Free Beer - and Rain - Tomorrow
Friday, July 01, 2011
Since I lost to various good causes four of the usual six and a half days I spend pulling together the various parts of "Here and Now," this was destined to be a shorter than usual post.
Since I just accidently deleted the first 85 percent of the 98 percent of the post I had finished and I don't feel like starting over from scratch, this will be, instead, a very, very short post.
Instead of starting over, I'm using the small part of the planned post that didn't get deleted, along with a re-transcribed longer series of poems by my poet friend Alex Stolis that was lost. It was the single piece I most wanted to post this week and I'm not giving up on it.
I'll redo the other things in next week's post that were planned for this week but lost.
As for this week, here's what I'm left with.
Morning Sonnet XXVII
earning my nap today
A Few Words on the Soul
Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care
Elizabeth Seydel Morgan
a day in a jury pool
As I said, the one part of the lost material that I decided to repost is a series of poems by Alex Stolis based on the lines of a sonnet by Pablo Neruda. Parts of the series have been posted here before, but now Alex that has completed the whole series made it available to me, I'm posting the entire, completed piece.
Alex is a wonderful poet and these are among the most beautiful of his poems that I've been pleased to read.
Morning (Sonnet XXVII)
for you taught me to love
Table of contents
Naked you are simple as one of your hands;
Smooth, earthy, small, transparent, round.
You've moon-lines, apple pathways
Naked you are slender as a naked grain of wheat.
Naked you are blue as a night in Cuba;
You've vines and stars in your hair.
Naked you are spacious and yellow
As summer in a golden church.
Naked you are tiny as one of your nails;
Curved, subtle, rosy, till the day is born
And you withdraw to the underground world.
As if down a long tunnel of clothing and of chores;
Your clear light dims, gets dressed, drops its leaves,
And becomes a naked hand again.
Naked you are simple as one of your hands
esta es la verdad: ¿cómo la mano
encaja en la mía, que mi piel se quema
de su tacto, la forma en que se pierden
en el otro y es el hogar.
We are in bed. You are asleep. Your hair covers your face.
The sheet wrapped around your leg. I watch you breathe,
your breast moves with every inhale, the stars blink with
every exhale. It is beautiful; it is what you and I call truth.
I remember the day we met. It was winter. February seventh,
snow was falling one flake at a time. The last table is taken.
You nod when asked if I can join you. No glance. No words.
You are engrossed in a book of poems. Neruda: Veinte poemas
de amor. I am thinking of summer, blonde fields, a young
woman in a sundress waiting for the bus, a brown suitcase
against a telephone pole; the sun a burning ember in a deep
blue sky. I fold my newspaper in half unable to concentrate.
My eyes drift up when you turn the page. I count one, two,
three times when the page is turned back to re-read. I imagine
you are sad. Sad in a weary it is time to wait again way. My mind
drifts to snatches of poetry memorized in school. There’s a couple
at the next table, in their sixties, dressed like they are coming from
church. In love yet, they share their space in comfort. She lightly
touches his hand when he says her name. Smiles at me and I know
they believe we are together. I want to wish it true. Your sleeves
are pushed up, lips a thin brushstroke of red. I ask you the time;
an inane question. I am not going anywhere. Don’t need to be any
where. Don’t want to be anywhere but here. All my destinations
are unplanned, bent. The road unmapped, filled with potholes,
every turn is crooked and sharp. We listen to the impatient shuffle
of feet from customers lined up, barely aware of the low murmur
of conversation. The background music is Dylan. I know what
I want the answer to be: You tell me how to catch fire, how to hold
the spark in the palm of my hand. You tell me how to live with ashes
and dust. How you want to teach me to rub the stain from a crucible,
polish it, hold it to flame until my breath turns to smoke. You tell me
everything I am thinking is true. That aqua blue is the color of sincerity.
That shyness is a refuge, desolation a virtue. The café is empty. Street
lamps flicker, the city struggles to stay awake. We are unnoticed. I study
the curve of your mouth, want you to feel the weight of loss; consider
the heft of grief, its every angle and bend. I want to know how it feels
to get lost in the motion of you moving within me; that feeling of being
**this is truth: how your hand
fits in mine, how my skin burns
from your touch, how we get lost
in each other and it is home.
