The Eternal Optimist Believes Desperately in Rain   Thursday, August 25, 2011


VI.9.1.




This week, for the second time in a month and a half, I had this post more than half done and accidently deleted the whole thing. I ended up re-entering all the poems and poets I wanted in the post, but with much skimpier pre-poem introductory mishmash than usual. I doubt any of that will be missed.

The pictures this week are a random upload from one of my photo files, beginning with the last pic in the file and moving forward until I had done 28 of them. No theme, no organizing principle beyond "next!". I did muscle them around a little, trying to make them a little more interesting in their latest manifestation.

Here's the week's poetry line-up.


Pablo Neruda
Your Feet
Your Laughter
The Fickle One
September 8th


Me
tough sell

Sapphire
California Dreamin’

Me
if we wish

Wislawa Szymborska
Family Album
Born


Me
best damn chili in Texas

Robert Hass
Old Movie with the Sound Turned Off

Me
midnight gardening

Pablo Lopez del Castillo
My Words

Me
diminishing the stars

John Barr
St. Augustine
Flounder


Me
alone
APO New York


Frank O’Hara
Les Etiquettes jaunes
On Rachmaninoff's Birthday


Me
moonless midnight

e.e. cummings
I
III


Me
bits and pieces from a Tuesday morning that seems like Monday

Otomo Yakamochie
Elegies on the death of his mistress, in summer, in the sixth month of the eleventh year of Tempyo (739)

Me
sometimes hard to see from here

Ted Kooser
Old Cemetery
A Winter Morning


Me
coffee house beauty

Vicent Andres Estelles
Illicit Homage to LLuis Mila

Me
to hell with politics

Charles Simic
Paradise
In the Library


Me
fini

D.K. Jones
The Cure
Sorrow


Me
some birds









I underestimated Pablo Neruda for years, identifying him more as a standard, off-the-shelf South American leftist than as a poet. Then I read his love poems, some of the greatest ever written.

I guess they don't give Nobel Prizes away as prizes in a Crackerjax box after all.

The next four poems are from the collection of his work, The Captain's Verses - The Love Poems.



Your Feet

When I cannot look at your face
I look at your feet.

Your feet of arched bone,
your hard little feet.

I know that they support you,
and that your gentle weight
rises upon them.

Your waist and your breasts,
the double purple
of your nipples,
the sockets of your eyes
that have just flown away,
your wide fruit mouth,
your red tresses,
my little tower.

But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.


Your Laughter

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,
the lanceflower you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in your joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh,because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at the clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.


The Fickle One

My eyes went away from me
following a dark girl who went by.

She was made of black mother-of-pearl,
made of dark-purple grapes,
and she lashed my blood
with her tail of fire.

After them all
I go.

A pale blonde went by
like a golden plant
swaying her gifts.
And my mouth went
like a wave
discharging on her breast
lightningbolts of blood.

After them all
I go.

But to you, without my moving,
without seeing you, distant you,
go my blood and my kisses,
my dark one, my fair one,
my tall one and my little one,
my broad one and my slender one,
my ugly one, my beauty,
made of all the gold
and of all the silver,
made of all the wheat
and of all the earth,
made of all the water
of the sea waves,
made for my arms,
made for my kisses,
made for my soul.


September 8th

Today, this day was a brimming cup,
today,this day was the immense wave,
today, it was all the earth.

Today the stormy sea
lifted us in a kiss
so high that we trembled
in a lightningflash
and,tied,we went down
to sink without untwining.

Today our bodies became vast,
they grew to the edge of the world
and rolled melting
into a single drop
of wax or meteor.

Between you and me a new door opened
and someone, still faceless,
was waiting for us there.








Still looking for a little value-added.



tough sell

nothing
special about me,
just, like most people,
trying to create a religion
that suits me

as a rationalist,
I know it’ll take more
than the standard
magician tricks to convince me
that there is more to me
than the toe I stubbed this morning
or the head I bumped
last night
or the gurgle of my stomach
or the ringing in my ears

but as a creature
born of human blood and genes
and an overarching human desire
for meaning,
purpose,
for me, for you,
for the earth and the wind
and the sea and the stars,
I know I want,
if I can get nothing else,
a better magician, a trickster
who can fool me long enough
to carry me from one end
of this life
to the other

a tough sell,
that’s what I am
when it comes to this business,
but every salesman knows
the tough the sell
the greater the desire to be
sold








Next, I have a poem by Sapphire, from her book American Dreams.

I have to be careful with Sapphire - a lot of her stuff is just too hard-core to work here.



California Dreamin'

Was I this lonely as a child
My bones are lonely now.
Pointing to a white flag with a brown bear on it
the teacher tells us this is our state flag.
In my class everybody is born in America.
We pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States.
The teacher tells us the Sequoia is our state tree
that they are the tallest trees in the world.
I wonder about a boy I knew in kindergarten
so short he had trouble climbing into
his seat. Is he lonely now like
a ferris wheel abandoned in the rain.
As a child I liked those things - ferris wheels,
cotton candy, crinolines, the Mouseketeers.
I wonder was my brother always lonely? Ever?
Was he lonely in the park when the killer came?
When god erased his name could he feel it,
was he lonely?
Was he cold the night, the years,he walked alone?
Did he think about his childhood? Did he think
he was insane?
Did the voices in the wind
comfort him or drive him like a shepherd
over concrete collecting aluminum cans?
Did he breathe his own blood like a blanket finally
covering him?
Can we lay down together now like I always wanted
 :  since
I am so lonely and he is bones?
the Golden Poppy is our state flower.
California is the second largest state in the Union.
the teacher? Where is she now?
Is she old? Dead? Did she die from drinking
or complete twenty-five years of talking to lonely
 :  desperate
old people in baby bodies about the kinds
of clouds, arithmetic, verbs, George Washington.
Did she know we would end up rainy eyes,
homeless, wandering through state forests
trying to find the trees she taught us were ours?








Read an interesting article in the Times' Science Section.



if we wish

so here’s a
question

is the universe
a thing
in and of itself
or is it merely the sum
of the things within
it?

a scientist
might say that it is
all the things we can see,
plus conjectures
based on what we can see
about the things
we cannot
see

so
as we travel
to the ends of the universe,
as we sometime say,
to find the truth of things,
it is a longer or shorter journey,
depending
on how far past what we can see
we can imagine

the fox knows the forest
where it hunts;
the farmer ,
the field he plows;
and the hawk, surfing
the cool waves of
wind and sun,
sees it all,
the fox and the farmer, the
forests and the fields,
but can imagine no more
than what it sees

so while the hawk’s universe is larger
than the universe of the fox or the farmer,
it is still no larger
than the hawk can see

and it can be a larger universe
than that,
created daily
in the minds of men…

if we wish








Two Nobel Prize winners this week - first Neruda and now Wistava Szymborska.



Family Album

No one in this family has ever died of love.
No food for myth and nothing magisterial.
consumptive Romeo's? Juliet's diphtherial?
A doddering second childhood was enough.
No death-defying vigils, love-struck poses
over unrequited letters strewn with tears!
Here, in conclusion, as scheduled, appears
a portly, pince-nez'd neighbor bearing roses.
No suffocation-in-the-closet gaffes
because the cuckold returned too early!
Those frills or furbelows, however flounced and whirly,
barred no one from the family photographs.
No Bosch-like hell within their souls, no wretches
found bleeding in the garden, shirts in stains!
(True, some did die with bullets in their brains,
for other reasons, though, and on field stretchers.)
Even this belle with rapturous coiffure
who may have danced till dawn - but nothing smarter -
hemorrhaged to a better world, bien sur,
but not to taunt or hurt you, slick-haired partner.
For others, Death was mad and monumental -
not for those citizens of a sepia past.
Their griefs turned into smiles, the days flew fast,
their vanishing was due to influenza.


Born

So this is his mother
This small woman.
This gray-eyed procreator.

The boat in which, years ago
he sailed to shore.

The boat from which he stepped
into the world,
into un-eternity.

Genetrix of the man
with whom I leap through fire.

So this is she, the only one
who didn't take him
finished and complete.

She herself pulled him
into the skin I know,
bound him to the bones
that are hidden from me.

She herself raised
the gray eyes
that re raised to me.

So this is his Alpha.
Why has he shown her to me.

Born.
So he was born, too.
Born like everyone else.
Like me, who will die.

The son of an actual woman.
A new arrival from the body's depths.
A voyager to Omega.

Subject to
his own absence,
on every front,
at any moment.

He hits his head
against a wall
that won't give way forever.

His movements
dodge and parry
the universal verdict.

I realized
that his journey was already halfway over.

But he didn't tell me that,
no.

"This is my mother,"
was all he said.








Seemed like a good time for an old poem, so I went back to 2007 for this one.



best damn chili in Texas

Frontier
Something or Other
was the name of the place

best damn chili
in Texas,
the devil’s own
hangover preventative

pork and beef
and three kinds of
pepper
hot enough to defoliate
your nose hairs
and grease enough
to coat your guts
from inflow to the
gotta go

a bowl
before you hit the bars
and a bowl after
and you’re be so damn
stone
cold
sober
at reveille your eyebrows
stand and salute
when old General Pushcart
comes by on the back of his jeep

I used to know a lot
about this sort of
thing








Here's a poem by Robert Hass, from his book, Time and Materials, Poems 1997-2005.



