The Watched Pot Isn't Boiling   Thursday, July 07, 2011


VI.7.2.



I had hoped, with this post, to announce availability of my second EBook, Goes Around, Comes Around. The book is published and shipped to the EBook retailers but not yet posted to their virtual shelves.

It turns out, I have learned, that there is a varied scheduled for that. Amazon and IBookstore usually have their EBooks up for sale first. (I haven't been able to browse IBookstore, so it might up there and I just don't know about it.) The Sony EBookstore usually follows in about a week, with Barnes and Noble coming in three to four weeks later.

Thought I don't get to introduce the book this week with the trumpet-blast of fanfare I had hoped for, I do have a treat for readers, five poems by Jan Napier, my poet friend from Western Australia.

About the pics this week, I'll only say cause I wanted to - and, an admission, if I could paint, and I really wish I could, this is how I'd do it.

Including Jan, here's the crowd for the week.


From Language for a New Century
Ghassan Zaqtan
Black Horses
Xi Xi
Sonnet
Ustad Khalilullah Khalili
Quatrains

Me
July 2nd

Alma Luz Villanueva
Sacred Moon

Me
300 miles south

Tino Villanueva
Haciendo Apenas La Recoleccion

Me
pretty pink panties

Diane Wakoski
Seeing Robert in the Crystal Ball
On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City
Some Pumpkins


Me
it bleeds, it leads

From Spirits of the Age , Poets of Conscience
Jorge Valls Arango
Something
George Chipasula
The Spirit of the Heart

Me
Reba

Leoda Anderson
Bah, Romance!

Me
the problem

Jan Napier
All At Sea
Beirut: A Soldier’s Take
Cello
Friday Night
Marie Did Not


Me
make your poem a psalm, a celebration

From Passionate Hearts, The Poetry of Sexual Love
Gary Soto
The Trees That Changed Our Lives
Marge Piercy
Morning Love Song
Kim Addonizio
Alone in Your House
Gary Metras
Vanishing Point

Me
just another poet inflicting his reality on unwary passers-by

Sarah Patton
Preparing the Body
The Water Strider


Me
prelude to the afternoon of the Froot Loops

From Not for the Academy: Lesbian Poets
Maria Jastrzebska
I Am Carrying Happiness
Aleida Rodriguez
Concierto de Aranjuez

From Dances for Flute and Thunder - Praises, Prayers, and Insults - 8 poems

Me
fog over the Capitol









My first poems this week are, as they were last week until lost, are by three poets from the anthology Language for a New Century - Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond. The book was published by W.W. Norton in 2008.



The first of the two poets is Ghassan Zaqtan. Born in Palestine in 1954, Zaqtan is the author of many books of poetry, as well as a novel. He has also made two documentary films. He currently lives in Ramallah, working at the Palestine Ministry of Culture.


Black Horses

The slain enemy
Think of me without mercy in their eternal sleep
Ghosts ascend the stairways of the house, rounding the corners
The ghosts I picked up from the roads
Collecting them from the sins around other people's necks.

The sin hangs at the throat like a burden
It is there I nurture my ghosts and feed them
The ghosts that float like black horses in my dreams.

With the vigor of the dead the latest Blues song rises
While I reflect on jealousy
The door is warped open, breath seeps through the cracks
The breath of the river
The breath of drunkards, the breath,
Of the woman who awakes to her past in a public park.

When I sleep
I see a horse grazing the grass
When I fall asleep
The horse watches over my dreams

On my table in Ramallah
There are unfinished letters
And pictures of old friends
The manuscript of a young poet from Gaza
An hourglass
And opening lines that flap in my head like wings.

I want to memorize you like that song in first grade
The one I hold on to
Complete and
With no mistakes
The lisp, the tilt of the head, off key
The small feet pounding the concrete so eagerly
The open palms pounding the benches.

They all died in the war
My friends and classmates
Their little feet
Their eager little hands...they still pound the floors of each room
They pound the tables;
And still pound the pavements, the packs of passersby, their shoulders
Wherever I go
I see them
I hear them.

Translated from Arabic by May Jayyusi and Alan Brownjohn


The second poet from the book is Chinese poet Xi Xi. She was born in Shanghai in 1938 and moved with her family to Hong Kong in 1950. She taught primary school for twenty years before taking early retirement in 1979.


Sonnet

It's been a long time since you've read any of my poems, you say
It's because I haven't written anything, but if I had
How would things stand?
If there's anything I have a handle on
It's the written word
And since it would please you
I'll take what's in my heart and set to a sonnet
You start it, and I'll carry on
You dance inside it
Freeze, then change
If I really believed in written words
And the perfection of worn-out forms, alas, alas
I might not also be able to believe that our lives will conclude
In a wondrous reunion after all

Translated from Chinese by Andrea Lingenfelter


And my last poet from the anthology is Ustad Khalilullah Khalili, who published nearly fifty works of poetry, fiction, history travel, and Sufism. Born in 1905, he died in 1988, serving, along the way as Afgan ambassador in a number of countries and holding a number of other high positions in his country's government. He used one of those positions, Secretary General and Minister of Information as a means to cultivate relationships with many poets and writers of Iran and Iraq.