Smooth, earthy, small, transparent, round
Estamos todas las cosas movido por el color;
obligado por las cenizas y el polvo, a la izquierda
transición a la competencia, junto
You are asleep. I study you. Your hands smooth,
your lips slightly parted, the earthy scent of sex
lingers. I can not imagine night without your body.
I want the future to wait and wander back to fall
then winter to spring to summer and back again.
Back when there was the not so accidental brush
of hands, a kiss in the backseat. Coffee growing
cold, the nervous drum of fingers on the table.
The sun drops its head we both wonder aloud
thoughts better left alone but we’re together now.
Five more minutes becomes five more minutes.
There is a slow dance with low music. Bare feet
shuffling on carpet The bang of a radiator and quiet
tap tap of rain. You write your number on a coffee
shop business card. Smile then tell me to call, pick
up your book and leave. I hope you glance back.
Tell myself I will play it cool if you do, pretend
not to notice. The CD changer shifts from Sara
Vaughn to Etta James; Imagination. Lights dim,
you become a shadow, transparent in the hollow
of my memory. That card is still in my wallet;
stuffed between my driver’s license and an over
drawn check. I know the number by heart, ink
faded to gray, almost unintelligible.
**We are all things moved by color;
bound by ashes and dust, left
You've moon-lines, apple pathways
Realizamos movimientos debajo de las sábanas
blancas como la nieve. No es el toque de una mano
a la cadera, se desliza entre los muslos de la pierna,
para esta noche somos los amantes.
breasts that fit perfectly in my hand, hips curve
into mine. Your body lithe and tawny, you are
like the sea; forever, vast and open, a sanctuary,
my home. The bed is unmade, we are undone,
you break silence with a breath and become
the sky; dark blue and even, smooth against
rough clouds. The bedspread is forgotten on
the floor, leg shifts over leg and every new
shadow is another touch, another prayer.
We feel the weight of knowing, we are
gravity, we are complete, deliberate.
Palm against palm, no need for words.
We are together, we are one; tomorrow
does not matter. Sleep overtakes us.
**We move under snow white sheets.
There is the touch of a hand to hip,
a leg slides between thighs; for tonight
we are the lovers.
Naked you are slender as a naked grain of wheat
Todo lo que quieres es leer a usted; poemas
de amor y pérdida, de piernas bronceadas
y la simple belleza de tus manos.
I want to hear every story you have ever lived,
again and again, until I am filled with nothing
but stories. Tell me about scabbed knees, braids,
winter mornings that cooled the sun to a dull ochre.
I want to hear about flannel pajamas and bare feet
padding to the window to draw your name in frost.
Tell me your first wish, made on a hot June night
as a meteor burned through a cloud. I no longer
believe in legends, myths, fables of winged gods
or heroes that hide in the belly of a wooden horse.
I no longer believe that a shot glass is large enough
to hold the future or an empty bottle the only witness
to our pain. I have forgotten everything I know about
loss. Every truth we whisper becomes spring and when
snow melts and the air smells of wet leaves, we will
create a new summer. We will walk along the shore
of Lake Superior, find the smoothest stone, skip it across
water, feel ourselves in each ripple and wave. You’re in
your favorite sundress, the one you wear when time does
not matter; look at me from the corner of your eye as if
you know exactly what I’m thinking. Lying together on
the sand you tell me about passages made of rock, tucked
in the slope of a hill. Trees lined up by a stream like toy
soldiers, red orchards filled with ripe apples. How bees
lose themselves inside purple orchids; how we are found.
You tell me how the sky will protect us, how every story
has been told. Then later, lost in white sheets, our bodies
become home as the moon dims over the water.
**All I want is to read to you; poems
of love and loss, of tanned legs
and the simple beauty of your hands.
Naked you are blue as a night in Cuba
Durmiendo a mi lado:
que son de color azul oscuro como el cielo al atardecer
antes de que las estrellas tienen la oportunidad de despertar.
Usted es azul como el mar de verano, cuando
toma una respiración profunda.