Old Movie with the Sound Turned Off

The hatcheck girl wears a gown that glows;
The cigarette girl in the black fishnet stockings
And a skirt of black, gauzy, bunched-up tulle
That bobs above the pert muffin of her bottom -
She must be twenty-two - would look like a dancer
In Degas except for the tray of cigarettes that rests
Against her - tummy might have been the decade's word,
And the thin black strap which binds it to her neck
And makes the whiteness of her skin seem swan's-down
White. Some quality in the film stock that they used
Made everything so shiny that the films could not
Not make the whole world look like lingerie, like
Phosphorescent milk with winking shadows in it.
All over the world the working poor put down their coins,
Poured into theaters on Friday nights. The manager raffled -
"Raffled off," we used to say in San Rafael in my postwar
Childhood into which the custom had persisted -
Sets of dishes in the intermission of the double feature -
Of the kind they called Fiestaware. And now
The gangster has come in, surrounded by an entourage
Of prize fighters and character actors, all in tuxedo
And black overcoats - except him. His coat is camel
(Was it the material or the color? my mind wanders
To earth-colored villages in Samara or Afghanistan).
He is also wearing a white scarf which seems to shimmer
As he takes it off, after he takes off the gray fedora
and hands it to the hatcheck girl. The singer,
In a gown of black taffeta that throws off light
In starbursts, wears black gloves to her elbows
and as she sings, you sense she is afraid.
Not only have I seen this film before - the singer
Shoots the gangster just when he thinks he's been delivered
From a nemesis involving his brother, the district attorney,
And a rival mob - I know the grandson of the cigarette girl,
Who became a screenwriter and was blackballed later
Because she raised money for the Spanish Civil War.
Or at least that's the story as I remember it, so that,
When the gangster is clutching his wounded gut
And delivering a last soundless quip and his scarf
Is still looking like the linen in Heaven, I realize
That it is for them a working day and that the dead
Will rise uncorrupted and change into flannel slacks,
Hawaiian shirts: the women will put on summer smocks
Made from the material superior dish towels are made of
Now, and they'll all drive up to Malibu for drinks.
All the dead actors were pretty in their day. Why
Am I watching this movie? you may ask. Well, my beloved,
Down the hall, is probably laboring over a poem
And is not to be disturbed. And look! I have rediscovered
The sweetness and immortality of art. The actress
Wrote under a pseudonym, died, I think, of cancer of the lungs.
So many of them did. Far better for me to be doing this
(A last lurid patch of fog out of which the phrase "The End"
Comes swimming; the music I can't hear surging now
Like fate) than reading with actual attention my field guides
Which inform me that the flower of the incense cedar
I saw this morning by the creek is "unisexual, solitary, and terminal."








Keeping stuff alive.



midnight gardening

it rained
a little yesterday,
just a little,
damper than dry
but not much

(I walked around in it
for ten minutes
before I got wet, then
it stopped)

then,
106 degrees today
at 7 p.m. and I went to bed
to escape,
air conditioner thermostat
set to glacier…

woke up at 11:30, went out back
to water the little patches
of vegetation I’m trying to keep alive,
genetic samples
to bring back to life in some distant
future
when it rains again,

and the water from the hose
is like a chilled, icy infusion
of winter
as it splashes back in sprinkles
my body…

neighbors on both sides
are asleep, those in the townhouses
across the creek as well,
and I am the pale prince
of moonless night, alive to the breeze
and the back-sprinkled water
and the birds asleep in the trees
and the cat passing
silently
on the fence
and the raccoons
washing their hands
in the creek, a rare water source
for creatures all around

me,
the gardener who comes in the night
to spread wet cheer
on his small and private
world,
then the dogs began to bark
on all sides
and the prince
retires
to his midnight bed








My next poem is by Pablo Lopez del Castillo. He is a stage-trained and experienced performance poet who travels throughout Mexico, performing his poetry. This bilingual book, Memorial del Viento/Wind Memorial, published by St. Mary's University in San Antonio in 2005, is his first publication in the United States.

The poems in the book were translated by Rodrigo Lopez



My Words

Reader:
These are my words.
They are yours.

Life
is just the sediment
of what still remains.
A platform
and nothing more.

But sound is another matter.
It is what captured the idea
the eternal
the voice
the music that prolongs us.

And I offer you
these words.

You may listen to them if you want.
You know my voice
the resonance that centuries
have forged.

It could be the rains for instance.
Perhaps the jubilant concert
of branches
the night's scab that breaks apart
or the remote lullaby
that rocked my cradle.

So many things
can be my voice.
But I do not want to pester you any more:
an enigma torments you.

Poetry
- the true music -
says nothing
Yet contains the endless fog of life

the crying
and what love can be
after the storm.

The voice is pallium and shroud
which says how much has been lived
on this earth.

Poetry will end tomorrow
when we shall have discovered
the entire universe.

So remember my voice
and within my words
the endless song
of Men.








I drive around my city, San Antonio, often, and into the hills that surround it. Every drive, it seems there is more city and flatter, barer hills as the city swallows hilltops and pastures and thick woods of oak and mesquite.

This poem is from my 2005 book, Seven Beats a Second.



diminishing the stars

the city approaches

its lights
spread
across the hills
at sunset

breaking
the black serenity
of night

diminishing the stars
that shine
in the virgin sky

sounds of the city
soon to follow

then heat

then haze
that blocks
the lights
that spread
across the hills
at sunset

the city approaches
darkly
in a stink
and fog of its own
detritus








Now I have two poems by John Barr,from his book The Hundred Fathom Curve,published by Story Line Press in 1997.



St. Augustine

I saw the Portuguese men-of-war
shipwrecked like a treasure fleet
a solid mile along the shore.

Hard aground they tried to beat
to windward, set their living sails
this way and that around our feet.

A wave would sometimes climb the trails
of slime and lift one almost free,
then lapse and leave the pooled entrails.

We tried to flip one back to sea,
using a piece of board to help
dig under - unsuccessfully -

then left them, fouled for good in kelp,
the great blue spinnakers to gleam
and gesture, either after help,

or merely sailing their species dream,
judging the distance as before,
keeping the middle of the stream.


Flounder

"During a period of rapid body changes one eye migrates to the other side of the head, after which the fish settles to the bottom."
- Encyclopedia Britannica


What hidden tackle moves one eye
to seek its opposite? What haul of muscle
gets it underway to navigate
shoals of the skull, to round the horn
in spite of how things are, how bone is,
in spite of the face the effort makes -
gargoyled,jury-rigged, mouth down-
hauled, eyes joined upward as in prayer?

What sea change turns the world on its ear?
No longer the upright fish, proceeding
as if food and danger enter from the side,
what imbalance tips the scales, righting
only when right is up, left down,
the ability to see two sides
to things careened by a need to know
things at a distance, the distance of things?

No longer floundering, grown great
on beans of bottom sustenance,
you make the fisherman's day. At ease
to contours of the floor conformed,
you with a single vision see,
beyond the backlit dory, distant venues,
beyond the fishhouse catch of the day
provender surpassing sole.








Checking out some old poems, here are a couple of really old ones.

This first one was written in 1970, when I was back in the United States completing my university studies on the GI Bill. The second one was written about 1968 while I was still in the military, serving in a small facility on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar on the western frontier of Pakistan.

Both poems in different circumstances, loneliness.



alone

old man
head down
alone
in an empty church
shopping bag at our feet
where
were
you
when
you saw
the time



Maybe I should dedicate this second piece to all the men and women who are,today, in a similar place, thinking similar thoughts,dreaming similar dreams.


APO New York

So, I'm sitting here
at the absolute and eternal center
of all that is lost and lonely,
cataloguing my sins, thinking,
which one was it, oh Lord,
that caused you to leave me here,
forsaken and abandoned,
when there is so much goodness and beauty
still to be tasted in my life...

I'm thinking of mountains,
maybe the Sandias or Manzanas,
and the way they look from the desert floor in early winter,
with snow clouds slowly spilling over their crests,
like dime's worth of ice cream in a five cent cone.
or, waking on a mountain top,
making coffee with water come from snow
melted in a pot over a juniper fire,
smelling the air, fresh-made for the morning,
never breathed before, never close to anything
that wasn't clean and bright and wholesome.
or, the back-roads and fields
and lakes and thick wooded hills
of south central Missouri,
the golden, October shimmer of an aspen grove
amid a stand of deep green pine,
the cool and ageless presence
of Anasazi ghosts in the canyons of Mesa Verde,
the boulevards of Paris glistening in early April rain,
the splash and rumble of South Padre surf at midnight,
or, the essences of home,
the slam of the back screendoor
with it's too short spring,
the creak in the kitchen floor,
the bite of cold cactus jelly on hot cornbread,
the luminous green of the lightning-split mesquite
shading the backyard in early spring.
And, the best things,
the peace and love and heart-full joy
of you in my life,
the taste of your lips,
the softness of your skin,
your warm breath on my bare chest
as you curl against me sleeping,
the sweet smell of your hair,
long, delicate, framing
your face,
falling across your shoulders,
the sound of your morning laughter,
your sweet, secret whispers in the still of winter night.

these are my comforts tonight, my love,
as I try to sleep in this place
so far from my life's essentials.
You are the sum and substance of my dreams,
my love,
my breath, my life, my evermore,
and I am missing you tonight.








Next, two poems by Frank O'Hara, from the book, Meditations in an Emergency, a reissue in 1967 by Grove Press, shortly after O'Hara's death in an auto/pedestrian accident. It was first published in 1957.



Les Etiquettes jaunes

I picked up a leaf
today from the sidewalk.
This seems childish.

Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall?

As if there were no
such thing as integrity!

You are too relaxed
to answer me. I am too
frightened to insist.

Leaf! don't be neurotic
like the small chameleon.


On Rachmaninoff's Birthday

Blue windows, blue rooftops
and the blue light of the rain,
these contiguous phrases of Rachmaninoff
pouring into my enormous ears
and the tears falling into my blindness

for without him I do not play,
especially in the afternoon
on the day of his birthday. Good
fortune, you would have been
my teacher and I your only pupil

and I would always play again
Secrets of Liszt and Scriabin
whispered to me over the keyboard
on unsunny afternoons! and growing
still in my stormy heart.

