It's August, Damnit, Do Something   Thursday, July 28, 2011


It's too damn hot and I don't see anyone doing anything about it and that just pisses me off. Al Gore - do something!

The photos this week are old - if you're a regular reader, you've probably seen them a dozen times. But I keep trying to find some way duplicate the deep, shadowy colors of the old Polaroid color cameras. I think I'm getting closer with these pictures.

While we're waiting for Al, here's who's on first this week.

John Ashbery

tropical depression

From Across State Lines
Daniel Whitehead Hicky
Nocturne: Georgia Coast
Juliet Kono
Peggy Simson Curry
Lupine Ridge

the young woman who laughs so big

Ralph Angel
The Privilege of Silence
Like Land Crabs

from where I sit

From This Same Sky
Muso Soseki
House of Spring
Tommy Olofsson
Old Mountains Want To Turn To Sand
Yannis Ritsos
The Meaning of Simplicity


Maxine Kumin
Of Wings


Andrei Codrescu
naming some names

another crushing disappointment

Pablo Neruda
Body of a Woman
The Light Wraps You
Ah Vastness of Pines


Su Tung P’o
The Southern Room Over the River
At the Washing of My Son
Moon, Flower, Man
Rain in the Aspens
The Turning Year

my work station

Tony Hoagland
Muy Macho

two cats

I begin this week with a poem by one of our modern masters, John Ashbery. The poem is from Ashbery's book April Galleons, published in 1988 by Penguin Books.


Well, I graduated, so you'll have to.
This the way the annoyance of the world is divided:
No leisure, except on Sundays, and no time for thought during the week.
In summer we all go away and hide somewhere
But are back by September, ready to think about new problems,
Tackle the infinite, basing our stratagem
On knowledge of one inch of it. But then the story blows away,
And what can you do, howling without a script?

One could try to remember the purpose of knot gardens -
Perhaps a way to fold oneself
Into the symmetry of nature
Without coming away looking like a foolish old man?

Yet so many riders are here and there,
Children who give up all knowledge
At the first brush with the wicked fairy who wants only to make us cry.
Striding from one mood to the next
Is the worst,likely to involve you in more changes
Then were called for originally, especially the big one
Of standing in place - what is there to get out of it?
Realization someday that nothing is too permanent
And fickleness can't be counted on either?
Luckily clothes stabilize this a little:
I am wearing my morning shirt; the jacket
Slips easily off my shoulders when the evening arrives.
Things tie us to the tide
As it progresses easily, for miles along the shore, and in the end
Its largely ceremonial relation to that entity
Is shuttered, put away
With the time it contracted for
And that is now too late,
Dwindled to a single eighth-note of a bird,
To a polished, square leaf.

These two guys in the front yard -
Are they here to help? It's true I sent for someone
Years ago, but so much has come unbuilt
Since then, so many columns of figures
Left to fall apart in the weather, as it normally freezes
And rots things, that I am not sure if all this is worth doing,
If any of it ever was. I can hear a clarinet
Sounding clear notes of heaven
And am taller to enjoy, to disburden myself
Of all that got lost in the telling:
Prismatic shapes of day
As it came in and shook us, its average grace
Rounded off by nice easy stories
And the procession of effulgent numerals
Happily buried in earth
That won't teach us anything.

Weather and drought seem to be my obsessions for the time being, not a surprise since it's been hot as hell and everything is dying for lack of rain. A tropical storm coming onto the coast this morning offered hope. But then...

tropical depression

dark clouds
layered horizon
to horizon,
no tumbling
no rumbling
no rolling,
just hanging
like a black flag
on a pirate's mast
in the night

a piffle of

just enough
to pock
the dust on my car
blown in last night
from Mexico

chances of wet

I have several anthologies I'm going to pull from this week, including this first one, Across State Lines, a project of The American Poetry & Literacy Project published by Dover Publications in 2003.

The book is a collection of poems, each one representing one of the fifty states. The poems are by a wide variety of poets, some very well known, some not.

The first poem I selected is by Daniel Whitehead Hicky.

Hicky was born in Georgia, and moved to Tennessee with his parents when very young., In 1919 the family moved back to Georgia, living in Atlanta, where he first began writing poems, working at a local cotton firm for eight years, writing during lulls at work.

His contribution to the book is about his native Georgia.

Nocturne: Georgia Coast

The shrimping boars are late today;
The dusk has caught them cold.
Swift darkness gathers up the sun,
And all the beckoning gold
That guides them safely into port
Is lost beneath the tide.
Now the lean moon swings overhead,
And Venus,salty-eyed.

They will be late n hour or more,
The fishermen, blaming dark's
Swift mischief or the stubborn sea,
But as their lanterns' sparks
Ride shoreward at the foam's white rim,
Until they reach the pier
I cannot say if their catch is shrimp,
Or fireflies burning clear.

The next poem, by Juliet Kono, is about her native Hawaii.

Kono was born in 1943 in Hilo, Hawaii. She grew up in this small town during the last years of the territory with her parents and grandparents. After moving to Honolulu and raising her children, Kono returned to school and applied herself to writing poetry. While majoring in English at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Kono published her first book of poems. After the completion of her baccalaureate, Kono earned her M.A. and started teaching at Leeward Community College. Since attending the University of Hawaii, Kono has worked with the Bamboo Ridge study group, which encourages local Hawaiian writers to pursue their crafts, and Bamboo Ridge Press, which gives Hawaiian writers an outlet for publication. With the help of Bamboo Ridge, Kono published her second volume of poetry.

In 1998, Kono was awarded one of five national fellowships by the Japan– United States Friendship Commission, an independent federal agency dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and cooperation between these two countries. Through this highly competitive fellowship, Kono traveled and studied in Japan for six months. Other than teaching, Kono has conducted workshops at such colleges as Wellesley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has lectured on the use of Hawaiian Creole English in literature. She lives, writes, and teaches in Honolulu.


At cold daybreak
we wind
up the mountainside
to Haleakala Crater.
Our hands knot
under the rough of
your old army blanket.

We pass protea
and carnation farms
in Kula,
Drive through
desolate rockfields.

Upon this one place
on Earth,
from the ancient
lava rivers,
silverswords rise,
into starbursts
by the sun.
Like love, sometimes,
they die
at their first
and rare flowering.

And last from this anthology, this Wyoming poem by Peggy Simson Curry.

Born in 1911, Curry died in 1987. Eighty years before she was inducted posthumously into the Western Writers Hall of Fame, she left her native Scotland for North Park, Colorado, where her father had been hired by the Big Horn Cattle Company. By the age of 12, she learned to drive a hay rake and helped her mother cook for a 20-man haying crew. Wyoming's first poet laureate, she began by writing about her life on the ranch, primarily from the male point of view. She taught in the "Poetry in the Schools Program" in Wyoming, as well as creative writing courses at Casper College.

Lupine Ridge

Long after we are gone,
Summer will stroke this ridge in blue;
The hawk still flies above the flowers,
Thinking, perhaps, the sky has fallen
And back and forth forever he may trace
His shadow on its azure face.

Long after we are gone,
Evening wind will languish here
Between the lupine and the sage
To die a little death upon the earth,
As though over the sundown prairies fell
A requiem from a bronze-tongued bell.

Long after we are gone,
This ridge will shape the night,
Lifting the wine-streaked west,
Shouldering the stars. And always here
Lovers will walk under summer skies
Through flowers the color of your eyes.

Another coffeeshop adventure.

the young woman who laughs so big

young woman,
nice looking, short,
with a gargantuan laugh,
ack, ack, ack,
like an anti-aircraft barrage
over London,
rattling the windows,
from such a small

a full-bodied laugh,
her body
leaning backward
like marsh grass in the face
of a might blowing wind,
head thrown back,
eyes half-closed, mouth open,
like a turkeys
in a heavy rain, amazed
at the rain, drowning
in it
as the rain pours
into their open mouth, too
dumb to close it, too
enthralled by the curiosity
of the rain
to shift their gaze
to the ground

this happy young woman
might be,
if her caution-to-the-wind
head back
didn’t remind me
of drowning
and if it wasn’t
so damn

Here are two poems by Ralph Angel from his book, Neither World, published in 1995 by The Miami University Press.