Our first date: a park on the corner of Chicago and 34th ,
it was the first real week of spring, the sun barely awake.
You say you like wide open spaces: plenty of room to make
the really big mistakes. You are leaning against a tree, reading
Veinte poemas de amor. I approach and you tuck your hair
behind your ear, stuff the book in your back pocket, walk
toward me. You wear a pair of faded Levi’s, a threadbare
sweater your grandmother made for you, the top button
missing. I didn’t know then she was dying. Your hair
is loose, just past your shoulders, there is a whisper of gray
among auburn I hadn’t noticed before. Not knowing quite
what to do I give you an awkward hug. In that one second
I notice: your hair has the scent of fresh cut lilacs, there’s
a heart-shaped mole on your hairline, a robin flies overhead,
your hands are delicate, the nail on your right middle finger
bitten down, your skin is a smooth white, your eyes are pale
with thin, long lashes. As my hand slides down your back
two children jump off a swing and run by us, you turn
to watch them as my hand falls away, smile and ask me
a question I forget before you are even finished. We walk
and you tell me how you like to paint: quiet greens for past
sins, gravel roads and unplowed fields; dull yellows for loss,
for your grandmother’s house and the memory of your father;
brilliant blues for a lover you have yet to meet and soft grays,
not the gray of sadness but of a sleeping sky, of a path once
forgotten then rediscovered in spring.
**Sleeping next to me:
you are dark blue as the sky at dusk
before stars have a chance to awake.
You are blue as the sea when summer
takes a deep breath.
You've vines and stars in your hair
Quiero dormir con sus pensamientos, sueños
vivos, persiguen su piel, la caricia de su ronda
pezones con la palma de mi mano, sentir el roce
de los labios sobre mis nudillos.
your hands are of the earth, your hips
round as the moon, your breasts, ripe
and full. But first, let me tell you how
I love you: how you are spring, words
that fill a blank page, you are the branch
of a tree, the beautiful small moment before
a kiss. Let me tell you how I want to share
my skin, my blood with you, every breath.
How I want us to make love gently;
fuck, fiercely as if we are the last two
lovers on earth. I want to be still, aware,
feel the beat of time on your smooth thigh;
know that our future is an origami swan
we unfold again and again.
**I want to sleep with your thoughts, dream
them alive; haunt your skin, caress your round
nipples with the flat of my palm, feel the brush
of lips over my knuckles.
Naked you are spacious and yellow
Si alguna vez me olvide lo que su voz suena como
el cielo se abrió de golpe y me va a envolver el
memoria en su caparazón; sueñan el mismo sueño
una y otra vez.
I wake in the middle of a dream, it’s ten minutes
before the alarm goes off: we’re in Mexico, rock
hounding and beach combing, upsetting buckets
of sand. After one week: lipstick traces on empty
glasses, every cliché in the book seems brand new
and still, we don’t believe it as it happens. You run
your fingertips along my forearm and its all I need
to forget what we came through. We don’t have to
hide because the world will never find us in plain
sight. Doubt evaporates with the dew. On the fringe
of the city is a tavern with vinyl covered bar stools,
rust colored tiles and beer in long neck bottles. Friday
becomes a layer of dust covering the floor, a neon clock
flickers in 4/4 time and cash is king. We wait for last
call, one last chance before night is ready to fall into
bed. Believing becomes simple and we are the last hope
in town. Week two: every night, much of what you say
is unexpected, it is what I want to hear but didn't really
know until it was said out loud. Late turns into too early
and we are armed and ready for anything. There is the
garbage truck alarm clock, the smell of cooking, sounds
of the city morning combined with exhaust. Dirt and grime
mixed with laughter at our pidgin Spanish asking quietly
for the time of the hour or where is the blue of the sea.
Silence opens up doors and you prop open the windows
for good karma; we make love as two weeks folds itself
into three. At four we decide we’ve collected enough luck
to stretch into the next two lifetimes. We’ve shared every
bit of honesty between the sheets Everything is just right,
baby. Morning songs roll into evening songs, then comes
the rain; by the time we’re finished, we’ll have plenty of
time to catch up with ourselves.