Only my eyes would e blue as I played
and you rapped my knuckles,
dearest father of all the Russias,
placing my fingers
tenderly upon your cold, tired eyes.








Seeing much more "night" than usual as "day" becomes mostly unbearable outside one air conditioned cave or another.



moonless midnight

moonless midnight,
maneuvering
down hill on the stone
pathway I made
a couple of years ago,
the white stones
my only guide in the
dark

so
dark
and so quiet,
no frogs, no cicadas
no animals rustling through
the reeds that line
creek-side…

it has been a hard,
hard summer, the hardest
in my sixty-seven years
in South Texas,
the animals
desperate, abandoning
their young as they struggle
for the own survival, thin and stringy
cattle sold
for whatever they can get
in a market where everyone wants to sell,
ranches active for a hundred years
put to dry pasture forever,
farmers selling their tractors,
driving school buses to make
ever-widening ends
meet,
and the trees are losing
their leaves,
drifting brown and crisp,
burned by the unrelenting sun,
blowing in the breeze
that sidles through as night
folds in on itself

111 degrees
in the shadows of my patio
yesterday, but relief is promised,
the long range forecast
predicting
a gradual cooling, a slip back
to double digits by the end
of the week…

and a betting man’s chance of rain
next week, relief
from the heat, relief for the trees
and burned vegetation, graze
for the deer, mosquitoes for the bats,
water for stock ponds
and bone white rivers and lakes…

a hard,
hard summer
and though it’s not over
yet,
it may be over
soon…

that’s what we tell
ourselves
from the sanctuary
of our moonless
midnight








From Section Three of Is 5, I have two pieces by e.e. cummings.



I

now the fierce few
flowers(stealthily)
in the alive west
begin

requiescat this six
feet of Breton big good
body, which terminated
in fists hair wood

erect cursing hatless who
(bent by wind)slammed hard-
over tiller;clattered
forward skidding in outrageous

sabots language trickling
pried his black
mouth with fat jibing
lips,

once upon a
(that is
over:and the sea heaving
indolent colorless forgets)time

Requiescat.
carry
carefully the blessed large silent him
into nibbling final worms.


III

it is winter a moon in the afternoon
and warm air turning into January darkness up
through which spouting gently,the cathedral
leans its dreamy spine against thick sunset

i perceive in front of our lady a ring of people
a brittle swoon of centrifugally expecting
faces clumsily which devours a mank,three cats,
five white mice,and a baboon.

O a monkey with a sharp face waddling carefully
the length of this padded pole;a monkey attached
by a chain securely to this always talking
individual,mysterious witty hatless.

Cats which move smoothly from neck to neck of bottles,cats
smoothly willowing out and in between bottles,who sep smoothly
and rapidly along this pole over five squirming
mice;or leap through hoops of fire,creating smoothness.

People stare,the drunker applaud
while twilight takes the sting out of the vermilion
jacked to nodding hairy Jacqueline who is given a mouse
to hold lovingly,

our lady what do you think of this Do your proud fingers and
your arms tremble remembering something squirming fragile
and which had been presented unto you by a mystery?
...the cathedral recedes into weather without answering








I've retired three times. Each time I retired, I soon wearied of the lack of daily duty and quickly found myself back at work. It seemed each time I went back to work, the new job I went to was less interesting and less meaningful and less challenging than the one I had retired from before. Finally, by the end of 2008, I had gotten myself in a job that was dull enough and dumb enough to retire again with no intention of ever going back to work anywhere. So far, I have held to that intention.

The next poem, written in late 2008, was written while at work in that last awful job. The only good thing, it did leave some time during the work day to dash of a small poem or two, like this one.



bits and pieces from a Tuesday morning that seems like Monday


1
green lichen
on bare
branches
over brown
grass gathered
in the cold forest
like boy scouts
at camp


2
sunshine
on a foggy day

seen from my
high place
tree tops
float
in cotton swirl


3
the hive
buzzes
with low voices
all eyes tight
on computer screens

every now and then
loud laughter
at something seen
in a child’s writing
wakes
the room


3
a thermos top
pops
and brown coffee
eyes
open like
Pavlov’s
dog


4
green winter rain
anticipates spring

too soon


5
work done
wandering halls
waiting
for approval

will write a poem

soon







Next, here's a poem by Otomo Yakamochie, from the anthology, Japanese Love Poems: Selections from the "Manyoshu" .

Born into the prestigious Otomo clan in 718, Yakamochie was a Japanese statesman and waka poet in the Nara period. He is a member of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals. He died in 785.

The part of piece identified as Envoys, follows the tradition of including within or at the end of a poem a stanza that restates and summaries the basic elements/points of the poem.



Elegies on the death of his mistress, in summer,
in the sixth month of the eleventh year of Tempyo (739)


From this time on
    The autumn wind will chill me;
How shall I sleep alone
the long nights through?

Seeing the fringed pink by the stone-paving under the eaves

The fringed pink in my garden
    Which my beloved planted
For her remembrance in autumn-tide,
Has all come out in bloom.

    In sorrow at the autumn wind in the following month

Well do I know that human life is passing
    Yet this autumn wind chills me,
Reminding me of my lost love.

The flowers have blossomed in my garden
    Yet do not sooth my sorrow;
If only my love were living,
Side by side could we be
Like a pair of mallards;
And I would pick them for her sake!
Brief is our lease of life,
She vanished like a drop of dew;
Seeking the mountain-side,
Like the setting sun she hid herself
Remembrance wrings my heart.
Past speech the world is vain -
What can I do?

    Envoys

Could she not have chosen another time?
To my grief she died, my love,
Leaving me babe.

Had I but know the way she left our world,
I would have built a barrier
Between my dying love and death.

In the garden which my darling lved
The flowers still bloom;
And a long time has passed,
Yet my tears are not dry.

    Still depressed in his sorrow

Such a fleeting life though we shared together,
    We both had trusted that our love
Would last a thousand years.

Once I saws it with uncaring eyes;
    Now that it is her sepulcher,
How dear it is, this hill of Saho!








I learn a lesson from the weather.



sometimes hard to see from here

the weather folks
are promising a high
temperature
for the day of 98 degrees

a promise
that In other times
might have been seen
as a threat, but at more than
ten degrees cooler
than the past couple of days,
98 is like a fresh breeze
blowing
over a glacier-fed mountain
lake

proving
once again that
what you see depends on
from where you see it…

I have been,
in tougher times,
what I thought of
at the time
as poor,
a perception cured
by passage through several
third-world countries…

and
loss of my first love,
I thought would leave me
emotionally destitute
forever, until I saw her
several years later
in a supermarket, with three
young children
and pregnant with number
four, each of the already-children
demonstrating physical characteristics
suggesting there was not a common
father between them

and I was freed to love
again…

life’s like that -
it’s never so bad
that you can’t make it better
by finding a different
angle
to view it…

and,
if you’re lucky,
it’s never so good
that it can’t be someday
better








Next, two poems from former Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, from his book Delights and Shadows. The book was published in 2004 by Copper Canyon Press.



Old Cemetery

Somebody has been here this morning
to cut the grass, coming and going unseen
but leaving tracks, probably driving a pickup
with a low mower trailer that bent down
the weeds in the lane from the highway,
somebody paid by the job, not paid enough,
and mean and peevish, too hurried
to pull the bindweed that weaves up
into the filigreed iron crosses
or to trim the tall red prairie grass
too close to the markers to mow
without risking the blade. Careless
and reckless, too, leaving green paint
scraped from the deck of the mower
on the cracked concrete base of a marker.
The dead must have been overjoyed
to have their world back to themselves,
to hear the creak of trailer springs
under the weight of the cooling mower
and to hear the pickup turn over and over
and start at last, and drive away,
and then to hear the soft ticking of weeds
spring back, undeterred, in the lane
that leads nowhere the dead want to go.


A Winter Morning

A farmhouse window far back from the highway
speaks to the darkness in a small, sure voice.
In this stillness, only a kettle's whisper,
and against the starry cold, one small blue ring of flame.








Unfortunately, there is no way for an old man to ask a beautiful young woman to pose for a picture without immediately drawing the interest of the morals squad down at police center, or, worse, a large, angry boyfriend.



coffee house beauty

tall
slender
high cheekbones
sensuous lips

beautiful hands
and feet, large, slim graceful fingers,
the thing I notice first, as if
her hands and feet
were the base
upon which all the rest of her beauty
grew

like a model…

exotic looking
in face and form,
vaguely foreign,
South American, light skin,
dark eyes,
native,
I immediately think,
of the vast Argentine
pampas,
owner of many
fast and handsome
horses…

I am usually too shy
to ask people to pose
for me and my camera, but
if ever I did ask someone, I’d
want her to be
first

except
she’s with her boyfriend,
not nearly good enough for her,
I can tell,
but
large
and fierce, exuding certain possession
of all that beauty and
unwillingness
to share

a man for whom
there is no abstraction
in life beyond
“mine!”

and my commitment
to beauty
in this instance
is most entirely insufficient








The next poem is by Vicent Andres Estelles.
Born in 1924 in Valencia, Estelles was a journalist and writer considered by many as the most important poet from Valencia in the twentieth century and the best known in their language. He died in 1993. I took his poem from Modern Catalan Poetry: An Anthology, published by New Rivers Press in 1979.

The poems in the anthology were translated from the Catalan by David H. Rosenthal who also selected the poems for the book.