Quatrains

Pleasure's origin is the company of lovers
and death's hardship is separation.
As lovers reunite under rich soil
life and death are one to us.

Kneaded by fate on the table of grief
what chances to drink pleasure from life's cup?
Struggling like a candle in a drafty room
I flicker to a waxen puddle and vanish.

When a drop of blood falls to earth
a gem falls from the ring of heaven.
Be careful! An orphan's cries
bring down the walls of the subtle realm.

You knew I saw you as a delicate flower,
a shining essence in the depths of that sea.
Though you were half-hiding your face from me,
I saw the blossoming branch end to end.

Translated from Dari/Persian by Robert Abdul Hayy Darr








Here's another reason not to be living where I live, now.



July 2nd

it’s July 2nd
and you may think
as you perambulate the highways
and byways of our fine
region
that most everyone you see
is walking as if they have
a heat rash
twixt their hither and
thither and yon
which is not in any way
a surprise
since most likely everyone you see
as you yonder wander does truly
have a heat rash situated
in the geographic
center
of their personal netherworld,
precisely in the region of
right-down-there
where it itches like crazy
but where, if you scratch it,
you'll get sent right back
to Miss Wollybanger’s 4th grade section
on “Netherworld Scratching - Where
and Where Not,” the “where and where not”
referring
not to the rather-not-say
location of the itch,
but to where in polite society
scratching that itch
is allowed,
and the answer, of course,
according to prim Miss Wollybanger,
is in the privacy of your own gender-appropriate
bathroom,
with the lights out…

it being July 2nd,
this itchy sort of thing happens,
on a frequent and recurring basis
right on up to mid-September
when the temperature drops below
blister
and itching and scratching
are the most common topic
of discussion, outside of hurricanes
and why we can’t call them by girl names
anymore and why we have to call them by
sissy boys names sometimes, which just
ruins
the manly romance of a good stormy blow
sweeping in from the Gulf

but
it is July 2,
and here on the bubbling shores
of damnation’s fiery lake,
that’s just the way
it is








Also a second chance from last week, I have this poem by Alma Luz Villanueva. It's from her book, Vida, published by Wings Press in 2002.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Mission district, Villanueva is of Yaqui, Spanish, and German ancestry. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College at Norwich University and teaches in the low-residency MFA creative writing program at Antioch University in Los Angeles. She is a frequently published poet and novelist and travels often during the year to give readings and conduct writing workshops.



Sacred Moon

My eighty-three-year-old mother and
I enter the restaurant
slowly - she lifts her
foot at the curb

slowly - she moves to
the bench to wait slowly
slowly - then my name
is called and we began the

journey to the table oh so
slowly. II hold her hand,
she leans, I have time
to watch the faces - people

in their 40s, 50s, have the
hardest time, this culture
does not honor death, and those
my age feel betrayed by this

proof, this fear of our
temporary bodies - and to
my surprise, some teenagers
smile, shyly, their support

as my eighty-three-year-old mother
and I walk slowly this procession
(the wedding of the body, the spirit) -
this procession of the Sacred Moon,

waxing to crescent to full,
waning full to the
Mystery of the New Moon,
invisible to our eyes -

"Here comes the bride,
here comes the bride..."
I hear the song all around
us as we slowly very

slowly walk to our
table, though the
sun is bright,
we walk

in the
light
of our
Sacred Moon

To my mother,
Lydia Villanueva - August 1999









A family event, a fine event, but too long there and back.



300 miles south

300 miles south of home,
in the coastal borderlands
of equatorial heat and humidity,
a place of cotton and sugar cane
and palm trees and and the dirty low-flowing
river, a barrier that is no barrier but to reasonable
thinking among vote-sucking politicians,
and crowded beaches with bikini babe leaping
and sand crabs scurrying and sea birds circling
and a birthday party at the church,
with a mariachi band, the leader,
older even than the birthday girl,
looking like Buster Keaton
dancing with little shuffle steps
while playing his violin
and then, lights down low
a very loud conjunto band, ka-thunka-
thunka bass and accordion,
like a rabbit running in a high grass field,
and old women with dancing feet
and swivel hips and the priest
in the corner, a presence of conspicuous
oversight
not obviously noticing
the line to the dark alcove where
abide the Lone Star and Dos Equis
and a fifth of Jack and a quart of Bacardi
and the Styrofoam cups
so the priest won’t know, wink, wink, what’s
going on in this his Sunday realm
on Saturday night…

five sons and a daughter
dance with mom, one after the other
sing happy birthday,
while grandchildren and
son-and-daughters-in laws join in -

Saturday night
in the coastal borderlands…

Sunday morning, waking from a hard night
in a too-soft hotel bed, Dee asleep on one side,
the dog, Reba, asleep on the floor in a corner,
myself,
ready for coffee, ready for breakfast, ready
to leave,
300 miles north to the hard caliche and
limestone hills of home…

myself,
ready to go home








Tino Villanueva, no relation that I know of to Alma, is my next poet. I've used poems by Villanueva previously, all from his earlier book, Scene from the Movie GIANT, which won the American Book Award in 1994. The poem this week is from an earlier book, Shaking Off the Dark, first published by Arte Publico Press in 1984, my edition republished by Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingue in 1998.



