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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