Illicit Homage to LLuis Mila

    To Francesc Brines
    
mas tendran sentido
        QUEVEDO

1
it's spring
joyous you outstripped nude
the water's trees

2
blackhaired myrtle
through the water returned a hawk from lisbon
of moon moon moon

3
your body was cold
children's voices in the square
it was water

4
roughly he grabbed her hair
he dragged her along the floor towards the bed
the breeze rustled a curtain

5
her breasts were just emerging
she didn't dare look at them
like traffic lights

6
he looked at her one last time
the twilight was full of doves and grain
they'd beheaded her

7
the moonlight came in from the balcony
it sat down on the bed
and slowly took off its stockings

8
bull who runs loose through the field bull
green are the poplars
and there's a river nearby with singing washerwomen

9
don't go in the tavern
streetcars pass full of people
beneath an umbrella two lovers kiss on the mouth

10
intensely green tees trees oh trees
a fountain is heard among the leaves
under the bed your high heeled red shoes

11
you spilled onto the floor
there was a basket of oranges on the table
we loved to listen to mozart with the window open

12
the tango rose through her legs
it pinched her bellybutton
water streamed from her breasts

13
the goldfinch was singing oh mother how the goldfinch sang
the children whipped up the soap into lather
the bread fell in breadbaskets

14
the groom grabbed on of her breasts
he put it in his pocket
and left her forever on the corner of the avenue

15
up the wooden stairs up those stairs
the drunk was climbing carrying sailors' stories
the steps echoed like empty coffins

16
the logs came down the river
lovely was life lovely and very laudable the parson knew
taller than wheat the poppies burst forth

17
after committing the crime and washing himself
he went out to the movies
when the show ended they found him dead in his seat

18
sitting on the rug they passed the guitar
sweetly they strummed it they sand and rocked it
she unbuttoned her blouse for the five and gave her breast

19
alone in the house
she took off her shoes and socks and went barefoot
life's crazy sapling

20
she ironed in front of the window
falsely recalling an adolescence
he was a carpenter by trade








Here's a coffee house adventure from 2008,late in the year.



to hell with politics

I’m
sitting in one of the little
cage-
feeling place they
have set aside
for laptop users
and while it’s better than
trying to work at one of the waxed tables
that leave you chasing
your laptop as it
slips
this way and that
with ever single letter
typed,
I’d still be
pissed
though not entirely surprised
if someone tossed me a banana,
did those gynyeck-gynyeck-gynyeck
monkey noises in front of me

speaking of higher
life forms...

across the room
I can see the parking lot
through the big north-facing windows
and out of six cars
I see three
including my own
with Obama stickers

not entirely surprising
since Obama took San Antonio
and Bexar County with about 53 percent
of the vote
but, still, Olmos Park
is one of the richest parts of the city,
fatcats on every corner,
and not often tempted to vote Democrat
and even more
not willing to advertise it
when they do

has to do with
winning
I suppose

even
rich folk like
being
on the winning side

they
just happen to be more accustomed to it than
I am

ooops!

a
pretty
young girl
in a purple fedora
just sat down in front of me

blocks my view
of the parking lot
the cars
and the Obama stickers

to
hell
with politics








Two Nobel Prize winners this week, and two Poets Laureate, Kroose earlier and now Charles Simic.

Must have got to the high class shelf in my library this week.

Simic's poem is from his collection, Sixty Poems, published by Harcourt in 2007.



Paradise

In a neighborhood once called "Hell's Kitchen"
Where a beggar claimed to be playing Nero's fiddle
While the city burned in midsummer heat;
Where a lady barber who called herself Cleopatra
Wielded the scissors of fate over my head
Threatening to cut off my ears and nose;
Where a man and a woman went walking naked
In one of the dark side streets at dawn.

I must be dreaming, I told myself.
It was like meeting a couple of sphinxes.
I expected them to have wings, bodies of lions:
Him with his wildly tattooed chest;
Her with her huge, dangling breasts.

It happened so quickly,and so long ago!

You know that time just before the day breaks
When one yearns to lie down on cool sheets
In a room with shades drawn?
the hour when the beautiful suicides
Lying side by side in the morgue
Get up and walk out into first light.

The curtains of cheap hotels flying out of windows
Like seagulls, but everything else quiet...
Steam rising out of the subway grating...
Bodies glistening with sweat...
Madness, and you might even say, paradise!


In the Library

for Octavio

There's a book called
A Dictionary of Angels.
No one had opened it fifty years,
I know, because when I did,
The covers creaked, the pages
Crumbled. There I discovered

The angles were once as plentiful
As species of flies.
The sky at dusk
Used to be thick with them.
You had to wave both arms
Just to keep them away.

Now the sun is shining
Through the tall windows.
The library is a quiet place.
Angels ad gods huddled
In dark unopened books.
the great secret lies
On some shelf Miss Jones
Passes every day on her rounds.

She's very tall, so she keeps
Her head tipped as if listening.
The books are whispering.
I hear nothing, but she does.








From 2008, a look into the dark future awaiting all us all.



fini

i have seem the
future
and it looks like the past

fins

fins
everywhere

fins
on cars

fins
on houses

fins on animals

puppy dogs
with ears trimmed
like fins
then starched to stand up
straight
like little puppy-sharks
lurking in gray waters

fins
on kitties
with pointy ears
and tails sticking straight out back
like a ‘57 Plymouth

fins on squirrels
chattering in trees

fins on opossums
that sneak over your fence at night
to eat your pomegranates

fins on birds,
sparrows and pigeons and buzzards
and hawks and eagles
with little fin-tufts
on their heads like jays and cardinals

fins on horses and moose and bison,
elephant, lizard, penguin and emu

furry fins, feathered fins, scaly fins,
fins of angora wool,
and even peach fuzz fins

even babies
genetically modified
to have pointy ears like Spock
fins
laid the side of their heads

like werewolf ears
just
not so hairy

all animals have fins
but fish
who adopt a more streamlined
‘62 Porsche look

all of it,
world government
and the patterns of nature
run
by Finns from Finland

the only song allowed
on the radio from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. -
Finlandia
by Finnish composer
Sibelius,
the new patron saint of all music
as dictated by the world government
in Helsinki,
capitol now not just of Finland,
but everywhere...

the final
authority
on everything

i have seen the future
and it is not good

i have seen the future
and it is too much like the past

and i don’t like it

that’s all i have to say
about it
so now i’m

finished








Last from my library this week, I have two poems by D.K. Jones,known to his many friends as "Papa." The poems are from his book, Next of Kin.

For more on D.K. Jones, go to the blog "Comments" from a number of months ago.



The Cure

the men who reach eighty-five, ninety or beyond
richly supplied with years
and deep in sacred remembrance
are the one's who find peace within themselves.

Filled with an emptiness that feels perfect and redemptive,
life leeching out day by day,
there are those who hear in the distance
the executioner's song,
refusing the lavish inventions that keep us from passing on,
asking not for the oncologist
but for the expert marksman,
a blindfold and a smoke.


Sorrow

The coon hunting twelve gauge, barrel pitted, loaded,
initials burned into the stock -
Johnny Magee's.

Oh, I did the hunting too.
Just to go along, a girl close, booze
and brawl more my taste,

him shielding me, taking the brunt of a blow
from a flying chair meant for my head not his -
at Morgan's pub - if that was its name.

We were heroic even when hunkered down
expecting eyeglasses to be shattered at the hands of
ever hatchet and hood at river's edge waiting,

while we tipped a glass with John's salty mother Helen.
We were nineteen, having that and little more in common.
In a new found contrariness

where the world was we were elsewhere,
beating the air with cold gloveless hands,
frozen flasks stuck to frozen lips.

It seemed a lifetime but was not; withdrawal
keeping us apart when apart year after year,
and spoken word seemed outspokenness,

anguished I was not there to see Master Johnny's
funeral frill the road, hear the requiems, himself
among the mourners, grinning as if he knew all along

how it would end.








What the heck, end of the month, last poem for the week - why not?



some birds

juvenile
cardinal, tiny little cub
of a bird
with a Mr. T haircut

~~~

half a handful
of Post Toasties,
too little to fix for myself,
tossed out for the birds, they
hold out for Cheerios -
reminding
again
of the dangers
of organized
avians,
not content to be
feathered
winged
bipedal,
endothermic
egg-laying
vertebrate animals
like they’re supposed
to be,

now they want
control
of the grocery list…

happens
every time

~~~

blackbirds
are stupid birds -

they walk funny
and will only eat off
the ground

and the males
look ridiculous, chest
all puffed up
when they’re horny
and trying to
get lucky
with the little missus

(a lot like pigeons
who are even dumber,
in that regard)

but I check out the birds
the cat catches
and eats
and they’re never
blackbirds
which suggests to me
that blackbirds, though
appearing stupid,
are smarter than cats,
who,
as we all know,
are smarter than us

~~~

and
speaking of pigeons,

I used to have several, a white
breed
who played by flying high in the sky,
then pretending
they were falling, flippity-flopping,
wings flapping helplessly
until they
came close to the ground when
they would discontinue the falling game
and climb high in the sky
again

I never understood why
they thought that was so much fun…

maybe for the same reason
people
ride roller coasters
and go to scary movies

~~~

and speaking of pigeons
again

I had another two
pigeons
of regular lineage
who were rescued as chicks
by palm tree trimmers
and given to my dad to bring home

they grew up
to be very tame,
riding on my mother’s shoulders
whenever she went outside to hang out the wash

one left one day,
responding to the call of the wild
no doubt,
the other, my favorite
because it stayed and didn’t
respond to the call of the wild,
was eaten by the neighbor’s cat

~~~

and
still on pigeons,
anybody know why
they stand around on one leg
all the time?

Olympic training
per
haps

~~~

we have
a backyard
woodpecker

red topknot,
just like Woody

always
knocking on my door
but never
wants
in

~~~

a
humming bird
stopped humming
one time
to stand still,
wings quiet, on flower
right in front of my face

said, “what’s up,”
or something like that
probably,
not sure, don’t
speak humming,
left
when I didn’t answer

~~~

big hawk
in the tree by the creek

sometimes winters with us,
stalks
small animals that come to the creek
to drink

I warned all the neighborhood
dogs,
except for the chihuahua
next door
who barks
all night every
night

would like to hang a bag
of hawk-treat
around
that one’s neck

~~~

birds,birds, birds

and I haven’t even mentioned
the mocking bird
who lived in the parking lot
where I worked some years ago

always got drunk
on fermented berries
in the spring, attacked people
as they tried to get to their cars

I think a descendent
lives across the street from us now,
attacks the cat
every time she tries to cross
the street

mean cat,
so I don’t mind








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I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and, despite all evidence to the contrary, still a believer in rain.











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In the Third Quarter of the Last Days of Summer   Friday, August 19, 2011


Photo by Thane Zander
VI.8.4.




I have two specials for you this week.

First, I've brought my friend Anonymous back with Part III or his Message in a Bottle.

Also, spread throughout the post, are photos by my poet, now photographer, friend Thane Zander.

Thane is 52 and currently lives in Palmerston, North New Zealand where he works as a Peer Support person in the Mental Health field. Before that, he served for 27 years in the Navy, and then spent 7 years dedicated to writing poetry and short stories, including two years at University as a creative writing student. A couple of years ago he bought a digital camera and has been investigating the creative opportunities in the art of photography since.

Thane has two daughters, Amy and Ashleigh, of whom he is exceedingly proud.

Here's this week's crew.


Lorna Dee Cervantes
Note to David
First Station


Me
the dumb days of August

Aleda Shirlie
Blue Over Orange

Me
I do not want to write tonight

From Exchanges - Spring 1997
Zehra Cirak
Grandmother’s Nods
Hennrik Nordbrand
Pragmatic

Me
Old Mcdonald

From Pierced by a Ray of Sun
Natalia Robbins
Birth Elegy VI
Dona Luongo Stein
Visiting Day, Worcester County House of Correction
James Masao Mitsui
Destination: Tule Lake Relocation Center, May 20, 1942
Anonymous (from the Tewa language)
The Mountain Far Away

Me
Chinaski

Wendell Berry
The Fear of Darkness
The Plan


Me
Sol Brother

Anonymous
Message in a Bottle, Part III

Me
rear guard

Dave Rushlander
Wasted
Journal Entry 12


Me
wanting to drive the big bus

From The Faber Book of 20th-century German Poems
Volker Sielaff
Sleepless
Matthias Goritz
For Volodya in Moscow
Jan Wagner
Frogs
Hauke Huckstadt
No One Home

Me
the fish who seeks his sea

From Women of the Red Plain
Li Xiaoyu
The Silk Dream
Lin Zi
Yes, I Admit
Yang Liuhong
The Butterfly Specimen

Me
case closed

Rienzi Crusz
Let Us Now
When Tarzan Shook Hands with God


Me
there is a field

Devreaux Baker
Bear Berry, Mullen, Red Willow Bark
Changing Woman


Me
a community; a house






Photo by Thane Zander




I begin this week with something by Lorna Dee Cervantes, from her book Drive: The First Quartet, published in 2006 by Wings Press.

Cervantes is a fifth generation Californian of Mexican and Native American (Chumash)heritage from San Jose. She currently is an associate professor at the University of Colorado.

The book includes five distinct collections produced during the period 1980 through 2005. The collection I've drown from is titled "Letters to David: An Elegiac Mass in the Form of a Train." The collection begins with a journal entry followed by several poems. I use this week, the journal entry and the first poem.



Note to David

From Journal Entry - April 25, 1984

     Today, goddamned David Kennedy drank himself to death. After holding up in a Palm Beach hotel suite he was found
on the floor of his room between two king-sized waterbeds.
     Two beds! It rang through my ears like a mantra. Two beds. $250 a day he paid for that room & most of the time he stayed in the downstairs bar. Cops couldn't find evidence of any hard drugs, only the vodkas and grapefruit juice the bellhops said he drank steadily from 8 in the morning until 12 at night every day.     I picked the paper off the kitchen table which is mostly littered with my books from the night before: Prescott's Conquest of Mexico & Conquest of Peru, The Fall by Albert Camus, an aesthetics and anthology, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, by the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, A Handbook of Style, The MLA Guidelines for submitting papers, Nathaniel West's Day of the Locust, Marcuse's One Dimensional Man. I start reading the accompanying articles about the trials & tribulations of life as a Kennedy as I pick up my, by now, lukewarm coffee and head back to the room, over-stepping the fish-hooked shards of glass from a broken lightbulb.     "When he was 12 years old, young David stayed up in his hotel room late at night and watched his father on television. A family friend found him seated in front of the set switching the channels to the different news broadcasts to watch the tape play over and over. The friend recalled that thee was no tears, only a look of stunned horror."
     "The day before, on a family outing, the senator had saved David's life when the boy was being swept away in an undertow."     I remember the day Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I remember it better than when the President was shot. I felt it more. I was in the seventh grade, and that was the first year I was every truly aware of politics or the wars of the world. That was the day the next door the next door neighbor poisoned my pet cat to keep it off her lawn. I remember the sweet smell, like bitter almonds some say,but to me it smelled like she was vomiting rock candy. When I found her I could tell by the way she looked at me that it was too late to save her. I didn't even bother to call anyone. Just held her stiff, retching body & I remember I didn't cry. I felt solid, smooth,like ice but dry, warm. I remember the sun that June morning. It burned the hairs on my arms & I remember how strange the heat felt, like needles of radiation entering in through the pores in my skin. It was numbing me. I held her on the ground. She was too convulsive to hold in my arms and I tried to tell her that. The ants around us were swarming as if excited by the smell of her cooling flesh. I stopped watching her die and smashed ants. Sick. they were so many frantic kamikazis. I wondered if it was a sin. So much minute life snuffed out could leave a blotch on my soul like murder.
     I put the paper down and go to the desk by the window. Under it is a cardboard box where I keep a lot of old stuff. In case there's ever a fire, I plan to heave it out & then jump out after it. I don't even have to look for the diary. I know exactly where it is. I reach in between the notebooks and pull it out. I turn the leaves to the page as I lie back in my bed. June 2, 1968. Today, Robert Kennedy was shot! Kitty died.
     That was the day I learned the word: apocalyptic.


First Station

June 5, 1968

I remember
it was a very
hard day
there were
buds
the size
of plums
on the
sugar tree
daddy
was a word
wandering
in the night
your daddy
talked
nationwide
the chosen
prince
you were on
the doorstep
of his shoes
between two
worlds
in that LA
motel
you were in
your pajamas
he was on
the floor
I remember
the sun
was very hot
you were in
a worldwide
disneyland
your dad
the TV mascot
through the race
wars I spent
my life
ducking
the bullets
from
duck
bombs
came
through the
worn hole
of my elegant
dreaming
only crackpots
dream
in color
only the insane
order flowers
the color
of living
blood you
ordered
your life
ended
ripped
from the script
that day
the red
anemone
burst
your eyes
glued
to the set
your eyes
still holding
that vast
expression
rapt as
St. Francis
Receiving the
Stigmata
that morning
they found you
stuck between
two beds
in your Brazilian
Court suite
you hung
a painted flower
over your head
your last
request
still for art
they call you
and artist
they call you
the other
victim
in an endless
film loop
the willful
repeater
in your dreams
you heard
the shot
over and over
again
saw
the bloom
swell
saw it drop
I duck
in the dream
American satellites
killers
every one
falling
indiscriminately
from the sky
armed junk heaps
US stars and stripes
forever
painted
on the side
like a piece
of Jasper's
Rauchenerg's
falling
the way
the sky looked
dripping
not rainbows
but anemones
beautiful
watercolors
I remember
white phosphorous
burning through
the debris
of five months
before your
superman
pulled you
from the tow
the life was
saved
but the knife
left a hole
the size
of a needle
mark
on your skin
and the red
blower
bloomed
on my pants
brown
as the blood
of a father
gone
fifteen years
dead
the flower
you said
was very sexy
you were seduced
she was very
sorry
for your father
as the plum
was ready
to split
she turned on
the set
duck!
I said
duck!
but the
television
showed it all
cowboys and
gangsters
young girls
stalked
young boys
getting ripped
from the horse






Photo by Thane Zander




From the sublime to....this.



the dumb days of August

it’s not just
that I didn’t want
to write a poem this morning, but
that I didn’t want to get up at all

and now that I have
I think it was a
mistake

it’s the heat -
the entire month of August,
bringing on the state of sweaty-dumbinicity ,
the dumbs of August
as the heat leaches all the vitals
from my physical essences, ambition,
curiosity, hope, charity and,
especially,
brains

most especially brains

it’s why the blonde babes
of bikini beaches
to the north, south, east and west
are generally
so vapor-brained, the vacuum enfeebled space
between their eyes demonstrating
the known and scientifically tested and valid,
as documented in Popular Science,
fact
that blondliness
is a certain sign
of overexposure to brain-shrinking
heat

I was a little bit blond
in my youth, but I’ve overcome
the effects through liberal application
of rubic cubish mind-games
and New York Times crossword puzzles
and careful parsing of the deepest logical constructs
of certain right-
winged
flavors-of-the-month
so proclaimed by the Elders
of the Protocols of the
We-Got-Ours-So-Fuck-the-Rest-of-You
Society,
also known as the
"Let's Put Morals back in Morality Coalition
For the American Way"...

but i digress

the point is
i have worked hard
at intellectually stimulating activities
that enhanced my brain power
and reduced my heat-induced blond inhibition
on thoughtful thinking
and was, consequently,looking forward to being
more and more
brainly
as my hair buried the blond past
in a grey thicket and my cranium
became
more and more
a Caesar salad bowl of insight
and ideas of the highest smartness,
all my mental marbles intact
and clicking...

but I worry about this heat
and what it’s doing to my so carefully preserved
forms of
cogitationalism,
as evidenced by my difficulty for the past couple of days
to master the complications
of getting out of bed and putting my shoes on,
shoes, I must add,