Haciendo Apenas La Recoleccion

For weeks now
I have not been able
to liberate me from my name.
Always I am history I must wake to.
In idiot defeat I trace my routes
across a half-forgotten map of Texas.
I smooth out the folds stubborn
as the memory.

Let me see: I would start from San Marcos,
moving northward,
bored beyond recognition
in the stale air of a '52 Chevy:
to my left , the youngest of uncles
steadies the car;
to my right, grandfather finds humor
in the same joke.
I am hauled among family
extended across the back seat,
as the towns bury themselves forever
in my eyes: Austin, Lampasas, Brownwood,
past Abilene, Sweetwater,
along
the Panhandle's alien tallness.
There it is: Lubbock sounding harsh as ever.
I press its dark letters,
and dust on my fingertips is so alive
it startles them
as once did sand.
the west, 10,000 acres and a finger's breath,
is Leveland,
where a thin house once stood,
keeping watch over me and my baseball glove
when the wrath of winds cleared the earth
of stooping folk.
There's Ropesville, where in fifth grade
I didn't make a friend.

My arm is taut by now and terrified.
It slackens,
begins falling back into place
while the years are gathering slowly
along still roads and hill country,
downward
to where it all began - 500 McKie Street.
I am home, and although the stars
are at rest tonight,
my strength is flowing.

Weep no more, my common hands;
you shall not again
pick cotton.

March 1969 - January 1970








Well, it was a fine relationship - while it lasted.



pretty pink panties

pretty young woman
sits across from
me
at the high table
with the high chairs
that I don’t like to sit in
myself,
agoraphobia, maybe,
or maybe it’s just I don’t
like to sit with my legs
dangling -
being somewhat tall,
dangling legs
is an unusual and uncomfortable
configeration for me

the pretty young woman
in her sheath-like
dress, don’t know what
you’re supposed to call it,
looks like a long t-shirt except
it’s very short,
above mid-thigh,
and she apparently doesn’t
like dangle either
because she sits with
feet on the chair’s leg supports,
knees up,
sheath, or whatever you call it, dress
up approaching, sometimes
surpassing,
Holy Moses! territory

doing all sorts of tricks
with her legs,
keeping one eye on me
all the time
and I’m okay with that,
just a little weirded-out
since gray plunk
that I am, I don’t usually
get floorshows from high places
by pretty young women I don’t know, or,
even pretty young woman
I do know, but
by this time I know this particular
pretty young woman
pretty damn well and in fact
in all my knowing I’ve having a very
hard time keeping my mind
on my poetry, heart beating
ka-plunka ka-plunka, except quickly
and in inverse proportion
to the speed at which I am accomplishing
my poem-writing distraction

until
the pretty young woman
puts an end to playtime, with
a little wink as she passes
on her way out

and I’m feeling pretty good
about my manly-type magnetism,
disregarding the fact
that it was her game and not mine
and that she left and I’m still here with
cold coffee and an over-heated poem
and, hell, I know, from that secret
part of my heart from whence
truth sometimes emerges,
struggling, staggering,
fighting back the curse of self-
knowledge, admitting to the state of this affair,
which is that it wasn’t in any way about me
or my animal attraction,
such as it is, used to be, at least
in my imagination,
never going to be again, even
in my imagination, such
manly me-Tarzan manliness
as remains in my testosterone bank
a mere chihuahua
in a junkyard of pissed-off pit bulls

but
then it could be I misread
the whole situation, probably, I’m thinking,
that’s what happened,
nothing to do with me, nothing to do with
anyone’s growley intentions,
but only the pretty pink panties
she just bought at Montgomery-Roebucks
that she so wanted to show off

I guess I should have just told her
how pretty and pink
her panties were and gotten on with
my poem for the
day








Next, I have poems by Diane Wakoski,from her collection The Rings of Saturn, published in 1986 by Black Sparrow Press.



Seeing Robert in the Crystal Ball

He's in the corner,
a figure like a crow
with one long shoe, like a tree reaching over
Water.
An upsidedown lighted lamp
floats on the other side of the room,
like a cow grazing in a field.
There are three other people
in this room,
but none in the ball. Only Crow-Robert,
on his cottonwood shoe, with his
lighted-cow
that once was a room.


On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City

Early September,
and the day still a nymph of a day,
the ocean a rippled silk handkerchief,
the sandy flat beach
cool, without bodies yet packing their density
into its planes,
empty cabana tents, striped gold and white for recognition,
the inevitable middle-aged man
with a metal-detector gliding his wand over
the beach.

We hug our paper cups of hot coffee and tea
sit on the cement benches
of a shaded pavilion
and survey the others out here at 9:30 a.m.