Angel teaches in the writing program at the University of Redlands in California. He is the author of one previous book of poetry.

This book was the 1995 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.

The Privilege of Silence

No threats. Not the teaser
this time. Finally there is a random God.
And all the filthy laundry we've hung out to dry,
all the fingers we've grown used to pointing,
sneer, backbite, everything that worked
yesterday, nothing a little
breeze won't knock down.

Even wisdom, the pure heart, the woman
who for six days among the impatient nurses
choked on water, who knew a full
life when she saw one, who never asked of anybody,
begged for air, was made
to beg for something
she knew she was en route to.

Only the living take things for granted.
The dead don't leave; some part of us
is missing. And we sense
the echo, the wind in our
veins, faces like thin
curtains that let in the light
and let loose our shadows.

Even asleep, in the ancient dance,
we are turning away.
Turning toward the ruckus
of jacarandas. A face in the crowd
that offers itself like early morning,
unknowingly , as we are drawn to it.
More strangely than that.

Like Land Crabs

skittering sideways
when the moon drives by, the blank stare
of the boulevard, and everyone carrying something.

Eating a double-dog burrito
seems like a perfectly natural thing to do.
Nothing much matters because
so much turns into a face

that looks back at you. blundering,
I think. It's out of the question, the night.
Out of the hands at the end of my arms
on the hips of the lush who's undressing me.

Everyone keeps getting in
and out of cars. I'm electrified
by earth shoes, a solitary goat dance,
the weird expanse of parking lots,
glittering, peopled with loneliness.

Past news racks and policemen, past
all-night doctors carving up corners
in bedsheets of torn light, I follow a friend
who swears I know where I'm going
among headless palm trees
and other fences.

"Bring on the coffee," I hear myself
say as you reach over and turn on
the radio, "I didn't know I was already driving."
I brake for a stop sign.
The earth speeds up a little.

This is an older poem that is included in my next book, Always To the Light, with a release date planned for October or November.

from where I sit

where I sit
I can see past
a small grove of
winter-bare red oak
to Interstate-10, east & west
routes, the one to Houston
and, though Houston, Louisiana
and points east and north beyond

the other route, followed westerly
600 miles through hill country
& high desert to El Paso,
and 4 states beyond,
the orange setting sun
on Pacific waters

most of
the people I see passing
are not going so far,
most know
the furthest you travel
in any direction
the closer you get to home,
so why not just stay
but satisfied,
right where you and your life

I don’t know that I’ve ever
been at home
so I’m always pulled
leave and stay

under a cold, overcast sky
I think I want to


that’s why
we have night and day,
night a curtain that comes
between old and new,
a sign to us as it rises every morning,
that new things are possible

after all, what use a curtain if nothing
between acts

Next, a couple of poems from The Same Sky, an anthology of poems from around the world. The book was published by Aladdin Paperbacks in 1996.

The first poet from the book is Muso Soseki, a 13th century poet and Zen teacher, credited, also, as father of the Japanese rock garden.

His poem was translated by W.S. Merwin and Soiku Shigematsu.

House of Spring

Hundredsof open flowers
     all come from
          the one branch

     all their colors
          appear in my garden
I open the clattering gate
     and in the wind
          I see
the spring sunlight
     already it has reached
          worlds without number

The next poem is by Swedish poetTommy Olofsson. Born in 1951, he earns his living as a poet and literary critic.

Jean Pearson translated his poem.

Old Mountains Want To Turn To Sand

I have my roots inside me,
a skein of red threads.
The stones have their roots inside them,
like fine little ferns.

Wrapped around their softness
the stones sleep hard.
For centuries they have rested
under the sun.

Old mountains
want to turn to sand.
They let themselves go
and open up to water.

After centuries of thirst!
Like language -
the great mountain broken up
by our tongues

We turn language to sand,
immersing the tongue
in a running streams
that moves mountains.

The last poem from the anthologyis by Yannis Ritsos from Greece. Born in 1909, Ritsos began painting, playing the piano and writing poetry at the age of 8. When he died in 1990, he had authored more than 115 books of poetry, tanslations, esays, and dramatic works.

His poem was translated by Edmund Keeley.

The Meaning of Simplicity

I hid behind simple things so you'll find me,
if you don't find me, you'll find the things,
you'll touch what my hand has touched,
our hand-prints will merge.

The August moon glitters in the kitchen
like a tin-plated pot (it gets that way
     because of what I'm saying to you),
it lights up the empty house and
     the house's kneeling silence -
always the silence remains kneeling.

Every word is a doorway
to a meeting, one often cancelled,
and that's when a word is true:
     when it insists on the meeting.

A sad duty today.


I had another poem
in mind today
but my mind is stuck
preoccupied with
a sorrowful task,
the decision
last night,
the fact faced
that it must be done
and that it must be done

Kitty Pride,
my calico, orange
and black and white,
who jumped our back fence
ten years ago
and decide to stay -
the cat
who decided that the purpose
behind God’s creation
of chairs
was to provide a place
for me to sit,
forming, in my sitting,
a lap whereupon
she could sit
and softly sleep,

now, going
barely eating,
restricted in her life
to her bed, her litter box,
her food bowl and her water dish,
all of which she often
cannot find without

and weak, reduced
to a furred bag
of cat bones,
I watch her stand
in the middle of the kitchen,
head down,
for the world
to reveal itself to her
again, knowing
in her cat-mind that
the world is as lost as she
and will not again be revealed,
with cat-determination,
not for the world, but for the

the end
which I will provide for her
later this morning

the next and final

Next, I have a poem by Maxine Kumin. The poem is from her book, Looking for Luck,published by W.W. Norton in 1992.

Poet Laurate for New Hampshire in 1981-82, Kumin has published nine previous volumes of poetry, as well as novels, short stories and essays on country living.

Of Wings

Angels have eagles' wings
Renaissance paintings
conferred on them
or is it eagles angels?
Each makes a big tempting
target but an angel
the instant it is felled
resurrects whereas an eagle
once shot soon grows cold.

Angels subsist on ambrosia.
Eagles mainly on fish.
It is rumored that an eagle
will uplift a newborn lamb
but six lbs. is as much as
it can fly with whereas angels
as stolid as ants or oxen
can team up to displace
many times their body mass.

While Rilke's radiant vision
in every elegy sustained
him,what Benjamin Franklin
thought of angels is not known
but he declared th eagle
a bird of bad moral
character and proposed
the wild turkey instead
for our national symbol.

Wild is not the same as free.
The turkey's inability
to soar puts it upon
the ceremonial table
every Thanksgiving
thereby sparing eagles
or angels, both of whom
on attaining great heights
endure intense cold. Eagles

scarce elsewhere although
common as seagulls
above the dump at Juneau
when basking on air
between voracious forays
as graceful as angels
are objects to admire
nevertheless and will be
as long as we let them fly

while glorious angels
draped in genderless glitter
unseen as the souls
they purport to carry
excite us to be better
than we are before
''they take us wingless and unsure
far beyond eagles
to the lockup in the sky.

Speaking of my cat, as this poem does, in a way, in this old poem from about five years ago.


I’m trying to find
an idea
that will grow
into my next poem,
something worth keeping,
something with depth
that can bring that moment
to a reader when it’s like
a dark day turns bright with the light
of an idea or an image or
a sense of the inner workings
of a poet’s mind and heart

and all I can think of
is how damn tired I am,
which leads me to think about
sleep and what a gift it is
and how the life we lead
spurns that gift
as if was a cheap plastic
doodad we receive in the mail
as some kind of promotion
for a product even cheaper

watch how a cat sleeps

mine does it so well, finding
a place next to me at night
that she’ll keep through the night
and most of the next day, arising
for just a few hours during the day
to do what cats do
when out of the sight of man

how intense is her short waking life
and how drab is mine, stretched over
the greater part of my life -
how deep and uncomplicated her sleep
and how short
and unsatisfying is mine

Here's a poem by Andrei Codrescu, from his book, Belligerence, published by Coffee House Press in 1991.

Codrescu, Romanian-born poet, memoirist, journalist and editor, is a Professor of English at Louisiana State University, editor of the literary magazine, The Exquisite Corpse, and a regular commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

His poems are always fun, even when, as is often the case, I can't quite figure them out.