that don’t even have laces to master

then,
when I finally got up this morning,
looking in my bathroom mirror I’m positive
I saw wisps of blond over my left
and right ears

which might mean
that this is my last poem
until the weather cools down
and my brain, reverting to a winterly mode,
returns to a state somewhat
less
blondly unambitious





Photo by Thane Zander




The next poem is by Mississippi poet, Aleda Shirley. The poem is from her book Dark Familiar, published by Sarabande Books of Louisville, Kentucky, in 2006.

Shirley is the author of two books, the first of which the first, Chinese Architecture, won the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Award in 1986.



Blue Over Orange

October's first cold day & when I get in the car
my breath forms a brief chrysanthemum
on the inside of the windshield & I'm aware

suddenly, of all the yellow leaking form the world,
the lost green veins of the leaves. On my list
of errands the last stop is the video store where

the movies I watched in college are not classified
as Cult Favorites or Classics & the beautiful boy
who works the counter rolls his eyes when I take out

the Truffaut for the dozenth time. Not again, he says.
He's nice to everyone, but he sees me, if he sees me at all,
as an adult woman in a dark coat, with an expensive bag.

We touch only when we exchange money. The lobby
of a narrow French apartment, an allee of poplars;
those are scenes from a movie, not my life. I'm unlikely

to rent the movies that excite him: Japanese animation,
a documentary on mountain climbing, seventies concert films
from before he was born. Hours later, at home

with my glass of bourbon, he's with me still, & I think,
out of nowhere I tell myself, about how when I was thirteen
& we lived overseas I saw middle-aged NCOs

with beer guts & sunburned scalps walking the streets
of San Angeles City, holding the hands of girls
not much older than I was, girls paid to be adoring,

who covered their mouths when they giggled
& wore strange yellow nylons the color of no human skin.
When we'd walk down those streets, my friends & I,

our raffia bags stuffed with devalued pesos,
Filipino boys would sit on their haunches & make
wet clucking noises at us. Back then I imagined the misery

of the teenaged prostitutes, though not in any detail,
& the men's daughters stateside, reading
Tiger Beat in their rooms, trying on Yardley lipstick.

Later I thought about the wives, left behind
at Lackland or Minot or Clovis, the scent
of coffee,Salems, Emeraude, & something that may

or may not have been history pushing them to the sides
of their own lives; now I think of the men -
how little of life turns out to ba a choice, after all,

& the way those choices we do make
can transform beauty into pathos or desire
into commerce. We are, all of us, almost alike.





Photo by Thane Zander




Nothing makes one fell less like writing than trying to follow a writer who is so much better than anything you're going to come up with.



I do not want to write tonight

I do not want
to write

tonight
I read a new poet
and it was like flying
inside a skyrocket
crashing into the sky
exploding over an ocean
a thousand sparkles multiplied
in briny reflection
above
and below
and all around
and I am struck
dumb by the green fire
above
and below
and all around
and do not want
to write
tonight





Photo by Thane Zander




Here are two poems from the Spring 1997 issue of Exchanges.



The first poem is by Zehra Cirak.

Born in Istanbul, Cirak was moved to Germany as an infant in 1963. She has lived in Berlin since 1982, publishing in numerous anthologies and has won stipends to continue her work.

Her poem was translated from German by Elizabeth Oehlkers


Grandmother's Nods

Is it true?
Can it be that in those years leived long ago
she had lips
that pressed like a hot iron
on Grandfather's mouth
till he glowed with her love?

Today Grandmother's face is lipless
since Grandfather's beatification
she's drawn them within like her soft words
the folded slit
which once so flattened Grandfather
rarely opens now

Today Grandmother will be 99
and to all our begging and bothering
to tell stories from long ago
she nods without a word
sometimes shakes her head
looks through us and smiles
as if she sees Grandfather
she blinks and still knows despite the distance
his sore lips


The second poem is by Hennrik Nordbrandt, a Danish poet with more than 20 published collections of poetry. This poem is from a collection of elegies he wrote after the sudden death of his girl friend.

The poem was translated from Danish by Thom Satterlee.


Pragmatic

The things that were here before you died
and the things that have come after:

To the former belong, first of all,
your clothes,the jewelry and the photographs
and the name of the woman you were named after
and who also died young...
But also a couple receipts, the arrangement
of a certain corner of the living room,
the shirt you ironed for me
and which I keep carefully
under my pile of shirts,
certain pieces of music, and the mangy
dog that still stands around
smiling stupidly, as though you were here.

To the latter belong my new fountain pen,
a well-known perfume
on the skin of a woman I hardly even know
and the new light bulbs I put in the bedroom lamp
by whose light I read about you
in every book I read.

The former remind me that you were,
the latter that you no longer are.

It is the near indistinguishableness
I find hardest to bear.





Photo by Thane Zander




A lesson from one of the old-timers.


Old McDonald

the poet must be more the poet
of his stories or plots than of his verses,
inasmuch as he is a poet by virtue
of the imitative element in his work,
and it is actions he imitates.
.....Aristotle's Poetics



Old McDonald
had a farm,
e-i
e-i
o
and on this farm
there were
oink oinks
quack quacks
cluck clucks
moo moos
etc etc
that did nothing
but oink
and moo
and quack
and etc
and that amused
children
and that’s a pretty
good thing
but it’s not art
it’s just a little
nursery
rhyme
but then
one
day
the animals
quit their mooing
and quacking and
cluck clucking
and whatever
and took action,
tied Old McDonald
up in the barn
and took
over
and McDonald’s
farm
became
Animal Farm
and there was art
as defined by Mr.
You-Bet-
It’s-Greek-To-Me
Aristotle





Photo by Thane Zander




Next, I have four poems from Pierced by a Ray of Sun, a small anthology compiled by noted librarian Ruth Gordon. The book was published in 1995 by HarperCollins.



The first short poem is by Natalie Robbins. The only biographical information about contributors in the book is their birth year (in this case 1938)and I was unable to fine a "Natalie Robbins" via google that I could be sure was this poet.


Birth Elegy VI

I've learned something:
nothing is fair, but
you can't change the rules.


The next poet is Dona Luongo Stein, born in 1935.


Visiting Day, Worcester County House of Correction

I am a good girl, I have come directly
from my Ancient Greek Class for a visit;
I have brought the shoes you wrote for; although

I am afraid of the high spiked fence,
towers around the walled yard, and the beefy
guards staring at my spring dress blown against

my thighs, I walk from the yard filled with
daffodils, hyacinths, and sculptured bushes
into the prison. I imagine your

brown eyes filled with patience as you wait while
one door is unlocked then locked behind you:
they bring you to me. You are not in a striped

uniform but wear a gray work suit. You
are as neat as you always were at home;
hair trimmed, face absolutely clean-shaven,

and nails their neat half-moons. I look at
everything but your eyes while you talk.
You have become a tape recording: you

ask where my mother goes, and when, then call
her a whore. Quickly I hand over
the shiny black shoes; I cannot look at
your eyes, they are not yours, Father.


The third piece is my James Masao Mitsui, born in 1940.

I think I might have used the poem before, from another book, but it is so powerful to be such a minimalist thing, I am pleased to use it again.


Destination: Tule Lake Relocation Center, May 20, 1942

She had raised the window
higher

than her head; then
paused

to lift wire spectacles,
wiping

sight back with a wrinkled
hand-

kerchief. She wanted to watch
the old

place until the train's passing
erased

the tarpaper walls and tin roof;
she had

been able to carry away
so little.

The finger of her left
hand

worried two strings
attached

to a baggage tag
flapping

from her
lapel.


The last poem from the anthology was translated from the Tewa by Herbert J. Spinden. It's author is unknown.

Tewa is spoken by Pueblo people, mostly in the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico, north of Santa Fe. From the the 1980 census thirty years ago, only 1,298 speakers, almost all bilingual in English. Each pueblo or reservation where it is spoken has a dialect of its own.


The Mountain Far Away

My home over there, my home over there,
My home over there, now I remember it!
And when I see a mountain far away,
Why,then I weep. alas! What can I do?
What can I do? Alas! What can I do?
My home over there, now I remember it.





Photo by Thane Zander




Maybe another lesson here...



Chinaski

if you live
to a reasonably
decent age,
you’ll look back
and discover that
99.5 to 99.9 percent
of your span was boring
as cold dishwater

so what is one
to write
about

consider
Bukowski
who turned his life
into books and poems
that never mention the name
Bukowski

Instead
we’re left to wonder
about
Hank Chinaski





Photo by Thane Zander




Here I have two poems by Wendell Berry, from his book Collected Poems, 1957-1982, published by North Point Press.



The Fear of Darkness

The tall marigolds darken.
The baby cries
for better reasons than it knows.
The young wife walks
and walks among the shadows
meshed in the rooms.
And he sits in the doorway,
looking toward the woods,
long after the stars come out.
He feels the slow
sky turn toward him, and wait.
His birthright
is a third-hand Chevrolet,
bought for too much. "I
floorboard the son of a bitch,
and let her go."


The Plan

My old friend, the owner
of a new boat, stops by
to ask me to fish with him,

and I say I will - both of us
knowing that we may never
get around to it, it may be

years before we're both
idle again on the same day.
But we make a plan, anyhow,

in honor of friendship
and the fine spring weather
and the new boat

and our sudden thought
of the water shining
under the morning fog.





Photo by Thane Zander




We live in age of amazing stuff, just about every day.



Sol brother

I read a story once
that imagined
stars
were sentient creatures,
unimaginably remote
from all others like themselves,
great lonely beings
who, through loneliness
and the weight of billions
of years of life,
grew wise as any god
ever imagined

I remember this story as,
just minutes ago,
I heard on the news
of the discovery of something
called “plasma dust,”
inorganic matter that
creates
little DNA-like links
that define it, that replicates
itself, that grows, and that, in all
other ways, demonstrates
something that looks like