We are waiting for the casino at Caesar's Palace
to open its doors, 10 a.m.
Waiting to grab one of the few nickel slot machines
to play for 3 or 4 hours before patience
and $20 run out. We wish
we were in The West,
Las Vegas,
but instead we are in this old crumbling
place, sleeping at The Flamingo Motel.
Oh, what are we doing to change the world?
Now is the time to go West.
I want to be headed
for Liberace's house on the desert,
the greenhouse with
the chandelier,
the station wagon with an octave of piano keys
painted along its side.
The desert and
atom bombs, some
sense of myself
in territory I recognize.


Some Pumpkins

lie
on our patio brick

Robert says
now
I can read
each autumn morning
by pumpkin light.








For a time and in another place, I was a regular on local TV news and dealt with a lot of TV reporters and anchors, some in the finest network tradition. Others, not so, reporting for a very cheap local station that brought its old radio announcers over as news anchors when the transitioned to television, and, with the golden voiced veterans of radio, very young reporters just out of college, getting their first experience at near minimum wage. Dealing with them I often felt less a news subject and more a post graduate journalism instructor.

I watch no TV news these days, get my essential information from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio. And never, never, never local TV news, inspiration for this poem.



it bleeds, it leads

smiley faced
anchors
with puddin’ pop
eyes
love the blood
of it all
because
without
those crimson
streams
and grieving
screams
who would watch
and in the further
recesses
of their minds they know
if nobody watched
they would disappear
in little white puffs
of frosty-perm
hair








Here are two poets from the anthology Spirits of the Age - Poets of Conscience, published by Quarry Press in 1989.



The first poem is by Jorge Valls Arango, a Cuban poet who spoke out against the dictatorships of both Batista and Castro, in turn, and imprisoned for his democracy advocacy by both. He was last released from prison in 1984, later moving to New York.


Something

Something nearby
part of one
like the dough of the same bread
music of the same chord
(in the furtive dusk).

Perfume of the woods,
and the sword of the archangel
on the scarp of a cliff.
Something like a name
spoken with fragrance on the tongue
and a hidden warmth in the blood.

A cave
with a burning light
and a young fawn
averting its eyes.

The root of a tree
where the owl nests
and the wild lilac
shyly sprouts.

A tiny bud of tenderness
that reached me in a white bird's feather,
on a cloistered day
of covered mirrors.
Like a hand touching one's breast
that spreads and opens
dispensing songs of praise;
like the feet of the weightless wayfarer.
Something like that;
don't you agree?


The second poet is George Chipasula from Republic of Malawi. He worded for several years as a freelance broadcaster for the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and is currently a Ph.D. student in English literature and a teaching fellow in the Afro-American Studies Program at Brown University.


The Path of the Heart

I

I want to touch again
the warm swollen pulse of song

the drummers' hard palms beat
out of the ancient cowhide drums.

I want to dance the no-space
with swollen bosomed whores

to the loud thuds of drums
grinding to throbbing Simanje manje

wires plucking the heart,setting
the dusty feet on fire with dance

and making blood pound through
our bodies like the Nkula waterfalls

generating a small fire
around which all the people will sit

warming themselves and softly
touching each other on their hearts.

We shall tell stories again
in the womb of a tropical evening,

singing again in unforced harmony
and drinking from the same gourd.

And I long to drink from shegeen
to shebeen in Makhetha, Ndirande.

passing Chibuku beer packets
from mouth to mouth freely

not caring if there are rotting teeth
without fear of Special Branch raids.

II

My country, if this separation is forever
then for heaven's sake, say so; already

my body forgets the warm caress
of your sun, though your rivers

still leap through me
like the flames of your lake

infiltrating your sacred light
into the thickets of my heart

and the sparks prolong my life
and I surrender myself to your fire.

III

My nostrils ache for the sizzling
smell of fish fried over a a dried grass fire;

my nostrils itch for fish smoke
as the fire curls the skin off the flesh

and the dripping oils burst into flames
raising the offering to our ancestors.

IV

My feet hanker after the clinging caress
of fresh water swirling around them

like the silken shadow of an aged tree
where I will repose after all this wandering.

I know my heart will always take this path
back to the land that waits like a lover.








This piece was written several years ago. Reba is very old now, deaf, arthritic and going blind.

This poem remembers earlier days, even as we know a sad day is coming soon.



Reba

it is a damp night
with low clouds
that reflect back
to earth
all the lights
of the city
making
it brighter
here in my
neighborhood
than under even
the most
radiant
moon

Reba and i
are taking our walk,
the almost-mile
we do every night,
it’s late

(Reba is very
jealous and protective
of me and bristles
and barks
at every dog we meet)

she embarrasses me
and i can’t get her
to stop, so,
even though she begins
to follow me around
and stare at me at six,
we don’t walk until after nine,
late, when we have the
streets to ourselves

she’s a lovely dog, a
border collie mix,
gentle and sweet natured,
and bright and curious
as a young child - we
got her at the humane
society, the second to
take her home; the
first returned her
for reasons i cannot
even guess, but it’s
clear they disciplined
her with a broom
because brooms
terrify her - she hides
in the bedroom when
we sweep the kitchen
and comes out
only when it’s clear
the broom monster
has been returned
to its closet

it is in the nature
of having pets
that you’re usually
bound
to outlive them
and having kept dogs
all of my life
i’ve outlived
many,
but none of those
losses, i think,
will compare to the loss
when this dog’s time
arrives

but that’s not now

now
she’s in the den
by the fire,
waiting
for me to come in
and finish the
Harry Potter movie
we started








Here's a funny poem from Austin Poetry Society, Golden Jubilee Anthology, 1949-1999.

The poet is Leoda Anderson, poet and LLI Line Dancing Instructor.



Bah, Romance!

Little Bo-Peep has lost here sheep
And doesn't know where to find them
Little Boy Blue came along, with his horn
Said, "They're in the meadow - go mind them!"

Together they rounded up the critters
The sheep and the cows in the corn
As the sun sank low all were happy
To be safe at home in their barn.

Then Bo-Peep and Boy Blue went dancing
And talked about life on a farm
She'd minded the sheep, he'd tend to the cows
They sighed and felt fuzzy and warm.








Not believing, unlike most of them, that Reagan was the greatest thing to happen to the country since Honest Abe, I don't get much pleasure from hanging out with old people. On the other hand, I like younger people, but can't keep up with them.



the problem

the problem
with hanging around
with younger people is
that when you’re thinking
of dry toast
and a bowl of oatmeal,
maybe a Law and Order rerun
and an early bedtime,
they’re thinking of the
big beer and brat blowout
down at Fatso’s Sports Bar
or Gin Rickies
over at the Boobs and Booty
Swing with the Stars
Dance Parlor…

“been there, done
that,” you can say over
and over, but they won’t
believe you because there’s
no way in the world they can
believe that loud and rowdy is not
their own personal invention,
the world’s original sinners
is how they see themselves, though
they may or may not believe in
original sin…

they wanna party;
I just want a nap

that’s the problem, making
me think I may need
some new friends, maybe
should see
if I can work up a game of dominos
over at the American Legion Hall -
mostly old guys there, good-time nappers…

you just have to give them a shake
when it’s their turn
to play their domino - it being
a good idea when you do
to remind them
which double is the spinner
so that they don’t screw up, play
the wrong double and get pissed
when you make them take the play
back…

hit you
with their walking stick...

people can get to be kind of short-
tempered
when they get to our age,
don’t
you know








Next I have five poems by my friend from Western Australia, Jan Napier



All At Sea

She marvels at the papery skim
and skip of wall hung     years
puzzles out the morse
of birthdays    doctors     bingo.

Silvery as glints of moon lit tinsel
shoals of memory flash and dart
across neural calms untroubled
by lunch shuffle routines
or appetites as frail and forgotten
as names once held dear but now
no more than question marks
in conversations which fizz and bubble
before sinking to slip through nets
of synaptic uncertainty.

She clasps the carer’s hand
in a dithery tempest of fret
whispers “Who was he?”
as her husband exits.


Beirut: a Soldier's Take

A dying city
sounds of silver
a shipwreck of steel blue
blurred with amethyst
resonates to waves of white.
Stars fall    flash nova.
“Them ghosts don’t scare me none.”


Cello

He plays the old music    coats the room in bronze.
Tells of vellum     quill    candle shadow
with a sepia drip of notes    wanders from grief to summer
a quiver of catsteps     a resonance of honey.
As quavery as a beggar in winter    as brittle as crackle glaze
all red brown splintery edges     the strings bridge tears
become meditative     almost zen.
The cello speaks of worlds long gone
worlds unborn    worlds as warped as wood unloved.
No sap rises.


Friday Night

The drummer, black clad Canute,
strikes and strikes,
beats back the tide of
predators and frauds,

as with axes and sticks,
the besieged raise
rhinestone barricades.

     down there in the dark,
     crowd, vampiric,
     wanting more.


Marie Did Not

Marie did not tell me that innocence
looks like moonskimmed waters.
She did not say that trust becomes as blunt
and dull as an unhoned axe.
She failed to mention that sanctity and vows
thin like gold marriage bands or that sapphires
smell of whalejuice and freedom.
She told me nothing of the urge awakened
by youth and skin syrupy with sunseep
trickled through jalousies.
She did not tell me any of this until I tied her down
painted acid upon her eyelids    watched her burn.








Good advice - as with much good advice, I wish I was as good at taking it as I am at giving it.



make your poem a psalm, a celebration

I’ve read
all the others’ poems
this morning,
made my comments,
happy now
with all the ideas
I’ve gathered, discouraged
by knowing
I’ll not do better
with those ideas than
has already been done

so the challenge now
to find my own
inspiration - but how
to think blue in a room
already painted
in the most vivid red

a good poem
inhabits the mind
like a red, red room…

in that sense, poets
do not over-estimate
their power -
if good at their art
and craft, they paint
the backdrop
to all the actors’ emoting,
and while the poet carries no spear,
he sets the battle-
map of the warrior’s mind…

so speak not of warlike things,
dear poet, speak not of blood
and shrieks of pain
and battle cries and the blood-thirst
of revenge -
instead speak of peace
and love and reconciliation -
make your poem a psalm,
a celebration
of better times and better
minds and deeper, softer
hearts…

it is only in that way,
that the value
you imagine for yourself
can be attained








Next, I have three poets from Passionate Hearts - the Poetry of Sexual Love, published in 1996 by New World Library.



The first poet is Gary Soto, one of my favorites.


The Trees That Changed Our Lives

When I was twenty I walked past
The lady I would marry -
Cross-legged on the porch.
She was cracking walnuts
With a hammer, a jar
At her side. I had come
From the store, swinging
A carton of cold beers,
And when I looked she smiled,
And that was all, until
I came back, flushed,
Glowing like a lantern
Against a backdrop
Of silly one-liners -
Cute-face, peaches, baby-lips.

We talked of rain, cats,
About rain on cats,
And later went inside
For a sandwich, a glass
Of milk, sweets.
Still later, a month later,
We were going at one
Another on the couch, bed,
In the bathtub
And its backwash of bubbles,
Snapping. So it went,
And how strangely: the walnut
Tree had dropped its hard
Fruit, and they in turn,
Were dropped into a paper
Bag, a jar, then into
The dough that was twisted
Into bread for the love
Of my mouth, so
It might keep talking.


The next poet is another of my favorites, Marge Piercy.


Morning Love Song

I am filled with love like a melon
with seeds, I am ripe and dripping sweet juices.
If you knock gently on my belly
it will thrum ripe, ripe.

It is high green summer with the strawberries
just ending and the blueberries coloring,
with the roses tumbling like fat Persian
kittens, the gold horns of the squash blowing.

The day after a storm the leaves gleam.
The world is clear as a just washed picture window.
The air whips its fine silk through our hands.
Every last bird has an idea to insist on.

I am trying to work and instead
I drip love for you like a honeycomb.
I am devoid of fantasies clean as rainwater
waiting to flow all over you skin.


The third poet is Kim Addonizio, who I don't know but who writes a mighty fine poem.


Alone in Your House

I walk naked and
dripping to the kitchen,

the floor sticky,
rubbing myself

with your damp towel.
When I go out on the porch

two fawns get up
from the grass.

We have surprised each other;
their soft black noses

swing away from my breasts,
quivering.

I remember you nuzzling me,
raising my hips,

my cheek against the mattress buttons.
The little deer

have been at the berries,
nibbling stems. The doe eases out

from the bushes,
juice streaking her flanks.

They follow her away down the hill
and the wet

flattened grass
slowly rises behind them.


And now, a fourth poet, Gary Metras, a bonus because I like this book so much.


Vanishing Point

Staring, you look for clues.
Where is the evidence, the proof.

In you stare I watch myself gazing,
enamored, at skylines,
or blinded by a pine cone in hand.

Love, when it stays, is traceless.
Whose hand stretched first offering is no matter.
The bodies press together in their many ways.

The one coarse piece of cloth drapes us both
and softens on the curves of our bodies
and our lives fit well.

When two people walk far enough into the distance
they merge.








Fact is, I like what I'm doing. But the other fact is I don't know what I'd do if I didn't.



just another poet inflicting his reality on unwary passers-by

what
would I be doing
if I was not doing this?

is it a mark
of deficit in imagination
or character
that I can’t imagine a reality
other than the one I have

I know of many times
in the past when I stood near
to a door
to alternative being, about
to make the step
into the dizzy something else,
stopping
every time, saving, I think of it now,
my present reality,
this product,
if you want to say it plain
and simple,
of hesitation
and cowardice
I live today…

my present reality -
nothing more
right now then
this lame poem I’m about
to inflict on you, this passing fancy
of philosophical muddle, this exercise
in morning abuse you have done nothing
to deserve, innocent victim, merely,
of my inability to see today’s
bright sunshine
and blue sky and the birds
chirp-chirping in the trees
and the mockingbird
chasing
the spotted cat
across the street
and the squirrels barking
from their tree
as they passed, and
and to recognize that reality
as the one poem-worthy
this morning