**If I ever forget what your voice sounds like
the sky will burst open and I will wrap your
memory in its shell; dream the same dream
over and over.
As summer in a golden church
Imagínese nosotros, junto al mar, en una casa
de los depósitos. Usted podrá degustar la sal
en mi piel, coloque su mano en mi
corazón y escuchar el mar.
When someday becomes today: it will be quiet,
the wind will scoop up our every thought. I will
feel the round of your breasts against my back
as you sleep. The oceans will become silent;
salt water and sand sifts through our fingers.
You will laugh and tell me there is still so
much time but kiss me quickly to save
the moment. Night coughs to an empty
start, the dense breath of summer colors
your cheek. My fingers run through your
hair, trees watch, in silent prayer.
We become still. Wrapped in each other’s
bodies, we create a new language; vowels
and consonants no longer necessary
**Imagine us, by the sea, in a house
of shells. You will taste the salt
on my skin, place your hand on my
heart and listen to the ocean.
Naked you are tiny as one of your nails
Tú eres la piedra, Yo soy el agua;
cada palabra me rompe lanzas en
un millar de plata con punta de las olas.
Naked you are a thin beam of light breaking
through the window. Naked you are small
as one of your hands. The moment night fell,
and covered us like a blanket was the first
time we felt the sensation of skin on skin.
Morning is a blank canvas, the horizon still
invisible; you are delicate, a dusky child
of an untamed sea. Last night lingers on;
a favourite song, a delicious thirst, a vision:
The club will close soon; its cold outside,
our coats need to be rescued from the coat
check. I wink at the swan necked girl, as I
give her the chits a proprietary hand slides
into my back pocket, our hips sway together.
You turn your head to kiss me. You’re an artist
who don’t look back, you’re nobody’s child.
The scent of your hair reminds me of the time
we spent in Avignon, bright yellow pears, dirt
roads and dry canals. I am out of cigarettes, flat
broke and blinded by a charred sun. You tell me
you want an adventure, want to pull back the thin
black veil that divides past from future. We roll
the windows all the way down, stereo blasting
the ‘Mats. An open highway and clean skies; end
less spring, endless possibilities. The way is slick
with promise. We ramp down Lyndale Ave, catch
a glimpse of neon when it starts to rain; the soft
pop and click of drops on the windshield in perfect
time with Tommy’s bass line. You ask me to pay
in cash, smile as you hand me their business card-
to use for your next lover, you laugh. I reach for it,
you pull me close, kiss me hard on the mouth.
**You are the stone, I am the water;
each word you toss breaks me into
a thousand silver-tipped waves.
Curved, subtle, rosy, till the day is born
su cuerpo contra el mío es la luz:
todas las patas, el pelo largo y listo
para iniciar una revolución
Onetwothreefourfive, we take our sweet time
after the alarm goes off. Nowhere to go, no
where to be, nobody but we two. You tell me
how you remember your first taste of the body
of Christ. The brittle snap, a dry throat, then
silence. You tell me your father was unrepentant,
how he didn’t believe in sin; he believed in home
cooked meals and the Chicago Cubs. He reveled
in the beauty of the overlooked and the taken for
granted. You sigh when you talk of your mother,
her shiny hair, homemade dresses, her small, soft
hands and how they became scarred from bleach
and steel wire. You hold your breath as you describe
her singing you to sleep. Exhale when you recall
how she brushed your hair, counting to one hundred;
every stroke a memory. You laugh and remember
the Sunday she burned dinner and rather than be
angry, your father swept her in his arms, kissed her
forehead and asked you if you wanted to go for ice
cream. You lay on your side, tell me we have stories
to write each other, poems to read and letters to open.
Outside, the wind is rough, light fades and the radiator
ticks awake. You call yourself an orphan, show me
the scar on your back, behind your lung, where a needle
was inserted to drain the fluid. I circle it with my little
finger, kiss your shoulder blade and place my hand
on your ribs. Somewhere a phone rings, the drone
of a plane fades; you close your eyes, pull the sheet
over your breasts, tell me not to worry. You tell me
there will be no breaking; no need to repent. Tell me
you have always loved me. Unconditionally. Fiercely.
It is reckless. Necessary.
**your body against mine is light:
all legs, long hair and ready
to start a revolution
And you withdraw to the underground world
Usted es translúcido, un susurro
de los labios sedientos. Usted es un delgado
de grano, un vaso de rocío y la lluvia.
I have forgotten your middle name, replaced it
with a narrative. One tale to explain your absence,
one to explain how your hair has become brittle
to my touch. Still another to describe how I lost
your voice; about the unbearable weight of grief
that walked through the door. Oh, to be a tulip:
to desire no more than water, light; this could
be a dream in any other language, a journey
into the country of namelessness. We’re packed,
bottled up and ready to go. We are unmapped
and righteous. We know everything vanishes,
everything dissolves at the right temperature
yet, you ask for nothing. Nothing but my hand
on your heart and a story, fragile and green.
**You are translucent, a whisper
from thirsty lips. You are a slender
grain; a vessel of dew and rain.
As if down a long tunnel of clothing and of chores
Nuestra primera noche juntos, la luna es tímido,
las estrellas se convierten en nuestros manta.
Los cambios de voz como usted están a punto
de quedarse dormido.
Ask me. Anything. Every lie has already
been spent. I am from the North Country.
Used to cold shoulders and winds that tame
blue waters. There was homemade soda pop
and ice cream freezers. Rubber band guns;
warm, sweet beer and dust from rusty rails
on the bottom of our shoes. There was Deb,
Teresa, a transfer student named Magdalena,
Julie, Julia and Liz. 99 lines for 35 women.
It was the end of the line. The beginning
of time. Fell in love. She had small breasts,
artist hands. She loved spring, played soccer.
Told me I was a river. She wanted to paint.
Felt boxed in. I promised to round the sharp
edges. Took my ’70 Impala to the skyline,
made out by the reservoir. Locked ourselves
out one night. Late for curfew. Even after
breaking the wing window and doing ninety
down Becks Road. One summer in a St. Paul
park she found a stray dog. Spackled white
with one ragged ear. Took it home. We broke
up three months later. Told me I had made
a habit of losing her. She couldn’t hold on to
shadows and broken lines. She has a husband,
two boys, a dog named Otto. Paints still life,
writes true stories. Loves yellow crocuses.
There’s a brown bird, sits outside our window.
Tilts his head at the string of paper butterflies
that flutter from the ceiling. We are a secret.
We are a mournful song. We are the same
no longer; we are sea-washed and new.
**Our first night together, the moon is shy,
stars become our blanket. Your voice changes
as you are about to fall asleep.
Your clear light dims, gets dressed, drops its leaves
Me encanta su cuerpo, la forma en que encaja a la perfección
con la mía. Como todos los secretos que hemos compartido
permanece en mí como un segundo corazón
I remember every time we made love,
have given them names. Names of stars,
planets. You tell me they are the dreamed
of places. Pegasus was in spring, sunrise
a breath away. We could see the future.
Scent of rosewater on your skin. Each
touch a promise. Each promise a refuge.
Andromeda was a non descript hotel.
Straight off the exit ramp. Just in time.
You called it a hooker hotel. Laughed.
We fell on the bed. Slowly undressed
each other. Nowhere to go. You told me
you felt beautiful. For the first time ever.
Mercury: an attic studio. Slanted ceiling.
Paper birds. Unfinished paintings. Dog
eared books of poetry. Veinte poemas de
amor. We walk into abstractions. Shallow
spaces that live between excuses. Moments.
Threadbare but clean: the way light filters
through a crack in the window, how silence
becomes entwined in the decisions we make.
It’s winter. You tell me I’m much better at
asking questions than answering them. Laugh.
Wrap your leg around mine. Kiss my cheek.
One more constellation falls into the sky.
**I love your body, the way it fits perfectly
with mine. How every secret we have shared
lingers in me like a second heart.
Y se convierte en una mano desnuda de nuevo
To know you is to know beauty
and love; without you
there are no words.