a kind of inorganic life
flourishing in the blazing
furnace
of
stars like our own,
a kind of life
unimagined
by anyone but, maybe,
a science fiction writer
forty years ago





Photo by Thane Zander




Here's the third and final part of Anonymous' Message in a Bottle.



III. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men



















Armed & Ready


I’m still moving. The city is where my head might be or on the outskirts of town mingling with the unwanted and used up. My breath made it back a minute ago, my thoughts, nowhere to be found. Go back to sleep, baby. I’ll be alright after a good night’s sleep. Promise to leave the light on. And I’ll promise to come home. You 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.



















Diorama


It is quiet except for the steady hum of the refrigerator. All the shades are drawn. TV, radio turned off. The CD player is loaded. Final decision has not been made so three are queued and ready: Boxer, The National; Blonde on Blonde, Dylan; The Forgotten Arm, Aimee Mann. The dining room table is bare. One flower, in a narrow crystal vase, sits in the center. Purple Orchid. There’s nothing left to do. Go ahead. Turn the page.




















Night before haiku


We are color and light:
a bird on a sill
flash of pale blue




















Note on the Refrigerator


Dearest,

The sound of a bird, of thunder, of wind, of music; that is what we live for


I can no longer recall the different shades the sky
turns when it is filled with birds, empty except for
one or two renegade clouds. I don't want to be

buried. Want no part of this earth that has abandoned
me. I can no longer tell the difference between a call
of a tanager and the low rumble of thunder. I have

become both deaf and blind, unable to put syllables
together to make words; unable to arrange words
into meaning beyond hopelessness, despair, loss.

My only wish is silence. To forget; every thought,
every quiet glance and touch. Then hold my breath
and wait until stillness becomes enough.


Yours always
and for
ever











We can make that list now Brother John.
Check it twice. Once you gone baby,
you gone for good...




Lust

Two bits four bits six bits a dollar
long hair longer legs last call & gone.


Gluttony

2218 First Avenue South: free me up tie me
down ‘til I can’t see the Promised Land.


Greed

All the Way, Frank Sinatra; Don’t Explain,
Cat Power; Jean Genie, David Bowie.


Sloth

whatthehellwashernametheonethatsaid
you lucky young man damnshewaskillerhot


Wrath

Just one? What can a man do with just one?
Isn’t even worth crossing the goddamn room.


Envy

One.


Pride

Anything less than zero.

                    ...and good and gone shortcake.




Mourning Sonnet (XXVII)



I watch you breathe, your breast moves
with every inhale, stars blink with every
exhale. It is beautiful; it is truth. Your hands
smooth, your lips, slightly parted. The earthy

scent of sex lingers. I can’t imagine night
without your body. Naked you are a thin
beam of light breaking through the window.
Naked you are small as one of your hands.

We feel the weight of knowing, we are gravity,
we are complete, deliberate. Tell me your first
wish, made at midnight as a meteor burned

through a cloud. I want to know how it feels
to get lost in the motion of you moving within
me; that feeling of being home.





Photo by Thane Zander




One has to protect one's assets, particularly after you reach a certain age.



rear guard

it’s about
age 50 when men
begin to lose their butts

nobody knows why
and nobody knows where they go

maybe they all go to Vegas
and spend the rest of their days
flat-cheeked on a bar stool, or

maybe there’s an old men’s butt
graveyard, like the elephants
have,
just instead of ivory tusks
scattered across
a valley of final elephantine rest,
there’s piles and piles of Sans-a-Belt
pants like Ed McMahon used to pitch
on the Johnny Carson show, just laying around
butt-less on field of white cotton
underpants…

well past that age
of backside backsliding
I have, so far,
maintained my posterior,
mostly through careful and constant
monitoring, making sure said body part
does not get away from me by,
several times a day,
grabbing my ass
and whistling Dixie

it is clear,
in hindsight,
that this was an effective prescription
for protecting my assets,
seeing that it has worked very well
for me,
having still,
even in these later years,
my own carry-on
cushion
whence ever
I roam





Photo by Thane Zander




Next, I have two short poems from a poet friend, Dave Rushlander, who I haven't heard from in a very long line.

Dave, if you're out there, wave or something.

The poems are from Dave's book Voices in My Head



Wasted

I am a soft-shoe wastrel
    See me dancing
  through the
  puddles.
    Take care, beware:
I aim to pull you in.


Journal Entry 12

You open my journal
and press your thumb to my spine
shooting off synapses.
    wonder and pain
    shadowy darkness
    and firefly light,
open and then
closed.





Photo by Thane Zander




Here's a poem-like thing fresh off your newspaper's front pages. Despite the subject I don't consider it a political poem, but more like a warning from one who warned ten years ago and was not heeded.

I certainly hope you do better this time.



wanting to drive the big bus now

twenty years
of change in this state
and he’s always been a rider,
never the driver,
even though he held the driver’s seat
during most of that time

because
being driver
requires a moral and intellectual
center
and he’s never had one of
those

but he’s got the good-old-boy background
and the good-old-boy accent
and does cowboy boots mighty
fine
and though lots of people in this state love him,
most just tolerate, because, well, hell,
he don’t do nothing, and gov’ment
that don’t do much ain’t likely to fuck up,
make hay prices go up; cattle price
go down, so let’s just leave him in charge
and maybe he won’t do nothing
for four more years - all in all, a good recipe
for electoral success in the great state of this
state - but now he wants to move on up
to the east side, wants to be driver
this time, in a bigger bus , this time -

well don’t say
I didn’t warn you, just like I warned you
last time a fella from the great state of this state
wanted to move on up to a bigger bus,
set aside the training wheels,
and he, at least had a good heart, but you didn’t
pay any attention to me
and look where it got us, and I’m thinking all this
this morning over breakfast because the fellow
in the booth right in front of me looks exactly
like the fella that ran against the fella who wants
to hijack the big bus this time around…

he lost, the fella who looks like the fella
in front of me,
and that’s just doo damn bad, maybe
for you
too





Photo by Thane Zander




Now I have three poets from The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems. All three poets are young, the oldest barely more than 40 years old.



The first of the poets, and the oldest, is Volker Sielaff, born in 1966 in the Lausitz region. Currently he lives as a writer and freelance journalist in Dresden.

Since 1990, he published poems, essays and reviews in literary journals and anthologies. His poems have been translated into English, Czech, Hungarian, and Arabic. in 2007 he received the Lessing-award.

His poem was translated by MichaelHofmann,who was also editor of the anthology.


Sleepless

The racket of the birds
in the trees at a quarter
past three.

Cioran
complained of sleeplessness
all his life.

I
throw myself blindly
into the arms of the morning.

No experience
is communicable.


The next poem is by Matthias Goritz.

Born in 1969 in Hamburg, Goritz has taught at many German Universities as well as at Bard College in New York. A recipient of numerous fellowships, he has contributed prose and poetry to many magazines, anthologies and major German newspapers. He has also worked as translator and editor.

This poem was also translated by Michael Hofmann.


For Volodya in Moscow.

I go over to the window
and turn into a fine evening

What do people get up to in heaven?
If you die you're no longer in the world

In heaven they eat ice cream -
Or they will do if the have colour, at any rate

Is colour just a dreamspace
I'm in Mama's belly

God is making pizza there
When I get out, there'll be hell to pay

Mama yells
I say hello

I prefer not to imagine hell
I'm pretty sure it exists

Unlike a lot of things
Nothing is coloured white

My mothers are descended from apes
I'm sick of the sight of bananas

It all makes noise
And purgatory must be something like a chemical laundry

Everything in the world must die
And if we live on afterwards, for instance in heaven,

I bet it'll be raining.


The final poet from the anthology is Jan Wagner.

Born in Hamburg in 1971,Wagner is a poet and translator of poetry from English. He studied English and American studies in Hamburg, Dublin and Berlin and has worked as a freelance reviewer for various newspapers and publisher. He has lived in Berlin since 1995.

Translator for his poem was Georgina Paul.


Frogs

From 1800 until his early death in 1810 the scientist Johann Willhelm Ritter - inspired by the discoveries of Luigi Galvani - undertook numerous experiments on himself with the so-called Voltaic Pile.

the room - a chaos. what's not yet been sold
forms on the floor the scarcely decipherable formula

of his endeavour: wires, instruments
and books. empty bottles. his wife

is long since gone. and so is his last tooth:
"undeterred by respect for m own body" achim

von arnim said, he battles with the wine
and with the premise that all life consists

of electricity. outside on the lake
it is suddenly uncannily still - the frogs are in secret

transmitting the new codeword to each other.


One more from the anthology, since I like it. This one by Hauke Huckstadt, also born in 1969.

I was able to find nothing else about Huckstadt beyond his birthdate.

The translator was Michael Hofmann.


No One Home

The room we lived in together
was deserted.

I hung around in front of the window -
a piece of wood getting in your light.

You were at one with the grandfather chair
in which I write these lines,

where you spent whole weeks muttering
litanies of human physical deficiencies to yourself:

Books cracked open and stimulating
like packets of prescription medicine or distalgesics.

Orr halting intercourse
called to mind the injuries it was intended to treat.

In the morning, we conducted an autopsy on the wardrobe,
yanked open its doors, and reached

among the small bones of the coathangers
where we dangled together.





Photo by Thane Zander




This is a little piece I wrote this week after rearing a quotation from Persian mystic, Rumi.



the fish who seeks the sea

Rumi
tells of the fish
who vainly sought the sea
while the great ocean
was all around and
within him…

I am the fish

seeking glory
beyond the glory
of my mere existence

seeking beauty
beyond the unmined beauty
of my heart
and in every other heart
that touches mine

seeking wealth
when no wealth can buy
the things I most desire
or the forgetfulness that is
