

that grew the wheat
from a small seed

embedded
in my worm-crawling

loam
and before I was the womb

of earth
I was a nitrogen bubble

that fell from an exploding
star

to prepare the womb
that grew the wheat that

made the flour
that feed the weevil

that hatched from an egg
in the shelter of the blue overhanging

flower
that grew first beneath the tree

that was me
before the me of this old man

so tired so tired
sustained by the memory

that once I was a
star








For my last poems from my library this week, I have these two by Lester Paldy, from his book Wildflowers at Babi Ya. The book was published by Night Heron Press in 1994. The poet is Distinguished Service Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook where he has taught since 1967, with occasional leaves to serve on the US arms control delegations in Geneva and at the UN. He published his first book of poetry, for an okay free woman, in 1992.



Spaces

The holly tree
beside the house
is a small galaxy now
glowing with
bright red planets
whirling in green spaces
where purple finches
glide in like keen-eyed astronauts
from other worlds
staying just long enough
to explore for a time
bobbing and dipping
in bold delight
until they wing off
on new missions
carrying samples
for companions
leaving only the sounds
of the wind and sea
whistling through our
spinning constellation.


Nearing Spring

The nearing spring calls softly
with wing beats sounding
against the morning silence
broken by a robin's song,
and the screech owl's night whirring
under the waning moon.

The nearing spring rises slowly
in the first blades of daffodils
piercing the hard earth,
the myrtle sprouting along the path,
and the buds swelling on the bittersweet
spread across the windward dunes.

The nearing spring comes quietly
with pond ice darkening,
mergansers going north,
and flounder easing over the
saltcreek bottom
when the tide comes in.

The nearing spring moves surely
in lengthening days,
harbor ice drifting seaward,
and the sunset's northward shift,
all the old signs
that seem to us forever new.








No fires in Texas yet as big and bad as the one in Arizona, but the potential is all around us. That, plus, I never pass up a chance to mention Chuck Berry in a poem.



waiting breakfast for Dee

waiting breakfast
for Dee

would like to do a poem
before she gets here
but she’s close and I’m stuck
in poetry neutral,
poking my Muse, trying to get her
out of her Saturday morning snooze,
revving her like she was
the old ’49 Chevy
I had back when, slippery
transmission
making it sound like I was rounding the far turn
at the Indianapolis Brickyard
while only moving like a three-legged turtle
with arthritic hips,
(and about as ugly, too)

but,
that’s another story…

the story this morning,
big fire!

brush fire, I’m guessing,
three large fire trucks
heading west on I-10 toward the hills,
then,
fifteen minutes later
three more trucks, police,
two ambulances…

the hills all around
desert parch,
brittle-dry spring grass
a devil’s inferno, waiting
for the next spark,
our yard at home, under
third stage rationing, just as bad,
a tiny patch of carpet grass
in the back yard
that I water every night,
in the dark, when
no one can see me, saving
this tiny patch
from which a new yard can grow
if it ever rains again, like that tunnel
in the Rocky Mountains where the 73,248
most important people
in the country will hide out, waiting
for the radiation to subside,
emerge probably a hundred thousand
years from now as mole-men, translucent white,
blind in the sun, singing rock and roll songs from
1957, bringing, at last, along with their shrunken testicles,
good music back to the good old U.S.A.

cockroaches
and Chuck Berry
survivors of the flood
proving
there’s both a bad side and a good
side to every apocalypse,
proving
that there are some things
even God can’t kill…

I see no smoke to the west,
so likely, if there’s fires in the hills,
it’s heading the other
direction
not likely to be anything to interfere
with my morning
biscuits
and gravy
and here comes Dee
so I guess I’ll just have to write my poem
later








-30-

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