Naming Some Names

One Gott-Debil runs this scene
goes by S.F.P.:
The Struggle for Power.
(So named by Andy
Schmookler, a scholar without the tower)
Andy takes Old Testament Gott & makes him
natural science, turns pater into matter,
good & ebil into one thing,
like before theology -
In Golden Gate Park by Tripping Tree
during the time everybody got direct hits
of Heaven!
We were there getting a whole lot.
(Write here the history of the hat
around whose rim we walked
to mirror the theme.)
But it's a long way from the Gott-days.
S.F.P. resides outside
I mean inside
the text outside of criticism.
And that's all; the outside there is.
Everybody's otherwise inside
learning to claustrophobe.
Every generality calls for a bigger one
but the beginning's shrouded in paradox.
The koan, the parable,the Sufi tale,
the Zen umbrella commission
the combatants. Where
does one come to tales like that
in the days of bits and bytes?
The operational model for utopia
is only handicapped by the words I use.
The ravages wrought by time sought
the inside of a cool tavern
to wrestle an Ouroborian beer snake,
infinite jaws, progressive traps,
horrible smoke, an incendiary jukebox.
Two more reasons he thought
why the Chosen People
write fundamentally upsetting books:
On the move they open to the
movement itself of ideas
since their raison d'etre is a promise
they keep searching for the beginning,
re-establishing the ideatic chain
each and every time,
and they are ants on the vast body
of an Ocean-Text
all the romans-fleuves empty in.

This is another old poem,from 2008, before, despite not winning the lottery, I decided I'd spent enough of my life working.

another crushing disappointment

well, hell!

didn’t win the lottery,
just checked
and I’d won $2
if I’d played those same numbers
September 13th

but I didn’t win nothing
so I guess I have-ta
go back to work tomorrow,
gotta get up
in the goddamn dark
and drive 20 goddamn miles in the dark

it’s only a 2 week project,
I can make it

I’d rather win the lottery

Next, I have three love poems by PabloNeruda. They are from the collection, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, published by Penguin in this edition from 1969. The book includes both the original poems in Spanish and in translation by W.S. Merwin.

It is a mark of my ignorance that I never, until recently, recognized Neruda as author of some of the most beautiful love poems ever written.

Body of a Woman

Body of a woman,white hills,white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant's body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.

I was alone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me,
and night swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.

But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eater and firm milk.
Oh the goblets of the breast! Oh the eyes of absence!
Oh the rose of the pubis! Oh your voice, slow and sad!

Body of my woman,I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road!
Dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows
and weariness follows, the the infinite ache.

The Light Wraps You

The light wraps you in its mortal flame.
Abstracted pale mourner, standing that way
against the old propellers of the twilight
that revolves around you.

Speechless, my friend,
alone in the loneliness of this hour of the dead
and filled with the lives of fire,
pure heir of the ruined day.

A bough of fruit falls from the sun on your dark garment.
The great roots of night
grow suddenly from your soul,
and the things that hid in you come out again
so that a blue and pallid people,
your newly born, takes nourishment.

Oh magnificent and fecund and magnetic slave
of the circle that moves in turn through black and gold:
rise, lead and possess a creation
so rich in life that its flowers perish
and it is full of sadness.

Ah Vastness of Pines

Ah vastness of pines, murmur of waves breaking,
slow play of lights,solitary bell,
twilight falling in your eyes, toy doll,
earth-shell,in whom the earth sings!

In you the rivers sing and my soul flees in them
as you desire, and you send it where you will.
Aim my road on your bow of hope
and in a frenzy I will free my flock of arrows.

On all sides I see your waist of fog,
and your silence hunts down my afflicted hours,
my kisses anchor, and my moist desired nests
in you with your arms of transparent stone.

Ah your mysterious voice that love tolls and darkens
in the resonant and dying evening!
Thus in deep hours I have seen,over the fields,
the ears of wheat tolling in the mouth of the wind.

Here's another old poem - this one from 2009, explaining why I'm using this old poem here instead off writing a new one.


ennui -

always liked that

sounds like some
African antelope
or anteater
from South America
or maybe a bird
high in the trees
on some small South Pacific
island, crying

maybe I caught it
from the birds

12 hours sleep
last night
and another hour
already this afternoon
and I feel like I ought to go
back to bed right now

the sun seems dimmed,
sound smothered
as if through a thick wool blanket,
brain like a blind dog
in the fog,
all sharpness
all passion
buried in a burlap bag
on a dull plain
suburban crab grass

I’ll quit this poem

my fingers
are tired of typing

Next I have several poems from the anthology, One Hundred Poems of the Chinese. The main poet in the collection is Tu Fu, from the T'ang Dynasty (713-770), but also includes several poets from the later Sung Dynasty of the 10th - 12th centuries. I chose one of those later poets, Su Tung P'o to feature this week.

Su, who lived from 1036 to 1101, was a writer, poet, artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist, and statesman. He was also called Su Shih. Born in present-day Sichuan province, he occupied many official posts, before his opposition to official policies frequently lost him his official status.

I find many reasons to admire early Chinese poetry, high among them, the modesty of their work, the way they turn everyday life into poems.

Translators are not named.

The Southern Room Over the River

The room is prepared, the incense burned.
I close the shutters before I close my eyelids.
The patterns of the quilt repeat the waves of the river.
The gauze curtain is like a mist.
Then a dream comes to me and when I awake
I no longer know where I am.
I open the western window and watch the waves
Stretching on and on to the horizon.


I fish for minnows in the lake.
Just born, they have no fear of man.
And those who have learned,
Never come back to warn them.

At the Washing of My Son

Everybody wants an intelligent son.
My intelligence only got me into difficulties.
I want only a brave and simple boy,
Who, without trouble or resistance,
Will rise to the highest offices.

Moon, Flower Man

I raise my cup and invite
The to come down from the
Sky. I hope she will accept
Me. I raise my cup and ask
The branches, heavy with flowers,
To drink with me. I wish them
Long life and promise never
To pick them. In company
With the moon and the flowers,
I get drunk, and none of us
Ever worries about good
Or bad. How many people
Can comprehend our joy? I
Have wind and moon and flowers.
Who else do I want for drinking companions?

Rain in the Aspens

My neighbor to the East has
A grove of aspens. Tonight
The rain sounds mournfully in
Them. Alone, at my window,
I cannot sleep. Autumn insects
Swarm, attracted by my light.

The Turning Year

Nightfall. Clouds scatter and vanish.
The sky is pure and cold.
Silently the River of Heaven turns into the Jade Vault.
If tonight I do not enjoy life to the full,
Next month, next year, who know where I will be?

I was just sitting here, enjoying my coffee,enjoying my table the window, enjoying the view, enjoying the talk of the people all around me, happy to be where I am, happy to be doing what I'm doing. Happy.

my work station

I’m in an older part
of the city

genteel and

like some older women,
dressed just so

white hair
set just so, sensible

just so…

beautiful old houses
from an earlier time

when one set of

wasn’t built
street after street

after neighborhood

a time when every

every design
was different, unique,

each an individual house
with differences beyond

the color of the front door -
green door, the Jones’

red door,
the Smith’s ,

and that blue door,

they just moved in
so it’ll be a couple of weeks

before we put a name
to that blue


and apartment buildings, as well,
no behemoths,

all just two to three stories
with vines

covering the walls
or, like the two story Spanish style

I can see through the window,
vines climbing the walls,

hanging on the edges
of exterior stairs

and arches, reaching
past the palms

for the red-tile

interesting people,
I think,

must live
in such interesting homes,

like the people I meet
in this coffeeshop


in the middle of it all,
six blocks

from the community college,
also old,

the original,
grown to six additional campuses now,

built on the designs
of an earlier

less cost-obsessed

with grand buildings
and grand walkways

trees with fifty years of growth behind them


the people here,
old and young

that mix
like joined by a common thread

of a neighborhood
with space for each and all

where everyone knows
everyone’s business and doesn’t care

as long as whatever it is
doesn’t jump the fence and scare the dog…

and I have my front row seat,
right here

on the corner of
Huisache and McCullough

the best seat in the house
to watch it all pass

poems aplenty,
if you’re looking

My last library poem for this week is from Donkey Gospel, a collection by Tony Hoagland published in 1998 by Graywolf Press. The book won the 1997 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.

