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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The Word Distillery Poetry Forum
Gary Blankenship
The Hiss Quarterly
Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
Vienna's Gallery
Shawn Nacona Stroud
Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet