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


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

tough sell

California Dreamin’

if we wish

Wislawa Szymborska
Family Album

best damn chili in Texas

Robert Hass
Old Movie with the Sound Turned Off

midnight gardening

Pablo Lopez del Castillo
My Words

diminishing the stars

John Barr
St. Augustine

APO New York

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

moonless midnight

e.e. cummings

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)

sometimes hard to see from here

Ted Kooser
Old Cemetery
A Winter Morning

coffee house beauty

Vicent Andres Estelles
Illicit Homage to LLuis Mila

to hell with politics

Charles Simic
In the Library


D.K. Jones
The Cure

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

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,
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

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

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

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

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,
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.


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.

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,

"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

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
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
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

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)

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
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
on the fence
and the raccoons
washing their hands
in the creek, a rare water source
for creatures all around

the gardener who comes in the night
to spread wet cheer
on his small and private
then the dogs began to bark
on all sides
and the prince
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

These are my words.
They are yours.

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.

- 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
across the hills
at sunset

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
in a stink
and fog of its own

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.


"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.


old man
head down
in an empty church
shopping bag at our feet
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,
down hill on the stone
pathway I made
a couple of years ago,
the white stones
my only guide in the

and so quiet,
no frogs, no cicadas
no animals rustling through
the reeds that line

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
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
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
it may be over

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

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


now the fierce few
in the alive west

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

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

carefully the blessed large silent him
into nibbling final worms.


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

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

on a foggy day

seen from my
high place
tree tops
in cotton swirl

the hive
with low voices
all eyes tight
on computer screens

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

a thermos top
and brown coffee
open like

green winter rain
anticipates spring

too soon

work done
wandering halls
for approval

will write a poem


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?


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
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
over a glacier-fed mountain

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…

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

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

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

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

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

like a model…

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

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

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

a man for whom
there is no abstraction
in life beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sitting in one of the little
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
this way and that
with ever single letter
I’d still be
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
I suppose

rich folk like
on the winning side

just happen to be more accustomed to it than
I am


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

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.


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.


i have seem the
and it looks like the past



on cars

on houses

fins on animals

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

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
laid the side of their heads

like werewolf ears
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
by Finns from Finland

the only song allowed
on the radio from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. -
by Finnish composer
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
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


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.


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

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 -
of the dangers
of organized
not content to be
vertebrate animals
like they’re supposed
to be,

now they want
of the grocery list…

every time


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
which suggests to me
that blackbirds, though
appearing stupid,
are smarter than cats,
as we all know,
are smarter than us


speaking of pigeons,

I used to have several, a white
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

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

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


and speaking of pigeons

I had another two
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


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

Olympic training


we have
a backyard

red topknot,
just like Woody

knocking on my door
but never


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
not sure, don’t
speak humming,
when I didn’t answer


big hawk
in the tree by the creek

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

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

would like to hang a bag
of hawk-treat
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

The end. All material presented in this blog remains the property of its creators. You want any of my stuff; you can have it. Just credit "Here and Now" and me.

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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