Hoagland's first book, Sweet Ruin, won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and the Zacharis Award from Ploughshares at Emerson College. He now teaches at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

Muy Macho

I can't believe I'm sitting here
in this dark tavern
listening to my old friend boast

about the size of his cock
and its long history
as witnessed by the list of women

he now embarks upon, enumerating them
as a warrior might recite the deeds
accomplished by the family spear,

or like an old Homeric mariner might
go on about the nightspots
between Ithaca and Troy.

The bar tonight has the feeling
of a hideout deep inside the woods, a stronghold
bull of beer and smoke,

the tidal undertow of baritones and jukebox
punctuated by the clean, authoritative smack
of pool balls from the back.

It is so primordial,
I feel my chest grow hairier
with every drink, and soon

I'm drunk enough to think
I'm also qualified to handle
any woman in the world.

You can talk about the march
of evolutionary change,
you can talk about how far we've climbed

up that staircase lined with self-help books
and sensitivity exams,
but my friend and I,

we're no different from any pair
of good old boy Neanderthals
crouching by their fire

a million years ago
showing off their scars and belching
as they scratch their heavy, king-sized balls.

I know that we are just an itchy spot
in the middle of the back
of that great hairy beast, The Truth;

I know that every word we say is probably a stone
someone else will someday have to
kick aside,

- still part of me feels privileged,
belonging to this tribe of predators,
this club of deep-voiced woman-fuckers

to which I never thought
I never would belong;
part of me is more than willing to be wrong

to remain inside the circle of this
- to hear the details, one more time,

of how she took her shirt off, smiled,
and then they did it on the floor.
Even if the roof were falling in,

even if the whole world splintered and caught fire,
I would continue sitting here, I think
entranced - implicated, cursed,

historically entwined -
another little dinosaur
stretching up its neck and head

to catch the last sweet drop of drunken warmth
coming from that ancient, fading sun.
We can't pull ourselves apart from it.

We don't really believe
there is another one.

Just taking note of a coincidence.

two cats

two cats
this week

the first
a black and white
born a year ago in my back yard

to allow me to feed her
on my front porch
twice a day in return
for my relieving her of the bother
of randy tom cats forever

it was a agreeable
rover she was,
engaged in similar contracts
all around
the neighborhood, finding
free meals and a good time
wherever she went, until,
like a rock star, her roving
was the end of her,
dead on the roadway's center strip
about a block and a half from home,
victim of too many adventures,
too many friends
in dangerous places...

the other cat,
my Kitty Pride, a rover, also,
in the beginning,
but ending her roaming
when she found a home with us

a home cat
in the end, dead today
at my direction, very old, very frail,
the flame of life diminishing
daily as she struggled with her mortality

I think today
of this strange confluence
of feline fatalities, wondering if there is
something beyond coincidence
beneath the surface

I think of the universality
of life and death
like dark and light,
a universe that seems to push
always toward life
and light,
both carrying their own temporary end,
death and dark,
within their beginning, as life
leads to death, it’s alternate stage,
as light leads to dark,
as the transitions continue, the common miracle
of life leading to the mystery of death, that same mystery
leading to the next miracle of another life
and another death
and another
as the universe twirls and twists
on the axis of light
and dark

it is the nature of all
and, as we are an element of the all,
it is the nature of us as well,
along with cats and the other creatures
of the forest and field and air and the sea

the spinning wheel
keeps spinning
leaving us dizzy with prospects
of a kind of eternal life
broken by nights of everlasting death...

two cats
this week -
companions now
as they travel together the dark passage
of their current cycle, it’s
into the black for them
as it will someday be for me
when my time comes
to follow that shadow road...

as it should

And that's all for this week.

And I'm allen itz and it's still too damn hot.


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Tokyo Must Be Saved   Friday, July 22, 2011


My new book, Here and Now, finally got posted to Amazon's Kindle shelves. No explanation at this point for the three week delay, but I'm satisfied this time that at least it got done. (Now if they can just get the cover posted with the book, all will be well, or at least weller.) The book has been available at Barnes and Noble and at the IBookstore for a couple of weeks; not available yet at Sony's EBookstore, but that was expected. They're always last ones to the dance.

Other than that, nothing to talk about this week, so straight to this weeks line-up of poets.

Charles Harper Webb
Weeb Dreams He Is the Antichrist
Getting Laid
Weeb, Cowering in a Corner of the Sundance Inn
Weeb Dreams He's Thrown in Jail for Becoming Discouraged in Public
Dog Days in Hermann Park

in the time of emergence

Siri von Reis
Over the Weekend, Rich Masters and His Wife,
Lawrence Singleton Lives in a Trailer,

a big deal in Tivoli

Vandana Khanna
Train to Agra
Against Vallejo
Two Women

party time

Dennis Scott

4 a.m.

Campbell McGrath
Early July
The Beach
Reading Walt Whitman at Dawn

about tattoos

Sidney Wade
Poetry and Pleasure
The Vulgate of Experience

about the straight and narrow

Fifteen Haiku

scary Unitarians

Fady Joudah

approximately excellent

From Alehouse - Poetry on Tap
CJ Sage
Dietrich Rapalski
San Francisco
Truth Thomas


John Poch


C.P. Cavafy
In the Evening
To Sensual Pleasure

summer morning, briefly

Robert Bonazzi
With Your Taste
He Flaunts Hunger”


I start this week with several poems by Charles Harper Webb, from his book of often very funny poems, A Weeb For All Seasons. The book, which tells stories about a persona Webb created and calls "Weeb," was published in 1992 by Applezaba Press.

Weeb Dreams He Is the Antichrist

To impress some girls, he walks
upside down on the underside
of Loon Lake's moon-lit surface,
like a fly on a mirror made
of night. His head is pulled

toward the weed-bottom.
Blood rushes to his brain.
His skull swells like a balloon.
Trout flash toward him -
tapered obsidian blades.

Getting Laid

You had to have a gimmick -
hot car, stud haircut, brother in San Quentin,
Hobie surfboard, varsity sweater, electric guitar.
Lacking that, you had to have a line.
He'd made a list.
"Sit on my lap: we'll talk about whatever pops up."
"Lie down. Let's get something straight between us."
He'd seen Lennie Mongonia, Ben Todd,, Ray Salazar
toss out such golden zingers, ahd haul in giggling
girls like Linda Cole, who made Jayne Mansfield
look like an acromegalic shoe-shine boy.

Once with knock-kneed Susie Zimmermann
he got as far as "Would you possibly consider
sitting on my..." Then he broke and ran,
flinging "science notes..." over his shoulder,
from which steam was rising. He spent weeks
in front of his mirror, practicing "Hey babe,
the surf and I are up, so let's get down."
He'd written that himself, striving
for a balance between class and cool -
Weeb, who drove his mother's Simca,
and had to ask directions to the beach.

Things did not progress.
The between-class ballet of poked-out chests
and soulful sgtares - the cool guy's Swan Lake -
was for him Afternoon of a Spatz. Junior year
he wormed a locker next to the Candy Meyers.
That gave him two semesters to accomplish
what the whole track team had managed in an hour.

The first day of the second week of classes,
he attacked a la Mongonia, set to run
his hand from beehived hair, to neck,
to shoulder, down into bursting brassiere.
He'd just stammered "Hi, uh, how're they hangin'?"
when her platinum wig came came off in his hand.
She smiled and caromed her locker door
off his twitching nose.
The halls ran red.

Wherever girls were snickering, he was there.

He was 16 years and 7 months advanced,
resigned to cherries on his grave,
when Jeanie Armstrong, a mousey sophomore
he barely knew, asked him to a church picnic,
where, in the weeds outside a barn
as fiddles squealed and callers brayed
and chaperones beamed on the nice young couples,
she for no known reason saved his life.

Weeb, Cowering in a Corner of the Sundance Inn

They're real! This place is full
of six-foot-three-and-over cowboys,
Stetson hats, beer-guts shading hand-
tooled belts. The world still holds
tough-as-rawhide, Wild Western barbarians
who can take plenty, and dish out more,
who do down swinging, come up shooting,
who've never read a book or missed one,
who've outlived longhorns and the Chisholm Trail
and are still alive and kicking
the holy shit out of piss-ants like me.

Please, God, I hate being a Post-
Existentialist. I'm really sorry I scoffed at you.
Those crucifixion jokes were dumb.
I'll never mention Mary's Mons again
if you'll just zap all my belongings to Montana,
make me grow another foot -
No jokes, God, please - and loan me
money for some Tony Lama boots.

Let me laugh loud and drive a pickup.
Let a 12-gauge and a 30.06 hang proud in the window.
Le me punch cattle on open range,
track cougars, battle blizzards,
smoke my Malboros where I can breathe
clean air. And let me never fail
to come here Friday nights,
get plastered, deck some city boys,
band the big-boobed waitress in the women's can,
then stagger out to sleep it off
under Big Sky sequined with stars that never change.

Weeb Dreams He's Thrown in Jail for Becoming Discouraged in Public

I sit on a straw-stuffed bunk
and think "Jail's not so bad."
My social-worker girlfriend
has exaggerated. Through a crack
in the door, I see the sheriff's
office. He strides in
swinging an iron key on a ring.

The phrase "Toying with my freedom"
jumps to mind; but I forgive him.
He's so tall, so clean-cut,
so well-built, with such honest
eyes, he's sure to set everything
right. Except he leaves
and in stumbles his deputy -

a wizened brown man with a twisted
leg, who trips over his cane,
and curses with a hick accent.
I laugh. This beats Gunsmoke.
Then all at once the brown man
is leering through my bars.
"Looky out that winda, bo'ah."

I hear fierce hammering
and sawing, note the gallows
spouted like a magic beanstalk
outside my cell window.
"At's fer folks'et makes funa
m'laig." He spits tobacco
in my face and limps away

while drenched in sweat
I struggle to remember
if its ACLU or UCLA
that I need, and what
the number is, and how,
in 1881, I'll ever reach
a telephone by dawn.

One more.

Dog Days in Hermann Park

A jogger in red shorts strokes
a bikinied girl's Afghan.
Two giggly nymphets stop to pat
a bleached-blonde surfer's Lab.

A satin-suited Brother walks
spike-collared Dobermans;
a miniskirted blonde prostrates
her soul to Black Dog Power.

Gay blades discuss their poodles
and the latest poop on AIDS.
A setter sniffs a dachshund's butt;
their owners introduce themselves.

If it doesn't wag its tail and go
"Bow-Wow," no one will speak of it!
Weeb drops his mud-puppy in the lake,
and trudges home alone.

Most often in the poem-a-day biz, you finish your poem for the day with an "oh, well" that takes care of that for today. But once in a while you get a pay off - you finish your poem, not with the air of a necessary job done, but, instead, with the thought of how glad you are you set down to write a poem and how pleased you are with what you came up with.

The next poem is from one of those pay-days, when, poem done, I felt good about what I had accomplished beyond just relief that the work is finished. I think it's a good poem, one the best I've done i quite a while.

in the time of emergence

an old Navajo chant
speaks of the “time of emergence”
and I think
of the all-there-is emerging,
not a product
created by the hand of god,
but an creation
that emerges from the mind of
the all-mother/all-father,
creation not of a single event,
a job of work, completed
over the course of a week of seven god-days,
but a continuing process
of never-ending creation, a creation-flow,
an emergence of ever-deepening truth,
like the night emerges
and from the night a day emerges
and from the day a night;
like the sea
emerges from the deep, breaks
on shores far
from where it’s water-essence
then returns to the deep that sent it,
and back again to the same or different shores,
far-traveled, enriched by its journey;
like rain on hay
left in the field over night,
the fire of creation
processing within , its
musty odor rising again
with the fallen rain to become a cloud,
drifting over continents,
over prairies and mountains and cities
and great forests, across the oceans
bringing the musty smell of wet hay
with new-falling rain
around the world and back again
to mowed field where it began;
like we begin,
in a moment of passion emerged
from one of us to another,
then the continued emergence
through a life of ins and outs, comes
and goes, contributing, as we come and go,
our own passions to the universe
we are part of again, flowing through our time
until our end in a moment of
death-ecstasy, souls singing
as we re-join the all -there-is
from whence we came

our part
of the great emergence
until we, like the sea,
return again to new and different
by our time drifting
in the creator’s
emerging conscious

Next I have two poems by a poet new to me from a book I just bought last week.

The poet is Siri von Reis, and the book is The Love-Suicides At Sonezaki, published by Zoo Press in 2001.

von Reis, born in 1931,, is an American botanist, author and poet. She has worked as an investigator at the New York Botanical Garden.

She has, at least in the poems I chose a talent for deadpan delivery of the most shocking closing lines. I think the second piece below is maybe the most shocking poem I've ever read, revealing to me what appears to be system-insanity.

Over the Weekend, Rich Masters and His Wife,

of Lakewood, Colo., mowed their lawn and
wrote a note for the mailman, instructing him

to contact the sheriff's office through
a portable phone placed in their mail-box,

with fifty dollars for his trouble,
the message explaining as well how to enter

the house, where to find the two
of them and names of family members to call,

- all wills, driver's licenses and other
important papers having been put in easy

reach. It seems the middle-aged couple had
spread a quilt, a blanket and shower curtain over

a love-seat, so it would not be stained,
and, facing one another, each holding a gun,

pulled the triggers. According to Captain
Blackhurst of Jefferson Count, neighbors

said the pair had been married
for many years and were very close.

Lawrence Singleton Lives in a Trailer,

tending his yard in a remote corner of the San
Quentin compound. He keeps a nighttime curfew,

visits a psychologist weekly. "We hardly know
he's out there," says Parole Officer David

Langerman. "When he needs to shop, he lets us
know. Technically, we escort him, but anyone on

the streets has more to fear from the unknown
than from this little burned-out guy.

In three weeks, Mrt. Singleton will be given
early release for good behavior and will be under

no obligation to tell officials his whereabouts
nor to take any longer the medication that

would sicken him if he drank alcohol.
According to Langerman, Singleton is wholly

defused and says he doesn't even need the drug -
he doesn't lose that much control. "I never

live in the past," says Mr. Singleton.Afterten
years in prison, the once burly 60-year-old

still maintains he was mistaken for someone else.
Miss Mary Vincent says she still fears

the man who raped her and cut off her arms.

There you are, thinking it's never going to rain again, then, boom, a big old thunder-burster down-pouring creek-rusher.

Of course, that doesn't mean it's ever going to rain again.

a big deal in Tivoli

the wind blows,
the trees bustle and rustle,
waving, birds leaping
from the dancing limbs,
the sweet smell of rain coming
fills the air, the dogs run for cover
as thunder sounds
in the distance...

and that’s all,
just another looked-like-rain day
here in the drought belt

waiting for rain around here
is like waiting for a train
in Tivoli, Texas…

there ain’t no train
in Tivoli,
and hasn’t been for a hundred


with a crash and a flash
and a roar
on the tin roofs
all over town

a train comes to Tivoli...

in their muddy baths
sing a hallelujah

Next, another poet new to me, Vandana Khanna, and another book just bought last week.

Khanna was born in New Delhi, but has lived most of her life in the United States. She attended the University of Virginia and received an M.F.A. from Indiana University, where she was recipient of the Yellen Fellowship in poetry.

The book, Train to Agra, was published in 2001 by Crab Orchard Review and Southern Illinois University Press.

Train to Agra

I want to teach you -
in that city where the snow

only shimmers silver
for a few hours. It has taken

seventeen years. This trip,
these characters patterned

in black ink, curves catching
on the page like hinges,

this weave of letters fraying
like the lines on my palm,

all broken paths. Outside,
no snow. Just the slow pull

of brown on the hills, umber
dulling to a bruise until the city

is just a memory of stained teeth,
the burn of white marble

to dusk,cows standing
on the edges like a dust

cloud gaining weight
after days of no rain. Asleep

in the hot berth,my parents
sway in a dance, the silence

broken by scrape of tin, hiss
of tea and underneath,

the constant clatter of wheels
beating steel tracks over and over:

to the city of white marble,
to the city of goats, tobacco

fields, city of dead hands,
a mantra of my grandmother's -

her teeth eaten away
by betel leaves - the story

of how Shah Jahan had cut off
all the worker's hands

after they built the Taj,so they
could never build again.I dreamt

of those hands for weeks before
the trip, weeks even before I

stepped off the plane, thousands
of useless dead flowers drying

to sienna, silent in their fall.
Every night, days before, I dreamt

those hands climbing over the iron
gate of my grandparents' house, over

grate and spikes, some caught
in the groove between its sharpened

teeth, others biting where
they pinched my skin.