Que me sostiene cada palabra que he escrito
para mí. Lave cada sílaba limpia y coloque
que en tus labios, de ver florecer en nuevas
historias. Imagínese nosotros, junto al mar, en una casa
de los depósitos. El sabor de la sal en mi piel, el lugar
tu mano en mi corazón, escuchar el mar.
Su piel es mía, yo los dedos rastrear cada
curva, círculo cada cicatriz; señalo a cada curva,
saben todos los contornos. El futuro es una cadera pálido
ósea, la mama en el hueco de mi mano. Besaré
una vez por cada día que han trabajado por mis pecados.
Mi pecado es amarte, mi crimen, creyendo
usted es el filamento que establece día de diferencia
de la noche, la tierra del aire.
**Para saber que es conocer la belleza
y el amor, sin ti
no hay palabras.
And becomes a naked hand again
Para saber que es conocer la belleza
y el amor, sin ti
no hay palabras.
Let me hold every word you have written
for me. Wash each syllable clean then place
them on your lips, watch them blossom into
new stories. Imagine us, by the sea, in a house
of shells. Taste the salt on my skin, place
your hand on my heart, listen to the ocean.
Your skin is my own, I finger-trace every
curve, circle every scar; draw a breath,
with every stroke. The future is a pale hip
bone, your breast cupped in my hand. I’ll kiss
you once for every day I have toiled for my sins.
My sin is loving you; my crime, believing
you are the filament that sets day apart
from night, land from air.
**To know you is to know beauty
and love; without you
there are no words.
I wrote this piece last week, another breakfast observational, extended.
earning my nap today
there’s a fellow
that looks like Benjamin Netanyahu,
maybe I should do my part for world peace,
go over and tell him
to get over himself, quit being such an asshole
about those settlements
if I did that,
I could probably go home
and take a nap, my good work done,
my time on the world stage
done for the day -
it could be the fellow
isn’t Benjamin Netanyahu
in which case he wouldn’t know
what the hell
I was talking about
and my peacemaking would have been
actually would have done nothing
for the many and varied peoples of the world,
and wouldn’t have earned me a nap
except that I figure
even though I didn’t accomplish anything,
I did make a powerful statement
and that’s just as good as actually doing something
also worth a nap
cause making a powerful statement and not doing nothing
and taking a nap for it
works in Congress
so why shouldn’t it work for me
since I’m easily as good
at making powerful statements
and not doing nothing
and, by the way,
I have to do my own
having no aides to write them for me,
having no need spend a week in France
to study up for my statements,
having the incredible ability, as I do, to come up with a
powerful statement at any time, right now, right off the top
of my head, like “we must do something about this deficit
thing, or else” and “we must not raise taxes, or else” and
“we must always be aware
of the economic and social and cultural
and international value of Mom and apple pie as we see
the USA in our Chevrolet, or else”
stuff like that - done completely on my own,
no speech writers, no aides
to polish my brass, just me, and since I work
and cost way less than those
and have never been known to harrumph
in my sleep,
I figure I’ve earned just as many naps
Here's a poem by Wislawa Szymborska, poet, essayist, translator, and 1996 Nobel Prize Winner. Although her books of poetry rival prominent prose authors in Poland, she has published on 250 poems. Though limited in number by normal publishing standards, her poems in Polish have been translated into many European languages, as well as into Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese.
The poem I've chosen this week is from her most recent book, Monologue of a Dog, published in 2006 by Harcourt. The book is presented in both Polish and English on facing pages, translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak
A Few Words on the Soul
We have a soul at times.
No one's got it nonstop,
Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.
it will settle fora while
only in childhood's fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.
It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.
It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled out.
For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.
Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off duty.
it doesn't like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations makek it sick.
Joy and Sorrow
aren't two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.
We can count on it
when we're sure of nothing
and curious about everything.
Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep working
even when no one is looking.
It won't say where it comes from
or when it's taking off again,
though it's clearly expecting such questions.
We need it
it needs us
for some reason too.
Maybe it's just the onset of aging, but i increasingly feel I'm dealt out of the game when it comes to what's going on all around me.