so
I apologize
for what I almost did to you
and claim my intent to be back
tomorrow,
just like today, but better,
when I might
in the passing hours
have come up with a real poem,
something worthy, perhaps
of your attention, something good enough
for such a
beautiful, bright, blue-sky
summer day

~~~

such is the arrogance,
I'm thinking now, of poets,
so proud
to inflict their realities
on unwary passers-by

perhaps
tomorrow,
instead of debasing
through my pretensive dribblings
the everthing that exists
with or without
my attention and consent,
i should rather
exercise the humble
acceptance
of the slug-a-bed
and let the universe
be beautiful
without me








Here are two poems by Sarah Patton. The poems are from her book The Joy of Old Horses, published 1999 by Scopecraeft Press.

The only reference I can find to the poet regards a book published posthumously in 2003. Seems strange that I can't find more since she was apparently a prolific poet with a number of books mentioned in the above reference.



Preparing the Body

Were fire blossoms
present at death,
a vase and a rose?

Was there
fresh baked bread
or a handkerchief
of lilies?

Were there shoes
for the naked feet
and a stair
to the attic?

Was there a moon
to guide the soul
to the open window?

Were there directions
to the river?

Were the lids
creased into paper boats
for the crossing?

And were the mirrors covered
to keep the children
from rising
in the light
of water?

Did the body
tremble once more]folded in its
flawless snow

as a net
of old ravens shook
above the looted village
of its bones?


The Water Strider

I tend to wander
as easily broken
things do

driven
to the paper edge
of a leaf that sun
has set afire.

driven downstream
to the waterfall
backstroking
against the spill
and a violent death.

I've been
treading water
for hours or days or years
like a twig in the rapids
tenting back the current
in silent rage.

Night cries to me
of night,
bleaker than my dark
when I am drunk
for pain and skating
toward a deep
and sounding pool.








An old poem, as clearly demonstrated by the reference to "green, green hills" - haven't seen any of those in a while.



prelude to the afternoon of the Froot Loops

the clouds
were hanging low
black
as the joke
that made the
hang-
man
laugh
but the rain had been
sporadic and light
so we took a drive
out to Medina Lake
for a late lunch at
Oasis Bar and Grill
right on the lake
in little Mico ,
so small
they didn't even
bother
to widen the road

(thick boneless
pork chops
with raspberry
chipotle sauce -
the best ever)

then scouted out
some of the little
one and a half lane
county roads
that run patched
and bumpy
over rocky hills
through little
stone canyons
not sure
usually
where we were
or where we were
going and
all around
green trees
green hills
green meadows
green valleys
green
green
green
in the hill country
in July, what
a marvelous
believe-it-or-not
thing it is to see

finally
found our way
to County Road 471
where we started
then to Culebra
to Grissom
Bandera
Rolling Ridge
and finally home
for a bowl of
Froot Loops
and Law & Order
reruns








Next, two poets from the anthology, Not for the Academy: Lesbian Poets, published in 1999 by Onlywomen Press, Limited.



The first poet is Maria Jastrzebska, poet and editor. She was born in Warsaw in 1953 and came to Britain as a small child.


I Am Carrying Happiness

I am happy
it's so simple

I am carrying happiness
in my hands
I scarcely dare breathe
I'm afraid
of dropping it
as though I had to cross a desert
carrying a bowl of water
as though I'd picked up
a baby for the first time

I'm afraid
if I hold it too tight
it might break
and if I hold it too loosely
it could slip through my fingers

suffering wasn't like this
it was much more familiar
I knew where I stood with it
now my feet barely touch
the ground

now I don't know
how to behave at all
I am carrying happiness
in my hands


The next poet is Aleida Rodriguez. Born in Cuba, she has been published in many journals, textbooks, and anthologies since 1973.


Concierto de Aranjuez

Vast yellow plain, heat and the meander of memory, incandescent
edge wavering between shadow and light

opens into bright space, the long hot distance vibrating
between us and desire like an empty yellow house

where we'll never live, the unrequited sun reaching for us
so far below, spendthrifts of its attention

even as it flatters us, aimless on this yellow
plain,interminable as a sermon, but-suddenly-olive trees

grey-green in the distance, hint at moisture
the mouth of the beloved parting in the shade.

Our pace quickens and a slight swagger loosens our gait,
foreplay originating in embodiment, our own delight

seeking its twin in the beloved,
our mouths small mountain lakes remembering rain,

we are wet with ourselves, and a melodic curve enters
our bloodstream the way the sky releases its blue snake

into water, breaking the hot surface with such deep wetness,
astonishingly blue to the taste,

its edge cold on our parched
tongues, our sweaty necks, our salty faces,

and where time had seemed childhood's summer,
it now rushes with water's

impatience not to preserve narrative but to squander
the moment, an always that seems to bubble from us,

its language loose, emphatic in its surrender,
possession of itself a gift,

now, at the oasis, replacing the plain burning in our eyes
with water, water gazing at sky.

(The poet notes that this poem was inspired by the musical piece written by Joaquin Rodrigo in 1939, becoming a jazz standard in the album "Sketches of Spain" 1959 by Miles Davis and Gil Evans, later covered in 1975 by Jim Hall which became the poet's immediate inspiration.)








Mid-July, and this awful summer isn't even half over yet.



mid-July

so there is not
a suggestion of breeze,
not a hint,
not a rumor of relief…

but it is mid-July,
after all,
and it happens every year
so why do I act as if
surprised

yesterday the weather
forecast
implied rain, which
did not happen

but about today
they were certain
to the opposite
of what they implied
for yesterday -
no rain -
not a chance,
they said,
go home and water your petunias
they said, because
if you don’t do it yourself there’ll
be no help from
above

but then,
as I sat here,
eating my breakfast,
preparing my mind for
a morning poem, I looked out
the broad window beside me
and saw great black clouds
to the west

aha, I thought,
they were wrong again

but now,
having finished my biscuit and gravy,
I look to the wet and there is not
a hint of dark

another
reversal of what seemed obvious
before

but it is mid-July,
after all,
and it happens every year
so why do I act as if
surprised…

it seems more and more
now
that I will live forever in the
perpetual
days
of mid-July,
ever surprised
at my life’s insistence
on tripping off
in difficult directions

I had thought for sure
I’d be enjoying
a life
of mid-October by now,
sparkle-web days
and cool nights and breezes
blowing day and night,
lifting leaves
and stirring them
in a golden swirl through
golden days,
swirling,
like a full harvest moon
on a bright autumn night
can stir my heart

but it is mid-July,
and, as it happens every year,
it seems it will forever
be








Last from my library this week, I have several short pieces from the book, Dances of Flute and Thunder Praises, Prayers, and Insults. The anthology of poems from the ancient Greek was published in 1999 by Penguin Group.

All the poems were translated by Brooks Haxton.



By Archilochos, 7th century B.C.E.


Singer

She took the myrtle branch and sang in turn
another song of pleasure, in her left hand still
the flower of the rose tree, and let loose
over her naked shoulder, down her arm
and back, the darkness of her hair.


By Sappho, 7th Century B.C.E.


Eros

Eros, shaking under my rib cage
like a wind flung into a mountain oak,
has left me loose again in all my limbs,
my sweet, my bitter, unimaginable beaqst.


Desire

You came to me, when I lay aching
for your touch, to soothe
under the tender place what yearns.


Inscription on a Wine Jug

Beside the temple where stone altars
smoke with incense our small grove
of apple trees regales us.

Murmurings of a cold spring rise here
through the apple branches to a slope
where grass-blades flicker under the trance
of white rose petals and young leaves.

There, in the meadow, horses graze
among the blossoms which the winds
tip toward us, and away.


By Stesichoros, 6th century B.C.E.


Song

Forget the wars with me and sing
as if the very gods delighted
in our feast, in love, and listening.
The Phrygian flutes repeat
a tender phrase, to find us
here where swallows babble
yet again, surprised by spring.


By Timokreon of Rhodes, 5th century B.C.E.


In Memory of Themistokles

Themistokles - who kept Timokreon his former host in exile,
and who helped his fellow thieves, hurt friends, and murdered
anyone you like, for money - first was ostracized,
and then, before he killed himself in shame, set up
an inn for scum and losers, whom he served cold meat.
There, at his own table, lowlife daily cursed his name.


By Praxilla, 5th century B.C.C.


On Becoming a God, Adonis Remembers the World

Of all I leave, most beautiful is the sunlight.
Next come stars at nightfall, and the moon's face,
and in season, peaches, muskmelons, and pears.


By Bakchylides, 5th century B.C.E.


Praise and Lamentation

    Eudemos built this altar on his farmstead,
thankful that the spirit of the west wind gave
    in answer to his prayers swift help
at the winnowing of barley from the sun-split husk.