Against Vallejo

I will die in Ireland on a cold day on the coast
when the sea burns against darkening rock
and the mist hangs low over hills. It will be
a Sunday because Sundays are days of rest
and worship and because I have worked
a lifetime only to have my spine ready to snap.

I've never seen Ireland, and my family
will not understand my longing for swift wind
smarting my skin, my fingernails turning
the blue of cornflowers. I will want to be burned
like a true HIndu, my soul set free of this jaded
body, this broken vase - so my skin can mist
and my bones crack, splinter like burning wood.

Vandana Khanna is dead. They will not understand
me far away from the heat and dust of Delhi, cloistered
in a damp room, my fingers stiff from writing.
This after years of thirst, years shivering under woolen
shawls brought back from Kashmir. They will not
understand you, feverish, whispering Spanish words
into my mouth because I love the way
vowels sound against your lips.

Or rather, I will die in Spain on a Sunday afternoon
when the stores have closed for the sun, men sitting
in the shade of a magnolia outside my window,
sipping from cold oranges, cut and soaked in sugar
water. I have never been to Spain but will want
that heat, reminding me of my home. I will die
from the inside out, a fever turning my veins gray,
thighs bruising easily like fruit.

And you will spread my body out like a cold sheet,
cover my hands with henna, thread my body with beads,
and no on will understand why but you, because I
have worked a lifetime, and today I am tired of metaphors,
of empty leaves that rain like ash.

Two Women

We squat in the cool grass gnawing
sugar cane. brackish water brushes

the soles of our feet - your hair smells
of cloves - skin the color of sandalwood.

We talk of our men lost
in wars, lost in other women,

and of the children we gained:
sons, grandsons, daughters.

The sahib's wife calls, the green shutters
are open, and Verdi drifts

in the air around us.
It is time to shake out

the dust-clogged rug,
clean the brandy glasses,

and feed the remains
to the waiting dogs.

Another report from yesterday's rain, probably the last ever.

party time

recent rain
turned the creek
waking mud-crusted frogs
from their dry summer sleep,
turning the creek
at 2 a.m.
into a cacophony of bull-deep mating calls
and feminine-froggy squeals of procreating pleasure

if the creek was a West Texas roadside
dance hall,
I’d say the joint was

Here I have two poems by Dennis Scott from the book Crossing Water, an anthology of contemporary English-speaking Caribbean poets. The book was published by The Greenfield Press in 1992.

Scott, who lived from 1939 to 1991, was born and educated in Jamaica. In addition to his poetry, he was a teacher, playwright, actor, director and critic. He was former head of the Jamaica School of Drama and the co-chairman of the Directing Department of Yale University's School of Drama.


And after all these Aprils
if this day my door should open
to a green yard, one of those
safe and unending Saturdays
turned like a page
startling, to a child with a jam jar
maybe I'd see him hunting
the sharp and jubilant hives
of April; and if I watched him
shut them up warm and a-buzz
in the bee hum honey of that
jeweled place,would I
know his delight,would I
recognize his face?

The yellow morning glory rang
lunchtime, languidly: bread and butter
pears and slat
fish, and we lay around later
like stuffed toys, talking of the rain
that suddenly washed those trees, those rooms
to delicate forests, shining with April dooms...

Would I remember that doorway
then, would I
run to the window, peering through the pane
at the crystal prison, knowing
what I know, at the thunder of rain
on the tin lid of my heart, the stung
and restless lightning-fall
the golden flowers shaking against the wall?

I close my door against the returning glory;
all gone. The child myself is
a stranger, curled calm on a wooden floor
in a story.
      I hardly remember.
There is no way to
recapture that afternoon
to set the slow, sad insects free,
and it's too far
to wake him, thought he sleeps
his way toward me.


And that woman
her shoes cracking and scuffed
because the children must eat
if they are not to become killers

that man singing - how fat he is!
the follow-spot strikes gold on his rings -
but hear what clear spirals of music his voice climbs

a priest, married, setting aside the simple robe of his
takes to his bed some woman
in whom, too,he understands god's particularity

as much as the soldier with his belly sliced open
mud in his mouth (but he knew always
some things are not to be negotiated, like freedom,
    like love)

: this the confederacy that I wish: those
who in some way keep the light
from going out. In them
is the small miracle, the tenderness of a desire
that has no reason, that stops us falling
weightless into the dark, that offers us
a difficult and joyful fire

Having trouble sleeping lately,waking up too early. Going outside to watch the night doesn't help me get back to sleep, but it does reliee the boredom of being awake at 4 a.m.

4 a.m.

fresh breezes
at 4 a.m.
on my bare body
stir the trees
branches and leaves
spider patches
moon-bright sky

an ambulance
crosses the creek
lights and sirens
breaking the fading

the neighbor’s dog
me back to bed

I have several short poems now by from his book, Seven Notebooks, published in 2008 by HarperCollins.

McGrath, author of several poetry collections, teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami. His awards include the Kingsley Tufts Prize and fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations.


5 a.m.: the frogs
ask what is it, what is it?
It is what it is.

Early July

Showering outside
by candle glow: too lazy
to change the lightbulb.

Jellyfish season -
climbing back into this world
alive and tingling.

Alone on the beach,
one kite and me, drinking beer.
Sunset, July 1st.

The Beach

Beach chairs in the surf
so the moms don't have to move -
long day at the beach.

Jackson says it's like
a mad symphony today,
the sound of the waves.

Beach chairs rotating
around shade umbrellas like
sundial shadows.

Warm water - the smell
of Florida! The Gulf Stream,
blown west,waves hello.

Seaweed: someone says
it's like swimming in salad -
long day at the beach.

Reading Walt Whitman at Dawn

Wakened by the sound
of feet on the porch I find
two sparrows, hopping!

What is the dune grass
trying to do - praise the sun
or go back to sleep?

Friendly grasshopper,
tell me the name of that bird
and I'll sing with you.


Beauty of this world -
walked six miles along the beach,
counting syllables

Beauty of this world,
starlight on the salt meadow -
ah,the moon is full!

Beauty of the world
and the foghorn bemoaning
its mortality.

All principles are conditional, that's my opinion, anyway.

Granting an exception to my general rule: I'll each person one tattoo - as long as it says "MOM".

About Tattoos

the thing with me
about tattoos
is that I hate them

being then great appreciator
of skin
I am

(the more the better
is my philosophy)

I’ve never seen
a tat
looking better
than the skin
it covered

maybe for that really ugly guy
over in the corner

could do with some more

Now I have two poems by Sidney Wade, from her book, Stroke, published by Persea Books in 2007.

Wade is the author of four books of poetry previous to this one and has published poems and translations from Turkish in numerous periodicals. She is Professor of English at the University of Florida.

Poetry and Pleasure

A vagabond chill
rose up the fire-ramp,
gave me a wink and
a red verb then flew
down the messageway.

Some ravishing words
emerged prettily
from the underwood
and spread themselves on
the black velvet ground.

L'instinct du bonbeur
admired their beauty
and was pleasantly
stunned to smell so much
trouble in the air.

The Vulgate of Experience

In this tatterdemalion sandwich of Life,
it pays to pay attention to the light,

not to the oligarchic spread of heavy principles,
or to four-week traditions.

There are multitudes caught in the glare
and just as many stuck in a radiant head-book.

The book says even though we might reflect
the bruised glory of all the suns

that ever shone down on the earth,
mostly everyone's dreaming in a savage room

or searching for the beloved in the desert.
I admit I, for one, am clouded by experience,

though I'm feeling my way into a weird pre-waking
from the old parabola of darkness.

Some nights I sleep in wild weather
where the names of God change furiously.

Sometimes I wander in the available light.
the wind is always a perilous distraction.

On rare, sweet days I hear a brown, nut-like sound.
Inside this sound you can hear the imagination fluttering.

Here joy whiskers through the main arteries.
Here is where, if you hold out your hands, they will be filled.