Jimmy crack corn and I don't care
birds still sleep
in their treetop nests
a taste of smoke
in the air
in the corners of my eyes
dreams are burning…
I could write
of the fires everywhere -
and dirty diapers
in a supermarket
parking lot -
but I refuse to do more
than take note…
I have no more dreams
so as the world has determined
to take less account of me
I have decided
to return the favor
I have one poem now from All Around Us: Poems from the Valley, an anthology presented by the Knoxville Writers' Guild and published in 1996 by Blue Ridge Publishing.
The poem is by Jeff Callahan, a frequently published teacher of English, journalism and creative writing in Knowxville.
Beaumont smells like
motor oil and farts at two a.m.
Your father bites the tip off a Tampa Nugget
and spits out the window
as you cross another bridge.
This is Texas in the mid-sixties
and JFK is gone.
In the backseat your sister works
her mouth around a cookie
while your mother nods off.
her head mashed flat against her hand.
Such a gathering of lights
along trhe river where refineries
and pulp mills smolder
in their own stink.
It's your turn to hold the maps
and try to look important,
though you still don't know
where Beaumont is or why Corpus Christi
means body of Christ.
At ten you've begun to feel
the sadness of adolescence,
as when one finally learns
to lie and pull it off
and so is sealed within a lie.
Is it the same loneliness
you feel now as you stare
at an empty ball field, its single tier
of bleachers ascending
like stairs into the dark?
You feel your eyes begin to close
as your father chances lanes,
the Impala lurching forward,
shoving you onward toward sleep
and whatever journey awaits you.
The next poem is a piece I wrote in 2007 made up of little pieces. I don't think I've schedule it for use in any of my books, but don't remember for sure. It's hard to keep track.
to the wind
but it does not tell
and spits them
but not for
despite the grace
of its ascent
there would be
to tell us
there is a sun-bright
I already typed this next piece once today, but for some reason it didn't save. (This was before I deleted everything else.) I'm doing it again, with most of my enthusiasm for length introductions significantly diminished.
So, in brief. the poem is by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, a poet I've used frequently before. It is from her book, Without a Philosophy, published in 2007 by the Louisiana State University Press.
This is my last library poem for this week.
It's life with your sourapple aunt
is pursed like pulled drawstrings
and inverted u -
this stingy Spring.
What could blossom
in the face of her disdain?
Who could open to her flint-thin arms?
The pear trees on the mountainside shiver
in her sheer winds, seal shut their buds
that are glazed with cold rain. today
beige grass is speckled with frost,
the wheelbarrow's full of frozen water
This time last year, the pear trees had bloomed;
by now they had petaled the meadow and drifted
white dots on the breeze to the greening grass.
Newborn calves lay in the sun by their mothers.
Today is one more withholding.
let loose to live its life.
A shrinking spirit
skulks on the ridges,
bulked only by coats
like the dull grey feathers of finches
who wait for warmth to turn gold
as they peck at the seed blown thistles.
for warmth too,
like tight buds, the roots
of peonies, the snake under the cold holding tank.
We wait for warmth to uncurl us, to disrobe us,
to pull us up and out.
We wait generosity,
grateful that it's only late.
Finally, here's my last piece for the week, an account of one of the lost days mentioned earlier. It's an attempt at a form, which name I cannot recall, that includes both prose and verse.
a day in the jury pool
They call several hundred citizens to appear in the Central Jury Room the first day of every week. From that pool of several hundred they will select jurors for that week’s trials.
Those who think they know their community will be surprised to find how small the circle within they live their daily lives, how the community-at-large shows diversities unimagined before.
For the pool is a cross-section of the community, a random selection among everyone who is a registered voter and/or a licensed driver, citizens 18 to 70 years old who are not committed felons and who think of themselves as of sound mind and character. Nowhere else in your community will you spend a full day in such a diverse collection of individuals, aggrieved, like you, at being there, but determined to do their civic duty if they must, gangbanger to bank president, older men in dusty boots and Stetsons to eighteen-year-old girls with tattoos and orange hair swirled in puffs around her head.