my greatest need

I am the fish

seeking gods
when the only God is within me,
within that cosmic speck
of my self that is born of all selves
but like no other one,
master of my own universe,
a creature of all universes
but like no other one,
my own self that will fade, with its universe,
when the time
for a newer self,
a newer reality,
arrives

I am the fish
and I am the sea I seek
and hope some day
to find





Photo by Thane Zander




And now,another anthology, this one, Women of the Red Plain, a collection of contemporary Chinese Women's poetry. The book was first published in China in 1992 by Chinese Literature Press of Beijing, my copy published by Penguin at the same time.



The first of three poets from the anthology for this week is Li Xiaoyu.

The poet, born in Hubei Province in 1951 was working as a railyway system hygienist in 1972 when she published her first series of poems. Beginning in 1976, she has worked for the Poetry Journal in Beijing, where she also attended the Lu Xun Academy of Literature as well as the Beijing University for advanced studies.


The Silk Dream

Moon thin as water
And watery candlelight
Shine upon China
A sleeping silkworm
Exhaling a long long thread of silk
On a nine-hundred and sixty thousand square
     miles
Mulberry leaf


Its skin cold as ice,luminous as first snow
This great river of silk
With its silent billowing waves
With hidden perfume drifting and shuddering
     shades of plum blossoms
With its dazzling riot of bright lights
With its soft soft footfall of a princess
In the quiet recess of the tall pillars
With its iridescent scales of dragon and phoenix
     dancing
To the music of bells and drums.
In the bronze mirror
Weave another song of the Yellow River
Another swirl of solitary smoke in a vast desert
Another and another city gate
Volume after volume of poems

Oh China
The China by the pines and beneath the moon
The China of bamboo tablets in raised hands
Oh the China of tinkling porcelain vases
Oh you the silken culture
All that's carved in stones, etched in bronze
The profound soul of Huaxia*
Arises
And soaring upward
This night
In the great silken river
Thin and airy as a cicada's wings
Slippery-soft as waves
Is there a Zheng He** setting sail for a distant
     voyage
To chart out a passage to the far far West into
A rippling soaring ribbon?

*Old name for China
**An ancient Chinese explorer



The next poet is Lin Zi.

Born in 1935, Lin did editorial work in both Tianjin and Harbin. Since 1981 she has devoted most of her time to writing.


Yes, I Admit

One mailbox, another mailbox
Every mailbox
     Is blinded in one eye.
Yes, I admit -
There's one unposted letter in my pocket.

One thought that undertakes no distant flight,
One wish that reaches no other shore,
And these now play havoc in my pocket.

Last night willfulness and confidence -
On my long checked thoroughfare
     Open a route of green lights.
My wavering emotions surge forth,
Exposing a bold corner,
Make a rubbing of the soul's true image,
Make the night into a silhouette cutting.

Stars no longer seem so remote
And out of the dawn clouds immersed with
     sincerity
Emerges an envelope, the color of blue sky...

In this moment,I wait between the mailboxes,
Waiting for someone to come out and argue
     with me:
I shall harden my indecision,
And in a second, decisive
     Mail off the letter...


The last poet from the anthology for this week is Yang Liuhong.

Yang, born in Beijing in 1965, spent her childhood years during the decade of political turmoil of the "cultural revolution" in the various cadre schools in the villages where her parents were sent. In 1986 she graduated from the Population Department of the Chinese People's University and, at the time of publication, was on the staff of the Social Institute of that university.


The Butterfly Specimen

No longer able to fly
You yet offer men the dream of flight;
No longer able to dream
You yet offer men the memories of summer;
You yet immortalize all memories.
Ages later when men
See you again
They will surely realize
Your memories, your dreams...





Photo by Thane Zander




Continuing my love affair with Rumi.



case closed

Rumi says:
“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.”


the wonder
of reading is in the
finding
of someone who seems
to read your mind,
saying exactly
the thing you have thought
and tried to say
in many ways, none
as clear or deep or true
as the words you just read

it is the bane
of the poet to find such a phrase,
jealous at its finding
and, at the same time, sad with lose,
knowing there is no more you can say
about this than that which you just
read

knowing
the subject is closed to you now,
never to be
reopened

knowing the futility
of having shot and shot and shot
and always missed
that which another poet has so cleanly
hit

knowing that poets read poetry
only at their own risk





Photo by Thane Zander




Next, I have two poems by Sri Lankan poetRienzi Crasz. The poem is from his book, Gamboling With the Divine, published in 2003 by TSAR Publications.

Crusz was born in Sri Lanak and came to Canada in 1965. Educated at the Universities of Ceylon, Toronto and Waterloo, he was, for many years, reference librarian at the University of Waterloo. This book is his tenth collection of poetry.



Let Us Now

"Let us now
in the embracing love of the Father,
wish each other
the Peace of Christ" so says Pastor Malone of St :Michael's.

So,my brown hand stretches
to greet the old lady standing beside me.

She turns, glares, extends
a thin pale index finger.

I accept this one-fifth brotherhood,
still believing, still refusing to snuff out

the last candle to our darkness.


When Tarzan Shook Hands with God

Many, many years later -
I understood the secret of Tarzan and his kingdom.

Herman Brix in the "New Adventures of Tarzan":
    a child watches with bulging eyes
    how the Ape-man fashions airy highways
    from jungle vines
    saves Jane from the leaping lion
    with only a "shoo!" and a violent gesture;
    who bathes in limpid waters as crocodile snouts
    cruise a body length away
    how by twilight he comes back to his tree-top home
    with a string of fish dangling from his waist,
    a basket of sun-ripe wood apple and mango.

Where paradise
    is eternal whispering of leaves,
    sweet mountain air
    gigantic trees thrust their heads to heaven,
    poetry in bird song, mountain dew,
    where the elephant comes like a hound dog
    to his clarion call,
    and God's silence seeps through
    the waking forest like spring sap.

I think I know
the secret of it all -
    Tarzan's contract with God,
        that warm handshake:

    "So long as you refuse the sin of Adam,
    so long as you see Me in every tree, shrub and flower,
    in every creature that breathes and roams your kingdom,
    you shall be lord of this jungle paradise,
    Consider these as my favourite lines of poetry,
    Learn them by rote."





Photo by Thane Zander




More Rumi.



there is a field

Rumi says:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.


When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.

_____

talking to a friend, he
a believer,
and me, not,
about the differences between
the old and new testaments
of the Christian bible,
when Rumi
intervenes -

the old testament,
the book of wrongdoing and rightdoing
and the rites and strictures
of both,
an earth bound by the regulations
of a creator
who lays out rules for everything
from how to pray
to what and when you eat

The Christ
of the new testament
having no time for such as that,
a prophet
who has no time
for rules old or new,
a prophet of the field,
where wrongdoing and
rightdoing
lie together in the grass,
irrelevant, too much world/
time/life, to spend any of it
talking about them, a field where
the great soul over all
souls
cushions the heads
of both the right and the wrong,
the good and the bad,
requiring
only acceptance of that great soul
to nullify all the harsh and vengeful warnings
that came before

a precious dream,
even if not
my own





Photo by Thane Zander




My last poem this week from my library is by Devreaux Baker. The poem is from the book Red Willow People, published last year by Wild Ocean Press. I bought the book this week at the second-hand book store. It's unusual to find a book so new on their shelves.

This is Baker's third collection of poetry. Her awards and honors include a MacDowell Fellowship, A Hawthornden Castle International Fellowship, three California Arts Council Grants, and the Helene Wurlitzer Writing Fellowship.



Bear Berry, Mullen, Red Willow Bark

Inside the walls of the pueblo
there is no electricity
no running water.

Outside the walls the other world
goes on.

We are gathering bear berry, mullen, red
willow bark, osha root, yerba santa.

Your grandmother says
This is a good smoking blend.

Inside the walls where willows are regarded
as relatives of the four winds,

knots of tourists
crowd around the pueblo woman.

She is telling jokes the
don't understand,

but they are laughing anyway.

Red willow is for prayer sticks
and amulets.


Changing Woman

Up at first light
blue, watery, thin,
Taos is dreaming herself
backwards,

onto the trail that moves
beneath my sleeping body.
A dark arrow forming

from Santa Fe and going further
all the way up the mountain
into the sacred waters of Blue Lake,

backwards through time,
scooping up all the stories
of the people,

carrying them cradled
like infants against
cold.

She is walking
up the; trail headed north,
spilling words
out of her mouth.

K'e, the kinship
way of Changing Woman.

She is leading the way
on blue horses
forming
out of snow.

A long black braid
oiled by many hands
of night falls down her back.

Ash tree, alders,
cottonwoods share
the dreaming place.

Smoky mountain fog dreams
where stories get passed
from heart

to hand to mouth,
moving down
through all the generations.

Outside snow is falling in
Not-Yet-Light places.

Taos is dreaming
beneath my body,
lifting my shape

into her arms,
bringing me with her
back up the mountain.





Photo by Thane Zander




Finishing off this week with a little tribute to the community of poets with whom all my poems of the past five years have been written.



a community; a house

Rumi said:

“There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street
and being the noise.
Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.
Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.”


___

a community
a house
the sweet noise
of poets
fearlessly
sighted

seeing
with the lens
of their unobstructed eye
the proud
and horrible stories
of our kind

speaking




Photo by Thane Zander



Another summer week ended, the month, the hottest on record, tomorrow, high predicted 105 degrees. I've had enough.

Just remember, despite the heat, that all the material presented here remains the property of its creators. You're welcome to my stuff; just credit "Here and Now" and me.

And "me" is allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, hot stuff, you betcha.





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