~~~~~

Our sweet child, lifeless, woke
    in us the woe that none my speak.








I'm planning for my fourth EBook (number 2 due out this week and number three probably in October), I'm planning to pull together in some order a collection of my "travel poems" which some have found enjoyable. This next poem, the last for this week, may be one of the poems in that fourth book. I haven't decided yet if I like enough to include it. I have better, I know, but this one is kind of interesting, in a travelogue, political science sort of way.


fog over the Capitol

from my hotel balcony
i can see the haze settling
in over downtown,
the Capitol dome already
lost to it’s gray cloud

fog
over the Capitol,
what a metaphor
for this time that is -

the Legislature
is in session, a threat
to the wealth and security
of the state that comes up
every two years - reading
the morning paper, it is tempting
to think of how much better we’d be
if they went into session
only every four or six years
instead of the constitution’s current
requirement for biannual meetings

I knew a lot of these people
during my professional career
and it always puzzled me
how intelligent, competent, well-meaning
people could turn into a blithering mob
the minute they walked through the doors
of the Capitol’s legislative chambers,
like victims
of some kind of mind-scramble-death-ray
that zapped them
as they passed the Austin city limit sign

Dee is here on business
with these same woolyknobs,
and I just tagged along for the ride
and a chance to have dinner
with Chris last night
and maybe a drive around the city today,
revisiting old haunts from when I lived here

traffic
on I-35
down below my balcony
is roaring past,
a good thing, since most often
traffic this time of morning
is at a dead stop,
40,000 UT students
and about the same number
of state bureaucrats
all headed downtown,
the center of all things that are,
as seen by the ants in the ant pile

and the usual other visitors,
lobbyist,
for sure, with the lege in session
you can hardly swing a stick in a circle
without hitting a dozen lobbyist
and assorted other pleaders of some
very special
(just ask, they’ll tell you how special)
interest,
and the regular old tourist
come to watch the circus under the golden dome,
and kids from all over the state
getting their, God help us, civics lessons
right here in the sweaty fist of our hit and run governance
and others,
like the thousands of high school kids
in town today
for some kind of future business professionals
type event,
most of them lodging,
from the sound of it last night,
right down the hall from me
here on the fourteenth floor

the city is full of people trying
to do good things,
most without a clue how to do it,
with more succeeding than you would think likely,
despite their own best efforts
and the efforts of everyone around them




>




Another week, and, as usual, all the work appearing here remains the property of those who created it. I just borrowed it to share with you. You can borrow my stuff, if you'd like, if you'll credit "Here and Now" and me, just as I credited everything I borrowed.

And, so, that's that. I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, impatiently waiting for my new book to appear at all its designated EBook retailers.

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