The judge assigned the duty for the week welcome’s the crowd, makes a small joke and makes everyone laugh (he is a judge and it is enough like a courtroom to insure his jokes will get a laugh), explains the exceptions to the rule of you-gotta-be-here and invites all those who think they might be in the possession of such an exception to step forward and seek exemption from the day’s duty. A long line forms in front of the bench, each in the line pleads his or her case, most return to their seat after their interview. Few leave, set free for the day.
A bailiff validates our parking tickets, a fast and efficient operation in this instance, the wheel of justice turning quickly for the first and last times that day.
And the wait begins.
Periodically a bailiff comes to the room and calls out sixty-five names, potential jurors who are taken from the Central Jury Room to one of the courtrooms either upstairs or through the tunnel to other courtrooms on the other side of the street. From this smaller pool of sixty-five will be the twelve selected to sit as jurors in a trial awaiting their selection. Each of the sixty-five is questioned by both the prosecution and defense attorneys and either accepted or rejected, rejections either for cause or as one of each sides limited number of arbitrary rejections, no stated cause required, until the final panel of twelve is complete. The remaining potential jurors are returned to the Central Jury Room to await another call.
I was in the second group of sixty-five called.
With my cohort, I followed our bailiff up the stairs to the 226th District Court, where we were lined up in the order we were called. I was number seven which meant I would most certainly be interviewed and likely selected to serve, unless rejected. I’m counting on my wife’s work in the Criminal Justice System to be a red flag to defense attorneys, leading, I’m hoping, to rejection.
After we have all found our place in line, including me, uncomfortably close to the courtroom door, the bailiff announces that it is 11:30, a suitable time for lunch and that we are excused until precisely 1:30 and not a minute later, when we should be returned to our present position in line outside the door.
I have sushi at the courthouse cafeteria and read a book on my new Kindle. (And such a pleasure it is.)
At 1:30, we are all back outside the courtroom, milling about in some semblance of where we’re supposed to be.
We wait and we wait and we wait some more, standing in line, sitting in line, sprawling on the floor in line. Attorneys and, occasionally defendants, pass us in the hall, keeping their eyes down, not even sneaking a quick peek at us through the corner of their eyes.
At 2:00, a bailiff comes out and tells us all is going as planned and isn’t it wonderful when a plan comes together. More attorneys pass us, eyes to the floor.
At 2:30, another bailiff comes out and says howdy-do and ducks back into the courtroom, then opens the door again for a couple of more attorneys. By this time there is mumbling of mutiny among the lined up potential jurors, expressions of boredom.
But not me, having learned the secret of dealing with any boring or otherwise unpleasant situation while in military basic training, the secret of shutting down your brain, becoming one with whatever vegetable you might have consumed at your last meal. I became no longer me as I stood my place in line, my mind instead in the void of black and silent space, floating in the void as a cucumber, cool as same, waiting for my salad days, the passage of time meaningless to me as it would be to the slice of cucumber in my sushi.
At 3:00, the first bailiff comes out again and gets us all properly placed in our proper line positions.
Pretty soon, he said.
And sure enough, at 3:15, we were escorted into the courtroom into our assigned seat as determined by our number. The judge was in the process of finishing off the last of seven plea bargains that had been completed while we waited outside, thus completing the docket for the day.
Thank you, the judge said, as the last defendant was escorted from the room to be taken back to jail to complete out-processing, free at last, free at last…unless he offends again, at which time, the judge explains, his, the defendant’s, balls will be in a vice and he, the judge, will be turning the screw.
Thank you, the judge said, reminding us that though we rendered no decision this day, we served justice by making it clear to all that passed among us that we were there and that the day of reckoning had come for those who would come before us and that if a deal was to be made it had to be made now.
And it was.
And I leave the courthouse at 4 p.m. pleasure at my freedom mixed with misgiving that in my whole civic life I had never served on a jury and that now, within sight of my 70th birthday, I never would.
justice is not a bright coin
fresh new from the mint,
but though worn
unsullied by the hands
it passes through,
some filthy with
the underside of life
it is better seen in the end
then in the process of its
It's done. I'll do again next week, everything I did this week that I lost. It was a good collection of poets and they'll be back.
In the meantime, I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and everything in this blog remains the property of those who created it.