What better use of a Sunday morning than to imagine interesting things.

about the straight and narrow

there’s nothing wrong
with considering alternate possibilities -

doesn’t necessarily mean
with your current state of affairs -

(I say that to avoid
any marial tension that might
over this little
exercise in creatively imagining
to the present what is and the past what was
and the perfect future what will always be
I promise)

it's just a natural curiosity
about the life that might come
from stepping off the path

nothing radical,
not like buying a red convertible
sports car, or running off to Acapulco
with the blonde at the coffeeshop

just a little step this way,
a step or two that way,
and all the things that are
your life, might not be
anymore, might be something
or maybe slightly
or maybe not at all different

that’s a question
for the philosophers -
how much of what is was
always to be, how much different
can a life be from what it was set out to be
at it’s beginning,
how many of the decisions
we make from cradle to grave
were made for us before we ever
even groped for the first time
for mother’s nipple

such questions are for deeper thinkers
than this minor poet,
tickling, at best, little ideas
from smaller questions than
deep-thinking thinkers
will ever spend their thinking on

like I just want to know
about small results for minor forays
off the mostly boring straight and narrow
my life is,
with minimal attention,
lumbering along

what if I took to a bit of exercise
daily, would I become grossly healthy,
with low blood sugar and cholesterol,
and mean and lean
and tanned and lovely and able to eat
coconut cream pie whenever I felt like it;
or what if I completely shaved my head and
presented my body to skin artists
of the highest quality for their most
beautiful work, would I immediately attract
the carnal attentions of long-legged,
similarly tattooed motorcycle
mamas with large breasts and dainty
ears that listen to my every word,
attendant to my every perverted
desire, like (don't tell anyone) midnight
of acrobatic sexual antics atop
the Germanly studly roof
of a 49 Volkswagen

with just a little exercise
every day
would Nobel-Prize-winning-professors
from all the major centers of learning
throughout the world friend me
on Facebook and contact me regularly
for up-to-the-minute updates on how
the cow
ate the cabbage;
would I win the lottery, would my local bank
contact me, apologizing for all the mistakes made
in my checking account for the past 35 years
and agree to credit my account with the millions
upon millions of dollars mistakenly deducted
because of the checks I wrote for the purchase
of stupid things that broke upon expiration
of warranty or made me fat
and old?

I should get some money back
on that kind of stuff - you too,
I'm thinking...

to the point,
would any of that or
even anything remotely like that
happen if I were to take one tiny step
off the pathway of my life
and do something entirely different
slightly that didn’t require
any great effort
on my part?

if not,
just forget it

Next, I have some haiku by Chiyo-ni, from the book,Chiyo-ni - Woman Haiku Master. The book was published in 1998 by Tuttle Publishing, with notes and translation by Paticia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi.

This is the first book in English on a woman haiku poet. The poet, Chiyo-Ni, also known as Kaga no Chiyo, was born in 1703 and died in 1775. A student of two of Basho's disciples, she was a poet, painter and Buddhist nun who worked in a time when haiku was largely a male domain.


wrapped around
this world's flower -
hazy moon


when not making a sound
is it their separation -
cat's love?


the butterfly
is standing on tiptoes
at the ebb tide


the frog observes
the clouds


when a woman's skin
is revealed


roughed lips
forgotten -
clear springwater


she also cups
the springwater
for her traveling brush


is left
in the maple leaves


sleeping alone
by the frosty night...


at my snow-white reflection
in the water


becoming flowers
becoming water drops -
this morning's snow


just for now
I spread the morning's snow
over the dust


sad, so sad
to miss the plum flower
before it fell


leave it to the wind -
dry pampas grass


floating flower -
the red poppy


Here's a poem from my next book, currently in proof and edit, titled Always To the Light and scheduled for release before the end of the year.

scary Unitarians

I see them
just about every Saturday morning

a couple
both tall and thin,
he, bald,
she with short, very blond hair

weak chins
between them

look so straight...
so white...
so clean...
you know they have to be
torture chamber
in the cellar
and not a mattress tag untorn
anywhere in their house,
perfect portraits
of the people the neighbors always describe as
sooooo nice, such good neighbors,
who could have guessed they could have
...insert the atrocity of your choice here....

those kind of people,
bad seeds
no one suspects
until the bloody harvest comes…

several years
I read for a group
of Unitarians -
a room-full of people who looked just like
these two,
nice folks, as it turned out,
they liked my poems,
which excuses
a lot

Next, I have two poems by Fady Jourdah. The poems are from his book, The Earth in the Attic, Yale University Press in 2008.

Joudah is Palestinian-American medical doctor and a field member of Doctors Without Borders.


I am the distance from birds to Jerusalem
In a metaphor I like, just because
It follows the laws of calculus,
Much as how the chicken crossed the road:

Not why, but how -
A humility of science:
In the first instance,
There is a point, A, which is fixed,

And a point B,which is in flux,
And I am the distance
Between them. In the second,
Two objects collapsing in on each other

In an oblique time,
The car pushing perpendicularly,
The chicken running hysterically
Across the long way out,

Children cheering on both sides
Of the upright road. Which goes along
With a story about my mother
When she was a newborn: They

Ran back to the tent
And found her cooing,next
To a bomb that didn't explode. And so
They named her the amusing one.

I do not say the shelling
Scattered them, I do not say
What Daniel my friend told me, how
He fled across four borders,

And with each
A cerebral malaria that nearly killed him.
The ducks,however,
Get it right from the first time.

The goats, less so, run
Straight ahead of the car for a while.
Before they find their sidestep. The drivers
Slow down, or gun it, and grin.


The rice filed birds are too clever for scarecrows,
They know what they love, milk in the grain.

When it happens,there will be not time to look for anyone.
Husband, children, nine brothers and sisters.

You will drop your sugarcane-stick beating of plastic bucket,
Stop shouting at birds and run.

They will load you in trucks and herd you for a hundred miles.
Old men will teach you trade with soldiers at checkpoints.

You will give them your spoon, blanket and beans,
They'll let you keep your life. And if you jump off the truck,

The army jeep trailing it will run you over.
Later, they will accuse you of giving up your land.

Later you will stand in distribution lines and won't receive enough to eat.
Your mother will weave you new underwear from flour sacks.

And they'll give you plastic tents, cooking pots,
Vaccine cards, white pills, and wool blankets.

And you will keep your cool.
Standing with ees shut tight like you've got soap in them,

Arms stretched wide like you're catching rain.

I haven't mentioned my first EBook,Pushing Clouds Against the Wind, in a while. So, in addition to mentioning it, here's a poem from it. The book is available at a price of $5.99 or less, at all the major EBook retailers.

The poem is about a piece of property we owned that was way more trouble than it was worth, especially when it came time to sell it.

Approximately excellent

was another day
at the money pit

laying down
kitchen tile this time

it is said
to be a very precise
this tile-laying thing

and i’m not
known as a person
of frequent

of an approximation
type guy

but i put that old tile
and now my knees hurt
and my...
without bothering to name
all the various parts
just say
hips down

and it may be
even precisely
that an individual
of a perfectionist bent
who insists
on a true northerly
might find fault
with the trueness
of the line
of my

but another person

another person
of a more approximistic
willing to drift
his orientation
a degree or two
or even three
north northeasterly
could very well look
at how my tiles
line up

and find it quite

in fact
that person
knowing that the lowest professional
bid for this work
was 965 dollars and 37 cents
would almost certainly
that the free work
done today
was in fact


Next, I have three poets from the poetry journal, Alehouse - Poetry on Tap, published quarterly by the Alehouse Press of San Francisco. The poems are from a 2010 issue.

The first poet is CJ Sage. When not editing the National Poetry Review, Sage is a Realtor in Coastal California. Her most recent book of peoms is The Bank of Stay.


Giver of ears
to kings and fools,
long-faced, desert-drifted

carrier of saints and baggage,
second-sighted field goer,
sermon-braying backtalker,

antagonist of failed prophets -
heel digger, sure-footed
self-preservationist, we trail you

to add a tail,
or trade you in for tall-tale magic.
We caricature you with droopy eyes;

we cartoonize our ennui onto you.
The truth: You'd rather freeze than fight,
rather figure than flee.

O wooly, cross-backed wanderer
we keep corralled; O dove-
gray guide and deliverer
of goods, you take our hay and keep us.

The next poem is by Dietrich Rapalski, an improvisational actor, poet and songwriter from San Francisco.

San Francisco

I suffered through
a long winter of no lovers
it was the middle of July
No one told the truth
everyone I loved was married
and I too sick to bear
the undulating breath
that love makes
I was certain of my own hand
undoing, all that preceded me
This, too, was not completely true
but true enough to suffer through
another bad season
I was too wasted to care
or so I thought.

And the final poet is Truth Thomas, a singer and poet from Washington D.C. who has published three poetry collections - Party of Black,
A Day of Presence
, and Bottle of Life.


Watermelon glazed fried chicken
fills our screens.
Pimps on parade tattoo "Bitches"\
on sisters.
DJ Overseer & MC Whipping Post
play - Buckwheat
Hip Hop, zip-a-dee-doo-day
night & day
Bishop Money's undies - anointed
& for purchase.
Bootie Entertainment Television
of thee I sing.
Bootie Entertainment Network -
no ideas
but in bling.

We all tend to have certain expectations when we see a young attractive, seemingly intelligent woman. But then...


to mid-twenties
my guess,
dressed collegiate-

a teacher,
I gather, elementary,
seemingly accustomed
to competing vocally
with a classroom of kids
not yet taught
about when to use
their “inside” voice

or maybe
she just never had that class
in this small
usually quiet
her voice makes the rafters
and the coffee in my cup
in sonic confusion

loudly she is,
to a friend,
similarly situated

her love life,
so that
more than I ever wanted
to know
I know now
in clinically specific

with 9
in two sentences
and at least
a dozen
“you knows”
when it comes to the parts
where I’m sure I don’t want to

I ‘m
honey, like

I have a couple of poems by John Poch, from his book Poems, published in 2004 by Orchises Press.

Poch was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1966. He received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. in English from the University of North Texas. He was the inaugural Colgate University Creative Writing Fellow, and now teaches in the creative writing program at Texas Tech University.


The cattails nodding above the marsh in autumn breeze
fluff at the edges like buffalo fur. This is the ease
with which the prim girl says of the pregnant farmer's daughter,
She let herself go. This round of loneliness, this tatter
whitest on the hem of cotton light must be open
to gossip, pitying the truth inside it, hoping
the red-wing blackbird will make a cattail metronome
to a music of evening wind, knowing chickadees come
to line their winter nests with the down of failure's bed.
Think of the daughter standing in a doorway, her head
against the frame, her hair in tangles across her face,
fire light ini the strands' inadequate embrace.


Before the snow, I stand in a darkening field.
the milkweed of fall, like a city appalled at night,
take flight. The thinnest parachutists
leap past me, a bigger building being built,
no lights yet, so much undone, tee new nudist,
a gasoline pump in shadow: miles inside.

When sparrows starve in winter, coors
across the countryside are coaxed open
by their tiny, shinning, hematite-eyed prayers.
Bundled up, bread-handed, fortune shines back.
I look for cold because her breath could spin
a nail into blue yarn, so whit is the milk of it.

The season holds on like a possession.
Stained glass puddles around me like a shell
melted and thinking of the fall of a color
television, memory gone to snow.
The night sneaks down the hill with its oil coat,
Inside the lining, a blunt metal confession.

I wish I could quit waking up so early, but the early morning has produced some pretty good poems.


to wake up god-awful early
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.

listening to the city night

an anorexic

for stars
in a city-bright sky

as always
for a night in West Texas

the dark is

and the stars
out of the sky

from a jeweler’s velvet purse…

on the desert where far coyotes sadly howl
and across the scrub and sand

quiet winds blow
from the mountains…

but not here
in the quasi-dark
and never-quiet

we make do,
living in the city

what the city
offers, knowing

the desert
and the mountains
are there


Now I have three poems by Greek poet C.P.Cavafy, from the book Collected Poems. The book was published in an eleventh printing in 1992 by Princeton University Press. The book's poems were translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

Cavafy, who was born in 1863 and died in 1933, lived in relative obscurity in Alexandria. No collection of his poems was published before his death, possibly because of his frank treatment of homosexual themes and his own homosexuality.

In the Evening

I wouldn't have lasted long anyway -
the experience of years makes that clear.
Even so, Fate did put an end to it a bit abruptly.
It was soon over, that wonderful life.
Yet how strong the scents were,
what a magnificent bed we lay in,
what pleasure we gave our bodies.

An echo from my days given to sensuality,
an echo from those days came back to me,
something of the fire of the young life we shared:
I picked up a letter again,
and I read it over and over till the light faded away.

Then, sad, I went out on the balcony,
went out to change my thoughts at least by seeing
something of this city I love,
a little movement in the street and the shops.

To Sensual Pleasure

My life's joy and incense: recollection of those hours
when I found and captured sensual pleasure as I wanted it.
My life's joy and incense: that I refused
all indulgence in routine love affairs.


While looking at a half-gray opal
I remembered two lovely gray eyes -
it must be twenty years ago I saw them


We were lovers for a month.
Then he went away to work, I think in Smyrna,
and we never met again.

Those gray eyes will have lost their beauty - it he's still alive;
that lovely face will have spoiled.

Memory, keep them the way they were.
And, memory, whatever of that love you can bring back,
whatever you can, bring back tonight.

Nights this summer (so far) have been usually mild and pleasant. But that ends quickly when the sun begins to show itself.

summer morning, briefly



fresh again

for the



doves crowd

the deepest shadows

flick their tails
and fuss

at the weather

like the rest of us
and doing no more

than the rest of us
about it

Last from my library this week, I have two poems by Robert Bonazzi, from his book Maestro of Solitude, published by Wings Press in 2007.

Born in New York City in 1942, Bonazzi has also lived in San Francisco, Mexico City, Florida, and several Texas cities. From 1966 to 2000, he edited and published over one hundred titles under his Latitudes Press imprint.

With Your Taste

With your taste in music
you should not be allowed
to blow your little horn in public

I live in close quarters with selfish
cats bent on comfort although
they do not smoke or read
my figments of solitaire

Being a voyeur of one's life
our cosmic joke of perception
without seeing one's own folly
in the reactions of others

Death cannot be an event in life
for only dying eventful and
we miss most of that
on a fading screen

He Flaunts Hunger

He flaunts hunger by skipping a meal -

One less dead animal, he figures,
but he will not stop at that.

When he eats two meals a day he feels guilty;
a single meal today yet the smell lingers.

Hungry, he talks to himself, wondering
if starving children stop talking entirely.

Tomorrow he will flaunt his vaunted hunger
by cutting out tasty snakes he sneaks.

One less cellophane plant, he muses, although
its wrapping will take a million years to disappear.

But do things every actually disappear?

Closing this week at what I hope is a fun poem about an artist's ego.

goddamn critics everywhere

she has watched me for several days

as I sit at my table
and type

she speaks

“I’ve been watching you,”
she said,

“and I’ve been wondering
what you do.”

“I’m a writer,”
I said.

she said,

“what kind of writer,”
she asked.

“a poet,”
I said.

“Oh,” she said,
“what’s your name?”

I told her
and she asked,

“Are you a good

“I’m okay,”
I said.

“I was wondering,”
she said,

I never heard of you.”

“I never said
I was a world-famous poet,”

I said.
“Well, that’s true,”

she said,
“and I guess you’re not.”

“not what?”
I asked.

she said,

as she turned her attention
to whatever trivial, unimportant,

non-world-renown thing
she was doing

and I was thinking

if one of the two of us
ever turns out to be world-

renown, it’s sure as hell
going to be me

(with my three published books,
purchased by literally

dozens of readers
who are neither family

nor friend)
before anyone knows

her name from either Adam or Eve,
and satisfied that I have

put her
in her place

I return to back my computer
to continue my daily chase for

and beauty and

show her

how this world-renown thing

That's it for another hot and dry July week. As all of us here look hopefully to the east, where a tropical storm approaches the coast with a promise of rain for us by Saturday, I remind you that all material presented her remains the property of its creators. You're welcome to borrow anything of mine, as long as you properly credit "Here and Now" and me.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, waiting eagerly for the wet.


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